Mental Health · Spiritual

The Importance of Having Bootstrap Buddies

Photo by Kristina Paukshtite on Pexels.com

By: Jana Greene

If you were enticed to read this piece because the title sounds low-key fetishist, move along. I mean, nothing would surprise me anymore. This is no kinky boots I’m talking about…hardy har har.

I’m referring to the oft-quoted, stoic-to-a-fault narrative that when you’re hurting. You know – the old adage: “pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”

Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps requires you handle it yourself. That’s the whole point of having bootstraps…self-sufficiency. Two little loops are supposed to save you from whatever mayhem you may be facing.

I was thinking about this yesterday because having a pity party is a very lonely experience. It necessitates solitude for proper misery. But as the only attendee, I got pretty sick of myself.

Which is exactly why I texted my dear friend. It was a high-pain day. I had been more or less bed-bound for four days previous. I still am, actually.

My therapist has taught me to consider my “days off” (days when I have no proverbial “spoons” – Google “Spoon Theory…”) as true days of rest. She encourages me to take that time to write, read, even binge watch something to take my mind off of things.

It’s a great idea and it was working great until yesterday. Yesterday was the day I was going to feel better and do better. Except that my body decided NOPE, it wasn’t the day.

The thing about chronic illness is that the world keeps going. You may have the best support circle, and still feel lonely sometimes. I’m losing myself in a days-long pajama binge of watching TikToks and writing mid-grade poetry. Everyone else is out doing All The Things. I’m happy that everyone else is doing All The Things. I just sometimes want to do them too, and resent having this lifestyle “forced” on me.

So rather than sink into a deeper funk, as I said, I finally texted my friend.

I think I said something like, “I’m not doing so well.” And she replied, “Need a hug? I’ll be right over.” This, as it turns out, was the perfect thing to say.

Usually, I rebuff my friends’ offers to come wallow with me. But I was in just the right mood to accept help, I guess.

Usually, I say “No, it’s okay. I’ll be alright.”

Usually, I would honestly rather isolate, because it takes too much mental and emotional energy to engage with another human.

Usually, I don’t reach out at all.

Usually, I pull myself up by my bootstraps (or just kick ’em off and run around barefoot.)

But not yesterday.

I called out to my Bootstrap Buddy and she took time out of doing All The Things in her busy life to come sit with me, hold me, and listen to my blathering about not being able to do All The Things, too.

The origin of the expression “pull yourself up by your bootstratps” is: To improve one’s situation through hard work and self-determination, rather than getting assistance from someone else. But upon researching the beginnings of the term – which seems to have become popular in the turn of the 20th century, it seems it was often made tongue-in-cheek; the idea being that pulling oneself up off the ground by one’s own bootstraps is actually a physical impossibility.

The original verbiage meant to “elevate” oneself. To literally leave the physical ground. It was a smart-ass comment about doing for oneself what is is only possible to do with help.

I don’t always have it in me to put in “hard work” and “self determination.” Sometimes I’m empty. in those times, it cannot be done; although we can fall on our faces trying, blinded by pride.

We all need that one person – or several people – who will get into the muck and mire to help pull our boots up, out of the mud. I’m fortunate to be married to one. But I also have friends willing to hold space for me in that place.

All the self-reliance and pride in the world cannot compete with being held and listened to when we are at a low point. There are times when lifting ourselves is a physical (or mental) impossibility.

Thank you for elevating me, and picking me up off the ground, my precious Buddies.

I’m so very grateful.

Mental Health · Poetry · Spiritual

Eggshells and Elephants

BY: JANA GREENE

I walked on eggshells the other day,

Someone put them there,

People who tend to take offense

Leave them everywhere.

I didn’t want to break their shells,

Though they were in my way,

Gentle footfalls were my intent,

But CRUNCH they went, anyway!

It’s tricky and risky, emotional biz,

To feel like you can’t say a word,

Because someone, somewhere will

Read and misconstrue

Everything they heard.

So keep dropping eggshells,

If you absolutely must,

Let them fall where they may,

If you are still afraid to trust,

But please don’t leave them on the ground,

There’s bigger stomping feet to pound.

The Elephant in the Living Room?

Yeah, he’s still around!

