Monthly Archives: July 2013

Day 212: Confidence

Yesterday, I had my second annual review at work.

Last year, my first review helped me, big time. My anxiety about being at work went waaaay down. I let go of self-doubt, self-criticism, and all sorts of cognitive distortions, like Comparisons, Mind Reading, and Negative Filter :

Negative filtering (also known as “Disqualifying the positive”).

This is when we focus on the negative, and filter out all positive aspects of a situation. For example, you get a good review at work with one critical comment, and the criticism becomes the focus, with the positive feedback fading or forgotten. You dismiss positives by explaining them away — for example, responding to a compliment with the thought, “They were just being nice.”

It’s interesting that the example of negative filtering, above, is a work review. And here’s the deal: my first review had no negative comments. Not one.

So I really let in all that positive feedback and compliments last year. And it made a huge difference.

Essentially, that first review was a healthy, mega-dose of Reality Testing:

Reality testing. Ask people questions to find out if your thoughts and concerns are realistic or true. This is a particularly effective response to the distortion of mind-reading.

It was an antidote for my negative self-talk, fears, projections, and other unhelpful thoughts I was having about work.

This year’s review focused more on Ways I Could Improve. And there was a thing, or two, about that review which I could — if I chose — use as a negative filter. I could maximize the “negative” and minimize the huge number of positives that were there.

But I’m not. Instead, I am letting in all the amazing, positive comments I got, from people I respect, a lot.

And, again, it’s making a big difference.

I feel more alive, secure, and eager to go into work this morning. I feel confident that — no matter what challenges arise, no matter what mistakes I inevitably make — I will do a good enough job.

My passion and love for my work is unhindered, this morning, by any dread, guilt, or anxiety.

And nothing has changed, people, about my work situation.

The only thing that has changed is this: Today I know some beautiful details about how my work is appreciated.

Before I came to this job, I worked at a place where I also loved what I did. However, I received only a couple of formal reviews during the twelve years I was there. I still got positive feedback and encouragement from wonderful people, but I didn’t get that bracing mega-dose of appreciation…. until I left.

And those Goodbye Appreciations were, again, an incredible remedy for what ailed me.

Here is the point I want to make this morning:

Confidence helps.

While we may have fears of feeling too good (discussed here, here, and here), and while we might love and admire the quality of humility in others and in ourselves …

Confidence helps.

I know it helps me, in so many ways.

It helps me do a better job.

It helps reduce my anxiety.

It helps me express myself, more strongly.

It helps me feel more comfortable, exactly where I am.

And instead of feeling like I have to be a Kingpin to succeed, I feel more connected to my team:

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(Seen yesterday, as I walked away from a Good Day’s Work.)

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Thanks to my teams at work, to people whose work includes dressing up like giant objects like teeth or bowling pins, to yearly reviews, and to you.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Day 211: A short (but sweet) post

In any moment, you can learn from anything and anyone you meet.

Including this:

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Thank you, bumper sticker!

And thanks to all my readers, including you.

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Day 210: A Worry Box

A few weeks ago, a woman in one of my therapy groups talked about a “Worry Box.”

Let’s see if Google has a definition for “Worry Box.” (I doubt it. I think I’m going to have to work a little harder writing this blog, this morning.)

Boy, even that little bit of fortune-telling I did there, in the parentheses …. was wrong. What was I thinking?

When I googled “Worry Box,” this app came up:

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which is, apparently, on a list of “The 10 Best iPhone and Android Apps for Reducing Anxiety,” published on 9/9/12 by HealthLine.

But I still need to define the concept of “Worry Box”.

Wait! Here’s an excerpt from “Two Techniques for Reducing Stress,” from Harvard Health Publications/Harvard Medical School, published on 4/9/11:

Make a worry box

Find any box, decorate it however you like, and keep it in a handy place. (I found that this was a great activity to do with my young children, since they loved helping to decorate the box.) Jot down each worry as it crops up on a piece of paper and drop it into the box.

Once your worry is deposited in the box, try to turn your attention to other matters. The worry box essentially allows you to mentally let go of your worries.

