Times like these…

…it would be easy for me to

  • board up my emotional doors and windows;

  • adopt a siege mentality;

  • retreat to the Island of Donna, population: one;

  • barricade myself in the Obsessional, where I ponder the same thoughts/fears/resentments over and over until they wear a groove in my brain and poison my world from the inside out;

  • feel too overwhelmed and hopeless to do anything;

  • get so obsessed with protecting myself I forget other people are in the same boat–or worse–and there might be something I can do to help;

  • forget that there’s powerful magic in caring, sharing, helping, listening, and even the simplest acts of kindness

But just because it’s easy to do, doesn’t mean I have to do it.

Instead of letting times like these make me isolate myself in fear, distrust, and resentment, I can choose to…well, Dave says it better than I can:

 

 

 

Forgive Thee Thy Trespasses

nunWhen someone else makes a mistake, I always tell them, “Hey, no big deal. Perfect people are boring.”

When make a mistake, however, I summon up the Spanish Inquisition, a howling Greek chorus of condemnation, and the ghost of Sister Mary Gwendolyn from fourth grade.

And from what I hear, I’m not the only one.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Darned if I know.  All it does is make us feel worse than we already do, and it certainly doesn’t improve the situation. I could analyze the whiz-bang out of the whys and wherefores, but  I’d rather look at a few home truths that just might help:

To err is human.

It really, really is. And–guess what?  We are all plain old garden-variety humans, and we’re going to screw up.  To think otherwise is to foster the unrealistic expectation that we are  supposed to be superhuman, above and beyond mere ordinary mortals.  (Sounds kinda arrogant when it’s put that way, doesn’t it?)

A mistake is just something that happened.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because you make a mistake, you are a mistake.  I’ve been known to hop on board that particular mental crazy train, and in no time at all I convinced myself I was a complete, total, hopeless

loserDon’t go there, okay?  It’s not a fun trip, and it can be awfully hard to find your way home again.

Listen to Eleanor

It really sucks when you screw up in front of other people.  When it happens to me, I’m  always morally certain that everybody’s buzzing about it behind my back, texting about it  to their friends, and plastering it all over their Facebook pages until I remember one of my favorite quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt:

“You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.”

It’s definitely humbling, but oh so very comforting.

So anyhow, folks, we are all flawed vessels, doing the best we can with what we’ve got.  So take it easy on yourselves, okay?

Your partner in imperfection,

Donna

 

Let it go, let it go, let it go…..

If your mental world looks frightful,
And everyone seems spiteful,
When it’s all a big tale of woe,
Let it go, let it go, let it go!
(To the tune of “Let It Snow”)

Yeah, I know–easier said than done.
But not impossible.

I’ve spent more years than I care to think about trying to will the world to conform to my expectations. If brooding was a natural energy source, I’d be a gazillionaire twenty times over.  If obsessive thinking moved the minds and hearts of others, I’d be breaking bread with Gandhi.  And if driving myself crazy with worry or stewing with resentment made the slightest difference in the martyrdom of pinpricks we call daily life, I’d be as simperingly sweet as Pollyanna.  (Okay, that last one’s a bit of a stretch, but you get the idea.)

A few months ago I came across a book that turned my old mental patterns upside down (for the better, let me hasten to add):  The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer.  Reading this book helped me see that, while  my mind is a nifty little critter, I am not my mind, I’m it’s owner

giggling gremlins

My mind, left to its own devices….

And, like other nifty little critters  the mind needs to be controlled  by its owner,  not the other way around.

This, my friends, is power in its truest form, the one area in our lives which we truly can control:  how we choose to let our thoughts color reality.

Here are a few excerpts from  “The Voice Inside Your Head,” the first chapter of Untethered  Soul, that grabbed me from the get-go and kept me reading:

“There is nothing more important to true growth than realizing that you are not the voice of the mind–you are the one who hears it.”

“Eventually you will see the real cause of problems is not life itself.  It is the commotion the mind makes about life that really causes problems.”

(When listening to all your internal thoughts):  “What you end up experiencing is really a personal presentation of the world according to you, rather than the stark, unfiltered experience of what is really out there.”

