13May

Build the nest, for the bird of hope needs a place to rest.

Build the nest, for the bird of hope needs a place to rest.

Many arriving on the therapeutic couch are weary travelers, stretched to capacity and fatigued having marched across a risky, unknown terrain for over two years. The pandemic, workplace demands from home, challenged by new dimension of effective parenting, rising costs of supplies and since February, a harrowing war in Ukraine; violence and abject suffering within each click of an iPhone. Mt. Peace and Mt. Harmony are distant summits, barely visible, climbing elevations seemingly, hopelessly out of reach.

What happens when we lose our grasp of hope’s existence? Shaking our heads and wringing our hearts, is the concept of “losing” hope synonymous with denying hope? When we deny that hope exists, our thoughts become an internal “Whack a Mole” game. With every glimmering pop of hope, we grab our hammer of despair and whack it down.

Hope:  a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

Denial:  the action of declaring something to be untrue. 

Perhaps “Hope” thrives when we become more paced, patient with our expectations. Scale back from the quest to reach the peak of global Kumbaya (albeit a righteous aim), try on more “Hope” and wear it for awhile.

With that, an Emily Dickinson poem archived in one of my college literature brain cells, landed in my cerebral inbox.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers
By Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

Dare I be as bold as to challenge Emily, yet I believe “Hope” IS asking something of us. The bird of hope needs to be greeted with a warm, welcoming nest, to find shelter within our hearts, our minds, our souls. “Hope” needs to be fed by our belief in healing, wisdom, learning and striving to be courageous. “Hope” needs to be quenched with the belief we can be kinder, truer and better.

“Hope” exists when it has a nest in you.

19Oct

The “A Void” Dance

What the hell.  You might be right, you might be wrong. But just don’t avoid.
—Katharine Hepburn

I have been absent from these pages as I have been dancing, but not as you might imagine. Twirling around like Stevie Nicks or attempting to get uptown funky like Bruno Mars, I do love to dance. Yet, since August 19th, I have been doing the “a void” dance.

My son moved back to his eagerly awaited life as a college student which had been paused since March 2020 due to Covid.  He was more than ready to leave his bedroom with 6th grade wallpaper, weatherworn stuffed animals, and his mom asking him “How did class go?” when he would descend from his online pre-med classes. I was heartily aware this pause in the construction of his adult life would come to an end.  And when it did, August 19th to be exact, it was perfectly right for him and achingly strange for me.

Only when I took some time off from my listening post as psychotherapist during these past few days, did it hit me as to why I was working like a fast food grill chef, flipping hour after hour of clients, busying myself with laborious emailing clean up, hitting the pillow achy and exhausted. I have been avoiding what this interrupted, secondary “good-bye” really means.

As a college freshman in September 2018, I was as ready as any empty nester mother hen could be…in fact, I had been in training since tearfully bidding him “See you in 4 hours!” on his entry to kindergarten. Yet, the abrupt shelter and lockdown of March 2020 to the August 2021 “restart” was never in the parenting “How to Let Go” handbook.

He was age 20 in March 2020, and he is now halfway into his 21st year and taller, gained a girlfriend, broadened his shoulders, improved his curveball and filled his cup with determination to pour into his life.

I have been keeping myself extremely, and perhaps a bit martyr like, occupied in an attempt to avoid this truth: whether I am ready or not, my baby should not, nor will, be living like a child any longer. His needs are not for me to make pancakes and monitor his homework. The shift from “parent to child” to “adult child to aging parent” has taken place. So now what?  What new dance steps do I need to acquire?

What about you? Have you been doing the “a void dance” as well?  It’s time to heed Ms. Hepburn’s words, don’t worry about whether taking up pickle ball is “right” or learning to speak French is “wrong”—go for it, do it even if you are not sure of the outcome. Being in the “void” creates isolation, fatigue and emotional paralysis. As our young adult children are eager to sculpt their lives, we still have more time at the potter’s wheel to do the same.  Start spinning, leaping and keep dancing!

