Think About What You Have. The Season of Epiphany.

the Epiphany

Self-Care Tip #145 – Think about what you’re wanting and waiting for, and then think about what you have.  Be a friend to yourself.

Today my husband told me that it is the season of Epiphany – the climax to our waiting and wanting (or Advent) is celebrating when we find out that God became a human.

I like epiphany’s.  Who doesn’t?  At dinner we talked it over with the kids.  We asked them questions like, “What do you remember from last year that you’re glad about?”  “Did you learn anything that you want to remember in this new year?”  My three-year-old was glad our house isn’t destroyed yet by the rain.  (Yes.  It is raining again.  Blah.  The basement should be filled in with dirt!)

Then, my epiphany came.  Self-care includes being grateful for what and whom we already have in our lives.  Ta-da!  May not seem like much but it hit me strong and soulful.  I have names, including yours on my list.

Self-care for me today was stopping on the bits of life I already have, the people I already know, the gratefuls I don’t habitually spend enough spirit on (generally all of them.)  I get poetic and lumpy thinking about it.  My epiphanies feel like soppy insides, doe-y eyes, choking up over the smell of my husband’s neck, the mysteries of time and such.  Epiphanies generally don’t come without a waiting and a wanting.  It can all be deliberate, which is good news too, because those of us who don’t do that unconsciously have a chance.

As said by Fred Clark, Author of blog “Slacktivist,”

Epiphanies don’t seem like the sort of thing one can schedule ahead of time and plan for.

It isn’t as romantic as I hear it was for Edison, but we can plan.  Waiting, wanting, and the ah-ha’s can be deliberate and are part of self-care.

Question:  In this season, what are your epiphanies?

Leave Space in Your Beliefs to Grow

 

standing up to stigma - mambo.org.uk

Self-Care Tip #144 – Leave space in your beliefs to grow.  Be a friend to yourself.

Madeline brought her son in.  He was born male but has always allegedly believed he was female inside.  It was Madeline’s appointment with me, not her son’s.  But he came in with her and I could either listen to her concerns about her son or ask him to leave against her wishes and still hear her talk.  So I listened.

The issue was a matter of salvation.  Madeline was fighting for her son’s salvation as a mother might.  That part was lovely to watch.  I thought of God hearing her and being present with her pain and being The One behind her fierce love in the first place.

We talked a little about the biology of homosexuality.  What is transgenderism?  If God’s Word is absolute, what part does a progressive understanding of biology play in our perception of truth?

Madeline’s son asked to leave.  I thanked him for coming in and he shrugged.  His whole family abused him, Madeline said, gulping and losing form.  She had spent many years defending him even though in her heart she was terrified that her son was damned.

Some of you may have read the powerful blog-post, “My son is gay” in which a mother described her halloween experience.  Her son dressed up as Daphne from Scooby-Doo.  She and he were promptly abused. As a mother I empathized, and as a scientist, I wanted to scream things like, “You thought the world was flat too!”

But Madeline was worried not only about bullying.  She was worried about the Last Judgment.

Stigma comes from all directions.  Inside of us, our homes, our churches, our schools, our government, up, down, sideways, this way, that…  Stigma is everywhere and it is usually a painful encounter for everyone involved.  Perpetrator included.

So here’s the scoop folks.  Homosexuality is biological. We have as much choice in it as the shape of our nose.

I’ve seen kids be mean about noses.  I’m half-Lebanese and believe me, I know what big noses are.  The nose that makes you wonder how the head escaped the vaginal canal without injury.  But I’ve never heard anyone hate someone’s nose and believe that he’s going to loose his salvation for it.  I’ve never seen someone turn her back on her brother and leave him to die without the love of family around because she thought she was condoning his nose if she did.  I’ve never heard about moral judgment being attached to a culturally incorrect nose.

In my son’s church class the other day, the teacher was trying to get him and the rest of the other oppositional three-year-olds to wear angel and shepherd costumes for the song they were going to perform. Only the stage-hams garbed up.  She kept giving the rest of us parents her pleading eyes, pleading words, and pleading emotions. She was making the wrong people feel guilty.  The kids were unfazed in both compliance and emotion.  The ones who were genetically inclined to get energy from performing that way, were.  The others were not.  I could have said to my son, “Get this on!…!”  And made him feel like he was bad if he didn’t.  But attaching morality would never change where he gets energy.  That part is genetic and it won’t change despite his conditioning.

