Something Sacred is at Stake

I have sat silent out of respect for the massive amount of loss all around us. Sickness, death, solitude, and desperation are everywhere. We are scared, tired, hopeless and terrified.

Time has lost all meaning; when does it end, how does it end…there are no answers. We have been given no choice but to sit, raw and vulnerable.
As I sat here tonight gutted from what I will one day remember as the hardest day in my career I found myself watching an at-home concert by one of my favorite musical artists of all time and there at exactly 25:00 minutes into his 32:49 minute set, there were the words; that I needed to hear. This is what I was supposed to offer to YOU my friends, family, and followers. My universe always delivers what I need exactly at the moment I need it and here were those words:

“All time is precious no matter where you are at; every moment something sacred is at stake.” – Gavin Rossdale

YES, this my friends is what it is all about!

I remember this very well as I sat by my mother’s bedside in her final days; time had no meaning and every single one of those final moments something sacred was indeed at stake. My bond to her, the bond that was breaking, attempting to leave me, prisoner, without a cell, bound by no one forevermore.

Today as I was moving through the moments there was not a moment that was not precious. This time it was not about life or death but it was an interruption of a partnership if only temporary…we are affected. A place in time where everything was changing for them and within me. In those moments, every reaction was sacred and we were reminded that while it is all business, it is always personal.

What we are going through will forever change us, as a society and personally. I will always remember those days next to my mother knowing what was at stake was the change in me and today as I attempted to meet myself where I was and be there, in the moment with colleagues that I revere and respect more than they can ever know, I knew then as I know now…

“I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.” – Maya Angelou

We as a society are being shaken, we are being tested and we are uncomfortable. However, ultimately remember that you STILL decide; you still have the same power you had yesterday, one week ago or even a year ago. You are still the YOU, you always were; everything around you will change but ultimately YOU decide.

With all of my love, adoration, and respect for anyone suffering through these uncertain times.

L.

Blessed beyond measure…or am I?

As I sit here writing this I feel so blessed and so grateful for all that is in my life. I have more than I could create, buy, promote and yet it is my life. Every blessing. I fear putting it out in the universe because it would seem to good to be true which means that it could not sustain, it cannot endure…or can it?

I remember telling my mom a month before she was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer that “my life was so perfect it scared me”…and then it wasn’t. She was diagnosed and in that moment the clock began ticking on what would be her final year; almost to the day. Things didn’t feel so perfect then but what I began to realize as the year ticked on was that if things had not been so “perfect” at that moment in time I never would have been able to spend her last year with her the way I did.

It is in those moments in our life when things are not ideal that we long for what we once had, and then start to acknowledge the perfection that was once our reality. This is why living in the present is an ongoing mantra that we hear the most these days. Living in the past keeps us there and worrying, lamenting even looking forward to the future is “torture” as the monks would say, as there is no truth there.

What I learned about living in the present during “her” final year is that I did a lot of it. There was nowhere else I wanted to be and would not leave her side in her last three weeks. I was present; time had no meaning, no value and knowing that all was “perfect” in my alternate universe allowed me to be present with her every breath, every laugh, wince or muted moments of wit. Even in what felt like the worst moments of my life I was blessed beyond measure.

Today I am reminded every moment of every day that I am still blessed beyond measure. I have a husband that “adores me” as told to me recently by a friend. I have kids that have created a life for themselves that makes me proud to be their mother. I have two grandchildren that make my heart skip a beat and make everything right in the world regardless of what is going on in our lives. I am blessed to have many fathers and one biological Cuban that makes me proud to call him Dad. I am blessed to have three Aunts that treat me and mine like we are there children…and in that line-up not one mention of what I have or where I have been in my life as it simply does not matter. It has taken years to come to the reality that what creates value in ones life is those that they surround themselves, and that is all.

As I sit here this Christmas morning waiting for the day to begin I am in the present. In this moment. Anxious, waiting, unsure of the swirl of emotions that surrounds me but owning it. Enjoy TODAY, stay in the moments, don’t get ahead of where you are…for the present is the gift that God has offered you today, right now.

Life as I see it – L.

Feel Something…

As I was driving to work today my favorite song from Sia came on; “Breathe Me”. This song absolutely makes me feel something. I immediately catch my breath, turn up the music to take it in as loudly as I can, feeling every word inside and out. I love anything that makes me FEEL SOMETHING.

Isn’t this life all about feeling something? Where there is no feeling there is no life. I live to feel and I feel to live; it’s the emotion, the ups, the downs and everything in between.

