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 an honors history class, and 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 somehow born through my anger.

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.

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, ever-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 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 goosebump 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.

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 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. 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.

 

Life Coach Teresa Young

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tragedy Makes Us Reflect. It Makes Us Feel so Much That’s All Too Real. Then We Keep Moving Forward.

Tragedy Makes Us Feel - Life Coach Teresa Young

While we were all in shock after the tragedy in Thousands Oaks, two more California tragedies, the Camp Fire and the Woolsey Fire, flared. And here we are now, our shock even more profound.

Just back from Panama City, Florida and Hurricane Michael’s devastation, I’m a few weeks into grieving another tragic experience for a community, this time my hometown. This time my loved ones.

So I feel like sharing a bit of what I’m reflecting on right now.

These stories are just beginning.

First, as any stories of tragedy fade from front page news, they’re really just beginning. The support that we can and want to give must continue.

It can come in so many ways, from the deeply personal and truly sacrificial—a shoulder to cry on, housing help or work for displaced people—to the simplest quiet acts. Like yes to a small donation in the grocery store. I had lunch with a friend today who said she gives directly to GoFundMe pages to make a fast impact.

Life is so beautiful.

I was struck over and over in Panama City by gorgeous days, while weather-related tragedy unfolded all around us. It was surreal.

And I say that taking the time for all those thoughts and feelings, rather than shutting them down, is an important part of finding our way through devastating experiences. Take real time to think. Time to feel. Everything else that seems so urgent will still be there.

In the process, in the wise words of the Dalai Lama, reflect on your own strength to carry on. On everything your own life is about. Everything you hope for.

The point is to care for yourself toward helping those around you. Your oxygen mask comes first.

Don’t sugarcoat. Do offer hope. And rest.

If you’re connected to anybody directly impacted by these tragedies, do empathize. And do remember to also offer encouragement. To offer hope. Your words may make a difference that you’ll never know.

Trust your instincts as you find ways to help that don’t sugarcoat what is in fact tragic, but that do align with that very human activity of carrying on. It’s what we do. We keep going.

And on dark nights, in dark times, we need rest. We all need rest. There will be days and nights when we’ll get it, days and nights when we won’t. But keep giving yourself permission for it. For that oxygen mask. Nourish yourself toward nourishing others.

As you keep your own little light burning, it can help brighten the way forward for others. For all of us.

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.

 

When Things Fall Apart? Just Proceed, One Baby Step at a Time. One Foot in Front of the Other.

When Things Fall Apart - Life Coach Teresa Young

Processing… everything

I’m in Houston on my way home to L.A., already feeling like I’m back in civilization. Airport WiFi!

But I’m still intensely connected to what will be a long recovery process in Panama City. Because it’s just three weeks since historic Hurricane Michael hit the area hard.

There’s plenty I can check on and text my dad about on the iPhone I drove 100 miles to get him for his birthday. That phone, a communication channel I know I can count on in the midst of this mess, helped me get on the plane home.

Now healing will be very slow for my mom’s hometown, and for my mom. For my dad, too. He has worked himself to the bone.

And not just since Hurricane Michael struck. And not just the month before that, during and after my mom’s scary surgery and scarier complications. But for the past two years, when she was ill but not yet diagnosed. And the extent of her cancer still isn’t clear.

My dad’s health has suffered in the caregiving he’s been doing. Anybody who has been through their own parents’ tough times knows where I am with them now, in heart-wrenching new territory.

Emotion and encouragement

So despite my love for my beautiful life in L.A., I had a tough time leaving Panama City. Finally my dad and I agreed that I had to get in my rental car and go before we both broke down.

This morning it had a flat tire. Under these crazy circumstances, it took three hours and several phone calls to get some help. I wasn’t about to let my dad mess with it.

And now I know firsthand how natural disasters are in the news for a week or two and then fade from view. The truth is, the recovery process in and around Panama City is barely underway. The shock everybody is in is still descending.

I heard dark threads of conversation all over town that I countered with encouragement. The stages of grief are just beginning.

Blossoming in hardship

On the other hand, one inspiring result of all this heartbreak has been my family coming together. And that’s big. Because the fact is, this left coast liberal and those red state Republicans have re-connected in ways we haven’t been capable of in years.

My local brother Ken is kind of my twin on the planet, the big guy version born 364 days later. One day a year on his birthday we’ve always said we’re the same age. He’s former Coast Guard, and about the time I started my own business he started his. These days the ace helicopter mechanic runs his own tractor company while managing his 40-acre homestead.

So it was satisfying to watch him manhandle our parents’ ruined property. The first time, before I got there, he cut them out of a house-high barrier of once magnificent old oaks.

The second time he worked to get tangles of trees and all kinds of debris like siding, roofing, front porch overhead fan parts, and their shattered mailbox to the side of the road. We’ve heard FEMA will take it all from there.

It seemed to me he was doing what he was into from the time he was pint-size, pushing all his great trucks around in the yard. Being his kickass, can-do self in the world.

