Sparks of Joy

Sparks of Joy

The emerald green color had faded. The hem was somewhat frayed. The sleeves were a little tight. The old shirt stared at me as I was working my way through the closet and picking out things to give away. I knew there was no point in trying the thing on for the hundredth time – it hadn’t gotten less tight or old with the years. I had really liked the shirt at one time and worn it a lot but it really should have gone to the ‘give-away’ pile years ago.

I tried to figure out why the shirt was still in my closet. I had read about home organization guru Marie Kondo and her approach to cleaning and tidying – so I thought I would try. Kondo maintains that foundationally, we have relationships with our belongings, and we should spend some time figuring out which ones elicit strong feelings in us and which ones do not, so our lives don’t become cluttered. She calls it “sparks of joy”. I closed my eyes and held the old green shirt in my hand. I envisioned myself wearing it. No sparks of joy. Ok then, easy – throw-away pile it is. My hands were strangely reluctant and nudged the shirt back toward the closet. Interesting. I closed my eyes again and ran my fingers over the shirt. Ragged edge, stitching…slightly different stitching. I opened my eyes. There it was. My Mom had mended the shirt when she was visiting me, perhaps 10 years ago.

It’s not like I never see my Mom – I talk to her on Skype all the time, and I see her when I visit my home country every couple of years. We have a good relationship. She sends me things, so there is no need for the old shirt to remind me of her.

When I thought about it further, I realized there was more to it. My Mom, while still in relatively good health, no longer likes long travels. She has told me on more than one occasion that she doesn’t expect to undertake another trans-Atlantic journey from Europe. It has made me strangely sad. I don’t think it will change the frequency of me seeing her. But she will never again go through my closet and give her opinion on the clothes I wear. Or pick oranges from my tree. Or mend another shirt that I like but has loose stitching. Or plant new flowers in my garden.

I miss the thought of my Mom in my house. So, I compensate. I take my iPad to the garden when we Skype so I can show her how my avocado tree has recovered from the frost and how big the rose bush has gotten this year. I call her from the store to ask if I should buy a particular piece of clothing. I hold up the phone if she happens to call me when I am out with my friends so she can say hi (she really hates when I do that).

At the end of the day, I put the green shirt in a different pile in my closet. This is the pile that I keep for my nieces – in case they want to wear anything from there in the future. And I am keeping my own stitching skills alive – so I can offer to mend their clothes when I visit them.

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Self-care tip: Allow for things in your life to have a relationship with you. They don’t replace people but may paint richer shades to your life.

Question: Have you noticed that some things you own have more meaning besides their functionality? Any objects that attach to a special person in your mind? Tell us your story.

Links:

Pay a dollar

Repost from July 29, 2010.

We all have a number of our own eddies, currents that spiral behaviors. Assuming that when those are friendly behaviors, then like “casting your bread upon the water” you’re bound to see something nice coming back your way. Some people say these patterns come from neurological loops, grooves in your brain like indian trails. When you go back down over your same footsteps 100 more times, you now have an open path without resistance, easy to travel. That is how the connections – neurological, electrical, chemical, are all biased in our brains.  Adaptability to stress, in part, means that your pattern of coping is on a path that serves you well when you need it to.

Come on, though! Who spends even five minutes talking about good behavior? What we do ruminate over, is why we keep doing what we don’t want to do. …Such as screaming at the kids when what we really want to do is to grow up and practice the good skills we’ve read about in all those parenting books!

Why is it so hard to stop?  Why are we “triggered” so easily?  Grooves, my friend.  Grooves.  Any day we can list off several seemingly unrelated events – but our reaction is all too familiar.  It feels like getting sucked into a tornado with a word spout, as if today turns you round and round the same way you did the day before.  Inevitable self loathing follows, which can set off more self-destructive behavior.  The cycle goes on.

