Archives for June, 2012
Today we're taking a brief posting break from our exploration of my fav new article, "15 Powerful Things Happy People Do Differently," to bring you this month's inspiring message from Good News for Eating Disorders Recovery - I hope you enjoy it! You Can - and WILL - Figure It Out I will admit it. To this day, I still get flustered by the unknown, the unexpected, and pretty much anything else with an "un" attached to the front of it. You'd think by now I would have figured out that what the card I carry in my wallet says is actually true - Everything really is alright. But clearly I haven't. So instead I follow the routine: Freak. Run. Cower. Hide. Repeat if the scary thing is still there. And yet I am doing it. I AM. You ARE. We have loads - I mean TONS - of evidence in even our most recent past that we can, will, and do eventually figure it out....whatever "it" is.
While I realize I have already devoted two whole posts to a fascinating article entitled "15 Powerful Things Happy People Do Differently," I continue to find myself drawn back to it again and again. Perhaps it is my inner obsessive coming out to play (for weeks at a time). Or perhaps it simply means that this article sings to my heart and helps me to put semantic meaning to qualities I have long seen in my own beloved mentor and thus persist in attempting to cultivate in my own life as well. So here we go...first in a series of 15 attempts to decode the "meaning of happy" through deeper understanding of not just the knowledge of "what to do" by the mechanics of "how to do it." For instance, in item number one, "Love Vs. Fear," it is posited that there are only two emotions in the world. One is love. The other is fear. I will acknowledge here that I often find it sooooo tempting to boil down complex experiences like love and fear, happiness and sadness, to their simplest foundations. This doesn't mean, of course, that doing so isn't highly accurate. It just means that, for me at least, it often isn't equally as highly helpful.
You knew it was coming (or at least you did if you read my last post). Recently a Facebook peep re-posted an interesting article called "15 Powerful Things Happy People Do Differently." I saw the title and immediately thought, "Oh yeah. This time it's mine. Here comes HAPPY." Of course this is me we're talking about, so all of my anything-but-happy hangers-on insisted on coming along to practice such "happy people habits" as replacing fear with love, cultivating acceptance versus resistance, and of course offering an immediate and unconditional forgiveness towards the noisiest people on the planet (all of whom happen to live conveniently situated in homes right next to mine). All the better to find and forgive them more expeditiously, of course. Unfortunately, I didn't get very far down the "Powerful Things" list before I realized something.
All my life - up til now at least - I have struggled with sadness. I'm not sure if you'd call it depression, although I have struggled with that too. In earlier centuries, I might have been diagnosed with "melancholy," defined as "a deep, pensive, long lasting sadness." Only mine comes and goes, and the "long lasting" part has more to do with the "pensive" part than the "sadness" part...at least if detailed self-analysis counts here. As well, as I get older I get ever more curious about my seeming incurable desire to peek behind dark emotional corners and flip up long-neglected and dusty mental area rugs, whether they are mine or (even more fascinatingly) others'. In other words, I just can't seem to help myself. In a way this is good, I suppose - everyone needs some excitement in their life, and I have no stomach for actual thrills and chills. If there is an actual, physical corner behind which something eerie or scary may or may not be hiding, I send in someone else. It is just the reasonable thing to do. But if it is a mental or emotional dark corner, it's mine. Stand back, clear the area, send in the (self-declared) expert.
Being a natural people-pleaser, at some point fairly early on in my life I must have extended an overly warm Southern welcome to twin sisters anxiety and depression, because one of my very first memories (at age TWO) is of "being sad." In the memory, my world was a dark slate blue and grey. I was crying. My mom said it was because she had taken a nap and I wanted her to come change my diaper (I must have really tuckered her out for her not to have heard me wailing!). But I remember the feeling lasting far longer than the five minutes or so she said it took her to mobilize to my crib-side. What is truly remarkable about this experience is that, once my anorexia began to manifest around age 10 and a half, my memories become spotty in comparison with my younger brother's. He remembers so many details while most of my memories have been rekindled only after looking at family photo albums or being "prompted" with the retelling of family stories. But I remember feeling sad. I remember I was two. I remember the world was blue and grey. And I remember feeling totally cold...and alone. As I shared in part one of this post, over the years, anxiety and depression have come to visit me often. Each time one arrives, I think, "Oh this one is the worst. This time I am going to fall down the well of whichever-one-it-is for good."
This is the truth. In fact, neither anxiety nor its twin sister, depression (more about that in part two of this post), has any common sense, and thus neither are particularly helpful to us save for providing a place of temporary retreat and shelter as we regroup. Having often ridden the twin roller-coasters of anxiety and depression over the years, I liken each to an opposite-seeming yet exactly identical "emotional dead zone" - a place where emotions grind to a halt under (or above, in the case of anxiety) a thick, heavy blanket of emotive smog. I have also realized over the years that this is often (oddly) for my own protection - like an automatic shut-off valve when my emotional system begins to overheat....or freeze. This is also why trying to make a decision while under the influence of anxiety or depression is like deciding to take the freeway off-ramp right after you have passed by it.
Today was wash day. I woke up happy, to a lovely rainy morning with cool breezes and a pet bird in a good mood (pet bird not in a good mood means Mom is not in a good mood). I stripped the bed, made the rounds picking up Mommy towels and birdie towels, and trundled it all down to the local washateria, where the proprietor had the television set to CNN on full volume. In the space of literally less than five minutes, the good mood faded as I was informed about a Secret Service sex scandal, casualties from a bombing in Afghanistan, a new form of popular plastic surgery sweeping the nation, and an attempt to tax the "haves" in this country that would most surely be quickly tabled. Suddenly the gentle rain and dark clouds no longer seemed refreshing and nourishing to the parched Houston earth, but ominous and threatening, with a spiraling tornado of doom hidden behind every bank of dark clouds. But this is the world we live in. It just is. It doesn't mean this has to be the world I personally live in each and every day. This is why I restrict my own access to news programs and print articles, and am careful to keep my eyes set to "scan" when visiting facebook, doctor's offices, and (now) washaterias.
When I was 6 years old, I began begging my folks for a bird. By the time I turned 8 years old, I had my first parakeet, Perky. Perky and I spent hours together each day – he taught me about handling and understanding birds (some days I was a better student than others) and he lived an exceptionally long and healthy life before he passed at 12 years old (apparently this is VERY old for a parakeet). While it has never gotten any easier saying goodbye, over the years I have had many avian companions, each of which has served as mentors to me in their own unique ways. Recently I discovered a charmingly wonderful book called “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill,“ which describes a very similar experience to my own. While the wild parrots were clearly the focal point throughout much of the book, the true star was the author himself, who over time allowed his life to become completely transformed through his relationship to these small feathery mentors. The author, Mark Bittner, first became familiar with the parrots while serving as a caretaker to a cottage on famous Telegraph Hill near San Francisco, CA.