Sunday, May 10, 2015

I See Myself in Other People

I see myself in other people and sometimes that's a good thing and sometimes it's not.

A long time ago I really thought that people were all like me so if they did stuff I didn't like I thought they were doing it on purpose to annoy or hurt me.  That's very immature and borderline crazy I later learned.

Now that part of recovery is to share with other people my experience with using the principles of the 12 steps in my life, I still identify with the people I share with.  I remember very well why and how I began to change how I thought and how I lived - I was hopelessly miserable and willing to do anything to get out of the emotional pain I was in.  I forget that I'm somewhat wimpy and can't really take a lot of pain.  I have a very low tolerance for it. 

So I think, "Why is this person so resistant to changing their point of view and doing things differently?"  I forget that although I imagine I would be living in hell in their circumstances, they might be doing okay and their complaining might just be their way of making conversation. 

I actually consider myself lucky to be able to identify with other people - that's the good part of seeing myself in others.  Maybe I'm also lucky that I have such a low tolerance for pain because I've been motivated to make a whole lot of changes that have led me to the beautiful life I have now. 

Nevertheless, I sometimes have outbursts of amazement and say stuff like, "Oh my God!  You must really be suffering!!  Here let me tell you all about the ways I got out of suffering like that."  Sometimes that's well received but a lot of times it's not.  People think I'm criticizing them, the poor babies. 

So, I just write posts like this and feel like I've done my duty to pass on what I've learned.

Here are a couple of things I've tried to give away recently that came back to bite me:  If someone is taking advantage of me, I have choices.  If I'm just complaining about it, I'm just as much at fault as the other person.  I'm really creating my own misery.  I have learned to do what I want, to give what I want, and if I stop wanting to give, I stop giving. 

Also, if the people in my life act ugly to me or even just in my presence, I can go somewhere else.  I have 100% of the control of how I'm treated by other people (which might partly explain why I've been married three times).

Of course, I have to pay attention to my own behavior too so that I don't take advantage of others and don't act ugly to them or in their presence.  I've also learned if I do that, I attract what I put out there.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Election Season - How to Promote Civility and Reason

I'm in the process of trying to decide how I want to handle the election season.  Last time I chose to just watch one television program that covered politics and then didn't vote for the first time in my life.  Where I live I'm so outnumbered that it doesn't really matter if I vote or not.  I was feeling physically not so good and just didn't bother.

This time I found myself dreading all the mud-slinging and hate and shaming on Facebook, email, and television.  Since I'm feeling a lot better physically I decided that to the best of my ability I will try to put my principles into election season.

For starters I'm going to change parties for the purpose of voting so that my vote does have impact in the primaries.  I'm going to look for candidates with the most civility and reason and truthfulness.  Maybe there won't be any with those characteristics but I'll find the ones that comes closest. 

I'm going to write letters to candidates asking them for clear positions on the things that matter to me and those that respond will get my vote even if I don't agree with them.

On social media I'm going to do my best to check out the truth of anything posted from either side of the fence and share what I find out. 

I'm going to promote solutions rather than point out problems.  I hope I can find candidates with solutions.  If not, I'm going to propose some to the candidates that seem to have their heads screwed on the straightest.

All this is going to take up some of my precious time.  However, I can't think of much that's more important at this stage of my life than being the best citizen I can be.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

My New Mantra

I've decided that it's no longer necessary for me to be shocked and amazed when I hear about somebody doing something clearly nuts.  So my new mantra is, "People:  We be crazy!"

How is it possible that I either read about or hear about many, many utterly dysfunctional things that we do every day?  I would think that the majority of us are behaving in a fairly sane way most of the time.  Maybe we are, and that doesn't make the news. 

On the other hand, what I think is crazy is not necessarily the same as what everyone thinks is crazy. 

I think it's crazy for example, that when we try desperately to do everything to get everyone's approval (and some of us do this our whole lives), it never, ever works.  You'd think we'd notice this, but apparently we don't.

You'd think that by now we would have noticed that getting more and more stuff absolutely never, ever makes us happy.  After we've shown off our new stuff for a little while, we're back to square one wanting some more stuff.  Even considering the constant brainwashing of advertising, it looks like we would start seeing through it and turn our attention some place else - some place that would actually make us happy.

There's a huge amount of very reliable information about what will create a healthy body.  But either we don't believe it or we don't want to believe it.  Fresh fruit and vegetables.  Good protein.  Exercise and decreased stress.  Instead we take a lot of pills and gripe.  We're living longer but we're sicker. 

