Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Like Haunting Something I Used To Know

I'm not at peace yet with "New Normal."
This morning, my daughter and I have appointments over at my husband's dentist office, and I'm dreading it.  Not because of all of that stuff about going to the dentist.  We're just going for cleanings and check-ups.  

It's because I haven't stepped foot in the building since before the Shutdown, at all.  I was always used to striding in as though I own the place, flittering around the waiting room if I wanted to, wandering in to my husband's office to update my phone and computer, and socialize with anybody I wanted to while there.  And my daughter was even more of a butterfly over at that place, seeing if she could befriend anyone after her appointments were over.

Now, we will not be striding in as though we own the place.  We have to sit in our Jeep and call to check in with the front desk.  Someone will come out and take our temperature and ask us a bunch of COVID related questions.  If we pass muster, we get escorted inside.  

And from there, we're taken right to our chairs in the hygiene department, and we have to stay in them until we're escorted from the building.  There will be no bee-bopping around for my social butterfly daughter.  We live in an endless game of "You've Got Cooties!" and we have to avoid, avoid, distance, and avoid, and since we have a particularly vested interest in this game, because it means our safety and the safety of our employees, and the livelihoods of us all, we have to do our part, whether we like it or not, whether we think it's the thing to do or a whole bunch of bullshit.

I hate this New Normal.  I didn't think of myself as a People Person in the days before Pandemic Purgatory, but I guess I really, really was.  I smiled at my fellow shoppers.  I'd strike up conversations with the people who were waiting in the same lines as me at restaurants.  All the little social interactions added up, and now that we're all behind masks and acting afraid of each other- even making eye-contact, I think, it all makes me want to come out of my house less.  Which I think is the very thing "they're" angling for us all to do, to be honest.  (Where's my tinfoil hat?!)

It isn't just the dentist's office that has me bothered.  I'm just particularly bothered by that one because I've been used to interacting with that place a certain way- as an extension of my home - for the last fifteen years.  I'm not the dentist, but that office is mine, too.  And when I've visited places I used to know before Quarantine that I have less of an attachment to, I've been extremely unsettled by the social distancing measures.  I think today is going to be a very hard day, going to something as quotidian and timeworn as a cleaning appointment at our very own dentist's office.

I don't know about you, Friends, but since we went Green (and it feels more like a lemongrass green.  Maybe a pea green, not a True Green), I feel like a ghost caught in a machine I used to know.  I'm half-unseen, unheard most of the time, but here I stand, bewildered at what the world is right now.  And I honestly don't want to get used to "New Normal" if this is "New Normal."  I'm hoping it's more of a "New Normal for Now," getting us through this moment in time and we can get a handle on this virus and how to deal with it, and this will all become just a story we tell here in a little bit.  

Monday, June 29, 2020

One Rainy Saturday Morning

Rainy Days and Mondays...don't really get me down at all, actually.
Saturday morning, when I got up at five, the sky was a dark and murky cobalt blue instead of the shimmery powder blue-teal-orange-pink of the sunrises I've been accustomed to being distracted by so early in the morning.  

It was raining.

It's been a while since I've woken up to a rainy morning.  And I can't remember when it was so dark when I woke up.  I could have almost mistaken Saturday morning for a wintry dark morning if it weren't for the sound of birds chirping in the rain.  Birds sound a little different in the rain.  There's kind of an echo effect to their song.  

It was kind of a refreshing change of pace, to be honest.  We've had so many sunny mornings for so long, I've forgotten when the last time we had a rainy early morning.

Back when we were in the thick of Quarantine, I remember musing on this very blog that I missed Mondays the Way They Used to Be.  In a Sea of Saturdays, a little Monday morning every few days was like a bracing lemon sorbet after a days-long gorge on hot fudge sundaes.  

Rainy Saturday morning was like the same thing, after days and days of stretching sun.  It felt like everything outside and in the air was getting cleaned off, watered, refreshed.

This spring changed everything.  Like the song says, rainy days and Mondays used to bring me down.  Now they're a welcome restart.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Too Too Much INTENSITY!!!!

Sometimes, I'm just a little too intense for my own good.
So I realized something a few days ago, and hold onto your pocket protectors, Pals, because I'm about to get real geeky on ya.  If my husband and I were defined by our similarities to species in the Star Trek universe, he would be a Vulcan (like Spock), and I would be a Klingon (L'Rell is the only one that quickly comes to mind in full Klingon Woman glory).

In case you aren't familiar with this particular dynamic, Vulcans like Spock achieve mastery over their emotions so that they really don't display emotions.  Klingons, the guys with the ridged foreheads and long black hair and angry demeanor are intense.  Like on a scale of one to ten, they're a fifteen.  Even when they're not angry, they look and SOUND angry.  

I've always wished I could be more Vulcan and less Klingon.  

Well, because I understand where the Klingons are coming from.  People think they're angry even when they're not, and they react in kind.  So, a Klingon could say, in their big, booming, enhanced indoor voices, "IT'S A BEAUTIFUL DAY OUTSIDE!" and the human nearby would not hear the words, but rather the manner in which they were conveyed and perhaps would tell the Klingon to calm the frak down.  (Look at that, I threw in Battlestar Galactica, too!)

And guess what effect telling someone to calm the frak down has!  IT DOESN'T MAKE THEM CALM THE FRAK DOWN AT ALL, DOES IT?!  No!  It does not!  In fact, it probably lights a fire in them.  And after a few minutes of this type of exchange, even though the Klingon wasn't angry before, now it is Game.  On.  The Birds of Prey would be scrambled and the scimitars would be drawn.  And then it's an arms race between the Federation and the Klingons, because the Klingons are so angry and they love war.  And maybe they do.  

But as someone who skews more toward the Klingon temperament than human or definitely Vulcan, I wonder if the Klingons didn't start out not being such a war and killing enthusiasts.  Maybe they were just intense, and after thousands of star-years of their intensity being read as HOSTILE!!! they just got sick of it and said "okay, FINE, we're HOSTILE!!!" and it was off to the arms races.

I think that's how I got to where I am today.  Growing up, I could go from being excited or agitated about something else to having a full-on tantrum in moments.  It would start by me having a bad day at school, or being upset because I got a bad grade (for those keeping track at home, this was anything below a 92) or falling out with a friend, and coming home and telling about it.  I'm not really big on using a well-modulated voice when emotional as an adult, let alone when I was a kid.  So the message of what I was saying would get lost in the manner in which it was delivered (pertineer yelling), and I'd get called out for being sassy or angry or basically intense, and a tantrum would ensue, and I'd get the fly-swatter (I grew up in the 80s- we all had our asses whooped by fly swatters, belts, and willow switches), get sent to my room, and would enjoy an earlier bedtime for the next week or two.  

As an aside, I got sent to bed early so much as a kid that by the time I was in high school, I'd just take myself to bed by 9PM on school nights and most weekends.  Whatever.

Since I was little more than a kid when I met my husband, and he was only two and a half years ahead of me on the way out of being a kid, he definitely saw this dynamic I had going on at home.  I'd be intense, the intense tone of my voice would shout out the message of what I was trying to communicate to the point that an argument over my demeanor would ensue, the message would be lost, and I'd be punished and sent off to lick my wounds in the quiet of my own room without anything about my original message being addressed.  

If you think that dynamic didn't carry over to our relationship and our home, even after we both were adults, you'd be wrong.  Except I don't get the flyswatter or that kind of thing when my Klingon-esque ass is "intense" around my Vulcan, Spock-like husband.  Hell no.  If he ever would have tried to pull that shit on me, I would have ended up kicking him through an othertruckin' wall.  I'm little but Rage makes me stronger, as the cool kids say.

