I have been thinking about writing to you for weeks now, yet I held back because I was feeling that my last few communications were too sad– and all about my grief process over the loss of my sister, Debbie.
To be honest, I worried that I may bore you or, worse, depress you. I’ve been concerned that being in this vulnerable state is not the best aspect of myself to share with all of you. And then I realized that the Wabi Sabi’ness of the situation may actually be helpful, in some way, to those of you who are grieving in your own way– facing a loss, disappointment, or difficult times.
I have been truly humbled by my experience of my sisters dying and the feelings related to her loss. And through the painful parts I have been inspired to continuously look for the beauty and imperfection of the grieving process. It is a process, and it is quite imperfect, yet I have learned that it is also rich with new discoveries and opportunities to grow.
I am forever altered by Debbie’s passing, yet I am beginning to see that the changes in me will benefit me in profound ways. I wanted to share some of the jewels that have begun to reveal themselves in my life through this experience:
- True gratitude of what I have. I have developed a deeper, more profound gratitude for every aspect of my life. Life is precious to me in a way that I could have never imagined. Loss of someone or something dear makes what you do have so much more valuable and appreciated.
- Setting aside time to let go of stress. Another gift has been awakening to the realities of ways I have been endangering my emotional and physical health. I thought I was leading a healthy lifestyle, and never really took into account the tremendous amount of stress I have. Most importantly, I was not aware that I have an automatic response to stressors that is not at all healthy. I realized that I have to give myself a vacation from stress; that it is essential for healing. Recognizing this has prompted me to make some HUGE changes. For the first time ever, I am going to take a sabbatical six week sabbatical, beginning on August 1st. No work, no email, no decision making, no creating–just six weeks devoted to love, healing, resting, restoration. At this time in my life, I can’t even imagine what it will be like to wake up in the morning and not have a “to-do” list. To just lie in bed and ask my soul: “How would you like to feel today?” “Where do you want to go?” “What would you like to do and with whom?”
- Permission to say no. Perhaps the most surprising gift, and the one I am most reluctant to even share with you, is that being in this delicate state has given me a freedom I never knew I needed or wanted: The freedom to just say no. In my “normal” world I get requests all day long–requests for my time, my connections, for endorsements and introductions. The list is endless. I like to say “YES” –it’s fun to assist people and be connected—so I rarely say “no.” Saying “YES” always came easily and because I work at such a fast pace, none of these things seem to take a lot of my time or energy. But now, with having so little energy to spare, I have found that saying no is essential. I literally have no extra bandwidth—as I like to call it– to deal with the demands I once juggled everyday. At the moment, I am able to power through my work day (which is super busy right now) and by the end of the day, I plop onto the couch for the rest of the night. Allowing myself to say “no” has not only helped me find a new freedom; it also helped me discovered that I have been in denial about being a people pleaser! (Believe me, this is shocking to me.)
So, my friends, this is where I am right now. Grateful, mildly optimistic, and in a process that everyday gets a little easier, a little better. And, I am so looking forward to taking a big chunk of time to commune with my soul later this summer.
I would love to know if you have had a similar experience and/or how Wabi Sabi is influencing your life. You can leave me a comment below.
Wishing you love,
By Arielle Ford
I feel distressed when people ask me the simple question, “How are you?”
What was once the easiest question in the world for me to answer has now become the hardest.
In the past, my answer was always some enthusiastic version of “life’s great.”
And it was.
The way my life has turned out has exceeded every hope, wish, or dream I’ve ever had and then some.
However, since my sister Debbie’s death, it is a nightmare to hear the question, “how are you?”
That is because I have two kinds of days these days:
On some days I am sad, depressed and weepy. On the other days I feel almost normal….I can think straight finally and although I am not “happy” I am certain that my core happiness is still in me and eventually I will be happy again. Read the rest of this entry »
Finding joy was never a challenge until my sister Debbie Ford got cancer.
Several weeks ago I was recording an interview for my Art of Love Series on the topic of Serenity Now. I asked one of the experts, Michael Neill, what he does to add more pleasure to his daily life.
His answer surprised me. He said: “I find pleasure in everything.”
I decided I would do the same. Most days this was not a challenge.
I have a pretty amazing life: A wonderful husband. Work that I love. A home with great cats and an ocean view. Excellent health.
Finding pleasure in everything didn’t require much effort. Until, one day, it did.
