Archives for posts with tag: Resilience

I’ve had a couple of difficult days. We all have them. It’s just part of life. Something throws you on your butt, you rally, you still feel kind of bad, maybe another thing knocks you back on your butt, you rally again, and keep inching your way along until you re-right yourself.

Today, I had paperwork to do but did not have to go to the office to see patients. I had been knocked on my butt a couple of days ago and still felt knocked down this morning. I meditated for a long time and thought about my life. My past, my present, and my future. I gained some clarity. I had some really wonderful thoughts about perfectionism, which I had planned to share on my blog, but promptly forgot as soon as I got out of bed. (Darn!)

The sky was blue today. I went out for my walk. The sky was not only blue but the mountains were visible. I walked to Bird on a Wire, my neighborhood coffee shop, which is quite excellent. It was as if the universe knew that I needed to be cheered up. Maddie said, “Oh, Elizabeth I’m glad you came at this time. (It was a slower part of the day.) We hate it when people we like come at busy times and we don’t get to talk to them.” Then Adrian noticed that a gluten-filled biscuit was being prepared for me instead of a gluten-free one. She saved me from some major eczema. Adrian keeps an extra eye on this, I’ve noticed and I very much appreciate it. And finally, Angel told me that I was one of his favorite people. The people who work at the coffee shop are always friendly but this was much more than usual. I told them that they were awesome but I did not let on that I was having a hard day and they have no idea how much their kindness meant to me. I also experienced the incredible kindness of a friend in the past couple of days who knew that I was having a hard time, who has checked in on me periodically over the past couple of days.

I continued, with coffee and gluten-free biscuit in hand on my walk. It was WAY too nice not to go to the beach. I didn’t have enough time to walk there so I walked a half mile back to my house, jumped into my car, and drove to Lincoln Park, which is on the Puget Sound. There was new snow on the Olympic Mountains. The sun was bright and the sky was a brilliant blue. The wind was strong and it was cold. But it was amazing! The water, the islands, the Olympic Peninsula, and the mountains were glorious. I saw osprey flying over the water and then suddenly drop to the water to fish. I saw cormorants and a few species of duck. At one point, I saw black figures as the waves broke. They were two harbor seals about 20 yards off of the coast. They were swimming along and coming up every several yards. I was able to walk along the beach fast enough to continue to observe them for several minutes. I have seen seals at this beach, but only 2 or 3 times in the past 10 years. The Pacific Madrone, one of my favorite trees, which only grow near salt water, were beautiful. The orange trunks with their peeling bark were beautiful against the blue sky. The towering Douglas fir were majestic.

I’ve had a stressful life for the past many years. The reasons for this are many, most of which I have written about here. One of the ways I deal with the stress as well as to help prevent recurrence of depression is to get a full body massage every three weeks. I have gotten them from the same lovely person, Jann Coons, for the past 13 years. The first massage from Jann was a gift from my husband for my 35th birthday. I got the first one and have never stopped going. I’ve had massages from three or four other people and no one holds a candle to Jann!

Jann surprised me today. She told me that she had a Christmas present for me in her car and noted that she couldn’t keep it in her office. She walked me out to her car and I could see that she was getting ready to open the trunk of her car. I said, “Oh, well I am guessing that you are not giving me a puppy!” She pulled an amazing variety of home grown vegetables, artfully arranged in a basket, from the cool depths of her trunk. The basket contained red chard, two kinds of kale, delicata and other squashes, red and yellow onions, mizuna (a type of green), and beautiful red beets. I’m sure Jann could tell that I was moved by her generosity. I gave her a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. I still can’t believe it. I almost cried.

I am not a traditionally religious person but I believe my faith in the spiritual beliefs I do have is very deep. Today, I experienced an overwhelmingly beautiful display of nature’s bounty. The bounty from the sky, the water, the mountains, dirt, and from other human beings, who are also part of the natural world. And I know this is only a fraction of the bounty that I enjoy. I have so many wonderful people in my life, friends and family. There are so many wonders of the Earth.

I know that Thanksgiving is not for another eight days but today I feel very thankful, very blessed, and so loved. My heart is bursting.20131120_121619

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Jann's Christmas present to me. A basket of health that she grew with her own hands.

Jann’s Christmas present to me. A basket of health that she grew with her own hands.

I’ve been thinking about a mother and her teen daughter with whom I’ve worked in my psychology practice. They had lost their husband and father ten years previously to cancer. What I remember most was the mother’s comments about their grief as a mother and daughter, that they loved their new family (she had remarried and had another child) and that they were capable of happiness. But each day they grieve for the loss of a father and husband and the grief co-exists alongside the happiness.

I feel in my own grief process regarding my breast cancer that my efforts to integrate it into the rest of my life experience is resulting in this kind of accepting co-existence. I am still working on it, but I feel close to the next place I need to be in this. And I know that I will additional opportunities to grieve my experience. (Our brain is kind and often gives us breaks in between periods of grief.) And I know that I will have other losses and challenges in my life that will test my fortitude and serenity.