Later on, you can throw out the notes without looking at them again. I decided to look through mine at the end of the month, and while a few of those worries were still bearing down on me, most were unfounded. It was a good lesson that worrying is often fruitless, as a favorite quote of mine from Leo Buscaglia underscores:

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”

I am very happy about finding that, this morning, for at least two reasons: (1) I don’t have to write a definition of “Worry Box” and (2) the second technique cited in that on-line article is another one I love to use with people, called “Scheduling Worry.” (I really recommend checking that out, here.)

I wanted to write about Worry Boxes, this morning, because I’m having some worries about my trip to England and Scotland with my son, which is ….. about one week away.

Eeeek!

My worry is right on schedule, based on my Past History of Worrying.

I tend to worry in cycles. These cycles go something like this:

  1. Something New (or otherwise scary/exciting) is approaching and is, suddenly, sooner than I expect.
  2. I worry that I am not prepared enough.
  3. I visualize and otherwise think about things that can go wrong.
  4. I forget about all the times I have mastered similar things in the past.
  5. I recognize and name my anxiety.
  6. I (and sometimes other people) do some work to help me let go of anxiety and worry.
  7. I feel secure enough and start looking forward to What Was Causing The Anxiety Before.
  8. Time goes by.
  9. Go back to Step #1, above.

Yep! It’s a cycle, all right.

So I figured I would do something new, today, as part of Step #6, above.

(I did Step #5, earlier today, by (1) sending a confession about my anxiety to Alexa, whom I met in the hospital when we were both kids, who now lives in London, and who has generously offered to take me and my son around town and then (2) starting this blog post.)

So for Step 6, today, I have designated a Worry Box:

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Front row: Worry Box, previously known as Precious Gift from Precious Friend.

Back row (left to right): A Monitor Screen Cleaner (partially pictured) (purchased at the same great store where I got the “Trust” cup, pictured here); Emergency Messages Box (described here).

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One more photo of the newly-dubbed Worry Box, before I leave for work this morning:

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The left portion of that photo shows all that was in the newly-dubbed Worry Box, when I opened it up this morning, for the first time, in a long time. On the right: another cat that helps out with computers.

Gotta run! Thanks to Alexa, Harvard Medical School, Leo Buscaglia, anti-anxiety apps everywhere, and — of course — to you for reading today. (And feel free to put your worries in a box, or otherwise away.)

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Day 209: Two sides of the same coin

This post was inspired, somehow, by watching the show “Breaking Bad” with my son and my bf last night.

Not sure what I’m going to write today. That’s not an unusual situation when I sit down to write a post, but it’s true, even more so, this morning.

Several years ago, when I facilitated writing groups, at a Psychiatric Day Program, I would often suggest that people write freely without editing. Sometimes I suggested people write with their non-dominant hand.

Not sure how to “free-write” with my non-dominant hand when I’m typing, today! But I will do my best.

I’m noticing that my left leg is bouncing as I’m writing this.

One of the people in one of my therapy groups, last week, pointed out that my foot was bouncing — air-tapping — when I was making a point that felt important.

Later in that same group, when we were doing a writing exercise about the topic of “Worry,” I made the suggestion that somebody, who was stuck, try “free writing” and maybe try writing with their non-dominant hand. They kept writing with the same hand, but the suggestion seemed to help.

I think the bouncing leg/tapping foot thing is a sign of two sides of the same coin: Fear/Anticipation. Anxiety/Energy.

I’m not sure if my leg and foot are bouncing and tapping more lately, or if I (and others) are just noticing that more.

Right now, I want to write about something that happened last week, when I woke up in the middle of the night and had trouble getting back to sleep.

When that happened, I tried something new, based on what I’ve read so far of this book (which I’ve referenced in a previous post, here):

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The author of that book, Peter Levine, writes about how people who have experienced trauma (and he says that many of us have experienced some form of trauma) often have the normal, animal physiological responses to that trauma frozen in their bodies.

I often think of the “deer in the headlights” response, when I read his book:

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Peter Levine also cites the “Flight or Fight” fright reaction.

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(Note: The above illustration came from a blog called “The Atomic Meme,” in a post about the biology of stress.)

Peter Levine, in “Waking the Tiger,” says that our primitive, protective reactions to fear-inducing traumas get stuck in our bodies.

I am not sure how Peter Levine is going to “prescribe” — in his book — how people dispel those frozen impulses. I haven’t gotten that far, in my reading.

But I came up with my own prescription, in that middle of the night, last week, when I couldn’t sleep.

