Saturday, May 29, 2010

How my devil and my angel make me crazy and what I'm doing about it

I've been keeping up with the 2500 word per day challenge and I have to say, some weird stuff seems to be coming out as I pour out enough words to get to the daily goal. I write as if I'm journaling so it's mostly stream of consciousness with a little bit of editing.

Yesterday I had a whole conversation with myself about my life. I would post it but it's really embarrassing. But one of the things I discussed with myself is the fact that I want to be a fun person. And to be a fun person, I have to do fun things. I'm usually up for stuff if someone else makes the plans but that's kind of a problem now that I'm divorced from the person who used to make the fun plans. So I reminded myself that if I want something in my life, I'm responsible for figuring out how to make it happen. So thanks to myself (with a little nudging from a friend), I rented a guitar today. I have two months to try it out and decide if I want to continue learning. At that point I'll either buy a guitar or move on to my next hobby (or back to one of the million hobbies I've already started).

Today I started writing about why I sometimes feel like I have multiple personalities. For a long time, I've felt that I have a devil who hangs out on my left shoulder and an angel who hangs out on my right shoulder. The devil isn't evil – just mischievous. When I think back on the times I've gotten myself in trouble, I can usually trace it back to something he said or suggested. He’s the one that dares me to do stuff that my angel thinks is a bad idea. He’s the one that says that everything will be okay while the angel worries about the consequences. Usually I listen to the angel. But not always. Sometimes the devil can convince the angel that something she doesn't want is okay. And sometimes I just tell them to shut up so I can figure out what’s right.

The problem with the devil is that he doesn't really think about other people or the consequences of various things. He thinks of stuff that would be fun or exciting. He wants adventure. But he forgets that I’m a mom. He forgets that I have a job. He likes music and reading and eating and drinking. He likes hanging out with friends and watching movies and tv. He likes being lazy, lazy, lazy. He hates paperwork. He hates cleaning. He hates order and efficiency. Loves chaos and mayhem. He likes to dance like a madman. He’s the one that wants the tattoo.

My angel thinks about other people constantly. She’s the responsible one who pays the bills. And tries hard to get the kids to school on time. She likes it when things are organized and orderly. She completely freaks out when I don’t keep my promises but she’s the one who gets me to over-promise in the first place. Because she wants everyone to love me. She wants me to be a good girl who never lets anyone down. She doesn't want me getting into trouble. Or making trouble. She thinks a tattoo is a horrible idea because some people might not like it. Some people might think it’s silly or weird. People might think I’m not acting my age. Like I said, she wants everyone to love me. Or at least like me. She wants to fit in so badly. My devil doesn't give a rat's ass about that crap.

It's no wonder I feel nuts. Sometimes they yell at each other so loud I can't hear myself think. And sometimes they refuse to speak at all and I feel lost. Lately I've been listening to my devil more often. First of all, he's a lot more fun. But also I'm kind of pissed at my angel because she sort of fucked up my life. If I hadn't listened to her I probably would have gotten out of my marriage sooner. Then again, maybe this is all just a neat trick so that I don't have to take responsibility for my own decisions.

One of the problems is that the devil and the angel each have their own agendas. They aren't always thinking about what's in my long-term best interest. If I listen to one or the other of them too much, my life gets out of balance and I get off track. I think the key for me is to develop a set of values - touchstones - that I can refer to whenever I'm feeling stuck about a decision. The devil and the angel can debate all they want. I can feel better about whatever decision I make if it stands up against my touchstone values.

It isn't that I don't have any values. I do. But I've been so ungrounded (for lack of a better word) for so long that I've lost touch with the core of who I am and who I want to be. When I'm not grounded, I'm almost at the mercy of whoever talks loudest - whether it's my angel, my devil, my kids, my boss or my ex-husband. For years I felt like I was standing chest deep in the ocean, struggling to keep my footing. I was constantly buffeted by the waves with the tide pulling at me. At my lowest, I thought about giving in and floating away - or worse. When I felt strong, I would tread water, fighting to stay in what I hoped was the right spot. I finally feel like I'm on solid ground but still somewhat subject to the wind and shifting sands.

As I was thinking about this, I remembered why I started reading one of my new favorite blogs - Fierce and Mighty. It was this post that hooked me. Specifically, it was this:

"I am the sort of person who believes that in order to have a successful and fulfilling life, it’s important to have a set of principles on which to ground yourself. I think that’s a lot of what helped me through some of my rougher times – that foundation of knowing who I was and who I wanted to be.

