Saturday, September 26, 2015

Every Breath You Take

This amazing video talks about the science of our body reacts to stress by flooding us with hormones to take action in a crisis. Some of us who experienced constant trauma tend to over produce these reactions. They go on to talk about how professionals use breathing to control these reactions. People like military and police learn to control their breathing during a stressful incident.

I've mentioned before that one way I get to sleep comes from breathing in on a count of four, holding for two then out on four. I guess I knew it also worked for curbing a panic attack, I just hadn't consciously used breathing for those kinds of things.

I felt "meditation" seemed too close to some kind of faith based activity. I have recently realized that at its core, meditation is simply an exercise in practiced breathing. I'm down with that. Though I think we can do it anywhere, anytime in any position.

So take a breath and clear your mind. Train yourself during moments of calm so that when things are decidedly NOT calm you can remember what it was like.

Evolution trained our bodies to fight or flee danger. It will take time to learn how to redirect these impulses into new self preservation strategies. We must continue to value ourselves during these learning times.

Some of us may have to use medication along with breathing to reverse years of trained reaction. Do whatever makes sense to you and your medical professional. I prefer to explore calming and thinking strategies before going for drug intervention. Keep in mind that only YOU can decide what is best. Please carefully research medication as there are side effects that may detract from their effectiveness.

Just after some breathing, consider making a list of things that create stress strong enough to trigger a panic attack. Write down as many as you can think of and then assign a value to the amount of anxiety each event causes.

For me, going to the doctor is a recent stressor. They do need to do exams to make sure my blood pressure is stable and I don't have a recurrence of cancer. I notice that if I exercise before going to the doctor's office, my pressure is lower and I feel less anxious. So I try and make that part of my plan.

Go over your own list and figure what personal actions will help you through the stress. Some places and even people might need to be avoided for a time. Just until you figure out how to handle them without triggering a panic attack.

Keep calm and remember to breathe. Kind comments welcome

Sunday, September 13, 2015

We Shall Overcome

I survived an awful childhood. In a way, I wear it like a badge of honor. As a brave soldier receives a purple heart, so to I proudly display the purple butterfly medal of distinction. The careful observer notes that a butterfly has a middle that shows it's caterpillar roots. So do I. With my tears and pointless rage I show the tiny little girl who defied the fists, insanity and neglect.

I Macgyvered an adulthood with bits of information and guessing. As others supported my efforts, now I do the same for people who read this blog.

Have I mentioned lately that I use song titles for blog titles? Sometimes it's a pain in the rear to come up with something. A couple of times I've repeated titles and only noticed later. Ah well. Now I go to Youtube and use a few keywords for the topic I'm writing about an almost always find a song title to match.

I've written about things that relate to understanding myself. My feminist ways in You Don't Own Me and Shop Around that talks about finding a loving partner.

I use my life as example on how to survive and thrive while recovering from an abusive childhood. Because self abuse runs rampant among survivors, I gave advice on self care and suicide in posts like: I Got Knocked Down and Suicide Is Painless (It's just a title of the song, I don't think it's painless for the person trying or the people who love them.) In Joy to the World I tried to show how to find happiness even when you're mixed up.

Then in 2013, the year of hell, I started writing about surviving cancer. This so triggered all kinds of feelings of what I deserved and what I survived. What's new PossyCAT tells the story of my facing the CT scan test and Luck Be a Lady Tonight tells of my second surgery. Just as a jump ahead, the surgeon got all my cancer. I do have to checked every year by a dermatologist, but I am okay now.

I'm also writing a book about deciding to take a whole month off and wallow in self pity. I outline the book and chapters in a post I called Paperback Writer. I've written two chapters and most of the way through a third. I love writing and not to brag or nothin, I am actually good at it. Every once in a while I will want to share something with a friend on Facebook and I'll go find a blog post and read it to make sure it's on topic. I forget some of what I've said and I start thinking, "Wow, I really like what this person has to say." Then I realize, that's me. It feels really good and REALLY silly at the same time.

So that's me. This blog is me. Afraid? Sometimes. Awesome too. Kind comments welcome.

Sunday, July 26, 2015


Superheros is one of my favorite songs from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I can't say I'm really a fan of the film itself, but the songs are really interesting. I used this one because it fits the theme I want to talk about.

It's been a recent realization that everything I've thought of as "bad" emotion or a personal flaw in thinking, might actually be a super hero power that I lack instructions on how to use properly.

The idea of a caped crusader not knowing how to use their powers isn't new. And every one of the Guardians of the Galaxy has their own kryptonite and personal failings. None of us are alone in that.

They even produced an entire TV series featuring Ralph, a teacher, who receives a super hero suit complete with cape. Leaving the alien encounter with the box with the suit inside, the instruction book falls to the ground. Ralph then has to figure out the suit all on his own. I especially like one scene where a boy sees him trying to fly and tells him he's not doing it right. "Ya gotta take three steps and put your arms out." It works and Ralph becomes the Greatest American Hero.

We wont be as lucky as Ralph to find an observant kid to guide us. Often the lessons take painful experiences repeated over sometimes generations.

Though I wish it had been a better relationship lesson for her own sake, I did learn from my mother how to use my romantic relationship super power. It comes in a variety of flavors, but goes something like this: Don't marry drunks, don't let anyone beat on you and don't look in places where people do the things you don't like. Mom taught me the lesson by repeating this pattern.

