Be wisely self-centered

How tempting is it, when one is not feeling thrilled with one’s own life, to involve oneself in thoughts of others’ lives?  Is this not one reason for the success of People magazine?  Perhaps I would do better to pick up People rather than using the people in my life to distract myself from my own life.

Perhaps I would do even better doing better in my life, focusing my time and energy on developing my strengths, feeding my healthy obsessions, and moment by moment, creating what I consider to be a satisfying and enjoyable life.  This is a deliberate and brave process, particularly when one’s life is unfolding differently than had been planned, differently than most people in one’s life.  It requires a tremendous amount of reflection that cannot be accomplished by perusing People or people.

There was a time in my life when I was in decent shape.  The cellulite and disproportionally large upper arms were still there, but I was eating healthier and exercising more regularly than I ever had.  At that time, I felt like I was in the best shape possible for what I was willing to do.  This gave me a glimpse at the benefits and psychological comfort of truly being my best.  I noticed that I wasn’t comparing myself to other women or feeling as bad about not being pysically “perfect”.  Putting forth my best efforts gave me peace.

Isn’t it the same for life in general?  Living one’s authentic best can minimize the importance of what others are doing and accomplishing in their lives.  Our consciences nag us through the discomfort that we feel when comparing ourselves with others.  If there is discomfort, it is communication from deep within to reprioritize and make changes in our lives.

I am going to adopt wise self-centeredness (which inspires me to strive for MY best) as opposed to silly self-centeredness (which inspires me to think of myself as the center of the universe).

Even when you’re alone, you’re not

It is 1:48 AM, and I am shivering, struggling, isolated in front of a computer screen.  It’s not the best.  Out of outright desperation, I have been reading my own blog entries- just to not feel so alone.  Who knew that I could actually help myself, keep myself company?  Until now, I did not.

Years ago, I watched helplessly as my sister died naturally.  Watching helplessly does not mean that I did nothing.  I did my best CPR, which was absolutely lame.  Try as an untrained layperson to do CPR on a loved one you had NO IDEA would be dying in front of you at that moment and just see how it goes.  Not well?  I’m your girl.

A couple mornings ago, for no apparent reason, the flashbacks came.  I could see the strange color of her face, which I now see as the color of death.  I could see the unfamiliar shape of her features, which were distorted by her lifelessness.

Did I do anything to take care of myself?  No.  Did I go to work expecting as much from myself as I always give without any acknowledgement of what I had seen?  Of course.  That is just.  Mean.

My husband, wonderful, wise man that he is, can not comprehend my pain.  He tried to help me, and then fell soundly asleep.  At first, I felt painfully isolated.  Even our dog is too tired to be with me.  So here I am, and now it is 2:02 AM.

I could call a number of people right now and say that I need help, and I would have company.  The problem is, I have perspective.  I want comfort badly, but I know that I am sitting very pretty compared to most people in the world.  Instead of making calls, I summoned my past self- bizzare but true- to help me survive some bad moments.  I am becoming convinced that we as human beings are never as alone as we want to make ourselves out to be.  With that, I will surrender, returning to bed with light reading that soothes, and will very likely fall asleep next to the loving man who I almost wanted to shun due to his lack of understanding.  Would I rather he understood?  A “no” and deep breaths will accompany my weary soul as I lie down next to him.

 

Be annoyed, then get to the bottom line

I have a pet peeve that I do my best to not do to others because it has irritated me repeatedly during my life.  If one calls a person knowing that one doesn’t have much time, one should immediately communicate that one does not have much time.  When the unaware party shares even a small bit of information in the attempt to be supportive and/or humane, or even just to connect with the busy one and then the busy one does a brush-off, suddenly stating that they have something more important to do and that they don’t have time to talk, it’s annoying.  I fully understand that people have pressing moments, as I do.  Either don’t make the call at that moment, or communicate that there is time pressure.

Within the last 15 minutes, I have just gotten the busy bee brush-off once again, and I am taking this moment to focus on staying annoyed rather than moving in to feeling rather stupid, which is my reflex.  If I feel stupid, then the mistake was mine, and that is a more comfortable thought for me than being annoyed with someone else.  I can even move in to feeling hurt and rejected, even while fully understanding that this person had no intention to hurt or reject me, which is also more comfortable than annoyance.  Feeling stupid, hurt, and rejected makes me feel weak, and I am going to choose a different path right now than I have in the past.

Feeling annoyed makes me uncomfortable because it makes me think that I am opening myself up to the reality that I can and do annoy people without intending to do so.  Let me sit with that.  I annoy people.  I am lovable anyway.  I hurt people.  I am lovable anyway.

Busy bee is absolutely lovable, a wonderful person.  And I’m annoyed by something thoughtless that she did.  She might be annoyed with me for speaking two sentences for which she had not the time.  Is it worth thinking about for even seconds longer?  Only for the purpose of putting myself through this exercise of sitting with annoyance without turning it inward.  Acknowledging it and sitting with it is actually allowing me to move away from it.  There are times to be annoyed, but then move on as quickly as the mind will allow.

She is worthy of love, and so am I.

Sometimes recycling is not the best option

Paper and plastics only, along with thoughts worth reviewing.

Paper and plastics, along with thoughts worth reviewing.

Friends have made fun of me for years because I am such a recycler.  No piece of paper, plastic, or glass is too insignificant for me to put in the blue bin.  Yes, it should be a green bin, but that is for the yard waste in our town.  Recycling is a mental relief for this gal who was worried about the amount of trash in the world as a small child, but I have realized that I have been doing some very unhealthy recycling.

