Insecure Writers Support Group
Welcome to Following the Whispers blog
Sunday, May 31, 2009
"Let me tell you about the hair on the toilet," he said. I'm going to paraphrase here, because I can't remember enough to quote directly. One of his reponsibilities is to keep the beauty shop clean. But it makes him nervous, despite the fact that he does a good job. This is because the owner used to have a cleaning service do it, but had to let them go. The owner came into the shop one day and told my hair guy, "They're not doing an adequate job cleaning." My guy asked why. The response, "I left a hair on the toilet before they came and it was still there after they left." Now my guy thinks about the hair on the toilet every time he cleans.
This led to a great discussion about control freaks and obsessive compulsive behavior and who in our lives drives us crazy with these kinds of things, but I'll leave you here to ponder the hair on the toilet in your lives. Would this be a parable, a fable, or what?
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Friday, May 29, 2009
Before I get into why this is a "must read," in my humble opinion, I want to tell you how I discovered this book. I belong to several internet writing groups, one of which is Story Circle Network. When I received a negative review from a blogger, I wrote to the SCNlifewriters group asking for advice on how to handle it. Heather's response was thoughtful, kind and generous. I immediately went to Amazon.com to order her book. The online community of writers supporting writers is something I wouldn't have believed possible if I hadn't experienced it myself.
My intention here is not to write a book review for Heather. Rather, I want to acknowledge, as one memoir writer to another, the extraordinary feat Heather has accomplished by putting this story out in the world. It took her 20 years to complete this project (please visit womensmemoirs for a fascinating interview with Heather). It is the story of a family's struggle to deal with having not one, but two children diagnosed with a fatal illness. It is a story of love, anger, the losing and finding of one's faith, and the harsh realities coping with a disease like cystic fibrosis imposes, physically, emotionally, and spiritually on both the one with the disease, and the ones who love them.
Despite knowing the outcome of the story from page one, it is nonetheless compelling and page-turning. It reads like a novel, which was Heather's intention. She succeeded brilliantly. This is some of the best writing I've seen, in both fiction and memoir. From a craft standpoint, the characters are rounded, the language lyrical, the use of metaphor and description extraordinary, and the blend of narrative and reflection is seamless and balanced.
My take away from reading this book, and the main reason I think everyone should read it: Pammy knew from the time she was diagnosed at four years old that she was going to die. From that, through Heather's telling of her story, we learn how to live. This is one of those books that I do believe will change my life, if I can manage to inhale Pammy's words of wisdom.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
My publicist sent "Following the Whispers," my memoir, several months ago, but I am meeting her to see if I can help market the organization, not to find out if my book will be reviewed. It is a non-profit and she is pretty much doing it on her own. I figure my 30+ years working as a marketing and PR consultant should be put to some use (I certainly haven't put it to use for my own marketing just yet, but I will).
After that, I see the orthopedic surgeon to find out the next phase of the healing process for my shoulder. Hopefully I'll learn I can move my arm in slightly different directions, like up and away from body once again. Having the use of both arms really is necessary to function well in this world.
But I am not complaining, merely acknowledging that I've missed the freedom of movement and ability to take myself places.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
But there also comes a time when I must go within. When I need to get quiet and listen for the whispers of wisdom that invariably come. I'm blogged, tweeted, ninged and facebooked out.
I saw a quote on the bathroom wall at a friend's house yesterday:
Life isn't measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away.
And so it goes for posts. If there isn't a certain quality to them - if there isn't some meaning behind the words, then why bother. So I'm grateful my daily blogging ends in five days. I'm going for the heart and soul of what I'm trying to accomplish here, and not the daily hit.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
No, this is not my marriage - that is very loving and supportive. It is with someone who is teaching me a skill I've always wanted to have (I am trying to preserve privacy here, so I'm deliberately not being specific). But when I voice feelings in response to a negative comment, I invariable get smacked emotionally. After the initial blast, we can usually work through our individual feelings and get to an okay place, but is it worth it? She says she doesn't have this issue with anyone else, and I don't have this issue with anyone else in my life.
Who's right? Is there a right or wrong? What is the truth?
Here's what I know. I am an overly sensitive person and do get my feelings hurt easily. So it's very possible I'm over-reacting to these negative comments. She lives with an emotionally abusive person and has to walk on egg shells in order to have any semblance of stability in the relationship. I'm a safe person for her to blast.
My question to myself is this: Are the skills I'm learning worth the hurt feelings and energy it's taking to make this relationship work? Can I learn these skills elsewhere?
I don't have the answer yet, so I am going to continue on. But I'll keep you posted (pun intended).
Monday, May 25, 2009
But someone I haven't written much about is my Mom. In my memoir, I briefly talk about her childhood and some of the things I knew about which might have made her who she was - perhaps the saddest person I have ever known. She passed away in her sleep in August, 2001. That story is also in "My Father's Keeper," because it is how I came to caretake my Dad.
My mother and I were not close. So different in our values, our tastes, our way of being in the world, it was difficult to fine a place to connect. Perhaps if I'd had the same chance with my Mom as I did with my Dad, spending the last three years of his life taking care of him, things would have been different. But that's not what happened. She died without us ever really having a heart to heart where we could come to an understanding of each other.
