When was the last time you…

Just the other day, a colleague of mine asked, “How were you able to get that position?” My answer was, “I just asked. “

When was the last time that you saw an opportunity, and while it was new, different or out of the ordinary, you asked for what you wanted, needed, or thought was helpful?

What did/does that feel like?

There’s excitement, anticipation, and perhaps a little trepidation for me.

My most recent ask was about doing a Clinical Pastoral Education internship at a small local organization that serves survivors of human trafficking, Crossing Point Arts.

(This isn’t quite as out of the blue as it may sound… In college, I volunteered at a rape crisis center and continued volunteering with programs in New York City when I moved here for graduate school. I directed two programs in New Jersey and also served as an expert witness. My desire to volunteer with Crossing Point Arts feels natural, a fond reminder of the many years I spent in the anti-sexual violence movement.)

Honestly, a chaplain in a social service agency is an anomaly. This isn’t a hospital setting where roles and rules are quite clearly defined, and there’s a true container for your experiences. I am fortunate to find a place that sees the importance of offering my services, as chaplains provide a compassionate presence to vulnerable people needing spiritual care/support in understanding and making meaning from their experiences. (Spiritual care comprises showing up with an open mind/without preconceptions, bearing witness/listening deeply, and acting compassionately.)

I love creating new spaces within which to bring my expertise and enthusiasm. Those aspects of who I am brought me to two other consulting positions this year.

What about you?

  • Which areas of interest, expertise or insight have inspired you to ask about possibilities? 
  • In reflecting over the past year or so, where have you stepped into an opportunity or forged a different path? 

Of course, this isn’t always about starting something brand new it can be broadening and/or deepening an existing practice.

And, to be honest, I am a data, facts, and research gal. When I make an ask, I have acknowledged why enthusiasm and checked in with reality—is the the right next step…

I’d love to hear your stories. I hope you will share with me… we could grab a cuppa joe and chat!

Great reads!

Summer reading… What did you love and learn in your explorations this summer—whether (physical) books, audiobooks, or maybe even podcasts?

While my list isn’t typical when I reflect on the phrase “summer reading” (which means “beach reads” or light fare to me),  I have loved and learned a lot. Here’s my list (beginning in late spring):

  • 10% Happier, Dan Harris
  • How to Say Good-bye, Wendy McNaughton
  • Kalyanamitra: A Model for Buddhist Spiritual Care, Rev. Dr. Monica Sanford 
  • Last Things: A Graphic Memoir About ALS, Marissa Moss 
  • Ronan and the Endless Sea of Stars, Rick Louis and Lara Antal
  • The World Could Be Otherwise, Norman Fischer
  • There is Never Anything but the Present, Alan Watts

I am in the midst of the workbook Living Fully and Dying Prepared by Francesca Lynn Arnoldy and cannot recommend it highly enough for everyone. She does in writing and through exercises what I endeavor to do in all my sessions on visual obituary creation and end-of-life planning—engaging in creative explorations of our lives and our wishes for care in our final days and weeks. This work brings a new appreciation of our present lives.

Are you looking ahead to September? I am planning new reading adventures, knowing that I have some books on my list for my studies and others that have piqued my interest. Next up for me is How to Tell a Story by The Moth, though I will listen to it in the car on my way to Maine in a few weeks. After listening to the book, I plan to call The Moth pitch line with an idea. Unbelievably, after attending the Creative Mornings program in which Catherine Burns was the speaker, I won The Moth: A Game of Storytelling! While it hasn’t arrived in the mail yet I can’t wait to open it and discover how to play. No doubt it will enhance my storytelling skills!

I’d love to hear what’s on your list—from the summer and the fall! I hope you will share!

Finding Joy in Reviewing Our Lives

Earlier this summer, I was a guest speaker for “Death Panels: Exploring Dying and Death Through Comics” at the University of Chicago’s Institute on the Formation of Knowledge. 

 My topic, “Creating a Visual Obituary,” is one of my favorites, though I have to say that I had never before facilitated this offering with graduate students. And, I had never worked with a group that had studied dying, death, caregiving, grieving, and memorialization in such depth. I was keen to discover how they would respond to the subject matter (obituaries), the 50 prompts I had created, and the activity (drawing their obituary based on the questions/prompts that resonated for them), which I had used with older audiences. 

The session was really wonderful—the 25 students were engaged, many of the students sharing their ideas and questions easily. When they split into pairs, the room became bubbled with conversation for the first 15 minutes and quiet as they each settled into drawing. 

As they shared their thoughts and feelings about the entire experience, I heard that they had integrated the themes we discussed into their work: who am I writing this for, what will I share, how do I want to be remembered, what were the highlights of my life, what challenges did I work through and how did they shape me, who have I been close with, how did I live my values, and more.

I loved the experience and plan to offer it more… it’s akin to creating your visual life story or a life review. I’ve also created a visual lineage chart—important people in my life and experiences I have had. It’s another piece that I cherish.

Are you interested in learning more? I’d love to share my ideas about sharing our memories.

If you’re curious about the hand-drawn visuals I create in support of people planning for the end of their lives (often these are folks in their 50’s and 60’s), I hope you will join the TEDxSantaBarbara Salon on August 23rd. Learn more here, and please reach out to me with your questions!