Azaleas, Castles and the Hummingbird
I am so amazed that all the azaleas are in full bloom right now with so much wonderful color. I am sure this must be early but I am just so full of joy that it takes me back to the time I lived in Kent in England. The county of Kent is called the Garden of England and is blessed with many historical gardens that are open to the public through the National Trust.
I think my favorite has to be Sissinghurst Castle, which has some of the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen. The azalea walks amid hanging white wisteria put a spring in your step and a mood of gratefulness into your heart to be amid such beauty.
The gardens were designed by the female novelist Vita Sackville West a close friend of Virginia Wolf. To me what is so delightful is there seems to be ten rooms within the garden. There is one room for every kind of mood and feeling. The whole place is such a sensory experience that you wonder at the mood and insight of this garden creator.
As I have walked around the gardens with the lovely castle in the background it does make you think that although you might have all this beauty around, you might feel trapped in your own castle tower. Inaccessible, remote and solitary, like a castle, nobody can get in.
If you are depressed or fearful or have had a tragic loss then everything means nothing. Some are even trapped in their ivory tower thinking. Isolated and overwhelmed.
To combat these feelings of depression and fear, try to get close to nature. It is a very soothing tool whose power lays in simplicity.
Where I live now my winter blues lift (seasonal affected depression) when I see the azaleas blooming as I know the hummingbirds will soon follow. Castles and architecture are lovely but the amazing little hummingbird gives hope. I have my hummingbird feeders out and am hoping I will see my first hummingbird on the 1st of April. The strength and endurance of such a little bird inspires me. Did you know its tongue becomes a straw to drink nectar?
If you feel emotionally trapped by the walls of your life just reach out and touch something in nature and you will feel freedom.
I have a wonderful labradoodle, named Bella, who has the gentlest loving nature in the world. To have a companion, who constantly adores you and is going to love you forever, is something that every woman wants. Nobody wants to be lonely, alone, or in lonely coupledom.
This delightful little puppy was carefully planned and purchased from a wonderful breeder who vetted us before she would even consider selling to us. It was obvious from the moment I met the breeder that she loved her little pups. I felt so reassured that the source of my bundle of joy was somebody so loving and tender to her animals. It was a long journey, as I had to go to Portland to pick her up. Quite a hike from Tennessee. Fortunately some of my team members came with me and we all did the plane journey back together. I was frightened Bella would pine and become depressed after leaving her family but that didn't happen.
After the initial wonderment, all the hard work of training started. We had to hire a professional trainer, who would come 3-4 times a week to train the dog, but also provide extensive training for us. Teaching this happy, gentle puppy soul her boundaries was so very important. Yes, we had all the kits, the different leashes, the correct reward treats, and the tools needed to bring about obedience with loving-kindness. Bella was, and still is, so irresistible.
We had one of those invisible fences with the electric collar installed. We had to make sure she was safe. After the fence stunned Bella a couple of times, it amazed me how soon she knew exactly where her boundaries were. Bella knew what was her domain and what was not. This kept her happy and us happy.
As she was growing, so was her white coat and she was as shaggy as a sheep. Time to get her a little trim. The groomer took her back down to almost her bare skin. My Bella looked so naked. Coming home, she was so anxious and positively stressed about this event. After a day or two, she had adapted to the change but was now able to get through the non-electrified fence to the dog next door.
I let her out for a run and when she did not come back after my calling a few times, I was getting alarmed and slightly panicked. The trouble is she can run so fast. She is like a gazelle. I ran inside, broke the rules, and got the dog treats. I was running manically to all ends of the property not calling Bella but “Treat Bella Treats”. I had to enter the next property and saw her in the distance so I continued running as fast as I could to catch her. I kept offering the lure of treats. I knew lots of people would love to have Bella and want to keep her. Bella had no idea she was in danger and no ability to defend herself.
Bella finally looked up and saw a fearful, traumatized me holding the treats and she ran over. I held her tight. How I loved this beautiful, helpless creature. I was relieved to have her back and rushed to get her home and safe.