A day in the life

In the midst of it all, my two brothers and I managed to have some beers and a party-planning conversation last Friday for our dad’s 83rd birthday. We met at a favorite bar of theirs. It had just opened back up, running cash only and standing room only.

Then my brother Michael, a former-Navy security pro on loan from his work overseas, trekked back to the AirBnB townhouse out on the beach that I’d found before I left L.A. His family had to vacate their battered apartment building and are looking hard for housing. Ken headed to his place in nearby Chipley. And I went back to our parents’ home. Most folks have power now.

I had to smile while I was still looking for my rental car and saw Ken already rolling out onto the highway in his 50-foot rig, sporting one of several Caterpillar contraptions he works with. A day in the life.

Then yesterday as he was clearing our parents’ lot, they lost water to the house again. Amazingly, a guy from the Water Department came right out and diagnosed an issue underground. It wasn’t at the street, so it wasn’t his problem.

The next thing I knew, Ken was waist-deep in a hole, gluing something with something Michael had snagged from the hardware store. And our parents had water again.

Michael had already rigged up an antenna that my dad bought years ago. So now my parents can watch some TV. And I fed everybody. That’s been my thing.

Best birthday ever

And we had our dad’s 83rd birthday party. Despite our depressed parents’ protests, it went down. And Dad loved it. Two little girls next door even brought over homemade cookies, an impressive fete given the mess at hand! Mom couldn’t get out of bed to join us, but she said she thinks it was Dad’s best birthday ever.

And a note on the satellite image of Hurricane Michael here:

Just before I left, Ken heard that emergency responders had found one of Mexico Beach’s weather station recorders. They learned it had measured sustained 160 mph winds with gusts of up to 201 mph.

So it’s a good thing this storm moved fast. Otherwise its impact would have been even worse.

Tough stuff and temporary opportunities

Panama City and larger Bay County have had two hospitals for decades. And Hurricane Michael pummeled them both. They’re still closed right now except for emergency services.

So long convoys of troopers and sheriffs roll through town at least once daily, sirens blazing, getting people to hospitals sixty or more miles away. (Do they transport one patient per vehicle? I still don’t quite get it.)

And on my drive to Destin to buy my dad’s phone, I heard urgent requests on the radio for more hospital personnel, and PSAs about emergency nursing certifications. Both things I’ve never in my life heard before.

For now, back to La-La Land

For now, I’m grateful for the part I’ve been able to play for my family in this crisis. And for everything I’m learning about natural disasters.

For instance, I know now that west coast folks need generators to complete earthquake prep. Think about multi-week power outages. Oh, and landlines really will be useless.

For now I’m ready to get back to my own work. And I’ll keep going to Panama City. My parents will need ongoing help prepping for immense changes, like getting their 2-story house repaired and ready to sell.

And is it time for assisted living? Can they agree on what comes next?

It’s no longer a someday situation. One thing they do agree on is that they won’t be moving to La-La Land. Believe me, I’ve tried.

Meanwhile, thank you again and always to everyone who helped us. As my niece Kyla says, “You have done something great.”

We’ll never forget it, as the wild, wonderful journey of life moves on into who knows what strange new country.

That’s the gig we’re all on, right? Never a dull moment.

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.

 

 

 

 

Generating Power Through Gratitude is a Game We Can Play in Any Situation

Generating Power in Panama City - Life Coach Teresa Young

Generating power here

I’ve never seen so many workers up on power poles at the same time across so many lanes of traffic. And on a Sunday yet. And this is going on all over Panama City.

Gulf Power is trying hard to restore power to all areas of Panama City and larger Bay County by October 24th, two weeks after Hurricane Michael ploughed through here. That’s tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, in a sweet moment yesterday on a bumper-to-bumper highway, three state troopers were standing around keeping an eye on things. Someone in a car ahead of me reached out and handed them a big bag of sandwiches.

They dug right in. Power, indeed.

Music matters

When I got here from L.A. four days ago, I started playing Pandora’s ‘70s rock station while driving around in my rental car. That is, when I can get a signal. I decided on ’70s tunes to evoke my pre-teen years here. They feel right.

Like yesterday, on the way to my parents’ house from my AirBnB condo on the beach in heavy traffic. Cat Stephens’ Oh, baby, baby, it’s a wild world couldn’t have been more perfect.

My brother’s family is staying with me after getting most of their stuff out of their damaged apartment. My mother is recovering from some awful surgery and feels too weak to move. So I’m taking hot meals to my parents daily.

In a bizarre twist, Panama City Beach is the only nearby municipality with power. I found a place there before I left L.A., thinking my parents would come stay with me, too. But they won’t leave their home. And I get it.

After several hours with them yesterday, James Taylor’s Shower the People kicked in just as I pulled out onto their ravaged street again. It got me past the shock my dad and I feel every time we open his garage door to the ruin around us.

I give him his own private daily pep talk then as we stand next to my car. Shower the People is definitely what I’m doing here.

Sketchy routines

And on the important subject of cell service after a weather disaster, kudos to my iPhone. I’m faring better than folks with other devices.

