Last night, I walked around in the rain, with my bf. We had one umbrella, but we still got wet. That was fun, because it’s pretty hot and humid right now, in these parts.
There are going to be thunderstorms for AT LEAST 10 DAYS IN A ROW, if we believe the weather people.
Believing the forecasters (or any kind of fortune-telling, no matter what the data) is a proposition I sometimes find dubious. (I wrote about the meteorological kind of fortune-telling on Groundhog Day. I write and talk about the cognitive distortion of fortune-telling most days of the year.)
Here are a few of my associations with rain and the title of this post, this morning:
#1. Spotting bunnies — one of my favorite walk-time activities — is still possible, if not probable, when it’s raining.
Because of my policy of honesty, I need to confess that I did not spot this bunny last night — nor at any point when it was raining. However, I did spot it with impressive proximity in both time and space. (That is, very recently and very close to where I’m typing right now.)
Here’s a list of some areas where I’ve been making some real progress:
I’ve been including taking care of myself as an important consideration, when I’m deciding on my next choice, next step, or next decision (especially when I’m overwhelmed).
Also, I am letting go of some anxiety and fear of consequences when I’m making choices (for example, “If I make this decision, what if it’s the WRONG one?). That helps me think more clearly and make more balanced decisions.
2. Being present in the moment.
Letting go of anxiety regarding fear of consequences (see directly above) is helping with that, too. What’s also helping? The fact that it is so friggin’ beautiful outside right now …
… as Spring has sprung in Boston.
3. Realizing I have “all the time I need.”
This really helps me, when I’m overwhelmed. I’ve been having some trouble sleeping lately, so it is especially helping me to take my time, be careful, and think. I notice that when I take my time, I get as much done as when I’m rushing (and I make fewer mistakes).
Yes, I see progress there, too. For example, I’ve been falling asleep more easily. My sleep challenge, lately, has been waking up in the middle of the night, and having trouble getting back to sleep. Last night, though, I did some things differently. When I woke up (probably around 4 AM), I:
did NOT look at the clock,
noticed my thoughts about what I might blog about today, but let them go, and
noticed my fears about possible disconnects with people, but let them go, and
noticed my guilt about things I haven’t gotten done, but let them go.
Doing this daily blog has helped improve my writing. Also, it’s helped me tell my story in a “better” (more healing, more clearly, more nuanced, more balanced) way.
I’m not as concerned, lately, about what other people think, especially when I’m doing “weird” things, like walking down the street, listening to music and singing. What does “weird” mean to me? Well, I don’t see too many other people walking and singing out loud. However — here’s a thought — when I do see other people doing that — I like it!
What’s help me reduce self-consciousness? Thoughts like that one I just had, above, plus:
Letting go of mind-reading (I don’t know what other people are really thinking)
“We are neither as important or as unimportant as we fear.”
And I dedicated that post to my friend, Jeanette, because I THOUGHT it was her birthday that day.
And it wasn’t her birthday.
I had tried to be a detective, figure it out, and be sure about it. But I was a lousy detective.
Every year, I have trouble remembering Jeanette’s birthday. I know it’s in April, and I know it’s a single digit, but I am vague about the actual date.
And because I’ve known her for so long, and she is so important to me, I always think that I SHOULD know her birthday.
I’m afraid that she might misunderstand my not remembering. I fear that she might translate that into misunderstanding her importance to me.
I have that fear about other people too, because I can forget things about them. I tend to forget details about people’s lives. And I worry about how they might interpret that.
By the way, I panicked momentarily after I posted the erroneous birthday greeting. It was my worst fear coming true. Not only did I get her birthday gone, but, boy, did I make that mistake public! I felt terrible, beat myself up about my carelessness, and imagined Jeanette having all sorts of negative reactions.
That’s what the mind is for, apparently: imagining people you care about having all sorts of negative reactions to you.
