Monthly Archives: June 2012

Reader Appreciation Award

Reader Appreciation Award

I would like to thank Michelle Willerton for nominating my blog for the Reader Appreciation Award. If you haven’t visited Michelle’s blog, A Touch of the Divine, you need to do this right away. You are in for a divine treat. Her blog is filled with some of the most amazing, inspiring photography. She even has a section on animals, which I think is pretty cool. ;-) This one is one of my faves:

A Little Down Time

I just wanted to do a quick thank you to Michelle (with 2 L’s)  for nominating my blog. :-)

I will pay the love forward shortly.

Cheers!

Michele

The Laughter Gene

“Then, not only a breeze of love and spirit…ever a giggle and a smile…cheer/cheer/cheer!…Charm and just plain happy personality brought her far ahead of the era.” -An excerpt from a letter written to me about my grandmother from a family friend

Me and my grandma

The description above was written by a gentleman who my grandmother worked for years ago. She worked for the man’s family as a housekeeper (think about the movie, The Help, but even in a period of time before that movie was set). The letter was written to me back in 1994 as a part of a graduation gift. The description of my grandmother that this man wrote was one of the most special gifts I ever received.

Imagine a small, even frail looking woman, who when there was something that she found funny, would burst out in the most contagious laugh.

Cheer/cheer/cheer!

Kind of like me (except for the small and frail part). :)

This description of my grandmother’s personality and laugh was validating for me. I have felt and still feel awkward about my laugh. But I loved and adored by grandma. Everything about her was wonderful. And if there is such a thing as a “laughing gene,” I definitely inherited it from her. What a beautiful gift she left me. I honor her every time I let go and let out my infectious laugh. The gift of laughter is worth much more than any money or possessions that she could have left me. Thank you, and…

Laugh on, grandma…laugh on.

The Shrink Who Killed Gazoo

Hello everyone!

My latest essay, “The Shrink Who Killed Gazoo,” has just been published! Please visit r.kv.r.y. quarterly literary journal to read my piece as well as to read the pieces of other authors on the site. It is truly an awesome journal. Anyway, the link to my essay is below.

Enjoy! :-)

Michele

The Shrink Who Killed Gazoo.

The Integration of Laughter

How many times have you known or seen a person that looked happy on the outside, but it surprised you to know that they were really falling apart on the inside?

That is me. Over the years, not many people would have picked me out of a clinical depression line-up. One person went so far as to tell me she didn’t believe me when I told her I had it. In all fairness to that person, I can understand why. I was often laughing and smiling on the outside. But on the inside, I was falling apart.

Things are not always what they seem…

Despite my challenges with depression and other emotional issues, I do, oddly enough try to find the humor in life. Growing up, I think this was something that my mom and I used to emotionally survive. And we still do that today (more on that in later posts). The humor I find in life, I usually project through my boisterous, sometimes annoying, but almost never fake laughter. I can’t help it. This is my one apology to the world if it annoys you. Actually it’s not an apology. I’m not changing, I’m not “keeping it down,” so get over it.

***

It’s funny how I can remember the bad stuff that people say to me, many times I can remember it verbatim. Last year, I got involved in a friendship/partial relationship/I’m not exactly sure what it was with a recovering alcoholic. Classic adult child of an alcoholic (ACA) behavior. But I’m not judging myself. Anyway, I had just started my own 12 step program and was completely emotionally vulnerable. I’m not dismissing my responsibility in this; however, I do feel that I was in part “13th stepped” by this person (Google 13th step if you want to know more about what that is). What began as a sweet, gentle relationship with potential turned into a judgmental, harsh, argumentative, borderline abusive situation that I didn’t need in my life.

In my last confrontation with this person, he told me something that I will never forget. He made a joke about something that I didn’t find funny. When I told him it wasn’t funny, he dismissed my feelings, shrugged it off, and told me that “I needed to laugh more.”

I found that pretty hilarious.

He went on to tell me,

“You’re too sensitive. This is why you have few friends. You only really laugh when you’re not sure of yourself or insecure, or not sure of what to say. You never really laugh.”

I found this even more hilarious.

