Finding Comfort in the Uncomfortable

St. George Island, Florida

As we navigate life’s passages we are bound to come across interactions with others that turn out, shall we say, less than ideal. Misunderstandings, triggered hurt feelings, and surfacing resentments can all be part of the soup involved in navigating relationships.

Past wounds can cause us to lash out in defensiveness or to withdraw, protecting our tender spots. Often we may do both. We may admonish others (or be admonished) to be more thoughtful, to choose better words, or adjust our tone–to be civil. Sometimes, however, this admonishment is simply a tool used to protect wounds, to keep us safe.

Last week I got my feelings hurt–twice, in two days. Hurt feelings are not a new experience for me, by any means, but the intensity of my upset seemed out of proportion compared to the actual events that triggered them. Over-reaction (or under-reaction) is always a signal to me that something bears a deeper exploration. 

On the surface the two instances seemed very different. The first one was in-person and with someone I have been in relationship with for many years, and the second was with a more casual friend on social media. Stepping back from these two experiences a bit I realized there were some similarities. First, though the event itself was fairly minor, I realized that I had inadvertently triggered a huge amount of defensiveness in both people. Secondly, in both cases I felt that I had been misunderstood and/or misinterpreted. I also noted that in both instances, the other parties had used anger followed by cutting me off verbally as defensive coping mechanisms.

In that past, one of my go-to coping tools when confronted with conflict was making nice. Growing up, I was assigned the role of family peacemaker. It was certainly a needed role as family life during my childhood was rarely peaceful. When you are the peacemaker, however, your emotions and needs are often not part of the equation, So, while I became proficient in speaking up on another’s behalf, I was unaccustomed to speaking up for myself. 

Although I have never been shy about stating my opinion, learning to speak up on my own behalf has been an adventure awash with discomfort. Speaking up meant I would have to invest enough value in who I am to stand up for myself. It meant I would have to believe in me. It also meant I would have to risk being the target for another’s misplaced hurt and pain.

Growth, by its very nature, demands a break from the status quo. An acorn will never become the mighty oak if it refuses to burst out of its shell. Breaking free of the protective shell we’ve constructed around our past wounds is guaranteed recipe for discomfort. It’s messy and comes in fits and starts. It also requires vulnerability and tenacity…and rigorous self-honesty. But it is so worth our effort.

In my case, suppressing my feelings in favor of peace, however, has only led to despair and burning resentment. Long ago I made a commitment to forgo any temporary emotional discomfort I might have in favor of dealing with the hard stuff. To me this felt more honest, more authentic–even at the risk of being misunderstood. This process, of course, is always a work in progress. And I need to remember that bot everyone is ready to take the same step of breaking out of their protective shell, just because I am.

Neither instance from last week turned out the way I would have wished.
Being understood is important to me. In both circumstances I felt misunderstood and rejected. It hurts when others don’t seem to want to take the time or effort to hear me out. One party claimed my “tone” was the cause of their disrespectful response and the other decided to end the conversation abruptly–part of their go-to coping tools, I suspect. And even though, due to old conditioning, my first instinct was to soothe their discomfort and then go to great lengths to be understood, in both instances I spoke up on my own behalf, made several attempts to resolve the issue, and then released the other parties to their own choices. To me, the comfort of choosing behaviors that felt grounded in integrity and honesty far outweighed any discomfort over feeling rejected and misunderstood.

Seasons of Reflection: Emotional discomfort is a signal, an alert to the need for growth. How do you deal with emotional discomfort? What is your go-to when someone pushes your buttons or challenges your favored coping mechanisms? It may be time to reassess your coping tools. How can you welcome the growth you desire?

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Harvest Time – Reaping Our Rewards

P1030631a.jpgThe season of Harvest has arrived. The remnants of Summer Fire are embedded within the warmth of the sunny days, but there’s also cool hints of the coming Fall. The Earth is at the peak of its fullness. There’s nothing to do, no more planting, the growth of the crops is complete, our only task is to harvest the rewards of all our hard work. It’s a time to reap what we have sown.

Gardeners this time of year are up to their eyebrows in tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini. They cannot possibly think of a single new palatable way to prepare this produce that was once so coveted in the cold days of winter. Unfortunately, all their neighbors are in the same position. It seems as though no matter how much they give away, there’s still more to give. In the season of abundance there’s so much more than we can possibly take in at once.Garden 003

In Five Element medicine, Harvest is the season of abundance, nourishment and the emotion of sympathy–to truly understand others at a deep level. It’s a time to enjoy all the sweetness life has to offer. It is the moment of perfect satisfaction. There’s no need, no lack. When we are balanced in the season of Harvest we can give from a place which, in our giving, we only become more enriched. We don’t give at the expense of ourselves or another. We cannot be depleted because we give from the Source that has no end.

Whatever you are receiving right now has, in some way, begun as seeds of something sown in the past. If we have sown love and generosity, we may be harvesting the rewards of feelings of contentment or a generosity bestowed upon us in time of our own need. If we have sown seeds of bitterness and hate, we may be reaping relationships that have suffered through alienation, of emotional connections that are now starved of warmth and love. The dedicated gardener knows that weeds produce just as vigorously as vegetables, sometimes even more so.

Sometimes what we are reaping may be deceptive. If we have decided that we need to sow more truth or that we must diligently tend to our own self-care, we may now be reaping the clearing out of relationships that cannot hold up to these new goals. However necessary this clearing out might be, the loss will still be keenly felt. Ultimately, however, your perceived loss is really a net gain.

