I attended the book signing this past August. Farther Along, written by my friend and mentor, Carol Henderson, which tells the stories of thirteen mothers (she is one of them), a bakers dozen as Carol points out, who had lost children at various ages.
I was prepared to cry. I don’t do well with death of children, even adult children. Children shouldn’t die before their parents. Maybe that’s why I choose geriatrics as my specialty. Old folks die. It’s expected. No surprises. I can deal with that.
I teared up but didn’t cry and was somewhat unprepared for the humor, serenity, and lack of self-pity as the six mothers read sections from the book. But then ten years had passed since the women came together under Carol’s guidance and direction. Certainly bereavement takes time to absorb, rant and rage against, come to terms and eventually accept the grievous loss that will never be forgotten until one’s dying day.
How fortunate the women found each other and Carol. Writing their stories seems to have brought them to a better place than they would be if they hadn’t immersed themselves in writing.
Why did these women write?
Carol says in her book:
“Writing about deep and traumatic matters, as many studies now confirm, is good for our physical health. Reflective writing actually lowers pulse and blood pressure, increases T-cell production, and boosts the immune system. Writing can help us cope with chronic conditions like physical pain—and the loss of health, of dreams, and, yes, of children.”
We all write for different reasons. I am haunted by my patients. They walk around in my memory and defy me to ignore them. I need to tell their stories.
This essay speaks to change, which is something I have always welcomed in my life. In this time of the pandemic when we may long for the familiar and routine, Chris Hilicki challenges us to seek out what it is that we need, not just to get by, but to live “with an authenticity that creates meaning and satisfaction.”
The season of fall stirs up our love-hate relationship with change. After this particular topsy-turvy summer, we’d love to return to some familiar and comfortable routines. But as the days are shorter and the nights are longer, fall reminds us that change is good, if not beautiful and exciting.
Whether it’s in our body, mind, or spirit our lives keep changing. If we’re growing (and hopefully we are) we may experience some growing pains. So we look for role models, discipline, prayer, and even magic wands to help us through our transitions in life.
But transitions can make us crazy. I have stopped wondering why people are crazy and instead wonder why they’re not! Sometimes a little “crazy” is just what we need if it means losing our minds long enough to let our hearts and “Soul” lead us toward the best transitions of our lives.
Get ready to change the way you see change:
Positive Change Demands Truth
The best way we can support ongoing healthy change is to be straight with ourselves and each other. We’re at a stage in life where we can cut through empty small talk.
Healthy transitions demand integrity as the key component for accepting change and expecting good things from it. If we want to keep growing, remember: no denials, no rationalizations, and no deceptions.
Honesty doesn’t have to be painful. Helpful honesty merges truth with kindness and compassion within all your relationships, especially the one with yourself. So don’t “fake it until you make it.”
Truly, life is about more than just getting by and barely making it, isn’t it? This is our time to transition with an authenticity that creates meaning and satisfaction.
Remember that even when nothing seems to be happening, something always is. This is difficult for most of us to accept, especially for those who so eagerly worshiped at the altar of productivity and so easily mistook busyness for progress.
I’ve been criticized for going down a lot of rabbit holes in my life. I’ve been asked if I lost my focus or if I couldn’t be satisfied and content with what I had.
The truth is, my life is about “trying it all.” I’ve gone down about a million professional and personal roads in life and many of them haven’t looked successful in typical ways. But my satisfaction and success were, and still are, defined by trying new experiences that make me feel fully alive.
I’ve never given up on my endeavors as much as I’ve added on to them. And as much as I like comfortable routines, they can suck the life out of me, too. Transitions don’t always mean giving things up. Go ahead, live it up!
Transitions Make You Feel Alive
Sometimes the seemingly un-survivable moments in our lives create a white-water current that sweeps us toward who we are meant to be. The transitions we still need as we age aren’t those that chase some version of settling down. They are the ones that make us feel most alive.
Don’t settle for less. Find your signature move for this time of your life that represents the YOU that you were created to be and haven’t given up on.
Transitions don’t have to feel like a life or death battle. This year stop fighting the battles you’ve already won. You know the ones I’m talking about: the wars you wage to earn love and approval from yourself and others.
The life you need to strive for is the one that stares down mediocrity and believes your personal best is yet to come. This is YOUR best, not someone else’s best.
Transitions Are Brave
I’ve lost, found, and lost again my health and many of my homes, jobs, and friends. Life isn’t always comfortable or easy. The easy part should be using our experiences to lighten the hardships and heartaches of others.
We don’t always get the fairy tale. But we get the “happily ever after” when we see each stage of our life with the potential to be brave. As T.S. Eliot said, “Only those who risk going too far can find out how far one can go.”
Be brave. Be your best. And when you’re “old” (or just a little older) you’ll savor the life that hasn’t disappointed you. You deserve this kind of life. You know I’m right. Transition from today to the kind of tomorrow you want.
As this season’s days are growing shorter and cooler, embrace the transitions that make you feel a little more alive. The leaves keep changing, and so can you. Be brave. Be true. Be you.
