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Ending the Pity Party?

In a recent conversation, I found myself talking about pity parties. Namely, that I needed to stop throwing them for myself. In my defense, I have been dealing with chronic illness for over two years, my first overseas trip in a decade was plagued by illness – including fevers so high it made wearing a coat in England in January frivolous – and a broken little toe that may require surgery. So I’ve got some crap going on that warrants the occasional pity party. That being said, I do my best to stay positive. Please see previous blog post.

Pity Train

That means, that when I do throw myself a pity party, it’s not a long drawn-out affair. Generally, I give myself about an hour. For one hour I am allowed to bemoan all of the ills that have befallen me. All of things in life that are unfair, all of the times that I’ve gotten the fuzzy end of the lollipop and all of the opportunities that I miss out on because of all of the crap mentioned above. In essence, I get to be in a surly, shitty-ass, nothing-will-appease-me, stay-back-or-I-will-end-you sort of mood. At the end of the hour, I shake it off, let it go and move on with my day.

It’s quite refreshing, and lately has become more and more a necessity to maintain my mental health. Which I’ve been looking at as a problem. The inner dialogue looks something like this: “Why do I need this so much lately? What’s wrong with me? Why am I such a whiner? Buck up and get over it!”

Complaint Department

That’s a great inner monologue, right? Very healthy. This is what I was bemoaning in my recent conversation, when my whole view on the matter got turned upside down. My therapist (I try to only whine about stuff like this to people whom I pay to listen) posited an alternative way to look at it – “What was wrong with throwing yourself an hour-long pity party every week? Or even every day? That’s healthier than bottling it all up inside.”

What? How in the hell could feeling sorry for myself every day for an hour possibly be good for me? Think of all of the other things that I could be doing in that time. An hour a day. That’s seven hours a week. 28 – 31 hours a month. 365 hours a year. Why in the world would I spend over 15 days a year purposefully feeling sorry for myself? That’s ludicrous! Then she asked two more questions:

“Name the happiest child you know.”

I gave the name of a friend’s child.

“Ask that child’s parents if there is a time every day that the kid is impossible to deal with.”

Hyde Gif

She intended this to be homework, but as it so happened, this child’s mother and I had recently talked about this very thing. Like clockwork, this child goes from happy and bubbly to inconsolable every day around 4:00. Doesn’t matter where they are or what they’re doing, nothing will please this kid. Something that was a piece of cake at 10:00 that morning, will cause a complete breakdown at 4:00. Then after an hour or so, he’s back to his happy self. Like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Apparently this is something that well-adjusted children do. They store up all of their injustices and frustrations throughout the day, and then let them out all at once. They throw themselves a daily pity-party, and are happier for the rest of the day because of it. Huh? That actually makes a fair bit of sense. I still haven’t been able to wrap my head around it completely – probably because I’ve spent my whole life being told not to feel sorry for myself – but this might be worth trying. Who knows?

 

 

To The Outcasts

I read an article today about how people feel the need to tone down emotion. Whether it be happiness, sadness, anger it must be expressed in moderation. When I first read that, I scoffed. What good does toning down emotion do? Then, the more that I thought about it, the more I realized that I do believe this article is entirely true. Some people become disconcerted when emotions swing outside of a normal, “acceptable” range.

I have never been that person. Well, that’s not true. I was forced to be that person for many years and I was miserable. But I have never inherently been that person. If something makes me happy, or excites me I’m going to express that with a joyously ecstatic fervor. I guess I figure if you’re going to get excited, GET EXCITED! The same goes for concentration. If I truly want to accomplish something my focus is on that and that alone. The room could come down around me and I would be clueless. I can’t tell you how many times I have been at dinner with friends and been industriously trying to dig the cherry out from the bottom of my drink only to look up and discover the entire table looking at me with mirthful smiles. Which officially begs the question, why do they put the cherry on the bottom?!?!?!? Okay, that’s probably not the first question that springs into your mind, but I would certainly like to know!

