When you reach out to somebody clearly expressing a wish to connect and you consistently get nothing in return, it’s a shame. I mean, that’s not only an unfortunate and perplexing experience, it also triggers the shame response, which (according to Google) looks like this:
Earlier this week, I spoke to somebody in therapy who believed worrying was a necessary part of planning.
I replied, without worrying about it, “No, no, no, no. Worrying is never helpful. Never.”
While I rarely plan to use all-or-nothing statements like that, I do believe that worrying never helps. People often believe that worrying helps motivate planning. Actually, worrying wastes valuable time and energy while you’re planning. Planning is much more productive and fun without the burden of worrying.
Even though we weren’t planning on it, we had a good discussion about the uselessness of worrying. At the end of the therapy session, we both said, “No worries.”
Right now, I’m planning
to sing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” accompanying myself on a Kalimba and
to see a house by the water, which we might make an offer on.
I’ve been planning to write today’s blog post in order to let go of any worrying about all that.
I’m planning on sharing all the photos I took yesterday, without any worrying.
Note: Some of the links in this post use adult-oriented language.
“S-words.” Yes, that’s the title for this momentous post — my first post of the New Year and the first one that has a number higher than 365.
How did I arrive at that title?
Who cares, really? That’s in the past. Let’s just deal with the present for now, shall we?
Of course, now that I’ve committed to being in the present, I want to go back into the past, just for a moment (because that’s how our minds work, people). In posts past, I have blogged about words that start with a special letter: a P-Word (Procrastination), an A-word (Anger), and a D-word (Death).
That D-word is usually a conversation stopper (and it’s really buried in that linked post, too), but let’s move on, shall we?
Today, I would like to expound/ramble/write about some S-words. How many, exactly?
Let’s find out!
Today feels like a new start, because it’s New Year’s day. It’s also a new start for me, here at this blog.
As with any new start, I’m keeping some old things — to help me feel safe, secure, and competent enough– and introducing some things that are new. I won’t name what the new things are; I’ll let you notice those on your own, if you are so inclined.
There was another, specific change I wanted to make in my blog today, but I haven’t figured out how to do it, yet. The change? I want to stop using asterisks for footnotes (because those asterisks can sure pile up, people) and start using another S-word: Superscripts, those little numbers that hover above the line.
I think superscripts might help provide a more convenient and pleasurable experience here — for you AND me.
Support is something I sometimes have trouble asking for. I often try to solve problems on my own, because of past experiences. But I guess I might need some support, specifically with that change to superscripts.
We shall see.
Yes, steam. One of the post titles I was considering, this morning, was “Letting off steam.” Why? Because:
Our heating system (which I wrote about here) has been continuing to act hookey, flooky, or however else you want to describe a friggin’ system that isn’t working correctly. For one thing, the radiator in the bathroom started sounding (and feeling) like a seriously insane steam bath, the thermostat kept pooping out, AND the boiler in the basement was needing new infusions of water constantly. Because I don’t like to bother people, and it wasn’t an emergency, I sent an email yesterday morning to the Heating Guy on My Team, Tom Prendergast, that explained the situation but which also said, “No rush,” because I assumed this was a busy holiday time for him. Nevertheless, Tom called me back yesterday (just as my son and I were about to go out for lunch*) and he sent over two guys who changed the vent on the radiator, which is definitely helping the situation.
Because situation #1 included two of my “triggers” — machines (or other systems) not working properly AND hunger — I felt the A-word (anger), yesterday afternoon. At everybody. At the world. My son, who is so smart that when he hears a certain tone in my voice, sometimes says, “You’re hungry,” was even smarter, yesterday. When he heard “that tone” he asked, calmly, “Are we going to have our New Year’s Eve fight?” which helped, for many reasons. What else helped? I let off some steam with my bf, Michael, about some things that had been bothering me. And, I ate some friggin’ thing.
There it is. One of the big S-words, for sure.
I wrote about shame several times last year (including here). I assume I’ll write about it again, in 2014.