“If you can’t get the world the way you like it, you internally verbalize it, judge it, complain about it, and then decide what to do about it.  This makes you feel more empowered….In the thought world, there’s always something you can do to control the experience (italics mine).”  Note to self:  there usually isn’t…

“Reality is just too real for most of us, so we temper it with the mind. You will come to see that the mind talks all the time because you gave it a job to do.  You use it as a protection mechanism, a form of defense.”  In other words, we’ve given the mind an impossible task–protecting us from the World Out There.  No wonder it never shuts up!

In Chapter Two: Your Inner Roommate,  the author has you imagine your constant mental chatter as bitch slapcoming from  another person who’s always beside you–when you’re trying to sleep, take a shower, watch TV, get some work done.  How to handle this obviously neurotic individual who never, ever gives it a rest?  I don’t know about you, but I’d bitch-slap her to Mars!

But bitch-slapping your own mind isn’t so simple.  Resorting to copious amounts of drugs and/or alcohol might shut it up, but only temporarily, and a hiatus of this nature often leaves a host of problems in its wake.

So how to handle the never-ending stream of thoughts that emanate from the eternally-babbling monkey-mind?

Release them.
As soon as they pop up, every time they pop up.  Then go about your business.

After reading Untethered Soul and doing some additional research, I’ve managed to cobble together a little routine that serves me pretty well:

Example:  As I’m driving to the grocery store, my mind shifts into protective mode:
“You should have started out earlier.  The store’s going to be crowded.  It’ll be a madhouse.  You’ll get all stressed out.  You might even have a panic attack, like that time in 1982.  You don’t want go through that again, do you?”

What I do:  I cut off the babbling brook in midstream and ask myself the following questions:

1.   “Is any of this helpful?”  Answer:  Hell, no.
2.   “Can I release these thoughts/shut them off?”  Answer:  Of course I can. I’m the owner, right?
3.    “Do I want to release these thoughts?”  Answer: Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.
4.    “When do I want to release them?”  Answer: How about right now!
(I usually accompany this  last one with a gesture like I’m throwing a handful of sand into the air, but that’s just me and I’m weird that way.)

Then I crank me up some reggae and get on with my errand.

When I first started challenging my thoughts this way, they were not pleased and resisted as hard as they could. (The mind’s trying to protect me, remember?) I just kept releasing them, every time they cropped up–and they cropped up a lot!  Eventually the thoughts became less frequent.  A lot of them have gone away for good.  My little routine became second nature to me, and I found myself becoming a much happier and more relaxed person.  (Added bonus:  I’m actually a whole lot more productive than I ever was back when my thoughts were riding herd on me all the time.)

I’ve come to the conclusion that my mind is like television–chock full of all kinds of programming, available 24/7 whether I want it or not.  It’s up to me to remember that I’m not a captive audience. I’m the one holding the remote, and I can hit the mute button–or change the channel completely–any time I choose.

Comparison Stopping

In my time, I have been a black-belt master at comparing myself to other people.

I must have been using some kind of fun-house yardstick to measure the differences, because invariably I came up short (and I’m not referring to my five-foot-nothing height).

According to the fun-house yardstick,  The Other Person (TOP) usually:

  • had more money (see the BMW and designer handbag?), ergo was a far better financial manager than my struggling peon self,  orwhite whale
  • had a svelte figure, while I was Moby Donna, the Great White Whale, or
  • kept her house spotless, unlike my own hit-or-miss (more often missed) efforts

I could go on (and on, and on), but you get the idea.

I wasted a whole lot of time beating myself up for my perceived inadequacies and failures.  I had a lot of help with that from the media, which could always be counted upon to  reinforce my abysmal self-image, and from advertising (there’s tons of money to be made by whipping up people’s insecurities and presenting a variety of “solutions”, each more expensive than the last.)

I might have gone on like this indefinitely if I hadn’t hit a particularly rough patch in my life  (I guess you could call it a blessing in very heavy disguise) and ended up in counseling.  With all the craziness going on in my life, I was startled when the first thing the counselor zeroed in on was my dysfunctional relationship with…me.  (Say who???)

