Loyalty, unconditional love, comfort, moments of disgust so complete they stay with you for hours…
This week’s positive intention class was focused on identifying and honoring the little victim within. We all have one (mine is a little green gremlin with warts and pointed ears who is so ugly he is cute) and their job is to continually warn us of all the dangerous things out there that we need to watch out for. He doesn’t forget anything and has this way of linking every negative experience to a few major traumatic events in the past and worrying that if we dare to set one big toe out the door again, we will certainly be run over and squashed flat.
I’ve learned some new ‘exercises’ in my positive intentions class and am diligently attempting them daily. Some are easier than others and I find that there are two that consistently find me struggling to focus and complete them.
The gifts just keep on coming this week. It’s a busy one, with the beginning of the school year and Eve and I both adjusting to the rhythms of a new school, so I will share with you the quick-and-dirty list of lovely things the Universe has flung my way recently.
- Last Wednesday, my sister-in-law called to invite us to go camping with her and her kids for two days before their school year started. For some reason, we accepted on a whim and spent two glorious days walking in the woods, swimming, floating the river and meeting two other families who have kids with special needs. What a lovely, fun way to see these kids – outside a classroom, riding bikes and talking on walkie-talkies and sitting down with mothers of other kids with sensory processing issues. They get it. Lola and I shared an innertube and bounced and rocked our way down the river and saw a juvenile bald eagle, two vultures and a great blue heron along the way.
- When we got home, we learned that our bear is back. The one who visited our backyard nearly every night between September and February last year paid us another visit over the weekend and, while he wreaked havoc on my birdfeeders and the compost bin and left me some enormous piles of bear poo, I am so excited to have this gentle giant wandering through my back lawn again. Rather than frightening me, it makes me feel safe and relaxed to know that my yard is a haven for this amazing creature. I suppose I would feel differently if he wasn’t nocturnal!
- On Monday I had a phone interview with a small publisher in Montana who may or may not be able to help me, but for nearly an hour we talked writing and publishing and it didn’t take us long to figure out that she knows Bubba from a previous job and the teeny tiny town she lives in in Montana is the same one where my favorite aunt and her husband live.
- With Bubba out of town for three days, I managed to get both girls to and from school and their various activities with no hiccups, despite the fact that it is a logistical labyrinth. We did it! And in the process, I have met some lovely people who are willing to help us out whenever they can – I need only ask.
- On Tuesday I started a class with four other women (total strangers) on positive intention. The four of us immediately bonded and one of the participants brought copies of her book to distribute at the end of class. She gave me her phone number and encouraged me to contact her if I want to talk about publishing my own book.
- The teacher of this class sends daily emails to ‘check in’ with our progress and remind us to engage in certain exercises she taught us on Tuesday. We are all encouraged to dialogue (through email) about our experiences and the feedback she has provided so far has been amazing. I feel physically lighter.
Quiet morning. Girls both at school and Bubba’s off to California. Dishes done. Laundry put away. Email answered. Dog walked. It occurs to me how long it has been since I sat in a quiet room and meditated, so I head upstairs, settle down on a cushion, cross my legs and begin breathing.
When you can create a fantasy school?
I heard someone say once that the reason we get defensive when someone insults us is because there is a part of us that believes in the veracity of the insult. Think about it. Don’t we usually come back with, “No, I’m not!” or some such defense or proof that we are not, indeed, guilty of whatever our accuser has said we are guilty of? I know I do that. Once someone says something about me (unless it’s my kids – I long ago figured out how to let go the slings and arrows of being told I’m the meanest mother there is), I am immediately driven to prove them wrong. I see my girls doing it with each other, too.
“She called me a butthead!” Lola shrieks.
“Well, are you one?” I ask.
She is offended. Until she realizes that her bottom is most definitely not on her head and giggles. I remind her that just because Eve is older than her and flung the insult with a great deal of passion, does not mean that Lola is, indeed, a butthead. And if she were one, is that something under her control or not? If not, then it isn’t much of an insult, is it? That’s like calling the dog a dog. No matter how loudly or indignantly you say it, it’s just the truth and not derogatory. It isn’t his fault he’s a dog. He just is.
Like most of my parenting tactics, however, it seems that I must repeat this speech for both girls somewhere between half a million and two billion times before they actually either recall it on their own or think long enough to apply its actual meaning to this particular situation.
