Forgiveness

IMG_1610What does it mean to forgive? It seems to have a lot of different meanings to a lot of different people. In some circles, it means that one person forgives another person. I personally was not very comfortable with this definition because it didn’t feel right to me. Who was I to determine that I was in the right and they were in the wrong? Who writes these rules? Is there an appeal process?

Another popular meaning is that you absolve the person of any blame. It is a sort of a pardon or a way to free the accused from the need for punishment. Does this mean that it is OK if someone has hurt you? Sometimes people insist on the other person apologizing before they will forgive them. Is the other person taking the blame necessary for you to forgive? This doesn’t ring true for me either because it gives someone else too much control over how I feel. Another view on this is that forgiveness has nothing to do with anyone else.

We can spend a lot of time discussing whether or not someone “deserves” to be forgiven or whether or not enough punishment has been doled out, or enough time has passed, but failure to forgive someone is only harmful to you. The lack of forgiveness is not hurting the person that has not been forgiven. The individual that is the focus of your hate is often totally unaware of the fact that you hate them and that you are refusing to forgive them.

If you consider the possibility that forgiveness has nothing to do with anyone else and see it as a way to free yourself from the pain that holding onto this blame is causing you, then you enter a different space. Oprah likes to say that forgiveness is giving up the hope that things could have been different in the past. This has nothing to do with what happened to you. It does not mean that what happened is OK. It does not mean that it did not happen. It means that it did happen and there is nothing that you can do about it.

Forgiveness becomes the act of accepting that something bad did happen and that is just a fact. There is nothing that you can do to change that. Spending today wishing that it had not happened or dreaming about how your life would be different if it hadn’t happened, is not going to make you feel any better.

Lets not forget that anger is often holding down other emotions. Below anger there is often pain or fear. For those of you that tried to express your anger to help release it after reading “Big Boys Don’t Cry” you may have found that there was another emotion underneath. This is common. As a society we are more comfortable feeling angry and disgruntled than we are feeling vulnerable. When you peel back the anger, you find the core of the problem and it is painful. This is now what you need to experience in order to release it.

Hanging onto the anger allows you to feel like you are protecting yourself from the pain or from feeling uncomfortable. It does not protect you it just forces you to spend your life feeling angry.

Holding onto blame and refusing to forgive can be used to avoid another situation that causes you pain. You can hold onto the anger in a way that keeps you from trying again. For instance, you are up for a promotion at work. A co-worker gets the promotion instead of you. You are hurt and embarrassed and instead of feeling this pain, you become angry.

The anger can be used to protect yourself from further pain. “I didn’t want that stupid job anyway.” “I will never forgive them for hiring that person instead of me!” “I don’t want to have to work nights and weekends anyhow.” “I am not as much of a ‘suck-up’ as the person that got the job and I’m glad about that!” All of these statements point to the fact that it is easier to keep the anger, to use these negative thoughts and accusations to keep the pain below the surface. Also, by convincing yourself through anger that you did not want the job, you can avoid trying again and the potential for being hurt again.

A better use of the anger, in the situation above, would be to recognize that your emotions are showing you how important the promotion was to you. You might use that as a trigger to start looking for jobs that could provide advancement. Acting on the anger is much more productive if the action you take is, in fact, productive.

But we began this whole discussion with forgiveness, so I will come back to anger that is in place because of something that has happened to you. You may feel that someone is responsible, that someone hurt you or failed to provide what you felt that they should provide. On the other hand, things may have just happened and you are angry that they turned out the way that they did. This would apply to events that occurred without anyone doing anything, like death of a loved one, loss of your home in a hurricane, your job being replaced by a machine — that sort of thing.

In any case the past is the past. This sounds ridiculous to even state because it is so obvious, but we do spend a lot of time wishing our pasts were different. “If I had only been loved as a child, I would not have to shoot heroine everyday.” “If I had been able to afford university, I wouldn’t have to sell pencils for a living.” “If my dog hadn’t been hit by a car, I wouldn’t be afraid to love again.” The core of each of these statements is that the past is interfering with your ability to live the way that you would like to be living in the present. The past is robbing you of your life.

This is when forgiveness is crucial. It has nothing to do with what happened or who did what to whom, simply a recognition that there is no way to change what has happened so it is best to make peace with it so that you can enter your life. There is nothing to stop you from getting a new puppy, kicking your drug habit and increasing your inventory to include erasers as well.