We can’t fix things we won’t talk about,

We can’t deal with what we deny exists,

So sweep those eggshells up off the carpet,

Invite that elephant to sit,

Lets talk about the hard stuff,

And make some headway, Sis.

Addiction · Anxiety · Chronic Ilness · Dieting · Food · Food addiction · Grace · Jana Greene · Mental Health · Mental Illness · substance abuse · The Beggar's Bakery · Weariness · weight management

An Old Friend and Some Candy (a Cautionary Tale.)

BY: JANA GREENE

I ate a whole bag of candy last night.

It tasted like loving myself. At the time, at least.

This might not be a big deal, but you see, my diabetes is severe and my kidneys are slowly failing.

Why did I do it? That’s a good question.

I ate the first one because my sugar was tanked after neglecting to fuel my body consistently the right way throughout the day.

They were sour coated gummy worms, and I guess that’s why I ate the next one.

And another.

And then I had a visit from an old friend called “WTF” (those are it’s initials…I don’t like to use it’s whole name in polite company.)

A brilliant conversationalist, WTF has a lot to say.

WTF says what difference does it make?

WTF makes sense. I’m making all these lifestyle changes to little avail. Even when I eat perfectly, my kidneys are still tanking.

This things gonna get you anyway, it says.

So WTF. Eat the rest of the bag. Go out in a blaze of Trolli limited-time-novelty-candy glory.

WTF reminds me that I FELL BETTER in my soul with sugar on my tongue. So I keep putting more candy on my tongue, because cause and affect are a real thing.

As it melts in my mouth salaciously, I love myself a little. And hate myself a little, too.

So in other words… it hits me RIGHT in the childhood.

WTF is very persuasive. The more I guiltily stuff worms in my face, the more I feel I deserve to eat worms. “You lazy jerk,” WTF whispers. “See? You can’t control yourself. Guess you may as well eat the whole bag.”

But ironically, as long as I am eating the candy, I can hush the scolding for the time being. It’s a bit of an “I’ll show you” display of mid-grade rebellion. With every candy, I am sticking to The Man (except if I’m honest with myself, at this stage, The Man is really only me)

I am in a frenzy of sour-coated, sweet and tangy bliss. My inner child has a full belly and a blue tongue.

And I crumple the empty bag and stick it in the trash, under some other trash. Which is what I feel like now…trash.

This is hard.

And it’s extra hard because WTF and I go way back. We have a history.

I remember it best from my drinking days. And that’s why we broke up on January 3, 2001. I wasn’t expecting the shady bastard to show up on my doorstep again.

WTF. It likes to tell me things like “Everybody drinks wine.”

WTF. “You drank last night and it made you feel while and complete. Drink again.”

WTF. “It doesn’t matter anyway. You’ll never get it right.”

WTF is kind of a live-in-the-moment guy, which is what makes it dangerous. Impulsive, it encourages me to be impulsive – something I have a penchant for anyway.

WTF says, “If it makes your soul feel satiated, why not do it? Don’t think of tomorrow, or next week, or even when the sugar crash will start.”

WTF says that now is the time. Now is always the time.

Even though last night’s bender was just in candy, it was still a Bender. It’s poison to my body in my condition, just as alcohol became poison to me, mind, body, and soul.

I am not a healthy girl. I can not afford to take poison.

So I am writing this at 4 o’clock in the morning, feeling sick and befuddled, knowing I’m going to feel worse tomorrow.

And I’ll have the added weight of knowing I chose – in however small a way – self sabotage over self-care.

WTF comes under the guise of a nanny of sorts. It encourages me to take care of my inner child by giving her what she THINKS she wants…not what she needs.

All I can do is tell WTF to eff off, take Little Me under my own wings, and care for her the right way.

And write about it. Because it’s the only way I know to purge these feelings. And maybe make someone else feel less alone.

I will choose self care for the rest of today. Join me?

Blessed be.

Mental Health · Spiritual

When we got Nothin’, we Still have Hope

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By: Jana Greene

“You haven’t posted to The Beggar’s Bakery in a while…”

“The Beggar’s Bakery hasn’t gotten any new likes.”

“It’s been a while since your readers have heard from you.”

Such are the multitude of notices I’m getting that remind me I haven’t blogged in a while.

