Thursday, June 14, 2012

Living Reflections | Ongoing Learning & Life Lessons

Hi Colleagues,

Over the years I've learned what helps me to walk through some difficult seasons and fearful times. These lessons come at a cost, but I'm thankful for them, and for those people who came alongside. I continue to learn to be good to my heart.

Mom's calla lily 2012 still growing! (above)
Disclaimer: While I'm not a licensed therapist, we need not silo help in experts. I share the following to encourage. If I succeed or fail, then share your response in the comment section below:
  • Praise/Thanksgiving: "It is in you God that I live/move/be," "It is you who are my life and make my way perfect," "My next breath comes from the Lord," and "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord" come to mind (Acts 17:28; Job 12:10Psa. 18:32, Psa. 150:6). When in doubt, thank God, someone, or yourself for something. Gratitude connects you to people. Write a thank you letter. 
  • Love: Give a compliment. When tempted to complain, say something kind instead. Love means choosing to care for someone in a way that both they and you understand. "Love God and neighbor as self" (Matt. 22:37-39) means you must love each person/a to be in balance. Share the love!
  • Edify: Edify or build up others mutually (Rom. 14:19). Ask people about their passions and goals. Let yourself feel excited over their success or dreams. 
  • Reframe Adversity: Locating your ask or what you want instead; identifying the protective or benefits; appreciate the bad parts disturb because they are just that--disturbing. I quip that adversity finds us whether we try or not, but only be sure you're not contributing to making life adverse for yourself or others! 
  • Reflect on Vocation: Identifying your calling or purpose via your gifts, wants, abilities, and adversity. While in my MA program I relied on the credo, "Wholly absorb yourself in your calling" (1 Tim. 4:14-16).
  • Serve: Serve others with your vocation; volunteer in your locale to impart a sense of connection and place. Serving others also challenges you to hear, feel, and respond to needs beyond yourself. 
  • Forgive/Reconcile: Find a way to show forgiveness by your actions. Pain comes with broken connections. Restore connections with others if possible or safe to do so. If you've wronged someone, then apologize. If someone has wronged you, let them know what behavior hurt you and what you expect differently. Tell them your terms for due process. Evaluate over time if you want to stay in that relationship. Sometimes reconciling means leaving an unhealthy relationship because you've come to terms about the truth that things must change. 
  • Make Peace: If possible, "make every effort to be at peace with others as far as it depends on you" (Heb. 12:14) including yourself.
  • Unify: Discover your commonalities and differences, then unify over a shared peace (Eph. 4:3).
  • Dialogue: Dialogue means drawing near to others to converse and learn from them. You need not debate or maintain rigid positions. You need only understand each other. Adjust your paradigm as needed.
  • Due Diligence: Exercise due diligence, or make tactical steps to apply your strategy. If you label an outcome as a failure, then say, "Oh well, we did our best." Learn from it, then move on with renewed due diligence.
  • Network: Life coaches, mentors, counselors, and your social network can assist you in doing your best step-by-step effort to heal. Grandma and Grandpas rock!
  • Shift Paradigm: Shift to forward and foresight thinking by asking yourself in which direction do you want to go? 
  • Change Discourse: Change discourse to action verbs instead of passive nouns or verbs; passive language perpetuates perceptions of isolation and powerlessness; passive langauge also dehumanizes by reducing you and your situation to objects possessed by you or externals. Replace "have," "is," "take," "get," and other verbs with more powerful and creative verbs. Instead of, "I took a photo," "I photographed _________." Instead of, "I get mad," demonstrate your feeling by saying, "I feel mad." Instead of, "I have a degree," or something passively abstract with no current meaning, say, "I earned a degree." For all Western bullet-points for action, Western discourse fails to encourage action as it separates people and impart perceptions of isolation. 
  • Emotions: Just are. We feel. Our thoughts, experiences, beliefs, etc. shape our feelings, but they come from us. Beware of cultural tendencies to stigmatize or reduce emotions. Emotions are one way we know/express our world with others and ourselves.
  • Contribute: Dislike a problem? What in your skillset, goals, dreams, creativity, social network, experience, adversity, and so on can you apply to contribute? Sans consuming; contribute. Normalize this grassroots' trend.
  • Benefit: "All things permit; not all things benefit" (1 Cor. 6:12; 10:23) comes to mind. Seek out the benefit in your contribution. Ensure you contribute constructive mastery and not vice-versa.
  • Think: It can be hard to concentrate when amid adversity of any kind. Tend to and train your thoughts, for "as a person thinks so s/he is" and "belief determines behavior" as "the mind is not a void" as mentors told me. Replace destructive thoughts, e.g., "there's no hope," with mindful or less judgmental ones, such as, "The grass is green, the sun rose red, the sky is blue..." Start by noticing the world around you. Also read wisdom sources such as the Bible or other classic written works. Reflect on what you learn. Write down quotes on index cards. When you start to feel down, call those to mind, and then turn your attention to any of the other productive tasks.