I want to be the guy who treats people the way I want to be treated… even if that other person is a douchebag. I want to live with honor. I want to live with integrity. I want to live with determination. I want to never be afraid to risk getting my heart broken because if I hold back, I’ll never get the chance at experiencing great love. I want to live in balance (this one is hard for me). I want to never forget how much of this life is a gift and I should never, ever, EVER take that for granted… because I've seen how life can jump up and kick some amazing people in the teeth without any provocation or sense of it being deserved. Anyone can suffer that fate… so embrace the good and the opportunities you see now."

I'm always impressed with people who know who they are. And knowing your own core values is essential to knowing who you really are. So what are my touchstones? I haven't quite figured that out yet. (I thought about waiting to publish this post until I figured it all out. But that would certainly mean that this post would never get published. And I'd probably stop thinking about my touchstones all together and go back to treading water).

It would be easy for me to just adopt Fierce and Mighty's values as my own - they're great. They sound good and seem like values I "should" live by. But that would be cheating. And really won't get me on solid ground because they won't be mine really. I'll always know that they're his so I'll wonder if I'm applying them right or something. So I'll have to think about it for awhile. Sit in Remembrance and see what my heart says. I know that I'll come up with a few things eventually. And I'll be on my way to solid ground in no time.

What are your Touchstone values? Please share - I could use some ideas!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

On my own

As I was writing my 2500 words today, I was struck by the realization that I am afraid of being alone. Not scared of the dark afraid. Not afraid to go to the movies or have dinner by myself. Afraid of spending the rest of my life without someone of the opposite sex to share it with. My divorce is almost final and then I'll be officially on my own. I wanted the divorce so it's not that I want my ex back or anything. And I thought I'd be psyched to be on my own and have some of the freedom I was lacking. Which is why I was surprised by that realization.

I thought something deeper was going on and wanted to figure out where the fear was coming from so I sat in Remembrance on it. Remembrance is a wonderful Sufi meditation practice of connecting with your heart which is taught by Mark Silver. After just a short time in Remembrance, I had some interesting revelations.

The first thought that popped into my head was "Being alone means death." That might seem a bit over-dramatic unless you look at it from an ancient human DNA standpoint. When humans were living in the wilderness, being exiled or separated from the tribe meant certain death from starvation or hungry wild animals. Women needed a provider to take care of them and their children. Even though it's not at all applicable to me in this life, it's probably something that comes from my 'lizard brain' that doesn't want to be ignored. (The lizard brain is the part of our brains that has been with us since the beginning of our evolution as a species and it's most concerned with survival. It's the part of our brains that makes snap judgments about the safety of people and situations and helps keep us safe from a hungry tiger. Which is generally not relevant to life on the streets of Chicago. But you never know, I suppose.)

I thought about how the need to be part of a "tribe" might apply, even if tangentially, to my life today and it occurred to me that most people have an innate drive to connect with other people. It might be the lizard brain tribal inclusion drive. Or it might be more emotionally-based rather than survival-based. I know that I have a strong need for emotional connection and I don't think I'm alone. The growth of social media bears that out. I know there are a lot of people that use Twitter and Facebook and the like to make money but far more people are using them to connect to other people in some deeper way. For some, online relationships are a poor substitute for the "real thing." But some of my online relationships have been deeper, more interesting and more life-changing than many off-line relationships. That said, romantic relationships that are solely online leave something to be desired. (And let's leave it at that, shall we?)

So I went deeper into Remembrance and realized that I've been avoiding some things related to my being on my own. As part of my divorce, we need to sell our condo and get our own apartments. We're separated but we share the condo and a one-bedroom apartment nearby. Whoever has custody for the week lives with the kids in the condo and the other lives in the apartment. And then we switch. (It's called "nesting" which is short for "something done by parents who can't live with each other but can't bear to make their children move"). It's been a great transition for the kids but frankly it's been a royal pain in the ass for me. I lug all my business and personal stuff back and forth every week. Despite the difficulty, I've been avoiding doing some things that will help us get our condo on the market and I haven't even started to look for my own apartment. So I asked my heart what was up with that. And then I did the math. I've lived with my husband for seventeen years. That's almost half my life. Before that, I was on my own for only a few years because before that I lived at home or with roommates or in a sorority or a dorm. So in my entire life, I only lived alone for a few years. That's it. Now I'll be responsible for my own housing. Picking the right place, decorating it, taking care of it. For some people that's probably exciting. I thought it would be exciting for me, too but it's not. It's honestly terrifying. But until I really sat with my procrastination and anxiety and asked my heart about it, I had no idea what was going on. (You probably can't imagine what a wimp I feel like right now. I mean, what is the big deal? Eighteen year olds barely out of high school are able to get themselves into apartments. What the hell is up with me?).

