A couple of days ago my cousin made a Facebook post titled “I Ain’t No Ways Tired” the title of an old Negro spiritual. I replied, “Yes, I am tired.” This was the day after the verdict in the murder of George Floyd and the day after an officer shot and killed a 16-year-old Black girl in my hometown. I was exhausted.

The Uphill Climb

Then, yesterday happened. I took my morning walk and sat down to print out the orders from our website. The business has been dwindling. But, that’s OK, as I’m transitioning into the life coaching business. But, there were no orders to print. We had received 0 orders in 24 hours. Typically, we get 7-10 orders a day, down from the 20 orders a day we got at our peak. I immediately felt a rush of panic. What was happening? Just two days ago I sent a text message announcing a sale to 2,500 people on my text list. Two ordered. Two out of 2,500. That’s a paltry 0.08% conversion rate. My mind fixated on all the things going wrong. 

I had two coaching appointments for the week. My goal is 3-4 appointments a day. And those two appointments were with the same person. I got a reply to my automated follow-up emails that go out after my complimentary discovery sessions. A potential client wrote that she would love to schedule more appointments with me. She just can’t afford it right now. Why do I keep attracting clients who love to work with me but don’t have the money?

A few days ago I put out a call to 3,000 Facebook friends and 800 people on my business page asking for volunteers to evaluate my new guided meditation. Literally, not one person volunteered.

I felt all alone and the voice inside my head told me I should just quit. “Just give up.”, it said.“ “You’ll never be successful at anything. Everything is too hard. Why did I plan this life?” I wanted someone to talk to. But, there was no one. I had an appointment coming up with a client. I thought about canceling the appointment. I didn’t have the energy to try to cheer someone else up. I could barely keep myself going.

What Does Quitting Look Like?

But, what would quitting look like? What were my options? As always the only option was to keep going. As Churchill said, “When you’re going through hell, keep going.” So, I didn’t cancel the appointment. Instead of focusing on what was going wrong, I focused on what I could do at this moment. Instead of projecting into the future where I’d be living on the street, I set up a list of things I could do right now.

Triage

I put on my problem-solving hat. What would be wrong? Let’s investigate. The first thing I did was I got on Google Analytics to see if our website was getting any traffic. Traffic was fine. Actually, better than fine. We had over 1,000 visitors in the 24 hours we got no orders. I got on my website and placed a test order. It went through fine.  So, the website is up. The payment methods are working and people are finding me. Nothing else to do there. Next, I wrote an email and sent it to our newsletter list- 5,600 emails. I offered a flash sale for 36 hours only. A few minutes later, two orders came in. Two is better than zero. The orders continued to trickle in during the day. I guess I just had to prime the pump.

I kept the appointment with the client. It went fine. Then, I re-wrote the request for help evaluating my meditation. Within a couple of hours, ten people had volunteered. I guess the first post just went unnoticed for some reason. I thought the guinea pig image was cute. Apparently, no one else did.

Moving On

I put it all out of my head when Tywana got home from work. I had been too tired and distracted to make dinner. Getting out the meditation to the people who volunteered, re-doing that post, composing the email, etc. had taken up my entire day. So, she went out and picked up Chipotle for dinner. I had done what I could do. So, I set things aside to resume tomorrow.

The Dreams

But, the frustration followed me into my dreams. I was driving down a dark highway with no headlights on. I could barely see 10 feet in front of the car. Suddenly, I found myself in a tunnel that was too small for my car. I could head the walls scraping the paint off of both sides as I sped through the tunnel which turned into a roller coaster. We looped and dove in the car on this roller coaster in the pitch dark. I transitioned out of that dream into a dream where I was wandering around downtown Columbus (my hometown) trying to find the bus to take me home. I wandered into a restaurant where the owner offered to tell me how to get to the bus stop if I first introduced myself, individually, to all fifty people in the restaurant. I did so. Then, I found myself trying to walk home alongside the very busy two-lane road near my parents’ house. But, the road had no shoulders and about a 15-foot ditch beside it. And, my legs didn’t work. So, I was army-crawling most of the way. I was spent. Finally, about halfway, mercifully, I woke up in my bed and the alarm went off a few seconds later.

Then, it was time to get up and do this all again. So, here I go… I am tired. But, I will keep putting one foot in front of the other. It’s a new day with new challenges. I am tired. But, it’s one foot in front of the other.

