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.

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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. 

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! 

 

It’s A Mental Health Issue!

Yes it is!

I started this blog two years ago! The issue was the same, just different victims. I never published it.  Too many other opinions out there.  The story gets old.  Nobody listens to the other side anyway.

So two years later, here we are again.  Many times in between, there have been mass shootings: the latest in a high school, seventeen people killed.  Now we have a different president and Republicans control the House and Senate. After the last shooting they said “Now is not the time to talk about gun regulations.” Ok.  We don’t want some kind of “knee jerk reaction” to this latest blood bath. Instead, the president says that we have a “serious mental illness issue”.

This is what I wrote two years ago:  I’m so tired of hearing about it;  the fear, the anger, the belief that our rights are being violated.  I’m tired of reading headlines that accuse anyone who tries to curb the use of guns as being some kind of anti-God.

Who are we, as a people?  Who are we that we believe that holding a gun makes us stronger? And we blast anyone who tries to claim otherwise.  You are wanting to protect yourself and your family.  I get that!  Don’t we all?  Why is it that owning a gun seems to be your only answer?

Call me naive.  I was an elementary school principal.  I worked hard to protect the people in my building, every day.  Nearly every day, I dealt with an angry parent, or student, or teacher.  I worked to de-escalate the anger.  I never, ever felt the need for a gun to do that. Yet, recently, I had lunch with an old acquaintance who is working with an elementary school to arm at least one person in each hallway. What?  He wants to protect the children from another potential Sandy Hook massacre.  I get that!  But…the argument that more guns will make us all safer just has me shaking.

I don’t want to walk into an elementary school (or any place for that matter) and wonder who all has a gun and whether they’re sane enough to be carrying it.  I don’t want to worry every single time someone gets agitated that they’re going to pull out their pistol to resolve the dispute.  This acquaintance said “Oh no, people would be trained on how and when to use their gun.”  Well, where is that law right now?  We can’t even accept the idea of a background check without feeling somehow violated.

Headlines, this morning, indicate that President Obama has, single handedly, increased gun sales.  Why is that?  Are we afraid we wouldn’t pass a background check?  I’m not stupid.  I watch the news everyday.  I see the number of news stories related to gun violence.  I know that guns are, right now, in the hands of people who should not have a gun.  I also know that laws are no guarantee that people will not find a way to break them.  But to think that we shouldn’t have a law because someone is sure to break it seems like the lamest form of reasoning I’ve ever heard.  We should all want our government to work to protect us.  We have accepted laws related to driver’s licenses, speed limits, legal age to drink alcohol.  Why is no one screaming about this as some kind of violation of our freedoms?  And, why aren’t we screaming out that these laws are just useless because there are people who drive without a license, speed down the highway, and drink illegally?  Yet, we, somehow believe that by instituting background checks on gun ownership is the first step down a slippery slope to taking away our 2nd amendment right to bear arms. What?

Now, with this latest carnage, the outcry is to at least make the sale of assault weapons illegal.  Can we at least get the semi-automatic guns off the streets?  Last summer, one person turned his semi-automatic guns into rapid fire automatic guns with something called a bump stock. This guy was able to kill over 50 people from a hotel window.  Legislation was proposed to at least stop the sale of the bump stock to limit the ability to make fully automatic weapons.  This legislation hasn’t been passed yet.  Now, the latest shooter was 19 years old.  He had been visited many times by police, had been seen shooting guns randomly outside his back door, had been expelled from high school, was being seen regularly by psych teams but was still able to LEGALLY buy weapons! What?

And so we then blame the FBI for not following up on a tip instead of blaming our weak systems and our overt protection of the second amendment.

What is happening to us?  What is happening to this country? I, for one, believe it’s true. Our mental health needs to be checked at the door.

Finding Inspiration In A Rock

Working still on trying to find my way. I’m now reading JULIA Cameron’s newer books: It’s Never Too Late To Begin Again and Walking In The World. Both are inspiring me, again, to keep moving. Just keep moving!

Begin Again

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I Am A Rock

For a few years, now, I’ve been on  a journey to “find myself”.  I know, people used to think that’s something for the young and foolish but when I was young, I didn’t have the time to find myself.  Now, I do.

So, currently, I am engrossed in a book entitled “The Artist’s Way – A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity“, by Julia Cameron.  I am actively participating in multiple, suggested exercises, feeding my brain with positive affirmations, unblocking negative thoughts and fears – things that block creativity.

One of many, simple activities was to go on a rock hunt. Search for rocks that stand out  for some reason.  She said that they were, then, to serve as “small constant reminders of creative consciousness”. That’s all… Hmmm. Ok.

So, off I went to find rocks that spoke to me. I walked and walked, looking for the…

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Let Your Light Shine

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Everyone has the ability to reflect light. It’s a choice. So I choose the light!

 Surrounding me, forever, have been harbingers of doom and gloom. I admit, there is plenty of bad, in the world, to keep the flow of negativity going but while others share posts intended to incite anger, hatred, and frustration, I choose to give something that might allow a moment of quiet, calm, peace.

I started this blog two years ago and at the time I was living in a small apartment that butted up to a nature preserve.  It was there that I found peace.   I would walk the trails, allowing my eyes to wander from tree to flower and more, simply waiting for something to catch my eye. When it did, I’d stop and linger with the camera snapping frame after frame, zooming in to capture the intricacy of its beauty.

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These were taken in the summer time. There is something about flowers that soothe a restless heart.  I read somewhere that flowers don’t try to compete to be the best flower in the garden. They just bloom!  So, I surround myself with as many flowers as I can and, today, I choose to just bloom!

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You can too.

It’s a choice!

Time To Fall Up!

I wrote this post a year ago.  It still sits on a sidebar on my computer.  For some reason, I opened it today to reread it and I think that this was more than just a coincidence.  Over our lifetime…

Source: Time To Fall Up!