I don't feel any unfinished business around this. Just sadness. For the lonely life she led and for the mother/daughter connection we both missed out on. So on this Memorial Day weekend, I choose to honor my mother's memory and thank her for giving birth to me.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
In my memoir, "Following the Whispers," the reader journeys with me from childhood to present time as I seek to rid myself of the personality and character traits which developed as a result of being abused, and create a fulfilling life. One of the most damaging effects of child abuse has been an inability to stand up for myself without guilt or worry about whether someone will still like or love me. Oftentimes, a feeling of shame would overcome me, even though my behavior was not out of line or bad.
Somewhere I read that when we feel guilty, we believe we have done something bad; whereas when we feel shame, we believe we are bad. Shame makes us feel something is fundamentally wrong with ourselves.
That was true for most of my life. For many years, saying “no” was damn near impossible. Hating how I look, another one of the effects of child abuse, has thankfully shifted to loving acceptance. "Following the Whispers" illustrates these and other effects of child abuse, which impacted not only me, but all my relationships.The key to overcoming effects of child abuse is not slipping into a victim mentality. Awareness and acceptance of the impact this had on my life has allowed me to face the consequences and move forward towards healing and wholeness.
To read more about shame and its impact on children, check out this website: http://www.goddirect.org/mindemtn/writings/january/toxshame.htm
Saturday, May 23, 2009
I have had several such windows into old age (I just turned 60, so I'm not quite in the old age category yet). In 2005, I fractured my ankle in three places when my bike slid on gravel. In the emergency room, when the doc came in with my x-rays and I inquired,"How bad is it?" he said, "If you were a horse, we'd put you down."
Laid up for three months, I understood what it feels like to be frail and helpless. It's not pretty.
It took more than a year for my ankle to heal enough to where it doesn't hurt when I dance or hike. Then I had surgery on my left knee. That recovery, too, took a year. Now my shoulder. I have one limb left that hasn't had surgery.
So why am I telling you all of this? Because the lesson for me is about reclaiming my body. As a survivor of early childhood sexual abuse, I hated my body for most of my life. I hated how it looked. I hated being labeled "pretty" as a child when I felt ugly inside. I do believe there is a mind/body/spirit connection and my body reacted to my hatred. I'm not saying I deliberately or consciously caused the accidents that resulted in bodily injuries. Nor do I think I caused the illnesses that resulted in gall bladder surgery and a hysterectomy. But I do think there are consequences to hating (whether it's ourselves or someone else).
I've worked hard the last few years to shift my self-hatred to self-love. Having lost 43 pounds, I now look and feel bunches better. I like who I've become as a woman, a wife, a mother and friend. I do work I enjoy.
So for me, the removal of my arm from a sling is a metaphor for reclaiming this body I once hated. It has carried me for 60 years. Its arms allow me to hug others. Its lips allow me to kiss my hubby. Its voice allows me to sing my songs. Its legs allow me to dance. Its brain and its hands allow me to write these words. It's time to accept it as it is and to love it a bit more each day.
Friday, May 22, 2009
But I have a purpose for my blog. It is not just a brain-dumping ground. It is to help me generate an audience of readers interested in what I have to say--an interest which will hopefully lead them to purchase my book(s). I must, therefore, choose my subjects wisely and write well-thought out pieces that will intrigue others.
Hard to do in a daily blog challenge. I've managed to post a blog each day, but truthfully, not all that much thought has gone into them. My to-d0-list will now include a list of potential "columns" to write that will further my blog's purpose. Future topics might include: overcoming the effects of childhood sexual abuse; growing up and out of your dysfunctional family successfully; overcoming low self-esteem; adolescent promiscuity and its aftermath; pitfalls to avoid in choosing partners; developing inner peace and self-acceptance.
What would you like to see?
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Our society has high expectations for what constitutes success, i.e. making lots of money, obtaining a certain status position, becoming famous. None of those things will most likely happen for me. But that is all right. My goal is simple. I want to help others, and I didn't want to do it by being a therapist.
By sharing my story, the pain, the insecurities, the struggles, as well as the joy, the self-acceptance and self-confidence, and ways I overcame obstacles, I am slowly, one step, one book, one connection at a time, making a difference in peoples' lives. I am so very blessed. And, in my humble opinion, so very successful.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
It went on and on, the questions, the implied judgments, the differing opinions. If you read Edward's book, "Resilience," as I am doing, you realize this is a woman who is smart, loving, successfull in her career, and has been hit with enough blows to knock anyone over, but she's still standing--with grace, with dignity, and with love.
As a memoir writer, my heart goes out to Elizabeth. She has a terminal illness and has no idea how long she has left. She is making the best choices she can for herself and has chosen to share herself for reasons only she knows. From listening to her and from reading her book, I believe her intentions are honorable.
I wish everyone could walk a mile in her shoes for one day. Then maybe we would stop judging, blaming, and accusing, and start loving, accepting, and praying, instead.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Until a few years ago, my life was spent on auto-pilot, not fully present inside my own skin. Living life unconsciously, one misses the moments. They whirl by like a blustery wind or crawl like a tortoise. I'm so grateful I'm more awake and aware now. I wouldn't have wanted to miss my mother-in-law's, "It's so nice to have a mother," comment to me after helping her pick out some new clothes yesterday.
"Mother?" I asked, mistakenly thinking she meant I was her mother. Her dimentia couldn't have gotten that bad so quickly.
