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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Weight Management

If you’ve known me for a while, you know I’ve struggled with my weight most of my life. I look back now at pictures when I was younger and I think, what was I worried about back then for? The last decade or so, I’ve figured out what the biggest problem actually is. Sugar addiction. Really bad sugar addiction.

Once in my life, I met with a dietician and actually lost 25 pounds. First and last time I ever really had a big success to brag about. Since then, it’s just been that roller coaster thing.

I know when I’ve lost control again. The clue is when you are at your friend’s party and her aunt is waiting in line for the bathroom with you and asks you if this is your first pregnancy. I used to have a rule where anytime I am asked that, I have to get rid of the outfit I was wearing. After all, it must not flatter me, right? That rule didn’t last long when I didn’t have any clothes left. Luckily, that night I was with my super great boyfriend. He told me that in a few hours when we were alone, he would be able to reassure me that I was very attractive. We spent the night joking about “the baby being hungry” and other such lines to make a joke out of it.

The next weekend we were out late and ended up ordering dinner about 11 pm. I ate an entire fish fry and then was still a bit hungry. I joked about the baby being hungry again and I watched his face turn white. He stuttered, “Are you trying to tell me something?” and then I reminded him of the joke. It was hilarious. For me, that is. Poor guy.

Today I was with my dad and sister at the doctor’s. I offered to help this sweet elderly lady ride up the elevator. She didn’t want to go by herself. I was feeling pretty good about myself because she and the staff thought I was so sweet. After the doors closed, she looked at me in her kind voice and asked, “How many months are you?”  Sigh. Definitely time to concentrate on losing weight.

We went out to lunch after the doctor’s. Old Country Buffet. Gorge festival. You know the kind of places. You eat  until it is painful. My favorites filled my plate (more than once). Carb city. Mashed potatoes, french fries, rolls, mac and cheese.

I WILL concentrate on being more healthy.

Tomorrow I guess.


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Crying Uncle

For those of you that are not wired intensely, I am sure you read things from writers like me and roll your eyes. Why doesn’t she just chill out?

It’s hard to explain how my brain and emotions work. When people say, “Don’t over-analyze,” they don’t realize they are asking me to stop breathing. It’s involuntary. It’s second nature to me.

When an intensely wired person pairs up with another intensely wired person, the dynamics are… uh, well… intense. Shocking, I know. Truthfully, there is usually just an overwhelming sense of relief and connection. Oh my God, I am not a total freak of nature. He gets me. He feels and thinks this stuff too. The aching loneliness that ranges from dull to raging is finally over. It is glorious. It is euphoric. It is surreal. You pinch yourself often to make sure you aren’t dreaming.

Of course, you know the reality of bittersweet and ying/yang and all that jazz. That also means the heartache is equally as overwhelming. As life unfolds, you will naturally find yourselves disagreeing about things, maybe even at odds. Maybe at opposite ends of the spectrum. So you intensely get disappointed and then start trying to understand. You talk. And talk. And discuss. Two steps closer to understanding, three steps back. Five steps forward, one step back. Then a grinding halt.

I think life at 50 though, is so much wiser than earlier. At least it should be if you have spent some of those 50 years working on growing your emotional intelligence. When you work at improving yourself, understanding who you are, how you are wired, you gain some insight and awareness that helps you.

A decade or two ago, I would have never thought that anything less than a perfect resolution would ever be acceptable. I would have never believed that one strategy would be to simply cry, “Uncle!” and that would be incredibly effective. I would have been shocked to know that I could actually sit back after all that intensity and tears and say, “Jeeze, Darcy. Lighten up. Don’t take yourself so seriously.” Now, I have to admit, that message (for the most part) probably has to come from me or a very, very trusted source. I most likely wouldn’t take too kindly to someone tossing that out to me. But when I arrive at that place on my own or from another intensely minded person? It seems like brilliant advice.

And then life is beautiful again. You can be mindful of the connection that you cherish beyond words. You can just be close again. You don’t need perfect resolution. It isn’t even important anymore. The connection and love resumes it rightful spot. It’s the priority, rather than solving the world’s insolvable problems.

So often I have wished that I could be rewired. So many, many times in my life I have wanted to not be me so that I wouldn’t feel so lonely on the planet. But then other times, like now, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. Those moments of connection are worth every second I’ve waited for it.

Remember this lesson, Darcy. Honor your thoughts and your agony, but then just cry, “Uncle!” and lighten up. Life is too short. And love is too amazing.


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Being Mortal

One of the big books on death/dying is “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande. Recently, Hospice sponsored a viewing of a PBS show Frontline that interviewed this doctor and several other “specialists.” It was produced only a few years ago. (It is available online for viewing at pbs.com if you are interested. I will have a link at the end of the blog.)

I don’t usually get emotional much at these events because I am so consistently immersed in the topic, but this one got to me. There was a video of a man who they were discussing Bilirubin levels with. He was strikingly yellow from jaundice. It all came back to me with a rush. All the same lingo, walking in and seeing Tim’s face and body in strikingly yellow color. That was it, I was done for.

This is not meant to be criticism, just observation and it was fascinating to me. Here was this documentary with doctors, some actually oncology doctors. One was considered a “palliative care expert.” Their ability to handle medical information and dying patients was a bit abysmal. Most of them deal with it day after day, and yet that had no grasp on how to handle the dying with dignity. In fact, usually the patients were much more comfortable than the medical teams working with them.

The author and narrator said it himself. Three doctors in his own family. When terminal illness struck, not one of them knew what to do. Wow.

One of the things I walked away with though, is what I’ve heard over and over again. Doctors feel like anything less than cure is a failure. Of course everyone knows we eventually die, yet somehow they expect themselves to do the impossible. What’s worse yet, is that living forever (in any condition) isn’t even desirable for most. What a mountain of a problem.

Yet I felt hopeful. Here is a doctor that has put his failures on TV for the world to see. That is extremely rare in our culture. In fact, the scene opens with a family who has lost someone relatively young. He tells the widower that he outright lied to his wife. He gave her hope to live when there was none. He couldn’t tell her the truth. Being willing to admit all of that in hindsight though, is incredibly brave in my opinion. And it leaves the door wide open for change and improvement.

The biggest lesson from the documentary, was that the conversations all were happening much, much too late in the game. By the time the doctors faced the truth, it left little or no time for people to attack their bucket lists, say goodbye, get their affairs in order.

The other thing I took away, was how incredibly blessed and lucky Tim and I were. Somehow, we knew to always ask about prognosis. We were able to make the most possible out of the five months we had. We had lots of docs and medical peeps who were honest and open with us. At the very end, our Hospice nurse Patty was beyond outstanding when Tim was grappling with the truth of the end of his mortal life. She didn’t stumble, not even a tiny bit. She was strong and steadfast and honest.

One of the closing comments was short but profound. We need to treat persons, not patients. Period.

My last observation was this: Someone needs to design those damn hospital beds for the end of life that are double in size. It is beyond heartbreaking to admit the reality and not be able to climb in next to your loved one at such a sacred time. Footage after footage showed people in their dying hours with their loving support next to them, but not near enough. If someone wants to market that little nugget, please feel free but mention me when you make your millions.

Thanks Dr. Gawande for making such a courageous documentary.

Link: http://www.pbs.org/video/2365422384/


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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.