Thursday, December 8, 2016

Peace Inbetween

"We are fighters Jenn. We fight for what we believe in. Do we believe in us? In our joy? That's a life question...major. Because if the answer is yes..."
A necessary, if not selfish, line of thinking. I found that it led me to more questions, contemplating joy.

Seems that so much emotional focus over the years has surrounded recovery and healing... survival, confidence, self esteem, and learning how to breathe. Have I consciously chosen the pathway of joy or stumble upon it as a result of running away / perceived failure or neither?

It's as though I possess all the tools, knowledge, resources, and ability to be completely at peace and joyful... and yet, I can't quite figure it out... No, I don't really have reason to be anything but joyful, end of the day there's no great trauma or travesty done to me... an African coworker says, "what are you Americans depressed about? Because your life is hard? Please you don't have a reason to be depressed... come live in Africa then you'll see a reason". Although that may seem a bit simplistic and callous feeling, point taken. Yet there's not much sense in comparing journeys in such a way.

Still though, the age old unsettled feeling... the gut deep knowledge that I'm not at peace, not joyful... and I don't really know the way to get there. Like a shape shifter or mirage, it's just out of vision...just out of grasp. Some days it's simply a matter of focus, intentionally choosing the positive side of a coin...."just cut it out, stop being ridiculous" said sharply scolding to myself often does the trick, get out of our own way.

But the days when I know it's so much deeper.. through and through the core...days where the only solution is to curl up in a ball and disappear for a bit...when it feels completely plausible that there's simply a piece missing within, broken beyond repair.. I long to be rescued, some hand to write on the wall, a promise breath won't feel impossible... even as I scold myself for such self indulgence. Though I may become more self aware, cope better, and grow in these periods, still the real lasting stillness and peace and joy remain elusive.

Ever so slowly, I start to learn that the answer must lie somewhere in love...not the romantic sort, but the deep love for which there is no equal and comes only from a supernatural life-source. If we can somehow see that clearly...like a bright strand, a guide to follow... it can become sustaining and dependable, surely.

So then where does joy come into the picture... and how to become familiar, even friendly with such... can it be sought or simply gifted...

It's a bit easier to see images of joy...

...bright autumn leaves scattering in the wind...
gardens abundant with produce, warm soil welcoming new growth...
...the whimsical laugh of a child...
music...the Hallelujah Chorus of Handel's Messiah...
...greeting a beloved friend with a hug after time apart..
finishing a marathon alongside your sister...
...the stillness and majesty of clear starry nights..
a crackling of warm fireplace or campfire...
...witnessing the lives of loved ones..

-----------

I stepped away from the above writing for a few days, unsure of how to finish... not knowing where it led or what was the purpose.. frustrated with not being able to find the answers written above.  Stuck.. in between..

Since then, a small but completely priceless gift was given to me; wisdom shared by a God given friend. So simple, even common sense.. yet potentially life altering... freeing! It is this:

Peace comes only from within us, given by God. And more than that, if what feels like peace can be controlled by another person, then it cannot be peace.. but rather an illusion.

Not quite sure how I managed to live 31 years without truly realizing that. All I could determine is that peace was desperately longed for... sought, desired. But just like the above writing, I couldn't at all figure out the source... and felt torn between choosing two varieties of peace. But, where is the peace NOW? The peace that is totally controlled and dependent on You, not anyone else or any circumstance. Once I could define the real, the illusion became shockingly clear...showing itself to be false.

And this false peace controlled. Because I so desired and longed for peace when it was removed or taken away, I would feel choked...desperate...sick to my stomach...totally unable to breathe. Fighting for it became paramount, at all costs... or at all costs, avoid the chest crushing suffocation. What's that saying... I couldn't see the forest for all the trees...

One of the most favorite games to play with pre-school kids is the Monkey Game. In and of itself, it's not that exciting. Kids sing a nursery rhyme to "put the Monkey (ie me) to sleep", so they can sneak up and steal the bananas (rugby balls). If the monkey "wakes up", the kids have to freeze and "hide behind rocks", quickly crouching down until the monkey sleeps again.. once they get to the bananas, they must try to get back to their base. Simple enough. But what makes the game fantastic and memorable is the story line before the game commences.. oh such fun to make up traps and tricks to "make it tougher" for the kids to steal the bananas. There may be trap doors... invisible dinosaur guards... ice cream truck tricks... lasers... alligators... moats..  the list can be endless, each game building incrementally to more difficult.

