Tuesday, March 18, 2008

early morning thoughts

It's early morning and it feels like I'm the only one awake on the planet. It always feels more intense at this time of year when the outdoors (which I can see out the window from where I'm sitting) looks so damn foreboding and COLD with all the chunks of snow piled up along the street. Even though I live in a neighbourhood, I find that late winter produces a feeling of isolation, which drives a sense of melancholy. Writing is a warming antedote for capturing the essence of aloneness on so many levels. It helps unravel the intrusively overlapping thoughts which always seem to visit during these times. Coupled with the miracle of the internet and blogging, writing offers an open door to step through and into a venue of sharing. I may be sitting here alone, with only the fridge hum, the ticking heater and the occasional snore from my dog to keep me grounded, but I can switch on my computer, open up my blog and touch fingertips with many smiling fingertips out there.

I like that. Melancholy can feel like a blanketing of woe, but it can also be a motivating channel which pushes a desire to capture its essence. Though I may feel alone and tiny in this vast world right now, I recognize that I can make the best of the silent stillness or it can make the best of me. My choice. This morning, I choose to harness the feelings circling in my system as a jumping off point for writing and thinking. Besides, if I allow myself to feel these feelings in the early morning hours, I am left with a deeper understanding of the human condition I share with everyone else. We all have been there whether we conciously recognize it or not. So, here I am feeling a little bit more connected already, and my creative juices are humming more than they have in a long time.

I have been on the road lately visiting people in their homes and have heard some heart wrenching and compelling stories. I've also met with individuals in my office recently whose personal stories have scraped at my soul. This is what I do as a counsellor. This is what moves me and drives my raison d'etre. Sometimes their sorrow and pain fills a room. Sometimes their life journey is wracked with such brutal unfairness at every single step along the way that it's difficult to know where to begin to help them figure it out.

We all have burdens loaded up on our backs and shoulders which are added to by life and what it throws at us. Some of the burdens are heaped up there by our own doing as well......by the choices, sometimes impulsive in nature, we make. In the long run? It doesn't matter. Once the burden is felt, it's there. It just seems like there are some people who seem to have to carry a heavier load than others. Why is that?

Often, on the way back to my office with my music playing and the scenery rushing by I process what I have just heard and experienced personally having had the honour to meet and to hear some of another human being's trauma, I get stuck in the thoughts...........how have they managed to keep it together as well as they have? How much more can they handle? Would I ever be a resiliently strong? Why do bad things happen to good people?

Once I have rambled through the anger I feel for the unfairness of the uneven suffering, I usually find my thoughts end up leading me to wondering what in the hell do I do now? What is my role in helping? What can I take on.........what needs to be shared and with whom?.......... who else needs to be involved?..........and why in God's name can't people be nicer to one another?? Usually a plan is hatched by the time I reach my office, or at least a first step. Sometimes I will seek out a kindred colleague just to simply blab out the story as a way to think it through, but mostly as a way to share the load. I can't imagine counselling without that outlet. It would be way too hard on the head and heart to keep it all in.

I am not at liberty to share most of what I hear or experience when I'm meeting with someone in need of counselling. That's the cardinal rule of course. When I have shared some of those stories on my blog, I usually mesh a few together. The facts are real, but the character is created. The majority of what I hear and what I am doing to help someone will never see the light of day on this medium. However, I share with my colleagues and they with me, and I often have to write up the specifics of what I've been told as a way to help them obtain my assistance from an unrelentingly rigid system. My writing skills come in handy offline too. Human stories put to words can't be ignored.

So often I end up sitting at the computer writing about optimism and hope. It's my nature, thank God. But, usually I end up there after I have had a chance to process the day through other avenues, which frees me up to write on topics which to some may seem light and fluffy. However, I don't see it that way. In fact, writing about uplifting topics, or posting photos of a what I have seen on a walk during a lunch hour? You can be assured that it is what I have been doing to find some much needed balance in my soul. My latest post of photos for example? That little lunchtime excursion lifted me up and out of the seriousness of my day. And while I was clicking those pictures, I was absolutely clearing my head that at the time seemed filled to the rafters with too much to handle.

I believe that one of the prime gifts I have been offered through the work I do as a counsellor is that I have been allowed to experience depths of feelings of pain, sorrow and grief through helping others. Because of this, when I write about the flip side of life..........it comes from as deep a well. I have learned to feel joy with a deeper sense of gratitude than I think I would have known had I not chosen this field. I should also point out that I believe the people I meet with can as well because of their own life experiences. Despite the fact that for the most part our lives cross paths because of the hellish situation they are enduring, I often find myself in conversations with them where beautiful joyful stories are shared as well.

This is the gift. The range is wide, and I'm grateful. Emotions drive our lives and fill it with multi sensory magic.

Writing lifts me out of melancholy. It is an avenue I use as therapy, and as a way to sit in a place of aloneness and stillness in the comfort of knowing I can feel the touch of others who happen by. Writing in the early morning when all are still slumbering? It is my opportunity of inhaling the spirit.......the breath of faith found in the holy space of silence. I used to be afraid of melancholy. I used to be afraid of being alone with my thoughts. Now, and I think this has been nurtured by the individuals who have felt safe to share their stories with me, I am not afraid to feel and to reach out in the quiet dawn to a hand I cannot hold, but a hand I know is always there cupping my tears of both joy and sorrow.

ps. I've been writing now for about an hour and a half and I'm left feeling good about what I've written. It may not be as linear as I would like, but it feels like the most open hearted piece I've let flow in a long time. ahhhh...... Dawn is about to show it's splendid colours. I can see the line of beautiful orange just above the horizon. It's morning and it's a new day. Before I wake my sleeping family, I will make myself another cup of tea and stand by my livingroom window and watch it unfold. I'm ready to take it all on again, whatever is tossed my way today. Make the most of yours OK? Share your human touch. God is one of us....trying to make His way home....... :)


Rainbow dreams said...

