Monthly Archives: July 2013

Day 202: Looks

I went to my 43rd high school reunion last night.

Here are some random thoughts about that.

When I entered junior high school (from a really small, religion-based elementary school), I knew very few of the over 200 people in my new class.

I started junior high school the year after my whole world turned around — when I had my first cardiac pacemaker implanted (on the same day that John F. Kennedy was shot, which turned everybody else’s world around, too).

I didn’t know many people in my 7th grade class. Nevertheless, I remember being happy to be entering that big world of more diverse, interesting people. I remember observing people, with fascination and with gratitude to be there among them.

It felt like an adventure and a relief, in a way.

Some people were kinder than others back then. 13-year-old kids aren’t very far along in the process of developing empathy to others. (Developing empathy is a growth process in human beings, which sometimes gets short circuited by unfortunate circumstances.)

But for the most part, I remember a lot of people who showed kindness to me. And I could have been a prime target for bullying — (1) I was unfamiliar to lots of people and (2) I had a medical condition that a lot of people knew about. (Because cardiac pacemakers were so new, and because the one I had implanted was so big and stuck so far out, the doctors thought I needed to wear a brace and leave early from class, with somebody carrying my books for me.)

But I only got bullied by one person and it was pretty mild (even though I did witness, at times, other people getting bullied worse, which was awful).

I had a lot of great experiences, learning to know the people in the class, as we grew from ages 13 through 18.

One thing I remember feeling bad about for most of those years of junior high and high school?

My looks.

Image

Not sure why I felt so bad, in retrospect. Actually, I can guess:

  • I didn’t look like the models of good looks I saw everywhere in the media.
  • The guys in junior high and high school didn’t seem interested in me, that way.
  • I had this weird pacemaker sticking out of my body, which affected how I felt about myself.

Last night, at the reunion, some of the guys told me that they were interested in me, back then.

Why didn’t they let me know when we were in school together?

Because they thought I wouldn’t go out with them. They had lots of reasons why they thought I might reject THEM. I was very surprised to hear that.

I think a lot of people hear stories like that — and other surprising stories — when they go to a reunion.

That’s the end of the blog post for today, ladies and gentlemen.

Thanks to people from my high school, everybody who ever felt insecure in school, and — if that doesn’t cover everybody reading today — the rest of you, too.

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Day 201: Naming vs. Labeling

This year, I’m working on reducing and letting go of anxiety.

That’s one of the kashmillion things, it seems, that I’m working on, during Our Year of Living Non-Judgmentally. Another thing I’m working on this year is focusing on what I AM doing, rather than on what I am NOT doing. That effective coping strategy is just another way of being more present in the moment.

Speaking about focusing, in the moment….)

I’m working on reducing and letting go of anxiety, this year, for these reasons:

  1. I am a psychotherapist, who does group and individual work at a large teaching hospital.
  2. As one of the Primary Care doctors in my practice described it, anxiety is “an epidemic among the people we see.”
  3. As I’ve mentioned here, anxiety is sometimes a sign that something is very important, and the work I’m doing is very important to me.
  4. Hospitals can be a PTSD trigger for me, because I spent a lot of time, as a child, in the hospital, undergoing heart surgeries and other scary things, often alone.

Regular readers of this blog may know that I like to acknowledge when somebody does something new.

The New is always risky, and deserves recognition, don’t you agree?

Here’s something new I just did, in this blog.

I used the term PTSD.

Time for my old friend, Google:

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder. It can occur after you have gone through an extreme emotional trauma that involved the threat of injury or death.

Another gift, from Google Images:

Image

(That image, above, which I chose just because I liked it best? Turns out it’s from a blog called “PTSD after Open Heart Surgery. Go figure.)

Here’s a third gift from Google, regarding PTSD:

A helpful description of PTSD from NIMH (the National Institute of Mental Health):

Yes, I do love Google. Let me count the ways:

  1. When I am writing this blog, I can use Google to search for definitions and images to help support, clarify, and enrich my topic.
  2. Google gives me a large and varied choice, in response.
  3. I have the control to choose what I want.

I like having lots of choices and options.

I also like having the control to name things, in a way that helps me. As I’ve written about in this blog, naming something is the first step to recognizing and accepting it. (And acceptance — which doesn’t mean liking or approving– is the first step towards change.)

Naming is very different from labeling.

