Using writing, and meditation, and ice cream, and reading, and dreams,

and a whole lot of other tools to rediscover who I am,

after six years living with a man with OCPD.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Bowling for Babies

So, after a life where everything I wanted to do was on the back burner, I am fighting not to put everything on the front burner, all at the same time. 

Chicago Public Library
I don't know what the cornice is supposed to be, nor do I
quite "get" the button-like things.  However, it's a
LIBRARY, therefore, it is AWESOME.
 Anonymous suggested on Wolf Woman or Hungry Hungry Hippo that I create a vision board, and since I take every comment quite seriously (please don't advise me to go jump off a bridge, 'kay?), that idea took over my brain this past week or so.

So, in between things I had to do - like, oh, paying work, washing a load of undies - I've been planning my vision board.  I looked up and cut out headers from the Los Angeles Times Book Section, and the New York Times Book Section,  in that special Gothic font they use, since I hope to be listed there someday.  I printed out a picture I'd taken of the Chicago Public Library with its cool cornices.

I printed out pictures of great places I've been to which I'd like to return someday like Zion National Park, the Grand Canyon, the Library of Congress (stunning, beautiful, breathtaking) in Washington, DC, the Sierra Mountains of California and the Milwaukee Lakeside Art Museum and south-central Pennsylvania where I spent my teen years.  I printed out pictures from my visit to Queen Califia's Magic Circle in Escondido, where, if you're not already high (I wasn't), you'll feel like you're tripping on psychotropic drugs.
Queen Califia's Magic Circle Garden
Escondido, California

La Sagrada Familia via Wikimedia Commons
Under construction since 1862

I printed out pictures of places I haven't yet been but really want to go, The Tower of London and Hever Castle (where Anne Boleyn grew up) and The Alhambra and Stonehenge and Versailles.  I printed out a picture of La Sagrada Familia for my vision board, because if ever there's an emblem of "Dream Big," it's La Sagrada Familia, still under under construction after more than 100 years, like a medieval church.) 

I printed out pictures about mindfulness and body image, including one of ME and this wonderful set of sculptures from the Getty.

This is NOT me - just one of a billion other skinny girls.  I put the
picture of ME and these sculptures at the middle of my vision board.  Around
them I wrote, "Changing Woman" (from the Native American tradition)
Learn to Love.... the Skin I'm in
Every Size has its beauty... Every shape has a function
Right now I am beautiful

And I printed a jillion pictures of BABIES.  I dream of babies, a lot.  A Witch's Book of Dreams, which I bought following a recommendation from my as-yet-unmet friend Thalia, says that "Baby" represents "giving birth to an infant can represent a new aspect of oneself, a brand new idea, or a creative project.  A Divine Child or Wonder Baby, one who walks and talks, is an archetypal image signifying the birth of the divine within us, the new son/sun of hope emerging.  Very positive."

So, I printed pictures of babies for my vision board.  I printed pictures of babies crawling, up stairs and hills.  Of toddlers hugging each other, giggling, chortling with glee.  I printed pictures of a toddler leading on his younger sister, thinking "Original Release + Sequel."  I printed a picture of myself, about 3-4 years old, sticking out my tongue for the camera.  Of a young girl in a skirt made of rainbow colored scarves.  Of babies white, African, Asian.  Of identical twins (one of my favs) in t-shirts bearing the legends "Copy" (on one shirt) and "Paste" (on the other.)

And I had a lot of fun doing this, but, if you haven't done the math yet, totally ran out of space on my vision board.   When I stopped at the store after work on Friday in the pouring rain, to buy (what seemed then) a huge piece of foam board, I was naively thinking, "Well, I guess I can cut this in half."

I didn't need to cut it in half.   I could have done 20 vision boards, and not had enough space for all the picture I had printed, for all the things I still want to write down and print on it.

I did the cutting and pasting all day yesterday, putting aside an uncountable number of pictures that there was simply no room for, and then, last night, I did dream about babies.  About needing to feed my babies.  About trying to keep track of all my babies (a hint, perhaps, that I'm becoming overextended?)

And I dreamed about bowling

I dreamt about trying to bowl, and that I kept getting stopped by.. something.  I would get ready to bowl and I was interfering with somebody else.  I got placed into my own lane and the power was off, or the pin-setter didn't work.  Everybody that I had been trying to bowl with was long since finished, and it would have been real easy to say, "Okay, I quit, this isn't happening for me today," yet for some unknown reason, I was determined to battle on.  I went to bowl and the holes in my ball were too small - it wasn't my ball at all - or the finger holes were too big.  I went to the service window to try to get my ball and they were still working on cleaning it.

I checked a Witch's Book of Dreams, but there were no answers there.  Apparently, either witches don't bowl (and here I was, about to send in my check and membership application!)  Or, at least, they don't generally dream of bowling.  My Dreamer's Dictionary for the 21st Century did offer a clue:
Dreams of bowling symbolize focus and concentration on a goal.  <aha!  like, perhaps, my much-neglected novel?!>  They may suggest that you will strike it rich if you engage in life and get out of your rut.
Well, I am not sure I want to "strike it rich."  I would like to be able to earn enough from my writing to quit my day job, and buy a nice house (although my solo apartment is ten times better than living with nitpicking OCPD ex-b-f.) 

So, there!  to life, expectations, and
dirty undies!

But obviously, my subconscious was trying to send me a message, so, for the first part of the day (after yoga and breakfast, of course) I worked on my much-neglected novel.  I rewrote the first chapter to add more Heart, per The Editor Devil.  And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th.

I feel good about the work I did on the novel.  And on the vision board.  And on my dirty undies.

Even if I have left much undone, I have also made much progress.  How about you?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Progress of Boundary Betty

I hope it means progress when you can read something, laugh, and hang your head sheepishly and think, OMG, I could have written this!

From Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert 
Moreover, I have boundary issues with men.  Or maybe that's not fair to say.  To have issues with boundaries, one must have boundaries in the first place, right?  But I disappear into the person I love.  I am the permeable membrane.  If I love you, you can have everything.  You can have my time, my devotion, my ass, my money, my family, my dog, my dog's money, my dog's time - everything.  If I love you, I will carry for you all your pain, I will assume for you all your debts (in every definition of the word), I will protect you from your own insecurity, I will project upon you all sorts of good qualities that you have never actually cultivated in yourself and I will buy Christmas presents for your entire family.  I will give you the sun and the rain, and if they are not available, I will give you a sun check and a rain check.  I will give you all this and more, until I get so exhausted and depleted that the only way I can recover my energy is by becoming infatuated with someone else.
She wrote this as an explanation as to why she chose to be celibate in Italy, of all places.  Where rampant sensuality vibrates off every fountain and marble edifice - and you can't turn around in Italy without bumping your nose (or other body part) on an edifice of some sort.

from Flickr Creative Commons
by xinem
Still, it makes perfect sense to me, as I have also embarked on a year of none.  Or nun, however you want to look at it.

Because I know for a fact, I'm too f#&ked up to even think about another relationship right now.  I'm working on my boundaries, and in some places they're pretty good, and in others they're better than they used to be, and in others... well, if they were a stone wall, a dachshund with a limp could hop over without scraping his belly.

Every self-help book and site and guru says: You need to learn to love yourself.

