Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Look Forward, Dumbass

Sometimes when I go running... especially if I'm on the bike path...  there are moments when I am trying to run forward, but I'm also trying to look behind me. Perhaps I'm looking to pass someone, perhaps there's a bend in the road. Mostly, I'm wanting to see if there's a bicyclist about to pass me -- it's a well-used route to Microsoft and some of those bicyclists are SERIOUS.  I've been nearly run down in the past.

But, it's pretty hard to move forward in a way that doesn't make you appear drunkish when you're trying to move forward and look backward at the same.  You can't move in a direction your head isn't facing, and you end up veering off. It just doesn't work.

And I suppose it's the same way in life.

I'm a crazy enthusiast of reflection... I could reflect all day -- hence the copious number of posts in this blog circling around the same thoughts over and over. The times of the year where I allow myself to sit down, reflect on the past year, and think about what I want to happen next? Those are probably my favorite parts of the year. I love that stuff.

But...

Reflection has a purpose. It's good to look at where you've been. To take stock of what happened that was good, what happened that wasn't. The choices you made that worked well, the choices you made that were a disaster... but SO THAT you can move forward. There's a point where you stop reflecting and you start moving.

And if you insist on continuing to look back while you try to move forward...

you're going to crash into a bicyclist or fall into the river or break a leg or...

You can't move in a direction your head isn't facing. And if you don't turn around and look in the direction you actually want to go, you'll just end up right back where you left.

Monday, November 19, 2018

A Really Long Lesson

It was several years ago that I was mindlessly scrolling through quotes and pictures and lists on Pinterest, and stopped on one that gave me pause. It was a post on "signs you're involved with a narcissist," and it gave me pause because it felt oddly familiar. It reminded me of a friendship I was involved in, and that correlation dovetailed me into a wave of guilt.

I didn't really know that much about narcissism at the time, and only had a passing sense that it was more-or-less nothing but a description of a jerk. It carries such a negative cultural connotation. So I felt guilty for even thinking it. I genuinely cared for that person. How could I love them and think they might be a narcissist?

I buried it. It wasn't a thought I wanted to entertain.

But it was a seed of doubt that never stayed buried. Over the years, I would continue to see random bits about narcissism. They never really stopped feeling familiar - so it just sort of became this secret belief that I kept hidden. Something I believed but avoided, laced with guilt, complicated by affection - and something I never ever shared. Who would understand?

Until I met someone who did. It was a "me too" moment of the Brene Brown kind. She says, "If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence, and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dishes and douse it with empathy, it can't survive. The two most powerful words when we're in struggle: 'Me too.'" And I think she's right. The "me too" didn't make it something I suddenly started sharing - but it took away my guilt and shame, and replaced them with the possibility that I wasn't crazy. That affection and belief could be co-existing states. I allowed myself to admit that it was what I believed, and to simply grow more comfortable with it.

I found myself stepping back a little from that friendship at the beginning of the year.  He had said some things I'd found hurtful and... What I decided was that if I was going to continue in that friendship, I was going to need some better tools to deal. So, I took a deep study dive into narcissism. It took me a little while to find the kind of information I wanted- so much is written from the standpoint of victims who've been hurt and I wanted something more even-handed. I found it in Craig Malkin's Rethinking Narcissism.

I got a lot more out of it than I had planned.

I learned a lot. I learned what the scale of narcissism looks like - what healthy narcissism is, what the unhealthy looks like, what echoism is - where it all comes from, how to better recognize it. I found some insight into how you get drawn into it, why it's been hard for me to pull out of it. With a sad heart, it helped me to realize that the things I found to be most consistently hurtful were things that I couldn't change, no matter how much patience, loyalty, and trust I laid out. But it also gave me a healthier lens with which to see those things - how they were far more connected to the personal fears of someone else than they were anything to do with me. That they really weren't about me at all -- and that was tremendously freeing to my residency in self-blame.

In the end, it affirmed my belief that you could think someone exhibited those tendencies and still love them -- but also made me see that loving them might be safer from afar with healthier boundaries.  And a moment intended to wound sealed that.

Looking back....

I went out with a friend recently and admitted with chagrin, "You were right. You warned me not to get involved."

"I did... And you weren't going to listen. But it sounds like you know now."

And maybe that's all you can do.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

True at the Same Time

I was a young mom the first time I really understood that two seemingly conflicted things could both be true at the same time.

I'd been having a really hard time, struggling to just hold on from day to day when one of my closest friends said to me, "Jojo... I think you should see a doctor. What I've been watching you go through really sounds like depression to me."

At the time, that perplexed me. I'd been having a hard time, sure, but... I'd just been laughing with my friends about something. If I was capable of moments of happiness, how could I be depressed? That, of course, stemmed from an inaccurate definition of depression, but it was also the first time that I understood that conflicting things could be true.

You can be depressed but also joyful.
You can be angry with someone that you love.
You can be tired, and yet awake.
You can share tenderness with someone who has broken your heart.
You can be motivated and yet worn out.
You can be happy and sad.
You can miss someone that you know you are better off without.

Heart truths, I have found, are rarely mutually exclusive.

Complicated creatures with complicated feelings.

And all true.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Write what you need.

At the beginning of the school year, I sat down and wrote out some areas that I wanted to focus this year.  Some small, some big...  One of them was giving myself the space to write more.

That ebbs and flows a bit... partly with what I have on my mind, partly with how much time I have, partly with how tired I feel. But, compared to how much I wrote last year -- which was crap nothing-- I'm pleasantly happy with that.

But when I wrote those goals, I also sat down and wrote out some details for each one...  and writing had three that have stuck out to me, that I've tried to follow.  Guidelines that I've not always followed well in the past, but that I think are more in line with what I want writing to be in this season.

1. You have permission to be honest.
2. Above all, this is for you. Don't write for feedback. Don't write what you think others want to hear.
3. Write what you need.

This is where I am right now. This is the aim -- in all its convolutedness and stops and starts. And that's okay -- because right now, it's just for me.

Monday, November 12, 2018

A Morning Tale

The fire burned slowly in the hearth on that cold morning, and she sat by the window with a cup of tea, watching the world outside. The pine needles had long begun to fall from the trees, already brown, and they littered her yard like a forest of fossilized ferns.

They fell in what was left of her garden. They fell in the leaves of her rhododendrens. They fell on the railing of her porch. They fell so heavily amongst the blades of grass that her yard had ceased to look so much as a yard, as it was just a graveyard for the trees' discards.

What was left of them blew softly in the wind.

A lone golf ball nestled amongst them under a bush. There were no golf courses nearby and she didn't know anyone who played... Her thoughts gently pondered who had left it there. She'd probably taken care of him anyway.

Her eyes roamed through the tangled web of needles to rest on the birdhouse that lay at its far edge. She nearly always forgot it was there.

Inside the birdhouse, though she had mostly forgotten, there lived a wee robin. His name was Charles. Charles woke every morning and hopped to the round door of the birdhouse. He stretched his wings and tried to speak, but could only chirp.

And before he flew down to the needle-strewn yard to sift for his breakfast of worms, he eyed the house warily. He searched the window for her face. And he planned.

He hadn't always been a bird named Charles who lived in a birdhouse and pecked for worms in the morning.

He'd once been Charles the Man.  That was his golfball.  Someday soon, the witch would pay.
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