Why is name-calling so effective? Who first discovered that it had the power to stop another human in their tracks? Name-calling is like the sound bite of relationships – rarely accurate but effective at grabbing attention. I know that when my girls descend into “jerk” and “idiot” they have simply stopped attempting to solve whatever misunderstanding they are having and are simply trying to get the point across that they are MAD. I’m pretty sure the names are designed to hurt feelings, too, although neither of my girls would admit that they purposely wanted to hurt her sister. When we all sit down later to discuss the issue, sometimes I ask them for a character sketch of a jerk or an idiot or a butthead and, once we have all of the traits down on paper, it turns out that neither of them fits the description. So why is it so much easier to label other people with mean names than it is to say we are simply angry or frustrated or hurt?
I wonder if it is because calling someone else a name puts all of the blame outside ourselves. If we admit that we are upset, not only does that make us seem vulnerable, it somehow invites personal responsibility into the mix. If you are a jerk, however, it must be all your fault and I am teflon-girl. Certainly when I am accused of being a jerk or an idiot I have a moment, however fleeting, of panic. Is it all my fault? Did I make a huge mistake? What have I done?
This summer has been a tricky one for Lola. Honestly, I think it has actually been more of a trial for Bubba and me, but it started out tough for Lola with this.
I got some feedback from the naturopath, who suggested we run some tests. I spoke to my therapist who had me answer a series of questions rating Lola’s behaviors in different situations. I confided in Carrie who pointed me in yet another direction. Is this sounding familiar to anyone? Bubba was not convinced. In fact, he was horrified and offended. Not his little girl. She is just quirky. Different. One-of-a-kind.
The therapist is fairly certain it is ADHD. Even though Lola has never been in trouble at school and her attention span is terrific, her need for constant motion, both asleep and awake, coupled with her inability to transition and low threshold for places like Costco, spell ADHD to her. She suggested we have her formally evaluated and try a course of medication. I nearly stopped seeing her for that. The fact is, I’m not going there yet. Nowhere near yet. Lola is lovely. She is wild and crazy and irreverent and funny and unpredictable and clever and the most loving child I’ve ever met. The possibility that medications would change her into someone who is calm and quiet all the time scares the crap out of me.
Carrie, on the other hand, asked me to check out something called SPD – sensory processing disorder. Jackpot! I printed out a thirteen page checklist and Lola and I sat down with a highlighter to mark it up. The list was broken down into sections for each sense: hearing, sight, taste, touch, and smell. Within each of those sections, there were questions about hypersensitivity (oversensitive) and hyposensitivity (not sensitive enough). We knew all of these things, but seeing the pages striped with bright green marks, leaving not very much white space behind was pretty telling. Lola is incredibly sensitive to smells and sounds, but craves touch (wrestling, squeezing, bouncing, twirling, tickling and being upside-down) and taste (sour foods like lemons don’t even make her cringe and when the last pickle is gone from the jar, she gets a straw and sucks out the juice). The more I looked, the more we found Lola in the pages of this list.
My therapist warned me that “SPD isn’t an official diagnosis, but is often a part of ADHD,” but I’m still not going there. It’s not that I’m resistant to Lola being ADHD, it’s that I don’t think she is. Truth be told, I’m resistant to Lola being labeled anything at all. Every time I talk to someone about SPD, the “D” (disorder) makes me cringe. I’ve found the “D” standing for dysfunction in other places and I really just want it to stand for “difference.” Lola is intelligent enough to know that she is different from most other kids and she is the one who came to me complaining of some symptoms, but I really don’t want her to begin thinking of herself as disordered or dysfunctional. Before we headed to the doctor’s office yesterday, I sat down with her to let her know I was going to share the checklist with the doctor and ask for some ideas from her. I wanted to be sure she was comfortable with that and didn’t feel as though anything was “wrong” with her or that she had anything to feel badly about. She seemed okay with it, but once we were in the exam room and the doctor and I began talking, she curled up on the table facing the wall and burst into tears.
Thankfully, our naturopath spent several years as an occupational therapist before becoming an ND and she has some tricks up her sleeve to help Lola begin to integrate her senses better and feel more comfortable with them. Bubba still isn’t convinced, but he’s willing to look the other way so long as the things I try with Lola don’t require a diagnosis or a prescription. I get how he feels. Lola is special and lovely and wonderful just the way she is. Neither of us wants her to change and we certainly don’t want this magnificent child to be labeled as something lacking or deficient or abnormal. This is a delicate dance I’m learning the steps to and I’m not sure I want to be on this dance floor.
