Better choices today

Immediately after bleeding my angry rage post yesterday, I was off for a visit with TM (my therapist, for newer readers unaware of my tribe of experts). Even in the midst of my own crazy, I understand when the walls have closed and boxed me in and how I need help getting out of a funk. It was a hard conversation, especially through the blur of angry, raging tears and having to continually blow my nose. As is typically the case of talking stuff over with TM, it was also productive.

The downside is there is still more work to be done in this area. No matter how “done” I feel with the whole series of chapters in my life, it seems there is always an unread page or 10 to go back and thoroughly read, review, digest, turn. Perhaps this is life for everyone. Happily there are huge swathes of the population who have more normal and mentally/emotionally healthy families of origin and cannot comprehend the legacy of my type of crazed and complicated coping mechanisms. I seem to have to tug and unravel something else every, another thread every few years these days.

I am choosing to believe that it says a lot about my evolving maturity that I can report  such things without feeling the old humiliation that my issues are somehow my fault, that I am not handling it more successfully without having to publicly admit my shortcomings and air my dirty laundry. If anything, I am more motivated to sort this shit out and put it away in a neat and orderly manner, kind of Kon Marie tidying of my horrific childhood events. And no matter how much I try to woman up and tell myself it was not as bad as many others endured and survived, it was pretty bad. There is no competition or comparison on who suffered the most when it comes to childhood sexual abuse and assault. To be healthy and the best me I can be means I have to dial direct and deal with it; no avoidance, no raging against the unfairness, no tantrums about not wanting to do it. My choices of action or inaction have their own types of consequences, both are painful and difficult in their own way. From long experience, though, action is more like the sting of ripping off the supersticky bandaid versus delaying the inevitable and peeling it slowly while the wounds fester underneath.

Ewww – so gross to think about.

Today is a better day already. I went to bed early and slept a deep, mostly dreamless sleep and woke up refreshed. The only “nightmare” I had was that it was actually Monday and I had overslept and was going to be late for meeting trainer J at the gym. Except it’s Saturday, not Monday. If that’s the biggest problem I have in my sleeping hours, I am going to be okay.

I was completely on fire and in-focus in my gym practice today. Had some time to chat with J and other members, and while others might have found the extended rest distracting, for me it just made my focus feel sharper and more on-point. TM had an interesting observation yesterday. When I phoned for the appointment on Thursday, my voice mail stated that I really hoped to get in this week because I was having an issue that was disrupting my focus and distracting me in the gym, making me feel like poser member, and thoughts of giving up were starting to creep in while I was already struggling to get through a List. All true. It was not just the recurring rage and anger and pain that dragged me back to his office; it was the fact that it was interfering with my exercise routine. I have worked too hard and come too far in my better health pursuits to be derailed now by old wounds, and I am determined to stay on track with the training no matter what. TM just found is ironic that all the years he encouraged me to get more exercise and I could would not do it, only now to be calling for an urgent care appointment because my head is trying to disrupt my gym time.

Progress has never been described more accurately.

TM and I agreed that a couple more “tune up” appointments are in order. Life is in a state of flux this month with the job changes and recruiting new clients, settling back in with former clients returning, plus accepting more work from existing clients. As far as life issues go, these are good problems to have and I feel very, very fortunate. However, I would be lying if I said there is not some struggle with adjusting to self-regulating my work schedule and mostly being on my own every day. M is around, of course, but with regard to coworkers and that interpersonal interaction, it’s an adjustment. I miss my crew. I miss my role within the firm and working together toward a common goal. While I still feel like a vital component in my clients’ business goals and objectives, it is very different from being a hands-on part of each day after day.

Again, I am very appreciative to have work that continues to support us and keep us moving forward on our financial goals. There is no shame in admitting it is takes some effort to get used to this new normal.

I’m also grateful for this space, where I can download and offload my ugly insides without fear or anxiety of harsh judgment. My intense craving and need to feel safe is a ruling impulse in my life, and if there were a hierarchy of vices and poor choices (thanks trainer J for putting that image in my head), blogging as an exercise in reclaiming power over my own thoughts and emotions is a lot better than self-harm in so many other ways.  Food remains a trigger for me in this state, and thankfully we have purged most of the junky choices I might select and it is far easier to resist the allure of the nearest convenience store. Dill pickles (my latest food obsession) are mild on that harmful scale, as is a peanut butter sandwich I had for dinner last night. At least there were roasted veggies on the plate as well.

TM Tuesday – inside/outside stuff

So I had an appointment with TM this morning. It went well. It was good, even. And I came home in a better/worse sort of shape than when I arrived at his office. Such is life in therapy and exploring uncomfortable stuff. Thing is, I know what was said and discussed are like grass seeds planted and tilled into the soil to take root and sprout later.

But I am having a tough, tough time today and this morning. Part of it may be the early rising – getting up at 4 rather than 4:15 should not make that much of a difference yet for some reason it does. Possibly it’s purely psychological. I got to the gym early, went through the new cable workout, then came home, cleaned up, went to meet with TM.

Therapy is never easy. Sometimes it hurts me all over again, to my roots of my soul, and makes me want to throw up (and sometimes actually racing for the ladies room to actually do so) and withdraw from the world. My base-level thinking is that if I am not part of this world I cannot be harmed or disappoint anyone else in it.

But my life does not work that way. I have a job, a business, a family, friends, and a life that must be lived out there with other people. There was a time when I did not think that far ahead, about what my life beyond and into older age-hood than I am right now. This time last year, there were sleeping pieces of me that was asleep to the idea of actually living more completely than I feared dying.

Things started to change when I began paying more attention to and caring about taking better care of myself, when I began to think there was more out there in the world for me to discover. Little changes led to slightly larger ambitions and objectives.

I admire those who say they do not care what other people think, because I have never been one of them. My mindset is more one of service than being served, yet I am acutely aware of those who take advantage of others and of me. Sometimes I allow it to happen to me. Plus I have this weird dichotomy of not desiring to be recognized for good deeds and yet almost throwing myself in front of the bus when things go wrong, whether I am remotely responsible or not. I have a habit of apologizing when doing nice things.

And what that has to do with anything is a mystery as well.

TM last week said I expect to disappoint people, and it has rankled and bothered me for most of the last 2 weeks. Because of course he is correct in his assessment – I do actually anticipate being a disappointment to others. I so want to shed that … 2 weeks from last Thursday, not days or weeks or months from now.

