Surviving the Schlump

What’s the “schlump,” you may ask? The schlump is comprised of many elements, the main ones being the following:

  • Feeling that you are teetering on the edge of the abyss
  • Extreme grouchiness
  • Declaratory statements (made to anyone foolish enough to listen) such as “I am NEVER going to trust anyone EVER AGAIN,” “I hate everyone,” “my entire life has turned to poo,” “why bother to do anything?” and so on
  • Overall feeling of ‘what’s the use?’
  • Feeling as if you will never smile or laugh again
  • All past hurts revisited big time
  • Weeping over nothing
  • Anger at everything (including the roll of plastic wrap that just won’t stick to anything but your fingers)
  • Assuming that the worst will happen (and probably soon)
  • Feeling as though no one cares about you (despite all the obvious love around you)
  • Punishing yourself for real or imagined crimes (yelling at the cat for clawing up the one good sofa, snapping at the husband who wants to take you out to dinner (but since you don’t feel worthy of that, you snap and say you are not hungry)
  • Feeling unloved and unappreciated
  • Looking only at the dark side
  • Being obtuse just for the hell of it
  • Feeling you don’t deserve any happiness
  • Self-punishment (take your pick)

That, my friends is the essence of the deadly schlump. Be warned–the schlump likes to show up just before holidays. I speak from very recent experience (last night).

My poor, dear, loving, kind and absolutely wonderful Crankee Yankee (my husband) tried his best to cheer me (and you fellow sufferers of the deadly schlump know that this only adds fuel to the fire) and I wouldn’t let him. All his attempts met with stony silence from me (how mature is that?).

The good news? For me personally, I got to the point where I could begin to forgive myself ( a little) and ask forgiveness from the Crankee Yankee who, bless his heart, just said, “Huh? What do you mean?”

The other good news is how to fight the schlump. Here’s what works for me:

  • Whatever it is that’s up your butt at the moment, LET IT GO. You can deal with it later.
  • Eat something. In fact, eat *something that you usually forbid yourself to eat (but you love).
  • Watch some good TV.
  • Read a good book.
  • Don’t force yourself to feel better. You’ll get there on your own at your own pace.
  • Take a hot bath (and DON’T criticize your body parts!)
  • If you have pets, apologize out loud. Same with people. Same with YOU.
  • Don’t even try to talk yourself down; your mind will do that for you (and without a self-righteous tone, either)
  • As Julian of Norwich once said so wisely, “All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.”

..and very soon, all will be well. Don’t let that bad old schlump get you down!

*Bacon, chocolate, macaroni and cheese, a bagel with cream cheese and red pepper jelly, a really good cupcake, sweet potato fries, and so on. You get the idea.

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“I Am So Beautiful”

I just read this on Jes Baker’s fabulous blog, The Militant Baker (if you haven’t heard of her, you should–check her out. She is easily one of the most fabulous women on the planet), this morning:

“I am so beautiful, sometimes people weep when they see me. And it has nothing to do with what I look like really, it is just that I gave myself the power to say that I am beautiful, and if I could do that, maybe there is hope for them too. And the great divide between the beautiful and the ugly will cease to be. Because we are all what we choose.” (Margaret Cho’s weblog, 03-23-06)

Hear, really HEAR, that phrase–“we are all what we choose.” Honestly, is this not the perfect way to lift ourselves up and out of all that soul-destroying self-hatred? It is just that simple to change, too, and here’s how in three easy steps:

  1. Look at yourself in the mirror–look right into your own eyes.
  2. Smile.
  3. Say any (or all!) of these phrases to your mirror image:
    • “Hello, Beautiful!”
    • “Hiya, Gorgeous!”
    • “I’m GOOD!”
    • “Everything about me is perfect!”
    • “I am fabulous just the way I am.”
    • “I am beautiful, wonderful, amazing and incredible.”
    • “I am the very best ME I can be.”
    • “I am a wonderful work in progress.”
    • “I am so beautiful!”

If you feel funny at first, that’s natural. We are so used to continually bashing ourselves and complaining about our flaws that we forget to celebrate who we are. Just as self-deprecation can become a habit, so can positive reinforcement become our next best habit.

Doing this does not mean we are vain; it means we are confident about ourselves. (And yes, you can fake it ’til you make it, too.) Saying positive things to yourself does not take anything away from anyone else; it just adds confidence, happiness, joy and acceptance to you and to your life.

Habits are created over time; it takes only 30 days for a habit to become a habit. Trust me, if you keep on doing this simple positive exercise each day, your outlook on yourself will change. You will see beauty where you couldn’t before, not only in yourself but in others.

