Tag Archives: choose

My Love for The Haven

I am on my way home from the annual Faculty meeting at The Haven.  It is a long trip with added frustration this year due to Olympic security in Vancouver.  I had thought I would not make it.  Now heading home, tired and weary from the travel I am very grateful I made the effort.

As many of my regular followers know I have been engaged with The Haven for over twenty-five years.  I’ve been through all of the core programs a few times, been leading programs for over a decade.  I worked, lived there and in many ways grew up calling The Haven my home. Yes, arriving there many years ago thinking I was dying I was given something to yearn for when I didn’t really believe I had any good reason to live.  So it’s easy on a personal level to know why The Haven is home.

But it goes beyond personal for me.  I was reminded in many ways this weekend not just why I love The Haven but also why I truly believe the place is special and needs to always be there.  I won’t cover everything but I will address two key reasons I think more people need to know about The Haven.

This year’s meeting provided some back to the basic stuff for those of us who are long time leaders.  We started the first afternoon breathing with a partner.  Doesn’t get much more basic then that.  Fifteen minutes later I was reminded of how such a simple experience can be so transformative, grounding and connecting.  We then spent the next few hours taking the time to speak frankly, honestly and deeply with each other.  These conversations were one on one.  Some short,  some longer.  Again I was reminded of how easy it is to avoid being open and honest. Yet, when structure and time is provided,  defenses I didn’t even know were present drop.  I not only discover the person sitting across from me,  I rediscover myself.

After that it did seem easier to talk about some of the challenges we face and having some great dialogue about some issues that have gone unaddressed openly for a while.  We didn’t resolve everything.  But we were able to discover how we can disagree and still commit fully to going forward.

So the opportunity to walk our talk was awesome and that so many choose to do that with the time and structure provided was refreshing.  I don’t know many places where leaders really take the time to do that.

The second reason I was reminded of how much I value The Haven came through and evening presentation about the experience of folks who are dealing with Transgender issues.  I listened as someone I had known as a woman long ago who is now a man spoke about not just his own experience but a world that I fortunately have not experienced as harshly has many do.  I realized as I listened how grateful I was that I had lived and learned at The Haven how to be accepting of people.

I wasn’t really the most normal person growing up.  I had found a way through learning disabilities, being a minority, living through some darker aspects of life in my childhood and when I finally decided to deal with some of that I didn’t go for counseling, I went to The Haven.  I wasn’t labeled or alienated.  I was listened to and given a place that somehow made my crazy life seem normal enough.  I grew beyond all the crazy happenings of my past and realized that life was in the moment, not in holding on to my story.  In listening to the presentation I realized just how fortunate I was because many do get labeled, hated, alienated and walk a much lonelier path.  That path is is even called health care sometimes but it really sounds quite inhuman and not so caring.

I think I had wondered about the topic, was it the right topic for us?  Mainly because I hadn’t had lots of experience with transgender as a label.  But I so loved the way the presentation was so real and people’s response was so personal and affirming that indeed The Haven is a place to come with any label and be given the space to live where labels really aren’t that important.  Labels seem to just drop away, the so called good ones as well as the not so popular,  and people show up and relate and discover themselves beyond whatever label they came with.

I love that about The Haven and I am very grateful I have been reminded once again why The Haven so such a special place and why I keep going back even if it is a very long trip!!

A Day of Complete Rest – Sounds Easy!

It is a time of year where I generally have amble material to write about.  The holidays stir up so many differences and traditions, family and relationship issues that I am rarely at a loss for a good rich topic to explore.  Maybe it’s this cold I have or maybe it’s Bailey; but this year I am just not rising to any thoughtful dialogue.  It’s true I have not read about fights of saying Merry Christmas vs Happy Holiday, or stories of airports having to take down Christmas trees because of religious unfairness so either the world is re-focused on more important issues or I have become a bit insulated here in Montana.

The biggest challenge I am facing this Christmas is a serious, unrelenting cold and a puppy that needs constant supervision.  Truthfully Bailey is learning faster then this cold is letting go.

The cold came on over a week ago now.  Every time I think I have turned the corner and I go to do some relatively simple activity like bringing in wood or walk in the woods,  suddenly I am back to square one.  The hardest part is at night, I can not stop the coughing.  Plus my mind kicks in and I start to wonder if this is H1N1 and  if I should go to the doctor etc., etc.

