Thursday, November 17, 2016

Self Care


The concept of self care is a big deal right now.  We live fast paced lives that instantly give us options to do more and access information instantly.  The only way to slow down is through conscious choice to do so.

Self care is stressed in the graduate program I'm in as well.  It makes total sense that mental health care clinicians need to take care of themselves to be able to prime the well and avoid burn out.

There is something about self care that eludes me though.   I have always taken the approach of work first, and play in your free time.  The assumption is that free time is free because your work is finished.  It seems to me that the concept of self care is that you have to schedule in time to take care of yourself no matter how much work you have.  Taken to an extreme, that sounds to me like shirking responsibilities or procrastinating. 

Also, some of the self care events that my student organization hosts for us are not what I would call self care.  I recognize that unstructured social time is both fun, and a necessary part of being a balanced, high functioning human being.  However, as an introvert, I don't find social interaction a way to recharge.  Recharging and doing things for me involve activities that reduce external stimulus and are calming. 

I am not saying I don't do self care.  I love cooking and do so when I just need to feel comforted.  I schedule significant time for biking and going to the gym.  Both of these are fun and good for me and help me let go of school demands for a time.  However, they also use up energy and sometimes make me tired and sore.  I am good at taking care of me by managing my domestic chores, preventative healthcare, regular haircuts, and eating and sleeping as much as I should.  I see all of these tasks as automatic givens though and don't consider these activities self care either. 

So, in my plodding, pondering, obsessive way, I am still contemplating the idea of self care.  Is my weekly therapy sessions, gym visits, or weekly long bike rides self care?  Bike riding is one of my favorite activities and I've dedicated several hours a week to it for the sake of the hobby.  This activity may be the closest I have to pure self care.

Wednesday and Thursday nights I am usually pretty brain dead since we are in class all Wednesday and Thursday from 9 to 4.  I would like to figure out activities that are self care on Wednesday and Thursday nights because I am not able to do homework.  I am also not able to read for pleasure as my eyes actually hurt after looking at Power Points for 2 days straight.  So I need ideas for things to do that don't require learning anything, reading, looking at glowing screens, are cheap, and can be recharging.  TV falls mostly into the glowing screen category.  I also don't have a lot of space for more debating or stories.  


So far I've come up with the following:
drinking tea
listening to music and burning incense
looking at artwork and pictures

sometimes TV
sometimes artwork

yoga should probably be on this list


Anybody have other suggestions for relaxing ways to recharge when you're mentally drained but not ready to sleep yet?  The here is that I'm trying to not zone out. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Regrets, time, and my damn animus


Where do regrets live?  Life is not a dress rehearsal and words can't be taken back.  Each day is a lesson, yada, yada.  There was a time when I thought I could live my life without regrets.  I thought that to act in error was better to never act at all.  I feel like I've lived a balance of not taking enough risks and taking too many risks without knowing what I was doing.

I guess every life is a blind thrashing through stormy waters, alone in the darkness.

I sacrificed a lot to follow my dreams.  I'm seeking creativity as an ideal and hoping to help people in the process.  I'm still in the trenches, ready to help those who don't have a voice.

Yet, I'm going gray.  The price of Saturn, Father Time, is hefty.  I'll be turning 35 this year.  I was 8 months old when my mother turned 35.  She won't see her grandchildren if there are any.  Maybe I'm getting too old and just have to accept that I won't get to have a career and children.  Maybe I made too wayward choices in the love department for that.  There's nothing I can do about that at this point.  I just have to note that every now and then, a couple times a year, my biological clock cries out in desperation.  I think I could be a good mom.  Maybe I'll be able to nurture maternalistically in other ways instead.  There are many paths to one's life work and legacy.

I'm still facing fears with eyes open, face on.  Still trying to make sense of everything.  I know deep inside that I'm more aligned with my life's purpose than ever before.  Several times this week I've been weepy with tender vulnerability and trust in this process of development.

I can't stop listening to this song. 



My animus speaks through songs, a fluttering of emotions, energy, and hormones.  Why is it that I still have a complex constellated around a partnership that wouldn't let me down?  You would think I would know better and be over it by now.  I fear it is this compulsion that has led me into authoritarian, controlling, manipulative pacts with people criticizing me and minimizing me.  I don't always want to sing and dance alone.  I won't give up on conjunctio.  I have faith and hope that agape is possible.

