Self-regulation and the baby steps to joy

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Why do we hurt? Why is trauma so emblazoned in our memory that to touch it with thought is to relive it, moment by torturous moment, until we sink under the weight of the memory. The loss of a grandparent, the loss of a friend, a miscarriage, a rape, a breakup with the person you thought was the one. Why do we hurt until we break, even years after the moment of pain has passed? Whoever said time heals all wounds was never traumatized, and never felt a loss so acute that sixty years later just a fragment of the memory is a punch to the gut.

Two people can witness the same traumatic event, a car crashing into a pole at high speeds. The first viewer is troubled, talks to the police, talks to his family and friends and lets the incident slip into his past. The second viewer is traumatized, cries when he talks to the police, can not discuss the incident with his family or friends, avoids the place where the accident occurred and is shaken every time he sees a car similar in color and type to the one in the accident.

Why did both people come to such different places in terms of how they reacted to the incident? First is the preconditioning of the nervous system. The first viewer has self-regulation, few past traumas and a set sense of self and the world around him. The second viewer has a dysregulated nervous system, lives in high alert, and has a poor sense of self and the world around him. He has been traumatized before, and the world is a scary and uncertain place for him.

What makes the memory so physically painful for viewer two is the amount of emotion he was flooded with when the incident occurred. His preprogrammed heightened arousal to danger, his low self-regulation, and high sense of uncertainty etched the car crash into his memory in horrifying detail. It is the amount of emotion experienced by the perceiver that decides whether an incident is traumatic or just simply troubling.

Self-regulation is key to managing trauma and stopping new trauma from forming. We self-regulate by talking to a qualified trauma specialist, doing deep breathing work to regulate the nervous system, going regularly to yoga or tai chi classes, managing stress, practicing prayer and meditation, and above all by surrounding ourselves with people and environments that help us feel calm and supported. Calming and regulating the nervous system is key to self-regulation and regulating the emotional brain.

So, turn off the news, cut out toxic people that leave you feeling weakened and drained, do not watch movies that are fear based, and lastly have faith in the creator who made you. Dr. Brene’ Brown says, we dress rehearse tragedy to beat vulnerability to the punch, meaning we live in a constant state of expecting our next trauma because it is too terrifying to believe that joy just might be our next great experience. To experience joy, we must first be vulnerable and willing to be open to change. I ask you to lean into your Creator, lean into healthy love, lean into gratitude, lean into your healing work, and prepare yourself for joy; After all, joy was once your natural state of being.

Keep going-You got this-I love you

Introducing a New Voice, my friend Pearl Grace.

Waters of Life


Flow through life like water
Continually moving
Never conforming to a certain shape other than your own
Glisten with the sun
Stir with storms
Drink the rain
Fluidly, glide through rapids
Shoot down the waterfall
Rest in the stillness
And keep flowing
-Pearl Grace

It is an interesting type of funny when you realize that you’re really not alone in experiencing life.  Life keeps life-ing all over all of us.  It is easy to become blinded to the truth.  The truth that everyone has a journey and every journey has mountains and valleys.  We have a lot more in common with each other than we know.  

Each and every person is a phenomenon.  

Beautiful, vibrant souls with hearts that beat, emitting infinite shades in a full spectrum of color.

Day to day.  Moment to moment.  It shifts.  A fluid kaleidoscope of feelings, emotions and thoughts.  Our own internal river.  The very essence of our being. 

Life has its mountains and valleys.  Twists, turns and rapids of turmoil.  Waterfalls where we fly off the edge, free fall down and get sucked under into the eddy below.

This eddy is the place we get stuck.  The weight of the falls continually flow forcefully, downward; holding our heads underwater.  Spinning in the current, around and around; like laundry in a washing machine on rough cycle.  It’s so fast and strong, it feels like we’ll never get out.  Once in a while it eases up and we attempt to escape, but can’t kick our legs fast enough before the tentacles whip out. Snatching us back in.

One of the worst ways to die, in my opinion, would be to drown.  Based on my observation, others would agree.  I see you.

You are the ones who keep fighting and holding your breath to survive.  Realize, if and when you feel weak, lesser, down or angry with yourself, that the opposite of what you are feeling at that moment is true.  You are some of the strongest, most courageous people walking the earth–phenomenons. 

I was asked a question, recently, “if I could write my whole story in its entirety, what is the one, singular, most burning question I would want answered?”

I’d want to know how I haven’t died 9,000 times already!

Think about yourself.  See yourself, what you’ve endured and give yourself some damn credit!

Even though, the water is still a bit murky from all the mud that was spun up, you eventually make it out.  Totally exhausted, floating on your back to the bank where the water becomes clear and still.

