Any amount of gratitude

gratitude

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Do you feel like you’re being tested?

Below is a piece I wrote a few years ago when I took a class through Mary Anne Em Radmacher. She is most famous for a quote that says:

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day, saying I will try again tomorrow.”

I took her on-line class in a period when I was processing a number of life events: my mother had recently died, my family had made a momentous geographic change, and I was learning information about the health of my children. And to top it off, I had broken my ankle, so for six weeks I had ample time to heal myself through writing. This was occurring right before my 50th birthday.

My humorous side revealed itself. How do you use humor to help you through a difficult period?

Dear Brenda,

You have been involved in an extremely rigorous testing period known as your 49th year. This is the year that culminates all of the learning you’ve been involved in just prior to entering your Jubilee Year. You are 85 percent complete in the testing period.

Your test questions are being randomly created by a computer in REAL TIME, so there is no way to prepare for the test. It will seem as if the test is being created by some gnome living in the backwoods of Montana who has no clue of who the hell you are. This is a safeguard to ensure you are not taking a duplicate test from some previous year, which you thought at the time was a year you were glad to be finished with. It is natural for you to feel nostalgic about those years.

You are not allowed scratch paper or a cheat sheet on how to answer the questions which come your way. You may access at any time, though, a large library of self-help books, but they won’t seem very helpful to you because you’ll think the authors of those books were endowed with some special characteristic which wasn’t doled out to you. While the concept of cheerleaders is noble, the quarterback has to take the hit anyway whether anyone’s cheering or not.

You will be allowed frequent Diet Dr. Pepper breaks during the testing period. Ignore the warnings of Diet drinks being harmful. Instead, enjoy these brief moments as a way to recollect your thoughts.

After you have answered a question, you may check with your fellow classmates for their answers. But you won’t be allowed to change an answer once it’s submitted. Also, your classmates are being given a completely different set of questions, so their answers won’t apply to yours anyway.

It may seem as if others are cheating or skating by on their test. In fact, this is true. Your pointing it out to the test proctor, though, will not change the test questions for you. Instead, the test proctor may give you additional questions if you take your mind off what you’re doing and focus on other people’s test process.

Certain questions may be written in such a way as to your not being able to answer them correctly. This is intentional. Give an answer anyway and move on. You may also see some questions which you believed could be answered perfectly by you and it will be marked as incorrect. In fact, those questions will be underlined and circled in red to bring attention to the arrogance with which you answered those questions.

One other thing: the test known as your 49th year may make you feel like it is stretching you beyond your capabilities. Do not be worried about this. Answer everything that comes your way, the best way you can, and move on.

Sincerely,
Your 49th year

P.S. There will be no class survey afterwards asking you for your opinion on how we may improve our process.

courage

Inches and seconds may be the only intervention

wabi sabi

For the past month,  I’ve been co-facilitating a free weekly support group for people who were affected by last year’s Hurricane Harvey. Group members recount stories of how they were rescued and the achingly slow process of rebuilding their homes because of bureaucratic red tape.

The purpose of the support group is to help participants develop a self-care routine that will help them calm down their nervous system that has been agitated because of severe stress. Losing your home because of flood waters, tends to make people anxious depressed and overwhelmed.

My co-facilitator and I were meeting at Starbucks on Monday morning to determine the approach we wanted to take at our next session. She was ignoring her husband’s phone call but because of his persistence, she took it.  He reported that her brother had been in a car accident and he was being transported by ambulance to the hospital. The anxiety and panic rose on her face and it was time to end our coffee meeting. Before she left, though, I asked her if I could pray for her. So I clutched her hands and asked God and the guardian angels to watch over her brother and doctors.

Later that day, she reported her brother was lucky. He was driving his truck and not the car, so he had the bulk of protection he needed to survive the impact of being rear-ended and thrust into the next three lanes of traffic. He was being released with minor injuries, but injuries unexpected and unplanned for on a November Monday.

Inches and seconds are often times all that stand between us and an eternally altered existence. Life continues to unfold and it doesn’t mete justice out according to who has already endured what or how charitable of a person you are. Seemingly random events interfere with our plans for the day or our life and we are forced to make adjustments.

Within an hour, life unfolded in a way for which we weren’t prepared. We expand and contract through the seasons of life as it forces events on us. If we practice it enough when life is calm, though, we will automatically remember to breathe when the day’s events are chaotic and unexpected.

 

Finding a life worth living

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. If you are or you believe someone is at risk of dying by suicide, please dial 911 or the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255.

