Let’s unpack that box

This is what my grief counselor would say when we would come up against something deep-rooted that I clearly struggle with. During my dark time I saw him weekly for two months. I have said before that the right counselor can change your whole life. Together we did a lot of unpacking. I stopped seeing him when we had come to a good place and everything surrounding my acute depression had been worked through. The plan of action at that point was to unpack some of my bigger, older boxes. The ones in the back of your mind that you have tucked away and do not open. I wasn’t ready. Maybe one day.

I had an epiphany about one of these boxes recently after reading an article that relates to it. I had/have abandonment issues. Honestly I don’t know where I stand with it now. I know my fear of being left and being devastated has surfaced in my current relationship because I used to have repetitive dreams about it. I would dream that I did something awful and Todd left me and I could not fix it (similar to my most recent break up before him except in that relationship I did the leaving). I would dream that Todd became ill or was in a terrible accident and left my life that way. There were multiple themes that all lead up to the same thing, me waking up in a panic in his arms saying “you left me again”.

There is a song by City and Colour, a band I relate to so well because the singer struggles with anxiety, called Fragile Bird. This song, like many of his songs, is one I easily relate to. Or I did at least. My nightmares stopped when we became engaged. It’s like my subconscious finally relented.

When discussing my issues with abandonment my counselor and I determined with a degree of certainty they do not come from my childhood or family. I have no sad story to tell about an absent parent etc, I am fortunate to come from a close-knit family that has always been a shining example of love. We didn’t delve much deeper into it as other things would come up.

It all kind of hit me not long ago. My abandonment issues surface exclusively in my relationships with men, boyfriends to be more specific.

My first exposure to a strong emotional bond with a boy came at age 14, just a few months before my car accident. After the accident I clung to that relationship with ferocity. I looked damaged for a while due to all the stitches in my face and the laser surgery treatments that followed. When I returned to school some people were cruel or just curious, either way I felt singled out for the wrong reasons at times. My boyfriend made me feel better about all of it. My emotional state was stable because of him, I was completely dependent. That first dose of “love” is strong anyway, especially when you are younger and maturity hasn’t caught up with you, add a life altering event and forget about it.

He is the only boy who has ever left me. I was devastated. We had been together for 3 years, that is a huge chunk of life at that age. When he left it was to be with one of my best friends, even more devastating. Although a lot was said at the end the words that were burned into my brain were him saying, “the only reason I stayed as long as I did is because if I had broken up with you right after the accident like I wanted to everyone at school would have thought I was an asshole.” Well he was probably right. So he stuck it out and faked it with me for 3 years, a much better alternative. Then there were my friend’s kind words, “it’s not my fault he likes me better than you.” I am sure she was right, she too was just a blameless victim.

The thing is, that was a very long time ago and I did not date for a while after that. When I sat down and really thought this all through after reading this article I just could not believe that something that happened when I was 14-17 could impact every relationship after in the way that it did. I am seeing this to be true though.

In every other relationship I have had I have always been the one leaving rather than the one being left. I never once thought about how hurtful my actions on the way out the door may have been to the other person. My problem (on top of this hang up that I was unaware I had) is that I avoid conflict and I am a feeler. If I am being forced to deal with the conflict of a break up along with my extreme fear of being left alone and then you throw the negative feeling of a broken heart on top of that, I am consumed. The emotions that come along with such changes, as moving on from a relationship, are so intense for me that rational thought escapes me. I am become a tornado of emotions.

Looking back I wish I had understood this side of myself sooner. The relationships that ended needed to end and I was always better on the other side. I did better with my most recent break up before I started dating Todd. I was in counseling at the time and my then boyfriend and I were such good friends that we navigated it slightly better than I have in the past. I am glad I ended up where I am at. I am glad I left everything else I just wish I had done it sooner in most cases and with more grace. If you know there is a personality conflict that cannot be changed and will not work, why stay? If you know you are being lied to on the daily, why stay? If you know you do not love the person and see a future with them, why stay?

The funny thing is, I do single really well. Some of the best times I had in my teens and twenties was just me, no guy. I liked the freedom, a lot. What was I so afraid of? With Todd my fear has never truly been that we wouldn’t work out. We have never had issues that would give me such a fear. I think it’s just that once you find something that really works and that you can love with your whole heart there is a piece of you that is afraid that it will be taken away.

I do feel that this fear is finally dying. It won’t be mourned and certainly will not be missed.

 

Challenge Accepted!

For as long as I can remember I have struggled in a dichotomy between confidence and complete lack there of. I fluctuate between  knowing exactly who I am, being confident and self-assured to then suddenly feeling inadequate and having a defeatist attitude of not being “good enough”.  At any given time I feel I am walking on a taut shoe string and the slightest breeze can push me the wrong way. In these moments of self-doubt I feel like a phony further amplifying the negative self talk I am experiencing.

In my INFP personality my “P” keeps me loose and fluid, I am not rigid or severely structured in terms of lifestyle. This does not ring true for everything though. I am a perfectionist when it comes to my interactions with the world. To explain further, what I mean is I hold myself to a very high standard in my role as an employee, a student, a fiance, a daughter, a sister, a friend, etc. You get the idea. I may be haphazard in my daily life as far as being clumsy and a bit scatter brained but when it comes to my relationships, significant or minor, I am incredibly hard on myself. I am always striving to be better, I will never be satisfied with what I am giving. I will always want to give more, do more, be more.

