Live Imperfectly, Dad is dying, and I Have no Power.

wilted flower

Living with someone like tomorrow might be their last is much harder to do when it is actually the case.

My dad told me, after my nine-year old niece died, that a parent should never outlive their child.  When I look at my own children, I know that is true. But with my parents aging process, my dad’s long and difficult past twenty years, and now near end of life condition, I just don’t know how I’d order things, if I could, between us.

When God, (Morgan Freedman,) told the complaining Bruce Nolan, (Jim Carey,) that he could have all of his powers, the audience of “Bruce Almighty” projected both a positive transference and a schadenfreude. Bringing the viewer into the character’s identity is every actor’s aspiration. And we went there. Up. “Yay! Bruce can answer everyone’s prayers with a ‘yes’!” And then down, down, down. The multidimensional disaster’s created by misplaced power, power without wisdom, love, or altruism, was just painful to watch. Power does not God make.

My Dad is dying. Not likely from cancer. Not likely from a failed liver, floppy heart, or baggy lungs. He is just dying.  He’s confused on and off. His spine is failing so he can barely walk. He has repeated blood clots. And he’s recently risen out of a deep depression. Rison right into a confused grandiosity, full awkward, awkward like pants ripping when you bend over type of awkward, and inter-galactic soaring thought content.

The first “word” Dad played in Scrabble last week was “vl.” He explained, “vl, like vowel.” …Okay? For thirty minutes Dad played without playing one actual word. I started crying when he finally stopped connecting letters. The letters floated on the board like California will look after the “big earthquake” finally hits and it falls into the ocean. (We’ve all been waiting.) Now he tells me he called and spoke to Obama and Magic Johnson. Reference point. This is bizarre and out of his character.  He’s been delirious with waxing and waning level of consciousness for a month and a half. He’s dying. Sheez.

Living well while Dad dies is not easy. Would I use power to restore him to his healthy twelve-year old self, like Elli’s seventy-year old grandfather did, in “The Fourteenth Goldfish,” by Jennifer L. Holm? Would I use power to change the order of death? Would I do anything more or less or different, while my dad is dying?

Power does not God make. I am not God. (Ta-da! It’s out of the box now.) But both of us are watching Dad die. I trust that She, with the power, wisdom, love, and altruism, is living with him well, during this time.

In Life and Other Near-Death Experiences, by Camille Pagán, Libby Miller decides to live, just live, rather than die perfectly.  And maybe that’s my answer to this unasked question. Living with someone dying will not be perfect for me.

Self-Care Tip: Live imperfectly to live well, like this is your, his, or her last day.

Question: How do you “live well?”

Keep on!

Blood, Sweat, and Imperfections – Mommy Don’t Look!

Naked and Voyer

Naked and Voyer

Blood soaked and layered with fallen governments, the Acropolis remains, a witness and teacher to a summer fling. 

A tour of the Acropolis and its new museum taught much. #1 – Never go on such travel without a tour guide. She made all the difference. Without her, I might have lasted for an hour, or an hour and a half. I would have thought, “Check! Did the Acropolis! Next?” With her, I felt like I couldn’t get enough. Four hours later. Evi was an intelligent, independent woman, making her way in the world, with the talent of putting ideas together. Another mentor to pick up along my life journey. #gratitude.

(I’m going to try to describe Athens, as seen by a psychiatrist. Smile.)

Evi integrated the paradigms at play, seamlessly, and in flow, from the 800’s B.C. to the 400’s A.D. She spoke about the mathematics involved in The Parthenon architecture, the classical culture seen in the architecture such as the emphasis on the human senses, the development of language and democracy, and more.

None of the construction of The Parthenon is “perfect.” The columns slant, and the stairs bow in their middle. All of this is done to capture the human senses. It was constructed so that when you stand at one corner, you can see almost the entire construct, like inflation of air rounds a balloon. When you look straight on, you are almost able to see entirely around the balloon’s girth. The architect sacrificed perfection toward the ultimate and most valued goals – to experience all the human senses to their fullest, and the classical construction. 

The Greeks developed the idea that whatever is created by man, (scantily garbed statues, architecture, ship making, etc…) should demonstrate, but not surpass the excellence of the human at his or her absolute best. Perfectionism smechsonism.

The kids were a bit horrified by the genitals everywhere. “That’s inappropriate!” or “Mommy, don’t look!” with a hand posturing the Stop! sign, improved my experience 10-fold. 

