Last night was the first time in a long time that I missed the ritual and subsequent grounding feeling of smoking. (I quit in 2005.) I was wired and stayed up getting a bunch of writing done, which I haven’t done on a quiet Friday night in a looooong time, and it was lovely. Lots of revisiting going on over here, in sometimes weird and difficult ways, and I think my brain missed the subtle distraction and meditative ritual that smoking provides.
You know that little voice (or plural! little voices!) that start firing off in your head for sometimes no particular reason? Or sometimes with good reason— because you’re thinking about doing something risky, or you just did or said something that made you feel squishy… then BAM, there they are.
"Why did you say that?!?”
"Are you serious with this whole [big important project]? People will find out what a fraud/jerk/loser you are."
"Are you really going to wear those pants?”
"I don’t think you’re smart enough."
"I don’t think you’re thin enough."
"I don’t think you’re good-looking enough."
"You’re not straight enough for those people to like you."
"You’re not light-skinned enough for those people to like you."
"Only able-bodied people should do that."
(I’m gonna stop there— not only do you get the idea, but it’s kinda triggering me just writing them out and seeing the words. OY! DEMONS!)
Demons are tricky mofos to deal with. A lot of self-help memes and Pinterest boards will tell you to just ignore them. Don’t listen!, they scream. You’re wonderful and amazing!
I don’t know about you, but, uh, that never worked for me. In fact, trying to shout down my demons only made them stronger. JERKS.
I used to work with a brilliant woman named Karen Kingsley, and she was the first person to introduce me to the idea that those voices in my head were not aliens that needed to be fought and destroyed. And, that the voices were also the different parts of myself that had lots of competing and conflicting needs. “They’re part of you, all those little personalities,” she said. “Think of them like neighbors or coworkers: you don’t really get to choose who those people are, and you can’t get rid of them, but you have to deal with them over time. It’s up to you how you do that. Can you at least get along in a baseline way with them?”
Personifying my internal chatterbots was the first revolutionary step. After a while, I even starting naming them, mostly after pop-culture characters. (My friend Anne has a personality facet that she calls Leslie Knope, which makes my heart burst.) Sometimes I draw them; for years, they’ve been little stick figures in hard-hats that argue via committee about what I’m doing with myself.
Why is personifying the voices so revolutionary?
Because you can TALK to them. NO SHIT, FOR REAL.
One of my therapists (therapy: highly recommended, in multiple forms) asked me to start having conversations with those voices. Even write them out! Ask them: Where did that crap you just spewed at me come from? Be patient and compassionate and listen.
Especially to the demons, the really nasty jerky voices. Yes, I want you to be especially compassionate with them.
One of the hardest things I’ve learned (and really, only pretty recently) is why the demons are out to get me. I thought about this intellectually for a really long time; it doesn’t make sense to me, for example, from an evolutionary perspective that my own self (and selves) would not want me to be successful, blissful, fulfilled. Like, wouldn’t I, in theory, produce better, stronger offspring if that were the case? Why are they OUT TO GET ME, I ask!?
I dug in deep with this guy. And he finally told me the secret: he’s afraid. Terrified as hell. I asked him, what are you afraid of? And he said, “I don’t want you to get hurt.”
"Um, demon, WTF? You yelling at me all the time is pretty painful."
"Yeah, maybe," he said. "But we know that pain. We know what it feels like and how to deal with it. Familiar pain is WAY better than unknown pain.”
Oh my God. He thinks he’s protecting me by not letting me take risks, by holding me back.
"Demon," I said. "Wow. Thank you. That’s so kind, really, that you love me so much you don’t want me to get hurt. But you know what? Let’s try it my way, just this once, and see what happens. We can talk about it after. I promise, we’re equipped to deal with the pain if there is any, and just maybe, it will be AWESOME."
He doesn’t like it when we have these chats, but he can’t really argue. So, he sits in the corner and smokes cigarettes. He smokes so I don’t have to.
And we are learning together to take some risks, here and there, sometimes, without his constant berating. So far, so good.
Photo (cc) Brian Talbot on Flickr
Wrapping up my Berlin/Europe trip here— 2 more days. I’ve got that antsy feeling that I should be Doing Things™, meeting people for coffee, seeing art, going shopping, anything that I wouldn’t be able to do at home. I’ve been trying to practice more observation of my feelings, especially ones that feel like naggy demon-y types scratching at me (in the good and bad ways, heh). Not always successful, but this time, I discovered something worth sharing, at least to help me process it.
Most of me just really wants to (and has been) totally relaxing since I returned from Kosovo and Erlangen. Outside of recovering from food poisoning and being on antibiotics, I just decided I was gonna chill. Aforementioned voice has been cropping up daily, several times a day, nagging me to go actively pursue an activity. What I finally hit on today, when I asked it, “Why?” was it finally confessed, it wanted to prove something to my community. Look at me in Berlin, aren’t I snazzy, isn’t this the life, look at my cool friends. Not even in the “oooo I’m so grateful” way. Just straight up: look. at. me.
