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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Boring Things My Therapist has Said to Me

The notes feature on the iPhone is da bomb, BTW.
I try to keep a list on my phone of things my therapist says to me that are so boring that I can't believe she actually said it and got paid for saying it.  It's getting pretty long.

Here's what I have so far:

1.  Go outside for a few minutes each day.
2.  Remember what worked before.  Do that again.
3.  Lower your expectations for yourself.
4.  Leave some things un-done now and then.
5.  Take a walk whenever you can.
6.  Create something to look forward to.
7.  When you're anxious something bad will happen, tell yourself, "That's highly unlikely."
8.  Get some exercise.
9.  Put alone time on your calendar.
10.  Find a tiny step to take, and take it.
11. There are tiny pieces of your day that you have some control over.  Make them work for you.

On their own, these boring things don't seem amazing or helpful.  But I have to tell you, put to action, they are magic.

I am a big proponent of therapists.  Let's all use them preventatively, people!  I, for one, think my boring therapist is simply brilliant.

What about you?  What boring advice has been helpful to you in your life? 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Be the Memory Keeper (and the Memory Sharer)

From one of my old photo albums.  Robi playing with his band back in the day. 
I have dubbed myself my family's "memory keeper."  I have always loved to take photographs and to print and share them and save them for posterity.  And now that my daughter is old enough to care about our lives before her, I really find it fun to share our old photo albums with her.  My daughter has heard our stories enough now that, when I mentioned last week to one of her friends who is taking guitar lessons that we are a musical family, she immediately jumped to telling the story of how her dad used to play bass in a band and that's probably why she is good at music, too.  (I always cough and try to interject that I sing and play instruments, too, ahem, but, alas, by then she and her friend had turned their attention to something else and I was old news.)


The point of this longwinded, um, story, is to say that I recently read a really neat article about how children who know their family's stories actually have better mental health and well-being than children who don't.  Especially if children know stories about our strife, and how we overcame it. According to researchers at the Family Narratives Lab at Emory University,
"Our results suggest that adolescents who are embedded in a storied family history show higher levels of emotional well-being, perhaps because these stories provide larger narrative frameworks for understanding self and the world, and because these stories help provide a sense of continuity across generations in ways that promote a secure identity (see Fivush, Bohanek, & Duke, 2008, for a full theoretical discussion)."
Isn't that interesting?  I read several articles on this topic, and there is so much amazing information here, but let me stick to the key point:  The stories we tell our children actually matter.  Sharing of ourselves, even about the difficult things--no, especially about the difficult things--makes a difference for our children.  When our children are well-versed in the stories of our lives, it helps them make sense of how they might fit into the world and how they might overcome strife when it happens to them.

So, aunts, uncles, moms, dads, grandparents, cousins:  I say to you, tell your story!  Then tell it again.  Bore the young children with details of how you felt, and how it was tough, and then how you persevered anyway.  Keep talking until they are rolling their eyes and can quote you verbatim.  Then, and only then, will you know you're a true memory keeper.

What stories that your parents or grandparents told are meaningful to you?  I love the story of how my maternal grandmother became a Women's Army Corps member during WWII, and of how my paternal grandmother didn't meet her husband until late in life and thought she'd be an old maid (and she went on to have 4 children!).  

Monday, March 21, 2016

Cultivate Communion with the Saints

Yesterday, I stumbled upon a gem.
Flannery & I read this book last week.  It was great! 

On Facebook, a friend of mine had posted a video of Father Thomas Hopko's 55 maxims for Christian living.  I googled the podcast transcript and was just completely overwhelmed by the wisdom in this little list that an Orthodox priest (who died 1 year ago yesterday, May his memory be eternal.) had written.

Here is just a tiny snippet of his list of maxims:

4.  Say the Lord's Prayer several times a day.
5.  Have a short prayer that you constantly repeat when your mind is not occupied.
7.  Eat good foods in moderation.
8.  Practice silence, inner and outer. Just sit for a few minutes everyday in total silence.
9.  Do acts of mercy in secret.
16.  Read good books, a little at a time.
17.  Cultivate communion with the saints.
18.  Be an ordinary person.  Try to be like others as much as you can.
19.  Be polite with everyone--first of all, the members of your own family.
20.  Maintain cleanliness and order in your home.

There is so much here!

But what struck me most was #17 - to cultivate communion with the saints.  I've talked about this before on this blog, about how helpful it is for me to "consider the saints" and learn about them, so that I can be encouraged in this life on earth, which can really be tough.  The saints that went before us faced the same problems we do, and worse.  Yet they managed to rise above them.  They weren't  superhuman.  They were just people like us.  

For example, Flannery and I read last week about Saint Patrick.  I didn't know that he was captured from Britain as a child and taken to Ireland as a slave.  After six years as a slave shepherd, he escaped and tried to get away on a ship.  The ship was full of hunting hounds, and the story goes that when Patrick tried to board the ship, the captain didn't want him there because he suspected he was an escaped slave.  But the hounds howled and barked each time Patrick stepped away from them and quieted when Patrick was near, so eventually the captain agreed to take him home.  And even though he made it home to his family, Patrick felt called to leave them to share the word of God with the people of Ireland (who had earlier enslaved him!).  He went back and started a church in a barn in Ireland.  And now he is Ireland's patron saint.  I mean, I may have a stressful life sometimes, but I've never had to go try to teach my former captors about love and forgiveness.

So today, as I look ahead at a week crammed with too many evaluation reports to write and too many meetings to hold and too many meals to plan and too many birthday presents to buy and too many appointments to keep, it helps to think that others have faced all this and more.  That others have fought the good fight and won, and are now cheering me on from above.  It might sound cheesy, but in the Orthodox faith, we do believe that the Saints are able to intercede for us and to help us in our worldly struggles, even now.  Sometimes when I'm having a tough day, I like to pray for Saint John the Wonderworker to pray for me, and it gives me strength.  I also often pray that my grandparents (and my husband's grandfathers) and my uncle pray for me & my family.  Many times, I have felt so comforted by the thought that they are interceding on our part.

Cultivate communion with the saints.  It's more than just "considering" the saints, I think.  And this week, I'm going to try to do just that.

What about you?  Do you feel connected to those who have gone before you on this journey?  How do you cultivate that communion?