When you feel trapped by your own self, get friendly by remembering this.  You’re mistaken.  You’re talking about a groove, not a vampire.  It’s not hopeless.  Not much more, not much less than what it is.  A groove can be abandoned.  New paths can be made and when the stressor hits next time, you will have a longer moment to decide on which behavior to play.  You will have a choice and you will realize more often that you are not trapped by what you thought; you are not hopeless and ugly.

For example, now when I yell at my kids, regardless, I pay a dollar to the family money jar.  Anyone can call me on it.  That’s my effort to steer clear of the “yelling-groove.”  The innumerable reasons for righteous anger, took me on miserable trips.  Round and round.  Yelling equaled me jamming myself all over again.  That’s right.  Who did it to me?  Me.  Now that’s not too friendly.  So something’s got to change.

It may be something different for you, but if you end up hating yourself in the end, it couldn’t have been good.

Self Care tip #5: You are not trapped. Pay a dollar. Be a friend to yourself.

Questions:  What has helped you abandon old grooves and make new ones?  When you don’t feel hopeful, how do you recognize that even though you feel that way about yourself, there is hope and the feeling is deceiving?  Please tell us your story.

Are You Empowered to Start Everything and End Everything With Me?

Yesterdays blog-post brought a few neighborly questions for us to follow-up with.

One is regarding emotions from bluebee.  Is jealousy medical?  Followed by, What part of emotion is under our control?  Indeed.

Second, Sarah quietly slipped the question under our door of how to respond to emotions and behaviors that come from brain illness.  How?  Indeed.

Third, Carl banged a little louder when asking, what keeps him in a relationship with someone who is maltreating him verses leaving?  Indeed.

There is a nice flow to these.  They are leading into the next and circle back.  Emotions and behaviors come from the brain, much which is out of our control and some of which is.  The choice to engage in the life of the ill is like any other choice.  Our own.  If it matters to us if the way the brain is working in the “other” is in their control or not, we can spend more time trying to sus that out.  I’m not sure myself when I get it good from someone mean, but it has become easier to take care of my junk rather than there’s.  For that, I will say a million thanks.  If I’m getting yelled at, I do the checks on myself – anxiety? fear? anger? fatigue? shaking? dizzy? tone of my voice? do I know what this person is yelling about? (most often it has nothing to do with Me), empathy? empowerment? You’ve told me that you are growing in similar refreshing ways.

Face Down w/Laundry and Gwen Stefani

Image by NCM3 via Flickr

I’ve seen this play out a little in my children.  My daughters and son are supposed to do the laundry every morning before they play.  I don’t know how many years now, but their arguments haven’t changed.

I’m doing this all by myself.  No one is helping me!

Mom!  He’s just laying on top of the clothes!  

Mom!  …

These questions above…;

  • where emotions and behaviors come from,
  • control over biological symptoms,
  • do I respond to others with brain illness
  • or do I walk away

These questions don’t mean much if we don’t find where our empowerment comes from.  Me.  Everything starts and ends with Me.

I’m ill for reasons I have nothing to do with, yet I will be accountable for myself and how I affect others.

I feel emotions I didn’t ask for, behaving ways that I am a spectator to rather than a whole person, yet I will do what I can to gain health.  In that, I have control.

I surrender what I don’t control to my Higher Power.  I take medication.  I exercise, guard my sleep hygiene and get regular sleep, eat responsibly, gather and engage community, attend therapy groups and/or individual, I try while at the same time I let go, I love my flaws as I love my perfections, I try to develop my natural genius, try as often as I can to pour any energies I have in that direction as I know I will heal faster, enjoy life more and be more successful at all my efforts when I do.

It reminds me of that saying, that if I have success, it is from standing on the shoulders of giant midgets.  We are all flawed.  We are all wonderful.  We are supported by others who also are full of flawed perfections.

Do I have control?  You bet.  …And no way.  Always, there are both.

