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!

Such Delight in Saying “No”

I did it again! Three times this week—it must be a record!

  • “No” to a fun, interesting, potentially broadening art class with a famous author (I LOVE her work!)
  • “No” to a class in a new area of learning (I adore learning new techniques to integrate into my existing repertoire.)
  • “No” to an appealing, cozy pattern for knitting a dress. (I could start my own yarn store and have at least four UFO’s/unfinished objects/works-in-progress.)

It’s not really about loving bright, shiny objects—those beauties that catch my attention and provide fun for a brief time. Honestly, I am interested in MANY different things and can easily see how they would benefit me and my work…

What’s your experience with “Yes” and “No?” 

What’s your reflection on your answer? 

Yes is easy for me. 

No takes slowing down, moving beyond the excitement of trying something new and reflecting with discernment on how I will make accommodations/changes to my schedule (feeling impatient with only 24 hours in a day), and assimilating the new knowledge, skills, and practices into my life.

I believe that a new course I’m taking (gasp) is helping me attain greater clarity on what I can achieve—realistically. It feels challenging, surprising—only that much in a day? Oh, that’s still cool.

The process of “calendarizing”/getting real about those 24 hours in a day, instead of creating a plan and tracking my time—as my plans have been at times too flexible to new tasks or people—is new, requires forethought, disciple, perspective, grace (for the missteps), and usually very satisfying.

What’s your take on the state of your life—from a planning perspective—getting the fun and the necessary stuff done? Do you have pearls of wisdom to share? I would love to hear them!*

* As I write, I am using the app focus@will—I have used it for years and love it! When the music is playing (for my chosen timed work session), I ONLY do the task at hand. It’s a delightful tool in my toolbox… While I LOVE (most of) my work (aside from admin. tasks, taxes, etc.), and would rather tangling, drawing, painting, quilting, kayaking, reading book, at a museum, baking… the list continues. …

Perhaps the first step into one of the most important conversations of your life

Just last Friday, I had the amazing opportunity to present, Visual Storytelling for End-of-Life Planning at the Creative Mornings 2023 Showcase, Reverie. 

I am passionate about creating well-informed and meaningful conversations about all aspects of our lives, from birth through dying and death. There is so much to learn because we have many choices and want to make thoughtful decisions. I truly believe such rich conversations can easily lead us to more deeply appreciate every day of our lives. 

Here is the text from my 90-second talk; I wanted to share it with you. It is my invitation—really my gift—of an easy path into such conversations with your family and close friends.

Hi! I‘m Jill Greenbaum, a visual story catcher and advocate of the Death Positive movement.

I have a question for you: Would you be open to having a conversation about your current health, your work, and planning for your someday one-day death? Maybe two out of three?

To quote a colleague of mine, Jan Booth: 

“Starting a deep exploration of dying and death on our deathbed is unlikely….” 

I believe planning for our dying and death is one of the most important elements of our lives. What would you like to be the story—the plan—for your death?

  • What are your values about living and dying?
  • Where do you want to be in your final weeks?
  • Who will be with you?
  • How would you like to be in your environment —what music, scents, and visuals will be in the space?
  • What are your wishes for your life celebration, funeral, or memorial?
  • Have you thought about the disposition of your body after death?

I ask these questions, listen for answers, and create drawings that become living documents for in-depth, heart-opening, and vitally important conversations in families and among friends. 

I’ve shared one example of my work.

You can ask these questions of yourself and have these conversations too.

Please explore the wealth of resources that exist about creating the end-of-life experience you desire—for yourself and your loved ones. It is a journey that can help prepare you and will increase your appreciation of every day of your life. 

I hope that you will reach out to me with your comments and questions.

And, if you’re interested in having a gently guided conversation with me about your experience for your someday, one-day death, while I capture your plans in images and words, let’s have a coffee together to discuss the opportunity—in person or over Zoom.

PS: I thought it might be helpful to share my background in the end-of-life experience planning space. Y’all are connected with me through a great variety of my endeavors—visualization work, training, facilitation, coaching, Zentangle, and more. I have drafted a visual that shares my education, training, and experience in this end-of-life work. I hope it is interesting and informative. Of course, I’m happy to answer any questions that arise for you.