I wish I could say that in all this I came up with some solutions to getting past my fear that I could share with you. But I didn't. Not yet, anyway. As with my habit of over-apologizing, knowing is half the battle. Now that I know about my fear and know that at least some of it comes from my reactionary, fraidy-pants lizard brain, maybe I can manage it better and move forward. I've found that once I accept the fact that I'm afraid about something, the fear isn't as intense anymore. Our fear is there to protect us so if we don't pay attention to it, our fear will get more and more intense until we do pay attention.

So, Fear, I hear you. I get that you're afraid I'll die if I'm all alone (and I promise I'm not laughing at that feeling even though you have to admit it's kind of funny). And I understand that you're afraid I won't be able to handle all the things that go into living alone - what with my ADD and bad habit of avoiding paperwork and other boring yet important things. But I promise you I'll be ok. Really I will. It would be fantastic if you could go over and talk to Procrastination about all this and maybe the two of you could give me a break for a little while so I can get some stuff done. Maybe you two can take a vacation somewhere nice? Stay as long as you like. Alrighty then. Are we cool? Cool. Glad we had this talk.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I love a good challenge

Here's a secret about me - I have a really hard time not taking a dare. It probably won't come as a surprise to anyone why I've kept that close to the vest. Maybe someday I'll write about the trouble that particular personality quirk has gotten me into. A similar and somewhat less troublesome quirk of mine is that I love a challenge. So when LaVonne over at The Complete Flake tossed out a challenge to me the other day, I took it.

I was whining about not writing as much as I wanted to and she told me to write 2500 words a day. It had worked for her in the past so I figured it was worth a shot. So I did it last night and managed to finish a post I had wanted to write for a few days. When I told her that I had taken her challenge, she was inspired to take her own challenge. So tonight we were twittering about it and she decided to issue her challenge to all her readers - write 2500 words a day. About anything. About nothing. About whatever comes to mind. Trick your inner perfectionist into letting you write without editing. I've done it two days in a row and so far so good. (I already did my 2500 words tonight and this post is IN ADDITION. I am a writing rock star right now.)

If you want to jump start your writing or take it to a higher level, feel free to join us. Comment here or over at Complete Flake or tweet using #2500 and let us know you're in. And then tell us how it's going. I can't wait to see what happens!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

No apologies, no excuses

The past two weekends I've had unusual conversations with near strangers. Two different people (both happened to be younger men which may or may not be relevant) told me that I should stop apologizing for myself so much. Hmmm. I kind of knew I had this problem - it's been mentioned before. But instead of getting better it has apparently gotten worse because it's now obvious enough that people who have just met me think it's worth mentioning. Hmmm again. (I have to say that both of these guys were very sweet and truly were trying to help me. They weren't being mean or anything and I totally appreciate their willingness to be honest with me about their perceptions.)

I could give you a bunch of reasons why I apologize a lot. But it would really sound like I’m making excuses. And I would be, sort of. I first started over-apologizing because I felt like I had no choice. Now that I actually have a choice, why am I still doing it? Habit. It’s a really bad habit. But it must also be doing something for me or I would stop at this point. I mean, it’s embarrassing to have people tell me to stop it. I know that it’s self-defeating and I think that's exactly the "benefit" I get from it.

If I put myself out there and fail, that would hurt. But if I only kind of, sort of put myself out there but tell people upfront how lame I am anyway and THEN I fail, it won’t hurt as much. Because I've already prepared myself to fail. If I make excuses upfront, I also don't have to worry that people think I'm full of myself. I don't want people to think that I think that I'm better than I really am. I want to make people feel comfortable with me. I don't want people to feel threatened by me. I've been told that I can be . . . overwhelming (mostly by men which may or may not be relevant). (And just where do I get off trying to control how other people feel about me. Hmmm yet again. But I think that's something to consider in another post.)

One of the worst things about this habit is that if I do happen to succeed even though I wasn't doing my best, then I don’t give myself any credit for succeeding. I chalk it up to being lucky. So even if I win, I lose. And that sucks.

