That voice in my head

It travels with me wherever I go; it is me, or at least it likes to think it is.  That voice in my head that is both me and a Judge/Jury/Critic of everything I do, or don’t do the way The Voice believes I should.  “You’re being lazy … think of all that you have to do.  The closets are a mess, there’s laundry to be done, you haven’t cleaned out your email inbox, and there you sit, sunk into the cushion of the lounge chair with a book in your hand, with all that you have to do going undone.  And can’t even write a measly 15 minutes a day.  Well, what good is it to aim for writing every day, anyway, given how poorly you write.  Is there anything you are good at?  Being lazy, it looks like to me.”

 Yes, that Voice.  Its incessant words are the background music to my life, stirring up a mix of anxiety always simmering, just waiting for the wrong word or red light or stressors to turn up the heat to boil.  I’m working on changing the words, turning down the volume, soothing its soul with compassion.  There’s enough anxiety waiting for me, I don’t need to create it for myself!
http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/source-of-anxiety/

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15 Minutes

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What can I do or say in 15 minutes that will interest you?  That will make my life memorable?  That will change the world?  Fifteen minutes is such a fleeting, easily wasted span of time.  I could … and too often do … flitter it away losing five Solitare games before I finally get the black and red cards in the right order and win.  Or checking my twitter account even when there’s no news breaking.  But 15 minutes — even less — is also all it takes to go from living a full, robust, influential life to death (Paul Walker’s five-minute spin around the block last week) or a woman to go from the pain of pushing to the joy of holding her warm, beautiful baby in her arms.  Fifteen minutes is the seemingly tiny amount of time I tell myself I can and should and WILL write each day.  Only I don’t.  

Use your 15 minutes wisely.  Be grateful for the minutes you’ve been granted.  And show compassion to yourself when you don’t accomplish all you had hoped to achieve.  Love yourself, fully and completely, and then love others in that very same way.  

Do one thing each day, even a small barely noticeable act, to make the world or the people in it just a little bit better.  Smile at the cashier, leave a 30% tip, hold the door for the slow-poke behind you, let the car that screwed up get in line in front of you, be patient with the annoying kid at the next table who isn’t letting you eat in peace, take a deep, full breath and appreciate life.  

Thank you for listening!


A Touch Goodbye

It was time to leave the only home I could remember.  Mom was yelling from the garage to “Come on, or we’re leaving without you!” as she hauled one last thing out to the pickup truck.  I stood in the middle of the room that had listened to my hopes, sheltered me from my nightmares, looked down on me as I grew from the four-year-old who got the room when her baby brother came along to the spindly-legged, frizzy-haired 12-year-old who realized her connection to this room only when she was told she had to leave it.  Just saying “goodbye, I’ll miss you” wasn’t enough.  Even if it meant I got in trouble for making us late, I had to take the time to press my palm against each wall of that room, creating a connection that only touch can provide.  Sharing my warmth with the drywall and white paint and 2’x4’s that created the space in which I’d grown up.  It’s that touch I remember even today, 42 years later.  It was touch that sealed it in my memory and made one moment last.






Displaced Anger

English: Emotions associated with anger

English: Emotions associated with anger (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My family calls me short-tempered, everyone else says the opposite.  And they are both absolutely right.  I can go from calm functional adult to raging maniac in seconds, if I’m turning my anger on my family.  Other settings just don’t seem to set me off.

Why am I rude and hurtful to the people I love, and kind to those I don’t?

Martha Beck in this month’s O, The Oprah Magazine explains the syndrome well.  In her terminology, I’ve been “stress-rolling” my anger at one thing downhill, to the people who are stuck with me no matter how unattractive my behavior becomes.  It’s crazy hard for me to admit I’m angry, even to myself.  Apparently I got so good at internalizing and hiding my anger early in life, or blocking myself or being blocked from expressing how I really felt, that I don’t even admit to myself when I’m angry.

But, as Martha puts it so well in this month’s column, “feelings don’t want to stay hidden.  Like water held back by a dam, they are always pushing, seeking a crack to leak or entirely break through.”

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So I’m going to try her advice on for size this month.  I’m going to take the time to honestly focus on what is going on inside myself when I overreact, and force myself to break down those protective barriers I built up over 53 years so that they are almost, but not quite, impenetrable, and I’m going to deal with the heart of the problem.  What is it that is really making me angry?  The fact I’ve gone along with the crowd to not make waves or stand out or potentially be embarrassed or made to look stupid, and by doing that have silenced my voice?  Or is it the anger that’s built up over the many times in which I didn’t stand up and fight for my right to credit when I’d done the work but someone else with a booming voice and all the confidence in the world took all the credit for himself?

For sure part of it is the anger that lies somewhere deep inside me from 22 years ago, when my son was born and I realized that more than anything in the world I wanted to find a way to spend time nurturing and being with him, but my then-husband said absolutely not, I could not quit my job, and for some unknown reason I was so lacking in self-worth that I acted as if his word was Law and did nothing, nothing to figure out a way to make things work so I could live the life I wanted for myself and my children?  I’m angry at myself for not standing up for myself and I’m angry at myself for taking that anger out on undeserving others and I’m frustrated that it’s so hard to even get in touch with my own feelings to express them authentically and truly in the proper way and to the appropriate people.

