Losing my way

I lost my way this week.  I mired down in negative thinking and worries.  Suddenly, everything was about me.  My son’s divorce and my grandson who is now living at a distance from me.  My worries about the success — or lack of — with our business.  My feelings of helplessness and concern.  The world revolved around me and my problems.

This happens to me on occasion.  The ability to transcend it, grow beyond it, wake up and smell the roses, depends on my own desire to focus on the positive.  How much do I want to change my perspective?

I reached out to a few people.  Shared my feelings of fear and worry.  Thought and wrote of my feelings of over-achievement and the pressure I put on me to do that.  I received some wonderful responses.  And that makes me realize that I’ve developed some very strong relationships.

Going to the well to get emotional support means that you have established a well, dug it, maintained it.  I have been digging this well consciously for a few years.  I have worked to make others know how important they are to me, with written notes, emails, phone conversations, cards.  I have tried with awareness to be there for the people I care about.  It gave me back tons of support this week.  I am so grateful for that and the willingness on my side to reach out for others.

I am not immune to depression.  This week I felt smothered.  But those who I’ve cared about let me know they also cared for me.  That is a great gift, and I’m exceedingly thankful for the reciprocity that is involved in such relationships.

My oldest son suffers from borderline personality disorder.  He isn’t the first, and will not be the last.  I’ve done what I can to support him, but frankly, my efforts will now go toward my grandson, whom he appears to have abandoned.  That is an early and scary analysis, and I so hope I’m wrong.  Sometimes I do want so badly to be wrong.  My grandson will not be the first to survive the divorce of his parents.  I plan for him to do this knowing how much I love and support him.  That will take energy.

I lost my confidence in my ability to teach.  But I was reminded by a call from a guidance counselor of how much I care.  I’m ready to get back in the saddle, and make some demands as well as encouraging responses.  Confidence will return.

If you lose your way, it’s okay.  Maybe it is a test.  To see if you are paying attention to the path.  Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention, and maybe I was paying too much.  Look for that light at the end of the tunnel.  It isn’t always an approaching train.  I am paying better attention now.  And it isn’t all about me.


Forgiveness or resentment?

This struck me strongly this morning.  I would write it in my own words, but this is so good, I’m simply copying and giving credit.

 Paula Bloom Psy.D.

Paula Bloom Psy.D.’s Bio

Colombia is a country with frequent kidnappings, often with tragic results.

Such was the case of a father who reported his 11-month-old son kidnapped, then joined in the frantic search for his missing child. The outcome was terrible: The child was found to have been killed by his own father.

While Colombia’s citizens are fairly jaded regarding crime, even they were outraged by this latest incident after it was revealed the father had some involvement in the kidnapping. In a country without the death penalty – or even life sentences in prison – citizens were now demanding both. Colombia’s president even spoke publicly about his anger regarding the crime.

A Colombian radio producer contacted me after seeing a television interview I had done on forgiveness. How could people handle their powerful feelings of anger and resentment? he asked.

During the interview, I struggled to balance the importance of acknowledging your feelings of anger and indignation, yet not “staying” in them. But I felt the host was confrontational, suggesting I was providing “Pollyanna” advice.

Of course the events were horrible, I responded. Of course this father should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Of course people are outraged, I said.

But behind the outrage, I pointed out, is typically a sense of fear, a sense of powerlessness.

Anger is not really a primary emotion. It can be what is “easiest” to express. What is often under that anger is fear. By acknowledging your fear, you get to the root of your feelings.

The reason I shared the story about the Colombian kidnapping is that one of the key things to remember about anger is that many people see it as a great motivator. If you forgive for a transgression – such as the murder of a child or perhaps hurtful words – then does that mean you will forget what happened? Absolutely not.

At the same time, I think people often are reluctant to forgive because they somehow feel that if they forgive, then they are excusing the bad behavior. It’s as if we’re saying that by forgiving someone, it justifies what that person did. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Resentment is like drinking poison – and expecting the other person to die. The only one who is made sick is the one harboring the resentment.

Of course, it’s often easy to let go of minor resentments such as when your mother-in-law asks for the third time: “Are you sure the baby is warm enough?” It’s annoying, but you just mumble to yourself and move on. But what happens when something much more terrible happens in your life? Will you be able to move on?

Resentment and anger are not only toxic, but often intoxicating. Anger can sometimes act as an antidote to feeling powerless: You can feel really powerful when you are indignant. But, like many drugs, the feeling is artificial and fleeting.

Forgiveness is really a choice we make. If we wait for the feeling to fill our hearts, inspiring us to forgive, we could spend our lives waiting. It is a decision – a conscious decision. While we don’t have control over events that occurred in the past, we have some say over what role those events play in our present. You may find that you may not necessarily feel immediately better after you forgive, but as with many things in life, action often precedes motivation

When I work with people who are depressed, I tell them that if they wait until they “feel” like doing fun things, they may wait a very long time. People with depression are notoriously bad at predicting how fun something might be and make decisions based on inaccurate assumptions. For example, if I ask a depressed patient who used to enjoy stamp collecting how much, on a scale of one to 10, they might enjoy an upcoming stamp collecting convention, they may say, “three.” But if they actually attend the convention, they inevitably tell me it was so much better than expected – a “seven.”

It is the same way with resentment. As you read this you may be thinking, “There is no way I am going to forgive the SOB who did that to me.” I understand that you may not be able to imagine how good it might feel, but can you take the leap of faith that it might feel great?

Remember: Your mind is like a magnifying glass. Whatever you focus on will expand. Do you want to focus on resentment, or forgiveness? Which one, do you believe, will ultimately make you feel (and live) better?


What makes you feel sexy?

Feeling sexy is an attitude.  It is not about being the thinnest, or the most well dressed.  It is not about exercising 8 times a week, nor is it about knowing the most relevant news.  Feeling sexy comes from inside.

A close girlfriend of mine considered herself quite heavy at one point in her life.  Looking back at pictures, I can see that she was overweight.  Perhaps by 20 or 25 lbs.  She set on a course of about 2 years to lose weight.  And she did it.  Mostly through exercise (aerobics).  I believe she modified her eating habits which in her case likely meant that she didn’t eat.  Not a good way to do it.  But she got rid of the weight.  In the meantime, she has had a few nips and tucks.  She has worked hard and spent a few bucks to get where she is.  And now she says she felt sexier before all of this, when she was heavy.

What makes that happen?  Why try so hard if that is your true goal – to feel sexy – and then find that the total focus on getting there has ruined the destination?

Being sexy is an attitude.  It is personal confidence in yourself, walking with your head high, meeting other eyes with your eyes, taking the initiative to reach out and talk to others.  Being sexy means you are not focused on yourself.  Some  might equate sexy to being “hot” – you’re wearing the “look at me” clothes of low necklines and tight pants.  If you can pull that off, thats great.  But the feeling of confidence and intelligence that exudes from a woman – or man – who knows what she is good at will attract other similar minded people.

When I was single, I had to come to terms with the fact that if I was on a girls night out with a “hot” girlfriend, the men looking for “hot” would gravitate towards her.  Initially, I tried to compete, to attract one of those men that were so intensely interested in my hot gf, but I discovered that like attracts like, and I wasn’t interested in men who only wanted a package.  I wanted a good discussion, a debate if possible, but strong communication.

I won’t deny that it helps to have on fashionable and well fitting clothes, but I will opt for comfortable jeans and a nice top any day of the week.  And having suffered through foot surgery a year ago, I laugh at the “stripper” shoes that I see stars and even local women tottering around on as if this alone will make them sexy.  No way.  I will find attractive and fun shoes that create comments, but I’m done hurting myself.

Being sexy is an attitude.  It is possible to fake it til you make it, but you must be consistent with it, and think about what works for you.  If you are in the process of getting in shape, remember that a smile goes a very long way towards this attitude.  Interest in others works well too.  Don’t be a slave to thinking that sexy comes in only one size.