Do I talk when someone is mistreating me? or mistreating themselves by neglecting their own self-care? by letting their illnesses shape their lives?  Do I walk away as that may be what my self-care demands.

Everything starts and ends with me.  There are a lot of stops along the way with other forces, but empowerment is mine.  Indeed.  That’s what I hope my kids will learn when doing the laundry.

Emotions and Behaviors Will Get Better As You Heal.

Punch to the Face

Image by Ninja M. via Flickr

Don’t worry.

When you hear that, don’t you think violent thoughts?  Or how about, “Calm down?”  Got to love that.  I have visuals of my back swing.  Sure.  You might call them hallucinations.  I’ve never actually hit someone but I have pulled into ready position.

Here’s the thing though.  After all this on-and-on about taking care of ourselves, I have found myself saying things that get awfully close and I’m looking out.  Pretty soon I’m afraid I’m going to get it.  (I’ve got my eye on you!  And you!)

Here’s what happened.  Augustina was wondering what to do about her best friend.  They had quarreled and then quarreled again.

Naming someone, “best-ie” sounds pubescent but Augustina was no child.  Her best-ie had been her chosen family (as Jackie Paulson reminded us yesterday)  since she was twelve, fat and leaked.  Kids were laughing.  Future Best-ie wasn’t.  That’s the kind of girl she was.  Safe; a light in a house that she had gone toward naturally and that had not been put out by Augustina’s misty self.  Wet face, stained pants, fat neck and pimples – Future Best-ie wasn’t laughing.  And that’s about all it took.  She was her friend.

Why had Augustina and Best-ie quarrelled these thirty-some years later?  This was am apparent mystery to Augustina.  You know those kind of mysteries, when they belong to only one person while everyone else with the answer key is looking on.  It was almost like she was standing there, twelve-years-old and bewildered.  This time though, Best-ie wasn’t on her side.  Or so she thought.

Truth is, Augustina had been mean.  She was not keeping dates, she argued easily and she was more self-absorbed than the color black.  It had been months now and then they quarreled.  Augustina missed all the prodrome, the warnings, the recommendations from family, other friends and including Best-ie to get insight and help.  To Augustina, this quarrel stood alone and she was being misused and misunderstood.

So what do we do?  Do we discuss Augustina’s behavior?  Do we explain her problems?  Maybe.  But only long enough to help her join our treatment team.  Once she’s in treatment, we wait.  We for reasons of self-preservation won’t say, “Don’t worry,” but we will come close.  Why?  Because we know that many of her problems as perceived by others and herself will disappear when her brain illness heals.  Do you believe that?  Where do you think her emotions and behaviors are coming from?

See blog post, There is Less Space Between Emotions And Science.

Questions:  When have you seen maltreatment from others that feels personal to you appear without provocation?  When have you seen someone you trusted change into someone who is mean, angry, selfish and reject you when they never did before?  Did you see the opposite happen when their brain illness was treated?  Please tell me your story.

Self-Care Tip – Calm down.  (Duck!  I see you and I’m outta here!)

The Gift of Desperation

Life (23/365)

LIFE

Misty sounded relieved,

Yes.  That’s it.

She had just realized that life isn’t fair.  Sure.  She knew that before, but she just realized what she knew.  Don’t we all love that moment when our senses join up – sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell, emotion, intellect, spiritual and the rest.  That is a lot to coördinate after all and sometimes some of them don’t make the train.

Misty was a single mom of three.  Her ex-husband was what she called, “Disney-Dad,” and her kids relished their time with him.  Misty complained that she didn’t get to spend the special times with her kids.  She mainly took care of them, but missed out on irresponsible fun.  She was sure her kids wouldn’t look back and think of her like they would their father.  She was getting angrier about it all the time, ruminating about it and it was getting in the way of her ability to connect with others and feel pleasure.  There it was in front of her blocking her from seeing her kids even, let alone herself.

