You’ve Got To Read This Book!

Well, Have You?

Have you ever read something that moved you to the point you just had to write it down?

Maybe it reinforces a belief you already have, or wish you had. Maybe it even motivates you to  take action. After all, according to English play-right Edward Bulwer-Lytton, “the pen is mightier than the sword”.

During this pandemic, I’ve been doing a lot of reading. My bedside table is stacked with books of multiple, shapes, sizes, and topics. I keep trying to whittle the pile down to size, but it tends to keep growing.

I’m trying to clear the clutter so I can call myself a minimalist. But one look at that stack of books totally blows my bragging rights. My bedside table screams “hoarder”.

The Alternatives

I could check books out the library. That would be the prudent move. At least I could return them. But it’s so much easier to let my fingers do the walking and order from Amazon. Ok. I’m a lazy hoarder.

Then again, Maybe I’m just a slow reader. I’m not clearing the stack quickly enough. Where is Evelyn Woods when you need her?

The beauty of books is their ability to move you to locations you’ll never visit, as well as move you to tears.

My Memorable Sentence

I found a memorable sentence last night while reading a book by Robert Kolker about a family with twelve children, six of whom had schizophrenia. What are the odds?

Maybe my history as a Mental Health Counselor and Life Coach peaked my interest in this subject, but it’s a fascinating read, especially if you’re at all interested in mental health.

It’s a true story. This family made a great contribution to science in the search for a cure.

To quote from Hidden Valley Road, “Embrace the cards you are dealt, or it will eat you alive”.

Rather than cursing your fate, it seems the antidote to your troubles lies in finding meaning and purpose…specifically…your purpose. 

With most people, it usually boils down to helping others in some fashion…putting your own unique touch on your mission, one you’re often, and maybe ironically, well equipped for. 

So, in the long run, maybe it’s how you play your cards that makes all the difference.

I’m Preoccupied!

The Problem

I don’t know about you, but I’m often preoccupied with something other than what I’m doing at the moment…sound familiar?

I remember my car wreck in the suburbs of Denver. It was totally my fault. Thankfully, no one was critically injured, but all the same, it was both unsettling and costly.

When I told my mother about the accident, her comment was, “You were preoccupied.”

She was right on, because, ironically, moments before the wreck, I was angrily telling my sister, who was riding shotgun, to please put on her seat belt. So, yes, I was preoccupied.

Doing the Dishes

This morning, while doing the dishes, my mind gave me a wake- up call.

I heard the thought, “Just do the dishes”. I actually enjoy the process of doing the dishes because I love the feel of warm water on my hands. I usually have cold hands. Every migraine sufferer knows cold hands can be an indication your blood vessels are awry.

My Life Review

I believe we’re each shown a review of our lives when we die. So, what would I see in my life review? I can imagine God telling me I’d missed half my life because I wasn’t even there for it.

It happened without me. I was preoccupied.

Our minds are like wild horses, always on the move. I admit I create my own blocks to mindfulness. A few weeks ago, my TV remote was on the blink. In the morning, I love to turn on the TV, eat breakfast, and read the news. I usually have a choice. Hear the bad news on TV or read the bad news in the paper. 

While I was awaiting the new remote, I was without TV. I had absolutely no distraction while reading the paper. I could be totally present. 

Was I happy?

Nope. Something was missing. Focusing on just one thing felt vaguely distracting. I became preoccupied with my dissatisfaction. Have you ever been reading an article and suddenly realize you’ve been totally somewhere else in your head? 

This was me. So I started the entire article from the top. Thank you, preoccupation.

I could always take little stickies and post them on the faucet, the shower, and the newspaper.

Or…I could simply remind myself to be more mindful.

Maybe then God will tell me, ”You were there for the whole enchilada!”

GRIEF

Zachary

It’s September. I’m asking myself what happened to August. It was like my 6- month visits to the dentist. Wasn’t I just there last week?

Zachary, my constant companion cat, died June 1st. It seems like yesterday.

You may be thinking, “Get over it. It was just a cat.” Well, I’m here to tell you, there’s no such thing as “just a cat, or just a dog, or to a small child, even, just a hamster.”

Zachary’s Older Brothers

I remember getting my first cat, Tyler. He was a biter. I complained wistfully to a friend “I should have gotten a goldfish.” Actually, he just needed a companion. I guess I wasn’t that exciting as a playmate. Sam, my second cat, solved the biting issue. Tyler just needed one of his own species. Some cats are like that.