So does this mean that we give up trying to be healthy, more fit, smarter, etc.? Certainly not. It only means that we start and end each day by being loving to ourselves. If we are full of love for ourselves, that love will spill over to others; those close to us, those we only see now and then, and all other humans. It makes life sooooooo much easier. Doing this positive exercise will, over time, make us realize that the person who just cut us off in traffic did not start their day by wanting to make us miserable. Often we cannot understand our own pain, much less another person’s pain. The rudeness and carelessness of others as a rule is truly not personal.

It took me a while to perform this exercise, but now I do it without thinking. I have come to love and appreciate all things about myself. (I’m not blind; I see all the wrinkles and female whiskerage around my mouth, all those squirrelly little white hairs in my formerly dark hair, but so what?) Please understand that I am not advocating that we do nothing to make ourselves look and feel better, only just to be more accepting of ourselves.

What do you have to lose? Try the exercise–give it a good 30 days. If you are like everyone else I know (including myself), it will be hard to meet your own eyes–at first. But keep on trying–don’t give up. You are worth the effort, and I don’t care if you have a purple unicorn horn sticking out three feet from your forehead–YOU ARE WORTH IT. Add that to the daily phrases and say it loud: “I AM WORTH IT!”

 

Let’s Stop the Self-Hatred

I have an idea. Just for today, let’s all stop hating on ourselves. C’mon, join me–it’ll be fun! Here’s what I’m going to do; you can do the same if you like (or make up your own self-talk):

  • Look in the mirror and smile at yourself. No judgement, no tsk-tsking over any flaws or droops or wrinkles or extra pounds or stray hairs–just smile at YOURSELF. Add a compliment if you like (my personal favorite is ‘Hiya, gorgeous!’).
  • Talk out loud to yourself as if you were comforting a dear friend who is sad or upset. You can say something like, ‘it’ll be all right,’ ‘this, too, will pass,’ ‘I love you just as you are,’ and so on.
  • Forgive yourself (again, out loud) for anything you still feel bad about. If you can make it right, do so. If that isn’t possible, forgive yourself–OUT LOUD.
  • If you did something as a child about which you still feel bad, let it go by saying to yourself (again, please–out loud) “I was a CHILD. I didn’t know then what I do now. It’s all over and I am letting this go for good.”
  • Go buy yourself something that’s just for you. I don’t care what it is; a new lipstick, a pair of snuggly socks, a new coat, those sparkly earrings you’ve been craving but keep telling yourself you have no place to wear them; a strawberry milkshake, a bouquet of flowers you love, some perfume; you pick. But be sure you LOVE it. As you pay for it, say to yourself “I deserve this!” (And don’t weenie out later on and take it back.)
  • Put on your favorite outfit and go somewhere. Even if it’s just to the library or grocery store, go with your head up, shoulders back and a smile on your face. Don’t scuttle, don’t hang your head, don’t avoid making eye contact, don’t act as though you want to hide yourself–walk right in there as if you’re the Queen of England…or Beyonce.
  • Be as kind to yourself as you would to a friend or loved one.
  • Understand that others around you may feel insecure, scared, worried, unsure of themselves; in short, anything you’re feeling, you can bet others feel it, too. Give yourself the break you’d give others.
  • Do your best to kick judgement to the curb. Please try not to judge others by how they look, what they are wearing, how they carry themselves, how they speak; if someone judged you by those things you would feel hurt and offended. You would think, ‘they don’t know me! They have no idea what I’ve suffered, what I’ve lived through and how I feel.’ Try your best to put yourself in their place.

BIG SERIOUS NOTE: Please know that everything I’ve outlined here–each and every thing–are all things I personally am working on each day. Sadly, I have not become as loving, wise and kind as the Dali Lama, as peaceful and serene as Gandhi, nor as elevated as the angels. But I am trying.

Just for today, let’s give ourselves the kind of break we would gladly give others. We are WORTH IT.

Getting Over the “Get Over It, Already!” People

If you have ever suffered the loss of a beloved person or pet, lost a job you depended on, or lived through a life-changing incident, you know how hurtful it is to hear someone say dismissively, “oh, get over it, already!” Many may also be haunted by trauma experienced years ago, and still may be having trouble dealing with it. There is no time limit on grief or pain; it is very personal to each of us.

I once read about a tribe of people who grieve in this way: when they have lost a loved one, they garland themselves in the large and fragrant leaves of a tree that only grows in their land. As long as the leaves are worn, it is understood that those wearing them are mourning. When the leaves began to wither and fall away, it means that the time for grief has passed. Simple, right? However, we have no such device in this country, and we all have our own ways to cope–or not.

