Sunday, August 16, 2009
Today's Stumble brought me to a kind of game called Sheep Dash that's on the BBC's website. This website has a Science & Nature section with a Human Body & Mind subsection in which there is a lot of information about sleep. The Sheep Dash game is designed to test your reaction time and they suggest that you test it first before a cup of coffee or tea and then test it again after a caffeine infusion. If you're tired, you tend to have slower reaction times. The game involves shooting a tranquilizer dart and sheep as they are trying to run out of a pasture. The sheep start out grazing in a group on the left side of the screen. Every few seconds one sheep makes a run for it and you have to click on a button to shoot the dart. The faster you click, the shorter the sheep's run for freedom. My fastest reaction time was .212 seconds - without caffeine. I haven't tried it with caffeine - if I drank coffee now, I wouldn't sleep until tomorrow morning.
One note on the impact of sleep on reaction time - I have read that sleepy drivers are just as dangerous as drunk drivers behind the wheel. So make sure you get your shut eye before you take a drive in my neighborhood, 'k?
Thursday, August 13, 2009
*Ok well I didn't get around to exercising because writing this post took wayyyy longer than I expected. And also my friend came over with wine and pizza. Oh and this still counts as Day 3 because it's not midnight here yet!
Today's site is called Naturopathyworks - it's the website of Dr. Colleen Huber who is a Naturopathic Medical Doctor. In general, her site is good. There are fairly brief articles regarding various aspects of naturopathic medicine - Nutrition, Botanicals, Environmental Medicine, Homeopathy and Chinese Medicine. The articles aren't jargony and are easy to understand. Much of what Dr. Huber says is common sense. In the Nutrition section she wonders how we can expect our bodies to be healthy when we - as a society in general - eat such unhealthy food. Under Environmental Medicine she notes that in the last 100 years, humans have been exposing themselves to a staggering number of toxic chemicals and that we don't know what the cumulative effect of that exposure is or will be over the longer term. Not surprisingly, the article are written to persuade the reader that naturopathic medicine is superior to allopathic (traditional Western) medicine. To be fair, in her discussion regarding Homeopathic medicine, she discusses the assertions of critics and counters them as best as she can in a short, reader-friendly article. So it isn't as one-sided as other sites I've seen.
One thing in particular that bothered me was the following statement under Nutrition: "Until just a few generations ago our ancestors were wonderfully fit compared with present-day generations. The majority lived good, active, healthy lives and ultimately died peacefully in their sleep." I can't agree with that assertion. I guess it depends on who you count as your ancestors but if your ancestors were serfs in the middle-ages, I'm pretty sure they didn't live good, active, healthy lives.
Maybe a more fair comparison is Native American tribes before Europeans came and "civilized" them. I'm no expert. In truth, I'm kind of making this up based on the little I know about the history of North America. I suppose those people were fit and lived long, healthy lives. Except when they got caught by a saber tooth. Or a warrior from another tribe. Or ate the wrong berry. However, once the Europeans came to visit and brought small pox and gun powder and alcohol and gambling with them it was game over for the health of Native Americans.
I've always been skeptical of claims about the "good old days" of human history. I never really believed that things were so blissful way back when. Human beings are human beings - the details may be different but the same general principles of human nature apply. I really learned the fallacy of those claims in law school when I took a Law and Literature class. The class required us to read a book (in two volumes) by Charles Reznikoff called Testimony (1885-1915) Recitative. Basically, Reznikoff spent 40 years looking through law journals detailing the facts of legal cases across the country decided between 1885 and 1915. He then turned those facts into poetry - sometimes telling stories from more than one perspective (victim, witness, defendant). The poems don't judge innocence or guilt, they recite the facts which are sometimes brutal, sometimes funny but generally interesting from a historical point of view. To a certain extent they detail the trials and tribulations of the average person during that time period.
At the end of this (longer than expected) post, I've written out two of the shorter poems. These are fairly illustrative of the types of poetry in the books. Some of the poems are disturbing - tales of factory and railroad accidents involving children, stories about the treatment of blacks in the south. Most of them involve the same kinds of things that we hear about today - people killing each other, disputes over inheritance and property, divorces, affairs and just plain stupid behavior on the part of criminals.
Although this post started out as kind of a review of the day's Stumble site, I guess it's ending as an assertion that the good old days weren't really all that good. We're dealing with a lot of crap these days - bad economy, chronic health issues including an alarming incidence of obesity, rising crime rates -but the fact is that it's always been this way. It's the nature of humans to struggle with a variety of issues. Today we're much better off than our ancestors were even if we're worse off in some particular areas. On balance, though, I would take being alive in 2009 over living through the industrial revolution as a poor immigrant or living in the time of kings as a serf (maybe it would be ok to be queen, at least on days when no one was trying to kill me and take the throne).
I'm not suggesting that Dr. Huber is wrong about good nutrition being important to our health. But by invoking a false image of the good old days, she loses a little bit of credibility in my book.
Excerpts from Testimony Vol 1 and 2
Under Domestic Scenes:
The young man had been at work during the day
clearing land about their home:
it was a small, one-story log house
reached by a bypath from the road,
among some small jack pine and scrub oak brush.
The house was lighted by two small windows:
one on the north and one to the east.
