A gift from the heart…

How can we show our love for our mothers?

Here’s a Mother’s Day gift idea filled with planning, preparation, kindness, compassion, and wholehearted love.

I believe that the reality of our mortality is the most powerful tool for inspiring us to live and love fully. There is only now, this moment, we cannot be certain of the future. With these ideas in mind, it is crucial for all of us to prepare for our inevitable death. We may be able to be more present, compassionate, and supportive during our loved one’s time before death if we enter into the work of talking about death and dying, and love and living. One of the greatest gifts I can give to those I love is dignity, presence, and following their wishes at a time of great vulnerability, in the dying process.

Having the conversation(s) about how you (and perhaps others) will care for your mom and how she wants to live the remainder of her life—the quality of life she desires— is a very special experience. I believe that it’s one of the most important discussions you’ll ever have with her.

I understand completely that there may be challenges to engaging in this dialogue:

  • Making time to think through which questions you need to ask to become clear about your mother’s wishes
  • Imagining how to have the conversation—from the introduction of the subject through to a successful conclusion
  • Answering the questions you are asking for yourself too, as your loved ones need to know those answers (and your answers may provide ideas for conversation with your mom)
  • Deciding together who else needs to know about your mother’s wishes so that all who might be called to act on them are clear and will honor them

(This intimate exchange may also be the time to share your thoughts about what you desire—or it may be too much for either one of you, and better left for another time (soon). Are you clear in your own mind about what you want? Are you able to explain it to your loved ones? Having legal documents (a will, power of attorney documentation, and Advanced Care Plans) is critically important. Of equal import is the conversations that make the documents come alive and provide clarity through specificity for those who may be placed in the position of making decisions.)

While we don’t want to think about life without our loved ones, we know that we need to be prepared for it. How would you feel if something suddenly happened and you didn’t know what your mother wanted you/your family to do?

Preparing for the conversation

Remember your purpose in creating the space for this conversation, it is the desire to learn about what your mother would want when, not if, her body fails her.

Speak from your heart. Listen from your heart too.

Here are some questions that may help you imagine this conversation. I have provided answers that I give about my wishes, in the hope they will be of support. 

“What would you want me to do for you if you got so sick that you couldn’t talk to me? What would you want from your medical care? What would be important to you at that time?”

“I don’t want any aggressive treatment, I just want you to let me go.”

What exactly does that mean?  

“If it was something temporary, reversible, and I could resume my life, communicating with others, being awake, and alert, then that type of measure would be acceptable. But no tracheostomy, ventilator, no nursing home. 

You know I am a very active person, I love that about my life. My family and friends, my art, travel, volunteering, my connection to my spiritual community, and my work are everything to me. I would hate a prolonged dying process and drawn-out dependency on others. I seek to live life well every day.”

While I can understand that those who love me might want to care for me and yet I could not do well without my independence. If I cannot care for myself and enjoy my life then I would want only comfort until I die.”

“I will never leave you. I live on in you.

If you want support in this delicate and important process, please reach out to me for conversation and resources.  

* This gift is meant for everyone. Think of the special people in your life and consider having these heart-opening conversations about living life fully and planning for the end of life.

Find the right time—but don’t wait for the perfect time.

 

PS: Next week I will circle back and share my completed visual from last week’s post!

A step into a secondhand bookshop becomes a leap into reflection…

Two weeks ago we headed to the Berkshires for a long weekend that included stopping in nearly every secondhand bookstore in each of the little towns we visited. I happened to pick up a copy of Gay Hendricks, Five Wishes in Yellow House Books (what a gem of a place!). I admit it, I love books that encourage me to make time for deep self-reflection, planning, and application.

As I savored the central questions of the book, I thought of more questions and answers that supported digging deeply into the slim volume. (I feel that I can’t share Gay’s questions, as the total experience of reading the stories is essential to understanding and engaging in the processes.)

* H/T to Martin Haussmann’s original drawing

This drawing* feels like a fertile place for brainstorming then organizing my thoughts to harvest the answers to my preliminary questions that lead to the BIG questions and answers. (Mmm, that feels like a lot of process when written, though natural and seamless when lived.)

I’d like to ask you:

🌀 What experiences have nurtured and shaped you throughout your life? 

🌀 Who has inspired and supported you over the years? Who might do so in the future?

