Meditation Monday and Hafiz

Last night I went to a meditation at the Interdependence Project on the Sufi poet Hafiz. Hafiz writes about love- the love of God, of life, and of the Self.

It was a a great way to come back home and kick off the new year. Doing a full half hour guided mediation was surprisingly hard. I kept wondering if the class leader was watching me, judging me, noticing how I kept wanting to uncross my legs as they tingled on the mat. I observed my fear of judgment, I felt how attached I was to my ego, even in this sacred, quiet moment.

As we read the poems, one struck me after I struggled with so much self judgment - and then with frustration that I still fall to feeling negative:
Don’t surrender your loneliness so quickly.
let it cut more deep.
Let it ferment and season you
as few human or even divine ingredients can.
Something missing in my heart tonight
has made my eyes so soft
my voice so tender
my need of god
absolutely clear.

Instead of rejecting can I use my fear, and loneliness, my anxiety and judgment to seasoning me? Can we spin negative thoughts to bring us closer to God and to ourselves?

Hafiz offers us a poignant picture of what that can do in his poems. He has so many more, I recommend the translation by Danial Ladinsky in "The Gift".

I'll turn to this poem when the cuts of lonely emotion cut deep, to make my eyes soft and voice tender as I accept vulnerability, and my need.

Masks of Myself - Family and OCPD

For me, heading home for the holidays means seeing people that aren't a constant part of day to day life. This can bring about all kinds of anxiety as I feel judged by all of them, trying to alternatively impress and please all kinds of aunts, uncles, cousins and even distant friends.

Do I have put on a golden child mask for everyone? It feels so safe behind that persona.

Either way, its impossible. I cannot be all things to all people. They are just too different. Even if I could mold myself to be so "together" and smart to one uncle, am I not being cute and sweet enough? The negotiation of perfection breaks down. I have to face that I can't switch masks that fast.

And even if I could - why?

Acting as if my life is perfect is just that - acting. It's not real. Its a persona, a character, a mask. And all that does is keep my true self hidden.

How can I feel accepted and loved by my family if I don't let them see the true me- without the mask of perfection?

It feel a lot easier to just try to let go of maintaining all these masks. It gets lonely behind there. I have to trust my family will still love me, imperfection and all.


Bad Dreams - Moods and OCPD

Last night I had bad dreams. Terrible, awful nightmares that I'm sure have to do with my anxiety and anger I tend to repress. I woke up feeling so sad, scared and just in a funk. I couldn't shake it.

I kept telling myself it wasn't real, that I was making all this negative emotion out of nothing. But it felt real, and thats what mattered.

So I made a choice. I took the power back. As I got ready, I play music every morning. Suddenly a great song came on- cheesy but great.

Ace of Base I think. "The Rhythm of the Night". Pulsing dance with a great vocal.

I started to sing along. I felt dumb at first. Very dumb, and almost a fake.Then, I told myself this is what I needed. I felt angry and sad still, but I just sang along anyway. Sometimes you have to act happy before you feel happy. The more loudly I sang, the sillier I was, the more I smiled.

The dream lost its power. The mood funk was moved away by a funky beats.

It's hard to tell yourself to think positive when irrational bad moods strike. Sometimes a wild action can set aside negativity, and push a smile into place.


Photoshop Perfect - Honesty and OCPD

Photoshopping or retouching images is so common, every magazine cover is assumed to be the glossy, perfected depiction of the models and actresses. Everyone knows Photoshop works wonders on wrinkles, hiding age and acne, to show a perfect image.

Am I photoshopping my self? Hiding the imperfections with little white lies? So what lies underneath the gloss?

Honesty can be hard when the standards of self-perfection are so high. I know I lie to others, telling them what I want to hear. I also have trouble being honest with myself, about just how much of my anxiety is "real" and what is a distraction from my feelings and relationships.

Well, going into the Holidays I want to really be honest- mean what I say and say what I mean.

It's about being true to my feelings in action- not saying and doing what I "should" and then trying to skirt around it later. I have to speak up, and let my needs, failures, and emotions me known

I've thought about it and realized- How can I be accepted if the person I being isn't my true self? The more I lie, or shift the truth to make situations easier, the less true to myself I am. No one knows the real me, just the "perfect" acting one.

I have to be me, no matter what the immediate consequences. Because in the long term the lie of "perfect" will leave everyone, including myself, disappointed. And no matter how much I retouch, deep down I know its not the real image. No one can lie forever.

Being true in word and action is hard. It's hard to face that parts of me aren't near perfect, or even good. But If I can learn to show my true self honestly, maybe a more honest acceptance of my flawed self can grow.

Photoshopping is too hard to do forever. So starting today, no retouching allowed.


Emotional Blinders - OCPD and Feelings

Ever feel like you aren't connecting emotionally to the world, except to the emotion of internal anxiety? Maybe you have emotional blinders on too.

For a long time, I used obsessive thinking to distance myself from people and from my own emotions. When all I could focus on was my rules and own perfection, my view narrowed to block out those around me.

