Sunday, April 26, 2015

Don't Fear the Reaper

My ex once told me of this poem he saw on the Muppet Show, but he had the actor wrong. He said it was Vincent Price. I've used the phrase "count them and compel them and quickly dispel them," ever since. 

What amazing thinking goes into such a simple turn of phrase. It uses a few simple words to let us know how to deal with those lurking monsters inside our head. These monster comedy muppets entertain us right into a healthy mindset.

Simply start a list of the little things that get in our way of boldly embracing the magnificent adventure that awaits us. Start with the most recent or the first things you remember. Whatever works best for you. 

I started with my family treating me like a hot potato. I lived with 10 different parent/guardian combinations in 16 different places by the time I reached 17.

As a child, the longest I ever spent in any one place was either the house my parents had after I was born or the trailer my mom had when I was in junior high school. Both places lasted about three years. I lived with my sister Cokie the longest, though my mother "parented" me at the longest stretch. In those six years, she changed husbands three times and had two live in boyfriends. 

I'll stop there and take a really long breath. Counting just people and places nearly exhausted me. I haven't even talked about the violence I survived. I wont this post. It's enough to see the sheer number of conflicting experiences in just one counting book. 

I knew these parts of my story and yet counting them up, just numbering them one by one, puts me on the road to healing. No wonder I stress and feel unsteady when change comes to my adult life. I can handle a move, but I must be extra careful about reminding myself I'll be okay. 

So I've counted my fear experiences. Now, how did I compel them? First, I thought about the situations where I had choices. I'd say my own choices had little influence until I turned 15. With my mother having her breakdown and abandoning me, I could voice my wants and needs. 

My sister Cokie and I chose an apartment near her friends and close to my high school. She had more control over my life and that helped me. Of all my caregivers,  Cokie provided the calmest, most stable living arrangement. Later, when I graduated high school and got accepted to UNLV, my sister and I moved close enough to walk to classes. 

Knowing where I had control and where I didn't, helps me accept the facts of my fears. That feeling of hot potato dissipates. Who *I* truly am has less to do with my family perception and more to do with how I choose to think of myself. 

Counted and compelled, now it's time for some good old fashioned dispelling. I choose MY perspective over my family's story. I claim my right to a consistent, stable adulthood. 

Making "new and interesting" mistakes on my own, while still taking lessons from the past, leads me to feeling powerful. I reject the notion that I deserved erratic, unstable living arrangements. 

Counted and compelled, then quickly dispelled.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Dog and Butterfly

purple butterfly
People tell me that you have to love yourself before you can love someone else. Really? Babies have to wait until they develop consciousness before they can have value? I don't think so.

At some point we have to be willing to let down the drawbridge so others can know our deepest soul, but many kinds of love can shine on us before we are ready for that. Even if we can see ourselves reflected somewhere, often that image gets clouded by perceptions. What if the damage to our psyche broke our ability to adjust focus? What if we're stuck in microscope or telescope mode.

Think of it, all you see is that GIANT zit or a fuzzy far away indistinguishable figure. Up close, the wings of a butterfly have no color. It's only the play of light that shows us their flickering beauty.

I think love shines independent of how we understand it. We don't give back love given to us. We have our own independent light that we choose to shine in the other person's direction. Maybe their light sparks some flame within us, but I'm doubtful that we can "make" someone love us by the amount or intensity of our love for them.

Like light from the sun, love comes from a deep internal process. Also like other stars, the intensity of such brightness may be obscured and or dependent on it's own structure. It might also burn. Different colors of suns produce different kinds of light. Different kinds of love produce different kinds of effects.

We learn about love from practice. It starts as a dependence on parents to feed and provide for our safety. These natural bonds loosen over time. We go out and bond in different ways with people outside our family.

Seems to me that Freud had an interesting perspective on our influences. I don't think he had it EXACTLY right, I think there are choices involved. I made the choice to turn away from some aspects of my family story and embrace others.

