Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Tears of a Clown - Repost

Tears of a Clown

“It is such a secret place, the land of tears.”  ~ Saint-Exupery

The words “tears of a clown” provoked some curiosity and reflection after hearing the phrase mentioned in a news report about the suicide of actor, Robin Williams. While his acting abilities were undeniably diverse, he was forever the comedian. Whether on camera or in real life, his manic, impromptu style revealed a kind of unrivaled comedic genius.  It seemed inconceivable that someone who made everyone around him laugh, did not have a personal inner peace.

Curiosity prevailed and I discovered the phrase “Tears of a Clown” is actually the title of a song sung by Smokey Robinson.  The lyrics read “keeping hurt and sadness hidden from the public eye - just as Pagliacci did.”  

Who or what is Pagliacci?  Pagliacci is the Italian plural word for clowns.  Pagliacci is also a famous opera of a play within a play.  The main character Canio (dressed as a clown) literally stabs his cheating wife and her lover while they are performing onstage and turns to a horrified, yet unsuspecting audience and utters the famous closing line as they lie dying  “The Comedy is finished.”

The irony of this notion of outward hilarity covering an inward and unrelenting sorrow is indicative of a huge number of current contemporary issues frequently dealt with on very personal levels. 

Emotional pain manifests itself in so many ways: aggression, bullying, suicide, depression, addiction and self medication, eating, cutting and self mutilation, shopping, gambling, infidelity, excessive work, sex or exercise, as well as a variety of other self-destructive behaviors.  

This is not really just about depression and suicide, nor is is about addiction, or any other compulsive behavior  Isn’t the bottom line of all these behaviors simply the various ways we run from and mask emotional pain?  

Instead of having conversations about each one of these destructive behaviors individually, shouldn’t the conversation be about teaching about, identifying and assisting with emotional pain in a straight forward, direct way?  Why is this not our focus, since unresolved emotional pain seems to be the crux of so many of these issues?  

“People need loving the most when they appear to deserve it the least.” ~ John Harridan

While it seems so obvious to me that we are missing the proverbial boat, I examined my own personal resources in dealing with emotional pain as a person, parent and a former board member for the Mental Health Association.  Am I able to give a quick rundown of ways to work through emotional pain in the same way as for a fever, a cold or the flu, a pulled or strained muscle?  No, not even close.  

Sure, I have some ideas and suggestions, but a well rehearsed list of options, sadly - no.  How in the world did I ever raise children?  Suddenly, I feel completely inadequate in how I equipped my own family to deal with the unavoidable stress, hurt and disappointment of life.  Are we overwhelmingly getting a failing grade in arming our society with coping strategies in dealing with life’s disappointments? I would have to say, unequivocally, yes! 

The internet is full of information about physical health.  Granted, information quite often is conflicting, but there is plenty of self-help advice to be found.  Try looking up emotional health.  Why is belly fat or high cholesterol so much more important than anxiety and depression?  

Unfortunately, I had to look long and hard to find any type of list of how to work through emotional pain.  I am not so naive as to think there is a “one size fits all” list, but certainly we can start with some effective suggestions for everyday disappointments.  

Serious depression and suicidal thoughts should be considered a medical emergency and can be as life threatening as a heart attack or stroke.  In less dire situations, there are healthy and effective ways to deal with emotional pain.   Below is a condensed version from WikiHow on “15 Ways to Cope with Emotional Pain.” 

  1. Don’t try to cure what is normal.
  2. If you have emotional pain, there is a reason for it. 
  3. Don’t pretend you don’t feel it.  Allowing yourself to feel rather than denying or masking will help you process the pain.  Pray or meditate to work through it.
  4. Identify all your feelings.  Identifying exactly how you feel will be helpful in processing your emotions in the wake of a traumatic or disappointing life event.
  5. Endure it.  Like any other body part that is broken, giving it a few days - the pain lessens, but healing can take a little time.  
  6. Talk to someone.  Knowing someone is there for you is more important than being understood.
  7. Don’t let anyone tell you your feelings are not real.
  8. Get your mind off yourself and how bad you feel.  Healing takes time but it won’t help you or those around you to wallow in it.  Even grief needs a break.  
  9. Allow time to heal.  This too, shall pass.
  10. Don’t let your pain define you.  You are better and stronger than this episode.  It won’t last forever.
  11. Write a letter.  Putting your feeling on paper can help you sort them out.  Don’t try to justify - just get them out and see what you can learn from them.
  12. Stay away from any statements that blame yourself or others.  Take responsibility for your part in what went wrong but resist the urge to blame.
  13. Develop a learning orientation.  Trying times can help us develop better coping skills, learn wisdom and develop perspective.
  14. Write a thankfulness list.  Being thankful is naturally healing and will help balance the injury.
  15. If you’ve lost hope or you’re thinking of suicide, you’re either suppressing your pain or you have deeper unresolved issues that you need to complete.
For those willing to embrace faith in God, there are ways to enable the power of the Atonement to take from us the pain and suffering which catapult us far beyond our limits to cope and anguish we cannot begin to endure alone.  This is not an either/or list.  

