SANTA CLAUS, OR BROTHER’S KEEPER?

I’ve been thinking about this, and thinking about this; well, I have to weigh in.  I’ll tell it through my own experience, you’ll get the gist.
Many, many years ago, I was a supervisor in a medical support position at a mental health care facility.  The facility had a locked ward.  I was one of very few support staff who had to make trips to the locked ward.  We had a protocol.  Normally, I followed it carefully.  I believed I was following it carefully this day.  I approached the first door, waited and was ‘buzzed’ into an anteroom.  We were supposed to wait for a few seconds, then the second door would open.  I would look both ways, toward patient rooms, and toward the dayroom, then cross when no one was in that short hallway.  This day, I believed I was being careful.  But, I crossed the hallway and someone was behind me, surprising both of us.  The man grabbed me, from behind, around my neck and above my waist, he had me about two or three inches off the ground.  I was immediately afraid, and then kind of pissed off.

I looked toward the entry to the nurse’s station and there stood a young resident.  He moved into the doorway and began talking to the man who had hold of me.  He spoke in a neutral voice.  Something about this young resident’s expression hit me with more impact than being yanked off my feet.  I suddenly felt terribly sad.  Yes, this man could hurt me, that’s very true, and that didn’t leave my mind.  But, I knew he did not mean to.  As the resident spoke to him, I could feel his fear and confusion.  He was afraid of me.  I had surprised him every bit as much as he surprised me.  He was not seeing me, but some delusion which was, at that moment, his reality.  I was inside that delusion and he was afraid of me.  He was talked into releasing me, and he did so without harming me.  I felt sickened at heart, and terribly sad.  I knew, the reality hit me – no going back.  I knew where I was and what I was witnessing, it changed my entire way of thinking.   This man with promise, hopes, family and friends was betrayed by the very organ we believe defines us, presents our identity to the outside world – his brain.  I could not imagine what that would be like.  To be one kind of person, to think of and see yourself as one kind of person, and become and do things that are not within your experience of yourself.

 
In the following couple of weeks, an incident report had to be filed.  I was questioned, interviewed, etc.  So was the man.  He didn’t really understand what he had done, he knew it was something that he was ashamed of.   He didn’t want to look at me.  I just felt sick about the whole thing.  No, he shouldn’t have attempted to harm me, but that isn’t what he was attempting to do; however, that’s what his action could have resulted in.  He shouldn’t have been in that position.  And, he was going to be put out on the street.  What then?  Didn’t anyone ask that?  No.  Because it was about cutting funding for mental health services.  That’s just a luxury item, right?  We don’t want to pay for that for crazy folk, do we?

Unless you are the one experiencing a psychotic break and/or schizophrenia, I don’t think you can explain it to anyone – I don’t think mental health care providers can.  It’s a terrible and devastating illness, creating destruction all across its path.   There is more hope now for people, but it really depends on a great support system, and money, money, money for care, much care.  That’s not the story for most.

So if you want to demonize, vilify, there it is, you certainly can.  But, if you are interested in the truth, if you believe the truth brings healing and opportunity to educate and prevent, you’ll have to look a little deeper, past the easiest reaction, past the seduction of the media and their agenda to keep a story alive no matter how skewed or misrepresented, no matter that it engenders fear, suspicion and hatred.   There is enough pain here to go around.  All have suffered.

Unless we look at this situation for the truth it offers, and begin there, it is going to continue to happen.  We need to know what our state laws are regarding mental health issues and the reporting thereof.  We need to know how to enhance those laws for the protection of all.  Mental health is not a luxury item.  And, ‘no’ Virginia there is no Santa Claus, but  ‘yes’ we are our brother’s keeper – help comes when we acknowledge and provide it – even if a person can only look at it from the point of their own self-interest.

By no means is it my intention to make less of the suffering of all the victims and their families.  My heart is sick for all concerned.

Thank you for stopping by.  Lilie

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WHAT DO YOU KNOW?

Yesterday, I checked email, looked at facebook, got caught up on internet stuff, and I looked at a political comment made on a site, I won’t mention which one.  It started out ok.  Then, of course, it turned into personal attacks.  I was just about to start tapping in a comment, and caught myself.   Hmm.  What’s this about?  We don’t know these candidates.  If you met them, you don’t know them – you just met them PERIOD.  So, why the personal remarks? You may have an impression of someone, but that’s not knowing them.

