Sunday, September 11, 2011

Why not now?

As I climbed into the van for work that would take me back to the metro station, I shook my umbrella out the door, tried to smooth my beyond-help wet hair, and breathlessly said hello to the driver, “JP.” 
“Is this rain ever going to stop?” I asked, half just to have something to say, and half because I was incredibly grumpy.
“Well if you ask me, “ said JP, “I think it’s a sign.”
I settled in my seat as JP put the van in drive.  “A sign?”

"Yeah,” he continued.  “If you ask me, I say it’s a sign.  I think the Lord telling us it’s the end.”
I laughed.  I mean really, what else do you do?  “You might be right about that,” I said.
“Think about it,” JP said, chuckling, “we had the earthquake.  We had a hurricane.  And now we got flooding and tropical storms, and this is just in 2 weeks.  People got their roof falling in, roads closing down, schools closed, people out of electricity again...”
“It’s ridiculous, isn’t it?” I said.  “Kind of scary.”
“I'm tellin’ people,” said JP, “it’s the end.  Ain’t nothin’ you can do but get good with yo’self.  If the end is here, and this is it, nothin’ else is goin’ to matter.  Everybody get all scared or run around like ‘the end is here, the end is here,’ but not me.  I just tell e’rybody I gonna spend this time gettin’ good with MYself.  That’s what we all should be doin’.  Spendin’ this time gettin’ good with ourselves.”
“I like that, JP,” I said. “That is what matters in the end, isn’t it?”
“Now’s as good a time as any,” he suggested.  “It might be the end.  It might not be.  But it’s as good a time as any to get good with yo’self.  Might as well be now.”
If it was the end of the world…what would you need to do to “get good with yourself,” as JP put it?  What does that mean for you?  What would it take for you to “get good with yourself”?  What’s stopping you from doing it now?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Self-Care, Part 2

I learned something about myself tonight. 
Until tonight, I did not really know what it feels like to allow myself to be angry.  I thought I did.  I know what it feels like, but I didn’t really know what it was like to allow myself to BE angry. I can intellectualize my way around just about everything.  I can come up with fancy words and metaphors and stories, and I can think my way through a whole heck of a lot.  I can come up with neat little word packaged emotions for you that fit the description of what the emotion feels like, and I can come up with about 10 different interventions for working with it, but I learned tonight that sometimes, I’m pretty much just full of crap.  Feel free to call me on it in the future.  I see it now.
I don’t really want to put words on it just yet, because…well…it was kind of intense and my whole body feels kind of raw from the experience.  Raw and wired.  I need to get to bed, but there’s no way that’s going to happen right now.  Words are how I understand things and put them to rest, so I think that’s what I need to do. 
Things have been building for me for a really long time.  A really fantastic friend sent me a care package, which I received this weekend, to remind me to take care of myself…and I tried.  I really tried.  I can honestly say I made a concerted effort this weekend, and actually, I was feeling pretty proud of myself for that.  I was ending this 3-day weekend feeling pretty good, thanks to some really hard work I did because, for me, self-care is hard work.  It’s not something I do naturally or well.
I have some reservations about this week for several reasons, and I know that certain aspects of this week are going to be difficult for me.  I’m not 100% sure how to deal with that yet, but I made sure that I had as many things in place to make myself able to deal with this upcoming potential trigger in as healthy a way as possible.  I’m really trying here, folks.  I really am.
I made a really fabulous dinner (potato and chickpea curry with rice…yum!), and had just finished that, was washing dishes and listening to some of my favorite music when I got a phone call.  The details of the phone call aren’t necessary, but the caller essentially (a) told me how irresponsible and negligent I had been this weekend and (b) told me how I had let them down.  This caller is someone who has a significant impact on my life and, as much as when I was 5 years old, if I feel I have disappointed someone, I will pretty much fall apart.  I did not miss some big essential duty.  I did not mess up anything.  It was merely this person’s viewpoint, without having all the facts (although she should have been able to know, really).
The work I had so carefully done this weekend crumbled like a house of cards.  I turned to a not-so-healthy coping strategy, which helped, but not enough.   When I get upset (angry, sad, really anxious, whatever), my body shakes.  I hate it in a really big way, but I couldn’t stop it from shaking. 
I ranted in my head and attempted to rationalize away my anger and frustration, but couldn’t.  I needed an outlet.  A physical outlet.  And I needed it sooner rather than later.  I grabbed a pillow from my bed and squeezed it, hard.  Didn’t work.  Harder.  Nothing.  And then, I just…I snapped.  Really.  Something inside me just went “POP,” and I started beating the hell out of my mattress with my pillow.  Again.  And again.  And again.  And again.
I am more than certain that I looked like a crazy person.  My hair fell out of its clip and went all over the place as I walloped the mattress harder and harder.  I must have been screaming, because my throat hurts like you wouldn’t believe.  And I wasn’t just angry about the phone call.  I was angry about what’s to come this week, and I was angry about self-care being difficult, and I was angry about things I swore I wasn’t angry about any more.  I was angry about things I didn’t even remember being angry about.  It’s like the anger is stored in my muscles, and when I gave it the chance to surface, the memories and the emotions all bubbled up my bloodstream.
When I couldn’t raise my arms again, I put the pillow back on the bed, and walked back into the living room.  The poor dog was cowering behind a chair, having never seen anything quite like that, and I laid on the floor and cuddled with him, saying, “I’m sorry” over and over and over and over again.  I tried to convince myself I was apologizing to the dog for scaring him, but we both knew it was more than that. 
I am very conscious of my mind tempering everything I’m writing right now.  “Calm, now.  Calm.  Calm.  Calm.  People don’t know you turned into an angry idiot this evening.”
And really, you don’t.  Of course you don’t.  But I need to share it because it’s important, and because I can update my self-care post from yesterday.  Yes, sometimes self-care is about dental floss.  And sometimes—sometimes, it might need to be about beating the crap out of something indestructible and letting some of those bubbles rise to the surface. 
Nobody ever tells you self-care can be a very scary experience.  But it can be.  I know.  My body still doesn’t want to let it go.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Self-Care, Picasso, and Dental Floss

