action · avoidance · progress

Eating Frogs.

4.21.18

(I was sick yesterday, so this is Friday’s blog!)  

With the last meditation challenge complete, I’m re-listening to the 21-day audio meditation Manifesting True Success from Oprah and Deepak.  Yesterday’s was focused on “T” in the acronym SMART: Time.

On the phone with my new goals group this past Sunday, I told them that, while my larger goal is to write a book (details emerging), my relationship with Time must needs be my other focal point for our 6 months together.

“I cram,” I told the ladies.  In the last goals group, I would do all the writing the hour before the call and felt like I didn’t get out of the group all I might have.  Perhaps by writing a little throughout the week, I could have more time to reflect and therefore more time to evolve.

And, wouldn’t you know, the meditation this week was, “Timing for Success.”

I really liked the reference Deepak made to this categorizing of our daily lives:

  • Sleep time: Getting a full night’s restful sleep
  • Physical time: Time to move and let my body be active
  • Focus time: Being alone for a while to concentrate on what matters to me
  • Time in: Time for meditation, prayer, self-reflection
  • Time out: Time to simply be here, and rest into existence (How do you like that phrase?!)
  • Play time: Time to have fun and enjoy myself
  • Connecting time: Intimate private time between me and those I care about.

What strikes me immediately, and pointed out by my therapist many months ago, is that I make little time for Play.  What happens in that structure is that I avoid or procrastinate Focus time (and Physical time) because I feel deprived:

If I haven’t done anything fun or creative, I have less in the well.  If I have less in the well, large tasks become insurmountable.  And so the cycle continues.

“Fun leads to productivity” seems like a strange concept, but for the deprivation addict that I am/have been, it’s key.  Because the reverse is true, too: “Productivity leads to fun.”  If I don’t put off what must be done, then I don’t feel guilty doing something fun.

When I feel guilty, I procrastinate even my fun!  It’s a terrible cycle.  So I have to shift to feeding all the parts of my day, and therefore myself.  If I want to focus more, I have to play more.  If I want to play more, I actually have to focus!

“Eat the frog first,” as they say.

With the new goals group, I hope to have a bit more accountability for my time—for my play time and therefore my accomplishy time.

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addiction · avoidance · health

Bridge and Tunnel

3.27.18

Game of Thrones has eaten my imagination.  You’re probably as tired of hearing about it as I am of reading it.  It’s 5,000 pages of binge.  Even a weekend spent devouring Stranger Things is a shorter time suck!

I bring it up because I notice that my blog post from yesterday was half-assed and scant, but it was also all I had.  I didn’t have much to reflect, relate, or realize because all of my brain cells have been consumed by dragons.

I listen to the audio-book on the way to work; I listen to it on the way home; I listen while I’m organizing my classroom and read the book between classes.  I read it at the breakfast table on weekends.  I read it for 3 hours on the couch every afternoon.

This means that there’s no room or time or breadth for any other thoughts.  Nothing of my own imagination or realization, no time to reflect on anything, no room to plan or make progress on anything… The series has eaten my life.

Before I began these obliviating books, I had a structure for my commute:  Listen to The Success Principles on Hoopla on my drive in and Anna Karenina on my way home.  (I’d tired of NPR, even delightful Kai Ryssdal, and music can be too noisy after a day of children.)

But Karenina grew burdensome and I was enjoying GoT, so I paid for the audiobook and began listening on the way home… then on the way in.  Then during my breaks, moments of pause, moments of zen… now unzenlike.

I reflect on this today because the new meditation challenge from Oprah and Deepak is about “Shedding the Weight,” about using food to drown our feelings or thoughts.  While I don’t generally suffer from overeating, I can assure you that having spent the previous month on the couch after work for 3 hours every day has done nothing for my level of physical energy or esteem around my body.  I am drowning in words.

Sometimes, it’s important for me to “dig to the bottom” of my self-harming behaviors, to really get to the root and suss out what’s going on.  I don’t think this is one of them.  Whether I’m using words to drown out feelings from my self-inquiry work, shame around delayed work-work (e.g. grading papers), mourning my relationship, discomfort from my living situation as my ex- still lives here, or simple avoidance of any number of projects I have in the pipeline…

It does not matter!  It is likely all of those, and a host of other sh*t.  But the point for me, the action, the antidote remains the same: Get back to my positive habits!  GET SOME NEW INPUT.