At the end of each round, I am "shocked" and dismayed they've stolen the bananas... I ask, "how in the world did you get past so and so.. (whatever imaginary trap or trick I've created)". It's amazing to hear the way these kids have escaped the dragons and invisible lasers and moats... ranging from the hilarious to dark to common sense and back again. It never ceases to amaze me and their excitement level is contagious. If it's a new group of kids, they'll look at me suspiciously... guarded... the draw to imagination is powerful, it can be seen in their eyes... disbelief, yet innocence that believes adults. "Is that really real Coach Jenn?" some may ask... once they're quite sure I can be trusted, all suspicion leaves and they're all on-board for the imaginary game!

Kids are so interesting...nearly without fail, every child or group of children greet you for the first time with curious suspicion. You can see the doubt / question in their eyes... is this a friend?  One must provide an introduction... a reason for joining... a request to play... and draw attention to something in their world, like their shoes... say something absurd and silly, to get a giggle... It's like magic... suddenly the guarded eye leave, and you're in! Now.. an accepted guide in their world of games, learning, play, imagination.

Such a guide would be wonderful in life... pointing out the real, the illusion...trusted to walk through the journey. The natural radars and perceptions of our childhood often get distorted, twisted, biased, dulled, or dirtied over time... we lose our peace (or whatever our particular brand of struggle). A tattoo inked to my spine says, seek the wisdom of the ages but look at the world through the eyes of a child. Such a balance to find... realize... actualize...

Somewhere therein lies peace; unshakable and foundational peace. Though I can't be sure, it seems to be worthy of time...allow it to marinate, saturate us through and through.  And in the in-between... we wait for guidance, rest.
We may find, that it wasn't about us at all.


Sunday, July 17, 2016

Going [Somewhere] Fast

Many times lately I've taken "pen to paper", but feel everything is just a rehash at the end of the day. It gets crumbled and thrown in the trash, thoughts or experiences designated not significant enough to share. Just a day off a year ago, I wrote about falling down the rabbit hole. Hard to believe a year ago has gone by, not entirely sure where it went... what was accomplished... what I've learned... how life has changed.. 

A couple evenings ago, I experienced a first (and hopefully only) car accident with significant damage. Likely a large part of it was my fault, looking for a turn and not paying enough attention... slammed into a cargo van stopped in the road. Subsequently rear ended by a van also caught off guard with the sudden collision. It felt a little like getting punched.. the split second of realization that I'd wrecked, next thought followed "so that's how airbags react"...

About a month prior, as I turned away from de-escalating a patient .. he punched me in the cheek bone. As I walked down the hallway, I also thought "so that's how it feels to be punched in the face"... 

Neither one of the incidents feel particularly important or traumatic. Others experience more severe accidents and more common, undeserved beatings.. end of the day, I'm a little bruised and sore from both incidents.. but nothing a couple days rest and wine won't cure. So I am blessed, fortunate.  

Speaking of blessed....At the moment I find myself sitting in the emergency room, listening to a patient pray for me to be "let into the pearly gates" when I die, because he's decided I'm a "chosen one, so now I will do good things on the earth". Very nice of him, considering that I haven't been extremely nice ...and no matter that he's very  delusional and swings in / out of rational thinking, acting like a 5 year old and threatening every other word! Surreal to hear him preach what I've heard many times from sane men.

So this is part of where the year has gone, time in the hospital keeping my cynical side healthily supplied. Another part has gone to driving... Many hours and miles of driving, to and from New Jersey frequently. A very small but wonderful part went to a fantastic birthday trip in Los Angelos, where I had the honor of spending my 30th birthday. Another bit went to hours of training and supporting a very good friend. And at least a portion of drinking wine and eating sushi with the siblings occurred. But where did the rest of the time melt to..

I've paid off some long standing debt, realized the weight of cumbersome student loans, been blessed with income and hopefully lightened some others burden with gifts.  I reconciled with an old demon from my past, if one can truly reconcile with a demon. Realized that we reflect on our scars of old wounds..

