Category Archives: navel-gazing

stress fracture

This is looooong, but I think it’s what I have been building up to. It eventually turns to topics of forgiveness and self-worth. Two days later, I am still holding the line.

Lemme start by saying I do not, to my knowledge, have a stress fracture. It’s just a phrase that is attracting my curiosity today. Like breaking point. Buckling under pressure.

I was thinking about earthquakes and volcanos and how we keep our ears  to the ground, monitoring the shifts and spasms. How building codes in vulnerable areas act as bulwarks. (I  just looked up bulwark to check my usage… it lives in my brain as “something that defends, maybe related to water”. I was on point though I pictured it as something on shore but it’s the side of a ship. Either way, def a word that sounds like it means!)

Thinking about that moment when everything changes. The limits of prediction. The hurricane cuts its own line.

Thinking about hindsight (a wonderful concept and I was going to say wonderful word but now that I think about it, I imagine it’s related to behind and now I am thinking about craning my head to look at my butt and now I’m picturing butts with eyes so just no. Some digressions should not be followed.)

Thinking about butt eyes and how we don’t know the line between before and after until there’s been a lot of after. How much after? Like when I quit smoking (see what I did there? butts?)  I had tried to quit before. I could not know that 11/11/2001 would be the sticking day. I’m not sure when I knew the line would hold. I do know that if I had a cigarette today, there’s a high chance I’d slide back to it. Just one. Just one more.

So maybe I am thinking about befores and afters. With tragedies it’s horrifically clear. May 24, 2022. Uvalde, TX will never be the same.

I’m thinking about Big T trauma and little t trauma. The bones we break when falling out of a swing and the ones we didn’t know were at the breaking point until after the fact. Stress fractures. How the slightest jostle can sever whatever tenuous bonds were still holding the pieces together.

I’m thinking about the limits of analogies and wondering why I take refuge in them instead of speaking plainly.

Our brain follows different rules than bones. Our thoughts are not hurricanes even though our thoughts spin and shred up and down the Saffir-Simpson scale.

I am trying to resist digressing into a blah blah about how trite and ridiculous this all is. I want to minimize. This has all been lived and said before. Nothing new here. But I promised not to apologize for taking up a wee bit of online space for writing. It somehow helps me find my footing.

OK let’s say the brain is a house. Some houses are sturdy enough to hold up in almost any setting. Going back to bulwarks. Some are more site specific. And maybe some are just one busted pipe after another and you can’t even catch your breath long enough to decide if you need to rebuild somewhere else.

I want today to be a breaking point. To be a before and after. What I’m looking for is not as clear as stopping smoking and it’s sure as hell more difficult. I cannot simply quit being me. Wherever we go, there we are.

But I can’t keep on as things are. No, that’s a lie. I can keep on, as folks do. Which is why I am thinking about stress fractures.

Maybe in a year, or five or twenty I will be able to say, yes–something shifted on May 31, 2022. Because I do know what needs to change. I need to forgive myself for real and perceived failures so I can move forward. I need to stop looking for evidence everyday to prove that I continue to fail. And–the hardest of all patterns to break–I need to uncouple my sense of worth from my perceptions of competence. Just thinking about doing this makes me queasy, shortens my breath, releases the tears.

Am I able to say I have done the best I could, given the knowledge I had and my personal capacity? I am supposed to say yes. That’s what the professionals say. We cannot hate ourselves into change.

I do not know why I cling to self-recrimination.* It’s almost a form of grandiosity. Why would I hold myself to different standards than others? Knowing that we are fallible is Human Studies 101.

I might not be ready to say I’ve tried my best. Wasting hours playing Freecell (and now every iteration of Wordle I can find) is *not* trying my best. The list of all the things I could have done, should have done, wished I had done is long.

Maybe I can start by acknowledging that I have always approached each day with good intentions, with the desire to have a positive or at least not negative impact on those around and beyond me. I can even go farther out on the limb by recognizing that I do have a strong work ethic, even though it doesn’t always fire on demand. But I guess that’s a sneaky way of reconnecting worth and competence.

