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.

07Nov

Daylight Awakens

There is an abundance of repeated messaging from clients as to how they WANT to resume the pace they kept BC (Before Covid) yet the “get up and go” muscle has atrophied during the pandemic. Like many, I reduced my hustle bustle believing I would wait it out, you know, like Elvis has left the building…when Covid has left the planet…then, I would resume my go, go, go schedule. 🙂

For over these 20 months, we adapted to reducing the multiplicity of our lives. Our “Yes” responses were slim and our “No’s” were plentiful stemming from health safety concerns, “too much of a hassle” sentiments, or a comfortable complacency of “maybe tomorrow.”  As the world is waking up, we not only have to exercise a flabby “social” muscle, we also need enhancements of patience, optimism and tolerance due to resuming sitting in traffic, short staffing and long waits at restaurants, airport delays and engaging with humans who are coming out of hibernation more like growling hungry bears rather than smiling butterflies. With daylight savings and the first week of November already gobbled up, what a perfect “wake up” call to consider ways to exercise the personal interaction and outreach muscle.

Select one person you have seen little or not at all during Covid. Reach out to this person and ask them to join you in a place you would like to visit;  a favorite shopping area, lunch spot, hiking trail, beach lookout, etc. Set a date and time to meet at this location and relish a wakening!  As I mentioned in an earlier post, poetry is a way of freeing my mind and weaving ideas with words, here is another sampling of what poetry can capture.

A Wakening 

It rolls in, a velvet dew curtain during
early morning stirrings,
eclipsing the night, a stealth invader.
It alters the climate of familiarity;
a chill to be denied, dismissed.
It stirs, an irritating nudge to complacency.

“Wake up” it whispers.
Fear makes heavy the eyelids.
Pull the covers up, hit the snooze button,
lay still, play dead and make its recurrence, illicit, unwanted.

Silence instinct and there will be no bumping into walls,
or tumbling into pits.
Only inevitable wrinkles of blame and what if’s.

We papermache with history and habits;
lumpy layers of loyalty to others, flammable glue.
“Damaged” becomes the label, emotionally inked.

“Wake up” the tone demanding.
Yanking off the covers, painfully exposed, the place from which disappointment breeds.
“WAKE UP” the relentless messenger, the soul’s drill sergeant losing patience!
To linger is to submit to terminal regret.
To sit up, swing legs over the edge, reach into the thick unknown…tapping toes forward, seeking a surface to trust, to grope, breathe, and proceed into the abyss of change…this is to be alive.

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.