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With a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction degree (Goucher College, August 2014), I am looking at a new phase in my life. From 1992 to 2009, I served as Founding Executive Director of Miriam's House, a residence for homeless women living with AIDS. I left this position when Chronic Migraine Disease overtook my ability to do my job. Now I hope that a writing career will both accommodate the migraines and give me a creative, productive outlet. And soon, September 4, I will launch my Inkshares author page in a bid to hit the 1,000 pre-order goal in 90  days. The book I want to publish is "Nowhere Else I Want to Be," a memoir of ten of my years at Miriam's House.

06 July 2010

12JulyWEEK: So Where IS God in All of This?

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12 JULY:

* Today's post - "Letting Go"
* Reminds Me of the Time - "Blueberries, Victoria, and a Migraine"
* Resources - Web sites, etc for learning deep relaxation

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Letting Go

"Let go and let God."

Don't you just hate it when these sorts of platitudes are used as nothing more than Band-Aids tossed at a gaping wound by someone who cannot or will not stay with you and your pain even for a moment? The words feel dismissive and insensitive, and so at best they are meaningless, at worst, one more statement that makes you feel like your pain is somehow your fault. Which also makes it easier for the platitude-dropping other to go on her way undisturbed by you.

Yes, that sounds cynical. Yet, cynical or not, it is honestly the way I react to the casual instruction when I am in pain. Being an impulsive and often impatient person, what I really feel is the spasmodic twitching of my right hand as I restrain it from grasping and then heaving the nearest heavy object at the speaker: "LET THIS!" I grudgingly refrain, not out of some loving, altruistic regard for the one who is mouthing idiocies at me, but because it would take too much of a toll on the precious little energy I have in reserve. Therefore, I have learned not to allow these feelings to show. Certainly, I already know not to throw dictionaries; what I have learned is to cover over the hurt. It is far too exhausting to pick up the pieces of the broken friendship after an impulsive, angered reaction. It takes less energy and time to respond with my own ever-ready platitude ("Amen!") and leave.

When I have a migraine, I am hypersensitive to almost everything. (See Reminds Me of the Time, below.) In the hot weather, even the movement over my skin of the cooling breeze of a fan, the hum of the air conditioner, and the squeaking of my beloved little dog's favorite toy pluck my nerves. In this state, it is easy to pile nerve-wracker upon nerve-wracker until I am nervous and upset about being so nervous and upset.

So that is when I say to myself, "Let go. Let God."

No, I do not immediately arise and clock myself upside the head with a lead crystal vase. Coming from deep within my spirit with the feel of a warm and loving hand resting lightly on my forehead, this is no platitude - this is powerful spiritual wisdom. In the small space that it allows me, I can begin to let go of the nervous frustration and fear.

"Let go." I am reminded to breathe deeply and restfully.

"Let go." In the exhalation's release begins the nerves' release.

"Let go." Attention to the inhalation allows attention to the quieting of my mind.

"Let go." The relaxed motion of the diaphragm encourages deep relaxation in tense muscles.

"Let go." The space created by deep, calm breaths makes spacious the knotted energy around the pain.

"Let go." Quiet mind, quiet body.

"Let God."

** Next post: Letting God **

Reminds Me of the Time
Stories

The kitchen at Miriam's House gets really hot in the summertime. It's a fairly large space, but filled as it is with heat-producing motors - on the ice machine, the three-door refrigerator and the freezer - a 10-burner stove and two ovens, even several ceiling vents releasing an air-conditioned breeze cannot keep up. So on the July Sunday that I was making breakfast for the house and feeling a migraine coming on, I was struggling to maintain my composure.

"Hey, whatcha cookin'?" Victoria, whom I loved, and whom I knew also as a chronic complainer: that she was also hilariously funny - something you could easily see in her lop-sided grin - helped. Most of the time.

"Pancakes, bacon, home-fries, ..." I didn't even finish the list.

"Blueberry pancakes?"

I eyed her warily. "Well, no, Victoria, not this week." Uh, oh.

"You know that's my favorite. Last time you made them you didn't even make your blueberry syrup to go with them." Victoria never exactly pouted, but I have not known anyone who could so easily assume an expression of hurt betrayal. I studiously avoided looking at her face, knowing my patience was at gossamer strength. Luckily, the bacon needed tending, so unwillingness to look Victoria in the eyes wasn't added to the plain pancake affront.

"Blueberries are out of season, sweetie. And not all the residents like 'em, so I thought plain would be a good change."

"You said you'd make blueberry, remember? At the ER? When that guy took off his pants in front of you?"