So, really, what I need to do is forgive myself and allow for the possibility that I have worth, just as I am, right now. I don’t know if I can do it. Maybe today won’t be the day it sticks. But claiming and voicing it as a goal, for real this time, is actually a big step.

*Re: where the core beliefs and self-recrimination come from. . . I grew up in a loving, supportive, awesome home with great parents who never made me feel like I was defined by my performance, used withering words or anything like that. I don’t think I had an inordinate amount of terrible experiences with peers, teachers, etc. Sure, definitely some ouch moments, but nothing horrible enough to account for my core beliefs. Maybe I just started off with some vulnerabilities that predisposed me to cognitive distortions and disproportionate reactions to the normal slings and arrows of being a human which then snowballed. And then I unintentionally made choices that deepened the rut.

swings and misses

I’m super low tonight. Trying to shake off some hurts. Rifling through mantras and lenses. I am not my emotions. Resist all or nothing thinking. My worth is not based on my performance as a mother. I am doing the best I can.

That’s the hardest one to believe. Sounds like giving up, shrugging “I tried.” I know I could be doing things better or at least differently. Isn’t that almost always the case in almost any situation? Work harder. Aim higher. Do better. I am trying to challenge that mindset a bit, but it’s baked in.

I am doing the best I can… given my capacity, skills, personality, baggage, health, resources, and knowledge.

Strike outs are inevitable. Why is this so hard to wrap my brain around? I’d probably feel better if my batting average didn’t feel mired below .200. I don’t need to be an all star. I’m just so tired of questioning if I deserve to be in the big leagues.

willful, wanna, willing

black and white photo, close up of  top half of a woman's face. Light complexion with curling bangs and a small bun.
disobedient bangs

I am a hair and shoes person. Before I was tuned in to how problematic it can be to offer unsolicited comments about a person’s appearance, I was generous with compliments (yeah that is an ugh sentence but I am not going to try to fix it otherwise I’ll just get stuck). On the bus, “sharp hair cut!” at the store, “love those shoes!”

figured hair and shoes are less fraught. OK this is not what I was intending to write about. I do want to do a hair and shoe piece but not tonight

I wanted to write about the well worn topic of behavior, self regulation, discipline, whatever we are calling the whole “do the thing you said you were going to do” skill. And I thought to use my new bangs as a symbol of defiance. Just a little hook. Here I am 30 minutes in to writing (including farting around with a photo) and again I’m stuck on the tarmac and my thoughts are already fading into a dot in the sky.

failing to board the plane is appropriate to the topic of self regulation I guess. does that even make sense? am I supposed to be passenger or pilot?

I’m vexed that I so frequently retreat to this comfy meta self aware digressive mode of writing.

It’s fake productivity. Avoidance. Splashing around in the shallow end.

OK so what was on my mind earlier?

DBT therapy uses willfulness and willingness to frame our approach to behavior. Willful is on the negative side, where we are obstinate, rigid, resistant, etc. I call it my inner 3 year old. Willingness is well, self explanatory. Even if you are a hot mess, you can still choose to be open, flexible. Halfway smiling. Not toxic positivity. Just not doubling down on negativity.

(This is a gross simplification which is why I get all fretful about writing.)

The point is that I wonder where “wanna” fits it.

The toddler stomps. I don’t wanna behave and *you* can’t make me!

The adult stomps. I wanna behave so why can’t *I * make me?

I don’t want to be willful. I wanna be willing. I guess that’s what all the skills are for, sly ways to move us into willingness.

But so much of my willfulness is due to lack of urgency and immediacy. I have two speeds, sloth and super hero. I need to save embers from the fires I put out to keep me warm and limber for the less dramatic days.

This is apparently a classic ADHD trait. Insert recognition that many most all folks drag their feet sometimes (hence my imposter syndrome). However, there are degrees of severity and whether it’s due to adhd or something else, *egads * I have a serious Jekyll Hyde situation when it comes to productivity.

