Welcome to the middle path

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Sporadic photos and notes from a Psyche-midwife, cheerleader, anthropologist--aka clinical social worker in therapy practice. Photos are usually mine except for those of historical events/famous people. Music relevant to the daily topic is often included in a web video embedded below the blog. Click on highlighted links in the copy to get to source or supplemental material. For contact information, see my website @ janasvoboda.com or click on the button to the right below. Join in the conversation.

Friday, December 31, 2010

What a difference a day makes

 2010 is almost over, and as my sister said, "Don't let the door hit you in the butt on the way out." 

It's just another day-- but the changing of the calendar year encourages a chance to reflect, renew our choices, and if we wish, begin anew.

Last January I resolved to write a daily resolution. I didn't quite make it-- I think I got 27 out of the month-- so this year I'll give it another go.  And instead of 2010's big global action words, I'll write about specific actions we can take to improve health, happiness, community.  Think of it as daily therapy homework, but don't be limited to trying it the day I post it-- I sure don't expect to keep that busy. If you try some of these, I'd love to hear about your experience.

May 2011 bring you and yours the blessings of love and growth.
ps-- even though this is essentially a commercial-- it gave me joy.  Click the link to view.

The reality of suffering

"It is what it is", we hear. and even as we struggle to resist the inevitability of suffering, reality insists itself upon us.  A devil's bargain:   feel little, of either joy or sorrow; or  feel so unbearably much of both the best life can offer and more pain than we believe we can bear.  We die young, or we live long enough to see others leave us.

There is no fairness, no sensible story I can make of some of what happens in this world. In a critical care waiting room, strangers become intimate through the worst of life circumstances.  A young woman's family gathers praying for miracles after a skiing accident; a small town high school football star tries to live up to his tough image as his 48 year father recovers from emergency brain surgery.  A 19 year old boy dies from injuries sustained in a car accident despite the full house church members praying fervently he be spared.

Tragedy is not all life offers, but it is part and parcel.  We are called to be big containers.  We bear more than we believe we can, and sometimes all we can do is breathe in, breathe out, and love.  If nothing else, we can love-- scared, small as we feel.  We offer what we can-- our ear, our car, our dollars, our arms.  We can accept that we are part of this big family, do our best to be kind and stay conscious, and keep walking toward that place of love.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Home for the Holidaze

 "Having a family is like having a bowling alley installed in your head"-- Martin  Mull

Christmas and Hanukkah are boom times for therapists.  What is it about holidays that cause so much trouble?  There's the  obvious:   the extra activities to cram in too already crazy busy lives, the financial strains, the booze and sugar hangovers.

And there's  the poignant and sometimes painful difference between the Hallmark commercials of ideal family communion and reality of messy humans coming together with their messy selves.

We spend the latter years of our family-of-origin time struggling to develop identities that resonate with our souls.  Part of that journey means turning away from the very sources of our safety and nurturing-- to be able to find enough differences between ourselves and our parents that we can leave them.

And then the holidays come.  And with it, questions unconscious or not.

Can I be different and still belong?  Can I be true to me and still be loved by you?

Visiting home, or reuniting with relatives, we bump into our younger selves.  Dependent, less competent, locked into family or community roles we may have long since left.   Oftentimes these self portraits aren't held so much by others as projected by us.  Boundaries shift, alliances conflict, and sometimes we fall apart.
We may also struggle to see others as they see themselves without us, and call them back into roles that no longer fit.

Reunions seem to work best when we notice our thoughts and judgments, and remind ourselves they are just that-- impressions and projections, not facts.  I read in a book on some subject seemingly unrelated to therapy-- I think it was economics-- that people are all looking through their own very narrow aluminum tubes, and thinking they are seeing the same thing that others see, looking at different points through their tubes.  When we can rise above ourselves take an eagle eye view, we gain understanding and compassion.  We get that in any given moment in time, we are acting with the limitations with us right then-- just like everyone else.  Sometimes we are being very limited.  We snap and complain, out of tiredness or just confusion from being out of our element or stretched past our resources.  We overfunction, out of hopes we will be shown the love we need.  We isolate, out of fear we don't belong.  And yet we still want acceptance, or at least recognition of our validity.  As do those we love, acting out of their own limitations of the moment.

If you find yourself with loved ones trying hard to conjure up some love, see if you can show them the same acceptance for who they are as you are hoping them to show you.  Even or especially if you disagree with their choices.  In between reminiscing in the sweetness or horror of how things used to be, remember to be curious about how things are now for them, and who they are becoming.  Relinquish your internalized limitations for them and maybe they can do the same for you.  If worse comes to worst, try the OLA strategy.

As hard as you try, no one can escape the horror of Christmas, so you may as well be with your own family."—Liz Lemon, 30 Rock

May the holidays and the new year find your heart ever expanding,

Sunday, December 5, 2010

600 hundreds kinds of love

Beautiful day here in the heart of the valley.  Hiked Bald Hill in what should be the afternoon; ended up walking down at dark-thirty, making lots of noise so as  not to be cougar bait.  Later, stopped at the local LDS church, where the Community Nativity Festival was in the last hours of its three day run.  In its 16th year, the free event hosts over 600 creches made of everything from rolled up recycled newspaper to fine porcelain and metals. There were interpretations of the birth of Jesus from every country, and in some, the characters wore the clothing or had the facial features of the region of the artist.  Some of the creches were mass produced series, some handmade originals; each was meaningful enough to someone that it was purchased or given.  There were "Precious Moments" nativities and at least 4 (!) manger scenes in which every character was a snowperson,  There were even all frog and all dog scenes.  But no matter how serious, whimsical, downright silly or highfalutin' the creation, each seemed a message of adoration and unconditional love.

Some people have some pretty specific ideas about religion, and I am fine to let them have them. We do the best we can understanding big pictures with our individual, fully human minds.   I do believe strongly in the law that informs all faiths-- the law of love.

This week, I saw our town come together in love to support a faith community that was targeted by an arsonist.  The day before, a youth who had occasionally attended there had allegedly plotted a terrorist attack in Portland.  The local mosque and others in the Islam community quickly condemned his actions, pointing out  it was not in keeping with tenets of the faith.  However, many commenting online about the incident seemed to confuse the actions of the individual with all people of Muslim identity or from Islamic nations. Some called for expulsion of all immigrants; others accused all Muslims of violent intent.

I was glad to see that here in our town, hundreds turned out on a very cold and rainy night to show support and love for the hate crime against one of our own.  Rabbi Barnett spoke of the need to bring light of hope against fear and hate.  Quakers and other Christians prayed for peace and understanding.  Mohammed Siala, an imam at the Salman Alfarisi Islamic Center, thanked the crowd for coming from the warmth of their home to show the warmth of their hearts.  He asked all to release anger and to embrace love and compassion that could be “stronger and more powerful than the might of evil."

Let the bigness of love be stronger this season than fear.