Tag Archives: DBT

Is There a Bigger Picture?

Recently it seems wherever I go there are people having a tough time. Having difficulty making ends meet, finding jobs, paying for all the expenses that somehow creep up at the worst possible times. Struggling with sicknesses, addictions, chronic illnesses like fibromyalgia, deep depression and other mental illnesses.

People are working their asses off at jobs they don’t enjoy, that they aren’t appreciated in or compensated for. Racking up large debts to pay for secondary educations with the foresight that there may not be careers available to them when they graduate.

Parents who are stressed out from all of these things and still need to find a way to hold it together to be the moms and dads their children not only require but also deserve. Losses of jobs and houses, and lifestyles and dreams. Losses of people, expected and unexpected, but felt just the same.

Religious arguments and politics. Social injustice. Internal feelings of inadequacy; of lacking. And an overwhelming feeling of despair and disappointment.

It all leads to, let’s be honest, feeling like shit. Feeling like the world is on your back. That bad things just keep happening and will just keep happening. That no matter what you do, it isn’t enough. It will never be enough. It might make you start questioning what the “bigger picture is.”

Is there a bigger picture? What is the point of all of this? And will it ever get any better?

I can tell you this, I don’t have the answers and I won’t try and act like I do.

Or rather, I don’t have the answers for you.

However, I have found the answers for me. Right now. In this moment.

Is there a bigger picture?

Do you want there to be? You are the captain of your life, whether you feel like it or not. In this moment, the bigger picture for me is this: Much of life has been beyond difficult, filled with trauma and tribulations and shit stacked so high against me that at many points I couldn’t see around it.

To be honest, my current life isn’t really any less difficult than it has ever been. But the bigger picture, for me, is that I can’t see having gone through all that I have and survived to just let my life be wasted. For me, the bigger picture is a trap. Looking too far in the future (or the past) blinds me from looking right here in the present, which is the only place I am truly capable of being in.

What is the point of all of this?

You know, I’ve mulled this question over since I was, at minimum, 15 years old. I haven’t ever come up with a definitive answer mainly because there isn’t one. There is no one answer to this question. The point of “all this” is whatever you want it to be.

Do you want to be the wealthiest person in the US? In the world? Do you want to discover an unknown entity or invent the world’s next innovation? Do you want to be the best parent you can be to your children? Do you want to be happy?

The meaning of life is vastly different for each person. For me, in this moment, the point of “all this” is to do the best I can. Right now. With the knowledge and resources and abilities that I have right now. And if tonight when I go to bed I realize that the day didn’t go as I had hoped or planned or even liked, well then tomorrow I will get up and try again.

Will it ever get any better?

At various times throughout my life I have been in places that, regardless of what anyone said to me, I would argue that no, it will never get better. I could point to the current place I was in (which was horrible). I could point to every past place of agony and depression and anger and despair. As if to showcase my evidence of how much everything is shit and always was shit and always will be shit. But, you know what?, complaining and arguing about how much my life sucked didn’t do anything other than allowing myself to sink down into it even more.

So, right here and right now, let’s lay it out. Life sucks. Life is hard and sometimes it seems like horrible things will never stop happening to us. Fair assessment?

Now let it go. Really. Putting the majority of your attention on all the things that are shitty, it doesn’t help you. While you’re busy getting stressed and upset about all the things that, right now in this moment, you can’t change you are missing out on all the wonderful things that are right there.

Sometimes all you can do is keep moving. Just keep waking up and doing the best you can. Just keep swimming as it were, like the fish in Finding Nemo.

Sometimes you need to change your perspective. To acknowledge the bad and let it go. To choose to focus on the positive things you do have in your life. To be grateful.

Are bad things going to keep happening? Yes. And good things too.

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Moments

Moments.

That’s all we have. That’s all we ever had and will ever have.

Good moments. Bad moments. Moments that seems so insignificant at the time that later down the line we find ourselves replaying in our minds. Moments that make us feel something. Anything. That let us feel alive, if only in that very moment.

We’re all kidding ourselves to think otherwise. It truly isn’t about the grand picture, the sum of it all. It’s about the very little tiny times, scattered amongst the sea of monotony and sameness.

We don’t ever remember the majority of our lives. All the times spent sleeping or driving or working. We don’t keep those. We don’t keep the moments of repetition or status quo either.

And as quickly as we have them, as soon as we acknowledge their presence and grasp them with both hands, they slip away just as fast.

All we have is moments.

