Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Tamale Guy

One of the best things about going to the annual local craft beer festival with my husband is the food trucks. More specifically, the tamale food truck.

It's hard to find good tamales in Washington...   But the tamale food truck makes some really good ones, and takes me back to when we lived in Southern California and my favorite thing about where we lived.

The Tamale Guy Hunt.

We lived on the north end of Corona in a cute little residential neighborhood, that was about a 45 second drive from being in the middle of cow country.  Cold mornings were not without their own special aroma.

But, if I got a hankering for tamales, I could throw the kids in the car and drive around Cow Country, looking for the Tamale Guy.

I'm pretty sure the Tamale Guy wasn't here legally. I'm pretty sure the Tamale Guy didn't have a business permit.  He didn't speak English. He was never in the same place twice. And he sold tamales, that his MIL made in their kitchen, out of the back of his van. Also, sunglasses.

The extent of our relationship was a lot of smiles, and me pointing at a clipboard to tell him how many I wanted.  There was never a line for "ALL OF THEM."

And he was pretty much my favorite thing about living where we lived. It sure as heck wasn't the drive into Orange County.  I would happily have brought him with us if I could.

I really miss the Tamale Guy.

Friday, May 10, 2019

SELF CARE, DAMMIT

I said the other day that I've been forced to start arising for the day at 5am because my dog has to go outside.

What I didn't say is that I don't mind that much. I sort of like having a couple hours in the morning to myself before everyone gets out of bed. I feed all 97 of our pets. I have the time to get a cup of coffee and quietly sip it while I wake up -- without having to talk to anyone.  I have time to pull a writing prompt out of the jar and percolate on how I want to answer it. I have time to answer it. I have time for a cup of coffee or two more, if I want.

All in the quietness of the morning -- save for the paws scrabbling across our hardwood floors in Early Morning Kitten Wars.

Some of my teenagers have gotten on this weird sleep schedule which we're in the middle of retraining.  Which meant someone was still awake when I got up at 5am yesterday, ready to talk and vent.  At 5 am. Before I had had coffee. Quietly waking up was not happening. Writing was not happening. Grumpy hormones might have been happening.

So, in the afternoon, I took myself to my favorite coffee shop, laptop in hand -- FOUND A TABLE (Gold, I tell you. GOLD.) -- and wrote.  By myself.

One child was at school with the Teenager Car. One child was at home with nowhere to be. The third child was also at home with no work on her afternoon schedule. I was not expected home.

when are you coming home? the text read. 

What followed was a sad exchange in which the teenager professed boredom, lack of transportation, desire to go to work for which she was not scheduled, and.... oh right, more boredom.

will you be home by 2:30??

I sighed.  A good mom would probably go home. 

probably not. I texted back.

Because sometimes self-care looks like stubborn obstinancy.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

FORGIVENESS AND RECONCILIATION

At the beginning of the year, I reflected a lot on the topics that I have felt the most drawn to writing about over the past almost-ten years -- and I sort of revisited them in 2019 versions. I tried to think about where I have been and where I am now -- and how my thoughts have changed and evolved -- or even stayed steady -- in that time. I thought about how I've changed and grown, and where I see myself as still being a work in progress.

My last one, as it made sense in the story arc, dealt with forgiveness.  Both forgiveness of others and forgiveness of myself -- two places that I always feel struggle.

I thought about what forgiveness is and what it does and what it's for. I thought about it opening up a door to being able to have a sense of peace. I thought it being a way to let go of anger and bitterness. I thought about how not finding it becomes a stumbling block to your own healing and your own health.

But, because I knew that I wasn't quite there yet, I didn't really think about what comes after the forgiveness. I think that forgiveness is mostly a requirement for reconciliation to take place. But, I don't always think that reconciliation is necessarily the best next step forward for every situation. Sometimes forgiveness is the precursor to simply moving on, and not to starting over.

In its most recent form in my life, my hurts have stemmed from various manifestations of someone I cared for just not being who I thought they were, or who I wanted them to be. And once that road to forgiveness was walked, nostalgic instincts aside, I found that I was happier with distance. Forgiveness was necessary. Reconciliation was not. And, excepting some nagging regrets, I am happy in that place.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

OLD LADY

So, basically, I sleep like an old lady now.