I guess my mother is a great example of a person who never realized her own personal abilities. I'm grateful, I wish she had taught me more so I didn't have to figure a few things on my own. Like I knew to avoid abusive drunks, but it never occurred to me that there were sober assholes out there. That would have been useful information. I'm doubtful she knew that.

So some flaws are fairly easy to see as a power. They even make comic books out of some of them. The Incredible Hulk gets angry and though he ruins his clothes and smashes random things, he usually helps others with his rage.

I feel feelings of my own anger let me know something around me is wrong. Now that wrongness may or may not be solvable, but it's rarely random or arbitrary.

I count my general sense of emotion as one of my super hero powers. That ability to see, emulate and respond to others saved my life. Growing up with erratic caregivers means THEIR emotional state can make my life hellish. I learned to read them enough to avoid them when they were dealing with their own wounds. Such powers are not always effective, but they can be embraced for what they can do.

Take your biggest flaw, the thing that you are afraid people will find out about you. The one that when someone points it out you apologize for. Could it be an untapped ability?

Is there a chance that it exists for a reason and you just haven't figured it out as yet? Think on it, get back to me. I'm going to get a copy of the Greatest American Hero series and have a look at how Ralph sorted his awesomeness.

Thursday, July 9, 2015


I've shared this thought before, but it came back into my mind recently. What if you live in an apartment on the ground floor and a new person moved in above you. Their bedroom is just above your's and each night they take off their shoes and throw them on the floor. The previous tenant did the same thing so you got used to it. You'd hear "clunk" and a few seconds later a second "clunk."

This new person, that you haven't met yet as your schedules are different makes only one clunk. You lay there awake each night waiting for the second sound. You toss and turn, shake your fist at the ceiling and begin to bite your nails. Determined to confront the person driving you crazy, you storm up the stairs, pound on their door and demand they start double clunking.

When they get to the door you happen to glance down and notice they have only one foot. DOH. They're NEVER going to double clunk. It's not part of who they are.

We look at other people all the time and make all kinds of assumptions about them, their habits and their value. It is human nature. Some of us have been so profoundly hurt that we go into the world with our emotional shields up and quickly evaluate those around us for at what level they can hurt us. This coping strategy may be useful in some situations and it may also be keeping us from being calm and finding friends.

Stress hormones can make us sick. Being sick can create stress hormones. This vicious cycle perpetuates when we put energy in at regular intervals. We can choose another way.

I start with awareness. It comforts me to have a leave the house ritual. I check for my house key, my paratransit card or money to pay for a new one, I grab my water on exercise days and lunch if I am going to work.

If I am going to make up what is going to happen in my world outside my house, I decided a while ago that my fantasy is going to be a positive experience. The truth is, none of us ever know what may happen. Mostly nothing. Life, for me at least, is a series of routines. There are four paratransit drivers, there are a handful of gals at my gym and there are work duties that tend to be the same or similar.

When there is a break from these routines, it tends to be a reasonable variation. Work recently had a seminar away from the office. I've been to seminars before so I just pictured what they were like in my mind before this one. I chose an open and curious mental state.

Maybe this all sounds oversimplified, some of us need to break it down like that. I suffer social anxiety, post traumatic stress and a tendency to want to avoid interacting with strangers. At the same time, I love new experiences and meeting new people.

I'm teaching myself to adjust to all that newness with an open heart. So what if the guy upstairs has only one foot. Maybe he's a great person and will teach you things you never even considered. At the very least, you will gain a new sleep routine.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Too Much Time on My Hands

Is it any wonder I'm not insane. Yeah. Been super emotional since I started working at the caregiving place. I think it stresses me to have intimate contact with people I never meet.

Being emotional is one of my most powerful super hero skills. My villainous insides counter balance this with self critical thoughts. Well, THAT'S fucking annoying.

Murry told me he doesn't understand guilt. He means the guilt some of us feel over crying at a sad movie or not being able to handle stress. He seems to think those things are mere characteristics and unworthy of feeling anything about.

Part of me understands him. It's all in the serenity concept. I long to be at ease; accepting and serene. Happenstance had other plans for me.

Nature stuck me with sensitivities to sunlight and emotions. It also gave me a sense of compassion and joy. I also have diverse interests that help me draw conclusions from seemingly different concepts.

I'm a feeler all the way. Guilt isn't a price I have to pay to be me. It's a gift. Sure, I haven't figured out how to use it to my advantage, but it does have some value that I will eventually discover. I can't "not" feel it.

So I guess I'll figure out a way to embrace it. I know I've expressed the thought before. The book, that's it. I haven't been working on the book. I haven't had a good wallow in self pity since December. I'll get on that as soon as I finish this.

Hey, don't deny stuff. It just sneaks up and bites you on the ass. Notice it and give it its space. Give as much as it needs for as long as it needs.

I'm convinced this is a universal truth. Somehow we're meant to explore our hearts like this. Think of it as a major undertaking. Go all the way to the edge and peer over. Leap if that urge comes stronger than the fear.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Jagged Little Pill

I spent the entire month of May trying to sort a problem that I had procrastinated on. Then I procrastinated the weekend away avoiding putting away the debris from that project. I also didn't write anything for this blog.

Watching my mother avoid responsibility made me a person who will work very hard to finish a project that has an outside deadline. I suspect one main reason I did well in school was that external deadline aspect. I didn't want to disappoint teachers.

