The Ripples We Create

51fkdydenbl-_sx331_bo1204203200_June 27, 2016–The Ripples We Create
by Marcia J. McKinley, JD, PhD, LCPC

My bookshelves and nightstand are stacked with books, mostly non-fiction. With each move I make, I try to purge at least a few books from my library; invariably the ones that go are fiction. But there are some works of fiction that I just can’t bring myself to part with. I return to them over and over, hoping that someday the lessons become internalized. Often these books are not cheerful, happy books, but they are meaningful and fulfilling.  These are the books that sustain me.

Earlier, I wrote about how a passage of Little Bee, by Chris Cleave, embodied hope for me. Recently, I find myself returning to Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent.  Often, I re-read the entire book as the characters and plot so engage me.  At other times, I flip to the last two pages to read Diamant’s explanation of immortality.  Through the narrative voice of the main character, Dinah, the author writes:

“I died but I did not leave them.  Benia sat beside me, and I stayed in his eye and in his heart.  For weeks and months and years, my face lived in the garden, my scent clung to the sheets.  For as long as he lived, I walked with him by day and lay down with him at night.

 When his eyes closed for the last time, I thought perhaps I would finally leave the world.  But even then, I lingered.  Shif-re sang the song I taught her and Kiya moved with my motions.  Joseph thought of me when his daughter was born.  Gera named her baby Dinah.  Re-mose married and told his wife about the mother who had sent him away so that he would not die but live.  Re-mose’s children bore children unto the hundredth generation.  Some of them live in the land of my birth and some in the cold and windy places that Werenro described by the light of my mothers’ fire.

 There is no magic to immortality.

 In Egypt, I loved the perfume of the lotus.  A flower would bloom in the pool at dawn, filling the entire garden with a blue must so powerful it seemed that even the fish and the ducks would swoon.  By night, the flower might wither but the perfume lasted.  Fainter and fainter but never quite gone.  Even many days later, the lotus remained in the garden.  Months would pass and a bee would alight near the spot where the lotus had blossomed, and its essence was released again, momentary but undeniable.

 Egypt loved the lotus because it never dies.  It is the same for people who are loved.  Thus can something as insignificant as a name—two syllables, one high, one sweet—summon up the innumerable smiles and tears, sights and dreams of a human life.

 If you sit on the bank of a river, you see only a small part of its surface.  And yet, the water before your eyes is proof of unknowable depths.  My heart brims with thanks for the kindness you have shown me by sitting on the bank of this river, by visiting the echoes of my name.”

This passage brings me peace, about those who I have lost, to death or breakups or life circumstances.  I think of them with love and know that they have not died; they are still with me.  And, it reminds me that we never know the ripples we create in the universe.

New Year; Newer, SMARTer Goals

02/22/15 New Year; Newer, SMARTer Goals
by Marcia J. McKinley, JD, PhD, LCPC

On New Year’s Eve, the next year looms before us, looking like a blank slate full of promise. Anything is possible in that new year. The new year is when we can lose weight that we have been hanging onto, run the 5k we have always wanted to, get the grades we always wanted, declutter our houses…or, in my case, begin to blog.

Then, the end of February rolls around and I find myself finally sitting down to write my first blog entry. To be honest, I wouldn’t be doing this if I were not stuck inside the house due to Winter Storm Octavia.

So, what happened to all those good intentions?

Was the problem that I didn’t really want to blog? No, I don’t think so. I love to write and have been known to overwhelm friends (and sometimes mere acquaintances) with voluminous correspondence. Blogging seems a much better outlet for my writing energy than burying friends in emails and letters that they then feel bound to keep up with.

Was the problem that I didn’t know what to write about? No, I have a list of blog ideas three pages long. Generating ideas is rarely an issue for me.

Was the problem that I don’t believe my blogging doesn’t have value? No, I trust the reader to move onto other pages if nothing on this screen interests or inspires them.

Was the problem that I didn’t have time to blog? Well, possibly. After all, I do have a fairly busy life. Still, how long does writing one blog entry really take for someone who already has the ideas and types 100 words per minute? Surely, I could find one to two hours per week to put fingers to keyboard.

No, I think the issue started with this: While I had a goal to blog, my goal was not a “good” goal. That is to say, it wasn’t a SMART-P goal. It wasn’t a goal that’s Specific, Measureable, Actionable, Realistic, Time-Sensitive, or Process-Oriented. (Well, maybe it was actionable and process-oriented, but it certainly didn’t meet the other criteria.)

As an ADHD coach, I teach people all the time how to develop SMART-P goals, but I failed to do that for myself, at least about blogging. Moreover, I didn’t identify a reward for myself for meeting my goal.

What New Year’s resolution did you make on December 31, 2014, that you have not yet started? Join with me over the next few weeks to explore how we can make — and achieve — SMARTer goals. After all, we needn’t wait until next December to work on our goals. Although it might not be New Year’s Day on any official calendar, February 22nd is the start of a new year. In fact, every moment of our lives is the start of a new year that is full of promise.

Copyright©2015.  Marcia J. McKinley.

Having Hope

02/23/15 Having Hope
by Marcia J. McKinley, JD, PhD, LCPC

I left yesterday’s post on the note that each moment is the beginning of a new year filled with promise. I believe that. Yet I also know that for many people who struggle with adult ADHD, anxiety issues, or the effects of trauma, it is difficult, if not impossible, to see the future at all, let alone a future that holds promises of safety, contentment, or joy. Setting any goals, SMART or otherwise, may seem pointless in those circumstances.

Whenever I think of how people cope with these dark nights of the soul, I am reminded of a passage from Chris Cleeve’s novel, Little Bee. In it, the narrator and title character, who is a young, traumatized Nigerian woman, addresses the reader:

“On the girl’s brown legs there were many small white scars. I was thinking, Do those scars cover the whole of you, like the stars and the moons on your dress? I thought that would be pretty too, and I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived.

In a few breaths’ time I will speak some sad words to you. But you must hear them the same way we have agreed to see scars now. Sad words are just another beauty. A sad story means, this storyteller is alive. The next thing you know, something fine will happen to her, something marvelous, and then she will turn around and smile.”

Too many of us have scars on our hearts, minds, bodies; but, we are alive and so, there is hope.  Not only is there hope that something marvelous will happen, but there is also the hope that we can make something marvelous happen. So, while we wait and pray for the Universe to deliver something marvelous, we can also work toward that end.  In my case, I will set a SMART goal, in this case working toward a blog that touches at least a few people.  That will be marvelous and will make me smile.

Copyright©2015.  Marcia J. McKinley.