Look To the Western Sky

A blog about single life as a parent & the dreams of a writer by Margo L. Dill

Tag: emotional health

Getting Rid of the Anger Caused by Ego (Guest Post)

When KJ wrote to me and asked if I was interested in the guest post below, I had been (and still am) thinking a lot about happiness and about how my beliefs and attitudes affect my day-to-day happiness. I posted a link to this article, “10 Ways You Are Making Your Life Harder Than It Has To Be” on my Editor 911 Facebook page.  In this article, many of the “ways” we make ourselves less happy and give ourselves a harder life concern our ego, as KJ discusses below, such as ascribing intent when none was actually present, making ourselves a star in our own movie, and having unrealistic and uncommunicated expectations (I had an a-ha moment at that one!).

So I invite you to read the short post, written by KJ,  full of examples, which will have you thinking about your own behavior and thoughts on anger and happiness and how you can control so much of it.

Immediate Reduction in Ego
(c) KJ Hannah Greenberg

Soothing anger is one reason folks overeat. So if the behavior of eating to sooth is to be abated, then anger has to be snuffed out. The other day, someone shared an amazing thought with me…anger is about ego.

Normal folks get indignant about all sorts of things: being passed over for a job, not getting invited to a party, receiving fewer hugs from a child than anticipated, flipping an omelet only to find lunch land on the floor, and so on. Our hurts, real and imagined, come in all sorts of kinds and types. Too often, we react to those actual or seeming injustices with the feeling of having been wronged.

Yet, truly, those scrambled eggs mixed with vegetables had no moral compass. Likewise, invitations get lost in the mail. What’s more, it’s possible, believe it or not, that the person promoted, “in our stead,” actually better deserved the position.

Regardless of whether the hurts we think we endure are intentional or accidental, good for our fiber or disastrous, it behooves us not to own them. If we can be just a tad less conscious of ourselves, we can experience less anger. If we can experience less anger, we can reach less to food or to other substances for “compensation.”

In my own life, I reflect that it did not really matter that a certain university turned me down for a position; I would not have invested (and BH succeeded) in creative writing, otherwise. It did not matter that a certain caterer served spoiled food at a party where I was a guest; the celebration, which was NOT about me, was as wonderful as it might have been had fresh comestibles decked the tables.

It does not matter than one of my children wears a rainbow of nail polish colors. What other folks think of me, in general, and of my parenting, more specifically, is palpably less important than is my interpersonal communication with that child. It’s up to me, as the mom, to bolster her.

Why should I care that a bus driver slammed close his door just as I was in a position, in the queue, to board the vehicle? My ease was not more important than was the comfort and safety of the hundred or so others folks who had already boarded.

It doesn’t really matter that a lady pushed me to reach in front of me to grab the last pair of discounted socks. It’s not for me to determine the ultimate destiny of a store’s merchandise.

KJ Hannah Greenberg © Yiftach Paltrowitz, 2010

In short, when I reduce my self-importance, it naturally follows that I reduce my anger. That’s quite a project. Fortunately, at present, there’s a lot for me to work with.

KJ Hannah Greenberg’s whimsical writing buds in pastures where gelatinous wildebeests roam and beneath the soil where fey hedgehogs play. She’s been nominated four times for the Pushcart Prize in Literature, and once for The Best of the Net. Hannah’s essay collections are: Dreams are for Coloring Books: Midlife Marvels (Seashell Books, 2017), Word Citizen: Uncommon Thoughts on Writing, Motherhood & Life in Jerusalem (Tailwinds Press, 2015), Jerusalem Sunrise (Imago Press, 2015), Oblivious to the Obvious: Wishfully Mindful Parenting (French Creek Press, 2010), and Conversations on Communication Ethics (Praeger, 1991). In the next few months, look for others of her essay collections; Tosh: Select Trash and Bosh of Creative Writing (Crooked Cat Books), Simple Gratitudes (Propertius Press), and Rhetorical Candy (Seashell Books).  http://www.kjhannahgreenberg. net/

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The Worst Feeling As A Parent

Some things in life are very difficult. I’m sure every adult you know has some kind of difficulty whether it’s a relationship problem, financial concerns or health scares–problems and issues are all around us. I’ve had my share, but they don’t compare to what many of you have experienced or may be experiencing now. But the hardest thing for me is when my daughter has a problem and I can’t solve it.