Cherry at Bottom

At any rate, reading this article made me aware of just how much my life has changed. Throughout my childhood I was admonished to squelch this side of my personality. I was told that it was, that I was, inappropriate. Because of this I became afraid to express myself. I doubted my ability to appropriately react in situations and I felt the need to constantly wear a mask, pretending to be someone that I was not. It sucked! It wasn’t until I began to venture out on my own and question the precepts of my upbringing that I discovered that there was nothing wrong with me. There is nothing wrong with feeling and expressing emotions outside of “normal” ranges. If that makes other people uncomfortable, then that is their problem, not mine. My feelings and how I choose to express them are legitimate and correct for me.

Weird

Now the people that I spend my time with are not embarrassed when I drag them over to another aisle in Smart and Final to show them the epically large can of ravioli – those things are ginormous, you have to check it out some time. They think it’s funny, they think it’s ridiculous, actually who knows what they think, but they don’t disapprove. They don’t tell me to knock it off, or tone it down. They smile, laugh, or sometimes join in my excitement and generally accept me for who I am. That is a state of being that I never fathomed could exist. Being surrounded by people who accept me and love me for who I am, in all of my quirky goodness. So I guess the point of all of this is to say to the outcasts, to the people who feel like everything they do is wrong, stay strong and hold on to who you truly are. There are people out there in this world who will love you for you, not a modified or “corrected” version of you. Be joyously ecstatic, or dorky, or quirky, or whatever, and don’t let anybody tell you that it’s wrong. Your people are out there, you just have to find them.

Sometimes We Have to Be Reminded

Sometimes we have to be reminded that not all ailments can be seen from the outside. That the people with the biggest smiles are often the ones who are hurting the most. Sometimes we have to be reminded that if we are the ones hurting the most, we do not have to bear that pain alone. That we are not a burden. Sometimes we have to be reminded that someone shares our story. That someone has walked in our shoes and knows the weight of our soul. Sometimes we have to be reminded that sharing our traumas does not necessarily mean a transfer of pain. That the sharing can create a lightness for all involved.

Sometimes we have to be reminded that we are not alone. That we have people by our side to catch us if we fall. Sometimes we have to be reminded that the people by our side are not always the ones we think. That love and support can come from unlikely places. Sometimes we have to be reminded that we do not support the world’s weight. That we can stop and take a break without guilt. Sometimes we have to be reminded that taking care of ourselves first is smart, not selfish. That it’s okay to do something that benefits only us. Sometimes we have to be reminded that saying no to one thing is like saying yes to everything. That just because a ball is thrown our way, does not mean that we have to play catch.

Sometimes we have to be reminded that a smile goes a lot farther than a frown. That just because we are surrounded by miserable people, does not mean that we have to be miserable too. Sometimes we have to be reminded that misery loves company. That miserable people, at times, will try to drag us down. Sometimes we have to be reminded that it is our choice if they succeed or fail. That no one but us, gets to determine our happiness. Sometimes we have to be reminded that we get to choose who gets our time and our love. That that time and love should be reciprocated or it is not deserved.

Sometimes we have to be reminded that doing what is best for us, might mean leaving somebody else behind. That we are not in charge of saving everyone. Sometimes we have to be reminded that we can’t save anyone. That they have to save themselves. Sometimes we have to be reminded that showing someone the tools to save themselves is the most precious gift we can give. That confidence is not born from handouts and unearned victories. Sometimes we have to be reminded that life is full of little victories. That each and every one deserves a celebration. Sometimes we have to be reminded that life is full of ups and downs but we only get the one. That that one life is better lived focusing on the ups and surrounding ourselves by those who will celebrate with us.

Sometimes we have to be reminded.

reminder

Saying No to One Thing . . .

Someone once said that, “Saying no to one thing, is like saying yes to everything else.”  I remember hearing this when I was in college, but for the life of me I can’t remember where or from whom, but it stuck with me.  Mostly because it was catchy and I had no idea what it meant.  This was a time in my life that I said yes to everything.  I was fresh out of high school, could function on caffeine and four hours of sleep a night, and was terrified that if I turned down even one opportunity I would ruin my chances of being successful.  Because of this belief, I found myself over committed to multiple projects at all times – most of which I didn’t really care that much about, but gave 110% anyway.  An average day would start at 7 or 8 in the morning and wouldn’t end until 2 or 3 the next morning.  I honestly have no idea how I did it, and would sign away the rights to my first-born child to have that kind of energy and stamina again.

