Monday, December 29, 2008

Sprained Shoulds


So I recently missed a stair and sprained my ankle. That, in and of itself, is enough to cause a fair amount of pain. However, my crazy mind went wild with "shoulds" that caused far more suffering. Just a sampling of these "shoulds" included: you shouldn't have fallen, you should have been paying more attention, you shouldn't be so klutzy. Fortunately, I had my questions about "shoulds" to help me find some peace in all this agony.

Q: How did you learn you shouldn't be such a klutz?
A: Navigating around New York is a constant reminder of this. It is very difficult to get from one place to another without full physical capacity. I also see this reflected in the media constantly, as nearly all images present "normal" able-bodied people. I think I've learned from American culture that one should metaphorically be always pushing ahead, and if I slow down to limp I'll "fall behind" in a way in the race of life.

Q: Is this "shouldn't" true for everyone everywhere 24/7?
A: Of course not. Being a klutz by no means is a reflection of any one's character, of their values, or of their soul. It does not reflect one's ambition, nor ability to help others. My unique American sense of wanting to stay ahead is not universal, and certainly not very healthy.

Q: Who is profiting off you "shouldn't"?
A: That capitalistic spirit that says I should always be moving faster, going further, pushing harder, accomplishing more.

Q: How does it feel to think this "shouldn't"?
A: I feel ashamed, like an idiot doofus loser.

Q: And does feeling like an idiot doofus loser help your ankle heal?
A: No quite the opposite.

Q: What would one day be like without this "shouldn't"?
A: I would feel better — like I could just do what I'm able to do without the stress of accomplishing more.

Q: Who would you be without this "shouldn't"?
A: I'd be someone a lot more at peace. I'd be a lot more accepting of whatever life throws my way (or whatever I fall into).

Replace it:
A: I wish I was not such a klutz. I would prefer not to fall down anymore. It would be easier on me and my loved ones if I paid more attention. But even as a klutz I am a still a good person, and I never have to be a victim of capitalistic thinking unless I choose to be.

And with these questions, I feel better. The pain is there, but suffering has been alleviated. Can you try this the next time you're giving yourself a hard time?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Should-less Holidays !


It’s that time of the year again. The weather is cold, the days are short, and the advertising industry is directly and subliminally using every “should” in their billion dollar budget to make you feel as guilty and ashamed as possible. What are these “shoulds”? They may include:

I should give my loved ones everything they want for Christmas.
I should be able to spend the money I used to have.

You should give me the perfect gift that I want.

Love and affection should be proven through the exchange of gifts.

Families should be together.

I should be happier.
I shouldn’t eat too much food and gain weight.

I shouldn’t have lost my job this year.

My parents shouldn’t judge me when I go home.

I should be good at this stuff like other people.


So what’s the alternative?

First, understand that you had to learn every "should" causing you stress or sadness at this moment. Not one of us popped out of our mother’s womb saying, “I shouldn’t have that extra cookie” or “I should be making more money.” If you learned your should, it means you can unlearn it. Try asking:

How did I learn this should? Your parents, your children, your friends, the billion dollar advertising industry?

Is this should true for everyone everywhere 24/7? Are there some who can be happy and fulfilled by not giving or receiving store bought gifts? If it’s possible for them, isn’t it possible for you?

Who is profiting off your should? Anytime, and I mean ANYTIME you feel guilty or sad there is a cash register somewhere singing. The media can make billions of dollars from making everyone feel insecure and fearful. You don’t have to give in to it.

How do you feel when you think this should? Does it bring you happiness? Peace? Hope? Or does it make you feel afraid, angry, frustrated, or depressed? You can change the way you feel by changing the way you see the holidays. If nothing else remember this: It is not the holiday that is making you feel upset, it is your “should” about the holiday that is making you feel upset.

Change It: You can try saying, “I prefer to be with my loved ones this year,” or “I can choose to make the holidays better by simply changing my mind” or “I wish I could gifts but I am a good person no matter what.”