When you reach that place and stand up to walk out, something beautiful will catch your eye.

When you see it, you will know.

Take time to gaze in amazement, because what you’ll be looking at will be peering back into your eyes.

This is your most precious rescue…

It’s the reflection of the authentic you.  Being free to simply be. Exactly as you are.  

I believe that this is the journey we all have in common as we live, lose ourselves and eventually come to find ourselves.

I believe that this is the journey we all have in common as we live, lose ourselves and eventually come to find ourselves.

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Home

Feet on bricks that don’t give, hand on door that won’t open without resistance. No peace, no love, no freedom, just him, them, their schedule, their wants, and needs. “Don’t contact me, I have boundaries. You don’t have boundaries.” So silence between mother and son stands as dividing sentry that says do not cross this line again. They were friends once, mother and son, but no more. Single mother with a paycheck son called mom so the two became one as often happens when there is no relief from one another. Boundaries are a new thing to the boundary-less, the used and owned mother so used to selfless serving that she didn’t know that she could state a need and have it heard.

In the beginning, she had said, “no marriage, no children, no houses, no home, I want the world.” And the man, the boy’s father had said, “marriage, children, homes, the world is mine, and you will serve me as I climb vast glittering corporate towers, and fly in jets to all the places you have spoken of seeing, but I’ll go without you.” So the mother waited, grew to grieving for her life, for her future, for the love she sought but did not find, and the child grew and learned to hate her.

The husband grew as well, he grew old, he found no joy in wife or child so he grew busy, sedentary, gray in hair and skin until he was old, old, before 50. The wife watched, trapped in the poverty of marriage where the man holds the cash and pinches the budget and ignores the wife who still serves the boy who always needs but now hates and she is, is what, a ghost in the wake of her youth standing in a kitchen with no one to cook for, mocked for her table cloths too rich, too fine, for saying silverware when she’s meant to say flatware, derided because once she had wished for so much more.

She’d been in college before the man came. But now her hair is gray, her mind slowed by the endless repetition of mother goose, Dr. Seuss, all those cats in their hats, all those endless rhymes, rhyming nothings, so good for the boy, so bad for her who’s mind had wished to wander, but now just wanders, lost over shopping lists, birthday gifts, and the other sundry of simple nothings that weaken the brain and kill the soul. If she got in the car, where would she go? If she made camp under a bridge who would miss her? A cloud breaks and for one brief moment the shy Seattle sun peaks through filling her eyes with light that teases but will not last.

Just Us

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How little a thing we are when we first begin to be a thing at all. Little breaths, babies’ breaths and babies’ tears, babies’ coos, the little things that define the undefined, the unmolded yet unique being called us. Oh delicious, soft fat arms, milk sent in the fold of chubby necks, the sweet pink of soft cherry cheeks. The us in us is fragrant with possibilities folded into jumpers and onesies and serenaded by a cacophony of vowels and consonants into a guttural noise that means us: Mary, George, Jane, Robert. We hear the sound that means us and we smile or scowl in rotation depending if we want to be wanted or are vexed to be disturbed. Silly brilliant things are names we wear like crowns defining ourselves by them as they define us to the world. Mary Ellington George St. Mari, would be as sweet if she were Jane, just Jane.

As baby bloom lengthens to childhood’s bumpy first steps the toddler emerges with creased brow and declares NO! NO I shan’t! No, I couldn’t possibly! No to everything you say. Simply NO! And little arms are crossed and little heads are shaken in resolute defiance, the simple NO sufficient in its rebellion. I am me, we all cry out. I shan’t, I won’t, I flatly refuse. The beauty of saying No, of being naughty, the tasty succulent delight of owning oneself fully and wholly in the now. NO! We cry, NO! But soft months that creep on cajoling or disciplinarian feet teach us to be pliable, polite, reasonable, inoffensive and sociable. So, we blend, we merge, we become one with society until our sacred self, our defining NO becomes a thing we no longer hold in our hand but have given, somehow, away to the masses.

And how we love the masses. We want them to love us back as we run to catch the ball, hoping it was thrown to us, wanting to hear our melodious syllables called out, here to me Jane. Let’s play Charlie. You are my best friend Mary. We run to the others, are polite and pliable, becoming not so much an us as a we. The we is a many legged creature which stumbles and tumbles through girlhood and boyhood raising one we up, as it throws one we down, decrying that this we was rude, and that we was wonderful, and don’t we all agree that the brown eyed we is awfully good looking in his new jacket? And we clutch to our we’s as they roll us about, spitting us out, taking us up, including, excluding, laughing, and rebuking, until the entire thing is smashed by the something called two.

