The Healing Space Between Love And Loss

or  “What Happened When I Went Back To The Place Where My Marriage Fell Apart

A couple of weeks ago I went back to the little Mexican village that I love. Many of my “gringo” friends there call it a time warp, and it’s true—it is. Vendors push wheelbarrows down hand-laid cobblestone streets—not an easy task!—selling fresh mango-on-a-stick (with lime and chili pepper, of course!) homemade empanadas and hand-crafted wooden back-scratchers. It’s everything you might think “authentic” Mexico would be. The place is precious and the people are peaceful. And I loved it there.

But it’s also where my marriage dissolved.

Ever since then, I’ve been immersing myself in everything “healing” I can think of—a mission to revive my spirit and restore my soul—so I was ready to see what it would feel like to be there again. But this time my intention was to be there just in my own energy, not in the chaos and confusion that darkened the past.  And as I’m writing this, I’m also realizing that I wanted to uncover what was really true for me there now that time (and a lot of work on myself) has enabled me to see a separate “me” from the “us”. I wasn’t able to differentiate that before. So even though I was prepared to stand in whatever would come up for me there, as usual, I didn’t know what the Universe had planned for my healing.

The first couple of days reminded me of when I had first arrived more than 3 years before. I immersed myself in the simplicity of life there—walks on the lake, spur-of-the-moment lunches, and margaritas on the plaza. I was filled with so much gratitude and appreciation to know so intimately what so few have experienced. Yes. I missed it.

But part of healing and closure is to also visit the places that might hurt. Knowing this, I wasn’t afraid to experience whatever was going to show its face to me there. And, although unaware at the time, what I also needed to do was remember some painful things that I didn’t know I had forgotten.

As I stood outside our old apartment, watching someone else go in, movies of us being there together flooded my mind—us walking down the stairs, us sitting on the terrazza, us cooking dinner.  But when the things I hadn’t let myself see came rushing in, I suddenly said “Oh my God—that really happened.”,  “Oh no! We actually said that”, and “Oh yeah. I remember that now.” I was just so numb back then, but I guess time and healing was allowing space for whatever I was ready for next.

Anger that I had never allowed myself to feel rose in me and I finally let myself vocalize what I was too afraid to ask until then: “How could that have happened?”  “Why did he let me go?” “How could he have not fought for me?” “How could he have watched me walk away?”

Then it suddenly occurred to me that I wasn’t just asking those questions of him. I was also asking them of myself. I was angry at me. How could I have allowed myself to absorb all of that? How could I have ignored my inner voice for so long? And how could I have participated in and contributed to all that? Because, yes, I did. And, yes, I was responsible too.

Then, instead of choosing to run from what I felt, an amazing thing happened!

A kind of strength came over me and I remember thinking:

I am strong.

I am powerful.

This is why I am here.

This is right.

This is healing.

I am learning.

I am going to be ok.

So I gave myself permission to go toward the feelings, trusting that I needed to see whatever they had to show me. I believed in my courage to just sit there with all the rawness and pain, and because of that choice, I was rewarded with a deep understanding of why this had to happen. Why it was so right for me to leave. Because neither one of us knew how to do anything differently and it was time for me to start a new relationship—with myself. The person I had left behind

This business of “starting over” is not kidding around.  Even though I’m beginning to hear the answers to my questions,  it sees that I am caught between love and loss, so it’s revealing them to me slowly. It miraculously knows how much I can handle and when. My only assignment is to keep being brave and trust the process. All will be revealed at the perfect time for me. Plus, right now, maybe just having the courage to ask those questions in the first place is enough.

I trust every single thing about it. It will warm me when I need to be warm, kick me into gear when I need to be kicked, but it will continue to remind me that obstacles are just detours in the right direction.

When Self Doubt Kicks In Again


For most of us self doubt starts as soon as we wake up.

That little voice in our head chimes in with, “Oh no you don’t. Before you start thinking anything hopeful here, let’s just remember a few things:

What makesyou so great?

Who do you think you are writing a blog?

Who’s going to want to hear what you have to say?

Anybody could do this, so what makes you so different?

