awareness · balance · overwhelm

A Hole in the Sidewalk

9.7.18.jpgThere’s a parable I’ve heard (which appears to be a longer poem) that goes something like this:

Life in 4 Chapters:

1. I walk down a street and fall into a hole.

2. I walk down the street, see the hole, and fall into it anyway.

3. I walk down the street, see the hole, and walk around it.

4. I take a different street.

The message remains clear: even if you see a pitfall, that doesn’t always mean you’re able to avoid it.

I have fallen down a hole.

When I worked at a non-profit several years ago, I would often sit in staff meetings, taking notes as was my job, and listen as the folks with higher roles discussed what was upcoming and what needed doing.  In these meetings, I observed one person repeatedly taking on multiple roles.  This person was already in charge of a whole host of things, but what would happen would be a task would come up for someone to take ownership of, and there would be crickets.

In those crickets, it was a two-fold happening: this person was now expected to jump in to take that task on and they would jump in to take that task on!

It became a bit of chicken and egg: Were people stepping back because they knew this person would step forward, or was this person stepping forward and then everyone would step back?

In either case, the result was that at the end of each meeting, the list of tasks for this person was egregiously longer than the list of tasks for everyone else.

And this person was harried, stressed, and a bit manic all the time!

Yesterday at my weekly meeting with my supervisor I realized… I have become that person.

She reflected back to me that, considering my Type A personality wanting things just so, I have begun to take them on.  Further, people in discussions of who can do what now throw my name in the hat because … I take them on!

UGH!  I have become the harried, stressed, manic woman!!!

It’s a bit ironic to me, as someone who is a recovering wallflower.  When I was growing up, I had people snide at me, “Don’t you ever talk?” or like the first high school party I ever went to where I kissed a boy and later overheard him say: “She’s cute, but she’s too quiet.”

So you can imagine my own SMH (shakes my head) realization that the wallflower has become a tornado.

During our meeting yesterday, there was more irony — this of the, “You spot it you got it” variety:  there’s a student who has a lot of trouble working together in groups and wants to be the one to present to the class instead of learning as a part of it.  This student raises my hackles.  Sit down, yo, and learn like the rest of them; you’re not better.  Learn some humility.

As I listened to my boss reflect some of what she was seeing back to me, all I could see was this student: chiming in, making “suggestions” which were really orders!

Dude. No wonder I’m not sleeping well … again.

I used to view my old coworker as a glutton for punishment.  If that person would just step back instead of step up, they would have a little more breathing room, a little more time to not be a whirling dervish.

Oh god, that I am a dervish now.  And apparently, I’m not the only one who sees it.

Before it becomes too ingrained, my boss suggested that I practice, basically, letting things go — and saying, No.

Just after that meeting, someone asked me to lead something, someone else wanted to have a “standing meeting” while I was running to class, and someone else asked me to share a resource with them that was accessible to them without my having to do anything.

So: I said no to leading the thing (though I suspect that it actually really is something that belongs to me — still learning); I told the standing meeting person that I wasn’t available right then (though they told me the synopsis anyway as my hand was on the doorknob out of the room, and I repeated I couldn’t hear that right then, and they gave me a grimace/smile, because hearing No can be hard when all you’ve heard is Yes from me); and the person who asked me for the resource, I told them how to find it themselves, instead of what I had started to say which was that I would find it and share it with them.

Va voy.  3 people in 30 minutes asking me to take things on.  If it were 3 hours before, would I have said yes?  Probably.

My attempts at stepping back are bound to be awkward and graceless.  I will probably push back at places where I need to say yes and say yes where I need to say no.

But I am pretty sure (hopeful?) that one day, I will find the balance and presence of mind and humility and stability to take another darn street.

 

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awareness · finance · money

Cashing In.

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In a series of exceedingly sexy tasks during my Spring Break last week, I took my car in for its 100K service, went to the dentist, and, later in the week, went to the periodontist (gum guy).  (I also got a hair cut, a wax, and a pedicure, so, you know, sexy.)

At the visit with the periodontist, I told him that my last dentist referred me to one, whom I’d seen about 2 years ago, and he was extremely intent that I needed near-immediate gum surgery to restore/delay (slight) gum recession on my two lower teeth.

Well, gum guy, how much will this run me?  Well, with your dental insurance, it will cost about $2,400.  Ah huh.  Okay, well, thanks for the intel, I’ll start saving up and when I have that amount, I’ll come on back.

