Category Archives: Blog for Mental Health

Water, Words, & Grief

The simple sentences from these grieving parents touched me like poems. From The Daily 360° from nytimes.com

Miguel:
I’ve had a lot of problems
on the water and the land.
I recently lost my daughters…
I used to think only of fish when I came out here.
Now I see my daughter’s faces in the water.

Juana:
This beach is my home.
I leave my problems in the sea.
I watch my husband fish
and we support each other to leave everything behind.
I focus on my work and it relaxes me.
I’ll never leave this beach
because I forget about my problems here.

Miguel:
I live for the water
and I try to move forward.
There is no other way.

Movie Legends Ascend to the Firmament

Farewell my Princess

empire-strikes-back-carrie-fisher

I wish this awesome girl hero had come along when I was even younger- but even in college years she was inspiring. When did we ever see such a kick ass heroine in space?  Leia opened the door for Ellen Ripley of Aliens, Captain Janeway, even Buffy.

[BREAKING NEWS: DEBBIE REYNOLDS DIES, 1 DAY AFTER HER DAUGHTER. LINK]

When Carrie Fisher wrote Postcards from the Edge, I was really surprised. She was so amazingly candid for movie royalty. When she came out as manic depressive, I was thrilled.  Maybe we could finally talk about it like any other illness.  May you can be brilliant, creative and flawed. Even crazy. And it’s okay.

2D957D8700000578-3280234-image-a-17_1445336449812When I saw The Force Awakens, the reunion of Leia and Han was a kick in the heart – a good one, but full of real life angst. No fairytale romance for them -clearly they gave it a go, but grew apart. Years of gritty revolution took it’s toll, of course they’re battle weary.

Thank you, Carrie

For the inspiration, for the laughs, and most of all for permission to tell it like it is.

Some words of wisdom from Carrie Fisher

  • “I feel I’m very sane about how crazy I am.” 
  • “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. ” 
  • “There is no point at which you can say, ‘Well, I’m successful now. I might as well take a nap.” 

Finding the Right Words… Part 1

Dear Readers,

Since the election on November 8 I have started and bailed on 4 posts, unable to wrap my head/thoughts/words around the election of the 45th president. I’m going to do my best to weave those aborted essays into something coherent, so I can move on. Here’s Part 1. The verse is from a poem by William E. Stafford

How I Became a Liberal

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

Alas, I am one of those out-of-touch ‘elites’ who, despite my rust-belt roots and my current bank balance, delights in a healthy planet, education, real science, and a sensitivity to and celebration of other cultures. How did I become so solidly Blue?

1968presidential-electionMaybe it’s because,of this:  in 7th grade Civics our teacher used the presidential election to get 35 moody 13 year olds excited about politics. We had to join a campaign team – either Republican Richard Nixon or Democrat Hubert Humphrey.

I was born into a family that voted Republican. We were part of Detroit’s white flight to the suburbs, landing in a WASP suburb famous for redlining. Black folk were domestic workers and I never met any Jews until I went to college.
In that very white, very Republican Michigan suburb, every kid in the class wanted to work for Nixon. That’s who our parents talked about as the good guy. I got stuck on the Humphrey team. As our classroom campaigns rolled along we became engrossed in the real Presidential race. I worked hard to get Hubert elected, most of it falling on deaf ears. I remember my disappointment when he lost.

This was also formative: Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In was a revelation. Here were people that felt my tribe. Before long I was itching to join anti war protests and fighting with my dad.  He threatened to vote for segregation candidate George Wallace that year.

12 Steps to Living with the Election Results

Dear readers: I have started several posts since last week’s election results and haven’t decided which impassioned essays will live or die. In the mean time, I come bearing gifts, this one from Nicholas Kristof of the (notoriously liberal) NY Times. 

Link to complete original article

A Clouded View

When I come downstairs in the morning I open the door for my two critters, who trot happily out the door. They always greet the day with tails held high, so delighted to greet the world. I sip my coffee and come to consciousness more slowly.

PuppyKitty
Char (l) and Lily

In fact I’m cautious how I approach the day. Will I get it right, make progress, be successful? Or will I fail to complete enough tasks to feel at peace? Did I do well enough yesterday? Will I be ready for tomorrow? These processes are running constantly, just below my regular awareness.

Yesterday I was reading a list of affirmations from my therapist. I mentally knock them off: nah, not me, unh-uh, not for me, nope—then I come to one that hits a nerve:

“The present moment is perfect, even if I don’t like what’s happening.”

Somehow this one stops me, For a flash I see it: a perfectly beautiful world, my pets here with me, blue sky, soft green grass, the shimmering water beyond. I hear birds and feel the soft air on my skin, and think “how could I not see this a moment ago?” and with that, a shadow falls over my thinking again, doubt and judgement resume their program.

I felt a cloud of negativity lift, and I saw the world clearly, just for a moment. It was a bit astonishing. I’ve worked hard at keeping destructive thoughts at bay. I’ve learned to rely on my higher power and find peace in uncertainty.  But this – this grey film over my reality, I don’t want to see the world through gloom colored glasses!

I listened to the magical wordsmith Caroline Casey yesterday:

Expectation and Disappointment are dance partners. Better that we dwell on Willing, its dual meaning of intention and availability.”

Now that I’ve seen beyond the veil, I can’t lose this: a brighter world is right there, just behind that grey. That if I feel low, hopeless, or worthless it’s  only my old distorted view, and I can shift perspective.  That I can upgrade my thinking by deciding where to focus.

