“I need a supervisor!!”

Sophie (not her real name – I can’t remember her real name, but would not use it here anyway) is a piece of work – demanding, impatient, self-focused, disrespectful.  Sheri Lynn had come over from her quiet register to help me bag (and to hang out with me – we do like to do that, her and I). She jumped in to help Sophie when she said “This mayonnaise has canola oil” (or something like that) – “I want one without canola oil.”  Sheri went off in search.

When Sheri Lynn had been gone for a while and a line was accumulating in my lane, I said to Sophie, “I’m going to suspend your transaction and wait on some of these people – then I’ll put you first in line when Sheri gets back.”  “No you will not.  I’m in line – I’m the next in line.  I’ve been waiting – I’m not going to wait any more.”  I caved.  I gave sympathetic looks to the people in my line and waited for Sheri Lynn.

Not!  I bet this smiling, happy cashier guy would have been singing a different tune if he had to deal with Sophie.

Not! I bet this smiling, happy cashier guy would have been singing a different tune if he had to deal with Sophie.

Then I heard Sheri on the overhead speaker paging for a grocery team member.  I decided that was it – getting this help could still take her a while.

I looked at Sophie and said, “Sheri Lynn has paged for a grocery team member – I’m suspending your transaction” and I did that, as she was loudly protesting that I had better not.  By this time I was totally seeing red – and I did the very best thing I could have done, which rescued the situation, and which followed a playbook that I had learned on the job here: I hollered for help.  I said to Sophie – “I’m calling a supervisor to help with this.” I turned to face the office and with a volume that I have shaped to be just loud enough to be heard in the office, but not too startling to customers in between me and the office – though I can’t guarantee that this time it wasn’t a little extra-loud – said “I need a supervisor!!”  My blood pressure started to drop as soon as the words were out of my mouth.

Perhaps my voice did have an extra edge of urgency, because Tiffany came out of the office almost immediately.  As she approached my register, I met her part way (so as to be out of Sophie’s earshot) and said, “You’re going to have to take this over – I’m losing it with this woman.”

I grew up on the Lone Ranger.  He never lost his cool - and he always showed up just as the trouble was starting - fabulous! I've spent a lifetime trying to be the Lone Ranger.  Now my learning is to let others be that for me.

I grew up on the Lone Ranger. He never lost his cool – and he always showed up just as the trouble was starting – fabulous! I’ve spent a lifetime trying to be the Lone Ranger. Now my learning is to let others be that for me.

I gave her the suspend slip and she, with a voice that was equal parts reassuring and take-charge, told Sophie that she would take her over to the customer service desk and they would get everything straightened out.  I was still hyper-charged from the stress of being so angry with nowhere to put it, but I felt good about the way it had been resolved and my stress continued to reduce with the next few typically-nice customers.

I came away from this experience with two big insights.  The first one fell into place almost immediately.  It’s good to ask for help.  A lot of my conditioning would not lean this way – would say you’ve got be strong and self-reliant, handle your own problems, etc. – but I have learned better over the years.  Asking for help is good – and expecting that you will get that help is wonderful, and even better is believing that it will be competent help (even in the body of a 23 year old) and come without a price to pay for asking.

There’s another insight that didn’t come together for me until about 8:30 this evening, two hours after leaving work and right after Tae Kwon Do class had gotten me de-stressed, in my body and out of whatever useless strains of thinking had been still operating before the class.  I had been thinking that the worst outcome from my encounter with Sophie in the morning would have been for me to say or do something that got me fired.  And maybe I still think that would have been the worst outcome, but there’s another that’s at least a close second.

Perhaps the worst outcome would have been for Sophie to get further injured.  Nobody treats others as badly as Sophie does (and Sheri Lynn and Tiffany each shared with me their histories of run-ins with her) unless they are in pain.  A Course in Miracles says that people are always either offering love or asking for it.  Sophie is asking for it.  “Please love me even while I’m being mean to you.”  I didn’t have the presence of mind to love her in the middle of our negative encounter, but I did have the presence of mind to not say anything disrespectful or incendiary.  Holding the line with her – suspending the transaction, not making others wait unnecessarily – this was good.  Hurting her by mean language, loud tones or any kind of disrespect would not have been good.

Through the rest of the day, when staff (not customers) asked me about my day, I referred back to this encounter.  In its own funky, complex way, it definitely was a highlight of my day.

Coming off the bench and ready for love

I just posted this on Facebook, then thought “If you’re serious about this, post it on the blog too.” So here it is.

Friends –

After many years of clearly not being ready for a romantic relationship, then a couple of years of melting – and also getting more solid – I’m declaring myself ready and open for love.  My heart has been softening and opening in so many ways – including grief at the deaths of so many friends.  I have also been very touched by feelings of fondness for women friends who for one reason or another are not appropriate or available for romance.  Exploring what is and is not possible with them has been like aerobics for my heart.

What would it be like to be two fingers of the same hand?

What would it be like to be two fingers of the same hand?