Here’s what happened: I woke up and the calf muscles in my legs were hurting me. They were painful. They were tight.

Why were my legs doing that, I wondered? It was possible that I had walked too much that day, in too-new shoes. It was possible that I needed to drink water. It was possible that I needed more potassium.

All of these were possibilities. The reality was: I couldn’t get back to sleep, no matter what I tried.

And I thought about something I had read in the book: Peter Levine’s life-changing experience as a treater of trauma.

Here are some excerpts of how he describes that important encounter, in “Waking the Tiger”:

I was asked to see a woman, Nancy, who was suffering from intense panic attacks.

She appeared paralyzed and unable to breathe.

I became quite frightened.

I had a fleeting vision of a tiger jumping toward us.

I exclaimed loudly, “You are being attacked by a large tiger. See the tiger as it comes at you. Run toward that tree; climb it and escape!” To my surprise, her legs started trembling in running movements. she let out a blood-curdling scream.

She began to tremble, shake, and sob in full-bodied convulsive waves.

She recalled a terrifying memory from her childhood. When she was three years old she had been strapped to a table for a tonsillectomy. The anesthesia was ether.

Nancy was threatened, overwhelmed, and as a result, had become physiologically stuck in the immobility response.”

So, when I couldn’t get back to sleep, after a couple of hours, my legs still cramping (they felt like they were saying, “We want to run!!”), I decided to try an experiment.

I got out of bed, in the dark, and stood there, thinking about that passage above.

My son was asleep downstairs. My boyfriend was awake, downstairs. The cat was downstairs, too. So I knew I wouldn’t be frightening anybody with my experiment. No one would be able to hear me, I was sure.

As is often true when I do a mindfulness exercise, I wasn’t sure what exact form this experiment would take. I gave myself the following instructions, “Run as hard and fast as you can, in place, like your life depends upon your running, on your getting away from what you’re scared of.”

And I ran in place, really, really fast. I didn’t scream. I didn’t need to. The running was intense, hard, and fast.

I didn’t “get anywhere” because I was running in place. But in ways, I covered a lot of distance. I released a lot of energy. And I felt like I might be able to get back to sleep.

When I went back to bed, my legs weren’t hurting as much. They felt a lot better.

A little while later, I was still awake, and my legs still felt stiff. So I tried that exercise one more time.

Then, I tweeted the following:

Cure for insomnia + leg cramps + anxiety + weight gain = Run like you’re being chased by monsters. Rest, repeat.

And I went back to sleep.

Now, I want to end this blog post, so I can meet my old friend, Barbara, on time. (I’ve mentioned Barbara, before, including this post about some “monsters.”)

Thanks to Peter Levine, tigers, “Breaking Bad,” my son, my boyfriend, Barbara, and to you, for reading today.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Day 208: Another side of mind reading (empathy)

This post is dedicated to my ex-business-partner and not-ex-friend, Jonathan, whose birthday it is today!

I’ve written, in this blog, about the cognitive distortion of mind-reading:

Mind reading.  Without individuals saying so, we know what they are thinking and why they act the way they do. For example, you assume that somebody is having a critical thought about you, you don’t check this out, and this affects your actions and feelings towards them.

The more I work with people, the more I see cognitive distortions, like mind reading, that cause people pain and get in the way of them connecting with other people.

At the same time, the more I work with people, the more I think that distortions are a tough habit to break, because they are reflections of human thought processes necessary to our survival.

Why do we mind read so much?  Why do we think we know what other people are thinking, often for the negative?  (E.g., “this person doesn’t like me,” “this person means me harm, ” “I don’t trust this person,” “this person sees in me the things I dislike in myself.”

Why do we have thoughts, like that, so automatically?

Well, there ARE people out there who might be dangerous, and — for survival — it’s good to be vigilant, scanning the environment for those people, so we can protect ourselves and ours.

Likewise, we do other cognitive distortions — like fortune telling and catastrophizing — to be prepared for the future by expecting the worst. As a mode of survival.

Cognitive distortions. Distorted forms of thought processes that have been necessary for our survival.

In my work as a therapist, I encourage people to be mindful of cognitive distortions — those thoughts that don’t help them. At the same time, I also ask them to respect these distortions.

For example, in a therapy group this past week, I said to the members, when we were discussing a particular distortion, “These thoughts think they help us.”