By changing your thinking and talking about it with others you can have the very best “should-less” holiday ever. It’s up to you !!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Another Beautiful Tribute to Jhan Dean Egg

Jhan's good friend Chester wrote a beautiful tribute on his blog. To view it press here.

Tips for Should-less Protesting #4


Should-less Protesting Tip #4

ACTION: Write a letter (snail mail is better) to your Congressperson, your Senator, your local city politicians, and tell them what you think about this issue. Try eliminating "shoulds" from your letter, and using as many "I" statements as possible.

REASONING: Nobody opens their hearts or minds when they feel condescended to or judged. Don't believe me? Just how motivated do YOU feel to change your thinking when someone tells you that you "shouldn't" have the right to marry who you want to?
"Shoulds" are an ineffective motivator for change. You make a much more powerful statement by speaking your truth from a personal standpoint using "I" statements, and explaining why same-sex marriage benefits everyone, not just the couple involved.

If you'd like to read more about theory behind Should-less Protesting, press here

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Radio show with Barry Shainbaum!

Please listen to my interview on Perspectives with Barry Shainbaum on Sunday, December 14th, at 12noon, EST, at:
http://www.faithfm.org/listen.shtml

[If you missed it, check back on my website in a couple of weeks and it will be posted].

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tribute to The Effervescent Jhan Dean Egg

It was ten years ago this weekend that my friend Jhan Dean Egg died. With some friends I might say something more gentle or poetic like, "he left this earth" or "he started on his next journey." With Jhan, he wanted to be referred to as "dead" as dead can be.

I met Jhan at Roommate Referrals on Castro Street in San Francisco in late September, 1993. We had a four bedroom apartment on Albion Street, and this strange bald piercer from Brooklyn was the perfect fit for our early 20's party filled mecca. Within days I noticed that this man wore only black, had more music than I had ever seen, and watched no television or movies except for b-horror flicks.

The five years I lived with Jhan frequently contained fascinating paradoxes. He could live his life completely free of the "shoulds" from societal norms, media, and his family. But at the same time, he could be incredibly rigid about certain issues around our house. If anyone moved his english muffins and cream cheese in the refrigerator there would be hell to pay. If a chair was moved to a different area it would be accompanied by a comment like, "Oh, I guess the chair is living over there now." He hated traveling anywhere, and was often disappointed and hurt if someone failed to return a phone call. He could appear aloof and independent, yet was actually quite vulnerable and hungry for human contact.

What I always could count on was his unwavering support. He cheered me on as I applied to graduate school, and encouraged me to keep going during the two years I spent completing my M.A. in Psychology. He always seemed to see the good in me no matter who I was dating, how much I was partying, or which bad soap operas I was watching. When a conflict with another roommate came to a "him or me" boiling point, the usually quiet Jhan stood up and assertively ordered this other roommate and to remove himself out of our home. When the roommate protested, "I can't find another place to live with no money," Jhan calmly replied, "I did it in New York, I'll tell you how to do it in San Francisco." I was surprised and amazed for the way he stood up for me, and that he could be such a powerful unflinching advocate when needed.

The most important lesson I learned from Jhan was not about living, but about dying. He coped for several years with AIDS related symptoms, and took a very pragmatic rational view about his own mortality. In 1996 he sat me down, showed me his will, and asked me if I would be his Executor. This responsibility included respecting his wishes not to prolong his life, and to distribute his beloved music collection in an exact order to his friends after his passing. I agreed, without comprehending the emotional toll this would eventually entail.

Right before Thanksgiving of 1998 we received the results of an MRI: Jhan's brain had significantly atrophied, and he had very little time left to live. The doctor said he could try medications to prolong his life, but they would only buy him six months at most. My "shoulds" went into overdrive: He shouldn't be dying, he should try the medications, he should stay and fight, he shouldn't give up so easily.

