Monday, May 30, 2011

Victims of Victims

My parents were here this past week from out of state.  They weren't technically here for a visit even though that was a side benefit.  My mom was here for surgery to remove a tumor that was found on her parathyroid.  She had been suffering for probably over 20 years from this tumor.  Doctors had been diagnosing her with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Addison's Disease and more.  But finally, the true diagnosis was found when they found the tumor.  Not many surgeons do this particular surgery so that is why they were here in the Seattle area.

I bring all this up because as my parents were here, I remembered how much I enjoy their company.  I have been in therapy for over three years now and I have been working through a difficult part of my life when I was 11-15 give or take some years.  During that time of my life it was also a very difficult time for my mom.  As I work on these unresolved emotions I tend to focus on how my mom was during that period and forget how she was before and after.  She is a wonderful person, very caring, knowledgeable and a great listener.  She has a tender heart and desire to be there for her children.  It is just that during this period in time, she couldn't even be there for herself let alone all of us kids.

Having my parents here was a great reminder to me of who they really are, I actually forgot how much my dad loves to tell funny stories and crack jokes to everyone, even strangers.  It is important to remember that no matter what other's have done to us in our lives (and here I'm talking about parents in particular) that they are just human beings.  One of the books that my therapist gave me to read awhile ago, Addiction to Perfection, by Marion Woodman, had this wonderful quote:

I stress here that this book is not a condemnation of mothers - or fathers.  It is about recognizing the enemy and giving it a name in order to deal creatively with it, of course, children have to recognize negative as well as positive feelings toward their parents, but most of us, at some point in analysis, realize that our parents were in a worse situation that we.  Many of them knew they were trapped, but they had no means of finding a way out.  The sins of one generation are visited on the next; that is the human situation, and to the extent that parents are unconscious, their children suffer.  It is the task of mature individuals to differentiate infantile images from the actual parents, to differentiate what was wholesome in their heritage from what was destructive, and to forgive.

In my mind as a child I had determined that my parents were helpless and there was were my co-dependency was born.  Maybe for a few years, my mom in particular, really needed help, but I realize now that they were not helpless.  When they were here I worried that they could get around Seattle okay, and I really had to push the co-dependency aside and remember who they really are, what they have accomplished in their lives and then let them go on their own.  It really was like letting my own children go out into the world.  But as they returned successfully from their trip it really was an awakening moment for me.  They are not helpless, I don't need to do everything for them, I don't need to do co-dependent things for them.

I remember reading a book (I believe the goal was to think more lovingly about your parents) and it suggested to think of them as really small and visually put them in your heart.  My problem was that I had always done that.  I needed to do the reverse, I needed to visualize them as the capable adults that they are and remove the image of small and helpless.  Having my parents here, going through the traveling back and forth into the craziness of downtown Seattle for tests and then the surgery while I waited here at home helped me to see the capable adults.  It was an amazing thing for my mom to have this healing surgery and amazing for me to have this healing moment and to realize I don't need to be co-dependent with them.

Years ago I was reading You Can Heal Yourself by Louise Hays and in there she said that we are all just "victims of victims."  I often think of that line as I am working through my past emotions.  My mom didn't fall apart on purpose so that I would have all these issues.  She had problems of her own that were too great for her and she didn't know how to get help.  And me, well, I hid my hurt and emotions deep inside, so much so, that I didn't even recognize they were there.  But when they started coming out, I'm so grateful I was guided to the help I needed.  I hope as my children are learning along with me, that they too will realize that we are all just victims of victims.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Spiritual Living - Record and Report

I know, "Record and Report" doesn't sound very spiritual, but I promise it is.  I've started reading "Preach My Gospel" which is a guide to missionary service that all missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints use for their training.  As my son is currently on his mission and working through this book, I decided to do so as well.  I jumped ahead to Section 8 "Use Time Wisely" because I felt like I need to work on this area in my life. 

In this section it goes through a missionary's paper work (specifically the "Area Book" which they leave behind when they are transferred so that the next missionary knows what has been going on in that area).  This is where I read "record and report."  At first I could see how important this is for the missionaries, especially to pass on information one to another, but didn't think that it had much application for me.  Then as I went on in the Section they start talking about goals.  Goals are always hard for me because I make them, then I forget about them, or just get lazy and stop doing them.  But when the missionaries make a goal, they record it and report it to their companion and their mission leaders.  It can't be ignored when so many others are involved in the process.

Elder M. Russel Ballard is quoted in "Preach My Gospel" on page 146 saying this:  "I am so thoroughly convinced that if we don't set goals in our life and learn how to master the techniques of living to reach our goals, we can reach a ripe old age and look back on our life only to see that we reached but a small part of our full potential.  When one learns to master the principles of setting a goal, he will then be able to make a great difference in the results he attains in this life."

One of my goals for years has been to lose weight.  Lately, my daughter also has been wanting to be more fit and lose some weight.  My problem is I always make my goal, start keeping track of my food and exercise, then forget, give up, get lazy, etc.  So I was praying about it a few days ago asking for guidance and direction on this area in both of our lives and the answer that came to me was "record and report."

I have a great program on my computer called "Fit Day" where I can log all my food and activities into it to keep track of my progress.  I have had this program for several years and I have noticed that as I am recording I lose weight.  Then as I stop recording my weight goes up again.  When I noticed this pattern I realized that there is a purpose to recording.  It keeps me focused and moving forward on my goal.

What about spiritual goals?  In "Preach My Gospel" again on page 146 it says the following:

"Carefully considered goals will give you clear direction and will hep you fill your days with activities that help people strengthen their faith in the Savior and progress toward baptism, confirmation, and full activity in the Church.  Challenging goals will help you work effectively and lead you to stretch and grow.  Follow the guidelines below as you set goals:  follow the Spirit; focus on the key indicators [these are the specifics to record for me it would be current weight or bore my testimony, etc.]; focus on people . . . ; be specific and realistic, but set goals that will make you stretch; set weekly and daily goals; set goals for personal . . . study . . . ; measure your progress each day, each week and after each six-week period.  When you fall short of a goal, evaluate your efforts and seek for ways to accomplish the goal.  If needed, adjust your expectations."

The recording and reporting doesn't stop, it is a continual process, a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly process.  If I want to accomplish something, I need to keep it fresh in my mind and to do that I need to consistently record and report.  For one of my spiritual goals, I have wanted to focus and write more on spiritual matters in my life.  My way of recording and reporting is the Spiritual Living aspect of this blog.  I believe as I make my goals and determine ways to record and report them I'll be more successful in my goals and life.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Breathe Strategy - Recuperation

I think I may have mentioned before that the first time I heard the word "recuperation" as something that I needed to do for myself it was a completely foreign word to me.  Not to mention that it is a requirement for our bodies to function properly in the whole cycle of our lives (see blog entry Circles & Triangles).  I had understood that we needed to rest, such as getting enough sleep at night (which I didn't do for a long time and still struggle with), not burning the candle at both ends (which I always did) and rest on the Sabbath day (which I always do, it is the only time I have always allowed myself to rest).  But as for actual "recuperation" I just didn't realize how much our bodies need it.

I looked up recuperation in the dictionary and this is what it says:


[ri-koo-puh-reyt, -kyoo-] verb -at·ed, -at·ing.
–verb (used without object)
1. to recover from sickness or exhaustion; regain health or strength.
2. to recover from financial loss.
–verb (used with object)
3. to restore to health, vigor, etc.
1535–45; < Latin recuperātus  (past participle of recuperāre,  variant of reciperāre  to recover), equivalent to re- re- + -ciper-,  combining form of *caper-  (obscure derivative of capere  to take) + -ātus -ate1

re·cu·per·a·tion, noun
non·re·cu·per·a·tion, noun
un·re·cu·per·at·ed, adjective
1.  heal, mend.

This last Friday I was having what I have been calling a "down" day.  When my husband got home from work and I was telling him about it, he asked me to describe how I was feeling that day.  As I thought about how to describe what I was feeling, I realized I wasn't "down" (which I usually mean depressed) I was "recuperating."  When I am feeling down, I feel low in my emotions, I have no desire to do anything, I feel sad, but don't know why and so on.  But Friday I was just exhausted, I slept a lot, and the thought of my To Do list didn't even enter my head (not much entered my head) which is usually my main concern every day, even on "down" days.  I suddenly could see the difference, I wasn't feeling down and low, I was recuperating.  I had spent all my energy during the previous days and I was just drained and needed to recharge. 