I have the beginnings of about 5 different blog posts, none of them particularly interesting or worthwhile, and all of them very stuck.  I can’t seem to land on a topic and stick to it right now, and when I do find a topic I want to write about, the thoughts stick and can’t pass through the birthing canal from my brain to my fingers to make it onto the page.  It’s painful, I’ve gotta say.  There are lots of reasons, some of which I’ve even identified, none of which I want to go into.  So they’re just going to stay stuck and we’re all going to be happier for it.  Maybe. 
So instead, I’ll write about something easy, fun, important.  I’m going to write about self-care. 
Stop laughing! 
No, really now.  Stop laughing. 
C’mon, that’s not nice.  Just listen.  I might have something to say.
Are you quite finished?  Thank you.
So, self-care is important.  I should do it.  You should do it.  The world would be a happier place if we all just self-cared more often.
Hmmm…this post isn’t working out so well, either.
See, I have a problem with the word “deserve.”  Many people, when they say “take care of yourself,” follow it up with “…you deserve it.”  The concept of being “deserving” indicates to me that there are some people, then, who DON’T “deserve it,” and I just don’t believe that’s true.  If we get into the “deserving” piece, I can always think of people who are more “deserving” or whatever than I am, and can’t really think of anybody who ISN’T deserving.  Maybe it’s because the media always tries to shove down our throats that we “deserve” whatever it is that I am so opposed to the idea. 
For example, think of all the women you know.  Can you think of one woman who doesn’t “deserve” to have shiny, thick hair that smells like Strawberry Breeze?  Me either!  I mean, really, when you get pissed at somebody (since you were older than junior high), do you ever think, “I hope your hair gets thin and smells like swamp scum, because you SURELY don’t deserve to shampoo your hair after THAT behavior.  Noooooo siree, no shampoo for you.  I’m taking my Strawberry Breeze Shining and Thickening shampoo AND the Clean Rain conditioner and GOING HOME.” 
When I was a kid, we had a tape of stories we listened to in the car.  One story’s main character was an elderly woman who lived by the motto, “people get what they deserve.”  I have heard this, particularly over the past year and a half, from various people, in various ways.  “Karma’s a bitch,” some people say.  “What goes around comes around.”  “They’ll get what’s coming to them.”  Basically, I don’t believe it’s true.  People DON’T get what they deserve (good and bad) and, in fact, many people get things they don’t deserve.  That’s just a fact.  I’ve seen it happen.
So, when people tell me “take care of yourself, you deserve it,” I kind of get unnecessarily irritated.  (“So you’re saying there was a time when I didn’t?” or “oh I do, do I?  Well exactly how much self-care do I deserve at this point?  Do I have enough “you deserve it” points saved up to earn a hot bath?  How about candles?  Have I earned candles?).  Maybe I am thinking about it wrong, but it irks me.
It’s different, though, when people say, “you ARE worth it.”  That, to me, is completely different because, yes, there are times when I haven’t felt/don’t feel like I am “worth it”—with “it” being time, or money, or just plain and simple attention.  To say “you’re worth it” is reminding you/me/whoever that it’s okay to take that time.  That your body, your mind, your spirit, is deserving of that love and attention.  It’s taking away the “deserve”—which indicates that you had to do something in order to earn it, and just says “you are worthy of that love, simply because you are.”
Deserve feels like I’m working for something, although I didn’t know the rules of what I was working for.  It’s like I worked, worked, worked, and suddenly, I “deserve” something, although I never know how much I “deserve,” quite how much I earned.  If I’m going to work like that, give me a token economy chart so I can cash in my chips at the end of the day.
Worthiness feels like something more inherent.  It’s present on a more bodily level.  My body brought me through another day.  It put up with the wear and tear, withstood the physical and emotional miles I put on, and for that, I should take care of it.  It is worth taking care of so it will continue carrying me.  My emotional and spiritual self withstood the trials and tribulations of another day.  For that, it is worth caring for, so I can ensure it will continue to help me through the day.  I don’t always believe this or know it to be true, but it’s easier for me to swallow than the whole “deserve” thing.
Or at least, that is the distinction in my mind.  If you have a better way of thinking about this and I’m completely off base, let me know.
Back to self-care.  We all know the drill.  It doesn’t have to be something that costs money.  It doesn’t have to be something big.  It just has to be something that makes you feel good, that replenishes you, yada yada yada.  Right?
The thing I’ve never understood about all that is this: what if you don’t know?  What if you don’t know what’s going to feel good, or what is going to replenish you?  What if you can’t figure out what’s going to work?  Or what if you just can’t bring yourself to take the time?
One of the bigger “a-ha” moments of my life in regards to self-care occurred while I was flossing my teeth.  I’m not kidding…flossing, for me, is generally an act of pretty radical self-care. 
About a year ago, I was making a concerted effort one evening to engage in some basic self-care, so I was flossing my teeth.  As I flossed, I looked in the mirror to see what I was doing, and when I did, my eyes found my eyes in the mirror.  I put the floss down and stood for a few seconds, looking at myself, holding my gaze and looking—really looking—at my face, my clothes, my body, and in particular, my eyes.  As I did this, I started to cry and realized: it had been about 6 months since I had looked at myself in the mirror and really allowed myself to see inside.  Of course, I had looked in the mirror, but I had only seen the pieces I was fixing: my hair, my teeth, my make-up.  In those 6 months, my entire world had changed, and I was unwilling and unable to look myself in the face.  I felt sure I would see someone else entirely looking back at me, but also couldn’t bear the thought of looking the same when everything about me and the way I thought about myself had changed.  When I finally allowed myself to look, it was powerful, and emotional, in a way I can’t find the words to describe.  It was like allowing myself to see myself as whole.  Like seeing myself in a photograph, when I had been picturing myself fractured and abstracted like a painting by Picasso.
Self-care is hard work.  It’s harder than taking care of others.  It’s harder than putting one foot in front of the other and marching steadily forward.  It takes real, conscious effort, and most times, I’m not even 100% sure what it means. 
I have a feeling, though, it might start with some dental floss.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Question