The problem isn't really me. The problem is my dog, who I love and adore.

Last year, when my kids were all in high school like normal people, I got up at about 5:30 every morning to get them ready for school. So, Lexie (the dog) learned that 5:30 am was breakfast time.

This year, all my kids are in some form of alternative schooling and they no longer have to be at the crack of early. The dog, however, is still convinved that 5am is time for breakfast. She gets up, sits beside my ear, and whines until I get out of bed.  If that doesn't work, she yelps at me.

Mostly, I think it's that she's old and can't go much longer than that before she has to pee.  As a woman with the smallest bladder in the world, I sympathize.

So, my normal wake-up time EVERY MORNING is now 5am.  Which means, if I am going to get any kind of rested sleep at all, I have had to walk back my bedtime to 9pm.

Like an old lady.

Pretty soon, I'm going to be eating dinner at 4 in the afternoon.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

AUTHENTICITY REVISITED

I began last year, after reading a lot of Brene Brown, with a desire for 2018 to be my year of authenticity.  I wanted to be braver. I wanted to be more honest. I wanted to be less afraid of showing people who I was.

I thought that meant being more vocal about it all. I thought it meant shaking off shackles I had put on myself. I thought it meant feeling free to walk my own road without caring what anyone else thought. I thought it meant not apologizing for who I was and being brazen about it.

And then, unplanned things happened in my relationships with people that I didn't feel I could be brazen about. I had real issues that I needed to work through... it's just that this wasn't the space that I could do that in. I didn't want to hurt people. I didn't want to create any more gossip than necessary. And if that's what you were looking for, I think that you were probably frustrated with me.

I had to find different ways... but they were quiet. I needed sounding boards, but I needed sounding boards that would be gentle but honest, understanding but real, supportive but firm. Fortunately, I had those. Some had been in my life for a long time, and some had come into it probably for just that purpose.

At the end of the year, as I looked back on everything that had happened and everything that I had wanted it to be, I felt a sense of failure as I re-read that first entry of the year. The pulling-in that I had done, the self and other protection that I had tried to create -- it seemed like anything but authenticity.

As I think about it now, I think I was wrong. But, I think it was more about my internal authenticity than anything else. It wasn't about being outwardly brazen about who I am. It was about bringing who I am and the values I hold important into an internal balance with the choices I was making and the people I was involved with.

My tangle with authenticity wasn't quite what I expected it to be -- but I think that perhaps it was what I needed it to be.

Monday, May 6, 2019

A BIGGER COMFORT ZONE

I've thought a lot over the past year about uncomfortable emotions.

Anger, hurt, jealousy, sadness, grief.  Even happiness and joy sometimes. 

I think we... or at least I... have a comfort with emotions that lie within the acceptable status quo. I kind of think of it as a loose sine curve that doesn't deviate very far up or down from the axis.  Anything that lies within that curve is cool.  We're good with that. Momentary emotions in either direction.  But the important part is that they're momentary. They quickly cycle back to the norm.

But when emotions get a little more intense, when they pop up or down out of that curve, we get tense and uncomfortable. We don't like it in ourselves. We don't like it in other people. We're impatient for things to "get back to normal."

But... emotions aren't bad. Emotions only feel like they're lasting too long because we are uncomfortable with them -- and what would happen if we weren't?

I've been practicing that over the past year.  I've been practicing not rushing myself out of emotions that feel too intense or too lengthy. I've been practicing acknowledging my hurts and my disappointments and my angers without an expectation that I would just "get over them." I've been appreciating my joys and my highs in ways that would have left me feeling prideful before.

And... I like it. Like building any new habit, it was hard at first... and like any new behavior, it still isn't quite natural. I have to work at staying in it and not rushing back to the safety of the middle.  But, honestly, I like it. I like not having to fix everything. I like creating new expectations for where I have to be -- and I like that the expectations are mine and not what I think someone else needs to be.

