Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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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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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.

 

 


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Mother Teresa

Once a week, I try to post a quote on Facebook. It’s just something to keep things active on my business page and I hope it will generate some thinking. I really loved this week’s quote. It came out of a book I was reading called “Hope Conquers All” which is full of CaringBridge stories.

“Do not think that love in order to be genuine has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired.” Mother Teresa

Love, love, love that. We need to love without getting tired.

I am the first to admit that I get tired. Often. I remember once at a spiritual direction session when Tim was still alive and I was dealing with a host of blended family problems, I was asked to move seats for a technique she was using. I don’t remember the actual intervention, but I do remember her saying afterward that she had an aha moment when she realized I was just completely exhausted. A simple thing like moving my seat became a burden because I was so emotionally tapped out. Tired.

I try not to complain, but when I do, I know I hear myself saying I’m tired. Tired of being alone. Tired of being the strong one. Tired of being the one people depend on. Tired of being responsible. Tired of being alone. Tired of being alone.

I was in a session yesterday with a lovely woman who has had a lifetime of burdens to bear. Family and significant others in her life have had hosts of issues like mental illness, severe addictions, etc.. She is tired. She just longs for someone to take care of her for a change. My heart ached for her. She is so worthy of being rescued, but there is no genuine promise to offer her that someone will eventually do just that.

Mother Teresa’s quote is profound. We need to love without tiring.  We don’t need miracles, we just need to stay the course. No fanfare, nothing fancy. Just keep at it. Keep going, keep trying.

And I don’t think it’s wrong to also hope to find someone in life who will love us without tiring as well. It’s ok to want it back in return.

I talked with my client yesterday about how she probably would identify with my fantasy for a significant other. My ideal isn’t being swept off my feet, or some fabulous vacation. The vision is in my kitchen, with someone who just says, “I’m here.” And then they stay. They love without tiring.

Thanks for your amazing life and example, Mother Teresa. And thanks for that profound statement. When I feel my fatigue, I’m going to remember that statement and let it inspire me to keep loving.


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Successful Failure

Recently, I went to two different professionals for assistance in dealing with the after math of my daughter’s situation. Specifically, I want to know how to handle it when you have given something your all. I mean, you have really gone beyond the call of duty, done more than most people could have possibly done. But… you were still ineffective. In spite of all your knowledge, your fierce heart, and your relentless pursuit, you still weren’t able to make things happen the way they should have happened. Even though I know I was up against a system larger than life and broken to the core, I still felt like a failure. How do you accept defeat?

The first person I talked to was my first spiritual director. Her “stance” was to assume (without knowing many details) that because of my intensity, I probably offended people and overwhelmed them. She said my kids may have asked for my help, but they were probably not prepared for the tsunami that they received. Yes, she actually compared me to a tsunami. Now when I hear that word, I don’t think of anything good. I think of brutal destruction, devastation and death. Holy shit. Could that be my problem? I left with an even heavier heart than I came in with.

Thank goodness I had my session the next day with good ‘ol Scott, my therapist of 15 years. Some may same it’s time to make a change. I vehemently disagree. He not only knows me, but he knows my husband and my children. And he has seen me interact with them dozens of times, even under great distress. I trust his opinion, which is very informed and well-rounded.

Scott said that in no uncertain terms, has he ever experienced me like a tsunami. Even when the other party deserved that kind of response. I show remarkable restraint and patience and seek solutions whenever possible. I’m intense all right, but it’s internal mostly. I am incredibly hard on myself and feel deeply and passionately, which makes me try that 120% when others give up long before that.

Then he gave me something to wrap my head around. He said when he thinks of all that has happened in Georgia with my daughter and her “treatment team” (I use that term loosely), he is reminded of the movie Apollo 13. He said that mission was a failure. No one landed on the moon. Objectives not met. But the fact that everyone came back home alive, was nothing short of a miracle. It was the tenacity and intelligence and passion of a group that never gave up that brought them all home. THAT IS A SUCCESSFUL FAILURE. While the ultimate goal was not reached, those men should be proud as hell of their success.

I’ve thought about that a thousand times since my session and it has helped tremendously. While my daughter is now (in my opinion) mis-diagnosed, on the wrong medicine, cycling through mood swings and symptoms, and yet another medical professional has informed her that her mother is a pain in the butt… and every professional “helping” her has refused to talk with me in spite of her signed release, I can’t consider myself an utter failure. Yes, I was hoping to change the course of her treatment and thus change the quality of her life and my grandchildren’s. That objective was an utter failure.