There's also an enormous amount of reliable information about how to parent, but it seems to me that most people just assume they already know how to do it.  Then we just do what our parents did without even thinking about it.  Hmmmm.  If we really wanted to create a better world, we'd be trying to find out how to parent so that our kids could grow up to be somewhat less dysfunctional.  I'm going to guess that if you chose ten people at random and had them explain what they thought a parent should do, all of them would have a different idea and be adamant that everyone but them was wrong.

Basic personal finance seems to be a mystery to a lot of us.  Things like paying for necessities before other things, saving for emergencies, how to earn more and spend less...Not a lot of us following these basics.

Then there's personal relations...Many of us seem to think that being critical, complaining incessantly, making demands on others, and trying to get others to be like we think they should be are the ways to have enjoyable relationships.  And, of course, those ways of being with people are destructive and cause nothing but trouble.

Health, relationships with others, basic finance and knowledge of how to be peaceful seem to be critical to our well-being.  But we seem to be ignoring them.
What's up with that?  People:  we be crazy.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

My Crappy Nervous System

I keep learning new stuff.  Scientists are learning more about how our brains and nervous systems work every year and I'm fascinated.  Examples:  Our DNA changes in response to our experiences and then can be inherited by our children.  Our brains and nervous systems change in response to our experiences also. 

Generational trauma is passed down through the generations - so populations like our native Americans and African Americans whose ancestors lived in severe trauma pass down damaged nervous systems.

I'm pretty convinced that I was born with a damaged nervous system.  I think a whole lot of other people are too.  I think that we experience more stressful emotions than "normal" people because our brains don't work right.  BUT we think the feelings we're having are caused by what's happening around us rather than our faulty brains.  So we get more upset and try to figure out how to change the people and circumstances around us.  It never, ever works but we don't notice that.  We just keep trying, getting ever more upset. 

Of course, we are terribly annoying people because the people around us are getting blamed for our upsets and they have no idea what we're talking about.  Finally, they just distance themselves from us or ignore us because - what else would a sane person do?!  And then we used that rejection as an explanation for some of our upsets!

It's a painful merry-go-round that digs itself ever more deeply downward.  We can live a long life in misery unless the stress causes us to contract fatal diseases that cause death before our time.  Or we can get lucky and learn that we have faulty brains and learn how to manage with our disability.

The good news is that the beginning of a better life begins with just finding out we have crappy nervous systems.  It's turns our whole world view upside down.  We stop being intensely critical of everything around us and turn our attention to healing ourselves.

The scientists are learning many, many ways of re-wiring our brains and nervous systems.  A couple of ways that are consistently helpful are meditation and yoga.  I guess those ancient wise people that invented meditation and yoga without having any scientific evidence that they would work were incredibly lucky.  Modern brain scans have been showing changes in the brain in meditators and yoga practitioners for a long time now.  Oddly, not many people seem to be paying attention.

"Mindfulness" of all kinds seems to help messed up brains and calm painful emotions.  I've experienced some mammoth change in my day-to-day life - I'm pretty peaceful.  I sleep better.  I'm less challenged by trying to get along with other people.  I'm more purposeful with my time.

Any way to slow down and pay attention, let go of my beliefs about the negative in life, and choose my purpose for each day will make for a beautiful life instead of the swirling upset I used to live in.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Productivity and Busyness don't make me a Good Person

For most of my adult life I worked twelve to sixteen hours a day.  Some of it was my job. The rest was upkeep on my home and yard, child care, and personal care.  Even when I was supposed to be having fun I was mentally worrying about whether I was doing it right and trying harder and harder to do it right.

I never stopped to think about why I was doing it.  I just grew up believing that constant effort and productivity were what "good" people do.  You know, "Idle hands are the devil's work" and stuff like that.  Just sitting around, or wandering around or whatever were the marks of a person with no ethics.

Well, I have absolutely nothing to show for all that effort.  I think almost all if that time and energy spent were a waste except for the effort I put in to being a parent.  The rest - blaah.

Now I'm only willing to put a certain amount of effort into keeping myself as healthy and socially acceptable as I can without overdoing it.  I like a clean and beautiful environment so I'm willing to put some effort into that.  But I've made it my business to find ways to simplify all of that into a meditative practice that wastes no movement or time. 

I've watched a bunch of Rachel Ray's "30 Minute Meals" and she wastes not a moment or a movement.  I've studied how to do home care in the same fashion.  I'm still working on getting personal care into a tiny amount of time, but I'll figure it out.  I'm not very attached to how I look so it's easier for me than it might be if I was trying to look fabulous - socially acceptable is all my goal consists of.  I don't want people to be disturbed by my appearance!