02Aug

Use mindfulness to create peace within

Could you risk believing that everything
will unfold just fine if you completely let go
of all concern about everything else,
and simply are here, now – if only for a moment?
—Dmitri Bilgere

As we continue through a mostly mask-free summer, I find myself wanting to make sure to not lose pandemic lessons. June and July turned out to be busy months, with graduation celebrations, reunion gatherings sorely missed for over 15 months, and seizing opportunities to reconnect. This “catch up” is a two sided coin. On the one side, happiness and homecoming relief in being able to join with friends and family in person and good health. On the other side, wow, revving up the energy when for many months, we had only a few items on our “to do” list and living in the moment availed itself more readily. Since I was a child, I enjoy this summer presumption that emotional distress dwindles down to the bottom of a beach bag and drifts away on a paddleboard to only come back to shore in September! Hah, not so. Life’s trials do not go on vacation and there are some seasons which don’t allow for much rest no matter how much we will them to. Therefore, it was during an inauspicious “moment” early morning last weekend, when inspiration seamlessly revealed itself.

As the house slumbered and I savored a wide brimmed cup of PG Tips tea as well as the very welcomed open space of first day “off” in weeks, I heard a “clickety/clack.”  Realizing it was a chirping sound, I walked outside and there was a pesky wee bird, looked to be a bit bigger than a sparrow, flitting around a towering hawk perched stoically on the topmost branch of a tree in the valley behind our house. With every few flutters, this brazen feathered irritant would peck against the back side of the larger winged creature!

Initially, I was mesmerized by the audacity, persistence and sheer buggary of this small bird whose apparent goal was to get the hawk to react, in essence, to get the hawk off balance. I immediately likened this smaller bird with life’s troubles, whether they keep coming back to shove at us or just annoy our reverie; people, situations and emotions can peck at us and certainly throw us off balance. I marveled at how the hawk remained steady, never did it lunge or twitch, seemingly oblivious to the menacing company. Much like the opening quote, the hawk seemed to believe “everything will unfold just fine if you completely let go of all concern about everything else, and simply are here, now.” By slowing down my pace, in that moment, I was able to see how the hawk epitomized the concept we frequently explore in therapy; mindfulness.

As we practice being “mindful” we are focusing on the here and now, a moment at a time, accessing the depth and power of the mind to create peace within.  The hawk symbolized how to remain clear of purpose by standing tall even when life pecks at you, at times relentlessly, bringing challenges we must endure and overcome.

I went to grab my camera and by the time I returned, the small bird had landed on our back fence, defeated in its assault as the unflinching steadfast calm of the hawk had won out. As I moved closer to the edge of the yard, the hawk’s wings stretched, embraced the open sky and effortlessly left its post and began to fly.  I noticed the right wing had a segment indented and missing, perhaps an earlier injury, when maybe an even more menacing encounter had taken its toll. The hawk widened its radius and gathered momentum, extending its distance a bit more the next time around, soaring farther and higher. I found myself smiling at the shear, unexpected victory of mindfulness and how it is possible to maintain balance, even when life pokes at you.

Whether feeling pecked at by life’s demands with employment, finances and decisions or off balance by anxieties, hurts and fears within relationships, we could all learn a lesson from the hawk. If we react, attack and get swayed by the stressor, we will certainly lose balance.  When we are impenetrable, mindful, assured and steadfast, we will certainly find our wings and soar.

14Jul

If it’s important, you’ll find a way

If it’s important, you’ll find a way.
If it’s not, you’ll find an excuse.

I have heard the lament from both clients and friends, “I thought I would get more done during Covid.” Mine was to clean up the pile of college bedding and dorm room items my son deposited in a corner of our garage following a hurried campus exit last March 2020. Guess what?? We never got around to it. And now, as the calendar mockingly reminds me, we have six (6) weeks to dust, sort, toss and repack as he resumes his collegiate adventure!

Cleaning out the garage, doing taxes, starting an uncomfortable conversation, leaving an unfulfilling job, finishing an academic degree, ending alcohol dependency, beginning counseling, pulling weeds, scheduling an overdue dentist appointment. How to find a way rather than find an excuse?

Here’s a suggestion, start at the basics.

