5 June 2018      

Hello, and welcome to our newest issue, and to June!
Thanks very much for being with us here on this planet,
and here at this website.

Saying the Four Things (an excerpt)
Ira Byock

The Loving Begins with You
Oprah Winfrey

Mistakes
tom walsh

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If seeds in the black earth can turn into such beautiful roses, what might not the heart of the human become in its long journey toward the stars?

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

I belong to the people I love, and they belong to me--they, and the love and loyalty I give them, form my identity far more than any word or group ever could.

Veronica Roth

Whatever authority I may have rests
solely on knowing how little I know.

Socrates

  

Saying the Four Things
an excerpt
Ira Byock

Please forgive me.
I forgive you.
Thank you.
I love you.

These four simple statements are powerful tools for improving your relationships and your life.  As a doctor caring for seriously ill patients for nearly fifteen years of emergency medicine practice and more than 25 years in hospice and palliative care, I have taught hundreds of patients who were facing life's end, when suffering can be profound, to say the Four Things.  But the Four Things apply at any time.  Comprising just eleven words, these four short sentences carry the core wisdom of what people who are dying have taught me about what matters most in life.

The Wisdom of Stating the Obvious

Ask a man who is being wheeled into transplant surgery or a woman facing chemotherapy for the third time what's on his or her mind and the answer will always involve the people they love.  Always.

The specter of death reveals our relationships to be our most precious possessions.

I've lost count of the number of times I've met people in my office, an emergency room, or a hospice program who have expressed deep regret over things they wish they had said before a grandparent, parent, sibling, or friend died.  They can't change what was, but without fail their regrets have fueled a healthy resolve to say what needs to be said before it's too late--to clear away hurt feelings, to connect in profound ways with the people who mean the most to them.

Everyone knows that all relationships, even the most loving, have occasional rough spots.  We assume that the people we love know that we love them, even if we've had our disagreements and tense moments.  Yet when someone we love dies suddenly, we often have gnawing doubts.

We are all sons and daughters, whether we are six years of age or ninety-six.  Even the most loving parent-child relationship can feel forever incomplete if your mother or father dies without having explicitly expressed affection for you or without having acknowledged past tensions.  I've learned from my patients and their families about the painful regret that comes from not speaking these most basic feelings.  Again and again, I've witnessed the value of stating the obvious.  When you love someone, it is never too soon to say, "I love you," or premature to say, "Thank you," "I forgive you," or "Will you please forgive me?"  When there is nothing of profound importance left unsaid, relationships tend to take on an aspect of celebration, as they should.

A deep, natural drive to connect with others lies at the heart of what it means to be human.  The Four Things can help you discover opportunities to enliven all your important relationships--with your children, parents, relatives, and close friends.  You need not wait until you or someone you love is seriously ill.  By taking the time and by caring enough to express forgiveness, gratitude, and affection, you can renew and revitalize your most precious connections.

more on relationships

   

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The Loving Begins with You
Oprah Winfrey

Talking with thousands of people over the years has shown me that there's one desire we all share:  We want to feel valued.  Whether you're a mother in Topeka or a businessperson in Philadelphia, each of us, at our core, longs to be loved, needed, understood, affirmed--to have intimate connections that leave us feeling more alive and human.

I once filmed a show in which I interviewed seven men of different ages and backgrounds, all of whom had one thing in common:  They had cheated on their wives.  It was one of the most interesting, candid conversations I've ever had, and a huge aha moment for me.  I realized that the yearning to feel heard, needed, and important is so strong in all of us that we seek validation in whatever form we can get it.  For a lot of people--men and women--having an affair is an affirmation that I'm really okay.  One of the men I interviewed, who'd been married 18 years and thought he had a moral code that would withstand flirtatious temptations, said about his mistress, "There wasn't anything special about her.  But she listened, was interested, and made me feel special."  That's the key, I thought--we all want to feel like we matter to somebody.

As a girl growing up shuffled between Mississippi, Nashville, and Milwaukee, I didn't feel loved.  I thought I could make people approve of me by becoming an achiever.  Then, in my twenties, I based my worth on whether a man would love me.  I remember once even throwing a boyfriend's keys down the toilet to keep him from walking out on me!  I was no different from a physically abused woman.  I wasn't getting slapped upside the head every night, but because my wings were clipped I couldn't soar.  I had so much going on for me, but without a man I thought I was nothing.  Not until years later did I understand that the love and approval I craved could not be found outside myself.