So, there you go.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

SPRINGTIME RE-FRESH

Isn't it fresh and pretty around here??

I decided that I was ready for a bit of a change. A change, a refresh, a regroup. A new banner, a lighter color palette, something that feels new.

And a giant post purge.

I have a friend, who I've known for years and years, who used to do this to her blog on the regular -- and it would fill me with abject horror!! The thought of setting digital fire to my thoughts and past seemed like anathema to me. You would lose so much.

But, now, I guess I kind of get it.  Sometimes you need to set a couple fires to free yourself from what's become a stumbling block and to release yourself from the ties that bind you to a past you're finally ready to move on from.

I deleted.  A lot. I had 1300 posts a couple months ago. Now there are 160. I kept the posts that are still meaningful to me, or that are really recent.  I couldn't bring myself to part with any of my Thursday Tales fiction pieces -- they are my babies. But, pretty much everything else got the delete button.

Like my mom's protestations when I try to purge her house of clutter, the first few were really hard. I was just going to Unpublish them -- not delete them.  But, then, I thought, "Really, why?  Is that really going to give you the 'fresh start moving on' feeling you're going for? Be strong, girl!"  So... Delete button, it was - and the more I deleted, the easier it got.

And so, here we are. A mostly fresh space that's ready for me to explore. I hope you'll stick around with me!

Thursday, May 2, 2019

MY WEEKEND... IN RAMBLING THOUGHTS

Last year, when I returned from the retreat, I set down a careful accounting of what it was like and what I thought of it. I did the same thing when I went on the first cruise. I suppose that I feel a responsibility to create a review of record for the oldie fans. There is a story arc of fandom that we have all gone through -- and because everyone comes in at different stages, they are at different places on the arc. I can't behave like a newbie or even an enamored fan anymore, and so I don't write for them. But, there is a certain population that I feel I can responsibly represent, and if you want to know what it's like if you are my type of fan, I'd like to provide that.

But, I did that last year -- and it isn't really where my head and heart is right now.  This is really just my own rambling thoughts and feelings. Some of them are probably valid and some of them are probably unreasonable and I'm not sure I'm really making apology or excuse for that. They just are what they are.

I really just didn't want to get involved in silly things this trip. No nitpicking between fan groups (which is still such such such a thing), no indulging in petty jealousies or imagined competitions, and no indulging in those of others. I was there to soak up some music, relax, and spend time with a friend. I do not have time or interest in drama. I don't care where people are sitting for shows. I had my one front row show, and then we just dance in the back. I'm happy with that and I don't care about anyone else or who's flirting with who or etc, etc, etc...  You know?

I'm really not very comfortable in fan groups/cliques. Part of that, I think, is that I've spent more than my fair share of time in them and it isn't where I want to be anymore. Part of it is that my point the fandom journey just doesn't allow for the exultation that makes fan groups click. And a lot of it is that I'm shy. No one believes me when I say that. Ever. But I am -- and groups of people make me nervous and incredibly self-conscious.

So I tend to avoid them like the plague. But one thing I really like about these retreats is picking off 2-3 people to really get to know. I'm a little picky, they have to be mostly normal. But, I really enjoy finding a couple cool people and getting into real conversations with them. I feel like i was able to do that this year, and that makes me happy. Like it was a worthwhile trip.

That bit me in the ass a bit last year. I accidentally befriended someone intimately involved with the talent, and it left me feeling frustrated and really disappointed in them. That was hard on me. It was a bit of a nail in the coffin of a relationship that needed to change anyway, and a lot changed for me after that. I wasn't really sure if I wanted to come at all this year, and how those changes might leave me feeling uncomfortable.

But, I think it was fine. Different in some ways. Not different in others. And I am okay with the way things are now and don't really want or need to change them.

I did let myself into some mild irritation one day, I will admit that. I think that I might just have a 2-day tolerance limit, and in part, this is due to my own habits and decisions. These kind of events, I always give the guys a pretty wide berth. It's their job to mingle and spread themselves around the entire population. And while I would love to take the time to claim that for myself, I very rarely do. I've had a lot of opportunity in the past. I've build valuable relationships based on just that. I don't feel like I need to demand attention here. And I suppose it's because of that that it bothers me so irritatingly when others, especially longtime fans who I feel should know better, hover and hang around and monopolize. Let them do their job.  So I let that get to me.  I mean, I got over it.

