Monthly Archives: January 2013

Day 31: The Effect of Attention

So I chose — soon after I woke up this morning — the topic I wanted to attempt today.  Soon after I made that decision, I wrote out the title “The Effect of Attention” and  I thought — Whoa!  That’s a huge topic. So I may just skirt the surface of this interesting topic today. We’ll see.

The inspiration to write about The Effect of Attention came from some aspects of the groups I’ve started at the hospital where I work. I wrote about these groups  in this blog, on Day 13, as follows:

Here’s how these groups are different. People, once they are oriented  to the structure and guidelines of the group, can attend when and how often they choose.  If you were attending these groups, you would never know for sure who was going to be there when you showed up — you might know some people but other ones would probably be new.  And, you’d have control over when and how often you attend. You could come once a week, once a month, whenever you wanted. You could book  a space way ahead, decide to come spontaneously (if space was available), and cancel if you couldn’t make it.

(Hey! There’s another first! That is, I just quoted myself for the first time, here in the Blog of Living Non-Judgmentally.)

Anyway, so once people are signed up for these groups, they can attend as they please.  And that means that at any particular group meeting, there may be lots of people and there may be very few people, or somewhere in the middle.  And I’m just getting these groups going, so — inevitably — for some sessions, nobody may show up. Or ONE person may show up.  And people may argue that one person is NOT a group, but, in order to keep the benefits of flexible scheduling, I need to allow for that possibility.

So this is the way I have dealt with all this. I make  it clear to interested group participants — before they get into the group —  how the attendance will vary. I assure them that the group is designed to work, no matter how many people show.  And if one person shows up, that person will get a personal training session.  (Sometimes I feel like I’m doing an infomercial when I’m talking about the groups. “No matter who shows up, satisfaction guaranteed!  Wait, there’s still more!  Act now and you might get THIS VALUABLE BONUS  — 90-minutes of PERSONAL TRAINING with fabulous group therapists!”)

Anyway, this group model has been working well enough.  However, I recognize that the number of people that show up to a session has an effect on the group members. For example, if very few people show up for a group, thoughts like these may very well occur to people:

Geesh!  What the hell is going on here?  Does the number of people here mean that something I said in a previous session made everybody stay away?  OR does this mean that our group leader SUCKS?  Eeeek!

And what if  lots of people show up?  If the number of group members seems like TOO MANY for a group (according to somebody’s personal judgment), these thoughts might occur:

Geesh!    What the hell is going on here? Does that mean I won’t get a chance to talk?  And with all these people, chances are greater that somebody is NOT going to like me (or I won’t like them)!! Eeeek!

(For those of you who are reading this blog regularly, if you noticed the distortion of mind-reading above, you get Bonus Points!  However, as people often point out to me, sometimes our guesses about what other people are thinking might have validity.  The antidote to mind-reading is reality testing, something I like to do, a lot.)

So, now, at this point in this post,  I would like to circle back  to the title of this blog: The Effects of Attention.

If  somebody shows up for the group by themselves, they are going to get a hell of a lot more attention than if there are 12 other people in the room.

And I think we all have different levels of comfort with the amount of attention we receive. I’ve noticed that some of us are more self-conscious than others, and would do ANYTHING to avoid a lot of attention.    And I’ve noticed — on the other end of that scale — that some of us LOVE attention. The more, the better.

I think I go up and down on that Attention Reaction Scale, depending upon a lot of things, including (1) my comfort with myself, (2) how deserving I feel of the attention, and many other factors. (See, I KNEW this was a big topic!)

And I’ll share with you a memory I had about this issue of attention, when I decided to write about this topic today.  This memory came up because only one person did show up for a group yesterday, and I’m not sure how many will show tonight. (It looks like two people, so far, but because people can schedule until the last minute, so it may be more. Or even much more.)

Anyway, here’s the memory.  About three years ago, I signed up for a 6-week yoga class that was offered for the staff at the mental health clinic where I was working. Now, I’ve never done yoga.  And I have these judgments about myself, regarding my extreme lack of natural ability to engage successfully in Physical Exercise Classes of any kind. (These judgments might be related to my experience growing up. Because of my heart issues then, I did not take gym the entire time I was in school. And, as far as I heard from everybody else in my school, people thought I had Won The Luck Lottery, getting out of gym that way. But this had an effect, I’m sure. )

So the first time I went to the Yoga Class, I definitely had moments where I felt completely incompetent and self-conscious,  because I just could not follow the Yoga Teacher’s instructions. And I compared myself to everybody else in that class, who all seemed to be doing it perfectly, as if I had missed a previously scheduled Dress Rehearsal on how to do the class. Yes, I remember feeling pretty awful at some points during that first class.  And I didn’t want to go back.

