What Does Your Fear Food Chain Look Like

We all have them. Fears.

They aren't very pleasant, overall.

Although some people appear to enjoy being scared, I am not one of them (what I mean is, I have never willingly viewed a horror film or anything stronger than a good thriller, even though I know they are quite popular - the daily horrors my own mind can think up are plenty, thank you very much).

In my own life, my fears have their own internal hierarchy - a fear food chain if you will.

At the top is that ultimate in all fears - one which I blog about quite a lot - death.

If death isn't scary then I don't know what is (although here again, I have heard from readers through the years who aren't at all afraid of death for one reason or another, and all I can say here is, you are my heroes!).

Then there are what I politely term the "stretch fears." Like stretch goals, they may in time come to pass. But then again, they may not.

A good example of a stretch fear for me is losing everything and becoming a bag lady and dying alone and in pain on the streets. I am a little less afraid of this fear after a workshop several years ago challenged its participants (moie included) to actually visualize one of our worst fears, moving progressively through it right til the, well, gulp, end.

In the end, so to speak, it wasn't quite so fearful as I had imagined it to be.

Then there are the more mundane fears - the worker fears, I suppose. Like worker bees or worker ants, they lead very unglamorous lives, literally living for their five minutes or even five seconds of fame when they get their chance to scare me half to death.

The worker fears aren't so death-defying, perhaps, but that unfortunately doesn't reduce their potency when they get their chance to shine. Like so.....

I was born and raised in Texas. After moving away for several years I returned and have lived here ever since. So you might think I have over time grown immune to the particularly gruesome sight of a large flying Texas cockroach scampering across the floor, ceiling, wall, driveway, bathtub.

Let me cut the suspense. I haven't. 

Love & Feathers & Shells & Me

Putting Your Whole YOU Back Together Again

Unlike his mommy, Pearl has no problem keeping (and wholeheartedly approving of!) all his parts together as a whole!

Being a professional pet blogger brings with it some very interesting lessons.

On a daily basis, I may find myself researching the origins and care needs of one or a handful of species. And I have to say, this research gets particularly intriguing when the species in question is regarded as both companion and cuisine.

For example,...

Animal Mentors

Managing Our Fight or Flight Instinct in the Modern World

We homo sapiens really have come a long way over the last century. Heck, even over the last decade we've progressed in leaps and bounds.

In some ways.

In other ways, I sometimes feel like we haven't even begun to catch up to ourselves.

I mean, it's kind of amazing to think about how, in just the time I have been alive - not even five decades to date - we've gone from living in a world without email to living in a world where email becomes nearly obsolete in favor of texting and social media messaging.

Yet, all change aside, certain far older and chronically super-stressed-out portions of my brain haven't quite gotten the memo that all the saber-tooth tigers are extinct and no one of my kind has been eaten for lunch in centuries.

This became particularly relevant recently when my friend and I hiked a portion of Palo Duro Canyon up in the Panhandle of Texas. During the night, the wind picked up and began pushing the sidewall of the tent on my side into my body. It was a light wind at first and then grew more forceful. Every time the wind gusted and pushed the tent wall against me I woke up, thinking it was a wild bear trying to get into our tent.

Finally, I had to actually put my hand on the tent wall and sleep like that to remind myself it was just a tent wall and not a wild bear (this even though I was later told there are no bears in Palo Duro Canyon!).

Interestingly, I actually have the same type of startle reflex when my phone rings unexpectedly loudly or when a neighbor gets a new dog that barks in an unfamiliar voice. 

Animal Mentors

Lessons from Pets On Why You Should Never Say Never

Recently I was hanging out with my folks for Mother's Day. We had nearly the whole crew there - me, my parents, their dachshund Flash Gordon, Malti, and, of course, Pearl.

This is typical for us - a family gathering isn't a real family gathering unless it is interspecies.

I have adored reading since I learned how to read. Many nights since, it is a real battle of wills between my love of reading and my love of sleeping to see who will cave first. I have a tendency to find a teacher whose work I love and immerse myself in their books - and only their books - for weeks or even months at a time...however long it takes to begin to master even the basics of what they have to share.

But while I frequently have to read and re-read and re-read again and again to grasp fundamental lessons on determination, resilience, positive visualization, intuitive living and staying the course towards my dreams, my interspecies family members have never read a single book on any of these topics.

They've never needed to. They just do it instinctively (thanks and you're welcome, Nike).

In a single family gathering, I can witness multiple instances of this truth.