Now that I know why I do it, how do I stop? I've taken the first step – recognized and accepted that I have a problem. Like any other bad habit, it will take some amount of willpower to stop. The problem is that I've never been known for my willpower. Basically, I don’t like being told I can’t do something – even if that something is a self-defeating behavior. I hate when people say this but seriously, I need to put on my big girl pants and get over it. It’s one thing to rebel against my parents and a controlling husband. But to rebel against myself with something that’s in my own best interest? Ridiculous already.

So . . .
Step one: Recognize the problem. (Check.)
Step two: Grow up. Stop apologizing and stop making excuses. (Working on it.)
Step three: Be kind to myself when I fall off the no apologies/no excuses wagon. (That I think I can do.)

Are you holding yourself back in some way? What do you get out of holding yourself back? What do you do to get out of your own way? I'm wide open to suggestions!

(By the way, I want to mention that LaVonne Ellis over at The Complete Flake helped me get this post done without really meaning to. First she wrote an awesome post about how we resist going for our dreams. And then she told me that if I want to write, I really should try writing at least 2500 words every day. So I started today (2513 words!) and this post was born as part of that. Thanks LaVonne!)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Wherein I convince myself that I am not a snake oil salesman even if I'm afraid my Not Right People might think I am

I feel like I've been totally unproductive today when, in fact, I've actually been fairly productive. I didn't do the things I promised myself that I would do (like work that I actually get paid real money to do right now and cleaning the house but *yuck* who likes to do that?) and that's why I feel like I wasn't productive at all. What I did do is this. I wrote an article (it's short and it's on Facebook but I can still call it an article, right?) about essential oils and why I like them and want to sell them to all my friends. (I would totally give them away to my friends but I'm not Warren Buffett or Steve Jobs so I have to make a living and that's ok, right? Right.)

And there's the real problem. The fact that I felt like I even had to ask the question of whether it's ok to make money selling essential oils to people. I am so not a "salesperson." When I even think about that term, that job, it brings up all kinds of icky feelings. And selling essential oils . . . does the term "snake oil salesman" come to mind? Of course it does. Which makes the icky feelings much worse.

I really believe in the power of essential oils to make us happier and healthier. I use them myself and although I'm pretty new to all this, I can already feel the benefits. I know (kind of like spiritual knowing and not book-knowledge, hard science knowing) that lots of people would be healthier and happier if they used more natural products and less chemical-laden crap. I have a burning desire to help people get there. But translating that burning desire into getting myself to do stuff that would actually sell products to people is really, really hard because of the aforementioned "snake oil salesman" icky feeling.

This is all tied into some of my issues with charging for my services as a healer. I think about people like Mother Teresa dedicating her life to healing the sick without getting paid. And even though I'm certainly no saint, I start to feel bad about charging for something that everyone should have access to. I know that's being way too hard on myself. There's nothing wrong with getting paid for my services. I'll be donating my time and money to charity as I see fit and can afford. That's what most people do. Why is it that I think it's ok for everyone else but not for me?

It was hard for me to write that Facebook article today. It took a lot longer than it might seem given the lack of length and wordiness. It was mainly because my first couple of drafts felt too salesy. And I just couldn't hit the Publish button. So I took a break, goofed around and came back to it. I made it, hopefully, more educational and more personal. Instead of having the link to my website at the top of the article, I put it at the end. Maybe it seems a bit defensive that way - as if I'm embarrassed about asking people to check out the website. Which I am, a little. But I want people to know that I'm not just pushing a product to make a buck. I believe in the product. I believe in the company that makes the product. I want to talk to people about a problem they might have (in this case, the over use of anti-bacterial soaps) and how my product can help them solve that problem. When I think about it that way, I don't feel so icky about it.

I think the bottom line here is that I need to get my message out to my Right People. Those people won't think I'm a snake oil salesman. My Right People are interested in better health for themselves and the planet. My Right People are ok with spending a little more money to get something that is pure, natural and healthy. My Right People understand the benefits of Reiki and other forms of energy healing. And they want to support me in my little business because they think what I'm doing is cool. So here's the thing - I'm asking the universe to help me find those Right People. I'll put myself out there which is scary and hard. But I'm doing it because I know that my Right People are out there somewhere and if I don't put myself and my message out in the world, they'll never find me. And that would be far worse than having a few people -my Not Right People - think I'm an icky snake oil salesman.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Oh, the drama . . .

There was much drama in my house this morning. I have a 12 year old daughter so drama is par for the course. But today's drama was particularly dramatic with lots of tears and screaming on both our parts. I could just dismiss it as typical mother/pre-teen daughter crap and go on about my business but then I would miss whatever lesson is in this for me. For both of us.

