Monday, December 31, 2012

And the Election Helped Me Learn This...

Wow - am I the only one who learned this lesson this year?  It was helped along by watching the election play out.  People on FB were so adamant about their point of view.  My stomach would turn as I read those that opposed mine which is a very high number of my FB friends.

I watched my reaction as the election season played out and slowly began to react less and less.

We just have different opinions and that doesn't make anyone right or wrong or any less of a person.  Big lesson for me to learn.

I think I need to read more Nietzche.

A Magical Christmas in NYC!

Got back last night from our whirlwind trip to NYC.  We left Christmas day and after our flight was cancelled spent a bonus day but  we did get to see snow again!

Christmas Night
 I am still amazed by flying.  We leave New Orleans and three hours later are in New Jersey.  How crazy is that?  I really am amazed by it.

Empire State Building
New York Public Library
We covered much territory in four full days and it was a lot of fun.  Mastered the subway system.  Enjoyed our first Broadway plays, Mary Poppins and Annie and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular as well.

A little bit of excitement for me was seeing actress Rebel Wilson (and the actor who played her brother in "Bridesmaids") in a restaurant and on our bonus day, walking to the New York Public library, site of the wedding that did not take place in Sex and The City Movie.

Even better, I dealt with my fear of flights, elevators and crowded places and how holidays "should" be and what they "should" look like.  I finished what feels like the last act of busting through where and who I should be with on the holidays.

Fear came in and I let it depart lovingly.  

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Alone But Not Lonely

My last post about something "Big" was about finding my sense of self.  The above statement is so critically important to my sense of self.

I ate my feelings so I did not have to feel them.  I learned early on that my feelings were not acceptable so I avoided them at all costs.  This included sadness, fear, anxiety and joy as well.  When I started trying to feel them, I did not want to be alone with them.   It is the most uncomfortable practice to learn how to feel what you have stuffed for years and years.

I thought I HAD to have someone to talk to through the feelings.  Yet this can inhibit the process of allowing them through (with kindness.)  You can get bogged down in them and sometimes trying to be right when talking to someone else.  Finding out what touches a nerve in me especially with friends and family is usually the BEST way into a big aha of understanding about myself.   Because YOU CAN'T CHANGE OTHER PEOPLE and there are life situations that you can't change.

So, I am learning to handle the feelings (of a "garden variety") on my own.  It is very helpful to talk about them afterwards but I have found that if I tackle them alone (with kindness), they flow better.

It doesn't have to feel lonely though.  When you have yourself and you trust yourself and your intuition, you find people along the way who "get" you and your journey.

Oh and I have also found my higher power along the way...  Breaking down my baggage, I  have let  God come in.  Not that scary judging fearful God I grew up with but the presence of love that has surprised me again and again.  Have I told you lately how freeing that is?

This is Something Big...

I feel disjointed.  It's Christmas and that always brings something up.  It is our first Christmas without GaGa.  Grief comes up in small waves here and there.  I miss the healthy grandmother who was so active in our lives and she particularly loved Christmas.  She may not have remembered birthdays but she was all about Christmas with decorations, presents and baking.

My little family of four had decided to shake things up by heading way out of town ON Christmas morning because we want to.  In my mind's framework that I had growing up, this is completely off the rails.  And it is exactly what I need to do.

Yet it is uncomfortable.

I have moments of complete excitement and then I have phases of anxiety and paralysis.  In telling my friends about our plans, most comment with bright energy "Oh, how exciting, you are going to have such a fun time."  At times, their excitement is more palpable than mine and I use theirs to help me along.

There has been a dictate in my mind that says I am supposed to be with my family of origin at holidays, and somehow the family I originated had taken a back seat.  In the last years, I have broken with this dictate and each year it has gotten easier to go against the flow.  My family has taken precedence.  That is why this trip is particularly important.

I can also tell it is important because issues of anxiety are creeping in with claustrophobia related to flying, riding in elevators, being in enclosed spaces with lots of people.  I truly know I will be okay, but the thoughts still pop up and I have to work through them and bring the Xanax.  Even having my own prescription of Xanax AND knowing I can take it - has been many hurdles to overcome.

There are so many layers to what is going on right now.  I truly had no sense of self.  Now that I am gaining my sense of self, who I am, what I want, my likes and dislikes and accepting myself wholeheartedly,   I see how very little sense of self I had.  "You don't know you are there, until you are there"

This poem posted by one of my dear FB friends says it all:


All too frequently we relate like timid birds who don’t dare to leave the nest. Here we sit in a nest that’s getting pretty smelly and that hasn’t served its function for a very long time. No one is arriving to feed us. No one is protecting us and keeping us warm. And yet we keep hoping mother bird will arrive.

We could do ourselves the ultimate favor and finally get out of that nest. That this takes courage is obvious. That we could use some helpful hints is also clear. We may doubt that we’re up to being a warrior-in-training. But we can ask ourselves this question: “Do I prefer to grow up and relate to life directly, or do I choose to live and die in fear?” '

from Pema Chodron

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

The cabin on the Gip Dunn property.
As we drove up to my parents on Thanksgiving Day, I mentioned to George that I wanted to get out of dodge.  After spending the week with the kids out of school, we needed to get out of the house. We decided to head up the next afternoon to the cabin that my dad built on family property many years ago.  The property has been handed down several generations.  We had never stayed overnight though.  Annie even made the trip with us.  The cabin did have running water and facilities(!) but no tv.  So we played games and cooked burgers on a grill.
During the night, the temperature dropped into the 30's and I made George light the fire in the pot bellied stove.  We slept on air mattresses and I could feel waves of cold air from underneath.  I could also hear creatures scampering on the tin roof.  Not a great night for sleeping, but a wonderful getaway for us all.  The next morning we met in town for breakfast with my parents and my brother and his family.  In my family of origin, we are cemetery aficionados.  We have ancestors on both sides of my parents' lines located in the same areas.  There are several cemeteries that we can visit.  My sister in law has done very detailed research on both sides and is extremely helpful in making family trees.

Riley appears to be as interested in history as I am and Mallory in her own seven year old way is too but also enjoyed having Annie the dog and her young cousins to interact with.  She also loved climbing in the back of the pickup trucks!  There is a little country in my city girl.
My parents, my brother and his family, the girls, Annie and I with George taking the picture.

Grave Of Isom "Gip"Dunn: 1850-1926
Cousin Jack, Annie and Mallory enjoying car technology!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Panic in the Yoga Room

(I am making up for lost time on Blogger.  I have missed writing a couple of weeks and it is so nice to know that the lessons are still with me and notes on my iPhone to help remember though.  I am trying to hit 70 blogs or more to match with the previous years.  If I continue to stay conscious, I think I am going to do it...)

Today was BIG for me and it is only 10am.

* I tried a new yoga class at a different Y. I didn't know anything about the teacher.

*I wore form fitting clothing out of necessity after having my shirt fall in my face during certain poses.

*I didn't put my mat at the back of the class.

*I practiced looking at myself in the mirror even with my squishy parts and remembered that my body is allowing me to move through these poses as I mentioned in the "Yoga in the Mirror" post.

At the end of the class during my FAVORITE part, shavasana,  I realized in a panic that the instructor had turned all the lights off and it was pitch black in the room.  There was a massive rain storm coming through during the class.  I had to struggle to hear the instructor through the class even though I was closest to him because the rain was so loud.  My thoughts began to be distressed. I wanted to bolt.  I don't like the dark.  I could feel my anxiety reaction, the one that occurs in my arms physically manifesting my fear.

And then I remembered what my therapist and I had discussed about anxiety last week.

Anxiety = not being in the present moment. 

This was so illuminating for me.  I think I have had such low grade anxiety for years because of all the time I spent worrying about what I could, couldn't do, obsessing over so much.
As I layed there in the most relaxing time of yoga, panicked, I focused on my thoughts.  I kept my eyes open and spotted the red exit sign and some small red lights of the stereo.  I did this until I relaxed a bit and I kept thinking things to keep me in the present...  I don't even really remember what it was but it worked.

I didn't relax to the extent that I normally do but I also didn't bolt.  (See I'm judging myself)  In the midst of my panic, I did think this is practice for my upcoming plane flights and elevator rides in NYC!  Those upcoming events  that could bring out my claustrophobia are what prompted me to bring it up with my therapist in the first place.

I never had put together that anxiety could flow through just like the other emotions that I have practiced allowing through.  This claustrophobic anxiety feels so physical and different from avoiding sadness or anger because the very specific triggers seem different.  I did not put it in the same category.  I do think that sometimes I will need the assistance of medication, for flights or somewhere else that my claustrophobia is too much and that is O-Kay.  It is nurturing myself through a situation beyond my control.  I don't have to white knuckle it and be miserable AND I don't want to keep myself from flying to new adventures.


