It’s been a little while since we let all of you sit in on one of our happy hour conversations. In this chat we explored the topic of transitions as each of us are STEEPED in change! Between my big move, Krista’s shift in jobs, and Sarah transitioning her 3rd child (who also happens to have Type 1 Diabetes) into kindergarten in the midst of undergoing treatment for her Lyme disease – we are certainly 3 therapists in major flux.
I (re)introduced the gals to a model of transitions by William Bridges explored in his book, The Way of Transition: Embracing Life’s Most Difficult Moments. Essentially he breaks down the experience of transition into 3 stages (we kinda like the number 3): The Ending, The Neutral Zone and The New Beginning. Listen in as we process these stages together…and laugh a little along the way too.
There’s been a lot of body talk going on in our household this past week. No…not the resolutions kind of body talk. I would guess that we talk about bodies, on average, more than most families anyway, but the subject has been even more present in our recent conversations. Bodies, bodies, bodies. Bodies growing and changing. As of New Year’s Eve we officially have two teenagers in the house. Lord have mercy. Bodies, bodies, bodies. Bodies hurting and healing. Bailey, our second oldest who just turned 13, has been suffering from Post Concussion Syndrome since last August and just recently began experiencing relief from near-constant headaches. Faith, sprained her ankle in soccer (yet again!) this past week and Krisalyn even tweaked her foot when we visited the giant trampoline during winter break to combat the cabin fever that started to settle in. Bodies, bodies, bodies.
“Mommy? Why does there have to be pain?” Krisalyn asks me every time she gets hurt. That poor girl was made with the lowest pain tolerance in this family of accident prone, perpetual toe-stubbers. But her questioning eyes long for an answer that will help sustain her as she copes with the pain.
“I don’t know baby girl.” I respond. “But I do know that pain reminds us of our limitations. It reminds us of our humanness. It brings our attention to our bodies.” These reflections are never enough for her 10 year old mind. I don’t think they’re enough even for my 35 year old mind.
We celebrated Briella’s 2nd birthday on January 3rd. I wonder if there will ever come a day where her birthday can stand alone as the beginning of her story or if it will always feel interconnected to the second act of my own. Will I forever associate her 10:47am exit of the womb with the nearly-fatal pouring out of my lifeblood? Her entrance meant my near, yet spared departure. It was also the beginning of a five month struggle with pain, vulnerability, brokenness and dependence like I had never known prior.
Bodies, bodies, bodies. January 3rd. We were celebrating Briella’s birthday with family, all the while praying for comfort and peace as a friend was in his final hours of life on this earth after a year-long vicious fight with cancer. Images constructed by the descriptions of his body, beaten and abused by the disease continued to invade my mind.
Why must there be pain? I went to bed that night with a heart of desperation. Sleep was well beyond reach, so I drifted as I often do on nights like these, to wherever the thoughts desired to travel. Bodies, bodies, bodies. Images of pain collided with images of pleasure. Memories of days where I would take three different baths because it was the only place I could find relief from the pain would be overtaken by memories of tender moments like when my sister spent a night in the hospital massaging my swollen legs and feet. The imagined picture of our friend lying in a hospital bed fading away while his wife held him and offered words of comfort were broken up with the recollection of the photos I received earlier in the day of him affectionately pinching her behind as they hiked trails in the breathtaking beauty of Beaver Creek. Unwanted memories of abuse were replaced with reflections of the most intimate experiences of love and connection.
Bodies. Bodies. Bodies. These awe-inspiring soul-capsules, being-carriers, life-vehicles allow each of us these full-spectrum EMBODIED experiences. Would it even be possible to experience one side of the spectrum without the possiblity or experience of the other? I don’t know. That’s a question for a far more skilled philosopher than my wanna-be self. The power and beauty of pleasure may not cancel out the horror of pain. But maybe it redeems it. Or maybe it can sustain us. Bodies. Bodies. Bodies.
Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here. ~ Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees
I was recently afforded the privilege of spending the afternoon with an old friend who is in the midst of grieving and processing a miscarriage in her second trimester of pregnancy. As we sat on her couch in her cozy and charming little mountain house, warm drinks in hand, we opened up the storybooks of our lives to one another. The trauma and loss related to her miscarriage was still so fresh. I listened to how she was beginning to understand and make meaning out of her experience. I watched as she grappled with the bizarre nature of life moving forward even though death had found its way into her own womb. Such wanderings through the territory of loss led us naturally to the re-opening of my own archived story of miscarriage.
I was 11 weeks along when we discovered that what we thought would be our third child was not thriving as an embryo over a decade ago. I had not walked through that narrative in quite some time. I was often reminded of it throughout my entire pregnancy with Briella. The D&C procedure that the miscarriage necessitated was listed on all of my medical charts as it was seen as a possible contributor to my risk for placenta accreta. Most of my charts would indicate that Briella was my 5th pregnancy but my 4th child. So strange now to think of that part of my life story being reduced to a number on a chart, just a little blip on my medical record.
As I sat there in the midst of our mutual story-gifting and story-receiving, I realized that whenever we invite others into our stories we are asking them to become a memory-keeper on our behalf. We need each other to hold the fullness of our stories, to help us discover and attribute meaning so that our stories never become little blips across the pages of our lives. We need each other to remember that our stories continue to live on through us even though time travels right on by.
After our first family dog, Linus, died nearly 2 years ago we always knew that our remaining four-legged companion, Pippen, would need a new friend. He suffered from a strange depression after Linus died. Pippen didn’t play with toys or chew on bones. He wasn’t excited to see us when we got home. He didn’t trail us around demanding to be close like he did when he was following Linus’ lead. It was painful to watch at first, but we just weren’t ready to have another dog.
At that time, we also had two hamsters in the house – pets that we thought were a good substitute for the cuter and softer, but remarkably more sensitive chinchilla that Peter had originally set his heart on having. However, we quickly realized that you couldn’t pet, play, or cuddle with a hamster. They ended up being living tchotchkes on the top of our family room bookshelves.
Once the hamsters had lived out their long and prosperous 18-month life span, we ceremoniously buried them in the back yard complete with grave markers and recitation of the Numbers 6:24 prayer, “May the Lord bless you and keep you…” The small funeral acknowledged and honored life and death and provided a primer for my children to begin learning how to grieve. And for that opportunity, I was grateful to have endured many months of feeding, watering, and cleaning the cages of our little living tchotchkes.
A few weeks after the funeral, I had a long conversation with Peter one night. I noted that his pet quest began 2 years ago when he originally wanted a chinchilla. I admitted that the hamsters proved to be an unfit alternative. So, I began asking him what it was about the chinchilla that was so appealing. He began describing the small rodent as having the softest fur of any animal in the world. It was small enough to carry around in your pocket, and might play by running through tunnels, maybe, but it was at least active. I listened closely and surmised that he wanted a soft companion that was his very own that would always be with him to keep him company and to play with. I said with more question than statement, “Peter, it sounds like what you really want is a dog.” His eyes beamed with a glimmer of hope and he said, “Yeah, but I thought we couldn’t get another dog.”
For 2 years, Peter had been trying to get his needs met. He wanted a soft companion that was his very own that would always be with him to keep him company and to play with. After Linus died, he heard me say I wasn’t ready to get another dog. So, he assumed (probably correctly) that getting another dog, just for him, was out of the question. So, he set his sights on a chinchilla as an alternative to not getting what he really wanted. Then, when we learned that the chinchilla was actually far too sensitive for a young person to care for, I managed to convince him that hamsters would be a suitable substitute. Turns out, I actually had no idea what he really wanted.