You, my Facebook friends, know me to one extent or another.  (And you who have been reading my blog know me in some ways very well.)  I’m asking you for support and cheerleading, visualizing and holding the intention for success for me in this area. affirmation of how you see me as ready and as a good prospect for romance – and matchmaking!  I trust your judgment more than Match or e-Harmony.  Such a pool of cool people have got to know lots of really great single women. I can’t promise to keep you posted about the whole process on Facebook, (or on the blog) but I may message you about how it’s going with matches you send me – hell, when things get tricky I may look to you for coaching – and I may actually post here about some of the changes I go through.  Ready though I think I am, this may put me through some changes.

Thanks for your support.  (And thanks to Mark Medlin for suggesting this bold strategy.)

I want everybody to watch this video

I want everybody in the world to watch this video.

It’s the highlights of the third degree black belt testing last year of Amy Dexter, who is a very beloved Tae Kwon Do instructor at the martial arts school I attend.  It’s probably especially inspiring to women, maybe especially little women (she’s not 5′) – but it inspires me tremendously.  You don’t need to be considering martial arts practice – it’s about what you can do in all areas of your life if you really go for it.  Go to this link and scroll down to December 15.   https://www.facebook.com/AshevilleSunSooTKD

The “I can’t do it” voice

On Saturday, I spent six hours at belt testing at our local Sun Soo Tae Kwan Do martial arts school.  After three weeks of taking classes at the school and never having experienced anything like this testing, I was stunned – blown away – by all I saw: so much support and love, so much go-for-it energy, so many people going out of their comfort zones, stretching themselves, doing things they had not thought they could do.  So much excellence, so much mastery, so much beauty.

I have spent the last two days integrating what I experienced.  I expect to continue doing so for a while, but I want to capture some of it now.  First I want to write about how all this confronted me with the “I can’t do this” voice in myself.  I hear this voice on and off the mat.

On the mat (and, by extension, on my imaginary mat when I practice my forms at home), I don’t think I can do it.  I am a total spas, my body just doesn’t work this way.  I am too in my head and can’t get out of it.  I can’t get myself to class enough.  I can’t learn my white belt forms.  I can’t bear the humiliation of being so terrible at movements that everybody else knows – and that 12-year olds are learning faster than me.  I can’t bear the stress of testing on this stuff that I cannot learn.

I do know for sure that my legs will never stretch like this, but how much is possible?

I do know for sure that my legs will never stretch like this, but how much is possible?

Off the mat, I don’t think I can do it.  As I have reflected about this today, I have come up with a long list of things I think I can’t do – and for now will mention two of them.

  • I can’t stay off of sugar.  Sugar is not a harmless indulgence for me.  So much of my life goes out of whack when I am in the clutches of that addiction.  And now I am getting fat from it – and feeling unattractive, less eligible for a romantic relationship, which is an aspiration for me. Each of the black belt candidates read a two-page essay about their Tae Kwon do journey to that point.  One of them related that he stopped smoking the day he started practicing – five years earlier.  I got inspired, but that went away for much of today.  I do intend to get off of sugar tomorrow, but I’ve fallen off that wagon so many times that I don’t believe I can succeed this time.
  • I’ll mention just one more thing (out of that long list) that I feel sure I can’t do.  I can’t keep my room from being a chaotic mess.  I have struggled with this for a lot of years, have had periods of some progress – but mostly not for long.  One of the people testing for a black belt said of her life progress related to her martial arts practice, “I clean my room now.”  This spoke to me.
    Google pulled this up when I searched for photos of clutter, so I shall call this clutter - and it's much less painful to look at than an actual photo of my room.

    Google pulled this up when I searched for photos of clutter, so I shall call this clutter – and it’s much less painful to look at than an actual photo of my room.

    I intend to spend 15 minutes organizing my stuff tomorrow, and I know that if I did 15″ on most days I would eventually have things in order, and some days I will not be able to hold myself back from going longer than 15″ – in love with my momentum.

In Tae Kwon Do, you are continually being confronted with tasks that take you out of your comfort zone – tasks that get more and more complex and physically challenging.  As soon as you master one belt level, you move on to the next.  And, at this school at least, you are also flooded with encouragement  and cheerleading and instruction and connection with your peers who are being similarly challenged.

It starts tomorrow.  I continue to do my Tae Kwon Do practice every day – at home on days, like tomorrow, when I can’t get to the school at the time of a class.  I stay off of sugar.  I spend 15 minutes organizing my room.  A voice in me says I can’t do it.  Another voice says “Maybe I can.”  This already seems like progress.  Another voice says, “We’ll see”.  This is not terribly positive, but better than “I can’t do it.”

