BooWho

Things I want to keep in mind.

Month: April, 2017

It’s in the knowing

We all have triggers.  It doesn’t matter how old you are – how strong you have become – there are things that will set off a chain of reactions before you realize it is happening.  It is a natural tendency, a trained response.  In any addiction, those triggers are the biggest obstacle.  In any lifetime, addiction or no, those triggers plague us all.

Any self-help book will tell you that you must first learn to identify those triggers and then be ever vigilant to their influence.  Easier said than done, they are sneaky, devious and ambiguous.  If you are like most of us – there are multiple triggers and they are always hovering just under the radar -waiting to slide in, create chaos, then slip back out totally undetected.  Score!!  Slippery little buggers!

I can always tell when they have breezed through my world.  I suddenly feel as though I’m ten years old.  My knees are knobby, my face is pale and my hair is just this side of boyish.  I pull myself as far into myself as I can – trying to make myself very small.  Fear ripples through my mind and stomach.  I have to work very hard to hold down the panic.  Someone is mad at me and I have to rush to figure out why and what I can do to make amends.  Even writing about it makes my stomach turn.  The trigger could be someone actually being mad at me but, usually, it is just my fear that they are or will be.  I have said or done something unfavorable and am at risk of being judged an idiot or a fool.   I am like a little puppy – I must find my way back into the good graces of my pack.  This is the affliction of being a “people-pleaser”, you spend a lifetime trying to overcome that malady.

And here is the nub: we can certainly identify the triggers but affecting the change necessary to establish new responses is the true hardship.  For most of us, these responses are a lifelong routine, a means of emotional survival.  While those responses were developed by a child, they are believed to be a safety net as an adult.  We always fall back into the net — without thinking — because we know we can.  Stopping ourselves before we fall back is hard.  It requires a lot of awareness and butt loads of self talk.

I often have to talk to that little 10 year old girl with the knobby knees and tell her that it is going to be okay.  The world is not crumbling.   Sometimes people do get mad.  Sometimes people do judge.   Nonetheless, she still has a pack and the pack still loves her.

When we know better, we do better.  It’s the knowing that is the challenge.

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Defining freedom

Freedom is important.  We all want it and most of us are willing to fight for it, even if it is something as simple as making a strong argument with someone else about why we “deserve” a vacation from work or school.  As children, there was nothing more freeing than that last day of school and first day of summer!  As adults, it is always a major disappointment when we have to continue working through those glorious summer months.  (Unless you are a teacher and then you DO deserve the summer vacation!!!)

Vacation isn’t necessarily associated with “freedom” but it is a similar feeling.  Vacation means fewer responsibilities (although if you are a parent, you are never truly “free” of responsibilities even for vacation).

Freedom as a “first-world” matter is very different than in many other parts of the world.  We complain of our obligations to job, family, or community as if we are imprisoned by those commitments.  We are so enmeshed in our grievances about our busy lives and schedules, we overlook two important elements.  One: most of our commitments/obligations are self-imposed.  Doesn’t that mean that we retain prerogative over those obligations?  Two: the bigger picture.  There are many more constraints and impediments to “freedom” suffered by others even in our own country, in your own state and city.

Can’t find a thing to cook in the pantry?  You have a pantry full of food – many don’t.

Can’t find a thing to wear?  Nothing fits?  You have a closet is FULL of clothes – many don’t.

No time to exercise? What if you had to walk around all day because you had no place to go?

Work is getting you down?  School is boring?  Too many meetings?  Too many functions to attend?  Calgon take me away?

Imagine wearing the same thing every day.  Or having only two or three outfits – total.  You’d have to wash clothes nightly and you’d have to wash them in the sink with an old bar of soap.  Imagine having only ONE or two pair of shoes.  Imagine being sick but not being able to go to the doctor.  Imagine eating only one true meal every day.  Imagine having an old car that barely runs – and not being able to go on vacation – EVER.  Imagine.

Freedom is important.  It doesn’t have the same meaning for everyone.

(Side bar: remember to donate clothes, shoes and food.  Next time you are complaining about how busy you are or how you don’t have something you really want — stop yourself.  You are free to choose and to see.  What more do you need?)

Melting

My mother is melting.  Each and every day.  She has lost so much weight and sleeps most of the time.  My sister and I report to each other how she is on each of our visits.  We feel a glimmer of hope whenever she speaks – even if she is only repeating what we have said to her.  She does not recognize anyone anymore.  It is rare to see her smile.  Like a pile of snow in the parking lot – she is slowly melting, getting smaller and smaller – and the runoff is slowly finding its way to the river.

This disease has given us the opportunity to prepare ourselves for the inevitable.  We have been grieving for our mother for the last few years – as her view of us narrowed, our view of her expanded.  I’ve realized all of the questions that will never be answered.  I should have asked them earlier.  To be honest, I couldn’t.  The answer is there, isn’t it?  For some things, there are no answers or the answer is with the inquirer.

We prepare for the last few miles of the journey.  My mother is strong.  She always has been.  As a young woman, she moved to a foreign land (may as well have been) – far from family and friends.  She learned to cook on a wood stove and lived in squalor with her three children (eventually four).  She believed in her fairytale – someday, the prince would find and claim his kingdom and they would live happily ever after.  She cooked, cleaned, sewed, taught, sang, drove, washed, dried, mowed, raked, canned, gardened, laughed and cried throughout her very long and full life.   There are so many other things that we don’t know about her.

In her last leg of the relay, she sits in a chair with her face in her hands.  Or she lays sideways in her bed and sleeps.  We have no way of knowing if she is “thinking” or dreaming while she reclines.  What does she see and understand about where she is now?  Is she like a captive in her body, just unable to communicate?  Is she gone except for the daily routines and body functions of living?  Those are the exasperating questions for which there are no answers.  Her body just keeps going from day to day.  We stand by and watch as she melts, helpless to do anything about it.