"I lost my mother when I was real young," she said. "Then I was taking care of my kids. Now you're taking care of me. Thank you."
Hard as it is sometimes to be caretaker to an aging parent, it's moments like that which make it worthwhile.
P.S. Talk about happy moments - check out this blog for a joyful moment from yesterday:
Monday, May 18, 2009
I was lucky with my first review. It came from a woman I "met" in a Yahoo Group called "Lifewriters Forum." Her review appears in the right-hand column of my blog home page. I was on cloud nine when I read it--Sharon had totally gotten me--it felt like a validation of all the pain I'd gone through, the hard work to write the memoir, and the journey towards publishing.
The PR person who had sent out releases soliciting book reviews had also sent queries to blog hosts. I had only hired her for one month, so it was up to me to make the follow up calls, attempting to get more reviews. One such follow up resulted in an email, informing me that my book had been reviewed two weeks ago, whereupon she sent along the link to her blogsite. Wish she hadn't!!
The review started off all right, praising the writing and the flow of the narrative. But then it veered off into a personal attack of me and the choices I'd made in my life. I was completely thrown off balance by this "review" and was discombobulated for days.
The outpouring of support and words of wisdom from the various internet groups I now belong to helped pull me out of the doldrums. Several people asked to read the review, in order to better comment on it. I'm going to share some of the advice I received, because as you move forward in your journeys, whether you are an author about to publish a book, or a person living their life, at some point you will encounter someone who attacks you personally. Here are some things to remember:
Mother Teresa had this version inscribed on the wall of her children's home in Calcutta:
PEOPLE ARE OFTEN UNREASONABLE, ILLOGICAL AND SELF CENTERED;
FORGIVE THEM ANYWAY.
IF YOU ARE KIND, PEOPLE MAY ACCUSE YOU OF SELFISH, ULTERIOR MOTIVES;
BE KIND ANYWAY.
IF YOU ARE SUCCESSFUL, YOU WILL WIN SOME FALSE FRIENDS AND SOME TRUE ENEMIES;
IF YOU ARE HONEST AND FRANK, PEOPLE MAY CHEAT YOU;
BE HONEST AND FRANK ANYWAY.
WHAT YOU SPEND YEARS BUILDING, SOMEONE COULD DESTROY OVERNIGHT;
IF YOU FIND SERENITY AND HAPPINESS, THEY MAY BE JEALOUS;
BE HAPPY ANYWAY.
THE GOOD YOU DO TODAY, PEOPLE WILL OFTEN FORGET TOMORROW;
DO GOOD ANYWAY.
GIVE THE WORLD THE BEST YOU HAVE, AND IT MAY NEVER BE ENOUGH; GIVE THE WORLD THE BEST YOU'VE GOT ANYWAY.
YOU SEE, IN THE FINAL ANALYSIS, IT IS BETWEEN YOU AND YOUR GOD;
IT WAS NEVER BETWEEN YOU AND THEM ANYWAY.
My husband is an actor and has been reviewed constantly for over 40 years. He never reads reviews.. He says if you believe the good ones you have to believe the bad ones, so it's best not to believe them at all. A review is only one person's opinion, and you have no idea what's informing that opinion out of his or her experience. And it is unlikely to affect book sales seriously. And of course, we all must live with the fact that if we put something out there in the public venue, we are taking a risk and must be prepared to accept whatever comes with that. Also, we must learn to separate our work from our selves, and be prepared to take criticism of our work without feeling it's a personal attack. The kind of experience you just had with this review will be helpful to you in developing a better philosophy and a thicker skin. It will help you stand in your own truth, and once you do that, a fierce wind may shake you but not topple you altogether.I've included here a couple of quotes that have helped me weather these kind of storms. Hope they help you...Many blessings,
"It costs so much to be a full human being, that there are very few who have the enlightenment or courage to pay the price. One has to abandon altogether the search for security and reach out to the risk of living with both arms. One has to embrace the world like a lover. One has to accept pain as a condition of existence. One has to court doubt and darkness as the cost of knowing. One needs a will stubborn in conflict, but apt always to total acceptance of every consequence of living and dying."
- from The Shoes of the Fisherman
"it is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out where the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumphs of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither defeat or victory."
No real reviewer would put such critical details in a review, or position themselves in judgment. Most reviewers focus on the message not the author’s personal decisions as revealed in the story.
It is actually full of some very grand and quite positive quotes in the first part, that you can cull and use in quotations when promoting, without quoting the source. As for the rest of it, it steps way out of bounds and goes entirely downhill, the mark of an amateur, and in fact, the reviewer is doing just what he/she accuses you of doing! It's overwritten, and it's rubbish.
The biggest lesson for me about book reviews is that I allowed what someone said to affect how I felt about myself. It is one of the lingering affects of being sexually abused as a young child, as well as not receiving unconditional love from my parents. I don't have a foundation of love from which to draw upon.
So, a cautionary note to writers seeking reviews. Check out the blog sites before seeking an opinion. Read other reviews by the reviewer to make sure they are professional and that criticism is done in good taste.
A new review just appeared in New Mexico Magazine. It is a positive one. Now I know, positive or negative, book reviews will not change who I am or my status as a writer or a person. It is just one person's opinion.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
“Betsy died this morning.” Bob’s voice sounded choked off, as if his larynx were constricted and only a small amount of air was getting through.
