Wednesday, June 29, 2016

INNER ADVENTURING

We got together with a bunch of dear, good friends on Saturday night.  We call ourselves "The Tribe".  It was a potluck gathering full of amazingly good food, lighthearted conversation, and lots of laughter.   Over dinner the conversation went in the direction of people sharing tales of their outdoor adventures -- the things they love to do, where they've done them, where they hope to do more of it.  Hiking, biking, camping, snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, skiing, snowboarding, boating; travels done or hoped for in the US, Europe, South America, Central America, SE Asia, China, India.

Regular readers of my blog will know how quiet I could have been during this conversation.   I do not particularly like outdoor adventuring, nor traveling.  This puts me in a club of severely limited membership in the Pacific Northwest where passions for these things seem to be a given.  (I fit with the bookstore/coffee shop crowd, who also are a common sight here, but most are just stopping by there in between adventures.)

In order to participate in the conversation, I joined in with my usual self-deprecating jokiness about my lack of Adventuring Gene, with a throw-away, dismissive comment aimed at myself about all of the things they love as something I would never do.  It was funny.  I laughed.  Everyone laughed.  I knew I was violating my therapist's admonition about putting myself down, but I thought I had a good handle on it.  Still, I ended up feeling like the "odd" woman out and not altogether great about it.  But not terrible either.  I thought I'd pulled it off.

Later in the evening the conversation took a turn toward touching on "the divorce".  Not mine and Hub's, but mine with my church.  (Again, I've written about this before, so I won't go into the details here, suffice to say, we split up last August.)  It has been a hard ten months since we parted.  Many don't understand why, many don't care, some hope we will reconcile, almost none understand the depth of hurt and introspection that has gone into diving deep inside myself to figure out how it happened, where I was culpable in the conflict, how we all might have behaved differently, whether I made the right decision, and why I cannot go back to a "partner" I still see as a bit dysfunctional, and with whom I have less and less in common...or at least not a common vision.  I'm trying to move on and find connections in a new and healthier way.   There ended up being maybe a teeny tiny bit of passion around expressing this at the social gathering.  I may have used the "F" word.

Debriefing with Hub the next morning, I allowed that I still seem to have a lot of pain and anger around the divorce and I need to do some more inner work to heal that negativity.  I said that the way I live my inner life, with my constant rumination, seeking to understand situations, other people, and mostly myself on a deep level are every bit as hard as climbing a mountain trail, dammit!  My "adventures" are of an internal nature!

The analogy struck a chord with me.  I realized I have nothing to feel inferior about, nothing to apologize for, if I don't do the "nature challenge" others so enjoy.  My challenges come in the form of deep personal work and the summit I am aiming for is increased self-knowledge, inner peace, compassion and "capital L" Love.

Feeling inspired, I sat down and wrote this poem:

THE ADVENTURER

I ford the river of tears
Climb from the depths of despair
Stumble over jagged rocks of doubt
Lose my way

Each step forward a small victory
Each boot stuck in a muddy rut another defeat
Clouds gather, burst
Cold sleet runs down my neck, chilling me to the bone

Will I ever see the sun?  Hear the birdsong?
Look up at a sky so blue, so clear that all pain is lost in its vast expanse?
I keep the vision close to my heart, the possibility of healing, the promise of joy.
One more step forward, one more slide back, heart muscles aching, breath ragged.

It is a lonely journey, the curved path treacherous, ascent steep
I long for sleep, for rest, for peace
It comes in welcome respite ‘round the night fires
Where other faces emerge from the dark, brother traveler, sister wanderer

Stirring the dying embers, finding warmth, feeling strength return
Awake to another day on the trail ahead
Perhaps this is the day
Perhaps this is the hour
Perhaps this is the moment 

When the summit is reached 
And all the world will lay below me
Dazzling like the jewel that is my life
To live, to love, to be.
****


You take the outer journey, I'll take the inner.  I'll meet you where our paths converge.
At least, that's the view from here...©

Saturday, June 25, 2016

CAVING IN TO SHOES OFF

I have always resented having to take my shoes off when visiting others' homes where the expectation is that I'll leave my footwear in a big jumbled pile at the door and pad around in stocking feet at a social gathering.  This was the norm, of course, when we lived at the beach in South Carolina, where "shoes" were merely flip flops and no one wore shoes indoors.  Social conventions differ based culture and geography.

