Monthly Archives: August 2013

Day 243: Freaked-out-nomics

I’ve been freaked out lately, even while I’ve been trying to keep my pledge of “no worries” for 10 days.

Why?

Lots of reasons.

  1. There was a “perfect storm” of circumstances where I live, which resulted in some significant water damage.

  2. I thought I had picked up an ailment on my trip. (I had not.)

  3.  I am going even more public — including where I work — about my being the longest surviving person in the world with a cardiac pacemaker*, as I am participating in an American Heart Association charitable walk.  (Of course, I’m going more public about my pacemaker world record by doing this blog, too.)

  4.  This morning, I spent many hours trying to create and send e-mails asking for contributions for this charitable walk, and at different times it looked like (1) none of the e-mails had gone through AGAIN!!! and (2) the e-mails had all gone through and were going to bombard people with the same request many times.

Some of the reasons I listed above may seem more minor than others.

But when I get freaked out, many things can feel like Life or Death situations.

There are very few situations that are Life or Death, but sometimes my perspective gets out of whack.

At times in my life, I’ve dealt with life-threatening situations very calmly.

At other times, I’ve dealt with non-life-threatening situations with all my alarm systems blaring, full blast — Danger, Danger, Danger!

During times of Full Blown Freak Out, I’ve encouraged myself — and others — to ask these questions:

What is hurting me right now?

What danger exists to me, here and now?

Hold on. I’m going to breathe, sit quietly for a few seconds, and ask myself those two questions.

The answers are:

Nothing.

None.

Better.

Thanks for reading today.


* In 2014, I found out that I am NOT the longest surviving person in the world with a pacemaker. See here for more about that.

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Day 242: Volleying

When I was in Junior High School  (“Middle School” to the younger generations), my friend Suzanne taught me how to play badminton.

I don’t think Suzanne and I played according to the rules.  I don’t remember if there was ever a net in her backyard.

But I do remember hanging with my best friend for what seemed like hours, hitting that badminton thingie back and forth.

Image

(Badminton thingie, otherwise known as shuttlecock, shuttle, or bird.  What we called it back then?  A “birdie.”)

Volleying back and forth.  Hitting the birdie.  Missing the birdie.

It wasn’t competitive.  There were other games I played, like word games, where I felt competitive. But not badminton.

Playing badminton with Suzanne felt special to me, for lots of reasons.

I had recently gotten my first cardiac pacemaker.  And because pacemakers were so new then, the doctors put lots of restrictions on me.

For example, I couldn’t take gym.

Believe me, I saw the advantages of THAT (I wasn’t stupid, people!)  Plus, people kept saying to me, every Gym Day:  “You are SOOOO lucky.”

But being kept out of Gym Class had an effect on me.  I felt different.  Non-athletic.

So that was an added sweetness to those times spent with Suzanne, volleying back and forth.  I could keep up with her.  We were both just badminton players.

She didn’t seem to mind playing with me.  She didn’t get impatient, or want to play with somebody better.

We were equally matched.

My intention, this morning, was to briefly refer to Suzanne and badminton, only as a way to introduce “what I really wanted to write about this morning.”  Instead, I’m glad I had the patience to linger in that moment of memory.

What I really wanted to write about? How I’m getting better at the “A-word” these days.

Anger.

I thought of the badminton analogy this morning, when my boyfriend and I got annoyed at each other, expressed that in a few volleys, and then …..

I laughed.

Why did I laugh?  From the sheer pleasure of

  1. having allowed myself to feel and express anger to somebody I love, whom I might otherwise be afraid of losing.
  2. not taking his responses entirely personally, and
  3. seeing the humor in the moment.

It wasn’t competitive.

We played by the rules.  (For example, no throwing. No name calling.)

We engaged, and then it was over.

We were equally matched.

I like volleying.

It’s fun!

That concludes our blog post for this morning, ladies and gentlemen.

Thanks to Suzanne,  Michael, birdies, and patient people everywhere — including you, my readers!

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Day 241: No worries

I like that phrase, “no worries.”

I’ve heard and read that several times, recently. I’ve started saying it, too.

I believe that worry does not help us.

It does not spur us to action.

It does not solve problems.

It’s the mental equivalent of this:

Image

Last night, at dinner, I said to my boyfriend Michael, “I have a lot of things coming up SOON that tend to make me anxious: a presentation at work, the beginning of a new school year, blah blah blah.*

“I would like to make this commitment  to you.  And to all these other witnesses.” (I gestured to the soy sauce and the other inhabitants of the dinner table.)

