Mind Control

So, I’ve been reading Eat Pray Love…  That’s right, I said reading it.  The movie was a good adaptation of the book but I wanted to know more about this journey to enlightenment taken by a 30 something woman after a divorce.  I find it intriguing that I am chasing down the same inner peace at about the same age Elizabeth Gilbert was when she took the trip and wrote the book.  In fact, I asked my counselor if there was some developmental thing that happens to us as we sail out of our twenties and in to our thirties.

“Why yes” he said, and recommended a book, which, of course I promptly bought on amazon.  More to come on that.

Eat Pray Love is a fantastic book.  Emotional, passionate and quirky funny as well.  I highly recommend it!

One of the most fascinating things I found when reading and looking at the author’s journey, then looking at mine…  It’s mind control.  Not some creepy, stranger trying to make you crazy kind of mind control… but controlling our own thoughts.  It seems to be the key to the entire process.

“You are, after all, what you think.  Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions.”  –Elizabeth Gilbert

For a neurotic writer or artist like so many of us (Elizabeth Gilbert included) the first step, I think, is to quiet the mind.  You can’t control your thoughts if they are whipping through your head so fast you don’t know what they are.  Plus, I had become an expert at staying so dang busy I had a thousand other things to think about and distract me… keep my mind crazy busy.

The task of quieting the mind is much more difficult than it sounds.  I mean, how many people do you know who have trouble sleeping, sometimes all their lives, because they can’t shut their brain off?   The author does talk about how some people are naturally blessed with a quiet mind though…  Ha!  That has never been me.

Meditation seemed to be the key for Liz Gilbert.  She ran off to an Ashram in India and wrestled with it and struggled.  For me, I guess what has slowed my mind was my own personal exile to the graveyard shift and then the systematic removal of my closest friends one by one.  It’s left me alone with nothing but my thoughts for long periods of time, bitching and grumbling about it the whole time.

Once I give myself some time to work on grappling with and finally subduing my mind, then I can look at the thoughts that are flowing in and out of there and choose what to keep and what to get rid of.

“You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day.  This is a power you can cultivate.” –from Eat Pray Love

Once again, not such an easy task because my mind works incredibly fast, and it turns out is filled with all kinds of poisonous stuff.  It’s jammed with memories of childhood abuse, memories of my own actions in relationships that hurt the people I loved, shame, guilt, TONS of fear… and some really nasty things I’ve been saying to myself over the years.  I did NOT want to look at those.  I didn’t want to be alone with those thoughts, but then again, how can you fix it if you don’t look at it?

So, finally, I look at them, feel them but then what?  HOW the hell do you change them?  For Elizabeth Gilbert, she seemed to do this in meditation.  By having a conversation with herself, looking at the thoughts, feeling them, accepting them and comforting herself with loving affirmations.

For me, I need something more concrete and less mystical.  That’s where Dr. Phil’s Self Matters book comes in to play.  He’s got it all organized out and lined up.  Among other things, he recommends journaling all those thoughts and experiences, and then challenging them with 4 questions.

1.  Is it true?

2.  Does it serve your best interests to hold on to this belief?

3.  Are your thoughts and attitudes advancing and protecting your health?

4.  Does this belief get me what I want in life?

And then writing some positive, accurate and authentic thoughts to replace the bad ones.  It might sound silly but I’ve tried it and it works!

Amazing how much of our own personal inner peace is derived from the thoughts we think.   I would say most people go through their entire lives without ever doing this soul work, because it’s hard and it’s scary and unpleasant.  Most people prefer to remain unconscious, distracted, and treating only the symptoms, not the root causes… but I have never been “most people.”

The slowing down of the thoughts, looking at them and digging through that is really tough…  and then replacing them with positive.  That’s brutal too.. but I find much positive and reassurance and unconditional love in getting to know God.  For me, I’m sure there is no way I could have accomplished even what I have done so far were it not for knowing God…  so one last quirky quote from Eat Pray Love..

“Look for God.  Look for God like a man with his head on fire looks for water.”  –Elizabeth Gilbert

Published in: on November 15, 2012 at 9:00 am  Comments (4)  
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The Gambler

“I think you’re a bit of a gambler” said my therapist, with a mischevious gleam in his eye.

