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.

We Try Knowing We Will Fail. The Wonderful Journey Of Flawed People.

The t-shirt

Image by plαdys via Flickr

It’s 9:23 PM and our little kids are still awake!  They’ve cried.  They’ve laughed.  We’ve cuddled.  We’ve spanked.  They’ve taken two showers and brushed their teeth twice.  We ate several times.

I was riding my bike, watching a movie, (I love that!), and my daughters were taking turns coming in to complain, wet me with their tears, snuggle, hold me; you get it.  My exercise and my movie were peppered with refreshing breaks.  Sitting on the couch chair nearby with my five-year old during one of these intermissions, holding her, I was able to say,

It’s okay.  

I was able to do this because I was the one in the casita getting pumped up and my husband was the one in the house herding children to bed.  He had the tough job that turns me into a turnip and I had this.

You can do it.  You can try again.  You can try again, even if you are trying for the one-hundredth time.  You try and you try and you try again because that’s what makes our lives beautiful.  The trying part mostly.  Not the arrival.  

And that’s when I grabbed her and held on.  I suddenly felt so blessed.  From this off-night, I was given the reminder that the trying part of life is where it is at.

It’s 9:33 PM and I think they’re asleep.  Sigh.  Tonight was awesome.

We are flawed people.  We try, knowing we will fail.  Who does that?!  Why would anyone do that to themselves!?  Smile.  Ah.  Sounds wonderful.

Questions:  How is your journey?  Have you been enjoying your failures lately?  Please tell me your story.

Self-Care Tip #273  – Enjoy your failures.

Finalé – Me Again. Everything Starts and Ends With Me – Even Emotions and Behaviors.

We are doing a narrative series on understanding where emotions and behaviors come from:

  1. Emotions Are Contagious – Emotions shared
  2. Our own Emotional Junk – Emotions hidden
  3. Positive Emotions and Behaviors are Contagious Too 
  4. Our Conscious Self is Our Board and Paddle at Sea – Small conscious self and BIG unconscious self
  5. Biopsychosocial Model – Biological, Psychological, Social selves
  6. Me! 
  7. Finalé – Me Again.  Everything Starts and Ends With Me – Even Emotions and Behaviors.  (Today’s post.)

We have covered in our series that emotions are contagious.  We know that if we take care of our own first, we might not be as “susceptible” to negative “contagion” in turn and perhaps, be more available to giving and receiving positive “emotion-contagion.”  Further, we hope that if we do this, we might be able to choose to be with people we love even if they don’t do their own self-care.  We can have that connection without personalizing what isn’t about us.  Sigh.  That is nice, isn’t it?  Then …out at sea (away from our narrative for a day,) we talked about the pleasure in engaging with what bits of biology are directly available to us and the relationship we maintain with the big expanse of our unconscious biology.  We reviewed our biopsychosocial model as a tool, and then restated the simplicity in looking for and at Me to discover where emotions and behaviors come from.

Today we leave Rob and meet Iva for our Finalé.

Mother and daughter

Image by Video4net via Flickr

Self-Care Tip #272 – Look!  Me Again!

Iva was crying.  Things could not go on as they were.  It must stop!  The tension and recurring emotional crisis’ between her and her daughter were cancerous to her family.

Iva was trying.  She’d come a long long way.  On antidepressants now, exercising three to five times a week, down twenty pounds and into her honey-moon clothes from many many years ago.  She felt so much better about herself.  She was no longer yelling at every stressor, she felt pleasure again and liked being with her kids, including her daughter… when her daughter wasn’t throwing fits.  However, her daughter was “fits-ing” one to three times a day still.  Iva felt like she had lost control as a parent and gave a lot of blame to her little girl.  This is why Iva came in.  Something wasn’t right about that.  It was evading her, however, what that something was.

To be clear, “little” in this case meant four years old.  Four years old and they could hardly be with each other.  Iva trembled thinking about the teen years ahead.  Iva wondered how a four-year old could drum up so much drama and wield so much power.

Why didn’t she listen?  Why did her daughter make her resort to spanking and punishments to get obedience?  Why did she whine all the time?  

Crying again, Iva was still able to break this down as to where her emotions and behaviors were coming from and specifically keep it about “Me.”  That was our job as we crunched this together.

