Last month, I wrote and shared this limerick with Michelle:
A wonderful person Michelle,
Treats all whom she meets very well.
I’m consistently crying
’cause I know that she’s dying
Though I know she’s not going to Hell.
Michelle smiled and said, “Maybe I am going to Hell.” I replied, “With everything I know about you and Hell, there’s no way you’re going there.”
I don’t know where Michelle went yesterday but I do know she’s no longer here where I and many others have known and loved her for so long.
Michelle’s husband Joe wrote yesterday about how she had spent her last day on this earth. He told us she heard her favorite Irish blessing.
“May the road rise to meet you, may the wind be always at your back, may the sun shine warm upon your face, the rains fall soft upon your fields and, until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.”
He wrote that she felt held and that she died at home at peace with grace and dignity. He signed his email to us “With profound sadness.”
With profound sadness, here are all the photos captured on my iPhone yesterday.
Many years ago, when I was in the hospital recovering from a heart-related illness, Michelle loaned me her DVD of “Rent.” Today, I include this song from that musical in honor of her.
Thank you, Michelle, for all the seasons of love. And thanks to all of you for visiting here, now.
I don’t like to keep secrets. If I know something valuable, I like to share it, out loud.
And I do know some valuable information about interpersonal effectiveness, because I:
am a licensed psychotherapist,
have lived many decades, and
am an eager observer and student of behaviors.
Shall we begin?
Secret #1: It helps to know your own natural interpersonal style.
If you know and embrace your natural interpersonal style — that which you (1) demonstrated as a child and (2) will likely revert to during times of stress, no matter how old you are — you have more freedom to modulate it, as you choose. This gives you more options to respond effectively, in the moment, to particular people and situations.
My natural interpersonal style is to be transparent. That is, I don’t like secrets, I like to show my thoughts and feelings, and I often explain my motives in the moment.
I’m going to be transparent, right now, about some here-to-fore hidden agendas for the blog post today:
I wanted to write about a topic that felt important to me and
I wanted to show you all a bunch of cool photos I took yesterday.
Actually, perhaps those agendas weren’t so hidden, since I pretty much demonstrate the same ones in most of the friggin’ posts I’ve written here, at least over the past year.
I like being transparent. Revealing my motives, thoughts, and feelings frees me up. Keeping my motives, thoughts, and feelings hidden feels exhausting and disconnecting to me.
However, if I don’t appropriately adjust that natural style of mine to the current moment — or if I disown, judge, or am unconscious of that natural style — that style might have too much power over me. I will likely go to extremes, rather than achieving balance. That is, I may alternate between revealing too much, experiencing guilt and shame about that, and then withdrawing into isolation. Also, if I’m not aware of and sensitive to another’s natural (and perhaps very different) style, that will interfere with the connection.
For example, in the (inter)personal world of felines:
Oscar (foreground) likes closeness and Harley (background) prefers space, so my interacting the same way with them would interfere in the connections. And, using a photo from yesterday’s post, here’s a priority, for me:
I might assume that E.M. Forster, whose quote is used so cleverly in that sign, had a similar natural style to me … but who knows?
I’m wondering, at this point, if you know what your natural interpersonal style is. In order to help you with that answer, I should probably give you a list of natural styles. However, I am not aware of the existence of such a list, in the moment, and I want to show you these cool pictures, before I leave for work. So, I hope you can put words on your own natural style, and reveal it here (if you choose).
Ah!a I just used my natural interpersonal style of transparency, there, again. And it felt … good!
Onward to the best I can do, this morning, making up secrets and showing off photos.
Secret #2: Let other people know how you feel, authentically and respectfully.
Secret #3: Honor the past and the future — for yourself and others — but be present as much as you can, with the people who are there for you now.
Secret #4: Leave space and look for for your own and others’ strengths, and for personal growth and creative expression, too.