By eliminating as much as I can of the unnecessary, I've got time to meditate, pray, read, walk, exercise and write.  I also spend time with friends and family - a lot of time, really.  I also listen to music.  When I can I teach classes on journaling, recovery, basic finance, and "Zen" housekeeping because I believe it's my responsibility to pass on what I've learned.

Last year I got sick and in order to recover I trimmed back on movies and a lot of other entertainment stuff.  I haven't seen a movie in over a year, I haven't been to a concert in over a year.  I don't miss the movies but I do miss the concerts.  I still visit art galleries and museums and go for walks in gardens.  I've lost interest in traveling also. That's about it for my life.  And it's a beautiful, peaceful life that delights me.

Friday, April 03, 2015

The Bible and Misunderstandings

It worries me a lot when religious people quote the Bible as instructions for judging people.  Over the years I've heard verses quoted (usually from the Old Testament) that justified slavery and the inherent "less-than" status of African Americans (the Curse of Ham), justification of putting people to death who had sex in other ways than the mainstream, and other very scary things.

I was taught at the church I attended that the Old Testament was just that - old- and that the New Testament was what we should pay attention to.  That would pretty much get rid of the instructions not to eat pork, put people to death who had sex outside marriage, put people to death who were attracted to their own sex, and to treat people of different races as less than.  I don't want to believe in a God that doesn't love His/Her own creations. 

I think after observing all these years of my life, that we humans like to judge others so that we feel better about ourselves.  (I include myself in this, by the way.  I'm always working to lose this negative trait, though.) We know we're not at all perfect but we don't like to face that.  So we cut others down.  What a crappy way to live that is. 

Thursday, April 02, 2015

When Is Being Sensitive Good and When Is It Not?

I was and still am in some ways what I would call a sensitive person.  My sense of hearing, smell, touch and taste were all very sharp and I am grateful that it seems to me that my senses still are pretty sharp.  But I was also sensitive emotionally - if I was criticized I pretty much fell into despair.  This is one I still struggle with.

Over time I noticed that people in general are all sensitive in some ways and that this trait is not always helpful to our well-being.  I was troubled by all kinds of sounds because they were grating or too loud.  Certain kinds of odors felt hurtful and not just bad ones - those that I thought were too strong.  I especially had difficulty with hot weather.  I had trouble tolerating certain fabrics on my skin.  I spent a lot of time trying to arrange my environment so I would be physically comfortable.

I think I was lucky in that when I was in my late 30s I read a book that suggested using so much of my time and effort trying to arrange my environment to suit my sensitivities was pretty much a waste of time.  It's not actually possible to get everything around me to suit me.  Also, I think I was a terribly annoying person because I was always griping about something not being right.  I came in contact with other people who mirrored me and I saw how miserable they were if they couldn't get things right and how miserable they were making the people around them.

The book said that it was actually much more sensible to learn to accept rather than bitch, moan and try to control.  Of course, there are things that I need to do for my safety - sitting next to loud speakers wasn't good for my hearing, standing next to a fire wasn't just too hot - I also might get burned, and so on. 

But the book said I could just relax into whatever was irritating me and really increase my awareness of it and appreciate it.  One day I was standing on the corner downtown and a guy was using a jack hammer a few feet from me.  I immediately stiffened and mentally griped.  Then I remembered what I had learned and did my best to relax into the sound.  For the first time I noticed that sound was a vibration that I could feel in my bones and that it was actually a delightful experience in many ways.  I was convinced that acceptance was the answer.

Emotional sensitivity was another thing.  I have worked on this one for years.  I have learned that other people's opinions are just that - opinions rather than fact.  My husband used to say, "If I call you a whore, does that make you one?"  A little crude perhaps but definitely clear.  The answer is no.  It does not make me one.  I am an imperfect being with innate goodness who makes mistakes and cleans them up as I can.  No need to try to protect myself from other people's opinions.  I've noticed that my own opinions of others are usually (almost always) a reflection of my opinions of myself. 

Emotional sensitivity also helps me be sensitive to other people's emotions. That's a good thing.  However, taken too far, I become a slave to wanting to never hurt anyone's feelings - which is impossible no matter how hard I try.

I think all these sensitivities were given to us as tools to care for ourselves.  Our senses protect us from danger but we're not using them sensibly when we gripe about stuff in our environment that's not actually hurting us.  Our desire to be accepted and loved by others is healthy.  We are social creatures and need each other.  But being devastated by someone else's opinion is going way too far.  It's not in anyway helpful.

So, like a lot of other things, sensitivity is good when it's used in a way that is helpful

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