My 6 Word Summary of the Mad Men Finale

OK, I'll admit it I was a Mad Men groupie, tuning in each Sunday night to have a glimpse into the dysfunctional fictional lives of the gang at Sterling Cooper advertising agency. I think the show exposed the underbelly of the not so nice features of being human, and along the way also shed light on the innate qualities of resilience. A sense of resilience wasn't predicated on noble qualities of compassion or empathy, but on self-preservation and survival.  Whatever you thought of the moral ambiguity the characters exuded and the choices they each made during the seven seasons of Mad Men, in the end the commonality for all was meeting adversity with a sense of resilience, having taken control of their experience but not the outcome of their choices.

My six word summary?.... Resilience wins even in flawed humans

The Power of the Narrative....It's Here!!! The Healthcare Narrative Playbook

I often hear..."so what do you "do" in your work?" Perhaps the best way to describe what I "do" is that I help individuals and organizations recognize and enhance what is going right when often a lot is also going wrong. In other words, I help to cultivate resilience. What I have learned, and continue to learn each day, is that to build resilience we need to tell, share, listen and understand our narratives -- identifying the hero's journey which we all travel. In the healthcare world, the fullness of our human experience is often cloaked in a diagnosis, rendering us a series of test results, medications and prognostications. The "person" is often lost while the patient's diagnosis is tended to. We enter the healthcare world with a story but we leave with a can we continue to support and hear our stories and narratives along side the diagnosis?

So it is was with great pleasure that I accepted an invitation from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to be one of 30 thought-leaders from the United States and the United Kingdom in the field of health care narrative to gather together in Providence RI at the Business Innovation Factory to collaborate and create the first Healthcare Narrative Playbook. I am very proud of the depth and breadth of this interactive playbook as both a resource and guide, whether we are a caregiver, patient, clinician, clergy, friend or family member, tell, share, listen and understand our experience of health, illness and healing. Here is a 4 minute video explaining the concept: Healthcare Narrative Playbook Video

What can you do with the playbook? First, take some time to peruse through the various sections. Many of us have added our personal stories to the pages. Try some of the suggestions. Sample some of the resources listed. And most of all please share widely with your friends, caregivers, and community. Finally, I would welcome your comments and thoughts about the Healthcare Narrative Playbook -- what did you find helpful and what could be improved, as this is meant to be a living, breathing document...ultimately empowering and building resilience and changing our culture of health.

Find a Bit of Beauty...Countdown to Spring #10

"Find a bit of beauty in the world today. Share it. If you can't find it, create it. Some days this may be hard to do. Persevere."

These are the words Lisa Adams (@AdamsLisa) shared in each of her posts. I wrote about Lisa last year and have continued to follow her writing through her blog and on Twitter throughout the year. Metastatic breast cancer took Lisa's life last week. She taught us much during her time with us, especially lessons on finding beauty in the world, even when things seem anything but beautiful. I often write about the qualities of resilience -- control, commitment, challenge and connection. Lisa continually cultivated these qualities on her good days and on her difficult ones as well. I am grateful to Lisa for reminding me that it is always possible to find a bit of beauty in the world even if we need to create it ourselves.

So, in honor of Lisa, I am dedicating my blog posts for the next 10 days, as we countdown to spring,to sharing a bit of beauty that I find in the world...will you join me?

#10 Daffodils on the kitchen table

Wabi-Sabi + Kintsugi = Resilience

G'Tis the season....for Wabi-Sabi. For those of you who aren't familiar with this term, it is a Japanese aesthetic honoring and celebrating the beauty of imperfection. Wow, what an amazing reframing of our obsession with perfection, especially during the holiday season!

I have written about the concept of wabi-sabi on this blog and you may want to read some of the archived posts. I recently came across another wonderful  Japanese term, related to the essence of wabi-sabi called kintsugi ("golden joinery").

Kintsugi is the centuries-old Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with a special lacquer dusted with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. Instead of discarding treasures when they become broken, they are repaired with jewel-like metal; acknowledging, with visibility, that while they may have once been broken they are now strengthened, and more valuable because of their repair. What a message of resilience not just for pottery but for ourselves. Repairing with gold the scars of a life well-lived as a indication of resilience is a metaphor that I can wholeheartedly embrace.

Will you join me this holiday season in using the gold and silver glittering decorations as reminders to engage in the practice wabi-sabi and kintsugi? Let's celebrate the beauty of imperfection and acknowledge the strength and courage of repairing adversity with gold.

Happy Holidays...wishing you a month of celebrating wabi-sabi and kintsugi

Creating Meaning After Loss -- Resilience

There is a curious phenomenon that happens when people survive a great loss, after the numbness of grief begins to subside there seems to be a primal need to begin to make sense of the loss, in a way Viktor Frankel wrote about this over 60 years ago in his book, Man's Search for Meaning and NPR explored this need in their story about finding meaning the death of a child. I encourage you to think back about your own losses, have you found a way to create meaning in your life informed by your darkest times? This is the essence of resilience...shifting from mourning to meaning making.

From Sedona to Boston...Powerful and Resilient

Awe-Inspiring, Powerful and Resilient...these were the words that came to me as I drank in the breathtaking beauty of Sedona, Arizona on April 12.   Less than 72 hours later, on April 15, I was back in Boston and blindsided by the emotional rollercoaster that ensued following the Boston Marathon bombings.