I have written versions of this so many times. So frustrating.

willpower and/or effort

scrap of paper that says write, with underlining

4/18 edit: this took a different turn than I was expecting. I had intended to simply express some excitement about keeping up with the writing streak. Going through past posts to add image text helps me see that I’ve actually written a fair bit. On a day to day basis, I am often frustrated by the product so it has been a great exercise in being OK with muck. I am surprised that I haven’t skipped a day. It helps that word press gives a little congrats for keeping a streak going.

Just had one of those duh epiphanies about the difference between stopping and starting a habit. The first requires willpower. The latter, willpower *and* effort.

This is a gross simplification. Not everything is within our locus of control. And both can require a lot of scaffolding, an exoskeleton of other behavioral logistical and emotional supports.

But it’s relevant to my habits. Some things I want  to stop or decrease, others start or increase.

Booze. I’ve got a relationship with it. If alcohol was not unhealthy in so many compounding ways, I would savor a bottle of red wine every night.  Last summer, I made a commitment to take a break from drinking until the end of the year. Mission accomplished.

Not drinking required willpower. I don’t like to admit that it was hard and tonight’s not the night to write about that. But abstaining from alcohol did not technically require me to *do* anything. 

Going on a run, building my business, cleaning the house, making and sticking with a plan… these require a push. Once I get going I’m fine. Breaking free from a standstill is the issue. I have to force my body to take action.

Hmmmm. My little lightbulb moment is dimming.  It’s not that stopping a behavior requires less effort than starting one.  It certainly isn’t always easier. And when we have to take  action to facilitate  resistance to the  undesirable behavior,  it gets fuzzy fast.

Maybe I’m splitting hairs and just trying to understand why it’s so hard for me to take action. Not drinking for five months was a challenge. Lacing up running shoes a few times a week should not be.

Ugh. I think I do know one reason stopping is in some ways easier  than starting. It’s a clearly defined success. I really wanted to get a donut this morning but marched past Dunkin. Success. When I put on the tea kettle instead of popping a cork? Gold star! Quitting smoking (11/11/2001) was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in terms of willpower, resolve, impulse control. Whatever it’s called, it stayed in the daily win column for a long time.

Blargh I need to pick this thread up again another day. In summary, change is hard. Thousands of books and talk show hosts have already covered this territory. I just have to keep plugging away to find something that works for me.

shared kitchens

kitchen counter covered in brightly covered dishes

fear, guilt, shame
top of today’s menu
fresh ingredients
can’t keep up with the deliveries
shelves already groaning

slicing, searing, scalding
steam everywhere
burner stuck on high

the strength I need to turn it
won’t come from this diet

**
It is mid afternoon and I am not doing well. Tired but wired. Back of my eyeballs hurt. Have done a whole lot of very little.

Maybe skipping my ADHD rx is part of the picture. Response seems similar to last Friday. It can’t *just* be that though.

There’s stuff I don’t share because I’m not alone in the kitchen. But though my story involves others, I am trying to own my roles….

Ugh I keep typing and erasing. I’m hesitant to write about hesitance.

Seriously it’s not that complicated. Let me try again using a trick i share with students having a writing block.

What I’m trying to say is…

it’s hard to write about my life while also respecting the privacy of my family
it’s hard to poke at the tender spots without worrying about their tender spots
I am trying to own my shit, the festering “must go’s” at the back of the fridge and the seeds I continue to sow but there’s always the risk of a loved one wondering “does she think *I* put that there?”

For example, I don’t want my kid or husband to think they were making today’s deliveries. I’ve got a robust supply chain of my own.

And even when, especially when, they do play a role, whether positive, negative, neutral, or outcome uncertain, I don’t want to hang it out for the world (or my 5 readers) to see. It’s no big news that being part of a family isn’t always smooth sailing but still…

I want to process and yawp without accidentally singeing the people I love.

Evening addendum. Starting to doubt whether I should do this. Why not just stick with private journaling? What’s my goal with being public? I guess it helps with accountability and sometimes, sure I’ll admit it, ego. I’m also practicing being looser. So much of my writing has been stranded due to a clunky sentence or embarrassment about triviality. But this little project is helping lift my spirits in a way so onward I guess.

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