Disclaimer: the first part of this, uh, essay, is not exactly uplifting, but, hang tight. I will get there.
I got myself through the first several months of the pandemic’s effects on my life by searching every single day for uplifting things to focus on…just to balance out all that was going on in the world.
As a practice like that can, it worked beautifully. My spirits were up, and my slowly increasing terror was easily manageable.
But somewhere along the line, it caught up with me. As my James would say (in Mississippi-Speak), I was just “slap wore out”. Most of us were. Not just with “quarantine fatigue”, but from all the other chaos we were experiencing; a deadly virus, horrific wildfires, and racial strife.
And politics?? Don’t even get me started!
Yep, just slap wore out!
My exhaustion started showing up here in my blog. This is what I posted on September 18th:
I guess that should have been a warning…but I missed it. I had stopped practicing what I was preaching. I needed to re-establish an uplifting, daily ritual…and quick….but I didn’t, at least not right away.
With the new year about to start, I am inspired by the concept of “resolutions”, even though in the past I have been reluctant to support this ritual. I have mostly seen it fail.
There is no magic just because the calendar numbers are changing, and I am a bit concerned that some are investing unrealistic hope in the year 2021 being better than what we have all just been through. That may be dangerously disappointing.
Realistically, I don’t think there will be a return to our old “normal”…ever.
And I actually hope there isn’t because too many things in that old normal were off kilter anyway…not working, even damaging, and we should not go back to that level of apathy, complacency and blind acceptance ever again.
Our New Normal could include all the lessons we’ve learned (or should have) during our forced, altered behavior. (Remember those photos in the first few days of World Lock Down, of beautiful clear blue skies all over the world??)
But in the mean time, I’m going back to finding something beautiful, inspirational and miraculous every single day. I know that’s what my Dad did throughout his life, and he taught it to us. Toward the end, when he could not do much else, he’d sit on his front porch and watch for the wonderous among, and even camouflaged by, the mundane. He had a polaroid camera and would send me a photo now and then of a “miracle”. (A beautiful volunteer rose bush in his yard that he did not plant. An earthquake crack in the front sidewalk that had “healed” itself in another minor San Diego earthquake. And more.)
So I am determined to re-establish my own daily search for things to lift up my beleaguered spirits.
Here is one of my favorite resources! The Greater Good Magazine. A free newsletter out of Berkeley about the science of well-being. It’s worth contributing to. (You’ll have to copy and paste because I still can’t figure out how to make a link.)
One short video (30 seconds) in the latest issue ironically* brought me to tears of joy. I think it’s about the 10th one, titled Competing gubernatorial candidates try to bring voters together.
Anyway, Happy New Year. Like many other places in the world, we in the Seattle area usually bring in the New Year with a spectacular, crowd pleasing fireworks display from the Space Needle. It was wisely cancelled this year to avoid a virus super-spreader event, and was replaced by a truly amazing light show to watch from our homes! (Again you’ll have to copy and paste, but worth the 10 minutes, especially if you can see it on a bigger screen.)
Well, that’s it for today. I will keep my eyes (well, all my senses) open for more Spirit Lifters to share.
Please consider adding your own Spirit Lifters in the comments section.
I bet we could build quite a list!!
Thanks, and Happy New Year!
*irony best appreciated if you know about my ancestry…
This post is a departure from my recent attempts to be uplifting and entertaining. A month and a half into being sequestered, there are still sweet stories to be found everywhere, but we are learning hard lessons too.
At least, I am. Some lessons are mind-blowing, and some are embarrassingly simple!
I have been semi-retired since last summer, so I was already reviewing my life’s work before the virus hit, trapping me in this endless solitude. But being faced with mortality daily, in such an urgent and graphic way, I find myself in hyper-drive examining my 40-plus years of professional life.
I started my practice as a Psychotherapist through both a very direct and also an unusual route! Direct because I was “called” to do this work at Church Camp in the 4th grade and have never once veered off that course.
But things also evolved in a round-a-bout way, starting my practice in the back of my Conversion Van, in the parking lot of where I was still waitressing, while finishing school. (A long, fun story for another day…)
During these last 45 days of isolation, quarantine, sheltering at home, etc., I have had many hours to contemplate the most important learnings of my life so far.
Here is what has risen to the top of an endless list.
I have four concepts, tenets, or theories that are the core of my therapeutic and life philosophies. I try, by the way, to have those be the same thing…practicing what I preach, etc. I know where some of these originated, but they have been with me so long now, I have no idea how much I have changed them in the process of making them my own.
And some I thought up by myself…
It seems like a perfect time to write about (and share) these four models. I really want folks to read these, and comment, so I am putting them in four separate posts.
I do hope you will indulge me in this summary of my life’s work. And as always, I would love your comments and/or questions.
In this first post, I want to address the concept most obvious to me during these Covid 19 days….Scarcity.
