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Archive for the hope Category

I Love Your Story Still.

cowper Titania sleeps
Ive been neglecting this blog as I continue to work on my book, Dancing in the Dark: Lessons from our Darkest Nights. And because I still cant seem to manage to create a new entry today, I want to share a piece that I wrote several years ago.  Although it isnt new, I feel it flowing after all of these years still straight through my heart.

You sit before me now, head down, while your face seeks shelter in your hands. I failed, you confess, sounding hollow and broken. I attempt to comfort and reassure you. When you finally look up at me, Im not seen, and not heard. Youre so lost inside of your pain and disappointment that my words cant find you. I cant find you. And so we sit silently beside one another for a time, both feeling inadequate. Youre hurting so much right now, feeling lost and more than a little sick inside. In my silence, I try to communicate to you that youre not alone. Im here. Right beside you. And I still believe in you.

Later, I decide to write you a letter one you can carry in your pocket to remind you of my caring. A note to read when youre more open to my message. I know it wont take your pain away or magically transform your beliefs, but maybe it can hold a seed, one that might eventually emerge from the rich and fertile ground in which I so lovingly planted it.

And so you failed. And this failure wounds you so profoundly that its penetrated deep into your psyche.  It may have even become an integral part of who you believe yourself to be today.

Today, you look into your mirror and see a failure. I look into your eyes and see the wisdom born of pain. And it hurts, this learning. I know. I know. Ive felt its sting before. Ive been thoroughly haunted by my own mistakes, miscalculations, and self-judgement. Ive fallen too. Again and yet again.

Just like you, I forget during those moments when my folly is first discovered what I know. What we both know. Defeat isnt the theme of our unique stories, it isnt what defines who we are, where well go or who well become. It only reminds us that were not alone. That we share the legacy of all human-kind, that we all will fail from time to time. Each of us stumbles and gets wounded in the fall. Failure, my dear, dear, friend, is a natural offshoot of growth. We churn in it, learn from it, and we become stronger as we struggle to recover from it.

In a commencement address delivered at Moorpark College in 1989, James D. Griffen remembered John Kennedy OToole, a young writer who won a Pulitzer Prize for his book, A Confederacy of Dunces. Imagine what it would have felt like to him to achieve this coveted award. How successful, how triumphant, how wonderful he would have felt. I say would of because well never know how he might have felt. Hell never know. We can only imagine on his behalf, because he never lived to claim his prize. After being rejected by seventeen publishers, he committed suicide. What a strange term, to commit suicide, when the act is above all else, a lack of commitment.

We must all hold fast in the darkness, for regardless of the blackness which may surround us light always eventually illuminates our path. Always…

Experience fully the pain of your failure. You must, bless you. I know you must. But when your body and soul grows weary of the sadness, the recriminations, the what ifs (and they will), accept the compensations, (however modest) that accompany your misfortune. Learn the lessons that follow behind them. Theyll serve you well. Youll be wiser, stronger, and more prepared for the rest of your journey if you take them with you. Rest now if you need to. Grieve if you must. And when youre ready to collect them, let me know. Ill gladly help you gather them up.

So whats the moral of this story? Your story? Its not a story about loss, deficiency, and flaws. Its a story about lessons learned, overcoming, moving forward and onward, and most importantly it is a story about hope.

Some of my most cherished tales have touched my heart and at the same time they have made me weep. And though Im sad for you right now, I want you to know my weary friend, that I love your story still…

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Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes for Depression

http://youtu.be/7HDFEbsGRlA

Are you wondering what you can do to overcome depression in addition to psychotherapy and medication? You may want to watch the video above which features Stephen Ilardi, associate professor of psychology at the University of Kansas, sharing his research findings regarding how life style changes can significantly reduce symptoms of depression. Youre probably in control of much more than you realize.