Jhan and I sat down on his floor after getting this news. I told him my "shoulds," and how scared I felt. And with the same self-possessed assertive force that he displayed earlier with the problematic roommate, he explained to me that he had a right not to take the medications, he didn't want to fight the inevitable, and he was at complete peace knowing he would be leaving this world soon. We both cried a lot that night, as we listened to Marc Almond's "Brilliant Creatures" over and over. By the end of the night I understood what he was saying. He had a right to decline meds. He had a right to say goodbye. He had a right to choose to die in the same manner in which he chose to live. The only thing causing me suffering were my "shoulds" about his decisions.

Jhan's choice to end his life with dignity, integrity, and courage has had a significant impact on me ever since. Being included in his life and his death have deeply shaped the man and the therapist I am today. The lessons I learned from him were essential ingredients in writing "Absolutely Should-less." I wanted to honor Jhan and his spirit with this book, and hope that I've been able to do that.

During one of our last conversations I asked him what he thought happens after we die. Do we rise above over sweeping landscapes and gorgeous mountain terrains? Jhan looked at me horrified and said, "I hope NOT...I hope it's over the city concrete and large skyscrapers." Ten years later I pray there is a part of Jhan that can find me writing this in his old hometown of Brooklyn and missing him a lot.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Should-less Icon: Ilene Kristen


Ilene Kristen is an actress famed for a having both enormous acting talent and an idiosyncratic sense of humor which helps her to steal every scene she’s in. But behind the wisecracks is a wise soul with a unique understanding of human psychology. She’s used that understanding to create two iconic daytime characters: Delia on Ryan’s Hope and Roxy on One Life to Live. When we spoke at length recently, she described how she reached inside herself to create both Delia and Roxy.

Please come visit Marlena DelaCroix's blog site to read my full interview with this wonderful actress. Learn how she made Delia so real, Roxy so entertaining, the scene from Ryan's Hope that she refused to play, and the essential OLTL scene that ended up on the cutting room floor.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Soap Shrink on Blog Talk Radio!

I am so excited to announce that the Fabulous Marlena De La Croix, the Amazing Patrick Erwin and "Soap Shrink" me will all be guests Friday night, December 5th, at 10 PM EST, on the In the Zone Blog Talk Radio Show . We’ll be talking about our site and reviewing the many events of the last, tumultuous soap year. We’ll all be pleased to speak with you on the air and answer your questions. The call-in number for the 90-minute show is (347) 996-5978. Please tune in!

Tips For Should-less Protesting #3

Should-less Protesting Tip #3

ACTION: Talk to your partner about your death. Set up a health care proxy giving your partner power of attorney in case you are unable to make your own medical or legal decisions.

REASONING: This is a similar idea as making legal wills. These are rights that married couples take for granted, including being allowed full access to their spouse when they are in the hospital. If the state won’t protect your relationship then it’s up to you and your loved one to do it. It may not be a subject that will be fun to discuss, but it is another form of standing up and taking action.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tips for Should-less Protesting #2


Should-less Protesting Tip #2


ACTION: Do something really fun with your partner. Something that involves laughing, and taking lots of pictures.

REASONING: Victor Frankl, author of, Man’s Search For Meaning, said, "The last of the human freedoms is to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances." When you make the choice to be happy, even under oppressive laws, you are effectively practicing a radical form or protest.

Remember, no one can “make you” feel unhappy unless you give them the power to do so.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Tips for Should-less Protesting #1

In previous columns (below) I have discussed the option we all have to remain happy under Prop 8 simply by changing thoughts. What follows from these ideas are actions you can take IF you choose to have more peace. I will be adding more of these throughout the week. If you have some of your own, PLEASE e-mail them to me at Shouldless@gmail.com.

Shouldless Protesting Tip #1
ACTION: Make legal wills. You can purchase the software to create legal wills at nearly any office supply store. Follow the instructions, and update them regularly.

REASONING: This pertains to the decision not be a victim. If the state isn't going to look out for your rights, you had better stand up and do it yourself! You never ever have to feel like a victim or a “second class citizen” unless you choose to be. Making legal wills puts you back in the driver’s seat, and protects you and your loved ones.