Dumbledore’s Relationship Advice

Harry Potter fans unite! I’ve finally finished Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the newest book in the HP series. Relax, this post contains no major spoilers. I’ll just share a bit about the main source of tension in the book: the relationship between Harry and his son.

The Cursed Child is largely about pain, and the overcoming of it. Really, aren’t all great stories? Harry seeks to heal his strained relationship with his son, Albus. He finds himself face to face with a talking portrait of Dumbledore. Their conversation turns to Harry’s once strained relationship with Dumbledore, his main father figure:

“Years I spent alone,” says Harry, “without knowing what I was, or why I was there, without knowing that anybody cared!”

During the years that Harry was alone, not knowing that wizards even existed, Dumbledore was dealing with his own pain.

“I am no fit person to love,” says Dumbledore’s portrait. “I have never loved without causing harm.” He goes on to say something that literally took my breath away:

“Harry, there is never a perfect answer in this messy, emotional world. Perfection is beyond the reach of humankind, beyond the reach of magic. In every shining moment of happiness is that drop of poison: the knowledge that pain will come again. Be honest to those you love, show your pain. To suffer is as human as to breathe.

As Dumbledore says, pain is an inevitable part of life. Spiritual teachers seek salvation, or enlightenment, to end suffering. I believe the Buddha actually defined nirvana as “the end of suffering.” But the end of suffering does not necessarily mean the end of pain. I think it means accepting pain, and learning to handle it in an enlightened way.

Pain is inevitable in relationships, especially between parent and child, where the ties that bind are so complex. The parent is expected to provide physical and emotional security for the child. That’s a lot to ask, especially when the parent is most likely dealing with unresolved pain. There is never an excuse for abuse—but on the other hand, we can’t expect perfection. We need to find another path.

The Antidote to the “Drop of Poison”

Dumbledore’s portrait suggests that Harry reveal his imperfections to his son. Burst the bubble of Harry Potter, The Legend. Show his son that they share the human condition. Be a role model for dealing with the pain that comes with life on planet Earth.

At the very end of the book, Harry invites his son for a walk.

“You told me you don’t think I’m scared of anything, and that—I mean, I’m scared of everything. I mean, I’m afraid of the dark, did you know that?”

When communicating with a loved one about pain, fear is a great place to start. We all deal with it. Some of us (ahem, me) experience intense anxiety. Others experience fear in the form of anger, workaholism, or any number of things. The point is to be vulnerable, and to share it with each other.

Harry eventually reveals his greatest fear: “being a dad.” I believe all parents experience this in one way or another. I’m not a parent myself, but I’ve heard many parents talk about it, including my own. Childrearing is possibly the biggest responsibility any human can have. And there’s the fear of messing up, of being imperfect. But as Harry learns, the solution isn’t to feign perfection. It’s to share the imperfection, in a humane and caring way. Some pain is inevitable; that is the “drop of poison.” But with acceptance and honest communication, we’ve brewed an antidote.

How do you deal with pain in your relationships? What’s your antidote? Are you an HP fan? Share in the comments (just keep it spoiler free).

Mischief Managed!

Jenna


Source: Rowling, J.K, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts One and Two. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 2016. 258. Print.

Image Credit: harry-potter-books by NatashaG, CC0 Public Domain

Peace in Your Heart with Tonglen Meditation

Prayer flags in the sky

What if I told you there was a technique that could ease your pain and bring blessings to others at the same time?

It’s a practice called Tonglen, a practice Buddhist teachers have passed down for generations. Tonglen translates into “taking and sending.” I learned about it on the audio CD Good Medicine, a talk given by Pema Chodron. It’s radically changed my consciousness, and I simply had to share it with you.

Basic Tonglen Practice for Pain

Let’s start with the first aspect of the technique: easing pain. Here’s the basic process:

1. Take a breath, and feel your pain fully. Be totally present with it.
2. Think to yourself, “Other people feel this pain too.”
3. Let your breath out, and with it, send an uplifting intention.