Life-giving is a word on mind a lot. Taking a director and lead role at Impact, my long standing soccer and sport training company, has been the most life giving of activities in the last few months. Though it takes up a lot of my time, attention, and energy. I absolutely love it! I've found like minded people in the leadership, a style that fits with me, and a challenge big and intimidating enough to keep me motivated and interested. For the first time I've found something to invest in, to build upon and find value in .. Quite refreshing.

But.. No sleep occurs. And my family suffers, as I don't spend nearly enough time for those that love me unconditionally. And in worn out, drained quiet moments.. Or joyous ones.. I find myself feeling a good bit alone. Not a new feeling to be sure.

At times I feel like I'm strapped into some sort of device that's propelling me pelmel... A ride that I can't quite stop, even if I wanted to.. It's a great exhilarating experience, wonder if I'm missing things on the way..  incidences like the car accident remind me to slow down and learn to take care. Though I'm not real sure that'll happen. But thankfully the uncontrolled fall down the rabbit hole has stopped...replaced by a rather speedy train but at least I'm somewhat in control :)

So if that's the year in review...where's that leave the present, and the near future...and the long.

........
Driving too fast
Moon is breaking through her hair
She said it was something that she won't forget
Having no regrets is all that she really wants
We're only getting older baby
And I've been thinking about it lately
Does it ever drive you crazy
Just how fast the night changes?
Everything that you've ever dreamed of
Disappearing when you wake up
(One Direction - Night Changes)
.......
Though I can relate, it's not the changing that drives me so crazy... more the fear of stagnancy, the feeling of spinning my wheels. Think learning and growing happen, though little by little with this stubborn one...but at least I'm aware. Particularly learning about the greatness and joy and pain of unconditional love.. In weaker moments I think, "If I pulled a you on you, you wouldn't like that shit".. And honestly sometimes I wish for a rescue. 
But really, it's been a good year.. A more intentional one with some big decisions made, for good or bad. And I pray... that one day, everything that I've ever dreamed of...appearing when I wake up.  




Saturday, July 18, 2015

down the rabbit hole

"good enough"
A phrase loaded with questions, became such a pest in the last couple months. It nagged through the day, tormented at night...distracted at all times. Regardless of the situation or venue it seemed to present.

Not "good enough" degree to continue leading a team at work... really triggered a lot of insecurities and fears hidden deep inside. Although desired and loved, not chosen... although talented and experienced, not excellent... the age old fear of luke warm rather than hot or cold. It physically weighed heavy and tired. Though I'm not entirely sure how or when the nagging "good enough" phrase moved to the background (for it still lurks), I sense it's lack of power.

Encountering patients in the crisis center, provides needed refreshment on perspective..  a woman sits across from me reporting 13 years of heroin use, feeling tired of chasing the high, wanting to get to 10 years clean.... and she's currently 23 years old.  A handsome 24 year old young man, begs with pleading eyes for help on inpatient treatment after being released from prison. Every excuse and story in the book comes out of a 20 year old's mouth drug seeking. Tears cascade down their cheeks, desperation in their eyes, shaking and trembling in their legs...  and all of them choose to walk out the door, impatient for the fix.. unable to fight through the pain and wait to the treatment.

An eye doctor recently explained to me that our eyes are incredibly intelligent... but if they weren't quite so intelligent, we would be able to see better. So our eyes work in conjunction with one another - simulatenously seeing and focusing, without ability to work separately. If the right eye is strong and sees clearly, able to function independently without the left eye, then corrective lenses wouldn't be of need. However, because of the way our eyes are designed the left eye must "help" - therefore creating bad vision.

It seems that our bodies and minds plague us... through physical and psychological cravings for our chosen addiction... to the fears and doubts and concerns that rambage our mind...

My oldest and best friend recently said to me, "really no one is good enough, which in turn makes everyone enough or at least in the same field. Who of us, with all our flaws, could ever tell someone else they aren't good enough. We just have different strengths and weaknesses, some of those just appear worse than others... but who is to judge."  Wise words, though they take some time to soak into actualization..

In the meantime, it feels a little like a relatively controlled chosen fall down the rabbit hole!


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

pendulum courage

A pendulum; the inevitable swing of momentum. It behaves so predictably when balanced correctly....mesmerizing, maddening, monotonous. Each climax is matched with opposite but equal distance from the resting equilibrium point, with only a moment to pause before it repeats endlessly. It never rests, never stays still, never finds pause. The ceaseless rhythm is so innocent and well intentioned as it serves as a measurement of time passing. It's not stagnant, like the motionless counterpart who's content to rest in the same position day after day. But the swing of the pendulum is its own entrapment and prison, to be held captive to a single course yet never able to rest or enjoy...