Writing, finally

There are lots of possible reasons why I am writing tonight, after six very depressed days when I have not.  (My previous longest stint without writing, since starting this blog three months ago, was three days – and my target is to not miss more than one day in a row.)  I’m writing even though it’s 10:30 and lots of me is crying to be in bed.  Here are some of the plausible reasons:

  • I was off of work for four days and there is often less stimulus towards writing when I’m not working. Yesterday I was so dead in the water at work that there was no appreciable stimulus, but today there was.  One customer talked about reading and liking the blog – and talked about stuff she had read.  My coworker Amanda told me how much she liked reading the blog and what a good writer I am.  Another customer, being told about the blog, got enthused and said “Keep writing.”  My co-worker Rex, having come over to my line to bag (we do this for each other when our line isn’t busy), said, “Aren’t you going to promote your blog?  I like the way you do that – no guilt or shame, you just put it out there.”  I had not promoted my blog at all yesterday, nor today up to that point.  I did a couple of times after.  In my last strong spurt I probably averaged 10 business cards a day handed out at work and one or two a day to random cashiers and customer service people where I’ve been the customer.

    Yesterday and today I'm back in the store after four days away. Today that started to show signs of stimulating the writer in me.

    Yesterday and today I’m back in the store after four days away. Today that started to show signs of stimulating the writer in me.

  • I went to Tae Kwon Do tonight.  The last two times I went, I got so in my head, so tied up in my knickers that I left more neurotic than when I went in.  Tonight was better.  I had practiced some last night following videos on the school website and there was one form tonight that felt good some of the time.  That’s more than on those two previous classes.  So I came home in a better mood.

    A couple of times I ended up feeling lousy after Tae Kwon Do, but tonight I came away kind of energized.  One girl who has progressed to a green belt comforted me by saying that she went home and cried a lot when she started because she felt so useless on the mat.

    A couple of times I ended up feeling lousy after Tae Kwon Do, but tonight I came away kind of energized. One girl who has progressed to a green belt comforted me by saying that she went home and cried a lot when she started because she felt so useless on the mat.

  • Maybe my depression is starting to lift.  It’s hard to tell: feeling good after a strong stimulus like my martial arts class doesn’t necessarily translate into feeling better the next day.  If I lifted up after just six days, that would be a real shift: my depressive cycles have been running 10-14 day, mostly around 14, for several months.  But all that is in play.  My manic cycles have been 7-13 days, but this last time I didn’t really have a manic cycle.  I had about six days of not being depressed, and looking like I was on the edge of cycling too high, but I just never did.  It was like the manic motor kept trying to fire up, but couldn’t catch.  That was kind of disappointing because I love that manic buzz. but I knew not to look this gift horse in the mouth.  That middle zone – or even more the zone that I call a complex healing state,  which has elements of both states – that’s the really juicy place, that’s where the healing happens.

Soon I’ll write a post about complex healing states and one about why I think I didn’t swing into a mania this last time around.  By then I’ll have more information like what happens tomorrow.

A new art for me…

I had my orientation session to my new Tae Kwon Do school on Friday afternoon, followed by my first class.  I am way excited about this new endeavor.

The instructor who provided my orientation asked what had drawn me to this practice – a pretty cool question and an indication right there of how this school focuses on your personal process.  I talked about having bipolar disorder and how I hope that this practice could

  • stir up my life energy when I am depressed – get me unstuck
  • ground me when I am manic
  • generally get me out of my head and into my body.

I said that I would like more exercise and that I think this could help me stay in shape, but this was almost an afterthought.  Writing this now (Friday evening) is the first I have thought that this practice might build self-confidence and help me feel better about myself (especially when I’m down, when this is a problem area).  Self-defense is not really on the screen for me – and the instructor told me that out of 500 people in the school there are probably about five who practice primarily for self-defense.

I had some concerns that these goals might sound kind of airy-fairy to this martial arts instructor, but to the contrary he described outcomes – including some in his own life – that were at least as broad as mine.  He said that the practice very centrally helps you get more presence – and what I would call mindfulness.  You are less likely to lose your keys, because you are more conscious when you set them down. He talked about ways the practice shifted the way he is in the world, how he relates to himself and others.

The Korean Tae Kwon Do team for the 2012 Olympics.  My legs don't stretch quite this far yet.  "Hey teach, is it OK if I just kick him in the knee?"

The Korean Tae Kwon Do team for the 2012 Olympics. My legs don’t stretch quite this far yet. “Hey teach, is it OK if I just kick him in the knee?”

He talked about one element of practice where you give feedback to each other about what you noticed in the way the other person performed the form – with all students participating in this, so that at a mixed rank class a white belt student could be giving feedback to a black belt.  He described how important it is at the school to break through any sense of hierarchy and that even if this system sometimes generates some not-useful feedback, it’s worth it for the benefits in creating an open atmosphere.

Before my orientation, I watched a kid’s class in which the instructor had students get in pairs and ask each other “What’s been a highlight of your day?”  This young woman comes through my line at the grocery store – I think she stole my line!  I hope she did.

My class was tough, even at beginner level.  But I had the sense that it was tough for a very good reason – because it was requiring me to get out of my head and into my body.  And the instructors and other students are very warm and welcoming and supportive.  I had told the instructor that I would need to leave a few minutes early.  When I bowed off of the mat, she said to the group “Majo had an awesome first class today – let’s give him a big hand.”  Which the forty or so people on the mat enthusiastically did.  I bet they do this for everybody after their first class.  I actually hope they do.  It’s a beautiful thing to do – and it felt great.