Emotions shared – Iva had negative emotions that her four-year old was susceptible to?

Emotions hidden – Iva hadn’t gone towards her own something or other?  Maybe she didn’t even realize the negative emotions she felt toward her daughter in the first place to go towards them and see what was there.

small conscious self and BIG unconscious self – Iva had an opportunity to play, work, know and own this little portion of what made her who she was.  The BIG unconscious self she was doing well taking care of with her basic needs – time with her Higher Power, medication compliant, exercise, sleep, diet, water and so on.

Biological, Psychological, Social selves – (A whole bunch of stuff you’ll have to read the previous blog-posts on!  Awesome paradigm.)

And then, finally, Me.  In the space between her and her daughter, Iva had forgotten that it was about Me.  Iva was putting a lot of blame on her little girl.  That’s a lot of pressure for a child to shoulder.  It is not appropriate for a parent to shame her child this way.  This isn’t a moral statement unless we make it one.  It just is.  It-is-not-appropriate.  That’s all.  Iva circled back around and saw herself there.  Her Me.

Iva left thinking things were looking up.

Questions:  Even in your most difficult relationships, how do you own your emotions and behaviors?  Or is there a reason for them outside of yourself?  Please tell me your story.

The Self-Care Bank

A Frisian Holstein cow in the Netherlands: Int...

Image via Wikipedia

I spent the day with my lovely uncle and aunt from Iowa.  We had chocolate something or other about six times, which is just to say that we indulged in the opportunity to have joy and share the goodness of each other’s company.

It is almost ten PM and they’re still talking.  Too cute.  They’re like little college kids in a late night chum session.  I’ve never heard so many analogies to different foods.  Turnips, tomatoes, corn, heifers, steers, cows, bulls – I did not know that there were this many types of cows….  We’ve talked of many tear-jerking stories and things that don’t die when we do.

Today in clinic, my kids stayed home from school to spend the day with them and fitted puzzles, read stories, petted dogs ‘n such.  I felt rich.  This kind of wealth of heart around can’t be banked other than that of self-care.

Goodnight friends.  My uncle’s still talking ‘n I have to catch this story about my dad when he was milking cows and playing pranks.  Thanks for sharing this with me tonight.  Keep on!

The Pleasure That Should Be Ours In Emotional Health

Cup of coffee with whipped cream

Image via Wikipedia

Some time, I’d like to come back to our bullying series as there is still some help to be had for us.  However, today, my cherubs are asleep and it’s only seven PM.  My feet are up.  I’m sitting by lots of beauty colored in varied hues of sunset, shadow and dusk.  Tonight will be short.  I will let today end and indulge the coming together of these things.  (I am even drinking reheated coffee with lots of whipped cream!)

What I have thought of to share with you my friends, as I’ve enjoyed its friendly work on me today, is the pleasure that should be ours in emotional health.

Bad things will come.  We will have anger, lower communication and such.  We will wish we hadn’t pushed the call button on the phone by accident when yelling.  BUT.  But (“Mommy you said a potty word!”).  But it will pass.  It will not define our day or our perception of self.  We won’t catastrophize and we will trust ourselves to show love and mercy to Me in our weakness.  This is a pleasure to experience.  This is what comes when we have brain health.

If this is what has always been your reality, well great.  BUT.  But (“Mommy!  Why did you say that?).  But, many of us know what it is to crave for days when we can say that the blow-ups, outs and ins don’t blot out the sun.  They shouldn’t.  The pleasure comes with health.  Go for it!  You are worth it.  You were made to feel pleasure.

Questions:  When was it that you realized that your emotions and behaviors didn’t rule you or someone you love any more?  What did/does that mean to you?  Please tell me your story.

(Ah!  There goes the last of the sun and the trees are now silhouettes.)

Self-Care Tip #257 – Go for the pleasure of trusting yourself to respond with healthy emotions and behaviors.

Scheduled Intimacy – Mother’s Day: The Good and The Not So Good

Afghan women celebrate mother's day at a guest...

Image via Wikipedia

Self-Care Tip #256 – Think about the good and the not so good on scheduled memory-maker days like today.

Questions:  What do you think scheduled intimacy has to offer you?  How do you manage to allow the not so good to come together with the good in your life?  Please tell me your story.