When I said that, I mind-read immediately, thinking, “Nobody is going to understand what THAT means.” But instead, one of the members said, “Oh!  I get it!” And she wrote it down.  And when we ended the group, and named something we wanted to take with us, she named that (what I thought was a clunky, awkward, and unclear) phrase again, as the most helpful thing she got out of the group.

These thoughts think they help us.

And there is another side, of each of the cognitive distortions, that does help us.

For example, the other side of the distortion of mind reading is ….

Empathy.

Empathy is when we try to put ourselves in somebody else’s shoes. To imagine what it’s like to be them.

What’s the difference between the cognitive distortion of mind reading and empathy?

Empathy is expansive. Mind reading is restrictive.  Empathy takes into account difference and experiences that you might not have had; mind reading narrowly focuses on your own fears and assumptions. Empathy takes time and care; mind reading is instantaneous and automatic.

Yesterday, when I was walking to work, I was thinking of this blog and possible future posts.

And I thought of empathy, and two videos I could include in a post about that.

Video # 1

I’ve thought of including this piece of video in a blog post several times before (including earlier this week.)

It’s a scene from the end of the first show of “Six Feet Under, ” the HBO series created by Alan Ball,  about a Funeral Home family business.

I loved that show, because it centered on the human experience of death, in a way I hadn’t seen before on TV.

And the ending of that first episode was a revelation to me.

I’ve only seen that episode once, and it’s been over twelve years.  But that ending stays with me, and I think of it often.

I wasn’t sure I would be able to find that ending scene today, to include it here.

But I found something on YouTube, that I think will do nicely.  It’s a five-minute excerpt from that first episode, which includes (1)  the opening credits (which I also loved),  (2) a very short scene with Nate, the oldest son, and his mother, and (3) that ending scene, which has stayed with me, so strongly.

This YouTube video is dubbed in Spanish, which I don’t speak, but I love that, too. Why? Because there is very little dialogue (between Nate and his mother), and all the important things that happen are non verbal.

Especially that last scene, which has no dialogue at all.

Here’s some background that might be important to know for that last scene. What has proceeded it?  Nate, the main character, has come home to be with his family, after his father has died (after being hit by a bus) and realizes that he needs to stay and help take care of the family business, which is a funeral home.  He is pretty reluctant and pissed off about this.

One more thing about that last scene: the person he sees sitting on the bench and then boarding the bus is … his father.

The first time I saw that scene,  (especially the part after the father boards the bus), I felt amazed.

I wonder what you will see in it?  I’ve never shown it to anybody before, asking that question.

Here it is. I’m going to watch it again, pretending I’ve never seen it before, and see how I experience it:

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Here’s what I saw, again, in that last part (which was shorter than I remembered), which involves some mind-reading on my part. Here’s what I thought Nate was thinking, as he looked at those people who walk by him, after he sees his late father:

“All of these people are going to die. Every one.”

And when I first saw that scene,  I was amazed, because it captured an experience I’ve been having, since I was quite young. An experience I guess I felt alone with. The experience of  looking at people (and myself) and realizing the above.

What feelings do I have, in response to that realization?

Fear. (Although less of that, as I grow older.)

But also, incredible tenderness.

Which leads me to the other video I wanted to show you, today.

Video # 2

I saw this video, called “Empathy: The Human Connection to Patient Care,” very recently, at the hospital where I work.  It was created by The Cleveland Clinic, a non-profit U.S.  hospital, which sponsors conferences on “The Patient Experience”, including the “Empathy and Innovation Summit” coming up in 2014.

When I first saw this, I looked at it with a more “critical eye,”  because of my professional background. That is, before I became a therapist, I spent many years with my ex-business partner Jonathan creating marketing, PR, and other corporate videos.

However, this video affected me a lot, also:

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Before I end this post, I have to reference Star Trek (The Original Series).  Here’s an image, from the 1968 episode called “The Empath.”

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That’s Gem, the Empath, who is being taught — for the survival of her species — to feel, share, and experience other people’s pain, despite her fear.

Thanks to Alan Ball, “Six Feet Under,” The Cleveland Clinic, Gene Roddenberry,  Star Trek, and all of you (evolving) empaths out there.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Day 207: Progress Report, Part Deux

On Day 122 of This Year of Living Non-Judgmentally, I did my first official progress report of the year. (By “official”, I mean I named the post “Progress Report.”) (I think, in some way, every post I write here is a progress report.)

