EMBRACE DIFFERENCES

Writing & Blogging: Guest Comment from 6/14/2020

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

First off I want to say excellent blog! I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you do not mind. I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your head before writing. I’ve had a difficult time clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out. I do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually wasted just trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or tips? Thank you!

Guest Commenter found in SPAM on 6/14/2020

Once in a while, I get a guest comment that is both similar and different to others about writing and blogging. It sparks my curiosity and gets me thinking about my writing process so that maybe I can answer the question.

In this case, the question also involves coping strategies for focus, anxiety, or writer’s block. Maybe it will also answer some other guest comments with similar questions. Everyone’s writing process is different and unique to them. But here is my strategy.

Free Writing

My mind is often full of thoughts and writing ideas. In the middle of the night, my alter personalities share ideas with everyone. But I don’t remember them the next morning. They come back when inspiration strikes, during meditation, or as I practice some free writing.

Most common example is Word Association style. Pick a word at random. Write down the first thing that comes to mind. Then continue writing about it until you feel more relaxed – i.e. the words start to flow easily.

Then go back to the topic you want to write about and try the same exercise.

There are other options for free writing exercises. Maybe try a few others to see what works best for you.

Refocus Your Thoughts

Sometimes, my thoughts are scattered and confusing as I sit down to write. Usually because there is something distracting me. Other times because I feel scared about the topic and am avoiding it. Once in a while, the anxiety overwhelms me and fear blocks the writing.

I use grounding and distraction coping strategies when this happens. Meditation and deep breathing may help, but it won’t stop the other ideas and so on bouncing around in my mind fighting to get out. Maybe this is true for you as well.

When you use a grounding technique (and no it does not have to be sensory grounding), you are bringing yourself out of wherever you were and into the present moment. The moment where you write about a specific topic.

Some other grounding techniques:

  • Remembering facts about yourself (birthdate, graduation date, parent’s first name, last name, etc.)
  • Remembering facts about the day: specific date (June 28, 2020), specific day of the week (Sunday), location (living room), time of day and so on
  • Remembering life milestones: college graduation 2004, first real job, 2006, first decade of recovery 2014, move across country 2016, and so on.

When you use a distraction, you have the opportunity to let out all the other stuff in your mind before you start writing. It’s a way to express whatever is stopping you from wiring about a specific topic.

Some quick distractions:

  • Practice a hobby: get creative and choose something that allows you to express yourself. Often, I get distracted by emotions or memories or associations my mind makes with the topic. So finding a way to express them helps
  • Make a drink or a snack and use it as a mindfulness exercise before you write. And if you don’t want to eat or drink, find something else you can use for a mindfulness exercise to clarify your thoughts
  • Get up and move: physical activity releases endorphins and helps you feel more connected to all parts of yourself. You also get the benefit of self expression here too. It doesn’t have to be long or fancy as long as it feels right to you
  • Change your location or routine. Try writing somewhere else or at a different time of day or different day of the week.

Be Kind to Yourself

Give yourself a break. Writing is difficult business, vocation, passion – whatever you want to call it. Lots of people have opinions about “how to write” and “what makes a writer” or even “how to be a writer/better writer”. They are both correct and incorrect because what works for them, might not work for you.

Maybe the 10-15 minutes you spend writing about other topics is part of your writing process. It’s how you clear your mind so that you can focus on your topic.

You can experiment with that idea by extending and shortening your dedicated writing time. Add 10-15 minutes. Try free writing. Then turn to a new page and start on your topic. Or end your writing time early.

Remember that you are a writer and successful because you put in the hard work to practice and improve your craft. Congratulate yourself for being where you are now and for how hard you work to be a writer.

Remember not to be so hard on yourself either. That is something I constantly struggle with because there is only so much in a day that:

  • I want to do
  • I need to do
  • I can do
Personal Story example:

I have a goal to write one blog post a week for my new blog and continue writing weekly posts here in between aromatherapy/herbal studies experiments, work, getting my business started, and self care.

But last week, I didn’t have anything to write about for my new blog.

