A Letter to My Therapist

(Thank you SaferBrand for illustrating growth. I think I’m in the flowering stage, and looking forward to ripening…)

18 years together–long enough to raise me and send me out into the world.

In this time you, my therapist, my hero, have taught me what I can hold onto and what I must release.

Starting in February 2001 with the death of the mother I’d always tried to please, in one session a month you led me through the minefield. You helped me learn to navigate when she had her lawyer send me pre-packed boxes of her possessions with cruel sticky-notes on the backs. I had ruined her chances of relationships with my children. I had made her unable to display the photos of my children. I had I had I had. I Had Disappointed.

Never in her notes, (dated and initialed), did she mention the anger and bitterness she spewed onto my children that last time she saw them. Never did she say she could have done things differently. Never did she mention the crazy note she put in Corinne’s 16th birthday present telling her not to believe what others said about her–two of the three she mentioned having been dead for some years.

Never did she say she was sorry. Never did she thank me for the years I’d continued to try to be in her life after her other two children had left it because they couldn’t handle her altered version of their reality.

And you, my steady, guiding therapist, walked me through that. All the emotions, all the self-hatred, all the raw pain.

You helped me learn to be a mom. My kids were mostly grown, but there was so much for me to learn: how to not take things personally, how to follow my own instincts when responding to the highs and lows of the rollercoaster that was life, both mine and theirs. How to not simply buy into the highest volume reaction in the house but to follow my own heart. I did this often poorly, but something you helped me learn caused my children to be extremely forgiving as I’ve apologized every time I realize the next big thing I got wrong.

In my struggle to hold tightly to my marriage I was teaching my children terrible lessons. That my stubbornness couldn't change the essential skeleton of this decades-long union, and sometimes choosing to call time of death is the most… Click To Tweet

In the teen years of our relationship you helped me see the truth of my marriage–that the bad had far overtaken the good, and I was living the definition of crazy by trying the same things over and over and over again with the same result. That my stubbornness couldn’t change the essential skeleton of this decades-long union. That in this struggle to hold on I was teaching my children terrible lessons. That sometimes choosing to call time of death is the most grownup decision you can make.

You’ve taught me to hold onto myself, always. To hold onto who I am in this world, and that it matters I am IN this world. That my way of loving and supporting and being available is a valid and valuable way, no matter what I’ve been told otherwise. You’ve taught me to pursue the knowing of who I am, to let go and be me, even though those who should have loved me best couldn’t. Even though those who should have known me best didn’t. You’ve shown me that God and I have the closest view of my heart even when others called me Disappointing and a Failure and Unloving and Unsupportive. You’ve helped me see those are not words that define me. You’ve taught me that I can let go of those Lies In My Bones.

You've helped me let go of what I could never really hold onto–making another person happy. And you've taught me to hold onto what I can–the growing of myself. Click To Tweet

I’m a work in progress. An imperfectly perfect me. Over these past 18 years you’ve helped me let go of what I could never really hold onto–making another person happy. And you’ve taught me to hold onto what I can–the growing of myself. I’m headed the right direction now.

To say thank you seems hollow. How can those two words express even a small percentage of the gratitude I have for literally giving me the will to live? For teaching me to appreciate who I am? To open my tightly clenched hand and release the control I never owned? To keep the bitter words of others from piercing my tender heart?

I was drowning and you saved me. I am eternally grateful.

With love,

-julie

5 Easy Steps to People Pleasing

Image by Pixabay

There are few character traits I have perfected in my lifetime–I’m still working on becoming perfectly loving, perfectly full of grace, or even perfectly honest. But people pleasing? I’ve worked on this one for many years to good success, I believe. 

Following are some of my most useful tools in pursuit of People Pleasing:

1- Think white Wonder Bread, or saltless saltine crackers. Work to achieve this level of blandness of opinion. Any food you might find palatable when suffering from a tummy bug, model your shared thoughts after these, for strong opinions are your enemy.

2- Learn to appear fascinated by the viewpoints of others, even if they are giving a detailed account of their bowel habits. This can be achieved by gentle head nodding and the occasional “Ah–” or “Mm” even if you are actually trying to guesstimate the length of that rogue nose hair of theirs rather than listening to their words.

