How Do You Feel?
Yesterday was my three-month check-up with the doctor in charge of the medicinal portion of my mental health plan. As someone with Chronic Severe Depression and a Severe Anxiety Disorder, the psychology group I go to has doctors who specialize in medical therapy and others who specialize in talk therapy. Together with the patient a plan is developed and intended to help them as much as possible.
Yesterday’s appointment was; “Meh, okay.” The therapist asked standard questions; “Are you taking your meds? How do you feel? Have you noticed any changes in mood or behavior? Any major life changes?” I answered all of them and told her I was following my plan except for one suggestion she’s made many times. We don’t agree and I don’t think it’s a big deal. She, the professional, thinks otherwise. I told her; “Yes, I am still…” she simply replied; “You know how I feel about that!” and we kept going with the conversation. I found it humorous that’s all she has to say and it’s enough. I either have to trust her and do it or not. She’s told me the benefits and even though I don’t see them I choose to fully follow the mental health plan or not. Sigh.
We’ve all been there with people we love and care for. We give them advice about life and after a point, we decide not to tell them again and again. We let them choose and deal with the results. I’ve done this with many of the people I work with but it’s interesting, and a little uncomfortable, to be on the other side.
This morning I had a meeting with another community organization. I was presenting a new opportunity to work with fathers in our area and hoped they would help us. I have presented ideas, data, skills and a host of other information, to more organizations and ministries than I can count. I’ve never been asked to leave or had a bad experience but have had the occasional person I was talking to be looking at their phone, out the window or at their watch. Those presentations and discussion following seem to drag on forever. I’ve also had the organization be excited about the opportunity to partner with us. Most, however, are somewhere in the middle.
Today’s meeting was the exception because the woman whom I was meeting with was excited and had some great ideas as to how we could make part of our plan work at her location. She paid attention, listened intently, took notes, asked questions and made me feel welcomed and not rushed to finish so she could start doing something else. In other words, she was fully present in our time together. It was awesome.
It was a great reminder the difference we can make in other people’s lives if we invest our time, our kindness, our respect, and our lives in theirs.
Beth and I were talking over the weekend about perspective. It amazes me as I get older the more control I lose and the greater perspective I gain. Whether it’s a few moments, days, months or years, our lives, which we like to plan, can come undone.
The world has never been predictable. I was speaking with a friend the other day about the instability which surrounds us. Our political systems, family and community systems, even our environment seems to be spinning out of control. Nothing, if it ever was, is normal nor inevitable.
Last night I read a quote from Eugene Peterson, a pastor, writer, and scholar. He writes;
“The whole of the spiritual life is learning to die.”
This quote resonated with my spirit and experiences over the last several years. Dying takes many forms. Death of all things is a given but we seem to organize our lives as if we might be the ones to escape the fate of everyone else. Death is not a negative word if you’ve learned to die. If you do not hold on treasures and trinkets, live each day as if it’s your last; being kind, grace-filled and loving, never putting off to an uncertain tomorrow what can be done now, in the present moment.
We are but sojourners on this path called life. We are not meant nor built to last for long. With this perspective; how we choose to be today could be how our transient life is remembered tomorrow.
Last night I sat in the classroom at a local county jail with a man who is close to being released. We talked about many things but mostly of our conversation was centered around the plan he has for getting his life in order, re-establishing his relationship with his children and how to live one day, one good choice at a time.
He was hopeful, a rare mindset for those incarcerated. He had his plan memorized and as he laid out the path he wants to follow I sensed in him genuine excitement at what his future holds. Part of mentoring men who are in jail is helping them not only formulate a post-incarceration strategy but also a second and a third option. After all, life has a way of not working out the way we anticipate. As we conversed the different possibilities his hope wasn’t dissipated and his determination, motivation was inspiring. I was careful not to dampen his enthusiasm too much while assisting him in making adjustments to his proposals. When our time was up he was not deterred. He believed in his plans, his ability to choose well and that he wouldn’t squander his regained freedom and sense of purpose.
Thinking on our conversation I believe it would be good for each of us to carve out spaces in our lives to remember our hope, purpose and reason for being. Life has a way of trapping us in the mundane minutiae of everyday living. Refocusing on our purpose, our hope, frees us from just passing one day to the next and allows us to truly live, not just exist.