Namaste with Cat Barging In the self portrait....

South Louisiana's Other Denomination

Back in November, my girls attended their first LSU football game and in my Facebook post, I joked that it could be deemed child neglect around here.  A friend put it better and said they were culturally disadvantaged.

Game day begins by finding sufficient purple and gold attire and then leaving the house at 10am.  And it is an all day affair for this particular 2:30pm afternoon kickoff.  Tailgating is a sporting event in it's own right here in South Louisiana.  There are generators running cooking devices with pots of gumbo, jambalaya, deep fried things and large flatscreen televisions.  And libations flow freely.  How fitting is the definition of libation for this occasion: the pouring of a liquid offering as a religious ritual.  

It occurred to me that my thought process of whether I needed to attend the games has evolved.

LSU Football is a religion in this area.  As a college coed, I remember the loneliness when I was not invited to go to a game and would be "left behind."  I was waiting for a guy to invite me, not forging ahead finding another group to go with, yet, maybe in hindsight, I really didn't want to go?  

I remember when George and I moved back to Baton Rouge in 2000, I felt like I was supposed to go to the games.  Some people live their lives around going to these games and many of them are our peers.  And I thought I was supposed to as well.  

But perhaps there was reason that I did not work so hard to find other means to go to the game.  As Garfield the cat would say, "It is a big fat hairy deal":  Securing tickets ($), a sitter if the kids are young ($) , finding a tailgate ($), a parking spot ($)  and then sitting and watching football for 3 hours.  


 Do I want to spend three hours watching football? I am a two time alumni of the university.  I love LSU.  Yet it is painstaking for me to sit and watch a football game for that long.  We were given advice to bring lots of cash to keep the kids entertained by the concession stand.  I was grateful that Mallory wanted to get up and down 6 times during the first half because I couldn't sit there that long either.  I was entertained by the sign in the bathroom!  Here is the picture from it -----

I loved bringing the girls and seeing all of the commotion though.  Ninety thousand of your best friends decked out in purple and gold.  Waiting behind the barricade to see the football team walk down Victory Hill.  Accidentally stopping at the prime spot to see the cheerleaders do their bit.  And then the drum major and Golden Girls as well.  And then the "piece de resistance" as the band marched by and played the Pregame, my absolute favorite.

I get chills each and everytime I hear the Golden Band from Tiger Land play the Pregame song.

Even though I love hearing that Golden Band play, I still walk to the beat of a different drum most of the time and that is O-Kay.  I don't have to waste any more time thinking I'm supposed to be somewhere because other people are.  We came and enjoyed the festivities and half of a game (!) and I don't feel the desire to do it again for quite some time and that is O-Kay.  The funny thing about evolving, I didn't realize I had stopped shaming myself about not going until we went to a game.

Don't know you are there, until you are there!

Listen closely and you can hear Mallory finding her loose tooth, figuring out the spelling of the band and me yelling.  We were way up high.  Riley and George had tickets across the stadium lower down.

We Can Escape To Another State?! I've Never Been To California!!

From Jeff Brown: "When there has been too much pain, we often forget that we have the built-in capacity to move through it to another state. God gave us tears to be cried, God gave us the capacity to express our anger, God gave us a vast range of emotional devices that, when healthily unleashed and expressed, can both clear the toxicity out of us, and also lead us to any lesson or experience of self-love living at the heart of them. In our authentic vulnerability lies our greatest power- the power to re-open and heal our hearts after loss and disappointment. Feeling the pain is an act of self-empowerment and the only way to make a break from the prison of repressed emotions, to make a break for inner freedom."

 I never believed that I could move through to another state.  Well, to be really truthful, I didn't know there was another state to be in.  I think I was stuck in the victim state for so long, I thought that was all there was.

When anything bad happened in my life, I thought I would be stuck there FOREVER. I couldn't get over it.  I am still awed when in large and small circumstances, I can allow the pain or other uncomfortable emotion to move through and not fight it, and it dissipates.  It happens and I still can't believe that it works.  For me, who has repressed emotions and stuffed them with food - this is so incredibly meaningful.   Self-love is the bomb! All other love flows through after we learn to love ourselves.  This paragraph has taken me the last several years to experience.  I GET IT!  And it takes practice again and again, because there is always something to come around the bend to practice on.

