Categories
Holidays Mindfulness Self-care

Thanksgiving 2020

Jim Winner

WSN: Some winning thoughts from Jim Winner

Is it just me, or is it hard to believe that next Thursday is Thanksgiving?

I see and hear of a lot of people struggling as we enter this Holiday season. I understand entirely. COVID-19, quarantine, face-masks, and everything else could make a person wonder how even to be thankful this year. Many of you good brothers are facing the first Thanksgiving holiday without your mate by your side. Just keep breathing. You’ll get through it. I found the anticipation of first events was usually much worse than the actual day itself. It takes a lot to reach down and find something to be thankful for during the year of firsts. If you look just a little bit, however, you’ll find plenty of people and things to be for which you could be very thankful.

I believe this is a good time for all of us to be intentional and mindful of the things we can indeed be grateful. Whether you’re new to this journey or far down the road, I would encourage you to think of those who have been steadfast and have supported you during your darkest and most difficult hours. Take some time this week to sit down and write a personal note or card to the people who have helped you the most. Don’t send a text. There is power in a handwritten note. It speaks to your sincerity. They will appreciate knowing that their efforts meant and still mean something to you. You will feel better having acknowledged their support.

I’m nearing the 18-month mark on my journey of restoration, reinvention, and renewal. I find myself very grateful and appreciative to many people. I’m thankful for new relationships that have blossomed over the past several months. I’m grateful for my family and friends who stayed true and continue to be there for me. I don’t know when Herb Knoll put this Facebook group together. Now, with nearly 1,200 members strong, with members from all across the world, I’m very grateful to Herb for his work. This site and the honest and helpful insight and advice from the people here have helped my healing tremendously. Thank you, Herb. You have a vital ministry. Keep helping those who need it.

So as we officially enter the holiday season, I hope you will live it in a spirit of gratefulness. Grateful for what you had, what you still have, and what you hope to have in the future.

Friends, life is short. Have 2 pieces of pie.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Jim Winner’s thoughts appear every other Thursday. You can write to Jim using Private Messenger.

Categories
Giving Support Moving Forward

What’s really important. (hint…it’s not the election)

Jim Winner

WSN: Some Winning Thoughts by Jim Winner

Well, the months of hate-filled rhetoric, vitriolic media ads, and all that went with it came to a head yesterday. I have no idea when we will learn who won the presidential election. I, for one, am glad it is over.

I love America. I love our freedoms. I cherish the privileges and blessings that come with being an American citizen. To my international brothers and friends, we Americans are not all as crazy as you see on TV!

Over the past few months, I sat back and watched many friendships become tested and strained on social media. Political differences have created a lot of tension this season. I have been very mindful to keep my political opinions to myself. The right to vote is a wonderful privilege given to Americans. The act of voting is how we control our voice as citizens. Once we cast our ballot, we lose a lot of our control. There isn’t much we can do to prevent what our friends will think or how they will choose to cast their votes.

There’s that word again…..control. I find myself once again reminded that there’s very little in life we can control. In previous columns, I’ve talked at length about not being able to control what happens to us in life. What we can control is how we respond to the things that happen to us in life. I use the word respond because, to me, a response is an action that’s thought out and measured. A reaction, on the other hand, is often more emotional than thought through. This season is an excellent example of that. When the election is all said and done, there are going to be a lot of unhappy people, and they are going to be a lot of happy people. COVID-19 will still be here. The divisiveness in the country will still be here. The pandemic induced grief that our whole world feels will still be here.

I think this is a good time for us all to focus on what we can control. To me, right now, the number one thing we can control is our attitude. Regardless of your political beliefs and preferences, we still live in a wonderful country. If your candidate wins the election, I offer you my congratulations and promise to support him as my president. If your candidate doesn’t win the election, I hope you will likewise support him as your president.

We’ve all got a lot of healing to do in this country. By controlling how we treat others in their time of political grief, we can each do our part in restoring an America first attitude. We always talk about grief, and grief is how we process loss. It’s no different in this case. Respect those who are grieving because their candidate lost. Remember, we’re Americans first.