I do this to myself, there is no one to fault but me for the pressure I am constantly under. It is difficult at times. An example of this is the many “speed bumps” I have encountered as a returning student. More plans have fallen through than those that have worked out and when this kind of thing happens my immediate response has always been to go to a place of self-doubt. This week specifically I found out that there is a chance I will have to add a class to my work load next semester ( a class that I am not naturally good at and will require quite a bit of effort on my part to do well in). The initial thought of this sent me into a bit of a tail spin. I will be working full-time at a demanding job (emotionally as well as mentally) while already taking one class I do not excel in easily. Finding out that I may have to add another very demanding/difficult class to that already heavy emotional/mental load made me feel scared and unsure of myself. My first thought, “I can’t do it”.

I am embarrassed and frustrated to admit that was my basic gut reaction to such news. I have never been blind to the fact that I beat up on myself in this way. I have never cared to work on it though because as bad as I may make myself feel at times this negative inner voice is also my constant drive to be better, do more and give more. After a day of processing this new information I had a complete attitude adjustment.

Here is my conclusion:

First off, what is wrong with me!? When life throws a challenge my way my gut reaction should be “CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!!” in a roar of a voice. Not, “Oh I can’t, I want to give up”. I am ashamed and with all the other positive changes I am making in my life this should be at the very top of my list!

In addition, I realize my drive has always been to be better because I have never felt good enough. Even coming from a negative place this attitude has produced incredible results in me. I have a huge drive and am always pushing myself. Going forward I need to be striving to be better knowing that I am already good enough but there is always room for growth. That seems like a much healthier attitude that will produce the same great results.

Finally, when I feel that pang of “I am not good enough” or “I can’t” coming on I need to remind myself regularly that I am doing this as we speak! I have changed my entire life and way of thinking in the span of three years time. I have a vision of the person I want to be and I am taking all the right steps to get there regardless of how difficult the path in front of me is. At the end of the day I need to remember that I can and I am already doing this. I am capable of anything, this is corny and cliché I know but shit it’s true.

Last night Todd and I talked for hours about everything herein. I fell asleep feeling strong and sure. I just needed to pause for introspection and really see where I was wrong and how my attitude needed to change. Now instead of feeling fear or anxiety about next semester I am ready take it on and prove to myself once and for all, I can handle it and I am absolutely good enough.

She was intelligent and reserved

Yesterday was another girls night, not in the traditional sense, however. My Aunt has a Bunko night once a month with a group of girlfriends and this month my mother, my sister-in-law and myself were invited to join. It was themed, “pajama party”. So there we were, 22 grown women, in our pajamas, rolling dice for money. It was a good time. It was a rambunctious pack of women though. I looked at my sister-in-law when we got there, a fellow introvert, and whispered, “Energy suckers, the whole lot of them”. I was right, by the time I got home last night I crashed, my energy level was zero.

I went to my Mom’s house before Bunko in order to spend time with my niece and nephew as well as ride with my Mom and sister to the party. I was sitting at the kitchen bar talking with my Mom and sister while my Mom was making dinner, we were talking about my Mom’s Mom, Nana.

Nana died when I was 9. It was my first exposure to death and although I handled it OK in the moment there were repercussions. It was September I think, my Mother and I were “back to school” shopping. This was in the time of pagers when cell phones were new and next to no one had one. I am not quite sure how the nursing facility got a hold of my Mom but some how they did because our Mother-Daughter day was canceled and we bee-lined it over to the facility. My Mom didn’t want me to be there, Nana had taken a turn and was fading out fast. When we got there she tried to call Daddy but he and my brother were driving back from a camping trip and did not have a cell phone, she left a message on the machine at home hoping he would get home soon and come to pick me up. Auntie was already on her way. With no other alternative Mom and the nurse sat me next to Nana’s bedside and told me I could hold her hand and talk to her (Oh my God, why did I just start crying. You think you have moved past something and then suddenly it surfaces)…

So, I remember the nurse telling me that I could talk to her, “she can still hear you”. Mom had to go and make some calls, she had no choice but to leave me there. That was OK with me. I didn’t fully understand what was happening but I wanted to sit with her. Her eyes were fixed on the ceiling, I remember I didn’t know what to say, I think I just said “I love you”.

Dad did eventually come for me and we left. Mom came home later and sat my brother and I down to tell us she had died. It didn’t mean much to me, I didn’t really get it. That night we already had plans to get together with Auntie and the family to celebrate birthdays and they decided to keep the plans. Primarily because my Mom wanted to be with her sister I think. I played with my brother and cousins like always, I was fine. It was on the way home that I wasn’t fine anymore. I started to understand that dying means I don’t get to see you anymore. I was angry and confused and could not be consoled, I feel bad for my Mom. She just lost her mother and as strong as she was trying to be, how do you keep it together when your 9-year-old is hurting and doesn’t understand? I don’t know how she was strong enough to not break down with me. I don’t remember it well but I know they had me meet with a counselor or someone from hospice a few times after to help with it all.

The thing about my Nana is that I didn’t know her well. Even when I was 9 I felt cheated. My Mom doesn’t really talk about it but there was some distance in their relationship that kept us from seeing Nana for a few years. When Nana got sick Mom and Auntie swooped in to take care of her and we got to start spending time with her again, but I didn’t know her. My memories of her consist of the night gowns she wore and how her hands were always cold. As an adult I have always wished I knew her better as a person. I feel like it would shed light on so many things.. My Mom has told me stories but nothing that ever made me feel like I knew her any better for it, until last night.

We were talking about the wedding and my upcoming 30th birthday and just life.. In this I explained how I can feel the page turning in my life and I as this happens I am working towards other changes (outside of getting married, pursuing my degree and turning 30) to ultimately become the person I want to be. I was talking to them about trying to be more deliberate in my life and living with purpose and how one thing I am currently focusing on eliminating is gossip (as I explained in a previous post). Like I previously explained nothing is coming from a negative, catty place but in general I don’t want to fill any time with frivolous talk. This kind of thing is not in line with what I am working towards as a well-rounded adult. This got us talking about Nana.