Labeling is one of the 12 Cognitive Distortions in CBT:

Labeling or Name-calling. We generate negative global judgments based on little evidence. Instead of accepting errors as inevitable, we attach an unhealthy label to ourselves or others. For example, you make a mistake and call yourself a “loser,” a “failure”, or an “idiot.” Labels are not only self-defeating, they are irrational, simplistic, and untrue. Human beings are complex and fallible, and in truth cannot be reduced to a label. Consider this: we all breathe, but would it make sense to refer to ourselves as “Breathers”?

While naming is helpful, expansive, and generous, labeling is not.

Labeling is restrictive. Labeling is judgmental. Labeling can cause paralysis and pain.

Very different from naming.

Diagnoses, at times, can be a kind of labeling. I work with people who have diagnoses of PTSD, and I see the effects of stigma attached to that diagnosis (and other diagnoses, too).

But diagnoses can also be a kind of helpful naming, too.

People, when they receive a diagnosis, often express relief. I hear people say that a diagnosis helps to contain and clarify their experience.

And, it helps to identify options. And identify next steps.

Like with my old friend, Google.

Okay! Time to put this blog post to bed, so I can start getting ready for my high school reunion tonight (where I’m looking forward to seeing other old friends).

Thanks to Google, my friends, my high school reunion, my readers, and everybody and everything else that is helping me, so much, on this year’s journey.

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Day 200: Signs

Sometimes —  especially when I’m experiencing “flow,” synchronicity, or other forms of connection and openness to living — I see signs.

By “signs,” I mean helpful indications of things to pay attention to.

Four examples of signs, according to Google Images:

traffic-signs

road-signs-and-meanings-AT-3

signlanguageabc

ht_frog_crossing_jef_ss_110816_ssh

.

Two examples of signs, according to me:

Sign:  It’s too friggin’ hot around here.

Possible meanings, reasons, things to pay attention to:

1.   Global warming.

Depending upon where you live, global warming is either (1) controversial or (2) completely non-controversial.

That about covers it, doesn’t it?

2. Maybe I really should consider moving.

Where I live, it’s Painful-Cold for many months of winter and Painful-Hot for many days of summer. This leads to helpful people giving this advice:  “Think about how cold it gets here during winter and get in touch with gratitude for the heat now.” (These are the same helpful people who say the reverse, during winter .)

How about getting in touch with this?

I’M LIVING IN A PLACE WHERE I’M IN PAIN, ABOUT HALF THE TIME.

Who deserves that?  Not I, said the little red hen.    Hen

Second Sign: I’m having trouble sleeping.

Possible reasons and things to pay attention to:

1.  I have a lot of things to do.

2.  There are some people I’m going to see, this weekend, whom I haven’t seen in a while, and I’m excited about that.

3.  As my mother used to say (about me and then, my son), “You don’t want to miss anything.”

4. I can be afraid of things that don’t actually exist. Or, if they do exist, they’re not as dangerous as they seem.

5.  It’s too friggin’ hot around here.

Thanks for going around with me today. It’s a good sign (according to me).

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Day 199: I dared to tweet some tweets

I’ve been tweeting!

That’s something new for me, this year. And starting anything new means excitement and adventure, but also overcoming The Fear of Screwing Up, a/k/a The Fear of Making a Fool of Oneself, a/k/a The Fear of Not Being Good Enough At Whatever The New Thing Is.

I started This Tweet Process two months ago, when I wrote a blog post called “To Tweet Or Not To Tweet (is that the question?” (here). Then, on a day where I wrote about Twitter again, I did venture to tweet, and the tweet was about the very venturing. I chose a literary allusion, harkening back to my English Major days, at an Old Ivy League School:

“Do I dare to eat a peach? No. Tweet? Yes.”

My targeted audience? I guess people who (1) have read T.S. Eliot, (2) have heard that quote, and/or (3) have some opinion about peaches.

The next tweet, three days later, was inspired when a Group Therapy Professional Organization started following me on Twitter. The tweet:

“I used to think that life was always High School, but now I think it’s always Group Therapy. Progress?”

That was also a Tweet Out/Shout Out to my loyal friend, Lawry (who not only attended Junior High School with me, but also the same Old Ivy League School). One day when we were in our 20’s, Lawry, who was having a reaction to some people’s immaturity, said, with disbelief, that it was like we were still in high school! I replied (with the full gravitas of age), “Lawry. Life is always high school.” Lawry loved that quote, which made me feel proud and witty.