And so goes us, so goes we, now there is you, and now there is me. A touch of the hand, a catch of the eye, I brush back your hair, your hand touches my thigh. We are sighs on summer breezes, kisses on grassy lawns, hands held between classes, stolen kisses on shadowed porches, a hand slipped up under a shirt. And the yearning grows and grows until we are no longer children but grown grasping things alive and alight with living. We say hello, we say goodbye, hearts break, tears dry, we part, we come together, we lose sight only to find one another once again in a different city, in a different time when laughter lines our eyes.

And if we are smart, we have found our NO! Stomped our foot, said hell yes to all the right things and hell no to all the wrong. We’ve held our own children and set them firmly on their feet. Only to linger now in this kind light of long ago loves and look, just look into each other’s eyes. I who was me, you who were you. And we hold our coffee cups in our knotted hands and remember how brilliant it is to be…just us.

The Caretakers

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The Killien Mansion during the Lauzon family ownership, circa 1935.

“The council agreed to send a letter of condolence to Mr. F. Killien, though no one knows what he was to be consoled for. Someone in his family must have died,” Gail of the historic society said, reading from the Lowell city council meeting dating from the 1930’s. “They don’t send out letters like that unless there was a death.” That would make a third, I thought, looking around the old home which had been built by Mr. F. Killien for his family in 1924. I hadn’t anticipated a death in his family.

I knew the Smiths (the home’s third owners) had lost a daughter, the Bevers (the fourth owners) had lost a grandmother but now a Killien had died, quiet probably in my old home. I felt the secret twisting under my rib cage as I said goodbye to Gail, the crowned queen of Lowell, the local town historian who has dedicated her life to preserving the memory of the old logging town and its people, three of which had been mourned in the very rooms I now occupy. Funny old house. I pat it like a friendly dog I hope won’t turn and bite. I haven’t told my son about the grandmother who died in the sun room or the young miss who died in the southwest bedroom and I won’t tell him about this unknown Killien either, this condolence that has yet to have a face or a name.

When we first bought the house, it was a tear-down. The roof was caving in, ferns grew from rotten soffits, and the gutters hung from falling fascia boards, no longer catching or moving water. Water is a constant in Western Washington, the rains fall for months without stopping. It undermines foundations, peels away paint, rots wood, and erodes mortar from brick. But the house was beautiful, it was stately. Even in its disrepair it was instantly our home. Set over three lots on a shy half acre it was priced at only a little over its land’s value. We’d have been fools not to buy it, fools not to invest in a growing urban area, fools not to restore the massive home known as the Killien Mansion. But the deaths hung on the home like a cold blanket that would never feel warmth. The home was unhappy and it need to be cleansed.

I lit a candle for the grandmother and a second for the young Miss. I stirred charcoal into the wax and left them to burn out. I said prayers for the dead and salted the windows and doors. I set holy water in a crystal bowl and prayed over it in the sunshine before blessing every window and door in the names of all who are holy. I lit sage and walked through every room, every closet, every hallway, letting the smoke and my prayers cleanse away the past. People have died under my roof and people have been born under it. Infants have grown into children, and children have grown up and grown old, having laughed, loved, and been mourned in their passing. I too plan to spend my life in this home. To live in it until I live no more and this new condolence, this new passing will require a new candle. Who was she or he? What happened?

I know the grandmother made stew. I used to smell it when she came into a room. Sitting all alone the room would fill with the scent of beef stew and I would know that Mrs. (as we came to call her) was paying me a visit. Mrs. also liked the thermostat kept at 64 degrees. I like the house warmed to 68, yet every morning the thermostat was turned down to 64. My husband swears he never touched it.

Now that the house is cleansed it is lighter, happier, free in a way it didn’t feel before. The beef stew scent is gone and the cold blanket feeling has lifted.  I’ve done everything I can for the ones who passed here. I’ve cared for their home and I’ve cared for them, even if from the other side of where they now rest. And even without knowing who Mr. F. Killien received condolence for, I will light a candle for him or for her and pray they have found peace.

Mr. F. Killien standing outside the sun room of the Killien Mansion, Circa 1930.

frank killien by sun room2

My Mustard Seed

eeorme

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If you had bumped into me seventeen years ago you would have met a deeply depressed person. I was sick and tired of existing and I wanted off this rock. My level of despair was paralyzing. So what to do when you feel washed up at twenty-four? For me the answer was…a hypnotherapy class?