For the past five years my sister, Debbie, has had an incurable form of cancer. We were always hopeful that somehow, someway, she would live to a ripe old age in spite of her condition. We hoped, and prayed, she would find a miracle.
Her doctors, in fact, called her a miracle because she was already outliving their predictions by nearly three years. She had gone through many scary episodes over time, only to rally. We thought it would go that way again.
Then very recently it became clear that her time on earth was coming to a close. I was heartbroken.
She was hospitalized for more than a week, getting weaker every day. Then she was sent home for hospice care. And each day I would ask myself, how can I, how should I, find pleasure in this? Is it right? Is this even possible?
While there were many moments of soul-wrenching grief, sadness, and tears, there were equal moments of lightness and laughter. I discovered that while a part of me ached to see my sister fading, another part of me rejoiced in being able to spend this precious time with her–to love her, and hold her, and be there during this extraordinary moment in her life. And I knew, so, well, that she would want us to be find moments of joy and laughter, for her sake.
The mere conscious act of seeking pleasure in the moment often revealed moments of grace.
There were so many tender moments in which our sisterly bond was celebrated in such a profound way that it brought us both joy.
*She would be in pain–pain that was almost unbearable. And, then, finally the pain meds would kick in and a smile would return to her face. Ah…the pleasure of relief.
*She would awaken from a nightmare, and together we would rewrite the story of her dream and turn it into something funny or profound.
*She would be happy to discuss her journey to the other side and five minutes later insist that a miracle was about to happen and she was going to live.
The pleasure there was all about watching Debbie be “oh-so-Debbie”… always changing her mind, always wanting to take command of her universe.
Or while she slept, I would become aware of the sweet stillness in her room with the humming of the oxygen machine as a bass line and I would find gratitude for this piece of machinery which helped her breathe. And I would feel grateful for all the extra breathes she seized, living way beyond the time so many doctors expected her to.
While we will all miss Debbie being oh-so-Debbie, what a gift it is to be able find moments of joy and peace at the end of her time here. What a gift it was to share those moments with her. I know that she felt this joy, too, despite all she was going through.
I discovered that seeking pleasure is so very Wabi Sabi….and that finding the beauty and perfection during this time provided me so much comfort in her final days.
P.S. Debbie was a giver. Her generosity is legendary and one of her proudest accomplishments was assisting Beau with his Bar Mitzvah project to build a school in rural Uganda via Just Like My Child. Through her Collective Heart Foundation several important programs to help women and children are now thriving including a Girl Power project. You can support this by visiting www.thecollectiveheart.org
If you would like to post your memories, stories and prayers about Debbie, please visit RememberingDebbieFord.com
This young couple found themselves bickering over an issue they couldn’t find a solution for.
Watch as we discover together how to create Wabi Sabi Love quickly!
And, if you would like Arielle to do a skype session with you, go to Contact and send an email.
Ten years ago Barack and Michelle Obama’s marriage was about to crumble.
Michelle told her mother she wasn’t sure their marriage would survive.
Barack told his grandmother that Michelle’s constant nagging was driving him crazy.
They were drowning in debt from the Ivy League law school loans.
Michelle was the major breadwinner with her high profile, corporate job and two young girls to care for and she felt fat, unseen and unheard.
With Barack’s busy travel schedule, they barely had any family time. And she was tired of picking up after him.
One morning Michelle woke up at 5am. Barack was gently snoring next to her. All she could think about was getting out of bed and going to the gym….it had been months! Part of her resisted going….the girls would soon be up and would need to fed….but the other part of her thought, Barack’s a smart guy, he’ll figure out how to feed them.
Once she arrived at the gym she got on the stairmaster and quickly had a Wabi Sabi epiphany.
She realized she had been WAITING for Barack to make her happy.
BUT, she now saw that it was up to her, to make herself happy.
When she got home, she found Barak and the girls at the breakfast table were she announced the NEW RULES of the Obama household.
First, she was finally going to take her mother’s offer to begin helping out with caring the kids.
Second, every night that Barack was in town, the whole family would eat dinner together at 6:30
Third, Sundays are family day. No exceptions.
And finally, a weekly date night would be put on the calendar.
Today, as we all know, The Obama’s have a fabulous relationship and they and Michelle’s mom, are all happy together in the White House. And, they just recently celebrated their 20th anniversary.
By taking personal responsibility for your own happiness, and making space for your partner to be who and what they are, magic can and often does happen. It’s when we are blaming and shaming that no progress can be made.