However, when I look back at that time, I realize that I was never truly happy.  I was busy, but not necessarily happy.  My inability to say no meant that I wound up committed to a lot of things that I didn’t necessarily want to be doing.  Which caused a lot of frustration because it meant that I didn’t have free time to commit to doing those things that I wanted to do.  Mostly because I had no free time: every hour of every day had already been sold at auction to the lowest bidder.

While I would like to say, that I have figured this out and no longer have this problem at all, I would be lying through my teeth.  I still tend to over commit myself.  However, I have gotten much better at choosing my projects, and learning when to say no and where to set my boundaries.

Say No!

I have one project, that I commit a certain amount of time to every week.  However, for months now, the person in charge has been trying to get more time out of me.  One night I relented and stayed late, and found that my time was completely wasted, with absolutely no acknowledgement that it had been a complete waste of my time.  It was at that point that I decided that that was not going to happen again.  Unless there was an emergency, I wasn’t going to stay late.  The next time I was asked, I said no.  I said no the next time, and the time after that. I let it be known what my boundary is, regardless of the expectations of others.

I have gotten a lot of resistance because of this.  At first from everyone, but slowly someone came over to my side, my way of thinking.  He encouraged me to stick to my guns and lamented that he never had.  He now feels like his time is taken for granted and often wasted, but he’s been letting it go on for so many years that there’s nothing he can do about it now.  So he cheers me on when I stand my ground and refuse to stay late.  It makes dealing with the bristling and the guilt trips easier.

Then last week a funny thing happened.  I was supposed to leave in an hour, when the guy in charge showed up and wanted to get a bunch of things done.  I immediately braced myself for the fight that was surely going to come about me wanting to leave on time.  Especially since that night it wasn’t just about principals, I actually had dinner plans with friends that I didn’t want to be late to.  But the fight never came.  He asked me to do on last thing before I left, and then wished me a good night.  I didn’t even have to bring up the fact that I had plans.  He knew what time I was going to be leaving, and he respected that.

The giddy happiness that bubbled up inside of me as I made my way to my car plastered itself all over my face in a huge smile.  For the first time, that quote made sense.  “Saying no to one thing, is like saying yes to everything else.”  Because I had stood my ground, and said no to something that made me feel used, I had gained the freedom and the confidence to say yes to whatever I wanted.  There was no bitterness, no animosity, just the euphoria that comes from knowing you made the right choice.

Decide what is best for you, set your boundaries, and then say no when someone tries to move your line.  It’s truly liberating.

Too Much of a Good Thing

I recently drank the Pinterest Kool-aid and opened up an account.  I am officially on the Pinterest bandwagon.  Now I had been avoiding doing this ever since it came out for a number of reasons.  First and foremost because I was fairly certain that the moment I started I would lose HOURS of time on there . . . and I was absolutely correct.  I am a collector.  I LOVE collecting things.  As a child I had a troll collection.  I’m sure at one point I knew the exact count, but all I can remember now is that there were more than 200 of them.  Now I collect elephants; figurines, stuffed toys, pictures, etc.  I try really hard to limit myself, and they’re still everywhere.  I like to think that they blend in pretty well, but if you look . . . EVERYWHERE.

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I am also very organized.  I once saw a throw pillow that had “A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place” in needlepoint on the front.  I wanted to make fun of it with my friends, but I couldn’t because secretly, deep down inside, I totally had a place where it could go.  So a website where you can collect things that you like, and organize them into categories speaks to my very soul.  And now that I’ve joined, it is everything that I ever hoped it would be.

Then a funny thing happened.  I have a board called “Beautiful Pics” where I pin mostly landscape photos that I think are beautiful.  Well the other day, I had pinned about ten pictures on there of sunsets when I came upon another one that was pretty, but not breathtaking, and my inner voice actually said, “You should skip that one.  After all, it’s not as good as the rest and you’ve already pinned too many today anyway.”