Today we talked about that a bit further. He used example of the kids’ weddings, apparently quite a flashpoint between many parents and their adult children. Not for me, though; I have always genuinely hoped and strived to raise my kids into independent adults and responsible community members. And I really, Really, REALLY want them to be happy. In truth that’s all I want for everyone I care for and about, for people to be happy and enjoy some measure of peace in their lives.

We discussed parenting a bit in general, and how I no longer qualify my statements about my parenting. I am a good mother; I raised a couple of terrific kids. There are some guilty moments in there, where I made mistakes or did things I truly regret to this day, but those are fewer and farther between. The memory is still there, of course, but it’s further into the background, behind newer memories we make now that we are all adults and relate to each other as such.

TM talked to me about affirmations and homework assignments. We talked about how I have fallen off the wagon again with the affirmations, fallen behind on my homework. When my focus is on building my self-esteem and self-confidence, I am less likely to feel the self-destruct buttons embedded in my mind and with trigger-happy negative girl manning the controls.

More than anything else said, being reminded that I am faltering at my practice sounds the alarms and focuses my attention. Nothing at all worse for me than someone in my village oh-so-gently pointing out that I am not doing my homework in the off time practice.

TM suggests I come up with some set number of affirmations to repeat in my head rather than counting reps when I’m at the gym. Or while brushing my teeth for the 2 minutes my Sonicare runs, and since I brush my teeth at least twice daily that’s not too bad.

There is always discussion about what I am thinking, or not thinking. A lot about feelings, events in my past, scars that still bleed, life skills I never fully developed. If I have learned nothing else in the years of working with TM and other skilled professionals like him, there are ways to cope and techniques to help me be a better, more emotionally healthy version of myself.

The affirmations are not so much affirmations so much as reminders and highlight reel of the good-person qualities and habits I possess. In not too much time (I hope) my brain will be redirected away from its instinctive first, fear/insecurity/anxiety-based responses to any and all situations. It’s kind of a temporary sling until we can work out the kinks of a more permanent solution and heal the break.

Asking for help, feeling deserving of help – so difficult to overcome. Then when I find the right fit coaches to work with me, learning to stuff down that instinctive feeling that they are dumbing down, desperate, or something even worse to deign to work with me.

TM and I have become friends after all these years. Outside his office, we socialize and have fun and laugh uproariously and I feel like his peer. Inside the boundaries of his office, I feel as if I am still some broken puzzle pieces that do not fit. Pieces are missing. Pieces are rotted and smelly and gross. Or the wrong pieces are present.

Or so goes the narrative built into the structural foundation of my brain.

I have been down this pathway before, almost too many trips to count anymore. Each time new chunks are fitted together and glued into place, and the patchwork of empty is made smaller. And every year, sometimes every other year, I grow another vertebrae to face the next rejiggering of my personal puzzle with TM.

It smarts something fierce. No matter how dreadful the dreadful core exercises or the present troubling troubles I am  having with single legged everything, the work with TM is far more challenging. Eating more protein, avoiding sugar, making better choices about carbohydrates and food is hard, but the emotional stuff I am working at every other Tuesday makes me far more capable to stand up to those types of temptations.

I restarted in January, in the midst of a winter frost that had me frozen in place. The weeks and now months have passed and spring is in the air, new grass and new growth is starting to appear. This weekend was a barely a blip in the much bigger picture. My brain’s muscle memory needs more practice, because the new habits I am striving to adopt cannot be learned without consistent practice.

So back to work on my mental game. Improvement happens when I apply myself and work at it … and want it badly enough. And believe me, with all the other objectives I am chasing, I really want this one more than badly enough.

Belief in my sovereign good personhood? I guess digging deep to find the patience and focus to let it happen is printed in invisible ink on every List currently in my possession.

I can and will learn. For me, this is most definitely and ongoing process.

 

What TM really thinks about me

Spoiler alert: He thinks I’m pretty swell. One day I will appreciate just how swell I am, too. Just in case you were curious and did not want to wade through this whole post.

Therapist TM has worked with me for a number of years. Not regularly for probably 8 or 9 years, but I see him once or twice a year just because I like to be reassured that I have not dived down some unknown rabbit hole never be seen again.

This year we’re exploring and working at building my confidence and self-esteem, reducing my insecurity and inability to accept that I am not some ax murderer waiting to happen sort of bad person. Or that was sort of my half-baked plan when we started this; sometimes I am never sure if I am actually asking for what I want or merely accepting what I need from this process. Either way, I have always ended feeling as if I accomplished a lot when we complete a specific project , if not precisely the objective I thought I was seeking. I return for annual tune-ups

So today we talked about lots of incidents and things. We started and ended with the guy on Friday, how I felt, how I reacted, and the why of it all.

TM pointed out how I discounted my own reactions, that in my shock and dismay at this foolish man’s assumptions and actions that I did not react more strongly and instead allowed him to instill doubt and anxiety into my practice and the days after. I cannot disagree with anything he said, because I see clearly where I allowed something so foreign and unexpected to govern my behaviors.

I pointed out that my ability to return to the gym day after day is partly habit and partly conviction that I am mostly invisible while I am there. To have someone speak to me and tell me I am doing something wrong is my worst nightmare come to life, because the only way I can successfully navigate life is to take the clearest version of following the rules.

Because I barely trust myself and my own instincts, I feel undeserving of the basic care and consideration I would give to another person’s dog. Because of this, if challenged about something I think I know, I still fold like a house of cards.

Except this time I didn’t, not really.

Yes, I was greatly bothered by that man’s comments into the weekend. Yes, I was bothered enough to text J about my form and be buoyed by the opinions and pep talks from J, from M, from the rest of my network. But I was not so wigged that I avoided returning to the gym on Saturday or Sunday. Monday I was at training without a peep or attempt to cancel.

I pointed out to TM that I was wigged out, but I was not running for the hills and burning the fields behind me. I also stood up for myself when our paths crossed again yesterday, and the only tiny bit of doubt was calling my bestie to see if I had been rude.

Not that I planned to apologize or anything else if I had been rude.

While I did kind of discount my instincts and reactions, I was shocked, surprised, and kind of appalled that he would say something like that to me in the first place.

But this was so much of a better outcome than what could have happened, would have happened in some prior rendition of me. It might have been weeks or months before I returned to them gym or to training after something like this.

