Love comes out of that?!

hope

Hello Friends.

I write to you so many times “in my mind,” which makes me a great writer! Wink.  But even there, I am grateful to have you to write to.

I just got done watching, Fault in Our Stars, with our local hospice team and, oh my word!  I had to breathe through it.  I was terrified I would lose it several times there.  Not being one of those damsels who cries pretty, I was seriously grateful to be sitting in darkness.

So where have I been?  Trying to figure out this friend to yourself thing.  Still.

I had one of my favorite discussions with a patient the other day on where and why good comes out of bad.  Do I love this conversation because it is about an epic force, an energy and a Truth that wins and kicks bad stuff, like, fungus armpits, dead children, divorce, broken friendships, finding yourself alone in a huge space, depression and a brain that you’d rather not be living?  Do I love this discussion because I feel so freaking right?  I do.  Do l love it because I need to participate in it one more time, now, and now?

Probably.

I’m hoping I’m not right though.  I’m pretty sure that even these eyes see dimly and the Truth is even better.  I’ve been told I don’t know it all.

The chat goes something like this,

(Context is status post some real, personal, bleak disclosure.  I’m facing them, and sometimes they look at me.  I sit in an erect chair with a lap desk and laptop computer between us.  Just enough.  Sometimes my service dog, Timothy is present.

One of us inevitably brings up a curving effort toward hope.  Maybe,)

…Love is stronger.

Yeah…

But I don’t know if there is a question mark or a period at the end.  It sits there in the room with us, like it is a squirrel scratching at its whiskers.  It can go in different directions.

Where would it go for you?

Does Love bring good out of bad as if it needs the bad, like dirt around its roots?  Does Love turn the bad into fertilizer, and grow into some apple tree?  We know Love is stronger than bad.  We know Love wins.  But we think, do I have to be loved like this?!  Rather not.

Tevye, the milkman in Fiddler on The Roof, said this view well,

  • [to God] I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t You choose someone else?

That is a pretty rough idea of Love.

Love is and Love brings good out of us in any context because where Love is, there it is. Think about presence.  Honest self-awareness.  When you found it was more important to still be able to walk than care if your t-shirt was inside out.  Love is more true than that.  It is more true than looking into her eyes, than hot water over skin.  Love is.

As Green says in the voice of Hazel Grace, “I hope this enough for you.  This is your life. And I love you.”

Question:  What is stronger in your life?  Why?  What happened to disclose such honesty?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip:  Love wins, even for you.  Keep on.

Sending a message to the hope out there, to the love I know exists, to the friend who knows me, the place I can always call part home, part critique, part play-fellow, counselor, walking stick.  Hello.

Know You Are Blessed

ulysses

 

Think of the worst of us.  Think of the worst about us.  Think of those with self-loathing.  Those with low self-awareness, the violent, and the violated, think of them.  Where is the blessing?

Blessed are the depressed and anxious.

Think of the healthy.  Think of the diseased.  The misunderstood, the ones who live miles apart from connection, who ever push like a dingy from the peer into waves and self-destruction, think of them.

Blessed are the poor and lonely. 

Where is the blessing when your real estate is brought low by the creeping up of low-life.  Where is the blessing when you get cancer just when you might retire, when your own body calls you stupid, when you lose your eyes after training as a surgeon?

Blessed are those whose bodies are dying.

Think of every corner, every shadow and open space and the turns you still don’t know about inside of your life.  Think of the unacceptable, the character you wrestle against to moderate away from extreme.  The rope you swing on and try to bring to rest, think of the grey you think you will never achieve.  This bit and chapter, this part of your construction, this surprise in how you deliver is Loved.

There is no aberration from the norm that can separate you from that Love.  There is no addiction or misdemeanor or illness or mutated cell that can lose blessing.

This is fact.  Our life is to live with it.

Blessed am I.  Blessed am, “Me.”

Question:  Where is the blessing in what you like least about yourself?  Please tell us your story.  We need to hear you! Keep on.