Just like any scheduled memory-maker, Mother’s Day brings the good and not so good.  And for most of us, we have some of both, even if just a little.

Yesterday, in the company of my three healthy children, I couldn’t help but notice the lady I sat beside was sniffling.  “Should I say something?  Should I not say something?

…Almost six years ago, my nine year-old niece suddenly died.  One week later I delivered my second child.

I don’t remember most of my daughter’s first year of life except a couple random things.  My sister-in-law, sitting alone on a rock just staring.  I remember her clothes, the weather during that moment, the texture of the rock, but I don’t remember nursing my baby.  I think this was still in the first month when I saw my sister-in-law on the rock.

We buried my niece’s ashes under a Jacaranda tree and it took forever for that tree to bloom.  I watched its skeleton month after month thinking, “This is terrible!  It needs to bloom!”  Isn’t that ridiculous?  And I remember my brother, red-eyed.  The lines on his face cut in deep.  He said,

I’m so glad you’re having this baby Sana.  It’s just what we need.  You remind us, this baby is reminding us that we are still alive.

The good and the not so good.

Of course I sensed what my brother was saying, but I still had a moment of hypervigilance when my body seemed to say, “What?!”

There was a lot of insecurity and emotional confusion that year but I don’t remember much more.  I believe my daughter  breast-fed, learned to sleep through the night, transitioned to solid foods and took her first steps.  But I don’t remember.

Namibie, une femme Himba et son enfant

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday, I turned to the lady and asked,

Are you sad?  Is there something you are sad about?

More water-works.

I used to have a son.  I had a son.  He died.

The good and the not so good.

Right on schedule.  Mother’s Day came.  We knew it was going to happen.  And yet our bodies crack open, poorly defended.  Little our calendars did for our emotional preparation.

The lady grabbed my hands in further intimacy than I anticipated.  She told me her name but I wasn’t listening.  I was thinking about my niece, her sometimes blooming tree, my children around me; so much.  I was thinking about the good and the not so good on scheduled memory-maker days like today.

There is a coming together of our parceled selves that have been scattered to the east and to the west by the winds.  There is a coming together that this Mothers-Day, Christmas, Valentine’s or my nieces birthday, have on us and the process itself is bruising.  It is an opportunity to gather what we will or won’t.  It is an opportunity to be present with our changing selves.  In the tears, in my daughter’s crooked rainbow pictures and backwards letters,

bear mommy, i love yu….

In the grip of a stranger’s hands, in the company of our own Mom’s, wherever we find ourselves on these blue-lettered calendar days is where we have this

Hope all you moms had fun today!

Image via Wikipedia

opportunity to do some of the sometimes hard work to grow presence.   Without it, we will continue to change.  That can’t be stopped.  But with it, with our choice-making, with accepting the gift of our folding up of the space between our past and our present, if we hadn’t cried again for our loss, if we hadn’t we might not have remembered what has made us and who we are.  Changed.  Covered by Love.  Connected.  Doing what a friend would do for Me.

Tonight my daughter sits on my lap.  We are watching a blue-ray recording of Les Miserables (musical) Twenty-Fifth Anniversary touring production at the London’s Barbican Centre.  I am listening to an excellent tale of the good and the not so good in life.

To God, our Mother, today was scheduled and I thank you.

We Are Unique

Waiting room of Nanjing railway station

Image via Wikipedia

We are unique, but it is not our suffering that makes us unique.

Interrogatives of Self-Care

Cover of "The Elephant's Child"

Cover of The Elephants Child

Poem by Rudyard Kipling

following the story “Elephant’s Child” in “Just So Stories


I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
I send them over land and sea,
I send them east and west;
But after they have worked for me,
I give them all a rest.

I let them rest from nine till five,
For I am busy then,
As well as breakfast, lunch, and tea,
For they are hungry men.
But different folk have different views;
I know a person small
She keeps ten million serving-men,
Who get no rest at all!
She sends em abroad on her own affairs,
From the second she opens her eyes
One million Hows, Two million Wheres,
And seven million Whys!

Self-Care Tip #233 – Define self-care with your adverbs.

The Interrogative adverbs of self-care:  what, where, when, why, who and how.  These are also known as The “Five W’s” (and one H) of self-care ;).