Disclaimer: Before any of you get up in arms about this–I know I shouldn’t solve all her problems. She is only 6, but she has to learn to work through things and figure it out for herself (in a lot of cases), so she will learn to do this as she grows up. 

The problem my daughter and I are now facing is that the little girl who she considers to be her best friend, her grandparents’ neighbor, her playmate three or more times a week has MOVED TO FLORIDA. Naturally, KT is very upset. She has been crying off and on, and I have been encouraging her to talk about it. I’ve been trying to use skills I’ve learned at Kids in the Middle, where feelings need to be validated and worked through–not ignored and pushed under the rug.

I told her there is nothing she can do about this but feel the sadness and talk about it if she feels like it. I’ve left out the part that she will probably never see this little girl again. She might not even remember her very well in a couple of years because right now, this missing her friend already feels all consuming to KT. I think that “wisdom” would actually make it worse. We’ve talked about the things KT could do at Grandma’s house to pass the time and how sometimes, when you feel sad, it really is okay just to sit and watch TV and relax for a while.  That was the end of my wisdom. My heart breaks for her because she is so sad, and there really is nothing to fix this.

Of course, this made me reflect on my own friendships throughout the years. Social media makes it easy to “keep in touch” with people nowadays, but there are some people who I loved dearly that I am not in touch with anymore (whether it’s because they aren’t on social media or I haven’t found them or they don’t want to be in touch) or who have actually passed away. And there is nothing I can do. There is nothing I can do but feel the sadness and work through it, maybe write about it, maybe just sit and watch TV and relax for a while.

The worst to me as an adult is when you have a good friend and you are having a conflict and you are out of touch, whether it’s agreed upon or not. It’s sad. And you miss this person, but what can you do? You just have to work through the sadness and hope one day you both can figure it out.

So for now, that’s what KT and I are going to do. The good thing is KT is busy at cheerleading camp this week, and she told me that she doesn’t even think about it when she is there, and I see that as a positive life lesson she’s learning. And I will follow in her footsteps.

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The Thing About Change and Not Giving Up

Most of us want to change something in our lives–whether we want to be more patient with our kids, not engage with someone abusive in our lives, lose weight, exercise and sleep more, or clean and organize our lives. And we expect these things to happen immediately, and I don’t know about you–but I am very hard on myself when I have a “relapse.”

This past spring, I was in a 6-week book study course called Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions by Lysa TerKeurst. Lysa has a great sense of humor and shares all the ways she still can sometimes come unglued–and she is the one leading us in trying to do better! This is why I liked her and her book. It was realistic and practical. The best thing I learned in this course was imperfect progress.

Imperfect progress is what most of us make when we are trying to change. We take three steps forward, and then we take a step back (sometimes a giant leap backwards unfortunately), and this backwards step is the turning point. This moment is when you decide if you are going to make imperfect progress and get back on your plan to the life you want (diet/training program/break from a bad relationship), or you are going to give up with the negative thinking of: What’s the point anyway?

There are a lot of things I need to change. And I am the textbook definition of imperfect progress, but here’s what I realized about myself and my progress after a brief encounter with a difficult person: I am finally starting to realize when I’m falling into the trap of what I usually say when faced with confrontation and also what I usually do. I also noticed I don’t have the same feelings or reactions as I did even if my behavior is the same, and  I am thinking about what to do differently next time.

Do you realize how big this is? It’s big. It’s big because before this year, an encounter with a difficult person like this would have left me for hours or maybe even an entire day upset and blaming myself, wondering why I am the way I am, and a lot of other terribly self-pitying behavior.