The Greeks in the 400 A.D.’s recognized the irony in the loveliness of human senses; sight, emotions, spirit, intellect, etc, integrated with the flaws. We are greater, in the best of our imperfect self, than the perfect, mathematical, or any other kind of perfection, eg., 1 + 1 = 2, in a perfect world. 

For example, by tilting the columns, the architect understood that it would give an illusion of straight columns, yet still capturing more of the circumference as seen by the individual. Straight would be perfect. Tilted but looking straight is more representative of a human at her best. Never perfect. And the illusion created by the tilted columns made the construct look shorter, thus not surpassing “the human” capacity to sense it’s grandeur. 

Also, the government ruler at the time, Pericles, was the first known leader to integrate a form of democracy. He used citizens and slaves for the labor. Yet he paid them, including the slaves! Furthermore, he gave them freedom in their work to form independent decisions, stating that someone who is told what to do, doesn’t learn anything. Someone who makes their own mistakes, has the opportunity to learn from his mistakes. This was the fulcrum which our civilizations turned on toward human rights and free thought. Pretty powerful.

The Greeks gave their alphabet to the world, from which Latin developed, and thereafter the Latin languages. For example, I never knew that “Agoraphobia,” comes from the location, named at the time, “Agora,” where all the debates were held, again, inspired by this ruler during the 400’s B.C., spurring on freedom of thinking. You can imagine what happened during heated debates. Some people would suffer anxiety in that context, which would deteriorate into a disabling fear of being humiliated by another potential panic attack when in public places.

The priests of the Greek gods served also as their community’s medical practitioners. For example, they used snake venom to both treat headaches and prophylactic against strokes. It turns out that snake venom is an anticoagulant. Totally brilliant. Snake venom in Greek, is called, “physika”, which means “venom.” The caduceus, a symbol that we still use for the physician’s medical practice, shows a snake wrapped around a staff. Later Aristotle used “physika” to name his treaty on nature and the work evolved into “physician.” Way cool. 

The self-care tip: Work your damndest, while embracing and integrating your imperfections along the way, and in this Grecian effort, you will gain the greatest sensorial experience with the world around you, the individual beside you, and your own self.

Question: 1. How do your imperfections enhance your best self? Please tell us your story!

The Perfect Doctor – Healthy With Disease

looking

One of the difficulties we have in talking to psych patients is realized with the dawning truth that we are not curing anyone.  Working in those conditions of not curing, you both, patient and psychiatrist, have to come to terms with each others’ agendas.  The physician says, “(‘I’m a failure.’)  I can’t cure anything.”  Now eye contact is even tough.

“If I don’t look them in the eye, some other emotion will surface and they’ll stop crying.”

Rachel was crying and crying hot and hard in the emergency room.  She was unable to stop the lava flow.  It was bewildering to her.  The people around her shifted their gazes.  Those who didn’t, looked angry instead, as if to say, “Pull yourself together, Woman!”

Psychiatrists have the advantage perhaps to these others in the lobby and receiving rooms and gurney shelves. Supposedly psychiatrists can grip and tug at the corner of the large sweater that is human behavior and say, “Emotions and behaviors come from the brain.”  They can imagine, if not entirely believing at a visceral to cognitive level, that the person they observe is responding to symptoms of what is happening biologically, at a cellular level. When they are tempted to avert their eyes, or look back impatient with the messy emotions, they can say, “This is medical.”  Impatience with emotional chaos from psychiatrist to patient, is equivalent to the ER doc saying to the trauma patient, “How dare you bleed in a public area?”

When someone cries on the medical unit, you may hear, “Nurse! Call the psychiatrist! There’s an emotion on the ward!” Later when things are calm, I walk out and they say, “Doctor!  You’re amazing!  What did you do?”

“Well, I bit off the head of chicken and sacrificed a goat on the patient’s chest.  Then I said, take this pill and everything will be as it should.”

Luckily I have several chins now, and when I gesticulate, their quiver contributes to me looking very capable. As if I could cure something.  I don’t know much about art history but, The Thinker, a bronze sculpture by Auguste Rodin, is probably what that Frenchman’s psychiatrist looked like when they both came to terms with the fact that psychiatrists don’t cure anything. (Heresy.) At least he got to get nude while he did it.

Talking to psychiatric patients can be that difficult.

There are studies on patient satisfaction that demonstrate that patients don’t like us when they think we give them bad news.