Ugh, so frustrating. 


Onward.


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

On a Personal, Omnipotent God

In December of 2004 the Indian Ocean experienced a traumatic and historic tsunamis caused by an earthquake.  This world event struck me really hard.  It was compounded that I had been having dreams about drowning in ocean waves for weeks.

I wondered "why did this have to happen?"  I realized the answer was there is no reason and there is no omnipotent force behind the weather.  There is nothing to learn from such disasters (unless we are not doing proper disaster planning on personal and governmental levels). 

Then July 5th, 2005 I woke up from nightmares again at about 5 in the morning.  This was still photographic images of bobbies and caution tape and people crying.  I then went to the spare bedroom to check my email and that exact image was the first image on my Comcast news feed.

I then started doing a lot of soul searching and dealing with Cassandra Syndrome.  What was the purpose of these dreams?  Was I supposed to be calling government officials to be warning them?  No.  That couldn't be why I was having the dreams.  I would never get through to the people that needed to hear the message and would be put on some sort of watch list or, most likely, be ignored as crazy.  I came to the conclusion, with the help of my teachers, that I was just open and picking up on wavelengths of the world.  I decided to make a pact with myself not to have prophetic dreams about anything I can't control.  It worked.  When Katrina hit that August, my connection to it was through the insurance industry and not through my dreams.

That still left me with dealing with a world that didn't seem to have any divine oversight.  From this my conception of God changed.  Until that time, I felt that God was watching over me and had an invested interest in me personally.  That was one of the Christian assumptions I had not questioned.  After those devastating tragedies, I decided that while there seems to be some sort of mathematical order to the universe and laws both physical and beyond our perceptual capacities, there is not a higher order being that is looking out for us based on our priorities.  A God that keeps black holes doing what they do doesn't care about my heartbreak or whether I live or die.  I am insignificant.

This is the similar thinking of when I get ant traps, flea medicine for the cat, or fly traps for the kitchen.  When I eat things they die-- plants or animals.  We make choices and some of those choices are tragic for others such as the ant, flea, or fly colonies I don't want infesting my home.

One of my mother's favorite songs, that we played at her funeral was one that I heard her sing solos of several times at church.  It's "His Eye is on the Sparrow," and the words go, "his eye is on the sparrow, so I know he watches me."


I think this is one of the fallacies that made me mad at an unfair, or uncaring God.  I am glad I had already crossed this bridge because it seems just as unfair to attend my 93 year old maternal grandmother's funeral and my 68 year old mother's funeral in the same year.  Why did a woman who tried to be a health nut, who was strong, and mentally capable get incurable, terminal cancer, discovered at Stage IV?  There is no reason for this.  It just is.  There is no "everything happens for a reason," or lesson to be learned.

This idea is also freeing.  It has freed me from thinking that I must always comply, that I must always try to please people.  This kind of thinking is codependent first of all, but also takes away autonomy and personal power.  Furthermore, it shift blame away from personal responsibility.  If you do what you're told, whether it be from your parents, spouse, or church, you never have to question if it is right.  That assumption spreads to not questioning the zeitgeist, or "way of the times" of popular culture.  These questions pushed me to a harder, albeit more satisfying way of self-reflection and self-examination.  It also gives one greater responsibility to speak out when something is wrong, no matter how unpopular.  I came across an idea a couple years ago that while this may not be the path of the greatest, happiness, it is one, for me, of the greatest satisfaction.  The adage basically said that you can choose whether you want an interesting life or a happy one.

 Maslow had a lot of thoughts on this.  He felt that people who were self-actualizing did not depend solely on laws or cultural values to find a moral compass, but had to listen to their own sense of morality in order to benefit society.  Self-actualization isn't easy, but it's an admiral goal to strive for.

It is these types of ideals that give me meaning, rather than adherence to lines from bible camp songs that allow me to shirk responsibility.  "Jesus loves me," (but he'd love me more if I was male and not bi, queer, what-have-you).  The implication is that if I am of Jesus's chosen people, then he loves me and I am good.  (Let's not even add to this by mentioning that if I am one of Abraham's "sons" then why don't I keep passover? Didn't understand that at all as a 6 year old).  I can ask for forgiveness of my sins and it is washed away with communion wine.  Yeah, not a world I can live with.  I live in a world where nobody is "good" or "bad".  There is no we and them.  We exist in kindness, love, compassion, limited perspective, errors, and frailty.  We strive for ourselves, our families, our ideals.  We kill microbes, bugs, food, each other, and ourselves.  We lash out and say cruel things.  Such things can have lasting consequences.  Cause and effect, action (or inaction) and consequences-- that is the world I live in.  We are all in this together, whether we can admit that or not.


