‘Tis the season of giving thanks and showing thanks and making at cheery and bright. Grosgrain ribbon is a popular adornment of the season because it cuts so cleanly. One of my favorite things to do is to pull at one of the small ends and pull until the weft is loosed and the warp is freed from it’s interwoven supports. Eventually the weft snags and the whole construct is lost and there is a snarl of ribbon left to be thrown away with the ripped paper. This time though, I’m not the one pulling the uneven thread and I feel powerless to stop fate from tugging at the carefully woven ribbon until nothing is left but the warp.

It has to be the season plucking at my anxiety strings. My thoughts blink from one dire situation to another. For example….I am sure I can keep my job if I just keep working yet I’m still terrified they are going to find out I’m a fraud and fire me. I’m making plans, deeply committed plans for my future, and I’m terrified I’m going to sprout a tumor or die just on the cusp of realizing my life’s ambition. What if Sammy dies? My control over what I can control is spiralling again, though I’m not binging at pre-apocalyptic proportions, I’m eating more of what I shouldn’t than I should. I’m forcing myself to eat because I’d rather just not. I want to just go to bed and stay in bed and be done with it.

I’m not that person any more, and I know it. Yes, anxiety still plucks at my strings trying to create a soothing melody for me to stay abed but the melody is discordant to me now and is more like scratching on a chalkboard, but it’s still there trying. Trying just as hard as I am not to give in, but it offers chocolate, and I succumb. I don’t know where I am in the unraveling process, at the begging, the even free flowing warp or the snarl of disposable threads of what is left. Wait, I just realized, I’m not the ribbon in this metaphor, it’s a part of the package, but it’s not all of me. I am the gift, wrapped in God’s love and support and even when anxiety tries to snarl my decorations I have confidence in me and in Him that even through the most stressful season of the year (in a year of stressful seasons) the whole of me won’t be warped, maybe just frayed around the edges for a short season.

Small Tokens of Appreciation

I think I’m a kind person. At least I try to practice kindness in all that I do and say. I’ve never really believed it when people told me I was doing a good thing by taking care of my mother. I couldn’t because of the thoughts (perfectly normal thoughts, I might add) I had about her and always planning her funeral. My family always expressed appreciation for me taking care of my mother. Mostly it was because they were glad it wasn’t them and they were half laughing up their sleeves at me in relief because it wasn’t them. Even when close trusted friends would tell me I was a good person, or anything nice really, I couldn’t allow myself to believe them or worse, I thought they were setting me up because they wanted something from me. I’ve been struggling for so many years against this current of self and perceived disapproval it seems absolutely normal. On my last job my office coordinator would call me and the first thing out of my mouth was “What did I do now?” She’d ask me why I always asked that when she called and I replied; “It just saves time.” That’s pretty much sums up how I’ve always felt at work, at home and in life in general and abstract.

First off my coworker and I have received 100% in our customer satisfaction rating for 11 days in a row. The first week three other offices received this rating as well and we had a single digit response so I didn’t see it as much of a distinction. It’s easy to get 100% when only 7 people are responding. Well, that was my thought any way. Last week my office was the only one with the 100% rating with over 40 respondents to the survey. We are very motivated to keep that number to the end of the month and maybe to the end of the year. This office was always in the low 90’s before I joined, and it would creep down 1 to 1/2 of a percent between weeks and I automatically assumed it was because of me. It was all my fault. I just didn’t know how I could be any kinder than I already am.

The most precious token of appreciation came on Wednesday when a lady came in (due to HIPPA laws I can’t explain more than that), we will call her M, and left a little bag at the front desk for me. I was in the back doing the mad scientist part of my job and when I came out to the front to look for clients my coworker handed it to me. He told me at first he thought it was a “Pee Party”, which is our code for a urine sample, but instead there were three different sized raffia pumpkins nestled inside. It was so sweet and so completely unexpected. It affirms my belief I am where I’m supposed to be and doing what I’m supposed to do. I haven’t been singled out for appreciation in dogs years, it was overwhelming. I still well up at the gesture.

The conflagration of appreciation has made me realize how unappreciative I’ve been to you, my readers and to the people who serve me. I am so caught up in my own head most of the time I forget all the people who have helped me get to where I am totay. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you, one and all. I want to share with you the pumpkins of gratitude I received this week as a thank you for the support and the and expressions of solidarity and triumph. I am going forward now with more of an attitude of gratitude I’ve been too busy to muster in the past months. Thank you M.

Thank you!

As Simple as a Cup of Tea

My monk, Titch Nhat Hanh, practiced something called a tea meditation. It’s said he would spend an hour drinking a cup of tea with his fellow monks. It sounds glorious. Honestly, I’m saying that without rancor or sarcasm. In his book Anger: Wisdom for cooling the flames, he talks about how a cup of tea, when drunk with mindfulness, will bring us back to ourselves. The whole world melts away when you spend the time thinking about nothing else but drinking the warm infusion of leaves, smelling the botanical aromas and feeling the concoction infuse your soul with each sip.

I have started my own tea ritual at night before bed. I’m not able to completely concentrate on the tea, I don’t quite have the discipline yet. I also have a bird who demands my complete attention after being left alone all day. I have a small one-ounce cup I try to put out for her when I drink but she doesn’t seem as interested in the tea as she is in pushing the small cup off the desk. She makes me smile. The tea does make me pause, to inhale the floral bouquet (tonight is lemon balm) and try to exhale the feelings of being overwhelmed, overworked and inactive in the direction I want to go. The herbals I drink at night are designed to promote calm and restfulness of mind after the long days I’ve been having, and the spice teas I drink during the day are to get more liquid and less chemicals into my body for better health.

I didn’t practice last night. I was too tired to do anything, including sleep. I was irritated because work was long, lunch was gastro-intestinally distressing and the work environment dredged up some old forgotten feelings from long, long ago of people long since passed. I watched TV eating salted caramels from Costco and stayed up well past my bedtime (8:30pm!) and still couldn’t sleep. I eventually got up around 10pm took some Tylenol then rubbed a melatonin infused lotion on my legs and feet and eventually fell into a quasi-restful slumber. I blamed my restlessness on the family interaction from the night before, I blamed it on working too much, I blamed it on being too tired to sleep. In reality, I didn’t bring myself back to center with a cup of tea after being scattered mentally, physically and emotionally from the day. Rituals are powerful tools, even when they are as simple as a cup of tea.