However, I am glad to report this: I let go of those negative thoughts and fears REALLY QUICKLY. I mean, I’m talking five minutes. Then, I got in touch with the more probable story — that Jeanette would be okay — that she wouldn’t equate my mistaken birthday wish with her importance to me.
And I quickly used the antidote of Reality Testing. I called her. And she was laughing about it. She expressed all sorts of POSITIVE feelings about the post, not negative ones.
Before I end this, I wanted to write about another side of this issue of memory and importance.
When people forget details about my life or forget what I’ve told them, I can have a negative reaction to that. Not always, but especially if I’m feeling vulnerable, or thinking negative thoughts about myself. Then, people forgetting my birthday or other details about me can cause this thought to crop up:
I am not important to other people. If I was, they would remember things about me.
I also feel some shame about wanting to be more important to people — so that they do remember details about me.
But here’s the way I’m telling the story today. Every connection is important. I matter to other people. People matter to me. We affect each other.
And trying to figure out importance, based on details remembered, does not help.
Proof of that last sentence: I have trouble remembering Jeanette’s birthday, and she is very important to me.
However, I think, this might be the year — This Year of Living Non-Judgmentally — that I finally get her birthday into my head.
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.
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.
I woke up early this morning, with the title of this post in my head.
And I understand why. Over the last couple of days, the few times I have felt bad, it’s been because I’ve believed that I have made …..
(Imagine very, very scary music here) (perhaps written by Bernard Hermann, John Williams, or another film composer who has written very, very scary music.)
And I thought it was interesting that this particular title came up for me, because here is the original quote:
Oh, death, where art thou sting?
which is apparently from the bible. (I looked it up.)
So it’s interesting to me that the original quote was about death.
Because THAT’S how scary it can feel to me, when I make a mistake.
I will try to make this blog post short (although, probably, not quite as short as yesterday’s post), because I would like to go back to sleep. I WILL try to complete it in about 30 minutes, no matter what the length.
I would just like to mention Two Dread Mistakes I’ve made in the last two days, at which I (literally) went cold, when I realized what I had done:
Dread Mistake # 1
The day I got back to work, one of the other social workers at the hospital, named Tom, wrote an e-mail to all the other therapists there, asking if people could recommend a psychiatrist for a patient of his to see. There was a typo in his e-mail, so instead of “I am seeking a psychiatrist for a woman,” he wrote, “I am seeing a psychiatrist for a woman.” And I got a kick out of that, and wrote him an e-mail back, pointing that out to him.
In that e-mail I wrote him, I also told him that I loved that typo, and it helped me, because I always felt bad after I had sent an e-mail and realized that I had made a typo. So I told him he had made my day. And when I sent my e-mail, I specifically made sure to send it only to him, rather than press “Reply All.” I didn’t want to point out his mistake to everybody — that seemed snarky and ungenerous. I just wanted to communicate with him about it.
So, later that day, my supervisor at work told me that she had received my e-mail, too. And I couldn’t believe it. I figured that mistake was due to (1) all my Windows programs at work being updated a few days before I left, which has been confusing the hell out of me and (2) the fact that I was soooo exhausted my first day back at work.
And I felt AWFUL. And I knew my feeling that way was all out of proportion to the Sin that I Had Committed (which was negligible). But I just … could … not … shake … that …. feeling. And I tried, really hard, because my supervisor told me this right before we started conducting an interview with an intern, who is going to work with me next year.
Before and after the interview, my supervisor helped me deal with my … shame, I guess, about this mistake. She knows me well enough to have seen me struggle with mistakes. And, we actually told the intern we were interviewing (who was great, by the way) about how I was worrying about this dopey mistake I had made, and how my supervisor and I — and other therapists in the department — were learning how to deal with our own perfectionism.
So, after the interview, my supervisor and I discussed how I could feel better about this mistake I had made, of broadcasting my reply to Tom’s e-mail to dozens of other people. I called Tom and left him a message, letting him know how I had accidentally pressed “Reply All.”
