Creative Writing, Mindfulness

Solving My Life’s Riddle: Confidence

Confidence is a very interesting phenomenon because it comes in two forms, inward and outward facing, which aren’t necessarily interdependent of one another. Outward facing confidence involves approaching life with a certain nonchalant nature, not afraid of asserting yourself or failing in various situations. Outward facing confidence is something that I have a hard time accepting and lack. You may have heard the phrase, “Fake it until you make it.” It’s not a phrase I wish to live by because I don’t believe in it. Many people may be attracted to outward facing confidence, but it’s something that doesn’t come naturally to me. I have no interest in applying it because I don’t want to put up a false front just to appease someone. I’ve been reading a book called Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach. She refers to a phenomenon known as “The Trance of Unworthiness.” In essence, the crux of this phenomenon revolves around how the world seems to lead us to just do things for other people, leaving us unsatisfied or feeling unworthy. With that in mind, she encourages us to develop our own internal identity to feel fulfilled and worthy. Meditation and mindfulness have taught me to find ways to look inside myself to find the redeeming qualities that I innately have instead of having to develop new ones to appease to other people. My favorite mindfulness practice is called a body scan. A body scan allows you to check in with all of the individual parts of your body and to understand and appreciate how having all of these are a blessing. Start with your toes and work your way up to your forehead and back of your neck, shoulders etc. Over time, I’ve developed a very strong internal and inward facing confidence. With what I’ve been through, I’ve developed a life perspective about what is important to me and what I value, something that takes people a lifetime to fully figure out. My heart condition and losing my father have made me a stronger person than most people my age. I have a lot more life experience and insight than most guys my age. My heart condition has taught me to be in tune with myself and to take my health seriously. Losing my father has made me very proud to be his son and to know that I have the necessary tools to be a good man thanks to the way he raised me. I’ve learned to do things at my pace, maintaining a barrier between myself and the people around me. Many of my redeeming qualities lie very deep beneath the surface, not something that comes across to people in conversation. I’ve always been told to treat people with kindness, respect, and by being gentle. On the outside, I’m not a very aggressive or overly vivacious person. I’ve always been a peacemaker and quieter introspective person. Confrontation is just not my jam. I hate stressing over things that really don’t have any merit. Living with honesty is very important to me. All in all, you can see how developing new relationships, especially with girls can be difficult for me. I have trouble gaining new relationships with people because of my introspective nature. It explains why I’ve always been into music, why I’m into creative writing, and why I’m into craft beer. All of those activities are individual activities which don’t necessarily require dealing with others. I’ve become most comfortable in my own skin and feel liberated now that I’ve figured out how this is how I choose to life and operate my life. Work with what you have and play to your strengths.

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Mindfulness

One Year

To say the last year started off with a bang would be an understatement. Losing my father was the biggest loss I’ve ever had to deal with. The last year has been an emotional collage consisting of shock, wondering if he’d be proud of me, and missing him dearly. It doesn’t feel like a year at all because I can recount all details like it was yesterday.

On that Friday, I had worked a closing shift at Barnes and Noble until 9 P.M. I received a text from my Mom saying that I needed to come over to the Pat Roche Hospice House immediately after work. Deep in my heart I knew something was wrong. When the store closed, I remember recovering the store with a sick feeling in my stomach. My coworkers could tell something was wrong because I was not my usual vivacious self. My mind mind was nowhere near there. When I arrived at the hospice house, my sister Jenni met me in the parking lot with tears in her eyes. She warned me that they had just hooked Dad up to the morphine drip and that it was happening.

Thankfully, Mom and all of us kids had a chance to say goodbye to him. I told him, “Dad, I love you so much, thank you for being the greatest Dad in the world and instilling in me the necessary qualities it takes to be a good man. I’m more than blessed that I was able to finally share my college degree with you. It was as near and dear to you as it was to me. We did it. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without your love and support. I’ll always be beyond grateful for the time that we had together. Love you Dad.” Getting that closure was the greatest gift.

