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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Best compliment ever on anything on the top of my head…

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“My hair is trying to grow back, Evalee,” I said to my 5 year old granddaughter as she curled up beside me.

“Oh, let’s see,” she said and I pulled off the 24- hour- a- day- touque- because- oh- my- goodness- my- head- gets- chilly- these- days.

She reached over and rubbed my head and announced,

“It feels just like my fuzzy, see?” and she handed me her ‘fuzzy’ aka ‘silky’ aka ‘5 year old silky blankie that has had a whole lotta love.’

It does feel like her fuzzy.  But the best part of all was that she could relate my head to something she loves so much.

I think one of the hardest parts of being bald has been watching her work so hard to make me feel okay, when you could see in her eyes that it wasn’t easy for her.  At first, she didn’t want to see my bald head, but when she decided too, she’d tell me over and over things like, “But your eyes look even nicer now.”

And we’ve tried to have a bit of fun with this bald head… as you can see in the photo when Evalee painted my head last month: the result of an impromptu ‘how can we make this funny?” kind of moment. (note: There’s the sun, ‘fringes’, jewels, and an entire ocean wrapped around my head!)

Her announcement today likening my hair to her fuzzy came totally naturally… and it totally warmed my heart. And this bit of fuzz on my head, as funny looking as it is, makes me smile now.

Thank you, precious peanut, Evalee.

“Really? Call ME a wuss?” And I threw harder.

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When I was told chemo was about to be added into the strange mix of diagnosis and treatments, it was not a pretty day, that June day.  It was a day where I desperately needed to hike… fast, hard, do something with the craziness of what was building inside me, by myself, in nature, connect, breathe: That had worked with the initial simpler diagnosis, before the two surgeries. I had fast walked miles and miles on a sandy beach, tossed myself down and stared at the sky, and eventually drew symbols and hearts and magical images in the sand.  It was a crazy walk… the next day my legs ached dangerously; high tailing it through mushy sand for miles is extreme. But the physical movement in nature took priority beyond what my body thought it could do. And it led me to a space within myself where I could call my daughter at the end of the walk and say, “I’m okay now. Really. I am really okay. “

The diagnosis kept ‘upping ‘ itself, though, from simple to rare to rarer…and the one where extensive chemo evolved into the mix.. ya, not a pretty day. I drove to my nature spot to find it was flooded with spring waters. I drove there, only after convincing my daughter who had come to that doctor’s appointment and suffered in shock along with me, asked “Are you sure you can drive?”

She’d suffered with me through that appointment. I stopped hearing the doctor when I realized my brain could not even comprehend the numbers he was telling me … the months and months and months and months of chemo, when chemo hadn’t even been an option for the type of cancer I had until this moment this doctor revealed a rare twist in a gene test. I was trying to calculate those numbers in my notebook, but it all made no sense… just numbers haphazardly written randomly on the page that would not process.

The doctor said, “You have all been through a lot.” She looked at him and said, “From the day my mother’s mom died when she was nine, she has been through too much.” I couldn’t counter that comment with ‘Oh, yes, but you know how much joy I can feel…” Not today. She was right. Too much shit.  This, so soon after my other daughter’s healing from cancer.  Telling that daughter this latest news was incomprehensible. And in between her and I, a scare with my granddaughter that lasted far too long. It was too much.

But I told her I could drive. And when I reached my place to hike and it was flooded, I already knew I couldn’t keep driving. What it took to get there was fast.. far too fast, wild, had to get there, had to get there.. had to release this craziness exploding in me, and it was dangerous.

Now I was angrier…my nature spot had failed me.  I picked up a baseball size rock in the graveled parking lot and threw it at a tree. Then another and another.  Fast. Furious. Intent to injure.

“I’m throwing rocks at trees!” part of me recognized. I’d never throw rocks at trees. But I kept throwing because throwing the rocks into the brush was not enough. I had to hit the trees.

Strangely, I began to feel like the trees were conspiring in this devastation… like I could hear them goading me on, “Hit me with your best shot. Come on, don’t be a wuss.”