I think I did go back several times and — again — I felt like I had missed the Dress Rehearsal for that class. When I tried to do the Dog Pose,  everybody else looked like Pure-bred Golden Retrievers and I looked like a mangy mongrel.  Actually, I don’t think I even looked like a dog, or any other living, breathing animal.  I think I looked like an illustration of How Not to Do Yoga.  (Well, what can I say? This happened  three years before The Year of Living Non-Judgmentally.)

And I’m now approaching the end (and the point) of this story.  I went to the last session of that 6-week yoga class, feeling kind of dejected and fearing the amount of shame I might feel that night. And I was the only one who showed up. And I had lots of thoughts, like, “Geesh! What does this mean?  Does this mean other people don’t like this teacher? I don’t think so, but how is this going to effect the teacher?  Is she going to take it personally? And how is that going to affect her tonight?”  But while these thoughts were coming up, I also knew that a lot of the staff where I worked were dealing with lots of deadlines.  And who knows what else might have been keeping people away?  (Now that I think of it, I see this all the time:  some people tend to avoid the last meeting of anything).

So, anyway, I remember consciously trying to let go of the anxiety I was feeling about being there, just me, with ALL of the Yoga Teacher’s Attention. And here’s the punchline:  It was a wonderful experience.  I got a lot out of it.  I remember feeling safe enough with her that I got in touch with some old shame about my physical capabilities. And I cried. And I did the dog pose. And I looked enough like an actual mammal, if not a dog. And I felt fine and accepting of exactly where I was, Yoga-wise.

Wow, this was a long post, wasn’t it?  I should warn you, dear reader:  Thursday’s posts are probably likely to be longer, because I can go in to work a little bit later.  I can go in later,  because I stay late, running a group.

Gee!  I wonder how many people will show up tonight?

Thanks for reading.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Day 30: If you think something positive about somebody, let them know, dammit.


Note: This is another blog-inated version of a chapter from a book I’ve been writing. The working title for this book is “AFOG: Another F***ing Opportunity for Growth.”

So here’s another lesson I keep learning over and over again.  People just don’t hear enough praise.

Most people I’ve encountered seem to concentrate most of their energy on the negative. They notice what’s wrong, in themselves, in others, and in their environment. And that makes sense, on lots of levels.  “If you fix this, things will improve.”  That might seem like the most effective way to survive and succeed.

Noticing and naming mistakes and flaws — with no recognition of the positive  — can be effective…

….. if you’re running a factory of machines.

So you see my point here.   We’re not machines. And with people, a constant focus on what’s not working can backfire. It can have the opposite effect. Too much emphasis on mistakes and criticism — without a balance of positive acknowledgement — can deplete people and make it harder for them to do well.

So here’s my proposal.  Let’s do what we can to try to restore some balance here.  If you find yourself authentically thinking or feeling something positive about somebody, tell them.  I’m willing to guarantee something:  They’re not hearing enough of that.  And on some level, they’ll like it.  They might feel uncomfortable, especially if it feels unfamiliar, but that’s a discomfort that’s important to face.

When I work with people, one thing I often ask them in a first interview is how they feel about praise. (This is important to ask, because I will probably be giving them some honest feedback,  which will definitely include some positive observations.)  I often hear this response:  “I’m not good with praise.”  But nobody has ever said to me anything like, “Whatever you do, don’t give me any authentic positive feedback.”

So I do offer that when I can. Because, really, what’s more therapeutic than that?

One of my Therapy Heroes is Michael White.  Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia:

Michael White (29 December 1948 – 4 April 2008[1]) was an Australian social worker and family therapist. He is known as the founder of narrative therapy.

I got to see Michael White speak.  It was wonderful. And I remember him inviting the audience to do what I’m writing about here.  I wish I could remember his language, because he was a terrific speaker.  The way I remember what he said is this: If you are thinking something positive about somebody, let that person know.  Don’t assume that they know.  It’s a helpful thing to do, for you and for the other person.

And I remember taking that in and wanting to apply it, that very day.  I remember waiting in line to tell Michael White how wonderful I thought his theories were, how much I loved using narrative therapy with my patients, how much I had enjoyed his talk, and so on.