I think of it like emotional blinders, like on a horse that can't get distracted from its path as it pulls as carriage. All I can see is the immediate consequence in front of me, and I fixate on controlling one certain outcome.

The problem is when the emotional blinders go on, I miss everything that is going on around me. I can't see how people are reacting to me, and I don't let their emotions inside. The blinders are so good, I don't even know what I'm missing.

Sometimes I miss how worried my boyfriend is that I only eat certain items on my plate. I miss my mom checking her watch anxiously as I keep putting on make up. I miss my coworkers friendly interest as I can only fixate on that one report I didn't get done.

But I miss the positives too. I miss the joy my boyfriend gets eating my cooking. I miss my moms happy smiles as she kills time playing with my dog. And I miss how happy just walking can make me, without obsessing on my destination.

I miss the emotional journey, because the blinders keep my looking straight ahead: I can only see my destination.


Painting Perfection - Art Therapy and OCPD

Last night I did art therapy for the first time. As someone who does visual art for a living and for fun, I felt a little bit of pressure. Is there a "right " way to produce therapy art? Did it have to be perfect, salable, up to my standards?

I was worried the therapist would think : "She's a artist? Really?" The pressure threatened to take away any therapeutic power the art might have.

So I spoke on it.

I told the therapist that I was worried I was going all perfectionist on the project. She said to just "play" and that I would be limited in time and materials. I have to use string and ink, something I had never done. And I couldn't spend hours perfecting and redoing everything. I have to be raw, as imperfect as that is.

And you know what? It felt good. No one judging my art, not even myself. The result was acutally amazing. Maybe not the prettiest work. I don't think I could sell at Art Basel. But it felt real. And it gave me a sign post to a place in my psyche that I could never see if I stay caught up in judgments.

You don't need a therapist to do art therapy. Take a pen, a brush, some markerts and get messy. The key is to let go of expectations. Play. Time yourself, dont take too long. Then, sit back. Flip the page around.

Then ask -
What does it feel like to you?
What do you like and dislike about it?
Does it remind you of part of your life?
Is this a representation part of yourself? What part?

We can all benefit from letting the inner artist loose, free from the expecation to produce perfection.


Doubting Our Worth -Dialectacal Behavior Therapy skills and OCPD

I am in a group that learns Dialectacal Behavior Therapy skills, and the other girls there always offer insights into my own life as they share how their week went.

One girl is trying to work as a massage therapist, but lacks the self esteem to approach people and offer her services. She kept remarking how she is too nervous, and has to clench her fists and psych herself up to even mention that she has this great service to offer them. Part of her problem was the fee: She didn't see herself as worth the $150 a hour for massage. But this is a totally normal fee, and she is certified. She always ended up back off, or discounting - the massage equivalent of desperation.

She said no matter how friendly she tries to be, its like people see her anxiety coming though. It puts them off, and she is left with no massage business.

My rational mind wanted to tell her "Well just get some courage, a makeover, and go at it! You are way to sniveling and apologetic even now, no wonder they are put off!"

Of course its not my place to say this, but inside I judged her. Then I stepped back, and saw myself in such a similar place.

I always don't want to "impose" on people, I feel I'm not "worth" others time and effort, and I can be a totally pushover when planning events at work or with friends. Do I come across as spineless and nervous?

Sometimes we need to see ourselves in others to realize some things. I wanted to thank the girl after class, and say how similar I felt sometimes. But... I didn't want to impose.

Maybe next class, armed with the self-knowalge that I need to step up into my own confidence, I'll say "Hello" without my teeth clenched in anxiety.


Traveling with OCPD

I know I'm not the only one who traveled this weekend. But my flight time was more substantial than most : 15 hours on a plane. Yes, thats like a whole day in a tiny seat. And I thought my cubicle was bad.

Going anywhere, especially when the time in transit is long and grueling, can be an endurance test for anyone with OCPD. Just sitting in a seat for hours is torture for me. It gives my anxious mind far too much time to ruminate on what I should be doing.

Plus, whenever I go to the bathroom, get tea, eat something or fix my make-up (all of which I do pretty constantly) I feel like everyone in the seat around me is watching. So how do I create a private space of solace when traveling?

I try to keep both my mental and physical space positive. I bought an art magazine and set it facing me in the seat back so I could look at the illustrated cover. I use lotion to keep smelling fresh. I have music that is soothing picked out. And, most importantly, I try to balance the planning impulses.

I always try to use my time traveling effectively, to the point of a fault. Ok, I think, first two hours eating and movie, then a nap, then a hour of doing some work, then I'll fix my make up for arrival... etc.
Planning is fine, but I don't let it tip into anger if I oversleep or am not able to work. It's not worth it to worry about too much while stuck in transit. Plus, if I focus on what I didn't or couldn't get done on my planned checklist, I actually become less effective due to all my stress. Dealing with the destination will be hard enough, so I give myself a "pass" to relax if I need to, just for the plane ride.

It's not so different that at home or at work really. Find a calmness, accept a tentative plan, and don't let negativity seep in, no matter how many hours are spent in stale air plane air.