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The Bliss Blog

The Bliss Blog

Smoking Mad

One of my longstanding pet peeves is smoking and the impact it has had on me and people close to me, as well as the planet in general. I can cite all kinds of reasons why it is problematic, from the exorbitant cost to the wallet, to the devastating toll on health and life. Bottom line is, there isn’t a whole lot this outspoken advocate for smoke-freedom can do to make anyone quit or refrain from starting in the first place. People will do what they do, whether I like it or not. Once in awhile, I feel a need to vent about it on my Facebook page to spread the word and to diffuse my frustration and seek ideas for remedying the sometimes churning feeling I get when I think about it.

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I did so a few days ago and it prompted a series of responses that had me questioning whether I was falling into the holier than thou category in terms of my preachiness.  What became clear was that I needed to do something about my own reactions, since I was clearly disturbing my own peace.

One of the suggestions was from my friend Annabella Wood who is a highly skilled practitioner trained in The Work of Byron Katie. This is a modality that addresses the troubling thoughts that swirl through our minds on a regular basis. In my case, they are a combination of whirling dervish meets Taz. We set up a phone session in which I was determined to free myself of the near obsession over a piece of paper wrapped around some leaves, doused with chemicals and set on fire. I thought I would use The Work to douse the inner flames.

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Wisely, I lay on the sofa in my living room-not unlike Freud’s office couch, to be most receptive to the familiar process. The Work involves a series of four questions:

  1. Is it true? (Yes or no. If no, move to 3.)
  2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true? (Yes or no.)
  3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
  4. Who would you be without the thought?

This is followed up by what is called The Turnaround which takes a prevailing thought and trying  it on for size, reframing different ways of looking at it. Sometimes they seem silly to contemplate.

One cautionary note:  The Work in no way invalidates trauma, nor does it encourage anyone to remain in an unsafe situation. Neither does it say that abuse is acceptable. It questions our attachment to beliefs and story that may keep us stuck.

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So began the process as I expressed distress over seeing a man smoking on the smoke free campus of the hospital where I had been treated for a cardiac condition that had led to a heart attack a year ago. There are signs posted all over the grounds, that it is prohibited. He then tossed it on the sidewalk. There were two women with him, neither of whom were smoking. I calmly spoke to him and reminded him of the fact that the grounds were smoke free, to which he equally calmly responded that he wasn’t aware. I hadn’t said anything about the littering issue. I had also gone to the wellness center owned by the hospital with the same policy and saw a woman sitting in the van of the catering service there, also smoking. I said nothing to her, but instead shook my head and fumed inside. Interesting term to use, huh?

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Annabella led me through the inquiry process during which I was able to express that I was in no immediate danger from the man’s smoking, that his choice to smoke, as well as the women’s choice to be in his presence was indeed their own. It also came to me that I was judging him and other smokers as not caring about anyone else nor the planet by polluting it with their smoke and residual litter. One of my hot button issues is the expectation that some able bodied adults have that others clean up their messes. I also have a major charge over parents/caregivers smoking around children. They don’t have that same choice as the women I mentioned previously.

During the session, I came to accept that all of my ranting and raving from a place of judgment won’t make me a positive force for change. Coming from a place of surrender and compassion may instead have a greater impact. In conversation, an image of a cartoon character with steam coming out of her ears danced across the movie screen of my mind and I laughed, because that is really what it feels like at times. I can justify all kinds of reasons why I feel as I do and even smokers may agree with me. I get to decide if I want to be happy and peaceful, or right. I don’t want to carry all of those symbolic cigarette butts.

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As we came to a close, Annabella reminded me that this is a work in progress and I may need to do some tune-ups moment by moment, each time the thoughts arise. Not a one and done kind of thing here. I was indeed tested mightily shortly afterward, as I went out to run some errands and the first two people I see are smoking, and then a third and then a father standing next to his young son who looked like his ‘mini me’ in a stroller. The dad had a cigarette dangling within breathing and grabbing distance. Oh how I wanted to say something! Instead, I beamed love and wished them happiness. AND- a subliminal message that he put the cigarette down and that his son never pick it up.