“But I thought she was recovering. I thought…”
“That’s what we all thought, Karen. But we were wrong,” Bob interrupted me, and I realized this was not the time to question him. Instead, I offered to get on the next plane to Portland and help with the funeral arrangements.
Perhaps it should be drummed into us from the time we are born—that we will die someday. We are here on this planet for a finite amount of time. But we probably wouldn’t listen anyway. Betsy was a dear, dear friend and it's coming up on eight years that she's been gone.
Betsy’s older brother, Jim took me aside the day of her funeral, wanting to thank me for writing the obituary that appeared in the morning paper. He was angry that the fabric draped around Betsy’s casket did not come down to the ground and you could see the wheels of the table it was laying on. For some it is far easier to get angry than grieve the loss of a loved one. Then Jim said, “Betsy was living on borrowed time, you know. From the time she got sick in her early twenties to the day she died was borrowed.”
Why did he think that? Because she wasn’t supposed to survive the Hodgkins disease, let alone get pregnant and raise a child. Then two years prior to her death, she almost died from heart disease, when two valves gave out and had to replaced. The valves had been damaged from the radiation that saved her from the Hodgkins. This time, her lungs had given out or something. They filled with fluid, she hemorraged and died. Were they damaged from the radiation as well? We don’t know. We just know Betsy lived and died and her brother thought her time here on Earth was borrowed.
Health care technology enables us to save people that couldn’t be saved, heal things that couldn’t be healed and preserve life for longer and longer. But are we just postponing our destiny? Are we even supposed to postpone our destiny? I’ve often wondered if I would take heroic measures to make myself well if I got really sick with cancer or something. I’m not sure. I supposed if my son or husband asked me, I’d do it. But I’m not sure it’s the right thing to do, although it certainly gives the ill person and those they love more time together.
I supposed if there’s unfinished business, that’s a good thing. Betsy got to raise a lovely young woman, her daughter. She gave Erin a great gift of unconditional love that will be with her the rest of her life. It’s hard to know when to take action and when to accept the things I can’t change. Are we all living on borrowed time? Is life borrowed?
I guess we’re all given a gift of life with a certain timespan. If karma controls that timespan and what happens in it, then all we can do is walk the walk as best we can. I don’t think we can control our destiny. I think we can take responsibility for our thoughts, feelings and actions as we walk our path. But we can’t control the outcomes. Feeling good about myself is determined by how much responsibility I take for myself and how I behave. If I go against my own moral/ethical code, I feel awful. If I feel sorry for myself, I feel awful. If I’m jealous or envious of others, I feel awful. If I don’t do what I think I’m supposed to do, I feel awful.
I miss Betsy. She would have been a great one to talk to about all of this. But at the end of the day, I guess I don’t believe Betsy lived on borrowed time. She made choices that lengthened the time she had here and then there were no more choices. But it is an interesting concept to live by. How would I live my life if I thought about it as borrowed? When I borrow something, I treat it well because I want to return it in good condition. I take better care of it because I know I have to return it in a certain amount of time. If I'm borrowing the time in my life, I'd better pay more attention and take better care.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
As authors, we need to do the same: a) write the best stories we possibly can and b) market the hell out of our books.
It took me 10 years to finish my memoir, which just came out at the end of February, 2009. I haven't been a marketing/pr professional since 1999--I've thought of myself as a writer. But now I realize I must wear two hats and I must learn to switch between those two hats in any given day. If the writing isn't going well, I can shift to marketer. If I'm having trouble "selling" myself, it's back to writing I will go.
It's funny (not ha ha funny) that I've been so unwilling to utilize my marketing expertise on myself. I still find myself wanting to help others, like my singing coach, for example. I'll give her all sorts of ideas on how to let people know about her services. Why is it so hard for writers to "sell" themselves? Because it feels like selling your children. Well, I realized this past week that my book is not my child, even though I birthed it. It represents many years of pain, tears, lessons learned, losses beyond measure, and the blood and sweat that went into getting that all down on paper. I do have something to say and hopefully if it finds its way into readers' hands, they will gain something from it.
So I am going to share a handy dandy little marketing device I used when first starting out with clients. They say that you teach what you need to learn, so here goes. It involves creating a table with four columns:
Target Audience Current Perception Desired Perception Tools/Tactics
In the first column, you list the audiences who might benefit from or be interested in reading your book. The way to do this is to identify themes that run through the manuscript. In my memoir, there are several themes: low self-esteem, early childhood sexual molestation, dysfunctional family, poor relationship choices, adolescent promiscuity, child custody loss, parental alienation syndrome, to name a few. From the themes, come up with groups you might target: survivors of childhood sexual abuse, adult children of alcoholics, womens' support groups, rape crisis centers, etc.
Once you have a target audience list, determine what their current perception of you/your book is. In most cases, it will be unknown.
In the desired perception column, for each group you've identified, put down what you want them to know about you/your book. It might be a different message for each group, it might not. I would have a different message if I were targeting teenage girls about promiscuity than if I were trying to reach older adults who are discussing their dysfunctional childhoods, for example.
