Wednesday, July 4, 2018

A New Way

My wife and I are sitting at the white patio table under the green umbrella at the Riverside Restaurant in Grants Pass, Oregon. We are at the bottom of a three level veranda facing the Rogue River.

The Rogue is one of our few nationally protected wild rivers. I can hear the gurgling  flow of the current rapidly moving down stream. The warm sun today hits the rippling water with thousands of light refractions that gleam like tiny, twinkling stars.

Needless to say, we are relaxed; and enjoying our peaceful surroundings accompanied by bird songs and pine tree fragrances. I look across the eighty feet span of this amazing water wonder. There are bluish-green mountain tops looming down stream, and a huge, graceful Osprey circling above us.

All of a sudden, the raptor folds in its wings, dive-bombs into the river in front of us, like a gifted dancer nailing a contorted pose. Then the Osprey victoriously explodes out of the water, flying into the blue sky with a silver fish in its beak. Oh my, I have never witnessed such a raw, glorious, inspiring sight.

While waiting to place our order, my mind flashes back to a similar, awesome and equally inspiring human experience that occurred several nights ago at our local Unity Church. I facilitate a support group there on Thursday evenings that we call Positive Life Changes.

We are sitting on the wood and aluminum church chairs arranged in a circle. I am in the middle of the group with Kathy, Fred, Tom, and Shawn on the left half of the circle; and Doris, Anne, and Fred on my right.

Fred, (who is 85-years-old, bent over from back problems, with a bald head, white mustache, and a pervasive twinkle in his eye) hands off the Mission Statement sheet to Shawn, our newest member.

She reads the three pathways to emotional recovery, beginning with, “#1. We will practice ways to limit and control negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.”

Shawn, (in her early 40’s, a single mom, with page-boy styled brunette hair) passes the sheet back to me.

I further explain, “There are eight actual steps to positive change, but first we will begin our discussion with the word of the day entitled ‘A New Way’.”

Each member eagerly took turns explaining how to embrace a new way of living despite the inevitable setbacks, challenges, and life stressors that appear to block our progress at times.

Fred delighted in describing his “kick-the-bucket” list: “I made a commitment to take note of all the things that have displeased my wife, and I will try to do better.” In the last year he has many physical challenges that have included one heart attack, crippling back pain, and two strokes.

Kathy, (37, very slender, wearing her brown hair in a pony tail) proudly explained that she is in recovery from her alcoholism after getting out of prison recently for multiple DUI convictions. She went on to attest, “My new way is moving into a women’s half-way house in town, which will support my recovery, and help me get a fresh start on life again.”

Doris, (short, with reddish-brown hair, in her late 40’s) has been married and divorced three times. She is living with her elderly mother and her alcoholic brother. She shyly shared, “My new goal is to change my life by going back to college and majoring in career development.”

Tom, (47, brain-injured, with Schizophrenia, wearing a light pencil thin beard on his jaw line) is applying of Social Security Disability. He softly described his new interest in writing poetry, and he wisely pointed out to the group, “A new way suggests a willingness to be more open to positive thoughts, feelings, and actions.”

Anne, (53, short blond hair, speaks with an Irish accent) came as a guest of Kathy’s. She related to Tom her ambivalence about being on Social Security Disability. With passion in her eyes she stated, “My new way is to look for part-time work because I am not crippled enough to stay at home all day.”

Pete, (62, fully bearded, grey haired, and a combat Vietnam veteran) is going through a terrible divorce. He painfully described his grief over his separation from his wife of fourteen years due to her unmanageable Bipolar Disorder and alcoholism. 

Tearfully he stated, “How do you move forward to embrace a new life when negative thoughts and feelings keep taking you back to the old pain and suffering?”  

I took this opportunity to recommend my stop and think process to positive change.

When we are faced with hardships, adversity, or triggers to engage in self-defeating behavior (I call our dark secrets), I suggest we try the following emotional recovery system:

#1. Take a deep breath by inhaling for three seconds, and slowly exhale for six or more. This will slow down the temptation to stress-out or impulsively dance with negativity.

#2. Practice the skill of positive self-talk. For example, repeat affirmations like, “I refuse to beat myself up with things I can’t change.” Or, “I deserve to have a better life today.”

#3. Most importantly, when stuck and unable to see a new way, pause, and reach out for help to a positive person.

Pete graciously thanked me, smiled, and exclaimed, “Sounds good Gary, but where do I find positive people to talk with?”

I hesitated, and said, “Look around Pete, all the positive people you need are in this group today.”

We then laughed, smiled, and mysteriously connected in a special way: as majestic and uplifting as the Osprey who in full view dove into the water, and flew back into the blue sky victorious…

Startled from my muse by the waitress, we ordered from the menu. I look again at the mighty Rogue, and recount more of my experiences about the support group to my wife Susan.

If you enjoyed this essay, why not read our spiritual collection of essays, "Reflections: A Journey to God". More info at Amazon.Com

Sending you Peace and Joy today from Susan and Gary Eby.