Dee's Blog
Wed 04/25/2012
Complicated Grief
Topic: coping

A few minutes ago, I lightly tapped a large, attractive flower pot against our concrete patio.  How shocking to hear the sound of cracking!  So clear, yet so faint, that I was almost certain before I looked.

That pot has been a part of my life for over twenty years!  It housed a gorgeous jade in a spot that the plant seemed to love until I made another big mistake and moved it outdoors, then neglected to bring it in before the first freeze a few years back!!! 

Breaking the pot wouldn't have hurt quite so bad on any other day.  Already, my heart was heavy because today is the day for the graveside memorial service for our good friend Karl. 

The pot can be replaced, but not our friend.  Maybe I'll find a pot that I treasure far more.  Never can anyone step in and take Karl's place, though.  He was about as close as I can imagine a brother ever being!

There is one thing that these losses have in common, though it's a very poor comparison:  both remind me that the longer we have a person or a belief or even something like an old pot that we treasure, the more difficult it is to imagine life ever being as good for us.  Old things pass away, of course.  The "coming new" in life takes a long time, if ever it happens. 

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 3:08 PM CDT
Tue 04/24/2012
The Titanic
Topic: coping

A couple of days ago, I had a call from a friend whose faith in humanity, along with her own spirituality, was seriously challenged several years ago, when we chose to stand up against her abusive pastor.

She had just been to see the Titanic in 3-D.  What struck her the most was how she felt she relates on a very deep level to the PTSD that she's read about since, in regard to survivors of this horrible tragedy.  Related on a gut level, she feels, in a way that many people would not.

To her, the betrayal of friends and church leaders, was the Titanic that caused her to experience PTSD for the first time in her life.  While she seldom has symptoms any longer and while she has moved on to develop new strands of an enriched spirituality in spite of all of that, the triggers can still put her back into the emotional waves of the "cold waters" when she was thrown off the course she had taken for granted previously.

To this experience, many of us can relate.  Life takes a new course--in spite of the Titanic(s) in our lives, as we continue to listen to the Inner Voice that helps us write new chapters.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 7:21 AM CDT
Updated: Fri 10/05/2012 1:42 PM CDT
Tue 03/06/2012
Dancing in the Rain
Topic: coping

A long-time friend, who encountered immense collusion in her church several years ago, just gave Ron and I a gift that we'll treasure for the rest of our lives.  It's a plaque that reads:  "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass.  It's about learning to dance in the rain." 

At one time, I was convinced that collusion in the institutional church would just pass when people got over the shock that it existed and learned how to stop participating in the collusion. 

 My goals in this work were twofold:

1) Educate

2) Offer support to anyone who had suffered to consequences of collusion, whether a survivor or a professional.

I figured if enough of us chose to join the goal of educating, the collusion would stop.  Then, the storm would be over, and I could get back to "dancing."

Long after I realized this was unrealistic, I was still hearing from people who refused to let go of that very thinking.  It was often hard for us to be on the same wavelength because.....well......I guess I'd been dancing too long in spite of the rain.  Though I never realized that until I got this wonderful gift, along with a note from the giver, saying:  "Thank you for teaching me to dance in the rain."  

While I don't take credit for being such an educator, it's nice to know that the message somehow was conveyed and came back in greater clarity to my own back door!" 

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 1:37 PM CST
Updated: Fri 10/05/2012 1:52 PM CDT
Tue 01/31/2012
Giving Up Before Starting
Topic: coping

"If I had to live life like that, I'd just have them give me a big pill and be done with it."  The man was speaking to my husband in the locker room of a sports club, where they'd just finished a water yoga class. 

Ron wasn't insulted, just shocked.  Amazing to think how often we may all give up on the possibility of coping with something that we think would be impossible--even long before we encounter it.  We imagine the worst and play the scene with all the awful things that may be entailed in a situation.

"Oh, but I'm enjoying life in so many ways!"  Ron responded immediately.  Then, came home to marvel at this guy's reaction.   It made me think that, in all likelihood, this is how a lot of people see life in a chair.  Perhaps this is why eyes are averted and people are ignored or the passerby talks to me, as if I'm the only one who has a life or an opinion.  This is something we adjusting to, something we are coming to understand, leading us to find new ways of communicating with others.

This very much relates to how often we can, if feeling powerless, pass by the opportunities that we have to speak in a poignant and polite manner to people of more power and/or people who are closed-minded about a matter that we have come to understand through experience, giving them opportunity to see things in a little different way.  Think you can't do it.  Well, maybe you CAN.  Never know until you try.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 1:27 PM CST
Sat 11/29/2008
The Truth about Finding the Truth
Topic: coping

Finally got around to seeing "The Secret Life of Bees" this week, even if I did have to go after 10 p.m. to fit it into my schedule.  Certainly was worth it!

Sometimes I take one little gem from a movie, one that I know I'll always remember.  From this movie, it was a young boy telling the main character that finding out the truth isn't nearly as significant as what you decide to do with it. 

As you all know well, deciding can take a long time.  Deciding WHAT to do includes HOW to feel, which is probably a pre-requisite for making a good decision. 

We have choices in how we end up feeling, though the initial, gut choices are likely to simply be spontaneous.  Our choices need to involve considerable thought.

Among the choices: 

--- shame that leads us to believe we are flawed because of an experience (because we were shamed at one time by someone

--- guilty when we have actually made a choice that showed poor character or wrong-doing

--- blame, which puts total accountability on others for everything we do, negating our responsibility for anything in the past, present or future, keeping us stuck in anger far beyond what the initial truth discovery reveals.