I get it.  In theory.  In practice... well... I'm taking baby steps.

I'm learning about intuitive eating, and not punishing myself with diets anymore.

I'm working on understanding my own "permeable membrane" issues when it comes to men, and "normal" boundary issues when it comes to family, friends, and co-workers.  Realizing I don't have to figuratively throw myself on the train tracks every time, in order for people to like me.

I can set limits for what I am and am not willing to do for someone, and that doesn't make me a bad person.  

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Of course, to set limits, that means I have to explore what my own thoughts and feelings are.  This means a fair amount of solitude and reading and meditation, which is just not real do-able when one is involved with a new lover (or even an old one.)

I'm trying to be kind and patient with myself.  That means goals, but not harsh ones.  I'm doing things I enjoy, but also do stuff I have to, like household cleaning.  Because I truly can't take as much delight in my wonderful own apartment with all my favorite things around me, if I am up to my ankles in cat hair.  (Mind you, the things I have left out of place, the dirty dishes I have occasionally left in the sink, would curl OCPD ex-bf's hair.  He-he-he.)

Speaking of OCPD, I did create a list for self-help (do I need Frontline for my fleas?):
  1. Figure out there's a problem.
  2. Research how to deal with it.
  3. Implement a solution - and if one doesn't work, tweak it or try something else, or a combination of things.  (Hey, if a combo plate works in a Mexican restaurant, why not in my head?)  
  4. Practice the solution over and over until it becomes habit.
The one thing that throws me is, seems like there is so much to work on.  And I can't just do 1-2 things, compartmentalized and completed separately, before moving on to the next "thing."  I need to integrate mindful eating and better boundaries and learning my limits and a whole bunch of other things, because I need to become a whole, integrated person.

Or at least, a person on her way to becoming a whole, integrated person.  Not thinking I will ever reach the finish line and be done, in this lifetime.

What goals are on your combo plate?
And how are your boundaries today, hmmm?
Leave a Comment or Reaction and let me know.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays: Book Review - Chapter One, The Obsessive Personality

On Amazon for as low as less than $3
Too Perfect, When Being in Control Gets Out of Control by Allan E. Mallinger, M.D. and Jeanette DeWyze was published by Random House in 1992.

This series will look at a small snippet of The book on the Perfectionist Personality, aka The Obsessive Compulsive disordered Personality, aka OCPD, each week.  Please follow along, leave your comments, engage more on the FaceBook website... whatever your heart calls you to do.

Chapter One
The Obsessive Personality
This is a book about people who are too perfect for their own good.

You know them.  You may be one of them.  And if you are, you have much to be proud of.  You're one of the solid, good people of the world: honest, reliable, hardworking, responsible, exacting, self-controlled.

But for many people there is also a dark side to the perfection.  The very traits that bring them success, respect and trust can also cause them serious problems.  These people aren't fully able to savor relationships with others and with the world at large, nor are they at ease with themselves in their universe.  Consider:
  • The person so driven to meet professional and personal goals that she can't abandon herself to a few hours of undirected leisure without feeling guilty or undisciplined.
  • The person so preoccupied with making the right choice that he has difficulty making even relatively simple decisions usually regarded as pleasurable: buying a new stereo, choosing where to go on vacation.
  • The person so finicky that his pleasure is spoiled if everything isn't "just so."
  • The "thinkaholic" whose keen, hyperactive mind all too often bogs her down in painful worry and rumination.
  • The perfectionist, whose need to improve and polish every piece of work causes her to devote much more time than necessary to even inconsequential assignments.
  • The person so intent on finding the ultimate romantic mate that he seems unable to commit to any long-term relationship.
  • The person so acclimated to working long hours that she can't bring herself to cut back, even when confronted with evidence that overwork is ruining her health or her family relationships.
  • The procrastinator who feels angry at his "laziness" - unaware that the real reason he is unable to undertake tasks is that his need to do them flawlessly makes them loom impossibly large.

<snip>  Recent articles and books have also made the lay public aware of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), the malady that drives its sufferers to such acts as repeated hand-washing, checking routines, or other paralyzing rituals.

When I use the term obsessive, however, I mean something quite different.  I'm referring to a personality type, not to an isolated behavior or clinical disorder like OCD.

I (this is now I the blogger, not I the book author) began this blog because I was coming "out of the fog" with a Too Perfect personality, someone whose need to control me led to verbal and emotional abuse.  I know my life wasn't the only one which was "Perfectly Awful;" his was pretty dreadful too.
Morro Bay & the Morro Bay Rock on the Cali Coast

This is not to say that life with OCPD ex-bf was torture-chamber horrible 24/7; it wasn't.  There were some wonderful times together, fabulous trips, fun giggling times watching TV, making love and happy family celebrations.  If it was horrible 24/7, nobody would stay with these people.  We who love these troubled people have had great times - especially in the beginning of the relationship. 

We may even sense the root of this disorder - overwhelming anxiety.  So because we know there's a good person in there - a worried person, but a good one - we may hang in there.  We'll help them to see they don't have to be perfect, that we love them, flaws and all (as we wish they'd love us.)  Hoping with enough love and patience and kindness, we can "fix" them. 

Doesn't work.  Because each of us can only fix ourselves, and as they mention in the first paragraph, the person with this issue often doesn't perceive that his "strengths" are killing him, and his relationships.  Just as an alcoholic or drug addict must recognize he has a problem and be willing to get help, so must the Perfectionist.

Mine wasn't willing or able to do that.

So why, now that I'm out, hash this all over again?  Because I'm not over it, yet, I am still processing a lot of thoughts, feelings and emotions.  Because someday, I'd like to have another relationship - and next time, I want to recognize the warning signs for somebody like this.  Because I'd like to help my friends - the ones I know, the ones I haven't met, yet - to understand this better, too, and to share in our mutual journey of healing.

And because I know that I have some of these traits, too.  To the point they damage my life?  I don't think so... but I haven't been thinking clearly in a very long time.  Something that happens to those in a relationship with a disordered person is they pick up fleas: the behaviors, habits, and sometimes even thought patterns of the other person.  I want to make sure that I pick off each and every flea, keeping only those traits that make my life better, in moderate amounts.

I have problems with the first item, here, the feeling that just kicking back and having a good time is wrong, somehow.  That pleasure must be earned.  I don't stress over buying things - I try to research and make a careful choice, and then trust that I have and let it go.  I tend to make the best of a bad situation; nothing spoils a good time for me.  But I do tend to get bogged down in worry and rumination.  I don't get slowed down trying to create perfect work, though I do procrastinate over things I don't enjoy doing, like filing.  A commitment-phobe.  Hmmm.  Maybe.  I don't work long hours, although right now, I do work a day job then come home and write for several hours.

I'm thinking my flea infestation - at least on these points - isn't too bad.  How about yours?

Have you read Too Perfect
Did you experience a light bulb moment?
Or are you having one now?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Wolf Woman or Hungry Hungry Hippo?

There's such a difference between knowing something in your head and feeling it in your heart. 

I know that my ex b-f had distorted thinking - about a lot of things, but particularly about food, diet, exercise, body image.  When last I saw him, he was obsessing over being "fat," having put on a few extra pounds around his middle, though at over 6' tall and 160 pounds, no one would accuse him of being overweight.

