created instability part 2

the thing about created instability is that it starts to make me feel crazy.

the more i think about it, the more i know that i do it because i work intuitively. i trust my subconscious to work problems out – in sleep, during waking hours – with a spontaneous epiphany solution that i know is right. however, i think i try to rush myself to work things out, and that’s where the pictures come off the wall and the shoes and books are piled on the table for going on a month.

this was once a dining table.

this was once a dining table.

i sometimes think it would be funny to be secretly recorded cleaning and moving around my house. i have a really random and distractible way i go about doing it. things will eventually get done, but i’m all over the place. and then sometimes i lose steam before everything is back in order. so i leave it and go somewhere else.

but i absolutely love and adore my place when it’s clean and uncluttered and the sun is shining in! i’m craving to get back there.

imagine this... clean!  see if you can spot:  unmade scrapbooks, last night's grapefruit, to do lists, books i'm deciding whether or not to sell or give away, photo albums, manicure set, jewelry craft project... blah blah blah...

imagine this… clean! see if you can spot: unmade scrapbooks, last night’s grapefruit, to do lists, books i’m deciding whether or not to sell or give away, photo albums, manicure set, jewelry craft project… blah blah blah…

Grama reminisced a few years ago, “there was a professor who said to me once, ‘Naomi. you are a great starter but a terrible finisher.'” i can relate. but with life experience, especially in finally finishing undergrad and getting through grad school, i know that i can finish. it will get done, but if i’m not careful, without any structure, i will go on and on and on in process for weeks. i had another epiphany yesterday about 2 pieces of furniture (my aunt’s sewing machine and grama’s desk) that i’m hoping will get put into place today. i will make my space beautiful and functional again, with good energy, and it will make sense! (soon? please?)

but seriously, i know it will get done. however, why do i get the sneaking suspicion that i’m doing a little bit of this ..?

garbage house, garbage life is somewhat of a mantra for me. an in-flux decorating style doesn’t necessarily make for garbage, but it makes for a good distraction from the other things i want to do. when my mental energy isn’t sucked in to solving this feng shui puzzle, i’ll have time for the things i meant to prioritize – creating a social life. i spend entirely too much time alone. i’m getting steadily better and i don’t turn down social interaction to stay home and compulsively watch tv anymore 🙂 but i’d like to be proactive about doing social things, meeting new people, and dating. it’s time. spring is finally here, my life force is returning, being at home figuring out this mess is not as compelling an activity as it used to be. when my home is organized, clean, and beautiful… my mental energy can go to other things. creative projects, reading, socializing, having people over.

comments on part 1 had me thinking about the relationship between a stable home environment and relationships. moving a lot as a kid, uprooting, knowing that we can and will probably get up and go within a year – it all leads to this tendency not to settle in. that goes for both places and people. that’s a lot to think about. i have long term friendships, but i have not had many long term romantic relationships, and i have reflected a lot lately about how that might feel. i’m realizing a lot that the reasons i have ended relationships has been an unwillingness to settle in. i don’t want to sit around with you and get dinner and watch tv and that’s life – gross! i wanna be excited and run and play and inspire you and be inspired by you. this is boring! and i run.

i’m not sure why i think i lead such an exciting life as a single girl that i’m unwilling to give up. maybe i used to. but as i’m settling into this time in my life, it’s finally sinking in that what i want to find in a partner is a companion i am completely at ease with. i guess this abstract fantasy about an exciting on-the-go life with this fascinating man is giving way to the acceptance of the reality of my life. exciting things happen in the day to day experience of getting dinner and watching tv and living life. now that i understand and accept my past experiences for what they were (another blog), i am accepting myself, my preferences, and my life. and i feel ready to find someone to share the mundane stuff with. both in romance and in friendships.

time to get stable where i am today. so i can move forward from stagnating in this energy and move into new possibilities! my mind will always have this electricity and drive around what happens next, i welcome the flux as i learn flexibility. but in order to really see where that energy can go, i need a clean, organized, comfortable environment where books are on the shelf and shoes are on a rack… where there’s table space to work on my scrapbook and photo albums when inspiration strikes… where i can invite someone over to a home that feels comfortable and welcoming. that kind of stability will allow for way better creativity, wider social life, and impulsive fun! it’s time.