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you know that I have ADD. It's not too severe - I managed to get along pretty well for over 40 years of my life before my diagnosis - but it does affect me. Mainly I'm not very detail-oriented. I tend to be a bit flaky, disorganized and somewhat forgetful. I was taking Adderall but recently stopped as part of my physical "spring cleaning." I didn't think the Adderall helped all that much and I don't love the idea of taking amphetamines regularly. (I also don't love spending thousands of dollars a year on a psychiatrist who does nothing but prescribe said amphetamines. Literally. It's a racket.) This morning's drama has me rethinking that decision.

To fully understand this morning's events, you need a little background on my soon-to-be-ended marriage. As I've written about before, my ex was abusive emotionally and physically. He has very high expectations of those around him (and, to be fair, of himself as well). It is his strongly held belief that when people make mistakes, they should apologize. That is reasonable and I'm all for that - the world would be a better place if people were better able to give a good apology. However, in our house I think it was taken too far. Every little mistake was pointed out - not always nicely - and apologies were demanded. And if the apology wasn't up to snuff, there was much yelling and screaming and then demands for apologies for the mistake of not giving a good apology. I now apologize so much that near strangers tell me to stop it. (Seriously - I was in Vegas for a wedding last weekend and a friend of the groom who had known me for one day gave me a - very nice - lecture about how I need to stop apologizing so much.) Of course my girls grew up in this house so they learned - very early - about the "need" for apologies.

Now that my ex is out of the picture, I guess I hoped that my girls and I could become a kinder, gentler family. But my kids - especially the 12 year old - learned a lot from their dad. The 12 year old thinks that every mistake should be pointed out and accounted for. She gets upset when I let her little sister get away with things she thinks are wrong. She begs me to call her on things she does even though I tell her that I think it's healthier to learn to let certain things go. Pick your battles and all that. Her response is to tell me that I'm coddling her (because I let her "get away" with stuff) or that I'm requiring her to "eat her anger" (because I tell her that it isn't worth it to fight over stupid stuff).

So this all collided this morning when I tried to help her make their school lunches. The oldest usually makes the lunches (because the youngest has a hard time getting out of bed). Every day they bring baggies of snap peas and carrots for lunch. She's told me in the past how many peas and carrots to put in the baggies. But she never gave me specifics, she just showed me the baggies and said "about this much." So this morning I put what I thought was a reasonable amount of peas and carrots in the strainer and rinsed them. When she came into the kitchen, she looked at it and said (in that snotty way that only 12 year old girls can do) "Mom, there's too many carrots and not enough snap peas!" I snapped back at her with some totally immature retort about not being perfect. Somehow - and I really wish I understood how - this exchange turned into a huge blowout that had nothing to do with peas and carrots.

She was angry because I didn't immediately apologize for making the mistake of not rinsing the "right" amount of vegetables. (I use the quotes because it's a subjective thing, there really isn't a right or wrong here.) She felt that it was a mistake because she had told me before how much to use and I still got it wrong. She made it clear that she wasn't angry that I made the mistake, she was angry that I didn't apologize for making the mistake.

I was angry because she was rude to me in the way she pointed out the mistake. I was angry because it's such a small thing that it didn't even need to be pointed out. I was angry because she expected me to be able to remember a detail like that. And I feel guilty that I can't remember stupid details like that. Because if I was a good mom, wouldn't I know exactly how many fucking peas and carrots my kids like to bring to school? Especially if they've told me how many they like? (If I took the Adderall, would I remember? Maybe. Should I take expensive and possibly toxic pharmaceuticals to fix something that I kind of think isn't that big a problem but is apparently a problem for my kids? Maybe. I honestly don't know.)

Part of my anger comes from the fact that she won't even consider the possibility that my view on the issue of apologies is as valid as her father's. She insists that I expect her to "eat" her anger which couldn't be farther from the truth. I am trying to teach her that she doesn't need to be so angry. And that's a really hard lesson to teach. Especially to a child who grew up in an angry home. I see this as an issue of tolerance and inner peace. She sees it as an issue of standing up for yourself and making people accountable for their actions.