Here are some things I have felt shame about (which I’m working on letting go of):
Anger, which is just another human feeling.
Imperfections in my body and mind (also human).
Okay! There were some other S-words I could have written about today — including sleep, singular, and snoring, plus the S-word George Carlin said you couldn’t say on TV** — but it’s time for me to start ending this post.
So what am I missing, at this point?
An image! I can’t think of a suitable s-word for that, so let’s go with a p-word: a photograph!
Checking photos I have stored on my iPhone ….
Hmmmm. Here’s something, but it’s an image I’ve already used, twice before (here and here). It definitely is an important S-word, though:
Hmmmm. “Stop” can be a very useful word, but I’m still not satisfied. Let’s see what’s on Google Images, today, for “S-word.”
As usual, I am surprised at the selection (in order of appearance):
After that excellent S-word,”Serendipity”, Google Images then presented LOTS of pictures of …. swords. Sorry, but those don’t meet my needs, today.
But suddenly, one more “S-word” showed up:
Thanks to my son, Michael, George Carlin, Tom Prendergast, anybody else who contributed to the creation of this post today, and — of course! — to my special, surprising, and super readers, everywhere.
* We were actually going out for sushi, another S-word, but doesn’t that sound (fill in your own judgmental word, if any, here)?
** Here‘s a link to that classic Carlin routine — “The Seven Words You Can Never Say On TV”. These days, it depends on the station.
If I’m avoiding or fearing something, it’s often because of a memory I have.
Lately, I’ve been realizing that I can avoid or fear something that has happened very few times before. Or even, just once.
For example, almost every time I write a blog post, I fear that I’m going to have the wrong numbered day in the title. For example, I might write Day 266 today, instead of Day 265.
Why do I fear that? Because I did that once, people.
When I made that mistake, it was actually pretty easy to correct.
But when that happened the first time, I felt the Dreaded Thud of Shame.
So even though I’ve made that mistake only once, I usually feel some dread and fear about that, before I press the “Publish Post” button.
Now, there IS something to be said for being careful, because of past mistakes.
But, at this point in this blog post, I would like to calculate the time I’ve spent, so far this year, feeling fear about that easily-rectified-and-not-so-terrible mistake happening again,
In other words ….
How much time have I spent on fear about this particular mistake, this year?
I think I first made that mistake somewhere around Day 25. (My memory is that it happened within the first month of this Year of Living Non-Judgmentally.)
Before that day, I didn’t have dread about repeating the mistake, because I hadn’t made it yet. And, I haven’t had the fear yet today, because it happens right before I press the “Publish Post” button.
So, according to my calculations, I’ve had that particular fear/dread response on (approximately)…
264 – 25 = 239 days.
Now, I’m going to adjust that number down. Why? Because there have been some days where the fear/dread has been negligible — either because I have enough confidence that I can easily rectify the mistake and/or I recognize that the mistake, even if not corrected, would Not Be A Big Deal.
I think those days of negligible fear have happened, say …..10% of the time.
10% of 239 is about 24. So ….
239 – 24 = 215.
Therefore, I’ve had a measurable amount of fear/dread — about repeating that particular mistake — for 215 days.
( I just checked the math, so far, with a calculator. It’s all good.)
Now, let’s calculate how much time I’ve spent, this year, having that particular fear/dread response.
To figure that out, I would need to know how long the fear/dread typically lasts, before I push the “Publish Post”button.
The length of time is pretty short (although it CAN feel intense, at times). Hold on, let me figure out an estimate of that, by consulting a time-keeping device.
(For those of you who care, I’m doing all the fact-checking in this blog post with the calculator and stopwatch on my iPhone, with its brand new Operating System IOS 7!!
Where was I, before that unpaid, unsolicited testimonial?
Oh, yes. According to my calculations, the fear/dread — about making this particular mistake — lasts about 10 seconds.
So the amount of time I’ve spent feeling that particular piece of fear/dread, so far this year is (approximately)
215 x 10 seconds = 2,150 seconds.
