I don’t typically find myself drawn to self-help books but after reading an article on Medium I found myself intrigued by one written in 1960 by a plastic surgeon named Maxwell Maltz. It is called Psycho-Cybernetics. Maltz became fascinated as to why some people’s self-image changed for the better after plastic surgery and while others did not. He came to realize that the surgical knife can either create a scar or remove one based on our self-image.
“When a facial disfigurement is corrected by plastic surgery, dramatic psychological changes result only if there is a corresponding correction of the mutilated self-image. Sometimes the image of a disfigured self-persists even after successful surgery, much the same as the “phantom limb” may continue to feel pain years after the physical arm or leg has been amputated.”
I started reading the book before Roneet passed away and found it to be quite helpful in the aftermath and helping me to begin moving ahead.
Cybernetics explains what happens and what is necessary in terms of the purposeful behavior of machines. The author does not contend that human beings are machines. Rather, we have a success mechanism within us that operates similarly to machines. It is up to us to put our success mechanism into action and we do that by setting goals for ourselves so that we are always striving, growing, and moving forward into the future with momentum and positive energy. Of course, we will always face challenges and setbacks but nothing can be accomplished or attained without tackling them. It’s facing these challenges that enable us to grow and strengthen our resolve and character.
“We are engineered as goal-seeking mechanisms. We are built that way. When we have no personal goal that we are interested in and that “means something” to us, we are apt to “go around in circles,” feel “lost,” and find life itself “aimless” and “purposeless.” We are built to conquer environment, solve problems, achieve goals, and we find no real satisfaction or happiness in life without obstacles to conquer and goals to achieve.”
As the operator of our system, we can either guide it to success or failure. It is completely up to us. “Man alone can direct his Success Mechanism by the use of imagination, or imaging ability.” According to Maltz, this is where our ability and willingness to visualize and use all of our senses to envision a future state that we desire can help us achieve what we want in life. Maltz says that “[b]oth experimental and clinical psychology have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the human nervous system cannot tell the difference between an actual experience and an experience imagined vividly and in detail.” This is why a positive self-image is so important because we take that point of view and attitude toward anything we encounter in life. It’s also important to marry this positive self-image with a goal striving, future-oriented mindset.
I bring this up because reading this reinforced in me the importance that I begin the transition from mourning to fully living and crafting a future that inspires me to wake up each day, tackle the challenges that need to be addressed, bring joy and full presence to whatever I do, and live a life that lets me tap into my gifts while honoring and leveraging off of the amazing life Roneet and I created together. The clincher (a term Roneet liked to use) for me was when I read the following:
“There is within each one of us a “life instinct,” which is forever working toward health, happiness, and all that makes for more life for the individual. This “life instinct” works for you through what I call the “Creative Mechanism” or, when used correctly, the “Success Mechanism” built into each human being…Develop an enthusiasm for life; create a need for more life, and you will receive more life. And you create more life by looking forward with joy and anticipation…We age, not by years, but by events and our emotional reactions to them.”
What happened to Roneet proved that life can be fleeting and everything can end in an instant. It burned into my consciousness that life is for the living. We should honor those who passed but there comes a point where we have to look forward without their physical presence. I know Roneet only wanted the best for me and that she would want me to live life to the fullest, utilizing my unique gifts and potentials, and to leave my mark in positive ways. I know this is exactly what I would have wanted for her had the situation been reversed.
So what have I been doing to get back into the game of life so I can reignite my success mechanism so that I can move forward with energy and optimism while still honoring Roneet and the incredible life we created together?
Make my bed – I make sure to do this every day. It’s a small accomplishment to start the day, I feel better about myself when I do it, and I like coming into the room and seeing the bed made. It also honors Roneet because I know she would not be happy if I left the house with the bed unmade. It would dishonor her and her fanatic obsession with order and cleanliness.
Daily smoothie – I have been making this daily when at home for about 15 years. It’s a healthy habit that makes me feel better and ensures that I get protein, carbs, and fat at least once a day. It also gives me a focused mission when I go to the grocery store.
Daily cold shower – I became enamored with this after reading an article in the Harvard Business Review that cited research showing that people who started off with hot showers and then turned on the cold water for at least 30 seconds were 27% less likely to have sick days than those who did not do this.I saw virtually no downside and only upside, so it was an investment I eagerly embarked upon. I started doing this in March, found that I really liked it, and have not missed one day in nine months. And, to quote CSNY from Wooden Ships, “I haven’t gotten sick once.” I’m usually pretty healthy but I always feel better after experiencing the contrast of the cold after the hot. It energizes me and definitely wakes me up.
