Would you believe me if I said that as I typed the title of this article, I did it in the voice of Elvis? Cause I did. And now, I bet, you are too.
I have so very, very, very much I want to talk about, but not the time that would be needed to consecrate to the subject at hand, which is, in a word, courtesy. Courtesy is one of the many virtues that my indulgent husband and I established as ones that we wanted to raise our children to embody. Courtesy is not just a word that precedes “Airport Shuttle.” Courtesy is a long-lost art. It is a theme park word. It is the thing for which my heart as a parent beats.
But I do not have the time to go into all that today, as my family just returned home from theme park vacation and things are a bit nuts.
I will talk about courtesy this week.
Proof, Pudding et al
Earlier this summer, I laid out a pseudo-scientific experiment to help myself become slightly less paranoid. If you will remember, the problem was that, since as early as I could remember, I have always had a feeling of being “watched.”
I already admitted that this was not going to make me sound very sane, so whatever judgment this stirs up in you, I can accept. I know that it is strange. I know that it is paranoid. I know that most normal people don’t live with this.
However, the scientists of the laboratory of Proof, Pudding et al, located in my little theory-loving brain at the Institute of Jekyll & Hyde, had an idea. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps, there might be a way, through a bit of cognitive behavior modification, to reduce the paranoid thoughts.
Step one: write down the thoughts I was having, thereby actually acknowledging them, rather then just letting them hang over my shoulder whispering in my ear all the time.
Step two: take active steps to tamp down the “primping” behaviors that the paranoia caused, eg: make-up wearing every day, even if I wasn’t leaving the house, the painstaking rotation of clothing so as to never wear the same thing twice in a row, and never wear the same thing twice in a similar situation.
The first step, writing down the thoughts, quickly became cumbersome. The sheer quantity of the thoughts was more than I had time or inclination to actually write down. This was disturbing in so many ways: I could not cross a street without having a strange thought that the person on the street corner across the plaza was noticing that my hair was messy.
I did modify the experiment, however, to simply put words to the thoughts and say them out loud(ish). Not to nullify the thought, just to speak it out loud, so I could hear how ridiculous it was. “That person is looking at my messy hair.”
This, I find, was perhaps more effective than writing them down ever would have been. Because, the truth is, I hate it when other people complain/worry about their appearances. Hearing myself do this grated a nerve in my soul so badly that I was very quickly in some kind of aversion therapy-mode.
The second part, the repeat-wearing of four (very loud and flashy) dresses all summer, is something I mentioned in a Challenge Update that I needed to tweak. I found that I got bored of only wearing four dresses, but that it was a great place to start. I needed to find a happy medium between not dressing for others, but also repeat-wearing enough to dull the nerve in my psyche that was causing me to feel paranoid about this.
I settled on a seven-day rotation, and this in rainbow order, just because this kind of thing makes me happy. So: Sunday, red. Monday, orange (my rainbow dress did the trick.) Tuesday, yellow. Wednesday and Thursday were green, Friday blue, Saturday purple. (Thus the photo at the top of this article!)
I did this starting in June until this last weekend, the 22 of August.
This cognitive behavioral therapy, this aversion therapy that I was inflicting on myself would have an end date. It so happens that the end date for it that I rather randomly chose was Sunday, August 22, my eldest child’s sixth birthday.
The final “test” of my experiment would be telling: My family would be going to a big European theme park on August 23. Crowds have always been the worst place to be for my paranoia. Too much stimulus, too many eyes. I would go to a theme park, no make-up, one little black dress and my scalawag adventurer family.
The result (this is so stark and unbelievable that I can barely believe it myself): I did not have one single paranoid thought. Not one. I did not even hardly notice the other people at the park, except for the people who worked there, because, as I have said before, “you can take the girl outta the theme park, but you can’t take the theme park outta the girl.”
I wore no makeup. I wore a black dress and tennis shoes and a sunhat. I was indistinguishable from any number of thousands of people and this ZERO thoughts. Zero considerations. Zero worries.
This experiment, by the hard-working team at Proof, Pudding et al, in the laboratory of Jekyll & Hyde, proved that I am capable of making measurable progress on a deeply rooted and uncomfortable phenomenon like paranoia, in a carefully structured situation and with careful, thoughtful and modifiable rules.
There was little danger to the experiment, little risk. But the resulting freedom was worth the discomfort.
I will need to check-in on my progress, and be aware if the paranoia returns and under what circumstances it does. I seem to have found a solution for it, at least in the short-term, and I could not be more pleased.