I don't entirely understand why *I* am not that important to my life. I suppose it's not really that self critical a thing. I can handle only doing so much, I'm not as acutely aware of the edge of my personal "full" limit as I am an edge defined outside myself.

Most people are like me. Even though I do pride myself on self awareness. Things do come fairly easy once I start them.

Part of who I am comes from preparing for the worst outcome. I then use that to sooth myself with estimating the likelihood of that happening and the control I have over that terrible outcome. And I'm all about control.

This view tends to encourage procrastination and avoidance. Why start something if you envision being ridiculed for it?

Today I told someone about my procrastination and they suggested I write about that topic. Whatever works to get me started still has value.

When faced with your own avoidances, start with counting all the other things going on. If it's more than three major projects, give yourself a break. Multitasking starts breaking down past a few to do items on your list.

Second, just do some when you can. You might find that pulls you forward. If not, set it aside for a specific period of time and try again. If that doesn't work for many tries, maybe you REALLY don't want to do that project. Maybe it's time to hand it off if you can or just leave it undone.

Talk to someone else. Maybe they have an idea you hadn't thought of. I honestly despise the notion of giving yourself fake deadlines or commitments. It feels like a double self defeating thought pattern.

Some things I put off are necessary things and I do have to eventually do them. I can usually get them out with the awareness that I'll feel great once they're finished. I can remind myself how much I like the feedback from a blog post or the nice clean smell of fresh laundry.

So I finished this post. Today, it was a chore to do. Next time, I hope it will be a joy. It's okay to be half assed now and then. At least it's done.

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. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I Will Follow Him

I LOVE being in charge. My life experience has shown me that many times the people in a leadership role; parents, teachers and other authority figures lacked the strength to guide me.

As I found my way into different and more diverse tribes, I've been able to let others walk in front. To both follow and trade off that leadership role.

I've heard the phrase, "Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way." Growing up with so much uncertainty seemed to build in me that sense of grab the reigns first. I wonder why that is? I wonder why I picked get out in front? I guess it felt safer.

I once followed a man who started to jay walk across a street. I stopped after he nearly got hit by a car. As I got myself back onto the curb, I told myself to be the decision maker. At least if I was going to be in trouble, I wanted to know how I got there. I felt that was easier to backtrack to where *I* went wrong.

In high school, I instigated adventures and tried to direct the energy of my buddies. During the math class card game, I preferred to have the cards so I could see the question easier.

Though I did like to be part of the group in things like choir or drama class. Partly because I didn't view myself as the most talented and therefor questioned my own right to lead.

As far as getting out of the way, I think we often forget about the value of the bystander. That is not to say that people get a pass for watching bullies prey on the vulnerable, but I see no reason why everyone should be directly involved in leadership or participation following.

Sometimes those outside a group can have an amazing perspective. They can see the whole picture. The art, music or drama critic plays a kind of observational roll that contributes to improvements in quality. I've done that too. I reviewed movies for a blog I've since shut down.

Then there are many things that don't hold my interest, but I've learned little bits of information about. Like cars. I don't know how to work on them, I can't drive anymore and yet I know how they work. I can turn a key or press a pedal to help someone else work on them. I can also reflect insights I've heard others express.

As leader, one must always value the other roles. Without those who participate and those who have an outside perspective, one can easily get off track.

If we conceive of our brain as the CEO of our body, then our cells follow its directives. We also interact with experiences outside of ourselves.

Think about the roles you prefer to play and why. Think about where and when you can go along with someone you respect and where you might just like to sit back and observe. All these positions change over time and within different groups we all do different tasks.

So learn when to lead, follow or be the outside observer. Just don't get between me and the chocolate, or you're going to be sorry.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Lets Hear it for the Boy

Xeni Jardin, one of the co-founders of boingboing commented on a Nerdist podcats that she felt so much deeper about negative comments than positive. This got me to thinking about the power of feedback.

Dr. Phil says that it takes 1000 attaboys to make up for one "you're stupid." What people say to you, especially during vulnerable times, matters. How you record and replay these comments matters too.

I wondered if I could come up with a compliment that could get past all the shit that someone like Ms. Jardin sees? Or anyone. What would it look like? Would it require one thousand words?

A complimentary statement by my favorite teacher contained only a few words and changed me forever. My dad and best friend also helped me see myself in a positive light. These "attagirl" experiences took only a few moments of time and yet brightly lit my path.

Somehow, I managed to spark something with my 10th grade geometry teacher in between classes and we became friendlier than teacher student. I'd gotten this wonderful tiny dictionary and told her how much fun I found it looking up words. She told me that she used to teach English.

Every day, she told me of a word to look up and I would bring her the definition the next day. I even started finding words to tell her about. I found "hugger mugger - scary movie" and she enlightened me about pejorative and it's opposite meliorative.

As I am legally blind, I often took math tests into the visually impaired resource room. As part of the accommodation, most teachers let me take as long as I needed for exams.

One test day, I got the paper and left class. I returned a bit after the bell rang to go to the next subject and handed in my paper. My best friend at the time grumbled that she didn't have time to finish. When we got the tests back, a lot of the other students complained that they didn't have enough time to finish. I had finished and even did the exra credit and ended up with a score of 104.

I don't recall the next highest score, but I think it was 84 or 86. I know it wasn't above 90. After class I went to the teacher and suggested she toss my score out as unusual because I could take extra time.

