Category Archives: Musings

A completely personal, powerful post. (And some alliteration)

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I think I need therapy.

Also a new job. But it has to be one with health insurance since the Affordable Care Act is about to be gutted, and I’m getting divorced so I don’t have that particular safety net anymore.

I’ve been spoiled for too long, working for the first time in my career for someone who didn’t micromanage daily operations. But, alas, ‘tis no longer so. Not that it’s any one person’s fault, really. It’s the nature of the job. It takes a certain kind of person to not be pressurized by government work.

I’ve been writing about positivity and mental exercises to promote gratitude and all of those lovely idealistic things. And I believe in them, I do. But some days you just want to look your coworkers and your boss in the face and say, “Dude. Really?”

To a certain extent, I can do that, and I’m grateful for it. But it’s draining, and I don’t feel like it should be necessary. I’m too smart for this. I’m burnt out. I’ve been doing the same job with the same hateful, incompetent, complacent people for too long. I’m 37 years old. I still have talent and innovation and passion to invest in my work. And I WANT to.

It won’t happen here.

As for therapy, well … I thought I’d worked through a lot of my codependency issues, but they rear their ugly heads every once in awhile, and I think I might benefit from acknowledging them and getting some assistance. Preferably free assistance. A nice local CoDA meeting, perhaps.

I listened to a Q&A with the comedian Whitney Cummings today, and she addresses codependency in some detail. She refers to herself as a recovering codependent, and she has some great insights.

This probably sounds rather trite to anyone who doesn’t understand exactly what it means, but it isn’t. It’s a real thing. In my case, it’s very much tied to my childhood, my relationships with my parents, my marriage and my sense of self. My sense of reality, in many ways.

In the last 18 months, I’ve done a great deal of work to mitigate its effects. I’m thankful to the people who love me for being patient with my process. But more definitely needs to be done.

I don’t know exactly why this is all cropping up today. There’s something about great, looming, turbulent events that focuses the seemingly small, personal, internal conflicts.

But I think that convergence of what matters most in your own singular existence is, in fact, enormously important. There is very little we can do on the world stage (though not nothing – a subject for a different, near-future post). But there is so much we can do with ourselves.

I’m going to take a week off of work soon. No, let me put that differently. I’m taking a week off of my primary job so that I have an extended period of time to devote to two very important varieties of work:

1) Writing. I want to make a career out of writing. I have always wanted to make a career out of writing, from the first story told to me before I learned how to read on my own.

I am a storyteller. It’s who I am. And I haven’t been telling stories, because I’m so afraid of failing.

I am so afraid. And I will do it anyway. Because that is also who I am.

2) Devoting some very serious time to introspection, to examining my past and my behaviors and the many limiting beliefs I have cultivated and shattering them with a figurative hammer.

I am so very tired of meeting everyone’s expectations but my own. I am a strong and beautiful and intelligent and interesting woman. And I need no one to tell me how to think or what to do or what to be.

I want and need and crave an autonomy that I have never experienced and will not find in the work I am currently pursuing. That has to change. The sooner the better.

I wrote a letter the other day, from my 47-year-old self to me. She sounded calm and happy and wise. I want to be her.

And I don’t want to wait 10 years.

Positive Mental Exercises

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One of the most important things I’ve learned – as I’ve already started discussing on this blog – is that happiness requires a great deal of deliberation. It isn’t an emotion that just occurs once you’ve acquired the right job, the right car, the right life partner, the right friends, the right 401K.

I used to tie the idea of happiness to achievement. But I’ve achieved a lot in my life, and happiness remains often elusive. This has led me at times to assume that I just don’t do happiness well – that I’m somehow hardwired for suffering.

This is probably the number one limiting assumption that I’ve been operating under for nearly 20 years.

I’ve been collecting mental exercises over the past few weeks to help me minimize that kind of thinking. I’ve found two in particular that feel like game changers to me.

1) Replace negative thoughts and feelings with a statement of gratitude.

I picked this up initially from an interview with Tony Robbins, who maintains that you can’t feel stress, fear, anger, etc. and gratitude at the same time.

I agree, but I’ve found that I have to make those statements pretty specific. I can’t replace “I’m frustrated with my job” with “I’m grateful I have a paycheck.” Not that I’m ungrateful to be able to pay my bills and keep my dogs in high-end kibble, but it doesn’t address the root of my discontent. Any job would give me a paycheck.

But if I say “I’m grateful for the autonomy and flexibility I have at work, I’m grateful that my boss solicits and values my opinion, I’m grateful I have people on my staff who produce great work with no supervision,” that works.

It requires effort. Sometimes it can feel so much easier to just sink into a miserable train of thought because it doesn’t require work. But in the end, when I come up with something specific for which I can truly be grateful – and that’s possible in almost any situation – it changes my whole outlook, which of course changes my behavior for the better.

2) I came about this one through a different source, but apparently it originates with Oprah, who has at some point in her life and career made this statement: There are only two emotions, love and fear.

