Tuesday, August 17, 2010

“If You Really Knew Me” Part 1 – Separation Anxiety, Much?

In my last post, the introduction to this “If You Really Knew Me” series, I encouraged readers to stay tuned for Part 1, titled, “Sweet Home…”  And, in true “Chrissy fashion,” I planned to follow up the title with this:
 Yup, that’s right.

I envisioned using a cheeky reference to the song “Sweet Home Chicago” as an intro to my reflection on the process of moving far away from my hometown.  From my family.  From my friends.  From my history.  From my life.

It would have possibly progressed a little something like this:

“I was born in Chicago.  Grew up in Chicago.  Went to undergrad in Indiana.  Started my post-grad life back in Chicago.  My parents and brothers – born in Chicago.  School – Chicago.  Life – Chicago.  One exception – my older brother – college in Indiana.  Back to Chicago.
Certainly, I’m not the only 30-something in Denver to be considered as a “transplant.”  I’m sure I’m not the first to admit that moving away from “home” to start a new life was really, really, really hard. 

I mean…REALLY.”

Well, a few days have passed since my initial “Chicago-style” brainstorm.  Since then, a more suitable idea (in my opinion, of course) for a theme for Part 1 emerged randomly after chatting to a stranger about dogs.

(Perfectionist, much?)

Stick with me.  It’ll click…

Mark and I walked to the Einstein Bagels in our neighborhood last Sunday and ate breakfast outside on the patio.  As Tucker lounged on the ground next to us, basking in the beautiful Denver weather, a man who was about our age and also had a dog with him asked us,

“Does your dog chew through his leash?” 

Thankfully, we answered,


Before we could even explain that he does chew through back doors and entire couches, he followed up with,

“Mine does.  He will chew through an entire leash and break free if we tie him up.  I mean…separation anxiety, much?”

We simply grinned and said something along the lines of,

“Sorry to hear that, man,”

and before we knew it, he was on his way.  We were both thinking to ourselves,

“If you only knew what Tucker’s separation anxiety has done to our house, pal.”

Well, that seemingly insignificant exchange got me to thinking (I know…watch out!).  The contemplative side of me saw an opportunity for reflection on my own experience with separation and anxiety, and the much-more-difficult-to-detect destruction it has unfortunately done to our home.

Separation = anxiety, and so much more

I often have conversations with my best friend about how “we all have our thing.”  Because we do.  We all have something in our lives that we wish we didn’t have to deal with that makes us who we are.  We’re human.  We’re imperfect.  We learn and grow and evolve through the process of how we handle said “things.”  I like to call them thingportants.

You could be a struggling single parent.  Or have a chronic illness.  Lost your job, perhaps.  Made a life-changing decision.  Maybe you recently lost a loved one.  The list goes on. 

From this list, many of us seem to have generated quite a collection of thingportants.  Plural.  Mucho.  Many.  More than one.  To the extent that if you can only count your thingportants on one hand, there might be something seriously wrong with you.

Well.  For me, it took a move to Denver for my thingportants to surface high enough to where I had no choice but to take notice. Separation from the comforts of “home” was enough to kick them into overdrive.  They’ve been there, deep down, but I never really could quite put my finger on exactly what they were.  I was, however, aware of "The King of My Thingportants," who had a little voice who constantly whispered to me ever since I could remember,

“You can’t,”
“You’re clearly not good enough!”    

I’m just now figuring out (hence the purpose of this series), that this person -- voice, crown and all -- is (and always was)…


Here's me.  King of My Thingportants.  My own worst enemy

Note-to-self (-doubt)

If you really knew me…

…you’d know that the phrase, “and at the end of the day…” bothers the living daylights out of me.  Sure, it’s popular right now, but at the end of the day, it will fall by the wayside.  Just you wait.

…you’d also know that I consider another hot phrase of the moment, “(insert word here), much?”, i.e., “separation anxiety, much?” or “sarcastic, much?” makes me chuckle just as much as, say, “Thanks, Captain Obvious!”

…you’d know that Part 2 of this series will probably focus on self-doubt, because I sometimes like to use my quirky sub-headings as creative reminders. 

…you’d know that it’s possible that a future post in this series might include a mention or two of ADHD, because you’d know I also need lots of reminders.

...you'd know that it's killing me right now that I didn't say "focus on ADHD" because I pretty much never pass up a chance to make up a fun pun.  I absolutely adore awesome puns.  Oh, and alliteration as well.  

Geez, Chrissy.  Quite a long post for Part 1.
“Ramble, much?”

-King of My Thingportants (and as you'll learn in Part 2, Self-Doubt), aka, DTL

Thursday, August 12, 2010

"If You Really Knew Me" - Series Introduction

I've got a lot of explaining to do.

Well, I don't HAVE to.  I'd like to.

I've been avoiding some people lately.  Loved ones have been asking perfectly legitimate questions such as, "So...what are you up to these days?" and "Have you been interviewing for a teaching position?"  or "Will you be teaching at a school this fall?"

It's not that I don't know how to respond.  Or what to say.
It's just... a really long story.

And so, this series was born.
  I decided to write this "series" of blog posts in order to fill you in.  Pull you back into the loop.  Get you up to speed. More importantly, to use my keyboard as a vehicle for my search for understanding and balance. Simple enough, right?

