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Posts Tagged ‘heart’


Photo attributed to Flickr User flydown.

For years I could not visit Boston. The pain was too great, the ghosts too many. Haunted by the memories of failed relationships, of devastating broken hearts, and of shattered dreams, the thought of returning to the scene of the crime simply filled me with too much dread. I had moved forward to new cities, new adventures with new lives and new friends, where I was living new memories and trying to forget the tragedy of fore. I was attempting, determinedly and desperately, to birth a new Jeannie.

But over time, the pull of family obligations and unexpected job opportunities would find me back in Boston, walking reluctantly through my old closets, trying to dodge the skeletons. Try as I might to avoid my old haunts, the pull of unresolved emotion would sometimes be too great to resist. I would find myself walking in a fog of mental haze through old neighborhoods, past old apartments, and stepping right through time portals that would carry me straight back to the scene of so many memories, so many palpable emotions. I tasted them, more bitter than sweet. I smelled them, more sour than succulent. Though they were done and dead, I relived them, painfully and tragically, over and over.

I couldn’t go to that restaurant, for that was where I met “him.” That patch of grass was where we lay looking for shooting stars. That video store was where I mustered up the guts to talk to “him.” That park was where we broke up. That subway was what we would ride, holding hands. That store was where we walked by the sweet kitty in the window. That bar was where we shared our first kiss. And that stoop was where I said good-bye, wiping the tears from “his” eyes. It seemed everywhere I looked there were reminders of love lost, of best friends tragically ripped from my life.

Photo attributed to Flickr User Helmut Kaczmarek.

But the years went by and as it always does, time began to heal all wounds, little by little. One city, then another city, and then a third city, and I had created three new versions of Jeannie, each a little different than the first. I was slowly becoming a different person. I was meeting new people, having new experiences, creating new memories, making new friends, living entirely different lives. Eventually, I was no longer that same Jeannie who had lain on that patch of grass or stood on that stoop. Though that person would always be a part of me, she had transformed and blossomed into a new creature, a stronger and more resilient being, shaped by the landscape of life.

This year, family would find me returning to Boston, now a hard-to-imagine 9 years since I’d left. And I unexpectedly found myself excited to return. I was excited to visit with family, to smell the salty sea air, to walk around the quaint cobblestone streets with their charming colonial houses. I looked forward to creating new memories.

Boston Public Garden

Once there, my family and I set right out to experience all that the beautiful city of Boston has to offer: walks through the Boston Public Garden, under my favorite weeping willow trees; strolling past the old row-houses of Back Bay; romping through the historic streets of Beacon Hill with their adorable gas lanterns; walking along the waterfront taking in the sweet smell of salty air as we watched the boats come and go. I felt no need to re-visit my old haunts, I somehow knew that those graves did not need to be walked on.

But as we strolled about, all over the city, we inevitably happened upon several of the spots of my past trials. Not sure how I would feel, I was somewhat surprised and delighted to find myself smiling. Those memories that had once been painful, were no longer. What had once filled my heart with deep, debilitating pain, now instead filled my heart with peace and love. I thought about the memories, and the people behind them, and to my shock I found myself filled with nothing but fondness for them. I realized in that instant that the old Jeannie had integrated with the new Jeannie.

I remember the feeling that I had that first day that I landed in Boston. As the old Jeannie collided with the new Jeannie, I felt a sense of strangeness; how surreal it was to have to consider and attempt to reconcile these two completely different people. They were so different: one was young, innocent, and vulnerable; while the other was mature, graceful and wise. They knew such different experiences, such distinct lives.

But now as I sit on the airplane heading back to San Francisco, the city of my current life, I realize that I am happily and peacefully integrated. The new Jeannie met the old Jeannie, thanked her for all of the powerful lessons learned, recognizing that she could not exist without her former self. And the old Jeannie smiled proudly at the new Jeannie, patted her on the back for a job well done and sent her off on her way, into the new adventures and lessons that would await…and transform her once again.

Photo attributed to Flickr User h.koppdelaney.

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Our society largely teaches us that if we hope to find happiness, we must have a myriad of very specific things, among them: romantic love, marriage, children and a stable, high-paying career. I have none of these things, and yet I am living more fully than I have ever lived before. Only one month into 2012 and I can already see that my 37th year is gearing up to be the best of my life. And I am yet again reminded that if we are open, if we pay attention to the signs, if we listen to our instincts and trust, we can create and experience nothing short of magic in our lives.