And so it’s been.  I began saving a little a month toward that surgery in a Capital One savings account until I paused last Fall when I changed jobs.  I didn’t know what my new benefits would cover, and now I had an FSA account through work, so let’s just keep that $1,100 in savings and wait til I’m ready.

In December, I figured I was, called up that periodontist to schedule the surgery… and then had one of my financial ladies monthly meetings.  I told them about the upcoming surgery and how I was going to split the 2 teeth over the change of the calendar year so that my dental benefits would cover more.

No! one declared, eyes wide.  She’d had that surgery and it was an incredible amount of recovery time, there’s no way I could do it on a Friday and go up to the mountains on Saturday for New Year’s.

Ugh, really?  Yeah, it’s best to do them both at once.

Okay, so I cancelled that appointment (had a great time in Tahoe), and considered that I would do the surgery over my summer break.

Well, I switched dentists and saw this one for the first time last week.  With her fingers in my mouth, she was saying that their periodontist was great and that the gum surgery wasn’t traumatic.

Not traumatic? I replied, aghast. They tear a chunk out of the roof of your mouth and staple it to your gums!

No, no, she said.  We don’t really do that anymore.  Our guy has different techniques now.  You should see him.  And so I did, last Friday.

This guy agreed that the old way was barbaric and awful to heal, so they have a new procedure (using cadaver tissue…) that is much less invasive and much easier to heal.  He also said that, yeah, I could do the surgery, but it certainly wasn’t imminent and we will do a “watch and wait” and I’ll come back in the Fall.

Hm… okay, well, how much would this one cost anyway?  About the same.

Okay, so my FSA this school-calendar year all went to therapy (oy), so I’ll have to wait for it to re-up in August, so it won’t be until next summer when I do the surgery if I do it at all.

So… what do I do with this $1,100 that’s been sitting in savings?

WELL (and here’s my whole point!), in a blog post or many to come, I will describe to you the mind-altering/shattering revelation of J’s explaining “inflation” to me last Saturday.  It has exPLOded my brain to realize that the happy-joy-joy I receive from adding $.07 to my Dental Savings each month is a growth-rate that is FAR BELOW INFLATION, so that what looks like $1100 today will go way less far next Summer.

HOLY. SHIT.

So, in an effort to end this blog quickly and get off to work, I will say this summary:

I did a BLIZZARD of research in the last 4 days, discovered what a CD is, and have moved that dental money into a 12-month CD.  This means that I can’t touch it for a year, but I don’t want or need to, and that my money will make a LEEETLE bit more in interest than in the Capital One account, though it still won’t match inflation.

There’s a lot to come here about all the mind-blowing info I feel like I’m just opening up, but the general idea is this:

I have been saving $$ diligently for years.  I have been so STOKED about those seven cent increases each month.  I have felt adult and pleased and competent.  AND I HAVE BEEN MISSING OUT.

I’m so f’ing excited by this, I have to tell you.  I have opened more accounts in the last 4 days than I have in the last 10 years, and there is more (way more) to come.

Money, work for me better while I sleep, while I drive to work, while I dig plaque from receding gums.

I am f’ing psyched.

 

awareness · connection · fear · growth · love · parenting · risk · self-derision · self-love · vulnerability