For example, our dachshund, Flash Gordon, loves to chase small lizards. He loves them so much he will even ignore a plump squirrel, tail wiggling in challenge, to pursue a sprightly lizard interloper. 

Animal Mentors

Do You Know Where Your Reset Button Is?

Every year when the first day of a whole new year dawns, I get so excited (well, technically if it's dawn I'm still reliably sound asleep, but as soon as I wake up I get so excited).

I somehow can't shake the chronic belief that this will be "the year." The year when everything is different, when I am happier, healthier, more successful, luckier and more at peace than I ever have been before.

Technically, this isn't a bad belief to have...perhaps not even one anyone in their right mind would want to shake. The trouble is, I kind of expect the shift to occur by about sunrise on day 2 of the whole new year.

That, I think, is where I keep getting tripped up.

The truth is, I can look back over the landscape in my rearview mirror and see I actually have been progressively moving closer to this (admittedly impressive stretch) goal each and every year since I was born. That is 48 and nearly a half years to date, so I've logged some good time and definitely some high-quality effort.

But I still have a long, long, LONG way to go.

Last year, between hurricane Harvey and getting diagnosed with hypothyroidism, my whole year was pretty much wiped off the map in one (well, two) fell swoop. Each event brought many kindnesses and much healing into my life and into my family's lives. But boy were they tough.

This year, I launched in with my most ambitious challenge to date - parting ways with the man I have loved for (count 'em) 15 years. We had tried just about every configuration a duo could try - dating, business partners, roommates, friends, lovers - nothing worked. Nothing, that is, except splitting up. That, thus far, has been working well at least from this end of the equation (I have no idea what his thoughts might be on the same).

But it has been HARD. There is this movie I watched a couple of years ago with the unforgettable title of "I'll See You In My Dreams." That is how it has felt, post-split. Sometimes I see him in my dreams. It is a process, going from something to nothing, and I think maybe it is similar to detox on an emotional and spirit level, with these occasional dream-visits easing the ache until it becomes bearable on its own.

One thing that has helped more than everything else all put together is retreating into nature. 


Is the Love You Get Digestible?

It is kind of hard to put this into words. But basically, I have really been struggling lately with my own relationship with love.

Love is a very essential thing to have in life - or at least it feels essential for me to have love in my life.

I realize it is probably not quite so essential as food, water, shelter, safety - in the sense that, without these basics, all the rest can quickly become a highly theoretical exercise anyway.

But once those necessities are solidly in place, what is left to look for in life? Love. And this can - at least for me - prompt some personally uncomfortable questions.

For instance - what is my relationship like with others? What is my relationship like with me? Where does my supply of love come from? Is that supply consistent? Is there any danger of the supply being interrupted or even ceasing altogether?

This is particularly significant because, for those of you who have been following along here for some time, you probably remember I went through a breakup with my longtime partner about five months ago.

The breakup caused a huge interruption in my supply of love. Or perhaps "interruption" is not the right word - it was more like the supply just suddenly ran out.

To clarify, this never made me question whether separating was the right thing to do. On the contrary - it felt like the only loving thing left to try that might safeguard what love we had previously shared together.

Yet it wasn't until after the split when I began to realize to what extent I had let my own efforts to ensure a steady supply of self-love lapse.

This prompted yet another whole set of uncomfortable self-queries...queries that eventually led me to realize the real reason for our split. 


Recalibrating Your Sense of Self After a Breakup

Recently I went thrift shopping with my mom. This is a favorite shared hobby and we always find interesting things.

But since parting ways with my longtime partner back in November, I now come away from nearly every outing with more interesting finds to ponder than just how to pair new vintage finds with my existing wardrobe.

For example, during this last outing, in a sudden aha-moment I realized that over the years I have become accustomed to shopping with an eye towards where I might wear each item with my partner....or, rather, ex-partner.

So now as I shop, it doesn't take much for my mind to get confused about our shopping agenda.

Here is an example.

Let's say I am casually browsing through the racks when all at once I happen across a particularly choice of those ones that is particularly ripe with creative wearable potential. Suddenly on high alert, my mind instantly starts scanning the near calendar horizon seeking for suitable occasions where I might wear this item.

In my still-newly single state, it surprise here...nothing. After all, there are really only so many different outfits one can wear for yet another evening sitting at home on the couch cuddling with your pet tortoise.

Disappointed, my mind returns the data, or lack thereof. It sagely advises me to put the item back on the rack. Of course, by now I have grown attached to it - to the potential, the possibility, the creativity, the hopes and dreams that haven't died quite so easily as the relationship itself. 