Wishing you all a wonderful day today. Remember to choose joy.

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Jim Winner’s thoughts appear every other Thursday. You can write to him by Private Messenger.

Categories
Giving Support Healing Moving Forward

Trust your instincts.

Jim Winner

WSN-MO: Some Winning Thoughts by Jim Winner

Good morning, brothers! You may recall my last article. It was about changing residences in Florida. It spoke of hard but necessary decisions, the need to face those decisions head-on, and make them. Since that last article, I have officially become the owner of a condo on Turtle Beach in Sarasota. I am excited at the prospect of this opportunity, but I am also mindful and aware of the changes this decision represents. I know there will be many adjustments to the newness of the area, situation, environment, etc.

I picked up the keys to the condo exactly a week ago. The first time I opened the door and walked in as an owner, I experienced a welcome sense of calm, a spirit of freshness, and a feeling of peace.

I walked out on the lanai, sat down, and looked out on the beautiful Sarasota Bay. I listened to the sounds of the water and wind. It was at that moment I knew beyond a doubt that I had made the right decision. I felt at HOME. It just felt right—every day since it feels more and more right. I am content with my decision.

As each of our collective journeys unfolds, we will ultimately face many individual decisions. Those decisions will impact people, places, and things in our lives. Most of all, those decisions will affect you. Some of the best advice I’ve seen from members of this group has been not to make any major decisions during the first year of the journey. I believe that to be wise and sage counsel. Let yourself grow slowly into this new season of life—approach significant changes in your time. As we’ve all heard time and time again, everyone has a unique timetable. When change is right, you will know. Don’t second guess your instincts. If you’re not sure, talk to someone you trust. Allow yourself to embrace and accept your new reality and new normal.

As you start to gain confidence in your new normality, look for areas where you can make changes. Make small, subtle changes at first; try new things. Start new routines. Learn to do something you’ve always wanted to do. Invest in self-care. As you feel more comfortable with yourself and your thought processes, be mindful of things you can do to create a new path for yourself. It’s brutally hard. Life’s important decisions are hard. The easiest decision to make is no decision. More often than not, however, that decision does more harm than good.

Let me encourage those you who are facing decisions and choices to trust your instincts. No one who cares about you wants you to stop living. People who love and care for you want you to continue to live. They want you to regain the ability to live a healthy and happy life.

We have all survived one of life’s most dreaded events. There’s a lot of wisdom gained through that experience. Trust that wisdom; trust your instincts. Wishing you all a happy and healthy day.

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Jim Winner’s thoughts appear every other Thursday. You can write to him by Private Messenger.

Categories
Finding Purpose Giving Support Moving Forward

Hard choices? Make them.

Jim Winner

WSN: Some winning thoughts by Jim Winner

Last winter, I wrote an article about spending an extended time at the condominium Joyce, and I bought in Naples, Florida. You might recall it spoke a lot of loneliness, fear, adjustment, and trying to survive the first winter.

Fast forward to today. Life is good. I am in a healthy place. I consider myself blessed in that I get to spend my winters in Florida. I am a completely different person than I was a year ago. I’m no fan of dreary Indiana winters and am already looking forward to the sunshine, ocean, and all that comes with a Florida winter.

I’m looking forward to some experiences I’ve never had before. I knew I wanted to go back to Florida. I also knew I wasn’t looking forward to returning to Naples.

I have family further up the Gulf coast in Bradenton. I also have several old and new friends around Sarasota. After looking at several areas, I decided to sell the Naples condo and buy in the Sarasota area. Joyce loved Naples. She liked the dining and shopping, the beautiful neighborhoods, and the proximity to everything. I like a more laid back, “old Florida” lifestyle. I’ve always dreamed of a place close to the water. I spent several days last week looking at properties nearer to family and friends. I’m happy to report that I found a place I liked. It’s a condominium on the extreme south end of Siesta Key, at Turtle Beach. It’s cheery, and it’s light. It fronts on the Little Sarasota Bay and is 1/4 mile from the Gulf of Mexico. I made an offer which was accepted the next day. I am soon to become its owner.