I mean, I’m a pretty vain person and I love to share, but this feels icky. I rely on a lot of outside validation, which I’ve been working on. (My joke to my friends when I’m checking my digital notifications is to repeat over and over, “Does anyone love me?” until someone likes or favorites something I’ve posted, heh.) And I just gave a talk about participating in the culture of fauxwesome!
If I were offline, taking a digital vacation, I know I’d not care about bumming around the apartment and taking 2 or 3 (yes, sometimes 3) wonderful naps a day. Naps because I wanted to, not because I was sick and/or depressed. Blissful-ass Berlin naps.
Of course I want to see all my friends and spend time with them, and I mostly have, and will tonight and tomorrow night. But I’m trying to remind myself that I have time. Breathing.
"There is nothing magical about meditation. Don’t meditate to fix yourself, to heal yourself, to improve yourself, to redeem yourself; rather, do it as an act of love, of deep warm friendship toward yourself. In this view there is no longer any need for the subtle aggression of self-improvement, for self-criticism, for the endless guilt of not doing enough. It offers the possibility of an end to the ceaseless round of trying so hard that wraps so many people’s lives in a knot. Instead there is now meditation as an act of love. How endlessly delightful and encouraging. Meditation is bound to fail if it is being done to fix a problem.”—Bob Sharples, Meditation and Relaxation in Plain English — https://m.facebook.com/groups/216316775078881
Every day I wake up and the situation #Ferguson is getting worse. Human & civil rights violations, violence, more. How best can I serve from long distance? Sharing links feels like weak sauce. (yet I preach all the time about & truly believe how important it is to cross-pollinate across communities.) My timing is also poor, at least for fb’s insidious algorithm, since I’m reading and posting while most of my people are sleeping. And when they’re awake, I’m in tourist mode, not wanting to share my “hey y’all! Look at this!” posts, so as not to be the hurtful ignorant person in the stream. Ugh. Any advice or insight on allyship here is most welcome.
I’ve been sitting here for like an hour, the day after my birthday (aka, International DZ Day), trying to capture the wholeness of warmth and gratitude I feel for sharing this time on the planet with y’all. There just aren’t enough words.
Thank you, deeply, for your support and love, especially as I embark on some new adventures in sharing and healing with you. I love you. I’m with you. Here.
My family has always been private about our time spent together. It was our way of keeping one thing that was ours, with a man we shared with an entire world. But now that’s gone, and I feel stripped bare. My last day with him was his birthday, and I will be forever grateful that my brothers and I got to spend that time alone with him, sharing gifts and laughter. He was always warm, even in his darkest moments. While I’ll never, ever understand how he could be loved so deeply and not find it in his heart to stay, there’s minor comfort in knowing our grief and loss, in some small way, is shared with millions. It doesn’t help the pain, but at least it’s a burden countless others now know we carry, and so many have offered to help lighten the load. Thank you for that.
To those he touched who are sending kind words, know that one of his favorite things in the world was to make you all laugh. As for those who are sending negativity, know that some small, giggling part of him is sending a flock of pigeons to your house to poop on your car. Right after you’ve had it washed. After all, he loved to laugh too…
Dad was, is and always will be one of the kindest, most generous, gentlest souls I’ve ever known, and while there are few things I know for certain right now, one of them is that not just my world, but the entire world is forever a little darker, less colorful and less full of laughter in his absence. We’ll just have to work twice as hard to fill it back up again. — My only statement. My brothers’ are also online. Thank you for all your kindness, and goodbye for awhile guys. xo (via zeldawilliams)
Just woke up to the news about Robin Williams. I know how cliché it is to feel so personally hurt by the death, particularly suicide, of a public figure… but this, I just… Between my own struggles with depression and emotional health, and the work I’ve been focused on lately, and my utter and complete love for all of Williams’ work… My heart breaks for his people. Praying.
Just this weekend I’d had an OCD loop playing in my head of this random TV special in the early 90s with Williams, Carol Burnett, Carl Reiner and Whoopi Goldberg. We’d taped it and I’d watched it over and over and over, having it memorized. (If you’ve ever heard me yell, “I DON’T NEED YOUR PITY!”, that came from a funeral sketch with Williams as an unknown mourner.) I’m not officially a comedian or anything, but humor plays such a huge role in my family, in how I deal with the world, in who I am. Humor is transformational for me. Williams was one of the most influential public personalities in shaping my life-management tools, and his public struggles meant even more to me later.
I could post here about “if you ever need to talk, call me” and while that sentiment is true, I also know from my own experience that picking up the phone is nearly impossible when you’re in that dark place. I’ll just say for now: I’m with you. You are not alone.
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