4 Ways to Avoid Avoiding

“Avoidance is paying forward that which I would be much wiser to pay off.”
― Craig D. Lounsbrough

Currently, I am avoiding several “Problems” – which are now starting to create a lot of noise inside me. The endless mental gyrations take energy to think about, they create emotional responses (which I must now squelch) and they use up mental RAM that could be used for something better, more engaging, more useful, more interesting.

The things I avoid will probably not be the things you avoid – or maybe they will be similar – but my point is to illustrate that we all do this. And we could choose to do something different.

Avoidance Exhibit A: I have been putting off going to the dentist for well over a year now. I actually like my dentist – he’s a nice man who is kind and willing to spend time talking with me. I’ve gone to him for over 2 decades, every six months, like clockwork.

What happened?

8 years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer and did the whole cancer vacation package – 6 months of chemotherapy, 25 rounds of radiation. While I tolerated the treatment well, (and, keep-my-fingers-crossed, am cured) one of the side-effects is that I have developed a heightened sensitivity to putting anything new into my system. I have no issues when they take something out (like blood), but whenever I ingest anything new (a new kind of food) or any form of injection, I have a physical reaction.

I suspect that this is primarily anxiety, however, it is impossible to tell. Perhaps it is in my mind, perhaps my physiology has changed. I am certain my brain chemistry is different, my hormonal balances are different – why not other things as well? The chemistry of my saliva is different, which, unfortunately is destroying my enamel, making it much easier to get cavities.

Each trip to the dentist ends with a bad report and a repeat trip to repair tooth decay, which requires Novocain – something that is injected INTO me. This drug makes my heart race, I get waves of anxiety flowing up and down my body and I have near-panic attacks as I imagine my throat closing and I can’t breathe. It makes it kind of hard to just sit there while he drills away. After about 8 or 9 times of this, something in me snapped and I just quit going. I think about getting some anti-anxiety medication and then I worry about being allergic to that. Lately I’ve been having dreams of all my teeth falling out.

There is a rational side of my brain (my therapist voice) that says, “Look, each time you’ve gone before, it has been uncomfortable, but really, it’s not like anything bad actually happened to you. Get over yourself. Act like an adult. Just go and you’ll be fine. And then you can stop thinking about this all the time.”

Have I called to make an appointment? Not yet.

Avoidance Exhibit B: I have a LARGE family of mice in my barn. I hate killing things. I will catch indoor spiders and take them outside. I generally have a live-and-let-live attitude. Yet I KNOW better with mice. You just can’t do that. Because where you start with two, before you know it, you have twenty. And then 500.

I’m VERY opposed to poison, because a) it is a terribly painful way to die and even though they are mice, I will not intentionally cause suffering in anything; and b) we have cats and hawks and owls around. I don’t want to poison THEM second-hand. So it has to be traps. At the time of this writing, there is much snow and ice, otherwise, I might try live trapping and relocation … (but I digress. This is not actually the point of the post).

It would have been so much better and easier if I had trapped them when there were only a few. Now I have to kill two dozen. And I hate doing it, because they are adorable (and I have to say, as they have been eating high protein laying pellets, they are incredibly healthy). I’ve known this for WEEKS. Last week I bought the traps. Have I put any of them out yet? No.

Why?

Why do we avoid doing what we know we ought to do? Especially when it creates so much more stress for ourselves in the long run.

I believe it comes down to short term gains.

It is easier right NOW to do nothing. And so I (we) put off what should be done today for the momentary relief of procrastination. While the adult part of us knows that this problem is not going to go away and, in fact, will only become worse, still, the inner child begs for more time. Sometimes the child wins.

Here are some ideas that sometimes help me:

Enlist help. I pride myself on being able to do anything, but today I broke down and asked my husband to deal with the mice issue. He graciously agreed to do the multiple executions. It is not always possible to delegate the things that you are procrastinating, but sometimes it IS an option.

Tell someone that you will do it and let them hold you accountable. I am part of a Facebook group for writers. We tell each other what we intend to do at the beginning of the week. Sometimes, just the fact that I have told someone I will do something helps me actually do it.

Get more information. Sometimes there are other ways to go about your problem. I intend on scheduling an appointment to have my teeth cleaned, but NOT worked on, no matter what is wrong with them. And, I’m going to ask about alternate forms of anesthesia.

Give yourself a reward for completing the difficult task. I had the large task of setting up a new website. It was daunting because I’m not all that technologically savvy (or at least I was less so before I actually did it)! I promised myself a new pair of earrings that I had been looking at once the site was up and running.

What things have helped you when you are tempted to avoid things? Add to this list. We can all use each other’s wisdom!

Therapy

Sometimes, you have something in your background that is keeping you from experiencing you’re preferred life.

Often, this gunk in the background started as some form of trauma; then your brain said,”Move along now, we’re pretty much done with that.” Except that you actually aren’t. It still shows up from time to time. Or all the time.

Trauma tends to mask itself into anxiety and depression.

EMDR is a fantastic modality of therapy that really makes a difference. If you are interested in learning more, please contact me.

I accept Blue Cross/ Blue Shield, Select Health, and PEHP insurances, as well as self-pay options.

54 days To 2016

goal setting versus duty

I just read another person’s blog post where they noted that there are only 54 days left in 2015.

What?!!?!!

