Lost Him, Lost Her, Lost it for a Long Time

It took me 15 years to figure out I was grieving. Even when I knew it, I didn’t want to admit it. Losing grandma and grandpa so close together was one thing. The double whammy came after decades of agonizing over the absence of my dad. Because we moved from place to place on a regular basis, it was impossible to keep a close friend. I experienced emotional overthrow; like getting hit by a train on the inside but remaining intact on the outside.

Even still there were signs.

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It seemed like every time someone took my photo my eyes were closed. I was sleepwalking through life, even the highlights. I was angry most of the time, even when I was supposed to be feeling good.

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In truth, I was heartbroken by the age of 2 and grief was a way of life for me. The only thing I can say is her death was the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back”. Or maybe it was grandpa’s death that did me in. All I know is that I was emotionally in another world. Grandpa and Grandma were both gone, forever.

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Part of the turmoil came from the fact that I made grandma my savior and I put grandpa in a ‘holier than thou’ category. Sometimes, I felt like she was my ONLY hope and HE had the love I craved and I wanted it from him. I thought I could prove something to him about myself and girls in general once I got a Master’s degree and published a book. Yet he died without us even speaking about it.

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My subconscious “cure” for lifelong grief was to be a perfectionistic, driven, control freak in every aspect of life. I was eternally in a state of misery. I was devastated and in denial. I dealt with it by working, and working and working. Taking time off to grieve wasn’t even an option I would entertain.

But eventually I just couldn’t do it anymore and that was a good thing. Because It was when I stopped doing so much helping and started doing more listening that I began to get some relief and recovery.

I was teaching the helping and listening skills class at Long Beach City College and it turns out, when you listen to people they will often talk about their family and eventually they will talk about loss. While listening to others I got the ah-ha moments and healing I needed. By seeing and hearing others I was able to see and hear myself in a way I could not by myself, in my own room with my own thoughts. I got the realization that I needed to deal with my grief and I got the courage it was possible. I asked for help and I took direction.

I no longer have the luxury of 15 years to spare. With the recent loss of my Grandma Sue and Momacita I decided to be more real about the pain of losing a loved one. I decided to handle it a different way. I shed many tears and even sobbed, don’t get me wrong. But on a day to day basis, I want to celebrate my life and to celebrate my loved ones by keeping the best of what I learned from them alive. I’m realizing that by allowing myself to grieve on the spot I don’t have to fall into the same pattern I did when my grandma and grandpa died. I don’t have to devastate and destroy my life because of loss, I need to learn how to deal with loss and move on because it is a part of life.

Some people might ask what to do next, how do you handle the pain? You can see a therapist, join a support group, write a journal, make a memory box, start a master mind group but whatever you do, allow yourself to grieve and give yourself some goals to help you get back into life when the time is right. Consider the possibility that you can enhance your life in honor of the person you lost. You don’t have to go downhill. Learn from others who have overcome tremendous loss, realize that it is possible.

Story is Editable

Since the time I lost Momacita and Grandma Sue, I try to focus on what they contributed to my life and to be grateful for their contribution. Momacita and I shared a love of music and my grandma always encouraged my sense of style. Music and style are now a focal point in my life. I appreciate these interests now more than ever. This is different than when my Grandma Bette died and I basically had a stiff upper lip and worked more shifts at my job. Eventually that backfired big time. Trust yourself, listen and find someone who will listen to you. You’re not alone and it’s not impossible.

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Spiral Symbolizes Transformation, Harmony & Unity

In a world where it’s easy to be bombarded by images of violence on a daily basis it’s also easy to forget about peace. In a world of constant change it can be difficult to feel stability and sometimes the insecurity leads to shakiness and even panic.

In my worst days of anxiety I needed constant reminders that it was okay, even positive to be outside my comfort zone and comfortable with change. Because the truth is, change a constant. No matter if you like it or dislike it, its as natural as breathing. That’s why I think a spiral is a good reminder of embracing change.

Things go in cycles

Things always go in cycles and nothing is stuck in time. It is ever-evolving, always transforming.

Each day and each encounter with the public opens up a wide array of possible change. From one minute to the next you could receive some news or a gift that could inspire you to see things a whole new way. For example, the necklace above was sent to me as a gift from a blog reader in Israel. That alone struck me as noteworthy but when I looked into the website and found out more about the designer, I realized the necklace was a symbol of peace, harmony and unity. I was dealing with a lot of turmoil on the campus at Long Beach City College so I wore the necklace as an anchor, a way to remind myself that peace and harmony are always present, even in the eye of the storm.