So I figured, for that second tweet, I would use something that had worked well in the past (although I wondered whether it had aged as well as both me and Lawry).

My next tweet came three weeks later (the gap due to self-doubt about the merit of the previous tweets and/or my being overwhelmed by other matters.). This tweet was inspired by that day’s blog post, which had referred to having patience while sitting in traffic.

“Sitting in traffic is just like sitting on your living room couch, but with a better view. (Especially if you have cars in your living room.)

That day, I had some visions of becoming some sort of Multi-Social-Media Renaissance Gal, interweaving daily blogs posts and tweets in an intricate tapestry of Internet Interconnectedness.

I guess that vision didn’t stick, because a week went by, and the next tweet was this:

“I’m working too hard, at the hospital where I was born. If it kills me, at least that would be a nice narrative arc.”

As I analyze this today, this tweet seems to combine a kind of Cry For Help with detached irony and that English Major in me. I wrote it on July 4th, when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed by work (as I wrote about here and here.)

I’ve been working on reducing stress and increasing self care. Working on it, right now.

The next tweet came two weeks later, on a Saturday, where I was taking a breather and eating lunch at a new restaurant, on my own. (I like going to restaurants on my own, which comes in handy in lots of situations.)

When I was in my late 20’s, I had a conversation with a friend about eating in restaurants alone. He said, “Wow! I could never do that. I’d be afraid that people would look at me and think, ‘What a loser!’ I said to him, “What would you think if you saw somebody else in a restaurant eating alone?” He said, “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe, that they were a food critic, or somebody who had a really interesting life, who has to travel a lot for business …..” He stopped, startled. I said, “See?” (This may be the first instance of my using The Double Standard Method to help change somebody’s self-judgment.) (See here for that antidote, among others, for Cognitive Distortions.)

Anyway, where was I, before the digression in italics? Oh, yes, my tweet, last weekend, as I was sitting in a restaurant, by myself, hungry, blowing on the too-hot food, waiting for it to cool down:

“Something I never see on “Chopped” or “MasterChef”: tasters needing the food to cool down first. Do food judges have asbestos mouths?”

What I notice about that tweet, right now (besides the possibly misplaced “:”): I was wondering, at the time, whether other people blow on their food to cool it down or whether that was something “weird” or “uncouth” of me. (Arrghh! All those self-judgmental, doubting thoughts!)

Also, I watch a lot of cooking shows with my bf, who was a professional cook for many years.

OMG! Here’s something else I’m noticing about that tweet, RIGHT NOW. MasterChef re-tweeted that tweet! I had no idea. My first re-tweet, and a celebrity one, no less!

Where was I, after that exciting discovery/digression? Oh, yes, my chronological list of Ann’s Tweets. (It’s coming to an end, dear reader. I promise.)

After a 3-day Twitter Break, I had a burst of three tweets in one day! That was yesterday. I must have been feeling more confident/not caring about Tweet Perfection.

Tweet # 1, in the morning:

What happens when you put the earphone labelled “L” in your right ear and vice versa? Does your brain get scrambled?”

I tweeted that because I was preparing for my daily dose of Personal Medicine — my walk-to-work-while-listening-to-music, making sure that I was putting my headphones on the “right way,” and then asking, “Why?”

Another note about that last tweet: Beth, a wonderful woman from my high school, answered it, on Facebook, like so: “Maybe it comes out as Hebrew!” I thought that was hilarious.*

Tweet #2, on my way home from a long-overdue therapy appointment:

Everything we do is a rehearsal for something else we’ll be doing in the future. And there’s only one closing performance.

More background about that one: I’m in the middle of helping to plan a 43rd year high school reunion (which is coming up this Saturday). It’s not going perfectly, of course, and it sometimes helps me to think of this (as well as many other things) as a rehearsal for the next one.

One more thought about that tweet: as my dear friend Maria pointed out to me, when we were in our 20’s, I think about death a lot (which is becoming more age appropriate, all the time).

Tweet #3 (and the final tweet of this post, ladies and gentlemen) was inspired, last night, by this beautiful conure, at a local pet store, whose eyes were twitching as it was sleeping:

IMG_1300

 

“Since humans dream of flying, maybe birds dream of driving a car.”

One last thing: My also beautiful (in many ways) ex-sister-in-law, Deborah, answered back to that one on Facebook: “maybe riding a bike.” I wrote back, “The ecologically aware ones, yes.”

