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.