Monthly Archives: November 2013

Day 324: Trust in Self

Yesterday, people who had gathered for a therapy group decided to focus on this topic:

Trust in self.

The questions people answered, during the group, included these:

  1. What does “trust in self” mean to you?
  2. What tends to decrease your trust in yourself?
  3. What tends to increase your trust in yourself?

My own thoughts, about “trust in self,” right now?

When I got up this morning, I had trust that I would write a post that would be meaningful.

I just went into another room, and this is what I found:

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That’s something I’m familiar with, because I purchased it five months ago, in May, during my spring vacation.  That mug has already appeared in another post, here.

I also found something else, which is a new arrival to this home:

IMG_2270

Here’s what I want to tell you about that piece of art:

It’s a watercolor, painted by my long-time friend, Paul Nagano, who appeared in a blog post that was very important to me:  “A walk down Boylston Street, Boston, on April 29, 2013.”

As my son just said, “It looks brighter in real life” (if you can imagine that).

Paul’s watercolor is now hanging in a spot that has been conspicuously empty, in our home, since we moved here.

I was waiting to find the “right thing.”

I had trust in myself that I would.

I did.

I mean, look at it, people!

It’s Boston, and it’s springtime!

Many thanks to Paul Nagano, to people who (are learning to) trust themselves, and to you — of course!  — for visiting here today.

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

Day 323: Grieving old losses

After an initial therapy session, I need to write a treatment formulation. This includes  a brief description of the person seeking therapy  and my best guess at what might help.

When I write a formulation, I tend to include certain therapeutic themes.

One of them is this:

Grieving old losses.

I do believe that most people have losses, from the past, that could be attended to, in a new way.

I know that I do.

I know that I still am grieving the loss of both my parents.  That is a work in progress.

I am especially aware of losses, where the grieving has barely begun.

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This week, as I prepare for the 50th anniversary of November 22, 1963, I am becoming aware of a loss I have not yet grieved.

The loss of President John F. Kennedy.

As I have blogged about, several times this year (and especially lately), I was 10 years old when President Kennedy was killed.

However, I wasn’t awake, during that time.  I was undergoing my first heart surgery, for the implantation of my first cardiac pacemaker.

So I’ve always felt different, that way.  When people of my generation discuss where they were when JFK was killed, my story is …. weird, I guess.

This is the way I found out that President Kennedy was dead:

They had gotten me out of bed, days after my surgery, and somebody was taking me around in a wheelchair, down the corridor of the Children’s Hospital ward.  As we passed by each patient room, I saw the TVs, mounted up high,  on the wall.

On each TV, I saw the same image.  The same image, over and over again, as somebody wheeled me by.

A coffin.

I had never seen anything like that before, on TV.  And it was on every TV.

Days before, I had asked a question, twice, and received a world-shifting answer.  The question had been, “What’s that?” when I saw a large pacemaker, implanted under my skin.

When I saw the coffin, I MUST have been afraid to ask that same question.

I don’t remember the fear. But I do remember asking the question.

“What’s that?”

And that’s when I found out that my beloved president, John F. Kennedy, had been shot.

Killed.  Murdered.

By whom?

By a man named Lee Harvey Oswald.

I couldn’t take in that unfamiliar name, I’m sure.

Why did he kill the President?

Nobody knew. And he was dead, too. He had been killed, by another stranger.

How was all this possible?

HOW WAS ANY OF IT POSSIBLE?

I couldn’t answer that.  I was only 10.

I wonder if anybody, awake during that time, could answer that.

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This week, as Friday — the 50th anniversary of 11/22/63  — approaches, I have resolved to grieve old losses, as well as I can.

I am taking Friday off from work.  I have committed to be especially kind to myself, that day.

One way to be kind to myself is this: To remember that I am not alone in my grief.  Even though my experience of that loss was very different, I share the trauma of that loss with millions of people.

I am not alone.

Also, since I was 10, I’ve avoided details about what happened during that time.

I resolve to open up to the details, now.  And to turn away, if I choose.