Listen to The Success Principles.  Use my commute home to start recording songs, as I’d promised my Goals Group.  Use my gym membership.  WALK in the afternoons now that it’s light out.  Listen to The Year of Yes.

Find more nourishing input.

GoT is fine; it is.  (It’s pretty brilliant world-building…and clearly engaging!)  But it’s also junk food for me.  I’ve been binging and drowning and crowding out all other awareness.  And it’s time to chain it up between the hours of 8pm and 830pm as I tuck into bed, like a normal, literate person.  (Please dear god amen.)

(Yes, I go to bed at 830; I wake up at 445 to do all this!);)

 

acting · action · avoidance · community · fear · perseverance · self-compassion · self-derision · theater

How to Eat an Elephant.

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Thank you, to whoever read my blog Perseverance yesterday, which encouraged me to read it, which I’m
sure I haven’t done since I wrote it in November 2012. Particularly appropriate
today is the following:
With each creative endeavor, as you
know by now, I pull back at some point. Painting, acting, writing, singing. I
will spend a few months active in pursuance of these interests, and then wane.
I will talk myself back from it, in any number of ways, and move back into my
mediocrity.
Yesterday, I showed up for two theater auditions. At the
first, I sang a bit of a song (“Whatever Lola Wants,” from Damn Yankees) and a bit of a monologue (Sherry Johnson, from The
Laramie Project
).
It was the first time I’ve auditioned for a musical since
high school; I only just heard the whole song on Monday; and I’d never
practiced it with an accompanist before. Let’s just say, I could have done
better!
(However, I’m “lucky” enough to have already had several
auditions where I really bombed, where I
said, “I’m so sorry can I start again…” three times! So I know what
really bombing is! And I survived.)
At the second audition yesterday, for… The Addams Family,
A Musical
(HAHAH!!!), I was to prepare only
a song, and I sang the same one, this time a little better. But.
There’s a moment in the song, where it hits a high note.
It’s one that this whole week I’ve been nervous about hitting, not because I
can’t, but because I can’t when I’m holding back. It’s not an unattainable
note at all: it’s one I can’t reach when I’m nervous about it, scared I can’t hit it,
and am psyching myself out, even as I come to that line.
Then I can’t hit that
note. And that’s precisely what happened at yesterday’s audition.
And the paragraph from my blog Perseverance is achingly on point. “I talk myself back from it.”
That’s exactly what happened.
Now, granted, I’m pretty proud of how I handled everything
yesterday, too.
After my first audition, I immediately called a member of
Team Molly, and laughed really hard
about how I bombed it. The silence of the auditors, the awkwardness, the sad
case of the whole thing – I
laughed.
Because, really, what else can you do? It’s over, it’s done. I can get all
butthurt and self-flagellating, or I can ask myself what I learned from the
experience.
Which is what I did. I asked it aloud, so as not to give in to
the brain gremlins on my drive home: What did I learn?
Well, I learned that I need to practice my songs with accompaniment. I learned that I need to know my songs much better and stronger than one week. And I learned that I really do need to
take classes or lessons, if I’m serious about doing this. Which I am.
As with the “real” headshots I finally got done early this year, if
I’m really serious about making a go of this, then I have to literally put my
money (and energy) where my mouth is. I have to invest in myself.
It’s all well and good to show up partly prepared to these
things, and see what kind of results I get. Sure. That’s totally one way to do
this. But. That’s not at all what I want. I don’t want to feel I gave it a
mediocre chance.
No matter what the results, I really do want to try my best, and this is not at all my best.
This is lip service.
Nonetheless. As the first line of my morning pages said this
morning, “I did really well because I showed up anyway!!”
I also supported myself throughout the day, instead of falling into despair or
hopelessness, which would be really easy. And which would look like coming home
to a pint of ice cream and 8 hours of Netflix.
Instead, I drove back to the Bay, went grocery shopping, and went to meet
up with friends for an hour to hear their brain dump, and share a little of
mine.
And then I went to the second audition.
After which, I created plans for myself so that I didn’t
come home and isolate. I made plans with a friend to get out of both our comfort
zones and go to this poetry open mic thing that happens monthly nearby. Neither
of us were going to read, but just to go to check it out. Try something new.
And not be alone in our heads.
It totally worked. I set up for myself stop-gaps for my racing
thoughts, for my “not good enough” thoughts. I got into the day and out of
myself. And what all of this does is allows me to show up again next time.
Because who wants to show up again for something that you tell yourself you
sucked at?
Instead, I showed up again, and I will endeavor to support
myself with a steadfast vision by taking classes and making sure that I don’t
have to feel so psyched out and unprepared next time.
And, just so’s you know. I got called back to the Addam’s
Family audition, anyway. 😉 Wish me luck!… No, forget luck. Wish me love. 