I’ve always been someone who can write into an answer.  There have been very few times when I have true “writer’s block” in the sense that the words just won’t come.  Not for very long, anyway.  Sure, sometimes the words I WANT won’t come, but I can usually get something on the paper. 
I’m pretty darn stuck right now, though.  Actually, I’ve been stuck for quite some time.  There are just these couple things I really want to write about.  Have to write about.  But I can’t.  I just can’t.  And I don’t know what to do about that.  I think I’ve written around it (and around it, and around it, and around it….) but I still can’t write it.  It just doesn’t want to be written. Or it does, and I just can’t do it. 
Can you sense my confusion?
This stuck point in my writing, though, is also a stuck point in my life, see?  It’s causing problems.  All sorts of problems.  So, if I could just write it, give it an outlet, maybe I could reach some clarity.  Maybe something would be clarified.  But I can’t find the point of what I want to say to say it.  Hence the meaning of the word “stuck.”  Unable to proceed.
How do I give voice to this struggle?  This is the question in my heart.  One of the questions in my heart.
What are you going to do?  How are you going to make a difference?  Where are you going to put your words—your tools and weapons—to make a change?  This is the next part of it.  I want—desperately want—to make a difference.  To make a change.  Not with everything, but about one issue in particular.  I want to make a change in the one area I feel silent about.  I want to speak out about the one thing that shuts my heart down and puts my emotions into hibernation.  I want to feel angry and empowered, and I want my words to fly from my brain to the page, from my heart to the page, and I want to know that someone will read my words and their struggle will be eased.  I want to know that, because I hurt, that one less person will have to hurt.  I want to know that someone, somewhere, will benefit.
But I am silent.  And silenced.  I continue to hold my breath—and my tongue—to protect us.  Them and me, for if I protect myself, I am also protecting them, and this is what I don’t want to do.  There is no one stopping me but me, so I am angry at myself, and the struggle continues. 
Even the people who know this struggle—who know of my struggle—they ask, “how are you?” and they mean it.  And I tell them, “some days are better than others,” because I know they mean it.  They look for more of an answer, and I fall silent, avert my gaze, change the topic.  Some days ARE better than others, but that is not really how I am.  To tell you how I am would be to break that silence, and breaking the silence is hard.  Too hard.  So I don’t.  Not today, or now.  Breaking that silence would let you know things about me that you probably don’t want to know.  Things I keep hidden.  It would reveal how I really am.
We all have struggles we have difficulty voicing.  We all have places where we are silent when we want to speak.  How do you give voice to your struggle?  Have you?  Would you?  Will you?  Is it important to you to break through the silenced places?  How will you do it?