My Leap List

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Her Own Form of Protest

      My daughter is almost as good at denying her own needs to help others as I am.  Today one of her teachers made a huge mistake in planning and put her in charge of pulling together a week-long project in one night because he wanted it done for the class and tomorrow is the last day of the semester.
     My girl of a few weeks ago would have stayed up all night to help the teacher and crashed for days, unable to go to school.  She has Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and struggles to make it to school on a good day.  A day with this kind of stress and no sleep would leave her bedridden for days.
     Today she practiced letting go.  She did what she could in class, but purposely left it at school today, rather than stay up all night.  She also decided he didn't need the handmade thank you card she made for her other teachers tonight.  Her own form of protest.
     That's my girl!    

Letting Go of Fear

     Even though it is the middle of winter and there haven't been any feathers for weeks, Mandy brought a baby white feather home with her today and gave it to me with a kiss. I knew it was an important day when I got a feather message
      Today I let go of fear.  I have let it control my life for too long.  Some of my fears have come true, but my fear didn't stop them from happening or change the outcome.  I lost decades of time and energy worrying over ones that never came true. Three wise men taught me this lesson today.  I haven't met any of them, but they all sent me the same message in different ways.
     The first man was Yashar Ali.  I do not know him, but he writes a blog that I recently started following.  Today he posted a blog that was unlike any he has ever written before.  This one was personal.  I read it and was blown away by his honesty, his understanding, and compassion.  Today he wrote about being sexually abused and becoming perfect so no one would know he was damaged.  He lived in fear of letting anyone get close to him and finding out his truth.  He could have been writing about me.  He ended the post with the words, "Like that afternoon in October, when I finally let go of everything, and learned how to trust."  You can read Yashar Ali's blog here.   
     The second man was my friend Rich.  We haven't met before, but we became friends through our blogging this summer.  He asked me to read a book he had written a few years ago when he had lost his job.  It is the story of the great things he learned from having the tragedy of losing his job.   I have been thinking about him all day.  I want to be able to face what life has to offer and change the bitter into the brilliant.  
     Tonight, as I was reading to my son, a passage jumped out at me.  We are reading The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan.  
     Leo said, "When a demigod like me comes around, bad things happen.  Really bad."  
     "Maybe it's the other way around," Jason suggested.  "Maybe people with special gifts show up when bad things are happening because that's when they're needed most."
     I used to live my life thinking I caused the people around me to be bad.  I am learning to see that I am more than my past.  I meet amazing people out there doing amazing things, but they think they are ordinary.  I think that makes them even more amazing.  They are the heroes we all need now more than ever.  Today I let go of fear and join them.    

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Baby Steps to Letting Go

     As a recovering perfectionist, I am following the wise advice of Doctor Marvin in my favorite movie What About Bob? and taking baby steps to letting go.  
Baby Step #1 - Stop Saying Yes
     Yesterday my friend Renae reminded me that not saying yes is not the same as saying no.  She is so right.  It is my first baby step.  I have a 30+ year habit of saying yes to everything and then feeling resentful at the people who asked me.  For the past ten days I have not said yes to any new commitments, including volunteering for any new jobs or responsibilities.  I

Baby Step #2- Let Go of the Negative Self-Talk
     My poor soul listens to all kinds of trash talk that I wouldn't let anyone else ever say to me.  It is unconscious, but now when I hear it, I stop it.  I'm doing pretty good, except when I catch my reflection.  For now I'm avoiding mirrors as much as possible until I have mastered this baby step a little more.

Baby Step #3 - Let Go of the Weight
     I have plenty of excuses about my weight - some valid and some are just excuses - but the results are still the same.  I am letting go of the weight by jogging in my virtual shower cap, eating better, walking around as much as I can at work, and then letting my energy focus on all the other great things in my life, rather than obsessing on my weight.  

Baby Step #4 - Say Yes to Me
     Like many working parents, the only times I make an appearance on my to-do list is when I need to do an errand like go to the dentist to fix my tooth.  By saying yes to everyone else, there is never time for me.  I have spent years waiting to finish this infinite to-do list so I can finally do all the things I want to do.   It is time to say yes to myself and spend time doing the things I love.  