And yet, a pendulum occurs when a weight is suspended from a pivot point and able to hang Freely. It's simply acting under the natural forces. Each period of the pendulum swing occurs because it is unrestrained, motivated only by the initial casting off. Over time proper pendulums will eventually slow, not able to reach such great heights. It is not a fault of their own, but rather the natural forces of friction or air drag. A metronome operates under the same idea, but adds an element of force that keeps the rhythm continual...not subject to natural laws that slow. Musicians and dancers are grateful for the constant reliable beat, though no doubt equally frustrated by the guide.

There's a certain comfort that lies within ritual and the predictable. People seek it in a variety of ways, healthy and unhealthy, ranging in extremes and levels of importance. Although a great deal of spontaneity may exist to counteract the mundane, it is still sought on any number of ways to provide stability.  Even an unhealthy/sinful/"bad" behavior may serve as a way of maintaining routine and ultimately control.  A formerly homeless man I've known for a few years drinks heavily, without hardly an interaction sober.  After being in a severe accident and living in a rehab facility for about 6 months, he confesses to using a small cup to drink water so he may imagine it's a shot of alcohol - his pivot point, the foundation of his pendulum...

And if we make our own inability a stumbling block or an excuse... (Oswald Chambers)
___________________

Although often I feel as though I'm continually "blessed" with an existential crisis, I don't often consider the pendulum of life - either in a constant state of movement or constant stillness. Its like, rather than viewing the glass half empty or half full, it seems the logical answer to me is "the glass is simply where it is".  I tend to be more in the moment, for good or bad (even though people close to me know I can get in my head at times). However, events of the last couple months have led to a bit of an unusual place....rather unsettling in how off base and nearly lost it feels. Frustrated after struggling again following a period of peace and centering, I confessed to a psychiatrist friend of mine that I feel compelled to pick between the two polar ends of the pendulum.  A feeling of finality seems to have leaked into my mindset....as though the pendulum may stop swinging and become fixed in one end of the spectrum...

Even a fixed point on the pendulum, regardless of where it lands, seems somewhat unwelcome... although I feel relatively weary of the constant swinging motion. Honestly, I'd like some rest.

And perhaps it's not the motion of the pendulum that's creating a feeling of unrest within me. Rather, a lack of trust in God to sustain and protect and love. A combination of professional and personal life happenings create a pretty strong reminder and feeling of being out of control. Regardless of how hard I work or hope or wish... at the end of the day the changes (for good or bad) are not within my ability to adjust. And quite simply, it feels as though the pendulum got kicked a bit... or a chain is threatening to stop the motion... or worse, the motion will continue always in the same course. Oddly enough, I yearn for a shift in the pendulum; a change of pivot point and foundation - a new equilibrium to hold center.

Don't let your heart be troubled....what is seen is temporary, what is unseen is eternal; fix your eyes on the unseen.

May we find Courage.



Friday, March 13, 2015

Live in Hope


While sitting at the bottom of a half pipe hand-made slide on a cool spring day, my little buddy Joseph yelled down from the top of the hill “you ready Miss Jenn?!”  With a smile I hollered back without looking, “yep buddy, go ahead!” After a moment’s hesitation, he says with a mix of annoyance and hesitation in his small voice “can you stand up miss jenn?!”  With a little chuckle, I moved from my rather comfortable position sitting sideways on the slide to stand at the requested spot – the bottom of the slide.  It was now my job to catch the little balls of playdo that would come bouncing and sliding down the halfpipe after he released them.  I smiled again as I heard him say to the balls “ready boys, ready…set…goooo!” and the balls were released from his tiny hands.  “Look at em go!  Oh Wow!”.  