Okay, that wraps up this post for today. May we all dare to tweet some tweets, speak our minds, make some jokes, and eat at a restaurant by ourselves!

Thanks, everybody.

__________________

* English is written left to right; Hebrew, right to left.

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Day 198: The Balance of The Internal and External

This is what I’m thinking this morning:

It’s helpful to balance the internal world and the external world.

Too much focus on the internal world of my own thoughts, feelings and experience = Out of Balance.

Too much focus on the external world (including the internal worlds of other people) = Out of Balance.

The trick, ladies and gentleman, is to figure out a “good enough” balance.

Another trick is to leave lots of room for good-enough balances (so there’s not a razor-thin edge of sought perfection). (That’s a useful trick, in lots of human endeavors.)

I just looked for a visual aid for this post, by googling “balance.” The one I chose, first, was this:

Image

Hmmmm. Maybe these guys said “Balancing can be simple” because they were trying to sell somebody something.

But maybe they’re right, anyway.

Simple doesn’t mean obvious or easy, though, does it?

Another image that grabbed me, in that Google search, was this:

Image

That image lead me to this page, called “A Very, Very, Very Delicate Balance.” There, RadioLab’s Robert Krulwich writes about the artist, Michael Grab:

These rocks, says the artist, are not glued, not Velcroed. This is not a trick.

The-Mindblowing-Art-of-Rock-Balancing-by-Michael-Grab_05-@-GenCept (1)

Here are some other things I could write about this morning:

  • NPR’s RadioLab, in particular, is something I’ve been wanting to take some time to listen to, as I re-balance my personal internal and external.
  • While I was writing this blog post, my cat, who is a much more adept and complex user of my laptop than I am, suddenly made all the components I was using to compose this post disappear — Pooof!
  • Which resulted in my needing to use a different part of WordPress to finish this post, which made that last picture show up smaller than I wanted (I haven’t figured out, yet, how to fix this).

Perhaps, if I had more time this morning, I could more smoothly and beautifully arrange the pieces of this post, to pull everything together, making a bridge to some amazing conclusion.

But I don’t. So, that concludes our blog post for today.

Thank you, dear reader, for including this as part of your balance, today.

_____

P.S. On January 9, 2014, I re-visited this post, with more knowledge than I had when I first wrote it, on July 17, 2013. So, now, I will present that image in the size I wanted to, back then:

The-Mindblowing-Art-of-Rock-Balancing-by-Michael-Grab_05-@-GenCept (1)

 

Yay!

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Day 197: Technology, Part II

In yesterday’s post about technology and e-mail, there was a “shadow” — something on my mind, which I didn’t write about.

Here’s what it is: I’ve not only been having a complicated “relationship” with e-mail lately, but also with a different piece of technology.

My current cardiac pacemaker.

It’s time for a story …

Ann and Her Pacemakers

I got my first pacemaker when I was 10 years old, and I’ve had a LOT of them.

For the first 20 years or so, all the pacemakers I had were fixed-rate pacemakers. No matter what I did, how much I exerted myself, or what I was feeling, the pacemaker (and my heart) were beating the same amount of beats every minute: 80 beats per minute when I was a little kid and 70 when I got older. That meant I didn’t get the boost of extra beats for exercise.

That didn’t stop me from becoming a Disco Queen in the 1970’s, though.

Image

I (not pictured) took lots of disco lessons, danced in lots of places with lots of people, and had a blast. The way I dealt with fixed rate of my heart? I rested after a dance or two. Nobody knew the difference.

In the 1980’s, when I was in my 30’s, I got my first variable rate pacemaker. With this advance in technology, the pacemaker allowed my heart to speed up exactly when it needed to.

I remember, after I got my first variable rate pacemaker, going to an indoor athletic track, and jogging for the first time.

I felt like I was flying. It felt like a miracle.

Another part of the story is this: I have always been quite sensitive to how my heart is beating. In other words, if my heart skips or speeds up suddenly, I am very aware of it. I guess I’ve had to be, in order to survive. (Also, as somebody said to me when I was in my 20’s, “Ann, some people are just born sensitive.”)

Until I was in my 30’s and got the variable rate pacemaker, any variability in my heart beating (like missed beats, slowing down, or speeding up) meant that Something Was Wrong With The Pacemaker. And by being tuned in very acutely to my heartbeat, I pretty much always anticipated when my pacemaker was starting to fail.