As the new normal has begun to settle into Boston, as it did in the weeks and months following 9/11 in New York City, those same words that resonated with me as I scanned the magnificent vistas in Sedona, surface as I continue to witness the amazing ability of the human spirit to bounce back from adversity; tenacious and strong...Awe-inspiring, Powerful and Resilient. 

Keep Calm and Carry On

Keep Calm and Carry On...have you been noticing that ubiquitous phrase and simple poster as much as I have lately? It seems to be everywhere! It has morphed into all forms of iterations as evidenced on Pinterest boards and  I was curious about where this saying came from and was surprised to learn that it first appeared in war torn England during the devastation of World War II as one of three propaganda posters that were distributed and hung in prominent public places. In fact it was meant to build resiliency among the people who had lost so much and were starting to rebuild their lives from the rubble. 

Throughout our lives, we will rebuild and reconstruct our lives through transitions, changes, joys and sorrows. Perhaps this simple phrase on the red and white poster can instill within us the same sense of resiliency as it did more than half a century ago. May we all...Keep Calm and Carry On

Great video of the history of the WWII poster: Keep Calm and Carry On

Sustainable Resilience

Sustainable resilience...I love the concept of being able to bounce back from challenges and adversity time and time again. But often it is the little things that wear away our resilience, like water wears away stone: the traffic jam on the way to work, the parking space that disappears before our eyes, running late and realizing that you left your phone on the kitchen counter, etc etc. Slowly, invisibly wearing us down drop by drop. One way to help ourselves create a more sustainable resilience is to cultivate mindful moments amidst the trials and tribulations. And so it was for me today...finding incredible beauty on my long walk from a very remote parking space at UMass Boston. These photos were taken on the UMass Boston campus near the Massachusetts Archives Building, sights I never would have seen if I had snagged that first close parking spot.

Remembering September 11: Reflections on Hope, Renewal, and Resilience

Those who will not slip beneath 
the still surface of the well of grief
turning downward through its black water
to the place we cannot breathe
will never know the source from which we drink,
the secret water, cold and clear, nor find in the darkness glimmering
the small round coins
thrown away by those who wished for something else.
~By David Whyte from Close to Home
 WTC 9 11

Do you remember when September 11 was just another day on the calendar? "September 11", or simply "9-11", has become a universally recognized phrase meaning a moment when, collectively, our lives in the United States changed forever. As the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001 approaches, we are reminded of the cataclysmic events of that day, and the utter astonishment and disbelief that something like this could happen to "us".  While this was a collective moment, each of us individually will have our own private, personal "9-11's" in our lives.  Perhaps our personal 9-11's will come as a dreaded diagnosis, a late night phone call, an accident, a devastating natural disaster, an unspeakable hurt or loss. There will be no journalists covering our 9-11's, no awards for heroism, nor museums built, but that doesn't make our personal 9-11's any less devastating or life-altering. While we cannot prepare for what our personal 9-11's will look like, we can find ways to build resiliency; first by acknowledging the grief and loss that occurs when our life is knocked off its axis and then by diving deep to find ways to cope, make meaning, find purpose, and renewed hope in our "new normal".  I have been touched by reading some of the stories of resiliency this week, stories of those who have used these past ten years to rebuild lives in ways that look very different than the lives planned and imagined prior to September 11, 2001. This is the work of renewal, resiliency, and hope; to find something glimmering in the darkness, as David Whyte suggests in "The Well of Grief".  We cannot control the outcome of an event, a 9-11 in our lives, but we can control the experience by creating a renewed sense of purpose, meaning and hope in our lives as we adapt to our new normal.  

Technology and Resilence

When friends and colleagues hear that I teach mindfulness and resiliency skills AND that I am actively engaged in social media in health care, they often scratch their heads in confusion. Mindfulness and building resiliency are thought to be at odds with our increasingly 24/7 digital society. Let me say, I agree. But resiliency is the ability to bounce back from adversity, and often requires creative solutions to do so. While I see challenges of over saturation with information and a frantic pace of living associated with 24/7 technology, I also see wonderful opportunities for increased connection, communication, as well as decreased isolation especially by vulnerable members of our society. One of the manifestations of increased technology is its ability to narrow the divide between those with chronic illness and those without. Helping to normalize interactions and social connection in ways that were once unimaginable are now possible for the cost of an iPad...and that is resilience!

Click here to read the NY Times article that inspired me to write this post. I would love to hear your thoughts and welcome your comments.

The Many Faces of Reslience

We often think of resilience when we are faced with a diagnosis of a life threatening disease, or perhaps when a natural disaster shakes us to our very core. This is when we hear the term "resilience" used most often by ourselves and the news media. But what about the faces of resilience during these bleak economic times -- the faces of your neighbors and friends who are not facing a devastating diagnosis or an instantaneous natural disaster, but the bleak economic outlook, family stresses or just surviving in tough times? Do you see resilience? That is why I found the article in the Boston Globe entitled: Resilience in Bleak Times so compelling. Look into the eyes of a resilient person and you will find someone who finds and maintains connection to self and to the outside world and finds meaning in giving back while moving forward. What does resilience mean to you?