Self-Care Tip:  Be your own friend in adversity as in prosperity.  Know you are blessed.

Be Friendly Enough With Yourself To Acknowledge the Gift In Your Suffering

Strange Lady

Image by bending light via Flickr

Pain. There are so many of us suffering from pain that sometimes it is as if nobody escapes. Even so, in the contorting agony that pain brings, we have a very hard time thinking outside of ourselves at all. We are preoccupied with ourselves. We do not think about the others hurting or others in general at all. Pain does that – emotional and/or physical.

Penelope was preoccupied too. She had suffered and was suffering still. Peeling her thoughts away from survival during those times when, with teeth and muscles clenched, her body felt like a universe unto itself. Everyone outside of her were aliens she was able to visit occasionally. Watching her and hearing her describe how it molded her current person, I remembered the book by Paul Brand, Pain: the Gift Nobody Wants. (We mentioned this book before in our blog-post, “Emotions: The Physical Gift We Can Name.”)

When we are sick with Pain Syndrome, with symptoms seen in our emotions, behaviors and nerve language, it is hard to perceive what good can come out of bad. Saying, when we are in that ditch, that the sun is happily shining overhead is rude and boring. Especially when it is rhetoric. Change that rhetoric to insight, well that would then be worth friendly and interesting. That would be hope. There comes a degree of knowledge that hasn’t reached our sensory selves yet but sits in our intellect. We have a glimpse of the ark of the covenant, a promise, nearly prophesy in fact – we have a knowing that something good can come out of this.

This is why I thought of the work of Paul Brand, M.D. with the lepers. I thought that Penelope might want to know that there is something good that could come out of her bad if she were healthy in other ways, enough to receive it. If her senses could perceive it, her emotions, sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell could take in that information and deliver enough of it uninterrupted, what was promised to her would come true; past the pain that distracts and preoccupies.

It is as if this good that comes out of bad were like a runner in a war zone. Bombs are exploding. It is noisy even though hearing was taken out after the last gun fire. Dirt and sweat drip over eyes and into mouths and no one believes they will survive. And then the runner trips into our shelter and collapses still alive; still holding the message in his hand. Something good made it across a land in havoc and war and we know about it now.

I thought of Paul Brand, M.D., telling Penelope that her pain is her gift at that point of knowing, with that timing. Better than I could. She wouldn’t laugh angrily and give him a bad review on-line. She would hear him. “Something good is coming your way. You have hope.” In my imagination, Penelope would not hear Dr. Brand moralizing her experience – “You are good if you perceive your gift and you are bad if you don’t.” In my fantasy, Penelope would understand that this offering wasn’t intended to make her feel guilty for hurting. It was an offering of hope.

Not so easy to do, as it turns out, in real life. I am a very human psychiatrist without

much magic about me very often. But if I did…

Question: How do you give yourself hope when your senses don’t perceive it? How are you your own friend when you are preoccupied and distracted from that which is friendly? Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip – Be friendly enough with yourself to believe that there is something good that will come out of your bad. There is hope.

Love Comes Out of Bad Because in Any Circumstance, Good or Bad, Love Comes

Victor Hugo-Bridge

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Ten years ago, what were you doing in life.  Did you think you would be “here?”  Were you thinking past September 11?

My daughter asked me the other day what I meant when I said that good can come out of bad.  You know me.  I cocked my guns and started happily blazing.  Good coming out of bad has nothing to do with the badness of events.  It has everything to do with the goodness.  It has everything to do with what is stronger.  The love.  Love is stronger than anything.

Victor Hugo described La Esmerelda‘s beauty with this kind of quality around her peers.

As, however, they all possessed nearly the same degree of beauty, 

they fought with equal weapons, and each might cherish a hope of 

victory. The coming of the Bohemian suddenly destroyed this

equilibrium. Her beauty was so surpassing, that at the moment 

when she appeared at the entrance of the room, she seemed to shed 

over it a sort of light peculiar to herself. In this close 

apartment, over-shadowed by hangings and carvings, she appeared 

incomparably more beautiful and radiant than in the public place 

like a torch which is carried out of the broad day-light into 

the dark. In spite of themselves, the young ladies were dazzled. 