You may have read, on this blog, my bragging about this: I am The Longest Surviving Person In The World With a Pacemaker.*

I’ve broken other records, too. Another one (I believe) is the Longest Lasting Single Pacemaker. That would have been the last pacemaker I had, before my current one. That Champ of a Pacemaker lasted just shy of 25 years. (This could be framed as “pay back” for all the pacemakers I had, early on, that broke and otherwise failed way too soon.)

I loved my last pacemaker, if I may use that emotional word about a piece of technology, because it not only kept me going, but it kept going for such a long time. And I felt physically great with it.

The current one, which I received about 17 months ago (but who’s counting?) does not seem to be quite as spectacular a match. With this pacemaker, my heart is skipping a lot of beats, speeding up suddenly, and … it just doesn’t feel as good. My doctors tried to adjust this latest pacemaker (the new ones have LOTS of fancy programming), but, at this point, we just can’t get it to stop those kinds of behaviors. It’s not that there is something wrong with it, it’s just picking up more than my other pacemakers. My doctors tell me that it is giving a more “accurate” representation of how my heart might naturally beat.

Perhaps this pacemaker is “too sensitive.”

(I wrote about the “too” word in a post, when I first started blogging, here. Also, “too sensitive” is something I hear people say about themselves, in a judgmental way. I sometimes think that’s a characterization that’s not particularly helpful.)

At this point, I’m not sure if anything further can be done, with this pacemaker, to make it a better fit for me and my needs. What I’ve done, for myself, to feel better, is to try to “disconnect” from my sensitivity to my own heartbeat. I’ve tried to “shut off” my immediate, familiar, and learned response of “There’s Something Wrong!” whenever my heart skips a lot.

But, my heartbeat has an effect on me. That effect may include anxiety, at times.

It’s so complicated, how all the different factors — internal and external — interact with each other.

How do I figure this out? And what to do?

Here’s what I thought of this morning.

The Serenity Prayer.

Again.

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.

As usual, Part 3 — “the wisdom to know the difference” — is the challenging part.

What are the things I can and cannot change right now?

At this point, I don’t think I have more options to change this pacemaker, to make it a better fit, although I’m not sure about that. I could find out, perhaps. And, maybe I can find out more about my options for my next pacemaker.

In any case, it helps to name the situation, rather than avoiding it and trying to block it out. And, also, to identify an achievable next step or two.

Thanks, from the bottom of my heart (which skips sometimes), for visiting today.


  • I found out, in 2014, that this brag was not true.  See here for more about that.
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Day 196: Why I’m Anxious Today (E-mail, anybody?)

Why am I anxious today?

Oh, so many reasons, and so little little time to list them, this morning.

1. Technology, for cripe’s sake.

Image

I am all for trying new things — with a brave, adventurous, and confident spirit, whenever I can muster it — but technology is proceeding at a rate that seems to be leaving me in a confused dust, too much of the time.

And I am a quick learner, people. Others remark on how quick I am. “Wow! What a quick learner you are, Ann!” they are likely to say, without undo prompting from me. And yet, I am in a constant state of dizziness regarding what I have to learn JUST TO KEEP UP these days.

An example might help here, I suppose. (Although I am imagining that you just might be filling in with your own examples, at this point.)

E-mail!

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Ah, e-mail! How do I fear thee … let me count the ways.

  1. There’s way too much of it.
  2. I have trouble keeping track of it.
  3. Just when I think I’ve grasped the rudimentary necessities for E-mail Survival, a new version of my e-mail service comes along — WITHOUT MY CHOICE OR CONSENT — which screws up my already tentative grip on it.
  4. It’s designed to destroy my life. That might sound dramatic, but here’s one example: In the handy-dandy, instant access clickable group of icons for each of my e-mails, THE FLAG ICON IS RIGHT NEXT TO THE GARBAGE ICON. So what’s the inevitable result, if your hand is slightly unsteady, because of too-much-e-mail-induced anxiety? Just this: When I see an e-mail I need to flag NOW, just to keep it bobbing above the sea of other important but less important e-mails, I am just as likely to erroneously stick it in the garbage can. And vice versa.
  5. Arrrrghhhhh!

(pant, pant, pant)

Now where was I? Oh, yes, I started a list of things that were making me anxious today, and technology was #1. Okay! Time to move on.

2. Isn’t technology enough of a reason, people?

Thanks for reading today. (And if you have any hints about how to help me reduce my anxiety, I am all ears and eager to hear.)

