How Blue Birds and a Mouse Got Me to Stop Sucking My Thumb

I sucked my thumb until I was seven years old.

Child development experts say it’s normal for a child to suck a thumb or a finger for the first one to two years. After that, it may indicate a problem. For me, it indicated a problem. I was an insecure little kid, and thumb-sucking was my Linus blanket.

I only did it in bed at night, and it was always my left thumb. My parents did everything they could think of to make me stop: bandages, gloves, bitter liquids, thumb splints, begging–everything. Nothing could make me give up my addiction.

Until the summer of my seventh year.

That year I became a Blue Bird (baby Campfire Girl), as did most of my seven-year-old school girl friends in little Seminole, Oklahoma. One of the joys of Blue Birding was you got to go to a summer camp with other Blue Birds and older Camp Fire Girls. (Yes, back then Campfire was just for girls.)

So off we went to summer camp, excited about what for many of us was our first time away from our parents. We felt so grown up.

We were assigned group cabins to sleep in, and my friends and I were all in the same cabin (neat!), along with a few other Blue Birds we didn’t know.

The first night we all got in our beds, and a counselor turned out the lights and wished us goodnight. In the darkness, I started to suck my thumb, as usual. Sucking my thumb made a little squeaking noise. I’d done it so long I was oblivious to it.

After a few minutes, a voice called out in the darkness:

“I think there’s a mouse in here. Hear that squeaking?”

Mortified, I jerked my thumb out of my mouth. The squeaking stopped instantly. My cabin mates listened a few moments in the dark silence and concluded the mouse or whatever was squeaking must have left.

I was safe. I had not been revealed as a thumb sucker. And after that, I never sucked my thumb again. Never wanted to. What my parents had tried for five years to stop, the fear of ridicule by my peers did in one night.

Sometimes you just have to wait for the right moment to break a bad habit.

Former thumb suckers, I’d like to know how you quit. Or did you?

Peace and Joy,

Thanks for reading my blog.

Marjorie Beck

On Language: Are you anxious or eager?

Today’s post is about the words Anxious and Eager.

Mary was anxious to buy a new car.

Sid was anxious to meet her.

We anxiously awaited the train.

All three correct, because anxious and eager mean the same thing, right?

Well, no.

Our language, being a living language, is always changing.

The English language would be much poorer today if the Norman French hadn’t invaded Saxon England in 1066 and brought with them a whole new vocabulary: words like ancestor, attain, bachelor, boutique, chevalier, clarinet, cul-de-sac–to name just a very, very few. Look up a list of English words of French origin and you will see just how thoroughly the French language embedded itself into English beginning with the Norman Conquest.

Similar things happen on a smaller scale whenever English-speaking peoples come in contact with people from other civilizations and cultures: From Greek, we get atlas, chaos, muse, and democracy, the very foundation of our government,

Mogul and Mantra from Hindi,

Algebra and Coffee from Arabic,

Angst and Kaput from German,

And last but not least, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and eight other U.S. state names, plus hundreds of county, town, river, and creek names from the Native American people displaced from their lands by their European invaders.

It seems early settlers loved Indian places names, but Indian people themselves–not so much.

Okay, back to anxious and eager.

The foundation of modern English and the Romance languages (Spanish,PortugueseFrenchItalian, and Romanian ) is Latin.

The word Anxious comes from Latin, and means uneasy, greatly troubled by uncertainties. The origin of Eager is also Latin, and means enthusiastic, wanting to do or be something very much.

Now go back to the three questions above.

Was Mary uneasy or greatly troubled about buying a new car? Or was she enthusiastic, wanting to do it?

She could have been either, depending on circumstances, but most likely the prospect of buying a new car made her enthusiastic and very much wanting to do it. Thus, she was eager .

The same could be said of the next two sentences: The desired word probably would be eager.

Yet nine out of ten times these days when you hear someone say anxious they really mean eager.

Language purists like me get their innards all twisted when they hear these meanings commingled. We don’t like perfectly good words taken over by other words that don’t really mean the same. We want anxious to mean troubled about something and eager to mean looking forward to something.

