Brokenness, Healing and Art

I just got through The War of Art by Steven Pressfield last week.

My library had it on CD, which meant that my laundry finally got folded.

Pressfield starts out by defining resistance by its action and power, tying it to our main difficulty in writing (okay, he actually is very careful to keep the talk about ART and whatever one’s contribution to the world is. But for me, that’s writing).

Problem #1: Getting Started

He has a whole series of specific examples of delays to beginning the work, but especially because of my experience with depression, and the upcoming launch of Wyn Magazine, I was intrigued by Pressfield’s comments about (and waiting for) healing as a tool of Resistance, to prevent the beginning of a Great Work.

Image courtesy of Mihai Tamasila via stock.xchng

According to Pressfield there are whole communities of people investing such effort and resources into getting well that they aren’t doing much else.

In his book he says some people feel they need to be healthy before they can do, or make their art.

I have felt this way in a vague sense, thinking that what I wanted to say would have more legitimacy or authority if I’d passed some point of competency, but the idea of doing nothing until that point is a straightjacket of terror.

Why ‘terror’? (That is a rather melodramatic word, but it’s the best I have just now.)

Because without my art I am locked in the long white corridors or darkened rooms of myself. There is no escape. And that is terrifying.

Writing is the walking.

One foot in front of the other to travel these endless hallways, and slow familiarity teaches what direction could be more useful, and I eventually see a door, and my momentum feeds itself until I slam into that crashbar and break into the open air.

Image courtesy of Jenny Rollo via stock.xchng

I’ve had encounters with others, or their words, who feel that they cannot produce art without the brokenness inside them.  Elyn Saks, in her Ted Talk quoted poet Rainer Maria Rilke who said, “Don’t chase my devils away, because my angels may flee too.”

I have wobbled on both sides of that line, and the perspective I find most-comforting is what Pressfield expresses in his book. He insists that healing is not a prerequisite, because the part that needs healing is completely separate from the part that is creating.

The experience of brokenness can make the creating part of you more useful, but somehow, in this one-way economy, that brokenness can only add depth to what already is.

I like this model, this container of words, because it suggests that the reasoning of second quote—about needing to keep the demons around—is misplaced.

Continue reading »

My “Word for 2012”

At the beginning of 2012, more than ever before, I saw other bloggers talking about their “word for the year.” Even when it felt normalized (rather than capricious or trendy) it was still scary to me.

To claim that I was going to focus on this topic/image/virtue/goal for the coming year was intimating because I wasn’t sure I could focus on anything for a year.

Repeated defeats and distractions will do that to a person.

Even so, I prayed about it because I really love words. And the idea of having a pet word, an anchor for thoughts and prayers and meditations (when I remembered it, at least) was very appealing.

And I got my very own word for the year.

And didn’t tell anyone, because I was afraid. I was afraid of making a big deal out of something that would turn out not to be a big deal.

Because, honestly, when you’re declaring one word is enough to last you the e.n.t.i.r.e. year, you’re calling it a big deal. I work with words and I know what I’m talking about.

The word I got this January was hope.

In January I was (un)well into my second year of depression, but I was starting up with a new counselor (my third– there’s a story in felt-failure: that it took me three tries to find the right someone), and finding new books, and had a sense of anticipation.

I can’t say it was necessarily about “the coming year,” but it was about life in general, and I was ready for hope.

It was (I believe) in that second linked book that I read (and latched onto) a definition for “hope” that I’ve repeated many, many times this year.

Hope is the assurance that *now* is not permanent.

That is, of course, only a partial definition. It expresses a desire for change (for the better) but not enough of the positive anticipation.

I did a word search through the bible while the word hope was on my mind. About the same time, one of the elders in our church urged all of us to choose a “verse for the year.”

I feel a bit the same about verse-for-the-year as I do about word-for-the-year; only you’re not allowed to say that you think a bible verse isn’t big enough to last a year, so naturally I just was quiet rather than draw attention to myself about how I doubted I’d commit to one of those, either.

Mostly I didn’t want to start one more thing, build it up, in my head or in public, and then notice six-months later that this centering verse, chosen to draw all the craziness of Life toward a single focus, did nothing more to contain the centrifugal spatter of my life than it did cozied next to the verses that were its normal companions.