Today, I am going to do the 2nd Official Progress Report of The Year.

Why am I doing this today? Because (a) I am in the middle of my second-year review at work and (b) I’m noticing some real progress lately.

Here are some areas where I’m noticing progress:

  1. I’m giving myself more compliments and credit, without the automatic responses of shame and catastrophizing. For example, when I just re-read that previous progress report, in order to prepare for writing this one, I thought, “Hey! That was pretty good! I liked that post!” And so far (15 minutes later) …. (let me check) … Yay! No shame or fear. Here’s hoping those don’t show up, at all. (Fingers crossed.)
  2. I am NOT waking up feeling uneasy. (See here for my first blog post about that.) Now, chances are that the whole waking-up-uneasy/waking-up-easy thing is a cycle; that is, I probably will wake up uneasy at some point in the future, but this is still progress. (See here for a blog post about how we often cycle around — and up! — as we make progress through life.)
  3. I have realized some truths about myself, that sometimes are directly opposite to fears I have about myself. For example, I fear that I have a bad memory (which I mentioned, here, in my most popular blog post). Well, guess what? It turns out I have an excellent memory, according to people who know me AND Lumosity (which tells me I am in the — get this — 99.9% percentile for memory for people in my age group). That doesn’t mean I have a perfect memory. I still forget things, especially when I’m anxious and/or don’t get enough sleep or food. But I have been considering NEVER saying the following about myself again, “I have a bad memory.” That would be nice. (Fingers crossed.)
  4. I am getting better at recognizing and dealing with my limits. I can NOT be good at everything, nor do I need to be. For example, that great memory I just cited above? I am not so hot at remembering details. So, when I can, I write details down. And if I don’t write down details and forget some things, I’m realizing that it’s not the end of the world. People will forgive me. Plus, I’m learning to forgive myself.
  5. I’m getting better at setting limits. I’m remembering to say things like this, more often: “I can do this, but I can not do that.” For example, I can write a blog post every day, but I can’t get back to every person who e-mails me or writes me within one day. (That felt good to write, I must say.)
  6. I am allowing myself to have more fun in different areas of my life. For example, I find it fun to post pictures here.

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I took this photo last Sunday, when I was allowing myself to have fun by spending the afternoon with people I love, on a beach near where I grew up.

(That photo reminds me of one of my favorite Droodles when I was growing up: “Fish Committing Suicide.”) (I can’t find a picture of that particular droodle right now, but just picture a fish, tied to a helium balloon, floating above the water.)

Before I conclude today’s blog post, I will name a couple of areas where I would I like to make more progress:

  1. Letting go of judgment about numbers (or other data) that tell me “You are not doing enough.” As I’ve mentioned before, periodically I have these unhelpful thoughts, “Not enough people are reading my blog” or “Not enough people are coming to the groups I’m doing at work.” It helps to think the following thoughts, in response: “The right amount of people are reading this blog and doing the groups.” “Everything is exactly where it’s supposed to be, including you, the groups, and the blog.” And, to (mis-)quote a movie (another way I have fun), “If you build it, they will come.”
  2. Letting go of judgment about everything else.
  3. Remembering that letting go doesn’t mean being perfect, or even stopping something completely. It just means doing the best you can, to do something less, and to recover more quickly when/if you do it again.

That concludes today’s blog post. Thanks for witnessing my progress, whenever you do.

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Day 206: Letting Go

When I do my therapy groups, I always start the group with a mindfulness exercise.

When somebody new joins the group, I always acknowledge, honor, and celebrate that by doing a particular mindfulness exercise.

In this mindfulness exercise, I ask people to focus on their breath (a very common focus for a mindfulness exercise).

I invite them to observe, just notice, the breath. They don’t need to change the breath, in any way.

I also invite them to do the following: Breathe in something they would like to take in more of — from the room or from the universe. And breathe out something like they would like to let go of.

Because examples help explain things (especially something new), I always predict how I might do this mindfulness exercise.

I say something like this: “I don’t know what I’m going to breathe in and breathe out, but I’m going to make a prediction. I might breathe in gratitude for all of you being here, and I might breathe out any anxiety about doing something new, because every group is new.” (Other things I’ve predicted  I’m going to breathe in during this mindfulness exercise: hope, connection, and the awareness of each moment. Other things I’ve predicted I’m going to breathe out:  distraction, fear, and anything that gets in the way of my being in the moment.)