You see the predicament here, don’t you? So, some of the difficulty the world at large may be having with talking to psychiatric patients is that we have distorted perceptions of good and bad news. We may have difficulty with our own humanity, frailty, infirmity, and seeing it out there “without a scarf on” for decency, is a hard reminder.

We will never be cured of so many things. All of us. And the best we can hope for…

What is the best we can hope for?

(We are all gluttons and all hope for many unpublishable things but please! Just humor me.)

Say: “I hope to be healthy with disease.” There. Now we will all speak better to each other. It all starts and ends with Me.

Questions: Have you ever had difficulty talking to a psychiatric patient? Have others had difficulty speaking with you? Why do you think that is? What could help? Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip: Hope to be healthy with disease. 

(I bet Carl D’Agostino could make an excellent cartoon with this rich irony to work with! That’s right Carl! You heard me! Maybe a blue ribbon with a hole in it?… Ah heck. I’m sticking with practicing psychiatry and leaving the toons to you!)

More on Life-ers. (Those darn perdy dandelions.)

Taraxacum, seeds detail 2.jpg

Image via Wikipedia

I had an interesting comment a couple of days ago on the concept of Life-ers.

If you have a weed in your garden, you pull it.  If there’s something wrong in your life, you don’t fall in love with it.  You get to weeding.

However, there are Life-ers that are both weeds to pull and weeds to just plain garden I reckon.

We here at FriendtoYourself.com, got one of the most practical life examples of a Life-er.  It is both one that can be weeded and one that cannot.  Emily said in response to blog-post, One Woman’s Struggle,

…I have been a self-identified compulsive overeater (or binge eater) since I was a child. It has always loomed large (pun intended) in my life. I have successfully dieted and lost 30-40 pounds at a time, and then I’ve gained everything back — with interest. It has been my obsession and my bete noir.

Eight years ago, out of pure desperation, I went to a Overeaters Anonymous meeting. I didn’t necessarily like it at first, but I recognized my problem as an addiction. If you hold my experience up next to an alcoholic’s, there is no difference. I struggled a long time with the program, but today I am living what OA calls an abstinent life. My definition of abstinence is three reasonable meals a day with nothing in between. I am shrinking to a healthy body weight.

I have also developed my spiritual side and my relationship with my higher power (that I get to define) is what makes it possible to eat like a normal person. My obsession has been lifted, one day at a time. Like an alcoholic, this is not something I can do on my own.  This is supported by about 25 years of data.

I am experiencing freedom I couldn’t even imagine walking in the doors of my first meeting — freedom from fat, freedom from compulsion, openness to change and growth and a life that is no longer nearly as self-centered.

Sana, you asked if it helps to think of it as an addiction — for me, it’s not an analogy; it IS an addiction. I use the Big Book for the solution. My recovery is just like that in any other program.  And it’s the ONLY thing that made a difference — not just for me, but for the dozens of people I share OA with. I hope this is something health professionals will understand one day. OA is an underutilized tool, and I think that could change with better understanding and guidance.

Thank  you Emily for your story.  I haven’t been able to get you out of my mind.

Addictions is a weed we could more often agree is a Life-er.  That is not to say there are not those of us who think that they can yank and be done with, but the general consensus in medicine is that addictions are Life-ers.

There are other Life-ers besides addictions.  Recurrent major depressive disorder, treatment resistant major depressive disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, okay – a gazillion other medical illnesses that will not be eradicated by weed killer or a gloved garden-grip.  There are also non-medical Life-ers, such as poverty, natural or unnatural disaster, stigma and so forth.  We could even use the biopsychosocial model to catalogue them if we wanted.

One of the things that intuitively sits poorly about Life-ers in our culture and communities is the perceived helplessness that can soil it.  However, we are not implying helplessness at all.  The opposite in fact. Just as this courageous Emily described, when we take care of ourselves, when we befriend ourselves, we take accountability for where we are now, our yards improve neighborhoods.  We have more freedom and choice.

For the world out there who is scared to garden over the long term, let’s get over ourselves.  What we are growing is worth the space we occupy and of high value.  You may never know it but we are and have bank to show for it.

Questions:  What is your response to those who call your Life-ers weeds to pull?  What are some examples of Life-ers you have fallen in love with and how did you? How do you get away from perfectionism? Please tell us your story.

Connecting to Celebrate

Really Big Pumpkin

Really Big Pumpkin (Photo credit: alansheaven)

Hello friends.

