Friday, February 15, 2013

Picky, Picky...Pick, Pick, Pick

Welcome to the 30 Days of Change Blog Carnival hosted by Living Peacefully With Children and Hybrid Rasta Mama. In celebration of the New Year and forgotten resolutions , we're sharing the results of our 30 day commitment to addressing one habit the we either needed to eliminate, reframe, or include in our life. We hope you are inspired and energized to make one positive change in your own habits.

One of the first things I told my son Dragon when he was born was that I hoped he realized what he'd gotten into when he picked me, because I pick, pick, pick.  He might never get used to me pick, pick, picking, but he was at least fairly warned.

I started biting my nails when I was really young--really too young to remember.  When I joined the Army my nails were too nasty to put in my mouth, so I started picking my cuticles.  I HATE hangnails.  My nails started growing, which made my picking a little (a LOT) easier.  So I started cutting them, and filing them, because if there were any rough edges, I'd find myself picking, biting, scraping, rubbing, anything to get a smooth edge.  I didn't enjoy having to take care of my nails.  Didn't I just used to keep them short by biting them as they'd grow?  Jeesh, this was getting complicated.  Somehow in my laziness in clipping and having longer nails I started picking the skin off my lips.  I don't even remember when that started.  I'd peel the skin right off until my lips bled.  Yum.  My daughter Rainbow is now biting her nails at the ripe old age of almost five, and I'm terrified.  I really want to help her find ways to release that energy in a positive and constructive way.  I want her to believe what I tell her about picking like I never believed my mother.  I want her to feel confident in herself to take care of herself, in her beauty, in her life...of course.

So...before I even heard about this blog carnival topic, before Rainbow really got a grasp on biting her nails right off of her fingertips, I had decided to stop picking.  For myself.  Because I wanted to.  Because it had been long enough.  Because I wanted to address the underlying emotions.  Because I deserved it, darnit.

What do I deserve?  I often say, "Everyone has their vice" even though I don't like using superlatives.  I used to enjoy a cigarette here and there, I tried to be an alcoholic when I got back from being deployed to Iraq, but failed miserably.  Vice.  What's a vice?  Let's break it down: calls it "a failing or imperfection in character, conduct".  Hmmm...I like to think of all of us as perfect in our where and now and what, so I don't like this.  I don't like self-deprecation, only occasionally in humor (haha!!), and using the word 'vice' to me now seems like self-deprecating talk.  I guess I'm thinking more 'bad habit' than 'vice', then. So "Everyone has their bad habit" sounds funny, but I wanted mine, clung to it, defended it, hid it, bent the truth about it.  I used to get mad at my partner because he still enjoys a cigarette and he really can get rip-roaring drunk-ito and not have a care in the world.  So when I get antsy, nervous-y, restless, I start picking.  When I think uncomfortable thoughts, I pick.  When I watch intense, suspenseful, and scary things, I pick.  There are other times, too.  But the point is, I wanted my escape.  To me picking was like someone having a smoke.  My partner would say, "Your lips!" or my mom would say, "Picking!" or whatever, and I would just get SO irritated!  I was NOT telling them not to pick, drink, smoke, whatever.  I just wanted to pick in peace.

I don't know what changed, but something did.  Maybe it was a post I read a while back, and I can't even remember who wrote it or what it was about, but there was a quick line thrown in about deserving to live in an organized space.  And I thought, "You know, I spend all this time on keeping the kids' stuff tidy, and my stuff is always last to get attention.  I know I ought to model it, but I can't do that if I can't even get it to the point that it's all put away in the first place!  And I DO deserve to live in a tidy place, as do my children."  After that, I started thinking of all the good things I deserve, that all people deserve.  I don't love this word 'deserve', but it's the best I have right now.  Because I'm human, because humans have a need for some level of tidiness or organization (this level does vary individual to individual), I deserved it in my life.  So I started massive cleaning, throwing away, putting things where they belong, finding a home for things, organizing...and then I realized that that same concept applies to my whole life.  And BINGO!, in November and December, it just sort of clicked that I deserved to have clean, healthy hands that aren't bleeding at the cuticles, and smooth, pretty lips that aren't bleeding and scabbed, and I deserve to know what's bothering me and I deserve to put the time into myself to figure out what is going on and change it.

