Joy is not made to be a crumb.

These days I'm slowly reading Mary Oliver poems -- collected in Devotions. Yesterday I read "Don't Hesitate" and want to share it here without comment. Mary Oliver says it best :).

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don't hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happens better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that's often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don't be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

Keeping the Channels Open

A quote from Martha Graham was shared with me last week -- I'll share it with you here. Whatever is your "expression" you may find this is nice encouragement to keep at it, even when - and especially when - you need to say no to other things in order to say yes to who you are and what you have to offer the world!

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action. And because there is only one you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium . . . the world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.

Being Present to Ourselves

I'm reading a book by Natalie Goldberg, The Great Spring. Here's a great line about paying attention to our lives (p. 206) . . .

"If we can stand still and attentive in our lives and not run away, even right in the middle of the ruins, we will find fertile ground."

It's not easy to stand still and attentive especially when life is throwing us such painful stuff, but I think Natalie is right . . . there's ground there that we're standing on that offers us life.

How Do We Best Learn?

From John Leland's new book, Happiness Is a Choice You Make (2018), 

"Being an expert is exhausting. Being a student - letting go of your ego - is like sitting for a banquet at the best restaurant you'll ever visit." p. 7

Leland interviewed at length 6 of the oldest old - elders in their 80's and 90's - for this book, and they have some great things for us all to learn about how to live well. I love this idea of being a student -- and he's right, it does require us to let go of what we think, how we believe life is to be lived, and learn from those who have and are living it now!

Enough is Enough

I've been having an inner debate with myself for quite some time now, and I find I must join the voices of those who are speaking out against sexual harassment and sexual violence. It's not that I haven't been speaking out before, but not in a public way on my blog.

My blog is titled "Thoughts on Hope" and to be honest, I've not felt very hopeful at all these past weeks with all the accusations that have come to light. It's not the first time men in power have been accused of sexual harassment, but it seems that now there is a sense of power or being-heard-ness in women and men who have been violated. I am glad they are speaking out. I applaud them and their courage - it is not an easy thing to tell loved ones, strangers, the courts, about humiliating personal experiences. All who have had this experience, I know I am not the only one who stands with you and supports you. Your voices are not the place I feel hopeless.

I feel hopeless about the continuing stories - the daily reports of yet another man who has acted with inappropriateness, from his power, in a way that humiliates, embarrasses, and truly harms another human being. I am sickened at the news that the RNC is putting financial support behind Roy Moore - not just a sexual predator but a sexual predator of  CHILD. That "evangelicals" put their support behind such a person is discouraging and unconscionable.

This situation of sexual danger and predation must stop. We must hold accountable those who engage in such acts. We must teach our children not just about avoiding this behavior, but about respect and integrity and that every other person is a human like we are and deserves the privacy of their body. 

And I'm going to say something here that might not be popular. I'm ok with that. We need to stop sexualizing everything and everyone. The day news broke on a sexual predator, People magazine came out with their "Sexiest Man Alive" issue. Victoria's Secret runway on TV. Women acquiescing to the culture by wearing barely anything, but angry if a comment is made about their bodies. (Please don't even consider telling me I'm blaming the victim . . . that's not what I'm saying.) I cheered when Wonder Woman showed us strong women -- then wondered why Wonder Woman in another movie was fighting with women in bikinis? Really? Really?

Enough. Those women and men who have been sexually harassed, violated, and assaulted need us to stand up to a culture that doesn't get it. Our children need us to stand up to a culture that doesn't get it. Be very clear here, sexual assault creates a traumatic situation - those who have experienced this know just how difficult it is now to live with what has happened to them. The body violation leaves a mind and soul violation that takes time and work and help to recover from. This isn't something just to shake our heads at -- this is something we need to take seriously and join forces to change.

If you, or someone you know, has been the victim of a predator, please get help. Please know mental health professionals are ready to help you in this most painful of times. If you don't know where to find a mental health professional, or where to find specific help related to sexual assault, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline - 24 hours a day, every day - at 800.656.4673.

If there is little hope in our world, then let's commit to being hope for another.

Lasting Change . . . How?

This weekend I listened to a podcast entitled The Radical Therapist, episode #035 - "How Psychotherapy Lost Its Magick with Scott Miller, PhD." A student in one of my classes sent me the link with a note, "I think you'll like this." She is right! There's a lot of good stuff in this episode, what I most appreciated was Dr. Miller's view that many things can help people heal . . . especially the therapist.

One of the things we know about therapy is that the main thing that helps people recover in therapy is the relationship they have with their therapist. Healing can be helped along by way of theories and techniques, but without a trusting, healthy relationship it is very difficult for a client to have what they need to heal. The challenge is to find a therapist who will learn to develop and trust their intuition over a technique. When therapists trust their gut, they listen for what is said and what is not said by clients . . . they learn to ask what might be an "out there" question which turns out to be right on . . . they use their bodies to help them attend to what is happening in the room with a client.

This isn't magic . . . it's intentionality, deep listening, and focused attention. It's often what is missing in our interactions with others - either because we don't pay attention, or the other isn't fully attending to us. When we have this kind of relationship with a therapist who is making use of themselves, their education, and their experience, the opportunity for lasting change is very real! 

Is It Safe to Talk with a Therapist?

This picture was taken last week . . . because construction is taking place on the parking lot outside my office, DANGER tape was placed on my door to keep people from trying to enter the office from an unsafe entrance. A client of mine commented (jokingly, I think . . . I hope!), "maybe it's not safe to enter your office!!"