His wife - a young woman of sixteen
who had been engaged to be married to a neighbor,
a man of sixty,
lighted the lamp
and spread a light meal on the table -
bread and milk. The meal over,
Peter took his accordion from the shelf
and sitting right opposite the window to the east
played "Home Sweet Home."
He had just finished playing it
when a shot was fired from the outside.
Several buckshot pierced his head
and death was so sudden
he still sat upright in his chair
with the accordion in his hands.
From Thefts and Thieves:
About nine o'clock at night, on his way to work,
carrying under his arm a pair of old shoes-
wrapped in paper-
he had passed the railroad tracks
when he heard someone running behind him on the sidewalk.
He turned to see who it was
and was struck in the mouth.
The man who struck him
grabbed him by the arm that held the shoes
and threw him down. He got up-
the shoes he had carried were gone-
and he went to a saloon nearby
to wash the blood off his face.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
This site shows you the current sunlight and cloud cover across the entire world. It's like your own personal global nanny-cam. Except that you can't see if someone is watching soap operas with your kid instead of playing those Baby Einstein videos you bought. You can see where in the world it is day and where it is night. I guess it's kind of cool but is there any practical use for it? I guess I expect "scientific" websites to have a point. Who's the intended audience for this site? When I last looked at the site a minute ago, it looked like night was just beginning to fall on the east coast of South America. Now what? What do I do with that information? How does that help anyone?
Before I started thinking about this, I would have said that I don't think all websites need to be practical or useful. But I've changed my mind. It seems to me that a website taking up bandwidth on the superhighway should have a point. Even websites that are purely there for entertainment at least entertain (or try to). Even this blog has a point which is to allow me to write all kinds of stuff - good, bad and god awful - in the hopes that someone will read it and connect to it. And it's to record my thoughts and experiences in case my kids are ever interested in seeing a different side of their mom. But why would someone use bandwidth to show what parts of the earth are covered in darkness and clouds? Maybe I'm missing the point. It wouldn't be the first time that happened . . .
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Anyway, here I am on the "new" Day 1 of the 90 day blog. Because I couldn't think of a theme, I decided that I am going to Stumble on a site each day and write about it. And I'm not going to cheat and stumble a bunch of times to find something more fun or easier or whatever. I'm going to write about the first thing that comes up. Unless it's porn. Or some topic that I find personally abhorrent. But I'll tell you what I stumbled on and why I didn't write about it.
So, my first Stumble is (drum roll please . . . .)
Sidewalk Chalk Guy - apparently this guy draws 3D paintings on the ground. In chalk. And they are incredible. Serious works of art. Unfortunately, the site these pictures are on(gprime.net) doesn't have any additional information about the guy. Like who he is and where he does his work so I did a little research (and by research I mean that I Googled "Sidewalk Chalk Guy" and found stuff - what would I do without Google?).
His name is Julian Beever and he has done his work all over the world. I can't imagine spending all that time and effort to create something so beautiful only to have it walked on and washed away. How do these "impermanent" artists live with that? What is it that draws them to that type of expression? I suppose it's permanent because it's photographed. And it brings great art to people who might not go to an art museum - it is truly public art. If I were to (literally) stumble on this as I was walking down the street, it would take my breath away. There's something magical about being able to connect with an audience in that way.
I spent about 15 minutes looking at pictures of his work trying to pick a favorite but I just couldn't pick one. I really hope I'm able to see his work in person one of these days.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
In my last post I said I needed to stop writing here because of my impending divorce. I was worried that I could write something that my soon-to-be-ex would try to use against me should custody become an issue. The fact is, I'm an excellent mother and there's nothing about me that would be cause for concern in this arena but I've become cautious lately and some well-meaning friends have counseled me to stop posting here. Or at least to stop writing about my ADD or my mental state in general.
I suppose I could be writing in a personal journal but I worry that the journal might be found . . . so I end up talking to myself which is not nearly as fulfilling. Or permanent. And in talking to myself, I sometimes talk myself into an unpleasant place but, for some reason, writing usually leads me to a more enlightened, uplifting place. So, what's a girl to do?
I stumbled on this post at Ken and Paper (one of my favorite blogs along with Ken's other blog, Mildly Creative). Ken is starting to do a series of 90 Day Blogs - he picks a project and sets out to write at least one sentence a day about that project. His current project is exercise. It got me thinking that if I could pick something uncontroversial (in terms of a pending divorce - so studying witchcraft would be out of the question), I could get myself back in the habit of daily writing and maybe complete a project or develop a new habit or just get myself out of my own head for awhile.
So my project for the next couple of days is to pick a project that I can stick with for 90 days. I have never been good at choosing things - picking out a birthday card is usually an hour long project for me. And there are so many good options - I could follow Ken's lead and pick exercise or I could write about aromatherapy which I've started studying. Or I could do something more general like "alternative health care" so that I'm more likely to stick with it for 90 days (because maybe I'll get bored with aromatherapy by next week - I sometimes burn out on things quickly). Other ideas I've been bouncing around for the blog - working on an article/book about my mom's generation, starting a business selling hand made items, energy healing, religious history, Broadway musicals (what I would write about that I have no idea . . .). Ack - there are too many things I'm interested in!
