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For everyone: Gabor Mate on Addiction

I posted this on Facebook and thought it worth publishing here. Dr Mate creates a useful way of viewing addiction that I think is applicable to everyone.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/ideas/videos/addiction-is-a-response-to-emotional-pain/p07tnh6m

Great to see Dr Mate shared on BBC. “We are all just like the rest of us.”

Addicts are always traumatized, he says. Addiction is any behavior that offers short term relief or pleasure and also has negative consequences of some kind, yet one cannot or does not stop. Myths of addiction are genes pre-determine we become addicted and addiction is a choice. With this definition of addiction, it normalizes the process of suffering…and healing.

I think no one is immune to this conflict of self harm to resolve pain, even if it is very temporary and more on the level of eating cookies every day for a few days to cope with emotional pain and feeling the effects of that, and then continuing to do it again the next day.

Why Write? Daily writing on 750words

It is Monday morning. Many people are going to work or school. I have nothing scheduled this day (if you don’t count my walks with dogs and canine meal times which are sacred commitments so I guess I ought to count them). Having nothng scheduled is common for most of my days. It isn’t like an endless vacation though, any more or less than life with a Labrador generally is. At times I wonder if it is Friday or what day it is at all. Sometimes I feel some hurt  at the difference in my world, and my past world and what feels like a majority of others’ worlds, as I am focusing on my health, basically professionally orphaned, in recovery from relational trauma, witnessing and focusing on being every day. I still have plenty of possibilities, and personal projects I could attend to, and stress. But I don’t have the pressure of a 9 to 5 or even the pressure and support of a global team and jet setting consultant schedule. I don’t have the regular hosting of clients, and admiration and requests of colleagues of various kinds.

People ask what I do.

It is not an easy question for me because there has been a lot of loss associated with this. To some I am unemployed. That is their paradigm. But I haven’t had a job-job for like 12 years. I can’t say I am a consultant or even a coach. It feels wrong to say I do nothing. I know it is contextual, but still…

What do I do? I write every day. I listen. I connect things. I create…create structure for my day. Become present. Focus on what matters. Discover my next life by living each moment breath by breath, step by step. I try to connect with people, encourage them, and share what is relevant. In general, be a helpful citizen. Go the speed limit. Let people merge. Hold the door. Be patient in line at the store. I walk my dog. I try to take care of our lives. Various activies and plans to help my physical and mental health. I help neighbors or friends when I can. I run with my dog daughter. I go to church. I meditate. I lead meditations or yoga with friends. I learn things. I follow up with people. I promote things, like the Responsive Conference, The Loop Approach, and hugs.

Why write? What is consistent? What is safe? What is empowering?

Writing is all of the above for me. I write to put out my disorganized thoughts, to shed light on the shadows or unseen thoughts of my mind, to rehash something that is still working through me. Mainly it is just a daily practice that I can do to add positive intention to my routine. Okay, I lied it is really a magical portal into as of yet uncreated realities.

What have I accomplished with this daily writing?

Why would I be so dedicated to do this thing every day with no goal and no measure of quality? Hint: it is because I want to, it is loving, it is about how being is a priority. It is a form of mindfulness practice because I witness, I give permission to be, to feel, with curiosity and compassion as I self express in writing.

Mostly I learn things about myself, though I believe it is a great help to our relationships, life goals, and work  too, if we want it to be or need it to be. For these last 167 days or so it has been my only daily thing, aside from walking Liv the Lab.

  • I chose me many times, proving to myself that I am there and can commit to something pretty much every day. It is an act of self care, full of intention and acceptance. I always have this space that I can go to.
  • I have growing confidence to voice my ideas and further develop them. Or to let them go, with the safety of my venting, dreaming, drafting space enough for some of them.
  • It takes energy to write. Even if I type. So it is building a skill, and creating a neural pathway. I believe it is making it more possible for me to make other commitments, to believe I can do other things, to achieve anything that takes even a bit of energy.

What does the streak mean?

  • I think broadly which I can break down into specifics, it means I am consistent, I am safe, I am productive, I am empowered, and I can create something.
  • I learned that I can do some things even with migraines and ptsd. In October alone I had like 7 migraines or so, some lasting multuple days. A part of me questioned my sanity when committing to the November monthly challenge.
  • I can solve problems or rise to challenges, like maintaining my practice while not having internet or traveling to Europe for 10 days. Yes, I still don’t have internet. This required me to plan, prioritize, get creative, make sacrifices and push myself. (I don’t always feel like writing 750 words; sometimes it is a slog.)

