Updated for 2023:
In my relative youth, I focused on how to have more fun. But over the past year or two, I’ve been focusing my energy on how to be a better person, studying psychological theories, family dynamics, my own behaviors, spiritual principles, and how to fit all these elements together to feel, be and do better each day.
I've come to realize being kinder and more self-aware will lead me to greater peace and contentment than any amount of fun will (not that there’s anything wrong with fun; I try to incorporate plenty of that in my life, too, as evidenced by this shot of me and my mother going to a live show of The Price is Right!).
But this the first time in my life when I have actively sought out and studied tools to help me be more present, more self-aware, more open, less judgmental, softer, more patient. I had family therapy with my daughter. I saw my own personal therapist. My wife and I took a 40-day meditation challenge together. I joined online support groups. My mother and I are taking a 10-week intuition and spirituality course together. And I’ve taken several online courses on how to cope with family estrangement as I continue to figure out how to live with my grief over losing my son and then having my granddaughter (above right) disappeared from my life.
The catch to it being free is that you have only 24 hours to watch all the presentations each day – though for the early bird price of $97, you can have lifetime access to all these workshops plus audio files, meditations, and other healing tools. I might be more skeptical of these offerings, but I have already taken and benefited from online courses from several of the presenters, so I know this is a high-quality group.
Since my wife and I rearranged our budget to allow me to stay home, I have a finite amount of discretionary income, $200 a month for what we call my “fun money.” So when I see an offering like this, I have to decide if it’s worth spending half my fun money on it. In this case, I think it might be.
I’ve read the book The Rules of Estrangement by the first presenter, Dr. Josh Coleman and have taken a helpful eight-week set of workshops with him.
A mentee of his, Barbra Drizin (https://barbradrizin.com/), leads her own workshops, which I’ve enjoyed even more, in which she brilliantly breaks down into bite-sized lessons big concepts on everything from attachment theory to coping with emotional triggers (and then delightfully delivers these lessons in a New-York accented voice that reminds me of Fran Drescher in The Nanny.) Barbra's down-to-earth encouragement greatly enhances the lessons she offers.
And Laura Davis, whose most recent memoir The Burning Light of Two Stars: A Mother Daughter Story is being given away free to all participants, is a brilliant writer whose work I have long admired.
I learn better when I am learning with someone, though, rather than on my own, so I am hoping some of you will go through this program with me. (I am happy to have persuaded my grown foster daughter Amy to take one of Barbra’s courses with me, a weekly Wednesday life-enrichment program that we started last week.)
Are there any of you out there who’d like to sign up to discuss some of these concepts with me? Although the workshop focuses on family estrangement and how to live your best life in spite of it, there are also courses on co-dependency, anxiety, divorce, communication, trauma, and a host of other issues that affect most of us, particularly in this historical moment.
I’ll be trying to watch the workshops at warm speed but will then sign up if, as seems likely, I can't watch them all within one day. I hope I hear from some of you that you’ve joined me.
Discussions deepen learning, so I hope there are at least a few of you who will do this work and have these conversations with me.