Strangely enough, I can’t remember whether I ever got to tell him.  it’s possible I did.  It’s possible that I couldn’t, because so many people were waiting to talk to him, that I didn’t get a chance.

But what is important is that I heard him and it changed me. I decided that day to express authentic positive thoughts when I had the opportunity.

So, at work, if somebody tells me something positive about somebody else and expresses appreciation for what they’ve done, I make it a habit to pass that on directly to the person.  I’ll write an e-mail to somebody and say, “I just heard so-and-so say this particular thing about you, and I just wanted to let you know.”  I don’t know how other people take that.  Maybe they think I’m trying to suck up to them.  Maybe they think I’m sickeningly sweet.  Who knows.

I don’t care. I’m honoring Michael White and my own value system.  And I’ll do that whenever I can.

Thanks for reading.

© 2013 Ann Koplow

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Day 29: Personal Medicine

I first heard the term “Personal Medicine”  at a mental health clinic where I used to work.   The term was coined by Pat Deegan, PhD,  who describes herself, on her website, as  “a thought leader, innovator and inspirational speaker in the field of mental health recovery.”

And she really is.

She defines Personal Medicine as follows:

Personal Medicine is an activity someone does because it helps them feel better or increases their “wellness.”  Personal medicine can be things like:

  •  Working as a carpenter
  •  Being a good parent to my 3-year old daughter
  •  Vegetable gardening

Personal medicine or — as I often call it — “What Helps.”

This morning, as I continued to deal with some challenging circumstances, I decided to identify and administer my own personal medicine.

So I gave myself some prescriptions and — like a good patient — took them STAT. These included:

Rx #1:   Reaching out for assistance with some daunting tasks.

Rx #2:   Identifying and challenging some distortions (the ever-popular mind-reading and fortune-telling) that were causing me undue worry.

Rx #3:  Treating myself in a kindlier, gentler fashion.  (This is a fabulously appropriate prescription for when you’re having a difficult day, even though it might feel tough to swallow).

And all these prescriptions were good for what ailed me.

And no side effects.

I’m wondering how you’re doing, dear reader, in prescribing your own healthy, personal medicine.

No need to hold back, even if it’s habit-forming.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Day 28: Losing the investment in the outcome

This is going to be a  short post, mostly because I had a challenging day today, which included difficult situations as well as some self-doubt.

So this is all I’m going to do right now:  I’m going to try to put into words a concept that I’ve found really helpful.

When I get caught up in worry about how something is going to turn out, I invite myself to lose my investment in the outcome.

I remind myself that being invested in the outcome  takes me out of the moment.  Being invested in a certain outcome can lead to disappointment, rather than acceptance.

This has helped me  when I’ve been in the middle of really difficult, scary situations. It’s also helped me when I care about something so much that I really, really want it to turn out well.

It helps me do the work I do, because I let go of a need for somebody else to change a certain way.  Then, I can be committed to being as present as possible with another person, exactly how they are.

I’m not at my best tonight — it’s more difficult than usual to write —  and it’s interesting that I’m choosing this time to try to communicate about something that I think is very important.

I’m sure I’ll write about it again.  For now, this was helpful, almost like visiting an old, faithful friend.

Thanks for reading.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Day 27: This blog is good enough AND I can make it better.

I’m glad I’ve chosen this for the Topic Du Jour, because I think I’m going to find this helpful (and maybe even fun!) to write about.

For one thing, I like thinking about the generalized version of this subject heading, which I’ve been using lately as a remedy or antidote, when I start to lapse into self-judgment:

It’s good enough already AND I can make it better.

What I like about this handy-dandy, helpful phrase is that it allows me to feel acceptance of where I am (regarding my learning curve at work, relationships,  my abilities as a mother, where I live, a group I’m doing, etc.), despite my constant awareness of all the things I don’t know and could improve upon.

So that phrase definitely helps me.

It’s helping me right now!

Starting and writing this blog is a good example of how that phrase can help me hold (and honor) two things which may seem mutually exclusive:  (1) acceptance of where I am and (2) my inherently lively self-judgmental voice, which wants me to do better (but which, in its zealousness, can make me feel worse).