3- Always laugh appreciatively at the jokes of others. You needn’t actually find them amusing. The teller will find you a person of rare intelligence, especially if even the joke teller knows it made absolutely no sense and in addition was in very poor taste.

4- Always defer to the other person’s tastes. This applies to anything you might do together. If you hate hamburgers, be willing to go to any beef-based franchise. This especially applies to vegetarian People Pleasers. Practice phrases like “Oh, I can always find something to eat.” Hate Tolkien? Prepare to embrace the extended versions of all of the Lord of the Rings movies, and the relentless repeated watching of aforementioned movies. Learn to do mental Sudoku or redecorating to survive said hours of “entertainment.”

5- If the other person prefers to be the only person with feelings, never let them know you’re having a down day. Keep the muscle memory of that forced smile front and center at all times. If they prefer you dependent, consider adding “What do you think?” to the end of every sentence. In restaurants this looks like, “I’m thinking of getting the Asian Salad–what do you think?” If deciding what movie to watch, “I’d love to see a comedy tonight–what do you think?” This gets trickier when pondering decisions like how quickly you need a toilet, so Your Mileage May Vary.

*These techniques are most effective with those who feel theirs is the Only and Superior opinion in town. Should you be dealing with a person who prefers people with an actual spine, these People-Pleasing Practices may simply cause blank stares and yawning, so choose wisely when to use them.

The not-so-funny truth of being a People-Pleaser is that it can wilt your soul, like that celery I feel compelled to buy but never eat, and if not caught in time, your soul will become like that celery–spongy, brown and smelly.

I consider myself a Recovering People-Pleaser. This is a process best practiced with people who love you and give an actual crap about your feelings and opinions. Safe people.

If you would like to join the society of Recovering People-Pleasers, go gently with yourself. Your skin is likely easily bruised and tender, but it will toughen with use. And it’s worth walking away from the People-Pleasing life. You’ll thank yourself for it–I know I have.

The Bring Your Own Beverage Conversation: If you are a People Pleaser, what drives that for you? How do you feel when you stop expressing your feelings? Is there someone you trust who you could try being honest with?

 

YOU HAVE WORTH, YOUR IDEAS AND OPINIONS AND FEELINGS HAVE WORTH. DARE TO SHARE.

Full Disclosure: I’m a Christian and I haven’t forgiven everyone who’s hurt me.

Photo by Pablo Varela on Unsplash

Are you horrified?

Picture this: I’m 9. I have my dolls in front of me, Margot, the dark haired one in my right hand, Cisette, the blond, in my left. I’m kneeling on the braided rug in the living room, my two dolls having a conversation. I’m deep in my imagination and deciding what they should wear to go to their friend Jill’s party.

My father comes quietly up behind me. I don’t realize he’s kneeling on the floor until he sticks his hands up my blouse and rubs my nipples. His daughter’s nipples. Who’s 9. My shoulders hunch and I turn around and say “No” and move away from him. He gets up, never saying a word, and leaves. I feel sick. I carry this secret in shame until I meet the man I will marry. In all our fervent sharing of our 22 year old histories, I share this. He acts understanding. I feel some relief, and a tiny bit of shame falls off like dead petals from a rose.

Several years later, I’m a young married mom of my husband’s daughter, whom I love more than I thought I could love anyone. I’m a marginal cook, a worse bathroom cleaner, but I’m trying to learn. The husband I once shared my deepest, darkest, most shame-filled secret with sneaks up behind me. He reaches around me, touches my nipples through my t-shirt. I turn, the rush of shame covers me and confuses my brain. He does an “I’m so funny!” face and backs away. “You know I don’t like that!” I say. “Oh, you know I’m just teasing,” he says, and laughs. I feel confused: am I overreacting if he says he’s “just teasing”? Is it okay that my body is now flooding with the shame of that 9 year old girl I once was whose father who was supposed to love her and protect her but has instead invaded her sense of safety? Over the years I shove down the emotions that say “No! It’s not okay!” and try to learn to brush off the sensation that pumps adrenalin fear through me. I am supposed to trust my husband, right? I must misunderstand him, I must be wrong.

