Category Archives: Self Savvy

Exercising My Superpower

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This past month has been eventful.  My husband and I celebrated a big anniversary with a Hawaiian vacation that included our three adult children.  The vacation was glorious, but traveling as a family of five adults is a challenge (although I’ll take the challenges over not being together any day of the week).  Added in was a recurrence of bursitis in my left arm that was painful and frustrating.  Our two-week sojourn also included a stay in Los Angeles, a drive up the coast to attend my niece’s wedding and a mad dash back to LAX for the return flight home.  And upon our return, our youngest son is now living with us while he attends graduate school.  Oh, and just before our trip, a leak in our upstairs HVAC resulted in drenched duct work and damage to the ceiling drywall.

I’m not complaining!  Well, actually, I’ve done a ton of complaining to my husband.  Thankfully he has very broad shoulders and has kept his cool.  Staying cool in the face of my emotional storms is one of his super powers.  And in the midst of the chaos, well maybe after some of it has passed, I try to remind myself how lucky I am to have a partner with truly superhuman patience.  In fact, sweetie, if you’re reading this (and I know you are), thank you.

And this week is my birthday, so there’s that.  I always feel a little melancholy around this time.  Every birthday since my parents passed is another reminder of what I’ve missed sharing with them.  I was so fortunate to have the kind of parents many kids long for.  They weren’t perfect by any means, but they were perfect for me.  They were my first teachers, my protectors and my biggest cheerleaders.  They loved me unconditionally and completely and they showed me how to do the same with my children.

Is there a lesson in all that has happened this past month?  I’m not sure.  Since last week, there have been three more mass shootings with little outrage coming from our nation’s lawmakers.  The erratic weather patterns around the world further highlight the threat to our planet.  And unstable and dangerous dictators in foreign countries threaten our nation’s democracy and safety.

One of my super powers is my ability to remain positive and optimistic in the face of life’s difficulties.  Right now, my powers aren’t as strong as they usually are.  But I will offer this: all of the current challenges we face are proof of our humanity.  What distinguishes us from other life forms and from machines is our resilience in the face of pain and tragedy and our ability to learn and grow from our mistakes and the misdeeds of others.  I am hopeful that our common humanity will give us the strength we all need to work together to find solutions and to honor our differences.  I believe it is our ability to love that elevates us and allows us to see the humanity in each other.

And when I feel really down, I head out to my summer garden and revel in nature’s creations and take pride in my accomplishments there.  This year, my sunflowers haven’t worked out as I’d like.  But I’ve had a bumper crop of squash, peppers and cucumbers.  Tomatoes are still going strong and I’m anxiously awaiting some eggplants to ripen.  More lessons learned.

 

 

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Catching Up to Myself

The change was so gradual I didn’t see it happening. I’m still not sure that I believe the changes are real and will last.

For the past eight years I’ve been on a journey learning how to be a successful business owner.  The journey has been an emotional rollercoaster because I had no formal business training or sales and marketing experience. All I had was a desire to help others become successful. I chose to fulfill that desire by helping small businesses resolve their employee and human resources problems.

But there’s a vast difference between being an in-house lawyer explaining employment laws to senior managers and being a business consultant explaining employment laws to small business owners. Lawyers are trained to parse the details and focus on nuances in the law. Small business owners couldn’t care less. They want to know what’s in it for them and how much it’ll cost to comply with the law.  After years of practice, I’ve honed my client-centric approach to explaining things.

In the early years, every day was an exercise in overcoming fear of failure as I struggled to find paying clients before the money ran out.  To spread the word about my business on my shoestring budget, I began blogging.  I’ve been blogging weekly since 2014 and last year I converted some of my material into a book.

As my profile inched up, I was invited to do educational presentations. Although I was terrified of public speaking, I knew that recognition as a subject matter expert would be a great marketing tool for my business.  So I began presenting on human resources and employment law issues.  Later, I added history presentations. For the past couple of years, I’ve been averaging a presentation a month, including several television interviews on a local business program.  I still get stage fright but it seems easier to manage.