What is self-care?

Where?

When do we do self-care?

Why do self-care?

Who?

How do we do self-care?

I asked my daughter today,

M:  What does taking care of yourself mean?

D:  Taking care of myself so I’m healthy and can have fun when I’m old.

M:  How do you do that?

D:  I don’t know.  I can’t think of that.  (Conversation ends without flourish.)

These are our questions.

Questions:  Please pick one or more of these and answer from your own self.  Please tell me your story.

Imagine If You Were Your Own Friend, And Take Your Advice

Postcard - Sexy Woman writing a letter

Image by Rev. Xanatos Satanicos Bombasticos (ClintJCL) via Flickr

Self-Care Tip #234 – Imagine if you were your own friend, and take your advice.

Joana Johnson, author of CreatingBrains.com, full-time mom of six, part-time University history teacher, student, wife, confidant, friend and sister-in-law… (no she’s not running for president) …Joana asked me today,

Write a letter to someone you love sharing what you want them to do to take better care of themselves.  You don’t have to give it to them or you can.

Now imagine what letter with what self-care requests would someone who loved you write to you?

…You’re right.  I’m going to have to talk her into running for president.

And so, I offer this challenge to you.  I wonder after you.  I am sitting in waiting.  Please tell us this part or more of your story.

Choosing Connections – Take The Good and Take Care of Yourself

Beit Nir, a kibbutz in Israel.

Image via Wikipedia

Self-Care Tip#228 – If we choose to have someone in our lives, if we choose that it is better for us than not, than take what is good and leave the rest.

We’ve all seen them, or been them at some point through life.  Those walk-outs.  Either choice, leave or stay, takes immense courage to do well.

Tonight however, I’m thinking about the courageous who stayed.  Those who stay despite the stink in life.  Those who stay when there are bad choices by “the other” that spill over and touch us.

We choose to stay in the relationship but do we have to choose to suffer with them?

Mandy comes to mind.  Her mom was old and disinhibited.  She said inappropriate things and had mood swings.  In their past together, Mandy’s mom was younger but had still said many hurtful things and done hurtful things.  However Mandy stayed connected because she wanted her mom in her life.  Many said,

I just choose to have her.  I don’t worry, as much as I can, about the things Mom does that I don’t like.  I take care of myself now.  I stay emotionally as safe as possible but still be present in her life and let Mom be present in mine.  As long as I want her.  As long as I know I’m safe.

Mandy was like a mini version of the kibbutz I remembered visiting in Israel many years ago.  The kibbutz’s members worked a thrifty irrigation system, had interdependent living combined with separateness in a romantic setting – something green and amazing in the middle of very dry hot and otherwise empty sands.  I wanted, even then, to bring their irrigation secrets home, which brilliantly used, not misused, precious water.  They lived in something that looked close to “plenty” in a place that seemed barren of natural resources.

But memories of the kibbutz in and out through the years brought questions too about connection.  What would be enough to turn our choices to resemble theirs?  Maybe at least some of the hardships many of them have suffered.  Maybe something like abuse or terrorism would make me “walk” out on the connections my community or an individual offered.  Others may also do it for temperament reasons but extroverted temperaments would never choose that unless they felt they had to choose to be walk-outs.

Why did Mandy do it – connectedness, interdependence combined with separateness?  She chose to.  She used but didn’t misuse her mother.  For Mandy, misusing Mom would have held Mom responsible for how Mandy felt.  Mandy preserved her precious connection with Mom by taking care of her Me, her own feelings, and her connections.

Questions:  How have you stayed connected to the one(s) you love?  When they made negative choices, how did you stay safe but still connected?  Please tell me your story.

Your Bridge Between Choosing and Being Chosen By Guilt

INNOCENCE/GUILT

Image by ~fyrfli~ via Flickr

Self-Care Tip #227 – Find out about your bridge between choosing and being chosen by guilt.

Guilt.

Sometimes we think people who do wrong should feel guilt.  But how many of us improve ourselves or others in response to guilt?  And because this is a self-care blog (wink), I have tooled around with what it is all about and if it is a positive self-service.  In my meanderings I remembered, Schadenfreude.  (Isn’t that a marvelous Americanized German word?!)

