Monday, January 9, 2012

Helplessness: An Analysis

In my coping (and not) this weekend, I've been pondering something that strikes all of us in various places in life and I thought maybe we should talk about it a little bit.

Damn if I'm not a little bit of a control freak. But never mind.

Helplessness source
This weekend has had me thinking a lot about helplessness. Saturday's blog confessed that I was useless in a crisis, but that is PHYSICALLY useless. I just don't know what to do do save somebody. I mean I've had first aid (half a lifetime ago) so if they were choaking... or possibly even if they were not breathing... (no CPR skills, though I've seen it enough that if we were REALLY alone, I'd give it a shot)... but all that in between stuff. USE. LESS.

So HWMNBMOTI is home and physically okay, but his sense of panic... of not-rightness... has not subsided. It has left me tense and worried, too. I am not worried his physical problems have not been dealt with, but rather that his stress and emotional worries are manifesting themselves physically and that this risk won't go away until we deal with the big hairy monster of anxiety.

Anxiety isn't new to us.

When our kids were small, HWMNBMOTI was a 'stay-at-home-dad' and PART of our reasoning was his earning power didn't cover childcare for two kids. But part of it was an anxiety issue that cropped up during my first pregnancy. It is related to myriad issues of self-worth (or lack thereof) and CONTROL issues that can't be controlled in work environments. The latter made jobs dissatisfying in the extreme and the former made it really hard to look for work... not feeling worthy and all.

See, though. In thinking about all of this, even my uselessness is not fully worthless if I PAUSE and think about it.


Problems are not large hairy monsters. They are armies. They can be divided, and different people can conquer pieces of the problem, and most problems I am capable of handling some portion of.

1)  I am so calm I've been accused of being comatose. Especially at work, I am hard to rile. I don't buy into the group panic, and I can break out my responsibility and get to it. Coworkers seem to love this. (though I have found tears useful when expectations are unreasonable)

2  )I am REALLY GOOD at breaking apart problems into pieces.

3)  I am ALSO good at talking down panicking people, and at LISTENING (something 99% of men I know are singularly bad at, just FYI—men want to fix it and often will give unhelpful suggestions just to be GIVING a damn suggestion...)

4)  I am also a pretty good advocate. Some people don't really see where their rights lie, and need someone to step in and say to [the professional or source of help] 'look. This is what's needed and nothing less will work.']

So I have broken down HWMNBMOTI's issues and advocacy and calm are indeed what I bring to the table. I've taken Monday off work to make the calls because at the moment he doesn't feel he 'deserves' to be a priority. He does. People count on him. Personally and professionally. But that self talk is powerful, and when there are physical issues compounding it...

And you know what? I made that decision on my walk with Oliver's person last night and I felt SO MUCH BETTER at just that: take the day off to advocate. Finally I had realized what I really could do to help.

The PEACE Piece

There are things really out of our control. There are things none of us can do anything about. Whether it is another person or a situation, life has a lot of stuff that just comes down, no fault or responsibility of our own. There is a SKILL to letting this go.

Once upon a time I attended AlAnon meetings for a loved one who was an addict. And I learned MANY lessons that will stick with me forever there. Say it with me:

NOT. MY. STUFF. If it is in somebody else's control, you can't let it impact you emotionally. Sure, you can feel a little sadness over someone's bad decision, but there is no guilt, no lingering anger or sadness. It is NOT YOUR STUFF. Let it go.

CAN'T CONTROL IT. Publishing is huge here. We can write the best book ever, but can't control who we are competing against for attention, how many books a company is willing to produce in a year, what readers want to read... A huge portion of this is not in our control. So don't pretend you can. It will only make you feel inept.

We need to make peace with all that stuff not in our control. It's not like it is a malicious design. It is just the setting.

One of the things I found helpful early on, especially when I was mad, was to write down what I resented or regretted, and then burn it. (add a little sage if you want to make it spiritual—sage is a spiritual cleanser). The other trick was writing it down and closing it into my AlAnon book (a Bible or other spiritual book would work here)--releasing it to 'your higher power' was the point, so if you are on speaking terms with your higher power, it will probably work well.

Some people meditate.

I've been known to power walk...

WHATEVER WORKS. But you need a system to let go of the stuff you can't change. Because there is a lot of stuff you just can't change...


Old Kitty said...

I'm glad your hubby is home now and recuperating and sorry that all is tense and out of synch! Oh dear! Big naked hugs from me! And big naked hugs to your higher power too!

You can only do so much, you know? Take care and enjoy burning these regrets with sage!

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Some wise words here! You're so right about the letting go...which is hard for me to do! But, like you, I like to break down problems into manageable areas. So sorry this has happened to your husband and kudos to you for taking the day off today to work through it all and help him out.

Caledonia Lass said...

Oi. Good luck to you and your hubby, working through this. I know very well the ugly face of anxiety. And all that goes with it.
But these are wise words. I've got lots to let go right now. Seems like a freakin' New Year's epidemic. Hang in there, sister.

Sylvia Colette Branch said...

Lots of juicy little nuggets of wisdom here, and I needed to hear every last word. Thanks!
"so calm, I've been accussed of being comatose" ha, I do this to. It's an odd skill, but usually very useful.

Tonja said...

I bet you are a support to your husband more than you realize especially when you are super-calm. I love the picture of anxiety - I'm gonna set it to my backgound picture.

Journaling Woman said...

I think most stress comes from fear and feeling out of control. My therapist daughter would say, you have to face it and deal with it.

Great insights.


Cruella Collett said...

*big hugs*

You are so amazing and wonderful and wise and comforting and lovely, Tami! Just thought I'd say that, because I know how in a crisis people who are strong occasionally forget themselves since they are so busy thinking of everyone and everything else. I have no doubt you will ride off the storm(s) in your life, and I have faith that your husband's health will improve, but it is important not to let it all get to you (even if apparently calm).

Liz said...

I will never ever forget an amazing speaker I heard whilst still toiling the fields of real estate. the guy had made his millions selling and "retired" to be a semi comedian, motivational speaker. his phrase was "Not My Monkey"
Don't let other people's monkeys climb up your back and take up residence on your neck. While of course, that's harder to do when it's your spouse, or your kid whose monkeys are jumping around between you.
But try to focus on daily, achievable goals and keep up your calm-ness--I knew I liked you. Such a lovely foil to my "ramp up the ante" of stress!
take care of yourself.

Mary@GigglesandGuns said...

To be so wise and so young...

I am making note of your closing for inspiration. Hope you don't mind.

All the best t you and hubby.

Hart Johnson said...

Thank you so much everyone!

Jenny--always love an excuse to burn stuff!

Elizabeth-the little pieces are definitely more digestible!

Mel--the new year is GREAT for that letting go thing... hope your anxiety stuff is under control!

Sylvia-too funny! You don't run across other blankets of calm very often.

Tonja-yeah, I loved the pic, too--really gets it across.

Teresa-definitely have to face it. Sort of like that kids song: can't go over it, can't go under it, can't go around it. Gotta go through it.

Mari-thank you! You know me... I never forget the ME part. And I've got a couple neighbor peeps who have been great!

Liz-love the monkey bit! It's true, though, that in a household, those darned monkeys jump from person to person, even if my own are very well behaved.

Mary--reminds me of another AlAnon saying actually: wisdom is knowledge passed through the heart: meaning you don't get it without the experiences that bring it.

vic caswell (aspiring-x) said...

aw hubs... i hope he'll listen to all your wisdom and find some peace. though time will probably be a necessity for that.

Clarissa Draper said...

I understand the difficulty in those situations. Peace is difficult to find. I'm glad your husband is okay. Some great advice here.

Shaharizan Perez said...

Tami- this was an awesomely insightful post! I'm pretty good at the not my stuff. However, I have difficulty with letting things go too. Your suggestions have me in a reflective mood and I thank you for that.

Hope all goes well with hubby and everything else! *glomps*

Anonymous said...

I stopped trying to change what I cannot years ago. Too frustraing. Must keep moving forward.

LTM said...

Ah, the Serenity prayer. Man. If only it were as easy as that to let it go and accept you can't control it. I struggle with that all the time.

So glad Hubs is going to be okay, and so glad you're seeing just how strong you are and how you CAN cope with crises. Look at you! That's all it is, breaking it down, taking it one thing at a time.

I was thinking of how you approached getting an agent, getting a book out there. You get 'er done. ((big hugs)) to you. Tough times only make us stronger~ <3

Colene Murphy said...

I'm so glad he's home and doing better now! You are so wise. Very insightful! Good luck!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Control what we can and let all else go.
And hey! I learned many years ago not to offer solutions but to just listen to my wife. Learned it the hard way as well...

KarenG said...

I like the image of problem as an army that needs to be broken down rather than big hairy monster. Hoping things get better soon for your husband. He has a wonderful partner at his side.

Johanna Garth said...

This was a great post. I'm so glad your husband is okay and that you are sorting through all those scary feelings. There's nothing like some terror in your life to make everything crystal clear.

Hart Johnson said...

Vic-I wish it was only a matter of listening. I think he needs some skill building. He has a plan, though, so that's a start.

Chary-thank you so much! Hope the reflective mood is productive!

Stephen-It DOES get a little easier as I mature, but not everyone masters it, so well done!

Leigh-Hugs to you. Yeah, I pretty much just keep trooping if there is evidence it can be done. It is that 'I can't control it' thing that can be harder.

Colene-thank you! Yeah, baby steps, but getting there!

Alex-that makes you enlightened, as men go!

Karen-thank you!

Johanna-they really do shine the spotlight on all of it, eh? helps let go of the little stuff, at least.

Helena said...

What a stressful weekend you and your family had! I hope that by now all has settled back into peace and quiet and good health. I'm not too surprised that your hubby is great in a crisis with someone else, but not with himself -- sometimes going through a health scare yourself is really, truly scary.

Krista M said...

I know what you mean. I am useless in a crisis. My previous job involved talking to a young man that wanted to commit suicide and I had no training in that area. I was almost in tears myself, just sitting and listening to him because I couldn't do anything. I just wanted to run. I quit a day later because the next day the other client was throwing up blood. I couldn't deal with a crisis like that.

But you gave some good advice. Just let go. I know that I can't control things and it's hard, but I'm trying to let go and let live.

I'm praying for you!

Sarah Ahiers said...

i spent many years practicing being laid back and "zen" because i hated anxiety and hated experiencing it. And then after awhile, forcing myself to be laid back became a habit. And then, now, it's no longer a habit but is my nature.
It took a lot of years, but now, i rarely have anxiety about anything. Or at least the smaller things. Large, huge, life changing things, natch. No one can be completely zen about those things.