You know, I never really grasp time in seconds, so let’s convert that to minutes.
2,150/60 = 35.83333333 minutes.
So let’s say that the final answer is
In other words, I’ve spent 36 minutes, so far this year, on dread and fear about a mistake that I’ve made once, that’s easily fixed, if it does recur.
36 minutes may not seem like a lot, but when you add in all the other times I’ve been spending, feeling dread/fear about mistakes that are easily fixed, THAT’S PRETTY SCARY.
(Now, I’m trying to decide whether to use scary movie music (which I first alluded to on Day 45: Mistakes, where art thou sting?) or another SCARY sound-bite . Heck, let’s go with something simple:
Anyway, where was I, before the shameless promotions of my previous blog posts?
Oh, yes. I hope I’ve proved, today, beyond a reasonable doubt, the following:
I’ve been spending way too much time feeling fear and dread about repeating past mistakes, that — even if I did make — could most likely be rectified without too much trouble.
Now, believe it or not, this post, so far, focusing on dread and fear, is just an INTRODUCTION to a story I wanted to tell you today.
The Story I Wanted to Tell Today
This happened in high school, when I was a senior. I was either 16 or 17 years old.
I was the assistant editor of the school newspaper and the editor of the newspaper graciously allowed me, for one edition, to be in charge of the newspaper.
I can’t remember how often the newspaper came out. It may have been weekly, twice a month, or monthly. I’m guessing it was weekly.
Now, this was the 1960’s, and people were questioning conventions. And so was I. So I decided to make the paper really different, for that one edition.
These are some of the decisions I remember.
I didn’t include much about school sports, in that edition.
I think I also included a piece of fiction written by somebody who felt like an outsider, specifically regarding athletic competition.
I remember these particular facts, because one of the football players sought me out, after this edition was published, and told me that he disliked it. I remember him telling me that he found that issue demoralizing. He thought it showed a lack of support for the high school teams.
I remember listening to him and acknowledging his experience, but not feeling too bad about that, since it was only one week out of many, and I knew that the newspaper would return immediately to giving the athletes in my high school a lot of recognition.
So that’s not the part of the story that looms large for me, in terms of a Dreaded Thud of Shame.
This is the part the story that does:
Another regular feature of the newspaper was called
DEROSNEC was the “gossip column” for our school newspaper. And it focused on the usual things that gossip columns, across time, have focused on: Who likes whom. Who’s getting into trouble.
This was pretty mild stuff, I have to say, in retrospect.
I always liked reading DEROSNEC, because it gave me more of a picture of what was going on with the people in my high school. (And I wasn’t dating or getting into trouble, so it was particularly interesting to me.)
And I thought that the writing was fun. The tone seemed snarky, but not really mean.
And it was written by two people I really liked, who were sisters.
The norm for DEROSNEC was that it was written by “anonymous.” But for my edition of the newspaper, I decided to give these sisters, who I liked so much, some credit.
So I included their first names. Like so:
by Susan and Sarah
And, as I heard from the football player after my edition of the school newspaper was published, I also heard from Susan and Sarah.
And this I remember, very well.
I remember the looks on Susan and Sarah’s faces as they told me how upset they were with me. They said, “Don’t you realize there’s a reason why that column is anonymous?? Now everybody we wrote about is going to be mad at us.”
And I felt AWFUL.
You know what? I still feel awful about that, sometimes.
As a matter of fact, I’ve been avoiding, for several weeks, writing this blog post.
Because I sometimes ask myself some of the same questions I did, back then, in high school:
What was the matter with you?
Why didn’t you ask them, first, if that would be okay with them?
Why did you make assumptions, based on your own experience and feelings? Yes, YOU like to get credit for what you create, but that doesn’t mean that everybody has the same reactions!
How could you be so naive?
Those are the judgmental, critical thoughts that come up for me.
The feelings that come up are these:
Shame. Sadness that I hurt people I really liked. And fear about being so wrong, when I had gone with “my gut.”
