Friday, May 29, 2009

Suffering from "spiritual perfectionism"

Today I read a great post over at Shaboom's blog. She talks about a few things but the part that hit me the most was her discussion of "spiritual perfectionism." That's when you're in transition from one way of viewing the world and your place in it and you expect yourself to be at the finish line of the new way before you're really there. So you try to pretend that you're there which isn't helpful to getting there.

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

The Pirate Queen strikes again

Havi has done it again. She inspired me to think in new and unusual ways. And I had another "aha" moment just now reading Visibility. Invisibility. Power. More Pirates. (Can she come up with great post titles, or what?).

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

So maybe Blogging Rule #1 wasn't such a good idea . . .

So I made this rule about blogging - no whining. And at the time it made sense. I was sick of hearing my own voice complaining about everything. I want to spread happiness and sunshine, not doom and gloom. I just thought that maybe if I wouldn't allow myself to whine here, I'd come up with more positive things to write. Soooo . . . I haven't written in 4 days. Apparently I've taken the old adage - if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all - too far.

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

Untangling the yarn

Soooo cranky today. I know I promised not to whine but it's harder than I thought! But I'm going to write anyway. And hopefully by the end of the post I'll have come up with something pithy and interesting to tie it all together and give you some food for thought or a chuckle or even just a smile so you won't feel like you just wasted a chunk of your precious time listening to me whine. Again.

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

Random Stuff Friday

I'm always coming up with random things to write about but sometimes they don't really amount to a full blog post. I decided to try to keep a list of those miscellaneous thoughts and put a bunch of them together every Friday. So here goes . . .

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

Slackermom's Number 1 Blogging Rule: No whining!

Yesterday was a bad day. Plain and simple. My ex knows what buttons to push and I reacted pretty much how I've always reacted. I got hysterical. I fretted, worried, sobbed and yelled. I got my cellphone all wet with tears. Again. And now I'm really annoyed with myself. That said, I'm not spending one more second beating myself up about it. And I'm not going to whine.

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

Who am I anyway?

I was thinking about this post and I realized something. I have certain "rules" in my head about how to behave in order to be a "good" whatever - mom, wife, friend, yada yada. When I think about what I want to be in this life, I think I want to be a good "whatever". Not to be all cliche or anything but I want to leave this world a better place for my having been alive. But I realize that all those rules I thought I had to follow - the musts and shoulds - are bullshit. They're bullshit because they were built on a shaky foundation.

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

Listen to a friend even though it isn't easy

Listen to a friend even though it isn't easy. That's the fortune I received from a Chinese fortune stick at the Portland Classical Chinese Garden . With respect to my upcoming divorce, my friends have been giving me lots of advice. Most of which I haven't been following because it's hard to do what they suggest. And I manage to convince myself that they don't really understand my situation and that's why their advice isn't right for me.

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.