The view from inside the ice skating rink recently showcased life’s inevitable truth: we all fall. Life is a risky, slippery place and we need each other for companionship, not fixing.
The best falls were from my nephew, they were more like a bounce. After the fall that came with tears, I saw the most determination from him. I’m doubtful he imagined, “What’s the most painful way I could fall if I keep going?” By his smirk, I would guess that this 5 year old envisioned himself making another circle around the rink. As such, he experienced life on that intimidating, icy rink, crowded by skaters falling down and getting up again.
When someone is challenged or hurting, it’s natural for us to hop in and “fix” things for the people we love, rather than let them have the experience of all their feelings, navigating the unknown, as they learn this or that. Sometimes, we even classify desirable feelings (higher order or taxonomy): joy, glee, cooperativeness, enjoyment, gratitude, helpfulness. Or, maybe we classify undesirable feelings and behaviors (lower order, taxonomy): impatience, sadness, frustration, hunger, candor, fatigue, pain. The classification ultimately leads to confusion. So now I just think of feelings as little monkeys who have something to tell me. Feeling categories are far less necessary than our ability to tolerate or associate a feeling.
The funny part about feelings is all of us … have ALL of them, even if we pretend we are unaffected. When a feeling influences our behaviors – do we take the time to notice it?
I watched my 5 year old nephew appreciate the gift we see unwrapped by patients who overcome setbacks and disappointments. Courage. Noticing life gives us courage for more life.
Patients in residential treatment or, the weekend ice skater actually practice the same things that lead to courage: vulnerability, faith, humility. For the patient, feelings and experiences often bring heaviness, anxiety and shame. For the ice skater, the rink is a place to practice. But, why do we give more grace to the ice skater than to the mentally ill or addicted? I believe we find the courage to acknowledge the inconvenience or stress of any feeling if the people around us don’t try to fix or alter the presence of the uncomfortable.
Every new beginning comes with letting something go. But, we don’t let go until we identify what we actually need! Missing laces, feeling hungry, cold hands, missing a loved one – each one tells us something. So, what if the same idea applies in treatment and in the rink – we practice. We slam onto the icy ground AND we take the opportunity to push our muscles or balance holding on. Little by little, needs are met, courage increases and relationships develop.
Surrendering to all of our feelings gives us the courage to feel more, much like seeing periphery, not just the object. Courage gives way to faith and some would say – our faith is what the world will remember about us most!
Does faith help us see the whole picture, without the rose colored glasses? Is it faith that helps us let go of imperfect? Or, is it just a basic understanding of needs that does that?
There was a period of time in my life when I needed permission to have all my feelings. I was convinced that those lower order feelings would destroy me. I believed I was too messy and vulnerable because I felt things. The fact is: I’m really living when I let myself be – be here now – and let go of classifying or organizing feelings. But, how can this be if feelings open us up for rejection, disappointment or criticism?
D’Amore Healthcare improves mental health because patients learn to hold space for themselves and eventually for others. So, rejection, disappointment or criticism eventually becomes less important than the empowering experience of falling and finding companionship in the rising. Those monkeys carry us to doors that we would pass up if convenience or speed dictate the next step.
Ice skating takes me back to a simpler time, when falling down hurt less and it was ok to ask someone else to tie our shoes. Regardless, all of it takes faith or trust. Living with every feeling is not a question of higher or lower taxonomy; it’s a question of being vulnerable enough to show up when we can’t predict or create feelings or endings. Today, I let others know that I think life is a wee bit LIFEY (loud, inconvenient, fast, elbowey, yappey). And we are closer because we share the experiences. The stuff we wanted and the things we didn’t want. It’s always going to be easier to deflect and dissect others, try to fix them. But, the most loving thing we do at D’Amore Healthcare, or in life, is let others peer inward and find the answers, offering companionship for the journey. We don’t fix people. We empower courageous, living souls who see God in the lifey details.
In 1910, Theodore Roosevelt explained what courage is in the face of LIFEY slips, falls or pure tragedy.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. “
Whether a person suffers from mania, codependency, despondency, hallucinations, doubt, rejection, stigma or any of the gamut of intrusive symptoms of mental illness or addiction, the arena is a risky, exciting place. The pain and the rising give way to accepting all the little monkeys. Slowly!
D’Amore Healthcare exists to turn emotional wear and tear into arena-dwelling, ice-skating over-comers. Your life is valuable. You are imperfect and whole at the same time! It’s time to notice that.