22 July 2014

Love Me Unitl I Can Love Myself

The pain that comes with life can eat away at our self-esteem. We make mistakes, we hurt others, we're in physical distress, our actions cause unintended effects. A loved one dies, a tragedy far away affects us personally for some reason, news programs follow one disaster or war or crime after another. We stop feeling -- if we ever did -- adequate to the task of living.

Not all of life is like this, of course. But there are times when what is negative can overwhelm our sense of self and our confidence in our ability to navigate our world.

When I worked at Miriam's House (a residence for homeless women living with AIDS, now connected to N Street Village), all of the residents came to us in this kind of pain. Most of the staff had a similar experience at least once during their time with us. In addition to this commonality of experience breaking down barriers between us and helping to make us more compassionate with one another, we learned one of the most important components of getting through times of great pain and low self-esteem.

It's something one of the residents said after a year of real struggle to remain clean and sober. Looking back over the pain of those long months, she said to me, "You loved me until I could love myself."

Take a moment to let the spaciousness of that fill and calm you.

Photo by William Marsh

There are at least three more posts in this theme. But for now, because I like to keep my posts short, I'll just say that letting someone love us when we cannot love ourselves is an act of courage and trust. As is the reverse. And on such acts are we brought to the place where healing is possible.

Thanks to my brother, Will, for inspiring this post.

NOTE: I am trying to get Disqus (a service that enables better conversations on websites and blogs) for my blog, though it's taking me a while to figure out how to do it. In the meanwhile, you can leave a comment through Google+ or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com.

18 July 2014

New Photographer Partnership

I have been looking for a way to add photographs to my posts without resorting to stock photos that have little resonance for me and without endlessly recycling my photos of Mt. Edith Cavell. It turns out the solution was in my back yard, familial-ly speaking.

William Marsh is a wonderful photographer, and just because he's also my brother doesn't make me unduly biased. Look at the photos below and you will agree with me.

You'll see his photos regularly on this blog. Thanks, Will!

Photo by William Marsh

Photo by William Marsh

Photo by William Marsh

Just wanted you to have a preview before my next post. Have a great weekend!

17 July 2014

A Link to an Article About Pain

A friend of who reads this blog pointed out a recent article about pain in the New York Times:

Let me know what you think!


You can leave a comment below, through Google+, or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com.

16 July 2014

The Selfsame Well

I ended my previous post with this quote from Kahlil Gibran:

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was
oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

I first read this verse in Gibran's The Prophet when I was a teenager. It has stayed with me these forty-some years, sustaining me through life's difficult times. During the past nine years, while I've learned to live well with chronic pain, it has taken on new meaning.

I have stated before, in other posts, that for the purposes of writing about chronic pain, I define "pain" as something quite different from "suffering." I see pain as physical, mental or spiritual pain that we do not choose but that happens as a part of life. Suffering is a choice we make -- quite often unconsciously -- to layer other emotions over our pain For example, I'm in pain when I have a migraine. I suffer when I let myself get worried, upset, or angry about having the migraine.

I've learned that pain and peace offer the same opportunities for deepening and holding:

The deeper that pain carves into your being, the more peace you can contain.

Suffering (as I define it above) doesn't carve into my being at all. On the contrary, it keeps me skittering around on the surface like the waterbug I wrote about in my previous post.

But pain carves. I wrote once, "being in pain like that [a particularly bad migraine] changes you."  Then I meant something negative, something I'd rather not have experienced. Seen through Gibran's eyes, though, terrible pain -- whether emotional, spiritual or physical -- digs out a space into which peace can pour. 

None of us would ever choose that kind of pain. Yet if it has come to us, there is consolation and wisdom in accepting its whittling away at a space that one day will be flooded with peace.

Thank you for reading this post. Please leave a comment below, through Google+, or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com.

11 July 2014

Joy that is Peace; Peace that is Joy

Since my previous post, I've been thinking a lot about joy and Martha Beck's description of true joy as lacking "the wild ups and downs of an excitement-based life."

My metaphor for my old habit of making excitement a necessary component of life is the water bugs I saw skittering on the surface of the creek I used to play in as a girl. (For my more nerdy readers, here is a link for the explanation of how they manage this.)

I used excitement to give me a sort of high, the adrenaline-rush through my veins and muscles and emotions making me think I was experiencing joy. I used the anticipation of excitement or some happy event (I can get through this day if I just think about going to that party on Saturday) to deny that day's emotional pain or discomfort. At the anticipated or 'joy'-producing event, I'd skitter around, adrenaline holding me aloft like water's surface tension does a waterbug's hairy little feet, acting like the adrenaline rush and forced happiness were joy.

I thought they were.

But true joy cannot happen on the surface. True joy is below, where calm reigns and the current is slow, where emotions are free to plumb the depths despite the wind and waves and turmoil above.

Isn't that why Jesus talks about "the peace of God that passes all understanding"? (Phil 4:7). And why Darlene Cohen at Shambhala Sun says "we can experience joy in life by opening up fully to our experience"? The Etz Chaim Center says that joyful living is about forging a deeper connection to the soul and creating an on-going opportunity to share our joy with others." (italics mine) On the blog Baha'i Thought, Phillipe Copeland writes that "happiness and joy are more than just ephemeral emotions ... they spring organically from the soul's response to the Word of God."

One final quote, and I'll pursue the topic further in future posts. This is my favorite from Khalil Gibran:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was
oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

You can leave comments through Google+, or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com. Thank you.