Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Narcissist and The Saint

Here are our two babies--yes, this is another Awwww post.
What's funny is that the white one, Emily, is mean as spit and regularly bites and pushes B, the brown one, so he can't get to the food. Needless to say, he doesn't like her very much.
Doesn't she look so peaceful laying on her brothers hind end? For Emily, it's all about what makes her happy--she pays no attention to others. For B, it's all about being a good boy.
She's a narcissist and he is a saint.


This post is not related to illness--unless you count Mathaphobia as a sickness.

Here's my bold confession. Oh, boy. This is a tough one. Are you ready?

I, Tiffany Christensen, at age 34 and of sound mind and relatively sound body, do not know my multiplication tables.

Yes. You read that right. I don't know what 7 x 4 is. I have to use a calculator.

Last night, my hubs and I were talking about this sad and disturbing fact, of which he accurately likened to me not being able to read. We were able to trace it back to elementary school. My teacher had a technique for teaching multiplication which consisted of students coming in to see her one by one and being drilled on random multiplication equations.

What's 8 x 3?

What's 7 x 9

What's 12 x 3

You got 2 seconds or less to answer or else...I don't know what the "or else" was but I was terrified of it!

This is not a good way to teach me stuff. I have panic attacks when I watch "Jeopardy" with Alex Trebec! That kind of pressure makes my brain freeze...and when it come to my times tables my brain has never thawed out.

After that, I was the one my teachers always brought to the front of the room to do equations on the chalk board--oh, that really helped my anxiety, let me tell you! I imagine they thought they were giving me special attention but they were really just giving me a heart attack.

I have lived as a Mathaphobe my whole life. You might wonder why I don't learn my multiplication tables now--good question. Maybe it's time to conquer my Elementary School demons!

In the meantime, if you see me counting on my fingers, please don't make fun. Just hand me a calculator. Thank you.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sacred Worrying

My best friend is currently in the middle of grieving one of the most confusing and painful kinds of loss a human can live through. For her sake, I won't go into more detail than that.

5 days had gone by since I talked to her. She wasn't returning my calls or, I suspect, getting anywhere near her email. The concern built to an intense worry.

Because of my inability to check in with her, everything I did during the day was done with a layer of anxiety boiling just beneath. As a good therapist should, my shrink and I set out to see if there was a way to curb my distress--after all, it wasn't helping anyone was it? Or was it?

As we began to dissect my feelings in an effort to "work through" them, it was pretty obvious that I was resistant to giving up my worry and replacing it with something more "productive." My shrink suggested Tonglen, one of my favorite meditations for healing others. Nah. He suggested doing some sort of ritual to send her peace. Nope. He tried to get me to look for ways to release my anxieties and replace them with "healthier" emotions. No thanks.

It was then I started describing my worry in more detail. My worry made me feel connected to my friend even during a time of not being in contact. My worry made me feel like I was holding some of her pain for her. My worry made me feel like we were in this together. I had no desire to give up my worry--"healthy" reaction or no.

It was then my wonderful therapist and I landed upon a new kind of conscious thinking--Sacred Worrying. Instead of trying to resolve my worry, we decided to embrace it. By becoming conscious of how it served me and what role it played in staying connected to my friend's tragedy, it lost it's neurotic quality and became sacred.

Every time I noticed myself worrying, I bathed in it, lit an candle in my mind and allowed myself to be there with my friend--even without direct contact. Sometimes, what we are naturally doing is just fine--it may just need a little fine tuning.

As a follow-up, my friend contacted me shortly after my session with my beloved shrink and I am going to see my friend this weekend. Sacred Worrying served me well last week and now I will relish my role as supporter and well...friend.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Time for Listening

As I've said in the past, it can be difficult for people to take me seriously.
I'm short, very slight build, look to be about 18 and have no formal degrees.

In the past few years, I have been increasing the volume of my voice so I can be heard over the reasons why I am "not qualified" to speak. And it's working.

I am so grateful and amazed at the people who are listening and I gain confidence in my message as it grows and evolves.

