Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Christmas Visitor

He showed up Christmas morning.

For several weeks I’d been seeing a sickly squirrel in the back yard, eating the sunflower seeds with all the other squirrels. He was missing a lot of fur, and I could tell he was not well.

I worried about how long he could last in our cold, wet Oregon weather.

Last month I installed a heat lamp in the house I keep on the deck for Sammy, the outdoor cat I’ve been feeding for over 7 years. I’ve never been able to get near Sammy, and he doesn’t stay in my yard for very long, but he comes just about every day for food.
I suspect he’s enjoying the heat because from time to time I’ve found him snoozing in his warm house.

However, on Christmas morning it was the squirrel, and not Sammy, who found refuge in the heated house.

The little guy spent several hours in there, constantly turning to get his entire body warm before he would step outside for a quick cool down.

Then it was back into the house.

Eventually he jumped off the deck and ran under the fence, perhaps off to a Christmas breakfast or some other important holiday event.

I will be forever grateful to this little squirrel, for watching him find comfort in the heated house brought me peace this Christmas…and that was the best gift I could have received.

Chris Davis
Lighthearted Press

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Feel What you Feel for the Holidays - from SARK

Feeling a little overwhelmed by the holidays? Maybe you are alone this year, struggling with financial challenges or coping with the loss of a loved one.

The following timely newsletter was written by Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy, better known as SARK.

You may think you don’t know her, but if you happen to have one of those lovely “Dogs are Miracles with Paws” posters then you know SARK – that’s HER work.

This newsletter is reprinted with permission from the author.

The holidays are full of pressures to be glad even if you don't feel that way. People talk about "holiday cheer," "finding the silver lining," "looking on the bright side," all of which are fine when we feel those things, but can actually add to feelings of loneliness and depression when we don't. There is also a certain kind of "holiday tyranny" where we are encouraged to hide how we're actually feeling, for the "sake of the holidays."

We are meant to feel what we feel when we feel it, then let it go. Most people don't know how they're feeling, or that it's okay to feel it. We are not taught how to have, or hold multiple feelings simultaneously, so many people choose one and cling to it. That one feeling might be described as happy or sad, but it's not a true reflection of our complexities as humans, and results in our feelings not flowing. Instead they get stuck, or other feelings are left untended.

For example, you might feel happy to see your mom at Christmas, sad that she's physically declining, angry that your sister isn't doing more, and worried about the future. If you fixate on just one of those feelings, it will not be as productive or helpful. Instead, it would be much more effective to feel all that you feel, respond lovingly to yourself, your mother and your sister, and create good systems for your family and self-care practices too.

Practical Gladness means living in the "messy middle" of all of your feelings and finding your "glad ground" underneath. From this glad ground place, you can be aware of and hold all of your feelings, notice ways to respond instead of react, and transform what's possible to transform.

When we find our glad ground in the middle, it is possible to enjoy the holidays truly, authentically, and with grace and wisdom. Here are some practical ways you can experience more gladness this holiday season:

1. Create a new self-care plan -- Think of what you need to feel good during the holidays, and provide it for yourself. Some of these things might be:
*Special foods that you know you will enjoy
*Call a friend to share how you're really feeling-- not how you think you should be
*Practice ways to experience less stress, like going for a walk or attending a yoga class
*Write in a journal or book with lists of things that nourish you, and do the things.

2. Adjust and lower your expectations, or better yet -- have none -- Notice how your expectations bring suffering when they aren't met. For example, if you feel ignored or overworked at holiday times, take yourself out for champagne and ignore some things you "should" be doing. Change your expectations about what you or others "should be" doing or acting like, and practice allowing how it actually IS. Focus on what's good and working

3. Educate others in the best ways to support you--Become clear about what actually feels supportive to you, and ask for others to contribute. For example, if you typically care for others and wish others would or could care for you, figure out what they could contribute to you that would be easy and fun. You might ask a friend to meet you for tea and laughter in the midst of a busy shopping or cleaning day, or sit with you while you wrap gifts or write cards

4. Experiment with new traditions and rituals for the holidays -- Do things differently. We all tend to repeat and become habituated. For example, "we always have our meal at _______." Some of my greatest holiday experiences have taken place at the movies, miniature golfing or serving food at a shelter instead of trying to participate in rituals or traditions that no longer represent who I am now.