TM agreed. He agreed that I have made progress, good progress. Not just with regard to my health through diet and exercise. I am doing well with building up my own boundaries and strengths against others, and most importantly, trusting myself and my instincts.

I kind of laughed at that one. But in retrospect, he is right. While I was wigged and felt knocked down, I was in the gym on Saturday and on Sunday for practice. I was training with J on Monday morning. I had my doubts about what I was doing, I felt clumsy and awkward in my interactions with other people the last several days, but I was there and I got it done.

This week we are going to work on positive affirmations. Every time I think something negative about myself and whatever I happened to be doing at the time it occurs, I need to find something positive to balance the scales. If I am presently hating on glute bridges, I need to find something positive about glute bridges.

Some assignments are much more challenging than others.

But I’m game for it, because despite my 2 steps forward, 3 steps back approach to improving, I can feel tiny little wings of confidence are growing. I was terrified of the gym and everyone in it when I started. I am still mostly afraid of many, many things therein, but not everything and not everyone.

It took me a long time to become this level of functional and mentally and emotionally healthy. It may take a bit more time to get a little further along the healing path. Progress, incremental, tiny little baby steps forward is still progress.

And I am okay with that.

TM offered today that he’s proud of me, says I try hard and am doing good work. I am making amazing strides. Mostly I believe him, and I know given enough time I will overcome and actually accept that the work I am doing is providing long-term dividends, and I am the one doing the heavy lifting, sometimes literally, to make it happen.

More than that, though, I’m developing the muscles that let me get back up when I fall down or am pushed off balance and back into dark places. Because I never thought I would last this long, through this many go-rounds with therapy for different aspects of old problems. Or with training and going to the gym, day after day after day. Maybe this is why I believe my confidence will be studier and less impacted by a random stranger. Or why I feel certain I will eventually overcome my dislike of glute bridges and core exercises. My persistence muscle has been engaged, worked, and grows stronger through my efforts.

At the end of my day, I think the key to success is and has been stocking and staffing my village, because no way could I ever get this far all on my own.

And I am more than okay with that.

TM and wild west Tuesday ponderings

I should have suspected today might turn wonky when I picked up a 25 lb. dumbbell and a 20 lb. dumbbell this morning for a chest press and just thought my left arm was feeling really weak after 2 days without any dedicated upper body work. No, I am just the idiot who did not notice she picked up 2 different weights. In my defense this has never happened before, so how would I suspect such a thing would feel like that? Spinning it, this was a learning experience and I will know better next time.

Yesterday was all about the gym’s marketing campaign. It’s relentless. This morning I was listening to the promotional messages on gym radio and how they pitch the cost of personal training as comparable to a daily cup of coffee for a month. As a training client, I know what J costs (he is worth every single penny) and understand completely that my sessions are a luxury not everyone can afford. I guess it bothers me that in their advertising the gym is manipulating the numbers to make it sound more affordable. If that were truly the case, either the gym’s marketing people drink richly expensive coffee or they are pushing individual training as a couple of hours per month only.

I know I am not alone in my distaste for marketing and advertising, and I always wish businesses could be more straightforward and honest in promoting their products. But would that trend have any impact on us being more honest with ourselves?

This was part of my theme today for meeting with TM, my therapist. Thus far we have made some progress on improving my overall outlook and my feelings of self worth, and today we somehow got onto the subject of authenticity and how much raw truth anyone can truly take in interpersonal relationships. If ever I am looking for food for thought TM does not disappoint.

From my work as an accountant, I have plenty of experience dealing with people and their money habits. Money tracking is prone to just as much elasticity with reality as calorie counting, in that when left to our own devices and not actively tracking our tendency is to spend more and consume more than we realize. There was a time when I tracked our spending as obsessively as I flat out refuse to track calories now. Of course, with debit cards and credit cards and even cash, the inflow and outflow of money is pretty black and white with little room for subjectivity.

While we were climbing out of debt and for a few years after that I very carefully tracked our spending until such time I was sure we could be trusted not to fall back into the credit card debt trap. It was during those years that I learned about myself and the insidiousness of marketing. Of course, it was also during those years that I did quite a bit of work on my emotional and mental health; I went from insanely insecure about almost everything to just insecure about a significantly shorter list of things. The more comfortable I got with my place in the world and accepting that I was not a waste of space (yes, I actually thought and wrote that about myself regularly), the less inclined I was toward overspending to compensate for my blackhole of shortcomings. The less inclined I was toward overspending, the more I started examining what I was reading, listening to, watching, interacting with. The insidiousness of marketing everywhere I went and everything I came into contact with was pretty astonishing. It was, and is, everywhere.

Parenting magazines suggested my child needed this toy, those books, that sort of expensive education to grow up and into decent human beings. There was advice and admonishments about the ways that I needed to step-up my mothering skills to raise emotionally healthy children. General women’s magazines and self-help books offered solutions for any existing relationship problems and prevention for future issues. There were articles on doing my job better, getting promoted, getting a new job, improving my housekeeping skills, making my marriage more vital and passionate, or affair-proof ourselves. On top of all that, there were all the cautionary tales of what happened when you failed your children, were a bad daughter and did not do more for your aging parents, screwed up your job and future employment prospects, and let us not even talk about all the faltering to failing marriages and the consequences of children of divorce.

I found myself not wanting to read anything resembling current affairs or articles that discussed where I was in the current phase of life. I alternated between being alarmed about the state of my relationships and terrified of what could happen if I did not pay enough attention or could not figure out a way to acquire the needed tools. At the very least, I had to stay current and keep my magazine and newspaper subscriptions going or I would somehow miss out and be left behind.

And all this was before the internet with its 24/7 instant updates on everything imaginable.

I finally stopped reading anything that resembled self-help, advice, or described the pitfalls of parenting, marriage, relationships, life in general. And my kids are fine, both independent adults that are fully-functional and productive members of their communities. Having just celebrating an 18th wedding anniversary and still in love and in a happy marriage, I believe we are bumbling along well enough without the advice of experts or the fear-based cautionary tales. Still employed and thriving, although I am still not an organized and efficient housekeeper or cook. But oh well.