Recently, I was reminded that I am a successful lawyer, business owner, and author. Eight years ago, I could not have imagined being where I am today.  It’s been a long grind and I still obsess over real and perceived failures. The recent reminder of my achievements helped me understand that I’m struggling to catch up to my own success.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my new history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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The Other Side of the Couch – Hope for the Future

 

The identification of the double-helix model of DNA by James Watson and Francis Crick in the 1950’s laid the groundwork for an amazing evolution in the understanding of genetics. The Human Genome Project concluded in 2003 with the sequencing of all 3.2 billion base pairs in the human genome (and completed the process two years before their set deadline).  This Human Genome Project ushered in a new era in medicine and advanced many new technologies related to gene sequencing.

The information related to these two seminal discoveries is only accelerating.  The field of proteomics  (the large-scale study of the structure and function of proteins) and the field of epigenetics (the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself) are combining to provide fascinating insights into the ways that our bodies function.

An offshoot of this information is beginning to impact our understanding of many mental health issues.  Researchers in the field of epigenetics are now suggesting that our cells may transmit the impact of traumas experienced by relatives and ancestors down through the generations.  In other words, if your grandparent experienced a significant trauma, that trauma, due to epigenetic changes in gene expression, could influence the instructions that cells receive to turn certain genes on and off.  This could result in the development of disease, either physical or mental.

For example, research by Dr. Rachel Yehuda showed an epigenetic tag that led her to conclude that the propensity for PTSD could be biologically inherited  (see citation –  Yehuda, R; Bierer, LM Prog Brain Res. 2008;167:121-35.

Why is this important?  Doesn’t the idea that we can biologically inherit a propensity toward a trauma response make mental health even more difficult to manage?

Therapists are finding that this is not the case.  Investigating one’s own heritage is becoming more and more available due to websites like www.Ancestry.com. DNA testing that connects an individual to literally thousands of other distant relatives is enlarging the understanding that many have of the breadth and depth of our connections to others, living and dead.  While therapists have always had a certain understanding of the effects that growing up in adverse circumstances have on a person’s life, the information that a parent’s or grandparent’s circumstances also have a biological impact that CAN BE HEALED by providing enriched environments in the present is incredibly hopeful.   After all, if epigenetics tells us that environment altered biology in the past, doesn’t that also mean that present biology can be altered by present experience, both for ourselves and for future generations?

This information gives me hope for individuals who have been impacted by the traumas of our present day – whether it is living through 9/11 or living in a war zone or being trapped at the southern border in horrible conditions.  These experiences can be overcome if the right environments are made available.  My hope is that those conditions will be identified and provided for all who need them.  It is within our power to shape both the present and the future – let’s do it.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.

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Freedom and Happiness

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As I sit here writing this post, the sound of beautiful music is wafting down from my upstairs loft and the grand piano that mostly sits silent.  Today however the piano’s owner, my son, is visiting and finally the keys have sprung to life once again.  This background of music has been constant in our lives since the boy was four years old when my mother, a pretty good musician herself, bought us our first upright piano and signed him up for music classes.  Every Saturday morning, she and my dad would pick up our son and take him to the class, participate with him and return with instructions for the week’s practicing.  This cycle continued for a few years until he was old enough for private lessons and then I would dutifully drop him off.  And so it went until he could drive himself and finally, upon high school graduation, he transitioned to a university music conservatory.

My parents are not alive anymore to witness the flame that grew from those early lessons.  But when I hear my son play, I feel connected to them.  Both were musical, albeit in different ways.  My mom loved the structure of sitting at the piano.  My dad was whimsical and loved the tactile sensation of picking up a clarinet, a banjo, a concertina and would often bring some new, unusual instrument home to show us.  Even a harmonica delighted him and he’d run it between his lips, a twinkle in in eye, and try to teach us the same technique.

My son also spent several years with a violin, but it was the piano that had staying power for him and now, it is his life’s work.  We’ve watched and listened as he grew from a tiny boy whose feet couldn’t even touch the floor pedals, into a man towering over the keys.  When he plays his body sways with the music, his feet move confidently over the pedals and his green eyes blaze with energy.

Years ago, I asked my son how he feels when he plays the piano.  He told me it felt like he was flying and that he is happy when he plays.  I interpreted the flying as a feeling of freedom.  Freedom and happiness; what more could a mother want for her child?  What more could anyone want for themselves?  As we head into Independence Day 2019, I wish for all of you, freedom and happiness.  I wish that for our country and for our planet.