The last column becomes your marketing plan. For each target audience and desired perception, you attach a marketing tool. Here is a partial list of tools/tactics to cull from:
- Speaking engagements
- Articles in newspapers and magazines
- Advertisements in newspapers and magazines
- Direct mail
- Radio and TV interviews
You then need to match a marketing tool with an audience and desired perception. Like so:
Target Audience: Teenage girls
Current Perception: unknown
Desired Perception: become known as advocate for fostering high self-esteem using my book as example of what not to do, by telling my story.
Tools/Tactics: Set up talks at local high schools, camps, wherever I can find groups of teenage girls; Write articles about adolescent promiscuity and its pitfalls; Arrange radio and TV interviews on the topic (would have to write what's called a "pitch" letter to make this happen. It's similar to a query, but not quite the same thing.
Hmm, perhaps I could give seminars to writers on this. What do you think? Nope, that's just another way to take my time away from writing.
Friday, May 15, 2009
The 12-step programs have a slogan: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. According to that definition, when it came to my weight, I was insane. Over the years, I counted points on Weight Watchers, ate frozen Jenny Craig food, worked out at Inches Away, guzzled Slim Fasts, slipped into trances in hypnotherapy, charged my body with Energy Tapping, yelled my emotions in Radix, and discovered my inner child in traditional talk therapy. Each time, I reached my goal weight, then gained most of the weight back. So two years ago, when an orthopedic surgeon told me I needed knee surgery but wouldn’t operate until I lost weight, something snapped. I had to do things differently.
For months after the surgeon’s pronouncement I resisted, complained, and procrastinated, but eventually reached acceptance. I needed a plan. I wasn’t comfortable in gyms where young people with buff bodies strutted their stuff. I am not, nor have I ever been inclined to jog or play sports. If I attempt something athletic, invariably I break a bone or strain a muscle. Instead, I found a gym filled mostly with folks on oxygen and who use walkers to get around. At 59, I was one of the youngest members. Exercise physiologists gave me a workout based on my history and physical abilities so I wouldn’t hurt myself or try to do too much too fast. The staff nutritionist taught me how to eat healthily without being obsessed.
I didn’t understand this at the time, but what I came up with was a way to become conscious about my body and food. Eckhart Tolle, in A New Earth, says humans carry an accumulation of old emotional pain, which he calls “the pain-body.” He also says the “pain-body” thrives on negativity, using emotionally painful experiences as food. No wonder I couldn’t sustain weight loss. My “pain-body” craved misery. Unless I learned to recognize when my “pain-body” became activated, it would continue to seek what it knew best—pain and suffering.
I decided to weigh myself every day. Previously, this led to obsession and daily frustration with results (or lack thereof). This time, my goal was to learn about and understand my body—to see what factors influenced my weight. I learned not to identify with what I saw on the scale. When I caught myself at the labeling game: “good” if I lost a pound; “bad” if I didn’t, I did what Tolle advises—accept “what is.”
Everyone’s body is different and I found what works for mine: I am hypoglycemic, but did not understand how that was affected by nutrition. I must eat a minimum of three starch servings per day (i.e. one slice of bread; ½ cup of whole wheat pasta). Otherwise, I get light-headed and quite irritable. Drinking enough fluids was important as well—I tend to retain water. Adding fruit and vegetables into my diet was hard, but crucial. I switched from products with white flour to whole grain pastas and breads. Lastly, I started taking probiotic supplements to normalize my body’s digestive system. Irregularity influences body weight.
Most importantly, I became familiar with the negative self-talk running through my head. It was challening to remain alert enough to recognize the voice of “the pain-body” and not react. But as this process unfolded, my attitudes began to shift and I found myself making different choices. What emerged were eight ways my “pain-body” tried to sabotage my weight loss. Tolle teaches us not to reject or resist our negative emotions, but to acknowledge their existence. Awareness and acceptance must come before actions if lasting changes are to occur. See if these internal dialogues from my “pain-body” sound familiar. They are followed by the positive way I reframed them:
1. Don’t get on the scale. Then you can pretend you’re not gaining the weight back.
The scale is my friend and keeps me honest. If my weight begins to creep up, I can stop it at five pounds, rather than 30.
2. Wear only clothing with elastic waists so you can pretend your clothes still fit.
If that zipper is a little snug, it’s time to take inventory. I need to get on the scale and find out how much damage I’ve done and take corrective action immediately.
3. Don’t keep track of what you are eating each day so you can tell yourself you stayed within your food plan.
Pay close attention to food choices and how my body feels before, during and after eating. This is especially important after I have reached my goal weight.
4. When you measure your portion sizes, it is okay to add a little bit here and there. It really won’t make a difference.
It really does make a difference. A little bit here, a little bit there adds up to a lot over time.
5. Once you reach your goal weight, you do not have to watch yourself that closely. Like magic, your weight will remain stable.
I have had a weight problem my whole adult life. It won’t go away just because I lost weight and achieved my goal. I have to remain watchful and stick to my new way of eating. I have to remain conscious and awake.
6. It’s okay to allow your mood to affect your decisions about food. It’s really okay if you are angry, depressed, sad, upset or happy and feel like eating. Go ahead and do it. You deserve to make yourself feel better or celebrate something.
Emotional eating is not okay. It is a momentary “fix” of the mood problem, but creates a much larger, longer-lasting problem—being overweight. I need to find other ways to soothe and comfort myself when my emotions flare up.
