Archives for Mentoring

Mentoring

It’s Not My Fault (or is it?)

Recently a dear friend re-posted an interesting blog piece by Dr. Kelly Flanagan called "The Fault in Our Scars."

I read it and immediately felt a strong irritation arise from deep within.

The irritation was so strong that I felt tempted not to do what I often do to work through reactions like this - blog about other people's irritating blog posts.

Now that I've had a few days' distance from the post, I suspect my first wave of irritation related to the phrase "It's not my fault."

Hearing "it's not my fault" irks me as much as hearing "I had no choice."

In fact, in a way, these phrases sound (to me at least) like they are saying the exact same thing.

In the same way I have always felt if I am the one who notices the problem, I am probably the one who needs to fix it, I have never bought into the concept that any human being is ever choice-less.

I do believe sometimes all the choices we have suck.

And I do believe that sometimes being at fault is beneficial and necessary to future growth and even happiness.

But I don't like the word "fault."

In pondering further, I think that dislike of the word "fault" may even be at the root and the heart of the irritation I felt when I read "The Fault in Our Scars."

When I look at the "official" definitions for the word "fault," I am even more certain this word bears the blame (or fault!) for my dislike.

An unattractive or unsatisfactory feature.
Responsibility for an accident or misfortune.
Criticize for inadequacy or mistakes.
To be broken by a fault or faults (geology).

Yeep!

Whether - as the "Scars" blogger wrote - it is a miscalculation that causes the frig door to bang into the dishwasher door - or the car bumper into the fence gate - or a deliberate act of destructiveness perpetrated out of spite - well, it is a fine line to tell the difference with our current definitions of "fault."

As such, I prefer to assume it is the former until it is absolutely proven to be the latter.

And because of this, I also prefer to use the term "oops" to describe whatever occurred.

As in - oops, yup, I did it. I dented the bumper. I missed the deadline. I said/did the wrong thing. I forgot to water the houseplant (again). I burned the leftovers. I broke up our relationship. I left the water on all day (which is why the living room is now flooded).

Perhaps if we more readily owned the so-called faults that we perpetrated, there would be less scarring from committing a fault.

And perhaps if other people's (or our own) reactions to our so-called faults - whatever they may be - were less extreme, the urge to deny them would lessen accordingly.

It reminds me of something I believe Jesus said about specks and planks. 
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Mentoring

The Real Story Behind Whiplash

Yup.

Former career-minded musician that I used to be, I finally watched the movie "Whiplash."

I had been told to watch it because I might be able to relate from my own years of intense musical practice.

In this, my best friend in particular warned it might have a "few scenes" I might find disturbing.

After about five minutes, I assumed she was referring to all the scenes.

I loathed this film from the start.

I hated everything about it - from the inaccurate portrayals of drumming and musicianship, to the seeming decision by screenwriters and producers alike to skip over meaningless steps like fact-checking jazz history, to the gratuitous displays of vile meanness that are already so prevalent in society today. However, in the midst of all this, one important actual fact did stand out.

In the opening scene, we meet the main protagonist, first-year aspiring jazz drummer Andrew Neyman.

Neyman desperately wants to rise above the mediocrity he sees in his family and those around him. To achieve this, he practices until his hands literally bleed.

His drive attracts the attention of the story's main antagonist, Shaffer Music Conservatory conductor and bandleader Terence Fletcher.

As a teacher and mentor, Terence Fletcher is as vicious and abusive as it gets. He quickly singles out Neyman for special attention.

At first, young Andrew seems to fold under the pressure. But then he surprises us (or at least me) by coming back for more....and more....and more.

Somewhat late in the development of Andrew's story, a minor character named "Sean Casey" is introduced.

We don't ever actually meet Casey...this is because he is dead by the time we first hear his name. 
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Mentoring

Seeing the Light in Dark News

A few days ago, I got a pile of news all at once.

Some of the news was awesome.

Some, not so much.

But all jumbled up together, it felt challenging to organize which was which all on my own.

At times like these, I crave conversation with a certain type of person - that rare confidante who can look into the jumble of seemingly conflicting information and reliably pull out the light. What I learned from sharing this last jumble with various confidantes is that this is a rare gift....or perhaps a skill...or both.

In other words, not everyone has it - and those who do have it tend to be rarer than those who don't.

I have also learned that often parents don't have it - at least when it comes to their own spouses, parents, kids, pets, and grandkids.

