Yesterday, I witnessed somebody telling a writer that their story did not answer the “Why should I care?” test. Why should I care about that? Well, sometimes I wonder why my loyal and lovely readers should care about the personal words and photos I share in this blog.
Why should you care if I went to the dentist yesterday and got a new dental crown that was created, before my eyes, in a 3-D printer? Why should you care if Michael and I took Oscar to the vet and he got a clean bill of health? Why should you care if Harley escaped going to the vet by scratching Michael, hissing, growling, and making it impossible for us to corral him in time to make the appointment? In other words, why should you care about what I care about?
Why should you care about how I recorded some of yesterday’s moments?
Why should any of us care about allowing cats and people to communicate their stories in an authentic, personal, and full-bodied way?
Why should anybody care about this video I took of the creation of my new dental crown?
Why should I care about the comments you make on this blog? There are SO many reasons I care. I can only hope I convey that caring in every post and every answer, every day.
I don’t like killing, I don’t like killing one bird (much less two), and I don’t like throwing stones, but I’m using this title today because
it means “achieving two aims at once” and
I’m killing two birds with one stone right now.
The two “birds “are (1) an article I promised to write for a professional group therapy organization’s newsletter before I leave for a two-week trip to Scotland on Saturday and (2) today’s blog post.
The “stone” is the following:
When the intrepid editor of this newsletter asked me to write a 600 – 800 article about what it’s like to be the President Elect of NSGP, I thought that would be a relatively easy assignment. I mean, I write a blog post every day, I used to be a professional writer before I changed careers in the 1990s, and — most importantly — I AM the President Elect of NSGP, so that perspective is immediately accessible.
However, I’ve been working on this article for days, and it’s been remarkably difficult. Perhaps it’s difficult because in all the years I’ve been a member of this wonderful organization, I never dreamed I’d be writing an article like this one. Indeed, when a nominating committee member called me earlier this year to ask if I would consider being president, I asked, “president of what?”
Perhaps I’m finding this assignment difficult because I’m not sure how to separate out the perspective of an NSGP President Elect from all my other perspectives as a human being who
has a passionate belief in the healing power of groups,
kept changing careers until she found the right match for herself,
lives to communicate with others in a meaningful way,
loves her work providing open-access therapy groups at the Primary Care Practice at a major teaching hospital in Boston,
appreciates every opportunity to learn and grow,
maintains hope for the future even during difficult and challenging times,
has faith in people’s and organizations’ ability to adapt and survive,
is sustained by “personal medicine” including family, friends, music, good food, the ocean, travel, singing, cats, and NSGP,
was born with an unusual heart,
is sometimes intimidated by brilliant colleagues,
has learned to overcome fear in many aspects of her life,
tries to keep her sense of humor no matter what, and
is aware that she needs several hundred more words to complete this article.
Perhaps I can fill out the rest of that newsletter article with photos …
This is one of those posts, dear readers, where I try to be clever, with a topic that applies to more than one situation.
As a group therapist, I have some wisdom about effective ways to introduce new members into established groups. As a cat owner, I am now dealing with the experience of introducing a new cat into a household that includes one other cat.
So let’s see how I do, today, being clever (I wish) and helpful (I hope).
Here we go ….
Ann’s Helpful Tips for
Introducing a New Cat/Group Member
into an Established Household/Group
Phew! Even the title was exhausting. Nevertheless, let’s continue ….
Tip #1. Be respectful of the differences in each member’s/cat’s experience of the situation.
A group member/cat who is familiar with the group/household is going to be more comfortable. A new member/cat is going to be less comfortable and (we might assume) more anxious in the group/household.
Therefore, it is helpful to skillfully leave room for each member/cat — new and old — to be where he/she/it needs to be.
I don’t know, readers. This post might be too ambitious/complicated. What do you think?
Maybe I should quit while I’m ahead.
The best I can do, right now, is to provide an image that, somehow, helpfully illustrates something in this blog post.
I hope this works (fingers crossed):
Thanks to new (and established) cats and group members, everywhere. And special thanks to you, for visiting today.
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 things I feel lucky about this morning.
I feel lucky to have a job that engages my brain, my heart, and my soul — doing therapy groups to promote healing and growth.
I’m lucky that this work — because it takes place in a hospital* — gives me the opportunity to move forward in my own process of healing and growth.
I’m lucky that I get to work with doctors who are palpably committed to good patient care.
I am lucky that I get to blog about my anxieties and my hopes about doing this work, because it helps me feel less alone in those feelings.
