The Back To School Nightmare

The season is here again.
Time to head back to school.
But wait!
I graduated from high school 50 years ago.

And so why am I still having nightmares about school?

The Back To School Dream

I’m in school, taking multiple classes. It’s college, not high school and it feels like that first semester when I didn’t understand how to schedule the right number of credits and I feel as though I have taken too many. This reminds me of what really happened to me. I didn’t understand that I could drop a class so instead I work on getting the assignments done for all the other classes and I simply stop going to the last one. I understand I will fail this class.

But Now It’s Exam Time

There are required papers/projects to be completed. One project just simply doesn’t have me worried, so I put it off. Another project is a paper. I’ve been working on it here and there for awhile but now it’s crunch time and I can’t find the work anywhere. Somehow, I’ve misplaced it. Now, I panic. Spinning in circles trying to decide whether I should work on the “no brainer” and get it done or keep looking for the lost one. I start to talk to myself: “Don’t worry. You did it once. It will be easy to pull it back together again. Just start it over.” But, I keep searching. Where is it? Where could I have left it? Time is running out! And then I’m talking again, this time berating myself: “This is so embarrassing, I know I failed once class straight up and now this! I feel so stupid!

And Then I Wake Up!

I’m initially still beating myself up but then the fog lifts and I realize that I had just been dreaming. I am no longer in school, taking any kind of class. I have no assignments. There is nothing to fail fail anymore.

So Why Do I Have This Dream Over And Over Again?

What does it mean? Is there supposed to be some kind of message for me?

Here’s What I Think

This is a metaphor for my life. Each class represents an oportunity that I’ve been given some time in my life; lessons maybe that I was supposed to learn. And now, it’s time to be tested. How did I do with the opportunities given to me? Did I take advantage of each, did I learn from them, or did I disregard some thinking that I had plenty of time to revisit it?

How many opportunities did I see as so simple that I could give it just a little focus later, no problem – only to run out of time to do it at all?

How many opportunities do I put some effort in to but get distracted, lose focus, and then struggle to figure out where I left off losing time trying to put past work back together again?

If This Is Not Life, I Don’t Know What Is

So there you have it. Your life is a not-stop school experience. We are presented with many opportunities to learn and we make choices. We choose throughout our life to focus on some and disregard some. We choose to hurry through some and let some wait thinking there will always be time.

And Then The Day Comes

The assignments are due! Your opportunities have come to an end. It’s time to present your work to a higher power.

What did you accomplish? Oh gosh,, where did the time go? Did I give it everything I had or did I squander my time? Am I proud of my efforts or embarrassed?

Life – Education Education – Life

Don’t wait until the day that all assignments are due to suddenly realize that you missed out.

Opportunities – Choices Choice – Opportunities

So no matter how old you are, WELCOME BACK TO SCHOOL. You’re not done until all assignments have been called in.

The Power of Our Past

I find myself, today, struggling to clear an emotional event from my mind.  Writing helps. Always helps me to sort fact from fiction, emotion from reality.  So I start, actually started two days ago, to write in my journal detailing the entire event. Still, at this moment, I have yet to clear it.

In A State Of Learning

My times of struggle are my greatest learning moments.  When I am happy, my mind rests.  It’s when I struggle with something that I go in search of answers or, better yet, I am more open to hearing new information that may have always been right in front of me.  And so it is with this.

It came across as a random Facebook article.  Most times, I mindlessly scroll right on by these but for some reason on this day, this one caught my eye:  “People-pleasing can be a result of trauma.  It’s called “fawning” – here’s how to recognize it.”

(http://pete-walker.com/fourFs_TraumaTypologyComplexPTSD.htm)

I saw the term and it’s definition and immediately recognized it.  THAT’S ME!

This term has been added to the familiar “Fight, Flight, Freeze” responses that we’ve heard about as our brain’s reaction to signals of danger. I’d never seen the addition of the term “Fawning” – a behavior that prompts a person to be a “people-pleaser”.

“People pleasers are often really warm, encouraging and generous people.  They tend to overextend themselves saying “yes” to everything and everyone, eager to make those they care about happy and comfortable.” 