And more importantly, I resolve to open up to the grief of that loss, of the president we loved.

Image

I think I’m ready for that, now.

Thanks to picsofwisdom.com (for the image of JFK), to those who are grieving losses everywhere, and to you — especially — for visiting today.

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

Day 322: Abandoned/The Orphan

Yesterday, I witnessed somebody I love very much, experiencing a primal, human feeling.

He was expecting other people to show up and, for a while, it looked like nobody was coming. Nobody.

He was trying to make meaning of that.

But what I saw, most of all, was pain.

I tried to provide, as I do with anybody in pain, witness to the hurt and — when appropriate — inviting room for the hope.  The hope that people would come, eventually.  The possibility that the abandonment, while painful, was temporary.

And the abandonment was temporary.

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Carol Pearson, in this book …

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writes about 12 archetypes — primal human roles we go through on our journey through life.

The first archetype is the The Innocent.  That is how we enter the world.

The second archetype is The Orphan. Into every Innocent’s life, disappointment will come. Abandonment, of some form.

Orphans feel helpless, powerless, confused.  They try to make meaning of this new perspective on life, but the new feelings of loss and pain are … overwhelming.

The world is not as safe as they thought.

We all feel orphaned, at some time or other. We think:

Nobody is coming. Nobody cares. I am alone in this.

This is what we cannot see, when we feel orphaned:   The people who are around us.

Maybe they don’t know about our pain.

Maybe they are on their way.

That’s what I witnessed yesterday, with somebody I love.

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I know that feeling of being orphaned. Abandoned.

I still feel it, at times, today.

This post is a reminder for me and other orphans, of all kinds.

I may feel alone, in pain. But, truly, I  am not.

Okay!  Time for a Google Image, for “archetype orphan.”

And here it is.

When you’re feeling abandoned,  people are there, even if you cannot see them. In the meantime:

Image

Love yourself.

Thanks to the Buddha, Carol Pearson, orphans everywhere, and to you — especially — for visiting today.

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

Day 321: The gift of mortality

When I was in my 20s, I was talking to a friend where we both worked, at a high tech company.

That day, we were talking about mortality.

He, who was also in his 20s, declared that people of our age could not possibly have a sense of our own mortality.  We could not  really understand, said he, that we would die some day.

I had heard that before, but that was not my personal experience.  I was born with a congenital heart problem, received my first cardiac pacemaker at age 10, and was definitely aware of mortality issues, in ways my friend was not.

This is my recollection of the rest of that conversation:

Me: Well, that’s probably true for lots of people. That’s not my experience. I’m very aware of mortality issues. I know I’m going to die, and I think about that a lot.

Him:  I don’t believe it. You might think you know you’re going to die, but you don’t really know that.

Me: (pause, not knowing what to say to THAT.)

Him: Look, if you really knew you were going to die, you wouldn’t show up to work here every day. You’d be doing things you REALLY want to do.

Me: (Laughing out loud)

Him: What’s so funny?

Me: I have a lot of trouble showing up here every day.

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That conversation has always stuck with me, because it represents something important.

I have always had trouble spending time on something that doesn’t feel like a “good enough fit”, because I am sooooo aware that my time is limited.

I think that has served me very well.

It has guided me, continually, in improving my situation, at work (through career changes), in love, and at home.

I’m not saying my progress has been perfect or linear, in any way.  (See this post for more about that.)

However, increasingly as I’ve aged, my presence indicates an active choice to be there.*

Every day, when I post, I am choosing whole-heartedly to be here.

I may never know what form the post will ultimately take, but I trust in the process of creation.

That’s how I feel about life, too. I don’t know the course, and how it will end, but I am committed, as much as possible, to every moment.

Okay!  It’s time to choose an image, to end this post.

(Pause, while I check my iPhone for a photo that’s a “good enough fit”.)

Okay!

When people in therapy report progress, strengths, or anything worth celebrating, I sometimes say, “If I had some confetti, I would throw it.”

