Coaching and Wellness, faith, God, parenting, self improvement, Sobriety, spirituality, Uncategorized, writing

Want Peace? Stop Defending Yourself and Let Go

How silence, not explanation, was the answer to all my relationship nonsense

Originally published on Medium.

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@cooljonez @ Unsplash

I got a private message today from the father of a friend of my almost full grown daughter. After a brief “Hello, how are you?” he launched into a full blown expose about the potential reasons my kid wasn’t returning her daughter’s texts and emails. The deductions he came up with for my kid’s silence were quite impressive. If it were a soap opera script, the dialogue could have won an Emmy.

The old Andrea would have freaked out about this person’s discomfort. After all, that Andrea’s only happiness rested on someone’s opinion about me. If someone was happy with me, I was happy. If someone was upset, it was my job… my duty… to make it right so they could feel better. And, better put, so I could feel better. Today my response to such insanity is super simple: silence.

Strong Silence vs. Punishing Silence

I’m not a fan of giving someone the quiet treatment just to be cruel. That kind of act is manipulation at its finest and not kind.

But when someone sets me up for a game I can’t possibly win, I am a fan of the quiet that says what words cannot ever express: “I am not playing this game.”

In a perfect world, having dodged their emotional overhand, the ball ricochets back from the wall and hits them upside the head, forcing them to bellow, “Ouch! That hurt!” followed by a quick, “Golly, gee, maybe I should look at my asinine behavior!”

Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world full of people who put their soul over their ego and give people the benefit of the doubt. We live in a very real world full of very real, hurting, dysfunctional people… people who are not willing to take the time to heal from their past hurts. And that’s a problem.

If we don’t heal our wounds from the past we will bleed all over people who never cut us.

I should know. I used to be that person. It was much easier (and low brow) to blame and shame others than it was to stop, look my actions squarely in the eye, and change. But, as they say in many a 12-step programs, “Grow or Die.” Me? I didn’t want to physically die. The only death I wanted was death of my old behavior to become a better Andrea. So I took the ball in the face a few times.

Okay, a few thousand times.

But I don’t regret a thing.

The Gift of Pain

Pain is no fun. It would be so much easier to drink, drug or deflect. This kind of emotional escape is akin to a ball hitting a catcher’s mask. The catcher might get klunked on occasion. They might get shook up. But it doesn’t hurt them. They don’t truly change from the experience. They just take off their mask and go home.

But what if the mask wasn’t there? What if, without thinking of the consequences, the masked man, “Protection be gone! I’d rather chew gum and look at my phone?” Then what?

We all know the answer. They’d get socked in the face. Hard. That would suuuuck. It would require potential surgery and loads of therapy and recovery, but eventually, if they were lucky, they would not go blind from the injury. They would heal and they wouldn’t make the same mistake again.

Now I’m no masochist, but sometimes we need a little hurt as a wake up call to ask the right questions and transform. I know I did, especially when it came to raising kids, marriage and friendship. After at first not even being aware of my transgressions, I eventually caught on and started asking myself, “Hey, is my behavior helping or hurting a relationship?”

When I learned to ask the right questions my life shifted. The fact finding process of truly seeing my part was not unlike being hit in the face by a ball. Except for one difference: I wasn’t alone. I had begun to bring God into the batting cage with me. I had someone reminding me when to duck, when to dodge and when to sit still.

“But what about other people’s part?” you might ask. The answer, with all due respect, none of our business. If we want peace we must stay in our own lane. (Or batting cage as this analogy calls for.) I didn’t get sober five years ago to take the bait from people anymore.

I’ve done the hard work to figure out what my defects are. If someone else doesn’t want to grow, and would rather concoct a story and project their insecurities on me, that’s on them. But I’m not losing sleep over the drama any longer.

Here are just a few tips I’ve learned when it comes to engaging with drama queens and stop defending myself.