5. Allow yourself to experience your holidays imperfectly -- Revise your ideas of perfection and increase your capacity for spontaneous joy. For example, if you get tense and pressured about preparing a meal, buying gifts, sending cards, or trying to do it ALL, try:
*Doing less and feeling good about it-refuse to be a prisoner of others expectations
*Doing parts of things -- fix the dessert, ask others to bring the other things
*Doing tiny amounts -- consider attending a holiday party for 5- 15 minutes with no explanation about why
*Asking others to help and then don't control or manage "how they do it"

6. Practice transforming what hurts into what helps -- Find the places that aren't working and speak up about them. For example, you might ask a group of people in your home to talk about different subjects like what they're loving in this moment, instead of sitting there judging how bored or dissatisfied you are feeling.
*If you're cooking and get crabby, let others know and help you!
*If you hate shopping, ask others to create experiences or adventures for each other instead of buying gifts
*If you keep complaining about the holidays, see if you can put your complaints on paper and resolve to have new experiences
*If you feel ungrateful, find someone to listen to who is facing challenges that you're not.

Being glad no matter what is NOT about feeling glad when you don't- how annoying. It's about practicing with all of your feelings and feeling glad as often as you possibly can- especially during the holidays!

Sending you every gorgeous moment,
aka SARK

SARK's eLetter is published by Planet SARK

Copyright 2010 SARK. All rights reserved.

Be kind to yourself this holiday season!


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Under the Christmas Tree

It was exactly one year ago today that I wrote a blog called Losing an Animal at the Holidays.

Although I hadn’t suffered a loss at this time of the year, I had come awfully close. I didn’t know that 12 months later I would be experiencing the heartbreak I had written about, having just lost my dear tiger cat, Pippen, last week.

Pippen LOVED to sleep under the Christmas tree, on my treasured angel skirt. Within moments of finishing the tree she would be under there with her sister, Molly. Seeing the two of them curled up beneath the greenery always brought me so much joy.

I thought about not setting up my tree this year. It was very tempting, but I knew Pippen would want me to. So my fully decorated tree now stands in the living room, the angel skirt tucked beneath the branches.

Perhaps…if I am very still…I may see the folds of that skirt ripple ever so gently, a sign that my angel kitty has come back for one more holiday nap.

Oh, I hope so…

Lighthearted Press

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Farewell, my dear Pippen

And so, with many, many tears, my earthly journey with my beloved forever cat, Pippen, has come to an end.

“I guess I thought you’d be here forever.”

That’s the first line of the old Chicago song, Hard Habit to Break. It was playing in the waiting room yesterday at the emergency vet hospital, where I sat holding Pippen in my arms for the last time.

She fought the good fight,
this most wonderful and dearest friend, but in the end she succumbed to the same cancer that claimed her brother’s life last July.

I have suffered many losses in my life, but saying goodbye to Pippen was one of the saddest moments of my life.
I sat in the darkened room, looking at all the tiny white doggie faces that were staring at me from the wall. Later I realized I was looking at the electrical outlets, my tired and blurry eyes unable to see clearly.

I knew my angel dog, Jake, and Pip’s angel brother, Dickens, were there in the room with us, ready to welcome their furry friend home and guide her on to the next great adventure.

Every animal lover who has ever said goodbye to a critter knows exactly what I was feeling in those last few moments.

If you’ve never lost an animal companion you can’t understand how impossibly fast your heart can beat, and how desperately you want to wake up from the nightmare, when the veterinarian asks you... are you ready now?

NO, I'M NOT READY,” you want to scream. “I WILL NEVER BE READY!” But Pippen was in pain, and the only remaining gift I could give her was to help her leave her broken and hurting body behind, and let her spirit fly up into the stars.

In a matter of seconds Pippen’s pain and suffering came to an end. Mine, however, will take much longer to heal.

This is one of my favorite pictures of Pippen, waiting patiently outside a birdhouse.

What she never quite understood was that the birdhouse was inside the screened cat enclosure, and no matter how long she waited there would never be a birdie coming through that hole!

Farewell, Pippen, my special little love. I will watch over your sisters, Molly and Star, just as I watched over you and Dickens for the last 12 years. I know it must be an awful lot of fun out there, no longer hindered by your earthly body, but I would deeply appreciate an occasional visit from you…even if it’s just a fly by!

With all my love and many tears,
Your mama,