Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘human’

There Is No Normal

GoodGrief_180WAn excerpt from Good Grief: Love, Loss & Laughter.

Sometimes people ask right away. “Is this normal?” Others take their time, until they feel safe enough, and then ask essentially the same question. “Am I going crazy?” “Do other people ever feel like this?” “Will I be OK?”

What they’re referring too is the intense, overwhelming, and often bewildering experience of separation and loss. The physical and mental reactions of shock, numbness, shortness of breath, racing heart, stomach upset, difficulty sleeping or eating, lethargy, exhaustion, forgetfulness, inability to focus, clumsiness and confusion, can all be part of the journey of loss. The emotional swings in mood, from intense anticipation of what will happen next (anxiety), to extreme pain, non-stop tears and sadness; are the bodies’ natural response to a death, or separation, from a loved one.

For many, whether you have had previous deaths in your life or not, it can be a frightening, bewildering and alienating experience. It feels like everything is hitting you at once, and you aren’t sure what to do next. Overnight, your entire world has changed. Life seems to be out of control.

Though grief and mourning are our bodies’ natural reaction to separation, they can also resemble and/or mask symptoms of anxiety and depression. If, after a period of time, you are unable to function in daily life or are in doubt, do not hesitate to seek help, information and support.

More than likely, whatever you are experiencing is to be expected, and there would be far more concern if you were not reacting at all. Having someone we love torn out of our physical presence, or the thought of such a thing happening, can bring the strongest person in the world to their knees.

Find ways to externalize your emotion and thoughts. Use safe ways to “get it out”, such as talking, crying, screaming, walking, creating something, and/or sharing with a friend or someone you trust. Stay hydrated. Grieving can release a lot of water. Stop and take three slow deep breaths throughout the day. Stay connected to the person who has died (or left) in whatever healthy manner is right for you.

Feeling the full impact of loss, in some respects, seems to be the initiation fee we pay to be part of the human race.

Further support at: Good Grief: Love, Loss and Laughter.

Man Up

An excerpt from Good Grief: Love, Loss & Laughter.

“Be strong.” “Bear up to pain.” “Be dominant and decisive.” “Provide for others.” “Endure.” “Don’t give in.” “Compete and win at all costs.” “Don’t cry like a baby or a girl.” “Remain rational, unemotional and logical.” “Accomplish, achieve, perform.” “Be assertive, in control and one step ahead of the next guy.”

man-crying-crop

These are some of the messages given to young boys and men for thousands of years. We’ve heard it from lovers, parents, families, friends, religions, governments, the media and other men since birth. Some of the messages of expected behavior are blatant and others more subtle. Some are proclaimed orally or in print, and others are non-verbal and observed by actions and deeds. “Don’t cry.” “Never, ever, express or convey fear, dependence, loneliness, emotion, weakness, passivity or insecurity.”

It’s only been in the last forty to fifty years, since the modern women’s movement (in some areas of the world), that these cultural, familial and religious norms and expectations have been questioned, debated, challenged and/or changed. Within this short span of freedom from such rigid conditioning, some men have chosen (consciously or unconsciously) to embrace these norms and continue the cycle. Others have revolted against them altogether and thrown out the positive attributes of such expectations, along with the negative. And others swagger back and forth between the past and the present, in a state of confusion, bewilderment and loss.

Regardless of how one lives, when a man loses a loved one, by death or separation, they can be thrown into an unknown world of pain that casts their beliefs, personal expectations and accepted ways of being, into an ocean of doubt, turmoil and isolation. Loss causes an eruption of feelings, fears and thoughts that fly in the face of what it has meant to “be a man”. Feelings of fear, anxiety, depression, emptiness, doubt, confusion, helplessness and indescribable pain can assail our very concept and perception of who we are.

Efforts at avoiding, “toughing it out”, controlling or “getting rid” of the pain of loss, only result in temporary relief, often at the expense of long-term health, and rarely change the reality of our condition. The pain of grief is one of the few kinds of pain in life that are best dealt with head on, by doing something men are often taught to avoid. The pain of grief and mourning tend to change and heal with time and attention, when we can honestly acknowledge what we are feeling, thinking and believing and externalize such reactions in a positive, healthy environment and/or manner.