Here it is:

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Thank you for celebrating with me, here and now.

___________________

* With some exceptions, of course. I never want to be present when it’s time to do my taxes.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , | 23 Comments

Day 320: Show up, be gentle, tell the truth

Hundreds of days ago (doesn’t that sound more impressive than “on March 12”?), I wrote a blog post called “The Secret to Life is Three Things.”

And those three things,  Ladies and Gentlemen of the Blogosphere,  comprise the title of today’s post. Here they are, engraved on a clock:

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Many years ago, when I first heard somebody reveal those secrets to life, I believed them, immediately. Why?  Because they matched my value system — how I’ve tried to live.

I remember those three things, whenever I can, and offer them to others.

Personally, I’ve had trouble remembering an important component of Part 2 of The Secret to Life. Therefore, when I pass that on, I say, “‘Be gentle’ includes being gentle with yourself.”

Regarding the other two parts —  showing up and telling the truth — I’ve had no trouble remembering those.

I’m really good at showing up. For example, I’ve shown up here, every day this year, with a post. No problem.

Sometimes, maybe I show up at places when I really don’t have to.  For example, maybe I should take a day off from work (or from other obligations), more often than I do.

I would like to be more gentle with myself, regarding the showing up — to remind myself that I have choices.

Regarding Part 3 of The Secret to Life,  I can also be a little … what’s a good word? — extreme. That’s because Telling the Truth is very important to me.

Why?

My parents were very honest.  My parents let me know how much they valued honesty.

Also, when I was a kid in the hospital, somebody lied to me after my first surgery. (As I’ve recounted here before, the nurse who took off the dressing after my first surgery, revealing the pacemaker implanted right under my skin, lied when I asked her what THAT was, by replying, ‘That’s your hip. It’s swollen from the surgery.”)

And if I were going to change anything in my life — ANYTHING! — I would change that encounter, with that lie.

Although, I’ve been more gentle about that, lately.  Last week, I remarked to a friend, “You know, there was a very good reason why people were not at their best, dealing with me after my first surgery. President Kennedy had just been shot.”

And it helped to realize that (and to write, now, too).

I still value honesty, sometimes to the extreme.

What is my definition of Extreme Honesty?  Answer: When you tell the truth, even when it is not to your benefit.

Two examples of Extreme Honesty:

  1. Getting into a car accident, where you and the other driver conclude all the fault is his, realizing soon after that you are somewhat at fault and calling the other driver to confess.
  2. Being involved in a law suit, finding a document that might hurt your case, and confessing about its existence  (even though you could easily ignore it).

Extreme Honesty doesn’t always come easy, I must confess. Sometimes, it involves many hours of soul-searching, including the wish to Not Tell.

Today, I want to be honest about something that I discovered yesterday, on the internet.

This year, I’ve been more open and up front about my experience with illness and hospitals, especially when growing up.

Some of that honesty has involved bragging.

This has been my Big Brag:

I am the longest surviving person in the world with a pacemaker!!  Ta-da!!

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People seem impressed when I brag about that.  And I have felt  secure, with that brag, for many years.  Several experts have endorsed that brag, too.*

However …..

This is what I discovered, yesterday, at WikiAnswers:

Wow, I’ve got everybody beat! I recieved my first pacemaker at 21months old in June 1962.( first infant) Next year I will have been pacer-powered for 50 years.I ran on nuclear energy for 30yrs and was one of the 1st 15 people to get an american made nuclear pacer. I was born with a total heart-block with 2 holes in my heart. One closed after the pacer was installed and I had open-heart surgery to repair the second when I was in my 30’s.I now run on a state of the art defibulator and all 4 chambers of my heart now function for the first time.Lets hear it for great technology & fantastic Doctors!!

Rocky Hutchinson

When I found that, I immediately sent it to my cardiologist.

I knew I would blog about it today.

Maybe this is resistance — to giving up what I’ve “owned” for many years —  but that story does seem, in some ways, incredible to me. An enormous pacemaker (much larger than mine, probably, because that was over a year before my first one) given to an infant?  I didn’t think they were doing that.