🌀 As you view and reflect on all these answers, how have these “nutrients” formed your essence? (Another metaphor may be, “What is the foundation you are standing on?“) 

🌀 What more do you want to bring into your life? And, conversely, what will you let go of or re-shape to better serve who you are now and want to be in the future?

I think these questions can be asked about our whole selves (who are we and how do we show up in all aspects of our lives) and/or the questions can inform our understanding of how we approach a project or a relationship. What do you think? Would grounding yourself, by thinking and feeling deeply and broadly better inform your day-to-day living/being? Have you developed a process for reflection that shifts to insight and action?

The visual I shared will become the initial space in which I gather my thoughts. I need to see EVERYTHING before moving forward into discovering how they come together—it feels like alchemy to me. I’ll share my work next week.

If you would like a copy of this visual (without the questions), contact me and I will send you a file. Of course, you may have a different metaphor or way of approaching this big, juicy endeavor. I’d love to hear from you… perhaps you will share your work too!

A New York state of mind… Wait, not quite

Do you ever find that a change of state makes a difference in your thinking and feeling?

Just last weekend we headed north for a long weekend away from home. While we were going to an area we love and know quite well, we were staying in a different town which brought the excitement of much to explore.

And so, when I say “state” I am using every meaning possible—physical state, emotional state, and literally, in a different state or location.

Just getting away for a couple of days was the breath of fresh air that I needed to stir up a number of the questions I’ve been asking myself in disjointed ways. I had the time and space, early in the morning sitting in front of the fire all by myself with a cup of coffee, to think and feel into the changes that seem to be afoot.

What’s in your immediate future? 

Is there time and space, interest, and financial resources, to step out of your daily routine for a few days, to really shake it up and give yourself an empty canvas for creating the life/more of the life that you desire? 

I feel myself moving—literally turning as if I were an ocean liner—it’s a slow, arching turn allowing me time to weave the strands of thread/my thinking together (please pardon the mixed metaphors).

How do you envision/feel your change process? 

Certainly, I don’t use a more intuitive process for all the changes I make in my life. Sometimes change appears to happen quickly for me (though I think of Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink and realize that my “quick” decisions are often brewing for quite some time and are not the quick deductions that I believe them to be). Other times, I almost feel the stirring in my body—thoughts swirling in my head, sometimes just beyond reach—and feelings in my gut.

Maybe it’s also the books I’m reading and listening to:

And perhaps, the foci of the art I’m creating in workshops—ideas, questions, and musing about where I have been, where I am not am now, and how I envision the future. 

Version 4 of this labor of love.

Version 4 of this labor of love.

Also, the visual I’m developing for Garnet Health Medical Center for patients facing palliative or hospice care might enter into this mix. (When I started my internship at the hospital, I was unclear about the difference between palliative care and hospice, so offered to draw a visual to be given to patients and families needing to understand these concepts and practices as they face big decisions).  

 

Visuals of people’s wishes and visions for their last days.

Or the visuals I’m creating with folks seeking to think through what they desire and hope for their end-of-life experiences and my visual obituary workshops… both of which are life-affirming experiences. And the ongoing work and play in VEOLI (www.veoli.net) the group of visual practitioners who have banded together for over 18 months to bring conversations about death into the light of everyday life.

All these experiences plus the joy in teaching the meditative art form of Zentangle are paving the way to a new imagining of my future… I can feel it!

What are you noticing, thinking, feeling, imagining about all of your life? Are you curious or perhaps even hungry for a shift or even a completely new direction?

If you seeking to explore your future, I’m happy to share some of the many resources I have gathered over my years of one-to-one coaching and facilitating such conversations. If you’d like a companion on the journey of transformation, let me know… it’s some of my favorite work (and play).

A stroke of serendipity!

I just love how, at times, the universe gives you exactly what you need. 

I am in the throes of adjusting to the addition of a major, exciting undertaking that is already changing my life in both expected and unanticipated ways. I’m also at the point of reflecting on and assessing the changes that I’ve made in my work in response to the pandemic. 

How has your life changed in the past two years?

When is the last time you made (significant) space in your schedule to check in with your needs, desires, priorities, and more?

My wake-up call—or shall I say, the invitation to step into reflection, assessment, planning, and action came on Monday morning at 7:52 am. The phone rang with an unfamiliar number and I debated whether to answer it, and I did. From that moment to half an hour later, my day changed dramatically. I was asked to step in for a colleague to deliver a course in New York City for the next two days. Half an hour later I had showered, dressed, had breakfast, and had hopped on the train. While I got into the city in record time, I was late for the 9 am start of the course. The irony of being late for a time management class was not lost on me. In this instance, as in many others, it was “better late than never.”  