(And there's that vulnerability mentioned again - Brene Brown!!  Love that vulnerability, it is the portal to heal.)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Yoga in the Mirror

I think I have taken yoga out of the "diet mentality" zone.

A few months ago in therapy, we talked about exercise and how sometimes at the same time as breaking free from the diet mentality, people will give up exercise.  For me it had been placed in the "supposed to" category.  Not good.  When you take diet mentality to the extreme I did and it becomes a way of life to restrict, fail, binge, and mentally deride yourself into shame over and over again, it makes sense.  I struggled with exercise in the same way as food.  In the same way that I knew I should be dieting, I knew I should be exercising because it's good for you.     Yet the instruction from my therapist was to move in actions and ways that feel good.  The directive was to find joy in movement.

I have been feeling a little more called to the mat lately.  I have been going to yoga because my body was calling me too!   I started by just getting on the floor at home and holding positions.  I worked up to a 15 minute DVD at home on occasion but this is the ugly process, I would deride myself and think,  "It's just 15 minutes, that's nothing, you should be doing more."

It takes a long time to stop that voice.  

When I do go to yoga, there are mirrors at the Y in the exercise room.  (I think yoga classes should not have mirrors but this is gym and not a yoga studio. )  As I have been contorted in positions instead of standing up straight, I see flesh in my middle area that I would not rather see and was actually shocked by my appearance in the beginning.  I work very hard to find clothes that do not cling to my body.  I think I have some form of body dysmorphia because the image in the mirror does not match with what I feel or think in my head.  I have been looking at this mirror at this Y in this way for a couple of years.  On Friday, I looked in the mirror and felt disappointed.  I thought I really need to shake this up.  I closed my eyes and FELT MY BODY.  I thought to myself, this exertion feels SO good. I feel the strength of my arms as it holds up my body.  As I confidently and smoothly flowed from pose to pose, I thought this feels good.  (Well, smoothly on most of the poses!) And then I opened my eyes again and thought this body with it's extra flesh IS DOING THIS.

This was just a moment but it was a beginning.  I need to consciously repeat this thought process.

I am beginning to understand how much work my body does for me but all I do is criticize it for it's appearance and compare it to others.

I think in that one moment of appreciation, I was practicing body self acceptance.  I hope to build on that.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Do You Sit Cross Legged During The Week?

I watched Deepak Chopra on Super Soul Sunday.  I have so many ahas from watching that particular show.  It is simply splendid.  The topic was meditation. Now this is the deal,  I don't sit cross legged and specifically meditate for a period of time each day. Yet  I have thought a few times over the last few years, I've got that covered.  I'm not going to worry that I'm lacking in this area.  

I just had intuition...

This was some of Deepak and Oprah's discussion:  
Meditation is in every spiritual tradition: “Be still and no that I am”
Centering Prayer - is in Christianity - especially with the Benedictine Monks (We have had classes at my Methodist church!)
There are breathing meditations, body awareness meditations, variations of mantra meditations.  (I'm learning that so much is about what we hold in the body - the body which we ignore!)

What is meditation: a "Simple Mental technique to go to the source of thought"  
Also Dr. Chopra said that prayer is us speaking to God, meditation is allowing the Spirit to speak to us - yet it speaks in silence and manifests in intuition, inspiration.    (In spirit,-enthusiasm.)  

Oh my, I get this!  Being in that place when you are open to God coming through - is when you listen to intuition, are creative, see beauty and so many other open hearted actions.

And then the kicker.  Oprah brings up Eckhart Tolle and living in the present moment.   Deepak says being ”In present Moment” which is Mindfulness - has same affect as meditation!!    The consequences of living mindfully are make conscious choices, and changing your life.  

It is simply amazing to have thoughts in your head, and then without warning, an author or an expert, says exactly what your thoughts have been and there is confirmation of a belief.  I wanted to jump up and down and do the happy dance.

A funny side note:  Running into people and they ask what I have been up to.  I am speechless to say what my mission has truly been.  Can I say that I have made it my mission to know myself, to be more spiritual.  How do you describe the above fantastic life lesson without sounding like a loon.  The seed is now planted to answer it truthfully.

Recently a new friend used the words "new ageish"  and I remembered that I haven't thought those words in a long time.  I guess that means I have crossed to the other side!  {grin}  

"You don't know you are there, until you are there"

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Saint or Sinner?

