Our family will be escaping shortly to spend Christmas in a small village about a three hour drive from our city. This post is a bit of a seasonal wrap-up of family events and some observations on my part.
I picked up our youngest son, Taylor, at the airport on Sunday after depositing my husband, Ian, in time to catch his flight. Taylor was exhausted after his transatlantic flight and slept the rest of the day. Then, all three "boys" played video games till midnight. Taylor's got one semester left of university before he takes on the challenges of a job and independent living. Alex, our middle son, is taking time off over Christmas from his current job. He, too, needs the rest. I managed to snag him into replacement ushering (for Ian) at our church but I had to resort to laying some heavy guilt on him. "You live at home, your rent is minuscule, you can offer to help out occasionally," says Mom. Alex doesn't do guilt. Never has. I admire him for that quality. Still, it took some pestering on my part to get him to don at least a sports jacket for the occasion.
On the other hand, we have Chris, who does do guilt, but is getting much better at questioning why he feels he has to take on the burdens of the world. To boost his resiliency in this area and others, Ian and I bought him a pre-Christmas gift - 36 hours of DVD lectures on Why Evil Exists, and 36 hours of lectures on Christian theology. I felt he needed a rush job, to have all his questions answered (LOL) before his first Saturn return 28th birthday in January. If all goes well, according to the Evil description, these 36 lectures offer you the unique chance to approach the subject of evil through numerous lenses and to refine your view of this central question of human life, giving you a broad and deep resource for your own thought and action. (Don't tell Chris, but I also got him The Portable Nietzsche as a gift.) Chris's problem/opportunity is that he thinks too much.)
Despite the guilt feelings, Chris is gaining lots of confidence in his voice. He turned in a strong performance as a soloist during the Nine Lessons and Carols service on Saturday evening.
"I am finding that I like the attention, Mom."
"Great," says Mom. "Keep doing more of what you like."
The first Saturn return period (ages 28 to 30 or so) is a encouraging time for young men who may have been having mental health difficulties up until now. I was heartened to read how well Randye Kaye's son is doing. In her post Randye does a superb job of describing how to support an individual through psychosis with humor.
At its best, humor creates partnership. At its worst, it is ridicule and bullying. The difference is often a matter of simple courtesy, but also a decision based on your sharpest instincts when it comes to those close to you. Tread carefully - but if results are encouraging, then proceed with joy. The results can be amazing.
What Randye describes is the humor variant of concept of Low Expressed Emotion. Although treating a person with respect appears obvious to getting positive results with someone else, in practice, many of us give into our darker impulses and we tear the person down by our looks and comments. In practice, it takes quite a while to learn how to get it right. I like what she writes "if results are encouraging, then proceed with joy." Eventually, continuous respectful treatment becomes second nature to us.
Chris, on his own initiative, is beginning a Transcendental Meditation course. I had been gently suggesting for years that he may find peace in meditation, but, he wasn't emotionally ready to take that step until now. Learning to meditate seems a fitting way to for him to end the year and to enjoy the mysteries of the years to come. I was delighted to read this Beyond Meds post from Will Meecham about meditation and building mental health resiliency:
Ever since starting this blog, I’ve sung the praises of meditation and right attitude as tools for building mental health. Not that many years ago I felt horribly familiar all the adjectives that open this post. I had tried many types of therapy and many different pharmaceuticals without much improvement. Eventually, I turned attention inward and began to work with my thoughts and feelings directly.
By clearing out misconceptions and misperceptions, I found clarity and readiness to accept whatever happens in life. I am not immune to grief and disappointment, but I am much more resistant to despair. Meditation succeeded where medication failed.
"The goal which all the Vedas declare, which all austerities aim at, and which men desire when they lead the life of continence … is Om. This syllable Om is indeed Brahman. Whosoever knows this syllable obtains all that he desires. This is the best support; this is the highest support. Whosoever knows this support is adored in the world of Brahma."
~ Katha Upanishad I