an emotional archeologist

i must be an emotional archeologist because i keep looking for the roots of things, particularly the roots of behavior and why i feel certain ways about certain things. – fred rogers

Well, this sounds familiar! An emotional archeologist, who knew?!?! Me too, Mr. Rogers, me too!

So much of FIN Awareness and Nonviolent Communication is about this – a process of gaining curiosity around feelings and needs, which help us to better understand root causes with more compassion and empathy.

you know you’ll be okay …

image | courtney | at home during the digital class by taryn toomey

When you’re in the closing moments of #theclass with @purposefulpixie and you remember your therapist told you earlier in the day she’s retiring soon … You’ve been working with her every week for almost 6 years … And the tears start to flow because you know you’ve done the work and you’ll be okay … Move and be moved with The Class! I can’t recommend this “emotional exercise,” as I like to call it, enough!

The Wild Edge of Sorrow

image | courtney’s “to read” pile

Yesterday my therapist read this quote below to me after I shared a story about a “loss” that I more recently experienced. I spoke about how even though I was feeling sad, I genuinely felt a sense of appreciation for the experience. The experience, despite the loss, gives me hope despite the sadness felt, and for this I feel gratitude and it further opens me up to life. Hurdles, hardship, and heartbreak are inevitable – like the first Noble Truth talks about, dukkha.

I loved the quote she shared with me so much that I looked it up online, and now want to share both the quote and an article that included it.

The work of the mature person is to carry grief in one hand and gratitude in the other and to be stretched large by them. How much sorrow can I hold? That is how much gratitude I can give. If I carry only grief, I’ll bend toward cynicism and despair. If I have only gratitude, I’ll become saccharine and won’t develop much compassion for other people’s suffering. Grief keeps that heart fluid and soft, which helps make compassion possible. – Francis Weller

As we all individually cope with the different losses in our lives and while we witness countless grief in the world amidst the political and racial turmoil in our country and our world, it’s easy to wallow and inwardly suffer. Allowing for grief, pain, and sorrow to be held supports our well-being. It creates an environment where the many feelings we have as humans are normalized and where we learn healthy ways to embrace and sort through them, rather than shame and shield them, often leading us to turn to unhealthy ways of coping. We all hurt. We all experience loss, We can almost look at grief similar to big “T” trauma and little “t” trauma, as loss is not just a death, and even small “l” losses matter. Loss can look and feel different to all of us. It’s human.

The important part, as Weller mentions, is to also find room for gratitude. To hold grief, expand gratitude, and create compassion. Balancing our sorrow with gratitude gives us hope, and I believe hope dies last.

What losses have impacted you. What helps you to cope with expressing loss. Have you tried feelings and needs identification? Do you create space for gratitude to also be spread out alongside it.

The Geography of Sorrow article can be found by clicking here. I also own Weller’s book, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief, which also comes highly recommended by my therapist – I just need to read it! There is a growing pile of books to read going on over here!

Connection

image courtney therese iacono photography beavertail state park, jamestown, ri 

It’s a beautiful day here in Connecticut! And, I have spent the day mostly inside “working” on my side hustles. Yes, plural “s” on hustle. You’ll see …

Yesterday marked 19 years since the 9/11 attacks, a day that forever changed the way we lived. For about seven months now, we continue to face a new “normal” in the wake of the covid crisis. The pandemic and resulting tragic losses that have occurred for people truly have led me to want to pursue what is personally most important to me. There are many ways that our (big “T” and little “t”) traumas shape us. Sometimes, ideally, they are the wind beneath us pushing us to follow our passions. Working in hospice from a young age has shaped and pushed me. Never did I think I would see death so close, and for this long. People often say I’m an old soul, and I agree, crediting this work.

This month marks 12 years that I’ve been working in hospice. I started as a social worker, under the wings of JoAnn Davis, my beloved mentor. It was the moments of connection before someone dies that truly reeled me into this work, and my absolute favorite part of my social work was, and still is, making people’s final wishes come true. Granting wishes truly fills my soul, and quite honestly, when doing that type of work it doesn’t feel like work at all! I then got promoted to a community liaison role, supporting the sales team, and shortly after joined the sales team as a hospice specialist. From there my colleague and soul sister, Michele Carignan, and I worked together creating non-pharmacological programs and integrated them into our “selling.” Like Zig Ziglar says, “Stop selling, start helping.” We were successful with our outreach efforts, and I was again promoted to the regional team as the manager of program development rolling out the program we co-created, TIME (Trainings & Individualized Mindful Enhancements) to 46 offices. I traveled most Mondays – Thursdays, met so many people, learned so much, and I loved it because my strengths were being utilized and my passions were being supported. From there I had my position cut due to an acquisition, and since then I’ve been working at a smaller, privately-owned hospice and palliative care company.