5 Ways to Stop Defending Yourself and Be Free of Insanity

  1. Nature of the Friendship: I have learned to ask myself, “Is this person a friend or an acquaintance?” If they are just an acquaintance, I don’t explain. I don’t engage. I stay silent. If they are a true friend who maybe crossed a line, I either let it go or, if it’s really really bugging me, I will make an appointment to talk to them. But… and this is a big “but”, if I can’t talk to them without being mad, I wait.
  2. No Texts: I don’t engage in long, spirited texts anymore. It’s too easy to have my words misunderstood. I, too, can’t always read the emotional nuances behind other’s words. It’s a set-up for more anger and hurt.
  3. Detach With Love: When I remember that people who cause drama are often just hurt people, I’m able to disengage with love instead of anger. I can pray for them because they, like me, are sometimes spiritually sick.
  4. Forgive: This has been, and still proves to be, the hardest act for me. But it’s a fact that everyone makes mistakes. If I want to be forgiven for my past mistakes, I must remember that one wave does not define the whole ocean. I can forgive someone for dumping on me and let go.
  5. Let Go: When I remember I’m not King of the Universe, I can let stuff go. When I think everything has to go my way, and people need to behave in a certain way for me to function, I am miserable.
  6. Trust God: When I trust God, it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks, says or writes. I can stay calm. On the flipside, if I have forgotten to meditate or pray that day, I take everything personally.

God’s Doesn’t Explain Himself (or Herself) so Why Should I?

The truth is that I’m here to God’s work, not explain myself. The quicker I get out of someone else’s way, the quicker they can potentially look at their behavior and have a spiritual awakening also. (It’s been my experience that 99 times out of 100 they ain’t gonna be lookin’ to change themselves. But I changed, and that’s good enough.)

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Denise Jones @cooljonez @ Unsplash

When people get crazy on me, I remember that I owe them nothing. Happiness is an inside job.

I love the picture above, because the street is not lined with defensive statements. It’s not littered with “If only you would stop talking” notices. It’s just quiet… a path leading toward some new and exciting destination.

If you’re ready to go some place new, far away from the old mindset that tells you to fight insane people, places and things, I encourage you to keep your ego in check and let go. I encourage you, when tempted to retaliate, to sit in silence and ask God what he would have you do.

These days life is simpler and peace flows where negativity and hurt used to live. And while I don’t live in Serenityville all the time, I’m happy to say it’s a solid summer home for me. As long as I keep trusting God I’ll be there year round soon enough.

And, with practice, you can be, too.

About Me

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I’m a published TV, blog, magazine and book writer who also coaches moms and grandmoms to write books rooted in wisdom, spirituality and humor.

CONTACT ME

Find out more at Andrea Frazer Writes or at Facebook. Email me at Andrea@AndreaFrazerWrites.com

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Uncategorized

Can You Please Stop Making That Sound or I’ll Kill You (And other tales of misophonia)

Photo from Unsplash
Artist: Noah Buscher@noahbuscher

It’s been a long time since I wrote about Tourette Syndrome. Part of that is because I needed to switch to a new direction for my own mental health. After spending years obsessing about changing my son, and then taking things way too personally in how other people reacted to him (Overly Controlling & Sensitive Mom Behind Door #3!) it became imperative to write about my other passions.

Also my 13-year-old son got tired of his syndrome being written about. If I learned anything from raising a teenage boy, it was to honor his needs, not mine, when it came to writing. And so, I cut the internet cord! (And I didn’t even need anesthesia.)

That said, when Writer of Words posted this article on certain noises driving her crazy I had to chime in. In it she talks about Misophonia.

What Exactly is Misophonia?

Harvard Health Publishing (from Harvard Medical School) describes it as follows: “People with misophonia are affected emotionally by common sounds — usually those made by others, and usually ones that other people don’t pay attention to. The examples above (breathing, yawning, or chewing) create a fight-or-flight response that triggers anger and a desire to escape.

Audiologists have found that misophonia is an inner ear issue as sufferers have acute hearing. What makes their hearing different than another person with exceptional ears is that unlike a “normal” person, misophoniacs obsess about the sound long after it’s gone. They anticipate when it’s going to come back. And often they cannot sleep for fear of it interrupting their serenity.

Where Does Misophonia Come From

Many folk with OCD deal with this, but it’s not considered a mental health issue. Misophonia hasn’t been researched much, but according to WebMd:

“The age of the onset of this lifelong condition is not known but some people report symptoms between the ages of 9 and 13. Misophonia is more common with girls and comes on quickly, although it doesn’t appear to be related to any one event.”

