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Mind, Senses & Silence

Five Things Fear Hates: How to Fight Fear With Fear


I don't know about you, but right now I feel fearful a lot.

When I don't feel fearful, all I have to do is open up my inbox or browser window.

Most recently, I heard that a tiger at the New York Bronx zoo has come down with COVID19.

To be honest, nothing else I've read or heard about the virus to date made me as afraid as that.

This in spite of knowing that coronaviruses are zoonotic, which means they can hop from animals to people and (apparently) back again.

Recently I was listening to a livestream by one of my favorite mentors. Not surprisingly, she was talking about this global fearfulness and how it is becoming a pandemic in its own right.

Then she said, "I am going to teach you how to fight fear by telling you to do all the things fear hates most."

Brilliant.

(Honestly, I feel compassion for my fear and for fearful-me. But I'm not excited about becoming fear's doormat either.)

So here goes. Here is a list of all the things fear itself fears the most so you can use them as needed in the days and weeks ahead.


Relationships

My Pandemic Pledges: Will You Join Me?


I will be honest.

I didn't think sheltering in place would be a challenge.

After all, I essentially already do this anyway. I work from home every day. I often have to consult my phone to remember what day it is. I shower because I love it, not because I have to.

The other day, after several consecutive days staying at home, I finally had to go to the bank. I had to go because it was my youngest nephew's fifth birthday and I needed cash to tuck into his birthday card like I do every year.

When I got to the bank, the line for the ATM stretched around the block. So I decided to go into the branch to get my cash. I explained that I needed multiples of $10. The stern-looking door monitor wearing gloves and wielding a large canister of hand sanitizer told me to stand behind the purple line until someone came out. When another person exited, I was directed to a particular ATM just inside the door that was set up to dispense five dollar bills.

This was definitely different than my normal routine. By the time I procured the cash and mailed my nephew's card, I felt completely worn out. And like I wanted to shower in hand sanitizer while wearing a mask, gloves and a HAZMAT suit.

Sheltering in place is definitely not my jam.

And truly, everybody is struggling, I know. How could we not be?


Relationships

5 Gifts to Give Yourself As You Shelter in Place


So many of us all around the world are sheltering in place right now.

As we do, we feel so hopeful. Perhaps a little skeptical, too. We want this to work!

But it is all highly irregular.

When I talk with my inner circle of dear ones, I am finding we all feel a little (or a lot) discombobulated.

"Free time!" screams our multi-tasking, mentalizing, must-stay-busy mind. "Productivity! You could get. everything. DONE. Write a book! Sort your closet! Change the world!"

Meanwhile, our subversive stomach whispers, "Hey, there are SNACKS in the pantry. CHIPS. Your favorite. And WINE. Chips and wine go great with Netflix."

Jeez.

Our body craves rest. Naps. The couch is dangerously close to the work-from-home area.

And our spirit....can we just say "dissociate?"

It really is exhausting.

I'll be honest. I expected myself to sail through this stay at home stuff with flying colors, gold stars, whatever, because, well, I already stay at home all the time. I work from home, after all. And after more than a decade of practice, setting my own hours, keeping my own schedule, budgeting my own time, it is usually all rather second nature by now.

But it isn't second nature right now. Because there is nothing at all usual about this. This is what I am learning. People are kind of, well, wigged out.

If you are anything like me, part of your mind is even now orbiting Mars (which of course is far far away from a certain virus that starts with "C") wondering how fast we can get there and colonize already. Another part is avidly consuming viral news, literally.

And still another part is busy beating yourself up for all those chips and the as yet undone to-do list - which is actually a handy distraction from worrying nonstop about elderly loved ones, inadequately washed produce and what effect last night's extended happy hour may or may not have had on overall immune system efficacy.

You may not be feeling anything like this. (But I suspect if that is the case, you likely aren't reading this blog post either.)

Are you feeling isolated? Afraid? Connected yet...not? We are all in this together, it is true. And yet, tucked in the backs of our minds is the unavoidable fact that, should we happen to test positive for COVID-19, all that togetherness will as quickly evaporate, replaced by a rapid-fire official investigation into how and where and who else and how long and how many.

In some ways, that part feels way worse than actually getting the disease.

Which is why I thought I would share some thoughts gleaned from some of my absolute favorite mentors about how to care for yourself during this shelter in place time.

You see, there are specific gifts you really deserve and need during times like these....five in particular. I list them here in no particular order - if you think of any I missed, please add them in the comments!

1. Time. 

You need it.

Your mind, your heart, your body, it is all processing a lot right now.

Reason being, a planet-wide pandemic.


Relationships

3 Things We Do Not Need During a Pandemic and Their Antidotes


Being a part of a pandemic is no picnic. Seriously.

