three life changing words

Lately I’ve been thinking about my “shitty roommate”.  This is my personal inner voice—she makes me doubt myself all the time.  She puts those snarky thoughts in my head that I’m “not good enough”, “not reaching my potential” or “if only you were more like…”.

Shame is the inner language of self-attack and self-blame AND shame is my shitty roommate’s jam.

Instead of trying to kick her out (which is exhausting and nearly impossible), I’ve decided to get more curious about her…even love her up a bit. Yes, she’s manipulative AND she also has pushed me.  We’re really quite competitive.  When she has my ear, she’s granted me the opportunity to self-correct behavior that doesn’t line up with my values, seek forgiveness from those I’ve wronged or offer myself a little grace.

But now, it’s time to change the rules of engagement using one short sentence. 

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The more I say it, the more power it has for all sorts of situations in my life.

When I question her language, my shitty roommate just puts her headphones on and leaves me alone until the next time…and there will always be a next time.  She hates those three words, however, we do seem to be getting along a little better lately.

Seeking Middle Ground

I think our civilization clearly depends upon finding some middle ground.  I know my own family isn’t talking as much because of the polarized political climate.  We may be reaching a tipping point of sorts, at least that’s what it feels like to me.  I’m hopeful that we can shift course.  I believe in the goodness of our shared humanity.

MIDDLE GROUND; a standpoint or area midway between extreme or opposing positions, options, or objectives (Merriam Webster)

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We are living in unprecedented times.  A time of chaotic polarity in our civic lives. The lack of middle ground is causing stress to the many systems we all operate in; family, community, government and work.  My husband and I are trying to hold some middle ground and manage the stress and anxiety in our home.  We’re listening to our children and trying to offer counterpoints to the dizzying array of sound bites & headlines out there fighting for our attention every minute of every day. 

I don’t think I’ve hidden my politics from anyone, however, my moderation might be surprising.  Labels are easier for all of us than asking questions or being curious about the WHY of someone’s beliefs.  We’re ALL guilty of not asking questions and making too many assumptions about others.

I grew up in a very conservative family in the South Dakota.  I have deep knowledge of how political beliefs are shaped from both sides of the political aisle.  My paternal Grandfather, Louis Lillibridge was an intellectual and a moderate—in my estimation anyway.  Grandpa could consider a lot of competing ideasHe studied other religions and ideologies.  He read constantly.  I adored him for many reasons, but mostly I felt heard by him.  Don’t we all want to be heard even if people don’t agree with us?

We can’t really be heard if we aren’t willing to listen too.

My politics were left leaning before I left conservative Sioux Falls College (now the University of Sioux Falls) in 1988.  For my family it was easier to blame my democratic husband who hailed from Massachusetts than to believe I was an outlier.  My first experience out of college was to move to New Zealand and work at a non-denominational Christian Radio Station (Radio Rhema) http://www.rhema.co.nz/.  My friends were from all over the world and it was fascinating.  I actually met the King of Tonga.  I heard stories from so many unique perspectives and experiences.  This time in my life greatly shaped my personal beliefs.  Travel made the world seem quite small in some ways, completely accessible and ready for exploration.

I consider myself proudly American AND a global citizen.  My early travel opportunites had a big affect on my choices.  It eventually led me to Burlington, Vermont, where I’ve lived since New Year’s Day 1990.  Our community is rich with diversity and I feel it’s been quite an education for myself and my family.

My daughters have friends from all over the world (including Muslim kids, many who spent time in refuge camps).  They’ve heard interesting stories since early elementary school from their classmates.  This is simply our family’s circumstance of living in Burlington, Vermont.  I acknowledge that not having contact with people of various nationalities, who dress, speak, and worship differently can make people more fearful.  I do understand this from growing up in rural South Dakota AND I don’t pretend to understand what other people feel about this issue.  I’m only speaking from my own experience.

When I wrote and asked about the opposite of FEAR last week there were so many thoughtful responses; acceptance, curiosity, love, hope, community and Mark P. wrote; “ACTIONABLE FAITH is the opposite of fear.”   I love the idea of actionable faith and that sounds a lot like curiosity to me.

 

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Right now in American life, it’s seems convenient to align ourselves with our political teams and operate in MOB MENTALITY.  Reciting talking points from the side we’ve taken without listening isn’t real dialogue and won’t ever promote deeper understanding. 

The significantly more challenging and intellectually exhausting space is to take a breath, listen to your own thought and those of others and try to find some middle ground.  It’s really uncomfortable to differentiate ourselves and our views when it puts us at odds with our team or the people we care about.  Uncomfortable, but really necessary.