This week, I don’t have anything to write about either because my experiments are still in progress. My rose petal and chamomile infused oil will not be ready until next week. The elderberry infused honey has 3 more weeks to macerate. I’m still testing the “soothe my skin” healing salve with homemade arnica infused oil to help with pain and scars.

And the conflict is: maintain my schedule by writing something low quality and maybe not useful. Or skip some deadlines until I have results and something interesting/useful to write about to create high quality content.

I’ve decided to skip a few deadlines so that I can deliver quality content with photos.

Conclusion

The ideas above are some ways I work through the focus problem as I write. The rest of it is simply this: first drafts are always messy and never reflect the final product – at least for me. So I give myself a break when writing something new.

When I am continuing on something I started a while ago, I will re-read and review what I wrote before to remind myself of what’s already been written.

But to be completely honest, I am not sure if my main strategy will help you at all. You see, my alter personalities do a lot of the writing for this blog. They compose many articles and so on inside my mind without ever putting anything in writing form. They do all the revising and drafting, etc. inside my mind.

Then, everyone decides what gets written down and published here. I/we type up the post in WordPress and then do some light editing/proofreading to catch the major stuff.

And publish the article as is. Whatever errors, etc. you find here are all ours.

So, if you have alter personalities and coexist peacefully with them, maybe consider letting them have a journal (or a few journals) and tools to express themselves before you start the rest of your writing. And if you don’t have alter personalities, it’s always a good idea to express whatever is going on inside to help you relax and focus on your topic.

Because feeling relaxed, confident, and present are the best tools to help you focus and concentrate on a task.

Thanks for reading.

Gratitude – Thank you guests for your comments and support & new blog post subscription through MailChimp is in beta

*UPDATE JUNE 19, 2020* – except for the obviously Spam files, all comments have been approved and are visible on the home page now. Unfortunately, I can’t respond to each one individually so am invoking the Blog Rules. As for many questions about blogging, writing, and compatibility or screen issues, please refer to the links below or read through the FAQ post at the top of the Blog page. You can search for other FAQs too in the search bar.

Next post is on Sunday, June 28, 2020. I hope you enjoy Juneteenth holiday and your weekend.

Dear Guests,

Thank you so much for your kind words, feedback and support. The last post has received over 400 amazing comments, most of which have been addressed to the home page.

I started working my way through all of them in my SPAM filter – because yes all comments go to spam or moderation so I can read them and make sure they follow the blog rules – today after an email notification and was overwhelmed by all your kindness and acceptance.

Most of your comments have not been posted here or replied to yet because I need more than a few minutes at a time on break from work to be as kind and thoughtful as you were to me. That is my task for tomorrow evening.

But to answer a few questions here:

  1. I’ve struggled with a contact form that works and feels safe here, so there currently isn’t one available. However, you can visit Scent Reflections LLC, my other website and use that form to contact me. Just add Untangled Connections or UC in the message so I know how to respond.
  2. Your other option – and this is new aka in beta testing – is to subscribe to the new mailing list via MailChimp popup. I just added this to the site tonight and am not sure if it works. If you do use the pop up, I promise you will only receive blog posts from Untangled Connections. But please bear with me while the kinks get worked out.
    1. Also, if you sign up for the subscriber list, you will get my contact information that way too.
  3. I will not be writing more about current events, but I will write more about discrimination, racism, prejudice, etc. and compassionate, assertive, accepting ways to communicate with individuals or groups while feeling safe.
  4. I will share more about Untangled Connections and why I use that site name. Writing the last 3 posts broke a traumatic amnesia barrier in my mind, so I have access to many more memories that were lost.
  5. Finally, I am happy to discuss writing guest blog posts and link exchanges, but cannot reply to emails from WordPress Comments. WordPress security settings protect both of us (admin and commenter) by disguising email addresses and website data.

To Reiterate: if you want to contact me by email, please either SUBSCRIBE using the pop up window or contact me through Scent Reflections LLC. You can also contact me via Facebook; I post all Untangled Connections and Scent Reflections blog posts there. Twitter will be set up ASAP – which for me means the next free time on my half day at work.

