Thursday, February 1, 2018

One little word

I started this little experiment.  I wanted to figure out little ways to bring creativity back into my life.  I started journaling again, doing my best not to make it about the residency or my struggles but using prompts so it had a different focus.  Just taking five minutes a day in the morning or evening to writing something about the prompts, I haven’t noticed a difference yet.  However, I did notice that more creative projects started coming up in my life and most of them seemed like too much to do at the moment.  Until I found this one, one little word.  To journey through the year with one little word as my focus, again each month there would be prompts and suggestions but still room for creativity and exploration. 

This seemed like something I could find enough time to do, just a little time each month.  I first started brainstorming words, using some sparkly paper, because that is better.  I came down to a few favorites, I came down to a few that I NEED to be working on, a few that I SHOULD be working on and a few that I didn’t care for.  How to decide?  The pressure is on, this word is going to be my focus for the year, it needs to be perfect.  And there goes my little trap and struggle.  I started talking with a friend, and a word came up.  Coincidently a word that came up and stayed.   I drew a little bit with my word and worked with it, deciding to wait with it.

Then the word showed up, I was in a seminar at work and we were working on vulnerability.  We split into groups to do a little exercise, we spent ten minutes saying what we were closed to, and ten minutes saying what we were open to.  There was no discussion, just taking turns going around in the circle. This realization hit me in the pit of my stomach, “joy” I am closed off to joy.  I couldn’t stop the tears coming when I said that statement, tears of truth. 

It is a well-known statement “Comparison is the thief of joy.”  I hear that a lot, I am reminded of that a lot because my mind loves to compare to  measure unlike objects.  But joy is not this ecstatic moment where everything is perfect.  Joy is showing up and being present. Joseph Campbell says “Find a place inside where there’s joy and the joy will burn out the pain.”  It is only by feeling my pain, not minimizing it, not comparing it to someone else’s that I can find the joy in my life.  It is about acknowledging my experience, asking for help if needed, crying and laughing. 

How do I start?  I had a crazy day yesterday, a day where each time I walked out of a patient’s room something else happened.  I didn’t feel like I got a chance to breath, to stop and definitely not to reflect.  Until this moment, someone was looking to refer me to another patient and she stopped me.  She gave me a hug and said “you have no idea how happy we are that you are here.”  When I got back to my office to chart, I let that sink in.  Just showing up has an impact, that was joy. 

Question of the day:  Reflection, it is an integral part of the human experience, it is a pause to find meaning and purpose.  Reflect on your day, your week or even this last month.  Where was there pain? Where was there joy? 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Crickets

There is no photo for this post, because shame is a hidden thing, it likes the dark, most people react with silence.  I was recently in class and we needed to draw a grief map of our lives.  As I looked back at the last five years, I got tired.  I got tired of listing all the losses, some of which were truly profound and will continue to teach me until the day I die.  All the grief and loss couldn’t fit on a single sheet of paper, it couldn’t all fit in my mind because after the class I kept coming up with more. 

I ended up opening my mouth and speaking up, I was met with crickets.  Now chaplains tend to be pretty good with silence, I don’t mean silence where you are making a grocery list in your head; I mean the kind of silence where you are present with the emotions and people in the room.  The kind of silence where it is so uncomfortable you want to say something, anything to break the tension.  Sitting there in my silence, in my story I felt ashamed.  When someone finally spoke up, I still felt shame and was now afraid to speak again. 

I gleam something about understanding my rules, is it okay to grieve?  Is it okay to be in pain, when someone may not be able to help?  Is it okay to been seen struggling? 

I sat with that vulnerability hangover, that feeling of why did I say something…  Judging myself, blaming myself for being weak, and finding that there are wounds that still need time to heal.  The judging, the blaming are just tools my mind will use to distract me from the pain, from that silence of grief and loss.  But here is the reality, I am the authority of my story, of my journey and it is going to take as long as it needs to.  This doesn’t not make me bad or weak, this makes me honest to say I am still learning and working through it. 

Thank you for listening, for reading and your support.  This blog has been my permission to speak shame, grief, pain, joy, peace and triumphs. 


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Desire for measurements

“I wish there was a way to measure pain;” my first thought as my alarm went off in the morning. It is there and I know it is there and sometimes I don’t think people believe it.  I wish I could explain to that doctor that when I screamed during the exam it is significant, that decades of practice of left me to be able to calmly discuss what I feel.  However measure my heart rate, take my blood pressure, look at the stress on my internal organs and maybe the medical world will see me and hear me. 

The idea and safety of being able to measure pain, of being able to say “see it is a ten,” bed day is totally justified.  Is a desire to give way my authority, it is a way of saying I don’t quite trust myself to know what it right for me today.  It is a desire to be safe from other people’s judgements and lack of understanding.  The scale doesn’t really make sense anymore, because it is not just the pain, it is the stress of normal life. 

