Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cacophony - Looking For Solutions

Pronunciation: \-nē\
Function: noun
Date: circa 1656
: harsh or discordant sound 2; specifically : harshness in the sound of words or phrases

Over the past few weeks, there have been many discussions within my professional circle about the need for change. Some very good ideas out there have percolated up. Those looking for solutions are asking, “How do you change systems or procedures that are no longer effective? How do you foster a climate of collegial support so that positive systems and procedures are followed with fidelity?”

Unfortunately, lately the question has boiled down to “how does anything happen if all we do is talk?”

There are many things that can be improved, but none really by complaining. I read an article on the Huffington Post by Richard Bishop that asked some basic questions. “What do you hope to get by complaining? How does complaining make things different? What would have to be true for the complaints to go away? What would I have to risk in order to get what I wanted, for the complaining to go away? What step could you take no matter how small?”

That’s my challenge tonight. Bishop states “Complaints are signs of something preferred but not being risked.” What am I willing to risk? Am I willing to stand up if I am the only one taking a risk? What answers do I give to others wanting change but fearing risk? Only questions tonight – no answers. Advice anyone?

Editing the post - This question is central to personal change as it is to professional change. What am I willing to risk?

What Worked for Me Today
Seeking the advice of other professionals.

“Are You Complaining Your Way Through Life” by Russell Bishop

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dolor - Fear of Forgetting

Pronunciation: \ˈdō-lər also ˈdä-\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English dolour, from Anglo-French, from Latin dolor pain, grief, from dolēre to feel pain, grieve
Date: 14th century
: mental suffering or anguish

David and I had gone to a Misty River concert in Eugene two summers ago. Recently I found a number of their CDs at Incahoots and purchased one – knowing full well that it would bring bittersweet memories and emotions. I have listened and cried with the CD a number of times.

Today, while driving to work and practicing my mindfulness I was careful to observe the lightening of the sky from black to cobalt to a pale cerulean. As the songs played I let the emotions rise and fall. Then suddenly a fear gripped me. Not that I would not be able to go on. Not that I would never find another friend who could know me as well. No, it was the fear that I would stop feeling.

How intricate our emotions become. One day I cry to heaven that I no longer want to feel pain. Today I panic when I think I may be losing it. I am compartmentalized enough in my own head, that I could step away and give myself all the reasons for both of these feelings. I understand the process. I simply wasn’t prepared. And isn’t that another lesson?

All the rehearsals and scenes I create have never really materialized in the future in the exact way I plot them. What an incredible waste of energy. Today I let myself cry. Today I acknowledged that some days I won’t hurt. Neither is bad and both are right where I need to be.

What Worked For Me Today
Talking with a friend and allowing myself to feel all the emotions. “Going with the rhythm of the present.”

Incahoots, McMinnville, OR

Misty River

Go to Amazon to listen to a couple of my favorites:

Time Goes By
A Prayer for Like Any Other
Star of the Country Down

Monday, March 29, 2010

Essence - Challenging the Disease of Perception

Pronunciation: \ˈe-sən(t)s\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English essencia, from Latin essentia, from esse to be
Date: 14th century
1 a : the permanent as contrasted with the accidental element of being b : the individual, real, or ultimate nature of a thing especially as opposed to its existence c : the properties or attributes by means of which something can be placed in its proper class or identified as being what it is
2 : something that exists :
3 a (1) : a volatile substance or constituent (2) : a constituent or derivative possessing the special qualities
4 : one that possesses or exhibits a quality in abundance as if in concentrated form
5 : the most significant element, quality, or aspect of a thing or person

Today at work, we discussed what is essential. Many things are not essential. However, I often find it difficult to distinguish between the unnecessary and the important. It makes it easy to complain or feel sorry for myself.

So what is essential? Most of us have our physical needs met. However, I do not have to travel to find those who do not have food or adequate shelter.

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (see Minutia below) once physical needs are met, we act to gain safety. This includes health, employment, and physical safety. Again, I am taken aback that I personally know people who do not have these basic safety needs met.

It is no wonder then, that if these first two levels of basic needs are not met, that the third level (love and belonging) either doesn’t exist or is severely affected. Of course, it would affect our friendships, our families, and our ability to be emotionally intimate.

If this level is met, we move to esteem. To be accepted and valued by others allows for self-esteem. They are two sides to the same coin.

Finally, with both the respect of others and self-respect we can move to self-actualization. That “psych” word translates into acceptance, creativity, humor, morality, seeking to understand.

OK, so there is psychology 101. What does that have to do with grief, or life, or getting through a workday? It is easy for me to succumb to the “disease of perspective.” I loose sight of how fortunate I am and for how much there is to be grateful. It quiets me and fosters compassion. How do I know what needs are being met for any particular individual? How do I meet my own needs?

What Worked For Me Today
Staying busy, looking for the essential, letting go of the non essential

Maslow’s Basic Introduction's_hierarchy_of_needs

According to this article, people do not attain their needs because of “hindrances.” Maslow thought that education could be one of those hindrances. This article lists 10 things educators should teach or provide.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Obstreperous - I Don't Want To

Pronunciation: \əb-ˈstre-p(ə-)rəs, äb-\
Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin obstreperus, from obstrepere to clamor against, from ob- against + strepere to make a noise
Date: circa 1600
1 : marked by unruly or aggressive noisiness
2 : stubbornly resistant to control

When I walked the labyrinth the other day, I arrived at the middle and said aloud “I don’t wanna!” I said those words in that child-like way several times. Then I laughed. I didn’t want to feel anymore, didn’t want to do the expected, the adult things that need to be done. I didn’t want to be alone or do it on my own. “I don’t wanna!”

However, when we do not listen to those nudges, when we turn away from the lessons, the assignments get tougher until we do listen. Christiane Northrup (see Minutia below) writes, “I was in limbo, aching for what was and for what might have been. Intellectually, I knew this was a growth phase, a kind of labor pain that would yield wonderful things if I could just allow myself to go through it. (It helped to know that I didn’t really have a choice.) Rather than smooth it over and find mind-numbing ways to spare myself the anguish, I let myself feel it. I was lonely, disappointed, heartbroken, and scared.” (Bold my emphasis.)

Last night I went to listen to live music at the cornerstone. An evening of guitar and piano, husky vocals, up tempo pieces and ballads. It was what was supposed to go under “what worked for me today.” It didn’t go as I had planned.

I enjoyed the music and the energy of the crowd. In spite of that, it brought back memories that stirred grief and sadness. As I drove home, I cried, “I hate grief. I DON’T WANT TO!” I wanted to be done with it. At the same time, I feared being done. Would it mean the lessening of feelings? Would it mean forgetting? I am not ready. I am not done with grief and it is not done with me.

I have been too hard on myself. I get up. I shower. I eat. I talk with people. I go places. I go to work. I continue to do what it necessary. However, not feeling has gotten me into trouble before. The lesson is one I know, but obviously need to review. Speak the truth to myself. Feel even if it is hard. Be in the moment. Practice acceptance.

What Worked for Me Today
Crying, Quiet and Working the Steps

"The Wisdom of Menopause" by Christiane Northrup, M.D. is part "woo woo" and part science. She speaks from her personal experience, her medical practice and her spiritual (in broadest terms) side. However, she has some suprisingly uplifting and thought provoking ideas. If you are in your mid fourties to fifties, it might be a good book to skim through.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Quiescent - Stopping the Chatter in My Head

Pronunciation: \-sənt\
Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin quiescent-, quiescens, present participle of quiescere to become quiet, rest, from quies
Date: 1605
1 : marked by inactivity or repose : tranquilly at rest
2 : causing no trouble or symptoms

In Alanon and other 12-Step programs you will often hear about the “committee” in someone’s head. (My brain can be a dangerous place – just ask a few of my colleges.) I can debate with the committee – creating entire scenarios in which I fully feel every emotion. At times, I rehash the past, but much more often I rehearse the future – FULL ON conversations. First, I’ll say this, then he/she will say that, then I say this and he/she will say that. This can go on ad infinitum (or more apropos ad nauseam).

This running amok of thoughts robs me of the present. It also robs me of energy during the day and sleep at night. In addition to writing, another tool I am using on this journey is mindfulness. You can find advice on “living in the moment,” “don’t worry about tomorrow,” “one day – one hour – one minute at a time” in all philosophies, religions and do it yourself psychology books. Funning thing… it works – especially for momentary stress relief.

Here’s what I have been practicing. I try to be “fully present” with all my senses. What do I hear right now? I can hear the birds chirping outside, the click of the keyboard, the tick of the clock and the distant sound of cars on the highway. What can I see (ok I have to stop typing)? The flowers in the vase. I notice the curl of the petals, the varied colors of green, the knobby stems. What do I smell? Baking potatoes (well that’s what’s in the oven). What do I feel? I am sitting on my jacket and it’s making the seat uneven. My feet are cold and I have a slight headache. Taste… the coffee I had a hour or so ago.

In the time it took me to notice all these things… the grief is quieted – the “shoulds” disappear. For a few moments – maybe even minutes there is peace.

What Worked for Me Today
Yoga Lullaby by Seylah Broderick
Seylah is both my massage therapist and the Yoga instructor who directs “Restorative Yoga” - or as I am wont to call it “Yoga for Old and Broken People.” She has a wonderful CD that relaxes and calms. It’s great in preparation for sleep. Her website is

A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook by Bob Stahl and Elisha Goldstein

I found out about this workbook on the blog below. I haven’t had the money to purchase it, but the first chapter is available for preview on Amazon. Check it out. Once I purchase the workbook, I’ll update you past “mindful teeth brushing and raisin eating.”

Friday, March 26, 2010

Incongruous - the two KAS

Pronunciation: \(ˌ)in-ˈkäŋ-grə-wəs\
Function: adjective
Etymology: Late Latin incongruus, from Latin in- + congruus congruous
Date: 1611
: lacking congruity: as a : not harmonious : incompatible b : not conforming : disagreeing c : inconsistent within itself

I realized today, as I sat at the Wildwood Café, that I have many things I want to do. That may not sound unusual. After all, most of us have lengthy to do lists and informal bucket lists. However, for me it was a profound moment.

I have been living in the inertia caused by grief. I have to force myself to get up, to get out, to go to work. There are two “kas” living in my head. One cries and sleeps and hugs a silly Ugly Doll Bat. The other one kindly but firmly says “Get Up. Go Somewhere.”

Today, while obeying firm kas, I realized that I needed to write. Writing is a tool that has worked for me for as long as I can remember. I have my very first diary from age 9. I have loads of bad poetry, prayers, journals and the first chapter of a book. Writing is what I do - what I have always done. Today, it is what I need to do to take a step in healing.

What Worked For Me Today
Walking the Labyrinth – If you live in or close to McMinnville, consider visiting the labyrinth off Baker. It provides a quiet place for meditation and stress relief. I have a fairly traditional belief system, so I walk the path inward giving up everything I can think of to my higher power. I argue, debate, cry, admit, let go on the path to the center. Then I sit in the center of the labyrinth and practice being in the moment (an upcoming post). On the way out I verbalize my gratitude list for that moment. I say the Serenity Prayer. The first time you may feel foolish, but you may be surprised at how it helps.

Mind Performance Hacks by Ron Hale – Evans
This deserves an entire post. It is fascinating reading. To quote the back of the book “Mind Performance Hacks provides real-life tips and tools for overclocking your brain and becoming a better thinker.” Tips include mnemonic tricks to remember information, hacks to perform complex math tasks in your head, brainstorming methods, and communication and decision making tools.