I Know Where Your Keys Are.

“Multitasking is a lie”
Gary Keller

(Note: Talk about self-fulfilling prophecy. I wrote this post a few weeks ago and literally lost my keys last week and cannot find them anywhere. So it goes.)

I spend a lot of time looking for my keys. A friend of mine even put up a hooks for my keys at each entry point of my house because he was tired of spending time helping me look for my keys. I am ashamed at how seldom I use the key hooks. The reason I forget where my keys are is not entirely a function of a bad memory (that I know of).  It is that I am not paying attention when I put them down. When I come home from work, I drop my bags and keys where I stop and this is not the same spot everyday.  Thus, the search for my keys becomes a regular struggle.

If I don’t pay attention to what I’m doing I can’t form a memory of the event.

This is what happens when you’re scrolling through social media on your phone and your partner asks you something and later says “remember when I asked you about this?” and you really cannot remember. You did not form a memory. You were not paying attention to what the person was saying and so it was not absorbed into your brain.

Yes, people can struggle with short-term memory challenges but a lot of what I see happening is not memory problems as much as a lack of paying attention to your life. This can be because you are thinking of what you have to do next, you are watching television, you are reading, you are on the phone, or you are anxious about something and hanging out in What If Land. The truth is you were not paying attention to what was happening in the right now.

How to improve your memory (unless you legitimately have a brain injury or a neurological disorder; if so, contact a physician).

Slow down.

Do one thing at a time and take your time doing it.

Pause while doing the task and review what you are doing.

Limit unnecessary outside noise so your brain only has to process one thing at a time. This is why when we are driving and lost (or the weather is bad) we turn the radio down. It allows our brain to focus on the task at hand.

Do not agree to do things you do not have time to do.

Sometimes it helps to say what you’re doing out loud as you are doing the task. For example, when I leave the house I say, “Doors locked, dogs inside, gate up, alarm set, good to go.” This way if you are stressing about whether or not you did those things you will remember that you went through the task out loud. You will have formed a memory that you did this and will be less likely to stress all day about if you locked the door or not.

I know it’s a bummer that a vast majority of us cannot do two things at once and do them well. And, I know that some of you won’t believe me and will even pride yourself on your ability to multitask.

But:

Research also shows that, in addition to slowing you down, multitasking lowers your IQ. A study at the University of London found that participants who multitasked during cognitive tasks experienced IQ score declines that were similar to what they’d expect if they had smoked marijuana or stayed up all night. IQ drops of 15 points for multitasking men lowered their scores to the average range of an 8-year-old child.” Travis BradberryMultitasking Damages Your Brain And Career, New Studies Suggest

So, take your time getting things done and then come help me find my keys.

Love.

 

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My Time In Therapy.

“I know you said that you do not like the word survivor, but its just saying that you lived through, you survived, things that were traumatic…which was (and is) true. Much metta” 

I had my first session with a client as a therapist in 2005. I can remember every bit of the experience. I could probably recite, verbatim, every word we exchanged. To say I was nervous is an understatement – I was a wreck. It meant everything (and means everything) to me to be good at this work. Not to mention, my training involved years of clinical professors analyzing me through two-way mirrors and commenting on my every little move. At the time, I hated that process, but now I see the benefits of such intense self-reflection and self-awareness.

Then I needed to see a therapist. 

I have always struggled with depression and anxiety, and for the most part, I have been able to manage it fairly well. However, in early 2010, depression swept me up like a tsunami. I was not sleeping well (among other things) and I had the thought (at about 3am), “I could just disappear.” It wasn’t that I wanted to die, but it wasn’t that I wanted to live either. That thought scared the shit out of me. I knew in that moment, I needed professional support. In retrospect, I should have called for help much earlier.

I asked some of my colleagues for recommendations. I presented for my first appointment (scared and vulnerable) in front of a woman a few years older than me. From the beginning, she avoided eye contact. She asked me several stock questions, in a flat tone, and wrote out notes on a legal pad. At one point, I was describing how I was feeling and she said, “Oh wow!” and scribbled something on the pad. I thought to myself, “This sucks.” I left that appointment feeling even more hopeless.

As I reflect on the experience, I think if I had not been a therapist and known that there were better therapists than this, I may have never tried again. It takes immense courage to present in front of a complete stranger and lay your story bare. This business is serious stuff. I suppose she might have been off her game that night. Who knows, I never saw her again.

Still needing help, I tried once more. I asked around and this time the masses recommended Ken*. I sat in the waiting room of a dimly lit historic home that had been lightly (it still looked and felt like a house) remodeled into offices. A thin balding man with a Hawaiian shirt came down the stairs to greet me. He smiled warmly and called me by name. As we walked toward his office, he asked if I liked dogs. I replied that I love dogs. This is when a three-legged collie appeared (I cannot make this up).  I sat in a soft comfortable chair and the dog curled up near my feet.

Little by little, I disclosed the details of my story. He nodded and asked all the right questions. There was no legal pad with scribbles. It was simply, perfectly, and beautifully a conversation between a scared, sad person (me) and a person saying that it was okay to be scared and sad. He told me this repeatedly for months. I wish I could tell you that he had a bag of tricks or magic words but that was not the magic at all. The magic was that he never tried to make me feel better. It was safe to share the scary thoughts and feelings and in doing so, it made them less scary and sad. It sounds simple, but there was nothing simple (or easy) about that process for me.

Let me also add that I have an incredible support system. My partner, my friends, and my family were literally by my side through this period in my life. But, when I hurt they hurt. I needed someone with a bit more objectivity. Someone that could sit with my pain and not try to make it better. That was the alchemy of my time with Ken – deep pain and sadness transmuted into intense love and compassion. The only way out of pain is through, and I needed someone to light the way.

I write this story because reflecting on my work with him fills me with so much gratitude, it’s intoxicating. My work with him changed my life and may have saved my life. It also taught me to treat my profession with greater reverence. I literally understand the level of vulnerability that sits in front of me on a daily basis. I am humbled and honored that this is what I get paid to do with my life.

Even now, when I need to, I see a therapist where I live (I’ve since moved away from Ken). My current therapist is remarkable (and she is certainly magical).

Ken and I shared email correspondence throughout our time together and I’ve included two excerpts (including the quote at the top).

“Dear Ken, Sometimes the most valuable lessons our parents teach us are through their mistakes and suffering. This should not get lost in all that sunny-side shit. I credit my parents for these very reasons. They helped me “be better” by their own struggles. I have to believe we all do the best we can with what we have to work with. This inevitably will be different for everyone. There is so much to be learned in the darkness. lovingkindness.”

Love.

*Names have been changed to protect confidentiality and the integrity of the relationship.

 

 

 

A Enormous Bucket of Thanks.

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thank you (so much) to the people that took the time last week to write a guest post for Sissy Beard. Each post, like each writer, received distinct feedback, shares, and likes. I feel incredibly privileged to have people in my life that are willing to contribute to this community. Moreover, each contributor had a unique perspective and articulated their ideas beautifully. I am lucky to know and share time with such exceptional people. 

The joy of including guest bloggers has me planning for the next round of contributors. It is so much more fun to share this platform than to do it alone. With that, I also appreciate the thoughts, suggestions, and ideas related to how I can make this blog better. Please keep the messages and comments coming. 

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend filled with good food, good love, and good laughter.

It is now time to gear up for more holiday time and I am reminded of The Muppet Christmas Carol, “It’s true, where ever you find love, it feels like Christmas.”

Thank you.

So Much. Love.

What’s in Your Bag of Rocks?

You either walk inside your story and own it or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness. – Brene Brown

Someone once said to me “we all have our bag of rocks.” I love that expression because it so simply captures the human experience.

Everyone has parts of them or parts of their lives that they wish were different but cannot be. As I say a lot, nobody’s life is perfect and no matter how hard you try your life will never be without some pain and imperfection.

Sometimes in life, a rock is tossed at us and we try our hardest to toss it back or bury it or however else you want to play out the analogy. But, if we don’t grab the rock the first time it keeps being shoved in our face reminding us that it is sitting there waiting to be shoved in the bag.

If we try to avoid our rocks it can create a lot of problems in our lives. I have watched people live their lives in deep denial in an effort to avoid feeling bad about the way things are which only makes them feel worse because they are always hiding. Denial and dishonesty only makes things worse for you and everyone around you.

There is no way to hide the rocks or make them go away.

When faced with painful life situations we have choices. I think there are healthy ways to accept our situation and unhealthy ways to deny our truth. I think depending on the situation that we want to be different, it is unhealthy and deceitful to say “I don’t care” when of course you care and of course you should care. Saying “I don’t care” does not magically lead to not caring.

We do care about the things that happen to us and to the people we love (no magical away around pain in life) That’s why it hurts and it is okay that it hurts. The more people and things you love the more vulnerable you are to hurt.

But would you really want to love less to avoid hurt?

Saying, “I do care and it hurts like hell that this happened and in some cases it will probably always hurt” is a form of looking closely at your bag of rocks.

I think sometimes in life we have to slowly and painfully examine the situations and ask ourselves:

“What do I do now?”

And

“Now that this has happened what is the healthiest most loving way of handling it moving forward?

Then there is need to share your bag of rocks with the people close to you. My father has schizophrenia (and so does my grandmother) and those are just some of the big boulders I tote around. I have tried all kinds of ways to hide those boulders but that only made me feel worse and ashamed.

Sometimes when I shared those rocks with people they reacted in ways that were extremely hurtful (because I care) but when I shared those rocks with Mr. Beard he looked at me like they were little pebbles. So, you never know how people will view your bag. And, not everybody gets the privilege of seeing all the rocks in your bag. 

I am suggesting that you grab hold of your bag of rocks and examine it closely. The longer you live the more rocks you accumulate and no one lives without a bag. And, although you will try, there is no way to put the bag down.

So, if we can’t put it down maybe all we can do is learn healthier ways to carry it around.

Love.

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Image from: http://thedailyquotes.com/stop-trying-to-be-perfect/

Bad Memory Days

“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”
― John MiltonParadise Lost

When you’ve experienced a traumatic event or events (and you get to define what is traumatic for you) your brain and body can react in many different ways.

Memories, thoughts and feelings can become curious and unpredictable things.

Sometimes the bad memories associated with the traumatic event may creep up on you like the shadows that crawl up the side of the wall at the end of the day.

Very slowly, until all of a sudden you are surrounded by darkness.

Sometimes, it isn’t even the event that you remember but just an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness that comes out of nowhere.

The feeling that reminds you of the intense and real vulnerabilities of life.

Some days, you can go along like nothing happened. On the other days, the bad memories can kidnap you instantly out of the right now and drag you kicking and screaming into the past.

These feelings and thoughts may not last all day or they may last for several days. You probably don’t have a lot of control as to how long you’ll stay saturated in the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

During those bad memory days it’s hard, if not impossible, to escape from the intrusive thoughts and focus on what needs to get done.

What we know about bad memory days is that the more we try to make the thoughts go away the stronger and more powerful they get. Sometimes that means, despite your wishes, you may have to make friends with these bad memories or thoughts. Or at least, make room for them in your life because they’re not going anywhere. You know the memories are there but fighting them is futile.

It sounds counterintuitive but letting go of the fight and accepting you are having a bad memory day (or bad memory moments) might actually help you feel better.

On these days, it is so important to just try and breathe.

And, sometimes it helps to remind yourself that “you’re safe” by actually saying it out loud (and talking to yourself does not mean you are crazy)

Saying “I’m safe” and taking deep breaths can create spaces between your bad memories.

I believe self-care is paramount every day but if you’re having a bad memory day self care becomes as essential as eating and drinking.

For some people they may want to take a bath, wrap themselves tightly in a blanket, and limit the amount of exposure they have to stimulating sights and sounds.

It helps to have a to-do list of self-care items prepared for these kinds of days. It also helps to have a person (or persons) that you feel safe enough to sit with or call. You may or may not want to share what the specifics but it helps to know someone cares.

If you have bad memory days a lot and they are interfering with your ability to live a life you love please do yourself a favor: Talk to a professional therapist and see a physician. Getting professional help takes a lot of courage. It is an immeasurable act of self-love to ask for help.

Love.

“Ouch, I have lost myself again
Lost myself and I am nowhere to be found,
Yeah, I think that I might break
Lost myself again and I feel unsafe”

Sia, Breathe Me

Hey Jealousy!

Let me start by saying that I think jealousy and envy are normal human emotions but just like all of our other feelings they say much more about us than they do about the person(s) our jealousy is directed towards.

I understand that part of current social narrative is that there is a finite amount of happiness/success available and if you appear to be too happy/successful you are certainly stealing from what could be my happiness/success and I’m not okay with that.

Yes, life is not fair. Some people are born with significantly more advantages than others and we should do our best to acknowledge our privilege and try to level the playing field but no matter what life will always be unfair and bad things will always happen to good people. This can not be an excuse for not pursuing the life you want.

I was doing some reading for this piece and I found a selection from Psychology Today that highlights what I see as the problems with the current social narrative. I am going to respectfully disagree with some of the points in the article.

Here’s one excerpt:

“But once you recognize envy, it may lose its sting. A friend who is envious can still be a good friend. The solution may be to crow less, applaud your friend more, pay more attention to her or find other topics and arenas where you don’t compete.”

No! I am not going to crow less. It sounds like she is saying you should dull your sparkle so that people don’t get jealous or shrink yourself so people don’t feel like you’re asking for attention.

You don’t have that kind of power over other people’s reactions.

Would you really rather people start conversations with, “Are you capable of being happy for me or should I stop talking?”

How about crow together? Life is hard and we should really celebrate all the little successes of our friends and family. I love when my friends reach their goals or go on wonderful adventures. Sure, I get jealous but then I get motivated.

Now this excerpt:

Ask yourself, “If I could be that other person instead of myself, who would I pick?”

Stop this now. They are lying to us: It is not a competition. 

When jealousy crops up life becomes like a choose your own adventure novel.

You can:

Focus on that person and think “must be nice” or “they don’t know anything about the struggle” or thousands of variations on that statement.

Or

You can acknowledge that you feel jealous and then put your phone down and get about the business of making your life better in some way. Jealousy has the power to be a significant motivator if we channel it correctly. Use that energy to achieve your goals rather than talk about how bad you have it and how good you think they have it (wasted energy and everybody struggles).

Remember the Valued Living Exercise? If you clicked on the link and saw the list of 377 values (and I’ve seen more detailed lists). Imagine, all the possible constellations of values. And imagine how those are all self-defined.

Meaning, that what I define as success and happiness might not fit perfectly for you, even if we value the same things.

BECAUSE WE ARE DIFFERENT PEOPLE.

But, what probably makes me the most jealous are things that align closely with my own values (yet another clue for me to reflect on and gain self awareness).

Maybe, if you’re jealous and it is interfering with your relationship with someone it doesn’t mean you want the life they have. Maybe it means you aren’t really pursuing what could be your own form of an awesome life. And sometimes people don’t even know what would be an awesome life for them (so use your emotional reactions as clues!)

If you want happiness/success you have to go and figure out what that looks like for you. The goal is not to never feel jealousy again but to use our emotions as a clues to figure out how you are honestly feeling about your own life.

“But then there’s you telling me I can
Then there’s you screaming say something
I want the ocean right now
I want the ocean right now
I get so jealous that I can’t even work
There I am in the morning
I don’t like what I see
I don’t know how it’s become such a problem
Keep you up all night if I try to remain calm
How can they ask why I feel so angry
Do you see my problem if I never explain it”

Tegan and Sara, So Jealous

Love.

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Image found: http://izquotes.com/quote/285123

Stop It, With Divorce Shame

There are a lot of nasty rumors about Divorce:

Divorce is the easy way out

Divorce means you didn’t try hard enough

Divorce means you don’t take marriage seriously

Divorce is a failure

NO!

Not true.

Stop saying these things to yourself and to anyone else.

Most people that have been through a divorce will tell you that there is nothing easy about it. And, when I mentioned to a handful of people that I was thinking of writing about divorce, I was met with a resounding “Yes, please!”

People do not get married with the intention of getting divorced. They don’t gather their friends and family in a celebration of love with the hopes that the relationship will end.

Divorce is a devastating process made worse by the social implication that you somehow failed. You did not fail.

You tried and then something (or somethings) happened. Something that only you and your partner know.

This was the clear message conveyed to my by every person I talked to about this topic. Some variation of “only the two people that were married know the intimate details about what happened” so please stop thinking you know what happened, you don’t. And, please stop judging people for making this extremely challenging life decision. The truth is, most people that go through it are so incredibly hard on themselves, they don’t need their support system saying “they’ve failed” or “they took the easy way out.”

Why not instead, try and offer support. Maybe listen without making judgements or offering advice and please keep what they share with you in confidence.

Staying unhappily married is ridiculous. I think most people really try to figure out a way to make it work before coming to the conclusion to end their marriage. As Bryan put it when we talked about this post, “You don’t win a prize for being miserable.” It is not noble to stay unhappily married because it is what you are supposed to do.

Because people think in black and white (when the whole world is shades of grey). This post does not imply people should not try to make their relationships work. Again, I believe most people do try (hard) to make their relationships work.

In terms of religion, I am no theologian but I do know that The Greatest of These is Love cuts across all the major religions. So, instead of thinking you have the right to judge maybe you really only have the right to love?

I’m going to say this a lot through these posts because it’s true: even when we try and do our best the bottom fails out from under us and we have to make decisions we never dreamed we would have to make.

So, if you know someone going through a divorce don’t assume you know why or what is happening. And if you are the one going through the divorce, be nice to yourself, it’s the healthiest way to move forward.

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Image found: http://thestir.cafemom.com/love_sex/173226/9_poignant_divorce_quotes_that/0/more_slideshows

The Finish Line Is Death, So Slow Down

I think we have cultivated extremely unhealthy hurrying habits. 

We race around from task to task without looking up or around at life around us.

We go about our days like: I need to get this done, then I need to get this done, then I need to get this done, then when all of those things get done, I can rest and enjoy life. The problem with that line of thinking is there is always something that needs get done.

What’s worse, is that we encourage this behavior in each other. We race around making ourselves sick and stressed thinking it’s what we are supposed to be doing.

After all, these things need to get done.

Then, we proudly share with each other all the things we got done and all the things we still have to do! We respond by nodding our heads like,“Don’t I know it!”

Stop it!

You will never catch the carrot so stop chasing it. Really, there is no carrot (did that sound like The Matrix?).

The carrot is a mindset. It’s faulty thinking.

The idea of I’ll rest when _________.

OK, we’ve all reached the when and what happens?

POOF another I’ll rest when ______ comes up.

It goes on and on like that if you let it. It feels like avoidance to me. Like, I got to stay busy to have value and worth as a person. When I see someone in traffic losing their mind (hitting the horn and slamming the steering wheel) because the person in front of them did not burn out and race off when the light turned green. It makes me a bit curious.

Who am I if I stop racing around trying to do things? 

I propose a both/and solution to the race to death.

Let’s try this: I’ll enjoy life AND I’ll work towards __________ (insert your daily tasks and long term goals).

I bet you have at least a few things about your life to appreciate right now. 

Why not try to both enjoy your life and get stuff done at the same time?

How is that possible?

Pause, a lot. Yes, pause.

Just a few moments throughout your day.

Look around.

Notice what’s happening in your world.

“It’s a beautiful day”

“It’s a rainy day”

Smile, it will make you happier.

I live in a beautiful part of the world where we have seasons. I love to look out the window at work and notice the changing colors. I know it sounds flighty or silly but it’s not. It’s serious business intentionally enjoying life.

I think it makes me more productive and appreciative of my life when I take moments out of my day to intentionally notice what is happening around me.

For example, when you feel the need to rush, try and slow down. Take a few deep breaths. Appreciate the sound of the world happening around you. Appreciate your cuddles with your dogs and or/cats. Appreciate your children laughing and smiling. Appreciate all the sights and sounds around you. Have a little dance party in your car or at your desk. Why not, even appreciate the challenges.

I promise, life goes so fast there is no sense in rushing, time will move forward anyway.

What makes me super sad is when people spend their lives chasing the “carrot” and then they realize that they missed all of these precious moments with the people they love.

So please, pause. You will get there and you will get it all done and it will be fine.

Love.

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Image from: http://moiradesignstudio.com/paperprints/stop-the-glorification-of-busy-print

“Who Do I Think I Am?!”

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us. – Marianne Williamson

“Who does she think she is?”

When I read the above quote from one of Brene Brown’s books, I literally had to put the book down and take a few deep breaths.

Let’s be honest, she nailed it.

I had/have that thought every time I sit down to write one of these posts.

Who am I to have an opinion on forgiveness, relationships, love, friendship and on and on?

Who cares what I have to say about any of these things?

So, I take a deep breath and write anywayI know why I am doing this. I’ve been studying these concepts for over 15 years. I talk about this stuff all day. It’s a personal challenge to try and articulate these abstract concepts in blog form. And, in many ways, learning these concepts saved my life.

I’m doing this to create a dialogue and community around these ideas. Which has already started to happen! I love the feedback I’ve gotten about the topics and posts. And, I love (LOVE) the suggestions and ideas for future topics. So, please keep them coming.

I’m not trying to stand on some mountaintop and proclaim that I’ve figured this stuff out (that quote belongs to Kevin).

Let’s be real, no one has this figured out.

Also, I love to read real stuff and real stories, whatever that means. And, I love quotes because they feel like little bite size pieces of perspective.

What’s the worst that can happen? No one reads it. People think it’s dumb. People talk about how dumb it is.

What is the best that can happen? A growing community and open dialogue around compassion, love, kindness, happiness and understanding (ambitious, I know). 

When I sat and thought about those outcomes, I realized that the scary ones happen anyway. People talk about you behind your back, anyway. Some people will never like you, anyway. Some people are going to think this is dumb no matter what I say.

I’m reminded of the final scene from 8 mile when Eminem disarms the other rapper in the rap battle.

I know everything he’s got to say against me
I am white, I am a f-ing bum, I do live in a trailer with my mom

Forgive me, I know Eminem has some rather crass and homophobic lyrics. I don’t support his entire canon.

What I liked about his approach was his self-awareness. I feel like I have a pretty crushing sense of awareness in terms of what people could say about me and/or the people I love. There is real power in knowing those things and accepting them as part of my truth. Shame can only grow in the shadows and I’ve made it a goal to keep a constant watch on my shadows.

So, who do I think I am? Depends on the day, the hour, the minute. 

Honestly, I don’t think it matters. I don’t think that’s the point when one considers creating things and putting it out into the world.

I’m going to keep breathing, keep writing, see what happens.

YOLO, right?

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Image found: https://www.pinterest.com/thethingswesay/courage-quotes/

What Would Sissy Say, Saturday!

I won’t do full posts on the weekends because, you know, time.

But this idea popped into my head.

What Would Sissy Say, Saturday!

It will be a brief quote, thought, and/or idea to ponder.

You get two this week.

  1. Doing a blog is serious business. I need a tween to come over and show me how to use the internet.
  2. Admit when you’re overwhelmed and you do not know what else to do! Our Sammy (a french bulldog and boston terrier mix) has had a lot of behavior problems and we have a trainer coming over to show us what we can do to help him. Anyone that knows him, is probably saying “About time!” He really is the sweetest cuddle bug in the world. He’s just anxious like me.

Have a beautiful weekend.

Love.

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Image from: http://wordables.com/best-jack-kerouac-quotes/