In other words, just as my worry setting seems permanently stuck on "high" when it comes to Pearl, my parrot, and Malti, my baby tortoise, my own parents exhibit the same for me.

So if I share some good news and some bad news with my folks - for example's sake, let's say it is an unexpected sudden reduction in my freelance income - my mom, as self-appointed SpokesParent for them both, will translate that in her head to mean, "My daughter is going to be a homeless bag lady by tomorrow morning!!"

Then she will begin peppering me with questions and ideas (until, frankly, being homeless and living out of a bag begins sound both peaceful and freeing).

What is particularly ironic is that I DO have this gift for reliably finding the light in the jumble - or, in my case, I have this as a skill which I have consciously and deliberately developed for myself through much prayer, meditation, and daily self-effort.

I have taught myself to take in any news, and then instantly look for the bright spot in that news, no matter how hard it may be to locate.

For instance, let's say I am looking at the aforementioned unexpected reduction in freelance income. Instead of automatically heading towards "OMG - I'm a homeless bag lady!," I will say to myself, "How exciting! I wonder what kind of work I will be doing next! I'll bet it will be something even better than what I was doing until now!"

If - as such news sometimes does - it comes with compliments to myself included - I will read and re-read those compliments and allow them to soak in.

If there are no compliments I will compliment myself (after all, somebody has to do it.) 
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Mentoring

As the Pendulum Swings to the “Binge” Setting

I logged into my Amazon.com account today, and what did I see?

One word: "BINGE."

Each letter was decorated with television characters. First of all, as a Business/Marketing major, I must give kudos to Amazon for what is most likely already a very effective marketing strategy (I say this because before I saw it on Amazon, I saw the same strategy being used on Hulu to advertise their "Hulu Plus" TV streaming service).

But now what I thought (hoped) was going to be a very limited, localized ad campaign is spreading.

We - all of us - are being encouraged to "binge" on a variety of things besides substances and so-called "junk" or "bad" food.

Television, exercise, health foods and supplements (aka "orthorexia"), life hacks, anything is fair game for bingeing these days.

Sadly.

While clearly this doesn't apply in certain situations (heroin abuse, for example), in most cases a big facet of my ongoing recovery work is to replace words like "binge" with a phrase my mom has always used:

Everything in moderation.

Unfortunately for those of us on the moderation bandwagon, moderation doesn't sell.

This is because moderation doesn't have "star appeal."

It isn't glitzy or glamorous or extreme.

It won't make news headlines.

It won't sell anything to anybody (unless perhaps it comes attractively - if deceptively - packaged as "life balance"). 
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Emotions

Steering Clear of Needy Greedy “Love”


At times, I ask the wrong people for advice about the wrong things.

When I do this, I tend to get, well, bad advice.

As my mentor has often reminded me, the key to getting good advice is to ask the right people about the right things.

Here are three examples:

If I need advice about a recovery issue, I want to ask someone who is a few steps ahead of me on the recovery journey and/or has professional expertise in recovery matters.
If I need advice of a romantic nature, I want to ask someone who is now/has been in the past in the kind of healthy romantic partnership I aspire to also be in.
If I need advice about my career, I want to ask someone who has expertise in my line of work or a similar profession.

You probably get the idea right away. But often I still don't.

Recently I ill-advisedly shared news-in-progress about some possible choices my significant other and I were talking over with someone who (frankly) didn't meet the criteria to offer advice in this area.

Yet I got advice anyway....and the advice was along the lines of "but what if you don't get everything you want and need by making this or that choice?" 
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Inspirational

I May Really Be as Old as I Feel


Okay - here's something weird.

Recently I read an article - a series of articles, really - about aging.

Specifically, the series was focused on all the ways, available and emerging, we can stop or even reverse the aging process.

Many articles focused on learning techniques to promote restoration or longevity for our physical body - as such, these read much like a short course for auto enthusiasts striving to better preserving paint or battery life in a favorite antique car.

The article that captured my complete attention was called "Get Your Head in the Game: cutting-edge research is showing that your outlook can change how you age-at a cellular level."

Its premise was simple - so simple it sounds like a cliche I was tempted to ignore ("You're only as old as you feel" - well, what if some days I feel five and other days I feel 80? Divided by 2, that places me well within range of my actual age - 44).

So I stayed focused on facts - aka what we already do know is possible when body and mind are linked.

Here is what we know: 
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Celebrity Mentors

John Nash and How He Changed My Life


On Saturday, May 23, 2015, John Nash & his wife, Alicia, were riding through New Jersey in a taxi.

