404 Compassionate Coaching | Stephen Garrett

A Spoiled Brat Indeed… Mr. Cam Newton

News Clip Number 1

Cam Newton signed a 5-year, $103,800,000 contract with the Carolina Panthers, including a $22,500,000 signing bonus, $60,000,000 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $20,760,000.

News Clip Number 2

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said Tuesday that he’s “sore loser,” but defended walking out of a press conference after the Super Bowl by saying he didn’t feel like talking to the media after Carolina’s 24-10 loss to the Denver Broncos. “Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser,” Newton said.

The league NFL MVP didn’t apologize for walking out of a brief three-minute interview on Sunday night in which he sulked and answered most questions in one- and two-word answers.

Comment

I have no respect for a sore looser who earns $20.7 million US dollars a year and accepted a $22.5 million US signing bonus and behaves like a petulant spoiled brat when he doesn’t get his way. His example to younger athletes is a bad one. Yes it is fine to be upset at the loss and it is important to give your fans their money’s worth in the form of quality interviews no matter what the outcome of the game is. A true gentleman would do just that.

Mr. Newton earns in excess of $1 million US per game and owes it to his team, league, and most importantly his fans (especially young fans that look up to him) on whose back his huge salary is paid to be a great example. Perhaps he showed us all his true colors on Sunday afternoon, easy to be a winner… but class shows through in how a person behaves in the darker moments of life. I wouldn’t want a child of mine to be as selfish as Newton was on Sunday.

Let Death Stir You Up

If you truly want to honor your deceased loved one let their dying and death stir you up!

Death wasn’t designed to be neat and clean. It wasn’t created to be efficient and medicalized. It wasn’t fashioned to be politically correct or professional. Death was designed to stir us up and get our attention, to bring us present to life so to speak.

In a way death was designed to wake us up, to remind us we are alive, to get us back on purpose. Let me give you several examples that demonstrate what I mean.

My sister Jody’s sudden and unexpected death back in May of 1988 was for sure a great loss to all of us who knew and loved her. I miss her deeply to this very day. That being said I turned my life upside down for the better because of her death! I realized no matter how much wealth I amassed or how many assets I had none of them would get my sister back. I also saw that I was not so happy in my career, it was no longer me. I quit shortly after, moved out west and began a new career in community and social services. My sister death as uncomfortable as it was also a gift – I got to reinvent myself!

My brother Peter’s recent passing in September of 2015 had a similar impact on my life. Watching him die over a six-year time frame particularly in the last five months of his life was really uncomfortable – it was very hard to witness. I wasn’t in denial – I was in discomfort! Peter’s death reminded me loudly that I was alive and he was dead – how extremely lucky I am to BE alive. It shook me up in a very real way. Being with Peter as he was dying my body got a first hand wake up call on a cellular level. If my body could speak this is what it would say; “You too are going to die. Get on with fully living your life. You have no time to waste.” And so I have. Again, a sad and painful loss enlivened my own life.

And finally, as a cremationist I got to witness many families going through end of life of a loved one. I saw first hand their pain and grief – sometimes I witnessed their upset, anger, and confusion as end of life planning was not done or done poorly. Example after example taught me how very important great end of life preparation is. The pain families went through, though difficult and sometimes uncomfortable to witness, inspired me to get all my end of life paperwork in order and further to talk with my immediate family about the contents of my ‘death binder’. Now complete and there to guide my family in the event of my death I feel I have done what a responsible person, husband, and father would do. I have a deeper sense of freedom given all is in place, relief if you will, knowing my family responsibilities have been handled. Now I am getting on with living fully.

So, notice in each of these three examples despite the loss, the sadness, the grief, and the pain there was a ‘gift’. My willingness to be in the discomfort of the loss, to feel it deeply and experience it fully opened the door to me being able to discover the wisdom there was to glean from the death I had witnessed. I let death be my teacher. Had I run from the discomfort, covered up and pulled away from the raw reality of the dying and the death I would not have stumbled into the lessons death provided for me.

