Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Louis C.K.

I’ve been introduced to a comedian recently, Louis C.K.. He really made an impression because he talked about things that you can actually relate to. He references a thing he calls “white people problems” which I had previously heard referred to as “first world problems.” The idea is the same. The things we complain about in our privileged society are really quite spoiled and ridiculous when you stop and think about them.

I know he made an impression because as I am facing things in day to day life, I often catch myself and say “white/first world people problems” which makes me laugh under the anger and diffuse it a bit. Patience has never been one of my strong suits anyway, so anything I can do to increase my tolerance is a good thing.

Tim Horton’s has been trying my patience lately, although I also have laughed so hard at the stupidity of it, that it has also brought me great joy. When I laugh that hard, I always, always remember my mom because she could make me laugh like no one else can.

There is a billboard off the 190 – yes, a literal billboard – that advertises their $1 frozen drink specials. There are four pictures on it with two lemonade flavors and two iced tea flavors. I confess that once I drove through Dunkin’ Donuts and asked for their dollar special and they politely informed me they have $2 Coolatas instead. Took me a minute, but I eventually drove my embarrassed self off and chuckled at my senior moment.

The other night I went to Tim Horton’s. I was sure it was Tim Horton’s because I wasn’t going to make that mistake again. In fact, it was late and I drove up next to the mighty large sign and read it again under the massive street light. Unfortunately, the lone man that works that at night had no idea what I was talking about. After a prolonged silence over the speaker, I noticed in my mirror that he had walked out, headset on and all, into the middle of the parking lot to read the massive sign up close. I was almost wetting my pants laughing so hard.

After a few more minutes of silence, I finally spoke out. I told him I had witnessed him walking out to the parking lot so he had to admit I was not out of my mind. He still had no idea how to help me. The computer was ringing up $1.51 and that was all there was to it. He just kept repeating the price. Finally, I said I would pay it or else face the consequences of dying of thirst right there at 11:30 pm in the drive-through lane of a cafe.

The next day, I thought it was worth a trip back to speak to a manager. After I explained everything, she finally went to the register and said, “Oh, I see what happened. Iced tea is no longer on sale. It is only lemonade.” I politely walked over to the very, very large sign on the window in front of her and pointed to the two large cups of iced tea on sale. I thought maybe the visual would help her to comprehend the situation. She then said it must be a corporate problem. I politely told her that if they advertise something (especially so prominently, right?) they are really obligated (perhaps legally) to provide that something for the price advertised.

She agreed and thanked me for not yelling at her like most people do when they have a complaint. She also thanked me for bringing this problem to her attention. I paused for a few seconds, thinking she might want to actually show her appreciation by offering me a free iced tea. Maybe she would at least offer me the fifty cents I overpaid the night before. Nothing. Blank look.

Sigh.

There were a few more details that made it funnier than the writing I just did. But seriously, really? It is kind of ridiculous that this required the level of explanation it did to more than one level of employee. Then I remember Louis C.K. and I have to laugh again. This is a tiny blip on the screen of life when it comes to importance. Maybe even smaller than a blip.

Thanks Louis!


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Self-Reflection

Recently, someone told me that I don’t seem to do as much reflecting on myself as I do criticizing others.  For those of you that have known me for several years, I’m guessing you are as surprised to hear that as I am.  I suppose I know a few individuals who interrogate themselves as much as I do, but I honestly don’t think I have ever met anyone who is harder on themselves than I am.

So how would an intelligent person make that observation?

You will find this shocking, but of course this has sent me on a deep dive into the inner recesses of myself in all of its glory and ugliness. It has caused a wide divide in my heart. Part of me wants to lash out angrily and say, “Stop it! You have spent years learning how to be confident in your intuitions. Your therapist (Scott) has literally spent over 16 years getting you to believe your judgements. And he has met many of my peeps personally. Dear Darren has spent the last couple of years convincing you that you are full of love and light, more than you had allowed yourself to believe. You are not perfect, but you do some things extremely well.”

The other side of the divide, is frankly the side that I have spent most of my life on. It’s much more familiar to me, and therefore much more comfortable. It is the part of me that I understand and yet is completely an unknown to me at the same time. It is the part that I mostly loathe. It is the part that makes me second guess every thought that comes into my head. It is a torturous part. And it is fully awakened now.

Even if it is true that I can be accurate often in my assessment of my self and others, what right does that give me to say any of it out loud? Just because I am capable of judging fairly, should I not be trying to curb the human urge to judge at all?