Music is the ultimate in feeling for me. A song can take me back in a New York minute I am jettisoned to the very moment in time, where I was, who I was with and how I felt in that moment. I heard “Mandy” by Barry Manilow on the radio over the weekend and there I was with my Mom at his last concert in Orlando, remembering how I would laugh as she would cry at the crescendo of the song. It always made her cry and that made me laugh!

Movies are another medium that makes me feel something. Two hours in a movie theater is as good as a weekend away…well it’s close. I get wrapped up in the story and am miles away for that short moment in time. It’s all encompassing when the movie is good and I leave refreshed and inspired.

Places are my favorite to feel. The energy in a room is the immediate feeling I detect. Whether it be the soul of the building or the story of the design; it inspires me. It is interesting to me that the places where I connect are where I belong. Not every place is right for me and I am not right for every place; it is all about the energy.

My favorite moment today was all about the feeling. I was driving home and got a call from my South Florida family and I realized as I was hanging up as I got home that it was my favorite moment of the day as I was feeling so loved, so happy and fulfilled. The smiles on their faces (yes, it might have been a FaceTime but it was hands-free!), the stories, the fellowship made my heart glow. When you surround yourself with the ones you love there simply is NO greater feeling.

My life is all about the “feels” every single one; every sense and every experience. I feel immensely, I live in the deepest of love and I dive into the depths of despair. I would not trade it for neutrality as “even” is not how this KIEL wants to live. Give me the highs, give me the lows; I just want to feel something. I am alive living life as I feel it – L.

Moments

The moments…I live for them and I revel in them. One of the things that I have started doing in the last year is recognizing the moments. I can think of so many that have happened in the last year simply because I took a minute to stop and recognize them by saying out loud, “In this moment, I am __________.”

Yesterday my moments were many. It started watching the sunrise, then a walk on the beach, breakfast with my sister-cousin, spending most of the day with “the Aunt’s” and then finishing up with a hockey game where I got to see the love of my life doing what he loves. SO MANY MOMENTS IN ONE DAY.

To anyone else a day like I described is just a “good day” but to me they were many moments.

  • When the gnats chased me in my car and the song “Miracles” came on…that was a moment. It made me smile and so happy to be there.
  • When I was sitting in front of my beautiful cousin and sharing breakfast on a Sunday morning. Two souls sharing and caring for each other, it was timeless. It was a loving moment.
  • When I was sitting at my Aunt’s table and working with them on our first book, my Aunt Judith said, “this is what we do every day…we just laugh all day” and I thought what a beautiful moment, so cherished.
  • When we were at Gary’s game and he and Dave were so happy to have us there it was truly a moment of gratitude. We even laughed that it was so funny how happy Gary was that I was there. Most guys, well we won’t worry about most guys…my guy wanted me there and loved that my Aunt’s joined me!

Sometimes my moments are not in the activity and those are the ones I cherish the most because it simply occurs to me that in THAT moment I am so happy. I had this happen on Saturday as I spent the day completely chilling out and all of a sudden it happened. I said to Gary, “In this moment I am in absolutely NO pain and I feel so optimistic about the future.” I said it again, just to make sure I captured the moment. It was what I had waited for months to feel; pain-free and hopeful for the future.

I was so fortunate to share so many moments with my Mom and that is what makes living this life without her bearable. I have moments that I simply will never forget and will always cherish. One that makes me smile even today is…

  • Last August as she was relegated to the bed a Paul McCartney special came on. She was a fan of the Beatles so I told her we were going to watch it. She wasn’t speaking much at this point but was aware. I will never forget laying there beside her and seeing her toes come to life, tapping to the beat of the music. I looked over at her in that moment and she was lip syncing the song!!! I was floored!!! She wasn’t just aware she was THERE! I will never forget that moment as long as I live. It was THE moment.

This life is busy, it’s full of tasks and distractions. If you don’t actively recognize the moments as they happen they will pass you by. Pay attention to your world, your surroundings and find the moments!

I challenge you to POST your moment in the comment section of this blog telling us what that moment was and how it felt. I am so excited in anticipation of sharing these magnificent moments with you.

Imperfect Sunrise – Option P

Of course this is the way today was to start, as a reminder that not everything should turn out as planned. It is the reminder I need to keep me in the PRESENT, in the now and resilient as ever.

The Plan

Woke up at 4a, made coffee, got ready and out of the house by 5:30a to get to the beach in time for sunrise.

The Reality

Get to the beach at 6:20a exactly as planned, pulled out my chair to sit in front of the ocean, coffee in hand, laptop in tow and ready to take in the 6:33a sunrise as “planned”. But not as promised…

I sit in the chair and immediately the sand gnats are all over me. In my hair, biting me, chasing me back into my car. The sun is not rising b/c of the cloud cover and my partner-in-crime that was to meet me has not.