I like your early morning thoughts Dana. When people invite us in and share their real life struggles it really does stretch the spectrum of feeling... I miss that at times although I still get it to a degree where I am... it keeps me grounded and real and appreciative and helps to not lose touch with what is really important...
Not sure I'd want to be making my way on the road in that snow though!
Beautiful sunrise

Baby-Sweet-Pea said...

Your post this morning was amazing...as always. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for letting me experience a little piece of your world.

Mark said...

I think that in many ways what you see does not seem fair. I think it is important to not question why someone has so much burden or if they can handle it as much as it is to realize that what to us seems like a limited time and a time that is not fair to everyone that this is but one leg of our journey and that we are all on different levels of our journey. What is fair? We don't know, because we can only see this part of the journey and we cannot see what was before this or what lies beyond this time.
You are so blessed to be able to interact with so many. They are equally blessed to have you in their life. For so many you are the angel that they pray for!
True, we must treat each other as if, one or all of us our God.
Thanks for sharing so much!

Sherry said...

I add my thanks, Dana, to those who have commented above, for this "most open hearted piece".

Though few of us are counselors, we ALL can stop & listen, really listen to someone's story. A simple gesture, or small act of kindness may not lift burdens, but they can often ease the pressure.

Because individuals matter, each human story matters. I like the way you put it - "Human stories put to word can't be ignored".

Thanks, once again!

Awareness said...

Katie...thanks. It was a wonderful flow of thoughts this morning. It felt good. I agree with you, the stories and conversations I have during my work day especially keeps me grounded too.

I had a chat with a friend this afternoon who has recently retired from the frontlines. Our conversation at one point led to the realization that there are so many people out there who keep their heads in the sand and refuse to hear or recognize the realities of other people's lives. It's so hurtful and unhelpful.
As far as the snow goes (today, can't predict the upcoming days!!) it's off to the side of the roads. In fact the driving is very good......the roads are dry except for the puddles forming from things melting. Unfortunately, there is a blizzard happening in Cape Breton and Newfoundland today......complete shutdown of the area!!! Heaven help them..... :) They're used to it though, and they are pretty resilient people.

Baby SP....I'm so glad you're reading and leaving me feedback. You live in the area? Maybe one day our life paths will cross.....or has it already?? :)

Mark....I heartily agree. The fairness and the burdens are not the place to be hanging around wallowing.....life is tremendously complicated and unfair for many. That's a given. What to do about it, and how to help is where we need to focus our love and attention on.

I have been reading some thoughts from Viktor Frankl recently.....he wrote Man's Search for Meaning.....about his stuggles and survival in a concentration camp. His insights into the suffering and strength shown in the face of tragic adveristy is truly inspirational. Here is one gem which I actually shared with an inidividual last week after he shared what can only be described as a childhood of torture....
"We who lived in concentration camps remember those who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a person but the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances - to choose one's own way.

The conversation turned right away once this man I was with realized that another person who had suffered as much as he was writing about the freedom to choose.....the freedom to choose to forgive, let go, move on, survive.....to make a healthy decision to respond differently to the horrendous abuse he had endured. I gave him the quote along with a couple of others, and a journal and a handful of pens and suggested it was time to write his own story one thought at at time.
Today when I returned to my office, there was a very upbeat sounding man on the other end of a voice mail.........he sounded completely different. He had called to thank me for all that I did.
We'll see if he can figure out how to get unstuck and how to reconnect with his community. He has a very long road ahead, but I heard hope in his voice. That is AMAZING!!!

Sherry....YOu are so right. No matter what we do, or who we are, we have the ability to make a huge difference in the daily lives of others. What I love about the Maritimes is the openness of others. All you have to do is strike up a conversation about the weather for God's sake and all of a sudden, you're into something big and deep and wonderful.....You may be late for work, but does it matter in the big scheme of things.

Here's another quote from Frankl.... "Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innnermost core of his personality." I'm not promoting group hugs on Main Street.......
We can show "love" by simply looking someone in the eyes with a smile, right?

Charles LeBlanc said...

Great story...With my ADHD I read the whole story.

Good stuff!!!!

The public should know more of these sad stories but that darn privacy act!!!!

By the way? You made the blog. < I know you saw it today! >


Gypsy said...

Dearest Dana
I have the utmost admiration and respect for the work you do with people who are less fortunate than most and the open hearted assistance you always lend them. It would not be an easy occupation but then I guess the rewards must be miraculous when you realise you have made such a difference in someone's life. Can there be any better reward in life than that?

Awareness said...

Thank you Charles. As you know, some of the seeds that helped this post grow were sown during our conversation at the Stew and Brew.

Gypsy...the rewards and the life lesson learning are immeasurable. Though the system is very rigid and consequently very frustrating to work within, it has always been the connections i make along the way that have made it possible to keep my sanity. Unfortunately, I am seriously searching for a way out because of the toxicity of the place. It's taking it's toll on me.
I don't know where i will end up, but chances are it won't be in the counselling field. However, my plan is to secure something else, and then hang out my own "shingle" so to speak and return to counselling on my own terms.

Charles LeBlanc said...

Hey sneaky blogger???



Awareness said...

charles.......i got off on a tangent with my writing and didn't post them. yours were so much nicer! WOW!!