ThxFriday, Doc Holliday/Tombstone Edition.

Wine tasting (and tasting, and tasting); heeding the need to get outta town; windy roads with falling leaves; Fall Creek Falls and the terrible salmon; quieting the mind; a leatherbound journal to hold all the words; rainy Sundays; hammering out that first draft; a mess that isn’t as messy as it seems; all the offers of help during the Great Back Outage of 2014; friends with special deliveries (especially hugs and kind words); the easing of the pain; Women’s Circle honesty and harrumphing our way through; Mezcal Mules; redefining the nature of association (you’re a daisy if you do); the Four Agreements in action; taking all the time I need; feeling all the feels; validation in all its forms; the reappearance of Friday; and a weekend ahead of dinner, movies, crafting, baking, and taking all those first steps towards the next great things.

I am, indeed, your huckleberry.

Telling (Yourself) the Truth, Part 2.

As a continuation on the theme of truth-telling (Part 1 was about feelings/emotions), there’s the thing, too, where it’s just as critical to tell yourself the truth about everything else, as best you can. The truth about people, about situations, about motives and behaviors - including (and especially) your own. That can be REALLY hard, depending on how aware of your own bias you are, as well as how well-versed you are in the art of telling the difference between truth/reality and self-serving fiction.

(Okay, but what IS truth? I mean, really… personal truth is based solely on opinion… there IS no truth, only experience and perception… etc. etc.)

Or knowing when what your brain is telling you is from your core, true self instead of that fear-based monkey brain. Having people around you who aren’t afraid to tell you the truth as THEY see it helps, assuming they aren’t basing opinions solely on what they’ve heard from you. Otherwise, their thoughts and insights are, or can be, just as tainted. (Oh, what a tangled web, etc. etc.)

Ninja and I have been talking a lot about motivations and behaviors lately. Primarily, the motives and behaviors of one person in particular, but it’s become more of a generalized discussion as I realize that his assumptions, experiences, and interpretations of things and people are a little (and sometimes a LOT) different than mine. Certainly, there’s been some emotional bias on my part, but there’s also just a baseline level of interpretation, as well as an expectation of decency and respect, that reflect just how differently we view some things. He seems to believe certain behaviors, characteristics, traits, and motives are innate for everyone (or, in some cases, a particular gender), when I know firsthand that’s not the case. And that’s okay, of course; agreeing about everything would get real boring real quick. How else do you learn and grow with/because of someone? I’ve learned he’s much more lenient and forgiving than I am in some ways, and much more willing to overlook or let go of certain things; that isn’t such a bad way to be. I’ve also come to the conclusion that I have every right to protect myself and my loved ones and refuse to suffer trifling humans, so, you know. It evens out. :)

Anyway. I’ve talked before about paying attention to other people, and letting them show me who they are. Behaviors speak volumes, much more so than words ever could. A lot of times, your overwhelming desire for a particular outcome can cloud your vision and judgement, which then gives you TWO opportunities to tell yourself the truth. Right? You tell yourself the truth about motives, and then about behaviors. And hell, then when it doesn’t work out the way you wanted it to or thought it should, you can tell yourself the truth again about how you tried to manipulate things to your own advantage, and failed.

Or, you know. You can blame everyone else but yourself, refuse to find/see your part in things, and continue on your merry way. Whatever works.

When I am in the throes of anxiety or fear (which, thankfully, doesn’t happen much these days), my interpretation of EVERYTHING changes. How I perceive people are responding to me, treating me, how my life is going in general… it affects everything. But once I realize that, once I acknowledge that my brain isn’t telling or showing me the truth because it’s too busy going haywire, I can usually relax, and eventually step far enough back to see the rational, reasonable truth of it all. Then, and only then, can I respond appropriately to the situation at hand. THAT is when you get the Real Roxanne.

I think maybe there are a lot of people out there who don’t question their own motives or behaviors. Who don’t take other people into account or consideration when they do or say things. Who are self-seeking and self-serving, all others be damned. I don’t know if that’s a cultural thing, a societal thing… no idea. All I know is that I fare much better when I surround myself with people who take the greater picture into account, who question themselves as much as they do those around them, who ask questions and don’t just lash out/act out of selfish self-centered places. I am also sure there are some people out there who are just inherently GOOD. But they’re few and far between; the majority of us have to work at it some. Or a lot. And then, of course, there are the lost causes. Some people are just always going to suck.