“I want to Not Feel Anxious for the next 10 days.”

Michael asked me how I was going to do that.  I said, “I don’t know.  Just NOT do it.  Notice it and put it aside.  Say to myself, ‘Sorry!  That’s not allowed!'”

Michael and I talked about I’ve used this assignment at work: “Scheduling worry.” That is,  I tell people to schedule a time, each week, for worrying (Thursday at 6 PM, say). Then, when worry comes up during other times, they say to themselves, “Nope!  This isn’t the time for that. I’ve got that scheduled for Thursday, at 6 PM.” (Then, when Thursday at 6 comes along, the assignment is to “worry as hard as you possibly can.”)

However, I don’t want to schedule worry.

I just want a break for 10 days.

Michael said he would like to join me in this.  (The soy sauce was noncommittal.)

Would you like to join me, too?

Thanks to small animals who are doing their best to get somewhere, condiments everywhere,  worriers, warriors, and to you, too, for reading today.

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*I actually said, “blah blah blah.”  I like that phrase, too.

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Day 240: “I” Statements

At this point in This Year of Living Non-Judgmentally, I am making some assumptions.

Of course, I make assumptions — and unhelpful judgments —  all the time*. That’s a habit I doubt I will completely break (even if I’m reducing that habit this year).

Here’s an assumption I’ve been making about this blog:

By now, I would have defined all my VIC’s — Very Important Concepts.

Au contraire, mon frere**.

When I was writing yesterday’s post, I assumed that I had already defined the concept of “I-Statements.” However, my blog-post-search indicated that the best I had done, all year, was this reference, on Day 26 (“What we can and cannot change”),  when I was making the point that we cannot change other people:

 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.)

That was it. Nada. No discussion or definition of “I-Statements” since then, for 218 days.

But who cares?

I can define it, now:

I statement
Web definitions
An I-statement is a statement that begins with the word “I”. It is frequently used in an attempt to be assertive without putting the listener on the defensive. It can be used to take ownership for one’s feelings rather than saying they are caused by the other person.***

And here are some I-Statements I want to make, today:

  1. I want to let go of self-labels which don’t help.
  2. I’ve gotten feedback, from other people, that I am NOT some things I fear to be, including:   Too sensitive. Too self-centered. Too indecisive. Not responsive enough.
  3. I AM sensitive, focused on myself, and indecisive at times, and
  4. I AM imperfect in my responsiveness, and
  5. I have shame, sometimes, about how many times I use the word “I”, when I’m communicating, but…
  6. I  still rock!!****

At this point, I’m remembering Garry Shandling, the comedian, talking about “I-Statements” in a monologue on Saturday Night Live:

 I met a new girl at a barbecue, actually, a very pretty girl. Blonde, I think. I’m not sure.  Her hair was on fire. And all she talked about was herself. You know those kind of girls – “I’m hot. I’m on fire!” You know,”Me, me me!” “Help me! Put me out!” Jesus. Some sort of Hollywood chick.

I wish I could find that bit, so you could see and hear Garry Shandling do that, hear his delivery, his intonation.

But I can’t.

What I CAN do is end with another I-Statement (in honor of a 50th anniversary):

50th_anniversary_of_the_i_have_a_dream_speech-2072005.2-hp

Thanks to Martin Luther King, Garry Shandling, dreamers everywhere, and to you, too,  dear readers.


*”All the time” is an example of All-or-Nothing thinking, but who cares?  I’m using it for emphasis.

** Another comedic quote:  Mel Brooks, in The 2000 Year Old Man.

*** This is, according to Google, from the Wikipedia definition of “I-Statements.”

**** I considered using other “bragging” statements here, like “I’m awesome!” (quoting a member of one of my therapy groups), but this is what I feel most comfortable saying, today.

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Day 239: Days when confused

I’ve been told that I tend to work towards the positive — hope, connection, possibilities, achievable next steps.

I also like to invite the other side of the positive — let’s call it “the negative,” for now. (I sometimes prefer other terms, like “the shadow” or “disowned feelings”) (including disappointment, which I wrote about here).

We can’t have the positive without the negative, right?

Light is meaningless without dark to help define it.

Up doesn’t exist as a concept without down.

We wouldn’t have the word “day” if not for night. (I suppose that’s arguable, but it sounds good, doesn’t it?)

Okay, I think I’ve made enough deep (if not completely air-tight) justifications to focus on less positive things in this blog today.