It couldn't help but remind me when women have no emotional or relationship boundaries, they are so vulnerable. Placing your love and trust in the hands of somebody who cannot or will not recognize your need for safety and security is setting yourself up for life failure. Relationship addiction is a difficult issue for many women. If you feel you have this addiction, you have to be like Bella and have people around you that care and preserve your safety. Playing out drama can lead to much trauma. Beware.
Sometimes it is very hard to look in the mirror and see who we really are. Often our survival has depended on evolving into a person we are not. I could not help think of this when I saw the trailer for the movie Mirror Mirror with Julia Roberts, based on the Brothers Grimm classic Snow White.
Even way back then, blended family issues existed. I remember a friend of mine who was getting remarried to a nice chap who had a teenage daughter. My friend had four children of her own. The couple was good together and their children were all over 18 so none of the more difficult parenting issues existed. After the engagement, there was an outburst from the future groom’s daughter. Her wailing statements were of the kind that she did not want another mother and her mother could not be replaced. She felt if she had a relationship with the new wife, she would be betraying the memory of her mother. A brown paper bag was found as a full-scale panic attack was in the making.
The soon-to-be-wife calmly said, “I don't want to be your mother. I have enough children of my own. I am happy to be your friend if you would like that.” This simply took the wind out of her sails, her mood calmed immediately, and no panic attack occurred. There was going to be no rivalry or jealousy.
This story had a happy ending, but many do not. Feelings of betrayal and jealousy can become so internalized that their incubation can lead to a thinking disorder or other mood irregularities. If you hold onto anguish, the anxiety will simply take over your life. Let the river of life just take it away.
I have learned that writing a quick note and sending it out to sea, as a “message in a bottle,” is a great way to relieve stress when it is not possible to speak to the person involved. I am mindful of the many very successful women writers we have these days: J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, Jennifer Worth, and Kathryn Stockett to name a few.
Take the time to write a letter about how you feel to the person who may be part of a betrayal that has affected you. Place the note in a bottle. Then create a ritual where you send this out to the waters. Look into the mirror on your wall and don't pretend you can cope; use a tool that actually helps you cope.
You may be very surprised how empowering this is.
I know what it means to be misunderstood by others who very often do not have any ill will. They just don't get it. After I lost my daughter I felt frozen in time, unable to move forward. My grief and depression did not allow me to think. Any unwanted or unexpected loss attacks the belief system questioning self-identity with despair. The mood feels like nothingness and darkness will never leave. Others, who had known you before the trauma, do not know what to do with this. Rumors and stories begin becoming the entertainment for others. This is very painful for the traumatized person who is not able to defend themself. You feel like the walking dead and really wonder if you will make it through.
I heard an account that has made me become very mindful about telling stories about others that are not based on the facts.
The story goes something like this:
An older person lived in a village and seemed to be something of a recluse, very isolated and extremely private. There were many stories that went around the village about this person. Nobody had been into the house and the opportunities for conversation with her were very limited. One of the locals who had been a part of the rumor chain stumbled on the truth about this person’s history. It was so far from the terrible rumors that had been spread that she felt compelled to go see the person and apologize.
The withdrawn neighbor, who actually had been deeply grieving, listened to the apology and then asked the apologizing neighbor if she would do something for her. The neighbor said she would of course. She was asked to take a sack of feathers and scatter them to the winds over the fields. You know what the March madness winds are like, all was blown hither and tither. At the same time she was asked to return to the house the next day.
Upon returning the grieving woman asked the neighbor to take a sack and go collect all the feathers she had scattered. Of course this was an impossible task. Like these scattered feathers, it is impossible to take back all things you have said.
I have found it very beneficial not to be part of the rumors and lies chain even though it can sometimes feel good to be part of a sensation and seeming in the “in-crowd”. My mood always sinks whenever I know I have been caught up in this, as I know nothing good comes from it. So I have a couple of things that help me not to draw outside the lines. Remembering “she that chatters about others also chatters about you”. Yes, you could be the next victim of somebody’s thoughtless stories. You could be the one who is misunderstood.
