Posts Tagged With: survival

Day 107: Has the external world changed? I haven’t.

Who knows if that title makes any sense, at all.

I am trying to figure out whether the external world has changed, that much, because of the bombings at the Boston Marathon, two days ago. It feels like it has, but that doesn’t mean that it has.

As I and others try to make meaning of this — so we can go on with our lives — I’m experiencing a debate about how safe it is out there.

On the one hand:

The world feels scarier.  Things are getting worse. It’s less safe than before. I am not going to go out into crowded places again.  I will avoid these kinds of public celebrations, since the people who are supposed to protect us didn’t do enough to prevent this from happening.

On the other hand:

Boston feels scarier, but this sort of thing happens, somewhere, a certain amount of the time. It just hasn’t happened this close to home before. If we change how we act because of fear, the people who do these kinds of things have won. 

This is how I’m seeing that “debate,” right now:

It’s the negotiating we do, as we move through life, trying to figure out how safe we are: How much we should venture out, away from what feels safer.

It’s natural to want to protect ourselves.  But how much do we need to do that?

Sometimes I say this to people, who have told me horrifying, trust-mangling stories of things that have happened to them,  “It’s amazing you ever leave home.  How do you do that?”

We figure out how to do that — to venture out there —  to a greater and lesser extent, every day.

Sometimes when we go out there, it feels like the “wrong” thing to do.  Too risky,  Maybe even  foolish, counter-intuitive, the opposite of self-preservation.

Sometimes when we stay in our homes, it feels like the “wrong” thing to do. Phobic. Cowardly. Crazy.

How can we be “smart” about this, and  do the right thing?

What the hell is the “right thing”, anyway?  And if we can’t figure out what the right thing is — when it comes to survival, for cripe’s sake — what the hell should we do?

There’s so much evidence for why any decision we make about safety is “wrong.”  There are so many arguments for both sides of the debate.

I notice that some people I know are more careful than I am about self-protection. They scan the environment for danger, more than I do.

They’ll point out when my shoelaces are untied. They’ll tell me to watch out for cars when I’m crossing the street.

When they do that, I sometimes have a negative reaction. I wonder: Am I taking good enough care of myself?  Do they think I’m not capable of doing that for myself?

Today, I’m thinking that some people are more careful than others, in that regard.  They negotiate that question of how safe it is differently than I do.

That doesn’t mean I’m foolish, though. It just means I’ve made different decisions. It means that I have a different “style” regarding How to Keep It Safe Enough.

Some people, who know me, tell me I’m “fearless.”  I find that so ironic, because I’m scared so much of the time.

I’ve learned to calibrate and adjust for my own fear. That’s what I’ve done, dear reader.  I have learned, as I’ve grown and aged, that the world is not as scary as I fear it is.  Even if sometimes — like today — it feels a lot more scary than it usually does.

I’ve decided to look for what is Not Scary — out there and within other people.  That makes me happier.

It’s riskier, perhaps.  It’s not wrong. It works for me.

It might take me a while to get back to my “base line” — the way I usually negotiate risk and fear — after the images I’ve seen of people being hurt and  the changes that I see, as I look around at my beloved Boston.

But I’ll get there.

And so will you, every time the world seems scarier.  And you’ll do it, the way you always do, in the way that works for you.  But with more experience and wisdom, every time.

Thanks for reading.  Take care of yourself, the way you know how.

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

Day 106: Beautiful, wounded Boston

All my love to all the people who have been traumatized, in any way, by the bombings at the Boston Marathon yesterday.

Boston.  I’ve lived here all my life. It’s so beautiful, especially during this time of the year.

Here’s a picture I took on Saturday, when my son and I were walking around the Public Gardens.


We had just walked down Boylston Street, from the Finish Line, which was already set up for the race.  We were there, with so many people, at those very spots you’ve been seeing on your screens, over and over again.

It was safe then.

It’s changed now.  We’ve changed.