Could I have kept the condo in Naples and try just to figure things out? I suppose so. Was that what I wanted to do? No. I made a very intentional decision several months ago that this is now my life to live. I am accepting my role as captain of this journey. I say that with the ultimate respect for the life Joyce and I shared. The truth is that life is over. The life that I live now is mine to embrace, savor, and enjoy.

Each of us traveling this road needs to make choices. The choices facing each of us are different. Yours may relate to keeping your home, whether you move to be closer to family, where your children go to school, what you will do with certain things, etc. My point is that we need to be sure of the choices we make are the choices that best serve us. Don’t try to live your life based on what you feel others would want you to do. This is your time. This is not the time to be worried about how the choices you make will cause others to feel. Of course, we must act responsibly and do things that are morally, fiscally, and socially acceptable. The truth is, we are all in a new season of life. A season meant to be cherished. A season meant to be lived to its fullest.

Brothers, the only direction is forward. Stay the course. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.

I hope you choose joy today.

Jim Winner’s thoughts appear every other Thursday. You can write to him by Private Messenger

Categories
Giving Support Grief/Dispair Widower Awareness

Just Show Up!

Jim Winner

I have had an interesting two weeks. Last Saturday, one of my best friend’s wife died from Glioblastoma. If you know this beast, you know it is a terrible diagnosis with a brutal prognosis. Over the past several months, we have spent a lot of time on his porch, talking, drinking wine, and sharing experiences as caregivers as well as survivors.

Last week, I had the privilege of meeting with two young widowers for lunch and coffee. Both men are raising young children, have important jobs and have lost their wives in their 30’s and 40’s. I appreciated listening to their stories of loss and discovering their new normal. We had the opportunity to talk about reinvention, renewal, rebirth, and restoration. These are young men with a lifetime of children to raise, dreams to fulfill and hopes to achieve.

Last night, I received news that my longtime friends’ wife, who has been doing well battling lymphoma, just learned that a recent PET scan shows recurring and new cancer growth. I will be on the phone with him later this morning. He was a pillar for me during my journey. His presence did and does show up daily. He even traveled from Seattle to Indianapolis for Joyce’s celebration of life service.

I have shared before about how grateful I am for people who have showed up for me during my journey. I appreciate the occasional card that just says

“hey…thinking of you “ or a phone call from a friend who wants to come over, sit on the porch and eat donuts. Recently, I have been most thankful for a friend who reached out several months ago on Facebook. This person, who I have known since 1993, has become a real ray of sunshine to me. These people showed up and continue to show up.

I believe, at the end of the day, we are called to show up. We are called to just be there for each other. If there is any group of people that should be sensitive to the unspoken needs of others, it is us. We know that no one walks in our shoes but us. We also know that there are a lot of people out there who are fighting their own battles, especially in these crazy times of corona virus, politics, natural disasters, and 2020 in general.

I am going to start to try to look for places where I can show up. I want to look for opportunities to simply connect with people who need it. I want to be there to hear what my friends are going through. Thankfully, we do not have to know all the answers. That is for a professional. All we must do is encourage, support and listen.

I have learned that my load is considerably lighter when I help someone else lift theirs. It’s a tender and fulfilling part of life. I hope you look for opportunities to be there for people who just need a sounding board or listening post. It is good stuff.

Be well, brothers. Choose Joy Today.

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Jim Winner’s thoughts appear every other Thursday. You can write to him by Private Messenger.

Categories
Mental/Emotional Health Self-care Simplify

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify!

Jim Winner

Last month, I spent 12 days with my daughter in Oregon. We rented an AirBnB. We enjoyed a lot of time in the mountains of the Willamette and Deschutes National Forests. She’s an avid hiker, and like me, loves the outdoors. The more time I spent in the woods, the more I felt myself really savoring the experience of getting in touch with nature.  We trekked to several waterfalls, some very remote lakes, and saw things that I had never seen before. As you fellow dads can imagine, it was a special and meaningful experience.

