Sunday, April 17, 2022

Freezing Beautiful Times

Life would be so much easier if we could freeze the beautiful times, the times when joy overflowed and we were in tune with life around and in us.

But it doesn’t happen like that.

I think of Easter in the Monastery. Despite all the difficulties I had in the monastery, Easter was a season that restored my soul.

“I can never leave,” I used to tell myself. “I’ll never experience Holy Week and Easter this way. I can't live if I don't have these experiences. Immersed. With the traditions and chant and rituals that make this week come alive.”

I did leave.

I did lose those beautiful days.

I’ve grappled with that loss and tried to find ways to re-create it here in my life.

At first, I searched for a church that most resembled my monastic rituals and practices. I needed the rituals to tie me to the emotion. I actually finally found one. And it helped…for a while. 

Then, I began to dissect the meaning behind our practices. I began to look for ways I could live out those meanings, not leaning so heavily on rituals and practices, like changing the Mandatum (ritual of the washing of the feet done on Holy Thursday) to recognizing I “wash the feet of others” every time sit with someone and listen to their story, help them hold their pain, and offer them hope. 


Still, with all my efforts, there is still pain. 

I have a CD of the Easter Vespers we sang in the monastery. I play it on Easter Sunday, and as I hear the hymns and songs, the memories return of the special moment I had in that life, how deeply profound, meaningful and reverent this day was for me.


When I listen, I can still see myself standing in the choir (the monastic term for church body where we sang our praises 8 hours a day). I can feel the vibe laden with significance I had from those moments, singing chants among a community of like-minded individuals, most of who are now gone.


And I wonder, why could this day not be frozen in time forever? Why did time have to change all of that?

Because I cannot freeze time and the moment. And so I grieve, and treasure the memory, even though I also feel the pain.


It’s a reminder that life moves on, and that mental health is the ability to deal with the changes that come in life. That getting old also means losing friends. That memories are beautiful but can also weigh us down.


For me, it's the spirit of Easter to rise from whatever circumstances we are in, to recover the spirit of hope.


That stability is not a moment in time, but rather a period across time as we learn to treasure special moments and handle all the other moments that come across life.

I wish you a Happy Easter. May you always keep hope in your heart.

Friday, December 31, 2021

Stop Looking for Happy Endings


I confess I'm royally annoyed. I keep hearing, "Done with 2021. Let's move on to 2022!" Like 2022 is going to be significantly different than 2021, that one manmade calendar date will suddenly change our lives. That ushering in a New Year means things will change.

That's a lie.

Life is life. Instead of looking at 2021 as a bad year, a year we want to delete from our memories and from our lives, how about we look at it as lessons learned?

Because what is 2021 but a year where we were challenged? How did we deal with the call to sacrifice, how much did we do to deepen our life? 

Because let's face it, life is not meant to be stress-free. Let me repeat that. Life is not meant to be stress-free! 

Life is a series of dealing with stressful situations, challenges, and obstacles that come, hopefully, in between good times. 

How about instead of complaining that 2021 is a bad year and let's put it behind us- to what did I learn about myself this past year? What did I do to cope? How did I change and did it work?

I had many good things come about during 2021. I hiked with my husband in Zion, Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon. I got together with my 8 siblings and their spouses to celebrate my sister's jubilee. That was awesome.

 I moved into a new office, one better suited to therapy and with colleagues who I respect, trust and enjoy. I became closer to my husband through serious and deep conversations, vulnerability, and honesty.

And I had challenges during 2021. I badly sprained my ankle and was unable to enjoy my outdoor activities for 3 months. I got exposed to Covid and had to undergo the anxiety of wondering if I would get it. We spent Christmas home and alone due to the Covid outbreaks, and our decision that this would be the best way for us to celebrate the holiday.

What have I learned? That all of life has its challenges, that I am strong enough to handle the challenges that confront me, and that life consists of constant learning.

How's that for a New Year's wish? I wish you a continued year of believing in yourself, that whatever comes in life, you can deal with it, with learning lessons from that difficult part of life that none of us enjoy.

Because that is my wish for you.

Happy 2022. May it continue your emotional and spiritual growth, help you believe more in your ability to handle life as it is, and bring you to a greater acceptance of reality.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

What kind of New Life?

 Happy Easter. We say it so quickly, like the greeting, Hi, How are you? We don't expect anyone to really tell us how they are. We say it because, well, it's what we say when we see someone!

I think the same can be said of Easter and resurrection and Jesus in general. We've become accustomed to the accounts given to us, the message we are supposed to take from it, and therefore, Happy Easter!

I'd like to suggest something a little different today. When you think of Easter and resurrection, I'd like you to think of recovery. A specific recovery, from emotional and verbal abuse.

If you have suffered from these, you know the damage it does. Robin Stern, in his book, "The Gaslight Effect: How to Spot and Survive the Hidden Manipulation Others Use to Control Your Life" includes some of the signs of gaslighting:

* No longer feeling like the person you used to be

*Being more anxious and less confident than you used to be

*Often wondering if you're being too sensitive

*Feeling like everything you do is wrong

*Apologizing often

*Having a sense that something's wrong, but being unable to identify what it is

*Feeling isolated from friends and family

*Finding it increasingly hard to make decisions

These are just some of the signs. I think the biggest consequence of gaslighting is a loss of confidence in self. When you leave the situation of abuse, you don't automatically and suddenly gain that back. 