Symptoms of Misophonia

  • Anxiety
  • Irritation
  • Impulse to run
  • Anger
  • Rage
  • Panic
  • Fear
  • Hatred
  • Despair
  • Fantasy thinking

For a long time I didn’t know I had this disorder. I just thought I was nuts. My son’s throat clears and grunts would make me insane with anger. I would either rage at him, begging him to channel his sounds a different way, or I would find myself running away.

Escape took many forms: literally leaving the house, not being present when I was with him, over spending and eventually drinking. Sure drinking took the edge off temporarily, but the sounds only felt more excruciating the next morning with a headache. It felt hopeless.

Relief from Misophonia

After giving up drinking, I was thrilled that my 12-step program had relieved so many of my unhealthy escape patterns and reactions. Hypnotherapy and meditation was also a powerful, natural sedative for my overactive brain, but it didn’t relieve all of it.

It wasn’t until someone in my daughter’s friendship circle was diagnosed with misophonia that I realized, “Oh my God, that’s me!” Knowing my out of control reactions to noise stimuli wasn’t my fault changed everything for me. It was reassuring to know I wasn’t just odd or being an intolerant mom. I had an actual condition! Plus it helped to know that many super creative folk, including Franz Kafka, dealt with the condition. Turns out that the very thing that causes misophonia sufferers distress is the same thing that allows them to so sensitively tap into the human condition.

Personally I’ve talked to many folk since my diagnosis and the one thing we’ve all had in common is that we are more triggered when we are stressed out. It was a sick co-dependent vortex in my case, because my son also ticked when he got stressed. His tics made me more ragey due to misophonia, and that made him tic more. Fun times! What next?

After trying a million miracle cures to “fix” my son (from medication and meditation to gluten-free/dairy free diets and more supplements than Frankie Bergstein has joints) I made a decision to stop the madness. Like in a bloody war battle, I had two choices: My relationship with my family could die based on my insane need for control, or I could surrender. I chose the second and my life has been on an upswing ever since.

The Spiritual Side of Misophonia

In relinquishing my need to manage my son’s noises, I began to control my own issues with sounds. As a sober alcoholic I knew only too well what a lack of discipline did to my life. And just like with giving up alcohol, I knew I didn’t have to handle my diagnosis, and my son’s, by myself.

I leaned on my community and family.

I began a spiritual practice.

I brought in amazing self-care.

I gave myself permission to not be a perfect mother.

I reached out to others who were dealing with a diagnosis they could not change. In helping others, I was infused with such purpose and hope. It turns out you really can’t obsess about your own problems while helping someone else navigate their’s. Plus it turns out that the endorphins from assisting others lasted much longer than any temporary relief from noises. And, unlike Misophonia, they brought about so much peace.

There is some serious humor in God pairing a noisy ticker with a sound sensitive mama, but now I wouldn’t change it for a thing. Tourettes and misophonia forced me to give up any preconceived ideas I had about what I needed to be happy. When I was able to surrender, I channeled my misophonia into listening for the blessings in my life instead focusing with laser beam precision on the negatives. Acceptance and transformation of what was once so ominous has brought about far more joy than any quick fix for these syndromes could.

Hope for the Misophonia Sufferer

Any fellow misophonia folk out there… it gets better. And when you’re struggling, feel free to reach out. You might say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, I “hear” ya.

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

(Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook.

Uncategorized

Gratitude: It’s the Answer to Homicide and Suicide(and ulcers)

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I’m hardly a saint of happiness but I am way more content than I used to be. I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that it has everything to do with gratitude – Not just acknowledging it here and there but actually practicing it every single day by writing it down. My husband shares this practice with me and we each text another couple for accountability.

We first started doing this because our misery was killing us.  And I won’t lie, it felt very cheesy.  But as I learned in my primary program, my ability to feel serenity is in direct proportion to how willing I am to be inconvenienced.  And when you are brought to your knees with exhaustion it’s a perfect time to pray and be willing.

At first my gratitude lists looked like this: “I am grateful for food, a car to drive, a walk, kids who love me and a job.“ (Nope, Rex didn’t make the list in the early days.)