But here lies the rub. I can only engage and react and behave in accordance with the “truth” as I know it, and as it’s presented to me by the people around me. So, if I’m surrounded by people who lie, manipulate, cheat, gossip, etc., then how can I be true and solid? If someone lies to my face, then I’m reacting to THAT, not the truth, and then everything just gets all dirty. It’s why I am incredibly selective with the people I let get close to me. There’s a thing called secure attachment, and if you cannot trust the people in your life to be honest and forthcoming and full of act-right, you don’t have that. You can’t. (More on attachment theory here.)  I’m pretty sure there is no way to have secure attachment with someone who isn’t honest, forthcoming, or fully present. All the more reason to cull the herd.

7 BILLION PEOPLE, you guys.

Anyway. I’m reminded of the Four Agreements: Be impeccable with your word; don’t take anything personally; don’t make assumptions; and always do your best. All I can do is right by myself and other people, to the best of my ability. Living with grace and dignity means being true to myself, and genuine with others. I have to live with myself, with who I am and how I treat others, at the end of the day. If I can’t feel good about that, then what’s the point?

The Great Back Outage of 2014

My back went out this morning. I had a feeling it might, based on how it felt when I woke up, but all seemed to be going well enough until I got in the shower. I coughed really hard and happened to be turning at the same time, and BAM. Spasm and seize, spasm and seize. I had to dry off bending over, then crawl out of the bathroom to get to my phone and cancel a dental appointment, call in sick to work, and then commence lying on the (freezing cold, non-insulated) floor, whining on social media.

(I’m not a great ‘sick’ person.)

The first time my back ever went out, it was from being stressed for multiple days in a row over a party I was throwing in Minneapolis. My first party ever, and a blizzard hit that morning, so not only was I stressing details, but also whether or not anyone would show up. All the stress collected in the middle of my back, and when I went to pick up a kid that was there (because silly things like blizzards don’t keep people from going to parties in MN, duh!), everything seized up, and I had to lie on the floor while everyone else had fun. It was pretty silly. And since then, pretty much every time my back has done this (1-2x a year, max), it’s been from stress, either directly or indirectly. I think this time, today, was no exception.

Fortunately, a dear friend offered to come over with food and Flexeril, and I’m finally feeling human again. I am really lucky to have such good friends, and to get so many offers to help. Ninja finally made it back tonight from working/being out of town (haven’t seen his face in two weeks!!) and asked if there was anything he could do, but I knew he needed to just get home and nest, tend to things, etc. I desperately wanted him to come be sweet to me, but my friend fit that bill earlier today, and I’d much rather see N. tomorrow. You know, when I can walk upright.

I’ve been working on a post about negativity resilience – what it is, how to build it, why it’s so important, etc. – and it’s pretty fitting, since I need to learn how to build more of it. Obviously. The last several weeks of hard things happening for loved ones and my own struggles have, I think, led up to this outage. The stress is mostly gone, thankfully, and my back seems to be better already, if being able to walk and sit up and use the bathroom without falling over from the pain is any indication. I’d say it is. But I don’t want to go through this again, if I don’t have to. Which means: exercise; core-building; probably yoga; and finding other ways of coping with mental and emotional stress.

ThxFriday, “It’s So Cold in the D” Edition.

Curled up with Fed Up; confirmation and affirmation; Hike for the Homeless with chosen family; all the resulting gratitude; post-hike fuel and welcome distractions; tending to all the things; eggnog (and bourbon) for dinner; exploring my options; long-overdue family time; so many snacks and hugs; grace and dignity preservation; the chopping of the locks (but still retaining my powers); having contacts in promising places; escaping to the Lair for productivity’s sake; circling the wagons and opening up; questions asked and efforts made; “No, you’re not crazy.”; rapid recoveries; lights at the end of tunnels (sans oncoming trains); and once again, the opportunity to practice finding comfort in the fundamental ambiguity of being human. With some Rose Royce thrown in for good measure.