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Charlie Brown Teacher Voice Saved Me Tonight

     Today I am letting go of two things, and they both involve you, as much as me.  The first one is letting go of what you think of me.  Yesterday I let go of what people thought of me jogging in my virtual shower cap.        
     Tonight when I got home from job #2, I checked my e-mails and was stunned to see all the responses to yesterday's post.  I was literally frozen with anxiety.  Especially the one from Colleen Wainwright.  "What if she's mad I posted to her page?  What if she hated it?  What if people are disgusted by the thought of a short, fat Tiff jogging in broad daylight?  What if..."  It was bad.  Uggghhh!  Which is exactly why I need a year to practice letting go.   
     Of course, your supportive and inspiring e-mails and posts made my day.  Until 11:03, when I started thinking about tonight's blog topics.  Immediately the critical voice in my head started up.  "There's no way you can top yesterday's blog.  They'll know you're a one-hit wonder.  What do you have to say, anyway?  Nothing important happened today.  You didn't learn anything.  Why would they think you are inspiring?  They would be disappointed if they met you in real life."  
      A few months ago, the voice would have paralyzed me for a week, at least.  Tonight I said, "I am letting you go critical voice in my head."  (I really talked to myself like that - Yay!  Go me!)  I think the voice replied, but I played the Charlie Brown teacher voice as background noise and started to write.  
     So here is tonight's lesson in all it's imperfect glory.  Day three and I'm still pushing the rock up the hill again, thanks to all of you and Charlie Brown.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Jogging in a Virtual Shower Cap

     I am short.  I am overweight.  I am out of shape.  Today I went jogging.  It turns out I can jog as fast as my son walks, so we were a perfect couple out in the sunshine today.  As we turned the corner, I saw a carload of people with the doors open, parked and talking on the street.  My instinct told me to start walking nonchalantly, but then I remembered Colleen Wainwright.  This morning I watched a video of her playing her guitar, in her shower cap, singing a tribute to the new year and doing things imperfectly, but doing them.  I thought of her, smiled, and proudly jogged by the car.  The conversation stopped and all eyes were on me.  I smiled and waved and thought, "Tomorrow I might do this in my shower cap.  Then you'll have a story to tell." 
     Thank you Colleen.  Today, with your help, I let go of caring what people think of me.  I am an imperfect jogger, but I'm going up that hill anyway!  
     If you would like to see Colleen's video, note there is swearing and a wonderful woman in a shower cap. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Year of Letting Go

     This is my year of letting go.  Last year I tried unsuccessfully to bring balance to my life.  Holding tighter and fighting harder was not enough.  It is finally time to let go instead.  I am afraid.  Holding on gave me a false sense of control, but it kept me from the abyss.  Letting go means I have to face things I have run from for years.  Balance seems insignificant in comparison to my panic writing these words, but fear is one of the things I need to let go.
     To ease the fear of losing control, I will focus on one aspect of letting go each month.  Someone told me that anything you could do for a month would be yours.  January is the month of letting go of my need to say yes.
     This need has been with me for thirty years.  I vividly remember the moment it began.  I was filled with rage at the hand I was dealt.  I was in danger of being the statistic of a murderous teen who kills her family.  After another fight, I stood on the stairs and told myself it was my fault.  If I was only nicer, kinder, better, (you get the idea), they wouldn't have to do this to me.  It gave me a sense of control.  I could stop this.  All I needed to do was become perfect and it would stop.  I became the "perfect" child.  I did anything and everything for everyone in hopes it would finally be enough.
     But what helps us survive keeps us from thriving when we no longer need to survive.  After twenty years my body finally revolted.  I got Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  It wasn't enough to change me.  On bad days, I worked just as hard so no one could say I used my illness as an excuse.  On good days, I worked twice as hard because it was such a relief to be able to feel semi-normal for a change.  I cheated my family.  There were so many things I gave up with them so I could show everyone else how great I was doing.  I knew they would love me anyway and they did.  I did a lot of damage to them that I need to repair now.
     As the new year begins, I will stop saying yes to everything.  I will leave space in my life for the people and causes that truly matter to me.  I'll have lots of anxiety and guilt and fear as I begin, but that's okay.  I have a whole year to practice letting go of those things, too.