I'll just put it out to the universe and see what comes to me. So, Universe, what should I spend 90 days thinking about, working on and writing about? Any good ideas?
Friday, June 26, 2009
In the meantime, I'm spending some time reading, knitting, thinking, watching movies and - most importantly - hanging out with my beautiful daughters. They mean the world to me. Oh, and I'm also taking this great class from Deb Owen. Who is awesome. And the other people in the class are also awesome. It occurs to me that I overuse the word awesome. I think it's time for me to break out the thesaurus.
Friday, May 29, 2009
Awhile back I talked about being addicted to seeing myself as a victim. Stuck in a "poor me" stance. I have been in an abusive marriage (that I'm finally getting out of) for 14 years. I recently lost my job. My friends and family are very supportive and they have been providing me sympathy that I was feeding off of. Thankfully I saw that I was projecting negative energy and decided to stop doing it.
Now when I talk about my current situation I try explain it in the positive way I see it - both these tough situations are huge blessings in disguise. I have the world open to me now. I can figure out who I am. I can build a life that suits me better. I am so lucky.
Despite my attempts to keep a positive outlook and project positive energy, I hit those inevitable times where I'm not feeling particularly positive. Where I just feel like crap about everything. And the fear and anger and sadness close in until I'm struggling for air. I want so badly to be able to be positive about things. To stop whining. Instead of accepting where I am with my real feelings at the moment, I start pretending that everything is ok.
The big problem with that is - I'm just getting back into the same rut from a different direction. I've always tried to pretend everything was ok. I tried to pretend my marriage was great. I pretended that I loved my job. I pretended I had everything together so that people wouldn't see how miserable I was. So people would like me. It got to where I didn't even know how I felt about anything. That's why I put up with an abusive relationship for so long - I was pretending so hard that it was ok, I even convinced myself.
Now I'm trying to live authentically. To figure out who I am and how I feel about things. In order to do that, I have to actually feel things. Positive and negative. Happy, sad, weird, angry, elated, annoyed, jealous, unloved, loved, loving, lonely, overwhelmed, peaceful and even neutral. It all is what it all is. Before I can be at peace with myself and know who I really am, I have to learn to accept my feelings and my moods, even if I don't like some of them very much. Maybe I can find a way to feel crappy about certain things in my life but still - at least on balance - project positive, loving energy to the Universe. But until I'm able to do that, I have to accept myself and my real feelings during those times that I can't muster up any of that positive stuff.
Is spiritual perfectionism holding you back?
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Havi says - "The thing I despise contains something I desperately need." She was talking about hackers that had invaded her website recently. She found some traits in those hackers that she felt she needed more of - the ability to be invisible and sneaky in order to protect herself and her website. I thought for a moment about things in my life that I despise and whether there is anything in there that I need for myself.
Of course the first thing that came to mind was my ex. I don't despise him - despite all the ugliness, I still care about him deeply - but I really hate the way he acts. Among other things, he is a very angry person. He's aggressive and uses intimidation to his advantage. He is not afraid to use whatever leverage he has at his disposal to get what he needs or wants.
So what is the good in there that I might need?
I need to be more angry. I haven't been angry enough and as a result, I haven't taken good care of myself and I haven't been the mother I should have been for my girls. Anger isn't bad in and of itself. Anger can be expressed inappropriately. But if it is expressed in a healthy way, it's ok.
I need to be more aggressive in asking for what I need. I've been a wimp in my intimate relationships for way too long. Again, there's a healthy way of being aggressive. I don't have to walk over other people. I don't have to be indifferent to their feelings. But I have to be strong enough to stand up for myself. To express my true feelings.
Part of being aggressive is not being afraid to use the leverage you have. I often feel that using leverage is somehow cheating and being manipulative of other people. But if I'm holding a winning hand, there's no reason I should lay down my cards just because I want the other players to like me.
I've spent too much of my life pretending to be what other people wanted me to be. I'm just coming to realize that inside, I'm a different person than the one I show on the outside. That just confuses me and everyone around me. I have to be true to myself and make good decisions for myself and (as my old therapist used to say), let the chips fall where they may. Other people may disagree with my decisions and I have to accept that. There may be consequences to my decisions that I may not love but if I've been thoughtful about my needs and the path I need to be on, then I can deal with those consequences.
It's a good idea for us to look deeper into the things we dislike about certain situations and about other people. We might find some conflicting emotions and in resolving the conflict, we can learn a lot about ourselves.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
As my friend Landismom said in her comment to that post, sometimes it's ok to vent. I blog in part to have a place to get things off my chest.
So, to the whining . . . this whole divorce thing sucks. We really wanted to make things amicable and although things could be much worse, I wouldn't exactly call our current state amicable. We are really just talking through email. Which is ok, but the emails are getting increasingly snippy, which is not ok. I'm trying to stay calm and not write things I'll regret later but it's not easy. The urge to defend myself and prove a point is soooo strong. So far I've resisted (mostly) but I'm not sure how long I can hold out.
Friends keep telling me not to engage with him and to just let the lawyers do the talking. But I don't want to overspend on lawyers (I am one, I know how we can run up the hours - legitimately, but still). And I'm concerned that using the lawyers too much will make things even more contentious. It's a fine line to walk.