Pema puts this beautifully into words:

When you feel discomfort, in any form, the automatic response is to push that away, and to drink something, smoke something, do something, buy something…to not feel that. Well, the Tonglen approach is that you breathe in the discomfort, and own it completely, with the thought in your mind that ‘What I am feeling in this very moment is felt by millions and millions of people all over the world.’ And then you send out that which you feel will bring relief to you in that situation…that which is joyful, that which is uplifted.”

I don’t know about you, but when I read that, my mind criticizes it. Too simple. That will never work. But when I try it, it truly helps. Pema says that when we feel pain, “the sense of isolation gets so strong.” We feel alone, whether we are conscious of it or not. When we remember that we are not alone with our pain, a sense of compassion blooms within us, both for ourselves and for the rest of the world. And compassion is a miracle healer.

Basic Tonglen Practice for Pleasure

Pema suggests that we practice this technique whenever we feel pleasure, as well. It would look something like this:

1. Take a breath, and feel your pleasure fully.
2. Think to yourself, “May other people also experience this.”
3. Let your breath out, and send the joyful feeling of that experience to the world.

Disclaimer: I’m a total beginner at this. No pretense of mastery here. But I will continue to be a student of this practice, and I hope you may find it helpful as well.

What are your thoughts on this technique? How does it feel to practice it? Share in the comments!

Peace out, cyberspace travelers,

Jenna

Reblogged: Don’t let people talk you out of your happiness.

This post by the awesome Dr. Andrea Dinardo meant a lot to me, and features a message that many people need to hear. I’m still learning to accept that what makes me happy means going against the grain, and that’s okay. Take a minute and check it out!

Thriving Under Pressure

I love you just the way you are.

If you are lucky enough to find joy in the course of a day.. keep it to yourself..

At least until you find the courage to radiate, illuminate, and enjoy your life.

No matter how. No matter when.

image

Skip through the streets. Watch netflix on repeat. Eat kraft dinner. Swing in the park. Start a blog!

Whatever it is that makes you levitate, makes your heart skip a beat.

Whatever it is that makes you smile, makes you giggle, makes you dance in the streets.

Don’t let people talk you out of your happiness.

The world needs your joy. The universe needs your light.

It is time to silence the happiness critics in your life.

At least in your mind. Forever in your heart.

We all need your unique, quirky brand of happiness.

Now. More than ever. Be brave. Stand tall.

I love…

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What would you say in front of 200 people?

Did you know there’s an organization dedicated to help people with mental illness tell their stories…in front of a live audience? I didn’t until I read the latest issue of Oprah’s magazine, which featured This Is My Brave.

Jennifer Marshall, mother of two, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2006. Five years later she started blogging about it. She says “My family and friends all said, ‘Get your story out, but don’t put your name on it because people will discriminate against you.’” She listened to them for a year and a half, but finally went public. She started a Kickstarter page to host a live storytelling event for survivors of mental illness, and raised $10,000 in 31 days. After the first This Is My Brave show, an audience member came up to her and told her she’d driven many hours to see the show, because she found Jennifer’s blog in her “darkest moment,” and her writing had saved her life.

First of all, I love when celebrities talk openly about mental illness. Hooray for Oprah for featuring mental health in her magazine! But more importantly, I want to ask you all a question:

What would you say in front of a live audience of 200 people?

I think the thought generated by this question is more important than finding a fixed answer. I know I would say something on the topic of “creativity saved my life,” because it’s true. But it’s not even the thought of sharing that story that scares me.

What scares me is showing my face to a live audience.

Why? Because of what Jennifer said. “People will discriminate against you.” This blog is one of my proudest achievements, but how many people do you think I share that with? Only the people closest to me. I’ve thought about applying to do a creative writing class, and realizing I might not want to use this blog as proof that I can write. And if any employer ever associated this blog with me, you can bet I’d be having a nice long talk in their office.