While the subject is well-known to me, the components of looking with fresh eyes at my professional life (one part of what makes my whole life)—discerning what serves and what needs to be let go, assessing the gap between where I am and want to be, setting goals, developing plans and milestones, ensuring check-ins to course-correct as necessary—leading the American Management Association’s course brought the task front and center. I found myself doing all the exercises along with the participants from the vantage point of where I am at this point in time. It was awesome!

Where are you at this moment in time?

Where do you want to be in the near—and the distant—future?

It became clear to me that my life is very full, I have competing priorities, and it’s not only about being conscious of how I spend my time every day, (though I LOVED listening to Laura Vanderkam’s book, 168 Hours). It’s also about letting go of those things that no longer serve me*… prioritizing from a new vantage point, and planning for success—and for me, finding colleagues who will partner with me so that we all stay on track. (*Gosh, I hate giving up projects, volunteer work in my professional arena, and habits I have enjoyed in the past… yet my life changes and I need to be responsive to that reality.)

It was a delight to see the different areas of my life on paper… To go to 30,000 feet and in my own way (aside from what I was teaching in the course), to engage in the 5D process of Appreciative Inquiry design to:

Define—the topic of my inquiry—my life and its components… who am I being and what am I doing?

Discover—appreciate the best of what is—celebrate what is working and build on that foundation

Dream—imagine what could be—how do I want my life to be, what will it include?

Design—determine what should be and begin to create experiments — try out new ways of working with the mosaic of my life

Destiny—creating what will be—forging the path forward

The two days of focusing on myself (because time management is truly self-management) were wonderful! I would not have made that much time in my schedule to engage in this work at this depth—and that is learning I want to embrace—and repeat consistently in the future. This experience happened on a number of levels—my teaching the content of the course, learning from the participants (because the questions that they asked, and we all answered, brought me deeper into the material), and doing my own work… it was a stroke of serendipity!

 

PS: If you aren’t familiar with the Strengths Test (which I learned of in 2003 while completing the Authentic Happiness Coaching Program offered by Dr. Martin Seligman and now use will all my clients) —take it now! It’s free and a game-changer. If you take the test and want to chat, lmk!

Will you try on a new perspective?

When is the last time you were energized by meeting with colleagues?

(I’m hoping that your answer is, “It was earlier this week!”)

One of the highlights of my last week was the opportunity to share my passion for Appreciative Inquiry with a group of folks from around the world at an event hosted by Axelle Vanquaillie, founder of Drawify. It was fantastic! 

The five original core principles of AI were the focus of this introduction into the field. If Appreciative Inquiry is new to you, it’s a generative, practical process model for approaching change, in ourselves, organizations, and society. AI is a paradigm, a way of seeing the world that invites us to attend to the positive dynamics in our relationships, work, and communities. 

In this short video, I developed to introduce the session, you get a sense of how AI enables us to have a complete view of life—both the positive and the negative. The principles and practices provide ways to re-wire our brains to think positively, to overcome the negative bias (which protects us in times of danger, yet can bias our thinking). We can learn to intentionally change our thought patterns, repeat them over time and literally change our perspective on the world. Living, or being AI requires enhancing our awareness through cycles of reflection and action.

With my ever-present view of gatherings as opportunities to share new ideas and begin skill development, I also want to ensure that the exciting new knowledge and practices find their way into the daily lives of participants. With that mission in mind, I created this template in Drawify so that the questions could spark reflection and action following the session.

What do you think of all this? Would learning more about Appreciative Inquiry, strengthening your skills at finding the good in circumstances (and using that knowledge to work with the challenging aspects) enhance your personal and professional lives? 

I endeavor to be AI every day… in times like these, it’s a perspective that keeps me focused on my foundation that supports and empowers me to build on what works, to tackle what is challenging. If you’re curious to learn more, reach out! I love talking AI!

The best way to predict the future is to invent it. 

Alan Kay

I am offering an Appreciative Living learning Circle, beginning April 23rd. You can learn more about it here. As readers of my blog, I am happy to offer you a 20% off coupon to join the circle, click here to access it. Please contact me with any questions you have about the circle!