Self-analysis

It Gets Better…and Then It Gets Worse

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

I had about three even-keeled days.

Okay, probably just two, but still. They were a welcome relief. I actually called some people and arranged some interviews and stuff I’m supposed to be doing but haven’t been doing. Oh, I clearly haven’t explained myself well over the last few months either. In addition to the food writing, I also do the Arts and Entertainment for Maui Now. Since there is no real “assignment” ever – it’s kind of the Seinfeld of jobs. You have to invent things to talk about. – I decided to try to interview the big names when they come to our little rock.

This is hit or miss, as mentioned, but it’s fun when it hits.

And – believe it or not – the big names are easier to gain access to than the local talent. There are some real divas on this little rock.

So anyway, I was doing okay. My false hope propels me and all that.

But then last night?

Totally devastated again as if it was a brand new wound.

This SUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCKS.

I have been working diligently on the new (anonymous) blog, so I won’t be torturing you with too much of my heartache and woe, but I ran across this quote again today and it makes even more sense now than it did a couple weeks ago:

“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”

~Pema Chodron

She’s right – obviously – but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

In fact, the hardest part of Buddhism, let alone life, is accepting the fact that we’re not in control of anything and the more we attach ourselves or try to control, the more we suffer.

Still, there are days I take this REALLY personally.

It’s so unfathomable and there is no template for what this means or why it has happened or how to even understand it.

As a dear friend of mine wrote last night, “He is a paradox. I have never heard of someone who so clearly loved someone else just cut them out of their life. I understand how unbearable this must be.”

My dad perhaps put it best, “I’ve never heard of anything like this…and I’ve been alive a long time.”

Although my mind knows what Pema Chodron has written is true, my heart is taking this personally. Like if I was a better person or more lovable or worthwhile, he wouldn’t or couldn’t have done this to me. Or he would have at least sent a text cutting me loose and changed his Facebook and removed the “in a relationship”” and my false hope (which is all but lost at this point.)

Between you and me, it has truly made me feel deeply insignificant and even worthless: like I’m not even enough to say goodbye to.

As I’ve said before: super unfun times

I’ll try to channel all this angst and pain into my new blog moving forward and hopefully come up with something entertaining soon.

Again, I am sorry to have talked about this so much, but having a year and a half long relationship totally vanish into thin air (without so much as a spat or other fathomable precursor) has arguably been the most painful experience of my life.

If your own loved one is still around, give them a hug just for showing up.

Apparently it’s harder for some of us than I would have guessed.

 

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Go at it boldly: part deux

Sunday, December 25th, 2011

Have you ever golfed?

As my dad succinctly summarized it after watching me take a few practice swings, “Well, you’re not a natural.”

For better or worse, the man speaks the truth. Nonetheless, I spent a couple years really trying to improve my golf game. In general, my over-thinking nature leaves me weak off the tee. If you could get into my mind at that moment, you would hear a cacophony of advice about finger placement and grip and back swing and follow through and probably a short grocery list and God only knows what else. Again: not too awesome for my actual execution off the tee.

However, once in a while I stop thinking and trying and plotting and planning and just go with it: and in those moments I’ve hit the ball the farthest and with almost no effort. In fact, the perfect swing is marked by its notable effortlessness (and the sight of that little ball careening far into the horizon). It’s kind of a magical moment, really.

I am starting to think that life works almost exactly the same way. The trick is to figure out what constitutes your perfect swing.

I am not here to tell you what that is – only you have the capacity to figure it out, in fact - but I do think there is a way for you to devine it if you haven’t already. In my own blossoming wisdom, it seems that the key is to listen to your heart and proceed with near-reckless-abandon in pursuit of the things that light you up. This means boldly and perhaps even a little bit irrationally responding to the pull and putting yourself in the proximity of the people, places, jobs, animals, events, and things that bring you real joy.

If something feels wrong or off or just won’t seem to work? Honor that guidance and be willing to let it go. Struggle and resistance are as important of signs as the good stuff. Notice what you don’t like as much as you notice what you love.

Then lift up your head, open your eyes, and feel what does draw you in and puts you into flow; that time and space continuum where everything just seems to work without (much) effort.

I can tell you that I did this with Maui - listened a rational dream of living where it was always warm and beautiful; noticed how happy and joyful I’ve always felt in the Hawaiian islands….and then launched and executed a totally insane plan to move there with two animals despite the fact I didn’t know a single living soul.

And it worked out.

