Wednesday, July 7, 2010

On Dying and Living

I just found out a dear friend from my time in Illinois recently died. I thought it was a bad-taste joke posted on Facebook about someone of the same name in Northern Illinois dying but it turns out it was her. She was someone I really loved and admired but we were rarely able to do anything together because she was determined to finish her dissertation, which had to be the greatest dissertation ever. Her husband was also frustrated by this but of course we all respected her wishes. And now she's dead. I'm not saying her dissertation killed her, tho I doubt that the stress and pressure helped (she died of a fast acting breast-cancer relapse). I looked up Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's stages of grief and I seem to be somewhere between stages 1 and 2 - denial and anger (am not in the sadness yet, perhaps because of the distance and my continuing sadness over the loss of Guido). I have lost a ridiculous amount of people and loved ones in a relatively short time beginning with most of my relatives killed in the Holocaust before I was born, and caring for many wonderful men who died of AIDS. I have done many living and dying workshops including some fantastic ones with Steven and Ondrea Levine. For anyone dealing with loss, dying, or grieving, they have written some extremely helpful books including these -  Who Dies?  A Year to Live, and A Gradual Awakening and then there is Kubler-Ross's seminal text and Ram Dass's wonderful work (the original Be Here Now and the updated Remember, Be Here Now, and Still Here, Embracing Aging, Changing and Dying.  These folks helped change how we deal with death and dying and helped found the hospice movement which has helped many folks die consciously and with dignity. They have also helped me deal with death in a more present way. When my father-in-law and different friends were dying, I read guided meditations from Who Dies? and some of the other books mentioned here and I truly believe it helped both them and me in the process of letting go.


All this has me thinking about a meeting I had with 2 friends last week called a "Pressure Relief Group" where they help you create a roadmap to deal with your hopes and dreams and goals and relieve pressure from whatever is causing stress. I came all prepared with my little folder about the different exciting projects I am working on including the school for Transformative Arts Practice that I am creating, 14 different e-course ideas, my beginning business plan, and the what needs to be done to complete the 2 books that I am currently creating list. They looked at me and said "Mira you are doing too much." I knew this and told them about doing my PhD in a record 3 years while teaching a full load, publishing 3 articles, winning a teaching award, and graduating with a perfect 4.0 GPA. I also mentioned that it nearly killed me. They asked me "What is the common definition of success in America?" To which I replied - "How much you do, earn, and have." They pointed out what a quantitative rather than qualitative criteria that was and asked me to redefine this definition for myself and of course the answer was having peace of mind and a high quality of life that included creativity, community, love, friendship, art, service, relaxation, exercise and so on. In other words - how to have more relational quality and do less. So have decided that my first e-course offering will be about "Self-portraits, self-knowledge, self-care." Will let you all know how it goes.

The image at the top is a portrait I did of Maya Gonzalez, one of the 18 pieces of original art that I created as part of my dissertation. I find it very calming. You can see more of my dissertation art on my website at http://mirareisberg.com/academic_art

4 comments:

jacqueline said...

Dearest Mira, i am so sorry to hear about your lost of friend. I have been through a few lost of loved ones and know exactly what you mean dealing with lost ones and healing. Sounds like a wonderful idea for your first e-course. Have a lovely merry happy day and love to you!

adee said...

Dear Mira, my heart goes out to you ! We forget how fragile life is sometimes and our priorities get screwed up! But we must respect another person wishes ..

I'm a fellow flyer..Is there anything I can do for you?

Hug! xxx

Jen said...

So sorry to hear of your loss.

Cynthia Dare said...

thanx for inviting me to share your tho'ts, i would like to take your ecourse...i am entering retirement with plans to do crisis care following critical events...death and dying most likely would be the precipitants to my summons...