The author continued by explaining that this tendency usually comes from a childhood that was heavily controlling and the child internalized the idea that if you were perfectly good or well-behaved it would minimize conflict and secure love.

Unexpected Memories

Just this past week, I was walking in a woods, a place I dearly love because of its serenity.  As I’m walking the trail, I come upon a family (mom, dad, little girl in a stroller). The mom was lighting a cigarette.  The little girl was crying.  My first thought was that I felt bad that this little girl, secured in the stroller, was going to catch all the smoke right in her face.  But it’s what the dad said that sent my thoughts tumbling back to my childhood.  He was agitated and said “Stop whining!” to the little girl.  But instead of immediately stopping, the little girl cried harder.  Then the man yelled, “STOP CRYING!  WHY DO YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO WRECK EVERYTHING?”  

And as I quietly passed them, my mind was pleading with God.  “Please help this little girl stop crying because if she doesn’t something bad will happen to her.

And with that, my meditative walk in the woods was over.  I had returned to thoughts of my childhood.   Over the years, I have worked hard to release the emotions that are attached to those years.  I write and write and write. I’ve come to place of understanding and forgiveness but still I can’t let go of the fear; that feeling of needing to please because if I don’t I will be hurt.

People Pleaser – The Upside

This habit of mine can be traced back through my career as a teacher, principal, and director of instruction.  Yes, I had a very successful career.  It worked to my benefit to be this people pleasing person.  What few ever knew was the gut wrenching fear that filled me when I would have to deal with a conflict.  More than anything, I wanted people to get along.  I worked nonstop to build a culture of teamwork and collaboration.  Most of the staff thrived in this environment.  Still there were some who seemed more inclined to want to battle.  Those people did not see me as a strong leader. They often took me down emotional paths that had me battling with myself because I simply could not please everyone. It was through these experiences that I found strength inside me to dig through to my values and use those to guide me.  

Still, I never worked harder in my life.  So many people clambering for my support. I worked nonstop, day and night to keep the boat sailing smoothly through so many storms.  In the end, I think I kept the boat upright.  I was proud of myself and my career.

People Pleaser – The Downside

Then there is the other side that happens to a people pleaser.  I’ve been married twice.  Both ended because I couldn’t take it anymore.  I’d try to use my people pleaser skills and found myself being used over and over again.  In a close relationship, like a marriage, that feeling of being used builds and builds.  So I may have been drawn to  relationships that were controlling and I may have been easily “gaslit” wanting to believe their versions of values  and  beliefs over my own.  In both cases, though, it all became too overwhelming and I felt emotionally abused and needed to free myself.

While it’s enormous to end a marriage, I think back on my life and I can remember this happening with people I called friends and with family members as well. While the relationship was fantastic as long as I was following their lead, supporting their lives, it dissolved the minute I tried to turn some attention to me.  They’d disappear or  worse, become angry because I wasn’t doing enough for them.

And this is where the drama erupted recently.

I come from a family of six children.  I am smack-dab in the middle, #4.  I was told my whole life that I was a difficult baby and that my mother treated me “poorly” because of this behavior.  That’s the trauma I carry from my past.  But because both our parents died relatively early in our lives, we have been forced to navigate a brother/sister relationship as adults without a cord tying us together.  Traditional holiday get togethers were the first thing to disappear.  Our lives became separate journeys for the most part. We are now forced to interact when one of us is sick or dying. My people pleaser instincts have put me in the middle now twice. While I want to avoid any type of conflict, I find my willingness to speak the wishes of one sibling to put me in the direct line of fire.  With this last event, I was the one accused of being “controlling”.  I was the one told to “STOP IT”.

And so, while my instincts are to be helpful to avoid conflict and  negative emotions, I am over and over again  re-traumatized. 

And So, I Will Always Choose To Go Last

I had a dream last night that after working hard to get everything ready for someone’s party, I realized that I had not thought ahead to choose what I was going to wear.  While I’m finally able to get myself ready, guests start arriving.  I scramble to piece together something old.  All the while I’m interrupted by people entering my space.  I couldn’t take care of me because of all of them and I missed the party.

This type of thing has happened to me often.  One memory is the day one of my daughters got married.  There ended up being no time for me to have my hair or make-up done in the salon but I was quick to reassure my daughter “No problem.  Don’t worry.”