I just don’t need the extra pressure or resultant discouragement.

But even though I rationally and objectively felt this way, I still liked the idea of searching the scriptures to see if anything “popped,” and combined with the word hope, something did.

I emailed it to the elder, as he’d requested to hear from us in the church, but I asked him not to include it in the general discussion because I was so shy of it.

It was a mighty-big verse to me, and I was shy to have it connected as my heart-prayer. Especially in the context of it being “this year’s” verse. It was much easier to say, This is near my heart. I trust telling you, but please don’t extend it farther, or I’ll feel a need to be explaining myself.

And I just don’t like the idea that I have to explain my affinity to, or delight in, a verse of scripture.

Yes, after all that I’ll say what it was. Continue reading »

The Platinum Rule

Everybody’s heard of “The Golden Rule:”

Image courtesy of Sebile Akcan via Stock.xchng

Treat others the way you want to be treated.

It is a concept that has existed forever, but I read somewhere that it was Jesus who turned it on this positive angle. Everybody else– Confucius, the Greek philosophers– couched it in opposite terms:

Don’t treat anyone the way you don’t want to be treated.

It was “the law of reciprocity” and contained a rude (underdeveloped) sort of empathy. Sort of like another admonition I read on a twitter profile:

Be gentle with others. Everyone is fighting a secret battle.

All of these build on the idea that we know our own needs and that there is a commonality to our race (we’re all human) that allows us to recognize (from our own experience) what others would value and/or fear.

The frustrating thing about conclusions is that they are fully dependent on the assumptions that lead to them.

Even the Golden Rule.

I have been told more than once that I’m not like most people, and Jay had that great line last week, “You are a square in a world of circles. You come at things from such a *completely* different angle nobody else sees.”

The man wasn’t being critical or complementary. I think bewildered is the best word. It’s nice not to be the only confused one. And nice to be accepted, even “off center.”

So when I assume that others are like me, that they value and desire the same things– I can get in trouble.

For one thing, other people “golden-ruling” me really are trying hard, and I shouldn’t get offended when it doesn’t fit, and what I give other people (because it’s what I would have wanted) can land completely wrong.

So I think the level-to-aspire-to is The Platinum Rule:

Treat others the way they want to be treated.

Image courtesy of Sara Haj-Hassan via stock.xchng

By necessity this requires knowing the other person well enough to make a reasonable guess, but it also requires the presence of mind to apply what you know.

Many people I know (and I include myself in this category) are just plain-nice people. They’re not in the habit of doing unkind things, and I can’t think of situations where they would be deliberately hurtful to anyone.

But some of these people have hurt me.

And I have hurt some of them.

Here’s one specific example, going both ways– it relates (as I see it) to the way we process information differently. Continue reading »

King’s Property (Reading Notes)

This is the first book in a Trilogy called Queen of the Orcs, the title which sounds rather Spoilery right there.

This isn’t a book review, per se, but consider yourself spoiled (warned) if you choose to keep reading.

King’s Property would have been a fascinating read at any time, but as I had just shifted to a new main character within Lindorm’s cast (wanting someone with more inherent power to act and create change within the story), it was interesting to read about a powerless main character.

Dar is a branded slave, unable to escape because the brand meant she was worth more dead than alive. She allies herself with the fearsome Orcs she was recruited to serve, and displays her character through her willingness to adapt, and her compassion for those even weaker than herself.

I remember them from my own imaginations as a teenager: a pregnant woman then her newborn daughter. A young girl who needs mothering.

My gripe with this trilogy came when I got half way through the second book, Dar has fallen in love with one of her Orc friends.

No, that’s not the part I object to: if you don’t have a problem with Elf or djinn spouses, which I always rolled with up till now, there’s no reason to cry foul because the species is ugly. Their admirable character has already been established.

Being the way I am, I wanted to know if this was a ploy or a new cord to pull through the ending. (I’d gotten all three books from the library at the same time.)

Now, I should say, I gave this a bit of time. I recognized the elf/djinn fairness of letting her chose an orc, so I was riding it out to see what they did with this new arrangement.

