Tag Archives: self-help

the cult of positivity

heart_hand

I’m sure I’ve blogged about this topic before, or carried on about it on Facebook.

I see constant anecdotes and photos reprimanding us…

…that if we were grateful enough, we would never be lacking for anything

…that while we are blowing hot air about our particular misery du jour, others are taking their last breath

…that were we to count our blessings, we’d realize how damned lucky we are and stop that complaining shit stat

And I get it. Some people never stop complaining, even when every little thing in their lives is the way you or I would wish ours to be – they are still snivelling bags of misery (and that does, in fact, get old).

There are times, though, that even if you are fully cognizant of the fact that people are starving in Africa and you happen to be fortunate enough to have sufficient food in your pantry to feed a whole small third world village for a month, you still feel pretty down about the things that are happening in your life and being reminded of that tidbit of information does nothing to spike up your happy meter.

Instead you feel even shittier for having your “first world problems” in the first place, and feel guilty for being so (apparently) ungrateful for what you have.

Here’s the thing. Inner unrest is almost always a signal that your intuition is trying to tell you something.

Sometimes it’s because you have stopped listening somewhere along the way and are functioning on auto pilot without really paying attention to what you are doing.

Inner unrest niggles when the situation you are choosing to engage in goes against the grain of your fundamental values and principles, and you are choosing to ignore the little red flags that are popping up as you are going along because you’ve gotten so used to being comfortable in your discomfort.

Then there are times when we go through some major transitions in life, and while we humans are certainly equipped to deal with transitions (seriously… we would have died out millennia ago had we not been an adaptable species), our instant-presto society expects us to pop up like a freshly thawed toaster pastry mere days after something life-altering has occurred.

That can be even the good stuff… a promotion, a newly-tied knot, a long-desired move to a new place, the purchase of a new home… or the obviously less positive stuff… like losing a job, having to move without notice, the end of a relationship, health challenges, children moving out (i.e., an empty nest), the loss of a loved one (whether expected or not).

All change, to some degree, causes an anxiety reflex. Some of it merely heightens our awareness so that while we are in a new situation we adapt as quickly as possible – but it is exhausting, even if it is exhilarating.

The more painful sort of change grinds us into the ground and pulls us along by the ankles through the raw and painful grieving process. There is much out there on the different stages of grieving, so I won’t discuss it in detail here, but what I do want to note is that the process takes inordinately longer than any amount of time typically allotted for it by our western society.

People are patient for a week or two (if that), but after that if your performance isn’t back up to pre-trauma speed, patience with your process starts to dwindle and whatever progress you might have made in the interim is largely interrupted by the added pressure that is now placed upon you to be back to “normal” again. Many people either have never experienced grief before, or have conveniently forgotten what it was like to be in its throes – sort of like the purported denial of remembering childbearing pain.

The key to survival is to seek out qualified support to help you over that hump, because once the funeral is over, and the condolence notes stop coming in, or you are two months in to flying solo after a twenty year marriage, people forget that things were ever different, and that can be hugely difficult to deal with on top of the ongoing grieving.

Whether the life change is big or small (and it’s all individually relative), self-care becomes primordial to the survival of our hurting soul bits. In the end, these very same things are what help me keep my sanity even when shit isn’t hitting the fan.

So… what to do?

1. Schedule in time for your Self.
Learn to gauge to what point you can push yourself before a melt-down is impending. It will change over time, and it will be a trial and error process for a while. If you feel that once a month you need to work in a mental health day just to stay sane, plan it ahead of time. It will be something to look forward to and the break in your normal routine something that will be akin to that light at the end of the tunnel when you start down sliding. The waiting between breaks will help you build up resilience and allow for the incorporation of healthy coping mechanisms in the meantime, which will make everything go more smoothly. Determine what your daily, weekly, monthly needs are, and have an action plan.

2. Practice radical self-compassion.
Like it or not, things will not always go according to plan. Something might happen that will throw you off kilter despite your best efforts. You may not, on a daily basis, be functioning at 100%. One of the best takeaways for me from The Four Agreements (if you haven’t read it yet, I recommend it) is to do your best, whatever best means on any given day. On some days your best may just be to roll out of bed, get dressed and make it in to the office, while other days it will be to blaze through a week’s worth of work in a single afternoon. It may vary that drastically. Respect the variance. Respect your willingness to show up, in whatever capacity that you are able. Be gentle with yourself. Afford yourself the same compassion as you would extend to another in your situation. You deserve to be treated kindly, even by yourself.