What I know for sure is that a lack of intimacy is not distance from someone else; it is disregard for yourself.  It's true that we all need the kind of relationships that enrich and sustain us.  But it's also true that if you're looking for someone to heal and complete you--to shush that voice inside you that has always whispered You're not worth anything--you are wasting your time.  Why?  Because if you don't already know that you have worth, there's nothing your friends, your family, or your mate can say that will completely convince you of that.  The Creator has given you full responsibility for your life, and with that responsibility comes an amazing privilege--the power to give yourself the love, affection, and intimacy you may not have received as a child.  You are the one best mother, father, sister, friend, cousin, and lover you will ever have.

Right now you're one choice away from seeing yourself as someone whose life has inherent significance--so choose to see it that way.  You don't have to spend one more second focusing on a past deprived of the affirmation you should have gotten from your parents.  Yes, you did deserve that love, but it's up to you now to bestow it upon yourself and move forward.  Stop waiting for your spouse to say "I appreciate you," your kids to tell you what a great parent you are, a man or woman to whisk you away and marry you, or your best friend to assure you that you're worth a darn.  Look inward--the loving begins with you.

more on self-love

  

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Our imagination is the most important faculty we possess.  It can be
our greatest resource or our most formidable adversary.  It is through
our imagination that we discern possibilities and options.  Yet
imagination is no mere blank slate on which we simply inscribe our
will.  Rather, imagination is the deepest voice of the soul and can be
heard clearly only through cultivation and careful attention.  A
relationship with our imagination is a relationship with our deepest self.

Pat B. Allen
Art Is a Way of Knowing

   

 

Mistakes

When it comes to mistakes, I am absolutely my own worst enemy.  When I make a mistake, even if I fix it rather clearly and effectively, I still make myself pay for it again and again, usually for days, sometimes for weeks or months.  It doesn't matter how trivial the mistake is--if it's something that another person has the opportunity to judge me about, then I'm going to agonize over my mistake for a very long time.

This is very unfair to myself--I know that.  I shouldn't do it.  I know that, too.  But somewhere along the line, I learned to judge myself very harshly for the mistakes that I make, and I learned that lesson very well.

I made a mistake yesterday, a rather trivial one, and I admitted my mistake very quickly and made sure that everyone involved knew that I had made a mistake.  It didn't help--I woke up this morning with that mistake running through my mind over and over again, thinking that the people involved can't help but think less of me now, can't help but be judging me for what I did and said.

The simple truth is that while I'm here thinking that they're wherever they are, upset about the mistake I made, they've more than likely completely forgotten it, and have moved on with their lives, just as I should do and as I try to do.

   

How many times do we pay for one mistake?  The answer is
thousands of times.  The human is the only animal on earth
that pays a thousand times for the same mistake.  The rest
of the animals pay once for every mistake they make.  But not us.
We have a powerful memory.  We make a mistake, we judge ourselves,
we find ourselves guilty, and we punish ourselves.  If justice exists,
then that was enough; we don't need to do it again.  But every
time we remember, we judge ourselves again, we are guilty again,
and we punish ourselves again, and again, and again.  If we have
a wife or husband he or she also reminds us of the mistake, so we
can judge ourselves again, punish ourselves again,
and find ourselves guilty again.  Is this fair?

Don Miguel Ruiz

   
I know the origin of my tendency to hang on to mistakes.  In our family, mistakes were an opportunity for other family members to mock you, to make fun of you, to make you pay over and over for the mistake.  Because of this, I've grown up feeling a need to be perfect, just so that I can avoid being mocked and made fun of.  There was a lot of mental and emotional cruelty in my family, because that was the way that we made jokes--by finding others' weaknesses and frailties and mistakes and making fun of them.  It was horrible in many ways going through life not wanting to make even the slightest mistake because you know that if you do, the people whom you love the most will make fun of you rather mercilessly.  It was definitely something to avoid.

This is one of those situations where my brain and my heart still aren't in sync.  Intellectually, of course, I know that I should just put the mistakes behind me and not agonize over them, for I'm just hurting myself when I keep thinking about them and re-judging myself, over and over again.  But it still happens that they keep coming to mind, and I immediately get mad at myself over them, I regret having made them, and I believe that other people are judging me harshly for them.  In my heart, I know the truth:  it was just a mistake.  Learn from it and move on.

But over the years my brain has also learned some techniques that keep me from agonizing over things TOO much.  I can remind myself over and over again that it really was just a mistake, and that I need to stop allowing it to make me miserable.  I can try to convince myself that everyone who witnessed it has forgotten about it--after all, not everyone on this planet tries or needs to mock others for their errors.  And I can stay focused on the present moment and all the beauty and work that's there--after all, this tiny part of the past isn't something that's all that important.
    

I believe that you should not be judged by the mistakes you've made
in life but rather should be judged by how you fix them.