Image by Leroy Skalstad from Pixabay

The saying goes, “ The only thing constant in life is change.”

Here we go again. Four days ago my wife took a full-time job. This is the first time she’s worked full-time out of the house since Kyle was born over twenty-four years ago. I think of the days when the house was full. I loved those times. Kayla, Shayna Zoe (our dog), Stevie (our other dog) Tywwana all here together,  all day long, every day. Those were are fun times. I loved spending time with the girls. Even though I would mostly be in my office, we would stop and have lunch together. And we would check in with each other during the day.

Then Kayla graduated from high school and went off to college. Just a year later, Shayna passed away. We were suddenly, unexpectedly, and against our will, empty nesters. That was an adjustment. The house seemed so quiet. It seemed so empty.

In August last year, we had to say goodbye to Zoe. Stevie is still adjusting to not having her playmate here. I miss Zoe still.

5 1/2 years later, I had pretty much adjusted to this new lifestyle Tywana has worked part-time jobs during that time. But, mostly, she has worked Treasured Locks full time. Her office was in the basement. My office is on the first floor. But, things change. Health insurance costs continue to rise. Treasured Locks is not doing as well as it once did. Manufacturers whose products we use to move a lot of have gone direct with their own websites or to retail locations. So we’ve had to adjust to the new levels of income from Treasure locks. Our health insurance is now about one and a half times what our mortgage is. At almost $20,000 a year, we have to sell a lot of shampoo just to pay for healthcare. A couple of years ago, Tywana took a job.  It was full time, but she was working from the house. It was nice because we could still be together, and she could still work on Treasured locks. And our health insurance was down to just half of what our mortgage is. Covid-19 put an end to that job.  For the last several months, we’ve had to pay our own healthcare insurance again until she could find something else.

About a month, ago she found something else. She got a job with GE Credit Union that she started this past Monday.  As I sit here on Thursday, she’s been in training for the last several days. I’m here adjusting to the New Normal. It’s just Stevie and me now. Neither of us us likes it. Stevie’s adjusted a little bit. She comes into my office and whines. She whines when I’m packing orders. She wants me to play with her. Stevie does not get the concept of work. Finally, she will give up and lay down and let me get to work.

While Tywana’s working the full-time job,  I’m juggling my consulting business, my coaching business, and managing what remains of Treasured Locks. I pack orders in the morning.  I ship the orders. I make products. I do marketing. Then I work on my podcast, my courses, my coaching, my presentations, my writing, and my social media. I’ve also taken on a part-time sales job with a new software-as-a-service company that’s starting today. It’s fifteen hours a week right now, with the opportunity for more if things work out.

So, there are lots of irons in the fire. No, wait. There are lots of new seedlings planted. We’ll see what takes root.  If they all grow, I’ll have to cut something out. For now, it’s the let them all grow up together approach.

What I have to do is to be patient, to not get ahead of myself. I can easily get overwhelmed with so much going on and so much to do. Since I don’t know where things are going, I have to trust for now.

I love what I’m doing with Grief 2 Growth. It’s my passion. It’s what I feel I’m here to do. But, there are bills to be paid, and most of what I do- like the podcast, doesn’t pay. Ahh.. the life of a “lightworker.” 

Things have always worked on in the past. So, there’s no reason to believe that they won’t continue to work out in the future. And, as I approached 60 in just a few weeks, the planning horizon is not that long anymore. We have savings, and our expenses are decreasing as Kayla graduates college in the spring, the home remodeling is over, the furniture is bought, etc.

As I look back over the years, I’m grateful for what Treasured Locks has been able to provide for us.  We started the business in 2002, intending just to make a little bit of extra cash.  For fifteen of the nineteen years we’ve been running Treasured Locks, it’s been our primary income. It’s put Kayla through college. It’s paid the mortgage. As Treasured Locks possibly winds down, I have to keep in mind every good thing comes to an end. Everything in this life is temporary. One of the traits of wisdom is knowing when to let go of things. Another is to let go of things with gratitude rather than with regret; to smile because it happened rather than cry because it’s over.

It’s not all bad. Tywana is working just about six miles away, and we see each other every morning and every evening. But, it is an adjustment not to be together in the house everyday all day the way that we have been for the last 24 years. It’s an adjustment to be alone all day long, with the exception of the dog who would rather I play “bone” with her than work.

