Growing up · healing · Mental Health · therapy

Behind this Door there be Dragons

insectoid_by_jared1481-d349gvsDearest Stephanie. I have long thought that you should have a sign on your door saying: Behind here there be DRAGONS!!

However, though there are dragons, I am learning that they are not a creation of yours but that I brought them in with me – all lumpy and foul-looking with wicked teeth and breath that could kill (not to mention the fire breathing from their mouths.) Bit by bit you are helping me drag them out into the light of day, look at them and say … what? Would that I could simply yell at them with some silly phrase “DRAGON’S DREAD GO BACK TO BED” and watch them blink and sniff and slink away. But, sadly, that is not the way it happens. What actually happens is that I look at the huge, stinky, fire-breathing monstrosities and believe to the depths of my soul that not only are they beautiful but that they are MINE, MINE, MINE and I want to keep them. They are, after all, all I have known.

But slowly, session after session, phone call after phone call, you are helping me to see. At first, all that was there was the faintest possibility … the wavering, shimmering image … of something else. Slowly the biggest and most monstrous of all the dragons morphed into something I could see in all its foulness and yet, was still the hardest to banish, the most tenacious.

Gradually, however, the dragons have become smaller or at least somewhat more manageable. They still pop up in different times and places (kind of like rabbits, you know, plug one hole they find another one). The brain and the emotional self has many hiding places. But at least these dragon/rabbits are becoming a conscious choice of mine rather than the unthinking acceptance of before.

There were times when I felt pushed by you so that it seemed there was no centre to my world anymore. There were many more times when my love for you filled me until all I could do is hold onto it. I love you. I hate you. How hard is that? It is, I am finding out, the hardest thing of all.

I want to be held by you. I want to relax into your strength and let you push those nasty dragons away. But I am learning that there is no way to truly get rid of the beasts except by standing up to them, looking over each one, seeing them truly, warts, foul smell and all, and then, finally, choosing to send them away. Choosing to send them away. My god, five tiny words that describe nothing of the pain, terror, tears and (yes) laughter, that making that choice involves.

I owe a debt to you far greater than the pecuniary details our relationship had to navigate. When all is said and done I owe to you my awake and aware self, a self that allows me to decide and choose for myself rather than for the “others” I was tied to all my life.

*Image credit to:

*some slight resemblance to the language in Sheree Fitch’s awesome picture book “Sleeping Dragons All Around” should be noted. 🙂 It was intentional!

Catholic Church

Crushed by Religious Intolerance

I recently wrote a letter to my long time friend, and now Monk and Priest in a Monastery in Cullman, Alabama. At his invitation, I took the time to fly there for his ordination. Instead of being a celebration of a joyous occasion it turned into a weekend of misery and sadness due to his reaction after the mass to the fact that I – a non-Catholic – went up and took communion during his service. This is my letter to him, sent today, some two weeks after the event.

Dear Paul. I was happy to be able to attend your ordination but you know that it took a significant effort of both time and money to do so. And although I was aware that I was going to be a bit of a third wheel while there (being on my own) I had no expectation that I would be as devastated by the weekend as I was. The reason for my devastation was your comment, made to me directly after your ordination as I came up to congratulate you. It wasn’t a big comment as comments go, but it hurt me profoundly. What you said was: “You know you really shouldn’t have taken communion.” The feeling I had was that of being kicked HARD in the stomach. Yes, I covered it up. No, I did not tell you in that moment how much what you said hurt but … oh boy did it hurt.

Do you remember saying this? Do you know that I cried for hours as a result of your comment, including crying in the pew during the Sunday service when it came time for communion? What should I do? Go up again, giving you and your community the figurative finger? Go up and be “blessed” by you who had just hurt me so profoundly? Or stay in my pew and shut up? I chose the latter in the interests of leaving this fight for another time.

Do you know that what you said epitomizes everything that I find hateful and evil – yes EVIL – about the Catholic Church (and other churches)? For what is communion if not a chance to break bread together. To celebrate the sacrifice Jesus made for us? What is it if not a chance to bring people together? If your intention was that only Catholics take communion (which is not my experience in the churches I attend here – both Catholic and Anglican) then that intention should have been made explicit so that I would know the rules ahead of time and not get hit over the head with them after the fact.

If you are really interested in taking on the leadership of your community once your current Abbot retires it might be a good idea to work on developing a more Christian attitude towards those of us who are not Catholics. For we all share the same planet. We all bleed if scratched. Many of us are doing our best to make our way in the world and leave it a better place than we found it. I would have expected that attitude to be even more explicit at a community dedicated to serving God, but instead, I encountered exactly the opposite.

If taking communion in the church during your ordination service was enough of a sin that you felt it was important to say to me AT THAT MOMENT then it is not a church and yours is not a friendship I want anything more to do with. I hope you bring this email to your Abbot and discuss it with him. Maybe some good can come out of a very unhappy and harmful experience.