Instead of pulling back from dying and death step towards it. Be willing to feel the discomfort, the loss, the missing, and the grief in a real and human way. Doing this opens the door for profound learning and keys to living life even more fully – to live with passionate abandon.

Grief Does Not Have A Roadmap!

In my work with grief and loss I have yet to find a roadmap. Yes, I have found markers, street signs, hiking signs, and highway markers – things to notice along the way. I have not found a formula, a recipe or that one way that many look for to make sure they are grieving ‘properly’.

The two diagrams below show very clearly what I am writing about. The stages of grief picture seems to me to be what folks are looking for. The My Experience, a diagram from my friend Yvonne Heath, is what I have discovered to be much more accurate.

The markers are the same in both diagrams, such issues as fear, disorganization, loneliness, new patterns, and helping others are all reliably there in many cases. When they appear, the pattern we experience and re-experience them in, how long we experience them, and how we express them is all unique and individual. The journey is very personal.

And it is messy! It is chaotic! It is all over the place for most of us though we try desperately to make order and sense out of it. I know we would all prefer a nice neat road map so we can successfully navigate our way through grief, it just isn’t that way. The messiness is part and parcel of grief, its spontaneous nature, and its unwillingness to show up at the ‘right time’.

Click on stages of grief to see what I mean…    Stages of grief

A few helpful hints;

  • Your grief and expression of is not a burden. It is in fact a generous gift we can offer our family and friends. It is simply and expression of the depth of our love for our deceased loved one.
  • Let grief have its way with you, surrender if you will to the uncertainly of the ride knowing that the journey will come to a successful end as you let it run its course.
  • Have several friends you can rely on to receive your expression of grief with out you needing to edit it.
  • Eat good food, pray a little, and love yourself as you walk along the random path of grief.
  • Hugs are great.

Reclaiming the Sacred and Important Right of Passage – Dying and Death

 

Out Sourcing of Dying, Death, and Disposition

Reclaiming this Sacred and Important Right of Passage

 I attended a Death Café in North Vancouver the other night – must say it is wonderful to see this movement growing so well here in BC. The conversation was raw, open, and inspiring. The topic of children being sheltered from dying, death and funerals or cremations came up. The conversation was intense, passionate, and polarized. Some saying our kids need to be protected and that the experience of dying, death and funeral could be damaging to the children. Other disagreeing.

I sat quietly and a little stunned that this was even a consideration. I thought, we as adults have a responsibility to coach and teach our children how to handle life issues and death is one of the most reliable issues in life! As I gave it more thought I realized that this conversation – protecting our kids form dying and death – is a direct result of the outsourcing of dying, death, and disposition that we are currently in the habit of doing. I read an article the other day; “How we used to die; how we die now” a very raw and sobering look at our current state of dying. Not that I was surprised at all by what I read, more that it is really so and other see it too.

Given our habit of outsourcing dying, death, and disposition and our collective lack of ‘practice’ in dealing with it on a personal and human level, I relaxed and found some compassion for those folks advocating that we need to protect our children from death. They had been protected too!

I simply chose not to agree with them.

This habit we have of distancing ourselves from ageing, dying, death, and disposition steals from us all of one of life’s most human experiences and it’s attendant wisdom. It robs us mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically never mind financially. It disables our children by protecting them from a fundamental and inspirational aspect of life. It robs we adults of an opportunity to fully embrace our own mortality thereby disabling our ability to truly live.

Well, I can hear you asking; “What do we do now then?”

“Stop out sourcing ageing, dying, death, and disposition. Bring dying and death back to family life.  Out sourcing dying, death and dis[position care to professionals is killing us mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.”

“How?”

Now that is the $64,000.00 question!

Here are twelve steps I have taken to get the out sourcing habit out of our North American culture.