I’m lucky that I have readers, like Louise Gallagher, who say wise and helpful things (like Louise’s comment on my blog post yesterday).
I am lucky for each and every person who has ever read this blog, because whether or not you ever press “like” or write a comment, my knowing that you are receiving these words, as I move forward this year, helps me more than I can say.
When I started this blog post today, I thought I might be using a Magic Wastepaper Basket, because I was thinking of throwing away some old beliefs that contribute to my anxiety about public speaking.
Instead, I wrote about luck.
Throughout this year, I’ve created various “magical” receptacles, including this box for “Emergency Messages” (see here):
But I still need to define the concept of “Worry Box”.
Wait! Here’s an excerpt from “Two Techniques for Reducing Stress,” from Harvard Health Publications/Harvard Medical School, published on 4/9/11:
Make a worry box
Find any box, decorate it however you like, and keep it in a handy place. (I found that this was a great activity to do with my young children, since they loved helping to decorate the box.) Jot down each worry as it crops up on a piece of paper and drop it into the box.
Once your worry is deposited in the box, try to turn your attention to other matters. The worry box essentially allows you to mentally let go of your worries.
Later on, you can throw out the notes without looking at them again. I decided to look through mine at the end of the month, and while a few of those worries were still bearing down on me, most were unfounded. It was a good lesson that worrying is often fruitless, as a favorite quote of mine from Leo Buscaglia underscores:
“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”
I am very happy about finding that, this morning, for at least two reasons: (1) I don’t have to write a definition of “Worry Box” and (2) the second technique cited in that on-line article is another one I love to use with people, called “Scheduling Worry.” (I really recommend checking that out, here.)
I wanted to write about Worry Boxes, this morning, because I’m having some worries about my trip to England and Scotland with my son, which is ….. about one week away.
My worry is right on schedule, based on my Past History of Worrying.
I tend to worry in cycles. These cycles go something like this:
Something New (or otherwise scary/exciting) is approaching and is, suddenly, sooner than I expect.
I worry that I am not prepared enough.
I visualize and otherwise think about things that can go wrong.
I forget about all the times I have mastered similar things in the past.
I recognize and name my anxiety.
I (and sometimes other people) do some work to help me let go of anxiety and worry.
I feel secure enough and start looking forward to What Was Causing The Anxiety Before.
Time goes by.
Go back to Step #1, above.
Yep! It’s a cycle, all right.
So I figured I would do something new, today, as part of Step #6, above.
(I did Step #5, earlier today, by (1) sending a confession about my anxiety to Alexa, whom I met in the hospital when we were both kids, who now lives in London, and who has generously offered to take me and my son around town and then (2) starting this blog post.)
So for Step 6, today, I have designated a Worry Box:
Front row: Worry Box, previously known as Precious Gift from Precious Friend.
Back row (left to right): A Monitor Screen Cleaner (partially pictured) (purchased at the same great store where I got the “Trust” cup, pictured here); Emergency Messages Box (described here).
One more photo of the newly-dubbed Worry Box, before I leave for work this morning:
The left portion of that photo shows all that was in the newly-dubbed Worry Box, when I opened it up this morning, for the first time, in a long time. On the right: another cat that helps out with computers.
Gotta run! Thanks to Alexa, Harvard Medical School, Leo Buscaglia, anti-anxiety apps everywhere, and — of course — to you for reading today. (And feel free to put your worries in a box, or otherwise away.)
Perhaps that’s because I loved watching David Letterman shows in the 1980s and 1990s.
My Personal Top Ten Lists
For every therapy group program I’ve helped create, I’ve put together “The Top Ten Things to Know” about these programs, as a way to introduce the groups to new participants.
While there are often more than Ten Things I want to tell new people, I appreciate the discipline of restricting myself to that number. And Ten Things usually gives me enough room to fit all the necessary information to help somebody feel welcome, comfortable, and safe enough to participate.
I also put together Top Ten Lists every year, on December 31st. As the national and local media are showcasing a kashmillion end-of-year Top Ten Bests and Worsts (e.g.,Top Ten Best and Worst Movies, Top Ten Best and Worst TV Shows, Top 10 Best and Worst Top Ten Lists), I join in by compiling Ann’s 10 Best and 10 Worst of the year, which can include movies, activities, people, or anything else. For example, my Top 10 Worst of 2013 will definitely include the Boston Marathon bombings; My Top 10 Best of 2013 will almost definitely include writing this blog and my 60th birthday celebration trip to South Carolina.
