Thursday, February 28, 2013

Hold It Together

Don't Make Yourself Nuts!

Maintaining Sanity in this Crazy World

Don't Make Yourself Nuts!
Well, as usual, life seems to have no shortage of dramatic events to toss my way. This past week has been absolutely insane. But on this occasion I don't feel as if life is necessarily to blame for the chaos that has recently ensued. I am starting to strongly believe that perhaps I am responsible for making myself nuts. My latest emotional and mental break was a result of a very normal and everyday task. I was assigned to write a 5 page paper for one of my classes. I wasn't overly concerned about it considering I am a fairly competent writer, never really encountering issues when it comes to formulating and supporting arguments through words, and I had given myself an adequate amount of time in order to complete it by the assigned date. A part of me was actually excited to write the paper because the assignment had a degree of flexibility, which allowed me to choose a topic of personal interest. I was confident that I would be able to write a well executed paper without experiencing any significant level of stress during the process. However, my feelings of confidence were apparently misguided or perhaps simply premature. 
Everything "started becoming blurry."
I am not sure exactly what happened, but the night before the paper was due I found myself struggling to piece it together. Ideas that once seemed clear and distinct started becoming blurry. Arguments I had crafted to support my case no longer made sense. I felt as if the concepts from class that I had chosen to utilize had not been thoroughly explained within the context of my paper. I just began writing and writing and before I knew it this easy 5 page paper turned into a redundant, 14 page, disorganized mess. My OCD tendencies were in full swing, causing me to over complicate the assignment and leaving me feeling insecure and as if I could not eliminate a single element, for fear of inadequately support my argument. I have been a student for a very long time (over 18 years) and I have never pulled an all nighter. Well, that fact changed this past week. My anxiety and need to create a perfect paper kept me up all night. The hours seemed to fly by. I remember looking at the clock at 1:30 am and before I knew it the sun was coming up. 
"The hours seemed to fly by."
I stayed up all night writing this paper and when morning came it still was not done. By this point not only was my paper completely disjointed but so was I. My OCD and perfectionist tendencies have never hindered my ability to perform academically nor have they detracted from the quality of my work. If anything the pairing has always seemed to enhance my abilities as a student. But all of a sudden I was finding myself unable to hold it together. I was literally unravelling due to my anxiety, perfectionism, and sleep deprivation. The combination was making me nuts and I was the only source responsible for this craziness. 

The crazy aftermath of my all nighter-
"Inside every sane person there's a madman struggling to get out...That's what I've always thought. No one goes mad quicker than a totally sane person."

- Terry Pratchett, The Light Fantastic

I couldn't imagine a better quote to describe my personal bout with madness. Just like the quote says, one minute I was totally fine and everything seemed to be in order and then all of sudden I was in the midst of absolute chaos and insanity. I was feeling good, confident, and "totally sane" and then before I knew it I seemed to have gone absolutely "mad!" The event was truly terrifying because it was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. Yes, I've reached my breaking point numerous times in the past, but there were always cues or it seemed to happen over the course of a period of time. It has never occurred as abruptly as it did this past week.
As always, a little humor never hurts-
Additionally, I am used to my OCD having an impact on my actions- keeping my apartment immaculately ordered, feeling the need to fold and refold blankets until they look just right, dressing myself in a very specific way, maintaining the same ritualistic routines daily, and organizing my notes so that they are clear and neat- but I have never regarded it as a serious issue, nor did I consider it to be a form of madness, because the behaviors didn't significantly disrupt my life. In actuality, I kind of liked my level of OCD because I appreciated some of the ways it influenced me and my life. I love walking into a clean, organized, and calm apartment every day. I take pride in my appearance and enjoy putting myself together each morning. And my clear and detailed note taking has served me well when it comes to reviewing for tests and writing papers.
"...prevent a similar unraveling..."
It wasn't until this OCD induced all nighter that I began to realize that perhaps this is an issue that needs to be dealt with, in order to prevent a similar unraveling from occurring again in the future. The world is crazy enough as it is; I do not need to be adding any more insanity to my world and my life by making myself nuts. But this thought forces me to face two key questions: How do I manage to eliminate this self-induced insanity and hold it together? And once I have been able to do that, how can I maintain sanity while living in this crazy world?

"The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane."

- Marcus Aurelius

"I can't think of anyone...who strives to be considered insane."
There is not one bit of me that can argue against this statement. I can't think of anyone I know who strives to be considered insane. Perhaps one would suggest that I am insane because of my OCD tendencies, anorexia nervosa, perfectionist qualities, and atypical thoughts. But, I don't really care what others think of me as long as I consider myself to be of sound mind. The morning after my all nighter I could not honestly think that I was perfectly sane. I looked around at the array of papers littering my apartment floor. I felt the dampness of stressed induced perspiration in my clothes. I saw the sunken eyes that looked back at me in the mirror. I watched my bony, dry fingers flutter across my computer's key board. I knew that these were not signs of sanity
"I knew that these were not signs of sanity."
Maybe the ability to recognize that we are making ourselves nuts is the first step to learning how to hold it together. If we can acknowledge that our behaviors are not indicative of mental wellness then we at least have something to work with. We can address the thoughts and actions that seem problematic, and with time and help, learn how to correct them. If we know that we don't want to be "in the ranks of the insane," and are able to identify behaviors that may land us there, then we have the power to change our ways in order to hold it together. I can recognize that my perfectionist tendencies have escalated to an unhealthy level. It is one thing to feel obliged to keep my apartment tidy. It is a different thing entirely when these tendencies result in my inability to perform a simple task. I have come to terms with the fact that this is an issue that I need to take care of in order to prevent future episodes and quite frankly to stop making myself nuts! 
I don't need to give it up all together, but I must pull in the reigns and regain some control over it so that it no longer has the capability of negatively impacting me and my life. Once we have taken care of the internal things that are driving us crazy and have found some peace within ourselves, it is time to move on to the second question that I posed: How do we maintain sanity in this crazy world? It is no doubt that we live in a world full of insanity, chaos, and elements that we cannot control. We need to figure out how to prevent the world's craziness from permeating our skin and entering our core. 

