Facing the music – facing trauma

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”  Winston Churchill

For some time now I’ve been toying with writing about the topic and my experience with  trauma. And I’ve hesitated for a number of years because, quite frankly, I’m sick of my story. I have grown tired of it and to write about it seems self absorbed. However, in recent weeks I’ve been getting in touch with some things that have gone on that were blindspots to me. So once again, I’m going to tell my story in a little bit different way and with a different conclusion. Hopefully what I share may be of assistance to someone – maybe even you.

(Caveat:  At the end of this post is political message of sorts.  So if you don’t want to read further, it’s perfectly okay.)

I’m 25 years out from my “traumatic” event – the life-altering automobile accident that permanently injured/disabled my husband and also permanently “injured” me. I’ve written before in prior posts about how at first in this situation the natural reaction was to put full attention on my husband, Mike and son, Taylor. Hey – I’m a woman. It’s what I do. In my mind, I had no time to be injured. And as time moved on I slowly began to realize that something wasn’t right. Eventually I had the “aha” that I was also injured. Yet  I remained “all in” for the survival of this phase not knowing how long this survival mode would continue. To this day and to a small extent. I’m still in survival mode.

And it has occurred to me recently that living in that survival mode over an extended period of time causes damage. You might call it an extended trauma. Certainly my husband’ accident, traumatic brain injury and subsequent disability was dynamic in acute terms. And over time, it became less dynamic settling into what some term “new normal”. In my case, this new normal psyche made lots of small shifts and eventually transitioned life into what became simply normal. It was no longer new; it was what was so and I slowly forgot what life was like before.

During this phase, the acute trauma that I experienced shape shifted into something more subtle. It didn’t go away. It simply took on a different look and feel. Today, the trauma  I live “next” to likes to hide out in hidden pockets of my body/mind. To this day, when I least expect it, it comes out to visit. Fortunately, I’ve done a lot of “work” on myself. And had I not done this work (spiritual deep dive) I don’t know where we’d be. The “work” has been my lifeline. It has allowed me to live with the trauma and for the most part not identify with it. It’s there and I’m here. I no longer wonder, “will this ever end”? This is life now and tomorrow is always a new day.

Post Note:  What brought this up for me has been the national #MeToo movement. All the women who have come forward and particularly during these past few weeks with the recent Supreme Court nominee have made it clear to me how we hold onto trauma. We remain in a state of survival. It often takes an “event” to choose to address it once and for all. 

In taking a stand and speaking up, these women are looking their respective traumas in the face and saying, “No More!”. “Some” may think their public admissions are political. I can’t speak to that but what I can say is this is a time for us as a nation to directly face the discordant music of these secretive undercurrents of abuse that run amock throughout the central nervous system of this country’s political and business structures. The cavalier and condescending treatment of anyone who has been traumatized in this manner, no matter how long ago it happened, is nothing short of cruel and inhumane. Time to face it head on and transform this – sit down and listen.

I salute all those who have put their souls, reputations and lives on the line to speak out. While my trauma is not of this nature, I do have some sense of where they live.  I salute their courage and strength.  #MeToo

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Be Meghan

As I watched yesterday’s memorial service for John McCain, I realized that in the past 18-months I had already forgotten what a “functional” presidency operating from a higher plane felt like. It was so heartwarming to hear and see representatives from across all aspects of our political landscape. It felt like home.

I miss this “home”. And like most homes, it has its issues and dysfunctions. Yet it is my home. And how can we have allowed what we’ve fought so hard for to be picked apart piece by piece without regard for the blood, sweat, tears that went into making this country? Or the lives that have been given for all that we have received? How have we allowed fear to be so repressed and in its place allowed the growth of hate and resentment? This is our collective doing. And we can and must be the force of its correction.

In my upbringing and life experience, I had to learn the hard way that blaming “other” doesn’t work. What is required is the tough task of taking complete responsibility. Blaming other and sublimating one’s fears is the easy way with temporary results. It’s a mirage. It doesn’t work nor does it last. In the end it only makes things worse. Whatever you resist persists.

Real change takes time, focus, integrity, respect and compassion. And it is as Sen McCain told his daughter Meghan when she fell off her horse and broke her collarbone. Gently and firmly he said, “Meghan, get back on the horse”. And she did.

Be Meghan. Get back on the horse.

