How Are You?

“How are you, Robin?”

“I’m fine,” I say.

Translation: Feelings Inside Not Expressed

Each time my family moved (4 elementary schools, 1 junior high, 2 high schools), I knew my mom needed me (oldest of 3) to be fine.  And I was the good kid, the responsible kid, the one who was fine.  I perfected being fine.  And I’m still good at it.

I’m good at figuring out how to fit in.  I notice things like what kind of clothes a group wears (Saturday morning women’s group–jeans, yoga pants, ponytails, not much makeup) and how they act and talk to each other. My last high school was in Raleigh, NC.  Kids there grew up saying “yes, ma’am” and “no, sir.”  I did not.  The first time I answered a teacher with “yeah” I swear I heard gasps. I learned, once again.  Much, much later, I learned this noticing thing has a name–hypervigilance (here’s an explanation).  It’s not a symptom of mental health.

“How are you, Robin?”

“I’m ok,” I say.

Translation: I’m kind of surprised to be all right because some hard stuff has been happening in my life and I’ve been focused on doing what I can to be centered and in balance. I don’t realize I’m ok until you ask how I am. So thank you for asking!

“How are you, Robin?”

“I’m not ok,” I say.

Translation:  I really trust you.

My animal symbol is Turtle.  I don’t come out of my protective shell easily.  I learned early to hide myself emotionally. I needed to be fine.  I read this recently: “feeling was a luxury I didn’t think I could afford.” (Nancy Slonim Aronie) Yeah, me, too.  When I was 40 years old, a therapist gave me a list of “feeling words”  (here’s a long list) because I only knew a couple. I’ve been learning about my emotions and how to live in them ever since.

“How are you, Robin?”

“I’m good!” I say.

Translation: The exclamation point says it all.  In this moment, all is well and I am grateful.

(a quote from Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way)

In times of pain, when the future is too terrifying to contemplate and the past too painful to remember, I have learned to pay attention to right now.  The precise moment I was always in was the only safe place for me.

So,

I’m fine” means I am not in the present moment and I do not want to be.

I’m ok” means I am on the edges of the present moment and, for the moment, choosing not to run away.

I’m not ok” means I am smack dab in the middle of the present moment and it’s painful and I’m choosing not to run away, but I wish the pain would go away. And I need a hug.

I’m good!” means I’m smack dab in the middle of the present moment and I’m feeling joy and gratitude and I want it to last forever, but I know it won’t and that’s ok.

And how are you, my friend?

 

Published in: on September 15, 2014 at 2:27 pm  Comments (6)  
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Turtle Pokes Her Head Out

I am an introvert, a Turtle (see “Turtle or Gazelle“), and I’ve been really sad.  This line from the Turtle post sums up where I’ve been:

    Turtle naturally withdraws and goes within

when in turmoil.

It does not need to learn

the importance of this focusing inward,

it naturally knows.

In cancer survivor circles, they talk about Finding Your New Normal.  New Normal comes after a scary diagnosis, falling in love, a death, a birth, a letting go, a child leaving home, a graduation–any life-altering event or moment.

My New Normal includes:

1.  I am the only surviving member of my family of origin.  I used to have a mom and a dad and 2 siblings. (my sister died in 1972).  That’s a lot of memory gone missing.  I still have some questions.

2.  I am really up in my brother’s business and it feels wrong because he was VERY private.  (I’m the executor for his estate.)

3.  I tell people “You better have a will or your family will hate you.”  Yes, my brother had a will and it’s still a pain in the a** to sort out what to do when.  Someone should teach us this stuff at some point.  Thank God for the internet.  And a nice paralegal in Ned Barnes’s office in Carolina Beach..

4.  I am truly grateful for the retired man I live with and am married to, my daughters and sons-in-law, and above all (sorry guys!) my 3 grandchildren.  They stop the sad, at least for a while, and they help me smile and reconnect with what’s real.

5.  I’m not young anymore.  I’m not old yet, but more of my life is behind me than ahead of me.  I want to be aware of every minute I have left–happy, sad, blah, exciting, boring, rainy, sunny, hot, cold or perfect.  Each moment matters.  I guess it always has, but maybe more now.

6.  I read and watch Dr. Oz, the American Ninja competition and Entertainment Tonight instead of drinking, binge-eating, and shopping to temporarily stop my feelings.  Well, sometimes online shopping still acts like it helps, but I’m getting better.  Progress, not perfection, huh?

7.  I think about my brother, Jim, every day.  Partly because there’s stuff I need to do for the estate, partly because his ashes are on the fireplace mantle in the (finished) basement of our house, and partly because I keep remembering I can’t call him because he died.  We probably talked once or twice a month, at best, while he was alive.  I wish it had been more.  So now I feel closer to him than I have for years.  That is sort of confusing.  And why I keep remembering he’s not down at the beach like he’s supposed to be.

8.  Thanksgiving will be hard.  We saw Jim 3-4 times a year.  But he always came for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  He’d drink his Coke Zeros one after the other (he and I both stopped drinking alcohol years ago–bad gene pool.).  He had an amazing caffeine tolerance.  He’d kind of stand back out of the chaos–we were a noisy bunch even before grandchildren–and watch and smile.  We knew he loved us.  And that he liked his not-chaotic, solitary, hardworking life at the beach.  And that was okay.

9.  Jim’s best friend since high school football, Barry, is now my friend, too.  He says Jim was always his quarterback.  Barry was a lineman and his job was to protect Jim.  He is sad, too. We talked on the phone yesterday for an hour and a half.  He told me things I didn’t know about Jim’s past and I told Barry some things, too.  I know my brother better now, thanks to his friends, than I did before he died.  I still love him and I like him even more.

10.  I want to get back to writing amusing or provocative or silly blog posts.  I just had to do this one first.  Thanks for waiting.

(And thank you to the people who have been checking my blog for something new since August 15.  I don’t know who you are, but you are special!)

Published in: on September 11, 2013 at 9:44 am  Comments (8)  
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Life Percolated

I can’t drink real coffee anymore.  I guess.

I’ve percolated a lot of life through my insides.

So much stuffed down there, so much acid.

 

I see the old-timey coffee pots on the gas stoves

in their little kitchens in the Project:

Irene

Betty

and in the bigger kitchens in houses

in Munhall and West Mifflin and Duquesne:

Mary

Margie

Julie

Millie.

So much love, so many women.

 

I just wanted a beer.

There were too many of them

and I didn’t know how to be in their world,

in their houses, in their lives.

Lots of food and always coffee.

 

But mom and dad’s–

cold

decaf

“Turn off the light”

not enough food.

Here I fit in, but I didn’t want to.

 

I wanted to know

how to live

like a grownup,

how to mother,

how to wife,

how to make real coffee in a percolator instead of decaf

in a Mr. Coffee that’s reheated later in the microwave because

we sure can’t pour that cold shit down the drain.

 

35–

I started to learn

from other women who had to learn once upon a time, too:

how to make real coffee in a Mr. Coffee

and that sugar can make feelings bearable

after I learned I had feelings

like anger and joy and fear and love.

But those women thought I was okay.

And they helped me see I could be funny and silly.

 

57–

I don’t drink real coffee anymore.

A while back it made my stomach really hurt

and my doctor described a bleeding ulcer’s risks

and I said OK.  Damn it.  No more coffee.

So then I tried decaf.

It didn’t taste good, any kind.

 

So I tried green tea.

It’s good for me.

Weak-looking,

but strong enough to be good enough.

 

Like me.