Monday, April 27, 2009

Seeing their wholeness

One of my favorite pastimes is going to a movie. I get myself a large bag of popcorn and sit down and wait for the make believe to make me laugh, or think, or capture my heart. There are many movies I won't see. Hollywood can spend lots of money on junk. I just went to a very touching movie, The Soloist, based on the true story of a man who is homeless in LA. This man is a talented musician with schizophrenia. The movie story is not totally true to the real man, Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, but the heart of the story comes across wonderfully.

I like to find the truths in fiction. I like to be reminded of our humanity, and to see the hope in this sometimes very crazy world.

Mental illness is a crippling health issue that takes many forms. We have come a long way in our understanding of the multiplicity of disorders, but we are also still struggling to figure out what this means for individuals and families. Mental illness is still shrouded in mystery and fear. When we put our collective mental health on a continuum, we find that we all lie somewhere along the spectrum. Is there really such a thing as "normal" or are we all unique reflections of our makeups shaped by heredity and experience. What does each person need to feel comfortable with life?

And we still have a long way to go, to give each person, each child, the chance they need to develop to their own potential. These are "nice" words but the practice of this point of view takes a lot of faith. As a mother, I had times when I did not act from faith. I believed I had the answer and knew exactly what was right for my children. Of course, sometimes I did. But I also mis-stepped.

I guess my point today is that we need to keep trying to really see our children, our loved ones. See them as whole people. We need to admit that we can only do our best and that we are going to make mistakes in our relationships, in our lives. We can accept each unique being and remember it's not our job to change anyone. Heck, I have a hard time changing some of my own bad habits. I'm not sure where everyone in my family lies on that mental health spectrum. I do know that we're not neatly lined up together. And I'm convinced that love and acceptance are always better paths to take on the way to wholeness.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Feng Shui of Caring for Children

I was just thinking today about the vibes that surround me here at my computer in my home office. I am a teacher and writer, so I am literally hemmed in by piles of papers and boxes of books, full-to-overflowing shelves, and file cabinets. In spite of this sometimes overwhelming clutter, some of my best writing and class planning has happened here.

Fung Shui is an ancient practice that helps us recognize the impact of our surroundings on our physical and emotional energy. Some practitioners are able to assess aspects of a person's quality of life through observation of their living environment. This is a metaphysical science whereby we are encouraged to create living spaces that help us tap into the chi (life force) that support us all.

Clearly, children are affected by their environment. The lighting, the noise, the busy-ness and pace of the activities, the number of people and children, the number of activities, the emotional charge of the interactions - all of these things and more can influence how children AND adults are able to function.

We know that when we are stressed and in a hurry and have too many responsibilities calling to us, we are less patient and less creative. So, of course, what we do to fashion a reasonable pace of life makes a huge difference in the process and outcome of our days. In these times, most of us are doing WAY too much, WAY more than is reasonable. And our environments prove this.... homes and yards that need attention, buildings too close together, streets and highways crowded with cars and people. I can feel it.

AND when I am conscious, I can breathe deeply and slow down, and put more of my energy into creating a space that nurtures me and the ones I live with and work with. Where are we going? What is really important? Who is really important? What can we do today to consider working more harmoniously with the energy that holds us all?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Seeing Children

I have been reminded several times lately about how important it is to really see children. Some of us grew up with the "seen and not heard" philosophy. We were supposed to be quite and polite. With these expectations, I don't think children were really seen. How can people really understand children when they don't talk to them, or let them talk. When they must sit and always wait for adult approval. I am so glad that my parents didn't raise us with this attitude. We laughed and played together. Yes, we had our hassles, too. We were seen.

Seeing children is also about being careful to avoid crippling labels that make children feel bad about themselves. Even when children are intense and dramatic, we can see them for their energy, creativity, and enthusiasm for life. When children seem shy and fearful, we can see them for their careful observation and study of a situation before jumping into new experiences.

Children need to be seen and they need adult mentors who are willing to offer support and guidance, mostly in the form of time. No other distractions, just focused attention. Gotta get those cell phones and TVs off and give kids the gift of being seen.