"Nothing external to you has any power over you."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

This quote seems fitting as we strive to maintain sanity when being constantly surrounded by insanity. We can alter Emerson's words slightly and choose to use them as an affirmation-

Nothing external to me has power over me.

Or in other words-

Nothing outside myself has the ability to negatively impact me.

The world's craziness is not a monster in the closet-
If we can repeat these words to ourselves every daym no matter what we are facing, then perhaps we have found an ingredient for the recipe of maintaining sanity. However, I do believe that other steps are necessary in order to pursue this difficult task. An affirmation alone cannot protect us from the craziness that we face every single day. We need to take other measures in order to prevent this insanity from seeping into our beings and potentially jeopardizing our sanity. So now that I have thoroughly scared you, portraying the world's craziness as a monster in the closet that is waiting to get you, it is time for me to reveal the secret to holding it together when everything else- work, school, relationships, family, finances, and the world- seem to be going absolutely crazy and are threatening to push us to the brink of sanity. Honestly it's really quite simple, not much of a secret at all in actuality. 
The key to maintaining sanity in this crazy world in which we live is to keep a little list of things that you know help bring you back down to earth when you and your mind seem to be flying away. Similarly to concepts that I have discussed in previous entries, these things don't need to elaborate or grandiose or intensive. They don't have to require a great deal of time or money or effort. And they don't even need to make sense to anyone else. The only requirement is that they are able to instill you with a peace of mind and enable you to reclaim and/or maintain your sanity when you are at risk of losing it. I have an assortment of little nothings that I like to do when I need a moment to gather myself together and block out the external craziness. I enjoy a glass of white wine at the end of the day. I'll go outside into the icy cold and smoke a cigarette. I like to walk into bookstores and see what catches my eye- stationary, journals, cards, books involving France. And for me, nothing beats going into the drugstore and seeing what silly little nick-knacks manage to find their way into my shopping basket. 
"I enjoy a glass of white wine..."
These tiny things, most of which cost nothing or very little, fill me with a sense of calm and peace. These feelings growing until they fill every fiber of my being. And then this intense inner-peace acts as a shield, prohibiting any outside insanity from entering my mind, body, or soul. Create a list of things that provide you with this protective sense of inner-peace. Keep it handy, whether it's written down or simply ingrained in your mind, so that if the world's craziness ever catches you off guard then you are already prepared with a means to combat it. I feel as if it's almost easier to fight off the insanity that comes from external sources, rather than the craziness that can come from within. I find myself being able to hold it together even when everything going on around me is telling me that I should be falling apart. Maybe it's just me but I feel as if I am well equipped to maintain sanity when provoked by this crazy world. It isn't the world that has the propensity to make me nuts. More often then not, I am the one accountable for making me nuts. 
Which direction shall we choose to go?
I am not sure if I am alone in this feeling or not. I definitely have friends who feel similarly, describing the feeling of being stuck in one's own head and expressing frustration over their inability to stop negative thought patterns or the fact that they can't seem to be present. I, like them, know these feelings all too well. It is starting to get me thinking about these categories of sane and insane. Is it possible that the answer is not so black and white? Could there be a continuum of sanity and that we don't need to be at one pole or the other but perhaps we fall somewhere in between? And maybe we are not the same level of sane at all times? Perhaps it is constantly fluctuating? It could be that one minute we are perfectly level headed and then the next minute we have shifted a bit and moved slightly close to the realm of insanity. Now I am really starting to feel insane. I started this post with the intent to answer two main questions and I find myself closing with yet more questions that I don't have the ability nor the time to even attempt to answer. 
However, I suppose the best way to maintain sanity, regardless of the locus of craziness that is seemingly threatening it, is by simply accepting where you are and how you are feeling at this point in your life. Lets tame the qualities within us that have the propensity to drive us nuts. Lets keep in mind the little things that help quell our feelings of chaos or craziness. And let us stop judging ourselves for feeling as if we are walking a thin line between crazy and sane. 
Girl, Interrupted (1999)
I think that we all have points in our lives when it seems as if we are on the border. Life happens and sometimes things that we don't expect to push us over the edge manage to do so. Instead of wasting time questioning our sanity, let us remember that we all have our moments, and lets consider the fact that perhaps a little bit of insanity resides within all of us.

"Was everybody seeing this stuff and acting as though they weren't? Was insanity just a matter of dropping the act?"