Fashion and beauty magazines – do not even get me started. I actually abandoned all make-up products after a brief, really awful couple of tries in my 20s, because the process of applying it correctly engaged my inner perfectionista and I would never get out of the house on time. I take care of my skin – same Clinique line I have used since I was 19 – but other than that, I am not a big cosmetics consumer. My hair care products, probably my biggest personal splurge, are from the salon where my stylist works and I enjoy the effect on my particular type of hair. For me, it is worth the ridiculous amount of money I spend on a liter of shampoo, conditioner, and tube of hair goo every 6 months or so. If my budget got too skinny to afford such indulgences, I would experiment until I found a replacement. But I am not there yet, and while the frugalistas in my midst might scoff at my spendthrift ways in pursuit of good hair days, so be it.

But every single time I glance at a women’s magazine, I feel inadequate and like a failure on some level. Because I fail to look like the skinny models. Because not using this, that, the other thing makes me less attractive and my marriage vulnerable. Because the workouts prescribed are typically way beyond my current abilities, and when they do not produce the promised results in 30 days I feel like a failure yet again. Because 90% of the food on the recommended diets are things I would barf back up if I tried to eat them.

Because because because.

Because those publications end up making me feel so badly about myself I stopped even looking at the covers when I’m in line at the grocery store. I have no issue making myself feel badly about myself all on my own, thank you very much.

I feel as if I am a realist about who I am, what is possible for me, my body, my life. I do my time at the gym and thus far I am satisfied with my efforts and my results. It’s extremely personal, though. If I wanted something different – bigger, stronger, faster body in X number of weeks or months – I would likely be asking J for more specific make-it-happen type advice and to write programs that would do that for me on a particular timeline. J, in turn, would have to sit me down and be real with about whether or not such changes are even possible for me as well as what else it will take in terms of diet and time in the gym.

It would be such an uncomfortable conversation it gives me the willies just thinking about it.

There is room for improvement in my thinking and self-esteem, so I am exploring my options there with TM. It’s not always easy; he challenges my thinking and assumptions and acceptance of the status quo. But if it were easy everyone would have a healthy outlook and be completely confident. That said, I already notice that I am more assured than I was a few months ago.

From the glitz and gloss I see everywhere else, rarely is anyone that realistic about what it takes for the average person to get as close as they can being the best versions of themselves, whether it is an attempt to achieve to the fitness model body and lovely face/skin/features gracing the covers of fashion and fitness magazines. The dream of turning a plain Jane into a supermodel exists on some level for many, or advertising would be targeting and directing their campaigns in a different way.

And because I am picking on the fitness industry and it marketing machinery, gyms are unlikely to sell memberships if they were brutally honest about how much sweat equity and eating discipline is required to achieve and maintain the thinnest, fittest versions of ourselves. Or to bulk up and get the muscle cuts that may be desired. All those men and women proudly baring their hard-won pretty, muscles and promoting their books, their workouts, their eating plans and promising if you work out like they do, eat like they do, you too can look like them are there to make a profit, not enhance your life out of the goodness of their their hearts. I cannot blame them at all for trying to make an honest buck, and I suppose they are not really lying to us, more like not really explaining all the realities of the differences in body shapes and sizes. But those are things that we as consumers should know about ourselves; we could do our research and make honest assessments based on all the available facts and assumptions used.

For the average person, it is unlikely to happen. Because few are willing to put in the hours of exercise or deny themselves foods they like for extended periods of time to look like the pictures in glossy magazines. But that does not stop marketing machines from churning out reams and reams of pages with advice and assurances that it could happen for you.

It makes me feel kind of ill.

J and I have had many conversations about training and goals and everything in between. I would be a terrible client for a lot of trainers, in my resistance to setting goals and tracking progress and high maintenance quirks. Would any of them say that, though? Would any of them say to me “if you are not willing to follow the program and procedures we set for you to the letter, you will not succeed and will be wasting your money.” Probably not. Of course, the training program and diet may be unhealthy for me, but maybe that is in the fine print no one ever reads. It is truly up to me to do my research for best possible outcomes.

To be fair to the marketing masses, J is unlikely to say that either. Because he is a practical man and has a viable service to sell and he definitely can help guide and create a map for most people to reach their personal fitness goals. I absolutely believe he is smart enough, savvy enough to parse it out in far more diplomatic, kinder and gentler terms than “do it my way or you’re going to fail.”

What does all that have to do with TM and self-esteem? Everything and nothing. I am sensitive to the onslaught of information all around me, much of the time my curious mind is seeking it out whether I am aware of it or not. When I was 10, I told my mother than the newspaper and television reports could not be trusted, that they were not impartial observers and that bias colored their reporting whether they realized it or not. Her bias was that I, her peculiar child who asked too many questions about everything, had no idea what I was talking about. Maybe I did not really know what I was saying, but I had my own evaluation system that said no one should be completely taken at face value or on faith, especially if my instincts said otherwise.

The odd thing about my mother was she had great respect for my instincts about people. If I did not like someone, said she should not hire them, she generally listened. The one time she overrode my pronouncement – a roofer for their home, the lowest bid – turned into a disaster that had to be repaired repeatedly after his firm declared bankruptcy and went under. My reasons for rejecting him? He smelled bad, a combination of sweat and cigars and liquor … and sex.

At 12 I knew more about men and sex than any child ever should. My mother just felt like I was gifted with a sixth sense about people. How I wish that had been completely true.

I know my peculiar sensitivity to the information inflow makes me have to take a break from reading the news and doing little other than reading emails from close friends or looking at cute pet videos. The tragedy and negative press causes anxiety and crankiness and adds a dark and sinister tinge to my worldview.

So in about half our time today, TM and I discussed all that … 2000 words condensed into 25 minutes of a 50 minute conversation. No wonder I feel stressured sometimes.

But then TM asked me about my interpersonal relationships – my friendships, my communications, the people I see and choose to invest time with on a regular basis. Most of that seems fine; none of my friends are currently having drama-trauma that impacts me, a couple are having genuine problems that inspire me to send good ju-ju their way.

That said … my radar for bullshit has been amping up in intensity lately. I cannot quite put my finger on it or what is happening with it, but I have been on higher alert. Anyone who knows me even a brief time knows I prefer that we always be honest with one another, even if it is something I do not want to hear or would prefer not to state out loud unless it truly is necessary or constructive somehow to one or both of us. Whatever our relationship, please just tell me the truth rather than try to spin it to something softer. I am pretty direct much of the time; ask me and more likely than not I will express what I truly think. I am not a mean girl (most of the time) or one who enjoys being deliberately cruel or hurtful, but lying by omission or outright is not my way either.