Even now as I write this, my shoulders hunch protectively, and I brush my hands across my breasts to wipe away the creepy sensation the memory evokes.

I am now safe. I learned I was in charge of my own safety, and that it’s okay to say “I don’t like that. Don’t do it.” And that if those who are supposed to love you keep doing it time after time no matter what you say, it’s okay to leave that situation. And five years ago I did that. I ran when I was afraid enough of his bullying and intimidation to put my  safety into the hands of someone who was finally listening–me.

These wounds remain as long as they're continually poked at with a stick by someone who is supposed to love you. Or by any ol' asshole. Click To Tweet

These wounds remain like third degree burns as long as they’re continually poked at with a stick by someone who is supposed to love you “like Christ loves the church.” Or by any ol’ asshole. I allowed that–I allowed my oozing, bleeding wounds to be stirred so they couldn’t heal. For serious decades. And that was my bad.

I must forgive, you say?

Please feel free to whisper that into the ear of the small child playing dolls in her living room, thinking she’s safe inside her home. Forgive him so he doesn’t take up space in your head, you say? Tell that to the young mom who has to experience the “I am unsafe” fight/flight/freeze adrenalin every time she’s touched again that way–go ahead, whisper that in her ear while she’s learning that even in her marriage her words, her feelings, her thoughts don’t matter. After all, he’s “just teasing.” Please, go ahead, recite a bible verse to her while every cell in her body is terrified as if she’s being chased by a bear. Go ahead.

Forgiveness? I keep that in my head–it will come. I won’t forgive as if it’s okay that either one of those men did that. I will forgive because I need my heart to stop pounding with the memories. I will forgive because it hurts to hold my breath that hard.

I will forgive so those men can no longer hurt me by the memories. But it’s a process. Know that.

I am changed forever in my trust of men, of anyone who claims to love me, because of those two. The adrenalin rushes, my thoughts scramble. How do I trust those words?

I’m working toward a sense of freedom in forgiveness. I’ve been slowly thawing and healing. But the thawing comes with great pain–as your toes burn when warming from being in freezing cold for too long, my heart, my gut, my chest, every part of me feels the burn as I slowly warm. I cry. I cuss. I get angry. I grieve.

I want to forgive, and I will. But I’m not there yet. And just because I know I want to doesn’t mean I can turn a page and Presto! be free.

* Immense thanks to the many people of Twitter who have become a healing place. Who can relate to the pain, to the burn of the thawing. To the cascade of memories as I thaw, to the cascade of realizations, the anger I feel toward myself and others. I want to especially thank Jennifer Michelle Greenberg @JennMGreenberg for a conversation we had today. She gets it. She’s been there, and she’s writing a book about it. She’s a safe place in what is a very scary world for the frightened child in me. 

The Bring Your Own Beverage Conversation: Are you a survivor? #MeToo #ChurchToo #IHaventToldAnyoneToo? Give yourself a hug and a break. Tell your story to someone. Start the healing, and then continue it. Are you someone who wants to preach to those in process? Don’t. Ask how they are, let them cry, and listen. Be a safe place. Be part of the healing, not part of the shame.

Are you someone who wants to preach to those in process? Don't. Ask how they are, let them cry and listen. Be a safe place. Be part of the healing, not part of the shame. Click To Tweet

Full Disclosure: I Hate My Cankles.

DECADES BEFORE a Kardashian talked about cankles, I was cursing my mother’s side of the family for them. Some people missed the handing out of a sense of humor, but me, I missed the receipt of that trim bony bit that is supposed to occur between feet and calves.

Recently I heard the term Body-Positive. Having been staunchly Body Negative my entire life, the term intrigued me. I even told my friend’s daughter that she should have a Body-Positive Instagram account because she carries extra weight her doctor thinks she should lose, but this girl seriously rocks her curves. I have no idea what a Body-Positive Instagram account would even look like–pictures of women outside the “norm” (otherwise known as “the body I have always wished I had but not enough to give up ice cream for”) and maybe some cheery little encouraging memes with flowers missing a few petals or a butterfly with a wonky wing….?