And that was a mistake that I COULD NOT take back. The newspapers were out there, in the hands of every person in my high school.
Now, in retrospect, maybe that wasn’t so awful. Maybe Susan and Sarah’s worst fears didn’t come true. Maybe they weren’t shunned by everybody they mentioned in that edition of DEROSNEC.
But at this point, I don’t know.
Earlier this year, I contacted both Susan and Sarah by voicemail, when I was helping to plan a high school reunion. And I wondered if I would hear back from them.
And I did, from both of them, also by voicemail. And they both expressed regrets for not being able to attend. And they both sounded friendly.
So I haven’t had a chance to check with them, yet, to see what their memories are, of that story. I plan to, when/if I see them at a future reunion.
And I really hope I see them. Like I said, I liked them both, so much.
When I see them, I’ll probably tell them my experience. I’ll probably say, “I’m sorry.” (which I’m sure I said, back then.)
And maybe I’ll let it go, finally.
What else do I want to say, before I end this post?
I’ve been wanting to write this story, this year, to reduce its power. I suspect this story is one of the reasons for my Dread of Anger (which I wrote about, recently).
And, come to think of it, it makes sense that I have a fear of publishing things, doesn’t it?
Thanks to freesound.org (for most of the sound effects today), to DEROSNEC (for the use of that image), to Susan, to Sarah, to other people from my high school, and to you — for reading this post (math, confessions, and all).
* This image belongs to derosnec.com, which I found when I googled “derosnec.” If you look at the comments, below, you will see that I made some mistakes about this. I believe at this point, that I have fixed those mistakes. I am now officially letting go of any guilt about those mistakes, also. Thanks to Derosnec for patience and understanding.
Here are some replies that are on my mind, this morning :
Yesterday, at work, I saw a co-worker I really like, who had been markedly kind to me when I first started my job, two years ago. These days, I don’t get to see her very often, so I was particularly happy to run into her.
As always, she looked and sounded kind, but worry was there, too, about how well she was doing at her new job.
I replied by saying, “You know, I was just thinking, this morning: I’ve been at my position for two full years, and I am JUST NOW starting to truly believe that I know what I’m doing.”
Yesterday, at work, I saw somebody in therapy for the first time, who told me some awful things that had happened to her, when she was a child.
On my white board, I wrote this, in big letters:
IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT.
She replied by taking a picture of that, with her cell phone.
… Ann, two possibilities for your consideration: 1) You are choosing to be in dread so choose otherwise and; 2) Create a simple mantra or affirmation that you can use to acknowledge, then pass on dread. It can be as simple as saying “whatever” and laughing. I learned this from a 16 year young nephew. And it works – when I’m aware and at choice. Or…ask yourself, what purpose does it serve me to be dreadful? Two cents, unsolicited. 🙂
Whenever I put something out there into the world, this thought can pop into my head:
I wonder what the reply will be?
Reply # 5.
I’m smiling, right now.
Thanks to Eric, his nephew, repliers and repliees* everywhere, and to you, for reading today.
* A made-up word, which means somebody who gets a reply.
During this Year of Living Non-Judgmentally, I’ve often written about unhelpful thoughts that contribute to anxiety and depression (called Cognitive Distortions by Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT).
Here are some examples of recent Cognitive Distortions (and please don’t tell anybody that I’ve been having these thoughts in the beautiful city of London, where the people AND the sushi really know how to have fun and get around, with amazing modes of transport:
Now, where was I, before the photos of the fabulous conveyer-belt sushi place that my old friend Alexa and her son Alex took me and my son yesterday?
Oh, yes, some cognitive distortions I had yesterday (long after we had said heartfelt thank-you’s and goodbyes to Alexa and Alex):
I should be enjoying this trip, every moment.
If I let my son know how I’m feeling right now, it will be bad for him.
People in London think I’m a stupid, obnoxious, naive American.
If I am not completely vigilant and at the top of my game, bad things will happen.