He would talk with longing in his voice for his teenage days, when he'd gotten down to 95 pounds.  (Of course, he was living off speed and cigarettes then, and it landed him in the hospital, but still...)  Not in the beginning, but after I moved in with him, he made constant derogatory comments about anyone he saw who was overweight - whether he saw them while we were driving, on TV, etc. ( if never to the actual face of an overweight person who happened to be friend or family.)  They were disgusting, they had no self-control (this from someone who would drink to passing out), they looked revolting, all fat people should be shot...

Mind you, when we met, this is how we looked as a couple. 
from Nighthawk News
I was in a "very big girl" stage, and while that didn't matter to him at all during the "honeymoon" period, when we were courting, before that ended I had begun dieting and stepped up my exercising - for me, not for him - and he was very pleased. 

Of course, it wasn't enough.  I got down to within five pounds of my high school weight, and while he would join in the praise around others who would tell me how great I looked, in private, he'd tell me I would look great - if I lost another 10-15 pounds.

Well.  And then his OCPD began rampaging in full about 101 different things, and I became stressed, depressed.  I stopped exercising as much, because he was so jealous of the time it took away from "us," I stopped being as careful about what I ate.  He rationed my food and rode me constantly, at home, about what I should or shouldn't "pig out" on, and I began binging at work during the day.

No surprise, the weight began creeping back up.  I haven't yet regained all that I had lost, over that two years I worked so hard to lose it; but I've regained a lot of it.  And I hate it.  I hate the way my body looks and the way my clothes don't fit and the fact I had to buy another pair of "fat" jeans today because my thunder thighs are about to bust out the sidewalls of my other fat jeans.

I gave myself permission (mentally if not emotionally,) to gain a little weight since the split, but I think now...  part of me didn't think it would really happen.  At first I gobbled up all kinds of "forbidden foods," a natural reaction, I knew (mentally!) to being starved of them/for them for the years I lived with ex b-f.  Like in the story told by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, a wolf that has been starved in the winter will go on a rampage when spring comes.

I figured once I got used to the fact that I could eat these foods, any time I wanted, and nobody was going to take them away from me, my cravings for them would stop, as Geneen Roth said, and for the most part that's happened.

So I'm trying to be kind to myself and I'm trying to be patient.  I've been learning about mindful eating and taking baby steps towards putting it into practice, the past few months.  

from Master Isolated Images at FreeDigitalPhotos
  I still am enjoying foods I wasn't "allowed" to have, then, but not in huge amounts.  I am not binging at work any more.  I am learning to recognize when I am approaching fullness and stopping then, not eating to the point of being overfull.  I am eating lots of broccoli and salads - because I actually enjoy them, and because I feel good about giving my body foods that are healthy for it.  I'm drinking lots of water and very little (though still some) soda.  I'm still doing regular exercise.  (Though I could be doing more - one can always be doing more exercise - I'm not doing less.)  I'm learning to recognize the pull of emotional hunger and to sit and breathe and acknowledge my feelings, instead of stuffing them down with food.

I know, calorie-wise, even if I'm not counting calories or points or carbs, I'm giving my body less of 'em.

So why am I still gaining weight?!?  I know, in my head, that I am taking the right approach.  I know, from bitter experience, that "regular" diets don't work, long-term.  Been there, done that, got the T-shirts - sized XL to L to M, and back again.  Twice.

But I'm scared.  I think I had this unrealistic vision in my mind, that I would start my baby steps of mindful eating, and as a reward, the Skinny Fairy would come bonk me on the head and I'd magically wake one morning, twenty pounds thinner overnight.  And I still hear my ex b-f's voice inside my head, telling me I'm a disgusting fat pig.

I don't want to be patient with myself.  I want results right now!!  And I want all those horrible, negative messages that I've introjected into my brain, from ex b-f, from magazines, from pop culture, to STFU already.

<Sigh.>  I'm just gonna have to do this the long, hard way, aren't I?  One positive affirmation, one baby step, one STFU to the negative messages, at a time.

Have you ever had to struggle with an issue like this?  Where you knew something, in your head, but it wasn't making it down into your heart where you really felt like you believed it? 

Tell me how you did it (please!) in the comments.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

VD with the G-F

So, I was anticipating a rough VD, since it was my first since breaking up with OCPD bf.  And it was rough, in spots, but I tried to be pro-active and not let myself sink into too much unhealthy reminiscing and nostalgia.

Reality is, Valentines' Day with him was no great shakes.  I think once he cut roses from the garden and put them in a vase on the table for me.  He never, ever, sent flowers to me at work, and many years didn't even bother with a card.  More than a wee bit Demand-Resistant to the whole idea of making a fuss over his loved one for a "Hallmark Holiday."

So... I bought my own rose for my desk at work, and am still enjoying it.  (Though I did move it away from that corner where I could too easily knock it onto the floor.  In case that worried you.)

And I decided to get Carried Away a bit for the G-F, with all kinds of good-smelling stuff I wasn't "allowed" to use due to ex b-f's complaints about cologne and scented lotion.  And duckies.  The pink one even lights up! (For those of you thinking I'm both bi and moving waaaaay too fast - I found that while I feel somewhat uncomfortable treating myself well, I can manage it if I treat myself in the third person, like my own girlfriend.)

So, some new stinkum from Bath & Body works, plus I cashed in a gift card and showered g-f in Luscious Kisses from Victoria's Secret.

Over the weekend I knocked out a few chores that had been hanging over my head, which made me feel happy and relieved.  And which gave me permission to enjoy myself, though I'm trying to get past the silly notion that pleasure should be earned.

Worked on eating mindfully.  I fixed girlfriend some of our favorite meals, but tried to focus on appropriate sized portions, and stopping when/before being full, trying to tune into learning how to listen to the body, instead of just eating, eating, eating, because food is sitting there.  And trying to include lots of salad, green veggies, and healthy choices. 

Also bought Valentines' chocolate for her, all her favorites, though a small box.  We haven't inhaled them all yet, but are eating them 1-2 per night, totally savoring and enjoying each and every bite.

This mindful eating business is hard work, and I'm such a beginner, but I trust it's the right way to go in the long term.

Spent a fair amount of time with my favorite dysfunctional couple, Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII.  Their story is one I've been magnetically drawn to for most of my life.  Talk about an object lesson in 1) Passionate love doesn't always last forever, and 2) It's not usually healthy for a woman to lose her head over a man.

Theories abound on What Went Wrong.  Did either Anne or Henry have a Personality Disorder?  Because things went downhill pretty fast once the "chase" was over and they were officially married.  Much like what happens when a "non" moves in with a person with a PD.  Or were one or both of them simply drunk with power?

Certainly Anne exhibited some wild mood swings.  She was also pregnant and miscarrying during much of that time, and that in itself could account for her being so "highly strung."   Plus just a smidge of pressure from being surrounded all the time by people who hated her guts, and constant demands from those who wanted to use her to further their own interests.  We think about Diana, Princess of Wales, and how she was constantly hounded by paparazzi, but old-time royalty had people around them all the time.  Even the privies weren't private.