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Day 195: Self care, wisdom, kindness

Yesterday, I had a Day of Narcissism.

That is, I got my hair cut and my nails done.

Before I left the house for all that, I wrote my daily blog post, on Personal Power, which included a worksheet I’ve used in group therapy.

I also use a Self Care Worksheet in the groups I do. Here are the questions on that worksheet, which I will answer right now:

Self Care Worksheet

Question:  What does self care mean to you?

Answer:  It means paying attention to my needs; treating myself kindly; getting good sleep, food, drink, and other sustenance; asking for help when I need it; and, sometimes, pampering myself!

Question: What are some examples of things you’ve done for self care?

Answer: Getting a massage, getting to bed early, drinking lots of water, calling a friend, getting my hair cut, getting my nails done.

photo (57)

 

Question: What gets in the way of you doing self care?

Answer:  Not having enough time, putting other people’s needs over my needs, feeling like I don’t deserve it, labeling it as “narcissistic,” “self-centered” or “selfish” (especially when awful things are going on in the world).

Question:  How would you like to be, regarding self care?

Answer: Doing it whenever I can, without self-judgment.

Another aspect of  self care, for me, is spending time with people who are kind, as I’ve written about many times this year (for example, here, here, and here).  It’s also self care for me to spend time with people who are wise.

Yesterday, when I went to get my hair cut,  I got to spend time with Mia, who has appeared in, one way or another, in several of my posts. Mia inspired one of my personal favorite posts,  “Reasons why somebody hasn’t e-mailed you back yet.”  She has been a wonderful supporter of my writing.  She is also very kind and very wise. She struggles with some self-judgment, at times (as do I).

And she gives me fabulous haircuts.

I’m not seeing Mia, these days, as much as I used to. That’s because I recently stopped having her color my hair — I’m taking care of that department now.

And here’s one of the many things I love about Mia. When I showed up yesterday, at her hair salon (MiAlisa, in Watertown, MA), and she saw what I’d been doing coloring my own hair, she said, “I think it looks GREAT.”

I had done some “mind reading” (a cognitive distortion, listed here) about what Mia might think and say about this, I must confess.

I had thought that (1) My hair color might actually have looked pretty awful  (because I can never really tell what I look like to other people,  for oh so many reasons) and (2) Mia, for oh so many reasons, might suggest, in some way, that I re-consider having my hair professionally colored.

Nope!

I learned (or re-learned) a lot in my trip to Mia’s salon yesterday, including:

  1. I get anxious when I go to a hair salon. The anxiety has to do with (a) the fear that changing my hair might bump my looks into the realm of Not Good Enough  (I sometimes use harsher labels for this, which I’m not even going to write here) and (b) I feel weird, narcissistic, or otherwise self-judging when I do something like spending hours focusing on My Hair.
  2. Women who are very beautiful and cool (like Jessica, who works at Mia’s salon) have thoughts similar to the ones I expressed in #1, above. I know that, because I’ve heard this from lots of beautiful and cool women, plus I had a great talk with Jessica while she was washing my hair.
  3. I miss Mia, so much, when I don’t see her!!  Yesterday, I made sure I wrote down this affirmation she uses:

“I have enough, I do enough, and I am enough.”

Thanks, Mia, for all that, and so much more.

After I had my hair cut yesterday, I went to get a manicure and pedicure. I don’t get my nails done often — maybe three or four times a year.

I don’t know why I go so seldom, since I always feel better afterwards. Also, I have found a nail salon that I LOVE. It’s M T Nails in West Newton, MA.

This is the main reason I love going there:

The people who work there.

IMG_1291

 

That’s Lynh.

The very first time I went to M T Nails, Lynh (and the other people there) greeted me so warmly and kindly, I felt welcomed and at ease. (I get anxious when I go to nail salons, too) (especially new ones.) Every time I’ve been since, Lynh has  been just as welcoming, warm, and kind. Also, she ALWAYS remembers my name and details of previous conversations we’ve had, even when I walk in unexpectedly or when I haven’t been there for a LONG time.

Lynh is always gentle, with people’s feet and with their feelings.

Also, Lynh suggested the nail color shown on my toes, above.

I always feel better walking out of M T Salon than I felt when walking in.

And I always feel much better, walking out after I’ve seen Mia, than I felt walking in.

(I’ve heard people, at work, use that exact language describing other kinds of self care they’ve appreciated: feeling better walking out than  they felt walking in.)