More troubling still, are the times that I find (always in hindsight) that I have overwhelmed someone or scared them with my intensity. I have no idea how I do it, which makes it almost impossible to control. I remember back in graduate school when a classmate sought me out to get me know me better and then I had to listen to her in group therapy talking about how I swallowed her up. All I had done was respond back to her letters she sent me. I don’t really understand it anymore now 20+ years later than I did back then. Seemed unfair to me, but nevertheless, that is how she felt.

There really isn’t any particular point to this blog. Just blabbing about what is going on in my cluttered, troubled head and heart. It’s not so pretty right now. I’m trying to fairly self-reflect without falling down the bitter rabbit hole of depression. It’s good for me to examine myself because I’m far from perfect. But cross your fingers and say some prayers that something positive and productive comes from it, rather than just useless self-loathing.

 


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God’s Plan

I’ve had quite a spiritual journey over the years. My faith, religion and spirituality has been around the globe a few times. Recently, I’ve been doing a bunch of thinking about this again and am reading a book recommended to me called “The Naked Gospel.”

Of course, where I am now is only my opinion, the “truth” as I understand it. And that has changed dramatically over the last 50 years of my life. I had a session with a young adult client that was one of the most moving I’ve had in quite a while.

She came in having to make a decision about her life, and had narrowed it down to three options. She has a very devout, active faith and as she was talking tossed out a phrase that was something like, “So I’m trying to figure out if I just really want this for myself or if it is God’s plan for me.”

It struck a nerve in me and I found myself racing in my head about how to respond next. Therapeutically, I knew she was asking for guidance about how to make tough decisions. There are lots of therapeutic interventions to choose from to help people sort out their various emotions and thoughts. She hadn’t come to me about her faith. I knew I was taking a risk if I went there and I quickly had to make my own decision. My gut told me to go for it.

I first clarified, “If I understand you correctly, you believe that God has a specific plan for your life and it is your job to figure out what that is.” She nodded. Then I asked her why she believed that. I was her when I was 18. I knew she had been taught that and had it reinforced over and over again, but I was challenging her to really ask herself why she had come to believe it.

First, we went the logical/philosophical route. How do you decide which things in life are part of God’s will and which aren’t? Does God decide what the best clothes for you to wear today are? Is there a best pair of socks? How do you determine that isn’t important but who you marry or which school you go to is?

What happens if you get it wrong? Especially at such a young age, what if she makes the wrong choice? Does that mean for the rest of her life her only hope is to achieve a consolation prize or plan B? Life couldn’t get any better than that if she missed the first perfect plan, right?

Then we switched gears again. I asked her something like, “Do you really believe that is how God loves you? Really?” The God who sent Jesus to earth to love and redeem us, is now sitting with specific plans and hoping that we are smart or spiritual enough to figure out with it is so that we can be pleasing to Him? Does that really feel loving?

I wonder if it was more of a session for me than for her. I am very passionately invested in my clients, but this session I actually began to get more and more passionate in what I was saying, and that passion resulted in tears that began to run gently down my cheeks. They were running down hers as well. I couldn’t stop myself. I didn’t know if I was upsetting her or touching something important.

I reminded her this was all my opinion, but I just think God loves us differently than that. Options and choices are wonderful things. Back in the Garden of Eden, we were given free will. How could God give us free will, then have a target in His head of what He wants us to choose? That goes against the very essence of free well. I told her in my opinion that she could make any choice and that God would love and adore her exactly the same unconditional, immeasurable amount.

When I finally shut up, I asked about her tears. She used her gentle, quiet voice and said she felt in her heart she needed to hear it. In her heart, she struggles so much with believing that she is truly loveable like that. I was stunned. Stunned. I cried a few more tears as I told her that I wished with all my heart that she could just for a moment see herself the way I did. And wow, what if she could see herself the way God did?

She’s such a lovely, lovely young woman. She has the voice of an angel. She has a beautiful spirit. And I remember what life was like at that time in my life, so full of guilt and anxiety, trying to please God at every moment and never knowing if I was. I would do anything to free her of that, to help her understand the depth with which Grace and Love have gifted and touched her and enveloped her.

It was a powerful session. Probably way more for me than for her. I knew I was talking to myself as much as I was talking to her. I have been growing my understanding of Grace and Love for several years now, but I still need to be reminded myself.

Thank you my beautiful friend for giving me permission to blog your journey. You may not end up with any beliefs like mine, but I believe we will both grow because of our bravery to be open with each other on the journey.  You will make the best decision, my dear. I know that because you have a Spirit that lives inside of you that loves you immensely and guides you. Thank you for today’s tender but powerful blessing.


