Monthly Archives: November 2012

Thank you, thank me

The way I got interested in this was I noticed in myself, when I growing up and until a few years ago, that I would want to say Thank You to someone, I would want to praise them, I would want to take in their praise of me — and I’d just stop it.

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And I asked myself, Why?

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I mean, I felt shy.  I felt embarrassed.

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And then my question became, Am I the only one who does this?

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So I decided to investigate.

~ From Laura Trice suggests we all say thank you (3:28)

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Beyond Control is a collection of articles, talks, interviews and whatnot illustrating how people practice the three alternatives to control – surrender, responsibility and intimacy. You can read more about the alternatives here: 
https://monkeytraps.wordpress.com/2011/12/14/the-alternatives/
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Not knowing

Today Steve won the argument we’ve been having about self-hosting this blog.  He signed up at Blue Host, and I had a small anxiety attack.

I hate when he does this shit.  It’s what I call an AFGO.  Another Fucking Growth Opportunity.

I know nothing about self-hosting.  And I hate knowing nothing about anything.

Not-knowing is the thing I hate most in this life.

So I light a stick of lavender incense and sit at my desk and try to meditate the anxiousness away.  I inhale and exhale.  I try to focus on breathing.  I begin thinking instead.

And the first thought that comes is:

Better to know than not to know.

That’s a Spenser saying.  (I’ve been rereading Parker’s Spenser series, so his voice is sort of stuck in my head.)   It could also be my life’s theme song.

I’ve spent my life trying to Know.  It‘s why I collected thousands of books and spent decades burying my face in them.  Why I went to college and grad school and postgrad training.  Why I became a teacher and therapist and writer.  Teachers and therapists and writers are people who Know.

I made a fetish of knowing.  I thought Knowing would make me safe.  I thought Knowing would give me control.  A handle on Life.

But now I find myself thinking,

Life has no handle. 

Inhale, exhale.

Life is bigger than handles.

Inhale, exhale.

Life’s a mystery.  And what you know is always outweighed by what you don’t.

Inhale, exhale.

Better make peace with not Knowing.

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* * *

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I got out of bed on two strong legs

***

*

Otherwise

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I got out of bed

on two strong legs.

It might have been

otherwise.  I ate

cereal, sweet

milk, ripe, flawless

peach.  It might

have been otherwise.

I took the dog uphill

to the birch wood.

All morning I did

the work I love.

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At noon I lay down

with my mate.  It might

have been otherwise.

We ate dinner together

at a table with silver

candlesticks.  It might

have been otherwise.

I slept in a bed

in a room with paintings

on the walls, and

planned another day

just like this day.

But one day, I know,

it will be otherwise.

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~ Jane Kenyon

 

 

*

*


Problematic

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Feelings are problematic

not when they hurt us

but when they threaten

our greatest need.

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If I’m angry, will you love me?

If I’m scared, will you accept me?

If I cry, will you pull away?

We start asking

right after birth.

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We keep asking

through childhood and beyond,

and the answers we receive

determine our fate,

how we live thereafter:

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as adults, in a world

of our making,

or as permanently

frightened, shallow-rooted

guests.


Beyond

..

A note from Bert:

Regular readers of this blog (or monkeys, as I like to think of them) may recall that my coauthor Steve has identified three alternatives to control addiction. 
He calls them surrender, responsibility and intimacy.
And he believes they represent what is bravest and most grown-up in the human personality.
“To get good at the alternatives,” Steve says, “is as healthy as a human being gets.”
I’m lousy at all three. 
Naturally this embarrasses him, since he’s this big expert on control and all. 
So in an attempt to improve me (who’s controlling now, Steve?) he decided I should pay some attention to people who are better at these alternatives than I am.
And to help me with this, he created a new Monkeytraps feature, which starts today.
It’s a collection of articles, videos, interviews and whatever illustrating how people practice the three alternatives.
I asked him what these people have in common.
“Willingness to go beyond,” he said.
“Beyond what?”
“The ordinary, the safe, the predictable.  They’re willing to step out of their comfort zone and try something unfamiliar or risky.  To have a new experience.” 
He calls this collection Beyond Control.
I’ve seen some of the things he’s scheduled.  They’re kind of cool.
We hope you think so too. 
If you do, please write and say so.
Love,
Bert.

* * *

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And so when I moved to New York City after college and got completely sucker-punched in the face by depression, I did the only thing I could think of at the time. 

I wrote those same kind of letters that my mother had written me — for strangers — and tucked them all throughout the city, dozens and dozens of them.

I left them everywhere, in cafes and in libraries, at the U.N., everywhere. 

I blogged about those letters and the days when they were necessary, and I posed a kind of crazy promise to the Internet:

that if you asked me for a hand-written letter, I would write you one, no questions asked.

~ From Love letters to strangers 

by Hannah Brencher (4:53).