The Latest Personal Top Ten List: The Year of Living Non-Judgmentally Blog Posts
For whatever reason — probably because I’ve passed the half-way mark of this Year of Posting — I’ve been hankering to do a solipsistic* Top Ten List of my own blog posts. I considered compiling a list of personal favorites, but really, how am I supposed to choose ten among 203 of my own creations? It’s like choosing among children, if you will. (And if I had 203 children, I would be hard pressed to keep track of them, much less choose among them.)
So, instead, I’m going to take the easy — ahem! — the logical route to choosing Top Ten TYOLN-J Posts. (Excuse me. I just have to interrupt here to observe — with amazement — that it’s taken me 204 days to use a short-hand acronym for The Year of Living Non-Judgmentally.)
Where was I? Oh, yes, how to do a Top 10 list of my own posts. Here’s my solution: I’m going to simply present The Top Ten Blog Posts according to readership for the year so far. And, actually, that list does have some of my favorite children on there.
I have a large collection of unusual and inexpensive watches. I started this collection over 35 years ago.
The collection got much larger when eBay came along — when it became much easier to find watches that fit my Collecting Criteria.
The number of watches I collected got a little scary. Actually, the number didn’t scare me, but I noticed that people had a reaction to that number — which looked a little like fear but might have just been surprise — when I would ask them to guess:
How many watches do you think I have?
People would always guess much lower than the actual number, even though I would explain — just as I did above — that I liked to collect these and that they were very accessible through eBay.
Collecting these watches definitely met some sort of need. I guess any kind of collecting behavior can seem like a compulsion. It didn’t feel like a compulsion; but I did spend a fair amount of time looking for watches, deciding about them, and adding new ones to my collection. It was fun.
Was it a habit? An addiction?
I’m reminded of a joke:
I may be addicted to drinking brake fluid, but I can stop at any time.
I kept collecting watches, for many years, growing my collection. And I did have Too Many watches to keep track of, to wear, and — especially — to keep supplied with fresh batteries.
But it was an enjoyable and harmless distraction, and I had some very cool watches. So I kept collecting.
Except one day, I stopped.
I stopped after I had a dream. In that dream, I was wearing a watch and the watch turned into a cardiac pacemaker.
And I woke up from that dream and said, “Duh.”
“Duh,” as in, “Wow. That makes a lot of sense.”
I got my first cardiac pacemaker implanted when I was 10 years old. I had no choice over the matter. I will be dependent upon a pacemaker until I die. I have no control over all that.
I can tell the story of Ann and Her Pacemaker in lots of different ways.
Triumphant: I am the longest surviving person in the world with a pacemaker!*
Painful: I wasn’t prepared very well, before I got my first pacemaker at age 10. I spent a lot of time — some of it alone and scared — in the hospital.
The stories we tell can be a way of getting control over things.
Collecting watches was another way, for me.
Pacemakers and watches have a lot in common. They both are man-made devices that people wear. They are devices designed to measure and mark time, in an important way. As a matter of fact, all the pacemakers I got, until I was well into my 30’s, had a fixed rate. That is, they would produce the same number of beats per minute, every minute, until they ran down. The main difference between those pacemakers and a watch: my pacemakers were set for 70 beats for minute, instead of 60.
Anyway, once I realized WHY I was collecting watches — in a new and deeper way — I stopped needing to collect them. I’ve bought a watch or two since then, but very rarely.
I mean, I have enough watches, people.
Before I end this post, I wanted to share one of my favorite watches with you:
I got this watch on eBay, many years ago, when it came up in my saved search “unusual watches.”
This watch was developed by a woman who worked with kids who had cancer. In the eBay listing, she told the story of how she was working with a little boy who was having trouble expressing his fear of dealing with the diagnosis and the necessary procedures. On an impulse, she drew the picture of the character, whom she dubbed, “Scared Guy.” Scared Guy helped the little boy talk about his fear.
She later turned “Scared Guy” into a charitable enterprise, and she created and offered merchandise — including watches — using that character she drew for the little boy. The proceeds either went to supporting cancer research or other aspects of work with children who had cancer — I can’t remember, exactly.
I would give you more details about “Scared Guy ™” but I can’t find anything listed on the internet this morning. I do have the original watch box somewhere, which would tell me more, but I’m not looking for that right now.
I don’t have the time.
I have to get ready to go into the hospital, where I work.
And, I confess, I’m kind of a Scared Guy, today.