As a woman of faith I agree with every suggestion listed above.  I wish I had possessed that list as I taught my children to process hurt and disappointment.  However, using my faith and my belief in God gives me additional coping strategies that enhance the above list.  

Elaine S. Marshall, the Dean of Nursing at Brigham Young University gave an exceptional address to a group of students in 2002 on this very topic.  She equates emotional healing to the physical healing from the medical field and gives five very practical lessons that facilitate healing of spirit.  
Healing Hurts - I have learned that healing hurts.  Life hurts.  Healing really begins only when we face the hurt in its full force and then grow through it with all the strength of our soul.  For every reward of learning and growing, some degree of pain is always the price.”
Healing is Active - You have to participate.  No one else can do it for you.  To begin healing, you must acknowledge and feel the hurt.  Only those who don’t feel, those without conscience, cannot heal.”
Healing is Private - Private healing is not healing by abandonment.  Healing is not only private, it is sacred.  There is something so sacred about partaking of the power of the Atonement to overcome suffering, disappointment, or sin that it happens in the privacy of that special relationship between the mortal and the divine.  Healing involves a private, personal communion with the Savior, the Master Healer.”
Healing Teaches Us - We will never be the same.  Pain changes us but not in the same way healing teaches us.  Healing can help us become more sensitive and more awake to life.  Healing inspires repentance and obedience.  Healing invites gifts of humility and faith.  It opens our hears to the profound complexities of truth, beauty, divinity, and grace.”
Healing is a Divine Gift - The last and greatest lesson of healing is that it is a divine gift always available from a loving Heavenly Father.  If you have a pain or sorrow or disappointment or sin or just a grudge that needs healing, the Savior simply says, ‘Come unto me.’”
President Gordon B. Hinckley reminds us as servants of Jesus Christ of our responsibility to ease the pain of those around us who suffer.  “Every day someone in your path is hurting, someone is afraid, someone feels inadequate, or someone needs a friend.  Someone needs you to notice, to reach out, and to help him or her to heal.  You may not know who that is at the time, but you can give encouragement and hope.  You can help heal wounds of misunderstanding and contention.  You can serve in the cause of the Master Healer.”
When it is all said and done, “At the final day the Savior will not ask about the nature of our callings.  He will not inquire about our material possessions or fame.  He will ask if we ministered to the sick, gave food and drink to the hungry, visited those in prison, or gave succor to the weak.  When we reach out to assist the least of Heavenly Father’s children, we do it unto Him.  That is the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” ~ Joseph B. Wirthlin
Certainly we can’t change this problem overnight.  Yet, we can all do a better job in our own circles;  to actively reach out to those who are isolated, who seem withdrawn, those without apparent friends.  Everyone needs to feel important and needed.  There is a power in a smile, in kind words and encouragement.  Helping others feel gladness, belonging and friendship may eliminate the need for a the self destructive masks camouflaging sorrow, pain and buried tears. 

WikiHow suggestionshttp://www.wikihow.com/Cope-With-Emotional-Pain
http://www.helpguide.org/mental/depression signs types diagnosis treatment.htm,  and http://www.helpguide.org/mental/living_depressed_person.htm.  Eight Ways to Actively Fight Depression 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Change - Part Deux

Change - Part deux

  1. to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone
  2. to transform or convert

Recently, I wrote a blog on the power of change with my daughter in mind as she was in the throws of making changes to her business.  Subsequently, I ran across information about change, in particular with aging, while not appropriate for that setting, was too important not to be shared.

