How I Stopped Being a Wounded Decision Maker

CrossroadsNearly my entire life, I’ve made decisions based on one thing: how I felt in the moment.

Turns out to be a bad idea.

Back in my early twenties, when I was starting out as an advertising copywriter, I chose to work for an abusive jerk in one of the most notorious hack agencies in New York. It was the place that invented that American icon, Madge the Manicurist.

I also ignored an invitation to interview with Ed McCabe, the grand circus master of creative boutique agencies. He was the guy every young writer wanted to work for, but I blew off his entreaty.

Why?

I didn’t know how to ask for help.

At age 20, I thought I knew all the answers — I didn’t need no help, no how. “All ad agencies are alike,” I told myself, which couldn’t have been further from the truth. So I chose rashly, with no preparation.

Thirty-two years later, I was still making the same mistake. Fresh out of a 25-year marriage and newly out as a lesbian, I was in no mood for circumspection. I dove headfirst into a love affair with a rank abuser.

A month later I came to my senses and walked away – only to return to her a month later on an impulse. A friend at the time advised me against it.

“That scares me,” he said. But I ignored him. After all, I always knew the right answer … right?

Wrong.

In recent years I learned to make decisions slowly and with a great deal of thought. The bigger the decision, the more thought goes into it. It’s starting to feel like an act of Grace.

Conscious decision-making has taught me that I am not alone. That it’s best to get feedback from trusted friends. I’ve come to think of these wonderful advisers as my personal ‘board of directors.’

Friends talked me off the cliff of compulsively overwork when it was time grieve my daughter’s death. Others advised me to walk away from a potential abusive relationship, which allowed me to run towards the woman I was really suited to.

Still others kept me from blowing a chunk of my retirement fund on a painting I adored but really couldn’t afford.

In the end, the choice has always been mine, but I made it with eyes open and all the options on the table. So conscious decision-making has saved my bacon again and again.

Here’s the part I really love: this zen-like approach to decision making is fun. The pressure is off. No longer must I be the swashbuckling hero of the moment, swooping in to make a big decision with no forethought or research. No longer must I save the day the way I used to as a child in an alcoholic family.

I can take my own sweet time. I can make my choice when I’m damn good and ready, and not a moment sooner.

Not surprisingly, the woman I am partnered with now is a beautiful decision maker. She vets every choice thoroughly, turning it over from all angles. She’s truly open to not seizing every opportunity, but exploring the downsides as well.

Still, at times, it can uncomfortable to peel myself away from a rash decision. The old buzz of pheromones and the thrill of the adrenal rush still beckon.

But I’ve learned to stop and reflect before I choose. Because I know that on the other side is excellent self care, which is far more sustainable than the sugar rush of a fast choice.

Do I still honor my instincts? Absolutely. It’s just that now I know how to sit with them.

My big takeaway is this: The world will not end tomorrow if I don’t act today. Turns out you and I can act in good time, slowly and consciously, and so enjoy the warm glow of satisfaction from a decision well made.

May you choose well and slowly, my friend.

Hell, you may even find it fun!

Healing Grief With a Memorial on Wheels

IMG_0359In the last four years, I have learned a lot about how to process grief.

You know grief.

It’s that terrible, black sadness after loss that consumes us when we let it. It’s also the reason so many of us drink, shop, drug, and chew ourselves into oblivion.

We think we can’t handle our grief – so we do anything to avoid it.

I say we can handle our grief; that we’re biologically wired to process it. My proof is that unprocessed grief sticks around. Our grief is always back there, simmering in the background, until the fateful day we finally take it on and deal with it.

There are things we can do. Studies indicate creating an altar, memorial or shrine is one of the best ways – even for a loss that happened years earlier.

I know I’ve found this a tremendous comfort since Teal’s death. In her memory, I turned my Teal-colored car into a moving altar.

Tealster plateI bought the car six months before my daughter died. The first time I drove her around in it, I proposed we call it ‘The Tealster’ – her nickname from childhood, long since outgrown. “Great idea!” she said with a laugh. “Then you won’t call me that anymore.”

My Teal Memorial on Wheels just naturally happened after her death. The first thing I did was put a sticker on the back window; it’s of the Hindu goddess White Tara, who symbolizes sensitivity . Teal was tremendously sensitive and a lover of all things relating to Goddesses, so it seemed a good fit.

Then I had a license plate made that said ‘TEALSTR’.

People often think it means ‘Teal Star’ – and I don’t disagree when they ask about it. I simply tell them about Teal and what an angelic, thoughtful, compassionate presence she was.

Worded on the license plate holder was a phrase she received in meditation one day: ‘Give Fearlessly and You Shall Never Want.’

A tiny tray of origami stars in varying shades of teal fills part of the console. And on the dashboard is my ‘Goddess of the Month’ – currently Lakshmi, goddess of prosperity and abundance. Though the Hindu goddesses were new to me when she died, I have studied them extensively since her death. It’s a way to stay connected to all things Teal.dashboard Lakshmi

Not surprisingly, I often feel her around me when I drive. So much so that driving has become a critical part of my healing.

For the first two years after her death, I always had a box of tissues in the front seat, and I cried freely as I drove. As I felt Teal’s energy swirling all around me, I allowed myself to surrender to life as it is, in spite of the pain.

And so I learned that grief is not to be feared, but is simply the way back to a whole and healthy life.

Lately, I’ve been thinking I will buy a new car – not immediately, but pretty soon. I take this as a sign that my heart has healed a great deal. For sure, my life is the happiest it has ever been, even after the worst loss imaginable.

Perhaps this is why. For by allowing myself to have this little sanctuary on wheels – one I was sure to visit at least once every day – I allowed myself to literally sit with my daughter’s memory for many, many hours. So I could embrace my grief and cry for all I was worth (and yes, I pulled over a lot when crying on the road.)

If you’re struggling with someone or something you have lost, I recommend creating a mobile altar on wheels that allows you to get the peace, and privacy, you may need to really let go. Drive to the beach, a park or a favorite place, and bring your memories along for the ride. If you need to pull over to cry in peace, do it.

Give yourself all the time in the world to  enter that most sacred of spaces – your emotions. In letting go you will embrace what is, and so find your way back to peace.

Namaste.

PS. Want to talk to me live about altars, grieving and such? I’ll be on Facebook Live, Tuesday, March 22 at 10AM PT/1PM ET. You can find me on my profile page — A recording will also be posted on my fan page. See ya there!