Mom explained that there were some women involved in the church that Nana stayed away from for this very reason. All they ever did was talk about each other and it wasn’t just the typical “Did you hear who is dating who?” gossip that I am referencing but the hurtful talk that can be quite damaging. Mom said that Nana would not involve herself in it, “she was an intelligent woman and was reserved”. Apparently because of her decision to shy away from such nonsense she would, at times, become the fodder for such gossip. This did not sway her.

I felt a beam of pride surface in my belly. For the first time in my life I felt able to relate to this woman whom I have never known and always wanted to know. I had a picture of her in my mind with her head held high against the nonsense, not allowing herself to be sucked in or affected by it. It made so much sense to me. My Mom has always been my bible on how to “rise above” in difficult situations. She knows what it means to be a lady in this sense of the word, and how to take the high road. Well she had to have learned it somewhere, right? Maybe Nana never sat down and said the words to her but through her actions as a classy, sensible woman she taught my mother what it meant to be this way. In this I have found my missing connection to my Nana. The lessons she taught my mother are the very lessons that have helped me persevere in trying times and they are the same lessons that will one day help my daughter. Maybe this is her legacy.

After listening to my Mother’s story about her mother I was left hoping that one day, when I am gone, my daughter will remember me the same way.

Because we are real people, that’s why!

Girls night was just what I needed. We went out to my favorite bars, one of which I have not been to since 2007 and now I am wondering why, it was a blast. Any night that includes me getting to dance to an M83 song gets an A in my book.

While sitting having a drink at my favorite bar my two girlfriends got into a heated discussion. A discussion that I was oblivious to because they were playing The Labyrinth in the bar, at that point I tuned everything else out. (Side note- from around 6 years old to about 8 or 9 I had an enormous crush on David Bowie as the Goblin King. I get teased for this when I admit it but there was something about the tight pants, crazy spiked mullet and “dance magic dance” song that did for me. I don’t know.)

My attention was only brought back to my girlfriends when they needed me to settle their dispute. Topic of argument which needed settling, “Who are the better twins, the Olsens or Tia and Tamera”?

You’re kidding me right? If anyone heard us talking about this they would think we are a trio of vapid ninnies and we would be booted from the bar, rightly so. As I don’t care about either set of twins I quickly settled the debate by naming the Olsens the better twins based solely on the fact that I don’t hear much about them anymore and they don’t have a dumb reality TV show about nothing. I tuned back into the Labyrinth as the subject changed to how stupid celebrity reality TV shows are and just in time to see the Goblin King pursue Sarah around the ball room.

Tonight we watched a small portion of the red carpet coverage of The Emmy’s. Even though neither one of us watches award shows we wanted to see the hosts interview Aaron Paul, we both really like him. While being interviewed the host asked him, what we both thought was, a weird question, “If you and your wife had a reality TV show about your relationship what kind of stuff would we see?” He was clearly caught off guard. Todd and I just laughed. I paused the TV and said, “could you imagine a reality TV show about our relationship?! Um, embarrassing!” I think Aaron Paul must have been thinking about the same thing, you could tell he didn’t want to divulge anything. I mean not everyone wants to exploit their relationship, it is intended to be a private thing really.

Todd and I laughed back and forth about the kind of nonsense that would show up if our true relationship was ever exposed, and no I am not sharing the nonsense. We agreed we were never meant for reality TV stardom, as we are real people with real embarrassing life moments. After all, everyone knows there is nothing real about reality TV anyway.

Comfort Level: Singing

When we were driving to my parents house yesterday we were listening to Pandora, as well always do when making the long drive to their house, and I was singing along to every song I knew, as I always do because I just can’t help myself. I was mid-way on a verse from a City and Colour song when I stopped and turned to Todd, “You never sing”. He replied simply, “I know”. So I proceeded to ask him why.

I knew he liked the song too and I couldn’t understand what was stopping him from belting out the lyrics with me. He explained what stops him, and it was about what I expected. It is an introvert thing and a comfort thing. Even though none of this surprised me what I hadn’t considered was that there was still a piece of him that is not completely and utterly comfortable with me. I asked him if he sings when he is alone, “Yeah, sometimes”. It made me a little sad, like I am missing out on a part of him, a secret, special part. I have heard him belt out Foo Fighters before but he was quite intoxicated, it isn’t the same. Todd has told me so many times before how he is comfortable with me in a way that he has never been with anyone else before. I agree with him completely. We share parts of ourselves with each other that we have never shared with anyone else. Silly, intimate, vulnerable parts. They are like secrets that only we get to know about each other and I know we both love that so much.

I told him that it was fine that he does not sing and I that I didn’t want him to feel pressure. I explained that my goal for our relationship is comfort level singing though. I would like for us to be as comfortable with each other as we are when we are by ourselves. That may be an unrealistic and completely unattainable goal, but it is just a reminder that we can always be doing better. As great as things are, we could always be at comfort level singing.

A night for the girls

Sexandthecity1

Tonight I am having a long over due girls night.

Our weekends have been busy since the summer and although I have been hanging out with my girlfriends via double dates, baby showers, lunches, etc, we have not had a night out in a while. I haven’t minded much but when one of my best friends asked about this Friday my immediate response was, “Yes Please!”