 

And, here’s the latest update from my garden:

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Farm to table zucchini bread

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About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a small business owner, journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the proud owner of Nashville Pilates Company, a boutique Pilates studio in Nashville’s Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood.  Check it out at  www.nashvillepilatescompany.com.  She is also the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Visit http://www.theperetzproject.com.  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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Going Home

Today has been a remarkable confluence of a variety of events – the 30th birthday of a dear son-in-law, the celebration of life of a beloved church member, the good-byes to neighbors who are moving on, my husband’s return to work after the first round of chemotherapy (three more to go). I spent the afternoon yesterday with the youngest member of our family – our 14-month-old granddaughter, walking, talking, playing – making her wishes clearly known.

When I opened the New York Times newsletter that I receive daily, I turned to the op-ed features, as I so often do.  Margaret Renkl, a fellow Nashvillian, wrote a beautiful piece about time and loss and mortality.  The link to this piece is here.  It is so worth reading, and so I offer it to you today.  Enjoy.

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About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.

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Trauma Comes in Many Forms

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Photo by Natália Ivanková on Pexels.com

I recently read in an article that trauma, though usually associated with a sudden, unexpected horrible event or occurrence, can also be caused by something positive.  The article explained that trauma is anything that divides your life into before, and after.  I realized, as I approach the 12th anniversary of my move to Tennessee, that I’ve been dealing with the trauma of being uprooted from the only home I ever knew and relocating to a place where I had no family or friends.

My discovery was triggered by a call from someone I don’t know, but who is a colleague of my brother.  This person and his wife are considering moving to Nashville and my brother suggested they reach out to me to learn the ropes.  As I first spoke to the husband, I answered his questions and gave him the broad strokes about life here.  He’s concerned for his wife and how she will fare.  I next spoke with the wife, who had very different questions and concerns.  We had a great conversation, but as I shared my experiences with her it became clear to me that I’ve suffered some trauma as a result of the move.  In fact, after our conversation, I felt a wave of grief wash over me and it stayed for several days.

I’m sure on the spectrum of trauma, my experience is somewhat mild.  But I do distinguish my life before the move and my life since.  I often spend time wondering what my life would have been like if we’d never moved.  I fantasize about what I’d be doing at this moment if I was still, “back home.”  And I long for a time we can move back.

I don’t know much about recovery from trauma, but in this case, it’s come as a gradual process.  The last 12 years have been challenging but, I know now, also incredibly rewarding.  I’ve learned that I am a resilient person.  I’ve become more confident in my ability to navigate new situations.  And while I always knew I’m someone who makes friends easily, I’ve learned to consciously use that skill when necessary.

And there’s been another, unexpected lesson I’ve learned.  The concept of, “home,” is one I always associated with a place.  In my case, that home is Southern California.  But home is a funny thing, wherever you are, wherever your loved ones are, that’s home.  For some people, it’s obvious but for me, it was something I really had to live through to understand.  And the places that I long for are always with me, in my heart and my memories.  Just like people who have passed through my life, places I treasure don’t disappear.  But unlike people who have passed, I can, and do, revisit places.  The shores of the Pacific Ocean, the rocky peaks of the Sierras, the desert sands of Palm Springs, all are still there for me.  Not to mention the breakfast table at my best friend’s house, the neighborhood parks where my children played, the street where we bought our first home and the duplex I lived in when I was a child.

Right now, I actually feel lucky to have two big parts to my life.  The part before the move that gave me my values, my inner strength, my education and my family.  And the part since, that put all of that to the test.  I know now that, given the choice, I wouldn’t go back to the life I had; that life exists in my memory.  The one I have now is so much richer, more meaningful and more satisfying.  As time passes I feel blended rather than split in two.  I get to choose what part of my past to keep and what to let go and I also get to decide what to embrace in my new life and what to let pass.  I guess for now, the grief is passed, but I’m sure it will resurface and next time, it will be different.

Springtime in my Garden

Here are a few shots from my garden.  This is definitely something new for me!  A vegetable garden of my own is something I always wanted in So. Cal. but never had time or space.  Check it out!

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The latest veggie harvest

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First yield of the season.

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The garden!

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She Died of a Lot of Things

She died of a lot of things, but she lived a lot, too.  She had an accident in her early life – nine months old, hit by a car.  I couldn’t protect her.  We weren’t sure she would be able to walk or to have bladder and bowel control.  All summer I stayed with her, washed her, kept her clean.  They were surprised that she was so clean.  Why, not, I thought, she’s my baby like any other baby.  The day she stood up was a miracle.  She had lost half her weight, but she began to eat again.  Then she walked.  She played.  She gained weight. She returned to her playful self.