I poked around the internet a bit to see what’s being said about the term. I found pretty much what I expected to–websites urging us to see the beauty of who we are and what we look like, challenging women to stop measuring against what social media decides is Right and Perfect. Most women I know have at some point chosen to either suffer to live to those standards or to embrace their own style, their own shape, their own uniqueness.

Because I’m a Jesus follower I like to see what’s being said in that culture as well. This time I was disappointed to see the Body-Positive idea being made out to be idolatry, as if being Yay, I’m Cool With My Body translates to I Love My Body More Than God. May I  politely say, “Rubbish”?

While I may have been the last child in Sunday School left sitting with my nose and mouth scrunched trying to find the verse during one of those, what were they called? “Sword Drills”? I do remember that my bible says I’m to love my neighbor as myself. It also says I’m not to judge others. Even with my faulty grasp of math those seem to add up to not judging myself.

Like this:

Love others like I love myself + Don’t judge others = Don’t Judge Myself.

Sadly this means I will need to find a new hobby, since I excel at self-judgment. (If you need references I can readily supply the numbers of several friends and my therapist.)

What I’m learning as I go is that I Have Imperfections. Not only physical but character-wise. (Please feel free to !!GASP!! in disbelief. Thank you.) The problem isn’t the imperfections themselves as much as it is my unwillingness to accept them, apologize when they’ve hurt someone I care about, and learn to do things differently as a result. I can get stuck for days in the self-blame mire of “I can’t believe I’m such a horrible person!” and waste precious time and energy beating myself up. Better I should say, “Yup, you’re human. How about that,” get up, brush the dirt from my hands, wipe my skinned knees, and look around for anyone I might need to say sorry to that I knocked down in my flailing. Accept. Apologize. Learn. Sounds simple, takes practice.

All that said, if I do decide to make an idol of myself, I WILL have my cankles edited out in the statue version. I appreciate immeasurably the strength of my bones, I accept the shape thereof,  but I’m never gonna love my cankles.

 

The Bring Your Own Beverage Conversation: What do you need to learn to accept and appreciate about your own imperfections, in the physical or character trait realms?

 

 

Failing

 

I failed spectacularly in the earlier portion of my life.

In marriage. In Adult-ing. In having two boundaries to rub together.

My kids love me (and forgive me) for which I am grateful, so I don’t feel I failed entirely in Mom-ing. They’ve seen me grow and change and get stronger. They’ve seen me become more honest and less fearful.

FAILING has taught me much: after tripping and launching headfirst into a tightly closed door in the dark of night with nobody else around, I can still take care of myself–or at least call 911 so somebody else can come check to make sure I’m not dead. It has taught me that the Clarity following failure often comes at the cost of comfort. That stability should mean more than owning a three bedroom home in the ‘burbs with someone who challenges my emotional health. That when it’s time to go, it’s time to go, no matter what the well-meaning misinformed may say.

Failure has taught me much: that the Clarity following failure often comes at the cost of comfort Click To Tweet

I’m in this strange new place with new and different challenges, but these challenges are more of the regular variety of life–where will I live, how involved will I be with what and who…it’s the unfolding of a previously unknown world, one not determined by who I am as a mom or a wife or any other role. It’s determined simply by Who I Am.

I LOVED being a step/foster/adoptive/birth mom, more than I ever thought I would. Heck, with what I saw of my own family growing up, I had no plans of even getting married. Somewhere along the line it occurred to me that I could do things differently than my parents. That was my intention when I did fall in love and want to get married, to do things differently (and hopefully better) than the home where I grew up. I did manage to put my own spin on it–instead of my mother’s often cold disregard and her demand for obedience at the price of our individual identities, I instituted a total lack of boundaries, and added way more crying. Not a vast improvement.