Men and women all experience the pain of grief and loss, and both genders feel its impact in many of the same ways. What tends to be different about the sexes is the way in which we talk about and verbalize such feelings and experiences. We may filter them differently. Men often talk about the things we did for our loved one, how we took care of them, what we’re “doing” now and what we “plan” to do in the future. We blame others or ourselves for something that did or didn’t happen, or something that could have been different; something that would have spared us the pain we are now experiencing. Our anger, guilt and reasoning; are ways we try to control and make sense out of our grief and the situation it has put us in.

Though it is a generality and never true at all times, with all men or all women, men tend to speak “about”, instead of “of” or “with”. If I asked a gentleman how he’s been “feeling” or what had been the “most difficult” about the loss of his wife, partner or parent, he might look at me as if I was speaking Russian (unless he speaks Russian). If, on the other hand, I questioned his “reactions” or asked him to tell me a story “about” the deceased, he would begin to take the road to the same valley of pain that a woman experiences, but get there from a different route.

Ironically, men often seem to be more emotionally dependent on women for their sense of self, than the other way around. Remember that I am speaking in generalities. There are thousands of exceptions. The women in a man’s life are who he tends to share his most intimate needs, desires and fears with, as it is seldom safe or accepted to talk about such things with other men. Thus, when a woman mate, friend or mother dies or leaves, men have nobody to whom they feel they can acceptably turn to, and their need for intimate human contact and emotional well being is left in a desert of thirst for companionship, friendship, validation and/or physical contact.

Many men, though not all, also connect physical touch with sex, because it is one of the few occasions in their lives when they are permitted, or expected, to touch or be touched. To hug, kiss or embrace another man or woman, aside from sex, is frowned upon and charged with a variety of expectations, judgments and fears. Thus, after the death of a loved one, men often do not know how, where or when it is acceptable, or possible, to have any human contact that is not sexual.

Luckily, there are people, men and women, who are willing and able to listen to men’s lives and experiences surrounding grief and loss. There are places where a man can be held, without any sexual involvement or expectation of such. There are people within families, churches and communities that honor and respect our gender’s differences without putting limits or expectations on what those differences can or should be.

If you, or a man you care about, has experienced the loss of a loved one, give yourself, or him, the comfort, permission and love that all humans need, regardless of gender and provide the personal or community resources that can help the hurt change to healing and positive action.

Further reading at: Good Grief: Love, Loss and Laughter.

A Woman’s Own Way

An excerpt from Good Grief: Love, Loss & Laughter.

“Emotional, tearful, talkative, weak, dependent, scattered, illogical, over-reacting, out of control and hysterical.” These are some of the judgments and labels that women are painted with when they react to the loss of a loved one.

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Some times women (and men) do react to a sudden or expected death with a great deal of emotion and cry, talk, scream, wail and/or moan. Thank goodness that they do, for by doing so they are teachers for both sexes of how to honor and acknowledge a natural, human response to loss. If people are not allowed to “let go”, “collapse” or “lose it” after the death of a loved one, when on earth can they? When is there ever a better time to release the anguish and pain of having someone or a number of people ripped out of your life?

There is nothing inherently “weak” in allowing the true depths of our suffering to surface. It takes strength to allow oneself to be vulnerable and honest. It takes incredible energy, support and awareness to do something that most Americans have pathologized, minimized or tried at all costs to “get over”. Yet, more often than not, women are the pioneers in taking this journey of mourning, of walking through the valley, stepping on the sharp rocks and finding their way back to life; often with a new found respect and appreciation for the preciousness of life.

In some cultures, both here and abroad, there are women who are the “designated mourners” at funerals, and are the ones that show up at families’ homes when there has been a death. They hold a place of honor in their communities, because of their ability to connect with, hold and release the individual, and the communal pain of loss and separation that has occurred. Like midwives at births, these women are held in high esteem, as strong, aware healers who have their feet planted solidly on the earth, while their hearts compassionately open to both the suffering and the pain.