3. Establish good boundaries.
People mean well… they do… but sometimes their “help” does more harm than good. Learn to be specific about your needs, if you ask for help with them, as well as to gracefully express when someone is triggering all of your defence mechanisms. Deftly extricate yourself from the situation or the ministrations and be sure to let them know to be more mindful of the way in which they communicate with you going forward. Relentlessly cut ties if they have a track record of not positively supporting you.

4. Have a support system in place.
Know who you can call on when you are on the verge of a melt-down. Have an escape route in place so that you can go some place private. If you are seeking the help of a professional counsellor, have your appointments set up on a regular basis in accordance with their advised schedule and make additional appointments if you feel you need them. If you need to be assisted chemically to find better balance, explore the most personally comfortable way in which to achieve it.

5. Spend some time, daily, checking in with yourself.
Whether that means doing it while sitting on a meditation cushion, as you move through the asanas in yoga class, during a walk around the block, while soaking in the tub or lathering up in a shower, when putting in miles on the treadmill at the gym, or at the table with your journal or art supplies. Make real or mental notes on how you feel, how you’ve improved in the last while and think about how you want to feel. Danielle Laporte’s The Desire Map helps siphon down our focus to what she calls our Core Desired Feelings and keeping those in mind while we do our inventory check can pull us back to center even when we’ve skidded off the road.

6. Nourish yourself.
That means feeding the body, mind and spirit, daily. Plan meals ahead so that you take the guess work out of daily cooking chores – chances are you will be eating more healthfully or regularly. Take vitamins and minerals as recommended by your physician. Spend some down time with a book, crossword puzzle or other mind-feeding endeavour. Honour and connect with your spirit, in whichever way you feel most comfortable.

7. Move.
Spend some time getting physical. I have found that when I’m hurting emotionally my tendency is to avoid being embodied. I become this untethered soul hanging on to my bodily connections by mere shreds. Exercise gets the endorphins pumping and even if my heart is heavy with grief, my body feels lighter after it’s been fully exerted.

8. Rest.
Fatigue is a by-product of depression and the carrying of the burden of stress. Without adequate rest the body simply can’t perform its regenerative functions, whether for the physical body, the mental body or the emotional body. Eight hours of sleep is the generally established minimum, but more may be required during more taxing times. Honour your body’s signals and allow it the rest that it needs to heal itself.

Enacting these things may take some effort, especially at first. I know that when I’m newly grieving, I’m like a dazed zombie and barely functioning. If you have someone close to you (a spouse or a partner) who can help you over the hump, you are ahead of the game. Otherwise you may well have to wait until the fog lifts before you will be able to begin fully implementing these self-care steps.

But for the love of all things holy, don’t let the bastards get you down… you are worthy… you are worthy… you are worthy.

Adriane xo

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finding meaning

dbl choc banana bread

Today was the first most ab-so-lute-ly gorgeous day of the year. I’ve been leaving the door open for the cat so that she can venture outside at will.

Earlier a bee had come in through a small cracked window (we don’t have window screens on any but one window upstairs) and was buzzing frantically as it bounced between blind slats and glass, trying to crash its way out. I wasn’t sure how to get it outside – the window, as a safety measure, has a locking device that allows it to only slide open so much, which must be unscrewed and pushed along the window rail to allow for a wider opening. With a frustrated bee buzzing around, I wasn’t sure how I would manage to get the window open enough, and I didn’t want to squish it. Somehow I managed to push it open enough for there to be a good gap for the bee to make its escape but it was not moving toward the opening. I utilized my trusty plastic glass and index card method of catch-and-release. As soon as I tipped the cup toward the opening and removed the card it zipped out the window.

After enjoying the quiet of the house until mid-afternoon, a lot of that time spent perusing Pintrest, I stepped outside. With book tucked under my arm, I unfolded my picnic quilt and spread it out on the back balcony. In full afternoon sunlight splendour, I read and sunned for a couple of hours. The cat joined me for a spell, nudging my hand for a rub as I sat with my eyes closed, head and back leaning against the warm sun soaked wall. The sky was an impossible blue, clear and cloudless. Although comfortable because of the sunshine, the wind was blowing softly and required intermittent covering when I felt chilled in my short sleeved tee shirt. I breathed in air to my lungs and light through my pores. I can understand why the bees are gathering around the yard these days. The bushes in the back ooze the sweetest honey scent and drifted all the way upstairs without much effort.