 

Unconscious Decisions

IMG_1683Going deeper and deeper into knowing and understanding myself is important to me. Who was it that said, “An unexamined life is not worth living?” To me, it is more than that. Discovering oneself can be the greatest and scariest adventure that a person can go on.

I often coach people that have put up barriers to their own happiness. One of the reasons that coaching is so valuable is that it is easier for someone on the outside to see that the barriers are self-imposed. We all tell ourselves stories about who we are, what is important to us and how we should act in the world. But, the truth is, these are just stories. When I observe one existing in the psyche of a client, we haul it out, brush it off and shine some light on it. Once exposed, the power of the story diminishes and sometimes belief in the story completely dissolves.

Now it seems a bit hypocritical to not examine my own beliefs in the same way so I continually try to see these stories and rid myself of them. But, here is the problem, it is much more difficult to see them in yourself. You go through your day making large decisions and small decisions both consciously and unconsciously and it is not always easy to see that you are basing these choices on subconscious beliefs that you might not even be aware of.

One of the ways that these stories can be unearthed is by journaling. But if you are a veteran journaler like I am even this starts to lose its effectiveness somewhat. Recently, I started to examine each of my behaviours individually and tried to determine why I did what I did. So, I threw a small notebook into my bag and I started to write down things like, I bought some groceries and then I tried to write down why.

The first thing that I had to guard against was the apathetic, “because I needed groceries”. That is the story. That is the left-brain, the logical, planning, learning, socially acceptable part of your brain, telling me a story about why I went for groceries.

The more in depth analysis looked at the fact that I had enough food in the house that I could go for days without actually shopping, so “needing” groceries was just a story. So, why did I decide today, not in a few days, not later today, but right now, to buy groceries?

Another story popped up. “I was near the store and it was the most convenient time to buy them.” Closer examination blows this one out of the water as well. If I didn’t actually “need” them as discussed above, then the fact that it was convenient does not get to the heart of the matter.

So, why did I go in? What was my actual motivation? Then, slowly, the truth starts to surface. I wanted a particular item. “OK, why did you want the item?” This is when it gets interesting.

As it turns out, I was looking for a particular feeling, a way to bring pleasure into my life and the particular item was not in the house, so I told myself that I “needed groceries and this was the most convenient time to get them.” When in fact, I wanted to look forward to eating something just because I knew that I would enjoy it, so I went in.

These are very different things. We all eat for enjoyment, but this was a prophylactic shopping. I was not planning a specific meal; I was taking steps so that I would be able to find pleasure in eating. Now, I am not critical of this, but lets face it, there must be another layer to this.

Deep, below the surface of this story line about needing and convenience was a larger truth. I had recognized that I would be alone, with nothing to do in the near future and instead of calling a friend, thinking of an activity or taking another action to make sure that I could enjoy myself at the later time. I went grocery shopping for something that I knew I would like to eat.

So the underlying belief here was that if I have time when I’m alone and have nothing planned to do, the best thing for me to do is eat something delicious. Well, let me see here, that one is worth taking out and shining some light on. Don’t you think?

This type of journaling is going to be added to my repertoire. I need to unearth these habits and see where they originate. It might be scary and leave me open to finding out things that I don’t like about myself, but it is an adventure worth pursuing.

981

Two and a Half Men

http://mashcultu.re/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/two-and-a-half-men.jpg
http://mashcultu.re/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/two-and-a-half-men.jpg

I sat down in the family room to watch television and noticed that “Two and a Half Men” was on. I flipped to that station so that I could have it on in the background while I checked the listings to see what else was on.

It was the episode of “Two and a Half Men” during which Alan is desperately trying to make extra money because Charlie has hit a dry spell. Charlie is confident that money will show up and Alan is panicking and subjecting himself to humiliating jobs. Alan is shown with a golf-ball sized lump on his forehead and partial hair loss. He had been selling himself as a human research animal.

Alan says, “I guess I’m not in the control group.” This is supposed to be funny because it is so obvious that he is having a reaction to the drug–hence the welt on his forehead and the missing clumps of hair. Then it occurred to me that he might have had the same response regardless of whether he got the control or not. The placebo effect is real. It is so real that it can cause adverse reactions to drugs as well. Simply the act of taking a drug (whether it is a sugar pill or not) can cause adverse symptoms.