Ms. Carley told me no. She said, "you're just smart." I mean I knew that I really liked math and it was fair to accept my grade, I did get every question correct, but it didn't ever occur to me that I could be head of the class. My teacher thought more of me than I knew how to think of myself.

So did my dad. While talking to him on the phone I mentioned I attended regular therapy. At first I thought his reaction would hurt me. He raised his voice in annoyance, "Why in the hell do you want to do that!" Taken aback, I almost hung up on him, but I decided to push back and told him I had some stuff to work out.

He took a long pause to think it over and calmly said, "Well, kid, if anyone can work it out, you can." Who knew that my ornery, mixed up father hid ninja parenting skills in his back pocket.

Jess alerted me to how good I am at making lemonade out of lemons. Up until the day she told me this, I'd regarded my 12th birthday party as hellish. I'd invited friends over to go horseback riding and my mother flaked and refused to take us.

I entertained my friends by walking around the neighborhood and going across a busy street for snacks. Jessie's family sheltered her so this was the first time she walked around a strange place. She told me she felt more confident after our little adventure.

I decided the though it was my birthday, the benefit for my friend meant more. I got my gift 20 years late, but so what. It still counts.

A few complimentary words can turn a life around. Think back on the times that someone changed you for the better. Each one of my examples had to feel real to me. How can we all find the honest spark that can show someone how amazing they are?

So here it is, Xeni Jardin: Your calm wit and confidence inspired me to think back about the amazing gifts kind words gave me. I hope that someday you get to find the same holds true for you. Sure, learn from all the feedback AND start letting in the love.

Comments are still broken, so if you want to reply, use twitter or Facebook.

Friday, March 6, 2015

I Got Knocked Down

I came across an idea of Adverse Childhood Experience as a health indicator from a Facebook post by Brene Brown. The test asks 10 questions about what happened before we turned 18. It covers what kind of abuse and neglect we survived.

After I clicked, took the test and read the article, I noticed another reference to the CDC studies below. I like all the interesting charts and graphs with this article better. Plus it spoke about resilience as well as adversity. Have a look here: Got your ACE score?

When I took the test, I answered every question with yes. I survived every kind of abuse and neglect it covered. The first article scored me at 13. I find that a little odd, because there are only 10 questions. I can only guess that I get extra points for yes to all. Kind of like bowling, where you get extra points for the strikes you make in a row.

I got knocked down a lot. Maybe I should change my nickname to bowling pin. My resilience score came up eight out of 14, so I guess that helps mitigate some of the trauma. The most important things that reflect on me come from my dad loving me, doing really well on an IQ test and my favorite high school teacher believing in me.

So my health might suffer some from my past. I can see that. I know that I have given up on the fantasy that I can emotionally handle being skinnier than I am now. I am trying to eat healthier by adding good food, rather than living in deprivation.

We all need to find a way to practice far more radical self awareness. Honor all that has happened and the coping skills we adapted to survive it. I do feel a bit of shame about being fat and that it makes me sick to some degree. I know it helps to love myself and my reactions.

That's all any behaviors are, reactions to stress. So what if my drug of choice is sugar. I need to love my way through just like an alcoholic or heroin addict needs to sort out their life.

I cried when I realized that researchers had studied something I realized a long time ago. I felt so "known."

I wish I felt confident to bring up such things with medical professionals. The sad fact remains that physician training removes compassion from the equation.

I'd like to have a team that coordinates between psychological, medical and nutritional professionals to help me heal. Maybe for others, the punishment model works to push good behavior. Though for me, I prefer encouragement, guidance and a genuine belief in a good outcome.

I see criticism as abandonment. I spent too much of my childhood neglected and pushed aside.

Good healthcare would appreciate those things that reduce stress which encourages our bodies to heal themselves. Abuse survivors tend to have their fight or flight hormone thermostat set too high. It takes very little to set us off.

I know that a good emotionally supportive therapy place can make up for a lot of health harming coping skills. I've read that scientists found that rats in a calm and varied environment take less drugs than a rat isolated and unstimulated.

I sometimes feel funny saying how much I love who I am. Like somehow that's something you're not supposed to say out loud. I'm alive therefore I get to be healthy and happy. You too.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Middle of Starting Over

Symmetry builds both sides of an equation. If we add one thing to our life, we need to find the equal and opposite item to keep us in balance.

Our emotional muscles get strong when we seek the center. Sticking at one end of life's teeter totter leaves us exhausted. Too much of even a good thing overwhelms our system.

That middle place can be as wide as desired. A razor thin margin might cut too deep. We don't have to be gymnasts balancing on a mere four inches. We can tumble on our own beams of the widths that suits our needs.

Feel the truth. We are supposed to cry when we lose something precious to us. We can balance that with the memories of why we loved it.

It intrigues me that when someone dies, often people get caught up in the final example of their existence. My friend who passed was so much more that the circumstances of his death. I choose to honor him by remembering those times when he laughed or cuddled his kitty.

Do walk to the edge of your balance beam and peer over. Hang as far as you feel necessary. Built an extension that hangs out if you must. Broaden the other side once you've found what you need. Or take down your reaching.

Adjusting the balance doesn't have to come at the exact same moment. Sometimes we have to be out of kilter for a time. Often its followed by a recalculation and settling of accounts.

