Posts Tagged With: birthday parties

Day 47: A Noble Weekend Quest, To Fight SHOULDs

So this is the beginning of a long weekend. Monday is Presidents’ Day!


(And what might this mean for you, dear reader?  Some long posts, perhaps?)

Where was I before that parenthesized warning?

Oh yes. I feel like I really need this long weekend, because the last few weekends have had much more stress than usual.

Now, stress isn’t always bad.  The way I’ve been defining Adventure in this blog is “something new,” and New-ness (and change in general) is inherently more stressful.  Don’t you think?

Here’s why I haven’t had a “normal” weekend for a while.  Last weekend, I was unexpectedly caught in South Carolina, due to the snowstorm. The weekend before was my 60th birthday party, which was great, but Packed With New-ness (and wonder). And several weekends before the Birthday Weekend, I was focusing on party-planning.

Phew!  So it’s nice to be sitting on my couch this Saturday morning with a sense of routine and with nothing of note looming on the horizon. (Except for taxes, which I’m SURE I will blog about sometime within the next couple of months.)

So nothing is looming right now.

I’m really liking that word “looming” as a description of how it feels when there’s something big I think I should be dealing with.

However, as I’ve written in this blog —  for example, waaaaaay back on Day 5 —  SHOULDs can come up at any times,  whether something big is looming or not. (BTW, you can find definitions of SHOULDs and the other 12 Cognitive Distortions, here).

Therefore, chances are that SHOULDs will come up for me, over this  long weekend. Hmmmm.  What might I do about that?


Cue trumpets, for an important announcement!!!

(Okay, now imagine the inspiring, heroic sound of a trumpet flourish.)

(Wait. Hold on. I wonder if there is a way to imbed a sound bite in a blog?) (Not that I’ve ever imbedded a sound into anything, yet.) (It’s another adventure!)

(Research, research, research…..)

All right. I think I’m ready for  … Cue trumpets, TAKE 2!

Not sure if that worked, but — whether you’re hearing trumpets in your mind or actually hearing them in this post — here’s my announcement:

Friends, Readers, and Fellow Bloggers, lend me your ears. This weekend,  I come to bury  SHOULDs, not to praise them.

Or, to put this in another olde-fashioned, more heroic-type way:

I hereby declare myself a SHOULD Warrior. This weekend,  I shalt venture forth and battle against Shoulds!!

Okay, now I have to arm myself for this quest. Here are four pieces of weaponry I can take with me:

 #1:  I shalt notice SHOULDs and name them as such.

For example, I am now naming a SHOULD statement that has already come up for me today:

I SHOULD send thank you notes for the gifts some people brought to the party.

#2: I shalt restate — or reframe — the SHOULD statement, in a helpful way.

For example,   “I COULD write thank you notes.  Instead, I CHOOSE TO ______ .”  (Thanks to my friend Debbie T., who offered that great suggestion, in a comment she posted here. )

I’m realizing that I  could fill in that blank (despite the word “Instead”) with the same action — writing the thank you notes.  With this reframe, though, I am  making a choice to write them, rather than adding to my stress with a SHOULD-ed obligation.

And that, my reader, makes all the difference.

# 3:  I shalt think about the benefit to me if I do choose to take the action.  

For example, if I do choose to spend time this weekend to figure out who left me gifts during the party  and sending thank you notes, I’ll get a sense of closure about the party. Which I would enjoy.

# 4: I shalt let go of judgment (and regret or guilt) about the past actions which have contributed to this current situation.

I have definitely, already, been judging myself and feeling some regret and guilt about the party gifts. I have judged myself for not being  “together” enough the night of the party to keep track of those gifts as people brought them. And I’ve also judged myself for Procrastinating  about this since (see more about the dread P-word, here).

Right now, as I’m writing this to you, I feel like I need to make excuses.  (For example, I wasn’t expecting people to bring gifts; I hadn’t planned to open gifts during the party, so I didn’t;  I didn’t have a place to put them, so they got scattered;  when I looked at them right after the party, some of the cards got separated from the gifts, yadda yadda yadda)

I’m going to let go of all that, right now.