FAILING HAS TAUGHT ME ABOUT GETTING BACK UP…whether from the floor where I’ve fainted after bashing my head or from a whole lot of years of marriage with no fairy tale ending. My response to danger has always been more of a crawl-under-your-desk-and-cover-your-head  one. As a child, I’d hide by reading in the closet or by running off to the swings at the park.  As an adult, by losing myself in a movie, an art project, a book, or a nap. But now, in this after 60 part of my life and with the help of my Favorite Mental Health Provider (my therapist) I’m learning how to stand back up, stretch out the pain, and pinpoint what I tripped over so I don’t repeat the same Learning Moment. Now when I cry it isn’t because I keep stubbing the same toe on the same chair leg, I cry because being fully aware is often hard, letting go of old habits can be painful.

Big Realizations that are the impetus for change aren’t always the most pleasant, but they can be necessary to keep us moving forward.

I turned 65 on Sunday–sixty freakin’ five! These numbers always surprise me, because surely my 30 year old son was a toddler only yesterday, and I myself but a young thing. I used to think I would know more about life by this time, but all those years of hiding under my desk from the Truth of things kept me from learning. Now I’m catching up, and I’m okay with that.

I stayed down for years, broken by the trauma of my childhood, and by allowing others to keep the trauma alive. How? By not standing up for myself, by thinking that crouching under a desk with my arms over my head was enough protection from a nuclear event. That move wasn’t  going to protect us from the fallout of bombs, and it certainly did little for me in my adult years against other kinds of fallout. So as I examine the ineffective maneuvers of my past, I’m learning to mourn those mistakes and failings, give them a decent burial, and keep walking forward. The Walking Forward represents two things to me: Self-compassion, by learning kindness and forgiveness for my mistakes and shortcomings, and the Growth that comes each time I manage to get back up from falling.

When I hid, I couldn’t learn. I couldn’t be kind to myself. I was far too busy fixating on how to stay hidden.

How I’m practicing the change to stand back up: Realizing the ways my early trauma affected my parenting, I’ve felt horrified with myself. Being well-trained in the art of Self-Judgment (I have framed certificates for it) the realization can easily turn into panic, anxiety and depression. So I pause for two minutes or twenty minutes, however long it takes, to close my eyes and breathe slow and deep until I’m calmer. I visualize letting the feelings of sadness/regret/etc. wash over me without sticking. At some point I bring up my new insight with my kids and apologize for what I now know impacted them negatively as children…

…and then I keep walking forward.

Big Realizations that are the impetus for change aren't always the most pleasant, but they can be necessary to keep us moving forward. Click To Tweet

The Bring Your Own Beverage Conversation: Have there been places in your life where it seemed safer to hide from what was true than to face it? What plan can you make to practice self-compassion and growth around these?

WE ARE MORE THAN WORTH THE KINDNESS WE GIVE TO OTHERS. You’d help a friend get back up, wouldn’t you?

On Tools.

I don’t know why I do it to myself. I really don’t.

I think I picture myself knitting contentedly, perhaps even humming, using those impossibly small toothpick-sized needles on itsy-bitsy yarn that’s spooling out away from me into a fully completed sweater.

So I buy tiny needles and wonderful yarn, and maybe even a pattern I have fooled myself into believing I will be able to finish.

Then at home I realize the truth–I have to actually count stitches or some other stupid thing that requires actual concentration,  and I can’t watch the Big Bang Theory at the same time, so I’ll be forced to do something like listen to a podcast or music which I love unless I am forced to do so.

My ex-sister-in-law knits like the wind–without looking. How is this possible? She can watch tv and carry on a conversation while simultaneously knitting some intricate sock pattern. I am not similarly gifted. I learned to knit in my 3rd grade class for a charity project–using sharpened yellow number 2 pencils. Given the fact that I would now be in something like  a hundred and forty-twelfth grade, I should be able to churn out garments for a family of elephants in a week and a half, two weeks tops, right? But no. Number of years times amount of yarn purchased does not equal greater skill.

Even if I only make scarves and hats and more scarves for the rest of my knitting life, I have at least learned that better equipment equals better results–such as real knitting needles without graphite tips to smudge the yarn.