Turning vulnerability into strength

  Today I’m sitting in a classroom as part of a job-related workshop. My part of the workshop is not until later in the day. I’m currently waiting for the last morning session to end while “protecting” the room and everyone’s belongings. As I’ve been waiting, I just happened to notice an ADA newsletter (American Dental Association) and on the front page is the photo of a boy in a dental chair with a 10-week old therapy dog in training. The caption describes how petting the puppy helped the little boy stay calm through what was normally a rough routine for him. As I first  looked at the photo I felt a sense of compassion and a kind of understanding wash over me – like an insight into what this boy’s struggles might feel like. 

I dare say that a few years back I would not have had this experience. I would have been torn by the photo vs. accepting and seeing the “big picture.” Yet, I seem to have turned a corner and I feel as though my own personal tragedy has brought me to this combined place of softness and strength. Seeing the photo and reading the caption suddenly brought it full circle. In looking at the photo, I realized that had I not been thru my own personal (for lack of a better word) “tragedy”, which broke down the barriers to my heart,  I would not be able to now embrace the softness and strength that have always been within me

When fully integrated, life’s tragedys and  upheavals can make you soft and strong – all at the same same time. And then you can walk lightly through life and be good for all in your world.  

  

 

Baby Doll

Storyshucker

My four year old daughter, Greer, resisted a bit when I told her bath time was over. After I’d scrubbed dirt from her that only a four year old could accumulate, she quietly played with her bath toys. For a good twenty minutes she casually poured water from a plastic toy telephone into a pink Barbie car, back and forth, until I urged her again to get out of the tub.

“Come on Baby Doll.” I said, using the nickname I’d given her the day we brought her home from the hospital.

I helped her from the tub and draped her with a towel warm from the dryer. That was something I began doing for her and my son when I noticed their tiny teeth chattered the instant they stepped from the warm bath water. She hugged the warm towel and pulled it over her head as she spoke, mispronouncing…

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2014 – A Year in Review (just for kicks)

IMG_2747Belated Happy New Year!  I did this last year and am doing it once again.  Throughout 2014, I kept a jar on our kitchen counter labeled “2014 Happy Events”.  Every time something special, fun or celebratory occurred I documented it on a slip of paper (kinda like a “Tweet” but not) and put in the jar.  It was fun and reminded me about the good things in my life.  This is a good thing for like many of us (at least in my recent conversations with friends) 2014 was a rough year – it had its bitter-sweet moments, wonderful occurrences and a good dose of happenings that made me just want to crawl in a corner and pull a blanket over me. 😉

Humorously, to cap it all off, on Tuesday, December 30th, a huge flock of robins found our back yard which we’ve set up as a haven for our feathered friends.  I remember standing at the kitchen window watching as they energetically ate to their fill, flew around and then happily made their exit. Shortly afterwards, I walked out to get in my car and found it covered in bird poop. Completely. My husband’s car, on the other hand, was spotless.  Not a drop of bird poop. I was, as they say, taken aback. And after several expletives escaped my mouth, I carefully considered how to interpret this final gift of 2014. It was then that I decided to see this as just the odd end to a happy, sweet, sad, interesting and eventful year. I could have seen it as a forewarning but chose not to go there. And I’m happy to report that thus far – 2015 is a very good year. So here’s my year in review via my “2014 Happy Events” jar:

  • Began new jar by reading and appreciating 2013’s happy events. Starting my 2014 jar!
  • Really good time, at annual oyster roast, despite the frigid temps.  Thank goodness for fire pits!
  • Working a cool “gig” with Caroline – fun! We are good together.
  • Epic “girls night” – no more will be said.
  • Great monthly dinners with Rutledge’s and Jenison’s this spring & early summer. Stoley’s will never be the same.
  • Dent repaired in my car
  • Many house repairs completed
  • All flowerbeds mulched and new hydrangeas bushes planted
  • Great time with Theresa & Mark pre-wedding – they helped get the house ready for the wedding.  Wow – so wonderful.
  • Taylor and Kitty’s beautiful wedding #1 at our home on Sat. 05.31.14.  Max & Ben were the ring bearers.
  • Epic (for a variety of reasons) second wedding ceremony on the beach and celebration at Hatteras
  • First vacation in years spent at Cape Hatteras May 31st – June 6th – happy birthday to me!!!
  • My job was funded for three more years – WOO HOO! I love you Carolyn Rutledge!
  • Even though it was for bittersweet reasons, I got to spend beautiful time with  my brother Marc the week that Mother passed.  I love him so.
  • Sweet and special weekend with my sister Marcia in Ruston, LA for Mother’s final “send off.”  She’s the best big sister ever…
  • ODU played great in 1st year in C-USA (football); 6 – 6 record.  Go BIG BLUE!
  • We had another fun year of weekly (well, almost) Thursday night dinners with Jack & Susan.  Cut short for a variety of reasons but we can’t wait to get back into our Thursday night flow in the next few weeks.
  • Fun and “cold” – brrrr – Thanksgiving with Taylor & Kitty in Chicago.  They cooked. It was awesome!  I love Chicago and I love AirBnB!
  • 12.23.14 – Fun and festive cookie decorating contest (aka: reason for a party) held by Taylor & Kitty at our house.  It was great to visit with friends and “kids” we hadn’t seen in a while. Cookies were homemade and delish!  But the best thing was the company.
  • A lovely Christmas brunch with the Geroe family and then a true family dinner at Shannon and Norm’s. It was so nice to experience the expansion of our family and enjoy it 100%!
  • Lovely and delicious New Year’s Eve dinner with Susan & Jack, Susan’s mom and our friend Nancy.  We were home by 11:30 and I was able to meditate in the New Year.  Thanks for driving, Jack!  You are our own personal “Uber” 😉
  • Pet harmony achieved – finally! All is good.

 

Well that about wraps it up.  I’m starting the new “2015 Happy Events” jar tonight and looking forward to what this year brings.  As I already mentioned, it is already a good one.  But … I’m not going to tell you why or how – that would spoil my next “Year in Review” blog post!  I wish you the very best 2015.  Keep smiling my friends.

PS – Here’s a pictorial review:

10365965_10152186926853807_4990773742682056019_n  Brothers of different mothers  IMG_247910476165_10152216238406232_3270623571906263615_nIMG_2483

Taylor and Mother copy

IMG_2525 IMG_2522 IMG_2539IMG_2541IMG_2536Thanksgiving visit copyFather and son copyThe girlsChristmas Party Poodle copyThe winner! copySusan & Michele do New Years 2014 copyPet harmony achieved copy

Living from the Balance Point – Final thoughts

IMG_2483As of August 1st, 2014 I will be shutting down this blog and the Balance Point website.  After going through a number of important life changes, it feels like time.  My job is done.  And in considering how to close out gracefully, I reflect back on something I told my son and new daughter-in-law shortly after they were married and heading off on their life adventure together.  It seems appropriate to share with you now. “You pretty much know everything you need to know.  All the answers to any questions you may have or solutions to situations you face are within you.” And…for the past three years through Balance Point this is what I’ve been sharing. All I’ve done is listened to the still balance point within, trusted it and shared with you as my personal discovery.

And…there is one last parting thought on the idea of balance.  First of all, let’s all recognize that it is a concept. And as any concept, it can be misconstrued and misinterpreted.  So I’d like to be very clear about what true “balance” represents – at least to me.  It does not mean perfection; it is anything but that. Let’s face it, perfection is not only overrated; it is exhausting too.  If we were all perfect life would be boring and one dimensional.

Balance is, in my perspective, the act of coming from that clear place within and responding from it – a clean perspective.    This “place” includes all the imperfections, does not judge them and is not pulled in any one direction by them.  It is peace and balance.  Or more aptly put – True North.  When coming from this True North you live authentically – warts and all. 😉

If you’re trying to “get to” balance then you are missing the boat.  There’s no “getting to”.  There’s only “coming from”.  And the only way to come from is to get quiet and listen.  However it works for you.  Whether it is walking, riding a bike, swimming, writing, singing, playing an instrument, sitting in silence, meditation, praying, sitting in church, synagogue, temple or mosque…open yourself to those regular opportunities to nestle into that space within you. Listen. Take in what is being heard. Receive. Contemplate. Accept. Rest. Relax. Recharge. Then choose to operate from from this perspective. That’s balance and what it means to live from the balance point.

Many blessings to you all. Thank you for hanging with me these past few years and best wishes on your next chapter of this adventure we call “Life”.

