My New “Calm the -Bleep!- Down Club”

Since earlier this year, when significant challenges flooded in, I realized what I really needed to do was to calm down. So, I started telling myself to calm down. And it helped–magically and immensely. Then, as dear girlfriends and I discussed that phenomenon of “those moments” of feeling so overwhelmed, so angry, so sad, so frustrated, so _____, I started proclaiming that I was starting a new club called the “Calm the <bleep!> Down Club.” One of my dear friends immediately wanted to be vice president.

Here’s what I realized: In those moments when we feel intense emotions and anxiety, we really can get our bearings, return to clarity, return to breath… when we calm down.

But can you hear those words when someone else says them? That trigger when someone tells you to calm down? I usually don’t like it, either.

So, train yourself to tell yourself to calm down and follow up with peace-creating, grounding actions and thoughts. When we need new patterns, and, as I found through extensive research last summer about trauma and habits, we don’t “break” a “bad” or unhealthy habit–we replace it. What different approaches and responses to stay calmer, especially in the face of those intense times, are you willing to “try on”?

try these steps to ground, be in the moment and feel safer_may2016

What the heck is Erika talking about? I really like the grounding approach in the image above–one great example.Lately I’ve been talking more to my clients about a “spiritual tool kit,” otherwise known as the sweet, personal collection of practices that keep you grounded, calm and authentic, no matter what may be happening around you, and I encourage people to also have a portable version. For example, no matter where I am–at home, my office or traveling far from home, when I’m feeling overwhelmed or even to get ahead of and prevent difficult and stressful moments, I have my go-to spiritual practices. And my travel grounding and self-care kit contains my yoga practice, my journal, certain mantras and small rituals… and my breath.

BREATH needs to be in all of our calming kits. So portable, too! In seconds, just by putting your hand over your heart, which essentially says “I am here–in this moment,” and slowing down the breath, adding intention to the breath (ex. “I breathe in calm; I breathe out and release fear”), and taking three deliberate and slow breaths, you can feel the calm within you and surrounding you. Start there. Start here. Make calm accessible and access it.

I want to support more calm, peace and joy in your life–and sincerely enjoy doing so through my sessions and services. With or without me, give some thought to that spiritual, grounding, calm-inducing toolkit–before the next time life throws another zinger, or you find yourself in some intense anxiety. Planning ahead can make all the difference. Even if you write the words featured above in “For help during an anxiety attack, try this technique….” for some lovely guidance and keep it somewhere accessible. Or, take a picture of the image on your phone! Keep it close.

Do something, however small, to promote more calm in your life. Then, you’ll invite ease and clarity with navigating your life, moment to moment.

© 2016 Erika M. Schreck. All rights reserved.

The Dead Parent Club and Four Big Things I’ve Learned in 15 Years Since My Father Died

scan0017

My dad raced stock cars sometimes

I believe we join an interesting club when we lose a parent through death. Until you join this club, it’s a tough journey to understand–and no one else’s journey will be exactly like yours. Today is the 15-year anniversary of my father’s passing; he died suddenly and unexpectedly at age 48 of a heart-attack… that’s an age that is eight years away for me and tough to imagine.

I’ve learned so many valuable things through my father’s passing and through several other losses, I keep returning to my experiences on this journey, what I usually share with people willing to discuss and listen, and what I’ve been finding important to my grief coaching clients. There are multiple learnings, but I continue returning to the following four.

1. Be at peace with where you’re at with your parents.

This is probably the biggest one. If your parents still on the planet, have you said and done what you need to feel at peace? If they’re on the Other Side, have you said and done what you need to feel at peace? I can’t tell you what this may look like exactly for you. And it may not even involve actually talking to or seeing them. But how can you choose peace?

For me, it took telling my dad that he was a “shitty father sometimes”–on the, unknown to me, last Father’s Day I would share with him. It might sound awful, but in the last several months we had together after that Father’s Day, not knowing those were our last, something shifted. We actually talked more, and I was invited over more. Throughout my childhood and teens, I wrote him letters and expressed in phone calls what I needed to. I definitely wasn’t perfect in all I did, but somehow I feel I had a larger feeling of “no regrets.” Sure, I still have regrets. Overall, I sincerely tried to do and say all I needed with him to feel at peace. And I know how much he loved and supported me—he was my biggest fan with my writing, my calligraphy pens, my drawing, my crafting, star-gazing, camping and appreciating Nature.