Why? There will be very few people around today, at the hospital where I work, because it’s the day after the July 4th holiday. I’m the only one there who has certain responsibilities. I may need to do some difficult and new things.
It’s a little too close, for comfort, to the old story I tell about my childhood, where I’m in a hospital, feeling alone, lost, and confused.
However, there are lots of differences today.
For one, I’ll be wearing that watch.
Thanks for being here, and reading, today.
* In 2014, I found out that I am NOT the longest surviving person in the world with a pacemaker. See this post for more about that.
An amazing person and poet named Marc* sent me this e-mail a couple of days ago:
Now that you’re about halfway through your year of daily blogging, I’m wondering what you’ve learned from the experience? What has surprised you? What shape has your audience taken?
What lessons you’d offer others.
If you have a moment, I’d love to hear from you, or if you prefer to put it in your blog, just let me know when it comes out and I’ll read it there.
What I’ve Learned From This Experience
A lot. A whole lot. One hundred and eighty-two days worth of learning.
When I saw Marc’s question, I thought, “Arrrgh! I’m going to have to write a long post on a Tuesday morning, when I need to be getting ready for work. How will I do that?”
I can do that. That’s something that I’ve learned.
I’ve learned that writing every day helps me deal with challenging situations.
I’ve learned that I’m capable of being that disciplined.
I’ve learned that I can write short posts and long posts, and that each post is good enough.
I’ve also “re-learned” a lot of things, like:
I will go through ups and downs.
It helps to let go of judgment about how I’m doing, as best I can.
There are a lot of things that look beautiful, that I can take pictures of.
There are a lot of things that look silly, that I can take pictures of.
Actually, every post I’ve written reflects something I’ve learned this year, but I won’t torture you by including 182 links here.
I’ve learned that I can keep learning new things, including How to Blog and How to Blog With More Bells and Whistles. And I’ve (re-)learned that learning something new takes time — and mistakes — to get better.
What Has Surprised You?
Actually, just re-read everything I wrote for What I’ve Learned from This Experience, above, for a good-enough answer to this question, too.
It surprises — and pleases — me that so many things can still surprise me.
That’s something else I’ve re-learned, this year: When I’m more engaged and tuned in to life, I am constantly surprised, often by joy.
Okay, I HAVE to link to a recent post, now, since its title is too perfect (“Surprised by Joy“).
What Shape Has Your Audience Taken?
Here are the first two answers that came into my head:
I don’t really know.
The perfect shape.
What Lessons I’d Offer Others
That’s a tough one for me to address, since I don’t like giving advice, and I tend to downplay my role as a teacher (preferring to invite people to get in touch with their own wisdom). At the same time, I MUST see myself as a teacher, since I seem to think I have something useful to offer, every friggin’ day of this year.
If Marc was curious about what lessons I would offer others regarding doing a daily blog, or any blog at all, that’s simple:
If you think it would help in any way, just do it.
No regrets here, dear reader.
Thanks to Marc, of course. And thanks to you for being here, at my halfway point.
I experienced my day at work yesterday as “difficult” and I was having TGIF (Thank God It’s Friday) thoughts. Actually, the thoughts were more like IWTDAWWON (I Wish This Day And Week Were Over NOW) Thoughts.
I don’t like having thoughts like those. I like to do my best to be in the current moment, instead of wishing it away.
So that’s where I was yesterday. Not liking where I was.
As I’ve been writing in my posts here lately, I’ve been having some discouraged thoughts and feelings.
It always helps to list what’s discouraging me. That way, I reduce the power of those thoughts and make them manageable. If “What is Discouraging Me” can fit on a page, it’s smaller than it feels inside my head.
I’m going to focus on my discouragement at work right now. Here’s the list:
What Is Discouraging Me About My Work
I am eager to expand my therapy group program, and there are obstacles to doing so.
I am judging the job that I am doing, and very aware of my mistakes and limits.
I am feeling some disappointment with people I need to support me in the work that I do (because as much as I might like to, I can’t do this alone).
I am not seeing my own power or my ability to do what I think I need to do.
Okay, now that I have gotten those discouraged thoughts out of my head and into this post, I can see things differently.
I can see that this is the my Typical Experience of Discouragement. It’s the story I see and the story that I tell, when I’m feeling down. All the elements are there:
Disappointment in myself,
Disappointment in others, and
Feeling helpless and powerless.
When I am in that place, I feel horrified by new evidence of my lack of power, my personal mistakes, and disconnects from other people. The more I see those things, the more I want to hide. The more I hide, the more helpless I feel and the less options I see for any solutions.
