Humans of Earth: “We’re in this together”

creative non fiction, Iowa life, Journaling, personal essay, thoughts for living, Trends, Uncategorized

flood we're in this together

Mixed in between turning off the alerts for tornado warnings, hosting friends for a night to escape flood waters, and delivering packages of care items to various reputable groups came an envelope from my friend. Inside was the photocopy of a journal article she sent me as an addendum to a message I had passed along about a group unrelated to anything Houston or Hurricanes.

flood animals

One of the many sites where donations were being accepted and volunteers were working.

The headline on the article blared the sentiment that seems to be the unifying theme in this adopted hometown of mine: “We’re in this together.” Those words enveloped me like the warm blankets wrapped around the human beings who were rescued across eastern Texas these past weeks.

Gratefully, my family and I avoided the ravages of the disaster. We experienced minor inconveniences of having a few paid workdays taken off the schedule for me, the canceling of school for my son, and working from the rudimentary home office for my husband.  Yet, this experience brought back a flood (excuse the pun) of memories of the 1993 Iowa flooding disaster. I aided my parents in helping them clean out their water-logged basement. I drove my new war-traumatized Bosnian friends to National Guard water stations to fill up plastic milk jugs for safe drinking water. And I worked for the United Methodist Church as a religion writer and reported Christ-informed relief efforts in Iowa.

Back then, we didn’t have Facebook to telephone tree unfolding alerts or changes. We had antenna receptive televisions with local newscasts and the daily mud-soaked paperboy and girl delivery of newspapers. Somehow, though, we got word through to each other as to what to do next.

Now that the height of the crisis is over for most Texans, what does come next? A region-wide disaster affects the psychological, spiritual and material well-being of everyone. Everyone is doing their best to reframe a grim situation with a positive spin (“at least we’re still alive” and “it’s just stuff”) and a grin on their faces to bolster their own and other’s spirits. Yet, there’s going to be the span of time when people are just in the thick of it.

flood iowa

News stories in which I had a hand in reporting.

Years after the original Iowa event I was writing stories about flood relief efforts and thinking “isn’t everyone recovered yet?” Obviously, the answer was no but certainly the time span was an eye-opening dynamic for a member of the generation who was on the cusp of inventing instant-gratification technological tools.

Disasters are like the drunken uncle: everyone plans the family reunion hoping he doesn’t find out. Yet somehow, he learns of the celebration and everyone gingerly succumbs to his presence. Cousins whisper in the kitchen on what they will do if Uncle Harvey does this and what they will do if he does that. But Uncle Harvey does what Uncle Harvey does and even with all the preparation, he leaves a wake of destruction of overturned tables and tipped over Christmas trees that no one could have anticipated. After all, who behaves like that? Naturally, someone tries to intervene to calm him down and gets sucker punched. Everyone sighs and gets to work while Uncle Harvey stumbles away in a blissful state of unawareness.

flood houstonianIn between the titillating stories that are retold on anniversaries and the arrival of the next crisis, is the interstices of time when forlorn people wonder how to make order out of what seems dispassionate chaos. Because the burden of our stories is  so great to bear in isolation, we are compelled to tell it over the campfire or on our blogs and in doing so, others are encouraged to tell theirs and we can incredulously exclaim, “you, too?” We piece together a journey across the rapid progression of days which at the onset seems to have a promise of a clear direction. Then midway, either through fallible personal choices or fateful impersonal cosmic events, we become more aware that our destiny seems instead to be a succession of turning from our own self-absorbed personal goals to taking trembling note of the universal interconnectedness of us and that for eternity “we’re in this together.”

flood we're in this together

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Mama called the doctor

health & wellness, meditation, mindfulness, psychotherapy, thoughts for living, Uncategorized

monkey

If someone is sick, you take them to the doctor. Sometimes, paramedics are called in to put the person in an ambulance to take them to the ER.

So where do you go if you are spiritually sick? You go to the Spiritual Doctor. Of course, there are specialists who deal with the brain, the heart, the skin, the kidneys. If you have a cold, you can go to the brain doctor, but it’s not necessary. The brain doctor might choose to not see you because she has more serious cases which require her level of expertise. So you go to the general practitioner who sees a wide variety of common disorders.

How do you decide how spiritually sick someone is? What are their symptoms? And who are the specialists of the Higher Order cases? That’s a tough question for which to determine an answer. Ministers don’t advertise specialties like a doctor does, yet it would seem a similar comparison could be made. What if a Healer was some obscure medicine/religious person who lived in a remote area? How would you find them? And if it’s still ultimately God, God heals us through his people.

You call the Great Healer through prayer, but you still have to pray.

Here are some signs of a spiritually healthy person:

1. An increased tendency to let things happen rather than make them happen.

2. Frequent attacks of smiling.

3. Feelings of being connected with others and nature.

4. Frequent overwhelming episodes of appreciation.

5. A tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than from fears based on past experience.

6. An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment.

7. A loss of ability to worry.

8. A loss of interest in conflict.

9. A loss of interest in interpreting the actions of others.

10. A loss of interest in judging others.

11. A loss of interest in judging self.

12. Gaining the ability to love without expecting anything in return.

 

Do you need a breakthrough?

health & wellness, meditation, mindfulness, psychotherapy, thoughts for living, Uncategorized

swimmer (800x439)

One of the most gratifying aspects of serving as a counselor is the breakthrough moment clients experience in finding the source of dissonance within their lives. Whether it’s the honest acknowledgement of a feeling towards another or the awareness of their own behavior, the breakthrough moment is an earth-shaking moment which is felt by both of us.