I know this will be over soon - and we'll be on to the challenges of co-parenting, etc. But at least we can both go on with our lives. Transition periods are difficult for everyone involved. I know we'll get through this.
And after I wrote this post, here's what I did for myself:
1) I've gone to bed at a reasonable hour for three nights in a row.
2) I remind myself often that I'm ok just where I am and don't have to push myself to act happy all the time (that's part of what got me into this emotional mess in the first place).
3) I've told my husband's voice to get out of my head - I was reassuring myself that things will work out and then this voice would pop in to say "It's not going to be easy. There are obstacles." I realized that's his voice, not mine. I learned recently that optimists do better when they think happy thoughts and don't dwell on possible problems. So I kicked his pessimistic voice out!
4) I asked my mom to help me make and organize my lists. She's very organized (a trait I obviously didn't inherit). It was hard to ask for help - I have a real problem with that. But she was great. Now I just have to schedule a time with her - yet another thing to procrastinate!
5) I joined The Comfort Cafe which I love so far. It's run by Jen Louden at Comfort Queen and she's awesome.
So I guess I've done a lot towards getting myself in a good place. Even though they're baby steps, I'm moving forward and that's something to celebrate. So maybe I'm not in the mood to whine after all . . .
Saturday, May 9, 2009
The truth is, I'm on an emotional rollercoaster that I can't seem to get off of. One day I'm floating at the top of the world, making all kinds of realizations about myself, feeling in awe of the world, seeing possibilities in everything and just loving life in general despite its current difficulties. And the next day I'm plummeting down to the ground at 80 miles per hour, screaming in terror but feeling powerless to do anything but brace myself against the inevitable impact.
I know today's crankiness is caused by several things:
1) PMS (argggh - the one reason to look forward to menopause)
2) The fact that I stayed up until 2 in the morning working on a knitting project
3) The pharmacy ran out of long acting Adderall so until Tuesday I have to take the short acting which works ok but just isn't the same
4) I still haven't recovered from two round trips in two weeks between Portland and Chicago
5) That pesky divorce thing - talked to the ex today and although it wasn't a horrible conversation, it wasn't all that pleasant
6) Not knowing how I'm going to make a living once I'm officially unemployed at the end of Jun
Well . . . now that I look at the list I guess it's understandable that my emotions are out of whack. I just read this post over at Third Hand Works where Cairene talks about what happened recently when her brain didn't listen to her heart. Her post reminded me of what a physical therapist explained to me once: Let's say your back muscles are tight because you're carrying around a lot of stress and not doing what you need to do - get a massage, stretch, exercise, remove the stressors - your back will get tighter and more painful. Then you'll probably start sitting and walking differently because of the pain in your back. Then other muscles start getting tight and sore. Pretty soon you're a locked up mess of painful muscles and joints and you can barely get out of bed.
I guess the same thing applies to emotions. If one thing is out of whack in my life and I don't deal with it effectively, other areas of my life will start getting out of whack. And pretty soon I'm on that emotional rollercoaster feeling completely out of control.
So what to do about it?
First of all, I have to learn to meet myself where I am. I know I have a lot of decisions and a lot changes to make right now. There is no way I can do it all at once. And if I spend tons of time beating myself up (something I'm VERY good at), I won't have any time or mind space to do the life work I need to do.
I need to make a plan of some sort. I can't work through issues if I don't know what they are. Although I have a general idea of what needs to be done in various areas, I need to get some specifics. For example, I know I need to get a source of income. But I think I need to break that down into more manageable bites. There are several projects that in various stages of thinking about or working on. But I haven't written anything down about any of those projects. I don't have plan for any of them. And so I feel lost when I think about my financial future. That said, the idea of making a plan - a written plan at that - strikes terror in my ADD-addled heart. I guess that's one of those areas where I'll have to meet myself where I am. And maybe ask a friend - preferably a rather organized one - to help me make a plan.
I need to treat my body better. I haven't been eating well lately (and PMS makes it worse). I haven't been getting enough sleep (and last night's knitting binge didn't help). I haven't been exercising, although I have been doing some light yoga stretching a few mornings a week. And I desperately need a good massage but I'm afraid to spend the money (read: feeling guilty about spending money on something just for me that seems so indulgent). By the way, if anyone knows a good and reasonably-priced massage therapist in downtown Portland, I'm all ears :)
So now I've given myself three things to do -
1) Be kind to myself emotionally
2) Be kind to myself physically, and
3) Ask a friend for help writing down plans for the various things in my life I need to work on.
When I'm feeling emotionally overwhelmed my brain feels like a tangled thread of yarn. I can't see the beginning or the end and have no idea how to start to untangle things. Writing this post helped me see the beginning of the yarn.
Friday, May 8, 2009
I stumbled on this TV show last night and it was inspiring. Micheal J. Fox put together a special about optimism. One interesting tidbit: Apparently pessimists do much better after thinking/talking about worst case scenarios. They feel good about proceeding once they've thought about the obstacles they're likely to face. Optimists are the opposite. They do better with reassuring talks/thoughts before they proceed. The big insight: My ex is a pessimist. I'm an optimist. It drove me nuts that he was always looking at the potential problems when I just wanted to think happy thoughts. It drove him nuts that I kept sticking my head in the stand pretending nothing could go wrong. Hmmm.