Her tail never learned to wag, but it bounced all her life.  When she died, it was of old injuries and of old age.  In human years she was eighty.  She lived a lot of life.

She died of a lot of things.  Maybe chief among them, other than the ocular melanoma listed as cause of death, was heart’s longing, longing for time with him she never had.  He worked so hard, so long.  He was good.  He was loved, but she missed him.

She poured herself into children and church, gardening, reading, the Herb Society of Nashville, dear women friends.  She created spots of beauty wherever she looked. She loved beautiful things.

When it became clear that dying was soon, she told me what to do.  Even then she thought of others.  “Tell him not to be alone,” she said.  “Give the necklace to them – you know how.”

She died of a lot of things – longing, wishing in the mix.  She died of more than illness, and she lived a lot of life.

When the time comes to “shuffle off this mortal coil”, may we all be able to know that we have lived a lot of life.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.

Like what you’ve read?  Feel free to share, but please…Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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Looking Forward: Spring in My Garden

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These past couple of weeks I’ve been in a bit of a funk.  I’m not sure what triggered it, and I can’t really put my finger on what, exactly, I’m feeling.  I just feel a bit blue.  Perhaps the recent bout of constant rain and gray weather is what got me down.  But thankfully, today it’s glorious outside and I found myself motivated to work in my newly planted vegetable garden.

I’ve been planting vegetables the last several years since moving to the South, first in my previous home which had a large lot, and the last couple of years in my new home in a more urban neighborhood with a smaller yard.  Each year I learn something new about the process and about myself in the hopes that my garden will improve and yield a better crop than the year before.  It’s a “two steps forward, one step back,” sort of process.  Dealing with nature means being ready for the unexpected.  Haha, an oxymoron for sure.  What I mean is, I need to learn to roll with things as they come and be better at living in the moment and problem solving as things present themselves.

Last summer, was the year of the stink bug infestation.  Previous years I did battle with the evil vine borer.  This year, well, I’ve tried to prepare the beds with food and nutrients, along with some, shall we say, unsavory additives to ward off another invasion.  But who knows what’s lurking beneath the soil, in the trees, or what those cute but pesky little bunnies hopping in the neighborhood bring with them as they sneak in for a nibble.  I guess it’s a sign of my true optimism that every year I try again, not knowing what will happen, but believing that I’ll grow right along with my garden.  And most years I do have some victories.  Last year in spite of those stink bugs, I did have five beautiful pumpkins.  In fact, I still have some of the cooked insides waiting in the freezer to be turned into scones, pies, bread and jam.  I also had a bumper crop of heirloom cherry tomatoes, and still have a few sweet potatoes left in the basement.  So, there are rewards to be sure.

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One important lesson I learned last year is that my tendency toward going big doesn’t always work.  Of course, this isn’t news to me, but the overflowing beds really illustrated the problem.  After planting zucchini, pumpkins, cucumbers and spaghetti squash all in the same 4×4 raised bed, it was easy to see I hadn’t planned well for their growth. Before long, they were all tangled in each other and as the summer progressed, they spilled out onto the surrounding lawn, some of the plants rooting themselves into the grass.  The morning dew made for some soggy vegetables and some rot on the vines.  So, while early in the season I was sure there’d be enough room, I learned that when it comes to planting vegetables, less is definitely more.  This season, I’ve exercised some restraint and kept the beds sparser, allowing room for growth.  I also plan to experiment with trellises and vertical gardening for the squash and cucumbers.  And I’m taking a break from the pumpkins.  Too heartbreaking if they don’t make it.  See?  I’m managing expectations!

As the season progresses, I’m excited to observe how my newly learned lessons help the process.  I’m hopeful, as always, for a better year than last.  I’m also certain to face challenges.  And I just know I’ll learn something new.  Can’t wait!

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a small business owner, journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the proud owner of Nashville Pilates Company, a boutique Pilates studio in Nashville’s Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood.  Check it out at  www.nashvillepilatescompany.com.  She is also the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Visit http://www.theperetzproject.com.  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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He’s Baaaaack! The Return of the Son

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File this under the “Be careful what you wish for,” file.

