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.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

10 Favorite Songs (circa 2018)

I always think that you get to know a lot about a person when you troll the music they listen to... what stirs their soul.  Right now, my Fall playlist has something like 300 songs on it -- but these are the ones that I like a lot at the minute and rarely find me skipping them to something else.

1. Kacey Musgraves, Rainbow.  Kacey has been one of my absolute favorite female artists for a long while... ever since I heard "Merry Go 'Round" several years ago. I love that she's a little quirky and just does her own thing.  This song is off of her new album and I love it. Hearing her sing it in a big arena, stripped back and pure, was about the best thing ever.

2. The Vamps, Just My Type.  My daughter Alicia turned me onto this little pop group from Britain.  I find them to be a lot of fun, lots of energy, and a ton of fun to bop to in the car.

3. Wrecking Ball, Sarah Blackwood, Jenni Pleau, Emily Bones.  This is Sarah from the group Walk Off the Earth.  I've loved this cover ever since they put it out and couldn't download it fast enough. I just think it's so pretty!

4. Butterfly, Christina Perri. My friend Lisa introduced me to Christina years ago, and I've loved her ever since.  She appeased the angsty in me. :) I've always loved this song about letting go that which won't be caught.

5. In the Blood, Lesley Pike.  Lesley became a friend a couple years ago in a moment of serendipity, and this is probably my favorite track from her new album (though some days, that changes). It's really pretty, fun to harmonize to, and touches all my tender sweet spots... with a little bit of bittersweetness.

6. In the Waiting, Kina Grannis.  Several years ago, I started using this website called Mixtapes (or something like that). You could basically make public playlists of your favorite songs...  What I loved it for is that I would put in the name of an artist I liked, and playlists would come up with that person in it... but it would often introduce me to new indie artists that I also liked.  One weekend, while doing that, this one song kept coming up in different lists that I liked (Valentine, if you care to look it up), and that's how I stumbled onto Kina Grannis. Ever since, she's become someone I always keep an eye on. This is one of her newer songs that I really love.

7. We Should Be Friends, Miranda Lambert. My other country queen!  I love her to death.  I have fun fun memories of her last concert, befriending the girl next to me in the pit, and dancing the night away to this song. :)

8. Queen, Shawn Mendes.  Obviously, also Alicia's influence.  But I love Shawn.  And it amuses the heck out of me that some girl snubbed him, and it made him mad enough to write this song.

9. Have it All, Jason Mraz. Joel and I saw Jason in concert this summer -- quite possibly the most positive upbeat shows I've ever been to -- and I loved this new-ish song that he finished with.

10. Space Cowboy, also Kacey Musgraves.  I do love her so she gets two. Love love love this song.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Through Different Eyes

Several years ago, I was blowing off steam to a friend because my husband was working a lot.  And she laughed at me.

"Jojo..." she said, "You know you're exactly the same."

"What do you mean?"

"Well... you don't have a lot of middle ground.  When you're into something or you think something is important, you're into it like 900%. You give it everything you have, and a little bit more that you don't."

"Oh. Maybe. I mean, I guess that's probably true."

Sometimes, I find that I get so close to things that I can't really see the bigger picture.  There's that saying that you can't see the forest for the trees... but I envision it a bit more like the difference between normal-person-view and what the yard looked like to the miniature children in "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids."

What seems like an insurmountable obstacle... is really just a blade of grass if you look at it from a different vantage point.  But I get so stuck in the first view that I forget there is another. I believe in the truth of the one without considering whether that truth really needs to be that important.

And sometimes I just need a little help to step back and see it through different eyes.
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