7. When your friends or family members tell you it is okay to eat what you want just this once, listen to them. They know better than you do what is best for you.
No one knows better than me what is good for me. Find ways to gently explain to my friends and family that I am working hard to eat healthily and it is important that I stick to my plan.
8. Even if you are feeling full, if that dish tastes better than anything you’ve ever tasted, it’s okay to finish it. Never leave food on a plate, especially at a restaurant. After all, you paid for it, you better finish it.
Despite the fact that there are people starving, it really is okay for me to leave food on my plate. I ask for a doggie bag at the beginning of the meal, and put half my meal into it. If I want dessert, I share it with someone. If no one wants to share and I can’t let go of the craving, I order what I want, take a few bites, and either leave the rest or bring it home.
These are the most frequent “pain-body” voices in my head. As I become more alert, I notice others. Catching them in the moment, rather than after I’ve already behaved unconsciously is vital to my weight loss success. I’ve lost and gained 30+ pounds four or five times in my adult life. Since the wakeup call from the surgeon and beginning this new way of approaching weight, I have lost 40 pounds. I don’t have a crystal ball to know whether I will keep it off this time. What I do know is my attitude towards and my relationship with food has changed. I no longer diet. I follow the nutritionist’s guidelines as well as I can. The most significant change, however, is being aware of my body and how it feels. The energy and intensity I had around eating has lifted and the negative voices, although still there, are much quieter and show up much less frequently.
Then, too, there is a new voice that comes in the stillness of being awake. If I listen carefully, it whispers, I’m full, and I stop eating, or you don’t really want those potatoes—you want salad instead. I don’t always pay attention and then the scale reflects the consequences. But more and more, I am present inside my own skin—and that has made me feel quite sane regarding eating.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Still want to go with a big publisher? “Hey, that great,” says Kendra.”But the best way to get an agent and a publisher is to prove that you already have readers who like your voice, your style, and your content. Creating a popular blog, driving traffic from social networking sites, and developing relationships will help you land the deal you want. Get started now.”
Well doesn't this just validate everything our dear old Dani has been telling us in our book blog class? It's hard work, and very time-consuming, but it seems it's the way to go to get book sales.
When I got to the rehearsal, one of the members pulled out these teensie little tops she had purchased in Las Vegas for all of us. They are snug-fitting t-shirts that we will wear as costumes on stage. The good news is it fit. The bad news is, I said, "I hate my big boobs." However, I caught myself immediately (which is huge progress) and immediately amended my remarks to, "No, I don't," which enabled me to catch the next wave of self-hatred about the sagging flesh on my upper arms.
I needed to remind myself that it's not about having a perfect body, that is simply not attainable. It's not about being attractive--I no longer feel a need to attract the opposite sex because I am unbelievably content in my marriage. It's that I still compare myself to other women and come up short (in my opinion of course). While attempting to overcome the negative comparisons, I found the following quotes on self-esteem:
"Do not wish to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfectly."
~ St. Francis De Sales
"Be yourself. There is something that you can do better than any other. Listen to the inward voice and bravely obey that."~ Unknown Author
"Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else."~ Judy Garland
“To wish you were someone else is to waste the person you are.”
This last quote, in particular, speaks to my heart. I have no more time to waste on negative thoughts about myself, especially my appearance.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Some of the things that still affect my well being: people not responding to phone calls or emails; negative criticism (the personal attack kind, not constructive criticism); feeling ignored, being left out (if I hear friends have gotten or are getting together and I wasn't included); some mechanical malfunction with an appliance or the computer or the car; gaining a pound or two; my dog vomiting on the carpet; not getting enough sleep (unfotunately this is all too common); physical injuries - I could go on and on, but suffice it to say, it doesn't take much for me to go off kilter.
What keeps me centered is bringing the focus back to Spirituality. I know several things to be absolutely true: what others think and feel about me does not change who I am and who I know myself to be; being left out of things does not mean I am not loved; malfunctions can be repaired or replaced; I am a good person with good intentions who sometimes makes mistakes or has poor judgment. If I remember to keep my priorities straight and not have unrealistic expectations, I will reach my goals. But I also need to not have attachment to the results. I can't control outcomes, I can only set my intentions and take the necessary steps to reach those goals.
My daily prayer and meditation has centered around awakening my consciousness more and more each day. Yesterday that prayer was answered in my recognition of gossip as a character trait I wish to eradicate from my being. Awareness is the first step. Acceptance without judgement is the second. Right action is sure to follow (the three A's from the 12-step programs). A slogan well worth remembering.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Gossip is evil, I'm convinced of it. Talking about someone when they are not there to defend themselves is simply not fair. And I have a strong sense of justice. Yet I am pretty sure I am guilty of gossipping. I make all sorts of excuses for it. I tell myself that it is to help me "work out my issues" with someone else before going directly to the source of the problem. Or I convince myself it's not really gossip if I don't say anything bad. What is the definition of gossip?
According to Wikipedia, gossip is "idle talk or rumour, especially about the personal or private affairs of others. It forms one of the oldest and most common means of sharing (unproven) facts and views, but also has a reputation for the introduction of errors and other variations into the information transmitted. The term also carries implications that the news so transmitted (usually) has a personal or trivial nature, as opposed to normal conversation.