The people participating in the trial would no doubt be told to focus on their bodies and report any unusual symptoms. The act of looking for and believing that there might be an adverse reaction makes one more likely to happen. Much the same as believing that the drug might help you makes your symptoms lessen.

So although Alan’s, admittedly neurotic, character figures that he knows for sure that he has the test drug, he may in fact have given himself the negative effects from believing that the sugar pill he was given would give him adverse side effects. Alan’s character on the show is obsessive about things like this and would be very likely to worry about an adverse reaction.

I go more into the evidence of these things in another blog, but suffice it to say if you tell yourself that you are taking better care of yourself and that you will feel better because of it, you will likely do both. Try giving yourself 15 extra minutes of sleep because you know it will make you feel better. It is an easy way to take better care of yourself. See how you feel in a week. What have you got to lose other than the last 15 minutes of your television show? It’ll go into reruns anyway, don’t worry.

 

The Only Thing Constant is Change — Chapter 1

IMGP4598I am in my office again. I just finished a pretty hard week at work. I was covering at least two desks, and three for a little while, which meant I had to constantly stay focused on the work. This is not normally necessary. There are definitely ebbs and flows of work and this was a particularly heavy ebb.

I have decided to sit in my office to write. I was going to sit outside but I am finding that I have had too much sun lately. This is always a good sign because it means that it has been hot and sunny enough for me to get tired of it. So, I’m sitting inside even though it is hot and mainly sunny outside.

The disappearance of my parents was not the only change during this time, or any time since for that matter. If someone were trying to assess your level of stress they would be interested in how many significant life events you had experienced lately. These would include things like: death of an immediate family member, change in home address, change of jobs, graduating from school, marriage, separation, divorce, birth of a child, a child becoming an adult and moving out of your home…that sort of thing. Since this first move I’ve averaged one of those every six months. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

I only ended up staying on Oak Street until my 15th birthday. Actually the day of my birthday. For the final time, my mother was telling my father that she was going to leave him. This had happened before. This time my sister had said that she was staying with my father. I think there was a sort of recognition that my mother had left and returned before and Vicki thought that she would just stay put this time. Perhaps Vicki just recognized that my mother was unsuccessful in managing the last time she left and Vicki was curious whether or not my father had experienced a similar difficulty.

I was not saying whom I was going with. I knew that making my choice known and then having to live with the other parent would be potentially very uncomfortable, so I reasoned that when my mother actually said what day she was leaving, I would just go. I did not know when she was moving out, but I was pretty sure that she was not going to go on my birthday. I was wrong.

I came home from school that day and she was in the middle of the move. Significant disregard for the feelings of others is a sign of narcissism, but I didn’t know this yet. In this instance she was deciding that instead of acknowledging that it was my birthday, she would make the day about her. Anyhow, my boyfriend at the time, who was three years my senior and had his own car, helped me pack up my stuff and move into my mother’s place.

She had not considered that I was going with her. Maybe that is why she chose to leave on my birthday. Things like holidays punctuate our lives. She knew that I would want her around on a significant event, so she was removing herself from my life when I would most feel it. The facts are, I came home from school and I needed to move out if I was going with my mother, so I did.

The apartment that she got had been carved out of an old house. It was composed of the basement, the majority of the main floor and none of the upstairs. So there were people that lived right next to us and above us. One day someone was either really drunk or fighting or both and came crashing through a door that went right into my mother’s bedroom. In the original house, her bedroom would have been the living room, at the front of the house, and was right beside the main front door. Other than that, I did not notice that we had neighbours.

I made my bedroom in the basement. Since the walls were concrete I took my mother’s good draperies from the last house and hung them in a way that created a small room for my bed and my things. It seems odd now that she would take the curtains with her. They were sized for the house that she had left and unlikely to fit any type of window, with the exception of one identical to the one that they were made for.

I recognize here that I can try to explain why I think that she took them but what would I gain? I would be telling myself a story in an attempt to explain what happened. I could cast my mother as a villain and say she took them out of spite so that my father could not sit comfortably in his living room until he replaced them.