File:Henry-VIII-kingofengland 1491-1547.jpg
from Wikipedia Commons
One interesting novel, Threads by Nell Gavin, takes on the story as woven into a theory of reincarnation.  The idea is that people choose to be reborn into different families to work out unresolved karmic issues, and that Henry, Anne and Katherine had been married, siblings, parents and children in previous lifetimes.  I especially liked the section where Anne was an Egyptian whore, Katherine her young daughter, and Henry a transvestite man-whore who befriended them because he longed for children of his own.

This would explain a lot about 15th and 16th century men's fashion.

Watched some flicks - Carrie Fisher's entertaining Wishful Drinking, and Disney's Tinkerbell which I'd been wanting to see forever, because my favorite artist Loreena McKennitt had done most of the music and the narration.  As the intro ballad wafted me into the story, that's when I did my VD weeping - not sure if it was because I felt so moved by Loreena's gorgeous voice, or a little bit of sadness over ex b-f. 

Although ex b-f also really enjoys her music, and always claimed a love of animation, he was never willing to watch this movie with me, because...   because.  Who knows why? 

Every time I go down that rabbit hole of trying to make sense of the nonsensical, I simply get more lost.  When someone has a mental disorder, things don't make logical sense.   Yet those of us who love them may keep churning past actions or conversations in our minds, thinking we'll hit on some magical insight and we'll really "get" why they think and act the way they do.

I will never be able to understand his distorted thinking, and that's okay.  I don't have to.  I just need to figure out the way I think, and make healthy choices for me.

What healthy choices have you been making for you?
Tell me about it in the comments.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Addicted to Love? A Valentine for the Other Single Folks

This Valentines' weekend, though I know I should not should not should NOT contact my ex b-f right now, when I'm feeling vulnerable, and yes, struggling a bit with being alone in a world seemingly full of lovers, I am pondering how I ever got so mixed up about A Crazy Little Thing Called Love.  I've come to the conclusion that I can blame much of it on all the crazy little songs about love.

Listen to popular music.  I mean, really listen.  To the lyrics we often sing along to, without paying attention, but which sink deep down into our subconscious, and confuse the issue when we try to actually have a relationship.

 A lot of them aren't about love at all, of course, but about sex.  Robert Palmer's Addicted to Love?

From Sura Nualpradid at

Your heart sweats, your body shakes
Another kiss is what it takes

You can't sleep, you can't eat
There's no doubt, you're in deep
Your throat is tight, you can't breathe
Another kiss is all you need
Songs tell us (Love is Like A) Heatwave, or brings Fever (when you kiss me, fever when you hold me tight...)  Don't these all make it sound like another side effect of "love" calls for a major dose of penicillin and a formal notice from the Center for Disease Control to all one's previous partners?

This one was a favorite...  and then I paid better attention to the lyrics.

Now that we've grown up it seems
You just keep ignoring me.
I'll find you anywhere you go,
I'll follow you high and low.
You can't escape this love of mine anytime.
Well, I'll sneak up behind you,
Be careful where I find you.
Apple peaches pumpkin pie,
Soon your love will be all mine.
Then I'm gonna take you home,
Marry you so you won't roam.
This sweet, bubbly little ditty is about finding one's childhood love, and whether she's now interested in a love relationship or not, stalking her until she gives in, and then trapping her via marriage.  Ain't that just sooo cute!  Not!  Then there's the stalker's classic, The Police's Every Breath You Take which is really, really creepy if you sit down and listen to it.

Come on, What's Love Got To Do with that?

But there are plenty of songs about people in healthy relationships... aren't there? 
I know you wanna leave me,
but I refuse to let you go
If I have to beg and plead for your sympathy,
I don't mind coz' you mean that much to me
Ain't too proud to beg, sweet darlin
Please don't leave me girl, don't you go
Ain't to proud to plead, baby, baby
Please don't leave me, girl, don't you go
Okay, we've got some serious self-esteem and boundary issues going on in the Temptations' Ain't Too Proud to Beg, but...  yeeeah.  How many, many songs and movies, teach us that if we simply hang in there, patiently dogging the object of our affections, s/he will eventually become exhausted fending us off, give in, and love us back?

From CakeWrecks - "for the Co-dependent"
"When your boyfriend starts crying, you'll know it's only because
he's so happy."
Modern stuff isn't that bad, right?  Those were the Dark Ages, romantically speaking; since then men and women have learned to treat each other better!  How about some Matchbox 20?

I wanna push you around, well I will, I will
I wanna push you down, well I will, I will
I wanna take you for granted, I wanna take you for granted
Well I will

For those who loved an OCPDr (aka, a control freak) Linkin Park's Numb pretty much tells the tale of how exhausting it feels to be pressured by someone you love to be "what you want me to be," to be constantly criticized for making mistakes:
I'm tired of being what you want me to be
Feeling so faithless lost under the surface
Don't know what you're expecting of me
Put under the pressure of walking in your shoes
(Caught in the undertow just caught in the undertow)
Every step that I take is another mistake to you
(Caught in the undertow just caught in the undertow)

I've become so numb I can't feel you there
Become so tired so much more aware
I'm becoming this all I want to do
Is be more like me and be less like you

Can't you see that you're smothering me
Holding too tightly afraid to lose control
Cause everything that you thought I would be
Has fallen apart right in front of you
(Caught in the undertow just caught in the undertow)
Every step that I take is another mistake to you
(Caught in the undertow just caught in the undertow)
And every second I waste is more than I can take
Like some people use prayer to tell God what He should be doing (the Slacker!) there are many angry songs lecturing the other party on exactly how he or she totally screwed things up.  Take the whining about the house being dark and pots being cold in Santana's Evil Ways, because the woman actually has friends and outside interests, instead of being chained to the stove, cooking dinner for her man.  The nerve!  (I love that song, actually, great guitar solo; I've simply rewritten the lyrics in my head so when I hear it I'm less tempted to strangle the nearest male with my suddenly superfluous bra strap.)

There are very few songs about a mature, healthy love relationship.  I've never heard a song celebrating that messy front row seat, watching one's wife push a baby's ginormous head out of her vagina.  Probably because the fathers are a) passed out cold; b) manfully suppressing the urge to hurl chunks, or c) thanking God on their knees they will never, ever have to do this themselves.  In any event, the thought of whipping out a guitar and working out some chords  right then - not happening.   

The nitty gritty of everyday life and familiarity with one's partner, for the most part, gets left out of love songs.  Female songwriters don't write about the way their hubby of umpteen years gets more proficient at the butt trumpet every day.
The Comfortable Phase
from The Eight Phases of Dating from The Oatmeal

Although there is Brad Paisley's generous offer to check his girlfriend for Ticks.  Now there's romance for ya!

Love songs are mostly yearning songs (because the not-yet-well-known object of one's affection is still pure, perfect, and embodies everything one could ever hope to find,) or "player" songs, or we've-broken-up-but-I-still-miss-you, even if I am out partying and hitting on other women, like Smokey Robinson's The Tracks of My Tears.  Or bitter, don't-let-the-doorknob-hit-you-in-the-ass-on-your-way-out break-up songs (my current personal favorites) like Fleetwood Mac's Go Your Own Way, or Dokken's Just Walk Away

I'm not saying loving relationships aren't out there - and beautiful songs about them.