But that’s always the way it is.

I wait until last. I make limited plans of my own and willingly break them or reschedule if I’m asked to do something else.  And I wait for others to choose vacation plans, destinations, restaurants, movies…  I go along to get along.

So you can understand my surprise when I am called “controlling!”  

What? How can that be? How can a person who has spent her life wanting to make others happy is all of sudden accused of wanting everything to go my way?  My first husband said that I always wanted to be the queen!  Some teachers thought I manipulated everything, and now my own sister thinks I am purposefully keeping her from having a relationship with our brother.

Well, it happens like this.  

Sometimes I get backed into a corner where I willingly carry out the wishes of one and then take responsibility to convey those wishes to the other.  The other disagrees.  I try to defend the wishes of the one and in so doing it’s me who is seen as controlling.

But then there’s this – In order to maintain peace among people, a people pleaser has to control the circumstances.  So maybe I am controlling…Hmmm.

The Power of Our Memories To Make Or Break Us

From a person who has spent her life trying to please others, the biggest battle I ever fight is the one going on in my own head.  To please one person means to disappoint, even anger, another.  When that angry person attacks, I spend days in my head trying to battle back disappointment in myself.  I know I can’t please everyone so what I think is  “I should have stayed quiet.”  I stepped forward too far.  I’m that little girl in the woods.  I’m being yelled at to “STOP IT.  WHY DO YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO RUIN EVERYTHING?”

While trying to make one person happy, I have taken on too much responsibility and then I’m shot down by someone else saying “Who do you think you are?” And I collapse into that frighted little girl over and over again.

To rise up and try again, I write and I walk in the woods.  I smell beautiful flowers.  I surround myself wit sunshine; positive people, happy thoughts.  I bombard my brain with these things and push back people who seek to bring me down.  As a child, I had no control.  As an adult, I do control…my choices.  So I embrace the “people pleaser” positive attributes of “fawning” and I work hard everyday to avoid people or circumstances that tear me down.

I accept being a people pleaser. I will always place myself last… as long as I am loved by those in front of me. 

Finding My Way Home

I Need Someone To Set This To Music

Finding My Way Home

Every day, it’s something.

Life just pushes you along.

Moments pass so quickly,

like the words of your favorite song.

All along I wonder:

Is this where I’m supposed to be?

Every day brought me closer

to this person I call “me”.

(Chorus)                                                                                                                                                All our life’s a journey;

paths you choose alone.

Step by step move forward

until you find your home.

 

Each path is so different.

You’re hoping it’s the one.

Yet each time there’s something

that says “No, you’re still not done.

Keep moving forward.

I know it’s hard on you

But hold on, you’ll get there.

Then, you’ll know just what to do.”

(Chorus)                                                                                                                                                All our life’s a journey;

paths you choose alone.

Step by step keep moving

until you find your home.

 

Well all at once it happens.

There’s a vision I can see.

Everything I cherish

is right in front of me.

I can see flowers blooming.

Birds are singing their sweet song.

Someone out there listened

and put me right where I belong.

And when this moment happens,

all the doors seem to open wide.

“This is your home,” it’s calling.

Go ahead. Step inside.”

“Oh the journey’s not quite over.

There’s still lots for you to do

But trust me, this is the moment

that’s been waiting here for you.

(Chorus)                                                                                                                                                  All our life’s a journey;

you’ve never been alone.

Every step you’ve taken

put you right where you belong.

All our life’s a journey;

you’ve never been alone.

Every step you’ve taken

put you right where you belong.

Words – That Make Up A Life

There’s a book in me, waiting to be written; one book. Probably, everyone has one book. I’m thinking that maybe we all have an obligation to write it down. We, each, have a right to say our words, record our thoughts, share our life with the world. Everyone, everywhere has a story. I’m going to tell mine. I need to tell mine. Something inside me, all around me is telling me to say these words. 

It’s time. 