Remember that spring follows winter and nature renews itself. We are part of that cycle. Accept that.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

You Don't Own Me

My mind makes these amazing connections just as I wake up and sometimes they're so good I just have to write about them. That's how I woke up today.

I belong to many "tribes" that band together for many kinds of purposes. Sometimes it's a gathering for one special night, like when I went to a LA Times scholarship dinner, other times it lasts a few years like going to Pasadena City College. Though the experience of deep involvement may end, I am still a part of that experience.

The amount of attention each of these connections requires, depends on factors like my ability and or desire to participate. I put the scholarship and school on my resume, of course, but I don't do much beyond that.

Though I don't carry a card or badge for one of the tribes, my dedication does shine bright in my heart. I am a feminist. No, not a humanist or a participant in all of mankind.

I certainly like men, they're great. I especially love and value my husband. Who's also a feminist.

On Last Week Tonight, John Oliver did a segment on Why is this still a thing regarding Sports Illustrated Swimsuit addition. Making fun of the controversy the magazine stirs up thus driving up the circulation to 10 times its regular issues.

I figured out why such rampant sexism gets so much play. Sure, it sells, I get that. It's more because sexist asshats can dodge the obvious degradation 11 months of the year.

Back in the day of video stores, most independent stores had a porn section. Usually behind a curtain, like some dirty little secret. These rooms usually accounted for 30 percent of the profit, but take up only 10 percent of the floor space.

My feminism drives me to point out when media objectifies women, though I am not calling for censorship of porn videos or Sports Illustrated. That isn't the point. And, making a stink drives traffic to the very thing we feminists wish to change.

One area of recent controversy pitting feminists and so called "men's rights" advocates against each other comes from a criticism of computer gaming. I think guys chose this environment as a rallying point because it also has that "just part" dodge. They can pretend and delude themselves that they're not objectifying women because it's only a bit of the game.

They don't go into the game to kill hookers, they didn't set up the rules. It's not THEIR fault the points are more important than people.

I am a feminist because it's the way to deal with bullies. Ignore, turn their rhetoric back on them and tribe up. That's my strategies.

I believe we can adjust these objectifying sexist humiliating items by putting forth more women in places of obvious power. We need more CEOs, more senators and candidates in general with a feminist agenda.

I'm a realist. We're never going to eliminate these dirty little secrets from the world. Lets try to reduce the percentages. And remember, living well is the best revenge.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Make Your Own Kind of Music

We all learn to live and be in the world based on our experiences. Some teach us to love ourselves, some to feel confusion over ordinary events and some to catch fire with rage filled outbursts.

It's tough to know how much to react to the past. How long do we grieve over our losses? It seems to be different for everyone. I accept that reality. I suggest you do too.

Bullying came to mind lately when I tried to find where I outlined some strategies for dealing with people who treat us with disrespect. Though I found a couple of posts about it, apparently, I didn't write about the strategy my husband uses. At least not on this blog.

I have said that I use the ignore strategy most often and I concentrate on what my friends and I are doing. This works the best for me. I don't want to give a bully or mean person any more energy than I have to. I find stepping aside is the minimum amount of energy I am willing to expend.

My husband told me of his turn about strategy and I see it as a useful, possibly more male oriented method for dealing with bullying. Say a bully uses an insult to try and humiliate you. He starts with, "You're ugly. " Rather than denying his statement, turn it around on him. Tell him, "You're not ugly! Don't let people talk to you that way."

Often bullies don't expect this and it confuses them. Anything they say, reflect back. Be aware that being confused and reflected upon might anger a person who's intent is to hurt you. Best to leave before this confusion turns to violence.

Ask for help from people you love and trust. Hang out with people who are doing things you enjoy. Have your own group of friends. Sing your own special song.

You can even do these strategies, ignore, turn about and do your own thing, if the bullying is a memory from your past. I do it all the time.

I see the person who hurt me and use my mind to avoid them. I think about something they've said and imagine what I might say to them now. My mother and sisters called me a black sheep. I can say that I am so sad that they thought that about themselves. It really explains a lot. Hurt people, hurt others.

That idea emboldens me. Makes me think, wow, how sad that they are driven to hurt someone from their own place of pain. They're standing in fire trying to drag me in. I can douse them with water from outside. I don't have to let the flames consume me too.

Finally, we can all find our tribe. Those people who buoy our spirit and put that sparkle in our eye. For me, that first tribe started with science fiction conventions. All those things people teased me about in school became points of attraction.

I guess that wasn't the exact first, first there were my other friends with sight problems. We banded together and bonded over our struggles. In high school I even thought of us as a gang. The misfit gang. I wanted jackets of our own.

These days I have a cadre of gal pals from the gym, a bunch of friends on Facebook, IRC and even a couple people on Twitter. If someone starts teasing, it doesn't go too deep. My emotional skin has toughened up. Yours can too.

Thursday, February 19, 2015


I celebrated my 51st birthday yesterday and mentioned that I might be a bit edgy. Someone comforted me about getting older. I love that part. I love being a grown up who gets to do what she wants with her own life. And I love cake.

Though I didn't get any. I'll get some on the weekend. There will be more free time then. More party party life.

My mind started to think about being ageless. The atoms that make up this body will continue to exist after the coalescence they currently represent dissipate. These bits of matter will group together to form other interesting things, like trees, water, air and even other conscious beings.

