Discipline — You Won’t Find it Here.

Discipline.  I suck at it.

I know I need to set aside time to write, and not just here in the blog.  I really need to make some progress on the children’s book I’m trying to write.  And by ‘trying,’ I mean that I have the resources and I have the material, but I just don’t have that crucial First Step.  You know the one, right — the single step that starts the journey of a thousand miles? Yeah, that.  I’m still at the gate.

I’m all start and no finish.  All show and no go.  All worry and no decision.

I have that ‘excuse thing’ down: I’m tired; I just don’t feel like writing; no time; too noisy to concentrate; don’t have any ideas; have too many other things going on; blah, blah, blah.  You know the routine.  I’ll confess that I procrastinate — later.  But for now, I am just putting it out there.  If there’s one thing I shoulda/woulda/coulda change(d), it’s my self-starter.  I think it’s gone out.

Really, that’s the main reason I joined RCC; I need to be nagged and prodded and kicked and encouraged and cajoled and bribed and dared.  My self-motivation at work is great, but once I get home, it somehow eludes me.  Anyone else have that problem?

I can sit down after dinner and write a post or two, but all the little edits and rewordings and such piss away my evening, and that’s as far as I get.  On weekends I feel guilty sitting at the computer, especially when it’s nice out.  Of course, the guilt doesn’t stop me from hanging out on Facebook to play Scrabble, or reading the news from several sources, or browsing through any of a number of sites…I just don’t channel my energy in the right direction.

So I don’t expect this motivation paralysis to be easily cured, but I’m hoping it will improve.  I seem to do better for a bit, and then slack back off.  When I read the posts from the other RCC members and get all enthusiastic about my own progress, that lasts, oh, about long enough for me to open up a blank document.  And then, zilch.  I still use my notebook to write my ideas in, but I haven’t had many entries lately.  Another thing for my ‘to do’ list, I guess.

Well, enough whining.  I have work to do.  Wish me luck!  TTFN!

 

photo credit: Grotuk

 

A Greater Miracle.

Day 13;365 {{ 10 things about ME }}

Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?
~ Henry David Thoreau

So opens a short video that was shared on my Facebook feed today.   It is a promo bit for Cleveland Clinic, but it shares a profound truth.  It is a series of silent vignettes of people in a medical setting: patients in a waiting room; doctors performing treatments; visitors; people sharing an elevator.  With each scene, some text emerges above the subjects: 19 year-old son on life support appears with a worried-looking couple in a hospital cafeteria; doesn’t completely understand displays above a vacant-eyed elderly woman sitting with her middle-aged son before a doctor.  In the elevator, a man worries about his wife who just had a stroke; a woman in a white coat is newly divorced; and another man just found out he will be a father.

Each bit of text leaves us with an impression of the subjects’ state of mind.  We see sorrow, uncertainty, joy, love, and worry etched on these faces, and we can empathize.  Immediately, our heart goes out to the little girl who is visiting her Dad and the woman who is in shock at the doctor’s news.  We see ourselves in the waiting area for three hours (or more).  These are actors, of course, but they represent a universal usWe are all the same.  Doctors and nurses have joy and pain just as patients do, just as the family does, just as we — I — do.

It never hurts to remember that we each have our stories.  That driver who sped recklessly through traffic may be on his way to the hospital to see his daughter who clings to life after a drunk driver hit her on the way to school.  The cashier at the grocery store who seemed to ignore you may be thinking about how to tell her children that she and her husband are divorcing.  Perhaps the reason your boss didn’t seem to be listening to your big proposal is that his wife is coming home tonight after a month-long work assignment in another city.  Your child’s teacher was just diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and that’s why she has been acting a bit ‘off.’

You just don’t know.

By the time the 4-minute video came to an end, I had tears welling up in my eyes.  Compassion is a vital virtue; a walk in someone else’s shoes may be your most valuable journey.  Too often we misread intent in others because we don’t know the back story or we misinterpret their actions.  Sometimes, it’s haste; sometimes, it’s indifference; sometimes, it’s just that we don’t see.

