Saturday, June 20, 2009

Another one on Getting through today

It's gotten worse. I have the shorts, as it were. Clients not showing up, others dropping out because they lost their insurance and everyone else wanting their own chunk of change. Taxes here, office rent there, and more tea for the office. And the dog needs to be fed and get his rabies shots.

Those are only the financial stressors. I know they will stabilize - and I will get through this money crunch. My mindfulness practice keeps me focused and even helps to keep me less overwhelmed with worry. I remind myself, when I start chewing on fears of being tossed out of my office that at this very moment here, I am okay. I keep breathing. I take another deep breath, and take the dog out for a walk.

Believe it or not, it does help. I recognize the things I can control, accept the things I cannot change and see the difference between the two. It's what people in 12 step programs call the serenity prayer and what I call radical acceptance.

At this moment, that's all the guidance I have. Keep breathing.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Coming home for the vet ain't easy

Coming home for the vet ain't easy.

Has my family changed? Will the kids know who I am? Does my wife still love me? Nothing's the same. And I don't feel like I belong. Why am I biting everyone's head off?

Last weekend I had my first assignment to meet with and provide information to vets and their families. These returned vets have been back from Iraq for about three months. They were gathered at a two day meeting called a reunion during which they attended required briefings. These briefings were designed to assist them in the transition to civilian life. Family members were also invited so there were partners, a few children and parents all in attendance.

One of the encounters that touched me the most was with the mother of a vet who had been taking care of his children. She talked about the little things that had happened in her home since he returned and described some of the challenges she faced. "It's tough getting him to just sit. He's always wanting to make changes" and then she described a situation with his car.

His car had been sitting for over a year; it had been started regularly but that's not the same as being used everyday. She said he insisted he could fix the problem. It wouldn't start.

After spending two full days working on the car he agreed to take it to the shop. She talked about how hard it was to persuade him to take the car in for repairs. "He used to listen to my advice. Now he ignores me. Now he just doesn't talk."

After listening to her and understanding the challenges she is facing, I knew I could give her a little relief. There are many resources available for vets and their families. My job is to help her feel okay about reaching out to these resources. "Thanks for this number. I'll call them when I get a chance," she told me.

"Why not give them a call on Monday?" She smiled shyly and nodded as she walked away and I felt optimistic that this family would accept the support they deserve.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Rest & Recreation

It's time for me to get away. After the number of meltdowns to which I have been an active observer, I need to find a space where I can find some silence.
My yoga and sitting practices make it possible for me to continue to work with these clients, there comes a time when I need a space away from phones, car sounds and the phone. I a peace that is both internal and external. This type of break is essential to continuing to care for my clients.

I am able to remain calm and even quiet when a client in my office is traversing an emotionally overwhelming experience. I can feel their pain and I can validate them for the intensity of what they are feeling. And I must take care of myself so I can continue to offer that support.

I am searching for a spot where I can simply attend to my physical needs and allow my psychic health to be enhanced by quiet, good food and beautiful space. This location must also be within easy access by car. I may have found it. Now anticipating confirmation is part of my pleasure in planning for my essential break from work.

So I simply breathe and take care of myself.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

What Makes a Lie a Lie?

What makes a statement a lie? First there is the obvious - the information given is not accurate. The most frustrating lie though comes from information withheld. Figuring out the truth in a statement that is not factual is often easier than understanding what is accurate when the speaker has not responded completely.

I have been chewing on this topic for several days as I work with various degrees of accuracy I hear from my clients. How do I teach these individuals to communicate with integrity? I request accuracy; responses are factual and without judgment. No value assigned to information provided. I direct people to reframe statements so that they include only accurate details without judgment. Emotions can be a powerful influence on honesty.

To learn clear truthful communication, examine the following thoughts. What does it mean to be honest with yourself? How can you be truthful and care for yourself if you are always worrying about taking care of someone else? The only way to guarantee your own integrity is always to be accurate in communication with yourself. The place from which to initiate integrity for yourself is with yourself. We can't always depend on genuine honesty from other people, but we must be able to invest in the truths we tell ourselves.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Culture of Trauma

Trauma. It's a word, an event, an experience that creates overwhelming fear for your life or the life of someone dear to you. It might be a personal event so terrifying that you can't shake the fear even though it has ended. Trauma is unpredictable and frightening. It may be the fires here in Southern California or the horrors of the conflict in Iraq.

How do we live with these overwhelming feelings? What can we do to let go of the enotional intensity?

Breathe. First start with where you are. Ask yourself: "at this very moment, am I safe? Can I tolerate the place, physical and psychic space in which I find myself at this very moment?" This instruction and this question is the beginning of finding a moment of safety in this overwhelming world. Be present. Stay here. When your mind begins to move to the fearsome possibilities that are out there, bring yourself back to this very moment. Stay in this moment which is safe.

Breathe. Gently let your breath keep you in this safe moment and the gentle place in which you are now sitting. Breathe.