Janet West has been a writer since the late 1990s. When someone asked, "If nothing were impossible, what would she do?" The answer was automatic. Write. When she crafted her ideas into words, she felt alive.
Her early writing years were in child development magazines, but now her interests have expanded. Although the love of learning and teaching is still the core of who she is.
We have algorithms by which we live our lives. Previously, I lived from a list that included too many freakin’ I shouldn’t and Don’ts.
I shouldn't talk about myself. It's bragging. - Thanks, bro!
Don't ask for things. If you're at someone's place, never take sustenance. Never impose. - Thanks, Mom!
I'm too slow. Too much. Not enough. Well, no matter what I do, it won't be right. - Thanks, society!
My old rules have worn me out. I’m needing something new.
I do things because I like them. I eat when I'm hungry and sleep when I'm tired. I ask for what I need.
When your habits aren’t working for you, it may be time to change your ways. Make new rules.
As a second-grader, jealousy gripped me and possibly taught me a lesson. A schoolmate had a Mickey Mouse watch with the gloves of Mickey that turned to show the time. I knew that she was rich. And for a few minutes, I convinced her to let me wear her fantastical watch. It didn’t matter what else happened that day. This girl and I had bonded, and I was wearing her Mickey Mouse watch. If I were persuasive enough, maybe she’d let me wear it home. At times I had guts. Raw desire made me bold.
I always thought it was logic. Truthfully, it was about pain. Choices—which option didn’t hurt as much as the other? If I saw a new phone I wanted, I would think the process through in my mind. It cost x amount, and currently, I am in debt xx amount. But in my thinking, it was a smart purchase if I could purchase it immediately or somehow arrange it into my budget. Logic—as I was calling it—was a lie. Peel back a layer, and you see the pain.
As a very young kid, I learned how to earn money from labor. We had a farm. All pecans that fell onto the ground were mine to pick up, and I could sell them by the pound if the hogs didn’t eat them first. Back then, I made about ten dollars. I felt a thrill at having that money. My life also developed a good dose of shame.
Around two years ago, I went to a group meeting to learn how to organize my life. My expectations were too high. And I was clueless on how little the teacher knew. It was far too simple. Don’t hoard, Sort your clothes, and so on. But I was there with people who had five sets of chinaware.
There’s nothing shameful about wanting things.
The teacher, who I knew from therapy sessions, said I had a poverty attitude. I left angry. These people were downsizing and trying to throw their shame onto me. I have no reason to be ashamed. I’ve lived in her world—the money—and like her, I suddenly lost it. So yes, I want things.
Sometimes we need the right tool to do the job. We’ve talked and planned, but now we need to work. Here are a few tidbits to start. The first one comes from one of Richard Grannon’s courses. I wish I could tell you which it was from exactly. I’ve worked through both the Discipline and the Emotional Flashback Course. The following is a loose version of his formula.
I am not my flashbacks
Name my goals. (Agency)
I welcome my feelings (anger, fear) name current emotions.
With time and generous amounts of love, you can heal. If you make your goals distinct-it will be more obvious when you meet them. If you know that beginning meditation is a goal for you, then you have to start practicing. Make a goal of sitting for 15 minutes daily or five of the seven days this week, and listen to the sounds around you. Sit, listen, and breathe. And celebrate your successes. It is important. There’s plenty of pain in this world, so finding joy in the everyday stuff is crucial.
What if no point of view is correct? We both are wrong. Me in my strong moral righteousness and you in your idea of keeping America safe. Is it possible I am wrong? Is it possible the wool was pulled over both of our eyes? Is truth in neither of our hearts? About this, I have always worried. What if?
What if there is someone who has a reason to keep you and me apart? If we are not a whole group, we can never be healthy if we are always at odds. The strength of the people–against all the odds–will undoubtedly win. It’s a winning team. Why would that be bad? About this, I have always worried. What if?
What if we can never heal in this lifetime? Is love not enough to heal a nation of people, a race, a community, a world? I have been on both sides of the political ticket. Once I was a Republican, then a Democrat, I’ve known both sides’ frustration. I walked in the shoes of the Fundamentalist, the Christian, and the Agnostic. In the middle of this country, walk a group of people who are hungry for truth. They long for it. We believe we are right. Until a new reality shows us we are not. About this, I have always worried. What if?
