Category Archives: Psychology

Arborcast Whispers

I’m stealing a moment. Sitting by the creek and the trail. Though I love all types of weather, with the breeze on me and the sun on my head, it’s hard to imagine a better moment. I’ve had a few surprises, each of them making me wonder why I ever doubted my optimism. The beautiful vista doesn’t negate any of the valleys I have walked through  ~ each of them temporarily giving me pangs of self-doubt. Were y’all sitting here with me, I would tell a stupid joke, one which would hopefully make y’all snort. We might look up at the arborcast sky and know that the moment will pass. The shadows under the trees are just that: the sun will soon turn and glancingly illuminate the previous shadows, each in their own time. Like I always do, I pause for a little bit of gratitude. Meanwhile, the breeze passes over me, a whisper of things to come.

Love, X
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From The Bottom Of The Well To The Top Of The Sun

Every once in a while, you get a compliment that goes beyond the kind we often exchange. Today, I got more than my share: “You are sunshine on legs.” It wasn’t about my appearance. It was about the energy I radiated. Whatever energy I had prior to the kind words, it doubled.

To be called “weirdo,” in a true and opposite way. “Dork,” too.

Prank pickles, spoon brooches, hugs, laughter, and the expectation that literally anything could happen: these things comprised a good day. That it’s in the mid-50s and the sun is shining is a dash of cinnamon to make it great.

I had something to complain about, but for the life of me, I can’t imagine what it might be now. A lot of people in my life have obstacles that make any of mine seem inconsequential.

My tribe grows and apparently we speak the language of snark and laughter.

We all get a turn waiting at the bottom of the well for the bucket to be lowered, don’t we?

The way I feel right now, were I at the bottom of the well, you’d hear me whistling or singing. I’m not alone down there in the bottom of the well. None of us are if we are but capable of remembering our turn at the bottom seldom lasts.

Love, X
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Red Snow Bothers No One

justice delayed is justice denied
victims remain, anxious prey,
each precious life adjourned

it was an accident, they intoned, shyly winking
he resisted and found himself restrained
cuffs on the cold bumper
he was an unrepentant menace
who found his home along the road

red snow bothers no one

the inevitable thaw comes
erasing all vestige of his faint echo

everyone sighs, alive and free

red snow bothers no one

A Mixed Message (A Wild Variety Of Me)

“Life is like looking for your phone. Most of the time, it’s in your hand.”

Today’s brooch was made from a very old badge my manager discovered last week. I wrote “252” on it. That’s how much I weighed in the picture. I’m 105 lbs. lighter now. The part that continues to remind me is the new people who come into my life. They didn’t know me as fat. A couple of them had to be convinced. That’s a strange, wonderful thought. None of them have inaccurate misconceptions of me, either, so they look at me as if I’m just X. That’s wonderful, too. It reminds me of decades ago when I changed my name; it allowed me to easily identify those who loved me for who I was without regard to my name. Not a day passes that my name doesn’t bring a question, a laugh, or a story. Having a ridiculous name saves me the trouble of needing to tell people I’m probably eccentric. (Whether I look like a professional bowler or curler is up to you to decide.)
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“I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough
Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up
Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low
Remind me once again just who I am because I need to know”
“You Say,” Lauren Daigle

All of you who can feel God’s love are fortunate. I mean that without snark. All love is housed in one’s heart. Believing that you’re loved in any form is something to strive for.

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Because of my blog, people find me and read the ridiculously long and circuitous path of my life I’ve left there. It’s told higgledy-piggledy, with huge omissions and P.S.-sidepaths; it’s just the way I like it. It is both consoling and astonishing when someone discovers it and finds something worthwhile in it or me. When you commit things to writing and especially publicly, there is no return to privacy or withdrawal. It’s both faith and lunacy. As direct as I’ve been, there are hundreds of stories that I haven’t shared, mostly because of the overlap in other people’s lives. A lot of my joy and anguish are difficult to share for that reason. It’s not that I don’t want to. I’d prefer to spill it out. I can’t imagine that I’ve experienced much that a lot of other people haven’t – that’s the joy of peeking behind curtains in life.
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“State your truth” is such a vulnerable thing to do. Or say. I’ve become so open about it that I’ve forgotten that people need camouflage. We are all so similar in our vexations and pleasures. Knowing this at 54 is almost a superpower. But I do revel when I am able to witness someone letting the wall down and just sharing, even if it astonishes them as they do so. Sunlight and revelation bring peace. So many people are carrying secrets or thoughts of a different way to live. They don’t see the options until they see no way to continue.