I know I keep writing about moments and being mindful, but  it’s because its important! And honestly, it’s easy to forget.

Building on yesterday’s post, The Myth of the Perfect Holiday, I want to continue to focus on slowing down and being mindful.

Mindfulness (or being present in the moment) is being aware without judgement — of life as it is, of yourself as you are and of other people as they are — in the present moment, here and now.

Whatever your attention is on, that’s what life is for you at any given moment. Focus on the negatives in your life and that’s what your life is for you. Focus on worries, that’s what your life is. Focus on gratitude and positives and, you guessed it, that’s what your life is for you.

deviantart: trancestor

Take just a few seconds to recall a moment you have really valued. Maybe it was a special time with a loved one. Or an experience you had in nature. Perhaps it was time spent with a child or a pet. Or a time you reached an accomplishment or supported a friend in need. Think about this time (write it down if you wish) and take the opportunity to focus on what really matters.

It’s so easy to get lost in life, swept up in the rush of emotions and movements. Take the time to be in the moment, whatever it might be, because it’s really all we have.

The Myth of the Perfect Holiday

Life has a way of building up, of stacking situations, events, emotions, needs and tasks on top of each other. Until it gets difficult to clearly see what is a priority and what is really important.

The holidays are especially a time like that. Making sure presents are gotten and wrapped. That the decorations go up. That the tree goes up and gets decorated. That you can find where the menorah is. (We celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah and Winter Solstice). There’s excitement in the air and the kids can’t contain it (often the adults can’t either).

There’s traveling or guests coming to your house. Is your house clean? I better put away the empty bottles from the kitchen. And dust everything. And did I vacuum the floor in the basement where no one will go and that no one will see?

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in all the things we need to do and all the details that we fail to pay attention to the “other” things. Like driving. I’m not certain why, but once it hits the week before the holidays it seems that many people forget how to drive. Blinkers? I know where I’m going! Stop signs and speed limits? I need to get there 10 minutes ago.

And the inattention continues in the stores. People rushing and carelessly bumping into others. Failing to hold the door for the person behind you. Huffing at the long lines at the check out. Even fighting over the last of an item.

How is this beneficial to anyone? We’re all stressed out. Rushed. Anxious.

Everyone would like to have the “perfect” holiday. The perfectly decorated house. The perfect holiday meal. The perfect gifts, for loved ones and ourselves. But not at the expense of others and ourselves.

How about some goodwill towards others? Hold the door for the person behind you. Donate to those less fortunate, with monetary donations, donations of a gift or food, or volunteering your time. Say thank you to those helping you at the stores. Retail is brutal this time of year (and year round!) and a simple gesture such as thank you goes a long way.

Even if your house isn’t perfect. Or your meal doesn’t turn out as planned. Or the presents you give/receive aren’t exactly what was wanted. Be grateful of what you do have. And slow down.

Be kind to those around you in your daily travels. Be thankful of the food you consume. Be present in the moment and enjoy the time you’ve been blessed to spend with those you love.

It isn’t about the food. Or the presents. Or the decorations. Or what you receive. Or what you didn’t receive.

It’s about the moment.

So slow down, take a deep breath and just be here.

Wishing you all happy holidays, whatever you choose to celebrate.

For One Minute…

You may have seen one of these pictures floating around your town. Or on facebook. Or tumblr. Or twitter.

Or maybe you haven’t.

Either way, I love the concept. Take one minute – where ever you are, whatever you’re doing – and just look at the sky.

In silence.

For that one minute, contemplate how awesome life is.

Right now, as it is.

(Not how it used to be. Or how you wish it would be. Or how it could be.)

Just how awesome life is, right now, in this moment of being alive.

Really. I encourage everyone to do this.

Being mindful in the moment. And grateful, thankful, of just how awesome it truly is.

Me, Ever Evolving

I’m (still) working on staying in a positive place. In a positive state of mind. In a positive perspective.

I cannot change the world around me. I cannot change the way other people choose to act. Or not act. I cannot change who my family is. Or which of them are alive to be here with me. I cannot change what people think or say about me. I cannot change how the driver on the road in front of me drives. I cannot change the teachers my daughter or I have. I cannot change the weather. I cannot change where I live. I cannot change the bills I have to pay or the things that need to be bought. I cannot change the work I have to do. I cannot change the chores that need to be done. I cannot change the way my kids react to situations. I cannot change the choices of others.

I can change how I deal with it. And how I view it. And how I react. I can change what I do. Nothing more.

“Life is not a matter of having good cards, but of playing a poor hand well” – Robert L Steve

I’m working consciously every day to do this. My world isn’t going to change any other way. And in doing so I am starting to see things as looking up.Last week the home daycare my girls go to needed to close for the day last minute, due to the death of a family friend. In the past I might have gotten worked up and anxious about it, jumping ahead to all the what-if’s without even allowing myself to process. Instead, I looked at my calender, saw I didn’t have anything I had to do sans children and simply told the provider that I was sorry for her loss. No panic. No worry. That day I kept E, my 3 year old daughter, home with me and we watched a movie and painted our nails. Later she helped me make bagels into pizza for lunch and chili for dinner. Nothing had changed except how I chose to look at the situation.

On Saturdays the girls take swimming lessons at the Y, with a 1/2 hour break in between the timing of their lessons. It’s usually a struggle and quite stressful. But last week I brought coloring books, workbooks and colored pencils.  Z, my 7 year old daughter, and I walked down the street to get some coffee/steamed milk for everyone while B, my partner of almost 7 years, stayed at the Y with E while she swam. It was the last class of the session and E did so well in the Pike level of swimming that she was been moved up to the next level (Eel) for the next session! This will work out much better for us because now their lessons will be one after another, instead of a 1/2 hour break in between. Instead of what could have been a stressful morning, I was able to feel more relaxed due to planning and going into the situation positively.

I’ve been thinking more about what I need and want. It still feels really selfish most of the time but I need to take care of me in order to begin feeling like I’m moving in some direction (hopefully toward happiness!). Currently I’m in the Human Services Social Work transfer program at my community college. I’ve already completed an AA in Early Childhood Education. I want to transfer after graduating to earn my BS but hadn’t really looked too deeply into it. Mostly out of fear. This week I met with the transfer counselor to find out when Elms College (where I’d like to transfer to) is sending a rep to the community college so I can meet with them. I’ve also been looking into financial aid and scholarships, since Elms is expensive. I was looking through the Elms website and noticed that Elms College offers merit-based scholarships to transfer students, noticeably the Elms Phi Theta Kappa Scholarship that is offered to students that have been inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society (the scholarship is pretty hefty at $8-10k a year!).

In further researching Phi Theta Kappa I learned you need a 3.6 GPA to be invited to join. So I am now working to get my GPA up to a 3.6 (from a 3.549) so I can get admitted to Phi Theta Kappa. This means I need a 4.0 from here out at the community college, though if I retake a class I previously had earned a C grade in and received a B+ or A, that would significantly help my GPA. I likely will retake that class since it’s a 100 level class and I took it in 2002 when I honestly (and unfortunately) didn’t care much about my education.

I’ve been attending a weekly DBT class since the beginning of 2011. It’s structured in modules, each covering two topics and lasting 11-12 weeks. I’ve found the class itself and the skills taught to be quite helpful and very likely helping in my growth. I was upset that I had to drop out of the last module due to time constraints but I’m really glad I could take this current module. I hope to begin sharing some of the skills I have learned in DBT here.

All in all, I feel better. It’s not perfect. I still cry when certain songs come on the radio. Or when I’m watching sappy kids movies with the girls. Or when I think of my dad (who passed away in November of 2010). I don’t know that those things will ever change though. But I’m choosing to look at them differently. It is what it is and nothing more. Making it anything more than me crying at a song (etc) just makes that feeling bigger than it truly is and allows me to get stuck in it. I don’t want to get stuck feeling like that. Instead I will try to ride it like a wave, to just let it come and wash over me, to experience it, to acknowledge it. And then to let it go.

Dealing with People You Cannot Change

Currently I’m dealing with a person that really gets my goat. I’m sure you know the type (though it’s different for everyone)… they seem to push all the buttons to annoy, frustrate and anger you. They may have habits or traits that are opposed to your own. They don’t take kindly to suggestions or advice…in fact, why would they? This is the type of person who knows everything regardless of the topic, regardless of the context, regardless of their education or anyone else’s in the subject being discussed. It’s their way or… well, it’s really just their way.

If you haven’t had the opportunity in your life to cross paths with an individual like this, never fear because it’s an almost certainty that at some point you will. And when you do, you too will be faced with the dilemma on how to deal with them. Most importantly how you can deal with them, while retaining your own self worth and respect and staying within the bounds of your beliefs and morals.