Plan B

Here is what I would have missed had everything gone as planned…

  • Sitting in my more comfortable car in the a/c smiling through it all (gnat-free)
  • This beautiful sunrise that came at 6:45a
  • Listening to Jefferson Starship, Miracles, as the first song that came on when I started Pandora
  • …and this reminder that Plan B is likely better than Plan A…while I may never know for sure because Plan A did not play out as planned and I am so blessed to be reminded that blessings in our lives can come in many forms.

Option B by Sheryl Sandberg

I am on the last hour of this book on Audible and it is so perfect for this moment. The book was referred to me by a good friend. I honestly did not know what it was about when I started it but I was very familiar with Sheryl’s book “Lean In” and knew of the tragic loss of her husband at 48-years old. When the book started it was crystal clear why it has been offered to me as a “good read” because it was about Sheryl’s journey after the loss of her husband. I of course can relate although I did not lose a spouse I lost a mother; also too soon.

Sheryl’s first point caught me and kept me from the start and that is that “we are all living some form of Option B”. Today is a reminder that even in the simplest forms, this is the truth.

Sheryl’s second point was the introduction of the “Three P’s” and the lesson behind each.

  • Personalization – the belief that we are at fault
  • Pervasiveness – the belief that an event will affect all areas of our life
  • Permenance – the belief that the aftershocks of the event will last forever

How close all three of these were hitting me immediately after my mother’s passing versus where I am today is a testament to the fourth P that she does not define PROGRESS. Here is how this played out for me:

  • RIGHT AFTER HER DEATH:
    • Personalization – I questioned through my mother’s last year if I was doing enough and for reasons I will not expound on, in the end I felt I was at fault.
    • Pervasiveness – Upon her death I felt like a part of me died with her and I was not sure how I could go on.
    • Permanence – this goes without explanation. When someone that you revere as your “God” passes away how can anything in the future ever be right again. I remember telling Gary shortly before she passed, “I think this will change me forever, I don’t think I will ever be “me” again.”
  • TODAY:
    • Personalization – I know I did enough and thanks to an amazing therapist, I also know that I was not at fault but my feelings were absolutely valid as I took on a responsibility for her that was beyond measure.
    • Pervasiveness – It has affected all areas of my life but it is not ALL bad as I am reminded more of the blessings of 48-years of pure love and friendship and less about the last year that added to many of those precious memories despite the circumstances.
    • Permanence – There is nt doubt that the aftershocks will be with me forever but the reaction, the injury of those aftershocks have subsided and some have healed.

It leads me to a realization that the final two P’s that Sheryl does not cover are indeed:

  • Progress – As my life is progressing and in many ways. I proudly told Gary yesterday that I was not in pain (after surgery 3 weeks ago, it was the first day with no pain…yay for me!) and I felt optimistic about the second half of the year and the projects that I have taken on.
  • Option P – Yes, I am renaming Sheryl’s Option B to Option P because the option of the plan the Option P is where we seem to find more meaning, more creation and inspiration.

Sunday’s sunrise is not how I planned it but it so IMPERFECTLY PERFECT, it is the Option P, that I would not change a second of because it is so much sweeter than the original plan. In this moment, I have everything I need, I am present and it’s PROFOUND.

Enjoy your Sunday, find your Option P and revel in it.

Life as I see it – L.

It’s in the Blueprints…

It’s in the blueprints…it’s our structure…it’s who we are…there are things you can change and some you cannot. Knowing the difference is imperative in both cases.

When you build a house there are walls for the sake of creating space and there are walls that are structural supports. These structural walls cannot be moved, they cannot be changed, they are what they are and we have to live with them. The other walls that make up the house can be changed as our needs or tastes change. If you did not understand these basics of what can and what cannot be changed you would destroy the house.

Structural Engineer analyzes and designs the gravity support and lateral force resistance of buildings, bridges, and other structures. In our lives we are the Emotional Engineers of our psyche, our souls and what ultimately shapes our character. As noted in the Structural Engineer’s definition it’s the support and the resistance that determines the load that we bear. We have to know what we can change about ourselves and what is simply hard-coded or structural.

In my earlier blog I wrote about the book “Unf*ck Yourself” and the author made great points about change and the ability to change your life. Here are some that appeal to me and why:

  1. You have the life you’re willing to put up with.
  2. When you start to view the world through the lens of what you’re willing and unwilling to pursue, rather than what it seems you want and don’t want, things start to become a lot clearer.
  3. “You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do” — Carl Jung
  4. Stopping your bad habit doesn’t help, unless you replace it with something else, something that actually works in your favor and is an example of the new kind of life you really want to live.

