Archives for March, 2012
Each month I answer recovery questions and share insights in a newsletter I call Good News for Eating Disorders Recovery. The newsletter is just one of the many ways that we can connect together to share the challenges and victories of our complementary recovery journeys. I get so many questions from readers, and I also get to share my favorite movies, books, and "aha moments" that I have discovered in the preceding month. I thought I would share this month's message with you here as well, because it is spring, and everywhere we see nature renewing itself....and one of the most amazing examples of that is right here in my hometown of Houston, Texas! You, Too, Can Renew No, this month's title is not a Dr. Suess riddle (although I flatter myself that the late, great Doctor would be proud.) There is a wonderful park not too far from my house. We Houstonians are very grateful for it, because there isn't too much green space left for us in a city of more than 6 million folks.
When I was in college I wanted to be in the FBI. Yup, that is right. The Federal Bureau of Investigation. The gal my parents nicknamed "our little flower" wanted to be a pistol packing, trained and dangerous government official. Looking back now, I think I was just confused....because clearly what I really wanted was to simply marvel at others (real or fictitious) who have those skills from the comfort and safety of my own home. To date I have plowed my way through the entire five seasons of "Burn Notice," and I am right smack dab in the middle of season three of "Justified." I already have season one of "White Collar" loaded into my Netflix queue, and right behind that I plan to watch "Luther." I just like folks who don't waste time that could be spent getting it done. I like folks, characters or flesh and blood, who aren't afraid to make a decision, even if it requires pitting doing what's easy against doing what's right. In fact, I especially like those kind....the kind who choose option b on a regular basis. I guess I spent too many years of my own life waffling, and now I'm ready to get a little of my own back, even if it is vicariously.
I was talking with a friend this past weekend about how easily studying nature can take us back to basics. My friend mentioned how animals are motivated by instinct - the instinct to eat, to rest, to reproduce. Things seem much simpler in the animal kingdom with no pesky frontal lobe to interfere with their instinct-based decisions. Then again, at the risk of anthropomorphizing (or giving animals qualities that are typically only associated with humans - I had to look that one up) my beloved bird, Pearl, or others in the animal world, how much do we humans really know about what makes animals tick, why they do the things they do, and how they relate? Not nearly enough, according to a recent Time magazine article. Called "The Science of Animal Friendships," this article shares information that is both surprising and not so surprising.
My landlady and I have had our differences over the years, so when she loaned me the first book in the Dragon Tattoo series, I accepted it more as a mutually desired peace offering than with any real literary enthusiasm. Truth be told, I was scared of the books. I have a phobia about serial killers (unfortunately realized a good 100 "Medium" episodes too late) and I knew full good and well the book was named "The Man Who Hates Women" in the Swedish edition. But I was determined to read it anyway - for the aforementioned reason. I started reading, and promptly started having nightmares. Of course. I have a phobia, the book was addressing the phobia, and certainly there were many other rather awful events that befell the heroine along the way to the end of page 650-I-lost-count. But, as I am sure the writer intended, by the end of the first book I was also hooked.
So often in my life I have gotten tripped up by the same danged thing. And I am absolutely guaranteed to suffer - mightily - when I do. What trips me up is impatience. I know I am not alone in this, by the way. I know this because for years I have answered questions from recovering persons each month in an ezine called Good News. The reason I answer the questions via the ezine and not personally is not because I don't want to correspond personally with each person that writes to me, but because over the years I have noticed how frequently the questions I am asked seem to overlap and revolve around each other like variations on a theme. I remember how, when I was struggling to recover, I thought I was the only one who was dealing with such-and-so issue. I really thought I was all alone in my issues. I wasn't.
I am often asked this question. "So, Shannon, why do you 'do what you do'?" As soon as I figure out that the asker is referring to my work with MentorCONNECT, and not my odd jogging gait or my thoroughly unexceptional (and sometimes scary) culinary skills, I quickly answer: "Because recovered people matter." There is a lot more to it than that, of course - and there is quite a bit of passion, personal recovery ideology, and even a smidgen or two of verifiable common sense behind these four words. But I can answer so quickly because I have made (and continue to make) a study of myself - my motivations, my decisions, my interactions, my choices, my preferences, my aversions, and everything in between. It is important to know why we do what we do.
I am a bird nut. A bird fanatic. A bird lover extraordinaire. I think it is extremely fun to spend my free time taking pictures of my bird, Pearl, and then writing about all the cute things she does in the special blog I started for her, Love & Feathers. Sometimes I spend so much time chasing Pearl around with my iPhone camera that I forget I have actual work to do. This also helps Pearl remember, yet again, why the iPhone is mortal birdie enemy #1. But pets are such great mentors because they keep us honest. For instance, Pearl now knows that nighttime is neck feather-scratching time. If I do not respond to her first reminder chirps, she will. not. stop. until. I. do. It does not matter how comfortable I am in whatever part of the house I am hanging out in. My feathered gal's got nothing but time, and her tiny but powerful birdie lungs never wear out. Perhaps this is one reason why I am now on my third go-round reading one of my all-time favorite books, Wesley the Owl.
As a recovery professional (if there is such a thing) I work in an exceptionally service-oriented industry. The folks I have the great good fortune to know, serve with, and become close friends with are literally the most inspiring people I know. Period. I mean - these are the folks who have looked death in the face and said, "Not for me, not today, not ever. And I will help you say the same and stand behind your words." I am so proud and humbled to keep company with them. And yet, every year or two, I hit a snag. A big one. The snag is called "burnout." Maybe others who are leaders in the service industry burn out more frequently than I do, or less frequently, or never, but this just seems to be my pattern. I work too hard, sleep too little, worry too much, and try to do too much, and the next thing I know I am hanging out (again) on the edge of my own fine line between going down in history and going down in flames.
The truth is, there are very few human beings left in westernized countries who have not yet become acquainted with the wonders of technology. Whether you are an early adopter (like pretty much everyone I know) or a late adopter (like techno-challenged me) sooner or later the technological revolution catches up with most of us. Speaking of which, in recent weeks I have been learning to use my new iPhone 4S. Even though so far, most of my conversations with Siri have gone something like this: (me to Siri) "Please call Mom Cutts," (Siri to me) "I am really sorry - I can't understand you." I am still rather fascinated by my new talking electronic companion. Interestingly, right around the time I was on the phone with AT&T purchasing this groundbreaking wonder of artificial intelligence, a close friend sent me an article entitled "The Joy of Quiet" (it is worth mentioning that he also owns an iPhone and is well aware that his version of "unplugging" is, well, nonexistent).