It’s one company within an ever-evolving industry. The healthcare field feels more and more like a mine field. The stress, the overwhelm of need, the overburden of a broken system weighs heavy on me. So many needs are a struggle to meet, even things that seemingly seem simple and basic, and the lack of connection that I see due to social distancing absolutely breaks my heart. It further makes me want to focus my attention and efforts on what most fills me and what I truly believe life is all about – small moments of authentic connection.

Last month I sat on the steps of a nursing home to meet with the wife of a man inside who was coming onto our hospice services. We could not go in. She could not physically be with him, despite my requests. He was not imminent, but still … Telehealth would have to suffice. We both sat in tears talking about the pure heartbreak she was experiencing not being able to be present with her husband, especially knowing their time together on earth was limited. My interaction with her has not left me. I was shook by this, and this is only one of countless similar examples out there.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a lot of interests. I am NEVER bored! I love this about myself. For years I’d call my dad every few months to share a business idea with him or a property for sale, as I’ve always been interested in real estate. Every time he would kindly listen, and he often encouraged me to research whatever it was and circle back with him, or he’d offer some advice. Then one day he called me after speaking with my mom’s uncle in the nursing home where my aunt was living at the time, and he said they talked about what they would have done more of if they were in their 30’s – buy property on water.

And shortly thereafter, thanks to him, that’s how I got my little cabin on the pond in 2017. He has a lot of rental properties and I so appreciated that he was able to 1) share wisdom with me – invest in property (on any kind of water), and 2) help me with renovations. He is truly my everyday hero, and I am very much my father’s daughter. People know that if you agree to “go for a ride” with my dad that you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll be home many hours and many stops later, and I feel this. My life feels like a “ride” with my dad – I’ve got lots of things to do, places I want to see, and lives I want to touch.

One of the hard realities about having a lot of passions is that I often am all over the map. I recently decided that I wanted to find a common theme around all of my passions, gain clarity, and get more organized. Well, I’ve finally identified it! After personal reflection and having started to work with Business + Confidence Coach, Lauren Claire, I realized that “connection” is the common theme (need) around all that is most important to me and is the focus of my work.

When I look at all my greatest interests in life they all directly boil down to connections. I would venture to guess that many of us might identify that same theme, and we just meet it in different ways. For me, something about identifying it, naming it, and owning it feels different and empowering. Below are the ventures I have going in my life that all stem from connection. Feel free to check out what I’m up to!

  • Hospice – I continue to help Rhode Islanders get their end-of-life needs met in any way that I can amidst challenging restrictions. My truth is that I’ve been feeling more and more disgruntled with healthcare and depleted for the reasons described above.
  • SALT – I am currently working on publishing a 9-week self-guided study of SALT practices for a lifetime, and a journal to document some of the practices and track outcomes. It’s an jubilant feeling to be sharing so much of what makes me, me with the world.
  • Lamothe Properties – I am FINALLY following through on something I’ve always wanted to do – real estate! I am feeling proud and a bit anxious as I still need to pass the test, but I’m hopeful and confident it will happen!
  • Pop•Nic Co – Southern New England’s ultimate pop up picnic experience. SO excited!!! This is exactly the lightness and playfulness that I need in my life right now!
  • JC Spirit Shop – It means a lot to me to know that one day I will take over my dad’s liquor store and to be part of a small community. I continue to practice being trusting and grateful.

SALT, real estate, pop•nics, and the package store all have a personal connection to the core of my being, therefore they don’t feel like work when I think of them, work on them (like right now, 8 hours on a laptop inside on a gorgeous autumn Saturday). They energize me rather than deplete me, and I can’t wait to share more with you in the days, weeks, months, years ahead! So stay tuned on this unmapped journey, and join me as it unfolds.

Now, I am curious to know about what YOU have going on? What are your passions? Are you following them? Have you identified a common theme that defines what all of your passions (personally and professionally) are truly about? Can you tie them back to a common core human need? Let’s talk.

Salty September Giveaway!

SALTY SEPTEMBER GIVEAWAY!!! This month marks 12 years working in the field of end-of-life care! And, September is also Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. In recognition of this, I am offering a giveaway for caregivers of a person(s) living with dementia. 

Isolation can wither the soul. On a “normal” day I see how hard it can be for individuals struggling to connect with things that were once so familiar. As the disease worsens, finding ways to connect often becomes more and more difficult – for those living with the disease and those caring. During covid, isolation is even more prevalent due to restrictions in place to help protect people from spreading the disease. One small way to help drive connection during isolating times is to offer music. 

Familiar music, even for individuals living with late-stage dementia, can do wonders for the soul. In this giveaway, you have the opportunity to own and watch one of my favorite, most eye-opening documentaries, Alive Inside! You also will receive the Memory Player, wireless headphones, from the related Alive Inside Foundation, allowing you to create a personalized playlist for an individual in your life who is living with dementia. Included is an SD card reader as well for ease in downloading music. Additionally, you will receive a nautical chart face/neck gaiter as navigating the healthcare system can be so challenging – I empathize with you!

This is a great giveaway for someone who is personally or professionally caring for someone living with this disease. These resources will hopefully help in some small way during these different, difficult times. To enter please complete the following steps:

1. Visit @salt.selfawarenessletstalk and like Salty September Giveaway post dated today (9/8/2020)
2. Follow @salt.selfawarenessletstalk
3. Comment / Tag someone who may be interested in these resources.

The giveaway will close on Wednesday, September 23rd at 11:59pm (my mom’s b-day, as she was the most dedicated caregiver to my aunt and grandfather, both of whom lived with dementia). The winner will be randomly selected and will receive a DM on Thursday, September 24th. This giveaway is in no way sponsored, endorsed, or administered by, or associated with, Instagram or the products involved. Best of luck!

Migraines are Real

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Fact : I suffer from migraines. This month has been a challenge. The humidity and changing weather patterns have been my greatest trigger recently. Thankfully, Excedrin Migraine really helps if I take this right when I feel a headache coming on, along with my head wrap and neck massager (aka, my “headgear”).

For the past 10 years I’ve had them and they used to interrupt and consume multiple days each month. However, after instilling my practice of nonviolent communication (aka compassionate communication) about 5 years ago, I noticed a decrease in the frequency of migraine episodes. Although I still get them, seemingly due to hormone and weather-related reasons, I truly credit SALT practices for helping to release some of the stress that my mind, my body, was carrying.

Life is stressful. We hold so much of the stress in our bodies. SALT practices afford an opportunity to release the stress through clarifying, naming, and validating why we feel the way we feel. I believe there is some truth to the sayings,  “Name it to tame it,” and  “Feel. Deal. Heal.” Speaking of HEAL, have you seen the documentary on Netflix? If not, run to your couch!

For the Feelers and the Self-Healers

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Does a practice of greater self-awareness that can be integrated into every aspect of your life interest you? We all have feelings and we all have needs – it’s a common thread among us all. SALT is the perfect place to begin the practice of identifying feelings and needs in order to find clarity in life.

Life doesn’t always go as planned, and yet fortunately we still find unexpected joys. No matter where we are in life, these practices are applicable. Feelings and needs identification sounds basic, I know. The truth is, it can be really hard AND it has the potential to be life-changing.

Thank you for being here alongside me, and if this speaks to you stay tuned for the release of my self-guided study of SALT practices in the coming months.

This is Us

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A deck of Inner Active Cards was included in the SALT Essentials Giveaway, and I continually can’t say enough good about them when working on self-awareness. They are a gift when working to better connect with the many parts of ourselves. As you can see from this image, my deck is getting worn in from use! Twice last month I had friends pull cards. Tears welled up in the eyes of one, and goosebumps developed on the arms of the other. The details in the illustrations are amazing and highly insightful. They were a studio favorite and for good reason!

Right / Wrong to Win / Win

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Self-righteousness is a real thing. It’s something I struggle with. We get stuck thinking our way is best and wavering from our way can be a challenge – for us and those around us. We choose to plant our feet, draw a line, and stand tall in our stance. Sometimes we easily begin to play the blame game and label – right / wrong, good / bad, better / worse – because, well, our way is best. This drives disconnection across all settings.

The first step to moving away from self-righteousness is self-awareness. Once we are aware that our superior, one-sided thinking has kicked into gear, try slowing down. Pause. Breathe. Acknowledge. Soothe. And consider other perspectives. Try reeling in the rigid convictions and lean into curiosity and possibility. Consideration for our own feelings and needs, as well as others, will help with building connection. Keep in mind that there are MANY ways to meet one need. A win / win outcome is ideal!