window seat

Ever feel “stuck” between stimulus and response or impulse and action? Like you can’t disengage from the thought long enough to change course? Or maybe you feel like auto pilot has already been engaged, and you’re on a certain trajectory, even when you know it’s not the direction you desire to take?

This has been a huge challenge for me. In addition to being a generally flawed member of the human race, I have ADHD. The time I get between stimulus and response can be quite brief. Historically, I’ve been really bad at doing things before I even realize what I’m doing! And then I often get this foreboding feeling I’m forever burdened with whatever poor choice I made and its irrevocable outcome.

When I began therapy in 2021, my therapist encouraged me to journal. I was proud to let her know that I used to “rage journal” on paper for several years, but didn’t find it helpful and ended up burning all the journals.

She gently encouraged me to journal again, anyway. This time, I started a digital journal, on my phone. Once in a while, I have those extended times when I sit and process for what feels like hours. Far more often, though, I tend to micro journal – just get down the little things and thoughts that come up during my day.

I’m reading a book right now called Emotional Agility, by Dr. Susan David. In it, she shares research from Psychologist James Pennebaker. His research clearly shows a link between writing about emotionally charged instances and being able to move forward in healthy ways. In writing, we can develop, over time, the ability to separate the emotion and the impulse from the response. In Susan David’s words,

In the process of writing, they were able to create the distance between the thinker and the thought, the feeler and the feeling, that allowed them to gain a new perspective, unhook, and move forward.

This has become absolutely true for me. It’s like I get to have the window seat, thousands of feet in the air, even as I’m two inches away from the issue.

In addition to journaling, I eventually remembered that I’d started a blog years ago and then abandoned it – this blog. Now I am actively writing again! Blogging has become part of my “reparative practice”. I am noticing a gradual shift in my ability to perceive what I’m feeling, separate myself from it, examine it, seek the source, and then decide how I will respond.

I copied this next part straight out of Dr. David’s book. I’m excited to share it, and hope you find it helpful! There are many websites that also share these same rules, so I think it must be fairly open source information. Who knows, I may be really late to the party per se, but still think they’re worth sharing.

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PENNEBAKER’S WRITING RULES

Set a timer for twenty minutes. Open up your notebook, or create a new document on your computer. When the timer starts, begin writing about your emotional experiences from the past week, month, or year. Don’t worry about punctuation, sloppiness, or coherence. Simply go wherever your mind takes you, curiously and without judgment. Write just for yourself and not for some eventual reader. Do this for a few days. Then, throw the paper away (or stick it in a bottle and cast it out to sea), or close the document without saving it. Or if you’re ready, start a blog or find a literary agent. It doesn’t matter. The point is that those thoughts are now out of you and on the page. You have begun the process of “stepping out” from your experience to gain perspective on it.”

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(I captured the above photo last year on an evening flight out of Atlanta)

Now, as it says every time I begin a new blog,

Start writing…

lesser evil

I don’t know. Does this one need a lot of words? I spotted this truck as I was out today. The duplicity depicted seems near ineffable.

One the one side, objectification (indicative of many other issues) is flaunted and celebrated. On the other, action against the most vulnerable is decried while deadly violence (of the vigilante sort) is touted as the solution.

Is there a “lesser evil” between the two stickers displayed on this person’s back windshield and the messages they convey? And how many other fallacies are being simultaneously committed?

I’m asking. Seriously.

Oh, and where might grace apply, or where would it end, in these scenarios?

sorry / not sorry

I’m in a group of guys who come together through an online forum frequently to share in common challenges and encourage one another. We come from all over the world, and bring varying backgrounds, political affiliations, etc. We also have some very different ways of doing things. It’s great! I appreciate the diversity. I like to be challenged by others’ perspectives and experiences.

Yesterday, a guy in the group – a leader of sorts – shared something with a large number of us that was startling to me – dysregulating even. I was momentarily unsure how to proceed. But then as I regained my integration, I felt the need to follow up with him to share how I experienced it. He was more or less kind about it, telling me “That was not my intention”. And he said “I’m sorry” several times. But what came after those words included “…that effected you the way it did”, “…that was your experience”, and “…it hit you the way it did”.

I’m sorry, but A deflective apology is no apology at all!

Sorry but… sorry that you… sorry if you…

NOPE. Not actual apologies.

I honestly think he means well, but there’s something in him that cannot accept any responsibility for his idea, his choice and the way it affected me. And here’s the deal: If you’re really not sorry, and maybe even kinda proud of it, then can you just own that!? Then we can agree to disagree and move on! But if you are sorry, then a real apology also needs to include owning it. Either way, take personal responsibility. Don’t put it back on the other person! This leaves a sense of ambiguous loss and distrust – which will make for a difficult path forward.

I am reminded of a blog I read some time ago, and went searching for it. I’m glad to share 7 Ways to Ruin an Apology as support for my understanding on what makes a good apology. In my search I also found this scholarly article from Harvard. And I was pretty amused by SorryWatch – a site dedicated entirely to finding and commenting on lousy apologies that take place in a public setting. Pretty Awesome, actually! I got a little lost in that rabbit hole! Wow, people can be so bad at apologies!