Thanks to Lynh, Tina, and everybody else at M T Nails; to Mia, Jessica, and everybody else at MiAlisa Salon; and to you, of course, for reading today.

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Day 194: Personal Power

Dear Reader,

I would like to share some Random Thoughts on personal power, on a Saturday morning (after an exhausting week at work and during a morning where I have just re-read two of my blog posts from earlier this year — Post One and Post Two).

(Why did I re-read those particular blog posts? Because I noticed that somebody in Finland had just read the first one and there was a link — or ping-back — in the first one to the second one.) (Talk about random ….)

Without further ado … (Jerry Seinfeld — or perhaps Garry Shandling — once said, “What is ‘ado’, anyway, and why should there be no further of it?”):

Random Thoughts About Personal Power

(“Random,” in this context, means, “I have no friggin’ clue how I am going to organize or choose among all the thoughts I am having about this, right now.”)

1. There are times, in our lives, when our personal power is greatly restricted or non-existent, to our detriment and pain.

Obviously, this is true if we are subjugated to unjust laws that restrict freedom and cause suffering.

This is also true if our role or position intrinsically has less power. (Being a child is just one example.)

2. Sometimes, it is difficult to figure out how much personal power we have in a situation. When we perceive that we are powerless, it is difficult to act. We might focus our energy and thoughts on survival, rather than on the possibility of change.

3. Often, we need the help of others to leverage and support our personal power.

And on a more personal note …

4. The Tiger (which has shown up in my blog posts here and — what amazed me this morning — in both the blog posts I referred to, above) might stand for anger…. or it might stand for Personal Power.

_________

Before I end this post for the day (so I can go out into the world and, perhaps, exercise some personal power, in some small way), I would like to tell you about a Worksheet I use in my groups.

I hand out worksheets, about topics that often come up in groups. These worksheets have a few questions on them. The participants write their thoughts down and then the group members share these thoughts and discuss them.

One of these worksheets is on the topic of Personal Power. The questions are something like this (I can’t access the exact language, because I am not at work today):

Worksheet on Personal Power

1. What does “personal power” mean to you?

2. What are some examples of times when you were able to exercise personal power? What are some times when you were not?

3. What gets in the way of you having personal power?

4. What helps you recognize and use your personal power?

_______________

(I am now letting go of judgment about how well I was able to remember those questions as well as judgment about the questions themselves.)

Okay, I now need to end this post, to obey the rules of time and space (and get to an appointment on time).

Thanks to all,
Ann

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Day 193: Polished stones

In my office, where I do individual and group therapy, I have a basket of polished stones.

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(These are also called “tumbled stones.”)

Whenever I am registering and orienting a new person to the groups I do, I use these stones to show how I do mindfulness exercises.

I tell the person to choose a stone. I choose one, too.

I say that the stone will be the focus of the mindfulness exercise. I invite the person to be as present as possible with that stone, to engage with the stone with the senses “sight, touch … eyes open, eyes closed … as you choose.”

I say, “Other thoughts will come up … your mind will go into the past, the future, outside the room. That’s how our minds are built, so this is not about focusing perfectly. It’s about the re-commitment, in the moment, of re-focusing on the stone.”

I say that I will signal the beginning and the end of the exercise with my chime.

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I say, “Whatever happens between the two chimes, you are doing this correctly.”

Then, I tap the chime.

https://annkoplow.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/zenergy.mp3

During the exercise, I focus on the stone that I have chosen, gently letting go of thoughts that come up for me, which often include “I wonder what this experience is like for this person?”

Then, after a few minutes have gone by, I tap the chime again.

https://annkoplow.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/zenergy.mp3

.

I say, “You don’t need to tell me, but I am always eager to hear what that experience was like for you.”

And the person almost always responds, often mentioning a memory inspired by this stone. Or surprise about how easy (or difficult) it was to focus.

Sometimes people say that the stone they chose was a lot like them. They note imperfections in the mostly perfect stone. They use words like “strong,” “hard,” “smooth,” “chipped,” “scratched,” “rough,” “beautiful.”

I am often moved by what people say about their experience of the mindfulness exercise.

When they are finished speaking, I say that the orientation for the group is done, and that they can participate in the group, as they choose, from now on.

And, finally, I tell them that the stone is theirs to keep.

It never ceases to affect me, how people respond to that.

Almost always, it’s as if I have given them an important and precious gift.

A simple, imperfect stone.

Thanks for the gift of your presence, today.

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

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