Rise Up Reflections June 2017

Having had back surgery on May 30, the whole month of June seemed to pass in a flash as I recovered, and am still recovering, day by day. I found the daily questions a welcomed distraction from the business of recovery even though several of my responses touched on the topic of medical care and recovery, etc. Still, I hope that you find some useful nuggets in the questions for yourself in Rise Up Reflections June 2017. Thank you for visiting.

 Rise Up Reflections June 2017

JUNE 1: What really matters to me?Rise Up Reflections June 2017

Today’s question is a good one for me to jump back in to this community following my surgery. First I would like to say thank you to all of the dear souls in this space who wished me well before, during and just following my surgery. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have one more day in hospital before heading home.

As for the question, “what really matters to me?,” my answer is simple. My wife, our children, our grandchildren and the rest of our family first and foremost the most important things in my life. Following that is my faith community, A joyful mix of friends including this community and of course my photography. I am really hoping that once my healing is complete down the road that I will be able to spend more time with my photography in ways that I have not been able to do over the last few years. That, I am very grateful for.

JUNE 2: What makes me hopeful?

Rise Up Reflections June 2017Since I am three days post-op and still in the hospital what really makes me hopeful is that signs that my body is healing are evident hour by hour. And for that I am most grateful.That said,, I am even more grateful for the many friends in this space who have expressed their care and concern for me before surgery, during surgery, and in the days following my operation. So thank you all so much.

JUNE 3: Reflecting upon a difficult interaction I had with someone recently: How could I have been more kind?

I want to believe that I am kind in all situations including those that are difficult. But I also realize that such a statement is likely not true either! I know for myself that if I am interacting in a tense situation with another person and feel that my “kindness score,” if you will, is in right order and I deliberately attempt to insert more kindness into the interaction for no particular reason, then doing so not only distorts the exchange but also, in my view, comes across as disingenuous. If one’s head and heart are in the right place during a difficult interaction with another person then usually it is just that, a difficult situation that you process your way through and be done with it.

JUNE 4: When am I “in the flow?” How does this make me more available to life? 

For me, “in the flow” happens when I am either working on a piece of writing or attempting to capture a certain feel and image with my camera. Unfortunately, my chronic back pain has prevented me from getting into that zone very often over the past few years. Having undergone major back surgery just four days ago I am hoping to experience being in the flow more frequently once I heal. At the moment, however, the only “flow” I am in is a drug haze caused by all the medications I’m on, which I am grateful to have available to me!

JUNE 5: What are the daily gifts in my life from people I do not know (personally)? How can I pass those gifts on to others?

The daily gifts for me are the people right here at Gratefulness.org! Truly. The outpouring of support and concern for me leading up to, during and following my back surgery on May 30 was especially touching, tender and humbling. Continuing to be a part of this community keeps those gifts moving. Thank you all!

JUNE 6: How can I better remember the gifts of this day in the midst of my busiest moments?

Having retired some 20 months ago I now get to choose what constitutes my busiest moments, so that is the first gift. Presently while I recover from surgery my movements are somewhat limited as I heal. Here in the Northeast US, it’s a rainy, cold and blustery day. As I made my way out to fetch the morning news paper I thought to myself this is all also a wonderful day to stay inside. That is the second gift and the day is still young.

JUNE 7: What advice has made a big difference in my life?

To marry a spectacular woman 44 years ago; have a family; and to have become a Quaker and to follow a spiritual leading that became a ministry to the present day, God willing,

Task, Mission, or What?

JUNE 8: Is my life a task or a mission? Or something else entirely?

My life is neither a task nor a mission. My life is a gift and an opportunity to share.

JUNE 9: What “limiting beliefs” do I wish to move beyond? What might help me do this?

Given that I am nine days beyond major back surgery, my focus area at this time is personal and physical in nature. As healing continues, I am focusing on a full recovery over time and if that happens I hope to shed some of the “limiting beliefs” that I needed to adjust to over the last ten years in order to function as best as  I could physically.

Even in this early stage of recovery I am aware of several bodily movements, from simply sitting in an upright chair to lying in bed without leg wedges, which caused me great pain to do before surgery, are literally pain free to do now. Though I need to proceed slowly, it also occurs to me with today’s question that I will also want to re-think and revisit some things that I though I would never be able to do again. It makes me feel hopeful, excited and especially grateful for the good care I have and continue to receive.

JUNE 10: How can I be more open to life’s moments?

By showing up, paying attention and beholding wonder as it comes.

JUNE 11: Can I find 10 positive things about a situation or event that recently happened?

I probably can find 20!

JUNE 12:  Reflecting on how I feel at this moment: might I behave differently if I knew this was the last time I would ever feel this way?

