February 24, 2015

A Poem About Most Unwelcome Teacher

  • First, I am powerless over emotional teachers.
  • My best teacher is anxiety.
  • I would like to be able to write lyrical poems about this teacher
  • The funnier, the better, because when anxiety has me in its grip it is so serious. Blah. But since I am not in a creative place, I will start with 

February 20, 2015

Calling it by its Name: Shame

I can see, more clearly now, how I have struggled with shame this past few weeks. I can trace it back to my concern at having a different "take" on the measles break-out  in SoCal.

I obsessed, first, trying to read up more about how the immune system 'might really' work, but many of the sources that made sense to me, had been heavily discredited.

Then some other things contributed to an over-all feeling of anxiety. A number of public events have been underway (planned by our faith fellowship) this week.   I have the sense that I may not be the only one feeling some awkwardness about our small numbers.

Yep, I feel guilt. And guilt turned to shame, as I realize whatever skills I have at making small talk have gone out the window~

One day, I pray I can change out some of what I tell myself when I am under stress!  Because my Inner Critic is having a  great old time telling me how inadequate I am!

I decided yesterday, to name what I was feeling.  Shame.  I would love it if John Bradshaw's book were a bit more gentle in its advice. I seem to have opened up to the hardest part of the book, where he tells you how to stop shame spirals.

I know now that when I am in a hard place with my shame, that I have a hard time focusing on positive action.

What helped me last night, was to share a bit with my husband, in just a few words. It also helped to reach out to a friend, and talk last night (though I probably talked too long).  And I was actually pretty reasonable and peaceful when I spoke to her. I am also being kind to myself and taking the edge off when the fear/shame are the worst. Yes, medications.  I took one just to be sure I could take the edge off. I also tried breathing more deeply and this helped me.

I trust my HP to guide me in self-care and use the tools I am given.  For now, I am glad I had the tools I needed last night. Talking slowly, listening, being part of conversation, all were good for me last night.

February 9, 2015

Seeking my Mentor, Penelope

My writing teacher sent us out to identify a mentor whose writing life we might model ourselves after.  This was to be an opportunity to find a writer with an internet presence if possible.  (She did say that if our role model was a recluse, without an internet platform that would make the assignment easy).  

An obvious choice would have been Melody Beattie, but instead someone else came startlingly to mind:   Penelope Niven. Last year I fell in love with her memoir, Swimming Lessons.  In it I learned that she began publishing books rather late in life  (not much younger than I am now).

I went googling straight away to see if I might find a way to follow Penelope, hoping to take a peek at her path.    She'd already inspired me with her memoir, and I suspected she had more big plans in the works. Maybe her focus would rub off on me.   Or maybe even one day I'd ask her to blurb the book I aspire to write? 

So how did she get started?  "Penelope Niven was a high school English teacher, nearing 40, when she began work on a biography of Carl Sandburg. She had never written a book before. She didn’t have a Ph.D. in literature and hadn’t even been that familiar with Sandburg’s work.But the volume she produced 14 years later, “Carl Sandburg: A Biography”(1991), was ground breaking and helped revive interest in a nearly forgotten poet, Lincoln biographer and literary folk hero of his time."

I was happy to find her shining smile and elegant gray coif pictured at the top of her webpage:  http://www.penelopeniven.com

But the print below her picture told me of her writing landmarks, achievements and honorary degrees-- in the past tense. Niven had passed last August of an aneurism, the day before my mom's birthday.

I tell myself coincidences are God's way of being anonymous. But does her death mean that I must give up on her as a “mentor” or role model?

January 8, 2015

When the Words Hurt

I often revel in the good that people in our rooms say, gems of wisdom.  But there are times when I would rather listen to people talk than read what they write.  Somehow I need to hear the tone, see the facial expression, and then I am better able to take what I need and leave the rest. 

When I read these words, today, "The important thing is to be KIND to yourself and to get that critical voice in your head to SHUT UP!" I so wanted to say something.  I wanted to say, how can I be kind to myself and treat the "voice" in my head with a SHUT UP. Something terribly incongruent in that makes me want to speak up, protest, or at least question.

But the person and I are not on equal terms, any longer, and so I must just go about my business. I think that hurts more than anything.  Not to speak up, seems like a disservice to this person who was once my friend…
But maybe on this one, I am supposed to be silent and speak my own truth on something totally different, from the simple well of this day. From my own disappointments, helpful suggestions… 

January 3, 2015

A Letter To Myself from last January

The following is a letter that I received from myself,  just before year's end. It was written at the very start of 2014, and of course, I had forgotten all about it. It was a gift for me to read these words, sent in hope and optimism… and consider how they had come true.   
Dear Me,
I am hoping that you have a calm heart and no resentments when you read this in year's time. May your past misunderstanding with a former program friend be something that helps you have more strength of character and compassion. May you simply observe her process with consideration and faith.
If you and this former friend, with whom you have had a falling out, do make amends this year, amen! If not, may you spare the next newcomer any unconsidered words, and not place burdens at her feet that she cannot bear.
And, may you have a wonderful milestone with your own and others recovery stories!
Love, Me
PS: I am interested to know--how do you like your publisher?

December 9, 2014

Integrity in the Face of Authority

I have been having some challenges with anger lately. Lasting anger, which has surprised me, for my goal with this cunning emotion is to find a middle ground, a place of agreement and peace in the end.

It was at its worst when I had three "flame-throwing" interactions all involving authority figures in my personal life.

It has helped me to be meditating and practicing centering prayer, but I am still at a growing edge, which is painful. I consider myself to be an honest and kind person even when angry, and easy to "get over" anger, too. So this has puzzled me much, to find the anger coming back, almost like an after-belch. So maybe I am more powerless over anger than I realized. Or maybe the main point of my life is not to master anger, but to care for myself more compassionately when I feel it?

Anyways, in group this week, I decided to ask others about this deep issue I have when authority figures "impose" arbitrary rules that make no sense to me. 

One of our wise elders, a person with much experience, shared this with the group:   their sense that with the unique technologies we have, where we can discuss things with a variety of people, all over the world, and where so many of us are doing so with greater and greater civility,  we are at a time when there are no set "rules" and  where individuals  have opportunities to create in ways never before envisioned. In this new uncharted "play space" the whole point is not to be on the top or in a position of authority. Instead, we influence one another. You influence me, and I influence you and changes in our understandings happen much more quickly.  I realized I see this on loop as well, and in other forums. It is amazing. It is changing our program here as we speak to one another.

In our meeting, I was glad to be reminded that when I struggle against authority, I can find a way to study my anger.  It may mean face-to-face that I need to take time away from the situation and ask my HP to help me envision a solution that goes beyond my ideas that "I can't change" or "the other person can't change."   I can ask my HP to help me maintain my integrity by breathing, feeling and loving myself and the other person.  I need to do this with gentleness and without fear (desperation).

When I truly maintain my integrity, I am willing to play well with others.  I am a work in progress. I am likely to fail a few times before I get the hang of it. But I can imagine the joy in achieving this victory, and sharing it... one day at a time...

October 22, 2014

One Short Note, to K, who is gone

"We will grieve not, rather find strength in what remains."  William Wordsworth

I wrote your man a note yesterday inside a card with this sentiment. You would have words to say about that quote, K. I can hear your wry tone even now. 

So here is what I told him:  Despite the sentiment of this card, we do grieve.  And in grieving a bit each day our hearts return to wholeness. We find small joys.

The days pass into weeks and months. They do.  And we stay the course, without you.

In love, your friend, V