My grandmother died yesterday. She was 99 years old. I haven't seen or spoken to her in 11 years (I'm estranged from my father - her son - which is a long, long story for another post or two . . . or ten). She came to this country with her family when she was 3. I found their entry on an Ellis Island manifest. I wish I had taken an opportunity to talk about that with her - even if she couldn't remember it directly. I wanted to mention it because it's a big thing but I guess I'm not ready to write a full post about it.
The Law of Attraction at work: With my marriage breaking up, I've been thinking about the importance of friends. For reasons that I should write about in a full post, I haven't been good about keeping in touch. But I must have told the universe that I need my friends because not one but TWO old friends contacted me this week out of the blue. Then today, a friend from San Fran who I had emailed recently asked if she could come see me in Portland. The mere thought that I might get to see her lifted my spirits - she's just what the doctor ordered.
I'm reading two great new blogs - Kimianak and The Peace Happiness and Love blog. They're written by two really nice women who are some of my first commenters and I'm among their first commenters so we're all in comment heaven with each other. So go over and give them some comment luv. Tell them I sent you :)
Procrastination - It takes many forms in my life. There are things I *should* be doing to get my working life back on track but I'm not doing them. (Blech, there's that dirty word again. I'm going to wash my blog out with soap now). Instead I spend lots of time reading blogs and websites about getting one's life on track. If only I could get paid for reading blogs I like. I could make a mint! But as Havi recommends, I'm meeting myself where I am and being gentle about changing things.
Ok, my daughter tells me it's time to eat lunch. And so it is. Have a lovely Friday wherever you are!!
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
The point of telling you that is this: Thank god I didn't write a blog post yesterday! It's bad enough that I was Twittering. (New rule: No Twittering while hysterical.) If I had blogged yesterday, I would have written a diatribe about my ex and his evil-doing ways. At best, I might have said some funny things. I'm sure I would have said things that a few of you can relate to. But really, it would have been whining. And who wants to read a whiny blog post? Not me.
Truth is, I was feeling sorry for myself. Poor me, I have a mean husband. So what. Everyone has problems - problems a lot worse than mine. I'm the one that stayed married to him all these years. I'm the one that put up with that crap and didn't respect myself enough to put a stop to it. I've been painting myself as a victim for way too long. The long-suffering wife who stays in a crap marriage "for the kids." Isn't she heroic? Nope. Not by a long shot.
Epiphany of the day: I felt safe as a victim. I didn't have to take any responsibility for my unhappiness. And therefore I didn't have to take any responsibility for making myself happy. I was just going through the motions of my life, waiting for something to happen to make me change course. I'm damn lucky that my wake up call was losing my job. I could have gotten cancer or been in a horrible accident or worse.
I spent hours at Border's Book Store today (that is one of my favorite things to do). I walked around picking up books, reading dust jackets and random pages. I ended up reading 10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace by Wayne Dyer. I read the entire book standing in front of the Bargain Books table (it's a pretty quick read). If you've ever read books by Dr. Dyer, you know that he writes from a very spiritual point of view. You manifest the things you think and stuff like that. I'm not really religious and I'm still undecided about whether it's really possible manifest an open parking spot in downtown Chicago just by being one with the Universe. But this book really struck a chord with me. That's when I realized that I was attached to my victim identity. That I was acting like a victim and therefore bringing victimization on myself.* According to Dr. Dyer, I need to start behaving like I already have the life I want. I don't want to be a victim of physical and emotional abuse so I need to stop acting like one. I want to be a loving and loved member of my community. So now I need to start acting like I am. Hence my new Blogging Rule Number 1: No whining. No more acting like a victim. No more "poor me" crap. (At least not in writing).
*This is not to absolve my ex, in any way, of responsibility for his actions. He decided to be abusive and he owns that. I decided to allow it to continue and I own that.
The trick for me is finding balance. I can't expect myself to manifest rainbows and sunshine every day. The way things are now, I'm bouncy and happy one day and the next I'm a wretched lump of sadness and depression. Especially during this transition time in my life, I will experience a wide range of feelings. And all of them are ok - as long as I don't wallow in the negative or expect to much from the positive. I'll continue to write about the range of emotions but I'm going to try very hard not to whine when things are sucky.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
In the legal world, we have a saying "Bad facts make bad law." This usually refers to cases where the facts of the case favor one decision but the precedent (the way similar cases have been treated in the past) favors a different decision. If you make decisions based on the facts of the particular case rather than based on long-standing legal precedent, you will end up with bad law. I know, you're wondering why this little diversion is relevant . . .
My rules are pretty much all based on the disfunction in my life. My parent's divorce, living in a blended family, having an eating disorder as a teen, being in an abusive relationship, blah blah blah. I created my rules in an attempt to cope with the situation of the moment. I tried to figure out how to make other people happy - primarily those people who were not worried in the least about whether or not I was happy.
I've felt adrift for much of my life and never really understood why. I think it's because my identity, my value system, has been tied to the wants, needs, thoughts and ideas of other people. It's not that I never act selfishly (I do that way more than I want to admit). But I never really came up with my own value system or my own rules for living. I don't know how to view myself separate and apart from how other people view me.
I guess it's time for me to come up with my own rules for living. I'll let you know what I come up with!