When I got back to the Indiana flat lands, I found myself in a state of restlessness. I was antsy and unsettled. I wanted to be back in those woods. I missed those mountains. There is something about the forest that brought me a sense of deep and real peace. It was joyous. It was simple. There was no cell phone service, no internet, and no Facebook. ( sorry, Herb )

As I was thinking about my time in the woods, I decided to re-read an old favorite book of mine. The book is Walden by Henry David Thoreau. It was written in 1854 and chronicled his time living in a cabin on Walden Pond in Massachusetts. It’s been a real treat, to once again, read those words about what he believed really mattered in life. Many of his thoughts are as applicable today as they were in the mid-1800s.  The highlight of the book is his call for a simple life. “Simplify, Simplify, Simplify!” is his cry throughout. My favorite quote was, “If a man does not keep up with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.” That really struck a chord with me. As we move through our respective journeys, we all hear our own drummer. That’s what we need to listen to. We only need to keep up with him. No one else. What works for one of us probably will not work for all of us. Friends be reminded, this is your journey. It is a journey you’re taking with guidance and support, but with no navigation app or road map. Listen to your drummer. Take this journey at your own pace.

Thoreau’s call to simplify really impacted me as well. It motivated me to start on some long overdue de-cluttering projects. (the same ones I have meant to do since March) It led me to think about the things that occupy my time and take up valuable space in my mind and my life. What the message of simplification has done is encouraged me to do some shifting in where I will be focusing my energy. I am working on moving towards doing less of the things I “like” to do and concentrate on doing more of the things I “love” to do. I am cutting back on things that bring me temporary happiness and focusing on things that bring me a deeper sense of joy.

We have all learned how important it is to stay busy during the grieving process. I agree with that. I would also suggest that busyness for the sake of being busy does not do anyone any good. Maybe we need to save and intentionally schedule some time to take care of ourselves. A walk in the woods can do wonders, so can a bike ride with your kids. An evening at home with a book can be wonderfully healing. Find something that brings you a sense of joy and instills a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Keep it simple!

Perhaps, if we start saying yes to less, it will open the door of what really matters. I believe it could have significance in our lives and the lives of those around us. I am willing to try. Are you?

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Jim Winner’s thoughts can be seen here every other Thursday.  You can write him by Private Messenger

Categories
Family Giving Support

Thanks, Dad. You taught me well.

Jim Winner

My father’s birthday was a couple of days ago. He would have been 91. He died in an auto accident nearly ten years ago. He’s been on my mind a lot this week.

As a young boy, I remember the bookshelf in his office. It was filled with books from Norman Vincent Peale, Og Mandino, Dale Carnegie, and Earl Nightingale. For you youngsters, these were all great motivational writers from the 1950s and ’60s who stressed the importance of positive attitudes in all areas of life. My dad was in sales and marketing in one form or fashion his entire life. He had the most positive attitude of anyone I have ever known.

I couldn’t have been more than 12 or 13 when he insisted I read books by the above-referenced authors. I tried to understand terms like enthusiasm, persistence, dedication. That’s not exactly the subject matter young boys are interested in. I remember sitting in the living room with him, trying to talk to me about the importance of always having a positive attitude.  I remember him speaking about how things would happen in life that we can control, and things will happen that we cannot control. “No matter how bad it gets,” he used to say, “never give up your dream.” Many years later, I once watched him in a courtroom where a judge ruled, in a big way, against his company. He looked at me, shrugged his shoulders, and said, “it’s only money; we can make more.” In the best of times, he was humble. In the worst of times, he was positive. He had faith in God and in his own ability to succeed, and he did.

I got to looking at some of the books from those long-ago days. As I was looking through names and titles, I found myself going back in time 50+ years to our conversations on the living room couch. I’m once again reminded that some things never change.

Earl Nightingale’s works were my favorite. I’ve enjoyed being reacquainted with his books this week. I found a few quotes that apply to us all.

One of my favorites is, “We all walk in the dark. Each of us must learn to turn on his own light”. That resonates with me. While the darkness of grief may not have been what he was referring to, it certainly applies.

