Thankfulness

As I walked my dogs past Spring Lake recently, I encountered a wheel chair bound fellow basking in the sun, fishing.  I greeted him with a question, “Catch anything?”  He responded with a big smile and said “No,” without any regret, and then he laughed while he added, “It’s a good thing my wife went to the store.”  We began to chat and he informed me that he used to be a coal miner and that is where his accident occurred.  He told me he was 53, but the fact that he was paraplegic didn’t seem to disturb him at all, at least it certainly did not interfere with his ability to enjoy life.  I silently felt sorry for him, that he was unable to walk around the lake like me, that he missed out on so much that I can do that he cannot.  But I slowly began to realize that he may have a secret that I and others could learn from.  He clearly knew how to be thankful!  He was focused on what he could do, and he was definitely enjoying it! So how does a person make this transition from despair to contentment?  I was just wondering……..

During this season of Thanksgiving, this man offers us a wonderful lesson.  As I write this blog, I think of several people I know right now who are suffering deeply.  One lost a son to a tragic accident over a year ago and another lost a sister to suicide a few months ago.  These are both horrendous tragedies that even with the best efforts take time for healing.  But the most effective way to heal is always to focus away from oneself, by helping others and by being thankful for WHAT IS.

It is so easy for us to obsess about everything that is wrong with our lives. I have been guilty of that at times myself!  No one’s life is perfect!  Just remember that!  But we all have some perfection in our lives, and while we are bemoaning our sorry lot in life, all the good stuff is just waltzing on by, and  we are not even seeing it.  Just think of the happy movie going on right around us while we are lost in negative thoughts.  Perhaps we look at but don’t see the beauty of the sunset.  Maybe we miss the flower that bloomed.  Perhaps we don’t see the love offered to us because we are so enveloped in our sorrow.  Imagine that we miss the possibilities and opportunities that might make us feel better because we just can’t see beyond the sad movies we continue to view in our heads!

My favorite teaching from the Rhonda Byrne book The Secret is, “What you think about, you bring about.”  Just consider this for a moment.  Really take some time to think about how this has actually transpired in your life!  If you keep yourself into negative and unhappy thoughts, that is just where you stay.  If you begin to monitor your thoughts and change them to positive ones, then you suddenly begin to notice those beautiful and wonderful people, things, events that have always surrounded you but you simply overlooked!  Life is not about one event, one circumstance, one person.

Thanksgiving is our yearly lesson in thankfulness.  But this time I encourage you to make it a daily practice, so that you can enjoy Thanksgiving every day of your life and thereby reap the benefits of being daily nourished by the Thanksgiving message.  Every time you catch yourself being sorry, sad, depressed, discouraged, dissatisfied, angry, irritated, think immediately of something wonderful in your life. It is there!  I promise!  And you probably won’t have to look too far.

An exercise I often use to help people be thankful is to write down 20 things you like to do.  The list is a starting point to help you get focused on what makes you happy and thankful.  My list included even small things like drinking a hot cup of tea on a rainy day, watching my dogs play and roll around on the floor, feeling the breeze blow my hair while riding my bike or while walking the beach, or just spending time with good friends.  Sometimes the simplest things are the most meaningful.  Next, start doing them!

Helping someone else is another powerful way to overcome your own despair.  This will quickly focus you away from yourself and help to create concern and thankfulness.  But the best trick of all is to go to the nearest mirror, and instead of asking like the wicked witch, “Who is most beautiful?” just smile at the image before you and your troubles will magically begin to melt away as your own reflection connects to you empathically and knowingly and with forgiveness as you realize how you hurt you own soul. Celebrate your life this Thanksgiving by being grateful for it by making the very best use of it every day. Remember those who are gone by making them present in how you choose to lead your life and show your thanks to the living by being a gracious and inspiring light.

Can you make a promise to be thankful for yourself?  Can you promise to make the most of your life like the fisherman in the wheelchair, and make it a joyful encounter?  Will you treat yourself with love, caring, compassion by focusing on what it good and what you have to be thankful for rather than using your thought energy on things that can’t be changed or that you can’t have?  I was just wondering…..

A Helping Hand To Those In Need

At my island winter retreat, the headlines of the newspaper for the last several days have been focused on the story of an abandoned car and a missing person. The car, sadly, was found abandoned at the top of the Cross Island Bridge, unlocked, with the keys on the seat. You can probably guess at the outcome. The missing person’s body was found by a fisherman below a dock after several days of searching. It is being treated as an apparent suicide. While it has not been made public, I have been told there was a note. It seems as though the body was that of a beloved individual involved in the early development of this island, who more recently, had developed a first class jazz club. While I did not know him myself, he was apparently well known and respected in this community long before I became a winter resident. The story is not so rare today as we hear of suicide more and more frequently.   Recently it was listed as the 10th leading cause of death for all ages. While I have worked directly and intimately with suicidal clients, this story made me consider what we all might do to help prevent this growing problem. What can you, the reader do to help eliminate suicide?   I was just wondering……

While I have never personally experienced the suicide of a client, I certainly have had clients affected by the aftermath of suicide. One woman I saw years ago found her husband hanging in their garage and of course was devastated by it. Another lost a son to suicide when he was run over by a train. The families and other survivors of these tragedies are left with thoughts haunted by questions of why and what could they have done to prevent it? Unless it is a love gone wrong situation, the cause of one’s decision for suicide is usually not related to one individual. It is connected to how they see themselves in relation to life in general, their lack of opportunities, how people view them, shame and or humiliation, a feeling of general hopelessness. So the point is, it is not usually one person’s fault nor is it one person’s responsibility. So how do we collectively address this growing concern?