2. Talk about your burial and funeral wishes, as well as organ donation and end-of-life wishes (ex. Do-Not-Resuscitate order), with loved ones. And get it on official documentation. Now.

My father’s loss is so significant for me, not only because my father left the planet, but also because at age 24-turning-25, I was suddenly solely responsible for all of his effects. I quickly needed to plan a funeral, approve which body parts could be donated, drain my already-little savings to pay for the initial things, prepare and sell his condo, sell his Harley Davidson, sell his car, save his ponytail from his mother who wanted to cut it off for the wake and funeral viewing, refuse his former girlfriend wanting his prized and bad-ass Harley Davidson leather jacket, and so forth. And I was in grad school with three jobs.

He didn’t have a will, and I hadn’t talked with him about what kind of burial he wanted; dealing with probate was challenging. I found a card in his wallet for a lawyer after he died; when I called her and mentioned this card find, she responded, “Oh, yes, your father was going to contact me about doing a will.”

3. Remember that while people can relate and have great intentions,
no one else knows “exactly” what you’re going through.

One of the most comforting things anyone said to me came from the mouth of the funeral director. After several days of managing things, organizing and planning, I arrived at the funeral home for the evening “wake”—an opportunity to allow friends, family and coworkers to view the body in the casket and pay respects to the deceased and the family. My face and body were showing my fatigue, overwhelm and I-will-cry-any-moment-please-watch-what-you-say.

I was still unloading items from a heavy box I’d just carried into the funeral home. My uncle beckoned me with impatience, “Come on, Erika, you and your brother and sister need to view the body now, before everyone else arrives.” That’s what did it. I had held it together all week and supported everyone else. False start as I proceeded to follow said uncle and enter the room where my father lay, when tears arrived like a slap, and I turned to hide the fountain coming from my face. I took a moment. And a breath.

After seeing my dad in the casket, with his ponytail and his dark jeans and a nice shirt with a vest (I also fought for my-father-will-not-wear-a-suit-because-that’s-not-him), the funeral director pulled me aside. “Erika,” he started, now putting his hand on my shoulder, “a lot of people are going to say they know exactly what you’re going through. They have good intentions. But no one knows exactly what you’re going through. Remember that. Take care of yourself.” He was so right, and I’ve loved those words and have shared those words ever since.

Honor your journey with grief. Remember that grief is cumulative.

4. Our parents indeed live on, even in death.

Even if you don’t believe in an afterlife as I do, our parents live on in us, in memories that helped create and shape us. At times we may even mistake people walking by for our deceased loved one. Reminders—maybe you call them “signs”—show up, almost as if to say, “I’m here” or “You have my support,” from your deceased one.

And, like it or not, we have some of our parents’ traits and mannerisms. We know others who exhibit some of these elements, and we’re triggered in painful ways or joyful ones. Spirit is sometimes a tough concept to grasp, but whether it’s God, the Universe, Allah, Aai, Great Mystery or something else, there is something about the essence left by someone who dies. And I believe we can communicate with our deceased ones. And all of us can do so, if we wish, believe… and ask—and know our deceased may not always communicate in ways we expect. Just have the conversation, perhaps whether you believe or not. Why not? Some of my own experiences are noted in the related blog posts listed below.

Honestly, I don’t know what kind of relationship I’d have now with my dad, had he lived. But I do have a relationship with him in Spirit, and it’s powerful. He shows up all the time, and I hear a lot of things from him. Pretty darn amazing and beautiful. I love my dad very much, and I miss not being able to call him about car things and repairs. His death is one of my biggest wounds and one of my biggest opportunities. I attribute his death and my experience largely to why I moved to Colorado (nearly 13 years ago now) and why I am a certified grief coach.

One of the safest places I have ever known was my father’s chest; leaning on and falling asleep on his chest as a young girl, about ages one to three, and hearing his heartbeat comforted me unbelievably then and still resonates safety for me now.