In this world the Orc society was matriarchal the way the human society was patriarchal. That is to say, the person who held absolute power and the ultimate NO changed gender, but not inclination to wield it.

As yet this didn’t particularly bother me, and I even thought it was fairly well played, because there are benevolent patriarchies (though Dar had not experienced them) and a benevolent Matriarchy would be just as hierarchically-based.

But it started to wear on me, and my quick glance at the two-paragraph epilogue (where Dar happily embraces her daughters) was no longer enough to assure me this would end my kind of well.

I back tracked a few pages (in the end of the last book– yes. I’m that sort of a reader), and found where she brokenheartedly but firmly tells her lover that there’s no way they could live a meaningful life together (on the outskirts of Orc society) even if he was willing to be “invisible” with her. No one would want to marry their daughters, etc.

It struck me that the story opened with her being pulled ambivalently from her crap-sack family, and now were ending with her walking away from the new family she had, with great difficulty, built for herself.

After the blow-off-for-his-own-good, Dar then talks with the lover’s cousin about how there’s a quite-pretty orc that will make the rejected lover a fine wife, and he’ll be well taken care of, etc.

I was willing to see the rejection as a legitimate (if misdirected) effort to prevent their future children from rejection, but this last bit of conversation killed it for me.

You see, my measure of appropriateness in a ‘role reversal’ (such as this where females assume the lead/dominance normally attributed to males, or where whites are the minority rather than the default skin tone), is to flip it back around.

So in this case, I saw a Shane-like figure (as I disclaimer I’ve never read the book or seen the movie, I just know he leaves at the end) who graciously but firmly turns down the lovely, wispy blond he’s given marked attention to his whole time in town. He cites whatever reasonable reasons he has and tells her to go home to daddy.

Which she does, bravely hiding her tears as she walks away.

‘Shane’ then turns to her cousin, milking the cow and they proceed to talk about how some other good-looking guy’s been trying to get her attention all this time, and if she’ll just let him fix her broken heart everything will be hunky-dory.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I find both scenarios equally distasteful.

As it comes down to it, I really expected that, having been the bottom of the pile under the old system, Dar would have recognized the flawedness of such systems and tried to do something about it. And maybe she did in the beginning of the book-3 I didn’t read. The problem is that it didn’t last to the end.

She held all the power, and he was the good little male and did what his superior told him to do. Because she was higher than him, and he knew it was his job to submit.

I really liked Dar in the first book for her persistence and creativity in doing what she could to live the best life she could, but this ending felt like a type of giving up, and I was really disappointed.

Chose not to finish the trilogy, but I’d probably read the first book again.

Recommended for ages 17 and up:
General mistreatment and violence of both the sword and the sexual kinds. Not hugely graphic, but more than just hints at what’s going on.

Kids Reading (Reading Notes)

Natasha has been reading for a long time now, and definitely prefers the series I consider “fluff.”

Light reading that is not particularly meaningful, but harmless.

The fairy books by “Daisy Meadows” are currently the Doritos books of choice for all three of my kids.  And I’m pretty much okay with them as library books.  They’re so generic, formulaic and predictable I don’t feel the need to read them before letting the kids.

Mostly, I’m a selfish reader: I want to read my stuff (the stuff I’m interested in reading for myself).

But I’m also a protective mom, all too aware of gateway books (those books that are unobjectionable themselves, but tie directly into material that I don’t consider appropriate for the child who’s just finished book-1).

Alanna is my textbook example of this. Wonderful story, exciting and well-told. Any girl who’d read #1 would burn through #s 2-4 ASAP. But those all involve premarital sex, and as something light and experimental.

Perhaps I’ll do a post someday on what will make me tolerate sex in a story rather than be done with that book (and maybe the author) altogether.

*hint*
Like swearing or violence, it has to need to be there. And it doesn’t need to be in middle grade books. Ever.

Anyway, my mom never let me read Doritos books. At least, she leaned really hard on me when I picked up, say, a Sweet Valley High paperback from a garage sale, and while it lived on the lavender shelves in my room, I never read it.