“Buried emotions are always buried alive,” someone smart told me once.
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“Some people are empaths. I’m a telepath; people want me as far from them as possible.” – X
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“Hey X, do you smoke marijuana?”

“No, I prefer the natural flavor.”

That one took him a minute to understand.
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I think I’ll forego a regular walk or run today and see if I can run 100 floors of stairs. That seems fair, doesn’t it? My heartbeat objects. Maybe it knows the inventory of my allotted steps in life? Either way, my heart owes me a debt for liberating it from the sheath of excess that I put on it for two decades. And I owe it an apology. I’m lucky I didn’t give up, even as I constantly failed. Until I didn’t. It’s not the path that matters so much; it’s where you end up.
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To a specific friend, if you read this post, a phlebotomist I met at my doctor’s appointment LOVED your catchphrase: “Nothing tastes as good as this feels.” His eyes went wide and then he laughed. “Exactly!” he said. “I’m going to steal that without question. It’s perfect.” He’s a bodyweight fitness nut and looks like a flattened barrel in his upper torso. He wanted to know my story and secrets – and I shared both your phrase and The Blue Dress Project’s catchphrase, “Choose Your Hard.” He couldn’t believe my transformation and I told him that between the bell going off in my head and seeing people like you do it with a lot more obstacles than me, that I knew I was supposed to succeed. He understood, having done it himself. Don’t be surprised if it ends up on social media.
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The man who taught me one-on-one how to end an altercation quickly (and violently, if necessary) recommended a browser-based productivity timer. It works crazily well. I can set it for 5-minute increments. When the alarm of my choosing sounds, it’s time to do another interval of weights and/or stairs. Because I do most of my writing sitting at the computer, it’s a great way to create thoughtless and repetitive chunks of exercise. Because of the law of increments, I can artificially get a lot of movement each hour instead of relying on my motivation. The cat hates it though, especially if he’s perched on my lap as I type.
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The Lexapro is working very well. So is therapy. And time passing. As the curtains of other people’s lives continue to open to me, I realize that my problems are real – but inconsequential compared to the complexities that other people are living. It’s great that some parts of my life are a motivation to people. It’s also okay that some parts should serve as a warning. None of us are pristine or untouched by trauma, loss, indecision, doubt, or wanting.
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My “Ask” project is working well for me. It’s failed consistently, but that failure is changing me. I can feel it and observe it as it works its way into my nature. Some of the ongoing “No” has hurt me in a way that surprised and upset me. But I’ve kept asking, feeling the wave of “No” click a meter in my head. I don’t know where the true fulcrum of some of it lies; I’ll trust my instincts when it does. Once the meter has run to zero, we have to accept the truth of whatever we’ve been asking.

Ask
Ask for what you want or desire.
If you don’t, it is a certainty you’ll never get it.
Ask of life and ask of people.
The answer, though bitter or not what you sought…
It’s at least the truth.
Everything starts from there
Ask
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I walk past the place where the deceased are kept until they are retrieved for their funerals and remembrance. I walk past a lot. I’m surrounded during the day. By love, concern, fear, hundreds of individual stories unfold. How odd it is that such finality and drama barely pierces people’s consciousness. I know we have to protect ourselves or otherwise be flooded. Sometimes, though, we need to remember the hourglass sifting sand invisibly behind us. It’s a valuable motivator to know that your day is not a promise. It’s a gift, one which many of us waste on triviality.
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Somewhere In Time

I had another life, a Lowenstein of my own.
She walks the planet, fulfilled, and not alone.
The lesson is that everyone has a tightly drawn curtain.
When they fling it open, there is beauty and assertion.
To see someone from within their own head is a joy.
It’s agony when the curtain closes again, a closure that can destroy.
Every nuance and experience in life will change us,
if not derange us.
There is no return to the before.
There is only the after and absence,
paired with infinite reenactments.
Time does not cure us; it erodes us.
To know that somewhere in time,
that your life did not branch away from you,
is a breathtaking comfort and inner chime.

Out there, somewhere in time.
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I know this is an unusual post.

