Knocked Down, But Not For Long

beach 2You, my friend, have been knocked down by a giant wave, a hard and cold one that stole much, but you can start moving again. I know this, even if it’s only a crawl for now, and the second you begin, you will feel stronger and more optimistic. You’ve only temporarily forgotten that it’s okay to take risks, but you have, deep within, a healer that remembers. Moving and tasting new experiences aren’t things we ever forget how to do, not fully. Trying and failing is in our genes; it’s how we learn everything.

And while sitting on the shoreline taking stock and getting your bearings for a while serves a purpose, there is no point in thinking too long and hard about which single action will be safest and most sure to fix that something you desperately want fixed. We find our way and strength again by roving, tasting, trying, and failing. There is no other way to make it to the burial ground we need to find, no other way to gather the ingredients we’ll need to nourish a new plot of soil in which to grow new dreams.

What we sometimes temporarily forget is this: trying new things doesn’t have to translate into a permanent new hobby. Creative work doesn’t have to be marketable to be therapeutic. Work doesn’t have to come with a big paycheck to be meaningful and valuable. Courses don’t have to lead to certification to be beneficial. Meeting new people doesn’t have to replace old friends. Movement doesn’t have to be pain-free to bring strength. All of these however, enrich and expand life. There is joy and strength to be found in a million things, even in the face of great loss.

There’s a reason they get us out of bed quickly after surgery: despite the accompanying pain, it gets blood and energy flowing again. Neither psychic nor physical muscle can develop the strength it needs to withstand the next wave while we lie there with the old injury.

So cry, yes, but don’t forget to keep moving. Swim in some really great music. Sing along or dance if you can. Create something. Hold a baby. Cook, write, paint, plant some seeds. Play a game. Watch things that make you laugh. Meditate. Go for a walk or to a yoga class. Love somebody. Lose yourself in a great story. Volunteer to help someone. Try something completely new. Take the first step toward something, anything. Feel your pain, but don’t spend too much thinking about the how and why, just embrace it, and begin moving. All of these actions have at various times in the past effectively brought me back to health and balance. They will work for you too.

Anything and everything that can bring us out of our heads—out of the past and regret, out of the future and magical thinking—and rather into the present, is of inestimable value. Being present to the moment involves seeing, noticing, listening, paying close attention to things outside our heads. The color of another’s eyes, the fatigue in her voice, the changes in the room, the air, the crowd, what tastes good right now, what gives us energy, all of it. It involves paying close attention to what is, both that for which we’re grateful, and that which we need to mourn. Gratitude and mourning are not, by the way, mutually exclusive. Both are the antidote to fear.

We have, since the advent of pharmaceutical medicine, been conditioned to believe in magic bullet fixes for all that ails us, but there are no quick fixes for real healing, only the hard work of acceptance and remaining present to all of life. Nor are healing and strength and joy something we arrive at permanently. There’s always another wave, and balance is fluid, and requires muscle.

So stay at the shoreline for a short while, yes, but begin to ask yourself what small thing you can do today that will nurture and fortify you right now for the tasks of laying to rest dreams that have died, and of cultivating soil that will grow new ones. And then move, even if it’s only a couple of inches. It is, after all, spring.

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Knowing Ourselves

Shortcuts to self-awareness such as personality typing have their limits, true, but they can also be amazing tools with which to heighten conscious experience. For those of us fascinated by this kind of thing, this blogger knows her way around the Enneagram, has a great page on reasons to explore it, and a guest post by yours truly; have a look.

Women Who Run With the Wolves

I saw you on the street today, and you looked absent, weary, buried, compressed, tense, angry. Take your cue from Clarissa Pinkola Estés. Yes, I am still reading Women Who Run With the Wolves, and it has perfect lessons for those of us who have looked in the mirror to see a face we hardly recognize.

Women, it turns out, women in touch with their souls, their original, natural, untamed true selves, share much with the wild nature of wolves, I’m learning from her—both have strong senses, both are playful, both are very devoted, both are inquisitive, relational, strong, intuitive, adaptive, protective of their young, brave, inventive, robust, life-giving, creative, aware. Both know how to persevere. And both can become aggressive and reckless when starved for too long.