Most of the time, though, I wasn’t truly truly grateful. It just felt like something to say,  because if I didn’t, I’d sound like a complete self indulgent schmo. Truthfully I was always annoyed at somebody or something. And the coveting and jealousy? Guilty. I was forever looking at what I could have more of…. her body, their job, your house, you name it. I could not have admitted that before either – it just didn’t sound nice – but in getting real I got aware. And by getting grateful for what I had (not what was missing) it got easier to let go of those other negative attributes.

After a while my negative mindset literally started to shift and I couldn’t believe how lucky I was in actuality. Soon I started incorporating more things in my gratitude list, and in becoming happier I became happier with Rex. I became less angry at my kids. Call it “odd” or “God” but more work started coming in also. I started enjoying even the hard days. Because most of the time it’s was my perspective that needed to change, not my circumstances.

Today in class a kid was back talking me and I was getting irritated. We were both locked in defensive blame. Instead of  staying mired in a power battle (old pattern and no one wins) I walked away. A few moments later I came back and asked her why she was upset. She told me that she wasn’t there yesterday for the assignment and didn’t know what was going on. I took a breath (“Did I really have to go through this explanation  again?”)  and blocked out the rest of the chattering kids. In that moment it was just her and me and I was grateful for the opportunity to start again.

None of us know what’s going on in other peoples lives, but when we develop a new attitude, we allow a little bit of space between our circumstances and our reactions. In that space connection can grow. As for those feelings of joy that come from relationship restored? You guessed it: I’m grateful.❤️

Happily Ticked Off Tip #10: Texting someone 5 things a day you are grateful for can dramatically improve your mental outlook. 

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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Uncategorized

David Finch’s The Journal of Best Practices – An Asperger Marriage Review

As I sit down to type this post, five children are running wild in my back yard. Two are throwing dozens of colorful plastic balls over the net enclosure, while the other three bat them right back out. A few balls will likely land over the cement brick wall, resulting in tears, anger, and ultimately laughter as stories are made about Crazy Ed pulling “magic circles” out of his pool filter.

As the coffee hums, the cell phone rings, the house phone follows in suit, and dinner sits uncooked on top of my kitchen counter, I think of my husband: My very organized, methodical, practical husband.

For starters, there would be no children over on school night (my son still has a bit of homework to do.)

For seconds, how much longer am I going to trade services – taking Miss L home a few days a week in exchange for acupuncture? Wouldn’t less chaos be equally as effective in calming down Stink’s tics?

For thirds, why are two of the neighborhood boys here and why are two more kids playing basketball in our driveway? “Don’t they have a home?” he might wonder aloud, to which I’d respond, “Yes, but it’s nice having life in our home. We have to be flexible.”

Depending on my mood, I might be furious with my logical mate. While he means no harm by his comment, I might view it as insensitive. When he married me, I was a vintage wearing/cat eyed sporting/card-carrying WGA TV comedy writer. He wasn’t saying, “I Do” to Ms. Homemaker U.S.A.. These days, the only thing funny is my sense of domesticity – and believe me – we’re not always laughing.

On some days, I might blow his comments off. “That’s just Rex,” I might chide, too happy with my writing gigs or $12.75 Ebay windfall to really ruminate on his remark.

On other days, perhaps after nights of 5 hours sleep and dealing with Stink’s tic upswing, I might feel sad. “Why can’t he just get that life isn’t as easy to compartmentalize as the file folders on his work computer?”

But these days, I often think something else. What if he’s not being a selfish male? What if he just can’t help it?

David Finch’s wife knows a bit about this question. She was fed up with her rigid husband who threw baby tantrums over anything from dishes not being done correctly to having to deal with any change in their schedule that came with children. After five years of marriage, they were no longer friends and teetering on divorce.

Kristen, who Finch describes with endearing affection and admiration throughout his novel, sat him down one night and had him answer questions via an online diagnostic test. “Do people think you are aloof and distant?” (check) “Do you have certain routines you must follow… Do you tend to shut down or have a meltdown when stressed or overwhelmed?” (check and check again, and later, check check check….)

Finch scored 155 out of 200, and then responded with what can only be seen as outrageous aplomb. “I have Aspbergers? I have autism?! I mean… holy shit, right?”