I got into a conversation more than once with other women that centered on our families and the importance and blessings of our longterm marriages. Perri and I both have strong and busy family-centric lives -- so it's nice to have an annual trip planned away from everything together to rest and relax and regroup.

But, it's a brief escape by design -- and it's also really nice to get to go back to our families and our real lives.  They're good ones.


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

MY WEEKEND IN LIST FORM, THE REST

MONDAY
-- Out of room early and stopped for coffee
-- Found a spot to write above river, but mostly just soaked in the breeze
--Pool time!
-- Laid out in sun.... Ate some fresh fruit and consumed some tasty but slightly weak sauce drinks
- Probably good.
-Lazy River. This was the bomb.
Afternoon Concert #2
-- Enjoyable acoustic show... A little slow getting started, but I enjoyed it!!
-- Moondance and Green Fields of France, A+
-- A few concert visitors 👍
- Perfect vantage point for smiling at Neil. Also A+.
-- Back to room... Rum and cokes...
- After consumption.... " Jo.... Did you know this is 100 proof??"
- I don't know much about alcohol. But that sounds like a lot. We are in trouble.
- Perri picked it out. I'm just saying.
- Sat outside to air out.... Was sent on a walk.... Perri disappeared while I was gone.
I am undeterred!!
-- Name That Tune event
-- I'm just going to tell you that some people, genuinely not me, are very very serious about Name That Tune. 
- Very.
- Very.
- Serious.
- Drunk Me is decidedly not serious.
- Chat with Peter... Nothing bad. 
- Chat with Angie. Might have related story that I asked her to keep on the downlow later.
-- Fawned over Neil.
- Hugged Ryan. Also called him names. So there's that.
- Went to bed, thank God


TUESDAY
-Woke up. Slowly. Long slow walk around the resort. Water.
-- Meet and Greet
-- Q&A .... Normal routine so, you know. Ryan was a mailman as a youngster? That's all I got.
- Meet was fine... I mean, they made fun of me, but I deserved it. I was slightly disoriented by what was apparently longer time constraints. I'm so used to rushing through that I wasn't quite sure when the appropriate end was.
-Naptime
- Out to spend some time with a notebook
-Lawn and Games event
-- This was basically like games at the farm reunion meets CT fanbase... Actually, that's a lot like our farm reunions.
- Some people are also very serious about Cornhole.
- We mostly just people watched.
- I got irritated by hovering fans and decided I probably needed to go home soon.
-- Hung out a bit more....
-- Concert #3... For whatever reason, this was my least favorite show of the retreat. I think I felt this way about the last show last year. Not sure if that's them or me.
- If you actually hand out the lyrics to everyone, and then proceed to butcher them, it's probably going to be obvious.
-- Dutifully advertised to all attending hotel guests. I am a pro, kids.
- Spent an hour outside with a Porter. Just one.
-- On the way to bed...
-- Stopped to chat. Got stuck.
-- Chatting and gossip
-- Long chat with a lady I liked.... 3 minute rundown on the psyche of Ryan Kelly
-- New guy.... He was normal. Lots of laughs.
- and bed at 4am.
- Because I think I'm 20.

The End

MY WEEKEND IN LIST FORM, SAT/SUN

SATURDAY
-Flight to Phoenix - Oceans 11
-Made friends with Price the Flight Attendant
--Arrived!
-- Crap. They lost Perri's luggage!
--Drove to Air BnB
-- Braved killer dog
--Walmart shopping spree
-Made friends with The Fitting Room Lady
-- BBQ for dinner!
-- Shopped (badly) at liquor store
-- Bed!!