Or, I could make her seem thrifty and say that I think that she was going to alter them to fit another window and that she had that skill and inclination. I could argue that she may have had help to move and the movers had assumed that everything was going, including the window treatments, but I don’t know. I just know that they were in her apartment. I know because I found them in the new place and used them as walls.

This is the first time that I recognize eating to calm myself down. My boyfriend and I spent a week or so at this point eating fresh strawberry jam on toast with butter. I remember knowing that I was eating too much but needing to relax so desperately and not knowing how to accomplish that. I also pierced the upper holes in my ears by myself. I guess I am not the first person to discover the satisfaction of making an alteration to your appearance as a way of marking a change in your life.

Keep Reading: Oak Street

Read the entire book, now available
Read the entire book, now available

Read what I’ve learned about Narcissism by living with them. 

www.wendypowell.ca

Our Thoughts Create Our Perception of the World

IMG_2510As intelligent beings we believe that our brains know it all. They have built great cities, designed amazing gadgets and tackled some of the most incurable diseases. But, they do not always steer us in the right direction. How we experience our lives is largely determined by the stories that we tell ourselves about what is happening.

Consider this, one woman is offended and feels like she is being subjugated, while the other tells herself that she has the right to be treated well. The inciting event was a man held a door for these two women.

The experience that each woman had was very different. By deciding that she was being belittled and treated like a lesser human, the one woman felt offended when the man held the door. The other woman felt cared for.

Moments comprise our entire existence. How we feel in the majority of moments dictates our experience of life. Each of the women told themselves a story about the event. Neither was true. The only facts here are that a man opened a door and two ladies walked through. The interpretation is just the story that they told themselves. How they experienced this one moment in their lives was totally determined by the story that they told themselves about it.

It might not even end here. The woman that disliked the gesture might tell stories about it to her friends and think about how she should have responded. She might spend hours feeling like she had been slighted….This entire scenario speaks to how she feels. It is all created by her thoughts.

We have no way of knowing what the man was thinking. It may not have even registered that the other people were women. He may have just been closer to the handle and knew it would be easier to open the door and let the others through.

Take the time today to notice your thoughts. Are they true? Do they serve you? Do they cause you stress or unhappiness? Moments comprise our entire lives. Pay attention to how you are choosing to experience them.

224

 

The Meaning of Life?

http://trekcore.com/gallery/albums/picard/picard_s5hq_pbvariant.jpg
http://trekcore.com/gallery/albums/picard/picard_s5hq_pbvariant.jpg

When Jean-Luc Picard is faced with his mediocre new life after travelling back in time to fix a “mistake” he made when he was a young man, we all understood the significance of his epiphany. It is better to live a passionate life full of experiences, mistakes and opportunities than it is to play it safe and end up in an uninspiring life of drudgery.

In this particular Star Trek episode, Q sends Jean-Luc back to address a regret. Jean-Luc decides not to battle a Nausicaan this time. This saves Jean-Luc embarrassment and gives him a new lease on life. All of this is occurring during open heart surgery to replace the artificial heart that was required because of the initial fight with the Nausicaan. What Jean-Luc discovers is that his new life, as a low level technician, does not inspire him and he decides that he would rather have a meaningful, albeit shorter, life than a safer boring one.

Even though we understand this concept, our current preoccupation with “safety” at all costs is in direct conflict with this entire notion. How many people do you know who take any risks at all?  The mantra, “Better Safe than Sorry” is unquestioned, as an almost religious belief, which begs the question, Why?

Over several centuries, we have gone from believing that everything is in the hands of a supernatural being to worshipping science as the be-all and end-all answer to every conceivable question. There is a comfort in knowing that facts can be determined, numbers can be added and used to prove points. It is defensible to state knowledge and support arguments, but is that all that there is?

We all need something to be passionate about. That is how we were designed. A quick look around will reveal that people stand up against injustices, fund raise for medical research and put their energy into things that are important to them. Problem is, without recognizing that this is our very nature, many of us take the latest snippet of news, research or gossip and become passionate about that. This causes our passions to be paper thin and as changing as the wind.

Have you noticed the current obsession with kale and avocado? If you missed the initial scientific announcement that these are the new “super foods” you must have at least noticed that you can get avocado at almost all of the fast food places now. It is a topping on burgers, an ingredient in salads and included in beverages—yes, beverages.

