On Grief and Growth: Strange New Inspirations and Insights

On Grief and Growth - Life Coaching with Teresa Young

My dears, I feel like reflecting on how grief and growth may—as I’m discovering—meet in our lives. So I’ll hit you right up front with what feels deeply personal to me.

Since my mother had some awful surgery just before Hurricane Michael pounded my parents’ house and town, then she declined and died three months later, I’ve been immersing myself in research on dying, death, and “life after.” If you know me, you know this is very different for me.

Though I do have a memory of myself sprawled on my pink bedspread, 13 years old, writing a piece on the logic of the immortal soul. No one had assigned it to me, and no one was waiting to read it. But it was important to me, because eternal life was a clear and vibrant truth to me. But that was then.

Fall from paradise

That sweet certainty of mine was shattered a few years later. I was in a college honors history class, and I had just become a young mother. Then we spent several weeks on the Holocaust.

A hammer of shock and grief came down on me. When the apocalyptic dust settled a bit, I declared myself an atheist and an existentialist. Though in truth I also railed at God for allowing such atrocities.

I remember one bike ride home. I was livid, cursing and swerving all over the road, and newly free somehow.

Out went the Catholic creed I’d recited by heart since childhood, and the baby with the bathwater in terms of any belief in a higher power. I didn’t believe in anything beyond these mortal lives of ours. I just believed in myself, and in the folks around me.

Thinkers like Viktor Frankl moved me. And my passion for the human journey was somehow born then.

Jung and mystery in the mix

My continuing explorations, especially reading Jung and experiencing synchronicity, brought me back to a kind of center from that brink. But I was still an existentialist.

 

Life begins on the other side of despair.
—Jean-Paul Sartre

 

To me, the “shorthand” for describing this philosophy is that we create our own meaning and purpose in life. That’s what—as in all—there is.

As a coach, that point of view has been a space of freedom for me. A creative space. My fascination with the energy underlying all things has co-existed peacefully with my existentialist mindset. I’ve been congruent.

The realm of quantum physics has been the unifying field for me. Everything can come together there without potentially loaded religious or New Age language that may alienate people for all kinds of reasons.

And I’ve also, always, still, had a soft spot in my heart for mystery. For what we can’t explain. Was that a distant fife and drum heralding eventual, further evolutionary change in me?

Then my mother passed through death’s door

Since then I’ve been deep in a study of death and beyond. And I’m clear that my new interest isn’t temporary. My grief and my creative process are coming together right here.

After all, I am an explorer. I always have been.

These days I’m also in daily conversation with my 83 year-old dad. It’s a new ritual for the two of us. We’re talking it all out here in this strange country, him without his wife. Me without my mother.

With beauty in this dark brew

More truth: I’m 100% clear that in this season of loss, there’s beauty, too. I experience large and small daily gifts of awareness and insight, and bits of delight like a flower or a bird or a glass or a fabric that my mother would love. It’s goose-bump city around here.

And I’m feeling energized by permission I’ve given myself to delve into soul territory. The word feels like rich brew that I’m tasting anew in some stranger than ever act of freedom.

 

The deeper that sorrow carves
into your being, the more joy
you can contain.

—Khalil Gibran

 

Yes, it’s beautiful and newly confusing territory. Here’s an example of what I mean:

I attended Walt Disney Concert Hall’s Jazz Series not long ago with my dear friend Maggie, a Brit who has lived in L.A. for decades. The series included a tribute to Oscar Peterson.

“To Oscar, with Love” was a night of exquisite sounds and a sweet vibe, featuring world-class jazz pianists and a legendary bassist. And I had a discombobulating experience in the midst of it.

New urges and uncertainties

During one gorgeous piano solo, I slipped into a dreamy, ecstatic state. And just then I felt a sudden wave of regret for something that had happened earlier.

Because in the pre-show traffic madness on Grande Street, with the clock ticking toward the concert’s downbeat, we were trying to turn right in front of Disney Hall to get into the parking structure. Meanwhile, all the folks valeting cars or dropping people off were heading left out of there. And that included an enormous black tour bus. Classic gridlock.

I’m an L.A. driver with plenty of street battle under my belt. So I was holding my ground with the bus driver while trying to get into the lane on my right to turn right. But he was just as determined to squeeze into my lane ahead of me to go left.

My eye-to-eye, non-verbal cue was, dude, I’ve gotta go right! He gestured at me wildly. Lady, I’m going left!