Breathing.

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Life in the Midst of Death in the Midst of Life

 

 

ediefreehugshallwayThis morning, I woke up, grateful to have woken up. Nothing new, since I do that each day. Today has a different feel to it for many reasons. The first is that it is my one year cardio-versary, what I think of as my second birthday. At around 10 a.m. last June 12, I was on my way home from the gym, when a series of bio-psycho tumblers fell into place. A cascade of emotion and sensation. Jaw pain, heart burn searing and waterfall sweats. An hour later, I had a new body part propping open a blocked artery and a new lease on life. Glad I signed it. What a difference a year makes. I look back on the choices and changes I have made since then. Nutrition and fitness goals were the easiest. Tougher was the attitudinal shifts that needed to take place. Dropping the mantle of ‘all things to all people,’ and exhibiting ‘savior behavior’ were necessary for me to keep on keepin’ on. I have let go of the façade that I was unstoppable and that sleep was expendable. I got off the virtual treadmill and stepped on the literal one at the gym. It is among my favorite pieces of equipment there.

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My plan for the day is to don the purple and red shirt designed by my friend Greg Campisi and head over to the cardiac rehab departments at Doylestown Health and Cornerstone gym to thank them for being my cheerleaders. I couldn’t have gotten this far without their words of encouragement.

Tonight, with a group of friends, I will be taking to the streets of Doylestown, PA with FREE Hugs signs, open arms and open heart. It is the third such event I have done in the past few years and spreading the love is one of my favorite things to do. This time, the meaning goes even deeper and the joy even higher.

hanneloreholidayparty

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As I contemplate this experience, I carry with me a sense of sadness, as yesterday, my world shifted in the passing of a dear friend and teacher named Hannelore Goodwin. She was beloved by her family and family of choice. Hannelore was the founding minister of my spiritual community called Circle of Miracles and a petite powerhouse who touched so many lives. The ripple effect is immeasurable,when I consider how many people have come through the doors to her welcoming smile and how many she trained in Reiki – she was my Reiki Master, how many she ordained as interfaith ministers. She had been on hospice for a few weeks, and although her death was expected, there is never true preparation that can be done. Tears of gratitude and sadness. I will miss her standing in front of the room, beaming brightly. Instead, I will look in and look up and see her there.

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yvonneandjohn

A week ago, another close friend said goodbye to her sweetheart. John Roberts and Yvonne Kaye were indeed soul mates who entered each others’ lives more than a quarter century ago. He was the light of her life and she, his. Although I didn’t know him prior to the illness that eventually closed his eyes, she would regale me with stories about his humor and heart. The few times I was in his presence, it was easy to see how much love there was in the room. The last time was a bit more than a week ago, as he lay in his hospital bed in their living room that was filled with mementos from their vacations, photos of family members, a few cats hanging out, awaiting food and affection. He faded in and out of alertness, med and fatigue induced. Smiling, introducing himself to me, as I reminded him that we had indeed met. His white mane of hair, belied his age and vivid blue eyes gazed adoringly at Yvonne as they spoke. A love like that lasts long beyond the final breath.

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As a therapist who has worked with folks facing death, either for themselves or loved ones and as a deeply spiritual person, I am certain that death is not the end. I believe that the Spirit which animates us, continues. AND YET, the human aspect misses the person’s physical presence. Confused, kind of like Yvonne’s cats, looking for John, we ask “Where did they go?”

All I can do, is appreciate those in my life, since we are all on loan to each other.