A quick note about media: this blog has always been about the writing first. Photos, graphics, etc. are expensive to create and host here based on this type of WordPress account. If you want to see more graphics and media please use this contribution link or the one in the menu to support upgrades that allow me to create and share more media here.

Thanks for reading and making Untangled Connections such an amazing and incredible community.

Love and Rainbows,

AlterXpressions (TJ)
she/her/hers

ADMIN: Guest Comments – browser issues & racism follow up

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

Browser & Loading Issues

Last week, multiple guests commented about some browsing compatibility issues or slow loading issues with the website.

Untangled Connections does not use plug-ins, and both the customer support engineer and I did not encounter loading or compatibility issues using Safari, IE, or Firefox.

To be safe though, I also reduced the number of comments/posts that load at one time to increase loading speed.

If you run into issues, please check your browser for updates or try deleting your cache. That sometimes helps. Also refer to the FAQ sticky post here and information about browser compatibility here.

Racism Follow Up

A few guests asked me if there would be a follow up to my post about racism. I decided not to continue on that topic right now for a lot of reasons.

One, I am not black and don’t want to take away from the importance of that message.

Two, I am an ally for ending racism period. I DO NOT FOLLOW CURRENT EVENTS OR WATCH THE NEWS, POLITICS, ETC so continuing to write about current events and politics here is not useful, supportive or helpful.

Three, I support and promote diversity by writing about many topics associated with discrimination, bullying, and racism here. At the same time, I am not willing to write about something I don’t know or have experienced/researched.

That does a disservice to all of us by spreading misinformation.

What I will do is share a story with you that happened to me 6 years ago. It still affects me now and has been on my mind a lot since people are talking about Pride month and other types of discrimination.

The Story

6 years ago, I was living on the east coast in a relatively safe and clean apartment building near the border of Rhode Island. It was a small city with an old fashioned downtown center with many small or family-owned businesses surrounding the police station and government buildings. I walked a mile from my apartment through the downtown to get to the commuter rail station.

On my walks to and from the apartment, I passed by many restaurants and a grocery store owned by people whose first language wasn’t English. It became a habit to shop locally because the food was excellent and the people were polite. Plus they were closer than the big box grocery stores and restaurants.

We (the store owners/employees and I) became friendly as I became a “regular” customer and always tried to be respectful, if not friendly. The grocery store owners and their family came from a Latino/Spanish speaking background, and not all of them spoke English, but we worked it out over time. I am stating this, not because I have anything against them, but because it’s important to the story. And I don’t know what label to use.

One night, I was shopping on my way home from work and chatting casually with the older man at check out. He looked old enough to be my uncle or grandfather and didn’t speak English, but understood it quite well. The store was mostly quiet and the atmosphere relaxed. The man was careful packing up my groceries, and I appreciated that since I still had almost half a mile to walk before getting home.

As I waited, a young male (between 20 and 30 probably) walked up to us and gestured impatiently. We ignored him since the old man was only half way through the check out. The young man said or did something again, but I didn’t see it since he was standing to my left just inside of my peripheral vision.

The older man continued to ignore him, but I started to feel uncomfortable with the staring (I could feel the young man’s gaze on me).

So I turned towards the young man as I addressed the older man (to my right) and said it’s okay for him to answer the other person’s question – me being polite. Then I stepped back and went back to my ebook. My body language and attitude expressing disinterest in the conversation.

That changed when I heard this man speak in a lisp with a condescending tone of voice as he slowly and loudly asked the older man where to get a toilet plunger in the store because he couldn’t find it on the shelves. I was shocked and upset on behalf of the older man at this young man’s rudeness.

The older man mumbled something in broken English about waiting until he finished with my purchase. Then turned back to checking out the rest of my groceries. Without careful observation (and yes I was observing because my survival instincts kicked in), you wouldn’t know the older man reacted at all. But his eyes and mouth tightened before he looked down and away from both of us.