It made me think, again.  What in this speaks to me?  Well, it’s about that ‘person I want to be’ thing.  What do I want out of a president, a leader?  Honor, courage, wisdom, patience, compassion.  And, on my part, the recognition that a person can possess those qualities, and they are still human – still have frailties, faults and are subject to making mistakes.  Also my responsibility:  pay attention to the best of my ability, research and understand issues important to self and others, and choose the one I feel best qualifies to address those concerns.  I don’t need to argue, or force my opinion, I have the right to read, listen and vote – those will do.  Things that I am passionate about, I can give money or time; I can volunteer; I can be creative in my ways of expressing support.  And, still I don’t have to call anyone names, degrade or abuse anyone’s reputation – I will make a difference and pass on something better.  What affects one area of your life, encroaches on others.
As always, thanks for stopping by.  May your needs be met, may you be the one who meets another’s need.  Lilie

A LITTLE RAMBLING

We have certainly had news at our house this week.  I’ll bet there are others who have also had their challenges.

My husband is doing well.  It is nice to be able to talk openly about his MS now.  It is good for him, as well.  The heat is very hard on him and, as a carpenter, that wasn’t going to make it anymore.  So, he’s looking forward.  My husband has always been quite an inspiration to me.  He doesn’t think negatively.  It isn’t that he thinks positively (and here I’m laughing a bit).  Skip just doesn’t think negatively.  His positivity isn’t a reorientation of his thinking, it is the way he has always looked at life.

In 30 years, we have had joys and sorrows.  Skip seems to look at all the same way – with hope.  It’s what is of the moment; and he knows that moment changes.  He’s been a person courageous and willing to change, willing to adapt.  A hard worker and appreciative of his woodworking skill, he has used that well.

I believe the most important thing I have learned (and continue learning) from Skip is forgiveness.  Again, not a reorientation of his thinking; it wouldn’t occur to him to hang onto something about someone.    A well-grounded understanding of human nature, and not much ruffles feathers.  I had to learn that, practice it.

‘Lightening up’ in our thinking, being that mindful observer – taking a step back, assessing before making the decision how, or if, to act, that’s what makes the difference.  The old adage, “sleep on it”, very good advice when possible.  Thinking, contemplating, patience.  Taking oneself out of that reactive, defensive posture, so that you may see clearly your opportunities and choices, and not be so invested in what someone else has done or said, but in the person you have decided (daily) to be.  Then, your thoughts and actions become habitually directed toward that goal.  This is what I see in my husband.  The ability to maintain his center, and from that forgiveness just follows.

Each day I’m thinking of those who thoughtfully visit, and hoping that your needs are met, that your present moments are those of  hope.  Thank you for stopping by.  Lilie

WHEN IT’S TIME TO GO

Today, my husband retired.  He’s a few years short of retirement, but he has MS.  I haven’t been able to tell anyone outside of family and some very close friends because he would have lost his job.  He is in good health, has been on MS meds now for about five years, (has been diagnosed for 20) but he worked in construction and doesn’t need to be doing that any longer.  So, it’s a time of transition at our house.  Fortunately, we have each other and some good tools we’ve both learned.

It’s a time of excitement; it’s scary and there is some sadness.  We think of all others in similar situations and we send our intentions for all to have their needs met.  And, it is our intention that we may always be ready to meet the needs of others in whatever way we can.

We are very grateful for all we have:  friendship, love and support – particularly.

May you be well.   Thanks for stopping by.  Lilie

ALL THE STITCHES LINE UP

Again, thank you to those folks who hang in there with me.  The heat has definitely affected me this year, I bet many of you can say the same.  I have to blog when I can and take time out from the blogosphere to regain momentum.

While resting this time, I worked on a shawl that I had been knitting.  I came to a place where the stitches were no longer correct.  I worked the pattern, over and over.  Then, I remembered that definition of insanity:  You know, the “doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result”,  well, that was me.  But, sometimes we do need to review.  We need to go over the steps, see where the pattern is.  Finally, I had to disregard the pattern and just look at what the stitches were intended to accomplish.  I followed that, built my own pattern and it came out correctly, voila shawl done!

