Category Archives: Self-help

Light and love

Just this for today:

“Don’t be oppositional, be transformational. Don’t let them bait you or scare you. Don’t react to the darkness, just respond with the light.”

— Marianne Williamson

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Compassion dammit

I can’t sleep at night. I’m up worrying about what’s happening in my country. I keep reading tweets in my feed until there are no more new ones. Then I refresh the top news stories. I switch back and forth between Twitter and the news until there is nothing new to see and it’s as safe as it’s going to be to go to sleep.

I had my writer’s group today and we wrote to the prompt of “hope.”

“I hope the world doesn’t end tonight when I close my eyes and pull up the covers,” I wrote.

Everyone laughed a big, loud nervous laugh as if to say, ha! isn’t that funny because I’m waiting for the world to end, too. Like minds and all.

I’ve been trying to work on a bunch of stories. I start them but am having trouble finishing. I’m having trouble focusing.

These things come easier: stressing, blaming, feeling angry.

I try to remember that everything can be boiled down to two things–love and fear.

And if someone is acting out of fear, we should treat that person with compassion. Even though I want to throw a bucket of fire ants on them. Or make them watch Ishtar ten times in a row.

But I’m not there yet. I’m back at hey, get on your knees and apologize for what you’ve done. And, we told you so (while blowing a big, fat raspberry).

Right now, I need to unplug for longer periods of time. And be kind to myself so that I can be kind to others. Don’t forget to strap the kindness mask to yourself before assisting others. It’s a saying, people.

I wore my new Superman socks today and they gave me the courage to get through the day.

I treated myself to a pizza for dinner, but the cats knocked it on the floor before I could finish it. Because they are assholes and obviously part of whatever alt-right, fascist conspiracy is going on right now.

I had lunch with my writer friends.

There were donuts at writing group today.

Tomorrow is a new day. I have more Superman socks (it was a three-pack). After Thursday, all bets are off.

What I’m trying to say is that you’re not the only one feeling nervous or anxious or stressed.

Don some superhero gear, drink your favorite beverage, order takeout (unless you have asshole cats). Get together with friends. Read a good book at night. Howl at the moon. Take hot showers until your skin turns pink. Whatever you’ve got to do to get you through. Beer, too. And flannel sheets and dirty haikus.

And then compassion, folks. So much compassion you need extra napkins.

Until then, I’ll be here on my ipad typing more words.

It’s the little things

I’ve been in a funk lately. No reason, really. I think it’s just the way I’m built with storm clouds inside.

During this period of general moodiness, W and I have cleaned up our diet, eliminating almost all processed foods and loading up on fruits and vegetables.

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From today’s grocery shopping trip.

I’ve been experimenting with new foods — chia seeds, flax seeds, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, coconut oil, homemade smoothies and juices. I’ve been trying out new recipes, too. I made broccoli tots, and they were delicious. Napoleon Dynamite’s got nothing on us. I found a recipe for three-ingredient pancakes (3 eggs, 1/2 C cottage cheese, 1/2 C oatmeal) that keeps me full all morning long.

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These tots are tops.

It’s weird, this taking-care-of-me thing. I find myself slowing down and enjoying the little things: a banana with a tablespoon of almond butter, a perfect apple, a bottle of fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice.

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Protein-packed pancakes with banana and Trader Joe’s almond butter.

But it extends beyond food. This weekend, I bought some socks off the clearance rack, and I found myself appreciating the bargain as well as the simple pleasure that comes from owning a pair of warm, comfortable socks. I am growing basil inside the house in a small container. Every morning, I smile as I check on the new green shoots as they crack through the soil in search of sunlight.

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A pair of my new socks: awesomeness you can wear on your feet.

These little things give me the boost I need to move forward.

I had an eye exam and am waiting for new glasses.

I called the gynecologist today to schedule an overdue annual exam.

I tell myself I am worth it. Sometimes I believe this more than other times.

Scary things like doctor appointments start with a small step — a phone call.

I call and schedule and wait.

In the meantime, I savor the small things: a new notebook, a warm sweatshirt on a cold day, the comfort of a favorite flannel shirt, a hot cup of tea, a good book, a cat in my lap …

* * *

What about you? What little things bring you joy?

The starting is the hardest part

I didn’t want to get up this morning. I mean, I had gotten up yesterday morning. Two days in a row seemed like a lot. Like I would be pushing myself too hard.

