Posts Tagged With: connection

Day 256: Worst nightmares (Friday the 13th)

Today is Friday the 13th.



So it’s time for …..

Random Thoughts about Worst Nightmares


When I woke up this morning, I felt cold.

Here’s the data on the recent weather in these parts: the temperature was in the 70’s on Monday, the 80’s on Tuesday, the 90’s on Wednesday, the 80’s yesterday, and (let me check) it’s going to be in the 70’s today.

When I’m in a therapy session — individual or group — people often hesitate to name their worst nightmares. They express a fear that if they share those, they will upset or alienate other people in the room. Often, when people describe an old nightmare, it’s part of the process of letting go of that.

When somebody is feeling bad, often a helpful question is: “What’s your worst nightmare right now?” (Also known as, “What’s the worst that could happen?”) When people allow themselves to express their worst fear, they often realize that dreaded future occurrence is unlikely. And, even if the worst fear is a distinct possibility, people usually realize they have survived worse.

In a previous blog post, I described a worst nightmare I used to have. In that recurring dream, I’d be trying to call somebody on the phone. Because of problems with my vision (and other obstacles), I could not reach the person by phone, no matter how I tried.

Here’s a nightmare I’ve only had once.

When I was a little girl, I had to have several surgeries, to implant cardiac pacemakers .

Before this particular surgery, my father, the nurses, and I had prepared a joke for the surgeons. It must have been the fall or early winter, because this was the joke: The nurses and I had put a sign on my body that said, “Do Not Open Until Christmas.”

The surgeon, in a very surgeon-like way, said, “Very funny,” when he saw the sign, and took it off my body.

Then, as usual, the anesthesiologist put a mask on my face

Somebody said, “Count backwards from 100.”

And I started to count.

I looked up at the doctors, wearing their own masks, looking down at me.

As I was looking up at them, that image started to change.

It reminded me of getting closer and closer to a photo in a newspaper, or an image on a television set.

Sort of like this:


It was more like a black-and-white image, though. And as I kept staring at it, the dots that made up that image got bigger and bigger.

Finally, I fell into one big, black dot.

And everything was black.

And I heard a voice. It wasn’t a nice voice. It was a cold, unfriendly voice.

It did not wish me well.

It said this:

That person you were before — the one that was joking with the doctors — is not real. This is the only thing that is real. And you will always come back to this.

Then, thank goodness, I woke up.

It was only a dream.

Sometimes, that’s the way a story ends.

Like here:



And like here, today.

Thanks for being there, dear readers.

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

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):


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.

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.


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?


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

Day 233: Leave behinds

Yesterday, throughout the day at work, I re-discovered that moods can switch for people. People feel better, then they feel worse.  Then they feel better again.

Et cetera, et cetera.

At the end of the therapy groups I do at work, I often invite people to leave behind anything they choose,  in “The Magic Wastepaper Basket” (which is whatever wastepaper basket is in the group room).

For example:


I’m not sure whether people take me up on that invitation.  I just like giving it.

People who’ve read about The Worry Box may notice a similarity here. The Magic Wastepaper Basket is another way to let go of unhelpful things.

However, I’ve noticed that it can feel scary to throw something away, even if it’s something that’s definitely not helping.

Therefore, I’ve also made the suggestion that people leave Unhelpful Things (like worry, harsh self-criticism, paralyzing fears, etc.) outside the room — like a piece of baggage,  “which you can pick up, if you choose, on your way out.”

I do like the idea of throwing things away for good, though.  Wouldn’t that be nice?

For example:


Wouldn’t it be great if one could just crumple up a fear like that …


…. and throw it away!


I think an important part of that “trick” would be this: to be non-judgmental and accepting, if the fear came back.

Here’s a thought, though:

Maybe every time we throw something away, it gets smaller.

Thanks so much for reading today.

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

Day 220: Reasons why I should move to London, Part 1

Reason #1. This place expands my vocabulary.

For example, while my brain may have felt mushy because of jet lag on our first day here in London, a great fish and chips restaurant — recommended by our hotel’s concierge — informed me about a new use of the word “mushy”:



Mushy peas:



Reason #2. There are many opportunities for puns and wordplay.

For example, London gives a 60-year-old mother and her 15-year-old son the opportunity to make excellent puns using the word “eye,” as they walk around, with jet lag, on a beautiful first day in a gorgeous city:





Stay tuned for more reasons why I should move to London, in the days ahead.

Thanks to London Eye; to London Fish & Chips Company; to other things with the word “London” in their names (but not the word “the”); to our excellent concierge, Sen; to my son for his pun-ny and otherwise excellent mind; to those of you who can think of puns with the word “eye” in them right now and those who can’t; and to you, for reading today.

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Day 204: Top Ten

I like to put together Top Ten Lists.

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


My Personal Top Ten Lists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, without further ado ….

The Top Ten TYOLN-J Posts

(in reverse order, of course):

#10 Day 77: Try this one weird trick

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

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

#7 Day 106: Beautiful, wounded Boston

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

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

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

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

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

And ….

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

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











photo (23)

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

Thanks so much for reading, today.


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

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

Day 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:


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:


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)



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

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.


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.)



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.)

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

Day 193: Polished stones

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


(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.


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

Then, I tap the chime.

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.


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

Day 192: Random thoughts at 4:17 AM, July 11, 2013

Insomnia is in the house.

I’ve had trouble sleeping, two nights in a row.

I get into patterns like this, every once in a while.

So I’m going to jot down some random thoughts, to try to help me get a wee bit of sleep before I need to go to work. (Every little bit counts!)

Here are a couple of “Cures for Insomnia”  YouTube videos I found tonight, which I think will be helpful during nights when the insomnia isn’t quite so stubborn:

I really like the fish in the second one.

My calf muscles are really sore tonight.  I’m wondering if that’s because:

  1. The new walking shoes I bought for my upcoming trip to London and Edinburgh need to be returned and/or
  2. anxiety and fear sometimes make me want to RUN!

Here are some things I want to do, right after I publish this post:

  1. Breathe naturally but more deeply than usual.
  2. Remember that lack of sleep won’t kill me.
  3. Imagine a big, beautiful box. Then, open the lid of that box, put worried thoughts and feelings into that box, and gently close the lid.



Thanks for reading. And sweet dreams for all of us.

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

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