However, it’s possible. It’s definitely possible.

And I know this: When I tell the stories of my childhood experiences with pacemakers, they can seem unbelievable.

And here’s something else that matters a great deal, to me: To be believed.

As a matter of fact, I treasure, beyond measure, something my cardiologist said to me, two weeks ago:

One thing I’ve learned, Ann, is never to doubt you.

That, in ways, means more to me than any record.

So, how do I want to end this post, today?

I think I showed up, was gentle, and told the truth.

I did my best.

Here’s one thing that feels left undone, though.

Yesterday, Shaun of prayingforoneday gave me the Sisterhood of the World Blogger Award.

While I have mixed feelings about awards at WordPress, I accepted that award, with honest gratitude, where it was given (in the comments of my About page).

However, I couldn’t figure out how to include the award logo in my acceptance comment.  So here it is:

sisterhood-of-world-blogger-award1

I KNOW I deserve THAT award.

Many thanks to Shaun, to Rocky Hutchinson, to the longest surviving person in the world with a cardiac pacemaker (wherever that person is**), to people doing their best with honesty (and other endeavors), and to you, especially, for visiting today.


* Although several have said, “We can’t be 100% sure.”

** See more about this, here.

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , | 17 Comments

Day 319: Paying attention

Some people tell me that’s a skill I have: paying attention.

What’s the secret of paying attention?

Curiosity.

There’s a warning about curiosity, I know:

Curiosity killed the cat.

When I look at that saying, right now, this is what I’m thinking:

Curiosity didn’t kill the cat.  Something else did (e.g., another animal, a car, a trap, etc.).

Don’t blame curiosity OR the cat, please!  (See here for why blame is an unhelpful cognitive distortion.)

Time to go to Wikipedia, for more about that saying:

Curiosity killed the cat” is a proverb used to warn of the dangers of unnecessary investigation or experimentation. A less frequently-seen rejoinder to “curiosity killed the cat” is “but, satisfaction brought it back”.[1]

The original form of the proverb, now little used, was “Care killed the cat”. In this instance, “care” was defined as “worry” or “sorrow.”

Aha!  Haven’t I been telling you that — all year — about worry, dear readers? (See here, here, here, here, and here for  more about that.)

Question: Is anybody curious about how I’m going to end this post?

Answer: With the image that inspired it.

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Thanks to cats and other curious creatures everywhere, and to you, especially, for paying attention today.

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

Day 318: Other people’s mistakes

I’ve written several times, this year, about perfectionism. (For example, herehere, and here.)

Nobody is perfect — including the writer and the readers of this post.  As humans, we all make mistakes, every day. (Probably, we all make mistakes every hour.)

I react differently to the Making of Mistakes, though, depending upon who is doing the mistake-making.

When I realize that I have made a mistake, this is my usual response:

I feel awful.

Here are some typical, automatic thoughts I have:

Oh, no!  I made a mistake!  I should have paid better attention. This is really going to be a problem for other people, too.  What’s the matter with me?

It’s a different story, though, when somebody else makes a mistake. Often, I forgive other people their mistakes.

It’s much easier to remember that everybody makes mistakes, when it’s everybody else.

However, when somebody makes a mistake that has a direct, negative impact on me,  that’s a different story, too.

Then, this is my usual response:

I feel awful.

Here are some typical, automatic thoughts I have:

Oh, no! This other person made a mistake!  And that really caused me some discomfort. What do I do now?  How do I tell them about it? They’ll probably think it’s MY fault, too!  How can I prove it’s NOT? Maybe it IS my fault, somehow! And what if it’s NOT my fault and they don’t own up to that? THEN what do I do?   Also, if I mattered and was important enough to them, they would have been more careful!  Now I’m angry!  NOW what do I do? If I express my anger, I’ll probably alienate them!  I don’t want to lose them!  But I don’t want to pretend that it’s all okay with me, either, because it’s NOT!

