Friday, May 21, 2010

Palimpsest - Depth of Layers

Pronunciation: \ˈpa-ləm(p)-ˌsest, pə-ˈlim(p)-\
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin palimpsestus, from Greek palimpsēstos scraped again, from palin + psēn to rub, scrape; akin to Sanskrit psāti, babhasti he chews
Date: 1825
1 : writing material (as a parchment or tablet) used one or more times after earlier writing has been erased
2 : something having usually diverse layers or aspects apparent beneath the surface

For me, there is an inherent fascination about the way people think. It is one of the reasons I ask so many questions. I am constantly searching for the layers underneath.

A simple example stems from the fact that my friend David was colorblind. When I first found this out I was constantly pointing to things and asking what color he saw. I would ask him if he could tell the difference in shades. He was patient with me, but now that I think back, it must have been maddening. However, I desperately wanted to know how he literally saw the world.

Another example is my conversations with a relatively new friend who has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder as well as being bi-polar. Asking questions about his reality, his perceptions, and his beliefs without judgment has been fascinating. I have had opportunity to do this prior to his new medication regime and after. It has been instructive and thought provoking, and admittedly at times frustrating.

On a broader plane, I am news junky with a heavy emphasis on politics. Having been a public relations and political campaign developer, I have never lost the taste for the process. Campaigns are like Broadway shows. You rehearse, pour in money, advertise, and hope that an audience shows up. You may open in a small venue first and wait for the reviews. However, it is all preparation for that opening night on Broadway. Do you wake to rave reviews or close the doors before the next performance? Politics is theatre and I find it extremely amusing and at times maddening.

On a smaller scale, contract negotiations can be seen as an elaborate fencing bout with rules and referees. Each side parries and makes points. Someone keeps score and there is seldom if ever a tie. The interplay, the posturing, the game is practically codified before the first session begins.

David once used this blog’s topic word to describe me: palimpsest. It’s a theme that seems to be reoccurring lately. I will have to think on that to distill the lesson.

What Worked for Me Today
30 minutes of interval training on the elliptical machine – then weight lifting. (Going for the buns of aluminum!)

If you are of a faith that reads the Bible, a great place to visit for reflection is Sacred Space. It is hosted by Irish Jesuits and presents prayers, a Bible passage, and suggestions for reflection.

I have also found the daily reflections from Hazelden (the rehab folk) very helpful. These are daily readings sent to your email. Though some selections are directed at the AA folks, many are simply reflections to provoke thought many could find helpful. You can wander around various meditations or sign up for daily emails.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hypnagogic - Simple Gifts

\ˌhip-nə-ˈgä-jik, -ˈgō-\
Function: adjective
Etymology: French hypnagogique, from Greek hypn- + -agōgos leading, inducing, from agein to lead —
Date: 1886
: of, relating to, or occurring in the period of drowsiness immediately preceding sleep

Sleep. I have used it to avoid conflict, silence the never-ending ruminations, isolate, or simply give in to the inordinate weight of sadness that wears upon a body.

Or I have struggled to fall asleep. I have tried to displace the thoughts with music, NPR audio books and relaxation technique... They all work, at first. Then I would wake every couple of hours to try again.

So, it is with great pleasure and mild surprise that I realized today that I have sleeping. I have been falling asleep relatively quickly and staying asleep. This is a gift. A simple pure gift. I like going to bed sleepy. I still have quiet speaker tapes playing on the IPod, but I seldom last but a few minutes. There are still times when I wake thinking, as if I never went to sleep. However, I sleep. I sleep more nights than I don’t.

What Worked for Me Today
Dinner out with friends. Testing each other with trivia. Laughter and good-natured self-deprecation on everyone’s part.

For some internet fun, or a way to make a quick poster or card visit

Paste in any text (Declaration of Independence – Shakespeare Poem – Even my blog). Hit go and watch the words turn into a “word cloud.”

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Esemplastic - Some Things are Elusive

Pronunciation: \ˌe-ˌsem-ˈplas-tik, -səm-\
Function: adjective
Etymology: Greek es hen into one + English plastic
Date: 1817
: shaping or having the power to shape disparate things into a unified whole

We are more than the sum of our parts. This is true as individuals, as workers, as friends, as churches, volunteer organizations or as families. I have always found strength in people. I am inspired by small children overcoming much to learn, to grow, to love. I am energized by those individuals who go beyond their job descriptions and give of themselves, their time, their money and their hearts. I am humbled and grateful for my own children whose kindness and generosity is effortless and without condition.

There is a sense of collective sadness in so many things today. There is little that is truly unified, either professionally or personally. There are so many voices and yet so little understanding. I spoke with someone today, sharing that it is very difficult for me since losing the one person who truly understood me. I have lost the person whom I could “black board” my ideas, my experiences, my feelings, my frustrations, my joys - all the little ups and downs that make up a day. There was trust and confidentiality and a great deal of patience and flexibility. We weren’t afraid to acknowledge our failures because there was no judgment.

I have learned that this is rare. However, I am so thankful that I often told him of his importance to me before he died. I continue to be comforted by remembering the times he told me of my value.

Today, it is difficult when people view me by my seemingly disparate parts rather than my unified whole. It is painful to be misunderstood. Yet, it is not crippling, not as it used to be. It’s unfortunate, but it doesn’t cloud my vision for myself, for my work, for my future. I am not without hope. For I continue to learn that perhaps, David was right.

What Worked for Me Today
Dinner alone in the park, next to the stream, under the tall trees.

Having read the excellent book “Blue Like Jazz” by Donald Miller, I am reading his book “Through Painted Deserts.” Will let you know if it is as good.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Descry - Opening My Eyes to the Lessons

Pronunciation: \di-ˈskrī\
Function: transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): de•scried; de•scry•ing
Etymology: Middle English descrien to proclaim, reveal, from Anglo-French *descrier, alteration of Old French decrier —
Date: 14th century
1 a : to catch sight of
2 obsolete : to make known

The weekend is hard to describe. It contained moments of laughter and new acquaintances. Tranquil times watching birds and taking naps. I also experienced times of sadness and conflict. I realize this is not unusual, nor should it be unexpected. However, it does make it difficult navigate on an emotional plane.

So looking at my two fundamental issues – fear and insecurity – I have to process these experiences through that lens. What reactions came from fear and/or insecurity? What growth came from walking forward through the fear or insecurity? In “practicing the present” what lessons need to be learned; what things are there to be grateful for?

My gratitude list is long and varied. It includes those birds, gardening, chatting with a local artist at the Saturday while visiting “my painting.” I am grateful for sleep, for my children, for good books, for walking away from the 19” flat screen TV on sale at WalMart.

My lessons include practicing composure under pressure, reassessing my openness and trust, affirming my faith, setting boundaries, and like a child who needs constant reteaching … believing that it is not just OK to take care of myself, but necessary for health and productivity.

What Worked for Me This Weekend
Laughing at myself

If you haven’t visited the Saturday Market in McMinnville, it’s worth the trip. Off of 5th street in the granary district, you will find food, art, music and a pleasant way to start your day. If you want to see “my painting” stop by the enclosed art gallery inside the market and look at the rust, yellow and burnt sienna clouds.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Hiatus - Back from the Break

Pronunciation: \hī-ˈā-təs\
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin, from hiare to yawn — more at YAWN
Date: 1563
1 a: a break in or as if in a material object b: a gap or passage in an anatomical part or organ
2 a: an interruption in time or continuity: a period when something is suspended or interrupted b: the occurrence of two vowel sounds without pause or intervening consonantal sound

In giving in to the stressors of work and personal issues, I stopped taking care of myself. I continued to work, answer phone calls, and respond to family and friends. However, I stopped writing. I isolated myself from my greater support network and closed ranks even in my own home. Going to bed early, rising even earlier I tripped the coping skills of the past – work, gossip, sleep, comfort food, and caffeine.

Even as I have verbalized that this summer I am going to be selfish, I cringe. It is not that a single person has argued the necessity of taking this time to care for myself. I realize I color even the presentation. A connoisseur of words, I could easily phrase it as “focusing on my goals,” “channeling my energy into revitalizing my heart, body and soul,” or something as simple as “enjoying the time off.” However, like stopping to write, taking a break to walk around the block, saying I “deserve” anything makes me literally shake my head no – doing so even as I write this.

Knowledge simply isn’t enough. If it were, I would be thin, wealthy, in great shape, have all of my paper work in order, and be a perfect person. I would write every day, exercise, drink my eight glasses of water, meditate, and pray. I would stop and breathe through the inevitable stress, let go of what I cannot change and smile a great deal more.

Is it discipline? Is it stress? Checking the research based stress rating scales I am in the over 300 category. It’s not pretty. Is it simply being human? I have been told not to be so hard on myself. Yet it may be as simple as an Alanon’s observation. “Go to meetings. Read stuff. Talk to people.”

Hiatus over. Let the writing continue!

What Worked For Me Today

Hugs from friends. Prayer with friends. A glass of wine and a chocolate truffle. (OK, so not ready to let go of all the old coping skills.)

The Holmes and Rahe stress scale is a list of 43 stressful life events that can contribute to illness.