No.  What happens instead is that he hears the intensity in my voice rather than the message of my words, and he shuts the efffffff down.  Which naturally incites and inflames me.  Our therapist says this is stonewalling, and that he's really, really good at it.  I think he comes from a long line of champion stonewallers.  

So roll my original emotion from whatever got me in an intense state to begin with into the anger and inflammation kicked up by the stonewalling, and I look like Donald Duck when he gets good and mad, while the husband sits there, cool and composed in his chair, dismissively uttering "Go ahead.  Keep it up," and just stonewalling the fluck out of the situation until I reach critical mass exasperation and storm out, slamming every door I walk past.  

And now I'm mad, and he's mad- I guess, because I was yelling at him.  And still, I never did get to be heard around whatever it was that stirred up the intense emotions in me to begin with.

Figure in 20 years of this same pattern, and I've gotten, rightly or wrongly, so that I really don't expect anybody to hear me when something sets off a strong emotion.  Because after all, I'm too sensitive.  I let things get to me too easy.  The message of my words gets drowned out by the tone of my voice, so I just ruminate on the issues myself.  And pardon the Anglo-Saxon derivative here, but this is a fucking lonely way to live.  It makes a broad feel utterly unheard and totally unsupported.  

Also, without a sounding board, the same issues swirl around in my head for YEARS, which frustrates the husband.  "We've already talked about this hundreds of times!" he'll exasperatedly say, throwing up his hands and ending the conversation.  "Unless you have anything new to tell me, I've heard it all!  Enough!"

Yeah, well... he heard, but he never listened.  He never offered insight.  He'd get hung up on my manner instead of listening to my message.  I was the aggressor and the problem, and all he was trying to do is live a peaceful life.  

I've been working with a therapist for months now, and the thing I have consistently begged for is a way to be less intense, less quick to anger, less quick to let my voice raise. My fondest dream in the world is to be calm, cool, collected, not at all intense, able to just shut down any emotion.  Aloof like a Vulcan.  I feel like if I were more peaceful and serene, the way I interact with my husband and my family would be more peaceful and serene, instead of me feeling like I was mailed to the wrong address and have kept winding up at wrong addresses my whole life. 

Since anger is really a secondary emotion, I can't help but wonder if all along the Klingons have been misunderstood and lonely, and sad because they're misunderstood and lonely.  And maybe they kind of hate themselves because none of the other people in the universe really get them.  They all just want to make the Klingons the common enemy to work together fighting.  And the lonely and misunderstood and sorrow combine with their general propensity toward INTENSITY!!!! and it just comes off as angry.

If that's the Klingon experience, then I guess I get it, 100%.  And I'm wondering how I can master myself into being composed like a Vulcan, or maybe if I'd be better served saying screw it all and developing a taste for blood wine for when the Klingon Mothership swings by to take me home with them.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Critter Brain and Sweet, Sweet Self-Sabotage

This is what it looks like when Critter Brain is runnin' the show!
Friends, I do this thing where I do really well working out and eating, and I see a little victory on the scale or in the way my clothes fit, and guess what I do- 

If you guessed I reward myself by holing up in a closet with a giant tub of Nutella and a giant spoon, you, sirs and madams, would be correct!

Or if it isn't Nutella, it's like 4 bags of Peanut M&Ms.  Halloween candy.  Chocolate chips I bought to make something out of.  Marshmallow Fluff I bought in a moment of weakness.  Freakin' brown sugar straight from the bag.

Is this behavior really in line with the goals I work so hard to achieve?  No.  Is this normal?  Yes.

Yes, it is.  This is a thing humans do.

It's definitely self-sabotage, and while we think we sabotage ourselves because we lack willpower, that is not what's happening here at all.  Without getting too technical on you, we have three parts to our brain that work together to make us who we are.  One part of the brain is the part that loves to learn and grow and think higher-order thoughts.  This is called the Cortex, in case you'd like to give this a Goog one of these days.  Then there's the Limbic System, that supports emotion and behavior, among other things.  

But it's the third part of the brain that's driving here.  The brain-stem, the most primitive part of our brains.  This part of the brain is affectionately known as "Critter Brain."  Isn't that adorbs?

Well, ol' Critter Brain is all about keeping us safe.  And safe means status quo, even if status quo doesn't make us happy or let us grow.  And Critter Brain pops up after you've made some changes to make yourself better, and it looks like they're really going to pay off.  When you're sailing along toward success, coo-coo-katchoo, who shows up but good ol' Critter Brain, ready to do whatever it takes to keep you right where you are, or right back to where you started.

And it does this by making you do things that sabotage your efforts to be better.  For me, it's overindulging on all the sugar.  All of it.  Apparently my Critter Brain is afraid we'll die if I can wear jeans that are a single-digit size again.  

Critter Brain doesn't just like to keep us safe from weight-loss success.  Critter Brain also doesn't cotton much to us bettering ourselves professionally or in other personal development-type ways.  Procrastinate much?  No follow-through on ideas or opportunities?  That's Critter Brain.  

So to calm that guy down, you have to acknowledge it.  Remember Critter Brain's trying to keep you safe, even if "Safe" sucks.  So you say "Thank you, CB for keeping us safe this far.  Let me take this one and show you it's all gonna be okay."  It takes practice.  You've got to go gradually to get Critter Brain to stand down.  But when you approach your Critter Brain with compassion, empathy, and kindness, it relaxes, and you can sidestep the roadblocks to success that it keeps throwing down to keep you safe.  It helps keep Critter Brain on its leash.

And don't beat yourself up if you tussle with Critter Brain and Critter Brain wins every so often.  You wouldn't be the first person in the world to ever hole up in a closet with a big tub of sugary fatness and a giant spatula....

Friday, June 26, 2020

You Can Knock-Knock Me Over...

...I...will...get...back up AGAIN!!!
One of my favorite kid-movies of recent is Trolls.  It's about a buoyant pink troll princess named Poppy who's trying to save her friends and family from a trollier species called Bergins.  The Bergins eat trolls because they think it makes them happy.  

Poppy has a can-do attitude and kind of goes headlong into her quest with more of a wishlist instead of a plan.  She sings this song about not giving up today, while all sorts of calamities befall her.  

You can knock-knock me over, 
knock-knock me over...
...But...
I... will... get... back up AGAIN!

  When I first heard that song, it was like the mothership calling me home and playing my own personal anthem on the mothership eight-track player.  I've always imagined motherships with eight-track players and those groovy, crazy Seventies pinstriping and paint-jobs.  And that song seemed like the song that's been in my soul all this time, and I just didn't know enough to let it out.  

I've taken a bit of a detour these last few months.  There have been times I have been very close to giving in to the despair.  Like when the spider bites Poppy and wraps her up in the spider-web and it looks like it's lights out for our plucky heroine.  But.  I have got back up again.  

Next time it happens, and there will be a next time, I WILL get back up again.  

The thing of it is, without this gnarly Bergin of a year that 2019 and 2020 have been, I wouldn't have been moved to come out of my safe little troll-cave and head off on this new quest.  I'm not trying to save my people so much.  I mean my people aren't in imminent danger of being eaten by big, fugly Bergins. 

I do worry about what the fallout from Everything That's Happened So Far is going to do to us all, though, Friends.  So there's that.  And while I'm no pink Troll Princess named Poppy, I did notice striking similarities between me and her- a penchant for scrapbooking, a way with words, aggressive positivity.  

And when everything looked like it was going unimaginably wrong, it hit her hard, and she drained of all her color and fire and glitter.  Just like I did. 

And Branch and her friends loved her back to herself.  Just like mine have.  (thank you)  She was re-energized and had renewed focus for taking on her quest, befriending the enemy and changing even their lives for the better.

But we've all kind of been through it this year, haven't we?  And we're all still standing.  So this thing about how you can knock-knock me over, but I will get back up again isn't unique to me.  YOU'RE getting up again from being knock-knocked over, too!