This new new normal too shall pass. I will be eligible for Medicare in 5 years, drastically reducing our health insurance costs.  Hopefully, Grief 2 Growth will continue to grow.  The job opportunity with a software company may turn into something full-time.  At some point, I’d like to retire,  as would Tywana. For today, I’m grateful for what I’ve got. I’m thankful for all the opportunities before me, even though they have not yet come into full bloom. I’m grateful for what I’ve had in the past. And, I trust that whatever comes will be for the best 

“If we provide our service not solely for the monetary reward but in the spirit of love and dedication, this will be reflected in the quality of our afterlife and will make our work much more gratifying and enjoyable in the process.”

Jurgen Ziewe
  Vistas of Infinity

Yesterday, my friend Ruth Altschuler was giving me a flower essence session, a service that is similar to homeopathy. As we were discussing my issues, I was telling her of the frustration I’m experiencing working on one business that seems to be winding down and another that is still in its infancy. Ruth, in addition to offering me some very practical advice was talking me through this.

As we spoke, the song “Just One Victory” came to mind again. Sometimes, you just need that one thing to go right to signal you that everything will be OK. A couple of weeks ago I got a lead on a part-time job that would be perfect for me. But, of course, after hearing of the opportunity, I had heard nothing in spite of checking in a couple of times. It’s the old “hurry up and wait.” I know everything happens in “divine timing.” But, I’m human. I want things to happen now.

I told Ruth if that would just come through, it would go a long way toward brightening my mood. While we were on the call, I received this email from the person who told me about the opportunity. They are getting ready to set up training. I know next week is a holiday but do you guys have any availability next week?” Looks like it’s going to happen.

Later in the evening, I got the Friday Afterlife Report from Victor Zammit with the quote from Jurgen as the headline. What came to mind was that Jesus said to store up treasure in Heaven. There’s no monetary compensation for the work yet. I’m putting more out than it’s bringing in.

I’ll take those as indications I’m on the right path.

I’m going to pat myself on the back here. Not even two months ago a friend suggested I take a life coaching course. I had never spoken to her about life coaching. I hadn’t mentioned it to anyone. I took this as a sign of something I should do. Within a couple of weeks, three or four more people would bring it up- after I purchased the course. The course was about twenty-five hours of material. I set a goal of finishing it within the month, and I did. I started working on my website. And, last night I had my first paid client meeting.

I had given my new client an introductory half hour session to be sure that they knew what they were getting into. I gave them some homework that we went over in that first session. When they said they were ready to book a paid session, I nearly panicked. The free meeting wasn’t threatening. Taking money makes this for real though. I have to deliver. As the time for our appointment approached, I wondered what we’d talk about for the full hour we had booked. I think I’m a pretty decent conversationalist, but I’m not a natural born bullshitter. Besides, when I decided to do this, I  committed that I would never waste anyone’s time or money. If they’re not getting value out of our sessions, I’m not going to do it. I was over-the-moon happy when a couple of day after our first session, my client emailed me and told me they had begun exercising regularly again, prompted by our conversation.

Still, there was this niggling feeling in the back of my mind about doing this work. No one in my family has mentioned it, even though I’ve been posting it on my blog. In my family, no mention is equivalent to disapproval. If they support something, they might say it. If they don’t, they’ll just stay silent. Tywana has been very encouraging. Strangers have been encouraging. My mentoring group has been very encouraging. I’ve got to draw confidence from myself and ignore what others say or don’t say.

When the time came for our hour together, I was prepared to talk about the second homework assignment that I had given them. But, first I wanted to touch base with how things had gone since our last talk. My client is new in sales and is doing great in her new job. They were hoping for a promotion, and the promotion came through since our last session. However, there were going to be some issues with the transition into the new position. This is something I felt very comfortable helping with since I was a sales professional myself for over two decades, trained by IBM, Sun Microsystems, and others. I was able to offer advice that, if it pays off, will smooth the transition right out. We also came up with two backup plans. I felt like I had earned my hourly fee many times over and that feeling of having deserved my money several times over is what I hope to feel like after every client session. I didn’t feel like the imposter I felt like at the start of the hour. I felt very comfortable with what I was doing. Our conversation continued touching on a couple of other areas of their life, and we made plans to talk about some other things in later sessions. We barely touched on the program I had planned, and it was just as it should have been.