I know from reading many of your posts that some dear brothers are in dark places these days.  I hope and pray that you find your light. Light can come in many different things and forms, but it’s out there. Don’t stop looking for it.

My other Nightingale favorite is “Learn to enjoy every minute of your life. Be happy now! Don’t wait for something outside of yourself to make you happy in the future. Think how precious time is. Enjoy and savor every minute.” That friend says it all. Words written over 50 years ago are more important today than ever.

People often tell me they’re proud of how positive I am and how well I am doing in this life journey. I appreciate their sentiments and now really appreciate those long-ago conversations on the living room couch with my father.

Thanks, dad! I guess I was listening.

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Jim Winner’s thoughts can be viewed here every other Thursday.

Categories
Children COVID-19 Family Health Moving Forward

What’s behind your mask?

Jim Winner

I just got back from a trip to Oregon. I had the privilege of spending ten days with my 34-year-old daughter. It was wonderful. Spending time with an adult child is a rewarding and meaningful experience. We shared many long conversations when we discussed some real hard life topics. Us dads all know how precious those times are.

Everywhere I went, I saw people wearing masks. No question, it’s a necessary sign of the times. It’s something we must do until we figure this corona-virus out. I don’t know about you, but I miss seeing the face behind the mask, I miss enjoying the smile of the person I’m talking to. I miss the expression on a person’s face. I want to know who’s behind that mask. I want to know what they’re feeling. I want to see them, not just a piece of them.

I believe we tend to wear different masks as we journey through the grief process. I know in my early stages of grief, for the first few months after Joyce’s passing, I tended to try to take on a lot by myself. I admit that I tried to mask a lot of how I was feeling. I’m very fortunate that I have friends and family who kept reaching out to me during that time. It’s easy to shut ourselves off and try to tough it out. That won’t work. We want to “man up” and not let others see our real emotions or situation. I think this is particularly true in the first several months after a loss. That’s when we’re most confused and tend to internalize everything. That won’t work either.

Masks can offer protection from the unwanted. Masks can serve as a filter, literally and figuratively. Masks can also hide what we don’t want to share with others.

I see all kinds of ads on Facebook for masks. Who would have ever thought they’d be the must-have fashion accessory for 2020? But then again, 2020 hasn’t exactly gone the way anyone expected.

When it comes to the physical masks, I’d recommend that you follow whatever protocol keeps you compliant and makes you confident, comfortable, and keeps you and those around you safe.

When it comes to emotional masks, I’d like to suggest that we are much better off not wearing them. When someone you trust and care about asks how you are, tell them. Be honest. They’re asking because they care. Share the good, and share the bad. Not even your closest and trusted family member, friend, or ally can help or support you if they don’t know what you need. And if your phone doesn’t ring, don’t feel bad if you’re the one reaching out. Trust me; your closest friends want to help. They want to be there for you. They don’t know what you need unless you tell them. For many of them, this may be their first grief experience as well. Help them be better at what they so desperately want to do, to help you.

So, wear that mask when you need to, but know when it’s time to take it off.

Blessings, Brothers!

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Jim Winner’s thoughts can be found here every other Thursday. You can write him c/o WSN.

Categories
Finding Purpose Giving Support Healing Manful Emotions Mental/Emotional Health Moving Forward

I feel good, is that ok?

Jim Winner

Today is a cool, clear, and beautiful Indiana summer day. As I write this, I am sitting in my courtyard, listening to the birds sing. The flowers are in full bloom, and kids wave to me as they ride their bikes by my house. It all feels right. I feel good. But wait. Is that ok? Is it alright to be happy? Should I feel guilty because I feel good? I know that answer. So do you. But if you’re like me, sometimes a little reminding is in order.

During Joyce’s illness and prognosis, she had many opportunities to share her hopes and wishes for my life after she was gone. Those of you who have had these conversations know they are extremely difficult, hard to listen to, and even harder to accept. But accept them we must, because that reality is here. I would dare to say that each of our wives had the same wish for us. That wish was simple. It was for us to keep living. I remember the day Joyce took my hands, looked me in the eyes, and said, “Keep living. Don’t stop being happy”. As I look back on that conversation, I marvel that even in her final weeks and days, she was worried about me. I know many of you who are reading this are nodding in agreement because your wives said the same thing to you. For those brothers whose wives passed away suddenly, you know they also had the same wish. You were happy with your wife. Their wish was for your life to continue. They wanted you to find your happiness. They wanted you to keep going.