One thing I’m experiencing in myself and those around me (in Boston, in the U.S., and elsewhere) are people struggling to make meaning of this, to integrate what happened yesterday into their understanding of the world. Trying to incorporate this unexpected horror into a new understanding of now.

Because what happened here yesterday was new, wasn’t it?  At least for Boston.  And for the U.S., too.

Not for other places in the world, though.

Here’s a quote that’s sticking with me, right now:

At Massachusetts General Hospital, Alisdair Conn, chief of emergency services, said: “This is something I’ve never seen in my 25 years here … this amount of carnage in the civilian population. This is what we expect from war.”

And I saw some pictures, last night, that I will never forget.

Those pictures are available to the world.  Some of you, reading this, would have seen them, too.

I’m thinking about the people who were there, yesterday, on Boylston Street, and experienced those things directly.

I’m thinking about all the people, in the world,  who have experienced such things directly.

And I’m thinking of something else I noticed, this morning, on my computer screen. This headline:

It could happen anywhere.

That’s something we may always “know”, but some of us  know, now,  in a new way.

How do people heal from something like this?  How do they feel safe enough again?

I keep thinking  how my son and I walked down that stretch of Boylston Street on Saturday and all the pre-race celebrations we saw.  All the “normalcy,” the humanity, and the joy we witnessed that day.

That place will never look the same again.  It can’t.

Something I noticed yesterday: how quickly people reached out to others they thought may have been affected by the bomb blasts. I watched as I — and others who live here — received messages from all over: “Where are you?”  “Are you okay?”

I responded. I’m here. I’m okay.  Everybody I love is okay.

Untouched, physically.  Still alive. But changed, in some way.

I’m giving another presentation today — about the Power of Groups —  to the residents of the Boston hospital where I work.  This is a presentation that has caused me some fear and anxiety over the last week or so.

That feels so ironic — so strange — to me this morning.

Now, I’m just looking forward to connecting with others who live — and who have chosen to tend to others —  in Boston.  I’m hoping I can make enough room so people can get something they need this morning.  Something that helps.  A step towards a return to feeling safe enough.  A step towards knowing they can give enough to those they tend to.

And later in the day — and tomorrow,  Thursday, and into the weeks and months ahead — I will be facilitating groups for people who live, and receive their care, in Boston.

I remember being at  film school , at Boston University, the day  the Challenger space shuttle exploded. We all got the news right before we had to go into a class. I remember similar feelings of sadness, fear, and shock — and wondering how to integrate this new terrible knowledge into the now.

I remember sitting, that day,  in a classroom,  feeling alone — in my thoughts and feelings — in the presence of others, waiting for the teacher to come in.

And then the instructor, Thomas Ott, came in and sat down. He spoke to us. I think he asked us how we were. And then he waited.

I remember the somber look on his face. I remember the quiet tone of his voice.

I don’t remember what he said. But I remember, so clearly, how he made room for us, that day, to say what we needed to say.

I was so grateful.

Thank you, Thomas, for what you gave us, on that day in January 1986, in Boston.

It helped.

The Power of Groups.

Thanks, to you,  for being here.

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

Day 103: We don’t have feelings until we’re ready for them

I said that to a woman, in a therapy session, a few weeks ago.

We don’t have feelings until we’re ready for them.

I believed it when I said it, too.

The woman told me she found this a useful phrase, since she’d been crying a lot lately.  I could see her letting go of the fear of her own feelings, in that moment.

I remember, many years ago, somebody else explaining  to me why she never cried, with this:

 One of my tears would flood the world.

I’ve heard people say similar things, like this:

I fear if I start crying,  I will never stop.

I’ve been crying a lot lately.  I’ve been crying in my office. I’ve cried in a meeting with co-workers. I’ve cried walking down the hallway of the hospital where I work, talking to my manager.

People don’t seem to be worried about me, which is kind of amazing.

I’ve had moments where I’ve wondered if I — and they — should be worried about me.