People react to our self perception, sure, but they also react to the side of us we cannot see. It requires effort to see our own backside. What about a doctor who looks at our Xray or blood tests? These tell a part of our story too.

I once saw a huge moth against a wall. It's monochromatic four inch wing span entranced me for several minutes. How could nature build something so beautiful out of just two colors? The blend of dark and light built a pattern that begged to be seen.

We can all take steps to calibrate what we understand. We agree that in general, people with sight enjoy looking at butterflies. Not all consensus equals truth, but it's a starting point of reference.

I don't have to know the purpose of the patterns of all of nature. I can trust that its there for a reason. I don't know every aspect of myself, but I trust most of it has to do with survival. The trick is to figure out how to help myself thrive within my perceptions.

We can all use reference and perspective to figure out who we are. We can ask questions and develop our own unique pattern. Some elements, say whether we are made up of shades and light and dark or brilliant refraction of color, may be fixed. We can learn to accept whatever form of beauty we possess.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Stuck On You

Life sometimes skids to a halt because of some out of place piece of meaningless fluff. A sticky spot that gums up a smooth running operation.

We then have to stop and figure out where things are hung up. Find a brush and some goo gone and clean out the mess. Then it takes some effort to get back on track.

So too, with our emotional assembly line, must we find the pauses and fix them. Overcoming can either run a few seconds of positive self talk or a few weeks of backtrack and sorting. Remember that I am working on a book about wallowing in self pity for an entire month? That gummed up state came from a massive gob of junk.

I've come to realize that this kind of journey has to go at a pace uniqute to ourselves. No one experienced the same thing, in the same order or with the same people.

I choose the images and methods that work best for my heart. I used to be stuck on what I felt was right for most. While I still feel there are some themes that can be shared, I can't know what worked for me will work for you.

Heck, I can't even say that some things that worked for me in the past will keep working. My tastes in clothing, food and relationships have changed. Why wouldn't my taste in emotional solutions change too?

And lets not forget that we don't always know the true nature of the sticking point. We get out the tools of positive reinforcement when what we need to do is to let our heart grieve for a while.

Assess the sticking point, estimate the time, energy and resources needed for a solution, then take action. Give yourself some time to get back to normal operations. If it helps you, document these steps.

I like to use this blog. Many times, I start with one premise and end up writing about something completely different. I'm my own guru. I don't always know what that guru is gonna say or do. I find that a great source of amusement.

Amusing myself often brings a lightness that speeds my recovery. Laughing through stuck spots might be all the cleaning they need.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Hold On

Barbara Sher says we're all a genius at being ourselves. And that we are talented at what we love. Just recently, I've come to listen to a bunch of Malcolm Gladwell speeches and he says the same thing. He studied a bunch of people with dyslexia and other so called disadvantages and found some people turn these deficits into strengths.

There's something profound going on with all this. That thing that spirals one person into despair can provide a springboard to personal greatness. 

I pay attention to ideas like Adverse Childhood Experience tests and intelligence assessments and try to figure out what that thing is between me and someone else. Why have I managed to build an amazing awesome sense of love within my heart? Why can I pick a loving husband when I came from a family that actively pushed me aside? 

One article on adverse childhood experience suggested that resilience experiences might help an adult child sort through their pain in a different way. I can certainly say that having an absent, yet deeply loving father helped me a lot. Also that the primary abusers, though parental in nature, weren't biologically related to me. 

What if all it takes is a willingness to accept the reality of experience and then a desire to challenge the perception? What if it's all about holding on through the rough patches? 

As a survivor of abuse, some of us develop post traumatic stress. What if, like our personal genius through adversity, PTSD is also a genius strategy? Maybe it's a handrail. A creative, colorful source of stability we cling to in rough seas? 

I know that I consider everything that has ever happened to me a gift. I am who I am not despite what happened, but because of it. The world NEEDS people like me so others don't have to keep living in a darkened pain. I have some light and a handrail. 

We all deserve a sense of belonging. I belong. At the very least to me.