At this point, I’d like to fill you in on some details about The Birth of This Blog. In December,  after spending several months writing, more prolifically than I expected, chapters for a possible book (or two), I decided that it might be a good time to also start a blog.  I had never written a blog before, but I liked the idea of another outlet for writing — and a way of writing that would be much more interactive than writing a book on my own. I also saw starting a blog as a way to support a current quest of mine:   to let go of judgment (and to help others do the same).  And the title of the blog came to me: The Year of Living Non-Judgmentally. I loved the idea of committing to that for the coming year, recognizing that Non-Judgment is a goal that I would never completely and consistently attain, but which striving toward could  be very helpful.  (I’m thinking about Calculus, which I actually hated in school, but which — if my memory serves me correctly  —  is all about approaching and getting closer to a point without actually ever reaching it.)

I wasn’t sure how often I would write in this blog, and I wasn’t sure when I would start it.  The two possibilities for starting were:  January 1, 2013, and February 2, 2013, which would be my 60th birthday.  So, in December, I started a quick and dirty research of How To Blog, using my usual learning technique of asking people what they knew and what they would advise. A couple of people suggested WordPress as the site.  And then I did a quick crash course, for myself, of how to get started blogging on WordPress.  I spent a few hours looking at possible formats (called “themes” here),  saw the “Adventure Journal” theme  and loved the idea of this coming year as an adventure. (I also looked at the suggested photographs for the Adventure Journal and LOVED the picture of that camel, looking at the pyramids — a place I’ve always wanted to go, and haven’t been to yet.)

So, late in December, I decided upon the theme and felt like I knew enough to Take The Plunge. And I began writing this blog on January 1, 2013.

Now,  I am 27 days into this journey, and have actually posted each day. I have also had a chance to look at other WordPress blogs.

So, right on schedule, I am having thoughts that fit into the Cognitive Distortion of ….

Comparisons.

Here is the definition of Comparisons,  from a hand-out I use at work on Cognitive Distortions/Unhelpful Thoughts:

Comparisons.

We compare ourselves to others, with ourselves coming out short. For example, “I’m not as smart (or good, competent, good-looking, lovable, etc.) as that other person.”   Or, we compare ourselves to how we think we should be, or how we’ve been before.  We might think that comparisons help motivate us, but they usually make us feel worse.

So, yes, I am now reading other blog posts here, where I really enjoy the cleanness and simplicity of the posting themes. And lately, I have been comparing, to my disadvantage, the way my blog looks. My blog has an appearance chosen by a newbie, overwhelmed by all the choices here, who fell in love with the words “Adventure Journal” and a picture of an inscrutable camel staring at the pyramids.

Okay, if you’re interested in more details about the negative  thoughts  have come up for me lately about this blog — thoughts also heavily laden with the previously blogged-upon cognitive distortions of Mind-Reading and Should’s– feel free to dive into this italicized Pool of Judgment:

I don’t like the sans-serif type font that my blog theme uses.  And I can’t seem to change it!   When I used to work in marketing and advertising, I was a fanatic about using serif fonts in every piece of marketing literature I helped create –since studies showed that serif fonts were easier to read.  Why did I choose this theme without more care about the type font that was available?  People are probably having trouble reading this with that lousy type font.  They’re also probably getting annoyed with the “gimmicks” of my posts! It’s bad enough I’ve chosen my own gimmicks — using the term “dear reader” and my tendency to Capitalize Important Concepts (which drives my son crazy) — but at least THOSE I CAN CHANGE IF I CHOOSE. What about those gimmicks I can’t control because it’s part of the Adventure Journal Theme ? Those ripped slips of paper that serve as my replies to comments, and so on!  I bet those gimmicks are driving people crazy, and maybe even preventing some people from reading this blog!  What was I thinking, choosing such a busy theme?  Why didn’t I take more time to look at other people’s blogs, which look so modern, so clean, so easy to read?

Phew.  I don’t know how that was to read, but — as always — it helps me to write  down those dang judgmental thoughts — getting them out of my head.

I repeat, Phew!

I’m also noticing the focus on appearance — how this blog looks — in that pool of judgment. So  I’m remembering, right now,  times I’ve made other judgmental comparisons about appearances. That is, I’m remembering some painful times where I’ve compared how I look to a more popular ideal.

Hmmmm. That’s interesting.

So what I would like to do right now is to make some choices.  I’m reaffirming my acceptance of appearances (mine and my blog)  and hoping that people can get past any flaws –that I might see or fear  — to the beauty they may be able to find for themselves.

Wow!  I actually didn’t know this post was going to go THERE, dear reader.