When I was single almost every night was girls night. My friends and I went out a lot. Every weekend consisted of concerts, downtown bars, dancing, road trips, sleep overs, beach trips.. Girls night was a non-thing really, it was always just the girls. Going out was about either concerts or dancing usually. It was a great time in my life and I am glad my best friends were part of it. We refer to our single summer as “our summer of 69”. We made a lot of good friends, met a lot of cute boys, saw a lot of good bands and danced ourselves skinny (literally).

The motivation behind a girls night changes as we get older I have realized but having them is still important. With all of us getting married, having children, being home owners and career women our roles have changed. A night of female bonding and general silliness is important. The same goes in reverse. When we go to Chicago I always hang back so Todd can have a few guys nights. Men and women are different, I love him but there are things about me he will never fully understand because he is a guy, plain and simple. That is where my girlfriends come in. Girls get each other on a level men can’t get near, it is important to maintain the female relationships in your life even after settling down. I learned that lesson years ago. Being single after a difficult break up would have been a whole other ball game if I had not had my best friends to get me out and back on my feet. Now it’s more about having the empathy from another female who understands what you are currently dealing with in a way only another woman can.

I don’t look at our nights downtown the same way I did 6 years ago (crazy its been that long) but I am every bit as thankful for the nights I get with my best friends and am very aware of their value.

 

(image from lipmag.com)

To Err is Human, so is Vulnerability

– I am long-winded, I know this about myself and I apologize. I rarely edit myself, I just don’t feel right if I do. So this is a very long post about admitting a mistake and correcting a wrong.

Remember all that fancy talk yesterday about ” I make myself vulnerable quite often, it doesn’t scare me the same way it does others..” Yeah well not long after I submitted that post life came around and knocked me back down a peg.

I have said before how when I make a mistake I own it, yesterday I made a mistake and today I would like to own it. Who was I kidding, “it doesn’t scare me the same way it does others”?? This is when blogging is tricky. Had I had this initial conversation about vulnerability with Todd rather than posting my feelings and thoughts straight to my blog I would have had immediate feedback. I would have had someone to scoff at me and say ” No dear, you are a scaredy cat just like the rest of us”. Instead life stepped in and scoffed at me and showed me I am every bit as afraid of my vulnerability as everyone else. In this, like everything else, I am not unique.

So, how did life play this trick on me you ask? Well, yesterday after I posted to my blog I got up and went about my day. Later in the afternoon I had some downtime, I was piddling around on the internet, reading postsecret, playing on Pinterest and reading a few of the blogs I follow. I also clicked over to my stats to see what my traffic was like and found it was a bit higher than normal. Nothing crazy for a small timer like me but out of the norm enough to make me curious. I scrolled down to see one of the referrers to my blog was Twitter. I was befuddled. I don’t have a Twitter account, how would I get any traffic from Twitter? Further research showed that my blog posting about vulnerability ended up on a Oprah Fan Club Twitter page that boasts of 13,000 followers. I suddenly felt ill.

How ironic that the very posting about my comfort in being vulnerable suddenly made me feel so uncomfortable. I felt… vulnerable. After taking a moment to process this I had to laugh at myself, that’s what I get.

Allow me to explain my reasons for the initial feeling of discomfort..

When I started this blog over a year ago I had an expectation, as so many people do when starting up something like this. The idea of a blog was posed to me by a girlfriend I worked with at the hospital. After I gave my notice she and I were chatting one day at my desk and she mentioned that her cousin (I think it was a cousin) was going to be spending some time in Europe and started a blog for the people back home to follow her journeys. She suggested this idea of starting a blog as a returning student 10 years later to record my experiences for my friends and family to read. I had this idealistic vision of being able to look back at this blog after finishing my degree and having all my memories right there in front of me. So that is where this all started, just a conversation between friends.

So my expectations were low in the beginning. I sent my blog link to my friends and family and posted to my FB account (I was still a member at the time) and to my Pinterest account. I was in no way trying to hide what I was doing but I never for a moment thought that anyone other than those close to me would be interested in anything I have to say, and I wasnt even sure those close to me would care much. So in truth, with almost zero expectations I started writing for myself.

I have really enjoyed it. I have always loved to write and this gives me a platform to formulate ideas, a place to vent, it has been a release. I am sure people like Todd have appreciated my having an outlet as well because otherwise everything I write about it would be nonsense filling his ears on a daily basis. Not to say that I don’t talk to him about most of what I write about, I do, some of it I leave on here though.

As time went on I started picking up a few followers. I remember feeling flattered but surprised at first because I genuinely with my whole heart felt that no one would be interested in what I have to say other than my own family. In my recent talks with Todd he agrees that my initial expectations were reasonable but I should have known that there is always a possibility of others reading your ramblings, after all I am putting it on the internet! “Right, right. I should have thought of that. I just never entertained the idea because I just didn’t think I needed to.” I appreciate those who read my blog and those who follow me, it is always nice to feel understood, to feel related to, to feel that sense of camaraderie.. “Hey this guy gets me”.. You know? I assume that those who take the time to read, my often long-winded, ramblings do so because they share common ground with me on something, even just one thing.

So my discomfort does not come from knowing strangers are reading my blog but knowing that suddenly 13,000 people have access to your thoughts by just clicking a link.. Yeah, my initial reaction is terror. Self doubt starts to creep in, fear of judgement, fear of inadequacy. I am not a blogger, I feel like there are all these rules you have to follow to do this right and I don’t. I just get on and let the thoughts flow out of me. That’s it. I am just one nobody with some ideas.

I talked to Todd about all of this and he was able to ground me, as he always does. He is the rational thinker in our duo. I stand by what I said in that I do make myself vulnerable quite often. I don’t edit myself, I put it all out there. Not just in this blog, in life. What I take back is my statement about not being as scared of vulnerability as others. I am every bit as afraid of my vulnerability as everyone else. I am terrified of it really. Guess I am not so tough. As I said before though, this is how I approach everyday life, that is not changing. I just wanted to go back and acknowledge how wrong I was about vulnerability. It is a wonderful but very scary thing and I am humbled by it.