I read loads of Jim Kjelgaard (mostly dog stories), Walter Farley and Margarette Henry (mostly horse stories), and nearly everything Brian Jaques wrote before I left high school.

I read other stuff too (I *hated* A Wrinkle in Time with a fearful passion), and had a Hermione-like reputation in my family for being full of random facts that I would pull out at various applicable and inapplicable times. I read enough non-fiction (including the 1960s encyclopedias my mom brought from home) that they just assumed I’d read it somewhere.

All that to say, I know I’ve read loads of kid books, but that was 25 years ago, and there are loads of books (many of them awesome) that I haven’t read.

So I’ve begun taking a principles approach with Natasha. I’ll skim a book for author philosophy, and let her pick out her own, mostly, and I won’t even insist she read the stuff I read at her age because I want her to discover what she likes.

When I was in 5th or 6th grade, a man said I should read Banner in the Sky.  I tried, he was very special to me, but the book bored me silly. Adventure and survival genres have never been my thing.

So I’ve been letting her pick out her own books, but I have begun insisting that at least half the books she chooses be older than her. And at least one older than me.

Why?

What I told Natasha is that every author is stuck in their own time, the way each culture is stuck in their own skin. You are a product of your time, and have to stretch to see more. There are ideas and angles you will not see if you always look from where you sit.

And so I think it is important to cast your reading net broadly.

At the same time, as a modern writer, I think it’s also important to support authors who are putting out good works now.  Two main reasons:

  1. You don’t get stuck in the false (*cough*lazy*cough*) assumption that old is always better. (Really it means someone else has already done the vetting. A fair starting place, but no need to be stuck there.)
  2. There’s really nothing like falling in love with a story, and getting to meet the person who wrote it, or being able to write a thank you note to the giver of a wonderful experience (something I heartily I recommend).

Default Matters (Reading Notes)

I am in the early chapters of a book called Shadow Syndromes, and currently am fascinated by the concept the authors put forward that they label Noise.

In the same way, they say, as all sick people are going to have a baseline of feeling cruddy (tired, confused, unmotivated, general yuck) all brain issues also have a baseline of some general, indeterminate but distinctly distracting busy-ness that gets in the way of our brains doing exactly what we want them to do.

Just as literal noise (the neighbor’s music, nearby traffic, baby crying can be alternately ignorable and maddening, so can this brain-noise. It’s something extra to process, and so an additional draw on our physical/intellectual resources.

~

There’s this (thank God, happily married) researcher named Gottman who’s been studying relationships and marriage for decades. This book describes Gottman’s observation of the direct correlation between heart rate and the capacity to argue like adults.

Before Gottman puts his study-subjects “under glass,” and tells them to pick a subject of conflict, he hooks up monitors to measure a variety of physical markers– including “general somatic activity” (how active is the nervous system).

The correlation is consistent with what we’ve all experienced: the more active all these markers get, the less functional the communication becomes. Gottman calls it “diffuse physiological arousal,” and it’s a reasonable summary of what Shadow Syndrome‘s authors call noise.

“Gottman actually advises troubled couples to take their pulses in the midst of battle. In his experience, when a man’s pulse reaches eighty beats per minute, on average, and a woman’s pulse ninety, there is little point in going on.”

Why?

“To put it bluntly, once in a noisy state, people are simply not as smart as they are when calm.”

The heart rate is just the at-home check anybody can do: the fact is the entire body of a combative individual is getting worked up.

Intensifying the noise.

It is a collection of extra demands on the brain, diverting energy from the “higher processes” of reasoning, empathy, the reading of body language, and subtext.

What warring partners are left with is the dubiously termed, overlearned behaviors.

These are the patterns we have repeated so many times we have burned their processes into our neural pathways. They were learned and practiced in childhood, and so have had the most time to entrench themselves as the default position.

You don’t have to think about them and that is the point.

When you are too tired (or busy) to think, these are your go-to behaviors.

Which, really, explains a lot for me. In real-life and in writing.

I’m an over-thinker already, so when I’m mapping out a scene, I really have a hard time, in good conscience, making a character do something stupid.