How about you? Did you cheat on your diet? Don’t beat yourself up! Did you eat healthy for five days before that? Then focus on those five days because you are making imperfect progress. Did you yell at your kids instead of using love and logic? Okay, you might have been tired or hungry, and next time you will realize that and won’t yell.

This is the thing about change–don’t give up. We all deserve the life we want. 

By the way, I’m currently having an Editor 911 sale and a writing coaching sale. Here are the details: Now through June 30, 2017, I am running a sale on my Editor 911 and writing coaching services. Regular price for a content edit OR proofread is $3.00 a page (250-275 words).SALE price $2.25 a page.FULL edit  (content and proofreading) regular price $5.00 a page, sale price $4.00 a page. If you pay your total bill upfront with Paypal, receive a 10 % discount on top of the sale price. If you don’t have a project ready, but want me to work on it this summer or fall, you can pay a $100 deposit before June 30 to keep the sale price and use it anytime.

For writing coaching, regular price is $25 for 30 min. or $40 for 60 min. If you pay beforeJune 30, 2017, you can get a package deal and use the minutes however you want (including splitting it with a friend)! SALE package price is…300 minutes for $150 (savings of $50). You don’t have to use these minutes this summer; but you must purchase them by 6/30/2017. Writing coaching can be used to complete projects, define goals, discuss plot, etc. and in person (if you live within 15 miles of Margo) or by phone or Skype.

EMAIL ME FOR DETAILS: margolynndill (at) gmail.com

 

 

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Don’t Let Fear Rule You

I typed this title on this blog post, as if I don’t let FEAR rule me. I know sometimes I do. Actually, I have to make a conscious effort to NOT let fear rule everything I do. I first realized this only a couple years ago when a very good friend quoted Dune and said, “Fear is the mind-killer.” Here’s the entire quote if you haven’t heard it before:

Why do I bring it up today?

I’m the type of person who needs to hear the same advice time and again before it sinks in. And I’m still learning. I’m the type of person who probably needs an entire bedroom mirror full of quotes and tips and things I’ve learned from books, so I don’t forget them. BUT…I bring this up today because recently I heard Andrew McCarthy speak (Oh no, not this again, will she ever stop going on about him? you think) and he talked about Fear. He talked about Fear a lot. He talked about how we have to face Fear right in the face.

Immediately, I became defensive and thought: Who is he to tell us that we are fearful? Well, after listening to him talk from his heart and realizing how hard he tries at everything in his life now: writing, parenting, directing, AND how he is successful, I decided to listen to his message. He told a story to the audience, which he also wrote for National Geographic, about how he was on a 500-mile walking pilgrimage in Spain when he had a meltdown,  where he says, “I literally shook my fists at the heavens and cursed whatever God it was I half-believed in.”

He goes on to say (to read the whole article, please go here):

I became aware of something I’d in some way known all my life. It disclosed itself with the simplicity of the absolute. There wasn’t something lacking in my character; I had an overabundance of something. It had dictated so many of my actions, been behind so many decisions, obscured so much of my judgment. FEAR, I SAW IN THAT MOMENT, had ruled my life. The vulnerability between my shoulders was the space created when the weight of that domineering, life-directing emotion had been temporarily relieved. It was in this experience of fear’s absence that it began to lose its hold on me.

When he said the same thing in his talk at St. Louis County Library Headquarters, I realized that I have allowed FEAR to rule my life also, and most of us do, in spite of friends and the universe reminding us not to. I felt an overwhelming sadness and disappointment in myself at that moment because I wasn’t in control of my own life or my destiny. Fear was. Fear is.

I could give you a bullet point list of my fears, and many of you reading this would probably nod along; but instead of that, I decided that they can all be boiled down to one little sentence:

I fear that I am never doing enough–in my relationships, in my career, at my home, with my child.

And because of this, I spend a lot of time in chaos and worry and listmaking and pacing around my house, where I am not actually accomplishing anything. It’s a vicious cycle. It’s exhausting.

