Eve, 2009

The Eve of a new year,

the beginning of the second decade of the millennium,

and the world is still caught up in war-

war on this, war on that.

Casual war, once limited to Fridays,

slipped the dress code and no one noticed.

We play at defense of ill-conceived principles

with plastic-coated guns,

covering greed with noble words and forgetting,

forgetting- or pretending not to know

that suffering is the result

not the cause.

Forgetting the loss of heart that happens in direct assault,

seeing the narcissistic flexing of principles

as necessary,

not the vanity it is.

Forgetting that the enemy is defense.

Forgetting that war is the cheapest of cheap shots.

Amnesia,

the kind the alcoholic craves-

temporary, carefully rationalized and delusional-

the mark of the descent into dipsomanic madness.

The self-justified drunkenness,

the pretending not to know,

despite the evidence that glistens and smells on clothes and floor.

Violence breeds violence, leaves scars, prevents healing,

slaps the soul violently into chains,

leaving the heart in tatters,

incapable of compassion,

at least for a while.

Sometimes a very long while.

The virus of winning is epidemic now,

infecting everyone-

even the weakest host has the delusion

that it is right,

and that gives it the right

to rob

to kill

to rape

to convert

to taunt

to lie

to pollute

to enslave

all in the name of a fever that was never quite purged-

even in Eden.

~DGS

Irandemonium

It’s not in/on the Mainstream Media-but it looks like Iran is re-coup-ing up for revolution by the people…

Will it take this time? As usual, Sully’s on top of it.

Christmas

From the First Reading of the Christmas Vigil Mass:

“You shall be called by a new name pronounced by the mouth of the Lord….. No more will you be called ‘Forsaken’ or your land, ‘Desolate. But you will be called ‘My Delight,’ and your land ‘Espoused.’ For the Lord takes delight in you…” Isaiah 62.2

A God that takes delight. Who among us can resist the face of a delighted baby?

Not me.

That’s the kind of delight I believe in on this night. A type of joy that transcends doctrine and moral posturing, that simply enjoys and revels in the craziness of creation, desperate for attention, aiming for hope, betting on simple kindness, compassion and the better nature that can’t help but smile at the face of a delighted baby.

I’m in.

Tips for Surviving Holiday Stress and Depression

(Also published on The Bilerico Project)

Feeling stressed and/or depressed lately? You’re not alone. The Holiday Season is reported to be “problematic” for about forty-five percent of the general population, and there may be added concerns for LGBTIQ persons.

There is often so much pressure to be joyous and to share “the most wonderful time of the year”. It can be especially hard for those of us who feel wounded by the various Ghosts of Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa Past. Family and work dynamics can be hard at the best of times, during the holiday season it can reach a torturous crescendo:

“I can’t stand so-and-so, and they’re going to be at Grandma’s for dinner.”

“I do not want to go to Midnight Mass with the family, but I’m more upset by the thought of dealing with the fallout of not going.”

“I just know that Bible-thumper at work thinks I’m going to hell. The office party is always a nightmare.”

“I’m going to have to fend off all the questions of why I’m not married.”

“If they knew the truth, I’d be fired (disowned, disgraced, etc.).”

“I don’t have enough money for gifts. Shopping is so much pressure. I feel inadequate compared to….”

“I’m bringing my partner, and this is the first time. I’m worried that they’ll say or do hurtful things.”

Yep. All familiar. But there are some things to keep in mind when dealing with the stresses of the Holiday Season….

Remember, you’re not alone. “Forced Fun” with co-workers, family and extended circles of families and friends happens to everybody. Many people, straight, gay and otherwise feel that they aren’t part of the celebration because they don’t feel particularly festive or “in the Christmas Spirit”. The pressure to have fun, be nice and ignore grudges and difficulties can result in the completely opposite effect. Not out to family, co-workers or friends? This can dramatically increase holiday stress. Maintaining a front and keeping secrets is hard.