Years ago a friend of mine, who had elderly parents, shared with me something about aging that I have thought about on many occasions.  A group of octogenarians were interviewed and asked what was the single most important factor in aging well.  The consensus was the “ability to accept and adapt to change.”

While I am not personally opposed to change and even think sometimes that I welcome change, the reality is that I like comfortable change, predictable change; the kinds of change that stretches me ever so slightly but still falls within the parameters of my personal comfort zone.  The only thing I find lovely about change is its brevity.  

Whenever change pushes me off the proverbial ledge of safety, I repeat to myself the idea that being accepting will make me a better old person.  It somehow makes the landing feel softer and slightly more tolerable.  Let’s be honest, we can all be smug about our ability to adjust to changes that make us squirm, but how do you prepare for losing a spouse or a family member, losing your health, or your ability to work and function?  These incoming punches escape our periphery.  There is no warning or preparation.

The Serenity Prayer is familiar to most of us; things we CAN change and things that we CAN’T coupled with a plea for wisdom to distinguish between the two.  In a blog at heartofhealing.net the author outlines two major requirements for successful aging using guidance from this prayer.  Benefits from this idea are for young and old alike.  Just like most things, you don’t wake up and change a lifetime of thinking overnight.  The time to prepare is everybody’s present.  Our preparation comes through practice with smaller storms if we are to survive the tsunami. 

The first requirement we must accept is, like it or not, we are all aging.  Whether in our twenties or sixties, we are all headed in the same direction with no possibility of reversal.  Medical procedures, injections, plastic surgery are really nothing more than temporary fixes and illusions.  Death lurks in the undetectable shadows and recesses of mortality and often claims those unready to yield.  Death is indiscriminate and yet, can be as compassionate and kind as it is harsh.  This is our mortal reality and there are no guarantees for any of us. 

Just last week I witnessed a recovery team trying to locate the body of a twenty year old male who had jumped into a lake to retrieve a piece of clothing that had blown overboard and was overcome by the cold water and drowned.  One minute having a great time on a beautiful mountain lake with friends and the next gone.

It would be silly for us to approach each day focusing on our inevitable death.  However, we can decide now to focus on living and capitalizing on each new day letting go of things that we cannot change.  

Our society seems driven by middle aged people who are having a difficult time letting go of their youth.  Billions of dollars are spent on such endeavors.  Fighting effects of aging is such a personal battle for everyone and one that I wrestle with myself.  However, research shows that the more we fear aging, the more difficult it can be. 

Stephan Rechtschaffen, M.D., a holistic physician directing the Omega Institute offers tremendous insight into the downfall of shunning our own mortality.  “In our denial of death and the aging of the body, we have rejected the wisdom of the aged, and in doing so have robbed old age of its meaning and youth of its direction.  We pretend that old age can be turned into a kind of endless middle age, thereby giving young people a false road map to the future one that does not show them how to plan for their whole life, gain insight into themselves, or to develop spiritually.”  

Another series of studies conducted by Ellen Langer, Ph.D. of Harvard and Judith Rodin Ph.D. of University of Pennsylvania demonstrated that it is our own dread of memory loss (one of the tell-tale signs of aging) that actually brings that fate upon us.  The powerful lesson to be learned from their research is that “Fear of aging is the single most powerful agent creating exactly what we fear.” 

The second requirement for aging well is to develop a sense of purpose and a conscientious approach to growing older.  

“Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and 
strength.” -  Betty Friedan

Betty Friedan who wrote the book, Fountain of Youth, suggests that as “long as we lock ourselves into an obsession with the youth culture, we can only develop age rage and dehumanize ourselves.  Those who give up their denial of age, who age consciously, grow and become aware of new capacities they develop while aging…They become more authentically themselves.”

“It’s not how old you are, it’s how you are old.”  
- Jules Renard

Did you know that Laura Ingalls Wilder did not publish her first book until the age of 64? or that Nelson Mandella was elected at the age of 76 in the first election open to all races in his country?  Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 69.  Peter Mark Roget published the Roget Thesaurus at the age of 73 and oversaw every update until he was 90 years of age.

Ghandi led the Salt March walking 200 miles with a group of followers while weighing a mere 99 lbs. at the age of 61.  His march was a central tenant of the fight for Indian independence.  Doris Haddock walked 3,200 miles between Washington D.C. and Los Angeles  to raise awareness for campaign finance reform at the age of 89.  Five years later she successfully gained a seat in the U.S. Senate.