I won’t waste time here talking about *therapy or meditation; obviously we have to do what we can to help ourselves. My point is that no one but us can decide time limits on our feelings. I try hard to live by this rule: if no one asks me directly for my opinion, I don’t give it. I might think that this, that or the other thing may be perfect to help the other person–but that’s an assumption on my part. I’m not in that person’s skin, nor can I see inside their heart. I might think that what is bothering another person is silly or trivial; but to that person, it’s dead serious. I don’t have the right or authority to judge anyone’s feelings but my own.

It wasn’t until my own heart was laid wide open and I was utterly helpless in grief so deep and dark that I really got it. It was an ‘aha’ moment that changed me forever. I was forced to take the time necessary to heal. Since that time, my outlook has changed completely, and I know that you can’t always just ‘get over it.’

The “get over it, already!” folks may mean well, but it is a slap in the face to someone who is suffering. Their attitude and words assume that there is something deeply wrong with you, and that you are both weak and stupid if you can’t handle it. It also assumes they are somehow better than you because such things don’t bother them. However, it is far more likely that those people either haven’t suffered or have not delved into the depths of their own pain. I also believe that these folks may be so uncomfortable around grief or pain that they really don’t know what else to do; they keep on believing that you can move on.  This alone keeps me from getting too upset with them–they don’t get it and they are doing the only thing that they know how to do. Best to forgive them and go forward.

Trust me on this: you can bury your hurts and fears for a long, long time, but sooner or later they will emerge and won’t go away until you deal with them directly. I covered up my pain for decades; when I finally faced it, it was far easier than I thought to work through it.

Look, I come from generations of strong and determined people, and they believed in hard work, helping themselves and not relying on others.  Most would rather have died than ask for help. My genealogy includes hard-headed and tough women who took their destiny in hand and scraped out their lives as best they knew how, mostly on their own. So naturally I felt terrible when something came up in my life I couldn’t seem to handle. But comparing ourselves to others is a slippery slope, and will only make you feel worse. Just concentrate on you and give yourself credit for taking baby steps.

We  can’t blame ourselves for our pain; that’s really pouring salt in the wound. From my experience, it’s better to turn away from the people who assume that they can live your life better than you can. Let that ignorance roll off your back, and please don’t let it add to the pain you already feel. Let the “get over it, already” folks go on their way, and try your best not to let them get under your skin. They really don’t know any better way to bridge the gap between their ignorance and/or fear and your suffering. Let them go, and go do what you need to do for you.

*Do get the help you need when you need it, whether it’s therapy or medication. There are some things you need help with to get over, and there is wisdom in knowing who to ask for help and when.

Just For Today

Frankly, I don’t remember where I found the following, but this is a great lesson plan for life in general.

“Come Sit With Me

There comes a time in your life when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh.

Forget the bad, and focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right, pray for the ones who don’t. Life is too short to be anything but happy.

Falling down is a part of life; getting back up is living.

Quote: “Today may there be peace within. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that you have received and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.”

I don’t know about you, but I am taking this to heart today. Just for today–I can’t know what will happen tomorrow, good or bad. But I can do this just for today.

Have a great TODAY!

Whatever Works for You – Do It!

I don’t know about you, but there are times I feel like my skin is too tight, my mind is too full and all I can think of is how much I’d like to be at the ocean. You know how there’s a special place or restaurant or town or mountain or lake or <fill in the blank here> that just soothes you and makes you feel as if you really can go on when you think you can’t? The ocean is what does it for me.

Here in the Northeast, we don’t have those long, lovely white sand beaches with heartbreakingly turquoise waters you find on the west coast or tropical isles. Our ocean up here is rough and angry, steely blue-gray with flecks of yellowish foam. The waves are short and choppy, the water is eyeball-freezing cold, and the beaches are filled with shards of shells, gray-green seaweed, and pointy little pebbles that love to dig into your feet. Even the seagulls have bad attitudes; they are as aggressive as bullies in a schoolyard. It’s never a good idea to have a picnic on the beach, either–Heaven help you if you dare to eat a sandwich in front of them (go head, try it–I dare you). That said, the pound and roar of the waves are hypnotic, and the smell of the salt sea is what loosens the knot in my stomach–every time.

I have walked the beautiful beaches of Florida and California and have admired their singular beauty. Compared to our roughshod oceans here, they are peaceful and placid. They politely offer up pretty treasures like a duchess presenting a teacake on a bone china saucer; a whole unbroken sand dollar, an orange-bellied whelk, a pristine white angel wing or a barnacle-encrusted fragment of startlingly cobalt blue glass. The very pebbles are smoothed and shiny, and never so much as dent the bottoms of your feet. Long translucent blue waves roll lazily in, giving you plenty of time to move if you don’t want your feet wet. The sun is always perfect, and the waves lull you along with their quiet and steady susurrous.