Stress happens. In the past several years I’ve learned about a gazillion more healthy ways to deal with stress than I used to know, back in the days of sharpened pencil knitting. Back then I hid from what scared me. Back then I tried to soothe people who needed to learn to soothe themselves. Back then I thought I could make other people happy if I just did FILL IN THE BLANK  right.  These anti-skills and more filled up my body with Triggery Badness and physical illness.

Once I knew enough to realize what wasn’t working, I knew I needed to pick up some new tools, learn to count some stitches even. The new skills are not perfected, but I’m so thankful for the improved tools I’ve learned to use to cope with fear, stress, disappointment, grief….yunno, LIFE.

I didn’t know I could ever feel this calm, this clear. I’m not sure that on my worst days I would have believed a day would come where I’d look forward to my future.

I don’t understand why people who would never accuse a person struggling with cancer of being weak-willed will judge a person who struggles with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD or an addiction as being weak and defective. It’s all health. If you struggle with mental/emotional health, ignore the naysayers and run far away from those who would use your struggles as a weapon against you.

It takes strength to recognize when our tools are not adequate to the job. Writing implements got the job done for my first knitting project, just like hiding from angry people used to “work.” (In other words, not well.) Getting help to improve any skill set takes commitment. As journeyers In Pursuit of Mental Health, how do strength and commitment make us the crazy ones?

The Bring Your Own Beverage Conversation: What hobbies and jobs have you put time and commitment into learning? How would your life improve if you put that kind of effort into some area of your mental/emotional health? 

 

 

 

Daring to have a need, and wilder yet, meeting it!

I’ve been writing in my head all morning. Writing essays about my frailties and how my past impacts my present in the way I think, about how I’m trying to change those thoughts. About how easily the old thoughts come.

All because I stepped in a hole.

It wasn’t a large hole, just an ordinary,  dog’s-been-digging kind of hole. It was in the grass at the dog park, and not surprisingly I was looking at dogs instead of where my feet were landing. And so into the hole I went with my right foot as it scrunched in several unpleasant directions. And I’m down and staring at dirt. You know, just a typical Day In The Life sort of thing.

Out loud I say “I’m fine!” to the people nearby, and in my head I say you idiot, you’re so clumsy! If you weren’t so fat you wouldn’t be so clumsy and fall so easily! 

None of this is true. I’m NOT fine, I’m in pain, and I’d be clumsy at the weight of a four-year-old when I’m inattentive. This has been demonstrated over and over in my life while tripping up stairs, falling down stairs, tripping over curbs, etcetera etcetera etcetera. I see a dog, a baby, a cat in a window, a child laughing, think of a line for a poem, you name it, and I’m distracted by the sheer pleasure of the moment. My feet have not, however, been informed of this distraction, and they continue on their not-so-merry way.

That was yesterday. Today I awoke feeling sorry for myself while simultaneously beating myself up. I felt weepy. I’ve been trying so hard to get out and walk every day, trying to take care of myself in healthy ways. I’d rather administer self-care in the form of ice cream or watching movies, but Every Health Professional Ever says it’s better for me to take a walk.

My old thoughts came to haunt me: You’re just trying to get attention. It’s no big deal. People hurt themselves all the time, and much worse. This is just a silly little injury. Why are you such a whiny baby?

The Lie in this: I’ve let people speak hurtfully to me over the years, worse yet, I kinda believed them. Like about my Fibromyalgia. Or my depression. Or about the fact that it made me sad when they spoke to me with mean words. I’ve allowed myself to believe that I’m just trying to get attention when I speak up about my hurt. I’ve allowed myself to believe that it’s safer to numb out or disappear in some way rather than make a fuss.

The Truth about this: No matter the reason I’m hurt,  I need to take care of the wound properly to the best of my ability. There’s no shame in being physically/emotionally/spiritually injured, it’s up to us to see what we can do to improve the situation. Let me repeat that–I need to hear it again myself–there is no shame in being physically, emotionally or spiritually injured. Our job is to get the help we need to heal the wound. Sometimes a hot bath with Epsom Salts does the job. Sometimes we need to let a doctor check it out. Sometimes, depending on the severity of the wound, we may need 17 years (and still counting) of therapy with a Mental Health Professional who has our back. Wounds are all different, but they still boil down to being some part of us with an owie that needs healing.