Despite the pain and uncertainty Adam and I headed out for the day; we walked in the sun and the fresh air, and to me it felt like the first time in months I had felt the sun on my skin.  That I have been constantly hustling in and out of buildings, afraid of running out of energy before my work is done.  That I take a few minutes in the morning, but the sun isn’t quite up yet and since the time change I haven’t even done that. 

There is no way to measure the pain, there is also no way to measure the joy of spending the day with Adam.  There is no way to measure the fact that he tells me it is okay to sit down and rest, that he holds me when I cry and scream.  He continues to tell me that I worth it, that he doesn’t always like it, but I am worth it. 

These are the moments that I need to be the answer.  I need to find a new doctor, I need to make the decision if I want to lay in bed or go out to the festival with my husband.  I need to decide if I want to smile through this or lock myself away.  I’m tired and worn out right now, I’m tired of being strong so I let the tears come with the laughter, I walk around and I rest and at the end of the day I hold on to Adam. 


Question of the day: What was your first thought when you got going this morning?  How did that impact your day?

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Harvesting

Chronic illness and going back to work…. yes, I have a chronic illness but don’t mistake that for meaning that I am my chronic illness.  At the same time there are moments when I do feel that is all I am, when I am worried about falling asleep driving home, or to work.  When I look at facing a 12+ hour shift and wonder where the energy will come from.  To fighting back tears because there is someone in front of me that is also in pain, and my pain can wait.

I have a huge toolbox when it comes to handling pain, from meditations, to herbs, to prescription, conversations with friends and to just being in Adam’s arms.  But lately I have been facing something new, new unrelated symptoms.  First comes the denial and hope, it is just the stress of the job.  Then a pattern starts to emerge, steps are taken, and it doesn’t go away. 

That is when the fear comes, that place I am right now.  Waiting to see another doctor, hoping to for an answer and remembering the pain of that journey two years ago, the not knowing, not being believed and finally chronic illness but also tools.  Tools for physical support, emotional and spiritual.  Because all three must be treated.

Since I don’t have the physical tools right now.  I go to my emotional and spiritual tools, which need to be sharpened.  That is the journey I am on, sometimes it is finding new tools and sometimes it is polishing and sharpening a tool that hasn’t been used in a while. 

It is time to trust the process to keep going, whatever and however that looks.  Crying, screaming, laughing, smiling, fight and surrendering it is all there, each and every day.  You ever notice how you can brighten someone’s day with just a simple smile, a simple word of sincere encouragement, or taking a moment to really listen?  Not only do I notice how it can change someone’s day, but I am experiencing how it changes my day.  A smile or hug from a co-worker, that brief conversation of encouragement might make a huge difference to someone and everyone they interact with.  The key facet is sincerity, it is taking the time to see the person first, pausing to put down whatever is going on and see what is being reflected to you.  Such simple words and yet a lifetime pursuit.

Question of the day: What tools do you have and what tools do you get to forge as your face your upcoming battles?  It is fall, time to harvest;  what did you grow this year?

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Making Space

Here is the thing, learning and doing something new has a cost.  It takes time, it takes effort and sometimes it really sucks.  When I have been in the hospital for 32 hours and I still have homework and medical treatments to do when I get home, things start to fall through the cracks.   Adam and I rarely see each other, my time to practice, read or meditate have been condensed or forgotten some days.  I signed up for a really tough year, and I didn’t fully realize how much it was going to cost.  I also have no idea where the process will take me.  I don’t know what will survive the extra stress.  I know that I will learn a lot, I know I will learn things that will serve me in my life but right now I feel the cost.

Right now the things I have to brag about are that I keep getting up, I keep driving to work and I keep pushing myself to go into those patient’s rooms and learn.  I find myself feeling down when I look at Facebook, look at all these amazing people that I don’t have the time to go see.  Adam continues to remind me, this is only for a year, but I still needed to find some self care.

I needed to find some creative outlet that was not theological discussion, that was not making meaning and purpose out of a tough visit, that was not thinking of different ways I could’ve handled the situation.  I went out of my comfort level and signed up for a doodling and dance class.  It was exactly what I needed, the space and invitation to be creative but with prompts to help guide that. 

I find myself in a part of the process where I feel I don’t know if it will be worth it, where I am trusting in something bigger then me.  Trusting that however this year ends up transforming me in such a way that will continue to serve me and those around me.  That I might have to squeeze in self care into small moments, small classes and reach out of my comfort zone when my schedule allows.  But I also need to be really gentle with myself, to remember that I am worth the time to take that class, that I don’t need to bring my computer everywhere to squeeze in a few minutes of reading or homework.  That somehow, I need to discover who else I am.