This is what I notice about THAT, now.

When somebody else makes a mistake, I tend to have MORE thoughts.

Why?

Well, I’m really used to my own mistakes. I KNOW (by living with myself) how imperfect I am: I’ve got lots of proof about that. At times in the past, I’ve thought of myself as a screw-up — somebody who constantly make mistakes.

So THAT’s familiar.

But, somehow, I’ve never gotten used to other people’s mistakes.

Why is that?

This is my best guess, right now: When I was a little kid, I needed important people — upon whom I depended —  to NOT make major mistakes.  (And they made mistakes, of course. They were human.)

I know I’m not alone, in that.

Here’s a personal example of that: I  needed the doctors keeping me alive —  through surgeries and new technologies — to NOT make major mistakes. Big time.

So, my wish —  even as an adult — is that people NOT make mistakes. But they do, of course, every day.

Also, if somebody makes a mistake that has a negative effect on me and doesn’t own it, I can feel some anger about that (naturally). And as I wrote, two days ago, I can be a little clueless about anger, once I have it.

So there you have it: My reactions to other people’s mistakes.

It’s easy for me to write this post today, dear readers, because somebody — whom I’ve yet to meet —  made a mistake last night which did have a negative impact on me.  At this writing, the person is not owning the mistake, which may or may not change.

This is what I’ve done, so far, this morning, to deal with this:

  1. I wrote an e-mail to the person, pointing out the facts.
  2. By focusing on the facts, I let go of any wish to affect the other person’s feelings about this in any way.
  3. I worked on this blog post.

All those things helped.

What’s missing, for me, right now?

A cool image, for this post!

My next step: consult my iPhone for recent photos.

Oh!  Here’s one:

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Recently, I saw this hand-written message on a sign, regarding a overdue repair to a machine.

So there you have it, my dear readers:  Another way to respond to other people’s mistakes.

Thanks to everybody who makes and responds to mistakes and to you — of course! — for visiting here today.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Day 317: Challenging Negative Messages

Yesterday, in a therapy group, we did an exercise where we challenged negative messages.

As I tell people, I have yet to encounter a human mind that does NOT generate negative, self-critical messages, like these:

You’re too selfish.

You’re not smart enough.

Why try anything?  You’ll  fail again.

You are weird.

You are worthless.

Arrghh!  I hate writing those messages. And whenever I do this exercise in group, I hesitate to invite critical messages, because they are SO painful and toxic.

But every time I invite these messages in, we have a chance to look at them anew.  And challenge them.

Here’s how the exercise works:

People think of some familiar critical messages. Then, a group member is chosen to be the voice of a critical message, repeating that message over and over again.  Other members can challenge that message, however they choose.

For example:

Critical Messager  You’re too selfish.

Challenger:  I am NOT too selfish!

Critical Messager:  You’re too selfish.

Challenger: What you call selfishness is just me taking care of myself.

Critical Messager:  You’re too selfish.

Challenger:  I am SO SICK of you telling me that. That doesn’t help me.

Critical Messager: You’re too selfish.

Challenger: I am no more selfish than anybody else.

Critical Messager: You’re too selfish.

Challenger: What about all the times I haven’t been selfish??

Critical Messager: You’re too selfish.

Challenge: My friend says I’m not selfish enough.

Critical Messager: You’re too selfish.

Challenger:  SHUT UP!!!

I personally LOVE doing that exercise, because I usually  get to yell, in a socially acceptable way.

Some things I notice, whenever a group does that exercise:

  1. People do NOT want to be somebody else’s Critical Messager.  They say, “I don’t want to say that horrible thing to somebody!”  (This gives me the opportunity to invite them to apply that kindness to themselves.)
  2. In response to  challenges, the Critical Messager usually changes tone — softening, hesitating, even stopping.
  3. People often express gratitude for the exercise, when it’s over.

