Find Out What Jen Finds

My journey on the spectrum of life … and the lessons I learn along the way …
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about Anger: Why?

  • June 7, 2011 2:27 pm

So I’m doing a self-guided anger management study. I’m really glad that I picked up the book out of the free bin at McKay’s because I’m not sure I would have paid money (or used credit) for such self-inflicted torture. It is a tough read by nature because who really wants to admit that something makes us angry? That I can be controlled so savagely by an emotion that, in theory, only I, myself, can (and must) control.

In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.

Ephesians 4:26-27

Anger is like the ultimate vulnerability for me. Whereas some people can use that adrenaline to be motivated, like win a game or complete a task to perfection, I, on the other hand have a history of utilizing that extra energy to babble nonsense without end and/or blubber like a wimp, then throw my hands up in defeat. It’s not very productive or flattering. It leaves me feeling embarrassed, out of control, and overwhelmed at the new messes I’ve just created.

I have been surprised at the unlikely places that Anger rears its ugly head in my life. I was really blind to how much I reacted in anger on a daily, sometimes hourly (is minutely a word?), basis. The many faces of Anger eluded me in my general happy-go-lucky, que-sera-sera, God’s-got-my-back mentality. The study is teaching me to recognize these quick-to-fade moments before they get away. (I feel pretty ridiculous when I’m wavering back and forth, “I think that made me mad, but I’m not sure.”) But the most helpful skill I’m trying to master is categorizing both the big and small episodes into one of 3 categories

Anger is defined as an intent to preserve personal worthessential needs, and basic convictions.

by taking the time to question why I was feeling angry (frustrated/unloved/manipulated/betrayed/jealous/etc) in that instant. I keep asking myself Why? until I come to a conclusion over which I have 100% control. It is a liberating moment. The final solution is not always apparent nor remotely related to the problem at hand. Sometimes it is simply admitting that the only control I have in the situation is to forgive myself and forget it.

Now the ease of that process comes under the assumption that I’ve had enough sleep, food, the planets are all aligned, and no one is in my personal space. In the more common doozy situations, when I am unable to maintain a clear head, I have scripted a “life boat” prayer to say when I’m just too upset to contemplate the right thing or have already overstepped my boundaries.

Lord, please provide me with a positive and productive distraction right now. Amen.

I’m only on Tenet #4 of thirteen so I hope I’m not digging myself into a neighboring hole with that one. Tossing Why? among the diverse and abundant selection of controversy in my life has led me to face some uncomfortable truths – including that my problem solving skills (which I have previously held in high esteem) have been abducted and secretly replaced by very savvy and creative skills of distraction and avoidance. Hmmm, I wonder why…

about Healing: When the Momma’s happy, everyone is happy

  • June 2, 2011 6:38 pm

It’s been over a year since my last post. I can choose to feel guilty or celebrate the closing of an era.

I’ve been spending the last year physically and mentally healing. I stripped my slate down to literally the bare necessities. I labeled it “The Year of Non-Commitment” and I followed through with it. It sounds boring but it has been one of the busiest and hardest and best years of my life. My plate stayed full despite my pruning. Migraines and backaches controlled my days. Relationships were strained. And “stuff” kept oozing from the tiniest of crevices. I can’t even imagine how insane I would been had I not already eliminated my duties towards my career, the ASDa board, volunteering, and of course, my blog.

My journey of healing included: weaning myself off prescriptions and over-the-counter meds, detoxing my body and overhauling my diet, participating in a small group study, putting a finishline on a 9-year grief cycle, and investing my new found energy into a self-study and an anger management course, which has in turn freed up a lot of energy for me to do other stuff…fun stuff…like a vacation…without kids…or husbands.

So far in my journey,  I’ve been “small group hopping” for 1.5 years. The length of time it has taken me to heal is probably indicative of my inconsistency of attending my groups. But the time I have spent in my groups has been invaluable. First, in teaching me a new appreciation of independently reading the Bible, I’ve been able to reconcile a lot of concepts and doubts and confusion I held in my mind regarding my personal spirituality. Second, in being among friendly people, the social butterfly in me was finally able to emerge from her cocoon. Third, perspective, perspective, perspective. Ever hear the one about If we all put our issues in a big pile and then got to choose an issue from that pile, we all would pick up our own issues? My issues aren’t necessarily better or worse than the next person’s but they are mine – all mine. And while I might covet another parent’s ability to sign their child up for a team sport, I certainly do not covet the responsibilities both time-wise and financially they incur because of that freedom. And fourth, in allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, I not only receive the prayerful support I desperately need from friends, but also can provide that same prayerful support to them as well.