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Here’s a newspaper article about Hannah’s letter-writing project:
For North Haven woman,
writing love letters a labor of love
And here’s her remarkable blog —
The world needs more love letters
— where she writes,
We’re going to tell you that we write and mail love letters, handwritten love letters, to strangers in need all over the world. We’re going to invite you to request a love letter for someone in your life who needs one. And we’re going to insist that you step out of your own shoes of Comfort & join us. You are going to think we are a bit crazy. A tad loopy. But you’ve been looking for a website that leaks love all this time… so we aren’t worried you’ll leave us.
It’s not about stamps. Not about stationery. It’s about your neighbor. The cracked parts of your own story & how you can use them to lift someone else. It’s about the stranger enveloped in sadness. The chance to pull off Twitter & step away from your networks to turn your best love letter into a lamp… a lantern… to light the path of someone who needs to read it tonight.


Knife

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* * *

Since feeling out of control

is uncomfortable,

it makes me seek more control.

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The more I seek control,

the more sensitive I become

to control issues.

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The more sensitive I become

to control issues, the more often

I feel out of control.

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Which makes me

uncomfortable.

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Since feeling out of control

is uncomfortable, it makes me…

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You know.


Leaf

11/13/12 (Tuesday).

I’m blowing leaves down the driveway when I notice Henry raking the leaves on his lawn. 

I think that’s his name, Henry.  We’ve exchanged maybe ten words since he moved in.  

Four years ago. 

So I’m surprised to find myself thinking of offering him my leaf blower.

Surprised, then annoyed.  Since the impulse makes me uncomfortable. 

I’m shy.  I don’t do shit like that.

“Why even consider it?” I ask myself. 

But I know why.  It’s what Chris said to me the other night on the way to a family gathering.  She knows  family gatherings make me nervous.  

“Get your Buddha on,” she told me.

I knew what she meant.  Stop being scared of people.  Stop avoiding them.  Stop taking them personally.  Detach.  Relax.  Breathe.  Practice what you preach. 

“Shut up,” I answered.

But now I sigh and switch off the blower and coil the endless orange cord around my forearm and walk it over to Henry, who is plainly startled to see me but covers it nicely.

We chat.  While I’m talking with him I’m talking to myself. 

“Practice,” I say. “This is practice.” 

And, “You don’t practice enough.” 

And, “You don’t practice what you preach.”

And, “But maybe you’ll start.  Maybe this is you turning over a new leaf.” 

Eventually Henry declines my offer, which is a relief (since now I don’t have to come back to collect the damned blower), and I walk home feeling both virtuous and silly. 

There was nothing to be scared of here, and I knew that going in, and  was scared anyway. 

I’m sixty-two now.  Scared for sixty-two years. 

“Will I die this way?” I wonder.

Then a last thought comes as I walk back up my clean driveway and into my house.

“How to handle feelings isn’t just a human problem,” I think. 

It’s the human problem.  And all the others come from that.”

* * *

  

       

 


Fish

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So is most of what

falls in between.

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But we can’t

accept this.

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Because we’re

the monkeys

that control.

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So we spend our lives

trying to get control, 

like fish

whose fondest wish

is to walk on

the land.


Feedback

   When his wife warned him

   to wear a hat while shoveling

   snow he replied “All right,

   all right” and caught a cold.

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   When his boss warned him

   to stop coming late to work

   he replied “All right, all right”

   and got fired.

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   When his therapist warned him

   his stubbornness was killing

   his marriage he replied “All

   right, all right” and got divorced.

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   When his bartender warned him

   he was in no shape to drive

   he replied “All right, all right”

   and got busted for DWI.

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   When the judge warned him his

   drinking was self-destructive

   he replied “All right, all right”

   and died driving drunk.

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   So now he stands before God,

   awaiting judgment.

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  “Look, God,” he says.  “I know I

   screwed up.  I was rigid and

   stubborn and stupid.  But I’ve

   learned my lesson.  Please give

   me another chance.”

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Dream

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The power and the appeal

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of the American dream

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..

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grow from its promise of control.

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..

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Because it gives us hope that,

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despite all contrary evidence,

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..

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we really can 

determine

our own destinies.

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* * *

Oh, and by the way:

Please welcome my new grandson,

Wyatt Michael Trahan

(9 lb, 6 oz).

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“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “What’s the first thing you say to yourself?”

“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh.  “What do you say, Piglet?”

“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

“It’s the same thing,” he said.

                                              ~ A.A. Milne


Outside, inside

* * *

Control addicts tend to be confused about boundaries.

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We confuse externals (what’s outside) with internals (what’s inside).

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We tend to rearrange bits and pieces of the world around us so we can feel some feelings (safety, acceptance, contentment, connection) and avoid others (fear, rejection, frustration, loneliness).

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We do it so much we forget our real goal is an emotional one, not rearranging for its own sake.

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But the real goal of all controlling is to control feelings.

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Which you can reach by means other than editing external realities.

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Which is a helpful thing to know.

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Because external control is so often impossible (as hurricances and elections like to remind us).

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So it’s nice to remember that it’s not always necessary.


Your problems

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* * *

Our problems persist

because of our attachment

to the familiar:

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We keep doing the same things

in the same way.

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Want to improve your

problem-solving?

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Stretch yourself.

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Develop tolerance

for new experiences.

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You can start here,

with this short video,

“29 Ways to stay creative”

(1:50):

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While you’re watching,

ask yourself,

“Which of these

would stretch me?”

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Pick one.

(Something easy.)

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Now go practice.


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