Martha Beck says that, “‘[b]ecause the core issue is often so upsetting that you push it out of your consciousness, you may not be able to articulate it at first.”  Yup, that rings true.  And its incredibly frustrating, not to be able to articulate or even locate inside myself the core of what my anger is really all about.  I’ll follow her advice this month and try to identify my deepest emotional trigger by poking at the general area of discomfort until I find the heart of the pain, and ask myself what is really bothering me and then, repeatedly, “what’s the worst thing about that?” until my irritation is overwhelmed by fear, sorrow, or despair.

That’s when I’ll know I’ve reached the root of the problem, when I’ll need the courage to face that fear head-on, and that by doing so I can hope to live more authentically, in my own voice, expressing anger when anger is appropriate … and surely sometimes when it is not but I’m human so that will happen … and not exploding with anger over some minor irritation caused by someone I truly and deeply love.

If I can be less irritable with loved ones and more honestly angry with those people who deserve it, I’ll be one wise woman … at least, I’ll be much more enjoyable for my family to hang around.

 


A Perfect Sunday

It’s a gorgeous day to be alive, and for once all my work is done and I’m free to do whatever my heart desires.  As I write I’m sitting in my backyard, enjoying the view of the garden tended by my husband to attract bees for the vegetables he’s growing below.

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I started the morning off with my reading from The Divine Hours Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.  It’s a blessing to read her book each morning; at least for a few minutes upon waking I feel all’s right with the world and my place in it.  One day I’ll hopefully remember to return for the mid-day reading to get back on track, and close each day with the Vespers reading.  So far I’ve been good about remembering every morning, terrible and rarely remember to read in mid-day and remember the evening prayer about half the time.  Something’s better than nothing!

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After my healthy morning shake (a carrot, celery, cucumber, kale, protein power, flaxseed, strawberries, blueberries and half a banana with 1/4 cup of pomegranate juice and a teaspoon of vegetable juice) and a quick glance at the paper (which doesn’t take long given how small even the Sunday edition has become) I headed out to Meadowbrook Middle School where my church was holding a “Love Your City” day.

Today, instead of doing the normal Sunday church thing, we closed the church doors and instead went out into our community to make a practical impact and, hopefully, reveal that our faith makes a difference in the here and now.  We painted benches, planted a hillside, packed school supplies, and  cleaned lockers — my job.

Some of the lockers were merely dusty, others were caked with months-old soda spills and many had been taken over by spiders.  By the end of the morning I was feeling nausous from the cleaning solution and spider combination but I was also happy that I’d been able to help make the middle schooler’s day a little better when they first open their locker.  I know how nervous I was when my first child first set off for middle school, a little boy entering a scary new world, and would not have wanted him to open the locker to put in his books only to discover sticky stains left over from the occupants from the year before.

So, my good deed for the day done, and having finished my left-over work yesterday, I have been able to completely enjoy my afternoon, guilt-free.  I finished one book and started another and have been researching my trip to France planned for early October in the Dordogne.  I often fantasize about spending months or even a year or two living in France, or Italy, or England, or … pretty much anywhere in Europe.  In fact I’ve been dreaming of living in Europe since I was six or seven years old, and I hope to find a way to retire early so that I can at least spend a few months at a time over there.

But on days like today, I remind myself how good I have it right here in Poway, California.  Perfect weather, shady live oaks filled with the sounds of birds, a creek meandering through the back yard, and fresh veggies and fruits courtesy of my husband’s new-found love of gardening.  Today I’m grateful to be here, enjoying a beautiful day with a great book, my daughter home from college and nothing so urgent on my “to do” list that it can’t wait.  It doesn’t happen often, but I’m going to enjoy it while I can!

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Add One More Thing – Volunteer!

My life was full. I was on partnership track at a “Big Law” firm, a single parent to two small children with no nanny and no family nearby, exercising to keep off the weight I’d lost since my divorce, trying to date … there wasn’t one thing more I felt I could add to my plate. But a friend convinced me to volunteer at a local business organization, and soon I was serving on one committee and, by the next year, chairing a second committee. It was only after I became engaged in my community that it became a community for me. Before I’d been living a life focused on getting my work done then going home and taking care of my children. I knew the people with whom I worked, and a few of my neighbors but was otherwise isolated from the broader town in which I lived. It felt like a City I lived in, but not a part of me.

Getting involved had huge benefits for me by getting me outside my small circle and integrating and investing me I’m my community.
But…

When I say “Yes” to joining one more committee and taking a leadership role in it, I often forget that at the same time I am saying “No” to something else, which is a lesson I’m still working on as I continue to say “Yes, Yes Yes” to most opportunities that enter my life. I don’t want to miss anything! But maybe doing fewer things with more intention and focus is best. It requires taking the time to think through my goals in life and turning someone down-which makes me feel guilty- but I’m working on it!