But today, I am reminded of my favorite hymn. I don’t really write about my religious beliefs. And part of that is because people fight about it. I don’t need to have people fighting on my blog. Another part of it is that I really haven’t managed to hammer out all of the details of my beliefs. And suspect that I never will. That God is love and that we are here to care for one another, are my central beliefs, which I suspect will never change. And I will always love this hymn. I hope that whatever you believe that you will appreciate the message of hope, love, and resilience.

My life flows on in endless song;
Above earth’s lamentation,
I hear the sweet, tho’ far-off hymn
That hails a new creation;
Thro’ all the tumult and the strife
I hear the music ringing;
It finds an echo in my soul—
How can I keep from singing?

What tho’ my joys and comforts die?
The Lord my Saviour liveth;
What tho’ the darkness gather round?
Songs in the night he giveth.
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that refuge clinging;
Since Christ is Lord of Heaven and Earth,
How can I keep from singing?

I lift my eyes; the cloud grows thin;
I see the blue above it;
And day by day this pathway smooths,
Since first I learned to love it;
The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,
A fountain ever springing;
All things are mine since I am his—
How can I keep from singing?

(The history and text for this hymn can be found here.)

(Enya recorded a lovely version of this hymn in the 90’s though I prefer to hear my mother’s and perhaps I will be able to twist her arm into singing it for my blog.)

Today is Good Friday, a particularly good day to meditate on loss and resilience.

I had a wonderful visit with my friend, Mike, a couple of days ago. He and I became friends in our teens. We were in the same woodwind quintet through a high school program at Cornish Institute in Seattle. He played French horn and I played flute. I continued to play through college at the University of Washington but not as a music major. Mike went off to Oberlin Conservatory and then the Julliard School. Our lives after high school diverged though I did see him a couple of times during college, when he came back to visit his parents.

While I was becoming a psychologist, Mike was a professional musician. In particular, he played in the orchestra for a lot of Broadway shows. After about 20 years, he decided to study Chinese medicine and he currently has a practice in New York. Now I see us as doing similar things again; we are both healthcare providers. I think that’s pretty cool.

Mike has been in Seattle for the last few weeks to be with his father during his last days. His father’s funeral was last Saturday. Mike’s mother died several years ago of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). I was relieved to hear that his dad did not suffer horribly like his mom did. Mike has had some really big loses over the past year. Remember that I mentioned that he lives in New York City? Well, like many people in that area, he experienced the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Mike also traveled around neighborhoods to help people. He inspired me with his FaceBook posts, describing the positive ways in which people were helping each other wade through chaos and fear. He reminded me of the Fred Rogers’ quote that went viral on Facebook after the Sandy Hook tragedy.

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers–so many caring people in this world.

Mike’s family is incredible. His parents, who were both born in the U.S., were forced to leave their homes during WWII because they were of Japanese ancestry. He and his family have continued to face discrimination as people of color. Mike is one of the most loving and kind people I know. Nonetheless, he and his partner, Dennis have faced discrimination as a gay men.

I know that Mike has experienced many hurts in his life. But I am struck by his grace, resilience, generosity, and optimism. Mike and I have never discussed mindfulness though I know he practices meditation. I believe him to be a very mindful person, someone who does not ignore painful truths but who observes and accepts them. He also accepts the beautiful truths. I think this is what allows people to grow from hurt, instead of remaining stuck.

Why have I been meditating on loss and resilience? Well, in addition to being inspired by and having a great deal of affection for my friend, Mike, I have been trying to sort through this cancer thing. Many positives have resulted from my experience thus far and it’s hard for me to write about it without fearing that I sending a message like, “Cancer is an awesome gift! I’m so lucky! Yippee!”

Cancer is not something I would invite into my life, but I got it whether I wanted it or not. I do have control to a large extent, over how I live each day and how I incorporate these experiences into a meaningful life. There is growth that can come from adversity and as long as I am experience it, I might as well grow.

This C.S. Lewis quote comes close to what I am trying to express:

Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.

I’m not a big believer in destiny as I am not much into the idea of pre-destination. How about the idea that hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary future? (Note that it says “often” and not “always”; let’s not bring that big old buzz kill, Nietzche into this.) Yeah, I know that it’s pretty nervy of me to mess with a quote from a most highly regarded Christian scholar. And I’m brazen enough to do it on Good Friday, too!

A purple form of trillium intertwined with bleeding heart buds.

Trillium intertwined with budding bleeding heart. My garden is really cooperating with the theme of my post today.

Trillium ovatum. This trillium is native to our area. It's three petals and the change in petal color from white to purple is often viewed as symbolic to the Lenten season. Lent and Easter are early this year so mine is still white.

Trillium ovatum. This trillium is native to our area. It’s three petals and the change in petal color from white to purple is often viewed as symbolic to the Lenten season. Lent and Easter are early this year so mine is still white.

Helleborus orientalis. "Lenten Rose" If you are able to grow this plant in your area, do so as it is not only beautiful, but starts blooming in winter.

Helleborus orientalis. “Lenten Rose” If you are able to grow this plant in your area, do so as it is not only beautiful, but starts blooming in winter.

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