Just so you know

All right. I have ideas. I think about stuff. So here is the spot for stuff I'm thinking about and want to be able to share more broadly and possibly promote. Like I have time for this.

Everything is provisional at this point and subject to change in the future - as far as the blog is concerned. In real life some things will remain unchanged.

Also, our children are not really named Lenny and Linus. We are not that cool.

Feel free to share, rant, disagree, but please remember that I'm an actual person who tries to be respectful. I'd love it if you are and do to.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Parenting is Cheaper than Therapy

Lessons about victory and defeat are easy to come by these days.

When I was writing about blogging being cheaper than therapy I got to thinking about something else that is cheaper than therapy - keeping a journal.  Which reminded me of a book I read early in my illness called Writing Out the Storm: Reading and Writing Your Way Through Serious Illness or Injury by Barbara Ambercombie.  I remember this book being very helpful early in my illness so I decided to get out my journal from that time and see if I could use it to write a review of the book that would be helpful to other people.

The problem was that when I looked at those old journals it reminded me of a dark and difficult time in my life.  And so many of the entries were emotionally fraught.  I dealt with a lot of depression and loneliness and I poured a lot of mental anguish out on those pages.  When I first looked at them it was hard for me to see how it could have been helpful for me.  It seemed like writing it all down might have been a way to dwell in that dark place rather than helping me find a way out.

But today I found an entry that was much more hopeful.  It's dated June 10, 2006.  I was thinking about activities I did a lot at that time which felt like a waste of time.  I was thinking about what I would rather my life look like.  Here's part of what I wrote:

"Activity - "productive" activity, has become an obligation for me rather than a source of joy or pleasure.  Expressing myself is risky and part of me believes that the purpose of expressing myself is to correct myself.  Not for the joy of knowing who I am, but for the purpose of dealing with emotions, correcting faulty thinking, resolving old grudges, facing old fears, forgiving, remembering, letting go of pain, expressing anger.  These I feel are obligations - tasks I should accomplish because I should continue to grow and mature as a human being.  I have a goal - to become as emotionally healthy as I am capable of being so that my emotional health will not be a detriment to my physical health.  I am trying to be strong mentally so that I can deal with my physical weakness better.  I don't really want to know who I am, I just want to know how to deal with my past in a way that will allow me to view the present realistically, have motivation to do the things I want to do, and courage to face the future.

Many elements of this plan are good, but it has some basic flaws.  I will never have freedom to "do" until I give myself permission to "be."  I will never have motivation until I decide that I actually have the freedom to choose what I want to do.  I will not be able to walk away from anxiety until I find that there is victory in failure and beauty in imperfection.  Healing will come when I begin to believe that it is my right rather than my job.  My needs will become less overwhelming when I give myself permission to have them.  My anger will not be  able to hurt me when I can see it as a source of strength - not something that I need to have power over or that has power over me, not something I need to hide for fear of rejection and not something that everyone but me has a right to.

Becoming whole must be more than finding the parts that are broken and fixing them, more than dumping old baggage and learning to think more realistically.  Becoming whole must involve becoming aware of who I am, being willing to accept that person in the entirety and with no conditions.  Not "putting myself on project status" as Dr. Phil would say, but finding space to breath, coaxing my soul out of its hiding place and giving it ways to express the whole range of what it contains.  Censoring nothing, fixing nothing, manipulating nothing.  Wouldn't it be wonderful to know that even if I never accomplished anything for the rest of  my life I had at least known peace for one afternoon?  How much energy would I find if I could move by the motivation of my own desires, if I could lay down the weight of obligation and how much strength if I move away from the sting of disapproval?  What if I can learn to express myself for no other reason than to meet my soul's need for expression - not to be heard, but simply to speak - to cry, to laugh, sing, dance, run and fly, to scream and kick and punch, to break and build, to create and destroy, to stretch out, enlarge and reach beyond the limits?  Can I move because I want to and be still because I am ready to allow my soul to expand instead of moving out of obligation and being still because I am holding my soul at bay?

I hope so.  I hope I can find a way to being that balances pleasure and pain.  I want to find ways to move out of the cycles of disapproval and rejection to reject the myth that says that someone else knows better than I do how I should be.  I even want to move beyond believing that I know how I should be or even that I know how to get where I want to be.  I want to stop being so afraid of being lost and instead have the strength to look at where I actually am.  I want to know the relief of being who I am without any apology.  I want to be unfettered to know joy." 

It's interesting to me that becoming a parent has actually help me achieve some of what I was hoping for in this journal entry.  I think that parenting is a form of self expression.  I've heard people say that having a child means that part of your heart is walking around in the world.  I thought when I first heard it that this was overly sentimental, but I realize now that in some ways it's true.  Also,  I think that being a parent has helped me accept myself and learn to deal with my emotions in the following ways:
  • It helps me smile every day.  Kids are cute.  They do funny stuff.  It's not hard to smile at them even when  they are exasperating.  Which they are so...
  • Learning to deal with anger is an ongoing project.  Has a child ever looked you in the eye, picked a piece of food off of his high chair tray and flung it toward the corner of the room?  Lenny went through a phase where he did this at least once a day.  This is when I learned that it's possible to actually shake with anger.
  • Helping little people deal with their emotions has helped me be more accepting of my own.  When I want to insist that my children STOP CRYING I don't because I want them to learn healthy ways to calm themselves.  Helping them through the process gives me more confidence in my own abilities.
  • Knowing that I chose to be a parent - even though I didn't really know what I was getting in to - helps me embrace the challenges.
  • Carrying on in the face of crazy and overwhelming times has helped me learn to find peace in the midst of chaos.
  • Spending my days with my little ones involves actually building, destroying, dancing and exploring the world.
  • Celebrating my children's growth and achievements has helped me realize that life is a process.  I feel more confident that I can trust it to produce growth in my life also.
  • My children are beautiful and amazing.  Since they came from me looking at them makes it easier for me to believe there must be something lovely about me also.
I'm pretty sure that having children is not the only way to learn these lessons.  I think that being part of a community, doing fun, creative and amazingly difficult tasks can probably help anyone through this process.  For me, that happens to involve being a parent.  I hope that each of my readers, whatever your path, can be immersed life and learn to know joy.


  1. Just being -- this has been on my mind lately, ways to let go and just be. One of the online groups I'm a part of had a "Breathe" theme recently where we talked about the life-giving rhythms in our lives. Not the things we do because we have to, but the things we do because we want to. The things we must slow down to do, but that fill us up. And I discovered something new about myself -- I actually like playing the piano. I am not very good, I only had a year or so as a child, and I quit because I didn't think it was fun. But I tried to pick it up again lately, and it's so refreshing and soothing. Maybe because I'm not very good, maybe because it is solely for the enjoyment of it, and not for a performance. It feels like medicine, and it sure makes me feel better than watching some TV on Netflix. Not that TV is bad, but it just wasn't filling me up, I was left feeling empty. I was turning to it when I was stressed out, and yes, I may not have been "doing" anything while watching, but I wasn't "being" in the sense I think you're talking about. So, thanks for more on the Being side of life, not the Doing.

    1. I've used music that way too. Also sometimes a repetitive craft activity, like crochet can be a kind of meditation. With little ones around I find that going for a walk can sometimes help me be "in the moment" which is just one reason I'm looking forward to nicer weather.