Last summer, in the midst of a difficult year (both parents with Alzheimer’s and a stressful time of marital separation sparking a CFS/ME relapse) an old and dear friend. . . . . well, she lost it. Frantic about my distress she said at one point, “This is never going to get better! You will always have this illness. Combined with aging, it will simply get worse and worse for the rest of your life! And your parents are physically healthy so this hell with their mental deterioration is going to go on for a long time. It could go on for twenty years!”
Now here’s what’s interesting about this: her frantic pronouncements shifted me in a good way. Hearing the words that no doubt some part of my semi-conscious mind was muttering regularly, I felt like I woke up. I thought, “Oh that’s just not true. My health changes all the time, sometime for the better. I don't believe I will only become more and more ill. And I can’t know what is going to happen with my parents.”
My poor friend, feeling panicked and unable to help, had helped me shift away from my own fear and into deeper self-care. It’s not that I recommend predicting gloom and doom to help your friends find their inner strength in challenging times. But, sometimes when we see some one we love in a distressing situation we panic. What surprised and pleased me was seeing the unpredictable ways psyche can use what is at hand to find its way back into hope and life.
Living a human life deeply with an open heart requires courage. There are inevitable losses and challenges. Some days it’s easy to hop out of bed, eager to face the day. And sometimes- occasionally for no immediately apparent reason- it takes a lot of courage to put your feet on the floor and move toward your familiar tasks.
When we face a challenge that needs to be dealt with over months or years, sometimes remembering that all things will pass just doesn’t help much. When I face these kinds of challenges I do three things to encourage my lagging spirit:
1) I reign in the terrified mind that is slipping into imagining “The Worst” by telling myself, “Stay here. . . Breathe. Inhale. . . . Exhale. . . . Stay here,”- for ten to twenty slow breaths (repeating as often as I need to during the day;)
2) I ask myself what needs to be done in the next five minutes and I do that one thing without thinking about what comes next (ie.- continuing to focus on my breath.) The more severe the pain (physical or emotional,) the more specific I become, changing for example, “make a cup of tea" to “fill the kettle with water.”
3) I set up small daily moments of appreciative self-care and skilful distraction. Appreciative self-care may include having something wonderful to eat, (preferably a tasty green smoothy instead of a bag of cookies) taking a slow walk in a local park, or having a conversation with a friend. Skilful distractions are things that occupy me fully- giving me a break- without leaving any kind of “hangover” (like watching a movie that makes me laugh- or even one that makes me cry if I need the release- instead of channel surfing for hours and becoming tired but wired.)
How we each encourage ourselves is, of course, very individual. On some level it's about recognizing that we are in need of encouragement- of finding that which feds our courage- whether we're dealing with difficult external circumstances or challenging internal states that are not entirely or immediately in the control of our will. Some days life unfolds with effortless ease, and other days. . . . well, other days we need a little encouragement. As my friend voiced her fears, no doubt mirroring some of my own, I was pleased to find that the instinctual desire to find ways and reasons to continue, to lean into life, was confirmed as an aspect of what we are. And I find that very encouraging.
Oriah (c) 2012
Oriah, it seems that your friend allowed you to be a witness to what was going on inside of you, which in turn allowed your experience, knowledge and wisdom to be used unencumbered by your emotions. What a gift she gave you.ReplyDelete
And good for you for unwrapping that gift, taking it in and using it.
Yes indeed Fred- that is exactly what she did. Of course, she had her own "stuff" going on that really had very little to do with me- but that's the way it sometimes works- our "stuff" can help another see and deal with their own :-) It really did snap me out of my own lethargy and discouragement- for which I am deeply grateful.Delete
that beautiful email was the most perfect timing and SO what i need to hear in the middle of unbelievable turmoil. THANK YOU from the bottom, middle, top and indeed WHOLE of my heart ! ... MAHALO.ReplyDelete
with love and strength to you dear Oriah.
I hope I never move away from the awe I feel over how universal energy works. What we need, when we need it, really is present, isn't it?ReplyDelete
Whether peoples words are meant as a gift or not, they can become a gift when our heart is open to hear.
Goddess bless you and your family, Oriah. It can be tough to deal with aging parents.
Brenda, Yes, while the words my friend said on one level were not the what I wanted or needed to hear in a time of great challenge (and were more reflective of how she was feeling than anything to do with my reality) I could not help but delight in how they woke me up and reminded me of what I believed- and I knew her distress was because she loved me. Little workings of the Sacred Mystery :-)Delete
I wonder if we expect encouragement sometimes from the outside, when looking for courage within is the key to some experience we want? I was thinking about moments when I've experienced the courage to get over fear (and they really seem to be moments to me at this stage of my life)or discouragement, and sometimes it is the discouragement I received that woke me up, just as it happened in this case for you. It is a moment when I shake my head a little and realize "I'm more than that."ReplyDelete
Amanda, I think both happen- sometimes external discouragment can wake up our inner courage (although I was smart enough to know I needed to take a little "break" from interaction with this friend, knowing I did not want or need to hear this prediction of gloom often during a challenging time.) On the other hand, sometimes encouagement- affirmation that yes indeed it is a hard time and you are doing what you can and handling it as well as you can expect yourself to do etc.- can really perk us up also. Maybe it's just that psyche will try to use whatever is available to choose life over and over. :-)Delete
I have been enjoying your reflections and insights for several months and greatly enjoy your positive approach to life. Filling the teapot versus making a cup of tea brought back many memories for me. For several years I had the symptoms of CFS/ME. It was incredibly challenging. Quite by accident, I stumbled across the idea that consumption of wheat, and other grains, might be at the heart of my pain and exhaustion - and it proved to be true. Within three days of changing my diet the pain left me. It returns every time I take wheat back into my diet. At times I have to go back and see if it was only my imagination - not! :o)
Diane, how wonderful that grain ended up being the culprit instead of CFS/ME. Sadly, I have a no grain diet and while it does help (which is to say eating grain lowers my already low energy) it does not result in normal energy- which is only to say the disease is confirmed. These things are always worth trying and so wonderful when they work. Congratulations! :-)Delete
Thank you, Oriah. I always share the information because someone shared with me and changed my life. I wish you well as you continue your journey.Delete
Encouragement definitely led to a great deal of courage during my recent medical challenge. I think that is it...that our psyche chooses whatever will work to benefit life (wish I could bold that) when we are consciously aware...but I know that I've sometimes been undone by either as well...which leads me to believe that it might actually be a neutralized effort or meaning(dis/en/courage/ment) on other's parts because the self-found courage is ultimately self-found...Did that make any sense at all...? :-)ReplyDelete
Yes, that makes sense and seems to mean that the lynch pin is our own awareness. How others' effect us is pretty much dependent up on our own awareness in the moment- which is to say we can be encouraged or discourage by just about anything, depending on our state at the time. :-) (Although I do think psyche is always trying to move us in the direction of LIFE!)Delete
Ditto. Many years ago after my marriage spit i was upset (understatement)till one day I got an email that was so big it clogged up my inbox. I cursed. A US friend I barely knew had sent me a calender. One page, a picture of a ship going down with the caption,"Maybe the purpose of you life is simply to be a warning to others." I began laughing and everything changed.ReplyDelete
Now that made me laugh out loud- seeing my life as a cautionary tale for others can certainly help me take myself a little less seriously :-)Delete
Good. :) Love the Chinese proverb. I notice it says "the singing bird WILL come", which I guess means we don't need to spend time looking for it. Nice bough by the way :)ReplyDelete