ALAS,

Language purists like me are fighting a losing battle on keeping words as they are. Because here we come to another truism about our living English language:

Over time, word meanings change.

Once, awful used to mean awe-inspiring. Now it means really bad.

Meat was once any solid food, as opposed to drink. Now it refers to animal flesh.

Not that long ago, if you said something was dear, you meant it was expensive. Now if you say something is dear, you probably mean it is loved and cherished.

This meaning migration is one of the things that makes English such a rich, vital language. Popular usage makes it happen, over and over again. We can’t stop it.

Anxious and eager could have different meanings to future English speakers. (Assuming there will be future English or any other speakers, given what we have been doing to our planet. But that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.)

HOWEVER,

In our lifetimes, I’m still a language purist. I’d still like to see us use anxious to mean uneasy or greatly troubled about something, and eager to mean greatly enthusiastic about it.

That’s my two cents’ worth.

As always, Peace and Joy,

And thanks for reading my blog.

Marjorie Beck

On Springing Forward. . . and Falling Behind

When I was younger and in the grip of undiagnosed depression and anxiety, I was obsessed with time. There was always too much of it before an anticipated event, like a birthday or Christmas Eve or the junior prom, too little of it during the event itself.

I wanted to control time, and I couldn’t.

When I was very young, of course, time was not that important to me. It passed very slowly. Summer vacations from school went on forever, and it was glorious. As I got older, time sped up.

This seems to be true for just about everybody as they pass from childhood to adults. When you’re very young, it doesn’t occur to you that someday you might die. As you grow older, you become more . . .and more. . .and more. . . conscious that you certainly will.

As an adult, I particularly obsessed on the semi-annual time changes from standard to daylight saving time and back again. In the fall, I was delighted to fall back to standard time and get an extra hour for the day. In spring, I mourned the loss of that same hour all day as we sprang forward to daylight saving time.

After I retired, time slowed down again. With fewer obligations, I have become less time-conscious. Today’s change to daylight saving time bothers me not at all–except for having to reset the oven, microwave, and my car.

I am one of the growing number of people, though, who think we should ditch these semi-annual time changes altogether. We don’t really need them, they mess up people’s circadian clocks, etc.

Some states are doing it already, but it needs to be nationwide. Standard or daylight, I don’t care. If you do, speak up! Contact your congressional representatives.

In the meantime, I wish you peace and joy and all the time you want.

Thanks for reading my blog.

Marjorie Beck

Laughter & the Original Virgin

I try to find a reason to laugh each day. Faith Hill

You grow up the day you have your first real laugh at yourself. Ethel Barrymore

I laugh a lot at myself these days. I laugh a lot in general: I don’t have to find a reason. It just comes.

That wasn’t always the case.

When I was younger and in the grip of depression and social anxiety, I didn’t laugh nearly as much as I do now, and I almost never laughed at myself.

It was too threatening to acknowledge that I’d done or said something wrong or stupid or embarrassing. This was especially true when I was in high school and college.

One day in my college freshman English class we got on the subject of folk songs and on how to determine a particular folk song’s “original version.” Having discovered folk music in high school, I considered myself an expert in this area. I raised my hand to make the point that, by the very nature of folk music constantly morphing and evolving, it was virtually impossible to determine a folk song’s “original” version.

Only my tongue slipped, and it came out “original virgin.”

Now, this was 1963, and we were a little more prudish and private then about language. At the word “virgin,” my fellow students erupted in peals of laughter. My professor was laughing so hard his face turned deep red, and he had to lower his head to his desk until his laughter subsided.

Meanwhile, I sat through all this mortified. Not only had my very important point about the nature of folk music been lost through my slip of the tongue, but also I had said the word “virgin” in public in front of other people who were essentially strangers.

I sat staring straight ahead, stony-faced, dying of shame, pretending I was not hearing all the laughter around me.

That was the way I dealt with making embarrassing mistakes in public back then. Don’t acknowledge it in any way. Hope nobody notices. If somebody does notice, still don’t acknowledge it.

Twenty-two years ago I began taking antidepressants, and my world changed. I found my social confidence. I found my laughter. I especially found how delightful it is to laugh at myself.