“Balanced sacrifice is rooted in compassion, acceptance and respect for the dignity of others. Even though you may receive so much more than you’ve given, it’s not the motivating factor for your sacrifice. True sacrifice doesn’t ask you to carve up a serving of your own flesh in order to feed those who call out in hunger. You won’t be called to set yourself on fire in order to keep others warm. You won’t have to give up your very bones in order to build a ladder out of another’s grief and pain. You’ll give from a perfect state of abundance because that’s who you are. Because you are standing amidst the lushness of a harvest that is always available through the generosity of God, you can’t possibly give it all away.” -from Soul of the Seasons (c) 2016 by Melody A Scout

Consider the following questions concerning the Harvest time:

What are you Harvesting in your life right now?

What seeds have you sown in the past and are now coming to fruition?

What do you have in abundance that you can now share with others? Your talent? Food? Time? A hug or smile?

Are you being fed on all levels?

What do you need to receive in the way of nourishment?

By tending to ourselves first in a balanced, healthful way, we can then truly give from a place where we will not feel loss but only gratitude for all we have been given.

Blessings and Peace,

Melody

Finding Joy In Times of Profound Trouble

In Five Element medicine, Summer is the season for growth, maturing, heart-centered connection, intimacy, joy, communication and happiness. Fire is the element associated with the season of Summer.Fire.jpg
The tragic events this summer (and sadly, nearly every day since) represent the very antithesis of the balanced attributes of Summer Fire. Violence, unrest, miscommunication, greed, rampant fear, and bigotry seem to be present everywhere we turn. These tragedies seem too much to take in, too much for our hearts to process.
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Discouragement, apathy, sadness, bitterness, lack of warmth (both physical and emotional), lack of passion, and profound loneliness are all natural responses to experiencing or witnessing trauma. Prolonged exposure to trauma, cruelty, intolerance, bigotry, loss, and indifference  can lead to an imbalance in the season of Summer. Our fire has run low.
Our hearts may literally ache with the pain and suffering that surrounds us, permeating us to our very core. But, how do we reconnect with our joy in times of great distress? We may even wonder…Should we?

We were created to life a joy-filled life. Joy is the emotion essential in keeping the heart healthy and balanced.  Joy comes in many forms from a subtle smile to high-intensity ecstasy. But without regular engagement with joy, a key emotion that supports our health and happiness, the heart grows heavy.

But, what if the burdens of the world seem too much? How do we counter the pain and suffering we experience? When sadness and loneliness start to feel overwhelming  consider engaging in some of the following heart-centered activities to lift your heart:

DSCF7718 Good conversation with a good listener– Never underestimate the power of open and honest communication. Everyone needs a sacred witness. Let it all out. Don’t try to sanitize or “spiritualize” or explain your feelings away. The burdens if the world weigh heavily upon all our hearts and those burdens are not meant to be borne alone. In turn, learn to be a good listener for others. Caution: Be sure to engage with someone who is trustworthy, someone you can trust to handle your heart with gentleness, love, and respect. Someone who can really hear you without a need to offer unsolicited advice or try to “fix” you.

AnoleEncounter Beauty–  Beauty soothes, moves and heals the heart like nothing else. Whether you find beauty in art, music, a sunset, your lover’s touch, a child’s smile, or a beloved pet, take the time to  encounter something beautiful every day. I never fail to find beauty in the plant world. I’m fascinated by their limitless variety of colors, shapes, and growth patterns, and those mysterious flowers! Each bloom is unique and sometimes even to the individual plant itself. Taking a short walk in nature to commune with plants always lifts my spirits.

July 2013 069.jpgLaughter and Play– Though troubling times may seem like the last place for laughter and play these powerful (and highly underrated) expressions  of Joy can literally transform our spirits. Laughter and play (unstructured time for fun) are some of the most healing things we can do for our battered hearts. If you observe the actions of children you will notice that they can, in an instant, drop their hurt, tears, anger–what have you– with an offer to play. While you’re at it don’t forget to laugh. Hang around with people who know how to have a good time, watch a funny movie, take note of the playful antics of your pet. Remember what makes you smile and go find someone to share it with.

Loving Touch– Everyone needs touch. Gentle, soothing touch can go a long way in healing a troubled heart. It can be sexual or not, but it should always be respectful and clearly invited. Hugs, kisses, a hand on the arm, gentle tender caresses have profound healing power. Don’t be afraid to ask for touch when you need it.

Honor Your Heartache– Though sometimes painful beyond words, wounds of the heart can both soften and strengthen us. They can teach us to respect and revere the frailty and sanctity of life. The can teach us to find preciousness in the present moment. Give your heartache the honor and space it needs. Allow it to teach you to become vulnerable to love. Gently soothe and tend to your suffering and, to the suffering of others.

IMG_0245Take a Break– Watching trauma and drama can be addictive. Turn off the radio and TV. Put away the paper and all electronic devices. Give your heart and mind a much needed rest. Instead, take a nap, go dancing, enjoy your favorite hobby, go for a walk or drive or go do one of the above activities. Take a weekly media fast; go at least 24 hours without picking up your phone or computer. Let your calls go to voicemail. I promise you that you will survive. Rest is essential in restoring balance and sanity.

Having a healthy balanced heart ensures that we will have the strength to move through difficult times with grace, courage, and clarity. A balanced heart doesn’t deny our pain and suffering but finds a place of joy in the midst of it.

Sending You Much Joy and Laughter,

Melody