I have no armor

One of my favorite websites online is Ted.com. It is kind of an extension of my love of documentaries. I love going in and being able to watch a Ted Talk about anything! Some of my favorites are,

Aubrey de Grey’s “A Roadmap to End Aging” – You can view the post I wrote about it Here

Susan Cain’s “The Power of Introverts”

Brian Greene’s “Is our Universe the only Universe?”

Jeffrey Kluger’s “The Sibling Bond”

Meg Jay’s “Why 30 is not the new 20”

and at the top of my list of favorites falls..

Brene Brown’s “The Power of Vulnerability”

This morning I turned on the TV with the intention of putting on the news but I never got that far. I got caught up reading an article on the New York Times website and forgot the TV was even on until I caught part of a conversation that pulled me back into the room. Our TV was on Oprah Winfrey’s network, not sure how that happened as neither Todd nor myself have ever watched anything on that channel. My guess is that Todd was flipping channels the last time he was watching TV and left it on whatever channel he landed on last before turning off the TV. Regardless of how it happened it was serendipitous for me because Oprah was interviewing Brene Brown about her Ted Talk.

I was completely tuned in. I love this particular Ted Talk because it is very honest and I relate to it so well. It was interesting to hear her feelings on it after the fact as it took off as a very popular talk. I was captivated listening to her admit that for a while she felt that she was “talking the talk but not walking the walk”. She admits that she has trouble with vulnerability and letting go of control, as so many of us do. It was very refreshing. One thing she said really echoed in my ears, it was about how so many people wake up in the morning, put on their armor to be able to leave the house and face the day and forget to take it off when they come home to their loved ones. “Armor, what is this armor she speaks of?” I realized in this moment that while the rest of the world is fully dressed in armor and “bullet proof vests”, as my friend Charles always used to say, I walk around naked.

I retook the MBTI last week because I could not remember my actual numbers. I know I am an INFP but I wanted to know where I fall with the “I” and the “P”. My results came back and neither of the numbers in those two areas surprised me but the “F” score did. I am 88% feeling over thinking. All of the other scored were either “Moderate” or “Slight” this is the one area where I score strongly one way over the other. I wasn’t shocked or anything just a little surprised, I just didn’t realize how far to one extreme I was. Todd was not surprised at all, he just chuckled and reminded me that, “this is coming from the girl who will pull over to remove  a lizard from the hood of her car while driving because she is afraid it will jump off and die”. He has a point, I should not have been surprised at all, most of my decisions come from the gut.

When I heard Brene Brown make that statement this morning it struck me. I relate to her talk because I make myself vulnerable quite often, it doesn’t scare me the same way it does others I guess. With this “heart on my sleeve” naked approach I take to the world though I do open myself up to a lot of negativity as well. I usually just absorb it and try to process it out through introspective thought about where the other person is coming from and what their motivations are. This works a lot of the time. Sometimes, however, I am not able to rationalize a person’s actions or understand their position. In times like these I am left injured by their actions or biting words. Times like these that armor would be nice to shield me from the pain.

I genuinely like people, for better or worse. I am usually able to see the good even if they are putting forth a different face. In those instances where the good is harder to see I just try not to dwell. At the end of the day if I can extract no good from a situation I am at least left with an experience. Something that is unique that I can hold on to and learn/grow from. I have to feel pain to appreciate the better side of it more completely.

Our hands are collectively dirty

I had my first spanish test today and I am pretty sure I will be getting an A. I went crazy studying (as I always do with the first test in any class) and I don’t think half of the material I covered even appeared on the exam. Oh well, I would rather over compensate than come up short.

In spanish my professor helps us understand third person subject pronouns by saying they are used when you are gossiping, when you talking about someone. When I was driving home from class today this got me thinking…

A bit of truth, I am human therefore I gossip. But hey so are you, making us all guilty in this together. I bet you are thinking, “Wait pump the breaks, I am no gossip”. That’s cool, I do not consider myself a gossip either. I am not back-biting, I am not malicious or drama seeking, all these characteristics that come to mind when you throw the word gossip out there. My form of gossip consists of sharing information with my close friends.

Here is the thing, gossip and slander do not always go hand in hand, one does not necessarily equate to the other. Gossip is just talking about other people and their business. Sharing that someone is pregnant, that a friend got a new job, that your sister got engaged, that your friend’s father passed away, these are examples of gossip. Gossip can absolutely be catty, venomous and hurtful as well. Look at rumors or even information based on fact. So someone did something that others would look on negatively, it is their business no one elses.

I had never really considered any of this before. No girl wants to be labeled a gossip but we all are. The vast majority of us are regardless of gender, religion, sexuality, race. It is human nature making it universal. When I first started uncovering the layers of what I am really talking about here I had to stop in order to absorb it. I started thinking about the stuff that I talk about with my close girlfriends, water cooler talk at past jobs, idle talk with my family.. This recent cognition certainly makes me more aware of what comes out of my mouth. No one can get through life without using the words, he, she , they etc, which means we always talk about each other. I plan to be more cognizant of it though, especially when talking about the hes, shes and theys that I long ago decided were not worth my time, they are not worth my words either.

genuinely united for a moment in time

I am “small-sitting” this morning. Yesterday when my family was over for dinner I made the mistake of saying “baby-sitting” in front of my three-year old niece (the sittee in this baby-sitting equation). She got all up in arms letting me know she is not a baby, she is a small girl (not a big girl either, a small girl). Well in that case, most humble apologies indeed.