I mean, I know people do stupid things all the time and in a story that’s often how you get interesting things to happen. Character-A does something stupid, and we get to spend a chapter (or half the book) getting him out of it.

Other than writing by the seat of my pants (and not seeing the trouble myself, so I’ll believe the character wouldn’t) the best advice I ever got about getting characters to act stupid was Have them make decisions in a hurry.

Another option, according to this research, is to have them act in anger, or some other intense emotion, or while there’s enough other stuff going on that the decision-maker is not functioning at full capacity.

The point is– well, two points.

a) We really do deteriorate as an argument stresses us. So if progress (or relationship improvement) is our goal, taking breaks really is the best policy.

This might even be why discussing the issue in front of someone you both respect (even if s/he offers no direct input) can have value: it might be easier to maintain self-control with an audience, and you could get farther before hitting critical mass.

Maybe this is even the point of talk-therapy: the counselee is “forced” to move linearly and may be less-likely to perseverate or deteriorate to “overlearned processes” like anxiety.

b) What you were like as a kid still affects who you are now.

The subset of this being: teach your kids processing/communication skills NOW. And take every opportunity to practice with them.

Weight Therapy #4: Getting it *Right*

It’s amazing to me how much being healthy in my mind changes the way I take in information.

When my world feels like it’s falling down around my ears, everyone but me is the expert, and there’s no way I can go wrong doing *anything* different that I’m doing now.

In such a state, the vastly contradictory messages that daily fly at us create a fierce cognitive dissonance that my broken self wears itself out trying to reconcile.

By contrast, the reading I did over the month of July (Scale Down, Living the Low-Carb Life, Protein Power, The UltraMetabolism Diet, The Fat Flush Diet, Never Say DietYes these titles make me squirm, but yes, they all had good content that make them worth mentioning by name.) created a sort of scatter-pattern that left me with a comfortable grouping of behaviors that I have been working at consistently (my food-diary says) since June 27th.

My clustered behaviors:

  • No gluten (already integrated, and the foundation of everything else)
  • Shoot for ~24g protein/meal (an ounce of meat contains 7 g. of protein), 72g/day
  • Minimize grains
  • Using my WW points as a single number to watch how much I’m consuming.
    • With the higher protein demands, this limit brings up the consumption of (zero-points) veggies to edge out the grains naturally
  • Fist-full of vitamins every day. Divided them up into a.m. and p.m. clusters, and I forget the evening ones half the time, but my consistency is improving.
  • Minimize caffeine (which for me means choosing herbal teas– which I choose based on other reading/research I’ve been doing– heavy on the ginger and peppermint.)
  • 45-minute walk (brisk, but not a run) 4-6 days/week (usually on the treadmill with a book or a TV show).
    • reaching 10,000+ steps on a pedometer from a busy day meets the same goal: I don’t do both or I’m dead within 48 hours)
  • Loads of water. To the point where my body *craves* it and I know if I’m behind.
    • One day last week I drank two quart jars before 9 a.m., a pot of peppermint tea before I left the house, another pot of (real) tea while visiting with a friend (we finished two pots between us), a tall glass with dinner and another quart jar with my evening walk.  Realized later that I’d been so scattered in the previous two days I hadn’t kept a water bottle nearby and was seriously behind.
  • Minimal dairy– cheese in one-pot meals, and sometimes raw goat milk from our milk share
  • Sugar self-limits without the grains and dairy– I use fruit or smoothies if my sweet tooth is nagging me

Anyway, yes this is a lot of specific behaviors, but other than the protein and the walking, these don’t actually come into a list that I keep in the forefront of my mind.

Really.

It only turned into a list when I sat down to record what I’m actually doing for myself.

If I’d collected all this and tried to do it all from the opposite behaviors I lived four years ago, I’d think I was nuts.

This is the beauty of “growing into” a plan. It’s also the challenge of hearing someone ask you what to do.

I smile and try to think what to say to make the first step seem in-reach.

It’s the sympathetic smile you get from an experienced mom when your infant’s not sleeping through the night.

There are things that are just hard, and if you can do anything at all they are you only get into a rhythm over time.

Continue reading »

Did you know Sinning is Not a Requirement?