24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)

Now then… I thought I had a pretty good grasp on the scope of my mourning. But I had grossly overlooked the most obvious situation that was overdue for bereavement. Through a family tragedy, I was able to discover I was stuck in the very early denial stage of grieving my miscarriage – The Eldest, I might call him. No one knew about the pregnancy. No one. Not even that we were even trying to start a family finally after 7 years of marital bliss. After the loss, no one still was aware of the existence. The Hub and I mourned in silence with a “Why bother?” attitude. We rescued The Skipper Dog to cheer us up (and boy did he!). Six months later I was pregnant with The Elder.  In my head, I thought that I had completed that grief cycle, accepting that God’s timing is impeccable and resolving that if the pregnancy had gone to term, The Elder would not have been born when he was, and his birthday has played a MAJOR role in many of the divine blessings we have received in early intervention.  But in actuality what I had done was deny the little being my love.  Alongside a dear loved one, I was able to feel her pain so strongly because I realized it was my pain, too. Her graceful and raw way she openly grieved was a window into my subconscious.  I’m so proud of her and grateful at how well she is handling her experience. She helped me give The Eldest an identity, ask for forgiveness, and to say good-bye. I can’t thank her enough.

Above all, I’m most proud of my physical healing. I think without it, my mental (nor spiritual) healing could have been resurrected (no pun intended). I contemplate everything I put in my mouth (except for the occasional foot). I’ve successfully weaned myself off all medications. I’ve been independent for 2.5 months! Not even an allergy pill! I use food for medicine or fast for a day when I need it, but mostly try to just stay healthy so I don’t need medicine to begin with. My dietary changes have not only improved my health, but also my budget. First because I conducted a short-term fast (7 days). Water is butt cheap. When I broke the fast, my body decided what I could or could not eat. (Sadly, I still must live a gluten-free lifestyle, which does offset budgetary gains of the new diet.) I have eliminated red meat and pork and only eat fowl in moderation (kids’ leftovers usually). Second, I eat mostly fruits and vegetables. Super cheap – even organic is cheap in comparison to my former diet. I don’t do well with processed corn, like in tortilla chips, but have no trouble with popcorn or kernel corn. There’s something else I can’t handle but I haven’t pinpointed what it is.  (I keep eating dairy (my indulgence) and I’m in denial that it affects me negatively in any way shape or form. How could something so yummy be harmful?) Third, I discovered I have an affinity for gardening. Unfortunately I’m a terrible gardener. My green thumb is the novice shade of green. I’m sure it has a lot to do with my attention span and tactile defensiveness rather than ability. But to compromise between love and talent, I’ve started sprouting. I’m pretty darn good at it. And I can eat alfalfa all the live long day. I also grow my own wheatgrass – chock full of antioxidants, my medicine. Much cheaper than the 90-day prescription deals. And fourth, I realized that I really do like to cook. Cooking is so much less expensive than eating out or pre-packaged foods. I can guarantee it will be gluten-free, and with the proper systems now in place, it hasn’t taken up all my time like I imagined it would. After all of these years of letting The Hub hang his flag in the kitchen, I claimed my ground and surprisingly have pleased all members of the family (even visiting relatives). I totally recognize that my attention span would not be in favor for a catering job, but something about cooking for my family makes me feel whole.

Now that the fog has lifted, I’m so much happier and so is my family (I hope so at least).  I lost a ghastly amount of weight during the 7-day fast, but have just about recovered completely to my original weight MINUS all the swelling and most of the cysts/fibroids that were forming in my body. That means less headaches, less trips to the chiropractor, better circulation, clearer thinking and more energy. Even when I looked my campiest, I was feeling dramatically better than I had in at least 3 years.