SUNDAY
-Coffee and Chat
- Stop at lobby. Hi Stalker Fans?
- Lunch @ Cheesecake Factory - Perri's never been!!
-- Back to check in.... Slight upgrade because I'm adorable. Massive toiletries hookup for Perri! Still no luggage.
- Wandered around resort in lazy hike
-Firepit chat
- Retreat check-in and swag pickup
- Mingling Taco Night
- The guys mingled. The tacos did not.
-- Taco requests because I'm adorable
--RK chat
-- Bizarre event invitation
-- Crane confusion.
-- Speak English, Irish!!!
-- Much better mingling. Applause.
-- The luggage is here!!!! 
-- Celebration!!
-- First show!!
-- Arrived late, somehow seats in the middle. Front row show.
-Good upbeat show!
- I need to pee. But I just know R's going to sing Brothers in Arms and I don't want to miss it.
- I really need to pee.
- Sweet Jesus, I was right! I know all!!
-- Long look and a couple nods. Yes, I know this is for me. Thank you!!
-- Crap.... Missed my pee escape because clapping. I am going to die.
-- Finally! Escape and return for end of show
-- Drinks with Rebecca and Jan in the bar -- I really enjoy them!! (The ladies, not the drinks. Well, the drinks too, but that's not what I meant.)
-Bed!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

COVENANT WITH MYSELF

I decided that I need to practice cHesed with myself. It's a covenantal promise to act in the other's best interest, and I haven't been doing that for myself. My impulses toward people pleasing, toward feeling good in the moment, toward never wanting to treat anyone unfairly - while not all negative desires - have led me to treat myself in ways that were unfair and unhealthy.

I had a member who spoke this week about realizing that the choices she was making were not just unhealthy - but they were choices that were actively hurting her.

And I think that's where I've been. I've been making choices that have been actively hurtful to myself.

That's stopping.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

THEMES OF MY LIFE: FORGIVENESS

After the letting go... there is a time to explore forgiveness. That's a word we throw around a lot, but I don't always stop to examine what it means -- what it is, and what it isn't, and why I can find it hard.

I have a tendency to think that forgiveness is saying, "Oh, that's okay, don't worry about it" and moving on.  But, I'm not sure that's it. Forgiveness isn't just forgetting what happened, or saying that what happened didn't matter -- that it doesn't matter. Because it does.

It does matter.

Especially at the moment where you're moving on and letting go, forgiveness has to be a lot more about you than it is about them. It's a lot more for you than it is for them. It's what begins to heal your wounds. It stops what they did from turning into your bitterness and anger and shame. None of us want to be shackled to an unhappy past -- and wallowing in the hate that can build just keeps us chained to it.

Choosing to forgive sets us free from those chains. It helps us rise above what happened -- not because what they did doesn't matter -- but because we do.

But, it's hard. Sometimes I don't want to. I want to stay here where I can be a little angry.

So, I have to be straight about what happened. I have to admit the choices I made, and the ones that they did. This is not the place to sugarcoat for anyone, but it's also not the place to let my judgment fly. Neither for them nor for me. Just be straight...

I need to learn from the past -- but I also need to let it stay there. I live so much in my head sometimes that it's tempting to re-litigate everything that happened. Everything they did. Everything I did. Conversations I'd like to do over.

But you can't go back and change those things.  You can't go back and change who you were. You can't go back and change who they were. All you can do is to choose differently going forward. And, like letting go, sometimes that's a choice you have to keep making.

I'm not done with this step. I know I'm not.  Sometimes I think that I am, and I feel like I can finally take a breath.  And then... my resentment and bitterness flare up, and I realize, "Okay.  Not quite there yet."

I'm not sure it's really them that I have trouble forgiving -- but me.

I can forgive them for lying to me. I have a harder time forgiving myself for believing those lies, for excusing it, for not calling them on it, and for deciding to live with it.  And somehow or somewhy, that manifests itself as still being angry with them.  Because, I guess, I'm angry at us both.

I need to be able to offer the same forgiveness to myself that I try to extend to them. I need it to be okay that I was flawed in all of this, too. And probably I need that more.  Them, I can say Goodbye to.  Me, I have to live with for quite awhile.

And, all of this said, even as I still walk toward that forgiveness and even as I know that I'm not there yet -- I'm not upset about that. I have walked this path before, and I know that I will get there with some time and with some distance. It will come.