I believe strongly in #1 because what we all have the ability to do is to CHOOSE. You are the architect of YOUR life, you decide. If you don’t like the path you are on then change paths. Oprah’s latest book “The Path Made Clear” has great points worth sharing…

  • Your life is always speaking to you. 
  • Live an inspired life 
  • Your self worth is your job
  • Your potential is always bigger than the problem 
  • You can’t hope for it unless you can imagine it.
  • You can’t love something until you can accept it 
  • There is so much energy tied up in “more” 
  • What you appreciate in life appreciates you

I challenge you to take an inventory of your “walls” and determine where a renovation is needed. 🙂

My Mom and I would always refer to the “Serenity Prayer” when it came to things that were beyond our control. It is the universal prayer for change. I recite it often but find that I use it more to distinguish things beyond my control (the structural walls) versus summoning it to give me the courage to change the things I can (the renovation). (Time to file a permit)…looks like there is indeed more work to be done! Thank God… L.

Super Soul Studies – Wooden

I am a student at heart. I love to learn and spend all of my free-time reading, writing and when I watch TV or videos it is often to learn. My favorites to watch are Super Soul Sunday (SSS) on OWN and TED Talks. My other faves are Dateline, 48 Hours, 20/20, Nightline and First 48. If I had to choose a different career than the one I am in it is safe to say I would be a Homicide Detective. (Gary likes to remind me that based on me being freaked out by the dead I would likely SUCK at this career. So now I am pushing Brendan to be an M.E. and so far it’s working, he took one semester of Forensics!!! Fingers-crossed – Brendan D. Kiel, Phd, Medical Examiner. Hahahahahahaha)

Okay back to my love of learning…that was a heck of a segue!

I only watch SSS and TED when I am fully attentive and engaged. I take notes and have years and years of Google Docs where I like to highlight those quotes, thoughts or theories that connect with me. I am going to share with you some of my favorites every week hoping that I can inspire in you a curiosity to learn or explore your own soul.

Today I chose one that is easy to get behind. John Wooden was the head basketball coach at UCLA. He won ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year period and is known for his short, simple inspirational messages. I had the privilege of hearing him speak during an event I attended years ago. He had me “hook, line and sinker” then and watching this SSS episode confirmed for me that he is worth following. Here are the notes I connected with:

  • These three things are all that you have control over:
    • Never try to be better than someone else
    • Always learn from others
    • Never cease to be the best you can be
  • Your reputation is what you are perceived to be and your character is who you really are
  • Rules – Never be late, be neat and clean, not one word of profanity, never criticize a teammate (The Coach gets paid to do it, you don’t)
  • The pyramid of success – Google it
  • Things will work out as they should providing we do what we should
  • The road ahead or the road behind – Moriarty 
  • Don’t whine, don’t complain, don’t make excuses
  • Never mention winning, you can lose when you out score and you can win when you are out scored
  • The journey is better than the end – Cervantes

The meme at the top of the blog tonight sums up how I take on life and certainly how I have been forced to live the last year of my life. Let’s revisit…

Things turn out best for the people that make the best of the way things turn out- John Wooden

I didn’t ask nor did I expect what has happened in the last year. Losing my mother destroyed me but I had to find the silver lining and that was when I took an inventory of our relationship it could not have been more perfect. People would say when learning that my mother was dying of cancer “say everything you ever wanted to say to her” and to that I would respond “there is nothing left to say.” The most honest relationship in my life was the one with my mom, there were no regrets, there was never forgiveness required it was the purest form of love I will ever know. I heard a quote From David Brooks recently that said “I loved her more than evolution required” and man, does that cover it!

I also didn’t ask to go through seven months of the greatest health scare I have known to date and 5 procedures later and 13 total abdominal incisions later (I am TRULY a Miami Gangster…or at least my abdomen is!) I am still standing. I am not running, not even walking but dang it I am here, I am smiling and through it all I have learned many more lessons. Many more than I thought I needed to learn, many more than I wanted to learn…but I am better because of the journey.

I am still a student at heart with a few more lessons under my belt. Learned from Super Soul Sunday’s, TED Talks and a lot of life experiences sprinkled in. The biggest lesson I have learned in the last year is that all of these hours spent soul searching, learning and being inspired by the true masters were filling a toolbox that I had no idea I would desperately need to access. It was that toolbox that allowed me to breathe her last breath with her and to survive this health crisis with fewer emotional scars than physical.

I conclude today by reminding you to make the best of it, whatever it is, and fill your toolbox NOW before you need the tools so when the day comes, when you need to make the best of it, you have the ability to NAIL IT! L.