In fact, I would argue if the strength and tenacity of the friendships I’ve already built there are indicator, I did indeed come home. And I have high hopes for my writing and my hypnotherapy practice in the months to come. I have a garden that is growing (in December!!!) as I speak, and a home that I love living in, and a Jeep that makes me smile every time I drive it.

I have had a similar lightening bolt of pure happiness in other areas of my life, as well, and I think that this rare and sweet moment of near-perfection in which I write to you right now really is due to my decision to pursue bliss. I will not settle or compromise so long as I have the power and the means to stay afloat blindly and ruthlessly pursuing only that which lights me up.

And so far, so good.

So that’s my gift to you this Christmas: the hope that you can hear your own call and start to make big or small gestures toward it. The wish that you can take a little stock in my unexpected success and find some faith that your own path will be so smooth if only you give it a real chance.

This is your life.

And it goes by quickly.

Passionately pursue the things that light you up and bring you joy.

 “Go at it boldly, and you’ll find unexpected forces closing round you and coming to your aid.”  ~Basil King.

Merry Christmas and Mele Kalikimaka to you and yours…

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Let me level with you here

Friday, November 25th, 2011

I am having a hard time. Possibly – emotionally, anyway – the hardest time of my life.

As a result, I’m anxiety-ridden, remembering to eat perhaps once every other day, and a total insomniac. I’m also shedding about six liters of water weight hourly in the form of tears.

Typical to this blog, I’m not going to get into details except to say that it is a matter of the heart, and I am in something of a purgatory…which in a way only makes the pain linger, and fills me with a fear that I may have to experience an all new pain in a few weeks. Only time will tell, and I will get through it regardless of the outcome. Of that I am certain.

In the meantime, however, I can all but guarantee you some of my more introspective and I guess you might say even spiritual posts. These low points – the loss of my beloved friend to a brain tumor probably being the most poignant among the life of this blog thus far – send me inward.

So I was walking the dog today and crying it up – I have a firm belief that you must go through your grief and your pain in the moment. If you bottle it up or silence it with drugs or drinking or other things, it just comes back at you later. It has to be processed to be released – and I noticed someone in a parking lot, watching and smiling kindly at me. I smiled back and wiped away the giant string of snot hanging from my nose down toward my mouth, and I realized I didn’t feel embarrassed. This is what’s going on with me, and this is what it is.

 

In fact, as I continued on and thought about it, I was rather awed at the outpouring of love from those who know the specifics of what is going on with me. Some of these are people I’ve known my entire life, and some I’ve barely known a month or two or in some cases, just met that night. It’s staggering the depth of human compassion, and probably one of the things that makes us redeemable as a species, if not so very special.

I got to thinking about how all this came to be – how I ended up with so many kind and generous souls in my path – and I had a memory I wanted to share. As those of you – God bless you – who have been around since the beginning or intrepid/sleep challenged enough to back up and read the entire blog from the beginning know, I once lived a very different life. And I was, even by my own estimation, a very different person.

About a year before I started the blog, I was in a software sales position at a multinational company. They selected sixteen people from the US and Canada out of thousands for a “Leadership Program.” This was intended to groom the future C-level and give lip service to one lady so they didn’t look like the boys’ club they truly were. And I am damn smart when I put my mind to it, and I’m sure that was factored into why that lady was me.

At any rate, at that point in my life, I tended to operate in a persona. Looking back, I didn’t feel particularly comfortable in my own skin, and I compensated for that in many ways. At work, I tended to be brusque and all-business. I was a woman in a man’s world, and there was no place for sensitivity or softness or, quite frankly, my rather fragile and oversized heart.

I remember when I would go to sales conferences or events where I didn’t know anyone, I would perform this mantra in my head about how busy I was. I didn’t make eye contact and hustled around very quickly, and would act preoccupied with papers or my phone or something or other seemingly work-related. Very few people would approach me, and yet – and I find this funny now – I was always shocked to learn I had an “ice princess” reputation. Here I was, so sweet and kind: why would anyone think that?

Well, as the enlightened among you know, all these things I was doing were defense mechanisms. I didn’t want to be exposed or have someone think I wasn’t good enough, so I didn’t open or show myself. The only part I let shine was my intellect.

Enter the Leadership Program.