They had just returned from the Abel Prize awards ceremony in Oslo, Norway, where Dr. Nash had accepted his prize from the King of Norway himself.

For those of you who may not know this, I dedicated a whole chapter and several more pages of my first book, "Beating Ana: how to outsmart your eating disorder and take your life back," to Dr. Nash's story.

Even though I consider him one of my longtime mentors, we never met, but he and his wife were instrumental in stabilizing me in recovery nevertheless.

From Dr. Nash, I learned there really is such a thing as "mind over matter" (at least my personal matter, that is), and that it can be life-saving.

In this, he helped me increase my daily practice of "putting my mind on a diet," a regimen he credits with helping him overcome the effects of paranoid schizophrenia.

And reading and watching his story (through Sylvia Nasar's biographical book, "A Beautiful Mind," and then the Ron Howard movie by the same name), forever cemented my commitment to keeping my own counsel - about my chances for a successful recovery AND a successful life.

My whole life is better because John & Alicia Nash refused to listen to anyone who claimed he could never overcome his mental illness. 
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Inspirational

Why I’m Not Quite as Afraid of Death Anymore


This past month or two, I've been posting a fair amount on what appears to be a "mid-life fear-of-death crisis."

While I'm not totally sure what brought this on, I suspect it has something to do with watching my best friend's parents pass last year (both were in their 90's and had been married 65 years).

In witnessing their fears of death, I also uncovered my own.

Don't get me wrong - I'm glad I figured out now that I'm afraid of death, rather than waiting to die before I figured it out!

But not knowing how to address this fear - or how to solve it - has still felt like an obstacle....until recently.

After my last post about my fear of death, a sweet Facebook friend commented that I might enjoy a certain book by Annie Kagan called "The Afterlife of Billy Fingers."

When I first read the title, I was quite sure I wouldn't like this book at all - "Billy Fingers" sounded like a ghost's name, and perhaps one with ties to the kind of folks who like to bury their dead in concrete shoes.

However, my desperation for something to do trumped my hesitation, and I ordered a copy that same day.

As of today, I am on my third straight reading. 
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Mentoring

My Possible Selves & Their Awakeners

Recently I read about a book called "Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own," by Kate Bolick.

It is probably worth mentioning that, as of today, I have not actually read the book yet. I'm not sure if I will or not.

But the article, written by Time's Elliot Holt, certainly gave me plenty to ponder.

In the article, Holt references a 1986 study cited in the book. The study looked at how our own imagined future - our "possible selves" - influences our present identity.

Study results indicated that, in particular, women tend to become "very focused on their possible selves."

Bolick calls the mentors who have the power to jolt us out of such unproductive ruminations "awakeners."

Personally, I have had several such awakeners in my life - mentors who have challenged me to challenge my own ideas of what I want, who I am, what feels wrong or right, what my life "should" or "shouldn't" look like, and so forth.

Not all of these mentors have been women, although my longtime personal mentor, Lynn, is certainly one of them.

Over the last decade, and the last few years in particular, my entire sense of my possible self has undergone a makeover.

My attitudes and beliefs about spirituality, sex, romance, career, connection, friendship, marriage, and death (just to name a few) have been radically revised.

To be honest, before reading Holt's article in Time, I would have readily attributed this to my ongoing progression through Erikson's 8 Psychosocial Stages.

I really love Erikson's Psychosocial Stages.
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Celebrity Mentors

A Sudden Spurt of Senior Style – and Why I Love It


All of a sudden, "women of a certain age" are hot.

This, perhaps more than any other phenomenon I have witnessed in my 44 years to date, showcases that fashion trends are just that.....trends.

They are literally meaningless until the masses (aka us) give them meaning.

If no one pays attention, the trend doesn't catch on, and the fashion industry moves on to something else, hoping for a better response.

Somehow, when 14 year-old British model Twiggy was first introduced to us masses in the 1960's, her look caught on, especially amongst other kids her age, who could see themselves in her somewhat androgynous, boyish appearance.

This ushered in the "age of thin," which has persisted to this day (although recent fashion trends of a different sort are beginning to signal a shift here as well).

But now, all of a sudden (or for at least a year or two back as the fashion industry has been planning for its own future trends) we see Helen Mirren, age 69, as the face of L'Oreal Cosmetics in the U.K.

Jessica Lange, age 66, is representing Marc Jacobs. 
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