- Susanna Kaysen, Girl, Interrupted

I wish you luck as you head out into this crazy world,

Sometimes our minds feel like this and it's hard to hold it together-

Keep it Together, Guster

It's difficult to always maintain sanity in this crazy world-

Crazy, Britney Spears

And of course I'll leave with you some cuteness and laughter for the road-

P.S: If you were at all curious- I was able to finally finish my paper and I received an extension from my teacher so I was not at all penalized. She was completely understanding of my personal health situation and offered me support when I needed it most. I may have had a brush with insanity but I'm pleased to report that I have come out alive and somehow everything has worked itself out. I have faith that all will work in the end for you as well!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Shh...It's a Surprise!!

Unexpected Joys

Life Can Be Shocking

Shh...It's a Surprise!!
If I have learned anything over the course of the past couple days it's that people, things, and life are unpredictable. As soon as I have finally come to terms with the way things are, expecting and accepting each day to be pretty much the same as every other, life shocks me by treating me to unexpected joys. Because of my multiple times in treatment for my eating disorder I have had the opportunity to make a countless numbers of friends of varying ages, from all over the world, and from numerous different paths of life; but, of course, there are those few friends with whom I created instantaneous, unbreakable bonds who I continue to think about every single day. Unfortunately a number of factors- time, distance, work, lapses and relapses, and life in general- prevent us from seeing and talking to each other as frequently as I would like. But no matter what, these extraordinary friends will forever have a special place in my heart, and regardless of what happens I will always consider them to be my best friends, even part of my family. Our level of closeness makes every interaction that we have invaluable and fills me with a level of excitement and happiness that is not even possible to articulate. 
When we do get to see each other I find myself wondering if the situation is truly real or if it is just a dream; it wouldn't be a completely insane notion considering I do often dream about seeing these good friends who I rarely have the chance to interact and/or be with. But over the past few days life has surprised me by turning my dreams into realities on two separate occasions. The first event involved one of my dearest friends from treatment who I literally consider to be a second mother to me. She is nearly 40 years old, a college professor, married, and has her doctorates; clearly we lead very different lives. But somehow despite our differences we have been able to create and sustain an incomparable connection. However, sadly she is often very sick, involved in her eating disorder and dropping to scarily low weights, which makes it nearly impossible for us to be in contact with each other; she is either frequently intentionally isolating or too exhausted to even attempt to focus on her relationships with other people after fulfilling the obligations that her full-time job demands. She has recently pulled one of her "disappearing acts" and I decided to text her just to check in and let her know that she was on my mind. I wasn't even expecting a response so I was certainly shocked when she texted me back and suggested that we get together because she was going to be in the area. We met up and talked for only a little over an hour while she had time to kill between meetings. But, this face-to-face interaction was one of the most joyful experiences that I have had in a long time. 
Life shocked me by providing me with this unexpected joy, the opportunity to see, hug, and connect with my second mom, and it reminded me that we don't always need to be actively pursuing happiness; often, it will find us when we are least expecting it.

Callan's guide to happiness-
"Resist chasing after happiness and give happiness a chance to sneak up on you and 'find' you in unexpected moments."

- Jamie Cat Callan, Bonjour, Happiness! Secrets to Finding Your "Joie de Vivre"

I can't imagine a more appropriate quote for this entry and my personal experience. I most definitely wasn't expecting life to surprise me with this happy and gratifying experience. I sent a text to my friend out of the blue with no expectation that she would even bother responding. She was pulling one of her "disappearing acts" that she tends to engage in when she is not doing well with her eating disorder. But happiness chose to "sneak up" and "find" me when my friend suggested that we get together. I wasn't looking for happiness, yet I managed to come across it anyways because life opted to shock me with an unexpected joy. After seeing my friend I was completely elated and I couldn't imagine that my day could possibly get any better. But, again, I was wrong. Life was not through surprising me with unexpected and unsolicited pleasure. 
So Happy, Andy Warhol (1958)
Later that evening I heard from my other best friend from treatment (I have 3, each from a different time in treatment) who I literally haven't been in contact with in months. We are basically identical in almost every way- same eating disorder, same height, same hair color, same likes and dislikes, same cigarettes, same habits (good as well as bad), same attitude about our illness, and same perspectives about fun, happiness, and life- it's almost creepy. Our similarities are so strong and significant that we even refer to each other as "twinny." Our intense bond was strong and instantaneous and we became inseparable after only a few hours of knowing each other. We could finish each other's sentences, changed in front of each other, comforted one another, were ridiculously honest with each other, and trusted and loved each other despite the short length of our relationship. During this past spring we managed to get together almost every week and we always were able to have an absurd and fabulous time no matter what we were doing. She had the ability to make me feel alive and forget about my worries and issues. But as time went by, and we both became increasingly engaged in other areas of our lives, we haven't been able to stay in touch to the same degree that we once could. 
Me and my "twinny" !
I still love her unconditionally and I am pretty sure that the feeling is mutual but we just can't seem to consistently turn these feelings into actions. I constantly will send texts that go unanswered. We try to make plans and they nearly always fall through. Maintaining contact just seems impossibly difficult; so, although I consider her to be my "twin" and one of my dearest friends, I don't expect to hear from her or see her very often. Yesterday she surprised me when she reached out to me via Facebook. This initial message led to a series of messages, which ultimately resulted in lengthy text conversations, and again offered me an unexpected joy. Just communicating with her was able to provoke the happy, warm, and good feelings that I had experienced when we were able to spend time together. This second interaction solidified my belief that life can be shocking and that happiness will "find" us even when we are not actively looking for it nor expecting it.

"Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn't know you left open."

- John Barrymore

This quote is so true for me in both these situations. When I initially texted my second mother I wasn't looking for a response and I wasn't hoping or anticipating that she would provide me with any more joy than I already had. (I was feeling pretty good at the time so I wasn't necessarily on the look out for opportunities that would bring me happiness.) After seeing my friend I was feeling even better, so again, I wasn't on the hunt for additional happiness. In fact, I was thinking, "How could I possibly feel any better than I do right now?" But then my other friend, my "twin," contacted me unexpectedly, allowing further happiness to "sneak" into my life. I wasn't wanting or looking for more happiness or joy; it just came to me by surprise the "a door" that had apparently been "left open!" 

This is what my good friends do for me-
I know that these situations may sound small or insignificant but they truly meant the world to me, filling me with a level of joy that I haven't had in a long time. I have gotten so used to my predictable, structured, monotonous and somewhat mundane life that I have forgotten what it feels like to experience a pleasant surprise. The surprise doesn't need to be huge or monumental in order for it to make a big impact on you and your life in a positive way.

"Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things."

- Robert Brault

I picked this quote because it brings up the potential significance of the supposedly "little things," such as my recent interactions with my two best friends. I agree with this notion, but a part of me feels the need to counter Brault's statement, questioning, Why do we need to wait until a later point in time to recognize and/or ascribe value to these "little things?" 
In my mind anything that brings us joy, no matter how small or simple they may seem, are worthy of being deemed significant or "big." In actuality, sometimes it's these "little things" that provide us with the highest degrees of happiness. You may not understand why these recent unexpected joys brought me the amount of excitement that they did. You might not get why I consider basic communication with friends as a "big thing." But really, none of that is important; what matters is that I recognize how valuable these surprises were to me and my happiness. Likewise, I probably don't understand the importance and/or value of all of the "little things" that bring you joy. Again, my lack of understanding is insignificant. I am suggesting that we look at Brault's quote and take it one step further. Lets not wait to recognize the worth of all the small and simple things that bring us pleasure. Instead, I am encouraging us to denote these things as "big" right now. In this moment we can choose to give these "little things" the credit that they deserve. 

" can find happiness anywhere and everywhere...when we are not really concentrating on capturing [it], [it] will suddenly appear in our peripheral vision..."

- Jamie Cat Callan, Bonjour, Happiness! Secrets to Finding Your "Joie de Vivre"

We don't always need to be searching for happiness. Occasionally life will shock us by throwing it in our laps. If we acknowledge that the "little things" are actually "big" simply because of the fact that they bring us gladness the more likely we are to see that happiness truly is "anywhere and everywhere" and the more frequently we will be gifted unexpected joys. I have a long list of seemingly tiny, common, or trivial things that provide with a level of delight that others would consider uncalled for or inappropriate. 
My favorite simple pleasures include fancy stationary, stickers, any and all things involving France, expensive candles, and Hello Kitty. (This is just a short sampling from my lengthy list of little delights.)  My extensive list of diverse likes allows life to surprise me and provide me with unexpected joys on a regular basis. I will walk into the drug store to buy cigarettes and then all of a sudden...surprise- they are selling Hello Kitty stickers and Pez dispensers, consequently instantly lifting my spirits when I did not expect it. I head into my school's bookstore to pick up a text book for class and I am lured by the card section, which catches me off guard because it offers my favorite brand of luxury stationary and cards. Yet again, unexpected and instant happiness is tossed my way.
I go into Urban Outfitters in order to buy some new tights (considering mine always seem to have a run in them) and the first thing I see is a display filled with expensive, beautifully fragrant candles. I went in for a basic necessity and was surprised when I found that the store sold one of my favorite "little things." I entered expecting to leave with only a few pairs of tights in hand. Instead, I left with not just tights, and not just a candle, but a little bit of joy and a smile on my face as well. Why am I blabbering on and telling you all this, talking about candles and Hello Kitty and daily errands? Well, it's because I am trying to demonstrate to you that happiness really is "anywhere and everywhere." The more open we are to ascribing value to the small things that bring us pleasure, the more likely it is that life will shock us with unexpected joys. My best friends, who I rarely see and don't get to speak to that often, reached out to me and I was absolutely thrilled. Others may consider my level of gladness to be an over reaction or silly; however, connecting with close friends is yet another "little thing" that I regard as a "big thing." Life shocked me when I heard from my friends and I was blessed with two separate experiences of unexpected joy.
"My best friends...reached out to me and I was absolutely thrilled."
Think about the different things in life that bring you happiness- magazines, decorative pillows, picture frames, lip balm, cup cakes, coffee table books, anything at all! Give these "little things," which others may not see the meaningfulness of, the value and significance they they deserve. These pleasures are "big things" for no other reason than the fact that they fill you with cheerfulness. Once you have ascribed them the value you that they deserve I think you will discover that you are surprised with unexpected joys more and more. Don't disregard how substantial these simple pleasures are and don't allow yourself to forget that life can be shocking. Unexpected joys will find you when you are least expecting it. You may not be actively pursuing happiness but that does not mean that it will not find you anyways. 