Stop making excuses. Get the words down. What’s stopping you? Fear? Haven’t we talked about this? Don’t you know that fear just holds you back? Just write! Write like there really is no tomorrow. Tell your kids all the words you want to share, just in case. Tell your friends what they meant to you. Tell your ex-husbands (living and passed) that they played such an important role in your life. Tell your parents, even though they are long gone, that you forgive them, that you understand now. Tell the world your words. One book.  Just one book.  But you need to write it.  It won’t write itself!

Ok, so here we go again. It seems like I’ve tried to start so many times. Once, I even got so far into it that I did a little research on how to publish. That was the last time, actually, but every time something happens that makes me close the file; save it…but stop.

Words. They are just words.  And I tell myself that my words are not so special. My words are no more important than another person’s words so why do I think that my words should be printed and bound for others to see? Why do I believe someone would  actually read it? Why?

I’m going to tell you why.

Guided Memories

Over the past several years, I feel that my reflections have seemed guided. I have written about my life experiences and then, through the act of writing, I have gained new insights, seen my thoughts play out a different way. Heard a voice…come from somewhere; inside my head. 

And with the help of that voice, anger turned to understanding. Frustration became moments to remind myself to just breathe and go with the flow. And joy…joy has become delicious…savored because all too soon, as I have learned with anger and frustration; it, too, passes.

I have learned that I can not expect life to go the way I plan. In fact, that is the one thing I can count on. If I don’t expect things to happen, than I am not so disappointed in some results, or afraid of what might happen.  Instead, I am far more excited about the unexpected gifts.

It’s been the act of writing that has become my meditation, my muse. Words flow into my thoughts as I write. Sometimes, these thoughts seem to be coming from someone other than me. How else can I explain what happened when my anger towards the relationship I had with my mother turned into an “aha” moment of understanding and compassion? How else can I explain the fact that I found life lessons inside every hurtful memory of two failed marriages? And how else can I explain how painful it was to have my daughter and her family move so far away but, somehow, through writing and long meditative walks in a woods, I found the strength to become her strength again.

Writing. Every day. Three pages. Hand written.  That’s what it is now, but in the beginning, it was simply tapping away on a computer; writing what flowed from my brain onto the page. And then, pausing every once in awhile to look out the window or stroll through the woods to see the beauty of life and to breathe.

So, my plan, now, is to share my thoughts, my life, my words with others. I know that they’re just my words. I know that everyone has their own words. But maybe, just maybe, if I write mine, others will see their words as well. And maybe, just maybe, others will be able to take a break from their anger or frustration, anxiety, or sadness, to stroll to a window, or take a walk in the woods to see the beauty in their life, too. 

This time, I will start at the woods and work my way backwards. This time, I will start at that window. And I will share the words that filled my head, the words that guided me, step by step, to today.  I’m going to try, day by day, to share this view of life.  There’s something in me right now that believes that now is the time.

So, hang on.  More is on the way! 

 

“Let Go. Let God”

These words pop into my head every single time I find myself in one of those places where I feel as though there is nothing more I can do.

I am a strong person.  I try to take care of myself.  But sometimes…

It’s Not Up To Me

Sometimes, there are no clear answers, no clear path.  It’s at this moment when I take my hands off the steering wheel.   You know the song “Jesus Take The Wheel“.  Well that’s where I’m at right now. And, I know that I could have done this earlier.  I don’t need to try to control everything so much.  Things will turn out the way they are supposed to turn out.

No Dammit!

I don’t believe that God intended for us to just lay back, throughout life, just waiting for divine intervention.  We have a job to do.  We have choices to make.  This life is crafted by our choices. And so I have a choice right now but here’s the deal…my moves over the next few days are controlled by another.  They’ve been controlled by another for a few weeks now…because I made a choice!  Isn’t that interesting?  How many times do we give our freedom to someone else to hold and then lament our lack of freedom, throwing our arms up in the air saying “There’s nothing I can do about it. It’s out of my control.”

NO DAMMIT! I always have a choice!

But Right Now, I Can’t Breathe

Right now, right at this moment, my stomach hurts.  I have no words to form into a cohesive choice. Right now, I just need to close my eyes and let it go.

I need your help on this one God.  I need your help. Show me the way.  Give me the words to say. Help me make this choice.

And Before You Know It…

I will find myself on the other side.  I will have survived!  I didn’t die!  I’ll be reflecting back at it all and thinking…everything turned out just the way it was supposed to.