I’M SORRY, FACEBOOK OVERLORDS. I GOT NOTHIN’.

For six months, I’ve been writing a book about recovery. It hasn’t left any time and / or creative juice residue with which to write other things. Writing a book is stressful, but not nearly as stressful as surviving all the things that become material for the book. Right now, things are tough.

The book is all about the fierceness of the recovery life, whether that recovery be from drugs and alcohol or shitty childhoods, or bad relationships, or poor self-image. It is in fact titled “FIERCE Recovery.” But I am not feeling particularly fierce these days, you see.

I think maybe I am fierce in the same way as my fat house cat, who has delusions of grandeur that he is a big, scary panther, when in reality he is scared of the vacuum cleaner. We love him dearly, so he gets to live out his fantasy and we all pretend that he is super badass.

I AM fierce. I am strong.  But sometimes I’m delusional about what that means. Any thread of self-glory in those statements is being unraveled like a sweater. I’m naked underneath, but the thread keeps being pulled. Part of my fierceness is being exposed as vulnerability. Vulnerability can dangerous, but no more so dangerous than we are to ourselves when he hurt. Depression is a bitch.

But still, we have hope, because it’s a gift that is not the enemy’s to take. It’s not even OURS to withhold from ourselves.

I think my own personal free fall began with the death of a dear friend’s daughter from a heroin overdose. She was not just a friend’s daughter, but a young woman who I’d watched grow up alongside my kids and struggle with drugs. I had the distinct honor to “mentor” this girl for many of her recovery years, and came to love her.

My city is the “opiate capital” of the East Coast. Overdoses are commonplace. People are dying – mothers, fathers, daughters, sons. It is becoming “normal” to hear that someone I know directly or indirectly owe their lives to Narcan now.  Every day I hear of another overdose death, and every single time it brings my heart back to the girl who didn’t mean to die, but didn’t know how to live without her drug.

In other news, the suicide rate is skyrocketing. We were all sad to hear of Chef Anthony Bourdain’s passing, but how much more devastating are the lives lost in our own friend and family circles? People I love very much are being hospitalized for depression. Beautiful human beings are considering taking their own lives, choosing a permanent “solution’ to temporary problems. (Note: ALL problems here on planet Earth are temporary! It’s a universal law that things ALWAYS get better!)

Its as if two of the four horses of the apocalypse – suicide and drugs  – have decided to trample the human race under sharp, deadly hooves. We are all so tired.

But we cannot ourselves afford to tire of pulling each other out of the way, when people are hurting so badly.  But damn, it’s overwhelming.

Maybe it’s not so important that I fit the definition of FIERCE.  Perhaps I don’t need to feel like I have all the answers before I feel worthy to write a blog that says “I’m struggling. You?”

Maybe FIERCE is simply keeping the faith anyway. Maybe ‘fierce’ is just not drinking, and instead writing all of your janky and desperate thoughts and publishing them to a blog that other people might be able to relate to.

Maybe that’s why I’m supposed to write this piece because Facebook wouldn’t get off my back. Maybe we all need reminding that there is hope.

So long has we have a shred of hope, we cannot count ourselves spiritually bankrupt. Sometimes a direct hit right in the delusions of grandeur can shake hopelessness loose and release our inner Big Scary Panthers. Those badasses are all about survival.

The world would be a different place if people understood that they are precious to a loving God, who adores them just the way they are. Still a difficult place, but not a hopeless one.

That means you. He loves YOU.

“I got nothin'” has, in prior times of struggle, been enough for God to work with. Empty of all suggestions to make to God in order for things to work out the “right” way, we just ‘are.’ We stand in need of the one thing we cannot ourselves manufacture – HOPE. We are empty of answers, and desperate for his intervention.

If I’ve got nothin’, my hands are free to pull others up off the ground. They are free to hold tight to God’s promises.

So if you are reading this and your heart is despondent, just know that you’re not alone.

I won’t drink if you won’t!

I won’t give up, if you don’t!

Please don’t lose hope – you are loved.

Vulnerability is okay. We can be badasses in need of help. That’s not an oxymoron!

Take my hand and I’ll pull you out from under the stampeding horses.

And then when you can get on your feet,  YOU take someone else by the hand and pull them out, too.