Mostly, our day-to-day lives are lived with people who care for and support us emotionally. We’ve created our own families. We’ve created routines that encourage and nurture us. We’ve developed our own beliefs. The holidays can totally upset that. Even the mentally healthiest among us can be challenged by relatives and parents, regardless of acceptance or support. Ram Dass once said, “If you think you’re enlightened, go spend a week with your parents.”

And even if we are out, during the holidays we’re often surrounded by people who may be biologically related or who share the same work, but who do not support us, or who are even openly hostile. Whether this is true or simply a suspicion or feeling, it still causes anxiety, which causes increased stress levels which often leads to some very depressing thoughts. A very slippery slope mentally….

What to do? If your particular situation seems to be causing problematic stress or depression, please seek out professional help. But for those relatively-minor-once-a-year issues, below are a few suggestions I have found helpful.  Please feel free to add your own:

  • Be aware of your anxiety. Notice when your tension levels are rising, and let yourself feel them. Feelings never hurt anybody- the actions resulting from those feelings are the real kicker, and quite often those actions happen because feelings are so bottled up that the pressure forces an explosion. Often, simply noticing and naming the anxiety can calm it.
  • Breathe. Under stress, the breath is often shallow, keeping oxygen levels at a minimum which just adds more stress. As simple as it sounds, three deep, conscious breaths can bring instant relief, slowing the heart rate, reducing hypertension- and anxiety levels.
  • “Is that true?” That question has been my lifesaver in many situations. My brain can run amok with fantasies of what people will say or do in response to me- things that I can’t possibly know for certain. Anxiety levels rise in the face of uncertainty. This simple question slows my thoughts and brings me back to the facts.
  • Be here now. Most stress involves either the past or the future- both are perspective distortion agents. Staying in the here and now reduces stress.
  • Resist the urge to self-medicate. Most people eat and drink more and exercise less than they normally would at this time of year.  If you’re prone to depression already, (and even if you’re not) a hangover and love handles won’t help. Plus, alcohol, a depressant, may seem to help for a while, but usually worsens depression and stress symptoms later on. It also reduces inhibitions, making hurt feelings, disagreements and fights much more likely.
  • Give yourself an out. If you have to spend an extended amount of time with family, work some down time into the schedule. Removing yourself from the situation can be vital, and it can be done gracefully. “I just need some alone time” is something that almost anyone will respect. There are lots of reasons to be alone- get creative. A short walk, a hot shower, a nap, an AA meeting, or even extended time behind the locked door of a bathroom can do amazing things to renew self-confidence, perspective and energy.
  • Remember, this is temporary. Most of us can survive anything for a few days. If you’re in a situation that you feel you may not be able to handle well, by all means, get out! But if staying will do less damage to yourself and others than leaving, remembering the finite nature of the visit may help.
  • Take care of yourself. You know what you need to do to be healthy. Eat well, exercise, hydrate, rest, play and give yourself permission to be human.

No matter what the situation, my greatest stressor is worrying about something I have little or no control over. Recognizing that is key. People are going to think what they think, and my thoughts or actions will probably not change that in the short amount of time I have to spend with them during the holiday season. Whether they approve of me or not is none of my business- my business is to be happy, honest, kind, and healthy- and I can do it. I do it by knowing myself and taking care of myself- even under the pressure of Midnight Mass.

Wait

In this moment I give up anger.

I may take it up again- maybe soon,

but not now.

The noise distracts

and my heart is too weak

to hold us both right now.

Maybe when there’s quiet,

maybe then.

When anger can be held

in trembling, strong hands.

Seen with kindness,

heard as data,

powerful- but not a danger.

Maybe then,

but not now.

~DGS

Trouble

I’ve been having some computer trouble lately, so sorry about the dearth of posts. I think it’s fixed (knock wood) so, hopefully, you’ll hear more soon.
Thanks,
Greg

You Reading This, Be Ready

A gentle reminder:

You Reading This, Be Ready

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life -

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

~ William Stafford ~
Copyright 1970, 1998 by the Estate of William Stafford.
From “The Way it Is: New and Selected Poems by William Stafford”,
Grey Wolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota.