Sunday, July 31, 2016

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Patterns of the Mind (Part two)

A couple of weeks ago I started littering my dining table with post it notes, I talked about the beginning of another exercise in my self-compassion book here.  I started writing down the self critic voice in my head and asking questions about it.  

This morning because I was feeling horrible and was unable to do my usual morning exercises and stretches without increasing the pain I sat down in front of all the notes.   I furiously wrote responses to each one of the statements, I lost track of time and delved into different memories and events.  

I was surprised to find that responding to some of the statements brought up very specific memories and events in my life.  Part of the exercise was to listen to the tone of the voice and decide if you might have learned it from somewhere else.  I honestly didn't hear that, I went to different memories and points in my life when I felt hurt, rejected or misunderstood.  A lot of these statements were echoes from events I had even forgotten, and some I will never forget.  

I went back and forth about what to share or if to share any of these statements and responses.  I decided that I didn't want to share, because I am afraid I did the exercise "wrong."  I didn't want to be seen.  However the voice and the state that I used to listen and respond knows that I have a different standard.  The reason I was able to complete this exercise and not attack the voice, is because of people taking the time to show me another way, because of people being in that state and listening and responding to my mind with nothing but compassion.   

I thought it was interesting that my self-critic voice sounds like my own, and the voice of self-compassion sounds borrowed, it sounds like the voice of my teachers.  At the same time, I trust I am there too, learning step by step. 

I have put the self-critic statement in quotes and the response in bold.  

"You are missing out and will be left behind."
  You are afraid of being forgotten, of having to make the walk home alone.  That has never been the end of those stories, there are times where you have been alone and abandoned, some one always came along to walk with you.  Some one will always come along to walk with you, just take those moments one step at a time.  Patience and focus got you through those times, don't forget to look at the whole picture.  

"You are not important."
Then why do you spend so much time talking to me? (Just a little humor) Anyways, you are afraid that what you do is not significant, that what you are is not unique and so you can be easily replaced.  You have been shaped and molded by your experiences and only you know your internal experience, your internal wisdom.  The choice becomes do you want to share it?

"Someone else would handle this illness with grace and would have moved on with their life by now.  You want to be stuck, you want to be sick."
You are grieving and that takes time, it takes time to heal.  You are still living life, it just looked different then it did a year ago.  Just because you haven't found what works best, doesn't mean you haven't made progress.  You have so many tools and are gaining skill each day, it will all fall into place.  I am not saying you won't have horrible and painful days, but you had those before this illness.  You will work through this fatigue and find a new place.

Here is the last one that I will share, I lost track of how many times over the past couple of weeks I wrote this down, how often I hear it and how much it breaks my heart.  I had even written it down over and over on a post it, to the point it was just covered with all the writing, all angles.  

"You are not enough!"
I know you are afraid and hurting, you have always said this to me, it has nothing to do with the current situation, nothing to do with your illness.  It is your deepest fear.  Words will not address it, actions will not fix it.  You will never have an answer, your choice is to work with this fear with ease and gentleness or fight it.  I hear you, I am listening.  

Question of the day: Who has deeply influenced you?  If you can maybe take the time to thank them today for all the ripples they created in your life.  

Monday, July 25, 2016

Sterling Sunday


Each one of our experiences and the language we use to describe those experiences affect the filters we use to see life and project life.  Adam and I were just listening to a chapter in a book that was discussing how the author hears certain motivational quotes, at one point she said one.  I audibly groaned and said "I hate that one."  The author nailed it, and Adam was just like "I have never heard it that way, it never would have occurred to me to think about it like that."  Filters, experience....

I was originally planning to post something today about a project I was really excited about.  However I think I am going to keep it close to the chest a little longer, let it grow a little more so that maybe it will be able to weather the elements.  It will be able to survive both my filters and whatever comments may come.  Because I hear a lot of things about my illness and deep down I know people just want to help, sometimes the comments hurt, sometimes they make me want to punch someone.  

Things I have learned I don't want to hear during a flare, things that have a great intention.  However my filters cause me to hear it in a very different way.   I can only speak from my very short experience with a chronic disease, and everyone is different.  I am hoping by exploring these filters that I will be able to clean them a bit and change them so that I can hear the intent behind the words.

1. "You look good."   
    The things that play out in my head when I hear this, include that I am faking, that I have nothing to complain about, that my need to go take care of myself is unseen.  I also hear this mask works, and you are getting your love, so you better keep up appearances.   Maybe just tell me, you are happy to see me and avoid commenting on my appearance unless I ask.  

2. "You are canceling again."
     Believe me I hate canceling plans too, I make plans because I want to see you.  I am afraid that you will stop making an effort because you feel like I am not making an effort to see you.  Maybe just tell me  you were looking forward to seeing me, and you miss me.  

3. "Let me know if you need something."
     This one can actually send me into a panic. Typically when I am in the worst of a flare, I am hyper focused on immediate needs.  Literally my eyes go into a panic and start searching around for what I am forgetting.  Honestly give me some space and let me know we can talk later, or offer me your shoulder if I need to cry.  It is best to ask me about what can support me when I am not in a crisis mode.  

I tend to become pretty reclusive when I am having a flare, because I feel ashamed.  I feel vulnerable and am overly sensitive.   Part of that is because when I am having a flare, I barely sleep, honestly I am not getting adequate nutritution and I am hyper focused on paying attention to what my body is telling me.  Each flare is different, and each one has been helped in different ways, I feel selfish because it is completely self involved to pay attention to each and every thing I am doing, eating and feeling to learn more about myself and this disease.  

There is no one in the world that misses the person I was before this started more then me.  It is a struggle to let go of what I was, so that I can see and celebrate what I am becoming.  So I will keep my project a little closer to the heart for now, and breathe as much life as I can into it before I open it up to the elements.  Thank you for understanding and your patience.  

Question of the day: Take a moment and think about something really close to your heart, and take a little time today to breathe life into it.  However that looks to you, nurture it.   

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Patterns of the mind

If you know me, and happen to come by my house in the next week, don't read the post it notes scattered around.  I usually have inspiring quotes or talismans on post it notes scattered, however I am working on a new exercise from the book "The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself" by Kristin Neff.

There were a number of options for this exercise, and it was emphasized to take a couple of weeks to to allow a pattern to emerge.  The first part of the exercise was to listen to the self critical voice, this could be done externally, internally or written.  My idea is after a pattern begins to emerge, it is time to address that voice with compassion.  I have used similar exercises in the past, just being aware of the internal voice, without giving it attention.  I have argued with the voice internally and I have used that voice outloud.  For me those attempts usually ended up with arguments in my head, or with a downward spiral because this voice can be unrelenting and super creative.  

I write, it made sense for this attempt to write that voice down.  I chose post it notes, so that I could literally write out the response of the compassionate observer to each one of the lies.  Not to argue with the voice, it has a purpose and is wanting to communicate something to me, it just doesn't know a kind way to do it (that is the lie, the cruelty not the information).   I believe the compassionate observer has the potential to be just as unrelenting and creative, it needs time to grow.   I need to practice.   Writing is an excellent anchor for me, and so I am seeing what happens with this experiment.  

I write down what I hear that voice say, without censoring it, sometimes it is the same thing over and over again.   Sometimes when I notice I have been sitting writing for a while, I get up and break the state by moving my body.   This is about observing and not watering the voice, it is about listening and learning to understand what it is communicating to me, without putting a hurtful meaning to it.  

I have been crying a lot since I started this exercise, it is not easy for me to look at these words on paper.  It is also difficult because some part of me believes the lies, believes I deserve the cruelty, there are many identities that are fueled by this voice.  Words that I would never want to say to a loved one, however I know I have said some of them at some point.  They are words that come from fear, if those people can forgive me and still love me, why do I find it difficult to love me at times for just thoughts?   Maybe I will find out, or maybe I will just learn to accept and love myself.   

Question of the day: When do you find it difficult to love yourself?  What triggers that self critic voice and how do you want to replace that pattern?

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Three chairs (Part two)

If you are curious about Part One, click the link.  This is about an exercise involving role playing three different roles, the criticizer, criticized and the compassionate observer.