I nodded my head with a sly grin…  I am not afraid to take a risk in life or in love, in fact I had risked myself right in to a frenzy the last few years, and stacked up one “loss” after another.

The second he made his remarks, that old Kenny Roger’s song started playing in my head.  I’m sure you’ve all heard it but here’s what it boils down to in one line “Now every gambler knows the secret to survivin’ is knowing what to throw away and knowing what to keep.”

“Well, I guess I’m learning when to hold em, and when to fold em” I replied.

Later that day, as I turned it over in my head, I was bowled over by his metaphor.  He’s absolutely right.  The Game is life…  I’m not going to stop playing and just opt out of life or love and melt in to the background of this anonymous small town, so I guess I am The Gambler BUT like the song says “If you’re gonna play the game, boy, ya gotta learn to play it right”.

I have been playing the game but staying too long with things that don’t work for me… negative self talk, hanging on to old baggage, staying in relationships that won’t work, sometimes without even pausing long enough to ask myself “is this really what I want in my life?”.   The therapist got me when I was finally “out of aces” and now I’m learning to play it right.

When The Stalkerish Ex-boyfriend appeared on my door step yesterday…  I talked to him for a few minutes but at the end I was very clear.  “Don’t contact me.”  Don’t want the drama.  Don’t want the conflict.  I have no use for people in the world that just don’t hear me, no matter how many times I say it.  No matter how many times I lay down a boundary, they step over it.  No thanks… you can go.

I’m being very aware of what I’m letting IN to my life and what I am letting go of…  like a bunch of negative self talk, guilt, shame, hurts and old labels, bad behaviors that just don’t work for me and old ways of thinking.  You’ve got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em…  and I’m learning fast.

Published in: on November 13, 2012 at 9:00 am  Comments (2)  
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Out of the Blue

I closed a door to the past today

I was puttering around the house, with my ear buds in.  Cleaning up and such, when I looked up to see my little chiweenie looking out the window and barking.  I realized someone was at the door, even though I hadn’t heard the knocking with music blaring in my head.

I popped out the ear buds and swung open the door.  There stood The Stalkerish Ex-Boyfriend.  I was shocked.  He lives two states away.  “What are you doing here?” I demanded sternly.

He started to stumble over his words saying he wasn’t going to do this but he was driving by the house, and blah blah blah.  He looked at his toes, probably sorry he’d come… and he should have been.  He had not been invited.  It was just another way he steps over my boundaries and then says he couldn’t help himself.  That kind of behavior is what has earned him The Stalkerish moniker.

He apologized a few times, and we had some words.  I said “I’m sorry but no matter how many times I say it, you just don’t hear me and I don’t want that in my life.  The last time we spoke you took some very personal things I had told you and spit them back at me in anger.”  He started to speak but I cut him off, “and don’t say you don’t remember because that would just make it worse.  It was something SO hurtful and traumatic for me and to think you don’t even remember…” I shook my head as my words trailed off.  He apologized again.

Then a thought of Jesus flashed in my mind and I decided I didn’t want to be unkind.  I’m not that person and I fully believe God sends people across our paths for a reason.  He was standing out in the cold.  I know he’s no danger to me so I unlocked the hefty metal gate between us and let him in.

I told him I was feeling anxious and so I was going to stand.  He sat at the dining table.  We had some conversation…  He said people are leaving his life left and right.  He doesn’t want to be an old man all alone with no friends or family.  He showed me a picture of the girl he’s been dating since June and said “I’m screwing it up.”

I took one look at the photo and wasn’t sure whether or not to believe him.  She wasn’t the type of girl I’d ever seen him date before.  She was kind of mousey, I guess.  I told him it looked like something was going on there… they did NOT look cosy in the photo.

He said he’s having the same problems in that relationship that he did with me.  He spent a whole lot of time saying other people have problems… blaming the situations on them but he’s starting to realize, it’s him.

I nodded.  “Yep.  You’re the only constant in all those situations.   People like us, who grew up the way with did with all the abuse and neglect…  We NEED therapy.  We need it if we’re going to stop screwing up all our relationships.  We have to pull out all that old crap we don’t want to look at, and re-examine it so we can let go of it.  It’s painful, but more than anybody we need to do it.”

