Coping with Loss: One Year Out

It’s been a little over a year since a dear friend of mine passed away. While certain songs still bring him to my mind, like any song by Jurassic 5 or Biggie Smalls–some of his favorites, they make me smile more often than they make me cry. I’ve been thinking a lot about this difficult period in my life and what it means to me a year later. Studies show that how we cope with difficult events helps us make meaning and come out a little wiser on the other side. We need social support to make that happen.

I’m so grateful for the many shoulders I’ve had to cry on, the friends who have listened to my stories, and the loved ones who’ve checked in on me. I’ve also found amazing community through sharing my grief on social media; over 30% of young adults know someone who has died of an overdose. That is a large portion of the population, and sharing our stories is one way to cope with our losses.

I was lucky that his parents and the Nashville community spoke so openly about his death. My friend had suffered with different addictions for years. I remember a call from him a few years ago and hearing fear in his voice. He asked me to hold him accountable, and I did. He went to rehab a few months later, spent more time with his family, graduated from college and had a job that let him be outdoors. I remember meeting up with him and his dad about six months before his passing; I went to one of his father’s graduate school lectures with my friend for fun. We reminisced and he told me some of his stories that inevitably cracked me up. He had a wonderful sense of humor, kindness, and genuine friendliness about him from the first day we met that always struck me.

We texted in the few weeks before his death; he seemed to be doing well and I told him I wanted to visit him in Colorado and finally learn to ski. Skiing was one of his many beloved outdoor hobbies. There was no hint that he was not ok, no signs that I detected. That is one of the scariest parts of addiction–it is an ongoing battle. As friends and supporters, we can only do so much. Addiction is not a choice we can prevent, but rather a disease well beyond the control of friends and family.

His death has prompted me to look deeply at the way I live my life. He was always carefree, calm, and in awe of nature. I’ve taken some amazing trips, hiked new trails, and taken chances with new challenges.  I’ve also started prioritizing my social ties–staying connected to those who matter most with phone calls, letters, and visits. Research shows that our social network actually heals after the loss of a friend. Friends are pulled closer together following a loss–helping to heal both the group and the individual.

While it will never be easy, I am starting to feel that it is getting easier.

Ted Talk Friday: Emotional laws are the answer for better relationships

There are so many valuable lessons in this Ted Talk. My favorite point was about how we often view the action of others and how they treat us in relation to ourselves–in reality, it’s a self-sabotaging form of self-centeredness. We assume everyone is interacting with us in isolation, we forget that much of what they say and how they treat us is a reflection of themselves and their own internal issues. This is a freeing rule that allows us to offer grace to those who treat us poorly, and protect ourselves from negativity.

***
What was your biggest takeaway?

Ted Talk Friday: How to train employees to have difficult conversations

This is one of the most engaging talks I’ve seen about data in a long time! The speaker, Tamekia MizLadi Smith, does a fantastic job breaking down the issues that come with the extensive data collection in our lives. This talk reminded me of my work at a non-profit in Detroit, MI. I spent days passing out surveys and speaking with members of the community. That survey included a number of personal questions, and as soon as I explained the purpose of the survey and how it might be valuable to them, there was typically a tone shift from negative to positive. We all deserve clarity and compassion when we are giving up our data, whether we have to or if we are volunteering that data.

***
Did you find this talk entertaining? Have you had any negative experiences with data collection?

Rolling with the Punches (+ Rolling Down Hills)

Last weekend I took a tumble while hiking on one of my favorite Bay Area trails (Gray Whale Cove Trail in Pacifica). It was a beautiful day and a lovely hike–moderately sunny, light wind, lookouts on to the gorgeous Pacific. As we neared the end of the hike, I tried to go a bit faster going downhill and completely wiped out, landing on my knee.

Screen Shot 2018-09-17 at 2.05.47 PM.png

At first it felt totally fine and as I got up and walked a few steps, I looked down and noticed the whole knee of my leggings was ripped off and my knee was bleeding quite a bit. Hobbling the rest of the mile, I was pretty mad at myself. My friend was supportive and didn’t make a big deal of it, and that made me stop and re-think the incident. This is a good lesson on people; choose to spend time with people who show compassion and support during times like this!

Could I have done something different? Sure! Does it matter now? Nope! I fell and that’s that; all I can do now is be gentle with myself, body and mind, and let it heal. I always joke that I hardly ever get injured, and it certainly came back to bite me this time.

I almost went to the ER because the abrasion was full of debris with a few deep wounds, but luckily I was able to wait until the next day  to go to the doctor to get it checked out. I got a tetanus shot and a thorough cleaning of all my cuts and scrapes. I am incredibly lucky that there was no real damage–no breaks, sprains, or anything that will cause long-term problems. Pretty miraculous all things considered! I was super bummed that I couldn’t work out for a while my knee heals, but I’ve been trying to take it easy and give my body a respite from working out. I think my body has thanked me for it–it’s been a little more relaxing and it’s given me a few extra hours of sleep.

Five days post-fall and I’m still hobbling a bit while I walk, but I’ve been able to get into the gym a bit for some light exercise–focusing on upping my arm workouts and a few ab intervals. I have been taking it easy overall–giving myself a bit more permission to be “lazy,” take it easy, and feel gratitude for my normally healthy body.