I was pumped up when I got off of the call. Maybe not Tiger Woods winning the Masters pumped up, but pretty pumped. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was doing what I’m meant to do in terms of earning money. I’ve heard it said that the ideal job is one that doesn’t feel like work. This doesn’t feel like work at all. Even preparing the materials and building the website are things I enjoy doing. All of those years in training, all of that experience, all of the grief, all of the hardships, are tools I can use to help others and I’m more than happy to do that. I’m ready to see where this goes.

It’s April 7th and spring has finally arrived in Ohio. Tywana’s out of the country on a cruise. So, I have a lot of solitude this weekend. This morning I’m up early out for my walk because I have a full agenda. The temperatures in the morning are above 50º, warm enough for me to go without a jacket. There are buds of leaves on the trees. The daffodils are in bloom. The birds are chirping and waking me up with the sun. And, it feels good.

I’ve always loved spring, maybe even more than summer.  I am definitely a summer kind of guy. But, there’s something magical about spring. The death in winter, in contrast to the new life of spring, makes spring all the more special. Seeing the Earth wake up after that sleep is a reminder that nothing truly dies. Living in Ohio and Kentucky all of my life, I’ve always experienced four seasons even though I have no love for winter. Fall only reminds me that winter is coming. So, I don’t particularly enjoy autumn. But, there’s an added bonus to spring now. The change of the seasons is a reminder that everything changes. There are times in the winter when it seems it will never end. There are gray days end on end. I find myself looking at the long-range forecast for an appearance of the sun. I search for that day when the temperature will finally climb above 32º and melt and snow. And, I often wonder if I can make it through.

This change of season let me know I’ve hit another milestone. I’ve made it through another winter. The gray and cold can’t last forever. The times we look forward to that sometimes seem like they will never come, always eventually come. Time’s inexorable march goes on. If we hang in there, things will change.

As I walked this morning, I had to listen to George Benson’s “Everything Must Change” which was released in 1977. I was sixteen years old when I began listening to this song. Of course, I could not appreciate it at sixteen. Tywana, Kayla, and Shayna weren’t even possibilities to 16-year-old Brian. I was just learning to drive, I hadn’t even begun shaving. I had no idea that 42 years later I’d be listening to the song again, and how these lines would have so much deeper meaning now. I am the old, mysteries have unfolded and 42 more winters have turned to spring. This wounded heart is healing. As humans, we tend to resist change. We want to lock in and stay wher we are. Some will find this song melancholy. Not me, not anymore. Bring on more change.

The young become the old,
Mysteries do unfold.
‘Cause that’s the way of time
Nothing and no one goes unchanged.
There are not many things
In life you can be sure of.
Except
Rain comes from the clouds,
And sun lights up the sky,
And hummingbirds do fly.
Winter turns to spring.
The wounded heart will heal.
Never much too soon
Everything must change

I have a tendency to minimize the good things and emphasize the bad. Losses I remember. Victories, I take in stride. I am turning that around. It’s mid-February, we are already a month and a half in. I am acknowledging several beginnings this year. Tywana’s got a new job. Kayla will be graduating in a few weeks. My car loan is paid off in June. I am educating myself in preparation for some new business ventures.

Last year, I decided I was going to publish a book. I gathered up some materials that I had written for Treasured Locks and put them into a Kindle book. I researched how to create and publish on the Kindle platform and I put it out there. A couple of days ago, Amazon sent my 1099 for the royalties. It was $16.32.

I could look at this and say $16.32 won’t even buy me a meal out. When I think about the hours I put into putting the book together, making the cover, learning the Amazon platform, it comes out to pennies an hour. Or, I could look at this and say “I am a published author.” I have my first book out and I’ve gotten paid. This is a stepping stone to my next book and my next book. The fact that I made any royalties at all on a book I spent absolutely nothing to promote, swimming in the sea of what seems to be billions of books on Amazon, is pretty cool.

The goal for this year is to publish at least one more book. And, then another, and another.

I stay away from political topics on this blog even though I find it very difficult, to separate politics from faith from spirituality. For me, your faith or spirituality should have sway over your politics. And, politics are how we collectively exercise our values. Given that disclaimer, this post isn’t exactly political. But, it’s a sensitive subject- race. In honor of Black history month, I created a series of memes that I post on Treasured Locks and on my personal Facebook page. Often people ask why we need Black history month. When I see the response to my memes, I’m reminded of why we do. I’ve been sharing them on my personal Facebook page and many of my friends have responded positively. I’m taking a leap by making this post. I wrote it yesterday and have been contemplating whether I should post it or not. This morning, I was going over it in my head and I heard Shayna tell me I need to publish it. Just then, one of the Shayna Six, her group of friends, who I haven’t seen in about a year, came out of her house going for a run. Shayna spent a lot of time educating these girls on race in America. That was my sign.

Saturday night Tywana and I were at a friend’s house. We were sitting around the kitchen table making having homemade pizza and a few beverages. We’ve been friends with these people for a very long time. But, we are divided politically, we know it, and we tend to avoid talking about politics. Race is always the elephant in the room. They are all of European descent. I am about 33% of European descent. None of my friends know that. In America, if you’re Black, you’re “just Black”.

They were talking about their trips to Europe, visiting their countries of origin, talking about whether they are German, or Italian, or Irish. How they thought they were Italian but, it turns out they’re German (It was like a 23 and Me ad). Typically, when my caucasian friends get into these conversations, I just sit quietly until the conversation is over. I’ve got nothing to say. As an African-American, I don’t know my country of origin. Being of certain skin color and being descended from slaves, I presume somewhere on the continent of Africa. People in American tend to think of Africa as a country. Africa is three times the land mass of the United States or Europe. So, when you say you’re from Africa, you’re not being very specific. It’s interesting the pride they’ll take in their background. When I was younger, I wondered why I didn’t have any interest in this. Our family didn’t tell stories about where we came from. We didn’t have an original language that we knew of from our ancestors who first arrived here.

It wasn’t until I was a teenager and I saw the mini-series Roots that I realized what African-Americans had been robbed of. The reason our families don’t tell stories of the old countries or have traditions, or language, or even religions, is all of that was robbed from our ancestors. They were forced to speak the language of their masters and forbidden to speak in their native tongues. They were forced to worship the god of their captors. I use lower case for god in this instance because this is not the tru God. God didn’t design one race to be dominated by the other. God would never tell people to remain in slavery. This was a god of their making who excused their inhuman behavior. The captives were given this new religion they were told would save them from the fiery pits of hell. Ironic, for people who thought they were sub-human to think they had souls to save. The real motivation for giving them this religion was to keep them docile. They were taught this religion to impose upon them the natural order “Slaves obey your masters”. They were raped, separated from their families, beaten, and murdered with impunity. Any pride they had from their native lands, culture, religions, traditions, tongues was thoroughly destroyed.

We then ventured into the opioid epidemic. Tywana and I have often made the observation that now that the epidemic has hit the “burbs”, the socioeconomic middle class, and frankly white people, it’s an “epidemic”. When Black people were smoking crack a few decades ago, they were criminals. They were derided as “crack heads”. Tougher laws were the answer. Declare them criminals and lock them up. If they won’t stop smoking crack, keep them in prison until they do. No one cared about why they might be tempted to smoke crack. No one asked what they were trying to escape from. They were criminals, plain and simple. Now, however, the opioid epidemic is hitting close to home. It’s coming to “good neighborhoods”. We were discussing a book my wife is reading with her book club. As the book my wife is reading likes to point out, the Mexicans are targeting the white kids. The book even claims the Mexicans are scared of Black kids. So, they’re not targeting them. Suddenly, it’s a problem because white people are victims. The book goes so far to say that the white kids don’t even have to go to the “bad neighborhoods” to get the drugs. The drugs are being delivered to them right there in suburbia.

The middle class is succumbing. They need treatment. We need walls to protect us from these bad Mexicans who are corrupting us. It hurts to hear that a drug problem that impacted people who looked like you was a criminal problem and needed to be solved by locking up the criminals doing drugs; but, a drug problem that impacts white people is an epidemic. It’s another reminder of the fact that people who look like me are worth less. (Full disclosure: I’ve never known anyone who smoked crack. I grew up in a middle-class neighborhood. I’ve never lived in “the hood”. But, people who look like me do). Tywana and I came home and just shook our heads. I was trying to make the point it’s all the same- crack, opioids, heroin. People in pain will seek escape. We need to figure out why we’re vulnerable to crack and opioids. We need to stop trying to stop the supply and stop the demand. All people, regardless of skin color, or drug of choice, deserve to be treated with dignity when they have a problem. No one is worth more or less consideration when it comes to being a victim.