For almost two weeks, I would set up the chairs, or yoga blocks, or even just mark places outside and attempted the exercise again.  Sometimes I just felt so uncomfortable being the criticizer role that I would stop, sometimes I was unable to really speak for the criticized and sometimes I got stuck in the role as the compassionate observer.  Just observing both roles and while I started to gain insight into these aspects of my personality and how they were both constructive and destructive it took time for me to find words, to be able to truly speak from a place I don't often hear in my own head.  That voice usually comes out when I am talking or working with people, or writing, it is not a voice I am tuned into on a regular basis.  

Which is part of what the exercise was about, I am very quick to comfort, confront or console my friends; but when it comes to me, I have such a different attitude.  I believe because the experience will pass it is not worth asking for help, it is not worth telling people you might be struggling, or to put it bluntly I tend to see myself as not worthy of my attention.   

When I was in Denver I listened to this woman perform "At Last."  It was beautiful, and as I watched her I wondered about what voices she hears after she steps off stage.  Every person has all these roles and plenty more inside of them.  I know that I have a lot of dialogue going on in my head, maybe that is why I am drawn to writing.   However her passion, her drive, her love of singing is so intense that she continues to perform regardless of what those voices say, what any of them say even the encouraging ones.  She just does it, and I can only imagine the hours of work she puts into singing, and the hours she has spent consumed by critics and still chosing to get up there, to share.  

What did all this mean to me?  It meant deep down somewhere I know I am worthy, I am love able and I belong.   It meant that because no matter how many times I failed at this exercise and felt stuck, there was a part of me that believed this would help me.   That was the part I needed to tap into, the passionate part that keeps me moving each time I want to give up.   

I set the chairs up in the living room one day, and things just flowed, from each character.  Did I stutter?  Yep, did I feel awkward and did I have a dialogue telling me that I must be doing it wrong, yep!   Did it feel like the exercise lasted forever; yep!  However for tiny moments, I was those roles, no other dialogue was present and parts of me were seen and heard.  Because all of these roles have a place, and I needed to understand that they exist for a reason, and then I needed to accept that no matter how many times I hear the opposite, I am worth it.  I am worth all the expressions, I am free to explore any role that I chose, all it takes is practice.  

Now I get to dive back into reading the book for a couple of pages before the next exercise.  Trusting that, the little voice of the compassionate observer will start to grow and I will start to listen more.  Maybe the voice isn't weak, maybe it is just I have spent more time focusing on the other roles?   

Question of the day: When is the last time you got so caught up in what you were doing, that you didn't even notice all the chattering and buzzing happening around you? 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Three chairs (Part one)

Slowly, very slowly working my way through these self compassion exercises.  The one I am going to discuss in this post took me a while to get through, the first time I sat down at these chairs was an epic glance in the mirror, resulting in lots of tears, a book being thrown across the floor and having to take a step back.

Now that I have got your attention with a little bit of drama, I will tell you briefly what the exercise required.  It required three roles, the criticizer, the criticized and the compassionate observer.  To begin I chose a chair and began talking outloud to the other chair, using the voice that I hear in my head that constantly criticizes me.  This is one of the voices of my mind, it is the voice that nothing is I do or am is ever enough.   It is harsh, cruel and passionate.  As I spoke outloud, I noticed my tone, my posture, my emotion and was surprised to find how easy it was for me to say these things even outloud.   As I gathered momentum however, and began to listen to the words, I felt myself shrinking.  

Which is when I took the second chair, the criticized.  This is another voice in my mind, another role that nothing is enough, this is the role that is ashamed.  As part of the exercise I was to address the criticizer and tell her how I felt about what she said.  At first it was difficult to even voice the words, to even put language to how small I felt, how unworthy of being alive and helpless to address the issue.  This was not about fighting back, it was simply about expressing a part of myself outloud that I tend to minimize.  This was just standing up and acknowledging that words can hurt, tone, posture deeply affect me.  I found a few things to say, I even stood up at one point in an effort to make myself bigger to find my voice and I lost the state of being criticized.  (Important to note, how physiology can affect things, not the point of the exercise.). 

