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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.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Trouble wants Community

Life sure is a mixed bag, with her joys and sorrows just bumping into and never-minding the others' presence.

This way to heaven in a concrete tub.
There was sure sweetness this week. I received a wonderful massage by Janice Endres at Breitenbush, after a healing soak in the mineral waters (the natural hot springs there are full of lithium, which may explain why everyone there seems so happy and mellow!)   The little cabin sat beside a rushing river, and wind blew the fall leaves outside the window.   "I hope you don't mind that I don't play music.  Nature does a good job providing it," she said, and yes, that was just fine with me.  The massage  was a gift from my old college roommate and only my third professional one in my life.  God willing I won't wait so long for the next.

the luminous wilhemina
I heard some great music Saturday night in the little town of Summit, OR.  Willeke Frankzerda gave a wonderful concert in a packed community hall, premiering three original songs (was there four?  we were late!) with memorable melodies.  At 13, her lyrics and musicality transcend her age-- wise and soulful.  She's raising money to get to her next fiddle camp, and her town showed up in spades.  The audience ranged from nurslings to 90s, and she earned that standing ovation.  Being in that community always warms me, and reminds me how strong we are when we come together.

I also heard from two old friends this week.  One has been laid off the second time in three months as his employers' business closed.  The other is facing losing his home.  I wish I could say these were startling stories, but I've heard many like them in my practice this year.  The wolf seems to be at the door for more and more of us these days.  Hewlett-Packard, once the town's largest employer, has perhaps a fifth of the number of workers of 15 years ago.  Most of those left worry every day about that pink slip.

There are the bittersweets to fill in.  My angel trumpet bloomed for the first time this week.  I planted it as a two leaf cutting on Mother's day.   Now it's a small tree.  House guests said the opening flowers filled the room with a scent like baking meringue, or the vintage "Three Sugars" perfume.  I couldn't, of course, smell the faintest whiff.  But still, it is beautiful, don't you think, all huge and putting itself out there.

When times are good, we need each other.  When times are hard, we need each other even more.  Suffering is universal if one lives long enough.  Do you know the story of Siddhartha, whose parents were told he would grow up to be either a king or a priest?  Wanting the king, his father asked how he could ensure that outcome.  "Protect him from witnessing suffering", he was told.  His father built a walled town, throwing out anyone who became elderly or infirm or sad.  But one day, Siddhartha heard an unfamiliar sound from beyond the walls and asked his servant what it could possibly be.  "Crying", he was told, and he was puzzled.  His servant tried to explain but Siddartha could not comprehend what he was being told, and asked to be taken out to see for himself.  Beyond his protected home, he saw for the first time the suffering that is part of being human.  He watched people grieving the dying, he saw children who were hungry and had no solace for it.  His heart was broken open with compassion-- a word that literally means "with suffering".  He made it his vow to remain in compassion as long as he lived, and to teach others.  His enlightenment transformed his heart.

When we suffer, we can be like animals--  like my dog, who at the end of her very long life, kept trying to isolate herself far from the us and her home, under a tree.  Near death, animals isolate out of instinct, probably to protect themselves from predators in their vulnerable state.  People in great suffering will also isolate.  Sometimes it is to conserve their waning strength.  Sometimes it is in shame about their state.

Withdrawal can be good for us.  It can give us time to reflect and to plan.  But it needs balance, because we need each other.  We need to remember that we are loved and important and have something to offer, even if that something is receiving from others who care about us.  It's true that not everyone we want to be there for us will be.  Sometimes they are scared or out of resources themselves.  Sometimes they just don't know what we need.

As noted in a previous blog, it's rare for people to have the sorts of community that was common in the past.   We have to take personal responsibility for that.  We fill up our lives with busy-ness and forget to keep our ties.  We cocoon to preserve what little energy too much stress and too many work hours take from us.  To learn more about rebuilding community, click here.

But reading won't fix things.  Reach out to someone today.  Offer a hand, lend an ear, fix a broken stoop, deliver a meal.  Even if you are the one who is suffering, being of use is very healing.

Trouble and joy both need community.  "Joys shared are joys doubled; troubles shared are halved."  Make it happen.


Tony said...

Have to say another insightful essay - not surprised though.

Jana Svoboda, LCSW said...

"...pick up and deliver a CSA box for that spacy woman who always forgets because she never thinks about food anymore..."
Thanks for the comment, Tony, and being part of my circle of community.