Ageless, weightless and fearless define my existence. My body will let go of all it's glory at some point. Until then, I'll let it carry my contemplative brain.

I often wonder what makes me this me? Why am I different from others who have experienced similar things? Why am I fearless? Why do some people cower at the thought of being alone or deny the opportunities of great adventure?

I named this blog Learn to Live Brave, but my friends didn't feel people would understand the title. We talked about alternatives and someone suggested My Fearless Life. This "market research" led to a bit of something I don't completely agree with.

I don't think fearlessness exists really. I believe in courage. That is, feeling the fear and going on anyway. Turning fear into action, that's what I want to do.

I breath out bits of who I am with each breath. Skin cells fall away every moment I'm alive. My hairbrush fills with follicles so often I wonder if I'm balding! Lucky others replace the loose strands.

Matter cannot be destroyed, only transferred. I've even read that losing weight doesn't get rid of the cells where fat lived. We keep those. They just empty out their contents. Kind of like a storage place without any customers.

No wonder losing weight is so hard. Those fat cells must get lonely for their "stuff."

Nothing stays the same. Accept that. I am ageless, weightless and fearless. Any of those sensations are transitions to another place. I love them, age weight and fear, for what they do for me while they're around. They have a purpose and I honor their value.

And now this is me letting go of permanence. Let go and learn to love.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Total Eclipse of the Heart

Turn around, every now and then I fall apart. So?

Living in a powder keg and giving off sparks. So now I choose to make fireworks. Something that glows bright and brings joy to the hearts of children.

Ever notice the word "imperfect" becomes "I'm perfect" when broken apart? A shattered soul might expose their inner workings more often than a whole sphere of consciousness, and that's okay.

Flaws fill our lives with wonder. They challenge the box, the status quo with their need for attention. I need attention. I LIKE that about me.

None of you would know the amazing gifts I have to share had there not been flaws in my upbringing. Or maybe you would have, I don't know for sure.

Maybe it's possible I am the way I am and the dirt tossed on my psyche was just a thing that happened. The shine can't get dull.

Maybe when I say how I feel, it's a chance for you and I to connect. Maybe it's a chance for me to realize you need something from me. Maybe it's a chance to experience that others have their own inner space.

Sometimes it's a signal to part. I tend to hold tight. The part of me that does that, lost so much. They're the same one who can fly off the handle and "break up" when they get deeply hurt. Odd that.

I will try and ease off the clutch and let myself coast a little. If I can teach another driver to find the sweet spot, I should be able to find it for me.

Remember, the moon only eclipses the sun for a short time. It alway comes back.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Bridge Over Troubled Water

I lost count of the number of therapy type people I've talked to over the years. Though only two truly stand out, I have a couple memories of a few others. I'll start with the best and then talk a little about the other experiences.

John Bradshaw saved my sanity. Though I've never net the man, his series of lectures on PBS put so much of my traumatic childhood in perspective. I valued his insights so much that I wanted to go to his center for treatment.

There was no way I could afford the thousand dollar a day inpatient experience, but I did find a person to talk to who had training in the same therapeutic philosophy.

Hindsight tells me I needed a male therapy guy first. I needed to see a good person with a masculine viewpoint so I could deal with living with a very violent female guardian and my mother.

Though men did scare me a little, I liked them better than women. He wasn't an ex at the time, I asked my ex to go into the therapy room with me. It helped calm my fear that the therapy guy would mistreat me.

My husband Phil proved to be a good asset to my experience. He had insight of my daily life that the therapy guy couldn't know, plus he had a creative side that surprised even me.

This DID lead to my counselor referring to my ex and I as one person. He called it enmeshment. Though I don't think it was the whole truth, I could see it had some notes of reality.

In order to resolve a lot of emotional pain, my therapy guy suggested I draw what I felt. I made a lot of progress and through these drawings found bits of myself and gained a lot of insight on who I was and who I could become.

When I found a way to draw an image of the guardian who abused me the most, so much of the fear and pain she caused moved from inside my head to the drawing. I felt much freer. So calm, in fact that I could move on to a female therapy person.

My new counselor, Kristen, helped me understand the adult world. This might sound strange, considering I was in my late 20's when I went to her.

The truth of my rough childhood was no one taught me how to be "grown up." I mean I rejected violence and drinking so I just didn't know how to be calm and go about making friends or having a normal job.

My ex and I split up a few months after I started seeing Kristen. I got a job and started rebuilding my adult life. I didn't know how to handle when my boss treated me disrespectfully. Kristen taught me that it was okay to go cry in the bathroom and how to communicate better.

I still use her phrases of, "When you... I feel.. I would prefer..." whenever I feel stress talking with someone.

While I was working with my therapy gal, I attended Survivors of Incest Anonymous meetings too. I'm so lucky and grateful for the ladies of that group. I learned so much and got a really good handle on the flashback memories I occasionally experienced.

I learned that we would never forget, but in time could remember with far less pain. They taught me that personal history has only part to do with who we really are.

I moved too far away to keep going to therapy and Survivors meetings. Though I felt sad about this, I did feel I had a pretty good handle on my life.

I did have other therapy like experiences in my new area, though none of them rose to quality of the Bradshaw trained people.

I had tried counseling before, too. One lady I found from her column in the newspaper. I felt a little abused by the way she acted. I had an angry reaction thinking about the man who molested me. I told her I wanted to squish him like the bug that he was. She shamed me, telling me that I was wrong for having that though.