Schadenfreude is different from guilt, although often in the same company.  It is a natural response in which we find pleasure at observing another’s demise or suffering.  I speculate that when we see someone feeling guilty and suffering from that guilt, even against our better natures we experience a degree of Schadenfreude, i.e. pleasure.  Because we moralize things, we responsibly feel shame when insight dawns on Schadenfreude, but “it just is.”  It is a part of who we are in this time of humankind’s history.

However would we go so far as to say that we want people to feel guilty when they do wrong because of the motivating reward that Schadenfreude has on us?  For example, Mom is disciplining her children and just won’t stop until someone cries.  I remember hearing jokes about this in mommy groups when my kids were a bit younger.  …Mom thinks silently,

I’m suffering so I want to see you suffer.

Even though we maturely and grandly empathize (the counterpart to Schadenfreude) with the kids, there is a simultaneous “secret Schadenfreude” (a private feeling) that goes on at their failure.  The blend of both can be confusing.

As we continue to travel the bridge between voluntary and involuntary, we are learning more about how choice remains regardless which side we are looking at.  For example, if guilt and Schadenfreude are so natural, so biological, so reflexive, we look for our choice.

Cathy wrote on the blog-post, Choosing Perspective,

I become trapped in my own guilt. Yes it is about perspective but what to do when even changing your perspective provides no relief, only a different source of constraint?

Questions:  I can’t help but wonder what you think about this?  Where and what is your bridge between choosing and being chosen by guilt and other negative emotions?  How do you choose when guilt and other negative emotions come involuntarily and inappropriately to context?  Please tell me your story.

Living Where We Feel Safe is Part of Self-Care

Self-Care Tip #213 – Live in safety.  Be a friend to yourself.

In My Fridge

Image by Nikita Kashner via Flickr

I love psychiatry because for me it is a safe place.  A place where I am comfortable pushing aside distractions.  The blinking lights disappear and I don’t have to waste myself on B.S.  Some time ago, I told you about how Mom has been when Dad’s been hospitalized in the past.  When she pushed his tubing aside and just got in bed with him to hold him.  All that mattered then was Love.  They didn’t see the clutter any more.  That’s what psychiatry offers.  If we want, we  can come together and be real.  In twenty to forty minutes, we can hune and warp time and find a gravity where we breathe differently.

Chewbacca

Image by Andres Rueda via Flickr

Unfortunately, I have found that the longer I do this psychiatry thing, the worse I am with life otherwise.  Whether I’m with the grocer, dog-trainer, my child’s teacher or person in front of me in the coffee-line – I just don’t graze well.  (See blog-post, “Do You Feel Pleasure.”)  I’m always yelling, “Hit it Chewbacca!” and we’re off at warp speed into asteroids of personal information; perhaps inappropriate to the setting.  (See blog-post, “Using The Force.”)  I hate to think what I’ll become when I’m more thoroughly demented and disinhibited.  These things just get more pronounced with age and soon I’ll just be that crazy Auntie with her bra snapped on top of her bathing-suit in winter yelling at the young kids to turn the music down so we can talk.

The truth is, I’ve never been so wonderful in tinsel-town.  I found home and found that home needs to be a place where we are safe.  In fact, this is true materially in the home we live in.  It starts there and diffuses out.  If at home we are able to speak uncensored knowing we respect others and are respected because we are human, not because we have to earn it, if we can enter our kitchen and not fear temptation from chocolate chip cookies, open the fridge and know as an alcoholic the wife or husband didn’t buy beer, argue and trust that we are loved enough to be a priority, we know the issue won’t be lazily passed up, we know we are safe – then there is a ripple and a ring of safety and another ripple and another ring of safety and soon safety follows us because we just aren’t interested in anything else.  (That was a super-sentence.)  We have found home.

Questions:  How do you define safety?  What feels safe for you?  How do you grow your circle of safety?  Please tell me your story.