“Really? Call ME a wuss?” And I threw harder.

I had the thought that it would have been quite a video. Crazed woman ranting, ‘Seriously? What the fuck?” and other choice phrases. Frantically on a mission of clearing the entire parking lot of baseball size rocks. Panting, exhausted, but still throwing. Her dog stopped in his tracks after he realized this was not fetch they were playing…he was stunned, in fact, perched by the car – perhaps guessing that I wouldn’t throw rocks at the car. Honestly, I don’t even remember why I had the dog with me. That really makes no sense. Did I really go home and get him after the appointment? Crazed, I was, because I just don’t know.

And if the video could have captured those trees…egging me on. Telling me that what we believe to be true, isn’t. Telling me they were there for me. Slamming them with rocks intending to do damage was good for them, contrary to all that we learn about nature. Hinting that this was more fun than they’d had in awhile… but when that made me even angrier, they took it back. But I could see their great strong spirits pretending it wasn’t fun… because they were loving that they could play this role.

When the baseball size rocks were all cleared, could I say, “I’m okay. Really, I’m okay now.”  No.  But I can look back on this and know those trees were showing me what would help me through this time…parts of me that existed and could be called upon:  strong, spirited, playful, responding contrary to what one might believe to be the way one ought to respond.

And that is where I really was heading with this … to write about how creativity, playfulness, magic and practicing the art of EXTREME ‘doing what feels good right now’ is getting me through this. Alas, it seems this story wanted to be told first. And looking back, there was magic in this.

One Creative Client’s Update: Be affirmed, Be inspired, Remember what works…

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 While I’ve been healing, I have stepped back from coaching. My clients, and clients currently inquiring, do make (or wish to make) a very powerful, empowering and life changing commitment to themselves when they choose personal coaching. My role in that is to truly be there with them, fully present,  committed to them in consistency and ‘on top of my game’ in my ability to support them as they discover and take actions while creating their lives.  During my healing, surgeries and treatments.. my coaching practise was understandably set aside. However, my long time clients do keep me updated. And I’m here to share an update, with permission and a rewrite by the client for anonymity. 

There’s so much to notice in what she shares.  She is the epitomy of both moving forward successfully and in enjoying where she is now. She does this now with compassion for herself, with the ability to understand her thinking processes, her barriers, her way past them.. not only in her musical career but in all aspects of her life.  (Some of the life aspects are removed… again, to keep anonymous) 

You might notice.. 

  • how she goes back to things that worked before,
  • the way she notices but does not let the ‘hard on self’ talk stop her,
  • how she connects an experience that gave her strength to an experience where she needs strength, 
  • and how she notices the synchronicities that are affirming.. and even magical.

And one other thing that I’d like to tell about her: one of her strengths is knowing when she needs support, not hesitating, simply connecting for support. The great thing about this is that now, after our longtime coaching relationship, once she contacts me for coaching with the concern, she usually resolves it before we speak, simply by thinking through the coaching process!  I do love that.. it says both her and I are doing our ‘work’ well.

Here’s her update! Enjoy. I suspect you’ll be inspired, reminded, and affirmed by her sharing.

My “musical tinkering” sessions have been going rather well this past week or so. I hadn’t done any tinkering in a while, and decided to get back to it about a week ago. It felt really good. Just giving my creative muscle a workout after a period of inactivity. Kind of like the endorphin boost you get when you exercise for the first time after a long stint of inactivity. This allowed me to enjoy the process without really caring too much about the quality of what I was producing. I wasn’t expecting to create a masterpiece after having been away from the process for so long. Kind of the way you wouldn’t expect to do splits or run a marathon after exercising for the first time in weeks or months. So since then I have been showing up to the process quite regularly. Not imposing any time limit or anything, just doing it for as long as I want, letting whatever comes out naturally just come out and appreciating the wellness I experience from feeding my soul, taking care of my creative needs. This approach has been doing wonders to silence those nasty inhibiting voices.

