Tuesday, September 24, 2013

What is underneath your compulsions? It takes THESE 15 minutes to change your life

What is underneath your compulsions? It takes THESE 15 minutes to change your life

Today’s post is about those seconds and minutes between the moment you are triggered and the moment you act. It is those exact, rich, beautiful, scary, moments that can change your life. I described these moments for you as seen through Zuri’s life (Zuri’s Eyes) and then explain the psychology of it (The Process).

Zuri’s Eyes: Zuri’s Brother Eric is in Trouble

Things have been going okay for a while. Zuri has been watching the TV and monitoring the situation in Nairobi. She has been praying for the Kenya people every day. Her mom never did come home Saturday night. At 11:00 AM Sunday morning, she walked in with groceries as if nothing had happened. Zuri is used to this and, like always, Zuri tried to hide the hurt in her eyes as she listened to her mom go on and on about how her Aunt Jasmine “thinks she all that….” Well, they had groceries and her mom was some so…

This week was a so-far-so-good week. She, Eric, and Rashan got to school and her mom to work on both Monday and Tuesday. The news came late Tuesday night. There had been a shooting. A 16 year-old was dead and a 22 year-old injured. The police were not releasing the child’s name until the family had been notified. Zuri ran to check on Eric. Ahhh, phew, he was buried in his bed. He threw a pillow at her, “Get out of here Zuri!”

Early Wednesday morning they heard on the TV that it was Thomas that died. Three streets over, Eric’s friend. Thomas was a pretty good kid, but he had been hanging out with some of the kids who were into trouble, really bad trouble. The news said he was an innocent bystander of an attempted murder. The police believe that the target was the 22 year-old who suffered a gunshot wound to the hand and was in recovery at Erie County Medical Center. Thomas, it was said, was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Zuri felt like she had heard that a hundred times. Eric was a mess.

The day of the funeral, Zuri, her mom, and Rashan were dressed and ready to go. Zuri went upstairs to get Eric. He was refusing to go.

Their mom yelled, “Come on! We are late.”

Zuri hollered back, “Me and Eric will catch up with you. You go.”

Eric sat holding a bottle of vodka, seal on. He was crying and rocking back and forth.

“Zuri, get out of here.”

She said, “No Eric, I won’t.”

He said, “I am going to drink this whole damn thing. I don’t care any more. It’s not okay. Thomas is dead. He didn’t do anything to anyone…..God, Zuri, get our of here!”

She felt that feeling she feels when her mom pushes her away so that she can drink. It was so familiar. It was a deep ache in her chest and a worry in her belly.

“Eric that is what mom and dad do when they think they are not strong enough, they drink. We don’t have to be that way. We don’t. You are my big brother. You are the strong one. You take care of all of us and make sure we are okay. I need you to NOT do this. She held his hands and looked into his eyes. Eric, I love you so much (they were broth crying now). I can’t lose you like we have lost mom and dad—and now Thomas is gone—all for this sh#%. Because no one thinks they are strong enough.” Zuri had been reading from the books and notes in the yoga bag. She had confidence in her words.

Eric let the bottle roll off the bed. “F#%$ it,” he said.

(For an amazing poet [warning lots of strong language and descriptions of violence] on the violence in the inner city watch

Jasmine Mans - " I Know you Didn't Mean to Kill Him" http://youtu.be/AC1wGvPnTl8)

And then he sobbed. He held his face in his hands and he cried for Thomas. Zuri rubbed his back, tears running down her face. It was 10 maybe 15 minutes that passed. Eric looked up at Zuri and said, “Let’s go. Thomas’s family needs us.”

Zuri and Eric headed out the front door. Zuri, look at Eric, nervous. “Uh, I forget my purse, Hold on.” Eric said, “Hurry.”

Zuri ran upstairs and hid the bottle of vodka in her closet, in the yoga bag, and grabbed her purse. Feeling safer, she ran to meet Eric.

The funeral was so very sad, heart-wrenchingly sad. Sometimes Zuri thought she couldn’t breathe. Afterword, Thomas’s family and friends met in the basement of the church. There was food. Kids were telling stories about Thomas. Family and friends held Thomas's mother and sisters. They had glued photos on poster boards and placed the jerseys and awards from his sports on the tables. It was really nice and really hard. 

After, Zuri and Eric walked home together. She leaned into his side and he placed his arm around her shoulders.

“I love you Eric.”

”I love you too Zuri.”

The Process

There is this moment between the time that you are triggered and when you act (or not) that is so completely powerful. Kim Chernin, a famous feminist writer spoke quite effectively about this.* A pioneer, she addressed eating disorders in the 1980s. She spoke of this exact, formative moment between urge and action in her book, “The Hungry Self: Women, Eating, and the Search for identity.”

“The first time I tried to deliberately hesitate before I ate I found that I was scarcely able to drag myself to my study to grab a pen. The urgency I felt, the pressure of the unknown force, made my hands shake. I wanted to move and act and eat and swallow. I wanted cookies and chocolate and gobs of peanut butter. How could I sit at my desk, how could I hold back the frenzied rush, how could I think?” (Chernin, 1985, page 151).

It was in these moments that Kim, herself, battled her own eating disorder. She forced herself, in the moments that she was triggered, to fight for the voice underneath the symptoms. She-- time after time- went to her desk and wrote. At first one word, maybe two, and after a while a cluster of words, and then an image, and then a memory. Over time and after many so-called, failed attempts, she was able to unearth an incredibly powerful image that was driving her compulsion. Underneath her bingeing and purging was a complicated, confusing, interpersonal struggle that she had been avoiding for years.

We take ourselves out in so many ways. Like Eric, holding the bottle afraid to face his friend’s funeral. We don’t blame or judge him. We all “hold on to a bottle” of some kind or another, our own crutch, our go-to thing. For some of us, it’s shopping, fighting with our loved ones, binge eating, smoking, or painkillers—in fact there are thousands of ways you can take yourself out. Like they say in AA, there is no problem a drink can’t make worse. True for all the of the other vices. You are already here and it’s hard. You don’t need to add your compulsions and addictions, they complicate things and take you out.

Stay. Like Eric. Connect with someone you love. Hold his or her hands and try. Then, get out there. Get to yoga. Go for a run. Make a healthy choice and be in your life for the better of it and when it’s worse. Be in it. You will be amazed how strong you are and how much you can handle.

You may also learn some pretty powerful stuff about yourself- because in the staying is all of the rich, gorgeous, thick, stuff—and it is worth every ounce of your trying. And on the way home, arm and arm with someone you love, take a deep breath in and smile.

See you in the game:)



* Chernin, K. (1985). The hungry self: Women, eating, and identity. New York, NY: Random House.  

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