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The Frustrating & Wonderful Energies of Spring

First, I must give credit where credit is due. Darren came up with the title.

I know the first day of spring was actually March 20th.  Heck, we are closer to the first day of summer than spring at this point. Typically though, the “wonderful” energies of spring are what we celebrate. When we start to see flower buds poke through, we breathe a happy sigh of relief. The end of winter.

Disney had it right. The movie Bambi introduced the concept of “twitterpation” which is about flirting and making babies. Guinevere had it right in Camelot with, “It’s May, It’s May, the lusty month of May.” Well, except for what happened with Lancelot. That didn’t end up so well.

I have to say, something in the air has changed because I have been a dating machine. Suddenly, men are coming out of the woodwork and asking for dates. Heck, they might even ask for a second date. And we’re talking actual nice, intelligent, handsome men. What is going on?

The end of winter.

But who talks about the frustrating parts of spring? Not many. Which is why I think this year I got caught off guard. Yes, the end of winter. But there is an element of winter mess that gets left behind. There are the remnants of death and cold that need to be removed.

As I was struggling with the overwhelming amount of things I needed to handle last week, one of my friends said, “Well, you were stressed out like this last year.” I wondered what his point was. Yes, obviously. I am well aware. You could take that to mean that I am the common denominator, that maybe there is something about me that causes the stress.

I chose to interpret it differently. Spring, with all of its promise, brings a ton of work as well. Anyone with a house and yard will tell you that. The yard work is never as demanding as it is the first two weeks you start. The weeds haven’t been pulled yet. The mulch hasn’t been put down yet. The rain comes. And comes. And stays. Which produces mud. Mud, mud and more mud.

This is the time of year that you approach all the bigger projects too. Now you can move things out of the garage. Or the shed. You open the pool and deal with all of the items that need to be replaced after the damage of the ice and snow. Let’s face it. Seeds have to die for those flowers to bloom. Spring is also exhausting and frustrating. Stressful.

Hmmm… Sounds like another example of bitter and sweet. Another example of the glass half empty and half full. Yep. The balance of life. No gain without loss and vice versa. It’s all there. Celebrate the flowers and the flirting, but it is also ok to drop with fatigue at all of the work. BOTH.


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Waiting

I’m not exactly a patient person. I hate waiting. Lately, my days have gotten cluttered and even chaotic at times. I feel the tension in my neck and shoulders. Lots of things aren’t in my control and I have to wait for others. I can literally feel the nervous energy waiting creates in me.

The weather has been all over the place and that doesn’t help either. A lot of the things that I am waiting for relate to assistance with my house. And those depend on the weather. I can’t plan anything because I never know who is coming when. For example, at the moment, I am waiting for my college student that does weeding/mulching and she is waiting for it not to rain. I am waiting for the concrete guy to come and stain my patio and seal it. He is waiting for a break in his work schedule and then it needs to not be raining at the same time.

I am waiting for the plumbing supplier to bring me some parts, and he is waiting for the parts to get shipped. I am waiting for a pool guy because the vacuum isn’t working so we can’t get the pool clean, and he is waiting for a second in his schedule and for the rain to stop at the same time. I am waiting for two able-bodied men who are cutting up an entire tree that was taken down, but they need time and no rain. On and on and on. I’m tired of listing all of it so I will spare you the rest.

But my friend has another kind of waiting. So much harder, so un-imaginable. Her 21-year-old son had a stroke during a brain procedure. There is nothing to do but wait. Wait to see how bad the damage is. Wait and see how much recovery there will be. And the nature of strokes? Well, from what I understand there is no rhyme or reason. Could take days, months, years. Things can shift anytime. Or maybe they won’t. I can’t even fathom what that kind of waiting must be like.

My clients have another kind of waiting. After years of dealing with infertility, they are waiting to see if they are getting a baby they want to adopt. The birth mom has five to seven sets of parents to choose from. Wish I could talk to her. I would tell her how amazing this couple is and what a lucky baby she would be to have them for parents. They can’t do anything but wait for the phone to ring. Fulfill a lifelong dream? Another heartbreak?

All waiting is not created equal, that’s for sure. I do know that myself, and the people I have mentioned have loads of people who love and support us. I know you all send positive energy and heartfelt prayers for whatever is going on.  Tom Petty comes to mind, “the waiting is the hardest part.”

Well, I’m not sure if it is actually the hardest part, but it sure as hell is hard.


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Frustrations

After twenty plus years with the same email address, Verizon is not supporting their email anymore. The process to switch over is relatively simple, but I thought this was a good time to try to wean away from Verizon anyway. Sending everyone an email and saying “use this address instead” is simple enough. But you can’t possibly imagine how many websites I’ve signed in on over a couple of decades. And the book? Well, I have an entire spreadsheet of websites and passwords from anything to production to marketing.