This Bergin of a year can knock-knock us over, Friends, but 

WE WILL GET BACK UP AGAIN!!!  Yes we will!

Thursday, June 25, 2020

April Blake, Big Fat Fake!

I feel as qualified to do the things I do as this lawn dart is to be a microphone... or a lawn dart!
There's this thing called Impostor Syndrome, and it makes a person doubt their qualifications and accomplishments and feel like they're going to be exposed as a fraud.  

In my head, my whole name should be "April Blake, Big Fat Fake!"  

Well, it's because I'm certain that I'm not good enough, smart enough, or gosh darn it, qualified enough to do any of the things I do.  Writing, being a mom, driving probably, definitely school board member, friend, cook-at-home-type person, life coaching, editing, bookkeeper, public speaker...

Everything I do, I feel like I'm wildly unqualified and just messing it all up. 

In fact, if there's one thing I feel patently qualified for, it's being the poster girl for Impostor Syndrome.  

The thing is, we all have Impostor Syndrome from time to time.  Even when it comes to things we were trained for, and we kind of know we're good at.  Because this is just how human nature is.  We have access to our own outtakes and blooper reels and self-doubt, while only getting to see everyone else's highlights.  

There's a time all of us SHOULD feel like impostors.  I mean, I totally deserve to feel like an impostor if I were trying to be a dentist.  I didn't go to school for that!  I don't have a license!  Also, I have been invited not to come to work anymore at the dentist's office like three... four times!  Patently unqualified for that line of work, I am.  That's not me being mean to me.  That is the truth.

It's hard to shake the feeling that you're a fake, though, isn't it?

The important thing to remember, all of us, when we're feeling like frauds and big fat fakes, is to remember that just because you're having feelings doesn't mean they're facts.  You FEEL like a fraud.  Unless you're trying to do a job that has actual, concrete qualifications that you have to have and YOU DON'T have them, the feelings you're feeling are just that.  Feelings.  And they'll pass.

You've got this!  I, too, probably got this!

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Hurt

I will let you down... I will make you hurt.
I had a free-association writing assignment last week for therapy, in which I needed to write stream-of-conscious around something we’re working on, and see what comes up.  There's been something I relive over and over again, on a continuous loop, and we're trying to break the loop.
  
I’m not sure I really nailed the assignment.  S-O-C was never a favorite writing exercise of mine.  It’s too messy.

But the thing that kept coming up is that I kept hearing “Hurt” in my head as I wrote.  Nine Inch Nails did the original, and Johnny Cash covered it.  Both versions are fantastic, and if you’re not familiar with the song, give it a listen.  

There are particular lines in that song that have been on repeat in my head for decades.  The first time I heard the song, it stopped me in my tracks and brought up discomfort I wasn’t quite okay sitting with yet:  

You can have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt...
If I could start again
A million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way

I let a friend down once, or more accurately, a lot of onces over a length of time.  And I lost a friend.  I can’t get them back or apologize for being such a cowardly and ignorant shit-bird garbage-person when they needed me most. There is no making amends for this.

This changed the way I am friends with people.  I am always on guard.  I'm always looking and listening for some indication that something's Wrong.  I cannot let myself miss a warning sign or a red flag, so when I’m around people, friends, I’m always at least a Threat Level Orange on their behalf.  If something’s really wrong and they’re thinking thoughts, I’ve got to catch it.  Try not to let them down.

The closer the friend, the higher the alert I'm on around them.

It reads as clingy, I think.  Neurotic.  I check more often than I should, probably, if someone's okay.  I really try to let people know how much they matter to me.  I am so afraid of letting my friends down, making them hurt, that I get to be Too Much Friend, I think, and there were a lot of years I put myself in kind of a dome and just kept everyone at a bit more of a distance.  If I'm not a close friend, my way of thinking went, and goes a little, I won't smother you with friendsiness, and also, maybe I won't let you down. 

It isn’t really a good way to live.  I don’t think it’s fair for anyone.  Intellectually, I know that I won't be able to change what happened in the past by smothering innocent people in the present with my neurotic friendship.  And probably if I were on the flipside of being friends with me, I'd take like six huge steps back.  

This is where it's coming from, though. I'm really working on this.  It's hard work, and there are days I just burst into tears from overwhelm, from embarrassment.  Something will trigger me, and I can't shake the feeling that I missed a sign, and something terrible happened to someone I love.  And I will wish I could be just maybe a little more normal, a lot more aloof, back under that kind of dome that kept everyone at a bit more of a distance.

Because I feel like if you're my friend, if you depend on me for anything, I will let you down.  I will make you hurt. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

A Reason, A Season, or A Lifetime?

It is a privilege knowing you, whether it be for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.  
Back in college, one of the very first emails I got was from a high school friend who was attending a different university than I was.  It was a forward, in a time when forwarded email messages were like the memes we share on Facebook today.  Something would resonate, and we'd hit "Forward."

Man, those days seem like fodder for weeks of posts.  The nostalgia is hitting hard lately, knowing that it has been two decades since I GRADUATED from college.  Wow!

But back to this forwarded message.  It was about friendship, and how people come into our lives: A Reason, A Season, or A Lifetime.

People who are brought to us for a Reason don't stay long.  They are brought to us to serve a purpose.  You share a common thread that lasts a little while, and then it ends.  One or the other of us is going through something intense, maybe, and the other is there to help or teach us.  Or you're meant to work on a project or a job together, and when that project or job ends, you both move on, and become people you each used to know.  

The people who are in our lives for a Season are around a little longer.  Like high school or college friends.  The friends you have when you're all newly married and living in a certain place.  The friends you make at the park when your kids are little, or the parents of your kids' friends.  Fellow PTA moms and dads.  You're in the same season of life.  There's lots of common ground, and it's convenient to get together, because you're always showing up at the same places.  And then people get divorced or move away.  The kids grow up.  You graduate from school.  The season changes, and you grow apart.

And then there are the people who are your Lifetime friends.  Lifetime friends can come into your life at any time.  They might start out as Reasons or Seasons and they stick.  They're your Tribe.  They become like family.  You can go days, months, or years without talking and next time you see each other, it is as though no time has passed, and you pick your conversation right up where you left off.  Or, you make the effort to see your Lifetime friends regularly.  They're the ones you call when everything's gone wrong.  They know you at your best and your worst and can tell you so.  These people are ride-or-die, and you treasure each other.

I took this email to heart as much as a seventeen year-old can, who believed that every friend from high school was going to be a Lifetime friend.  I think the message was an oversimplification of how it really works, but I think the bones are good.  People leave your life, but they can come back in unexpected ways, at unexpected times.  

On myself, I've been working hard on making peace with being left behind in some people's lives because I was just there for a reason.  I've been trying to come to terms that we live many different seasons simultaneously, yet they begin and end at different times, sometimes unexpectedly.  And I've really been trying to reflect on and appreciate my Lifetime Friends-who they are, how we got to be Lifetime Friends; and I've been trying to control the burning in my lungs that I feel when I think of losing any of them.  

Also, I think I've really been taking stock of whether or not I'm worthy to be a Lifetime Friend.  Does anybody ever get that lung-burning panic at the thought of losing me from their life the way I do when I think of growing apart from my Lifetime Friends?  I even have a hard time moving on from most people for whom I've been a Reason or a Season, to be honest.  I have a big heart and I love hard and I get a little heartbroken when people float out of my life.  I always wonder if I've done something wrong.  

I wonder sometimes what I bring to the Table of Friendship.  Because sometimes it seems like people have an easy time letting me go.  Maybe that's just me, hurting my own feelings.  It probably is.  But in case I was ever a shit-bag human being and a friendship ended because of it, I try to reconstruct and post-mortem the hell out of that friendship.  