Before speaking always ask yourself “is this wise, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true.” If the answer to all four is not yes then you might want to think again about speaking. Those feathers blow to all kinds of places.
The quickest thing that can make the hairs rise on the back of my neck is when I have the finger pointed my way for something I did not do.
Not an outright accusation you could actually deal with, but one of those rumors that are sort of circulating about you. It's the sort of thing that makes the room go silent when you walk in or two family members share knowing looks that threaten disbelief in you. Its one of those ‘jellyfish' like things that as you hold it the shape keeps changing. It creates a sort of paranoia thinking that people are speaking about you.
Sometimes you do actually get caught in something you have long denied being capable of. In that case usually you just have to own it. Sometimes the distorted view of others creates perceptions that are not true but have become 'their' truth about you. Sometimes somebody else's mood disorder could be affecting you.
I was attacked the other evening by four moths zooming around in the kitchen. It's been pretty warm so I could understand a few flies. Of course, I have one of those natty electric fly zappers so getting rid of the flies is all in a days work. The moths, however, bothered me a whole lot more.
I associate moths with 'old and moldy' and having been around for a long time until they become moths. Maggots. I could feel my anxiety rising as whom on earth would want to eat dinner with me with moths flying everywhere.
After the cooking was done, there was going to be no peace or calmness until I had found where the moths were coming from. I decided that I had to find the source of food. I could feel a bit of a raging mania coming on as I was systematically going through the kitchen cupboard-by-cupboard, drawer-by-drawer.
I went through the food larder, checking every open package. I was looking for all indicators of moth inhabitation or infestation. I could find nothing in the larder as everything was in sealed boxes or containers. My search continued as I went through every storage cupboard wondering if a packet of something had accidentally found its way into a cupboard. This was pretty traumatizing as I was making many other discoveries about my cupboard planning that need a whole lot of help.
This had taken several hours and I was running out of steam. I was actually beginning to feel depressed at what appeared to be the wrong track when I came to a drawer where we kept dog treats. I had not been giving them these lately. There were the moth maggots in with the greenies.
I felt victorious that I had found the food source and disposed of it immediately. Woohoo.
If you feel attacked and it’s making you depressed, find the source of the fodder. That’s how you contain it.
Clean As You Go
There were a number of years when I had experienced depression that I could not cook at all. I just had no desire. As I gradually overcame the depression, I started to cook again. Cooking had always been a passion for me and it started to feel comforting again.
Often in times past, I would cook up a storm and at the end of it, all of the food would be great, but the kitchen was a ghastly tragedy. As a child, I had been told many times to 'clean as you go.' As my cooking comeback started, I somehow could not stand the mess. The approach was different and I set a clear rule for myself - each task had to be completed before starting on the next one. This actually became really fun. My mood became so happy and joyful as I came to love the value of uni-tasking instead of multi-tasking. It was a real self-esteem lift to have a beautiful and organized kitchen with a beautiful kitchen supper on the table too.
I decided to do an experiment and organize one cupboard in my house with only the things I needed. I thought I could limit myself to ten items only under the bathroom sink. I normally had a multitude of everything including many of those “once tried” things. I liked the idea of a signature perfume and love CoCo Mademoiselle, so why not a signature everything else. I had to totally detox the bathroom cupboard. I chose ten items starting with an $8 spin brush toothbrush, Crest toothpaste, Jojoba soap from Crabtree and Evelyn, Origins Salt body scrub, and the list goes on. I actually bought 6 of each, as each of the items were tried and true friends that I love and really work for me. The sensation of self-empowerment I felt from this was so surprising. My bathroom now felt like a true self-love sanctuary where no gloomy moods could ever exist. Everyday when I wake up and go into the bathroom, I open that cupboard and look at my ten best friends who make me smile.