This morning, when I was on my walk, I began thinking about the meme I’ve created to be the featured image of this post. I felt the pain of my ancestors. Instead of thinking about them as “slaves”, I tried to picture them in their homelands, speaking their native languages, practicing their religions, raising their families, then having all of that ripped away. For maybe the first time in my life I sat with that, and I wept. It’s unimaginable what was taken from them and the ripples continue to spiral out through time, impacting me right here, 400 years later. Today, a Black life in America is still worth less than a white life. The chasm created between us and our ancestors can never be filled. We and our children, will continue to feel this loss.

This is some heavy shit. That’s why usually when my European friends are carrying on about their ancestry, I sit quietly, politely, and let them finish. Every once in a while, as Tywana and I did the other night, I might remind them that I’m “just Black”. You see, even though I’m about a third European, the “one drop rule” applies in America. If you have even one “Black” ancestor, you’re just Black. It’s why Obama is “Black”. It’s why Tiger Woods is “Black”. We reminded them that we’re “just Black”. We educated them on the one drop rule. But, we left it there. We didn’t go into how much our people were robbed of and how conversations about visiting our “home countries” and learning about our ancestors are things we can’t relate to because they are things we can never do. Since it’s Black history month, I thought you might indulge me a bit.

This image has been in my mind since I first saw it a few days ago. Memes sometimes perfectly capture a profound message with just an image and a caption. This one, in less than dozen words, a single grainy image conveys a universal feeling, or damn close to one anyway.

We all feel overwhelmed in life at times. “What the hell is happening to me? Why the hell is it happening? What did I do to deserve this?” Then, we find out about soul planning. And, these people tell us not only does “God” have a plan for your life, which you may have been told in Sunday school, the Universe has a plan for you and you participated in this plan.

You didn’t start to exist the moment you were born. And, you don’t cease to exist the moment you die. You “pre-existed”. There was never a “time” when you didn’t exist. And, you chose to hop on this rollercoaster.

Rollercoasters are insane. You make climbs full of anticipation of the fall. You know the drop is coming. You know it’ll drop your stomach right out of your body. You know your heart will race. Your body will tell you that you are plummeting to your death. So, why do you get on a rollercoaster. If you woke up in the middle of a rollercoaster ride and had never seen a rollercoaster, you would surely think you were dying. If you could find the person who put you onto that death trap, you’d wring their neck.

But, we drive hours to amusement parks. We pay money for entry. We stand in line sometimes for hours to get onto a ride that is only on average about three minutes long. As much fun as a roller coaster is, we wouldn’t get on one that lasted hours or years. It’s only three minutes. This lifetime, the 70 years or so we live on average isn’t even three minutes from the perspective of our eternal selves. We hop on because we can see the entire length of the track from a perspective outside of the rollercoaster. We do it because thousands have been on the rollercoaster before and they survived and enjoyed the ride. We can see it’s just a loop. We’ll hop on, be thrilled for 180 seconds or so and it will drop us off right back at the platform where we got on. While we’re on the rollercoaster, we can pretend to be frightened and feel the rush and, at any time, glance back at the platform which will be here in no time. Our spirit guides, right here holding onto our clenched hands, are loving the ride. We are never alone, we are never in any real jeopardy.

Every once in a while, we forget it’s just a ride and the fear grips us. When this happens, sit down, take some deep breaths and listen to Jem.

The mundane greeting “What’s happening?” is often met with a “Not much”. No one really wants to know everything that’s going on in your life. Sometimes, I want to tell them what is happening.

This morning, the guy I helped run a focus group for his upcoming book/course, emailed me and asked me for an update on what is going on with me. He gave me a little free coaching when we worked together. We haven’t talked since early December. For the first time, I wrote out what I’ve got going on and I realized why I’m feeling overwhelmed right now.

The last several years I’ve been frustrated looking for opportunities and wondering when doors would begin opening for me. In Phoenix in May of 2016 I heard a sermon “It’s Hell In The Hallway” that stuck with me. When one door closes behind you, you’re in a hallway looking at many doors wondering when and if any of them will open.

Late last year things started shifting. It seems all kinds of doors are opening up. As I sit here in January 2019, a dizzying array of possibilities swirls around in my head. Looking down that long hallway, doors are opening and cracks of light are shining through. I can’t go through all of the doors though. So, choices will have to be made.