amends · avoidance · change · father · fear · healing · health · isolation · relationships · self-support · truth

Excising a Lily-Liver

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As part of my personal work, I am called to amend
relationships in my life that are in need of clarity and repair.
As part of that work, I broke down my list of these people
into three categories: People I fall out of touch with; Men I intrigue with;
and My dad.
I’ve begun the work on those I’ve fallen out of touch with –
it’s usually out of a habitual belief that I’m not good enough to show up for
relationships and I self-prophesize that by allowing relationships that I value
fall away. These are relatively easy to repair, and by doing so, I get to
challenge these false and long-held beliefs by being consistent, responsible, and focused on the truth.
Amending my relationships with the second set of humans is
more … well, I was going to say more difficult, but it’s not more “difficult,”
it’s just harder because I have more invested in those. If you don’t know what
intriguing is, it’s those little flirtations, vaguely flirtatious texts or
conversations, or over-active “likings” of someone else’s Facebook page in a “winking” kinda way. It’s, for
me, engaging in flirtatious behavior with people I don’t want to go any further
with, and sometimes with people I have no interest in, but who I know I can reach out
to when my self-esteem meter is low for a little infusion of “See, I have value:
he wants me,” and a little hit of adrenaline from the oblique exchange.
This is a very old habit. And it’s excruciatingly unfair to
both the men and to myself, especially any of those who think there’s still a
shot. It’s unfair to me, because I continue to feed the delusion that my
self-esteem comes from others, and to crowd the field of actual potential
partners with distractions – albeit often very handsome, talented and
hilarious distractions.
Since the time that I wrote down the half dozen or so names
of those with whom I was actively engaging in this behavior, about half have
simply fallen away through circumstance and lack of my engaging. They’re
intrigues, not relationships usually, so they don’t require some big
conversation like, “Hey, I’m trying to be more clear in my relationships, and I
just want to say that I really appreciate you as a friend, and that I see us just being friends in the future.”
The funny thing about saying this is that, when I’ve given that speech in the past, usually the response is, “Yeah, totally! I don’t even know what
you’re talking about.” Which is fine. I
love you and your egos, and I will help preserve them too; I’m not here to bust
your balls. I’m just here to offer us both some clarity and let us both off the
carousel of “Will we/Won’t we” so that we can get on with our lives.
But. For some of the people on my current list, that
conversation is necessary, and in a truncated, “light” version, I
had that talk with one of these men recently. And the backlash from it was … well,
people don’t like when you change the rules in the middle of the game. And I’m
having to show up for the fall-out of that, even though I just want to avoid
it. I participated in the game, I should participate in the dénouement.—Oh, but
how much easier to Cut & Run!! Oh, old M.O., how I love you! … and miss you.
Because I don’t really do or want to do that anymore. See:
first subset of humans: retracting from relationships because I don’t believe I
can show up.
It’s the same underlying belief in this second category. 
More will be revealed, and I have some writing to do and a conversation to have
with some for whom I’ve changed the rules. It’s not comfortable, but neither
is predicating a relationship on false hope.
The final category, I see now, has its foundation in the
self-same belief that I can’t show up for relationships. In this case, with my
dad, I’m being asked to be honest with him in a way that frightens the shit out
of me.
I would LOVE to lie,
avoid, detach, retreat, and retract. But each and every day since the
invitation to his wedding came in over the phone, I’ve been called to take a
different course. Because, I
have been using the above mechanisms for how to
manage this relationship. I’ve
been
detached and retracted, and avoidant. And, much like with the men, I’ve created a
game that I don’t want to play. One in which my dad thinks I want or can have a
relationship with him.
To tangent:
This morning, I will get an ultrasound of my liver to confirm or disconfirm cirrhosis. About
two months ago, my liver enzymes came up elevated, and although I simply think
it’s my body’s reparation from 6 months of chemo a bit more than a year ago, I
am also very aware that in Chinese medicine, the liver is the seat of anger.
And two months ago, I was very angry. For a long time. And this dad stuff only
serves to aggravate it.
I was at my therapist’s last Wednesday, and I told her that
I would really love to be able to forgive him, but I am not able to do that.
I’m terrified that my lack of forgiveness for him is perpetuating the problems
in my life, and creating holes in the foundation of my life and relationships
and happiness — and my health.
I told her, it’s astonishing to me that I can have
forgiveness for my rapists, but not have any for him. Compassion, I have in
crateloads. I know how this person came to be, and it’s a sad state of affairs.
But, no matter what modes of self repair I try, I can’t find my way to
forgiving him, and I feel that I need to
in order to move on with my life.
She said something critically important: You can’t
manufacture forgiveness.
If I’m not there, then I’m not there.
“But what about that he’s getting older, and what if he dies
and this is unresolved?”
You can’t manufacture forgiveness.
I can’t bully or force myself into a feeling that I don’t
have. She said that I have some word she couldn’t place that indicates deep disappointment. And betrayal. And this is true.
And I would love to “get over it.” But I’m not there yet,
and beating myself up for not being at a place where I’m not doesn’t help me
get there quicker.
I honestly don’t know if I’ll get to this place this
lifetime. The very last time I was vulnerable to him and depended on him, he
used it as a later opportunity to shame me for not being the daughter he wants. This
is a Catch-22 relationship.
But. It’s not.
The catch is that I have to be willing to show up with my
truth, which, like my friends and like those men, is that I don’t like who I’m
being in this relationship, and it’s harming me. I don’t like to show up in a
falsetto range “happy” conversation with him, when that’s not at all true for
me, and so I avoid the conversations. But, he’s pressing now, and there’s a
deadline.
The truth will out, as Shakespeare wrote. The work on my part
will be to get ready to deliver it. To get ready by remembering I’m acting in
an esteemable way by showing up for my part of the relationship. I’m also
working on steadying myself for the fallout, of which I anticipate there will
be much.
Again, people don’t like when you change the rules in the
middle of the game.
But this was a game I started playing when I was a child.
The rules have changed. It’s time for me
to let the other players know. 