I should only blog about happy things while I’m away. If I don’t, people will be disappointed in me.
It’s okay to be afraid and express those fears, but not while I’m on vacation! People will think I’m weird, get impatient with me, and stop wanting to hear from me.
I guess it serves me right for thinking I was such a big shot my first few days here …doing great, connecting with people, being a smart tourist, showing my son a great time … Who did I think I was?
For those of you keeping score, the Cognitive Distortions above include the following: Shoulds, Mind Reading, All-or-Nothing Thinking, Emotional Reasoning, Labeling, Negative Filtering, and pretty much everything else on the list.
So, yes, I confess. In the beautiful city of London, where I am meeting up with wonderful people previously known and unknown to me, where the ratio of kindness in the population is the same as anywhere else in my world, and where I am the same person that I am back in Boston (with the same limits and weaknesses), I felt, much to my horror ….
… The Dreaded Thud of Shame (DTOS).
And, as always, there were contributing factors to the DTOS:
Contributing Factor # 1 (iPhone related): I still can’t figure out how to connect my iPhone to the internet safely enough to avoid, in my mind, the possibility of incurring mega-amounts of dollars or pounds.
And that’s a bummer for many reasons, including the fact that I’ve taken some AWESOME photos on said iPhone of wonderful places like Camden, which Alexa and Alex showed us yesterday. And I can’t access those photos, right now, to put in this blog.
But, it’s Google Images to the rescue!
(Not to tempt the fates by bragging, but I think I took — having spied, with my little iPhone — a COOLER photo of the Camden Lock than that second Googly-eyed photo above.)
Contributing Factor # 2 (iPhone related): So far, I haven’t been able to talk to my boyfriend back home, at the end of each day, as long as I would like to, without the fear of incurring mega-amounts of dollars or pounds. (Never fear, though: both my bf and my son are working on fixing that.)
So considering that there were several contributing factors (mind you, I’ve only listed the iPhone-related ones above), why was the Dreaded Thud of Shame (London edition) such a surprise to me?
And yet, it always is.
In ways, I’m glad that The Dreaded Thud of Shame is always a surprise, no matter where and when it takes place.
Maybe that shows that I KNOW, on a deep level, that I don’t deserve to feel it.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, that concludes our blog post for today.
Thanks to Alexa, Alex, Camden, the good people of London, my son, my bf, and to you, for reading today.
On Day 122 of This Year of Living Non-Judgmentally, I did my first official progress report of the year. (By “official”, I mean I named the post “Progress Report.”) (I think, in some way, every post I write here is a progress report.)
Today, I am going to do the 2nd Official Progress Report of The Year.
Why am I doing this today? Because (a) I am in the middle of my second-year review at work and (b) I’m noticing some real progress lately.
Here are some areas where I’m noticing progress:
I’m giving myself more compliments and credit, without the automatic responses of shame and catastrophizing. For example, when I just re-read that previous progress report, in order to prepare for writing this one, I thought, “Hey! That was pretty good! I liked that post!” And so far (15 minutes later) …. (let me check) … Yay! No shame or fear. Here’s hoping those don’t show up, at all. (Fingers crossed.)
I am NOT waking up feeling uneasy. (See here for my first blog post about that.) Now, chances are that the whole waking-up-uneasy/waking-up-easy thing is a cycle; that is, I probably will wake up uneasy at some point in the future, but this is still progress. (See here for a blog post about how we often cycle around — and up! — as we make progress through life.)
I have realized some truths about myself, that sometimes are directly opposite to fears I have about myself. For example, I fear that I have a bad memory (which I mentioned, here, in my most popular blog post). Well, guess what? It turns out I have an excellent memory, according to people who know me AND Lumosity (which tells me I am in the — get this — 99.9% percentile for memory for people in my age group). That doesn’t mean I have a perfect memory. I still forget things, especially when I’m anxious and/or don’t get enough sleep or food. But I have been considering NEVER saying the following about myself again, “I have a bad memory.” That would be nice. (Fingers crossed.)