  • Journal: Journal your instances of self-harm, such as anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide, etc. Record the date/time and your context or surrounding circumstances. Also note your thoughts. Soon you will notice thought patterns that influence your feelings.
  • Work: Absorb in your work; it helps if your work relates to your vocation. Balance work with play.
  • Celebrate: Enjoy the work of your hands (Psa. 128:2). "In times of prosperity, be happy..." (Eccl. 7:14a).
  • Play: Recreate at festivals, parks, cafes, movies, books, games, or other blend of social and intrapersonal activities. Discover a hobby. 
  • Act: Role play who you want to be (1), and deliberately act on a new way of living (2). Act on your desire.
  • Dialectics: Learn to flip thoughts in the inverse. Be the change you want to see. Upset that things didn't work out in a relationship or job? What did you want to happen instead? What can you do differently now? What can you do to realize what you want?
  • Desire: Respect vs. suppress desire; what do you want in life? Not just from, but to give? Confront the passivity of the consumer model in American culture, or the management or control motif so prevalent in our leadership style. We don't conquer, overcome, take, colonialize, or force round pegs into square holes. We desire, reflect on that desire, and then act on it, whether by suppression, sabotage, or construction. Even the Bible identifies unmet wants as the source of interpersonal conflict and injustice (James 4:2). 
  • Responsibility: Seed responsibility and harvest it. Cease and desist blaming/shaming yourself or others.
  • Let Go: Let go of that which is not your fault.
  • Confront Psuedo-Action: Feelings of guilt, anxiety, shame, jealousy, envy, and so on impart a false sense of action especially if you camp in those feelings. Identify painful feelings as a flag that cues you to that which you want. Then refer to the other items here.
  • Context: Choose your friends and social haunts wisely. Go where there's vibrancy and life. Stop going where there's the appearance of life, but you end up drugged, drunked, sexed, ignored, rejected, abused, or other behaviors that hurt and keep you in a cycle of self-harm and powerlessness. Go to a community theatre, church, indie music, cafe, farmer's market, lan party, movie marathon at a friend's, birthday party, wedding, funeral, parade, or other activities where people are at least trying to do positive things. 
  • Creativity: Humans live by creating; we grow and emerge. Find that one creative activity you enjoy, whether it's drawing, painting, photography, blogging, teaching a class, writing a story, editorial, or essay, or writing code.
  • Lifespan Development: Regard your life, work, relationships, contribution as in constant development. Your past shapes you, but in the present you choose how to respond and so shape your future. Your present is your future's past. Think about it. If you're in year 4 married, then your marriage is 4 years old. You're still in sand-throwing stage. Let yourselves grow. 
  • Move: Geographic moves help only if you've tried all else, or you sincerely want a change in pace, etc. Move figuratively. I refute the idea that we heal via closure as I assume we humans develop and grow over time. Final closure comes in death when physical life stops to, via my faith, transition elsewhere. Since we develop over time, give yourself more wiggle room or grace.
  • Resolve: Resolve, or address, on-going issues; confront them or seek intervention. Locate what you want instead. Doctor not helping? Health ailing? What kind of experience do you want instead? Resolve what you can; find a way to accept that which you can't resolve. Even if your issues do not resolve, at least your addressing them. If one approach fails, seek out another. Keep trying. Worst case scenario you'll tire of the efforts. Then you can change your story and work on something else.
  • Contentment: "Godliness w/contentment is great gain" (1 Tim. 6:6) can be a tough action to come by in our recessed and on-the-take market. Contentment, though, assumes that we need it. Practice thanking and praising God, others, yourself as a way to be content. See tip #1.
  • Patience: Anxiety bows to patience. Persevere by patience or you'll give up too soon.
  • Mortality Awareness: "Where did the years go?"  Grandma asked. She knew difficulty; it surprised me that life went by fast for her. Develop a lifespan perspective that appreciates life's expeditiousness. Attend a funeral or memorial. Visit a loved one's memorial marker. Sometimes "it is better to go to a house of mourning than laughter, for that is the end of every person" (Eccl. 7:2; 4). Most of all, "Teach us to number our days so we present a heart of wisdom" (Psa. 90).
  • Know your Foe: Some ways seem right, but lead to death (Prov. 14:12; 16:25). "The devil takes pleasing shapes," or shines. Any behavior that inflicts harm on your self or others erodes life. Defeat such foes by allying with their opposites. Just test whatever appeals to you out and go only to your limit. Then move on.
  • Habitual Change: "You have a choice," a mentor once told me, which both angered and encouraged me. Choose to change habits by starting new and healthier ones, and keep at it over time. Baby steps. 
  • See through Smokescreens: Sometimes we can delude ourselves by escape, avoidance, such as in pleasure, even though something feels happy or good, it may cloud your thinking or perpetuate overarching habits of self-harm. In the end we share the same fate albeit at different times and modes. So decide "this day whom you serve" (Josh. 24:10), and live your life to the best that you know how. You've only today.