Throughout this year, I’ve written some posts about “accelerated learning,” focusing on valuable lessons I’ve been accumulating (including here, here, and here).

Today, I’d like to focus on things I don’t know. Things I can’t seem to figure out. Things that confuse me.

Ready?

Things That Confuse Me

by Ann

  1. How busy everybody seems to be (including me). This confuses me when I’m thinking that a lot of the busy work we’re doing isn’t (a) necessary, (b) helpful, (c) as important as we think it is, or (d) what we really want to be doing.
  2. Modern packaging. There are soooo many sealed products that I just can’t seem to get open without a swiss army knife or a team of experts on hand. (New occupation for the future: Personal Packaging Manipulation Consultant.)

For example:

IMG_1952_preview

At this point in the blog post — rather than discussing endless examples of packages I am confused by and have trouble opening — I will go to the solution-oriented side, and share something I saw on-line this morning:

18 Everyday Products You’ve Been Using Wrong

Even though that title is using a “You Statement — rather than an “I-statement” — thus easily putting me on the defensive ….

… that title is absolutely correct. I have been using all of those things wrong, dammit!

But, on the other hand, look at all I learned today.

Thanks to geeksugar (for the photo and post about opening up clamshell packaging), BuzzFeed, friends on Facebook and elsewhere, and to you, of course, for reading today.

Categories: personal growth, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Day 238: Random Images (paired)

I wasn’t sure what to post about on this Monday morning, so I thought I would do a Random Post. Rather than my usual Random Thoughts, though, this is a post about Random Images. That means I get to include some photos I’ve taken lately, which haven’t appeared in previous posts.

To give this post a wee bit more structure, I am going to post those pictures in pairs — two photos at a time, that have some connection (and differences, of course).

Okay? Let’s get started!

Photo A:

Image

Photo B:

Image

I took these two photos in Harvard Square last month, right before I left for my trip to London and Edinburgh. The connection? The photos show two sides of the same sign, in front of a cafe/restaurant. What did I want to say about this, right now? I’ve been noticing that conversations and attitudes about diet — about what people eat — seem to be “split” lately, between:

  1. Food that is really, really good for you — so health-oriented, with so many restrictions, that I begin to get scared that everything I eat is poisonous except for, maybe, just cool, clear water (and sometimes, a stuffed cabbage), but no, wait! water is a problem, too, especially if it’s in the wrong receptacle, etc. etc., OR
  2. Food that is really, really “bad for you” — so let’s eat that sugar, that fat, all that stuff that’s bad for us, packed as tightly as possible into a single serving, and screw you, diets!!

Next pairing!

Photo A:

Image

Photo B:

Image

These two photos are separated in space and time. The first one was taken during that aforementioned trip to Harvard Square; the second one taken a week or so later, in Edinburgh, Scotland. Similarities? Both involve people dressed up in period costumes, performances, and trying to sell somebody something.

Next pairing!

Photo A:

Image

Photo B:

Image

This is another pairing that was very close in space and time. Our last night in Edinburgh, I noticed these two buildings, a couple of blocks away from each other, that had windows illuminated in one color — green in the first building and purple in the second building. I had never seen anything quite like this, didn’t know how this special effect had been created, and wanted to capture it.

Last pairing, for this blog post!

Photo A:

Image

Photo B:

Image

Similarities? Both photos were taken after I returned home from the trip to Edinburgh, both feature the same domesticated short-haired cat, and both involve a special effect. The difference? In the first one, the photographer intervened in the staging of it; in the second one, she just captured the moment.

That concludes our blog post for today, ladies and gentlemen.

Thanks to Mel Brooks’s 2000 year old man (for the reference to his strict diet of just water and maybe sometimes a stuffed cabbage), to special effects wizards everywhere, to performers and performances both staged and improvised, and to you, of course, for reading today.

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Day 237: What other people say

I have a really good memory, it seems, for what other people say.

Not for everything everybody says, of course.  It’s amazing the things I’ve forgotten over the years.   But I think I still have a pretty good memory for what people say.

Certain things people say really grab my attention, including these:

  1. Anything that indicates danger to somebody.
  2. Things said by people I respect.
  3. Comments about me, about what I’ve created, and about how I’m living in this world.

This is a partial list,  but those are on my mind, this morning.

Why?

Because I’m realizing, again, that some things people have said, over the years, have gotten “stuck” in my memory. They loom too large. And they’re not helpful.

