Out on a Limb
A Monthly Newsletter from Martha Clark Scala
Invest in bringing joy back to your life.
September 2008
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September 2008

The Importance of Celebration

Are you one of those people who, upon receiving a compliment, tends to respond with self-deprecation? Here’s how it goes: a friend says, “wow, I really like your haircut.” You say, “Yeah, with such straight/curly/frizzy/thin hair, it’s the only cut that works.” Or, “Can you see the grey?” Your answer may be factual, but it fails to celebrate someone’s appreciation of something about you. Perhaps you answer this way out of reluctance to sound conceited. Modesty is highly encouraged in many family value systems. But if we’ve got conceit or grandiosity at one end of the spectrum, and modesty at the other end, how about striving for some middle ground? In the example above, a middle ground response might simply be, “Oh, thank you!” Period.

The most prevalent (and perhaps most insidiously harmful) form of self-deprecation I’ve observed is the tendency to deflect celebration with some form of “I should have figured this out years ago.” Here’s how it goes: Middle-aged Joe demonstrates a newly acquired skill or talent. His friend says, “Wow, good for you!” Joe responds with, “Yeah, if only I had known this when I was younger!” There is an implicit assumption that we’re supposed to figure everything out, master all skills and talents, and “leap tall buildings in a single bound” by the time we’re 30. SAYS WHO? As a matter of fact, imagine how BORING life would be if we didn’t have new challenges to face while we age!

Yes, there may be regrets about lessons not learned or paths not taken at an earlier age but why cloud the celebration about something you have done now? If I ask you to celebrate the late summer bloom of an exquisite pink rose (pictured above), you’re not likely to say, “Gee, too bad it didn’t bloom in March!” are you? No, you’re more apt to say, “gorgeous!” Period.

We are Perennials, Not Annuals

An annual is a plant that has only one growing season. As September’s cooler air arrives, the impatiens, an annual, starts to get “leggy” and as soon as there is a frost, it dies. If you believe you are an annual, and that you only get one chance to blossom (most likely in your youth), your potential for living a joyful life is diminished. Perennials have multiple blooming seasons, often interrupted by periods of rest or dormancy. A hydrangea bush in winter looks pretty barren. The same hydrangea bush in summer is all the proof you need that dormant time ultimately bears great beauty. Folks go back to school, pursue a different career, or fall in love with a new hobby later in life. If an era of dormancy precedes such changes, it’s quite possible it was necessary.


Do You Know a Blossom When You See It?

If it truly feels like you’ve never really had many ”blossoms,” you may have amnesia about your previous achievements or advances. Perhaps you didn’t allow yourself to celebrate them? Perhaps others failed to recognize them. Perhaps you set the standard of what counts as an achievement too high. Well guess what! It’s never too late to make strides in the department of celebrating both big and small, or subtle and splashy things that have occurred in your perennial life. It may be easy to acknowledge the vibrant rose that others have grown, but what about you? Surely there are areas of your life where you have the most amazing green thumb. I hope you’ll take time to celebrate this!



I’d like to call your attention to a website that has valuable information. www.Caring.com is dedicated to “Helping You Help Your Parents,” and it has a wealth of resources. In the name of celebration, I want you to know I’ve signed on as a Caring.com expert. 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.


Joy-Gram for September

I dare you to send an e-mail to 5 or more friends with a message that calls attention to, and celebrates, something you did/made/realized/learned/remembered/relinquished/acquired/performed, etc. When you get a reply with congratulations, TAKE IT IN. That’s part of the celebration.

For a terrific read somewhat related to this month’s topic, I recommend Seasons of Change: Using Nature's Wisdom to Grow Through Life's Inevitable Ups and Downs by Carol McClelland.


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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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