I say this as a confirmed, card-carrying, lifelong introvert who has worked from home for over a decade, accompanied only by my (super noisy) feathers and (super silent) shells for company.

It is quite different when you stay home by choice versus when you stay home by command.

Of course I don't want to make anyone else sick. I don't want to get sick, either.

But I also don't want to lose my mental and emotional health in service to my physical health.

I mention this because it is up to me to remember that I wake up every morning still in charge of four unique and highly complex integrated systems - my body, my brain/mind, my limbic brain/emotions, and my spirit.

Each of these systems has its needs and priorities. Each one is always adding new items to the suggestion box (or, alternately, to the complaint box).

Through it all, somebody (aka me) has to work to earn rent money to keep a roof over everyone's head.  Often, that work involves writing blog posts here and elsewhere.

I love what I do and I am grateful for the chance to do it. But right now, the work I do often requires quite a bit of immersion into all things COVID-19, coronavirus and pandemic. It is understandable. Many clients want timely posts on these topics and guess who they want to write those posts for them?

So I am surfing about all day, every day, reading social media, other bloggers' posts, official government edicts, scientific research, breaking news and so on and so forth.

Thus far, this has been alternately uplifting and disheartening.

The uplifting stuff. :-)

One thing I am absolutely learning that is very uplifting indeed is that we each have a way to contribute.

For example, today I read a post on our community forums about people who are putting their holiday lights back up as a way to cheer everyone up. So sweet! (This also handily explains my sudden need for hanging multiple battery-operated light strings absolutely everywhere inside our tiny casa. Very cheery indeed.)

I have read about people who are volunteering to deliver meals and groceries to people who shouldn't be going out at all. I've been delighted to learn how many people are banding together to support local businesses and gig economy workers who are suddenly jobless and scared as our mayor closes down so many public spaces to contain the threat.

And I have seen some of the funniest posts and cartoons on Instagram - seriously happy dopamine hits free for the enjoying. And I've done my best to return the favor (free happys courtesy of a certain set of feathers and two precious shells - get yours here).

The not-so-uplifting stuff. :-(

One thing I am learning equally that is exceptionally disheartening is that not all of us are choosing to make our contributions.

Or perhaps I should say the way some of us are choosing to contribute is a real downer - an honest-to-goodness effort to make sure their own fears have plenty of unhappy company.


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5 Things You Can’t Do Without In a Pandemic


Amidst recent news of a death toll in the thousands, it is all too easy to forget one simple fact: most people who contract COVID-19 (aka "the coronavirus") do recover.

How many? More than 66,000 to date, according to recent news reports.

This is NOT to downplay a) the seriousness, b) the fatalities, c) our current worldwide pandemic status.

It is shockingly scary - the fear itself is another kind of contagion that has infected both healthy and sick, patient and caregiver.

I can't help but think back to the past box office success of movies like "Contagion" and "Outbreak." They were wildly successful. We viewed them as entertainment.

Personally, I'm not finding either nearly so entertaining now.

But I am also finding myself instinctively pushing back against what is starting to feel like mass pressure to panic. I'm already tired of hearing about, talking about, (and now writing about) coronavirus.

Plus, I know panic won't help. And to be honest, I already beat one of the most deadly diseases known to humankind - anorexia. So if coronavirus gets me, at least I'll go out swinging because I know I've got the chops now.

If COVID-19 gets anyone I love, well, that's another story. Those germs better put up their dukes because I'll be coming for them.

In the meantime, I'm finding myself surprisingly well prepared should a curfew or quarantine type situation arise - well prepared completely in spite of myself, I might add.

From this unique vantage point, I am able to take a step or few back to refocus on being a little more creative with what I do have and a little less anxious about what I don't have.

(Because let's be honest. When you really really really need it, you will never ever EVER have enough toilet paper to feel like you fully, truly, completely have enough.)

But here are some things I do have that I am now realizing many people don't have that come in extremely handy in a pandemic (or anytime).

Even better, these are things that you can actually still easily buy on Amazon and other online places right now.

So what I'm suggesting here is: just take that restless, nervous, awful sinking scary feeling by the hand and take it shopping. Online.

Go buy these things for now....and for next time. Because, just like there was a last time, we all know there will be a next time, whether we particularly feel like admitting it right now or not.

Okay, here goes.

By the way, I don't get any kickbacks or cash or anything like that from suggesting any of these things. Yet. (Companies with deep pockets, you know where to find me.)

So here they are - your five must-have pandemic purchases.....


Body Image & Recovery

Why You Absolutely Must Fight Like a Dog to Recover


More and more often these days I look back on the days (years, decades) I spent battling anorexia and bulimia and I see time well spent.

And time needlessly wasted.

In the former case, I see life skills built that I still lean on every single day. I see brave me where scared me once stood.

I see empathy built from the inside out - is there any other authentic way? - that I am only just now learning how to handle, focus and use for good.