  • During Covid, our calendars became unnecessary, every day duplicated the next, we lost the rhythm of planning. Today I felt very efficient as I walked into a Staples and bought a July 2021-2022 18-month calendar. I must say, just purchasing it made me feel a step closer to organization!
  • Next, scribble/brainstorm/data dump those excursions, chores, events, projects, items you would like to, or have to, take care of. Put them on the calendar. Legitimizing the task is a powerful way of mustering up energy, putting the gloves on and digging in… to find a way.

Come on, July is knocking…halfway thru this year, why not shift from “finding excuses” to finding a way!

25Nov

Giving Thanks

Giving Thanks

So much has been given to me; I have no time to
ponder over that which has been denied.
—Helen Keller

The pandemic has denied us many “ings.” Socializing, hugging, partying, traveling, playing, shaking hands, smiling at one another (due to masks), riding roller coasters, mingling, joining in the workplace, studying on campus, greeting one another in church pews and synagogues, singing in concert halls, cheering at Petco Park—the list goes on. Yes, there are many “ings” absent in our day-to-day lives yet there are a few that are impervious to Covid-19: giving, thanking, loving.

Giving to those in need—consider making a donation to a community organization. Thanking others is a “social distanced” verbal hug. Reach out to someone (or many) and share your appreciation with a phone call. Whether spending Thanksgiving with a few friends or enjoying a much smaller than usual family gathering, perhaps the quote from Helen Keller could be a conversation starter around the table or on a Zoom gathering? Focus on what we have been given during our lifetime, not what has been denied during this challenging year.

“What has been given to you?” 

Breath ~ Life ~ Friendship ~ Dreams ~ Curiosity ~ Mind ~ Vision ~ Health ~ Opportunity ~ Time ~ Creativity ~ Language ~ Faith ~ Hope ~ LOVE

Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving.
—Khalil Gibran

It is my sincere hope you will “gobble up” and “digest” (couldn’t resist the puns 😊) all that you have been given and turn your focus to gratitude for another day of giving and receiving love. Wishing you a cornucopia filled with health and gratitude this Thanksgiving.

Enjoy this song by Jason Mraz, beautifully capturing “another day of loving.”

P.S. Couldn’t resist sharing this photo from the 2009 archives as my son and I were lucky to have a “Meet and Greet” following Jason’s concert at Coors Amphitheater.

Jason Mraz

27Apr

The Restorative Magic of Time

The Restorative Magic of Time

Sorrow by Abraham Lincoln
 
In this sad world of ours,
sorrow comes to all
and it often comes with bitter agony
perfect relief is not possible
except with time
you cannot now believe that
you will ever feel better
but this is not true
you are sure to be happy again
knowing this, truly believing it,
will make you less miserable now.

While in Kindergarten, my son was learning about “Honest Abe.” At after school pick up one day, following a memorable classroom discussion about our 16th President, he posed this question, “Mama, did you know Abraham Lincoln?” To which I replied, “Of course I know about President Lincoln.” My son became more adamant, “NO! Did you ever meet him?” Hah!

While coming across this poem by my friend, Abe 😊, I smiled at the contrast of the title of the poem with this humorous memory. In so doing, I instinctively practiced what I believe his words were intending. Recognizing a difficult time in our lives, where there is no perfect relief needs to be paired with a future day when happiness and comfort prevail.

With this worldwide health crisis, there is no perfect relief to what we are facing. Even with masks, social distancing, stunningly dedicated and talented healthcare workers, scientists working tirelessly, this virus is permeating our life and for many, the sorrow is agonizing and what relief awaits is not immediate. In the words of this poem, “You are sure to be happy again…” is offered up as a promise packaged in time.

Try this: Recall an event when you ached from an emotional hurt or felt challenged by an unwanted change and questioned when you would feel happy again. In time, smiles and joy did find you—not perfect relief, but weeks and months carried you to less distress and reconstructed happiness. As this week begins, focus on the restorative magic of time and savor the transformation from loss to replenished and from fear to hope. This, in the words of ol’ Abe, may make you less miserable now.

03Apr

Patience and Wisdom in Challenging Times

Patience is the companion of wisdom.
—Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 AD

The human experience is truly timeless, even more so as I came across this quote and marveled at the author’s year of birth—354 AD. Hmmmm, I have a hard time counting backwards from 100 😊, imagine the year 354 AD? Profound truths are eternal and this qualifies when we consider the health crisis we face today.