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National Poetry Day and Barbara Crooker

What to Remember When Waking by David Whyte Today is national Poetry Day and so in honor of the event, Id like to share a poem by one of my favorite poets, Barbara Crooker. One of the things I love most about Crookers work is how wonderfully she reminds us of the poetry that exists within the ordinary.

Poem on a Line by Anne Sexton, We are All Writing Gods Poem

Today, the skys the soft blue of a work shirt washed
a thousand times. The journey of a thousand miles
begins with a single step. On the interstate listening
to NPR, I heard a Hubble scientist
say, The universe is not only stranger than we
think, its stranger than we can think. I think
Ive driven into spring, as the woods revive
with a loud shout, redbud trees, their gaudy
scarves flung over barks bare limbs. Barely doing
sixty, I pass a tractor trailer called Glory Bound,
and arent we just? Just yesterday,
I read Li Po: There is no end of things
in the heart, but it seems like things
are always ending—vacation or childhood,
relationships, stores going out of business,
like the one that sold jeans that really fit—
And where do we fit in? How can we get up
in the morning, knowing what we do? But we do,
put one foot after the other, open the window,
make coffee, watch the steam curl up
and disappear. At night, the scent of phlox curls
in the open window, while the sky turns red violet,
lavender, thistle, a box of spilled crayons.
The moon spills its milk on the black tabletop
for the thousandth time.

Today I urge you to look around you and behold the poetry

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Becoming Holy: Three Questions to Ask Each Day

frampton Saint Dorothy

I listened to a talk by Jean Houston on Gaiam TV today and was moved tremendously by one observation she made in particular. She noted that each of us gets wounded during our life times, and that if we live long enough, we become so full of holes that we ultimately become holy.

My own life has taught me that my wounds will ultimately diminish or enrich me, depending largely upon whether I meet them with a closed fist or an open heart. Ive also come to understand to my amazement that an ordinary day can be transformed from the mundane to the holy not so much by what happens during the course of it, but by what questions I choose to ask of myself when I first encounter it.

Michael Beckwith urges us to ask the following three questions each and every day.

How can I grow?

How can I give?

What can I celebrate?

Ive found that every morning that I ask myself these three questions and then commit to living the answers by the end of the day, my life is so much more likely to be experienced as the profound gift that it is.

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When Love and Death are Teachers

lens1635638_1316755611angel_grief_rome

This is a dark and dismal season of grief for me. Three months ago I lost my mother, and within this last week I have lost my oldest childhood friend, my anam cara my soul sister

I still remember the first moment that I saw her. She was a tiny little waif, leaning against my grandmother and laughing at something that had just been said. I was a lover of fairy tales and with her blonde hair, dancing blue eyes, and pixie face, my eight year old self imagined that here standing before me, in my very own kitchen, was Goldilocks!

At eight she enchanted me, by ten she was fully integrated into my family, and by twelve she was my confidant and best friend. Im not sure when she became my sister and an essential part of me, but she did.

Her maiden name was Joy, which was both fitting and ironic. As a young child she and her younger brothers had been removed from her parents and placed into foster care. As a very young woman, one of her brothers was diagnosed with schizophrenia, followed by the sudden death of his twin. Next, soon after she and her estranged father began building a relationship, he died from lung cancer. And then, eight years ago, her husband of nineteen years went to work one morning and never came home. He died instantly, leaving her to finish raising three of their four children alone.

Yesterday, as the great storm Nemo surged towards them, those same beautiful children bravely and graciously greeted friends and family who had come to honor their mothers life. She had gone into the hospital with pneumonia and died there.

The amount of pain and suffering she and her children have faced at such tender ages is completely incomprehensible to me. The temptation to scream up at the heavens, why!!!!!!!! why!!!!!!!!!! Why!!!!!!!!!!!!!! sits wound tightly in my chest, threatening to explode, scattering pieces of my shattered self everywhere.