Unlike a lot of folk who might ignore these results, Finch got an official diagnosis from a doctor. Instead of freaking out, he felt relief. He finally realized that his need for control was not entirely his fault: he was wired that way. But perhaps even more astounding than his acceptance of this irreversible condition was his determination to transform his marriage in spite of it.

The result? A New York Times bestselling book. He titled it, The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man’s Quest to Be a Better Husband.

Published by Simon and Schuster, Finch spares no details in walking us through his transformation. Using a detailed list of observations he’d written to himself, Finch came up with a set of best practices to elevate him from the dog house to beloved man of the house.

Some such rules included taking over kid chores without complaining, taking everyone’s clothes out of the dryer (not just the socks he needed) and not ruining he and his wife’s vacation because of a forgotten dental syringe. (He did eventually find one, but only because his wife was kind enough to stop at a supply store with him. He won brownie points for making due until then.)

Aspergers can take on many functions, but the hallmark of this disorder is monumental self-focus. Another way of saying this is that the person does not, inherently, possess empathy.

As a creative person who feels everything from a wacky gleam in my mom’s eye to the way a dissected frog might feel before being diced in two by a seventh grader, I used to think lack of empathy meant lack of feelings. But when I look at some of my own husband’s responses to life situations (sobbing in the driveway when my daughter was being whisked off to emergency for a chest cough, or breaking down over the birth Stink) I realize now how wrong I was. It’s not that folk with Aspergers don’t feel – they just can’t always put themselves in someone else’s shoes and sense how they feel.

On a logical level (and Aspies are nothing but logical) how can one get mad at someone if they aren’t being anal retentive on purpose? What if they are just wired that way, like our kids, who can’t help but tic? They are genetically built to do so. (Not to brag, but a long time friend once commented that I did, indeed, get that stick half pulled out my husband’s ass. I’m a rock star, I know.)

Understanding on a cerebral level is a far cry from acceptance on a soulful one. Marriage to someone like this can be taxing to say the least. One wouldn’t be human if they didn’t find it maddening. A spouse can feel cheated. “Isn’t a relationship about give and take?” many neurotypical mates might balk. Finch’s response is yes, and so is mine.

What Finch succeeded out so brilliantly, both in real life as well as on the written page, is realizing while he might not be able to understand his wife’s needs on an intuitive level, he can respond in a practiced way that honors her because he loves her.

It’s the same with my marriage, and perhaps yours. Aspbergers or not, all relationships have issues that can’t be wrapped up in a shiny happy bow.  Like a tic, you never know what’s going to pop up out of the blue. We simply need to respond well – and sometimes that takes practice.

“Rex does not have Aspergers!” some friends or family might say. “He’s just being an extreme male!” That is quite possible. But like my son’s Tourettes, I can’t change what is. Either my mate is just very very very set (we’re talking “footprints that have dried for ten years in cement” set) in doing things a certain way or he has Aspergers. Unless he’s diagnosed, I’ll never know. I can only change how I respond to it. Like Finch’s wife, I hope I’m doing so with love, honor, humor, gentle pushings toward change and a whole lot of grace. I can only hope my husband continues to work toward understanding me the way Finch did his wife. I might not get a best selling book out of Rex, but it would be a lovely new chapter for us.

Until then, for those of you who are also dealing with Aspergers with your spouses or perhaps your sons or daughters (it’s often a co-morbid condition with T.S.) please take hope from Finch’s book. It is not the end of the world. It’s simply a different way of thinking. Life isn’t always easy, but it can be challenging, interesting and, as Finch’s writing attests to, hilarious.

As I wait for my husband to return from a 12 hour work day, my son is complaining about leaky liquid coming from his arse. I have seven children waiting to eat tacos. I have 2 articles due and I’m PMSing like a crazy person. If my hubby can come home to all that, I can accept some of his quirks. He loves me. I love him. Like Kristen, I’m in this marriage for the long haul. With Finch’s book, I’m joyful to know that it’s possible to have less survival and more thriving. I wish the same for all of you, both in T.S., marriage and all of life’s challenges.

More on Finch’s book can be found at his websitehttp://www.davidfinchwriter.com/

Also, special thanks to Simon and Schuster for sending me this book and allowing me to sing its praises. Here’s a fun promo of what turned out to be one of the most insightful books I’ve read this year.