If that “original virgin” slip happened today, I probably would be the first one to start laughing. Like my professor then, I might laugh and laugh until my face turned deep red and I had to lower my head to my desk until my laughter subsided.

Joy and Peace, and Always Keep Laughing,

As Erma Bombeck says: If you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it. 

Marjorie Beck

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Warning: Politics Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

I said in one of my early posts I would not write about political topics. I made one exception to that for a June post email to Jeff Sessions. I make another exception now to write about how the current national political climate has affected me personally.

For the past two months I’ve had a problem summoning the motivation and energy to do practically anything, even things I normally enjoyed. My last blog post was September 6. I had lots of others waiting in my queue, but I just couldn’t call up the interest to post. I wasn’t feeling sad; on the contrary, my general attitude was cheerful. I just couldn’t find the motivation and energy to act.

This is a classic sign of depression. I was puzzled. Why would I be in depression if I was feeling cheerful and basically happy with my life? It took me a while to figure it out, but finally it came to me like a thunder clap. It was all about stress.

At some point long ago I came to the conclusion not to get stressed about things I couldn’t control. Traffic jams. Long grocery lines. Home power failures in storms. I followed Erma Bombeck’s advice: “If you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it.” I use humor a lot to get through things I can’t change.

I have been living with things I can’t change since the presidential election of 2016. Humor has been one of my coping tools, faithfully following political comedy on TV and allowing my raucous laughter to carry me through situations that would otherwise enrage or dishearten me.

I thought it was enough. But after almost two years of living in this toxic, dangerous national environment, I have to admit it: I can’t ignore what this stress has been doing to me any longer. I need more coping mechanisms.

I’ve always believed in being an informed citizen. I follow local and national politics. In normal times, that doesn’t mean being subjected to a daily onslaught of negativity. But these are not normal times.

I don’t subscibe to the ostrich theory.  I won’t hide from the bad news. I won’t agree to be uninformed.

Here’s what I will do:

My partner and I enjoy watching some national political commentators in the evening. I won’t stop doing that. But now when I watch I take it in more objectively as information I should have, rather than as the latest political outrage I should worry about. Often I do something else while I’m watching, which helps to soften the impact of what I’m seeing and hearing.

I stay away from politics on social media. I have Facebook and Twitter accounts, but I don’t use them a lot, and I don’t follow political figures.

When friends start talking politics in my presence, I ask them to stop. Although like many–maybe too many–people in this country, my friends and I mostly have similar political views. But I find discussing politics now even with people I agree with still leads to raised voices and shrill opinions, and it stresses me. When my friends and I talk  politics we’re preaching to the converted. So why do it at all?

To better manage my depression in general, I’ve starting using my SAD lamp for 30 minutes when I wake up each morning. I wear an Alpha-Stim cranial electronic stimulator every day for an hour. They are great mood-lifters and energizers.

These are some of the things I’m doing now to keep my depression and stress at bay about things I can’t change.

There is one thing I can do to change things for the better, and that’s VOTE! on November 6. I am a pretty regular voter, but I admit I sometimes have skipped midterm or local elections. No more. Every election counts, no matter how small and local. Every vote counts.

Please join me on November 6 to exercise this most fundamental right of your citizenship.

Thank you for reading my blog. If you like it, follow this post and you’ll receive notice of  my new ones.

Joy and Peace,

Marjorie Beck

 

 

 

 

Continue reading “Warning: Politics Can Be Hazardous to Your Health”

Introversion: The Third Leg of My Three-Legged Stool

It is high time I finished the third leg of my three-legged stool. I wrote about the first leg, Depression (“What’s With That Blog Title?”) on May 9; I wrote about the second leg, Shyness and Anxiety (“My Three Legged Stool”) on June 1. I intended to finish the job long before now. Life intervened.

With apologies to my many followers waiting with bated breath for the third leg of my stool:

The third leg of my stool is Introversion. Here’s what I wrote May 9:

“Depression, shyness, and anxiety are disabilities to be managed. Introversion is not a disability; it is an innate part of  who I am and is to be understood and embraced.” 