I am glad that I was “secure” enough of myself to know that he was wrong. And in this case I knew exactly what to say

LOSE MY NUMBER

Although there have been times where I have nervously laughed, or have laughed because I didn’t know what to say, to say that I only laugh because of that was insane. (I’m not even going to entertain the other stuff he said because that was double insanity)

Laughter and humor were characteristics that were constant for me growing up…despite the bad stuff. People who really know me can see a reflection of it…especially in my interactions with my mom, with others and through the stories I tell. Although a lot of my life has involved “serious situations” and I have been very serious and driven, I have also embraced the laughter.

Or a better way to put it, is that I have had to integrate the serious side of myself with the laughter side of myself. For some reason, I love the word “integrate.” I think that it is becoming my “word” (remember from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love). In Gilbert’s book she talks about how everyone has a word, and finally she figures out that her word was “Attraversiamo” (in Italian) or “crossover.” Well I finally figured out that my word is “integrate” or “integration.” I love the idea of not being in denial of any part of ourselves and embracing the good and bad or light and dark. It’s something that Deepak Chopra describes in The Path to Love as the “ambivalence of life.”

And in my case, my goal is to integrate the humor and laughter in life with the seriousness of life. This way there’s a good balance of each that I show to the world.

“When we learn to take ourselves seriously, others will too. When we learn to chuckle at ourselves, we will be ready to laugh with others.” -Melody Beattie

Quotation Source:

  • Beattie, Melody (2009-12-15). The Language of Letting Go (Hazelden Meditation Series) (p. 301). BookMobile. Kindle Edition.

The Laughter Secret

The definition of the expression Shhhh, is not “be quiet.” The real definition is:

I can’t deal with your expressions of happiness. You are laughing too loud. And when you laugh loud that means you have happiness in your life. I am afraid. I am afraid because I may never know that level of happiness.

As I was riding home on the bus today, I realized that there are a lot of people that look unpleasant, sad, or mad even. Life has got us down. Or maybe people were just mad because they were on the crowded bus. Or maybe we all just have lots of problems that have us looking so sad…

I’m not judging…because I am often one of those sad looking people.

When we are wrapped up in our sadness, anyone that is outwardly expressing happiness, specifically through laughter, bothers us. We want to tell them to Shhh…

I’ve been on both sides of this spectrum. I have been on the extrovert, outwardly expressing happiness through laughter side, and I have been on the inward, introvert, don’t they really know how bad and lonely life really is and if they did, they wouldn’t be laughing so loud side.

But I’m at least aware enough to admit it.

These next few blog posts will explore the secret of my laughter. I’m not a comedian, so don’t expect funny blog posts. But I hope these posts will give us all the motivation to seek humor in our lives as well as the courage to express it in whatever way feels natural.

:-D

Father’s Day Amends

Me, my mom, and my dad

“Sometimes we hurt the people we love the most, and that’s more than words to a song.” -Melody Beattie (Codependent No More Workbook)

Side note: For some reason I’ve been in a Melody Beattie mood lately. I truly love this woman’s insight.

Step 9 of 12 step recovery suggests that we make amends. Specifically, the step says,

Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

In step 8, we make a list of the people we have harmed from whatever issue we are facing, whether it be alcoholism, codependency, etc. In step 9, we take action to make amends. It’s clear that making amends to anyone that we have harmed or done wrong in the past is for the “amender” and not the “amendee.” It allows us to begin again with a clean slate. It enables us to release the guilt and shame from past behaviors. It allows us to be free to live in the future.

That all sounds really beautiful. But for me, I stayed stuck on step 9 for a long time. I had made the list of people to make amends to. Then I learned about the different ways to make amends. There’s a living amends where we change our negative behavior into positive behavior in response to the harm we’ve done. We can write a letter, or if we feel safe and our intentions are pure, we can sit down with the person and make direct amends to the person we have harmed…face to face.

After I made my amends list, I decided as of right now, the only person I wanted to make a direct amends to was my mom. I won’t go into detail about what I was making amends for, but after months and months of being stagnant about making the amends, I labeled myself as a coward. But in reality, I was just waiting until the time was right.

About a week ago over coffee and brunch one afternoon, I made the direct amends to my mom. Surprisingly, for the most part, her response was very affirming. But even if it wasn’t, that would not be about me. I was making the amends so that I could be free.

And it was very freeing…

I began to think about another person on my amends list. My Dad. Especially with Father’s Day approaching, I have been thinking about him a lot. My dad died about 9 years ago, so I’m obviously unable to make a direct amends to him. But I chose to write a letter. And I felt like sharing it here:

Dear Dad,

I miss you. A lot. You would probably find it interesting to know that I am currently working several 12 step programs to recover from various emotional issues. I sometimes think of my own recovery as an extension of the recovery from alcoholism that you never got a chance to experience. A part of my recovery program requires me to make amends to those that I have harmed. You are on my list. As well as mom. I already made amends to mom (which you know how difficult that must have been for me!) and I want to make amends to you. I have no doubt that you loved me. But I’m not sure if you knew how much I loved you, specifically when I became an adult. I was so busy running away from my childhood, that I distanced myself from you. I blamed you for a lot of my own unhappiness. As a child and as an adult, I didn’t fully comprehend that you had a disease. Until now.

I felt being close to you in adulthood would be too painful. I felt your sickness (both alcoholism and what you went through before you died) was too much of a bother. After all, I had a life to live. There were times when I would come by the house and all you wanted from me was a pop or a glass of iced tea, and I would ignore you or say no. Sometimes you may have even wanted to talk, but I didn’t want to talk to you. I don’t even know why I did those things. Perhaps I was angry at you for being an alcoholic. Perhaps I was angry at you then for becoming sick from years of drinking. But regardless, I am very sorry for my behavior and any harm that I may have caused.

I think about you and dream about you a lot. I feel your presence more frequently, especially now that I am living in the house that you worked so hard to provide for us.

I hope you have seen my grandma (your mom) and I hope that your spirit is free…

I love you, always…

Your daughter,

Michele

Happy Father’s Day

Let’s Take a Fun Inventory! It’s Good Practice

“Practice having fun until fun becomes fun.” – Melody Beattie

For some reason, I had been struggling with what to write on the topic of fun. Perhaps it’s because I often struggle with letting go and having fun in my own life. So this post will be as much for me as it will be for those who read it. For awhile, I couldn’t figure out what angle to take with the “fun” topic. That is until my Higher Power led me to the Melody Beattie affirmation above:

Practice having fun until it becomes fun.

I realize that having fun (just like with joy and happiness) means different things to different people. Our interests differ as much as our personalities differ. What’s “fun” to me may seem strange to you. But the important thing is that we identify our interests and hobbies and that we define what fun means to us. Once we identify “our fun,” it is then important to put it into practice.

In 12 step recovery, the 4th step tells us to “make a fearless and moral inventory of ourselves.” In summary, it is a written exercise that tells the story of our lives based upon the challenge we face.  I think that for those of us that are “fun challenged,” this may be a good idea to put into practice specifically for the topic of fun. Let’s all take a “fun inventory.” It may be helpful to write down the things you enjoy doing, things you have enjoyed in the past, things you feel shame about having fun doing, and things you want to do for fun in the future. Once you complete your fun inventory, don’t be afraid to share it with others.

I think doing something like this and sharing it with others will accomplish two things. First, it lets people know more about your interests. And second, if a person knows your interests, this may uncover a connection and encourage another to take part in your fun as well.

I have slowly been transitioning into sharing the things that I find fun with others. In my early adult life, I spent much of my time doing “fun things” alone because I thought (or assumed) the fun things I liked were bizarre and weird to others.  Specifically others in my peer and cultural group.

But of course we all know what happens when we assume.

Last year around this time, I wanted to go see the Disney Nature movie, African Cats. I had saw its predecessor, Oceans in the theater by myself. I took a chance and asked a friend of mine if she wanted to come with me and bring along her two kids. She said yes. We had a lovely time.

I’m a fan of all kinds of music. I specifically love rock, and am a fan of several rock bands. A few years ago, there was one of my favorite rock groups coming into town. I figured no one would want to go with me. A black girl going to a rock concert? I took a chance and asked a friend of mine to go (she is also black). She said yes. Ever since then, we try and go to at least one rock concert a year. And we never coward down even though we’re normally the only “brown people” in the crowd.

I happened to see that the musical Cats was coming to Chicago last month. I had always wanted to see it. I know that you have to be a special kind of person to sit through a musical. I had planned to go by myself. But before I bought the ticket, I decided to put it out there to others that I was going, and would anyone like to go with me? I didn’t expect to get a response. But I did. One of my recovery friends said she would love to go. We went and had an amazing time.