Why write? 

Are you having a hard time? Are you sorting through something challenging or complex or emotional, even if you think it is positive? Are you desiring more intention in your day, self awareness, or pretty much anything? Want to build a habit? Then there is the obvious, which is do you want to write a book or maybe just write more?

The daily writing can help us clear our head, get distance with our thoughts, or just give ourselves space that no one else or nothing else will. I have probably said or written this before but we get to know our consciousness with this kind of unfiltered, private, regular writing. What is your daily mindfulness or other practice? What has it taught you? How are you getting to know your consciousness?

From there, I may brainstorm, craft communications, or make or edit lists. More on those in future posts.

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750words.com is a free website that helps you write every day. What I really think is that it is a safe and magic space of creation, for whatever you want. I rely on the daily emails from the site checking in about my progress.

 

Practice: Commit to one thing per day

Have you ever been like me and tended to over-commit or have times when your desires or appetite or life is far more challenging, conflicting, or complex than you can act on in a day? Is it just me? Whether I am fully loaded with work projects or not officially on a job, I have discovered this pattern remains for me. And maybe also like me, you make routines and practices to know yourself, your values, and your commitments. We meditate or exercise or consult with a friend or a divine presence to decide. Or we re-prioritize or act based on our health, financial needs, or the shiny requests and offers of others, of the world.

I often wake up and see and believe way more will happen in a day. It may be a migraine, or a lapse in planning and arrival of a deadline, or an opportunity or something unpredictable and not anyone’s direct influence like a broken car key, change in someone’s plan, or sudden flood that washes out the very road as you drive.

How many things do we commit to accomplish in a day? If you take our your dog, go to work or do something for someone else, make meals, do errands or other personal tasks, then that is a lot. Then there are those times when we get that call from a friend who needs something or needs to talk…but our day is all committed…then what?

If our days feel like they have a healthy amount of activity and balance of rest, fun, relationships, and whatever work is, then this may be a chance to get more creative. Or it may just provide a reflection on how much you are out there able to do, be, and contribute for yourself and others instead of literally doing one thing per day.

If our days feel tenuous and or overwhelming, then this could be an opportunity to hold ourselves more gently and with more space.

I believe in only doing one thing per day. This could be a phone call that is big, or reviewing a document, or a meeting, or a working session, or connecting with someone, or a decision.

Depending on the thing for the day, then I attempt to go ahead and get that call out of the way or submit the application for the thing, if I can clear it. Because if so, then after there is time for …Cookies!! (or some other celebration). And often the things we try to do turn into something else or a series of things, so starting early or scheduling it appropriately helps regardless of the outcome.

Or if it is a day-long thing or something that has to happen later, then I set up the rest of my day with intentional structure around it. If I am committing to having a meeting I know I may need a couple hours before and that means maybe I could rest, do something easy at home, or perhaps something more complex.

Sometimes we need to schedule that one thing. Or tell someone we need to do it or are going to do something about ________.

Doing one thing per day is a practice, though the phrase can be misleading since it can be that while we commit to one thing and allow for others, then. It can be challenging to say no or adjust commitments or plans around the thing of the day. This practice creates intentionality, helps us know ourselves, and constantly let’s us consider what is important, and allow for changes.

I don’t deprive myself of doing more things like scheduling other calls or making plans or whatever. But what is important is the focus and then other things are built around this one thing. Then there is intentional space, whatever comes.

That is the secret of this. By doing one thing at a time, once per day, then it holds space for yourself. And what comes from that can be doing many things. Or not.

Completing v Finishing

Some years ago I worked with a friend who had a routine he called Start, Stop, Continue…and we would go through our projects and decide. I believe it came from some software team practice. At times I would take everything I would be doing or thinking of doing and run it through these filters.

Now at one point just with my work alone at HolacracyOne, my old company, I had like 3 dozen roles or so, and had more projects than I could manage. I used every tool I had and then some to chunk it down, focus, prioritize, outsource, manage expectations, protect my sanity, and more. Getting Things Done (GTD) has been a lifesaver for many reasons.