Am I breaking down?  Is doing work that is so important to me, in a place that triggers some painful childhood memories, too much for me right now?

Or am I just having some feelings that have been there for a long, long time, because I’m ready for them?  Is it possible that for the first time in my life, I feel safe enough to have them?

Are my tears a sign of healing or a warning sign?

Today, I honestly don’t know.

Maybe it’s not an either/or question.  Maybe my tears are a sign of healing AND a warning sign.

So where does that leave me, today, at the beginning of a three-day vacation, after a week at work where I felt so friggin’ overwhelmed, that at times I  was like one of those archetypal Zombies that are appearing EVERYWHERE in the stories people are telling these days? (I’m throwing in a “Walking Dead” reference here, and not JUST to increase readership.)

Working at a hospital, being in a position to create real change — so that providers can be more present in the moment, with people  who are in emotional pain — is an incredible opportunity for me.  It’s a reparative experience, for what I did not get as a child in the hospital.  

It also makes me sad — in a new way, on a deeper level —  for what I didn’t get.

Being back in the hospital, in this new way, as an adult, triggers old memories and fears. These fears really don’t apply now. (I’m bolding that, in hopes it will help me to remember.)

Here’s another mantra, which I offered to somebody in a therapy session, many months ago:

Consider that you might be safer than you feel.

That is something I am trying to tell myself,  every day that I am working in this hospital.  But it’s hard to remember that. Especially when I am overwhelmed by feelings. And by too much work.

So I have felt particularly unsafe — scared —  at the hospital, these days. When I feel unsafe, I tend to isolate. I tend to think that people don’t care.

But now that I’m crying more publicly, my co-workers — whom I might fear, out of old habits — are showing me all sorts of things about themselves, which are helping me feel safer.

While I feel some shame about showing my tears and my fears to my co-workers, this is how they are responding to me, in words and action:

  • When you show us your feelings, we appreciate it.
  • We think you are strong.
  • We want to  help you figure out how to get what you need, so you can stay and work with us.

I want to figure out how to to get what I need, too, so I can stay and work with them.

We’ll see if we can figure it out, together.

Feeling safe enough.  Having deeper feelings. Doing — in the world — what feels valuable and true.

It’s all a work in progress, isn’t it?

Thanks for reading, on this amazing day (with lots of feelings).

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

Day 102: How to stop and tie your shoe

Yesterday, I wrote about Bill Rodgers, who won many marathons during the 70’s, and how he stopped during an important race to tie his shoe.

This story spoke to me about my current need to take care of myself.  To slow down.  Because I am definitely doing too much (work) with too little (external resources), right now.  And that can be a self-perpetuating cycle, because the longer this kind of stressful situation continues, the less internal resources (stamina, health, enthusiasm, focus) I’ll have to drawn on.

So, the first question I would like to ask myself, right now, is this:

What helps me, in the moment, when I am feeling that level of stress?

Here is what is coming to mind right now:

  1. Asking for help and support.
  2.  Allowing room for all my feelings, even if those feelings include anger — new AND old. (Most of us have certain feelings we “don’t like” or “disown.”  And  repressing those feelings — which is an old habit — does NOT help.) (I’ve been screaming in the car lately, which is actually fun.)
  3. Setting limits, clearly and firmly.
  4. Recognizing and owning my personal power (for me, that includes realizing that I am not helpless and small, like I was when I was a child) (it also includes realizing that I have options — that I am not trapped in a current situation).
  5. Realizing that I am not going to do a great job at everything. I just can’t.
  6. Setting priorities (because of #5).
  7. Letting go of past regrets and future worries, to be in the moment with all my senses (especially since the trees are starting to flower!!!

And there is one more:

8.  Writing down my thoughts and feelings.


Thanks for reading (as I stop and tie that shoe).

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Day 98: What if the concept of failure did not exist?

Just asking.

Thanks for considering that, dear reader.

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

Day 97: Setting Priorities (starring The Oxygen Mask Metaphor)

When you have too much to do, setting priorities can be REALLY helpful.