And when I forget, please do remind me!

wingcloud

The Rocket’s Red Glare

As I enjoy the long, fun weekend that celebrates American independence, I find myself trying to console my inconsolable dog who is terrified of loud sounds like thunder, fireworks and gunshots.

worriedDog
Not Lily, but a similarly worried dog

She hasn’t always been like this but a few years ago at a big holiday picnic, someone lit off a few firecrackers right next to us, and it has affected her deeply.

I don’t enjoy fireworks anymore, either.  Not since October 7th, 2001 when my country began bombing the largely undeveloped country of Afghanistan with 21st century weaponry.

I hold a soul-deep conviction that this was wrong.  That night I was awakened by the sound of a nearby garbage dumpster clanging to the ground.  I tried to dive under the bed, believing we were being bombed.

Our national anthem romanticizes the ‘bombs bursting in air’ yet the bombs that rained on Afghanistan burst more than just air- they burned the flesh of people who had no understanding of what was happening to them.

I understand the counter arguments. I realize there were terrorists hiding amid the tribes in the mountains. But we used a cannon to try to destroy a termite, apparently without considering the consequences of the ‘collateral,’ and cultural damage.

I believe in kharma – that our choices yield real consequences and that we will eventually be held accountable them.  And as a nation we have a great deal to answer for.  And some of those things could have been avoided.

 

 

My Heart Flow with the Waters

I live on a lovely little bay off the Potomac River, downstream from Washington, DC. It’s alive with turtles and catfish and migrating water birds. Bald eagles nest in the woods nearby, along with osprey, woodpeckers, red-tailed hawks and many other birds.

it blocks the light, killing plants below, rotting makes a stinking black mess

But my bay, and the larger Chesapeake, is choked with foul rotting algae much of the year, the result of excess ‘nutrients’ from farms, sewage, run-off and lawn fertilizers. The sewage plant has recently had to absorb the waste outflow from a gigantic new development over 12 miles away, with more than 5,000 residents and 13 million  visitors annually.

While National Harbor has brought jobs and tourist dollars to Prince Georges County, which has never benefited as much as surrounding counties from DC’s economic growth, this overwhelms the sewage treatment facilities resulting in more filth in my bay.

Few people consider how their toilet flushing, lawn chemicals, street run-off or local farm waste are affecting our natural environment.

And yet our river is quite healthy for an urban river, as the birds and  the fish who still live here will testify. In many places the situation is much, much worse.

The voracious habits of the developed world, now exported to China and India’s millions of aspiring workers, are only accelerating the pace. In my lifetime we’ve destroyed most of the ancient forests on the planet, and killed half of the wild creatures that roamed the earth.

Consider this, from Joanna Macy & Jennifer Berezan:

Please be thoughtful in your choices that impact our world. Consider what you can do and give to help reverse the damage our people do to the world.

Alice Ferguson Foundation
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Indigenous Environmental Network

How to “Not-go” to that Dark Place

“You have to not-turn to anger, not-turn to resentment.”

That advice comes from a man who spent 26 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, to kids who find themselves entangled in the juvenile justice system. He’s helping them know themselves through writing, and to learn to manage their chaotic lives and hopefully survive the system.

Stay

I was intrigued by his negative verb:  ‘not-turn.’

What is the parallel positive equivalent? My friend pointed out that ‘not-go’  is really ‘stay.’ But stay where?

I think when we’re anxious or angry or stressed, the place we seem to be in isn;t a good one. And we don’t necessarily wake up to what’s happening until we’re already reacting. If we wake up at all.

Mindfulness

So where is it we’re supposed to stay? That’s where the mindfulness comes in. In my own story, it has taken me many years to become aware of the vicious self criticism that undermined my sanity. It operated without my awareness, defeating my confidence at every turn. I looked in the mirror and I looked terrible. I created something and it was pathetic. I offered myself to people and awaited harsh criticism, because that’s what I lived with all the time, inside my head.

Clearly I couldn’t ‘stay’ there!

I’ve finally learned, imperfectly, to ‘not-turn’ on myself, ‘not-turn’ to the excoriating self-talk. In order to do this, I had to learn go back to before it was activated, so I could halt the process before it got underway. Which was tricky when I believed that self-critical voice to be a true part of me. That voice seemed so real when I began this quest. Which is why it was so difficult to gain control over.

I am Not My Thoughts

Through meditation, particularly mindfulness techniques and body centered methods, I learned to be with myself in a way that allowed me to observe the self-talk arising. It’s a process of recognizing a mind pattern and realizing that it’s ‘not-me.’

Now I have a place to ‘not-go.’

for more on mindfulness I recommend the books and videos of Pema Chodron and Eckhart Tolle

*featured image from the installation Lyon Art, the Abode of Chaos

 

 

Share Some Self-Love this Valentine’s

This beautiful card and others like it are on sale just in time for Valentines Day, in an effort to promote more genuine self appreciation.

dust-again

 

How about a self-love Valentine this year?

While it may be true that there are certain, say, presidential candidates who don’t need encouragement in this area, most of the people I know could benefit from more sincere self-appreciation.

I wrote about Terri last year in THIS POST

What if we didn’t just wait, hoping that others might notice we need love and appreciation? What if we had a day to honor the best in ourselves?  Well, Terri St. Cloud of Bone Sigh Arts posted this on her blog: “Let’s put the Heart in Valentine’s Day”.

You’ll find some heartfelt examples there. And I bet you can think of people in your own life who deserve more love and credit for goodness than they give themselves.

Let’s give it a try. First, spend a little time considering what you need, and see how you can give yourself more. More peace, more time, more love, more patience; more compassion. And look for ways to share this gift with others who need a little, or a lot, of encouragement to honor themselves.

It just might make the world a better place.