Saturday, December 5, 2009

Holidays Can Hurt

There is an irony about the holidays that many of us find difficult to acknowledge. After all, this is a joyous time; it is not an occasion for allowing one's past or present emotional scars to resurface or to reopen. So, many of us smooth on a heavy layer of denial salve or repress the wounds with strongly bound emotional bandages. And for the few of us who are willing to let the voices dancing around in our heads about the discomfort and anxiety of the holidays come through, it is still an emotional tug-of-war about whether or not to talk about it to anyone. Let's get it out in the open once and for all. There is absolutely nothing wrong in admitting "holidays can hurt."

During the holiday season, many of us find that we are required to be somebody that we really do not want to be or cannot be. Because of social expectations, family traditions, or societal norms, we put on a false persona, or a front. When we do this, we negate our real selves (our authentic selves) and we do not honor our own truths. This is self-devaluing and it breeds bitterness and resentment. Understanding that we must navigate in a world of respect and dignity towards others, I am not suggesting that we unleash our innermost injuries onto others. What I am suggesting is that we take some personal time, each day or whenever we feel the need, to be honest with ourselves about our feelings. If we are sad, admit it. If we are angry, say it. If we are wounded, write about it. While we are doing this, we also need to give ourselves some private time for meaningful reflection, meditation or prayer. When we are ready, we need to release our hurts. Let them go, a little at a time. But, let them go.

Also, it is during the holidays when emotions which are normally contained become easily triggered. Although there are many reasons for this, one simple reason stands out - holidays are filled with memories, good and bad. While it is important to honor our truths and our perspectives, it is equally important to weigh the amount of time and energy we are putting into our pasts, especially if the memories are painful and injurious. While we cannot change the past, we do have control over how much control it has over us. If there is any good to ponder, spend time recalling those times, either privately or with trusted individuals. If there are only painful recollections, we need to honor our truths briefly and again, release their hold on us. If we are revisited by them, let them go again. And again.

Wellness tip: The holidays can hurt. However, how we choose to acknowledge that and how we take care of ourselves in the process can and will alter our experience. We can navigate them with a bitter and hardened heart, or we can embrace them with a well and whole sense of being.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The long road of bitterness

Jake sits perched upon a large mound of smooth rocks, separated and detached from family members who gather in a half circle on the level dirt mountain ridge below him. Although Jake is a strong man in his late sixties, looking up at him now he appears to be withered, worn, and weakened by his own betrayals in life. As he awaits the commencement of his father's memorial gathering, he readies himself to strike.

Before the scattering of the ashes, family members step forward to share personal stories and meaningful memories of a father, a grandfather, and a great-grandfather. Suddenly, the warmth and comfort of the moment is shattered by the piercing squawk from up above. A constant flow of venomous verbiage floods the open space silencing the words of praise and promise. An eruption of years filled with resentment, bitterness, and blame flame the air and filter through the massive shrubs that surround the family.

Everyone is stunned. There is no weapon strong enough to stand up against Jake's shield of anger. He is right; the family is wrong. Jake never leaves his perch; he never wavers from his position. As he awaits for the affirmation of his victimization; no one offers it. Jake remains alone, accompanied only by his self-pity.

Although family members are quieted by the dominance hovering over them, an invisible bond of understanding starts to form among them. With loving gazes, hands touching arms, and gentle movements guiding one another, the family connects in their loving remembrance. Each one respects the road that the other has traveled in relationship to the man who is being honored. As family members lower their heads in prayer, they are brought together in life, in love, and in loyalty.

As the memorial concludes, an empty awkwardness replaces the preceding moments of closeness. Each family member disconnects further from the tortured soul towering over them. Each one realizes that Jake's path has been different and difficult. But each one's unwavering understanding now turns to a resigned disregard.

The family will continue to make their way down a better road, a road of healing and of a more well place of being. Jake,on the other hand, will continue to travel down a lonely, destructive path. It is a choice he makes every day, and he chooses to blame. Jake allows his betrayal experiences to keep him bound as he drags himself down the long road of bitterness.

Wellness tip: Each one of us has the opportunity to "right being wronged". If we wait for someone or something else to do it for us, we remain in a state of bondage to that other person or thing, and we rob ourselves of the healing experience to reclaim our rightful sense of being.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Birthday Reminder

Meredith was regretting her upcoming birthday. It was a day that signaled all that was still left undone and all the she had yet to accomplish. Most significantly, it would be a reminder that it was the start of another year without a partner, someone with whom she deeply desired to share her life. And there really was no one else to blame for that, just herself. With the economy taking a downward fall, Meredith has immersed herself into her work. She took on extra jobs and clients in order to pay bills, to make up for the loss in her 401K, and still to set a savings aside for emergencies and such. Not the work, nor the bills, nor the continual bad news would slow the arrival of her dreaded day - her 60th birthday.

Meredith arranged to take a few days off to visit one of her sisters. After a hectic week at work, she flew to the serene mountain surroundings of family who loved her dearly. Time with them would ease the momentous occasion and all that it signified. Meredith cherished the warmth and comfort that her sister's family provided, filling in the spaces left void by time alone.