In the latter case, I see a decision made in a moment of pure life crisis turned into a potential lifetime coping method that was never meant to be.

Food cannot be my shield and my fuel at the same time.

Long before I really grasped what I was saying, I used to tell mentees that recovery from an eating disorder (or anything in life, really) is like learning to drive.

Although really, recovery is more like learning to take the car apart, put it all back together again, align the wheelbase, rotate the tires and then drive.

Because if the four wheels are not all pointed forward, you aren't going to go anywhere.

The four wheels in this overdone metaphor are body, mind, heart and spirit. You can rename them however you like. Sometimes for heart I use emotion. Sometimes for spirit I use benevolent good or positive connection.

The point here is that it takes a lot - a LOT - of work to properly assemble (or reassemble) and then learn to pilot that kind of complex craft.

I am turning 50 this year and honestly I still cannot believe we don't come with at least some sort of rudimentary operators manual. It is a huge responsibility for one person to take on all by themselves - to take care of a body, a brain (and its mind), a heart (both physical and emotional) and a spirit (gut, intuition, whatever you prefer to call it).

It is a full-time job.

And that is why I titled this blog post what I did.

Just in case you are at that stage where I still remember being, where I still kind of thought or hoped or fantasized that if I managed my food perfectly, looked a certain way, acted a certain way, dressed a certain way, etc, etc, it would all come together, with "it" being my life, my hopes, my dreams....

It won't.

We aren't here for that.


Body Image & Recovery

How I Knew I Was Recovered from My Eating Disorder


National eating disorders awareness week happened a few weeks ago.

As usual this year, I missed it.

Believe it or not, this is a good thing.

Anorexia and bulimia ate up (horrid pun intended) at least one-third of my useful life to date, so it is nice to forget it even exists for a few days or weeks or months at a time now and again.

Although I did find the breaking and mending process - a multi-decade saga - quite useful indeed.

During those decades, I discovered just how low a human being can sink in her own esteem. I learned all about rocks, hard places and the possibility of needing to gnaw off your own arm, or leg, or brain, to get free.

I found out that there are no impossible challenges, just impossible-feeling choices.

I also realized that the eating disorder had nothing but time. Lucky for me, so did I.

So I turned my attention away from getting very good at getting sicker and channeled it in its entirety towards getting very good at getting better.

I was pretty good at staying sick, in hind sight. But at healing, well, I was a rock star.

I have proof. I'm here. And I know I'm recovered.

(If you are reading this and want to learn more about the breaking and mending part, I wrote a book about that. It is now out of print. But of course Amazon still has copies. Because Amazon has everything.)

Last I checked, which I will admit was a few years ago now, the "recovering" versus "recovered" debate was still raging.

I was never very interested in this debate because semantics like these can keep my brain very busy and self-important so it never has to tackle the actual hard work of recovering or staying recovered, whichever term may resonate more on any given day.

Also, truthfully, in my experience both terms are very relevant. Like the five stages of grief and many other mostly useful structures, sometimes we vacillate.

But then sometimes we cross over a line that is so clear, so obvious, so un-missable in every way, that one term finally "sticks" for good.

Then we can personally self-identify with that term and other folks who are also in that camp. But it doesn't mean the other term has suddenly become invalid. It just means it doesn't apply to us personally anymore.

That was what happened to me.

Several years ago, long after I wrote my book and founded MentorCONNECT and considered myself to be "in recovery" in a really solid way, I signed myself up for a multi-day retreat.

When I enrolled myself, I didn't know the agenda or daily schedule. I only knew the speakers and the location. But I signed up anyway, because sometime I do things like that when my gut tells me to do them.

As it turned out, the retreat included a "surprise" extended fast.

Boy was I surprised.

The first day of the fast, I thought to myself, "oh good, a test. I can do this." (I also knew I had snack bars in my room if I discovered I couldn't do this. And the staff told us that they had snack bags for anyone who couldn't or just didn't want to attempt the fast.)

The second day of the fast, I thought to myself, "oh shit. But I can do this." That night I woke up in the middle of the night feeling extremely nauseated and woozy. I ate half a snack bar and went back to sleep, reassuring myself that in just a few hours I could eat breakfast. Because I was sure the fast would be over by then.

The third day of the fast, I didn't think. I Immediately  burst into tears and went running to the staff to explain my situation. They offered me a snack bag. I declined.

And THAT WAS WHEN IT HIT ME.

That was THE MOMENT I knew I was "recovered." Period. The End. As in, never, ever again.


Relationships

Have You Been Shame Slammed? What It Means & How to Deal


There I was, curled up under piles of covers with pillows over my head.

I just lay there, wide awake in the middle of the night, feeling....sick, sick, sick.

It wasn't the flu. It wasn't coronavirus or the citywide contaminated water outbreak from last week even now making its bacterial way through my digestive tract.

I knew this because I felt fine, physically speaking. All systems go.

But the part of me that is "me" - the part that normally stays well when the rest of me falls ill - felt gutted. Mutated, somehow. On its way to being MIA.

Earlier that day I had taken part in a group coaching call. The call was part of a new life coaching program I recently enrolled in. I'm not used to being a part of these types of calls and I made some mistakes.

Other attendees noticed and pointed my errors out over the group chat. I didn't respond that gracefully.

When the Q&A time came and it was my turn to ask a question, the group leader basically shot down my dream and told me I needed to find something else to do.

By the time the call ended, the four walls of my tiny casa felt far too spacious to protect me from the creeping white hot lightning rod of ache spreading up from my gut, along my spine, into my heart and head.

I had been shame slammed.

What Is Shame Slamming?

This is what shame slamming means to me.

It starts when you choose to become vulnerable or when you open yourself up in some big way, like to ask for help or share honestly about something you are really struggling with that is already making you feel shame.

But then, when you finally work up the guts to admit it, tell someone else about it, or ask for help dealing with it, the person you tell doesn't get it and shames you about it.

There is nothing wrong with choosing to open up and ask for help or feedback or to share, by the way. But it is important to pick who you do it with carefully to reduce the risk of shame slamming.

Also, just so you know - this isn't an "official" term or anything. It is just what I call this experience because that is what it feels like to me - being literally body-slammed over and over again with shame.

The first time I remember being shame slammed is when I failed the math quiz (again) in fifth grade. Our teacher made me stand up in front of the class and announced to everyone that they would all have to retake the quiz because Shannon had failed again.

I was shame slammed again as a teen. We were on vacation in South Padre. I had full-blown anorexia and just wanted to hide in our hotel room. My parents got so frustrated they yelled at me and told me I was selfish and horrible and why wasn't I more like my brother (I wanted to know the answer to that question too).

There were lots of other times as well.

Then of course there was last week's conference call, the public errors, the awful public question gone awry, the fetal ball barely visible under a pile of pillows and covers.

So you get the general idea.

Maybe you are even starting to call to mind some times when shame slamming has happened to you.

How Do You Deal With Shame Slamming?

So the next question then becomes, what do you do about it?


Relationships

What Is Forgiveness, Really?


This morning I asked myself a tough question.

It stemmed from a life coaching course I recently signed up for. Life coaches, of course, specialize in asking students tough questions...the exact kinds of tough questions we'd prefer not to ask ourselves.

This particular question asked whether there is anyone in our lives we still want to avoid.

I was surprised by how many names came up.

Former boyfriends. Former landlords. A family member (no former about this one). A handful of formerly close friends. A former boss.

When I thought about how I would feel if I was out and about one day and saw them walking towards me, I....squirmed.

Yuck. No thank you. I'd really rather not.

The thing is, I really thought I had forgiven each one of these folks.

After wrestling with this for awhile, I finally realized I might be getting forgiveness confused with forgetfulness.

After all, as more than one mentor has told me over the years, to forgive doesn't mean to forget. Not to mention that some people are forgiven and loved much better from a considerable distance.

But what if that distance were to suddenly disappear? What if, just say, the person who hurt you the most in the world were to suddenly be walking down the street right towards you? What would you do?

And would your choice in those stressed-out moments have anything to do with whether you had forgiven them or not?

I realized I didn't know the answer to this question. And then I realized this might be the kind of question where more than one answer choice is right.

So I did what most of us do when we have big unanswered questions in our lives. I googled it.

The article that resonated with me the most was one about how to maintain a relationship with a loved one who has hurt me. Is it possible? Is it wise? Is it necessary?

The answers I found seemed to boil down to these fundamental reminders:

Forgiveness is an internal state. The other person doesn't even have to know or care that it has happened.
Forgiveness doesn't mean "no boundaries." In contrast, building better boundaries can be forgiveness-sustaining.
Forgiveness may not change the other person's attitude or behavior towards me. It might even make either or both worse!
Forgiveness boils down to not taking things personally and not making assumptions (both of which are longtime Don Miguel Ruiz favorites that I clearly still haven't learned how to do).

With these insights in hand, I went back to my pile of folks to avoid. I picked out one of the most recent - a former landlord who really, really doesn't like me and lives just one house down from me.

This is a difficult and also especially relevant example because it really is highly likely we will meet out on the street and I know for a fact he is still very keen to avoid me. In fact, last week it actually did happen while I was out talking to another mutual neighbor and saw him out walking his dog out of the corner of my eye. I did my best to keep it not-awkward and so did he as our neighbor said hello and I hid behind the bumper of my car.

That is something, I guess.

But is that forgiveness? Or not-forgiveness?