The heartofhealing.net blog goes on to suggest that success in life comes in accepting the paradox that when we embrace life “in the moment,” we open a new doorway towards positive change.  When truly accepting change we approach life with a sense of relaxation allowing us to avoid the “fight or flight” mode resulting in impulsive behavior.  Relaxation brings with it an ability to be reflective, thoughtful and deliberate.

In both the successful aging suggestions above and in the Serenity Prayer, there is a place for balance and wisdom.  Balance is making conscientious choices based on priorities and circumstances, wisdom in knowing the battles that are worth fighting in our health and happiness.

Regardless of the fact that in my own sense of denial, I shred my AARP card within minutes of it arriving in the mail, there is an excerpt from Dr. Bill Thomas printed in the 2012 edition of “The Journal” from AARP International that puts this all in perspective. 
“Although it can seem hard to believe at first, it is within our power to look into a mirror, study what we see there, and acknowledge, without reservation, that we are no longer young.  We can learn to read the story of our lives as it has been written around our eyes and mouth and cross our foreheads and cheeks.  We can begin to reinterpret the changes as signs of important signifiers of our unique journey through life.” 

“Persistently and deliberately misinterpreted as mere decline, elderhood is actually the rich reward that goes to those who manage to outgrow the frenzied jangle of adulthood and enter voluntarily into a new and much more soulful way of being.” - Bill Thomas

An attitude shift does not happen overnight.  One cannot merely decide tomorrow that they will trade in attitudes of fear and resistance for an immediate ability to embrace change with open arms.  Those course corrections take time and the earlier we decide to embrace change the better.  The time is NOW.

Monday, July 20, 2015



  1. to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone
  2. to transform or convert

Just mentioning the word change causes some to bristle with anxious anticipation while creating an ocean of possibility for others.  The mere definition of the word does nothing to help one comprehend the complexity of its meaning.  There is change we hope for, plan for, and prepare for;  usually accompanied with change we don’t expect, don’t plan for, and/or don’t want.   

Wherever you find yourself on the scale of resisting or embracing change, we all can agree that like it or not, change is inevitable and constant.  Denial doesn’t get us anywhere in avoiding the pitfalls of change.  In fact, it can often inhibit our ability to move forward in productive and positive ways.

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”  
~ Helen Keller, The Open Door 

As with any type of transformation, change carries with it some amount of risk.  Very few outcomes happen just the way we plan.  In a wake of optimism we leap out of the starting gate embracing change with all the enthusiasm of a racehorse, don’t we?  In a perfect world and on a perfect day, we do.  

“Leap and the net will appear.” ~ Zen saying

Then things happen, people happen, situations happen.  Our perfect plan for change shifts, is altered, is challenged.  Is there really a net?  Seriously, who is in charge of the net?  Net man, are you on it?  Please, for the love of man, don’t fall asleep at the switch. 

Four years ago this month, my husband and I reclaimed our garage from our daughter, Brynn, who had started a floral business and grown to the point that our three car garage was full of floral containers, work stations, floral coolers, clippers, not to mention a variety of organic matter.  What was ironic about our garage was that it no longer housed our vehicles.  This reclamation project was the beginning of Blooms & Company LLC as she moved from our garage to a small retail space in downtown Salt Lake City.   We have watched our daughter grow her little business into a wonderfully creative and successful business.  

This week marks the launch of a new location for Blooms. (www.bloomsandco.com)  Change is nerve-wracking, to say the least.  You leave the island of what you know behind and sail toward uncharted waters.  With all its  uncertainty, change, can also be invigorating;  full of energy and hope.  The ability to accept change offers one the insight to see another door full of possibility and wonder opening.

Although this story may sound trite, the realization is really quite profound.  The story begins with a caterpillar named Yellow who was searching for her purpose in life.  After meeting another caterpillar caught in a web of silk, Yellow offered assistance.  The caterpillar explained this web was part of becoming a butterfly.   When Yellow heard the word butterfly, something stirred deep within her.  “What is a butterfly?

The seemingly trapped caterpillar answered that a butterfly was what all caterpillars hope to become.  Yellow did not understand as she looked at her fuzzy worm-like state.  “How does one become a butterfly?” she questioned her new friend.  