What makes you think you can make a living in this new city?

Who are you to think you are glorious and brave and that you could help other people?

Ok, so that might be the voice in MY head, but the point is this:


Marianne Williamson is saying that it is our responsibility and purpose on this planet to be as magnificent as we can be, so that we can each share our own special gifts with the world. That’s what we are here to do!

And she is right.

Knowing this, the pressure is off. Now we can allow ourselves to see that all that self doubt is just our subconscious talking to us. It’s the part of us that thinks it still has to protect us and keep us safe from the “what ifs”. So it doesn’t want us to know that we are great enough and strong enough and magnificent


enough and that we don’t even need it anymore!

All we need is to follow what feels true.

But even when we know that, sometimes we forget.

Maybe at work, someone criticizes us, or brings to our attention a mistake we made—something we missed. It might be automatic to think, “Wait a second. Maybe they’re right about me. Maybe I don’t know what I’m doing”—even if we’ve actually been doing it for decades.

Or maybe we think, “I can’t make this change. Where would I go? What would I do? How would I make it work?”

When we find ourselves here, how fabulous! It’s just another opportunity to practice who we want to be by reminding ourselves of these essential (notice I didn’t say “easy”) ideas:

It’s an old story

Some of us may have grown up learning how NOT to trust ourselves and our instincts. Not to be “too big for our britches”. But now we can ask ourselves, “is all that stuff really true? If part of it is, then we can choose to acknowledge those parts, learn from them, and make decisions from there. But if it’s not true, our self doubt is our old, worn out story.

Which brings us to……

It’s not real   

Oh, thank God. Turns out our brain is just trying to make logical sense out of everything, and still thinks it has to protect us from risky business like sticking up for ourselves. But sometimes we just gotta go with what we really believe about ourselves and tell it, “thanks anyway, but I got this.”

(BTW: every time I do this I feel like I’m 10 feet tall and can take on the world—cuz I’m starting to believe I can!)

We can find validation within ourselves

It is time for us to believe that all the visions we have of ourselves being wonderful and capable and competent and shining are who we really are. In fact, the only reason we have all these thoughts in the first place is because the capacity for greatness is already there—inside us—just waiting to be born.

It’s an assignment

Yup. Just like homework.

We are all now enrolled in life’s new school called “Trust Yourself University” and unlearning everything we were taught in “You Don’t Matter Grammar School”. And even though there may never be a final exam, we will continue to get assignment after assignment until those neurons in our brains are firing anew, and self-validation and confidence are their new normal. Yes!

So now we can welcome in anxiety and self-skepticism, knowing that every time we accept their lessons, we are getting closer and closer to our own graduation into strength and serenity.

This is our path. We are always going to be trying to figure it out. So let’s say, “YES” to all our lessons—and hope they keep on comin’!


When The Lights Go Out in The City

Ok, well. This has been a “lesson in appreciation and not taking things for granted day” today.

So the power has been out now for about 6 hours in San Francisco and I’ve been struck with how crazy everyone is getting. I take that back—they were crazy 10 minutes after it happened.

Now, if you’re not familiar with the demographics of our city by the bay, I will tell you that it is a very young city, and by this I am not referring to it’s inception:  probably 80% of city dwellers are in their 20’s. (OK, it’s true. I haven’t exactly researched this, but I would bet I’m pretty darned close.) Let’s just say that I am middle-aged and single here, and it has occurred to me that I may stay that way.

So, I go outside and these twenty-somethings were all crowded around the building entrance, pacing frantically. Naturally I asked someone what was going on and he tells me that the power is out.  I say, “Yeah, I know, but why is everyone so panicked?” And he says, “Because they can’t even get an Uber!” Now that’s suffering!

Pema Chodron calls it “bourgeois suffering”. Never mind—they probably wouldn’t even care who this Buddhist nun is anyway, but what she’s saying is that there is real, true suffering in the world—and not being able to get an Uber probably doesn’t qualify.

But it was an enlightening day, trying to figure out what could and could not be done without electricity.

Read more When The Lights Go Out in The City

Heart-Based Patient Communication: Pushing Back With the Positive!