Keeping up appearances.

That last post about being or feeling like an adult got me thinking (What?? That NEVER happens…). But it seems like a lot of what feels like adulting fail to me, really just has to do with appearances. Like, keeping them up. And upon reflection, I realized that not only is that a societal influence, but it’s also something that has been ever-present in my family.

I like to tell people about the time that my (Spanish/Puerto Rican) grandmother and I were in the backseat of a car, having just arrived in town for my sister’s wedding. We’d already greeted each other, made small talk for a few minutes, and then she looked at me critically for a moment and said, in her thick accent, “What are you going to do about your eyebrows?” This is the same grandmother who would invariably comment on my mother’s and sister’s weight, regardless of whether it was up or down. Somehow I managed to avoid that scrutiny, but apparently my eyebrows weren’t above reproach.

Anyway. I can look at my family, the divide that took place when I was a kid, and see how it is that we all turned out the way we did as far as appearances go (and concern – or lack thereof – about such things). On one side: immaculate clothing choices, all the good/nice/right accoutrements, hyper-vigilant attention to weight, health, and anything else that can be seen or detected on the exterior, overachievers, well-to-do…

And then there’s the other side.  Because I grew up being unfavorably compared to my siblings (by myself and others), it all kind of mashed together into one big picture of FAIL. I grew up without money, which is fine. I grew up in the punk rock/alternative scene, which is also fine. I am a completely different human, with different experiences, and that’s to be expected. So the fact that I would hold myself to standards that aren’t even applicable, much less appropriate… it’s odd. I guess it falls into the “not enough” bucket along with so many other things.

Anyway. With that perspective, then I have to call out that I am essentially comparing my insides to the outsides of other people. Apples and oranges, folks. Just because someone presents a certain way, it doesn’t mean they’re worth a damn on the inside – or, that they’re happy. And that’s something I definitely have going for me, regardless of my exterior: I am happy. I get that we are an appearance-based society, and it’s easy to judge based on the outside stuff and then attribute worth. But it’s also the lazy way. Like, REALLY lazy.

Which means I need to knock it off.

Arrested development.

Every once in a while, I start pondering the notion of being a grown-up. You know. One o’ them bonafide AD-ults you hear so much about.

What does that even mean? Because here I am, at the ripe old age of 42, and a lot of times, I still feel like a kid. Or, at least, a non-adult. A somewhat irresponsible, moderately immature, generally happy non-adult in a slowly-deteriorating skin-bag. Mind you, I have no problem having fun and being silly (I think that’s innate for me), but I just kind of wonder when it is I’ll start feeling like an adult, like all the ones I see/perceive around me. There are people my age who ACT like grown people (and look like it, too), and then there are people my age I know who seem to be squeezing every last drop out of I-don’t-wanna. I feel like I fall into the latter category, and for the most part I think that’s okay, except when it’s not. Like, the times when I question myself and my ability to handle my business and be taken seriously and and and…

Anyway. Here, in no particular order, is a (partial) list of random things that (sometimes) make me feel like I’m bad at adulting:

(DISCLAIMER: Just because I feel like these things make me bad at being a grown-up doesn’t mean I feel the same about others if/when they do them, because I apparently hold myself to completely different standards than the rest of the word, ahem)

  • Running out of toilet paper
    • and then, having to buy that gas station sandpaper stuff to tide you over
    • or using napkins or paper towels
  • Miscellaneous clothing/outerwear challenges
    • Wearing clothes with holes in it/them (especially socks)
    • Having a purse with straps where the “leather” is deteriorating
    • Not taking great care of my things
    • Wearing too much black, even if it is my preferred “color”
    • Wearing clothes I’ve owned for 10 years because I can’t afford new ones
    • Wearing things that are either too big or too small because I have no concept of “style” or “age-appropriate clothing” or “proper fit”, and fidgeting
  • Leaving dishes in the sink for longer than 24 hours
  • Sleeping next to my laundry instead of putting it away
  • Not keeping up with all the current events as well as I should
  • Not having had a significant long-term relationship beyond 2 years
  • Not balancing my checkbook
  • Eating fast food, eating poorly in general, not exercising
  • Having no control over my facial expressions, and only partial control over emotional reactions
  • Financial issues
    • having to charge groceries (or medical bills or car repairs) to a credit card
    • not having much in the way of savings
    • taking money given to me by family members
    • not being able to afford to buy a home
    • carrying debt
    • poor prioritizing when it comes to spending habits
    • etc.
  • Not calling my family more often (or, like, ever)
  • Really bad hangovers (which seem to be easier to come by these days)
  • Being late for things (especially work)
  • Never sticking with things that I try out, even if I enjoy it and/or am good at it (painting, photography, music, writing, etc.)

