Letter to Annie Lamott
Letter to Annie Lamott
I'm so honored. I've now had the privilege of getting this Bittersweet Blog off the ground, thanks to three very special people.
In our consultation together, Nina helped me clarify my objectives for my new book. She asked provocative questions, which helped me see how blogging parts of my book would be a really wonderful thing to do and could help build interest in the book.
This is a new concept to me. While I began my Sugar Shock Blog while writing my book, Sugar Shock, I really didn't share content from the book. Same thing with Beyond Sugar Shock.
But apparently blogging/writing is the way to go these days. We'll see how it plays out on this new blog.
In any event, what's exciting for me -- and you -- is that you can get valuable information while I'm blogging and writing my next book.
I just can't rave enough about Hillary, who oversaw all creative aspects of a highly acclaimed interactive network she co-founded, which featured Jennifer Anniston as its spokesperson.
If you have any design needs, I recommend that, if you can, hire Hillary pronto. (I had to walk away from another design and designer, because it just didn't hold a candle to Hillary's creations. No names mentioned.)
Hillary will deliver quickly and cheerfully. More importantly, she'll give you a design that makes your heart sing!
And then I owe gratitude galore to the charming designer/Web creator Carla Alvarez of Legacy Marketing Services.
When Hillary's design was up, I was stumped.
How do I get the design up on my Typepad blog? Despite back-and-forth emails, I couldn't figure it out. So I turned to Carla, who also has done amazing work for me in the past.
So without reservations, I recommend all three of these talented ladies -- Nina Amir, Hillary Carlip and Carla Alvarez. If you hire them, say that Connie of Bittersweet Year blog sent you.
Oh goodness. A few tears came to my eyes again given My Bittersweet Last Year with Mom.
Although my experience was different, this article, For Some Caregivers, the Trauma Lingers, in the New York Times New Old Age section really hits home.
Special thanks to Judith Graham for writing it and thanks to Stephanie Abarbanel, my friend and editor (for Beyond Sugar Shock) for sending it to me.
After a loss—whether it’s the death of someone you love or the end of a relationship—have you ever felt suspended in limbo? Plus, you just couldn’t find your mojo again?
Well, I feel ready to come clean with you. Ever since my dear mother passed away recently, I’ve been a grieving, heartbroken, stymied health coach and wellness author in crisis. In short, I’ve been feeling “off.”
While I’m working hard to get back to being “on” so I can serve you again, I’m now ready to make a confession.
Recently, I’ve been crying a lot (at least once or twice a week)—like the time I found NO mention in her datebook that I was moving nearly 3,000 miles to be with her in her dying days. Ouch!
Plus, Cheerful Connie isn’t around as much anymore.
Not only that, but I don't know where to live now that mom is gone. That's been a major challenge since I'd hoped to live in Mom's charming home.
A little bit of history is in order. Slightly more than a year ago, I gave up my apartment in New York City (where I’d been for a decade) and moved back to California to be on hand for my dear dying mother, who had stage 4 lung cancer. (She opted to forgeo chemotherapy and meds for fear of drastic side effects.)
Now that I’ve lost my mother, I’m all alone in another part of the country, without her and without my friends in the Big Apple.
Loss, I’m discovering, can wallop you. It can toss you into turmoil and turbulence. And if your dear mommy died, that can send you whirling.
Lately, I’ve also been in a quandary. Since I’m a health coach, life coach, and bestselling author (Sugar Shock and Beyond Sugar Shock), how can I share with you my intense pain and sad truth that I’m just not back to being my best me?
How can I serve you if I'm working on healing me?
And why is Cheerful Connie taking so long to return?
Where the heck is she?
While she’s starting to make a comeback, she’s still often frustratingly elusive.
Previously I shared about the many wonderful times we spent together and how we got closer. But I really gave you a half-truth.
What I didn't tell you was that my last year with mom was gut-wrenchingly grueling. In large part, it's because -- although Mom didn't realize it because of the cancer invading her brain -- she behaved quite cruelly towards me.
The reason I told you a half-truth before is because I was simply too embarrassed, hurt, and heartbroken.
What's more, I love, honor, and respect my Mom, whom I dearly loved, admired, and cerhished.
I really, really adored my mother, but I've been very, very reluctant to share her weaknesses.
Before, in this blog post, I offered only glowing praise for my mother and how she taught me—and you—how to leave Planet Earth with spunk and style.
