Monday, December 14, 2009

An Eye To The Light

An Eye To The Light

The list can grow every day. We see economic downturn, job loss, overwhelming responsibility, deployment, money worries, relationship problems and on and on. Times can be difficult for a lot of reasons. They range from global economic and environmental factors, through local challenges in our work and communities, to problems touching the groundwork of our close relationships with friends, neighbors, and family members. In the complexity and diversity of this network, it seems that when things get difficult, they rarely happen in isolation. Problems don’t come one at a time.

Difficult times can present us with terrifying images of change, loss, failure, illness, death, or betrayal – a seemingly endless flow of things that threaten to separate us from the light of the vision of what we want our lives to be. Watching the work of your heart coming apart or having to participate in its undoing can blind us to anything but the frantic need to do whatever it takes to preserve what we have. Paradoxically, that strategy, with its failure of vision can easily become one more tool in the destruction of the things we hold most dear.

So, what are our options? We rehearse through them in our minds and they run the gamut. They include images of unmitigated failure and loss, ruthless protectionism, and anything else we happen to come up with in our fear. It can become very dark. We lose touch with the fact that this is the natural flow of things.

We cannot stop the cycle of creation, maturation, and destruction, but can remind ourselves that re-creation and renewal are also implied. This flow of life is inexorable. We cannot interrupt it, but we empower ourselves when we maintain a focus on living consistent with the values that are important to us rather than violating them in a desperate effort to preserve their current form. When we look to our values as a beacon in the darkness, we find acceptance in our commitment to a purpose and are ready to move forward creatively even in those dark hours before the cycle turns upward again.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Getting To Know Your Children This Summer

Summer is the time that many of us remember why we love living in Maine. The weather is beautiful and there are all kinds of interesting things to do regardless of your interests. Its also the time that children are at home and don't have the time pressures and responsibilities that they carry during the school year.This gives us all a great opportunity to spend time with the children in our lives, to gain understanding of who they are, what they like to do, how they think about things, what their hopes and dreams are, what's fun for them and so forth.

A good, active relationship with a loving, respectful adult is the best protection that a child can carry as they move toward greater independence. Secure and open relationships with a loving adult lower the chances of a child getting involved in smoking, substance abuse, and other high risk behaviors. These relationships can provide a buffer against feelings of depression and hopelessness. They increase children's self-esteem and their sense of competence in the world. It does, however take time, some planning, a bit of negotiation, and a lot of mindfulness to make sure that your relationship is working for the child.

Some suggestions that might be helpful are:

Spend time with your child doing something that he or she enjoys. While you do this, make all of your comments positive. Be curious about what they are doing and show your appreciation. Examples might be, "That's really interesting. Tell me about it," or "that's great, what a lot of work you've put into this," or just "wow, that's wonderful."Your goals in this are first, to have fun with your child, but secondly to help your child see you as someone who appreciates them and is fun to be around.

Do things side by side with your child. The research is pretty clear that children are most likely to talk to you about things that are important to them when you are both facing in the same direction, not directly at one another and when there is something else to focus on rather than simply "having a talk." Things like doing dishes together, preparing a meal, riding in the car, and doing chores together offer opportunities to really get to know your child and for them to get to know you, too. Remember to keep it positive, be curious rather than critical, and show appreciation for who they are and what they are trying to become.

These kinds of informal and positive chats set the stage to be able to have more difficult conversations when they are necessary. Your child knows that you love and respect them. They will understand that what you are trying to talk with them about is not just "more nagging."

There is a myth that its quality not quantity. In reality, both are important and summer provides a great opportunity for strengthening these connections.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Power of Being Seen

Every now and then, something catches our attention, captivates us, and carries us into to a different emotional understanding or experience. It seems that has happened with Susan Boyle, the 47 year old Scottish woman whose performance on Britain’s Got Talent shocked the judges, the audience, and ultimately the world. She was an unknown and unassuming appearing woman who sang with power and feeling that no one expected.

What is it that made this woman’s performance so touching to so many people? One factor is certainly the power of witnessing a person who appeared to be marginalized finally “being seen” and being valued. There is probably no loneliness in the world like that of being “looked through” ignored or misperceived. Believing or hoping that you have a gift that no one seems to want, or a beauty that no one else can see is profoundly sad. Having your worth and your talent acknowledged after decades of invisibility and derision is literally a dream come true, and one that strikes a chord in almost anyone.

Once it’s understood, there are practical, everyday applications of this insight that you can bring into your relationships with family and friends. Have you ever sung this little song to a toddler?

Where is [toddler’s name]?
Where is [toddler’s name]?
Here he/she is
Here he/she is
I’m so glad to see you!
I’m so glad to see you!
I see you

Little ones love this song. They love that it is about them, and they particularly love the experience of being discovered, seen, and valued.

Older children, teenagers and adults aren’t that much different. You can make someone’s day by taking the time and effort to really look at them, to perceive or understand some unique quality, talent or capability that they possess and then to acknowledge it out loud.

Not many people get discovered and acknowledged on a world-wise basis, but all of us carry the power to give other people in our lives the gift of clearly seeing them. We can touch other people’s hearts and our own every day.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

An Agency "Family Story:" The Titcomb House Transformation

If you were intrigued by my last blog on the importance and richness of family stories, you might want to think about trying your hand at digital storytelling. Most computers come with basic movie making software. It is not hard to use, and even first time projects are a lot of fun.

You'll soon see that digital story telling takes the experience to a whole different level. You can add photos, narration, subtitles, music*, and video. I like movies because they speak both from and to the heart. For example, here you see a couple of pages of construction photos out of a photo album. They are a part of the agency's history, but truly not very compelling. For anyone to understand or appreciate what happened 17 years ago, somehow we have to tell the story. There are all sorts of media possibilities, but for this story Digital Story Telling is the choice.

* Remember that you should only use material that is not protected by copyright or for which you have permission. It is fun to make your own music or to look online for affordable or free stock music. You can even ask for permission which is what we did for this movie.

If you click on the movie below, you will see a short, 3 minute story that expresses the generosity, collaboration, sacrifice, and determination that came together to make this transformation possible. It uses the photos from the album above, but tells a much better story.