I got up early this morning for the forty five minute drive to my parent’s house from the city, I took the back roads since I was going to be early anyway. I love morning drives. I love the way the trees and buildings look in the morning light. I don’t love it as much when I am driving east, as I was this morning, but it is still quite pretty even while I am being blinded.

I was driving along enjoying my morning coffee and listening to the morning radio shows. I go between 104.1, 96.5 and 106.7 in the morning. 96.5 is my favorite if it is before 9am because they are reporting the news, after 9am it is republican talk radio shows. I also like 104.1 as a rule throughout the day but the host of the morning show drives me a bit nuts because he is uninformed and is constantly spewing out misinformation that he did not verify. My favorite radio personality joined their show like 6 months ago though so it has become more bearable.

I almost forgot that today is September 11th until 96.5 started covering the memorial taking place in New York. 8:46 was the moment of silence. Whenever something tragic like 9/11 happens for the years to follow everyone is able to remember exactly what they were doing the moment they heard. In fact, I bet even as you read this you are thinking about where you were when you heard the news. My Mom tells  the story of when President Kennedy was assassinated and when space shuttle challenger exploded. For my generation it is events like 9/11 and Columbine. Although I do remember what I was doing when I found out about 9/11 that is not where my brain returns to each year on the anniversary. I remember a night or two after 9/11 we were at my Uncle’s house and I was watching coverage on the news. There was this higher up, a CEO or something, from one of the companies that had offices in one of towers crying on the news. He was talking about how many employees they lost and his grief was palpable, every time I think of him and the grief he was feeling I get a knot in my throat. I also think of how for the first time in my entire life our country felt truly United. I remember the flags hanging out of everyone’s car windows and from the front of every house. For a moment in time we all felt connected. It is unfortunate that it takes the worst to bring out our best.

No, my father isn’t here

I got home from school yesterday and was half way through changing into comfy clothes when I heard a knock at the front door. I swear, I am going to be able to start a whole other blog just about the people who show up on my door step during the day! I was standing in my closet thinking, “you’re kidding me, two days in a row?” I start towards the front door working out in my head what I am going to say to the salesman this time. I look out the peep-hole and see no one. I open the door and a man pops his head around the corner of the house and says, “Oh hi, is your father home?” I just looked at him indignantly.  I answered him, “No, my father doesn’t live here”. So he continues with, “Oh, ok. Is the homeowner around then?” This guy isn’t starting off well with me. “Yep that’s me. What can I do for you?” He starts back peddling, “Oh, oh, ok great. Sorry you just look young, I didn’t mean any offense.” I guess I should be flattered, after all, I am going to be thirty this year.

So he starts to explain that he owns a tree trimming service and noticed the tree next to our drive way has some dead limbs that need to come down, he was offering to give me a quote. I walked out front and looked at our Camphor, the limbs were certainly not dead. I discussed this with him for a minute, he again started back peddling about how even if they aren’t dead the way they span across the drive way could be a problem if we were to get hit with a bad storm say from a hurricane. I was willing to admit he may have a point there. Camphors are solid trees, you don’t have to worry about them as much but they are no Live Oak or anything. When he realized he wasn’t getting anywhere with me he started talking to me about the Live Oak in the backyard. We have a Live Oak in our backyard that is so massive its branches span across three other yards. It is gorgeous. He started talking about how during a bad storm an oak can come down if its older. I just looked at him, “Yeah, a Laurel maybe but not a Live Oak. These things live for centuries, they are one of the most structurally sound trees in our region. That Live Oak’s root system is solid, I am not worried about it going anywhere.” Dumb founded he replies, “Oh I see you know your trees.” “I do.”

He did end up giving me a quote on what it would cost to cut back the Camphor limbs and some Live Oak branches (which I would never allow anyway). So in total, 500.00.

500.00 for a job that is not even needed. I don’t think so. The nail in the coffin was when he handed me the sheet and I saw that he had misspelled camphor, “camfer”. If this is your trade and you are telling me that you have been doing this for 25 years I would expect that you at least know how to spell the names of the trees you are talking about. I would also expect you to be able to make the distinction between a Laurel and a Live Oak. Maybe he will have better luck with the next sucker.

Spill level: Expert

Today I spilled a half full glass of cranberry juice in our living room. Our biege couch, light colored area rug, throw blanket and throw pillows were all in the splash zone of this spill. Guess how many of these items got sprayed. Zero! I realize this may seem bizarre, here I am spilling a glass of red liquid and celebrating after the fact but when you are as clumsy as I am it is important to acknowledge small wins like missing the furniture. I call that spilling like a ninja!

What I just did takes a certain level of skill, you know? The average-Joe-spiller could not pull off what I just did. It takes years of falling, tripping, spilling, breaking things, running into things etc.. to get this good.

Another case and point, when I was single I was at my favorite bar with my best friend (this is where you could find us every weekend and everyone knew it) and as I was making my way down the three steps from the deck to the dance floor (the bar is outside) I tripped. I tripped over my own foot on the top step and ate it down all three. Here is the ninja part of this fall, I had a full glass of vodka redbull in my hand as I tumbled and spilled not one drop. Not one! I did manage to skin my knee through my jeans but I had a full glass of vodka to numb the pain so the night continued.

Like I said, ninja.

How to make a point

I had no intention on posting an entry today. My inspiration was not in writing. Instead it was taking me towards painting, which is exactly what I was doing when my blissful silence was broken by a knock at the door.