***

When was the last time you took a hard fall? How do you cope with an injury?

 

Ted Talk Friday: Why 30 is not the new 20

I have heard amazing things about Meg Jay’s book The Defining Decade–nearly all of my friends have read it and have brought it up to me. Needless to say, it has been added to my never-ending reading list! This Ted Talk is a great inside look into the philosophy that guides her book, and guides her approach to living well in your twenties. This talk certainly led to me think more deeply about the way I am living now in my early twenties.

***

Do you agree with Jay’s approach? How do you view your twenties?

Strategies for Coping with Perfectionism

I’m a self-proclaimed recovering perfectionist. In hindsight, for the first twenty-something years of my life I tortured myself striving for perfection that couldn’t exist; 4.0 GPA, leadership positions in too many clubs, staying in touch with endless people. If I was late to a meeting by five minutes or got an A- on a paper, I was so angry and frustrated with myself. I’d spend so much time thinking about what I should’ve done differently.

I should’ve left ten minutes earlier.

I should have phrased this sentence differently.

art-blueprint-brainstorming-8704

All the “should haves” and wasted energy I poured into my mistakes was exhausting, unproductive, and self-destructive. In the past year and a half, I’ve been working harder to shake this negative self-talk and deeply entrenched perfectionism. I have respect for all perfectionism has allowed me to achieve–a wonderful education, strong friendships, a solid work ethic–but I have also learned a few tools that allow me to ditch the downsides of perfectionism:

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Who actually cares? Probably NO ONE, but if someone does care they likely do not know you well and might not be the type of person you want to value in your life.
  2. Will this matter in five years? Most likely not. Think about small mistakes you made five years ago–do they impact your life today?
  3. What am I losing? You’re probably only losing out on time you spent feeling regretful, upset, or disappointed.

agenda-appointment-business-1020323.jpg

Do these things:

  1. Give yourself a hug, maybe even a small kiss on the shoulder–practice self-compassion.
  2. Treat yourself like a friend. If your best friend made this mistake, say to yourself what you might say to them
  3. Distract yourself: watch a quick show, ted talk, or call a friend.
  4. Focus on the positive: sure, one thing in your day went wrong. Now, focus on what went right.

adult-architecture-building-786924

In school mistakes might mean a less than perfect grade and in the professional world, it might mean a frustrated client or a mistake in a presentation. Whatever it is, it’s likely not life-threatening and often we are the ones who suffer most. If you’re anything like me, I highly recommend trying out some of these tips and learning how you can change your perception of perfection.

***

Are you a perfectionist? Do you use any of these strategies?

Ted Talk Friday: The danger of a single story

I love Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and this talk lives up to what I expect of her brilliant story-telling. She uses multiple examples of how easily we see others as one-dimensional, even with the knowledge of our own complex nature and nuances. Somehow we forget that just like a few adjectives can’t sum up our identity, a few adjectives can’t sum up anyone else so simply either. I hope you enjoy this video and use it to think of the singles stories you might be letting yourself believe.

***
Have you thought about this concept before? What stories helped you discover new worlds and ideas?

Relationships: sustaining what matters

My biggest lesson in post-grad life: you have to nourish relationships–and it’s not always easy. I’ve divided my friendships into distinct categories that have helped me think about friendship and moving on in the “real world.”

There are friends who always check in or call me regularly, and I reach out to them an equal amount. These are what I call my natural “give and take” friendships. Occasionally, these fall out of balance during a particularly busy time; a move across the country, a newfound romance, or the holidays–but all in all, steady, easy back and forth. These are few and far between!

Another category of friendship is one that is highly prioritized and requires scheduling to maintain. I have to schedule time with some of these people weeks out, or we likely will never talk. It’s not because one of us doesn’t care–our schedules are simply different or we are in different time zones. For example, one works odd hours in Eastern time and his weekends don’t always line up with the regular work week.

The third category are my “fly by” friends. These are people who I don’t talk to often, and it’s typically brief when we do talk, but they provide support, meaning, and true friendship even in those short interactions. I love these friendships dearly because they exemplify how small interactions can feel so profound and connecting.

There are some people that I’ve learned to let go. Some friends were wonderful friends during the time and place of college. People I grabbed a meal with, went to a party with, or studied for a class with–these are the people who were convenient friends. Still true friends, but not the people I would go pick out of a crowd. I often miss these people and shoot them a text or quick call, but I don’t think much of it. It’s painful sometimes, but it’s a necessary part of moving forward.

Looking back, there are very few friends who I’ve totally lost touch with. Even in college, I was well aware of the importance of maintaining relationships; I had lunch plans with a different person everyday to keep up with the people who mattered to me. I definitely gave my mother to thank for teaching me this lesson early on; she was nearly always on the phone with her friends (scattered all over the country) and taught me the value of friendship from an early age.

***

Have you kept up with your friends? Do your friendship categories look like mine?

Ted Talk Friday: Go Outside and Play with Your Friends

This talk reminds me of one of my favorite college professors; this professor was so incredibly passionate about the concept of play. He emphasized the value of work that feels like play, but he also embodied what it means to live a playful life. He shows excitement, takes risks, and certainly enjoys the outdoors. I see him as a model of how to live playfully and this talk only emphasized the the importance of play for holistic wellbeing.

***
How do you play?