I use the term Introversion as the psychiatrist Karl Jung (1875-1961) defined it in his seminal work Psychological Types (1921).  He identified three innate aspects of everyone’s personality:

  • How you get your energy for living (Introversion, Extraversion)
  • How you take in information (Sensing, Intuition)
  • How you make decisions (Thinking, Feeling)

In the 1940s, two followers of Jung, Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Myers, identified a fourth aspect of personality:

  • How you relate to the world (Judging, Perceiving)

They developed an instrument called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to help people identify their innate psychological types. Today the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is one of the most commonly used and best regarded psychological instruments in the world.

I am going to cover here only the first aspect Jung identified, Introversion and Extraversion, because that is the third leg of my stool.

Introversion does not mean you are shy; Extraversion does not mean you are outgoing. There are shy Extroverts and outgoing Introverts.

As Jung, Briggs, and Myers identified Introversion and Extraversion, they are two different ways (or preferences) of getting your life’s energy. You are born with these preferences. They are both good ways of being. You do not change your basic preferences, but you can, at least to some extent, change behaviors associated with them.

Simply put:

Extraverts draw their energy from engaging with other people and their environment.

Introverts draw their energy from within themselves.

To identify which preference you have, you could ask yourself:

At the end of a hard, stressful day, would you rather:

  1. Go out and unwind with friends at a bar,                         OR
  2. Go home, pour a glass of wine, and enjoy a quiet evening with a good book.

Here’s another situation:

You are at a large party, and you know only a few of the people there. Would you probably:

  1. Circulate around the room to meet and talk with new people,      OR
  2. Stay close to the people you know and talk with them.

If you are an Extravert, you probably would pick the first answer to both questions. If you are an Introvert, you probably would choose the second answer.

I say “probably” because for some people those choices might be reversed. Remember, there are shy Extraverts and outgoing Introverts.

I am a shy Introvert. I get my energy from within myself, and in social situations I’m  more comfortable with people I know than with strangers.

Introversion and Extraversion even can be detected in how we move our bodies.

Extraverts, drawing their energy from the people and environment around them, tend to move more than Introverts, Extroverts may tap a foot or drum fingers while sitting, or shift position frequently, or get up and stretch or move around the room. as if they are extending feelers out to their surroundings.

Introverts, who draw their energy from within, usually sit more quietly and for longer periods without much body movement. Introverts also may smile less than Extroverts.

In the same vein, Extraverts tend to listen more expressively than Introverts. An Extravert listening to someone might lean forward, smile, give head nods, say “I see,” or give other facial or body signals that he or she is hearing and reacting to the speaker.

An Introvert may do little or none of that, leaving the speaker wondering what the hell the listener is thinking about what the speaker is saying.

Being introverted, I tend to be a stone-faced listener. That can be a problem with people who don’t know me, and was, early in my city government career.

My boss was the city manager, and I had a lot of contact with the seven city councilors. I had cordial relationships with most of the councilors, but there was one, a very extroverted person, who did not like me at all. The city manager, who understood me very well, took me aside one day and did me the favor of explaining the reason for this councilor’s dislike.

It was my stone-faced listening. The councilor would talk to me and I would give no visible reaction, which the councilor interpreted as indifference or hostility.  (Truth was, such an extroverted, dominant personality intimidated me. And when I’m intimidated, I do shut down.)

 From then on, when I talked with that councilor, I gave lots of listening cues. I leaned forward, I nodded, I said “uh-huh,” and “oh, I see.” Things gradually improved between us. Later, when I ended up working on a project for the councilor that especially called on my skill set, we became friends.

I will always be grateful for my boss’s intervention early in my career on an aspect of  introverted behavior I needed to change. It was some of the best coaching I ever got. I continued working on my listening skills, and in time active, extroverted listening became second nature to me.

This is an illustration that your preference doesn’t change, but your behavior can. I was and always will  be an Introvert, getting my energy from within. But I can change introverted behavior when it’s not working for me.

Growing up, I knew nothing about Introversion or Extraversion. I knew nothing about depression. I did know I was shy and anxious, and that wasn’t a good thing. I knew I liked to be alone a lot, and I thought that  was a good thing. I still do. But now I understand that I do better if I’m not alone too much, as I was too often in the past. Some of my worst bouts of depression came when I lived alone. I’m living with a partner now, and I need that.