One year ago today, shortly after being fired for the first time in my life, I reflected on the idea of the “life plan,” the idea that there are certain milestones towards which we are “supposed” to work and specific benchmarks by which we measure our success in achieving said milestones. And I am now able to see that it wasn’t until I rejected those measurements, and let go of any idea of the life I had planned, that I began to see the true magic unfold in my life. It was truly by surrendering that my life began to flow with the current.

Today I turn 37 years old and I stand in awe of the life that has manifested before me. It is not a life I ever could have dreamed of or imagined. It is, in fact, the farthest thing from any picture I ever could have painted for myself. Nor is it a life that any of my friends or family ever would have predicted for me. Yet I look back in wonder and amazement at the incredible journey, the unexpected twists and turns, the surprising detours and the life-altering and mind-blowing experiences that have delivered me to this very place in time and space.

Simultaneously, I am mesmerized by how much has happened, by how quickly the years have passed, a blip on the dashboard of universal time. And I find myself sounding like my father when I say, “I never thought I’d get to be {insert age}!” Just the other day I expressed this same thought to a friend of mine, who very wisely responded, “You’ve earned your 37 and you have to admit it is probably better then 17 or 27 for that matter.” As I pondered this, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the veritable accuracy and poignancy of that statement. I looked back on my life at those ages and this is what I realized: 17 was the year of my first broken heart; 27 was the year of my second broken heart…So what of 37?… 37 is the year of my LIBERATED HEART.

For much of the two decades between my tender 17-year old adolescent self and my now 37-year older and wiser self, I have been through the wringer of broken hearts, time and again left dripping helplessly into the floor. I have touched every range of emotion and their deep and often painful polar opposites. I have lived, breathed and tasted them. And I have drowned in them. I have looked for love and happiness in all of the wrong places, and I have fought tooth and nail for loves that left me broken and wrung out. And in the process I have seen the inner fibers of my heart carved out, leaving me with gaping holes of emptiness.

Whatever remnants of an intact heart were left after the first two broken hearts, were finally completely shattered by the third (and hopefully last!). But though I did not realize it at that time, it was that utter smashing of my heart that would actually be the key to cracking me wide open. I saw a beautiful quote the other day:

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”~ Rumi

The day that my heart was shattered into smithereens, was the day that my true healing could really begin. Since that time, I have dived more deeply into my soul than I ever dared dream possible. I have touched the source of the divine within me, the deep well of wisdom and knowing, and I have connected with the celestial forces all around me, above and beneath me. I have drunk, tasted and touched the pure light of love. I have found Bliss.

So yes, it is true: I have no romantic love. I have no marriage or children. And I don’t have a stable, high-paying career. But I lack nothing. I have found true happiness in myself, with myself and by myself.

On that note, age 36, I bid thee a loving farewell. You have been a true and trusted friend on the journey to the heart, you have been the gateway to my liberation. I will always look back on you with reverence as the year that changed everything and I will carry you with me as I walk forward into what I know will be one of the most powerful and transformational years of my life.

Hello age 37. I welcome you with open arms and a fully intact heart.

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The year was 1995. I was 20 years old and I found myself alone at a friend’s apartment in London. It was a cold winter day and because London was dark by 3pm, I was stuck in the apartment very early in the day. Dinner consisted of a pathetic bowl of ice-cream as I watched a dreadfully boring tv show (on a screen full of static snow) about cheese-making in Britain. This was my first Christmas spent alone. It is a day I will never forget. I had never felt so alone in my life.

The second Christmas I would spend alone was in 2007. I was now 32 years old and living in Los Angeles. I spent the day curled up in an agonizing ball of tears, grieving over the man I loved, who would be spending his first Christmas with the woman who had replaced me. There was no eating on that day. The pain was too great to allow for food. It was too much to even answer the phone. I talked to no friends or family that day. The only place I could bear to be was alone with my grief. That was the low point of my life.

The third Christmas I would spend alone is this one: 2011. I am now 36, almost 37 years old and I am living in San Francisco. It is so fascinating and thought-provoking for me to reflect on all of the Christmases between this one and that first lonely Christmas spent in London. To be honest with you, I don’t even remember where I spent all of the Christmases in between. There may have been other lonely holidays spent alone, but the ones I remember are the ones I’ve mentioned. Those are the ones that stand out as the painful and defining moments in my life.