I recently spent the better part of two days waiting in a hospital.  I had brought plenty of reading material, as well as a tablet for surfing the web, but I passed a lot of time watching other people:  The shabbily-dressed, unkempt man sitting alone at the large cafeteria table looking only at the bag of chips he hungrily consumed.  A small knot of middle-aged women in the corner laughing heartily, drawing annoyed glances from a quieter part of the room.  The housekeeper pushing her cart from restroom to restroom, perfunctorily cleaning up after the steady stream of visitors.  The elderly couple checking their watches, anxiously watching the status board.  The gowned patient with the tube taped to her nose, noiselessly escorting her IV stand to the end of the hall.  Maybe they saw me, too, with my tote bag of crossword puzzles and bottled water.

There’s no way, of course, to know what’s in someone’s heart; we judge people by their behavior and assign our own meaning to their actions.  But just as we want people to treat us with compassion and respect, we must do the same.  We must learn to look beyond the overt, and resist the urge to ascribe our own interpretations.  We must not be so quick to assume, and instead, we must try to understand.

That short video spoke strongly to me.  It said I need to try harder.  It is far too easy for me to merely respond to the actions and not consider the reason.  What if I could step into their skin for a moment?  Would I treat people more gently and with greater kindness?

I may not see from their eyes, but I can be “a little kinder than necessary,” as Peter Pan author J. M. Barrie put it.

Watch the video.  Learn the lesson.

 

photo credit Nina Matthews Photography

The RCC — Because Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day. (Plus Bonus!)

romeconstructioncrew-sep

This post is long past due — my apologies to the rest of the crew.

The Rome Construction Crew, or RCC, is the delightful brainchild of Bradley, whose blog, Green Embers, is full of his writing, his drawings, and his humor.
He says:

Being a member of the Rome Construction Crew is about working on ourselves and to always be improving who we are.
Many people have different things they want to accomplish, write the next great novel, learn to be a master chef, helping those closest to them learn to love, finish school, get a job and many other things.
What the Rome Construction Crew is for is to help encourage YOU to accomplish YOUR goals!

The folks in the Crew are very supportive and full of encouragement and ideas.  I joined them to help me with my blogging and my discipline.
Here is the list of members and their blogs.  There are some very talented people out there — go check them out and show them some love!

BONUS — Charles of Legends of Windemere is offering a free e-book this weekend!  Click for details!

Everyone Has a Story – Here is Mine.

Saluki on 3.15.13 passes 3.15.99 crash site.

Amtrak Saluki passes March 15, 1999 crash site on March 15, 2013. Inset: memorial plaque.

 

“Take a deep breath,” she said.

Just over two years ago, my friend Bobbi Emel asked if I would be interested in guest posting for her website, The Bounce Blog.  Bobbi’s blog is a great resource for personal development and a great read, as well: she’s a psychotherapist in Los Altos, CA, who specializes in helping people cope with grief, stress, and anxiety.  I guarantee you’ll find something interesting and helpful there.

Bobbi and I are childhood friends, and when we reconnected through Facebook a few years back, we were able to catch up on the years in between.  When she asked me if I’d like to share my grief story on her blog, I was honored to do so.  So here is my story.

The article is called, Resilience: “Sometimes Life Hands You a New Normal.”

More here on Wikipedia.

 

photo credit Buddahbless  (Imagine my surprise to find this very photograph.)

Tossing and Turning: Dreaming is Hard Work.

Like a Bad Dream

The writer is always tricking the reader into listening to their dream.
~Joan Didion

 

I don’t know about anyone else, but I dream a lot.  All the time.

Many years ago, when I was a teen, my friend Jon suggested I keep a pad of paper next to the bed so I could write my dreams down immediately after I woke.  Eventually I got so practiced at it that I could barely wake, not even open my eyes, and jot down words and phrases that would evoke the dream later.  For years, I faithfully wrote down my dreams.  Most were odd, at least in comparison to Mr. Stuck’s, which are usually about hunting or fishing or something normal.  Nightmares were infrequent and most often the result of a television show or movie I had watched.