It’s a bummer that Paul’s letters were translated the ways they were in the 1950′s using the word homosexuality.  A lot of people are scared when they read it.  Fear has threatened and hurt a lot of people.  Reverend Mel White posts about this.

I don’t know if Madeline was given anything she came looking for.  I’m not always the best teacher or student myself.  But I do know that we, all of us, will continue to learn through all eternity.  We will never know enough, love enough, or be sinless and perfect enough to take over that awesome job of being Judge.  I once heard of a beautiful beloved angel who tried.

Question:  What has been attached to morality in your life that you know is not?  How have you dealt with stigma?  Please tell me your story.

What Are You Getting From Pain?

For most people the aftermath of a punch in the face means a phone call to the police or a trip to A&E. But not Lucian Freud. His reaction to a nasty altercation with a taxi driver was to put the pain and anger aside and head to the studio to get his rather impressive black eye down on canvas.

guardian.co.uk – Lucian Freud

Self-Care Tip #136 – Get something other than anger from your pain.

Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away.

Say it however you want, everyone gets and everyone looses.  We could say, “Life,” if you prefer.  Or insert wherever you think good things come from and where they go.

Who hasn’t just gotten their fingers around something they wanted, realizing more and more each moment that they really wanted it, pleasure rising, gratitude and satisfaction driving itself deeper inside – just to find it somehow escaping their grasp?

Morris Venden, preached it.  He had a low, hound-dog voice, a face to match and severe social phobia he struggled with life-long that just added to his beauty.  He preached his own shared experiences with people.  People like me and you.

A man working a job he never liked finally retires and buys his little house to grow old in, a garden he could play with, and a year later finds the love of his life suddenly dead with cancer.   And it all turns to ash for him.

 

Early portraits by Lucian Freud

Your firstborn dies.

You were cruel in a debase way.

You develop mental illness.

Your divorce is ugly.

You father commits suicide.

You have a disabled child, and then another.

You’re paralyzed.

You prostituted yourself for drugs.

When I heard Venden give this talk the first time, I thought I got it.  Even now after years and after darkness, I think I get it.

Before one of his talks, when I was still in medical school, Venden asked me to sing this with him.

Angels never knew the joy that is mine, for the blood has never washed their sins away, tho they sing in Heaven there will come a time, when silently they’ll listen to me sing “Amazing Grace.”

We stood there on stage.  Me smiling too largely because that’s what I did in front of people.  He, uncomfortable, a little blunted and suited with a thick knotted tied, stood a few paces away.

And it’s a song holy angels cannot sing, ‘Amazing grace, how sweet the sound. ‘And it’s a song holy angels cannot sing. ‘I once was lost but now I’m found’

I looked at his droopy moustached face and his eyes were red and wet.

Holy is the Lord, the angels sing, All around the throne of God continually.  For me to join their song will be a natural thing.  But they just won’t know the words to “Love Lifted Me.”

This is what Morris Venden thought he was getting from pain.

What ever our pain-story is, was, and becomes, holding the anger is gripping the ash.  For Morris Venden, he took care of himself by finding this instead of anger – more knowledge of God’s love.  Moving his grip to that was his self-care.

Question:  What are you getting from your pain?  How do you do self-care when you lose?  Please tell me your story.

Do The Opposite. For Your Self.

Condomaniac

Image by VideogameVisionary.com via Flickr

Self-Care Tip #121 – Do the opposite, do the “un,” and go where you don’t want to go.  Be a friend to yourself.

Frank, accomplished in chess, employed in a 3 digit salary job, married with children, and he heard that things were going well.  From other people.  In his opinion, Frank believed the inside life-details were more destructive than the redemption of the apparent details.  Frank listed himself off to me like a confession, but he got little relief from the exercise.  It didn’t change that he was still addicted to sex, ashamed and the addiction was changing his ability to function in the other areas of his life.  He was taking more risks and realized that if he didn’t get clean, he’d lose “everything” but the addiction.  Not wanting the addiction didn’t make it go away.

How many of us wrinkle our nose at the Frank’s out there!  How we avert.  Either side is not really good or bad.  It just is.  Frank is addicted.  And we are ignorant.  Sex addiction is in the recesses and communes of where any of us live.  And, “we” are no better than they or worse.  It just is that way.  The qualifiers are the stink that kill our connections.  The qualifiers are rotten.

