The Dark Place

I’ve been hesitant to write these past weeks,  using every excuse not to face this page.  That I was out of the country and then came home to a crashed computer sounded like solid reasons for silence.  But I am deeply uncomfortable with even small deceits.

My reason for silence is that the subject is uncomfortable for me.  I’m used to posting uplifting material.  But I’ve had to face an uncomfortable truth.  The me, who could always find the light no matter how difficult the problem no matter how bad the pain, had left.

It happened while on vacation.  The details don’t really matter unless you count them.  There were too many .. too many blows, too many let downs, too many depressingly sunny mornings, long hopeless afternoons, and pain filled lonely nights.  And hardest of all there were too many happy people around me.

I was sick and scared and in constant pain.  It wasn’t that I didn’t try to help myself.  I reached for help from every person I thought I could count on.  I meditated. I prayed. I looked for the good and I saw a lot of it. But the pain was persistent and fierce and left me not a moment to breathe.  And I broke.

Why could not one person help me?  Why were none of my back up techniques working?  I doubled over with great choking sobs.  I  begged The Creator to tell me what I was supposed to be learning from so many years of suffering with each crisis coming ever closer to the last.  What was I doing wrong?   I pleaded,  “I’m not getting it, whatever you are trying to teach me, I’m missing it.  Tell me, tell me, please, in a way that humans can understand because   I   Can  Not  See   The   Signs!”

It felt like the tears would never stop but, of course, they did.  And, no, I did not receive any answers.  The fear and pain remained.  The last few days of our vacation were hard as I  worked to keep up a good front so that at least my husband could enjoy the time we had left.  It’s not that he was unaware that I was ill.  In fact he tried to help every way he knew. (I am so blessed.)

I am better now … in less pain.  In fact, I’ve started a very new form of therapy that I feel is going to make a huge difference in my quality of life.  Yet I am still haunted by that dark place.  I feel as though I have not escaped ….  that at least part of me is still there.

It’s not that I’ve haven’t  experienced seriously frightening and painful periods. But never before had there been no one I could call in the next hour or even the next day who could help me.  Never before had I felt completely abandoned by God/The Creator/The Universe.  In the past, even during the worst of times, I always “knew” that He/She had my back.

I have not lost my faith but I remain shaken.  I had assumed that I was on the right path, being the best me I could be, helping others as I went along. Now, I don’t know.  Are there signs right in front of me that I refuse to see?  How many have I missed over the years?  Is there some great lesson I have yet to learn?

Just writing this makes me feel as if energetic tentacles are pulling me back to the edge of that black hole.  What scares me the most is that I may find myself there again … terrified, in pain, and alone.

So what is the lesson?  Maybe the experience was to help me empathize with others.  But haven’t I been through enough these past 20 years to have nearly infinite empathy?

Maybe there is no lesson.  Maybe there is just the experience.  I wish I could leave you with something positive and profound.  All that is coming to me is that it’s okay.  It is okay to have been in that dark place.  There is nothing wrong with me or anyone else for having gone there.

(This is not about clinical depression.  If you feel deep sadness for more than a couple of weeks, do seek professional help from a counselor or therapist. )

I know that many of you have likely experienced the dark place.  How has it affected your life?  Is there something you have learned? Are you at peace with yourself now?  I eagerly await your comments.

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At Last

No, I haven’t left the planet but my computer had … sort of.   It is now very late but I wanted to leave you with something to think about.947258_186974558124048_738368832_n 

More to come.

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Meditate? Me???

Though I find meditating very, very, very difficult, I’ve decided that I need to make it a daily priority after many years of countless false starts.  Sometimes I can manage only five minutes during a particularly busy day.  Then there are those days when the pain level is inching up toward “10” so that shutting out all distraction is a scary move at best. That’s when a longer period is impossible …. well, at least for me at this early stage.  But five minutes helps me maintain a daily practice.   I don’t know about you but if I skip one day that makes it so much easier to skip the next and down we go.

A website, “Positively Positive” contains practical articles on a variety of issues that we all face in our daily lives.  Just today I found one that explains, in blessedly simple terms, the science behind how and why meditation works.  It also provides an accessible meditation for everyone, even those who have never tried or have given up after too many failures.

Here’s the link:

http://www.positivelypositive.com/2013/04/28/how-and-why-meditation-works/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+positivelypositive%2Fpositive+%28Positively+Positive%29

If clicking on the above doesn’t work try the copy and paste method.  And if that doesn’t get you there go to: http://www.positivelypositive.com/                                                          If the article doesn’t show up go to the search feature along the right side of the page.  Type in: Ashley Turner How and Why Meditation Works.

As with many things worth doing,  meditation takes regular practice and commitment.  There are days when my mind hops from topic to topic,  or keeps pulling me back to some current troubling issue.  At other times I just doze off.  You may well experience all of these and more but don’t be discouraged. It’s all okay.