What?!?!?  When did that happen?  When did I start to internally limit myself?  As if there is such a thing as too much beauty.  The Pinterest police will come banging on my door because I have pinned too much and that is more beauty than one person has the right to collect.  Yes, there is such a thing as having too much of some things.  Ice cream for example.  If you eat too much ice cream, you’re gonna get sick and you’ll have to buy a whole new wardrobe.  So yes, by all means, limit the amount of ice cream you eat.  But there is no such thing as too many sunset pictures.  There is no such thing as too many pictures of adorable puppies – yes, that’s one of my boards too!

I feel like this is a societal thing.  We’re taught that too much of a good thing is bad.  Not just physical things, but emotions as well.  We’re taught to “play it close to the vest” and that we shouldn’t “wear our hearts on our sleeves.”  And quite frankly I call bunk!  Why should we hold back?  We should be telling the people that we love, not only that we love them, but also why we love them.  We should be telling them this early and often!

One of my best friends does this.  She regularly tells me how much I mean to her.  She regularly points out little things that I do that make her happy and I try to do the same.  Guess what?  Neither of us is hurt by this practice, nor does it ever get old.   Instead, we’ve become confidants and never tire of the other’s company.  No subject is too private, no topic too sacred to discuss.  It’s amazing, and I wish that all of my relationships could be this way . . . which I guess they can.  All I have to do is start telling people what they mean to me.  Not in the hopes of reciprocation, but because they should know that my life is better with them around.  So dear reader, thank you for making it this far: it means the world to me that you take the time out of your busy day to read my ramblings.  I hope that they brighten your day!

Finding a Voice

 

I have been writing for as long as I can remember, but it’s only recently that people have been telling me that they “love my voice.”  I took the compliments and felt honored by them, but didn’t really understand.  What was “my voice” and why was it only now coming through so strongly.  It wasn’t until I started to compare my work now to older work, and where and who I am now compared to times in the past, that I finally saw what people were talking about.  My writing has developed a personality all its own, a voice that yearns to tell the stories it hears kicking around in my head, and tell them in a way that highlights all of the things that I find significant.

 

Finding my voice as a writer was actually all about accepting who I am, all of who I am – the goofy, inappropriate, awkward, blunt, honest, atypical, exuberant, moody, defiant, stubborn, passionate whole – and giving myself permission to share that with the world.  I use the word permission very specifically because I had been taught from a young age; I think we are all taught, that we need to conform.  Don’t be so loud, don’t draw attention, don’t be weird . . . because heaven forbid someone should know that you’re an individual and have a personality.  Scary!

 

But this is what I was taught, so that is how I lived.  Being me was “wrong”.  Occasionally I would forget, but there was always someone there to shoosh me back into the box . . . where I was miserable.  I had no voice because I had no access to who I truly was, and with no voice I would get so frustrated that I couldn’t see straight.  I could see my inherent talents, and I could sense my inherent passions, but I was so focused on making sure that what I was doing was “right” that everything I did was wrong.  I knew it every second of every day, and knowing that I was wrong made me hesitant to use what voice I had because I was afraid of being rejected for the person that I didn’t want to be in the first place.

 

It wasn’t until I realized that I was spending all of my time and energy perfecting a person that I didn’t want to be that I finally started to reevaluate what exactly was so “wrong” with who I was.  I realized that there was nothing wrong with me.  What was wrong was that I had listened for so long to all of the people who insisted on pigeon holing me into what they perceived to be “right”.  It was then that I realized that I had no need for those people in my life.  I had no need for people who made me feel ashamed for living a life of passion and joy and risks.  There are people in this world who love me for living those ideals.  Those are the people that I needed in my life and it was with those people that I tested my real voice.  It was with those people that I learned to scream it to the rafters.  And when I was done, they weren’t cringing, embarrassed by my display.  They were smiling and laughing with me.

 

The next thing I knew, I was writing.  I was writing more than I ever had in my life, and I loved what I was writing.  I felt strong and courageous as I let my characters sweep me away in their story.  I bared my soul to them and they did the same in return.  They share with me their deepest, darkest desires and secrets and I try to honor them by being brave enough to put them down for all to read.  They live and breathe by my pen, and I live and breathe for them.  In creating them, I have found myself.  I have found my voice.

Beautiful Quote