Salix's Shiny Things

A magpie blog.

Goals and Resolutions Check-In #1 January 28, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — LP @ 4:44 pm
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It’s been nearly a month since I wrote out some of the goals I want to accomplish this year, and I think that this is a good time to check in with myself to see how I’m doing. 

Confounding Issue #1: My computer went on the fritz about a week ago and I have’t been able to get anyone to work on it yet.  So I’ve been making do with my pocket computer (aka “smart phone”) for the time being.  It’s not the same, and I’m missing out on getting some critical things done (hello, taxes!).  But at the same time, it’s forced me to spend more time reading, sewing, vacuuming, and such, so that’s a good thing. 

Confounding issue #2: Cold, rain, and colds.  We’ve been getting a fair amount of rain, which is great for drought relief, but at the same time I’ve been neglecting my running, because every time I’ve gone out in the cold, I’ve caught a cold.  So I’m just laying low for the time being.  I have been pretty regular about tandem bicyicling with my neighbor at the gym, so at least I’ve been getting some cardio work in this winter. 

What has been going well?
I have been “in the world” more this month.  I went to a writing group last week that I enjoyed immensely.  I was nervous, but I didn’t allow myself to dwell on that.  I simply took a chance and went.  I trusted myself to be able to handle it, and I trusted that the others in the group were going to be kind.  I let myself share – share my joy, my heart, my gratitude, and my silliness. I let myself speak from the heart, I let myself be generous with kindness.  I had learned to keep those kinds of things locked up inside me, for the most part.  But in that space, I could trust that generosity would be met with generosity, kindness with kindness.  It was amazing to be able to express myself without fear of being denigrated or dismissed.

That was definitely a step in the right direction.  I’ve felt so much more confident and calm this whole past week, more like my old college self.  I think a huge part of it was being able to share myself as a writer.  I am a writer because I write, and I can write well and generate joy and beauty with my words.  And I am now able to feel like that part of myself is healing and growing more and more vibrant.  I feel like I’m able to reclaim that identity in ways I wasn’t ready to before. 

In summary: I’ve definitely made some progress towards some of my most important goals, and that´s good.  I think that I should do these self-checks a little more frequently, maybe twice a month or once a week. 

 

Appreciated and admired. January 25, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — LP @ 12:08 pm
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I’ve had a really wonderful week.  And the main reason is that I went out of my comfort zone and joined a writing group.  Yeah, that would be way, WAY out of my comfort zone, but I did it, and I am very glad I did.  The writing group main theme is “Healing through Writing”, and what made it work really well for me was the fact that all the comments on each other’s writing had to be positive – what did you like? What stuck with you? What was strong? This was a major departure from the kind of writing and responding to other’s writing that I had experienced in school.  Even with the “sandwich” method, where the idea is to surround the critique with positive comments, you are still as a listener required to pay attention to what was “bad” or “weak” in the piece.  By making the task of commenting just geared towards the positive, you are looking, and finding, the “good”, the “strong”.  Hearing the positive comments and being forced to find the “good” in other’s pieces made for an amazing experience.  It was so encouraging and wonderful to hear people respond in warm, caring ways towards my writing.  It definitely created a safe space to communicate my ideas, and I felt relieved of the burden of rewriting and reworking a piece in response to criticism.  I could simply enjoy the process of fitting words to images in pleasing patterns to tell a story of my own making.  My self confidence increased by orders of magnitude.  I felt, for the first time in a long time (I think since a friend and I would play poetry games in coffee shops right before I went to grad school) like I was really good at this, not just writing, but also in connecting with others in joyful, playful ways.  Like I really did have something positive to contribute to the world. 

But, I still have a ways to go towards healing my broken confidence and sense of self worth.  Which isn’t surprising, as years of being ignored, undervalued, dismissed, gaslighted, etc, don’t go away overnight.  But it was such a huge step in the right direction for me.  It was fun just to have fun doing something I really enjoy with other like-minded folks.  And it was a good reminder that not everyone (in fact, very few people, as it turns out) is an overly critical wet blanket like my ex.  As I continue to accrue these positive experiences with others, I continue to heal.

On Sunday, my son had choir practice.  They were starting a new piece, the Mozart Alelulia canon, which has three parts that are sung in a round.  It’s very pretty, and a little bit complicated.  Z happened to be the only one who could make it, so the director asked if I’d like to help sing the different parts.  And I did, and I didn’t do so badly, and I had fun harmonizing.  After we went through the piece once with all the parts, Z started going off about how I was really good and how I should write a book and other things, and I responded in my normal way when he says stuff like that.  I was very self depricated, I said thanks, but I don´t know if that’s really possible, I´m not really good enough, because you have to be really good… and so forth.  But this time, the choir director was there, and I noticed that she had this look on her face that said “Oh your son is so sweet, it´s breaking my heart!” And I realized that maybe I should just shut up and take the compliment already.  And it was a bit painful to realize that extreme self deprecation was not a good example to show to my son.  My attempts at humility went too far, and were presenting as a lack of joy in life, a lack of joy in my accomplishments, and an inability to connect in a positive way with my own son. 

