Ponchos & Reader's Digest

Do you have certain things that trigger an emotional response? Things like a smell, or a sound or the look of something? I do, and the two that came across my mind recently were ponchos and Reader's Digest - not together though. These two are not required to be discussed together, in fact they have nothing to do with one another other than they remind me of times that I felt yucky. Yes, yucky. I didn't feel like opening the online Thesaurus to look for another word to use.

Let's start with the Reader's Digest. This stupid little magazine (sorry if I offended anyone) but all I think of when I see it at the doctor's office is ITBS. That isn't a disease or condition, it stands for Iowa Tests of Basic Skills. Remember when you were in school and you had to take those dreaded tests once a year? The test that basically tells you how smart or how dumb you are. You sit in a room with a sharp #2, fill in the ovals, and anxiously await the results of your ignorance.
I always scored pretty high, in the high 90s and some subjects even 99...except one...vocabulary. I don't know why, I just had a tough time choosing the definition of a word when it was listed with four or five other words that sounded like the same thing. The results would be mailed to my house and my mom would open them, waiting for her proof of bragging rights about her smart kid. I earned that title, but if I could only score higher in vocabulary...then I would really be brag-worthy.

My mom would buy me the monthly Reader's Digest magazine and give it to me to study because it had a vocabulary learning section in it. WHY did she think I wanted to read this? All it did was remind me of my shortcoming. I scored a 99 in reading and comprehension, 99 in Language, maybe a 98 in math but the one thing I couldn't do as well was the one thing I was reminded of. I still hate that magazine, 38 years later. I see it in the offices and I mumble under my breath..."vocabulary section - stupid book."

My other trigger (just for this story - I have others) is a poncho. The drape I threw over myself when I wanted to cover my body so that no one could see what was going on. I did not like my body, I thought it was ugly. Getting dressed in the morning was about the worst part of the whole day. I had to think about stepping each leg into pants that would feel tight and remind me all day about how much I hated my body. I had no one to blame, I did it to myself - the weight gain. Then I discovered the poncho! It fell loosely over my figure, not clinging to anything, and hiding any bulges or blubber that escaped the waistband. I could find some cute ones too because they were in fashion AGAIN. They were the greatest gift to yarn, I thought, and I would have one in every color to hide in.

Just a few years ago, my husband and I were shopping and he pulled a hanger off of a rack, held it up and said, "Hey honey, this would look cute on you." I glared back at him, shook my head no, and walked in the other direction. He, of course had no idea what he had done besides hold up a poncho.

Emotional triggers are everywhere, both positive and negative. Hearing a song that reminds me of cheerleading camp, or a smell that brings back a memory of my grandma's house are great ones! They can take you back, or push you forward. I now realize my mom was trying to help me get better at something, not dangle a weakness in my face. I have learned to love myself and be grateful for my body's good health. I understand how associating an object with an emotion can affect people and I am more mindful. When working with clients striving to better their bodies, I am a better listener, and am more aware of the messages that I deliver, both verbally and otherwise.

When something triggers an emotional response, be mindful of it, and try to understand where it is coming from. It can be a real moment of awakening when you connect the dots. For me, I learned something about myself and made a correction in my perceptions. I have even embraced the little magazine - picked it up in the waiting room of my doctor's office and browsed through the contents. I haven't worn a poncho though, but I blame that on the fashion industry. I did sport a batman cape at last year's Christmas party gift exchange, and that is about as close as I plan to get...for now.