  • Plant a garden
  • Adopt a pet(s) from the SPCA
  • Spend time in nature
  • Do your grocery shopping at a local farmer’s market
  • Volunteer at a seniors home or hospice
  • Read books like Being Mortal, Die Wise, or When Death Speaks
  • Research how other cultures attend to dying, death, and disposition
  • Attend a Death Café in your area
  • Move into a multi-generational home with your parents or in-laws
  • Get your own end of life planning and paperwork done
  • Talk with your parent, kids, and siblings about your plans
  • Take a workshop or training program that will prepare you for dying, death and disposition in natural, green, home-based ways

Reclaiming dying, death, and disposition is an opportunity to grow and evolve as a full human being.  It is also one of the finest gifts you can give to your entire family – helping them to embrace ALL life has to offer.

 

 

 

The Source of Happiness is – External or Internal?

Be careful how you answer this question it is a loaded one. And though we would all rush to say of course it is internal everyone knows that, the deeper question is, do we behave that way?

If you take this question on for real you will notice that many of us have our happiness linked to someone, something, or some place external. “I would be happier if my Montreal Canadiens were winning more hockey games.” In other words my happiness is conditional and rests upon something I have zero control over.

Now admittedly this is a bit of a silly example and in a way not.

If you take the exploration a little deeper and a bit more personally you will start to notice what I am suggesting here is quite true. Here are some real life and meaningful examples.

“If my boss weren’t such a tyrant, I would be way happier at work.”

“If I had another $25,000.00 in savings I’d feel way happier.”

“If I were only 20 pounds lighter.”

“If my partner were just a little different we’d have a happier relationship.”

“If we had a bigger house in a better neighborhood… if we had a newer car, when the kids are a little older… if we had… when we have… when we are…”

Notice? The list of subtle and not so subtle ways we link our happiness to external factors way beyond our control and then wonder why we are never truly happy.

From my experience I am either happy or I am not and it is an internal, personal choice. I CAN make it about what is around me and my happiness will be co-dependently linked to external source that are fallible. Hmmm, bad choice I think.

The only other choice is to make my happiness my own personal responsibility. And I have evidence that it is possible. 3rd world children! I have travelled extensively over the past 20 years and had the privilege of witnessing kids with nothing ‘being’ extremely playful and happy – Peru, India, Africa, Costa Rica, Hawaii, and Egypt.

So have a look and see if you can find a way to uncouple your happiness from external things, people, and places… it could be a path to personal freedom. Imagine those others around being free from your happiness hook. If you are truly, internally happy and others came along and joined you in it would it not be even better?

A Guy Starts to Wonder At Age 66

A couple of reminders the past several days; David Bowie died at 69; Alan Rickman passes at 69. Doesn’t matter to me what caused their deaths though both did die of cancer. What matters to me is the reminder – 69 years young, that’s only 3 years older than me – three years or 1,095 days. Shit!

Around this time of ‘retirement’ a guy can start to wonder about things. Many of us handle these thoughts in the solitude of our own mind, as it seems retirement is meant to be the known yet unspoken thing. Retirement is this time we have all earned, a period of play, a time to take off, a time to be filled with all the things of life we put off because we were to busy working.

In an odd way though, this period of retirement seems to lack purpose.

I wonder many things; why would I stop working just when I am getting good at what I do? If I like what I am doing as I reach retirement why would I stop? Have I done enough to help my family? Have I done enough to serve my community? Have I stuff yet left to do before I die? If I were to die soon, what would I regret not doing? Have I made a difference? Did I live full out?

Others I am sure, given their life experience, wonder different things, because they are different guys. They may wonder about themselves mostly. They may imagine that they deserve this time of not working. They may worry about money. They may wonder what they are going to do with all the time they have. They may not wonder about purpose or passion because those models are yet to be fully developed and made available. They may not wonder about service at all, because it is not in their vision.

I wonder about all those seniors in elder care homes, the wisdom they carry and will carry to their grave if no one notices. I wonder about reactivation post retirement – do we have to stay and act retired or can we un-retire?

Others… what do they wonder about at this time of life?