Yes, fall 2011 to fall 2012 was a charming, wonderful, poignant time, during which my beloved mother shared valuable lessons with me. She blazed (often with me along) through her impressive culinary and cultural bucket list, and we had many pleasant moments together.
In other words, My Last Year with Mom was full of sweetness. But it was glutted with bitterness as well.
That’s why I now call this time with my mother My Bittersweet Last Year with Mom.
Now, I feel ready to tell you a little about the bitter part.
What made My Last Year with Mom especially gut-wrenching and tear-jerking for me was that the calm, coherent, often-poised mother I loved and knew vanished.
Instead, as her brain and body were overridden by toxic, cancerous cells, she inadvertently became Crabby Cancer Mom.
In other words, without rrealizing it, Crabby Cancer Mom was often accusatory, angry, argumentative, confrontational, controlling, cruel, demanding, difficult, distrustful, hostile, insulting, irrational, manipulative, mean, and vindictive.
This was not my Mom!
For reasons I still don’t quite understand—other than that dying people take it out on people they love the most—Crabby Cancer Mom displayed a particular vengeance and outright viciousness towards me, the one person, who loved her the most.
That was especially tough to take since I’d given up my apartment in New York City and relocated to California for her. (I’m now living in a cramped but peaceful place I hurriedly took after Mom angrily threw me out of her home for the umpteenth time.)
How sad. Mom treated me the worst, and yet I loved her the most.
What this means is that during My Bittersweet Last Year with My Mother, I was a victim of Mom Abuse. (That's something you never hear about. Instead, people rightfully come out against Elder Abuse.)
Anyhow, bear in mind that my mother’s mistreatment of me was unintentional. It was the cancer’s fault.
Real Mom was in the dark. She didn’t know what she was doing. At least I don’t think she did.
But although I knew Crabby Cancer Mom was NOT my Real Mom, I still often felt confused, frustrated, exasperated, aghast, helpless, sad, downright shattered, and absolutely frightened to be myself.
It's tough to convey the depth of my devastation.
Of course, experts recommend that you set limits in your relationships.
“Speak up for yourself,” they suggest. That’s really good advice -- usually.
But when you’ve made a strong commitment to be there no matter what for your dying mother, you can’t set boundaries, especially if—as the disease infects her thoughts and behavior—she treats you abysmally. So horribly that people who witnessed her putdowns were shocked that I was standing by her.
Anyhow, I’ve been reeling in aftershock for the past four months. And I’ve had enough.
It’s time to take back my power. I’m determined.
To get to a centered place where I can serve you again, I’ve now mapped out my comeback.
Of course, you want me to be there fully, but in order to do that I need to refuel, regroup, rediscover my true calling, uncover my strengths, find inner peace, and reach a higher plane.
I invite you to join me. Go on your own voyage of healing and rebirth so you can Take Back Your Power.
Even if you aren’t grieving the loss of a loved one, you can become dedicated to rediscovering your own beauty and wisdom.
Please let me know what transformational methods work best for you to Take Back Your Power. I’m eager to explore tactics that I may be overlooking.
By the way, please stay tuned.
On April 15, I will be celebrating 15 years sugar-free (mostly). Yikes!
In honor of that landmark, I’ll be hosting a special Gab with the Gurus Show.
Thank you kindly for your patience during this challenging, but transformative time.
Special thanks to Jessica Urmanec for creating the illustration above.
On Facebook recently, Louise L. Hay -- my heroine and the Queen of Affirmations -- told fans something that made me very excited. She's working on a book about grief.
But, darn, I could've used her book NOW and during the past three months, not months or a year from now!
What made Louise's announcement so timely and intriguing to me is that I'd just decided the day before to immerse myself in Louise Hay's teachings to help me recover from My Bittersweet Last Year with Mom.
In fact, the day before, I had started listening again every day for a month to the CD from Louise's I Can Do It forgiveness track.If you have a story, Louise wants to hear from you:
I have a special announcement! I am working on a new book on the subject of grief; the grief you feel when a relationship breaks up, a marriage ends or death occurs. David Kessler, Elisabeth Kübler Ross’s protégé, is joining me in writing this remarkable book that will lift us up in the most challenging times of our lives. We would love to hear how my work has helped you get through your times of loss. Share with us how you used affirmations, mirror work, mediations and other areas of my teachings to heal your heart. They can be about a relationship ending, a divorce, a beloved pet dying, a loved one passing on or even how the work helped you though the grief and the holidays. If you'd like to share a story, please send an email to us here: email@example.com. Thank you, loved ones!