Before I end this surprising post, I want to say a few more things:  There are some important lessons for me learn about being a blogger, including how to refer to other posts I’ve written, in a way that meets Blog Etiquette. (I have googled that concept of Blog Etiquette, but I’m still confused and relatively clueless about rules and execution of same.)  I would also like to learn how to list, on each blog post, the other blogs I’m following here, in order to share the wealth I’m experiencing as a reader.

But I’m reminding myself, right now, that I have time to learn what I need to, and I am happy — in the moment, now that I’ve written this post — with exactly where I am on the blogging journey.  Because it’s good enough AND I can make it better.

Thanks for participating on this day of this adventure with me, dear reader.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Day 26: What we can and cannot change

I expect that I’ll be posting on this topic throughout the year.  It’s a biggie, isn’t it?

Often when this really important issue comes up, I’ll say, “You know …. it’s the serenity prayer.”  I said that at a group session last week and everybody nodded. Then somebody asked me, “Exactly how does the serenity prayer go again?”  After I bumbled around for a little while (still spacier than usual because I was SICK, people), tossing words out like “control” “wisdom” “difference” “patience” —  I gave up, left the group room, went back to my office (just down the hallway), and got the notebook where I write down things that help and things that don’t help.  I knew I had written down the serenity prayer under “Things that Help” because …. it helps.

After I returned to the group, I read aloud what I had written in my notebook:

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  

Man, that just blows my mind — how simple and profound that is.  I think I have trouble remembering it because it seems so …. perfect.  When I try to quote it from memory (and my memory can be so imperfect), I just want to stop trying to approximate it, and get to the Real Deal.

As we ended up discussing in the group that night, Part 3 of that Perfect Prayer is  REALLY tricky.  “The wisdom to know the difference.”  I don’t think I’ll ever reach and stay at THAT level of wisdom. I mean, I don’t think I’ll every attain a Personal Development Nirvana, where I’ll immediately know, in the moment, what I can change and what I can’t change. It seems like those are lessons I have to keep learning, again and again.

And even when I name “guidelines” about what we can and can’t change, I have to keep re-learning those, too.

For example, here’s something I often name as “something we can’t change.”

Other people.

Realizing that, over and over again, does seem to help. Now, that doesn’t mean losing faith in other people’s ability to change.  Geesh, if I didn’t believe in THAT, I couldn’t do the work I do.   And I’m not saying that we don’t have an effect on each other.

(Wow, this IS tricky.)

But we can’t make other people change, as much as we might (1) yearn for that change, (2) think we need that change,  and (3) believe they need that change.

This brings to mind another profound, ancient piece of wisdom:

Q:  How many therapists does it take to change a lightbulb?

A: One, but the lightbulb has to really want to change.

Yep.

Just some final thoughts before I end today’s post.  Acceptance of where other people are — and letting go of that need for other people to change — seems to help. That doesn’t mean tolerating a bad situation and letting go of your own needs.  It also really helps to clearly state the effect that other people’s behavior has on you, and to express your needs and wishes, and even name consequences, at times.  (I’ll write about “I-statements” in a future post, I’m sure, which is a handy-dandy prescription for more effective interpersonal communication.)

But, what other people think and do? Not in my realm of control.

And I’m still working on the wisdom to know THAT difference.  Like right now, writing this.

Thanks, dear reader.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Day 25: I’m having trouble writing a post today.

Well, I guess it was inevitable.

I started a post this morning, all gung-ho, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 6:30 AM.  The title of the post was “The Rules of Self-Disclosure.”  It was something I wanted to write about this morning because I took a risk yesterday at the end of a big presentation at the hospital yesterday where I work. I was really excited and enthusiastic about that presentation — which was about an upcoming, in-process change at the hospital, where patients will be able to read all the notes doctors write about them. Afterwards, I really wanted to  talk to the presenters, to express my enthusiasm and support for the new process and volunteer to be involved, but I felt too shy, and left the meeting. However, after I left, I almost immediately turned around and came back. And when I came back, my manager was talking to the presenters.  He introduced me, and I spoke my piece. In the process of expressing my enthusiasm, I did some self-disclosure — I told them that I had been a patient all my life, and that I was incredibly moved by how respectful I thought this change was.

I think that whole interaction went fine, and my manager, afterwards, told me how glad he was that I had come back to talk to the presenters.  And I was glad, too. But i noticed that I felt some anxiety the rest of the day, wondering whether I had said too much.