America, our democracy is calling.

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Let’s get curious about each other.

In December I was…

diagnosed with ADHD inattentive presentation.  I’ve suspected this for years, but at this stage in my life it was becoming unmanageable.  As an artist and mother of young kids I naturally had to shift gears constantly just to keep things running in our household.  There were endless ways I could stave off boredom and feed my brain’s insatiable hunger for disruption, distraction and change.

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I could hide my challenges quite easily because the whole universe was operating in a constantly distracted way. The endless buzz in the world rewarded my brain with “quick fixes” and made me believe I was managing just fine.

Then four things collided at roughly the same time

1. My children became more independent and my day to day responsibilities shifted. 

2. My husband, children and friends were telling me that I was leaving out crucial information in my communication AND I was getting defensive about it.

3. I studied positive psychology and the necessity on both a personal and societal level to quit spinning, slow down, reflect and get more focused on how I want to spend my energy and talents.

4. I turned fifty.

I know people joke about the endless diagnoses out there.  I’m a little OCD or that’s my ADHD talking or I can’t get that done because of poor executive function etc.  I was resistant for years because I didn’t want to be off the hook for the behaviors that were affecting my life and those around me.  I did however, need some answers and solutions for help to narrow my focus and allow me to better utilize my skills in both my private and public life.

Now being able to look back at the ways ADHD manifested in my life has provided a certain amount of ease and less shame about my deficits than before.  As a child I was highly adaptive, creative and curious about so many different things.  However, I also was a day dreamer, a poor tester, I rarely followed directions and was often told that I wasn’t working to my potential.  I was always armed with loads of ideas and didn’t follow through on them. I created a narrative around my deficits that I was less than.

I fell asleep during the science portion of my ACT test in high school. I got the minimum score required to go to private schools in South Dakota.  I also dozed off during the ADHD test I recently took with a psychologist.  I think my brain was bored and the competition of it all wasn’t enough motivation for me.  I wasn’t getting any juice so my brain just shut it down.

I recently remembered as a high school kid reading one page of the dictionary before I went to sleep to boost my vocabulary.  When I think of this now I believe I was trying to find ways to boost how my intelligence presented to others because it was less quantifiable than my siblings and my peers.  The really smart kids wanted to be friends with me, but my grades were very average unless I loved the subject. Then I could focus.  Thank you English and creative writing.

My husband remembered that my Dad told him when we got married that he would have to help me with certain things—paying bills, insurance and so on.  My Dad knew on some level that I had some challenges with organization.  I recently found insurance paperwork he had requested in the 1980s for me to sign and send back.  I never did.  I guess he asked me again.

I did all of the stuff I was told to do to quiet my brain and help my focus—manage stress, exercise, meditate, rest and eat well…and yet it just wasn’t quite enough.  I’m taking a low dose of a psychostimulant on the days more focus is required of me.  Now, with greater knowledge about my brain’s chemistry, I have renewed hope and focus about my life.

So, I’m unsure why I need to share this now on such a public forum.  I guess I feel that storytelling is what we need now more than ever in this uncertain world.  I believe that a willingness to be vulnerable and share our stories and fears is very important in 2017.

I don’t want to hide behind this diagnoses.  I really am the only one that needs to understand my brain.  However, if my story helps you share your story than this was well worth my time.  We are all in this together.

Go forth and be bold and share something personal or painful from your story.  That small act of courage could change someone’s life.

 

http://www.adhd-brain.com/adhd-predominantly-inattentive.html

my creative life July-December 2016

July:  I worked on my coursework for my positive psychology class.  I created a handbag out of a friend’s damaged Audi seat.  I was generously given a huge amount of fabric that was just beautiful to work with for the SEABA fashion show coming up.  I read a lot about the psychology of geography—the study of how we behave in relation to our environment. I traveled to South Dakota to visit my family and was lucky enough to get to shoot some photographs at the Burke Stampede Rodeo. Oh, cowboys…

August:  I sketched, sewed, painted and made handbags…a big blitz of work.  Using the company SPOONFLOWER I got photographs printed onto fabric. My daughter, Lucy wore a skirt I made with an abandoned farmhouse photo I shot in South Dakota on it.  I used rust prints Elizabeth Bunsen created with Nebraska license plates to create fabric as well.  Burlington master goldsmith— Jane Frank designed jewelry worn in the show—the pieces were such a beautiful compliment to the clothes. 

