Out on a Limb
A Monthly Newsletter from Martha Clark Scala
Invest in bringing joy back to your life.
May 2009
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. To Subscribe, click here.

Know Your Season

I’m grateful to turn the calendar page to May. While plenty of good things have happened in more than a half-century’s worth of Januarys thru Aprils, the lousy things that have happened take up much more psychic space. In a way, I’m grateful that most of my major losses are clustered together in one “season.” Do you have a particular season that, over time, stands out as your most difficult time of year? It needn’t be due to the death of loved ones; it could be due to other difficult or traumatic events such as divorce, injury, illness, accidents, transitions, etc. If you wonder why I raise this question in a newsletter that’s supposed to be about bringing joy back to your life, it’s because your season will return every year you’re alive. It pays to know your season, and prepare accordingly.

You can go through a season, feel sad or funky, and still experience joy. You may not need to do anything different, or make any special accommodations: not everyone does. However, I’ve seen too many people suffer through the anniversary of sad or unfortunate events to not be respectful of how these days have an insidious effect on us. You might be prone to being weepy or sentimental or more vigilant about the wellbeing of your loved ones. I know one person who got much more irritable and impatient right around the anniversary of her Dad’s sudden death. Wouldn’t you rather prepare for your season, and have it be a non-event, than not prepare for it, and have it hit you over the head with a sledge hammer (figuratively speaking, of course)? For some reason, just anticipating a tough time helps mitigate how tough it turns out to be.

“A man's dying is more the survivors' affair than his own. “ ~Thomas Mann


Calendar the Yahrzeits

The Yiddish term for the anniversary of death of a loved one is Yahrzeit. I usually hear it pronounced like this: Yartz – ite. If you have a Book of Days to keep track of more joyous events such as birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and such, why not start keeping track of the Yahrzeits of significant people in your life? If July 16th is the day your divorce was finalized, or the day when your partner said “I’m leaving,” calendar that, too. You may have specific dates that are so etched in your memory that you do not need to record them anywhere; as the date nears, you know and anticipate them without any reminders necessary.


Plan an Observance

On the first Yahrzeit of my brother’s death, I worked. I was miserable, distracted … a bit of a wreck. Having learned my lesson, I planned to take a vacation day on the second Yahrzeit. It was nice to have a whole day off but when your losses start piling up, you can’t always take time off for each Yahrzeit! For my brother’s 13th Yahrzeit , I lit a special candle and played some music that he used to sing. So as you anticipate upcoming Yahrzeits or other tough days, know that you needn’t necessarily make an elaborate plan. Carving out just 15 minutes dedicated to being with the memory of who or what you have lost might be quite adequate.


Joy-Gram for May 2009

Download a Free! abridged version of my chapter on this topic from Feel Better in the Mourning. Click here. Try any one of the creative suggestions at the end of the chapter, and if they help, let me know!

Pictured Above

Aretha Franklin was quite an amazing cat. She fell twice from the third story of a building … and lived. She got wrapped up in a bunch of string … and lived. She had the audacity to bite my mother-in-law, steal tuna out of my lunch plate, and hiss at anyone and everyone when she was in a lousy mood. She was particularly sick during my “season,” from January to March of 2004. In her last act, she let the vet know her claws were still sharp while he gave her final relief from the ravages of cancer.


The website, www.Caring.com is dedicated to “Helping You Help Your Parents,” and it has a wealth of resources. At this website, I respond to questions posted by readers on the topics of grief and loss, substance abuse, and caregiver self-care. If you’d like to locate my responses easily, type “Martha Clark Scala” in the Find box at the Home page of this website.


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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 721 Colorado Ave., Suite 201, Palo Alto, CA 94303

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