Tuesday, October 28, 2014

When Stories Are Over

Some doors are just ready to be closed. Some chapters are ready to be over.

It isn't a bad thing, though sometimes I think that we see it that way. Like we only close books when the stories have hurt us and we need to move on from them. But that's not always true.

Sometimes... the stories are just over. And we've had the experiences that we're going to have from them. We've cherished the memories. We've enjoyed the relationships. And sometimes when that's all done, it's simply time to move on. Not because we're hurt, but just because what was for us in those stories just isn't there anymore.

Closing the door, closing the chapter... it isn't so much marking the end of a story as it is making room for new ones.

It's like if you keep running back to what was... if you keep looking out the window, hoping that what used to be there is back... if you spend all of your time running backwards, you lose the opportunity to run forward.

What's coming up that is also for you....  well, if you're always looking back, you'll miss it.

Sometimes we allow stories to be over so that we can open up room on our shelves for new stories to unfold. And that's exciting.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Celtic Thunder, Catty Chaos, Comas, and Confidence

When I became a fan of Celtic Thunder, it was very much something that I just stumbled into. I didn't set out to become one, or to get so embroiled in the fan community.  It was just something that unfolded, and so I really didn't have a plan going into it.

One of the things that took me the most aback, in retrospect, is that I simply was unprepared for the Dog Eat Dog experience. It was like someone had taken One Direction, dropped them into the middle of a junior high girls school, and locked up all the teachers.  It was catty crazy chaos.

But I have to be honest. I was a part of it.

It was easy to get swept up into it. After all, everyone else was. It was easy to buy into the competition. It was easy to set the favor of your favorite artist as the prize to be won. It began to seem normal to be constantly eyeing other fans, being sure that they weren't prized more than you. It wasn't enough to be appreciated. You wanted to be favored, above all others. Jealousy ran the show. Envy ruled.

I got swept up in that. I did.

It took a brush with death (and not my own) to get shaken out of it. My favorite singer ended up in a coma.  Funny... those things tend to bring life into focus, and this did. I realized that it didn't matter how my relationships compared to anyone else's. What mattered is that they existed at all.

All of a sudden, all that power play lost its importance. It stopped mattering to me what other people's relationships were. They didn't have anything to do with me. And when they stopped mattering, jealousy and envy became something of the past. It became a lot easier to love people, even if I didn't like them that much.  They didn't have anything that I thought I needed, so how could I hate them for it anymore?

And in the end, I was simply a lot happier.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Thursday Tales: Bad Blood

I scanned the lunchroom and my heart sank.  One seat in the whole place... and it was across from her. The girl who had somehow become something like an arch-nemesis.

I didn't hate her... there was just bad blood. Old bickerings, old insults.  They still hung in my mind, and maybe they still hung in hers. But it was either there or in the pouring rain outside. What choice did I have?

Practically tiptoeing up to the chair, I slid into it quietly -- like if I didn't make a sound, she wouldn't notice that I was there. I kept my eyes downcast... but the sigh of disgust that blew my way let me know that my ruse was up. Our eyes met and I mumbled, "Sorry."

We sat there in uncomfortable silence as I carefully laid out my lunch...  Avoided looking at each other, avoided speaking to each other.

Finally, I blurted out, "Look, can we start over? This is silly..."

She looked at me a long time, and then shrugged, "Yeah, sure, whatever."

Talk was stilted... but at least polite.  But when her friends walked up and she got up to join them, their words floated back to me.

"Why are you sitting with her?" they asked.
"Ugh... she just sat down. She's so awful."

Tears stung the back of my eyes...  of course they did. But I made a choice in that moment.

Maybe there would always be bad blood...  it just wasn't going to be mine.

Friday, October 10, 2014

When what we think we deserve changes

We accept the love that we think we deserve.  Have you ever heard that? I can identify with that.

There was a time that I accepted and soaked up the first adult female friendship that came my way because I thought that was the best that I could expect. But the truth is that it wasn't a very healthy friendship -- fraught with jealousy, painful manipulation, and one-up-man-ship, one that required constantly walking on eggshells so as to not upset the delicate balance that kept us all upright.

But that wasn't the best that I could expect.  There was so much more that could be friendship, but I accepted less because I truly didn't think that I could hope for more. I hardly deserved more, did I? I was so broken. I didn't deserve more --  and I believed that.

Until I didn't.

Until I realized that, yes, there was far more that one could expect from friendship and that, yes, I absolutely deserved more. Not that I was somehow specialler than anyone else, but I wasn't broken-er than anyone else either. I deserved goodness and commitment and caring and trust.

