Tag Archives: connection

Fixing Helping Serving


In Steve’s 3-minute coaching (check out his Training You Need blog) he refers to ‘distinctions’ which he defines as “subtleties of language that, when gotten, cause a shift in a belief, behavior, value or attitude”. Rachel Naomi Remen, in the Belonging chapter of My Grandfather’s Blessings, makes a powerful distinction between fixing, helping and serving.

After reading the chapter, I found myself being more conscious of my frame of reference as I went about my day. When engaging with others and the world, I asked myself, “Am I fixing, helping, or serving here?” Often I caught myself wanting to ‘fix’ things, others, and mostly myself. I saw my underlying assumption: I am somehow broken. How empowering to make the shift to serving and reframing the question to “How can I best be of service to myself? What would enable me to see this from the point of view that I am whole and good?” I knew that if I could shift the viewpoint for myself, it would enable me to do the same for those my life touches.



“Seeing yourself as a fixer may cause you to see brokenness everywhere, to sit in judgment of life itself. When we fix others, we may not see their hidden wholeness or trust the integrity of the life in them. Fixers trust their own experience…Perhaps fixing is only a way to relate to things. Relating to another human being in this way is to deny and diminish in some profound and subtle way the power of the life in them and its mystery.”



“When we help we become aware of our strength because we are using it. Others become aware of our strength as well and may feel diminished by it…A helping relationship may incur a sense of debt…In helping, we may find a sense of satisfaction.



“Service is about taking life personally, letting the lives that touch yours touch you….Service, like healing, is mutual…in serving, we have an experience of gratitude…When we serve the unborn wholeness in others, we collaborate with it and strengthen it. Others may then be able to see their wholeness for themselves for the first time. Service is closer to generosity than it is to duty. It connects us to one another and to life itself. When we experience our connectedness, serving others becomes a natural and joyful thing to do. When you serve, your work itself will sustain you, renew you, and bless you…”

Soul touching

courtesy of www.dreamstime.com


I introduced you to my young survivor friend earlier this year in Healing Waters and I can’t seem to let go of her. I vowed back in June that I would be here for her, not at all clear what that might look like.  She finishes her 12th course of chemotherapy on Monday (good news – it is working and has significantly shrunk the tumors). She has many difficult decisions ahead – so much information, so many uncertainties, such incredibly difficult choices. She’s a brilliant biologist and relies on data and logic to guide her decisions. The ground is so slippery for her now, given the overwhelming emotions and strong medication swimming in her system.

We met again yesterday, in a quiet lounge at our hospital. Her sister sat beside her, an anchor in the storm. (She came from their home country a couple of months ago on a 6-month visa.) My friend’s heart poured out as she shared her questions, her confusion, fears, and hopes. I shared my truths with her, still leaving so many questions unanswered. Through moments of tears, laughter, silence, sharing and opening, we became as one. Our souls danced together. I could almost grab the healing energy inside our circle of light. I barely know them and I know everything about them.

We are in a private room in the plastic surgery department. I sat in the patient chair. Last time I sat here I was confused and afraid, carrying so many questions. But, today is different. I feel strong and clear.

My friend and her sister sit in chairs across from me. I look deeply into their eyes. I smile gently, holding on to trust, trust that what I am about to do will be comforting and helpful, not scary and add to the confusion and feelings of overwhelm.

Slowly, still looking into my friend’s eyes, I begin to unbutton my sweater. I am completely focused on her as I uncover my right breast for her to see. I breathe again when I see a soft sweet smile rise to her tender face. I sense she finds comfort in what she sees. I move the other side of my sweater so she can see how the reconstructed side compares. We acknowledge the imperfection together. I invite her to touch my reconstructed breast, to see how the silicone feels when it’s been implanted. She gently compares my breasts. 

We continue to sit together for several minutes, me looking into their eyes, searching for the hope I want to give them. They appreciatively looking into mine, their hearts overflowing with gratitude for this tender moment together. Our circle of light radiates as I button my sweater.

This room will never be the same. We will never be the same.

Bayram…holy offerings scattered throughout life


I loved the poem below that was shared with me by my dear Turkish friend, Resmiye, about Bayram written by Can Dündar. I haven’t seen Resmiye in quiet some time – she is nonetheless bayram to me. I hold her sweet smile with me and memories of her kindness and love are etched in my heart.

