Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Incredible Variety for an Amazing Price...

Help Bring Igor Home "Fire" Sale ... and a noble cause.

Friday, August 23, 2013

When the student is ready, the teacher appears... again?

I took a class from Tanya at Blogelina earlier this summer, but I was really not a good student.  And I do know how to be a good student.

I've been on a week-long, device-free vacation in the North woods.  It was wonderful and I did not suffer withdrawal symptoms, and now that I'm back I am appreciating the amazing role of virtual reality in our reality... and I'm looking forward to playing with it.

4-Week Profitable Blogging For Beginners Class - For A Limited Time Only $5!

I know that much of what I have written about is what I intend to do and don't ever do-- I remind myself of my teenage son who spends have of his vlogs on YouTube begging people to subscribe-- but the thing I will give myself credit for is that I plow forward.  This time, I may start a whole new blog because I'm interested in WordPress and I want better focus.  I think the sheer diversity of my ideas slows me down because it makes it hard to decide what to do or create or write about.

If you want to give it a shot, too, click on the "How to Really Make Money Blogging" banner, where you can take a $25 class for only $5!  (that's the price I'm getting too)  I don't know if it's the same class that I took a few months ago for free, but if it is, it's worth it because maybe, MAYBE I'm ready now.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Practically perfect in every way

Tonight, I was in an online chat room, a place of encouragement within Brook Noel's Make Today Matter life system, tonight, musing about what to write on my blog.

"What do you usually write about?" someone asked.

"My imperfections," I said, trying to be brief, and reflecting on my willingness to be vulnerable lately.  "Life journey."

"How about writing about something that is perfect about you?" she suggested.

Change it up.  I like change.  I knew right away I needed to do this post, but I've been lost in perfectionism (and trying to write a different post, not the one I needed to write) about figuring out what  is perfect about me.

Everything I want to write about is either less than perfect, involves giving myself credit for accepting my imperfections, giving myself backhanded compliments, highlights the good traits that complement my flaws, is wonderful or excellent but not perfect (very much in the eye of the beholder), and so on, and so on.  Or, I could write a list of almost-perfect things about myself, that would perhaps, by sheer volume, appear to approach perfection (a modern-day Mary Poppins, say I).  Or I could dissect the word 'perfect' and find things that fit every little part of the definition, and that would be a close approximation of perfect.  We could get some thesaurus action goin' on.

Or I could just quit and say, forget it, people, nobody's perfect.  Nobody has even one perfect thing about them.  Excellent, but not perfect.  Unique, even, but not perfect.  Or I could make a joke about my sports fandom or my hometown or some other affiliation being an obvious sign of perfection.  Or I could tell you that my husband thinks I'm perfect and the rest of you boys and girls can just eat your hearts out.  Or I could wax philosophical and tell you about Plato's cave and that I am a shadow that is an image of perfection.  Or I could tell you that God is Perfect and I'm a child of God made in his image, so there must be some perfection involved.

Or I could veer off and teach you the word "perfect" in many languages.  Or I could give you a mouthwatering recipe for the perfect morsel and IT would be perfect enough for enough people that my sharing it would reveal that I have touched perfection.

Or I could just keep brainstorming long enough to hit upon the one thing, the one little thing about me, that is truly perfect.

And at that moment, I would hang my head in disappointment and soberly conclude my post, with the realization that telling you my perfection would instantly spoil it, and I would lose the only perfection I have.

You see my dilemma.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Don't Ask Yourself What the World Needs...

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

~Howard Thurman

Is it possible to be too alive?  I get so excited every day.  Some days more than others.  Some days I'm overwhelmed.  But every day something stirs me.  I have another brilliant idea and then wonder when I can make it happen.  Or does that wondering come from my scarcity mentality, knowing there is not enough time to do what I want to do, so I am withholding nourishment from that part of me that wants to be alive?  

This morning I had an idea for a book.  That, in and of itself, is not surprising.  I have had many book ideas.  Many good book ideas.  I have a whole collection of books waiting to be written.  This morning was different, though.  I've been excited about ideas before, but this one had me dancing and singing.  This one had my dear daughter thinking I had gone a little wacko, and pretty soon I was so excited that she insisted I tell her my idea.

I said, "OK, if I tell you, you have to be my cheerleader.  You have to be the one who tells me I can do it, I will write this book even if no one else thinks it's worthwhile."

Dear daughter, a fourth-grader, asked, "What if I don't like your book idea?"

I told her it was okay to say so, but she still had to be my cheerleader or I wasn't going to tell her.  She liked my idea, and my next idea about my idea, and my ideas about my ideas, and okay, it may have been just the joy of seeing her mom giggle and exclaim, but she was sold on it.

I had quite a bit of trouble concentrating on my work much of the day.  My work did not involve anything remotely related to my book idea.  I'm a good worker and I got focused and got lots of work done, and by the end of the day, I wasn't even thinking about the book, and I had had many other brilliant ideas, some of which competed directly with the idea of writing my book.  Now, in the quiet evening, many idea later, I feel as alive as ever.

Still a little too alive.  Or no-- not too alive, but too hungry.  Each idea is not a sign of life, but is instead a hunger pang.  In order to come alive, I need to nourish myself.  I need to find the right "food" to fuel each idea.  Then I may come alive.  What seems like "alive" now is just knowing that I need to be.  The excitement of an idea is like the saliva that increases when I see food after going a few hours without eating.  And now I see the part of the quote that I missed: 

and go do it.

That is what it will mean to come alive.

A dear friend once told me that my "energy and enthusiasm for life" were "unparalleled."  I quote her to myself when I need a boost (i.e. I don't quite feel as she described).  In this moment, though, that energy and enthusiasm looks like a craving, my soul telling me it needs nourishment the same way my body might hint when it's lunchtime.  

And so, we are back to Give What You Crave.  I am grateful for my special daughter who helps me do that.  At one point this morning, I said, "Now I'm feeling a little deflated."  

"Why?" she asked.

"I'm so excited about my book, but a little voice in my head just said, 'You have to clean your house first.'"  I whined.  My shoulders slumped.

Dear daughter just looked up at me, a determined look on her face, and said, "You have to write that book."  

I am blessed.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

There's a crack in everything

My April 1 post was about signing on to the Ultimate Blog Challenge and why I refused to consider it setting myself up for failure.   I gutted my way through the first five days.  The pros were:
  • I was proving to myself that I could do it (building mastery is one of the skills I'm working on in DBT therapy)
  • I was building momentum
  • I appreciated having the support of a community instead of just blogging into space the way I had been
  • The writing itself was therapeutic
  • I was pleased to do something from my agenda on a daily basis (instead of everyone else's)
The cons:
  • I had yet another thing on my to-do list.
  • I was staying up late to blog, getting behind on sleep.
  • Some days I was blogging instead of other, more important things
  • I was seeking approval (mostly from myself)
  • I felt exposed and shrunk back from it
I didn't write any posts on the weekend.  At first, I though, weekdays, that's pretty good.  Five of seven days.  That's consistent.  And I cut myself a break because my dog had gone missing.  It took time to make and put up posters and call around and cry and all that.   After three days, we found her, and she had been safe the whole time, but then my inner taskmaster flipped a little switch and said, alright, now you have to get back to that blog.  That might have been okay.  But other things came up, and I did write.  I have long observed that I can't blog (at least not on this blog, with themes so vulnerable) unless I am well enough to do so.  I wrote 26 pages last night and 4 this morning, but they were all for me.  Not suitable for all audiences.

What happens when I blog for 5 days and then not at all for 3?  What is that 3-day gap?  A lapse?  A failure?  A crack?

Art by Shari Elf

I need for it to be just a crack.  So many obstacles pile on, so many mistakes are made one after the other, I start to feel broken.  I know it's the Perfectionist and she doesn't necessarily deserve my attention, so it helps to take my brokenness and narrow it down to a crack.  A crack that is there for the purpose of letting the light in.

This verse reminds me how much beauty I do find in imperfection.  A little wabi sabi going on.  I love collage, mosaic, patchwork, any kind of art made from beach glass, or driftwood, or old lawnmower parts, or recycled material, or random found objects.  Taking something incomplete or useless and making it part of a whole.  Repurposing it.  Ringing the bells that still can ring.  I am reminding myself now to apply my attraction to imperfection in art to my life.  The imperfection of 5 days on, 3 days off, of a blog challenge can be something that appeals to me.  I can look at those 3 days as just a crack, and write another post while the light gets in.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Self-Talk is Applied Linguistics

For many years now, I have been greeted every morning by Brook Noel, in her Good Morning newsletter.  Brook is a best-selling author who provides solutions and support to help women live their best lives.  The Good Morning emails are an anchor for me.  I read them for years before I ever bought a product or took a class (now I am a Make Today Matter lifetime member).

The concept is simple:  quote, reflection, affirmation.  I unsubscribed for awhile a couple of years ago when I had a particularly bad attitude and wanted to cling to my depression, but I came back.  Many of the emails are repeats, and I've started to have my favorites.  Sometimes it's the quote that packs a wallop, other times Brook's reflection strikes a chord, and still other times the quote and the reflection are okay but the affirmation is just what I needed to here.  This is the one that came this morning, and it's one that always makes me sit up a little taller and open my eyes a little wider.  And this time, I saw a dialectic in it very much like what I am practicing in dialectical behavior therapy.

Optimist, pessimist or poptimist? 

(Brook Noel's article from April of 2008)

When I was in high school, I called myself Emily the Eternal Optimist.  I don't recall why I gave myself that name, except that I always tried to be optimistic.  The thing was, I wasn't really great at actually allowing my feelings, the "negative" ones, and then moving to optimism.  In eighth grade health we had a unit about stress, and we took a test of our life stress.  It has been many decades but I believe it was much like this one, only age-appropriate, ranking stressors based on how recently they had occurred.  I remember going up to the teacher and asking if I had to include my parent's divorce, "because I have no stress about that" or my dad's fight with cancer (he wasn't out of the woods yet!) because I was "dealing with it really well."  She said, yes, if it happened I needed to check it off.  I guess the Perfectionist wanted to have the lowest score in the class, so I could win the prize for Least Stressed.  The other kids thought I was weird because my whole family and I practiced Transcendental Meditation, so I needed to prove that I transcended stress entirely.

Fast forward a decade or two, and Emily the Eternal Optimist ends up with postpartum depression and anxiety, morphing into regular ol' clinical depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and an eating disorder-- which are all labels for excellent book learning, impaired emotional intelligence (in my case).  But hey! getting with the program now.  I was much like the friend that Brook Noel describes, jabbing myself repeatedly, hurting myself with my internal dialogue, over and over, like water torture.  I still am, I guess, but I am learning a new language.

Self-talk is a special language.  I don't know if I'm an optimist, a pessimist, or a 'poptomist,' but I am a linguist.  I appreciate the opportunity to use language to explore parts of me that aren't made up with words.  That's part of why I'm out here in the blogosphere, being vulnerable with friends and complete strangers; I need to practice the language of emotions and positive self-talk.  And to teach it.  I taught French and Spanish for many years, words fascinate me, and I approach everything as if it were a language (even math).  So I can't really learn this new language unless I have a way to share it with others who might need to learn it, too.

Thanks for the practice session.  You are way better than flashcards.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Every obstacle is a vehicle

Maybe it’s cliché to say
  • We can turn closed doors into windows of opportunity
  • When a door closes, another one opens up.
  • Focus on problems, you get more problems.
  • It’s a process but it doesn’t have to be a problem.

I don't mind clichés.  I love quotes and borrowed words and my own little phrases.  I can hardly think without words and I need words to turn my thoughts.

Today I was excited to have the right amount of me-time between work and dinner out with friends.  The right amount is not enough time to go home but just enough to plant myself somewhere and write a blog post, maybe answer some emails.  This morning my daughter asked me why I was bringing the laptop to work with me.  I gave her a wise mom answer, “Because I am.”

Spring has finally arrived in Minnesota (high of 51-- it's all relative) and I am thirsty for it.  My face drinks in sunshine.  I thought I could plant myself on a bench in front of the library, get my fresh air, connect to the library’s wi-fi, and tippy-type away, briefly getting the best of both worlds—natural and technological.  Feeling connected and connected.

Nope.  My computer cannot seem to find the wi-fi today.  I took the laptop inside, but still no luck.  I have had a tendency to get myself worked up over things not matching my plans or expectations, even though I consider myself a problem-solver.  I am a concrete random, according to the Gregorc mindstyles, so I tend to create problems if none present themselves.  Part of dealing with depression is difficulty making decisions, so I often get tangled up in that.

However, I have been practicing radical acceptance and non-judgment and all kinds of skills and self-care, and had a few successes under my belt already today, so I was able to make a quick decision.  The library would close in 20 minutes.  I could drive to some other wi-fi, closer to my dinner destination, or I could grow where I was planted.  I chose to sit right down and type in a word-processing document (not straight into Blogger?! Gasp!) and just get started.  The technological connection will come later.

And, when the library closes (in two minutes now), I will not go chasing after another wi-fi connection.  I will take a walk and get my outside time, then go to dinner.  Still getting the best of both worlds.  I made a decision and went with it.  After years of second- and third-guessing myself, I am pausing to appreciate the beauty of this.

You made it to the bottom of this blog post.  Do you think this was a simple, elegant and effective solution?  Do you wonder what the big deal is?  Is it obvious to you that the snag was never really an obstacle?  Do you question the value of writing about something I should have been able to shrug it off in the first place?  I’m curious, and proud to say that I don’t need judgment or advice.  I need my own approach.  I need to be willing to name obstacles “obstacles” so I can do the next thing.  Knowing what an obstacle is, I can go over it, under it, around it, through it, or put wheels on it and make it a "vehicle." 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What's this all about? Part II: GIVE

If "crave" represents scarcity, then the "give" part of my blog represents abundance.  

I get a kick out of playing with words and phrases.  The day I came up with this phrase, I was in my cubicle at work (does anyone have a cubicle at home?), frustrated with cravings, but had been in therapy enough years to know I needed to do allow my feelings and do something with them.  It just wasn't my first choice.  A snack would have been my first choice-- or Ed's first choice (ED = eating disorder)-- but I took a break and pulled out a piece of paper and doodled and wrote words.  

I wrote "crave" over and over.  I wrote everything that rhymed with "crave."  I wrote everything that started with "cr."  I drew a casket ("grave" rhymes with "crave).  I googled "crave."  Every phrase I saw was about satisfying a craving (here I was trying NOT to give in to the urge) or reducing cravings (believe me, just the word "reduce" triggered my scarcity mentality).  Then a rhyme stood out from my list:

While my scarcity mentality had me trying to get, not give, and I knew all about giving in to cravings, I realized that there was something different there.  Something I needed to flip around to flip my mindset.  So I brought in the what-ifs:

What if I GAVE what I CRAVE?
What if?

Instead of the drained feeling I get when I've given and given and have nothing else to give, I felt the teeniest bit of spaciousness.  Room for abundance.  A hint of a new well to draw on.  What if?

Well, first I would have to know what I crave.  The idea of going around handing my co-workers candy bars because I wanted them was laughable.  Not that I don't like to share or bring in the occasional office treat, but I pictured myself physically giving what I craved, and I looked silly.  Clearly, that is not what I craved.  I needed to figure out what it is, and then figure out how to give it.  And to whom to give it.  

I was awfully good at giving to others (whether or not they appreciated was I was giving)-- or I thought I was.  Of course, I ended up taking any time my well ran dry, generally making a mess of any giving I had done.  But at least it was something I had practice at, despite not being good at giving to myself.  At first, I practiced mostly on my husband.  When he was driving me up a tree, I paused to figure out what I was craving from my interaction with him, then I identified what his variation of that might be, and I looked for a little way of giving that to him.  When I felt judged by him, and pointing out that he was being judgmental didn't help, I identified my craving for acceptance, then turned it around and figured out a way to accept him.  

After that, I got a little obsessed and tested my phrase all over, practicing on everyone, and learning to give to myself.  I'm not an expert at giving what I crave, and it has not solved my problems, and it doesn't replace the Golden Rule, or the Serenity Prayer, or any other tasty morsel of love and wisdom, but I have one more tool in my toolbox for turning my mind from scarcity to abundance.  If I crave, then deep down there is enough to give. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

What's this all about? Part I: CRAVE

When I first started this blog, I had coined a phrase for myself.  It helped me reframe situations, and I named my blog for it.  I meant to build up some sense of my journey and connection, and then tell you about how I came up with the phrase.  My epiphany.  Give what you crave.  My twist on the Golden Rule.

It was a nice idea... but it was nearly two years ago.  I'm not sure I remember the story.  Either it wasn't such a stroke of genius that it left me with a lightning-bolt scar on my memory, or I have SO MANY fantastic ideas that it is a mere flicker in a city of lights.  Maybe we'll find out someday, but for now, I am taking my phrase apart to reveal what it's about (and maybe what I'm about, and maybe even what you're about).

Craving comes from a scarcity mentality.  I have been craving (food, attention, touch, intimacy, security) for most of my life.  I do have a modicum of self-control, but I didn't trust (a) myself with my desires, or (b) the universe to provide for me.  One way that I played that out was by developing a binge-eating disorder.  Associating cravings with bingeing is not a big leap, but I used food for so many years to keep my real feelings (and non-food cravings) in check, it took a long time to be able to recognize the subtleties of cravings.  I'm still in treatment, and it's still a process.

When I was craving food, or escape, or desperately trying to understand what was wrong with someone else that they weren't giving me what I craved emotionally, I started to ask myself what I was really craving.  There are all sorts of ways to get at true emotions, and for me, equating them with cravings made them something I could relate to.  Craving?  I know all about craving.

In middle school, I would crave a particular food-- a chocolate malt, or a banana split-- and the feeling of needing to have it would overwhelm me.  I would whine and carry on.  Sometimes I got what I wanted, sometimes I didn't.  Not only that, the Perfectionist was at work.  She knew exactly what constituted the perfect banana split, and if a sauce ended up on the wrong scoop of ice cream or there was only half a cherry instead of three whole cherries, with stems, one on each scoop, the Perfectionist was disappointed.  It's easy to see, now, that I was setting myself up for failure, but I didn't know.  I didn't even know the word "perfectionist" until my eighth grade English teacher took me out in the hall to let me cry away from my peers.  I had gotten a zero on my poem about cucumbers.  I was overwhelmed, and when he used the word "perfectionist," I knew it was right on-- and it also felt like the right thing to be.  What else could I be?

These are episodes in my life story where my cravings culminate in binges.

Because I'm Not Good Enough

Finding out what I really crave, and reminding myself that I am good enough to get it, or that I deserve it even if I don't get it, has been the crux of, well, years of therapy.  Every craving came from a sense of lack.  The switch flipped for me when I found that if I could identify what I was craving, even if I felt that I had nothing to give, I could give the littlest bit of it.  If I could give it, that meant it existed, and it (I) was enough.  Cue the music ("Constant Craving," of course).

Come back for Part II, the "give" part of Give What You Crave.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Why I'm going from 0 to 60 as a blogger

Perhaps my "why" is that I'm an April fool.   I am joining the Ultimate Blog Challenge and plan to post EVERY DAY this month.  My last post was last August and my blog seems never to have gotten off the ground. Of course, then I went and started another one.  So the idea of adding a daily blog post to my already busy life when I've never had any consistency with it would appear to be setting myself up for failure.  This after my last post was my definition of SUCCESS.


I have a lot of whys between August and April.  Some answer the question, why commit to this? others answer why now? and still others answer why blog in the first place?  I'm going to let them all live together in this post.

  • I appreciate the value of making commitments
    • One commitment I made was to "dialectical abstinence" as part of a DBT therapy group
    • I used my unique love of acronyms to reduce my anxiety around planning (this allowed my to make better commitments to myself)
    • I developed habits of prioritizing 3 actions a day and letting the rest go
  • I value community and actively seek it
  • I am really appreciating the idea of practicing habits
    • Training myself to move forward even if I don't have it all figured out yet
    • Since January first, I've added habits & sharpened skills
      • Decision-making
      • Prioritizing
      • Setting an intention, following through
      • Positive self-talk
    • I have brought some other long-standing habits out of hibernation
      • Practicing TM
      • Writing in a gratitude journal
  • Sometimes I need a gimmick to get something done
  • I took an online course about writing a home-based business plan
  • I severed some attachment to needing approval
  • I got some approval and support when I made it clear I needed it
  • I reduced hours at my job, not to blog instead of work, but to focus on eating disorder recovery and get systems in place for my family to better navigate our busy lives
  • A side effect of the reduction and refocus is that I can choose more things that are for ME, such as telling my tale bloggily
  • I get to have a hobby that is not just escape, but true renewal (yeah, I still escape... Scramble With Friends, anyone?)
  • It says "Give your blog a boost!" and Hello! My blog needs a boost!
  • I liked Michelle Schaeffer's emphasis on results being motivating.  I bought into the idea that maybe if I blog every day for a month I will see results instead of dawdling forever.
  • I wanted an excuse to be on my computer
  • I love a challenge
  • I am impulsive 
There you go!  From zero to sixty on April first.  Let's see what speed I can maintain and what that means for speeds in other areas of my life.