Each felt wounded, as it were, in her beauty.

Love, or call it goodness, has a victory to offer us.  In the presence of bad or not bad, Love is.  And because it is, the turning of bad into good happens.  In consequence to its goodness and nothing else.

...like a torch which is carried out of the broad 
day-light into the dark.

September 11, ten years ago, the streets of Boston were filled with parked cars.  The taxis were not going anywhere.  Their drivers were dazed, their radios blasting the news of smoke and buried bodies.  I was weeping with them and sat on the curb, cold with the early night, listening to their radios.  I don’t know why I didn’t go home to watch the news.  I wanted to be with these people I think.  The people.  We needed each other.  What could love bring out of this ten years later?  What would light do in this darkness?

I don’t know what your story is but I believe that Love is.  And because of what it is, in our darkness, good can come.  It has everything to do with what Love is and is all the more lovely because of the bad company.

Here is one mother’s story.  Please tell us yours.  Keep on.

Self-Care Tip – When bad is there, remember that Love is.

Bring Your Separate Selves Together – Personal Journey

National Museum, Czartoryski Collection

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Self-Care Tip #199 – Bring together what you are naturally inclined to do with what you spend your energies on.

When we do what we like to do, what is congruent with our hard-wiring, what is naturally inspiring, fatigue becomes part of our pleasure in my life.  Cliché,

Enjoy the burn,

…is common for a reason.  There are times when pain, fatigue, difficulty and hard-surfaced days are bits of what make life journey one of richness, rather than diminished.  I was reminded by Jaclyn Rae’s Blog-post today, that when we can say,

I’ve learned that I’m tired but still want to do what I do,

…we are paddling the same river our life is floating down.  When we by mental illness, misfortune, choice or neglect, don’t – we are more observant of our lives rather than participants to them.  We find being present in the process difficult.  It’s not something everyone can do in all aspects.

However, we don’t have to be defined by those particulars, choosing instead to do the hard work of processing our choices, our energy and where it comes from, our emotions and see how they weave into our constitution.  Then, some time when breathing hard, limping and spent, we will remember this and reconnect the experience with the choice and the emotion a little quicker.  We will less often separate from the water our life is traveling.  Not become observers but participate more often, more actively, more tangibly with that kernel in us that stays, our essence.  (See blog post, My Essence.)

In the marvelous work, “His Dark Materials” trilogy, Philip Pullman describes us as split persons, a body and a spirit (“demon”) that might be parted by neglect, carelessness, abuse, or other disasters.  But when it is separated, the body suffers and is disconnected from it’s life purpose, what brings pleasure and presence in the world around.  (See blog post, Soul and Body.)

There are medical illnesses that do this, as mentioned above, and in those cases, perhaps all to do is get medical care, heal, treat and get on with life.  Other times, it might be that we forgot ourselves in the midst of caring for children, a demanding job, an opinion that victim-hood defines our life possibilities or what not.  We have options.

As Jjen reminded us some days ago,

The bad doesn’t disappear but it is not a qualifier for the rest of life’s potential.

Questions:  How have you reconnected to your life journey?  Your essence?  What is constant about you in your changing self?  Please tell me your story.

Know What You Are Fighting For – Your Right To Journey.

You Should Be Living

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Self-Care Tip #162 – Know what you are fighting for.  Be a friend to yourself.

Bridget told me,

I felt free to do something creative without having to feel guilty about it.

She had read the blog post, “Self-Care is Freedom, is Democracy, is Because We Are Accountable.”  I was just starting to think about other good places to go with that but before I got too far she hit me with,

I just hate myself!

Hearing those words is like watching squishy and partly moldy tomatoes hit the wall.  It’s messy.  It’s dirty.  No one’s excited about dealing with it.  And, there is something negative that brought it on.  Readers, you’ll remember this countertransference when you’re the counsellor in some other situation and think, “Darn that Quijada!”