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a predator’s dream

in one of the groups i lead, there’s this guy, real hard, has spent most of his life in prison, sees himself as some kind of ladies man. he has asked to come talk to me informally several times and i keep referring him back to get a therapy referral from his counselor. he sits by me everyday in group, and his body language is very directly trying to get my attention. i find him laughable and mildly repulsive.

i had a chance to talk to his counselor yesterday, who offered me the following feedback: “your face and your manner is very calm, serene, open. you’re like a predator’s dream.” i laughed really hard at that! it’s true. and that’s what used to terrify me about certain men. when i was doing a therapy project with a friend in grad school, i told her i was “easily monopolized.” it goes back to a family trait. for some reason, in my family we all attract weirdos. and i think it’s because it’s passed down (unspoken family rules) to be highly tolerant, patient, and not make other people feel bad or weird. i’ve had a habit of listening too long, listening with a straight face, withholding judgment.

don’t get me wrong, this can be a very positive quality. people feel very comfortable around me in general. but it left me open to being easily monopolized. the flipside of this coin is poor boundaries.

i feel like i’ve learned a lot from my work as a therapist. what brought me into the field was partly that i wanted to used my great listening skills, fueled by this high tolerance. however, i don’t want to be ran over either. i used to solve this problem in my personal life by sneaking away, running away, or remaining closed off and aloof. in my work, i’ve learned that it doesn’t always serve clients to be a soft, kind, passive and supportive listener. some people need a more bold and directive approach. i need to model assertiveness, for them and for me. and some people really need me to state my boundaries. like this predator.

all this is to say that when my co-worker gave me feedback and made me laugh about being a predator’s dream, i laughed in a wonderful way! because i know how hard this situation would have been for me if i had not learned to set clear boundaries and assert myself. i have grown. this interaction made me realize that i have learned how to keep my general calm, serene, and open manner, while being confident that i can let people know the edges of my boundaries. i have moved from passive and passive-aggressive into being comfortable with being assertive. i’ve learned that i can trust myself to take care of myself. because of my work, but of huge benefit in my personal life. it feels good!

spectators

here is a great story written by a blogger on jezebel inspired by the boston marathon.

marathons and spectators

it reminded me of when i was training for and ran a ten mile race a couple of years ago. i couldn’t get over the strangers who encouraged me while training and especially during the race. strangers. i wrote about it at the time.

here’s an interesting thing that has been happening to me since i’ve been training around the lakes in the past few months. very frequently the people that i come in contact with give me a thumbs up, a big smile, encouraging words. i do definitely make eye contact and smile sometimes when i’m running, but i think it’s so weird and wonderful that people take the time to show love to a stranger. i don’t know if it’s because i don’t look like your typical wiry bodied runner, or because i am looking at them, but that is one of my great joys in running, the connection with strangers.

it was amplified during the race. some people come for individuals, some seemed to set up shop to be just general supporters, and of course there were the volunteers at water stops. but anytime i could connect with someone through eye contact, cheers, comments about how they liked my smile, and in the case of one guy at cretin and summit, cheering and calling out my race number… it was such a treat to have the support of people i didn’t even know. as someone who has grown out of being semi-terrified of people, this was so meaningful! so i have to say that was my favorite part.

i didn’t know it was a whole community, a thing. though i do remember thinking back then that someday i would like to go watch and cheer for others. maybe this summer.

gratitude revisited

remember when this was a gratitude blog? baby steps back… baby steps.

so yesterday i was feeling really happy and wonderful as i walked home for lunch. i’m thankful that i live close enough to my job to walk. the recent weather in minneapolis brings to mind the words, traitor, betrayal, you monster! and the forecast says we’re going to get another snow storm over the rest of this week. but yesterday, the sky cleared and beautiful sun came out and the weather warmed again to the high 40s. depending on where you live, that’s laughable. but i’ll take it! walking home for lunch, enjoying the sun, listening to melting snow seep down drainpipes, it was lovely. i took care of scheduling an appointment, made lunch for myself, and got to walk back in the sunshine and get back in time for my next client. a very simple pleasure!