I left and never went back. I don't suggest anyone ever DO anything to people who harmed them. The consequences are too high a price to pay, but I see no problem expressing the feelings that come up. No matter what those feelings are. After all, that's the main point of therapy. It's a wonderful chance to talk about and resolve the past.

My last "therapy" session really made a big difference on my emotional state. After I ran from my doctors office, I felt deep shame at being "that crazy person." I called to find out if the medicaid plan I had would let me talk to someone about the incident.

The very nice woman listened with compassion and understanding. She assured me that my reaction made sense in context of my lifetime of experiences. She let me know that I had every right to be in charge of my own health and that it was okay to change doctors.

For those of us who grew up getting all kinds of mixed messages, it's sometimes maddening to have to do MORE work to recover. I know I am angry that I I have to pay twice. Once while I was an innocent child and once as an adult with flashbacks and uncertainty.

None of it is a guaranty to put us on a road to sanity. From my observation, no substance kept the pain at bay either. So I kept looking for answers. I'm grateful I found good and decent help.

Thank you, Scott, Kristen and Megan. I feel you saved my life, I know you saved my sanity.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

It's my party and I'll cry if I want to

My abusive mother died during my month of wallow. I didn't find out until yesterday.

I almost put the title as "I will always love you," but I don't so I didn't. I care about humans, even those that hurt me, but I don't love everyone.

In that song I almost used, there's a line, "I hope that life will treat you kind." It goes on to wish the person love. I hope those things for my mother. It also spoke of bittersweet memories.

When mother's husband died a couple of years ago, I thought of something funny to say about him. The only thing that comes to mind with mother is the time my sister Cokie and I were riding up to visit grandma. I was about 13 or 14. Mom goes "Look at all those pine nuts on the trees!" and Cokie and I both said "ohhh yeah wow that's a lot"

Mom drove on for a couple of minutes and bursts out laughing. "You guys can't see the trees! Why would you say you could?" We told her that it's just easier to say we see something than make sighted people stop what they're talking about and show us.

With all the neglect and abuse, my mother never EVER laid any trip on me about my eyesight. She also never insulted my intelligence. I have okay memories about her talking to me about sex and taking drugs. Her calm demeanor left me feeling confident I could handle saying no without feeling pressured.

I know that her deep pain drove her to act the way she did. I wish she had found a way to recover from that.

She lived a long life. Old people die. This is the way of things. I will speak of her again. I will complain about what I survived and continue to have moments of grieving. Not so much about her absence from the planet, but from my life since birth.

One never really says goodbye to anything. The trick is learning to weave the experience into life's tapestry. Make flaws a feature.

Mother had a near death experience once. She said she felt calm. I feel calm for her too. I hope she got that.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Short People

Or short posts. I wanted to comment on the comments and a few things going on. I don't know what's wrong with the comment feature, but it appears to be mucked up. I'll ask Murry to help me again on the weekend and we'll see if we can get that fixed up. No promises though, he tired last time and it didn't go.

The book is going well. You would think writing a survival story would make one depressed, but in many ways it's doing the opposite. Thought I wouldn't pretend it's emotionally easy.

I've written about 6000 words so far. It's not really a lot for my goal of finishing a rough draft by the end of February. It's enough for now. I sometimes have to stop and think happy thoughts for a while.

Joy still visits me often. Perspective reminds me that "that was then, this is now." I learned so much. Living well is the gift you find when you unwrap the past.

My past does define me. I encourage it to do this. We don't give potential employers a resume of our being, but of our doings. We share our experiences. Though we do tailor this outline to show only our best side. They still ask what we think we lack.

We get to answer that question for ourselves. Where am I still broken, where do I need to shore up my psyche and how can I be in the now while dealing with the then?

Pondering such things gives ME character and makes me like me more. Like yourself a little and look behind for a few minutes. Might find some gems under that dirt. Ya never know.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Do you really want to hurt me?

Much of my life I've felt like prey. You know, lions eat rabbits. I get it, something always has to provide food for another to live. It's a system like that.

How did you come to the decision that I was here for you to eat? Who established these roles for you and I?

Maybe I did. Or maybe I am just taking it all too serious. Oh, that's something that I've been told. "Lighten up." Also, "You have to forgive." And let us not forget Attila the Mom's favorite, "stop dwelling on the past."

Right. They have whole departments of history at most major universities, but me exploring my personal past somehow threatens to unravel the universe? Okay, yeah. Don't I feel powerful now. I am the lion, where all the white rabbits at? Yes, I did just parody Blazing Saddles. Gotta problem with that??

It's all a matter of journey. I am both lion and rabbit or maybe bear. I hibernated in a blanket of grief and now I must take my emergence with care. 

Going from a comatose to an awakened state requires a few steps. And while doing that, I am both prey and predator. The mix depends on the needs of that state. 

The trick is to not devour yourself before you emerge from your cave. 

Kind comments encouraged. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Paperback Writer

Be the light you want to follow.
I decided to turn my December 2014 month of wallow in self pity month experience into a book. Here are my EXTREMELY rough chapter outlines. I will change the order most likely, I just wanted to get my "goal" out to the universe.

