Monday, October 08, 2007

Blackberry Wisdom

What do you see when you look at a blackberry bramble? A weed? A problem? Something that hurts you? Or like me, do you see something truly admirable?

I’ve been working in what I loosely call my garden this summer, attempting to rescue the yard from the overgrowth of a couple of years of neglect. In the hours I’ve spent there, mostly weeding and pruning (with scratches and bites to match), I’ve come to really admire the blackberries. They have a lot to teach us:

Have back-up systems
– Blackberries have a couple of ways of reproducing themselves. First, they reproduce in the usual way of plants, by seeds -- lots of seeds! Every plant has many berries, and every berry has many seeds, so each plant has thousands if not millions of chances to reproduce that way alone. And those berries are delicious, so they get eaten by humans and other sweet-seeking creatures, who poop them out in other locations, where they can root and become new plants.

Blackberries also reproduce by rooting the plant’s canes. That is, each stem, called a cane, is only moderately self-supporting. It can rely on other structures, and act like a vine, but if there’s nothing to support it, it grows up and out for some length and then bends over. When it hits the ground, it roots itself, and more or less becomes its own new plant.

(Side note: if you’ve been reading these posts for a while, you may have noticed that I was mostly absent in August & September. It’s because my hard drive, which crashed, was not adequately backed up. Not having a good back up is very expensive both in time and money. It almost put me out of business. So please take my advice – back up, back up, back up!)

Be Flexible
– One of the tenets of NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) is “the most flexible system always wins”. It’s surely true of blackberries, which must be the cockroaches of the plant world. They grow in sunny locations, partly sunny locations and shady locations. They grow in rainy climates (we had them in our yard in NJ), they grow in dry climates (it never rains in the summer in northern CA). They grow where winter involves a hard freeze, and where it doesn’t. They grow on mountain sides, in forests, on lake shores and by the sides of roads. They grow like vines, supported by fences, trellises, trees, other bushes, you name it. They grow without supports, too, and can become very effective hedges.

Be Generous – Blackberries put out lots and lots of berries. In fact, early in summer, my husband looked out at the back yard and said, it’s a jungle out there. I replied that that jungle was going to feed us, so I refused to cut them down. And I totally underestimated the generosity of the plants! In addition to a daily serving of berries for about 2 months, I’ve made 2 cobblers, a blackberry chocolate cake, and blackberry coulis. Yum! So the weeds that my husband saw became a delicious addition to our diet. And if we weren’t westerners, with toilets, we’d have been planting berry seeds everywhere we went.

Be Persistent – Blackberries put out flowers, which become berries with seeds, continuously for over 2 months — that’s 1/6 of the year! If a freeze or a hail storm kills a bunch of flowers or berries before they've had a chance to mature — there’ll be more! And have you ever tried to eradicate a blackberry plant? You can’t, (or at least I can’t). Unless you get every part of a root, it will grow back. They are even growing from the spaces between our pavers! And that is part of their success.

Know that you are part of a community – Because those canes become new plants, still tied to the old plants, all the blackberry canes are simultaneously individual and part of the same plant. They are part of a community that has the same genetic heritage. We’re like that, too. As humans, we are part of many communities, both our genetic ones and ones of choice (where we live, where we work, where we recreate, etc.) and we would do well to remember that.

Protect yourself – Blackberries have thorns, lots of thorns — thorns on the canes, even thorns on the underside of the leaves. No animal is going to want to eat those canes, so they can grow undisturbed. And blackberries seem to have a fondness for poison oak. The two plants often grow together, which is further protection, at least from humans.

Point of view matters – If I look at the same plant from above, below, left and right, I’ll see different ripe berries which I can see only from that vantage point. We need to remember that, for other subjects. Other people will have other views. Your point of view is valid — and so is theirs, and if you take the best from all of your points of view, you‘ll have a much more complete picture of the situation than just seeing your own point of view.

It’s worth going over the same ground again and again – If you’ve done any internal work at all, on emotional issues, you have noticed that an issue you think is resolved will often pop up again, and it’s frustrating. But the blackberries have given me a different take on this issue. I picked berries from the same plot of ground, from the same canes for over 2 months. Emotional issues are similar — while you may have resolved one aspect of the issue, like picking one berry, there are lots more berries on the same cane, they’re just not ripe at the same time. Eventually, you run out of berries to pick, just as you eventually resolve all the aspects of your issue.

Info on thyroid/CFIDS

I was at a small seminar on brain chemistry and wellness by John Gray (yes, that Mars/Venus guy, and he is very cool, much cooler in person than in the books) last Sunday, and because it was at the hypnotherapy school where I teach, and because I know the woman who sponsored his talk, I got some time over lunch with him. He had mentioned that iodine is much more prevalent in the diets of Japanese women than American ones, which is why their children are so smart. Apparently, according to the WHO, lack of iodine in the diet of a pregnant woman is the cause of mental retardation in her children. He also talked a bit about how chlorine and bromine push iodine out of the body, and they are needed, particularly by the thyroid gland.

So when I asked him about CFIDS, he said that basically, your thyroid underperforms, and so your adrenals go into overdrive to compensate, until they, too, give out. And he said in talking with over a thousand people about this, every single one of them (yes, this is still anecdotal) had had significant chlorine exposure.