I don’t want to be like that.  I don’t want my son to grow up like that.  I don’t want to be tiny and unnoticable anymore.  I am glad that I’m in a place where I can be myself, somewhat talented, silly, funny, engaging, and be loved for all of those things.  I am glad that I am in a place where I can be appreciated and admired.  I can flower here in ways that I couldn´t before, because I think that, at least in part, my talents and my enjoyment of life were threatening to my previous partners.  It’s not really that I think of myself as Super Cool Amazingly Talented Writer for the Ages, or anything (I know I’m not, and wouldn’t want to be anyways), but I do know that my instructors and friends have responded very positively to my writing and my ideas.  I think that my tendency towards being positive and caring in my writing and in my response to other’s writing was deeply threatening to my ex, which helps explain why she was so dismissive and rude.  Not that I every showed her much of my writing beyond texts and emails, as I knew that she would simply exploit my insecurities and vulnerability. 

So that’s me being all reasonable and rational about dealing with abusive b.s.  But I really want to use words like “talentless hack” and “sad, pathetic, immature asshat”, and “flaming ball of impotent rage” (which I stole from an Onion segment on the Republican loss in the 2012 election).

 

Some (hopefully) keepable resolutions. January 7, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — LP @ 9:59 am
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I haven’t really thought about making New Year’s resolutions for a very, very long time, but this year, I’ve been inspired to actually set some doable goals linked to “Big Intentions”, in a formal, thoughtful fashion.

Big Intention #1: Become a Better Community Member/Citizen

Doable Goals: Volunteer at events like the Rotating Winter Homeless Shelter.  Get involved in meetups/classes.

Big Intention #2: Become a Kinder Person (to myself & others)

Doable Goals: Meditate every day.  Exercise at least 3 times a week.  Do at least one thing every day to make my habitat more habitable.  Do at least one creative thing a day (crochet for a bit, paint, draw, make a dessert, write).  Commit to doing a hour’s worth of resume revision/CV revision/application stuff every business day.  Commit to doing an hour’s worth of bookkeeping and budgeting every business day.

Big Intention #3: Be In and Connect With the World More

Doable goals: learn to drive stick-shift. Make new friends and connect more with old friends. Practice self-metta – making new friends will not be as easy as it was when I was a kid, but people need friends like me who are loyal and kind.  Be careful not to let Jerkbrain derail attempts at connecting with others.  I may not be able to give people rides or meet them at distant locations for a while, but there is a lot that I can do, like listen and lend emotional support.  I am a damn good listener, if I do say so myself.

Big Intention #4: Beat Back the Jerkbrain

Doable goals: Meditate every day for at least 5 minutes, doing whatever style of meditation feels right at that moment.  Ask for help sometimes.  Be habitual about checking the accounts, entering receipts, and invoicing. Find and keep up a good to do list app. Spend more time in the garden. Be conscious about social media use, and limit it to certain times of the day.  Journal more. Write poetry. Read a bit of fiction every day. Give love. Watch Star Trek when necessary.  Go on walks/hikes with C.

Here’s to a wonderful 2016!

 

 

 

Little victories – coping with social anxiety July 2, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — LP @ 11:06 am
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no-fear-450x477

Pic Credit

One issue that I’ve always had, to a greater or lesser extent, is phone fear.

Yesterday I had to make a business call.  I wimped out the day before and tried to email the customer service agent, but I never received a reply.  So I had to call.

And wouldn’t you know it, it was fine.  The agent was very nice and very helpful, and had an amazing low voice like Octavia Butler, which endeared her to me.

And I’ve also been answering my phone more consistently, even when it’s a number I don’t recognize.  I’m so used to screening phone calls, or answering necessary ones with huge feelings of fear or shame.  But now – I just answered an 800 number call, and it was for the person who owned the phone number before I got it.  I answered with confidence and strength in my voice.  It felt really good.  It was just a tiny exercise of my agency, but it was good to have that positive reinforcement.  I can use my agency, and it will be ok, and I won’t be yelled at or shamed or ridiculed, and if I am, Fuck Them.  I’ve got other places to be, and people that love me.

My sweet man has been incredibly helpful in my journey towards coping successfully with my social anxiety.  Most of the help, though, has been unintentional on his part.  Yes, the intentional support he gives me is critical – the kind words, the positive affirmations, the hugs and gratitude he expresses when I get out past my comfort zone and achieve something – all of those things are absolutely crucial, and I am very grateful for his work in supporting me in those ways.