Be the Light You Want to Follow

What I learned from my month wallowing in self pity

1. Swimming in self pity is like getting a colonoscopy. It's a shitty test but necessary once in a while.

2. This blog and I are both awesome and I have shiny thoughts

3. Dream shitters can fuck off now. Support my crazy ideas on the off chance they're not crazy and you're just afraid.

4. It's OKAY to feel good during a month of wallow and tell funny stories about tragic things or during funerals. You can't force people to "lighten up," but when they do it, you can bask in the glow.

5. I'm sad that my mother is Attila the Mom, but that isn't about me. She has sickness and also did the best she could. I know that. I'm still never going to speak to her or any biological family. I don't see any point. Not from hopelessness, but from awareness. They lack that "be nice" gene. I wish them peace.

6. The goodness or badness or lesson comes from experience only on reflection. Destiny looks only backward.

7. Feeling all the pain heals. It's like picking up the pieces after an explosion. Repressing feelings is like holding a beach ball under water. After a while, we get tired and the ball pops up and bashes us in the face. Better to let it up to float away.

8. Grieving heals.

9. Mistreatment leaves a scar. There is no "magic" in "forgiveness." Forget leads to future mistreatment. However, we can learn to remember with compassion for ourselves and the person who harmed us. US first, though.

10. Reframe failure as the steps to success. No one criticizes a baby falling down when it is learning to walk, so why beat ourselves up for making mistakes? I am an emotional baby taking my first steps into self awareness.

That's it. I'm going to expand on each of these points as chapter heads. I hope to have a completed rough draft by the end of February. I feel that's a very ambitious goal and I think I can do it. I choose happy. 

Kind comments welcome.

Friday, January 2, 2015

She's not THERE

Perfect song for my Zombie Blog! The title of the most famous song by the Zombies. I love it when life gives you the best thing at the right moment.

I totally lost my way with the blog. It happens. I'm going to just take up from here and be happy I got back to writing.

Writing and exploring my soul makes me happy. It took a lot of years and two great therapy experiences to get here. And I am eternally grateful for the Survivors of Incest 12-step group I found in the early 90s. They reflected who I was and showed me who I could become.

I now understand what threw me off the blog horse and it's TOTALLY okay. Last summer, I broke up with my remaining biological family. They began to pressure me to "get over" the rift between me and my mother.

Maybe rift fails to reflect the true nature of my relationship with Attila the Mom. I use that term because my husband pointed out that people would not urge me to reconcile if my mother was Hitler. Of course she isn't a genocidal maniac. Just a psychological self abusing maniac who first made and then abandoned her child.

My mother planned for my birth. She hoped to save her marriage. When I failed at that, she abandoned me. At the same time, she was using me to get back at my oldest sister. I'm sure Attila the Mom had no idea she was doing this, but the more I reflect on the situation, the clearer it becomes.

My mother became pregnant with my sister around the same age my sister was when mom had me. I feel mom resented my sister getting to live her high school years with freedom.

So when I was born, she brought me to my sister to take care of. My sister did care for me as best she could, but this built a deep resentment in her.

I feel so sad that my sister had me as a burden. I couldn't help but bond to her as a child bonds to a mother. There's a story of me getting hurt at a grocery store and I wouldn't stop crying until mother took me to "My Kathey's" high school so she could kiss my booboo.

Kathey married, had a child of her own and moved far away at about the same time as my parents divorced. I was four. I so get that none of this had to do with me. Though my mother and sister acted as though it did. I'm sure they didn't realize they were. That doesn't make it any less painful, it just made me confused until I sorted it out.

So there I was, resented and abandoned by both mother and bonded to sister. These resentments continued into my adulthood.

Attila the Mom hurt me more than MyKathey so that relationship broke down first. Twice ATM and I had major fallings out where I quit talking to her. Both times, my connection to my sister waned as well. I didn't quit talking to her, but I decided not to put any energy to keeping contact.

As an adult, my sister called me three times my entire life. Once when a cousin died, when my grandmother died and finally when my father died. I didn't even know the cousin. She was peeved at me for not knowing him. I do understand they were about the same age and she was feeling very mortal.

People tell me "you have to understand" a lot. When do I get the understanding?

Okay, so, I still had a kind of relationship with my sister because, well, she's my sister. After dad died, she and I were Facebook friends. She didn't post much, I saw more from her daughters. She would occasionally say things like she loved me after a post where I talked about something going on that wasn't working out.

I lashed out over that. I didn't call her by name, but I posted a Facebook where I complained that you can't act unloving and just say you love and make up for all the crap you pull. She replied that I didn't know what was in her heart.

I know that's very true. I don't know what's in anyone's heart. I do know how I am treated.

Last summer, ATM started having some health problems. My niece told me because she '"thought I should know." I told her that, though I wish her peace, I still didn't want to have anything to do with my mother.

My niece got hostile and told me how I needed to "get over this." That stressed me greatly for a couple of days. I realized, they would never understand the depths of the pain I survived. Though that makes me sad, it is OKAY.

I realized that I was holding on to a fantasy that family could "get me." They lacked the capacity to love me where I was at.

I broke up with them. I had to grieve that for all of December 2014. That's a whole other post that I'll write later.

Please understand, I am not asking anyone to quit their family like I have. You get to follow your own path. This is what is best for me. I even encourage others to try and find some common ground.

For me, I had to let go of the family ties the other party had let drop ages ago. Mostly I feel relieved.

Kind comments are encouraged. I'm BAAAACK!