Sunday, May 29, 2016

What Is Unseen

One of the earliest lessons I learned was "not to judge a book by its cover."  This lesson was taught to me by my mother after I had complained about a "crabby neighbor." Mom sat me down and asked me why I thought the neighbor was crabby.  I explained that when ever I saw the older woman, she always had a scowl on her face and simply looked mean. 

"Did you say, "Hi!" to her?" Momma asked.

"No...she looked mean, Momma," I explained.

"Well perhaps, she isn't mean. People wear masks that hide what is happening inside them.  Perhaps, she is sad because her husband died a few months ago.  Perhaps, she is in pain. Perhaps, she doesn't think anyone cares about her.  There are many reasons why people look mean, but many times it is not because they are mean.  Why don't you smile and say, "Hi!" to her next time."

As always, my Momma's wisdom ran deep.  The next day when I saw our neighbor, I greeted her.  She smiled the most lovely smile and greeted me back.  One thing led to another; I was soon a regular visitor to her tiny apartment. 

I thought I knew all about masks from this one incident, but I had a great deal to learn. Over the past 50 odd years, I have learned that people wear masks for many reasons.  I have also learned that the mask that is the most difficult to see through is the smiling one worn by those in chronic pain.

Too often, those of us who have chronic pain make a choice.  We decide to smile and move forward the best we can in spite of the torment that is going on within us.  We are told we have high tolerance. We are told that we must be faking.  We are told how great we look, while only a few really see what lies behind the mask.

Chronic pain is one of those silent conditions that doesn't jump up at you like a broken leg or horrendous scar.  Like its sister chronic illness, it can go unnoticed by even those closest to the inflicted. But, don't be fooled.

When someone smiles and says, "I'm fine, thanks," or even "I'm great. How are you?" look deeply into their eyes.  Think about what you see - remember pain can be both physical as well as emotional (Sometimes it is both!).  Is there an underlining sadness or a look of woe?  Does the person move a bit too slow, or seem to have difficulty transitioning from sitting to standing, standing to sitting?  When they don't think you are looking at them, do you see them clenching their jaw or wringing their hands?

Usually, those of us with chronic pain have spent years ignoring it because others have told us what we feel isn't there.  These others include doctors, nurses, teachers, ministers as well as family and friends.  Unfortunately, many of us listen to these others and in doing so, learn to hide our pain.  We become adept as "rising above" the pain so that we can go to work, take care of our families and enjoy life with our friends.  

However, the masquerade doesn't last forever.  Sooner or later, things become too much. Those in chronic pain who push themselves to this point either end up with other issues because their bodies cannot function well any more, or they simply cannot stand the pain any longer.  They are forced to say no, to rest, to go for medical care, to take medications and to say no some more.

Saying no causes a great deal of conflict.  People who don't see the pain, can't understand why this person who looks perfectly fine to them, is now saying they can't do that extra project, can't have tea, can't drive over for a visit, can't do whatever it is that the other wants/needs them to do. Relationships deteriorate, employers get angry and people turn their backs.

Don't judge a book by its cover.  Don't let a smile lure you into thinking everything is great.  Take the time to peek behind the masks to see what is happening behind it. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Ghostly Photos

Photos of mass grave of Captain Lathrop and his men slain in 1673

Have you ever taken a photo and found something unexpected in it?  Was what you saw something you could explain away, like dust on the lens, rain drops, humidity, smoke?

Teal Gray, Tui Snider and I just had a great conversation about spirits and spirit energy on Teal Gray Worldwide! Part of our conversation was about the two pictures above, but we also shared experiences with the unexplained and discussed two pictures that Tui had captured on two different occasions. 

One thought that we shared is how easy it is to dismiss things like the photos above.  However, when "you eliminate the impossible (as Sherlock Holmes would say) whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?" So it is!

On a serious note, I have always believed in spirit energy (ghosts).  In my life, I have had too many unexplained events not to believe. I also know that many people do not believe. I respect that.  I have learned that many people are disturbed by the thought that spirits exist in this world. But, as I have written before, I find great comfort in it.

If you want to know more about our conversation, please visit BlogTalkRadio.  Thank you Teal and Tui for a lovely and insightful conversation.  I hope we can do this again soon!


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Combining Passions

I love to write and have done so professionally and academically for years.  But, not everyone knows that I also am a photographer. Back when my daughters were young, I worked for the York County Coast Star in Maine, covering local events as well as providing the photos to go along with what I wrote.

Recently, I have combined my two loves - poetry and photography - and have created memes for my Facebook pages.  What a delight to marry these two art forms into something that others can see instantly and enjoy!

The idea of marrying passions isn't new.  When I decided to finish my bachelor's degree several years ago, I enrolled in the University Without Walls (UWW) at UMass Amherst.  In the process of creating a portfolio of the work I had done, my professor pointed out that I had three different, yet overlapping, interests - writing, spirituality and health. Eventually, after spending almost a year honing my portfolio and culling through all the evidence of work accomplished, I had come up with my major - Creative Writing for Spiritual Health. (UWW gives students the opportunity to gain credit for life experience in order to complete their degrees.)

Since then, I have found that I am constantly combining passions to create, usually for the health of others, but also for my own health.  Writing is especially powerful when you are writing about what you love, be it people, places or things. Combine writing with art of any form and you have a magic combination!

May you find that which brings you great joy. May you be able to incorporate it into the fabric of your life.  Blessings!!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Mother's Day Celebrates ALL Women

 By Solis-Cohen, Myer [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

Card companies would like to have us think that Mother's Day is simply a day to remember women who gave birth.  However, if we look at the history of what was once called Mothers' Work Day, Mothering Day or Mother's Day for Peace, we learn that this day was a call for all women to join together and change the world.  

Poet, activist and woman, Julia Ward Howe is credited with the proclamation that brought women together:

"Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts, Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!"

Howe's call is still as powerful today, as it was in 1870.  Back then, she was calling for women to work towards peace in the world. Today, the call might be for peace, for an end to poverty, for aid to immigrants and refugees. No where in the proclamation by Howe does she call for families to spend money on women. 

According to The National Retail Federation, Americans spent approximately $21 billion dollars in 2015 on Mother's Day gifts.  If only half that amount was used to help those in need, think of all the good we could do! 

This Mother's Day, rather than spending hundreds of dollars on presents, flowers and cards, perhaps we can honor Mom by giving to her favorite charity, or donating money to a scholarship fund or sending aid to young girls in third world countries so that they may attend school.

In this day and age when families live miles apart and technology has invaded every part of our lives, the best gift we can give any woman in our lives - mother, sister, daughter, aunt, friend - is to spend time with them...sitting side by side sharing space.  No need to spend money.


To all the women in my life - those who have given birth to children; those who have given birth to ideas; those who have nurtured families; those who have nurtured communities; those who have touched the hearts and minds of strangers and those who have touched the lives of people they have never met - to ALL those women, I send greetings of gratitude and love. Thank you for being who you are!  You have blessed so many.

Links to organizations that will honor your Mom with a donation to help others:

Save the Children 

A Child's Place 

Friendship Bridge

Urgent Action Fund for Women's Right