Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Storms Brewing

"Chaos is something that interrupts the flow of life,
that breaks into the expected rhythm,
that forces us to stop and deal with its difficulty.
The seriousness of the chaos depends on the gravity
of the threat to what we value in our life. "
Patricia Livingston

I feel like I've been living in an emotional cyclone for the past few weeks. Maybe it would be more descriptive to say that I'm standing in the center of the storm, and many of the people I love are in the spin cycle. Since they are at their wits' ends this co-dependent caregiver is too. As I listen to tales of lost love, too much stress, and a teen gone berserk I long for the days when a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie, a glass of milk or a back rub could miraculously make things all better. Where is a good fairy godmother when I need one?
All this chaos got me thinking about one of my favorite books. This Blessed Mess. I think I've written about it before. The author's premise is that creation is born of chaos. She gives examples from the beginning of the universe to things that happened in her own life. You'd laugh if you could see the number of dog-eared pages. On almost any of these pages I could quote you a highlighted passage that feels like it was written with me in mind.

I'm reminded of one of my very favorite chaos stories. It is a true one that happened about 11 years ago when I was a nanny. My charge and I were making cookies. Robert was young enough to sit on the counter and watch, but not exactly help, as I measured and mixed the dry ingredients. I turned my back and in the split second that I lost my focus I heard a tiny little voice say, "Look, Mer Mer, it's snowing."

Snowing? We live in Florida.

I turned back around and was engulfed in a cloud of flour. Robert, who was wearing navy blue pajamas was a blur of white. Indeed it was snowing, right there in the middle of the 90 degree kitchen. Snowing flour. Unlike a blinding snow storm that could have sent me into a -less-than-Mary-Poppins-like conniption (I have snow issues, I admit it!), all I could do was smile and head for cover.

I learned that day, that sometimes, in the middle of a what looks like a great big mess, one can find humor, make lasting memories and not fall to pieces. A life lesson for sure. One I wish I had been aware of when my own kids were little.

Knowing about the chaos theory and remembering it when I need to are often two different things. After several phone calls from KW Johnny, my heart was aching for him and for the girl who seemingly overnight turned into the devil character of Exorcist fame. I am pretty sure some of the words she spewed out were coated with green vomit and felt like a punch in the gut to anyone they hit. I don't doubt that the head of the girl we still think of as an innocent child was spinning around as she shouted obscenities. Even if it is true that the apple doesn't fall too far from the family tree it is sad to discover that paybacks can be painful.

Bottom line, when your child is acting out everybody hurts. Moms, dads, grandmoms, granddads and aunties wring their hands and want to make things better fast. While the creation of a responsible adult may be taking place in the middle of this chaotic adolescent storm, all we can do is set boundaries and hold battan down the hatches.

When I picked This Blessed Mess of my bookshelf, I also happened upon its companion book - Let the Light In. (A Godwink?) I haven't read it yet, but it is next on my list. I think there will be much wisdom for this Grammy to ingest. An online review of the book talks about reframing; Looking at life's negatives in a different, more positive way. Kind of like that whole lemonade thing but without the sarcasm. My friend, Terri St. Cloud, talked about reframing at her blog recently. (Hmmm .... God sure seems to be doing a lot of winking in my direction.)

Here's a reframing example from a Let the Light In book review: "Father Demetrius Dumm, a Benedictine scripture scholar who speaks of David in the Bible as a man of hope. When the young man spots the giant Goliath on the battlefield, instead of saying, 'He's so big, how can I possibly defeat him?' David says, 'He's so big, how can I possibly miss him? What a target!' Instead of giving in to negativity, we can reframe what is happening and face it with positive energy." *

Now the question(s) for me would be, how can I re-frame some of the negatives I've heard lately into positives?

1. A heart that is broken could be instead a heart that is growing. Once the hurt is gone there will be lots more room for love to fill in the space.

2. An angry teen could be a new source of energy instead of someone you are afraid you'll see on America's Most Wanted. Just think what you'd have if you could harness the anger of teens all over the country. The air around the car might be blue with profanity, but the car would use less gasoline, thus diminishing the country's dependence on foreign oil. Hell, there are enough angry teens to make enough profane-fuel to warrant a resurgence of GM cars. And if you are worried about global warming imagine how many icebergs could be refrozen if the cold, icy stare that teens flash at their parents could be trapped and utilized for good rather than evil. I may be on to something, what do you think?

3. I think it is much easier to re-frame someone else's chaos than my own. So far when my Dad says mean things to me, they still feel like mean things. I've got to work on this. In the mean time (no pun intended) I'll keep looking for that fairy godmother or more Florida snow.

May all your storms be wrapped in a rainbow,

Merry ME

This Blessed Mess, pg. 20

*Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/books/books.php?id=15523


Fire Byrd said...

Ok fairy grandmother thoughts relating to you and your Dad.... prepare for a long comment!

If someone told you to cry now... would you?
if someone told you to stop crying when you were... would you?
The answer is no to both questions. Of course you don't cry or stop to order. If you cry it's cause YOU feel like crying , even if the other person has said difficult things to you, you have that choice about crying. No one can make you.

So re framing here, is about knowing that your feelings are your feelings and no one can make you feel anything, cause if they could, you would feel like a tree now cause I'm telling you to.... and that is nonsense.

So when your Dad says mean stuff he's saying it cause he can and he wants a result, he wants you to react, so you can carry his pain for a little while, rather than him....

here's the magical bit~ ~ ~ You have a choice of how you feel, cause they are your feelings and you can put on your defensive cloak of mirrors and echo it back to your Dad and not take it on for yourself as being the bad/stupid or whatever.

As in saying to him, I know you hate being old Dad it sucks but your doing a great job and I hope I can cope half as well as you when it comes to it.

And what you'll have done is make him feel understood, therefore he won't need to keep kicking and you are not feeling bad or guilty about being you.

Cause from where I'm sitting you are doing a fabulous job of being you.

Right off to save a rainforest next!!!
big hugs

terri said...

i really like the reframing idea.
but so far have only used it on easy stuff. easy stuff is easy.

watching a teen spin outta control is a hard one. i pick that as i see that goin' on close to me too so i could comment on my stuff instead of yours. that seems more fair to me.

when i watch, my heart breaks, and i see needless, senseless hurt that will lead to bad things.

maybe i need to reframe that a bit to seeing a young man with enough spunk to get him thru any bad situation that arises.

and maybe i can focus on that heart of his i believe in and know that it will get him to where he's got to go.

hard way, more than likely...
but he certainly has the energy to
weather it!

i don't know....reframing is a lot harder with the hard stuff, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

A triple wow - pretty powerful words here - original post and comments! I am always so moved by the way of words and their expression in this cyberspace. lg

Sorrow said...

I remember vividly the day my son, he was 4 at the time said " I help" and dropped a 25 # bag of flour in the kitchen, and POOF, it went every where.
and I laughed so hard, I cried, and he looked like a cherub covered in confection.
He's been a demon teen these past few days..
hormones running amok, and more like a fire storm that incinerates all in it's path, leaving only ash.
I need to think of the ash, as flour, and be grateful for a little dusting...