Saturday, December 29, 2018

2018 Through Lenses: Just Me

Just my own things...

I am ending the year in a bit of exhaustion. I don't think that's really been the theme of my whole year. But enough here at the end to color the way I see it. It's not really not getting enough sleep, and maybe it's just a piece of getting older. But I've had all these things I want to do, and I've just been too tired to do them. That's a big piece that I want to address in the new year.

But that bleeds into something else. I really wanted to be a better friend this year, and I just don't think that I was. I wanted to be more present, more engaged. I wanted to deepen my friendships and my base, and I just didn't give it quite the energy that it deserved and that I intended to give it.  In part, that energy went to my family -- which I don't regret in the least. I'm in a time where I want to soak up that family piece. But it also went to Candy Crush and nonsense. And that, I do regret.

I did really enjoy some friendship pieces though. I've thought a lot about what I've taken to calling serendipitous friends. And maybe all friends are this, I don't know.  But there are a few in particular that stand out to me.  Those friends that you didn't necessarily SET OUT to make... but through one thing or another, they became your friends and they were literally EXACTLY what you needed. Not just "it's nice to have them around." But you genuinely needed them. And you hope that you have been the same kind of friend to them.  Because you can't help but be unendingly grateful for what they were to you.

I wrote about this recently, but I had some experiences with those friends you almost never see -- but when you do, it's like you just pick up where you left off like no time has ever gone by. I've always felt a little jealous of people who talked about friendships like that.  I guess, because I didn't think I had any, and then I beat myself up for that... for the things I had done or not-done to lose friend intimacy. But... those experiences the last couple months made me realize that I have more than I think I do. I can tick off a few people that I know, when I see them next, will not be awkward, will not be weird, and we will talk and talk until we can't talk anymore. And that I have been jealous of things I already have. So, that's silly.

I also spent a lot of time losing a friendship. My head spent most of the year wrapped up in this, largely just arguing with myself over whether it was the right thing to do or not. I knew it was probably healthy, just not if it was right. I genuinely did not think that expressing my gratitude for 5 years of friendship would be the catalyst for ending it. But, in a weird way, it was the kick that sent the ball rolling, and that's a bit sad. But, from where I sit now, I understand it better. There were a lot of things that contributed to me being in this place now, and I've already talked about some of it. But, it's always been hard to explain it, and there were things that I didn't feel that I should explain.  Being me was a lot of it, really. I'm a woman and a mom to three girls and a person who has spent her entire adult life, since 20, shepherding young women. Befriending an ex and accidentally befriending a young paramour had an impact deep enough and truly disappointing enough for me to say, "No... this matters."  And enough had been broken by the time he was deliberately hurtful that I could say, "I'm not doing this anymore." So I stopped.  …. and I spent a good part of the year getting used to that and healing from it, deciding how I felt about it. And sometimes I was just fine. And sometimes I was really sad. And sometimes I was pissed....  and the year is over now, so it's time to just be honest, and then put it behind me. It's done and there's no changing anything. So, you move on. 2018 was just as weird as 2008.

But, 2019 is a new one. I said I wanted to be more authentic in 2018.... which I started, and then it broke my heart, and I became afraid of it. But, I think I'm ending the year more of what I wanted to be.

Bravery to be myself. Bravery to risk rejection. Bravery to not mold myself to fit in. Bravery to be embarrassed and uncomfortable. Bravery to not be right. Bravery to persevere when I want to hide.

And I'm ready to bring that into the next year.


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.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Thursday Tales: Game Over



She stifled a scream as the arrow pierced through her skin.  She knew this one had hit its mark.

Liza crumpled against the wall, feeling its cold seep into her skin, and with her last short breaths, she remembered.

She remembered being a child.
She remembered being young and carefree.
She remembered her first love and all the loves that had come after.
She remembered the people she'd walked over, and the people who had walked over her.
She remembered the pain of both.
She remembered all the things she'd love to live again, and all the things she wished that she'd chosen differently.
She remembered everything she'd sacrificed to come to this moment.
She just remembered.

At the last moment, her vision sizzled -- as it sizzled every time -- and the words flashed before her eyes.


TRY AGAIN OR END GAME


She always chose "Try again."


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Collector of Advice

I am a collector... of advice. Probably because I harbor too much self-doubt. Too little self-trust.

Am I understanding things correctly? Am I missing something? Am I being unreasonable? Is this even the right thing or am I going to regret this in two days? Do I even know what I'm talking about? Am I being unfair? Am I expecting too much? Too little? 

The tape plays on.

And so I collect advice. Some comes from peers. Some comes from my mentors. Some comes unsolicited from people who don't really know the full of it but would like to contribute anyway -- which I generally toss, but not really, because it floats around in my head for longer than it should, all mixed up with the doubt and the trust.

Much of it just swirls in my mind ad nauseum. Some of it gets saved forever.
Don't go back ..... Eventually they will f*ck you over, they always do. Sometimes it hurts, sometimes it's C'est la vie, sometimes you're so ready for them to go it's just a massive relief.
Some of it doesn't make sense at first... Or it does cognitively, but I don't understand it enough in my heart to put it into practice. Sometimes it takes years until it gets there. Sometimes it's advice that I know is well-meant with love, but that I know I'm not ready to take -- so I've kept it.  Until I am.

Until I lose my doubt.
Until I trust myself.
Until I'm ready.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Thoughts and Ramblings: Lesley Pike and "Honey and Rust"

"Good luck on your new album... Is it superstitious to say that? .... And as your new music takes shape, I hope the process of writing finds you well and happy. I've always really liked your songs that left me feeling sort of empowered - I hope it all goes well."

I sent that to Lesley Pike two years ago when she announced she was starting to write for another album, intended as a kind message of something resembling closure. Which I am obviously really bad at, as that message ended up turning into a friendly relationship of sorts. I'm more hesitant to claim friendship with people than I once was. Just because I think of someone as a friend doesn't mean they think of me that way. But we'll say friendly, at least.

This is filled with a touch of serendipity for me. Something I didn't plan for, but needed. A shared love for a certain genre of reading, but not just... I needed someone to talk to. Someone I could be butt-honest with about things I had always avoided saying out loud or even admitting to myself. Someone who wouldn't tell me I was being crazy or unfair. I needed a listening ear and a soft place to land when I inevitably crashed.

Musically, I like Lesley for the same reasons I like Kina Grannis. For the same reasons I love Miranda Lambert's "Weight of These Wings" or Kacey Musgraves or Christina Perri. The music I play the most over and over, especially from female artists, is music I can find myself in, music that has depth to its source and something for me to sink my teeth into. And I kind of think that the only way you can make music like that is to put a good chunk of yourself into it. I'd heard Lesley's last couple albums... I knew she was that kind of songwriter.

"Honey and Rust" came out while I was in Ireland. I downloaded it one morning and listened in the early morning hours while waiting for a teenager to wake up, and then a few more times while we flew to Liverpool. I flipped to a song I knew would be on there first out of... if I'm honest, probably curiosity and a little bit of trepidation. Is it possible to be disappointed in something you already know? ... but then flipped back to the top to listen through like a normal person.

Some songs made me smile... Who can resist a snappy song of redemption and triumph over the trials that threaten to bring you down?  Phoenix is that song, and is frequently in my head. (Sorry, People of Target.) Muscle Memory, more than anything to me, pulses along the lines of the Mindfulness I've been trying to capture over the last couple years -- balancing between obsessing about the past and worrying about what might come next to center on what is.

My favorite is probably In the Blood. It's simple, it's heartfelt...  it's easy to find myself in it. And that's not a very long analysis, but it's the nicest thing that I could possibly say about any piece of music I loved.  I listen to it a lot.

I mean, y'all...

I can see you looking for love in those places
Searching in everyone's face and everywhere it can't be found.
I can feel you running away from what heals you
Spinning your wheels, trying to keep your feet up off the ground
Darling, I'll be here when you come down.

Two years have gone by since that message, Lesley... and the music has taken shape... and a lot has happened... and I hope the writing has left you well and happy and resilient.

Thank you for listening to me.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

My tug-of-war with Byron Katie :)

A long while back, a friend of mine recommended a book by Byron Katie to me. I picked up Loving What Is and started reading it.  As memory serves, I'm almost certain I was on a trip somewhere because I remember an airplane. 

Not that an airplane has anything to do with this.

I read the first couple chapters... and I hated it. 

It made me mad. 

There was this section I was reading, and the gist of what made me mad was this idea that we were wrong, or at least unhelpful to ourselves, to get stuck in believing people "should" act a certain way when they aren't.  It's hard to explain if you haven't read it yourself. But, she really argued against that idea, and I wanted to argue right back. 

People who are being dipshits SHOULD act differently!!

It just made me mad... or...  it might be more accurate to say that I just didn't want to do it that way. I wasn't ready to let go of the "they should be different"s.  I was still hanging on to what I wanted.

I put it away. I wasn't ready for that. I chalked it up to "Well... we can't ALWAYS like the same books." :)

Fast forward many many months... and I was sitting on the floor, matching socks, and listening to a podcast on my headphones, when the podcast guest was Ms Katie.

The guy who hosted the show was going through a time of upheaval in his life. He'd recently broken up with his girlfriend, and was having a pretty hard time getting through it and healing.  And so I just listened while Byron Katie went through the Work with him, asking him questions, guiding him through one part or another.

But she said something that really resonated and stuck with me. The gist of it was that he wasn't necessarily grieving the relationship as it was.  But, he was grieving for his hopes and dreams of what that relationship would become. It was maybe less that the relationship itself had ended, but that the hope had to end. The pictures in his head had to end. Letting go of the relationship itself held less pain than that of letting go of his future.

That's stuck with me for a long time.  And as I've walked through the healing of walking away from a friendship I had once really valued, I've come back to that a few times. My thoughts about what could have been were harder to let go of than what actually was.  Maybe she isn't crazy, after all.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Becoming at peace

In the end, I guess it doesn't matter. I've known that I would end up here for two years. I just didn't know how or when or what it would entail in the end.