I want to tell you I’m done with it. I can’t do that yet. I can tell you: I want to be done with it. But we all know patterns and habits are hard to change. What I’m trying very hard to do, in this year where I’m also searching for Peace, is to be aware of when I am feeling Fear and figure out why. Then make a decision based on what I want for me life, and not on what Fear wants for my life.

“I’ve learned that fear limits you and your vision. It serves as blinders to what may be just a few steps down the road for you. The journey is valuable, but believing in your talents, your abilities, and your self-worth can empower you to walk down an even brighter path. Transforming fear into freedom – how great is that?” ~Soledad O’Brien

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MOPS 28-Day-Truth Challenge Days 1 to 5

I am in MOPS–Mothers of Preschoolers, and I recommend if you are a stay-at-home mom or part-time working mom of children under 1st grade, FIND YOURSELF A GROUP NOW. These women have become some of my best friends and have been with me through thick and thin. Through the divorce and surgeries, they have helped me with Katie, provided support with cards and messages, organized two meal trains, and paid for lawn service for an entire spring/summer/fall. I don’t need to explain more, right? I love them! But that’s not what this post is about.

This year, MOPS has a 28-day challenge to do either a TRUTH OR DARE each day, and then work toward a BIG THING. I’m still not sure what my BIG THING will be. I thought running a 5K, but I’m not sure training for that in February is the best idea; so I’m still on the fence with my BIG THING. But I am going to do this challenge; and like everything, I am behind.  This post is for days 1 to 5. On Monday, days 6 to 10 will post. Then I will hopefully post 11 to 14 on Tuesday ,and will be caught up along with knowing more what my BIG THING might be. I also have been mulling around going on a short trip with Katie, so maybe my BIG THING will be actually taking the plunge and planning it during spring break. So far, I’ve just talked about it.

So let’s get to it:

Day 1: Swell Seasons: In what ways do you feel out of control in your life?

Answer: In what ways, don’t I? Ha! I think the biggest ways I feel out of control in my life are the demands of single parenting and my time management and amount of daily energy. It all boils down to priorities. Since I have a full-time job and a child and relationships with other human beings, then I need to prioritize what is important to me and what goals I want to accomplish on a daily basis. If I don’t and I waste a lot of time on something like arguing politics on Facebook, I feel out of sync, out of control, because time is precious. More and more, I realize how little of it I actually have.  And how I want to be choosy where and with who I spend it. It’s all about balance, and I still struggle with that on a daily basis.

Day 2: Blessings in the Night: What is your favorite thing that has happened in the dark?

Answer: That’s a loaded question, huh? I really had to think about this one because I am much more of a morning/afternoon/early evening person, than a night-time owl; and so I decided to just look back over this past year, and be very literal about this question. My favorite thing that happens on a regular basis in the dark is my 6-year-old daughter’s night time routine, complete with reading (and now sometimes she is reading to me!) and snuggling. I always tell her it is my favorite part of the day, and I am being serious. It is peaceful and sweet and calming–so much so that I often fall asleep myself. . .oops!

Day 3: Becoming Our Mothers: What are two things you hope your kids will talk about as adults when they describe their memories of you?

Answer: I want her to talk about how much fun we had on a daily basis, using our imaginations (the stuffed animals all have voices and talk a lot; my fingers are actually tickle bugs;  the gremlins come if we don’t get dressed by 9am) and how in our home, there was a lot of singing, dancing, and laughing. I also hope she remembers the little life lessons I am trying to teach her, such as being kind, entertaining yourself, not always thinking of yourself, work before play, and remembering to say I love you to people you love.

Day 4:  Sister Courage: What do you value most in a friend? Are you that kind of friend?

Answer: I value kindness the most in a friend. I want someone with a kind heart and a positive attitude. They don’t have to always be up, of course, and I am willing to listen to anyone about anything; but I hope that when they are looking at the world, they are doing it with kindness and optimism because that definitely wears off on me. I think I am pretty kind and optimistic. Sometimes, with some friends, I can be more opinionated than others, and I probably need to do a bit more active listening.

