Friday, April 26, 2013

Pay it Forward - Let's do it for the Possum

Hey to all my loyal posse out there this Friday April 26th.

The sun is shining in Ann Arbor.  Yes, it IS true!   Don't be cruel. We're sort of stuck here for now. Not nice to tease.

So, I need help today. Big time.  I'm trying an experiment today.   Just one day.

I'm trying to conquer darkness with light.

Here's where y'all come in.   I've been posting my butt off lately on facebook.  Every uplifting beautiful  (fully and snopesed) article I can dig up.  I'm going to all the websites with feeds about stories that inspire and bring us to that humbled, slack-jawed, tear-stained, snot-ragged place where we feel less alone and where we can see the beauty and majesty that lies within all of us.

I'm doing this in answer to the recent darkness that,  not only Boston, but the entire world has experienced.

I figure we can only conquer darkness with light.   We can't change the past but we can create the future.  We can't keep dark forces from attempting to tear us apart.  We just can't. We can't plan, prepare for, anticipate, etc. every negative thing.  If we did, that would not be living.  That would be "war" --- on the defensive, in a bunker, with armor on.  Dude, that would suck.  It does suck. What am I saying? We've basically been living that way as a nation (and a world) ever since 9/11. That's like 12 years of that crap.

No more.

What I need help with is this.  This is just an experiment to see if it really works, this whole love thing.  But I can't do it alone and I need feedback to see if there's any science to it.

What I'm asking is this: Can y'all take yourselves out there into the world and dump as much love, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, beauty,  did I say love? as you can muster today? And yes I mean even to yourself when you schmutz on your clean shirt, even to the dingbat on the phone weaving in and out of her lane, and the impatient man at Starbucks and the smelly guy at the gym.

Just let it all go.

And then as soon as you see something positive online, post it. Like STAT! Email it to your friends.  Just for today, let's tell each other MORE about the inspiring stories and gossip less.

This is my theory: We conquer darkness with light.  It all starts with us. 

As a caveat to my theory (it's not just MY theory, btw) I also think we inoculate ourselves against the darkness this way.

Anyway, so here's a short little bit of homework.  

1) Do some random act of kindness for somebody you don't even know (pay for their coffee, tab, etc.)
2) Share an inspiring story with at least one person.
3) Forgive yourself for 1 thing you harbor against yourself and then just let that b***ch go!
4) Forgive one other person something (preferably somebody who you think really doesn't "deserve" forgiveness
5) Give me some feedback on facebook - just a line or a sentence telling me what you thought of the exercise.  You can message me privately but better to let the world see.

I mean, this is all in the name of "scientific" research.

 Now y'all --  HAVE AT IT!

Ps. I just heard that my favorite musician of all time has passed away: George the Possum No-Show Jones.  Jesus, welcome this man into your loving embrace.   Let's do it for the Possum.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

An Exorcism of Perfectionism

Humility is a strange and wonderful thing.  Obtaining it is invariably painful as all get-out.   However, the peace that ensues (not immediately, mind you) is life-altering.

I crashed and burned on my quest to be perfectly weigh and smoke-free.   It took about 3 months, alas, I bottomed out.   It was neither terribly pretty nor fatal.  It just set me back a little.  And made me drag my head around in a bit of shame.  Shame sucks, by the way.  Just ask Brene Brown. 

Now, mind you, compulsive behaviors or obsessively thinking about things (yeah, that would be OCD) are/is (generally) triggered by something (generally) external.   My flip out, backslide, fall off the wagon or whatever you want to call it was no exception.  I came across a book and a website that triggered some deeply un-felt and un-thought things.   It took me by surprise.  After decades in a shrink's office, I thought I knew it all.  But the experience was extremely unsettling and let me tell you, my fear response looks like a rabid member of the wolverine family.  Again, not terribly pretty.  Rather than strike out for the Ohio border, I turned my angst on myself.  I'm always my favorite target (think Dobby the house elf in Harry Potter).

The precipitating event was a questionnaire I took about parenting styles.  It was very revealing, and not in a good way.  When I came to the realization that I was being unduly hard on my kids and not really enjoying them at all, I felt trapped in my own very human skin.  And when I say human, I mean that in the pejorative way not in the 'oh-she's-so-human-and-down-to-earth' humanness. But more like 'she's a damn-narcissistic-bi**h' kind of human.

No, I'm not being too hard on myself.  I was being way too hard on my kids and my husband and only to a very small degree on myself.  I needed a dose of humility and a knock upside the head.  I needed to fall from my little cage's perch.

I started this whole blog thing and a 'recovery' process without the key element: My Higher Power.  I was trying to do it all myself.  There's a great saying in 12-Step programs: Let Go and Let God.   I like my brother Peter's take on that saying better:

Let Go or Be Dragged. 

 I was dragged alright. It took me about 5 months to get some perspective and get my head out of my butt.  I had finally arrived back at the beginning of my quest: I decided to let go.   Just let God do the heavy lifting.  And to say 'Thank-you' and 'Forgive me' and 'Make and Instrument of your Peace' and 'Please Bless ____', etc. (everybody, really). And then 'Thank-you' again (and again and again). 

I am now almost magically girded with the love and support of that Crucial Element.   I've also decided that weighing myself once every two weeks or once a month is probably a pretty sane and do-able alternative to the perfectionist route. It's certainly better than twice or three times a day.

I wasn't just trying to stop weighing myself.  I was trying to stop the chronic negative self-reflection and reroute (to something more meaningful and long-lasting), the energy I was using in the misguided quest for self-approval and self-acceptance. I just forgot to buy another Map or get a GPS. Thus the concentric circles I continued to travel in.