And that’s okay.

Love, X

Me By Default

One of my favorite things was my Die Hard ventilation shaft Xmas ornament, one I made. It even had a hole in the back of the fake ‘shaft’ to illuminate John McClane’s outstretched lighter as he crawled through. Because one of my neighbors is a Die Hard fan, I walked over and gave it to him. His face lit up. Even more in the Christmas spirit, as much as he was surprised and happy, he said, “Oh man, my mom LOVES Bruce Willis.” Without hesitation, I said, “Give it to her then and pay it forward. We can’t stand between Bruce Willis and your mom’s infatuation.” My neighbor’s son celebrated his first birthday yesterday. I’d already given him the decorated and painted ornamental box I made, for when his son is old enough to put his special things inside. I love imagining some future day when someone sees something I made and thinks about the randomness of strangers. And I think all the time about much I misjudged those neighbors when I was first around them. I like to be surprised and reminded that appearances can be so deceiving.

In my personal life, I am struggling so hard with another variant of “Choose your hard.” I’m stuck at the nexus of a decision that it is intolerably emotional. My therapist told me once to imagine that if I had died instead of surviving my emergency surgery. And from that vantage point, how hard would such a decision seem from there? She’s right. Have you heard this saying: “If you’re okay with something you shouldn’t be okay with, you’re not okay.” Experience tells me that it’s true but wisdom tells me that I’m weak. Such self-knowledge is not something that warms me.

Yesterday, I gave everything I had to try to run a mile in under six minutes. I didn’t quite make it; I missed by six seconds. Though I failed and for the last half of the mile I was sure I was going to make it, I look at six seconds and know it’s a stupidly small amount. P.S. My heart was trip hammering so hard I could s-e-e it beating through my shirt like a drum.

One of the advantages of living upstairs is well… the stairs. Between sets of exercises, I can go out and do ten floors at a time. It doesn’t take any time at all to accumulate a LOT of floors and stairs. I like to watch the law of increments add up. My goal is to do at least 50 flights of stairs by 9 a.m.

One of my favorite people recently compared me to another person and described us both as obsessive-compulsive about goals. She’s not wrong at all. This Fitbit accentuates it because I can see it in real-time.

Do y’all know what “you by default” means? It’s used by some interviewers now and it helps you figure out where not only you are in your journey, but also to measure other people in your life.

You By Default

A lot of people haven’t heard this line of thinking regarding behavior, usually involving exercise and sometimes healthier eating. It was powerful the first time it was explained to me by someone who walks the walk.

If exercise takes a lot of effort – or adds procrastination or stress to your routine – it’s not you by default. It’s something you’re doing rather than what you simply do. If you miss a day or several, it isn’t important in the scheme of things. You’ll go back naturally to it and without stressing that you might not ever return. All of us have weird and surprising enthusiasm and commitment cycles in every aspect of our life. Exercise. Diet. Love. Irritability. Dark chocolate.

If you need willpower and constant self-talk to avoid eating chips at 10 p.m. or fast food twice a day, it’s not you by default.

“You by default” becomes your natural process, one that doesn’t require a lot of cognition or secondary support to maintain. You’re active because you are an active person. You eat healthier because you are a healthier eater. You behave kindly, well, because you ARE kind. You’ve internalized natural or learned behaviors. It is possible.

You show love and lovingkindness because it’s “you by default.”

Find a way to become whatever goal or attribute you want in your life. It’s now a part of you, never to be stripped away or requiring intangible willpower. It is a type of discipline turned to automatic.

Whatever it is that you want to do or become, practice. Even if you don’t know the vocabulary to describe it. If you can overcome the natural reluctance slope that allows new behavior to become permanent, you will find that you can do this in other areas of your life, too. You will have shifted your default.

It’s also interesting from an interpersonal point of view. If people haven’t shifted their internal values, their behavior isn’t their default. They’ll revert almost every time and abandon their attempts to change. It’s not impossible, but it is a rarity.

Love, X

You’ll Get There!

Odd that we expect life to be linear, one foot in front of the other, with a clear view of how to live our lives. Everything is circuitous, convoluted, and seen imperfectly.

With goals, we forget that one day or three doesn’t derail us or our commitment.

Science teaches us that we all fight a reluctance curve with results.

Wisdom teaches us to be patient with the ridiculous setbacks we’re all going to encounter.