Day 5: Dear Fifteen: What do you need to give yourself permission to feel? What hurts are waiting to be seen and healed?

Answer: This is going to sound crazy, but I need to give myself permission to feel happiness. I will not feel guilty because I also feel happy. I know it sounds crazy, but I think divorce or any really hard life struggle does this to you. It is almost like you are scared to feel happiness because you’re always waiting for the next terrible thing to happen. I have worked through a lot of hurt over my adult life, so I don’t feel like I have any deep, buried issues that are waiting to come out. They have all been pouring out and now I am looking to find peace.
Feel free to answer any of these questions in the comments! 🙂 You don’t have to be a MOPS member to do so. . .

 

 

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5 Things I Learned About Living in 2016

1. Life is a work in progress. I’m the kind of person who wants to fix everything right now. This is an impossible and exhausting way to live for two reasons. First, the only person I can control is myself; therefore, if the thing in my life that’s wrong involves another person, I can only do so much to fix the problem. Secondly there are only so many hours in the day, and part of those must be spent taking care of essential needs: since I am a parent, I must provide a home, food, and care for my daughter as well as myself. So a good portion of my time goes toward this. Therefore, the other things I want to do in my life take a backseat sometimes, and that is okay and normal. Everything does not have to happen RIGHT NOW.

2. Listen more. Speak less. I’m still working on this one. But I realized this about myself this year, with help from a very good friend–I often jump to conclusions and speak my mind before I have all the facts. I am working on my listening skills and taking a deep breath before spurting out the wrong thing.

3. Give people a chance. After divorce, most people will tell you it is hard to trust. No matter how bad the marriage was or who initiated the divorce, you were a part of a couple for a while (sometimes a long while) and now you are out on your own. While dating, I have learned that most people in a similar situation as myself are decent and also just trying to live their lives. This kind of fits with number two above, but I need to learn to not jump to conclusions and trust people until they give me a reason not to.

4. Being a parent is hard. Give myself a break. I miss my daughter terribly when she is away from me; but sometimes when she is with me, I don’t feel like I have time to think or process anything, and I am often exhausted. I worry about her constantly, and I am sometimes impatient. This seems to be similar to many other parents I know (single and married); and when I start to feel like “you are doing a terrible job–you should have done A, B, C,” I’m learning to take a deep breath and give myself a break. I love her more than anything, and I spend a good portion of my life being her mom. Every once in a while, I’m going to mess up and it’s okay.

5. Balance is key. To be the best person I can, I have to sleep, eat healthy, exercise, have fun with my daughter, read, write, work, have fun with my friends, and spend time with my parents. The key is to stay balanced. Don’t let any one area take all the time away from another. This is super hard, and again a work in progress; but I am doing better–especially the sleep. Do you know how important sleep is? 🙂

So what have you learned in 2016?

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Five Weeks Later: After the Hysterectomy

As I’ve shared before, I had a hysterectomy at the end of September because I suffered from endometriosis. I thought I would give an update on how things are going and some thoughts about the hysterectomy for those of you who happen upon this page because you had one or are planning to have one.

What was the worst?

Hands down, the worst part of the hysterectomy was the first 12 hours after it was over because of the gas pains. When having a robotic-assisted laparoscopic hysterectomy, gas may be pumped into your belly to inflate it and give your surgeon a better view and more room to work. This happened to me. Turns out, although there was some pain with the actual removal of my female parts, most of the unbearable pain, which pain medicine did not help, was from  this gas being in my body. Since I also had a catheter, I couldn’t get up and walk around. Finally, a nurse explained to me what was going on (the next morning!) and gave me some GasX, and I walked around the hospital once the catheter was removed–then, it was so much better. So, if you are having this same procedure, talk to your doctor about the gas and the nursing staff about GasX.

Did I need a week to recover before going back to work?