So, am I gossiping when I am talking with a friend about our singing teacher, for example, and we complain about how the class is run? My intuition tells me it's wrong, but sometimes I need to bounce ideas off someone else before going directly to the person I'm having an issue with.Am I gossiping if I share something one friend has told me with another mutual friend? Do I have to ask the first friend's permission before sharing?
Having just turned 60, you'd think I'd have a handle on this kind of thing, but frankly, I'm still stuck. They used to say in the 12-step programs that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Well, I guess I'm a bit insane when it comes to gossip, because I can't seem to stop. I make myself feel better by saying it's not malicious gossip. But it is gossip, nonetheless.
I think Spirit is whispering to me loud and clear that this is something I need to change. Making a concerted effort to catch myself in this behavior needs to become a priority. Continuing behavior that doesn't feel good just doesn't make sense and it is certainly not who I want to be.
Monday, May 11, 2009
The whole episode of me "not getting" Twitter reminds me so much of being a child in school and not understanding math. Timid as I was, I could never raise my hand to ask questions, so as the teacher moved forward, I shifted backwards in my ability to grasp new concepts. Luckily, it was only in math--I excelled in other subjects. When I went back to school at 53 years old to complete my college degree, those old feelings were still there. But this time, I was able to ask questions, as well as contribute my thoughts and opinions to discussions. It was a real growth experience for me, as one of the older students, to gain the respect and comraderie of people less than half my age.
Taking this book blog class is another such example. There are many new concepts, tools, and ideas for me to grasp and the pace is swift. It's a great class and our teacher, Dani, has a lot on her plate to provide the information and assignments in a timely manner and manage all of our questions, concerns, complaints, ideas, etc.
Sending gratitude to her, to those in previous classes, and my current classmates, for their patience, understanding, and support. I truly do love learning new things--I just hate the stress I put myself through while doing it.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Yesterday I saw "Rain," a show with four musicians who look and sound just like the Beatles. It was an incredible experience hearing the music played live rather than listening to records. I don't know about you, but when I hear certain songs, I am totally transported to the place and time where I first heard the music and all those emotions bubble to the surface.
Popejoy, the theater on University of New Mexico Campus, was sold out for this performance and what was astounding was the audience was comprised of three generations, maybe four. There were mostly folks my age (50s to 60s). There were a few in their 70s, lots of people in their 30s and 40s, and some babies. Even the teenagers knew the music. What a nice way to bring people together.
Even in my sling, I could dance and sway one arm to and fro, singing at the top of my lungs with the rest of the folks. It made me realize I miss going to live music concerts. When I lived in NYC, there were free concerts in Central Park - I've seen James Taylor, Elton John, Diana Ross, Don McLean. Here in Albuquerque, we don't get big time entertainment.
Did you know that "Rain" was the B side of the hit "Paperback Writer." I didn't - never heard of the song. They didn't play it in the concert, either, which made me think about titles. How important is it that the title reflect something of what you are going to see. I expected to hear the song "Rain"and didn't. I wasn't disappointed, because the concert was fabulous, but is the same true for books? Just wondering...
Saturday, May 9, 2009
My home is not more than five minutes from Old Town, yet I hardly ever think to go there. After dinner, we wandered about on the uneven brick sidewalks, exploring the courtyards that are sort of cul de sacs of shops and restaurants. One contains a small chapel honoring Guadalupe. There is such a sense of peace and tranquility in this tiny space. Two altars are filled with glowing candles that visitors have left. Our attorney friend whispered, "you can just feel the thousands of prayers that have been said in here, can't you?"
Yes. Outside the chapel, there is a water fountain, surrounded by benches. I could write here.
Why don't I visit Old Town more often? I think because we get trapped in our routines and frequently miss what's right in front of us. I grew up in NYC and didn't visit the Statue of Liberty or go to the top of the Empire State building until I was an adult and out-of-towners came to visit.
Old Town is a treasure only minutes away. I intend to mine it on a more regular basis.
What treasures are hiding near you? Will you seek them out? Happy hunting.
Friday, May 8, 2009
I resisted social networking for a long time, until the publicist from Bascom Hill Publishing Group insisted I sign up for Facebook and Twitter. I agreed, being a compliant person by nature, but not willingly. Then we added Yahoo. When I searched "Groups," I found one called "Lifewriters Forum." Today I am so grateful for the loving support and words of wisdom I have received from these writers I have never come face to face with. One in particular, Sharon Lippincott, has become a friend and a real source of strength. She wrote the review of my book, which appears on this blog and also on Amazon.com. She's also the one who told me about the book blog tour that Dani Greer offered and recommended that I take it.
When I received a negative review on someone's blog site (not on Amazon, thank goodness), I was devastated. I sent an email to my lifewriters group and to the women at Story Circle network and received more than 30 responses filled with sympathy and great advice on how to handle negativity when you put your life out there for others to see.
I've worked very hard in my life to cultivate healthy relationships and in particular, healthy friendships. It was a normal reaction on my part to resist opening myself up to complete strangers, given my history of early childhood sexual molestation and a dysfunctional upbringing. But I am so glad my resistance didn't keep me from doing it.
The book blogging class I am now taking has proven to be another great source of wisdom and support, whether it's comments on my book cover, these blog posts, or encouragement to "ask for the sale" when it comes to my book, "Following the Whispers." Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to read these posts and share your thoughts. It is deeply appreciated.