The first problem is to learn to identify where there may be a problem. Many people who are suicidal actually hide it quite well. Often however, the signs are there. Sadly, we often identify them incorrectly. The first red flag is drug use. People just don’t overuse drugs unless they are too uncomfortable without them. Social drinking is just that. Anything beyond it is really a cry for help. Another red flag is isolative behavior. We’ve often seen this connected to school shootings and other similar rampages where the shooter ends up shooting himself. Another danger sign is anger, which is a defensive mask for vulnerable feelings. Someone who is angry a lot is a very unhappy person who is in a lot of emotional pain. Erratic extremes in behavior are signals as well as loss of interest. Persons who feel they are a burden and who feel trapped in some way with no way out are also at risk. These are the early signs and this is when we should begin to intervene. As a suicide plan begins to take form there are other more apparent signs, such as preoccupation with death, sleep deprivation, reckless behavior, and settling of one’s affairs.

In addition to those heading towards suicide, there are thousands of other people who exhibit these symptoms who are suffering from depression. While they may have no plan for suicide, they suffer intolerably. So when you see these signs, what should you do? You do not need to be a psychologist to lend a helping hand. You do not need to be professionally trained to show a kindness, to listen to someone who needs a listener, to provide a shoulder to lean on. Anyone can offer friendship. There are also things you can stop doing. You can stop gossiping about people. You can stop bullying. You can stop judging. You can stop being petty. You can learn to be forgiving. Life doesn’t have to be organized around exclusive cliques. You can learn to be inclusive and invite everyone to participate. You’ve heard the term, “The more the merrier!” There is always something to learn and everyone has something to offer. Open your heart and see what it can behold.

The best way I know to help prevent suicide and reduce depression happens long before an individual feels the need to see a therapist. Watch for the signs, be aware. Offer a helping hand, send an invitation, smile. Sometimes the feeling of acceptance is all that is needed. Just think of the personal power you have to positively affect someone’s life! Are you willing to extend yourself to save or change a life? In fact, you may be saving or changing more lives than you even realize!

Can you give it a try?

I was just wondering………

 

Double Loss

I was just wondering…….When you lose something, how much do you really lose?

I started to ponder this question more after a recent event with my son and daughter- in-law. For weeks, we had been awaiting their visit to our winter escape hatch in the south. Just hours before their departure on Amtrak I received an urgent call from him declaring with hopeless certainty that they would not be coming.

Now worried myself, imagining the direst of possibilities, I shot back, “What’s wrong?” while attempting to control my rising panic.

“Carey lost her purse,” he countered,” and we won’t be able to get on the train.”

I calmed down now, relieved that no one was injured or sick, and was able to provide a more rational viewpoint to his loss of perspective.  After a few investigative questions, it appeared that the purse was most likely left in a cab.  Besides their concern over the items in the bag, such as the camera, her cell phone, some cash, as well as numerous personal items such as credit cards and driver’s license, he had convinced himself that they would not let her on the train without an I.D.  I suggested they check with an Amtrak official and they learned they would be admitted.

This only solved the trip or no trip dilemma, however, and they both continued to obsess over where the purse was, who would find it, what the finder would do with it, perfectly natural considerations under the circumstances.  After they had boarded the train, my son reported his wife was still crying so I asked to speak with her, hoping to take her focus off the purse so she could enjoy the trip.

As I gingerly attempted to comfort her, she replied petulantly, “Well, you would be upset too!”

“As a matter of fact, you’re right,” I responded, remembering our trip with them to Alaska when we took the White Pass Yukon sightseeing excursion. I had just purchased a new camera, and as the train made a brief stop to left off some hikers, I went outside on the platform to take a scenic picture of Skagway.  Just at that moment, someone pushed the door open which bumped my arm, and I watched in horror as my camera slipped out of my hand, onto the platform and slid down between the cars of the train, right in the center of the track. As the train slowly began to move forward my camera disappeared from sight.

I have never forgotten my reaction that day, because it was one of those times when circumstances in life present you with an opportunity to learn something, to grow, to mature.  Nothing like that was about to happen then, however, as I lamented over and over to my husband between sobs,“All of our pictures are gone, my new camera is gone,” as miles and miles of spectacular scenery passed me by.

Next, I would fix my attention on the conductor, plotting with him ways to retrieve my camera.

“I know just where it is,” I’d say. “Can I hike to the spot when I get back?  Can the next train retrieve it?”

Trying to be reassuring but also realistic, he would patiently answer that yes, the next train would look for it- they had already been alerted, but more than likely it had slipped off the side of the hill. My family tried to comfort me, but I was singularly focused on recovering that camera!  When we made a stop at a lovely garden, I was more interested in looking for other train officials so I could grill them about ways to retrieve my camera. While a number of people expressed sympathy, I’m sure the majority onboard wished that I might have met the same demise as my camera.

Here I was, supposedly an adult, having a meltdown over a CAMERA!

Remembering these events, I reminded my daughter-in-law of them, acknowledging that while yes, I would be upset,  being upset like me may not be the best course of action.  Her sobs began to turn into a chuckle, as I reinforced her change in attitude by reminding her that she was capable of being better than me.  She began to relax and settle into the trip, grateful now that they were able to get on the train.

The irony of both stories is that both the camera and the purse were recovered, fully intact, with all contents. The next train spotted my camera exactly where I said it was and it was waiting for me at the station at the end of the trip, and my daughter in law’s purse was turned into the police by the cab company.

This is a reminder that there are many people out there who can still be trusted, who will perform a good deed. Sadly, however, so much time wasted on worry, projection of disaster. But the question to ask yourself is what happens to you when you lose something?  Is it an immediate calamity?  Does it interfere with other situations? Does it ruin your day?  What else have you lost by your focus on something that may not even come true?

I was just wondering…….?