Today, however, I realized I have been shouting for so long I have forgotten to shut up from time to time. The sound of my own voice is getting too much airtime in my own head. It is time to stop talking so much and listen--consciously listen.

I made a choice to do that a few times today and it was so refreshing. It was like cold water on burned skin.

My feet are in the door now. I can stop trying so hard to prove my voice has value. Now, I can begin to really explore this new world I have entered and listen to the stories, opinions and feelings of the people around me. I am truly am surrounded by the most amazing people! I am so fortunate.

I may have something to give, but I have so much more to learn. It's a time for listening.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Emotional Drive-By

Years ago, I listened to a talk given by Elizabeth Kubler Ross. In one part, she was telling a story about a car accident and one woman who, instead of concentrating on the inconvenience of the traffic jam she was sitting in, spent her time idling thinking about the people in the accident and praying they would be ok. This story had an impact on me and I try to do this whenever I see an accident--I concentrate on sending the people peace, comfort and healing.

Today, however, was different. On my ride to work this morning, there were several cars on the side of the busy road I travel. It looked like an accident involving 3-4 cars. No one looked critically injured but they were shaken. At the time I saw the accident, I was deeply immersed in my morning driving ritual--"Fergalicious" was cranked up and I was pumping myself up for the day with some car dancing and singing at the top of my lungs (thanks to my donor!)

Here's the brutal truth--I just didn't feel like being compassionate this morning. I didn't want to turn down my radio and quit car dancing. I didn't want to alter my happy mood with thoughts of sending out peace and healing. I didn't want to take time out of my current state of being to honor the people struggling by the side of the road. So I didn't. And it felt weird but I kept singing and dancing anyway.

After the light turned green and the accident was far in the distance, my feelings of strangeness dissipated and I was once again fully immersed in my Fergie CD and my morning ritual.

This made me think of a section of "The Power of Two" where Isa is describing a time when she was fighting for her life, barely able to draw the next breath and the nurses in her doorway were talking about a television show.

I imagine what I felt today on my drive to work is similar to how medical professionals must feel sometimes--they know they should be providing emotional as well as physical support but they just don't want to. They'd rather car dance instead.

I now have a new term for this: this is called an emotional drive-by.

I understand it. I just don't want to make a habit of it.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Another Top 10 List!

What can I say, I can't get enough Top 10 Lists! Here's another one I wrote for a few talks I gave last week. BTW, I had a crazy week--I made 7 presentations last week! That was awesome and I'm so happy my schedule is filling up...BUT, that's way too many presentations in one week! I have decided to limit myself to 3-4 presentations a week. I am still exhausted and it's Sunday!

Please note that there is some new video on my website that contains some of Friday's talk where I (very quickly) present this Top 10 List.

Tiffany's Top 10 Tips and Tricks for
Navigating the Medical Maze

1. Knowledge, Awareness and Boundaries are the first three keys to effective patient advocacy. Gone are the days of relaxing and letting the doctor call all the shots— Be a humble, polite, persistent Squeaky Wheel!

2. Here’s the greatest irony of illness: when you are at your worst is exactly the time when you need to be at your best! If you aren’t up for self-advocacy, bring some one who can do it for you.

3. Being sick is difficult. Be kind to yourself and find ways to process your emotional needs while catering to your physical needs. Healing can happen no matter what the physical outcome.

4. There is power in the Written Word. Use signs whenever you can. Always take notes when getting medical instruction. Keep a list of your medications so you don’t have to repeat yourself.

5. Know the medical hierarchy! If you have a problem with a caregiver, it pays to know where to find their boss!

6. Seek out other patients who have traveled a similar road, they may help you avoid potholes.

7. When you seek out other patients who have traveled similar roads—be careful who you listen to—they may be a pothole.

8. If you go to a surgeon, they will want to do surgery. If you go to a medical doctor, they will want to give you medicine. If you go to an acupuncturist, they will want to give you acupuncture. What do you want to do?

9. Always ask direct questions. Never assume that your doctors are telling you “the whole truth and nothing but the truth” unless you have looked them in the eye and specifically asked what you want to know.

10. Illness is difficult but, if you look hard enough, you might find it also offers opportunities for growth, gratitude and joy.

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