No question, these beaches have it all over the Atlantic ocean for beauty and grace. But, having been born in ME and raised in NH, my heart belongs to the rough and tumble chant of my ocean. The salty sting of its harsh breath on my face is astringent and vitalizing. It’s the slap I need to make me remember who I am and why I’m here. It scrubs away the cobwebs and refreshes my spirit in a way that nothing else can; reminding me to take a deep breath and go on.

If you don’t already have a “go-to” place to rest and rejuvenate, find one. This may be one of the most important things you do for yourself and your peace of mind. Your go-to place can also be in your head if you like; it’s up to you. You will know you have come to the right place when that knot loosens. And when it does, just enjoy it and let it do its own brand of magic on you. You are worth it.

 

Why ME? Why NOT Me?

Oh, the number of times I’ve cast my eyes to the heavens saying, “why ME??” When bad things happened to me, I took it so personally; as if no one else in the world had troubles or worries. (Ha–that was in my 20s, and I only wish my troubles now were as easy as those then!) I grumped and moaned and swore and kicked pillows and stomped around with a black cloud over my head, having a lovely case of Poor Me. What an awful waste of time!

With the luxury of all those years ahead of me, I felt perfectly justified to weep and wail. Did I ever consider that other people had problems, too? Probably not. And I was raised well, too–I was told often that I wasn’t the center of the world and that it would be well for me to remember that I wasn’t the only person in the world. But we never really learn until we get older…

I was talking to a dear friend who had just found out she needed surgery. Bad enough, but she also suffers from some chronic conditions as well, so this is just the poisonous icing on a s***cake. This kind of thing puts everything in proper perspective; how the little things cease to matter in the face of such awful news. The sad fact is that most of us will probably catch the bullet at one time or other. Some of us have been very lucky to have dodged broken bones, a serious car accident, fires, floods, etc. This does not mean that we will never have something bad happen. But conversely, we may also live lives of pleasant enterprise and never face any serious difficulties.

So how do we go on, knowing that bad things may happen? Here’s how: we take the next breath, the next step, the next challenge. We take the usual precautions; don’t leave a candle burning in the house before you leave, don’t leave the doors unlocked, be sure you have a roadside emergency kit for your vehicle, don’t text and drive, and so on. While we can’t live in perpetual fear, we can’t live in blissful ignorance either. We need to strike a balance between fear and preparation, and live our lives the best way we can. The old saying, “prepare for the worst but pray for the best” is a good reminder.

Here’s an effective device I’ve used for years now that you are welcome to try–*positive affirmations. Don’t laugh; they work! What is a positive affirmation? It is a simple phrase uttered out loud at least 15 times. How does it work? Take something that is currently worrying you–for example, say a loved one is in the hospital. You of course want that person to be healthy and well and to be back home soon, correct? You can say something like this: “<insert name here> is completely healthy and well and is home.” Say this phrase with utter conviction at least 15 times out loud. Why out loud? Because positive (and negative) energy has a physical effect. Without getting into what I or you or anyone else believes, positive energy causes positive results. Does it work every time? No, of course not. Positive energy and affirmations don’t mean that automatic healing happens in the case of the loved one in the hospital, but it does cause positive energy rather than negative energy.

Here are a few affirmations I use daily, along with the results:

Positive Affirmation (PA): “Everything today is going to go GREAT!” Positive Result (PR): Things do go well and smoothly.

PA: “All the bills are paid in full.” PR: All bills DO get paid in full, often in ways you could never have foreseen.

PA: “I always get a great parking space.” PR: Nine times out of ten, you DO find a great parking space.

This one worked for me BIG TIME:

PA: “I have the perfect job, in the perfect location and with the perfect salary.” PR: I actually got the perfect job, in the perfect location and with the perfect salary.

Look, this isn’t a magic carpet ride to everything going our way always. Stuff happens. But what can really ease the way is to keep as positive an outlook  as possible, and do try one or two of the positive affirmations. The “perfect parking space” is a great first exercise, so try it out. When you say it aloud, say it with conviction and absolute belief that you will get that perfect parking spot. When you get that space, DO say “Thanks!” Do NOT say “wow, this kind of thing NEVER happens to me!” That will insure that it won’t happen again. Keep your affirmation simple; don’t add too many details. All you need to do is to put that positive intention out there. The universe will handle the details.

So, back to the original question: why me? Well, why NOT me? As we are all part of the human race, we can expect both good and bad times. In order to roll with it all, stay positive, stay alert and focus on all that is good. Two of the greatest gifts we humans are given is free will and a working brain. How we use them is up to us, so let’s make it positive.

*I first learned to use positive affirmations from taking courses from the wonderful Noreen McDonald, who teaches several metaphysical courses in Wolfeboro, NH. Check out her web site at http://www.noreenmcdonald.com.