I think this is coming from a feeling of standing at the point where a whole bunch of tectonic plates of seasons converge in my life.  Fortyish seems to be a place in everybody's life where seasons and the ground shift.  Things fall away and new drops in.  It's change.  And change makes me a little jittery.  

When things change, there's always a moment of reckoning.

So here I am, Friends.  We don't know what Tomorrow brings.  But know this:

Whether for you I am a Reason, a Season, or a Lifetime, it is an honor and a privilege to be in your life and walk this little stretch of the Journey with you, and I will hold you in my heart forever.

Monday, June 22, 2020

This Is Not A Zero-Sum Game

Just because you're being lifted up doesn't mean I have to feel put down!
I used to have this friend who would get all cagey when someone else was having an exceptionally good day.  She absolutely hated to see someone having a better day than she was having.  

She firmly believed that if someone was having a good day, it meant she had to have a bad one.  If someone near her got a compliment, it meant she was being put down.

For her, life is a zero-sum game.  If one person wins, someone else, HAS to lose.  

I bet you don't have to imagine how uncomfortable things could be when it was just the two of us, sitting at a table having lunch. 

I think that being in a zero-sum mindset comes from a place of scarcity, and people who think that Life Itself is a zero-sum game have experienced a lot of things that validate that mindset for them.  Maybe for them, someone really has to lose, in order for them to win.  

But it doesn't have to be that way.   

The thing is, while there are plenty of zero-sum games in this life, Life Itself is not one of them.  There's enough Good to go around for everyone.  We aren't even all playing the same minigames Life has to offer.  So why can't we all win?  

Eventually, with this friend I used to have, the tension got to be exhausting.  We had a very high school-esque falling out and I haven't talked to her in years.  They say you become like the people you surround yourself with, and in this case, all her good qualities were outweighed by the jealousy.  Not just of me, but of everyone having a better day than she was having, or of anyone who got compliments, because she read a compliment for someone else as a dig at her.  Anyone who was having a better experience being them than she was having, being her. She wouldn't accept that we could both have good days, and I wasn't willing to mope around so she'd be happy.  Life is too short.

Don't compare your life or your experience to others if it makes you all strung-out, Friends.  Comparison is the thief of joy.  If you let it consume you, so is competition, when you're competing against someone's whole life and circumstances.  

Anyway, I hope we all have a good day today.  It's Monday.  A fresh start to the week.  At least every day isn't still feeling like Saturday.  That IS a win for all of us.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Collect Words Like They're Money

Words are like currency, for Charlotte the spider and April the writer.
Although the book and all subsequent movies about Charlotte's Web make me cry, there's one thing about all of it that has always inspired me.  Maybe a couple things.  

First, Charlotte was a devoted friend to Wilbur.  And at the end of my life, I hope that at least for someone, I am remembered as being as devoted a friend to them as Charlotte was to Wilbur.

And then, there's the way that Charlotte would send Templeton out looking for words.  She collected those words like they were dollar bills.  That's what I've always done.  

I laugh when friends tell me "You know too many words!"  I agree, although I don't think it's "too many."  

The same way having a wealth of dollars gives you more options than when you don't have a wealth of dollars, having a wealth of words to know and share gives you more options than when you have a limited vocabulary.  

Do I sometimes forget myself and throw down a five-dollar word to someone who doesn't have a word-wallet as fat as mine?  All the time.  All the time!  And then hopefully they're comfortable enough with me to say "what's that word mean?" and then they'll have a five-dollar word for their word-wallet, too!  Or, if they're not that comfortable around me, I always hope that if I do toss out a word they don't know, that they'll ask Siri later on.  Either way, they get to learn a new five-dollar word and I get to keep my knowledge of it.

That's the really cool thing about words as currency.  I can share my big words and still have them, and the person I share the big words with gets to have them.  So instead of spending a word and having it leave my word-wallet and go into someone else's, we're doubling the word money!

So the way I built up my outsized vocabulary over the years- and we're talking decades at this point, is that every time I'd learn a new word, I'd collect it like it was money.  I still do this.  Sometimes I make flashcards of new words, so there's a literal physical thing I can refer to.  I also use the word a lot.  Practice makes a new word part of you.  It's practical experience.  

Sometimes, I do get made fun of for having a big vocabulary.  I get weird looks, using big words.  It's okay.  I used to be self-conscious about this, too.  It hurt to be called a nerd and a bookworm.  I didn't want to be the nerdy girl or the bookworm girl.  I wanted to be the pretty girl, the cool girl, the girl people wanted to be around.  And then somewhere along the way, I realized that I wasn't going to be everybody's flavor, no matter what I did, and knowing and using big words (as well as big ideas, big statements, big love) that's who I am.  And the people who are okay with all that are my tribe and we'll find each other.  

And I will use my big words and write my love for them in spiderwebs, and droplets of morning dew, and I will write it in the very stars themselves.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Reframing "Perfect"

The sunrise isn't quite as interesting in a perfect morning sky.
The other morning, I noticed that the sky was on fire with the colors of the sunrise, and I ran outside to get a snap.  This happened a lot earlier this spring.  The sky was good and dramatic.  And then, at least from my vantage point at 5AM, recently the sky has been more toned-down.  There's still the gradient from blue to turquoise to pink to orange to gold, but it isn't quite as arresting to look at.

Those clouds make all the difference in a sunrise.

Well, usually, we talk about the cloudless sky being a perfect blue sky.  There's even a saying in aviation, a kind of well-wishing sign-off, "Blue Skies and Tailwinds."  Perfect Blue is kind of the goal, the thing we hope for.

But Perfect isn't all that interesting.  Let's back up to the sunrise.  In this picture, you can see the underlying gold in the sky, and you can see the powdery blue peeking through the gray.  But look at those clouds and their unfiltered salmon rosiness.  The perfect blue sky doesn't light up with unfiltered salmon-colored rosiness.  

We see clouds as imperfections, but Nature uses clouds as a screen to broadcast the light and all that is most beautiful.  

The imperfections and flaws in a cloudy sky at sunrise or sunset are what makes each one unique and indescribably beautiful.  

It makes a kid wonder if it's possible that the things we see as flaws in ourselves are really just screens for Nature to shine a light on and turn into something uniquely us, and indescribably beautiful.

Friday, June 19, 2020

A Different Kind of Purgatory

Peonies in Purgatory
So it's been a few weeks since my part of Pennsylvania went Green, and I've got to say, it feels like going to an amusement park that you used to visit when you were a kid, and you remember it as being really, really fun, but now there's a little grass starting to poke up through the pavement, and the paint is chipping on the fanciful mid-century fiberglass decorations, and the mascots' costumes are grubby and threadbare, and half the rides are broken down.  And the gift-shop has the feel more of a museum than a place where you choose and pay for souvenirs.

It's familiar, and yet, you kind of wish you hadn't even come at all, because it ain't the same, and you're left feeling some type of way about it.

That's how Green feels, or as I can't stop myself from thinking of it: Post-Pandemic-Purgatory Purgatory.  A different kind of Purgatory.  A Purgatory that's maybe a little bit harder on the soul than Pandemic Purgatory was.

Here we are, almost two-thirds of the way through June now, and it just doesn't feel like summertime.  The temperatures have caught up, finally.  There's a win.  The weather has been quite decent.  But there isn't a whole lot to do.  The aforementioned amusement parks, when they open, will be quite a different experience.  We're still doing the mask thing, and I'm not going to lie.  A trip to Sams Club a couple warm weekends ago proved oppressive with a mask on.  I hoof it around a store, and it was a little bit warm in the store, as well as outside, and I did feel for people who have been saying all along that they can't breathe in masks.  It takes getting used to, and I could do it easily working in the air conditioning at the dentist's office, sitting chairside handing instruments to the doctor.  Pushing a loaded cart around a warehouse store whilst wearing a mask does add a new dimension of misery to the whole process.  