“But there’s so much stuff… I mean, where do you even start?” he asked.

“You pray.  God will direct your paths, if you let him.  You find a counselor and you tell him what you just told me.  He’ll know where to go from there.  My guy has been doing this for 30 years.  Thirty years, he’s worked with thousands of people and he’s been trained.  He’ll know where to go from there.”

We talked for a while and I found some wise words leaping from my lips. I told him about my own therapy experiences.  Not just now, but in the past too.  I have had counselors who were idiots, and didn’t understand me at all but sure thought they did.  (eye roll) I’ve also had good therapy experiences, but then bailed when it started to get hard.  I had to finally get to a point where I fully committed and said “I’m gonna do whatever it takes to get all the way through this… and see it through… to completion.”

There was some self disclosure but I was very careful about what I shared with him.  I certainly have no desire to throw my pearls to pigs.

He asked what it was that led me to finally cut him out of my life completely.  I was very honest with him but there was kindness and compassion behind my words.  I believe in the truth, but not brutal truth.  Brutal is never good.

I told him I have seen him chase down drama and conflict and I don’t want that in my life.  I told him I know understand why his sister, who has had much therapy, freezes out anyone who brings chaos and unpleasantness in to her life.

I also said, I want to live a life with no secrets, and no weird emotional undercurrents.  I think he was still holding out hope that we would get back together, even though I have been extremely clear with him.  It’s not going to happen.  I can’t be with someone who fights and unfairly at that.  It’s traumatic for me.  When it comes to fight or flight, I’d rather be with someone who withdraws so as not to hurt his partner.

Still, as many times as I have told him, even though he knew I was crazy in love with The Ambassador, he was still hanging on to it.  People have commented on it after seeing his comments on my Facebook… even The Ambassador once said “that guy’s in love with you.”

He tried to deny it and said “You saw what I wrote.  I was Mr. Neutral.”

I just said “Well… sometimes what we’re feeling sneaks out, even if we don’t want it to.”

I also told him I was having a hard time believing a word he said, because he had repeatedly promised to respect my boundaries and never has.

“Look,” I said, “those behaviors are driven by something deep down inside… and until you fix what’s down inside you are just forcing the behaviors.  You can only do that so long before you return to what comes natural.”

He was still trying his old tricks.  Trying to get sympathy by talking about his medical issues.  Trying to blame the behavior on the pain medication he’s taking.  Attempting to guilt me by saying “I understand if you never want to talk to me for the rest of your life.”  Nothing worked, and I called him out on it.  “And quit trying to guilt me with that,” I said.  He laughed.

In the end, I told him “Don’t contact me — at all.”

“I won’t” he said.  I just stared at him.  “I won’t, I promise.”

“We’ll see” I replied.  If he does contact me again, I’ll just ignore the text messages, emails, phone calls… whatever.  It’s what I’ve been doing for the last 5 months or so.

I’ve really been sticking to my guns, which, it turns out has really hit home for him.  It’s a huge part of what now has him looking very seriously at therapy….  who knows if he’ll actually do it though.  He seemed to have plenty of excuses which he rattled off while I rolled my eyes.

That’s up to him.  He can decide to live his life however he wants… but I did feel we got some closure.  I closed the book on that situation.

Maybe that’s the deal with people showing up at my door these days…  God’s sending closure right to my doorstep.  🙂

Published in: on November 11, 2012 at 9:00 am  Comments (1)  
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Encouragement All Over the Place!

The Lady Rancher

My life feels like it’s been jammed full of encouragement lately.  I have been on shift with Mz. Heinous and she has been rude, and condescending… hard to deal with.

I have managed to take away her power by seeing her through a very realistic lens.  She’s a sad woman really.  Horribly unhappy, in a crumbling marriage, and with all her children leaving her nest.  She’s extremely overweight, but not just heavy..  She’s misshapen… extremely pear-shaped.  Her hair is cut in a pixie and curly, so as she tries to grow it out it gets poofy and even more unattractive.  The poor girl doesn’t even have a pretty face.