I do not believe that anyone can bring us happiness. Our happiness is our responsibility. If we aren’t happy with ourselves, it’s not reasonable for us to ask someone else to make us happy. Not only is it unreasonable, but it’s also a recipe for disaster. As I continue my journey, I have come to understand that there’s room for grief and happiness at the same time. Those two words are not mutually exclusive. The grief process we go through relates to what was lost and what never will be. At the same time, the quest for happiness involves what is and what is yet to be. Friends, the good news is there’s room for both.

I endeavor to choose happiness every day. Please know I don’t say that flippantly. I am mindful of how much time I spend watching the news. I am intentional in the tone of the conversations I have with my friends and neighbors. I always wave back and stop to talk when I see those kids on their bikes. I invest in the rebuilding of my life. I choose to smile even when I don’t feel like smiling. Dale Carnegie once said, “If you act enthusiastic, you will become enthusiastic.” I believe that is especially true for how we deal with happiness.

We all have people and things that make us happy. Make time for both. Maybe yours is time with family and friends, walking, reading, cooking, building things, or playing a round of golf. Whatever allows you to focus on something positive, and in the future, I encourage you to do it. Thank God, we can look to the future without ever sacrificing the memory of the past. That’s a real blessing.

I hope you choose happiness today.

Categories
Finding Purpose Giving Support Healing Learning new skills Maintaining a Home Moving Forward Uncategorized

“A rose by any other name”

Jim Winner

Joyce was always my biggest cheerleader. Many years ago, she encouraged me to become a Master Gardener. The process was a great experience and I learned a lot. Joyce loved our garden. She was proud of my work, and I delighted in creating a beautiful space for us. In the past several weeks, I’ve spent countless hours in that special place. The work of cleaning, weeding, planting and pruning has been good therapy. I enjoy my time in the garden.

At the end of March, I gave my roses a hard pruning. I removed the dead or weak branches and left 5 or 6 of the strongest canes on each plant. I mixed in some new amended soil around the base of the roses, added some feed and nutrients and began the waiting process. As I look at the roses today, I see plants that are healthy. They’re growing, reaching upwards, and if I do say so myself…are looking pretty good.

Like my roses, we all got a hard pruning when our wives passed away. We didn’t ask for it, but a big part of our life no longer existed. We found that part of our life was removed from us. The longer we were together the more of us got pruned away. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? A part of us dies with our spouses, but a large part of us is left to renew, recover, regrow and restore.

After a pruning, no rose grows back to be the same plant it was. Canes and new branches grow in different directions. The shapes and sizes are different. The plant may produce more or less flowers depending on many environmental factors. Pests or disease may thwart and impede the health of the plant. With the right care and attention (and a little bit of luck) roses can come back after hard pruning to once again be healthy, vibrant, and full of life. So, can we.

Compare our journeys to these roses. We have endured a difficult and dark winter season. We have had to suffer through our own hard and undoubtedly severe pruning. Here is the good news. We survived. New growth can and does begin to emerge. Hopefully, the deep roots we have shared will keep us strong and hold us steady. Our loved ones, while no longer with us, will always be a part of who we are. They will always help to shape us. Perhaps our feeding and nourishment comes from this group of men. Certainly, our friends, our families, our faith and many other sources of support and resources are available to us. Keep yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually fed. Stay positive. Keep the pests and diseases away. With time, we can all grow again. We won’t be the same men we were. Personally, I hope to become a better man.

No, I’m not saying any of us are as pretty as a rose…and like a rose, I am sure we can all be a bit prickly and thorny from time to time. It is my hope and prayer that you will join me in believing that even the hardest unwanted pruning can create meaningful and healthy new growth for all of us. 

May we all bloom, dear Brothers.