Navigating Change

I can’t believe it’s November! Halloween has come and gone and a historic election day is behind us, but I’m still wondering where September and October went!

October was a busy month with the release of The Deep Water Leaf Society finally becoming a reality. I attended a writer’s conference in Tucson the last weekend in September and that marked the official release of the book as I received my first box of printed copies just in time to take them with me.

Most of the workshops I attended were about marketing, promotion and branding. One of the workshop leaders began by saying, “Once your book has been written, your fulltime job is now marketing.” Not exactly what I wanted to hear as I much prefer writing to marketing. I left the conference with a list of about 50 “must do” items and a feeling of overwhelm.

Once I arrived home, it was time to ship out all the pre-orders. A GREAT BIG THANK YOU to all of you who ordered the book in advance. I had shipped out or hand delivered nearly 70 copies of the book by mid-October.

I even managed to get one or two items checked off of my “must do” list for promotion and marketing, one of which landed me a feature article in the East Valley Tribune’s Spiritual Life section.

Then it was off to the El Rocio Retreat in Mission, Texas, to present a workshop and hold my first “official” book signing event. This was really special because El Rocio is the home of the Creative Journal Expressive Arts program, which was my lifeline during my journey through grief.

My workshop, “Altared Futures,” focused on the process of transformation. Each participant created an altar in three pieces: the first piece expressing and exploring a current loss or challenge, the second piece identifying and honoring whatever means of support might help them through the change, and the third envisioning the positive transformation that would come from the experience.

The essential message of “Altared Futures” is that no matter what kind of change we are facing, and no matter whether that change was one of our own choosing, we do have a choice about where and how we go forward from the change point.

There was a point in my own healing journey, after losing my oldest son to a drug overdose, when I realized very clearly that I could choose to allow my grief to define me for the rest of my life, or I could choose to define my experience in a new light. I could choose to remain angry, bitter and depressed, or I could choose to reclaim joy. This choice is very much at the heart of the story I tell in The Deep Water Leaf Society.

Here in the U.S. we find ourselves at the doorway of change. Last night, Barack Obama, was elected to serve as the first African American president in our history. For the first time in eight years, a democrat will once again lead our nation. For some of you, this change came by choice – you voted for Obama. For others of you, this change came against your will – you voted for his opponent. For yet others of you, this change arrived by default – you didn’t vote, by choice or because you weren’t eligible to vote.

Regardless of your choice status in the election, the change has arrived. It’s up to you how it comes to affect your life. Senator McCain set a wonderful tone in his concession speech last night. Obviously, Obama’s victory came not by choice for McCain. And yet he immediately began to quiet the “boos” of the crowd and to emphasize unity, cooperation and support for his former opponent. He envisioned a positive future for himself, for his supporters and for this nation. He emphasized moving quickly past the inevitable disappointment into positive, future-oriented action.

Change is a challenge, even when it comes by choice. Obama will certainly face major changes in his personal life as he works to implement the changes he wishes to bring to our country. Serving as president is a huge responsibility to shoulder and carries with it an enormous amount of stress. Obama’s acceptance speech was equally positive and hopeful. Like McCain, he immediately sought to put divisiveness behind us and begin to envision a brighter future.

This is a choice we can all make in the face of ANY change. This is what my grief taught me. Certainly the loss of a loved one has a different quality of pain than the loss of an election. I am not suggesting that you can or should put the pain and grief of the loss of a loved one behind you in a day’s time, or a week’s time or any specific timeframe. Yet, at some point, you will begin to recognize where your choice points are. Every day, you will have the opportunity to choose between focusing on a past that’s gone or focusing on a future that is yours to shape.

Whether this election is a “win” or a “lose” for you, is totally up to you. You can make of it what you will. And whatever losses you have experienced in your life, your future is up to you. Dream big. Choose joy. And to paraphrase Obama’s tag line: YES YOU CAN.

Wishing you peace on the journey. . .

As always, I welcome your comments and invite you to visit my website,

Creating Meaning

I’ve been listening to a set of CDs a friend of mine loaned me. It’s a recording of Bill Harris from Centerpointe Research Institute presenting information at a retreat. Harris is the developer of Holosync® audio meditation technology—a system that promises to have you “meditating like a Zen monk” in no time at all. The technology works by delivering two different sound frequencies, one through each ear, as the listener relaxes while wearing headphones. The “binaural” signal stimulates the brain to create meditational levels of brainwaves—alpha and delta. I haven’t used the Holosync® CDs, so I cannot vouch for their effectiveness, but I am finding that Bill Harris has some very interesting and profound things to say.

While taking my morning walk earlier this week, I was listening to the Harris CDs when I suddenly heard him saying that “nothing that happens in our lives has any inherent meaning.” That really annoyed me, and for a moment I wanted to argue that if nothing has any meaning, then what’s the point? It had been a very crucial part of my healing process after my son Cameron died to search for the meaning in his life and his death and our often troubled relationship. Finding some meaning in all of that seemed to be the only way for me to make peace with my loss. If he just lived and died and there was no meaning in that, then why did he have to suffer so much in his life and why did I have to suffer so much in my relationship with him? For me, the only satisfying answers to those huge WHY questions involve meaning. I have to believe there is meaning.

Just as I was getting mentally worked up about this, in the span of just a second or two, he then said, “and so we get to create the meaning.” I had one of those “Aha!” moments. Through all my ups and downs, through all the journaling and soul searching, through all the amazing experiences I was drawn toward and into and through in the years after Cameron’s death, I had thought I was searching for meaning, but I was really creating meaning. And somehow, that’s even more powerful because there’s so much more freedom in that. If we create the meaning behind and around the things that happen in our lives, then it is our choice what meaning to create.

As I mulled that over I realized that’s exactly what I had done and exactly what my book, The Deep Water Leaf Society, is about. We often have no choice at all about the things that happen in our lives. Shit happens and we have to deal with it. But how we deal with it defines who we become. And there is always a choice in how we deal with it.

I actually think that’s the great gift in traumatic loss: we get to decide what it means; we get to decide who we are in the face of it; we get to choose whether to become a victim to loss or claim our personal power and freedom from it; we get to choose between pain and peace. We get to choose.

As always, I welcome your comments, here on the blog or via email. Please visit my website, often and watch for news on the release of the book.

Wishing you peace on the journey…