Wabi Sabi Love offers ways to turn conflict into compassion and create a more loving relationship…..with yourself and your partner. The simple act of being WILLING to find the beauty and perfection in our own imperfections and especially the imperfections, quirks and weirdness of our partners, that is the essence of Wabi Sabi Love.
Recently I heard that Horshack died. He was only 63.
No, I never knew him personally, he was an actor named Ron Palillo who was best known for playing a nerdy guy on the TV show Welcome Back Kotter that I used to watch in the 1970’s.
63….wow that’s young.
He wasn’t much older than me……
How in the world did I get to be an age where nearly every day I read about someone dying and my first thought is,
“Oh my, they were too young to be dead?”
25 years ago if you had asked me to make a list about what “old” people talk about it would have looked like this:
1) their aches, pains and general health conditions
2) who was dead or about to die
3) money and the rising cost of everything
4) the way things “used to be.”
If you woke me up in the middle of the night and asked me “how old are you?” my immediate response would probably be, “I’m 36.”
And, therein lies the disconnect.
I am 59 ½. I added the “half” recently because I found out that
a) this is my exact age and
b) I can now take money out of my IRA without any penalties.
I am on the cusp of being “old.” And, I don’t know how to “hold” this.
Or be with it.
Or wrap my head around it.
How can I be “old?”
I don’t feel old, I don’t think I look old,
I don’t want to be old!
Last night I was talking to my friend Nancy who is 90 (and ¼). Yes, Nancy is old. And yet she’s not. Not in the way other 90 year olds are old. She still works ( she reaches meditation in her home). She still travels (just got back from 5 weeks in Hawaii) She still hikes up and down the hills in her home everyday. Her biggest complaint is that the DMV won’t renew her drivers license. (long story, I think they are agist profilers)
Nancy is definitely my role model for living a long, relatively healthy life (in spite of several surgeries and bouts with cancer she always bounces back). Observing her closely for more than 20 years, its clear to me that her positive attitude, endless curiosity, meditation practice and deliberately healthy lifestyle are her formula for success.
So, when I am talking to Nancy, I am aware that I am not old yet.
But I’m close, very, very close.
For months now I have been thinking about this. You might even say I have become obsessed with trying to figure out how to come to terms with aging.
I want to figure out a win/win solution here.
How do I age gracefully and still be active, have fun, look good, feel good, be productive, and not be in denial?
What is the wabi sabi of aging?
Your comments are needed and most welcome.
3. Financially successful
4. A caring listener
6.. In good shape
7. Dresses with style
8. Appreciates finer things
9. Full of thoughtful surprises
What I Want in a Man, Revised List (age 32)
1. Nice looking
2. Opens car doors, holds chairs
3. Has enough money for a nice dinner
4. Listens more than talks
5. Laughs at my jokes
6. Carries bags of groceries with ease
7. Owns at least one tie
8. Appreciates a good home-cooked meal
9. Remembers birthdays and anniversaries
What I Want in a Man, Revised List (age 42)
1. Not too ugly
2. Doesn’t drive off until I’m in the car
3. Works steady – splurges on dinner out occasionally
4. Nods head when I’m talking
5. Usually remembers punch lines of jokes
6. Is in good enough shape to rearrange the furniture
7. Wears a shirt that covers his stomach
8. Knows not to buy champagne with screw-top lids
9. Remembers to put the toilet seat down
10. Shaves most weekends
What I Want in a Man, Revised List (age 52)
1. Keeps hair in nose and ears trimmed
2. Doesn’t belch or scratch in public
3. Can tow a Caravan
4. Can cook a BBQ
5. Doesn’t re-tell the same joke too many times
6. Appreciates a good TV dinner
7..Helps with the housework
What I Want in a Man, Revised List (age 62)
1. Doesn’t scare small children
2. Remembers where I have put things
3. Can still tow a van without causing chaos on the road
4. Only snores lightly when asleep
5. Remembers why he’s laughing
6. Is in good enough shape to stand up by himself
7. Usually wears some clothes
8. Doesn’t notice my facial hair and wrinkles
9. Remembers where he left his teeth
10. Stops trying to tell jokes
What I Want in a Man, Revised List (age 72)
2. Doesn’t miss the toilet.
3. Remembers where we both live.
Send this to the women who will enjoy reading it and to the men who can handle it!
When it comes to the link between marriage and health, the newest research indicates that only one question really matters:
Is your marriage good for your health?