The funny thing about beginning to recognize your own worth is that it becomes a lot harder to stay around people who don't. It's hard to stay around people who don't respect you enough to treat you like someone worthy of respect. And why should you?

That doesn't mean you act in cruelty. You stay kind... you stay caring. But perhaps it means that you don't continue to put yourself into their path. You don't give them the option anymore of treating you as less-than.  That doesn't make you wrong. It makes you someone who respects themselves.

There's strength in that.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Art of the Selfie

So I'm just going to come out and admit it.

I take selfies.  Like... a lot.

I'm not even ashamed of it. I just lost 65 lbs. I'm allowed to be delighted with the changes in myself.  Sometimes it was just to chronicle the journey... and sometimes it was just because I wanted to. I long ago stopped feeling self-conscious about it...  Is it vain?  Probably. But I feel like I earned a little vanity.

Now... in the process of taking roughly 97 million pictures of myself, I've learned a few things.  And I am here to pass those on to you! (In part, at the behest of one of my dear friends.)  Now... maybe you're new to taking pictures of yourself and can't figure it out. Maybe that perfect selfie just plain eludes you from your new camera. Maybe you're an up-and-coming musician who can't take a decent picture of yourself to save your life.

This is for you.  You're welcome... and please-- I took PURPOSELY BAD pictures of myself for you.


I used to be pretty good at snapping self pictures with my point-and-shoot digital camera, but it was pretty much a guesstimate of how it was going to turn out. I love being able to frame a shot with less guesswork (also for doing my hair!). Get one if you don't have one!

#2 Lift up your camera.

Do you know why we don't hire 4-year-old photographers? Because everybody looks funny from the ground. You don't have to hold the camera directly over your head or anything... just lift it up a little bit and look a touch up.

Everything looks better!

#3 Check your lighting.

Twirl around while looking at your screen...  sometimes the angle of the sun can make you look really harsh -- especially if you have a lot of forehead. Hairline-receding men, I'm talking to you. Maybe it would look better framing your face from behind instead of glaring on it from in front of you.  One spin around to see where the light's best...

Foggy out today, so not the best day to demonstrate. But just turned around so I was facing the other direction.

#4 Oh for pete's sake, look at the camera.

This is not the time for artsy "gazing off into the distance" photos, kids. We know you know where the camera is and that it's taking pictures of you! It's in your HAND. You're the one hitting the Trigger!

#5 This is important... SMILE!!

You guys, this isn't a mugshot. Do you know who looks good with a sad mopey face?

That's right. Nobody.

So, here's my personal trick. I know when I'm going to hit the Capture button. It's not like when someone else is taking your picture and you have to hold a smile for 48 seconds, thinking "When the heck are they going to take that dang picture???"

Milliseconds before I capture the picture, I think of something that makes me really happy...  a joke, puppies, a good time that I had with someone.... and then I imagine that the camera lens is the eye of someone that I really enjoy spending time with.

In that split second, you can capture joy in your eyes and THAT's what makes you beautiful.

The fact that this is a public picture is proof that I love you.

Most of all... have fun! You're not running for president...  Just chronicling moments in your life -- Make them happy ones! :)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Fixing Yourself by Breaking Someone Else

Have you ever tried to fix yourself by breaking someone else? It doesn't work very well, does it? Sometimes it's person-specific... maybe they hurt you, and you want them to hurt back. Sometimes it's a lot more general... you're having a crappy day, and gosh darn it, if the world isn't going to have a crappy day too!!

The thing about breaking other people to fix yourself is that it's a lot like emotional eating. It gives you a bit of satisfaction for that moment that you're engaged in it... but when that moment is over, you're left with guilt and regret ---  and have done absolutely nothing to fix the problem that you were trying to solve in the first place.

Breaking someone else to make yourself feel better is a little like that. It fills an ugly little hole in your heart for a moment... but it's an even uglier fix to a problem that you still haven't solved -- only created new ones on top of your brokenness.

So what can we do?

First, I think that we have to recognize that we're even doing it. You can't stop something if you don't know what it looks like.  Just become aware of it... even if that's after you've done it.  But at least become aware.

We have to think of ways that we can create the same emotional response other than making them feel bad too.  Then, before we open our mouths, we can stop, acknowledge that we're looking for that response, and choose a different mode of getting it -- preferably one that doesn't hurt someone else.

And when we stop creating more problems for ourselves all the time, we can actually go about the business of healing the wounds that needed the emotional salve in the first place.

We can fix ourselves without breaking others... in fact, maybe it's the only that we can.