I really like this mindfulness exercise.  Even if I’m too distracted to focus very well, even if my mind wanders a lot (because that’s what minds tend to do), it helps to just allow for the possibility of — to make some space for — breathing in something helpful and breathing out something that gets in the way.

Yesterday, when I did one of these groups, there was somebody new there. (And, as I wrote about yesterday, somebody was missing, too, for a very good reason.)

So, because somebody new was joining the group,  I did that mindfulness exercise.

And, as often happens when I do that exercise,  I breathed in gratitude and I let go of …. anxiety.

I had a good reason to be anxious yesterday.

Doing something new is always a “good reason” for increased anxiety.

Here were some of the new things I did yesterday:

  1. I facilitated a therapy group, with a new mix of people
  2. I needed to get my 3-month teeth cleaning and I had to go to a new place to get the Intravenous antibiotics I require whenever I get my teeth cleaned.
  3. I went to a new dental hygienist, to get the teeth cleaning.

Probably some explanation would be helpful, right now, especially regarding #2 and especially for people who don’t know me and/or haven’t read every friggin’ blog post I’ve written this year.

I have a Very Unusual Heart. My VUH is prone to endocarditis (which is an infection of the lining of the heart).  (I wrote about this in detail, on Day 65, when I thought I might have endocarditis again.) Since I’ve gotten endocarditis three times so far in my life, my doctors and I came up with this plan: I will have my teeth cleaned every three months and I will receive an intravenous dose of antibiotics before each cleaning.

This is routine for me, now.

However, many things about this process were new, yesterday.

Some of these things were new because of a change I had chosen –  to go to a new dental hygienist, who works with my wonderful dentist, whom I wrote about here.

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That’s my dentist, Dr. Luis Del Castillo (in a photo I took on April 13). (I didn’t take a picture of my new dental hygienist yesterday. Perhaps that’s because I was too ….. anxious?)

Some of the new things I encountered yesterday were due to changes beyond my control.

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That’s my beloved IV nurse, Kerri. She left her position a couple of months ago — eeeek! — but, thank goodness, moved to another place within the same hospital, so  I could still work with her — Yay! (By the way, that picture was taken four months ago, at the old location. I didn’t take a picture of her at the new location yesterday.  Any guesses why that might be?)

Yesterday, I was breathing out and letting go of anxiety, every step of the way, as I encountered new things during this process of getting my teeth cleaned, this process of not getting endocarditis, this process of staying healthy and alive.

And when I’m doing something new (and when the possibilities of illness — and death — are more in my consciousness), I definitely have more anxiety to breathe out.

My new dental hygienist (not pictured), named Michel, said a lot of things to me yesterday as she was cleaning my teeth. I didn’t say much because, well, she was cleaning my teeth.

Here are some of the things she said to me yesterday that are sticking in my mind, right now:

  1. “I don’t expect you to trust me immediately. You are just meeting me.”
  2. “It’s very important to trust your dental hygienist. It’s a relationship. It’s especially important for YOU to be able to trust your dental hygienist.
  3. “Let me tell you all the reasons why you won’t get endocarditis by getting your teeth cleaned here.” *
  4. “With your history, I would expect that sometimes you might obsess about keeping your teeth perfectly cleaned and other time you wouldn’t want to deal with it, at all.”
  5. “Let me know if you are uncomfortable, for any reason, at any moment.
  6. “A lot of people cry here. “

She said that last thing, when — in response to her understanding and empathy — I let go, in a rush of tears.

I never cried with my old dental hygienist. That might be a reason why I left, and found a new one.

That concludes this blog post for today.

Thanks to Michel, Dr. Del Castillo, and Kerri; to everybody who has ever helped me stay healthy; and to you, too, for reading today.

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* A teeth cleaning at the dentist is the leading cause of endocarditis, for people who are prone to it.

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

Day 205: Missing People

One thing I’ve learned doing therapy groups for over thirteen years:

I (and other people) often struggle balancing the focus on (1) people who are present and (2) people who are missing.

And people often are missing, at any group meeting.