That's where the Easter story comes in. Is Jesus just redeeming us from sin? Or are there other interpretations for his resurrection? Like healing from trauma?

Healing from trauma is a slow process. With confidence, it means learning to speak up when someone says something you don't agree with. It means believing your decision is the right one, without constant second-guessing. It means being able to say no and not give an explanation. It means being able to make a mistake, and not feel the world has ended or you are being judged. It means believing in yourself enough that outside criticism does not take it away.

Jesus shows us the way. Patience. Acceptance. Healing. His resurrection story is also a story of healing from the passion of abuse. 

Monday, March 15, 2021

I will Carry You


"Even to your old age I am the same, even when your hair is gray I will hear you; It is I who have done this, I who will continue, and I who will carry you to safety." Isaiah 46:4

It is nice to remember that we will never be forgotten by God. We forget this so often it is God who has to remind us. We are like petulant children, wanting attention, wanting our own way. And God says, I hear you. Be patient. 

I once thought that with all the ways God blessed my life, I would never forget his generosity. And then another difficulty would happen, and I had to learn it all over again. And again. I came in time to accept that past trust does not breed present trust. We have to draw upon it each time. Like a car that needs to be filled with gas on occasion.

I find it comforting to remember that God is keeping us in mind. 

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Blessed are those who Hope

I decided to try to do my Lectio Divina on the daily readings. Today's readings are Jeremiah 7:5-10; Psalm 1; and Luke 16:19-31.

My way of doing Lectio is to circle the words that speak to me as I read. The following words are the words I circled in today's reading: seeks, heart, desert, change, trust, tree, fears not, fruit, understand, hope, delights, season, fade, chaff, kept, bosom, crossing and listen.

Seeking is a lifelong endeavor. It begins with the heart. In the beginning, we experience dryness and doubt, a sort of desert, which happens in any kind of change. With time and trust, we set roots down into our soul, like that of a tree. We learn to fear not when things don't go our way, and rejoice when we see fruit.

Understanding is not the goal; hope is, the ability to delight in what we have, as life is full of seasons, and it is hope that will sustain us even when we fade or feel like chaff.

Because God is kept in our bosom until we reach the crossing. We just need to listen to our heart to be reminded of these things. 

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Call to the Deep

I found in my spiritual journey that it was so easy for my spirituality to be "above ground" as it were. I followed the rules, I’d adhered to the doctrines, I submitted to authority. I believed that this was what I needed to do to be faithful, right?

But in my reading of the Gospels, Jesus had issues with this kind of "faithfulness" even to the point of calling those who promoted it as "whitewashed coffins with dead bones in them"(not a direct quote).

When I look back, I see how this faithfulness seemed to work in the beginning. I imagined myself becoming holy, acceptable to God, on my way to perfection.

Then I stumbled. Instead of sustaining me, it judged me, condemned me for struggling, accused me of unfaithfulness, and then dismissed me.

I felt abandoned by those I thought were supposed to support and encourage me. I found the quotes from scripture that I'd adhered to, such as "God will not give you more than you can carry" and "If you want God's will, you will always be happy" no longer feed my soul. In fact, they, too, felt accusatory.

And so, I had to dig deeper. It took time, as I was so wedded to the doctrine that was given to me that seeking my own truth seemed heretical. I kept searching. I had to. As I did, my search gradually revealed a different God, one who didn't send out trite sayings, or demand adherence to a doctrine that kept changing, or punished me because I was human and failed.

Instead, I found a God so big and broad and kind as to defy any human capacity to contain or understand or interpret.

I wonder about my former "faith" now. Was my problem not being able to deal with the unknown? Did I need a tidy God I could understand because my faith found ways to  humanize God? Maybe I liked the security of having doctrines that became my anchor, when God was asking me to swim freely. Maybe the trust I needed to face so many unknowns required me to go so deep that I left it for what seemed more secure. 

Whatever the reason, I’ve moved on from security. I walk the tightrope of trust, which accepts my humanness, my inability to read God's mind. I've replaced it with an openness to questioning, to unknowing, and to seeking.

That’s my faith story. What is yours?

Thursday, December 5, 2019

An Appointment with Myself

Many of my clients admit that making the decision to come to therapy is a hard one, often forced upon them when they realize they can no longer manage. I tell them, yes it is scary. 

Therapy is about meeting the true you. And sometimes that is scary. We fear we will hear that we are in the wrong, or we have some dysfunctional diagnosis, or we have acted badly, or any of the other fearful words.

What usually happens is, you find your true self, and that is actually liberating, empowering, and healing. The real you is not the one you imagine, the one you fear. The real you is the one who had somehow gotten confused by gas-lighting, or lost because she took care of everyone else, or filled with fear due to some past trauma. I help you find that person by first helping you feel safe, checking out all of your tools so that you are taking time for self-care, learning how to self-sooth, and working on reframing the negative messages that keep you from knowing your true self. I walk with you, but you do the hard work.

The work is demanding. The work is rewarding. And it is possible, as I see with clients who come through their dark times into a new, lighter, more balanced life.

Freezing Beautiful Times

Life would be so much easier if we could freeze the beautiful times, the times when joy overflowed and we were in tune with life around and ...