That’s been true for me, especially lately.

Work has been stressful, overwhelming, wonderful, scary, depleting, energizing, and close-to-all-encompassing lately, because (1)  I really, really care about it, (2) there are a lot of changes going on, and (3) a lot of feelings from my past have been present for me lately.

Yes, I have been feeling overwhelmed. Big time.  To the extent that sometimes I just sit and stare into space, paralyzed by what to do next.  Actually, that’s one of the main ways I’m getting down-time these days, because there’s so much for me to do.

There’s always too much to do.

Can I get an “Amen” about that?  (Apparently not. I just googled “Amen sound effects” and couldn’t find anything quick enough. And THAT is not a priority for me, right now, so moving on ….)

On Friday, at work, I was looking ahead to the weekend and feeling overwhelmed about today, because there were many things I wanted to do, including:

  1. Going to the  birthday party of a friend from high school,  who was also my first “boyfriend” (we’re talking age 6 or 7 here), whom I recently reconnected with through MY birthday party,
  2. Going to a reception for a photography show my sister is in. (My sister is not a professional photographer, but she takes amazing pictures, and she submitted photos for the first time, and made the show!)
  3. Preparing more for this presentation I’m giving on Tuesday to a Room Full of Medical Residents, about (a) the groups I’m doing, (b) group therapy, in general, (c) how the medical staff and the social work staff can work effectively together, (d) how to be more present for patients, (e) how to take care of ourselves so we can be more present for patients, and (f) anything else I can figure out how to fit in to an hour, in a coherent way, that addresses people’s needs and interests but also moves My Personal Mission (Improving the Patient Experience in a Medical Setting) forward.
  4. Go for walks, listen to music, and do other down-time activities for myself, which are more sustaining than sitting paralyzed and staring into space.

You may, perhaps, notice certain pervasive themes in what I’ve written so far, including this:

I’m trying to do too much. (#3 above seems to imply that, doesn’t it?)

So it’s very important for me, these days, to Walk the Walk — and not just Talk the Talk — of the topic of this post.

It’s important for me to set priorities.

On Friday, I did just that, by  writing this down:

My priorities for this Sunday are:

(1) Me

(2) The photography show

(3)  The party.

That helped. By putting myself first, I was able to start figuring out ways to make Sunday work.

(By the way, I didn’t put the presentation on the list, because I have prepared enough, already.  I know I will do more, but it’s good enough already — and I can make it better, if I choose).

I find it difficult to even write or say “putting myself first” (much less do it!) because that sounds “selfish.” I may promote selfishness in my clients and my friends, but I have trouble doing that for myself. (See “The Double Standard Method”, here,  for a possible remedy for that.)

However, by making that list on Friday, I came up with a plan that is enabling me, today, to do everything I want to do, and still feel like I’m taking care of myself. (That plan involved setting limits and expectations, which you can read more about here and here.)

Ironically, if I hadn’t put myself first, I might have ended up doing less for the other people involved.  I would probably have stayed feeling overwhelmed. I may have felt some resentment about my wishes to “please” others.  I might have cancelled some of the activities.

I can find it challenging to balance my needs with other people’s needs.

And I get an “Amen!” from lots of other people about that.

Here’s a metaphor I like to use, in my work:

The Oxygen Mask Metaphor

When you’re on an airplane, about to take off, and the flight attendants are doing their little gig about What You Need To Know In Case of Emergency, and they come to the part about the mask dropping down ….

What do they say (besides “breathe normally” — hah!)?

They say, “Put your own mask first, even if you are sitting with a child.”

I think they say that, every time, not just because of liability, but because it’s so friggin’ counter-intuitive.  The urge, OF COURSE, would be to put the mask on the child first.

But, to be more effective for the child, in that urgent situation, the adult has to get oxygen first, in order to help the child.

The Moral of the Oxygen Mask Metaphor

We need to take care of our own needs, first, before we can be of use to anybody else.

