Monday, January 07, 2019

“Life is really simple, but men insist on making it complicated.” — Confucius

I am concerned. I think the medicine that isn’t prescribed enough is healthy relationshipslove, connection and kindness; compassion for ourselves and others. We have seen a shift of marriages, relationship, communities toward more single parents, more kids having to grow and play the missing parent’s part.  We have seen suicide rates increasing. We have seen integrity at an all-time low and lying considered acceptable behaviour and just something you have to do. What is causing us to think our truth is too much? We might not get the love we want if we tell our truth.  Gaslighting, which happens when we lie to one another –(whether you are aware you are doing it or not )– is undermining our mental and physical health. It is an act of taking advantage of others, for some people is just what you do to get what you want. We have seen an increase in chronic disease and we look to diet, exercise and call life “stress” without defining all behaviours that are causing the “stress”. It is more than just not sleeping enough.  We can kill our loved ones, coworkers, friends with our behaviour. We can undermine our own health with an unwillingness to connect in healthy ways, an unwillingness to love in the best way possible.

I am going to suggest that we love ourselves and one another back to health. If we begin to accept one another and come from a place of abundance we will find that there is something way better than what we have ever known by living a life of love, acceptance and encouragement as a solution to our health issues and dis-ease

I started looking for what is at the root of chronic disease over a decade ago when my son was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor. I had watched my grandmother die of a stroke, my grandfather had Parkinson’s, and eventually, my dad started to have strokes.  I had blown all the other stuff off as bad lifestyle choices they could have controlled until my son got sick. A 7-year-old does not make “bad lifestyle choices.” My kids had organic diets, lots of fresh vegetables from our garden. 

Upon his initial diagnosis, by instinct, I knew what I had to do to help my son get him through.  You can read about that here:

In summary love, compassion, encouragement  - which helped to activate his vagus nerve -  along with good medical care is why I think he is doing so well today. 10 years later. I did encourage him to receive all of those things, along with I encouraged him to give. Typically, it was to give away some of the toys someone had sent when he was in a place of feeling like he had more than enough.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary compassion is the sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it.  We all have experienced emotional pain or some form of suffering at some point. Dr. James Doty, MD mentions in a Washington Post article, “It has been stated many times that survival is of the fittest, but when one reads Darwin closely this is not the case. Rather, the more accurate statement, coined by Dacher Keltner, PhD and other leading social scientists, is “the survival of the kindest.” 

Compassion is how the genes protect themselves and make sure they made it into the next generation. Compassion is an important part of allowing our species to be so great in number. Compassion is what allows us, as a species, to survive in times of struggle.

When we experience compassion, our vagus nerve is activated. A well-reacting vagus nerve is a good ticket for our health. It calms us, it slows the heart rate and it strengthens our immune system. Research is suggesting that compassion might be able to slow the aging process by lowering inflammation in the body. Inflammation is thought to be the precursor to many of our chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, etc. 

Compassion and empathy are innate within the human chemical makeup --  but some conditioned beliefs of communities and/or family culture drive many to mistrust and even at times have disdain for emotions like compassion, empathy and optimism. We all would be better off to embrace love, empathy, healthy optimism and compassion.

When some of my friends are single and dating I tell them, “I am holding space until love arrives.” Typically when I do this and they are ready,  my friends find their life partner, they find love within months. This morning I was talking to one of those friends who are in the process of planning the next steps with a woman that he is in awe of sharing the love with. “I never thought I would find this amazing love at my age,” he said to me over the phone this morning. I am so happy and I love, love, love that my friends are finding health and happiness, no matter what time of life it is. What is holding loving space for someone? I will cover that later.

“Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.” 
― Brené BrownThe Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

To be continued…….

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Love Triangle

My childhood best friend did not like that my parents hadn't given me a middle name at birth. By the age of seven (or some time close to that), she rectified the situation and bequeathed me "Rachel Priscilla". I disliked it so much. But once again, in my 30’s, a boyfriend (now ex-boyfriend) did the same thing. Who even thinks of the name Priscilla these days? Weird.

Within the last couple of years I have learned that my 10th great grandmother, Priscilla Mullins Alden, came over on the Mayflower. Perhaps because random people have been trying to give me her name for decades now; I feel a natural attraction to her story. And also, she came over on the Mayflower. How cool is that?

As I dug through old family records and searched the Alden family website, I found her story reveals something I think has been passed down through the women in my family. She is famously known for what she said to the man who would become her husband, my (10th) great grandfather, “John--why dost thou not ask for thyself?”
When Priscilla was 17 years old, she and her family boarded the Mayflower. They arrived at Plymouth in December 1620. Priscilla was the second daughter and fourth child of William Mullins and Alice Atwood Mullins.  Her parents and her brother, Joseph, died during the first winter in Plymouth, leaving her the only remaining member of her family in the New World.

Priscilla chose her husband; being one of the few single young women, she had choices and she clearly was not a damsel in distress -- even though she had lost part of her family that had made the journey with her.  

As I drove across the state for work this past week, I found myself reflecting on her story and why she would choose John Alden and not Captain Miles Standish. At that pinnacle moment, as the story goes, John had been sent by the Captain to propose to Priscilla for him.  Their love triangle was one that fascinated another great-grandchild of Priscilla and John’s, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, so much he wrote their love story in his poem The Courtship of Miles Standish.  Her decision, John over Miles, made her  (and John) the great grandparent(s) to two U.S. Presidents; if that puts any perspective as to the consequences of choices.

John Alden was hired for the Mayflower to serve as the Cooper. He was not a pilgrim. He shows exceptional people skills in somehow maintaining his friendship with Miles Standish, despite what had to be an uncomfortable situation, even if briefly. The two of them settled what is now Duxbury, not to far from the landing site.  