And as I said my tolerance for bullshit is pretty low under normal circumstances. But the drama – oh my the DRAMA – from what I am reading or following is wearing me down. As our world and many relationships are more and more online based, the level of fake and inauthentic and manufactured drama nearly makes me cynical. And I am among the less jaded of folks I know; I am almost Pollyannaish in my hope for my fellow man.

I cannot really pinpoint what it is that is bothering me, but I sense some inauthenticity in my midst yet no real way to discover it. The only choice is to step back and away, try to discern if this is me being overly saturated in glitz and gloss or if there is genuinely something amiss in my little world.

TM brought this back to me and my sense of self. If learned someone is being inauthentic with me, perhaps ratcheting up the drama in their lives for a greater share of my or other people’s time and attention, what would I do? Gave me pause, because no one likes to be lied to or spun in that way. I said it would likely depend upon how close I felt to the person, how much I care for and about them, but most likely the first step would be to step back and distance myself from the person and the situation. I certainly do not need someone yanking the chain of my emotions for attention.

Would this constitute a violation of trust? To a degree, I suppose; it would depend upon the degree of deceit. But the whole line of discussion started to make me vaguely uncomfortable.

He brought it back to J and to the dietician, since both men are looming large in my reconfiguring my health at the moment. If J blew smoke at me about my present progress and how far I could advance in 3 months, 6 months, however many more months my next re-up of sessions, would I feel more inclined to believe and trust him? My immediate response – would not happen, period; J does not need to fan my ego to get me to re-sign with him for the next block of sessions when it is time. With the dietician, when I submit my food tracking sheet, if he suggests I did in fact omit or outright mislead about my food consumption, would I be inclined to confess (if I had in fact done that) or merely walk away from the relationship? Since I do not lie, I would be inclined walk, because ours is a relatively new relationship and should be at least based on professional benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.

And why would I lie in the first place? This man is there to help me, and the only way he can is for me to be completely honest and transparent in feedback and discussions. If I am telling him on paper that I am eating nothing but steamed broccoli and chicken yet have gained 25 lbs. and have cookie crumbs on my face when we meet, yes, there might be a problem and he should be calling me out. Same with J. If I do not practice between sessions I say so; there is no point in trying to conceal it, because (1) he will know, just by my performance, and (2) it demonstrates lack of respect for his professionalism and should result in loss of credibility. At that point I may as well be reduced to merely cha-ching in their paychecks.

TM points out I would likely never truly understand anyone’s motivation in misleading me, because I myself do not lie about big stuff that matters. I am kind, have a good heart, and would likely indulge in a little white lie if no one was directly harmed by it. But I am unlikely to directly lie to anyone for any reason, because honesty is part of my identity and what I value.

However, if I allow others to mislead and manipulate my emotions for whatever reasons they choose that path, it seems I do not see myself as worthy of the same levels of respect and honesty as I provide. Are they sparing my feelings somehow by being inauthentic? Or are they serving their own needs by inciting my sympathy and compassion? And how do I feel when the inauthentic behavior is exposed and cannot be denied?

And with that our time was concluded, leaving me with lots to think about.

I see where he is going with this – I have been far too tolerant with many in the past until I reach some breaking point and either all sorts of Hell breaks loose and I end up feeling shredded and depressed. Maybe self esteem truly begins with self-respect? Establishing and enforcing boundaries on acceptable behavior toward me?

I always think I do these things, then things blow up in my face and I realize no, I did not, have not. I already see it happening to some small degree with friends about the exercise. What to do about it, however, is another issue to think about, explore, discuss. Oh boy. It is going to be an interesting week of thoughtful perking on our discussions today and my thinking of the last couple of days.

What else shall we talk about today?

This morning, I was pondering all the little things to talk about today. I imagined a short post with the 2, 3, 4 items on my blog agenda for the day, none of which seemed weighty enough for a full post.

That was then, this is now. I’m searching for the light-and-fluffy, but there is a severe cotton candy shortage in my household and M refuses to give in to my whining demands requests that he rectify the situation. So this is a mishmash brain dump of everything going on in my head during the last 24 hours.

Exercise and such. From yesterday’s training and new List was the hamstring curl on the stability ball, the alternative to the TRX hamstring curl. This morning I had planned to test drive both back-to-back, but it was crazy busy in my little corner of the gym world and that only stability ball I saw was a big gray one and it was in use much of the time. (I am apparently far too lazy to go seek out another one from the many other places another could potentially be found within the confines of the gym.) So I used the TRX for 2 rounds of this exercise, and I still kind of hate them. Something about the feet and the the wiggle-wobble of the straps. When I finally did lay hands upon the stability ball, I vastly preferred it to the TRX version. It just feels more solid in its wiggle-wobble solid squishiness beneath the feet.

This new list is also challenging. I mean, like being even more of a sweaty mess limping out of the gym after it’s all done yet without the angst and dread of other things we have done on occasion. Perhaps one more run at it tomorrow morning before Thursday’s training session. On the bright side, I am feeling much more positive about the TRX push-ups. Progress.

The Dietician. Yesterday I had my second visit with the dietician. He was dismayed that I did not appear with my food diary of what sorts of things I have been consuming in the interim few weeks. I reminded him that I am not a food tracking person, that I had told him I did not weigh or measure food I was consuming, track calories, or even write what I am eating down. How am I supposed to help you develop an eating plan, he asks? I sort of shrug helplessly, because I truly do not know and did not know last time I was here. He reviews his notes again and I can see the lightbulb going on above his head. Yep, I am THAT patient.

So we have another conversation about diet, exercise, calories, fat, weight loss, etc. I remind him that I am now, officially, a well-controlled diabetic. He reminds me that the docs would like to see a leaner me. I ask how we can do that without driving myself crazy try to calorie count, track food consumption, etc.? He frowns at me, and I frown back. He sighs, I smile ruefully. I am typically not this impossible to deal with.

From there we have a real conversation. We talk about food, diabetes, and weight loss. We talk about my exercise program and how I am so dead set against weighing myself or any food I am eating. Finally, after some back and forth and negotiating, I agree to track food for at least 5 days, and he agrees they do not have to be consecutive days. So for some 5 days in the next 3 weeks I have to track everything I eat and drink. He said I don’t have to weigh and measure, just write it down.