God, you’re good at this.  Thank you!

The Stress Of Moving

Dr. Wayne Dyer, in his book “I Can See Clearly Now” wrote about ending each day by thinking about all the positive things that happened during that day instead of leaving the day with anger or frustration.  He called it “Now I lay me down to sleep”.  He talked about how if we fall to sleep thinking about everything that went wrong with the day, it negatively affects our sleep. So then it’s logical that if our thoughts are the opposite – all the good things that happened during the day – then we can enter into sleep with a positive sense of peace and then it’s peaceful thoughts that fill our dreams.

The Stress Of Moving

Develop A Plan

You know, I’m a teacher at heart.  I like having a lesson plan.  So, when I entered into buying a house I had a plan.  And, everything was going according to that plan.  Then, I actually was able to move up the closing date which gave me extra time to make the house just perfect before I moved.  So, I set in on arranging to have the walls painted, the floors refinished, and electrical work done with time to spare so that I could actually move some things in early.

Gather Necessary Resources

And in the beginning, everything was on track.  I have a niece who agreed to paint walls. My daughter’s brother-in-law could fit me in to do the electrical work and I found someone who not only agreed to refinish the floors  but also offered to install a pocket door over a pantry and add a closet at the front entrance.  I was so excited that I came straight from the closing and started pulling up carpet.

I gathered packing boxes and did research on the cost of my top priority items.  I then laid out a time table with the amount of time I had available, bought the paint, ordered the pocket door and scheduled it for pick up and kept working on that carpet.  My hands and arms ached from pulling staples but I didn’t want anything to slow down all these great people who had so willingly found time in their schedules to fit me in.

Thrilled is an understatement.

Carry Out The Plan

I’ve been packing for a month, here and there.  I like to take my time with things; clean things up, get rid of things, sort things into the right box so unpacking will be easy. And, I take care of grandchildren so I can’t pack nonstop.  I like it paced out slow and easy.

Each of my “sub-contractors” checked in with dates and times when they would arrive to begin their work.

My plan was humming along.

Be Flexible

Now I’m going to tell you that not everything always goes according to plan.  Every teacher knows that and adjusts. Still, it’s hard not to get frustrated and anxious.  Will everything get done on time?  Not everything is getting done as fast as promised. My time to get some things in ahead of time is running out. Still I keep moving forward.  Time to order the refrigerator and microwave.  This is exciting.  It can be delivered on Saturday.  Can I be there on Saturday?  Absolutely!

Be Gentle With Yourself And Others

Saturday comes.  The kitchen is in disarray.  The stove had to be moved out of the way.  It was sitting in the middle of the floor. Chunks of drywall and wood needed to be bagged and pulled out of the way from the pocket door work. The wall where the refrigerator will go needed to be painted.  The floor needed to be cleaned. I didn’t have the microwave there early enough to have it installed by the electrician. He had everything else done.  I should have ordered it sooner.

My niece came to paint the wall even though there was an impending weather event.  She got as much of the kitchen painted as she could before I forced her to leave before the roads got bad.

The refrigerator was delivered…damaged.  They didn’t even take it off the truck.  The microwave that I ordered is too big for the space.  It needs to be returned as well.

The pocket door is half done, the floor refinishing is waiting, the front closet is waiting, and I still have more staples to pull!

I looked around at everything disheartened and so I just turned and left.

End The Day With Positive Thoughts

“Now I lay me down to sleep.”  Let’s see.  How can I end today on a positive note?  Easy.

Dear God,

I want to thank you for Rhonda (the painter).  Do you know she came today even though she knew the roads could get bad early.  She came because she had promised. Then when she left, she even loaded her car with excess carpet remnants to free up space in the garage.

Then there is all that electrical work.  Rick (the electrician) had someone cancel this past week so he was able to come both Tuesday and Thursday.  He has taken special care to make sure my house will have the right outlets.  No more extension cords. The outlet is ready for the microwave when I get the right one. He even said that he would come back next week to add an additional outlet on a wall in my new office just so I can add the right kind of light next to a chair.

Earlier in the day, I got to attend a music class with my grand-daughters.  It is the best hour of each Saturday.  Happy little kids.  Proud parents and grandparents.  It always leaves me feeling blessed.