We talked at length about my tendency to compare myself to other people (always to my detriment) and how this was actually an effective form of self-sabotage.  (If I’m a total failure, then what’s the use in trying?) We also discussed how other people were probably not the perfect paragons I built them up to be in my own mind.  My homework assignment for the week was to jot down a note every time I caught myself wielding that fun-house yardstick, plus–and this is really good–describe how I was comparing my own insides to other people’s public outsides.

Talk about a revelation!  hard battle

I realized I didn’t know anything about these people beyond what I saw in a quick surface glimpse.  I disliked and resented them because I pounced on one thing that made me feel bad about myself. I had no clue what they were really like.  I had no idea what problems and challenges they might face in their lives.  I had been  every bit as unfair to these people as I’d been to myself, and, while they would never have a clue about it, I knew.  And I didn’t want to be that person, not any more.

I’m still very much a work in progress, but the operative word is progress.  I try to keep in mind that we’re all in this life together, everybody’s doing the best they can with what they’ve got, and kindness doesn’t cost a damn thing.

Take care, all!

PS:
If you catch yourself  comparing yourself to somebody else, remember:
uniqueness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What-if…..

See that brightly-smiling lady snuggled up to the singularly handsome bearded gentleman?  This picture was taken at a Kenny Wayne Shepherd/Johnny Lang concert last summer.

Judd and Donna's Big Adventure

Judd and Donna’s Big Adventure

It was held at a medium-sized, very crowded venue called the Hard Rock Rocksino.  To get  to the seating area she had to walk through acres of slot machines, noise and flashing lights.  She’d never been there before, had no idea what to expect, but look at her–she’s absolutely glowing.

You’d never guess it, but for years that same lady was terrified of crowds and unfamiliar places.  She developed a comforting routine built around well-known stores, arriving just as their doors opened and scurrying home long before the thundering herd (read: more than ten people) arrived.  Anything outside this routine left her riddled with anxiety and totally drained of energy.

I know all this because I’m that lady.

The year leading up to that concert was insanely stressful, and I’d been clinging to my safe little burrow even more tenaciously than usual. My wonderful husband and I both tend to be homebodies, so there was no pressure to go out, do stuff, socialize.  I might have stayed in my cozily decorated rut indefinitely if I hadn’t seen the ad online: “Kenny Wayne Shepherd/Jonny Lang.  Hard Rock Rocksino.  June 23.”

I knew my husband liked both of these performers a lot.  The date was close to our anniversary, and tickets to the concert would be a terrific present.  The price was reasonable, the drive wasn’t bad, and he’d be thrilled.  Making Judd happy is one of my favorite things to do, so I jumped out of my chair and headed for the stairs to run it by him.

And then the voice of the Great God What-if weighed in, stopping me in my tracks.

Oh, the melodrama...

Oh, the melodrama…

What-if my nerves short-circuited and I got sick on the way to the venue?  Or, even worse, what-if I got sick at the venue? What-if I passed out?  (Note: this last thing has never happened to me in my entire life, but  I tend not to consider such fine points when I’m in full-blown catastrophic mode.)

“Better not chance it”, warned the Great God What-if.  “You don’t need more stress in your life right now.  Stay in your comfort zone.”

“But Judd would really love to go to that concert,” I argued.

“Judd won’t even know about it if you don’t tell him.  No harm done.”

I would really love to go to that concert!”

“Now, Donna.  What if you get all the way out there, have a panic attack and have to come all the way home again?”

That almost stopped me.  I visualized the humiliating scenario and cringed.  But then I straightened my shoulders, tossed back my hair and replied, “What-if I don’t?”

And the Great God What-if fell silent.

With that, I pounded up the stairs to tell Judd we were gonna go see Kenny Wayne and Jonny.

Aging Gratefully

happiness3

TRUE, DAT!

I haven’t become an overnight-sensation-best-selling-author who will never have to worry about money again in this life.

Nor have I discovered the Fountain of Youth (as my knees will attest) and my generously upholstered derriere is in no danger of  fitting into a size zero.  (Is size zero really a thing?)

The lottery gods certainly haven’t smiled upon me, and the Lords of Karma know where I live and still pay occasional house calls.

Life hasn’t magically become all yellow brick roads, rainbows and lollipops.  It’s more like a tapestry of bright and dark with occasional flashes of circus-colored lunacy.

In other words, it’s life, on life’s terms.  And it ain’t about to change just to suit my convenience.