The younger man kept repeating himself, so I stepped in and spoke up. I apologized for interrupting and repeated what the older man said. The young man looked down at me, called me “honey” in a dismissive tone and told me it’s okay that I interrupted because I couldn’t help myself being what I was.

Then went back to harassing the older man. I spoke up again and asked him if he understood what the older man and I said. If not, I could explain what the older man said again. The younger man told me that I was confused and didn’t understand the problem. So I agreed I might be confused before repeating the whole conversation almost word for word. Then I asked the younger man to explain where and how I was confused.

A short silence. Then the young man stammered something about having to leave because he just remembered an errand and left. The older man looked at me with surprise and respect. I asked him if he was okay, and he smiled and nodded before finishing my order. On my way home, I had a panic attack and flashbacks. Did not sleep that night.

What upset me most?

The young man was white, obviously wealthy or well-to-do, wearing a fashionable outfit that shouted “I am gay and proud”. As a gay person, he’s probably experience some discrimination and/or racism. But he didn’t even consider it was wrong to treat this older man (and me when I stood up to him) with such disrespect.

Conclusion

I’ve seen black people with dark skin discriminate against other black people with lighter skin because they “aren’t black enough”. I’ve seen latinos and latinas discriminate against each other because they come from different Spanish or Portuguese speaking countries, neighborhoods, etc. I’ve had Chinese people step back from me in disgust and fear because I am bald. I’ve seen Chinese people from China discriminate against American-born Chinese and vice versa. Asians against other Asians and so on.

Where I live now, complete strangers (all white of different ages and genders) have gotten up and walked out of restaurants after staring at me with hostility while I bought food and then sat down at an empty table to eat. White salespeople at Nordstrom have glared at me and followed me around while I was shopping. Even gone so far as to ask other white people if I was bothering them while I shopped because we were looking at the same clothes.

A man of mixed race with a Spanish or Mexican accent stopped me on the street one day and asked me “where are you from?” and “What are you doing here” in a hostile tone of voice. When he asked me “what are you?” I stepped around him and walked away. Black people sometimes call me a “banana” because I like to wear beanies, headscarves, and “street style”outfits. What “street” style is I don’t know. I wear what I like and feel comfortable in all the time.

A young girl was polite the first time she saw me with a hat covering my face. The next time, hat off, she refused to look me in the eye or speak to me other than to take my ticket. She was white too. In a dentist waiting room at a large hospital (teaching clinic), three or four white people in the waiting room turned to stare at me as I sat down. Then started talking about me as if I wasn’t there. When that didn’t bother me, a man walked over and spoke at me. I don’t remember what was said because my alters took over, but he and the others left me alone after that.

Finally, if you’ve read past posts, you know about my past experiences with bullying, discrimination and racism. That position hasn’t changed even if the world has. You also know my feelings and thoughts about politics and religion, about why I stay neutral about politics and only share my views about religious and spiritual practice – inclusive and accepting.

So please understand that I will only write about current events and current politics if they are something I can speak about with acceptance, respect, knowledge, and inclusiveness.

Thanks for reading.

Anger: I wrote a post, forgot to save it, and lost it…

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

*Trigger Warning: This post may contain triggers; read at your own pace*

I wrote a post about anger, triggers, racism, people-pleasing, and boundaries. But I forgot to save it as I wrote and lost all the content. No photos other than the main photo because this isn’t the type of post where I can find appropriate ones.

So instead of re-doing all that, I’m going to keep this as concise as possible.

My boundaries have been constantly violated this past few weeks by people who connected with me over social media to be “friends”. They pushed and pushed until I finally put my foot down and ended the “friendship”. And yes I have quotes around that word because their idea of friendship did not meet mine.

Each of these challenges had me constantly wondering what life lesson my spiritual guardians were teaching me. It kept me up a couple nights this week. It stressed me out so I have been off my diet lately – by diet I mean forgetting to eat or not feeling hungry and doing something about that. And it made me extremely aware of the changes in my body.

Positive changes, but still changes.

So then I realized this was a boundary challenge and a lesson about social interaction. I am not a social person. My interaction is mostly limited to my parents (daily), work (frequent, but not often), and other people once or twice a month. Email and text are the preferred communication tools, but phone calls and video happen too.

