Elizabeth Barrett Browning
“Yes! 50 really is NIFTY!” as dozens of cards, flowers and gifts sing, in celebration of my midlife milestone. Lucky, lucky me! I received a tsunami of love yesterday, awash in advice, appreciation and anticipation for what’s been and what’s to be. It’s fun how we humans love to count our ways. I savored over 50 texts, 50 blossoms, 50 pieces of my favorite candies, 50 likes on FB, all marking my big day. (Thank You!)
We wear devices that count our daily steps -- 10,000 we hope. Refilling my water bottle at the Arboretum yesterday, the counter tallied that I contributed to saving 27,548 plastic bottles. We live in the third most populous country in the world, inhabited by 321,000,000 people, who love statistics. I recently got curious about counting incidents of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) beginning with the dreadful statistic that 1 in 5 women are sexually abused (it’s 1 in 3 on college campuses). All involved are traumatized - the woman abused, her friends and family, and even, the abuser. 20 million of us are Veterans; anything dealing with conflict, by definition, is stressful. There are more than 6 million accidents a year; mine last fall led to a very personal experience of PTSD. My family felt the ripples. Millions are diagnosed with cancer each year (who amongst us doesn’t feel the stress of someone dealing with a diagnosis?). Nearly 10 million are unemployed. 18 million are food insecure - not sure where they will get their next meal. More than 600,000 spend the night on the streets of America, without a home. How stressful?! 2.5 million Americans die every year, leaving millions of friends and family to deal with the stress of loss. And there are gazillions of other stress-inducing diseases, incidents and traumas I’m not citing here. Even if you are lucky not to fill one of these stats, you are still likely related, friends with, or live next to someone who was abused, in an accident, died or was diagnosed. Seriously!
When we do the math of "Kevin Bacon degrees of separation" to PTSD, we are all one degree from stress, or stressed!
We are the most stressed culture in all time! The pharmaceutical companies want us to believe there is a quick fix in a script for every one of these stressors. 90% of all doctor visits are related to stress. 75% of the time we visit them, doctors prescribe meds to treat our symptoms of stress, resulting in more than half of us using prescription drugs.
Back to counting birthday wishes…. Over the course of yesterday, I paused to intentionally breathe in all the loving sentiments you sent my way. And in the process of doing so, I could literally feel your love healing me -- mind, body and soul. I did not feel one iota of stress. It turns out, love is a healing balm.
In a world awash with stress, I wonder what a tsunami of love would do. Could a love revolution heal our crisis of stress?
Finishing family dinner last night at Autre Monde (“Another World” of dining down in Berwyn), I noticed a couple noticing our rowdiness. As their waitress delivered another round of beautiful orange fruity drinks, I stopped by their table. As it turns out, their oldest child is heading to college soon and they were happily escaping a curfew argument — the very same in fact I recalled having this time last year. Without thinking, the woman offered me (a complete stranger!) a taste of her drink. Yum! I loved it and was overwhelmed by her generosity. There we were, in familiar territory together: counseling teens ready to fly, who have no use, but much need, for boundaries.
We are so interconnected, so in need of the healing balm of loving relationships. What better to break down the boundaries between us and combat our stressors than L*O*V*E. Our love expressed is the antidote to our PTSD crisis. I think the Beatles may have been right after all: “All we need is LOVE!”
Thank you from the bottom, top and sides of my 50-year-old beating heart for your expressions of love! Even today, I don't feel one iota of stress -- that's how powerful it is -- knowing, feeling, being loved by you. Try it. I double dare you :)