I was hoping that by writing this I would come to some sort of conclusion about how to handle the situation. I often have epiphanies by the end of a blog post. But this time, I'm not so lucky. I have no idea what the right answer is. Actually, I do - the right answer is that there is no right answer. We're both right. We're both wrong. Pretty zen, huh? But how the hell am I going to fix an argument with a 12 year old without some sort of bottom line? I guess that's the lesson for us both - we need to learn to live together and be tolerant of our differences. I have to let her be angry when I make mistakes but I don't have to let her be rude. And she'll need to accept that she and I have a different world view here. Maybe if I practice, a little more often, the tolerance and inner peace that I preach, she'll learn by example. And even if she doesn't, at least I'll be a little more peaceful about it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Learning to fly the plane while it's in the air (or practicing what Johnny & Lee preach)

This whole starting my own business thing is freaking me out a little. More than a little. I'm not much of a risk taker by nature. I suck at downhill skiing because I stay on the baby hills. I hate roller coasters. I've never been camping. When I go on vacation, I tend to visit places that have spas. I admit it, I like comfort. I like safety. It makes me feel . . . comfortable and safe. But starting a business - not comfortable or safe. And even though I know deep down that this is the right thing, that this is good for me, I'm still freaking the hell out.

Last month I organized the corporate entity for my company. Got my level 2 Reiki certification. Got my domain name and all that blah, blah, blah (but no website yet . . .). And then. Nothing much. I've been procrastinating. Finding other things to do. Not getting all my documents done. Not moving forward. Even my metaphor of assembling my trampoline wasn't working for me.

Some of the other things I found to do involved spending money on a few programs that some of my readers will be familiar with (so far, money well spent). First is Danielle LaPorte's FireStarter series which just came today (yay!) so I don't have enough experience with it to talk about it . . .yet. But then I signed up for Johnny Truant and Lee Stranahan's Punk Rock Question the Rules series. (If you're so inclined, you can click on this affiliate link right HERE and I'll get a little somethin' somethin' if you buy it but you can also buy it from Johnny and Lee directly or not at all if it's not your thing. So far it kicks ass.) I started listening to it yesterday and today I applied the first lesson I learned from them. It's ok to learn to fly the plane when it's already in the air. Scary? Yes.

There are times when I feel perfectly comfortable flying by the seat of my pants. (What's with all the flying metaphors today?) In law school I deliberately did NOT read the cases for one elective class the entire time just so I could see if I could wing it in class and still participate intelligently (ok, sometimes I skimmed them but never read them all the way through or took notes or anything). Damn if I didn't get an A in that class. What did that teach me? That I'm pretty good at bullshit. I can kind of make stuff up and make it sound good as long as I have a decent grounding in the basics. But in that case, I didn't really care all that much what the outcome was. It was an elective. It was my last semester and I already had a job waiting. I knew I'd be ok so it wasn't as big a risk as it sounds. Also, it was fun.

But now the stakes are higher. I have two kids I need to support. My chances of getting another job as a lawyer aren't real high (partly because I really, really don't want to do it anymore). I don't have a big pile of money saved up (most of it went to divorce lawyers and living expenses for a year without a job). There's not much of a safety net here. I care a lot about the outcome - as much as I'm trying to let go and trust in the universe, I want things to work out well.

So I've been a bit stuck until yesterday. A week or so ago I had gone to an Argo Tea near my apartment and tossed my business card into a container trying to win something free. Then I forgot about it. So yesterday I get an email from the manager telling me I didn't win the free whatever. BUT she told me that Argo Tea partners with other businesses in the community that share the same goals of wellness and sustainability (who knew?) and she asked if I would like to come over there one day and speak to their guests about Reiki. Does the universe deliver, or what? So my first thought is Yay! Rapidly followed by Shit! I don't have brochures or anything prepared for a presentation! My website isn't up yet even though it's already on my business cards! I'm so unprofessional! I haven't had any paying clients yet, who will take me seriously! SHIT! Then I took a deep breath and remembered: Sometimes you have to learn to fly the plane while it's in the air. And that's ok.

Today I got hosting for my website and then pulled together something that is pretty crappy but is at least something better than random ads for GoDaddy products. You can look at it here. If you want to. But remember that I know it sucks and don't be too hard on me because I'm not a web designer and I have no idea what I'm doing. So I was TERRIFIED to push the Publish button because it's not exactly what I want. But it's what I can do right now and I need to just keep moving forward and it will eventually be a beautiful website with pictures and links and information and a blog and hopefully you will all LOVE it and send it linky love. But for now, it's just a baby website. That needed to be published because I need to learn to be scared shitless but do it anyway. Learning to fly the plane while it's in the air allows you to get started without waiting until every little detail is in place. Because if I waited for that, I would never get anything done with this business.