Anyway, I started writing about this topic this morning, but in a very different way. I started out by defining the use of the term “self-disclosure” and what that meant in therapy — how therapists decide what to reveal and what not to reveal about themselves when working with clients.  Soon, it was time for me to leave for work, and I hadn’t gotten to the piece I really wanted to say yet.  Then, I had a long tiring day at work, and when I came home, I looked at what I had written, wasn’t sure what to do with it, and then went out to dinner.  Then, when I got home from dinner, I looked at it again.

And I really didn’t like it.  And I felt too tired to rewrite it.

So then, I figured I would forget this post, “steal” some stuff from what I’d written for my book, and post that.  But when I looked at the chapters for my book, I didn’t like anything there, either.

Now, this is something that seems to happen to me.  I write something, feel okay about it, read it later, and …. I think it sucks.

It’s like some sort of switch gets pulled and if I read ANYTHING I’ve written before,  I don’t like it.

So that was happening tonight.  Great.  So the time was going by, and I had no post.  And then I started to feel the pressure of the deadline.  And then I started thinking that I might not be able to post something today.

And that made me realize that I DO want to post every day.  I don’t know if I’m going to be able to keep this up, but I’d like to.

So I figured I would write about what was going on in the moment.  And, in the process, I quickly told that part of the story from yesterday that I really wanted to tell about self-disclosure.

So now …. here’s where the rubber meets the road.  I’ve typed this post really quickly, trying to ignore and let go of my very active Inner Critic.

But NOW I’ve got to re-read this before I post it — at least for typos, for heaven’s sake.  And what if that critical switch is still in effect?  If it is, I’m gonna dislike this, too. Probably intensely.  And if  that happens, what’s going to win out?  My wish to rewrite, my tiredness from work, or my wish to post every day?  Because here are my choices, people: (1) I can post something I dislike, (2) rewrite it until it’s good enough (although if The Critic is in full force, that’s going to be really tough), or (3) post nothing at all.

Okay, I’m going to go back and re-read.

Okay, I did.

And I’ve made my decision.

Thanks for reading, as always.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Day 24: Nature ups the ante (and lowers the temperature)

I just checked the temperature on my phone.

I couldn’t help but react audibly when I saw it.  I’m not sure whether I made a gasp or a moan or a strangulated whimper.  Whatever sound I made, it was in reaction to seeing this:

Oh, my.

Well, here’s one way to tell THIS story. Going out this morning  will be an interesting test of what it will be like for me — the day after I wrote in this blog about how extreme weather affects my sense of safety (and when I’m still not back to baseline, health-wise).

I think writing about the extreme cold and my sense of safety yesterday is already helping. Just writing or talking about something — sharing a story, especially a previously unexpressed one — can help quite a bit, I believe. (I guess it’s good I believe that, since that’s the backbone of what I do for a living.)

And it’s also helping this morning, to share my reactions in today’s post — especially that initial, primal THUMP of dismay I felt when I saw that tiny digit on my phone.

It’s a ONE, for heaven’s sake. ONE degree.

Here it is again, in all its small starkness:

(I keep thinking that some of you who are reading this, perhaps living closer to one of the Earthly Poles than I do and regularly experiencing colder temperatures, might be chuckling at my delicate whussy-ness right now, but Hey!  I think we can all bear more easily whatever we’re used to.)

So, as I was saying, it’s a ONE.  Just a smidge away from a zero.  Zero. Nothing.  (Fahrenheit, the crueler measurement of cold.)

So, yes, that scares me.  This is a situation where the  smallness of the number is bad. I’m not talking golf, blood pressure, or “bad” cholesterol,  where smaller numbers are reassuring. In this situation, numbers considerably smaller than normal are dangerous — like the realms of salaries, grades, and the heart rate of a child.

So it’s more dangerous out there, dear readers.   But as I said earlier in this post, writing about this, sharing this with you, feeling not-alone with this, is helpful, especially as I’m gearing myself up to go out and meet it.

And as I’m preparing myself right now, about to put on my layers of armor and venture into The Land of One Degree, I’m feeling …..

Like a hero, actually.

Really. (And I guess that showed up in my language, directly above.)

And rather than feeling beaten down — as I did when that fearsome  and shocking 1° popped up on my cell phone — I actually can feel a sense of excitement.

Really!

And here are some things I’m believing right now:

I can do it.

I will be okay.

Even better!

I will pass through this, triumphant.

I will beat this dastardly degree!