Can I get an Amen about that, readers?

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

Day 82: The Equal Time Rule

Years ago, I made up a “rule” for myself, to deal with my (human) tendency to focus on the negatives. If you’re like me in this way (and most people I meet seem to be), you automatically zero in on whatever isn’t “right” — possible sources of future trouble, critical comments, negative people, the “fly in the ointment,” mistakes, and so on.

As I’ve written in this blog before, this makes sense, purely from a survival standpoint. If there’s danger out there, it’s helpful for our bodies and minds to focus on that.  If everything else is idyllic and safe, but there’s a potentially dangerous creature strolling by, that’s going to get all of our (and our ancient ancestors’) attention.

But this survival instinct can screw us up. It can cause us to over-emphasize the negative while dismissing the positive — reducing our joy, interfering with connections to others, and promoting worry and regret.

Several Cognitive Distortions (listed here), relate to that, including:

Negative filtering (also known as “Disqualifying the positive”).
This is when we focus on the negative, and filter out all positive aspects of a situation.  For example, you get a good review at work with one critical comment, and the criticism becomes the focus, with the positive feedback fading or forgotten. You dismiss positives by explaining them away — for example, responding to a compliment with the thought, “They were just being nice.”


Magnifying or Minimizing.
We exaggerate the importance of some things (our mistakes, a critical reaction, somebody else’s achievements, things we haven’t done). Also, we inappropriately shrink the magnitude of  other things  (for example, our good qualities, compliments, what we have accomplished, or someone else’s imperfections).


We come to a general conclusion based on a single incident or a single piece of evidence. If something bad happens only once, you expect it to happen over and over again. Example: seeing one incident of rejection as part of a never-ending pattern of defeat and failure.


So where’s the friggin’ rule, Ann?

 Yes, I started out this post promising a rule I made up, to help deal with overemphasizing the negative.  I put this rule in my list of  remedies  for cognitive distortions, and here it is:

The Equal Time Rule.  To be fair, why not balance out the time spent on negative thoughts with positive thoughts?  For example, if you spend a certain amount of time worrying or catastrophizing about something that then turns out okay, consider spending that much time feeling good about the outcome. Or, if you are focusing on a negative, critical person and worrying about how they might affect you, try to give equal time and power to a positive, supportive person.

Okay, time for an example!

Several posts this year have mentioned my dread of working on my income taxes (like here and here).

(I don’t know why I freak out, so much, about doing my taxes each year.  I have a lot of self-knowledge and insight, or so I’m told, but I still don’t understand THAT, which I could probably explore in a ridiculously long post and/or another year of therapy).  (But not now.)

Here is my yearly To Do List about taxes:

February 15. Start worrying about and dreading working on your taxes.Don’t actually do anything, but definitely beat yourself up about (1) procrastinating and (2) worrying so much about this, which is dopey and really getting old.   Make sure you compare yourself to other people who have (1) completed their taxes and/or (2) aren’t as weird as you about worrying about this.  Schedule a few weekends when you’re definitely going to work on this, but then don’t. Make sure to feel guilty about scheduling and then not following through.  Try not to tell people how weird you are about this, but if you do tell people, make sure to feel dopey about that.

March 15. Continue doing all of the above, but more frequently and intensely. Note the amount of time you’ve wasted feeling bad about this and ask yourself questions like, “Why do you do this every year?”  Decide that this year, you’ve gone further than you usually do in procrastinating;  feel  bad and somewhat panicky about that. Notice that the worrying about taxes is getting in the way of your anticipating the arrival of your favorite season — Spring! Feel REALLY bad about that.

The End of March:  Always get done what you need to, somehow.

(Note that I’ve left something out here:  my frequent uses of remedies and antidotes to help myself feel better during this process.) (Again, I’m overemphasizing the negative and minimizing the positive, in how I’m telling THIS story.)  (Eeeek!)


This year, I did the above routine again — as usual,  starting around February 15.

