Posts Tagged With: Anne Lamott

Best Advice I’ve Gotten In the Past Year? “Practice Radical Self-Care”

Great recs found here.

Great recs found here.

The best advice I got during the past twelve months wasn’t directed at me. And it arrived through an unlikely source, a Goodreads question and answer session.

I don’t usually follow or sign up for these sorts of things. I think the author’s work normally speaks for itself. But I made an exception this one time.  When Anne Lamott, the author of “Help! Thanks! Wow!” among other hilarious, heartfelt and honest books, accepted a stint on the Featured Author Chat over at Goodreads, I jumped on board eager to pick up some writerly advice and a few laughs.

The directness in Anne’s writing reminds me of my best friend who passed away early this year. They both have a no-holds-barred approach to communication. Say it like it is. Don’t worry about offending anyone. Speak truth. Let it all fall where it ought to.

Feels like I get an infusion of new oxygen in my blood after reading Anne’s books. I figured I’d more than enjoy reading what she has to say in a different medium.

Little did I know how helpful it would be.

Sure, she answered queries about writing and about her personal life. But then, a surprise question and an even more surprising answer came through.

In response to a reader’s question about how to deal with depression and discouragement, Anne Lamott’s answer jumped out at me as if it’d been highlighted with fluorescent green marker.

“Depressed and discouraged is really hard, and plenty to deal with. My response, if it was me, was to practice radical self-care, by being exquisitely kind and gentle and patient with myself, exactly as I would be with a friend. Love and gentleness are always the answer. “ – Anne Lamott, from a Goodreads discussion 12/12/13

“Practice radical self-care.”

I’ve said that to myself over and over ever since I read it. Even more so since a funeral and burial and the ensuing grief that’s hovered all year.

So we’ve all heard that “self-care” part of the equation over the years, right? But “radical?” And how do you care for yourself in a radical way?

I turn to my usual sources. I like the third Merriam-Webster definition of radical.

“Radical: very different from the usual or traditional : extreme.”

So I’ve looked at how I normally care for myself and I attempt to do the opposite, or at least a ninety degree shift.

Sounds difficult. But I’ve given it a try anyway.

So how do I “practice radical self-care”?

  • Letting myself ignore all my lists occasionally and the usual side of guilt they’re served with
  • I say “not right now” instead of “sure, anytime, anything”
  • Simply sitting and letting my mind go blank, often
  • Crying when the tears want to leak out
  • Laughing even if it goes against all reason or feels wrong
  • Planning something unprecedented, like getting a manicure, or a spur of the moment trip
  • Saying “No”
  • Reminding MSH that I’m not depressed, just grieving
  • Practicing my depression treatment steps, just in case
  • Accepting that sorrow and faith can coexist in the same brain
  • Journaling, several times a day if necessary, letting words carry some of the weight
  • Napping, earlier bedtimes, later wake times
  • Talking about how I’m feeling

The other part of what Anne said, I’d applied in situations involving others, but rarely with myself.

“Being exquisitely kind and gentle and patient with myself.

The key word there: “exquisitely,” as in “acutely perceptive, discriminating, intense.”

Kind, patient and gentle with myself. How could I go wrong? That was easier the first month or two after my friend died. But then I hit some preconceived notion of “times up” on the grieving thing and stopped being so easy on myself.
Photo by Kettie Olsen

Photo by Kettie Olsen

So I try again and again. And I remind myself again, as Anne said, “Love and gentleness are always the answer.”

I get radical. I care for myself. Practice exquisite patience and gentleness. I apply the concepts of love and kindness to myself. Kind of extreme ideas for me.

It’s a daily, sometimes hourly process working through depression, discouragement and grief.

I owe big thanks for such unusually worded advice from someone who’s been there to someone still wandering the path toward a new normal.

*~~*~~*

Categories: Cancer, Death, Hope | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Connect The Light Bulbs

Lately, I’m only partially aware, only half-awake, my eyes shaded to most of what’s going on around me. It’s like part of me in is the room and the other part of me got left somewhere else.

Is it intentional?  No.  It’s probably lack of quality sleep and being off my routine. Or, maybe it’s hormonal. Or not. Maybe I need more chocolate. Or less.  It could be I’m dehydrated most of the time, since I don’t think diet Pepsi and hot chocolate count towards daily water intact.  Or could they?  Maybe I’m lacking a specific mineral in my diet, so I’m taking a vitamin supplement.  Perhaps I need more exercise. (My daughter doesn’t need exercise. She chases an 18 month old energizer-bunny toddler around all day while her med school husband is off slaying dragons.)