And, he wrote me a very gracious, sweet, and funny e-mail back, telling me he liked my e-mail, that a lot of people had pointed out his mistake to him, and that it was all fine.
Dread Mistake #2
Hey! This one relates to my blog post, from yesterday. I wrote that post at 7 PM last night, when I was tired and hungry. I almost titled it “The 30-minute Blog,” because I wanted to “get it over with” quickly, so I could go out to dinner.
And I DID write that post in about 30 minutes, and I felt a feeling of satisfaction about that. And I thought the post was fine. So I was really glad when I pressed the “publish” button.
Then, at dinner, I checked the post briefly and realized …
(more scary film music, perhaps Bernard Hermann again, with shrieking violins, like from “Psycho”)
… that the post hadn’t really published, even though I had gotten the “You Published 43 Posts” message back from WordPress.
This has happened to me before. I think if I have two windows open while I’m writing, and I publish the post from the second window I’ve opened, it doesn’t work. Instead, it saves the draft.
So I KNEW that all I needed to do was to republish the post from the saved draft, when I got home. But I HATED that I had screwed up (with a computer, again! just like with Dread Mistake #1). I pictured people who follow my blog getting an e-mail (or seeing the post published on my Facebook page), clicking the link, and then receiving an error message about an empty post ( like what I saw when I checked at dinner).
And, again, I worked hard at letting go of the bad feeling, recognizing — rationally — that I was over-reacting. I realized that, honestly, who would care? This was no big deal and quite fixable, within an hour or so.
So, there are my confessions, about my two dread mistakes.
And I’m letting go of shame, right now, about how I can get so upset about such trivial mistakes.
And I’m working on this, dear reader, throughout this Year of Living Non-Judgmentally. I’m working on this, really hard.
And I’m definitely making progress.
You know, I wrote a chapter about Mistakes in the book I’m working on. (Possible title of that chapter: “Mistakes Won’t Kill You.”) And I talk to people about mistakes, in my work, a lot. And I know I’m not alone in beating myself up about mistakes.
I know I’ve written about mistakes in earlier blog posts here, but you know what? I’m not going to look at my past blog posts right now and provide some links.
I’m flying by myself to someplace I’ve never been before.
Now,when I use the word “adventure,” I mean doing something new. But I wonder if new-ness is part of the formal definition of the word “adventure”?
Let’s find out. Here’s the first definition of “adventure” I found on-line:
An unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.
Hmmm. That’s interesting. Even though that definition doesn’t include the concept of “new”, it DOES reflect the two important components of doing something new (for me) — (1) excitement and (2) fear (see “hazardous”).
I’ll check one other definition before I move on.
Okay, this definition is from Merriam-Webster online:
1. An undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks
2. An exciting or remarkable experience.
Interesting. Definition #1 includes the Fear Factor, and Definition #2 has the Excitement Aspect.
But the language doesn’t refer to something new.
However, Merriam-Webster does include the word “remarkable.” And the first definition includes the word “unusual.” And “remarkable” and “unusual” does imply something that you do very rarely.
So, even if an adventure is not completely new, it’s probably gonna feel new.
I don’t know about you, but part of my experience of new-ness can often include judgment. And I think that’s probably natural, since I’ll be doing things I haven’t done before. As a result, I’ll be more likely to make mistakes and to judge myself for not knowing more. (And, I’ve been working on letting go of judgment today. Big time.)
Okay, now that I’ve covered the “Meanings” portion of this blog post, I’d like to move on the “Meetings” portion of the post. (In case I lost anybody right there, I’m referring back to the title of this post — “Adventure (meanings and meetings).”)
So, I met somebody new this morning, on the very first part of my adventure.
The first part of my adventure involved getting to the airport. And the decision I had made about this first leg of the journey was to make it easy on myself – and everybody around me — by using a transportation service to the airport.