Self-Care Is About More Than “Me”

Self-Care Tip #208 – If for no other reason, get friendly with yourself simply to survive and you’ll see what that means later.

my self care reminders

Image by CatrinaZ via Flickr

It is not unusual to think of “selfish-care” when we hear “self-care.”  I can imagine children gripping their mother’s skirts more tightly, husbands pulling their helpmate’s hands away from this influence, church-folk sniffing over rejections to service-calls or friends personalizing the way their phone doesn’t ring as much as it used to.  This is a natural response, although it is a false perception.  Think – feeling suffocated by her penance, he’s wearing a martyr’s cross or she’s giving to us from victimhood.  Those are the times we would rather not receive the gifts of time, person or anything dripping with that kind of guilt and implied debt. This kind of service comes from someone impoverished, giving on credit.

I’ve been known to say, “We can’t give what we don’t have.”  Or as Jasmine said,

You can’t give someone a ride if you’re all out of gas!

So when is self-care selfish?  To be true to what self-care is, I’d say almost never.  However, because the question comes from such an intuitive fear in any of us, “never” can’t be an entirely fair answer.  To answer it best though, we need to turn it over and go back to trying to discover why we wanted self-care first.  What brought us here?  Jacqui said it well in yesterday’s post-comments:

Ditto about ‘self-care boot camp’. I may steal that one. You’ve given me permission to be selfish if need be. It’s all about self-preservation.

Sometimes we are reduced to self-preservation.  It has an intensity to it, a survival mode of live or die, which may be appropriate to a desperate condition in life.   Many of us know what that feels like.  So in this context, self-care is in part about survival.  Alright.  But is survival a selfish need?  Are we worth that little?  Does the life in us hold value only at that level?

rejuvenation.self.care.logo

Image by guttersnipe.76 via Flickr

You hear the clomping my words are making and can follow that I answer, no.  Survival has far reaching significance.  I matter.  You matter.  We have value beyond our own selves and Me booting up to live better also ripples over those same infinite number of connections.

I am confident that if for no other reason than getting friendly with yourself simply to survive, you will still see at least some of what more that means later.  Self-care is about more than Me.

Question:  When do you think self-care is selfish?  Why do you think self-care is not?  Please tell me your story.

So Many Choices, So Little Time …For Self-Care

"Sophia Western", engraving after Bu...

Image via Wikipedia

Self-Care Tip #198 – Being a friend to yourself might be saying,

No.

Our culture is brimming.  Brimming with…, well take your pick; walking the dogs, turning in a take-home test, watching The King’s Speech, writing a journal entry, making pancakes or reading Savvy – we have options.

However, today and often, options are stalkers we think difficult to restrain.  …More difficult, say than filing a restraining order against your husband.

Walter filed for divorce with his unhappy wife.  Vengefully, his wife turned around and filed a restraining order on him and just like that, he was unable to see his kid for over two months.  That was easy.  All she had to do was file it.

And when we have these many options, all we need to do is say, “Yes,” to one and to the rest,

No.

I love it when my four year-old son is rocking carelessly on my outstretched legs, flopping about, a happy-drunk bird-on-a-wire, and predictably although unintentionally falls.  Crumpled on the floor, he flicks his bangs back and says rather coolly,

I was okay, Mommy.  I was okaaaay.

I had tried to rest on the couch and type, doing my self-care thing after doing Mommy-stuff with the kids for a large chunk of the day.  But telling him to stop doing that really cute thing he does was not so easy.

According to The Economic and Social Research Council,

Having older siblings is not related to children’s happiness with their family, but having younger siblings in the household is associated with lower levels of satisfaction and this effect is greater the more younger siblings present in the household.

It turns out that children feel more happiness in their homes when there are fewer younger children.  They perceive that there is less energy available for them from their parents with each born child.  And I’m here to say, there is.  With my son on the floor, flicking his hair and going,

I was okaaay…,

my middle daughter kissing my shoulder and burrowing into my arm like an ear-wig, my eldest daughter came back to ask for the sixth time if I would play jump rope with her – I remembered this study.  So true.  I don’t need more options, i.e. more children who ask and I say,

No.

With these many wonderful options, choosing Me, is not always easy.  (See post, “‘You’ Are the Best Gift.”)

Now throw in a little inappropriate guilt, some ruminating thoughts, self-loathing, bad sleep, some low motivation and energy and choosing Me becomes the hardest thing anyone has come up against.

Questions: How do you choose you when you could pick so many other great options?  How has this helped quality of life for you and others in your life?  Please tell me your story.