As expected, when my life went sideways, so did my dreams.  I was miserable and shattered during the day, and I began having nightmares nearly every night.  I dreamed that certain family members would die in spectacularly gruesome fashions.  I dreamed that I saw my grandfather tumble down some cellar stairs to his death.  I dreamed that I had blood on my hands as I rubbed my face, but when I looked in the mirror there was no blood.  My therapist, who used the Jungian style of analysis and dream interpretation, would discuss my dreams and nightmares with me quite frequently and ascribe them to the ‘mind work’ my brain was doing while I slept.  My dreams were manifestations of my subconscious struggles.

Right or wrong, I must admit that many of my dreams certainly seemed to be exactly that.

Those few that weren’t nightmares were often strange dreams of futility.  One dream was that my siblings and I were trying to raise my mother’s chair to get her in and out easier.  The others were using plastic plant pots, magazines and old cardboard boxes, but I used a stool and it worked.  In another dream, my mother and sister were walking arm in arm, just a few feet from me.  They didn’t see me at all, and they didn’t hear me when I yelled out to them.  I would say that most of the ‘good’ dreams had a theme of vehicles or a journey of some kind.  I was on the move — by ferry, by motorcycle, by bus, by plane.

Apparently, I was going somewhere, but in my dreams, I never knew where.  They always seemed to have an element of peril; I was lost, or falling overboard, or being chased, or stumbling into a scary situation.  I came to think of these dreams as my path through the fire.  I wrote down those I remembered and tried to make sense of them.

I have to keep moving, I thought.

The nightmares continued for weeks, then months, with similar frequency.  I would stay awake as long as possible so that I didn’t have to go to sleep and have another nightmare.  I would keep Mr. Stuck awake by talking, crying, and shouting in my sleep.  When it got to be too much, I went to the doctor for sleeping pills.  When I took them, I slept so hard that I didn’t dream, or if I did, I didn’t recall them, thankfully.  The pills left me groggy, so I reserved them for weekends only.

Rest was non-existent.  Sleep was merely a way to pass the hours of the night. Either I tossed and turned restlessly and woke in terror without the pills, or I was passed out cold for 8 hours and woke dazed with them.  But no rest.  I would wake up drenched in sour sweat.  The stress level was so high that I was always on edge.  It felt as if I was on the rim of an abyss with a mad compulsion to step off.

I wondered if this is what it felt like to go crazy.  I had known people from work who seemed to be a little ‘off,’ and some would talk to themselves or hear voices.  Was this what was happening to me?  I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t rest.  I was exhausted all the time, and not sleeping was not helping.  I felt leaden; everything was heavy.  My brain felt heavy, too.

I missed a lot of work during those days.  I felt as if I existed in a place between living and dead, asleep and awake.  It took a couple years for my nightmares to subside; they never really went away, but they came less and less frequently and they were more subdued.  I think it was important for me to go through that period; I do believe that those dreams came from whatever my psyche was working through at the time.

Looking back at the dreams I jotted down, I can see the journey I was on.

photo credit Keoni Cabral

 

I Feel Your Pain.

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?

~ Joni Mitchell, ‘Big Yellow Taxi’

Sad

 ‘I feel your pain.’

Shortly after President Bill Clinton uttered those words in 1992, they became a catch phrase, often spoken mockingly or in jest.  Obviously, Clinton did not literally feel the pain of the AIDS activist whose comment prompted his response.  Nevertheless, it helped portray him as a compassionate person who had empathy for the common folk.

Of course, it is quite impossible to feel someone else’s pain, because we are all unique, and so are our responses to events and situations.  Two people can experience exactly the same thing but have completely different reactions.  We can sympathize by comforting and reassuring someone who is going through a rough time in her life, or, if we have also been in that situation, we can empathize, sharing our own experience with it.  Compassion, earned by shared suffering and the desire to alleviate it, is a building block of love and friendship.  It is a hallmark of caring.  You never show compassion for someone you care nothing about.

