From the Sanctuary

Solo road trip along the lake, Cleveland bound. This journey begins with my being on the receiving end of a random act of kindness when I reached the toll taker arm outstretched, money in hand. She told me to keep my change and proceed on through because someone had “taken care of me.” I continued on in joy; vintage CD’s in tow. These include Queen’s A Night at the Opera, which allows me to perform my personal rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody belted out word for fabulous word with unquenchable manic enthusiasm. This, by the way, is as intuitive as Mooing when passing a field of cows. It’s a rare moment of pure unadulterated satisfactory expression.

My purpose for this adventure is to meet with a likeminded professor at Case Western University who not only understands, but preaches the power of positivity. A historic Gothic hotel is my stay of choice, where I arrive early afternoon and spend several hours writing uninterrupted. Nice. In the evening I turn the television on (I don’t have one at home, so this is an act of bravery) and surf around, landing on a National Geographic interview of the Dali Lama. His words and message send me to a peaceful meditative place before I settle into slumber.

Too cheap to spend the fourteen dollars for the hotel breakfast buffet the next morning, I head to Case Western three hours before my appointment. The campus is much different than the University at Buffalo I’m accustomed to, nicely interspersed with the local community and featuring as many modern buildings as old ones, adding a lot of character to the locale. The nature is different as well. There are groves of fascinating trees with pretty-colored peeling bark that I can only identify as River Birch. I also encounter several red squirrels and a skunk safely observed from afar.

After I wander for a bit, I ask a student on a street corner where the best place to get a cup of coffee is. His friendly response doesn’t disappoint. When I arrive at The Coffee House, I find the perfect spot to my personal liking. No franchise here, instead a quaint local shop in a restored old house, clean with antique furniture and run by a local owner (in our short “small world” chat, we discover that his wife grew up ten miles from me). And they have Jamaica Me Crazy flavor! I hang out there and write some more before taking a long walk, exploring buildings and engaging in people watching.

At noon, I am warmly received by both the Organizational Behavior Department and the professor. As part of their MS in Organizational Development and Change program, he teaches a course and concept called Appreciative Inquiry, a process that focuses on an organization’s and its employees’ strengths to be built upon rather than problems to be solved. This is done through a series of inquiries and storytelling to invoke positive emotional responses. After taking the course online, I know the material and his intense wisdom and insights will add significant value to the work I will be doing in my program coaching young adults diagnosed with mental illnesses to thrive.

Dining over the best college food I’ve ever tasted, we talk about topics that aren’t often strung together… joy, neuroscience, compassion, Alzheimer studies, coaching, how words create worlds and the importance of listening. I show him the draft of what I am working to accomplish and he gives me more contact names and offers to review it and send feedback as I move toward implementation. My serving heart is working its way into a plan, and I am grateful for the encouragement and support.

Spirits elevate after our meeting; I head out into the sunshine to enjoy the waterfront and a stop at the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame where I read about the history of Bohemian Rhapsody. I don’t sing it there, at least out loud. My visit provides a fun jaunt through music history and memorabilia and my favorite display cases exhibit the first handwritten drafted lyrics of some of the most famous songs ever written. Words create worlds.

My evening ride home is more passive, with instrumental synthesizer music accompanying my smile, the dimming sunset and some contemplative thoughts.  Reflecting back to seven months ago when I received word that my job would not be renewed, I thought, “When one door closes…”  And then I said out loud, “Let us keep inspiring one another.”

 

 

 

 

 

A Season for Giving; A Season Forgiving

To prepare for an upcoming call with my life coach I followed my usual routine, preparing written notes on what was weighing heaviest on my mind. Note: Yes I do use a life coach. I find that the combination of her wisdom, daily journaling and the occasional glass of wine keep me moving on my path of joy and positivity. I’m not quite sure whether this time of year factored in at all, but my topic was forgiveness. I needed to forgive some people in my life for the perceived wrongs they had committed against me. Since I did not have the opportunity to do so one on one, I role played with my coach. Visualizing my “offenders” sitting across from me in my living room, I began with the most recent, rattling off a list items and scratching them off line by line. It was cleansing to think them, write them down and read them. When all were expressed, I firmly declared, “I forgive you.” It was more powerfully immediately healing than I imagined it would be.

For the next person, I did the same thing. Her list was much smaller, consisting of only one item, but that had invoked a feeling of trauma within me. While I was writing it out, a strange thing happened. A conscious thought came to my mind about how after she did what she did I had behaved pretty badly myself, dragging her name through the mud by reporting the story to whomever would listen, and many people did. It was an eye-opening moment, which resulted in my remorse. Despite her behavior, I wasn’t proud to act that way; it wasn’t at all in line with the compassionate person I strive to be. After I wrote “I forgive you” under her entry, I added “and I ask for forgiveness. I am sorry for what I did.” An amazing feeling of calm overcame me (it wasn’t the wine) and I wished that these two people were standing in front of me right there and then.

I found this forgiveness activity so successful that I grabbed a fresh piece of paper from my notebook and visualized my life’s worst “offender” (my ghost of Christmas past perhaps?) and bravely began to write. I completed an entire side of the page before I was mentally exhausted and he was forgiven. Woah. In that moment I was thinking that sometimes the best of the written word isn’t reserved for the New York Times bestseller list, but in my own damn journal.

I’m glad I took the time to do that clearing of my heart Chakra. I feel like I shed every Holiday pound in the process. I learned so much. First of all, that I’m grateful to have so few people in my life that I feel I need to make amends with. Next, I gained an understanding that each of us has a different interpretation of what is necessary to receive or give forgiveness for. I am only able to understand those concepts according to my own values and beliefs, not other’s. Which is why it pays to communicate responsibly more in the moment when I have been hurt.  Otherwise the other person walks around clueless. If anyone needs to forgive me for something, visualize me in the living room, or better yet, step forward, let’s talk. We all will work better if we learn to share the love. Time and relationships are too precious to hold grudges, and forgiveness is a mighty elixir.

To All for 2017: Good Tidings of Comfort and Joy with lots of Love thrown in.

Photo Credit:  Megan Rose