But damn it, I gave it my best shot. And my best shot is pretty remarkable by most people’s standards. And maybe someone else will be helped by my blogs. And most importantly, my grandson is seeing a counselor at his school. She emails me every week and lets me know how he is. She delivers messages between us and he is now in a self-esteem group which he desperately needs.

SO THERE. I am a successful failure. And I’m slowly becoming ok with that, maybe even proud.

P.S. I politely resigned from spiritual direction. I think I will stick with my beloved Scott.


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Common Denominators

I recently restarted work with my very first spiritual director. She was my minister before that. We parted ways for a while and then I bumped into her and got thinking about her. She pushes me hard. Sometimes too hard. But the most growth and changes in my life happened when I worked with her. And because I’m tired of my own broken record, I sought her out.

We just got started yesterday. We were looking for the common denominators- i.e. overall patterns that tend to repeat themselves in my life. In other words, I started out with the question, “Why does this keep happening in my life?” Somewhere in the later part of the session, an important shift occurred. I realized that wasn’t the right question. I basically know WHY it keeps happening. What I really want to know is what the hell am I supposed to do about it?

In other words, if I try to change the parts of me that bring some of these things on, I will have two problems. One, is that some things are so ingrained in me, I might as well stop breathing than to try to change it. Secondly, some of those things are good. They can be problematic, but they are part of the things that ultimately I am proud of. They set me apart in some ways.

I could write a whole other book on this topic, but I will pick one small example which isn’t so loaded. One of my gifts and curses (at the same time) is that I can almost immediately walk into a situation and see what needs to be changed or improved. I know how to wait for opportune times, be tactful, and balance it all with love. But I don’t give up easily and will take it to the next level if I think it’s important enough. This is where my SD says I get into trouble. People get triangulated and the drama kicks in.

My small example is this. I am starting my second college semester as a professor. One of my students pointed out that the syllabus said one thing, and the handbook said another. I had caught several of these errors the first semester and they were corrected. But this one was missed. I clarified the information with her, but here is where I take it to the next level. I contacted the main office and let them know. I’m sure students think I write my own syllabus, but school has changed a lot since I attended. The syllabus is written by the department, which makes its decisions based on state licensing requirements. I contacted the right person and they said they would work on the correction.

I hear a lot of feedback about how other supervisors don’t catch things or point them out and they appreciate my taking the time to do so, which makes the program stronger in the long run. Now don’t misunderstand me. I do not think there is anything wrong with the other supervisors. Absolutely not. I think they probably clarify with the students and then leave it at that. But without even thinking about it, I go to the next level and try to make it right and improve the future.

Sounds good, right?

But here’s the pattern. Eventually, people don’t want to hear what is missing anymore. At some point, the game becomes shoot the messenger. I become the annoyance rather than the help. And I hate it. Because my heart is in the right place. I’m not trying to be arrogant. I don’t think I know everything. I’m not trying to put anyone down. I just put the extra effort in to make things better for the future.

Anyhow, I’m just starting down this new self-improvement road with my SD. I know it is going to be really, really tough. But I really don’t know how to appreciate my strengths and honor them, without going up in flames later down the road. Until I figure that out, no more new ventures for me. No church for sure. I can’t sustain any more loss right now so I need to figure it out. So pray for me, and really, really beg God to guide my SD cause she has her hands full…lol.


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Purpose

For the first time ever, I had a request. Last week someone posted on Facebook and asked if I could write about feeling like you have no purpose. I was actually very honored that someone was interested in my thoughts. So I hope I don’t disappoint her 🙂

I thought I would start by looking up Webster’s definition of purpose, but I decided that was too cliché. I just started thinking of ways we commonly use the word. The first that comes to mind is, “You did that on purpose.” Or when we apologize, we say the opposite. “I didn’t do it on purpose.” In that context, purpose implies intention. Action. Plan. Deliberation. Forethought. The opposite of accidental.

The second thing that comes to mind is, “And what was the purpose of that?” I guess its really a nuance of the first use, but it is slightly different. More emphasis on accomplishment. Goals. Achievement.

As I thought about this, purpose is a lot less sexy of a concept than I thought it was. What do I have to do today? Who is counting on me to do what? What do I expect of myself? If you’re a woman, there is probably a list of people who depend on you for several different things. Sorry, guys. Not trying to be insulting, but it’s biologically built into us to take care of others.

My purpose is easy. The list is endless. I have to pay the bills to keep a roof over everyone’s heads. I have to see clients to help them. People read my book and tell me how immensely it’s helped them. I weed the yard so it doesn’t get backed up. I buy groceries so there is food in the house. I put that stupid bag over my foot so it doesn’t get wet when I shower. I shower so I don’t smell so bad or look so bad. The purpose of what I do isn’t so hard to figure out.