Oh, and sorry if this blog offends you in any way…

Just kidding!! I take full responsibility for this post.

I am following up further with this guy. I think he wants to continue a positive relationship with me, so I think it’s worth investing the energy to continue the conversation further. Even if he doesn’t agree, I need to do this for me.

What about you? Ever been the recipient of a shitty apology? What did you do about it?

love

What have you learned in your life about love?

What’s love got to do with it?

That was the line/song that immediately popped into my head when I read the prompt today. I don’t know what that’s telling me, exactly, except that I’m likely feeling rather snarky right now.

What bubbled up next is a passage from 1 Corinthians, verses 4-8:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

What I’m learning is that I don’t know much about love. The more I think I know, the more I realize I don’t know. I’m too selfish to know all that much about love. I’m ignorant, small-minded, just too human. Even when I try to love well, I fail to love fully. When I examine my love against the list above, I am sorely lacking.

What I’ve learned (or rather what I’m learning) is that when it comes to love, I have a lot more to learn.

de-clutter

Where can you reduce clutter in your life?

IN MY HEAD!!!

My wife and I live a fairly minimalist lifestyle. With the exception of a few keepsake type items, if we don’t use it, we don’t keep it. There’s just not a lot of extra. Don’t get me wrong…we have way more than we “need”. But a) I like things to stay clean & neat and b) she has great organizational skills. So, clutter is not an issue for us.

However…my mind…that’s a different story. I have more thoughts and feelings and ideas in there than I know what to do with!

(argh…now I’m bothered that I just ended that sentence with a preposition, and arguing with myself that it still makes more sense than trying to write it out “correctly”)

Most of what’s in there is half-baked, too! I have lived with ADHD my entire life. Coming up with ideas and starting new things is easy for me. Finishing well is not my strong suit – especially when it comes to the ideas in my own grey matter.

I even started this blog many years ago with an idea in mind. And then I stopped, and then I restarted. And the idea is still there, but the execution is…different. If not for these daily prompts, I might not have much to write. Okay, I have plenty I could write. It’s often just too cluttered for me to get there.

And there I go…pretty sure that was a digress. Or maybe not? I don’t know…

rebuilding

Have you ever been in a house that burned down? I’ve been in a couple. When things that normally shouldn’t burn do burn, there’s a certain acrid smell that, once in the nostrils, will be experienced again & again, and all it takes is a thought to recall. Accompanying that specific smell, in the wake of such a fire there’s a palpable feeling of despair. A weighty affliction that makes the heart skip and flutter, the stomach churn, and thoughts misfire as though the mind has become disconnected, disjointed.

We live close enough to such a scene, right now, that when the wind shifts, the scent can evoke all these thoughts and feelings in me.

Heaviness. Sadness. Hopes lost. Anger. Blaming. Grief. Just to name a few.

And these are all appropriate, even necessary emotions when loss is experienced. The idea of rebuilding can be overwhelming. Might even seem “just too much”. But there’s a way. A process. A grief that must take place. And then the rubble must be cleared – which comes at a cost. A physical, literal financial cost, and an emotional one too. All those same heavy emotions will resurface, and recirculate. But then, as progress is made, things will get easier. The foundation is poured. New pipes and plumbing. New electrical, new walls, etc. Maybe some new safety precautions considered and installed. Hope returns. A new start is possible!

I’ve experience a few “fires” in my life that were of an emotional source. They’ve ravaged my home, my health, my wellbeing – and not just mine, but affected my loved ones too. Even now, I’m doing the work of rebuilding. It’s hard, exhausting work. I get tired and want to just coast a while, let the work pause. But there’s no coasting in this sort of a rebuild. The only way to make it happen is to keep working. So, that is what I’m committed to doing. A new start is happening! A more secure future is being built!

“See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.”
Isaiah 43:19

anti-socials

In what ways do you communicate online?

I’m pretty anti-socials.

I was an early adopter of many of the online communication and social media platforms. Over time, I found them draining, divisive, and devoid of any actual redeeming qualities. So I exited all the socials.

I don’t miss them.

Shame

Shame is something I carried unaware for a long time. Now, I’m aware and I am relentless in my pursuit of eliminating it. This blog by writer Deb Mills really resonates with me. The work of Dr. Curt Thompson, whom she references, has been hugely helpful to me in that regard. If I could figure out how to re-blog her post and properly reference it, I would. Since I can’t seem to do that, I’ll just post the link.

Mustard Seed

If you only have enough faith…

Dear self,

Is it possible that your Shame Attendant is telling you that if you “just have enough faith” and “focus fully on God” then you won’t fail again?

Is it also possible that your Shame Attendant is setting you up for failure, because you already feel as though you do not have enough faith and cannot focus fully on God?

When Jesus told his disciples that if they only had the faith of a mustard seed, they could move mountains, do you think he said so in an attempt to shame them into having more faith??

Is there any record of any disciple, ever, moving a mountain? Or a even a pebble, by faith?

No.

Jesus knows we do not have “enough faith”. He knows how much we need HIM. And His body – other travelers on this Path. He was not shaming the disciples for their lack of faith. He does not shame. He knows us, loves us.

A childlike faith is the best we can do.

“Jesus called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 18:2-4