By Lorna Smith, RDH

We all have those wonderful, accepting, and grateful patients who respect us and appreciate our recommendations. We love to see their names on the schedule. Some of us would say that those patients are the ones who keep us going. We follow their lives—through dating, marriages and babies, illnesses, and so forth. We become their friends as well as their oral health-care providers.

As much as I love seeing those glorious patients, it’s the fierce ones who really challenge me, and they get me to challenge myself. The skeptical ones, the fearful ones, the defiant ones, and the ones who don’t yet own their disease. Yes! Doesn’t it sometimes feel that we are experiencing “pushback” from both sides? We are trying to convince the patient to accept our periodontal treatment recommendations, return more often for hygiene care regardless of insurance limitations, and improve their home care (or just care, at all). The patient tells us they don’t want any lectures, don’t want any X-rays, want to “just do a cleaning,” and only want to do what their insurance covers. Sometimes, we feel like we are beating our heads against a wall.

Personally, I love it when I hear this from patients! This is my opportunity to find a new way to connect. I ask myself, “What are they really trying to tell me?” I try to figure out how to turn tension or apprehension, or a tug-of-war into a great patient appointment. Most of all, how do I enable a patient to receive the care they deserve and protect their overall total body health?

As dental hygienists, our job is to be a preventive co-diagnostician with the dentist, identify and treat periodontal diseases, help detect tooth decay, oral cancers and lesions, and to “play detective” in coordinating all of that with the oral/systemic link in mind. Whoa!

But, what if our job is also to connect with patients in a more basic and profound way? Like making them know that we have their ultimate best interests at heart and that they can trust us to present to them the most complete and caring treatment plan, but also involve them in every part of the conversation.

The beautiful thing is that it doesn’t matter how we connect with our patients—only that we do. We can try anything we want. We can choose our attitude, our approach, and our response to patients anytime and every time.

Read more Heart-Based Patient Communication: Pushing Back With the Positive!

A Journey From Fear To Love

I woke up full of fear andfeeling like something bad had happened. That ever happened to you?

I was feeling really judgmental of myself—like I had done something wrong or behaved in a way that was not true for me. In that state of half-awareness, I began to follow that sense of doom even more—one thought leading to another and another—almost like water down a drain.

Then, all of a sudden, one of my favorite quotes pops into my head—“Everything is Loving Guidance”. I don’t even know where that came from, but, Oh, yeah! Thank you!

So now I’m thinking maybe I can be GRATEFUL for the way I feel this morning if it’s all loving guidance, right?

(By the way, as a side note, I was very proud of myself for remembering all this stuff.) See, I used to hate the part of me that makes mistakes. But I’m working on loving myself now. So instead of engaging in all of the negative self-talk that automatically slaps me in the face and shrinks me down to the manageable size my old, wounded self can handle, I am trying to be aware enough to see what’s happening and CHOOSE something else instead.

Read more A Journey From Fear To Love

Trusting Yourself to Drive Solo

It’s funny how our lives are like road trips. Sometimes we are driving by ourselves, watching things stream by outside our window. Trusting ourselves to make our own decisions, we choose what route to follow, what to listen to on the radio, and when to stop for gas or something to eat.

But somewhere along the way we begin to doubt whether or not we know where we are going or if we can find the way on our own. Or if we are smart enough to make sure our car is safe to drive by ourselves or if we will have enough money for the rest of the journey. Maybe we start getting bored or don’t know how to handle the loneliness that comes upon us.

So then maybe we choose to travel with someone else. Maybe it’s someone who is with us for the duration of the drive, and was maybe always meant to ride with us from the beginning because they feel just like we do. Or maybe its someone who just needed a lift and is only going to the next town, and we were there at just the right time and really enjoyed their company. And we will never forget them and we don’t even know why we were so moved by them but we were.

After being married for 32 years, I am now single. When everything fell apart I was grief-stricken and scared to death. Let’s face it, to say that I am middle-aged is probably being optimistic and I didn’t want to believe that I was starting over at this stage of my life.

Read more Trusting Yourself to Drive Solo