So it’s a good thing I finally pulled my head out of the comfortably upholstered derriere mentioned above and stopped obsessing about stuff I didn’t have or things that didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped.

Instead, I took a long look at the good things that were right under my nose.  (Einstein moment: thinking about good things is much more happy-making than dwelling on bad ones.) 

There were lots of them–some big, some small. Enough to contribute a whole lot of bright to life’s tapestry.

And I realized that I’m one lucky little old white-haired chica who has a whole bunch of reasons to be grateful.

Life is…life.

But there’s always bright in the tapestry–if I choose to see it.

About the Tea Party….

Tea+bagger+hats

No, not that one.

And no way am I elegant enough for this one:

tea setting

And, while I wouldn’t turn down an invitation to this next one,

mad hatters tea party

the tea party I joined isn’t about politics or beautiful china.  Indirectly, I guess it does have to do with the Mad Hatter–i.e., how I get when I devote too much

T ime
E nergy
A ttention

to worries, anticipating the worst, nursing grudges, etc.  The more TEA I devote to stuff like that, the bigger and badder those things become in my life.  Conversely, when I devote TEA to positive things like writing, friendships/relationships, even something as mundane as reclaiming the wilds of my desk so I can actually function, the results are positive, encouraging, and give a welcome sense of accomplishment.  Like so many things in life, it’s all in the way I choose to use it.

I can’t claim credit for TEA.  You’ll find it all over the internet and in self-help books, but I stumbled across it quite recently and immediately grabbed it for my mantra.

TEA can be yours, too, for just $9.99 plus postage and handling!  (Kidding, just kidding.)  Seriously, though, take it for a spin and see how it works for you.

Take care, all!

DF

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo credits:
Tea Party

Elegant tea setting: photo credit: Tea Time via photopin (license)

Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated

death on vacation

I was so sick I almost wished I was dead, but apparently the Grim Reaper had better things to do with his time than cart off this particular sweet (?)  little old white-haired lady.

I’m beginning to think the month of April has it in for me.

Last year was emergency gall bladder surgery that laid me out for most of a month.  This year bronchitis appeared on the scene, quickly followed by a five-alarm sinus infection.  Not to be outdone, my allergies got into the act, creating a nasty, asthma-like complication.  I was pretty much bedridden for the week-long duration and utterly miserable until the congestion finally broke.pirate sneeze

I’m feeling a whole lot better now.  Hearty thanks go to:

  • Judd, who ferried my pathetic bag of bones to various doctor appointments, made multiple (legal) drug runs on my behalf, kept me fed & hydrated, and never, not even once, complained about my incessant coughing and whining.
  • My wonderful big brother.  (I could feel your vibes all the way from Florida, doll!)
  • My beloved cat Syd, who stayed faithfully by my side except for meals, trips to the litter box, and an occasional sanity break from the above-mentioned incessant coughing.
  • Peanut the three-legged wonder cat, who took time out from conquering the world to hop up on the bed and stare at me quizzically with huge green eyes that asked, “Whyfor you barking like a dog?”

I did absolutely no writing for the duration, which has done wonders for my sparkling personality.

crowly deep throat knife

Time to get back in the traces, methinks, before I alienate the entire planet all by my little lonesome…

On that note–

Happy Beltaine!

beltaine

(Don’t do anything they wouldn’t do… 🙂 )

 

THEY that SAY

One of my favorite pages on Facebook is called “Zen to Zany”.  If I didn’t know better I’d swear that more than a few of

Who are "they" that "say", and why do I waste so much time listening to them???

Who are “they” that “say”, and why do I waste so much time listening to them???

the postings are directed specifically at  me. Often it’s a boost right when I need it most; other times it’s a right-on-target zap that makes me flinch and ruefully acknowledge the truth before making some necessary (and usually long overdue) changes. The post above provided me with a mixture of the two, and impressed me so much that it’s become my desktop wallpaper (with a flamboyantly purple border to match the lipstick).

Which brings me to the subject of today’s sermon:  Who in blazes are THEY, and why in the name of all that’s unholy should I (or anybody else, for that matter) give a rat’s ass what THEY have to say about…well….anything?