© Erika M. Schreck, 2015. All rights reserved.


Other Closely Related Blog Posts You May Enjoy,
written in earlier days by Erika M. Schreck

+ “Beautiful and Necessary Grief Healing: Death, Reinvention and Support”

+ “Live for No Regrets… with Loved Ones”

+ “If I Die Young”

+ “Father’s Day is What We Make It”

+ “Sensing Our Dearly Departed Loved Ones”

+ “My Take-Aways from the Movie Hereafter

+ “How Do You Commemorate Your Deceased Loved Ones?”
      one of my most popular posts of all time!

+ “Our Four-Legged Stars”

+ “Taking the ‘Me’ out of Mediumship”

+ “Scary for Some: Connecting to Our Deceased”

+ “Life is a Gift–Not a Given”

Transitioning to Lighter, Brighter Days

I just finished 13 years of teaching college-level writing. Having just completed teaching seven years for the University of Colorado at Boulder in the Program for Writing and Rhetoric, it’s still surreal that this summer is my first in 13 years that I’m not teaching writing. It’s surreal that I turned in my university keys last week and cleaned out my office a few days before then. And it’s surreal that I’m not feeling the intense weight and burden of grading writing and preparing for my courses—all the time, into the wee hours of the morning, without real breaks, for little pay and often for little respect. While teaching was and is something I love, the environment of teaching writing courses as an instructor for a university is unfortunately not typically sustainable for many reasons.

Sometimes it takes awhile to realize that something, such as a relationship or job, is just not worth it or working anymore. It can be easier to stay with what’s comfortable and what we know, but sometimes we stay too long. I really lost sight of true balance, missing out on so much sleep, so many social events and so much time for my own well-being. Yes, I definitely loved many aspects of teaching writing to college students; I wouldn’t have stayed so long in it if I didn’t. But when the signs started intensifying, and I really had to be honest with myself, I realized that even without another job lined up, even with no savings, even with leaving behind the familiar, it was time to move on. And I stayed committed to my decision, resigning this semester.

And then wonderful things started happening! Despite an intense semester of non-stop grading, ridiculous lack of sleep, signs that continued to get louder and even some icky student encounters (making me all the more grateful for the respectful, genuine, hardworking ones), I noticed my reiki practice growing. Clients—especially new ones—had been referred to me and were e-mailing and calling. I also experienced an increase in orders for my bath salts, eye pillows, crocheted newborn caps, all-natural and organic soap, and essential oil sprays; more interest in my tarot and totem animal readings; and even inquiries for my freelance editing. I could only smile, realizing the Universe was providing, especially once I’d finally decided to take the leap of faith and accepted what I needed to do to leave a toxic environment. There are rewards for taking the risks and doing what we know we need to do.

I’m feeling more like myself. Last week, during one of my reiki healing sessions, as I cradled the beautiful, bald head of a woman in the midst of chemotherapy treatments, I felt teary just realizing that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing and that I am making a positive difference—for this amazing, lovely, indomitable woman and for so many others. Reiki has changed my life and is allowing me to change the lives of others, and I am in such gratitude for this gift and for my clients. My energy has returned, and I’m slowly transitioning to lighter, brighter days. It was time to jump, trusting the net would be there. And one interesting, great aspect of how things are unfolding is that I’m completing my reiki master training, which will allow me to teach and attune others in reiki. Perhaps I’m not completely done with teaching, and I didn’t really think I was; I just needed a new audience and a new path.

I find it fascinating how many colleagues have said, “I wish I could leave, too.” I’ve heard many kudos and praises for living the dream and taking the risk and following [my] passions and dreams. And then I hear the reasons for why they can’t, yet. We all have our own timelines, and I do not judge those who express these sentiments, but I only hope that when any of us reach a point where peace and joy have diminished, we can choose the lighter, brighter days. Why wait? (Note: With the latter question, I’ll insert a plug here for my new friend Kristen Moeller and her book Waiting for Jack; Kristen often asks this question and is so inspiring.)

While I’m still taking one day at a time and refraining from freaking out about the future, I am here now, right where I’m supposed to be.