So Wednesday night I was heading over to my music rehearsal space (which is now a rock’s throw away from where I live) for one of these sessions. Initially, my intention was to go and experiment with some aggressive growl screaming stuff (which I don’t really feel comfortable doing in my apartment because my neighbors might call the cops or something). But when I walked into the room, I wasn’t in the mood for loud and crazy stuff. I had another interesting breakthrough on my way to the space (that is the subject of a whole other email) and felt light as a cloud and I just wanted to sit at the piano and play touchy feely songs. I started playing this song I wrote a few years ago. It is one of a very small handful of songs I’ve written on piano which I feel pretty good about (I find most of the other ones really cheesy… and a lot of them never get finished). I’ve only performed it in front of small gatherings of friends and family (and I’ve always found the experience to be 3000x times more scary and intimidating than walking on a stage in front of thousands of people). So anyways, when I was finished playing the song that night in my rehearsal space, a little voice came into my head: “Why don’t you play that song at Andrea’s tribute show this Saturday? It seems perfect for the occasion.”

Andrea is a singer-songwriter who is in my circle of artsy friends and acquaintances. We’ve performed at one event together and I’ve had the chance to hang out with her a few times. Unfortunately, she committed suicide in August, right before my summer vacation. Although I did not know her well, her passing affected me. Several of my friends were close to her and deeply pained by the loss. I thought of her as an inspiring, generous person and I wish I had gotten the chance to know her better.

Nicole, a visual artist and close friend of Andrea (whom I also happen to know because I did some work for her in exchange for some of her artwork) organized a tribute concert for Andrea happening outdoors. Twenty or so artists were to come out and perform songs in memory of her. Initially, I intended to go as a spectator. Until that crazy little voice popped into my head.

Of course no sooner had I come up with that wonderfully crazy idea that the monkey chatter began chiming in. “Why should you go perform at a tribute show for Andrea? You barely knew her. Oh my God, over a hundred people have clicked “Attending” on the Facebook event.” I also noticed that this talented songwriter named Robert, whom I dated for awhile and to whom I actually played that song of mine once or twice, was amongst the artists performing on the bill. “Oh great. He’s going to think it’s the only song you know.” Etc. Etc. Etc…

During my summer vacation, I had the amazing opportunity to go white water rafting down a pretty wild river. Truly, one of the best days of my life. I never imagined I would have been able to paddle down those kinds of challenging drops and dives… and enjoy it as much as I did.

Suddenly, another voice popped into my head. “You’ve paddled your way down a roaring river and came out just fine. You should be able to handle playing a little piano in front of a bunch of people.” Thank you, river.

Next thing you know I was writing Nicole asking if it was too late for me to join her tribute concert and perform one of my songs. Moments later, she replied saying “Yeah cool, there’s a little spot left just for you.”

That same night I checked the Facebook event again. My name had been added to the list of performers.

So at that point I figured “I guess I am really going to do this.” I had butterflies. But they were the happy kind.

The concert was certainly an emotional affair. I was a bit nervous on my way to the event, but I soon forgot about my own little issues upon arriving there. Everyone was standing teary-eyed, listening to the various people who stepped up to pay tribute to this magnificent and well-loved woman. “Okay, this isn’t about me. This is all about her.”

My contribution was welcomed by everyone present and I got some positive feedback on my singing voice. The organizer even bugged me to go up again and sing something else, but I hadn’t prepared anything. Interestingly, another friend of Andrea organized a higher profile tribute about a month later and asked me to perform in it… and there was no connection with this one. Life can certainly be interesting and mysterious.

Funny also what I wrote earlier about butterflies. Right before I went up to sing my song, they had a “butterfly flight ceremony”. Literally. Everyone was given a little butterfly in a box, and we were told to free all of them, as a symbolic gesture.

Part IV: My Tall Ship ~She’s sailing the Wild Seas

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In those moments of almost asleep – the ‘tween times that can be so curious; sometimes enchanting,  sometmes strange, often peaceful, often intuitive –  my thoughts went to my Tall Ship, as they often do these healing days.  As I fall asleep, I check in with my Tall Ship, and see what she needs and feel what she’s feeling. Once again, I was surprised how my Tall Ship shared a story I wasn’t expecting. Oh, but I do love this one!