This is what love should be about, IMO.  Perfect love casts out fear.  Love makes you stronger, more confident.  Makes you feel alive and aware of the environment around you, like the children playing outside (though I still think the children in masks theme was a bit weird.)   Love makes you feel more connected, not just to your lover, but to yourself, to Heaven and the Divine, to joy.  Whatever happened in her life after this, during this time Belinda radiated joy.  I felt like I could almost scoop it off her in cupfuls.

from Karen's Whimsy
This, of course, is the bait, the reason we all get lured in, the glorious way we feel upon falling in love.  Just because in most cases, it dims a bit, or even vanishes altogether, doesn't mean it wasn't real and amazing while it lasted.  (Sorry, I tried being cynical - at heart I'm a sappy romantic after all!)

I did fall in love with my exb-f, and I did feel like this, in the beginning.  I'm truly sorry it didn't last, sorry that his OCPD, Mr. Hyde-ish behaviors emerged with such a vengeance that in the end, I felt more Numb.  I'm not foolish enough to go back, in the vain hope that this time, the story will have a different ending.

But I don't regret having those feelings, not for a moment, and I look forward, someday, to feeling them again with somebody who does not have a mental disorder.  And in the meantime... I'll just have to be good to my girlfriend.

Have you ever felt confused by the messages about
dysfunctional love in pop music?
What's your favorite love (or break-up) song?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Does Pleasure Come with a Price Tag?

from Boaz Yiftach at FreeDigitalPhotos

 I don't look like a terrorist on the outside, but I've behaved like one to my own soul.

I've acted sometimes, as if I emotionally sacrifice myself enough (whatever that means,) earn some kind of psychic "Martyr Chits" I will earn a big, big pay-off at some point in the future.  If not 72 virgins (virgin girls aren't my type, and 72 virgin boys sound like waaaaay too much work), then some other, indescribable pleasure or reward will await me, either in this life or the next.

I've been secretly afraid that if I enjoy too much pleasure now, it'll all be taken away from me, and I will end up living in a refrigerator box on the sidewalk.

I find I totally relate to Liz Gilbert's take on pleasure in Eat - Pray - Love.  (Yes, I know I'm late coming to the party, that "everybody else" read this book when it came out four years ago, and/or saw the movie two years ago.  So, sue me.)  In case you, too, are lagging in your reading, or you've forgotten, here's a couple of bits I totally related to:
My mother's family were Swedish immigrant farmers, who look in their photographs like, if they'd ever seen something pleasurable, they might have stomped on it with their hobnailed boots.
My people were German, but same concept.  You got your work done first, and then, and only then, if everything was done, you could play.  Like Cinderella going to the ball - theoretically, it's possible, but not really expected to happen.  Also from E-P-L:
Generally speaking, though, Americans have an inability to relax into sheer pleasure.  Ours is an entertainment-seeeking nation, but not necessarily a pleasure-seeking one.  Americans spend billions to keep themselves amused with everything from porn to theme parks to wars, but that's not exactly the same thing as quiet enjoyment.  Americans work harder and longer and more stressful hours than anyone in the world today.  But as Luca Spaghetti pointed out, we seem to like it.  Alarming statistics back this observation up, showing that many Americans feel more happy and fulfilled in their offices than they are in their own homes.  Of course, we all inevitably work too hard, then we get burned out and have to spend the whole weekend in our pajamas, eating cereal straight out of the box and staring at the TV in a mild coma (which is the opposite of working, yes, but not exactly the same thing as pleasure).  Americans don't really know how to do nothing.  This is the cause of that great sad American stereotype - the overstressed executive who goes on vacation, but who cannot relax.
Now, I think a piece of the "more relaxed in the office" than at home may have to do with the fact that too many people are, like I used to be, feeling trapped in a dysfunctional relationship.  "Having to work" lots and lots of hours is a socially acceptable excuse in America for staying away from the home war zone, while going to play volleyball or hang out with friends or take an art class... not so much. 

I can also testify to the fact that mindless eating - whether of cereal straight from the box or an entire cheesecake - may not be working, but isn't really pleasure, either, except for the first few bites.  Just kicking back and chillin'... I have a hard time with it.  I feel like I must be doing something productive.

This is part of the Self-Disovery,
Word by Word Series.
FMI, click HERE
I realize I've internalized the distorted thinking that pleasure cannot simply be savored, but must be paid for in some way.  That if I: 
  • give blood regularly
  • work out religiously
  • always say yes when people ask favors
  • always put the other person's needs first
  • keep my home clean and tidy
  • eat foods I loathe "because they're good for me"
  • put in a little extra time off the clock at work every day
  • volunteer for charitable organizations
  • and about twenty other self-sacrificing things

Then, and only then, will I have earned the right to relax and enjoy pleasure.  (You'll notice, too, many of my "goals" are in fact, impossible, co-dependent and downright unhealthy, so I would never be able to meet all of them anyway.  I'm rigging the game against myself!)

Even if I could "earn the right" to pleasure... life doesn't work that way.  It's true that some pleasure may come about as a result of hard work - for instance, we dig up a patch of soil in the back yard, weed, plant some seeds and tend the plants, and later we can enjoy some delicious fresh homegrown tomatoes.  And that can be extremely satisfying.

Photo from Clare Bloomfield on FreeDigitalPhotos

But there are no guarantees.  We could put in all that work, and bugs or fungus or weather spoil the crop.  Sometimes, no matter how hard we've worked or planned or sacrificed, the results aren't "what we deserve."  (All who have ever strenuously dieted or exercised, only to see cellulite still clinging to our thighs like dried bird crap on a windshield, know this story quite well.)

If you love fresh, organic tomatoes, by all means plant your own - if you enjoy the gardening work.  Many people do.  If you aren't one of them - Farmers' Market, baby!  (I think I'm meandering off here because I need to put gorgeous red tomatoes like the ones above on my shopping list, lol!)

Pleasure just is.  No strings attached.  We can enjoy pleasure on vacation, sure, but it's all around us, all the time.  How does anyone earn the pleasure of running fingers through a rabbit's soft fur?  The smell of fresh baked cinnamon rolls? The brilliant colored beauty of a maple leaf in the autumn?  The loud rumbling purr of a happy kitty, the comfort of a sun-warmed towel after a refreshing dip in a pool, the crisp juicy tanginess of an apple slice?

We can mindfully recognize a pleasure, enjoy it, be grateful for it, but we can't earn any of the above.

Yes, there are things we all must do.  I don't enjoy every single minute of the professional work that I must do, in order to buy my tomatoes and apples and keep a roof over my cat's head.  But I can focus on appreciating the many parts of the job, and fabulous co-workers in whom I do take pleasure every day, or focus on the parts I don't like.  Guess which choice makes the workday go faster?

I can look at my body and find umpteen jillion things to dislike and feel upset about.  Or, I can be grateful for my fast-typing fingers, my shiny hair and frequently complimented smile, and find just as many reasons to be grateful for the pleasure my strong, healthy body brings me every day.

(There's amazing pleasure in enjoying sex, too, but I'm not going there now.  Figuratively or literally, since I'm choosing a year of celibacy as I get my head together.)

Being with good friends is a pleasure.  Letting them know that I find pleasure in their company is a much better way of ensuring the healthy future - and continued mutual pleasure - in our friendship, rather than co-dependently fretting about what they must think of me or trying to make myself indispensable to them in the hopes that they will continue the friendship out of... ?guilt?  ?obligation? 

