So Low that Down is Up

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In an odd sort of way, this day I look forward to annually…December 21st.  I’ve blogged about it before…here in 2008, here in 2009here in 2010, and here in 2011.

It’s the day that is the symbol for me of relief…when something has reached it’s extreme and after that it can only get better

Because today is the day when the darkness in Winnipeg is at an year long high.

Tomorrow will be more sunshine…and the day after, and the day after that.j

It’s doesn’t get any darker after today…and I LOVE that.

So, on this, my annual, “So-low-that-down-is-up” day, I’ve got a couple of things on my mind that don’t all meld into one tidy theme…but the all relate to the theme of waiting for hope in the darkness.

1. My car got broken into

Sigh…yuck.

And worst…my fault.

I came home yesterday from grocery shopping and a friend who had been away for some months knocked on my car window as I was focused on checking my phone…scared the be-geebies outta me.  L had been running by and saw me pull up. I leaped outta the car to give him a warm embrace, and we chatted about his school and his adventures before he continued on and I shlepped in my groceries.  I was so busy reflecting on the delight in seeing L and what a lovely surprise it had been, that I neglected to lock the doors when I was finished unloading the groceries.

Leaving a car unlocked is an invitation…and someone accepted my invite. I woke up to the news this morning.

I’ll have to do a more thorough inventory when I’m not in a rush…but they may not even have taken anything…but the feeling of violation is present…someone was in my space, going through my things, tossing them this way and that.

And I have to fight this wierd spiral of feeling of blaming myself for the joy I had with seeing L.  The joy distracted me and I made myself vulnerable to be hurt.

And so then I tell myself that the way to make sure it doesn’t happen again is to stay focused and not to be so present in the fun moments when I have responsibiliites to take care of. ( i.e. “You shouldn’t have been enjoying reflecting on the chance encounter so much…if you had been thinking about the car just then, you would have locked it”)

And I risk pushing away the light in my life in an effort to save myself from some of the darkness.

Yeah, I didn’t think that made much sense either.

Do you do that too?

2. Growing has its bumps

So, by now you’ve met Espy, if you’re a regular reader.  We’ve enjoyed her…and now her incredible three enormously huge blooms.
Espy, our flower of hope, has beautiful blooms which are gorgeous, but the heaviness of them had implications.

And now a brief interlude of family therapy theory: As a therapist, I’m very “systems” oriented…the belief that when something changes, it will affect other parts of that system and there is an inevitable response.  And part of systems theory has us know that systems actually resist change, and so when one part changes, the other parts will react in a way that resists or rebels  against that change…and works to have that changing part change back. It’s often not a malicious thing…more like a “slipping back into the ruts cuz it feels there’s no other way” thing.

So, even when you grow into something lovely and beautiful and good, the consequences on the rest of the system can be significant, and the price high.

Espy knows all of this first hand.  Espy got top heavy with her beautiful big blooms sixty centimetres above the bulb…She’s four times higher than the pot is high, and twice as wide.

The “system” as a whole couldn’t handle all of the voluptuous growth…and she toppled over.

It happened in the evening and that night Sabrina warned me in an email we’d need to vacuum the next morning…but they propped her up the best they could. Melanie added extra dirt on top to try to stabalize her in the pot.

Yeah right

that just gave us more to vacuum up the next time she toppled over.

So, by now, she’d turfed it twice.

(And by now, Sabrina, Roshonna and Melanie were taking bets on which angle I would take when I wrote about this on this here blog. Soooo…tell us, did any of you get it right?  I get gently mocked on a regular basis for being a metaphor queen and they certainly didn’t miss this opportunity to create some office giggles, fully expecting the fall to make it to the blog!)

I’m stubborn…and we’d waited too long to enjoy Espy and her blooms, and I was not going to let this top-heavy problem get the best of us.  We were going to have to facilitate adjustments in the rest of the system to allow her to continue to strut her beauty around the office…so we got creative:

Espy fell on the floor when the rest of the system couldn

So…it works.

She’s good.  And able to bloom in comfort.

And we gave the rest of the system the support it needed to tolerate the adjustments.

Some of you know what Espy has been through…

You’ve been to therapy.  You grew, you “blossomed” even…and the people around you resisted it, cuz

 

  • you were drawing boundaries and not letting them take advantage of you.
  • you were going to bed at a proper time and exercising regularly which cut into the time you would normally do ____ for them
  • you stayed calm and grounded in a conversation instead of following the normal pattern of joining in the fight and getting nasty which let them get off on topics of accusation instead of dealing with your original concern…and while, in the end, that’s more effective…in the short run, it is powerfully disconcerting for the other
  • you stay calm and persistent and speak up for yourself…it means that they don’t always get to pick the movie or the restaurant…(which enriches the relationship, but requires concessions on some evenings)

When one part of the system gets healthier and emerges out of the darkness, the rest of the system reacts in genuine pain and discomfort and practical dilemmas that pull powerfully back from the light.  Folks who crawl out of darkness often find the people they care about most (often unconsciously) acting in ways that seem to call for sinking back into the darkness away from the light.

 

Growth out of darkness often isn’t easy, huh?

3.  Darkness strategies

I’m a firm believer of looking for the candle in the darkness.
We have a choice in how we fill our lives: to look at the overwhelming darkness or to marvel at the startling effect of a single flame of light and also revel in the noticing

The darkness is dark.  I spend much of my days as a therapist gently encouraging people to acknowledge and look at the darkness…that to do so won’t kill them.  To look at the darkness and to face it, to hold space and sit in the darkness often, paradoxically, brings relief…when the alternative has been to spend much energy pretending it’s not dark or forcing the darkness away or distracting yourself from the darkness with overspending, overworking, overgambling, or over_____ (which, frankly, usually doesn’t work all that well).

It’s important to acknowledge the darkness…but I think it’s important to do so from a position of wholeness–of perspective.  Even in the midst of darkness there are often moments of kindness, a soft touch, a gentle word, a silly giggle…that doesn’t remove the darkness, but has the “holding place for it, and the sitting in it” tolerable. Being in darkness takes energy and spurts of light gives energy to honor the darkness and discover its lessons, gain its wisdom, and to allow it to fade into light over time. To hold capacity for pain and discomfort is a skill that many of us lack.

Finding the single flames of light while in darkness gives us a sense of resilience to be able to do “hard”.  Darkness is hard, and to find a way to be in a dark space means being able to find strategies to tolerate “hard”.  Gratitude, noticing the beauty in the ordinary, being very present in the moment are resilience strategies by noticing the light in one’s life.

That’s why, during this season of darkness, as we wait for the light to slowly return, I look for it where I can find it and revel in it.

Hoping you find slivers of light in your life’s darkness today

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