Be open to embracing life's happy surprises,

Life can be shocking, bringing unexpected joys !

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Unanswered Prayers

Has G-d Forgotten About Me?

The Presence of the Omnipresent

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' says the Lord. 'They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'"
Jeremiah 29:11
Recently I have found myself in an all too familiar situation. My anorexia nervosa has found a way to slip into my life yet again, leaving me physically and mentally broken. I was so exhausted this past weekend that I literally couldn't move. I missed all of my classes Monday and felt as if my life was unravelling before my very eyes. I am behind on course work and class material. My absences are quickly mounting beyond an acceptable level. My academic life, the place where I usually find it easy to excel, is becoming chaotic and overwhelming. 
"My mind reflects the chaos that is ensuing in my life."
My mind reflects the chaos that is ensuing in my life. My eating disordered thoughts are out of control. My weight is low and I have no desire for it to increase. My mind is consumed with fear and irrational thoughts. The image I see in the mirror is completed distorted, manipulated and twisted by the disorder that is ravaging my brain and my body. I am angry and frustrated with myself, with my life, and with G-d. I feel as if I have done all can do in order to create a fulfilling and happy life for myself. Yet, as soon as I get close to feeling content and in control it seems as if G-d throws another issue my way. 
"...I find myself haunted by the same eating disorder demons..."
I pray each night for fulfillment and happiness both of which sound to me like pretty reasonable and feasible requests. But when I wake up every morning and find myself haunted by the same eating disorder demons I can't help but think that my prayers have yet again gone unanswered. When we are praying for irrational or infeasible things- winning the lottery, permanent vacations, magical results- we can't help but expect unanswered prayers. But what does it mean when the simplest of requests are denied? Has G-d forgotten about me? Is my chronic illness a punishment for some unspeakable crime that I have committed but am somehow unaware of? Or, am simply praying and/or asking for the wrongs things? I really am not sure. I want to believe that G-d is this omnipresent force that is always with me, looking out for me, and protecting me and all others deserving of his gifts. But lately I have started to have doubts regarding the presence of the omnipresent. If G-d were truly and omnipresent force of good than why is it that so many of us are suffering, myself included? While I don't have an answer for any of these questions I do have a quote that is helping me find some solace during this time of fear and uncertainty-

"I pray to the G-d within me that He will give me the strength to ask Him the right questions."

- Elie Weisel, "Night"

I discovered Weisel's words today while perusing a long list of quotes that I have accumulated over time. It seemed to be calling to me and I have to believe that I came across it for a reason. Perhaps it isn't that G-d has forgotten about me, maybe I am just asking the wrong questions and looking for answers in the wrong places. Could it be that it is not G-d's duty to answer our prayers but instead lead us in the direction of questioning appropriately? Once we have learned to ask the "right questions" and correctly find responses then maybe it won't seems as if our prayers are going unanswered. Today I am using this quote almost like an affirmation-

Hoping for the ability to ask the "right questions"-
G-d will give me the strength to ask Him the right questions and pray accordingly.

Perhaps it is time that I leave the questions, which reek of self-pity and anger, behind. I need to put an end to my line of questioning which focuses purely on myself, my woes, and neglects to acknowledge the blessing that exist within my life. Farewell to the "Why would you curse me with this chronic and fatal illness?" So long to the "Why would you put me on this early simply so I could suffer and slowly kill myself?" It's time to stop asking "Why am I forced to live a miserable existence that hurts me and everyone I love?" I have to stop with this "Why me" approach because it is clearly not getting me anywhere. 
"I have to stop with this 'why me' approach..."
G-d is not answering my questions. He is not lifting me out of this metaphorical Hell. And He is not intervening in order to save me from myself. If I feel as if I am being left with a plethora of unanswered prayers then there is clearly a reason why. Weisel's quote got me thinking; I must be asking the wrong questions. Perhaps instead I should be asking G-d to give me the strength to help myself out of this unfortunate situation. Maybe I need to pray for the ability to see my own potential, a potential that could help me overcome this disease. Maybe my series of questions should sound more like "G-d thank you for the wealth of knowledge that you have given me through experience. How can I use this knowledge to strengthen my resolve and continue working to achieve health and happiness?" "I have been blessed with a supportive family; G-d can you help me learn how to utilize their love rather than shut them out?" Or, "Thank you for my G-d given intellect that allows me to think rationally even in my darkest moments. What must I do in order to utilize this intelligence when attempting to beat this disease?" "G-d, you have granted me with many blessings; how can I appreciate and maximize these gifts in order to reach my desired ends?" Instead of wondering if G-d has forgotten about me, or asking G-d what he can do for me directly, perhaps I need to ask what He can help me to do in order for me to better serve myself. It seems that I have been going about praying in the wrong way for all of this time. I have constantly focused on what I am lacking, what I need, and what I wish to be done for me. 
This quote provoked a new series of thoughts within me. Perhaps prayer isn't about requesting new tools or qualities in order to achieve our desired ends. Maybe prayer is meant to be a communication with G-d in which we recognize the qualities that already exist within us and our lives and seek guidance toward utilizing them in a more productive way. Weisel's statement really got me thinking! Well of course my prayers have gone unanswered; I have been asking the wrong questions all along. This line of thought connects to another quote that I have kept in the back of my mind for quite some time now-

"Don't pray when it rains if you don't pray when the sun shines." 