My interactions with these people felt overwhelming and frustrating. They texted multiple times a day every day for over a week using the social media messengers. At first, they agreed to friendship. But then they wrote comments that seemed outside of friendship and into the realm of intimate relationships. And they refused to give me personal space when I asked for it.

But I felt confused because my experience with this kind of social interaction and communication is almost zero. So I asked myself what is really bothering me about all these communications? Is it that I started an account with another social media app to chat with this person outside of LinkedIn safely? Is it that I felt let down that I gave in to peer pressure and shared outside contact info with two people who were strangers?

And was I letting myself down by ending potential friendships with these people when I was trying to “put myself out there more”?

That final question was the biggest and most challenging to answer.

But in the end, I valued my personal and emotional safety more than making and keeping friends. These people, with their constant need for communication, disrespect of my personal boundaries, and triggering comments/emojis made me feel exposed, triggered, and unsafe to the point where I had trouble sleeping and eating again.

Between them and the big racism issues popping up everywhere, I felt like I was falling down the rabbit hole again. Nightmares, dreams, you name it I experienced it all week long.

The lesson I learned?

I am enough as I am. I am putting myself out there and trying new things. Sometimes, the “new things” don’t work, so it’s okay to stop and move on.

Being solitary suits me so there is no need to try and form outside friendships or continue friendships that feel unsafe. Next time I start to feel this way, remember Theodore Geisel aka Dr. Seuss and his reclusive, yet successful and happy lifestyle choices.

So yes I am angry. I feel residual past anger and present anger. The challenge now is to climb out of the rabbit hole.

Thanks for reading.

Use Our Skills. Work Together. End Racism

Coping Challenges: Racism is a problem everyone experiences

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

First, I am not black or African American and cannot imagine what you all are experiencing, feeling, or coping with right now. (please forgive me for using incorrect labels. I don’t pay attention and am not politically correct, but I also don’t want to offend anyone either).

Second, I am not going to pretend or ignore what happened, but I will be honest and say that I am not following the news or media closely and haven’t for over a decade. That is why I choose not to get political or share a specific opinion about recent events.

Third, the rioters and protesters marched by and partially surrounded my apartment building 2-3 nights in a row from Friday to Sunday. As I listened to the anger and the rioting, I hoped that the news and media would focus on the peaceful protesters and the important message instead of the violence.

Finally, I’d like to tell you all that racism affects everyone no matter their race, gender, religion, orientation, financial state, origin, intelligence level, or anything else that might be used to make a person feel less than human. And it’s up to all of us to use our skills and work together to end racism.

As I said in the beginning, I can’t imagine or know what the black/Afirican American community is experiencing. At the same time, I can and do offer compassion because I can relate having been a victim of racism and experiencing racism from authority figures – including the police in my past.

I can’t donate money or use my voice to speak up. But I can use my skills in other ways to work with you and other groups to end racism starting with this blog post. Your efforts are recognized, valued, supported, and encouraged here.

Thank you to the people risking their lives on the front lines as they speak up and speak out and put action behind their words.

Thank you to the people whose small, quiet acts of kindness and support to end racism may go unnoticed as the flashier actions get the attention. You are recognized, seen, and heard.

Thank you to all the people who help in their own way. What you do matters too.

And for anyone who is not sure what to do or how to support the end of racism, you can start by becoming aware of how pervasive racism is everywhere.

Finally, racism starts with fear and insecurity. With the need for one person or group to feel superior to or more powerful than another. Then take action to make those needs real. Racism flourishes when people look the other way, do not take action, or stay silent instead of speaking up against the people speaking or behaving in ways that promote racism.

I’m not going to ask you to do or say or be anything or anyone other than yourselves. Your opinions and values matter to me, and I accept you as you are. Please do the same for me and the opinions I shared here.

I am fighting against racism in my own way every chance I get. Maybe you will join me. Maybe you won’t. But if you do, thank you. And if you don’t, that is okay too.

Thanks for reading.