Saturday, March 26, 2016

Beginning Again ...

In the middle of the journey of... life
I found myself astray in a dark wood
where the straight road had been lost sight of.

Dante Alighieri
The Divine Comedy

Hello, Everyone!

The experience of Compassion Fatigue (CF) is one that leads many of us to recognize that we have gone "astray in a dark wood where the straight road had been lost sight of".  It is an experience of lostness, anxiety, confusion and bewilderment. How did I get here? When did the caring person inside me begin to disappear? And, much more importantly, how do I find my way back to that caring self and begin again? 

Beginning again requires that we first take sufficient time to heal CF and then learn new and healthier ways of being and doing. Healing is different from curing. It is about gradually becoming more whole in ourselves rather than necessarily eliminating the signs of CF completely and forever. (Most helping professionals and family caregivers will ebb and flow through the early stages of CF as long as we continue working with people who are traumatized or suffering. The trick is building resilience before hand and then recognizing CF early in its progression so we can do something about it.) 

Beginning again is about re-membering our caring selves in a new way that promotes, not giving from the depths of our wells, but giving only from the overflow. It means transforming our accumulated primary and secondary traumatic stress and learning to reduce our trauma exposure. It means discovering our personal CF early warning signs so we can forestall further forays into "the dark wood". It means intentionally building skills and developing our physical, emotional, spiritual, social and professional lives so we have access to "something more" to ground and sustain us.

We need awareness, knowledge, courage and determination to make these kinds of life changes, one baby step at a time. I hope Celtic philosopher, John O'Donohue's, Blessing for A New Beginning, from To Bless the Space Between Us, will encourage you to take the first steps:

Blessing for a New Beginning

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness grow inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the grey promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plentitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is one with your life's desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

As I leave for a welcome long weekend visit to Vancouver Island, I wish each of you a very Happy Easter  (or whatever Spring observance you enjoy) and all the hopeful brightness of new beginnings!

And, if you are feeling ready to "begin again", do please join us for the Caring On Empty: Creative Tools for Compassion Fatigue Resilience for Helping Professionals workshop May 6th on Granville Island in Vancouver, BC.

Just email Jan at for a brochure. (And bring a colleague or friend!) The registration deadline is extended to April 22.

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