From my supine position, I balled my hand into a fist and raised it in the air like the angry lesbian I can sometimes be.

Why does my life have to be so hard? I cried. Life is so unfair!

It was like I was at a Melissa Etheridge concert with my raised fist and hot words. Somebody bring me some water!  My mind’s a burnin’ hell! Except I was lying in bed in my comfiest flannel lounge pants and a thermal shirt.

And then I got a shower. And put on clothes. And grabbed a quick breakfast.

I went to my writers group.

It felt good to participate in life.

Sometimes I have to force myself to get out of bed. To go through the motions. To put one foot in front of the other. To have faith that everything is going to be ok. Today was one of those days.

My default is to stay in bed buried under the covers. It’s like a giant womb in there but much drier.

If I’m ever missing, you’ll know that’s where I am.

I had this mousepad made a week or so ago. I try to remember this right before I start writing or before I have to do something else that feels scary.

* * *

What about you? How do you get up when you’re feeling down?

Stuck and unstuck

Sometimes I get stuck.  Not literally stuck like in a turnstile or a revolving door.  Help.  Stuck.  Can’t pass through.

Or actually stuck while trying on a gold glitter tube top.  (I apologize in advance for the image.)  Aaaaaaah!  Aaaaaaah!  Aaaaaaah!  Butch!  Stuck!  In!  Tube!  Top!

But stuck nonetheless.

Other people never seem to have this problem.  They seem to have it all together.

When I get stuck, I do all sorts of things except try to get myself unstuck.

Some things I might do instead of unsticking myself:

  • Work.
  • Read.
  • Nap.
  • Check my Twitter feed.  Every five minutes.
  • Cook.
  • Eat.
  • Play with cats.
  • Watch marathons of Total Divas.
  • Daydream that I am a little known Kardashian.  Butch Kardashian.

When I am stuck:

This is how I feel when I'm stuck

The only way I know how to get unstuck is to do the thing I’m stuck at.  And that’s the thing I really don’t want to do.

Things I’d rather do than do the stuck thing:

  • Eat hot sauce.
  • Work.
  • Clean.
  • Give a speech.  At a Republican convention.
  • Listen to country and western music.
  • Dance to the song It’s Raining Men.
  • Read 50 Shades of Gray for non-comedic purposes.

So, after I’ve done everything else that I can think of, I’ll do the stuck thing.

First, of course, I’ll make a horrible face and make things seem worse than they really are.  I’m a drama butch, after all.

Butch Smiley Face

Then I’ll do the stuck thing.

At first taking lots of breaks to do important things like load one glass in the dishwasher, organize paperclips and clean cat hair from out of computer keyboard.

And then going back to doing the stuck thing.

Before I know it, my hair is not on fire.  I am not shrieking.

I am just doing the unstuck thing.

I am unstuck.

xx

When all is right in my world, this is what it looks like.

* * *

What do you when you’re stuck?  How do you get unstuck?

My tattoo told me to do it

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about life these days.  Forty-six years old, and I still haven’t figured it out.

This is frustrating, because I’m smart and usually a quick learner.

I feel like I’ve read all the manuals and have all of the information.  I just haven’t been able to put it into play.  Yet.  (That’s me trying my best to be optimistic.)

tattooRecently, I’ve been staring at one of my tattoos.  I got this tattoo — my second one — when I was 40 years old.  The Chinese symbols for love and fear sit on the inside of my left arm.

Chinese symbol tattoos are great because you can tell people that they mean pretty much anything.  Example: I told my mom and dad that my tattoo meant “most esteemed parents.”

When I was in my twenties, I read Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love, and it changed my life.  Basically, Williamson said everything in life can be distilled into two things: love and fear.  We either choose love or we choose fear.  It’s as simple as that.

I guess it’s the choose part that I wrestle with.  Always choosing love would mean letting go.  And that’s been my life-long struggle.  Letting go of control, pride, arrogance, being right, grudges, stubbornness.  Did I mention control?

I wonder what it would feel like to just let go of it all.

imagesCAA34T2GIt seems scary and crazy … like jumping out of a plane without a parachute.  But maybe it would be freeing.  And maybe I wouldn’t need a parachute if I wasn’t so loaded down with everything that I cling to so rigidly and tightly.  Maybe I could actually soar on my own without the self-imposed burdens that I carry around like a three-piece set of old-fashioned luggage filled with the ghosts and dead bodies  of my past.