Allowing myself to recuperate has been difficult in the past or generally non-existent.  But now that I am fully aware of how I actually feel when my body needs to recuperate (being aware is definitely a first step) I can understand more of what is going on with myself.  I would generally berate myself for one of these days thinking I am being lazy, but now I understand I need these days to sort of reboot myself and then I will be ready to go again (which I was the next day - I did tons of yard work).  I now understand how I feel physically and mentally when my body needs some recuperation time and I will listen to that message and allow myself that time.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Breathe Strategy - Be Gentle to Myself

As long as I can remember, I have been very hard on myself.  In the past I expected myself to be perfect, to have a perfect life and to do everything perfect. I would be so upset with the littlest mistake.  I remember one day how hard I was on myself when I got home from the store and realized I had bought the wrong mascara. I was so upset, how could I have done something so stupid.  I continued to cry and berate myself, just as an abusive adult would yell at a child for something minor.  I didn't realize until now how abusive I have been to myself, not just in this situation, but in so many more through my life.

I think by following last week's strategy of getting out of my head (see blog entry "Breathe Strategy - Getting out of my Head), it made a big difference in how I treated myself and how I feel.  I'm definitely more relaxed.  I even feel like I am getting more done, but not feeling like I'm "doing" all day.  One thing that has been helpful this past week, is that I started using a planner again.  I love planners, but quit for some reason (probably because my expectations were too high).  Anyway, using a planner helps get everything out of my head and visually see things that need to be done.  I used to try to get everything done, and I mean everything, on my list for the day.  But this past week, I've been more realistic, I review what is on my list several times a day, pick what I feel like doing, move things to different days, and add and delete things as I feel necessary.  I'm being more gentle with myself and my expectations.

In was about a year and a half ago that I was in a group therapy session where one of the other ladies mentioned that one of her best techniques to improving her life was to "be kind to herself."  I don't think I had even thought about how I treat myself, I knew I had been ignoring my needs because of the co-dependency, but I hadn't thought about actually being kind to myself.  I have since read about talking kindly to yourself in the mirror (which was really hard for me to do at first) and other ideas for being gentle with yourself.  This quote is one that I really like from Beyond Co-Dependency by Melodie Beattie:

In the morning and through out our day, we lovingly and gently ask ourselves what we can do to take care of ourselves that would feel good.  We ask ourselves what we need to do to take of ourselves.  When we hurt, we ask what would help us feel better.  We give ourselves encouragement and support.  We tell ourselves we can do it good enough, and things will work out.  When we make a mistake, we tell ourselves that's ok.  We wait a moment, until we get our balance back, and then we ask ourselves if there's something we can learn from our mistake, or if there's some way we can improve our conduct in the future, or if there's an amend we need to make.  We tell ourselves we're great and we're special.  We tell ourselves we'll always be there for us.  We make ourselves do what we wish someone else would have done for us.

I love the "we lovingly and gently ask ourselves" part of this quote.  It doesn't say "we yell at ourself," "we berate ourself" or any other mean thing.  I look back now and think about how silly I was for being so hard on myself for getting the wrong mascara.  It wasn't a big deal, but my expectations were.  Being gentle to myself means giving myself a break when I make a mistake, speaking kind words to myself, listening to myself, doing for myself what I hope someone will do for me and so much more.  It is time to trade in my expectations of perfection for expectations of kindness, gentleness and love for myself.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Spiritual Living - The Needful Thing

Last Sunday in one of our classes we were talking about Mary and Martha and the story in Luke 10:38-42.  I've always understood Martha being "cumbered" about with much serving.  I have always felt sorry for her, there she is doing all the work while Mary is just sitting there and listening to Jesus talk while she does all the work by herself.  I have felt the unfairness and completely understood why she asked Jesus to have Mary help her.  But I also saw Jesus' point when he says to Martha that "Mary hath chosen that good part" because it was an opportunity to hear the Jesus' words. 