I couldn’t write this post without illustrating the importance of hospice care. Through the past year I’ve watched several Ted Talks discussing the end of life. The end of life is sometimes a difficult subject to talk about, it doesn’t necessarily roll of the tongue in conversation. I remember watching a Ted Talk given by B.J Miller. B.J is part of the Zen Hospice House in San Francisco. One line that really gripped me was “For most people, the scariest thing about death isn’t being dead, it’s dying, suffering. It’s a key distinction.” It took me back to sitting in a common room with two palliative care doctors trying to discuss what the next steps would be for Dad going from his last hospital stay. We had the chance to do research and review all of the options. At first, hospice care seemed like a foreign concept to us. In way, we felt that it was almost admitting defeat. People go into hospice care to die, there’s no denying that. What we didn’t know is that it would completely change our lives for the better. My father was able to go to the Pat Roche Hospice House in Hingham. There on the second floor, he set up his own command center, filled with his work computers, prayer books, and JuJu Fruits…all the essentials. He was able to maintain a close relationship with his family and community over at Glastonbury Abbey, all the while receiving the best care from the sweetest nurses who were dedicated to make him happy and peaceful at all times. From our experience, we saw that things changed on a daily basis. There’s no way that we would have been able to take care of him at home. The Pat Roche Hospice House was our blessing and continues to hold a special place in all of our hearts and will forever.

Exactly one year ago to the day, one day before Dad passed, we ended up going downstairs to the living room at the hospice house to watch the Patriots game. We kept repeating and laughing about Dad’s one liner of “Everyone I know named Josh sucks.” It spun off his distrust and disliking for Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. I know that he’s looking down now and will chip in his two cents tonight whether we want to hear them or not. Watching the game then was a much needed break and an opportunity to talk with one another. We were all tired. We were all drained physically and emotionally.

When I got home that night, it was just me and Parish, our family Newfoundland. I decided that I was going to sleep in my Dad’s chair in the living room with the TV on. I woke up a little after 12:30 AM on Sunday morning January 17th to Jenni and Derek coming into the house. They told me that Dad had passed away. I had known that his passing was imminent but to hear it as fact was a gut-wrenching bombshell. We all headed back over to the hospice house. We were able to spend a couple of minutes with him in his room before they wheeled him away.

Going to the wake a few days later thinking I thought that I would be an utter and complete mess. I opened the door to the Pyne Keohane Funeral Home in Hingham, MA, walked into where my Dad was and didn’t cry. Why? Because seeing him again at eternal peace registered more to me than the sadness of him passing in that moment. It had been a long 6 year battle and I had a lot of time to grieve and to think about what the death of my father would be like.

In the past year, all of us have made significant strides that Dad would be very proud of. Mom continues to be super Mom, balancing being a Mom, dedicated worker, PMC rider, rower; the list goes on and continues to evolve. Alan made some significant strides at work and in his personal life. Kelly, Matisse, and Patrick continue to do well. Dad loved all of them dearly. I know that he’d be very proud of his buddy Patrick who continues to do well in school and his extra curricular activities, including hockey and playing guitar. Steve and Missy welcomed Baby Jack. We were able to tell Dad on Christmas before he passed that Jack was on the way. Seeing Dad interact and hold Jack’s older sister Sammy always made him smile from ear to ear. Jenni enrolled in nursing school and was also able to tell Dad that she got into school before he passed. It’s so amazing to see her in her element. She’s so passionate about it, living and breathing it. Dad always encouraged us to find something that we loved and to follow it fully. Elizabeth continues to pursue her MBA at Notre Dame. I know Dad would be proud of her paving her own way and making connections along the way. Both Liz and Jenni ran the marathon last year in his honor. For myself, I’ve grown to take my health, physical and emotional health more seriously and I think he’d be proud of that. I feel like spiritually and mindfulness go hand in hand. I think he’d be proud that I found mindfulness and it has become one of my passions that I’d hopefully like to pursue further as time goes on.