Well, given the nature of the human psyche, of course I would most likely repeat how I am feeling right now at some time in the future, that is, unless I was about to die. And if I was about to die then why would I care about this question?

That’s my take on today’s question. I’m especially eager to read how others respond to it. Hopefully, I’m missing another, more optimistic approach to this question!

June 13: What are my greatest hopes and aspirations for how I want to be in this life?

Being on the flipside of major back surgery and healing slowly day by day, I am hoping that I will be able to resume my joy of photography with renewed passion and increased ease of movement! By golly, I already have a new photographer’s backpack in my sights once I am healed and strong enough to carry it!

And, in a year’s time, there’s a chance that I might be able to do some service work with my camera for an international children’s relief organization. One of my aspirations since retirement has been to find ways to put my photography to use in ways that serves others. That’s my hope and my prayer, at least.

June 14: How can I take a higher road of love, acceptance, forgiveness, kindness?

Honestly, the road of love is not unfamiliar to me. I journey on it most days. And while there, acceptance, forgiveness and kindness smooth the way and provide the fuel. Should I land in the breakdown lane, which happens now and then, someone always stops to assist and gets me on the road again. Love is like that.

June 15: Am I cherishing life’s journey? How?

You bet! And for starters, the article about Father’s Day that Gratefulness.org asked me to submit, entitled “I Am Rich, Very Rich, In Daughters,” speaks directly to today’s Daily Question. (The piece is posted today in the blog section.)

Moving onward into a new day, I am grateful just to wake up today, to breathe, to have my little plan for things to do today. Right now I get to sit here and hold in prayer a few dear friends who are struggling with health issues, who for sure are not cherishing this leg of their life journey, which is where I and we come in, to “pray them through,” The very idea that we can hold others, in prayer and in thought is ‘how’ I cherish the journey given me today.

June 16: How might it be if I were to meet this day, allowing experiences to unfold without any expectations?

If I truly were able to meet every experience of this new day without expectations then I’m guessing that I would be delightfully satisfied all day. And if that is the intended meaning of this question, then I get it. However, most of the time I arrive at each new experience with at least some expectations already baked in. I believe that some of this is just human nature. In addition, it seems to me that some measure of forethought, longing, hope and desire and pre-calculation are also hidden ingredients of each new experience even though we may not be aware of it.

June 17: If I take full responsibility for my part in any difficulties, how would this change things?

Plain and simple, it means that I would likely move towards resolving the matter more quickly.

June 18: What would others say are my greatest gifts? What can I learn from this?

If my own particular strengths and gifts that I am known for came up in a broader context of conversation with others during a time of mutual sharing, then I would feel at ease in naming them. But to tick off my own attributes for the sake of answering a rather flat and sterile question for June 18, to be honest, makes me feel uncomfortable. Overall, I know where my strengths and my weaknesses reside, and one informs the other. I try to live into the strengths that I have and from time to time when others name those strengths it affirms that I am putting my energy and talents in the right places.

June 19: Who/what needs my compassion right now?

Who doesn’t need my compassion right now? There are so many areas of need and ways that people are suffering, within my community and across the globe at any given moment that it’s difficult to even know where to begin.

Like many people the world over, I cherish the writings and selective words of Eli Wiesel. Among my favorites, which relates to today’s question, is this:

“But where was I to start? The world is so vast, I shall start with the country I know best, my own. But my country is very large. I had better start with my town. But my town, too, is large. I had better start with my street. No, my home. No, my family. Never mind. I shall start with myself.”

Rise Up Reflections June 2017Professionally, and no matter what the presenting issues were, I learned early on to park every therapeutic model of counselling until I had explored the following three foundational elements with my youthful clients: Self-care, self-love and self-compassion. I kept Wiesel’s quote above framed on my office wall and many teens requested a copy to take with them when they left. I never wondered why.

June 20: What do I need to shift today, in order to feel more grateful?

Well, I am not feeling ungrateful or less grateful in the least than I did one day or one week ago. But I am feeling the need to stave off boredom as I continue to recover from back surgery. I am still, as expected, dealing with a fair amount of recovery pain so that it makes it hard to get into a creative groove doing the things I enjoy doing. I can only sit in a recliner for about ten minutes before I need to move around. Same goes for being on the floor or the couch. Even our dog Gracie, I think, is getting tired of following me all around the house! Kind of funny when I think of it!

June 21: What would gratefulness do?

It seems to me that if the seeds of gratefulness are at the root of any endeavor then the possibilities are boundless and endless, period.

June 22: What are some of my privileges? How might I use them in service of needs of the world?