My youngest child has been accepted into grad school at a local university (I’m not allowed to say which one, just yet, but it’s very local to our home).  We are, of course, very excited to have him back home for a while.  But as reality sinks in and planning gets underway, I am also a bit apprehensive.  As empty nesters, we are about to have an adult roommate.  In my mind I picture a sophisticated arrangement where we enjoy dinner together, maybe a glass of wine at the end of the day.  I’m looking forward to someone else to do some of the cooking.  On the other hand, after several years alone, my husband and I have a nice routine of our own.  Our house is orderly for the first time in, well, forever.  Our utility bills are manageable, the refrigerator is stocked for two, laundry is done every couple of weeks and the thermostat is set for my comfort.  It’s all about to change.

Funny thing about having children; they grow up, they leave and then, one by one they each come back for a time.  The challenge for me is how to maintain my independence and balance it against my automatic return to “mommy mode.”  And actually, the bigger challenge is to recognize when I snap into mommy mode and then to manage myself so that I don’t get completely lost in it again.  This time around, I’m expecting that said adult child will be so busy with school, studying, internships and making new friends that he won’t be around all the time.  The goal, after all, is for him to launch the next chapter of his life.  And as he’s been living independently in another city for the last several years, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t need us for much anymore.  Additionally, I have a pretty full life myself with new friends, a business to run and volunteer work.

The first test came the other day when my son asked if he could share my office for his studies.  I was a little taken aback, then calmly told him that I think it would be best to set him up in one of the other bedrooms since I use my office regularly. Privately I was a little peeved because I’ve waited years to have a nice home office that is just mine and frankly, I don’t like to share it with anyone.  So, obviously we’ll have to establish boundaries.

I realize I’m getting ahead of myself right now.  And I also realize I’m having a roller coaster of emotions around this child’s return.  Excited, anxious, relieved, then anxious again, then back to being thrilled.  At least we have a few months before our new living arrangement begins.  In the meantime, I plan to do some personal work to figure out what are my boundaries and how do I want to communicate about them.  I want to be aware of my own triggers so that I can be prepared and not get sucked back in.  I also want to think about my expectations for this time in our lives.  It will be fun to have my little buddy back, to have someone to chat with over coffee, to discuss politics with and to have my social media guru around to help with that aspect of my business.  And I expect he will want to set his own boundaries and manage his expectations.

As the next few months of planning unfolds, communication will be key to making this a smooth transition.  And it will be important to remember that we all love each other and want each of us to be happy and content at home.  More to come.

And in other news, this past weekend I prepared my raised beds for planting.  Keep watching my posts for updates on my Summer Garden 2019!

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COMING SOON SUMMER 2019!

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a small business owner, journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the proud owner of Nashville Pilates Company, a boutique Pilates studio in Nashville’s Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood.  Check it out at  www.nashvillepilatescompany.com.  She is also the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Visit http://www.theperetzproject.com.  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please… Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

 

 

 

 

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The Other Side of the Couch – The Path We All Must Take

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Someone very close to me has received a diagnosis of cancer.  Neither the nature of the relationship nor the specifics of the diagnosis are significant here – what I am watching, as though from a distance, is my own set of responses.

I have been here before.  The shock of the information, the moment when everything goes still and you find yourself not breathing.  The deliberate focus on detail – who, what, when – what is the plan – what do you need – how can I help.  My method for coping with crisis is to become very organized and intentional.  I suppose that is about imposing some degree of order on a suddenly chaotic world.

That works for a limited amount of time.  It is the cushion that the psyche provides when events are too overwhelming to process all at once.  I find that it is useful.

What I have not done, and what I need to do, is to set aside time to feel the emotions that I am now deliberately avoiding.  I am afraid.  I am devastated. I am unbelieving and in shock.  I am so afraid that my time on this earth with this person is coming to an end.  I am dealing with loss.

I wish I had words to say that would make it better.  I wish it were not happening.  I wish I could go back to that blissful place of unknowing.  I wish so many things.

This event throws into perspective once again that truth – our days on this earth are numbered.  We will all follow the same path out of this world, and each and every moment we have together is a gift and a blessing.  I remember when I was a teenager and experienced the assassination of President Kennedy – my response that day was to gather all my siblings and to go home, to a place we could all be together.

My impulse today is the same, but we are widely scattered – thousands of miles apart.  So – metaphorically speaking I gather us all into love and light, I reach out and connect, I share my loved one’s story far and wide, because I believe that loving energy helps and supports healing. I do all I can.

And I take time to cry.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.

Like what you’ve read?  Feel free to share, but please…Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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