The other day my daughter brought home a quiz where she had gotten one multiple choice question wrong. It was a vocab word and she didn't know what it meant so she didn't put anything down. When I asked her why she didn't guess, she said she had no idea what the answer was so she didn't feel right guessing. I explained to her that with 4 possible answers, she had a 25% chance of getting it right if she guessed but 0% chance of getting it right by putting nothing. I know it isn't a perfect analogy but it kind of applies to what's going on with me. So my first website isn't the perfect website. But it's there and it looks a heck of a lot better than the GoDaddy ads with half naked women that were there before. My first presentation won't be perfect either and that's ok. I'll learn from it and get better next time. But if I don't try, if I don't put myself out there, I have 0% chance of being successful. And I don't like those odds.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Still connected to your ex?

I happened to notice my Twitter description the other day and was pleasantly surprised. I hadn't looked at it in a long time - I wrote it about a year ago on a whim. It says: Turning life crises into growth and opportunities for positive change. When I wrote it, I was talking about myself. I was trying to turn my own crises into something good - still am. What struck me, though, is how much it sounds like an "elevator speech". That's the short description of what you do that you have prepared for times when you only have an elevator ride's worth of time to tell someone what you do. A friend has been telling me for weeks that I need an elevator speech. I didn't realize that I already have one in my Twitter description.

You might wonder what this has to do with Reiki healing and massage therapy which is what I do (now). Short answer: Not much. Or, everything. Or really - I don't know. Because my path is still unfolding and nothing seems to happen to me in a logical way, I'm not exactly sure what it means. I know it means something. I know that my path has something to do with helping people do what I'm trying to do for myself - turn the crap in their lives into compost and grow a beautiful garden. (Thanks Gina).

I've realized that people in transition seem to be coming into my life lately and talking to me about their lives. (Which is awesome.) Maybe it's that my honesty about my own situation makes people feel comfortable talking to me about their struggles. Maybe I've somehow advertised on the Universe's equivalent of Craig's List that I'm open for business and here to help people work through various life crises. I'm not sure. Whatever the reason, I've been talking to people about their relationships. More specifically, the end (or near end) of relationships and how hard it is.

I think we all understand that ending a serious love relationship is emotionally painful. We may not know just how emotionally painful it is until we're going through it but we expect that kind of pain. What we don't necessarily expect is the physical pain. And most people don't understand the hit their "energetic body" takes when a relationship ends.

Sorry - I hate to use "woo woo speak" but I couldn't think of another way to say it . . . what I mean by "energetic body" is this: we're all made of energy. To way oversimplify it - when you break us down to our smallest parts, past the cells and beyond the molecules that make up the cells, you get energy. Not only are we made up of energy, we're affected by energy - especially the energy of other people. Especially, especially the energy of other people that we love.

When we start a relationship, we connect to our significant other energetically. I "feel" that connection like a cord coming from the center of the chest. At the beginning of a relationship, the cord is thin but as the relationship grows, the cord grows with it. The more our lives intertwine, the more our "energies" intertwine as well. When a relationship ends, the cord has to detach somehow. We unwind from each other. Untangle our lives. Sever the cord. And it's painful. The problem is, it's a kind of pain we don't expect and we often don't recognize it or worse, we ignore it. We don't deal with it and that leads to problems.

Some people never cut the cord of old relationships so that they're still energetically (and emotionally) connected to their exes years later. A friend mentioned yesterday that her parents - who are in their 80's, have been divorced for over 30 years and are both remarried - still hate each other so much they can't be in the same room. What that says to me is they never actually disconnected from each other. Just because they're legally divorced and physically separated doesn't mean they're emotionally separated. I don't think it's possible to hate someone you aren't somehow attached to emotionally (or energetically). People we aren't attached to simply cannot generate that kind of animosity in us. They might annoy us. Maybe we just don't like them as people. But hate? Being unable to be in the same room for any period of time? That's emotional attachment. Very negative emotional attachment.

Another example - a friend was engaged to be married a few years ago but broke it off. It was a very unhealthy relationship. She's now about to get married to someone else - a man who is much better for her. A man she loves. She's happy. But she hasn't been able to bring herself to tell her ex that she's getting married. They aren't friends - she doesn't talk to him or see him. He sends her messages (sometimes nice but mostly snarky), she doesn't reply. She knows that she shouldn't care about telling him and yet she's agonizing - has been for weeks - over sending him an email. She's still connected to him.

Why do we stay connected to old relationships? Partly because we're afraid of change and addicted to anger and/or victimhood (topics for a later post perhaps). But also because we don't realize how we're still connected and so we don't know how to disconnect. We may think that it's enough to get legally divorced and move out, but it isn't, as the two stories illustrate.