I have not had a bad cold in a very long time and I think that is part of the problem.  I am really no good at curling up in bed and resting, drinking fluids and otherwise doing nothing.  I told myself if the cold was back today that is what I was going to make myself do.  Bailey was going to Stolte’s for a play day and I was going to stay in bed and do nothing.

I do wonder why a day of complete rest so so hard.  I have never liked having to stay in bed.  I wouldn’t say I am an A-type personality.  Because a lot of my activity is not results oriented.  It is simply that I don’t like being sick, down, or may be the real word is helpless.  I do hate feeling helpless and being sick is just too close that feeling word for me!   Even when I was really sick (cancer, chem – sick) , I would force myself to put on my running gear and step out of my door as though I was going to run.  I never ran (likely walked a block or two)  but somehow I felt less helpless and in control if I could at least make the effort.  Even then being in bed all day was not easy.

Well it’s 6Am I woke myself up coughing and I went out to chop some wood and felt lousy.  Found enough already cut to come back in quickly.  All indicators point to me taking the day off.  I’m try to tell myself it’s okay to do nothing, especially if that is what will get rid of this cold!

I want to be healthy by Christmas.  I think a day of bed rest would help.  That means not even going out for lunch at the Green Tea House or deciding to run and pick up some needed supplies.  No my mission should I choose to take it is complete bed rest.  Movies, books and maybe a better blog then this will come out of it.  But most importantly allowing my body to totally focus on kicking this cold!!  Wish me luck!!

Hold Myself & Others As Able

I got a call from a friend late one evening.  My friend was having one of those dark nights of the soul and was reaching out asking,”Will I ever be okay?”.  I could hear in her voice the fear and in her tone the over-writing anger and self-hate that was making it very hard for the average person to connect with her.  I know that place.  When I am hurting, sad or feeling helpless, the last thing I want to do is let anyone know that.  Instead I talk tough, push back on any encouragement that seems to be implying I’ve ever been in this place before and totally negate any positive or inspiration aspect of my tenacious will and willful life force.  I did understand and everything in me wished I could just teleport myself to where she was and give her a big hug.

Instead, I suggested my favorite way to get through a dark night when it’s too late to visit a dog park (the best daytime way to deal with despair).  I encouraged her to make a pot of tea and watch a Disney or light movie such as:  Lilo & Stitch, Harry Potter (the first one) or Legally Blond.  If I am really feeling sorry for myself, I ditch the tea and make a very big bowl of air popcorn with Bragg’s and Brewer’s yeast.  I do think it is important to have a shelf of movies and chamomile tea on hand throughout the year.

We talked, and I knew I was still the only one on the phone, who had faith and confidence in her spirit and life force by the time we hung up.  Still I knew I could not decide for her.  She was going to have to find a path through the dark night.  I wanted to call her the next day, but I thought it best to wait.  Primarily, because I had spoken of my confidence and faith in her, and I did not want to sound wavering. It wasn’t until a few days out that I got and email from her saying she was feeling better.

Having been a mental health professional for many years, and a mental health client before that, I know the drill.  Set up a contract, “I promise not to kill myself.” Personally, I  never liked that concept.  For me the best words I ever heard on the other end of the line when I wanted to kill myself were, “It is your choice.  I even understand why you are thinking of quitting, but I personally hope you don’t make that choice.”  The power of someone giving me the choice and believing in me to make the best choice, that was amazing.  I really got that I could choose.  Suddenly I had power.  Before that moment, I had felt helpless and powerless.

It is hard to let someone choose.  Whether it’s as life or death as suicide or watching someone choose to stay in a horrible job that they are slowly letting take the joy from them, it is hard to let them choose.  Still I am a big believer in holding people as able.  In my own life experience I did not really understand joy until I understood choice.  The idea that it is never the hand you are dealt that gives you joy or any feeling for that matter.  You get to decide how you respond to the circumstances of your life and you get to make that decision over and over.  meaning you can make it differently.  That is powerful.

The most loving and caring thing anyone has ever done for me is holding me as able. Believing in my ability to choose life even when I did not.  Sure I still have my dark nights that’s why I always have tea and movies on standby as well as friend who remind me I am able.  I can choose!