i offer you respect and joy.
the bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.
not sad tears, mind you but happy tears.
i’ve had a bad habit in my life of letting my bring-me-down emotions, my dirty dozen, control my life. fear would breed fear which would breed more fearand and so on. anxiety would breed to more anxiety which would lead to even more anxiety and so on. anger would breed mor anger which would breed to even more anger on so on. this pattern, would entrap me and i would seemingly get caught in an inescapable vortex, spiraling out of control heading for a nearly inevitable visit with depression.
a couple of months ago, i found myself swimming in anxiety, an 8 out of 10. I simply noted how anxious I felt. I stopped and spent 15-30 seconds with my anxiety, not giving it any more power. i went forward with my day. a few minutes later, i noticed the anxiety had left. cool! another time since, i left my anxiety behind by acknowledging the anxiety, spending a few seconds with it, not giving it any more power, and moving on.
You might remember my brush with my “friend” from a few weeks ago. i did the unthinkable act of expressing anger to a friend. that would have been unthinkable, just a short while ago. they ended walking out on me. i convinced myself i had done nothing wrong, which is true since all i did was express an emotion, a perfectly legal and legitimate act to take. i’m not giving the situation many spare cycles; they walked out on me. they haven’t tried to contact me btw. unfortunately, i don’t think i’ll hear from them ever again. their loss.
a couple weeks ago, i was dealing with one of those emotional dropouts, you know, when every seems to be going well them boom! the bottom drops out. Where the hell did that come from? while doing a brainstorm with a friend on how i could handle something like that, I doubted any good would come of it. One of my suggestions was to just be with the drop, not giving any more power. I moved on from what seemed be a lame exercise.
later that day, it finally dawned on me the parallels between how I handle anxiety and how i proposed to handle the emotional drop outs. because of the discovery, maybe the brainstorm exercise wasn’t so lame after all. a few minutes later, another revelation happened. Why can’t this method be used with my dirty dozen; anger, sadness, anxiety, fear, frustration, feeling judged, feeling less, abandoned, lonely, criticized, rejected, and stressed? would that be a dream? yes it would. if it would get an upper hand on my dirty dozen, it’s worth the old college try.
last night, i had another one of those most enjoyable emotion dropouts. i tried my new method. i acknowledged i dropped out, had a few moments with it and tried to move on. Is mostly worked, not as well as my try with anxiety, but i still felt i recovered more quickly. and after going through the process, i felt less controlled by the dropout. i went to bed hoping to held by Mary to finish my recovery. she laid there in sound asleep. i didn’t get my hold, my recovery completed before falling to sleep, though.
today, i went cross country skiing for the first time this year. even though I had skied for over 25 years, today i just couldn’t stay over my skis. after brutal wipeouts, and, god forbid, taking my skis off do go down a couple of hills, i had myself convinced that i had skied the last time for the year. i noticed how frustrated i was. i acknowledged i was frustrated, spent a moment or two with it and moved on. the energy quickly dissipated and i went on with my day. The topper? by the end of the day, i actually had a fun and good time. the frustration which would have sunk my day many times before, became barely a blip on the screen.
maybe there is something to, for lack of a better term, not fighting my dirty dozen. when they show, i treat them like the obnoxious guest at a cocktail party. i’ll give ’em a nod from afar, and move on to people i’d rather talk to. in the analogy, that will make for a much more pleasant cocktail party and for life, a little less tumultuous journey. the would be a good thing.
have you ever noticed the spinning cycles of depression which seem to be there whether in cycle or not? I surely have.
sadness leads to sadness which leads to even more sadness. sadness seems to become an all encompassing self-fulfilling struggle.
fear leads to fear which leads to even more fear. fear seems to become an all encompassing self-fulfilling struggle.
there is the long established gratitude diary. people who write in a gratitude diary usually write about 3 things they are grateful for. this helps them to reframe their life, since they take the time to recognize the often overlooked things they miss or don’t recognize.
gratitudes live primarily in the present or the past. “i am thankful for the blue sky, we have today,” would be an example of a present gratitude. “i am thankful for the gift that i received,” would be an example of a past gratitude. though not as common, future gratitude exists, too, with statements like, “i’m thankful that grandpa is coming to visit.” i see gratitude as a mostly current or looking back convention.
for a book i am working on, i have been exploring hope, what it means and how to express it. i see three primary expressions of hope.
- encouragement: i see encouragement as a work or action that serves to reengage someone’s drive. hope through encouragement comes in the form, “i know you can finish that project of time.” that is a expression of hope, hoping for the timely completion of the project. this is primarily an action of the future.
- acknowledgement: i see an acknowledgement as any statement or action that helps someone feel better about who they are and where they are in the moment. an acknowledgment might be, “i like you were able to put your head down and finish that project.” since acknowledgment are in the moment, they are mainly in the present.
- affirmation: i see affirmation as a positive statement of someone’s qualities , abilities or characteristics. “you do a really good job with your woodworking.” while a statement of the past or present, the recognized quality, ability or characteristic likely isn’t going away anytime soon. “you have a pretty smile”. hopefully the smile isn’t going away and carried into the future.
so hope is from the far end of the time spectrum as compared to gratitude with overlap. i’ve also observed both with myself and others how depression has the ability to rob both hope and gratitude. the struggles with hope and gratitude are not restricted to people facing depression, but more of a societal problem. many people, me included, have a hard time expressing gratitude or feeling hope. without those, people not only miss the good that has happened to them, but also discount the capabilities toward good they possess.
while gratitude gets a set of importance through the many people who do gratitude diaries, hope doesn’t get the same seat at the table. i would say looking forward carries the same importance as looking back. with that in mind, where are all those hope journals?
my challenge to you: if you do a gratitude journal, i honor you. there’s a little more to be done. let your gratitude diaries serve double duty also noting three of your hopes, whether it’s a hope tomorrow, next week or even next year. if you’ve done either, it’s time to look at the good that has come to you and the capabilities toward good that you have. don’t let the emptiness caused by the lack of hope and gratitude cloud what you have did and what you can do.
so, you up to it? are you ready to recognize the hope and gratitude that is in your life? try it, it may make a world of difference.
my dad’s contributions
parents always make contributions to their children whether good or bad. These are formative instances with my dad.
one time i asked my sister, 10 years and 1 day my senior if she saw dad as a good dad to her. she emphatically said yes. she went on to describe many of the things he did. he must of been taken over by aliens by the time i came around because that was not the dad i had.
i don’t think the alien came from a foreign planet or even a foreign nation. no, the aliens came right from his own house. you see i believe that the 5 children that came before me had made him a worn out and tired man. the routine repeated on a daily basis: wake up, get the kids up, get yourself ready for the day, eat breakfast, go to work, come home, sit in your chair, have dinner, go back to your chair and often fall asleep, wake up, get ready for bed, go to bed , repeat. that with six little hellions and soon to be seven, could wear anyone down.
discipline was often by the hand to the rear as if i needed to clarify. it happened often enough but not often enough. with one exception.
something had happened. i can’t precisely remember what, but i seem to remember it had to do with a broken window. dad would line up the kids walking back and forth as if that would extract a confession. in modern times i think we would have preferred some good old fashion waterboarding. whom ever got found guilty or claimed guilt would stay behind to receive their punishment and the rest of the troops were dismissed (my dad was a marine.)
this day, knowing that i had done the deed and being far too truthful, i fessed up to doing it. dad came and stood in front of me. he had an intense look of frustration and anger that burnt into my memory. I can envision to this day.he pulled back his foot and kicked me in the shin! it hurt and i reached down, grabbed and nurse my shin, now in pain.
i felt traumatized and the kick left a bruise. i said to myself, at a time where i must have been about 12, and vowed that if he ever laid a hand on me while i have this bruise, i would ride my bike across town to the police station, about a 20 – 30 minute bike ride away and report him. fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, he didn’t lay a hand on me in that time period. being from a different time period, i wonder if it would have mattered. good came of the happening that’s the last form of physical abuse i ever remember on any of us kids.
fast forward probably another 3 years or so, dad still held sway over us kids. dad had done something to me to piss me off. we stood face to face, at a comfortable distance in the hallway. in someway, verbal or non verbal, i expressed my anger. he answer in a louder volume than talking but less than yelling, “you can’t get angry at me. i’m your father!”
no wonder i lived in a house of emotional cripples. those rare times we could recognize an emotion, we weren’t allow to express them. not to mention the main expression of emotions from my parents was happiness by my dad, during an up part of a football game. negative emotions were strictly verboden.
with all of this as a backdrop, is it any wonder i struggle with authority figures. i had poor modeling. if i get out of line, i get kicked in the shin. no wonder i struggle with something so simple as asking my boss for a day off. i live in fear of what may happen, the proverbial kick in the shin.
so, my dad was not the perfect dad. whose is. i just wish he had been more of a teacher so i be a little less frightened and feel a little less clueless of the world around me.
in this day, i am called to compassion. my call for compassion is not only for me and my brokenness due to these events but also for my dad’s inability to handle these situations, because of his brokenness.
my dad’s inability to handle just about any situation points to a high level of brokenness. he didn’t deserve that. i find that sad for him. he obviously lacked the tools to handle parenthood. not having those tools not only crippled his ability to father children but also the ability to participate in healthy relationships.
finally, i get a healthy serving or two of self compassion, myself.
i get it both for the physical expression of anger and frustration and the lifelong impact it had on me. that feels sad. i can rap myself in love and comfort my inner child for a serious and unnecessary overreaction. my proverbial shins are safe from kicks.
i also get to comfort my inner teenager letting him know that the expression of emotions including bring-me-down emotions are perfectly normal and perfectly acceptable. i can rap myself in love and comfort my inner child for a stifling of acceptable emotions. my proverbial emotions can and will be expressed.
through me and my expression self compassion I can move myself closer to healing those old childhood wounds.