Then after weeks of this along with medication and talk therapy, she told me,

Yes.  That’s it.  Life is not fair.  There are many other things in my life that aren’t fair either and if I look for them, I could spend my whole day every day counting them off.  

It broke my heart a bit to hear her and see her there.  Humble like that; she would I think affect you the same way.  So real.

Yesterday, Carl D’Agostino replied to our post about growing our understanding of our choices beautifully.

…we wait until we are at our wit’s end before we seek assistance…. considering reaching out as personal failure or inadequacy re: our own self-esteem…. Foolishly we wait until our way just is not working anymore. That is why AA calls this a gift: the gift of desperation. …For many, the depths into which we have succumbed are now found not to be so deep at all and in fact, ladders are readily available if we use them in recovery. 

Ah Carl.  Say it again.

The gift of desperation.

Too good.  Don’t you think?

Questions:  Have you ever received the gift of desperation?  What did it bring you?  Where did it take you?  What did it do to you?  Do you still have it?  Please tell me your story.

Self-Care Tip – Celebrate your gift of desperation.

Safety in Connections With Others

Nami 01

Marcy came in looking like a question mark.  Despite her gorgeous face and swank, she still looked uncertain.

Marcy was born into chaos.  Get this.  Her father who spent her whole childhood using drugs, alcohol and strange women, who was emotionally and mentally absent most of her life, who is possibly still using, is the one person in the whole world Marcy calls her confidante.  “He gets me.  I can really talk to him.  Even my husband doesn’t understand me like he does, you know, emotions.”

Marcy, despite years of fear, panic attacks, the survivor of abuse and neglect was clinging to her dad.

Marcy was lost in the headlights of the oncoming life.  She thought after having spent her entire life afraid, it was time to heal so she though she’d give medication therapy “a try.”

After initiating medications for Marcy’s post-traumatic stress disorder and after her panic-attacks stopped, Marcy started attending NAMI.  What a believer in NAMI she became!

They just make it easy for me to talk about myself, say things I can’t even tell my husband, and they know what I’m going through.

Listening to her talk about them was letting fresh air into our room.  Hope floated in.  Now Marci doesn’t believe that her dad is the only one in the world she can connect with at this level.  Now Marci does not feel as alone.  Why?  Because she went and got connected.  She whacked through the briar hedge of misperceptions, biases and insecurities between her and others.

Marci still thinks largely of her father, but he’s not the only one.  He has some competition to the throne which means, Marci has a better chance of being influenced by someone healthier.  Rather than attack Marci’s attachment with her Father, NAMI is giving her more to fill her heart with.

Self-Care Tip #285 – Find safety in healthy connections with others.

Questions:  When have the connections in your life saved you from warped views?  How do you think we could do better with this?  Please tell me your story.

Presence – What is Turning In You?

How the pages turn slowly in life

Image by Nina Matthews Photography via Flickr

It’s summer break already and that means more Mom-time for the kids,… and a few other things.  But if there’s more Mom-time for the kids, we all know what there is more of for Mom.  These things come together and equal more spending-money-time combined with less work-time.  This can’t be without consequence.

I’m thinking stress, memory-makers, lots of kissing marshmellow-cheeks and tears to show.  Always tears.  The kids cry of course but if I do, its all,

Mom!  Oh NO!  Mom!  Stop crying!  Agh.  I can’t stand it when you do that!

Lots of exclamation points are involved.  I’m thinking this summer will have some of that because some days are stressful and painful.  Others are just too beautiful to leave unstained with tears to sign my name by.  Get ready kids!

Tonight, this is what I have.

I am licking my finger and turning a page.  I feel the book as the page slowly fights the air to pass over.  I haven’t seen the other side yet but the way the page lifts up and toward me, I know that this part is significant in itself.  Lick my finger, press it down and sweep up.  Up and passing over, just.  The page is turning and so are we.

Question:  What is turning in your life?

Self-Care Tip #280 – Pay attention to what is turning in you.