The cure for pain is in the pain.

September 10, 2016

Some weeks ago, I had major surgery. I have been recovering since, and that recovery has included a great deal of physical pain. The surgery itself was a success; after my recovery, I expect to have a knee that is much more functional that the one that was replaced.

Extreme physical pain is a new experience for me. I did not expect it, and was unprepared. Even though I had excellent medical care and a variety of medications, I found it hard to endure the pain of the first ten days and nights.

Like every life challenge, it was an opportunity too. I believe it deepened my compassion as I thought of the millions of people who must endure such pain without the medical and personal support I am privileged to have.

So gratitude has been interwoven with pain and trying to keep my spirits up. Through the years I have spent deeply immersed in Rumi, I have learned more and more to find gratitude embedded in every challenge.

I offer these you these lovely words by Rumi:

Inside, you are sweet beyond telling. There is a sun in everyone.

I become a mirror that cannot close its eyes to your longing,

my eyes wet with yours in the early light,

my mind every moment giving birth,

always conceiving, always in the ninth month….

 

Another aspect of this experience has been the extraordinary kindness that has been shown to me by my partner, family members and some close friends. Even my young physical therapist has shown me such gentleness and kindness.

Dorianne Laux says:

For the Sake of Strangers

No matter what the grief, its weight,
we are obliged to carry it.
We rise and gather momentum, the dull strength
that pushes us through crowds.

And then the young boy gives me directions
so avidly. A woman holds the glass door open,
waits patiently for my empty body to pass through.

All day it continues, each kindness
reaching toward another–a stranger
singing to no one as I pass on the path, trees
offering their blossoms, a retarded child
who lifts his almond eyes and smiles.

Somehow, they always find me, seem even
to be waiting…
.

A cousin I love has these words on her answering machine:

“Make it a good day for someone.” May we all heed and practice this wisdom.


Holiday Grief Won Out

January 4, 2010

I’m here to report that my efforts to combat holiday angst were only partly successful. During the parties I hosted, the family gatherings, and other big events of the season, I enjoyed myself and my friends and family very, very much. In between, I suffered.

I sobbed through our beautiful Christmas Eve service, as I was suddenly hit with memories of my mother’s last Christmas five years ago, and of my long dead father, my grandparents, three uncles, and a cousin–all gone forever.

I’ll never again come home from a Christmas Eve service to find my mother making stuffing and singing carols to herself. I’ll never again be with my dad who always seemed to put his personal limitations aside at Christmas, as he gave full expression to the part of himself that wanted to give happiness to everyone he loved. I’ll never again experience a multi-generation celebration where I’m not a member of the oldest generation.

Over and over during the holidays, I’m often sad. I’m not the only one. Several friends–all highly functional professional women like myself told me similar tales. “I sat on the living room floor and cried for an hour,” one said. “I can’t deny the misery I feel at this time of year, even though I’m happy with my life,” said another. These intense and very common emotions deserve a name.

For now, I’m going with Holiday Grief Syndrome. It starts right before Thanksgiving, and ends on January 2. Full recovery may take a little longer. Let’s bring it out of the closet and make it official.

Like all such misery, it cries out for gentle kindness, especially that gentleness we can and need to give ourselves. Partners and adult children may not be able or willing to help much. Adult children, especially, may be too affected by parental grief to want to even hear about it. “Mom gets sad at Christmas” may be a memory they want to avoid if they can.

The pressure to be upbeat and fun keeps us going at times. At other times, the pressure to conceal our complex emotions adds to the burden.

Beyond breathing a sigh of relief on January 2, how can we fix this? How to get off the Thanksgiving/Hannakuh/Christmas/New Year’s machine? Is there any way to avoid the sense of dread once we get near Thanksgiving 2010?

I haven’t solved this problem, but I have discovered some tools:

1. Service helps the most. Volunteering time and money to children and families in need helps the most. It gives perspective. We who have healthy families and financial comfort and children who are not at war are so very blessed. Giving back is by far the best reminder of that.

2. Seek support from others who understand. In 2010, I’ll offer a support group where we can express emotions and share remedies.

3. Practice gentleness and kindness toward ourselves. This path to healing always helps. When we can’t give it to ourselves, we need to seek out a friend, clergyperson, therapist or group who will.

