Monday, November 29, 2010

Room For Change: Reviving Your Holidays

As a widow , I continually try to be positive in the changes and growth that have emerged in my widowhood.   Attending bereavement sessions around the holidays, I hear and see the word, "surviving".

Surviving to me connotes, a time of languish, a sacrifice and an insurmountable endurance.  Most of us experiencing loss have felt fleeting moments of such, but then again we may find a single bright moment that leads the way to hope and renewal and even revival on this grief journey.

Holidays not only suggest shopping as with birthdays, Hanukkah and Christmas, but also include decorating, baking and traditional activities.  Weaving new into old and old into new is what our life journey entails.  How can you weave yours with what treasured memories and traditions speak to you and your loved ones?

Shopping:  Keep it simple.  Maybe this is a year that you exchange gift certificates only and plan a family trip or excursion after the holiday.   Maybe this is a time when you ask others to do the shopping for you.  Be kind to yourself.  Relish holidays as a time of energy conservation and renewal rather than the have to's of past years.

Gifting of memories:  I am not the best seamstress but I have friends that are talented in that arena.  They could create a small quilt, a Christmas tree skirt, a table runner or even holiday place mats from your loved ones old clothes.  It is a way of purposeful renewal and memory. Men's ties can be especially beautiful in a tree skirt as their shape flares out.  Mom's old costume jewelry can be hot glued to inexpensive picture frames for gifts to family members and even used to adorn a Styrofoam ball and hung with a ribbon from the tree.  Memories will remain.  Using items gives them renewal and a sense of moving forward with honor.

Barter:  This word may appear harsh but often in grief we know what we have in the way of items and "stuff" but don't know how to relinquish and to whom.  Think about trading or bartering your  extra tools for " x number " of handyman hours.  Think about trading your lawnmower for lawn care for a year or your snow plow for plowing.  Relinquishing an item does not mean it cannot come back into your space, but it can allow space for other things to come in and other activities that may be burdensome to you now.  Remember holidays are about giving and giving to yourself is just as important as giving to others.

Decorating:  This may be a year when the tree gets a little smaller or all the decorations are not put up.  This may be a year when you ask a friend to adorn a wreath for you and you go on a citywide light walk instead of putting your lights up.  This may be a year, when you are not the " hostess with the mostess" and visit someone else or even go on a cruise.  My first year of widowhood I picked out a fresh palette of inexpensive ornaments for my tree.  My first year of widowhood I did not bake and decorate the gingerbread houses, my daughter did.  My first year of widowhood I did not stay home.  Did it help?  I do not remember, but it did help me realize that everything did not have to be the same way in order to cushion the void I was experiencing.

Aromas and Baking: The holiday season conjures up sights and sounds and smells.   What speaks to you?  What smells remind you of great childhood memories?  What supports you?  If you love the smell of evergreens, buy yourself a beautiful soy candle or bring in some pine cones seasoned with cinnamon and nutmeg.  My grandmother's recipe for poppy seed strudel was a tradition and my favorite.  My father, now deceased and I loved it.  Grandma has also passed away but her recipe and her handwriting of the recipe linger.  Have a friend , who wants to do something special for you, make a favorite recipe.  Not only will you be nurtured with  food but also memories.  Putting spices into a crock pot to simmer, can create another avenue of creating memories.  Add what spices or fruit that appeals to you now.

Holiday Cards: If someone sent me a card, I felt guilty that I did not send them one.  I was too exhausted and "low" to respond during my first years of widowhood. I did respond in another way.  The cards piled up during the holidays.  Beginning January 1st, I pulled one from the basket each day and said a prayer for that family and gratitude for their outreach. In grief, in life, it all takes time.  Give yourself time to allow for your unique gifts to unfold. (  I have even thought about sending Valentine cards instead, but never have done it.  Let me know if that fits the bill for you!)

Outreach to Others:  I found that giving to strangers during the holidays, sparked a gratitude that was hard to access in my loss.  I envisioned the foster sisters that would open the gifts I sent. Receiving a photo and thank you note a month later I was not far off!  I remembered the Christmas I received my Polly Play Pal doll , when everyone told me the large gift was an ironing board for my mom and hoped that the burlap bag with my untidy red yarn embroidery would keep them in wonderment for a while. I remembered the first warm reversible ski jacket I got as a gift and even remember the pattern and hoped that what I picked out for the Angel Tree family would be as warming and fun.