1.) Helping Parents Heal has invited me to join the Board of Directors. So, that happened. I’m on the board of directors for HPH.

2.) HPH asked me to form a new group for parents and mediums to meet on Facebook. HPH is no longer affiliated with that group that I started. So, I’m running a new Facebook group in addition to being a moderator on Afterlife Topics (7,000 people or so) and running the HPH Online Group (4,000 people and counting).

3.) I’m working very part-time for Thomas John- The Seatbelt Psychic. I do his social media and customer service. That’s about eight hours a week.

4.) I’m working on a partnership in a new business venture. The idea is to have courses/materials around the afterlife and healing from grief. We hope to launch in the next couple of weeks. We have created a Facebook page and will eventually have a website.

5.) I’m taking a MasterHeart course with business consultant George Kao. It’s a year-long training/collaboration with 45 other entrepreneurs. The idea is to learn how to launch my own business outside of Treasured Locks. I will use ideas from this in whichever business ventures pan out.

6.) I’m a technical assistant for the San Francisco Theological Seminary- I’ll be working with them on five courses this year- at a minimum.

7.) I moved my blog to a new platform. I’m trying to get more traffic to it and use it as a platform to monetize some of the work I’m doing and my writing. I met a consultant I’m working with on this.

8.) Treasured Locks seems to be picking up a bit. I might have finally found an advertising scheme that works. I am working with my digital advertising agency to see if it makes sense to pump more money into that and get it to a steady revenue stream again.

9.) Ty took a full-time job working from home. The company is based in Tucson. She started Monday. She’s there this week for training. So, this week I’m packing orders, answering the phone, etc. doing all of the Treasured Locks stuff. We’ll have to see what happens with Treasured Locks and how we’ll have time for it.

10.) I started writing a course/book on grief. I’m not sure what form it will eventually take. I’m just putting thoughts on “paper” for now.

11.) I’m still volunteering for HPH, running the online group and the evening meetings several times a month. I play referee for 4,000 grieving parents on the group. I’m also a caring listener and take phone calls from parents.

12.) I’m on the SoulPhone board of directors- I’m the Secretary for the SoulPhone Foundation working with Dr. Gary Schwartz, Dr. Mark Pitstick and others on what could be the invention of the last several centuries.

So yeah. That’s what’s happening. This year will be about choices and time management.

It’s Christmas Day. It’s the fourth Christmas since Shayna passed. I dread Christmas now. Being an adult at Christmas time was only stressful before the girls came along. Then, it had the magic again for several years as we bought for them, watched their eyes light up when they saw their presents, the wonder on their faces as they saw the notes from Santa, and Shayna’s passion for Christmas. But, for the last four years, Christmas is a day I would just as soon skip. Trying to decide what to buy for Tywana is something I’ve given up on. She buys for herself year round. When she goes Christmas shopping for others, it’s one present for them, one present for Tywana. She bought herself a Fitbit over Black Friday weekend, accessories for it since then, new earrings, pajamas when she was shopping for Kayla, etc. So, we’ve agreed I don’t buy for her. Kayla wanted cash for Christmas this year to help fund her trip to Mexico. So, our gifts for her were somewhat limited. I’ll have to buy something for gift exchanges with my family- people who have too much already. It’ll be gift cards for the parents again.

Yesterday, on Christmas Eve, Thomas John once again generously donated his time to our parents. Thomas sat for over an hour doing readings for over 100 parents who were missing their kids. As always, Thomas brought through absolutely astounding evidence. Many tears fell as parents heard from their kids validating that not only do they still live, they are active in our lives and aware of what we are doing. We went to bed at midnight. Last night was a full moon. When the moon is out, I’ll say goodnight to Shayna while looking at the moon. Last night I said Merry Christmas to Shayna as I looked at the moon glowing through the light cloud cover. I shed a few tears missing having my baby here to make Christmas exciting. As much as Shayna loved the thrill of Christmas, I know she’s not missing anything where she is. I know she’s fine. I know she’s having more fun than I am.

I woke up early and thought about “Christmas Day.” I decided to skip my walk today. I got dressed in the dark and went downstairs. I did a meditation that Susanne Wilson recorded, one designed to connect with a loved one on the other side. Shayna came to me in the meditation, and we had a nice visit as the tears rolled down my face. Better to get them all out before Tywana and Kayla got up.

