Category Archives: Presence

A Different Perspective

I came across this poem today.  Good food for thought on days when I think I’m right.

Possible Answers to Prayer
By Scott Cairns

Your petitions—though they continue to bear
just the one signature—have been duly recorded.
Your anxieties—despite their constant,
relatively narrow scope and inadvertent
entertainment value—nonetheless serve
to bring your person vividly to mind.
Your repentance—all but obscured beneath
a burgeoning, yellow fog of frankly more
conspicuous resentment—is sufficient.
Your intermittent concern for the sick,
the suffering, the needy poor is sometimes
recognizable to me, if not to them.
Your angers, your zeal, your lipsmackingly
righteous indignation toward the many
whose habits and sympathies offend you—
these must burn away before you’ll apprehend
how near I am, with what fervor I adore
precisely these, the several who rouse your passions.

How are you doing…really?

I want my coat back!
I want my coat back!

It’s a question a friend of mine taught me. Of course the trick in asking the question is waiting after you’ve said “really,” waiting to give the silence time to do it’s work and get to an answer deeper than “fine.”

One of the things I like about the Bible is that it often tells the story of how real people were really doing and what’s really going on in their lives. In one of his letters, Paul basically says to a guy, “Hey, Tim. When you come to see me, bring my coat, would ya? I left it at Carpus’ house.” That’s ordinary life stuff. I left my coat somewhere recently right before the temperature plunged below freezing for a week. I wanted my coat back, too.

In the wake of my husband’s brother suddenly dying of a heart attack at the age of 50, two months almost to the day after my father-in-law died, people often ask me how I’m doing. Unlike most days, no one expects me to say, “Fine,” but it can be hard to put into words how I am doing…really.

Paul puts expression to my experience again in his words, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” OK, I’m not being persecuted, or hard pressed on “every” side, but the other words fit.

The Psalms are another place where people put words to their experience. Some days the writers are basking in God’s love. “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.”

Other days…not so much.

One of what we in our family call the “whiny Psalms” begins with the words, “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” I feel that way sometimes. “How many deaths can a family take in such a short time? Please don’t let anyone else die.”

But even this whiny Psalm ends with hope:

“But I trust in your unfailing love;
My heart rejoices in your salivation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
For he has been good to me.”

I may not feel like singing right now, but I believe that one day I will again.

And that’s how I’m doing…really.

Turn self-doubt into affirmation of your unique contribution

I sat silently in a meeting recently, this mental chatter in my head:

  • What am I doing here?
  • I’m not good at big picture conceptualization like these people.
  • It’s better if I don’t say anything.
  • My best contribution is as scribe, writing down other people’s ideas on the whiteboard.

If I had let this internal commentary continue unchallenged, I would have withdrawn further into a discouraged silence and, dare I say it, a shamed sense of “not as good as them.”

The good news is that, after a bit of time, I was self-aware enough to notice what I was saying to myself, to notice it and question it.

  • Is it true that I have nothing to offer here?

That stopping, noticing, and questioning allowed the direction of my thoughts to change.  I remembered some things:

  • The framework for this part of the discussion came from a podcast series I listened to 6 months ago.  I contributed something long before today’s meeting began.
  • As the only therapist in the room, I have a unique “in” to the issues for which couples seek help.
  • There will be specific, detailed tasks that come out of the meeting that need to be done.  I’m good at those.

Remembering these things freed me from the shaming mental chatter, I valued my contribution, and I felt freer to engage in the conversation.

So let withdrawal catch your attention.  Challenge your internal commentary.  Remind yourself of what’s true and valuable in what you bring to the table.  Or am I the only one who does this?