parental advice

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Brene Brown talks a lot in her book Daring Greatly about parenting, about how to “dare greatly” in
parenting, which often means allowing yourself to feel, with all uncertainty and unpredictability, the full extent of your love. She talks about
the split-second after noticing her full love for her children the flood of constricting
and panicking thoughts about loss and impermanence and a terrible desire to control. To allow herself to
notice and accept her love so deeply, she’s also acutely aware of how tenuous
life is, and how she cannot protect her offspring from the world.
In the moment of greatest love is the moment of greatest
vulnerability.
She talks about trying to withstand and stand in that moment
of love as long as possible without giving in to the fear of the things we
cannot control.
The kinds of thoughts that enter immediately after hearing,
“You got the role.” God, I hope I don’t fuck it up. Or after “I love you.” Don’t betray me. Or “You’re a great friend.” Am
I doing enough?
Moments of connection are severed by fear when we insulate back inside ourselves around the thought: How can I control this?
We can’t.
In every effort we put forth to expand ourselves, we risk.
In every effort we make to control, we risk those
relationships that have brought us joy, including the one with ourselves. See:
I’ve gained some muscle working out, I better make sure I get to the gym even
more.
I hiked for an hour this week, I really should do that three times a
week.
I loved that novel I read, I should really be reading something
“worthwhile.”
Brown has written that we siphon off the top layer of risk and
innovation and spontaneity when we attach our interpretation of our efforts to
how they’ll be received – I believe this includes the efforts and risks we make
that are private, like those above: How are they received by ourselves?
Are the efforts we put toward joy, spontaneity, pushing our
own envelope supported internally, or hampered by voices of not good enough?
Sometimes both. Sometimes it depends on the minute of the
day.
I can experience the duplicity of knowing my acting is up to
par for this show, but my singing is not.
What I cannot hold is the self-derision that follows that
awareness.
As always, action is the antidote to anxiety and worry.
Voice lessons, music drills. Learning, learning learning.
This is a challenge. A challenge to show up authentically,
even if I don’t like or approve of what that sounds like at the moment. There is
vulnerability in showing up, but if, as happens frequently, I step on my own
efforts and try to hide the greatest risks, I won’t learn, I won’t grow, nor will I have any fun.
There’s a self-reparenting that is happening for me right now.
A re-training. In fact, several days this week, as I’ve sat up out of
bed, voices already chiding me for being sick and not being able to sing, for
not being as good as the others actors – I’ve literally had to stop myself and
insert a new voice, saying aloud – Yes, Moll, I know, and you’re working on it.
You’re doing the best you know how right now, and you are enough.
There is risk in allowing myself the “lenience” of
self-approval. There is the risk of abandoning control and constriction and self-flagellation. There is the risk that things won’t turn out “how I want,” how I want things to be, how
I want myself to be – Can’t you be better at something you’ve never done
before, the voice chides incessantly.
But I want a different reality. A different parenting. I
want to be able to look at myself and my efforts fully, with the full ache of
unknowing and the full pride of risk-taking.
I want to begin modeling this completely uncertain,
vulnerable, pulsating, spark-of-life parental love for myself, because I have
hope that one day I’ll need to employ it with children of my own.
And you can’t give to others what you can’t give yourself. 

awareness · dating · fear · isolation · safety · self-preservation

“I Hate to See You Go, But I…”

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I will never stick around long enough to watch you leave.
Like a forest animal who senses the seismic shift before an earthquake, I will
run to high ground before you even know there’s trouble a’comin. Where’d she
go?
I heard that a lot in my drinking days: Where did you go last night anyway?
I was always leaving. I left because I was antsy or bored or
horny or wasted. I left because I could sense the swell of the evening had
reached its peak, and I don’t stick around for the lull. I left because I knew
you couldn’t give me anything more, and so I went elsewhere to seek it.
It was a different kind of dragon I chased, but one
nonetheless: The perpetually up moment. The height of hilarity and connection.
In relationship, I am becoming aware, I do the same thing.
Because relationships are never “Safety Guaranteed,” I try to figure it out:
Will this “work” / will this not “work?” I will look at the barometer and try
to figure out if we’ve reached our peak, and if it’s time for me to bail.
Before I do, however, I will engage in a lovely sequence of
emotional aerobics: If I am standoffish, will you chase me and thereby prove
you like me, and I’m safe? If I am more attached, will you reciprocate and,
here, prove that you like me, and therefore I am safe?
Somewhere in the distance between initial connection and
“the end,” I have attached my personal safety to this “working” or to my
assurance that it won’t. Either way, certainty, I have believed, will keep me
safe.
And if, through all my calculations, I still cannot devise
whether this will work or not, or if I begin to spidey-sense that your interest in me has reached its apex, I will high-tail it so fast, you
won’t remember the color of my eyes.
What a lonely way of being.
Particularly, because I won’t just leave: in order to
ensure that I am doing the “right”
thing, that I am following our projected course, simply in a truncated fashion,
I will likely nuke the relationship first. This way, I know there will be no
questions, and no “What ifs?” because it’s dead. I killed it. Hard.
And therefore, I am safe. Because I have certainty about
things. About everything.
The horrible variable in this equation is humanity. The
uncertainty principle.
Human relationships are not quantifiable by my fear-brain.
The flaw in it, too, is that I have attached, long ago, my
feeling of safety to assurance in relationships.
I know where this cycle comes from. I know that having a
formative environment that was unstable is not the foundation on which to build
ideas of safety and trust. I know what it feels like to love, and have that
love turn, viciously and swiftly.
And so, I have learned to turn first.
If I can only figure out the exact moment when we’ve reached
our groundswell, I can outrun your abandoning me.
But sometimes, dear self, rain is just rain, and it doesn’t
mean anything more. Sometimes you stay in the shallows while it storms, because
after it passes, you’re witness to god’s great rainbow. Sometimes when you stay
put, you learn how to sway in the storm instead of to rail against it or
crumble beneath it.
I don’t learn these things if I leave first.
I want to. Believe me. In the simplest of encounters, like a
phone call even, I want to be the one gone first. Because then I’m safe.
But, as I posited in “Safety Guanteed(?),” perhaps I can
begin (again) to test the theory that “I am not in control, and I am safe.”
Perhaps I can begin to root my personal sense of safety
somewhere within, instead of without, and then I never have to try to figure
others out, manipulate my behavior, or believe I’ve predicted an end. If I can
seat my personal safety in trust of myself, maybe I’ll become willing to see
what happens when I stick around.
Because maybe the party isn’t over after all. 

