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 past weekend my wife and I were going to do some needed cleaning. However, as the weekend wore on we both discovered motivation was lacking. I told her I would vacuüm the house one day this week and today was it. I began with a simple vacuüm across the floors but then noticed there were dust bunnies under a piece of furniture. I grabbed the broom and swept up the dirt only to discover there was more than I thought. Getting down on my hands and knees I swept all the way back and to the sides. There wasn’t a dust bunny it was more like a family of rabbits. I then began to do this to all the furniture and; “Wow!” The vacuuming chore took more time than I anticipated because of the extra work required. Real cleaning is a whole other level of commitment.
As I swept up all the little furballs and removed and returned furniture back to its original place I reflected on the need to deep clean our minds and spirits. It’s not too difficult to do a quick surface sweep but to get down to the hidden dirt and grime that reside in the dark places we must be willing to be uncomfortable and humble.
Change Myself –
The older I get the less knowledge and wisdom I think I possess. They say the beginning of wisdom and knowledge is two-fold; fearing God and knowing you know nothing. As each year passes the second part seems to get easier.
There was a time when I believed I knew much. Not just about myself but also about others. I could perceive motives both inward and outward, judge with impunity, and thought myself better and more able to live a life pleasing to God and myself than most other people. Then, I began to grow up.
The word growing brings with it a sense of serenity but growing is painful. It is bursting through old barriers, going places that are uncomfortable and unknown, daring to die in order to live, braving the challenges and elements that surround you.
With growth comes the realization you cannot force others to change. You do not have that power. You cannot stop the world from spinning out of control. You don’t have that ability. You can’t even get past your own hurts, habits, and hangups most days. You, I, am a perfect example of imperfection.
Wisdom and knowledge. They are as different as night and day but compliment each other when embraced and allowed to exist mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact, please you.”
When I woke up this morning my positive thought was; “It’s not Thursday!” Yesterday I had to go to the dentist and while there are times we must do things which bring us anxiety we can celebrate I am thankful I didn’t have to repeat the process today.
It’s also a beautiful day. Sunny with a few clouds. Temperatures in the low to mid-80’s. In a few moments, I will go and mow the grass. Some weeks, especially during the hot summer days, it’s more a chore than a joy but as the days grow shorter I will bask in the sun on my face and driving my little yard tractor.
One thought or several, can indeed change the way you see your day. I know in the future I’ll have to go to the dentist again. Soon there will be no need to cut the grass. By the look of the trees and their colors, the days will quickly be cold enough that even the sun won’t be able to warm me up.
One of the most positive thoughts, disciplines, we can have is focusing on the good each day brings and not the uncomfortable change which may come with tomorrow.
“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”
Gospel of Saint Matthew 6:34, The Master
This week and weekend have been about hate. Hate has only one outcome; death.
Heather Hyer (pictured) was the woman who was killed when a white nationalist drove his car into a group of counter protestors at the Charlottesville, Virginia rally yesterday sponsored by hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, Neo Nazi, and other terrorists organizations. Their hatred fueled the rally and the result was death for Heather and two police officers who died in a helicopter accident.
I don’t understand the hate. I grew up in the south, had a few black friends, but do not recall overt acts of racism. However, I did hear jokes, phrases, insulting words pointed at those who were not white. I didn’t understand what I do now that this is where hatred starts. Words are powerful. They have a way of lodging themselves in our minds and shaping us from the inside out. No one is born hating another. It takes family, friends, co-workers, and others speaking vile, evil, and vicious judgments it poisons our spirits, contaminates our brains and spews out of us like projectile vomit infecting everything we touch.
Hate makes me and others uncomfortable. It’s easier not to engage, to turn our backs, hope it goes away. Unfortunately, this isn’t what happens. Hate grows and spreads. Like minded people come together and depend on most folks looking the other way. Ignorance is a weapon used by people of ill will to gain power. If we aren’t careful, if we don’t call hate what it is it will win and we will be forced to choose hatred or death.
Today I was stuck somewhere I didn’t want to be, doing something I didn’t want to do for over 6-hours! A quarter of my day was spent enduring, trying to stay calm, doing much breathing exercises and practicing stillness.