Every day, instead of deleting most of the emails I get, I’ve been reading them carefully. I click on the website and then search for a place to click where I can change my email address. Sounds simple enough, right? Holy crap…wrong!

One of the most difficult sites to change was Facebook. I had to google several times how to do it, and believe me it wasn’t easy. The worst one? You’ll never guess. Verizon! I spent God knows how long pouring over the website and couldn’t find anyplace to change the address. I then spent over 30 minutes on the phone with them. I got transferred four times. Finally, “Brian” completely understood what I was trying to say and it took him 45 seconds to fix it. I explained it the same way every time, but somehow, only Brian had the ability to understand. Over 30 minutes for a less than a minute fix. So frustrating!

Then came Apple. I’m not an Apple person, but when my first book came out, we had to develop the ibook format and set up an account. I spent hours on-line but couldn’t change anything because I couldn’t get past the security questions. On the phone forever. Got sent to a Senior Analyst. Spent two days with her until she broke the news there was nothing they could do for me. So I set up a schedule for myself. I could try every eight hours to get in and then it would get locked. I made a list of every possible answer to the security questions and kept a typed list of what I had tried.

Question was, what is the first thing you learned to cook?

If you know me, you will chuckle at that. I CAN cook, but I DON’T cook. At least not very often. Faithfully, every day, I tried to break through the damn security.

mac and cheese

macandcheese

macaroni and cheese

macaroniandcheese

mac & cheese

mac&cheese

macaroni & cheese

macaroni&cheese

Do you see the frustration? Hitting my head on the wall, day after day after day. The only response I would get is, “That answer does not match our records.”

Then today, I almost passed out. I actually answered the question and was able to get into the program. Guess what the right answer was. Come on, guess!

eggs

I’m going to invest in a helmet to cut down on injuries from banging my head on the wall.


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White Magic

I’ve been reading a book that has been challenging me.  The challenge has been that it is a book that I thought I would totally identify with, but I find myself being quite uncomfortable with the ideas presented. My question is whether I am uncomfortable because the words are hitting a nerve and I need to make some changes, or if I just fundamentally disagree with some of the concepts.

Reading this book led to one of my heart-to-heart conversations with Darren (see past blogs if you want to know more about him).  We were talking about various philosophies we have both tried throughout our lives in order to achieve a higher level of whatever. For example, we both have “tried” positive affirmations. I remember coming up with a whole page of them after my divorce (in my twenties) and faithfully reading them day after day, month after month. Didn’t really make a noticeable impact.

After Tim died, I read a book about the Law of Attraction philosophy. I had a big ritual with a dozen or so of my girlfriends. We burned all of my negative thoughts into the air, and then lit up the sky with Chinese Wishing Lanterns, releasing my positive intentions into the universe. Didn’t really make a noticeable impact.

I told Darren I didn’t really believe that wishing for a parking spot when you need one could really produce one. He made some elusive but provocative statements that indicated that he did believe such things could happen. There is White Magic and Dark Magic and stuff in between. But after getting the desired outcome, he had to sit and wonder what he had actually accomplished. Then he said the nicest thing. He said that I am so purely Light in who I am, so about Love, that he would find it surprising if I did attract anything that was self-serving. He knows my deepest transgressions and the skeletons in my closet. I can’t imagine how he could think that of me so positively, but the comment touched me very deeply never-the-less.

I have to say one of the biggest “discoveries” I made, was when I was doing Spiritual Direction and was introduced to the Enneagram. It is a paradigm to understand personality and I learned that I am a “four” and read descriptions of my personality that floored me with accuracy. It was then that I switched my therapy goals from trying to change myself to understanding myself. Once I did that, I could manage my personality type more effectively. A deeper understanding of that helped me to maximize my strengths and minimize my weaknesses with better results.

At the conclusion of our conversation, he said that he has a tiny pile of “stuff” that has helped him in his life, that has passed through the fires and stayed on the short list of things that actually are useful in life. It made me think about whether I had a pile.

I decided I really don’t. I don’t mean this in a cynical way. I really don’t. It is just an honest and genuine statement. The only thing that I have found that has lasted, is simply to just “get up every day and keep trying.” That’s it. Nothing sexy. Nothing catchy. Nothing that promises happiness or a perfect universe. Nothing magical. Just keep doing it, even when your head and heart ache so much you think it isn’t possible. Even when life is sometimes horribly hard and unrelenting. Get up anyway.