Yes.

And that was the kick in the pants that I needed to return to this writing adventure.

My last post was in JUNE, right after my son’s high school graduation. There was a lot going on at that point, and I thought I would take a couple days off …

Now, SIX MONTHS later, I understand more fully the notion of “never skip twice.” It is Soooooo easy to just quit. Whether with writing or a diet or any positive habit that you are trying to develop in yourself. Skip once- it’s recoverable. Skip twice and the next thing you know, you are half a year down the road.

During the last few months, there have been some new Miriam things; I began a part-time consulting job with a small tech firm (which I love, btw). I lost 20 lbs (!). I had a birthday (quickly approaching that half-century mark). We put one of our pets down, which was heartbreaking, and I’m still not over that.

Our planet keeps turning and the events of our lives pull us forward, yet are we accomplishing all that we want to be/become?

The other day, during a counseling session, one of my clients (who is a published author) asked me what kind of writing I did. I stammered somewhat, and replied, “I don’t know. I have bits of everything – fiction, non-fiction, poetry – and none of it is completed. It’s all there waiting, waiting for something. I wish I knew what.”

I found myself getting quite emotional (which is terrifying if you are the therapist!). The conversation haunted me, because I really DO want to pursue my writing.

At some point, each person has to take stock of their lives and say, “What do I want to do with THIS day?” And not let the dozen’s of ‘to do’s force the direction of the day. Conventional wisdom says, “Do what must be done first and then you are free to do what you want.” I think, perhaps in your twenties, this might be good advice. But at some point, dreams die on the alter of responsibility. At this juncture in my life (and yours too, possibly) I need to reverse those ideas. I need to put the fresh energy into the deep desire; the ‘have to’s have the power to force me to do them anyway, even when I am tired.

So, though my yard needs raking and the lawn needs to have it’s last trim, though all of my bathrooms are dirty and it sure wouldn’t hurt if I cooked something- anything; still, what I am doing is writing.

We each have only 54 days left in 2015. What kind of return do you want for those days? It will only happen if you actually INVEST them in something, rather than let them slip by.

If you have an idea of what you want to use them for, leave a comment – it’s always encouraging to hear other people’s ambitions! : )

Inquiring Minds Want to Know

The Power of Questions

The power of a good question cannot be valued. Or of a good question-er, for that matter.

I am flummoxed at the number of people who are poor at creating the questions which will lead them to the next level, whether that be in a relationship, in their career, or in their spiritual engagement.

Questions unlock doors; they open up spaces.

Here are two amazing questions I saw today via Greg McKeown:

Are you proud of the choices you are making at home?

Are you proud of the choices you are making at work?

These alone could chart your course for the rest of the year. Or how about this one:

What do you emotionally need today?

This could be asked of yourself … something rare and difficult to do. But even more daring and profoundly impacting – what if you asked it of your closest loved ones? And then didn’t let them shrug it off with ‘I don’t know’ … but stuck with them until they actually thought about it and had a heart-reply?

Here is the piece de resistance:

Lord, how do you interpret this situation?

A perspective larger than yourself is often what is needed for break-through and for emotional health. For humility. For sanity.

Too often we stay lodged in our statements and our sureness and our schedules; never bothering to venture out into another person’s experience – including our own.

Notice good questions. Write them down. Ask them.

You’ll be amazed at what positive changes they can bring into your life.

Have No Regrets

Graduation Day

“Well Mom, eerybody like cake.”

This (what Donkey said to Shrek) was the answer I got when I inquired about a graduation cake for my son, who was ending his high school career last week.

Yes, it’s true. Everyone does like cake.

It was chocolate, with chocolate frosting. And it was mostly gone, the day after the big event.

Any of you who have been to your own kid’s commencements know this event is a tornado of emotions – a swirling mixture of pride, astonishment, and nostalgia.

During that ceremony, we watched as our youngest said farewell to one of the most significant portions of his life thus far.

I felt joy – we could recognize his deep bass undergirding the large choir, magnified throughout the stadium. There was amazement, as I wondered at how 18 years had passed since I brought home this little boy, burritoed in a small blanket – one who is now over six feet tall and weighs twice as much as his older sister. I felt sadness for him, as I knew he would rarely again interact with most of the people in his class of 400.

You can’t comprehend at 18 how much your life will change in the ensuing 4-5 years. Its like a whole second life.

Graduations, weddings, funerals … these kinds of events give us a momentary pause, where we get to honor the more lofty spaces in our lives. We are afforded an opportunity to do our very best to live exactly in that moment and soak it all in.

The temptation for us all is to get derailed on temporal things that really don’t matter – what will I wear? What will we eat? Oh my, look at the traffic, or that screaming kid beside us. But none of that matters.

At least not to me. My obsession: are we doing in such a way that we will have no regrets? Because there are no do-overs for these kinds of events.

Does he know that I love him? Does he feel seen? Is he aware that I am engaged and there, fully present for him? It is his day, after all.

Of course, there were small dramas that happened throughout the day and I prayed almost continually:

“Jesus, let this be about him. Come between me and my struggles. Let me be the mom he needs me to be today.”

I think it went well. We smiled a lot. I cried some. There were many hugs between he and all who were there who loved him. He was surprised and delighted by his gifts. All in all, it was a good day; an excellent start toward a new chapter in life. : )