Her maiden name was Joy. And even as she struggled on a daily basis with the fallout of a heart broken way too young and far too often, she embraced her life and held it and those within its orbit close and tenderly. She created countless special memories for her husband and children, faced her fears, followed her heart, and sweetly coaxed me to join her from time to time. For the past three springs I told her that I thought I could manage a visit during the summer, and apologized each autumn when my plans to visit fell through.

She called me right after my mother died and left a message explaining that she knew that I might not have the energy to call back right away, (I didnt) and that she would simply be waiting patiently when I was ready to talk. She emailed me at Christmas time and warned me that the holidays would be brutal, but that Id get through them. I emailed her back and thanked her and promised that Id call her soon. That was our final contact. Now there will be no more phone calls, no more heart to heart talks, no more promises, no more summers

Shortly after losing her husband, she lamented that in working so long and hard in preparation for retirement, he had missed so many tiny inconsequential and yet precious moments. She had made a promise to herself at his funeral that she wouldnt postpone pleasure in the interest of a tomorrow that might never come. She kept that promise.

Stephanie Ericsson wrote:

Grief is a tidal wave that over takes you
smashes down upon you with unimaginable force,
sweeps you up into its darkness,
where you tumble and crash against unidentifiable surfaces,
only to be thrown out on an unknown beach, bruised, reshaped

Grief will make a new person out of you,
if it doesnt kill you in the making.

Its not my grief that threatens to mortally wound me, its my love. And its not my love that has proven to be my greatest teacher, its my grief.

Thirty five years ago four teenagers sat late into the night talking about life and death and making predictions about how their lives would turn out. Before separating in the wee hours of the morning, they made a pact that when they were fifty they would come back together and see whose predictions came true. They never kept that oath. Not because they got too busy, or forgot their promise along the way, but because the only one who lived to see her fiftieth birthday was me.

I grieved deeply each time I lost one of them, and yet failed repeatedly to fully grasp the profound lesson contained within each death. Its a lesson that we learn over and over again without fully comprehending, one that we pay lip service to but seldom turn our lives around to meet. Those we love will die. WE WILL DIE. And so, we must make of our love a sacred practice, allowing it to flow through our lives like a mighty river. We must invite ourselves to fall in love with life over and over again, allowing life and love to become inseparable.

Both my mother and Missie, my golden girl, are gone now, and this is more loss than I can face today. But theres something that Ive learned through the terrible pain of earlier losses which sustains me. The intensity of this grief will fade even as its lesson comes more clearly into focus. Life is a gift of unknown duration the only certainty is that it ends, and so we must learn to hold it lovingly and closely, like Missie did.

Her maiden name was Joy.

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To all those Abused as Children

The following is a poem by wise and compassionate poet, counselor, and retired Episcopal priest, Alla Renee Bozrath that I first discovered in the book, Life Prayers: 365 Prayers, Blessings and Affirmations to Celebrate the Human Journey edited by Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon. If you are a seeker, a griever, or are struggling in any way right now, I encourage you to explore her wonderful work.

Dont look back,
battered child,
Time then hurt you,
Let time heal you.
Dont look back.

Dont look back,
beaten child.
They knew not what
they did except what
was done unto them.
Dont look back.

Dont look back,
abandoned child,
abused, neglected child.
Denial is salt in your wounds.
Dwelling in repeating
the deliberate disappearance
of your soul.
Dont perpetuate this harm.

Break the cycle,
wait -
stop it here.

Speak out the paralyzing secret
and begin to come back to yourself.
Cry it out to compassionate ears
and be held in the hearts of your witnesses.

The truth shall make you free
but first it will shatter you.
What was broken can be mended,
what was lost, restored.
Find yourself, then,
pure and whole, a child of God.
Look back long enough to let go.
Alla Renee Bozarth

Look Back
Long Enough
and then
Let Go..

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On Darkness, Despair and Hope

I havent written a blog entry in over a month, the longest I’ve ever gone without writing. Sadly, inessential activities (like this blog) have been overshadowed by my mothers cancer and my daughters illness, and the lion’s share of my life energy is being poured into sustaining hope and tending wounds.