As if to underscore this, the woman sitting next to me in the seminar told me that she had a thyroid problem, and had been a figure skater (I do wonder about the chlorine in the Freon) and then on a swimming team for her childhood and teen years and continued to swim laps until the hypothyroidism happened, and her naturopath told her the lap swimming was over — without explaining why. When I got home, I called a friend, who I know had thyroid cancer in her 20’s, and asked her about chlorine exposure. She said immediately that she’d spent years playing in a garage where the chlorine for a neighbor’s pool was stored.

I’m sure there are plenty of people who spent a lot of time around chlorine who don’t have a thyroid problem — but apparently hypothyroidism is exploding in the population — and pools became greatly popular in the ‘50s, so baby boomers and later kids were the first to have a lot of chlorine exposure. Perhaps it takes 10 or 20 years to develop?

If you know an epidemiologist, you could bring this up and ask them if they might want to study it...

I am going to try large doses of iodine (called ioderal) and I’ll let you know what happens. And if you use kosher (non-iodized) salt, as I used to, you should switch to salt with iodine, preferably Himalayan or sea salt. At least that will increase the amount of iodine in your diet a bit. And obviously, stay out of swimming pools and hot tubs.

On another track, there is a school of thought that says that CFIDS is actually a neurological problem, more properly called RNA-ase enzyme deficiency disease (REDD) -- you can Google that.

What to do to end a relationship successfully

Sometimes, things really do happen in threes. And my rule is that when something happens three times, I should have a serious look at whatever the issue is.

Yesterday, I had three people call me about their divorces. One is just beginning a divorce, another is in the middle, while the third is just finishing up. (And actually, a fourth person called because she’s starting a new relationship, which is bringing up unresolved issues from a very long term relationship that ended a couple of years ago.)

They all had a few issues in common — grief, trust, letting go of attachments, and renegotiation. Grief is basically an intense feeling of loss. When any relationship ends, it’s normal to feel loss (you did lose something), and if it’s a marriage or another primary, long term relationship, it’s normal to grieve.

Usually, though, we associate grief with death, especially of a loved one, which makes sense, because it’s a serious, permanent (at least in this lifetime) loss. But there is a big difference between grieving a death and grieving the end of a relationship. When a loved one dies, your family and friends surround you, and support you. Everyone understands death, right? That person who was just there, in a body, walking and talking and hugging you, isn’t any more. And part of the ritual of death is that of family and friends speaking well of the deceased, remembering all of his or her good qualities, helpful actions, achievements, etc.

It’s different with a divorce. First, there is an interpersonal reason for the divorce, as opposed to death, which is more of a personal issue to the deceased. You loved the person you married — you thought this was the best person for you in the world, or you wouldn’t have married him/her. So something changed. Perhaps it’s the other person. People do change, not always for the better (having affairs, or alcohol or other addictions, for example). Or perhaps it’s you -- you may have changed. You may have grown and now be unwilling to put up with things you’d put up with in the past. Or perhaps the rose-colored glasses of love fell from your eyes, and you now see clearly something you successfully ignored or excused for a long time. Or both. (Perhaps you are the one with the addiction issue, but if so, you probably aren’t calling me, so I’ll leave that for others to discuss.)

That means there are huge issues of forgiveness around a divorce (which there often aren’t around a death). First, for your own well-being, you eventually have to forgive your ex for whatever he or she did or didn’t do or say — often over a long period of time. I’m not saying it’s easy, but remembering that people are doing the best they can all the time helps. Now, it may not be a very good best, but it is the best they can do, given who they are at the time.

The more difficult task is to forgive yourself for whatever you did or didn’t do or say — and most especially for what you didn’t see. Forgiving yourself for ignoring what is now patently obvious to you may be the hardest job of all, harder than moving forward each day, constructing a new life for yourself, (and your kids, if you have them). What makes it so difficult to forgive yourself is that you question your own judgment. How did I not see this (irresponsibility, addictive tendency, cruel streak, whatever)? If I didn’t see this, then what else am I not seeing? How can I ever trust my judgment enough to get into a relationship again? Trusting yourself going forward is critically important. You were doing the best you could at the time, too, and you learned from the experience, so next time, you’ll see more, right?

Another task is to let go of emotional/energetic attachment to the other person. While most people think that this is some huge process that takes a lot of energy over a long period of time, much of it can actually be done in just a few minutes with a simple visualization or two. I did this with a client yesterday, and at the end, she said, “That’s it? That was so easy! And I feel so much better.” Stuff happens — suffering is optional. (It’s different for each person, or I’d describe how.)

Divorce differs from death in another way, too. Your friends and family may, or may not, surround you and support you. Perhaps some of them disappear, either because they don’t know what to do or say, or because they “side with” your ex, or because they believe divorce in wrong in principle. And those who do stick with you will often begin to express the reservations about your ex they had all along, but felt it was wrong to voice. Perhaps they only know you as part of a couple, so knowing you as a single person is a completely new relationship. In any case, the important thing here is to recognize that you are recreating, or renegotiating, all your relationships, not just the one with your ex. When you do this consciously, it goes more quickly and easily than if you’re not aware of what you’re doing.