The much trickier part- and my guess is, it’s the part my friend is struggling with- is who the hell cares? Why bother?

I think sometimes in our lives, knowing the purpose is enough. Knowing how you impact others motivates you. Knowing what you’ve accomplished keeps you going. But what if you don’t think what you are doing makes a difference to anyone? What if you struggle with depression and knowing how you’ve helped someone else doesn’t really do anything for you internally?

I’ve been there. More often than I would care to admit. And I’m not actually sure that I have a good response for that. I just have this vague kind of response/answer that can’t be pinned down. It’s like being so depressed that ending your life makes much more sense than continuing with yet. And yet you don’t do it. Because you just know that it’s not an option. You just know in your soul- somehow- that you must affirm life. You must keep going.

I think the same thing about finding meaning and satisfaction. Sometimes it just isn’t there. But you get up every day anyhow. Somehow you just know you have to. Somehow you just know there is Something bigger and greater than you are. I think of it as some kind of God-spark. It’s a sense. It’s knowing with a capital K.

So my dear, dear friend. Dig deep. You have that God-spark in your soul too. I know you do. Even though it defies reason, even though it is lacking emotion. You have purpose. And more importantly, you have meaning. You matter. Whatever makes you get up every day and keep surviving- it’s Divine. And it’s 100% you.


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Don’t Just Do Something… Sit There!

I went to see Bill (my spiritual director) today. We were discussing the lifting of my depression, but the trade-off being more angst-filled. Stuff like, what the heck is this all for anyway? Keeping it together so that you can keep it together for another day so you can keep it together for another day kind of thing. We talked about how I have never avoided pain in my life, always dealt with it head-on. Without realizing it, I think I assumed there would be some sort of pay-off eventually. So far, it’s just been another helping of tough stuff to deal with. At 48, I’m ready to move on to something new.

Anyhow, we didn’t solve the problems of the world, but we decided to start doing some meditation/prayer type stuff in session. I don’t do so well with it on my own, so if we do it together, I can probably practice it more easily at home. It was simple, interesting stuff, so I thought I would pass it along to you. Each of them were only one to two minutes long.

Exercise One:
Just sit there. Sit there quietly and just see what happens. Not for a long period, but just see what happens. I close my eyes when I do these kinds of things because it’s just easier for me. So I sat there and I was surprised that I was actually blank for a few minutes before the train left the station. Then it was, “Oh, I have to blog today. Maybe I should blog about sitting here.” And then my mind just goes from there.

Exercise Two:
Similar to the first exercise, you sit quietly but this time you actually count how many thoughts you have. I had six. I thought that was a lot, but Bill had six too. I don’t remember all of his, but his were:
1- Here. I’m just here.
2- Darcy. She’s here too.
6- Here. Here I am.

Mine were:
1- Nothing to start.
2- Have to call my friend as soon as I leave to confirm plans.
3- It’s blog day and I don’t know what to blog about.
4- I’m really hungry.
5- I wonder if that new guy I’ve been texting will contact me or not.
6- Nothing again. Can I count that twice?

Exercise Three:
Counting breaths. I had eight. Bill had three.

Does it all sound kinda goofy and pointless to you? It sounds funny to me as I write it. But when I was there, it was really cool. The object is to diminish your numbers. The goal is to be able to sit with blankness. For cripe’s sake, it was only a minute but it seemed like forever. The goal is to get your thoughts down to one or zero and be able to be empty. And the goal is to get your breaths down to three or less. Bill says the practiced monks can get down to one. That’s crazy.

Anyhow, I’m actually gonna try this the next few days. I asked him if the goal was also to increase the time you do it and he kind of chuckled. Typical question from someone like me. He said the goal is for time to be meaningless.

He doesn’t know a whole lot about acupuncture, and neither do I for that matter. But I told him it’s interesting that the big goal of those treatments is to relax. She puts a thousand needles in my body, then turns the lights off and tells me to take a nap. The more nothing I feel, the better. Hmmm… do you ever have the universe send you consistent messages?

So another paradox. Finding meaning in my life apparently requires me to conquer being empty. And yet the ultimate goal is to feel less empty. Weird. Maybe I’m just a quack that is hanging out with a bunch of quacks. But I’m liking it.

If you attempt any of these exercises, please feel free to share your stories. I’m fascinated! Really folks, it’s safe to try it at home. Just sit and try to be empty.

Crazy.