And I’m noticing that  I was definitely using some other SHOULD statements there (I SHOULD have been more aware of the gifts, I SHOULDN’T have gone away on my trip without figuring this out before I left, etc. etc.)

Oh, and here’s two more Cognitive Distortions I’m noticing in my thoughts about these thank-you notes:  Mind Reading and Fortune Telling.  That is, I’m worrying about my guests’ present AND future thoughts about my lack of responses about the gifts.

For example:

People are going to think I’m so lame because I haven’t sent thank you notes. And  boy! They will  REALLY think I’m lame if I send a thank-you note that says something  like, “Errr, ummmm, , I don’t know what you gave me!”

This is what I’m thinking right now: How amazing is that? Look at what I’m doing!  I’m projecting judgment onto wonderful and devoted friends of mine, who came to my birthday party to joyfully celebrate with me.  Do I REALLY BELIEVE that these people are going to judge me like that?  And if they do have a thought like that, won’t it pass?  Won’t it just be one of a kashmillion thoughts they might have about me?

And now I’m realizing my worst fear, behind those thoughts.

My losing track of the gifts, and not writing thank you notes,  might really damage these relationships.

Arrrrghh.  Sometimes,  I am just AMAZED,  when I take a step back and look at a worst fear, like that.

Yes, it’s incredible to me — the primal, irrational fears that can lurk behind  my Mind Reading, Fortune Telling, Shoulds, and other judgmental thoughts.

Well, what can I say? This is an on-going quest for me:  letting go of SHOULDs, Mind Reading, and other unhelpful, judgmental thoughts.

It’s a difficult quest, and a noble one, indeed.

I feel like I rode some distance forward on this quest today, dear reader. Thanks for riding along beside me.


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

Day 46: Words to Live By

I haven’t written much about how my 60th birthday party went down, way back on Groundhog Day (a.k.a Day 33) (a.k.a. February 2).

Planning that party did make an appearance in this blog,  on Day 16, when I was struggling with some self-judgment during that process.

My goal in planning that party was to create a day which was meaningful and fun, where people I appreciate and love could help me celebrate reaching  quite the birthday milestone.

One of my ideas was to put up on the wall giant post-it notes (these 25″ by 30″ beauties, right here), which people could write or draw on.  On some of those posters, I had written questions or topics that people could answer throughout the party. I  really liked that idea, because I thought that would help people engage and feel comfortable, soon after they entered the party, since the posters were hanging right where people first entered my place. Plus, in general, I LOVE asking people questions, so that made it more fun for ME.

Here were the questions I put up on the posters:

What is something in your life that you love?

What’s a really helpful lesson you’ve learned in your life?

Favorite movie?

Favorite song?

What makes a good party?

What’s something you haven’t done yet that you want to?

Words to live by?

If you could be any animal ….?

And during the party, it was fun for me to see my guests, engaging with each other around those questions. Plus, at the end of the party, I had — as a memento of the day — the answers to keep. All of the answers were anonymous, so that was fun, too — to guess who wrote what.

My idea for today’s blog was to pass on what people at my party wrote for “Words to Live By.”

This is what people wrote:

Disregard everything

Laugh a lot every day.

Laugh at lot at Ray every day. (This, I know, was written by my hilarious friend Janet, married to Ray.)

If not you, then who?

If not now, when?

Everything in moderation, including moderation.

Show up, be gentle, and tell the truth 

Please and thank you.

No, you first.

Leap and the net will appear.

Why not??

Don’t sweat the “small stuff” — it’s all “small stuff.”


Live, love, laugh

Do one thing every day that scares you. (Eleanor Roosevelt)

Life is emergent curriculum.

Those “Words to Live By” were just some of the many gifts I received at the party.

I’m pleased to re-gift them here, to you.

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

Day 34: Object Constancy

“Object constancy” is a Psychological Concept which I will now try to explain.  (When I say “try to explain,” I mean that  I’m going to Google it, check to see whether the definition there matches my assumptions in the moment) (and, if I find a definition that’s good enough, steal it).

Of course, it’s risky when you go to the Internet for information.   Who knows which sources are reliable?  But here’s a definition of Object Constancy, from the GoogleSphere:

 in psychoanalysis, the relatively enduring emotional investment in another person.