But here, where there is no sand and it's mostly chilly, my thinking has been that these people care more about their precious floors than about their guests.  The pile of shoes at the door is unsightly and tends to migrate into the path of people just trying to walk around.  There is always a bottleneck coming and going as people struggle out of and back into their shoes, balancing on one foot then the other with various degrees of success.  And most importantly, to me, shoes are part of the outfit!  Maybe this holds true more for women than for men, but when I dress for a social outing my shoes are as much a conscious choice as is my dress or slacks or sweater.  Longer pants with higher heels.  Boots with certain skirts.

But now....  We just had 1300 square feet of hardwood floors refinished in our home to the tune of ... well, a lot of money.  We have a new lighter color area rug in our living room.  We live where leaves and grass and needles from fir trees are a constant source of aggravation as they get tracked everywhere, especially when they stick to the bottoms of shoes on frequent rainy days.  We have a granddaughter who picks everything up from the floor and sticks it in her mouth.  And I read this article:  This Is Why You Probably Shouldn't Wear Shoes in Your House . Ugh! I found it compelling, to say the least.

Plus, Hub became a Shoe Nazi as soon as the newly refinished floors were ready to be walked on, having just paid the refinishing bill.  I went along reluctantly but I admit it, there is far less dirt, grit, and debris tracked in.    There is still the problem of the accumulation of shoes at the doors, so I've devised a method -- at the front door I've placed a bench for sitting to remove shoes (no balancing act required!) with a shelf beneath to stow them.  At the back door I've installed a metal shoe rack, holding "house shoes" and providing a place to leave the outdoor shoes.  We do a switcheroo upon entrance and exit, having mostly "slip ons" at the ready for indoor use.   It's working for Hub and me and our casual visitors.

We haven't had a party or a more dress-up gathering yet.  Well, we really don't have dress-up gatherings ever, but my point is that at social gatherings, I still don't feel comfortable asking people to walk around in their stocking feet at my house.  They, like me, might need some arch support, or they, like me, might tend toward cold feet.  I'm willing to let anyone who would prefer to leave their shoes on to leave them on.

I am, however,  more forgiving of the "shoes off" rule when I visit others who prefer this convention.  I just take a pair of "indoor" shoes with me, now that I have some designated as such (never worn outdoors -- a pair of Oosfos sandals (the best!), a pair of moccasins, and a pair of soft-soled clogs.)   I just really don't like the feel of stocking feet and my back aches without arch support.  I'm not willing to be uncomfortable to visit you, but I'm willing to accommodate your rules with my own provisions.  I welcome you to do the same.  Live and learn.

At least, that's the view from here...©


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

COMPASSION IS SWEET

It is June 21st, and I know I haven't posted anything to the blog this month.  I seem to find myself in a time warp where the days speed by and I can barely recall what I did on any given day, but it is past nonetheless and time marches on, etc etc.  Plus, I'm tired and a little depressed, but not too depressed, so that's good.  But the tired thing is getting old.  I just feel like I could nap all the time, but there is no time for that, so I push on and whine about it like I'm doing now.  I'll stop.  Moving on....

Let's sit on the therapist's couch, shall we?  A few months ago I mentioned in the blog that I was having a championship wrestling match with my old foes, Anxiety and Depression.   It got so bad that I didn't really know if I'd get out alive.  (Oh, don't panic, I knew I'd never really do the bad thing with the new season of Outlander about to debut).  But it was really awful, such that for the first time in 20 years I went back into therapy, even though I have a ton of smart, intuitive friends to listen to me and a good deal of my own insight after a couple of decades of personal growth work of a fairly significant nature.  Turns out sometimes ya gotta call in the pros anyway.

I spent a couple weeks researching the type of therapy I wanted and then finding a therapist I thought would work.  I've done the bad therapist/bad fit dance before and I don't feel I have any time to waste at this stage in my life.  I found someone and so far I love my gal, "Stevie". (Not her real name, obviously, but because she dresses like Stevie Nicks, I'm going with that here.)  I'm terrible with ages -- she's early 40's maybe, wears long flowing skirts, lacy shirts, vests, little fingerless gloves, silver bangles, headbands holding back her long wavy brown hair, dangly earrings.  She is me when I was in my 20's.   I just love looking at her.  She's funny and compassionate and insightful and calls me on my bullshit.  What's not to love?

