Posted in armchair psychology, Buddhism

Anger

Emotions interest me. Our brain and nervous system can’t talk to us with words, at least not at first, and besides words can be misleading and ridiculously ineffective– and slow!– as far as communication is concerned. Emotions, on the other hand, travel at the speed of nerve signal conduction. Amazing things, emotions!

But then we start talking to ourselves about them. (Yeah, here I go, talking to myself. Again.) We decide we like this one, but not that one. This one is okay, this one, meh, that one, omigoddonteverevengothere. We layer on meanings, stories about ourselves, around these emotions. Before we even realize what we’ve done, we’ve spun this crazy kaleidoscope of a cocoon around signal molecules that originated in our bodies with a purpose. Now we find we can’t access all of our information, and then we whine about that!

But we are the ones who deprived ourselves of our knowing in the first place! We are the ones who decided, “Anger is bad, put that away.” We are the ones who put these elaborate mechanisms in place to avoid certain feelings at all costs (fear, anyone?). We just didn’t understand what that cost would turn out to be, in the end.

Emotions are signposts. I don’t know about you, but I don’t go driving and pass judgment on the green and white sign telling me this way is Knoxville and that way is Atlanta. Bad sign! No biscuit! Emotions are the same. When I am angry, it is a sign indicating direction. If I suppress, ignore, or otherwise mutilate my anger because I have an aversion to it, I effectively damage or even destroy my map to my life. If, instead, I sit with my map undamaged and study it, I’ll figure out what my anger is telling me and know at least something about what to do next. I can properly alleviate the anger, address the underlying need it is trying to talk to me about, but only if I don’t destroy it in my desperation to avoid it.

I am angry today. I am not yet to the bottom of it. My goal for today is to allow my anger to exist, and to listen for its message. I have no idea how long this will take, or whether I can sit with it through all my inner efforts to wriggle away… like a small child who is bored in church, trying to not get in trouble, sitting upright in the pew, all the while wanting to get down on the floor or go outside, anything to escape the dreadfully boring grown-up droning on and on. But I will sit and listen, for as long as I can.

What are your feelings signaling today?

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Posted in armchair psychology

A Perfect Mistake

This morning finds me thinking about perfectionism. My really awesome friend Jenn calls her critical inner voice the Perfectionism Monster, or “PM” for short. I love this, not only because it can be very monster-like, but also because it calls to mind the title “Prime Minister,” which is exactly how that voice speaks: bossy, demanding, and in charge of All The Things.

If you are one of those amazing human beasties who does not suffer from this particularly cruel inner voice, add that to your gratitude list. For the rest of us, I’m guessing you have already groaned and thought of several stories from your own mental archives in which your PM said nasty things to you. Perhaps this morning when you looked in the mirror, or yesterday when you didn’t make it to the gym, or last week when for the first time this calendar year you ate something that wasn’t perfectly nutritious by whatever rules you’re currently lording over yourself.

Have you ever really noticed how you talk to yourself? I don’t mean talking to yourself out loud, although I notice that about myself also 😉 I mean, the voice you use, addressed to you, when you dish out all these criticisms? Jenn and I are “accountabilibuddies,” charged with catching each other out when we are being too harsh with ourselves. As the conversation went when we made this commitment, we often speak to ourselves in ways for which we would have zero tolerance if we heard it out of someone else’s mouth. I want to remember, every moment of every day, that I am the protagonist in my story, not this Perfectionist Monster. If I let it take over, make my decisions, stop me from trying things I might do poorly, then who is living my life?

I am working on my meditation practice this month. Yesterday was just no good. I sat for the allotted amount of time and never did get my mind on board. Shockingly enough, I am really pleased with myself, however, because I had barely started to criticize myself when I caught it. I know meditation goes this way sometimes. I have read enough experts sharing their stories of days when the thoughts would not settle down, and no amount of forcing or cajoling could do anything about it. I still sat. That is all that matters.

 

Posted in armchair psychology

Founder, Falter, Try Again

Patterns emerge if you live long enough and pay attention as you go. We humans are hard-wired to try to make sense of things, but the sense we make sometimes makes no sense at all. We lack perspective. We may need a different point of view, a higher vantage point perhaps. Like many of my generation, I have struggled both to define success and to achieve it. I have attempted many things, and failed at most of them in some form or other. This is not a problem, unless I make it so. I read piece after piece about success, written by those who have achieved this culture’s highest echelons. It all boils down to the same ancient Chinese proverb:

Fall down seven times, get up eight.

This is where perspective becomes crucial. When I define myself by my falling, I keep falling. I stay stuck, mired in muck of my own creation, holding on to my failures and thereby generating more of the same. When I believe I am “one who falls” because I fell, I manifest endless labyrinthine traps of gnarled roots in my path, daring myself to not trip again. Then, when I invariably do, I add the experience to my body of evidence that I am, in fact, doomed to failure. But there is other evidence here, evidence that does not register in my consciousness when I am focused on my shortcomings. If I fail after having failed before, that means I got up in between, and tried again. The exact same story, viewed through a different prism, reveals an eternal optimist, a determined traveler who keeps on climbing. The story remains utterly unchanged; the message I take from it depends entirely on my point of view.

To succeed at any goal, whether financial, physical, relational, or spiritual, there is one critical action required:

“Never, never, never, never give up.” — Winston Churchill

Other work is necessary, of course, but the one thing that will get you there, the absence of which ensures that you will never arrive, is continued effort.