One thing I love about Jesus’ earth-story is that He was always un-everything.  He was Un-segregation, un-rules, un-prejudice, un-divided, and many people thought he was un-qualified.  Wherever these things were, He went there.  I love seeing people who use Him to draw lines between their spaces.  To say, “This is because Jesus wouldn’t…”  Hmm.  Jesus wasn’t scared of mucking up in the chaos of people’s lives.  Jesus not being scared is actually the wrong way to say it.  Let’s say rather, Jesus honed in straight to the muck and chaos, drawn there because He couldn’t and didn’t want to stay away.  We are not so loving as that but who cares about motives?  I also say with confidence that Jesus/God understood biology much better than we did then, now or will.

When we can look at each other objectively, when we don’t personalize what isn’t about us, we can let go of some of what separates us.  It goes both ways.  We are afraid of Frank and what he does.  Frank is afraid of what he does and of us.  But it’s not the fear so much as it is the qualifiers that ruin us.  Bad, good, Clang!  Down go the dividers.

None of this is meant to minimize the pain that these things bring on, such as addiction.  Rather, taking away whatever is dividing us helps us be more present with the pain, with each other, and often leads to healing.  It is another opposite, another “Un,” another Jesus-move.  Doing just the opposite of what we think should be done.  Got to love that Man!

Why would any of “us” want to be connected to the addict, or to whomever is doing something hurtful, scary, negative whatever it may be?  Why?  For your self of course.  Our life is better if we are.  That is a motive I think is worth pursuing.

Question:  How has your life gotten better when you did the opposite of what you felt like doing?  Please tell me your story.

Branding and Branded. Stigma Goes Both Ways.

 

mentalhealth.wa.gov.au

 

Oh, the struggle to understand that behaviors may have something to do with the brain! I shake my fist at stigma! I shake my fist at prejudice!

Now, I can go on a little calmer and say, if you are struggling with this yourself, you are not alone. Even if you are the one propagating it. You stand on the shoulders of others.

In Jesus’ own words:

Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.

He was talking to me, I know, and you.   We have all been rude and ignorant in our own time and our own place.   We find ourselves holding 2 positions, accuser and accused. The context of our various roles changes with knowledge, coping skills, experience, maturity, pain, mental capacity and so on.   But that we hold both roles in some space of time and place will never change in this world.   Even in heaven when we “see face-to-face” we won’t be completely informed.  We know we will continue learning timelessly. What will change is the abuse, the prejudice, the judgement.  Once and for all, we will finally let that go and believe at a chromosomal level that God is and deserves to be the only Judge.

There must be a genetic component to our double lives in this world. This tendency towards stigmatizing. We know there is a lot that isn’t genetic and for that we fight to grow ourselves and grow others for our own sakes and for theirs. The benefits reciprocate as much as the pain does. And even though being branded feels personal, it is not.

For more relating to this, read the blog posts Forget About Divisions In Knowledge, and Forgive to Get Friendly With Yourself.

Self-Care Tip #109 – Don’t take it too personally when people sneer. Be a friend to yourself.

Question: How do you keep yourself objective when prejudice hits you or someone you love? Please tell me your story.

Walk Away From Your Junk

the rogers park young women's action team

Image by samuelalove via Flickr

Number one on Bella’s List:

There are endless new beginnings.  Had a bad day?  Stop right where you are and call-it out.  Then if you want to, if you are willing, if you are able you can start again.

But who is able?  Anyone who wants.  Even the severely disabled can say at some level that they want to end the hurt.  New beginnings are a privilege.  They are the dandelions we pluck and make a wish on.  It reminds me of when Jesus,

walked right through the crowd and went on his way.

The people were trying to push him over the cliff and they just plane didn’t see him walk among them and away.  We do that sometimes with our “start-over” opportunities.

There’s an interplay of forces that make our new beginning possible or impossible.

  • Humility – a willingness to learn.
  • Biology – a physical ability to stop, drop and roll the fire that’s scorching our emotions
  • Insight
  • Choice – choose it

Bella told me more of her story.  After she said, “The day has been ruined!,” her husband took them all to the table.  He told the kids, “Mom’s right.  The day is ruined.  Now who wants to start over?”  And then they all prayed for a new start.  They walked away from the junk.

Self-Care Tip #93 – Start over any time, every time you want.  Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  Do you find this to be true for you?  Is it a real option to start-over when you want?  Please tell me your story.

