Tomorrow is the start of a new adventure - Clinical Pastoral Education at Evergreen Health in Kirkland. I've worked as a hospice chaplain for almost a year and a half now and I see the need for more education, more self-awareness, and more diversity, all of which I know I will encounter in the next 12 weeks. My major concern right now is getting to the hospital from my daughter's house in Snohomish. You see, I have a fear of heights and freeway overpasses. You might think, what's the big deal? But if you are one of the countless people who walk around with any sort of anxiety issue, you know this is no small matter.
Over 10 years ago I hit my head and suffered major inner ear damage which brought on long term vertigo. Tasks I had taken for granted suddenly turned into impossibilities. Driving was at the top of the list. For weeks I refused to drive but I had responsibilities and finally got behind the wheel. I was beyond terrified as I feared losing control of my car. At one point while crossing the Tacoma Narrows bridge I experienced my first panic attack. My breathing became shallow, my heart rate raised and I involuntarily removed my foot from the gas pedal and came to a stop. I would not recommend doing this. It makes other drivers extremely irritated.
After that incident I began limiting my life. I came up with all sorts of rules about what I could not do. No driving on bridges, no driving over water, no driving at night, no driving in the rain. The list was endless.
But my doctor told me that my inner ear would eventually compensate for the damage from the fall. It would take years but he was right. Unfortunately my brain didn't get the message regarding all my rules. I accepted the fears as reality.
Over the last two years I've made remarkable progress thanks to my spiritual director. I now drive on freeways, drive at night in rain and can cross a bridge, as long as it's on the water. However, two fears remain that I have not faced yet. Heights and overpasses.
So what does this have to do with CPE? Well, the easiest route to take is over a very tall freeway overpass that connects the 522 to the 405. Am I going to tackle it on my first day? No, as I have other fears to contend with such as the fear of sleeping in and being late. So I am leaving earlier and taking another route. But in the midst of all this I have come up with some strategies to use when I decide to take the quickest route.
I found this quote that says "The only thing standing between where you are and where you want to be is your fear." I replaced "fear" with the "fear of overpasses" as I need to literally cross that bridge to get to the hospital! So I decided to do The Work on my fears.
Here's words to say as I approach my fear (bridge):
I look forward to crossing this overpass. Each time will be easier than the last.
I am thankful that my body wants to protect me from harm. It's doing it's job, but I'm not in Danger, I'm in Discomfort!
I know that this panic attack will end.
Here's to overcoming this fear which will allow me to concentrate on my yet undiscovered fears of CPE!!!
A friend sent the following poem to me today. It lists many of the labels we use to introduce ourselves. I began listing mine but stopped counting at around twenty. The poet asks us to consider suspending usage of the labels in order to focus on the beauty of the present moment.
And just now, looking out the window I saw my son-in-law and grandson digging for worms in the vegetable patch. As I watched the father and child feed worms to the chickens I knew that this was what Susan Glassmeyer is guiding me toward as the "one small thing that cost us nothing but our attention."
The photos capture the "something simple that nourished my soul" today.
Fredrick showing me the worm his dad has unearthed.
Let's not say our names
or what we do for a living.
If we are married
and how many times.
Single, gay, or vegan.
Let's not mention
how far we got in school.
Who we know,
what we're good at
or no good at, at all.
Let's not hint at
how much money we have
or how little. Where we go to church or that we don't. What our Sun Sign is our Enneagram number our personality type according to Jung or whether we've ever been Rolfed, arrested, psychoanalyzed, or artificially suntanned.
Let's refrain, too, from stating any ills. What meds we're on including probiotics. How many surgeries we've survived or our children’s children's problems. And, please— let's not mention who we voted for in the last election.
Let's do this instead: Let's start by telling just one small thing that costs us nothing but our attention.
Something simple that nourishes the soul of our bones. How it was this morning stooping to pet the sleeping dog's muzzle before going off to work.
Or yesterday, walking in the woods spotting that fungus on the stump of a maple so astonishingly orange it glowed like a lamp.
Or just now, the sound of your own breath rising or sinking at the end of this sentence.
ever attended a seminar or conference and been inundated with information to
the point that by the time you leave you can’t remember much of anything that
you heard, even though you took copious notes?That is a common occurrence and one that I had this past weekend at this year's
Seattle University’s "Search for Meaning" book fair.This event brings together authors whose works focus on our never-ending search for meaning in such arenas as spirituality, diversity, and social justice. After spending the day
listening to amazing speakers I walked away struck by just 2 words that I heard
in one of the sessions.These 2 words
weren’t an integral part of the presentation but they wouldn't leave me.
words that stayed with me? Forgive More…I don’t know why but they
resonated somewhere deep inside.I
struggle with forgiveness – of others and of myself. I know the importance of forgiveness but more
forgiveness?I’m pretty happy with Forgive Just Enough.
ago I was walking thru a grocery store and said hello to a woman I knew from church.She looked surprised and said, “Oh, so you’re
talking to me now?”I was confused.“What do you mean by that? Why wouldn’t I be
talking to you?” “Well Roberta,” she replied, “You've been ignoring me for awhile now, but I'm not surprised because everyone knows that you can hold a grudge for a very long time.”Ouch….I felt defensive and my ego’s first
response was “No I don’t do that, it’s just not true!” but after really
thinking about it I realized there was truth in what she had said. It doesn’t help that holding grudges is part
of my DNA.I come from Northern Ireland,
a country that has raised the level of holding grudges into an art form. It was common in my family of origin to cut people off for years after an offense or a perceived offense. But that is no excuse. Good grief, I wasn’t even aware that I wasn’t
talking to this woman! And there are those two words again:Forgive
In my work
as a hospice chaplain one of the prayers that people love to hear and recite is The
Lord’s Prayer.You know how it
starts: "Our Father, who does art in
Heaven, Harold be your name."Are you
familiar with that version?No?Well children are! Probably because they
haven’t learned all the rules about the “right way” to pray and they have the
wonderful ability to hear and interpret words they don't understand in their own way.
There is another line in that prayer that is
my favorite interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer. It was written by a 4 year old
– and we all know how wise a 4 year old can be. In Jesus’ version the line says
“Forgive us our trespasses, as we
forgive those who trespass against us.” What is a trespass?An offense, sin, wrong, transgression, or
debt.Here’s the 4 year old version of
that verse:“Forgive us our trash baskets, as we forgive those who put trash in our
Forgive more.Maybe it means to empty my trash basket.Maybe it means to think about what trash I'm
putting in others’ baskets. And maybe it means to just Forgive More.
We have had yet another delightful Epiphany season. We knew you would want to know that we arrived safely (though Herod tried to fool us yet again.) The toddler is a wonder to behold and I think he loved his gifts - though his mother took them away from him for safekeeping - but we completely understand. We hope he can use them later in life.
We are heading back now but are taking our time as we've met so many other wise ones on our journey . Tell the leprechaun that we will probably miss him this year as we probably won't return before his big day in March.
Please enjoy the photos we've enclosed of our compadres. What a joy to travel!
The Wise Men
P.S. The camel is doing splendidly...what a help he has been!