Category Archives for "Mental Health"

Watching a Wild Turkey Soar

Important encounters are planned by the souls long before their bodies see each other – Paulo Coelho

I cannot remember the first time I met my friend, Ted.   But I knew of him long before I shook his hand. He was a living legend in the community I had come to call home.

COL (R) Ted Crozier served in the Army for 32 years. He actually enlisted at the end of WWII, but did not fight overseas. “Wild Turkey,” as he was called, would occasionally remind others that he wasn’t just a Korean and Vietnam Veteran, but also served our nation on the home front during WWII. I never perceived his reminders as being gruff – merely a reminder to us that every single person in uniform counted regardless of where they were geographically located.

I was a little star struck sitting in his presence. He was the first commander of the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, the first aviator to be chosen to serve as the Chief of Staff of the 101st Airborne Division. After 32 years of service in uniform, Wild Turkey served 8 years as Mayor. I didn’t move to Clarksville until well after he left the office of Mayor.  Being a graduate student at the local university, I didn’t pay much attention to the political feel of the community. In my 22 year old mind, this was just a three year stop on my life’s journey. Twenty-four years later, this is my community. This is my home. And Wild Turkey helped solidify that.

Perhaps I was partly endeared to him because I didn’t grow up with grandfathers. My paternal grandfather was a WWII Veteran who passed away when I was 18 months old and the older I became, the more I realized what I missed.  I enjoy the story telling wisdom of the past generations.  As a professional listener, I love being in the presence of someone who shares their life experiences.  

me-and-col-ted

COL Ted was someone I would hang onto his every word.   I couldn’t wait to see what visions and dreams he had and what list he had conjured up. Ted was passionate. Passionate about so many things over the decades; but what I came to know his passion to be was the mental health care of our service members.

Ted served on the Board of Directors of a little non-profit I had dreamed up in 2006 – SAFE: Soldiers and Families Embraced. I ran it as a little grassroots organization, recruiting licensed mental health providers to see active duty Soldiers, Veterans and their loved ones pro bono. I soon realized the mental health providers weren’t well versed in military culture or the specific needs of this population, so I began traveling the state to educate other professionals. SAFE would eventually merge with a similar organization, the Lazarus Project. When the organizations merged under the name and 501(c)3 of SAFE, our Board of Directors grew.


Essentially, the growth and success of SAFE had everything to do with the envelopes covered in names Ted would jot down throughout the days and evenings. He was a connector. A leader. An influencer. And given the respect and admiration he had across the nation, those names were names of other highly regarded individuals.

I recall having a conversation with a new board member and thanking him for his commitment to serve. He responded, “When Wild Turkey calls, you don’t say no. You figure it out and make it work.”

Ted would randomly call with varieties of ideas – from forming choirs with older Veterans (he loved to jump into song) to connecting me with a master in Kung Fu who might help me with my clients. He later said I could use Kung Fu to keep my clients toeing the line or have the master teach my clients the art.

He was never short of ideas and I think that’s why I connected with him so deeply. He wasn’t afraid to pitch his dreams to a group of people. His suggestions weren’t always polished, but he felt an urgency to share them. I believe he knew if he could lay them out for others there was more of a possibility of them coming to fruition and help others. His visions were never selfish. They were always about the greater good and for the greater good. Do something good for someone today. If you ever called Wild Turkey and got his voicemail, you would hear his enthusiastic message about making the world a better place and doing something nice for someone today. He lived his voicemail message.

Ted made you feel special – as if you were the only one he could depend upon to bring life to his ideas. But he was a strategist – he knew he had to share his thoughts with many…plant the seed across the acres, having a better chance for it to root and grow.

Ted fought tirelessly for the care of our Warriors. Even after I left SAFE, he would call me to check in, to connect me and to encourage me. He shared with many of us that until we started talking about all this “PTS & D stuff, I thought I was just crazy – but I guess I probably had some of that, too.” I would assure him that he was still “just crazy.” And give him a big hug shared with laughter.

Wild Turkeys fly despite the weight they carry. They may not appear graceful…but they get it done. Don’t worry, Wild Turkey, we’ll continue the mission. We’ll get it done. I know you’ll ensure that.  And until we meet again, Sir, I will Believe, Create, and Live in an effort to honor your work.

© Rebecca G. Townsend 2017

Beginning Behind

VULNERABILITY WARNING: The content of the following blog has a vulnerability rating of 92 (that was a B when I was growing up). This blog may make you uncomfortable. It may cause you to think differently of me as a result of the humanness exposed. Continuing to read may cause you to disapprove of me or cause you to like me more. If you like me just as you believe me to be, you may not want to read any further…

It’s January 19th and I feel like I’m already so far behind. I could actually strike the words I FEEL LIKE (notice, I did?). The truth is I am very late to this party oballoonreleaseCopyrightPixabyf 2016.