I started to think about how Christmas has changed for so many. The parents on Helping Parents Heal were making posts, missing their kids. Many of the parents who had readings were thanking Thomas and coming through with more validations as they thought about what he had said, and it started to make sense to them.

I have to have an aside here. Last week, we had a meeting in which our featured speaker couldn’t make it. My buddy Jake Samoyedny filled in at the last minute. One of the mothers on the call had just had a reading with Jake. He had told her that she would get a visit from her son in an airport over Christmas. She was upset because her Christman travel plans had been canceled. So, Jake’s prediction could not come true. Then, two days ago, a relative passed suddenly. On the 23rd of December, she found out she would have to travel on Christmas Eve. As she sat in the airport, across the way, about 40′ away, she spotted someone who looked just like her son who is deceased. He was looking in her direction, but too far away to be making eye contact with her specifically. As he stood there drinking from her water bottle, he smiled. She began recording. Then, she whispered, “Smile again.” , at that moment, even though there is no way he could have heard her, he smiled in her direction. I know this is true because she captured it on video.

Yesterday, in the reading, Thomas told a mother that she had gone skiing in New Hampshire. She said, “Yes, I have been skiing.” Most mediums would have taken this. Thomas said, “Was it in New Hampshire?” She had to think about it. She confirmed it was New Hampshire. Amazing. Thomas brought through other pieces of evidence for her and others. People wonder if Thomas looks things up because he is so accurate. Well, there were over 100 people on this call. I saw him do similar things on a Facebook Live earlier in the day with 1,000 people on.  He has no idea who will be on. He brings up things that would never have been recorded anywhere. This morning, however, the mother posted this. “I received another Christmas gift from heaven, this morning. When the alarm woke me up, this morning, the DJ said be caller 10 to win ski tickets. I just kept getting through, until I won! Thank you Robbie for coming through yesterday, and for the ski tickets today!!!”

As I read the parents posting about missing their kids, and I thought about how much I miss Shayna, I started remembering that the Christmases of little kids excitingly opening toys were long gone for me before Shayna passed. As teenagers, the girls had started sleeping in on Christmas mornings. There were fewer and fewer toys for me to play with. I thought about my sister-in-law spending her first Christmas without her boys there. Two are in London; one got married this year. Our neighbor’s 23-year-old daughter is spending her first Christmas away, with her boyfriend. These are natural progressions. Our kids leaving us early to head back Home is an abrupt change. But, Christmas changes over the years, regardless. The magic of being a child is replaced by stress as we become adults. The joy of seeing your kids on Christmas mornings turns into waiting for your teenagers to finally roll out of bed in the afternoon and morphs into waiting for grandchildren to bring the magic back.

It’s time for a change in expectations. I think it was the year before Shayna passed that we started going to a movie on Christmas Day. A couple of years ago, we dropped the tradition of “bird” (Cornish hens) on Christmas. This is Kayla’s last year in her undergraduate program. Maybe next year it’s time to start traveling again on Christmas. We stopped traveling the year Tywana was pregnant with Shayna.

Grief happens when our expectations are not aligned with reality. The bigger the gap, the more profound the grief. Since we can’t change reality (at least not readily or easily), it makes sense to adjust expectations. I’m trying to view Christmas as just a day. Expecting every Christmas to be amazing simply isn’t realistic. As I type this, Kayla and Tywana are working on a crossword puzzle, and my mother-in-law sits at the kitchen table making a visit from the retirement home. She’s repeating her mantra “There’s no place like home.” Since she moved into the retirement home, that’s all we hear from her. She lives in Disappointment City. Kayla and Tywana are trying to talk her out of it. I’m trying to learn from her.

I’m looking for things to be grateful for. The sun is shining (a Christmas miracle in itself). Kayla is home and will be for a couple of more weeks. I have a ribeye roast in the sous vide. My friend sent a nice bottle of bourbon for Christmas. And, every day is one day closer to seeing Shayna again. No two Christmases are ever the same. I will never have the Christmas where I put together the dollhouse for the girls or the Christmas where Shayna got the keyboard and her face lit up the room.  I’m glad to have had the magical Christmases I had with the girls. Tonight, we’ll have a quiet dinner with Tywana’s mother. I’ll have a bourbon or two. And, I have another day with Tywana and Kayla. This one I will accept as it is.