I’m not blaming the people who said those things, right now.

In some cases, these people may not have even said what I heard.

It doesn’t matter, though, does it? Those things have stuck.

And I’d like to let go of those things, or at least reduce their power.

I have an idea!  How about if I write a few of these things down, and put them in a “magic” wastepaper basket?

Here’s one:

IMG_1693

That’s not helping me these days.  So let’s crumple that one up:

IMG_1696

.

Here’s another one, that hasn’t been helping:

IMG_1695

Let’s crumple that one, too,  to reduce its power.

IMG_1698

.

That felt good, I must say.

Next, let’s throw these two things away.  That means I need to choose a wastepaper basket.  Decisions, decisions.

I know!  This one:

IMG_1703

Perfect!  Now, let’s throw those things away:

IMG_1704

.

They’re in the magic wasterpaper basket!  Hooray!

Before I end this post for today, I would like to share something else I heard somebody say.  Opposed to the two things I just threw away, this is something

  1. I heard recently and
  2. I would like to stick in my memory more (not less).

I heard this yesterday, when I listened to this TED talk by lexicographer Erin McKean:

TED talk by Erin McKean

Here’s what she said that I especially want to remember now*:

“When parts of your job are not easy or fun, you kind of look for an excuse not to do them.”  (At 1:54 in the talk.)

That’s much better, rather than labeling myself …

A Procrastinator.

Lazy.

Or, this:

IMG_1692

Hey!  It’s another job for the magic wastepaper basket!

Thanks to Erin McKean,  all the people in my life who’ve taken the time to tell me something they thought would be helpful, cool wastepaper baskets everywhere, and to you, too, for reading today.

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*Erin McKean refers to something else, in this talk, which I found incredibly valuable when somebody told me about it many years ago.  At 5:00, she describes what she calls “The Ham Butt Problem”, which also relates to letting go of old, unhelpful ways of thinking!

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Day 236: Recovering

I was talking to somebody last week about the concept of recovery, which is defined in many different ways, including these (thanks to my old friend, Google):

re·cov·er·y
riˈkəvərē
noun

1.  a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength.
“signs of recovery in the housing market”
synonyms: recuperation, convalescence
antonyms: relapse, deterioration
2. the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost.
“a team of salvage experts to ensure the recovery of family possessions”
synonyms: retrieval, regaining, repossession, getting back, reclamation, recouping, redemption, recuperation

Something else that showed up, in my Googling of “recovery”:

SAMHSA announces a working definition of “recovery” from mental disorders and substance use disorders.

Here’s a quote from that 2011 on-line article, from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA):

A new working definition of recovery from mental disorders and substance use disorders is being announced by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The definition is the product of a year-long effort by SAMHSA and a wide range of partners in the behavioral health care community and other fields to develop a working definition of recovery that captures the essential, common experiences of those recovering from mental disorders and substance use disorders, along with major guiding principles that support the recovery definition.

The new working definition of Recovery from Mental Disorders and Substance Use Disorders is as follows:

A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.

So where was I, before googling “recovery”?

Oh, yes, the conversation I had at work last week. During that same conversation, we also talked about the Ascending Coil. The Ascending Coil — which I first mentioned on Day 6 here —  is an often useful way to look at the ways we humans learn and grow. That is, we tend to go over similar territory and lessons, like this:

Image

rather than learning in a linear,  building-perfectly-on-what-we-already-know way, like this (which some of us might expect from ourselves):

Image

.

If those two images, above, look familiar, that might be because (1) the first one is a Slinky, which some of you are familiar with, and  (2) I’ve already shown these same images in another post, here.

So this is what I wanted to say, today:

When I was having this conversation, last week,  about the process of recovery and the Ascending Coil, I saw something differently.

I saw the word recovering* like this:

“Re-covering.”

Re-covering similar ground,  as we grow.

Re-covering similar problems, sometimes with a sense of despair: “Will this ever end? Will I ever learn? Will things ever work out for me?”

Re-covering similar lessons, learning something new each time (even if it feels like we’re not learning well — or quickly — enough).

Sometimes, as we re-cover that ground, it might seem like it’s the “same old same old”….  like there’s “nothing new under the sun”**.

This is what I saw under the sun, yesterday, in a place I’ve been many, many times before:

Image

(sigh)

It’s all about recovering, isn’t it?

Thanks to SAMSHA, slinkies, sunsets, and to you, too, for reading today.

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* I could have seen the word “recovery” like this: “re-covery”, but since “covery” is not a word, that would have been the end of that.