 *Cartoon by Daryl Cagle:

Growing up · healing · healing · Mental Health

No Man is an Island – with thanks to John Donne

_DSC4065I recently had a significant emotional upheaval in my personal life and the most interesting thing about this difficult event is the light it shed on my own emotional growth.

Some years ago my husband and I read the book Wired for Love. In the doing, we recognized habitual patterns in each other/ourselves that helped explain a fair bit about our relationship. My knee-jerk reaction to most stressors (especially any that seem to threaten my own stability) is to distance myself as best I can. Yup. I’m an “island.” Whatever is unsafe or threatening is pushed away because I am safer on my own. Like so many other coping techniques that served to keep me safe in an unsafe and undependable environment growing up, this one had turned into a dysfunctional coping skill as an adult.

Back to what happened last week and my reaction – which was to stay the course. Hang in with the person, walk the walk with them and continue to be a part of their life. I rejected my island-like nature and embraced that person, warts and all because I recognize that they are fundamentally good for me and me for them.

As Donne said “… I am involved in mankind. … never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” I am a part of the world around me – I cannot divorce myself from it without diminishing my own emotional reality.

Growing up · healing · Mental Health · Travel

Outward Bound Women of Courage week September 2004. My testimonial


Outward Bound Women of Courage September 2004

I swore, I struggled, I cried but my fellow trippers refused to let me give up or to give up on me. I was going to get that canoe from one end of the portage to the other on my own. And I did. Staggering onto the beach at the end, my face a mess of tears and my shoulders aching, I was overwhelmed. Not just by what I had done but how it echoed what I had done on that very day six years earlier. One of our leaders – Phyllis – came up to me as I sat by the water, hugged me and said “Happy Birthday mama.” Indeed. My boy’s birthday and that epic portage were on the same day.

What had brought me to that moment in my life was because Outward Bound had gifted me with the opportunity to join in a one-week long Women of Courage course. With me would be 8 other women all of whom were in various stages of recovery and 3 wonderful, giving leaders.

I made it through the week and it became a touchstone for my personal growth. I am in a loving and equal relationship now and have two awesome teen boys. I am thrilled to be in a position to give back to OB as a monthly donor. I love that the money I give will enable some other person to embark on their own healing journey, a journey that is guaranteed to move and touch them – and others in their lives – for the better.

Brains · Thoughts

The smart unconscious

This is really really cool stuff! Reminds me of a book I read recently called Bowl of Heaven which explores some of the same ideas (in a work of fiction).

Mind Hacks

We feel that we are in control when our brains figure out puzzles or read words, says Tom Stafford, but a new experiment shows just how much work is going on underneath the surface of our conscious minds.

It is a common misconception that we know our own minds. As I move around the world, walking and talking, I experience myself thinking thoughts. “What shall I have for lunch?”, I ask myself. Or I think, “I wonder why she did that?” and try and figure it out. It is natural to assume that this experience of myself is a complete report of my mind. It is natural, but wrong.

There’s an under-mind, all psychologists agree – an unconscious which does a lot of the heavy lifting in the process of thinking. If I ask myself what is the capital of France the answer just comes to mind – Paris! If…

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Hearing Loss

Auditory Challenges

I was working from home the other day and my cell phone started to ring. Oddly, while I could hear it ringing, I couldn’t locate it. I wandered around, checking all the usual spots, but no luck. After 5 rings it stopped and I was at a loss as to what to do! I could phone my sweetie and ask him to call me so I could continue to search for it? Or I could just wait and assume it will turn up sometime? My youngest seems to have some sort of magnetic body – any electronic device sticks to him – so chances are good that he could find it, if no-one else could.

Whatever. The dogs needed a walk, and since I was up and wandering around I might as well get to it. I was putting on their leashes when my phone started to ring again. Oddly, while I’m now I’m in the front of the house it STILL sounded like it was right by me. Suddenly I remembered, I’d used the powder room when I got home earlier that day – maybe I’d left my phone in there? But a quick check dashed my hopes, it wasn’t there. As the ringing stopped – again – I gave a mental shrug. Might as well get on with things … surely it’ll turn up.

As I pulled out some bags to take with  me, I started to stuff them into my back pocket. Yes, dear readers, I’m afraid you are way ahead of me. Yup. There it was. My phone. It sounded as if it was right THERE, because it had truly been right there. Sheesh.

Another episode of “My Life as Brought to You by a Monaural Hearer Living in a Multichannel World.”


Hearing Loss

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

This author shares his thoughts on the value of CBT – many of which echo mine. As a “mental illness veteran” (love that description, Sid) I have been known to roll my eyes when anyone mentions CBT. However, unlike the author, I have had significant success with plain old talk therapy. Works for me and even now (16 years into seeing my therapist) I still go to her when I need to.