And speaking of masks, there's this whole politic that has oozed in surrounding masks.  You get your people who give you the meanest stink-eye if they're wearing a mask and you're not.  Then you have your people who refuse to wear masks anywhere, under any conditions who look at you like you're a stupid sheeple for wearing a mask.  There's still another set of people who technically wear a mask, but it's just pulled up over their mouth, leaving their nose exposed and THIS DOESN'T DO ANY GOOD AT ALL!!!

We've been to our first sit-down restaurant experience since we went Green.  I was both thankful for being able to sit down in a restaurant and eat, but I was also just put off by the whole thing where you couldn't sit on the benches outside to wait for your table.  They're running at half-capacity, distancing diners.  The servers wear masks.  Disposable menus.  Everybody was going out of their way to make it feel less weird.  Other diners (those who are Of A Certain Age and are the same ones who'll give you stinkeye for not wearing a mask) were giving the servers and hosts and anyone who'd listen hassle about all of it- not being able to sit on the benches outside to wait to be escorted into the restaurant, and then that the menu's limited right now.  And then it took too long for their food to reach them. 

Meanwhile, the restaurant staff had an air about them that they hate all of this too, and that it's total bullshit, but they're just doing what they have to do to be allowed to be open, and isn't it a victory to even be open right now, even if it isn't quite as convenient or fun?  And restaurant brothers and sisters, I can't speak for all of healthcare, but your dental compatriots feel your frustration, too.  

This is Post-Pandemic-Purgatory Purgatory.  We want to be out and about, we want everybody else to protect us, but we want to bitch-bitch-bitch about it if those measures affect us in any way, shape, or form.  

And while Summer hasn't been cancelled, per se, all the things we might look forward to about summer have been.  County fairs, rallies, festivals, fireworks (although every dog everywhere gave a big awoooo! in celebration of that one!), conventions, shows...  Amusement parks are going to be all weird this year.  Malls might open, but it looks like all the stores inside them could have fallen victim to COVID.  

When we've been out and about, trying to piece our lives back together after All of This, I feel shabby for being so ungrateful.  But it doesn't feel at all like summertime.  There is no air of celebration in the air. I can't even scrape together enough heart to look forward to Fall with a bit of anticipation.  We got my daughter's Third Grade Backpack from Justice (the dot-com - I had a coupon!) as we usually do this time of year.  To be prepared.  But I don't feel that little spark of elation at the thought of a Brand New School Year.  I had that last year, and it bit us.  School shut down early.  I just keep wondering when the second shoe falls.  Just when we get good and settled into a schoolyear routine, and get all happy about being back, and feeling like we really have our stuff together?  Like around Halloween, say?  Another two-or-three or more-week shutdown?

This is Post-Pandemic-Purgatory Purgatory.  

And I have to ask myself: What did we learn, any of us, from the Springtime Shutdown?  Was there anything?  I have all kinds of thoughts on that one.  And I don't think I'd oughtta give them voice right now.  It's too soon.  But I will say that if you're thinking about reading or re-reading 1984 right now, either do, because you will recognize a lot in there right now, and it will add another layer of urgency and menace to an already menacing book.  Or don't, because you'll recognize a lot in there right now, and it will add just too much menace to a menacing story in menacing times.  Might not be able to get to sleep at night.  

I hate not being grateful for Green.  Back in March, at the beginning of the shut-down, I would have given my eyeteeth for Green right then.  Far more fell victim to COVID and the shut-down and the fallout than health.  I hate being so pessimistic about it, but The Great Pause does not appear to have been the Great Reset the more optimistic of us hoped it would be at the time.  I think it's brought out the worst in us so far, if you're asking what I think.  And I don't know what to do about that.  

Hunker down and wait it out from behind a mask, I guess.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Oh, The Lies I Tell Myself!

Sometimes, I don't really "got this!"
Friends, I have a confession to make.  Sometimes I tell myself lies.  Sometimes the lies I tell myself are fairly benign, and they help me get through something.  For instance, I'll tell myself "I've got this!" in a stressful or intense situation.  Spoiler alert: I don't always really "got this."  But that's my way of faking it 'til I make it.  

Or, I'll be upset about something.  It'll be really pickin' at my heart, and I'll tell myself that it really isn't that big of a deal.  Eventually, I start believing that, and I move on and walk away.

But I've told myself some other lies that maybe aren't so good, and I'm starting to see this practice is no longer serving me, if it ever did in the first place.  

If you're in the mood for some entertainment, get yourself some Junior Mints and a coffee beverage appropriate for whatever time of day you're reading this post, and settle in for the Top Ten Lies I Tell Myself!

Top Ten Lies I Tell Myself (But Shouldn't)

1.  I hate people.
 
Actually, no.  I don't hate people, as it turns out.  I really, really love to be around people.  I'm not necessarily into huge noisy chaotic crowds for fun-n-excitement, but I do like to be around people.  The trick is to know when to remove myself from all the people and take some time to myself to have some quiet and recharging.

2.  People hate me.
 
I used to tell myself that people hate me, which probably fed into why I told myself that I hate people  SOME people have hated me in the past, and I took it to heart.  I figured if those people hated me, all the people must hate me, and so if I hate them right back first, I win, because I rejected them before they had a chance to reject me, so there!  But yeah, turns out, People don't hate me.  Just a select few poor souls who probably also hate terrible things like sunshine and laughter.

3.  I'm not a hugger.

Well, okay, so I didn't used to be a hugger, but I've softened since Zoe came along.  The world is full of huggers, the huggers aren't going away, and you know what, a little hug every now and then is rad.  Some people make it weird and creepy, which gives me an opportunity to make things Even Weirder and Creepier, and usually that takes care of that problem!  

4.  I'm a pain in the ass.
 
There might actually be a little truth to this one, if I'm being totally honest, after all, Friends.  I can be persistent and stubborn.  I tend toward being clingy and needy and insecure.  A little (or a lot) neurotic.  Aggressively positive when I think a situation warrants it.  I ask a lot of question.  Pain in the ass qualities.  But it isn't always a bad thing to be a pain in the ass, I guess.  

5.  I shouldn't take up so much space.
 
Sometimes I feel like I take up too much space in other people's lives.  I tell myself that people resent every moment I ask them to spend with me. And I'm sure that there are some people who would agree with me, but I keep getting invited places and people keep accepting my invites, so maybe those for whom I take up too much space just aren't meant to be in my tribe.

6.  I need to tone myself down.

I have a big personality.  If you tell me to "Be April," you'll get 1000 watts or more.  Outsized sense of humor.  I'm quite opinionated and straightforward.  Aggressively optimistic.  I know a lot of things and love to share the knowledge.  I'm a flirt.  I know this and I own this.  99% of people I come across think nothing of this.  But I can tell when I've worn thin with someone, or when someone would prefer the 6-watt version of me.  Quiet, reserved, a little mousy, just Less. Easier to disappear into the background.  I have to be the 6-watt version of myself in order to get along with some people.  SOME people.  And quite honestly, if I have to dull myself down from a one-kilowatt beacon down to a 6-watt nightlight bulb, screw those SOME people.  Screw them running.  In the 6-watt dark where they need to be in order for their little bubbles in the world to be safe for them.

7.  I'm annoying AF.

I know annoyance when I see it, and it doesn't take me seeing much of it to knock me off my footing.  I don't like to annoy people.  So it's just like the need to tone myself down.  There are SOME people who I annoy.  I can tell.  Not ALL people find me annoying.  So I'm not everybody's flavor.  One person's "annoying" is another person's "delightfully bubbly," I guess.   

