Archives for Hope
My little boy is two-and-a-half. Just old enough to start wrestling with the big stuff. And I’m not talking about tantrums, here. But the stuff that many of us will grapple with all the days of our lives. Like brokenness… He brings a toy or a flower to me in too many pieces. “Fix it?” His eyes are bright and wide, face beaming, awaiting the alchemy of togetherness and glue. He’s seen this magic many times. He likes it. But it won’t work this time. “Sticky tape?” he suggests. I shake my head. “A band-aid?” I try to explain. How some things can be mended. And some things just can’t.
My grandmother is a sly sage (as so many of our grandmothers seem to be). On our most recent wander through her backyard, when I casually commented on her magnolia tree, she paused and replied, “Yes, we have a lot to learn from the garden…” And so we do. It’s been a pretty bleak time for me over the last couple of years. (Which is why I took a break from blogging). Lots of changes driven by heartache and pain. As sometimes seems to happen in life… The walls of my internal garden during that time have housed next to nought, as necessity overshadowed nourishment, and everything ended up neglected and parched. And though I kept ‘ploughing-on’ through the days, somehow I forgot to plant new seeds… So the field’s been kind of empty for a while. Do you know that feeling? Perhaps only too well. So many of us do, at some time or other. And as Valentine’s Day approaches, this kind of stuff just seems to get harder, harsher, the contrast highlighted by all the ‘lurve’ and flowers in the air. It seems easier just not to look; at the hype; at the self. And then, walking up my back steps the other day, I saw it anyway. A vine untangling and growing beneath my very house. Right there, in the dark and the dust. Neglected, not watered, but flourishing anyway. A vine of verdant hearts. (That’s it in the photo above). Yes, we have a lot to learn from the garden…
All around you, they're growing, like tiny blades of grass, if only you'll stoop down to see them. Little moments of living mindfulness. So come down for a moment, down from the seemingly lofty heights of ambition and theoretical knowledge and social matters. Drop out of the school of thought that teaches you there's only one right way to be. Drop down to earth (perhaps literally). Down to just yourself as a living being right here with other moments of aliveness running through you. And, wherever you are, just be...
It's an old story. Old as the hills. And yet new every time it tells itself again. Have you heard it told to you lately? The clouds have gathered, thick and dark, on your skies. They're banked up and rolling heavy to your horizon. Maybe the rains have already started, pouring their grief over everything you know and soaking it all through with shadows. And then maybe the wind starts up. The lightning. It seems everything is going wrong at once. It's hard to imagine ever riding out this storm. And yet, if the story has its way, there will come a moment. A moment you might not notice at first. A moment that can start out smaller than small. But it's enough. Enough to invite a shift - an infinitessimal shift - that's almost no shift at all. Except that it is. So something tiny changes. And somehow that awakens the next little change. Until, gradually, all these fragile moments come together - like countless particles of light converging - almost invisible on their own. But together, slowly, they can start to pull the temperature of your day in a warmer direction. Together, they start to matter.
One of the things I love about living in Australia is the grace of the gum trees. Even in the bustle of the city, they're dotted around the streets, their leaves quietly whispering of stuff more grounded and true. And recently it's been the time of year for some of them to shed their bark (like in the photo, above). It's an inspiring process in a metaphorical way - a time to slough off the old and let the new parts of you come to the surface. Sometimes, for the trees, it might look messy for a while, with great strips of their old selves peeling off and swinging in the wind before they fall away. But, with a bit of time and persistence, they come clean again, with brand new skins to face the world in. So, if you could shed your own bark like these trees, what would you be shedding?
Trust is such an important part of therapy. And, of course, of life… So do you trust yourself? To know yourself. To grow yourself. To heal. A gentleman born in the early 1900’s trusted you, even though you’ve never met. His name was Carl Rogers, and he was a psychologist. And he believed that you – that all of us – have the innate power to understand and heal ourselves. He believed that somewhere inside, you have the solution, the answer, the salve for your life’s struggles. And that trust will help unlock them. So how do you do that?
On a day that started with torrential rain and umbrella wrestling (and weather forecasts of doom), it seemed almost miraculous to be able to stroll the street in a dry golden-blue-sky evening. But that’s what happened. Unexpectedly. And it was exactly then that this notice on a shopfront window caught my eye (you can see it in the photo, above): “All things must pass.” (And they certainly seem to). Sometimes this apparent truth about the world feels confronting. Unfair, even. Because these “things which must pass” inevitably include the things we love, and the things we celebrate. The things we might want to hold on to and never let go. But they're not the only things that this saying is on about...
A lot of therapy is about sort of stepping back and seeing things – seeing yourself – from a different perspective. Getting out of the weave and the warp of the moment and looking more at the whole fabric of the situation you’re in. Seeing if there’s any repeating motifs or themes that might help you unlock some solutions… or even unlock parts of you. And the wonderful thing is that you can do this without being in formal therapy. Don’t get me wrong, traditional therapy is a great way to get the hang of this pattern-spotting business. And it’s incredibly powerful to work with someone who’s got your back and can help you see any blindspots you might have. But once you’ve become a pattern watcher, you can use it anytime you like, to find deeper insights and often deeper healing, too. So what sort of things might you try to notice? What helps spot the patterns? Sometimes questions like these are a good place to start:
Have you ever felt anxious about something that turned out to be nothing? Worried about an event that never ended up happening (except maybe in your own imagination)? Perhaps you've caught yourself planning for trouble before it actually hit. And feeling the feelings that comes with all of this... It can be pretty sickening - a lurch in your gut, a fast-beating heart and sometimes you might even get the sweats. And no wonder. For your thoughts are joined to your feelings - intricately linked. As one moves, the other will probably follow. So it's important to keep an eye on your thoughts, to monitor them a bit, so a sudden downward spiral into darker feelings doesn't catch you unawares. And so you can nip any unnecessary anxiety in the bud if you want to.
I was winding my way through the early morning rush hour at the station, past crowds of people blurring by, when this strange little moment of stillness opened up. And then I saw it: a lost sole. (In the picture, above). A visual metaphor, reminding me of the times I’ve felt a bit like a lost soul myself. Or the times I’ve spoken with clients in counselling who felt they’d lost touch with their sense of soul and the things that really mattered to them. Have you ever felt that way? Where maybe some part of you was lost? Disconnected? Maybe covered over by sadness or grief? Or buried alive under a pile of convention or expectation that you felt you “should” live up to? Or maybe you just became so busy you gradually lost sight of it? There are so many ways to lose touch with what really matters in your life – to let the everyday grind take over instead. Or to let habits or old thought patterns get in the way. Sometimes it’s important to take a step back and reconnect with yourself. To remind yourself of what you want this life of yours to be all about. To find yourself again. But how might you do that?