While grieving and grateful, I've been writing a lot about My Bittersweet Last Year with Mom. I'm now writing a book with My Biggest Ahahs & Lessons from that tender and trying time so that I can help those of you, who are caregivers and family members of loved ones, who are difficult and dying.
I will start blogging parts of my new book on this brand new blog, www.BittersweetYear.com.
While I'll share some of my poignant challenges on Bittersweet Year, the main focus of this new Bittersweet Year blog and my upcoming book will be to share My Biggeest Ahahs & Lessons, which can help you stand by your difficult, dying loved one.
In addition, I'll be able to share some compelling bittersweet tales here, on this blog, which won't fit into my new book.
Stay tuned for more information about my new "Bittersweet" book.
Please note that this blog is to help those of you, who are caregivers -- either part-time or full-ime -- and relatives of patients, who are difficult and dying.
On this blog, I also invite you to share ideas for what to include in my new book.
My dear Mom -- whose lung cancer had absolutely nothing to do with smoking – chose to forego any medical treatment that might give her unwanted side effects. In other words, she didn't want to take pills or submit to chemotherapy or radiation. Instead, she opted to let the cancer run its course and to lead her life to the fullest in whatever time she had left.
After her initial shock at getting stage 4 lung cancer, my normally healthy Mom went on to beat the odds -- heroically, stoically, defiantly --- for a full year. Remarkably, she lived well past the three months she thought she'd last.
Recently, after going through her long, amazing “bucket” list of things she wanted to do, Mom passed away peacefully, with a smile on her face.
Thankfully, for nearly a year, I was around to personally watch Mom's brave battle, because as soon as I completed last-minute editing and fact-checking deadlines for my then-upcoming book,Beyond Sugar Shock, I hurriedly relocated.
I moved from New York City (my home for the past decade) to be near my dying Mom in California (where she lived) for what we thought would be her final weeks or months.
As it turned out, Mom lasted another 9 1/2 months after I arrived so I had the good fortune of being able to spend many amazing times with her at the end of her life.
What a life-changing experience it's been -- terribly painful and grueling, but also truly uplifting and inspiring.
Looking back, it was a rare honor and distinct privilege to see Mom valiantly fighting off the lung cancer that was invading her increasingly frail body and brain.
And how extraordinary to see her indomitable spirit prevail so long past the few months she thought she had left!
Indeed, the entire year since Mom’s diagnosis was filled with a bitter-sweetness -- precious new memories; unexpected obstacles; valuable lessons; gut-wrenching, disease-triggered side effects such as anger and impatience; and sweet, tender moments that I now call “My Mom Miracles.” Like the time she called me up just to say, "I'm feeling weak, but I want you to know I love you very much." What experience can top that?!
Perhaps my biggest takeaway from the last year is this: Mom taught me the secret to dying well.
My mother went out with such style, spirit, and spunk!
All of us still living can learn from my mother.
Mom offered a stellar example of how best to leave this earth: The secret to dying well is to seize the moment with courage and determination and to squeeze as much joy, fun and deliciousness as you can while doing what you most love.
Although I’m shedding tears now as I write this, what I now find amusing is that Mom's things-to-do-before-I-die “bucket list” demonstrated a vitality, enthusiasm, and verve that many young people lack. What Mom did in her last year of life would would put many people to shame!
Just read about her end-of-life "exploits," if you will.
In between napping (and suffering from the indignities of the disease), my wheelchair-bound mother went to challenging plays, modern ballet performances, thoughtful art movies, high-definition Metropolitan Opera screenings, nice restaurants (including new eateries), her favorite farmers’ markets (Mom loved organic fruits and vegetables), and even a nearby beach, where she loved to watch waves crash against the shore. (Recently, at her request, in a private memorial ceremony, I scattered Mom's cremains -- that's the word for cremated remains -- into the Pacific Ocean.)
While the lung cancer was rapidly spreading and her time was running out, Mom also gave cooking lessons to her nurses and me (I now have a notebook of newly acquired great recipes); did some redecorating (she surrounded herself with photos of loved ones, added longer bamboos to one of her favorite vases, and bought new, cute end tables); and did final, generous planning and organizing of papers, finances, etc.
