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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: December 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Holiday Blues (Little Miracles)

I have to say that not everybody is down now. But lots of folks are. So this post is especially for you if:

*You are missing or grieving someone you loved and lost
*You are feeling less than jolly, and don't know exactly why
*You think that everyone else is happy, joyous and free
*You are not where you want to be
*You are not with who you want to be with
*Your are not feeling good about who you are, what you do or how you live
*You wish that at least during the holidays you could feel well and good, but you don't

So what to do? Well, first things first. Grace. Tis the season after all. Begin with yourself. You feel how you feel. And trying not to feel how you feel may make matters worse. So maybe give yourself a little leeway.

Second: Agree to nourish yourself. Eat good food, drink warm drinks, take vitamins, cream your skin, listen to music, take a walk. Rest. Credit yourself for each and every step you take. You can feel lousy and still take care of yourself.

Third: Talk. Whenever possible, to a good and loving ear. You don't need correction or cheering up (well, maybe a little cheering up would be okay). You most likely could just use some genuine attention and understanding. You can turn towards "fixing" things later.

Fourth: Kindness. To yourself, to another. Nothing fancy. Maybe just a good word of appreciation to someone, a compliment, or a warm smile. And then try it in front of the mirror.

I suppose that I often land on the side of "easy does it." I am all for taking the right kind of action to move forward in life, to pursue better feelings and improve relationships. But during this season of miracles, maybe it's the small things that count. You can go for the biggies later.

You may get your own little miracle of relief from your bad feelings and find some faith that good things are coming. Sometimes in crunch times, it's really okay to just let yourself off the hook and tackle the rest later.

If what you really wish for can't be, then for those who suffer from emotional pain, doing that, especially this week, may just bring the right little miracle.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sitting Still

Sometimes in the midst of emotional pain, especially hurt and anger and grief, some folks get antsy. I often get asked, "Why does this still bother me so much?" or "Shouldn't I be over it already?" The need to get past the feeling, to move on, is urgent and strong. And they are off and running. Brain and body on rev. Especially at this time of year, when everyone is so very busy. Buying, and partying, and running from task to task to get ready.

For those who are hurting, all of this running around can be very productive. Too busy to think. And a lot gets done. I am all for distraction. It's a good day then, if you take care of your responsibilities and have not given way to whatever emotional pain is following you around like a kite at your back. If you keep on keeping on.

But then again, there is the idea of just sitting still. Of stopping the middle of all the rush. I know that sometimes sitting still can feel impossible. Especially when you are busy. Both practically and emotionally. A thousand thoughts racing through your mind, and a thousand things to do. And what if you stop and you can't start again? And what if you don't really know how to do anything but rush? And what if you stop and all the bad feelings you have been running in front of come slamming up against you like a herd of elephants? What if it's raining what if's?

So I think that you will be okay. I think that at first it will feel really strange. To just pick a quiet spot and sit down comfortably, and close your eyes, (or keep them open and take in the scene), and just be. For, lets say, five whole minutes. No TV, computer, book, magazine, mail, telephone, blackberry. For those of you who are practiced at meditation or yoga, this is easy. But for lots of folks, this feels like climbing a mountain.

I am not going to write too much about what to do with your five minutes of sitting still, other than to say that once you do it, you may be surprised at what you learn. Of course you could do almost anything. Travel to an exotic place, list your gratitudes, listen to the sound of your breathing, let your thoughts tumble. You may find out that they are more bearable than you imagined, and more gentle than you thought. Or you may find that things still hurt, but that you are in one piece and in this very moment, you are in tact.

It's good, I think, to check in with yourself. To slow down in the fast race to get to somewhere else. Could be that being in the moment is better than you think, and that pause, even brief, is restful and restorative.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Reckless Driving (Lies, Fears and Messages to Self)

Last week my friend called to tell me that she was pulled over on the BQE (the Brooklyn Queens Expressway - a very fast, very crowded, not in such good condition highway that runs up and down the west side of Brooklyn with a sometimes view of New York City to the west). It was dark and she was rushing to a wedding and was lost. In an effort to turn around, she accidentally ended up on a sidewalk. She thought it was a turn off. When she was trying to get back on the road, two cops blocked her in and checked her out.