To let them know I’ve stopped playing. 

avoidance · community · connection · disconnection · equanimity · fear · isolation · love · relationships · synchronicity

Independence

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I was driving down to San Jose for the Queen concert the
other night by myself. I was meeting my friends who were coming from the city,
and we decided it was more time efficient if I drove from the East Bay myself.
I drove in traffic, behind, in front of, and next to other
people driving by themselves. No carpool lane for us. And I reflected on how in
this age of disconnection, where people seem to be lamenting the loss of
connection, community, and interdependence, we certainly do like to be alone a
lot.
Or, perhaps “like” is a strong word. We’re enabled in being alone a lot.
I live in a studio apartment alone with my cat. I drive
alone to work because public transportation to my job is not feasible. I can
spend entire days not connecting with another human being. Without hugging
another human being.
And then, like yesterday, I run into one of these human
beings at the farmer’s market, that I went to alone, and get a surprise hug and
get to share a moment of catch-up and a smile. A farmer’s market where I
finally know the bread vendor by name and he knows mine, so we can say hello
properly after a year of my buying the same whole wheat. Where I ran into one of
the families from my work and spoke with her and her son, who was running circles around a
tree again and again, asking me between breaths what I was doing there.
I was invited to go to dinner and the movies last night with two
girlfriends. I could have said, No, I have to pack for my camping trip, which
is so totally true, and imminent right now. And I literally asked myself which
was more important: going to the grocery store before it closed to get organic meat,
or spending time with a woman who’s moving to Nashville in two weeks.
I chose the friends. And I’ll be going to the store once it
opens before we hit the road.
Which is another one of these connection moves I made
recently. An awareness that I had recently: I miss hanging out with groups of
folks. I am great one-on-one with
people. I can talk and gab and get deep. But there’s something for me about
being with a few people that ignites a different side of my personality. I come
alive in a different way. A) it’s usually less intense and deep conversation
when it’s more than one person. But not always. I just like groups of folks.
I’m excellent at big and small talk, and I like people. –Well, some of them,
anyway!
So, I’m at the part in my healing work where I’m to make
amends in relationships that need mending. And this is one of them: recognizing
that I have a deficiency in my social life that affects my joy. And then doing
something about it.
Because of this awareness, I organized this camping trip.
Because of this desire to be with folks,
I am joining some of them to see
The Goonies for $5 movie night at the Paramount next week, and I
asked if we wanted to have dinner beforehand, and I made that reservation for us.
Because, independence is appropriate, as far as it goes. Not
needing people to do for me that which I can do for myself is independence. Not
needing someone to constantly bail me out financially is independence. Not depending on a substance to
make me feel normal or different or a version of “better” that is unattainable,
is independence.
But when it comes to human relationships, I like to strive
(these days, at least) for interdependence.
Not co-dependence, which is
not
the opposite of independence, by the way. But equanimity – a word I only
learned a few years ago, but has been a soft murmur in the back of my head
since then. To me, equanimity means not being emotionally tossed around by
others, and not tossing them around either. It means having boundaries for
myself and allowing others to have theirs. It means
creating, actively trying to build relationships with people