Secret #5: Be curious and inquisitive, with good intent:
Secret # 6: Leave time and space for yourself and others to just be:
Secret #7: Allow for love, every day, in different ways:
Speaking of love, I would love to tell you more about my friend Jan, who practices as a nurse, where I work. But I need to leave, so I can see Jan and others throughout my day. So I’ll end with this:
Secret #8: Prioritize, as best you can, balancing your needs with others.
Thanks to E.M. Forster, beautiful creatures of every kind, Jan, Sam (from “Under the Gunn“), all those who do their best to connect no matter what their natural interpersonal styles and — of course! — to you, for interacting with me here, today.
I have lots to show & tell you, dear readers — of events, images, thoughts, and feelings of the last several days.
I’m not sure how to characterize these or link them. However, from my experience of doing therapy groups with very different people gathering together, I know that common themes always emerge.
So let’s see what emerges today, shall we?
After recovering from a month-long bout of pneumonia, I worked many hours last week. During that time, I took some nourishing and rejuvenating breaks from work that I love, and saw the following (in order of appearance):
(Our best guess, as Michael and I puzzled about the use of the above gear for the on-the-go pet: Maybe that’s for dogs getting off of planes.)
And brunch was free, yesterday, with my long-time friend Lawry, his wife Patty, his daughters Leah, Cory and Sarah (who just graduated college and was moving to New York right after brunch), Lawry’s sister Beverly, my ex-sister-in-law Deborah, and my son Aaron.
One theme of the brunch was music. Lawry invited Deborah to brunch because, having heard her wonderful voice, in the 1970’s, on a locally-popular-in-Boston, novelty-radio hit song (written by Howard Letovsky) …
…. Lawry sang this song to his daughters, as they were growing up, in California. At brunch yesterday, Lawry and his daughters sang “Dead Frogs” the way they remembered it.
That’s Sarah, Cory, and Lawry, right before they (and Leah) sang “Dead Frogs.” (I didn’t take any photos of the actual performance, in order not to distract.)
After hearing them sing, Deborah said their devotion to the novelty song she had sung, so many years ago, reminded her of the movie Galaxy Quest — where an entire planet based their civilization on a Star-Trek-type TV show.
Then, Sarah and Lawry gave a brief, pre-Sarah-leaving performance of another beloved song:
As you can see, I took a quick, surreptitious shot of that.
Next, Lawry got his wish to hear Deborah sing all the actual words* of “Dead Frogs,” which my son and I were lucky enough to witness, as the rest of the family said goodbyes to each other.
Here are some photos of her family, as Sarah leaves for her excellent adventure in New York:
(left to right: Patty, Sarah, Lawry, Cory, Leah)
After all the free stuff, dead frogs, and goodbyes in this post, are people up for a few more images, from yesterday afternoon?
I hope so, because here they are:
So, what do YOU think is the theme of this post?
Whatever it is, thanks to Lawry and his family, to my family (including Deborah, Michael, and my son), to Howard Letovsky, to frogs dead and alive, to those who share music anywhere, to marshmallows, to local teams and radio stations, to Robert Morse (who is singing and dancing in one of the links above), to nature reservations, to people who make connections and meaning as best they can, and to you — of course! — for your visit today.
* The YouTube clip of “Dead Frogs” in this post doesn’t have all the actual words, either. If you want to hear the full rendition, here‘s a video Mr. Letovsky created of the complete 13-minute opera, with “Dead Frogs” at the very end. If you watch it, that’s Deborah’s voice (but not Deborah).
Want more history for that song? In the 1970’s, the very popular Boston-based radio station WBCN played that song, a lot. I was a fan. When I first met Aaron’s father/Deborah’s brother, where we both worked at a local environmental research company, he and I interacted about “Dead Frogs.” Deborah tells the story this way:
My brother told me that a woman** at work was singing “Dead Frogs” and he said to her, “My sister sings that song.” The woman** replied, “Everybody sings that song.” And my brother said, “No. My sister really sings that song.”