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 last fall, when my mother had some awful surgery, then Hurricane Michael pounded my parents’ house and town, and my mother declined and died, 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 at 13. I was writing a piece on the logic of the immortal soul that no one had assigned and no one was waiting to read. Awww, right? Eternal life was crystal clear to me then.

Fall from paradise

But that sweet certainty was shattered in a college history class in the fall of 1980. I had just become a young mother. Then we spent 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. My passion for the human journey was born.

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. 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.

And as a coach, that point of view has been a space of freedom for me. A creative space. In fact, my energy-based training has fit well with my existentialist mindset.

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

Though 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 calling out that change was coming?

Then my mother passed through death’s door

So now I’m deep in this 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. 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 and 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 in some stranger than ever act of freedom.

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

I attended Walt Disney Concert Hall’s Jazz Series this season with my dear friend Maggie, a Brit who has lived in L.A. for decades. The series included a recent 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 confusing 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 the 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. But it’s really delicious confusion for me.

Like the conversation Maggie and I had the next morning, inspired by the music and our ride down after in the packed elevator. We were buzzing with all the equally thrilled folks around us. And the chance to reflect on my new confusion with my old friend over coffee was a lovely part of the mix.

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 coming.

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 I’ll call soul territory possibly aid and soothe you? Let me know. I’m here.

And lastly for now, thanks to Pixabay and Lucinda Faye for use of the evocative image above.

xo,
Teresa

 

Life Coaching with Teresa Young
Photo: John Livzey

Teresa Young wants you living your dream, for real. She coaches by phone, in person in Los Angeles, and via Skype outside the U.S.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts On Your—and My—Capacity for Happiness: In Short, What’s Yours?

Being Happy - Life Coaching with Teresa Young

Ah, happiness. It’s one of life’s holy grails. Right?

Yep, 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, today, with no 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 last fall and Hurricane Michael struck as she was recovering from surgery, and before Panama City’s medical community was punched hard by hurricane damage and she went weeks with little care and then died in January, I was really still putting conditions on my own happiness.

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

Getting hip to happiness

These days, on this side of that crisis, the truth is that I’m finally hip to what it took heartbreak to teach me: it’s all about love for me these days, my dears.

All about beauty. About kindness and connection. All about gratitude and wonder at the magnificent 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 writing. More stretching and walking. Way more meditating. More sleeping!

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. These days 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 all around you from deep inside you, go out walking the path toward what you want.

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

Yin to yang and back again

And lastly for now:

Happiness doesn’t mean 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 bright to dark. From agony to ecstasy. From yin to yang and back again. In truth, my dears, that’s the gig.

So I say these days happiness is ours for the taking, while the Great Pendulum of All Things swings as it will. And so once again now, with feeling:


What, exactly, makes YOU happy?

Let me know.

xo,
Teresa

 

Life Coaching with Teresa Young
Photo: John Livzey

Teresa Young wants you living your dream, for real. She coaches by phone, in person in Los Angeles, and via Skype outside the U.S.

 

 

 

 

 

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

Believe in Life - Life Coaching with Teresa Young

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.

And, 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 all things. Be that person. Take that stand.

Create from there. Beautiful, yes?

And what tends to get in the way? That’s oh, so human, right? Let me know. I’m here, in your creative corner.

xo,
Teresa

 

Life Coaching with Teresa Young
Photo: John Livzey

Teresa Young wants you living your dream, for real. She coaches by phone, in person in Los Angeles, and via Skype outside the U.S.

 

 

Keep Growing, Interesting Ones. Rock the Wild, Wonderful Journey.

Keep Going, Keep Growing - Life Coaching with Teresa Young

Are you hip to this bit of wisdom from Bob Dylan?

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

We’re living at a time when “aging gracefully” is more doable than ever. The days when young folks had all the fun are over. 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

These days, people in their 50s, 60s, 70s, even 80s and 90s live very different lives from one another. Some act out beliefs that a certain age means it’s time to be tired, unhealthy, overweight. And in many ways done with self-care.

Others still jam on dreams and goals. Exercise. Eat smart. And practice self-care strategies like mindfulness and meditation that can truly change the aging game.

A growth mindset is win-win

A continuous-growth approach allows the wisdom of our elder years maximum space and time to develop. Then we can share that wisdom in all kinds of satisfying ways.

After all, we have our own difference to continue to make in the world. Traditional societies have always known this, 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.”

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.

In light of that truth, bravo to all who are jamming on beyond all kinds of old  boundaries. As you walk your own wild, wonderful 21st century path, reach out for the expert support you deserve.

 

Life Coaching with Teresa Young Photo: John Livzey

Teresa Young wants you living your dream, for real. She coaches by phone, in person in Los Angeles, and via Skype outside the U.S.

 

 

In Moments of Darkness, Stay. On. Your. Path. Just Keep Walking, in Compassion. You’ll Generate Light.

Life Coaching with Teresa Young

I wrote the first version of this piece after the November 2015 Paris attacks, then updated it in November 2018 after the tragedy just down the road in Thousand Oaks. Today, yet again, as all too often of late, we’re trying to process our feelings of shock, grief, and horror after the Christchurch, New Zealand mosque shootings.

Horror can sap our strength

When we’re confronted with dark events, dark forces, even horrific experiences and images, it’s natural to be blindsided. We don’t ever quite grow numb to it. And it’s easy to fixate. To lose focus. To lose energy and heart.

We can lose the vision of our way forward. We can lose the energy for anything. Our peace of mind, even our beliefs, shattered. Again.