created instability part 1

this is a larger blog that’s still brewing, but it starts here.

currently, i’m in the middle of several projects at home. i’m trying for better overall feng shui and my pictures are off the wall in most places, tables moved around, books piled, shoes on the table. though this is worse than normal, this is not new for me and i’m starting to wonder about it. i have a habit of putting myself in flux.

i’ve been dealing with some work changes and i keep staring at my schedule, obsessively looking to tweak it until it will make sense after the upcoming changes.

connected to this stuff is the knowledge that i moved all the time as a young kid – i went to 4 schools by the time i was in 5th grade. i didn’t say this was a memory, i don’t really remember a lot about moving, or feeling panicked at the thought of moving. but the knowledge that i moved so much means something here.

now all of these things are connected to my desire to stabilize. that was a goal of mine for this year especially in terms of work. work changes are different than home decor changes but it’s all related to this perpetual in process thing i do all the time. is it good, is it bad? i don’t know.

but it’s got my attention finally. more to come.

20/20 (in vignettes)

-one-

since about last weekend i’d say, i was throwing my feelers out into my social circle for someone to talk to about justin timberlake’s new album. i gave it a once through on spotify while i was doing something else and i really liked it! i have both his other albums but after watching him on snl a few weeks ago i thought he was going entirely big band and wasn’t really interested. but this i liked. i’ve listened to it a few times since and have narrowed down that i really like the orchestration on a lot of his stuff, and my usual problems come with his lyrics. but i love the sound!

-two-

yesterday afternoon i met one of my oldest friends, R, for tea. we always talk about something that reminds us that we are uncannily on parallel paths somehow, even if it’s not in current life circumstance. i was confessing how instead of accepting the party invitation from my 24 year old man-child coworker friend, my friday night consisted of falling asleep hard at 8pm. but how i felt kinda fine about it because i didn’t wanna end up at a 20something party feeling uncomfortable. it’s not that i don’t wanna be social. i just don’t start my night at 10pm anymore. plus, we agreed that at our age, it’s just much more deeply satisfying these days to crawl into bed with my laptop and watch episode after episode of arrested development after a long workweek.

we discussed options for getting more social as i’m coming to the hard realization that i’m probably not going to find my future husband and father of my children while watching netflix in bed. however, don’t get me wrong, i only intend to go out long enough to find someone who would like to come back with me to enjoy my netflix nest home base. (it’s really good.) so anyway, we’re brainstorming age appropriate, afternoon and early evening only options for a couple of aging former hot stuff party girls. i soberly asked her if our days of dancing were over. we used to love to go dance! but now we’re too old and it’s too late. in the dinner party of life, R decided that dancing has become a seasonal side dish – not completely off the menu, but acknowledging that we havent’ done it since summer 2011. then she asked me, sad but hopeful, “do you at least dance around your living room at home?” yes, of course! that never stopped. “then you’re ok.”

R tells me that she and her husband have also been enjoying justin’s new album, but that he hogs it, having downloaded it to his phone. he dances through the room she’s in, as if taunting her.

-three-

i stopped by my mom’s house yesterday and she was playing justin’s new album. i was kind of suprised, but not that surprised. also in the living room was Wayne. he was my mom’s boyfriend when i was 5-8 or so, and he was a monster. they were young, he was an addict, and he yelled a lot. when i was about 8 he od’d and went into a coma. somehow he made it through and mellowed out quite a bit, but he still made me uneasy. they have stayed in touch over the years and are still friends.

we were chatting in the living room while my mom was burning cds for him in the other room. with the album playing in the background, Wayne decides to make some kind of superficial ammends with me. i’ve never really talked to him about what a traumatic presence he was in my young life. to hear him try to apologize for being such an ass was strange. part of me wanted to continue to shut him out and keep him at arm’s length out of habit. but part of me decided to be a grown up. so i told him that i was young, i didn’t understand what was going on, was scared that their relationship was abusive, i didn’t understand that he was on drugs… to me, he was just scary. he acknowledged that he was a mess, and barked loud back then, but that he wasn’t an abusive man, not physically. my mom came in on the last part of this conversation and confirmed that. they began to reminisce about old times, as my mom drank a little brandy and got loose with her couch dancing.

