Saturday 23 April 2016

Are Bad Habits Your Way of Getting Respite?

Yesterday I was listening to an artist on the radio.  I was in the car and I was travelling only a short distance, so I don't even know who this artist is or what they produced, but I was captured by this, "I wanted to explore grief and how we either turn away from it or we look it right in the face."

I began to think about turning away from grief and what that might lead anyone to do, especially caregivers. Self-medicating exhaustion and sadness in our society usually equates to a glass of wine (or three) or it equates to eating foods that are high in sugar or fat.  These treats at the end of the day offer us temporary satisfaction and in the case of alcohol, the promise of a duller pain.  These enticements can become a daily form of respite.

I'm not talking about preaching to persuade people to give up the rewards that give pleasure at the end of a hard day. Rather, I thought it was interesting to consider whether sometimes over-indulging in self-medicating with food and booze could be a form of turning away from grief. And what's the end result if we do that day after day over years?

What would happen exactly if we decided to look grief squarely in the eye? Would that change anything?  Julie Keon, author of the wonderful "What I Would Tell You" has this to say:

"Grief can be our silent companion, something to be tended and nurtured. Think of grief as a person knocking on your door who really wants to see you. They knock incessantly...When the knocking starts, instead of hiding, you can take a deep breath and welcome this person into your home... You set a few reasonable boundaries as to how much time you have to give and then you put the kettle on. You settle in for some hot tea and conversation. As the visit progresses, you notice it isn't as bad as you thought it would be. You are discovering that this person you had always hidden from is wise and has much to offer."

Sometimes the choices we make represent the way we manage our deepest emotions. There's nothing wrong with wine or chocolate cake (two of my favourite things). But they can become bad friends if they entice you into the abyss of despair. The next time I feel at my worst, I am going to re-read Julie's words and consider how I manage grief in my own life.

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