“We’re not called sinners because we sin,” my dad says. “We sin because we’re sinners.”

Behavior grows out of  identity, you see. (Another reason to drop “cheat” from your HEP vocabulary.)

This definition is important because those of us who’ve “put on Christ” and the new life he offers us– we have a new identity.

Image courtesy of Simon Jackson via stock.xchng

We’re not sinners any more.

Charles Swindoll in his book The Grace Awakening, Urges Believers to look hard at Romans 6, and makes a challenging observation:

Most Christians have been better trained to expect and handle their sin than to expect  and enjoy their freedom. The shame and self-imposed guilt this brings is enormous, to say nothing of the “I’m defeated” message it reinforces.

Are you ready for a maverick thought? Once we truely grasp the freedom grace brings, we can spend lengthy periods of our lives wihtou sinning or feeling ashamed. Yes, we can! And why not? Why should sin gain the mastery over us? Who says we cannot help but yield to it? How unbiblical!

You see, most of us are so programmed to sin that we wait for it to happen. …

You have not been programmed to yield yourself unto God as those who have power over sin.

That new power– rooted in our new identity–  is a LOT of what Romans 6 talks about:

  • How can we who died to sin still live in it?
  • Our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin
  • You too consider yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
  • Do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires (The new identity means we have the choice to obey where previously we had no choice)
  • For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under law but under grace. (Glorious promise!)
  • Having been liberated from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness.

These words give me a hope I don’t remember ever basking in this much: We speak of being slaves to sin, the compulsion and the helplessness we were locked into in our lost state.

Now we (who are redeemed) find ourselves slaves to righteousness.

A new identity and a new servitude.

Sin is no longer the Default Mode.

This is a Big Deal because I don’t think I’ve lived this way on-purpose. I don’t think I’ve ever looked at Sin as completely optional.

Then Sunday (I’d been swimming in these ideas since Saturday, the day before) the man bringing the massage wrapped up with 1 Corinthians 10:13:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.

When I am watching a mystery or one of my body-a-week shows, I pay attention to the way things are said more than I do in real life.

For one thing, every speaker’s words were chosen by a writer, and I can guess that any hints I pick up on are probably real and not just in my own head.

One thing about every good mystery is that the answer is always on the table.

It might be concealed or misrepresented, but it’s there. When the answer is revealed the audience can see how clever everything was (or wasn’t) and know the truth from all angles.

 

Image courtesy of tatlin via Stock.xchng

In a similar way, when I go into my life and its demands (and temptations to sin) it makes a tremendous difference to me whether I’ll have to swim on my own, or if I’ve got a rope to hold onto.

God has promised a way of escape.

The answer is on the table.

How encouraging is that?!

So much of my anxiety comes from a sense of feeling trapped. Of being out of options.

And when I’m stressed I am more likely to sin with my mouth.

What a relief to hear I am not bound to this!

He will provide a way of escape.

It’s all… Just Enough

I’ve been making a valiant effort in the preceding months to do everything.

And that made blogging easy to drop.

I read novels (!!!)

Galvanized by my disappointing failure in April to read a book in two weeks (I’m still sorry Mary!), I leaned into reading in May.

Image courtesy of Sanja Gjenero via stock.xchng

Then something clicked– a visit to the used book store, the right thing being on my kindle, and a delicious chemistry of calm in the household.

Before the Fourth of July I had read The Healer’s Apprentice, The Fairy Path, Silence of the Lambs, By Darkness Hid, To Darkness Fled, From Darkness Won, The Iron King, The Short Straw Bride and Clockwiser.

Thoroughly enjoyed all of them. Showed me all sorts of storytelling elements I’ve been studying and digging toward. Absolutely delightful blend of work.

It was just beginning to feel like a binge, and life was getting fuller, so I set aside fiction (which demands sustained reading) in favor of a nutritional, non-fiction season.

Trouble was, I felt suddenly guilty that I was no longer a reader. A fiction reader. A reader of what I wanted to write.

Because, look at me, I’m. not. reading! {fiction.}

Ridiculous, right? {please say yes.}

I made me think how I really don’t understand Grace.

