Last night I took my older son to the immediate care clinic in the middle of a severe allergy attack. His eyes were swollen almost shut; he had hives and splotches everywhere; he looked like the losing prizefighter in a 12-round match; and most upsetting of all--he was suffering.
Immediate care centers being what they are, you are asked right away if you consider anything you're experiencing to be life-threatening; and if not, you wait. And wait. And wait. We sat with a dozen other people--all equally discouraged, hurting, upset, and worried--waiting for our turn to see the doctor. After a little more than two hours, we were ushered into a small room where we waited another 30 minutes. By this time, the Benadryl had begun to work and the cold wet towel my son had been holding to his face all evening had helped; the swelling had gone down and what was left was a still splotchy face and neck, bright red eyes, heavy fatigue (due at least in part to the medicine), and stopped-upedness.
The doctor walked in with lots of swirling energy, took a look at my son, noticed his eyes, and said, "looks like pinkeye" all in about 10 seconds. From that misdiagnosis, we worked backward, trying to push toward her the details of living with this allergy (from my view, as the mom, and his view, as the experiencer); what we thought about it; what we wondered; what we hoped.
She wasn't really listening. She adjusted her initial diagnosis a bit--it was an allergy-related conjunctivitis, she decided. But she was completely missing the point. He was suffering He was hoping someone would give him some indication that this suffering could end. He didn't want another drop for his eyes--he wanted this not to happen anymore.
The doctor had walked into the room, summed up the situation based purely on what she saw--which was simply what stood out to her most in that moment--and never listened to the full story in the room or the past or possible future of this story. We were never real whole living beings to her (even though she was friendly enough) and her mind never opened enough to let her heart suggest a couple of things that might have really helped.
I write this hoping that when I am called to make quick judgments--professionally or just in my daily life--that I can remember to take a deep breath and listen and receive what is present, to understand the story that is arising to be heard, before I diagnose the situation and act. There is a soul to be honored. There is a need to be met. And the answer isn't just to prescribe eyedrops to make the red go away--it's a need of the heart, the mind, the spirit.
Monday, July 20, 2009
I've just returned from a weekend at Grace's House, the solar home on 40 acres beside the Abbey of Gethsemani in New Haven, Kentucky. The house is one of the retreat properties of the Merton Institute's Bethany Spring--nestled between hills, forest, and lake in a perfect, peaceful spot. I created the following earth meditation one night while I was there...these photos don't really capture the awe-inspiring beauty of the land, but they do help you glimpse at least the doorway in to the experience. :)
Let Your Longing Guide You
Let Your Longing Guide You
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
From John O'Donohue (1954-2008)...may the light of your soul guide you, dear:
May the light of your soul guide you.
May the light of your soul bless the work
You do with the secret love and warmth of your heart.
May you see in what you do the beauty of your own soul.
May the sacredness of your work bring healing, light and renewal to those
Who work with you and to those who see and receive your work.
May your work never weary you.
May it release within you wellsprings of refreshment, inspiration and excitement.
May you be present in what you do.
May you never become lost in the bland absences.
May the day never burden you.
May dawn find you awake and alert, approaching your new day with dreams,
Possibilities and promises.
May evening find you gracious and fulfilled.
May you go into the night blessed, sheltered and protected.
May your soul calm, console and renew you.
Thursday, July 02, 2009
I just had an interesting object lesson a few minutes ago. For years now, I've had Georgie and Edgar. Georgie is an 8-year-old Newfoundland, and Edgar is an almost 14-year-old Bichon. When I take them outside on their leashes, whether we're just going out to the backyard or going for a walk in the neighborhood, they almost never want to go the same direction. Invariably I am pulled in two directions, or trying to compensate for one sniffing or squatting while the other pulls ahead. Always it seems I am the tension point between two desires--Georgie wants to go one direction, and Edgar the other.
Tonight it occurred to me that it's not fun to be that point of tension, trying to manage everyone else's wishes. How do you decide whose desires are more important? Is it more important to drag Edgar along to keep up with George or to hold George back so Edgar can take his sweet time? Either answer produces inner tension because I'm aware that one dog isn't getting what he or she wants. One has to be pushed somehow to meet the other's need. In a peer-to-peer relationship, they might be able to work that out themselves. But as the one trying to coordinate it all, I am responsible, so I have to choose. And I'm never comfortable because I am busy trying to keep it all balanced and as even as possible.
Of course, unseen in this push-me-pull-you dynamic is my own desires, which are probably acting the loudest of all without me noticing. Am I rushing them both because I've got other things I'd rather be doing? Am I letting them have their sniffy doggy moments, finding out which bunny has been in the yard today? What if I directly admitted how I felt about being pushed and pulled this way and just led them in the way I wanted to according to my desires? Wow, there's an interesting thought. And perhaps a key insight into some other puzzles in my past. LOL!
So tonight, seeing now a thousand stars shining in through the open window, I offer you this little flicker of light. The next time you feel torn between two choices, people, events, or priorities, ask yourself about the unspoken third voice that is waiting to be heard. It's the voice of your own desire that will clearly tell you what feels right for you in the moment. Then you have the choice to act on it or not, but at least you won't be unconsciously yanked along at the end of anybody's leash. :)