my mom is kind of magnificent sometimes.

it’s not like i’ve never seen her dance moves. when i was a kid she would get drunk and have dance parties and annoy the shit out of me. she has always bragged about how she can dance for a white girl. i gotta give it to her, she was workin it out. i kind of freeze up when she’s partying and being awesome, i won’t dance in front of her even though it’s just about my favorite thing to do sometimes. i laugh really hard when she does a particularly bad-ass move, and i know she’s misunderstanding me. and i can’t explain it to her at the time, but i’m laughing because it’s so good and because i’m realizing that i must’ve learned a thing or two from her. not in particular moves but in style and interpretation. it’s a trip!

-four-

at one point during the listening party, my mom explains to Wayne and i, “this album reminds me of the old days, the sound of it. it reminds me of dancing with barb, and riding around. it reminds me of when i was young.” she’s looking at me and explaining, “but the old days are gone, i will never be young like that again, and i can never get that back.” she said it so matter of fact. i was a little bit dumbfounded and mesmerized, i didn’t know what to say. i often don’t know what to say around my mom, i can’t express myself in the moment, it comes later. but i just stared back at her until she asked me what i was thinking. “do you think i’m calling you old, is this depressing?” and it wasn’t, but it was definitely ironic after R and i were brainstorming on how to transition gracefully into this next stage of life. my mom, she just says these things sometimes. i don’t know, i still don’t know why that moment froze in time for me. it was just really fascinating to see my mom wax philosophical on this new record that sounds like an old record and reminds her of a time that’s gone forever… so let’s dance.

who knew that i was waiting to talk to my mom about the new justin record?

extending the olive branch

so i’m trying to come to peace with my body.

i’ve struggled with my weight since i was very young. pretty much every woman on my mom’s side of the family has. my mom began making comments about my “woman arms” when i was 8 or 9, encouraging me to do sit-ups and leg exercises when i was small as my chubbiness increased. she wasn’t trying to be abusive, she was trying to help me avoid what she and my aunt went through as fat teenagers. struggling/fighting/accepting having some sort of fat prophecy to fulfill runs in my family. that and eating for comfort, joy, punishment, or withholding for the same reasons. being little, love was shown through food, treats. grama especially would always have my favorite treats on hand. my mom always cooked wonderful meals, typically with meat, potatoes, some kind of vegetable, and dessert. “balanced” but also cooked with lots of butters, creams, deep frying – whatever tasted good. it has to taste good or why eat it? seemed to be her philosophy.

so learning to eat healthy and exercise was an undertaking i did on my own. when i was around 20, i read that book, making the connection by oprah and bob greene. i decided to stop smoking and start running on the same day. there was some crazy diet to go along with that, eating less than 20 grams of fat a day? or was it carbs? i don’t know. but, over the next few months i did lose around 40lbs. and it scared the shit out of me. it was my lowest weight, i was still seeing myself as fat sometimes. so i went up and down a little bit around that time as i was getting used to it. one of the funny things that terrified me most about being smaller was being noticed by men. that’s another blog in and of itself but i was terrified of being taken advantage of or liked only for my looks so i was totally hypervigilant, and determined to be cool rather than hot.

at 24 when i went to a medical checkup, it was determined that i had graves disease, hyper-thyroidism. which meant i was producing too much thyroid hormone causing an enlarged thyroid gland, a racing heartbeat, high body temperature, irritability, and my left eye began to bulge a little bit. i was put on a lot of medication and told that i should watch what i eat after that because it would be much easier for me to gain weight. and i did gain weight, about 15-20lbs. that made me really frustrated and angry, but my health was more important. luckily, after 3 years of medication, my thyroid corrected itself and stabilized. i still have it checked regularly and my levels are always on the low side of normal, but at least i didn’t have to have surgery or radiation treatments.

in my late twenties and now into my mid-thirties, my weight has fluctuated with my emotional health and lifestyle. i’ve been a fat drunk, felt healthy on weight watchers, worked out with a mindset that bordered obsessive/abusive, ate my depression, and run marathons while unable to lose weight. over the past couple of years, i’ve really been trying to do what feels healthy, sustainable, and kind. i stopped weighing myself altogether about a year ago, because it was detrimental to my motivation. recently i decided to buy more organic. as i’m reading and watching documentaries on genetically modified food and farm conditions, i’ve been moving toward a “mostly vegan” diet. losing weight as a nice side effect was definitely a part of this choice, but over and above that were the health, environmental, and humane treatment of animal benefits. and i say “mostly vegan” because i will still eat meat and dairy occasionally. if it’s served to me i won’t deny it. i ate a little of my mom’s beef roast at easter. but at home and given the choice, i’ll choose to mainly eat vegan.

so. over all of these years of struggle, trial and error, learning different diets, nutrition, portion control, learning about the benefits of exercise, it has slowly been sinking in to create a wealth of experience. when i went to get a physical last week after a couple of months on this mostly vegan diet, doing sustainable yet challenging, regular exercise, and overall feeling really great and confident… i was shocked to find my weight much higher than i imagined. i talked with my doctor who told me not to worry, that more and more he thought bmi and the number of your weight really didn’t matter, and that i was truly a very healthy person. and he mentioned that my weight may have something to do with my thyroid levels hovering around the low side of normal. that was good to hear, very affirming. but that number still really threw me. badly. i got knocked off my game. and i’ve been feeling sad. it’s like, i work so diligently on being healthy. of the people i know socially and through work, i lead one of the healthiest lifestyles i know. yet my work does not pay off. i’m still, by medical definition, obese. it broke my heart. why do i try so hard if it’s not gonna pay off? if this is what i weigh, why not eat the garbage??

yesterday morning i was feeling especially sad. not just about this, but about the deaths and work stress and other things. but i was listening to some abraham hicks video on youtube about changing your feelings and letting your feelings guide you toward what’s best for you and i felt compelled to journal. i get a lot of good wisdom from journaling and free-writing. what i came to understand was this:

this may be my healthy weight. this may be it. can i accept that? can i know that number and still love myself, be proud of myself and my body? when i didn’t know the number and was eating well, and exercising in a way that felt positive, challenging, and empowering, i felt awesome! i felt beautiful, healthy, sexy. then the number came and threw me back into devastation, and i started looking at my body and seeing something different, ugly, fat, horrible. like literally i saw something different. but my physical body was no different before i saw the number than after. when i’m frustrated by the number, i eat worse, stop exercising, and feel bad. within the course of a day. nothing morphed but a day’s behavior and my body image.

so. what’s it gonna be? obviously it’s possible for me to feel really beautiful and attractive at this weight. and the epiphany comes here: if i physically look no different, then it’s about what i’m doing to feel good. these years of trial and error – what they have really shown me is that i feel beautiful when i’m taking good care of myself. when i eat in a way i believe to be healthy, in reasonable amounts, on a reasonable schedule… when i’m getting regular exercise for endorphins, strength, and endurance… when i’m taking the time to make my body beautiful with good hygiene, flattering clothes, good hair care… that’s when i feel great! and i’ve felt that way at this number even when i didn’t know i was this number. this number, a future number that i’m hoping for… it’s irrelevant. what i’m chasing is my confidence. and confidence comes with the way i take care of myself on a daily basis. so that’s what i have to connect with. it may sound very simple, but the head games i play with myself, the years of struggling, the connections i have made between putting in work today with future pay-offs… that’s the crazymaking shit. i cannot connect my confidence to what i will look like tomorrow if i work really hard today. i must connect with the positive, healthy choices i’m making today and let that be my confidence. i feel beautiful and attractive when i take good care of myself and present myself well and that’s that.

and that’s how i am committing today to make peace with my beautiful body.