You can drive around the roundabout 247 times if you need to.

It’s the final turn, the one that gets you where you need to be, that matters. Our path and past are still a part of our story, but it is where we end up that gives us our measure.

Love, X

Reset Run

I’m a terrible runner with a lot of enthusiasm. Before my surgery, I ran 5 miles non-stop just to see if I could do it. I did survive. At least I think I did. A 6-minute mile is considered a benchmark for fast recreational runners. There’s no way I am going to succeed. BUT… this morning I am going to give it literally everything I’ve got and see how to close to six minutes I can get. It’s not the smartest goal.

This is one of a dozen or so parts of my “reset” from a few weeks ago.

I’m not a fan of Kohls at all. But twice this year, I’ve found deals that were amazing. Yesterday, I found my first pair of performance shoes. After all the byzantine discounts, they cost $25. I kept using the excuse of quality shoes as a reason to put off my first 6-minute attempt.

As yesterday, lightning and rain aside, everything is an easy excuse.

If my friend can run a marathon at 62 and run 18 miles on his first day of training, maybe my self-challenge doesn’t seem so impossible. It’s the attempt that is important to me. Time is short and I can’t count on tomorrow to be there for me if I procrastinate further. Even if I fail, I’ll probably always remember the cold December morning before Xmas that I gave it my all.

So, today is the day. My Fitbit probably needs a defibrillator function as my heart rate climbs. If you see me lying on the trail, just walk past. Think of it as performance art!

I will survive.

Either way, this is going to be interesting.

Every race in life is really against oneself.

Love, X

P.S. My Jesus/Zach Galifianakis picture pretty much says it all.
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Tip(s)

I don’t know if this tip will help any of you, but surprisingly, it’s worked exceptionally well for me. When I was learning how to deescalate a fight and/or end it violently and quickly, the trainer told me of a trick he recommends to some clients if they work out at home and need to “crunch” their time and focus. Everyone gets distracted. Food. Pets. Kids. As Seen on TV commercials.

I laughed when the trainer told me because it echoes what I tend to do before sleep. Most nights, I put the song “Save Your Tears” by The Weeknd on a one-hour repeat on my Alexa. Not that anyone asked, but I discovered that I’ve also developed the habit of putting my teddy bear laterally across my stomach and surgery scar. It took me several nights of falling asleep that way to REALIZE I was doing it. I’ve done it so many times now that my subconscious is etched by the groove of the song. It’s rare that it doesn’t push me over the edge into dreamland. I fully expect to hear the song in the car one day and then find myself upside down in a holler somewhere, after an impromptu nap on the highway.

The trick he told me is to find a motivational song and put it on repeat whenever I want to crunch my time and do my sets with shorter rest intervals – without getting distracted by the million things to do. Since I’m a Rocky fan, I chose a remix of “Rocky Going The FN Distance Construct Remix.” If the song is still playing, it prompts and reminds me to stay moving and focused on the intervals instead of lolly-gagging and letting time stretch and get away from me. I used Audacity on my computer to truncate the ending unnaturally; the sudden ending always triggers me to recognize that I’m supposed to be focused. And then the song starts again.

It works for me. Years ago, when I was in 9th grade and started running, “Rocky” ran in my head a lot. It’s silly, of course. Now, if I feel myself fading as I run, I put the same remix on and find myself sailing.

I wish life had that same sort of soundtrack to kick us in the ass and keep us on point for our goals and betterment.

Love, X

What Was Was… (A Guest Post)

Every once in a while I erase the whiteboard in the kitchen and write the first thing that comes to mind. Today’s is a simple set of statements, but ones very hard to reconcile in the scheme of life. We often find ourselves looking back, thinking about the heydays and moments we were at the point we thought as best. With regrets, what~ifs, despondency. Hoping we may one day find those moments again.

What we need to take away from those minutes though is that the past is the past, and whether we think things were somehow better before we need to see the now with a fresh set of eyes and appreciation. There are lovely things, amazing seconds, right here and now.

We all have a “gilded” age full of sparkle and shine, it will always not be now. But if you can’t appreciate all the beauty of the day just now happening because of it… that is doing this one a disservice. There is so much to be grateful for right this moment, focusing on the past only causes you to gloss over it.

“What

was Was.

What is Is….”