How does the process unfold to arrive at a particular apex in time? Like a drowning person who is frantically swimming to the water’s surface, a counseling client is sifting through a tidal wave of emotions and thoughts which is submerging her authenticity. A word at a time, a client wrings out the excesses of her relationships to get to the simplicity of one relationship—the relationship with herself.

When the breakthrough occurs, it’s like the near drowning swimmer who has reached through the water’s surface. He is freed to let out the carbon dioxide suffocating him and inhale the oxygen of a life that has been missing. It’s a release of a defense from the intimacy with the universe followed by a burst of energy which gives back a life for one’s self.

What breakthrough moment are you waiting for?

Seeing and the big “F” word: forgiveness

forgiveness, health & wellness, Journaling, meditation, thoughts for living, Uncategorized

You know the feeling. You had a disagreement with another person and in your mind you forgave. You were able to forgive them because you ended your relationship with them.  But did you really forgive them or did you just forget them?

 The answer to that question will be revealed next time you unexpectedly run into them in a location you weren’t prepared for, such as your local grocery store. If your heart jumps and your stomach feels anxious, then the energy of the conflict hasn’t subsided and, frankly, you focused on the forgetting but not the forgiving.

So what do you do when you come across THAT person? Here are some options, only one of them recommended.

1. Turn around and pretend you didn’t see them.

2. Ram your shopping cart into the back of their legs and pretend you didn’t see them.

3. Walk by them as if they were invisible and pretend you didn’t see them, or

4. See them.

As uncomfortable as it is, facing THAT person is a response coming from a stance of self empowerment. Responding as a whipped puppy with your tail between your legs will only add to the dynamic belief you were on the losing end of the conflict. Instead, take a deep breath, open your eyes, both in your head and heart, and see the person in front of you. What you discover might surprise you about them and yourself.

Now, for the awkward moment. Does seeing them include speaking? Maybe. But certainly on your terms and not theirs. You can say hello, or nod your head and give a small smile (but not the smirk smile) and keep walking. If they initiate a conversation, such as, “how are you?” say, “I’m great!” and keep on walking.

So the moment has passed and you SAW them, what do you do next to FORGIVE them?

Here are some steps that may help you with the process of forgiveness.

1. Write the person a letter stating exactly what they did that hurt you. Journaling can be a therapeutic process which can help you “read your own mind.” Journaling does not have to be limited to words. Incorporating art or other visual elements are as effective in processing your feelings. (Do not send THAT person the letter, but it might help to read it to another supportive person who can keep a confidence.)

2. Pray and meditate on the concept of forgiveness. Sometimes, we aren’t ready to pray for THAT person, but we can start the process by quieting the thoughts that racket around like they are on a handball court by focusing on the theme of forgiveness.

3. When you are ready to move to the next stage, pray for good things for yourself and THAT person. This action is empowering because it gives you control. When you start, you don’t have to be sincere, but over time you may find yourself believing that both of you deserve the gift of a life filled with blessings.

4. Understand that the role of forgiveness isn’t to change THAT person as change may never happen to your expectations and demands, but it is there to heal you and give you a better quality of life.

Forgiveness is a voluntary choice with a process and while forgetting may be a component of it, that, in and of itself, isn’t an indication of healing. If a chance encounter with someone with whom you have had a dispute has rattled your psyche’s bones, then it may be time for you to say “Oh, Forgiveness” so the next time you encounter them you can “See” them.

gods-compassion

 

Love can be tough and blind

addiction, health & wellness, holidays, thoughts for living, Trends, Uncategorized

m-scott-peck

Love is blind. This is somewhat true, but more realistically people can be blind to love, especially when others make a tough decision to step back to allow the natural order of things to occur.

Families oftentimes are placed in double (love) blind experiences when they are trying to find their way in helping someone recover from a drug addiction. The first function of a family is to support its children in learning skills, morals, and values. When addiction strikes a family member, normal approaches to building a thriving family unit can be affected. Oftentimes, a family member’s addiction will drive the individual to decisions which do not fall within the societal norms of morals or values.

Unknowingly, non addicted family members can be caught up in a perpetuation of fueling the addiction through co-dependent choices. A family member needs a ride somewhere and what caring family member wouldn’t give one? Or can they borrow a few bucks until they get paid? Saying no to simple requests seems petty and punitive. But within the illness of addiction, keeping the affected individual comfortable may literally be “loving them to death.”  People are only as sick as their own and other people’s secrets, and addiction is sneaky and secretive. People don’t know what they don’t know.

Before families realize what is happening, the constant conflict and anxiety created by addiction, has begun to break down the family unit. Substance abuse is a leading reason married couples seek divorces. When a child is the one suffering from addiction, families frequently cope with a degree of grief and anguish that only other families battling life-threatening diseases, such as cancer, can understand.

Consequently, all family members become blind to love. Underneath the person suffering from addiction is the valuable human being God created. But the manipulation and deceit of addiction destroys trust. In periods of sobriety, the restored family member resurfaces and others within the family welcome them but are confused themselves as to how they can so harshly judge a relative.

tough-loveEventually, family members may begin to see that trying to fix the consequences for their loved one’s addiction is making it worse for them and the addict. Yet, it is scary to relinquish control. The illusion for the non addict family member is they make better decisions because they are sober. However, if  consequences of some bad choices aren’t allowed to be experienced by an addict, then no motivation exists to change.

Addiction can and does kill and it can’t be cured. But it can be managed. Just as a family wouldn’t treat a loved one’s cancer, family’s ought not endeavor to manage another’s addiction. Working with professionals is as important for the family members who don’t suffer from addiction as it is for those with the illness.

When a family suffers from an illness, love is tough. Tough love may be the highest form of love one can offer another.

And when a family sees this, then addiction can no longer blind people to love.