The joining of patience and wisdom, companions in dealing with challenging circumstances, is a vital partnership. How did they meet and dare I say, even become friends? Maybe it went something like this…

Wisdom:  “Hello, may I ask your name?”

Patience: “My name is Patience, it is best pronounced very slowly. And yours?”

Wisdom:  “I am Wisdom, but you can call me Wise. What is your purpose during strife and difficulties?”

Patience: “I am able to tolerate challenges calmly and without complaint. I am steadfastly determined to bear adversity, find ways to trust and have faith in overcoming hardships. What makes you Wise?”

Wisdom:  “I accumulate knowledge, scientifically and philosophically. I seek balance, reflection, perspective, reason and conscientious solutions.”

They stood for a long, thoughtful moment, and then gave slow, knowing nods to one another.

Wisdom:  “Patience, you offer deep breaths, soothing assurance and acceptance of what is. You are what I need.”

Patience: “Wisdom, you allow for exploration of answers and options for possibilities. You are what I need.”

Wisdom:  “After careful consideration, I would be honored to have you as my companion, will you join me?”

Patience: “I would be happy to, I have all the time in the world.”

 

29Jun

Balance Life, Observe Gratitude

We will be more successful in all our endeavors if we can let go of the habit of running all the time, and take little pauses to relax and re-center ourselves. And we’ll also have a lot more joy in living.  Thich Nhat Hanh

I grew up listening to Fleetwood Mac, Genesis, Journey, Bob Seger and a variety of other iconic 70’s and 80’s artists.  Jackson Browne was a favorite, and one song in particular resonates with Thich Nhat Hanh’s quote, it went something like this “Running on – running on empty. Running on – running blind, running on – running into the sun, but I’m running behind.”

While driving to the office, I spotted a truck coming to a stop at a left turn light.  I noticed the brake light on the driver’s side was not working.  Pulling around to the driver’s left side as the light was red, I rolled my passenger window down and waved.  The driver took no notice, as he was talking on his cell phone.  The light changed and as we drove away I sighed at the irony.  Here I was trying to alert him that he could get ticketed for no brake light, and there he was on his phone, which last I checked, is a moving violation.

As parents we tell our children to “eat slowly”, “take your time on your homework” and “brush your teeth longer than 5 seconds!”  We emphasize slowing down, and yet what do we model for them?  “Hurry up! We are going to be late!”  The conflict between getting things done and slowing down can be aggravating and perplexing.

How we run and run, from text to call, to chores, to work, to kids practices and household demands, to friends and events, we run.  And yet, as we run, are we really awake? Are we experiencing joy, breathing, contentment, gratitude?  As we enter this week of Thanksgiving, I invite you to take this challenge…pause.

When you get in the car, take 5.  No, not minutes, but deep breaths before you turn the motor on.  Five deep breaths, eyes closed, to re-center yourself.  When you begin to drive, perhaps no radio or news?  Drive in silence, taking in he color of the sky, the homes and buildings where others lives unfold as you cruise by.

While entering your next location, back home, the office, grocery store, post office, take a moment to make eye contact with someone, smile, make a nice comment and notice.  That’s it, a little pause to connect with another human, who most likely is running too.

Is there a place you can call “sanctuary” in the house?  Sanctuary is a word I love.  Its meaning is related to worship, yet also means a place of repose, protection and reflection.  Select a small corner in your bedroom, or a room not being used, even a deck chair out on the patio and make it “your pause place.” Adding a candle, a beloved photo, a vase with fresh flowers, a new throw blanket or pillow can all accentuate this as your “time out” place, not for being naughty, quite the opposite.  For being very good to yourself!

Reading can bring a welcomed pause, most of us have a book we thought would be a fun, useful or inspiring read which has gathered dust.  Take it out and keep it close by,

In the words of Willie Nelson, “When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.”  Well, what about today if you say “When I started taking little pauses, my whole attitude turned around.”

This is your cause, to pause.  Breathe, notice, smile, connect, read, be grateful and repeat.  I am pausing now, as I consider my support work with each of you.   I am very grateful for your trust, willingness, courage, perseverance, and hope to find resolve and satisfaction in your very precious lives.