Losing him jolted me with a huge amount of pride to be able to carry on his legacy. It’s a huge responsibility but I keep my chest out and head up high at all times. He always used to tell me to look my best and to never do anything “half-ass.” I always think to myself on a daily basis, how would Dad want me to conduct myself. Because of our close relationship I’m able to envision what he would tell me. He encouraged me to be my own person, taking the lessons I’ve learned from him and Mom to become a better person. Parish, aka JJ Jongo, aka Virgil continues to push on against all odds. We know Dad pets him every single day and is laughing about his little funny escapades. All in all, it has been a tough year but a good year.I’ve found plenty of solace and comfort in the process of reframing. Death won’t change, it will happen to all of us at some point. We do have the power to reframe our experiences of losing others into having a positive impact on our lives. What I can now do, is help others who are going through losing a parent.

There have been a few valuable things I’ve learned from my experience of losing my Dad:

  1. My advice starts with spending as much time with your loved ones as possible. When it becomes too late to be able to communicate with them or they pass away, you’ll be able to hold your head high knowing that you put forth the effort to be there when it mattered. You won’t feel a gap and regret that you left things unsaid. Life is all about balance so make sure that you get plenty of rest too.
  2. There’s no formula but you should know when you are tired and need to take a break from care taking or visiting. It’s nothing against anyone involved in the situation, you just need to take care of yourself. Rest is important to me and it should be to you as well. In a very weird way you need to be selfish in a sense. You need to know when to draw the line and put yourself before your sick loved one. At first, it may seem weird to you but the last thing you’d want to do is to be a danger to getting yourself sick.
  3. Be honest with yourself and be clear to others about what would best help you grieve. Support from others comes in many different ways. Some people find comfort in talking about it. Others find comfort in being left alone and not interrogated about it every single time you see each other. Be open to what helps the most to the grieving soul. I’m one of those people who loves to talk about my Dad. I’m very proud of him and proud to be his son.
  4. No matter what the emotion you feel, let it flow freely throughout your body. Sadness, anger, whatever it is. Don’t post a barrier between yourself and how you are feeling. Those emotions of bottled up will eventually cause you trouble in the long run when it becomes too much and you don’t know how to deal with it.
  5. Don’t be afraid to talk to a therapist. I’ve seen a few therapists since Dad’s passing. It’s really nice to have a complete outsider who is just there for you. It isn’t a chore, they do it because they sincerely want to help you.

I had written this entire post without looking at his prayer card. As I was wrapping up this post, I decided to pull it out and read the prayer on the back. The prayer really describes what I just tried to articulate here. The prayer goes as follows:

“I am home in Heaven, dear ones; Oh, so happy and so bright! There is perfect joy and beauty in this everlasting light. All the pain and grief is over, Every restless tossing passed; I am now at peace forever, Safely home in Heaven at last.”

Love and miss you dearly Dad. I hope that I continue to make you proud. I’m so proud to be your son. R.I.P 1/17/16

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Mindfulness

Acceptance

I’m very grateful that I was granted the gift of being a strong writer at a young age. In some social situations, it can been a double-edged sword and I’ve struggled to accept that. By nature, part of being a good writer is being forward thinking and not settling for the status-quo. I have an inner hunger to dig deeper to explain the unexplained in my own original way. I’ve said it before that I feel most alive when I’ve locked into an idea that I know nobody else could come up with. The irony of that though is that outside of my own personal satisfaction I get from writing, I attempt to connect with others with my thoughts when I share my writing. Connecting with others is a biological need for all of us. Without human interaction, society as we know it wouldn’t exist or continue to advance. My health experiences have only exasperated my desire to be able to connect with others through writing to hopefully impart some of the valuable lessons I have learned about life on others. My struggle has always been verbally communicating the creative ideas that I have swirling around in my head. Case and point:

Last night during my mindfulness course, I was attempting to explain to others in the group that everything in life can be summed up by the saying, “there’s two sides to every coin.” It was an effort of mine to take the theory of acceptance and define it in a more accessible way. The example I used was when someone you love passes away. When someone you love passes away, one side of the coin is the situation at hand. The end of life. The grief and sadness that goes along with it. The other side of that coin is reframing the situation into what you learned from it to make the situation useful in your life going forward. Perhaps that person passing away taught you that you needed to take your health more seriously and begin to exercise and eat healthier. I didn’t do a good job of explaining it at all, and the point clearly didn’t fully resonate or spur up more conversation. I thought that I had a powerful point in my head but struggled mightily with putting it into words or into a form that others would be able to understand.

