Common Thread –
Yesterday I told my therapist three distinct experiences that have happened to me since our last appointment. I do my best to remember or jot down events or emotional moments I encounter and relay them to her. I talk about how I felt, why I think I felt it, why I did something, what I thought would be the outcome, what happened to me and the result. I tell her these things because many times I’m not able to see the big picture because I’m so close to the events and experiences.
When I finished telling her my three stories she then asked a series of questions that gave me the ability to look at each one from a different point of view. I thought they were three separate, non-related moments but she was able to see a common thread and we discussed how and why I reacted in a certain way and the possible reasons they imprinted on me. It was an; “Aha!” moment that I was unable to see without the benefit of a pair of unbiased, professionally trained, eyes.
I don’t love therapy. I tolerate it. I know it’s an invaluable part of my treatment plan for chronic severe depression and a severe anxiety disorder. There are times I walk out wondering what was accomplished and there are; “Aha!” days. I don’t always like what I am shown or discover but I hope that every; “Aha!” helps my journey on this path called; “my life” be easier and worth the struggle.
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Watering the Weeds –
Last night I took the dog outside and while he was doing his business I turned on the spigot and began watering the flowers we have on the front side of the house. There are flowers in barrels, long cement pots and hanging baskets. As I watered I kept an eye on the dog whose losing his hearing more each day. He began walking down the driveway and I wanted to call him before he was out of hearing range. I continued watering as I yelled his name and when he turned around I looked down to see I was watering a flower holder that we had not planted anything in this year. It was full of weeds. As I watched the water nourish them I asked myself; “Why are you watering weeds?“I stopped as soon as I realized what I was doing and began watering the flowers my wife had planted again.
I reflected on the wisdom in not watering the weeds in our lives. Too often there are habits, thought patterns, worries, difficulties, and challenges that our mind focuses on to the detriment of the good that needs attention. Instead of giving the energy needed to rid ourselves of these weeds or accept there is nothing we can do at this point in time, we obsess, ruminate, give these problems and issues valuable nourishment. We focus and feed the bad and not the good in our lives.
Our mental, emotional, and spiritual lives need nourishment not the weeds of discouragement, disillusion, and defeat.
Digging Around –
This week I had to take three days of classes to qualify as a Certified car seat Technician. Part of the assessments required the students to install, uninstall, spot problems with seats installed by others and know which need to be replaced. It was three long days full of information and statistics.
One of the difficult tasks is sticking your fingers in places you can’t see when you’re searching for tethers, anchors and seat belt clips jammed in between the seats. Not every car is as clean as one would like and you never know what you might find when you’re digging around.
Last week, during therapy, my “talk doctor” told me we’d begin digging deeper in the coming months. We had reached a plateau and now it was time to turn over some fresh dirt. I agreed with her that it was time and needed. I’m not necessarily looking forward to the mental, emotional and spiritual energy required but I also know if you don’t look closer, feel around, poke harder, dig deeper there’s a chance you won’t find what you’re looking for.
Earlier today I was mowing and weeding the yard. While doing so I came across a three to four-foot King Snake hanging out in the grass. I didn’t want to hurt it so I nudged it with the wheel of my push mower and it didn’t move. I bumped it again and the snake curled up into a ball. I was hoping the third time was the charm and tried to get it moving but it wasn’t going anywhere. I then went and grabbed a wooden stake, found the snake still rolled up and not willing to budge. As a last result, I pushed the stake through the center of the ball, picked it up and placed it in another part of the yard where it would be safe. “Sheesh!” I thought to myself. It just had to be difficult.
After getting back to my mowing I thought about the defensive behavior of the snake. It wasn’t helpful for it or me. I reflected on my defensive behaviors and unhelpful coping skills. As someone who deals with mental illness, I know first hand what a sense of being in danger, uncertain, threatened can do. It can cause me to make a bad decision, seize up, pull myself into an emotional ball and try to keep the danger out. Most times it doesn’t work but, like the snake, its instinct.
I know if I would’ve been able to communicate with the reptile I would’ve explained it needed to move for its own safety. If it was left alone eventually the snake would relax and be able to go on its way. When people fight, flight or freeze when we try to help our intention doesn’t matter. What matters is understanding and adapting our help to meet the needs of the other.
Good Eye –
Last week I had an important meeting. During it, a woman walked into the room to give the person I was meeting with a message. As she delivered it the other noticed the woman was shaking. She asked; “Are you okay? You’re really shaking!” The person said she had a lot going on and was trying to fit all of it into a small amount of time. She then left the room and my meeting continued. Afterwards, I saw the woman who had been shaking and told her I hoped she had a good day.
As I went to my next appointment I thought about both the woman and the fact that I didn’t notice her shaking at all. I totally missed it. I try to be aware of people and their emotional, mental and spiritual states. I even try to notice new glasses, haircuts, and changes people make but not this time. I realized it swept by me because all of my focus was on the “important” meeting. The person I met with was at the same meeting but didn’t allow it to consume all of her attention and she was able to show concern to someone in need.
It was a good reminder that true awareness is finding the balance between paying attention to ourselves and others.
I could tell she needing something without knowing how to ask for it. Finally, she began to say a few words, jumbled, somewhat coherent, and then blurted out a need her husband had and could I help? Responding in an assuring voice with, hopefully, peace giving words I told her; “Yes” and “would she like a card?” She smiled affirmatively, took the card and said; “Thank you.” “Anytime,” I replied back. “I hope you have a nice weekend.” I don’t know if I’ll hear from her or her husband again but it was not my first time I’ve encountered someone looking for assistance and yet hesitant, resistant, to ask for help.
I reflect on our brief conversation and wonder; “Why is it so hard for some to admit need?” I think part of it is our; “Pull yourselves up by your own bootstraps” culture. Folks who need a helping hand often feel they are somehow “less than” others.
Maybe it’s the thought that; “Others are so much worse off.” It seems selfish to take food out of their mouths, clothes off their backs, a roof over their heads.
Might be, perhaps the darkest reason; “I don’t want to be lumped in with the people who ‘have their hands out.'” They are judged, looked down upon, seen as lazy, under-achievers, taking advantage of people, churches, community organizations and the government.
Being in need is nothing to be ashamed of. Whether its physical, mental, emotional or spiritual we all need each other to make it. A wisdom proverb states; “No one can navigate the road of life alone.” In truth, we are all needy, weak, impoverished and cannot do it on our own. Asking for help is not helplessness it’s having the right balance of strength and humility to admit we are flawed, defective, deficient, have shortcomings, imperfections, in short,we are all; human and to be so is to be in need.
“Someone asked the great Master one day; “What is the gospel?” The Master replied; “The gospel is simply one beggar telling another beggar where to find food.” Wisdom Proverb
Where We’re Going –
Last week, when I mowed the grass, there was a lot of dust, a few weed patches and sometimes it was hard to look and tell what I had cut and what I hadn’t. This past week we’ve had a good bit of rain and the grass grew quickly. When I mowed the back yard today I could tell where I’d been and needed to go.
A couple of days ago I heard an 80’s song which reminded me of a friend I had in high school. This friend had done something which hurt me and we were never the same after the event. As I listened to the song I realized there was no more pain just regret at two young people who didn’t know how to get over thoughtless actions and adolescent feelings of rejection.
As I cut the grass this afternoon I reflected on both of these and was thankful for emotional and natural growth.
Too often we think knowing the future would be the greatest of intellectual gifts. However, wisdom teaches us that knowing and learning from where we’ve been gives us a better view of where we’re going.