Challenge and the way forward

In times of terrible trial, consider that your shattered focus is help that you don’t have to wait for. This challenge to your battered heart is the way forward. As one world leader said during a dark time in the 20th Century:

If you’re going through hell, keep going.
—Sir Winston Churchill

This guidance is right on in the fires of fear, pain, and the loss of simple human happiness. Loss of confidence in the next day or week or season for ourselves and our fellow humans.

In fact, to counteract darkness, double down on what matters most to you. Despite everything. Stay focused. Or re-focus. Or begin to focus, on your highest priorities. Live your values. What you find most meaningful and beautiful.

Walk. Your. Path.

It’s a discipline. Maybe the ultimate discipline. Maybe challenging enough that you can’t fixate on what would further sap your body, mind, and spirit.

Another great wisdom-keeper said it this way:

Do not let the behavior of another destroy your inner peace.
—the Dalai Lama

Be as informed and present as you feel is sustainable for you. Be active in creating change in ways that speak to you. Send your empathy and care telepathically to victims and their families. To anyone struggling for life.

Donate money and other resources. Express yourself in whatever ways feel right. And try to generate peace rather than yet more conflict. Practice compassion, including self-compassion, and real self-care.

In other words, put on your own oxygen mask now, right now, as one way of counteracting understandable emotional paralysis in the face of horror. And keep moving forward on your goals in the ways that matter to you today, one foot in front of the other. And pace yourself in the process. There’s time for all things.

In fact, take time to meditate, rest, and consciously take part in whatever helps to calm your spirit. Then you’re helping to generate the light that humanity needs at such dark moments. Plus you’re modeling that good work.

Proceed.

Do your work. Walk your path. And reach out for the support you need. In short, proceed, dear ones. Proceed.

 

Life Coaching with Teresa Young
Photo: John Livzey

Teresa Young wants you living your dream, for real. She coaches by phone, in person in Los Angeles, and via Skype outside the U.S.

 

 

 

 

Reflecting on Grief, That Age-Old Walk Through Dark Woods in Strange Country

Reflecting on Grief - Life Coaching with Teresa Young

I’m reflecting on a setback I’m having right… now. And after a good day yesterday! A phone session with an inspiring new client, a great meeting with my own coach, lessons with two super-fun students, a hug from their sweet mom. Poker Night with two of my sons and their ladies. Then, boom. Grief storm. I cried off and on all night.

And yet I also know everything is OK. It’s just a natural expression of the yin and yang of all things, including grieving.

Everything really is OK

So now I’m writing my way through this particular neck of dark woods while listening to Pandora’s “Rain Radio.” I played it for my mom all night right before she died. Now it’s one way of keeping her near me.

And I’m feeling the inner roller coaster ride of these two months since her death. I’m seeking guidance, too, as always. But in new ways. And I’m connecting with her, or at least trying to. Hoping I’m succeeding. Not sure yet.

But just after I got back to L.A., I had a beautiful dream of her striding out of the rubble of a fallen building like an action-adventure star, young and strong, with flaming red hair, in a bronze raincoat. And a dream of getting out of bed early one morning to sit in lotus pose to meditate.

I’m in the mood to consider that one almost an out-of-body experience. It felt so real. Talk about guidance. I’m workin’ on it.

Strange new country

The bottom line is that I’m hovering at the cusp of a dark place. Falling in at moments. Or for hours. Climbing out.

And again, it’s OK. My mother’s life and the beauty and complexity of our relationship are worth this heartbreak. It makes perfect sense to both my logical mind and my deep feeling function.

In fact, I’ve given myself permission to check in and out of “ordinary reality” as needed. Because the truth is that I’m in explorer mode as always, too, intent on learning whatever I can of the human experience while on this new leg of my own life journey.

Learning and changing

So far, I’ve learned that I go from intense need for solitude, for unstructured time, free of productivity concerns, to intense need for human contact. But of a kind that can be with me right here, where I was last night and am in this moment, grappling with death’s hand in the human condition, up close and personal. With the fact that my mother’s death is changing me—my priorities, my obsessions—in profound ways that I can’t predict yet, much less express.

I’ve never been here before. And I can’t see through to the other side of this stretch of unknown territory.

Nothing to fear here

I’m not afraid, though. I trust this process. I guess it’s the explorer in me. And I realize how stable my life had become these past few years. Stable in ways I didn’t know I could lose through feeling so searingly painfully the loss of another.

I didn’t know that what may have in fact become a phase of stasis gives way, in the face of the tipping of some great hourglass, to… what? So far, I don’t know. At least I don’t have words for it.

And yet, again, I know everything is OK. I know all this feeling is healthy and right. Not to be dreaded. Swallowed. Papered over. Made pretty. That in fact doing so would be the makings of future trouble.

It’s time to take time

Grief will have its space, time, and impact, whether honored and given its due, or driven down into the unconscious if we try to avoid the mess. Or if well-meaning others succeed in advising or expecting us to close that door and “move on.”

After all, you can’t cram for and knock grief out, like prepping for a meeting or taking the written test at the DMV. I have a new phrase for the present, at least new for me: soul time, in which “linear” time is no longer the end-all, be-all.

In fact, I’m thinking a lot about the soul these days. This is one of those times when it just demands what it wants and needs, what it knows is the work at hand. Work that may inform our futures. Our creative and contributory destinies.

It is what it is for now

And again, I trust all that. I honor it. It’s one way of honoring my beautiful mother. Of honoring these precious lives we’re all gifted with, both our own and those dearest to us.

Because, in truth, I’m still on my path. I’m still creatively engaged, feeling my way. So far, that’s what I need. That’s all I know. And it’s enough for me.

 

Life Coaching with Teresa Young
Photo: John Livzey

Teresa Young wants you living your dream, for real. She coaches by phone, in person in Los Angeles, and via Skype outside the U.S.