Question of the day:  How do you make time for just yourself?  Name something from this week that inspired you, gave you a bit of respite or helped you connect to yourself. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Scarcity

Scarcity, this idea of not having enough, not being enough that plays in our subconscious.  This theme that the media has lead us to believe can be satisfied by abundance, by buying things, by being more….  It is a pattern I struggle with, to remind myself that abundance does not balance out scarcity, that doing more will never equal me feeling like I am enough.  

There are tools I have learned, the first is too look around and see if indeed there is something lacking, or something threatening.  To come away from the stories that my mind spins and notice what is around me, find gratitude for what is around me and take some really deep breaths.  

It is still a well worn pattern, in my nervous system, it can play like a record and it takes attention to notice the pattern, to break the pattern and when energy is really low to admit that I need to change the pattern.  I get to a point with panic attacks, where I am so exhausted that it is easier to keep playing the record, but once I notice the record I need to break it.  I need to apologize, I need to own up to my behavior and make an effort to change.  

However this past week, resources felt scarce, or in some cases nonexistent.  Things like food, water, shelter and medication became real issues.  It started with concerns about medication, a delay that has turned into a number of weeks at this point.  Which meant I took stock of my ‘emergency” stock, had to alter herb dosages and try to plan for the chaos that hit Houston.  There was no way to plan, there was no way to predict how long we would be out of our apartment, and I had no way of knowing when I might receive a shipment of my bladder medication. 

Eventually this has all lead to a full blown flare and my rescue medication has yet to ship.  So the second time that Adam and packed up to evacuate we both realized we wanted to cry and yet at the same time we felt pretty numb.  I started thinking about what is the way to balance this scarcity idea, belief?  Because for me telling myself I am still enough when I am in pain and scared doesn’t break the pattern.  

Resourcefulness is the way to balance it, to see what can be done, to understand that I have other methods of coping and helping myself.  To understand that when someone offers you a bed and a shower it is not out of pity but compassion.  To accept that people still love me and care for me, to understand that when I am afraid I am not thinking, there is a blessing of having people around me as a resource.  Sometimes the resource is working on foundations and sometimes it is going to a friend and saying “help me, I don’t know what to do.”  It is admitting that I am vulnerable and scared, that I am not thinking clearly and that has nothing to do with how weak or strong I am.  It has nothing to do with what I will be able to do tomorrow, it is that moment that requires me to reach out to other people as a resource.  

I hear the message everywhere and everyday that I am not enough, and someone offering a different way to “fix it.”  There is no quick fix, relationships take time to build, trust takes time, resources take time and it takes time to learn new patterns in the nervous system.  This week has been rough and the lessons are just beginning to come to the surface, but valleys bring fertile growth.  As long as I am still here, there is time to stand back up and work on those resources again.  


Question of the day:  What is your response to scarcity?  What methods do you use to bring yourself back into harmony?

Monday, August 28, 2017

Praying

Yesterday Adam and I headed down to the Bayou a few blocks from our apartment to see where the water was.  As we approached, we saw the water in the street and neighborhood, flashing lights from a constable was behind us and we looked around at the home right there on the edge, the boys playing in the water and the families outside with mixed expressions.  It was about 4 in the afternoon, and I kind of wanted to leave, to get out. Worried about what could happen and how things would unfold.  

Adam who is a bit more grounded and reasonable listed the reasons to stay and that we were safer, so we stayed.  Despite anxiety about food reserves for me and medication concerns (thankfully nothing life threatening.). As my anxiety built up and I continued to remind myself that I was lucky, I was dry, I had power and at least I had rice and bone broth.  I would get through.

However my heart still ached, still wanted to do something, to help.  So what can I do right now?  I have no skills for search and rescue, but I have a closet of clothes that can always be cleaned out, I have non-perishable food that I can’t eat that I haven’t given to a food drive yet, I have toothpaste and other toiletries that I buy in bulk.   So I started cleaning out my stores and gathering things together.  Because they will be needed for a long time.

That is thing with watching a natural disaster unfold in your home, you want to help right now.  It is hard, but there are things I can do to help right now and more to come as this continues to unfold.  

I can talk to my neighbors and ask how they are doing, ask how are their families are.  Give them space to talk.  I can check on my friends, and see what is going on.  I can cry as both me and my friends await rescues.  I can hold the door and help someone bring in their stuff, because they weren’t able to evacuate.  I can smile and be calm standing in front of the grocery store that never opens.  Saying a quick prayer for the employees.  

We are all looking for ways to help right now, and there are plenty of ways to lend a hand.  But this journey is just starting for some people, stay with the journey not just the first reaction to help during the crisis.  My heart is breaking in both ways, this has brought the city together, brought neighbors together and reminded all of us that we are not alone on our journeys.