• Grief

    When Grief Makes You Feel as Though You Have Lost the Living

    (2 minute read)

    My dear mother in law left this world on August 31st of this year. My grandma is under hospice care with terminal lung cancer as I write. Both became critically ill at the beginning of 2016. I love them both. I have not had a great deal of experience with grief so close till now. Some things I expected; the feeling of something missing, a hole, a void of sorts. Sadness, lack of enthusiasm, and a general pondering of what matters in life are all presumed consequences in my mind. Yet, I am blindsided by the aspect of grief bothering me most; there is a real sense in which I have lost those who remain alive.

    How can this be? It is clear to me how much my husband and father in law miss my sweet mother in law. They will often comment on how they miss her. As a rule this happens during unrelated conversation and neither of them has commented for some time. In other words their minds have wandered far away from the topic at hand; they have not been listening for quite some time. When this happens my first thought is always how much I miss her too, yet my thoughts continue beyond where theirs end to missing my husband, my father in law, my mom, my dad, and my gram because they are all so diverted they are in essence absent. I feel alone; as if I am invisible.

    How do you cope? There are several ways I have sought to cope with what I hope to be a sabbatical from life on the part of my living loved ones. I am not a grief expert. Nor do I recommend or suggest all these to be healthy or effective ways of coping. They are just my attempt to share my experiences, in hopes someone is listening. First, you cry alone. If something needs done, just do it yourself. Take charge of affairs you can do. Don’t ask questions as you are unlikely to receive an adequate answer anyway. Take advantage of friendships and associations outside of family. Spend time doing something you love. Find what provides you with a mental and emotional escape and immerse yourself. Be it music, horses, knitting or any number of other activities requiring focus, let yourself get caught up in it. Find a way to laugh. Serve others with acts of kindness. Try to be a “yes man” for just a while, even if it isn’t your nature. Avoid conflict as much as possible. Have never ending patience. Forget about self, knowing they cannot focus on you now. Trust they will return someday.

    How do you think this will end? I expect a punctuated return. Periods of time where they are able to focus on life and on others will become more frequent and longer in duration. Until then, I will continue to love them all, those gone and those still here, I will miss them, and I will wait.

    I often use the phrase, “Press on” as a salutation. I have found it to solve just about every situation presented to me. I think it will fare well in this one as well.

    Press on my friends. Press on.

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  • 3 Reasons to Live This Side of Sensational

    3 Reasons to Live This Side of Sensational

    (5 minute read)

    A rich life is more like a porch swing than a party — Jamie Cearley, PhD

    Have you noticed how sensational life is these days? I mean have you seen the spectacular birthday parties three year olds are having? Each one must have a unique theme chosen by the child no less, leaving the parents to work magic to make the imagination of the child a reality. Then there are the breathtaking proposals; followed by fairytale weddings. Did you see this one where a guy climbed a cliff in California to propose by cell phone? She said yes; ah sweet success. But no, he was later found to be not only stuck high on the cliff but also high on drugs. He was rescued by a pricey helicopter ride to jail.  Ever heard of a promposal? Nowadays asking a girl out in the school parking lot or with a piece paper folded into a football are out. No, you had better come up with something original and it had better be Hollywood quality, or else. I am horrified to think what having one of these girls as a wife would be like. I mean how long can you keep coming up with even more grand and glorious ideas to impress her? Then there’s Christmas. It comes earlier each year it seems. Look out for the resplendent Christmas decorations, complete with presents towering under the tree.

    We are spending countless dollars in an attempt to one up the last thrill we purchased. Even worse, most of us pay for these spectacular events on credit. We are still paying interest on the past three thrills we purchased long after the thrill is gone.

    Most of us will even admit to sensationalizing our lives on social media. The color coordinated family photos, the vacation pictures, and the sappy posts about how much you love your spouse are among my favorites.

    We never had coordinated outfits growing up. That is unless you count various obnoxious plaid patterns of button downs as coordinated. Our vacation pictures include such scenes as my chicken pox infestation. I do not feel the need to tell the world how much I love my husband.

    We are a generation who has come to believe fairy tales are reality and reality is, well just a boring, terrible time to endure.

    Now before you click off this post and chalk me up as a bleak bore who just doesn’t think we should have any fun in life, wait. You just might miss the point.

    Life is not a fairy tale. Nor should you want it to be.