8.  I missed my chance and it's all downhill from here.

I often feel like I flew high, lit low.  I had dreams, aspirations, ambitions, and drive when I was younger.  Yet, here I am.  And as a 40+ woman, I feel like maybe I should be throwing in the towel, putting on the muumuu, sinking into a rocking chair, and fading into the wallpaper.  It's all downhill from here, isn't it?  Only if I want it to be.  For fox sake, I can still turn cartwheels.  And I don't throw out my back or break my hips when I do it.  I've taken up a new career path.   I don't think I look half bad for my age, and I haven't even talked to my dermatologist about Botox or Juvederm or a facelift yet.  How about I tell you when it's all downhill, because I acknowledge I have highs and lows, but my star is still trending upwards.  

9.  Others' time is more valuable or important than my time.
 
 
This is one of the most maddening, frustrating lies I've told myself for YEARS.  Letting my time be disrespected because I don't see myself as worthy of enforcing any time-boundaries I ought to have.  Because remember, I've told myself that I'm annoying AF, I'm too much, I'm a pain in the ass, and that I don't have anything to offer in return, so I need to be super-grateful and super-obsequious when anyone is willing to share any of their time with me.  They're being charitable!  The least I could do is bend over backwards to accommodate that!
 
10.  I am expendable.  

I told myself for years that if I were to disappear tomorrow, nobody would miss me.  I don't offer the world anything that anyone else can't offer.  I don't see myself as very remarkable or special.  Seriously. Anybody could do what I do. This has been my internal monologue for so long that it feels odder to me to notice the people I've become aware of who WOULD notice if I were to disappear tomorrow and realize that they see something cool that I bring to the mix.  I've only realized in the last few weeks that maybe I'm not as expendable as I have always told myself I am.  It is a very strange feeling, but I think I could get used to it!

 
So yeah, I have told myself a lot of lies over the years.  These are just the top ten I could think of today.  Sometimes, I tell myself lies like "I've got this!" so that I really WILL "Got this!"  A fake it 'til I make it kind of deal-e-oh.  That isn't so bad.  That helps me be stronger and better.  

Believing these Top Ten Lies I've Told Myself, though- letting this type of lie get into your head can really do a number on a person.  It can make you feel worthless, angry, ugly, rotten.  It's time to break out of this poor mindset, and I'm working on it!

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Exactly Where We Need to Be

Turns out, I'm exactly where I need to be, right now, in this moment.
Friends, sometimes I really kick myself for not making different decisions when I was younger.  I sit and think that if I'd only had more forethought, planning, and follow-through back in the day, I could be so much farther along today than I am.  I could have earned the "Most Likely to Succeed" superlative that I won in my senior year of high school.

I've been drawn into several conversations lately, though, that have shifted my perspective.  Maybe I'm not going to beat myself up so much for being such a late bloomer.  

"Life is like this whirlpool of lessons, and we keep getting the opportunity to learn from them until we do learn from them," one of my dear friends said, sort of out of the blue, one day while we were visiting.  

And this came hours after I was talking on the phone to another friend.  I had pulled our coaching lab into the weeds, as I often do.  I had given her some backstory.  It just all kind of barfed out of me like if you go to a fair and eat deep-fried butter then go on the Gravitron.  And I apologized for hauling us off into the conversational jingle-weeds when we both had things we needed to accomplish that day, and she laughed and said,

"All those times you told me about, you've been exactly where you needed to be to learn the lessons you needed to learn in order to take you to where you were supposed to go next.  And all those lessons brought you right here, right now, which is exactly where you need to be."

All of a sudden, I felt quite peaceful.  More peaceful than I have felt in a long, long time.  I am exactly where I'm supposed to be.  I wouldn't be where I am right now, if I'd made any decision differently. I wouldn't have learned the lessons I've learned, which, while they sometimes hurt in the moment, are certainly coming in handy right now.   

I'm not the only one who's exactly where she needs to be right now, in this moment, Friends.  All of us are where we are because we've followed a path of lessons learned.  Some of those lessons we've had the opportunity to learn more than once, until we really get it.  

But we are all right exactly where we need to be right now.  We all have some lessons to learn, but we are all exactly in the right places to learn those lessons we need.  And when we do, we get to move on.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Do I Like Myself?

I guess I'm all right to be around, right now.
I have this guided journal I've been using, and the Big Question for the day was "Do you like yourself as you are now?  Not who you aspire to be.  The you right now."

I struggled to answer the question a little bit, to be honest.  I wiffle-waffled.  I don't dislike myself, per se, but I do have access to all my bloopers, outtakes, and thoughts.  And those make me far less likable to me.  

But on the other hand, I don't think I'd think myself is so bad if I cut myself the same slack that I cut other humans who are doing the best they can.  And I am doing the best I can.

That stipulation about "who I am no, not who I aspire to be" tripped me up, though.  That felt unnecessary.  I argued with the journal a little bit on that one, which is absolutely bonkers.  

I mean, I have a picture of who I aspire to be, and I live that.  What's wrong with aspiring to be the best version of yourself?  What's the matter with finding rough edges in yourself that you want to polish up?  I don't think there is.  

Even so, warts and all, I guess I'm pretty okay right now, in this moment.  I'm working on the rough spots and the ugly.  I see them.  I acknowledge them.  I accept them.  But I also embrace the challenge of aspiring to evolve.  Constantly, even.  

I'm still thinking over that journal question, though.  There are no right or wrong answers.  It's just a book that I can write in with a pen, so there's no interactivity or hyperlink to direct me to the next thing based on the way I answered.  Usually when I'm doing my guided journal, I'm okay with that.  It's a journey, not a destination, for the next 60 days.  But I'd really like to know where the journal was going with this one.  Is there going to be some kind of follow up at some interval of time?  Did I pass the test?  

I guess if you want to fall down some kind of rabbit-hole, Friends, give that question some thought.  Maybe sit down and scribble about it for a few minutes.  For my tastes, I'd argue that it should be two actual questions: "Who do you aspire to be?"  "Do you like yourself the way you are right now?"  And then you drill down on both those questions, if you have the extra time and your Sanka hasn't gotten cold.  (Is that still a thing?  Sanka?  It makes me laugh.)  You ask why.  "Why do I aspire to be...?"
"Why do I like or not like myself the way I am right now?" "What would it do for me if I achieved the version of myself to which I'm aspiring?... Why is that important?"  

"Do I even like this Sanka, or is it the Cremora that really does it for me?"  (I fell down a rabbit hole remembering what was in my grandparents' pantry when I was growing up.  Sanka and Cremora were staples.  Does anybody besides me remember these things?)

To answer the question, though, in the context of it simply being a question in a book I bought and committed to answering every day, yeah, I'm okay with myself, just like I am right now.  But I look forward to being the person I aspire to be! 

How would YOU answer that question about yourself, Friends?

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Keep On Looking Up

What a way to put things in perspective!
Friends, I'm always looking up.  It's kind of a Thing with me.  It can be a sunrise, sunset, or the deep and cloudless blue.  I also get lost in the clouds.  

Getting lost in the clouds or having one's head up in the sky is usually seen as a sign of scatter-brainedness.  I wouldn't be offended if you were to point that out in me.  I know I'm a little dissipated at times- instead of a fire-hose, my brainitude is more like a vaporizer.  Or maybe like one of those clouds my head gets lost in sometimes.  

I'm also always looking up at the stars.  If I'm outside at night, I'm looking up.

Lately, I've been doing a lot of Thinking with a Capital T, and it tapped me on the shoulder to think on why it is that I always seem to be looking up.

That's something we say when we want to encourage someone, isn't it?  "Keep your chin up."  When you do that, you look up.  And I naturally gravitate to keeping my chin up, to keep looking up.