I stumbled this morning. I’m too sleepy, I said to myself. I don’t want to, I whined. It’s too hard, I complained. I got up again anyway.

I hope you do as well.

 

Posted in armchair psychology

To Play the Fool

Today, may you set forth on a grand adventure. May you be bold, fearless. May you laugh with those who would laugh at you; may you stand strong in truth though you are neck-deep in changing tides and whirling gale-force winds. May you ignore those voices demanding that you change course, be smaller… conform, conform, they whisper and shout. May you dare to risk it all, to be the fool, for it is the fool who laughs last!

Happy April Fool’s Day!

Posted in house and home

Project Simplify: Week 4, Unfinished Projects

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, what the hell is this? It has been weeks since week 3, surely she was done already?! Alas, no. I have many excuses but I’ll spare you. Here is the Very Important Bottom Line: Sometimes it doesn’t matter when you finish, it just matters that you do finish. Get it? Yay!

So, truly, this final week was the reason I committed to doing all the Project Simplify weeks. Unfinished projects eat up valuable real estate in my brain. SERIOUSLY. It is an unfortunate addendum to my subclinical OCD (I’m not kidding about that, so don’t be insulted if you’ve got full-blown OCD of any variety, I feel for you deeply because sometimes this brain betrayal really sucks). I can’t forget these things that I’ve committed to, no matter how long it takes me to complete them. Example: I bought a tiara last weekend at the Georgia Renaissance Festival in part because I promised a picture of myself in a tiara to my dear teacher, Francesca De Grandis, about ten years ago. I bet she doesn’t even remember that promise, but I do! (The good news is, I finally found the right tiara! I cleaned my house wearing it! Yay!)

But enough of that. You want pictures, right?! Well, here ya go!

Sweet Sally… she’s a leopard gecko, and just not prone to complaining, but her aquarium was desperately overdue for a cleaning…

Sally's aquarium, before
Sally’s aquarium, before

I took everything out and washed it, then refilled with fresh sand and clean accessories. She was diggin’ it!

 

fresh and clean!
fresh and clean!

I also had a bookshelf to put together to help with the Boy Room Chaos. What Boy Room Chaos? THIS!

Boy Room Chaos, take 1
Boy Room Chaos, take 1
Boy Room Chaos, take 2
Boy Room Chaos, take 2

I think the shelf helped:

Chaos contained!
Chaos contained!

It certainly relieved some pressure here:

Hey, it's still a boy's room. okay?
Hey, it’s still a boy’s room. okay?

With that, my work here is complete. Now I just need to take that picture wearing the tiara…

 

 

 

 

Posted in house and home

Project Simplify Week Three: PILES!!!

I have really been looking forward to this one. Piles happen and even though I know they will happen again, it’s nice to clear them out once in a while. So Many Things can hide and be forgotten in a pile! My house is tiny, which is mostly fabulous for a subclinical OCD cleaning freak like me, but it does sometimes stretch my imagination beyond the breaking point to find homes for All The Things. With three kids, one of whom is rather a hoarder, and it gets a little dicey. But check these out!

before pile #1
before pile #1

The box is all my seeds I ordered this year (so many explanations and excuses embodied by that box…). The shoes and at least 75% of the basket contents were donations, some was trash, with only a tiny bit falling into the “Where the heck does this go?” category. Voila!

pile #1, vanquished!
pile #1, vanquished!

Here’s another spot where a combination of donations and items to put in storage accumulated:

pile #2
pile #2

Vanquishing this one took an additional sorting stage:

sorting into keep in storage, keep and put away, and donate
sorting into keep in storage, keep and put away, and donate

Persistence pays!

pile #2 all gone!
pile #2 all gone!

I even took all the storage-bound stuff to the shed and the donations to the thrift store! DONE!
Just to prove I’m really not kidding about being subclinically OCD, I also cleared off both desks… the first wasn’t too painful:

desk #1 before
desk #1 before
desk #1 after
desk #1 after

Oh, and the top of the printer:

003

printer after
printer after

But this was truly the piece de resistance:

my poor, poor desk, before
my poor, poor desk, before

Can you imagine trying to work here? Of course not. That’s because it is impossible. However, I have been reading Lori Pickert’s Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners, and right off the bat she dives into talking about the child’s workspace and how it needs to be easy to use and set up to show the work done there is valued. Well duh, don’t I need that in a workspace too? So I worked this area over with that in mind. I moved kid books to the kid shelves and put away what didn’t belong. I also selected a two-foot tall stack of books, magazines, and workbooks to give away. The end result?

a workspace I can use!
a workspace I can use!

Hallelujah! Anyone wanna take bets on how long I make it before it’s all covered up again? 🙂

Posted in house and home

Project Simplify: What Happened to Week Two?

I have a confession that might offend: I don’t really have any terribly pesky closets. Don’t hate me. I do, however, have a troublesome boys’ room:

room for boys, before
room for boys, before

I had begun picking up a bit in order to vacuum before snapping these, so they aren’t 100% “before” pictures, but I’m sure the gist is clear.

elder brother bed, before
elder brother bed, before

I stared and stared at this room until I figured out a few things that might improve the flow. After vacuuming I rearranged the furniture (all by myself!) and organized their clutter, er, stuff, er, toys. The end result, at least for now:

 

after rearranging (note Wolverine on the top bunk)
after rearranging (note Wolverine on the top bunk)
boys' room, after
boys’ room, after

Much better. Now to catch up on week three!