  • Humor: Laugh. At Life. For Life. At yourself. For yourself. Crack jokes. Levity alleviates and helps others.
  • Insight: Seek wisdom; let her be your teacher-treasure. Wise living imparts life (Prov. 2).
  • Foresight: You've only today, but make your day a great building block for tomorrow.
  • Perspective: Compassion suffers with others; passion endures; grace sustains. Assess your standards; know when to show grace and mercy to yourself and others. 
  • Endgame: Know that each adversity, project, relationship, feeling, everything will end at some point. Anticipate mortality in all you do, but respond to that awareness with preparing yourself and identifying the life span of a given project, etc. Know when to say goodbye to the unhealthy, let go of even a success, for past successes can cloud your future ones.
  • Confidence: Let experience impart confidence; reframe adversity to draw as a resource something good from loss. Situate yourself in new experiences wherein you can apply your vocation, wants, goals, etc. That experience, even if it "fails," will impart confidence. Why? Experience.
  • Healing with [not from] Trauma: Let the gruesome rest as is. You can't figure out or explain everything; some things just need to be disgusting because that's what they are. Refuse to let the disgusting project itself onto you. If you were made in God's image, then what does that mean for you now and for your future? 
  • Story: Regard your life as a story. What's your story? Tell so people know, Show so people believe, and Share so people feel it. Ask yourself how do you want your plot and characters to develop? Write your story figuratively, and if so inclined, literally, and then share it with others as appropriate. Invite others to share their stories, too.
  • Adjust Expectations: Expect to work hard to participate in your own healing and that of others. Adjust your expectations as needed. Be open to new information and experiences, and try to make them healthy and legal.
  • Regroup: Learn to regroup, and apply that more expeditiously next time you face change. For example, after I graduated my MA, I knew that volunteering, networking, and art helped me to transition. Regrouping beefs up your resilience and adaptability.
  • Exercise: Walk, jog, run, hike, hop, jump, dance, laugh. Cardio, strength, stretch exercising. Physical exercise alleviates depression (MayoClinic). Consult with appropriate professionals on body-care.
  • Attach or Love?: Know your leakage. Know your wounds. Your wounds leak. Learn to identify what you need to heal. Use appropriate bandages, and not people. Attach or bond in healthy ways. Find friends, groups, intimates, family, or colleagues, or people you respect, or otherwise look for healthy ways to heal. Be forewarned that wounds can set us up to harm ourselves more with risky behaviors. Need more levity or empathy in your life? Attend or write a comedy skit. Laugh with friends. Hug someone. Just choose carefully your confidants. 
  • Confide: Talk to someone, but select a person who can handle high levels of information with respect to your privacy preference, or who won't gossip, etc., or whose world won't fall apart to learn of your struggle(s), or who won't judge you. There's power in bringing hurt to light by talking. You hurt yourself by keeping secrets if those secrets entrap you in a dark place.
  • Speak: Edify and speak encouragement to others. Speak to break the silence and end discrimination, each of which stigmatizes illness and loss. Stamp out stigma: First be your own advocate, and then with others.
  • Inquire: Ask open-ended questions: What? How?
  • Listen: Listen to wisdom. To people who care for you, listen. Listen to your heart.
  • Courage: Stand out. Be willing to go public when you're ready with your newfound vocational living. Let your actions speak. Learn from the naysayers how not to be.
  • Disrupt: Disrupt your routine. Travel, daytrip, go to a museum, play, movie, or attend a seminar, workshop, or conference. Sign up for a class. Make a moment differ.
  • Deviate: That which others regard as deviance may be that strength, uniqueness, or gift for you to impart. Learn about Positive Deviance (PD).
  • Situated/Systemic: Understand where you situate yourself in the larger system. Know that people design systems, and that design impacts individual and collective experience. It may not be that you "failed" in xyz, but perhaps your wisdom can change the system so others need not suffer as you did.
  • Joy: Joie de vivre, joy of discovery, and "consider it pure joy" (James 1:2-4). Let yourself be joyous. "Rejoice in the day God made" gives new meaning to seeing a new day. Joy transcends happiness; whereas, "hap" makes emotion consoled by circumstances. Joy lets you celebrate life in spite of your circumstances.
  • Be: Be the change, friend, lover, person, worker, student, activist, etc. that you want to be and be that person to others. Place that expectation of ideal on yourself, and know your limits. Help people with the comfort you received (2 Cor. 1:4). Respect them, but by all means, as a friend once told me in a dream,
  • "Choose life." No matter how bleak life appears, discover reasons to stay.
Mom's calla lilies ~2003/4 (above)
Most of all, two scriptures continue to encourage me: 

God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind and perfect love casts out fear.

The story continues.

What items will you add to the list?

Let's Uplift
each other
and so Refresh