abundance · adulthood · awareness · father · fear · scarcity · self-compassion · truth

Thou Shalt…

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I’m always hesitant to share my meditations. Like listening
to someone report their dream, which to the dreamer is a fascinating pursuit,
and to the listener is … not. But. This morning’s meditation was too
illustrative and too relevant to current musings not to report. So, bear with.
“What is blocking me from making this decision around the
play?” Around quitting or staying in it. I can’t even get to a firm decision either way, get a spiritual “hit”
either way – even after conversation, taking an inventory of my fears around it
both ways, and even after regular old “getting quiet” meditation.
So, this morning, I plugged the headphones into my iPod, scrolled to the drumming meant for this type of meditation and went in on a Shamanic Journey to find out what the
heck is going on since the “normal” pathways to clarity are so gummed up.
Standing, in my mind’s eye, at the edge of the cliff that
overlooks all the land that makes up my self (occasionally I’m reminded of Mufasa
showing Simba all the land in Africa that is his domain), I asked the above
question: What is blocking me from making my decision?
Without warning, the sky turned black, the light sucked out
of the land, and a voice stormed, “You have to do this play.” This was no gentle
cosmic answer. This was violent insistence. This was, I don’t care whether
you want to do it or not; you have to.
This, is not my voice. But, apparently, it’s there inside
me, blocking my decisions. I certainly can’t even know whether I want to do the play or not, if there’s a damning demand to do it regardless of my desire. This wasn’t a request, this was
an order. This wasn’t a suggestion, this was a decree.
And if you’ve read me for any period of time, you know that
voice is probably internalized from a parental source of the masculine
variety.
The fear, no, terror,
I felt when everything turned black was so evocative of how I felt as a child,
I’d forgotten what it feels like to feel so small, so unimportant.
On my couch, in my living room, in 2014, I pulled my blanket tight around me
and cowered into the cushions.
There are cases and circumstances when, certainly, we don’t want to do things. As you also know, I hate doing my
dishes. But, I do them. I know I “have to.” I know that as a child, we’re
required to do things that we don’t want to do, because it’s for the good of
the family, the good of your education, the good of your health (who
wants to get a teeth cleaning?). But, this isn’t that.
As I recorded in my journal what occurred during meditation, I wrote what came to mind after it – the counter, the compassionate
response to this demonic, demanding voice: “Molly, You don’t have to do the
play if you don’t want to. There is no wrong decision here: If you do it,
you’ll have more opportunities to do things you love; if you don’t do it,
you’ll have more opportunities to do things you love. This is an abundant
world. Just keep honing your vision and asking for help.”
Because there is no
right or wrong here. But I haven’t been able to get anywhere on this choice because there’s been this internal override preventing me from making it. I can’t know what I want if I don’t think I’m allowed to figure that
out.
This still doesn’t make my decision one way or the other … yet. But, I suspect that identifying, addressing, and removing the block to making
one will help. 

awareness · band · creativity · fun · help · life · music · presence

10 minute blog:

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(I know they say, Only speak if you can improve on the silence, but I felt I wanted to give you something this morning. Time is short due to doing my due diligence. And making up tongue twisters, apparently.)
Yesterday evening, I went to pluck one of the remaining
lemons from the tree in the backyard of our building. In it, I found a robin’s
nest with three sightless, flat and feathered chicks in it. Maws up and open.
I’ve been watching robins on the roof next door to me with
worms in their mouths for a few days now, as I sit here at this kitchen table, writing, typing, breathing. But I never imagined there was life happening right there! The ingenuity of the nest-making was astounding, leaves harvested
long ago, now time-reduced to a lattice outline.
It’s the noticing. The small moments when the chocolate
vegan mousse cake you doubted, actually tastes like gilded decadence. When you decide to send a “hugs”
text to your immediate family, just because it felt like a good idea this
morning. When you go back through old pocket calendars, and read all the quotes
and notes you’ve collected, including this rancorous gem from a rancorous man:
“I’ve gotten to the point where patience is a waste of time.” – or this one, “I
have a hard time taking my sanity temperature.”
For reasons hilarious and unknown to me, I seem to find
myself in my second band with folks who are at least 10 years older than me. I
love this. There’s little of the peacock chest puffing, and more of the genuine
delight in participating in something fun, something that maybe we all wish we
did when we were in high school, but didn’t. At least, I feel that way. And
grateful that I get to do it now, when I’m less likely to vomit vodka tonics on
myself.
Instead, I get to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon holding a
bass in a basement with friends, and come home and feel inspired to take out my
own guitar, and find out what I have to say anyway. 