My take away thought for this post: Proble deeply when you resist something to determine whether that resistance is valid or just old fears, thoughts, or feelings that need to be updated.
So where does resistance show up in your life?
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Mostly, what's running through my mind is the idea of personal space. Today, Oprah Winfrey had a show about school bullies. Three children, aged, 10, 11, and 12, had committed suicide because they were being bullied and hadn't told anyone. Oprah had an expert in the field work with another child who is currently being bullied and whose mother was frightened that her child would end up dead as well. The therapist explained that children who are bullied do not know how to protect their own personal space - in fact they don't claim a personal space at all. They feel as if they don't have a right to protect or stand up for themselves - or they don't know how.
When this young boy was unable to yell "no" or "stop" when asked to by the therapist, I found myself sobbing. For so many years, I could not speak up for myself. When I started taking singing lessons 2 1/2 years ago, I was all right as long as I sang in a group, but when we started doing solo work, I practically froze. I warbled off key, my voice cracked, and I could not project my voice at all. Now, I am fairly comfortable on stage and am getting to the point where I even enjoy entertaining people. This growth is due in large part to the issues I worked through as I wrote my memoir, and to my loving singing teacher who created a safe space for me to allow my voice (literally and figuratively) to emerge.
But I realized today that claiming personal space is the same issue as asking people to buy my book. It is me saying: "Here I am world and this is my work, my words, my thoughts, my feelings, my opinions, my story - and I think you should read it. I think it's worthwhile. I think it can help people." There is still a wee, small part of me that doesn't feel I have the right to do that. Now that I'm aware this is still an issue, hopefully I can catch it and shift the paradigm, because what I know for sure is that I have every right to be here and to share my work with others. Whew!
Thanks to all of you who complimented my book cover. It is a photograph of Lake Louise, near Banff, Canada, and is one of the reasons I am not sorry I self-published. The image really conveys the feeling I wanted the book to have.
Well, I guess it's time to Twitter. More later,
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Here's what I want to say about this memoir. The writing actually began in 1978, when I lost custody of my son and began keeping a journal. At the time, I had no idea I would eventually become a writer . I was merely attempting to preserve my sanity and trying to figure out how something so horrible could happen to a nice Jewish girl from Queens, NY, in a time when women did not lose custody (it was the 1970s).
Fast forward to 1999, when my wonderful hubby told me I should quit my job and write full-time, if that's what I really wanted to do. You'll have to read the memoir to understand fully what that meant to me. This was my third attempt at marriage and I wasn't used to husbands treating me well.
Ten years later, the darn thing is done and out there in the universe. I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I grew up in an extremely dysfunctional family and received no guidance or support on how to be a functioning, happy person. Consequently, I shut down and lived most of my life on auto-pilot. The memoir tells the story of how and why that happened, and how I found my way out of the abyss and into inner peace and self-acceptance. Here's hoping it finds its way into the hands of those who may still be struggling in the abyss.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
It seems once I completed and published my memoir and I'd launched it in the bookstore, I've become overwhelmed with marketing--so much so that I have no energy left after checking personal email, web email, blog comments, linked in, twitter, facebook, and the five different yahoo groups I belong to. In the 30 seconds I've allotted for prayer and meditation, I realized that it is time to shift priorities.
When I ask myself what the most important thing on my to-d0 list is, the answer is write. In fact, I have several top priorities, things that if I don't do, I feel off kilter, imbalanced, not centered. They are: writing, doing my arm exercises, walking for exercise, and practicing singing. Until this morning, my day started with getting on the computer to check all the previously mentioned things. Sometimes I'd fit the walk in, sometimes I'd manage ten minutes of singing. I have managed to do the arm exercises each day because I am determined to get full functioning back once the sling departs.
By scheduling my day according to priorities, once I finish this blog entry, I will exercise, practice singing, make some notes for my new writing projects, then comment on fellow classmates blogs, and lastly, check all the internet sites.
Does anyone else have trouble moving themselves away from the computer--it almost feels like an addiction to compulsively check to see if I've missed anything?
Monday, May 4, 2009
Blogging is a whole different animal. I am really not at all sure what the purpose is and how blogging will translate into sales of my book. I hesitate to write extremely personal things, yet how else are strangers to get to know me? Is the idea that if they get to know me, they'll want to read my book? I suppose that could work. Blogging is so new to me, I'll just have to postpone judgment for awhile. On to comments on other blogs. Till later,
Sunday, May 3, 2009
I have a new writing project swimming around in my brain--it's just a little sperm of an idea but I'm getting excited. It will be a sort of aging manifesto - guidelines to help those of us who will get there someday know or remember what to do. My mother-in-law forgets to brush her teeth and sometimes forgets how to turn the TV on and off. After caretaking my father for his last three years, and now my hubby's mom, I realize I need to get some things down on paper before I forget.
Thanks fellow B.A.D. challengers for all the good cheer yesterday. It felt wonderful!
Till next time,
Saturday, May 2, 2009
Typing is still difficult. I have to position the laptap in a very awkward way in order to reach the keyboard with my right hand and can't stay in position that long. Whine, whine, whine.
Looking forward to getting to know my fellow blog tour classmates. It will be an interesting journey. Till later,