AND, as usual,  I finished the routine this past week. That is,  I’m done with my preparation (and dread) about taxes for this year.

If I were to use my made-up Equal Time Rule, I would spend as much time and intensity feeling GOOD about completing my taxes as I did feeling bad about NOT doing them.  That means I would spend more than a month, from now on, feeling relieved and great.

Will I do it?  Nah. Not even close, people.

But I LOVE that idea.  And by having that rule, even if I don’t keep it, I invite myself to feel as good as I possibly can for as long as I can possibly can.

Because it’s only fair, right?

Thanks for reading.


© 2013  Ann Koplow      (for my Equal Time Rule)

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

Day 74: The Fear of Feeling Too Good — Part 3

After having resisted writing about this topic for 70 days, and returning to it yesterday, I am going to stay on it, for at least one more day.

One of the reasons I listed yesterday, of why feeling too good was scary, was this:

  • I’m afraid that I will be disappointed.

And sure enough, I was disappointed yesterday.

A client at the psychiatric day program where I used to work used to talk very eloquently about her fears about that fall from grace — the fall from feeling too good.  She would sometimes make the argument that it wasn’t worth feeling too good, because the fall felt so bad.

And yesterday, I felt that drop very deeply, to the extent that I was affected all day.  I felt bad. I felt shame.

But, what I’m realizing today, after I’ve slept on the experience (and spoken to several people on “my team”), is that the fall was something I constructed.

And what I mean by that is this:  in my mind, I constructed the dimensions of the fall AND the meaning of it.

Here are the facts.  The meeting I wrote about, in my post yesterday, was cancelled.

That is the data, pure and simple.

What I did, in my mind with that fact — that the meeting was cancelled —  was all internal construction.

Boy, that’s noisy!  I couldn’t turn that sound file off while I was writing this, and that felt annoying and somewhat disturbing.

But not as disturbing and painful as my internal constructions, yesterday:

Arrrgh!  The meeting got cancelled. Of course.  Here I thought I was important enough that somebody I respect so much and see  at such a high level would actively want to meet with me.  Obviously, I miscalculated. I’m not that important. I’m not seen as that important.  Who did I think I was?  And I wrote about the meeting in my blog!  Arrrrgh!  How humiliating.  When I wrote that post, and left for the day, I felt so …. good, so full of myself — setting off for work, looking forward to that meeting.  Hah!  Well, I hope you learned your lesson. It’s not like you haven’t learned this before.  You keep thinking you are more important, more valuable, better than you really are.  

Ouch.  And I felt shame, all day long.  I tried to fight it, battling the distorted thinking with thoughts like these:

Come on!  It’s just a cancellation.  You’ll meet again.  The person wrote you and told you they want to meet with you. Why not believe that e-mail?  This is a familiar feeling.  It’s shame.  You talked about this yesterday with friends — how this is so inbred in you — the shame about feeling too good.  This is an understandable and expected reaction, but that doesn’t mean your worst fears are true — that you need to beat yourself up all day.

And those thoughts helped, a little. But the shame remained.

I still got things done yesterday at work.  I interacted with patients in a way that I think was authentic and maybe even somewhat helpful.

But when I got home from work, I said, “I had a bad day.  I feel bad.”

And when I was asked the question, “What happened?” The answer was, “My meeting got cancelled.”

And those were the facts.

And today, I can see clearly again, and see that those are the facts. No more, no less.

But yesterday, I thought I was seeing clearly, too.

So that’s the dilemma. How can I monitor and interpret my importance? How can I figure out how much I matter, and how good I can feel about myself and still be safe?

Maybe the answer is this.

Maybe those are the wrong questions.

Maybe I can stop monitoring so closely.  Maybe it’s not a matter of life or death for me to figure those things out.

Maybe I’ll just be disappointed some times.  And maybe I’ll be delightfully surprised sometimes.

But no matter what, my essential worthiness does not fluctuate.

That, dear reader, stays the same.

Thanks for reading.