I had a wonderful Teacher/Mentor/Adopted Mom for 30 plus years. Elaine Childs Gowell was an amazing woman, way ahead of her time. An ARNP, and public health nurse, with a PhD in Anthropology. She grew up travelling with her family on various religious missions in Africa. She lived in New Orleans, practicing as a Public Health nurse, and working for Civil Rights. Then she moved to Seattle where she became a well-loved professor in the Nursing School at the University of Washington, while she started a private practice in Psychotherapy. She also studied Shamanism all over the world, and eventually became one herself…a very loudly outspoken spiritual leader respected by thousands.
Her most steadfast belief was that absolutely every issue, personally and globally, was caused by Scarcity…. literal or imagined.
Nothing, not one thing, can bring up people’s emotions and unfinished personal-growth issues faster than the belief that there is not enough of something!
Elaine moved on to her longed for “light” almost 13 years ago now, but she may as well be alive because I can hear her unapologetic proclamations daily, and loudly, during this pandemic. Pointing out to all the blatant proof that her theory was correct.
When all the factories and businesses shut down and those skies started clearing over Wuhan, I could just hear Elaine’s irreverent “Duh”.
She could tell you in a minute, what your personal/psychological scarcity issues were-whether perceived or literal…not enough time, not enough structure, or stimulation, or recognition or love!
At one point, back in the 1990’s, we even created an amazing 5-day therapeutic retreat called Experiencing Enough. It was designed to provide, for all who participated, the experiential, literal and symbolic healing effect of truly having enough. Plenty of time and attention and food and staff (and support for the staff) and sleep and fresh air and exercise and above all, love!! It went on twice a year for a long time. So healing for so many.
And Elaine could trace every single world problem back to a belief, imagined or true, about something of which there was not enough. Power, money, and natural resources all at the top of the list. (There are certainly some world leaders that could have benefited from attending Experiencing Enough!!)
Long before Oprah started talking about our life’s repeated lessons, Elaine was preaching about how our scarcity issues were going to bring us down as a species if we didn’t learn the lessons…and fast….lessons that first tapped us on the shoulder, and eventually smacking us upside the head with a two by four.
At the beginning of this pandemic, I decided I needed to have a “talk” with her.
She was pissed! After she got finished with her “I told you so” tirade, she quietly said, “I guess we’re finding out what comes after that two by four upside the head…”
Elaine was a Master of the Big Picture. She could see it all, the whole layout of the universe. And she knew there was enough…of everything…and for everyone! Even in her passing (she had a stroke), she hung around in her coma for way longer than her Doctors predicted possible, even “surfacing” repeatedly to connect with the current visitor to her home bedside….but the rest of us were not at all surprised. We knew why.
She was making sure all the people, who were coming from all over to pay their respects, to say their good-byes, had more than enough time….
I think my specialty is the Little Pieces, I can see minute details others miss, so I have always chosen to focus my energy, for myself and for those I work for, on the small blessings, the individual stories, and the next steps to be taken each and every day.
My goal? To learn, and live, and to show that Elaine was right. It’s always about Scarcity.
There may not be enough toilet paper or gloves or masks, but there is certainly enough beauty!!!
Thank you for reading…..and forgive me for not knowing how to do a “screen shot”. 😊
It may be difficult these days to think about being creative, but I’m telling you right now, it is absolutely your best defense against the situational depression that is starting to creep in for many, many lonely people, stuck at home.
My dear friend Brenda has been making these amazing pendants lately…before the Virus arrived. I had given her a bunch of broken bits and pieces of old jewelry to use in her pendants and she surprised me by making me this one. She hadn’t known that the tiny blue and silver dangle she used on mine had actually came from a necklace my Dad bought me on a trip to Mexico when I was about 9 years old. I LOVED that necklace from my Daddy. I wore it well into adulthood.
When the Virus hit, Brenda got inspired and made this beauty!
It’s big enough to fill both hands!!! I
t’s gorgeous, and one has to look again and again to see all it’s beautiful messages
Here’s what she wrote:
This is my latest creation. I’m calling it; Corona Heart 2020
During this very challenging time, I’ve had some really hard days, and some easier ones. There’s been fear, anxiety, shock, sadness and death, but there has also been compassion and caring for one another in new ways, people reaching out and helping, singing, healing, joy and even beauty. It’s such a mixture during this potent time. I wanted to create a piece that reflected all of that.
Heart – I chose the heart to represent love, kindness and compassion. The heart is inclusive, caring, understanding, forgiving, strong and knowing. It can hold great pain and great love.
Yin/Yang – I’ve always loved the yin/yang symbol – a symbol of wholeness. Reminding us that life includes it all – light and dark, life and death, joy and pain. The circle is divided into black and white, but not straight down the middle. They are nestled together, holding one another; with a point of light in the dark, and a point of dark within the light – integrated and whole. Life!