My niece, Laura (who is not only a wonderful niece but also a fabulous travel agent) had recommended that I use a transportation company called Smurfs. And who wouldn’t want to use a company with THAT name, to begin a scary and exciting adventure? Just hearing that name, I felt fuzzy and safe. (Not that I actually ever watched the TV show the “Smurfs.” But I knew what those Smurfs looked like. And they looked blue, friendly, and reasonably competent to drive a vehicle.)
So, after Laura recommended The Smurfs for transportation, I did what I needed to do to feel good about that decision. (That is, I googled “Smurfs transportation” and saw good reviews about value and reliability.)
So, this morning, as I was feeling excited and scared, vulnerable and brave, and was leaving the familiar safety of my home, I was picked up (at the perfect time!) by a stranger.
The Smurf Driver.
And because this is the Year of Living Non-Judgmentally, when I got into the car and met The Smurf Driver, I let go of self-judgment and projection onto others. That is, I decided NOT to assume that:
(1) The driver might prefer that his passengers be as quiet as possible. (By the way, this would be the cognitive distortion of “Mind Reading”.)
(2) What I might say might include uninteresting, inane, boring, or annoying thoughts. (Cognitive Distortion? “Labelling.”)
And, during the drive to the airport, The Smurf Driver (whose name is John) and I had a great conversation. John and I talked about the usual things drivers and passengers talk about: the routes to the airport, the flight I was taking, and so on. But in the course of the time we spent together, we also talked about the fear and the excitement of adventure. He told me that he had just started working for Smurfs after working a long time for another transportation company. It was his second day! So, of course, he was dealing with the new-ness of that. And, not surprisingly, he was experiencing some fear AND excitement. And he recognized that he had some self-judgment about what he didn’t know.
And I told John about the new things I’ve been doing, and how I’ve been trying to let go of fear and judgment. Among other things, I told him about this blog. He said he planned to read it.
If you found your way here, John, Hello! And thank you for the conversation this morning.
I got a lot out of that conversation.
It’s always helpful, when you meet a fellow adventurer — especially when you’re just starting out on an adventure of your own.
The groundhog saw his shadow today. Which means, according to Punxsutawney Phil, that there will be an early spring. Spring in four weeks, says the furry prognosticator!
Wait a minute. That would mean spring will be here on March 2. The groundhog is telling us that on March 2, it will be warm, the flowers will be blooming, the birds will be singing like crazy, and all those things I LOVE to feel, see, smell, and hear after a cold, grey winter will be here.
Just won’t happen. I don’t mean to be cynical and doubt my beloved groundhog. But that’s impossible. At least where I live.
I’ve now seen 60 Groundhog Days and not ONCE has spring arrived on March 2.
That’s one of the interesting aspects of my lifelong experience with Groundhog Day. It’s based on something that is completely and utterly incorrect. We might even get dramatic here, and say that Groundhog Day is based on a pack of lies!!!
That is shocking, isn’t it? That the
King of the Groundhogs,
Seer of Seers, Prognosticator of Prognosticators,
Weather Prophet without Peer,
actually doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing.
Of course, I suppose we could crankily say the same about our experiences with professional weathermen and weatherwomen. (I still usually call them weathermen and weatherwomen, although I understand that they prefer the term “meteorologist,” which does sound quite scientific and reassuring, although more like people we’d call when a meteor is about to hit the earth.)
Where was I before the parentheses? Oh, yes. Meteorologists are often wrong, too. And I’ll tell you what drives me nuts about THEM. (It’s Groundhog Day, so I’m allowed to rant.) Not once, in my sixty Groundhog Days on this earth have I EVER seen ANY meteorologist acknowledge IN THE SLIGHTEST when the forecast has been completely and utterly wrong.
I’ve listened to these weather-people warn us, with concerned faces and dire voices, for HOURS (or DAYS!) about catastrophes looming on the horizon. And then when the terrible weather event just … doesn’t … happen …. Nada! They say nothing. It’s as if those forecasts, which sounded so absolute and definite, never happened. The day after one of these Forecasting Faux Pas, these weather people betray not a tinge of embarrassment and regret. Believe me, I’ve looked.