Right away she got that I already know a lot of stuff.  I thought I'd be in her DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy) group along with my individual therapy with her.  She said I don't need the group -- I already know about the things they work on...Identifying and regulating emotions, curbing impulsive behaviors, trying not to commit suicide, or act out in a totally antisocial, crazy-ass way. (This is technical psychotherapy talk which I use because I am advanced.)  Individual therapy with her is the plan.

At the first session she acknowledged my storehouse of groovy psychological tools and agreed with me that perhaps I should stop bludgeoning myself with them.  She ordered me to shut the toolbox, lock it tight, and stop rummaging around in there searching for yet another tool to "fix" me.  (Am I acting out of shadow? Should I do a Shadow-work session? Is this PTSD?  Should I do a Gestalt session with an empty chair?  Or maybe some voice dialog?  How about primal scream therapy? Or family constellation therapy?)  She gave me one tool, the only tool I'm allowed to use -- Mindfulness.  Just be mindful, aware, in the present moment.  It's the way out.  It's not easy.  It's a tricky tool to learn to use, which is why it is the only one I can work with right now.

Next session, sort of more of the same...plus she refuted my claim that my depression "comes out of nowhere".  No, actually, it doesn't.  There is always a trigger.  I'm just not paying attention, or I ignore the early warning signs, or I debate, deny, and denigrate myself until there is no turning back and I absolutely have no choice but to take to the sofa and cry for a week or a month or three.  Mindfulness again.  Pay attention.  I will see it coming and can take action to thwart it.  Like an Aikido master, I can turn the aggressor away with my energy flow.  Or something like that. Or, even better, according to Stevie would be to just accept that I'm feeling depressed.  Look for insight and meaning there; know it will pass.

Next couple of sessions, she hit me with the admonition that I must practice radical self-acceptance.  What????  If I could accept myself I wouldn't be sitting on her cute little teal loveseat grabbing tissue after tissue from the flowered box on the end table as I cry my way through another "I'm a shitty person" hour.  (I told her I plan to cry every session because I'm paying her good money to sit and watch me do it.  She agreed.)

Radical self-acceptance means I have to shut The Judge up.  Stevie has narrowed my issues down to the fact that I'm constantly judging myself and saying mean things to me.  I told her I have a self-deprecating, ironic sense of humor.  She said she knows that and I'm funny, but that's different.  Right now, for practice sake, I have to silence the wise-cracking girl and say nice things to myself all the time.  I have to reframe.  I have to find compassion for the me that deserves to be accepted unconditionally.  I have to keep a 'compassion journal' and write down all the times I want to judge myself and what I did instead to show myself some compassion.   Yesterday, when I started to criticize myself for my messy house,  I had vanilla ice cream with raspberry sauce for breakfast instead.  I'm not sure that's what she had in mind, but it's a start.

At least, that's the view from here...©

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

WORDS THAT ACTUALLY CAME FROM MY MOUTH

Today I went to lunch on the waterfront with two good friends....my Shiny Sisters....one of whom has an upcoming birthday that necessitated another occasion of food, friendship, and laughter.  I don't recall why the three of us started calling ourselves the Shiny Sisters.  I think it had to do with the other two reminiscing about a shopping expedition where they realized they were drawn to shiny objects -- rather like a murder of crows.  Now I think we just like to think of ourselves as, well, shiny and bright and fun.  We've become the shiny objects.

Anyway, the Shiny Sisters were bidding each other goodbye in the parking lot after lunch when I reminded them I will be gone for a few days with no internet or cell reception.  I exclaimed, "I won't be able to email you.  Or text you.  Or get on Facebook.  It will be as if I don't even EXIST!"  One of the Sisters got a shocked look on her face, just before she doubled over in laughter.  I slapped my hand over my mouth, "Did I just say that???  Out loud???"  Yes, the consensus was that I had indeed equated my very existence to my online presence.

I have nothing more to say about this at the moment, as I blog....online.  You may want to discuss amongst yourselves.  I imagine it will go something like this:

1.  "Donna really is addicted; she's lost her entire sense of self to the monkey on her back."
2.   No one really exists in the real world anymore.  We've all become cyber-drones.  Power up!
3.   Existence is merely a construct of the human mind; there is no existence.

I'm logging off for now; powering down; going to sleep.  Will restart in a few days, unless I lose my power cord.

At least, that's the view from here...©