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What Does It Mean to Make Progress?

If you're hard on yourself like I am, why not make the new year about change and growth?  It's not about eating less, or stopping your OCD habits, or starting an exercise workout, or playing pickleball, although these activities help enormously. It's about doing you in a way that feels more calm, dependable and meaningful.  Self-care is not a bad word.  It's not lying on the couch in a coma.  It's not getting a manicure.  Although these things help as well.  It's about integrating the good with the bad, practicing wisdom and equanimity, generosity, patience, and care, with yourself first, then with others.  It's about showing up for yourself and giving things time.  It's about slowing down, yes, in our fast-paced world.  Is it about putting down your phone?  Sure.  But if you're like me, and need to read the big print version on your phone, then read. Or reaching out to a high school friend with whom you've re-connected, then keep the phone.  Social media, I have said from early on, is not the enemy.  The enemy is within.  

My friends, the biggest change I have made is letting things go.  Things I cannot change or control.  In my mind and body together in harmony.  In stopping running around just to run around, and in starting meditating.  Meditation in daily life. Routines and structure, meaning and work, risks and rewards.  Body positive.  Outdoor therapy.  Online groups.  These are the The Body Keeps the Score activities that create space.  The space in your thoughts that lets you know that pausing is beneficial because it gives you a moment of objectivity.  Young adults that I work with lean on black and white thinking because their brains are in rapid acceleration.  Their amygdala (the regulator) and the synapses (the communicator) are firing in spite of them being still so young and vulnerable, and it's confusing.  Parents often mistake this avalanche of emotion as negative, but this is supposed to happen.  What's not supposed to happen is sitting in your room for two years contemplating who liked your photo.  It couldn't have been prevented, this pandemic.  It robbed us of time, money and people.  It took and took and we felt taken.  

But we (a)rise, as the powerful Maya Angelou stated.

Here we are in mid-town Manhattan.  Here we are with friends.  Here I am with more clients in a row, on wait lists, and I'm 6-0!!!  Who could believe that a social worker supporting her family could thrive at this time?  Doors somehow open if you venture toward, lean in and listen, look for that Blue Heron on the lake.  Don't let it fool you into a photo bomb; rather, take it easy and wait for your moment.  Hold the breath for a second longer and see: you can tolerate loss because it's what's happening.  It's the only thing that is happening.  People seem to fade away, but all new people are coming, and you, yes you, can change the world in an instant.

My clients are doing well.  They really are making progress.  Why?  Because they are accepting and owning their lives.  It's yours to hold.  We are watching "The Affair," a wonderful series that experiments with point-of-view.  The theme song says, the only thing to do in this life/ is be the wave that you are/ and then sink back into the ocean. (Fiona Apple)"  At first we thought it said "be the way that you are" which sounded so wrong.  Upon further investigation, the song really hits it out of the park with its staccato rhythm, and force toward inevitability.  Death is not dramatic, in my experience.  It is lonely and quiet.  An absence of a life force so incredible that it returns to dust.  I believe in ashes to ashes, dust to dust.  Not some fancy up-above that is just a fairy tale.  The earth is good; it grounds us.  Be the good earth.


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