What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner. — Colette
As a therapist, I know the value of the life review. Having worked with elders in nursing homes and home care as a social worker, I have seen faces light up when talking about the steps and turns that brought them to this moment and the people who shared those spaces and places. We’re talking about nine decades of life unfolding for some. Pleasure and pain. Love and loss. Valiant attempts and missing the mark. Celebration and sorrow. And regrets…for some, so many regrets. That’s where, when possible, the deep work can begin.
In the 12 steps of recovery, it is known as taking your inventory and then following it up with action.
Step 4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Step 10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Having been in the program since 1993 (CODA-Co-dependence Anonymous) for lingering co-dependent tendencies, accompanied by workaholism, I take my inventory every day, often surprised by what I discover. I recall cringeworthy-what-the-heck-was-I-thinking experiences and what I have seen called anti-bucket list items; what I’ll never do again. But then there were the oh-shit-how-did-I-end up-back-here-again moments. I’ve heard that a lesson repeats itself until we learn it. In some cases, I have been a quick study and in others a slow learner. Glad that lately, with well-honed Spidey Sense fully operational, I have steered clear of unnecessary pain.
As I have also been with people at the end of their lives while on hospice, I have seen how life review or life reconciliation can be healing and help them make their transition more peaceful. Part confessional, part celebration. A coming to terms with what was and what will no longer be. Liminal space, which comes from the Latin word ‘limen’ meaning threshold, is what is evoked. Becoming a dweller on the threshold is highlighted in the Van Morrison song of that name.
In these uncertain times when anything can happen, I’ve realized how important it is to, at a moment’s notice, do a life review. On the days of the most recent incidents of violence that made headlines and those that didn’t, no one expected not to make it home. Motor vehicle accidents occur daily; some taking drivers and passengers, some leaving them injured with one foot in this realm and the other in the next. With COVID 19 still rampaging through, 2,842,850 lives have ended and an exponential number of lives of loved ones have been up-ended. We never know when our number will be up.
In 2014 when I had a heart attack on the way home from the gym, I did a life review, of necessity. I am convinced that it was part of my healing and recovery. I took a gander, sometimes reluctantly at the choices I made, the relationships I awkwardly danced through, the words that went unsaid, and others, spoken in haste and with the passing of time, wish I had never uttered.
I reflected on my motivation for the choices I made and those I continue to make that could either harm or heal me. The workaholic who moved at warp speed almost crashed and burned. Blessedly, the wake-up call opportunity was not lost on me.
In the past year since pandemic protocols were put in place, I have spent more time in solitude and silence than ever before. I have been my own personal hugger, since this consummate cuddler and Hugmobster who had embraced thousands of strangers and friends on the streets since 2014, found that put on pause.
As a writer with decades of penned and typed words in my possession and on the internet, my mental meanderings are easily accessible. Sometimes I am stunned into silence when I read the beauty of the Muse’s inspiration, some pieces I have no recollection of writing. Channeled, apparently.
Here are some samples:
“All sorts of tearful lately, as I am becoming ever more aware of just how long I have pretended to be invincible and invulnerable. Those who know me well, see behind the facade. Maybe I ain’t fooling anyone. I am so ready to let down my guard and let people in and allow myself to receive. No woman is an island.”
“Feeling exceptionally grateful at the moment, for the wondrous souls in my life. If ever I am tempted to feel sorry for myself (and I do at times) and uncertain about the path I am taking, all I need do is consider who surrounds me. Also curious to know what is going on behind the scenes to bring dreams and desires to fruition.”
“Do you have a go-to interest or activity that you can’t NOT do? For me, it’s writing. When I’m walking on sunshine, dancing through the cosmos, I write. When I’m splashing about in the waters of life, I write. When I’m treading water and feel like I am going to go under, I write. When I am under cloud cover, I write. When I face challenges, I write. When I need soothing, I write. When I am tickled by The Muse, I write. When I am immersed in emotion soup, I write. And sometimes, just because I can.”
“Do you ever wonder if something you wrote years ago was meant for the future you to read?”
“In 1984, while I was in grad school. I completed a research project called “Counseling Practitioners’ Use of Touch As a Therapeutic Modality”. Last week, my friend Susan Kaye contacted me saying that she found a copy of it that I had sent to her. Little did I know then that it would plant the seeds for the Free Hugs and Cuddle Party work I am doing. The pages are yellowed with age and some had food stains on them. Not sure if they were mine or hers. I typed it on an electric typewriter and it was the first time I used a computer when I did the statistical analysis. When I re-read it. I was astonished that the 26-year-old therapist/social worker in training was so tapped in to the work I would eventually do. How did she know?”
The Heart is the Home of Wonder
“Breathe in the warmth of this place, allowing yourself to feel a sense of welcome
It is your own love, your own beauty that beckons you inside
How long has it been, since you have crossed this threshold?
The door has always been open, the invitation always extended
Will you accept it now?
Through the windows streams sunlight, casting rainbow designs on the walls
As prism glass reflects the scattered sparkling illumination
The floor beneath your feet is soft
Caressing your skin as you tap your bare toes on its surface
Daring to dance upon it to the lilting music that only you can hear.
The table is set with all manner of lusciousness
Nourishment for body and soul awaits you
Always plenty to savor and share; a bounty spread before you
Every imaginable treat to delight your senses
The sweet aroma that curls around you.
The mirror on the wall reflects your exquisite nature
As you gaze into the eyes of the One who has been with you
Through all eternity, questioning what has kept you from recognizing
Your own ineffable Divinity
Express your adoration for the God(dess) who winks back at you.
Feel the all-embracing comfort of this structure that was created
Brick by brick, log by log, though your daily intention
The experiences and the people you draw into your world
The thoughts that permeate your mind
The wild magic of your infinite imagination.”
I invite you to do your own life review as it will certainly change your life. It is never too soon and not a moment too late.
This post is republished on Medium.
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