Le sigh. I am so weak and giving in to a very nice dietician who wants to help me to the best of his professional ability. Only 5 days; I can last with notebook in hand for 5 days. Right? If I am uber cranky next week you’ll know why.

Self-employment Tuesday. Before this morning’s first ever police station visit, I was scheduled to meet and lunch with a client I had to reschedule from last week. He is very understanding and was very concerned for my well being, so I am kind of glad I kept the lunch meeting appointment. While we did talk some financial stuff for his practice during our meeting, at least 60% was about me and the Very Bad Incident. I made a mess of a very nice salad by pushing the lettuce leaves around on the plate for an hour; there was a big, soggy-looking mess left on the plate by the time I was done and it was pretty obvious I barely ate any of it. The waiter was very concerned and asked me if it was not to my liking, which I of course then felt compelled to apologize for my mistreatment of produce and left him an extra nice tip because of it. I actually really love that salad under normal circumstances. Today is anything but that.

All afternoon I have been meeting with clients, picking up documents, catching up on what is new and exciting in their business and financial lives that I was previously unaware of from our phone, email, and text conversations. Work is keeping me busy and distracted from my other issues, so all is well on that front.

The panhandler meltdown. When I was leaving my last scheduled client’s office this afternoon to make my way to my therapy appointment, a woman approached me in the parking lot looking for a handout. Whether she was homeless or truly just in need, it scared me so badly when she approached I started trembling and nearly ran back into the building. I just shook my head and waved her away as vigorously as possible when she approached an started her pitch. I hurried as fast as I could to the safety of my car and the relief of being locked inside. If she had been one of those aggressive people who came up to my car and rapped on the window I would have reacted very poorly. As if was, I had to take a few minutes to compose myself to drive. I called M and told him where I was, what happened, and he talked me off the ledge. From there I made my way to TM’s office and sat in his waiting room for 20 minutes replying to emails until my appointment time. I am never that early for our meetings.

I suppose my sudden fear of transients and homeless people is understandable, but I was unprepared for how strong, how violent, how physical my reaction would be when our paths crossed. And this was a woman, not even a male homeless person.

Therapist TM appointment. Despite my trauma drama, I am actually doing pretty well with the primary objective with this year’s personal navel gazing. Before the Very Bad Incident last Thursday, I had been feeling more confident, upbeat, positive about future outcomes based on my own efforts and abilities. I was much less inclined to not shred myself in fits of anxiety or listen to the negative, destructive voices inside my head. Even now, after the Very Bad Incident, I am holding my own, albeit with shaking hands and queasy stomach. I had been handling things pretty well, sleeping 2 nights in a row without sleeping aids, and finding new ways to cope with the quieting my mind before trying to fall asleep.

Now, I am a wreck again.

TM suggests we meet weekly for at least a few weeks, until I get my life-legs back and am not feeling so fractured and fragile. I agreed, because I have so much new and free-floating anxiety that I am finding it difficult to sit still enough to concentrate when not actually engaged in doing something. Monday – was that only yesterday? – I had spoken to J about additional exercise in the evening, trying to physically tire myself out to be able to sleep. He agreed that it’s a good way to keep my brain occupied, but exercise may inhibit the ability to fall asleep. Instead he suggested something low intensity like yoga flow for unwinding. I am not sure how that qualifies, because I think everything exercise is high intensity for me. But I respect his thoughts and opinions and will give it more thought and experiment.

I have been jumping on my arc trainer or rower to physically tire myself out before bed, reasoning that if I feel physically tired I will go right to sleep. There have been many mornings where I felt well-rested and fine arriving at the gym, worked really hard, and then really wanted to come home and take a nap before work. But cardio is so damn BORING anymore. I looked around and asked friends and cobbled together a schedule of yoga or yoga-like classes I could attend in the evenings when I need something to help quiet my thoughts and make me feel physically fatigued enough to sleep. I was going to try it tonight, but now I am feeling scared about going somewhere new after dark. Maybe being bored before sleeping is not all that bad?

TM agrees exercise is a great outlet for nervous anxiety and strongly encourages me to continue my practice and even taking up a second practice if I am feeling that climb-out-of-my-skin sort of anxious nervousness. Eliminating all forms of caffeine and any remaining sugar in my diet is probably a good idea as well. While I have not been slamming donuts with my one cup of decaf coffee per day, I do enjoy a single piece of dark chocolate a few nights per week. The last of my vices is now going away. Maybe I need to take up booze for its medicinal properties?

Today we worked on breathing exercises and started exploring meditation and how it can help get me through this. I am very anti-drug use for my particular neurotic strains, the remaining valium my only concession to the Very Bad Incident. TM agrees that right now it does not seem additional medication is necessary, because he is going to provide me some new tools to get through the day-to-day business of living my life without fear of breakdown. I have a book on medication on my Kindle that I need to settle down and finish, because I am going to become one of those truly annoying fidgeters if I do not get myself under control somehow. Today in his office I was foot-twitching and uncomfortable much of the hour, and I was actually eager to see him and be psychically repaired. Unfortunately his magic wand for such miracles was left in some other suit.

I am kind of disappointed that my primary objective of positive self image is kind of taking a backseat, but if I cannot leave the house because of anxiety then I cannot see myself feeling a whole lot better about my outlook.

Today it weighs on me that I require the influence of a stable of coaches of different disciplines to get me where I am going next. Personal trainer, dietician, therapist, doctors, and I now work for bunches of lawyers. I’m still not sure what a life coach does or I might be contemplating one of those as well. Still, if it takes a village to get me through I will be grateful for the income to afford such luxuries.

Tomorrow will be better. I hope. Or do I decide? Something else to consider.

 

Mercurial me

I had my next rebuild me, make me emotionally better, stronger, faster therapy appointment Thursday, rescheduled from my crazy Tuesday to my equally crazy busy Thursday.

Therapy does not frighten or make me particularly anxious; I have been through far worse through the years. Mostly I find myself curious and challenged, my not-so-secret doubts about my ability to improve my self-esteem and self-care bobbing in my thought waters. Habits of a lifetime can be broken, yet I go back and forth about whether or not it is worth it in the bigger picture. It’s never easy, the journey of self-improvement. I have to believe I am worth the trouble, though.