I am a "Martha," I always have been.  I understand now that that is part of co-dependency, you just do what needs to be done without really looking to see if there is a more "needful thing" that should be done instead.  Someone in our lesson (I think it was KH) said something about the "needful thing" may have been that what Jesus was saying was something that Martha needed to hear. 

I have always seen in the story how Mary was listening and just figured that Jesus meant that Martha should be listening too.  But this comment brought out a whole new idea for me.  It was more than just listening to Jesus, He was saying that the "needful thing" was that Martha needed to learn to stop "serving" for a minute and just listen to Jesus' words for her own personal growth and well-being.  He is saying that there is a time and place for serving and a time and place to stop and listen.

How often in my life I have been the one "cumbered about much serving" paying far too much attention to everyone and everything else around me that I haven't paid attention to myself.  How often I wonder now was it "needful" for me to stop and listen, listen for the words of the Spirit telling me the things that I needed to hear.  How often I forget that all of us, including myself, need a quiet moment to listen for answers to prayers.  We don't always have to be doing, doing and doing. 

I learned a new lesson from the story of Mary and Martha, its not just about Mary choosing the good part, it is also about Martha learning to slow down and do the needful thing for herself.  And I, in turn, need to do the same.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Breathe Strategy - Getting Out My Head

I'm having a huge problem right now of running through all the things I would like to do and need to do around and around in my head to the point where I can't seem to even make a decision.  I think about doing things one way, then later I think that that won't work so I think of doing it another way and on and on I go. 

This morning I was thinking about what it is that I really need to do for myself this week.  I kept asking myself what Breathe Strategy do I need the most.  I was praying for guidance and decided to just start working on my blog and see if I could come up with anything. 

I have some quotes sitting in my blog drafts waiting for the right time to become an actual blog entry and today the one below caught my eye.  I read it a few times and then it hit me, I am living in my head.  I'm trying to make all my decisions and schedule in my head instead of just living my life and letting myself move forward on what feels right at the moment.  I remember reading this quote a really long time ago, but had forgotten about it and here it is again, just when I need it:

I believe that femininity is taking responsibility for our bodies, so that the body becomes the tangible expression of the spirit within.  For those of us who have lived life in the head, this is a long, difficult and agonizing process, because in attempting to release our muscles, we also release the pent-up fear and rage and grief that has been buried there, probably since or before birth.  Within ourselves we find a stricken animal almost dead from starvation and mistreatment.  Because it has been punished so long, it acts at first like a wild neurotic creature that hasn't known love.  But gradually it becomes our friend, and because it understands the instincts better than we, it becomes our guide to a natural, spiritual way of life.  Addiction to Perfection by Marion Woodman

I think I am living in my head because I don't feel like I am in control of my life.  But reading this again today made me realize that the only real way to control my life is to just start living in it.  Instead of worrying every day what my schedule should be, when should I do everything and what should I do I need to just start moving.

I have a wonderful group of ladies that come create with me in my scrapbook room and one of them was telling me a story about her granddaughter, I hope she doesn't mind if I share.  Her granddaughter  (I believe she around 7 or so) had gotten hurt and needed stitches.  To get through that experience she told her mom that she just pushed her thoughts out of her head.  How I envy that little girl, what a great ability to have at such a young age.  Here I am so much older and so stuck in my head it is ridiculous.  But just because I can't do it naturally, doesn't mean it isn't a skill that I can acquire, I just need to work on it.

I have been doing my Basket A items (see Blog entry Basketful of Gifts) because they are the things that keep me sane.  Now I realize that the items in Basket B and C have been just spinning around in my head, some getting done and others just keep spinning around and around.  I think it is time to get them out of my head. 

I love lists, I don't know why, I'm just a list person.  I need to write down all the things running around in my head and then after I have accomplished my Basket A items, I can then just pick an item from my list purely based on how I feel at that moment.  I'm going to try and push away the thoughts about what I should be doing next, how best to be doing things, and just pick based on what feels right at that moment.

I know this will be a challenge for me as I have been living in my head for a really long time, but I really feel like my prayer was answered and this is what I really need this week.  It is definitely time to get out of my head and get into life!