If we keep our eyes mindfully open for pleasure opportunities, we will find them all around us, all the time.  IMO, people who are pleasure-oriented (I'm not talking "unleash the MasterCard" types,) people mindful and appreciative of the many small and large pleasures of life are much more pleasant to be around than those searching for the nearest rain cloud to drag over their heads.

Katie at Health for the Whole Self posted a little while ago that we don't need an excuse to eat.  I agree - and we don't need an excuse to recognize and enjoy pleasure, either.

Are there pleasures you've denied yourself because you haven't "earned" them?
Tell me about it in the Comments.  

Monday, February 7, 2011

Saving A Loved One from A Destructive Relationship

I just reconnected with an old friend, after years of minimal contact.

Before I moved in with OCPD ex-b-f, I'd discussed the relationship with her, and since I was determined to launch into it, anyway, despite the red flags, she'd hoped for the best.  She visited us once, after I'd moved in with him, and then... pulled back, declining future invitations and ignoring broad hints from me for an invitation to her place.  She confessed to me that after seeing OCPD ex-b-f's blatantly rude and disrespectful behavior to me, she didn't know what else she could do to help me, and she wasn't willing to take a front row seat for more of the same show.

I truly appreciate her honesty and feedback, then and now, and getting her back in my life on a more frequent basis is yet another gift from life to me, or from me to me, now that I am out of there.

But, it got me to thinking about how my different friends and family members supported - or didn't, quite, support me, and to try to pinpoint for others - if you have a loved one in a relationship with someone who is emotionally abusing them - What should YOU do? 

Because what you want to do is figuratively throw the abused person over your shoulder and carry them out of the burning house.  Only they will run right back in.
Photo from DVS on Flickr
The friends & family that I'd had, pre-OCPD friends, split into four main groups, once they got a glimmer of what was going on.

1 - I'm Okay, You're Okay, Everyone has Problems, Let's Look on the Bright Side.  The people in this group turned a blind eye to the seriousness of the abuse, encouraged me to be more patient and understanding and to "work with" OCPD b-f.  Basically, Enabling 101, with a side course of Blaming Oneself - only I'd already studied those courses way too much. 

At first, though, when I was deeply in the fog, and would get feedback from such a person,  I'd think, "Maybe they're right.  Maybe it is me.  Maybe I'm just not trying hard enough."

2 - Get the Hell Out of There Now, What's Wrong with You?  The people in this group pushed me, hard, to split with OCPD b-f.  But the more they tried to convince me that he had Serious Problems, and that I was being hurt, the more I clung to my Martyr role, because No One Else Could Possibly Understand (and fix) Him, and Only I See What A Wounded, Sensitive Person He Is Underneath All (his abuse.)  I would give myself smug internal pats on the back, Aren't I this Generous, Loving, Kind, Sacrificing Person to Put Up With All This? 

I'm thinking there's a lot of karma in this, because I have acted like this kind of pushy rescuer friend in the past.

3 - Keeping Their Distance.  Like my friend above, these people didn't cut off the relationship with me entirely, but minimized contact, because a front row seat was too intense for them (and who could blame them?  I don't know if I could handle it, myself.)  This was hurtful in some ways, helpful in others.  Sometimes I resented their "rejection" of me and my relationship with OCPD b-f, and other times, it was reassuring to believe that when my relationship with him ended, at least I had a chance of reviving the one I had with them.  That it was dormant, not dead.

And some of my friends were distanced not because they backed away, but because I was overwhelmed.  I was already dealing with major jealous tantrums every time I got my hair cut at the salon in the town where I used to live (because obviously, that was a pretext to hook up with an old boyfriend.)  I felt like I was only "allowed" to have so much extra-curricular social activity, and like most people in an abusive relationship, I felt emotionally drained and physically exhausted most of the time, and not willing to fight major battles over (what I perceived to be) minor issues.

4 - In The Trenches - a very few friends (and my counselor) were willing and able to listen, unflinching, and nonjudgmental, without pushing me to leave, or encouraging me to stay/be more understanding.  Sometimes, when asked, they would offer suggestions.  They would reinforce my self-esteem whenever possible, tell me I was good/worthy/attractive/smart and that any man, OCPD b-f included, was lucky to have me in his life.  Some offered me a couch to crash on, anytime, no questions asked, after I confessed escaping to a motel or book store or anywhere to get OUT, after some of our blow-ups.

DOD Public Domain Stock Photo
Later, I found more "in the trenches" friends on support boards.  For many, many people being verbally abused, we feel ashamed to talk about it to people who know us.  We don't want people to know how really bad it is.  We're afraid they will think less of us for staying - and perhaps we don't feel ready to leave.  Which makes online support boards or groups like Ala-non which offer anonymity such an invaluable resource.

But we still need the family and friends who love us.

If you love somebody who's being verbally and possible physically abused - don't think for a moment that they don't need or value you.  They do need you very, very much.  You can offer support to them in a way that will be helpful and nonjudgmental to them - or in a way that lets you vent your feelings of frustration, and pushes them deeper into the arms of the abuser.  Your choice.

If you want to understand why victims bond with and become protective of their abusers - as so many men and women do, as I did, please read Dr. Joe Carver's full and excellent article on Stockholm Syndrome.  For this post, I am just going to exerpt some of the advice for family and friends of someone being abused: 

While each situation is different, some general guidelines to consider are:

- Your loved one, the "victim" of the Loser/Abuser, has probably been given a choice - the relationship or the family. This choice is made more difficult by the control and intimidation often present in abusive/controlling relationships. Knowing that choosing the family will result in severe personal and social consequences, the family always comes in second. Keep in mind that the victim knows in their heart the family will always love them and accept their return – whenever the return happens.
- Remember, the more you pressure the "victim" of the Loser/Abuser, the more you prove the their point. Your loved one is being told the family is trying to ruin their wonderful relationship. Pressure in the form of contacts, comments, and communications will be used as evidence against you. An invitation to a Tupperware party is met with “You see! They just want to get you by yourself so they can tell you bad things about me!” Increasing your contacts is viewed as “putting pressure” on their relationship – not being lovingly concerned. 
- Your contacts with your loved one, no matter how routine and loving, may be met with anger and resentment. This is because each contact may prompt the Loser/Abuser to attack them verbally or emotionally. Imagine getting a four-hour lecture every time your Aunt Gladys calls. In a short time, you become angry each time she calls, knowing what the contact will produce in your home. The longer Aunt Gladys talks – the longer your lecture becomes! Thus, when Aunt Gladys calls, you want to get her off the phone as quickly as possible.  
(I would usually combine my haircut trips with a brunch with a local friend, who, with the best of intentions, used the Get the Hell Out Now technique on me.  Almost every time.  While I knew she loved me dearly, it also pushed me into Martyr mode, and because I knew I would be facing a horrible jealous scene every time I got home, it brought me within a hair of breaking off that friendship.  I just wanted to get out of the house, have a break from the pressure and enjoy a normal conversation, not get a stern lecture in the morning following by tantrums in the afternoon.)