Grief

Which brings me to grief. It sucks, but you can’t escape it. I’m in no way comparing the grief you experience with an animal to the death of a family member or close friend. But an animal depends on you. It’s with you 24-7. It leaves a huge hole in your heart when it’s no longer there.

As I was leaving the crematorium where I picked up his ashes, I passed a big sign in the road that said, “This too shall pass”. It was definitely comforting, but how long does it take? The fact we’re in the midst of the pandemic and confined to the home-front doesn’t allow much time for distraction.

The Mother of Grief Studies

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, a Swiss-American Psychiatrist and pioneer in near death studies, made death her life’s work, at least that’s what she’s remembered for. She came up with the five stages of grief, which are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. 

What I learned is they don’t necessarily occur in that order. The moment the vet diagnosed him, I knew we were on a finite journey. But, looking back, there was some denial creeping in. Maybe the doctors were wrong. He actually lived 5 months past their predictions. At month four I was sure they’d mixed up the records. Ok. That may be denial.

Where Is He?

When my mother died, I asked myself, “Where is she?” I believe in heaven, but where is heaven, and what’s it like there? Was she happy? Was she with God?

Where is Zachary? Is he with God? I know he’s somewhere because energy can’t be destroyed. Einstein helped us with that one. Death is so final. 

One minute you’re here and the next minute you’re not… E=mc2, like it or not.

One minute you’re a clump of matter with a soul, and the next minute you’ve morphed into a mist of soulful energy. 

After the first shot to relax him, Zachary sat straight up and his eyes were wider than I’d ever seen them.

He saw something. I’m hoping it was his brothers, who predeceased him. I’m hoping it was heaven.

Clues To Your Purpose

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Here We Go Again

Spoiler alert…here’s another reminder about the importance of your childhood passions, talents, and interests. I know… mea culpa. You may be sick of hearing it.

But it just struck me. So many people ask the question, “What’s my Life Purpose?”

It’s very “in” to ask this question. You don’t hear people asking, “Can I do the dishes for you tonight, honey?” But the former inquiry is hot.

I’m guessing, during your free time, if you have any, you’re probably doing something you like to do or something you’re good at. I’ll take myself as a case in point. I’ve always loved to write, and I’m sitting at the computer writing this blog. At this moment in time, this is my purpose. It will remain my purpose until it’s not. After all, life purpose isn’t supposed to be a life sentence.

The Right Questions

My father once told me, as a trial lawyer, the important factor in the courtroom are the questions you ask. You have to ask the right questions.

So, here’s a question. What does the pandemic have to do with your Life Purpose?

Many days I feel like the cat who described his life with a loving family as, “114 days of confinement”.  I thought this was funny at the time, because it’s so characteristic of felines, but I’m not laughing now!

John Anderson, Anyone?

I’ve always loved music. One song, recorded by John Anderson, called “I’m Just An Old Chunk of Coal” (but I’ll be a Diamond Someday), is one of my favorite country songs.

When I was a guidance counselor for elementary students, I liked to teach life lessons using music and songs. So, imagine my surprise when I read an article about Carol Channing, the famous Broadway legend, including that song on an album.

I was shocked. The star of “Hello Dolly” recorded a country song. I loved the song, and she must have loved it too.

It took me back to the morning I introduced the song to a class of 5th graders. It had a very positive message. After all, don’t we all have little chunks of coal in our makeup? Anyway, one of my students didn’t agree. “I hate country music,” he shouted.

Well, you can’t please them all, and at least he didn’t have a tomato in his backpack.

Your Sacred Gifts

Maybe the right question for all of us might be “What are my sacred gifts and my divine reasons for being on the planet? As I’ve said before, you’re here for a reason.

A friend once told me, “What’s for you won’t go past you.” When the universe, or God, sends you a hint, don’t blink. Pay attention.

So, if you could make up your Life Purpose, what would you want it to be?

The odds are…that’s it. Ponder on that one.

Appreciating Your Uniqueness

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Do You Claim Your Uniqueness?

I believe uniqueness isn’t especially valued, unless you’re a savant or a Mozart. There seems to be a constant pressure to fit in. Many people don’t allow their sense of uniqueness to extend beyond their fingerprints, at least not without feeling like an outlier.