“You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.” (From Rina Paulus, Hope for the Flowers [New York:  Paulist Press, 1972].  

“If it’s still in your mind, it is worth taking the risk.” 
~ paolo coelho

Today, I embrace change and look forward to the experiences and wonder that lie ahead.  Today, I honor my daughter and her dream to soar.  Today, I see a transformation - both physically and spiritually.  Net man - We’ve got this!!! 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Tis the season ~ People before Things...

Twas The Night Before Christmas

Twas the week before Christmas when all through the air
Was a feeling of disorganization and a bit of despair.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care
and the tree was embellished with baubles to spare;
But, no presents, no baking, no wassail, no ham.
In fact, it appeared that Christmas this year might be a scam.

The children all wrestled with life’s heavy demands,
Having no time to answer mom’s Christmas list commands.
The rush was not just for Christmas presents to get;
It involved a plan for mom and dad to get on a jet.

Instead of creating a lovely Christmas for the family at home
They set out cavorting;  the streets of London to comb.
Passing signs in shop windows of the Christmas countdown
Chuckling and scoffing merrily as they instead took to the town.

Attention for Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus, Big Ben and such,
Christmas presents, wrappings, baking, parties, not getting as much.
Fourteen days before Christmas read the sign on the door.
No worries, we have days before presents we will need to score.

Thirteen days before Christmas - what really is the rush?
Dodging louries, taxis, double decker buses and hordes of people that crush.
Museums, castles, statues, cathedrals and parks;
Streets teaming with history, we carry on as happy as larks.

Twelve days before Christmas - the shoppers are out,
With not a care in the world, to Kensington Palace we set out and about.
Our wool coats, our scarves our mittens keeping us warm,
Keeping the rain Gods at bay certainly took all our charm.

Eleven days until Christmas - makes me squirm just a little,
Maybe later my Christmas list in my head I will fiddle.
Then off to Winter Wonderland we would go,
Eating treats, watching people and riding a ferris wheel that went really slow.

Ten days before Christmas - Are you freaking kidding?
Four days of tending, hosting a party, not to mention presents bidding.
Candy making, cookie baking, wrapping and such,
How did we leave so little time for ourselves to do so dang much.

And then in a twinkling I heard in my head,
The familiar calm voice that said there is nothing to dread.
Celebrating 35 years of marriage of that side of the pond,
Quickly reminded us of the family to which we were fond.

The reminder that experiences and people come before things,
It is the message that the real spirit of Christmas does bring.
It is not about presents, or baubles or bows,
It is the love we feel for each other we know.

This past year has presented us with hardships aplenty,
If we counted them up I am sure it would exceed twenty.
But this family has rallied to the aid of each other,
Demonstrating we are truly keepers of our proverbial brother.

This is not just in word but has been carried out in deed,
As one quietly reaches out when there presents a need.
Each one of our family members have put personal things aside
To be with another to lovingly and carefully abide.

There is no greater love than to stand tall together
And my sweet little family has shown they can withstand any type of weather.
London has its Royal family to boast
But my family is royal in more ways than most.

We have each other in thick and thin,
When we question that, we always take a look in,
To see how we can pull together at times
Overlooking our differences and unique designs.

This year our family, a guardian was given.
She was loaned for only a moment and then from this earth she was driven.
To watch over us and remind us of what treasure lies ahead,
We cannot think of her without knowing we have nothing to dread.

When speaking of treasure, this is worth more than gold.
It is worth more than precious stones from the crown jewels I am told.
So, Queen Elizabeth, your Koh-i-noor diamond you can keep,
Along with your castles and riches knee deep.

We have our own family crown jewels metaphorically of our making.
It comes through opportunities to serve each other and ourselves forsaking.
We all hope for a space to be set in the eternal and circular crown,
Heaven’s newest angel, Sienna, already has her place laid down.

The material things of Christmas this year may be rushed
but the volume of Christ in our lives recently cannot be hushed.
Each of us in this family are wealthy beyond measure,
The relationships we have are our biggest treasure.

As we arrived home we quickly got under the gun;
We knew how much truly needed to be done.
The season, it twinkled, the festivities ended up being merry;
You would have never known that ten days ago things were really scary.

Laying a finger up side of my ear,
The faint sounds of Christmas I certainly did hear.
Ready or not the season is bloody well here, folks,
So a jolly good Christmas to all of you blokes.