As a Doctor of Psychology and Clinical Counseling, Chris combines science and spirituality to draw attention to our incredible worth through life’s difficulties. She’s a passionate stargazer and trailblazer, surviving cancer and chronic illness. Her stories and experiences are shared in nationally distributed books, publications, video blogs, and speaking events. Connect with Chris at www.chrishilicki.com
I want to revisit a time that made me happy. I invite you to look back to a moment that brought you joy, too. Find what you can to feed your soul and rejuvenate your body so you can participate in finding the solutions to our current troubles. Take a break in this time of the Pandemic and Black Lives Matter to temporarily distance yourself from the daily bombardment of negative news.
It is a time that I truly hope is not a moment but a movement. May we all keep the movement alive until we have made lasting changes.
I remember how I felt on a lovely June day in 2017 when I visited the North Carolina Museum of Art and joined the “Ladies in Sequined Dresses and Sneakers” from New York that led us through the art galleries marching and stepping up to the music of the Bee Gees: Staying Alive. Ironic title, isn’t it?
I hope that the video at the end of this post lifts your spirits.
A Little Music and Movement Can Make You See Things Differently
Originally published June 6, 2016
Yesterday, I went to the North Carolina Art Museum at 10 a.m. to move to music.
Two women led, followed by a man in a suit holding an open laptop channeling the songs that were mostly by the Bee Gees. The women, in sequined dresses and sneakers, stomped, marched, trotted in time with the music. Thirteen women and two men, ranging in age from 20 to 70 plus, followed behind, mimicking the women’s movements. We didn’t talk.
I felt exhilarated racing through the empty museum with music bouncing off the walls surrounded by other exuberant people. The moves were not stressful. I did most of them except balancing on one leg and I stopped halfway through the jumping jacks.
The group stopped intermittently in front of a piece of art: statue, still life, portrait, and continued to move/exercise in place. Short inspirational narratives, previously taped by Maira Kalman, punctuated the music. Normally, when I visit a museum, I would gaze at the art in quiet contemplation. This time my mind and body seemed as one, absorbing the stimuli transmitted from the environment, my thoughts suspended.
When the two women dropped to the floor, I felt as if someone turned off the lights. Lying among my fellow participants with arms and legs outstretched, I realized that fifty minutes had flown by.
Now the day after, the residual glow from yesterday remains with me.
My new goal is to have more days where I step out of the ordinary.
Madame X, meet Ladies in Sequined Dresses and Sneakers. For “The Museum Workout,” which starts a four-week run on Jan. 19, Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass, Everywoman dancers of deadpan zaniness, guide tours of the Metropolitan Museum of Art before public hours, leading light stretching and group exercises as they go. Recorded commentary by the illustrator Maira Kalman, who planned the route, mixes with Motown and disco tunes. Might raised heart rates and squeaking soles heighten perception?
Pope Francis Calls Nurses, “Experts In Humanity” – Thanks Nurse Who Saved His Life
By Angelina Gibson
VATICAN CITY, Mar 3, 2018 – “I thank her and I want you to know her name: Sister Cornelia Caraglio,” said Pope Francis as he remembered the nurse who saved his life at 20 years old.
“When, at the age of 20, I was on the verge of death, she was the one who told the doctors, even arguing with them, ‘No, this isn’t working. You must give more,'” the Pope said during a meeting with thousands of nurses – members of Italy’s national association of nursing professionals.
“And thanks to those things [her suggestions], I survived,” recalled the Pope.
The Pope Thanks Nurses
Pope Francis thanked all nurses in attendance, “you are there all day and you see what happens to the patient. Thank you for that!” he continued, “many lives, so many lives are saved thanks to you!”
He spoke about the importance of the nursing profession and the unique relationships nurses form with all members of the healthcare team – patients, families, and colleagues. Pope Francis stated that nurses are at “the crossroads” of all these relationships.
Furthermore, Pope Francis acknowledged the “truly irreplaceable” role nurses play in the lives of their patients. “Like no other, the nurse has a direct and continuous relationship with patients, takes care of them every day, listens to their needs and comes into contact with their very body, that he tends to,” stated Pope Francis.
The Pope called nurses, “promoters of the life and dignity of the persons.”
He spoke about the sensitivity they acquire from “being in contact with patients all day,” and addressed the healing power of listening and touch. Calling touch an important factor for demonstrating respect for the dignity of the person.
He praised nurse’s continuous and tiring commitment to their individual patients despite the patient’s societal status. Calling a nurse’s care particularly important in a society which often leaves weaker people on the margin, only giving worth to people who meet certain criteria or level of wealth.
Pope Francis called the nursing profession “a real mission,” and referred to nurses as, “experts in humanity.”
When speaking of touch, Pope Francis told the story of when Jesus healed the Leper through touch. Encouraging the nurses, “we must recognize the importance of this simple gesture,” Pope Francis said. “Mosaic law forbid touching lepers and banned them from approaching inhabited places. But Jesus went to the heart of the law, which is summarized in love for one’s neighbor,” stated Pope Francis.
While acknowledging the difficulty of the nursing profession, Pope Francis encouraged patients to have patience with nurses, to not demand things from nurses and to smile more at their nurses.
The Pope reminded nurses, “a caress, a smile, is full of meaning for one who is sick. It is a simple gesture, but encouraging, he or she feels accompanied, feels closer to being healed, feels like a person, not a number.”
Pope Francis encouraged nurses, to not forget the “medicine of caresses.”