Saturday, May 2, 2009
So this afternoon I happened to have a talk with another friend who just happens to be a therapist and a really smart lady. And she gave me some interesting advice that will probably be really hard for me to follow. She hasn't known me long - six weeks I think - but she said that when I talk about myself, I present myself by talking about what other people say about me. It almost doesn't matter what it is - it could be about my personality, my clothes, the way I raise my kids - it almost all comes out as a reflection of what other people say. For example, I'll talk about the fact that I don't wear much make up and say that my mom always tells me that I should wear lipstick more often. Or I'll comment that I'm not very observant and then say that my husband always tells me that. She said "I don't care about what other people say about you. I just want to know who you are."
She's right. I think of myself in terms of what other people think of me so it's not surprising that I present myself that way. At first I was inclined to dismiss her advice, like all the other good advice I've been getting because it's hard to change. But then I looked at the little white slip of paper with my fortune on it. Listen to a friend even though it isn't easy.
I have molded myself to the reflection I see in other people's eyes. I'm like a light colored building that has turned black from years of sitting in soot-filled air. What I need is a good sandblasting. It'll be like a chemical peel for my personality.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
But I've decided that, for me, healing requires complete honesty. Writing is my outlet. I'm not a private journal kind of person. For reasons I don't know, I need to write publicly. In order to successfully work through my current crisis, I need to write about my experiences in my marriage - good and bad. I will try to be fair and not use this space to vent my anger willy nilly. Everything I write is obviously from my point of view. If I've learned anything in my relationship it's that different people have different views of the exact same event or conversation. This is my truth and my truth only - his version of events will be much different and that's ok. I also need to say that in our 15 or so years together, we had some really, really good times. There were times when he was my best friend. He helped me in many ways. But he was also my worst enemy and hurt me deeply. Healing will require me to come to terms with those different sides of our relationship.
I'm hoping that by bringing my dark experiences into the light, I can rid myself of some demons. And maybe help other people get rid of their own demons in the process.
So, on to the post . . .
I've been reading lots of great stuff over at The Fluent Self which is this incredible blog written by Havi Brooks (who I wish I could meet in person because she seems like the coolest person to hang out with). Anyway, I was just reading this post about why some of us have a problem with the traditional advice that, to move past fear, you need to "face" it. I'm not sure what it means to "face your fear" because, ok, let's say I turn around to face my fear and say "Hello, fear." What do I do next? Do I push it down and run away? Do a roundhouse kick to its face? Do I plead with it? Use logic? Throw water on it and make it melt like the Wicked Witch? Facing it clearly isn't enough to move on and deal with it. You have to somehow make it go away or make your peace with it and move on in spite of it. That post got me thinking about my own fears, how I've dealt with them (or not) and how my ex often tried to "help" me deal with them.
One of the things Havi stresses is that we can't bully our fears and make them go away. She also stresses the need for loving compassion when we're trying to work past the things that keep us stuck in unhealthy patterns. This is the kind of advice I need. Mostly I try ignore my fears but sometimes I try to bully them, make fun of them and push past them. But none of that works for me. And the way my ex treated me often made things worse rather than better.
Throughout our relationship, my ex tried to get me to face certain of my fears. I think the goal was a good one - I have way too many fears that hold me back and I need to deal with that. Sometimes he was supportive but more often he was a bully. I called him Bobby Knight (the basketball coach known for his belligerence and violent outbursts both on the court and off). He took it as a compliment. After all, Knight got results - he has a great win/loss record. And lots of his former players would lay down their lives for the man because he provided the kind of tough love and motivation that those men needed at that point in their lives. But that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of former players and others out there that have been damaged by his behavior.
My ex would yell at me, call me names, tell me I was incompetent and later he would explain that did those things to help me improve. He said I better develop a thicker skin because he wasn't going to "coddle" me the way my parents did (at least in his eyes). This was the way he tried to get me to (among other things) exercise more, be a more effective parent, eat right, face my fear of dealing with certain childhood issues, and, my favorite, to get me to stop making so many "stupid" mistakes. Again, to be fair, there were many times when he was nice, gentle, kind, loving, logical and helpful - but he was a bully often enough that sometimes when I think about dealing with some of those issues (like right now), I feel pressure in my chest, I have trouble breathing and I just want to curl up and cry. I hear his words, the derision and anger in his voice. I see his face distorted by rage. I feel the fear. And it consumes me.
I tried and tried for years to be the kind of person that could be motivated by that kind of coaching. I believed, up until I started reading Havi's blog, that I was lazy, stupid and incompetent. That a smart person, a person who cared about her family, would have made the changes he requested. After all, shouldn't I set a good example for my daughters by exercising more and eating right? It's a reasonable request. Shouldn't I deal with my childhood issues by talking to my mother about events in our past? Sure - that conversation was long overdue by the time we had it. Shouldn't I improve my communication skills and my common sense so that I don't make stupid mistakes? Of course. But one of the big problems I've had in dealing with my own issues is that his behavior and the way he treated me became the focus of my energy. In a way, he did the opposite of what he wanted - he helped me avoid taking responsibility for dealing with my issues.