Which brings me to the actual journey of my 30 Days of Change.  I asked friends to ask me, if they saw me picking, what I was feeling.  I didn't want them to punch me or tell me not to do it or remind me I was doing it, just say, "Hey, what are you feeling right now?" I did such a great job stopping that I haven't come to a situation where that has happened or could happen yet.  A couple of weeks into the journey I broke a nail, legitimately, pretty low.  I chewed it off, and then picked a little, and I intentionally chose to give myself grace, a bit of a break, a guilt-free sort of good-bye to this old habit.  I chewed, picked...and didn't really enjoy the picking  I'd come pretty quickly to enjoy the smoothness that not picking had allowed to develop on my fingers and lips.  Then I started picking my lips last week.  I'm not sure what kicked it off, but I watched an intense TV show that made it worse.  And the one rough bit led to me wanting to smooth it out, creating another rough bit, and again I gave myself grace.  But then I got angry, like I was just trying to justify a little bit of picking, and I could end up doing that for the rest of my life!  So I kicked my butt into gear and decided I could have grace and be gentle (with the actual picking) in so much as I didn't hurt myself (no pulling off skin, but rubbing over spots while thinking and processing was ok).  When I'm nervous and when I have rough spots, I pick--the rough spots are spots on my body, but I think figuratively I could say I get nervous in my rough spots.  So...when I feel the need, I lightly rub my lips and try to figure out my source of nervousness.  Interestingly, breastfeeding is a time I get nervous, and as soon as I remind myself that I am doing something, I calm down and lose the urge to destroy myself for being unproductive.

I don't expect to have completely kicked a 30+year old habit in one month, but I have bid it farewell, and if I chance upon meeting it again, I'll greet it and send it on its way, try to figure out what I'm nervous about (I tap, and this helps me focus a lot), and address that.  And maybe not picking and having open, honest, and loving conversations with Rainbow will help her kick it out of her life, as well.

Please take a moment to visit the blogs of our other 30 Days of Change Blog Carnival participants. The links in this list will be updated by the end of the day.
  • Finishing off 2012 depressed and negative, Survivor decided to start 2013 off with positive actions and attitudes. In her blog Surviving Mexico, watch as she discovers how to overcome the disasters and find the adventures in living again.
  • Mrs Green from Little Green Blog spent her month not just meditating, but prioritizing it in her life ...
  • In The LoCo Locavore Takes OVER, our family went completely local for 30 days... IN JANUARY. Read about how we fared on our local fare. Spoiler alert! We didn't starve. You can also find Wide Awake, Half Asleep on Facebook.
  • Mari from Honey on the Bum relates how she came to the conclusion that she should stop picking apart her body, and figuratively, her life, and briefly discusses some challenges on the way.
  • Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares how she made two changes; stepping outside of her "comfort food shopping zone" and starting a food storage program. You can also find Jennifer on Facebook.
  • Mercedes at Project Procrastinot demonstrates new sticktoitiveness when she joined the Ultimate Blog Challenge in January. You can also find Project Procrastinot on Facebook.
  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy can be overwhelming. Join with Shannon at GrowingSlower as she takes back control of her health during her second pregnancy, all while parenting a toddler!You can also find Growing Slower on Facebook.
  • At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy has been working on making time every day just to breathe and be.


  1. Incredible and congratulations to you for conquering your vice! It is NOT easy to make this sort of change. You are an inspiration. Now, maybe I can tackle my 36 years of hair twirling...

    1. Well, it's not entirely conquered, but it's more of a work in progress than it was when I was trying to defend having this habit in my life! I'm actually new to blogging and new to carnivals and my kids are getting over the chicken pox, so none of us have been sleeping well and I'm running on fumes at best. At four this afternoon I was far away from home and my computer (I don't have a smart phone) and realized I had only pressed "preview" and not "publish" for this blog entry, and I got really nervous. While picking at my cuticles, I realized I was really anxious about how the people running the carnival were going to react, I felt guilty for not putting more time into making sure I had pressed "publish", I felt defensive because I was tired, I felt discouraged, thinking I shouldn't do blog carnivals anymore, because publishing them before 6:00 am is hard for me. I went through a LOT of feelings, and chose to FEEL each feeling, and breathe through it all. I calmed myself down, stopped picking, kept feeling it, and made really conscious decisions about it all, deciding NOT to pick apart mySELF, deciding to not be so hard on myself, and this was actually a really positive experience for me overall, even though I've got hangnails now... :)

  2. You went a long way in discovering your picking was a calming habit and having isolated anxiousness as the root cause, finding other coping strategies is practically in the bag. Keep it up!