We have internalized this notion that doing all that we can to avoid death, or prolong life gives our lives meaning. But does it? We understood what Jean-Luc felt because a life without passion and purpose is, not only depressing, but it misses the point. Could it be possible that the purpose of our lives is to find joy and live in passion?

Jean-Luc had the opportunity to re-live that part of his life and he went back and got into the fight again. For us mere mortals that have to live linearly I guess we should just follow our passions more and do those things that bring us joy, but more on that later.

Forgiveness

IMG_1610What does it mean to forgive? It seems to have a lot of different meanings to a lot of different people. In some circles, it means that one person forgives another person. I personally was not very comfortable with this definition because it didn’t feel right to me. Who was I to determine that I was in the right and they were in the wrong? Who writes these rules? Is there an appeal process?

Another popular meaning is that you absolve the person of any blame. It is a sort of a pardon or a way to free the accused from the need for punishment. Does this mean that it is OK if someone has hurt you? Sometimes people insist on the other person apologizing before they will forgive them. Is the other person taking the blame necessary for you to forgive? This doesn’t ring true for me either because it gives someone else too much control over how I feel. Another view on this is that forgiveness has nothing to do with anyone else.

We can spend a lot of time discussing whether or not someone “deserves” to be forgiven or whether or not enough punishment has been doled out, or enough time has passed, but failure to forgive someone is only harmful to you. The lack of forgiveness is not hurting the person that has not been forgiven. The individual that is the focus of your hate is often totally unaware of the fact that you hate them and that you are refusing to forgive them.

If you consider the possibility that forgiveness has nothing to do with anyone else and see it as a way to free yourself from the pain that holding onto this blame is causing you, then you enter a different space. Oprah likes to say that forgiveness is giving up the hope that things could have been different in the past. This has nothing to do with what happened to you. It does not mean that what happened is OK. It does not mean that it did not happen. It means that it did happen and there is nothing that you can do about it.

Forgiveness becomes the act of accepting that something bad did happen and that is just a fact. There is nothing that you can do to change that. Spending today wishing that it had not happened or dreaming about how your life would be different if it hadn’t happened, is not going to make you feel any better.

Lets not forget that anger is often holding down other emotions. Below anger there is often pain or fear. For those of you that tried to express your anger to help release it after reading “Big Boys Don’t Cry” you may have found that there was another emotion underneath. This is common. As a society we are more comfortable feeling angry and disgruntled than we are feeling vulnerable. When you peel back the anger, you find the core of the problem and it is painful. This is now what you need to experience in order to release it.

Hanging onto the anger allows you to feel like you are protecting yourself from the pain or from feeling uncomfortable. It does not protect you it just forces you to spend your life feeling angry.

Holding onto blame and refusing to forgive can be used to avoid another situation that causes you pain. You can hold onto the anger in a way that keeps you from trying again. For instance, you are up for a promotion at work. A co-worker gets the promotion instead of you. You are hurt and embarrassed and instead of feeling this pain, you become angry.

The anger can be used to protect yourself from further pain. “I didn’t want that stupid job anyway.” “I will never forgive them for hiring that person instead of me!” “I don’t want to have to work nights and weekends anyhow.” “I am not as much of a ‘suck-up’ as the person that got the job and I’m glad about that!” All of these statements point to the fact that it is easier to keep the anger, to use these negative thoughts and accusations to keep the pain below the surface. Also, by convincing yourself through anger that you did not want the job, you can avoid trying again and the potential for being hurt again.

A better use of the anger, in the situation above, would be to recognize that your emotions are showing you how important the promotion was to you. You might use that as a trigger to start looking for jobs that could provide advancement. Acting on the anger is much more productive if the action you take is, in fact, productive.

But we began this whole discussion with forgiveness, so I will come back to anger that is in place because of something that has happened to you. You may feel that someone is responsible, that someone hurt you or failed to provide what you felt that they should provide. On the other hand, things may have just happened and you are angry that they turned out the way that they did. This would apply to events that occurred without anyone doing anything, like death of a loved one, loss of your home in a hurricane, your job being replaced by a machine — that sort of thing.