* * *

We went to W’s family reunion today.  It was the first one without her grandmother, the beloved family matriarch.

After the reunion, we drove out to the cemetery to leave flowers and pay our respects.  W cried on my shoulder.

When I asked her why she was crying, she told me that her grandmother was so important to so many people.

It’s true.  She was a guiding light to so many.

She certainly wasn’t a saint.  She was a human being with her own flaws and frailties.  But she always radiated immense love.  I never heard her raise her voice or speak negatively about anyone.  She practiced kindness and compassion, patience and understanding.

I was always struck by how peaceful she seemed and knew deep in my heart that she had figured out this thing called life.

She never needed any tattoos to remind her how to act or how to live.

But maybe my tattoo is the reminder that I need.  A reminder to always choose love.

Signs from the universe

Ever have one of those moments when things in your life start connecting in strange, mysterious ways?

Like, hey, that chick looks hot in those jeans.  Do you like my new flannel shirt?  What?  You think I might be a lesbian?

Some might call such moments mere coincidences, but I’ve seen way too much shit in my 40-some years to overlook these moments as random happenings.

If you recall, I’ve been working on my archetypes, which I wrote about here.  If you’re not familiar with them, archetypes are spirit guides —  personas like Victim, Rebel and Rescuer — that reveal one’s higher purpose in life.  Each archetype has two facets: the archetype itself, as well as a Shadow archetype.  The Shadow is the dark side of the archetype that can be helpful in alerting you to behavior that you need to change.

Carl Jung was all about archetypes

Carl Jung was all about archetypes

The famous psychiatrist Carl Jung worked with archetypes.

My other focus has been on my writing group.  Or, at least getting up enough steam to actually attend.  One of the practices that the group leader encourages is called “Morning Pages,” which are three pages of handwritten stream-of-consciousness writing performed first thing in the morning.  This exercise comes from the famous book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

Yesterday, I googled “Morning Pages” to make sure that I understood what Cameron had in mind with this morning writing exercise.  I found Cameron’s blog, which included a video entry on Morning Pages.

I couldn’t believe what Cameron said.

“Think of it in Jungian terms … that you are meeting your shadow and taking it out for a cup of coffee.”

Holy, shit.

Meeting your shadow and taking it out for a cup of coffee.

I kept repeating this line, amazed at how researching my archetypes fit right in with writing Morning Pages.

So, I need to keep muddling through with my archetypes work and my Morning Pages.

Despite the fact that I don’t want to.  It’s too much work.  And that new episode of Catfish is on.

xx

You want me to write how many pages?  By hand?  Ugh.

That, dear readers, is my Saboteur.  I imagine my Saboteur archetype to be Tonya Harding.  Ready to take out my knee caps with a lead pipe if I try to do something positive.

“You work hard.  You deserve to put your feet up and watch Millionaire Matchmaker and eat microwave nachos.  Besides, you’ll never amount to anything.  You know it’s true,” she whispers in my ear.

Cameron says Morning Pages should really be called Mourning Pages because they represent “a farewell to life as you know it.”

As scary as it sounds, I think I might be ready for change.

“No, you’re not.”

Shut up, Tonya.

God told me to try Reiki

Something interesting for those of you following along at home.

Last week, I had a really sore throat and bad earache.

Interestingly enough, only the left side of my throat and my left ear were affected.

Flash forward to this week, and Middle-age butch has had a killer headache.  But only on the left side of my head.

I mentioned all of this to W, explaining how the right side, or dominant side, of the body is the will side or active side.  The left side is the feeling side.

“It’s in and out,” she said matter of factly.  “You’re not processing things properly, baby.”

“So, what are you going to do about it?” she asked.

“What am I supposed to do about it?” I replied.

“Is there some sort of magic dance that I’m supposed to do to restore balance and harmony?”

She just laughed.

Which leaves me stuck.  Again.

I went to pick up my son today and had been thinking about how to get unstuck during the 30-minute drive.

“Maybe I should try Reiki,” I thought to myself.  Not because I know a lot about it, but because, from what little I do know, it seems like it might be a useful tool for restoring balance.

When the left side of various body parts start hurting, lots of things seem like a good idea.