These are my own personal examples of “fun and connection.” This may not seem difficult to those who are naturally social, are extroverts, or who often “fit in” to social norms. But for those of us that are loners and have spent a lot of time in emotional isolation, this kind of connection is huge.

***

So now that we have inventoried our fun things and shared them with others, it’s time to put it all in to practice.

But why should I have to practice having fun? Shouldn’t that come naturally? Shouldn’t I automatically want to have fun?

Not necessarily…

Have you ever been in the midst of a “fun” activity where your mind is so full of anxiety that your focus is only on your problems?

Do you feel guilt when you’re having fun?

When you go on vacation, do you bring your work with you, either mentally or physically?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, my personal opinion is that you are fun challenged. You need to practice having fun.

When our lives have been mostly serious…

When a chunk of our life has been about addiction, recovery, and emotional or physical pain…

When we become workaholics or compulsive debtors, and all we do is work to feel self worth or make enough money to cover our debts, or debt to feel important…

When all we know how to do is take care of others, as opposed to ourselves…

When we have gone through many of the things I have listed above and more…we don’t always know how to have fun. So we need practice.

Practice makes perfect. This is just a saying, and considering I don’t believe in perfectionism, let’s revise…

Practice makes “better.”

Practicing having fun makes us much better at it.

Having fun and connecting with others at the same time is an essential part of living a joyful life.

A side note. It takes courage to reach out and share your interests with others. It takes super-courage to ask others to share in those interests with you. Sometimes people will say no….for whatever reason. They’re busy, not interested, or there’s a better offer. Whatever.

I’m not going to tell you not to take it personally because that is advice that I can hardly take myself. But I will say, if someone turns you down to share in your fun…do it anyway, even if you have to do it alone.

After all, having fun by yourself is better than having no fun at all…

It’s good practice.

Thanks for Writing, Commentator, and One Lovely Blog Award

“Today I release those beliefs that are destructive, that have outlived their usefulness. Today my thoughts center on beauty, abundance, order, love, freedom, and health.” -Rokelle Lerner in Daily Affirmations for Adult Children of Alcoholics

A few days ago, my inadequacy wounds were triggered and I got the “crazies.” You know, the “crazies” happens whenever you’re feeling emotional pain, but want to do anything possible to NOT feel it. But it’s funny how awareness has the power to fight the ongoing battle I have with being negative, judgmental, and at times down right awful to myself. When I noticed the “crazies” starting, I contacted a recovery friend who helped me get to the point where I was aware of what was going on and I named it: Feeling inadequate…not good enough. Once I knew what it was, I was able to do what I have talked about in many of my posts: Feel the pain so that it will be possible to let it go. Oh, I am still struggling with those feelings and I expect the feelings of inadequacy to come back from time to time because it is one of my deepest emotional wounds. But at least I have a new awareness of my triggers and am willing to stand up for myself when I know it’s happening. A challenge for me in this process is being gentle with myself. That’s where my lovely blogging friends come in. These blog awards come to me when I least expect it. The recent awards came through during those days where inadequacy was right in my face. The awards came when I was tempted to be down on myself, and mean to myself for still battling the same stuff over and over again. Your award-love means so much to me. It is so affirming to know that you recognize my value as a writer and fellow blogger, and hopefully as a person too. These acknowledgments allow me to look at my journey through a different lens…a fresh new perspective. My journey is a phenomenon. And as the phenomenological researchers say, there are infinite explorations of a phenomenon. And so the explorations continue…

Since I am so late with the blog award recognition, I am only going to nominate 10 blogs between all the awards to share with me. Sorry, I’m a rebel and going against tradition! Ha! Also, you can see the different things about me by clicking on one of my previous awards.

With that being said… I would like to thank My Soulful Healing for nominating me for the Thanks For Writing Blog Award. I am sharing this award with:

I would like to thank The Blazing Trail for the Commentator Award. I believe this award is dedicated to the awesome bloggers that often take the time to leave awesome comments. Everyone of my readers who takes the time to comment is so special to me. Specifically, I am sharing this award with:

  • fibrohappiness. “Living happily with Fibromyalgia.”
  • sayamberblondi. “Essays of a less educated mind.”
  • Reflections. “Mindful musings inspired by living, learning, loving, and laughing-and a horse named Shakespeare.”

I would like to thank Bella Bleue for the One Lovely Blog Award. I’d like to acknowledge the following “Lovely Blogs:”

Thank you all for inspiring me to continue writing. Looking forward to reading more of your wonderful work.