When you suffer – through injury, loss, or physical or emotional pain – you learn truths about yourself.  Among other things, you find out what you can manage; you learn to prioritize; and you attain a new perspective.  Life changes for you; you gain depth of understanding and a renewed appreciation for happiness.

Fourteen years ago, I skipped along through life like most of us do, concerned about my own situation: my husband and kids, my job, and my social circle.  I was healthy and happy, and life was good.  I did not give it a lot of thought because that is how it had always been for me.  I could not truly appreciate how fortunate I was.

In a moment, all of that changed.  Life pulled the rug out from under me, and I tumbled into another reality.  The truths of my situation changed, and I was completely overwhelmed.  My journey back to normal (whatever that is) started that day, although I did not know it then.

I stand before you today a different person than I was those fourteen years ago: a stronger person.  I now know that I can take whatever life throws at me and still come through.  My priorities reflect what really matters.  I am still on that path I started that day, but now I am counting my blessings, not the least of which is greater understanding.

photo credit Megadeth’s Girl

On Soul-Baring Pronouncements, Epiphanies and Wild Inspiration

There is no such thing in anyone’s life as an unimportant day.

~Alexander Woollcott

ahhhh...
ahhhh…

There is a method to my madness.  Yesterday, I introduced you to my massage therapist, the Diabolical Dave.  I credit this man with my continuing ability to walk upright, as he worked on my poor, battered body following a bad car accident several years ago.  We became friends, and I look forward to my appointments both for the physical effects as well as for the mental refreshment.

Our friendship was born of shared interests and a commonality of thoughts.  Sometimes, we think a lot alike.  Often we bounce ideas off one another, looking for a bit of advice or some validation.  Sometimes, we amaze even ourselves.

Dave and I chat while he works his magic.  We talk about many things: our families, our selves, our day-to-day, the news, the weather, and mutual friends.  We also discuss the deep stuff like religion and politics and the meanings of life.  There’s not much that we don’t chew on for our hour of shared conversation; of course, my side of the dialogue is often punctuated with groans, teeth-gritting and the occasional profane interjection.  Dave likes to tell me jokes, and as I laugh, he pushes harder on my stubborn muscles.  It is his approach to healing and his amazing skill that I admire so much; I love to recommend him to friends and family, even though the busier he is, the farther apart my appointments become.

There is something about lying on a massage table in a state somewhere between bliss and agony that lends itself to soul-baring pronouncements, epiphanies, and wild inspiration.  This last visit, I experienced all three.  And that brings me to the subject of this post.

For one reason or another, it had been a long while since my last massage, so we had some catching up to do.  I mentioned my blog and how much I have enjoyed it.  Encouraging and supportive friend that he is, Dave expressed delight that I was writing again.  We talked about some of the posts I’d written and how my following had grown, bit by bit.  And then, Dave expressed his vision of my blog.

I trust Dave and his opinions; he is an honest man.  With him, what you see is what you get — no schmoozing, no pretense, no fooling.  So when he tells me that thinking about my blog gives him goosebumps, I believe him.  When he tells me that our conversations have helped him through rough spots in his life, I am honestly touched.  And when he laid out the flash of inspiration that came to him as we spoke, I listened.

You see, both of us have had some ugly times to struggle through in our lives.  He credits me with compassion brought forth from suffering, and he feels very strongly that this blog can be a voice of empathy.  My voice.  I was moved to hear him say that, but I had to agree.  Misery loves company, they say, but really, misery is glad to know it is not alone, because misery so often is isolating.  I’ve been there, and I know.  I would wager that most of you do, too.

So it is with this in mind that I strike out in a new direction — an additional direction.  I have designated a new category for this side of the blog: Walking Through Fire.  Each post I write on this topic will be categorized and tagged accordingly.  I will also continue to write my usual drollery as I did before.  😉

I hope you will find truth, compassion, and maybe even healing here.  I know I will.

photo credit Nick J Webb