We, as a society, have slowly begun to recognize the power of grief and mourning and are starting to realize that such reactions are normal, for both women and men, and that to not have such outward or visible reactions to loss is also an acceptable way to mourn.

Because of past conditioning by families, institutions and media, women have often bought into the stereotypes of how they should or shouldn’t grieve and mourn. If they aren’t crying, sad, depressed or screaming after the death of a loved one, they often think something is wrong, that they’re “weird” or “abnormal”.

Just as there is wide variance in men, with regards to how we react, process and think about loss, so to for women. There are no universal women, or universal men with exact, programmed responses to life and death. There are countless ways in which we mourn. How we react to loss is the outcome of hundreds of factors, including, but not limited to, our relationship with the deceased; how long we’ve known them; how we have dealt with past crisis; how old we are; how they died; whether we were with them or not at the time of death; how we were told of their death; what kind of support system we have or don’t have; other responsibilities; financial or health concerns; what our belief systems are; and the messages we have received from others on what is or is not acceptable.

I have met women who were in great turmoil because they were not proceeding as “planned” by their and/or others’ expectations of when, how and where they should be at a given time, in regards to their grieving or reactions to the loss of a loved one.

One woman had not cried since the death of her father six months previous. She thought something was “wrong” with her. Yet, after describing everything she had had to do in the last six months, and the kind of relationship she had with her father, she realized that she had been doing just what she needed to do in order to survive and function. Once she was acknowledged and validated for doing what she needed to do, in the way she needed to do it, she was then able to acknowledge and express her conflicted emotions without fear of judgment or “being crazy”.

Another women said she never mourned or cried for her sister, whom she had loved dearly. Upon further reflection she realized that she thought about her sister every day when she jogged and was inspired by her sister’s life to continue teaching and helping others learn.

And some women (and men) tend to avoid their grief and pain by avoiding such emotions as much as possible. They stay busy, work twelve-hour days, drink excessively and/or use drugs. They jump from one relationship into another, and/or become so focused on a particular goal or activity that they are, for a time, able to compartmentalize, push aside, numb out or ignore the feelings, thoughts and impacts of having someone die.

These are all natural reactions to pain, to not wanting to hurt. Usually, however, such reactions end up causing more complications and don’t take away or change the pain of loss that remains.

I would ask that you take a moment to think about women. Think about their personalities, differences, relationships and families; how they interact with others; how they mourn and see themselves. Ask them which roles, lifestyles and behaviors they feel have been imposed or expected of them, and which ones they have chosen or made their own. They may be emotional, stoic, afraid, silent, loud, tearful, strong, confused, clueless, aware, insightful, isolated or social. They may be your partner, your sister, your mother, your grandchild, grandmother, aunt, colleague or friend. I invite you to see and treat each one as unique, creative human beings, who have the right, the power and the prerogative to deal with and react to life and death on their own terms.

More support and stories at: Good Grief: Love, Loss and Laughter.

Metaphor’s Be With You

A timeless excerpt from Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

imagesThe great Abbott used to always say, “I’s am what I am.” She wanted people to be real, to be themselves. She had little patience of fakers, swindlers, liars, or those that put on robes of pretention or airs of superiority. She was down to earth, honest, sincere, and forthright.

One day a great yogi walked across the water and presented himself before the Abbott, and the sisters who were having a picnic by the lake.

“Would you like some bread,” the Abbott asked.

“Bread?” the yogi replied. “If I can walk on water, what need do I have for mortal food?”

“Well,” she replied. “Excuse me, you fancy pants immortal.”

“I am not immortal. I am born and will die like all human beings, but if you or your sister’s choose to receive powers beyond belief then follow me.”

“Powers?” the Abbott replied. “Walking on water is nothing. Try being a woman, giving birth, or holding up half the sky. Now, that’s what I call something special.”

The great yogi had no reply. He turned around, walked out upon the water, and slowly sunk into the lake.

Some may say these events never took place and others may say it is a metaphor. May the metaphors be with you.