September was a blur: The fashion show was entirely consuming the first 10 days of the the month.  I love to be in flow and entirely focused on one thing.  Deadlines are my jam.  However, this year I also needed to create my final project for my Positive Psychology course at the same time . I graduated and got to spend a week at Kripalu in Lenox, Mass with a remarkable bunch of people from all around the world.  Later in the month my husband and I went to the Champlain Valley Classic Car show, taking photos and talking to classic car enthusiasts was just great after being so busy.

October: I turned 50 on the 12th.  I was taken to Martha’s Vineyard by friends.  My husband surprised me by getting my folks, my sister and my brother-in-law to Vermont for a long weekend to celebrate with me.  That was remarkable AND he threw a party complete with my friends putting on a musical review, poetry, singing songs and making me feel so unbelievably grateful for my life.  I took a few of my favorite images ever and layered more photos. Jeff and I dressed as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo for Halloween.

November:  I traveled to Burke, South Dakota.  I took photos of Herrick that made current and former Herrick residents very happy and remarkably nostalgic.  I got to hang out with my great nephew, Liam (oh, and the rest of my clan).  I created digital images of my own planet based on a conversation with my son.  The planet New Vagus is based on the vagus nerve—the power center of our nervous system.  I wrote.  I cried when Leonard Cohen died.

December:  I made leather pendants for gifts.  I kept playing with the image of a South Dakota two-lane road, layering the photo and playing with the visuals of memory.  I created a line of scarves with my images on them.  I will post the link soon if you are interested in ordering one.

January 2017 is off to an interesting start.  I’m cleaning out the basement—sorting through letters, photos, the kids clothes I’ve saved, toys, books and all of the things I can’t believe I now have to deal with.  I’m learning a lot about myself and why things seemed so very important to me.

Turning 50 is an interesting age to take a look back, look ahead, try to stay in the moment and not get too stuck in any one place.

the power of 5%.

I was reminded this morning of how I can be an ALL or NOTHING sort of person in my proclamations.  I LOVE CHANGE.  I love change so much more than the rest of my family and it drives them totally bonkers.  EXAMPLE:  If I could flip the rooms where the kitchen and the living room are I would do that.  I have to satisfy that part of my nature somehow and it’s abundantly clear that I must largely do it on my own. No public proclamations…or at least a helluva lot fewer of them.

I can be a little unrealistic: I WILL NO LONGER eat potato chips, drink beer, read news, use FACEBOOK, watch TV, eat meat or sugar, drive when I can walk, be critical of my kids or my husband, spend money on X…blah, blah, blah.

Thankfully, over the course of the positive psychology program I took through the Wholebeing Institute. I was taught something quite valuable and rather easy to incorporate into my daily life.  The simple trick of five percent.

I can improve 5% of damn near anything in my life…

then I can build on that incremental change.

I will try to exercise 5% more.  I will try to spend 5% less. I will try to eat 5% less sugar.  I will try to watch 5% less TV.  I will try to eat 5% fewer potato chips.  I will try to drink 5% less.  (NOTE:  I’ve discovered a great trick.  My beers are now 1/2 club soda and 1/2 beer.  Bartenders aren’t crazy about this order.  Who cares? It’s half the calories, half the alcohol and it’s much better for staying hydrated.)

SO, the next time you notice something you would like to improve in your life— think about a relatively painless 5% shift and just do it.

This might be all you need to get started on a desired new path.

Good luck!  Let me know what works for you.

NEW VAGUS—my planet.

Yesterday my son asked me, “If you had your own planet, what would it be like, Mom?” Sometimes I rush these kinds of discussions and don’t want to play the game.  But, yesterday thinking about MY OWN PLANET entertained my brain all day. What would it be like? I needed to do something creative and playing with my photographs while thinking about my planet really sparked my imagination, thanks Ellis. The images I created are a very different direction for me. I finally went to bed at 1am still thinking about my planet.  It’s magnificent. I’ll be working on more images to convey NEW VAGUS…perhaps a recruiting  brochure, a psychological test, a song or a movie…I like options.

It’s called NEW VAGUS after my favorite nerve.  The vagus nerve wanders like a vagabond (I love that).  It’s also the captain of your inner nerve center.  If you get off course, your captain can get you heading back in the right direction.  There are some relatively easy ways to stimulate your vagus nerve. I found this fascinating.  Gargling.  Cold showers.  Prayer.  Deep breathing.  Making some of these things a regular practice can help with inflammation, migraines, anxiety, addiction and so much more.  See link below for more options and information and share broadly.  It might really help someone you love.

How to stimulate your vagus nerve. This is your nerve captain speaking.