Wearing the necklace and thinking of spirals I also thought of “putting a new spin on things”. I was thinking of roller derby, how things go in cycles, including fashion and I was wondering how I could revive my punk rock/retro days and fit it in to my lifestyle today. Those elements worked in unison with each other and inspired the logo I use at my website sherizampelli.com.

An unplanned event initiated by a stranger changed my way of looking at the world. So it’s about harmony, flow and influence, taking all the bits of clothing, all the bits of the story and blending them together into something new. You don’t have to cling to the view you once had. You can change.

So where am I going with all this? If you’re stressed out or anxious and you’re sick of it, then keep things around you that are symbols and reminders of stability or reassurance. Don’t look at symbols that remind you of pain, sadness and fear. That one simple change can keep you on track. Each day you stay on track you are stronger, you are creating a habit, you are becoming galvanized.

P.S. You can get the spiral necklace at ka-gold-jewelry.com

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Style and Words of Wisdom Pins

Part of the Galvanized Style is the belief that you are here to do something more than eat, poop and be beautiful. Here’s a lovely quote and image to focus on:

“Take time to do what makes your soul happy.”

Yes, you have a soul and when it’s happy, you are generally a better person to be around. Be happy. Do it for yourself and those you love.

As great as words are, style makes words even more powerful. Check out these women whose photos are worth 1,000 words:

For more, visit the Galvanized Style board on Pinterest.

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In Honor of Momacita: An Angel in the Darkness

Momacita had a warmth about her. You could see it in her smile and you could feel it emanating out of her very being. Her hugs were as good as gold and her laughter was contagious. Standing near Momacita, it seemed as if everything was safe; everything was going to be okay. Her faith could move mountains.

She had faith in me and for that I am forever grateful.

I fled to her house. It was after dark. I had to get there. I had to get away. The only items I could take were those I could carry as I rode away on my beach cruiser. My Walkman and cassette tapes were on the list of necessities. I didn’t call and ask permission. I just showed up.

Was I crying? Visibly upset? Or, was I relived?

The time I spent living in Momacita’s presence were absolutely days of relief and restoration. Yet, I was not at a spa.

I was a teenager and Momacita was a single mom with 3 daughters, 2 of them teenagers. We lived in a HUD subsidized, 2 bedroom, sparsely furnished apartment. It was the 80’s and people were feeling the pinch of Reganomics. Momacita was not able to work due to disability.

I remember the day began with the smell of beans cooking on the stove. I can see Momacita now, in her night gown, stirring a pot of beans. She would season them so that it seemed like you were eating a special grandma stew. I promise, it had healing properties, thanks to Momacita’s special touch.

The food came from the food bank. I remember a certain day of the week she would get a bag of beans, a bag of rice and a block of “Reagan” cheese (American). After I moved into my own apartment, I went and got these same items for myself once or twice. It was better than nothing.

Because at the time, I could not even think about going back home. I would rather sleep in my car, and I did.

Once I settled down a bit, I had a series of waitress gigs including Bob’s Big Boy and Norm’s and I lived in apartments with roommates. It could have been dismal but it was blissful in a sense. Maybe not so much at the time as it is now, reflecting back on the 30+ years of life that have passed since then and the many times when Momacita’s love and faith intervened in my life, turning me away from destruction and toward rejuvenation and healing.

I was learning to live a life free from fear and violence. I was learning what it was like to live principles versus just preaching them in public.

If it weren’t for women like Momacita, who knows where I’d be.

It was easy to say yes when the family asked me to speak at the memorial. I wanted to share the story of Momacita’s love with all in attendance. I believe she deserves public recognition and I hope the story inspires others to know what a difference love and acceptance can make in someone’s life.

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On October 31, 2014 this loving woman, who touched the live’s of many made her transition. She was a living example of the saying, “one person can make a difference” and an example of someone who cares for people, regardless of their race or biological family ties. She proved it doesn’t require lots of money to make a mighty difference. A little love can go a long way.

When I feel like giving up, or I think I don’t have anything to give, I remember this. I think of all the people who did little things here and there to help me out, to lift me up. I try to be aware of the fact that my meanness or kindness could be a turning point in someone’s life whether I realize it or not.

Here’s to Momacita, an angel in the darkness. God bless her and the many women like her who provide a safe haven for lost souls and who help parent and redirect youth who come from broken homes.