{Readers, for this to make sense, there is a series about my Tall Ship visualizations that are helping me and it starts here}

I awoke from ‘almost sleep’ so connected to the energy of what I’m about to share, that there’s not a thing in the world that would have me sleep instead of basking in the exhilaration.

TAll Ship XI – Sailing the Wild Seas
Janet L. Whitehead © 2008

Imagine a very fine tall ship, one with many more sails than this painting.. with more length, more depth, layers of decks, intricate ladders and spiralling railings…  the bow now adorned with a sculpture of a golden grizzly bear, and there are carved symbols running the beam of the ship that could only have been written by enchanted beings.

The painting here is not this Tall Ship… but the energy of the ‘tween time visualization’ reminded me of this painting.

And that energy?

Imagine wild wild seas with waves that spill over the entire ship before the bowsprit emerges onto the crest of the next wave: A refreshingly cool sea, crystal blue frothing waters, cleansing, but wild wild…wonderously wild.

The Ship is in her glory!!! She is where she most loves to be, where she feels most alive… strong and capable and exhilarated as she and the sea become one in an adventure of kindred spirits… challenging each other to be more wild, more beautiful, becoming synchronized like an awe-inspiring and very dramatic ballet. This is where trust and intuition rule, and fear can make no sense of the love and the fun that exists, and so, simply leaves.

I know this feeling. I love this feeling.  During this healing time, I ask myself things like “What makes you feel most alive?” The answer has come back: In my 20 foot tournament boat in a huge Shuswap storm… exactly where most people think a tournament boat ought not to be, but exactly where the water, the boat, and I can dance. A place where I know my skill, confidence, trust, and ability to feel ‘boat, wave and me’ as one, throws me into  ‘the zone’ of exhilaration, adventure, pure ‘in the moment-ness’, and includes full on cheering by all in the boat,  as we crash over each wave without losing a single person. ~smile~ Yes, even the ‘crew’ tends not to be scared when I’m having so much fun.  Well, at least if it’s my daughters… they trust me in a storm. And just so you know, there’s no foolishness involved in these stormy adventures… even if the boat went down, the cap’n has been prepared and she and the passengers would be fine. ~really!~  And there’s been other ‘most alive’s’ with other ships in stormy adventures on the ocean, where I wasn’t captaining.. just a passenger ecstatic to be there, although wishing like heck that I was steering!

As I head into the final round of the ‘full’ protocol of chemo, you can imagine how good it feels to connect to the energy of that grand ship in high seas: strong, confident, exhilarated, and being in its full potential.  Physically, I’m weaker than I’ve ever experienced. I know I’ve done quite well on chemo, but it, in itself, is not fun. It is debilitating.  I get sad when I’m not able to see the little ones because a family member is ill, and my immune system is too low.

And so, today, it just feels so amazing to remember and connect with the ‘ship in a wild storm’ feeling!!!! Because, after all, Imagining it makes it true.

(I know that is a whole ‘nother blog post to explain the truth in that… for now, please know this: Two olympic athletes who know their sport well: One completes a session of training in the  physical sense, the other completes a session of training using only his imagination to visualize it.  Both will show similar levels of increased heart rate and even increased muscle tone and strength, and with both, their training sessions contribute to increased performance at events. That’s what I mean by, “Imagining makes it true.”)

There’s a lot of other things that have helped me during surgeries and chemo.  Part of what has been helping me  is that I accepted not doing things that I really wasn’t up to doing… not an easy thing for me, but it happened. I even put the paddleboard away a month ago, when even 5 minutes felt more exhausting than energizing. I accepted, as much as I could, that the stresses in my life are, in reality, huge, but that I had no energy to deal with them and unless they relate to my immediate medical and health care, they would have to wait. I accepted being as nice as possible to me, because I know the value of that; I help others learn to do this, and well, it felt like a challenge to push that belief to the extreme, with a sense of accountability to all whom I’ve coached.  I keep giving myself permission to do what feels good in a moment, an hour, or a day. It all helps me.
I also know my treatments, the drugs to support my treatments, my eating plan, my supplement plan… they are also helping hugely. But that’s technical details I can share another time if someone wants to know. (If you want to know, let me know!)