Special note: This is a story I wrote several years ago before I entered the field of mental health and didn’t know the symptoms of depression or that suicide is the second leading cause of death in adolescents and young adults.

While I was on the periphery of the story told below, the experience had a profound impact and changed how I view people who behave in troubled ways. Behavior is communication and sometimes people who are in emotional or physical pain behave in ways that provoke irritation, frustration or anger from us. Do your best to be calm in the face of another person’s internal crisis and offer what compassion you can.

be kind

Paul and Rick fought on the Tuesday before winter break and again on the Wednesday that classes resumed. The first argument was over the cigarette butts. Paul flicked the last of his cigarette on the ground even though a black metal canister was right beside him. Rick, the building’s maintenance man, walked by just as the butt landed on the ground. In a polite way for Rick, but a rude way to Paul, Rick barked that Paul should use the ashtray. Paul shouted where Rick could put the ash tray.

The second argument continued the first over the disposal method of cigarettes but was also fueled by Paul’s inattentiveness to clean spaces. Rick had just mopped the floor and Paul walked through it, rather than around.

As the full-time maintenance man, Rick walks a tight rope of self-restraint in word and action. His job is menial enough–unplugging toilets, changing lights, cleaning up vomit–without people deliberately and immediately wrecking what he just finished wiping up. On this second day of blatant defiance of common courtesy, Rick ignored self-restraint and came to our office. He complained loudly and expletively to us about Paul. He demanded we do something to stop Paul or he would.

image-from-rawpixel-id-401529-jpegI agreed with Rick and understood his frustration at our students. My coworkers and I wished Paul would quit being rude. But we didn’t know how to stop him or any of the other inconsiderate students in the Adult Learning Center. Many students ignore the rules and procedures. But for these two incidents, Paul was the student caught at it.

We told Rick we would talk to Paul. The Adult Learning Center’s director took Paul aside and said we would have to call the police if he acted this way again and, especially, if he threatened Rick. She advised Paul to avoid Rick and save himself from further trouble.

Paul is one of an endless stream of students in Adult Basic Education Centers who hope to make up in basic education skills what they didn’t learn when they were kids. So many of them, though, are missing more than just the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Dozens arrive without homes, teeth, cars, jobs, food, and hope. We try to give them encouragement, but we know the center is here because society doesn’t know what else to do with them nor does it want to do anything–meaningful at least–with them. It’s a daytime holding place. We don’t know where or to whom some students go to at night.

I understand some of the societal causes of their problems, but my critical, judgmental voice tells me that life shouldn’t be that hard for them. I don’t vocalize it as Rick does, but I’m thinking the same thing: “Use the ashtray. Walk around where he’s mopped. Learn your multiplication tables. Why do you go out of your way to make life more difficult for the rest of us? Can’t you act like you remember even one thing you learned in kindergarten?”

All these thoughts bulleted through my head as Paul walked past my desk. And after he walked by I didn’t give Paul another thought. For emotional protection, I don’t think very deeply about our students. I don’t ask them personal questions nor do I tell them about my life. And they don’t ask me either. They know what they don’t have and they don’t need me to remind them.

After I finished working I went home and didn’t think any more about Paul and Rick until I came back after the weekend. Sadly, that Friday, Paul didn’t think any more deeply about himself than what I had. He hung himself in his basement bedroom where his mother found him.

My boss and Paul’s teacher went to the funeral. Rick and I stayed behind. My boss said the minister didn’t know many personal details of Paul and didn’t have a lot to say about him in the eulogy. She shook her head.

I tried to learn more about Paul by reading the newspaper’s obituary. A professional portrait was used in it. It showed a smiling, dark haired young man wearing a suit and tie. Pictures probably do speak a thousand words. But these were words of happiness and good health that were from sometime in Paul’s past. In the weeks we knew Paul, he wore only faded blue jeans and worn t-shirts. He rarely combed his hair. My mental picture of Paul was one of anger, defiance, and loneliness.

Rick came into our office after the funeral. He consoled us, or maybe himself, with the comment, “he’s in a better place now.” He didn’t express any remorse about his feelings toward Paul. But I wondered if he regretted his harsh judgment like I regretted mine. We talked a few more minutes and then we all got back to work.

The next day I came to work and Rick, the maintenance man, was mopping the floor. This day the floor would stay clean.

 

Have you forgiven or forgotten it?

willie nelson

You had a disagreement with another person and in your mind you forgave. You were able to forgive them because you ended your relationship with them. But did you really forgive them or did you just forget them?