4. Celebrate our blessings. Our imperfect families are treasures. As my Uncle Don used to say, “I’d rather have my family than no family.”

5. Accept this holiday syndrome as part of our reality. If I am to be, as Byron Katie says, “a lover of what is,” I can accept my holiday miseries and learn from them. Meditation on this has already taught me more awareness of how I have been intensely blessed in my life.

I start every day with the words “Thank you God for this most amazing day.”
I appreciate the new start everyday; what a gift to have a brand new decade, full of possibilities.

=====================================

Blessings to you, dear visitor. Do you have an experience you’d like to share?You may post a reply here or email me at drvlee1234@aol.com.


“Inside you are sweet beyond telling.”

July 17, 2009

Dorianne Laux says:

For the Sake of Strangers

No matter what the grief, its weight,
we are obliged to carry it.
We rise and gather momentum, the dull strength
that pushes us through crowds.

And then the young boy gives me directions
so avidly. A woman holds the glass door open,
waits patiently for my empty body to pass through.

All day it continues, each kindness
reaching toward another–a stranger
singing to no one as I pass on the path, trees
offering their blossoms, a retarded child
who lifts his almond eyes and smiles.

Somehow, they always find me, seem even
to be waiting…
.

On this day, I am blessed to wake up happy. It’s my nature, more days than not. I don’t mean that I’m unfamiliar with the state Rumi describes when he speaks of waking up empty and frightened, but more often than not I wake up aware of my inner joy. Such a gift!

Just outside my back door stands a magnificent golden lily. It’s taller that I am, and bears eight large blossoms in full flower. Nearby, roses, corn, and tomato plants will stretch upward toward the sun today.

Last night I dreamed of Kenton, a long ago love. In the dream, he smiled and looked the same as in those long gone college days. One of the dream’s gifts was to put me in touch with the young woman of passion and audacity I was. She’s still there within me, always searching for how to live more fully, and how to serve and make a difference.

The search for a life that matters starts with a deepened awareness of all parts of ourselves, our own beauty and our own value. The heightened awareness of our own preciousness allows us to see that very quality in the eyes of everyone around us.

As Rumi says,

Inside, you are sweet beyond telling. There is a sun in everyone.

I become a mirror that cannot close its eyes to your longing,

my eyes wet with yours in the early light,

my mind every moment giving birth,

always conceiving, always in the ninth month….

When we know about the sun inside ourselves and others, we have much more ability to fend off depression and lack of meaning. Depression, anxiety, and grief become short term states we know how to address. When we face financial challenges, illness, loss and even our own mortality, we can ….welcome whatever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond. Thank you Rumi and his translator, Coleman Barks.

Please post a response here or email me at drvlee1234@aol.com. Soon I plan to improve the interactive quality of this site. We’ll have video, and your questions as well as comments.

Blessings to you, dear visitor.


Kindness between strangers

June 26, 2008

No matter what the grief, its weight,

we are obliged to carry it….

…the young boy gives me directions

so avidly. A woman holds the glass door open

waiting patiently for my empty body to pass through.

All day it continues, each kindness

reaching toward another….

trees offering their blossoms, a retarded child

who lifts his almond eyes and smiles….

–Dorianne Laux

I’m changing this blog today. Instead of writing as the Rumi-focused author I became while writing my last book, I’m going to broaden my focus now. I’m a psychologist with a new office in Lafayette, California. I want to use this space to introduce myself and to encourage people to share their deep concerns and comments here.

I also want this blog to be a place people can come to discuss the big questions: how can we be happier? How can we make a difference? How can we heal our families and our world? How can we grow spiritually and emotionally? What resources can we find in psychotherapy, in poetry, in the creative work of those who are working right now to find solutions?

If you have a question about counseling, I will respond without using your name.

Each time I write a post, I’ll share some poetry or insight that I hope will enrich your journey. Dorianne Laux’s words above remind us of the value of every small kindness we give and receive. It’s one way we can serve any day of the week. May I see behind the eyes of those I meet today, whether in the counseling room or at the grocery store. When I do, I notice, that ….inside you are sweet beyond telling!