I ponder the 16 years that have passed since I served myself that Christmas ice-cream “feast,” and it is hard to even fathom the person I was and the person I have become. A lifetime of changes, heartaches, joys, triumphs, laughter, tears and adventures have taken place over those 16 years. From Spain to Boston, to Washington, DC, Los Angeles to San Francisco, I have lived across a span of 6,000 miles. I have gone from being a student living in Spain, to planning international travel, to being a graduate school drop out, to working at the United Nations in Geneva, through my first acquisition as a manager at a start-up, to working at a minimum wage job struggling to pay my rent, back to management in a start-up, to being fired and now to being an inspirational writer. It has been a path I could never have imagined and a level of growth and transformation that is immeasurable by time or space.

As I write this post, it is Christmas Eve and I am curled up in my pajamas with my two kitties, the only two constant companions in my life over the past decade. They are the wall between me and the full grip of loneliness. I will not be with close friends or family this Christmas, not because I don’t have those, but simply because we are all in different places this year and circumstances prevent us from being together. Is it easy to be alone? I would certainly be lying if I said “yes,” but I am here to tell you that there is an indomitable strength and fortitude that has come from having to face the depths of such solitude. Walking through such loneliness over a span of so many years has forced me to walk through the fire and it has allowed me to emerge a Spiritual Warrior. And with that has come the knowledge and the wisdom that I am my own strongest ally, that with my inner strength and fire I can overcome and endure any plight or challenge that comes my way.

I am here today to reach out to all of the other lonely souls out there who feel that they are all alone and who feel that they are the only ones. I am here to tell you that you are not alone. I am here to tell you that you are one of millions, that as I write these words there are countless other people in the exact same situation, wishing that they had loved ones with whom to share the holidays. And I am here to tell you that there is strength in that. You are not alone. None of us are alone. We are all connected by heart and spirit. We are all Spiritual Warriors and if we can tap into that collective energy we can feel the love and brotherhood among us.

I am also here to tell you that there is opportunity in solitude. I could spend Christmas Day alone and depressed about how everyone else I know is with loved ones. It would be far too easy to go to that place. But I refuse to allow myself that poisonous indulgence. Instead I will begin my day with a deep meditation, allowing myself to access that profound well of inner calm and the connection to my higher self and Universal love; that place where peace washes over you. Then I have organized a Christmas dinner, a dinner of complete strangers, an opportunity for other solitary souls to come together to share a dinner in the comfort of community; an opportunity to get to know new people, to share stories, to laugh and to allow ourselves to feel the joy of simple human connection.

If you are alone this Christmas, be comforted in knowing that in fact you are not alone. Reach out and connect with strangers. Go out to the pub and strike up a conversation with your neighbor. Go volunteer at a soup kitchen and connect with others by giving of your heart. Go to a yoga class and flow with a community of like-minded souls. Remember that we are all brothers and sisters on this journey of souls and none of us are ever alone. We are all connected.

Whatever holiday you celebrate, from my heart to yours…..

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grief (n.)= keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret.

Grief is a funny thing. Our society teaches us to avoid it at all costs, and yet it is part of the natural cycle of life. We will all experience it in our lives, that is if we have a pulse. And we will all experience it in different ways, different times and in varying degrees. Some of us will suffer the horrific grief from the loss of a child, others will suffer the heart-breaking grief from the loss of a love or spouse, and still others will suffer profound grief from the loss of a pet. That is just to name a few losses which we may face over a lifetime.  It doesn’t matter what the source, but life pretty much guarantees it: the grief will come, and for a time it will be debilitating. And what is for certain is that there is no way to measure the level of one’s grief. Nobody can say “my grief is more intense than yours” or vice versa. There is no scale of 1-5 that allows for an objective measurement and comparison. For each person, grief is different, and it is their own. One can try to empathize with someone who is grieving, from having been through their own grief, but at the end of the day nobody else can truly put themselves in your shoes. Your grief is yours and yours alone.

Everyone has different ways of coping with their grief: some will turn to therapy and others will turn to prayer, and some to both. I fall somewhere in the middle: I turn inward to meditation. What is clear is that not all methods of coping with grief will work for all people, and it is important for each of us to find the path that works best for us. While I’ve always been hopeful about its effects, and despite various attempts, therapy has never made any meaningful impact on me. But meditation has. By going deep within, calming the inner turmoil and mind chatter, and through lots of practice, I have found ways that I can literally raise my consciousness above the turmoil, where I can look down at it from above, objectively. Of course meditation is not a magic bullet. It takes consistent practice and considerable commitment. And it too is not for everyone. But what I do know for sure is that nobody can say to you, “This is how you should be handling your grief.” Nobody has had the exact same experiences that you have had, and therefore nobody, no matter how empathetic or well-intentioned they may be, can truly know what is best for you. Nor do they have the right to tell you so. When it comes to deciding how best to handle your own grief, you are the only person who can make that decision.