My laptop crashed once and I lost all my digital stuff – man was I pissed off. I would be equally pissed off if my body crashed and all my human stuff was no longer accessible. What would the point of my life be if all my data were gone?

All this guy of 66 knows is there is lots of downloading to do before I die – I better get busy!

 

Following Your Heart Brings Ease and Grace – Bullshit!

There is the new aged notion that if we follow our heart all will be well, magic will abound, and the bells will ring. Well not in my world and I am following my heart’s calling at least as far as I can tell. And this is the dilemma…

  • What is my true heart, really, and what does it truly want? And,
  • What does ease and grace mean?

Never mind question two. Let’s look closely at the first question and ask it of ourselves deeply. What is your true heart? Now that is a lifelong journey, one I have been on for decades now and have just begun to make some progress. You see we can often mistake a belief, a fear, a desire, or an idea as a heart’s calling. Sometimes our motivation for doing things IS based on these non-heart urges. Sometimes the false starts are in fact a distraction from what our True Heart really is calling us to do. So the good news is rather aim at following the true heart than not, at least were will be on the ‘right’ path.

The second question, “what does ease and grace look like?” is loaded with both misunderstanding and expectations. It implies if we do follow our heart all will be graceful and ease will prevail. Do you think it was easy and graceful for Buddha? For Gandhi? For Martin Luther? For Mother Teresa? No! It wasn’t necessarily a life full of ease or grace, it was however raw and real. Gandhi and King both got shot!

So, let’s be truthful.

Yes indeed aim at your heart’s deepest calling and don’t be misled by the notion of ease and grace – it can be an avoidance of the discomfort being on your heart’s purpose often brings. Living from your deepest heart can be very challenging. If you are looking for ease and grace as a result of your efforts you will often and mistakenly exit the path of heart for an easier less bumpy road.

The Expression of Grief – A Burden or A Gift?

In our North American culture it seems expressing our grief is viewed as a bit of a burden for both parties – the ones grieving and the ones witnessing the grief. This emotional burden ‘syndrome’ affects not only those of us surviving the death but also those dying.

Somehow grief has become a burden, one that we all do our best to avoid at all costs, not knowing that the ‘avoidance’ is the true cost. I am not sure how we got here. Was it the British stiff upper lip thing? Was it some sort of Catholic suffer in silence teaching? Was it a result of ongoing wars? Or was it simply a learned behavior?

I am guessing it is a combination of all those issues, and in a way who cares. What is more important is to change our view of grief and to turn from a burden to a gift – yes a gift!

I have noticed often how people, and often the one dying, do not want to burden others with their grief. Those feeling this way often speak like this;

“See you at the funeral and PS don’t make me cry I really don’t like it.”

“ I am doing way better than the fellow down the hall.”

“ Don’t worry about me, I’m just fine.”

“I need to hold it together for the family.”

These phrases, and many more like them, point to the burden many of us believe our grief and emotions represents to others.

From my perspective our grief is actually an outward expression of our love for the one who has died. So how can our love be a burden? How I see it is that our sadness and grief is a genuine gift to others of the love we have for our dear one who has passed. Sharing our grief is truly sharing our love.

So let’s make a change. Let us all be generous with our love – let us share our grief with our larger community! Grief is a gift that can inspire others to love even more fully those they are with, those still alive.

“Since you will come 
and throw kisses 
at my tombstone later


why not give them to me now


this is me 


that same person”

Rumi

Plant the Seed of ‘Fear of Death’ and See What Grows.

If the fear of death were a seed that we could plant and water it would grow into a multi-branched shrub, a little thorny and prickly one. This fear of our death seed has branches that would perhaps surprise you.

Let’s take a look at this fear of death bush a little more closely.

What death means to me in simple terms is something existed and now it doesn’t – something was and now it isn’t. Well, in a way the word change could take the place of the word death. Some synonyms for change are words such as alter, modify, and transform. So if we give death a wider beam, more than the death of a body, it opens up the discussion of death to many more ‘types’ of mini-death. This is where planting the seed of death comes in to play and broadens our understanding of the impact a bad relationship with our human death has on our ability to live a full human life.