Monday, August 1, 2016

Depression as a Symptom, not a Disease

I think one of the things that made my journey out of depression really difficult was that no one seemed to understand what had happened or why.  The focus seemed to be on my mental disease.  This was one thing my ex really pushed, so much so that in our marital therapy, our therapist outright had to tell my ex that I was not ill and did not have a disease.

I have done a tremendous amount of soul searching, therapy, and research since then.  I have a much broader vocabulary for expressing what I felt at the time and where it all came from.

One of the things that contributed to my decompensation was that I started reaching out to people for help.  When I did that, I was put on probation with my husband and everyone I knew and interacted with on a regular basis was told not to contact me.  I lost my entire support system and became trapped in what felt like a jail cell with the very person I was trying to get away from.

Much of what I was feeling in depression was terminal aloneness.  In this link, Lilly Hope Lucario describes perfectly the terrible loneliness I had been chronically experiencing then and after.

Another piece of it was that I felt like I was living in a war zone.  I was completely stressed out and couldn't cope.  The three cup theory perfectly illustrates what that felt like.  Stress, anxiety, and depression were symptoms.  SSRI's masked those symptoms and sedated me.  However, the meds were not fixing the problem.  In fact, if I hadn't been on medication, I would have left  4 or 5 months before I actually did.

I did learn in that 5 month period between losing trust and coming close to a nervous breakdown and actually leaving was how to stop enabling.  With the help of my therapist, we started setting boundaries, communicating my needs, and extracting myself from behaviors that enabled.  The more independence I gained, the more bizarre monitoring behavior looked.  The more I asked for positive support, the more heinous and demeaning the criticisms looked.  I began to see that as his control over me failed, the lashing out, lies, and disrespect got more characterized.

Learning not to bail anyone else out, make excuses for their inappropriate behavior, and trying not to make up for someone else's behavior has been in the mix of what I've learned.  It's difficult to unlearn bad habits that have seemed normal in all the environments I've lived in.  I'm getting better at self-reflection, self regulation and monitoring, and withdrawing from others antisocial behavior.  Part of that is about not letting the bad behavior of others reflect on your self worth.  That was a biggy for me, but I decided that people don't judge me based on what someone in my world is doing, unless I'm contributing.  The other side of that is you shouldn't be associated with someone who regularly acts like an immature, conniving bully.

So, here I am at 34, learning how to be an adult.  I am trying to be more discerning about who I associate with.  My best friends are empathetic, understanding, thoughtful, good listeners, compassionate, and open-minded.  They are all big-hearted and want to learn how to be more productive, successful, and happy members of society.  We are all learning together.  I'm going to delve much further into enabling in my future posts.  It is insidious and an easy trap to fall into.  The hard effort to chose alternative behavior is well worth it though.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Perception Shapes Reality

Most people don't think about archetypal patterns, symbolism, and the nature of the human condition.  That is okay. It doesn't make me better, it makes my interests are more abstract, philosophical, and esoteric.  Maybe I'm less pragmatic or detailed because of this.  I know I'd make a pretty paltry CPA or basketball player.  That doesn't imply better or worse. It's about priorities and focus.  

There are not good and bad people. I am aware of my good qualities, faults, fragility, and errors. Being aware of conflict and opposites within me doesn't not make me undisciplined or undiscerning, it makes me comfortable with paradox and tension. Tension can create strength, stability, and integrity.  Isn't that how suspension bridges work?

It's about perceptions.  Different awarenesses are what makes us unique and different. Some people have a great sense of pitch, or spatial arrangement, mechanics, or color, or flavors, or of conversation. That doesn't mean if if someone can't discern the subtle flavors of a wine, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.   It means they don't have the physiological capacity or cultivated palette. I have really bad allergies and therefore a bad lung capacity. I will never be a professional athlete. I don't have the aptitude. Some people don't have the capacity to do higher math.  That doesn't mean that calculus is not real, it is just outside of some peoples' awareness. We need each other for our different perspectives and gifts.  Cultural backgrounds, local customs, religious values, and ideas on politeness, all vary and are all valid.  That doesn't mean we have to agree, but we should respect where everyone is coming from. 

What do you have to offer?  How are you making a contribution?  Where do your gifts and interests lie?  Where is your perspective unique?

I'm highly sensitive to speech patterns and tonal inflections. I can often pick up on the underlying, and not overtly expressed emotional motivations of people. Sometimes I'm more aware of what someone is feeling than they are consciously.  From this, at times, I respond to unconscious communication, exposing the communicator's unconscious complexes.  As I mature and gain experience, I am learning to temper my responses so it doesn't blindside the person I'm interacting with.  These situations have also made me hyper-vigilant, which can be exhausting. Such are the boons and challenges of being an empath or highly sensitive person, HSP.  

Here's a physical example illustrating tools for precision and sensitivity.  Surgical robotic nanotechnology cannot be used in the same way as a jackhammer, crane or bulldozer. These different types of tools are used for different things and have to be handled differently. They have to be calibrated using different scales. People are the same way, having different foci, gifts, and proclivities.

Some of how we act, think, and feel is conscious.  Much of it is not. A lot of it is automatic programming based on habit, history, upbringing, culture, and personal comfort and awareness.  We wouldn't be able to function without unconscious, reflexive filtering in our environment. In fact, the main reason senior citizens have a harder time driving is a decreased ability to filter out distractions and slower cognitive processing. 

We pay attention to what we have been trained to value and ignore that which we don't have a proclivity to focus on.  It shapes our reality and our perspectives. Our interests and values create our reality. One of the beauties of being human is our differences in culture, personal histories, values, and gifts. I think we all have the challenge and mandate of learning to be less egocentric and less ethnocentric. (Nonviolent Communication is a book I think everyone should read in school.  Likewise, logic should be taught in high school).  Active listening, communication and learning styles, valuing differences, supporting each other, and non-violent communication are all tools we can use to find common ground and peacefully coexist. We can all be activists and ambassadors in this way. It's how we can strive for humanity, dignity, compassion, and grace. 



Saturday, July 23, 2016

Toxic Gender Roles



I read the following article on Father's Day.  Dear Fathers: Let's talk to our Sons.  I was glad to be spending the day with my not toxic, nor aggressive father.  I figured it wasn't the time to share the link since I'm not a father and don't have children so I was making off-topic unnecessary commentary.

However, I'm still thinking about the  article.  In fact, it was harder to find again because of all the articles written in the past couple of weeks on how toxic masculinity contributes to mass shootings.

Maybe I'm not off topic then.  It's certainly on the minds of plenty of people.

I'm white, I grew up in a protestant household, raised by educated parents who were still married to each other.  I had a lot of advantages and I'm happy to recognize that.  From as early as 5 years old, I started to reject stereotypical gender roles at a time when kids normally narrowly define themselves by their gender.  Being a boy just seemed more adventurous, free, and dynamic.  Being a girl seemed itchy, prissy, restrictive, boring, and powerless.

As an adult I became much more willing to accept and embrace female power, confidence, and my sexuality.  It was this search that led me to alternative religion.  Even in an environment that is seeking to re-balance gender roles and worship Gods and Goddesses, I found that I was questioned.  During my initial interview to join a coven, it was mentioned that I had found Paganism through a Goddess Spirituality Group.  I was aware, that there are Gods and men in this Tradition.  Is that okay?  Of course, I said.  I love the men in my life.  At the time, I found this question confusing as I was functionally heterosexual and was more comfortable around men than women.  Later, when I was starting my own coven, I was told by other female leadership that if they granted me permission to start this endeavor, I was not allowed to get pregnant within the first year or two of it's founding.  These two examples show how pervasive control of women's power and sexuality really is across the board.

15 years later my perspective has deepened.  I have been told that I'm a man hater because I want to be independent and can take care of myself.  Or because I don't enjoy performance femininity.  I have had very intelligent men tell me that while I am attractive, fascinating, interesting, and dynamic, they wouldn't want to date me because I might be smarter than they are.  My dad thought that particular response was comical.  His response? "You snagged the interest of someone who has talents greater than yours in some areas? Score!"

I have spent countless hours learning communication styles and techniques, body language, listening skills, and mirroring.  Yet, at least 3 out of 5 of my major relationships have ended with criticism, bullying, smear campaigning, and sheer cruelty because I am willing to stand up for myself to the face of aggressive and sometimes violent malignant masculinity.

Why is it that standing up for myself hurts more than cowering and being berated?  Some of it may be the culture that tells me I am being a bad woman for claiming my power or holding my boundaries.  Some of it is that while I have stood up for myself in such situations, it didn't change the problem or even make a dent in it.  The only good I did was that I ended my acceptance of and involvement with said malignant, detrimental, toxic mistreatment.

My open book honesty is threatening.  I am unwilling to shut up and put up or put out for that matter.  It's much more difficult to isolate, gaslight, or victim-blame a person who won't shut up.  My main goal with my outspokenness is that other people find their voice, see there is another way, and know they are not alone.  Nothing is more affirming and gratifying than seeing someone gain confidence in themselves.

Onward.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Mammon and Grumbles


Caption=Mammon from Collin de Plancy's Dictionnaire Infernal 


For the past year I've been thinking about the concept of serving Mammon.  This a phenomenon that is prevalent throughout Western culture right now.  This idea is most available to us from Matthew 6:24.  The King James version reads,
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
The church is losing its congregation every year.  What are the people who leave their faith turning to?  Mostly, I think they are turning to nothing.  They can't deal with the hypocrisy or the politics of the very human church and feel they are better off going it alone, without the olitikos.  This also means many are going through life without the container of context.  Tradition, family, the certainty of culture all weaken.

So many find themselves going through the motions; uninspired, unguided, and without a higher ideal or sense of purpose.  You can serve beauty, a cause, your family, God, but standing for nothing means you'll stand for something unconsciously by fiat.  Going with the flow or the majority, or whatever is easiest isn't good enough.

Reaching for status or riches or hedonism is serving Mammon.  The glamor of Hollywood, the glitz of Las Vegas, fortune and fame--Mammon.  Seeing all forms of earthly pleasures, these will not bring lasting satisfaction but a momentary, illusionary wash of endorphins.

Every man for himself isn't good enough.  We desperately need each other.  Each other's support, love, varying perspectives, histories, and values.

The other side of not standing for something and living a life that has been deeply examined is becoming a slave to your complexes.  A couple of months ago I read The Great Divorce, by CS Lewis.  It's a fabulous book.  Today I'll mention one passage about being possessed by your complexes:
In The Great Divorce MacDonald says of the peevish woman in Hell: "Ye misunderstand me. The question is whether she is a grumbler, or only a grumble. If there is a real woman--even the least trace of one still there inside the grumbling, it can be brought to life again. If there's one wee spark under all those ashes, we'll blow it till the whole pile is red and clear. But if there's nothing but ashes we'll not go on blowing them in our own eyes forever. They must be swept up."

"But how can there be a grumble without a grumbler?" the Narrator (Lewis) asks. MacDonald continues: "The whole difficulty of understanding Hell is that the thing to be understood is so nearly Nothing. But ye'll have had experiences ... it begins with a grumbling mood, and yourself still distinct from it: perhaps criticizing it. And yourself, in a dark hour, may will that mood, embrace it. Ye can repent and come out of it again. But there may come a day when you can do that no longer. Then there will be no 'you' left to criticize the mood, nor even to enjoy it, but just the grumble itself going on forever like a machine."

Is Hell, then just a state of mind that persists after death? Lewis asks MacDonald: "Then those people are right who say that Heaven and Hell are only states of mind'?" "Hush," said he (MacDonald) sternly."Do not blaspheme. Hell is a state of mind--ye never said a truer word. And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind--is, in the end, Hell. But Heaven is not a state of mind. Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly." 
--- I found the above passage here:  http://www.discovery.org/a/507

The more we repeat a phrase, a witacism, a tagline, the more we become the grumble.  It takes over until it no longer has any meaning.  You become the tagline, the phrase.  Unthinking, and identifying with the philosophy, you become the grumble and can no longer see enough perspective to see your way out to a new way of thinking.  You become the same stories, emotional scars, and grumblings your parents had and their parents before them.

This is a prison of the mind.