And more than anything, what’s helped is the support .. the unbelievable spirit lifting support of family and friends. Wow.

But in all this, I also know these visualizations have, in their  magical way,  helped me tremendously mentally, physically, emotionally, creatively and spiritfully… especially spiritfully!

And so I trust, even as I still have a bit to go before my body gets to be on the ongoing uphill of healing, that I can imagine this feeling of my Tall Ship in the Wild Seas, and know that it’s getting me there quicker. It won’t be long before I can choose to do what makes me feel alive and know my body will  support me.

Yo ho Yo Ho!

ps. What makes YOU feel most alive? I’d love to know!

Happy is a challenging place to reach… or maybe it’s simpler than we think.

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July 2013 note:  Ya… I have like 40 drafts of posts I started last year. I’ll blame chemo brain, etc. Today, I’m exploring those posts. I’m surprised I didn’t post this one… really, it was finished. But sometimes it’s been scary to press ‘publish’ when it is still a very foreign thing for me to be so public about something so personal. But really… this photo is awesome, this day was magical.  And apparently I had a lot to say about Happy. 

Here’s a ‘very happy, feels good, random decision of what might feel good right now’ activity that happened this month:  My granddaughter painted and bejewelled my head.  She did such a beautiful job.. and it was such a precious experience.

Who knew I’d ever be sharing a picture of my bald head in a story of happy? Heck, who knew my granddaughter would ever be painting my bald head? Huh. Isn’t life curious.

The concepts and philosophies of Happy spend quite a bit of time in my thoughts, and always have.  Finding happy in my rather ‘eventful’ life has been a passion, I suppose.. or a necessity.. or happened by nature. Whatever the orginal reason its played such an important role for me, finding happy is a pretty darn important concept in all of our lives.

Finding what feels good, what makes me happy during this particularly ridiculous series of health events … and practising it in the extreme, has been a very interesting, very soul supporting, and absolutely a necessity for me.

The truth is, though, “Happy” is a challenging place to reach.

It’s so usual for me to hear from a client starting coaching, “I just want to be happy. Why does that seem so hard?”  It’s true that once a person arrives for coaching, they’ve already been contemplating important questions. They are already past trying to convince themselves that they are sooo happy. They know there is more to life, but either not so sure what that can be, or know, but want support to make it happen.

A lot of people, though.. a lot of positive and optimistic people are more in this realm:

People are convinced that certain things ‘should’ make them happy, so much so that they feel bad because that doesn’t make them happy.

But honestly, people seldom look at what authentically makes them, as unique individuals, happy. Again, too often, guilt sets in just for ‘looking’ at what makes them happy; after all, if you have a healthy family, an income that is decent, etc.. “is searching for more really ‘just complaining?” they wonder.

And if you’re complaining, does that mean you are being negative? And oh my god, whatever you do, don’t be negative.. it’ll attract bad things!!! (You’ll notice a little sarcasm there. We’re human. We have negative thoughts. Sometimes they are simply clues that a change might be worth looking at.)

And then, toss in a spouse on the sideline saying, “Doesn’t anything make you happy?” when you are simply trying to make ‘something’ in life work better, and there’s an extra dollop.. no, wallop… of guilt.

And grateful… well, grateful gets in the way, too. Grateful and Happy intermix, overlap, can reveal one or the other,.. but where grateful stops us from finding happy? Here’s an example many people will ‘get’:  You can be very grateful for your job and the financial security it provides. That doesn’t necessarily mean that job makes you happy. Yet, the ‘grateful’ can easily stop you from choosing to explore options that would make you happy…. because exploring that might also mean you are an ungrateful person.

It’s one thing when it really is negative thinking that stops us from finding ‘happy’.