I often name that — in any group therapy session where people who are expected aren’t there. I’ll say group-therapy-type things like, “I’m aware that so-and-so is not here. I’m also very aware of everybody who is here, and wondering how the absence is affecting you.”

I try not to have assumptions about how an absence affects others. I know it affects different people in different ways. But I know it has some effect.

Everything has some effect. And people who are missing can have a big effect.

Those of us who are present at the meeting often don’t know where the missing people are. And we want to know where people — and things — are. (See here, for George Carlin’s amazing take on losing Things.) We don’t want lose track of them.

Sometimes, when people are missing, it speaks to our fears about them. Why aren’t they here? Are they okay?

Sometimes, when people are missing, it speaks to our fears about ourselves. Are they missing because I — and this gathering — were not important enough to them?

Sometimes we’re angry at the people who aren’t there. Why didn’t they let us know? I made the effort to be here, why couldn’t they?

This topic is on my mind, today, because I do groups, every week, where somebody is sometimes missing.

Plus, I went to a high school reunion, on Saturday, where people were missing, too.

At the reunion, some people who were definitely expected were not there. For some of those people, I knew the reasons why they weren’t there. For others, we had no idea why they were missing (to some of those people, I’ve since sent the question, “Are you okay?”)

Also, there were the people who were missing from my high school reunion for a reason we knew: they had passed away.

As one of the planners of the reunion, I found out about some of the people from my class who have died as I was trying to contact people.

I confess: that was one reason I sometimes procrastinated contacting people, for fear of what I might hear about them.

And at the reunion, as in my therapy groups, I struggled balancing my focus on the people who were there with the people who weren’t.

Here are the people who were there:

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Here are some of the people who weren’t there, RIP:

Marie Bilodeau

Sheila Burns

Chester Caldwell

Maryann Caproni

Sandra Cross

Louis Defelice

John Espinola

Cheryl Freedman

Alexander Fried

Herbert Garrette

Chris Janakas

Robert Myers

Melissa Newman

Donna Riddell

Jamie Solomson

Maureen Thompson

Anne Townsend

Christian Zahr

Why am I including this list of people on this blog, where the vast majority of readers do not know them? Why am I being so careful to spell their names correctly? Why am I afraid I am forgetting somebody?

Because people are very important. Even when they’re not in touch with how important they are.

That reminds me of the one point I wanted to make before I finish this post (and get to work on time so I can do another group) (where some people will be present and some people will not).

When people aren’t at a group, where they are expected, it has a huge effect on the people who are there. I see it, every time.

And the people who aren’t there don’t know that. How could they? They’re not there.

One final reference before I stop, for the day. My friend Janet, from Film School, loves this movie:

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I know a lot of other people who love this movie, too. I’m glad that Jimmy Stewart, in that movie, had that special and magical experience: He found out how much he was missed, when he wasn’t there.

Many thanks to all from my high school class (who were at the reunion and who was not), Janet, George Carlin, Frank Capra, and all of you, here today.

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

Day 204: Top Ten

I like to put together Top Ten Lists.

Perhaps that’s because I loved watching David Letterman shows in the 1980s and 1990s.

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My Personal Top Ten Lists

For every therapy group program I’ve helped create, I’ve put together “The Top Ten Things to Know” about these programs, as a way to introduce the groups to new participants.

While there are often more than Ten Things I want to tell new people, I appreciate the discipline of restricting myself to that number. And Ten Things usually gives me enough room to fit all the necessary information to help somebody feel welcome, comfortable, and safe enough to participate.

I also put together Top Ten Lists every year, on December 31st. As the national and local media are showcasing a kashmillion end-of-year Top Ten Bests and Worsts (e.g.,Top Ten Best and Worst Movies, Top Ten Best and Worst TV Shows, Top 10 Best and Worst Top Ten Lists), I join in by compiling Ann’s 10 Best and 10 Worst of the year, which can include movies, activities, people, or anything else. For example, my Top 10 Worst of 2013 will definitely include the Boston Marathon bombings; My Top 10 Best of 2013 will almost definitely include writing this blog and my 60th birthday celebration trip to South Carolina.