I heard “shave-and-a-haircut” and of course my first reaction was slight panic for reasons I have stated in previous posts but then I assumed it was my father as that is his knock. This would not be unusual, he has Mondays off and if he was in the area he would absolutely stop by. What was unusual is that he hadn’t called, he would normally call. I considered going to put on something more appropriate as I was bra-less (as I often am when I am home alone for the day without plans for visitors) but decided against it convinced it was just Daddy. I got to the door and looked out the peep-hole to discover I was wrong, much to my dismay. It was our persistent neighborhood religious salesman with a new friend. I would take me a few minutes to go to the back of the house, change into something appropriate and get back to the front door to speak with them so I decided against it. Instead I did something that absolutely infuriated me, I hid behind my front door until they left.

I am exasperated. I feel that I have no choice but to be the person I have not wanted to be during encounters with this man. I do not want to be rude or threatening, I do not want to be the kind of person that hides behind my front door from someone. I want to be able to be honest and respectful in order to relay my message and I want to be respected in return.  The woman who accompanied him on his visit last week understood and appreciated my honesty, however he said nothing during our last encounter after I made my feelings clear so I assume he has chosen to ignore my wishes. So what next?? How do I make my point without becoming this person I have tried so hard not to be? It was difficult enough for me to be as honest as I was the last time because I was concerned about offending them! This man clearly does not care that I feel offended and violated.

I am going to have to give this some thought because clearly I can expect a future visit from him. What I think upsets me most is the disruption to my creative process. I am agitated and now have to try to not only calm down, which I will be able to do easy enough, but also get back into a state of mind that has been shattered. Booger.

Sleep Robber

Last night I got little sleep by no fault of my own, my book was holding me captive. I kept trying to put it down but then it would pull a fast one on me and 20 pages later I was still reading. Over and over this happened, Me: “Ok one more chapter” , My Book: “That’s what you think silly girl”. Then, BAM it was 2am. Of course when I finally was able to break free of my captor I was not able to just fall asleep, oh no my mind was still wide awake just ticking away.

I was thinking about the books I want to read next and how we need a new book shelf because we are running out of room on the ones we have. Then I started to go over my gratitude. My sister-in-law says this is our version of praying and I guess she is right. It’s what it sounds like, just taking time to remember to be thankful for everything. Sometimes it is just something I think about, sometimes Todd and I talk about it together, it keeps up grounded and grateful.

I did manage to drift off although I have no earthly idea what time it was. I do know that I felt wretched when I woke up this morning. Todd is being cute trying to say bye to me before he leaves for work and I have one eye open trying to focus on him. haha. Not cute. Needless to say I have been on a caffeine drip all day. This in itself poses a problem as I have a high sensitivity to caffeine, I have to drink half caf coffee or I start buzzing and shaking. I have been drinking iced half calf most of the day and have been wired. On the bright side it has been a hugely productive day.

I am excited it is Friday and we have no plans for once. A huge storm blew in this afternoon, black skies, thunder, lightening, the whole deal. Tonight I am looking forward to watching a movie on the couch with Todd and listening to the storm blow around outside. Nights like tonight are an introverts dream come true.

Follow up to “Being in the closet”

The religious salesman came knocking at my door again this morning. The same one from before. I was satisfied with how I handle his first visit because I was polite, listened to his message and accepted his material. Had I known that my quiet politeness was going to be misconstrued as willingness to accept future visits I would have still be polite but vocal about no future need for information.

Heres the thing, annoyance about this interruption in otherwise quiet, productive day does not just stem from not wanting to buy what he is trying to sell me. My annoyance exists on many levels,

1. When I know I have no reason to leave the house on any given day chances are I am not gonna bother with a bra. – It’s just me and the furniture, there is really no need to get gussied up.

2. Relating to number one, I may wait to take a shower until 3:00 if I feel so inclined.

3. We had a violent crime take place in our neighborhood a few months ago, unexpected knocks at my door rattle me a bit.

4. This is my “me time”, I don’t like to be bothered regardless of what it is.

The fact that he shoving religion in my face just intensifies my annoyance with the interruption, it isn’t the true cause of my annoyance.

So, there I was, sitting in my old scraggly Counting Crows t-shirt and worn out gym shorts, bra-less of course, hair in a knot on my head, coffee cup in hand, watching a Ted Talk on Introversion, when I hear “knock – knock” at the front door. My first reaction is a slight pang of fear followed by agitation. I get up, throw on a maxi dress (sans bra), and head for the door. I peek through my peep-hole to see the friendly neighborhood religion salesman and sigh, I realized it is time for me to come out of the closet to this man.

I opened the door to, “Hi Jill! Do you remember me I was here the other day” as he is handing me two new brochures on why everything I choose to believe in is wrong. I smile politely and say, “Yes of course, good morning.” He starts in on his spiel and I stop him, “I’m sorry I should have mentioned this the last time you were here as I certainly do not want to waste your time or gas money, we are not religious and your visits are actually a bit of an imposition. I appreciate and respect what you believe and what you do and hope that you will respect our position as well. I am happy to accept your pamphlets today but ask that you respect our privacy going forward and take our home off of your route.” He was accompanied by a lady today and she was surprisingly appreciative of my honesty, commenting on how she wished more people would just be honest as these visits do eat into their gas and time. I accepted his information again and wished them luck with their mission and thanked them for their understanding.

This encounter went incredibly well and to me is just a testament to what I have said before, there is no need for the harsh line that is drawn between believers and non-believers. We should all be respectful of each other’s beliefs regardless of what they are.