Just not yet.


Friday, February 8, 2019

THEMES OF MY LIFE: LETTING GO AND MOVING ON

Broken relationships make me feel ashamed.

That's not to say that I think all relationships need to be unending. I think that there is a natural pattern to some friendships, and it's normal for that to ebb and flow. It's normal for people to become a part of your life and to then sometimes fade out of it. I've often compared it to a tapestry of color in your life. Some people are meant to be a color that weaves itself through the whole piece, and others are meant to add short splashes of color and vibrancy to different parts of the piece. This is healthy.

But, when I look back, there are three relationships that stand out to me as endings that I regret. I think I regret them less for THAT they ended than I do for WHY they ended, or maybe even just for HOW. For the brokenness that necessitated a parting... and maybe for the length of time I tried and failed to hang on to relationships that I should have just accepted were over.

One of the things that has always hung me up is regret and shame over character misjudgment. You go into a relationship, and maybe coexist in a relationship, thinking that you are kindred spirits... or with an assumption that you see them in the same way that they see you, or share similar values. But, when time has revealed the ways in which I have been wrong, it has shaken my confidence and my trust in myself. I have felt ashamed of my own naivete and gullibility. I should have seen things more clearly. I should have been more aware. I shouldn't have let affection cloud my judgment. And if I was wrong about this, what else have I been wrong about? How can I trust myself going forward?

That self-doubt has often had me wrapped up in questions of when it's time to hold on and when it's time to let go. In some ways, it's my own values that have held me in that space longer than necessary. My impulses toward grace and empathy have led me to accept far less than I'm worthy of, and to believe I'm worthy of less than I am. There is a balance between extending grace and demonstrating self-respect, and I have often fallen on the wrong side of it. A friend wrote to me, "Every one of us deserves to be in relationships that are balanced. We are worthy of having relationships where we are getting what we give." And that was something I "reasoned" myself out of way too often.

What it has taken for me is to get out from under the story I was telling myself. That's been different stories for different circumstances. Stories of hope and history and persistence and reconciliation.  All good stories... and stories which are often true.  They just weren't true here, and I needed to stop telling myself that they were.  The real stories certainly weren't as pretty, and sometimes they hurt quite a lot. Actually, usually they hurt quite a lot. But, I found that an unhappy reality was much easier to let go of, once it had fewer illusions to buoy itself up.

I had to accept that it was time to part. Not all roads have to run parallel forever. Not all colors are forever. Pick your metaphor.

Most times that I have come to this place, I have let go with anguish. It has been flush with pain and I have ripped off the band-aid and suffered as quickly as possible. Somehow I bought into this idea that I was weak to hurt, and so the most grown-up strong thing to do was to rush through the healing as quickly as possible. We're not very comfortable with pain and grief, and I'm not sure that we're ever quite taught how to deal with it.

This last time, I took a different route. A little bit of Brene Brown, a little bit of Craig Malkin, a little bit of a couple others. It was one of those months where you read the same sentiment from a number of different sources, and you think, "Maybe the universe is trying to tell me something." And so, I slowed down. I consciously chose not to rush through the pain. I let myself feel the hurts. I let myself feel the disappointments. I didn't try to reason myself out of them or berate myself for feeling the things I was. I just let it be. I let myself accept what it was I was feeling and how things were.

And then...  it hurt less. It hurt less and I began to understand all the things. A friend once said to me, in the midst of a conversation on the inevitible of heartbreak:

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.

At the time, I don't know that I really understood it. But, with my heart and head in a different place, I finally thought, "Oh. This is what she meant."

I stopped making it all about me, too. I was a card-carrying member of the Self-Blame Club. I can find a way to blame myself for any problem.  And while sometimes there is a little bit of truth in that, I was taking on blame for things that didn't have anything to do with me. I was blaming myself for problems that were not mine. In a nutshell, if I was the problem, I could fix the problem.

But, when I began to accept and internalize that the problems were not things that I could just fix by "being better," I began to see our stories as ones that needed to end. Some stories simply need to end so that new ones can begin. When I realized that, the past lost a little bit of its power over me. I could begin to let it go.