That doesn’t quite “click” for me. Hold on.

Well, I’ve looked at a few, and I’m going to use this one, which — interestingly enough, defines LACK of object constancy.

Lack of object constancy is the inability to remember that people or objects are consistent, trustworthy and reliable, especially when they are out of your immediate field of vision.

Hmmm. It’s occurring to me that this definition reflects a kind of all-or-nothing thinking. I mean, look at those words: “lack.”  “inability.”

Object constancy is not usually something that human beings either have OR don’t have at all. The vast majority of us are somewhere on the scale from 0 to 100%, Object Constancy-wise.

Let me tell you why Object Constancy is the Topic Du Jour. Yesterday, I gave a party for myself, to celebrate a Big Numbered Birthday.  And I invited people to come and help me celebrate the day — people who have meant a lot to me and people who I assumed would feel comfortable being there.

And these people said some pretty incredible things to me throughout the party — face-to-face, by cards and other writings, on video messages, and during a point in the party where people sat around and shared memories. And I was trying really, really hard throughout the party to take the good stuff in.  I was trying not to get caught up in what might go wrong with the party, whether people were having a good time, whether I was being a good host, whether I seemed too self-centered in having this kind of party for myself, and the other varied menu of judgmental choices. And I was friggin’ exhausted the whole time, because I had trouble sleeping the night before. So I was trying not to judge myself for that, too. (Why didn’t you make sure you got enough sleep so you could be more present?) And I was trying not to be disappointed that I hadn’t managed to figure out how to RECORD what people were saying at certain points, so I could remember it later.

And I really wanted to record things, because I think of myself as a person who has “Poor Object Constancy.”

Which, I realize right now, is a judgmental term.

I mean, it’s the word “poor” that tipped me off, right then.

But let me tell you by what I mean by that belief about myself: People may be vivid, real, and important to me in the moment, but they can fade when I’m by myself. When I am by myself,  I can start believing that I’m not important — that I fade from their minds, too.  And even though I know on some level that there are people out there who care about me, when I’m alone and feeling scared or insecure, I have trouble accessing a sense of those connections.

I spend a lot of time, in my work, talking to people about What Sticks and What Doesn’t Stick. And I have noticed, in myself and other people, that what scares us — the negative things — do tend to stick and seem more important than the positive things.  If you’ve read other posts in this blog, you’ve probably noticed this theme coming up before. And here’s something else I’m sure I’ll write about more than once. When we’re feeling at our worst, we tend to NOT do the things that will help us feel better. Over and over again, I see people isolating when they feel worse about themselves and their lives.

The tendency of the negative to “stick.”  How people, when they are in pain, tend to isolate. Yes, I will probably write about these themes — and others —  many times throughout this Year of Living Non-Judgmentally.  Because (as the cab driver said in response to the rider asking, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?”), practice, practice, practice.

It takes repetition and practice to let go of old ways of seeing things.

So, yesterday, I tried to practice, practice, practice throughout the party.  I tried not to judge the judging thoughts that came up for me during the party. I tried to take in the specific positive things people were telling me.  And I tried to let these very positive messages in: You are important to me. I am important to you.

When I say “important” I don’t mean “all important.”  All of us have complicated lives, and maybe we do lose track of each other here and there. But importance — like most things — is not All-Or-Nothing.

And there was a moment yesterday, when people who mean a lot to me were singing “Happy Birthday.” In that moment, I let go of all judgmental, self-conscious, and scared thoughts, looked around the room, and  thought, “Wow.”  Here are all these beautiful connections, right in the room. Here are all these wonderful faces, looking at me, and celebrating my birthday with song and with themselves. And I took a mental photo of it, filed it away, and reminded myself to Practice, Practice, Practice making that image stick.

And even if my Object Constancy is not the best — even if that image fades and maybe is hidden from me at times —  that image is still there. And I’ll practice, practice, practice making that picture more constant.

Thanks, dear reader.

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

Day 16: Battling judgment (while planning a birthday party)

This post relates to a lesson that I keep encountering these days.