There is no formula for how long it will or should take someone to get over grief. I’ve heard it said that to get over a love relationship, it should take you 1/2 of the time that you were together. According to whom?? Based on what??? That would falsely assume that all people are the same, and that everyone feels the same level of emotions, and that every relationship is the exact same level of love and intensity, which of course couldn’t be farther from the truth. We are dealing with human beings, not algebra! We are all unique. For some it could take weeks to grieve, for others years, and still for some it will become a lifelong struggle. I know that anyone who has lost a child will tell you that it is a loss you never get over; instead one has to learn how to live WITH it and incorporate it into a new reality, no matter how gut-wrenching. But I also know that you don’t have to have lost a child in order to feel that level of grief. There are other types of losses that can be just as intense for people. We’ve all heard of the phrase, “She died of a broken heart.” That phrase didn’t appear out of nowhere and it doesn’t just happen in the movies. Sadly, it can and does happen.

The most important element in the process of overcoming grief is simply time. But there is no way to predict the amount of time, and it is also the nature of grief that it can and will come in waves. One can be feeling fine for months or even years, and then suddenly out of the blue a reminder comes pounding in like a wave, and drags them into the undertow: it could be an Anniversary date, a song, a photograph, there are a million little things that could trigger a wave of grief to wash over you. And when that happens the best thing that the grieving person can do is try to “ride the wave”, knowing that it is a temporary storm in the sea of life and that this wave too will pass. The only way out is through.

How many of you have been told, “You need to get over it. It’s been too long.”? Every time I hear someone say that I want to spit, and I am reminded of how impatient and lacking empathy human beings can truly be. Of course people mean well when they say that, but by doing so they are belittling the loss that you have lived through and they are not respecting the grief process that YOU are living. The grief process is yours and yours alone. If anyone tries to tell you that, and it hurts or angers you, don’t fret. Step back and know that you are standing in your own process and be true to yourself: do what you need to do for yourself and do not be concerned with what anybody else thinks of you. At the end of the day you are your own best friend, and you know better than anyone what your own spirit needs.

I am often shocked by how few people want to deal with one’s grief, how afraid of it people tend to be. From writing in this community, I have met several other writers who are dealing with their own deep grief, and I’ve seen a reoccurring theme: they’ve all had friends and family who have pulled away from them, and in some cases permanently, because the friends or family were too uncomfortable and unequipped emotionally to deal with the other person’s grief. This is a sad statement; because of course when one is grieving that is when one needs their friends and family the most. But I have learned this same lesson in my own life, multiple times. Some people simply don’t have the emotional bandwidth, sensitivity, patience or level of empathy necessary to handle someone else’s grief. If everyone had that ability, then everyone would be a Priest, a Nun …or at the very least a grief counselor!

But most importantly it is a stark misconception to think that grief is bad and that we should in any way try to rush through it, push it aside or numb ourselves to it. Sadly so many people do this: they try to avoid the pain of a lost love by jumping into the next love; they push the devastating emotions down and try to pretend that they don’t exist, which sadly will often lead to the manifestation of disease; and others will try to drown out the pain with drugs and alcohol. None of these escape mechanisms will work. To quote Ovid,

“Suppressed grief suffocates, it rages within the breast, and is forced to multiply its strength.”

By trying to distract ourselves from grief, we are making a mistake. By trying to ignore the grief, we are not honoring the loss that we have experienced. We are also denying ourselves one of the most powerful opportunities for growth and learning that this earthly life affords us. Our darkest times are our most powerful teachers. The sage knows that to try to skip over such difficult times, is to deny himself of powerful learning and soul evolution. In the wise words of Marcel Proust,

“Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind.”

There is no doubt that grief is painful, and in many cases, devastating and debilitating. I’m sure none of you will argue with that. It can change your life forever, and often against your will. That has certainly been the case in my life. And while it may get easier with time, it can still be something that we simply have to learn how to live with, as difficult as that may be. But even in that circumstance, if we can dig in deep and instead of running away and hiding from grief, if we can muster up the strength to walk through it and experience it, and allow ourselves to ride the wave, it has the power to transform us.

“Grief drives men into habits of serious reflection, sharpens the understanding, and softens the heart.”- John Adams

This post is dedicated to my friend Judy.

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