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Friday, April 17, 2020

Morning Reflection: Onions Have Layers

Onions Have Layers.

If you’ve ever seen the original Shrek movie, you’ll probably remember the scene where Donkey is trying to understand Shrek’s motives, and can’t see past the simple fact of Shrek being an Ogre.

In his attempt to explain that he’s not just a village-destroying-monster, Shrek attempts to explain to Donkey that Ogres, like onions, have layers.

A fact which bypasses Donkey completely, because he doesn’t have many layers.

I’m been thinking about that recently because human beings, like onions and ogres apparently, have layers. Your own awareness of the different layers of your soul is probably the most valuable piece of knowledge you will ever come to own.

Sometimes we come across those layers as we journey with intention into the deeper parts of ourselves, but usually it’s because life throws us something that peels back the veneer of our supposed ‘normality’ and reveals to us things ‘further in’ that we had no idea where there.

Or behaviors that we thought were firmly in the past.

In this strange time in which we live, where a virus too small to see can bring civilization to a halt, we’re all experiencing pressures and a peeling back of the layers to show what is underneath.

I watched my two sons almost get into an argument last night, which very rarely occurs in our house. I can see how the pressure of confinement is peeling back their layers, as small things that would usually not bother them suddenly annoy them in ways that they did not expect.

But it’s not just restricted to them.

With the pressures of trying to run a small business in this very strange economy, and practice my profession in a way that keeps both my patients and my family safe, I find my own layers coming apart, and have seen in myself some attitudes that I thought I have moved beyond.

In some ways it is disheartening to think that something that I had already taken care of was, in fact, still within me, just awaiting some time and some increased pressure.

Which is essentially what we’re all in – a pressure cooker.

And it would be easier if we knew when the pressure was going to end. Several years ago my wife had to undergo a medical procedure that while only lasting a few seconds, was incredibly painful.

A kind and wonderful nurse counted down for her during the procedure, giving my wife the sense of hope as she realized that this too would pass, and she knew she really had to hold on for a few more seconds.

None of us have that right now. None of us know when this is going to end, or even what that end is going to look like.

So today I would ask you to extend patience and forgiveness to yourself as well as everyone around you. We are all fighting the same battle right now; fear of what we do know, and a greater fear of what we don’t.

Each of us in our own way experiences that terror differently, as we peel back the layers, exposing things which we thought we had dealt with; emotions we thought we had passed.

And it can be really disappointing to realize that we haven’t.

If you find yourself stuck in that frustration, may I offer you the perspective of understanding that this time is actually a powerful opportunity for growth if you can forgive yourself these momentary lapses, and learn from the emotions that you feel.

As I have written before, your reactions to situations are the guideposts to your progression: if only we will learn, if only we will follow.

And sometimes it’s the very reactions that are pulled from you against your will that show you the deeper paths you yet have still to walk.

So treat yourself kindly, and know that all of us in our own way are fighting the same battle. Some days we are winning, some days not so much.

But we are all in this together.

Dr. Alan Barnes

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