I realize now that what I really need - from myself more than from anyone else - is kindness and compassion. We all need to deal with our issues at our own pace, in our own time. And there may be some things that we never deal with. And that's ok. I need to respect myself and respect my fears. Each fear is there for a reason. It's my job now to figure out what those reasons are and decide what to do about them. Instead of treating fears like monsters to run away from, I'm going to try to treat them like my babies. I created them, says Havi, so I need to be nice to them. Every once in awhile, I'm going to sit still so that I can hear what they have been trying to say to me all this time. And I'm going to listen, for once.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
This show is about teenagers who want to accomplish something - run a triathlon, become a rapper or a skateboarder - and MTV helps them achieve that goal. This episode was about an unpopular, heavyset girl named Alicia who wanted to be a cheerleader. She was an oddball at school, quiet and not confident in herself - pretty much the opposite of the cheerleader type. So MTV got her cheerleading and tumbling coaches and entered her in a cheer competition occurring 4 weeks from the beginning of her training.
Watching her at the beginning, I couldn't imagine that she'd be able to compete in just 4 weeks. She was uncoordinated, out of shape and didn't seem to have the determination to see things through. She cried all the time and whined that she couldn't do it. In the end, she not only competed, but she came in 6th out of 8 girls in the competition. She was confident, smiled more and projected a much better image in her day to day life. She didn't lose a lot of weight - they didn't talk about diet at all which was great. (Girls don't need another message about dieting and being thin). This wasn't about looking the part, it was about putting in the hard work to achieve a goal. However unlikely that goal may be.
If this was an afterschool special, I would have been downright angry about what would seem to be an unrealistic happy ending. Children's programming often does kids a disservice by implying that they can do anything but not showing the hard work that must accompany the achievement of a goal. This show tells them that they can achieve their goals but they have to be prepared to work hard and overcome many obstacles.
Alicia really put herself out there in pursuit of her cheerleading goal. Maybe you think that becoming a cheerleading isn't a worthy goal. That's what I thought at first. But watching this girl overcome her fears, come out of her shell and do something she really wanted to do was more motivating than a bookshelf full of self-help books. Sure, she had coaches that she might not have been able to afford without MTV. And being on TV can be a huge motivator when times get tough. But she did the work. She achieved the goal. And no one can take that away from her. It will benefit her through her entire life and that's what made me cry.
Watching that show got me off the couch this morning. I wrote. My daughter and I worked out. Then I wrote some more. I'm rededicating myself to my personal reinvention. If Alicia can become a cheerleader, I can reinvent myself and become the person I always wanted to be. And I have the rest of my life to do it.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Friday, April 10, 2009
This whole divorce thing SUCKS. I have to get a credit card in my name. Our two main credit cards are in his name. The two that are in my name - one we use for the kids' business expenses (don't ask) and the other is the business card for HIS business. The business that he's made very clear I will not share in.
We're trying hard not to sell our apartment because we don't want the kids to have to move from the home they love while dealing with the divorce. But when he gets mad at me, he threatens to make things ugly for everyone. Including the kids! How is that the right way to behave? He wants me to toe his line or it will be my fault for making things difficult. Such bullshit.
Ok, I'm sick of the divorce. I don't want to talk about it anymore.
I want to talk about writing. I signed up to join a writer's workshop type of site today. You have to be accepted into the group. Then you have to submit your writing but you also have to critique other writers work. I'm scared to death - there are lots of really good, published authors on this site. But I think being scared is good. At least in this context. I have to step out and take some risks. Right? Right.
Monday, April 6, 2009
Right now, I'm at the beginning of the ride. I've always hated roller coasters and this one is worse than the real ones. Yesterday was a straight drop down and by the time night rolled around, I thought I was going to crash right into the pavement. But this morning I climbed a hill and saw a beautiful view. I saw an amicable process where my soon to be ex and I were actually friendly to each other. And our kids weren't pulled in different directions. I really hope it wasn't a mirage. I'll try to keep that view in mind when I hit the next drop or loop . . .
Sunday, April 5, 2009
I never thought I'd be divorced. I never thought I'd lose my job. I'm totally unprepared for this uncertainty about the future. My psyche was fragile to begin with. I hope to god I'm strong enough to make it through whatever it is I need to get through. I have kids. I need to be strong for them.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
But maybe in addition to having ADD, I'm a "Renaissance Soul". I am so interested in everything that I can't focus on any one thing. The Renaissance Soul movement encourages Renaissance Souls to embrace their varied passions and ignore the conventional wisdom that adults need to settle down and focus. There's even a book that helps Renaissance Souls to plan their lives in a way that allows them to pursue several passions at a time.
I can't decide if this discovery is a good thing or a bad thing for me right now. It gives me an excuse NOT focus. I now have permission to jump from project to project without finishing anything. At this point in my life, I do need some focus. I have children to care for. After my impending divorce, I'm going to be on my own for the first time in a long, long time. Somehow I have to find a way to pay the mortgage. But I don't want to go back to a job that leaves little room for creativity. I would love to be able to make money while I pursue at least some of my interests. There's a little Pollyanna in me because I want to believe that if you pursue your passion, the money will follow. But right now, I'm frozen by the fear that I won't be able to make money doing anything other than being a lawyer. I don't mind working part-time or on a project basis, and I'm going to try to set that up. But I really, really don't want to go back to being a full-time lawyer.