While it’s true that marriage boosts health at a statistical level, as an individual you only get that health advantage if your marriage is a happy one, recent research shows. A stressful marriage may in fact cost you your health. In a New York Times magazine article, Tara Parker-Pope cites study findings that correlate the heart-damaging effects of a bad marriage to those of “a regular smoking habit.”
Summarizing multiple studies, she adds, “a number of epidemiological studies suggest that unhappily married couples are at higher risk for heart attacks and cardiovascular disease than happily married couples.”
Marital strife also appears to weaken immune response. In two studies at the Ohio State University College of Medicine, immune response, monitored with blood samples, was consistently lower in couples when they were discussing “hot button” issues like money or in-laws. The couples with the highest levels of hostility toward each other demonstrated a weakened immune response over a two-day period, suggesting that the strain of a conflict-ridden marriage has lasting effects on your body’s ability to defend itself against infection, germs and disease.
A separate study at the University of Utah found that bad marriages are especially dangerous to women’s health, putting unhappy wives at greater risk for metabolic syndrome, a scary cluster of high risk heart symptoms (high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and high blood pressure coupled with abdominal fat and more). Similarly, a Swedish study that tracked 300 women hospitalized for chest pains or heart attack found that those who reported the highest levels of marital stress were almost three times as likely to have another heart attack or require bypass or some other procedure.
While heart disease wasn’t consistently linked to men in bad marriages, in multiple studies unhappy husbands (and wives) were more likely to demonstrate symptoms of depression.
For better (or worse), these findings are just the beginning. The volume of research on the health-depleting effects of a bad marriage is considerable, begging an important question:
If a bad marriage is so damaging to your (and your spouse’s) cardiovascular and mental health, how do you keep your own marriage healthy?
One answer is to embrace Wabi Sabi, an ancient Japanese aesthetic of finding beauty in the flaws, imperfections and inconsistencies, of ourselves and our partner. In Wabi Sabi Love (and marriage), you learn to shift your perspective around the things that might frustrate or annoy you. When you practice Wabi Sabi love you become willing to see your mate’s behavior through a new, gentler, and kinder lens. Chances are you see their behavior as “wrong or bad.” But, imagine for a moment that this behavior exists solely to teach you how to become a more loving, compassionate person. Can you find the gift of that behavior?
Even at its most Wabi Sabi, however, marriage involves some conflict. Living “happily ever after” every second of every day is a fantasy no one can sincerely live out. Not to mention, a study at the Harvard School of Public Health concluded that “healthy anger” may be a scientific reality. It’s when anger is at either end of the spectrum, whether it’s withheld (not expressed) or raging too loudly too often, that it appears to increase the risk of heart disease, particularly in men.
The answer to the riddle of whether your marriage supports your health, then, isn’t pretending that you and your spouse will spend the rest of your days in the warm glow of marital bliss. Rather, a “healthy marriage” means learning to express anger respectfully while also deepening your connection and sharing your lives—and your home, families, money, careers, and bed sheets—in more loving and supportive ways.
To help you navigate conflict healthfully, here are some Wabi Sabi tips for having constructive (as opposed to destructive) discussions about your “hot button” topics:
1. Try to fight fairly and openly. According to research at the University of Utah, the emotional tone of your fights really matters. For women, even small signs of affection, like a gentle touch or term of endearment (as in, “Honey, stop being such a nag!”), allows wives to process their husband’s anger in a way that doesn’t damage heart health. For men, heart health was jeopardized when fights turned into battles for control.
2. Have a little laugh. Chances are, for every time he’s put your delicates in the dryer, you’ve misplaced the car keys. Remember, too, that he was trying to take care of you by helping with the laundry—and dryer or not, clean skivvies are better than dirty ones!
3. Pause before you “drip, drip, drip.” Constantly subjecting your spouse to negative comments, insults and criticism puts both of your health at risk. Next time you’re tempted to bemoan the forever-drifting toothpaste cap, remember that she neglected to put the cap on because she was rushing off to work to help support your life together.
At its best Wabi Sabi marriage (and love in all forms) is about embracing the imperfections in each other, and in your life together. It’s the art of welcoming each other as human beings—flaws, foibles and all—to make room for deeper love and connection. It’s also, recent research suggests, a need so basic, your very health may depend upon it.
Finding examples of Wabi Sabi in your every day life brings peace in the midst of your current challenge? Click here to download my newest Wabi Sabi Love Feelingization. I will send your recording right to you.