    Here are 3 Reasons to Live Life This Side of Sensational:

    1. Living in reality generates serenity. The more you try to avoid reality, the harder it hits. I see many memes these days with a new word, adulting. I know this is new not only because my spell checker doesn’t recognize it but because people used to want to be adults. We were ready to “adult” long before we were independent. Nowadays it is not uncommon for an eighteen year old to have their own car to drive. Yet, they cannot use a lawnmower for fear they will hurt themselves. There is a special kind of ignorance in this type of parenting. People used to grow up craving responsibility, freedom, and the rewards of a job well done. The realities of life are just these; responsibility is a requirement, there are consequences to your actions, and jobs must get done and done well. There is joy in the independence this type of life brings. No it isn’t a fairy tale. Yes, it is hard at times. But yes, a thousand times, yes, it is worth the effort in the rewards it brings daily.
    2. You can celebrate 365 days a year. That is 65% more days than your thrill seeking friends. If you choose to celebrate only special days or events you will waste the vast majority of your life in pursuit of a dream that will never last. Truth is, most days are quite average. Some of them can even be a bit rotten. Most companies recognize somewhere between 7 to 9 paid holidays. If we add to this number 15 days of paid time off and 52 weekends we get a grand total of 128 days. This accounts for approximately 35% of all days in a given year. If you only live for the next holiday or are a weekend warrior you are missing out on 65% of the days of the year you could be enjoying.
    3. All the little things bring joy. As it turns out, life is jam packed full of little things to enjoy. Hugs, warm showers in winter, cold showers in summer, and watermelon on the front porch for example. Then there are long talks with friends, and service to others; both of which swell our hearts with gladness. Many of us are too busy to relax enough to let the priceless little things in life soak in. A life lived in reality has so much joy to offer in its simplicity.

    Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Life has highs and lows. Rather than live for the highs and dread the lows, relish in the middle, for it is where the bulk of real living happens. Create a life that is more serene than sensational. [bctt tweet=”Leave the party and get to swinging on the porch swing.” username=”JamieCearley”]

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  • Less Clutter. Find out to get rid of clutter.

    19 Practical Paths to Less Clutter

    Less Clutter. Find out to get rid of clutter.

    (3 minute read)

    “Death by clutter is the worst. Slowly our lives are suffocated one item at a time until we are buried in our belongings, yet we remain.” –Jamie Cearley, PhD

    So many of us recognize we have too much stuff but we get lost in how to get rid of it. Where do we start? How do we get past the emotional hurdles? For others of us, we manage to clean out, and then clean out yet again only to find our closets crammed a few months later. How do we stop the reappearance of stuff and have less clutter?

    Here are 19 practical tips on how to have less clutter:

    1. Start slow. Start with one drawer, one box, or maybe an area of high traffic like your kitchen countertops. If you go on a rampage of haste and your emotions are not prepared, you will miss your stuff.
    2. Realize things are not memories. As part of emotional preparedness, learn how to manage those sentimental items you just can’t part with.
    3. If you don’t collect anything swell. If you do stop. Next, let everyone know you no longer collect.
    4. Choose a set number of hangers for each closet. No more clothes than hangers. Then, if you get something new, you must toss something old to open up a hanger for it.
    5. Identify a charity you can embrace. Organizations such as, literacy advocates, churches, and animal rescues are great examples. A charity using your stuff for something you feel is important will make giving easier.
    6. In short, stop buying more stuff. Here is some help.
    7. Collect stuff into a box you consider is trash, not worthy of giveaway. Now, set the box in a place where you won’t see it. Next, set a date on your calendar for the day before the trash pickup day. When the day comes, if you haven’t needed anything in the box throw it away. Do not open the box! In a like manner, the same strategy works for giveaway boxes.
    8. Don’t cleave to things just because they are useful. For example, don’t keep one glass even though you broke all the others. Sure the glass is still useful in principle but not in practice. Likewise, if you don’t drink coffee you don’t need a bunch of unmatched coffee cups collected over the past 20 years.
    9. Junk mail is the enemy. Solution, keep a trash and recycle bin in your garage. Sort mail into each before coming into the house. Similarly, make sure when you order online, uncheck any boxes to receive catalogs or email. When ordering online use an independent email you have created for this purpose only. Websites like aol.com and gmail.com offer free email services.
    10. Beware free stuff. It often costs more than you could ever imagine.
    11. Learn how to sell on ebay and/or Craigslist.
    12. Locate a local consignment shop for furniture and accessories. The shop here can often sell items I purchased years ago for more money than I paid for it. Now there’s a way to make you feel good about getting rid of something.
    13. Take jewelry you don’t wear to a local pawn shop. Your aunt’s old turtle ring could line your pocket with unexpected cash. In a word, delightful.
    14. Get rid of furniture with storage. Coffee tables with drawers, bedside tables with drawers, and excessive shelving are temptations to keep and store more stuff.
    15. If it is living under your bed it needs to go. Scary, scary stuff lives under beds. Crazy amounts of dirt collect under a bed. If you have allergies wouldn’t it be nice to be able to sweep under your bed? If you don’t have allergies wouldn’t it be nice to be sure the boogie man is not generating from the dust beasts under there as the clock strikes midnight?
    16. Determine to have less clutter on the floor. I have found having the floor areas clear makes for easier cleaning. I have managed to do this in my laundry room, pantry, and a few closets and it is delightful.
    17. Set a “Buy a new one, ditch and old one policy.” Like clothes hangers, but apply this to anything from underwear to vehicles. After all, if you are not willing to ditch the old one, perhaps a new one isn’t needed or even wanted.
    18. Consider the time and sacrifice an item is requiring. Is it stealing from you? Is this where you want your time, money and energy to go?
    19. Never buy a house with a basement. My gramps used to say, “A basement is a large hole in the ground where you put stuff you should have thrown away.” A wise man he was.