I have been striving to be more active in framing my mindset to a positive outlook instead of one mired in fear and anxiety. Tuesday I had one of those “sky is falling, you’re a wreck” feelings churning out by my brain and my emotions. Near as I can tell the sky is still in place and I got up and I am intact, not a new scratch or bruise on me, and the happy smile on my face is genuine, not glued in place, a fake-it-until-I-make-it stand-in for my real feelings.

At our first meeting for my 2016 tune-up appointment, my therapist (he will be TM going forward) challenged me to (1) find and choose an alternative whenever I felt anxious, afraid, or resistant to something, and (2) to compliment myself for something at least once per day and to really mean it. It seemed so silly at the time, but I figured he’s the boss in this realm and I should try out his ideas.

I started with little things – when I did not want to stop to eat lunch or knew I was having to cope with some drudge chore with work – and at first it seemed like nothing happened. Then I started to imagine me as a friend in the same situation, complaining about the same stuff, and what I would say to him/her for weenie whining about such life crap. While I would tend to use the same sort of plain-speaking “get over it” phrasing, there would be at least thread of compassion and humor running through it, just in case it was something else masquerading as weenie whining. I am trying hard to work at this, when I recognize the pattern of my thoughts followed by behaviors. Curbing it is challenging, yet not quite as traumatic or dramatic as I expected.

The complimenting myself was excruciating. I felt ridiculous trying to think up good things to say about myself, and then I found myself self-consciously thinking that my head was going to explode from the ego expansion I was sure was about to take over the whole world.

Except I was absolutely stumped the first few days. Everything I thought of sounded silly inside my head, but in truth were not really direct compliments. My first one felt really lame – I am competent and capable of checking inflation on my tires and adding air to whichever one is low and tripping the sensor. I felt ridiculous thinking it, but I was supposed to say it out loud to myself in the mirror. I waited until M was out on his run before practicing it and then felt so silly. The next day I told myself I was not silly to pay myself compliments in this way. The next day I told myself I had improved at my gym exercise, the day after that I told myself I was kind to allow a stressed-out mother with obviously cranky, sick baby go ahead of me in line at the grocery store. And on and on it went, until it did not feel so silly to be saying something nice to me.

To my surprise, it started to work. I noticed it in little things, where I would speak in more upbeat terms rather than the darker, gloomy self-depreciation mode. Sometimes I curbed it completely, often I corrected myself after something spontaneously snuck out. It has become a bit of a secret thrill, as to enjoy and feel that part of positive effects of my personal equation rather than the “this is sooooo hard!” part of the formula. My choice is always to wallow in the muck or rise up and swim where the water is clearest. I am working at rising up.

As I said, it’s not always successful. But I feel happier about my incremental progress. I am less reactive and more balanced in my internal and external responses. Freaking out is always an option, but this week alone I had plenty of things to lose my mind over and chose other ways to cope.

Here in the blog I see signs of mercurial me, and rather than beat myself up for being negative, I choose to recognize that these are snapshots shared here that are merely facets of my life in a small, independent series of moments. Bad hours happen and sometimes the best, most practical, least impacting way to blow off the steam is to vent it here. I will go back and read something I’ve written and be horrified, because I find typos or misspellings or poor grammar … or I just sound like a princess whining because her tiara got skewed slightly from cocking her head.

During the course of our conversation TM asked why I concern myself with what other people might think about me. I responded that I do not feel as if I worry about it, but I would always prefer to be a positive influence than a negative space in other people’s lives. He asked me to name someone for whom I feel I am a negative space, and in the moment I could not, because obviously unless it’s one of my coworkers who HAS to work with me, no one I want to be around makes me feel as bad as I fear I am to them.

So if I know this intellectually, why is it so hard for me to accept it emotionally and let go of that lingering anxiety? Hence my journey into therapy.

We also touched upon the comparisons of me to other people, anyone other people, and how my grading bias has me losing in any and all competitions. If I can learn to let it go, not compare myself to others, I can and will be far happier and more peaceful.

I have been pondering mightily through today. I have no clear answers on it, but I do see his point. So much of our thinking is how we measure up to others – in our appearance, in our education, in our professions, in the quality of our character and the depth of our relationships with family and friends. We compare; we judge. We feel smugly superior or depressingly inferior.

Why am I happy, genuinely happy for others with seemingly bigger, bolder, more bodacious lives, yet feel as if my happy life is ordinary, uneventful, and boring in comparison? Truly we are all individuals making choices and living our days to the best of our abilities. There is always going to be someone who seems more blessed and fortunate than I am, but why would I care so much, to the point that my judgment is impaired leaving me to feel faulty or less than my counterpart? Am I jealous of her beauty, her professional success, her family and her social standing? I honestly do not believe so. Yet I still end up feeling inferior to her in real ways that are harmful to me.

So much to think about. The spotlight TM shines on me, my thinking, my feelings is an uncomfortable one, yet I know he is right to do so and make me look my fears and self-destructive behaviors directly in the eye.

The great beauty aging so gracefully is my peer, not my competition. As individuals, we wanted different things, made different choices, had different opportunities. She is not superior, I am not inferior, and there is no comparison between the two of us. We are both people who work hard and pursue our different dreams in our own unique ways. Neither of us is wrong, and neither of us gets to pronounce the other as better or worse. We just are.

Intellectually, I get it. Emotionally … well, this is why TM makes the big bucks.

But he’s reaching me. I am thinking about it and working through it on my own. Next we meet in 2 weeks, I may be closer to a clearer understanding. Until then, I will try to stick to the plan, the positive alternatives to anxiety and fear; the daily complimenting myself; stopping myself from comparison and judgment on any measurable way.

I suspect mercurial me will be alive, well, and blogging for awhile to come.

Upbeat, positive, yet drowning in negativity

A couple of weeks ago I ventured back to see my therapist for my annual emotional check-up. This is something I typically do every year, sort of like preventive maintenance for my psyche. While I did not have an issue this year, I was vaguely unsettled when I got there and wound up talking to him about my own trash talk to myself. The guilts. The shoulds. The feelings of always being slightly to majorly inadequate. The beating the crap out of me for what I perceive as normal behavior and human falterings in everyone else.

In other words, my expectations of myself are completely unrealistic.