Book Mentors

Write to Heal: Learn How with June Alexander of “The Diary Healer”

Shannon here..... I am so happy to share a special guest post from my dear friend and long-time collaborator and colleague Dr. June Alexander!

For those of you who remember MentorCONNECT, you may have met June already either virtually or in person - she was one of our first and most beloved volunteer mentors!

If you are an avid reader, you may know of June through her many wonderful books, which offer valuable insights and practical tools for making progress in eating disorders recovery and life.

And if you are an aspiring writer and haven't yet met June, you will want to - she is an accomplished writing mentor and coach through her Life Stories Mentor program (more news about this PLUS an invitation to connect with June directly at the end of this guest post).
Write to Heal: Making the Hard Work of Eating Disorder Recovery Easier by June Alexander
Recovery from an eating disorder is hard work. The good news is that the skills developed during the recovery process can be very useful in meeting other challenges that arise in the mainstream of everyday life.

The following excerpt from my own personal diary gives you just a glimpse of the power of diary writing!
From my diary: March 16, 2019
I am at JFK Airport, 6pm, to start the long homeward journey from the AED ICED in New York. Have managed to circumvent a hurdle. There was a St Patrick’s Day march in Central Park and many roads were blocked, police/police cars everywhere, and the journey from the hotel on 75thAvenue to the airport took 2.5 hours instead of the usual one hour. The cab driver was apologetic, but the constant braking and accelerating (one car space at a time for more than an hour), left me feeling very nauseous (due to the missing vertebrae/discs in my cervical spine). I inadvertently mentioned this when loading my suitcase on to the conveyor belt — and the staff swung into procedure mode, immediately calling for advice … then they said: “You will not be able to fly today, you need to see a doctor and get a medical clearance. You will have to stay overnight and return tomorrow if you have a certificate to say you are fit to travel.”
Thoughts began to rush into my brain, all panic-driven, all in flight mode. 


Who Are You Without Your Roles?

Approximately four months ago, my longtime love of 15 years and I finally parted ways. It was a good decision - one I still feel is the most loving for all concerned.

(And by "all," I mean me and him of course, but also the handful of intensely long-suffering and devoted family, mentors and friends who have kept the bucket brigade going during the many long and difficult years of our connection....and even now into its dissolution.)

By some bona fide miracle, shortly after we split I happened across a series of memoirs by author and teacher Sonia Choquette. She has written three to date - the first chronicles her growing up years, the start of her career and how she met her husband. The second and third describe their difficult breakup after a 30+ year marriage and how Sonia survived it.

I seriously could not have asked for a better mentor, guide and encourager at this particular moment in my life. It has been like having someone to talk to - listen to, really - who is several steps ahead of me and is yet is still working hard to relocate her footing after such a significant life change.

What a blessing (big grateful sigh).

But why am I sharing this? I am early into Sonia's third memoir as I write this, and she has just shared about discovering how strong her identity as "married" still is even though she has been divorced for several months now. She talks about how much trouble she is having figuring out who she is - the image I get is of her poking around inside herself, examining each bit and asking, "Are you me? Are you me? Are you me?"

Or perhaps that is the image I get of me doing the same. 

Love & Feathers & Shells & Me

You Are So Much More Than Your Shell (So Am I!)

Over the past 48 years, I have discovered there are a lot of things in life I am not very good at.

As it turns out, one of them is raising shells....specifically, a hatchling red-footed tortoise named Malti who is now nearly five years old and lives in my casa with me and the rest of our little interspecies flock.

Malti came to me in May 2014. She was - to put it mildly - an impulse purchase.

Fresh off a minor (major) disagreement with my then significant-other, I was supposed to be researching garage apartments on Craig's List. Instead, I typed in "reptiles."

A week later, I somehow found myself in possession of a teensy hatchling tortoise in a small plastic dish and a one-page care sheet. Looking back now, it would be nearly impossible to say which one of us was more scared of the other. We made it through the first night, and then the second, and as I slowly lost the urge to check on her 16 times a night, we both started to relax a little bit.

This, as it turned out, was a big mistake.

Fast forward about a year and we are in the veterinary ER (you can read the whole back story on Malti's blog). I am sobbing on the phone to my folks as I describe the thousands of dollars I don't have that it may take to keep my little one above ground. They give me the green ($) light and Malti is admitted to the intensive care. I drive home and cry myself to sleep.

Bright and early the next morning I get a call from the vet tech - an amazing and life-saving being I adore named Dani who just happens to own a - wait for it - healthy, elderly red-footed tortoise.