The answer to that question will be revealed next time you unexpectedly run into them in a location you weren’t prepared for, such as your local grocery store. If your heart jumps and your stomach feels anxious, then the injury of the conflict hasn’t subsided and, frankly, you focused on the forgetting but not the forgiving.

So what do you do when you come across that person?

Here are some options, not all of them recommended.

1. Turn around and pretend you didn’t see them.

2. Take your shopping cart and bang into the back of their legs pretending you didn’t see them.

3. Walk by them as if they were invisible and pretend you didn’t see them, or

4. See them.

As uncomfortable as it could be, facing a person who injured you is a response coming from a stance of self-empowerment. Avoiding them or lashing out at them will reinforce for you that you were on the losing end of the conflict. Instead, take a deep breath, open your eyes, and see the person in front of you. What you discover might surprise you about them and yourself.

Now, for the awkward moment. Does seeing them include speaking? Maybe. But on your terms and not theirs. You can say hello, or nod your head and give a small smile (but not the smirk smile) and keep walking. If they initiate a conversation, such as, “how are you?” say, “I’m great!”  (You are great, so be honest about it!)

So. the moment has passed and you SAW them, what do you do next to FORGIVE them?

Here are some steps that may help you with the process of forgiveness.
buddha forgiveness prayer
1. Write the person a letter stating exactly what they did that hurt you.

Journaling is a therapeutic process which can help you “read your own mind.” Journaling does not have to be limited to words. Incorporating art or other visual modes are just as effective in processing your feelings. (Do not send that person the letter, but it might help to read it to another supportive person who can keep a confidence.)

2. Pray and meditate on the concept of forgiveness.

Sometimes, we can’t pray for that person, but we can start the process by quieting the thoughts that racket around like they are on a handball court by focusing on the theme of forgiveness.

3. When you are ready to move to the next stage, pray for good things for yourself and that person. Some people will leave out the part about praying for good things for themselves, but you deserve good things, too.

This action is empowering because it gives you control. When you start, you don’t have to be sincere (and you probably won’t be sincere), but over time you may find yourself hoping each of you receive the gift of a great life. After all, hurting people hurt others.

4. Understand, the role of forgiveness isn’t to change that person as change may never happen, but it is there to heal you and give you a better quality of life.

Even if the other person tried to steal your quality life in a long ago incident, they don’t have to keep stealing it.

© 2018 Brenda Henning

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fear corrodes you; here’s how to stop it

image-from-rawpixel-id-421916-jpegIn the oil industry, rust build-up destroys pipes. The speed at which rust spreads depends on how reactive the pipe is to its environment. Corrosion specialists counteract rust and a pipeline’s natural environmental influences by depositing coating chemicals and shooting electric currents through the main pipe and re-directing the destruction to a secondary sacrificial metal.

Fear can be as corroding to your body as is rust is to metal piping. It feels like a million jumping Mexican beans in your stomach and your shoulders sag from the buildup of it. The environment of your mind influences the spread of panic, depending on many factors. Today, you can choose to detach yourself from highly charged emotional environments, which can mitigate some of the flow of anxiety. You may be in the environment, but you can choose to not take anything personally, even it it’s meant personally.

Should you realize your thoughts floating, shooting and wandering and untethered to places and people flung far from your body, you can bring your body back to now.  You can use your breath to coat yourself and prevent the build up of more fear.  In and out, in and out, you can consciously redirect your ionic attention and thoughts to the energy held in your shoulders and stomach.

image-from-rawpixel-id-418597-jpegThe life force of your breath can  redirect and expel the corroding fear from your  lungs and nose and into the Universe. The Universe, though, sacrifices nothing with its absorption of your breath. Instead it can take your highly charged energy and expands itself by creating more galaxies.

© 2018 Brenda Henning

 

 

 

Do you need a lifeline?

Affiliate disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning at no cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase of a product or service.

Every so often it’s good to take a step back and take a different view of your life. A big picture point of view can give you some perspective that living it up close and personal every day won’t allow. A wide-angle, panoramic view can be especially helpful when you are experiencing a challenging time.

37061793_10155408670426968_2408675066129678336_nOne way to see your life in a different way is to create a lifeline or life map. New author Jen Alward recommends a lifeline as an activity in her new release Hope and Healing at Home: Build Bridges with your kids and empower them for life with Art & Christian Therapy.Click here to visit Jen Alward.