I’ve been reading “Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life: How to Finally, Really Grow Up” by James Hollis, Ph.D. Earlier this week I read a blog post from Danielle Laporte, and on my Facebook share of this same link I had zeroed in on this excerpt:

The point is: I was tired of being my version of good.

Because I’ve been good. Let me tell you. I’ve meditated. I’ve prayed. I’ve cleared my chakras and my ancestral ties. I’ve sent positive thoughts, white light, and handwritten thank you notes. And I have purified—my oh my, have I purified. Cleanses and sweats, colonics and karmic cord-cutting. I got rid of my microwave. I feng shui’d my shit into a transcendental temple. You see, I am a pro at better-fying. For the love of God and Buddha and The Goddess, I am a self-help author.”

I commented with the following:

“I’m with ya, sistah.

Yeah… not a self-help author, but I’ve spent so much time, money and energy on “self-help” (and, mind you, helping others self-help, because I’ve done everything from psychic readings – very briefly, online – to carving my own set of futhark runes (in stone, no less, that I gathered along the shores of the ocean, asking for permission from the earth for each reaping of stone), aromatherapy, energy healing, SoulCollage facilitation, body work encompassing everything from lymphatic drainage to deep tissue massage, and shamanic journeying and soul retrieval, not to mention forays into christianity via the Catholic, United, Methodist, Lutheran, LDS churches and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a six-month stint in a ISKCON -that’s the International Society of Krishna Consciousness- ashram, reading scripture from the Bah’ai, Buddhist and Islamic faiths, and soulful searches into heathen, pagan and occult paths (including those that think we’ve been “seeded” with extraterrestrial genomes, and/or the product of nephilim but those perhaps circle back to judeo-christianity, in some weird, convoluted way). My self-help library probably rivals the local public library’s. Oh… and I didn’t have a microwave for a while, but my son was happy when someone donated the behemoth of a nuke-tastic dinosaur microwave because he was once again able to make popcorn, and I, with equal thanks, can nuke my herbal and buckwheat heat pack for when the body aches.

And essentially, it’s true. I’ve tried all the usual (and unusual) ways to make peace with myself and somehow the peace of mind that I have been reaching for is still eluding me. This signals to me that throughout all of my previous efforts, I have merely managed to placate a part rather than the whole of my spirit, and once I’d calmed down enough to allow my ego to regain control, I resumed my old ways of being in the world.

As I’m reading Dr. Hollis’ book, which I recommend to ANYone (everyone?) who is on a journey toward better understanding of self, I am discovering that no matter how well informed I have thought myself to be about myself, I am still very far from being self-aware, and further still from possessing self-mastery, no matter how much my ego wishes it were so (or thought it was so, ever).

I also, as I read deeper into the book (I’m at page 95 of 260, not including the bibliography and index), I wonder whether there is such a thing. We spend so much of our early lives becoming conditioned and then the rest of it running the auto-pilot programs (mostly without noticing them initialize) that even once we become aware of the fact that we are reacting (drawing from previous experience) in a specific way, we seem incapable of creating a newer path. The reaction is instantaneous. It has a physical and emotional component to it that is familiar; it floods our neurobiology and we react. At least that is what I do; I’m sure I’m not alone.

I’m hoping that as I read through this book, tools will be revealed on how to counter these (for the lack of a better, though sadly overused, term) triggers and replace the subsequent reactions with more favourable ones. I wish that I had access to a therapist. Therapy is costly, and, let’s face it, not all therapists are made equal, but I believe that someone outside of ourselves (who is trained to objectively observe, assess and guide) is a crucial element in the making of headway in this area… and man, am I ever ready to make some headway. Seriously. If not now, when?

It is mindbogglingly humbling to realize that every.single.human.interaction. is filtered through this process, bar none. We learn to behave and manipulate our way into accustomed dynamics. I can see it in each and every relationship I’ve ever had, each disconcerting interaction, each unsatisfying work experience, each unfinished project and each yearning for something other than what I’ve had.

So, to return to Danielle’s piece, and my comments to it, yes, I am tired of being on the self-improvement road, and all of the ways in which I’ve endeavoured to discover it from external sources. Clearly, always focusing on what is wrong and ails isn’t where the joy is. But without knowing, truly knowing, what lies beneath the stuff that drives us, the joy can never be found.

