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Staying Open

I remember being a very sensitive child growing up.  I was always attuned to the emotional state of others, aware of energetic shifts and the pain of those around me.  Similarly, I was easily affected by the words and actions of those around me.  It only took a quick, off handed comment or a sideways look to spin me into a place of confusion.

Now, as an adult and a psychiatrist, I often feel grateful for the ability to be self aware, as well as connected to the emotions of my friends, family, and patients.  But I also am aware of how, as children, we start to build walls up, in order to protect ourselves from difficult emotions.  One small brick gets cemented, moment by moment, day by day, as we start to guard ourselves against hurt.  I can see my own kids doing that after a particularly painful day at school, or after one too many impatient remarks from myself or dad.

Soon, we feel defended, protected, safe, perhaps…and at the same time, walled off and alone within our brick walls.  We are separated not just from vulnerability and pain, but also separated from the ability to experience connection, love, and joy.  I am trying now, in my adult life, to start breaking down my walls, trading in safety for wholehearted relationships, with all of their beautiful gifts and challenges.

I am also trying, as a parent, to teach my children that we can feel hurt and pain, and that those emotions are part of the human experience, just as much as happiness.  We don’t have to let each difficult encounter become another reason to become guarded and afraid, and ultimately alone.  In fact, the fact that we all live through moments of joy and suffering are what keeps us connected in our shared humanity.

Below, I share a poem that emerged as a result of my reflections on staying open, staying kind… an active choice that we can make in each moment, despite our inclinations to go inward and hide when life gets hard.   I hope you enjoy.


Now and now and now Be kinder than necessary In the infinite ordinary moments, The small and big moments To the stranger who needs No more than to be seen. To the child who needs Your late night voice and Just one more chapter. To you, your very self, who needs The strength of your own holding. Let down the walls that Once seemed to guard and protect but only divide and keep you alone. And instead listen to the truth Of the wind echoing in melodic whisper, The waters running quiet but wise, Alive, in your breath, your heart, your veins. For you always knew, kindness is the only life force That will sustain you, The only way forward that is Sustainable for you. And so you must heed the voice, The call of your first raw soul, Before you forget how, Now and now and now.


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