There have been so many other instances where I’ve said the wrong things, relative to what I wanted to say in my head. It makes me feel so helpless and not want to have face to face conversations with anybody. I’m scared I’ll say the wrong thing. It makes me want to rush to my computer, give myself a chance to write my thoughts down, perfect them and then hand people a printout of what I wrote. I worry that my creative thoughts sometimes prevent me from having quality conversations with people because I lose their interest with my lack of clarity.

With our mindfulness lesson on acceptance, I learned that I need to lower my expectation that I’m going to connect with everyone and that my thoughts are going to change the world. It’s just not going to happen. When all is said and done, writing is my passion and I needed to realize that setting realistic expectations for myself will help with my social anxiety.

 

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Mindfulness

A Place Called Home

Home is a sacred place. It’s a place where we should all feel the safest and warmest inside. Uncle Bob was a gentle soul and had such a great presence. The last conversation we had went a little something like this…I said “I love you” and he replied, “I love you too.” Seven powerful words that speak volumes. It’s a memory that I will treasure forever and ever. I remember walking out of his room for the last time feeling grateful knowing how peaceful he was. As I walked back into the living room to sit and chat with Katie, Bobby, and Daniel, Home by Michael Bublé was playing on the speaker in there. On December 7th, Uncle Bob went home to God as his wonderful and caring creation.

“Another winter day has come and gone away, and even in Paris and Rome, I want to go home. Let me go home. It will be all right. I’ll be home tonight. I”m coming back home.”

R.I.P Uncle Bob. Love you.

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Mindfulness

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Thanksgiving by Christopher Sadler
Dear Lord,

Thank you for this delicious meal and providing us the opportunity to be able to share it with the people who are most important to us. As we are gathered here today, remind us to never take our surroundings for granted and to remember that every single day is a blessing. Let us be humble and eternally grateful for what we have in life. For those who we wish were here and for those who have passed, allow their souls to sit by us to take in the joyous sights, sounds, and smells with us. Let their smiles stretch from ear to ear and light up the room. Allow Dad to be at the head of this table to proudly hold both Sammy and Jack on their first Thanksgiving together. We all know that he would love nothing more. We will always be thankful for his love and kindness. Additionally, we are thankful that he’s in a place now free of pain and suffering where he can watch over all of us. Lastly, urge all of us to spend some time in deep thought today. What we are most thankful for will guide us to how we should live our lives until the next Thanksgiving.

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Mindfulness

A Mindfulness Breakthrough

Throughout this past summer, my anxiety was at an ultimate high. After my operation in August, it reached a point where I exacerbated every feeling or sensation I felt. I was continuously reassured that there was absolutely nothing to be concerned about. Still, there was a nagging mental itch of feeling that the anxiety problem wasn’t being taken care of. I could no longer live my life with this level of anxiety, I needed to make a change. Around that same time, I had just begun to see a counselor for those anxiety issues. She was aware of a seven session mindfulness group happening at a building right next door. She felt that it would be very useful for me to take part in the class. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect going into it. After the first session, I wasn’t completely committed to it. Try taking 10 minutes a day to meditate and do nothing, it’s a lot harder than you think. As we continued, I went back and forth between loving it and having trouble with it. I tended to react more positively to Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Digging into the well of emotions and thoughts can bring out some interesting revelations.

