Friday, May 23, 2014

The Masks We've Forgotten

What kind of masks do you wear? What does the world think about you that isn't quite true?

I remember once, I was talking to a friend that I mostly only knew online... and I was confiding about how much I struggle with worrying about what people think of me, or about the people who I know don't like me or about my own self-consciousness.

She was incredulous. She had no idea and thought that I always seemed so confident, so sure of myself... that me being self-conscious never even entered her mind as a possibility.  Not only that, but she said that she admired me for that confidence.

And it was so outside of what really lies in my heart that I had to laugh.

I think I'm pretty open here in this blog, so probably my insecurities wouldn't be a surprise to the people who are regular readers here. But, you guys, I'm a mess.  I'm a jumbled screwed-up mess of self-doubt, self-consciousness, self-everything! Half of the things I write here are pep talks for myself. And sometimes I worry that you're going to think I'm a broken record, that I just talk about the same things over and over, and I'm crazy in the head for not being able to let things go.

But you're right!  You're not wrong at all.  I am crazy in the head and I just vomit this stuff all over the internet. But I can't seem to learn the lessons, and I still need the pep talks.

Maybe I'm just stubborn.

Sometimes even I don't know the masks I wear. They're comfortable, and they're familiar. And they cover up the things that I'm afraid to reveal. But, over the years, I've worn them so much, I think they're me. I've forgotten that they're masks, and that they aren't really me.

Sometimes I need to remember.

Monday, May 19, 2014

How Did I Get Here? - When Things Happen Fast

Things happen so fast.  Sometimes they do.

Sometimes they don't at all. Time drags by so slowly that you look at the clock and you can't believe only a minute or five or ten has passed. You wonder how you can possibly wait for that thing you're waiting for... or how you can possibly make it to the end of that run you're trying to complete. Oh, THAT time can drag.

But sometimes it just goes by fast. Things happen... Click. Click. Click.  All in a row and so quickly that you can hardly take stock of what's going on - until you stop in the middle of it and think, "How did I get here?  I don't even remember the steps I took, they flew by so quickly."


Sometimes things happen fast. But sometimes, I think that they happen fast so that we can't think too long, so that we can't argue ourselves out of steps and words and gestures that we need to make to get us to where we need to go.

So, yes, you might find yourself in a clearing that you don't remember running into. A situation you don't feel that you chose, a relationship that doesn't make a whole lot of sense, a set of consequences you don' feel that you deserve.

But, you're here now -- however you got here. And maybe you're here because you're meant to be here.  Maybe you're not.  I don't know.  But you're here now, and there's no use looking for an escape out of the place that you are. You have to deal with the monster in front of you. There's no cowering in the corner. There's no exit strategy.  Your exit... your escape... it's behind the obstacle in front of your face.

You have to deal with it.

But, that can happen fast too. Or slow. I think that maybe that one is up to you. How quickly you make it past the monster depends entirely on how much time you spend looking for a way out, and how much time you spend on conquering the beast.

How fast it happens... well, that depends on you.  That depends on us.

So, you got here quickly. How will you get out?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

10 Ways to See Things Differently

1. Take a breath. Stop and close your eyes. Breathe in and hold it.  Now, breathe out.  Do it again. Sometimes just that is enough to clear the anxiety and the troubles from your mind and help you to face the day afresh.

2. Take a new road. Go for a walk or or a run or a bike ride or even a drive -- but go on a road or a path that you don't usually go down. Pay attention to what you see.

3. Go on a picture-taking expedition. This sounds silly... but this makes you slow down. The journey becomes less about getting somewhere and more about experiencing everything there is to experience along the way, as you look for the little things worth capturing on film.

4. Get high. Have you ever looked at the world around you from up really high?  Maybe it's from the top of a tall monument or a cliff that overlooks a valley. Things look different when you're above it all, and somehow perspective comes.

5. Get low. By contrast, it looks different from down-low too.  Not your level.  Lower.  Get down on your knees... look at the world from a toddler's height.  See what a child would see... the cracks in the ground, the bugs in the dirt, the individual blades of grass.  This, too, is perspective-changing.

6. Exercise! I know, you hate me for this one. But, I promise it's true.  Those endorphins that exercise releases into your system work, friends. It's like a quick little happy pill, and absolutely changes the way you view the day and yourself and your problems and the world around you.

7. Go somewhere crowded and people watch.  But, not just idly...  You're watching for people's stories. The harried mom, the overworked businessman, the awkward teenager who can't quite fit in. The girl that just lost her mother, the father that just lost his job, the couple that just got engaged. Somehow, I think that other people's real stories help us to step outside of ourselves and focus on something else.

8. Put away your phone. We're awfully connected, and I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. I love being able to connect with so many friends that live so far away. But sometimes, I think we've forgotten how to be idle. It makes us uncomfortable... and perhaps learning to be idle again is exactly what we need.  So... not all the time... but some of the time, put your phone away. And remember what it was like to not be reachable, to not need to always be reaching out.

9. Talk to people. Find out what their real stories are... don't settle for "Fine" when you ask them how they're doing. Really find out... be the kindness they need. Give of yourself... I promise new perspective will come.

10. Clean something out.  Your closet, your pantry, your car, your make-up drawer. It doesn't really matter what it is, but there's something awesomely refreshing about getting rid of things that you don't really need. It's like a fresh start and lifts a weight you didn't realize you were carrying off of your shoulders.