We have to follow a path, review, pay close attention to where the patterns are, and what we expect to find in them.  In this instance, I wanted a shawl that had a certain type of stitching.   I got that, but I had to re-think, reorganize and examine.  I decided what was important about the project and how best to arrive at the desired result.  I had to stop trusting the written instructions and work on experience and intuition.

I think living with chronic pain is like that, as well.  We need wise counsel, information and education to form a plan.  And, we need to learn when to make adjustments, what to keep and what to discard.  It’s a process, doesn’t stay the same for long.  It’s been an ongoing lesson in learning how to trust myself.  Learning how to trust myself – even when I’m wrong.  Yes, even when I’m wrong – that I will see I’ve been wrong; be willing to admit I’m wrong (regardless of ego-attachment involved), and that I will regain a path toward positive result.  It’s easy to trust ourselves when the instructions are clear and correct.  It isn’t as easy, when the instructions don’t give the result expected and we must find our own way through.  Trusting ourselves in difficulty, that’s the challenge.  That’s the one I’m presenting to you.  What will you do when your plan goes off course?  Fight it,  or find it?  Here’s that choice thing again.  You can trust yourself in uncertainty just as you can when all the stitches line up.  You have to choose to find it.

I hope you’re taking care, staying as cool as you can.  Thanks for stopping by.  Lilie

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

What about you?  Do you do what I do?

See, I’m asking you here to work on suspending judgment in order to be a mindful observer – get the facts, then make a decision.  Help the world’s people out a little, hold on and think it through.  That includes about you.  I’m asking that.  So, do I do it?

I’ve been the worst critic of myself; the worst judge.  Now, being a critic is not a negative thing.  In writing, you want a critic – someone with a keen eye who observes and comments, in order to help you improve.  If you are that kind of critic of yourself, well good.  I wasn’t.

When we keep that bitter gall pent up against ourselves, it comes out in other places, toward others.   What you teach your brain, it does.  It doesn’t distinguish, you do.  Your mind does.  You must teach your brain about that judgment thing.

We don’t want to live ‘anything goes’ lives devoid of conscience.   We want to feel that ‘ouch’ and smarting feeling when we hurt someone with our words or actions.  We want to be compassionate folk in our thoughts, words and actions.  We want to be fair in our dealings with others.  How to do it?

This is what I am practicing:  In my meditation, I take my time to get quiet inside (you don’t have to throw all thought out of your mind, you can’t), And, I watch my thoughts.  I watch my thought processes.   I reframe them in the light of truth, as I can best define that in my experience.  I observe where I have not been the person I am working toward.  Rather than harshly condemning myself for my mistakes or missteps, I ask myself some questions:  1) How have my words or actions served to lessen suffering?  2) How have my words or actions promoted the transmission of knowledge for self and/or others?  3) How have my words or actions promoted goodwill?   4) If  it has been necessary, how have my words or actions, respectfully, defended self or others?

If my thoughts, words,  or actions have skipped the mindful observer’s approach and moved into mouth-over-mind-now-insert-foot mode, here’s an opportunity to train my brain toward better habits, toward leading the life I expect from myself.   Begin the practice of humility.  I need to say, “I’m sorry.”  PERIOD.  Unvarnished – just I’m sorry.   Best said in person, if at all possible.  But, say it.  Know why you are saying it, so that you will make the changes necessary.   We can put this into practice in all ares of our lives.  Humility does not mean weakness.  I think of it as the ability to withstand anything, and doing it truthfully.  I think of it as encouraging strength.  When you practice humility to the point that it is part of you, that’s an indomitable spirit.  A person who accepts his/her imperfections is indomitable.  A person who seeks to see his/her life truthfully is indomitable.  You can handle the embarrassment of having to apologize.  If you really don’t like that, that’s incentive to change.  You don’t have to apologize so often that way.

You can’t make another sorry for what they may have thought, done or said to you.  Don’t bother.  Again, use your mindful observer.   Consider the person, circumstances, and action first.  Is this habitual on the part of this person?  Then, perhaps it isn’t, at this time, a relationship to invest in.   Is this what happens to all of us:  Some days you’re the person who is the jerk, somedays the other guy is?  If that’s it, you have some choices:  You can let it go.  Or, you can breathe, get calm, reason and speak.  Say what you feel.  You can do that respectfully.  Then, breathe, calm, think and decide.   You can change that decision, as you move on.