Pink – The color pink represents compassion and caring, and during this incredibly difficult time, it’s come to honor the health care works and first responders and all the people who are risking their lives so that the world can still function.
We’re all in this together, and love is what heals. Let your heart shine!\
So your job now is to lift your own spirits and go create something!
Then share it with the rest of us.
And brings with it a surprise guest under the bird feeder…
And still another absolutely lovely sentiment crosses my path…..
“Lockdown” – March 13, 2020
Fr. Richard Hendrick, OFM
(The Franciscan Order)
Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
Not sure what could be better…..well, except world peace and a healthy planet….
Weekly Prompts has challenged us once again to share something inspired by their prompt. I love their weekly encouragement because they include the following:
Show us or tell us, and don’t forget there are no rules and no deadlines.
On days when I actually have the time (and energy) to post something, but my mind is empty, I go to their site for ideas.
This week’s is great for me because I have a whole category of photos for my blog called saying about “Art is in the eye of the…” . Having this category helps me include my ongoing theme of Chosen Perspectives. Today’s challenge is perfect! How I (we) look at something is everything.
For some personal historical context aesthetics (and choosing a perspective): I spent much of my early life feeling very “homely”, a conclusion I came to about myself when, at age six, I asked my grandmother if I was pretty. I was probably playing “dress-up” with her clothes and jewelry at the time. In her defense, her answer was probably based on a religious edict to prevent vanity. She said, “well…(long pregnant pause here)…you have nice hair, Dear.”
I was crushed…and you can see here why I had a tough time believing Gramma about my hair…
It wasn’t until I was about eleven years old that I began to reconsider her declaration about my looks.
I saw an episode of Twilight Zone called “Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder”. Clearly, I was impacted as it’s been 61 years since it was aired, and I still remember most of the scenes. If you’ve never seen it, it’s worth the time. Go online and watch it! If you did see it, I bet you remember it. Mind boggling for an 11 year old.
Anyway, it fit right in with my early thoughts on the lessons my Dad was covertly demonstrating about perspective.
I finally arrived at a time in my adult life when I was seeing myself as at least mildly attractive, with really great hair. My mane was apparently very appealing, even to strangers on the street or at the grocery store. Enough so that people would come right up to me to comment on my hair. Maybe Gramma was right after all?
And then…AGING hit with a vengeance!
I am currently losing the battle between a really loud cultural bias about women and choosing a healthy perspective on my own looks.
Back to the theme for today. Here’s what I came up with on what is (and isn’t) Aesthetically Appealing….for me.
The first four are random shots of things I found beautiful. You, of course, don’t have to…
Next, some comparisons…photos showing how the perspectives you choose can show you so many things…
This is a photo of the San Juan Island rock, that’s been painted over and over for 30 plus years, by anonymous “artists” . I think the first one is not very “appealing”…
But this next one…well, what do you think?
I really love photographing flowers. I have hundreds of shots of perfect flowers that are hard not to categorize as beautiful and aesthetically pleasing…
as long as I don’t zoom in too close. Then, they can be downright creepy! Not at all appealing.
One of my favorite flowers is the Hydrangea. It is so pretty in absolutely all of it’s stages.
Like these luscious, richly colored examples…
But Hydrangeas have taught me a lot about beauty and aging. Have you ever noticed how lovely they become, in a whole new way, as they age and even die?
You tell me, from your perspective, which photo below is more beautiful and appealing?
I really love them both.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about nature and aging and death, probably normal given my age. Why is it more difficult to see beauty in something old or dying, than in something fresh and young?
I did a post earlier this week for Wordless Wednesday, showing the dying process of a beautiful leaf from one of my favorite plants.
you can go here and see more: https://chosenperspectives.com/2020/02/06/wordlesswednesday-02-05-2020/
These are my final shots, taken just this afternoon. From my perspective, these photos are every bit as interesting, and appealing as the first ones I took.
Thanks for coming on this long journey.
I’d love to hear your perspective now.
I’m longing for Spring but today, Cee challenges us to share scenes from our archives. I love her challenges. Helps me appreciate the beautiful things I have seen, and sometimes think to photograph.
My favorite Autumn scene is the “Wonder Wall”. Just a couple miles from my house. It’s a block-long retaining wall across from our local Home Depot. I take pictures of it every year because it is so amazing.
This wall is such a great place to experiment with your camera…macro vs telephoto, time of day, color adjusting, week by week, individual composition, balancing colors, etc., etc..
Clearly, I never get tired of it. I have snapped so many pictures, I printed them and turned them into a photo card series…even had a poster made of one!
Oh and the featured photo at the top? It’s to remind you Autumn is not just spectacular colors in the Pacific Northwest.
It’s also weird fungi! Lots of it! Huge! Like from-another-planet strange!!