Wednesday, September 17, 2014

I'm turning 50 in a couple weeks and it's got me thinking a lot about my life. You know, stuff like, "Am I doing what I feel like I'm here to do?"

I try to practice remembering how fleeting life is. How unpredictable. Anything can happen to any of us at any time. Remembering that helps me stay more present to my life and to the people I love.

So while that is true for anyone of any age, there's something about the 50 mark that really brings it home in a new way for me. It's likely there are fewer years ahead of me than behind me!

This feels like a time to recommit to myself and my work in the world. In light of that, I'd love to share with you a manifesto I wrote, thanks to the work of Alexandra Franzen:

My manifesto:

It breaks my heart wide open when I hear people at funerals wishing they'd expressed their appreciation while the person they loved was still alive.

Or folks at the end of their lives feeling like they missed the color and magic in the midst of to-do's and obligations.
What the world really needs is permission to celebrate everyday moments and revel in giving exceptional gifts.
And I'm here to make that happen for as many people as I possibly can.
Because one day I want to live in a world where we carry paper parasols in our pockets to slip into our colleagues' morning muffins. A world where we're not afraid to say out loud, "I love you because___" to our sister, best friend, or kindly stranger we meet on the bus. I want to live in a world where it really is the thought that counts instead of money talks.
I do this work because I want to live in a world in which singular moments can be extraordinary gifts we give ourselves and those we love.
And if you want to live in that world, too, I have one question for you: who or what will you celebrate today?   

Sherry Richert Belul

Thank you so much for following along on my journey. It means so much to me!

**** Keep an eye out in the next couple weeks for some ways you can help me celebrate my birthday! I've got a few ideas up my sleeves.

**** Oh, and if you want to write your own manifesto, Alex has a free script here. (Plus other freebies!)


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Yesterday a post went out with a link to my Tiny Book, "How to Survive in the Dark." I'd pre-scheduled that post a while back because I knew I'd be visiting family and not online much at all while we were together.

The Tiny Book was created for Maya Stein and Amy Tingle's Type Rider 2 and having just cheered them on at the finish line in Beloit, I knew I'd want to celebrate their journey as well as share my Tiny Book. I was rushing around when I scheduled the post. I wanted to share my book, but didn't have a lot of time to think about what was behind my creating that particular book.

But of course, little did I know that the week I'd scheduled this post, there would be the tragic suicide of Robin Williams. I didn't remember my scheduled blog post until today, when I returned to the office.

I realized that if I had written that post this week, it would be a very different post.

So this is my re-do.

I created that Tiny Book for myself, because as many of you know, darkness and fear love to come knocking on my door. My practice of celebration grew out of a need to seek and create little pinpricks of light to keep me from being swallowed up in that darkness. (I used to call it "the pit.")

Throughout my life, I've often felt ashamed of that thin wall between my joy and depression. I've also been terrorized by it.

But I've been fortunate in that I crossed paths with so many kind and loving teachers, each of whom gave me tools and practices to help me move away from the darkness and inner judgment — and toward pinpricks of light.

There have been so many discussions these past few days about depression and suicide. Robin's death tapped into a well of grief and fear. Many of us feel the loss of this beloved actor who brought us so much laughter, thoughtfulness, and joy. But I think we're also feeling a shared fear of the depth of despair. If we don't know that place ourselves, it is likely that we know and love someone who does.

Mostly these past couple days, I've just been thinking that it is so courageous to be a human being and to survive everything that comes along with that all the loves and losses and dreams and desires and grief and uncertainty and joy and pain. No matter who we are, what our health situation is, how "successful" or "not successful," we grapple with the same things.  We also seem to find joy and simple pleasures, no matter what our circumstance. It's those "10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows."

We're all wired differently, though. We feel the highs and lows differently. And we can never really know what it is like inside anyone else's skin. To live within someone else's inner landscape. To live within anyone else's uncertainty or despair.

I just feel such a rush of compassion for Robin Williams, his family//friends ... and all of us.

One of my favorite poets, Ellen Bass, says it like this: "What would people look like if we could see them as they are, soaked in honey, stung and swollen, reckless, pinned against time?"