It isn’t about allowing people to treat you badly.  My experience has been, when I have been the ‘mindful observer’ of myself, I seem to have had a shift in the relationships I attract.  I feel more calm and happy, most of the time – even when things externally may not want to go along with that.  I find myself less and less subject to external events.  I find myself  less and less worried by the ‘what ifs’.  I believe I can handle what comes.  It’s in there.  I just need to be aware, to watch and know that I am able.  You are, too.

So, what about you?  What do you do?

Thanks so much for stopping by.   Thanks to the bloggers out there who are making such positive contributions to themselves and others.  Keep writing.   Lilie

WHAT’S YOUR HOPE?

The past few weeks have been busy in a learning sort of way.  I like that, even when that learning comes by sadness.  We need to know we can feel that, and make it known.

First, I noticed on my facebook page that someone had put up a message saying he/she was upset about people who abandon longtime pets at shelters; how cruel it is to leave a pet who has  been with you so long.  That touched my heart, and I felt sad about that, too.  Then, something happened –

When my friend, Jack, was dying, we went to visit him.  In the bed nearest the door was a man who had just been admitted to the care facility.  He was nearly blind, and this would be his last place.  We had brought our dog with us to visit Jack.  He liked her and she seemed to brighten him.   The man in the other bed wanted her to visit him, as well.  So we let her go over to him.  He said, “I had to leave my dog.  I had to leave him.”  He was trying not to cry.  I don’t think I’m going to forget hearing that.   The employee we spoke to said he had no one.  And, as obvious, the dog could not come with him.  We left shortly after that, I was having trouble not crying.   We had a 53 mile drive ahead of us, I cried most of the way home.  I’ve seen a lot in my life, and I don’t cry easily, even when I feel something deeply.  This, well. . .

Do you see the thread here?   So, it’s a good thing there are shelters.  I know, in another situation, an elderly woman had to go to an assisted living facility, her neighbor took her dog and he takes him to visit her.  He had a dog already, but he took this one and they both go with him everywhere.  You see, he saw that need and was in that moment to respond.  Let us hope we will have clear vision, and be in those moments so, when we are able, we will respond to need.  The many ways we can respond to suffering, when our minds are open.

Two things I learned from this:  How easy to judge when we aren’t exposed to a wider story.  How easy to miss a need to which we might have been able to respond.  Oh, that judging thing.  It sneaks up on us.  We have to keep learning and reinforcing, don’t we?  We have to teach others, too. We have to notice our thought life, continually.

Then, just recently, I had my moment of  being judgmental, in nearly the same way without even realizing it.   We are having fires in our area.  I had been listening to the radio about all the machinations that go with fires, including the fact that now animal rescue folks were having to get prepared to receive abandoned animals.  I came into a friend’s home loaded with outrage at people who abandon their animals in evacuation from a fire.  I was angry about that.  I wouldn’t do that.  My friend (she’s very wise) said to me that nobody wants to abandon their animals.  But, animals often run and hide when frightened.  They can’t always be found.  You have to make escape possible, and hope you will find them again.  It took my breath away – thinking about having to go through that – it took my breath away.  I thought about my situation.  I live in town, not out on a ranch, or remotely.  My dog isn’t out in our backyard without someone watching her.  She’s in the house quite often, right where I can easily reach her, but it could happen.

Do you see?  Suffering is already present, and we then add to it with judgment?  We must change.  I am thankful my friend was willing to answer my judgment with information.  It has heightened my awareness; not only to judgments and attitudes I hold, but to wanting to clear those so I can be more present to be of help, to know when I might offer, or respond to a need.

Last one, a person posted on facebook a derisive remark about  those on foodstamps, comparing them to the signs you see in national forests about not feeding the animals because they will become dependent.   That was sad.  I have known people who,  for many, many reasons,  wound up in need and had to rely on gov’t aid.  People whose family members became ill and they had to care for them; people who went back to school to get out of minimum wage jobs; people who had illnesses that became more prolonged than jobs or personal resources could tolerate.  Suffering upon suffering.  Let it not be.

These are my most fervent hopes:   that I will try to continually examine my thoughts;  be surrounded by folks who can “school” me;  that I’ll see and hear my judgmental self when she shows up, and get the point; that I’ll be willing to change; and, I’ll be open to seeing a need I might meet, when judgment has fallen away.

I know you must have hopes, too.

Thank you so much for stopping by.  Lilie