I invited Dad to dinner last night in my dream. When he was alive, before we truly trusted our relationship, that was our way. Instead of meeting one-on-one, we would find ways to come within each other’s radius in public and invite the other one to come along.
In my dream, he just happened to call me when I was staying with a friend who was going through a nasty break up and I asked him to join a group of us for dinner that evening. He was pleased. I was pleased. Dad and I both had a terrific public face and we were proud of each other’s accomplishments, so presenting each other to our friends and acquaintances was always a safe bet. We would both rather die a thousand deaths than make a scene and trusted each other’s predictability.
“Do you think I’m insane to be having such a hard time breaking up with a guy who is such a jerk?” my friend cried as we dressed for dinner.
I don’t recall exactly the advice I gave her in the dream, but it was gentle and supportive and indicated that I knew exactly how she felt. I spoke to her as someone who is now happily married and, as such, proof that there is life beyond dating a jerk. I reminded her that no relationship is perfect, including my marriage, but being in one that makes you feel less of a person is simply not worth it. I was proud of my compassion and understanding and she was grateful.
I woke up before we got to dinner so I didn’t get to see Dad. Ever since he died, I dream about talking to him on the phone or getting letters from him, but I can’t ever actually see him. I pondered the peripheral nature of his appearance this time and ultimately felt good that we got past the “I’d like you to meet my dad” nature of our relationship in life. Unfortunately, it took my depression and Dad’s cancer to break through the surface and lead to trust and brutal honesty. We had three years of true, sometimes ugly, this-is-who-I-am talks and were able to learn so much from each other. I think that it was my willingness to admit that I hit rock bottom and ask for help that led him to a counselor in the last six months of his life. Even though I’m certain he knew he was going to die, this Marine-who-didn’t-ask-for-help-EVER found a therapist to help him work through some of the things that were hurting him the most. The fact that he went was astronomical. That he shared this information with me was even more phenomenal and indicated a level of trust that I will cherish forever. I am pleased that it gave him some comfort. I am sad that he learned that asking for help is less of a sign of weakness and more of a sign of trust only in the last six months he was alive, but I am so glad that he died knowing that he could seek assistance and be rewarded with love and understanding.
I’m still not sure what this dream means, but anytime Dad shows up I’m happy to receive him. Today will be spent basking in the warmth that his visit prompted.
Is there anything you do that you don’t require some sort of validation for?
Humans are such social creatures. Does that make us need validation from outside sources? Does that feed in to our “look at me” attitude? For other beings, things are more utilitarian. Build a nest so you won’t be eaten by predators on the ground and your eggs won’t fall to the ground. Hunt so that you can eat.
We have Twitter and Facebook so that we can constantly update our social networks with information about what we’re doing. “Just cooked the most fabulous dinner.” “Seeing the new release of Terminator:Salvation.” We post photos of ourselves and our children, videos of ourselves playing Guitar Hero, links to events we’re promoting or involved in. Are we creating connection or feeding our own narcissism? Are we showing off?
When I look at the kinds of things I do that I don’t require some sort of pat on the back for, I’m not sure there are many of them. When I spend a chunk of time planning, shopping for and creating a delicious meal for my family, I want some feedback. I want someone to say, “Wow, sweetie! That rocked!” or “Mom, please make this again!”
When I think about my book and what I want from it, I have to say that it isn’t one of those things. I truly wrote the book for myself. It would be sprinkles on the cake to have someone say they loved it or that it reached them somehow. The frosting would be the fact that it got published at all. I don’t expect or need, or even particularly want to sell a million copies and get rich from the book. The process of writing it was huge for me. It was an exercise in doing something solely for myself, solely to prove to myself that I could do it. The focus, the absolute selfishness it took to find the time to engage in the research and writing of the book, knowing that the chances it would be published was a way of saying to myself that it was worth doing simply because it was something I wanted to do. How do you justify spending five years of your life doing something that will probably not pay out financially at the end?
The answer, for me was that I wrote it because I was absolutely compelled to do so. To this day, I write because I can’t NOT write. I don’t write for a paycheck. I don’t write for an audience (much), because when I do I’m necessarily not happy with my process or the product. I write because I have to. And that is one of the things that I do that is pure.