Most people, myself included have around 100 or so outcomes we are working toward at any given time. Only some of them are really clear and known to us. So we are often subconsciously working on all our stuff. By writing down our outcomes, our things to talk about with each other, and essentially tracking all the commitments we have made (to ourselves, since that is first and foremost what I commitment is) we can have headspace to be creative, be more reliable in our commitments, and even think more…about more projects, which are really anything from something like finally going on that trip with that special someone to publishing an article to starting a new career. It is just our life’s work, these projects. Work is simply a subset of our life.

Yet something happens when we then agree to get back to someone. Or have a conversation with someone and we both think we should again. Or we have a proposal out to a client and they aren’t responding. Or we have some challenges in our relationship or our work. We start seeing and feeling these open loops. These open loops are needing something. They need attention. They need a parking lot, a place holder. Or they keep wanting.

What happens when you can’t close an open loop? Sometimes a relationship has run its course. Sometimes our personal needs take us on a different path from our colleagues. Sometimes we simply don’t want to keep engaging in something that may not be worthy of our attention and effort, or worse, even harmful. Do we have to finish?

No more than we would be expected to clear our plate even if we are full should we need to finish something. Completing has become important. And that doesn’t always mean finishing. Sometimes it means pausing. Sometimes it is letting go. And sometimes it is leaving. If we can we can communicate something about this. I am not saying it is easy nor socially acceptable nor without cost to complete things in this way and not feel pressure to finish it in a prescribed way, within someone else’s terms, or at all. We find a way to complete or close these open loops for ourselves even if it is solely within ourselves and the rest of our lives. We needn’t actually ever go near the person, place, or thing that is an open-loop to complete it for ourselves.

 

Let’s start at the very beginning

More than one context of my life — health, relationships, work, finance, living situation, and more — have significantly changed over the past year. I have learned a lot, questioned a lot, and let go of a lot. In many ways, it feels like I am starting over. More accurately, it felt like I was born for the first time even though I have been alive for these years. It didn’t feel good at first. And I would like to share more about that, and the details of what has happened, and what I have learned. Hopefully, it will come. Now at 37, after stepping back from a career full of momentum and struggling to thrive and even survive at times, what matters has changed.  Even though I am not yet sure about what, I sense I could write a few books.

If you’ve ever had a situation happen that was very meaningful, either at once or over time, and you look back at your life and it is different than you once saw it or knew it, you may relate. My situation was more of a shock and what felt like a fight for survival. From an ego perspective, this is what is called a disorienting dilemma. This disorienting dilemma changes everything. (I have used the term disorienting dilemma to mean something that doesn’t fit into our view of ourself and our world for years, after learning of it by Terri OFallon and Susanne Cook-Greuter. Apparently, Jack Mezirow is actually to credit for this term, disorienting dilemma.) Telling any part of my story feels incomplete, and that there is something off. Something so off that the entirety of my life until now is being…re-seen. And there are these parts of self and the ensuing life parts that are still being seen, let go of, brought together, or in some cases not yet birthed…my life has a sort of pre-dawn quality to it and yet how do I stay in contact with the world, discover how my new sense of purpose manifests, and keep showing up, even with these disparate parts?

At one point “What do you do?” was a question that brought stuttering and stammering, pain, tears, awkwardness. I now realize that some of that is because of trauma symptoms which may or may not be about work, though I suspect feels worse because I cared about my work so much. Then I started accepting that it was okay to not know. I don’t have to explain it. For years I had the challenge of naming what I do adequately, whether to my grandma when I tried to explain this part-time contract or the customs agent at the airport, or someone at a party, or a person who wants to know what Holacracy is. Even being self-employed isn’t a familiar situation to many; they ask are you going to work today? No, are you unemployed? What’s your job? None of those questions have applied for a while.

Sometimes I say taking time off for mental health. I left my old company. I am a writer. I am self-employed. Yes, unemployed. In a career transition. Consultant. Or I am going through what some call a dark night of the soul — have you heard of that?

I do a lot of things. It’s hard to talk about sometimes. Also, I stopped working for HolacracyOne in 2018, and hadn’t been a part of the consulting team most of that entire year, and officially exited in May 2019 after deciding to in January. This is a whole other story, but the point is the main thing I did…I no longer identify with or do.