But what’s even more important is just being able to hang out with him and observe him interacting with others.  Making mistakes, being too excited, making an off-color joke.  But also seeing him getting  it right – being kind, respectful, funny, smart, knowledgeable.  Realizing that a momentary conversational mistake/miscalculation/weirdness doesn’t have to derail the whole interaction.  Realizing that communicating sincerely and graciously is possible even when you do or say awkward things.  I’m learning so much from his model.  I’m becoming more and more comfortable in this world of other people as I realize that almost everyone I’m likely to interact with out there is like me in some critical ways:  they just want to get through the day with as little stress as possible, and want smooth, warm, and kind interactions as much as I do.

This is a seemingly little victory, this being able to talk on the phone without experiencing crippling fear,  but it’s an important one: a good, healthy step in the right direction.

 

Gratitude for the universe: cultivating a generous heart. September 17, 2014

It’s very silly for a person like myself to claim a spirit guide, but I do, and he is Jackie Chan.  Don’t get me wrong, though:  I know that Jackie Chan is a human being, with flaws and weaknesses, but he’s a human being with incredible talent and a generous heart.  His work inspired me to start exercising, start being out in the world more, and be a more present, fun mother.  Ever since that dream I had where I woke up as Jackie Chan, I’ve been cultivating happiness and a more generous heart.  That dream changed my life for the better, helping me find my inner “Jackie Chan” and let him out to play.

I am so grateful for that dream, and so grateful that I found it within myself to be amongst the living again, with all the crazy fears and joys and vulnerabilities that living entails.

If it hadn’t been for Jackie Chan’s “spiritual guidance”, as it were, I wouldn’t have found myself where I am today, in a new relationship that has brought me a great deal of happiness already, and I hope will continue to for a long, long time.

It was because I was looking for a Chinese fan at Goodwill so that my son and I could try to recreate the fan fight scene in The Young Master (1980).  There I ran into an old family friend I hadn’t seen since my husband and I divorced.  Turns out he’d been trying to catch me since I’d moved back to town because he wanted to ask me out.  I hadn’t seen him in years and out of the blue, we run into each other at Goodwill.  Because I was all gung-ho about getting a fan to practice Jackie Chan style kung-fu moves with.

It floored me that he wanted to date me.  I had no idea.  I had come to accept myself as being unattractive, and I was used to being invisible.  Although I had been cultivating kindness and acceptance towards myself for weeks through meditation, going to church, and exercising and training for martial arts, I had given up on my romantic side.  My heart was capable of only getting me into trouble, and I dared not trust it or let myself think that anyone who could be interested in me would be someone who could really do right by me and my son.  I was only attractive to losers and crazy people, and history had proven that to be true.  So what in the world could this guy, who I’d known for so many years, and who had been a friend to me and mine, what would someone like that want with someone like me?

I said yes anyway.  I regretted it at first, mostly because I was scared and didn’t trust myself to make good choices, but then he was so kind and respectful of me, that I began to think, ok, well, why not?  He’s really good looking and has an amazing job, he’s really smart, so why not just see where this goes?

It’s been a couple of amazing weeks filled with happiness and kindness and generosity.  When I’m with him, I feel present.  I feel more like myself than I’ve felt in a very long time.  And the more time we spend together, the more about him I like and respect.  And I like and respect myself more and more.  Better still, I’m less afraid of being vulnerable, and am more able to cultivate my own heart’s generosity and kindness, towards myself and the world.  I’m able to find ease in this, and allow myself to be guided by my friend’s optimism and ease in being.

This could not have happened without my spirit guide.  I would not have been ready for this.  I would not have been in that store, at that time.

So thank you, Universe, for getting me here.  Thank you, spirit guide Jackie Chan, for helping me become ready to live life again.

Jackie Chan, Young Master (1980)

Jackie Chan, Young Master (1980)

 

Beginner’s Mind and Renewal August 12, 2014

Filed under: Buddhism — LP @ 12:15 pm
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I really love the Buddhist concept of “Beginner’s Mind”.  This is one definition:

Beginner’s mind is Zen practice in action. It is the mind that is innocent of preconceptions and expectations, judgements and prejudices. Beginner’s mind is just present to explore and observe and see “things as-it-is.”

(source)

Or, as Shunryu Suzuki Roshi wrote in “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind”:

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

(source)

It’s not easy to cultivate this mind state.  Habits of mind are deep things, knowledge is important.

But so is a sense of wonder and delight at the new.

I’ve been thinking about this a great deal this week because I’m at a new beginning for myself, or a renewed beginning, really.  I’ve started an exercise and stretching routine, and I have been diligent about keeping it up for the past several days.

It’s not that easy to get back into doing something you haven’t done in a very long time.

In fact, sometimes it downright sucks.  Trying to do even simple stretches and situps and pushups is difficult, but knowing that you used to be able to handle so many more reps with ease, remembering how this stuff used to be so much easier… really sucks.

