Friday, June 17, 2016

Shaping Yourself Whole

Think about your beliefs, judgments, interaction styles. Who shaped them? Are they healthy? Do they ease your journey toward your goals or do they contribute by placing barriers, conflicts and negativity in your path?
Wander back into your childhood memories, good and bad.
"This place better be clean when I get home." The "or else" unspoken but likely a combination of psychological, physical and emotional abuse.
Respond quickly to questions with offers of information and assistance. If no one responds quick enough the negative comes like a thunderstorm.

Often, my childhood was being a mine detector learning tools to defuse emotional mines and suffering the scars of failures.

A lifetime later, I still find the programming of my youth winding around my emotional feet tripping me up and stressing loved ones.

I look forward to the day when my mind and heart finally acknowledge Stand Down.  I look forward to the day that I am not scanning constantly, feeling obliged to calm and prevent the emotional storms of others. I look forward to the day the anxiety gets laid to rest for good. Not buried waiting to rise from the ground like a horror movie monster, gone.

The combat Vets I worked with at the VAMC always asked where I served in combat. I didn't. We didn't talk about it. They nodded. They understood. We each have our scars and demons to fight.

I sit thinking about mental and emotional architecture within each of us. The importance of stability as we address the pillars of who we are and how we interact with the world. The words of others that impact who we become, the sorrow that often the wrong words and voices etch deeper than the healthy ones.

I look at what I need to address. The anxiety has been with me since before I could speak. My words came out a smeared mess of consonants and vowels. I have a strong will and years of practice at preventing it from disabling me. It is past time I confront it fully. I can confront it with the present, with truth, with breathing. In the past, this diminished the influence.

I am allowed to choose whether or not to communicate. Other people are responsible for their actions, choices. My thoughts, feelings, actions and choices are my own to have and make without someone lurking with an emotional or psychological bomb.
If an old trigger gets hit, I can choose to pause. To walk away and let it go rather than fall into a defense pattern.

What old patterns are in your architecture that hold you back? What excuses do you use to shore them up? What motivates you to move forward and shift into healthier ways of thinking and feeling?

No one will ever be perfect. We learn from our mistakes, sometimes, we learn from the mistakes made by those who shaped us. We do not need to choose to hurt ourselves or others now because someone thought it best then.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Setting the Mood: Or How Red Jello in Chocolate Sauce can be Terrifying

Remember the old phrase "set the mood?" When I created scenes and coached character creation at haunted houses, murder mysteries, even work training classes it was important to set the mood. What atmosphere? What appearance? What did you want the people you engaged to feel?

 How do you want them to perceive you? What can you do to engineer the sights, sounds, scents, even tastes to create the ambiance you need to make your event a success? Notice the shift: past to present, these considerations are important every day. Consider the difference in the unedited and edited gargoyle pictures below. Quite a difference a little time and effort makes when you approach considering the perceptual outcome you aim to create. 

A local fire department held a halloween party of the town children about thirteen years ago. A safe, free event for the community where they offered halloween themed activities. They wanted to do a free haunted house for the kids. They had costumes and a budget of less than fifty dollars after the candy was bought. They asked me if I could work with them to make it happen. I could use anything in their fire department supplies. Fifty dollars. Why not?
I walked through the fire hall. Picked my entrance and exits. Did we have heavy rope? Yes. Did we have huge heavy canvases to create walls and areas? Yes. We had some tables, weird white christmas lights, gourds, and big pieces of cardboard. It was a farm town so hay bales and heavy gloves were no cost as long as we returned them. Someone gave us several bags of cobwebs with black plastic spiders. Volunteers turned up silver and black and red spray paint. No sound system. No crazy noises. Simple. When it was set up the firemen looked at me. "You sure this is going to work?" I think the guy wielding the chainsaw in a hockey mask said it. It is easier to ask intimidating questions in a mask. The others nodded: the vampire, the gypsy fortune teller, the teenage zombie duo, the crazed coroner who would later be coated with chocolate syrup and red clotted chucks of jello he would randomly wipe off his shirt and eat cackling. He was the hardest one to coach because he did not see how that could be scary while he pulled the bits out of a plastic bag concealed in a scarecrow with a mannequin head.
I knew this question was coming. It is important. It has to be tested. Would my ideas work? The kids were gathered waiting. We went through places and roles, cues and guidelines. Mind you this mismatched group of fiends was getting a pep talk from a gray faced, sharp nosed witch with a scowl that could cut a sword in half. My pointy hat stood tall, the kitchen broom became a magic wand. I called for lights. Darkness fell. Anticipation and anxiety warred in the waiting kids and the questioning volunteers.