Today I’m tossing as much of the old nonsense out of my head as possible. It’s only taken me half a day to work through the old crap that comes to visit when I Dare To Have A Need. Half a day is a vast improvement over what previously could have kept me trapped in indecision and self-blame and shame for days and weeks and longer, all while the wound worsened as I ignored it.

SO–in a couple of hours I’m seeing a doctor who has gone to school for years and years in order to understand ligaments and muscles and other such bodily thingies. They will know the best way to treat and heal my throbbing foot and ankle.

Now, who doesn’t love a good Action Point? (I do! I do!) Here are mine from today:

  1. Have your feelings. They’re gonna happen anyway.
  2. Recognize your wound. Pain tells us that something needs attention. Is the wound emotional in nature, or physical, or mental, or spiritual? In other words, don’t see a yoga instructor about a bleeding head wound.
  3. Make a plan for healing. This might only mean planning the first step, since until the injury is assessed you won’t know whether you need an orthopedic boot or 17 years of therapy.
  4. Live the rest of your day in a No-Shame, No-Blame kind of way, realizing that even if other people want you to feel Less-Than because you Dare To Have A Need, this is what Self Care looks like.

THE END. 

Talk amongst yourselves.

Conversations

I was sitting across from my mother at her kitchen table.

“B-but Mom,” I said quietly and quizzically, “you know what it was like to live there, we’ve talked about this…” I faded off.

We were talking about when my sister, brother and I were growing up in Portland and she was still married to our father. It seemed that again her version of the facts of that life had been altered in her mind.

“Mom, remember when we talked about how dad had touched me in a way he shouldn’t have? You know that. You know how much you guys fought? How crazy it was there?”

Somehow she could tell bitter stories of how awful our father’s behavior had been if it showed how badly she had been treated, but when it reflected badly on her as a mother who hadn’t protected us? Suddenly her words became wounded and sad and she would say “how could you say those things?”

Our dad had done much more to my sister from a young age, things my sister had tried to tell our mom for years. As an adult my sister confronted our mother about not protecting her, and suddenly Mom acted like it was all news to her.

I don’t bring this up to vilify my parents, though they surely could have made many better choices. I’m bringing it up for two reasons: the effect on relationship when we tell ourselves Lies about the facts staring us in the face, and the effect on a child’s psyche when they aren’t believed or protected.

What happened to any potential my sister and I had to have a healthy relationship with our mother who couldn’t face the truth of the facts of our childhood? Needing those Lies to uphold her view of herself as a parent meant there could never be any “Mistakes were made and I’m sorry for the pain you dealt with” conversations. Any opportunity for repairing the relationship was cut off before it could start.

As the mother of 4 grown children I’ve become more aware of how imperfectly I parented, how many needs I missed, how many times I was too wrapped up in my own misery to see that of my children. It happens. It’s the human factor. But being unwilling to admit it will only get in the way of relationship–we need to be willing to say “I didn’t realize” and “I’m sorry,” to keep dealings with each other clean.

And when a child isn’t heard, believed, or protected, apparently we can grow up to believe there is no safety in the world, and that we don’t have value, because if we did, wouldn’t we have been worth protecting? The great thing–it’s never too late to learn what are Lies and replace them with Truth.

What will I do for myself this week? I think I’ll remind myself as often as needed (plentiful still at 63) that there’s nobody else just like me, and simply because I’m on the planet I have worth.

The BringYourOwnBeverage conversation: For starters, my beverages of the day have been hot tea and hot chocolate. Sense the theme? I’M COLD! At this time of year with Christmas and New Year’s and the matching set of Samsonite luggage most of us generally bring into the season, what are you struggling with? What message of truth and kindness can you shower on yourself?

 

How did I become this person?

…this “dogs in a stroller” person? Here’s how.

Once upon a time it was 2002. You know, the 2002 that came after the world was supposed to end in 2000. That one. Finding ourselves still quite alive those two years later, and my job having been downsized, our family got Barnaby (the smaller dachshund on the right) and in 2003, Morris. These two pups were brighter of coloring and spryer of step back in the day, just as I was younger, spryer, and without a standing every-six-weeks hair coloring appointment. And then…time. Time went by.