Letting go wasn't a one-time shot. Sometimes I had to re-"let it go." I found that letting it go was a choice I had to keep making until I didn't need to keep making it. Every once in a while, I have to do it again. But, it gets easier every time. Plus, without my illusions, there really isn't anything I want to go back to, anyway. That makes it easier to move on.

Looking back at them all, there are still things I regret. But, I can look on them with a little bit more kindness.

For the girl I was and for the girl I wanted to be and for the girl I am now.



Monday, February 4, 2019

THEMES OF MY LIFE: EMPATHY AND KINDNESS

I am finding that empathy is not a defining value for everyone -- and it was a bit of a surprise for me, especially in places I thought it was. Perhaps (and probably) because it is important to me and integral to my own thought process, I did that dumb thing where you just assume that everyone thinks like you.

And they don't.

I don't want to claim that I always act with empathy because that would be a lie. I get impatient. I mouth off without thinking. I have a wit which has served me well -- but there is a fine line between funny and mean -- so it has also gotten me into trouble with un-thought-through words.

But, when I'm not being a snarky brat, I do try to take a step back and consider why someone is acting in they way they are that's bugging me. What are they feeling? Why? What experiences have they had in their past that contributes to right now? Can I understand those thoughts and feelings if I take off my irritation and look at them through different eyes? If I put myself in their shoes, can I understand?

Not necessarily agree, but understand.

I think it helps me to find the humanity in someone I'm tempted to insult and demonize. It makes me find my own kindness.

Kindness is important to me. Empathy is important to me.

And I can confess that I have a hard time understanding people who don't feel the same way.  I suppose it's hard for me to find empathy for those who have no empathy?

That's an odd circle, isn't it?

Saturday, January 26, 2019

STRONG AND BRAVE

So... I did a thing.

That turned into a bigger thing.

Basically, my "this isn't right" met up with my "someone has to say something" at just the right (or wrong) time, and I decided that someone was going to be me. I posted some heartfelt thoughts.

To our internal message board. At work.

I know.

And then, I scurried to bed.

I was almost afraid to look at the fall-out when I got up the next morning. No. I was afraid. I really do like my job!

But... I guess the most immediate fall-out was gratitude -- many messages, publicly and privately, thanking me for standing up, for saying what others also felt, for my bravery.

I haven't really known what to say or do with that.  I haven't felt brave at all.

It reminds me of how I felt when our girls were babies. We were 23 years old, first-time parents, when we had our twins -- preemies who spent weeks in the NICU. I remember feeling so uncomfortable and inadequate when people would praise us for how strong they thought we are.

Strong was the last thing I felt. I was just doing what I had to do -- for survival, not strength.

Strong and brave aren't really words I would use to describe myself but --

Maybe that's just because I've seen to many Hollywood movies where Strong and Brave were the big heroic deeds of muscle men and superheroes. Maybe that's not what Strong and Brave are.

Maybe... sometimes...

Strong and Brave are the little choices of ordinary people just trying to survive and do the right thing.

And maybe I need to remember that more.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

THEMES OF MY LIFE: AUTHENTIC, VULNERABLE, BRAVE

Last year, my one resolution was to be more authentic. To be okay with being myself, yes - but more, to have the courage to be more outwardly vulnerable. To have the courage to be more honest.

It was a good resolution. Just with a short life.

My first attempt bit me in the ass, basically. It was met with words that I found painful and sent me running back to my defenses. The risk is too great, I thought. Authenticity is too hard. I guess that courage didn't last very long.

Even in the fall when I got a little more solid in my life decisions, when Iw as a little more sure of my why's, and I wanted to write more -- I laid out some affirmative mantras for what I wanted to guide me, one of which was "You have permission to be honest." Wrapped up in that was a continued desire to open myself up, to stop carrying secrets, to better practice and exemplify that authenticity. I found it harder than I thought.

