Saturday, December 26, 2015

Admit something . . . .

Admit something:
Everyone you see, you say to them, "Love me."

Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise
someone would call the authorities.

Still, think about this, this great pull in us to

Why not become the one who lives with a
full moon in each eye that is
always saying,

with that sweet moon language,
what every other eye in
 this world is
dying to

~ Hafiz, Ladinsky

The best thing about Christmas:  I had all day to lounge around and read Hafiz.  And since this is a Full Moon Christamas, each poem, and there are several of his, that had a moon reference reminded me of the fact that the last time the moon was full on Christmas I was twenty-one years old.  It occured two days before I met my future husband, the father of my beautiful children who are now adults.  That was thirty-eight years ago.

I did not realize until today that I have some expectation that this Full Moon Christmas will herald something amazing and wonderful coming into my life again, just like after the last Full Moon Christmas.

It's hard for me to comprehend why I have this expectation.  In the last thirty-eight years much has changed in how I see and understand the world and my life.  I don't believe that all things happen for a reason.  And because I don't believe in a God anymore, the old addage of God not giving us more than we can handle is meaningless.  I know there is no magical place where we all re-gather, recognizable as the people we are now, after we die.  

Yet, here I am, open to a new awakening in what has become a tedious life.  If this Full Moon Christmas is a portal, let something wondrous come through, with all concomitant props. We'll see how my fifty-nine year old science positive, justice seeking, and self loving person welcomes and makes room for amazig and wonderful.  

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Winter Solstice Metaphor.

There are no salmon in the river pictured above.  It's a creek that flows through Ames, Iowa.  No salmon ever.  Yet, somehow this Mary Oliver poem seems as if it was written specifically for me. Often I am confused about which is a better fit for me - power or powerlessness?  It is hard for me to know if I am the dark force swallowing the light, or the light that has been consumed.  Does it even matter?

Into the River
                    ~ Mary Oliver

I have seen the great fee
into the river

and I havev seen moonlight
along the long muzzle

and I have seen the body
of something
scaled and wonderful

slumped in the sudden fire of its mouth,
and I could not tell
which fit me

more comfortably, the power,
or the powerlessness;
neither would have me

entirely; I was divided,
by sympathy,

pity, admiration.
After a while
it was done,

the fish had vanished, the bear
lumped away
to the green shore

and into the trees.  And there there was only
this story.
It followed me home

and entered my house -
a difficult guest
with a single tune

which it hums all day and through the night -
slowly or briskly,
it doesn't matter,

it sounds like a river leaping and falling;
it sounds like a body
falling apart.

You're Not Helping . . .

BrenĂ© Brown on Empathy - Click for 2 minute video

A few years ago a brilliant young woman introduced me to the fabulous Brene Brown video on empathy.  This young woman, Julia, was working under my direction with a high school youth group. One day she came to me and asked, "Do you think they'll get this?"

I was surprised that she thought they needed this video.  I inquired if something had happened to one of the students or in their larger community.  She just said, "No.  But they use what they perceive as their peers' heavy experiences to deflect matters that are part of everyday life.  It's like they want to acknowledge that their friends have experienced sadness or disappointment or trauma, but they want to deflect the emotions because, I think, it triggers their own sad or heavy unprocessed emotions and experiences."

"Yeah," I said.  "Show it."  She bounded out of my office and I sat down to google the video and watch it again.  "This is great," I said to myself as I pressed play and then re-play.  I'm going to use this someday . . .

That day is here.

To all my friends and acquaintances who greet me with "You look exhausted."  Or who respond to me when I decline an invite because I have to work by telling me "Oh no.  You work so hard!  What a saint." To everyone who says, "I could never do what you do.  Or they do."  I would like to tell you, "You're not helping. . ." By talking about these problems like they have nothing to do with you disenfranchises those who have, either by choice or chance, opened themselves to let us know about their pain.

But, you are right, I do work hard.  I do become intimately involved in situations where people have suffered trauma and pain.  So do you.  We have all experienced brokenness, pain, sadness, and being treated badly.  Some experiences are delivered to us suddenly with a lot of physical pain and nameable trauma, causing us to fear for our life in that moment.  But for most of us, experiences that create hurt and brokenness are delivered in small, confusing doses over long periods of time,making us question our reality and the validity of our life and our very existence.

I work with those who can, without involving their perception or sanity, name the trauma that has happened to them. Their bruises, police reports, and major upset to their everyday life provides talking points for honest conversations about what they've experienced and how they might move forward.

Many can't name the exact date or time that the trauma they've experienced caused them to break and fear for their life.  It is difficult for some to even say for sure what their experience was.  This difficulty comes because the experiences imposed on them are calculated, vague, and repetitive, making them difficult to identify or describe as hurtful.  (Gaslighting - a future post?)  These experiences lead to survivors who are labeled the "dramatic" or "addicted" one in the family or group.  They are the ones who "always ruin holidays/birthdays/parties and other people's lives."  The ones who inflict the pain and damage are quick to point out that you "just never fit in" with the rest of us.

When engaging with people who have experienced an identifiable or public trauma, don't pity them.  Don't elevate or glorify those who choose to accompany those survivors on their path.  Instead, consider sharing a bit of your private struggle with those whose struggle has become more public.  You could say, "I don't know what to say to you.  I know when I've experienced pain and hurt, I just want people to be there for me, not asking questions or giving advice.  I can only imagine that you may be feeling that right now, too."  Then, shhhhhh.  Just be there.  You don't need to talk.

When the moment seems appropriate, if you can and if you want to, offer to help. Do not say, "Let me know if you need anything." Rather, throw out a concrete offer of help.  "I can bring you dinner in an hour," or "I'll take care of turning the project in for us next week," or "I can come after the kids are in bed tonight.  I'll just be with you for an hour."  Tell what you can do.  Then, and this is so important, do not take it personally when they decline your offer to help.  If you can't help, tell them that too.  "I have a lot of meetings and deadlines right now, but I'll check in with you on Tuesday."  Simple, concise, communication.  That is what people in pain need most.

Finally, when you hear of a person's sad or traumatic experience, never say, "Oh you poor thing." Follow the advice in Brene's video and what I've shared above. Then go and honestly explore what feelings came up for you as you engaged with the survivor.  Don't be afraid or too proud to reach out to be supported in your own processing and healing from hurts.

One day, when we can all say we've assessed our lives honestly and work continually to see the sameness rather than the differences between us, we will make a better world.  We will be a society of empaths, speaking a language that we now only comprehend in small bits and feelings.

Green is the color of love and empathy.  It is associated with your heart chakra.  It is from this chakra
that you reach beyond yourself, and then back again, to connect with something larger,
deeper, and greater than yourself.  It is from this chakra that we begin to heal ourselves and the world.