I just took down the Christmas decorations on Saturday, January 16th. Yes. That is 22 full days after Christmas. I had not touched anything – the stockings were still hung, every ornament was still on both trees, nativity scenes were displayed in full glory – even the Wise Men were surprised they were still hanging out 10 days after their arrival. Come to think of it, I can’t even claim all the decorations are packed away – I just remembered one of the door wreaths is more Christmas-y than winter wonderland…sheesh.

Our New Year’s cards to send to family and friends arrived on January 12th; the return address was embossed on the last envelope yesterday. However, the address labels aren’t printed and handwritten note haven’t been penned. I think February 1st is a reasonable goal.

I have zero specific intentions or dreams written down for 2016. Oh, I have well over 50 in my spaghetti noodle brain – but they’ll get lost in the spinning if I don’t purge them onto paper soon.

Most people lose weight between January 1st and 15th.  I opted to gain 5 pounds last week while I was working at one of my favorite healing places on earth, Onsite.  I'm juicing 2 meals a day this week in an effort to break even, but my hanger has interfered with all other efforts of balance and peace.

And because I feel the need to discharge all of this shame and disappointment in myself, I have to lay the blame outside of myself.

I have no more room in my soul for one more ounce of shame!

So, I’m blaming it on the Gregorian calendar. It’s an innocuous thing to indict. Pope Gregory XIII died in 1585 and I’m certain he is due for some modern day accusations.

See, I really don't like it when January 1st falls on a Friday. And in 2016, New Year’s Day was on a Friday. If Pope Greg would have channeled his inner perfectionist, he would have put in some rule about January 1st always being on a Monday. Can I get a resounding “AMEN” on that?

There's something about starting new things on Mondays that make me feel like I’m beginning on a blank slate.

Why would you start new habits on Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays? It ruins a perfectly good weekend!

Monday is the beginning of a work-week and starting a new habit is work. Creating new patterns and behaviors is a struggle and can be overwhelming. The thought of having energy to kick-start an initially life-sucking practice at the end of a long week makes me want to curl up in tornado safety position and rock myself into emotional safety.

I find it very annoying when The Engineer says, "On January 1st, I’m going to stop eating gluten and dairy." Or, “I’m going to work out from 5am to 6am.” Or, “I’m not eating after 7pm.” He doesn’t expect me to join him in his endeavors. He never assumes I’m game and he never pressures me to join him in these shenanigans. But, seriously…what do I do?

Oh, I eagerly grab the Guilt by it’s horns and wrestle to wear it as scarlet letters broadcasting, “NGE: Not Good Enough.”

Not this year. At the end of 2015, I looked at my January calendar and saw all the fortune I had scheduled. I decided to try to view my calendar as full of opportunities – not busy-ness. I knew The Engineer would be traveling as soon as the holidays were over and I could see the potential for frazzled living.

I chose to offer myself grace and compassion. Gifts I easily give to others, yet struggle to receive for myself. I chose to speak gently to myself even when the messages of “being behind, not being organized, not as good as so-and-so” were as loud and dark as a Black Sabbath concert. It was and is a struggle. Yet, I know I am not alone in trying to walk away from these messages delivered by age-old traditions, family customs, social media, and societal expectations.

Knowing I have fellow travelers makes this journey towards harmony and connection easier and exciting. We are created to be connected in our love, in our shame, in our guilt, and in our joy.

How are you trying to pave a new path according to your inner yearnings? Let’s start a conversation to walk beside one another on this journey.

Believe. Create. Live.

© 2016 Rebecca G. Townsend, LLC

My Brokenness ~ My Strength

The wound is the place where the Light enters you ~ Rumi

What if each enlightened moment of our Brokenness was actually a connection of who the Divine had really intended us to be?

If we owned and admitted our shortcomings, our faults, our fears, our disappointments, would that fuse our souls together?

Is it in our shattered souls that we are made whole?

The broken pieces of my being could be scattered and abandoned along this journey. I coultumblr_mss663MSVv1s5tpyno1_500d have left behind wounded areas of my heart – wounds that are so old, they would have shriveled up and died if I chose to ignore them.

I could reject the damaged parts of myself – the choices I’ve made in the past for which a plea of temporary insanity could have been used (certainly these poor choices are not over yet)– the ugly thoughts and words that exit my being – the irresponsible actions – the selfish behaviors – the early wounds that have remained infected by careless and unintentional stabs by others…

I could attempt to leave all these damaged and defective pieces of myself to disintegrate.
But then who would I be?

I would have no depth. No compassion. No empathy. I would not know deep love and forgiveness.

I would be empty. I would be nothing without my Brokenness. I would be shallow without my faults.

It is painful to hold, examine, and glue together our jagged, severed, and crushed pieces of who we thought we were – who we dreamed we would become.