Later, as the music relaxed my busy brain, I suddenly registered unhappiness with my approach to the bus guy, not relief that we got in there on time. The messy truth is that I’m ever more aware this season of my own habitual ways of being.

I’m processing one message in my current studies, that a big part of the work of our lives, let’s say at a “soul level”, is really just kindness. Simple care and concern for our fellow travelers, both human and other. In short, I’m feeling challenged on a whole new level.

Beauty and confusion as delicious combo

Confusing, indeed. Because I’m not about to start expecting doormat behavior or perfection of myself or others. So it’s delicious confusion for me.

Like the conversation Maggie and I had the next morning, inspired by the music, and even by our ride down afterward in the packed elevator, buzzing with all the equally thrilled folks around us. The chance to share and reflect on my new confusion with my old friend was yet another lovely experience.

The point for me now is to continue living in the unknown in this odd new phase. I’m feeling my way.

So another truth is that I’m experiencing my mom’s death not just as heartbreaking loss, but also as opening. Opening into what, I still don’t really know. Though it’s at least in part about growth on some level that’s only possible now.

Growth meets connection

And not just growth, but also capacity for deep connection. As one of my personal heroines, Marion Woodman, said, “It’s suffering that opens us to love.”

 

It’s suffering that opens us to love.
— Marion Woodman

And now

So the somewhat shocking truth is that, for the first time in my adult life, I can no longer describe my philosophical and spiritual point of view as existential. Though I don’t have words yet for what’s emerging.

And that’s fine. All things in the fullness of time. New, unknown life is born, then named.

And you

Is there anything you’re grieving? If so, how could some reflection through a lens that I’ll call soul territory possibly aid and soothe you? Take the time you deserve to ask and answer those questions, toward as yet unknown next phases that await you, and others through you. And reach out for the support you deserve.

 

The How of Happiness: Our Capacity for It is the Secret Key

Life Coaching with Teresa Young - Defending Happiness

Ah, happiness. It’s one of life’s age-old holy grails, right?

The truth is, we often seek happiness like distant treasure we’re determined to find. Someday, somewhere, off in the hazy future, where the grass is greener and all our wishes and dreams have been fulfilled, then we’ll “be happy.”

But what do we really need to be happy?

When my oldest son went off to college, I realized that my dream for him was the capacity for happiness. Indeed, as I was letting go of my first little guy who had grown into a fine young man, nothing else I could want for him even came close. The truth is that I learned something about myself that day.

So today, what thoughts do you have as you consider these questions:


On a scale of 1 to 10, what’s your capacity
for happiness, without conditions?
What will it take to move that needle?
What, exactly, makes you happy?
How can you live your life to fit that truth?

What’s first, the chicken, or the egg?

So what really comes first, my dears? Happiness, or the conditions we think we need to meet to have it? And a bit more truth-telling from me will take us deeper.

Before my beloved mother got so ill in the fall of 2018, and Hurricane Michael struck as she was recovering from surgery, and Panama City, Florida’s medical community was decimated by hurricane damage, and my mother went weeks with little care, and then died in January, I was really still putting conditions on my own happiness.

In truth, I was driven! Always striving, working, and thinking. Planning and assessing. Improving.

Getting hip to happiness

These days, on this side of that life crisis and some healthy grieving, the truth is that I’m all about happiness, yours and mine. I’m hip to what heartbreak taught me:  It’s all about love for me these days.

All about beauty. About kindness and connection. All about gratitude and wonder at the magnificent, mysterious journey of life we’re all living.

In fact, these days my new projects are joys like using my intuition and being empathic. Getting ever more present to mystery and synchronicities. Less late-night work sessions. More stretching and walking. More playing. Way more meditating. Way more sleeping! In fact, I call all this extraordinary self-care, and I say it’s the new superpower for success in the New Decade.

These days I see happiness, like the journey of life, as its own destination. After all, living—with all its twists and turns and ups and downs—is so precious. I just want to take it all in.

The journey these days

These days I say, with more passion than ever, the journey really is the destination. And more, our capacity for happiness doesn’t need conditions.

In short, I say snag happiness. Own it. Sing it! Be it. Then, by all means, with its glow shining around you from deep inside you, go out walking the path toward what you want most.

Yep, reach for it all from there, like that. Be you from there, like that. Day by day, step by step, on the wild, wonderful journey of life.

 

The journey really is the destination.

