A Healing Heart and Mind

As I have gone through grief, and now watch, listen and feel others go through it as well, I have been thinking about how I would help them professionally. What is the best way to let a parent, friend, or loved one of someone who has lost someone close to them know about some of the therapeutic ways to find happiness. About the ways to live with the pain. Because there is no complete removal of the pain, in some cases that isn’t even the desire. To fill no pain is to not feel at all, to not miss, to not mourn and then you are not keeping your loved one alive in your heart and mind enough. But what if that pain paralyzes you endlessly? What if you can’t keep it within you? This sadness that is now a part of you, a shaper of who you are. But, you are drowning in your sorrow, forever missing and longing for someone who is no longer there, can no longer physically be there with you…for you. Is it your destiny to cease to be as well? Will you then be another loss to those who have already lost this person, you all love? And how long will you feel what you are feeling? It may be anger, denial, a disconnection with reality. No, there isn’t a timeline for grief, even though I do believe in steps and phases, but there isn’t a set amount of time for each of them. And, not everyone experiences all of them in my opinion. I was stuck in anger for most of the time since my mother has passed…denial was not an option. I was somewhat prepared for her passing, more so than I think a lot of people are given the nature of the medical professionals in my family. No, I don’t necessarily think it should be that or even can be that way by any means, just my experiences, and the way things happened for me.

There are different reasons for grief and mourning…sometimes it isn’t a person at all; it may be a pet, or a place you have loved and cherished. My grandfather lost his home in Katrina and all of the memories of my grandmother along with it- washed away into the Back Bay as his refrigerator floated in the ruined garage. All of the pictures, clothes, knick-knacks, jewelry, memories…gone, and there was grief and despair along with that loss. We all felt that for him and through him. The loss of memories and of a home that we all shared during holidays and visits. Pieces of my grandmother that were still able to keep her close washed away with the raging waters that racked the gulf that year. I had thought this would break us all, but my grandfather moved through his grief, wave and after wave wracked this quick as a whip pilot, doctor, and psychiatrist. Father of four, grandfather of three…militarily strict but funny as hell. Oh, how I miss him every day as well.

My thoughts on grief are more of my thoughts on a happy life. It all relates when you lose sight of your happiness. When you lose your course, your strand of the web you were on with such sure footing and then blown off. Then you have to try and find some happiness and rational for moving forward. To shed the anger, the jadedness, the loss of faith and find a way to continue in their spirit, in their memories, yet without them. I don’t claim to heal intense levels of depression with these suggestions. In those cases, it is imperative to seek professional help, and if you know someone you think is depressed or suicidal, don’t fear asking them right out about their safety. You won’t inadvertently put that idea in their head, but by asking you may just save their life.

There are four things I believe can lead to happiness, spiritual growth and a path to healing.

Journaling: Finding the time and a way to get the racing thoughts out of your head on onto paper, a computer screen, a napkin, what have you is very therapeutic. It doesn’t matter if those words ever see daylight again. Sometimes it can be cathartic to read it or even destroy what you have written, sending it back into the universe (safely for goodness sakes, no living room bonfires please!). Journaling is also a wonderful technique for anger when you put down what you wish you could say to someone and then safely destroy it, thus ridding yourself of what is eating away at you. Journaling can often help recall forgotten and beautiful memories about your loved one. It can allow you to be raw and unfiltered (make sure you keep it private if that is your wish), and can also lead to incredible levels of creativity and wonder.
Empathy: Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is incredibly medicinal. It allows us to step away from your worries and concerns for a while, which our souls need a break from, and feel compassion for someone else. Being empathetic can lead to helping a fellow person in need which is also very healing and helpful for everyone involved.
Mindfulness: This technique saved me from what I think was a complete paralysis in my anger. I had lost my creativity and the future of my writing, and I just knew I was seconds away from panic attacks. Those seemed inevitable as work became increasingly demanding and stressful for not only me but everyone around me. I read about the technique in a book for mothers that focused on the need for me to be happy in order for my family unit to be happy as well. It isn’t an obvious notion for most of us to think about taking care of ourselves first as the best way to take care of others. Some are whispering “selfishness” in dark corners right now. No, we think doing more and more, pushing and spreading ourselves thinner and thinner so that our loved ones lives are fuller and busier are the answers to their happiness but it isn’t. Our children, husbands, wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, partners, lovers, friends and co-workers won’t be truly happy if we are suffering. Our mental and physical health is of the utmost importance if we are actually to help others around us. Mindfulness allowed me to take a break from everything and focus on only myself. Sometimes I know it is hard to find the time, sometimes I forget I need it, but it is refreshing, mind opening and essential. A free link to the technique is below from UCLA as well as a link to the book I read to get me on that track.
Nature: Enjoying the outdoors, the environment around you, tree hugging, dog petting, walking, biking, exploring, traveling, it is all incredibly therapeutic. Taking the time to watch a sunset, to go for a walk in your neighborhood, to count flower petals and practicing colors with your children outdoors is my last but not least recommendation. Most of us may be cooped up inside working all day, not feeling the warmth of the sun or the chill of the rain. Whether you like to paddle board, walk, skate, or even taking a drive with the windows down along a back country road. Taking your time and exploring, it is all therapeutic, and I believe necessary. Our history stems from being one with nature to the give and take, ebb and flow, the web of life. We are all connected, the earth, soil, water, animals, plants, bees, and trees; it’s important commune with it all once in a while. So go pick strawberries, body surf in the ocean or hike along that beaten path. It is cleansing and enlightening.
Right now I am in the midst of watching those around me experiencing intense levels of sadness, and I thought this is something I know about. Grief is something I have been trained on, lived through and utilize myself. My main character in the Alex Conner Chronicles overcomes a series of various levels of grief and utilizes many of these suggestions herself. Alex may be damaged, perhaps even broken, but she sought to make her life better despite it all. And if what you are currently doing is not working it is time to make a change, time to try something new. Looking to heal and be happier didn’t change the amazing parts of the person Alex is, and the same goes for me and hopefully for each of you.