No, really, it does.

And don’t give me that ‘None of us understand grace,’ bit. I didn’t understand digestion for years, either. There are some things that kinda just work on their own, but that doesn’t mean your relationship to them is unchanging.

Let’s try a healthy-food analogy (since that’s what I’ve been reading like crazy the last two or three weeks). Turns out Food is like the the code someone writes to create software. Only, the software in this case is the DNA regeneration in your body with normal cell production.

What you eat tells your body which elements (nearly endless, it seems) to activate or hibernate. Very like binary code.

Now, I don’t have to know any of this for my body to do what it does, but if I want my body to end up in the right place (physically/mentally/emotionally sound), I need to feed in the right code.

And that will take some awareness. A remembering. Continue reading »

Including the Kids

I read a wide variety of topics, some pretty esoteric stuff.  And it’s tricky sometimes because I want to talk about what I’m processing (and Natasha in particular wants to do grown-up talk) but there’s always the question about how much is appropriate for the kids, and how much they would even understand.

Currently I am reading three books:

  • The Midnight Disease by Alice Flaherty (a book about the way the human brain works related to the various aspects of application and frustration reflected in writing and not-writing)
  • Deep Nutrition by Catherine Shanahan (a book– so far– about epigenetics and how food functions very like programming code being written for the DNA/genes to run.)
  • You’re Already Amazing by Holley Gerth (a book with a very ‘girlfriend’ tone that urges the reader to look very closely at herself and at life in the light of scripture).

Can I just say right here how much I love synergy?

I might (I doubt it) have finished one of these books already if it was the only one I was working on, but then I would have missed all sorts of interconnected gems.

Tonight I used something from the Midnight book with Natasha.

There are times she gets really *tight* about something and she can’t let it go. Just tonight for example.

“It’s happening again Mommy!” (I can guess she’s a bit regressed when I hear Mommy. My least-favorite title.)
“What’s happening?”
“I’m scared KNIDS are going to come and eat Elisha!”

And I have to try not to roll my eyes if the lights are on.

I really wonder if this started out as a game, or sleep-delay tactic, but whatever the origin these fears are now full-on terrifying to her, and just plain irritate me.

As anyone with fearful children will tell you, reassurances and discussions (or lectures) of reality are no use in these situations.

So I did an extemporaneous mini-lecture about perseveration.

I explained how a person whose brain has been damaged in a particular way will perceive something accurately, but then see only that. You show him a fork, ask him to name it, and he’ll say fork.

But then you show him a spoon, a knife, a toy truck, and each of those will also be called a fork.

The way to break this cycle is to draw his attention away from the idea for a moment:

A loud noise outside, or a family member walking into the room, will let the fork leave the center of his focus long enough for him to correctly name the new object.

Stapler.

But this merely shifts the problem, as everything now is identified as a stapler.

The point is, I told Natasha, You can use the same idea to shift your thoughts. If you let them go.

*Too* many times, she has come out to us in the living room sweating with anxiety. I’m convinced she rehearses the fear all her steps out to where we are, so whatever it is is only amplified, not relieved, by travel.

“Imagine your thoughts are a bouncy ball,” I suggested. “Right now, your ball is on the purple elephants step [She laughs]. If you want to quit thinking about purple elephants, you should try a shift of some kind. Go get a drink. Use the bathroom. Climbing down the ladder will give your brain a chance to bump the ball off the purple elephants step. AS LONG AS you don’t keep it there.”

I made a cage with the fingers of one hand over the palm of my other hand.

“If you don’t let it move, it won’t. Give it a chance.”

All these words were delivered with my end-of-the-day, how-much-of-this-is-useful-and-how-much-is-just-delay-? pseudo-conviction.

Jay took the kid-calls that came in the next half-hour, till Natasha bright-eyed and grinning tumbled into the living room.

“It worked! See, I was smoothing my hair, then thought, I bet I could make a pony tail–“

This is a morning-story,” I interrupted. “You belong in bed.”

She backed away, grinning. “And it worked, Mama,” she finished. “Your idea of getting down worked!

And she took herself back off to bed, tear-free.

Fear-free.