awareness · community · fatigue · fear · friendship · growth · hope · sharing · the middle way · trust · truth · vulnerability

On Leave.

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The thing about being a good little soldier is that
eventually you suffer battle fatigue.
Over the past two weeks, I’ve had doctors appointments up
the wazoo because of a liver enzyme test that came back extremely elevated.
Granted, it’s the first time they’d ever run this test since I finished chemo
last Spring, but don’t try and tell them that.
In the meantime, I’ve gotten panicky emails from my doctor
to stop drinking alcohol immediately (check), to get another test immediately (check), and
asking if I’ve had my hepatitis vaccines when I was a kid (check).
Being the good little soldier I am, and using the wisdom of
not pushing the panic button, I’ve done pretty well these past two weeks, doing
what I’m told, following up diligently, and trying to follow the new all-organic
diet suggested to me by my naturopath.
This is all well and good not to panic when panic isn’t
prudent. But yesterday I came to see, while reduced to a ball of tears in front
of a friend, that there is a third option between panicking and “soldiering
on.” There’s acknowledgment of my fear.
I told my coworker the other day that I just feel weary – that trying not to freak out is exhausting; that
trying to maintain an emotional equilibrium is hard work.
And underneath that even façade, which also has a thick vein
of veracity, is fear. They can co-exist, but I have to acknowledge that they
both do.
It is activating to have to go through all these tests. It
is not my favorite thing to google “autoimmune hepatitis” (which, we learned, I don’t have). It is even less my favorite thing to contemplate that the reason for
this trouble in the first place is a result of something doctors did to me – despite the rational
fact that they
had to. I had
Leukemia. The cure is chemotherapy. Chemotherapy causes havoc.
I am not freaking
out, but I am concerned. And I am “activated.” It’s hard not to be – I’ve had
legitimate reasons to freak out in the past – but even then, if you were a
reader when I was going through that, you saw that the times I freaked out were few and far between –
and then, they weren’t panics or freak outs, they were the falling-armor
acknowledgments of a real threat to my security and joy.
I was a good soldier then too, but it was also very important to break down sometimes with someone
trustworthy. To acknowledge both sides: Bravery and Vulnerability.
Which are coexistant. The first does not preclude the
second. And I’m pretty sure the second enhances the first.
It was not as if I had some grand easy epiphany about
allowing all of my emotions to be valid. I sat yesterday with a group of
folks, and by the end of our time together, I was leaking silent tears. I
didn’t anticipate to do that, but we create a sacred space together, a place
where it was safe to allow something I didn’t know was happening arise. And
because of that, a friend was able to see my pain, and sit with me while I let
the soldier take a rest, and let the scared and weary and angry woman take a
spin for a while.
I felt better after I acknowledged all that was going on.
And coming to realize in conversation with her that I’d been forcing my
experience into two categories: Panic and Perseverance. Acknowledging fear does
not equate panicking, is what I learned. And it was important, so important,
for me to let some of the rest of my emotions out, besides good humor,
diligence, and perseverance.
Because I believe that without letting some of that pressure
out, without allowing that vulnerability to arise, our capacity for soldiering
is greatly hindered.
What happens is burn-out, instead.
When I only allow validity to one side of my experience, I am
hampering my ability to move forward.
I don’t have to be a crying mess about having to seek out
only organic meat and my fear of the cost and the inconvenience,
and wondering if I’ll have to now be like those people in food addiction
programs who have to carry around heavy-ass glass containers of their own food
to restaurants because they can’t eat anything else and become a burden to
myself and my social life…
but sometimes, at least once(!), I do have to admit that
these are thoughts and emotions that are happening, too.
I’ve never really been a fan of the Buddhist term, “The
Middle Way,” but fan or not, I seem to be learning all about it.