Emotional Intelligence

When I was in high school 10+ years ago a lot of emphasis was put on IQ, GPA, SAT Scores, etc. Never did I hear anything about EQ, however. EQ is a person’s emotional intelligence level. This is what we are looking at in terms of emotional intelligence:

Emotional intelligence consists of four attributes:

  • Self-awareness – You recognize your own emotions and how they affect your thoughts and behavior, know your strengths and weaknesses, and have self-confidence.
  • Self-management – You’re able to control impulsive feelings and behaviors, manage your emotions in healthy ways, take initiative, follow through on commitments, and adapt to changing circumstances.
  • Social awareness – You can understand the emotions, needs, and concerns of other people, pick up on emotional cues, feel comfortable socially, and recognize the power dynamics in a group or organization.
  • Relationship management – You know how to develop and maintain good relationships, communicate clearly, inspire and influence others, work well in a team, and manage conflict.

At my core I have always considered myself kind, mature, moral, essentially filled with important attributes that can lead to emotional maturity and ultimately emotional intelligence but I was not there, nowhere near actually.

My break through came while I was in grief counseling 3 years ago. As good of a person as I have tried to be in my life and as good as my intentions had been yp to that point the truth is, I was walking around in the dark. My counseling began with my grief and not being able to cope with an important loss, but as I healed the counseling continued. The first ray of light came when my counselor pointed out that in everything that goes wrong in a person’s life there is always one common denominator, the person. I am the constant. There for I am the link to everything that is ever going to go right or wrong for me. I will always play a part in these things. This is why I believe with conviction I have never been a victim to anyone or any situation. I, for the first time in my 27 years, was able to see my part in everything that had ever happened in my life. It seemed like such a small thing, this sudden self-awareness, but it came down on me like a ton of bricks.

I am the common denominator to everything that will ever happen in my life, chew on that for a minute, really digest it. It is a statement that can change your entire outlook on life, it did for me. Thus began my journey towards self-actualization.

I went from blaming my ex-boyfriends for past relationships not working out to realizing, well I had an undiagnosed anxiety disorder so I am sure that didn’t make anything easier. I was, for the first time, able to see things from the point of view of the person who hurt me. That doesn’t take any guilt off of their hands per say, it just allowed me to see the guilt on mine as well.

The next step in counseling was to work on managing my feelings. As an INFP I am loaded with emotions and controlling them has not always been easy, especially in times of duress such as my bout with depression. So I learned tools to help. Ultimately my self-awareness is what has changed me the most. Since everything that took place in my life three years ago I have been on a mission to work on myself and improve my life. I have been self-correcting and eliminating bad habits in an effort to become the person I know I meant to be. I want to feel complete and I know that all the work I have been doing on myself, internally and externally will help me reach my life goal.

One thing I am incredibly thankful for is that Todd came into my life during this transition process. He saw me at the tail end of something bad and has been my biggest cheerleader as I work towards my something better. Everything I have learned about myself and others I have been able to apply to our relationship. This is why our communication is so good and we never fight. We understand each other at the core of who the other is and we accept and support each other. I have never had this level of understanding from any relationship in my life, that includes with my own family, although my brother does come close. That is a great feeling, just to be understood.

 

Documentaries

In a surprising turn of events this weekend I purchased my wedding dress. My Mom, sister-in-law and I went to a store “just to look” yesterday and there it was waiting for me. It is much more than anything I could have imagined for myself. I would say my wedding style is vintage inspired but simplistic. This dress has the vintage feel that I love but is not as simple as I thought I my wedding dress would be. It is stunning. It was exactly how you are told it will be, the moment I put it on I knew. It is the first designer anything I have ever owned and I am able to say that because it was on an amazing sale. I would never have dreamed of paying what the original ticket price for this dress was but after all the discounts it was so far under my budget I felt as though I was taking advantage of them rather than the other way around. It is all starting to feel real now, up to this point everything has felt wonderful but a bit surreal.

So dress aside, there are really no other updates to add from the long weekend. I am currently folding clothes and getting ready to watch another documentary on Netflix. I don’t know if I have ever mentioned this before but one of my favorite things to do when I have some “me time” is binge watch documentaries on Netflix. Netflix may not have a great movie selection and as I am not an avid TV watcher I do not use it for that purpose either but Netflix has a pretty decent selection of documentaries. I prefer documentaries to TV shows because it feels like less of a waste of time. I don’t mean to sound like a snob about TV, I have my guilty pleasure shows, Walking Dead, Project Runway, Breaking Bad, Sex and the City.. I just mean that when given a choice I will usually pick a documentary. I get the enjoyment of relaxing in front of the TV but I feel a little less guilty, like I am getting a little something out of it, not just wasting time (which always feels like it is the case, there is always home work or house work to do).

My favorites are in the social & cultural sub genre but they have great options in science, crime, biography, history, religion.. The list goes on..

Last week I watched Steal a Pencil for Me as well as Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son about his Father. I enjoyed both very much. The first is a holocaust documentary that followed the story of one couple that fell in love while prisoners in the concentration camps. WWII and the Holocaust have always been a great fascination of mine. It is my favorite area of history. I cannot read enough books or watch enough documentaries about that period of time. It’s such an important part of our recent history as humans. The latter of the two was a biopic I guess you could say. It was about the life and death of man from the point of view of those who loved him. There is a dark aspect of this movie that I do not want to divulge as it is it would ruin it for those who have not seen it. This movie sinks it hooks in right away and you are right there experiencing every high and low along with the family. I cried throughout, as I often do with a heartfelt documentary, but I love that. I love feeling connected to other’s stories. Good documentaries are like good books, they leave an imprint on you. Your thoughts come back to them again and again. My favorites are Bully and How to Die in Oregon. Those two have moved me more than any others I have seen.

Today I am watching Happy. I am sure I will have a reaction to share later.