If you would like to read more about Alex, please visit http://www.ParkerSinclair.net for a 3 chapter sample of her first book Trust and to join my mailing list. Be Well, Be Happy and Be You!

Parker

Mindfulness information and free guided practice: http://marc.ucla.edu/default.cfm

The book that led me to mindfulness: http://www.amazon.com/Buddhism-Mothers-Approach-Yourself-Children/dp/1741140102

Creativity Can’t Survive with Doubt

There have been many days when I can sit at this computer and blast off thousands of words, flying through chapters and piecing together a story. Honestly getting positive feedback and useful criticism catapults me into creative mode. The best thing I ever did when I opened Trust after five years void of key clicks and chicken scratch journaling was to have others read my work. I knew these ladies loved the fantasy, science fiction, paranormal genres. Oh, and who didn’t mind the adult language and situations my characters thrived in, so I sent the first three chapters to them under the guise that a “friend” in San Diego had written it and asked me to get some feedback. I know that they are voracious readers who would tear thru her pages quickly and provide me with some honest feedback. This idea was a leap of faith; one that I felt would either lend to me finally finishing the book or that if could mean the end for Trust, for Alex Conner.

What I didn’t expect was their reaction. Each of them came to me asking about the characters by name, wanting to read more, and showing me that they have made some real connections with my writing. I let them off the hook at once letting them know it was me, tears threatened my eyes with joy after hearing the feedback, especially since I hadn’t even worked through the major edits whatsoever- let’s just call it a rough, rough draft.

I chose one person to read my book as I wrote it. As soon as I would write a few chapters I’d email them to her, and she gave me near immediate feedback being a super fast reader. She’s been a best friend since our daughters were one, and I trust her fully and completely. She taught me how to take criticism, how to get past doubt when to rearrange, pull back and add more. I admit I hated parts of it. I would get angry, annoyed, filled with self-doubt when she pointed out errors. I was incapable of not opening her feedback and read it during dinner, time with my family, inappropriate times of course. So I had to learn to wait to open the emails and to breathe thru the desire to want to, and before I dove into it. I worked hard to not let book stuff take away from family time or stay up too late fixing everything quickly. It was hard for me, letting things go, getting back to them later. It’s a process that has been hard for me, something that was even more difficult as the editing process went full throttle once I found an editor.

It comes down to trying to not be an immediate fixer all of the time, which even though one may think fixing it now and fast is the most efficient, it was getting in the way of my life, my children and causing me added stress. Trust worked those kinks out of me, thru relentless repetition, well somewhat, it’s hard to change. It isn’t impossible, but hard. Shaking off doubt may be the most difficult part of it all. I had to realize that even though I was making errors, and causing both my friend and my editor to question the flow or suggest a change. Both of which led to either quick fixes or hours of rewrites, my biggest obstacle was myself. I’d take their feedback hard sometimes, thinking I couldn’t do what they asked. This is part of the whole writing process as well, there were many times I doubted my ability to get to where I wanted to go in the book, not knowing how to state something or whether or not anyone would be able to visualize my scenes, be surprised, laugh, cry, really feel anything at all. I can say that I did laugh, cry, and sometimes shake as I typed, washed away by waves of emotion while the characters reminded me of pieces of people I have met and knew. The were also manifestations and of my ability to empathize with everyone, even fictional characters who I was tormenting and ripping away parts of their made-up souls and hearts. Yes you actually become invested in the world you create as a writer. So criticism, even the best and most needed will force you to doubt, to worry, to slam shut the laptop, or push away from your desk in disgust.