Locating where you are and gaining insight into how you got there can give you direction in where to go next. Families have challenges today that were unimaginable 20-30 years ago. Drug epidemics, increased school violence and other societal trends are placing new levels of stress on parents and their children.

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A lifeline will help you see where you’ve been and where you could go.

You can be as detailed as you want in your lifeline, family map. I set mine up for 10-year decades, but you divide it into five-year increments if you prefer. It can be helpful to include other family members on one sheet of paper to see where the trajectory of their lives may be headed and to help you set family as well as individual goals.

A perspective you may gain by completing a lifeline or family map is noticing how many challenges you have already successfully overcome. This can be reassuring that you will be able to meet whatever challenge you currently find yourself coping with. Seeing the pivotal periods in your life on paper can be a reality check into how you are spending your precious commodity of time.

So, where are you going with your one “wild and precious life?”

direction

© 2018 Brenda Henning

A little something to get you through

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Some people like to pray.

Others,  as soon as they hear or read the word prayer go a different direction. They are more open to the concept of phrasing such as an inspirational quote, a mantra or meditation. What phrasing do you prefer when you are working to settle down your over stimulated mind?

In 12-step groups, people pray and meditate and whatever other approach helps them build a relationship with a Higher Power, Universal Intelligence or

G. ood
O.  rderly
D.  irection.

Most importantly, while they are developing a trust in a spiritual side of their human experience, they take what they like and leave the rest.

The Serenity Prayer most commonly is associated with 12-step recovery groups. People in these groups open and, often times, close their meetings with this prayer.  But if you don’t like the concept of prayer, you can call it a statement or philosophy. Call it whatever helps you receive the underlying message contained in it.

But the prayer’s effectiveness comes in differentiating between what you have the ability to address in this moment and what you are powerless over. The crux of the matter is you are powerless over other people’s thoughts and actions but you have absolute power to change your own thoughts and actions.

You may not always have control over the first thought, those buggers move around so fast in there, but once you are aware of it, you can make a conscious decision to change it.

And it is an act of courage to change yourself.

What changes are you making today? Could you share on this post as you may be the inspiration someone else needs.

Love and light,
Brenda

P.S. A shortened version of the Serenity Prayer is most often recited at 12-step meetings. The full prayer, usually attributed to Reinhold Neibuhr, is as follows:

God, grant me the Serenity
To accept the things I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can
And Wisdom to know the difference

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it.
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His will.
That I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with Him forever in the next.
Amen.

 

© 2018 Brenda Henning

Your Personal Bill of Rights in Relationships

Happy Independence Day New Thought, Right Action readers! Below is a post of a New Thought, Right Action leaders (two in particular) who worked and continue to work in the field of mental health. Their efforts in writing and teaching in the area of recovery from addiction and growing up in dysfunctional families helped define what healthy boundaries in relationships looks like. I hope you are enjoying your independence from what ever patterns that have been binding you from living your life to its full, healthy capacity.

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Native Houstonian John Bradshaw was a prolific writer and he, along with Atlanta-based Dr. Charles Whitfield, made popular the concept of “healing your inner child. ”  In the early 90s,  Mr. Bradshaw shared in a public way his vulnerabilities and own recovery journey from alcoholism. He built a platform of lectures, PBS presentations,

and books to help millions of people around the world. If it weren’t ‘t for his and Dr. Whitfield’s service in writing, many people would never have been introduced to the concept of toxic shame. Mr. Bradshaw’s theory, in particular, is that toxic shame is what drives so many people’s decisions to self medicate through alcohol, drugs, food, sex, shopping, and overworking to mask the intolerable feeling of unworthiness.

IMG_0960(1)Mr. Bradshaw died two years ago. Friday, would have been his 85th birthday. His family held an estate sale at their property last weekend and I chose to attend so I could see where he wrote his many, many influential books. While we were there, admiring the many artifacts Mr. Bradshaw had collected on his international trips, we had the serendipity to meet Mrs. Bradshaw. The reason she and her husband had so many collectibles is not because of materialism but because of Mr. Bradshaw’s spirit of service. Everywhere they went, she said, “John wanted to buy something from the shopkeepers to help them out.”

Helping people out is what healers do. Dr. Whitfield is referenced for his compilation of a Personal Bill of Rights as it relates to interacting in healthy relationships. Here’s his list of “rights” that we are all entitled to enjoy if that’s what we choose. What rights are you exercising today?

 

© 2018 Brenda Henningindependence day