If you don’t have a group of people on hand, you can still do a form of that exercise, by:

  1. Writing down a critical message.
  2. Challenging that message, in as many ways as you can.

I just looked for an image to support that, through Google, and this is what I found:

challenging-negative-thinking

Thanks to ExpertsMind.com, for that.

Ending messages, for this post:

Negative messages are like any other bad habit.  Practice, practice, practice changes.

And support helps, too.

Thanks to role-players everywhere, critical thinkers, habit-breakers, and to you, especially,  for reading today.

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

Day 316: Letting Go of Anger

I really had no clue what I was going to write about today.

Actually, that’s not true. As usual, I had too many clues and was having more trouble, than usual, deciding what to choose.

Then I read this wonderful post, called “They Could Not Forget,” by Louise Gallagher. At the end, she writes:

The war is over. In loving memory of my father and those who fought beside him, I let go of anger. It is time for me to make peace.

Louise’s post gave me lots of gifts, including the title of this one.

So, what do I want to write today, about Letting Go of Anger?

Here are my beliefs/observations about anger, at this point in my life:

  1. Anger is a human feeling, just like joy, sadness, and fear.
  2. Anger is a reaction to not getting needs met, including the need to feel respected and valuable.
  3. As with any other feeling, it’s helpful to let anger flow through you — without squelching it, trying to extend it, re-directing it to an inappropriate target, or otherwise screwing it up.
  4. Most people don’t have good role models for experiencing or expressing anger, so we often screw it up.
  5. In my culture, anger is more accepted in men than it is in women.
  6. Personally, when I was a kid, I had some experiences that would make ANYBODY angry; however, I didn’t express that anger.
  7. There are many, many reasons why I didn’t express anger back then. Maybe there wasn’t enough room for my anger. Maybe it wasn’t the right time. Maybe I and other people around me could not have borne it.
  8. I don’t know all the reasons why I didn’t express anger when I was a kid.  And I don’t need to know.  I can do my best, in the moment, to let go of anger, now.  Like Louise.

I love lists. Does it show?

So my commitment to myself — and to any others bearing witness — is this:

I will do my best to let go of anger. I will not expect perfection in that, or in anything else.

I need one more thing, before I publish this.

I love images. Does it show?

First, I will check to see if any recent photos of mine will fit the bill.

Okay!  I took this photo yesterday, revisiting the same place I pictured in my blog two days ago (here).

Image

That’s the place I was, when I was a kid, where I felt anger and fear.

Re-visiting there, taking photos, lingering,  breathing nearby, writing about it, showing this to you — all those things are helping me let go of those old feelings.

I am honoring my commitment.

Thanks to Louise Gallagher, Children’s Hospitals everywhere, people doing their best with anger, witnesses to healing, and to you — of course! — for reading today.

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

Day 315: How to spin less

When I woke up this morning, I knew I wanted to write a post about ways to reduce stress.

Why?

Because I knew that would help me, people!

(Psssst! That’s always my first priority, when I write a post:  Helping myself. Not a bad place to start, I think.)

Anyway, I was thinking of possible titles for the post, but not loving any of them.

Then, I read this wonderful post, by findingmyinnercourage, named “The World Can Spin Without Me.”

That post gave me lots of gifts, including the title for this post.

So how can I reduce my spinning — my stress —  today?

  1. Notice what thoughts, behaviors, other people, etc. help me.
  2. Increase the presence of those.
  3. Notice what thoughts, behaviors, other people, etc. do not help me.
  4. Decrease the presence of those.
  5. Recognize that I may have trouble telling the difference, sometimes, between #1 and #3.-
  6. Forgive myself for that.
  7. Repeat Steps 1 – 6.

Voila!  A formula for spinning less.   Feel free to try that out today, and let me know how it goes (if you choose).

One more thing, before I leave for work, spin-lessly.*

I want to include an image. For that, I shall consult photos I have recently taken.

Here we go!

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Another tip about how to spin less: Wait your turn, gracefully.

Thanks to graceful spinners of all kinds and to you — of course! — for reading today.

_________________________________

* A made-up word, meaning “with less spinning.”

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

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