Here are some things that horrified me at work, yesterday:
Horror Story #1. Bugs Attack!
There was an e-mail about an infestation of saw-toothed beetles in the doctors’ lockers. The e-mail reported that the exterminators had come, all food in the lockers had been thrown away, and people with lockers had to make sure to store any food in Tupperware (since the saw teeth were sharp enough to get through lesser protection). Here’s the perpetrator:
(Google Images gave me many choices for visual examples. I believe I was kind to you and to myself with my choice, above.)
Also, my direct manager (who has been very helpful to me) had to leave early because of an “ant invasion” (her words) at her home.
(Perhaps I wasn’t quite as kind, in my choice of Google Images for “ant invasion.” However, I could have been crueller, for sure.)
Now, I wasn’t directly affected by those two things. I don’t have a locker at work. And, while some ants have been showing up at my home these days, that situation is well under control.
However, I still felt horrified. I felt bad about food I was storing in my desk. I threw out food that wasn’t protected.
Also, I remembered my second internship when I was in Social Work School, over 15 years ago, at a place where I never felt comfortable or connected enough with the other staff there, and where ants attacked some food I had in my knapsack, swarming all over the office floor. I remember feeling horror and shame about that, being afraid to tell anybody, emptying the offending food, taking the knapsack, and guiltily throwing it away in a trash receptacle far from the office, like I was disposing of a bomb I had evilly constructed.
One moral of the story: Wow. I guess I can be hard on myself sometimes.
Another moral of the story: Bugs are everywhere, and you can especially see them where the food is.
Horror Story #2: Some People Get Mad or Annoyed at Me!
I have to return a lot of phone calls at work.
One of the changes I helped create at the hospital where I work is this: people who have decided they want individual or group therapy now have the direct phone number for a clinician, who can assess their needs with them, explain therapy options, and help connect them with the therapy solution they choose. (The old system was this: the person wanting therapy would be given the general practice number, would reach a scheduler, make an appointment, and usually wait several weeks before talking to somebody.)
I feel very proud about that change. I think it’s better, in all ways.
However, I am one of the clinicians who takes the calls, and I get a lot of calls from people. And I do my best returning those calls. And I manage expectations, with my voicemail message, about when people will hear back from me.
But sometimes, people get annoyed when I don’t act quickly enough.
And I REALLY want to return calls quickly. I want to honor and respond to somebody asking for help. Partly, because I really know what if feels like … to be alone with pain.
So it kills me when I can’t get back to people quickly. And there are many reasons why that can happen, including: I’ve got a big back-log of phone calls, I am meeting with people for individual therapy, I am trying to maintain my group program, I’m doing groups, I am on call for people who are having very urgent problems, and I am trying to take care of myself so I don’t burn out.
(pant, pant, pant)
And people get annoyed with me, some times. Doctors, other staff members, and — rarely — patients. And I get annoyed sometimes, too.
Because most of us are doing too much and/or dealing with too much. Most of us feel overwhelmed.
We are all doing the best we can.
One moral of the story: I get back to people as soon as I can, even if I feel awful about delays.
Another moral of the story: Needs are everywhere, and you can especially see them where people are offering to meet them (like at a hospital).
END of Horror Stories
Before I end this post (which helped me a lot, this morning), I would like to tell you some other things that happened yesterday.
Let’s see … what’s the opposite of the word “horror”? I’m gong to The Thesaurus, people.
Here’s the full entry about “horror”, in the Thesaurus:
So, I encountered some Beauty/Delight/Miracle/Pleasure/Wonder Stories yesterday, too.
Story #1: My dentist text-messaged me and asked if he could put one of my blog posts on his dental practice’s Facebook page. See here for that post, which included my dentist but also other stories of kindness I’d been encountering in Boston.
Story #2: The people at the parking lot where I work told me that — because of the e-mail I had sent their manager about them — they were all getting a good bonus, some real $$! (See this post for how amazing these guys were, and why I wrote the e-mail.)
Many other Beauty/Delight/Miracle/Pleasure/Wonder Stories happened yesterday, too. The two I mentioned were just the blog-related ones.
However, because of the place I was in, those kinds of stories weren’t sticking. The Horror Stories were taking up most of the room in my head.
Here’s my wish for myself, today. I just want to give all the stories equal time. Not deny the horror. When the horror is there — whether it’s internal shame, disconnections from other people, or external destruction — I wish to still notice the other side.