She has been in the same job for 15 years, and has no power at work either.  She hit her salary cap 10 years ago, so she’s probably working with people with like 5 years on who make the same as she does…  Most of all, I realize she has no power over me.  She can’t do anything but complain, I guess.  Maybe lie… but I don’t care.  Nothing she can do can get me fired or in to any serious trouble.  I have absolutely nothing to fear from her.

My only real concern is how to work with her peacefully.  I have been kind to her, because that’s who I am… but she minimizes anything I say, or ignores it.   I also don’t want to be too compliant or constantly ignore her rudeness, there by giving her tacit approval so I have been talking with some of the women on the graveyard shift as to how best to handle it.

They have been incredibly helpful.  Overwhelmingly supportive.  I have felt so totally grateful.  Yes, there may be one woman on the staff that is a huge problem for me, but there are 13 others who want nothing more than to help me and see me succeed.

There are three women on the shift, and over and over again they hold up one gal in particular as an example.  We’ll call her The Lady Rancher.

The Lady Rancher lives alone with her dogs, and horses.  She is very multifaceted…  She has a commercial driver’s license.  She’s a bee keeper.  She takes time off every year for harvest, and then does farm and ranch work as outside employment.  She doesn’t own a tv or a computer, and requires very little sleep at night.

She’s an incredibly unique individual but what strikes me most of all about her is that…  Nothing rattles her.  She has a core of calm and peace all the time.

This week, I learned, she hasn’t always been that way.

The Lady Rancher is about to retire with full pension benefits, but it’s been a rocky journey.  She worked for our agency for some 22 years, and then left.

She was so incredibly stressed, she was wasting away thin.  Her hair was falling out, and she had an ulcer.  All her relationships had fallen apart.

She had spent her whole life absorbing everything that was happening.  The events of life knocking her around for years and years.  She finally burnt out.

After that, she spent five years drivin’ a tractor for next to nothing… just enough to feed herself and her dogs.  She journaled like crazy, read and went through therapy.  It took her five years to get back to a healthy emotional state where she felt like she could face the world again.

I was speechless as I looked at The Lady Rancher and realized she’d been through a similar process of where I’m at now… and she came through the other side a pillar of peace.

I can’t tell you how encouraging it was to find out that someone I greatly respect has come through what I’m working through… and to hear her say “it works.”

There’s just encouragement every where I look these days…. and I am so grateful.

Published in: on November 8, 2012 at 9:00 am  Comments (2)  
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Everything is as it should be…

The “feel good” I got after those several emotionally intense days right in a row–  has continued!  I feel fantastic and have found myself with an amazingly positive attitude and plenty of energy (but not too much as to feel anxious).   I love it!!

Captain Amazing was thinking I was floating on Cloud 9 after The Ambassador of Ambiguity’s visit… and that may be partially true but I know that in the past, I’d have been looking for the next thing.  The next call, or text, or visit and I’d have been frustrated when if it didn’t come right away.  Not so the last few days…

I now feel like he’s off in his life, growing and changing — and I’m doing the same.  God is doing a work in both of us.   I can see how trying to maintain a relationship while the both of us are going through all this might well be impossible.  I think it is requiring quite a bit of solitude for both of us.

When the time is right, I think we’ll come together again…  but that time is not now.  If by some chance I am wrong, things will still be ok.  I’m content to let God unfold his plan.  I know whatever it is, it will be for my good.

I have been spending some time reading “The Word” as christian culture calls it.  When I hear a sermon, whether it be at church or on TV occasionally (love Joel Osteen), I make notes in a journal specifically for spiritual stuff.  I went through all my notes and spent hours looking up the verses that had been mentioned.

I read and pull from the scriptures things that kind of speak to me in my current situation.  Like, for instance, while I am currently having to work with Mz. Hienous–  I might feel cautioned reading Matthew 7:6 where it says “Do not give dogs what is sacred.  Do not throw your pearls to pigs.  If you do, they may trample them under their feet and turn and tear you to pieces.”

So… in doing this, I kept finding scriptures that said things like “I will restore you to health;  heal your wounds”.  I found things that talked about a city being rebuilt and about a feeling of “peace & security” there.