I’m this close to not caring. There may be a day where I go rogue and go public. And I’m actually excited for that day. Because if it’s anything like the feeling I get when I talk to all of you about what we’ve experience with mental health, it’ll be an amazing feeling.

Maybe what you say in front of a live audience wouldn’t be about mental health. But I think every person has a message that if they were standing in front of 200 people, or even 200,000, they would feel compelled to share. And even if you speak out from behind a computer screen, you never know whose life you’ll impact for the better.

What would you say? Share in the comments. I’m curious.

Peace out, cyberspace travelers,

Jenna


Image Credit: hand-microphone-mic by BreakingTheWalls, CC0 Public Domain

Friendship & Mental Illness

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Have you ever lost a friend?

I have. And wouldn’t you know it, it was related to mental illness.

Let’s call her Missy. Missy had two chronic illnesses in middle school that continued into high school. Our freshman year, her enthusiasm for life had flatlined. She complained constantly. Her glass was less than half full—it was bone dry.

This triggered a nasty emotional reaction on my part.

You see, at the time, although I did not know it, I was also developing a chronic illness. And I, too, had mild depression that was only going to increase as high school went on.

But in my mind, she was the problem. I couldn’t face in her what I saw in myself.

So I stopped talking to her.

Have you ever cut a friend out of your life? Sometimes it’s necessary. I had a guy stalk me in college that I obviously had to cut out of my life. But looking back, I see what a tremendous opportunity there was for Missy and I to share our feelings with each other. To be honest about our changing bodies, and the sadness we felt inside. Maybe we could have found ways to support each other along the way.

But I was afraid, and I turned away.

This decision has haunted me. I’ve gone through a process of horror over what I had done, to shame, to sadness, to eventually self forgiveness, because you reach a point where you have to stop beating yourself up and learn from your mistakes. I eventually apologized, though this didn’t safe the friendship.

Fast forward to now, when life decides to present me with a similar situation.

I have another friend now. Let’s call her Shelly. We were roommates for one year, and got along great. But for the last few years, she’s been faced with a number of challenges in her life, and slipped into depression. She’s only contacted me when she needs something or wants to complain about her life. She barely asks about me or my life, and seems to think my life is perfect. Needless to say, this hasn’t been very enjoyable.

Recently things escalated to the point where I reached a limit in my compassion. And I was sorely tempted to tell her we couldn’t be friends anymore.

Granted, Missy and Shelly are different people, so my reaction to them should be different. But my unconscious seemed to detect a common thread, because I had a strange dream.

I dreamed that Missy was a doll, and I found her lying on the ground. I picked her up and carried her with me through this long tunnel, and we reached the other side safely.

I protested against the message in this dream. Shelly’s been nothing but a drain on me! She only cares about herself! I revisited all the times she’d “done wrong by me.” I relived all the stories in my head. The drama cloud was getting bigger and bigger until there was a thunderstorm brewing over my head. I wanted this pain and irritation out of my life as soon as possible.

But I had to be really honest with myself: Shelly wasn’t the problem. The problem was me.

What do you mean, you’re probably thinking? Are we supposed to just lie down and let people manipulate us or treat us badly?

No, not at all. The answer is more complicated:

1. I had to accept that all those times Shelly “did wrong by me,” it was me who didn’t have good boundaries. I said “yes” when I should have said “no.” I felt guilty because she made her life sound so hard, and I felt afraid that she would be angry if I said ‘no.’ But whose problem is that? Mine.

2. I don’t have to cut her out of my life so that she has no more opportunities to be manipulative. Instead, I can have good boundaries each time I’m in contact with her. I can be clear about my needs and how I feel.

3. This is difficult! This requires that I face my fear about making other people unhappy. About failing to “people-please.” About saying “No” when someone else wants me to say “Yes.” But ultimately, my happiness is in my own hands. It’s my responsibility.

So I let go of the drama-cloud. I said “No” to several more requests and expressed my feelings, all the while trembling in fear that she would get angry.