More miracles at: Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

Peace Through Pleasure

The Bonobo Way: The Evolution of Peace Through Pleasure
An Alternative Great Ape Paradigm for Human Sexuality

By Susan M. Block, Ph.D.
Gardner & Daugthers, Publishers, 2014
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

TheBonoboWay3If pleasure is heaven then The Bonobo Way is heaven sent. The experience and insight of Dr. Susan Block and her understanding of human sexuality and the pleasure seeking and sharing Bonobo apes (who live south of the Congo River in East Africa and have 99% of the same DNA as humans), may surprise you and turn any preconceived expectations and judgments about bonobo’s and human’s upside down and inside out.

Ms. Block begins by telling the tale of her first encounter with the Bonobo at a zoo, its effects on her marriage and the rest of her life. She discovered what she calls The Bonobo Sutra, and says, “The list of bonobo sex activities is more impressive than the original Kama Sutra.” She also learned about the revolutionary way Bonobos use sex for conflict resolution and that there are no known instances of them ever murdering, raping or attacking fellow Bonobos or other species. This may be true, in large part, because of the matriarchal structure of Bonobo communities and families. “I call them the most feminist apes on Earth,” says Dr. Block.

Sex and food are shared by all, but it is the female Bonobo who decides when, how and if she chooses to indulge in either. Food and sex also seem to go “hand in hand”. Opposite from most ape cultures, Bonobo boys stay with their mothers until late in life and it is the girls who migrate to another group at childbearing age. New females are accepted into their new group and clan, with food, sex and emotional bonding. The author says, “If you’re a bonobo female, your gal pals have your back.”

After Dr. Block has explained some of the research and her experiences, with the Bonobo, she then shows how their way of life and behavior has, is and could be, incorporated into human well-being and sexual relations. She says, “In essence, The Bonobo Way offers an alternative great ape paradigm for human behavior, especially (but not exclusively) sexual behavior.” And, “Our emotional wiring is closer to the peaceful, sexual bonobo than to the brutal, militaristic chimpanzee.” The basic Bonobo steps for human’s to incorporate into our lives are that 1) Pleasure heals pain. 2) Doing good feels good. 3) You can’t fight a war very well if you’re having an orgasm.

As a sex therapist and facilitator of Bonoboville (a speakeasy, pleasure den for invited consenting adults, which is on the radio and sometimes filmed), Dr. Block has developed a 12-Step Program, which she encourages humans to follow. Some of the steps include – Go Bonobos in Bed, Outercourse Is In, Mix Food and Sex, Create Your Own Bonoboville, and Swing Through Life.

The Bonobo Way takes care to develop this way of life ethically and looks closely at the questions it raises, and says it is not a one size fits all program. Dr. Block doesn’t minimize others concerns or questions about living The Bonobo Way, but deftly addresses them with research, examples, and most importantly, her history with her marriage, studies, counseling practice and Bonoboville. One may deny or differ with her ideas, concepts or philosophy, but not with her personal perception and story, as it is her experience alone (or in this case with many others), which is being shared.

If you get a copy of The Bonobo Way, there is a strong possibility that you will find yourself drawn too and/or resonating with living a Bonobo way of life, as well as wanting to help protect them from extinction. The last step of the The Bonobo 12-Step Program is, “Save the Bonobos, Save the World”.

Unschakles the Mind

Review: The Last Conception by Gabriel Constans
Reviewed by Monica Arora. 23 September 2014
KITAAB (“Book” in Hindi) Singapore

LastConception-CoverThe oft-debated dichotomy between modern scientific research and wisdom of traditional values, religious beliefs and spiritual propensities have formed the basis of several discussions, debates, deliberations and continues to dog the human sensibility, constantly torn between the two. This conflict between science and spiritualism forms the basis of the engaging novel by Gabriel Constans, entitled ‘The Last Conception’.

The plot revolves around the young female protagonist Savarna Sikand, who is an embryologist engaged in working with fertility treatments in a high-tech laboratory in San Francisco, US. Meanwhile, her parents, hailing from the south-eastern part of India, but settled in the United States, and deeply rooted in some ancient religious cult, express their desire for their daughter to conceive and thereby continue their rare lineage. What follows is a gripping saga of the dilemma faced by the young scientist Savarna who fights very hard to tread the fine line between her parents’ spiritual beliefs and her own scientific wisdom.