** I’ve been thinking a lot about “clichés” this year. For more about that, see here.

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Day 235: Disappointed

This post is dedicated to one of my childhood heroes — Carl Yastrzemski — whose birthday is today.

Yes, I confess.

I woke up this morning and was aware of the feeling of ….

Disappointment.

Disappointment is a human emotion that I love to invite from people in individual and group therapy, but which I often judge in myself.

That’s another rampant epidemic I see in my work: that double-standard of accepting in others what we might judge or disown in ourselves.

Here are some random thoughts, this morning, about disappointment:

  1. Disappointment, like anger, might be a signal of not getting needs met.
  2. Disappointment might indicate an investment in some outcome.
  3. Here’s a movie-moment from one of my favorite actors:

.

What helped me, in dealing with disappointment this morning?

I read and liked some posts from other bloggers — some familiar and some new to me –including talktodiana, Mostly Bright Ideas, Awakening to Your Story, findingmyinnercourage, A Year of Rejoicing, Shekhina, morristownmemos, and Whimsical Eclecticist.

By the way, I recently tried to add some new “widgets” to my blog, including one that displays posts I’ve recently liked, and these New Things, so far, have not worked exactly the way I expected or wanted.

So what else is new?

Or, to repeat:

.

Anyway, something else that helped, this morning: I followed through with a “commitment” I had made, earlier this year in this blog, to pay bills when they first come in (rather than procrastinating).

And while I didn’t pay a certain bill immediately when it came in, I did pay it, this morning, much earlier than usual.

That’s worth celebrating, don’t you think?

Yay!!!

Okay! So far, this blog post has included some tried-and-true Ways To Move Forward:

  1. Identifying a feeling (or thought).
  2. Accepting (and perhaps venting) that.
  3. Realizing that I am not alone in experiencing this.
  4. Seeing this as a possible gift or opportunity.
  5. Throwing in some quote (movie clip, comedian, poem, etc.) I really like.
  6. Giving credit to others.
  7. Giving credit to myself.

Before I end this post, I’ll just include one other Blogging Element I’ve enjoyed using this year: doing a random “spin” in Google Images to see what comes up.

Here are some images I found, doing a Google-Images Spin on “disappointed”:

Image

(above posted by yet another blogger!! — thehonestone)

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Image

Image

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Anyway, time to end this post, for the day.

Thanks to Kevin Kline, “A Fish Called Wanda,” Yaz, bloggers familiar and new, disappointments familiar and new, and (but of course) to you, for reading today.

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

Day 234: Curiosity, in the moment

At the beginnings of the therapy group sessions I do, I often state what I’m curious about — as a way to invite people to “check-in.”

This is something I often say:

Right now, I’m curious about what’s going on for you in the moment. I’m also curious about anything that might be contributing to how you are feeling and thinking, in the moment.

This morning, after I got up, I “checked-in” with myself that way. That is, I asked myself how I was doing in the moment and what might be contributing to that.

This is what I discovered:

I continue to feel some “uneasiness” when I wake up in the morning. (I wrote about that, early this year.)

It helps to sit in a quiet place and focus, as much a possible, on the present moment — letting all thoughts, feelings, etc. flow through me.

Image

Yes!  I gave myself “the chair” this morning, sitting mindfully for a short time.

This is what came up for me, when I asked myself what was contributing to how I was feeling in the moment:

  1. Yesterday, for the first time, I met with a lawyer to talk about my will (and other necessary plans regarding my inevitable death).
  2. Geesh, people!  Isn’t that enough?

Of course, there were all sorts of other things contributing to how I was doing in the moment.  Even if I can’t identify all those things (and who can?), it helps to be as aware, in the moment, as much as possible.

Right now, I’m aware that I’d like to end with a photo.

But which one?

How about the last photo I’ve taken, with my trusty-enough iPhone?

Image

Here are the points I want to make about this photo:

  1. It was taken at Strip-T’s last night, a great — if interestingly named — restaurant in Watertown, MA.
  2. I haven’t been to Strip-T’s since before April (when the outside of the restaurant was another backdrop on CNN news reports, in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings).
  3. I wanted to take a photo of these three things at the restaurant, because I loved them all.
  4. To me, the pig on the right looks like it’s saying something to the pig on the left.

Of course, I’m curious about what that might be.

Thanks to Strip-T’s, ceramic pigs, curious creatures everywhere, and to you, for reading today.

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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