Boyo boy, Friends, do I ever notice a difference when I don't.  If I let my chin rest on my chest too long, the back of my neck starts complaining, and if I'm not careful, I'll get a headache that goes from the base of my skull all the way to my trapezius muscles.  I learned what the sternocleidomastoid muscle is (give it a Goog) because for a while, I was getting these terrible shooting aching  pains that ran from the pointy part of my jaw down my neck and to the top of my collarbones.  It was during a time in my life when I'd raptly watch my feet as I'd walk, and nothing seemed sunny or positive.  

And no, it wasn't just last week.  

It was before we all had smartphones, in fact.  During the Motorola Razr years.  So my head wasn't always in a computer or smartphone, but I did always look down.  Try that, Friends.  Keep your chin looking down for a little bit, and notice how it makes you feel down, and you can't breathe very well.  And notice how much better it feels to have enough room for your fist or a grapefruit between your chin and your chest.  And then, if you really want to lean in to my mad little experiment, look up, and maybe not ridiculously so, but enough so you can see how much bigger than you and your problems and worries the sky is.  And it feels a little optimistic to just physically look up.

When I really start going down into a spiral, I have to take myself outside to Look Up.  It doesn't work right, looking at a ceiling.  It's too easy to start counting ceiling tiles or cracks in the same.  Noticing cobwebs, dust-boogers, and spots that could be leaking, possibly.  

I go outside and look up at the sky when I'm spiraling, because the sky is different every time I look up at it, yet completely familiar.  It takes my mind off whatever's sitting on my mind.  I start wondering who else might be looking up at the sky, and what's weighing on their mind.  And if I were sitting there with them, listening to what's on their mind, what would I do or say to help them feel like they weren't alone?  People show me all the time how very Not Alone I am. 

That's the thing about these dumb downward spirals.  They tell you things that aren't true.  They make you feel like you're in there, all by yourself, and that nobody cares whether you go down the drain you're circling.  Downward spirals tell you it's never going to get any better, that the best you can hope for is to just go down the drain and that's that.  

What the downward spirals don't take into consideration is that maybe instead of a drain, you're circling one of those waterslides that looks like a giant funnel, and once you get through the swirling and the darkness, you pop out into the sun and splash down into a pool and there's laughter and light, and if you're like me, some water up your nose.  But fun, too!

Looking at the sky, all different types of sky, gives me perspective.  Whether everything goes right or wrong, that sky is still going to be there.  

All I have to do is keep on looking up.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Phantom iCal Events

Genesee Community Days Carshow: How I wish we were here today!

It's supposed to be Community Days in Genesee.  My husband organizes that car show, and we have been planning on spending the entire day at it since last year's show wrapped.  Of course, the car show and Community Days were cancelled this year, back at the beginning of April, along with a lot of things this summer.

It's one of those events that takes a lot of planning and lead-up, and the week before is a Frenzy.  The day of is an early morning requiring lots of ice-water packed and brought from home and enough sunscreen to get us through the day with bi-hourly reapplications.  I always register thousands of steps on my FitBit on Community Days.  I always dread it a little bit in the lead-up, but once I'm there and we're all set up and the cars start rolling in, I love every minute.  

Some of the people who bring cars to the car show are friends going way back to when we started into the classic car community.  We used to meet up for cruises at Fezz's Diner in Coudersport.  Some people, I see only at this car show, and we pick right up talking where we left off the year before.  

I'm infamous at this car show because one year we brought two of our cars, and my husband had me driving the one that has manual transmission because the other car we were bringing was his pride and joy, a white-knight of an AMX that is the nicest car we have.  (I have to take my shoes off before I get in this car, because I am basically Pigpen, and this car has won awards at the American Motors show).  He didn't want me driving that car, and I didn't want the pressure.  So I drove the stickshift Spirit AMX.  He drove behind me  It was a drizzly day that year, and the show-field grass was wet and the ground was soft and everybody was standing around as we drove in.  When I drive stick, I get flustered easy, early, and often.  

So I spun out getting to my parking spot.  Dirt, grass, mud, and sod flew all over the hood and windshield of the White Knight AMX.  Everybody saw.  Everybody had a good laugh.  Heck, I laughed.  Shane laughed, even though I could see he was irked, having spent the whole day before, washing the cars meticulously.  I tried to laugh and act like "so what?!" but I did get a microfiber cloth and the spray bottle of water to try to clean up the mess I'd made of his pride and joy.

It's funny now, looking back.  A lot of people thought it was funny that day.  I was mortified, though.  I beat myself up over that for the whole rest of the day.  I still do, even though I also appreciate the humor.

The important thing is that memories are made at that car show and at Community Days as a whole.  And it isn't happening this year.  It's still in iCal, and yesterday and this morning, I got an alert that they're going all weekend.  Except they're not.  They're phantoms.  Ghosts of memories that will never be made. And it's really for real.  Last night, we met a dear friend and her girls at the park that Community Days is held in.  That should have been buzzing with activity and people and the band last night.  Instead, it was a low-key night at the park.  I bet today will be a low-key kind of day there.

I wish we were at that car show.  I wish Community Days were still happening.  It's going to be quite a low-key kind of summer.  On one hand, that's good.  We've all wished to be less committed to everything.  Now that we've got that wish, though, and phantom iCal events start popping up, it does make a gal wonder about how the show would have gone this year, and wonder about all the stories she isn't going to hear and all the memories she isn't going to make.  

Here's to brighter community days and packed car shows Next Year, Friends.

Friday, June 12, 2020

It Isn't Always Sunny in Aprildelphia

Keepin' it real can be really, really ugly sometimes, and also waterproof makeup is a lie.
Well, Friends, there was a time when I was told that I am a big phony because all I did was post "happy, perfect shit" on Facebook.  I don't think that person is in a position to know what I post on Facebook anymore, but I would have to respectfully disagree with them.

Yesterday, I had a very rough day.  We all have ups and downs and I never expected anything different for myself, especially as I work to release everything I've been carrying around for far too long.  And that's a picture of me from yesterday afternoon, between meltdowns.  

Getting rid and growing involves spending some time sitting with some very uncomfortable emotions.  I like to laugh and smile and joke around.  In fact, I would prefer to add a glossy giggle to pretty much any uncomfortable situation instead of sitting here letting the ugly be ugly.  Usually, I can so that.  

The thing I find when I sit with ugly feelings is that I start noticing other ugly things, like that comment from that non-friend about how I only ever posted "happy, perfect shit" on Facebook.  That has stuck with me and made me mad for years, ever since it was said, for a few reasons.  

First of all, my knee-jerk reaction is a good old-fashioned schoolyard "Nuh-uh!"

But when I put a little thought into it, I have to say, "well, maybe so, but..."  Maybe so, but I hopped on the Book of Faces in 2008.  June.  We were attending a good friend's wedding, and one of my goodest good friends from high school and his partner were telling me I should just go ahead and get a Facebook account already.  I had resisted anything social media back then- MySpace, Friendster, all of it.  The closest I was at that point was I had been a member of the FIRM Believers and I'd spend time on their forums, learning about fitness and the latest gossip on when the next Body Sculpting System was going to drop.  That was the extent of my social media.

None of my friends in real life were FIRM Believers, though, and the siren call of social media hooked me.  I signed up for my Facebook Account that very night, in my room at the Sheraton in Tysons Corners.  And right away I noticed that Facebook could be a bit of a dramarama. So I decided that I'd be aggressively positive, for the most part.  That was my mission, anyway.  My Timehops from my Early Days of Social Meeds shows that I wasn't ALWAYS Poppy the Troll!

