Get You Some Attention

Illustration from The Pied Piper of Hamelin

Image via Wikipedia

Frances was five years old and her dad was long gone.  Mom was not parenting much in those days, meaning when Frances laughed in timing, parked her bike in the rack and watered the dog, she felt transparent.  When Frances kicked and screamed, Mom gave her a bunch of attention to redirect her.  When Frances sat at the table quietly, no one spoke.  However, Frances did need attention so she spoke with her mouth full of food and said bad words.  Her motives were not bad.

Frances being young, she was still primitive.  She didn’t see the dimensions of life.  Her thoughts were concrete and told her to scream.  She didn’t know her motives were parenting her.  And while she grew up, her brain was myelinating those behaviors right into her own Indian trails of learned responses.  And not only did Frances have these neuronal grooves of negative attention, she had poverty of paths toward positive attention.

Years later, after much brain-city planning and hard work, Frances had herself some hard-earned different neuronal traffic.  She consciously named her basic emotional needs that motivated her behaviors, such as attention, love, trust and safety.  She deliberately responded more often than automatically to things.  We were even able to joke about it.

Frances said that she should be the Pied Piper for negative drama.

Everyone with negative emotions and theatrical behaviors, follow my car!  And then I’d drive them into the ocean.

We all have legitimate reasons to seek emotional succor.  Me.  We may find ourselves moving from crisis to crisis to get attention, but we don’t have to.  We don’t need crisis to deserve good things.  When doing well emotionally and behaviorally, we are equally deserving of asking for attention, love, trust and safety from ourselves and others.

The motive is rarely the problem.  It’s the timing.  That’s what automatic behavior means.  It is in the positive times that we need to drum up more positive drama; get that feedback that we so crave.

Engaging in a dangerous performance that gets Me hurt is not friendly.  Being friendly to myself might mean learning to re-time when we get dramatic.

Some people cut and burn themselves on purpose materially.  Some people do it emotionally.  A key to our insight here is owning that we have the power.  That everything starts and ends with Me.  When the knives and fire are ablaze on stage is not when we want to get involved.

What’s your timing?

Questions:  How do you see timing play into when you think that you are loveable? Do you think that when you are hurting is when you deserve to be loved?  Does the suffering make you more deserving of connection with others than being in a “good” place emotionally and behaviorally?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip – Time your efforts to receive love, attention, trust and safety.

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.

Grief Can Be Treasured At The Same Time That We Celebrate Life

Self-Care Tip #283 – Find the treasure in your grief while celebrating life.

Today is my daughter’s sixth birthday.  If ever there was a person who doubled the love she received, it is this chid.  She is all passion.  Yes, both ways, but that isn’t to judge.  Just, there is so little I can offer in words to describe her power of self.

They're asleep!

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Tonight, we pushed two twin beds together so she and I could sleep beside each other.  Her sister slept nearby on another twin bed.  Her brother set his bed up in the closet.  (I know.)

If I wasn’t so tired, old and broke, I might be made vulnerable by times like this to having more kids.  Since that’s not going to change, these chubs are what we will stick with.  Happily.

My mind is turned toward God by this girl.  I somehow arrive in the moment praying when with her, perhaps for strength and patience or for humility and gratitude.  I learn from her.

Mommy, when I’m scared I talk to Jesus.

Often in times like this, I think of my niece, dead now six years, and how her parents and we wanted what was, what was stripped.  Still grieving and still living the life with us and in us, our braided thoughts and emotions easily lose their flow.

But today I have this clarity.  My niece is gone now six years and ten days.  Today my daughter is six years old.  Today I am sleeping with my three children.  Today I know that this is precious but this is not all we want.  We want what comes after our living years.  We want to let loose to Love the grief and the life; to untangle.  Not more.  Not less.  But we want.  We want what we have, now, although still in the unknown dimension of our forever.

In psychiatry, we are alert to grief that warps the ability to engage in life.  Grief that mars the connections of survivors.  Grief that becomes pathology, brain disease and a medical condition.  This grief disables and, for example, in the case of my daughter’s birthday today, would dissolve my ability to feel pleasure.

It is difficult to gain access to treatment as many of these survivors have ill opinions about medical care.  Such as; fearing medications will mute their connection with the deceased; mute their grief, or in other words, tribute/offering to the deceased; take away the personal punishment for surviving…

Questions:

  • What do you say to these weeping lives?  How can we de-stigmatize medical care for them?
  • How have you been able to treasure your grief and the life with you and 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 Pleasure That Should Be Ours In Emotional Health

Cup of coffee with whipped cream

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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...

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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.