As I said it is part of the process, but if you give in to it, if you let yourself live in the doubt, make it seep into your being, your creativity will sputter out. It will be bound, gagged and smothered by doubt. My mother and I talked a lot about the feeling of guilt; I have coined it the evil twin of doubt. She said guilt was a useless emotion, paralyzing and parasitic. Hanging on to guilt in your life will keep you from forgiving yourself, letting anyone love the real you. Indeed, it can stop you from living. Not clinging to guilt isn’t the same as not caring about making mistakes or hurting someone, but without forgiveness or oneself and others, how do you continue? The same goes for the doubt that ate away at me. There were many times I couldn’t see the end in site, didn’t think I would ever get there, that I would never make my story work, let alone be read and enjoyed. But I got out of those sink holes of doubt over and over again. Yes, they still creep in, ask my friends as I let myself fester over a 1-star rating with no comments as to why. Yes, I have fives and great comments, but that one sad star tried to gnaw at me, poisoning me with doubt.

The best thing I can suggest is to not take it all on alone, find who you can talk to, rely on to hear you, not to fix it, but to listen. Holding on to the doubt alone is setting you up for succumbing to its siren like ways. It can shut down your creativity, starve it, and block the channels from letting the words, pictures, and music in. So whatever you are striving for in your life, don’t let doubt block your way. Put yourself out there, or your made up friend from San Diego, and take the feedback and suggestions. They will make you even better than you already are, use it to fuel your creative mind rather than use it to build a wall of doubt.

Thank you as always for walking through my mind with me and please check out my first book Trust today. Visit http://www.ParkerSinclair.net for a sample and where to buy as well as liking Parker Sinclair Books on Facebook.

Live, laugh, create and reach for the stars!

Parker

Dancing In the Rain

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I am asked to explain what Trust is about multiple times a week. I change up my description from time to time since the book dives into the multiple genre’s so it is hard to pigeon-hole it into one. Some of my favorite authors and biggest sources of inspiration, such as Kim Harrison, are adult, urban, fantasy writers so I gave my book that tag, but it is also considered a paranormal fantasy, a psychological thriller, a comedy, a spiritual journey, scientific, and, of course, a romance. But not only in terms of the main character and her love interest, interests? No this book was also started when I lived in San Diego and is a love story to that city, to the west coast as a whole. When Alex digs her toes into the sand refusing to leave, I felt that same pain and loss as I headed back East. I was leaving behind over five years of my life, my best friends, and what soon became the only coast my family belonged to.

I didn’t feel like an active part of my new life in Virginia. Days, weeks, years went by, and I didn’t let go of San Diego, of my friends, my years growing up there after college. I couldn’t make friends, meet people like me, I didn’t make people laugh like I could make my friends laugh back west, there weren’t the same types of places to go to…the same feeling of a big town. The coasts were different, the sun rose instead of set and I blamed the east coast as a whole and I blamed being not from here. Culture shock was my excuse, and I pined for a place that was on the other side of the continent that I chose to leave.

All this moaning, groaning and bitching gave way over the last few years. Bad things happened to my family; we lost 3 of our close nit clan, and I grew more cynical. I felt like I wasn’t raising my children with the best parts of me, and I had to change something about all of it. I am not ashamed to say that I went to counseling, I needed help after my mother, grandfather and grandmother passed, I needed a guide and I did find someone who was just that. She told me yes I need to give a bit more to create my life here; I needed to let go of my firm hold on a place I can only now visit but always love. So I tried harder, I reached out and attempted to meet new people, put myself out there to make friends at work, through my daughter and her friends, I didn’t let life pass me by and only latch on to my friends and family back West who were moving on with their lives, making new friends, being happy; oh they will always be my best friends, the ones I call with the craziest of stories that only they would appreciate as they have a permanent place in my heart. My daughters needed other good, loving, funny and smart people in their lives; they needed good influences since we don’t have any family here, so I did.

I am now part of a crazy, quirky movie/book group with some awesome ladies, I have 2 real, solid best friends here that I can call and laugh, joke with, make plans and bitch to, and we have play dates, dinners out and parties. I live in a great neighborhood where I continue to meet amazing people from all over and make new friends. Life has opened up to me finally because I broke down some walls and realized I can love San Diego and still be happy making a life for myself here in Virginia.

The other night after a couple of cocktails, some good food and conversation with one of my best friends and her friend since high school, we cranked up the music in the car as we waited for their ride. It was a balmy 45 with drizzling rain and the three of us jumped out of the car and danced, laughed and took turns playing DJ. I felt the freedom of being myself and allowing myself to be happy. I had finally found a way to give and receive love, friendship and acceptance of this beautiful place I now call home and it all clicked as I felt my life come full circle, smiling and dancing in the rain.