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Sporadic photos and notes from a Psyche-midwife, cheerleader, anthropologist--aka clinical social worker in therapy practice. Photos are usually mine except for those of historical events/famous people. Music relevant to the daily topic is often included in a web video embedded below the blog. Click on highlighted links in the copy to get to source or supplemental material. For contact information, see my website @ janasvoboda.com or click on the button to the right below. Join in the conversation.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Less Nosy Life: Further Notes on Anosmia

Mountian nose-gay.  I cannot confirm or deny its gaying effects, 

   Just finishing a tasteless fresh egg/sharp cheddar sandwich.  It's a little late for dinner, but I realized at bedtime I'd forgotten to eat it.  When nothing tastes like much, it's way easier to do.

I noticed today that I was doing a lot of acceptance talk in the office.  It's not really that unusual that what healers are addressing in their own lives creeps into their work.  Luckily we are talking universal themes here, so no harm done.  But I do want to pay attention when it happens.  That's part of the code of the field, to make sure we aren't just working out our own stuff instead of focusing on our clients'.  So I spent some intentional time thinking about how resistant I have been to this adventure in smell-less-ness.

Social worker and author Thom Rutledge sums it up nicely:  the mathematical formula for pain is the difference between our expectations and our performances.  If you substitute experiences/reality for performance, the equation is equally profound.  As teacher Byron Katie puts it, "When I resist reality, I suffer, but only 100% of the time."

The Buddhists refer to this discomfort of resisting experience as three poisons, aka causes of human suffering:  greed, anger, and ignorance.  When I want what I cannot have, rail against the God/gods because of it, and don't understand the nature of reality, I suffer.  Ruttledge, or was it  DBT theorist Marsha Linehan, or maybe Buddha (there is truly nothing new under the sun) said that pain is inevitable.  But suffering, which occurs out of resistance, is optional. 

Resistance equals grasping. When we try to hold on to what is not there, or attain what is unnatural, or maintain what is transient, we are grasping.  And it causes suffering.

But when we have a loss, it is human nature to grieve.  Whether it's a missed goal, a death, a function-- we are here in these human bodies with these human minds and egos, and it is natural and fitting to give notice and due to what has gone.  And then, sooner or later, we make a choice.  We can continue fretting about what isn't, or we can move forward with this present reality of what is.  When we start that--- when we move a little out of ignorance and anger and greed for what we want but can't or don't have-- we can start integrating an experience and seeing what is valuable and what merely must be tolerated/accepted.

I'd like to claim I do this at least occasionally with grace and dignity.  But truth be told, I often enter into unpleasant realities with kicking and moaning and resistance. 

Last night walking'  I passed a neighbor just as she was sniffing a rose she'd cut.  Immediately tears came into my eyes.  I was a little embarrassed when she met my gaze, but also able to be a compassionate witness to what was true for me in that moment.  I know that anosmia is not a big tragedy on big life terms, so I have gone back and forth about expressing it as an important loss.  But I feel it, and feelings-- well, they are what they are.

What's been sweet:  I've gotten some notes from folks who've read this blog, expressing understanding for what has felt true.  We need witnesses.  It helps to have somebody confirm our experience.  Here are some excepts:

."It feels insufficient to say I am sorry, but I am ..sorry that your olfactory life is on a hopefully brief hiatus.  I imagine your sense of smell is in a safe place, tucked away and protected for its eventual return to you."

"I'm sorry. This isn't whining or trivial in the least.  You talk and think about how things smell more than anyone I've every met.  You must feel a great sense of loss."

"Wow...I'm so sorry to hear about your olfactory tragedy.  I'm going to choose that it will come back."

OK, me too.  But if not, I hope to use it for some sort of growth.  I am currently focusing on increasing mindfulness and appreciation to textures and nutrient value of food rather than flavor.  I've long claimed big interest in the latter, but in a sort of martyr-y way unless it tasted fabulous.  I tolerated for the cause rather than appreciated things like raw radishes and kale.  But since not much tastes much at all, when it's healthy there's more sense of reward in eating it.  And some foods that were ho-hum to me (wheat berries!) have become much more interesting to my newly 2-D palate based solely on texture.

Other perks:  I no longer cringe when someone wears perfume/fragrant cosmetics or cleansing products.  Remember, I was a super-smeller, so what was appealing to others was very infringing to me.  I can concentrate a little better in restaurants and outdoors, because one source of constant stimulation is now quiet.  I am hoping this will take my pinball-like mind down a notch of activity.

Speaking of pinball, I decided to celebrate a deliberate move to more light-heartedness with an evening of same at our local Life-Long Learning Establishment, Squirrels.  I found two willing companions who agreed to let me beat the pants off them (ok, at least the first several games, and yes, J & L, I am still being cheeky about that).  When I was a kid visiting my aunt in Pawnee Rock KS (population 300-odd, depending on if there was something interesting happening down the road), she'd give me rolls of nickles to keep me out of her hair while she ran the county's sole tavern/restaurant.  It would be pitiful to say those were glory years, but I was indeed a wizard for a while.  Being much too schooled in the psychological I am well aware my desire to go beat up a machine was a regressive move to a simpler time, but it's less ridiculous and permanent than getting something extra pierced at my age.  With full acceptance entering my intent, I had a ridiculously delightful time, and my heart lost about 6 pounds of pouty puffiness in the process.

Here's to more fun, and since it's at least the current reality, less smells.  I'm going to stop railing a against it (poisonous anger) and get into it a while (decreasing ignorance and letting go of graspy greed) and just be a curious observer for what's new in this different world I've plunked down into.

Today's assignment:  when life gives you lemons, build a dopamine model using licorice sticks for bonds, and call it Good Art.  Or at least have a blast in the process.

I think I'll stick with the sensory deal for a while.  Coming up-- SUPERTASTERS EXPOSED:  Excellent Artists and Poets, Annoying Dinner Companions ---Especially if you're cooking..

Ill be smelling you in all the old familiar places (or at least imaging)...

Song of the day, a paean to times gone by (with buried reference as to why I'm not quite on my game).

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