A Horse with No Name

I traipsed through the long hallway with my large white envelope under my arm. I’m  seeing yet another doctor, carrying these films that are supposed to reveal what is going on inside of me. I open the door and see several people sitting there, with their own white envelopes. They look up briefly with a silent, knowing glance. I check in with the receptionist, my hand trembling a bit as I turn over my MRI. I notice for the first time that the envelope is marked “MISCELLANEOUS.”

But this story isn’t about me. Well, not only about me.

It’s been an exciting week for The Self-Compassion Project. Ashley Hasty’s Paint the Town Purple day was a huge success. Her Facebook Status 11 hours ago read: “Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for your support in celebrating and honoring those with Crohn’s Disease. We had 16 photos posted from at least 6 different states! We gained about 20 new “likes” on this Facebook page and there are 150 people talking about this project on Facebook! We are definitely taking steps toward raising awareness about Crohn’s, building a supportive community, and ultimately finding a cure!”

Toni Bernhard’s interview on her book How to Be Sick and coping with chronic illness reached the most people ever on this blog. One of her supporters said it so well: “A gentle and penetrating interview in which Toni reveals again her authenticity as a human applying wisdom to a senseless sickness. She demonstrates over and over again, the profound message of acceptance by exploring its mysteries, its boundaries, its illusions and strength. As Jack Kornfield says of mindfulness, ‘simple but not easy’. We are fortunate to have Toni.”

Yesterday I wrote about cancer, and about how everyone has a unique journey in their recovery process.

Today, I’m thinking about names, and how important they are. I don’t know about you, but when someone calls me, “Barb,” I feel seen, really known. It’s a little thing, but it makes a difference.  (Much better than “Hey you!”). In the same way, having a name for a condition, a diagnosis, can make people feel better. On the one hand, being told you have a horrible disease is frightening. But for the first time, you don’t feel like you’re crazy. There’s a legitimacy to having a name for your symptoms. Having a name for the problem also holds the promise of treatment, maybe even a cure. Once you have a diagnosis, you’re immediately part of a group of people in the same boat. You can rally together and be a team. And to top it all off, you get a colored ribbon!

So I’m thinking about all the people who aren’t sure what’s wrong with them. They’ve been to specialists, had all the tests, and carried their MRIs down many a hallway.  I  wish there was a ribbon for people like us. I even went to a paint store to look at paint chips, in hopes of finding the perfect color name for our ribbon. The best one I found was “Mysterious Mauve.” It’s a subtle mix between gray and purple. Beautiful.

Greg was reading over my shoulder and said this made him think of the song by America, “A Horse with No Name.” Yep. That’s going to be the name of this post.

Today, know that I believe you. I know you’re not crazy. Doctors do the best they can, but they’re human, too. They make mistakes. They don’t have all the answers. They don’t always have a name for what we have, but that doesn’t make it not real. As Toni said in her interview, “The single most important thing we can do is to be kind to ourselves.”

Have a restful weekend!

Self-Compassion Rock Stars

My son took this at a concert. I love how she looks so free.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on self-compassion the past few weeks, and I thought I’d share the major resources I’m using for my project. I already owned all of these books, but I have a habit of buying books with the hope they’ll somehow seep into my system without actually digging in and doing the exercises. So for the most part, these books have just looked pretty on a shelf until now. (And if you read my last post, you know how I like things to be pretty.)

This time around, I’ve got the books scattered on end tables by the couch and on the kitchen table, with paper and pen nearby to take notes and actually do the exercises. I’ve also got my iPod loaded with guided meditations, and have been listening to these. I hope to, in time, phase out the iPod and be able to do the meditations on my own. For now, though, I need the structure of someone’s voice leading me.

These are in no particular order. I hope you have a chance to check some of them out, and let me know what you think.

Christopher Germer, Ph.D., is a leader in the field of self-compassion. He’s a psychologist, writer, and researcher. His site is full of handouts, articles, and free meditation downloads. You can find his website here. I’m also reading and doing the exercises his book, The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions. It’s very user friendly.

Kristin Neff, Ph.D. is another pioneer in the field. Her website is here and her book, Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind, is an excellent resource. She weaves her personal story throughout the book, which I really appreciate. She has a son with autism and credits her self-compassion skills with getting her through a lot of rough times.

Brené Brown, Ph.D., L.M.S.W., author of The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, is quite simply, amazing! She talks about being vulnerable, and she walks the talk. You have to visit her website (which is about the prettiest website I’ve ever seen!) and watch her TED talk.

Sharon Salzberg, author of the classic Lovingkindness, is a true meditation guru and spiritual teacher.  Her newest book, Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation offers a 28-day program and comes with a CD of guided meditations. Her site is here.

Tara Brach, Ph.D. is the author of Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha. I love this book, and I also have some of her guided meditations. Her voice is very soothing. Her site is also loaded with podcasts (called “Tara Talks”), meditation downloads, articles and many other resources. Her new book is True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart.

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