I became this stroller-full-of-dogs pushing woman because time marches on and change and even frailty happens. The dogs wear out more easily, and I’m in less of a hurry (and possibly wear out more easily. Ahem.) So we three walk a while, then we sit a while. Then I push them a while, and we sit down a while. Walks with the dogs have become more of a process than they once were, 14 years back. They’re a different thing, not worse, not lesser, just different.

My sister and I used to laugh about the things we could remember from our twenties, for instance, “All thirty-nine of us!” and the things we’d forgotten–like, what joke was that a punchline to anyway? We’d talk about our childhood, and about how this child or that she had babysat was now married with kids, I’d debate when to let my hair go gray, and she, the older sister, would tell me that she Refused To Age Gracefully! Then suddenly she was gone at 62. Did not see that coming. And my life was different, lesser without her in it.

I could go on about embracing the new and the changes and the pain and the joy blah blah blah and yada yada. But if I’m honest, most of life we don’t really see coming. Some of the good things I didn’t see coming years ago? That at this point I’d be less fussed by what other people think of me. And that I’m a good enough friend and mom when I relax and am myself. That walking more slowly with old dogs means I see more of what’s around me.

The Lies are slowly losing their hold.

What will I do for myself today?  Breathe deeply. Today I’m calling that Good Enough.

The BringYourOwnBeverage conversation: What lies do you see losing hold in your life? What do you think of me color-coordinating my outfit with the dogs’? KIDDING!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The waambulance is on the way

I remember the first time I made a decision to do something for myself and my Fibromyalgia. “Self-care” my therapist called it. Giddily I took a nap with my new body pillow, a great way to be able to lay on my side but avoid the pain of pressure caused by my knees being one on top of the other, and the ache that came with no support for my upper arm and shoulder.

It sounds so simple, this kindness to myself. Somehow gravity had joined in the efforts of my Fibro to make even resting more painful, and I was feeling pretty sorry for myself.

Getting a pedicure had been my biggest idea previously for Self-Care, or buying higher quality dark chocolate. But doing something that would directly influence my constant companion in a positive way? This was a new thought! When Invisible even to yourself, it doesn’t come naturally to pay attention to your body enough to think that far. Especially if the main thing you’re feeling toward yourself comes with a big boo-boo lip.

I refuse to admit how many years I lived this way–ignoring my frailties (except for pouting), rather than working toward a nice cushy pillow between our knees. (Okay, decades. Close enough.) It turns out that when I started to See myself I realized how many areas need Self-Care besides  my toes. To name a few:

My Mental/Emotional self,

My Physical self,

My Spiritual self.

I tend to hang out in the Mental/Emotional party room, trying to pick up pointers on how to stay out of the way of oncoming trains, or to accept and love myself flaws and all, yet I need to work on the rest.

While I was perusing the interweb, I found a simple yet profound explanation of these areas on the University of Texas at Dallas student counseling site. I may not know the Texas Two Step, but at 62 I find I’m still a student at this whole life thing.

Here’s their introduction:

Self-care is a necessary and vital part of maintaining emotional, physical and spiritual well-being. It’s more than an occasional manicure or special treat. Self-care is a way of living each day incorporating behaviors that help you feel refreshed, replenish your motivation and help you grow as a person. Building reliable self-care habits now can affect your quality of life now and in the future.

A good way to start is to take an honest look at what you’re doing to manage every day stress. Are your close relationships and daily activities adding to your sense of overall stress? If so, take small, realistic steps toward change to help make a significant difference in your quality of life.

 

Like anything else it takes practice. Here’s the rest of the article listing ideas.

I will do this for myself today: while doing chores I don’t particularly want to do I’ll listen to an audiobook. (I love to read, so I’m thinking this will make the time pass more quickly and pleasantly. Then I won’t be super grumpy after. I hope. I’ll let you know.)

The BringYourOwnBeverage conversation: what area of your own life is the most difficult to practice self-care? What’s one small thing you could introduce to your day to deal with the stress of this area?