on a basis of trust, mutuality, empathy and shared values.
This is not always easy. In fact, it can get right messy,
and it has, for me in many of them, as we crawl our way out of strict
independence or co-dependence into interdependence. Relationships have
suffered; some have been lost, and others have been strengthened exponentially.
It takes work to give up independence, or, as I’m using it,
isolation.
For right now, I can claim independence from my need to
isolate. Because I am learning how to show up honestly, with boundaries and
without iron walls or punishing.
If I can do that, then there’s no reason not to be in community.
Happy Freedom from Bondage Day, Kids!! – Whatever that looks
like to you. 

avoidance · compassion · connection · family · father · forgiveness · isolation · love · relationships · resentment · self-preservation

Well, Shoot.

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There has been all this heartache in me about wanting my
father to change. To be loving, available, vulnerable and open. I have wanted
this to happen for as long as I can remember, and I’ve held out a resentment
toward him for his inability to do this for that long, too.
I have tried many ways around and through this resentment:
loving kindness, acceptance, letters to god, letters to him I didn’t send,
letters to him I did. Individuation meditations, praying daily for his peace
and happiness, envisioning him as a child… But nothing has moved this boulder of a need.
And I finally realized what the need really is. It is not
that I need my father to change. At this point, it’s that I need him not to.
Because if he did, then I would have to look at being loving, available,
vulnerable and open to him. And this causes trouble, because this is not safe.
So, keeping my resentment toward him has been a circuitous
way to protect myself from my being
vulnerable to
him.
It’s all well and good to want someone to change – but when
faced with the actuality of their transformation, how do we deal with that?
I wish I could tell you that I have overblown the situation,
and he’s kinder than he appears, and being vulnerable to him could maybe, possibly, just-give-it-one-more-try, be a good idea.
But it’s not. Unfortunately, I have enough evidence to support this. Not ancient, you yelled I was a liar during a game of Clue when I was 5. Like,
recent, appallingly turning my vulnerability against me evidence.
So, here’s the thing. I can forgive all of that. I can be willing to forgive it all, anyway. But do I want to change my behavior? Not really.
I’ve spent all this time trying to find my way around the
rock of resentment to get toward connection, but when I look instead at what
the rock is doing for me, not to me, I get to see that maybe it’s been doing the
right thing all along. And this realization is
hard for a person like me.
I have fear that keeping myself separate from him will cause
bile in my soul and in my body, and corrode other relationships. I have fear that by not being vulnerable to
him, I’m going to call down some cosmic retribution and be serially alone. I have fear that I’m not “spiritual”
enough, or evolved enough or recovered enough, or else I’d be able to have him
in my life as a loving and caring adult, both ways ’round.
I have shame that I can’t allow this relationship to flourish.
That I refuse to be the asshole who riles on the ground before him and begs him
to love me. I have been doing that for as long as I can remember, too.
But the thing I always thought I wanted was for him to do
that too. To acknowledge his faults, to claim ownership of his behavior, and to
beg my forgiveness.
What I see now, is that if he actually did, I don’t want to give it – that
forgiveness is a door to love. And with him, love is a door to hurt.
The boulder has been there doing this job all along.
Until I learn a “healthier” way of screening those doors,
they’ll just have to remain shut. 