I really love this. Tony Robbins (again) talks about how every negative emotion – stress, anger, sadness, etc. – can be tied to the fear of losing something or never having something. It’s a very possessive emotion.

I suspect that every positive emotion can be tied to love (a very giving emotion) in the same way. So, in a sense, that statement appears true.

Regardless of whether you agree, it provides some powerful questions (that I’ve stolen from Tim Ferriss, yet another person I continue to bring up in my writing on self-improvement): “If I assume that statement is true, that there are only two emotions, which one am I feeling right now and how is that affecting my behavior?”

And the obvious follow-on question, the real catalyst for behavioral change, is “if fear is what I’m feeling, how would I react if all I were feeling is love? How can I be more understanding?”

This has been extraordinarily helpful in forcing me to assess my emotions and recognize a pattern of negativity. If I face that fear head on and question just what it is I’m afraid of losing, I will almost always recognize how I would prefer to behave, to be seen. And I will make that choice rather than blindly reacting to events often beyond my control.

I wish I’d discovered this thought process before now – it would have saved me and others a lot of frustration and heartache.

Ironically, when you behave out of a sense of love and understanding, you are less likely to lose what you fear anyway. Fear begets fear – that’s why it’s such a dangerous emotion. And it can make us react in a way that hurts, frustrates and alienates others.

Black Days

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I’ve tried to write two blog posts today, and I’ve given up on both of them. I wanted to write something here daily, but today is dark, and everything I attempt ends up bitter.

I don’t want to be bitter. I want to shine light into the darkness.

But my 2017 started off a bit sadly. And last night I had a dream that I lost one of my dogs in a building that doesn’t even allow dogs. And I assume it’s a metaphor for something I love losing interest in being mine.

And today I had a dark moment that I hope will never return.

This blog isn’t supposed to be a personal diary. But today is not good, and there’s really no point in pretending otherwise.

We all fall on black days.

It will get better. And so will I.

UPDATE: This shook me out of my funk just a little. Poet Adrienne Rich reading her own “What Kind of Times Are These?”

There’s still poetry and art and a 20-year-old girl who used to attempt both. And she’s still much the same, 17 years later. And that’s a comfort.

 

Suffering, Physical & Mental Toughness, and Letting Go of 2016

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I’ve been wanting to start a blog, but – being an imperfect perfectionist – I’ve been putting it off because I wanted to develop exactly the right theme, appearance, content, etc. 

If I keep doing that, it will never happen. I’ve accepted that it will not be perfect, or even perhaps very cohesive in the beginning. It will develop and expand and eventually be organized and useful to other people. And maybe by then I’ll have readers. 🙂

For now, I just need to begin. So …

I am typically a very positive person. But 2016 has been a bit trying, and I haven’t always dealt with it as gracefully as I would like.

As the year comes to a close, I’ve been thinking a lot about suffering and loneliness and physical and mental toughness, about making choices and creating the lives we want for ourselves.

I’ve come to the conclusion that we’re all going to suffer throughout life anyway, so we might as well get REALLY good at it and keep moving. That IS mental toughness – becoming adept at suffering and still doing what you have to do.

This was driven home to me by a quote, featured in Tim Ferriss‘ new book Tools of Titans (I think – I haven’t actually gotten the book yet; I’ve just been reading about it.) From World’s Toughest Mudder champion Amelia Boone:

“I’m not the strongest. I’m not the fastest. But I’m really good at suffering.”

It’s a lesson I definitely learned from my mother in various ways – both in direct conversation and by observing her example. No one I know is better at suffering. It’s helped me maneuver through a great many disappointments in my life without losing hope or becoming too cynical to endure.

I think it’s a lesson we need to continue allowing our children to learn, despite a wholly natural desire to protect them from disappointment. (Easy for me to say, I suppose, since I don’t actually have any.)

As for physical toughness – well, after about 10 years of staggering sloth, physical toughness has proven to be actually rather easy for me. I just keep going to fitness classes that kick my ass every day. Or randomly running race distances I’m not accustomed to (because I’m stubborn and I know that once I start, I won’t stop until I’ve finished. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. Which is another form of mental toughness, maybe.)

And it hurts. Sometimes a lot. I’ve had days where I can barely crawl out of bed because I’m so sore from a previous day’s workout. But I’ve actually come to crave that feeling. I’m not masochistic. I’ve learned (finally) that physical suffering is making me stronger.

I don’t think I felt like that at the start of this year. I used to resist that philosophy  of “no pain, no gain” with every fiber of my being.

So, if I’ve gained nothing else in 2016 (and in truth, I’ve gained a lot, even if it isn’t necessarily what I wanted), I’m a stronger person in every way.

One of my goals for the new year is to stop resisting. Suffering will happen, to all of us, at every stage of life. The most graceful and beneficial way to deal with it is to accept it, learn, keep moving, and embrace the strength it brings.