That you are making the effort is all that is necessary.  Everyone is different and every day is different. Keep at it.  There have been days when after a ten minute meditation I feel more refreshed than if I had taken a good nap.  Let’s do this together.  I’ll tell you how I’m getting along.  Let me know how it goes for you.

In the previous blog, “HELP!” https://whatnoreally.com/2013/04/25/help/,  I listed among other things a couple of meditation sites.  One more time ….

Beyond Affirmations: http://www.healing-affirmations.com/ (my favorite)

Tara Brach: http://tarabrach.com/audioarchives-guided-meditations.html

And a new one: The Chopra Center Meditation Library:  http://www.chopra.com/ccl-meditation/resources.html

Quote for today: “Even masters had to take the first step, so can you.”  — Remez Sasson

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HELP!!!

Sometimes no matter what kind of pain we are experiencing, nothing seems to be working to alleviate our suffering.  Doctors and other health professionals are not getting the job done.  Though we may be following every directive given to us by our doctors, psychotherapists, physical therapists, etc., and even while we are also praying, meditating and doing everything we can think of to help ourselves, we remain stuck, hurting, and feeling hopeless.

At such times I’ve found that adding something new can provide a respite and some desperately needed hope while we wait for the medical and self-care above to “click in.”   At the bottom of this post are some resources that may help you.

Caution: these are not a substitute for the medical care you are receiving so do NOT discontinue seeing your health care team.

Regarding the suggestions below, choose which ever speak to your heart. I’ve had many people suggest far too many therapies that didn’t work and had I listened to my inner voice, I would never have tried them.  But there were  horrid  days when I was so desperate that I grabbed whatever was offered without taking a moment to check in with the Being who knew better than anyone else what was best for me … Myself.

Though you may not trust that you know what is good for you, try to remember a time when you met someone or were faced with a situation where  you got that “uh-oh” feeling.  I usually feel it in my stomach … thus the term, “gut feeling.”  I’ve heard that others feel it in the middle of the chest and sometimes in throat.  However,  if you find that this notion makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t let it keep you from trying the offerings below.  None of them will hurt you so don’t worry about making a “mistake.”

All of these are low-cost or free and, best of all, you don’t have to leave the chair or bed where you find yourself this minute.

The Distance Healing Network: http://www.the-dhn.com/index.html

The World Service Institute’s Unlovingness Petition: http://worldserviceinstitute.org/75434.html (The WSI has a variety of healing  programs)

Beyond Affirmations: http://www.healing-affirmations.com/                             (I highly recommend the offerings here.)

Massage by Heather: http://www.youtube.com/user/massagebyheatherw           (Excellent videos on self massage and massage with a partner or friend.)

Tara Brach: http://tarabrach.com/audioarchives-guided-meditations.html       [Especially helpful for those of us (me) who find meditating impossible and these are all free!]

There are many more resources out there, but I offer these because I’ve used all of them myself.  If you’ve found something that has helped you during a desperate time, please, share your experiences.  I know that I speak for thousands when I say,  “I need all the help I can get.”

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Each night

No matter what has happened to you, what you’ve done or failed to do, take a moment each night to be kind to the precious Being that is You.

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Perspective

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At this time of year as the mild weather rolls in many people are inspired to get in shape by heading out doors to walk and jog.  For the last 15 years or so, I’ve found Spring to be the most depressing season. The sight of smiling individuals swinging their arms enjoying a vigorous walk pierced my heart with a sharp pang of envy.  As for the joggers, I wanted to open my car window and furiously shout, “Do you know how lucky you are!”

But lately I’ve started to realize that, though they can do something I cannot, I have no idea what their lives are like,  what challenges they are facing, what preys on their minds.  And my attitude was not making me feel any better about my current limitations.  In fact, I often felt sad for hours.

Clearly, this was not how I wanted to live … so easily able to slip into sadness at seeing what I couldn’t do.  I’ve often said that an effective way to relieve pain of any kind is to look for something good.  Sometimes it means that we need to stand in a different place so that our gaze is focused at an alternate angle.

This applies in so many areas our lives.  Does your neighbor have a car you wish you could afford?  How about that friend who wears a size 2 … oh, if only you could do the same.  And then there are those photos on Facebook of tanned faces on exotic beaches.  I could go on but you get my drift.  You may see all of these as things you deserve but cannot enjoy.  You feel sad, envious, deprived, even angry.

Taking this view does nothing to bring you closer to having any of what they have and it robs you of enjoying what you do have.  It’s time again to look for the good but this time instead of looking outward turn your gaze back on yourself and your present life.

Set aside a time to sit quietly and breathe, a couple of good deep breaths.  Lower those shoulders from up around your ears and allow your entire body to relax.  Depending on how deprived, envious, angry you feel, this may take thirty seconds or several minutes.  Once you feel grounded close your eyes and really focus on those things in your life that make you happy,  that you can’t imagine living without, that make you feel grateful.