Joseph absolutely loved balls.. specifically rolling balls down slides or inclines – making these out of anything he could find, from pillows and blankets, to cardboard, to skateboards.  But now, on this day, he had a huge awesome halfpipe slide – the ultimate favorite. I looked at his face smiling in delight and yet concentrating on the task before hand. In so many ways, this young man was finally owning his life and the world around him.  It was amazing to watch, knowing that a few short years ago he was non-verbal, screaming, kicking, and generally frustrated young man.  The present event at the church with games would have created an instant melt down even a year ago – too much stimuli, too overwhelming, too frustrating.  Now, Joseph’s little legs carried him excitedly around – a “social butterfly” his mom referred to him as now.  He exchanged hugs, high fives, punches, and words with young and old alike.  He was one of the more polite and innocent little 6 year olds with beautiful eyes and handsome face.  He seemed to contain a contagiousness and energy that people were drawn to.   

In a therapeutic role Joseph, I was his advocate, teacher, self conscience, guardian, boundary holder, and friend. Forgive the terribly corny pop culture reference, but "imprinting" from Twilight Series comes to mind.  The idea that you would be anything, do anything he/she needs. It is not dictated by selfishness, but the health of another. 

.....  

Years have melted away since this warm autumn day... feels as though another life. Indeed, sipping a tea latte in the quaint old town of Monrovia, far removed from my home in Philadelphia, the endless adventures with Joseph wander through my mind as stories from a familiar old book might. 

Lately, the idea of being centered and a solid object are highly present on my mind.  Perhaps Joseph comes to mind because it was during that time in my life when I first realized the absolute importance of these two concepts.  At the time, my life felt completely perplexing and dark and twisted and lost. But in working with Joseph (and other children on the autism spectrum) and the mobile crisis team, I found ability to remain stable. 

The essential idea of being a solid object is anchoring or foundation for a person who is Not, for whatever reason, able to be solid. To order for them to find stability and subsequent peace/resolution/healing, in their times of feeling ungrounded or fragile or not entirely whole. It's an incredibly useful and necessary tool for clinical work with people. While it seems a relatively natural state for me to be in a work relationship... I often felt unable to translate such a centered state within to my personal life... always feeling a good deal restless (see other posts). Thankfully in the last few years, concerted effort and loving family/friends and general aging have brought some growth in that arena. 

An extended trip to California brought a surprising amount of concern as to whether or not I could remain centered through the time. In ways, I've re-entered Joseph's world... although my three young cousins don't struggle with the issues related to the autism spectrum, they're experiencing a traumatic, scary, and difficult time.  Days spent with these three brilliant, talented, and genuine kids draw on every ounce of my capacities to be centered, brilliant, compassionate, loving, and wise as they pepper the world with endless questions.  I could write for pages about experiences with these lads, heart warming and humorous and amazing in recount... but that's perhaps for another time.

There's a particular similarity and connection with Joseph and my three young cousins...yet I can't quite put my finger on it exactly.  Perhaps it's the simple innocence and beauty of children, experiencing some injustice of the world. Their inner resilience is unparalleled.  In so many ways, they must scared and lost - feeling emotions not yet learned, unable to identify.  And yet... they seem to live in hope. Such a combination is seen in their eyes, felt in their spirits.

It humbles... amazes... challenges... 

Live in Hope. 






Sunday, October 12, 2014

eating and loving

It's been nearly a year since I've felt the ability to form words clearly enough to write... very often I feel intentional processing of thought is difficult. My mind, generally nimble at processing, feels blocked... numb... unable to form any sort of cohesive thoughts. It's just quiet. A good friend of mine wisely said, "sounds like a buildup of sorrow"... a more clinical word may be compassion fatigue. I've always stayed free and unhindered by such further stages of burn out, considering it to be a huge blessing and skill to maintain clearness of emotion through the most difficult, burdening times. But it seems I haven't escaped this time... I described it to my team as the weathering from ocean spray, which slowly and conspicuously accumulates over time. Though it's easy enough to clean off, the weathering continues.

The question of why is next... which I'm afraid to answer, afraid to voice.. even if I could. I do know that I haven't been able to pray since April. Though I may try, I just can't.. like a barrier exists. Just this morning, laying snuggled under warm sheets with a cool room, I finally thought.. I'm getting closer to being able to pray again. Hence why I'm writing here today, in an attempt to free and clear my mind by setting words down.  Even as I write, I think I'll delete this afterwards. But if you can, bear with me on some disjointed thoughts... I can't promise they'll be insightful, helpful, or unselfish. But they are genuine.

