Sunday, August 30, 2020

Be the Village

One of the things that I think has been most tragic about the pandemic has been the loss of the village. The village in our western culture was never much to begin with. Some people didn't want it at all. 

I remember hearing the phrase "It takes a village to raise a child" back in the early nineties. It may have been from the mouth of Hilary Clinton and because it came from her it was vilified as socialist ideology and the intent for the state to take parental rights away from parents. Sigh. How quickly we turn anything into a political agenda. 

The truth is it DOES take a village. Some parents, those who are highly competent or uber self-sufficient or just plain paranoid, may not agree. But I think the rest of us see that we NEED each other and we need each other even more when we are doing the hardest task on the planet: raising a tiny human to adulthood. 

Parenthood is hard. Parenthood can be lonely. And no parent has all of what it takes. 

In times past parents could depend, if they were so fortunate, on family members, on friends, on neighbors. On teachers and coaches. On pastors and the church. But not everybody had these connections. For them the village was too small. Or nonexistent. 

But now, now, so much has changed. For almost six months parents have had their kids 24 hours a day with little to no support from the outside world. No school to go to. No soccer games to attend. No playgrounds to let off kinetic energy and meet other moms. No coffee shops to serve as mini therapy sessions with another weary soul. No church gatherings. The village has all but evaporated. 

And while life as kids know it has changed dramatically, the demands of life, work, responsibilities, obligations of parents have not. No wonder parents are 

All this to say, if you have time on your hands or an extra batch of energy in your soul, reach out to a parent and offer to help. Offer to come over and assist with online school or take a child for an ice cream treat or a bike ride. Offer to come sit and be another adult presence in a house of 24/7 frustrated kid chaos. Offer to bring a meal that isn't chicken nuggets or yet another frozen pizza. Offer to listen the the exasperated, exhausted cries of a mother  (or grandmother 😉) who can't do it all. 

In the craziness of life that is 2020, we need the village now so much more than ever. You can make a difference. You really can. 

Friday, August 28, 2020

Healing, Not Healed

 Earlier today a friend asked me what I had been learning. After spewing out a verbal volcano of old struggles and fresh insights, I hit upon this. 

A few months ago I was yet again beating myself up (one of the few things in life I really excel at) because I am 56 years-old and not yet fixed. (When you see your first psychiatrist when you are eleven you really hope to be fixed by the time your hormones have evaporated and your hair has turned the color of a smoldering campfire.) 

It seemed that some of the lifelong struggles were barnacles on my soul that wouldn't.let.go. On top of that, new and improved experiences were cropping up right and left, causing me to cave inside myself emotionally, feeling incapacitated and hopeless of ever having the maturity level greater than that of a frightened five year-old. 

Then, out of the blue (because blue is my favorite color and that is where most of my insights come from even though it is likely this came from God but God created the color blue in the first place) it hit me. We call them "recovering alcoholics," not "recovered alcoholics." Alcoholics know they are always recovering. They are not a finished product. Never will be. 

So here I am. A "healing Ginny," not a "healed Ginny," because that is not going to happen this side of heaven. 

What that realization did for me is that I was able to take the energy I spent beating myself up for not being healed and funnel it into finding new pathways for the ongoing process of healing. 

We live in a solutions-oriented, task-accomplishing culture. It drives us crazy to not be able to fix a problem and move on to the next. But the souls of people aren't automotive transmissions and life isn't an assembly line. It is a relief to understand that always healing is as good as it gets. 

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Exponential Damage

Hurricane Laura just blasted ashore in Louisiana and one of the reporters reminded me of something. An increase in wind speed can result in not more damage, but exponential damage. Exponential meaning it doesn't add to, it multiplies. 

It seems like life can dish out a lot of hard things. Sometimes the hard thing can flatten us or sometimes we can handle it with grace and finesse and land on our feet (there seem to be people like that). There are so many factors that play into how well we can weather a hard thing. Too many to mention. But add hard thing to hard thing and then another hard thing to hard thing to hard thing and almost anybody can begin to flail. Add the hard thing to the hard thing to the hard thing onto the hard thing that happened five years ago that drained your emotional resources, and the hard thing can hit like an tsunami. Add the hard thing to hard thing to hard thing to perhaps a highly sensitive personality or a brain wired for anxiety and depression or to childhood trauma and you can get a real, excuse the language, clusterfuck. 

There are ways to measure hard things and their damage, such as the Holmes Rahe Stress Inventory, but those things are measured via addition, not multiplication. And I think multiplication is where it is at because, like a hurricane, the increase in another 10mph of wind speed doesn't add to the damage, it multiplies it. 

So think of this year. We have a pandemic with huge amounts of uncertainty. Life as we know it has been wholly interrupted. It has brought changes in work. It has brought changes in how we educate our children. It has brought changes in home life. It has brought changes in our ability to connect with our support systems. For some it has brought a huge change in our ability to make a living, with job loss and potential eviction or foreclosure. It has brought changes in our local landscape, with some of our favorite restaurants and stores, perhaps many of them, closing for good. It has brought fear. It has brought division. It has brought anger. Some of these things cannot even be measured. 

Then we have the racial strife with justifiable outrage over horrific, race-motivated deaths, followed by protests followed by again the division between the Black Lives Matter and the All Lives Matter people followed by the further polarization of the issue. 

Add to that the political landscape of an election year. I can't even begin to describe this level of tension. 

This is just what EVERYBODY is dealing with. And then some people have additional hard things. Death. Divorce. Estranged family members. Loss of some kind. Job stress. Family stress. Physical health challenges. Mental health challenges. You name it. 

And then there are those who, on top of all of this, are grappling with hard, hard things that have followed them from the past into the present and where do you even start? Where do you even begin the cleanup process? 

You begin, I think, by understanding that damage is exponential so you aren't surprised or shocked or ashamed of the mess around you and inside you. The last thing anybody needs is adding shame to all of the brokenness in life. 

I am dealing with this right now. I am looking at exponential damage and trying to understand it. It helps to see how the damage happened and why, even seemingly minor things, had such a huge impact. I am working through the process of identifying and naming damaging events as part of the cleanup. Normally the fact that there has been so much damage would have keep me focused on my own inadequacy to handle hard things, but I have found that understanding exponential damage to be so freeing. Whereas my energy used to be used up by beating myself up over the damage, it can now be used to weather the storm and plan the cleanup. 

It has been a hard year for everybody. There is no shame in being flattened by the Category 5 Hurricane of 2020. No shame at all.