They eventually let her go, with a ticket for reckless driving. "What," she asked me, "exactly was I doing?" So we unpacked it a bit. "Start talking, " I told her.

So she tells me that the wedding she was headed to was the marriage of the daughter of her long time and very best friend. And that earlier that day she had spoken to her friend who told her, "Don't be late. You are always late, and for this, you better promise to be on time." To which my friend replied that of course she would be there on time. Wild horses...

"Why did you agree?" I wanted to know. "Well," she draws, "I know that it's important to be on time. I am working on this. I didn't want her to be critical again. I hate that."

And then my friend goes on to tell me that the wedding was in fact on a Tuesday night, the night that she has to stay late at work. And that she needed to stop home first to change and set up the babysitter for her four kids. And that when she was leaving (with still plenty of time) the younger one had a meltdown and she wished she could have stayed to soothe him since she had not seen him all day. And that she really did not think it would have been all that terrible to get to the wedding in time for the ceremony, and miss some of the reception since her friend would be busy with all the guests anyway. It would have given her an extra half hour of breathing room.
Okay, so what's my point. That she was driving recklessly on purpose. Sort of. Yes. That she was operating under her own set of lies and fears, and she ended up a half an hour late anyway. And it was a message. From her self to her self. From her self to her friend. That something somewhere was off kilter.

What were the lies and fears? Maybe that her friendship depended on her being on time. Or that what her friend thinks is the truth. Or that her own reasons and decisions are not good enough. Or that she has to do what other people say she should do. Or that she is a bad person if she says what she needs or does what is reasonable for her.

The trouble is this: we often take it out on ourselves. Sometimes intentionally, and sometimes "accidentally." We don't always know that we can slow down, think it through, consult a neutral good ear. We can tend to jump from one assumption to the next. And then turn onto sidewalks that in our confusion look like off ramps.

So what's the message? It's worth it to know and say your truth. And drive safely.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Lot vs. Enough

Sometimes in my office folks will say to me, "I have talked about this a lot already!" Sometimes this is a complaint, meaning they would like to be able to move on, and talk about a new topic. Other times it's a question. They are wondering if I am tired of hearing about whatever it is they are talking about. (Which I am usually not because I am trained to listen for as long as need be. And even if I were, then so what? I can keep listening anyway. Though I always like hearing what people think, or think I am thinking).

What is really being asked, at times, is, "when will I get over this?" Or: "When will I be sick of talking about this already, and ready to move on?" So sometimes I encourage people to say something new, or different, even about the current problem or hurt. But lots of times you just have keep talking until you have said enough.

A lot is not always enough. And vice versa, enough is not always a lot. Sometimes you do have to say a lot to get to enough. When it comes to grief, or betrayal, or anger. Ditto for difficult relationships, love, disappointment and fear. Sometimes it takes a lot of talking until you know, until you feel, that it's enough.
And not just "I am sick of this problem already!" or "Nothing feels different yet." or "Talking just drags up all the bad feelings." Enough is enough when relief comes quietly through the door of your heart and you can breath better. When you don't find yourself living in the eye of the storm anymore.

This can take hours, or days, or months or years. It takes as long as it takes. That's not to say that there is not progress in life in the meantime. Of course there can be forward movement, good times, good decisions. New insights, sure. New ideas, yes. And breaks in the hurt, definitely.

And even when enough really is enough, there can be times where the need to say more, to talk more, comes up again. And then you say more, until enough becomes enough again.

If I sound like I am making a case for obsession, or for not letting go, or not moving on, or not "getting over it," as they (whoever they are) say, I am not. I am making a case for living life, for forging forward when you hurt and don't know how, or don't feel like it, or don't want to. And talking about things to a good ear for as long as it takes. This, I think, is better than some of the stuff that we do, some of actions we take that end up making matters worse. For ourselves or others.
I vote for words. And lots of them. Speak them. Write them. Pray them. Until you are done.