I mean, it’s only a puny little ONE, for heaven’s sake.

Ta-da!

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Day 23: 8 Degrees of Safety.

I went back to work today, Wednesday, after being sick for four days,  and it was really, really cold outside.  It was 8 degrees, Fahrenheit, when I left the house.

I bundled up, really well, for protection. And everything went okay.  Nothing went awry. My trusty car started up, right away, even though it had sat idle since Saturday. And although I had to wait outside for a shuttle bus for a little while (my parking lot is a 20-minute walk from the hospital where I work), my bundling had done the trick. I wasn’t in too much pain during the wait. I could still really feel the cold through all the layers I’d piled on, which felt very freaky, but I was fine.

So I made it to work, no harm done.  However, I’ve noticed that whenever it’s extreme weather outside, that affects my sense of safety, even when I’m indoors.  I’m more aware of our human physical fragility, I guess. Knowing that the outside environment is considerably more hostile than usual has an effect on me.  I feel more anxious, careful, subdued, vigilant, serious.  Getting in touch with other aspects of my nature — my humor, openness, and sociability — takes more effort.  And I pretty much kept to myself, avoiding any contact with strangers, the whole day I was away from home.

I think that’s a reflection of a general “truth” for me.   The safer I feel in my environment  — the more I’m able to trust that pain is not imminent — the more I can interact freely with others, and the more in touch I can be with the “higher” parts of my nature.

This is tricky to write about, since the word “higher” implies judgment, doesn’t it?  At this moment, I’m not sure what to call those other parts of my nature — the humor, the openness, the sociability.  For some reason, I want to call those parts “vulnerable” right now.

Are they more vulnerable, though?  I feel like those parts show strength.  However, to show humor, openness, and sociability implies a trust of The Other Person, I suppose — that whomever we interact with will be accepting enough of the interpersonal effort.

So maybe showing those sociable parts implies a certain level of bravery. Whenever we interact with somebody, we risk rejection, I guess.

Hmmm. This is like an equation that I’m having trouble figuring out right now. It’s frustrating, and I’m comparing how I am right now — not feeling 100% myself, still recovering from being sick — to how I might be able to think and write when I’m feeling better. (Comparisons are another Cognitive Distortion, by the way, and I look forward to ranting and raving about THAT in a future blog post.)

Anyway, I’m going to end it here, dear reader, trusting that this post is good enough to publish today. I also hope that if you have thoughts and questions about this post, that you will feel safe enough — no matter what the weather is outside as you’re reading this — to express them, if you choose.

Thanks for reading, as always.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Day 22: Junket, oui. Judgment, non.

I’m staying out of work today. And I’m glad to report that I’m doing pretty well letting go of any self-judgment about that decision. Which is great, because it’s unpleasant enough to feel bad, without feeling bad about feeling bad.

Wouldn’t you agree?

So I’m letting go of judgmental thoughts.  And I’m having Junket thoughts, instead.

In the likely case that you’ve never heard of Junket, dear reader, it’s  a pudding that my mother used to make whenever I was sick. I assumed that it was long-gone, but Google tells me that it’s still out there.

Image

Wow.  It’s nice to see the old package again.

Who knows how Junket would taste to me today, but I sure did like it then.  (I also liked Franco-American canned spaghetti back then, so that  tells you a lot.)

It’s true that my mother wasn’t exactly a gourmet cook,  but I liked what she cooked for us.  There was a consistency and comfort associated with her revolving repertoire of main dishes. The dozen entrees she made included things I still sometimes yearn for.

Especially the casseroles.  Tuna Noodle Casserole. American Chopped Suey.  Yes, it’s true. I may love going to foodie-type restaurants whenever I can, but I still want tacky casseroles like that for comfort food.

Here’s another confession. When I started getting sick a few days ago, one of the remedies I took was … Tuna Noodle Casserole.

It occurs to me that some people reading this might have some oh-so-understandable reactions to a pudding named Junket and casseroles consisting of tuna.  Yes, I’m experiencing the cognitive distortion of Mind Reading now, imagining that for many of you, one-syllable sounds of judgment — such as  Yuck!  — are forming in your brains.

By the way, sometimes when we guess what other people are thinking, we’re right.

Nevertheless, I am now embracing, with pride, my love of the food my mother served me.

Especially when i was sick.

Vive La Junket!

And with that thrilling declaration, I am now going to open up a can of chicken soup.

Thanks for reading (no matter what your personal food preferences).

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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