She says Bayram is a word that describes in short “holiday”, but it is more than holiday. In Turkish context, it includes embracing a sense of celebration, enjoyment, collaborative festivities, renewal of relationships, forgiving past wrongdoings, establishing peace and connection, among other things.

Bayram by Can Dündar

With time, the realization arrives: bayram is more than a opportunity for vacation squeezed into 3-4 days… Holy offerings scattered throughout life randomly may bring the spirit of bayram day in day out to those, capable of recognizing and appreciating them.

* * *

To breath is bayram for example: when you can’t someday, you appreciate it…
Ever lasting darkness teaches what a bayram it is to be able to see; being alone teaches being able to love…
Every organ that doesn’t talk to you is bayram.
It is bayram to be able to move around, to be able to control your body and mind, to find one’s path in life and be able to say “Thank goodness, we’ve arrived at today safely” …
Every day you spend with your loved ones is bayram.
To forgive and arrive at peace, to reach out for a hug after a long trip, to speak after a period of silence, each is bayram.

* * *

To complete a building, a book, a school, a nightmare, jail time, each is bayram.
To come to the end of a night full of pain in intensive care unit or to sever a gangrenous relationship, as well. To long for a loved one is also bayram…
To receive a letter, anxiously awaited, from your loved one, to hear their voice unexpectedly on the phone, to wrap your arms around the one who you’ve been longing for, each is bayram.
To find a loaf of bread when you are deadly hungry, to find room on the chest of trusted one when you are anxious, to knock on the door of a friend, when you are in need of help, each is bayram.
A gift you find in a surprise package, the blanket laid over your body during a brief nap, your mother’s hand traveling over your hair affectionately, each is bayram. To be able to say “I trusted him, he deserved my trust ” is bayram. Never having betrayed is bayram…

* * *

To learn a new word, to come to the end of a tunnel, to push aside a task and go on a long trip, each is bayram.
To face big challenges by yourself, to rise up against injustice when needed, is bayram.
The cotton curtains put up in a new house, the first earning framed up on the wall, shaking hands while paying off the last share of a long term debt, each is bayram.
Company’s breath at home ending loneliness, lover’s kiss meeting you at the door in the evening, a hand in love traveling over your skin, each is bayram.
A child’s scream in the yard, his first tooth erupting, first word uttered, first step, first scribble, first report card, each is bayram…
To start a day with a smile is bayram. “I am glad you are with me” is bayram, “I have no regrets” is bayram…

* * *

To age graciously to see your children grow up to find their own happiness, to go home every night with a full sack of produce, to chat with neighbors in front of your house, to steep tea with a never-aging enthusiasm, each is bayram.
To look at photographs frozen in time with no regrets, to reread books underlined many times with the old aspirations renewed, to face your activist friends with no embarrasment, each is bayram.
To age with no shame and embarrassment, to die upright like a huge oak tree, is bayram itself…

* * *

If you can appreciate all this, every day you live, every breath you take turns into bayram. Don’t worry, because you if do, nobody will call you “insane”. Even if some does, this insanity is much better than the unappreciative sanity of those who suffer through the post-bayram days.


In Turkish:

Zamanla anlıyor insan: 3-4 güne sıkışmış bir tatilden öte bir şey bayram…
Hayata rasgele serpiştirilmiş ilahi ikramlar, kıymet bilen kullara her daim bayram yaşatır.
* * *
Nefes almak bayramdır mesela; günün birinde soluksuz kalınca anlar insan…
Görmenin nasıl bir bayram olduğunu karanlık öğretir; sevmeninkini yalnızlık…
Sızlamayan her organ, hele de burun direği bayramdır.
Bayramdır, elden ayaktan düşmemek, zihinden önce bedeni kaybetmemek, kurda kuşa yem olmayıp “Çok şükür bugünü de gördük” diyebilmek…
Sevdiklerinle geçen her gün bayramdır.
Küsken barışmak, ayrıyken kavuşmak, suskunken konuşmak bayramdır.
* * *
Bir kitabı bitirmek, bir binayı bitirmek, bir okulu bitirmek, kâbuslu bir rüyayı, kodeste ağır cezayı bitirmek bayramdır.
Yoğun bakımda sancılı geceyi ya da kangren olmuş bir ilişkiyi bitirmek de öyle… Vuslat da bayramdır öte yandan…
Endişe içinde beklediğinden mektup almak, telefonda ansızın sesini duymak, deli gibi burnunda tütenin boynuna sarılmak bayramdır.
En acıktığın anda dumanı tüten bir somunun köşesini bölmek, korktuğunda güvendiğine sarılabilmek, dara düştüğünde dost kapısını çalabilmek bayramdır.
Bir sürpriz paketinden çıkan hediye, tatlı bir şekerlemede üstüne serilen battaniye, saçlarını müşfik bir sevgiyle okşayan anne bayramdır.
“Ona güvenmiştim, yanılmamışım” sözü bayramdır.
Hiç aldatmamış, aldanmamış olmak bayram…
* * *
Yeni bir sözcük öğrenmek, bir tünelin sonuna gelmek, müzmin bir işin kapısını çarpıp uzun bir yola çıkıvermek bayramdır.
Zorluklara tek başına göğüs gerebilmek, gereğinde haksızlığın üstüne yalın kılıç yürüyebilmek bayramdır.
Yeni eve asılan basma perdeler, alın teriyle kazanılmış ilk rızkın konduğu çerçeveler, yüklü bir borcun son taksiti ödenirken sıkılan eller bayramdır.
Evde yalnızlığı noktalayan insan nefesi, akşam kapıda karşılayan yavuklu busesi, sevdalı bir elin tende gezmesi, nice adağın ardından çınlayan çocuk sesi bayramdır.
Sonrasında gelen ilk diş bayramdır, ilk söz bayram, ilk adım, ilk yazı, ilk karne bayram…
Güne gülümseyerek başlamak bayramdır.
“İyi ki yanımdasın” bayram, “Her şeyi sana borçluyum” bayram, “Hiç pişman değilim” bayram…
* * *
Evlatların mürüvvetini görebilmek, eve dolu bir torbayla gidebilmek, konu komşuyla yarenlik edebilmek, akşamları eskimeyen bir keyifle çay demleyebilmek bayramdır.
Zamanı donduran eski fotoğraflara nedametsiz bakabilmek, altı çizilmiş eski kitapları aynı inançla okuyabilmek, yol arkadaşlarının yüzüne utanmadan bakabilmek bayramdır.
Alnı açık yaşlanmak bayramdır; ulu bir çınar gibi ayakta ölebilmek bayram…
* * *
Bunların kadrini bilirseniz, kıymet bilmeyi öğrenirseniz, her gününüz bayram olur.
Meraklanmayın, öyledir diye size deli demezler.
Deseler de böyle delilik, bayram artığı günlerdeki nankör akıllılıktan evladır.
Her gününüz bayram olsun!

Can Dündar

The upward spiral

courtesy of myuniversitymoney.com

courtesy of myuniversitymoney.com

The other day someone shared this article with me on How positive emotions improve our health. A study concluded that “Recurrent momentary experiences of positive emotions appear to serve as nutrients for the human body,” they write, “increasing feelings of social belonging and giving a needed boost to parasympathetic health, which in turn opens people up to more rewarding positive emotional and social experiences.” It got me thinking about my own healing process and how connected I felt during my cancer diagnosis and treatment. I know that my deep connection with others was a big part of my healing and moving forward in a positive way.

The authors of the study describe the process of an “upward spiral,” whereby positive emotions bring better health—and good health generates more positive emotions. And, they connect these positive emotions with having a sense of connection to others. I’m convinced that poetry was the seed of my upward spiral. By writing I was able to experience my fear, doubt and other negative emotions, and move to the other side of them – to a perspective that was positive and health-full. It was from this place that I found and experienced a powerful sense of connection with others.