I’m just back from two weeks of travel through four states involving lots of family, too much food and the large Iowa State Fair experience.

I spilled yellow mustard on my new clothes.  Mustard stains.

In both Iowa and Missouri, I had the honor and pleasure of conducting two workshops on being a friend to yourself.  They were well received and seemed to be considered a message most in attendance hadn’t previously considered.  I was and am really grateful to be a part of this.

I said some inappropriate things as I look back.

In Iowa approximately 45 of us processed being a friend to yourself specifically as related to “Sleep.”

In Missouri about 30 of us kept it more general, covering the foundational concepts of using the tools: Simplicity, Starting and ending with Me, Using our freedom to choose more deliberately, and Working for Me as responsibly as working to earn money at our day job.

In Iowa, the workshop was recorded, but I regret that in Missouri I forgot.  My Toastmaster friends are more awake now I am sure.  I have yet to get a hold of the video to view and critique but am hoping it will surface soon.

I am eager to see my dog now, who has been boarded at the fine Dogtopia of Temecula.  This is the first time we’ve ever boarded an animal.  The threat of repeating history of his escape from our property when we are gone has influenced our choice.  I can’t wait to see how he is.

This is a little of what I’ve been doing lately including imperfect behaviors.  Connecting with you is a way of celebrating.  Thank you.

How bout you?  Please tell us your story.

Keep on.

Paging A Testimony! Will A Testimony Please Call Back?

Swearing in 06
I ask five Questions 1.2.3.4.5.  
Will you give your testimony?

Q1:  What does being “a friend to yourself” mean to you in real-time life practice?

A1:

Q2:  What helps you do this at one time vs. another?

A2:

Q3:  What still hinders your efforts?

A3:

Q4:  What has pushed you past those barriers?

A4:

Lastly.

Q5:  How do you understand the interplay between biology and choice in being “a friend to yourself?”

A5:

P.S. – I had a hard time finding a picture for this!  I have no idea about who’s who and it took forever to find something that I think won’t trigger any political uprising amongst you fine readers…  But… if I didn’t, please don’t take me to the stand! (Bad humor wink.)

Finding What Perfectionism Can Offer Our Self-Care – In Summary

Gold star forehead

Image by cheerytomato via Flickr

We managed to run a series on perfectionism without even knowing it was happening.  Pretty cool.  Perfect?  No.

  1. Lady Gaga – Born This Way
  2. Try, Knowing We Will Fail
  3. Loving Me Without Ambivalence
  4. Codependent

Your comments have added to our momentum and interest.  Here are a few from a range of thoughts and opinions:

Jasmine said,

…there’s a fine line between accepting yourself for who you really are and not just who you would like to be…

Patricia didn’t mince words,

I don’t like the word fail as it implies failure which is defeatist. Lots of times I try something and have less success than I would like but that is not failing. It is learning, if only learning what doesn’t work or what not to do again.

I don’t think I would try anything if I knew I was going to fail!

Paula tells us that in her quest toward being perfect she has suffered,

…considerable self-flagellation over the years. i still bear the scars.

Sarah, our literarian, grammarian and editor, channels Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird:

“…I wanted you to see what real courage is…. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win but sometimes you do.”

Marie, who used to be “Livingsuicidal.com,” is now, “Livingvictorious.com” – whoo-ah!  She tells us in her usual courageous style,

Although rationally I know I can’t be perfect, emotionally (I) can’t stop pursuing (perfectionism)…

Carl, strong Carl who shares his weaknesses knowing they don’t have anything to do with weakening him, tells us to,

define the difference between co-dependency and partnership and that the two terms are not interchangeable.

And so I ask you to tell me more because you always say it so well.  Perfectly?  No.

It would be wonderful to hear from the rest of you too!  Speak out!  Connect and lead us into our summary.  Perfectly?  No.

Implications:

  1. Lady Gaga via biology.  How do you understand your biology to be influencing your view of perfectionism?
  2. Our efforts on volition/control.  What is it in regards to your self-grace, (i.e. forgiveness and allowance for ourselves?)
  3. Ambivalence on progress v. limitations and flaws.  How is this conflict affecting you?
  4. Perfectionism on pathologically depending on the opinion of others to qualify us.  Some people call this, “codependence.”  How do you qualify yourself?

Self-Care Tip #276 – Let good come from your propensity to crave perfection.  It can.