I've been so butt-dumb vague for now that this probably doesn't even make sense to most people. And to those that it does, it's either understandable or it's not, and I couldn't do anything about that anyway without betraying myself.

I genuinely don't want anyone to be disappointed in me. But I want to be disappointed in me even less. I can only go down my own road, even if I'm the only one on it.

And I'm afraid that sounds all mad and defiant - but it's not. I've just realized how it has be, and am striving to be at peace with a different direction.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Self-Blame vs Disappointment

Back in January, I was reading a book, and it was talking about the difficulties that some people have in letting go of relationships. There was so much in this section of the book that felt familiar to me.  The author described how many times, instead of leaving, you find reasons to stay -- particularly by taking up residence in self-blame. If you can make you the problem, then you can fix the problem.  More or less.

He went on to state something that I've found myself thinking about a lot, off and on, ever since:

One way you can liberate yourself from this kind of self-criticism is by confronting a feeling you've probably come to fear more than you realize: disappointment.

Disappointment doesn't seem like much at first.  The first time I read it, I almost skimmed past it.  Anger and hurt and resentment sound like more important emotions -- like their immediate potency makes them more valid. Disappointment sounded like a throwaway.  But as I read on, I returned to it and let it sink in.

I would rather be angry.  If I'm being honest. Anger is protective and eventually burns out... disappointment has to be faced and accepted and dealt with.

That has been harder.

___________________________________________
Rethinking Narcissism, Dr Craig Malkin

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Don't be disappointed in me

For a good number of years, the well-meant advice was to not open the box. It wasn't a good idea, I'd regret it, it wasn't a healthy thing to do.  But I was stubborn, and I thought I wanted what was in it, and so I merrily went about opening it anyway, but with a litany of reasons to explain of why I was willing to ignore the advice, why I was willing to accept the risk, why I wasn't an idiot.

Because, I think, more than anything...  I loved those people who gave me the advice, and I didn't want them to be disappointed in me.

Fast forward a few years, and I shamefully admit that they were probably right.  It wasn't a good idea, it wasn't a healthy thing for me to do, what was in the box wasn't as great as I thought it would be.  I'm carefully trying to put the lid back on it and set it in the corner, but find myself with a similar need that I had before. I want to explain because...

... because I don't want anyone to be disappointed in me.

Maybe because I'm a little disappointed in me, too.  For which thing, I'm not entirely sure - or maybe it's for all of them.



Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Weight of Limbo

It is possible to stand at the fork in the road for too long.

Maybe you don't know which road to take. Maybe you do and you just don't want to. Maybe both choices seem equally good... or equally awful. Maybe you just want someone else to choose for you.

Maybe you've spent far too long peering down each road, imagining every turn that each could take. Maybe you've just spent way too much time thinking about it, exerted way too much energy and emotion on the what-ifs and the buts.

Maybe the more time you give it, the weightier it feels.

Which is why it feels at least relieving to finally choose.

The road may bring a weight of a different kind... but at least you can release the one that being in limbo holds.


Journal Prompts

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

A Decision Made

Something happened at the retreat and it changed things.  Changed me, I guess.

I feel like I've been grappling with variations of the same question for a long time... even when I sat on the beach journaling in the early morning, I scribbled "What do I want to do?" across the top of one of the pages.  Because I just never know which is the right path to take.

And then the something happened.  I don't really know if it was that it was a big thing... or if it was a little thing on top of a pile of a whole bunch of other little things and it just tipped the scales.

But it changed things. I don't think that it makes the decision any easier to carry out... It's still disappointing and sad to me. But it feels like it made the decision easier to make. It made it clearer which path lay along the lines of my values.

And so, there it is.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Third Time's the Charm

The first time we went through this phase, I didn't really know what was going on. So, because I didn't understand what was happening, I assumed that it was me. I must have done something or been something or --

This probably says more about me than anything else.

The second time we went through this phase, I thought two things incorrectly. One, I didn't really know it was a phase and didn't think to connect it to the first one. Two, I attributed it to the desires of a new person in our lives. Not unkindly - that's just where I thought it came from. But also, I assumed it was me.  Okay, three things incorrectly.

Both times, I thought it was really me. Both times, I tried to be the one to fix it. Both times, I twisted myself into a pretzel to do so. Both times, I was wrong.

I don't know what's different in the third time. Maybe it's just that it's the third time and I can see it better. Maybe it's more understanding. Maybe it's more confirmation. But, it is the third time and I see now that it's a phase. For the first time, I understand that it isn't me -- and while it affects me, it isn't really about me.

And I don't really have to fix it.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Goals: Velveteen Rabbit

I am rusty at this, but we're going to give it a go.

I want to be more authentic this year. More real. I feel like I have closed myself off a lot over the last year. I don't know if it's walls I've built exactly, I've just taken more of myself away. I feel very guarded and I don't like the effect that's had on my friendships. 

So I really want to be more deliberate about opening myself up again.  Being honest.

Wrapped up in that is bravery. Bravery to be myself. Bravery to risk rejection. Bravery to not mold myself to fit in. Bravery to be embarrassed and uncomfortable. Bravery to not be right. Bravery to persevere when I want to hide.

Today is a start.