Why?

“Why?” is that question that every parent dreads.
That question burns a hole in our heads.
“Why” is asked after ever thing we say
“Son, go put your toys away.”
….and we brace for the inevitable “why?”

“Because I said so!” is never good enough
This answer only makes us look tough
Raising kids is not that rough
They’re only trying to build trust

Freedom to ask and question
Not everyone is allowed
Definitive answers shouldn’t make us proud
They only make us bold and loud

It’s essential that we question “why?”
How else will we learn to run, jump or fly
What? Critical thinking need not apply?!
You must ask yourself, “why?”

The take away from today’s therapy session was the idea of acceptance vs change in mindfulness. As it was explained to me: if you cannot accept your current situation, you must make a change. If your head is giving you an absolute about your situation as to why it can’t change, you must question that absolute with a “why?”.

Growing up, like many folks in my era, kids were sassy if they questioned the adults. Asking why was met with an authoritarian mindset. “Because I said so!” was often the reasoning behind any bit of instruction. Somewhere along the way, I stopped questioning the “law” as it’s what was expected from me. Blind obedience, “because I said so”. As I got older, critical thinking and questioning was still discouraged. It was only after I became a mom that I felt I could maybe start to question “why?”.

I used to find it annoying when my boys would expect me to explain myself all of the time. They would never take my answer if I could not explain my logic and I’d get called on the carpet for sweeping, vague statements. Little did I know, critical thinking was forming during that 8-12 year old need for defiance. Now, I welcome the questions and I encourage them to question everything. If logically it does not make sense?? My all means, start asking”why”.

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My “Ah-ha!” Moment.

I love those moments in life where you’re going along, minding your business and suddenly out of the blue something you’ve found perplexing finally makes sense. Some folks call these “Ah-ha!” moments. For the lack of a better phrase, I shall do the same.

 

I visited my dad this weekend. My dad has always been the sort of person who is very tidy and has a knack for knowing the proper way things should be done. He’s been this way as long as I’ve ever know him and before, according to those older than me. Actually, this “knowing how things should be done” trait could be attributed to my grandfather. Growing up with someone who always has an idea of how things should be done effects how one tends to do things. As a kid, I knew spilling the milk at dinnertime would provoke a negative response. Usually stepping out of line in any way would provoke a negative response. When I was a kid, my dad was not a very tolerant person when it came to mistakes. Even now, he’s the biggest side seat driver you’d ever meet. Given my poor sense of direction, this can be helpful. However,  when I know where I’m going, it makes me feel like he feels I can’t think for myself. As with anything in life, there are usually more than one way to reach the end destination. It’s OK to take the scenic route and take time to figure things out for yourself.

On Sunday, I was the first one up. I grabbed my phone and headed to the kitchen to make coffee. It was dark in the kitchen apart from one low mounted, dim light over the stove. I struggled to separate the coffee filter from the new, crisp stack. I thought I’d better not mess up the new bunch of filter because my dad would have something to say about it. I put the filter in the basket, added the coffee, poured in the water and turned on the machine. I took my phone and sat in the recliner, checking social media. I failed to notice that I’d forgotten to place the coffee pot back in the machine, resulting in water & grounds spilling out on the counter. I only noticed when I heard water dripping on the counter top! As I discovered my mistake and started cleaning up, my dad came out to see my mess. As expected, he was annoyed even though no real harm was done. I cleaned the mess, restarted the process and the coffee was done in no time. On went the rest of the morning without a hitch.

So, what was my “ah-ha” moment?? I finally figured out where my fear of failure comes from! I feel a bit slow given it’s taken until age forty-one for this to click. I didn’t realize my dad is the one who’s made me so cautious about making mistakes. This insight wasn’t visible until I stepped back and acknowledged my gut reaction to this simple mistake.

My parents were not an easy pair to please. Mom was super fearful and discouraged me from doing anything I dreamt of because it was scary for her and out of her arm’s reach. The implied expectation from my dad was to do everything “right” with no mistakes. End of. It’s not like he ever said those exact words but his actions shouted far louder than anything ever said. That combination of projections created quite a hurdle when it came to accomplishing anything. As a young girl, I was never expected to do anything apart from be a “good girl”(something I’ve never aspired to), get married and have kids. I always wanted more for myself than that 1950’s expectation. I have always struggled with the confidence to achieve what I envision. I get discouraged incredibly easy, I doubt myself, I often question my abilities and this leaves me feeling helpless to act. Even when I’d get good reviews at work, I struggled to see myself as capable. Confidence is one of those things which must be felt in the gut and known. Loads of people can tell you you’re amazing but until you can see it for yourself, you are blind to your potential and impact. I am working overcoming my shaky confidence in therapy and it has been a productive process. Learning to discern if a voice in your head is really you or that of another idea from the past has proven invaluable. Turns out, a lot of the doubts playing in my head are ideas which were projected on to me. Once those are peeled away, the real me is visible. Finding my voice, knowing my desires and hearing myself has been empowering. That fear of failure has started to melt away and I’m looking forward to a new challenge in March.

I am finally excited about life and my dreams don’t seem as intimidating or impossible anymore.

 

Uncomfortable Accolades

I was in an early work meeting on Thursday. Our meeting was all about Planetree, which is a non profit organization which helps hospitals to promote patient centered care in their facilities. I actually love the ideas this organization holds because it lines up with what is in my heart for our patients. When I was first told about Planetree in my orientation two years ago, I knew I was working for the right company.

In our meeting, there were several activities to encourage us to interact with coworkers we don’t usually work with. We were show the short film “Post It” which is about a young guy who has lost his mom. She was a kind lady and would leave him post it notes with encouragement. After watching the film, our activity was to do as in the film. We took post it notes, wrote kind words and stuck them on our coworkers. It was a fun exercise and it made me think about why I appreciate these people around me. I was sticking notes on people I didn’t know well but I have seen them in action and they’re fantastic folks.

After we were done putting notes on folks, the question was asked: what is your strength/weakness when if comes to giving and receiving compliments? I feel I don’t really struggle with giving compliments or building up my coworkers.They’re a great bunch of folks and it’s easy to acknowledge when they shine. However, I do find receiving compliments difficult. I struggle with feeling deserving of compliments. I can easily see the good in other people but I don’t always see the good in myself. I’ve often wished I could see myself as others do. It might make this “acceptance of goodness” thing somewhat easier. When I so get a compliment from someone I know, I tend to minimize it’s validity with thoughts like,  “Oh, they’re just being nice.” or “They don’t really mean it.” The thing is, what does anyone else have to gain by giving you a compliment?? There are no advantages to anyone kissing my butt. I can’t promote anyone or give them loads of money…..so maybe their kind words are true?

I was chatting with a talented music artist/producer online and I was discussing his most recent album. I told him how much I liked his work. He said thanks and said he was surprised because “it’s not everybody’s cup of tea”. This phrase stuck in my gut because it’s something I’ve said about my own work. Anytime I’ve said it, it’s almost as an apology for what I’ve created or written thus giving people permission to dislike my work. I wanted to reach through the messenger app and shake him and say, “Stop doing that thing I do!!”. I’m still learning that as artists, we needn’t apologize for being unique. I have to consciously stop myself for using apologetic sounding phrases when I tell someone about the meaning behind a piece. Not everyone will like what we create or understand why we do it and that’s OK. They don’t have to. The creation still has merit regardless of popular opinion because it comes from the soul.

Today, I had my annual evaluation. I received such kind words from my boss and she expressed her appreciation for my abilities and hard work. She said I was an asset to the department and my flexibility to work in all areas is so helpful. Our company sets the expectation for employees quite high. I received a high score on my eval, which is difficult to do without being management. I was starting to tear up a bit, which was embarrassing, but I rolled with it. I told my boss that in the Planetree meeting when we were asked about compliments, my difficulty was receiving them. She finished my thought with, “…because you don’t feel you deserve them. I am the same way.”

In my last therapy session, we discussed staying in the positive moments a little longer. My therapist said there is something our brains do (I can’t remember the term) when our confidence is low. We expect the bad to happen and assume any good is only possible because of luck. We therefore dismiss the positive things as we “got lucky but didn’t really deserve it”.  How maddening is this to someone who gives you a compliment?! I’ve done this dismissal thing my whole life! It wasn’t until it was highlighted did I see the pattern. The take a way from that last session was: hold onto the positive moments longer, absorb them, acknowledge them and let that build your confidence.

I shared my art with that music artist/producer whom I was chatting with. He liked what I showed him and had some kind words. I’ve gone back to his messages and read it a few times. I’m keeping a copy of my evaluation to remember the things my boss had to say. Why? Sit in the positive moments until you know in your gut that you are deserving.

I’m doing it.

So…..several months back, I mentioned a modeling opportunity I’d sought out at an art school located in Scottsdale, AZ. The interview I had went really well. I was bombarded with information but left feeling really good that I’d taken steps towards this goal I’ve had since I was quite young. I also wrote a post about how the fear and doubt was kicking my ass soon after I’d already committed to this adventure.

I have been anxious about art modeling since I said “yes”. On the drive home, I was trying not to think about what I’d signed up for because large butterflies would battle in my stomach every time I did. “Why, if this caused so much internal upset, did I ever say yes???”, you might be asking. Well, I’ll tell ya. My seeking out this avenue of modeling was one of those steps of action I struggle with so much. I am an easily discouraged person and my confidence is not the strongest when it comes to my abilities outside of my job. At work, I feel pretty confident most of the time. I feel like I’m a good problem solver who is great at communication. Outside of work, I second guess my creative abilities and have doubts any time I think of trying something new or scary.

This lack of confidence is something I finally brought up in my last therapy session. I am aware of the fact that I let fear stop me and it makes me angry. Fear is something that’s been passed on to me by a fearful parent. I didn’t realize how much of an influence my mom’s voice over the years had in how I approach things. My mom was a very fearful person who could always see the doom & gloom side of any situation, no matter how cheerful. She was the “worst case scenario” queen and she passed that hyper-vigilance on to me. I hate not being prepared. I hate not knowing what’s ahead and much of the time, it causes me a lot of angst. My head knows I can’t plan for every eventuality but my gut churns with fear and doubt at the onset of anything new. I get nervous when I travel to an unfamiliar city. I get nervous when I meet new people. I am scared to approach people unless I know it won’t be a bad thing or end in embarrassment. I do not want to continue living like this and talking about these fears really helped.

My therapist told me that the biggest thing which causes anxiety is the fear of the unknown. I’d agree. However being afraid to try something because you are afraid of failure is not really a good enough reason not to try. Sure, we don’t want to do poorly but will it really hurt anything if we do? Will the world end if we don’t do a good job with a new undertaking? Nope, it won’t. To put it in a more extreme sense: will it kill you if you fail?? If the answer is “no”, what do you have to lose? One of the things I don’t want to have in my life is regret. Towards the end of her life, my mom started talking about the things she wished she’d done. It was heartbreaking and eye-opening for me. I don’t want to feel regret as I look back on my life. I don’t want to let my fear of failure or fear of embarrassment keep me from trying the things I’ve dreamt of. So I took a step again toward facing my fears.

Tonight, I sent an email to my contact and let her know I’d be available for modeling at the start of next month. I’m excited to see what will happen next.

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Valentine’s Day

The history of Valentine’s Day is an interesting one. I didn’t know much about Saint Valentine or the origins of Valentine’s Day until I did a little research online. I tried to write this post yesterday but could not keep one train of though going. Who knew writing about love and relationships was so difficult? Love and all things love related are not black and white, hence this being my fourth attempt on this post.

Like many of the holidays we celebrate, Valentine’s Day has pagan origins. In my research, I found Valentine’s Day evolved from the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. The basic gist of this celebration was about fertility. Two goats and a puppy were sacrificed, there were oiled up, nude men in “girdles” (essentially a loin cloth) running around with “thongs” (strips of goat skin), flogging women to make them fertile. There is many other facets of Lupercalia and if you click >>here<< for a simpler explanation of the holiday. Apart from the puppy sacrificing, Lupercalia sounds like a smashing good time! Why did we ever stop? What was once a festival about fertility and hooking up eventually became something much more tame and wholesome thanks to The Roman church. Now the modern Valentine’s Day is one of the most commercial holidays save for Christmas (yet another Christianized pagan holiday).

Valentine’s Day can be a rough one for a lot of folks. If you’re single, it can make you sad that you’re alone. If you’re with a partner, it can also be disappointing if your other half doesn’t live up to the hype and go “all out”. Some people agree that this one day out of the year will not be the barometer for their relationship, which is actually smart. In the past, I’ve had a difficult relationship with Valentine’s Day and I blame Disney. As little girls growing up, there’s little escaping the idea of our “Prince Charming” sweeping us off our feet. The idea of this fairy tale causes so much angst because the young men we encounter are not living up to the ideas in our script.

I must admit, I too was one of those girls living in the clouds and expecting the fairy tale. Life often does not resemble “happily ever after” as seen in the movies. People don’t stick to their assigned parts, they improvise lines, strong emotions come into play and life gets messy as a result. I was unhappy for a very long time in my relationship because my life did not reflect what I thought it should be. I didn’t get the attention or the kindness I felt I deserved and that’s where trouble starts.

As for Valentine’s Day yesterday, I did not get any gifts or cards. I went to the store in the evening. I bought things for dinner and picked out an assorted bag of Lindor truffles (because they’re heavenly!) for the family and we had a very regular evening. Would it have been nice to open a little something for Valentines Day? Sure, it would have. It always feels nice to get gifts, no matter what the reason. Did I expect I’d get anything yesterday? Nope. Does it mean I’m not loved anymore? No, it doesn’t mean that at all. It took me a embarrassingly long time to take this truth to heart. Accepting what my life is-light years away from perfection- has made me less disappointed when my world doesn’t equal that of those around me. Comparing my life to that of others is a waste of energy and it will most certainly blind me to the things in my life that are going great.

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Party of one.

This weekend is my oldest sons birthday. He will be turning 21. His one request was to go to visit his cousins who live in a city that’s a five hour drive away. Dad and younger brother will also be making the trip. I am unable to go due to work so I will be here on my own for two days. Just me and the dogs.

The prospect of having a weekend to myself seems really exciting. It’s not often I’m left on my own, unsupervised. Usually someone is around to give their opinion on what I’m doing or the need me to do something. Apart from the dogs, I will be free to do as I like for two glorious days! This all seemed great until I remembered the incredibly small social circle I have.

I don’t have many friends in real life. I have one, possibly two people I feel I could call. I chat with nice, interesting and lovely people through social media and that leaves me wanting more of a connection with those people. I work with a lot of nice folks but once we leave the job, we don’t do anything together. Everyone goes back home to their families and routines. I am never more aware of how isolated I have become until I have free time for myself.

It’s not that I don’t like people but I really struggle being “one of the gals”. I actually feel more comfortable with male friends and I have been since I was in high school. I am a married women and the other women in my life have made having male friends out to being a fast-track to affair-ville. For some reason, the people I know look down on a married woman having a male friend who is not her husband. The thought seems to be that men and women can’t possibly be “just friends”. There usually is “more” going on (wink, wink. nudge, nudge. Say no more…). Any male friend I’ve had has usually been on the down low, which makes the whole relationship seem tawdry when it’s actually not. Do I enjoy being a bit cheeky with my guy friends? Absolutely! Do I wanna bang them all? Nope. I enjoy the banter with guys. There is a different dynamic from the times with my lady friends.

For this weekend, I’ve thought about asking my online friends if they’d wanted to do a Skype video chat. I haven’t met any of the people I know online in person but Skype might be nice. Who knows? There is a YouTube channel I watch and I tweeted the idea of Skyping with some of their international viewers as a show idea. I was thinking of it as an oral cultural lesson from around the globe, told by someone living somewhere different. I can’t afford to travel so this could be the next best thing. (This might not be my best idea. It’s definitely my loneliness and love of other cultures talking).

Making new friends as an adult has proven to be difficult. I secretly envy people who have had the same core group of friends since their school days. One of my two friends is a gal I’ve known since high school. We’ve not been friends the entire time we’ve know each other. We actually did not attend each other’s weddings! However, in later years we started doing things together. Now, she’s my Vegas partner in crime, my go-to dinner date and the one who I can share steamy pictures with on Instagram. We all need that one person who appreciates your naughty side! The other gal I could call this weekend is the embodiment of a joyous, loving hippy. She’s your flower child, moon gazing, ritual preforming, get-in-tough-with-your-heart kind of lovely soul. I used to work with this ray of sunshine until she changed jobs last year. We’ve lost touch and we need to catch up. Perhaps this weekend, if she’s available.

I’m truly at a loss on how to make new friends as an adult. Maybe there’s an app for that?

Phryne the Peahen

Wanted to share a short kid’s story I wrote back in 2013. If you couldn’t tell from the main character’s name, I am a Miss Fisher’s Mysteries fan! I adore the pluck and sass of the Honorable Miss Phryne Fisher.

 

Phryne the peahen sat glumly on the ground. She was sad because her feathers were drab and brown. She saw her brothers strut their stuff; their majestic plumage caused such a fuss! She longed for beautiful plumes to wave above her head. “Why should the boys have all the fun and not me instead?”

Phryne went to visit Angelo the fox in town. She often did this when she was feeling down. Angelo’s father was a draper and dyer of cloth. Phryne admired Angelo. He was kind, not a toff. He wore bright clothes made from the brightest hues. Angelo was a great friend and rarely ever blue. He saw Phryne’s face and her gloomy mood. He asked what was wrong and was their anything he could do?
Phryne cried, “Why and I so drab and brown?? I want colorful plumage to flaunt about town! I was meant for greatness, to shine like a star. I feel this deeply, with all of my heart!” Phryne pleaded, “Can you help me, Angelo?” With such despair in her voice, how could he say “no”? Angelo exclaimed, “Why yes, Phryne! Yes I can!” and with that he hatched a great plan.

Angelo’s plan was to dye Phryne’s feathers bright shades of green and blue. It seemed like the most logical thing to do. Only the best and finest dyes would he choose! Though the process was quite tedious, Angelo took great care. This process was quite arduous! How on earth would Phryne fare?? She fared very well despite it taking hours. With her new look complete; she was a radiant as Spring flowers!
Graciously thanking Angelo, she headed back to her house. As she left, she thought, “No wonder he has such joy and bounce. A person’s outward appearance is what really counts!” But Phryne’s colors didn’t last long, which made no sense! She wore them for such a short stent. You see, Phyrne was met by an unfortunate event….. One day, caught in the rain, she received a very through rinse!!

Phryne, in great distress, made her way back to town. She must see Angelo since she was, once again, back to brown! On arrival she was surprised by the sight she found. In the short time that passed, the Foxes’ shop had almost closed down! To make ends meet, Angelo’s father were forced to sell! The bright fabrics were gone, the brightest dyes as well! Inside the shop, only the dullest hued fabrics remained. To Phryne, it all looked rather sad and depressingly plain. Then Angelo mentioned he’d sold his clothes—the most fashionable of the day! Phryne felt so sad for the Foxes, she didn’t know what to do or say.

Yet, through all of this, Phyrne noticed, the Foxes still radiated pride and grace. Angelo was rarely seen without a smile adorning his face. Phryne was baffled, confused and forlorn! How could the Foxes be so strong? Did the Foxes know something that she didn’t? Phryne feared she had things “all wrong”. Phryne couldn’t contain herself any longer. She was bursting with curiosity! What is this strength, this driving force she simply could not see?? So she asked Angelo, “Why aren’t you sad and wearing a frown? With all my finery stripped away, I’m very sad…and very brown!”

Angelo smiled and said, “My joy comes from my soul. My strength comes from within. I’ve learned to be happy with myself and love me just as I am! You can take away my fancy clothes but the real me remains. Without all my finery, I’m handsome just the same! This was true; Phryne only saw Angelo’s bold adornments but ignored the natural beauty he possessed. This lack of observation left her feeling very shallow and remiss. Angelo told her, “Things on the outside don’t give me my bounce. My secret isn’t a secret! It’s the heart of a person that counts. Dwelling only on our flaws causes us to be misled. We must see the goodness inside ourselves instead.”

After a few moments of thought and in the back of her mind, Phyrne could see the goodness she had inside! She too was very thoughtful, giving and kind. How could she have been so blind?? Now, feeling lighter inside than ever before, Phryne didn’t thing of her old colors anymore. She was able to see she was a beautiful brown! There was no reason for her to wear a frown. Over time, Phryne’s happiness grew by bounds. She was no longer sad and rarely ever down. Now, when she went out on the town, she strutted about in the new confidence she’d found!