- The 1980’s song, ”Hold on Loosely”, maybe the key to a good family and friend approach. Holding on too tight produces more pressure. When the victim is out of the home, it’s often best to establish predictable, scheduled contacts. Calling every Wednesday evening, just for a status report or to go over current events, is less threatening than random calls during the week. Random calls are always viewed as “checking up on us” calls. While you may encounter an answering machine, leave a polite and loving message. Importantly, don’t discuss the relationship (the controller may be listening!) unless the victim brings it up. The goal of these scheduled calls is to maintain contact, remind your loved one that you are always there to help, and to quietly remind the controller that family and loved ones are nearby and haven’t disappeared.  
- Remember that there are many channels of communication. It’s important that we keep a channel open if at all possible. Communication channels might include phone calls, letters, cards, and e-mail. Scheduled monthly shopping trips or outings are helpful if possible. The goal is to maintain contact while your loved one is involved in the controlling/abusive relationship. Remember, the goal is contact, not pressure
- Don't feel the victim's behavior is against the family or friends. It may be a form of survival or a way of lowering stress. Victims may be very resistive, angry, and even hostile due to the complexity of their relationship with the controller/abuser. They may even curse, threaten, and accuse loved ones and friends. This hostile defensiveness is actually self-protection in the relationship – an attempt to avoid “trouble”.  

- The victim needs to know and feel they are not rejected because of their behavior. Keep in mind, they are painfully aware of their situation. They know they are being treated badly and/or controlled by their partner. Frequent reminders of this will only make them want less contact. We naturally avoid people who remind us of things or situations that are emotionally painful. 
- Victims may slightly open the door and provide information about their relationship or hint they may be considering leaving. When the door opens, don't jump through with the Marines behind you! Listen and simply offer support such as "You know your family is behind any decision you need to make and at any time you make it." They may be exploring what support is available but may not be ready to call in the troops just yet. Many victims use an “exit plan” that may take months or even years to complete. They may be gathering information at this point, not yet ready for an exit. 
- We can get messages to people in two ways - the pipeline and the grapevine. The pipeline is face-to-face, telling the person directly. This seldom happens in Loser situations as controllers and abusers monitor and control contacts with others. However, the grapevine is still open. When we use the grapevine, we send a message to our loved one through another person. Victims of controlling and abusive individuals are often allowed to maintain a relationship with a few people, perhaps a sibling or best friend. We can send our loved one a message through that contact person, a message that voices our understanding and support. We don't send insults ("Bill is such a jerk!) or put-downs ("If he doesn't get out of this relationship he'll end up crazy!) - we send messages of love and support. We send "I hope she/he (victim) knows the family is concerned and that we love and support them."

- Each situation is different. The family may need to seek counseling support in the community. A family consultation with a mental health professional or attorney may be helpful if the situation becomes legally complex or there is a significant danger of harm. 
When the victim decides to end the unhappy relationship, it’s important that they view loved ones as supportive, loving, and understanding – not a source of pressure, guilt, or aggression.
And, if you need a refresher on "Hold on Loosely," here 'tis.

Remember that lyric - hold on loosely, but don't let go.

Your loved one will have to save him or herself, in his or her own time, but you CAN make it easier.

Or harder. 
Comments?  Learn anything new? 
Or,  just enjoy Southern rockers with long hair?

Friday, February 4, 2011

My Cat Has An Eating Disorder...

...and I blame myself.

Simile on the left, Metaphor (pink nose) on the right.
About 3-4 months old here.
 When Metaphor, Simile and I moved in with ex b-f, the girls were then about 1½ years old, and both were slim young kitties.

And he liked cats, and he came to slavishly adore these two sisters. But:
  • They were not to be allowed on the kitchen counters. Fair enough, I’m not real fond of cat hair as a condiment myself.
  • They were not to be allowed in the bedroom. Okay, that’s a hard one. The girls were used to sleeping with me, in my bed. But OCPD ex b-f expressed a horror of waking up with a mouth full of cat hair and claimed it made it hard for him to breathe, and I could see reasonableness in this. So at first we kept the bedroom door shut, and later, when I’d invested a fortune in scat mats, they couldn’t get into the bedroom.  (They could only stand outside the mat area and cry for us in the morning.)
  • They were not to be allowed outside, ever ever ever. There had been a feral cat outside once, who had kittened in the carport, and it took forever to get the fleas eradicated. Okay, that makes sense. They were already used to staying inside anyway, so while I’d thought the freedom to have a yard to roam in, to watch and try to catch birdies, might be thrilling for them... okay.
  • They were not to be allowed on the window ledges. Their claws, as they jumped up, might scratch the paint. But, cats love looking outside of windows, I said. Nope, not to be allowed.
  • They were not to be allowed up on the furniture. They were now to be "floor cats."
I blame myself for caving in on the last two points. I should have packed my bags and cat carriers and left then and there. But... I wanted to give the relationship a chance. I thought as time went on, he’d unbend a bit. I knew nothing about OCPD then, and thought, this is a rough adjustment all ‘round, if I only give it time, we’ll all get used to living together.  He’ll let the cats on the furniture after all, and it’ll be okay.

Metaphor on the left; Simile aka Skinny
on the right, had gorgeous blue eyes.
Simile's markings were a shade lighter than her sister's.
 And he did, in fact, let the cats on the chairs and couch eventually. Metaphor, whom he dubbed "Stinky," loved to climb onto the sofa and take naps during the day with "Dad," centered directly over his crotch (at least in early days, before she weighed more than a pro bowling ball.) Simile, whom he dubbed Skinny, greeted him almost like a puppy whenever he came in the door, and played endlessly with him, to both of their delights. He relented enough to let them have an area in the office where they could climb up on a ledge and look out the windows at the birdies and squirrels, and the front and back doors were left open (with a closed screen door) as often as the weather permitted.

Stinky played with him, too, but despite this, her weight blew up tremendously in the first year. They were both about the right weight when we moved in, 11-12 pounds, but Stinky quickly ballooned up to about 16-17 pounds. Hence him dubbing her sister "Skinny."

Simile, aka Skinny, developed a sudden kidney infection and died when we’d been living together about a year. Ex b-f still misses her and will mist up, even weep when he thinks about her, years later. (Interesting thing about OCPD, he rarely wept about me - I'm thinking it's because allowing oneself to feel about a cat is safe.)  Stinky was a somewhat shyer personality, and seemed more impacted by the yelling and the OCPD negative atmosphere. After her sister died, we thought we’d be able to get her weight down, since we could better control her portions, and after consulting with the vet, devised an appropriate type of food and daily amount.

Whenever fed, regardless of the amount of food fed, she would scarf down every single kibble in her bowl and plaintively meow for more.  Not the regular cat pattern of eating a little, coming back later for a little more, and then a little more.

Ex b-f devised a schedule to spread it out over the course of the day. He would feed her every four hours (since he didn’t work), because we discovered, whenever she went too long between feedings, she would wolf it all down and then vomit.

Yes, my cat is bulimic.

Stinky looking out the back door of ex b-f's house.

So, when I made the decision to move out, I had to segue her back to basically a twice daily feeding schedule. (I stagger it a little - give her a little first thing in the morning, then the rest right before  I leave for work, and in the evening, a little bit when I first come home from work, then more later.)  She seems to be doing okay, though she still pukes once in a while, especially if I have to run an errand after work and her night time feeding is a bit delayed.