Because when we got nothin’, that is everything.

Romans 5:4-5 [Full Chapter]

“There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!” – (MSG)

 

If you are overwhelmed, please reach out for help!

SUBSTANCE ABUSE AND MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES ADMINISTRATION

1-800-662-HELP (4357)

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE

1-800-273-8255

NATIONAL ALLIANCE ON MENTAL HEALTH

1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

 

 

 

Mental Health · Spiritual

The Very Slippery Assumption

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By: Jana Greene

I once sat in on a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy class under a Super Zen Therapist,  and let me just say out of the gate, it was FASCINATING. I cannot even begin to touch on all the things I learned (and have on occasion, even practiced) but seriously, folks. If you ever have the opportunity to explore this therapy,  I highly recommend it.

The term “dialectical” means a synthesis or integration of opposites. The primary dialectic within DBT is between the seemingly opposite strategies of acceptance and change.

I love the premise, and the belief that OK, I feel this way, but I don’t have to. I can feel THAT way. Life is nothing if not a big, fat paradox on so many levels. I will take all the help I can get! I’m still about 95% emotion-driven, but hey – that’s a 5% improvement (and ‘progress, not perfection,’ right?)

About halfway through the course, though, we came to this one sentence in the teaching, and my spiritual breaks screeched to so such a sudden halt that it could have propelled me right out of the classroom and back into my AllTheFeels way of coping with everything.

That sentence was this:

Assume that everyone is doing the best they can at any given time.

Ok, hold up. HOLD UP!

I KNOW that’s not true in certain instances. For instance, when I visit my children in their homes and they are not super nice and tidy, I KNOW for a fact that they are not doing the best they can. I taught them, so obviously I’m calling BULLSH*T on this.

And what about other people, who have – and are actively –  hurting me by making stupid decisions? You are telling me that the person/people who have (to my mind) driven me to require therapy are doing the best they can? I have to ACCEPT that?

“No, you can accept it or not. Is not accepting it working for you?” Says Super Zen Therapist.

Huh.

Here’s what I’m still learning, and what is helping me oil those spiritual breaks and get them rolling in a forward-moving direction again….

You cannot keep a handle on another person’s issue. You simply cannot.

I came up with a dorky little rhyme to help me remember this, and I’ve probably said it to myself several thousand times (especially when the girls were teens):

It’s not your decision to make, nor your action to take.

You can die trying. You can contortionist yourself into all kinds of positions that only end up making you sore and tired. The stress will kill you, I’m not even kidding.

But that’s what happens when you assume that another person is not even TRYING, and you take it personal.

It’s not personal. That person is learning and morphing and all of your hand-wringing and brow-beating will not another minute add to your relationship life, but may well shorten it.

I don’t have to go back that far in my own history to recognize the power of this principal.

When I was an active alcoholic, I wanted to be better for my children. Even as intimate as the mother/child connection was, I didn’t always get it right!  I had to learn and do, stop and lurch forward. Lather, rinse, repeat.

My process spilled over to them, but it was never meant to be personal.

I was doing the best I could at the moment, I swear to you. I did the best I could until I could do better. I did better when I surrounded myself with people who were doing better and whose love for me was not contingent on my doing better.

It will behoove YOUR state of mind to believe that the person most getting on your nerves is doing their best in this moment, with their particular life experience.

(And when I really stop to consider it, even the example of my kids and their tendencies NOT to be neat freaks, It was I who cleaned their rooms for ALL of their lives when they lived at home, because in some twisted way, I was making up for lost ‘drunk’ time as a mommy. They may well BE doing the best they know how in this moment. Because something is important to me, doesn’t mean its the only ‘right’ way  (But that’s a subject for another therapy session….)

What about the big things?

If someone else’s life choices are spilling over on you and your heart is broken? Consider that they are doing their best. Go one further, even. Pray for them and believe for resolution to their situation. Petition God and plead your case, and then release.

It’s not your decision to make, nor your action to take.

You cannot grasp it because you aren’t SUPPOSED to grasp it.

You think holding on to it is helping, but it won’t be under your control.

You cannot drop it until you drop your Very Slippery Assumption and use both arms instead to embrace the person driving you completely crazy.

God  bless us, every one.