First, if it’s a situation where you do not have to directly deal with this person (for example on the train or at a party), then DON’T. If this is someone you have no obligation to at all, kindly excuse yourself from the situation. It’s not worth your time, energy or stress level to deal with someone of this manner when you don’t need to. Trust me.

Second,  if it turns out this person IS someone you need to deal with and do not have the option of excusing yourself from (such as a co-worker or a family member) then you’re going to need to find a way to do so without detriment to yourself. Chances are this person may not realize (or potentially care) how much distress they are causing you (and possibly others). If you are close to them or feel a particular responsibly to them, you may feel the need to figure out the underlying cause of their behaviors. It might be that they are dealing with some personal issues (such as mental health or substance abuse). However, even if this is the case, you shouldn’t martyr yourself to “save” someone who may not actually want to be saved. You cannot change or help anyone who does not have the desire to change or be helped.

In dealing with people that push your buttons it’s best to have as limited interactions as possible. When needed, know your limitations and the level of distress you can handle and kindly excuse yourself temporarily from any situations before they reach a boiling point. It’s much easier to excuse yourself to use the bathroom (or the like) to cool yourself down that to have to explain why you’ve verbally or physically assaulted another human being. Remember, we’re trying to keep our own morals intact here.

If you are in a situation with a button pusher where excusing yourself is not possible (in a car, etc) then these strategies can prove helpful. Distract yourself with something else. Rather than focusing on the person that is causing you distress, focus on something (anything!) else. One method is to look around the room and find items (visually) in a certain color. Another method could be writing or making lists. Deep breathing is a great way to distract yourself and calm yourself down. Take a deep breath through your nose and think to yourself “1”. Next exhale your breath through your mouth and think “2”. Continue this method as you feel necessary.

Despite these methods you still may feel your buttons being pushed. Remember that the only things we can change are ourselves and our actions. We cannot change anyone else. Getting fixated on a person who angers, annoys or stresses us will not change that. Any belief to the contrary is false. At the end of the day we are all free to do whatever we want to do.

Focus

I often find it impossibly difficult to focus. I may have ADD to compound the matter, but I know I’m not alone in my inability to pay attention and stay on task. I’m frequently found making dinner while emptying the dishwasher, corralling children, helping with homework, letting the dog out and conveying directions to my partner on the phone.

Multi-tasking has become more than just a way that people do things; it has become the norm, for myself as well as a good portion of society. And it has it’s purpose. And it’s place.

But multi-tasking constantly doesn’t help anyone’s difficulty to focus, especially not mine. How can we expect to focus when we’re trying to accomplish multiple tasks simultaneously? The two are diametrically opposed in principle.

Sometimes we need to have the ability to get a vast array of things completed in a short amount of time. Multi-tasking works well for this. But what about when we really need to focus on one particular task, a task that requires detailed attention? Something like a report or a physical task, such as painting trim in a room.

Recently I’ve begun learning about mindfulness. Mindfulness is a main component in Buddhist meditation, as well as Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and many other practices. Generally, it’s about being aware in the moment. One exercise in mindfulness that I have been practicing is picking a task and practicing staying present in doing that task.

For example, if I choose the task of eating I would try to pay attention to eating and only eating. I would really be aware of picking up the food with my utensil, of putting it in my mouth, of chewing it and swallowing it. I would notice the smell of the food and the taste, as well as consistencies and temperatures. I would be fully mindful in the moment of what I was eating.

It’s truly surprising if you pause to think about how many other things most of use do while eating. We hold conversations. We watch television. We read books. We surf the internet. We talk on the phone. We text. We drive. I’ve been practicing this exercise for a few weeks now and it’s amazing the difference in my experience eating when I am successful in being mindful. I actually taste my food. And I eat better quality food and less of it.

By practicing mindfulness in this manner, I am better able to access the focus I gain when doing other tasks that require singular attention. Writing reports has become a bit easier in that I can better bring myself back to the task when I am distracted. I can better stay on the task, and just the task, as well.

It’s by no means perfect, as nothing is perfect, but it is an improvement. I will continue to practice in hopes that I can further improve my focusing abilities. Don’t let the name scare you off, mindfulness is something we’ve all done at one time or anything. Putting a label on it doesn’t change what it is –  and that is really being present in the moment. It’s seamlessly easy when we’re having a “good” time. But with practice we can all gain better control of our abilities to focus on tasks that would likely not fall into the “good” category. And that’s all it really comes down to. No one is in control of our lives but ourselves.