Kicking Off
the Holiday Season

My Chinese horoscope for today instructs me thus:

Restraint and moderation should be your mottoes this time: you’ll tend to react violently to minor events and spend much energy uselessly. Beware of making much noise for nothing.

So far, it has been amazingly accurate.

Restraint and moderation are both familiar companions in my life at the moment, although in areas that seem to conflict with one another. For example, I am restrained and moderate when it comes to driving and spending time with others, but abandon such pillars of rectitude when it comes to consuming sweets and carbs.

Similarly, I am altogether too restrained and moderate in physical exercise, but without guardrails when it comes to just lying around and binge-watching something on Netflix or Acorn (confession – -my most recent binge is “Crownies” on Acorn). The days seem to race by and I cannot block out time for stretching, walking, or swimming. But I have become an Olympic-level contender for sitting in front of my computer watching YouTube (BTW, check out Sarah Millican for some very funny British stand-up), and scrolling through endless newsletters that I am now receiving because I forgot to click “no” on “Accept All Cookies”.

And, of course, I have no restraint or moderation when it comes to exaggerating my triumphs and woes. I do try and keep my dramatic wailing for the cats, but it is leaking out.

[See how accurate this horoscope is?]

Reacting Violently to Minor Events

My own inner turmoil over letting go of who I once was and coming to terms with not being able to control who I am becoming is mirrored in a world that is disintegrating and reforming itself right now. I need only look at headlines to see my inner experience played out before me.

I spend needless energy in negotiating holding on to my pain and suffering when letting go would bring me such joy, but for the fact that I am afraid of the unknown. Letting go gently, however, is a struggle when I am so deeply attached to things.

Yet there is beauty, hope, and kindness to be found every day. It sometimes is very quiet and can be overlooked with all the Tweeting and posturing that is all too easy to find. I remember an “Aha” that completely changed how I viewed myself. It came to me that the statement, “You can only see in others what already exists within yourself.” was not limited to faults and failings, but also meant positive attributes. In testing this theory out, I have found it to be true. It is anecdotal evidence only, for sure, but it guides my way.

Spending Energy Wisely

Long-COVID has humbled me with regard to energy and pacing. I used to preach pacing, disregarding the hypocrisy of my own squandering of it when I was healthy. I am coming to terms with an unwelcomed reality that I have limited stores of energy to draw from and I need recovery time to just accomplish the very basic necessities for managing my very, very quiet life.

This butts up against my unrealized dreams of creating workshops and programs that will transform people’s lives. Of seeing myself in front of an audience of hundreds as they listen, rapt, to my humorous yet wise take on growing old. My childhood fantasy of being rich and famous.

Those dreams require sustained energy. Letting go of those dreams requires kindness and gentle compassion. Somewhere in all of this is that quiet part of me that may be deeply wounded and in need of attention.

To Begin Again Requires Ending Again and Again.

At the end of this month, I will officially retire my license as a clinical psychologist. I worked incredibly hard to become licensed. Not just the academics, but the hours of clinical supervision, learning my craft, followed by the nearly defeating licensing exam. Then over 20 years of honing my craft and becoming a skilled clinician. I am proud of what I accomplished.

This is one of those transitions that requires a subtle shift in my self-esteem. On the one hand, all that I have learned remains intact. I will always be a skilled clinician. On the other hand, the status change from “licensed” to “unlicensed” feels as if I am being barred from the club. I am no longer welcomed by those who require regulatory blessings. State licensing boards and insurance companies now find me inadequate to work with those who need my services. I am told to gently let go.

Beware of Making Much Noise for Nothing

This is a valuable instruction. There seem to be a lot of people right now making much noise for nothing. And the important things that need attention so very often end up being silent or worse, silenced. I keenly remember being trained in how to triage accident sites as a first responder. We were taught to notice the screamers and yellers, but to seek out those who were quiet. It was the latter who were the most severely injured. They were the priority.

So much of the world has gone quiet in the cacophony around MAGA and Putin and China and Roe. The noise can be both distracting and frightening. We need to be beware. I am looking for the quiet ones. The families and children who no longer laugh or play because it is not safe.  The elders who may be lonely or not able to afford food.  The animals who are seeking sanctuary.

Beginning Again is a Gift

Sharon Saltzberg, a revered and beloved meditation teacher, writes: The moment we emerge from the distraction is when we have the chance to let go gently, and without judging ourselves, begin again. 

There is so much distraction right now to emerge from. I find I am pulled this way and that by minor things that irritate me (why do people insist on offering opinions about things they know nothing about?) and major things that irritate me (why have I let myself go?).

My lesson is around the letting go gently part.

It is going to take me awhile to let go of my identity as a licensed clinical psychologist and just be a wise elder. But I know I can do it. It is also going to take me awhile to let go of the excess avoirdupois I accumulated during COVID. But I know I can do it. I just have to emerge from the distraction, and gently let go.

3 responses to “Begin Again…”

  1. Jodi Arnheiter Avatar
    Jodi Arnheiter

    I miss talking with you. I am thankful and appreciative of you kindness and shared incite. You are funny and amazing , and loved!

  2. Elke Avatar
    Elke

    Thank you Mary! Appreciate your incite, perspective and wisdom. Peace and Love to you!

  3. Tim L Gieseke Avatar
    Tim L Gieseke

    I’m reading the newly released book, The Orphans Doctors, by my good friend and colleague, Dr. Dan Osterweil. He wrote this book in his early retirement. I had no idea of the pain and chaos he has carried from the stories of his immediate family and relatives about the atrocities they experienced as Jews in Poland (Nazis & Russians) and Hungary during and immediately after WW-II. This troubled time brings perspective to the problems of our times and greater empathy for the cruel inhumanity trauma that many of my Jewish colleagues carry.

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