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

Day 43: Home-based realizations (Starring Growth! Safety! and the Entire Medical Profession)

So, I’m home. And while I love traveling, very much, I am definitely somewhat “on guard” when I’m away from home.  Especially when I’m traveling on my own for most of the trip.

So now that I’m back in my home base, and relaxing a bit, I’m realizing some things, which I’m going to jot down here, before I re-engage — for the first time in over a week — with my typical morning routine (including taking my son to school and going back for my first day at work).

These realizations  feel new to me. I think I’m having them, this morning, partly because of the personal growth I’ve been experiencing — already! — during This Year of Living Non-Judgmentally.

However, they probably aren’t completely new realizations. They are probably lessons that I’m re-realizing, again, as I move further up the ascending coil of my life’s path.  (Carl Jung spoke about our life’s path being in the shape of an ascending coil, which I wrote about here.)

However, these realizations feel new, probably because I’m experiencing them in a deeper, more profound way. And, even more importantly, I’m making these realizations more real,  right now at this point in my life, because I’m bringing them out from a strictly internal sphere and sharing these with the external world.

Or to re-state that last sentence more plainly — I’m not keeping these thoughts to myself anymore. I’m sharing them with other people in my life and with the whole friggin’ Blogosphere, right now!

So where was I before those digressions?  Oh, yes.

Here’s the main point I want to write today, on this Day 43 of the Year of Living Blog-mentally:

I have trouble believing that other people truly love me and will be there for me, no matter what.  

There is the punch-line — the important realization — right there,  in an italicized nut-shell.

So now I’m going to write a little bit about where I think this “trouble” comes from, for me.

(Although I suspect I’m not alone in this issue. Feel free to comment, if you like, if you can relate to this issue, dear reader.)

I think this issue is related to my childhood, when I was hospitalized very frequently for heart issues.  During those “primitive” times of healthcare — the early 1960s — my parents were not allowed to be with me in the hospital, outside of regular visiting hours.

(Here’s an indication of how far health care has come, in this area, since I was kid. When I tell stories about my experiences in the hospital, people CANNOT BELIEVE  that parents were not allowed to stay overnight with kids in the hospital in the 60s.)

Anyway,  between the ages of 9 and 13, I was in the hospital a lot, dealing with lots of operations and scary things (and people), on my own. So even though I’m sure my parents loved me, they couldn’t be with me during some times when it really mattered.  And I guess, maybe my young self believed — on some level — that if my parents really loved me, they would have fought tooth-and-nail, like tigers, to stay with me, no matter what.  

But, again, it was a different time.  And I think all of us — my parents and me — didn’t want to piss off the People in Control — the doctors at the hospital.  I know that I had this childish  fear:  if I DID  alienate the doctors and nurses, by not being a good (maybe even perfect!)  patient, these all-powerful people might let me die.

And I think that my parents, even though they had the wisdom of adulthood,  really wanted to please The Powers That Were, in the Hospital.  I’m assuming my parents did not want to alienate the doctors and nurses who were taking care of me,  by being Uncooperative, Troublesome Parents. (For example,  fighting tooth and nail to stay with me, like tigers).     I guess both my parents and I wanted to stack the deck in our favor with the doctors. Maybe everyone in my family believed, back then,  that if we were really good and didn’t alienate the hospital staff, we would have had a better chance to survive these experiences,  in the best shape possible.

I’m realizing now that these beliefs — fears, really — were probably untrue. (Now that I think of it, my parents and I were mind reading, fortune telling,  catastrophizing, and maybe  doing additional cognitive distortions.) (The 13 cognitive distortions are listed here.)

I’m realizing that those fears were untrue, because doctors are trained — in medical school —  to keep people alive, whether or not they like them. Even if we had been Bad Patients (or Bad Family Members of Patients), I think I still would be alive today.

But I wonder if my parents and I were (or are)  alone in responding to the medical community that way.  When people seem to have life-and-death power over you, maybe a lot of people deal with that by being compliant, by not rocking the boat, by being as perfect as they possibly can be.