Another rebuttal I'd have to this "you only post happy shit" shit-person is that you know what, in the same way that if you're talking to me in real life, I let the four-letter words fly with frequency and a certain pizzazz that makes pearl-clutchers clutch their precious pearls and just singes the virgin ears of people with virgin ears to burn, when I'm writing, I'm a lot more judicious about the trucker-mouth.  Because speaking is in the moment, but with writing, there's a bit of a delay, and so I self-censor, because as much as I am a proponent for liberating the Anglo-Saxon derivatives in the English Language, and as much as I adore their guttural bluntness, they do look a little harsh all typed out in print.  

In that spirit, I figured that if I was taking time to post something on Facebook, I'd try to put a positive spin on it, because I have the time, and I didn't want to be branded one of those social media drama queens, just using my wall (it was a wall back then!) as a stand-in for a journal where I'd barf out all my frustrations.  

Come to think of it, my shit-person Happy Shit critic had the staunchest propensity to use her wall, my wall, the walls of friends to barf out whatever drama was going on in her life at the time, and there. was. much!

I didn't want to be like that.  I wanted people to smile when they'd see my name in their newsfeed.  Because that's how I am when I go out in public.  And to this day, I still think of Facebook as something of an extension of being in public.  I would not walk into your place of business or my daughter's school or your home or probably not even walk down the street shouting about how pissed off I am about politics or current events or even be Debbie Downer all the time.  I try.  I have my moments.  I definitely wallow in woe-is-me moments on the Book of Faces, and I have certainly hopped up on my soapbox, megaphone in hand.  I try to keep that to a minimum, though.  

These days, especially since Pandemic Purgatory, I've been a little more forthright with sharing my less than sunny moments.  It isn't always sunny in Aprildelphia, after all.  And I've struggled.  I am struggling.  The very nature of Pandemic Purgatory shut us off from being able to go places where I would have otherwise straightened my shoulders, put on a little lipstick, and wore a smile until I kind of meant it.  I really do believe that getting out and getting out of one's head for a bit, even if you have to "fake it 'til you make it" with a smile DOES do the soul some good, because at least it keeps you from wallowing and being around other people gives you some perspective.  We couldn't do that while we were in Pandemic Purgatory, and even now, our opportunities to interact with each other are curtailed from what they'd be in normal times.  

So I started sharing my struggle with myself on Facebook, on this blog.  And I have gotten some flack in my private messages for over-sharing.  Not a lot.  But I've gotten some.  That's okay.  I am sure that sometimes the things I post make people uncomfortable.  Guess what.  I'm uncomfortable living them.  And I am completely honest in that I need a little support, I think.  I need some perspective that it isn't always going to be like this, or that I'm not alone.  And if by sharing the way I do, it helps someone else feel supported or gain a different perspective, or feel not so alone... or help them realize that they're not weird... if it inspires them to seek help for themselves the way I am getting help for myself, then I feel like I served a purpose.  I helped someone.  And the inbox-critics can pipe down, I guess.  

So.  I guess whether you think I'm a Social Media Whiner, or a Fakebooker, I'm going to keep on keepin' on, just like I am.  Good, Bad, and Ugly.  

But I especially thank those of you who are my friends and who cheer me on.  You mean more than you'll ever know, and I am cheering you on from where I am, too.  

It isn't always sunny in Aprildelphia, but I know that it cannot rain forever.  I look forward to when the rain stops.  In the meantime, I am going to keep on plodding along.

Thank you for being here.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Let It Go

I'm not sure who I'll be without the extra weight I carry, but I can't wait to meet me.
Friends, there has been something that has hung over me for decades and made me feel as though sometimes I'm treading water with a big heavy backpack on my back and another person standing on my shoulders.  I work so hard to keep my head above the water, and I think I do a pretty good job.  Sometimes I can even forget about the heavy backpack or the shoulder-stander.  But I still carry them with me.  I have, for all this time, after all.

It's almost like they're a part of me.

The thing is, I think this isn't mine to carry around any more, and I don't want to.  My therapist and I are going to be working on helping me release all this heavy stuff, this darkness.  It's going to mean I spend some time in some uncomfortable feelings. I have a plan for journaling through them.  I will be practicing self-care as I go through this journey.

I am hopeful.  But I'm also a little scared.  Nervous.  Carrying this extra weight around in my heart and my mind has been part of who I am for so long that I don't know who I'll be without it.  As awful as it sounds, I've gotten a little bit comfortable with it.  What happens when it's all peeled away?

I have certainly carried it around for longer than I should have, longer than I needed to, and it's time to let it go.  I'm going to spend time in some messy feelings and hit some rocky spots, and at the end of all this, when it's just a story I tell, I will have grown into someone better.  So.  Here's to it, Friends.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Recovering Perfectoholic

How much more difficult can I make this thing?
Friends, despite outward appearances, especially if you were to drop in at my house without prior warning, I am a perfectionist going way back.  

Actually, if you look at the state of my habitat where I live, this makes a lot of sense, if you understand perfectionism.  

See, I *want* things to be done perfectly, and I look around and get overwhelmed at all there is to do, and I get even more overwhelmed when I think of doing it all perfectly, so it would pass a white-glove inspection, that I get all paralyzed and don't even start at all, because if it isn't perfect, why bother?  

Or, in the interest of it being Perfect, I will over-engineer the everlovin' HECK out of something- a project, a story, a blog post... and half the time, it becomes a non-starter, because I get hung up on making each little detail Perfect.

And grades.  Whoa, Nellie.  If you knew me in school, you'll remember that one of my biggest and most distinguishing features was that I'd be irritated with myself for any grade less than 100%, but I'd especially cry big tears and be worthless for the rest of a day when I'd get less than a 90%.  College made things a little different, because instead of numbers, they used letters, but I still knew an A was an A.  I just chose a major in which I knew I'd never earn an A, so at least I was able to let go of that drive for Perfection in chasing a 4.0.  It was never going to happen.  But if I got less than an A- in a writing class, it made me question Everything.

The only time in my life that I really, actually took a fukitol attitude was graduate school.  It was both maddening but possibly a little liberating. But it wasn't really me.

I think the tendency to be a Perfectaholic is hardwired into my DNA.  I am fairly certain that I get it from both sides of my family.  I always thought of being a Perfectionist as a badge of honor.  A virtue.  If something was worth doing, it was worth doing Right.  Perfect!

But that's a fool's errand, chasing Perfection.  If I thought that if I achieved Perfection, the perfect thing I did would be above reproach, I was wrong.  Perfect is in the eye of the beholder, and one person's perfect is someone else's pile of crap.  There is no such thing as being above reproach.  

I cringe when I think back on all the little cards or presents I had the idea of making and gifting to my loved ones, but I was so wrapped up in making sure it was Perfect, and I had all my over-engineering into it that I like to do, that I'd fizzle out shortly after getting started, and the card or present would never get made, and that sentiment would never get to be expressed.  

My Perfectaholism made me lose the opportunity to let someone know I cared about them.  "Perfect" is in the eye of the beholder, but done is Done.  

Because I was a Perfectaholic, I was too afraid to even start things that could have meant a lot to someone else, or even to myself.  I was too overwhelmed to take the first steps in reducing some of the chaos in my home because I wanted it Perfect.  I missed out on getting to have people over, because the house looked like crap.  I've never been able to relax when I go anywhere, because it's always running through my mind that if I were home right now, I could be cleaning.  Spoiler alert, though- even when I was at home, I wouldn't clean, because the hardest part to that is getting started, in my opinion.  

So I'm working on it.  I'm working on recovering from Perfectoholism and embracing the "done is Done" mindset.  Letting go of judgment, embracing the imperfect and unpredictable.  Just like anything else, it's a fumble toward Progress.  It's a journey made of lots of little steps. I backslide and regress, but in the end, I think I'll be far happier and healthier if I can recover from being a perfectionist.  

Life certainly would be far easier if I can stop trying to make it so perfectly difficult!