So today I thought I would share a poem I wrote about my experience of writing poetry…

By Vicki L. Flaherty

Ideas flow
Like water
From a fountain
Expression of
My deepest feelings
As real and wet
As a rainy day

My thoughts
Move like a river
As my pen glides
Across the paper
Some unknown power
Creates shape
With my thoughts

Words dance
Catching my memories
Holding on
Or letting go
I don’t know

Meaning takes shape
And there is catharsis
With my emotions
Captured on paper

Celebrating, remembering and fighting to find a cure

Designed by June Brady

Designed by June Brady

Flash back:

June 2012. Johnson County Iowa Relay for Life. My first time participating. Reason to celebrate – I detected my cancer early.  A whole group of local ‘bosom buddies’ and my husband all survivors, too. Friends and family, a community of love and support. I was invited to write and read a poem about caregivers (see Into the Light). So many to remember – among them my grandmother who died of colon cancer in 1979. So many fighting – seemed everywhere I turned my friends knew someone battling against the disease. I created a long list of people to whom I dedicated my relay experience.


Saturday, June 15th. This year’s Relay is mostly remembering. Remembering my friend, Barb Kamer. She lost her battle with breast cancer earlier this year (see What do you do?).  She had started Team Hodge Podge for the 2013 Relay before spring had even rolled around. I joined the team of her friends and family and dedicated my Relay experience to her. At the track, my emotions lingered just under the surface…being alive amidst her loss was difficult. It was our shared experience with cancer that bonded us – and this very relay that deepened our friendship.  She would want us celebrating and working like she did to make a difference in the fight against cancer…so we designed a festive campsite, complete with balloons and games and treats. We put on costumes and walked the track with smiles and laughs. The energy, the pink, the love…we were so easy for her to spot. She was there. Smiling. Her light shining in us all.Her message resounds: Live Each Day.

Our Painting

courtesy of paint.about.com

courtesy of paint.about.com

I was rummaging through my ‘in-box’ today for something and came across a poem I wrote that was dated 3/22/12. I remember when I started this poem. I was at LEAF Kitchen in Iowa City waiting for my friend to arrive for our breakfast date. As I thought about our friendship, our collective experience as survivors, and our meeting that day, I envisioned myself as a painter, then I saw us painting together. The poem flowed from my desire to capture our shared experiences, emotions, and hopes.

Our Painting
By Vicki L. Flaherty

The canvas white with possibility
Old expectations pushed off the edges
Past chapters of life lost outside the frame
Emptiness waiting impatiently to be filled
The blank fabric inviting the dreamer

The stories we want to believe begin like lines gracing the page
Raw emotions we dare to courageously express form a rich texture
Light dancing on the images as if our wholeness were tapping our shoulders
Shadows echo the acceptance that so gently hides beyond our grasp
Bold colors blending in a balance symbolic of our power and grace
Shapes take form like hope rising boldly from our hearts
The picture emerges erupting our intentions for the future
The artful beauty arises a reflection of our perfect souls

© Vicki Flaherty, 2012

Healing Energies


Today I had an opportunity to connect with a kindred spirit at work. Our dialogue about intentions and energy and the healing we can bring to the workplace reminded me of my Reiki experience prior to my mastectomy surgery.  What a generous and loving gift I received that day in September 2011 when my friend Ginny brought her healing spirit and energy to me. The poem I wrote about it, called Healing Energies, essentially tells the story of that experience. It soothes me even now as I re-read it.

Healing Energies
By Vicki L. Flaherty

A kind and gentle friend comes
inviting the Reiki masters
that through her powerful hands
I might receive healing energy.
I lay quietly on her table,
tucked in blankets and warm.

Silence. Stillness. Calm. Relaxation.
Letting go of all that clutters my mind.
Opening up to the health
and the goodness that’s possible.
She begins with a meditation,
her whispering voice soothing every cell.

Her hands over my head
I feel warmth and heat radiating.
My mind drift s totally into nowhere.
My body sinks deep into the mattress.
Flickering images flutter about
and disappear into a fog.

As she moves her touch along my body,
engaging my chakras,
an artistic display of colors appears.
There is purple, mostly purple —
deep tones of blue
then bright hues of violet and pink.
This explosion of color awakens my energy.
My body comes into balance.

Moving toward closure,
my aura is expansive and bright.
We witness a showy display —
hummingbirds fluttering about
delighting on beautiful trumpet flowers.
My spirit is alive.
Yet my body is ever so quiet —
prepared for the healing ahead.

© copyright Vicki L. Flaherty, Mostly My Heart Sings