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:

Believe And Pursue Magic

Heart beat

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Believe and pursue Magic.

Eternity frightens me.  When I go to see what stone is in my shoe, that fear, I find the absence of lines.  I am afraid of living without boundaries, without the beginnings and endings that bring so much quality to our suffering lives.

Time is a line that comforts me.  It gives form to my experiences.  However, to give eternity a “go” means to, in this dimension, allow myself that a (possibly) vacuous shapeless Me will still be a Me that I can live with.  It is to believe and pursue Magic.

Today while reading The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, I tensed over the beauty of it. What a mastery of language the author had.  How I wish to have enough time to carve a work like that out of my life.  But the awareness of what I have done, what I have already chosen to spend my life on, scolds me.  My thoughts are slower than they were.  I am half used up.  My time is parceled and I know that if it happens, it won’t be enough to satisfy me.  My container will seal closed.

מנא ,מנא, תקל, ופרסין

Mene, Mene, Tekel u-Pharsin

Daniel at Belshazzar’s Feast

I never watched much TV but I remember a commercial about Tupperware.  The lid coming down on it and the corner lifting just enough to burp out the last bit of air, sealing it’s freshness.  I feel a lid closing.

My daughter, six years old has taken to grabbing my head and pressing my ear against her chest.

What do you hear, Mommy? 

Spoiled by medicine, I stupidly answer, 

Lub-dub, lub-dub.

Now my turn, she says.

I feel the pressure as she tries to hear.

Do you know what Love does?  Our lives are that something-of-value enclosed in plastic Tupperware – or Time you could say.

Our “Me,” surrounded by what seems to us undegradable Time, like plastic, comes down in waves of sunlight.  Layering us.  Containing us the moment we are conceived.  We walk the line of life toward the inevitable.

A Toad, can die of Light –
Death is the Common Right
Of Toads and Men –
Of Earl and Midge
The privilege –
Why swagger, then?
The Gnat’s supremacy is large as Thine –

  –Emily Dickinson.

But my daughter is teaching me that all that I know, my perceived reality, is just happening inside that Tupperware.  And because of Love, this other “inevitable” becomes apparent.  Me connected to Love with no lines.  Magic.

Suddenly time folds and I am a little girl myself, riding bike like this,

Look!  No hands!

Love is Time-corrosive, I’ve come to understand.  The particles lift off of me and I am in that space that I started out by saying I feared.

The sound my daughter is looking for is the sound of Love.  Something that is stronger than what separates us.  And although it scares me still, I can now believe and pursue Magic.  I know I can trust that even without Time, the Me that brings me pleasure in part because of the boundaries that contain it, will bring me pleasure even when Time is gone.  I can trust Love.  Intentionally being held by Love, I can say with more confidence than before to my girl, I will never leave you.  Because of Love.

My ear against my daughter’s drumming heart, I answered,

I-love-you, I-love-you, –

…Finally.  Took you long enough. –  She didn’t say it.  She’s too good of a teacher to have to.

I’m less afraid.  And I like myself better believing in magic.  And I’m less hurried.

Question:  What would connect you if there were no Time?  How does that affect your friendship with yourself?  Please tell me your story.

Self-Care:  Believe and pursue Magic.

Life-ers – Our Beloved Flaws

Giovanni Baglione. Sacred Love Versus Profane ...

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Life-ers.  Our flaws that are ours for life.  Not a broken leg, not a bad haircut, life-ers last as long as our genetic code stays in tact.  I was talking with my beautiful eighteen year-old niece yesterday about loving our flaws.  The look she gave me was enough to say,

“Auntie Sana, you are the crazy auntie aren’t you?

Unfortunately, when people give me that look, despite the love in their eyes telling me to stop before I make things worse, I get set off to flap harder against the air trying to make them see how to fly.  My thoughts, like little ducklings with fluff for feathers, don’t always show what they will become when they are matured in discussion and practice.  So when my niece gave me her loving, “You are crazy,” look, I started talking faster, louder and my hands were doing the up and down thing.

I wanted her to know that she will love the people she wants to love better when she does that for herself.  When she loves her flaws, seeing them like a favorite rock she’s never been able to consistently climb or a piano sonata that she has practiced over years but still trips through and loves it even though she will never be its master – when she loves her imperfect self that much then she can love me.  She can love me better when she doesn’t hate her failing self.  I fail her and will for life.  She can love me as I am when she gives herself the same passion.  She can love me enough not to want me to stay this way, when she pushes herself, works herself and throws her energy against the barriers against her own growth – why? because she loves herself enough to do that.