When I’m working on creating or learning something,  which I haven’t quite figured out yet, and I’m disappointed in where I am, I have this thought:

This [thing I’m working on] sucks!

And, almost always, this is followed by this more vicious, shame-based thought:

And you suck for not figuring it out yet!

Unfortunately, sometimes the above gets abbreviated to:

You suck!


Lately, I’ve been noticing, over and over again, that after the You Suck! phase,  I actually come out the other end with some good ideas. That is, once I start to feel better, I come up with several new solutions that often solve the problems I’ve been encountering up until then.

Do I think the You Suck! Step is necessary?  No, I don’t.  However, it does seem to be a signal that something’s not working and needs my attention.

Believe me, I would love to skip the You Suck! Step. I haven’t quite managed that yet, but I have been making a lot of progress in getting off that step — and moving on — a LOT more quickly these days. Thank goodness.

One thing that is helping is the phrase (which I believe i mentioned in a previous post): “It’s good enough already, AND I can make it better.”

Of course, when I’m in the “I suck!” phase, I don’t believe that sweet and helpful phrase. But perhaps using that mantra, whenever I think of it, is helping me inoculate myself.  And maybe that’s one of the reasons I’m moving through that step more quickly.

I want to give you an example of this process, which is on my mind, because I lived it this morning, between 5:30 and 6:30 AM.  Yes, I did.

Here’s the deal: I am planning somebody’s 60th birthday party.  And I’d like it to be a meaningful AND fun event, for the birthday girl and also for the participants.

I searched on-line for ideas, and I didn’t find anything that was particularly helpful.

So I’ve been working on the idea of Story-Telling, and how to create a space where people can share memories in a way that feels comfortable.

I’ve checked out this concept with people, and several of them have cautioned about the dangers of this, pointing out that this kind of party might seem awkward or forced, and that people might feel anxious or on the spot.

Here’s where I was at 5:30 AM this morning:  I had been working on the idea of designating a time during the party when people could gather around and share memories, tell stories, or say whatever they wanted to say. I was going to try to make this easier by having “prompts” available to suggest ideas for stories, if they hadn’t thought of one ahead of time.  For example, these prompts might include “Tell a story where you and the birthday girl had an adventure.” Or “If you were going to spend a whole day with her, what might you do?”  Or “If she appeared to you in a dream, what might she signify?” (I’ve facilitated going-away events at places I’ve worked, and I’ve used these sort of prompts to help in the process of people expressing appreciation and saying goodbye to the person who’s leaving.)

Anyway, at 5:30 this morning, I wasn’t liking this plan very much.  I was imagining all the different attendees at the party — many of whom don’t know each other — with all their different interpersonal styles. And I could see, very clearly, that this activity might be …. awkward or forced, and that people might feel anxious or on the spot.

And then the “This sucks!” and “You suck!” thoughts came in for a little while.

But then, about a half hour later, I started to have more ideas.  I thought: What if I set up a sort of  Meaningful-Birthday Amusement Park throughout the party and give people more room and choices to say what they’d like to say to the birthday girl?  What if I have a room set up where people (who might be more introverted) could use a computer to record a message (which might be a story, or anything they chose) and to look at the other messages recorded?  And what if there were places to write down stories and share them?  And I also remembered these cool magic wands, that make noise when you wave them, that I had seen at a toy store.  What if there were a bunch of those around, and at any point in the party, somebody could grab one of these, wave it, get people’s attention, and make a wish for the birthday girl?  (Sort of the equivalent of tapping a glass to propose a toast.)

Anyway, I just kept coming up with more ideas to integrate the meaningful stuff throughout the party, and it started to seem like an evening that might be fun for a wide range of different types of people.

By 6:30, I was no longer feeling nervous and insecure about the party.  All thoughts of “This sucks!” and “You suck!” were gone. I was actually looking forward to planning the party AND attending it.  The pressure was off.

Now, did I have to come up with all these ideas to make this party work?  Probably not.  The party probably would have been good enough, as it was.

But I think it’s going to be more fun for all, now.  And I’ve been telling people about these ideas and — so far — the advance reviews have been good.

I’ll tell you how it turns out, dear reader.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll skip the “You suck!” step next time.

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

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