Reviving your holidays, bringing a little something new to the old, is what makes other beautiful traditions awaken.  Remembering yourself, by placing yourself in a place of support is all that is required. Remember the magic and weave a small bit of change into your celebrations.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Room For Change: " Waiting" or "Wanting to Get Out" Rooms

Perhaps it is cloudy or dreary days that brings out a critical perspective that lays dormant for some command performance. Today waiting rooms crawl to the surface of this damp and inclement weather.

Waiting Rooms.   Just the sound of "Wait" conjures up the sense of not moving forward.  "Wait" is  a loss of momentum.   So what benefits  can waiting rooms fulfill for those in health care and other industry services?   Are they simply " Wanting to Get Out" Rooms instead?

Waiting rooms, are like your front door, as they speak of your nature and your mindset of the day.
Waiting rooms, are like a incubator, for mental attitude to swell or mind lists to be congealed.
Waiting rooms , are like a hand written invitation, to an upcoming event and the expectations associated with it.

Do waiting rooms fulfill your needs? Are your service providers doing you a service in their waiting rooms?  How are you intuitively reacting to the setting.

After numerous medical waiting rooms attended by myself and my husband in his care during his terminal illness I became a big critic of waiting rooms without realizing it.  My impatience in the medical process and time I felt was wasted before and after our actual appointments lead me dreading another appointment date in most facilities or offices.

Roswell Park Cancer Institute was the first one to "speak" to me of compassion and comfort while retaining a business and service attitude of efficiency and individualization.  Their waiting rooms fulfilled my needs.

What does the physical "room" exhibit?

Not only is visual pleasure comforting for the patient/client but for the staff.  It sets the stage for what is to come.  Physical elements can include seating, lighting, privacy elements, accessibility to water or beverages, aromas, cleanliness and reading material.  Physical also includes how the flow of clients in and out proceeds and how those "waiting" are  integrated within  the process.  Physical can include how your voice or those of the staff travels within these walls and what adorns the walls if anything.

My pet peeves include:

Dirty upholstery or seating surfaces
Lack of lighting or sources of lighting
Outdated reading material and neglected
Uncomfortable seating or limited seating
Lack of privacy of conversation with staff
Dust laden silk or artificial plants
Left over furniture and accessories from other spaces flung together
Faded pictures or photos adorning the walls
Overstuffed literature for client left unattended and in disarray
Inadequate variety of seating to accommodate different physical abilities

These ten are a fraction of what others may find discomforting within such a space.

Suggestions to consider within such a space could include:

Rocking chairs
Fish tanks
Wall mounted water fountains
Current reading material
Nature DVD and photos
Good and varied lighting as well as natural lighting
Clean surfaces
Beverage station with neat disposal setup
Variety of seating options, i.e. armless and with arms, soft and firm
Variety in shapes and size of seating or side tables.
Availability of blankets for comfort and temperature control
Private screening area as needed for confidential conversation or scheduling
Lack of intense aroma ( neither medicinal nor strong artificial)

Yesterday I visited a new dentist and his office.   Not only did I do a mental checklist of what was pleasing to me, but overviewed what others might find comforting, pleasing and mind setting for their upcoming appointment.

The office included:

Efficient directions to the location and well marked door
Well appointed beverage station and welcoming staff upon entry
Several seating options around large round coffee table laden with current magazines
Chairs that swiveled to adjust client's perspective and comfort
Overhead lighting and ambient lighting
Wall mounted water fountain with backlight
Advertising material on adjacent table for inquiry, not on every surface
Separate area for interviewing new patient
Blankets available during session
Staff conversation at low level
Clean surfaces
Earthy color scheme

Waiting rooms set the stage for what is about to happen and how you, as a client ,will be serviced . More important it initiates the mindset you will bring into the interaction with the provider. Why not maximize all areas ?

Room for change , even in waiting rooms , is possible.  Yesterday, the wait was a pampering time out before my new association was made.  I left , not dreading my possible return, and if I arrived early to my next appointment, the wait.