In any case the past is the past. This sounds ridiculous to even state because it is so obvious, but we do spend a lot of time wishing our pasts were different. “If I had only been loved as a child, I would not have to shoot heroine everyday.” “If I had been able to afford university, I wouldn’t have to sell pencils for a living.” “If my dog hadn’t been hit by a car, I wouldn’t be afraid to love again.” The core of each of these statements is that the past is interfering with your ability to live the way that you would like to be living in the present. The past is robbing you of your life.

This is when forgiveness is crucial. It has nothing to do with what happened or who did what to whom, simply a recognition that there is no way to change what has happened so it is best to make peace with it so that you can enter your life. There is nothing to stop you from getting a new puppy, kicking your drug habit and increasing your inventory to include erasers as well.

 

Two and a Half Men

http://mashcultu.re/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/two-and-a-half-men.jpg
http://mashcultu.re/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/two-and-a-half-men.jpg

I sat down in the family room to watch television and noticed that “Two and a Half Men” was on. I flipped to that station so that I could have it on in the background while I checked the listings to see what else was on.

It was the episode of “Two and a Half Men” during which Alan is desperately trying to make extra money because Charlie has hit a dry spell. Charlie is confident that money will show up and Alan is panicking and subjecting himself to humiliating jobs. Alan is shown with a golf-ball sized lump on his forehead and partial hair loss. He had been selling himself as a human research animal.

Alan says, “I guess I’m not in the control group.” This is supposed to be funny because it is so obvious that he is having a reaction to the drug–hence the welt on his forehead and the missing clumps of hair. Then it occurred to me that he might have had the same response regardless of whether he got the control or not. The placebo effect is real. It is so real that it can cause adverse reactions to drugs as well. Simply the act of taking a drug (whether it is a sugar pill or not) can cause adverse symptoms.

The people participating in the trial would no doubt be told to focus on their bodies and report any unusual symptoms. The act of looking for and believing that there might be an adverse reaction makes one more likely to happen. Much the same as believing that the drug might help you makes your symptoms lessen.

So although Alan’s, admittedly neurotic, character figures that he knows for sure that he has the test drug, he may in fact have given himself the negative effects from believing that the sugar pill he was given would give him adverse side effects. Alan’s character on the show is obsessive about things like this and would be very likely to worry about an adverse reaction.

I go more into the evidence of these things in another blog, but suffice it to say if you tell yourself that you are taking better care of yourself and that you will feel better because of it, you will likely do both. Try giving yourself 15 extra minutes of sleep because you know it will make you feel better. It is an easy way to take better care of yourself. See how you feel in a week. What have you got to lose other than the last 15 minutes of your television show? It’ll go into reruns anyway, don’t worry.

 

Two and a Half Men

http://mashcultu.re/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/two-and-a-half-men.jpg
http://mashcultu.re/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/two-and-a-half-men.jpg

I sat down in the family room to watch television and noticed that “Two and a Half Men” was on. I flipped to that station so that I could have it on in the background while I checked the listings to see what else was on.

It was the episode of “Two and a Half Men” during which Alan is desperately trying to make extra money because Charlie has hit a dry spell. Charlie is confident that money will show up and Alan is panicking and subjecting himself to humiliating jobs. Alan is shown with a golf-ball sized lump on his forehead and partial hair loss. He had been selling himself as a human research animal.

Alan says, “I guess I’m not in the control group.” This is supposed to be funny because it is so obvious that he is having a reaction to the drug–hence the welt on his forehead and the missing clumps of hair. Then it occurred to me that he might have had the same response regardless of whether he got the control or not. The placebo effect is real. It is so real that it can cause adverse reactions to drugs as well. Simply the act of taking a drug (whether it is a sugar pill or not) can cause adverse symptoms.

The people participating in the trial would no doubt be told to focus on their bodies and report any unusual symptoms. The act of looking for and believing that there might be an adverse reaction makes one more likely to happen. Much the same as believing that the drug might help you makes your symptoms lessen.

So although Alan’s, admittedly neurotic, character figures that he knows for sure that he has the test drug, he may in fact have given himself the negative effects from believing that the sugar pill he was given would give him adverse side effects. Alan’s character on the show is obsessive about things like this and would be very likely to worry about an adverse reaction.