Yes. I also feel like if I didn’t work from home, I might have needed 10 days off or to go back to work half days. You will be tired. You will still have some pain. You had major surgery. And in today’s world, we seem to not give ourselves enough time to heal from anything.

qtq80-fnKjgOHow do I feel now?

So, it’s been 5 weeks. I go back to the doctor on Tuesday for my final checkup before I am supposed to resume normal activity. In the last couple days, I have felt more like myself. But in general, I can’t imagine I am going to resume “normal activity” by Friday. I am still so tired. If I overdo it, I still have a bit of pain or discomfort. I think this is perfectly normal and will discuss it with my doctor at my visit, of course. Someone just said to me today, “It may take you 6 weeks on the outside, but just remember it can take up to 6 months on the inside.” I have some smart, smart friends. I have had  a lot of trouble with my appetite, which I’m told is also normal because well, I HAD MAJOR SURGERY!

What about my hormones?

Since I had a full hysterectomy, I am doing hormone replacement therapy. Currently, I have an estrogen patch I wear and change every 3-4 days. I think I’m still adjusting. I think I need some clarification on if there are better places to place it than others. I have a lot of stress in my life; one week during this recovery, I felt a bit like I did when I was suffering from endometriosis and my hormones were all out of whack. But this past week, I’ve felt much more in control and stable–so I’ll talk to the doctor about this, too.

To sum up, I’m glad, so glad, I had this surgery. Once everything gets back to “normal”, I have high hopes that I will feel better. I will be more like myself. I will have survived this patch in my life and come out stronger.

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Why I’m Choosing to Have a Hysterectomy

chester-and-katie

Reasons to Feel Better

Later this month, I’m having a hysterectomy (ovaries too). When I tell people, there are many reactions: but mostly, they want to know: How do you feel about this? Are you okay with it? I look at them and think: I’m 45. I’m not married. I have a beautiful child (and was a part of my stepson’s life for years), and my periods and hormones are through the roof.

Yes, I’m okay with it.

But to be honest, sometimes it freaks me out.

I guess most women have trouble saying: I am done having kids (or even: I don’t want to have any children of my own). Is it because of our maternal instincts? Is it because of the nosy people who say: Are you sure? or Is it the disapproving look from another woman, even if it’s brief and she didn’t mean to do it? I don’t know. I don’t know what it is. But even though I’m 45, not married, and done having children, if I think too much about this hysterectomy, it overwhelms me.

My uterus and ovaries do not make me a woman. A breast cancer survivor who has a double mastectomy is not less of a woman–she’s probably stronger than anyone knows or gives her credit for. It’s so psychological–removing the “female parts” for health reasons–and hard to explain.

But in my case, a hysterectomy is the way to go. I’m suffering from endometriosis (cysts) and adenomyosis. Neither one of these are controlled with birth control pills with high levels of estrogen I’m currently taking. I wound up in the hospital in late April from the pain of a ruptured cyst and had endometriosis and cysts removed. It’s all back. In August, I was in so much pain, I had to go to my GP to get pain medication and a pelvic ultrasound. This disease makes me exhausted and causes my hormones to go crazy. On a daily basis, I’m not sure of my feelings or even my real personality. I am a single mother with a full time job, elderly parents, and a part time writing/editing/teaching job, plus friends and family to pay attention to. I don’t want to feel how I feel any longer.

So I’m choosing to have a hysterectomy and go through hormone replacement therapy because that is the only choice I feel I have at this time and what is best for everyone in my life, including me.

If you landed on this page because you suffer from endometriosis, please know you are not alone. Because I was so tired (also had anemia due to heavy bleeding several days a month) and felt like I was losing my mind some days, I decided to Google: “How endometriosis affects your emotions.” You wouldn’t believe the amount of information there is on this. That’s why I’m writing this post: whether you are in child bearing years and going through infertility worries or older and having pain with your endometriosis, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Go find a doctor you trust, tell your friends and family what is going on, and figure out how to get some help.

You deserve it.

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