But getting frustrated is very unhelpful.  It was the main reason why I haven’t been able to keep up any kind of exercise routine for very long for years.  I’d get started, all excited to get fit and feel healthy and slim down, and then… the awareness would grow that all of this was so much easier before… and if I had been a better person, then I would have never stopped training, god it’s so frustrating, I still can’t fit into those pants, why isn’t this working? God, what’s the point?  May as well give up now, I’ll never be able to regain what I’ve lost, I’ll never be that 105 pound kid, so lithe and strong.  That explosive, ever-moving ball of energy on the fencing piste.   I’ll never be able to kick above my head like I used to.

Who could persevere against such cruel judgment?

But this time, I’m meditating.  I’m learning how to let go of judgmental thoughts.  To treat myself with the kind of care and compassion I would show a friend, to treat myself as I would want a friend to treat me.

I’m learning to embrace impermanence, to learn to appreciate change.

I’m learning to see with fresh eyes, to delight in the ordinary.

I begin, again.

Now, I focus on the fact that every time I stretch, I can go a little further.  Every time I do sit-ups, I can do a few more.  Every time I do pushups, they get a little easier.  Every time I do leg swings, they get a little higher.

Now, when I get up in the morning, I feel stronger, lighter on my feet, my core muscles coiled and ready like a spring.  Every day I get a little more confident about my body’s abilities.

This time, I’m not doing it to fit into those pants, to be slimmer and more attractive, and therefore more worthy of love.

This time, I’m doing it for me.  I’m training, you see.  I want to do martial arts.  I want to learn how to fight with a staff.  I’m doing this for fun, for the delight in being able to launch my body through space with strength, grace, speed, and power to meet an attacker.  For the strength and grace to be able to take the blows and still keep going.

Yeah, for the sheer badassery of being able to dance with a staff.

Jennifer Garner, Elektra

Jennifer Garner, Elektra

pic credit:  http://www.pinterest.com/pin/494059021592492814/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding my voice again. August 5, 2014

On meditation, healing though goofy crushes, and the crazy beauty of the path.

It’s been a funny path through the wilderness.  I don’t think I’m actually out of the wilderness yet, but I’m beginning to see the path more clearly and enjoy the journey more.  Even those giant, dark, tangled root masses of depression and fear that have seemed to block my way have started to retreat from the path itself and become more a part of scenery.

I’m beginning to recover my voice.

It’s a fascinating thing, this rediscovery of myself.  I had been required to repress so much of myself when I was in relationships.

I have started a proper formal meditation routine, and that’s been very helpful.  I’ve been keeping a journal of my reflections on meditations, parts of which I plan to post here in the future.

I have also found sources of healing and strength in the unlikeliest places.  I never could have imagined the positive effects of having goofy crushes on celebrities would have on me in general.

I’ve been crushing on Peter Capaldi and Jackie Chan.  Big, goofy, sparkle-eyed, Tumblr-obsessing  crushes which I’m enjoying immensely.  The crushes are allowing me to learn to love again, in the safest way possible.  There’s no real risk, no one to hurt or be hurt by.  And to discover that I don’t want or need a romantic relationship with another person in the flesh right now.  I had been mourning the loss of companionship so much this last year.  And raging against the unfairness of it, desperately jealous of my friends who seem happy in their stable relationships.  Depressed by my lack of ability to find a decent partner of my own, and how that made me feel unworthy of any relationship at all.  Unworthy even of living.

Someone once told me that what you love in another person can be a reflection of what you love in yourself.  Having crushes on celebrities is allowing me to explore that:  what do I love about Peter Capaldi?  Does that exist within me?  Can what I find beautiful about him become part of myself?  Can I rediscover my own sense of generosity, my own quick wit, my own enjoyment of my physical being, by seeing them and loving them in Peter Capaldi and Jackie Chan?  Can I relearn to inhabit my body, to take proper care of it, to excercise and train by loving what Jackie Chan does with his own body?  Can I learn to appreciate and embrace my own goofiness and exuberance by enjoying Jackie Chan’s?

Yes.  Yes, I can.  And I am.

It’s a bit crazy.  A bit beautiful.  It’s me, it’s my path, and I’m grateful to be on it, and grateful that there’s no one to push me away from it anymore.

So really, perhaps Peter Capaldi and Jackie Chan are less crushes, than spirit guides.

Yeah, spirit guides.  Thanks, guys!

Peter Capaldi

Peter Capaldi

peter capaldi credit:  http://geek-news.mtv.com//wp-content/uploads/geek/2013/08/peter-capaldi-tardis-575.jpg
Jackie Chan

Jackie Chan

Jackie Chan credit:  https://www.facebook.com/jackie/photos/a.98876792317.90092.30382852317/10152367422782318/?type=1&theater