It’s another thing when we are confused by what makes us happy because of the inundation of media and messages from corporations, governments, religions, education systems, self help ‘gurus’ and even (or maybe especially) friends and families insisting they know what makes us happy.

But it is a whole new challenge when our apparent “positive, optimistic and grateful’ thinking is the culprit that stops us from finding happy. It’s not hard to get past that one, though, once a person realizes that that is what is happening to them. Just knowing can shift the gears.

Ah, the quandary of it all. Perhaps my thoughts can be a little fuel for thought for you. But really I just wanted to  share a little step that I know works for me  in the happy direction…

The little moments are such an important place to start noticing what truly makes you happy… just noticing small moments that you can honestly say make you feel totally happy in that moment.  So happy that all the other weighty things leave your mind even just for an instance.

Most people will dismiss this because of the simplicity.  After all, the search for happiness is a great big life long quest by some teachings. Or happiness will happen when the dream of living off the grid is realized. Or in the ideal home. Or the world has to be fixed before we can be happy. Or the bills paid. Or happy and fun are only treats for when the work is all done…..        hmm……

Once those things are done, though, there’s a  pretty good chance that a person will still be waiting for Happy. The lifetime of waiting, for whatever reasons -not clear on what does make you happy, feeling guilty exploring happy, confusion by all the outside sources telling us what makes us happy.pretending your happy when you’re not, etc- those underlying habits of thinking will still be there playing havoc with the ability to be happy. I know what I’m suggesting is ridiculously simple… finding happy in moments now… but it’s the way to retrain your mind to recognize what it is that makes you happy and allow more of it in.

I’ve had so many ridiculously happy moments in this last 9 months since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had to do something extreme. I knew that so much in my world was about to completely crash… my business, my plans, my emotions, my physical strength and even more my emotional strength. I was honestly still regaining strength, reconnecting with a self that felt safe and secure in this world,  after the previous two years that involved my daughter recuperating from cancer, a scare with my granddaughter, and a series of lesser setbacks including the financial crash in the US that had hugely affected my business… many of my clients are from the States.  I knew I had to do something extreme to get through this latest ridiculous event.

And so I decided I would focus entirely on what made me happy, what made me feel good, what fed my soul.  Period. Well, that, and everything that had to do with the medical side.. the research, the appointments, the tests, the treatments, more research, more appointments, more tests, more treatments.   But otherwise, I had to let go anything else that would take my energy away, even though those things might be considered ‘must do’s’ (my taxes are still not done), and I had to focus on what gives me energy.

And, by the way, don’t feel bad if you’re having trouble with this.  Happy can be very challenging place to find – we’ve learned a lot in our lifetimes to stop us. (And don’t let me even start about where we’ve  learned that happy or fun must wait until the work is done.  Oy, oy, oy.)

But you will start to notice happy, just by giving yourself permission to notice. That simple.  And then you will start to create Happy more often, when you know what that really is for you.

Little things, small moments, taking the time to notice the happies, and then taking time to create the happies:  Some of you already know this has been my key method of looking after me this last many months. Asking ‘what would feel good and do-able right now?” “What would make me happy today?” “What would be fun?” “What would be funny?” “How can I make this fun/funny?”  Those questions are always top of my mind. Yes, I’ve been practising the art of extreme ‘what feels good?”  Sure, sometimes reading a book was the answer, or even doing pretty much nothing, because thinking or doing beyond that wasn’t all that do-able, but still I asked.  Many many amazing moments, events, ahas, activities and laughter have been the result.  As my daughter said when we sat on a beach one August day.. “What had potential to be a very crappy summer has turned into one of the nicest.”

A  happy for me today: As I was driving (on my only outing these ‘white count is crashed and immune system can’t take exposure to any germs’ few days), I was thinking about the Happy concept.  I drove into my daughter’s driveway and saw the living room window fully decorated with drawings taped up with a lot of masking tape, and felt pen drawings directly on the window… clearly all planned and decorated by two small children. I was smiling ear to ear.  Happy: The creation, but also just imagining the wonder of small children as they created it.

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