To me, THEY bear a striking resemblance to the mean girls who made my life a misery in junior high school, swooping down like harpies on any deviation from what “everybody else” (according to them, at least) did/thought/wore.  Speaking for myself, I already did my time with those vicious trollops, and I sure as hell don’t need that kind of influence in my life now.

THEY also sound like The Committee in My Head, that unwelcome, fear-mongering Greek chorus I hear when I’m about to try something new/different/challenging. In fact, the two are so disconcertingly similar I sometimes wonder if THEY  put their larvae into my ear, like Khan did to Chekhov in the Star Trek Movie “Wrath of Khan”  (warning: this scene is not for the faint of heart), and the damned things reproduced.

Since it’s not likely THEY are going to obligingly disappear any time soon, I figure it’s up to me to decide how much effect THEY are going to have on my life.  As a start, I’ve adopted a few mantras:

  • Just because THEY talk doesn’t mean I listen.

  • Life ain’t always about “what if”—sometimes “why the hell not” works a whole lot better.

  • Haters gonna hate.  Let ’em.

  • The dogs may bark, but the caravan moves on.

On that note, will somebody please help me down from this soapbox?

 Take care, all!

DF

 

Peanut the Three-Legged Wonder Cat

Peanut helping me with the grocery list

Peanut helping me with the grocery list

 

Peanut is a petite gray-and-black striped cat whose fur has an orange undertone that earned her the nickname Rusty-Butt.

She has other nicknames–Demonique, Beelzebeth, Pestilence–appropriate to the all-powerful seven-pound ruler of the household. She’s not at all shy about voicing her opinion (hence another nickname: Bansheeba) and is as stubborn as a Missouri mule. To say  the lady is determined is the understatement of the millennium, but I’m not complaining.

That determination saved her life, and has been instrumental in her amazing adjustment to losing a front leg. Seems like Judd and I are constantly saying things like “How did you get up there?”, “Give me that!” and “Quit picking on Syd!”

Syd, Master of HIS side of OUR bed

Syd, Master of HIS side of OUR bed

She’s here, there, everywhere, and I fully expect to see her swinging from the ceiling fan any day now.

One of her favorite activities is taking a leap of faith from the dining room  table to my desk, executing a (literal) three-point landing among papers, crystals and framed pictures.  Once her equilibrium is regained, the terrain is all hers.

“All your paper clips is belong to ME!”

We race each other for any stray rubber bands or paper clips.  My tea or water must be sampled and any inconvenient books or papers shoved to the floor.  Anything new or relocated since the last Peanut-ian invasion must be closely inspected at great length, regardless of what obstacles must be plowed through to reach it.

Peanut inspects a new incense burner.

Peanut inspects a new incense burner.

Next comes a critique of whatever appears on my computer screen.  Words are boring, as are pictures that don’t move.  The cursor is of mild interest when it’s in motion but becomes a Pearl of Great Price when  combined with something neat like a shark or blowfish.

But the all-time favorite is, of course, BIRDIES. After thoroughly decimating my desk, Peanut plants herself at my elbow like a furry monolith and fixes the computer screen with a steely-eyed stare until our Vulcan mind-meld finally kicks in and I click on a link that magically populates the screen with birds. For the next twenty minutes, wild horses couldn’t drag her away. She sits up on her haunches and bats at the screen with her front paw, then looks behind the monitor for any stray birdies that may have escaped.  The speakers are also inspected (“Is chirping! Is birdies in there, I know it!”)

BIRDIES!!!!!

BIRDIES!!!!!

She has two favorites.  One is a close-up view of winter birds feeding  that runs for a bit over twenty minutes.  The other is a cluster of blackbirds feeding on the ground that runs a bit over fourteen minutes.  This last one features her particular nemesis–a big, puffed-up blackbird that chirps warningly right at the camera.  She goes bat-shit crazy every time she sees him, even tries to bite the screen.  Syd watches from a safe distance on these occasions in case her head starts spinning around and I can’t blame him.

black and white cat

Syd pretending Peanut doesn’t exist

Even with my computer doing double-duty as a feline entertainment center, I can’t blame Peanut or Syd for my not keeping up with my writing…..

 

On that note, may we all be as brave and resilient as Peanut!

DF