And I’m somebody who — so far in her life — has been SO different from these blithely bumbling meteorologists, when it comes to mistakes. I’m hyper-aware of mistakes — often painfully so — and I am quick to name them to anybody I think might notice.
Well, mistakes are something that I am definitely working on for this Year of Living Non-Judgmentally. I am working on accepting and letting go of mistakes, and assuming less about other people’s reactions to mistakes.
And as a result, this may be the best Groundhog Day I’ve ever had.
If you noticed that yesterday’s blog post was a little more … how should I say it? discursive? rambling? spacey? … than usual, dear reader — I have an excuse.
I don’t think I have The Flu. (I seem to be escaping that, thank goodness.) I think it’s just a cold. Two days ago on Saturday, the first day of the long weekend (of course), I came down with a sore throat and had a slight fever. And when I was writing yesterday morning, I was definitely feeling under the weather.
And because I was sick, the following blog topic occurred to me: how illness affects my sense of self worth.
Even when I’m a little bit ill, being sick affects how I feel about myself.
I’m not sure whether that’s common for people. I haven’t really checked that out in any real way with other people. In other words, I haven’t used the helpful skill — an “antidote” to the Cognitive Distortion of Mind-Reading — of Reality Testing. To put it more simply, I haven’t asked other people, “When you are even slightly ill, does it affect your sense of self worth?” I mean, I know that serious and chronic illness can definitely affect people’s sense of self-worth, but A COLD?
The reason I haven’t really checked that out before is this: I assume that I’m different from other people in how illness affects me, because I dealt with so much illness when I was a child. So I just assume that I’m “weird” when it comes to that.
So I guess I’ll take this opportunity to do some Reality Testing, right here and right now. That is, dear reader, feel free to leave me a comment on this post, answering these questions: When you are ill, does it affect how you feel about yourself? Does your self esteem — your sense of how worthy you are — get affected? If so, how?
Well, I think that’s another first for me, in This Year of Blogging Daily — asking for a response from my readers, in a specific way. I enjoyed asking, I have to say.
And it occurs to me, at this moment, to write this: If this blog is more — how shall I say it? — discursive? rambling? spacey? — than usual (and I know it is) what do you want from me? I’M SICK!
And it’s super early in the morning, too.
So, yes, it’s super early in the morning. I woke up at 3:30 AM, a little while ago, and my throat was hurting.
And that leads me to the second “challenge” I named in the title of this blog.
When I woke up at 3:30 AM, and realized that my throat felt worse, I believed that I had made a mistake yesterday. And here were some thoughts that ensued:
Oh, no! My throat feels worse! I shouldn’t have gone outside yesterday for a walk! What is the matter with you? Even though you felt a lot better yesterday, you should have known better than to start doing things that early! If you had stayed in bed all day yesterday, you would be feeling better now. You’ve probably screwed things up for this week, too. And you have so much to do at work and so many other things to take care of!
Wow. That was actually kind of amazing to get those out of my head and into this post. A little harrowing, actually, but helpful.
So, those are the kind of Judgmental Thoughts that can come up for me, when I believe that I’ve made a mistake. And I know I’m not alone with THAT ONE. I hear about people’s self-judgment when they believe they’ve made a mistake, a lot. (And I’ll write about that more, in a future post, for sure.)
But here’s the good news: After I woke up and started having the thoughts described above, I noticed them and said this to myself:
Okay! You’re having judgmental thoughts because you think you’ve made a mistake.
And that helped a lot, dear reader, just to notice that and to Name It.
And I got out of bed, got some orange juice, grabbed my laptop, and decided to write a post.
And I did!
I think I can go back to sleep now.
One more thing. I’m going to make a commitment to myself — and to you, dear reader — right now. Even though, at some point in the near future, I might have the thought that I made a mistake by writing this post (instead of trying harder to fall back asleep), I will do the following: