Friday, December 11, 2015

Stage a Holiday Rebellion!

Today I'm going to share a story I'm calling "Sasha's First Holiday Rebellion".

Back in my 20s I was partnered with a woman who was both highly extroverted and loved the holiday season--to be honest we both did. We always had a decorated tree that we invited friends over to decorate with us. We went to parties, spent time with our families and generally enjoyed the colorful fun of the season.

But one year, all the visiting and spending time with others just burnt me out. After cooking two holiday dinners myself to entertain family and friends, my lovely partner volunteered me to cook for her cousins who were visiting her family. Don't get me wrong, these were lovely people AND I love to cook but I noticed that every I thought about it my entire body felt like I as wearing a lead suit. I just couldn't face another evening of cooking and socializing. I needed a break!

I chose to not go. I gave my partner a recipe card for my beef stew recipe and told her she could call me if she needed advice but I was going nowhere that evening. She wasn't happy about it and her family wondered "what's wrong with Sasha" but they got over it.

I don't remember exactly what I did with my evening but I believe it included putting my feet up and watching a movie. All I know is that when I think back on it my body relaxes a little and I breath a sigh of relief.

Just recently a good friend told me how she turned down a family plan to travel on Thanksgiving in favor of relaxing at home. This made me smile A LOT.

Sometimes the best thing you can give yourself is a vacation from the Holiday. There might be some resistance at first, but when people see you are serious about taking care of your own peace and well being, they often will follow your lead which will create a more peaceful season for everyone.

Thanksgiving -- have a serving of sanity

Hey Peeps, I sent this out to my mailing list and thought it was worth sharing more broadly. Just in case you are running hard trying to make everyone happy.

I love to cook and I especially love making Thanksgiving dinner. I love it so much that in the past I was quite willing to do my one woman act for my family like I was some kind of circus performer. Never mind I didn't get to actually visit with my family or really enjoy sitting down to dinner. I had a center stage position to maintain! Also, I didn't need any stinkin' help! I can DO IT ALL!

Right?

Do you find yourself in this position ever? Where you are just the center of some activity and loving the attention but just on the verge of collapse because if you admit in even the smallest way that the task is tiring you out (even with all the recognition) you will loose everyone's (love, respect, awe...).

Well, I found myself in that exact spot. After several years of creating unique menus that included things like chestnut soup shooters and gorgieres, multiple desserts and unique takes on traditional recipes I found myself burning out. I was just exhausted thinking about the menu. Never mind the cleaning, table decor etc.

(I just didn't want to disappoint anyone).

Only a couple years ago I took a risk and asked my sister to bring a pumpkin pie. The next year, I toned down the menu. This year, Keri is doing all the appetizers.

The weird thing is I don't think anyone is really noticing that these other elements aren't there. Or that I'm not doing everything. And perhaps my effort is appreciated even when I give up a little control.

What about you? Is there something you really dread that you possibly could risk farming out or just dropping all together?

Here is a tiny challenge. Find one thing that you think that you absolutely must do that you are dreading (it doesn't have to be around Thanksgiving or the holidays by the way) and DON'T DO IT. If it must be done, give it to someone else. If it's optional, drop it. See what happens.

Then take a nap.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Guns..what I think about the "debate"

We are on an upward trend of gun related violence and we are still arguing about the right to possess guns.

The argument always devolves into "good law abiding gun owner" clutching their pearls protesting "but I'm a good gun owner" and how they only shoot at targets and they have a right to defend their home and how they have a permit and how they obey the law and how blah blah blah THEY ARE GOOD PEOPLE NOT NUT-JOBS DAMMIT!!!

Despite the statistics stating that these good citizen gun owners are all for regulations (because those bad guys are gun manufactures or the NRA--not the people buying the guns or being influenced by the NRA), I have yet to see one gun owner getting up to offer any solution to gun violence if it in any way inconveniences their perceived rights to have a gun.

Because these good people aren't the problem, right? It's the crazy irresponsible people that are screwing up the party.

Why are we so fixated on owning guns anyway?

This is what I think.

The base impulse behind guns, no matter what story you tell yourself about heritage, family, good times, going hunting with your dad, your years as a scout (boy or girl), how safe and controlled you are...gun ownership is about being able to do a greater violence than you think can be visited upon you.

Guns have no alternate use. They are designed for killing (no really. I'll wait while you look that up).

In a zero sum mindset, superior firepower is a poor man's peace.

Our world moves fast and doesn't always feel safe.  It's not a big leap for a fragile person to use a gun to solve their feelings of angst, frustration or disenfranchisement.

(but, I'm a good person...a responsible person)

Oh boy, the spittle really starts to fly when talk about the right to "defend your home" begins.

In the story of the good responsible gun owner, shooting an intruder is the end of the story. The intruder is dead and the mini castle restored to peace. The good people win the evil intruder goes to jail (or is dead--you are supposed to shoot to kill in those instances, right?).

Rights as a good citizen fulfilled.

But the possibility of the dangerous outside coming in, taking your stuff and "getting you" never goes away. That looping film plays in the brain every time the good, responsible, recreational, "only protecting my home" gun owner hears or sees something that remotely triggers fear.

It's life on high alert with guns and ammo. Is that safety?

If you look at global statistics for countries with gun control the per capita rate for home break ins and gun related violence is far lower than here in the US.  This is well documented.

Then the conversation goes back to "our heritage, tradition, American values etc" and "why can't I have a gun? I'm a responsible blah blah blah".

Will we ever stop believing guns make us safer, freer (or more American)?

One thing is true for me. As I get ready to press Publish on this article, I know that it will likely upset some gun owners.

This fact doesn't make me feel very safe or free. We have that in common at least.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

the blessing of twisting my knee--how I'm letting others care for me

Yesterday morning I managed to fall hard in my kitchen and twist my knee. As I tried to step over the dog gate, full coffee cup in hand, the very tip of my bunny slipper caught the top of the gate and sent me tripping forward. I attempted to catch myself--first on the kitchen table, then the counter top. The coffee in my cup went flying up and out--all over the counter and floor where my not yet stable foot was still in motion. It went sliding fast forward and up. I was air borne for a second. Some where in that, my knee twisted against its normal alignment.

I landed. There was a lot of noise from the dog gate falling over and me crashing heavily on the floor. And then shouting from Keri and our housemate--both rushing to see if I was ok.

For the first time that I can remember I couldn't spring up and say "I'm ok". Not even with false cheer. I wasn't sure which part of my body would allow that. My left shoulder was still giving me problems and my knee had a lot of sharp and unfamiliar pain. I just sat there until I worked out a plan for getting to my other knee (which was also banged up) and onto to my feet.

This was not how my day was supposed to go.

I had a day off planned for fun (a trip to the City for ramen, a tour of the Anchor Brewery and a trip to the public library there). Instead it was spent figuring out how to manage my quickly swelling joint.

A year ago I wrote about being laid up with some dreadful intestinal distress. The degree of chagrin and borderline shame of needing to be taken care of and sending Keri out to do "my" stuff was the beginning of a learning process that has been slow and uncomfortable for me (a self identified strong woman).

Since that event I've had many rich learnings on how to let someone else be in charge and to let others take care of me. I have been physically sidelined at least five times to the degree I was nearly fully dependent on others for my care (I say nearly because I could manage to bath and use the WC on my own--lessons I don't feel I need right now...please?).

The feeling of weird self consciousness in letting someone else do my chores is still there but at least I'm not protesting the kindness offered to me and am just saying yes to the help. I can still totally hear the little voice saying "no, it's ok, I'll take care of it, I've got this...blah blah blah".

And just what does that little voice think it's doing? My little voices are always protectors but many times misguided. Who am I after all if I am not doing all the things that normally fall to me? Not worthy? Not good enough? Weak? Lazy? Incompetent?

Strong women can handle a little discomfort, right?

(it's just a flesh wound)

So, for your enjoyment, my short list of things I let other people do instead of insisting on doing it myself.
I slept like a baby through this.

  1. Let my snacks, drinks, towels, medications and icepacks be brought to me--it is literally 15 ft to the kitchen and I totally feel this is a little thing but instead I asked to have them brought to me. 
  2. Let myself be driven around. I dislike being a passenger--it feels weird and I believe I'm a better driver than almost anyone (I hear the harrumphing, whatev, it's my blog). Still the stress of putting my foot on the gas and brake would not help my knee out at all so driving Miss Daisy it is. 
  3. Let someone else do the chores for others that I signed up to do--such as hanging my acupuncturist's painting for her or installing my Mom's new internet connection. I really did think I was going to do those things up until I realized they were not so unique that they required my personal touch (also they were kindly taken out of my hands).  
  4. Going for treatment early instead of toughing it out. I have a long history of refusing to see a doctor until I'm practically disabled. (now, I am aware that I actually AM disabled to a degree. However, there could be a whole lot more denial going on --I'm taking the win.)
  5. Letting someone offer Reiki to me and accepting it. Seriously, I never ask for Reiki because I think I should be able to do my own Reiki. That I should be able to erase my own pain with my own unimpeachable energetic flow--yah, Spirit loves that kind of thinking.
  6. Letting other people handle it in general.

I looked up what knees problems indicate in my Louse Hay book--pride, ego, inflexibility. The irony is not lost on me. While I don't believe my ego caused my knee problems I do find it rather entertaining that this is making me temporarily give up my hold on things.

I can accept help. I am no less strong for it. My knee will heal in it's own time.

In order to help other "strong women" avoid the same pitfalls I've had to navigate, I am planning a web class where I will share my learnings and experience as well as leave plenty of time to work with you on your own strong woman traps. Total freebie--mark your calendar for September 16th at 6PM. If you are interested, please leave a comment so I can send you a personal invite.

Strong woman, may you find the strength to ask for the the care you need before you become one of the walking (or not walking) wounded.

Monday, August 10, 2015

How I enraged 29 out of 30 readers

Back in my late twenties, in the throes of my dreadful, long time "writer's block" period I took a creative writing class to try to get some of my writing mojo back.

The objective of the class was actually to write a novella but all we were turning in was short stories.

It was like any other creative writing class--the first two lessons are about avoiding passive voice and a bunch of timed writing exercises. You then get to pass them around for feedback. Also, we were assigned homework--write short stories that could become that novella.

I liked the teacher. The advice he gave that stuck with me was how important it was to be kind when giving feedback. If you don't like something, it is really easy to say all kinds of unhelpful things. The flip side of course was to have a thick skin because receiving feedback was part of the program--your precious darling (story) was out there and there was a really good chance that people were not going to like it--not just the technical aspects of your prose but your story, your characters, your point in general.

So one evening I passed out the xeroxes of my story and braced myself for whatever was going to come from my peers (some of them wrote really well).

As the feedback came in some of my classmates pointed out things such as my use of passive voice but what really fascinated me was how much white hot hatred the room had for my main character and sympathy for the character that was her trigger. Name calling was involved (not towards me, just my character). I could see the bristling outrage--I somehow had tapped into some odd shared experiences and identities in the classroom.

Intriguing. I had no idea this would come back.

On the bottom of the pile was one person's feedback--he got my point. He understood my main character's dilemma and the conflicted feelings/thoughts she was having and the actions she ultimately took. Out of thrity pieces of feedback, my story stuck it's landing with one reader.

I got two gifts that evening. One, the experience of having my story land home. The other more trenchant experience was of touching a nerve with so many people. It felt amazing! As I gave my reaction to the feedback I said as much (the room looked puzzled and a little afraid).

I didn't return to class after that. What I told myself at the time was "these aren't my people". This might have been a mistake. I might never have made any friends or fans there, but I lost out on the delicious experience of provoking and disturbing people around me WITHOUT EVEN TRYING.

I don't write for bland acknowledgements. I'm also not on a mission to provoke or upset people. The only intentional thing I do when I write is try to tell the truth as I know it.

Writing from the gut, going for nuance, saying things that are hard to describe (even to myself) isn't going to win me a lot of fans-I only hope I reach someone who needs whatever it is I have to share. This kind of writing can be lonely because even when something hits home, I won't necessarily hear about it.

I review my blog periodically--I can see where I was trying too hard to make people happy or to reach a broader audience. Occasionally those articles get a bunch of reads. Just as occasionally the articles that are more personal and less apologetic catch attention and I get just as many reads.

Sometimes I try to reach one audience and alienate another audience.  Sometimes my writing isn't read at all.

Oh well.

I've been publishing less (still writing my share--just not pushing it all out). Contrary to what I'm told about keeping contact and staying in my audience's awareness, I only want to publish writing that is true. I can't do that if I am worried about "being on your mind". Also, I trust you more than that.

And in a world of seven billion people, one in thirty isn't a bad statistic.

Have a great week. May you provoke people in all the right ways.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

It's been a year since Steve took his life

I have been dreading this week. I have been reliving memories of receiving the phone call from the coroner's office, breaking the news to my family and the dreadful slowness of sitting with searing pain.

My mother looks tiny these days--as if the year inserted a straw into her center and sipped at her life force every time Steve crossed her mind (and he crosses her mind all the time). She speaks of her own passing more than ever--what to do with her ashes and that she is sorry knowing it will fall to be and my sister to handle all the things in her house. I stay close, I listen, and I try to get her to at least use her walking stick (she really needs a walker).

Grief did strange things to me too. I wanted to be normal too fast. And while I was semi-conscious that I was efforting and braining my way through life, the caldron of my emotions bubbled under an unsteady lid ready to boil over. And when they boiled over, it wasn't just me who suffered the burns.

Grief set up little stations to catch my attention. She had a permanent position on Lawrence Exp. where I could see Steve's old apartment and the turn off I would take to pick him up for lunch at Mom's.

She was there at Mo's where I took Steve for breakfast on his last birthday.

She also clings most potently to a small container in my closet that contains the objects I collected from the coroner that Steve had in his pocket. The $40 in crisp $10 bills just feels so sad. That he didn't spend it. It looks like he had just got that money and $40 worth of living never made it out of him.

Throwing yourself into work is culturally seen as a brave thing to do to deal with grief. All the activity of the last year--my technology job, the book writing, taking on physical challenges, setting goals--none of it was therapeutic.

I thought my grief would just recede into background and normalcy would return. I honestly couldn't run fast enough to make that happen. Grief caught me when I stopped to take a breath.

I'm on a temporary moratorium on almost everything...challenges and goals be damned (for now).

I've been sharing this year along the way--partially because I want some company and partially because I want to slay any idea that grief is something that can be heroically (and neatly) endured and then bypassed. Parts of me died (and are dying) as I go through this. I'm still not done with this. I'm not the same woman I was 365 days ago.

One part that died what the compelling illusion that I could "save" anyone. No matter how may righteous seeming actions I might take, I cannot change a course someone else has chosen for them self. I don't regret any of the things I did to try to help Steven in his distress. What has been hard is knowing that there wasn't a magical blend of action that I could have chosen instead that would have "done the trick" by giving him a physical reality that would stand in for the emotional state he needed to stay in this world.

Grief will have her way with me--she has been having her way with me anyway. Only now I struggle less against her terrible tender hands.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

on being "seen" part two

I've written a little about some of these topics before but it's my blog so I get to repeat myself as often as I like.

Part of the experience of being bullied is creating a defense system. Some people do it by becoming bullies--you can't get picked on if you are doing the picking. Some find other ways. Bottomline, as children, without the help of wiser people, you are going to come up with systems that don't cut it over time.

You will bring your old, deficient defenses with you into adult life completely unaware they are deficient. When situations arise that resonate with who you were at age 8 or 10, you will trot out your old remedies and defenses and find them strangely lacking.

My old remedy was to lean against my creative talents. As a child I was very productive and skillful when it came to art. I received lots of praise from adults and sometimes from my peers, so even though I was terrified of being chased home by gangs of angry girls or cruel boys on dirt bikes or accosted in the hallway by some skeevy kid with bad skin, I had art as a refuge.

My creativity held me up for a long time. At least it did until the time that I wanted to take my art into a bigger arena. I quickly discovered that there were people who wouldn't like my stuff. Also, that I wasn't as skilled as others.

It devastated me. I was completely unprepared for my coping mechanism to come up short.

My lack of awareness, finding out that I was vulnerable in the one area I thought I was bullet proof, caused me to run away.

My life existed in two parts--the part of me that got all my self worth from being good at something and the other part of me that was broken, denigrated and deeply hidden.

But I didn't know that I was operating like that. And out of that I created a life of shielding and avoidance.

For years I lived looking over my shoulder, watching for the people who would sense my vulnerability and rip me to shreds. It became harder and harder to share the things I was interested in because of excessive concern over criticism.

The list of things I said "no" to was ridiculously long. Teaching or any career where I would need to control a room or deal with unruliness was absolutely off the list of possibilities.

Instead of dealing with people, I developing skill after skill so there would always be something I could hold up to protect the broken bird living in my heart.

But because I could never be perfect in any of my pursuits, eventually those things became new ways for my broken bird to be rebroken.

I ran for years until I recognized I couldn't "skill" myself into safety.

Eventually, the broken bird must be seen for what she is to be healed.

And it is hard. Because with it comes acknowledging that someone else saw you as less than...a person ok to harm. And for me came the double shame of lacking the resilience to stand up to the rigors of a critical world and therefore never being able to take creative risks.

There is a word that comes to mind for someone lacks resilience and that can be harmed.  That word is "weak".

With such a mindset, it's a wonder that the broken bird can ever see the light of day.

As I've said before, I feel a certain safety in writing. As I imagine you, my readers, you are infinitely kind and empathetic. I imagine you've been there. That you have a broken bird too.

The illusion of that safety allows me to write and start the process of being seen. Of giving my broken bird heart light and oxygen.

In seeking and finding others to witness, to bring compassion, to hold space, to seen and be seen--by and by, the broken bird is healed.

The world is not a perfectly safe place. People will not love you automatically. They also will not universally embrace your brokenness.

There are plenty of scenarios in my daily life where I don't feel safe--but I don't avoid them anymore.

I'm more ok with not being perfectly defended--with being vulnerable. I don't need my list of accomplishments to protect me as much. I'm less perfect today than I have ever been.

But I have a better sense of where I can bring my broken bird out into the light. And I do.