Over the last two weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about healing. This, following reading news of Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington’s suicide on Chris Cornell’s birthday.

Specifically, I’ve been contemplative about the difference between those of us who overcome depression and those who do not, and if the key is our ability to access healing.

So, my first post on this topic is a simple but thoughtful and honest list of the ways I’ve been able to overcome adversity, depression, anxiety and worry… and access the power of healing. As I put this list together though, I also realized that using any one of these in excess has also led me to further addiction, pain and suffering, depending on where in life I was at… As such, not only should one use in moderation, it’s important to recognize that there’s a fine line between healthy practice and addiction: know the difference, choose to be kind to yourself, and stop when you’ve crossed that line. So without further ado*:

  1. exercise (this is obvious, but do so in moderation)
  2. eating healthy (as my friend Derek warned: this is not the same as dieting)*
  3. sharing sadness with friends and family
  4. vacation (beach ones are my favorite)
  5. making new friends (usually comes easiest when you’re pursuing a new social hobby)
  6. dessert
  7. reading (one of my favorites: Tara Brach’s Radical Acceptance)
  8. listening to music (Frank Sinatra tops the list)
  9. yoga, meditation, and reiki
  10. restyle, your hair and/or wardrobe
  11. tattoo (go for a small one)
  12. hobbies, new and old
  13. write, from the heart (I’m not one for journaling, but prefer poetry writing)
  14. talk therapy (in my personal experience, this is an entry point to healing, but in and of itself talk therapy hasn’t healed me)
  15. working with a life coach (where talk therapy has gotten me to the entry point, a life coach has guided me the rest of the way)
  16. alternative medicine (acupuncture has helped me, though there are others)

Do you have a favorite you want to share that’s not on my list? Please feel free to leave a comment!

*Disclaimer: all opinions expressed here are my own and are a result of the way in which my somewhat dysfunctional mind interprets a particular situation and or concept. Should you decide to act upon or reuse any information provided by me, you are doing so at your own responsibility.

 

They were outside on a hot August day, the sky above a cloudless blue. The 30 year old international aid worker and her two colleagues from the US had been invited by a local NGO to attend a soccer match between two junior league teams in Katatura township of Windhoek, Namibia. The three Americans were in the country for a 2-week work trip, sent by their headquarter office in Washington to provide operating support to the project which services those afflicted with HIV/AIDS.

Standing nearby, also watching the soccer match, was a Namibian girl of about twelve years. The aid worker noticed the child had Down Syndrome, wearing not only a dirty set of clothes and no shoes, but a tired, unhappy face.

The middle-aged soccer coach, an American woman, tells the aid worker, “she has HIV.” She explains, “she’s been taken advantage of by men in her village. Her parents are gone, and her grandmother cannot protect her.” The aid worker stood there, dumb-founded. She was never trained for this. She was never trained to be courageous in the face of this much injustice. She was never trained to live with her heart this open to let in that much pain and suffering. So she blinked away her tears as the soccer coach walked away to continue her day’s work. Moments later, she was approached by other curious children, asking about her camera and its functions. She was saved, for now…

That was me, eight and a half years ago. I share this story now because a few months ago I realized, too late, that the child must have passed a few years back. Given the high prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS in the impoverished country of Namibia (13.3% among adults 15  to 49 years; source: UNAIDS, 2015), coupled with the child’s chromosomal condition, she would not have received the treatment she needed from the government to survive the disease’s progression. This realization saddens me deeply. Both because I did nothing for her, and because there was nothing to be done.

Life, especially when one lives in the global North, is surrounded by so much peace, safety, and economic prosperity we become removed and disconnected from the suffering of those much less fortunate then ourselves. Rarely do we encounter strangers who need our help: who need us to respond with compassion, empathy, love, and courage.

We live in a very troubled time right now in US history. And yet – we can all be thankful for it has never been more amazing to be alive. It is precisely now that we get to train our hearts to become the most compassionate, empathetic, loving, and courageous selves towards the world. To test ourselves to become the warriors we were destined to be.

It is no wonder then, that after seeing images of children’s lifeless bodies washed up on the beaches in Europe that many of us want to protect those who are able to escape the war in Syria. Indeed, very few actually make it; we in turn should respond by showing up at airports, show up against oppression. We should want to act. Because it is so rare, and for so few, that we get to, in our lifetime.

We must show up for them and for ourselves if we want to live the life we were called to live. To this day, I live with images and memory of my chance encounter eight and a half years ago: serving as a shameful memory of my inaction – what I did not show up to do. While I have come far from that 30 year old self, I have much farther to go.

And so I’ll leave you with this: in the few protests in Washington DC, New York, and Philadelphia that I have attended in the last 3 weeks, I’ve heard cries from the crowd calling out the current president’s orders as acts of “shame.” I do hope that we all can act courageously with our hearts wide open in the face of injustice and oppression. To do otherwise will not only turn our silence into personal shame, but a shame at a national scale.

*Photo credits: Marshall Maher, 2008

This past New Years holiday, I spent the better part of the three-day weekend reconnecting with a dear friend from El Salvador, a place where I once called home. I had offered to help with his personal essay for an application and wound up quite involved in the whole writing and editing process. Sometimes to “reconnect” isn’t just chatting on the phone or seeing a friend face to face. Instead – I had, on my lap, my friend’s hopes, dreams, and what he wished as his next step in life more than anything else.

And I decided to show up for my part. I plugged myself back into his life, his world. You see – this is no regular friend. This is the BEST of friends, who played a huge role during the BEST time of my life…

I met Jose Roberto during my first of three years in El Salvador. A the age of 32, I moved to El Salvador not only for work but also to find my calling in life. I also had found no luck – well, bad luck yes – with meeting love in Washington DC, so I decided it was as good a time as any to living and redefining a more purposeful life.

At first our friendship was polite – I met him through my roommate, Debra, with whom he had just began dating. I had also met someone. When my relationship ended abruptly, Jose Roberto and Debra loved and cared for me. By the second half of year two and all of year three, I started my own consulting work, and worked for both of their companies. I grew to love them both and their work, deeply. In those years, I lived with a full heart where I defined who I was and wanted to be, and where friendship was all the love I needed.

Before you know it, it was time for me to go home. The week prior to my departure, Jose Roberto and I had a big miscommunication which led to a bigger fight. Some words were exchanged, and we were both left with hurt and feelings of abandonment.

We didn’t mend our friendship for two years after I returned to the US. And this is where each and every one of us have struggled in our lives, so I want you to “hear me now, and believe me later,” so to speak. Do not wait to reach out to someone to apologize or make amends: waiting has only ever caused yourself (and the other person) immense suffering. You know damn well what I’m talking about!

But more than that – I inadvertently delayed processing and reflecting on what was the best time of my life. You see, any time that you hold onto resentment, anger, pain, and fear, you hold yourself back from appreciating the person, the events, for what it truly is. The fierceness in life, in friendship, in work, and in play that I had during those three years- I have since struggled with finding or recreating because I have yet to trust myself for fear of getting hurt.

I cannot promise that the person you wish to mend your friendship or relationship with will be as generous as Jose Roberto and I have been with ours. I can promise that you will find some meaning and closure – if you decide to be brave about it. So perhaps pick your bravest day, consult your horoscope, whatever – by all means do make amends and do forgive.