Some? I have many privileges, so many in fact that it’s unsettling. I am a white, middle class, well-educated American and I have all that I need to live comfortably as I enter retirement. As a practicing Quaker, I am committed to fostering peace and advancing human rights and supporting social justice initiatives wherever possible. (Gosh, that sentence felt too easy to write.)  That’s relatively easy given my location on the planet, so my wife and I support selective organizations that work to protect and educate children globally, especially girls, in places where it is needed most.

I have had a long, fulfilling career of working directly with young people and their parents who were disadvantaged in various ways. Today, I continue some of this in much smaller ways as opportunity arises. I have the privilege of time and the ability to use my photography and writing to comfort, nurture and bring some measure of help or happiness to a circle of people who either read my blog or to whom I correspond with directly. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like much at all. And yet, when I hear back from someone who writes at 2 AM, who lays bare all that they’re feeling and struggling with, that connection and my response becomes the most important thing in the world.

June 23: What do I have enough of? How do I know when I have enough?

I have enough of everything! It seems to me that if I need to think about what it is that I have enough of then it means that I already have enough.

June 24: What do I learn from moments of awe?

Whenever such moments arrive, I have learned over time to take it all in, to feel the depth and breadth of it and to say a silent prayer of thanksgiving.

June 25: What would change if I were to treat the “ordinary” aspects of my life as “extraordinary?

I would probably become so exhausted from non-stop exhilaration that I would need to schedule in an extra nap during the day! But seriously, while I get the point of the question, I believe that we need the ordinary aspects of our daily lives because that is where the rhythm, flow and oftentimes the grace of simply being comes from. Otherwise, and I’m guessing within short order, constant extraordinary would soon become the new ordinary.

June 26: What new beginnings am I grateful for today?

That today is Monday, a new week and one day shy of four weeks post-op! I am experiencing increased mobility and taking fewer meds too. Finally, I can now safely take our dog Gracie for a walk by myself more easily. Perhaps most especially, I am grateful for the healing abilities of my body, and that the sun will soon rise and nudge me out the door for my walk on this fine summer day.

June 27: Bring to mind some of the people who have been teachers in your life. What gifts did they pass on to you?

Oh my, I have had so many teachers in my life who taught me in ways seen and unseen, through example of their moral character, through academia and most especially while rolling up their sleeves and leaning into the work that needed to be done. And that work involved caring for others, shoveling manure, planting carrots, being a minister, taking orders, being lead and being a leader. My greatest teachers were those who taught with a sense of mission, who insisted that I get it, who believed in my ability, who didn’t need to own the lesson or the work and then gracefully stepped out-of-the-way.

June 28: What has surprised me lately?

What continues to surprise me over and over again is just how fast and magnificently our grandchildren continue to grow.  Not just in size, but in intellect, in awareness of the world around them and in how they naturally and confidently lay claim to who they are with each passing day. Each of them, all six, seem to slide into their own being as one slides into familiar shoes. This is not taught. This is a knowing, a seed that sprouts from a place far within. I simply watch and it takes my breath away.

June 29: What have I been holding on to for a long time? How would it feel to let go?

Though it has only been five months, it feels like forever that I have been trying to find a way to “live” with the president of my country, Donald Trump. I am horrifically embarrassed by his deplorable actions, or lack thereof, and I feel ashamed of what he stands, what he projects, what he says and how he acts to others around the world. I keep trying to take the “high road,” that this too will pass as the saying goes, to just breathe deeply and let it all go. And this works fine until I hear the next cycle of news or pick up the morning newspaper. Letting go in this case seems irresponsible to me. I have done the opposite, actually, and have become active in some “resistance” efforts for what it is worth. But I long for the day when that real “letting go” moment happens!

You know, just writing this much makes me feel better! I had been formulating a way to write about some of this stuff on my blog but in a way that wasn’t bashing or intentionally negative. My back health issues slowed all that down, but maybe I need to get back on that horse and give it a try as my back heals with surgery behind me?

June 30: How does living gratefully inspire me to affect social change?

I could easily feel guilty about the richness and bounty that is present in my own life. But that emotion serves nobody very well.  Today’s Word for the Day by Eckhart Tolle, of acknowledging the good and abundance that I have in my life, serves as a better catalyst for focusing and acting in areas where social change is needed. I can afford to send a modest sum of money to support a badly needed project that benefits disadvantaged people. I have the time to show up on a Tuesday at nine with a protest sign somewhere. And because I live where I do, I can participate in my faith community, for worship and in our Quaker commitment to engage in social justice issues around town or around the world without fear of governmental repression or violence.

The greatest detriment and trap really, of abundance and gratefulness, is not to be lulled into a contentment of inaction and blindness. I am on guard for this and I know there is always room for improvement.

Text and images by K. Lee