Wolves, when they have for whatever reason, stopped thriving, carry on until they can thrive again. No matter how sick or injured a wolf, how afraid, how alone, how lost, how weak, she will carry on. She will lope with the deepest of wounds. She will outwit, outrun and outlast whatever is tormenting her. She will take breath after breath, drag herself from place to place until she finds a place she can heal. She will seek protection of the pack. She will run about gathering information, tasting a little of this, a little of that. She may look a little crazy for a period of time, as she tries to regain her bearings. Once she has processed the information she has gathered, she will begin moving in a more recognizably rational manner again.

I’ve discovered that I have in fact been doing this for some time now, and that it is okay to be doing this. It is far worse to stay where one does not belong, than to wander about lost for a while, looking for what it is one needs.

I saw it in your face because I now know what it looks like. I have finally begun to accept that a number of my dreams have died, even the new and recent Plan B and C and D ones, the ones I thought would be easy to realize. I am accepting that the soil in which new dreams might grow is not fertile at the moment, and that until I properly bury the old ones, and allow them to decompose and nourish the soil, it will not give rise to, or adequately nourish, new ones.

So if you don’t always understand my bahaviour in the coming months, if I appear scattered, or if you hear me howling—or you know someone else who is behaving in these ways, or you yourself are—remember that the feminine soul shares much with the instinctual nature of wolves, and that we can heal by taking our cues from them.

Estés says that those who have been called defiant, incorrigible, forward, unruly, or rebellious are on the right track, that their true and wild soul is nearby. This is quite hopeful for you and I, don’t you think? May we both soon be running with the wolves once again, strong and clear-eyed.

Calling All Angels

You radiated love and strength and triumph when I met you a few years ago. You’d been tried by fire, and had been made resilient. The fire you’d been tried by—serious illness in your baby, almost losing her—was behind you. She won’t live for more than a few years, they’d told you, not without treatment. So you trusted them, and began treatment, but she stopped thriving. Stopped growing, stopped playing, and was in pain all the time. The doctor said it was her disease killing her, the medications apparently not working, even though she’d been well before she started on them.

A biochemist and virologist familiar with both the medications and the virus told you, when you asked, that it was the medications not the virus, most likely to be the cause of her death. Up against a wall—lose her to the treatment, or the virus; what more horrible choice might a parent have to make?—you took a terrified leap of faith, and took her off the medications that had so quickly begun robbing her of vitality. She revived. Two decades later, when I met her, she was as vivacious and beautiful as ever, going strong.

And now, she who once as a very young child was unable to walk or eat or grow and was told she would not live, now all grown up, she was ecstatic to meet her own beautiful baby. And then devastated that he was tested for her disease and put on medications, but happy when they eventually let her take him home.

And then they came into her home and literally wrenched him from her arms after all, and took him away again. They took him not because his parents weren’t giving him his medications—they were. They know how these things can work. They came and took the infant because his parents had cancelled a single doctor’s appointment in order to make a trip to consult a second opinion.

It’s a chaotic, insane, tragically cruel world out there.

They took him, and did surgery so they could begin pumping these medications directly into his tiny, failing body, which at two months now on these treatments weighs no more that it did at birth.

This baby, whether he lives or dies—does he not deserve to be in the arms of his parents and grandparents? And his parents and grandparents—do they not deserve at least a vote at this point, after seeing the effects of these medications up close, after living them first-hand? After seeing a return to vitality once the mother of this child was taken off them all those years ago?

They know something that not everyone knows, after all–the 11 other children in their state with the same virus at that time, all of whom continued on with the medications, they are now dead.

I know exactly, from personal experience, the efficiency with which these kinds of drugs stop living organisms in their tracks. How can it be, in an apparently modern and progressive part of the world, that our medical care doesn’t involve consultation between medical experts and the human beings directly involved? How is it that we’ve lost the right to determine for ourselves which experts to trust? To determine when enough poison into the body is enough? When did the simple suspicion of potential non-compliance down the road become enough to give to the state the right to separate mother and child?

I can’t tell you how my heart breaks for you right now Cheryl, and thank you for your courage through this from the beginning, and again now. Calling all angels.