 

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Patiently Waiting

I am typing this Bliss Blog entry on my new gadget, a.k.a. Tablet, which is an itsy bitsy computer a fraction of the size of my lap top. I am hunkered down at my friends Kim and Eric Berg’s home. She is my ‘web angel’ who designs my website and he is the computer tech who keeps everything running. My laptop is soon to be sent to the Geek Squad hospital for surgery. It may take up to three weeks to return home. In the mean time, since my work revolves around a fully operational computer, this new addition will keep me going. Amazing how attached we are to technology. Eric is copying over copious amounts of files, so I will have access to articles and photos. Time to clean out excess apparently, since it is taking a long time to complete. In the meantime, I am waiting as patiently as possible.

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So it is in my daily life, as I am called on for things to occur at their own chosen speed, not mine. The Serenity Prayer in action. Some things are simply beyond my control,  which is not easy for this recovering workaholic to accept. I want events to unfold seamlessly and speedily. What I have learned is that I can’t always have both. I am willing to surrender to the process and the flow.

What is a bonus about this experience was that I got to catch up with my friends, play with the Kinya, the dog and Oreo, the cat, listen to the croaking of the pond frogs who live behind their house, admire Kim’s garden that was planted inside movers’ pallets, join them at their dinner table with grilled veggies, sit on the front porch with their daughter, Arielle, who is a newly minted yoga teacher, as we enjoyed ice cream sandwiches. I gazed skyward, breathing in the late Spring-feels-like-Summer breeze, appreciating the feather clouds, painting the blue. Slowing down seemed the thing to do, since often, I still move more quickly than would benefit me.

My new buddy is having a sleepover at Eric and Kim’s place, since it was still taking in the new data. I will come back to pick it up tomorrow. I hope it is well behaved and doesn’t snore.

 

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Off the Boat to Bonkerville

I have wise friends. Two of them started a thread on Facebook  that was a writing prompt which lead to this article:

Loreen posed this prose: “Too much time planning this life when eternity waits. Hmnn, I think our perspective is short sighted. I don’t want to leave any injured souls behind. My mission will be accomplished if my relationships are healthy with my circle of influence. I’m letting go of my plans to allow for the more important things in life to be sifted.”

Chris chimed in with his think link: ” I wrote a song a long time ago named ‘ship of fools’ before I heard the Doors version. The main lyric was “wasting time on a ship of fools”. My point being… You better jump off that boat and enjoy your own journey before it leads you to nowhere.”

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My response was: “Beautiful perspective from both of you. I plant seeds and then do my best to surrender outcome. The control freak in me still wants to hold on and steer the ship. I have learned to jump ship when the crew and passengers get a bit too bonkers for me. The challenge at times is being able to keep my head above water when the tide rises.”

And Loreen volleyed back: “Oh yes, Bonkerville. It’s an exhausting place. Edie, quick get me on my paddle board.”

Not sure how I developed the tendency to think I could control anyone else’s choices and beliefs. They are all shaped by people’s previous experiences and their interpretation of same. As a therapist, I have worked with clients who remain on a sinking ship, because they never learned to ‘swim,’ perhaps thinking they need to go down with the ship, or who endure sea sickness, because they forgot to take their metaphorical Dramamine. In my personal life, I have done my best to refrain from joining them. Not always successful, I am at least learning when to set boundaries with people who want me to join them in their emotional nausea. I don’t want to have to clean up puke. I also refuse any longer to be the one rowing, when there are others equally capable of doing so.

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It is also challenging to witness people I know awash in tidal waves created by other people’s drama. They want to be helpful and find themselves going under as a result. When I was trained as a lifeguard, we were taught a counterintuitive rule. We were to let the person ‘go under’ before we went in after them. If we attempted to rescue them when they were struggling, we could easily be pulled down with them. You can hold out a hand, a hook, or a life preserver and if another is not willing to take it, sacrificing yourself is not going to save them. It is quite exhausting to continually practice this type of ‘savior behavior.’ I would much rather set sail with flags unfurled, to exotic and gorgeous locales on a seaworthy boat, surrounded by crew and passengers that are enjoying the ride and taking equal responsibility for the upkeep and float of the boat.

I appreciate this type of friend-ship.

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