Then I moved to the third chair, the compassionate observer and I sat there.  Glancing back and forth between the two chairs, nothing to say.  I simply sat for a long time before I stood up crying, feeling like a failure and wanting to give up.  

I went over to my book and reread the exercise, thinking maybe there was something I missed.  I was looking for the "how-to" guide, I wanted the knowledge without the experience.   I could hear thoughts in my head, "you will never get this, just give up"; "it is okay you gave it a shot"; "just keep reading the book, the answer is there."   As I said earlier, I did throw the book across the floor, and had to sit with myself.  

I asked myself an important question.  "Do you want to do this or do you want to read about it?"  I really want to gain more skill and competence in self-compassion.  I want to be able to accept myself.  So it drove me crazy, but I refused to read more of the book before completing the exercise.   What did completing the exercise mean?   It meant I needed to find the voice of self-compassion, that I needed to convey one thought to both sides of this coin, without throwing back criticism at the critic, and not disempowering the criticized.  

Every so often, when I would see the book.  I would sit down and start the exercise again.  It took many attempts to find even a little bit of a mousy voice.  I will discuss that in part two....

Question of the day:   When approaching new tasks, things that are uncomfortable, things that you may not be good at, what do you do to help yourself be more present?   

Thursday, July 7, 2016


I want to post this photo, even though it feels incomplete.  Adam surprised me with a trip out of town for my birthday, to give us both a bit of a break, get away from our comfort zone and just reconnect.  Despite all the struggles, I have this photo of a moment, when I was simply happy.  A moment that reflects what I imagine Adam sees when he looks at me, not a sick wife, not someone who is helpless, not someone who is in pain, not someone that feels like she is simply struggling to survive.  

This is also one of those images that get posted on social media, it is an image that doesn't tell the whole story.  Because how can it?   How can one instant, one moment define me, define a trip?  Yet I tend to focus on the negative and allow those instants to define my experience.  Adam reminds me, that even if we only spent 30 minutes at a concert or we only hike part of a trail, we are still out there.  I am still living a life, just because I need to rest more often, because I feel uncomfortable eating out doesn't mean I can't enjoy life.  He gets that it is difficult for me to say "I need to go home."  He understands that I don't always know my edge and sometimes I push it, sometimes I am a bit more conservative.   

We were out on a trail, and I just wanted to keep going.  I wanted to keep moving, to take in as much of the sites as possible and at some point it was time to turn back.  It was time to get some food and sit for a while.  

I spent some time with this bear, while we were exploring Downtown Denver.  I was attempting to read his expression, did he feel trapped behind the glass?  Was he satisified with where he was?   Was he frustrated?   (By the way all those questions, have nothing to do with the bear.)  

The simple fact is that I am all of those things, frustrated, determined, happy, simple, peaceful, grateful...  
Back to this idea of social media, that I tend to see and I only tend to post the great moments.  Adam did not take photos of me crying in pain, sitting in the hotel lobby. Who wants to remember those moments?  I do.  I want to remember that even though I was in intense pain, that I felt safe enough to let Adam hold me and just let the tears fall.  That he held space for me to feel what was going on.  He did this with the happy, amazing moments too.  I am lucky there are people in my life that I am safe enough with, that I can take off the mask and just admit I need time for myself.  

That is the blessing in this, that is the expression that is missing from social media and this idea that everyone is doing better then you.  It is also the pain that can connect us, it is those crisises, those moments when the facade breaks down and you just ask for help.  There are so many people in my life that are fighting challenges, that waited a long time to ask for help.  I wait all the time to ask for help and I am working on that, because it is dishonest to myself.   

I hope that whatever challenges you are currently approaching in your life, will encourage you to reach out and talk to someone.  Maybe you will find out someone has been through something similar, maybe they will help you see there is light in the tunnel, maybe they will hold you while you cry, maybe they will just accept you as you are.    One of my biggest challenges is to accept where I am at, and yet when I am honest with people I find they accept me.  

Question of the day: When do you feel accepted?