This wasn’t my plan for this day. I had it all laid out and then boom! From out of nowhere, life took a hard turn and I had no choice but to follow. There are moments and seasons in life when you’re given one of two or more choices. This wasn’t available to me today. I walked a 6-hour path of misery, by sitting in an uncomfortable room and an uncomfortable chair, and thankfully came out on the other side.
Life is nothing if not unpredictable. Especially when you have everything scheduled and coordinated. It’s interesting how life’s “surprises” continue to shock. Perhaps one day they won’t surprise us anymore. Maybe we’ll learn the lesson of living in the moment, no expectations and accept everything that comes with an open hand and spirit.
In Time –
I was talking with a friend the other day about getting older. She’s in her fifties and I’m in my middle forties. We were comparing grunts, groans, aches, pains, hurts, everyday stiffness and general uncomfortableness. I remember being told when in my thirties that once you hit 40; “It’s all downhill from there!” Admittedly forties have been rougher on my body than ever before but the fifty-year-olds are telling me; “Wait until you’re 50! It’s all downhill from there!” Just when I’m about to get to the top of the hill and ready to roll down the other side they keep adding more hill to climb.
I heard someone say the other day; “You just get used to some hurts and pains and learn to live with them. It’s life.” I believe there is a lot of truth in this statement. We all walk different paths, have dissimilar experiences and what we go through at a particular point in our lives doesn’t necessarily mean we can predict what others will encounter at the same point in their lives.
Wisdom tells us the aches and pains, joys and blessings of life are unpredictable and our only real choice is to accept or fight when and what the path brings us.
Awesome video! I watched in awe as the operator gently picked up the stuck deer with the giant scooper and placed it where it could move again.
As it played I thought about times in my life when I was stuck. Seasons when I couldn’t move, find my way, get loose of the muck and mire which held me, trapped me, threatened my life. I also reflected on those who came to my rescue. Folks with great skill, compassion, love and commitment who helped me when I couldn’t help myself.
Life’s path leads us to strange and uncomfortable places. There will be experiences and events which pull us in, hold us fast, wear us out and leave us stuck. Struggling, fighting to free ourselves may only leave us immobile and unable to journey forward. Having mentors, counselors, advisers, people who love and care enough to not leave us stranded can be one of our greatest treasures.
I like this video. The turtle, obviously in an awkward spot, didn’t let the predicament stop her from enjoying the tasty pink flower. Her view may have been skewed, her world topsy-turvy, but she still knew a good thing when it presented itself.
This resourceful tortoise reminded me of one of my favorite wisdom parables;
“One day, while walking through the wilderness, a monk encountered a vicious tiger. He ran for his life, and the tiger gave chase. The monk came to the edge of a cliff, and the tiger was almost upon him. Having no choice, he held on to a vine with both hands and climbed down.
Halfway down the cliff, the monk looked up and saw the tiger at the top, baring its fangs. He looked down and saw another tiger at the bottom, waiting for his arrival and roaring at him. He was caught between the two.
Two rats, one white and one black, showed up on the vine above him. As if he didn’t have enough to worry about, they started gnawing on the vine. He knew that as the rats kept gnawing, they would reach a point when the vine would no longer be able to support his weight. It would break and he would fall. He tried to shoo the rats away, but they kept coming back.
At that moment, he noticed a strawberry growing on the face of the cliff, not far away from him. It looked plump and ripe. Holding the vine with one hand and reaching out with the other, he plucked it. With a tiger above, another below, and two rats continuing to gnaw on his vine, the man tasted the strawberry and found it absolutely delicious.”
Life has a way of knocking us for a loop, turning everything upside down, distorting our view, putting us in uncomfortable places and positions, not going according to plan.
Too often all our energy and passion, our sole focus becomes trying to get our lives back to “normal.” We long to be comfortable, safe and stable. However, when all we’re concerned with is getting to the place where the hard, difficult, uneasy and painful parts of our journey are over we often miss the blessings the trials and tough times bring.