11. (Sorry, I forgot this one... but it's important!) Change your music! Stop listening to all that melodramatic stuff you've got on your iPod and find something peppy! I promise it will change your mood!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Forgive Yourself

I went to Weight Watchers this morning, as I do almost every Saturday morning, and almost didn't weigh in.  I knew what the scale would say.  Despite having a great loss the week before, this past week hadn't been fantastic. I started out not doing a very good job of tracking what I was eating. As the week wore on and my life encountered some situations that always bring stress and hard emotions, that spiralled further and further downward until the last couple days where my attitude was pretty much, "Oh screw it."

I did weigh in.  In the end, I did... because, for me, not weighing in wasn't the deal I made with myself.  The deal I made was that I would weigh, no matter what the scale was going to say. Because I was going into this weight loss journey this time with full honesty with myself -- and that included inviting accountability into my life.

But, there was another part of the deal, too.


This time, there was to be no condemnation of myself, no beating myself up over my choices or my mistakes. This time, I was to treat myself with the same kindness that I would extend to the person sitting next to me.  Now, that doesn't mean that I'm not honest about where I messed up or where I could have done better or what I can do better in the week to come.  But, there is no punishment. There is no treating myself like a failure.

So, I'm not beating myself up today. I'm disappointed with how the week went, to be sure. But I'm forgiving myself for the week that was, and heading with determination into the week that will be.

Sometimes, it isn't weight loss that's the hardest part.  It's self-forgiveness.

And it occurs to me that this is the hardest thing in a lot of the parts of my life.  It is hard to forgive myself for the things that have been -- words I've said, choices I've made, people I've believed that have ended up being not truthful, trust given and betrayed, trust withheld when it deserved to be given, promises I've broken, even things that were that I couldn't have changed anyway.  These are things that I have a very hard time forgiving myself for... a very hard time moving forward from.

And yet, grace.
Just grace.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Just Show Up

Life is hard.

Life is easier when we fill it with friendship and relationship. We put a lot of rules on that sometimes... a lot of boundaries, a lot of definitions. We think it has to look a certain way in order to count or in order to matter. We believe the books we've read and the stories we've been told.

But I think that most of friendship is just showing up. When it's easy, when it's hard... just show up. You don't have to know what to say. You don't have to say the perfect things. You just have to care enough to be there...  for the good parts and the bad parts and the hard parts and the easy parts.

Keep showing up.

Sometimes I feel like I'm not very good at this... and I'm ashamed of that. I have a husband and a home and three children. Cars to take care of, a body I'm trying to beat into submission, and demons I'm attempting to best. Every once in a while, I take stock and realize that I've gotten myself so buy, running around after everything, that I've forgotten to show up for the people I care about. And that's not okay with me.

I want to show up. I want to be better about showing up... so I'm trying.  Maybe not with great success, but I'm trying.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

People On Our Pedestals

People are just people. All people. They're just people.

Have you ever seen someone as more than that, though? Have you seen them put on a pedestal? Have you ever put someone on one yourself? Maybe celebrity or notoriety of some kind is involved... maybe death... or maybe in the case of early relationship infatuation?

Now, to me, putting people up on pedestals comes with two distinct lines of thought -- one that comes with positive and negative manifestations... and one that is just harmful in general.

First, when we put someone above, we have the tendency to see them as better than they actually are. In some ways, this isn't the most awful thing ever. Sometimes I think that if we all spent time thinking better of people than they actually were, maybe that would motivate us all to become better than we actually are. Could we become more because people think more of us?

But.. in this case, I think it's us that we harm when we think abnormally better of someone else. We make them an object of worship, and I think it's us that suffers from that. There's something inherently unhealthy in it that hurts us.

But second, and this is what I think hurts those that we worship more, when we put people up too high, we take from them their right to be human. We expect them to be worthy of our respect and our love and our idolization.  But, we can't stand to idolize that which isn't perfect... and so we expect those we've chosen to raise up to behave as more than human.

We take from them their right to mess up, and to make mistakes, and choose things that maybe they wish they hadn't. Because when they do that, we penalize them -- and by far more than we would ever think to penalize anyone "down here" with us.

And so... I think we have to be careful about what we do about the people we admire. Admiring them, loving them, respecting them.... these are all good things. But I think that we have to mindful of how easily that admiration can turn into idolization -- and we have to remember that people are just people.

No matter how other-worldy we try to make them.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Anyone You Want To Be

You can be anyone that you want to be. And if you're anything like me, you tweak who that is depending on what you think others want you to be.

That works... for awhile.

But... if who you try to be isn't who you truly are...  eventually, the cracks begin to show. The strain of being someone that you really aren't begins to get to you. Everything that you do becomes just a little more exhausting, just from the sheer act of forcing yourself to be someone or something that you're not. Just because you think that's what someone else wants you to be.

I guess I'm finding that you can't really be anyone other than who you're meant to be. The hard part, sometimes, is figuring out who that is.

And I see a tendency in people sometimes to take the idea of being who you really are as an excuse to not have good character, and I would caution against that.  If who you are is someone who does nothing but cause others pain... then you've got some pretty big issues to deal with, and I mean that quite seriously and sincerely. You can be who you are, and still be kind.

But... being who someone else wants you to be? No. Be your strengths. And be your weaknesses too.

Be uniquely you with the confidence that who you are is a pretty okay person to be.
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