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Story is Editable

Understanding Codependency, Shame and Self-Sabotage with Sheri Zampelli

Children who grow up in harsh, critical, unloving environments with unavailable parents tend to adopt patterns for dealing with people that are self-destructive in nature. These patterns make it nearly impossible for a person to have a loving, honest, authentic, peaceful relationship with their mate.

These patterns also impact work relationships and even relationships on a sports team or volunteer team. It is possible to identify the self-destructive patterns and to break them. Doing so often requires honesty, open-mindedness and willingness and a hefty dose of acceptance for what is. Because not a single one of us can change the past.

Join Sheri Zampelli, Author of From Sabotage to Success: How to Overcome Self-Defeating Behavior and Reach Your True Potential
in a 16-week class at Long Beach City College. Tuesday mornings from 9-noon, class number 32377. Go to LBCC.com to enroll.

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Value Your Contribution and Give More

Value your contribution

Part of the suicidal sentiment is: “What’s the point, I’m worthless, I’ll never amount to anything.” Each of these statements is false and irrational but emotional turmoil, pain and weakness makes it seem true.

Just think for a moment if you stopped doing everything. You stood still or laid still and didn’t move or talk or even make a face. Within a period of time, someone will come to you and want something from you. Someone will wonder why you’re not at work or not at school. People will have conversations and put pieces together about the last time they saw you and what you said. Regardless of how isolated your life feels the truth is, you are providing value to others simply by your existence and involvement.

If you learned that valuing your contribution is selfish, drop that idea now or change your definition of selfish to acknowledge that you must take care of yourself in order to be in the proper condition to help others. We are of help to others when we can use our strength to pull them up and out of their misery. If we are miserable along with others we will simply keep each other down. This is not a service and if you are staying down out of fear you are selfish. You are cloaking a gift that others need and because of your selfishness, they can’t access your offering.

I’m galvanized when it comes to this topic because I’ve been involved in groups of people for my entire life and some of these groups are considered cults, such as the Jehovah’s Witness fellowship. I was a child and interacted with many elders in the congregation. I overheard plenty of conversations. Enough to know that no person, regardless of their stature is above the social ills of addiction, poverty, mental illness and sexual assault.

I served as a counselor for many years and now I’m a college instructor in my 14th year of teaching. After hearing the nitty gritty details of thousands of people’s stories and reading the research I know that millions of Americans had difficulty in earlier years of life. Not everyone handles those difficulties the same as they get older but what I’ve noticed is that the people who berate themselves get worse and the people who find a way to value their story get better. The people who “get better” make better choices, are kinder to people, want to serve. The people who get worse want everyone to suffer right along with them. They will even go so far as to drag someone down and seek and exercise vengeance.

So, my request to you is that you learn your values and you will honor them. I want you to value yourself. Do it for you, do it for your family. I have a free Values Clarification download over at sherizampelli.com to help you get started.

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Boundaries are Self-Respect, Not Selfish

Boundaries are love.

It was in the parking lot that my husband and I both heard a woman say these words to two young boys: “This is the part where everyone carries something because I’m not your Sherpa.” It was awesome on more than one level. I was doing an inner cheer and fist pump because she said it loud enough for both my husband and I to hear. I was doing a cheer because I had just left from visiting my family, including brothers, uncle, nephews and cousins. I know for sure if you don’t set boundaries with boys they will try to get away with as much as possible. I was doing a cheer for their future wives. Maybe if their mom trains them right they will automatically know to help out and not expect someone else to do all their schlepping for them.

Setting boundaries isn’t about trying to take something away from someone else or inflicting suffering on another, it’s about self-respect and honoring the natural limitations we all have. It’s about acknowledging that no one can or should do it all by themselves and we all play a role in getting things done. It’s about being human. Yet, depending on how many spoonfuls of guilt, shame and over-responsibility you swallowed over the course of your life, you might actually allow a manipulative, selfish person to convince you otherwise.

The homes with a high dose of guilt and shame are often the same homes with alcoholism and mental illness. I won’t go into a lot about this now but I will use this topic as a way to shamelessly plug a class I’m teaching at Long Beach City College Spring 2014. The course is titled Introduction to Addictive Behaviors and we will focus on co-dependency, toxic shame and eating disorders that often occur in homes plauged by addiction and mental illness. If you are in the Long Beach area and/or a Long Beach City College student, you can enroll in the class.

If you’re interested in the topic, I recommend the following books: Healing the Shame that Binds You and In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction. These are the same books we use in class. In upcoming semesters this course will be available on-line. If you’d like to be alerted of the offering, sign up for the newsletter at SheriZampelli.com.

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