How often do we do the same thing that Peter did? Our hearts have an initial desire and we conclude that it is too much or it can’t happen, so, before we even mention it to anyone, we lower our dreams and expectations and settle for something less. Then, when that something less doesn’t satisfy, we mince our longings once more and settle for something even further from the original desire. And when that mincing ends up being just as disappointing as settling in the first place, we stop believing that our original desires will ever be met and likely, we give up trying. But what if getting what we really want is not only possible, but probable? What if the universe (in this case, a boy’s mother) actually longs to give us what we need if we just asked?
That night, after I understood for the first time what Peter was really needing, I said, “I think now its time to get you a dog.” We began looking through books trying to settle on which dog would be best for him: playful, but not too energetic; soft, but not too much hair to groom; not too big, not too small; loving and affectionate, not independent and aggressive. After narrowing down our search to only those that met these criteria, we settled on a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Peter began saving his allowance and birthday money until he had a certain percentage of the actual cost of the dog. And once he did, we found him a puppy to call his very own.
It has not been easy for Peter to potty train a puppy and redirect its need to teethe on shoes, books, bark, rocks and pillows. However, I am happy to report that Gizmo has made Peter very happy. He is as cute and nearly as soft as a chinchilla. He likes to play games. And originally bred to warm the laps and feet of King Charles’ ladies of the court, cuddling is one of his favorite activities, second only to chewing on toilet paper.
*Sunday Specials are a weekly round-up of happenings on the web-o-sphere. So enjoy your coffee (or late night beverage) while checking out what’s caught our attention.
These Sunday Special posts have become a part of my weekly rhythm. They provide the space for me to reflect on the week gone-by as I allow hope to build for newness in the week to come. Here’s what caught my thoughts this week:
Because in the time it took you to take a selfie with a sign declaring that the world doesn’t need feminism (about four minutes) two more American women were sexually assaulted, nearly 100 American women were abused, four women worldwide died giving birth, eight little girls were trafficked for sexual exploitation, and 6,781,920 people looked at naked women online.
This is not a post about who is right and wrong in Israel-Palestine. This is a post about how the rest of us talk about who is right and wrong in Israel-Palestine…
So Listen- It’s Not Religious Discrimination Just Because You Can’t Discriminate by Benjamin L. Corey
It’s not discrimination when we are prevented from doing the discriminating. It’s not persecution when we are prevented from doing the persecuting. It’s not bullying when we’re told that we can’t bully others. It’s not any of those things.In fact, we should actually be embarrassed that we even have to be told that it’s wrong to fire someone for these reasons. Your place of business is NOT the same thing as your church– if you want to accept government funds, you’ll have to play by a set of rules that keeps it fair for everyone. Both for you, andeveryone else.
In my experience, most couples who come in for help during the first three years of marriage should never have gotten married in the first place. That’s not always true, of course. Some couples are super mature and have a proactive approach to maintaining a healthy relationship. I actually encourage all of my pre-marital clients to commit to a full year of maintenance therapy in order to help mitigate the transition.
We recreate in adult relationships some of the feelings we knew in childhood. It was as children that we first came to know and understand what love meant. But unfortunately, the lessons we picked up may not have been straightforward. The love we knew as children may have come entwined with other, less pleasant dynamics: being controlled, feeling humiliated, being abandoned, never communicating, in short: suffering. As adults, we may then reject certain healthy candidates whom we encounter, not because they are wrong, but precisely because they are too well-balanced (too mature, too understanding, too reliable), and this rightness feels unfamiliar and alien, almost oppressive. We head instead to candidates whom our unconscious is drawn to, not because they will please us, but because they will frustrate us in familiar ways.
A year later I don’t know if we’re processing it all right or not. I don’t know if there are cracks in us right now that we’re not addressing. Cracks that will, like a windshield, slowly creep across our selves until we’re unsound. There is fear about tarnishing his memory, not holding him dearly enough, not feeling about him deeply enough. I still get like that, into a kind of anxious shame. ‘Am I fucking this up? Would I know it if I were?’