Cheers!

Blog Awards!

The blog awards have been running rampant lately, so much that I haven’t been able to keep up. I have about 3 in the pipeline. This is a recovery practice for me…to be able to take in compliments, without disputing or fighting it. So I appreciate your participation in my emotional healing! I will respond to them all soon, as I am so grateful to be recognized by my fellow blogging peers. I think these awards are a wonderful way to say, “keep writing” and a wonderful way for us to support each other. I’m just late on the acknowledgements, but I will get there! Thank you all so much, I appreciate you!

Michele <3

The Happiness Theory

“I define happiness for myself. I make my own happiness today and experience joy in living in my own unique way.” -Rokelle Lerner

So what role does happiness play in living a connected life?

As I mentioned before, the overall goal in my own life is to have “joy,” but not in opposition to happiness. My argument is that we need both. It’s just that when you have joy, if all that you hold sacred is ripped from you, you can find a reason to keep on living.

I don’t deny happiness or happy moments. I need them to stay alive. The idea of happiness is an essential component of living a healthy, connected life. But what in the world does it mean to be happy? Researchers have tried to define it, but I’m not sure if there is a consensus or a “Happiness theory” that has been identified. Here are some thoughts from a book I began reading some time ago called The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want by Sonja Lyubomirsky:

“I use the term happiness to refer to the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being,combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile. However, most of us don’t need a definition of happiness because we instinctively know whether we are happy or not. Academic researchers prefer the term subjective well-being (or simply well-being) because it sounds more scientific and does not carry the weight of centuries of historical, literary, and philosophical subtexts. I use the terms happiness and well-being interchangeably.”

In my own life, I know what happiness is not. It’s not being in an abusive relationship (whether it’s a love or work relationship); it’s not trying to make someone love me (whether it’s friends or lovers); it’s not spending money I don’t have on things to impress people I don’t care about; and it’s not being in constant turmoil with myself, my mom, or my family.

All of that seems a bit overwhelming. I think of happiness now as a moment to moment delight in whatever is happening in my life at a particular point in time.

“To paraphrase the late U.S.Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, happiness is like obscenity: We can’t define it, but we know it when we see it” (Lyubomirsky, 2007).

***

I always think how much of a blessing it must be to do something you love and be able to make money doing it. Like writers and musicians who are doing their thing, making money and loving what they do. There must be an amazing feeling to being able to support yourself and your family and do what you love in a career.

The other day, I got a chance to do just that: do something I love and get paid for it. I played my flute at an expo event to promote healthy living. The client wanted an extra “ambiance” to enhance people’s experience at the event, and thought hiring a couple of musicians would be a good idea. I was lucky enough to be hired as one of the two musicians who played at the event. The event and my performance were a success! I met so many lovely people, got great feedback from the client, the music was perfect, etc. This day, that moment, those people, the music, the performance…made me happy. And getting paid for it all, made me even happier. :)

These happy moments are essential to enjoying our lives and living in the moment. These happy moments allow us to slow down, ruminate, and be present for what is going on in our lives.

But what would have happened if there was no happiness in the day? What if the people came up to me and said that my flute playing sucked? What if my flute broke and I tried to play and nothing came out? What if they decided not to pay me? Now of course these are extreme cases, but my point is that when the situation turns out unfavorable, I can usually find gratitude, or I can even search for a higher purpose or reason, but I cannot always find happiness. And in those times, I reach for joy.

So there is no happiness vs. joy. It’s just happiness AND joy. If you can visualize a big circle with a bunch of dots inside. The big circle is the concept of joy. The little dots are the moments of happiness. We need them both.

But it is the moments of happiness that help us to slow down and enjoy what is happening in us and through us, right here, right now.

“Our source of happiness and well-being is not inside others; it’s inside us. Learn to center ourselves in ourselves.” -Melody Beattie

Sources

  • Beattie, Melody (2009-06-10). Codependent No More (p. 107). BookMobile. Kindle Edition.
  • Lerner, Rokelle (1996-11-01). Daily Affirmations for Adult Children of Alcoholics: For Adult Children of Alcoholics (Kindle Location 1042). Health Communications. Kindle Edition.
  • Lyubomirsky, Sonja (2007-12-27). The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want . Penguin Group. Kindle Edition.
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