Exercise – This is a must for me. When I build up a sweat and feel those endorphins kick in it makes me feel great and helps me set aside all of the pain and anguish from her passing. I have really enjoyed my road biking and now I have splurged and bought myself a mountain bike as I really want to experience that. I’m also doing core work with a trainer twice a week. And when I travel I gravitate to the treadmill.
Socialize – I’m admittedly more of a loner with the occasional streak of being extroverted. People have been so wonderful in reaching out to me and I have made a concerted effort to take them up on their offer to go to lunch or dinner or have me over to their homes. It has been incredibly therapeutic to talk openly about Roneet, our life together, our collective memories of her, and how I intend to move forward in life.
Work – I cannot overstate how lucky I am to work with such amazing people, especially my partners Steve and Mike, at CWS. It’s such a beautiful family and their love and support have been so helpful to me. Returning to work was very emotional for me but I’m really glad I am back. I have missed my co-workers and I know Roneet would want me back at work making sure I’m doing all I can to help move the company forward, serve our investors, and protect and grow our children’s future assets.
Do chores – Roneet was the most organized and fanatically neat person I knew. The house was always immaculate and everything was always in order. If I tried to do something she would inevitably take over because I could never do it well enough to meet her standards. Without her around to rely on, one might think I would want to outsource everything she did. On the contrary, I’m finding that I like doing many of the chores she used to do. I’m not as laundry obsessed as she was but I actually like doing it and staying organized. I feel more invested in my own home and living situation and it takes my mind off of things. Bill Gates said one of his favorite things to do is the dishes. I now have a greater understanding of why he feels that way.
Blog – Writing my blog has been very therapeutic and the feedback I have gotten has been so gratifying during this time. I’m a private person by nature so speaking so openly about my personal life and what I have been going through is not my typical way of being. On the other hand, what I went through, and I’m still contending with, was so life-altering and painful that I had to let go of any inhibitions because this is what I needed to do and if it helped others then even better. Thank you to everyone who has commented and messaged me sharing your thoughts, prayers, sympathies, condolences, and your own experiences. Having this weekly commitment to write my blog has helped me immensely and I’m glad I had developed this writing muscle before Roneet’s passing.
Memorialize Roneet – I have been pretty disciplined about writing thank you notes to people who made contributions to the causes that were important to her. It feels good to show gratitude and write handwritten notes in this electronic age.
I am also wearing the following wristband that was the idea of the team mom of Jacob’s basketball team that he coaches. She wanted to honor Roneet (and Jacob) by having wristbands made in her memory for the boys to wear during warmups. It was such a loving and touching gesture. I love wearing it and seeing in on my wrist and other family members and friends.
Finally, I wanted to use some of the fruits of our labor to memorialize Roneet in a couple of different ways.
The first is by the creation of the Roneet Carmell Memorial Fund at UCI Health to support the research of Dr. Yama Akbari and to fund two research fellows for a couple of years to support Jacob’s epileptologist, Dr. Jack Lin. Roneet and Dr. Lin had a wonderful relationship and he has been very helpful to Jacob. There is an extraordinary shortage of Epileptologists to help the very large number of people that have epilepsy. It is a very pressing need to have more people go into this very important field of medicine.
I also made a donation to the Pardes Institute in Jerusalem which focuses on Jewish studies. Every year they have a ceremony and celebration to honor the founding of the state of Israel. It takes place in May of each year. Starting in 2019 this ceremony will be named in honor of Roneet in perpetuity. Roneet was Israeli by blood and I know she would have been so happy to have this annual event in Jerusalem be carried out in her honor.
I don’t bring these up to brag but to convey how doing this is an important part of me moving forward and putting my success mechanism to work.
I have lost the love of my life but I’m not going to lose loving life. She would never want this for me.I have lost the love of my life but I’m not going to lose loving life.Click To Tweet
I am beginning to turn the corner and look ahead. I intend to do all I can to be fully engaged in life. That is something Roneet did masterfully and I look forward to honoring her by living life fully.
I leave you with a famous poem about death that sums up how I feel right now.
Death Is Nothing At All
By Henry Scott-Holland
Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Nothing has happened.
Everything remains exactly as it was.
I am I, and you are you,
and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was.
There is absolute and unbroken continuity.
What is this death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval,
somewhere very near,
just round the corner.
All is well.
Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!