I have been overcome with a feeling that things are just as they should be.  I am not worried about why The Ambassador hasn’t called.  I just feel at peace with God’s plan for me.  I feel content to let Him do His work and encouraged, even excited by a deep belief that He is working all things for my good.  My ship is about to come in… I can see it on the horizon!

This may sound super holy roller to some of you…  but I’m not sure how else to explain it.  I’ve been telling myself these things for what feels like a really long time, things like “He works all things for my good” but I haven’t FELT them.  I have repeated them, sort of trying to convince myself but they hadn’t made it down deep on the inside where I actually felt them.  I still felt scared and worried.

This week I’ve started to FEEL those things.  I feel a SHIFT.  I think it’s a combination of my spirituality and the therapy.

My therapist told me that therapy is much like traveling up a flight of stairs, and this it feels like I stepped up to a new level this week.  It’s working!  I can feel it now and WOW, it’s AMAZING!

I am gaining the feeling I’ve been working for… a feeling of peace and calm deep inside.  I don’t feel like every situation in life is going to affect me heavily, and toss my emotions around like a leaf in the wind.  I am really starting to feel like… whatever happens, it’ll be ok.  I’m feeling confident and alive…  I’m starting to feel like I can face anything life throws my way.

I still have work to do, of course.  I still feel anxious at times, and I’m sure if I tried to jump in the car with someone else and drive out-of-town I’d probably have a panic attack…  BUT I see a bright glimmer.  My ship is coming in…  I see it on the horizon!

Published in: on November 6, 2012 at 9:00 am  Comments (6)  
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An Overwhelming Emotional Experience

I had been journaling about my recent break up the other day when I realized that it wasn’t so much The Ambassador I was angry at for some of the things that happened… but at myself.  I was really angry at myself for seeing some things and not saying anything about them.  I once saw him chatting with a girl on Facebook.  He quickly closed it, and I told myself I had nothing to worry about… but I still think about that.  It bothers me and I should have said something.

There are a few situations like this that are still gnawing at me today and I realized it’s not him I need to forgive really…  It’s me.  Forgiveness is a peculiar thing.  For instance, I have read that the more you try to will forgiveness, the longer it takes… and even more frustrating…  It seems forgiving yourself is often much harder than forgiving others.

So, I had come to the realization that it was myself I needed to forgive but I wasn’t sure how to go about.  I was pissed that I was weak and afraid and didn’t say word one about it.  I just held it in, and it still bothers me to this day.  I was angry that I had been so afraid that I held back some things and didn’t protect our relationship.  I was also angry at myself about this anxiety bs.  I feel like I am scared all the time.  Where’s my strenght?!  What have I become?

I turned this over in my mind through out Sunday morning.  I had to pick up my kiddos from thier Dad’s house.  He co-habitates with a woman who has 3 of her own children…  So, as you can imagine, it gets chaotic over there.  I was trying to help her find some tights, and as I stepped in to her room and saw clothes piled up, and drawers packed so full you couldn’t open them– she and I both started feeling overwhelmed.  My little girl even started to tear up.

I comforted her and calmed her down.  As I did that, I realized that I am going through this rough time so I can teach my children how to find thier peace as well.  The world is much like their Dad’s house.  It can get chaotic and wear on you and it’s filled with people who just keep buying more junk and piling it on the top instead of managing what was already there.  Filled with people who care more about how things look than what they actually are.

I am learning how to find peace in a crazy world, so I’ll be able to teach that to them too.

Once we got to church, the kids took off to thier children’s classes and I stood in the front row, heart wide open, singing praises… feeling the tears run down my face.  (That happens quite often for me.  I’m the church crier.)  The Pastor got  up to speak and talked some about trying to find peace in a wild world.  I wasn’t too surprised because when the Lord is trying to tell me something, he often tells me more than once… but when he started talking about counting your blessings… all the things that God has done for you, I had a startling experience.

Parts of my life flashed through my mind like they were on a movie screen in fast forward.  It was old things, but today too.  I was flooded with all the ways the Lord gives me strength every single day.  He has rescued me, carried me through and sustained me.  Although I felt weak, what flashed before my eyes were a million different things He gives me strength in each and every day.