Hmmmmm.  That last paragraph seems like a topic I’ll write about again.  (And maybe THAT was part of what I was trying to write about in my post about anti-Semitism and other “isms” two days ago.  (That difficult and — I believe — somewhat confusing post is here.)

A couple of more things I wanted to say about this.  Maybe my parents DID fight tooth and nail to stay with me, and they didn’t succeed.  (You think it’s tough fighting city hall?  Try fighting rules and regulations at a hospital.)

If you, dear, reader,  feel an urge to comment about what you read here in this post, I welcome your comment, as always. But, no  pressure to comment.

I don’t need you to be a perfect reader, or compliant with my requests. Not at all.

And, I have to say, it’s good to be home.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Day 35: The Next Right Thing

For today, I would like to continue the illustrious tradition (that I established yesterday), of discussing the meaning of a term or phrase. Yesterday’s term was “Object Constancy.” Today’s phrase is “The Next Right Thing.”

Yesterday, I Googled “Object Constancy” before I shared my assumptions about it. Today, I would like to start this way:

I want to ask you, dear reader, what your assumptions are about the meaning of the phrase “The Next Right Thing.”  Maybe you’ve heard it before; maybe you haven’t.  In any case, what do you think it means?

(silence, so you can think about that)

(Actually, if this were a game show like “Jeopardy”, thinking music would be playing now.

Da da da da,

Dee dee dee.

Da da da da,

DEET, da-da-da-da-da,

Da da da da,

Dee dee dee,

DAH! da da da,

Deeee, deeeee,  deeeeeeeh.)

Okay, now that you’ve had some time to think about what “The Next Right Thing” means to you (assuming that the “Jeopardy” theme song hasn’t obliterated all other thoughts from your mind) (if so, my deepest apologies) …. I will now Google that phrase.

Hmmmm. Actually, I’m not seeing any “easy” definition of the phrase. (In other words, there’s no Wikipedia entry for it.)  Here are two links I clicked on, and found helpful: here and here.)

Okay!  It’s time for me to tell you my own personal experience with the phrase  “The Next Right Thing.”

I know that “The Next Right Thing” is a phrase, or slogan, associated with 12-step programs. I have witnessed many people use that phrase as a guidepost. I’ve seen them use it as Something That Helps — in their personal path of recovery, in moving forward, in letting go of judgment, in so many different ways. I have felt grateful and privileged to witness all that.

And I decided to use it this morning for myself.  And that phrase came to me because I was feeling somewhat overwhelmed today.  Here are some reasons I’m feeling overwhelmed:

I planned a party for several weeks; now that’s over.

I’m going off on an adventure tomorrow, flying in a plane by myself to somewhere I’ve never been before.

And I haven’t started packing!

I have a friend staying over, and what I’d really like to do is just hang out with her, but I’ve got all these things I should be doing.

And  I’m not feeling great, physically.  Nothing serious, just some muscle aches and the same damn cold lingering on, but the physical stuff does have an effect.

(By the way, I’ll probably write a future blog post about how helpful it can be just to List What’s Stressful, Right Now.)

(Notice that this post is long, with lots of digressions?  Among the reasons for THAT: (1) I’m on vacation so I’ve got more time on my hands and (2) I’m overwhelmed!)

Anyway …  so where was I, before the parentheses?

Heaven knows. But let’s go back to my topic: “The Next Right Thing.”

I know that it will help me today, to identify the next right thing to do.  But here are some thoughts I’m having about THAT:

What the hell is the next right thing? How can I figure THAT out? I’m so overwhelmed!

Well, here’s the deal. There are SEVERAL Next Right Things I could choose right now. I could start packing.  I could tell my friend I need a couple of hours today for myself.  I could get a massage to relieve the muscle aches!

And, actually, I already did do one Next Right Thing for myself this morning.

I wrote this blog post.

Thanks for reading.

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

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