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“What happens in the vagus nerve, it turns out, doesn’t stay in the vagus nerve. The longest of the cranial nerves, the vagus nerve is so named because it “wanders” like a vagabond, sending out fibers from your brain stem to your visceral organs. The vagus nerve is literally the captain of your inner nerve center—the parasympathetic nervous system, to be specific. And like a good captain, it does a great job of overseeing a vast range of crucial functions, communicating nerve impulses to every organ in your body. New research has revealed that it may also be the missing link to treating chronic inflammation, and the beginning of an exciting new field of treatment that leaves medications behind.”

http://mentalfloss.com/article/65710/9-nervy-facts-about-vagus-nerve

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Here’s the key to the photos:

Los Angeles
Florence, Italy
Kenmare, Ireland
Packard Plant, Detroit, Michigan
NYC on the High Line
Burke, South Dakota
New Orleans, Louisiana
Cape Cod, Sandwich, Massachusetts
Florence, Italy
NYC near Grand Central Station
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
New Orleans in a cemetery near a famous restaurant I can’t remember the name of.

Sometimes a day can just shift…

even when they start out pretty funky.  That’s what happened to me today.  I’m glad I was paying attention.  I drove to Putney, Vermont to see my son at Landmark College.  As the parent of 20 and 16-year-olds, I have to stay on my toes and I was this morning…tippy tippy toes, actually.  I headed south from Burlington and made some remarkable stops along the way.  Good golly, Vermont is staggeringly beautiful in October.  WOW!

I stopped at the Red Hen Baking Company in Middlesex, VT for coffee and a cheddar bacon scone. They didn’t have them today—bummer…coffee and reading my book for a while is nice even without a cheddar & bacon scone. I’m reading “A Short Course In Happiness and Loss” by one of my psychology instructors, Maria Sirois.  I graduated with a certificate in Positive Psychology last Friday after finishing a year long certification program through the Wholebeing Institute .  I have that post big project and deadline sense of loss.  I like deadlines.  I guess I’ll have to set some new goals now.

Since, I’ve been home and working mostly alone in my studio for two decades, a certificate in anything actually feels pretty damn good.

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I’m not exactly sure how I took this picture, but it captures a moment for me anyway. I had the windows down and the music blasting because, even after coffee, I was still sleepy. The air was heavy and dark.  After I saw my son I was heading North on I91 and I missed my exit.  The sun was now shining and I was hungry, so I decided to explore White River Junction, Vermont.  I’ve driven by this town for 26 years and never stopped.  It’s so awesome.  I think we all must explore a lot often.  Our hearts and brains depend upon exploration  My whole day shifted by stopping in this funky Vermont town.

I parked downtown and ate lunch at Tuckerbox, a Turkish restaurant.  I had a meze platter—haydari, hummus, babaganoush, Turkish salsa, stuffed grape leaves. YUM!

Then I just decided to take a walk around town before I headed back to Burlington. I bought a vintage denim shirt at REVOLUTIONlevis-vintage-repro-shorthorn-denim-shirts-made-in-usa-lvc-western-big-e-jac-s-24ffc2d9d39176ea14f6d1acbe048905  One can’t have too many of those…right?

Then I walked around the block back to my truck and this is what I came upon…let’s review.  1. I miss my exit. 2. Great Lunch. 3. Cool denim shirt.

4. Then these pedals were all over the steps and sidewalk.  Who doesn’t need a little MAGIC in their day?

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I was floored…it was so amazing to come around the corner of the street and witness this. I was so wiped out.  I  was gone all of last week at school and I really needed to be home, but I would’ve missed those pedals.  Thank you VALLEY FLOWER COMPANYYou have no idea how much you made my day.  Yes, there’s still more…

So I paused for a minute to just take in the pedals on the sidewalk.  I took about 11 steps and there was this interesting little jewelry gallery called SCAVENGER.  I popped in and the work is right up my alley.  One of the artists makes casts out of bugs, twigs, flowers, sea urchins…gorgeous, organic shapes.  I bought myself an early birthday present.  I even had it wrapped, so I don’t have a picture and I can’t open it until next week.  It’s a persimmon flower, very cool shape, greenish, bronzy, patina…her work made me feel like I had uncovered the bracelet on an archeological dig.  I’m now a big fan of Stacy Hopkins.  Nice people helped me make my choose the piece of jewelry I purchased as well.  Yes, really.  I felt like I was on a movie set.

Then I headed north—smiling from my adventures…listening to Aretha Franklin really loud and singing along.  It poured for a while.  I LOVE RAIN.  Then it cleared off and the color was just staggering…Aretha and I kept singing and heading north to HOME.

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White River Junction, you have a new fan!