We met over four weeks in four cities – Charlotte, Dallas, Portland, and Chicago, respectively – and I quickly realized I didn’t know anyone else there; so say hello to the token girl, the Ice Princess. The first week I didn’t say much, spoke if spoken to, contributed if I had to, and probably acted like a bit of a snob. I hate to admit it, but one of my worst defense mechanisms – and I still struggle with it from time to time today – is to judge. I do it because I judge myself, but I won’t turn this into a psychology lesson on you, unless you want me to.   ;)

So anywho, the first week was boring and dense with industry knowledge and a total blur. I honestly don’t remember a thing except a giant binder of financial documents and the like which I immediately knew I would never so much as open…and never did.I left it in the hotel room, insulted that they expected me to lug the thing home. As any good road warrior knows, you only fly with carry-on, and their is no room for binders the size of a Chinese telephone book.

Weeks pass, and then it’s time again. We all convene for the second – probably deadly boring – week in Portland.

Enter Dave, the outside consultant and facilitator of this program.

With all due respect, if the company I worked for had had better leadership or any kind of anything on the ball, they never would have hired this guy. A David Wilcox-playing, Appalachian Trail hiking, died-in-the-wool hippie psychologist, Dave was the last person you should bring around future corporate executives. And from the word go – there at the Kennedy School “hotel” near a house I once owned in Portland, he rolled out the therapy carpet.

He turned this thing into an encounter group straight out of 1973. He forced us way past our limits and our comfort zones and well beyond anything I’ve ever seen a company pay for, let alone endorse, in my life. He kept us up until midnight and got us up again at 6am. We were in rooms without TVs or any kind of escape mechanism. We had to do high ropes and bungee jump.

He had me bawling every single day of that week, and he changed the course of my life for the better. I have come to believe that this mishap that somehow put this wonderful man in charge  of this “leadership group” concept – something that company has never repeated in the four years since and probably never will – was fate’s way of giving me a shove.

It’s a long story, and one I like to tell, but I will shorten it to my one thought I want to share today. Dave had a strict rule for us starting on day one: leave your agent at the door. By that, he meant the persona you use at work or in life to seem hip or protect yourself or keep your guard up. He meant the Overly Nice Fake or the Too Cool for School guy or the Ice Princess..or whatever you want to call the affectation I used to perform (and had performed at the first meeting in Charlotte.)

He wanted us to be real. He INSISTED that we were real, and I had never done that amongst strangers in my entire life.

Now don’t get me wrong, there were some healthy and wonderful well-adjusted guys in there that had been living authentically all along. They probably puzzled at this “agent” business, and they were seamless and inspiring in their natural ease with themselves and unexpected changes or boomerangs. I envied them that, because for me, it would have been easier to show up naked than to have to be me – vulnerable and thin-skinned and soft-hearted and all – in front of this group.

But I did it. I cried. I admitted to fears and shortcomings. I went along with the rules – that you had to tell a joke or sing a song if you were late returning after a break – with as much confidence and cheerful acceptance as I could muster. I endured the David Wilcox music playing during the breaks that made me tear up. I listened to the others with my whole heart. I was truly present and truly “me” and to my incredible shock, it was met with equal respect and openness and friendship. Some of you may be reading this and think, well, “duh!” but I can assure you, I was stunned. I thought to expose yourself was to be vulnerable, and only a fool did that.

I was in a sub-group with three other men, who came to mean as much to me as people I’ve known for years. And I was truly touched by them and their story, and still talk to two of them to this day. One of them mentioned that when he first met me, he didn’t like me (ouch!), but that he did now. They were an amazing mirror as to who I had been, and who I would become.

So flash foward four and a half years from the time of that meeting in Portland – a week that was so significant to my life in so many ways – and I started to think about all the people who have been so kind and very, very real with me these last days. Two strangers at a Thanksgiving dinner last night, who truly took on my pain and tried to help.

Why would they do this?

Well, because at this point in my life I am unabashedly authentic 100% of the time. It’s how I write this blog; it’s how I walk the dog and do the dishes; it’s how I love and how I live. I couldn’t not be the Ice Princess now if I tried, and when people are confronted with a real human being standing there emotionally naked in front of them, many of them get naked too. Or they walk away, and that’s their right, as it only makes room for someone who can handle my authenticity to step up.

And so I realize in this time of tremendous pain and sadness, that it is also a real blessing: I am getting to experience the best of human beings as they encounter me and open their own hearts. It’s amazing and beautiful and one of the reasons that – despite the terrible, crushing pain of this life sometimes – I am glad to be here.

So Happy “Black Friday” or regular old Friday or whatever you are up to and much aloha to you all.

 

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Mercy me

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

To answer the question posed as the subject line of my last post: Yes. Oh Lord, yes. It can get a lot worse.