How you view your life determines its direction

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There is a secret ingredient to truly enjoying, fully experiencing and getting the most of life.  It’s actually as simple as how you view and approach your life.  If you are like many, your days are programmed for the most part with routines, schedules, and expectations. Many of us are in the habit of running from one appointment, task, event and activity to the other finding ourselves on the “hurry up” treadmill.  Over time, it has become an underlying assumption that this is “just how life is and I don’t have a choice”.

The truth is, we do have a choice and we have the very real ability to change this assumption and thereby how we live our lives.  Because, in reality, the above assumption is just a thought to which we have given our power.  As a result, it has become the context of life – thus the hurrying here, there and everywhere.  Sound familiar?

1396054_625820270802913_206510151_nYet, we can flip this concept by choosing to change how we approach life on a daily basis in 2014 as well as in the years to come. So, if you are one of those who is always running and hurrying for that “very important date” in many aspects of your life – you can flip this idea that this is just how life is supposed to be lived.  You can choose to view your life as an adventure to be enjoyed and explored with curiosity and joy.  To hurry up less is simply a choice that can be initiated with each step you take and each breath you make.  And of course, it takes making a solid commitment and sticking to it one moment at a time.  To help you get started, here are a few ways you can simplify and shift your life view and hurry up less:

  • Upon rising first thing in the morning, sit up in bed first, take a big deep breath – breathe in the day, listen to the silence of the morning.  Sit “here” for 60 seconds while breathing in and out.  As you physically get out of bed, start by putting one foot on the floor, resting a few seconds and then placing the other foot on the floor. Stand up, take a deep cleansing breath by raising your arms overhead and exhaling.  This way you start your day from a place of neutral and calm vs. rush and hurry.  Embrace the day and you embrace your life.
  • As you are driving to work, wait a few minutes to turn on your radio.  Take the time to notice the weather and the world around you. Use the first few minutes of your drive to mentally plan or review your day. What one word best sums up the quality that you would like to bring into your day?  Choose one word and keep it in the back of your mind.
  • At work, take the time to greet those you work with.  Ask how they are doing – spend the time to spread a little good cheer.  Be an inspiration to those you work with – keep it simple.  A smile and a kind word is all it takes.
  • This week, take one hour to unsubscribe to the many emails that you are now receiving from all the sites that you never really look at. It could be political emails, groupons/promotional coupons, online catalogs, business emails that you never read, local news and weather, etc.…Remember, if you were an online shopper during the holidays, you will now be inundated with their emails so opt out of all of them.
  • Walk with purpose through your day – remember your context word and repeat it to yourself when you feel like you are returning to “hurry up” mode.  And don’t forget the magical “de-hurrying” quality that taking a few deep, calming breaths can bring.
  • When eating your meals, eat with purpose.  View your body as a fine-tuned engine that needs high-octane fuel.  See how you can go about slowing down eating your meals by putting down the fork between bites.  Appreciate the flavors and smells of the foods you are ingesting.
  • Look for the good and humorous in life and remember, “he who laughs at himself will never cease to be amused.”
  • Lets face it, it can be unavoidable at times so if you find yourself in a rushing/hurrying situation, stop for a few seconds, take a deep breath, clear your head and then move forward.
  • Come up with a few strategies to help you hurry less (that you know will work for you) such as:  Getting up 15 minutes earlier in the morning; using the alarm feature on your cell phone or computer to keep you apprised of upcoming appointments or important tasks.  Another good strategy is to take 15 minutes at the end of your day and writing down on paper your “to do” list for the next day. Writing down your “to do” list is a powerful way to set a context of success for the next day.  If you do this regularly, you’ll find that over time, the tasks on the list seem to get done without you having to worry about getting them done.
  • Finally – look for gratitude in all that you do, see and hear.  Regard the natural abundance that surrounds you on a daily basis.  It is here – all you have to do is look.

In 2014 shift your view of life and “hurry up less”. Whether it’s driving, waiting in a line at the store or scheduling your weekend tasks around the house take your time with each. If you plan more time for your activities, you then have more time to complete them. With more time to complete them, you will experience less stress to get them done.  Allow more joy, curiosity and gratitude into your life.  Take in life one breath at a time and with this choice watch as your life direction naturally reflects this new perspective.  Enjoy the ride…