Tattered Leaves

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This morning I took our family dog on a walk.  It had been a very stressful few weeks both professionally and personally and I was tired: mentally, physically, and emotionally.  I felt broken and even though I was out walking it was difficult to clear my head and lower my anxiety.  I began to use a simple anxiety reducing strategy I teach my clients.  As I walked (although you can do this anywhere, anytime) I focused on one of my five senses at a time.

What do I hear?  

Birds chirping, wind blowing in the treas, squirrels jumping through the branches, cars in the distance.

What do I smell?

Lavender flowers, a flowing stream, the smell of the woods, my dog who needs a bath.

What do I taste?

My coffee from my breakfast, salt from my upper lip.

What am I touching?

The hard pavement under my feet, the sole of my flip flops, the breeze on my shoulders.

What do I see?

Birds flying, trees swaying, children playing.

And then I see a leaf.

This leaf that is laying perfectly on the path, that I would I have stepped on had I not been tuned in.

This leaf that had been nearly destroyed by disease and pests.

This leaf that was withering in the hot sun and the unforgiving elements around it.

I was intrigued by the leaf.

I felt like the leaf: torn and ravaged

I reached down to pick it up….to get a closer look.

I began to see the beauty in the leaf.

The intricate patterns that the climate had created.

The  unique lace-like beauty that I had initially seen as destruction.

The veins of the leaf that serve to bring water and minerals from the root to the leaf had remained completely unbroken–still able to carry life to the leaf.

Despite the damage to the leaf, it was whole.  It was strong.

I was the leaf.

Formed by experiences and pain that feel disfiguring but instead create beautiful, unique patterns.

Continuously fed by the veins of my faith, my family, and those around me when I need life and energy to continue.

You are the leaf.

Your neighbor is the leaf.

Laying in the hot sun on your path, needing to be noticed and lifted up in admiration of their unique strength.

Who are we to the leaves around us?

Are we the disease?  The pests?  Do we even notice the leaf or walk by it?  Does it look too different from us? Too far gone? Too unimportant or hopeless?

Or are we those veins speaking life and love to a broken leaf?

The leaf reminded me today:

To see whats on my path

To appreciate uniqueness

To be thankful for the veins of life and hope

To acknowledge that even the pests and disease create artistry to be cherished

“In the whisper of the leaves appears an interchange of love”  –William Jones

 

 

 

The Dance

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The Dance

This weekend I was watching the old Disney movie “Beauty and the Beast” with my kids.  As you may remember, Belle volunteers to be imprisoned by the Beast to take the place of her father.  As time passes, there are scenes of Belle and Beast arguing, being miserable, tempers flaring, and truly a sense of being “stuck” or “imprisoned” in a relationship to the point where Belle tries to escape and is nearly killed in the woods, only for Beast to come to her rescue.  She then doctors his injuries and a bond begins to form between them and a sense of safety created.  Their relationship climaxes as they share moments of snowball fights, reading together, and finally dancing together in the ballroom and the music plays softly and tenderly in the background.

OK, so let’s ignore the parts where a woman is forced to be in a relationship with a man and ultimately “changes” him from a scary angry beast to a gentle loving man for a moment—that is a post for another day.  As I watched the movie, I thought about the dance of our relationships.  Many, romantic relationships start out beautiful, idealistic, full of hopes and dreams as the two in the relationship dance across the ballroom floor in what seems to be perfect sync with one another.  Time passes and it is as if someone changed the music on the couple.  They begin stepping on each other’s toes, moving in different directions, and feeling imprisoned by the relationship that they once thought was a fairy tale.  What happened?  How did this couple begin to misstep?  Who changed the music?

The truth is that no one changed the music.  The music has been the same all along.  There is just more noise in the room as time passes for the couple.  The noise of financial struggle, children, infertility, illness, work hassles, or job loss.  It gets hard to hear one another or the music in the noisy room so we begin to misstep.  It’s too hard to hear, too distracting.  So they begin to stumble, move apart and at times even give up or look for another partner to dance with.

In couples, there is generally one question that sums up all the other questions between a couple.  The magical question is this:

“Are you there for me?  If I need you, will you respond?”

In this magical dance of a couple, a successful lifetime of love takes vulnerability and response.  If there were an invisible rope between the two and one partner pulled on the rope, would the other partner feel it?  Or is there too much slack in the rope, where they wouldn’t notice the movement.  Freud said “we are never as vulnerable as when we are in love”.   This vulnerability and response takes work.  It takes trial and error, and it takes patience.  Sometimes it takes help from a professional.  But it is worth it.  Imagine being able to move again in sync with one another, to anticipate each other’s moves even though the room is noisy and you can barely hear the music playing:

Tale as old as time

Tune as old as song

Bittersweet and strange

Finding you can change

Learning you were wrong

Just a little change

Small to say the least

Both a little scared

Neither one prepared

Beauty and the Beast

The Power of our Words

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We’ve all heard the statement “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”. I think many of us wish it were this easy. But Words hold power. They create meaning from situations, label circumstances, provide safety in a relationship, or can destroy a relationship. Words are given their power by the way in which they are used and we are the only ones that can control what words we choose to use.

But, it can be really challenging to be constantly aware of our words. Sometimes we wonder if it is worth it. We get frustrated that we are asked to be sensitive or expected to be politically correct. We are drawn to what we perceive as truth about people or circumstances and are eager to right what we believe to be wrong.

I meet with a lot of hurting people on a weekly basis. Many of which who have life-long scars from someone who has used words carelessly. Almost always, the people who have caused the most damage with their words remain unaware of the wounds they caused or are causing. Most of us do not want to intentionally cause harm to someone with our words. So how do we prevent this?

I tell my clients to think of themselves as a mirror when they are talking with or about someone else. When you look in a mirror you see a visual image of yourself. When we hear others words we derive meaning from those words and our mental mirror becomes distorted. What image is the person you are speaking to see through your words?

This is easiest to see in a parent/child dynamic. When a toddler looks up wide-eyed to his screaming parent, he begins framing meanings about himself through his parent’s words. He begins to believe he’s a failure, he’s annoying, bothersome, or worthless. He views himself through these words and the words become his identity that he may carry for a lifetime. This is true even with adults. And the closer the relationship you have, the more influence you have over their identity and self-worth.

Research tells us that it takes five positive statements to counteract every negative statement we make to an individual. This is true even when our “negative” statement is done in a productive, caring, and loving way. Imagine the damage we do when those criticisms and contempt eek out!

Use your words wisely. Speak life into a broken individual. Speak life into your home: your spouse, your children, or your parents! Speak life into your community: your irritable boss, the inattentive waitress, the individual who was just shamed for his differences.

Words can heal, and words can destroy. It’s not easy, but we can better our homes and our world by being aware of our words.