Fighting for your uniqueness is a David vs. Goliath type struggle. I’ve had to work on this…really understanding how different we all are, in spite of our similarities.

My Epiphany

Here’s an example. A family member who will remain nameless used to asked me with some regularity, “What have you done for fun?”

After I told her what I’d been up to , there was a long silence. “Yes,” she’d say, “But what have you done for fun?”

At this point, I was starting to feel that I must have a very low bar in the “fun” department.

Maybe I just thought I was having fun. Maybe the rest of the world knew the secret password that seemed to have passed me by.

It was at this moment I started to realize that we really are unique. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” made more sense than ever. Fitting in isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Part of our uniqueness is found in whatever gives our lives meaning…or purpose. …different strokes for different folks, as they say.

Meteorology, Anyone?

For example, I always wondered how people made the decision to pursue meteorology as a career. That job wasn’t even on my radar screen. While some people are fascinated by the weather, I just want to make sure I don’t get rained on while I walk. But the meteorologists and storm chasers are fascinated by the skies.

Enter hurricane season. The weather people are in an absolute state of ecstasy. Thanks to high def, I can almost see their pupils dilating as they describe the newest tropical formation off the coast of Africa. I observe their obvious glee as they describe fronts, latitudes and longitudes, as well as the next named storm. If the TV was like a 2- way mirror, they could see me freaking out on the other end. Obviously, we’re not on the same emotional page on this one.

The Good News

But, lest I seem like an ingrate, I’m grateful for the heads-up. In 1926, almost 800 people were killed when a hurricane hit Miami, Florida. They didn’t have the radar detection we have now and many were caught unaware. So, even though I’m freaked out by the forecast, it’s a necessary part of preparation. Bottom line, I’m grateful for the forecasters.

So, in the long run, I think it’s better to just accept yourself for the unique individual you are. That’s the most fun of all!

The Power of Persistence

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Who, Me?

Here’s a question. Can you name your worst enemy? Even though a few names may cross your mind, I suggest it’s you.

How many of the 60,000 thoughts you’ll have today will be negative? I’m guessing a high percentage…and I’m not a pessimist. I simply know that our minds have a negative bias.

It’s a survival mechanism. Animals know this. It’s a matter of eat or be eaten.

I won’t go into the physiology of fear, but it plays a hefty role in not only your decision making, but your confidence level, and what you’re willing to try.

Failure…Yuck!

If you’ve ever failed at something, and who hasn’t, you might avoid this failed activity forever. Gone…trashed. Off your bucket list…kicked to the curb. But look at it this way… what made you try it in the first place, especially given the fact there are no guarantees?

I’m guessing it’s probably because it was something you wanted to do or achieve, something that interested you, something you were excited about, something you thought would be fun. Now, it’s like a deflated balloon. You’ve left this dream in shreds and shards.

What Next?

So, what to do next, and how many times to try …10,000?

No, that was Edison, and it paid off pretty well for him. But who, today, is that tenacious?

I’ll bet you’d make less than five attempts before you’d throw in the towel. That sounds like something I’d do.

It’s so easy to get discouraged. One failure, or one “No” to your request can feel like the straw that broke the camel’s back. After all, you still have those humiliating memories of that important test you studied for but failed, or the business plan that didn’t pan out. I wouldn’t blame you for quitting.

Keep the Faith!

But if you’re motivated enough to keep the faith, and throw in a dose of tenacity, your chances of not only success, but happiness multiply. The problem with most of us is we’re perfectionists. We can’t be happy unless we do it perfectly…anything less is seen as failure, and it’s shoved off the bucket list. If someone tells us we can’t, we make them the expert on our lives, and quit.

Many years ago, I played the banjo at an assisted living center. I was nervous about playing until one of the women in the room shouted out, “I don’t want to hear it!”. At that moment my fear morphed into irritation, as I remember thinking, “Well, you’re going to hear it!” I didn’t play it perfectly, but somehow that lady showed me, in a way, how silly it was to care so much about what other people think.

A Lightbulb Moment

After years of not playing, I rediscovered my love for bluegrass. I think Ken Burns’ documentary on country music had something to do with it.

I’d forgotten almost everything I knew and was, again, a total novice.

