Out on a Limb
A Monthly Newsletter from Martha Clark Scala
Invest in bringing joy back to your life.
August 2011



Welcome to Out on a Limb, a monthly newsletter from Martha Clark Scala. This free e-zine is meant to invite and inspire you to maximize the joy in your life.

The Number Thing

Am I the only person who bristles at the prevalence of books, magazine articles and spam that suggest your answer to a puzzling issue or question can be boiled down to some magic number? Am I the only person who, despite that reaction, is still curious to know what The Four Agreements or The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People actually are? Am I the only person so utterly capable of contradicting myself? Back in 2009, my July issue of Out on a Limb offered the Four Pearls for cultivating joy. But youíll notice, I really had a hard time stopping at four!

What is it about our fascination with quick steps or solutions? Back when I was pitching my manuscript of Feel Better in the Mourning, I learned that one publisher would accept a self-help book only if it provided a step-by-step, formulaic solution. I didnít bother to submit my book to them because I refuse to suggest that there is a one-size-fits-all path through grief. The grieving process is as unique to you as your thumbprint. Sorry folks, life isnít math.

HOWEVER Ö I must admit, I have great fondness for The Four Things. The June 2011 issue of Out on a Limb focused on making amends. This happens to be one of four phrases we are urged to employ when faced with impending death. According to Ira Byock, M.D and author of The Four Things That Matter Most: A Book About Living, the following phrases hold the key to emotional wellbeing:

                    Please forgive me.            I forgive you.            Thank you.            I love you.

Implicit in these short statements are fondness, forgiveness, gratitude and a willingness to take responsibility for our actions. I especially appreciate Byockís sub-title, A Book About Living, which suggests a way to live each day, not just our last ones. Sounds like a recipe for joy, donít you think? But speaking of recipes, donít you ever feel like experimenting by adding one more ingredient and seeing how that alters the outcome or the taste in your mouth?


Beyond Four

What if we donít feel able to forgive? What if gratitude continues to elude us? What if loving feelings are trumped by anger, resentment or betrayal? What if a hurtful memory blocks access to the four things? Challenge a solution with a question that begins with ďWhat if,Ē and you wake up a bit; creative juices flow. You get to inject your personal experience or wisdom into what otherwise might be too simple a formula.



The Fifth Thing

Perhaps a fifth phrase you could use is ďI understand.Ē As with the other four phrases, we can apply this to ourselves or to another. If we struggle to understand why someone is wired like they are, or behaves like they do, without having to AGREE with their behavior or their opinion about something, I might argue that the other four phrases are that much easier to deliver. Compassion and empathy are now in the mix.

Getting There

Here are some random suggestions (in absolutely no formulaic, step-by-step order!) that might help you resolve any reluctance to say The Four (or Five or Six or Several) Things:

  • Fred Luskinís book, Forgive for Good, is a good one. Or, visit his website.
  • Ira Byock also has a website about The Four Things.
  • Talk about it with a trusted listener. Sometimes this helps lubricate the stuck places.
  • Re-visit memorabilia (i.e. photos, scrapbooks, home movies) to access gratitude or love.
  • Make a list of all things (tangible/intangible) someone has given you.
  • Feel the reluctance, and do it anyway?
  • Offer yourself some understanding and compassion. Itís often easier to access compassion for others when we have located some for ourselves.
  • Embrace your contradictory nature; it is part of being human, isnít it?

Your August 2011 Prompts for Joy

Click here for a new appreciation of rubber cement.

Click here for a new appreciation of slo-mo.

These suggestions for Prompts for Joy were sent by someone but I donít remember who. Sorry I am unable to acknowledge your contribution!

Joy-Gram for August 2011

Bring to mind someone about whom you have conflicted feelings. A photograph may help you connect with these emotions. Now, what Four Things would you like to say to this person/pet/institution/etc. You will find an example of this in the next section.

Pictured Above

Meet Thumper, a Kerry Blue Terrier, who was a family pet for many years. I loved Thumper (still do!) and Thumper loved me. I say Thank You to him for countless hours of companionship, and many giggles, too. I forgive him for eating my fresh batch of butterscotch brownies, for his fierce bark that scared people off, and for going blind way too soon. I hope he forgives me for being the unlucky one to take him to the vet to be euthanized. I do understand that my butterscotch brownies are pretty irresistible.

Archives Now Available

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By no means do I have joy “figured out.” Please do not assume that I do! I write Out On a Limb as much as a meditation for myself in the ongoing pursuit of joy, as for you. I think this pursuit is a lifelong journey and that the full experience of joy is, at best, episodic. May we all have more episodes!


Martha Clark Scala, MFT ē 721 Colorado Ave., Suite 201, Palo Alto, CA 94303 ē

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