I never talk about my private life because then I don’t have to talk about it when it’s going badly, but allow me to say that although they claim it’s April, and I would normally argue the case for February, this year November is the hands-down biggest bitch in sight.

It’s been a hard month, and I’m a bit worse for the wear.

Things are more messed up than I would have guessed.

I’m still alive, so there’s that.

And I have an approach to life that says: when bummed out, focus on what you can control. There is a lot of work I’ve been neglecting, so guess what’s getting its ass kicked in the next week?  Yep. The book, advertising my hypnotherapy practice, planting my growth-challenged seedlings and building a lovely water system the snails will probably enjoy as they chow down on said seedlings (as they really are about salad-sized to a snail. They have dwarfism or something. I can’t figure it out.)

 

It’s funny, but last night Fu got out. Okay, that’s not funny at all actually. It was harrowing and terrifying, and I kept checking the highway for his remains and feeling like the worst mother ever, but once I found him meowing out front by my Jeep and order was restored in that part of the universe, I thought of this quote: “Just imagine how happy you’d be if you lost everything you have right now… and then got it all back.”

~ Bertrand Russell

 

lamb and beef curry

This is one of the images you get when you do a Google image search on "mercy." Lord knows if I ate this, my colon would be screaming "mercy!" and then "open the gates and release the hounds!" but that's probably more detail than you want or need.

This was a sobering thought considering how much energy I’ve been wasting on worry and disappointment and nitpicking on things that aren’t that important. It’s a life affliction, really, and one I hope I can purge myself of.

With respect to the quote, it’s not ALL back – my sanity, my peace of mind, the one thing in my life that gave me some bouts of wild hope are still AWOL. I had a hand in my own current, semi-depressing situation, so I’m not whining: just sad. I guess what I’m saying is that I’m trying to focus on what IS right; what is perfect in this moment.

Fu is sleeping in the hallway. Dozer is in the kitchen. I can hear the wind and the ocean outside. There is food in the fridge and I have things to wear. There are brains in my head that can be used to work out some of this money stuff that worries me lately. Tomorrow is a new day.

Tomorrow is always a new day.

And whether or not it is clear to me, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

So I’ve got going for me, and I’m going to work on being super freaking grateful for it. Until then, I’ll try to cheer my sorry ass up, because nobody likes whining vague posts about cats and other disappointments.

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But It Just May Be a Lunatic You’re Looking For

Friday, December 24th, 2010

So those of you who have been in therapy, do you ever look back on that experience and wonder if the therapist thought you were crazy? Or maybe diagnosed you with something really debilitating or awful, even if it was just to get your lousy insurance company to pay although – let’s be frank here – that’s probably just rationalization. I mean, if someone was secretly treating you for antisocial behavior disorder or any of the behavior disorders (famous for their doomsday-like prognosis: there ain’t no pill that will stop you from being a narcissist) then they probably actually thought you had said disorder and their reasons for not sharing your own fate with you run the gamut from protecting you from certain despair to plain old ‘just another not very good therapist.’

I have no idea what this is.

I remember I saw a therapist  just one time – before it became clear that my insurance would NOT pay for her and I was 100% on the line for her outrageous $226 ‘first meeting’ charge, which I paid in small $20 doses even though I technically could have afforded to do it all at once. It was the principle of the thing. And a misguided hope that she would drop the remainder of the bill out of guilt or a sense of not wanting to rip off some nice girl who truly got nothing out of that hour except a giant, unexpected  invoice and what I’m about to tell you.

So anyway, at some point near the end of our brief, but pricey meeting she announces that she had decided I was suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), an off-the-cuff and likely worthless diagnosis that made me proud. I have no idea why. I guess because it indicates I’m a survivor. Or someone who did three tours in Nam. I mean, you have to be tough to have PTSD and not be a heroin addict, right? Oh, and it’s fixable, or so I’ve heard. So all in all, I was okay with the prognosis. It was a badge of honor, even. A pat on the back, and a “Better luck next time. You’ve survived your life thus far. Sure, you’re messed up, but you’re still among the living. Hey, at least you’re not schizophrenic.”

That stated. this morning, for reasons unknown, I found myself thinking about this other lady I saw for about six months. She was the only therapist in town that my insurance would be pay for (seriously) and for the hassle, the co-pay was nothing. It was $5.00 a session to see her, and the first five or ten or so were free. As with most things in life, it was a ‘you get what you pay for’ situation. In hindsight (and even at the time), she wasn’t much of a therapist, and she seemed almost impressed with me. I think most traditional therapies ascribe to the school of coping equals wellness, meaning as long as you’re more or less going along without any major blips or addictions or other acting out, then you’re doing well. The whole goal is to get you to cope, and the buck more or less stops there: continue coping for the rest of your life and consider it a job well done.