I’m sending and receiving texts using weak cell signals and WiFi. I’m using Google and Google maps. And a shout-out to the carrier that’s sharing its tower with Sprint. I hear they have at least two towers with heavy damage.

We’re managing a routine of sorts while waiting for power, insurance adjusters, and more ease of movement. That’s both indoors at my parents’ place, where extension cords to the generator and all around the ground floor are exactly as I imagined them while sleepless in Los Angeles—with my mom on a walker and my dad using a cane—and outdoors.

Imagine downed trees, mountains of debris, and suspicious-looking cables as thick as your ankle stretched out across the roads. Hordes of workers with orange cones parked all around their heavy-duty vehicles.

And a news flash: yesterday I saw a convoy of FEMA trucks roll into town with “Potable Water” emblazened on them in block letters as tall as a man. Their presence is growing.

Fueled by gratitude

Lastly for now, thank you again! to everyone who has helped us. Now that the shock of it all has worn off a bit, I’ve starting telling my parents how I got here this time. All the aid we received. They get wide-eyed and quiet while I get choked up.

The three of us are feeling so much together, with gratitude the saving grace on the list. I’ll update you again soon.

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.

 

 

 

 

Heading Into Who Knows What: Adversity Reminds Us Just How Precious Life Is

Blue Skies and Inspiration - Life Coach Teresa Young

On a puddle jumper from Houston to Panama City a few days ago, I soaked in the incredible views. I usually pick the aisle seat, so I’m not often a window-gazer. But this time, in that tiny plane, 6A was both aisle and window.

Pale blue skies and soft clouds felt like pure gift. Like, here you go, girl, here’s some inspiration for you. An energy jolt in the midst of adversity and fear. Rest your eyes here. Store this 3D reminder of just how crazy-beautiful our little planet is.

Way better than the scene in my head

The view was a perfect match for my gratitude to be heading from Los Angeles to help my family. Because Hurricane Michael punched them and my whole hometown hard.

My parents had no power, no water, no phones. Though a few texts to and from my dad had gotten through. No internet to find out how to get help.

And after my elderly mom had just come home from three and a half weeks in the hospital. With my elderly dad with a wrecked knee as her caregiver. In L.A., I’d lie in bed at night imagining him out back keeping his generator going. Trying to feed her. Her on a walker back and forth to the bathroom. Extension cords everywhere.

With a hole in the roof, an upstairs window blown out, and more rain coming. (Later, I saw my dad’s genius move: he had painted “need tarps” all over what was left of his white vinyl fence.)

Yikes, right? I had to get there.

And grateful for so much

Four days later, I’m done trying to take photos and video that show the devastation and adversity all around us. And it’s dangerous to try given thread-the-needle road conditions. Time to focus on what inspires me instead. Time to focus again on what I’m grateful for.

I’m feeling all that as I drive the clogged streets and highways between Panama City and the beach, where there’s power and water. So thank you again! to everybody who helped by donating to my GoFundMe campaign.

It means so much to me and my family. More to come soon.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes You’ve Just Gotta Go Right Where You Think You Can’t Go. Do What You Think You Can’t Do.

Sometimes Adversity Hits - Life Coaching with Teresa Young

Mission critical:  get to Panama City

I’m in Houston right now on my way to Panama City. I’m feeling both anxious and grateful to all the people who are helping me help my family. Because Hurricane Michael just punched them and their whole community down to the ground last week.

My dad and one of my brothers have been texting me to prepare myself. “This place is ruined.”

Von Miller said it right

I caught the end of the Broncos game with my husband Kevin last night. And I happened to hear Von Miller say they’d been relentless. That feels just right.

Because right now my brother who works overseas is relentlessly trying to find a new place for his wife and three kids to live. Their apartment building is damaged, and they have to leave.

My 82 year-old dad is relentlessly trying to get somebody, anybody, to patch a hole in his roof before it rains yet again. Meanwhile, he neeeeeds tarps! In fact, he painted “need tarps” in big black letters on what’s left of his pretty white vinyl fence.

He’s also relentlessly trying to get my very ill mother—in a temporary bed in the living room—to eat something. Anything. And my brother who lives in nearby Chipley is out relentlessly clearing debris from all kinds of wrecked properties.

It took him three tries to get to our parents 17 miles away. He brought water and more gas for their generator. Water and gas. That’s what matters right now.

I’ve been relentless this week, too, finally finding a rare place on the beach with power where we can stay—and I can cook—for the next ten days. On the ground in Panama City, the couple who will host us are updating me hour by hour on their volunteer work at the local command center.

They’ve been amazing. “Let’s get you some help.”

This is life

While back in Los Angeles, my clients and students who I apologized to for leaving again said, “hey, this is life!” Over and over.

And that’s because I was just in Panama City for weeks for my mother’s awful surgery and worse complications. Hurricane Michael hit five days after I got home.

In fact, when Michael struck and I freaked out and started a GoFundMe campaign to get back there with funds to make a difference, most of my amazing clients and students contributed.

So thank you to all you angels whose help has me on my way back there right now. I’ll never forget it. And I’ll update y’all soon.

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.