"Good grief, Victoria, it wasn't in front of me, really, and how do you expect me to ..." Suddenly, the kitchen was swarmed by the residents who had been waiting for breakfast in the dining room and overheard the references to "took off his pants" and "in front of you".

"WHAT? Took his pants off in front of Miss Carol? Hahahahaha! When?" Interest in this juicy story made them deaf to my pleas to get out of the hot, crowded kitchen.

Victoria, an inveterate lover of attention, was in her element. "Rolls off his stretcher thing in the ER and stumbles around, like he don't know where he is. Drunk and ..."

It was my turn to interrupt. "GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN! How am I supposed to cook?"

As I rarely lost my temper - at least in front of the residents - six chastened women left in rather a hurry, surprised, I should guess, by my vehemence. I, of course, felt immediately guilty for shouting at them. I turned my frayed attention back to the bacon. The burning bacon.

Time for a deep breath, a sip of tea, a gathering of the shredded remnants of my patience. Victoria and her audience were huddled in the dining room for the highly dramatized (I had no doubt) denouement of the story as I went about trying to rescue the bacon. Great - plain pancakes and burned bacon for breakfast, AND I was hot and my head was starting to go. Could this morning get any more miserable?

At that moment, Victoria's voice rose above its stage whisper. I could hear it from where I stood at the stove and recognized in its tone the approach of the dramatic high point of the story. I had to giggle. It was a pretty funny story, and the way Victoria told it drew another giggle from me as well as a happily horrified gasp from the women around her:

"We saw it."


Resources for Deep Relaxaton

http://helpguide.org/mental/stress_relief_meditation_yoga_relaxation.htm - great site that explains deep relaxation, breathing techniques, and advises on ways to start a relaxation program while taking into account that many of us have busy lives

http://www.allaboutdepression.com/relax/ - Listen to audio recordings (uses quicktime)

There are plenty of audio CDs that teach deep relaxation and meditation: I found audio the best way to learn deep relaxation, because it is immediate and part of actual pratice (as opposed to reading a book then trying the technique). I use Amazon to see what's available and for an inexpensive way to try new recordings.

I'd love to hear from you: click the Comment link below or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com

9 comments:

  1. What a great story, Carol. I can relate so well -- even without adding migranes to the brew. Thank you for sharing this.

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  2. It's helpful to know that someone without migraines can relate - thanks for letting me know that, Rick.

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  3. William Marsh14 July, 2010 15:27

    Intersted in your reation to "casual" remarks. I found myself wondering about the context of the comments- from people who could actually be of assistance? acquaintances? Better they kept qyiet? What are your expectations of them?
    Your story telling ability is real gift. The kitchen scene could be taken from an award winning short story collection.
    Posted by your little brother.

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  4. Hey, Bill - I sure did make a judgement there, didn't I? What I meant to complain about, and seem not to have explained well, is the casual remark that seems intended to distance the other instead of bring us closer. So, you are right, it depends on context. The same phrase can mean very different things depending on who is saying and why. And I appreciate your assessment of the story - means a lot coming from you, also a writer.

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  5. William Marsh16 July, 2010 17:25

    ". . .distance the other. . ."

    Just finished a book by Slavoj Zizek called "Violence". He is interested in 3 forms of violence one of which is speech or the "subjective”. He defines it ". . . social domination reproduced in our habitual speech forms . . . its imposition of a certain universe of meaning. “

    The violence contained in the phrase so dismissively offered- as you cited in the blog- is indeed encapsulated in the physical pain you experience while the aggravation caused by the indifference or “distance of the other" amplifies the discomfort.

    What am I doing reading a book by an avowed Marxist/socialist? - trying to close the "distance with the other".

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  6. William Marsh17 July, 2010 08:38

    Just realized I am going way off the track on your blog. Pardon my excursion- I will stay on topic :)

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  7. No such thing! Love the excursion, which gave me much food for thought - want to talk with you about it. Keep those thoughts coming with no thought of "topic" etc. I just love to hear from you.

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  8. William A Marsh17 July, 2010 22:52

    I think there is an interesting tension conceptualizing "other" and "neighbor".

    Thinking of a person offering "Let go and let God" as cited in the blog. I think it is the "other" who uses language for distance (violence) and the "neighbor" who uses the words as a bridge- an anointment of words. I think that is where spirituality can heal- when the words are offered as a prayer, intersession becomes more than a abstraction- the surety of a neighbor giving of self, putting all else aside- is a balm like no other.

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  9. Wonderful phrase - "an annointment of words." And the concept of "neighbor" in juxtaposition with "other" - worthwhile to explore and reflect on. Thanks.

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