Though life is funny sometimes. If I understand correctly, John and Priscilla’s 4th child married Miles 2nd child (Miles did go on to marry someone else) eventually making them all family anyway.

I admire my (10th) great-grandmother for not settling for someone who didn't have the time to propose himself. She was able to see that as it was, and have foresight enough to know that wasn't what she wanted. She spoke up, and wasn’t afraid to speak her mind at that moment. Now, I don't mind if anyone jokingly calls me Rachel Priscilla. 

About John Alden

For my family that is curious about the lineage, I think it is (John+Priscilla>Joseph Alden + Mary Simmons>John Alden+Hannah White>Thomas Wood + Hannah Alden>Lemuel Wood + Rebecca Tupper, etc) but if you have the Mayflower Society paper work that supersedes this in accuracy. 

Saturday, February 08, 2014

The Art of Breaking Up

 Disclaimer: I started writing this in 2012 and have written parts of it slowly since.... Good things take time? :-)

I find it ironic I’m writing this now, but perhaps it is not that ironic.  I’m recently divorced -  but the actual break up really happened years ago, well before the paperwork was filed.  If I am truly honest with you, and myself, I should acknowledge the whole thing was probably doomed from the get-go. And heaven only knows why I decided to overlook the doom and gloom and took that jump (probably some crazy notion I had about love).

(As of the writing of this) I’m currently dating a man who puts a smile on my face, 80% of the time, okay maybe 89%.  Sometimes he causes me to think twice AND sometimes I am really unsure if I want to venture into a relationship again (because this will probably hurt at some point), not necessarily because of a break up;  I honestly don’t have a feeling about that one way or the other on that.  But people, in all kinds of relationships, at one point or another “hurt” each other in some form; its gonna happen -- but then I spend time with him and think to myself, “I think he’s worth taking the risk”.  And just in case you run into us being all cute and coupley (because we do that) I want to get this out of the way: Do I think he’s “the one”?  Let me answer that for ya, HELLO??!?! I’ve been married twice, in my share of long term relationships and I have to be honest I don’t have the foggiest as to what anyone means by “the one”. -- Time will only tell. -- And this time, I’m going to need lots of time. --I do like him, enough to throw aside my original plan to be single right now. And THAT is the only thing I am certain of. As much as I may sometimes pretend to be certain of other things (I am rarely ever certain of much these days).

But this is supposed to be about the Art of Breaking Up. Here is a disclaimer: I see the world different than lots of people. You could be one of those people who just doesn’t get me; you may live on Mars and eat lots of -- well I don’t know what people from Mars would eat if they really exist  –- But YOU MIGHT be one of those people who just will not get me, or this propensity I have for keeping my ex’s as friends.  And that’s okay – just get that I live in Rachel-land and in that land some people stay friends after they break up, they forgive each other and keep what is good in sight. (And, here in this land, the ruler eats lots of veggies and chocolate, but she will cook a decent brisket for her meat eating family and friends).

My first break up. I was in 7th grade and my parents had just moved me (and my brothers and sisters) to a more rural town than the suburban town I had just spent majority of my 13 years on this planet. I met him the way my parents met, in Sunday School. At church, a Mormon church, where there is lots of focus on relationships.   He was a little older than me, but Brian and I clicked pretty quickly.  Back in those days (over 25 years ago) we called it “going with”, my parents called it going steady and probably because he went to the same church they tried to be cool with it, at first. 

Brian was my first kiss, the first boy to hold my hand, the first to say, “I love you” to me outside of my family.  Our relationship lasted roughly about 7-8 months – a long time in our puppy-years’ time frame.  Our relationship still held on to the innocence of our youth, we didn’t forge into any territory that makes adults saddened at the loss of innocence so young.

I honestly can’t remember how or why we broke up. I can’t even remember now who did the breaking up because -- over 20 years later -- it seems so trivial in the light of the friendship Brian and I now share. All through high school he dated most of my friends (I’m typing this with a smile).  He was also my first lesson in letting go of feelings that seemed outdated, and moving into a territory of friendship, and honestly wanting the best for the other person. This did not happen over night – or even within a month – but by my sophomore year in high school we were back to being close friends. It also taught me that sometimes when I say, “I love you” to someone I really do mean it.  I was overcoming the disease of bitterness that plagues the women in my mother’s family, but I didn’t realize that then, it is only now as I look back it seems apparent.   When him and his stepmom starting butting heads, he moved in with my family. My brother and him shared my parents basement, which was probably my parents way of keeping 2 floors between us as we shared a house for a few months while the adults got things sorted.  

Brian went on to join the Army. He met and married his first wife. He fell off the face of the earth for 10 years. And then he came back into my life when I was 7 months pregnant with my last child, just months before my oldest was diagnosed with cancer.  And we picked up right where we left off. The same friendship was still there. He has been just a phone call away through the cancer, the disaster that happened in my marriage, and all of the craziness life has brought me. He is the resounding testament that I am so glad I didn’t listen to the craziness that once you date (or in our case “go with”) someone you can never be friends.  Yes, our friendship evolves. We are more like brother and sister in some ways, yet not. He reminds me who I have been, who I am capable of becoming and when I have a question about my car at 6am he answers, slightly annoyed, but there for me.  He is the voice that encourages me to date the man I am dating now, to take a risk.  And I listen to him, and encourage him. He has recently met someone he is so excited about. She lights his world up. I am so happy for him. And I feel somehow richer because I know this is how it is meant to be and I listened to that and so did he. And both of us stuck by that feeling, we are just supposed to be friends nothing more or less.

“Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.” 
 Brené BrownThe Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

The most amazing gift you can give yourself is to see past hurt feelings, to be open to something different than what you thought might be and let life take you where you are supposed to be.