The problem is figuring out what I can do to make money that fits the following criteria:
1) I like doing it.
2) It doesn't involve going into an office everyday and has some flexibility in hours.
3) It can be done from anywhere - i.e. via Internet/phone or shipping product from wherever I happen to be.
4) It doesn't involve large start up expenses.
Am I asking for too much? I hope not.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
So today I needed to be with my daughter at a roller skating rink. The adults were invited to skate but only a few did. I was terrified I'd embarrass myself and fall on my face. But I followed my own advice and went out there anyway. It was so much fun! I felt sorry for the grown ups.
Monday, March 30, 2009
I've been working on a post for the past week and a half but haven't been able to finish it. But I'm anxious to get a little content on this blog so I'm trying out Mobile Blogger. Maybe if I can post via email, I'll actually post more often!
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
I'd like to think that my humiliating fall from grace as a partner in a large, prestigious law firm is actually a blessing in disguise. I loved law school and there were times when I actually liked being a lawyer. I had a good time as a young, ambitious in-house counsel. The fun lasted until I was older, more cynical and severely overworked. And underpaid, of course (aren't we all?) But then I started to really dislike being in-house counsel because all I ever did was go to meetings (interminable and BORING meetings) and tell other lawyers what to do. So, I did a brilliant thing. I decided to go back to a law firm but this time - THIS TIME - I was gonna do it right. No more mid-size firms with nice people and reasonable hours for me. Nooooo. I went big time, huge firm, lots of prestige . . . and floor after floor of assholes. They must have slipped me the Kool-Aid during the interviews because I bought the story about how they were unfairly portrayed by "rival firms" and rejected candidates from "unworthy" law schools. I knew I'd be overworked but at least they were paying me some serious money.
After a few months, I realized that I had made a terrible mistake. That not only did I hate being at that firm, I hated being a lawyer. After 14 years, I realized I did NOT want to spend the rest of my life reading boring documents, getting yelled at by clients who don't like hearing that their brilliant plan won't work because it's against the law and arguing about stupid crap that just doesn't matter in the big scheme of life on Planet Earth. But at that point, I was wearing the golden handcuffs. Two kids in private school. A great condo with a big mortgage. A mean Starbucks habit and a desperate love of vacations to Maui with lots of expensive spa treatments. (I know - I'm a cliche).
But I found out that life has a funny way of giving you what you want even if you don't know you want it. Or you're too scared to go get it. I hated my job but I couldn't bring myself to quit and, given the economy, there was (and still is) no way I was going to get a job. Certainly not one that would pay anything close to what I was making. So, the universe in all its wisdom, kicked me in the ass. And then, just for fun, it kicked me again - my husband and I are getting divorced. This split has been years in the making but the timing sucks (is there such a thing as a good time for a divorce?).
I would feel sorry for myself if there weren't people far worse off than me. OK, I'm lying - I feel sorry for myself all the time. I just hate to admit it because it's "indulgent nonsense" as my favorite American Idol judge would say. At this point, we still have a roof over our heads and some money in savings. I was given a relatively generous amount of time to "find a place where there's a better fit" so I've been getting paid without actually having to go to work (until mid-summer). Which is really awesome.
So, I spent 14 years working my butt off as a lawyer. I made good money but didn't spend as much time with my family as I would have liked. And my creative life . . . I didn't have a creative life. The main joy in my life is - and will always be - my beautiful daughters. Without them, I would have jumped ship long ago. Both the lawyer ship and the marriage ship. Now, here I am, forced to walk the plank off of TWO ships. At the same time. Kids, don't try this at home.
Now we get to the good part. The blessing in disguise part. It's taken me a few months of ceaseless and highly unproductive fretting, fuming, procrastinating and Pop Tart-eating before I realized that I'm being handed an amazing opportunity. I can start over. I can have a new life, with all the wisdom of a 40-something but the open book possibilities (and tiny bank account) of a 20-something. My grandmother just turned 99 years old. NINETY NINE YEARS PEOPLE! If I live to see even 84, I can live my whole life over without having to worry about learning to walk! Or Mrs. Williams, the mean 3rd grade teacher! Or puberty! Imagine that. If I'm thoughtful about things, I can do it better this time.
Being thoughtful is a new thing for me. My husband complains that I never take the time to just sit and think. I always have a book, crossword puzzle, knitting project, computer game - something, anything to occupy my mind so I don't have to think. Part of the problem is that I have Attention Deficit Disorder which was just diagnosed last year. It' s VERY hard for me to sit and do nothing. Especially when my medication is a controlled substance that makes me run around like a banshee.
My thoughts for now are centered on this: What the hell am I going to do to make a living? It's one thing to sit in your office, with your fat paycheck and company-paid Blackberry and dream of being a writer. It's another thing to actually do it. To actually be in the position where, if you decide to be a writer, you HAVE to make money. Failure is not an option. Besides writing, I have a few other business ideas but none of them alone will, at least at first, make much money. But I'm going to try (very, very hard) to stop worrying about money and start worrying about the health and well-being of my soul. I'm going to let go, relax a little, let my mind wander. I'm going to sit on the balcony and commune with the ladybugs. I'm going to think about the world of options that are open to me and I'm going to embrace it all. I am going to work hard at slacking off for awhile. And it really feels good.