I wonder if this plate is available in the state of Washington?

So truth be told, and if you haven’t already surmised as much, I didn’t have much respect for the woman nor did I think she was helpful in any real way (and later she developed an intense jealousy of my hypnotherapist and even questioned why I kept coming to her for these talk-only sessions and forced me to reveal that it was a) because I liked talking about myself and b) it was cheap. For $5, I can’t even get a friend to listen to me for ten minutes uninterrupted.) So anyway, the woman (whose name I honestly can’t remember. Let’s call her Pam. It may have been Pam, but I”n not sure. Perhaps it started with a P? I recall her face, so it’s weird to me that I can’t remember even her first name.) had had a lengthy career working with patients with borderline personality disorder. For those of you who aren’t familiar, borderline personality disorder is a condition in which a person makes impulsive actions, and has an unstable mood and chaotic relationships.

As for symptoms:

Relationships with others are intense and unstable. They swing wildly from love to hate and back again. People with BPD will frantically try to avoid real or imagined abandonment.

BPD patients may also be uncertain about their identity or self-image. They tend to see things in terms of extremes, either all good or all bad. They also typically view themselves as victims of circumstance and take little responsibility for themselves or their problems.

Other symptoms include:

  • Feelings of emptiness and boredom
  • Frequent displays of inappropriate anger
  • Impulsiveness with money, substance abuse, sexual relationships, binge eating, or shoplifting
  • Intolerance of being alone
  • Recurrent acts of crisis such as wrist cutting, overdosing, or self-injury (such as cutting)

Books on dealing with these folks have uplifiting titles like “When Hope is Not Enough,” “I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me,” and “Sometimes I Act Crazy.” Needless to say, it’s a wild ride, and probably not a very fun one. On a related note, I’ve been trying (in vain) to remember the name of this book the person we’re calling Pam gave me because I think I was hoping to see if if the methodology within (best described as Buddhist awareness) was the common treatment for some kind of dreadful mental problem that she suspected I had but never had the nerve to tell me. But then again, at the same time, I suppose worrying that you’re crazy is the first clue that you’re probably sane (or sane enough), as most crazy people rarely stop to take note that the voices in their head aren’t actually coming out of anyone’s mouth.

Just so you know I still care.

In other semi-relevant news, about a month ago (during the early stages of my four week-long sickness which is FINALLY more or less over) I had a couple glasses of wine and took half an Ambien and apparently got out of bed not once, not twice, but THREE times, the third of which I was found staring out the windows and muttering about how “they’re here.”

Very Poltergeist of me, no?

You hear these horror stories about Ambien (leaving your home, driving down the wrong side of the highway, or – worst of all – consuming thousands of calories and not remembering a single bite of the dry cake mix, beef jerky, raw eggs and shells, and two pounds of macadamia nut binge) and the first time I took it I was so wigged out that I put a chair in front of the hotel room door before going to bed in the hopes that I wouldn’t be able to get out of the room in the night and inadvertently become the lead story on the ten o’clock news.

To explain, I only have the stuff because when I used to travel East for work, I’d have a hell of time adjusting my sleep schedule, so I’d finally calm down and doze off around 4am, and then have to be up at 6am and work all day, and after about three days of this, I was more or less hallucinating.

Native Americans and their damned descriptive naming...

Enter a now five-year old prescription of Ambien that still has about twelve pills and is maybe used once a year. Also, it’s the old school kind (not the continuous release) associated with all the bizarre and unpredictable sleepwalking-plus behavior. It kind of brings to mind an idea for an experiment where maybe I’d booze it up and then take an Ambien and fill my place with motion sensor cameras and see what kind of trouble I get into? That could make an interesting reality show, at least in theory.

Finally, I do feel rather badly about neglecting the hell out of this blog (and you!) and have no real excuses minus my lingering illness and overall lack of riveting content, but presuming you’re okay with lengthy and pointless musings on whether or not a therapist I saw three or four years ago secretly thought I was insane, then I promise to provide much more regular, but still totally worthless, updates.

In fact, my intentions are so strong that I will come through on this promise that I’m not even going to wish you a Merry Christmas in the hopes that  I an conjure up some more cheerful, holiday-appropriate content and share it with you again then.

p.s.

But just in case, Feliz Navidad.

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