Sunday, March 9, 2014

Overcoming fear

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!!!



  

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

one small thing

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.
 
Introductions
 
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.

-- Susan Glassmeyer
 
 

action shot of Fredrick offering the worm.
Chickens and small boys move fast!
happy chickens

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Forgive More


Have you 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.

The two 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.   

Many years 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 More.

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 baskets.”

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. 
 
photo from here

Monday, February 10, 2014

Letter from the Wise Ones

Greetings Dear Landlady,

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!

Epiphany Blessings!

The Wise Men

P.S.  The camel is doing splendidly...what a help he has been!



 
Toddler Christ: A Collect
 
"Toddler Christ,
before whom Wise Men knelt,
after they had foolishly aided a tyrant
who wanted to destroy you:
Make us, in the face of dangerous power,
as crafty as snakes and as harmless as doves,
so that we know when to be silent,
when and how to speak,
and when to take another road,
in your name.  Amen"
 
from Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany:
Liturgies and Prayers for Public Worship
by Brian A. Wren
p. 199

 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Epiphanies

It's the Wisemen's big day. 
They are off on another adventure to find the Christ Child. 


Me:  Are you excited?

Wise1:  Oh yes dear landlady.   We are very excited to start our pilgrimage. 

Me:  But aren't you supposed to be there today?

Wise1:  It's all about the journey my dear, not the destination.

Me:  Oh...I see....So....I gotta ask....where did the camel come from?

Wise2:  A gift from one of the Magi we visited last year...

Me:  Aha...Well, I must say you did a great job of packing all your gifts upon your camel!

Wise2:  Was that yet another insult about our immovable arms?

Me:  Heavens no!  I was just curious about how you did that?

Wise3:  Never you mind....

Me:  Any wise words before you leave?

Wise1:  Yes indeed.  Do not rest on what you believe to be true. 
Wise2:  Keep searching for the divine in all you do and in all you meet and you will have cause to rejoice.

Me:  So you're saying that we are all called to celebrate Epiphany?

Wise3:  Every day in every situation.  Here's a wonderful quote to ponder while we are gone:
"Without the quest, there can be no epiphany."  Constantine Scaros

Me:  Got it...keep the quest alive! See the beauty of Christ in all that you meet.

Wise3:  And give thanks for every glimpse of that child's light.

Wise1: You will be delightfully surprised by all the light that surrounds you, and by the light you emit.

Me:  Sigh...I miss you guys already....Safe Travels

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Resolutions....

Happy New Years Eve! 
May it include party hats, confetti, and noise makers! 
And don't forget the resolutions! 
Do you make them? 
Are they like this one?
 
 
I read today that 45% of us make resolutions while 38% refuse.
Also read that if you're in your 20's you have a 39% chance of success,
but for those of us over 50, our chances drop to a measly 14%.
What does that say?
So while the usual suspects top the list of the ten most popular resolutions
(i.e. weight loss, getting organized, and quitting smoking)
 I prefer these words from author Neil Gaiman's blog:
 
"I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.
Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things,
trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world.
You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.

So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes.
Make glorious, amazing mistakes.
Make mistakes nobody's ever made before.
Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough,
or it isn't perfect, whatever it is:
art, or love, or work or family or life.  
Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it. 
Make your mistakes, next year and forever."
 

Monday, December 30, 2013

sheer joy

What do wise men do all day?
Meditate?  Pray?  Discuss deep theological topics?
I often wonder if they tire of one another
as they are always together.
As an extrovert I love being around people,
but I would tire of being in the constant presence of others.
And yes, the wise men have had their tiffs,
 but for the most part, they exude such a strong bond of love.
 
So I asked them today.
Me:  "How do you get along so well with one another?

Wise1:  "Ah...excellent question, dear one." 
 
Wise2:  You see, we really don't consider ourselves as separate."
 
Me"Huh?  I'm not sure I understand?"
 
Wise3: "Understanding is not the holy grail."
 
Wise2:  "And seeking explanations will only make you cranky."
 
Me: "Sounds rather Zen to me."
 
Wise3:  "Our spiritual practice is to focus on Love."
 
Wise1:  "And we practice Loving one another. 
Just like the Love born in Bethlehem.
For is not God known by relationships?"
 
Me"I don't completely comprehend your mysterious ways but I do love you!"
 
Wise2:  "And we love who we are when we are with you."
 
Wise3:  "Thomas Aquinas said it best:"
 
"God is sheer joy, and sheer joy demands company."
 
Me:  "Oh, I like that image of God as sheer joy!
 
 
And once again, the company of the wise ones brings me joy....