I think that in order to dissolve an energetic connection, we need to do three things: realize, acknowledge and accept that the connection exists, explore whether there are other reasons we're staying connected and consciously work to - gently - cut the cord.

Realize, acknowledge and accept

Remember that "what we resist, persists." If we resist the idea that we're still connected to someone we've divorced, the connection will persist. And we have to accept that the continued connection is ok and understandable. Even bad relationships usually have good components. Or they were good at the beginning. Whatever it is, the relationship served a purpose while it lasted and the connection was created. Just like the first step for an alcoholic to kick the booze habit is acknowledging he has a problem, the first step to separating ourselves from an old relationship is to acknowledge that we're still attached. It's also good to acknowledge and accept the fear that probably surrounds

Consider why you're still connected

There are a lot of reasons we might still be connected to a former love. Some possible reasons are simple. We may be the dumpee rather than the dumper and we're still in love. Some are more complex - we may be the dumper and feel guilty about the dumping. So we stay attached because we feel responsible for hurting the other person and we somehow think that by staying connected to them, we're doing them a favor. It could also be that maintaining the old connection keeps us from making a new connection. I know that seems odd at first blush but think about it. We got hurt in our old relationship so we're probably scared about getting hurt in a new one. If we're still "married" to our past relationship then we're not really available to be fully into the new relationship. If we're not fully in the new relationship, maybe we won't get hurt. If you had children together, to a certain extent you'll always be connected. But maybe the connection is stronger than it needs to be for those purposes.

It's important to consider the reasons why you're still attached. You don't want to start cutting the chord without knowing what it's purpose is. Not to be overly dramatic but that would be kind of like trying to diffuse a bomb by cutting wires willy nilly. The connection serves a purpose, you'll want to understand what that purpose is so you can address it while you're severing the connection.

If the purpose isn't immediately apparent, try to sit quietly and ask yourself the question. If you aren't used to talking to yourself, give it some time. It may take a few tries before you get a coherent answer. Or talk to a friend about it. Sometimes our friends see things in us that they don't want to tell us without being asked. (Be careful which friend you ask. Don't ask a friend who hates the ex. They'll have a hard time being unbiased. And they might make you feel bad for still being attached. What if you don't have any friends who don't hate your ex? Send me a note and I'll talk it through with you. I'm good with stuff like that.)

Cut the cord - gently

This could actually be the easy part. Or the hardest part. It really depends on the reasons for the connection. For some people, just realizing that they're still connected is enough to help them let go. More likely though, it will take some time to dissolve the connection. Especially if it has stuck around for a long time. So be kind to yourself during this process.

Sit comfortably with your eyes closed. Try to picture the connection to your ex. Like I said earlier, I tend to "feel" it (in myself and others) as a cord (or rope or fishing line or even a rainbow) connected at the center of the chest. But yours might be different. (Or I might be hallucinating, you never know.) Focus on your breath, trying not to get sucked into any heavy emotions when you think about your ex. If feelings do come up, acknowledge them and try to let them go. Before you let them go, see if you can figure out where, physically, those feelings are coming from. Picture that area of your body and visualize some kind of cord or rope coming from that area and connecting to your ex. Then try to visualize the connection dissolving - like a rope unraveling or melting or just disappearing. Whatever works and feels right.

Keep in mind that meditation and visualization don't have to be deadly serious all the time. In fact, if you try to have a sense of humor about it, the process is easier. So picture the cord as licorice with you unwinding the strands and feeding them to Munchkin children. Or something. Just don't feel like you have to be all serious. Unless you want to be. Which is fine, too. It's all about you.

Another method comes from Havi's way of dealing with fear. Talk to your connection. Tell it that you understand it's trying to protect you or help you. Let it know that you don't need the protection anymore. Remind it that you aren't responsible for protecting your ex anymore. Ask it what it needs in order to go away and leave you alone forever. Write it some notes. Draw it some pictures. You'll be surprised at what you learn about yourself in the process. You might find out more about the reasons behind the connection and some things you can do to fill those needs in a healthier way. Once those needs are filled or acknowledged, it's easier to disconnect.

There are different ways to approach this task, try a few things and use what feels most comfortable to you. Be nice to yourself and patient during this process. It isn't easy. It isn't always fast. The most important thing is to actually do it - because these old connections are huge energy vampires. They hold us back from being our best and strongest selves.