Last night marked a major breakthrough during my mindfulness session. First, we took part in a three part meditation technique about self compassion. The first part of it was asking us to close our eyes, focus on our breathing for a couple of cycles, and to envision someone in front of you who embodied strength, love, and compassion. It could have been someone living or someone who we had lost. My mind quickly went to my Dad. It was extremely hard to fight back the tears and stay in the mindfulness pocket. Envisioning him right in front of me was a very heavy moment. Next, we were asked to envision an image of ourselves in front of us. This vision could have been of yourself at present day or could be you at a younger age. Lastly, we were asked to envision someone who we had a difficult relationship with. We were told to envision what we would say to them at that moment if they were in front of us. Then the story began to truly formulate. I went from feeling a sadness of the loss to my Dad, to feeling that he would be happy of me today. I then thought about someone who didn’t have a good relationship with his/her Dad. The hope was that I could impart the lessons that I learned from my Dad to hopefully help that person who didn’t have that same benefit. Later in the mindfulness session, we practiced a metta meditation technique which involves a repeating a mantra. The mantra that we used in this exercise:

“May I/You be happy
May I/You be peaceful
May I/You be safe
May I/You live a life of ease.”

 

Peace and ease were the two words that kept repeating and pleasantly resonating in my head. My overall life goal is to live with peace and ease. We all should strive to live in peace and with ease. Next, we were asked to pass that mantra onto someone else in our lives. Who would need to hear those words right now? In a strange way, I felt that being there in that room and in that moment, I somehow had a power to transmit that advice and positive vibes to those people I chose. My effort of transmitting it to all of you comes in the form of this blog post.

I finally feel now that I’m at a place where I’m beginning to settle down and gain control of my life again. With the steps I’m taking, I feel that I’m beginning to live a fuller life with less anxiety. The mindfulness class as a whole has taught me to slow down and be more present in life. Meditation is only one part of it, the second part is applying mindfulness and what I learned to my daily life. I’ve developed a desire to try new things and take on new lifestyle challenges. September 1st was the day I began to start walking everyday. I’ve kept that up and I’m looking forward to keeping active in other ways during the winter season. October was the month of trying to dress better and improve my style. I wanted to be more professional and presentable. My November goal is to focus on my stuttering problem. My goal is to slow down my speech and thought process to be able to clearly communicate my thoughts and ideas. Clearly communicating my ideas will in turn allow me to have more meaningful conversations with people. There is no doubt that the stuttering is partly a product of my anxiety. I will speak slowly as to remain calm and speak clearly. I ask for your time and patience to allow me to complete my goal sparked by a clearer mind and outlook on life.

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Creative Writing

Putting One Foot In Front Of The Other

Having a serious health condition brings up a whole bunch of challenges, both emotionally and physically. The experience itself teaches you to become humble and existentially minded. I’ve always been in tune with what I believe and what my core values are. It doesn’t completely drown out the questions and anger but certainly masks them enough to be a manageable level. Part of the healing process is natural but the other part is something that you have to work towards to be able to manage personal satisfaction and find purpose.

It’s no secret that many individuals find personal satisfaction and various health benefits through exercise. Science will back that up if your a numbers fanatic unlike me. I’ve neglected physical activity for so long because I wasn’t sure what I could do. At Derby Academy, I really loved to play rugby. At Hingham High School, I really loved to row. My last competitive sporting event was the 2007 Textile River Regatta on September 30th, 2007. Less than a week later, my life would change forever. It was hard being told that I could no longer partake in contact sports, because that is all I knew and enjoyed. For the last 9 years I’ve struggled to find a way to remain active. Right after I got sick, I was able to enter a guided exercise program for several months. After that ended, I had trouble sticking to any routine of exercising. I always heard about exercise being a preventative measure. The television and internet are flooded with studies about how exercising can prevent heart disease. My mindset was at a point where I thought exercise wouldn’t do anything for me since my life-changing heart event already happened and there didn’t seem like there was anything to prevent.

Finally, a tipping point came when I was sitting in my father’s favorite chair. I came to the realization that I can increase walking. As a runner himself in his teenage and adult years, I could feel him channeling his energy through me, telling me to get up on my feet and do something to move forward. It’s no coincidence that I ended up heading to Bare Cove Park, the very spot where I used to run Cross Country in grade school at Derby Academy for several years and where my Dad used to come watch my races. Walking is something that I can do at my own pace. It’s something that always makes me feel like i’m gaining ground and that I’m not stuck in one place. Walking makes me feel free and empowered.

As Jackson Browne once so eloquently said in his song I Am A Patriot, “I want to run like the lions released from the cages, released from the rages burning in my heart tonight.”

 

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