Authenticity comes in pieces. When I think about it, it's not true that I haven't practiced it. It's just been very private and where I felt safe. There are a few people I've trusted enough to be authentic and open, people I was sure were there for me and not just gossip. And with those, I've been much more open about laying out everything. Outside of that, though, I've been pretty closed.

But maybe that's okay to start. One of the Brene Brown pieces that sticks with me is that we choose authenticity, we share our most real stories with those who have earned the right to hear them - not just willy-nilly with the maddening crowd. And maybe that's how you start to learn to be more real - with one trusted soul at a time.

Until, perhaps, the risks of holding tightly to your story become greater than the risks of giving it wings and validation.

I still want to work toward greater courage, deeper vulnerability, truer authenticity. If nothing else, as a gift to myself. But, I think I see now that there are footholds to rest on between the two extremes, and that it isn't an either-or.

Friday, January 11, 2019

THEMES OF MY LIFE: YOU ARE FINE

I trolled back through my own writing of the last seven or eight years...  I write about being fine in yourself a lot.

I guess, because I am often not.

I have always been a bit of a chameleon -- admittedly in a slightly snarky package. That part of me, I don't think I could camouflage if I tried. But I have found myself trying to squeeze into boxes that would be pleasing.  And then I'm mad at the world when I realize that I don't fit into them.

Writing about it... exhorting the idea that it's okay to just be you... I think that's probably been my way of therapying myself into believing it, too.

Even now, I find myself trying to shape myself differently as I write. There are places that I feel I should be further along... in growth, in healing, in maturity.  I know that I'm not... and instead of being honest about those things, my inclination has been to just not talk about them or just skirt their edges or to pretend they aren't there. It's not even that I'm ashamed of those places. Growth is a part of life. Healing is a part of life, and I don't really feel like anyone should have to adhere to a timetable. It is what it is.

I just don't want to have to defend that timetable to anyone else.  The growth and the healing is hard enough without having to construct shield and armor around it. If I don't speak of it, I don't have to defend it...  which is, in itself, a kind of shield and armor.

I'm not sure I feel any more comfortable in myself for the writing... but I do find that it makes me more aware (sometimes) of how I treat others in their broken places. Or even in just the things we love that differ.

I ran into that when my Celtic Thunder furor was at its peak... I never liked it when people made fun of me for it. We don't all have to love the same things... but when people ridiculed the things I loved, it was hard to not feel that what they were really ridiculing was me.  I'm more cognizant of that in myself now... am I treating someone's love for their things in the same way I'd want mine to be treated?  And even, if they don't love what I love, am I treating their preferences with kindness?

Oh, I'll get there.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

SILVER LININGS, LESSONS LEARNED

I am optimistic...  or maybe it's not so much that I'm optimistic, but I believe in the good in things. I'm really good at finding silver linings.  If you were around for my rantings over Crazy Grumpy Lady, you will remember how we clashed when my insistence on locating silver linings crashed up against her insistence that there aren't any.

Not saying either is better.  Just saying that she was annoying as hell. :)

But, I was thinking about that as I was searching for silver linings in my own chapter-closings. What I was thinking about was "Okay, that was an odd decade...  what was going on there? What was I supposed to learn from all of that?"

And I wasn't really sure.  When I thought about the most obvious things I'd learned about myself, they weren't really all that different from what I believed when I started -- aside from maybe a fresh realization I hadn't had before that I was pretty naive and apparently had "Easy to Manipulate" stamped across my forehead. Was that it? Not that this was the only thing.  There were honest accountings of bad choices, unhealthy motivations, pride swallowings, and uncomfortable admissions. There were people that I wished I had treated differently, people I wished I'd listened to more. Advice I should have taken, stubbornness I should have bested.

Maybe those are the lessons.

But I also thought, "Maybe the point isn't the mistakes you made or the lessons you were supposed to learn.  What do you regret doing?"

And really... nothing.

I didn't regret trusting. I didn't regret caring. I didn't regret trying. I didn't regret supporting. I didn't regret pouring in.

and while there were specifics in the middle that I could have done a whole lot differently, who I was... she wasn't someone I regretted being.

Just maybe next time, I can listen to myself and trust myself a little bit more.