On her second full day amidst the serene beauty that nurtured her, Meredith prepared for a family luncheon to officially commemorate her day. At around 11:30 am, other guests started arriving. One by one, special long time friends entered the home. Flying in from and driving from far away places, these loyal women came to honor their friend. Nothing would keep them away. As each one came through the entry way to surprise their beloved friend, Meredith felt her heart swell leaving the void just a little less empty.

Over the course of the afternoon, the house was filled with laughter, love, and large amounts of delicious foods. During the luncheon, each woman took a turn reflecting on her relationship to Meredith, from its inception to its present day standing. Words of respect, admiration, and of unconditional regard towards one another reverberated throughout the dozen or so messages. During the gift giving, it was clear that each woman created a present filled with personal meaning and heartfelt treasure. Meredith's sisters and a close family friend put together a musical skit which highlighted their "growing up years". Every one's tummies ached from laughing, not just at the words but at the talent before them.

The afternoon lingered on with a warm coziness filling the room. No one wanted it to end. As Meredith dried the tears from her face and looked around at her circle of longtime companions, she realized how full her life was. The ache inside her melted away, replaced with gratitude and blessing.

This 60th birthday indeed took on new meaning. No longer was it a reminder of what Meredith didn't have or hadn't done; it was a birthday to celebrate loyalty and love. She had them both in abundance. What a perfect day.

Wellness tip: When you are having a difficult day or going through a hard time, find comfort in being with those who treat you with love and respect. Allow their presence to lift you up.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Family United

Patty's family is not unlike many families in the valley, or even throughout the state. She is working a full time job trying to keep the family afloat. Due to an injury on the job, Bill, Patty's husband, is on the disability. Two weeks ago, one of their three grown children moved in with Patty and Bill. After being laid off from his construction job and unable to find work anywhere, their son, Brett, humbly moved his wife and two small children into his childhood home.

Although Patty is not one to complain, having four more people in the house to care for was a bit overwhelming. In addition to the added housework, increased food bills, and diminished lack of privacy, Patty wasn't sure if the family could get past the hurt and bitterness of Brett's sudden departure from the family home years previously. Brett's teen years of rebellion, drug experimentation, and complete irresponsibility had taken their toll on both Patty and Bill. It wasn't until Brett married and started a family of his own that Patty and Bill found some common ground on which to build a new relationship. Still, the tension was in the air even though no one spoke of it.

At a community play over the past weekend, a friend of Patty's bumped into her. They actually ended up sitting next to one another. It didn't take long to catch up, both filling the other in on all the changes in their lives. Both were experiencing the stresses and strains of the broken economy, of unwanted changes, and of untimely sacrifices. As Patty began sharing the story of Brett moving home, she found herself smiling, even laughing.

Patty described how all six of them, even the little ones, had settled into a comfortable routine. Brett was outlooking for work every day and finding odd jobs here and there. His wife was up early each morning feeding the kids and getting Patty's breakfast and lunch ready. When Patty got home from work, the house was clean and dinner was on the table. Patty started to chuckle. She described how the children, ages one and three, were sharing a bedroom. Just a couple of nights ago, after everyone was asleep, they all heard a loud thump, a small cry, and then giggling. As the adults all raced to the children's bedroom, what they found was precious. The one year old had learned how to get out of her crib, drop to the floor, and climb in bed with her sweet brother. Telling the story, Patty felt her heart swell with joy while her friend handed her a tissue.

As the lights dimmed and the music began, Patty wiped the tears from her eyes. Difficult times had brought about imposed change. A family united was reaping the rewards.

Wellness tip: Economic hardship is hitting us all. Seek to find ways to move through it with grace and dignity. And, ask for help. Allow others to do so.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Do You Know Betrayal?

There is not a day that goes by without someone, somewhere experiencing betrayal. We cannot pick up a newspaper or magazine, turn on the Internet or the TV, or listen to our friends, family, or colleagues without witnessing the aftermath of betrayal's forces. Whether the devastation is financial, relational, physical, emotional, professional or even environmental, none of us is immune to its boundless infectious impact on our lives.

Most of us navigate through the storm, somehow and someway. Most of us are told to forgive, to move on, and to trust again. Most of us are told "to give it time" and it will heal. We do the best we can, but most of us are never quite the same. We feel less than, we have less than, we "are" less than we were before the betrayal.

Can you relate to any of what I am suggesting? Have you known or do you know betrayal? Have you struggled to move through it and past it? Have you been scarred by its acquaintance?

I want you to know that it is my passion and my mission to reach out to others struggling through betrayal issues of all kinds. I have been interested in this topic for over six years and have authored a book -Breaking Through Betrayal: And Recovering the Peace Within (fall 2009). The driving force behind writing this book is to bring release, relief, and renewal from the bonds of betrayal.

The purpose of this blog is to bring encouragement and hope for those of you whose lives have been re-landscaped by betrayal's cyclone. The damage can be arrested and repaired; room can be made for new growth; and we can reclaim our rightful sense of self.

"I believe, know, and trust that wellness awaits each of us. We choose the time."
Holli Kenley, M.A., MFT

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