At first this may be slow going but don’t give up.  Include everything … a good friend or two, family members, a pet, your house, a comfy chair, cable TV, a favorite shirt, your eye brows, … seriously, I’m talking about every single thing in your life that makes you smile. Soon you will find that you have quite a long list.

Speaking of lists,  it might help to write down all of your gifts.  When times get rough, you can take a look at it anew.  I guarantee it will lift your spirits and brighten your day no matter what nasty business may be going on.

It’s such a simple concept but very powerful.  Now when I see those walkers and joggers, even though I may start to wish I were out there with them, I remember the joys unique to me.  Yes,  mine is a very good life indeed.

For a slightly different perspective on this perspective here’s Kate Northrup.

“The next time your situation threatens to steal your joy, try to remember… somebody wants what you have.”

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Right now

Still recovering from shoulder surgery but wanted to share this with you all.

“It doesn’t matter what you did or where you were… it matters where you are and what you are doing. Get out there! Sing the song in your heart and NEVER let anyone shut you up!!’
– Steve Maraboli via Paradigm Shift

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The Work Out

Just saw this today courtesy of The Fibromyalgia Network. It made me laugh on a day that I really needed a good laugh.

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To all those with Fibromyalgia or any condition which prevents one from exercising,  don’t let the media get you down.  I want to throw things at the TV when I see ads for gym memberships, walking/running shoes, yoga pants, etc., .   We would participate tomorrow and do so with unbridled joy if only we could.  Try not to scream at others when they complain about having to go to the gym.  They have no idea how lucky they are.  Those two blocks sited above … now that is a real work out for me.  And many days I can’t even manage that.  Sound familiar?

Be kind to yourself.  As  I learned from TUT founder Mike Dooley (http://www.tut.com/Index/index),  keep on doing the best you can from where you are with what you have.  That’s it.  That is your only job.  Sounds too easy, doesn’t it?  Well, never mind that.  I speak from experience.  Just do it and joy will find you.  I promise.

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Taking Care

So tired today but feel like I should be working on another blog post.  A tiny image on my desktop caught my eye so I clicked on it.  It contained the quote below.  Coincidence or some sort of divine intervention … it doesn’t really matter.  But it made me recognize that  now is not the time to push myself to “do” something.  Now is the time to listen to my body and give it what it needs …. rest.

“The greatest gift you can give to somebody is your own personal development.  I used to say, ‘If you take care of me,  I will take care of you.’   Now I say, ‘I will take care of me for you, if you will take care of you for me.’ ”                                                                                                            — Jim Rohn

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Ask

These past couple of weeks have been very trying. For those who are unaware, I had extensive surgery on my left shoulder on March 12th.  I realize that many of you and millions of others have had similar operations.  No doubt we’ve all experienced the same terrible pain and  inability to escape, even for a few hours, into a healing night’s sleep. Drugs were devastatingly inadequate and I found myself slipping into deep despair.

Though I am healing and sleeping better these days,  I find myself for the second time in two years having to do something that, for me, feels nearly as painful as those early weeks … asking for help.

I was trained from earliest childhood that enduring hardships of all kinds was best done alone.  Expressing pain, be it physical or emotional, meant that one was weak, cowardly, and downright unholy.  Crying was all but forbidden.  As the eldest child I witnessed it all … everything from the bad days to the tragedies that every family endures of one kind or another.  Throughout we always kept up a happy public face allowing only special members of a large extended family to help and even then only when it was absolutely necessary. Perhaps this behavior was a generational or cultural/religious mode of dealing with hardship.  I’m wondering if this scenario sounds achingly familiar to many of you.

After having surgery for spectacularly crushing the bones in my right arm and wrist in 2011, I was forced to ask for rides to a minimum of four appointments per week for nearly two months.  My husband did what he could but his business is a demanding 12-hour-a-day job and my children are grown and no longer live nearby.

Though I was nearly paralyzed with anxiety about asking for help, I had no choice.  I sent emails to all of my close and some not-so close-friends with details of times and places.  Within hours messages came pouring in offering to take me everywhere.  Some friends even drove me one or two times each week. I was overwhelmed and humbled.

Why were they all so willing to fit my needs into their busy schedules? It took a while but I gradually started to “get it.”  Helping someone else feels really good.  I should have known for that has always been my role.  Wether it was by sending a card, collecting my neighbor’s mail, chaperoning children’s field trips, writing to soldiers, baking cookies, baby sitting, etc., etc., helping people was an essential and enriching part of my life.

By not asking for help, I was denying others the joy and satisfaction of serving a fellow human being.  Author Dinesh Souza writes,  “Our drive for compassion is embedded in our DNA. … Who of you, has never experienced when you have been gratuitously good, when you have been nice to someone when you needn’t have been.  You have a wonderful glow inside of you. You really feel good.”

What do you do when you are physically sick, feeling emotionally drained, or find yourself  in psychological pain?  You needn’t suffer in silence.  Give someone the opportunity to help.  Ask.

“Nothing makes one feel so strong as a call for help.”   — Pope Paul VI

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