avoidance · community · connection · courage · disconnection · fear · laughter · life · love · meaning · messiness · purpose · vulnerability

"Scott, if your life had a face, I would punch it. I would punch your life in the face." Scott Pilgrim Vol 4

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As those of you who follow (or haven’t yet hidden) my
Facebook know by now, I’m actively looking for work. I have been, but some dam broke
this week, and I’ve pulled out more of the stops – those stops tend to look
like “fear of looking bad, desperate, needy.” However, SURPRISE! I feel those
things, so I guess if I look that way, then I’m just looking honest, huh?
I’ve been reading back into some of Brene Brown’s work
lately. I have her book The Gifts of Imperfection, and have been reading through the Amazon previews of her other two
books, most especially,
Daring Greatly, because it’s got her own biographical story at the beginning that includes the following exchange: 

      Therapist: What does it [vulnerability] feel like?
      Brene Brown: Like I’m coming out of my skin. Like I need to fix whatever’s happening and make it better.
      Th: And if you can’t?
      BB: Then I feel like punching someone in the face.
Nonetheless, what she goes on to discuss is the virulent necessity to
be vulnerable in order to achieve anything of worth, mainly love, connection,
and compassion.
People have commented to me often that what I write here is “so
honest.” Which I guess is another way of saying I allow myself to be vulnerable
here. Partly I do this because this is a protected forum. There are many layers
to getting here: You have to be my Facebook friend (or somehow have the link),
and then you have to click on it.
Well, two layers
then!
So, this is a bit of a more private club than public. And I
suppose that I feel brave enough to share this all with those of you who have
leaped those two “massive” hurdles toward connection with me. If you’re this
interested, or amused, then why shouldn’t
you get to see some of me? Which this blog always is: some of me. – It’s honest, but it’s
not my diary, nor my therapist. (Aren’t you grateful!)
I suppose that mostly what I feel about sharing here, and why I feel it’s “safe” vulnerability, is that
you’ve probably felt this way, too. I have heard that feedback many times from people from wildly different arenas of my life and backgrounds and
circumstances.
We all feel the same
way at times. Have felt that way, or simply “get” what it feels like to do so.
In short, we are an empathetic and compassionate community
just by my writing and your reading. We create connection, however zero’d and
one’d it is, in this exchange of ideas.
I suppose I write all this today to say– No, to remind myself that
I have great capacity for courage, authenticity and vulnerability. I don’t mind
telling you about the depths because you’ve been there, and can relate. I don’t
mind sharing my journey into and out of the chaos of my brain, because,
surprise, you all have brains, too!
In this time when things for me feel uncertain and
uncharted, this blog is a constant and a place for me where I know that I can do and
be well. Even when I’m vomiting on this page, and raging into and at it, I know
you’re here, smiling, waiting for me to pull through. Or nodding and saying, Me
too.
And. (Point):
If I have the balls to be as vulnerable and honest as I am
here behind these hurdles, then there is a significantly greater chance that I
can own my authenticity out in the “real” world.
Which I’m pretty sure is what all this mind-fucking job/meaning of life search is about, anyway.