My thoughts bumped and piled up.  Stopped, until they started pulling themselves off of each other.  I tried to put these disparate bits of Bridget’s narrative together.  And I wasn’t alone.

I don’t get it!  Why do I feel this way?

Who doesn’t have conflicting feelings about themselves?  Bridget perceived and celebrated her freedom to self-care, yet was betrayed by her own, just when she was reaching for it.  Is that ok?

What strikes me about Bridget is her journey.  She has struggled with anxiety and depression for many years.  I know with me, she’s been in treatment for five of them.  During that time, she has been lovely although not perfect.  She does her hair, glossy blond in large waves, trim body frame and polite like no one I’ve met.  Many medications have failed her and she has taken those failures and claimed her future over again.  The intense forward movement of her inner self has never been muted, even when she has had thoughts of wanting to die.

I have learned what she values, what she’s willing to let go of and what she isn’t.  Her appearances matter.  She is artsy and gets energy from being alone.  She loves people.  Her marriage is rocky.  She struggles with parenting.  She loves her husband and her children.  Bridget’s journey is a journey of imperfection, beauty and courage.

And here she is again.  Conflicted self, ill, hopeful and claiming her future.  Bridget is right on her course.  I wish I could help more.  I wish she wasn’t still ill.  But I can at least be as courageous as she is.  I can hope with her.  I can stand with her or walk.  I know that put to the question, Bridget prefers this journey than losing the right, the privilege, to journey at all.  Bridget is free.  Many of us are not as free as she is, who knows what she is fighting for.

Question:  What are you fighting for?  If nothing were to ever change for the better in your life, what makes your journey worth it?  Please tell me your story.

Celebrate Your Imperfections

Perception_is_Everything_-_Rusland_Beeches.jpg

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Self-Care Tip #153 – Celebrate your imperfections and adequacy.  Be a friend to yourself.

Chrystal came in.  Years with degrees of depression pulling her up and down leave her hoping to reach euthymia (steady level mood).  Chrystal and I frequently find ourselves talking about the grief that comes with this.  But not so much today.  She was hopeful after a new medication trial gave her a week with less melancholy.

In depression, even a few hours of relief from the dark inability to feel pleasure or interest, even a few hours when hope slips in can be enough to remind us what it is about life that is worth living for.  Chrystal has stood in and out of that shard of hope many times.  Each time it returns, she turns her face into it.  Hungry.  Wanting.  Alive still.  Responding to what any of us do, as any of us would, when hope is on us.

Celebrating a little together this lovely hope, she was nevertheless aware that it might sneak off again.  She said, “We’ll see.”  I said, “We’ll see.”

And then I remembered.  “Why can’t we celebrate your flaws?  Who says we can’t?”  They have beauty.  They have depth and shape and the loveliness that comes only from pain.

Chrystal looked at me doubtfully.  “Really?  I’m not so sure about that.”

I remember Someone perfect.  Last I heard, He had some pain and scars too and it didn’t change His status, value, or essence.

If we can’t celebrate our imperfections, we can’t celebrate anything because that is who we are.  Imperfect, all of us, except for One.  All of us adequate.

Adequate.  I celebrate that I am adequate today.  Adequate to live, to love, to do what I do.  “Adequate” implies a personal balance between perfection and flaws.  It implies a presence with both poles.  It does not quantify.  It does not mean that we don’t continue to grow or hope.

I’m not sure about everyone’s opinion about my self-perception, my attitude, or my effort at life.  However, I am growing surer of my own and am getting glad about that.  I’m wondering if Chrystal can celebrate her flawed self as much as she celebrates the hope of escaping her suffering.  What about you?

If each of us in turn were as pleased with ourselves as that, still hoping, still growing, still hurting, still suffering, what then?  Let’s celebrate together, alone, healthy, ill or wherever we find ourselves.  Let’s celebrate our imperfections and adequacy.

Question:  How do you live with your adequacy?  Please tell me your story.