I heard last night that people who always feel slightly out of place, carry emotions strongly and deeply.. are often artists, because that's the only outlet to express. I'm not an artist, but I often feel like I was born with an existential crisis.  Maybe we all are... seeking the purpose and foundation of our lives. Some find it, but others like myself are always searching. The other day I decided that eating makes sense... we are hungry, therefore we eat to curb out appetite.  The other idea that makes sense and I choose to believe is true, is that we should love each other... as the second greatest commandment states.  These two things.... eating and love... I can get behind. Beyond that... I'm really not sure.

There's a client of mine, who passed away early this year...Rome was such a pain in the ass, so sexually inappropriate... so non-compliant with medications... so volatile.. really difficult to understand... in sooo much pain physically from chronic health issues.... so afraid to die... and so damned belligerent and stubbornly independent.  I really liked that man. The last day he was in our office space, so weak he couldn't get up and couldn't fight me on hospice placement any longer... he asked to see my ring, the one that a special little boy gave me years ago. Rome put the ring on his pinky finger, refusing to give it back.. grinning and winking, saying "now I've got your ring, so you have to come visit me".  He wore that ring every day... showing it to me as "proof" that I was his woman, when I introduced myself to residential staff as his case manager. Rome passed away quietly, wearing his stetson hat and suit... with the ring a little boy who saved my life years ago still on his finger. Really been missing that man... even though he's likely to blame for a lot of my emotional strain and weathering.

My team at work has experienced a death of a client every month for the last 6 months, with two back to back just this week. I don't so much get bothered by the deaths (not like I did with Rome) but it's wearing to be the bearer of sad news to my team, day in and day out it seems. Try as I might to soften, add compassion, perspective, support... loading them with a burden feels painful. I start to feel like the source of the pain, adding to the sense of need to withdraw myself.

There's a saying that to feel happy in relationships that there needs to be something like 7 good times to 1 bad time... for sure and certain there's the same need in our relationship with work; the small miracles and joys need to outweigh the heavy hard times... but this year, it's been the opposite... 7 bad to 1 good. And it's wearing. In this case, the odds are not in our favor.

But even with all the sorrow and frustrating times at work, it's not the source of my fatigue... it's perhaps the icing on the cake, or the tipping on the pile.. but definitely not the source.  Honestly I'm still trying to figure that out. Or too, maybe it doesn't matter. Shouldn't I be able to just smile and shake it off as I've always done?  And it's not that I can't see joy. in fact, laughter still comes easily, happiness and love are still felt, giddiness exists. It's just, when alone and quiet.... the heaviness settles. It can be felt and seen in my eyes.

It's not so much that I even seek an answer, because I'm certain I know it. If you haven't, please watch Chariots of Fire. Eric Liddell says in it, a race requires concentration of will, energy of soul...in the face of life's harsh unforgiving realities, it can seem impossibly hard. He also speaks to the answer referring to scripture that says, If with all your heart, you truly seek Me [Christ]... you shall ever surely find Me. If you commit yourself to the love of Christ, then that.. is how you run a straight race. And that's all fine and good... even though I'm not nearly as talented at running as Eric Liddell; I struggle a lot, literally and figuratively. Yet in and of myself, I can still live day to day functioning... working... accomplishing tasks and goals...a productive member of society. We can keep running straight and seeking... but then what?

There's no formula for winning the race, everyone runs in her own way or his own way... and where does the power come from, to see the race to its end? From within. But...what if we can't find the finish line? Running has been exhausting to me lately. I can't imagine how discouraging and hopeless it would feel to be running a race in the wrong direction, or getting lost, or not knowing where it ended at all! And that's how I feel.  I've been watching for the signs, took a trip to clear my mind, now I'm even more lost. I wonder what lab rats feel in their mazes... poor little fellows. If I could just see the point... the goal... the finish... the task to accomplish in my lifetime it would be a lot easier.

Meanwhile, it seems unreal that we're already feeling the cool weather of another autumn. As my 29th birthday approaches and I consider all the sentiments expressed above, I've decided maybe I'm getting old...which really isn't so bad. If nothing else, I've at least figured out that eating is important and loving others should be a primary objective!  What a silly old world...


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Giving the Time

Some time has passed since last writing... June feels ages ago, yet a blink of an eye. Though I could guess at the reasons, I am not entirely sure why such a quiet spell occurred. And despite sitting down to write tonight, I don't feel the words flowing quite as freely. The need to express and release thoughts into words seems to have ebbed and found other outlets.

