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Posts tagged ‘balance’

Putting A Muzzle on Mind Chatter- November 30, 2014

Originally written by Jeff – retold by Bobbe

Like other babyboomer couples, Jeff and I have been stacking life’s changes: empty nest, aging careers, aging parents, aging food in the fridge and how all of these factors affect us as an aging couple. The empty nest is okay, the career horizon is a bit foggy and the aging parent deal is a doozie. The only thing normal is the aging food in the fridge. Then the abnormal changed our normal forever.

In February, 2013, Jeff lost right eye vision. No reason. It was just gone. In his personal struggle to adjust to myriad changes, he spent a lot of time alone doing things that had long ago given him pleasure, but which he’d abandoned while we raised children, advanced careers and dealt with busy lives. His activity often occurred in the woods or with wood. He sawed, chopped, and nailed pieces into forms. He squirrel hunted, target practiced, or just walked in the woods, which proved to be tricky. It was in this environment that Jeff regained balance between his mind-chatter and fantasies. I was a bit uneasy at first, with the word, “fantasy”. He was surprised by my immediate jump to a definition that he’d not intended. Informal polls indicated others jumped to the sex connotation too. We sought to find a synonym, but nothing worked better. Feel free to use a synonym, it it makes you comfortable. That way, I can rest easier, knowing that that you aren’t envisioning me pole-dancing in the bedroom or at a sleazy night club. However, I suppose my stage name could be “White Trash…”

Mind-chatter and fantasy are universal human traits, in fact, 90% of every day is spent on one of the two. On days when the mind-chatter runs rampant, we stress more and sleep less. Jeff found out that by learning to turn off the chatter and allowing more fantasy time, his happiness greatly increased. He is beginning to see his loss as a gift.

Mind-chatter Vs. Fantasy Mind-chatter is our internal rules system. Fantasies offer us the illusion of emotional safety. Mind chatter guides us away from our heart and the things we love to do. Fantasy offers us reasons to overcome chatter and create life happiness. Mind-chatter will tempt you with its relentless reminders of past failures and future fears, resulting in a heightened state of worry and unhappiness. Oh boy, no joy. As we age, we allow mind chatter (rules maker) to become more intense. We learn this at an early age. Over the years, we equate happiness with how other people react to us. Negative chatter can make us afraid to express ourselves, or ask for what we want. It limits our potential and hinders our ability to express love for others. The most detrimental aspect of mind chatter occurs as we approach mid-life; the chatter is rife with self-criticism. Unfortunately, it’s difficult for the human mind to turn chatter off, or even down a notch.
Fantasies mostly involve the future; they reflect the essence of one’s personality. Fantasies help us solve or address problems, concerns and prepare us for future events. In the rare times fantasies are past-tense, they would be a form of analysis, as to what we should or shouldn’t have done, but (and this is a BIG but) without the guilt, which mind-chatter implies. Fantasy helps comfort, encourage and reinforce ourselves when impending decisions are going to be difficult. In a state of fantasy, we allow our minds to develop guidelines for a more positive outcome, providing clarity to our concerns. Fantasies allow us to change preconceived deficiencies to strengths.

Psychological well-being is directly related to our ability to fantasize. If we then act on those concepts we can reinforce relationships, improve health and turn down the mind-chatter volume. Jeff decided to employ some fantasies with me. Before your imagination runs wild, let me explain that these acts were simple and basic. In essence, we started dating again. He actually phoned to ask, “Want to go on a date?” He was afraid I’d decline the invitation and was relieved I’d accepted. This from a tough guy, who is afraid of NOTHING! He became more attentive, less argumentative. He asked for additional dates. We talked. A lot. (And he listened!) He complimented me when I got dressed up. (That was the best improvement!)
Like millions of couples, we’d put our relationship on auto-pilot for years; we hadn’t nurtured the most important thing we possessed. My own mind-chatter had reduced my self-image to seeing myself as a frumpy, middle-aged, boring wife/woman. You see, mind-chatter tarnishes how we see ourselves and others. Jeff’s fantasy was to reverse 37 year-old habits, using creative thought to facilitate positive change.

This newfound attention was a bit overwhelming at times, I must say. Our comfortable, predictable approach to an old marriage was not a bad thing at all, but the positive changes will sustain us much better, as we enter our retirement years. The home climate became more positive. I felt like a queen. It seemed that the adage, “Marriage is a marathon, not a race,” did not apply. Jeff was trying to make up for lost time, at full sprint. It was both weird and wonderful. I realized that if we didn’t stop the mind-chatter and pay attention, life would move on without us fully participating in it. How sad.

Before one of our dates, I was soaking my feet in a foot-spa the kids had given me last Christmas. Jeff saw I needed new polish and offered to do it for me. I said yes, but was unsure. This seemed a bit kookie. “Better not tell the kids about this one!” I said. Mind-chatter had kicked in hard and fast and was working overtime, robbing us of a simple gesture because of an empty pre-conceived notion. He explained that, as a little boy, his mom allowed him to paint her nails, on occasion. Being one of six children, one-on-one activities were precious and probably few. It seemed that if his mother permitted a polish, it was okay for me to accept the same treatment. And our kids might even think it was okay, too.

The important part is that when the innocence of wanting to paint my toes was disrupted by mind-chatter, Jeff empowered his fantasy to continue a nice gesture. These spontaneous self-generated thoughts only become reality when we turn the chatter off long enough to allow us choices that will make us happier in life. One thing is for sure, his sight will never be the same, but he sees many things much clearer now. We both do. Isn’t it ironic that his loss has become a gift? What a great Thanksgiving blessing. bw

Depression: Yuck to the Muck

Each October, as Mama Nature paints our trees in perfect shades of orange, gold and red, I always recall October, 2000. That was the fall I colored my world after wiping away the gray. I’m not talking about my hair, but my life. In October 2010, I first wrote about my depression, and seriously, I’ve never had more feedback, comments and questions. It’s four years later and just like the Olympics (every four years whether you need them or not) it’s time to bring this topic up.

I told you how I got my joy back after beginning treatment, and that’s the truth. And while millions of people resort to medication, there are some of us who really need it. For others, I suspect, it’s a crutch or an escape from a dastardly situation, with which they can’t step up and be honest. Before my main point, please think of people on medication not as athletes on steroids, but rather, medication brings us up to normal, so that we may compete, work, live and play with the rest of you. I like that explanation. For years, I thought I was cheating as a professional speaker. I thought to myself, “Well, sure, it’s easy for me to find the humor in life and laugh at the little things. Heckfire! I’m on medication!” Well, so are most humorists and comedians. Laughter comes from pain, remember? I wonder, still, how my keynote of tips and tools resonates with attendees who are struggling through their own Olympics of depression. If someone is struggling, then perhaps they haven’t sought out help. There is help out there, whether you have insurance or not. Just do it.

New angle… Those of us under the cruel hand of depression are so wrapped up in our own muck, we forget about our loved ones who had to live WITH us. In my self-centeredness, I had no idea, until my husband shared his experience and that of our children, who I thought were oblivious at young ages. Were not. Jeff has reminded me more than once at what a bitch I was. Moi? Oui! How he didn’t know which mood was going to enter the door after work. He started dinner so many nights –bless that man- because he didn’t think I could handle it, kids homework, dog and house and and and. He was right. His blood ran like ice water, each time I ran errands and was out too long, for fear that I had finally gotten to the edge of some cliff. Reflecting back, I was never THAT close to the edge that I would end it all, but I did kind of wonder how I would survive the next twenty to thirty years feeling like crap. And truthfully, I nearly ALWAYS outrun my ETA with errands. Still do. I’m bad that way. Jeff still worries about relapses when I’m gone too long.
If you’ve lived with a depressed person, will you share your experience, from any perspective: spouse, child, parent, friend and etc? We all need some insight to get beyond our own pain. And please share this post if it moves you in some little way. Empathy gets the gold medal when we can understand the other person’s position. Jeff assures me they’re better people for having gone through this with me. Love you guys. Thanks. I’m sorry. Yuck to the muck. bw


Changes in Attitudes, Changes in Trackitudes

Do you remember these jokes? When God passed out…noses, I thought He said “roses”, and I asked for a big one. When He passed out heads, I thought He said “beds”, and I asked for a big soft one.  And with legs, I thought He said, “kegs”, and I asked for two fat ones.

Last Friday, I went to catch the evening AMTRAK to Chicago. I jockeyed with a man for parking.  With three books and a journal packed, the 4 ½ hour trip would be both relaxing and productive. Another bonus: time to review my speech for my morning presentation in Gurnee, IL. I couldn’t wait to embark. Suitcase? Sandwich? Purse? Check, check and check! After a few strides with my roller bag, I stopped in my tracks. It was too quiet. Not one person was standing in line. Odd. Maybe they were waiting inside the depot. Maybe the evening train lacked popularity. HARK! I hear a distant whistle;  it’s probably just running late. Except what zoomed by was a freight train rolling south.
It was 5:32 – plenty of time for a 6:00 p.m. departure. Still, the silence was odd. I checked my ticket, which I’d had, for a month.  I ride the train a lot and know the schedule, but- and this is a BIG but -it read, “Departure- 5:30”.  Maybe that was the time to line up, like airport pre-boarding.  I re-read the ticket. Adrenaline coursed through me. It all crystallized in my mind: solitude is great on a beach, but not at a depot. There it was, in all its humbling glory. Departure – 5:30. I’D MISSED IT! Noooooooooo! Yessssssssss! After kicking myself for five seconds, I threw suitcase and purse in the car and fell back on my one and only option: “Okay Big Girl, you’re driving to Chicago!” You can imagine the pure joy as I calculated the mileage and time ahead of me. ETA: 11:30 p.m.

When I hit the interstate, I considered calling Jeff.  Not yet. I’d been a bozo; no reminders needed. Still, he needed to know. Three hours later, I got coffee, gas, bubble gum, and the gumption to call Jeff. For the next 150 miles, he thoughtfully checked in with me, suggesting a stop for the night. His solution for many ills is: “Getcha a good night’s rest and finish the drive in the morning!” He was correct, of course, but I was so focused and fired up with coffee and sugar (Bubble Yum), I wanted to reach my destination and wake up in Gurnee. For a few miles, I turned the radio off and pondered the complete change in plans. Finally, Jeff signed off and went to bed. “Text me when you get there.” Destination Gurnee reached at 11:20p.m.

For a few miles, I turned the radio off to have a quiet driving portion. Several thoughts came to mind: 1. I’m not proud of the fact I missed the train. 2. However, I am proud of my reaction, which I now call the “Five second rule.” Same as for dropped food, but it’s for anger. Five is all you get. Then pick yourself up and move on from it. Whatever IT is. Thanks, Bill Clinton. 3. Everyone should drive solo for six hours sometime: time to think and sing. 4. Always call someone when your plans change. 5. Denial is the devil (Probably just running late. Yeah, right.) 6. Bubble Yum rocks! 7. Always review your ticket BEFORE departure.

It is said that professional speakers, “TEACH WHAT WE NEED” in ourselves. This episode was no exception. Accept what befalls you, admit your faults, adapt and grow. And of course, stop on the way home to purchase a new pair of shoes -or two- because (1) you’re on your own schedule and (2) you can.

And as always, laugh at your own expense, as in the train joke: “When God passed out brains; I thought he said trains, and said, “I’ll take the next one!” Except, there wasn’t one. bw

Why We Shouldn’t Give A Should Anymore






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It’s a word we all love to use but hate to hear. It’s loaded with pointed fingers and feelings of instant guilt. Occasionally, it could be used for positive motivation, but mostly negative. Merriam Webster adds new words to the dictionary frequently. They should delete this one. Please?  The word is SHOULD. Regardless of the tense in which it’s used, none of them make me feel particularly happy with myself.  

Should. It’s like a loaded baked potato. Something about tasting it makes us feel powerful and satisfied, but after digesting, the contents were really just empty, worthless fillers that make us look and feel bad.

Used in past tense, either I should have done something or I shouldn’t have done something. Just put on the punching gloves and beat myself to a pulp.  Way to drum up guilt and bad mojo, Bobbe.

Used in future tense, should heaps big apprehension on a person:  you should, I should, we should do something. Guilting someone else or ourselves into doing something is rarely productive.

Many times I’ve said or heard, “We should go do this!” And you said, with a devilish twinkle in your eye, “You’re right! WE SHOULD!”  trouble often results with us saying, “We really shouldn’t have done that, should we have?”

Today I should go workout, walk the dog, visit my parents, clean the house, fold the laundry, pack for vacation, finish my project, finalize the August staffing schedule, de-clutter my parents’ home and, oh yes, I should read as much as I can. After all, it’s the week-end, right? I should do a lot of things, but that word makes me feel amazingly defeated. Nice work, Bob.  Loretta Laroche, well-known motivational speaker, calls this, “Shoulding all over yourself.”  (Wish I’d thought of that one!) What’s worse than shoulding all over yourself? When someone else shoulds on me. I want to poke them in the eyes with my index fingers and say, “You shouldn’t tell me what to do, because I’m going to do the exact opposite of what you say I should do!”  Oh yeah, that’s a positive approach. Awesome. Do we really think telling our kids they should or shouldn’t do something is going to work?  “You should clean up your room/study/lose weight/smile more/cut your hair/go to church/stay home with us/invite Mary Francine to your party.”  Don’t make me laugh. None of that is happening. Huh-uh.

We should all put a red flag on should mentally, so when tempted to should on ourselves or someone else, we stop and rephrase.  Unless it’s used like this:  “I should/you should treat myself/yourself to ________________(Starbucks, Dairy Queen, pedicure) today.” In which case, “Yes, I should! And you should too!” Otherwise, should is just a dumb word. bw