Re-examining the wounds is often agonizing – we’ve ignored them for so long because our bodies remember the burning, stabbing, sharpness that dug into our soul.

So, we fantasize about leaving the fragmented and shattered scraps behind, brushing ourselves off and leaping forward with hopes no one notices and no one remembers.

We remember. It doesn’t matter if no one else does. We do. And when we least expect it, the wound stings, sometimes with piercing throbs and torments our weakened being.

Many of us chose to risk the unexpected torment of our past. We gamble with the possibility of emotional dynamite exploding at an inopportune time.

And some of us take an equally hazardous plunge. We choose to step back into the place of pain – the pain package we thought we’d so carefully wrapped up.

It’s an uneasy and frightening step. The fear is that you will be engulfed by the agony, grief, bitterness, and/or sadness and barely escape with more damage and hurt.

But, we are unwrapping the pain package more informed than we were before. We are only bringing light and love to the wound – resuscitating vital pieces of our soul. We are choosing to strengthen what once was weak and forgotten.

We are embracing an opportunity to heal ourselves through this unwrapping. We are bringing fresh air to an infected wound that is seeking to be cared for. If it were not still hurting, you would not hear from it. It would not surprise you by speaking up in the middle of a sleep, in the midst of a benign conversation, or during a calm, quiet moment.

The Brokenness seeks your attention. If it is ignored, Brokenness will grab your attention and disrupt you, just like a toddler throwing a tantrum.

It is scary and unnerving to re-open the pain package. You know what you are opening now. This pain can be temporary. This pain can be grieved. This pain can be examined for glitters of gold and goodness.

You don’t have to do this alone. We all have hidden pain packages. We all have Brokenness. Every. Single. Person.

I would be weak without the emotional cement that reconstructed what once was broken.   My soul would be vacant and my mind desolate if my life were smooth and perfect.

There are gifts and beauty in my Brokenness.

My Brokenness connects me with others.

My Brokenness unites me with the Divine.

My Brokenness is my strength.

Believe. Create. Live.

© 2015 Rebecca G. Townsend

 

Emotional Independence Day

Emotional Independence Day

Often we find it easier to think our way around things rather than to feel our way through them ~ Mark Nepo

I’ve been experiencing some frustration with words lately. They do not seem adequate. They don’t fit the depth of emotion that is stirring inside. And, they seem to be easily misinterpreted.

Where are our hearts to temper these flares?

In the last several years of my journey, I’ve worked to awaken my heart and cautiously unshackle the armor I spent most of my life laboriously fashioning around it.

All of that effort was an attempt to keep it safe from pain…to protect it from carelessness – my own recklessness and the nonchalant stabs from others.

Unfortunately, what I have uncovered doesn’t resemble what I remember it looking like. This heart was once full of hope, joy, happiness, optimism, spontaneity, unashamed and bold thinking.

It is so small…so frail and fragile now. I am not sure it can survive without the steel protection.

The temptation is to continue to overfunction with my brain. Intellectualize life – all of it…you know, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I can easily do that. I’ve been doing it and am pretty accomplished in that arena.

But, those rationalizations aren’t as satisfying as they once were. There isn’t relief and peace in those justifications. There are pieces missing. Pieces of me I have abandoned in an attempt to conform with the perceived rules of this life.

wounded-heartThis shriveled and scarred heart has been silenced for so long. Yes, she has occasionally been heard, given hope – only to find the shackles of silence are slapped back on with great fear. Fear that someone heard the weakness, the pain, perhaps even afraid the giggles and lightheartedness would be misunderstood and unintentionally wound another’s tender heart.

There are an abundance of deep wounds of so many, it is almost paralyzing to think about navigating your way through them. We can’t easily see one another’s brokenness and emotional fractures because we are smart.

We are smart enough, creative enough and brave enough to camouflage those cracks – we pour quick-setting cement into the emotional sink holes instead of seeking the core problem; we conceal the bruises with a pretty smile, charming hello and an insatiable need to care for others.

We have learned, and accepted, to think and strategize our way through life rather than to feel and experience it. It is safer, cleaner, quicker

It is also hollow. It is isolating and disconnected. It can feel so empty.

I know it isn’t too late to resuscitate my heart. But it is risky. I want to be gentle in nursing it back to its full capacity – I don’t want to use a defibrillator to shock it into beating. I want to be delicate and tender with this precious gift.

It is a process. A journey that will not be traveled without injuries, set backs, and obstacles. But seeking to live in alignment with the heart the Divine gifted to me and listening to its wisdom, its mercy, kindenss and even its humor, is where I will experience freedom.

Freedom from the words that seem inadequate. Freedom from needing an answer. Freedom from having to be right. Freedom from the urge to prove something. Freedom from having to be better.

Freedom to be me. Freedom to be exactly who the Divine intended me to be.

I Believe. I Create. I Live.

© 2015 Rebecca G. Townsend