And that got me to thinking about the pushback that I sometimes receive when I tell people the work I do. Not everyone feels safe in the therapy office - that might be because they've had prior experiences with therapists who weren't safe people, or it might be due to fears that exploring the inner life will create too much vulnerability, or perhaps there are other reasons not to feel safe in therapy.

Therapy is about healing, and the healing process can sometimes feel unsafe. Opening and exploring what has been pushed down or avoided for a long time can raise fears about the painful work that may be ahead. I often say, "you have to go through the grief to get through the grief, and you have to go through the trauma to get through the trauma." Now there are different ways to go through grief and trauma, those ways don't always mean speaking about every detail, but they certainly do mean that we have to put ourselves in the willing place to work with a professional or a trusted friend or colleague. And that work may not always feel comfortable or easy, we may feel that the unknown is scary and dark.

I haven't found a better way. But I have found that taking that risky step with a safe person can lead to healing.

A Light in the Background

As I've written before on my blog, my Mom died earlier this year.  Here's a piece I wrote about her and our loss that was published this morning in the StarTribune.

"On March 4, 2016 Ruth Yeats died of cancer of the bile duct. Ten days from looking not-herself to death did not give us enough time to take in what was happening. She had been carrying this cancer in her much longer than we knew. Mom accepted her imminent death with grace and peace, and was surrounded by her family when she died.

Mom was a caring listener, a woman who remembered what you told her and asked you about it later. In the past 10 months we have been told story after story of the ways in which she worked in the background – never out front – to care for strangers and friends alike. Mom never let on to us all the notes she wrote, the calls she made, the people she stopped in church to ask how they were. It was at her memorial service that so many people told us stories of how they were touched by Ruth, how much they will miss her smile, her welcome, her compassion and interest.

Ruth loved God, time with her family, and music. She enjoyed reading, watching Downton Abbey, period movies, and cooking shows. Mom was happiest when she was entertaining friends and family in her home. She took great pleasure in trying new recipes. She was a woman of faith and put her faith into action. After she retired, Ruth volunteered at many different organizations. Whether at her job, volunteering, or church, Mom reached out to others offering compassion, acceptance, a non-judgmental ear.

The best tribute we, her husband, daughters, granddaughters, can give Ruth is to imitate her life of love, encouragement, and kindness. In these days of so much pain and loss we need more Ruth’s in our lives. We miss you, Ruth-Mom-Grandma, and love you so very much!"

A Week After the Election . . . Can We Be Civil?

Regardless of who you voted for, whether or not you are pleased with the results, I'm sure - like me - you are weary of the harsh words, the negativity, the tension in the air, the increasing divide in our country that has been shown so clearly in the election process finishing with last Tuesday night.

People of color, the GLBTQ community, women - all people who are left scared and uncertain of their place in this country, uncertain of their safety. I have students and clients alike who have expressed to me their anguish, their fear, their pain. They are afraid the country they love - their home - will no longer be a place in which they can live and be their truest selves. They do not want only themselves to be safe, they want all Americans to feel secure. It is clear that many Americans do not feel secure.

I have heard some say "We get what we deserve." But who is the "we" they are referring to? The "we" who have no voice? The "we" who have been treated as second-class citizens? And, mind you, the "we" who have felt treated as second-class citizens are Republicans, Democrats and Independents -- no political party is free of this. I don't believe the lines are able to be drawn so simply that we've now gotten what we deserve. And I think that lets our politicians and the media off the hook. We all have responsibility as citizens of this country. Clearly, we need to do better than we have.

And doing better than we have means that we must put away hateful, divisive words about each other. It is appalling what has been unleashed in the U.S. under the guise of "freedom of speech." What people have decided is their "God-given right to free speech" is neither God-given nor a right to be hateful, disrespectful, demeaning of another human. (A human, I remind us all, that is made in the image of God . . . since God has been called upon.)

Our response to the hateful, demeaning words and name-calling cannot be in like manner. It helps no one to respond in kind, rather, we stoop to a level that we have just said is unhelpful and wrong. I believe we must choose civility. ALL OF US - each one of us. Do not assume civility to mean that we shrug our shoulders and let pass horrible words and actions. Rather, we stand up to wrong and hate with manners, with the attempt to speak to the humanity in the other. We must not let stand the hateful, vitriolic and divisive words and actions of our fellow citizens and those in power making decisions that will impact our country.

There is no place for name-calling - that accomplishes nothing. There is, however, a place for standing with our sisters and brothers who are living in fear, who are not safe, who can't sleep for anxiety that gnaws at them. There is a place for bearing witness to others' pain and loss; there is a place for bearing witness to our own pain and loss. This "standing" that I refer to will take many different forms from a cup of cold water to activism. The thing is this: we don't have time to engage in name-calling. We don't have time to harm others. Our country, our communities, our neighbors, our selves - we are in crisis. Are we willing . . . we must be willing to do the hard work of engagement, of truly listening, of speaking out against hate and wrong-doing, of sharing words of comfort, action, and peace. 

This engagement I'm calling on is not easy . . . it's uncomfortable, it's time-consuming, it's scary. We no longer have the privilege of taking the easy way out, of thinking this doesn't affect me - I don't need to act. There's too much at stake: our people, our environment, our lives. Will you join me in this hard work of engaging? Will you start by sharing your thoughts on my post? Let's have respectful dialogue that encourages, challenges, that sees the human across from us - the human who has worries and fears and family and loss, just as we do.