Too often, I review memories of myself behaving foolishly.  This is the opposite of a mental relief.  It is a quiet way for me to self-torture.  I must ask myself, as I frequently do, “Would I want my loved ones to do this to themselves?”  No, and in fact, I tend to mentally trash unnecessary memories of others’ foibles.  Shouldn’t I do the same for myself?

It is just dawning on me how self-centered these memory reviews are.  Not only do they feel lousy, but they ARE lousy.  Thinking about my most-enjoyed memories, I am not the star of most of them.  Wow.  Wow!  What an epiphany!

So, instead of habitually pricking my soul by bringing up images of myself doing things I wish I hadn’t, from silly to significant, I want to deliberately shut down those thoughts.  Since the lessons I have learned from my behavior have become a part of who I am, I don’t have to engage in this shame recycling in order to continue making wiser decisions.

The next time I catch myself playing one of these reruns in my head, I am going to hit pause, rip off the image like a piece of paper, and put it in the TRASH.  If I’m going to recycle moments, they might as well be my favorites.

Garbage and self-shaming thoughts HERE.

Garbage and self-shaming thoughts HERE.

Feathers and farewells

If you have a dog, then you may be familiar with the bond that can form with fellow dog-owning neighbors.  Most mornings, one of us takes our high-energy guy to the park for a game of long-distance fetch.  Months ago, we started seeing a young couple and their two dogs, white pit-mix Penny and black, bouncy border collie- mix Otter, at the park.

Eric is a lanky, quietly intelligent man with a boyish face and smile, and Jackie is a sharp woman with a laid-back, natural beauty, and a confident smile.  Eric is more overtly sensitive, and it was he who told me that they are moving this coming Saturday.  We knew the situation was developing, so it wasn’t a total surprise, but today would be our last meeting until they surface for a housewarming, miles and a bridge away.

When our dog Vasco is at home relaxing, he couldn’t be much more cuddly than he is.  During play, though, he is entirely focused on the ball.  Eric has been trying to pet Vasco for months, with very limited success.  Usually, he can’t even make contact.  It has always made me feel the tiniest bit bad, watching Vasco appear aloof to a kind soul who would love to just rub his head a little.

We said our goodbyes, exchanged emails, and each took off in opposite directions from the middle of the expansive park.  As I was getting toward the exit, a bunch (more than 50) of small, white feathers started inexplicably floating down around Vasco and me.  It appeared that they were coming from nowhere!  I looked up and all around for some horrific baby bird murder scene, a random nest that had fallen- just an explanation for the feathers.  While I was checking things out, I was ignoring Vasco.  I looked up to see him charging across the park, all the way to and out of the exit where Eric was at his car with Otter and Penny.  He has literally never done that.  Vasco ran right up to Eric and I saw him pet our dog on the head briefly before he returned to me.

I was thankful that those feathers had fallen and kept me from putting the leash on Vasco so that he could say a proper farewell to a soul who has appreciated him.  It was a magical start to the day, and the way to remember it properly is to write it down.  So I did.

Create and use your own mantra library

Although I can appreciate the focus of having a favorite mantra in life, I have found myself using numerous and varied mantras to handle moments that come up.

Tired on a jog:  One more step. *inhale exhale*

Feeling intimidated by the day:  Just keep going. 

Seeing a pregnant woman:  You are classy.  Head up and smile.

Overwhelmed in the middle of a project:  It’s okay.  Do a little more.

In the presence of women clearly more physically attractive than I:  My husband loves and accepts me as I am.

Hearing the pipes connected to our [only] toilet make rather loud noises after flushing:  If the toilet breaks/there is a major plumbing issue, you will survive.

This technique can be used by your best self to encourage your less-than-best self, to help keep perspective, to move slightly more gracefully through awkward mental moments than might have happened without the mantra.

I am lovable even when I am not particularly graceful.

 

 

If you don’t like the way your mother did something, don’t do that

Expired 8/08, in the recycle bin.

It’s logical, isn’t it?  I haven’t minded differentiating myself from my mom in the past, but now we are losing her, and rejecting her ways stings a bit.  There is a part of my brain that thinks that loving her means choosing to be like her.

When I was an awkward 13-year-old with fluffed-up, Aqua Net-sprayed bangs, I did not hesitate as I told my friends that I couldn’t stand the way my mom smiled.  I ignorantly judged her as seeming ‘fake’.  At that time, my mom was a slender, classy, striking woman in her early fifties, and I wasn’t feeling slender, classy, or striking so I was a tad bitter.  Of course, now I want to smack my 13-year-old brat self on the forehead; too bad the hairspray helmet would probably protect her while injuring me.

I matured beyond the smile-angst (eye-roll) and eventually began to understand myself apart from my parents.  When I started to think about their behavior objectively, I realized that my mom wasn’t a woman I wanted to imitate in some real ways.  One example is that she never wanted to get rid of things, things that had become useless- like expired medications.  This might be representative of her aversion to change in general.  Ongoing life means change, and I don’t want to keep 25-year-old suppositories to protect myself from that fact.

My mom now has a degenerative brain disease.  Her current vulnerability makes me think about the vulnerabilities she has had in the past, and it makes me a little sad.  Behind her beautiful smile there were struggles all along, and I now want to be on her team instead of looking at her critically.

This is where I have to go back to the logic.  I can adore her and disagree with her, just as I do with other people.  I am allowed to make different choices than she did.  Furthermore, I can focus on the fact that there are many aspects of who my mom was that I admire and do my best to make a part of who I am.

This can be seen matter-of-factly;  no sting is necessary.  Being loyal to my mom means loving her, not becoming her.

P.S.  When people tell me I have my mom’s smile, I take it as a compliment.