- Satchel Paige

Of course the obvious interpretation of this quote would be to not pray when things are bad if you fail to pray when things are good. Yet, I have always seen this quote in a different and less literal light. My personal interpretation extends beyond the scope of the phrase itself. I take Paige's words as saying don't pray for your needs if you are not willing to offer thanks as well. When I say my evening prayers I always try to include something that I am thankful for (unless I am in a truly desperate state and any feelings of gratitude have completely escaped me.) However it seems that my most recent questions directed at G-d, including have you forgotten about me, have neglected to include this component of thanks. With this quote and my personal interpretation of it in mind, I am almost ashamed of my selfish and self-pitying prayers and questions. 

G-d provides us with a tool kit in order to deal with life-
Who am I to inquire about G-d's mysterious ways of working? Who am I to question the presence of the omnipresent? How could I place blame on G-d for my own misfortunes when He has been generous enough to provide me with a series of blessings- intellect, family, wealth, friends, love- that can act as tools to help me solve my issues? If G-d had truly forgotten about me then He wouldn't have bestowed the useful gifts upon me. G-d isn't there to solve all of our problems or make them disappear. He is there as a comfort when we are feeling low. He is there to guide is in the right direction. He is present so that we are able to figure out for ourselves how to overcome the challenges that we face in our lives. Metaphorically G-d is like a teacher. Our teachers feed us new information and provide us with tools in order to solve the problems that we are given. While a good teacher helps us learn how to decipher a problem on our own they will not just give us the answer when we get stuck. It appears to me that G-d works in a similar way. He teaches us through experience and gives us the required equipment- knowledge, support systems, inner-strength, in order to overcome obstacles; however, He is not there to simply do the work for us and make and the issues disappear.
"...maintain my faith..."
I may be faced with a daunting task- fighting my anorexia- but G-d has already done his part by blessing me with the tools I need in order to beat this challenge. Now it is my turn to ask the right questions, pray appropriately, utilize the gifts in my life, maintain my faith, and put forth the required effort in order to solve this issue for myself.
Potential provided by G'd's many blessings-
Now that I have written this post it all seems so obvious and I feel a bit silly for whining about unanswered prayers and fearing that G-d has forgotten me. But perhaps I needed to feel that way and discover for myself (via this entry) that the presence of the omnipresent is unwavering. I may not always understand His decisions or mysterious workings but that is not an excuse for me doubt His existence, His capabilities, or His love. 
Moving forward I will pray with a different level of awareness and a new appreciation. I will do my best to answer the "right questions" and if they escape me I will simply pray to G-d to lead me in the direction of the correction questions to pose. Maybe some of these questions will remain unanswered. Perhaps the answers have been offered and I just do not recognize them because they are not being given in the manner in which I expected. Or it may be that I need to patient because the answers I am seeking will be received in time. 

Regardless, I must have faith that G-d is omnipresent, always keeping my best interest in mind. I may not feel it and I may not always believe it but I cannot ever allow myself to forget it. If I don't have confidence in a higher power than what do I have? Could it be that the comfort in believing in a higher power is a tool in itself? I can turn to the heavens and pray, feeling that I am never truly alone, I always have a confidante, and that the presence of a sympathetic ear is always with me. I may be confronting a hurdle but I know that I am not alone. The omnipresent G-d is there to help me even if I don't always understand his workings.

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
Isaiah 41:10

Do not lose faith,

I hope I haven't made you over think it ! Let us have faith in the presence of the omnipresent-

Livin' On a Prayer, Bon Jovi

L'Chi Lach (And You Shall be a Blessing) and Mi Sheberach (Jewish Prayer for Healing), both by Debbie Friedman

I remember these songs bringing me comfort and filling me with peace as child while sitting in synagogue. Listening to them brings me back to simpler times and continue to send chills up my spine. Regardless of your faith I hope that you can appreciate them and that they provide you with the same comfort and solace that they have always given me.

Eating Disorder Awareness

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder please don't go through it alone. Be aware of the signs, symptoms, and often unspoken cries for help. I've included a series of links to informative sites about the illnesses, risks, warning signs, approaching a loved one, treatment, etc. Please know that you are never alone! Contact me directly if you have any questions or are in need of support and are not sure where to turn-


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Mean People Suck

Bitches are Everywhere

Dealing With Individuals Whom We Dislike

Mean People Suck
No matter your age, occupation, gender, or situation it is impossible to avoid individuals whom we dislike or don't get along with because quite frankly, bitches are everywhere. Mean people suck but unfortunately we are often forced to deal with them in a number of situations- at work, in social settings, in the classroom, on the street, and even in line at Starbucks. It seems that despite how hard we try to eliminate mean people and negative interactions from our lives they always find a way to sneak back in. Perhaps it is because of there abundance; could it be true that bitches are everywhere? Or maybe we continue to encounter individuals whom we dislike (or G-d forbid people who don't like us) because we are all so different and these differences make it impossible to be compatible with everyone.

"You can please some of the people all the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time."

