Blessing

Beannacht – A Poem by John O’Donohe

Beannacht” is the Gaelic word for “blessing.” A “currach” is a large boat used on the west coast of Ireland.

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There is a balm …

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Life is Loss; Life is Gain

I wrote the following post in 2011 about the diagnosis of diabetes. But I feel it has a message for today, and not just because we are all struggling with maintaining healthy eating habits.

The era of Covid-19 has brought many losses: loss of a feeling of safety, loss of family and friend contact, loss of co-worker support, loss of income, loss of peace of mind – if we ever had it. There are restrictions too: we can’t eat out as easily – if at all, we won’t be able to attend sporting events – if they even happen, we can’t stay in a hotel or go to a bar or a beach without fear of infection.

But I am reminded by this post on Loss that losses can bring Gains. Today, the air is cleaner, for one thing.  And people are rediscovering the simple pleasures of things like gardening, bird watching, or a hobby or skill they had forgotten. So my invitation today as you read the post below is to make a list of some positives about Covid-19. Even if you have lost your job, or God forbid lost a loved one, what are some personal or community Gains that you are experiencing along with your losses?

Life is Loss. We begin life with the loss of the security of the womb, our first
loss, and then it’s downhill from there. Every day, every second we are losing time, losing a piece of our lifespan, losing opportunities. Every year we accumulate more and more losses: relationships, jobs, friends, spouses, children, parents.

But life is also Gain. All is grace; all is gift. Undeserved. Unearned. With each
breath life animates every cell of our bodies, providing one more opportunity to claim our joy, pursue our bliss, eat chocolate, make love, eat more chocolate.

When I was first diagnosed with diabetes I refused to accept it. I didn’t feel sick. I was overweight, but I had been overweight since my first pregnancy.

After I accepted the diagnosis I became angry – at God mostly. I used to joke that if God really wanted to mess with me God would give me diabetes. I have a suspicion that genetics and weight and a perennial sweet tooth have more to do with my diabetes than God, but I blamed God anyway. Blaming God is convenient, more convenient than exercise and diet for sure. God makes a great scapegoat.

Isn’t that ironic. We usually think God is using us as scapegoats – making New Orleans take the blame for the sins of the decadent South, for example. And all the time God is our scapegoat. We give God the blame for every bad thing, even things human beings are obviously responsible for: pollution, the spread of Aids, the abuse of children. If there is no God there is no excuse, and I am left with diet and exercise.

Back to chocolate or the loss of it. To a chocoholic like myself the loss of chocolate is no small thing. I can do without white bread, I only ever ate it at parties – you know those crustless triangles of mayonnaisey goodness. I can do without white rice, and I have learned to deal with whole wheat pasta. I have always loved veggies and whole grain bread. I can usually do without the cookies, and pass on the ice-cream and cake (unless it is Death by Chocolate cake or those brownies with thick fudge chocolate icing on top), but sugar-free chocolate is for the birds. Actually, no! It’s not for the birds, because if their digestive response is the same as mine I would need larger windshield wipers!

So…giving up chocolate, is it a loss or a gain? Surely a loss, right? Not necessarily. I thought it was a loss for a long time and was very bitter about it. But now, every morsel of real chocolate I treat myself to after a low carb meal is absolute and unmitigated joy, or it can be if I do it right. Like oxygen to an asthmatic, chocolate has the power to bring absolute bliss to every cell of my being. When I eat my chocolate miniatures, malt balls, or Hershey kisses one at a time, slowly allowing a piece to dissolve on my tongue and the sugary sweetness to suffuse my mouth, instead of shoveling down a handful at once, I can enjoy each moment of the experience. When I eat gobs at once I only taste the last one I swallow. So my gain is that I am learning to truly enjoy chocolate, to truly taste it. I am not saying that I am always able to control my shoveling compulsion, but I am getting better at it. And as a result chocolate has become more precious to me and now gives me more joy than it ever did in my pre-diabetic days.

What a paradigm for life this could be. Of course we hear it all the time: slow down and smell the roses. But if you have allergies and can’t smell, or have no garden, or have only smelled the indifferent vegetative aroma of store-bought roses, the metaphor is lost on you. Chocolate on the other hand is pretty universal. So how about a re-write: slow down and taste the chocolate.

There is another gain, too: Self control. Not something we are very good at in the over-indulgent, fast-food eating, immediate gratification seeking, poor impulse controlling Western hemisphere.

Maybe there’s a new book in here somewhere: God and Chocolate, or, How I got Diabetes and Discovered my Bliss.

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Love in the time of Covid

Love is a mask.

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Covid-19, Stress, and PTSD

Who could have known that the last posting in January would be so relevant. I have attached below an updated version with some more current resources.

Dealing with stress resources COVID 2020

I have taken a break from my work as a hospital Chaplain, with much regret. But my physical and emotional health and that of my 71 year old husband have to be my primary focus at this time. I still try to offer support as best I can, but it is little.

Why did I find work so emotionally challenging at this time? Sure, it’s chaos at work. Overflowing morgues, 7 floors of Covid patients, staff stressed out, frustrated, overwhelmed, exhausted. But my department members are mostly making it to work, so why can’t I? It’s not just my kidney stones – I had three last week but I’m pretty sure I passed one. When I went back in to work on Wednesday – having left Tuesday on account of the pain – I was pain-free. The kidney stone (#1) had passed. But I couldn’t stop crying, my chest felt tight, I was finding it difficult to breathe normally. But I had no fever; I wasn’t showing any signs of the virus. It took me a few days, and a FaceTime session with my psychiatrist to figure it out. My PTSD was being triggered. Big time.

How could that be? I wasn’t being abused, I wasn’t being threatened, my co-workers like me. Sure, the hospital, heck the whole country, the whole world, was in crisis mode, but most people were dealing with it. Being stoic and courageous. Couldn’t I deal with it?

Actually, no I couldn’t. And I’ve been guilting myself every day since. But the truth is I was diagnosed with PTSD for good reason some years ago. And, while most of the time I am completely symptom free, it does get triggered in moments of crisis.

So, right now I accept myself for who I am, and I am extraordinarily thankful for my colleagues who continue to serve.

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Resources to deal with Stress

As a chaplain I am constantly looking for, creating, and editing resources for staff, and patients and their families. I created a Holiday Blues resource for the Christmas/New Year Holiday season, and then I adapted it to be a more general resource for Stress. I have uploaded both below.  These are for personal use only as they are hospital work-product property. So they may be downloaded for personal use but they may not be distributed.

FINAL HOLIDAY BLUES resources 2019

HolidayBluessnowman1

Dealing with stress resources 2020

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Attitude is key

“Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out.”  Unknown
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Anger and Humor – can God take it?

“In the musical The Book of Mormon there is a song that is both beautifully poetic and rhythmic. It just grabs you. It is sung by the inhabitants of a small Ugandan village who then translate the words and, well, suffice it to say the natives are shooting God “the bird.”

Hasa Diga Eebowai

When the world is getting you down

There’s nobody else to blame

Raise your middle finger to the sky

And curse his rotten name.[1]”

[1]The Book of Mormon, book, lyrics, and music by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone.

From, Traces of Hope, Mona Villarrubia, p. 16

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FAITH

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When you come to the edge

of all the light you know

and are about to step off

into the darkness of the unknown,

FAITH is knowing one of two things will happen:

There will be something solid to stand on

or you will be taught how to fly.

 

 

(from patrickoverton.com, credited as © Patrick Overton, The Leaning Tree, 1975, Rebuilding the Front Porch of America, 1997)

 

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Grace

grace words

M. Villarrubia

 

hope

 

 

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