Life may be described as a book – a beginning, chapter with titles and the end.
What is the story of my life?
One of the chapters describes my life as a Catholic priest for 25 years. Far from being cloistered, cut off from the world and remote from the lives of everyday people, I encountered people from all walks of life and of all ages faced with the challenge of life, its purpose and meaning. I counselled priests, psychiatrists, psychologists, prisoners, street kids, people coming to terms with all sorts of loss and grief due to failed relationships or unemployment and people with no purpose in life or living.
My work settings were Catholic parishes where I made myself available and open to everyone and that was the doorway into the lives of many people. Having three Newfoundland dogs as pets was an excellent ice breaker as I listened to stories of loss, sadness, grief, failure, rejection, despair and self-doubt.
I also came into the lives of people in schools, in aged care settings, in welfare work, psychiatric clinics, homes and workplaces as well as in cafés sharing a cup of coffee.
The chapters of my life have centred around the rituals of life – christenings, marriages and funerals, along with birthdays, graduations, anniversaries and other significant events in the lives of people.
Flowing through these settings and rituals, have been the emotions of people, from the joy of a wedding to the sadness of a funeral.
Life may be described as a dialogue of questions and answers - but in many cases there are no answers - simply because the question “why” has no answers. Whatever the challenges of life, I believe that the only solution to many of life’s problems is to make peace with the questions.
The increasing dependence on mobiles phones, the internet, Facebook and Twitter means we have less time to sit down and spend time in face-to-face communication. Intimacy is now established through these artificial electronic mediums that can isolate us. Even in cafés and restaurants, many people are glued to their mobile phones and iPods, further isolating their capacity for human intimacy.
Empathic listening, insight, intuition and a capacity to see into a person's soul and heart. I have a great capacity to put people who may be facing all manner of challenges at ease. I work primarily from my heart and intuition first and then from my logical brain.
Presently, I work with a large Melbourne funeral company running grief and loss counselling sessions for their staff, which includes embalmers, drivers, branch managers, funeral planners and funeral celebrants. On one occasion, I only had one staff member for an hour-and-a-half session and I wondered how I could fill in the time.
After going through the core structures of loss and grief, I spent time with this person on a journaling technique to handle grief and loss. After 5 minutes, she was sobbing, her heart racked with pain and suffering over a failed relationship. A simple technique of writing allowed this woman to face an unresolved pain. It seemed as though this hour and a half was meant for her alone.
I am energised by working with men in mid-life men who have achieved much on the outside in terms of success but are hollow and empty on the inside. The “good of this world” has not eased the burdens of their heart. The first half of a man’s life will be spent in achieving goals, while in the second half, he is faced with the question: “Who am I?”