I am out here in California all alone, thousands of miles away from my family.  I have lived an extraordinary life…  it may feel ordinary now, but even in that–  I am doing what everyday joes just don’t do…  I’m writing a book, employed in meaningful work, crawling through therapy.  All the things flooded over me like a tsunami and I was racked with sobs.  They were tears of overwhelming joy.

I was so moved and overcome with tears that I almost ran out of there… but instead, two of my girlfriends who know most of what has been happening with me…  Swept around me like mother birds and held me in their arms until the service ended and I could take a break and tell them what happened.

I don’t know how else to explain the power of this even to you, except to say that it was completely overwhelming.   I had an emotional hangover for the rest of the day….  but joy came in the morning.  🙂

Published in: on October 28, 2012 at 9:00 am  Comments (3)  
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The Skeptic’s Voice

In the therapist’s office the other day, he categorized me as a skeptic.  See, I told him I was still concerned this whole therapy thing might not work.  I’m worried I’m going to spend all this time, and money and journal like 5,000 pages working through that Dr. Phil book for no damn reason…  come out feeling just the same.

“You’re a skeptic,” he said “and I’m willing to bet there’s someone in your life like that.”

I thought about it for a minute, then another minute… and no joke, I couldn’t think of anyone.  My Mom crossed my mind for a minute but I quickly dismissed it.  She couldn’t be the skeptic.  She dove in to one marriage after the next, one move across the country after the next.  How could she be a skeptic?

I shrugged, scoffed and replied “maybe it’s just from being lied to for so many years.”  (as a child).  Then I walked out of the therapy session.

I knew he was right.  I didn’t argue.  I had been working through my self talk and I have been literally SHOCKED at how incredibly negative it is.  When I walked in to this therapy stuff, I just thought I needed some help with my anxiety.  I was looking at it like tune up on a car…  Not a total engine rebuild.

I thought, for the most part, I was fine.  Once all the negativity started pouring out of me on to the page though… I thought “My God, I don’t know how I even function.”  I do my best to ignore it, but it’s always there.  I couldn’t believe there was so much toxic diseased self talk.  I was really frustrated with myself.

Despite my skepticism, I continued working through the Self Matters book when I had an epiphany.  I vividly remembered a conversation I had with my mother when I was about 17.  I was telling her I wanted to go to college…  the community college where my grandmother worked.

She squashed that dream without even blinking.  She told me I would never finish.  I’d just get caught up in working some crappy minimum wage job and never finish.  She said at least in The Marines you know you’ll have three hots and a cot.

I didn’t realize at the time how ludicrous those remarks were.  When I remembered it, I saw it in a whole new light.

The thought that I would simply fizzle out was not realistic at all.  I was a committed student with excellent follow through.  Even at 17 I was already living on my own and working a decent full-time job with benefits that would have been ideal to hang on to while attending college. There was even promotion potential there and I was very good at it.   So… I was already earning my own three hots and a cot.  Why would I feel like I needed someone else to provide it for me?

My grandmother could have helped me register and get all kinds of financial aid.  In fact, I would have gotten more financial aid than my G.I. bill was worth.  AND I had like 10 different family members I could have lived with if I wanted to.

I racked my brain trying to decipher why the hell she would have some crap like that…  then it hit me.  It wasn’t about me.  It was about her.  It was all about what she felt she could accomplish or what she’d do.

After that, my head began to spin with all the millions of time I’d heard my mother say negative skeptical things… predict failure or some other painful outcome.  In that moment, it was like that Patty Labelle song that says “Somehow the wires uncrossed, the tables were turned!”

I felt a HUGE relief.  It was a giant break through!  All those negative words…  they’re not even mine!  It was a tape of my mother’s talk running in my head.  Further more, the things she said really weren’t even about me… they were about her.

I can’t even explain to you how much lighter I felt.  I can’t tell you how I know that realization is going to make an enormous difference in my life, but I DO.  I still have much work to do but I think after that day…  I stopped questioning whether or not the therapy was going to work.  I can feel it working.

Published in: on September 25, 2012 at 9:00 am  Comments (10)  
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