Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dealing with fear

Before you read this post, I want to say that I have been agonizing over how much to write here about my marriage and the reasons for my divorce. My ex is a private person and has always asked me not to talk about our relationship with anyone - family and close friends included. Although this blog is somewhat anonymous, it probably won't be in the near future. We're trying to make this an amicable divorce and I don't want to jeopardize that. I also don't want my kids to read this someday and be disappointed in me for being vindictive or disclosing too much.

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

Motivation from an unexpected place

This morning I was flipping through TV channels trying to find something to watch while I ate breakfast. I stumbled on a reality show called Made which is on MTV. I don't think I've watched MTV since college when we would all gather around the TV set in the sorority to watch Michael Jackson's Thriller (yeah, we needed to get lives).

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

Leonardo DaVinci and ADD

We went to see the DaVinci exhibit at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry yesterday and it was fascinating. I knew that he was a prolific inventor and studied a wide array of disciplines in his life time. This exhibit highlights just a portion of his work and it's incredible how much he accomplished. And yet, it is well known that he had considerable trouble finishing projects. From the blog Procrastination Central:

Part of what made Leonardo such a "Renaissance Man" was that he was distractible as he was talented. Jacob Bronowski, the scientific historian, speaks about his procrastination. His talents and energy were often wasted in doodles and unfinished projects. The Last Supper was only finished after his patron threatened to cut off all funds. Mona Lisa took twenty years to complete. The Adoration of the Magi, an early painting, was never finished and his equestrian projects were never built.

Twenty years to finish the Mona Lisa! I don't feel so bad taking a year to finish a short story that doesn't even come close to the brilliance of DaVinci's most random doodles.

I've tried managing procrastination. I know I won't be able rid myself of it. At home I have a little kitchen timer that I sometimes carry around the house with me. I set it for 15 minutes and get as much work done in that time as I can. Then I set it for another 15 minutes and play on the computer or watch TV. The problem is that I often just ignore the timer when I want to keep playing. Discipline is not my strong suit.

I have some other projects that I've been avoiding. I am doing some knitting projects - hoping maybe that I can sell at least one of them to some higher end stores. I have lame excuses at hand each time I think about picking up the needles. It's fear. Plain and simple. I'm afraid of failing, I'm afraid of succeeding. I'm afraid of my own shadow.

So for me, it's more than the distraction caused by the ADD that keeps me from setting and achieving goals. It's the fear.

As Franklin D. Roosevelt said, "All we have to fear is fear itself - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."

Friday, April 10, 2009

And the ride continues . . .

My husband just declared: "You're on your own. Don't ask me for help on anything." Hmmm. Well that's all well and good. I wish I was on my own and didn't have to ask him for a thing. But, you see, we're still connected. We have two children. We own a home together (that he's living in while I'm on the road with one of said children). We share finances (and BY THE WAY, he's financing a new business with OUR home equity line of credit - doesn't that mean I'm helping him BIG TIME?). I'm not at home. I don't have all my stuff. By definition I need his help in some way, shape or form. But ok. I'll just deal.

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

Riding the rollercoaster of divorce

When you decide to get divorced, it's like getting on a roller coaster. There are lots of hills and valleys. There are times when you feel like the world is upside down and you're going to toss your cookies. You'll scream and cry that you just want to get off. But at some point, it slows down and you pull into the station. You're on solid ground and hopefully the world has stopped spinning.

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

When will I be closer to fine?

I'm trying to put up a good front. I've always been quite the pro at pretending everything is ok. But the facade is starting to slip. The tears show up unexpectedly. I'll be fine one second and the next I'll find myself feeling so tired I can barely keep my eyes open.

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

Maybe it's more than just ADD . . .

For as long as I can remember, I've had a hard time finishing projects. I'll start knitting a baby blanket, put it down for awhile and then I'll start knitting a sweater. I have started writing several stories and one screenplay which are all in various draft stages. I'm in the middle of at least three books. I've always said that someday I want to own a knitting/coffee/bookstore and study world religions, literature and medieval history. I can't seem to settle on one thing. As I mentioned in my last post, I was recently diagnosed with ADD. The diagnosis made sense, in small part due to my inability to focus on any one hobby, interest or project for very long.

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.