Insecurity, uncertainty, and anxiety are and have been so much a part of my life that it is very difficult to even imagine life without each dogging my every step in some way, shape, or form. From the very simple exercises my therapist gave me a couple of weeks ago to raise awareness of my existing habits, I have been practicing mightily to show some progress when I see him on Tuesday. Simple things, like positive affirmations, complimenting myself, thinking about the best outcome when I feel anxious rather than the worst – stuff like that. And since my habit is to believe the worst of myself in every single situation, I have had to consciously think about everything I think or say to or about myself the last couple of weeks. Before I will be capable of building newer, better ones, I have to identify and break myself of the old ones. And there is no way I would or could be able to do that all on my own.

I am likely over-simplifying the therapeutic process, but I would like to become a more competently confident person. Work is … well, work … but I have learned to do my job, comport myself and perform needed tasks to a comfortable degree of success. It probably helps that I am not afflicted with megalomania-like career ambitions as well and do not crave attention or recognition for my efforts. M and I have a successful, happy marriage, wonderful family and good friends, and my degree of comfortable with any and all of that has evolved over my lifetime. I would really like to not be in my 80s before feeling like I can manage to step outside my tiny, narrow comfort zone without a paper bag in my pocket. This year seems to be the time when I am finally ready to address this aspect of my life and personality.

My overall health is on the upswing, and I could not be happier about it. I have feelings of inadequacy or undeserving of my success, and whether it’s wrong or unfair or just plain stupid of me to feel that way does not change the reality of the way my mind and emotions process. I know I have worked hard; I know I had paid attention and listened carefully to J in our sessions and others in my life who support me in these efforts. Yet inside I am waiting for the downside news about it to be delivered.

Through the years I have learned better, different ways to cope with the bad things that have befallen me. I have not always had the resources or the ability to cope with the reality of those resources, and in truth I can only deal with one problem at a time. My history is littered with therapists and counselors and others who have wanted to help me accept the awesomeness that is me (read that with heavy emphasis on sarcasm) and I either have not been ready or simply not been capable of utilizing their help.

My habit of self-depreciation and being concerned that any sort of confidence comes across as conceit or big-headedness is always with me. Always. Sometimes it is megaphone loud, other times just the barest hint of a whisper. The steady thrum of That Voice keeps me sabotaging myself if things go too well or holds me in thrall and keeps me from accepting that I could be better or more accepting that I am at least good enough.

At my core, I strive to be a caring and generous person. When you grow up convinced you are not good at best and really, really bad at worst, you strive to emulate what seems to be good. I have a natural desire to help others, to be a good friend, and to be a productive and caring family member. I would put my last pennies into the SA kettles at Christmas time, my allowance into the offering plate at church if so moved. It took years for me to not give money to any panhandler who asked. Part of it was fear of them, but more importantly I recognize that it was my fear of becoming them that made me give whatever bill or bills that happened to be in my pocket or in my wallet.

Becoming a parent curbed that impulse, my desire to protect and feed my own children stronger than my fear and rock-solid belief that I would someday end up in the gutter, in jail, or murdered because of my own poor judgment. Becoming a single parent, being beyond broke, and working hard to make ends meet all on my own taught me a lot about my own strength and creative resourcefulness. Parenting taught me how to overcome my own innate selfishness; single parenting taught me that I am far more competent than I ever believed.

As the years have passed, I have done better than I ever imagined in the good personhood division. I am a good mother, a good partner, and a good and great friend to many. However, I am so ruthlessly and routinely unkind to myself. For anyone else in my life, I can be a sympathetic and empathetic listener, a kind and compassionate friend. I try hard to be generous to those I care for in all ways possible, and I am learning, slowly learning, to accept their generosity toward me in return. It has taken years. I am still learning, still struggling every day.

But I feel grossly inadequate and anxious about being good enough. Still.

When I started with this particular therapist years ago, we started slowly and he ultimately got me/M and I through a marital crisis. He also taught me a lot about my own tendency toward self-sabotage and how to curb those behaviors. He has talked me through what felt like debilitating depression and my own uncertainty about pragmatism versus faith. He has called me out on many occasions about my self-esteem and negative self image, yet I have not been ready until recently to hold up a mirror and take a long look at it.

So now we start.

These last couple of weeks I have been focused on restraining my anxiety by imagining positive outcomes. It’s January and work is crazy busy and filled with the pressure of deadlines. I know it will all work out, because it does always work out, year after year. This year I have been contemplating a better outcome, where I am not just fried and frustrated when February starts, and it seems to be working relatively well. While work is kicking my ass with sheer volume, I am happy about the way things are progressing and the pace and tempo of work. The regular amounts of exercise help, I think; I have other things to think about, focus on, obsess over other than the drone of client unhappiness.

This morning at the gym I was wondering if I am happy. For the most part, I am happy; life is good and I know I am extraordinarily blessed. The rest of it is mostly fluff, cannot be altered, or matters little in the fabric of my life. What I am most dissatisfied with I am working slowly and steadily toward changing. Like the exercise and the diet, and now my outlook – these are things I can change with time and a lot of effort. I am improving with the exercises trainer J has been teaching me, which is progress in itself, and someday I will be even more proficient with time and practice. “Someday” is not forever and need not be a terribly long time, either.

I do not believe in the concept of perfect happiness, or perfect anything for that matter. Yet it is an expectation I hold for myself. Why is that? If I had answer, I would probably never write another post that feels this kind of shitty.

There is so much negativity in the world, and it all too frequently feels as if I am drawn to it like moth to flame. I met a potential client yesterday and my genuine concern for his long-term health is overwhelmed with my distaste for the smoke/smoking smells. Friends and their dating escapades seem more and more like torturous adventures in how to bring out the worst in ourselves and other people we meet, things that began with such fragile, hopeful promise dissolve into something so unpleasant and irritating and all too frequently hurtful.

It is surprisingly difficult to see past the low-hanging fruit of gleefully bashing what is not perfectly agreeable to us. It seems we burrow deep looking for the flaws in every situation. Or maybe it is just me, with my current laser-focus on my attitudes and ideas. I find myself so wanting in this area, and it kind of sickens me. How did I become such an unbearable, insufferable sad sap?

Intellectually I understand what TM (my therapist is another M and this is how I shall refer to him going forward) is trying to wake me up to, reach me, and ultimately teach me new ways. It feels as if I am visually impaired in my ability to see myself clearly, and I am not sure how we will overcome that. I trust him and feel sure he has tricks and tools and skills I cannot fathom.

At my core I am a hopeful person … for everyone else. I have to believe this is one more obstacle I will overcome for myself.