We can't hold Robin William's hand or talk to him in the dark hours of the night. We can't sit with him silently, while he weeps. We can't read him poetry or take him to our favorite dahlia garden. But we all have people in our lives whom we love. And we can offer these things to them. We can see them as they are. And love them as they are.

As a tribute to Robin Williams, perhaps we can all take the time to reach out to one or two people in our own lives whom we know may be suffering in some way?

And if you know someone who is especially in the dark right now and you want them to receive some extra love, let me know. I'd be happy to send a handwritten note to loved ones of the first ten folks who email me.




P.S. If you didn't read my Tiny Book, you can do so here. It will take you just 22 seconds.

Monday, August 11, 2014

One of the things I've been thinking about lately is what it means to celebrate all the parts of who I am.

The whole crazy landscape of being human— including some of the, er, "less-preferred" feelings and emotions.

In honor of this, I created a Tiny Book called "How to Survive in the Dark."

It's just six eensy-beensy pages long and you can read it in 22 seconds flat!

Hope you'll take a peek and let me know what you think.

And don't forget: seek celebration, even in the dark corners.

xo Sherry

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Hey everyone. It's been a hard week around here. Some health stuff. Some heartache. Things that made my energy and mood plummet. (See how blue I look?) You know how it is when you just want to close the curtains, crawl under a soft comforter, and hunker down with some distracting fiction?

(By the way, my mom reads this newsletter. So just a little aside to her: I'm fine. Nothing serious. Just, you know— life's little dips and blips.)

So, back to my story. In the midst of my blueness, I've also had these amazing moments of feeling so appreciative of and connected to other people — and I've been watching how those connections are lifelines. They're buoys. They lift me out of the murky water to a place where I can see some pastel sky and a little slice of land.

I know it sounds cliche, but appreciation for others is always the antidote to whatever is bringing me down. I've known this for many years, but it is always great to get to experience it anew. This week I saw it when I left some audio notes of gratitude for a few folks who had helped me out. I saw it when I wrote a card for a good friend. I saw it while collaborating with girlfriends on a surprise for someone we love.

It even works when I'm swimming in appreciation for someone I don't know by someone I don't know! I was working on a Celebration Book and just reading all of the funny stories and happy wishes gave me such a boost. I loved the fun and fuzzy feelings I felt for the book recipient.

I also saw it when someone in this community sent me an email with a story about a Love List she created for her best friend. I couldn't even read what she had written on her Love List because it was in Estonian! But still, it lifted my spirits.

There just seems to be something about expressing appreciation or reading about appreciation, that is like a dopamine boost. Maybe it really is a dopamine boost? I'm not very scientifically minded so I don't have enough interest to sleuth it out. (If one of you knows, will you let me know?)

Anyway. I'm supposedly writing this to you. But really this is a reminder to myself: When I'm feeling blue, create a pinprick of light for someone in the form of some kind of expression of appreciation. Could be as simple as a card or voice note. Could be a bigger, more elaborate something. The shape or scope doesn't matter; it's that simple movement of opening the door to something good.

Turning my attention to love and appreciation is a surefire boost.

If you're feeling a little low-energy or blue, try it and see what happens. Send out some appreciation to someone you love and let me know how it goes!

I want to share with you the wonderful note and photo I mentioned above, that I received from Kristi, who is part of this community.

Kristi wrote to tell me about a Love List she made for a good friend of hers after she was inspired by other stories I've told about them.

Here's what Kristi wrote:
When I told my friend that I had a present for her, she said “You shouldn’t have…” She didn’t want more things just because it was her birthday. But when I gave her the Love List that I had made, she was deeply moved and grateful. She said it was the greatest gift she could have gotten.

She and I can both refer to it to remember the good things, when the times get tough. Or just to bring more celebration and good feeling into our lives anytime at all.

Kristi makes a Love List. Her friend loves it and so they both get to feel awesome. Kristi tells me and I get to feel awesome. I tell you. And hopefully ... you feel awesome, too. That's a little dopamine-release-magic, ain't it?

I'm really grateful to you for taking the time to join in this conversation with me. The connection is so important to me.