My goal is to practice every day for at least 5 minutes. I have no excuse not to. And some days I do, and some days I don’t. But the important thing is I haven’t given up.

I’ve learned that loving what you do is more important than how good you are. Bottom line, the more I practice, the better I’ll be.

I’ll never be Flatt and Scruggs but you know what, I’ll be happy, and to me, that’s what counts.

 

Tyranny of the “To-Do” List

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What’s To Love?

There’s a lot to love about my to-do list. It gets me going. It gives me structure. It makes me feel like I belong in the world…after all, I have things to do. I must count. And it keeps me from lying aimlessly on the couch, counting the beads on my popcorn ceiling.

Yes, I know popcorn ceilings are out of style. I’ll put popcorn removal on my to-do list.

I don’t remember when I started answering to this paper dictator. Maybe yours is a digital dictator. At some point, though, it seemed like a good idea.

The Down Side

It must have been in college, when I had more assignments than time. Then it carried over into my real life. The problem is, I’ve started carrying it around the house with me, and never remember where I put it.

Now I need a “Find-My-To Do-List” app. Yet, walking around my house from room to room does add more steps on my Apple Watch. That’s an upside.

The downside is my overly ambitious list making. Why did I think I could accomplish seven  important tasks in one day? As I get into bed, I see the items with no check by their name. In the wide world of sports, this is called the agony of defeat.

Rename the List?

Maybe I should change the name of the list from “To Do” List to “We’ll See” List. Yes, “We’ll See”. That’s a phrase your parents used to use, and it always meant either “No,”  or “Ask me next week and I hope you forget”.

A “We’ll See” list almost seems like a “Get Out of Jail” card. I like it.

But some of those things on my lists are actually “Do this or else” items. Leave these undone and bad stuff can happen. After all, people count on me. My cat counts on me.

Have you ever said, “We’ll see,” to a hungry cat? You don’t have to answer that. That’s why they call it a “To Do” list. It’s stuff you have to do.

Bottom line, I’m grateful for my “To Do” List. My cat is happy and it keeps me off the couch.

 

Check out my website at www.trowercoaching.com

Shower Meditation, Anyone?

shower1867380_1280In meditation, not everyone likes the protocol of focusing on an object, a word, or their breath. As they say, “different strokes for different folks”.

I’m no pro at meditation, but I’ve had some powerful experiences while focusing on my breath, or even the word, “one”. I’m not bragging. My ability to focus is limited. I often feel I’m a secret member of “Short Attention Span Theatre”.

Yet, despite this deficit, while I was writing my Meditation Books, I got ideas for each day’s message while meditating. You can’t argue with success.

It’s Too Hard!

But I totally understand it when people say, “I can’t meditate. It’s too hard to keep my mind still.”

Yes, and that’s the whole point. Meditation is a mental practice to still your mind. It’s a mental gym.

The Shower Power Method

For those of you who prefer less tedious methods, but still curious about meditation, I present the “Shower Meditation” option. It requires your attention, but also offers the benefit of negative ions as a bonus. In fact, exposure to water generated negative ions boosts your natural killer cells.

Negative ions not only clear the air of allergens, but reduce stress. The negative ions coming off the motion of the water can also be found at the beach or Niagara Falls, but I’m guessing your bathroom may be a closer option. So, think of your shower as a health spa…perfect place to meditate

Why I Started

I started recommending this to people after an extremely non-meditative experience. While showering, I couldn’t remember if I had washed my hair. Since I don’t have the kind of thick, lustrous hair that can go a week without washing, I had to decide whether to wash, or perhaps, re-wash my hair or forsake all vanity. My mind was somewhere in the stratosphere, but definitely not in the shower.

The Negative Thoughts Think Tank

I realized that my shower had morphed into a negative think tank. Every morning, I methodically rehearsed my day, imagining everything that could possibly go wrong. Sometimes I’d even get angry while visualizing these depressing scenes. No wonder I couldn’t remember whether I’d washed my hair. I wasn’t there. I was at work!

So, to meditate in the shower means to pay attention to what you’re doing. Notice that you’re washing your hair. Pay attention to the feeling of the warmth of the water on your skin. Enjoy the sensations. You won’t have to wash your hair twice. You’ll save water. You’ll feel less demented.

And best of all, when you step out of the shower, you’ve already done your morning meditation.

Go to the head of the class.