Guess what? She was actually understanding. Weird.

But even if she did get angry, that wouldn’t mean I did something wrong. It would be an opportunity for honest communication, and it would put the ball in her court. If I stopped responding with drama, and she wanted more drama, she probably would turn away from me and find someone who would feed into the drama.

But the silver lining is that once I stopped feeding in to the drama-cloud, she stopped too, at least for now. What a different and much more hopeful outcome.

How do you navigate friendship with mental illness? Do you have friends with mental illness or who otherwise act negatively toward you? How do you deal with it, and how do your decisions make you feel? Let us know in the comments.

Peace out, cyberspace travelers,

Jenna


Image Credit: Friendship-Nature by Unsplash, CC0 Public Domain

In search of the money tree

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Can we just talk about how guilt-inducing it is to follow your dreams?

For the past few months, I tried to hack it in the “real world.” If you’ve followed my blog at all in the past, you’ll notice my page has been a ghost town. I was working a full time job that made me feel like all the color was slipping from my vision, all the warmth draining from my body. I’d get home and have no energy for anything except the bare minimum: food, shower, sleep. Weekends I’d do errands. I had no creative juice left, and my soul was in too much pain to allow me to write anything.

But dammit, I was making it. A solid paycheck. All my bills covered, and then some. When friends and acquaintances talked about their day at the office, I could chime in. Join in the circle of complaining, of congratulations over mutual self-sacrifice. My resume was looking more respectable, my official skillset more impressive.

But every day I was dying.

Melodramatic? Sure. Call me what you will.

I’ve reached the point where I don’t care.

American culture (and I daresay much of the world) prizes the ability to make money. To plug in to the matrix. To have a respectable job, to put in your forty plus hours a week. Clock in, clock out. Get your biweekly paycheck. Pay your taxes. Have an email signature. A business card. A LinkedIn account. A decent resume. To use your degree, or don’t get one. Work hard, play hard. Get out there and make something of yourself. Get it done. Push through. Just do it. Go hard or go home.

I am not a “typical” worker. Through a process of trial and error that has at times been excruciating, I’ve discovered that I’m not well suited to your typical workplace. This is due to a few factors:

  •  I’m hopelessly creative
  • I’m intensely introverted
  • I like to write more than is respectable
  • I am prone to bouts of moodiness
  • I’m a highly sensitive person
  • I’m easily over-stimulated
  • My energy levels go through cycles

Long story short, every workplace I have tried (trust me, there have been many) has ended up making me feel like a dead person. A zombie. I’ve walked a gauntlet of anxiety and depression, and sometimes even entertained thoughts of “not being here anymore.” Especially when that work schedule extends to full time.

So I’ve finally I’ve cut back, and made some lifestyle changes to do so. But I can’t go my whole life like this.

Problem: I don’t have a money tree growing in my backyard.
Solution: Plant one.

So, how do I plant that money tree?
1. Pray. Like crazy. This may not work for everyone. But it sure works for me!
2. Just keep writing. I’m working on a few other projects besides my blog. Who knows what will come of it, but I’m not going to limit myself.

Enter the Guilt.
Certain broken-record thoughts keep going around and around in my mind.
Other people have to work jobs they don’t like, why shouldn’t you?
Other people don’t have the option to slow down. Why should you?
You’re a freeloader. A mooch.
You’re weak. Insolent. Lazy. Childish.
You’re a burden to society.

I repeat: I. Don’t. Care.


I’m curious: how do you make work work for you? How does it impact your mental health? Are you in a good space with it, or in search of your own money tree?

Share in the comments!

Peace out, cyberspace travelers–

Jenna

P.S. To anyone who’s liked/commented on my blog recently that I haven’t replied to: I’ve missed you all so much!! Thank you for your support. I’m now in a position where my creative juices are flowing and I have the heart to blog again.


Image credit: cash-money by bykst, CC0 Public Domain