A Tuesday Blessing

It is an unfortunate and very real sign of these times, that uncertainty and instability reign for some, as unemployment, foreclosure and homelessness is a reality for others.  Thus, it should come as no surprise that, based on the latest studies, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that during routine office visits, anti-depressants are the third most prescribed class of drugs. Mind you, this study was based on figures from 2008, so I believe that in light of the current recession that just won’t end, multiple wars, a political discourse that encourages divisiveness, strife, and even hatred, it is more likely than not that the use of such drugs has increased. Of course, that is not to say that all of us resort to medications, but in some cases, it is necessary.  Also, make no mistake, unchecked stress and its resulting symptoms may endanger your health and  should be treated seriously. For a discussion of the ways that constant stress may impact your health, read this Mayo Clinic article.    

In general, many of us are exhausted–either, physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually.  This is a blessing and a reminder that this too shall pass.

A Blessing for One Who is Exhausted
by John O’Donohue
When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight,

The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laborsome events of will.

Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.

The ride you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.

You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken for the race of days.

At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.

You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.

Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.

Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.

–John O’Donohue, from “Blessings”

Blessings, Lydia

Guidance from Papa Smurf?

Papa SmurfImage by dan taylor via Flickr
Not so long ago,  my g’daughter, Punkin (obviously not her real name but she likes me to call her that), and I had a sleepover at my house.  During the course of the sleepover, I realized that at my age, my idea of a sleepover involves some actual sleep, but Punkin’s, at 4 1/2 years of age, was not.  She was interested in, among other things, Candy Land or the Smurfs, and sleep was not a consideration.  As it is with g’parents and their g’children, the victor was obvious.  Considering the two and finding that watching a DVD involved no thought or movement on my part, the choice was clear.  Gratefully, Punkin had mercy on me and agreed.

So, there we were, draped across the bed, with Punkin watching the Smurfs as I watched her watching them.  My attention on the DVD was sporadic so I am not sure why I happened to pay attention to this one particular episode. In it, Papa Smurf, the elder spokesmen of the little blue people, was giving encouragement to two of his misguided charges who had caused some type of trouble.  His final words to them as he sent them on their way to save the day was “do not be afraid, to be afraid.” That’s it, that simple little missive got me thinking.

Well, in all honesty, my initial reaction was to laugh out loud at the absurdity of a little blue cartoon character uttering anything that might give me pause. After setting that little prejudice aside, I set about considering the words– “do not be afraid to be afraid.” Such a simple, albeit powerful, phrase. The word “afraid” is defined as “feeling fear; filled with apprehension. http://j.mp/hu7LGI; whereas “fear” is defined as a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid. http://j.mp/hupUph. Thus, feeling “afraid” breeds “fear.”

The saying “we have nothing to fear but fear itself” is another phrase that addresses fear and is as true now as it was in the depression era when Franklin D. Roosevelt uttered it. There is nothing to fear but our avoidance of it, running away from it and failing to confront it. How often do we truly face our fears? How often do we welcome them with open arms?  If you are like me, not very often. Not only do we try to turn away from them, but we berate ourselves for even having them. Often, we are told that such feelings are bad, and a sign of weakness that should be avoided at all costs.  So we ignore our fears, and they grow into, in some cases, crippling impediments. What can we do?

First, we must not forget that fear can be a useful emotion that protects and guides us on our journey.  Instead of viewing our fears as interlopers, why not embrace them, make an effort to understand them by seeking their origin, and listen for any message that they may be trying to convey to us.  Doing so, I learned that most of my fears arise when I am either ruminating about something that occurred in the past or catastrophizing about the future–very rarely is there any present threat.  In some cases, the very act of confronting our fears can neutralize them.  Nevertheless, I am not implying that this is an easy task or that your fears will vanish over night.  I am the first to say that all the embracing and confronting in the world will not neutralize some fears.  For instance, I am afraid of snakes–always have been and in all likelihood, always will be. Just thinking about them increases my heart rate and gives me a tummy ache. But still, Papa Smurf is right, do not be afraid, to be afraid.

All in all, I learned a lesson that night:  Wisdom can come to us from the most unlikely places–including Smurf Village.
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Resisting Change?

“The very things that we now wish we could hold onto and keep safe from change were themselves originally produced by changes.  And many of those changes, in their day, looked just as daunting as any in the present do. No matter how solid and comfortable and necessary the status quo feels today, it was once new, untried and uncomfortable.  Change is not only the path ahead, but is also the path behind us, the one which we traveled along to wherever we are now trying to stay.”                                                                                                  ~The Way of Transitions, William Bridges                 

Blessings and love, lydia 

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