The Latest Personal Top Ten List: The Year of Living Non-Judgmentally Blog Posts

For whatever reason — probably because I’ve passed the half-way mark of this Year of Posting — I’ve been hankering to do a solipsistic* Top Ten List of my own blog posts. I considered compiling a list of personal favorites, but really, how am I supposed to choose ten among 203 of my own creations? It’s like choosing among children, if you will. (And if I had 203 children, I would be hard pressed to keep track of them, much less choose among them.)

So, instead, I’m going to take the easy — ahem! — the logical route to choosing Top Ten TYOLN-J Posts. (Excuse me. I just have to interrupt here to observe — with amazement — that it’s taken me 204 days to use a short-hand acronym for The Year of Living Non-Judgmentally.)

Where was I? Oh, yes, how to do a Top 10 list of my own posts. Here’s my solution: I’m going to simply present The Top Ten Blog Posts according to readership for the year so far. And, actually, that list does have some of my favorite children on there.

So, without further ado ….

The Top Ten TYOLN-J Posts

(in reverse order, of course):

#10 Day 77: Try this one weird trick

#9 Day 109: 7:09 AM. These guys are turning my world into a violent movie

#8 Day 17: I think I wake up most mornings feeling uneasy

#7 Day 106: Beautiful, wounded Boston

#6 Day 127: Reasons why somebody hasn’t e-mailed you back yet

#5 Day 108: Kindness can make me cry, even harder

#4 Day 69: To Do Lists (How NOT to get overwhelmed)

#3 Day 1 in The Year of Living Non-Judgmentally

#2 Day110: Arrrghh! I might still be in this guy’s movie

And ….

(I picked this drumroll (1) for a change and (2) because of its sophisticated echo to Letterman’s “Stupid Pet Tricks.”)

The Number 1 Year of Living Non-Judgmentally post is ….

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photo (23)

Day 38: Reasons why I should move to Charleston, SC

Thanks so much for reading, today.

________________________

* One of my top ten favorite big words, meaning “self-centered.”

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

Day 203: Will

The topic for today is the word “will.”

I had many choices from the Google Buffet of Definitions, this morning. I chose the following, from the Merriam Webster site:

will   noun     \ˈwil\

1. : desire, wish: as

a : disposition, inclination <where there’s a will there’s a way>

b : appetite, passion

c : choice, determination

2

a : something desired; especially : a choice or determination of one having authority or power

b (1) archaic : request, command (2) [from the phrase our will is which introduces it] : the part of a summons expressing a royal command

3 : the act, process, or experience of willing : volition
4

a : mental powers manifested as wishing, choosing, desiring, or intending

b : a disposition to act according to principles or ends

c : the collective desire of a group <the will of the people>

5 : the power of control over one’s own actions or emotions <a man of iron will>

6: a legal declaration of a person’s wishes regarding the disposal of his or her property or estate after death; especially : a written instrument legally executed by which a person makes disposition of his or her estate to take effect after death

— at will
: as one wishes : as or when it pleases or suits oneself

A few random thoughts, about all that (accompanied by my friend, Google Images):

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In a previous (personal favorite) post here,  I wrote about To Do Lists.

Something that’s been on my To Do List, for a very long time?

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That kind of will.

Also, on my To Do List, for a shorter time, a different kind of will:

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A Living Will (which is not included in the Merriam Webster definitions) is defined as

A document in which the signer states his or her wishes regarding medical treatment, especially treatment that sustains or prolongs life by extraordinary means, for use if the signer becomes mentally incompetent or unable to communicate.

Hmmmm. I wonder why I’ve been avoiding completing both of those kinds of wills — The Last Will and Testament and The Living Will.

I repeat, hmmmmm.

Should I label myself “A Procrastinator?”  Would that help?

Nah.

Should I ask you, readers, if you might resist taking care of those kinds of wills?  Should I ask if you’ve encountered other people, in your life,  who have resisted taking care of those sorts of things, and the effect that has had on you?

Sure! I love asking questions like that.  Feel free to answer.

But ultimately, what would give me the will to just get those things done?

I can tell you three things that will help me take an achievable step, on Day 202, of This Year of Living Non-Judgmentally:

  1. Having just attended a 43rd year high school reunion.
  2. Identifying that achievable next step (calling a lawyer, whom I’ve identified, also).
  3. Remembering a “cliche” that my mother used to say a lot:

Where there’s a will there’s a way

(quoted in definition #1a, above).

That concludes today’s blog post, everybody.  Thanks for having the will to read, wherever you are.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

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