[lightbulb moment:] THIS is why I blog. In the process of summarizing the stuff in my head to avoid rambling on and on and boring the reader to death, a theme just emerges from the pages. (I wish I could brag of writer’s foresight and mad executive function skillz, but alas, I cannot.)  When I type on the fly about just the basic facts (plus a commentary or two as I always have parallel thoughts going on. Squirrel!), I’m able to see myself so much better.  Awareness is enlightening and frightening at the same time. So this is the lesson I’ve been taught today via this post: It’s been said that if you’re not growing, you’re dying. I’d like to add a twist to that - if you’re not loving, you’re dying.  Personal growth is the result of learning to love where I was not willing to love before.

“Are you willing to spend time studying the issues, making yourself aware, and then conveying that information to family and friends? … If some among you fear taking a stand because you are afraid of reprisals from customers, clients, or even government, recognize that you are just feeding the crocodile hoping he’ll eat you last. (October 27, 1964)”

~ Ronald Reagan

I’ve still got a long row to hoe before I can harvest the title “Healed,” but it is so nice to take a big crop of perspective and be able to enjoy the journey – living and loving life today, weeds and all.

about Excuses: Reasons to Celebrate!

  • May 24, 2010 9:52 pm

I recently started a list on my phone called ‘Phrases that totally worked.’ I add to it whenever something surprisingly effective comes out of my mouth for the first time without my having a whole lot of forethought. Most are in the Parenting category. When I see it has ‘worked,’ I often go through shock & awe, and then pat myself on the back and pray it works the next time. Here is my favorite so far:

“Stop making excuses and follow my directions.”

This resulted in immediate compliance with NO lingering foul mood. I know! I had to inconspicuously pick my jaw off the floor and replace the ‘I’ve Had It’ adult-whine posture with a more confident ‘That’s Right…I’m the Boss…and I Totally Plan to Say Smart Stuff Like that all the Time cause I’m Smart and all’ stance.

I realized The Elder had reached a developmental milestone!

“…children master a variety of alternative strategies for resolving conflict. They can cajole the adversary, use bargaining, suggest compromise or cooperation (like turn-taking), and redirect conflict through humor.”

The School Years: Psychosocial Development – Social Problem-Solving Skills. The Developing Person Through The Life Span – (Berger)

So what’s the big deal? All 1st graders have mastered the art of manipulation, right? Yes! It’s ‘normal’! Yay! I haven’t decided if I’m more excited about his being developmentally on track or about his finally catching up with his nonverbal abilities!

For so long The Elder didnt say anything longer than 2-3 word phrases and only when prompted (and re-prompted). If he needed to initiate communication, it was physical and completely unrelated to his desire or need. For example, instead of pointing to a drink if he was thirsty, he would strip naked or throw his glasses across the room. It was as if he was fed up that no one was attending to his mental request after repeatedly thinking it. ‘Come on, people! If I’ve telepathically tried to connect with you once, I’ve done it a thousand times. It goes in my ear and out your ear! What do I have to do to get heard around here? Sheesh.’

When he was finally verbal, I heavily relied on listening to everything he would say in order to fully understand his triggers. And after some super-sleuthing, it would often fill in the gaps of why past meltdowns occurred. It was fascinating to finally learn the Reasons for his behaviors.

“How children think is as important as what they know.”

The School Years: Cognitive Development – The Legacy of Piaget. The Developing Person Through The Life Span – (Berger)

His Reasons were always literal (raw is more accurate) and logical (tho not obviously connected). While the former is to be expected, his logic far surpasses his age level. When he was 3 he tested beyond Kindergarten (he actually beat the test because it ran out of questions). At 4, his age equivalence was 11 years, 9 months. Because of this, I think there were a lot of unfair expectations for him to be more pragmatically mature. That discrepancy has been hard to parent, especially before awareness, but I imagine it is even harder to have.

Because of early intervention and inclusion, I think that gap is closing as he practices conversational skills. I noticed that his barrage of Reasons became Excuses when I, The Mom, couldn’t find an underlying connection between his words, body language, and past experiences. The usual and oh-so-confusing ‘complacent’ or ‘defiant’ reactions would then be displayed with integrity.

Do you know how freeing that feels? My brain gets to put the magnifying glass down more often…at least until adolescence…knock on wood…