I digress.  I digress a lot lately.  That thing you do when you go to get something but can’t remember why you are in the room you’re in, so you walk back to the spot where you had the thought that you needed something in order to help you remember what you were doing?  I do that far too often lately.  Like, hourly. Like, way too much.  Slows me down, ruins my groove.

I sit down with paper and pen in hand to create a menu for the week and from there a grocery list. I come up blank. The connection from point A in my brain to point B in my brain has a short.

English: Closeup of a string of decorative Chr...

Closeup of a string of decorative Christmas lights (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Actually it’s probably more like those strings of Christmas lights my son helped me hang on the house yesterday.  One bulb missing or broken is okay.  The string still manages to stay lit.  Two bulbs out, half the lights won’t come on. Replace the missing or broken bulb and voilà a whole string is working again. It’s a little miracle to me, since I don’t understand electricity.

Now the house looks great and thanks to the stellar design of outside plugs under the eaves and indoor switches, all I need to do is flip a switch and the house is lit up all red and green and cheerful.

I need a “brain on” switch. My brain probably needs a loose bulb snugged into its socket a little tighter.  Or maybe one of my neurons cracked and needs replacing. Maybe a few mental bulbs are out along several different strings.

If only a brain fix were as easy as those lights from yesterday’s stringing exercise.

The energy required to make my brain work more effectively isn’t, unfortunately, something I can plug into with a wire and socket.  It’s something much more elusive than that.

When I let myself be in nature, breathing fresh air, that’s one of my electrical cords connecting me to the energy of the earth, to beauty, to life.  I try to plug into that often, but that’s slipped lately. I’ve been busy!

Magic in a Bookstore

Another power source for my brain is reading, usually.  Although lately, reading has been of the audio type and requires less brain power and perhaps less of the written word is absorbed. But  I don’t know.  I’m rambling now.  Rambling happens often lately too.

Maria

This is someone named Maria.  I don’t look this good in a fedora, or anything else for that matter. (Photo credit: tamara.craiu)

Recently I was in a bookstore as part of a treasure hunt.  Dressed in a fedora, sunglasses and a trench coat, I was to wait until being located by a gaggle of girls, then hand over a clue to each group that found me.  Very few people looked at me oddly, which I found strange, since I’m certain I looked questionable.  The best part of this was having an entire hour to peruse bookshelves filled with newly minted books. It was nirvana, bliss, heaven and grace all packed into one hour.

When my assignment was over, I ended up buying a book.

It was a real book, not an audio one. Hard cover, with a dust jacket.  I took it home and read it that night.  Yes, I concentrated long enough to read it in one sitting.  Short book. But packed to the brim with wisdom and insight that I’ve needed to learn.

It’s a keeper. It’s one of those books I’ll end up writing in, with exclamation points, underlining, commenting, question marks, maybe even cross-referencing. No, I won’t be lending out my copy.  Well, maybe, but you’d have to promise not to read all the margins or make any of your own notes.

The book is Anne Lamott’s “Help. Thanks. Wow.  The Three Essential Survival Prayers.”   This one sentence speaks to my current need for brain-power and clarity.

“In paintings, music, poetry, architecture, we feel the elusive energy that moves through us and the air and the ground all the time, that usually disperses and turns chaotic in our busy-ness and distractedness and moodiness.”

Some of the energy I need is in the created world, not just the natural world.  And the energy in that is readily dispersed by my overly scheduled, multi-tasking, transmission-challenged but driven life.

Perhaps if I slow down, notice the beauty around me in the architecture of a wall, the care in the moulding of a door frame, or in the design of a freeway bridge,  I might touch some of that energy.  If I take time to hear the poetry in a song, or the music itself, or actually read a poem, I might connect a loose bulb in my head.  The lights may reignite mentally if I allow myself time to experience art in diverse places and ways.

String Light

String Light (Photo credit: felixtsao)

Energy is captured in the beauty and art in my life, just waiting for me to plug in to that brain enlightening power.

What better time of year than now to look for the light and energy that surrounds us, to gather it in instead of pushing it away. Maybe I can do that.  Maybe I’ll get all my mental light strings lined up and glowing again. I can try.

Categories: Books, Wondering | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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