I continued the detox process into the makeup drawer, the foot-care drawer, and the lotion and cleanser cabinet until the whole bathroom became a self-care, mood-managing cocoon. My self-esteem took on a whole new feel as this “clean as you go” mantra took on a life force for good. A place for everything and everything in its place creates centeredness. You begin to love yourself because you have taken a position with yourself.
I have been applying the principle to everything I do these days whether it's physically, emotionally, or mentally and I find that chaos and mania, anxiety and stress do not thrive in this environment. These “clean as you go” tools can help you to bring up your own game in life. Try it, Martha Stewart has many great tips and visuals to get some good ideas.
Mixing Up Those Pills
Self-diagnosing has become a phenomena amongst all.
Google has more information about health than anybody could ever imagine. I have a few friends, who have absolutely no medical training or background. They spend hours absorbed in the search for medical answers and methodically diagnose everybody in their family and beyond. There is this unshakable belief that there is a 'pill' for everything, it is just a matter of finding the right one.
Just get the medications right and all will be well. My own experience has been that medications are part of a health solution. Self-medicating has gone along with the self-diagnosing, but I have seen a few tricky things happen to those that decide to mix up their pills or skip them altogether.
While riding down the road one day in my friend’s car, I could hear her speech becoming a little odd. We stopped the car and her lips were swelling into the Mick Jagger variety and panic hit us both. To the emergency room was my immediate direction. Was this an allergy attack, a biohazard, or a death dealing disease? We stopped to get ice and placed it on the bulging lips and swelling tongue. Things started to stop growing just before arriving at the hospital. The change of plan was to go back home and go to bed instead. Enlightenment struck when we got back and discovered a whole concoction of vitamins, alternative remedies, medications for panic and depression, and an antibiotic had all been used together. We both lost a day of our lives sorting out this reaction. It is really important to get professional advice when combining treatments. Try never to lose track of what you have taken.
I have another friend who has bipolar disorder and really struggles with continuing to stay on her medication. Every now and then she suddenly decides she is doing well and does not need her prescribed medications anymore, so she stops taking them. I received a manic phone call one Sunday morning advising me she was buying two more horses for Brookhaven Retreat. I dashed over to her place and she was in full-blown mania, shopping on the phone and unable to contain the elevated psychosis. I took her to her bedroom to help find her medications. All the furniture had been moved to the middle of the room.
Two whole walls were covered in neat lines from floor to ceiling with post-it notes. Each note contained a note to 'self' of each and everything she either wanted to do or should have done. There were thousands of them. My normally delightful friend, in this type of mania, was a sad and heartbreaking sight. It must have taken all night to post all the notes. This event led to a hospital stay and could have been avoided if she had taken her prescriptions as prescribed. Bipolar disorder can hit like a tsunami and destroy all kinds of things including your bank accounts. I am also glad to say I was able to cancel the purchase of two more Tennessee Walkers.
Over-medicating, under-medicating, or sharing medications can lead to grief of an even greater magnitude than described. The nurses at Brookhaven Retreat always teach 'only take as prescribed' and I believe they are right.
A Gift From The Sea
A number of years ago, when I first moved to the United States, I met a wonderful person called GiGi. At that time I appreciated the kindness of anybody who even noticed me, as inside I was so sad and very depressed after the death of my daughter. GiGi was a very inspiring PhD who loved the beach and life in general and was full of good common sense, energy and insightfulness. Isn’t it such a wonderful thing when you get to know somebody who is good to the core?
I will never forget her generosity to me. The days I spent on the beach close to her family business. Teaching me about the mindful gentle manatees. I loved the fact she was so well read and from time to time would share good reads with me. One year she gave me the book "Gift from the Sea" by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.
I took the time to read this while on the beach and it shared eight inspirational essays of the stages and feelings of her life. I instantly connected to this book as I felt her moods, needs, changes, and her understanding of what it meant for a woman to be dragging around a caravan of emotional baggage.
I could hear that she understood loss, pain, being overwhelmed, and the search for simplicity. I, of course, knew she had been a great aviator, the daughter of a US diplomat, and wife of Charles Lindbergh.