And then, when I locked up the house for the day, I drove to Best Buy where I had ordered the refrigerator and microwave.  I asked to talk to a supervisor (a suggestion from my daughter).  I told him the whole story – the refrigerator came damaged, the microwave was too big… He could hear my frustration.  He said, “Let’s start at the beginning.  Let’s talk about the microwave.”  So I said that I clearly ordered the wrong size.  It will look gigantic over the stove and hang way too low.  He then broke into this little smile and said “You know we have this new microwave design.  I haven’t even put it out on the shelf yet.  It’s that new.”  It’s 10 inches shorter than the other one and will fit fantastically in my kitchen.  Then he said that we would have to reorder the refrigerator and make things right (with the price) because of my inconvenience. I left pleased.

After thinking through all the positive things that happened over the past days, I fell asleep at peace.

And I Slept Like A Baby

Is everything going smoothly and perfect.  No. But, there are lots of things that are going well. Regardless, in thirteen days I will be moving in.  Ready or not, here I come. And I am going to trust that everything will actually get done on time…maybe with a little time to spare!

No Pictures Yet! No One Needs To See Chaos 🙂

 

Finding My Way Home

It’s Taken A Lifetime

I bought a house this week.

IMG_6668

It’s not the first time I’ve owned a house but it is the first house I have owned alone.  I don/t think I was ready to own a house alone … until now.

Now the reality of that hit me the morning after.  It snowed over night and while I was sitting, leisurely writing in my journal, all of a sudden my brain exploded with this thought –

Oh Shit, I own a driveway!

Luckily, the sun took care of the snow this time.

In the past, I bought a house with someone else.  I didn’t feel the weight of all the details like I feel them now.  And, it occurred to me, as I was going through each step towards this purchase, that I feel like I kind of know what I’m doing.  All the times before, maybe I was being prepared to do it this time alone.

This Calls for a Celebration

Along the way, people  really did want to help.  Still, I felt as though this was a “Do I, don’t I?” moment that belonged to me alone.  When I made the decision, it became simple…just take one step at a time. And, just like that, one step after another, there I was driving away from the closing with keys in my hand. And there was that feeling again:  I realized that I had just completed this process by myself – no realtor, no one sitting next to me while I signed that two inches worth of paperwork. How many times did I sign my name?  I lost count. By the end of it all, my hand was shaking. But it was my name, just my name.

Then I was ready to share the moment with someone.  So I drove to my new home.  I parked the car in my driveway and then I walked next door…to my daughter’s house!  She was ready to celebrate with me.

Cheers, Grandma

IMG_6772

Champagne for me.  Orange juice for the grand baby.

We had a moment.

A woman to woman moment.

We can do anything we put our mind to, little girl.

Anything!

 

But Now It’s Time To Get To Work

Ok, so while I got a little help with that snowfall, there are more projects that I have to tackle before I actually move in.  I have a window of time and it was my daughters who both said that I’d regret it if I didn’t get the floors refinished prior to moving in. They’re right.  The floors are beautiful hardwood floors, downstairs and upstairs but the upstairs had been covered with carpet.  I’ve never pulled up carpet before but I did find someone who can refinish before my move in date as long as I get that carpet up. So, armed with a new sharp razor, I set to work.

IMG_6774

I mean, how hard can it be to cut carpet, roll it up and sweep the floors afterward?

My first clue should have been the guy at the hardware store who said that pulling up carpet was one of the worst jobs he’s ever had to do.

Well, let’s just say that I earned my first blister from this job but, after two days, I am nearly done with my first homeowner job.

Here’s what I learned from this task:

  1. carpet holds a ton of dirt
  2. good sharp razors are necessary
  3. get a good staple puller
  4. you will also need  a small crowbar to get under the tack strip and to remove the nails.
  5. and buy a pair of gloves!!!

So far, I have removed two rooms of carpet and feel like a bit of an expert as I round the corner on room number three.

Luckily, it won’t be long and I will be turning the baton over to experts to sand the floors and paint the walls. I’m sore and tired and it’s only been two days.  This is going to be some adventure.

Stay tuned.