Yin to yang and back again

And lastly for now:

To be clear, in defending happiness, I don’t mean we then have no pain. No sorrow. Instead, these days I say being happy without conditions means accepting what is while we move through it.

Because we know living brings with it the whole range of experiences and emotions, from light to darkness. From agony to ecstasy. From yin to yang and back again. In truth, my dears, that’s the gig.

These days I say happiness is ours for the taking, while the great pendulum of life swings as it will. So once again now, with feeling, consider what, exactly, makes you happy. Then build whatever that is into your life, from the sweet inner space of your capacity for happiness, and get real support if you need it. You deserve that deliciousness, and the life you want most to live.

 

Ready to Design Your Way to Your Artful Life? First Believe in Life. Then Trust Yourself.

Believe in Life - Life Coaching with Teresa Young

Indeed, my dears, are you ready to design your life?

 

To be an artist is to believe in life.
— Henry Moore

 

These words of wisdom from sculptor Henry Moore made my night. I’ve been thinking a lot about the relationship between creativity and health. About all the ways we creative types have to express ourselves in modern life. All the freedom we have to do so.

Though I’m not saying it’s easy. If so, would it, as Kurt Vonnegut said about practicing any art, make our souls grow?

In fact, part of the deliciousness of creative expression may be in meeting those challenges. Inner and outer. Short term and long term.

And doesn’t that sound a lot like just designing and living a vibrant life? In truth, the point is really to be fully ourselves. And to act on whatever truly makes our hearts sing. Yes! Deep breath.

That means putting the parts and pieces of our lifestyle together with all that in mind. Honoring our creative lives. Placing them front and center. After all, I say healthy longevity begins here.

And remember, as Henry Moore said, the creative project of our lives is no doubt aided by believing in life. In the midst of the yin and yang of all things. Be that person. Take that stand. Explore consciously adopting an empowering mindset as you do so.

Yes! Design your life from there. Beautiful. And what tends to get in the way? That’s oh, so human, right? Let me know. I’m here, in your creative corner.

Teresa Young

 

Keep Growing, Interesting Ones, On the Wild, Wonderful Journey

Keeping Growing - Life Coaching with Teresa Young

 

Are you one of those folks who are still and always naturally focused on growing? If the truth is “not so much”, check out this bit of sung wisdom from Bob Dylan:

 

He [and she who is] not busy
being born is busy dying
.

— Bob Dylan

 

In fact, “aging gracefully” is more doable now than ever. The days when young folks had all the fun are over. Days when they had all the freedom. Now it’s totally possible for us to have multiple phases of life that are in fact age-neutral.

Changing the game: from existing to growing

These days, people in their 50s, 60s, 70s, even 80s and 90s are living radically different lives from what was once the norm. And of course many still do act out beliefs that a certain age means it’s time to be tired. Unhealthy. Overweight. Maybe even done with real self-care.

But many, many others are focused on growing, still and always jamming away at their dreams and goals way past the old put ’em out to pasture days. They exercise, eat smart, and practice self-care strategies like examining unhelpful beliefs and exploring an empowering mindset toward truly changing the aging game.

A growth mindset is win-win

Yes, our efforts to always continue growing are absolutely win-win. Because when we stay “busy being born”, the wisdom of our elder years has maximum space and time to develop. That’s one win. The other is that then we get to share that goodness in all kinds of satisfying ways.

And as a busy life coach heading toward my own golden years, I say that matters. I say you matter, interesting ones! Because we have our own difference to continue to make. Traditional societies have always known this, with revered elders holding court on all kinds of important parts of life. But modern culture forgot. These days it’s time to change the game back again.

So I say the early 21st century is an amazing time to be “maturing.” What’s possible is up to us.

As birthdays accumulate

And of course no amount of self-care negates everything forever, no matter how much yoga we do. :) In truth, we all need ever greater inner fortitude as our birthdays accumulate.

We also all eventually experience painful times. Dark times. Times of inner or outer conflict. It’s all part and parcel of the journey of being human. Given the reality of the yin and yang of all things, a continuous growth mindset helps us claim and express that fortitude—and even the holy grail of happiness—in the ways we live the 4th quarter of our precious lives.

So bravo to all who are jamming on beyond all kinds of old boundaries. As you walk your own wild, wonderful 21st century path, remember to keep continuous growth and daily self care in the mix.

And do share your own brand of mature wisdom and beauty with the world. Make the difference that’s uniquely yours to make. And along the way, reach out for the expert support you deserve.

Teresa Young