The first group of six teens were allowed to enter the narrow black hallway lined with tall oxygen tanks and cobwebs. A heavy gloved hand reached out and touched a shoulder unseen and another. It was a dozen paces. They made it ten. The fifth shoulder got touched and maniacal laugh to trigger the next volunteer was done. The chainsaw revved. The teens turned around and ran back out! The next three groups fared no better. I went from being a roving villain to a terrifying guide. I led the fourth group, that now had a chant. If you are terrified, if you want to push the monsters back so that perhaps you survive long enough for me to steal your soul, then call out "deliver us from evil." The louder you shout, the more of you shout, the more likely it will slow the monsters long enough for you to outrun them. Perhaps." They nodded. They ran through the words, lips moving, making sure they knew them. They entered.
Success! There was a break after all the kids and many adults had gone through several times. They wanted back through, the music of the night was the endless screaming and shouting chant "deliver us from evil." The volunteers gathered, amazed at themselves, amazed at the experience they created together.
Every day we deal with other people and situations. My story was of an external event. Why not apply the same practice to internal perceived events and situations? Do you have to choose to look at a situation or individual as negative? Do you have to be dramatic or antagonistic? Can you change your mood and approach? Instead of approaching with hostility or defensiveness, can you focus on goals and outcomes? Assume the people or situation you are dealing with is not out to get you. Assume instead that if you find the right tact, body language, and approach it will be easier to reach open communication, problem solving, and outcomes that open more doors. The chance for adventure, new friends, new experiences, new foods, different perspectives, new or improved skills could be how you motivate your paradigm shift.
How do you set your mood? What mood and persona do you project out to those around you?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Insert Catchy Motivational Phrase Here

There are easily a thousand motivational phrases. All right and all wrong. What you need to hear may not make it through the radio static of life. Stress comes and goes like a tide. How we perceive and feel regarding events impacts our well-being.

We learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes.
Last night I stared under the hood of our van staring at the parts. I know some of their names, can monitor fluid levels and jump batteries. I felt frustration well up. I grew up in a mechanic shop. I spent my time spreading sand on oils spills, taping windows for paint jobs, handing tools to my father and the other alcohol sodden mechanics. They were the best babysitters. I behaved for them because I liked the intricate puzzles of metal they labored over. I asked questions until I fully grasped that I wasn't going to get answers. I was a girl. I wasn't supposed to like engines. I wasn't supposed to learn and being a four year old I respected my elders. I feared getting sent to more sitters who yelled, ignored or bullied me. I should have remembered: I ended up at work with my father because the babysitters kept losing me. I hid from them, escaped from them, made a regular mockery of their attempts to supervise me. I still feared being sent to another mind numbing trailer with moronic shows blaring on a cheap television.
If only minds had been open. If only generations of gender roles had not been so strong in that small town. When I got older I worked at a different tree farm. My family wouldn't hire me as "What would people think of we had women on our construction crew?" At the Cooperative, they thought I was a highly skilled, knowledgeable, hard working member of their propagation team. My rooting rates were remarked on. No one blinked at my gender. They did remark on my colorful vocabulary.
My mistake was acquiescence. I grew out of that. Mostly.

I am not comfortable feeling helpless. I am not comfortable feeling like I'm failing. Is anyone really, or do some just put a better mask? My best and worst attributes come out. My demons circle and whisper louder than thunder. It seems like I'm arguing when I'm listening and arguing to get more detail to better equip myself to deal with myself and situations more effectively.

I've been learning. When these situations arise to stop. Focus forward. Problem solve. Think about past lessons. Think about specific friends and situations that remind you to maintain perspective. Find something to ground with, something to work toward.
Who are your supports? Whether they know it or not, take a moment to reach out of your head to check in on friends. Be there in their moment. Give their voices and conversation a chance to work it's magic. There really is nothing like a smile, friendly voice, a gentle hand on your shoulder, or a focused hug.

Many challenges I navigate through are never expressed aloud. Most come from within. It is humbling to realize you are your best support and worst enemy.

This year I had to face the reality that I cared too much for someone who echoed the worst voices in my head. I let their words enhance the destructiveness of my own shadows. I reached a point where I faced myself. I chose to heal. To grow and to listen to the healing, growing, positive voices instead. I chose to invest in myself. If you don't invest in you, if you do not value you, why would others?

I prepared for Shades of Faerie, nervous about my stories and the event. Taylor Grant and Joshua Safford are amazing storytellers. Would My stories be up to muster? Would my character? Preparing for the event, dealing with last minute details the unexpected happened.

I've spent a lifetime mastering flexibility and acceptance. Make do could be my motto. The guy who was going to do video capture couldn't do it. Omar and I were running errands in Tulsa. He broached the idea of picking up equipment and doing video. It would cost us, but it would be an investment. Initially, an investment in my character and career development; also offering us the option of being able to do video work and other projects. Investing in me, investing in him, investing in us.

The show went well. Compliments and performance awards were given to all three of us for the show.

I think about that often. I've been the one investing in me. My great grandmothers, my grandfathers did before they died. Their investments were emotional. This was a financial investment. From the time I got out of sixth grade, I worked. I made my own money. I bought my own clothes, books, toys. I paid my bills and expenses and played every sport well, got top grades. My parents focused on my siblings. They invested in them.

Having someone invest in you gives you a profound feeling if it's something you are not used to.

Who invests in you? What do you acquiese to? Should you?

Each day is a new day, life is challenges and triumphs. Tragedies and comedies in situations and circumstance that chain from second to second. Finding a way to learn from both in part of being human.