Has she lost any weight? No; in fact, she's about 22 pounds, ugh! Can I cut the amount of food I’m giving her? No, according to the vet, she is already on the minimum amount of diet food, I cannot cut her ration any further.

I wonder if cats can learn mindful eating techniques.

I do feel guilty, taking her away from her "Dad." He doted on her tremendously, and played with her during the day, which I can’t do, since I work. He also, by the time we left, was screaming at her for "scratching too loudly in her litterbox."  Or if it was approaching mealtime and she was whining for food. Or if he just had a hair up his a– for whatever reason, he'd yell at her, talk about wanting to throw her out on the freeway. (Or he'd yell at me, of course, but that’s a given.) 

I tried to put my foot down, tell him he was probably making her more neurotic, that if his goal was to get her to stop sh-tting in the litterbox, yelling at her while she was taking care of business was a great way to accomplish it.  Sometimes he would listen, and modify his behavior, but towards the end of our living together, it got worse, rather than better.  Sometimes he would even throw an object at her out of irritation, and even though she always got out of the way, big belly comically swaying - what if she hadn't?!  She could have been hurt - and I'm sure if she had, he would have been very sorry and filled with guilt.  But she still would have been hurt.

It certainly wasn't "teaching her a lesson," unless the lesson was that "Dad" was a nutcase and not to be trusted.

So, I blame myself for bringing Metaphor to live with "Dad" in the first place.  And not realizing sooner that it was a toxic environment, not just for me, but for her.

She does purr her brains out at night, now, cuddled up to me in bed. Or in the morning, when I’m on the floor doing yoga and she’ll lie down near me and I’ll pet her as I'm lurching into downward dog. I do think she’s lonely during the day, and I feel bad about that.

But I don’t yell at her, even if I’m writing and she comes into my office and takes a big Stinky dump (this is where her litterbox is) while I’m trying to write or work on something.

Tonight, when I was playing "string" with her (her favorite,) Stinky once looked at me with big wide pupils, and I felt horribly, horribly guilty for taking her away from her "Dad" who played with her much more than I do. Who always asks about her when we talk (much less frequently now since I’ve officially called it quits.) Who would call me "Mom" like the cat was our child or something, as if she'd get perturbed if he referred to me by name.  This is one of my guilt-inducing "triggers," him mournfully telling me that the cat and I were his last family, that he thought we'd be with him to the end of his life (with the intimations that wouldn't be long now, because of his poor health.)

Metaphor on the new bed.
 And yet, I think overall, Metaphor's life is better now. (I know mine is, except for the pangs of guilt.)  I bought her a new "cat tree" so she can perch by the window and watch squirrels and birds. I let her out of the apartment to explore for a few minutes a couple of times a week, which she seems to really enjoy. She gets to sleep with me again, and seems to be very happy about that, judging by the volume of her purring.

I was hoping she (and I) would magically shrink in size and weight once we were on our own, out of the toxic OCPD atmosphere, but that hasn’t happened (yet.) We’re both still pretty big girls, alas.

And yet, I know we are so much better off than before. Our home is more peaceful, and our mutual weight issue... I tell myself it's early days yet.  That it will happen eventually.

Or, it won’t. And I’m working towards finding peace with that.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

But I Only Want To Help!

From Renjith Krishnan at Free Digital Photos
A friend recently pointed me to an interesting article on the "need to fix."  While, IMO, this article mixes up OCPD controlling traits (the obsessive need to have every thing, person, and place "perfect'' or "correct'' in order for one to become comfortable enough to be relaxed and accepting of them) with co-dependent "helping" traits, it did have some good points.
And yes, this has long been a weakness of mine, trying to help/rescue those I perceived to be in need, whether they asked for my assistance or not.  Such as OCPD ex b-f, though he didn't want or appreciate my "help."

I found this section particularly insightful:
What irrational thinking leads to the need to fix?  Examples of irrational thinking which leads you to the need to fix other people, places or things are:

* When you have the resources materially, emotionally, intellectually and energy-wise, you should always be ready to share these with others less fortunate than you whom you perceive to be in need of help and assistance.
* You should never stand by and not get involved when you see someone hurting and in need.
* You are rewarded in so many ways for the sacrifices that you make to help others and it is a straight path to heaven if you give to others without any hesitation.
* You should give insights from your life experiences whenever you find someone in a similar situation.
* You should never wait for a person to ask for help since so many people are shy when it comes to admitting they don't know what to do with their lives.
* It is impossible to ignore a plea for help especially when it comes from someone who is obviously "helpless.''
* It is a real sign of your personal growth that, after a time in recovery, you can have the insights, answers, solutions, and clarity of direction for everyone with whom you come in contact.
* You can burn yourself out just focused on your own personal growth so to revitalize yourself you should get involved with other people's problems to give you a better perspective on your own problems.
* What will others think of you if you don't offer help to someone who is obviously in need?
* Your meaning and purpose in life will be threatened if you are not needed to fix, rescue, or help someone.
* Being a "fixer'' is not something which you want to avoid being because it is the only way you have ever gotten people to recognize and to accept you.
For the rest of the Livestrong article, go to this link.

I'm trying to develop the same kind of allergic reaction to use of the word "should" when applied to myself or others, as some of my friends do to my cat.

The issue of "helping" and "fixing" reminded me of the butterfly story.

There are many, many stories of the man who "helped" the butterfly out of the cocoon.  I like this version, from Butterfly Medicine:
A man found a cocoon of a Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly. He took it home so that he could watch the Butterfly come out of the cocoon. On the day a small opening appeared, he sat and watched the Butterfly for several hours as the Butterfly struggled to force the body through that little hole.

Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and it could go no farther. It just seemed to be stuck. Then the man, in his kindness, decided to help the Butterfly, so he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The Butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the Butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time. Neither happened! In fact, the little Butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly.

What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the Butterfly to get through the tiny opening was the way of forcing fluid from the body of the Butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon. Freedom and flight would only come after the struggle. By depriving the Butterfly of a struggle, he deprived the Butterfly of health.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If we were to go through our life without any obstacles, we would be crippled. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. Give every opportunity a chance, leave no room for regrets.
I am working really hard to recognize when a "helping" opportunity comes my way, and to be more mindful of it, and to choose what I want to do.  When one of the people at work don't know how to do something and ask for help, instead of saying, "Stand back, watch and I'll show you," I have them sit down at the computer, and have them perform the new task, step by step, so it gets into their hands and brains. 

When a volunteer group with which I was heavily involved, a few years ago, begged for help, my first reaction was, I should help - sign me up!  Luckily, I didn't actually open my big mouth and SAY so.  Upon reflection, I realized that's not how I want to spend my time right now, so I've declined doing more for the group than offering occasional advice.

It's going to take a lot of practice, but I am mentally hiding my butterfly scissors and concentrating on the 51% rule - that is, making sure I get at least 51% of my own time, energy, and focus.  (More on the 51% rule at Out of the Fog.) 

As opposed to knocking myself to "help" everyone else, and then in my own life, to employ a farm colloquialism, sucking hind teat.  Which is how I used to end up, and then resentful because too often my unsolicited "help" wasn't even appreciated!

Is there anybody you "help" or "fix" too much?
You could help ME by leaving a comment.
(That's a joke, but I would still welcome your comment.)