This past summer, Mom even vicariously swam with me. What I mean is that when she no longer had the strength to swim herself, Mom -- who didn't even complain that she wasn't up to it -- asked me to take a few laps in her favorite area, near the ocean. (It had salt water, not chlorine.) When I returned from my swim, Mom looked at peace and said she felt "refreshed" and "calm," as I did. Isn't that amazing?
In her final days, Mom even continued to read two newspapers daily (who does that?!), often underlined sections she found interesting, and saved piles of articles for me to read (I’m still going through them!).
Much to my utter joy and profound relief, Mom also lasted long enough to see my second book, Beyond Sugar Shock, get published. (Hay House published it in June.)
I invite you to read the book's Dedication (see below) that I wrote for her. (I’m so thankful that my Hay House editors kindly let me add it at the last minute.)
In other words, knowing that she was going to die soon, Mom was determined to enjoy a dazzling end of life, spending many meaningful, memorable times alone, as well as with friends and loved ones, including me, of course.
As I think back over this past year, I am grateful for so many things.
Now, here’s the Dedication my Hay House editors let me add at the last minute to my book, Beyond Sugar Shock, after I learned that Mom had stage 4 lung cancer. (It comes right before the Table of Contents.)
To My Beloved Mom
To my amazingly strong, talented, inspiring mom. Thank you for teaching me by your stellar example to believe in myself and to optimistically pursue my goals and dreams, to embrace the arts and other passions with a childlike enthusiasm, and to persevere no matter what.
And here's another, more recently written special Dedication to Mom that I'm posting on this Sugar Shock Blog and my other blogs, including my Gab with the Gurus Blog.
To My Remarkable Mom, Who Taught Me to Die Well
Dearest Mom, although your time on earth has ended, you still inspire, motivate, and guide me. I think of you often, and I miss you a lot.
You’d be happy to know that I still remember your many lessons. For example, I’m determined—like you—to follow my dreams with steadfast optimism, staunch determination, unwavering dedication, and purposeful perseverance.
What’s more, I’ll follow your lead and make sure to have ample integrity, self-discipline, and courage in the face of unexpected obstacles and surprising disappointments.And yes, Mom, I’ll take your smart advice to continue to eat healthy foods and stay active; floss my teeth daily and get them cleaned regularly; put on hand lotion often; plan better so I’m always on time; see your nutritionist periodically; be well-read so I’m not “boring” (and can talk about more than sugar!); avoid potentially carcinogenic food (with grill marks); and, most of all, carefully drive the awesome car you found and generously bought for me a mere six weeks before you died.
Mom, I’ll also try to stop nodding my head and quit fiddling with my curly hair when people talk (because it makes them nervous); quit interrupting and listen better; and wear those kitchen gloves you gave me when I wash dishes (so my hands don’t get rough)!
Most of all, Mom, thank you for your two final, precious gifts, which meant the world to me. Thank you for calling me to say “I’m feeling very weak, but I want you to know that I love you very much.”
And I’m so glad that you told your rabbi—a few days before the cancer came to claim you—“Connie is a wonderful, loving, supportive, daughter with a heart of gold.” I’m very touched that you thought so highly of me, Mom, and I will try to live up to that opinion for the rest of my life.
Dearest Mom, I'm a far better, kinder, sweeter, more compassionate person because of you. Now, in your honor, I commit to developing the best of your qualities in me and to do my best to help many people around the world.
Dear reader, do you have any memories of your late or living Mom, Dad, son, daughter, brother, sister, in-laws, etc.? We’d love to have you share them with us here.
And what did you learn from my personal post?
Special thanks to Raeleen Sewell for the wonderful work of art (above). See her touching blog post, too, about missing her mom.
Are you grieving the loss of a loved one?
Get special help from this special Gab with the Gurus Show with Louise LaGrand, author of Healing Grief, Finding Peace: 101 Ways to Cope with the Death of Your Loved One.
Listen to the show now:
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To reprint any posts, please provide the post in its entirety and make sure to include the following information: Connie Bennett is author of the bestselling books, Sugar Shock, which has been praised by Dr. Mehmet Oz, and Beyond Sugar Shock, which has been endorsed by Dr. Wayne Dyer and many other experts. Connie is a certified life coach, a certified health coach, an experienced journalist, and host of the Gab with the Gurus Radio Show. A former sugar addict, Connie quit sugar on doctor's orders in 1998 and now helps people worldwide since let go of their dangerous, potentially deadly habit. Get free gifts at http://www.Connie-Bennett.com