I remember walking into the classroom (a remodeled second story room over the garage) and wondering why in the hell I was bothering. My PTSD was so bad at this point that my anxiety came over me in waives, crushing me with panic attacks so severe that I often felt as if I was dying moment by moment.

Hypnotherapy class was…different. I met neat people, I learned about meditation, trance work and how easily humans are led through the power of suggestion. (We are predictably irrational creatures) I also learned what manipulation looked like and how…

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5 out of 5 Stars for Magdalena’s Shadow

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Magdalena’s Shadow received a much earned 5 out of 5 stars from both the Manhattan Book Review and the Seattle Book Review. Thank you to all of you who have supported my work over the years. This has been a long hard haul and right now, for the first time, I’ve seen the light at the end of the tunnel. I am so grateful to everyone who has offered me their support and encouragement. Especially, I would like to thank my husband Dan. Without his love or support I would never had the time or the courage to tell Coco’s story.

God bless you all,

E. E. Orme

Why We Help

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I recently had an enlightening exchange with my psychiatrist. We were talking about the nature of love and mothering. I’m a mother hen and always have been and the question was, why do I do it? What do I get out of looking after people? Our conversation went something like this.

 

Doc-“So, what do you get out of it? What’s the payoff for wearing yourself out caring for others?”

Me-“I guess I help people because I think life is hell and we need help to get through it.”

Doc-“We are animals. We make life a misery for ourselves and others. Coyote’s don’t help each other, neither do bears or lions. Why should people help each other? Why do you help?”

Me-“I help because I know we are sentient animals. We are aware. It is our spiritual duty as aware animals to seek God and to help everyone, every day of our lives. I feel it’s our prime directive to seek peace and love and to help everyone we can.”

Doc-“We are sentient animals but most people only live for themselves. People go to church and they do their charity work and they help but it’s usually because it makes them feel good, or it makes them feel a part of something. Spirituality and religion are no more synonymous than ape is to human. Not many people put others before personal investment. Most people are self-orientated.”

 

When I was young, I remember feeling a sort of narcissistic glow when I helped someone. I remember feeling like a good person for just a moment. Helping made me feel good about myself. But it’s been many years since my feeling good came into the equation of, “why I help.” Honestly, I believe it’s motherhood that changed me. After fourteen-years of giving, it’s become an unconscious act. I love people. They don’t have to be family, I just love them. They don’t have to be good or perfect to receive my love. We are all animals wandering through the same shit show together but what matters is that we are conscious animals. So, support your neighbor, help your friend, help a stranger, give money to Meals on Wheels, and protect school lunches. Help peacefully protect our human rights, civil liberties, and personal dignity. We know what is right and what is wrong. That’s why it is our absolute duty to help one another get through each day. No one gets out of here alive so let’s at least get through it together.

Love and Bless,

  1. E. Orme

We Were Made For These Times

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We Were Made For These Times

By Clarissa Pinkola Estes

My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.

I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.

Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.

In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.

We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn’t you say you were a believer? Didn’t you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn’t you ask for grace? Don’t you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.

Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.

The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.

By Clarissa Pinkola Estes

American poet, post-trauma specialist and Jungian psychoanalyst, author of Women Who Run With the Wolves.

How We Make America Great Again

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This week is a pivotal week in American history. A time of remembrance, of crisis and resistance. I refer firstly to Dr. Martin Luther King Day. a time of solidarity, strength, and remembrance of those who gave their lives in the struggle for human rights.

The tragedy is the inauguration of the right-wing exclusionist nominee for the executive office. I have nothing to say about him. He is too ugly, too stupid, too frightening to comprehend.

Resistance comes on Saturday when the national women’s march begins. Tens of thousands if not millions of people will take to the streets in support of women’s rights. But how can we hope to be seen, heard, and granted the overdue equality we have sought since the beginning when the man we must call president used prostitutes and pussy grabs without consequence? Dear God, how can we hope for anything but further oppression from such a person.

firstly, I pray we are our best selves as we think on Dr. King and remember the good works of good people who risked everything to achieve equal rights and freedom. Then on inauguration day when Twittler takes the oath of office I will turn off my television and computers and I will pray for peace, for love, and for a miracle. On the Saturday following, I will walk in silence and remember the thousands of years in which one half of the world’s population lived and still lives as sub human chattel without a voice or a choice.

It may be true that nothing we do can touch the heart or mind of a prejudiced and bigoted man or his government, but as the pacifist Mahatma Gandhi said, “whatever you do will be insignificant but it is very important that you do it.” As a people, we must pray, show kindness and love to all our brothers and sisters. We must stand against oppression wherever we see it and love each other unconditionally no mater our race, gender or religion. This is how we make America great again.