What I did not know, and later discovered, she too had lost a child tragically as I had. Although the mother of six children, her first-born son had been kidnapped at 20 months old and then been found murdered two months later. The horror of this makes you wonder how she got through the trauma and grief and lived to share her thoughts through this book.
My favorite quote is "If one is estranged from oneself, then one is estranged from others too. If one is out of touch with oneself, then one cannot touch others."
I have seen many other women I know gain the same comfort from this book that I did. For women in depression, this is a must read. I read it every year around spring, but especially when I am at the beach and my mood is centered and calm. Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift.
Do you know what the shell of your life looks and feels like?
Do You Have Fire Fingers?
When I was growing up, the rule of thumb was to always make sure you counted to ten before you would say anything you would regret later. There were those moments when you just wanted to give somebody a good piece of your mind, but of course they say 'speak in haste, repent in leisure.’
I can remember when I was once given a slicing and dicing, a tongue lashing that left me feeling numb for days. Where did that venom come from? Verbal vomit is rarely forgotten and creates distrust, doubt, and anxiety.
The new kinds of attacks seem to come from the cyber world; where people hit those keys and send on impulse at the drop of a hat. I had a family member who suddenly received an email from a friend out of the blue that changed their relationship forever. These two were art enthusiasts and had done lots of business deals together. One of the deals went a little sour. Doing business as friends always carries risk. It’s a bit like people that work together and date; the warning is 'don't get your honey where you make your money'. Things can go south and it's the moody blues if they do.
The business deal had exposed one of the friends as not being entirely honest or transparent and there is nothing worse than being caught. The friend who was affected was not too bothered but just wanted the matter put right; which would not have taken much to do that.
What happened next was inconceivable. An email arrived launching an attack of guided missile proportion. It listed the dislikes and negative opinions held formerly unknown to the friend or to anybody else who knew them. There was nothing saved for a rainy day. It was a full-blown flamethrower character assassination. There was immediately a rally to try and make some rational sense of this. Was the friend intoxicated? Had they taken the wrong medication? Had something happened to traumatize them? Could it be a hormone mood swing?
The friend who received the email was devastated, felt betrayed, even abandoned at such a disclosure. There was no knowing that the friend held such bitter dark feelings towards her. It took some days for her mood to lift while considering how to reply to this email and how she was going to disengage from the business aspects of the relationship. This was going to be an impossible relationship recovery.
Before she had opportunity to respond another email arrived from the offending friend. It said," sorry for the vent, happens now and then."
My relative replied. "Sorry is a word, the damage is done."
There was no recovery from the attack. There was injury and scars. The next time you are thinking of firing off an email or a text in a rash bad mood moment, remember it takes years to build friendship and credibility and minutes to lose them. If you are under the influence of alcohol, be careful of those fire fingers. Do not send out a message that will never be retrievable.
Muck Boots and Garden Gloves
This week at Brookhaven Retreat has been one of nurturing new beginnings. Our ladies have spent countless hours designing and planting a spring bed in the client garden. At a nearby nursery, they purchased vegetables, herbs, bushes, and flowers, as well as, pots and garden creatures to add an individual piece of their own style.
Geared in garden garb, the clients and floor managers attacked the garden with enthusiasm. Laughter and excitement could be heard throughout the community as the project began to come together. Rows of pansies, onions, azalea bushes, candytuft, posies, several varieties of thyme and lavender, and other miscellaneous herbs were carefully deposited into the soil. However, this is only the beginning of their project. Soon, they will add the potted hen-and-chicks, broccoli, lettuce, and cauliflower. In the coming days, they will have the opportunity to see their vision become reality.
This is more than a garden to our women. It is also a symbol of the new life these ladies find at Brookhaven Retreat. The budding flowers and resiliency of the herbs represent something that is, in some ways, a path to connect with themselves and the earth on a spiritual and emotional plane. They have come for different reasons but they all have come for one common purpose: To find life and hope once more.