What to do When You Don’t Know What to do

You say you’re stressed, distressed, and don’t know what to do next?  Are you filled with anxiety, grief, doubt, depression and confusion?  For your own mental health, this is the time to get out an old-fashioned pen or pencil, a pad of paper, and write, long hand, as much as you can.  Long, stream of consciousness, totally uncensored writing, raw with every misspelling, grammatical mistake, and rule ignored.

Most writers are familiar with this process, because that is how we make sense of the world.  We just write.

Don’t even read what you wrote for a while.  Just write, day after day, for days, weeks, even months.  At some point you will want to go back and read what you wrote, but not until you have enough written that you will be able to see the full arc of your thoughts and feelings.

Don’t let anyone else read your journal either, or you will find yourself writing to your audience, which means you will edit yourself.  You can always share what you wrote at some later date.

When should you write?  First thing in the morning, while you are still groggy with sleep is a good time to write, as you are then unlikely to edit yourself.  Write anything.  Write how stupid it is to write when you have nothing to say.  Write about your cat getting in your way of writing, because she wants to  be in your lap.  Write about your frustrations, fears, hopes and dreams.

Some people recommend writing with your less dominant hand, resulting in a childish scrawl, and it is said, childish feelings and memories.  Write any time you are filled with strong emotion that overcomes your inclination to hold back.

As I go along, I will put a mark next to information that I consider really important to key on later.  Right now, I am looking for problems and their solutions.  Why not just make a list?  I would if I knew what problems I had.

Things reveal themselves in a very subtle way in a journal.  You might not even know how really annoyed you are with all the clutter the family leaves around your work-space, until you see you have mentioned it here and there.  This is something fixable.  That thing waking you up every night at 3 a.m. might not be under your control to fix, but maybe you can find a way to help the situation.

You will learn how you really feel about things.  Don’t jump to the conclusion that you already know.  People are notorious for discounting or minimizing their feelings.  How can you address an issue without really admitting the depth of feeling you have.

Even if you never read over what you have written, your writing will have helped to clarify your feelings and thinking.  This is why mental health professionals recommend writing in a journal.  But rather than toss it out, give it a read.  You are bound to be surprised by something you wrote.


Thoughts for All Saints Day

Old Stone Church, Public Square, Cleveland Ohio

On All Saints Day we remember and honor those who have died in the last year.  I offer these thoughts to all of you who may have lost someone.  

Giving thanks for your blessings upon our lives, your mark upon us still.

For those out of our reach, beyond our sight, yet still held in love.

Separated, but held dear, memories held close, hearts still full of love.

For those departed, the hand not there, we reach for you, hearts never separated.

A Glimpse Behind the Smiles

A Generation

On the surface a picture of an entire generation of a family is a wonderful thing.  The picture is a wonderful thing.  The picture doesn’t tell us what brings them all together.  The smiling faces don’t tell us the emotions under the surface. The flowers in the front could be a clue, signaling a party.  I guess at its most basic level, it was a party, but not one we wanted to be invited to, nor have.   This party was the celebration of my father’s life and passing.  These are the people who called him “Opa,” another word for Grandfather.

Even when our hearts are breaking, we put a smile on our faces.  Those loved ones who live far and wide come together for major life events, like a funeral.  They can have a moment of comfort being with others who understand.  But grief isn’t really shared.  We keep our grief inside.

Some people set about moving on with determination, keeping busy and immersing themselves into jobs and responsibilities that never stop.  Some people want to cling to memories, and spend hours looking over pictures, fondling possessions, and talking to who ever will listen.  Some people write with tears over pages of all the memories and pain of their loss.  Sometimes grief never seems to end, but remains below the surface, waiting for a turn of weather, a scent, a yellow flower or bluebird, something that triggers a memory and with it a longing for the one not with us.

You have heard that elephants never forget.  Elephants will stay at the side of a dying relative and linger after death, but eventually they must make the choice to move on or they will die along side their relative.  Those who move on, will continue to mourn and visit the grave every time they pass.

Like the elephant we also need to move on through life, but that doesn’t mean forget.

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