- John Lydgate

This is a quote that is frequently over used however its prominence does not detract from its valuable meaning. I find it relevant to this entry because it indirectly speaks to the fact that there are just people out there who we cannot please and likewise individuals who are unable to please us. Put simply, we can't get along with everyone. Luckily, we typically have the option to choose who we do and don't spend time with. We have the ability to pick friends with whom we mesh. We can choose to surround ourselves with positive people that add to our lives and enhance our happiness. We have the luxury of deciding who is worth our time and effort. But, sometimes we are not given this choice. There are occasions and situations that force us to interact with mean people or bitches or individuals whom we dislike. 

"We have the ability to pick friends with whom we mesh."
In my life this fact has materialized in the relationship I have with one of my current teachers. From day one we just did not get along. Her teaching style does not correspond with the methods of my previous teachers. Her knowledge of the subject and course material is certainly lacking (and that is putting it kindly.) And I automatically sensed bad energy radiating off of her and heading my direction. It felt as if my presence in the classroom was and is a nuisance to her. I don't know the reason for this initial and mutual dislike but I have definitely been aware of it since the beginning of the semester. As the past weeks have gone by I have picked up on subtle cues that she was not fond of me but I attempted to ignore them or set them aside because I didn't want to create an issue. (She is after all my teacher and subsequently the individual who will be evaluating me and grading my assignments. It is certainly less than ideal to piss off the person who has more authority than you- teacher, boss, parent, supervisor.) However recently the tension that has been building came to a head in the form of a face-to-face confrontation. The details of the situation are unimportant in order to present my case. Both of us were in the wrong, I admitted fault and apologized, and I even agreed to attempt to meet her requests in order to improve the relationship. But as I left the discussion it became apparently clear to me that this teacher was simply one of those people that I could not please. Although our negative feelings toward each other are now out in the open we still need to complete an even more daunting task: figuring out how to deal with one another for the remainder of the semester despite our mutual dislike. It's easy to say that mean people suck and it's even relatively easy to come to terms with the fact that bitches are everywhere; but neither of these statements will solve the issue at hand. How are we able to deal with people whom we dislike? I am going to turn to a book that I recently bought, Instant Happy by Karen Salmansohn, in an attempt to answer this question. The book suggests to,

"View your tormentors as mentors. Ask yourself, 'What is this person meant to teach me?' Every person in our lives has a lesson to teach. Some lessons include: How to be stronger, how to be more communicative, when to trust your intuition, how to be more self-loving, when to let go, why you want to be nothing like this person."

As I was flipping through the book today I came across the page that included this notion; it was exactly what I needed to read and/or hear at the moment. I was so angry at this teacher and frustrated that I was going to have to interact her for the next 2 months. I strongly dislike her and just what to be rid of her but I know that this desire is an impossibility. I needed to figure out a way to approach the situation that would enable me to deal with her and allow me to continue making progress as a student.

This perspective, viewing those we dislike and/or bitches as people who are meant to teach us something, allows me to recognize the value in this bad relationship. This instructor has the ability to teach me a few of the aforementioned lessons: how to be stronger, when to let go, and why I want to be nothing like her. During our confrontation today I was able to stand my ground and make clear, rational, and persuasive points. Despite being emotionally distraught I remained strong enough to articulate a fair and honest argument in order to support my case. This bitchy teacher helped me realize that I can maintain a strong mind and sound point of view in the face of adversity or a threat. Her negativity toward me also guided me toward the fact that I needed to let go. It became clear that I am not going to be able to manifest a close relationship with  like I have had with my previous instructors and professors. She showed me that it is time for me to stop trying to create something out of nothing. I need to let go of the idea that I will connect with her and accept the connection for what it is- a shitty relationship between a teacher and an over zealous student (ie. myself.) 
Bitches are Everywhere
Lastly this instructor is the perfect example of who I never want to be and what I want to be nothing like. She neglected to acknowledge my positive attributes- passion for the topic and my ambition- and cast a negative light upon these qualities, asserting that my questions disrupted the course of the class and that my participation often led our discussions astray. I was confused by her criticism because I have always been applauded for speaking up when I don't understand something (often my confusion reflects that of other students who fear using their voice or admitting a lack of comprehension.) Additionally, most instructors have always commented on my willingness to engage in class discussions and the positive contributions that I bring to class via participation. This teacher's critiques left me perplexed; she was making claims that completely countered everything I have been told by professors in the past. Her condemnation for my level and quality of class participation has left me feeling embarrassed and insecure. I no longer want to add to class discussions because I am afraid of being judged and/or disliked by this teacher. The person who is supposed to inspire students, build confidence, and promote ambition has single handedly thwarted my desire to contribute in the classroom. She has instilled a fear within me that will certainly prevent me from reaping the full benefits of the course and consequently hinder my ability to advance my knowledge in the subject. 
Shall we learn to deal with individuals whom we dislike?
I want to be nothing like her because I never want to be responsible for detracting from someones passion. I never want someone to fear expressing themselves because of my potential reaction. And I refuse to ever condemn a person for exhibiting genuine interest and care about a topic. This instructor was mean to me and that sucks; however, her nasty words and behaviors prompted me to think about the person that I want to be. I want to inspire people, help others recognize their passions, foster interest in different subjects, and be a positive influence for anyone that I encounter. By thinking about this teacher as a "mentor" rather than a "tormentor" I can continue to learn from her throughout the remainder of the semester. Dealing with her may not be easy or pleasurable but at least I can find some value in the relationship. However this approach can be difficult to implement; we can't always see past our dislike and find a way to recognize the positive in a negative situation. Sometimes the only way to deal with individuals whom we dislike is to make light.