But on the eve of this holiday packed with meals and travel and football, I find myself reflective. 
As I enjoy a quiet evening with Chinese food and basketball in a rainy cold Philadelphia home, my family gathers on the other side of the state to begin Thanksgiving festivities.

Historically, I don't hold particularly fond memories of Thanksgiving. As a child and adolescent it felt generally annoying with long car rides and intermingling of Christmas present giving. As an adult, the time surrounding the holiday of stuffing and giving of thanks became a chasm; a ravine into which I stumbled every year. Over the last half a decade or so, it represented the mark in a year that life slipped from control and beauty into chaos and darkness...seemingly against all protection and care. In a lot of ways, I've become superstitious of the time. The approaching weeks hold no small amount of apprehension and paranoia that some aspect of life will crumble in one way or another.

Dear friends of mine encourage new patterns and memories to be made, in effort to circumvent the ravine and chasm of Thanksgiving. Agreed!  So how to make changes and find new patterns?  Although I find comfort and therapy in the cooking and baking that surrounds the holiday, I don't love feeling stuffed by food.. and besides, the delicious cranberry sauce hurts my stomach! Introducing wine to the family dinner brought a fun little change, but the soft warmness of wine leaves too soon. Of course, time with family and friends is delightful, though it can be accompanied by conflict and remind of once held dear, but now lost.  And besides, the best laid plans and preparation seem to be irrelevant. How does one cross to the other side of the chasm untainted and unmarked?

A couple mornings ago, laying in bed watching the room lighten with the coming dawn... I was bemoaning quietly yet another year where Thanksgiving seemed to usher in events and situations I certainly wasn't thankful about! Despite the frustration and sadness, as well as discouragement, that accompanied... I realized suddenly that my stomach and chest did not hurt.  I didn't feel like an elephant was crushing into my lungs and ribs.  I didn't feel like some small minions (probably the purple ones from Despicable Me 2) were attempting to shovel out my stomach with spoons.  Amazingly, I didn't physically hurt! The realization brought tears of thanks...

Leading up to this fall and Thanksgiving, I prayed (more like begged on bended knee) that I would be shown mercy and protection; that no matter what I would be spared the physical aching pain in stomach and chest that generally accompanies the end of November. It didn't seem like I could bear such feelings again. And to be shown such grace astonished me... in a way I keep waiting for the pain to come, not entirely trusting the relief but glad while it remains.

Around the same time, this phrase came to mind and has stuck with me.... "If two people love each other, but they just can't seem to get it together... when do you get to that point where enough is enough?"  Although this statement and question are obviously speaking about a romantic or intimate relationship between people, it feels relevant to my struggle over the years with Thanksgiving. If I, or we, choose to live in the world and be guided by the greatest commandment of love, is there ever a time that we can get to the point where enough is enough?

Sure, everyone has a breaking point and "deal breakers" exist. But for the first time, I find myself believing that the answer to that question is not only true, but possible. When love is involved, when do you get to that point where enough is enough?  Never.

I've no idea what lesson there is to learn from repeated pain and hurt and loss at a time where the rest of the world seems to be thankful and abundantly joyous. (Or any repeated pain and seeming lack of relief to a pain felt again and again). I could choose to lay on my back in the middle of the sidewalk, raise my legs to the air, tuck my hands under my head, and scream incessantly up into the heavens! In Philadelphia, this may result in an involuntary admission to a psychiatric unit.... and though it would provide an interesting experience, it certainly wouldn't fill the chasm. And moreover, it would not bring answer or relief..

So I'm left wondering, If there is no way to fill the ravine... no way to build a bridge... no ability to fly or teleport across... could there at least be strength to journey through it, time and time again? And if ruled by love; if sustained by the Greatest Lover of all, would I not willingly and courageously approach the chasm over and over? ...only time can tell, but I certainly hope the answer is yes.

A great man reminded me once that courage and bravery is facing a situation that is feared and hated, but choosing to walk through it never the less. Despite the grace of no physical pain... despite the growth in spiritual journey over the year... despite the willingness to journey and the realization of a sustainer... stepping into the time fault line, knowing that it may exist for years, yet causes me pause. May I always choose to step, trusting and giving the time to the Great Sustainer. .