I go more into the evidence of these things in another blog, but suffice it to say if you tell yourself that you are taking better care of yourself and that you will feel better because of it, you will likely do both. Try giving yourself 15 extra minutes of sleep because you know it will make you feel better. It is an easy way to take better care of yourself. See how you feel in a week. What have you got to lose other than the last 15 minutes of your television show? It’ll go into reruns anyway, don’t worry.

 

The Only Thing Constant is Change — Chapter 1

IMGP4598I am in my office again. I just finished a pretty hard week at work. I was covering at least two desks, and three for a little while, which meant I had to constantly stay focused on the work. This is not normally necessary. There are definitely ebbs and flows of work and this was a particularly heavy ebb.

I have decided to sit in my office to write. I was going to sit outside but I am finding that I have had too much sun lately. This is always a good sign because it means that it has been hot and sunny enough for me to get tired of it. So, I’m sitting inside even though it is hot and mainly sunny outside.

The disappearance of my parents was not the only change during this time, or any time since for that matter. If someone were trying to assess your level of stress they would be interested in how many significant life events you had experienced lately. These would include things like: death of an immediate family member, change in home address, change of jobs, graduating from school, marriage, separation, divorce, birth of a child, a child becoming an adult and moving out of your home…that sort of thing. Since this first move I’ve averaged one of those every six months. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

I only ended up staying on Oak Street until my 15th birthday. Actually the day of my birthday. For the final time, my mother was telling my father that she was going to leave him. This had happened before. This time my sister had said that she was staying with my father. I think there was a sort of recognition that my mother had left and returned before and Vicki thought that she would just stay put this time. Perhaps Vicki just recognized that my mother was unsuccessful in managing the last time she left and Vicki was curious whether or not my father had experienced a similar difficulty.

I was not saying whom I was going with. I knew that making my choice known and then having to live with the other parent would be potentially very uncomfortable, so I reasoned that when my mother actually said what day she was leaving, I would just go. I did not know when she was moving out, but I was pretty sure that she was not going to go on my birthday. I was wrong.

I came home from school that day and she was in the middle of the move. Significant disregard for the feelings of others is a sign of narcissism, but I didn’t know this yet. In this instance she was deciding that instead of acknowledging that it was my birthday, she would make the day about her. Anyhow, my boyfriend at the time, who was three years my senior and had his own car, helped me pack up my stuff and move into my mother’s place.

She had not considered that I was going with her. Maybe that is why she chose to leave on my birthday. Things like holidays punctuate our lives. She knew that I would want her around on a significant event, so she was removing herself from my life when I would most feel it. The facts are, I came home from school and I needed to move out if I was going with my mother, so I did.

The apartment that she got had been carved out of an old house. It was composed of the basement, the majority of the main floor and none of the upstairs. So there were people that lived right next to us and above us. One day someone was either really drunk or fighting or both and came crashing through a door that went right into my mother’s bedroom. In the original house, her bedroom would have been the living room, at the front of the house, and was right beside the main front door. Other than that, I did not notice that we had neighbours.

I made my bedroom in the basement. Since the walls were concrete I took my mother’s good draperies from the last house and hung them in a way that created a small room for my bed and my things. It seems odd now that she would take the curtains with her. They were sized for the house that she had left and unlikely to fit any type of window, with the exception of one identical to the one that they were made for.

I recognize here that I can try to explain why I think that she took them but what would I gain? I would be telling myself a story in an attempt to explain what happened. I could cast my mother as a villain and say she took them out of spite so that my father could not sit comfortably in his living room until he replaced them.

Or, I could make her seem thrifty and say that I think that she was going to alter them to fit another window and that she had that skill and inclination. I could argue that she may have had help to move and the movers had assumed that everything was going, including the window treatments, but I don’t know. I just know that they were in her apartment. I know because I found them in the new place and used them as walls.

This is the first time that I recognize eating to calm myself down. My boyfriend and I spent a week or so at this point eating fresh strawberry jam on toast with butter. I remember knowing that I was eating too much but needing to relax so desperately and not knowing how to accomplish that. I also pierced the upper holes in my ears by myself. I guess I am not the first person to discover the satisfaction of making an alteration to your appearance as a way of marking a change in your life.

Keep Reading: Oak Street

Read the entire book, now available
Read the entire book, now available

Read what I’ve learned about Narcissism by living with them. 

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