A few seconds later, I passed a sign that read: “Reiki. Restore peace to your life.”

Damn.

Sometimes I think that I’m the only person in the whole world who asks for a sign from God and actually gets one.  Seriously.  An actual sign.

This happens to me all the time.

If it's good enough for cats ...

If it’s good enough for cats …

From the International Center for Reiki Training: “Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing.  It is administered by ‘laying on hands’ and is based on the idea that an unseen ‘life force energy’ flows through us and is what causes us to be alive.  If one’s ‘life force energy’ is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.”

So, the “laying on hands” part is not particularly appealing to this butch.  Simply put, I don’t like to be touched.  By hands.  Or other body parts.  I’m aware that in some cases hands are placed above the participant’s body during a Reiki session.  This is still too close for my personal level of comfort.

Also, the smell of incense makes me nervous.  I’m fairly certain that a Reiki session would smell like incense.

I remember about a decade ago when I woke up one morning and couldn’t hear out of one of my ears.  Hysterical deafness, I thought.

Or, maybe watching too much of the L Word when Marlee Matlin was on. Oh my God, sympathetic deafness, I thought.

I rushed to the doctor where I was diagnosed with a bad case of impacted ear wax.

The gun looked something like this.

The gun looked something like this.

The doctor ended up rummaging through a closet (who knew doctors had closets) for a metal gun that looked like it might have been used in the sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet.  He filled it with warm water, placed the tip in my ear and then blasted a pressurized stream of water inside my ear canal.  Repeatedly.  Pliers were involved, I think.  The doctor kept saying that he was sorry, hang in there.  Eventually, the water dislodged the wax, and the doctor extracted a large mass from my ear.  I could hear.  It was a miracle.

That method seems a whole lot more palatable than the whole “laying on hands” thing.  Maybe I can just blast whatever’s stuck, or in the wrong place, or out of whack with a pressurized stream of water, a laser beam, a rubber mallet, brute force, a lighter and a can of hairspray, whatever it takes.

That’s certainly not as scary as Reiki, which may or may not involve actual touching.  Or incense.  Or chimes.  Or other new-agey stuff.

Which is why it’s so damn scary.  Because I don’t know what will happen.

And, what if it does work and provides a much-needed release?

What if I tear up or, gasp, cry.  Middle-age butch doesn’t like to be touched and really doesn’t like to cry.  Especially in front of people.  Especially new-agey, Reiki people.

There is no crying in Middle-age butch’s flannel-covered world.

I suspect that there might be in Reiki land.

Why I love Alison Bechdel and Courtney Love

So, I’ve had a rough week.  Didn’t feel up to doing much of anything and just squeaked by with what absolutely had to be done.  Read: I won’t get fired from my job.  W won’t leave me even though I made the world’s worst possible meals for dinner several nights in a row.

My heart hasn’t been into much of anything.

I did read and finish the brilliant Alison Bechdel‘s new graphic memoir, Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama.  Not as terrific as her first, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, but great nonetheless.

If you’re not familiar with Bechdel’s work, she started out penning the lesbian comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For.

In Are You My Mother?, Bechdel takes to writing and drawing to make sense of her less-than-perfect relationship with her mother.  She says in the book that it’s something that she has to do.

I just finished up the book this afternoon and thought that I would scratch out at least a few sentences.  Writing has always been a redemptive release of sorts for me, which is part of why I started this blog.

After reading Are You My Mother?, I came away with a head filled with questions, thoughts, ideas and a list of books and authors to Google.  I’ve decided that I need a psychoanalyst and must re-read the works of Virginia Woolf, especially To The Lighthouse.

Bechdel is not for the faint of heart.  She’s a majorly screwed up lesbian with both mommy and daddy issues, which might be why I like her stuff so much.

I call it the Courtney Love effect.  I typically have a strong affinity for out-of-control rock-star types like Love (bloody tampon-throwing Love, of course), because at the end of the day they make me feel better about myself.  Sad but true.  It’s the same reason people watch Hoarders.  It makes them feel better about their housekeeping and organizational skills.

So, reading Bechdel cheered me up in a perverse kind of way.  And gave me hope that I might be able to manufacture my own tragic-comic-drama novel someday.

But for now it’s back to bed and a new book: Helping Me Help Myself by Beth Lisick.  Thank the good lord for books.  And beds.