"Make light" of the situation-

"If evil be said of thee, and if it be true, correct thyself;  if it be a lie, laugh at it."

- Epictetus

The portion of this quote that I want to focus on is the final line- "if it be a lie, laugh at it." So often we are unable to get along with people because they dislike us for reasons that are untrue or misconstrued. 

"...people dislike us for reasons that are untrue..."
For example, in my case, my instructor finds issue with me because she interprets my behavior in class as being inconsiderate or selfish. However I know that her perception of me is incorrect. I speak often and ask numerous questions not because I am solely concerned with my self-interest but because I have a true desire to understand the concepts and learn. I know that my level of participation is a consequence of my want to learn and reflective of my zeal. However, she has interpreted my actions in a different and incorrect way; she has misconstrued my motives and consequently has formulated a falsified image of me as a student and a person. Perhaps this is one of the main reasons for our inability to get along. My case is not unique; frequently people misunderstand and/or misinterpret our actions and subsequently form a negative opinion about us. In these cases maybe the best thing for us to do is to just laugh it off. We know what our true desires and intentions are. We cannot blame ourselves for other's interpretations nor can we control how other people perceive us. When we have difficulty with others because of their own inaccurate perceptions and assumptions we need to simply let go, as the previous quote suggested. Remind yourself of your true intent or motives behind your behavior. 
Sometimes you must laugh it off-
Accept that this person with whom you don't get along has created an untrue idea of who you are and what you are about. And then just say fuck it. Laugh about it. Add some levity to the situation. You know that they are wrong but you don't have the capability of altering their view; therefore the only thing you can do to cope with the situation and/or deal with the individual is to laugh. They are wrong and that is not your fault. Sometimes we just have people in our lives who suck. Joke about the fact that they are stupid, judgmental, or incorrect. Often the best cure for unfortunate situations is laughter. If you can't appreciate the relationship for its value than at least take advantage of its humorous element. Yet, sometimes even this approach is too difficult to accomplish or its simply inappropriate and then we are forced to find a new means of dealing with individuals whom we dislike. We are left with one last way of handling mean people or bitches- gaining a level of tolerance. This method is not easy either; in fact it may be the most difficult. But if we are unable to like someone, often the best alternative is to at least find a way to tolerate them.

"It requires less character to discover the faults of others than it does to tolerate them."

- J. Petit Senn

It is very easy to pick apart other people, recognizing and criticizing all of their misdoings and inadequacies. But at the end of the day what does this practice serve us? Great, I can call my teacher a bitch, I can say that she is mean and unjust, I can assert that she has poor teaching skills, and question her knowledge of the subject; but ultimately how do any of those things help me? Ok, they may make me feel better momentarily but they don't support my cause or goal: learning about the topic and earning a good grade the course. Ultimately I have to figure out how to deal with my instructor whom I dislike in order to achieve my desired ends. I can try to recognize the value of the negative relationship and learn about myself from it. I can add levity to the situation and laugh about her misconceptions as a means of getting myself through the remainder of the semester. But if these methods fail me I am left with my one, final tool: tolerance. 

I am viewing tolerance as a skill that can be learned or a circumstance that we can adjust to. For example, when we turn off the lights and are left in pitch black we are unable to see at first. But, as time goes by, our eyes begin to adjust to the new lighting and we are able to see things that we could not see initially. Lets imagine tolerance in the same way. Perhaps at first the circumstance or person seems absolutely unbearable. But, as time progresses we can learn to adjust, tolerating their faults, shortcomings, and irritating behavior. Hopefully with time I will be able to adjust and gain a level of tolerance with respect to my  instructor. Think about the people who you interact with from day-to-day. I am sure there are a number of individuals whom you dislike that you are forced to engage with because of work, school, family relations, etc.

Fix the way you deal with those you dislike so that you can live with them-
How have you been dealing with these people? What is your method of handling negative relations? Is it working for you? Is it negatively impacting others around you? Is it prohibiting you from performing to the best of your ability? If your current way of dealing with these bitches who seem to be everywhere isn't really working for you then it is time to implement a change. Take your pick- find value in a seemingly negative situation, laugh it off, or manage to gain a level of tolerance. Mean people suck but unfortunately we are going to continue to encounter them for the duration of our lives, and sometimes we don't have the option to avoid interaction with them. Therefore we need to adopt a means of dealing with people whom we dislike; if we don't we are sure to suffer- mentally, emotionally, academically, professionally, and personally. We can't afford to limit ourselves because we are unable to please and/or get along with everyone whom we encounter. I encourage you to make use of one of these tactics the next time you are forced to come face-to-face with one of your "tormentors." You have the strength within you and now you have the equipment to deal with the abundance of mean people that populate this earth. Don't let someone whom you dislike prohibit your success. Don't let bitches stand in the way of your ability to move forward. Let us acknowledge that mean people suck and then use our power to deal with them.

Use your strength to beat the bitches,

Don't let the bitches waste your time; learn, laugh, and/or tolerate instead !

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