    Finally, when you are busy executing these tips take note of the time, energy, and emotional effort getting rid of stuff is demanding of you. Let it sink deep into your consciousness. The next time an item tries to make it into your house, or shopping cart may these thoughts beam bright in your mind and cause you to consider the costs. Ask yourself, is this new bit of stuff still something you want? Or would you be happier with less clutter?

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  • Silence: Do You Hear It?

    Silence2_300x300

    (4 minute read)

    “Only when you are silent, will you realize there is no silence.” – Jamie Cearley, PhD

    I used to talk a lot. I would jabber about things that didn’t matter. Few people listened. Now that I am on the farm full time I spend most of my days alone, silent, but not in silence. No, far from silence, what I notice most is the intense banter of nature and humanity. They shout at me if I will just shut my mouth and listen with my whole being.

    Luther Standing Bear of the Lakota has been credited with saying, “Silence was meaningful with the Lakota, and his granting a space of silence before talking was done in the practice of true politeness and regardful of the rule that thought comes before speech…and in the midst of sorrow, sickness, death or misfortune of any kind, and in the presence of the notable and great, silence was the mark of respect.” This tenet of good behavior was no doubt the reason for the white man characterizing him as a stoic; giving him the undue labels of dumb, stupid, and unfeeling.

    We could use more meaningful silence in our culture. Since experiencing more silence I have been noticing there is an awful lot of noise in our lives. Even while pumping gas there is a TV screen blaring at me. Can’t I even pump gas in peace? Restaurants can be obnoxious too. I tried to take my mother out for a nice dinner recently. There were no less than 9 TV’s all on different channels in sight of our table. On top of this visual noise there was music playing. As if it couldn’t get less peaceful the servers broke into song and dance 3 times during our meal. So much for good food and conversation.

    Kenny Chesney has a new song out entitled Noise. The lyrics speak of wanting to be heard above all the noise in our world; the phones, TV’s, radios and a host of other noise makers. Kenny is right on target with one exception; he claims we can’t turn it off. You can turn it off. Our culture would hear its citizens better if we turned off all the noise.

    Here are 4 types of talk you might overhear if you turn off all the noise and listen:

    1. Natures chatter. The outdoors is anything but silent. Indeed, far more boisterous than my laboratory or office cubicle ever was. Yet, somehow the hustle and bustle of nature is far more soothing and serene in its ordered chaos than the mayhem of the work place. A pair of Red Tailed hawks screaming in their high pitched tone busy building a nest, ants communicating by laying intricate paths of pheromones, never making a sound, water droplets falling long after the rain has ended in an random chorus, these are the types of music nature plays day and night. Nature provides a never-ending song that somehow brings a feeling of peace and belonging.
    2. Body language. Have you ever tried hearing with your eyes? Horses by nature are non-vocal. This is true of prey animals in general. If you are on the menu, don’t announce your presence in the kitchen. To compensate, they are masters of body language. Flicking ears, giving “looks” in their never ending measure of each other’s leadership. Horses have some 17 discrete facial movements. Researchers have compiled these movements into facial expressions. Horses can also read human facial expressions.  You might say body language is the universal language of life; birds fluttering away at the approach of a coyote, a crow dive bombing a raptor, or deer curled up in an open field, saying all is well. The body language of humans can be just as clear. “Hear” with your eyes the smiles, the outstretched arms, and the gaze of their eyes. If you listen you might hear faint screams. The wants and needs of others will become clear. Listen to the silent cries for help; the folded arms, the lack of eye contact, or the slouching shoulders. While scientist don’t agree on the exact number of facial expressions a human is capable of, most would say between 6 and 27. Whichever figure you accept there is a great deal to listen to.
    3.  The consultation of yourself. If you are silent for long enough, you might even hear yourself. Perhaps the most difficult challenge for humankind is to see ourselves as we are. This may be in part because we never stop talking to ourselves and listen. To reflect inward requires silence.
    4. The wisdom of those older and more experienced. You cannot learn when you are talking. Listening to people who have navigated this world longer than you can help avoid a great deal of trouble and sorrow.

    A simple, rich life is one with less noise. It demands silent time. A quiet time in which to examine and refocus priorities, to listen to others, and to take in the world around us. Teach yourself and others to savor silence. Yes, you can turn off all the noise making contraptions, close your mouths, and see what you can learn from listening in silence. Warning, silence is addicting. You’re going to love it.

    “To enjoy silence, you must first be silent.” –Jamie Cearley, PhD

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