“What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.” Augustine
--Around the year 2000, I was awakened to a reality I didn’t know existed. It was as if someone turned on the lights. About this is what I’d always worried. I could see that I’d been stumbling around blindly looking for a pot of gold, but the rainbow’s end had been moving. Now I knew why. There wasn’t a goal. There’s no end of the rainbow to locate. No certainty. I’d been cheated. I was lost and so alone, even in the middle of my own family. I cried and prayed. The word came from inside of me, saying, “Go back to what you know for sure.”
All I knew for certain was love. It was and had always been my compass. Follow love, and not fear. It was the only commandment from Jesus. I grabbed that as if it were my lifeline. Right now, I’m throwing that out to you. Your lifeline is love. Guide your life by love. Follow the light of love.
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:34-35
I hurt for years. It was bad. The pain enveloped me, which made it impossible for my senses to find clear guidance. I don’t want to go through it again, nor anyone else. For the love of God, let it stop with me. The rolling tide of generational abuse doesn’t need to continue. People pleasing, bowing to bullies, and narcissistic abuse should not be normal everyday life. But it was my life.
I never knew what it meant to be “Present.”
Working with therapists on emotional healing and emotional literacy to recognize my pain has helped me see more panorama.
A child recites her alphabet. She sounds out the letters, combining them, and struggling to form words. When the connection happens inside the child’s mind, it resembles magic, but it’s not. With enough stimulation and fuel, one begins creating words. They will comprehend. Looking back at the alphabet, I don’t grasp why reciting the ABC’s helped me become a proficient reader. I know that it works, and I know that I practiced until I learned. It’s training in the most basic form.
I couldn’t understand the purpose of therapy even though I knew it would be helpful.
Becoming a healthy person takes a process. Some of the stuff I have in me may never completely heal, and I need to live with the limitations of who I am. Overall, I have made significant progress. So can you. Commit to doing the work and learn how to live.
I live now. If I become angry because a coworker says a thing, I’m offended now. I have worked on my emotional literacy and I can respond to the anger itself.
You need tools
What is Emotional Literacy? It’s the ability to identify the feelings you are experiencing. Most people are shallow in noticing our feelings. Feeling scared is different than me knowing I’m terrified and panicked. Name your emotion.
#Trauma: I evaluate the emotion. Is my flashback from an older, emotionally charged time? My childhood was angry. (This is part of the emotional literacy.)
#Emotion: If it is new and not something with a deep root, I handle it differently. Current emotions deserve a valid response also. We have rights as humans and must care about ourselves.
Excerpt from The Jungle of My Emotions – “This rage is my jungle. I should know my way through it by now, but I don’t. A therapist will tell you to name the emotions. Instead of rage, get down to the baser emotions. Fear. Insecurity. Feeling utterly alone and vulnerable. When I was negotiating, I was taking it personally. She was attacking me and saying I was wrong. Backed into a corner, I felt powerless. So, I defended my territory.”
There are subtle cues in the universe that alert you to surrounding issues. Be aware of them. It’s not always a reason for panic, but awareness is necessary. The book The Gift of Fear speaks of us losing our attention. But it’s not a permanent thing.
February 15, 2019–from my personal journal
I walked out my door, and the squirrel I call George was fussing. His chit-chat-chattering sound came from above me. He was furious. I expected a cat or bird to be terrorizing him, but there wasn’t anything around that I could see. Curious.
There might still be hope for humans if we remember to listen. Talk less. Hear more. Pay attention to your friends and family. Our greatest gift this season is attentive and mindful care. It sounds simple, but it isn’t. For most of us, we give as we want. I usually buy gifts that I appreciate. For some of my family, I miss the target big time. The irony is—I’ve always considered myself to be intuitive.
Anywhere a squirrel can go
Squirrels chatter when they feel threatened. A cat could be walking on the ground below. Mr. Squirrel will fuss, letting the neighbors know that a cat is nearby. He’s no match for that cat, and he probably knows it, but one thing is sure, he’s not quiet.
There is a time for listening, and there is a time to speak your mind. Do you know what time it is?
The holidays are a difficult time for me. Our culture has high expectations, and there’s no way for most of us to live up to those. We are disappointed. Somehow I must change my way of living. I need a new view of life, so I will not cry half of the day for two months.
My challenge is yours. Start your own traditions by creating a holiday or non-holiday for you and your family. Live on your terms. Release yourself from other’s chains. And may each year be better than the last
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