Feeling less blue thanks to you,


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A man named Sam passed away this week. I didn’t know him, had never met him. But his daughter, Sue Ann, is a friend of mine. And she wrote a beautiful tribute to him on her blog. Through her celebration of him, I got to meet him and I fell in love with his warm and generous spirit.

I fell in love with the way he would chat with strangers in the grocery store. (“You would never send my dad to the grocery store if you needed something quick!”) I fell in love with the way he’d say, “This is a great party, isn’t it?” during any ole family dinner because every meal was a party for him. I fell in love with the fact that in his seventies he reinvented himself as a watercolor painter and began exhibiting his work. I fell in love with the way he would surprise Sue Ann by warming up the car and cleaning off the windshield when it snowed so she could safely drive.

I never met Sam, but he is alive in my heart as I write this. I’m changed because of him. And that wouldn’t have happened if Sue Ann hadn’t taken the time to share a few things about him that make him unique.

This isn’t new stuff for me, but it’s like seeing the sunset. There’s that same “wow” factor every single time. It’s this: there is something profound in sharing and hearing what is good, lovable, wonderful, and unique about someone. In a world of not-enough and jump higher and do more, we all yearn for the simplicity of simply loving the people around us. It is the antidote to “something wrong.”

Just recently, I’ve talked to someone who surprised her son with a collection of Love Lists from dozens of friends and family. And I just received an email from someone else who did something similar for her 80-year-old mother.

I created Graduation Celebration books for a high school woman and a college man. I made a retirement book from a man’s closest colleagues who wanted him to know the legacy he was leaving as a teacher.

I talked to someone whose son wrote her the most beautiful letter for Mother’s Day after she asked him to make a Love List for her instead of buying something. And someone else who took the time to jot down a few things she loved about her friend and send them in a card through the mail.

I got a note from a Celebration Book client who told me that for eight years, every wedding anniversary, she and her husband have pulled out the Wedding Celebration Book I made so they can read all the stories and re-experience all the love written in those pages. 

What all of these gifts have in common is that they are tangible expressions of the deep connections between people. They’re gifts that reflect people’s spirit and uniqueness through specific stories, just like Sue Ann did by telling us about her father in the grocery store.

I know we’re all busy. I know that there is a tremendous information overload in the world. I know it can be a little awkward and vulnerable to share how we feel about people.

But I also know this: that there is nothing more important. And that all too often, we wait for a bigger occasion. We wait for a feeling that isn’t so vulnerable. We wait until we have more time.

And that time never comes.

I don’t care if you buy a Celebration Book from me or make a homemade card or create a Love List. The form doesn’t matter. What I care about is that you do it. That you take the time to let people know what it is that you love and appreciate about them. I promise not only will it have a wonderful impact on the person receiving the gift, it will transform you in the process.

And for extra celebration credit, tell someone else. Tell you son what you love about his father. Tell your best friend what you love about your sister. Write and tell me what you love about your daughter, friend, or colleague.  The more we express our love and appreciation, the more it anchors in. The deeper it gets. The bigger it grows.

I just wrote to Sue Ann and told her that my heart still feels squishy and tender.  Her dad, Sam, whom I never met, has changed me today. Reading about him has helped me align with my own life and priorities. That’s the power of expressing love for people and sharing it. (That's the “sunset factor” right? It is just as powerful every single time!)

How about in honor of Sam, we all vow to strike up a friendly conversation with a stranger in the grocery store this week? Or, just once, when you’re having an “ordinary” dinner, exclaim, “Oh, what a party this is!” Or, how about this— in honor of Sam, we take the time to jot down three things we love about someone and send it off — right now!

Express your love. It changes everything.

P.S. If you want to create a Love List for someone, here’s a free template you can print out, fill out, and give out. Or, here’s a ten-pak you can buy if you want to collect a bunch of ‘em from someone’s closest friends and family. Here’s information on the one-of-a-kind Celebration Books I create. Here’s a link to an ebook with lots of other creative gift ideas.

Here’s my email address if you want to tell me what you made and for whom! I’d love to hear. (Really! It makes my day when people tell me about great gifts they've given or received!)