I ask that you please read this series with an open mind and heart.  I'm thrusting this information out into the universe because that's how I tend to cope.  My heart seems to be permanently sewn to my sleeve, and I have no qualms about sharing this information.  Rephrase:  Sharing this information NOW.  The past was a different story...

"If You Really Knew Me..."
I've recently gotten sucked into a new MtV reality show (I know...shocker...) called, "If You Really Knew Me."   Each episode features a different high school that goes through the process of what's called "Challenge Day."  Read about it here..it's pretty amazing.  Anyway, small groups of students who don't really know each other take turns explaining the challenges they face in life by using the sentence starter, "If you really knew me..."  The Challenge Day leaders do an excellent job of creating a safe environment for the students to open up, talk about their home lives, insecurities, hardships, etc.

 Photo credit: Zach Cordner

The moral of the story?  At the end of Challenge Day, the students leave with a greater sense of community, and an awareness that they are not alone in their struggles.  Classmates from different social groups and cliques might be going through some of the same day-to-day hardships as they are.  Which inspires them to go out into the school community and "Be the change." 

Challenge Day reminds me of a retreat I attended my senior year of high school called Kairos.  (Here's a quick explanation.)  This particular retreat was religion-based, and lasted 3 days instead of one.  I walked away with many of the same insights as the students do after participating in Challenge Day.  We even had our own equivalent to "Be the change."  Ours was, "Live the fourth."  Since Kairos was three days long, we were reminded to live the fourth day, and each day after, in the same respect as we did during the retreat; without judgment, with an open mind and heart, etc."

My Kairos retreat group - Resurrection High School seniors, class of 1996

After watching my first episode of the MtV show, I got the idea to possibly refer to it in a future blog.  After reading a TVGuide.com interview about the show, I decided to write this blog series.  Here's a snippet that inspired me:

"What's the biggest thing you took away from this experience?"

Challenge Day Student: 
"To remember you don't know what type of home somebody comes from. It's human nature to judge somebody and it's up to you whether you hold that person accountable for the judgment that you're going to be making because more often than not they're false accusations. You don't know what kind of morning they had, you don't know what kind of night they had. You don't know how their family has raised them or how their friends treat them, you don't know anything about them except for their outer appearance. So that motivated me to get to know people better ... What it is that they're going through in their lives and just let them know that I'm there for them."

"What gave you the power to be able to share your story?:

Challenge Day Student:
"When other people open up, it gets a lot easier for you to open up. The people who were running Challenge Day shared a lot, which was really cool because they went through things I couldn't even imagine having to go through in my life. So that struck a little bit of motivation to show that it's OK. Before we started sharing about ourselves, they did techniques to break down the walls and get everyone to loosen up and start bonding with each other. As soon as we sat down and it came time to sharing, it just took that one person to step forward and take a bit of courage to go first and the feeling just felt natural."

My step forward
I realize that I have not gone through in the past, and am not currently going through, such devastating events as some of these high school students.  Or even as some of my friends or my family members.  I have a wonderful life filled with supportive, loving people.  Please know that I do not want to discredit this fact one bit.

I struggle sometimes, however, like we all do, and in order to work through it, I'd like to take a small step forward now and provide a quick glimpse into what I'll be writing about in this series.  Also, I'm doing this for my new mentee -- a beautiful high school sophomore who is a fantastic student.  She needs me to be there for her and to support her over the next three years to keep her on track for college.  I simply want to be honest about myself right now and take steps to REALLY being okay with who I am and how I operate.   I want to show her that I am there for her completely.  100%.  So here goes...

If you really knew me...
... you'd know that I've been struggling with a major bout of paralyzing anxiety and depression since December, 2009.
 ... you'd know that I haven't finished my school work from Fall, 2009.  Getting there -- but not quite.
... you'd know that I'm putting off teaching for a year.  I'm currently interviewing for a full-time nanny position.
... you'd know that I'm taking this year to enjoy my relationship with my wonderful husband, and to spend some much-needed quality time with him before I dive into my first year of teaching.
...you'd know that perfectionism completely overtakes me -- to the point of not wanting to get out of bed some mornings.
...you'd know that I procrastinate and avoid things because I feel like I am not good enough.
...you'd know that after a recent extensive psychological and learning disability evaluation, I was officially diagnosed with:
1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder
2. Learning Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, Mixed Type
3. ADHD, Combined Type.
...you'd know that I am working with a therapist on cognitive behavior therapy, and I am starting to feel much better!  
...you'd know that my husband is the most supportive, genuine, loving and caring person I have ever met.
...you'd know that I am going to be okay.

This tumbling leaf of mine...
Whew.  It feels good to exhale after typing all of that.  Well.  I created Denver's Tumbling Leaf for this exact reason.  If you're not familiar with my general platform, take a look at my description on the left.  Through this series (and beyond), I intend to elaborate on my journey of moving to Colorado and discovering who I am.  I'll reflect on my twists and turns, tumbles and fumbles, and share a bit more about the ups and downs that have gotten me to where I am right now.  Oh, and oops!  I forgot a few...

If you really knew me...
...you'd know that I hope you'll join me on my journey!
...you'd know that I truly value each and every one of you, and appreciate your support
...you'd know that this series is not just all about me.  It's a process of getting to know myself, so I can be inspired and motivated to get to know YOU better.  I sure hope you don't mind.

Stay tuned for "If You Really Knew Me" Part 1 - Sweet Home...
With love and gratitude,

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