I'm not sure I'm going to try to do that every-two-week thing with smoking.  I think smoking is a thing of the past for me.  I had a few slip-ups but all in all, I did better in the time period 5/1/12-to present in both weighing and smoking than in any other time in recent history--I probably smoked 1/15th as much as the previous year and I weighed myself 1/3 as much.

While it is statistically significant progress,  it is not perfection.

Progress, not perfection.

That is a great AA/Alanon slogan which I have to repeat to myself numerous times a day lest I wash my kitchen floor until there is no more polyurethane left on it.
I believe I gained a lot this past year.  I gained the ability to be vulnerable--to show people my struggle so they wouldn't feel so alone in theirs maybe? Who knows?  I became more human (in the good way).  I also learned to fail rather publicly and survive it.  Most importantly, I also gained friendships with some really nice folks.

A year of steady progress (and about a month of hanging tighter with Jesus and God).

Milestones worth celebrating.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I praise you because I am indeed fearfully and wonderfully made...Psalm 139:14

When I was in late high school and early college, I was plagued by anorexia and bulimia.  Well, really I was plagued with an incredibly low self-concept (and grossly inaccurate body image) which skulked around in that wonderful freakishly thin facade thinkin' it was all hot-n-shizz with those sexy ribs showing. 

Really that's not the case either, I just wanted to disappear.  Or as my kids sometimes say "diss-d-appear." I was so ashamed.  Who even knows why? It was the times.  We hadn't really integrated the new post-sexual revolution reality yet. The early 1980s may just as well have been the Victorian Era--especially if you look at the Gunne Sax dresses we all wore to prom.  By the way, I think dissdappear sounds better.  Very sing-songy.  Anyway, my point in saying that is things are often not even in the same zip code as they appear to be on the outside.  Because on the outside, I looked pretty okay, a little too skinny but to the untrained eye,  'okay'.  Ha.  Does anybody remember Mercywood?
Gunne Sax Tea Stained Prom Dress circa 1979-1981 - Uh, does anybody else see season 1 of "Downton Abbey"?
I spent this morning taking Elliot to have his man parts checked out.  Elliot had 2 testicular surgeries by the time he was 2 years old.  So he talks about them with the correct anatomical language as if he was talking about the his Kumon pouch and a piece of driveway chalk.  No shame. Thank you Jesus. No recognition of these parts being any different than any other parts.   The nurse commented on that fact when he swung around on on the examining table on his belly (he loved the sound of the paper crunching and tearing), looked her square in the eye and said "the one testicle on the right hurts when I squeeze it."  He didn't flinch one bit when the doctor checked him out.   He was cool with the whole business.   Totally chill.   And he's fine, by the way.

As a few of you know, I've been absent from the blog these past few months because I returned to school.  No, it wasn't in the master's program that I had originally wanted. Thank you Jesus for that, too.  Instead, I decided to get a second bachelor's in psychology and then just keep on going until somebody starts calling me Doctor Mason.   The only problem with this current term was the lack of availability of good classes.   I ended up with the Psychology of Sex and Child Psychology to resume my academic life.  Oh my.   It felt as though an elephant was resting on my chest as the topics grew more grave and sinister and began hitting rather close to home, at least with respect to children.  I started referring to these classes as "Creep" and "Cringe" respectively.  They just started freaking me out.  I had the worst case of medical student's disease ever with the Child Psych class. 

The topic that struck me the hardest and literally knocked the air out of me was "Parental Attachment." In a twist of horrific irony, that class happened to be the same day as the "abortion lecture" in my Psych of Sex class.  Attachment/Abortion.  Ech.

Of course, I came away from the one lecture thinking 'I don't think I attached to my kids properly' (and the other lecture just thankful for them).  They came at me from the cosmos/heaven with such a velocity that it was all I could do to catch and not drop them---like literally not drop them.   Somebody did give me the book "Attachment Parenting" by Drs. Sears.  But the kids were already out of diapers by then. Fat lotta good that did me!  I think I threw that damn thing across the room cussing until the chandelier lost a crystal.  File that one under, 'massive failures' and 'things I should've have known earlier.'

As for the psych of sex class, well, let's just say that yesterday was STI day and the screen at the front of the lecture hall (where I sit front row) is 25 feet wide and 20 feet tall.  Dude. Need I say more?  But a small aside here.  I saw these gnarled up private parts of people, riddled with disease, and all I could think of is that these poor parts belong to poor people who are or were somebody's babies.  That was somebody's bump in somebody's belly however long ago. All possibility and promise.  Then losses, bad parenting, drugs, bad decisions and consequences took them down a path of such sadness and despair that they ended up a case study in a epidemiological, gynecological or urological manual.  I had a sense of deep sorrow at the moment I realized that. Sorrow for those people who had been reduced to slides.  There, but for the grace of God... There must have been shame in there somewhere, I thought.  Somewhere, somehow, somebody convinced these folks that they (and their parts) weren't worth paying attention to, not even by themselves.

After the nausea wore off, I drove home sort of rocking back and forth in my seat.  I'm pretty sure that's when the PTSD set in.  But at 4 o'clock on the dot,  when the kids got off the bus (all flailing arms, backpacks, swinging lunch boxes, smiles and "Mom!s"), I was magically lifted out of my despair and trauma.  And this morning as Elliot so shame-freely stated his "ball problem" to the doctor I thought, attached or detached, the kid has no shame about the beautiful creation that he is. He and his brother think that their bodies are works of genius and art. The Hand that drew them (and all of us for that matter) drew ALL parts.   And Elliot knows that already.  File that under 'awesome.'

Previous generations regarded telling somebody they had "no shame" as the gravest of insults.  In the case of Elliot it's what I would call "mentally healthy"  or  "great self-concept."  I'm rethinking this whole "no shame" b.s.

What about you?