I am getting better at recognizing and dealing with my limits. I can NOT be good at everything, nor do I need to be. For example, that great memory I just cited above? I am not so hot at remembering details. So, when I can, I write details down. And if I don’t write down details and forget some things, I’m realizing that it’s not the end of the world. People will forgive me. Plus, I’m learning to forgive myself.
I’m getting better at setting limits. I’m remembering to say things like this, more often: “I can do this, but I can not do that.” For example, I can write a blog post every day, but I can’t get back to every person who e-mails me or writes me within one day. (That felt good to write, I must say.)
I am allowing myself to have more fun in different areas of my life. For example, I find it fun to post pictures here.
I took this photo last Sunday, when I was allowing myself to have fun by spending the afternoon with people I love, on a beach near where I grew up.
(That photo reminds me of one of my favorite Droodles when I was growing up: “Fish Committing Suicide.”) (I can’t find a picture of that particular droodle right now, but just picture a fish, tied to a helium balloon, floating above the water.)
Before I conclude today’s blog post, I will name a couple of areas where I would I like to make more progress:
Letting go of judgment about numbers (or other data) that tell me “You are not doing enough.” As I’ve mentioned before, periodically I have these unhelpful thoughts, “Not enough people are reading my blog” or “Not enough people are coming to the groups I’m doing at work.” It helps to think the following thoughts, in response: “The right amount of people are reading this blog and doing the groups.” “Everything is exactly where it’s supposed to be, including you, the groups, and the blog.” And, to (mis-)quote a movie (another way I have fun), “If you build it, they will come.”
Letting go of judgment about everything else.
Remembering that letting go doesn’t mean being perfect, or even stopping something completely. It just means doing the best you can, to do something less, and to recover more quickly when/if you do it again.
That concludes today’s blog post. Thanks for witnessing my progress, whenever you do.
I think it’s good to air things out — to be direct about feelings and thoughts. To get things out in the open.
That’s a lesson I’ve learned, over and over again.
If we keep things inside, they tend to expand in importance. If we keep things hidden away, they tend to breed shame.
I’ve been re-reading some of my own posts this morning, and, boy, do I see THAT as a recurring theme: Airing Things Out (especially things like stress, anxiety, and worry).
By re-reading this morning, I also see that I’ve really been stressed out this year. Duh. I knew I would be — because of the job I’d taken on, and the other random Acts of Courage I might be called on to perform.
I like the word “Courage.” I think it’s appropriate whenever any of us makes a change, ventures out, or risks rejection, failure, or any set-back.
In other words, whenever we go outside, speak our truth, or interact in any way.
I took these pictures yesterday, at work:
They are airing out the lockers, because of the saw-toothed buggies that had found their way inside. (See here for more about that, in a post about Horror Stories and Non-Horror Stories.)
They got rid of the bugs, without pesticides. They emptied things out, left the doors open, for all to see inside.
(I love metaphors. Can you tell?)
When I walked by the lockers yesterday I took these pictures, assuming I would use them in a post some day.
If not today, when?
I want to say this, right now: Going into work yesterday, where I saw and took these pictures, was an act of courage. It will be another courageous act, to return there tomorrow.
In addition to naming acts of courage, I think it helps to applaud them. I’ve used applause as a sound effect in posts this year (like here). I’ve also done groups (as a facilitator and a participant) where people have applauded when somebody did something courageous, new, or helpful in any way.
I think applauding helps. It might seem hokey, or immodest, or awkward.
If so, that’s probably because it’s unfamiliar.
Yesterday, at work, several people spoke about progress they’ve made in reducing symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress. At one point, I said, “I wish I had some confetti, because I feel like throwing some.”
Where I used to work, we did throw confetti, every once in a while, to celebrate acts of courage and progress people had made.
That took some time to clean up, I must say.
More fun to clean up than bugs, though. Wouldn’t you agree?
Thanks for reading. I hope you celebrate something today (especially your own courage) (open up and look for it; it’s there).