On an episode of Super Soul Sunday, Oprah interviewed Iyanla Van Zant.  She acts as a healer yet with a completely different style than I was taught in graduate school.  She is actually a trained lawyer and not a therapist.  She calls and "thing" a "thing" and is quite enthralling but in my day the client would have run away, but this is TV.   I loved this physical demonstration of giving things over to God. It struck such a chord in me.  This first picture is how most people feel when they are told to give it all up to God.  This is a position of fear and shame.  You are a sinner, and you must do better.

This photo represents as it should be. "I give myself over to you God, take me I am yours, I greet you with excitement and LOVE!"

Wow, what an amazing difference.

With baby steps, I am turning towards this welcoming pose of God.  Baggage is being removed slowly and surely as I see and feel the light, and the love. And the shame is receding.

Recently in a book study with our new pastor at my church, the chapter suggests that instead of calling ourselves sinners, we should follow the mantra, "I am a Saint."  There were some who spoke up immediately and were tripped up because they do not want to give up the sin label.  I fully embraced the notion of being a saint at first.  I was enthralled by it so much that I sent a long email to the pastor which I would never have done in the past.  But a few days into the week, that way of thinking fell to the wayside.  I forgot.

It takes a long time to rewire the thinking process.  I see it happening bit by bit and I celebrate when it happens.  There was a great quote that said "You don't know you are there until you ARE there."  One day I will feel more like a saint than a sinner and on that day I will call it a "thing" because it will feel monumental.

I think I will post a note on my dashboard and mirror to remind myself of my sainthood daily.  I think it will help to have that in my face reminder.  We will see.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Nurturance and Christmas...

On the first weekend of December this is how it went down: Friday night holiday open house, Saturday Morning Breakfast with Santa, Saturday night Sunday School Christmas Party, Sunday morning Advent lesson with meaningful meditation, Sunday night Monthly Covenant Group, Book Study Group AND delightful Hanging of the Greens service with Children's singing.

Yes, the Christmas season has started off with a bang.  I cannot keep this pace up.  I wanted to do each and every function yet I was exhausted.  During the whole weekend, I kept thinking I can't do this.  I can't keep up.  But if I tell myself this, my mind will struggle and work against me the whole time.   This much I have learned.  What you tell yourself, you believe.

So Saturday, when I started raising my voice with Mallory, I knew it was time to cocoon, and I did. I took to the bed and rested.  And still hanging over all of social time was: laundry, present buying, travel arrangements, and Christmas cards that are sitting in boxes.

As we were leaving church Sunday morning, I had a headache brewing, my throat hurt and again, I knew I needed to rest before the evening's functions, which I did.  That rest was going to keep me sane.

This was and is taking care of myself.    And then... George came in to complain about a task,  I didn't "complete."  In that moment,





and I expressed that vehemently.

Now, any number of gurus whom I have learned brilliant ideas from would say, "Do you want to engage in this disagreement in this moment?"  Perhaps George was saying his truth which I turned in my exhausted state into my faulty thought processes which are:  I'm not good enough and I can't keep up and doesn't everyone else handle this better than I do?  

With my new thought processing, what I could have done was lean back,  listen and acknowledge because what he was complaining about was something I agreed with but it was not going to happen in his time frame.

What I really really wanted and needed was some empathy and understanding.  What I heard was criticism and judgement.  As I come to know myself and have greater awareness is what I have missed most is nurturance.  My biggest lesson is that I HAVE TO GIVE IT TO MYSELF.  No one else can do it for me.  There are persons who are evolved and in that place themselves to give of themselves, but I don't know any of those people.  Ha Ha!!  AND importantly,  I would have to ask for it in clear language.

So today as I clean up the house, do laundry, work on the multitude of Christmas tasks, I have taken the time to sit down to write because I have missed it.  My last blog was November 18th - way too long ago. Writing is nurturing for me, and being creative energizes me.

So what have I learned?  Will I lean back and acknowledge the next time I am given critique?   I don't know.  I don't have to be perfect all the time, yet now there is the option to consider acknowledging what is being said and then asking for what I truly need in that moment as well.  And if it can't be given, I can still give it to myself.

Communication is so critical to relationships.  Yet it is so fundamentally hard to do with the right timing, tact and tone.  I am willing to try though.

May you be able to nurture yourself in whatever manner restores your soul during this hectic time of the holidays.