My niece and I talked about God too.  God loves us completely now.  He doesn’t want us to become perfect before He loves us entirely.  He doesn’t love the parts of us that don’t let Him down only.  He doesn’t divide us up between good and bad cells, genes for heaven and genes for… well, not heaven.  God loves us passionately now.  Why in the world would we think He would want us to feel any differently about our own selves?  Wouldn’t that be pretty lame if God said,

“I feel this way about you, but don’t you go accepting your own flaws.  Only I can do that.  You had better hate your flaws and despise yourself for them until they go away.”

I was reading an amazing story accounted by The Itty Bitty Boomer, where we are given some of the inner scene of one woman’s flawed and perfect self, Carie, growing to love her life-ers just like you and me.  She tells us,

“Recovering from obesity is much like recovering from any addiction – the battle is never done or over.  Over the last 3 years I have regained 25 of the 90 pounds that I lost.  I could fall easily into blame and self-hatred and beat myself up for failing again … but I do not think I’ve failed. And the more I keep myself in that mindset … the easier it is for me to keep on track to dump the pounds picked up.”

Speak it!

Self-Care Tip – Love your life-er.  Have you given your life-er a hug today?  (Smile.)

Questions:  What are your life-ers?  Are you able to love them yet?

What do you think about a God who asks you to love yourself either differently than He does or as well as He does?  How do you see it?  Please tell us your story.

Why Psychiatry?

An American Lady butterfly against a cloud-fil...

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If we have ever seen a psychiatrist, then there has been some point in our lives when someone told us to go or we told ourselves.  I have some questions for you.

How did you hear about psychiatry?

What are your thoughts?

What did/do you understand?

Please tell me your story!

Self-Care Tip – Explore your connection with psychiatry.

Summarizing What You Say About Friendship With Yourself

Friendship

Image by Rickydavid via Flickr

In Summary:

Q1:  What does being “a friend to yourself” mean?

  • self-awareness
  • Acting on that self-awareness
  • Grieving who I wished I was
  • Valuing Me

Q2:  What helps?

  • Knowing where emotions and behaviors come from
  • No self-injury or aggression to others
  • Knowing God
  • Gratitude/self-inventory
  • Support from outside of Me
  • Personal check-points in place to offensively guard again self-sabotage

Q3:  What doesn’t help?

  • Perfectionism
  • Ingratitude
  • Untreated or treatment resistant brain illness
  • Stigma
  • misdirected efforts to feel empowered (such as, preoccupied thoughts = control)
  • isolation
  • habit

Q4:  What helps despite this?

  • Self-forgiveness
  • Realism/Without catastrophizing
  • Tenacity
  • Remembering what your self-care has done
  • Presence

Q5:  What is the relationship between biology and choice when it comes to understanding where emotions and behaviors come from?

  • Biological template determines function
  • Choice is there for using that template

Codependent,… Or Something?!

Inquisition condemned (Francisco de Goya).

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Codependent.

It’s a term a lot of people use but I don’t think we are all using it to mean the same thing.  It is poorly defined and confusing.  If codependency were a medication, we would call it a “dirty medicine,” because it hits so many “receptors.”  It is nonspecific.

Who hasn’t ever been shamed by the fear that they are codependent?

You are codependent! 

Am I codependent!!!??

The word implies blame.  Blame for what?  And that is one of the places we walk away without benefit.  Was the word useful to any of us in any way?

In general, vaguely, codependence implies awareness and participation with mal-behavior that we are powerless to.  Treatment preferably includes a twelve-step program that includes the surrender of what we don’t have power over to our Higher Power.  Codependence may incidentally be combined with brain disease and of course that would need medication therapy.

There are however a few things that must be cleared up.

  1. There is nothing shameful about being married, the child of or of any relation to an addict.  That position doesn’t diagnose us with codependency unless that’s what that word is being used to define.  You never know.
  2. There is no shame in wanting to be with people, depend on people, seek people out to problem-solve and get energy from being with people.  That position does not diagnose codependency unless that’s what the word is being used to define.  You never know.

However,

  1. There may be a relationship to family of addicts
  2. There may be a relationship to anger problems
  3. There may be a relationship to kids of parents who expected perfect kids, spouses of spouses who expect perfect spouses, pet-owners who… (Oh wait.  That’s not right.)

BUT, per Dr. Q, if we find ourselves…

  1. in recurring negativity – perhaps an argument that happens over and over
  2. with an increasingly limited ability to participate in life
  3. powerless
  4. doing things we wouldn’t normally do/out of character
  5. tied into someone else’s mal-behavior
  6. consciously aware of that someone’s mal-behavior

IT’S WORTH THINKING ABOUT IT.  We might not be codependent, whatever that means, but we do need help.

Questions:  How do you identify this in your life or someone you know?  How have you been able to stop being dependent on someone you knew was repeatedly doing mal-behavior?  Please tell me your story.

Self-Care Tip #275 – Forget the shame and just get about your work to figure this out.

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

The t-shirt

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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.