    Self-Care is not unChristian

     

    Don’t be afraid of self-care.

    Self-care is Christian and scientific.  I have awareness of the culture that frowns on taking bad behavior out of the church and into the laboratory.

    A few days ago we talked about self-care not being selfish.  That circuitously brought up the question about how “the church” feels about this blog.

    Confusing “the church” with Christianity can be problematic.  I have confused them in the past.

    When my brother started talking evolution, I felt cold and clammy suddenly.  After my mini-panic attack, he told me about reading the entire works of Darwin and I had another mini-panic attack.  “There’s no way evolution didn’t happen.  There’s just too much evidence supporting it.”  I was confused.

    It took me a long time to realize that I didn’t have to be worried about differences between me, science and God.  Funny that my comfort level grew with this as I realized how little I knew.  In fact, my joy expanded, when I realized I would spend all eternity growing my knowledge.  That is a lot of everything that just won’t fit into any box I can think of.

    iwantthatpainting.com/Why-does-it-always-rain-on-me.html

    Now when something crashes through a pet-paradigm, I remember that it’s ok.  (Down fear!  Get down anxiety!  Heal dogs!)  I may see a different reality.  Parts of me may become changed by that knowledge, trauma, death of a dear one.  Becoming changed and different is ok.  Because God is the same.  God already knows whatever about evolution, or that the world is round.  He knows that we try to turn medical symptoms into something spiritual, like depressed mood.  He knows it and He’s still here.  He is the prototype of presence.  Now that people can look into the brain and say where feelings and behaviors come from, we can get past that and on to the next revelation.  So what if it is medicalized.  Science and spirituality are not exclusive of each other.

    So is self-care Christian or scientific?  Things aren’t that binary.  Self-care is both.

    Self-Care Tip #84 – Don’t be afraid of self-care.  Be a friend to yourself.

    Fear

    I dropped my kids off today.  All of them.  We had been very happy about this.  After laboring towards patient parenting for 7 years, I was also looking forward to today.  I’d never had all three out of the house at once, and the strangle squeeze on my insides grabbed me by surprise.

    We used to have this black cat when I was a kid who would hide in our plants.  In the middle of the night when I’d occasionally wake up and go to the kitchen to get a drink, she’d jump out at me with her claws.  While walking today between preschool, kindergarten, and 2nd grade, life jumped.  What left me breathless was how easy it was to get rid of my kids.  Appropriately by social standards.  School you know.  They’re doing what they need to do.  And just like that, if I wanted, they could be mostly gone.  I suddenly felt how it could happen to us, easy like that.  Like a body returning to dust.  My spirit, my soul, my essence yelled a loud “Wait!”

    My reaction can be confused by some as a hidden desire.  Sure, I acknowledge the obvious need for parents, including yours truly, to get space from their kids. But that wasn’t the slap I felt.  It was fear.

    I’ve treated many mothers, but one in particular comes to mind.  She voluntarily admitted herself to the hospital because she was afraid she would hurt her baby.  She wasn’t fantasizing about it.  She was having specific vivid imaginings that cut into her consciousness.  After enough of those, she lost confidence in herself and hid.  She confused these day-terrors with a fear that they were really some unconscious desire she didn’t understand.  Common for panic disorder.  It is the medical disease that historically gave us the phrase of “I feel like I’m going crazy!” With medication therapy she returned to a capable woman who trusted herself.

    Have you ever noticed that in the Bible, whenever God or an angel is talking, they almost always start out by saying, “Fear not for I am with you,” or some version of that?  I didn’t, until my kids came home from Vacation Bible School 2 years ago, and the refrain for the week was “Fear Not!”  They still scream it at each other with glee.  I love that about God.

    However when I hear that Bible verses or prayer or God should make us overcome fear, I am more than bored.  I’m angry.  Fear comes for many reasons.  It isn’t a spiritual thermostat.

    Today I did several things to deal with my fear.  I cried.  I prayed.  I went to work.  I felt better.  However, my patient did not feel better after doing those things.  What should God have done for her fear?  I knew that she came to my hospital.  I knew that what she felt were symptoms of a medical illness affecting her human brain.  I knew that medications could play a part in helping her.  Maybe that came from God.

    Question: What do you think? Agree? Disagree?

    Self Care Tip #31 – Fear not!  Be a friend to yourself.