Being stuck in either blame or shame keeps us stuck in the past.  Taking things as they come today allows us to move on, continuing to make the wisest decisions for effective living.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Tue 11/04/2008
The Pain of Rejection
Topic: coping

Today is election day in the U. S.  Unlike many days when we sit around navel-gazing, and many think "we are the most important nation on earth," the world really IS watching us today.  For it knows that so many things in their future can depend upon the decision we make, in choosing our next President.  Please do not forget to go to the polls!  Whoever gets elected, we must look to the future and get on with life.

Even as we focus on the future, museums and stories from the past are important.  They help us understand our deepest pain or longings. 

Richard "Babe" Karasawa, as a volunteer at the Japanese American National Museum (see ) , came to understand why he had always felt that he had to be an extra good American.  It was driven into him at childhood.  Not to be "extra good" came from the common syndrome of Japanese during internment.  That of being a "rejected American." 

Perhaps, due to trauma of abuse in your past, you have come to share the feeling of having been rejected.  That feeling was so frequently mine after being cast out for speaking the truth to my closest friends and colleagues.

Perhaps it is what drives you to be the best you can be at anything you undertake today.  Or maybe you've just given up and developed a mediocre set of goals.  It can go either way.

Or it can go a third, the way that is healthiest:   Just be all you can be, in your own little world, without busting a gut in the process.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Mon 11/03/2008
For the Children
Topic: coping

Survivors often have to come to terms with not being able to do anything about the past.  Even about having the past validated or acknowledged.  Often, as hard it is, faster this can be realized, the faster one can build a personal future that's far different from the past. 

The Japanese parents who were shipped off to internments camps in the early 1940's, along with their children, knew there were many things they could not change.  Their personal, property assets were ripped from them.  Yet they were determined to give their children childhoods that were as happy as possible, filled with a sense of strong community, knowing how to cope when everything familiar is pulled away. 

They planted crops, established schools (even without furniture initially), kept things immaculate, and had dances.  Demonstrating to their oppressors that they could not possibly take away everything.

Each of us needs to take stock frequently, to live with gratitude, with our eyes on the things that really matter most for the future.  Certainly not forgetting the children of today and tomorrow.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 7:44 AM CST
Tue 10/28/2008
Priorities in the Midst of Limited Resources
Topic: coping

When such luxuries as freedom and voice are taken, the number of choices a person has are seriously limited.   The focus needs to turn toward taking stock of  what remains, especially the things nobody can take away.  Once the re-assessment of resources and needs has taken place, how one decides to invest time and energy is up for evaluation.  At least, this is the process for the healthiest people.

There is an alternative.  Choosing it leads to depression, despondency, and more limitations.  The alternative being to focus, instead, on what one has lost--obsessing endlessly, becoming more and more furious, robbing one's self of the precious thing we call life, even as life in big chunks passes the victim by. 

I've read several of the letters to Clara Breed, the young librarian who chose to reach out to Japanese-Americans who were unfairly sent to internment camps.  It seems that the young people have succeeded in forming a support group.  They talk about their inconveniences--being moved frequently, living in uncertainty and crowded conditions, not being able to stay as clean as they wish to do (yet pouring much of their energy into doing so), and not being able to get tasty food.   Oh, how they miss sugar!   Yet you can almost hear them giggling and chattering, as they appreciate the small things and figure out how to cope.  

As they prioritize their resources, most of which are dwindling, they are most grateful for Ms. Breed's gifts that consist mostly of books.   Books!  A sign of wealth that cannot be easily taken from us today, no matter what the state of lesser riches like the stock market or our personal bank accounts. 

Ms. Breed, the librarian, knew this.  Her gift to those who had lost their freedom, even in this "land of the free" is a strong reminder for all of us today, no matter what we have suffered. 

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 8:33 AM CDT
Sun 10/19/2008
The Courage to Heal
Topic: coping
Some of you may be interested to know that the 20th anniversary edition of The Courage to Heal is out.  No doubt the authors have learned much since the original publication.  Just as everyone in this work. 

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 9:40 PM CDT
Mon 10/13/2008
Stress Relievers
Topic: coping

This weekend, Ron and I acquired two precious little kittens.  Brothers--we think they are brothers.  At least they are siblings.

As different as daylight and dark.  In fact, we could have named the grey one Night and the yellow one Sunshine.  Our 9-year-old neighbor had different ideas, and we liked hers.  Even before she saw them, just from the description, she decided they should be Thunder and Light'ning. 

I spent the weekend studying them, sharing them with the neighbors, attending to their needs. 

Although, when our kids were young, we had several litters of kittens and puppies both, I suppose I had less time for them back then than I do now.  Or maybe I've just become more observant.  At any rate, I was amazed at the difference in the personalities of these sweet creatures.

Sunshine, who looks like a tiger,  is the very pro-active one.  Or impulsive, depending on how you look at things from a kitten's point of view.  The fluffy grey one, Thunder, seems to accomplish just as much as Sunshine.  Yet Thunder sits back and watches to see how Sunshine approaches things before Thunder joins in. 

At one point, Sunshine was even bossy.  Crying to the top of his voice, leading me to believe something was wrong.  Not in the least, I discovered.  He was calling his brother to get out of his bed and come eat.

Don't tell the cat experts--these are farm cats.  We are keeping them outdoors by choice.  I'm thinking, as I watch them develop, perhaps I will examine their individual traits.  In my old age, I'm leaning more toward being a Thunder.  Of course, the way I see it, Thunder has nothing wrong with his voice.  He's just making choices that aren't quite as frisky.  Perhaps with more contemplation than his brother--who knows?  And maybe I should add, who cares?

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 7:47 AM CDT

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