What is safe, and even better, feels right or good to work on has changed for me. What matters is who we are on a daily basis, whether we are with people who we see in a work context or somewhere else.I am exploring what to do. I have a lot of interests ranging from business stuff to learning, mindfulness, Getting Things Done, wellness, mental health, trauma, recovery, writing, holacracy, listening, dogging, and more. Work will never be the same for me.

So I am starting over. I wanted to simply write a brief update. And that was actually a big ending for me.  I haven’t known where to start, so I just started here. And it wasn’t the beginning. We can’t always start at the beginning. And we don’t always get to make a good ending, or any ending at all. We can always make a new start.

 

 

 

From my brain 6.11

How is it that the blessings in our life are also the challenge?

This is playing out before me right now as I sit down to write. I am outside with the dogs, who seem to want me involved. I love these two girls, Maggie and Liv. Yet they seem to request a sort of moderation to their play, escalating to wrestling eventually if I don’t intervene. Plus they are really cute and I love playing with them, attuning to them, joining their world, and enriching their lives. Yet I wanted to write. So they are playing their game, or some version of it which involved possessing the ball and pulling up grass or chewing the ball, as the other waits patiently to go in for the ball or for me to “take it”…which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. Maggie’s mouth won’t release if you pull it; she tugs back. So she has to drop it. Liv will drop it less often but will let me pull it out of her mouth. It’s important to note these differences in interacting with them. Of all the things I could be doing, playing with dogs outside on a comfortably warm and breezy day is at the top of the list. I am counting my blessings.

Writing has been a whole unique process that has also felt difficult at times, especially when I have a long streak, though it isn’t always in my attention. I have written every day for over 300 days now, though I lost my streak the other day when I only wrote around 500 words. There were times when I was working to maintain my writing that it was really challenging; there were unexpected power and internet outages, travel, and other things. It became work at times to be able to do the writing, which required about 15 minutes online. Yet I did it, even without internet at home for a few weeks. I noticed how it would feel like a burden or a challenge, and question if I wanted to. Often it was no question; writing and the daily practice is so valuable for so many reasons.

This time when I lost my streak I had 247 days, which is my longest streak of writing 750words. I had undergone an unplanned root canal that day and felt spent in the worst way, that I had exhausted all my inner resources in getting through that experience…and then I was struggling to make it through my writing. I was self conscious as I typed as Liv groaned at me. It seemed loud. I was unable to come up with many words it seemed. I was writing about it all. It felt arduous. The pain medication kicked in and I was processing the day.

I went to bed, only to wake up in the early morning with the clarity that I had not finished my writing and thus lost my streak. That next day I wrote early in the day. I usually do. Now I’m at 8 days again. It’s truly humbling starting over. Yet I had to in this case; writing is one of my rocks, even though with the streak broken it felt like I now had nothing consistent in my life as a daily practice. To keep going and be faced with my small streak was hard and I was proud of how I handled it. Other times when I have inadvertently lost my streak I’ve felt it much more intensely.

Even positive things can be a mix; I am learning that is what life is as a human. Even a good day can be hard. Working toward something can take effort, which can bring a range of emotions or impacts. Triggers about the past can make things hard for one person that is not a thing for another. It’s good to be able to hold that perspective, and that it is okay to feel things. It doesnt mean I am a bad or negative person because something is hard or face a challenge or do something imperfectly — like publishing blog posts without a goal or strategy.

I thought I was going to write about something else. But this is what came. And I did play with dogs.

Song of the day: black bear on reality as it is

The fur that he is wearing is the fur that he prefers…

One of many insightful lyrics in this sweet and honest homage to the black bear, not just as a black bear, but in the season of his life, and as a metaphor for being with what is, as it is. The lyrics, the imagery, and the organ all weave together beautifully.

I first heard this many years ago, and unfortunately I don’t remember where. I was living in the Bellevue area and was in a new place, with a new job I knew would be very temporary, without knowing why, didn’t know anyone in the area.

I would have been 24 years old or so as I walked to work from where I would drive or bus to my job at a non profit organization, and listen to this and feel connected as I walked the past few steps to work, with the help of the black bear.

And when he thinks he is thoughtful

And when he rests he is restful

And when he runs he runs the fastest

And spins the earth right on its axis

And that’s his gift to all

Showing us the sun

Keeping time for everyone

A steady beating drum