Learning about my Introversion also helped me understand why I had difficult relationships wi th my parents when I was growing up. My mother and father were Extraverts; my older sister and I were Introverts. My mother and I clashed a lot over privacy: As an Introvert I wanted lots of it. As an Extravert and a mother she felt I should have little of it. There was a lot of drawer snooping and pocket searching and diary reading that led to anger and raised voices.

This Introversion-Extraversion example of privacy attitudes is extreme, because there were a lot of other reasons my mother and I clashed on a lot of things.  It is true, though, that Introverts and Extraverts may have different ideas about privacy.

Introverts tend to be bad at spreading gossip. That is because If you tell something to an Introvert, he or she  may consider the message intended for him or her alone, not necessarily for anyone else.  Extraverts hearing the same message may consider it interesting information to be shared with others.

I have been burned by this difference several times, talking to a friend about something I considered personal and confidential, only to discover later that the friend told other people. I considered this a breach of confidence. The friend, for whatever reason, did not. I learned from those experiences that if I talk to someone about something I consider private and confidential, I need to say that.

I was not able to embrace the strengths of my Introversion when I was younger because it was so pathologically entangled with my depression and shyness. Now that I understand my depression and shyness, I love being an Introvert. For me, it’s the only way to be.

 

Thank you for reading this post. If you like what you read, you can follow my blog and get notification when I do a new post.

Marjorie Beck

 

 

My Three-Legged Stool

My depression is one leg of a three-legged stool. The second leg is shyness and anxiety, and the third is introversion.  Depression, shyness, and anxiety are disabilities to be managed. Introversion is not a disability; it is an innate part of  who I am and is to be understood and embraced.

Today’s post is about shyness and anxiety.

Growing up I was morbidly shy and anxious.

How shy and anxious were you?

 I was so shy . . .

When I was a Camp Fire Girl in Seminole, Oklahoma and it came to time to go door to door selling candy, I would stand on the front porch and pretend to ring the doorbell, wait a few seconds, and leave.

Later, in Norman, Oklahoma my mother gave me a coupon from a beauty salon that offered a shampoo, haircut, and coloring all for $20. Quite a bargain, and money was tight for us in those days.

At the salon, the stylist gave me the shampoo and coloring but not the cut, and I was too shy to ask why no cut. When the shop then charged me $60 instead of $20, I meekly paid the $60 and was too shy to say I was supposed to get a discount. My mother had a hissy fit when I got home, because it was her $60.

When I was in a store looking for something, I would scour the store aisle by aisle rather than ask a clerk for help. If a clerk did ask, I would say “I’m just looking, thanks.” Anything to avoid talking to a stranger.

In a room full of strangers I would stand in a corner and hope not to be noticed.

I was so anxious. . .

I would lie rather than admit I’d made a mistake,

or done something bad,

or didn’t know something,

or couldn’t do something.

I feared I would appear bad or ridiculous or inadequate,

and quite likely provoke my mother’s wrath.

Hooray for Paxil!

When I started taking medication for depression in 1997, my doctor prescribed Paxil, which was developed initially for social anxiety, and later prescribed for depression. It proved a lucky choice for me.

A reaction many people have when they start depression medication is “I’m the me I always wanted to be!”

And so it was for me.

In addition to working on my depression, Paxil started eliminating my social anxiety. This was an effect I had not anticipated, and it surprised and delighted me.

I started asking for help in stores. I started cheerfully admitting  it when I didn’t know something or had done something wrong. I even sometimes made small talk with strangers. An amazing transformation.

Being who I always knew I could be is so much fun.

So that’s the second leg of my three-legged stool. My shyness and anxiety reinforced my depression in lethal ways. Now my shyness and anxiety and depression still show themselves from time to time; they are, after all, thought to be at least partly genetic. Medication alone doesn’t fix everything.

But for me medication plays a big part in the way I can now manage these two legs of  my three-legged stool. And, as Martha Stewart would say, that’s a good thing.

Still to come: The introversion leg of my stool. Stay tuned.

Thanks for reading my blog.

Marjorie Beck