Bill Resler

    
There are some benefits, too, to having this tendency.  The most important one that I can see is that it allows me to recognize it in other people, and that gives me the chance to encourage them not to be hard on themselves for simple mistakes.  This is especially important when I work with young people, for if I can help them to break this habit early, it can be a very positive change for them in their lives.

Also concerning the young, especially children, every time I do this to myself, I'm reminded of just how long these traits tend to last.  And when I remember that, I know that I don't want to be an adult who contributes to such lifelong traits in the kids I work with.  I want to encourage them and help them to see what they're doing well and give them credit for trying hard, not cut them down for every little mistake they make.  As a teacher, I know that most people learn much more effectively as a result of positive feedback than negative, so I'm actually doing my job better when I encourage, and not doing my job well when I criticize and cut down.

It also invites reflection of an important type.  For example, am I afraid of other people's judgment about my mistakes because I judge others harshly for theirs?  I don't think that I do, but it's something that's worth pondering, and I do start to look at the ways that I respond to the mistakes of others--and eventually, that's something that can work for good.
   

Nature does not require that we be perfect; it requires
only that we grow, and we can do this as well
from a mistake as from a success.

Rollo May

   
Perspective is important:  This isn't something that ruins my life.  It is, though, something that I wish wasn't a part of my life.  It does add some stress that really doesn't do anything positive for me at all.  I am able to work through it after a while, but I still have an exaggerated fear of making mistakes, and an extremely exaggerated response to having done so.  And even as I grow older and older, I'm still working on it!  Perhaps one day I'll be able to make a mistake and not agonize over having made it, and over how others are judging me for it--because the truth is, of course, that they more than likely aren't judging me for it at all.  And if they are, then the problem is more likely theirs than mine.

   
More on mistakes.

   
   
  

   

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You can understand and relate to most people if you look at them--no matter how old or impressive they may be--as if they are children.  For most of us never really grow up or mature all that much--we simply grow taller.  Oh, to be sure, we laugh less and play less and wear uncomfortable disguises like adults, but beneath the costume is the child we always are, whose needs are simple, whose daily life is still best described by fairy tales.

Leo Rosten

  
Creative Giving
Wilferd A. Peterson

These words from Albert Schweitzer changed my life, and they may change yours:  "You are happy.  Therefore you are called to give up much.  Whatever you have received more than others in health, in talents, in ability, in a pleasant childhood, in harmonious conditions of home life, all this you must not take to yourself as a matter of course.  You must pay for it.  You must render in return an unusually great sacrifice of your life for other lives."

Clara McBride Hale, or "Mother Hale" as she is called, loves children and when she began finding abused, abandoned, and even infants infected with the AIDS virus, she took them in and loved them as her own.

In 1969, Mother Hale opened Hale House, a shelter for children and a lifesaving environment for young drug-addicted mothers.  In recognition of her contribution, President Ronald Reagan named Mother Hale an American Hero in 1985.

An attitude of creative giving can become the greatest creative force in the world.  When we consider all that others have done for us since the world began, we become stimulated and inspired to do something for the world.  In a deep sense we owe the world a creative spirit.  There are millions of ways, great and small, that creative energy may be put to work.

Success in life is too often measured by what a person acquires.  More meaningful is what a person contributes.

And this goes beyond the contribution of money to the contribution of ideas, plans, methods, ideals, visions, projects.  Behind all material progress is mental and spiritual progress.  The creative thinkers start the ball rolling.  They visualize programs and goals.  They dream dreams.  They help people to grow.

And in a personal way they enrich themselves in something more than dollars.  They contribute love, hope, courage, faith, peace, and joy to others.  Such a spirit of contribution has broad and long-lasting influence; a depth of true success is experienced that can be attained in no other way.

Go-givers are far more effective than go-getters, and when you give ideas, you give the most precious gifts life has to offer, for everything begins with an idea!
   

  

What are we going to get out of life?  This can understandably be
a question of fundamental importance to us.  We begin with certain
basic needs and desires.  It is important to have a comfortable
home, plenty of food, a meaningful and well-paying job, comfort,
companionship, and joy.  However, many of us have not fully
realized a simple, basic principle:  for our receiving to take place,
we must first give.  Giving and receiving are two
aspects of the same law of life.

John Marks Templeton
Worldwide Laws of Life

    

  

   

A new way of reading has been here for a while now.  And while we still love our books, if you're like many people, you get tired of lugging around the books that sometimes weigh more than anything else we carry.  Imagine carrying hundreds of books--novels, self-help, history, travel, you name it--and reading them comfortably on a no-glare screen, setting things like text size to your own preferences.  It's a great experience, and it's available to us now for less than the cost of ten books.  And there are plenty of free books to download, especially timeless classics--you can easily get enough free books to pay for the Kindle.  Give yourself the gift of wonderful literature that you can easily bring with you, wherever you go!

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