CONSTRUCTING A HEALING NARRATIVE
In the spring, I rashly told a dear friend I would run a workshop for her on "Constructing a Healing Narrative"; how we need ways in which we can live healthily despite the poison Trump and the GOP congress have injected into our lives, minds, and souls.I have since found I do not have the spoons (energy) to do this, and that's why I'm writing this blog instead.
Many have spoken of the TRUMP 15 or the TRUMP 20, re. how much weight we have put on since Trump came into power. Me? I have grown a second stomach, which I fondly call, "My Accessory Belly." It is a bit alarming, and as a cancer survivor I wondered--is something toxic setting up shop in my abdomen, hmmmm? But no. Turns out to be too many sweets, sugar, and wine.
So it's time I wrote this long blog on how to fashion a healing container for your life and then take my own advice to heart. Feel free to use what is useful and discard the rest.
1/ Keep a Gratitude Journal;
This actually works. I ordered one from Amazon, of course, because it's good for my health; "The Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude," by Sarah Ban Breathnach. If you can say her name 5 times without fainting, it is a cause for gratitude. This journal has five lines beneath each day's date which you can fill in with: 1/ Dog did not barf on rug! 2/ Blue Apron recipe only took TWO bowls! 3/ Husband (or partner) cuddled me on couch. You get the point, By the end of several days of this, your heart feels softer and your fists unclench.
2/ Take Up Deep Breathing;
This works for me. I simply sit in a comfy chair and breathe deeply for up to 100 counts. Start small with 20, then work your way up. Because, as you know, when DT makes us anxious and angry, we take shallow breaths, which are bad for us.
3/ Cook Wonderful Food;
You probably know I am a foodie, and there's nothing I like better (besides sex, praying, eating my own food, petting the dog, and eating at Alina's) than getting out a recipe and my chopping blocks. Maybe pour a little wine just to help the process. If you are retired like me, you can start prepping the meal around 4:00, sticking it all into glass bowls in the fridge. At 5:00 turn on the gas, put the chopped veggies and olive oil in an All-Clad pot, and stir. Sniff deeply. Do not set hair on fire. Feel how your body relaxes when the aroma of food cooking sails up into your nostrils. Then, when done, plate your dish, eat, enjoy, pour more wine, and do NOT talk about the Dumpster at the table!
4/ Take Food to Survival Center: Put Clean Clothes in Salvation Army Box; Donate to Catholic Relief or Your Charity of Choice;
Research has shown (I read it in the Times!) that altruism calms anxiety, lifts mood, and makes us less anxious about our lives. Doing good things for others increases our connections with people, which also nourishes health. A year ago I started a thing on FB where each time I complained about a 1st-world problem (like shoving my down comforter into a duvet cover...), I would donate money to CRS. It kind of kicked my ass doing this and made me more aware of the blessings in my life. Like running water, shelter, a roof, family, food, and a car with gas in it.
5/ Go to Church or Join a Meditation Group:
Many studies have documented the benefits of belonging to a faith community (more optimism, longer life) and also of having a meditation practice. I have tried meditation many times, including Contemplative Prayer, and am just a fail at it. It makes me: pee constantly, go on Amazon, pick at my nail polish, wonder when DT is going to die, and want to run screaming from the room to eat five cookies in rapid succession.
6/ Have Your Partner Read Aloud to You;
Years ago when I was doing a lot of school and conference talks, I researched the effects of reading aloud to children. Data showed that a child's heart rate went down, breathing slowed, and they became calmer, especially if your arm was around their body. This is in the literature, I am not making it up. My choices for read aloud include: : The Wind and the Willows; The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything; Little House on the Prairie; Three Men in a Boast; and Henri Nouwen's books. If you have a blood pressure monitor, put the cuff around your arm and have someone read to you. See what happens.
7/ Walk the Dog, Cat, or Cuddle Closely With Them;
Research shows that the companionship of an animal (I draw the line at geccos, lizards, and snakes) can slow your heartbeat, calm your anxiety, and lift your mood. I knew one person who, when fighting depression, took their dog onto their lap. Slowly, a smile would form. "This is as good as 2 Wellbutrin!" they'd exclaim. Our small, affectionate Jack Russell once helped a large friend of ours, mostly bald, who had recently lost his mom. Our dog, sensing his distress, licked this good man's head for over 20 minutes. At the end, our friend grinned and pronounced, "I haven't felt this good in ages!"
8/ Pray. Even If You Aren't Sure You Believe, Pray Anyway;
Don't worry about whether you are being dishonest or untrue to your dharma. Just pray. Walk in nature and talk to God, however you imagine them to be. "I am scared shitless about the state of the world, God (they don't mind profanity); help me not to obsess please; help me not to hate and soften my heart; give me hope." Anne Lamott's favorite prayer is simply, helphelphelphelp. Be open to change and help. I personally daub myself with Holy Water, pray the Rosary, sling whatever holy medals I have around my neck, send for Saints' statues, and cuddle with my peeps. Whatever works, right?
9/ Walk In the Woods--Forest-Bathing;
Walk out among some trees. Breathe the air they are breathing. Listen to the sound of the wind in the leaves. Doesn't matter if it's Central Park or Yosemite, the effect is the same. Even looking at a green plant in your apartment can help, as well as calling up a picture of greenery on your Iphone. Isn't that remarkable?
10/ Put Your Feet in Water or Sit By a Lake or Pond;
I have discovered that water is alive. Truly. Not just the wind ruffling the surface or a fish slapping its tail. I mean--sitting on a mossy bank, a blanket, or a chair and watching water go by. If it is a river, watch how it leaps over the rocks. See how the white foam continues to bubble up? And where it is still and calms, watch how the water vibrates from within. I tell you, it is alive, and being near will help your anxiety. Remember in Genesis how the Spirit of God "hovered over the face of the waters." I believe that Spirit still animates water.
Ok, that's it. Enough from Auntie Annie's Attic of Helpful Hints. Remember--we are all in this together. There is no "us" or "them," but only "US." We will get through this, I do believe. And do not forget the consolations of a smacking good kiss, a bite of dark chocolate (preferably Harry & David's chocolate truffles), and some very good red wine. (Read "The Blue Zone" for confirmation on this health tip.)