Onward, ho…

Oh… and this (whose smell is permeating the whole room and has ten more minutes of cooling, before I can cut into it and sample).

(P.S. The banana bread? Utterly divine….)

an unfinished human

I’ve been on a bit of a downward spiral lately, and though there are some specific reasons for it, I don’t really feel that I should address them here. I will, however, talk about what I am (and have, for many, many years been) doing to get through to the other side.

Caveat: this works for me; I am an individual and we all have different ways of processing things. Take what resonates with you, and leave the rest; offer insight if you think it might be helpful, to me or anyone else.

Double-edged sword: I’ve been feeling creative lately, and writing more. What that means is that I am having to go into vulnerable places in order to access the meaty stuff that makes for good writing. On the flip side of that, things have been happening in my exterior world that are directly affecting my interior one. Things like news of possible lay-offs and general unrest at the workplace; financial issues with potential court room drama that come at a time when I am still in a tenuous financial situation; increased expenses without an increase in salary (for instance my rent went from $1100 a month to $1665 a month with utilities; that’s a slightly more than a 50% increase in rental costs alone); an old relationship resurfacing when the healing process had still not yet been completed. I could go on.

This is a small sampling, but there is an added amount of stress, real or imagined, that is pushing me into a kind of frantic state that I have a hard time dealing with, especially on my own. If you ask me about a support system (the kind that we normally look to: family, friends, etc.), I can say that I can’t really rely on any since I don’t have one in place, not really. This is, however, something I’m quite used to, so I have learnt that I have to reach out and find solutions because, contrary to popular believe, “going it alone” doesn’t ever work very well, and “sucking it up” doesn’t resolve the issues nor does it provide any relief for the anxiety. I’ve tried both, even recently, and it only ends up manifesting in physical ailment. Hint: it’s not a good course of action.

So enter the “self-help queen” – I must have one of the most extensive motivational, inspirational and self-help libraries around, but there are always new books (i.e., tools) that come out that I am (until the moment when I’m having a quasi-meltdown) unaware of. So I purchase more, because over the long haul, even a handful of books costs less than sitting through weeks and months of therapy. I’m not saying that therapy isn’t helpful, with the right counsellor, but the costs are quite prohibitive and it would behoove me to become proactive in my own getting out of my mire process. If all else fails and I’m still not able to find some mending, I would of course get some external assistance.

At the moment I’ve begun reading a couple of books:

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown; and
The Muse Is In: An Owner’s Manual to Your Creativity by Jill Badonsky

I was already reading:

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain; and
Women Who Run With The Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estés

So… I read slowly, bits of whichever of these happen to resonate at any given moment, over a period of time.

Well, that’s not quite true. I am reading Women Who Run With The Wolves with an online group and we are reading through a chapter every couple weeks, which, since the content is really dense and the exercises we are working through quite deep, it’s a bit of a crawling along (though rewarding) process.

The Gifts of Imperfection will be needed for an online workshop I signed up for with Brené, and similarly, I signed up for an online month-long teleconference/remote coaching group session with Jill Badonsky to help deal with some of my creativity issues, which essentially just boil down to the more basic issues that are the foundation of many of the other things that keep me from living as someone who is (as Brené calls it) Wholehearted.

I have moments of being in this state, so I know what I’m missing out on when I’m not. And I can tell you that it is wonderful. But like anything that’s worth working for, it takes some effort to maintain, and (clearly) I have many times that I downright fall right off the wagon.

So I’ve come to the meat of this post; the reason I wanted to write about this in the first place.

I know I am not alone.

YOU are not alone.

If there is ever a moment of inquiry that you pause in and wonder how you could be doing ‘this’ better, not because you are inadequate at doing whatever it is that you are doing, but because there is perhaps another way that might yield better results, you are drawing on your courage, and that is remarkable.

It is often said that happiness is a state of mind; I believe this to be true – it *is* a state of mind, and not dependent upon many of the things that we associate with happiness – money, success, love, sex, material acquisitions – because I have seen so many people with so much and yet they are not happy.

Truthfully, we all long for connection, and how we individually interpret that differs tremendously, but the more we can come to understand ourselves and what connection really means to us, the further along the path we can move to becoming a slightly less unfinished human.