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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving with Gratitude


I have a request. If you don't do it, nothing bad will happen. They are just suggestions, things that have worked beautifully for me in my own life. If you don't, my feelings won't be hurt, no tragedy will occur, you won't be cursed.



1. Do what is suggested in the video -- write a paragraph or two (or more) about someone who has inspired you. Then, call them and read it to them, or mail it to them, or post it as your status and tag them in it. If that person is gone, read it to someone who knew them or write a tribute to them and post it on Twitter. Be creative.

2. Please make yourself a gratitude list today. Write it down, somewhere big and clear. Then, put it somewhere where you will look at it every single day, several times a on a post-it note on your laptop screen, refrigerator door, or in your wallet. (I usually put the post-it on my cell phone screen so I have to look at it and move it every time my cell beeps.) PLEASE take it with you if you go shopping this weekend. 

3. Smile at every person you meet for the week. Say hello.

4. Look for the opportunity to help people with no benefit to you. Yes, I said that. If at all possible, the helping should be anonymous. Don't tell anyone. No one should know that you've done something nice for someone else but you. Donate some clothing to a Planet Aid box. Buy the coffee of the person behind you in line. Take some blankets to an area you know the homeless congregate. Send a gift card with a gift receipt to someone you know is struggling.

Whenever I do this, I'm smiling all day.

This morning, I woke up to find that my unruly dogs had eaten the entire loaf of homemade bread that I spent 3 hours making, last night. Am I disappointed? Yes. But, before that happened, I woke up in the arms of the same man that I've been with for 26 years, warm in a bed with blankets in a house with enough heat. After that, I made coffee that is hot & fragrant. I sipped that coffee while watching this video. I read dozens of Facebook posts from friends & family who are counting their blessings & wishing well to others.

My life is rich. Blessed be you all.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Those Little Moments

This is the first Saturday in a long time that I've had the luxury of sitting for a bit with my coffee, catching up on Facebook, and reading the news. I work Monday through Friday, and for the recent month, long 13 and 14 hour days. I'm not complaining. I love my job, but it does make the weekends quite busy. Usually, my Saturday errands began before 7 am and end late afternoon. By then, I have home chores, and a standing Saturday night commitment to get ready for and attend. No more Saturday.

Sunday, I sometimes am committed to my spiritual group. Other times, I try to fit in time with my husband, or another person to whom I owe my presence. I know that sounds a little snippy, or egotistical, but isn't it the truth?

When it comes down to it, the only thing we can truly offer another person is our time, our presence.

And, truth be told, mine is feeling a bit minimal, lately. My schedule will ease up in a few more weeks after registration wanes and the semester ends, term papers are graded and final grades submitted. Until then, I've settled into the understanding that my life will be busy and I'll need to get enough sleep to accommodate the extra and take care of myself in a kind way.

Thank goodness I've come to that!

I used to keep pushing and running and white-knuckling my way through life, burning the candle at both ends with a misguided belief that I'm invincible, immortal, and unbreakable. Huh. WRONG.

Today, I have a a little more respect for my body and its limitations. Its a miraculous thing, but it needs to be loved.

What are you doing to care for yourself, today? I'm savoring my coffee and the small moment of quiet before everyone else stirs, the house gets chaotic, and I have things to do.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

I'm one of those...

Self-knowledge avails me of nothing. Yep. I said it. The human services teacher and professional. Its true, at least in my life. Awareness, alone, does nothing unless it is paired with action. I'm sure some of my colleagues will be jumping up and down, demanding that I retract the statement, but I won't.

I am a person who has difficulty with excess. Sometimes, I explain to people that I am, in fact, a true addict. In other words, if I find any activity pleasurable, I will pursue it to the ends of the earth. I will abuse it. I will make myself sick with it. No, no amount of will power will save me. No amount of singular knowledge will improve my circumstance. I believe, and the newest research seems to confirm, that there is something different about the wiring of the pleasure centers of my brain -- they are overactive, overstimulated, and they create a craving that is undeniable. No, its not about willpower. Its about chemistry, and neurology, and genetics.

You see, I actually come from a very long line of people who are as compulsive and excessive as me. They have wrought havoc in their small parts of the world, pursuing addictions (yes, that is the word for the excessive pursuit of pleasure) to the tune of disjointed families and damaged children. They've destroyed promising careers and businesses, wrecked above average brains, been imprisoned, and died prematurely. Some of them did minimal damage in their compulsive obsessions, creating morbid obesity and concurrent health issues related to that state. Some drank alcohol or smoked pot only at home, devastating the family income and relationships, but doing little damage outside the house. Most took their insanity into their communities, causing a range of injury to self and others.

I'm no different than any of them. In my pursuit of substances, I punished my family for imagined violations of my carefully crafted, anal-retentive plan to make the outside believe that we were the epitome of normalcy. I was cruel to an extent that thoroughly shames me, but hasn't entirely left me. There were jobs and houses lost, careers and educational paths abandoned, cars totaled, and so many more things. My particular brand of pleasure: numbness. Emotions overwhelm me. They can be painful and unpleasant. I don't like unpleasant sensations. Being a hedonist to the extreme, I seek pleasure. My flavors of pleasure vary and include a wide variety of experiences that some may consider painful, but pain brings numbness, too. In fact, all things in excess eventually create numb. Numb is, in my brain, the ultimate pleasure -- the complete absence of sensation. And, I can make it happen via most roads.

You can, in fact, eat until you are numb. I've proven this. I've eaten in a pattern that can be described as nothing short of a frenzy until I was blissfully empty and absent, unaware of my surroundings, or operating in such a foggy state, that my behaviors were automatic and dead. This is the state of oblivion that I desire above all else. And, the roads to this state are so many -- lust, shopping, relationships, exercise, knowledge, exhaustion, reading, fantasy, spirituality, drugs & alcohol. Oh, yes. Positive things, in excess, are not positive anymore. Restricting your diet to the point of starvation is not healthy. Exercising to the point of physical injury is clearly misguided. Reading for days, devoid of sleep or food, is specious at best. Avoiding sleep for any cause for 72 or more hours is unquestionably unsound. Working incessantly, beyond the level of reward or incentive, is truly foolish. But, I am guilty of all of these.

And, it always, always begins with the craving. Something in my brain tells me that I am in a state that is unpleasant -- boredom, anxiety, discomfort, stress -- and that tiny inkling of craving begins. Its like an itch that is in the one place that you cannot reach, cannot describe, and no amount of pretzeling your body makes it accessible.

And, it gnaws at you, like a little mouse in the corner of your belly, or the soft part of your brain. It gnaws. And, it keeps gnawing. It never sleeps. It moves and scurries and stirs and bites, and you bleed. One little mouse begets more little mice. They spread from one end of your body to the next.

Eventually, the hole becomes so large that the pain is intolerable. You can no longer bear the blood loss. You're anemic with it. Your head begins to spin. You're dizzy and unable to focus. You can think of nothing but the pain, the craving. The sensation of panic begins to spread through your nervous system as if you were confronted by a hungry lion.

And, with the panic, comes the shame. You should be able to manage this. You should be stronger. You're throwing all of your hard work away. How dare you squander what you have? Why would you do this, again? And, all the while, the little mice chew and chew and chew and chew until the pressure becomes so unmanageable that you do the thing you know will make it go away.

You do it and do it and do it until bliss comes and goes and emptiness follows. And, there you sit, devoid of any human expression. And, you are happy, for about a moment.

Then, the shame comes, anew. And it spreads. And the little mouse wakes up, where its hidden in its little corner.

And, the whole thing begins again.