Something was and now it isn’t.

The fear of ‘death’ spoken in this way leads to many other fears of events that simulate deaths of different types all linked to the fear of change or the fear of something coming to an end. We often talk about how many folks really dislike or are afraid of change, well underneath the dislike of change is this deeper fear of death – ‘cause they are the same darn thing!

How many of you have stayed in a relationship too long?

How many of you have stayed in a job too long?

How many of you have stayed in a home too long or kept a car too long?

How many of you have held onto habits too long? Or personality traits too long?

How many companies have stayed with a brand too long?

How many of you have held on to ‘stuff’ too long?

I know myself I have often fallen prey to the fear of change, the fear of letting go, the fear of not knowing. Every time I stayed too long in a job or in a relationship the consequences were harsh. My fear was overpowering and I was unable to see with clarity and make good decisions that would fuel my life. This paralyzing fear of change was totally linked to my fear of death. My life was less than full because I was afraid of something I could not prevent – my human death.  Though I was unaware of this link between fear of death and fear of change it ran my life none the less.

It was until my brother Peter’s death in September of 2015 that I made this connection deeply and clearly. While watching Peter dying, I went through my own death of sorts.  My body, being the same DNA as Peter’s body, was responding to what it was witnessing.  My body became very clear that one day this too would be me.  I was shocked in a way, given my work with dying and death.  I was clear mentally, emotionally and spiritually, my body was the last facet of me to ‘get it’. When the coin dropped it was as if a light went on in my body.I was now physically okay with what I ‘knew’ was so all along, I had simply left my body out.  My brother’s death was in fact life liberating for me, I am way more free to be me than ever before! And though I miss him dearly I am grateful for his passing – woke me up more fully than any meditation or workshop technique I know of.

How odd, death the great liberator in life.

Dying, Death, and Humor – Now that’s not Politically Correct!

I remember when my late brother Peter was lying in a hospital bed on the fifteenth floor of Vancouver General Hospital – the BMT Ward. He had been there for weeks and this particular week he had begun intense chemotherapy.

I think it was a Tuesday morning around 10:00am.

I had just walked into his room and noticed the graying impact of yet another round of debilitating chemo. Peter looked like shit and the mood in the room was somber. He and I had always shared an offbeat sense of humor so why would I not use humor now?

Casting political correctness to the wind I said, “Ahhh, good morning Chemo-sabe.”

Even in his weakened state Peter’s retort smacked of our odd humorous relationship, “Not so good Taunt-o”.

Peter and I laughed our asses off.

The nurse present in the room, doing her numbers thing and checking bags and machines, looked shocked and a bit disturbed by our seeming irreverence. Mother and sisters who were sitting room too looked a little miffed. Mom couldn’t help being mother and said, “Oh Stevie, that’s a little off color don’t you think? Peter is having a tough go of it.”

To which Peter promptly replied, “Not so much any more Mom, I am feeling a little bit better after that laugh.” A wide smile lighting up his otherwise gray pallor.

Humour was very much a part of our personal relationship so why wouldn’t it continue to be? Peter was still alive as were all of us so why wouldn’t I continue to relate with Peter the way we always had?

Good questions.

Not to poke fun at Peter would have been abnormal for him and me. It would have been out of step with the way we had always been together. That would not have been supportive of him or me. Humor in this case actually lightened the mood and brought some balance to an otherwise heavy time for all of us. My use of humor here was intentional as the heavy feeling were actually getting in the way of the family members talking openly with each other.

It was not about avoiding the reality of the situation. It was about being alive and authentic in the reality. Political correctness can be debilitating and really interfere in natural human relations – I use humor to avoid that paralyzing trap of being proper.

The title of my next book – Chemosabe and Taunto – Riding Side Saddle with Cancer arose out of political incorrectness and humor Peter and I shared.   What a grand way to remember him.