The trajectory of my mother’s illness is too final and predictable to contemplate, while the weight and course of my child’s suffering is crushing and unknowable. It seems that we have set upon one of those night passages that Sue Monk Kidd observes can “blister the spirit and leave us groping.”

As I tentatively feel my way through a murky shadow land, I remind myself that the whole of my life is still abundantly blessed with love, and sweetness and light even as it requires me to be stronger and wiser than ever before demands that I do/think/feel more than I have ever done/thought/felt before. Even though it insists that I. must. become. more.

Julia Cameron reminds us that “creativity like human life itself begins in darkness.” For over two decades as a psychotherapist I’ve witnessed so many transformations that were initiated by heartbreak and cultivated in darkness. And while there have been times when I could hardly bare to look into the depths of despair and suffering, I am especially grateful for them now, each and every one of them, because I have seen with my own eyes and heart what we are capable of surviving, overcoming, and becoming. Because I have seen, I can believe.

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One of the Greatest Discoveries of Our Era

Diane Ackerman wrote in the New York Times, A relatively new field, called interpersonal neurobiology, draws its vigor from one of the great discoveries of our era: that the brain is constantly rewiring itself based on daily life. In the end, what we pay the most attention to defines us. How you choose to spend the irreplaceable hours of your life literally transforms you. A message well worth reminding ourselves of daily.

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When all thats left of me is Love

  I just finished Linda Campanellas book, When all thats Left if Me is Love: A Daughters Story of Letting Go about a daughters experiences supporting a mother who is LIVING with small cell lung cancer. I stress LIVING because that is exactly what her mother did. She LIVED right up until she died and Campanella remained determined and committed to helping her mother do exactly that throughout the entire process to LIVE as fully as possible.

One example of how they made the most of each and every day was that around 4:00 in the afternoon Linda, her mother, her father, and anyone else who happened to be in the house at the time settled in to celebrate happy hour. There was much laughter during this time, and the sharing of news, stories, small gifts, and great love. No one in the room was in denial of death or free from grief, however each was acutely aware in the moment of how precious life is when savored, how beautiful and even luminous in can be in the face of its impending loss.

While Campanellas book contained heart break and grief, it also offered me, a daughter whose own mother was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer in August of 2010, much needed comfort and perspective. While I have so often felt powerless when confronting my mothers cancer, Campenella has reminded me of my families strength and essential proficiencies. We are masters of loving, and as we weave our love throughout each and every moment that were together, we can create a sacred container which honors life and offers healing even in the absence of cure.

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Why I Incorporate Positive Psychology into My Therapy

There are no hopeless situations; there are only people who have grown hopeless about them.
Author Unknown

Being a proponent for strength based therapies for the past twenty years, I was extremely receptive when positive psychology was first introduced to the world. Like so many therapists, Id experienced that terrible sense of hopelessness that periodically emerged during my early years as a therapist as I and my client become entrenched in the muck of pain and pathology. There in my light filled office, muscles tensed and heart heavy, gazing into the eyes of someone whom I had come to care deeply about, I all too often came perilously close to developing tunnel vision. I had witnessed the pain, listened compassionately, and carefully gathered up the shattered pieces of a broken story, while failing to truly see the
epic tale before me

I had come close enough to not only touch the wounds, but to hold them closely, and yet I had allowed precious and essential aspects of my client to move beyond my immediate reach all of those experiences, lessons, wisdom, and unique strengths and gifts that my client possessed which absolutely guaranteed a successful (though never without risk or pain)passage.

When I learned to adapt my lens so that I could readily shift my focus back and forth between pain and possibility, pathology and promise, I not only improved my effectiveness and enhanced my vision I discovered an inner voice. This voice has sustained me through many difficult, frightening and even heart breaking journeys with clients, and while this voice still expresses self-doubt and even despair, it is never without hope. And with hope in tact, we can go on. I can go on.

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