Getting or Giving Bad News Without Fear

Slalom skier

Image via Wikipedia

I was reading an article on awareness of obesity the other day telling us that many times, people don’t know they are obese until they are told by someone else.  Ouch.  Pass the Band-Aides.  But it aired our need to stay connected, speak up, and listen.  It also prompted me to reflect on mental illness.  How often I’ve sat with someone’s emotions-history in my hands, looked at them and realized they didn’t know.  They were there, emotions bleeding all over the place but didn’t grasp their injury.

Um, excuse me ma’am.  Let’s apply some pressure on that and get you some help.

Bloody news like this reminds me of my friend Jack.  He was waterskiing with my brother and I when we were college’ish-age.  Jack was not so capable on the water, although he wasn’t afraid.  As you probably know, three is the perfect number for waterskiing – one to drive, one to hold the flag when the skier is setting himself up, and then of course the skier.  Any more and there are way too many polite smiles and way too much advice for the bobbing body in the water.  Jack was working on his slalom moves, thrilled with his progress and after about the third fall, was still ready for another go.

Hit it!

Our boat, Rosewater, eased him out of the water and he was up.  Jack has a way of celebrating like no other.  He whoops and yells and his whole body joins in.  And so he was in his happy place, up on a single ski, unconcerned with the world at large.  It was lovely.  Until the wake of that other huge boat threw him down and his face slammed into his spectacular single ski.  Up he came and we just looked at him, quietly at first.  Jack paddled up to the boat and wondered if he should try again.

Um, sorry Jack.  Let’s apply some pressure on that and get you some help.

Jack had a huge gash, copiously bleeding all over his face and he had no idea.  He was wet already, cold from the water and didn’t feel a thing.  I still feel the creepies skittering up my arms and chest thinking about it.

When we told Jack, he was a little unbelieving.

Are you sure?  Is it bad?  I think I’m alright.  It’ll wash out and I can try again….

Oh there wasn’t much pleasure in telling him the bloody news.  Generally there isn’t that much pleasure in telling someone they are fat or suffering from mental illness either.  It’s the follow-up to that statement where the fun comes in.  The hope that we link the first punch-line to.  Good news is, …along comes the second punch-line.  Hope.  And presence.  Being with someone where they are at, as they are, and with patience doesn’t mean leaving him in the dark, bleeding out.

The reverse is true of course as well.  If we don’t stay connected with others, we may lose the opportunity to see ourselves through their eyes.  It is an opportunity.  When we are with someone we trust, respect and think see’s us as the precious thing that we are, it is.

Self-Care Tip #195 – Stay connected with others and listen without fear – something good is coming.  Be a friend to yourself.

Questions:  How do you deliver “bad news?”  What is the best way you’ve ever been given “bad news?”  Please tell me your story.

New Verses New

She died this morning.  After a day and a night of confusion, stumbling gate, and suffering, our gentle gorgeous Maggie died.  She is returning to carbon ash and giving us another reminder of what can be delivered to the living by death.

With the children taken to school, my husband came home to share grief with me.  He had just listened to a podcast by Rob Bell about the word “new.”  In Greek there are 2 common words used for “new.”  One connects newness to Time.  As in the young in age and old in age.  This is traditionally how our culture interprets “new.”  Another use of “new” uses the concept of renew without connecting it to time.  There is a newness in you as you are in time.  It’s a great overlap into the concept of presence.  But where my big gratitude went out to was knowing how many opportunities to being made new we have.

Some of us have the propensity to wait until we “hit bottom”  before we come looking to be made new.  I don’t mean this in any way that is judgmental.  Please see my blog posts on temperament if you want to read more about this.  If we were fortunate enough not to have picked up any self sabotaging habits, then in some ways we’ve got an easier time of it as the the years roll by.  However, few of us are, and getting crushed over and over again like recycling cans hurts a lot – us and ours.

“You can’t have it all” we are told, brewing panic after wasted opportunities.  Not having it all, missing out on more days to share with Maggie, loosing the hope of puppies some day, brought the well-timed discussion about newness straight to our grief.

We are given the opportunity to be made new any time any where regardless.  Any where from greatness to low-living, we have that choice.  When I think of Maggie, I will think of this and hopefully I will choose to be made “new” again.

A “new” heart also will I give you, and a “new” spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

Self Care Tip #50 – Be renewed.  Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  Do you agree?  Disagree?  Please tell me your story.

The Good and Bad of Anxiety

In response to yesterday’s blog, a reader wrote,

I often feel my flight and fight response triggered even in situations (mostly social) that should not (theoretically) even be frightening. What do you think about that?

This is like the degrees of water temperature in our shower.  Pretty much every one falls somewhere on the spectrum of this type of anxiety.  When is it ok, and when does it become not ok?  My brother, friend, mentor, Cameron Johnson MD said in so many words

Anxiety is what makes us work hard.  If we didn’t have anxiety, we’d all be slobs.  We’d stink.  We wouldn’t get our homework done.  We wouldn’t say as many nice things.

My children still see most things in all-or-none fashion.  They would say at this point of the discussion, “Anxiety is good.”

A teenager I treat began responding to her medication.  Her mom began to complain.  “She never let this happen before!”  Her room was a mess.  She was less prompt to obey and she started voicing her opposing opinions more.  In some ways, without the anxiety, it was like her mom was getting to know her for the first time.  

This was however, better than anything this girl and her mom had hoped for.  Now the girl wasn’t throwing up, having panic attacks, avoiding just about any social experience.  She was making eye contact with me and she was able to present in class.  She told me that she can’t even think about how she felt before.  It was so bad.

It is really hard for any one who has never suffered from debilitating anxiety to realize the level of suffering and terror it causes.  Someone who may look stuck up, aloof, disinterested, quiet, bored, may in fact be at hells door.

My children might now say, “Anxiety is bad.”

And so to my reader quoted above, I’d say with my children, anxiety is good and anxiety is bad.  Come and paint the stars with me for a time.  Talk and tell me your story.  We shall in degrees of mind and manners, unwind the mysteries together.

Self Care Tip #49 – If anxiety is affecting you in a negative way, consider a medical reason.  Be a friend to yourself.

Forward Move

When the waiter came out and took my order, I asked to have ½ of it boxed before he brought me the food. It was the first time for me.

Make a forward decision. Forward means something like a glass of water. It is good for us. It is simple. It is not too hard to figure out. It is what comes to our mind when we accept what we cannot change.

Accepting what we cannot change is a way of coming back together when life breaks our heart. Getting into flow is a multi directional movement. To make a forward decision means that the then and now of our lives are in the same room.

I chose not to have the whole meal at once and for me that was forward.

Self Care Tip #24 – Make a forward decision. Be a friend to yourself.