Gabriel has come up with a taut narrative that is extremely simple and yet keeps the reader engaged with its fast pace and myriad topics conjuring doubts, dogmas and apprehensions in minds of young people all over the globe. Right from exploring alternate sexuality and its ramifications on the immediate family to the delicate issue of childlessness, all are dwelt upon with much thought and deliberation and ‘The Last Conception’ offers a rare insight into lives of seemingly ordinary men and women dealing with such quandaries on a day-to-day basis.

Moreover, there is this keen sense of urgency and uncertainty running throughout the narrative pertaining to Savarna’s attempts at conception and the traumas, both mental and physical, which have to be endured for accomplishing the same. The high point of the novel comes in the form of adoption of an Indian-origin baby by Savarna’s sister Chitra owing to her infertility and the feelings of joy, pleasure and pride experienced by the entire family thereafter. Such sensitive subjects are dealt with much bravado and wisdom by the author and offer a lot of information to readers regarding these subjects, thereby clearing several dogmas and misconceptions plaguing childless couples and misled elders, who succumb to mindless religious dictates and notions without studying their cause and effect in detail.

What really touched me was how the parents of the two girls, Mira and Mr Sikand, handle their daughters’ dilemmas as well as their old mother’s beliefs continuing from unwavering faith in a dwindling sect of ancient India. The maturity of their feelings and their ability to keep their family together under all circumstances stands as a pinnacle of hope in contemporary times mired under the garb of modern values or lack of them and hence, offering no emotional solace to lonely, weary souls in a confused society.

‘The Last Conception’ is indeed a very noble attempt by the author to choose such unusual and uncommon themes and write a piece of prose that unshackles the mind and offers rare insight into the much spoken and widely discussed matter of science vs spirituality. With immense care and caution, Gabriel has gently treaded around prickly territory and offered a well-researched and well-structured story which deserves to be read and preserved not just as a treasure-trove of information but also juxtaposing human emotions.

Read entire review and more at KITAAB.

Father Doesn’t Know Best

Father Knows Best was a show from the late fifties, that portrayed the father as someone who always had the answers and wisdom for life’s lessons and problems. He freely shared his insight when asked and it was of course, always right. In later years, The Cosby Show had a similar father figure, though he could also make you laugh. In my experience, I’ve never had all the answers, known what to do (for sure) or imparted any great wisdom to our children. I’ve tried to be the best example I can, but it seems to be an ongoing education that continues regardless of their age or circumstances.

First, our oldest daughter moved out. The next to oldest daughter left soon after. Then, our first-born son went his way and his older brother followed suit. There is one remaining at home. He just graduated and starts community college this fall.

Our oldest daughter and her wife, who lives just 1/2 mile away, had a beautiful baby daughter a few months ago. Her childhood friend (who we have known for almost 2 decades) just had a little boy a week before that and we’ve gladly offered to babysit. Our daughter and her husband, who lives in Seattle, have an amazing 2 year old son. Then, there are our friends who are in the process of adopting a brother and sister (5 & 7), who they have foster cared for almost 2 years, whom I also love to support and spend time with. And two of our 3 sons plan to have children some day.

When it comes down to it, we haven’t “lost” anybody who has left home, but only gained more wonderful beings to the family and increased the amount of love and care to go around. Completing the circle, are all the wonderful children at the ROP Center for Street Children in Rwanda and those there caring for them.

I’ve known I wanted to parent children since I was sixteen. It looks like my wish has come true 10 fold and will always be a part of my life until my last breath as a human. Sure, I love my wife and our time alone and being able to do things we couldn’t always do when children were living with us 24X7, but it is also an awesome and wonderful responsibility to support, perhaps guide and nurture other precious beings and make a difference in their lives and hopefully, their hearts. I know I rarely know anything or have any answers like the Dad’s on those old TV shows, but that’s doesn’t matter. I’m OK with not knowing or being perfect and hopefully they are too.

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