Conversely, these are some random things that DO make me feel like an adult (sorta)…

  • Having good credit (NO LATE PAYMENTS… EVERRRR!!  /Joan Crawford)
  • Driving a manual transmission (I have no idea why, it just does)
  • Keeping a roof over my head and food in the fridge and gas in the car
  • Following rules (my inner rebel just died a little inside)
  • Being able to hold intelligent conversations with people
  • Learning new things
  • Making infinitely better dating choices
  • Balancing my checkbook and paying all my bills on time
  • Valuing home time and down time and friend time and Ninja time and family time over shutting-down-bars time
  • Going to bed at a decent hour, and getting up early
  • Thinking about myself a *little* less, yet taking better care of myself in the process
  • Having mature conversations with people, even when it’s really hard
  • All the introspection stuff I seem hard-wired to do
  • Calling out my own “bad” behavior, and being receptive to change
  • Not being super reactionary, and working hard to be fair
  • Showing up on time, if not early
  • Being the one people call when they need something/someone because I am actually dependable (it wasn’t always the case)
  • Cooking and baking
  • Staying on top of things that need doing
  • Sending thank-you notes
  • Forgiving myself when I’m not perfect
  • The acknowledgement of my own privilege, that this is even something I have the time or mental wherewithal to contemplate (sigh)

So, the interesting thing that just occurred to me is that a lot of my “not feeling like an adult” junk just comes from insecurity, I suppose. Whether it’s emotional or financial or whatever, that’s really all it is. The rest is probably just social conditioning, as well as some strange ideas of what it means to be “grown”, and what success and adulthood is supposed to look like. And I’m getting over a lot of that, just by being awesome (read: doing my best), one day at a time. I may not look or act like my preconceived notion of a 42-year old “adult” or a grown-ass woman, but what ultimately matters is how I feel. And then, even beyond that… who cares? I think maybe being an adult is overrated, and growing up stinks sometimes. :) I’d probably do well to just not think about it at all, and keep doing my best to be a good human, regardless of maturity attribution.

Novel concept.

Telling (Yourself) the Truth, Part 1.

Many years ago, at a time when being honest was a matter of life and death, I was told to practice by telling the truth whenever someone asked how I was doing. You know, instead of giving the pat, polite, “I’m good! How are you?” answer, just lay it all out there.

You’d be amazed how many people stop asking when you do that. :)

But once I got the hang of it, it was liberating as hell; it also enabled me to start identifying what was really going on instead of shoving it down and bottling it up, as I’d done for most of my life. Being honest that way, too, opens the door for compassion, connection, empathy, and the realization that you are rarely (if ever) alone, whatever the struggle. “Me, too.” is one of the most powerful things you can ever say – or hear.

It’s kind of a big deal.

So it’s interesting to me that, even now, all these years later, it can feel a little (or a lot) scary to be honest. To speak up about things that are bothering me, things I’m struggling with, or when I’m sad about something or disappointed or afraid… I guess it goes back to being that rational control freak. I don’t really want people to know when I’m struggling with something, even if I know that telling someone is the first step to getting over/past it. God forbid people see that I’m *gasp* human.

Why is doing right by yourself so counter-intuitive sometimes?

Anyway. I’m pretty good about being honest – with myself, certainly, and with others, too (eventually). But I realized the other day that I’ve been doing myself a bit of a disservice. Not just with keeping things to myself, but also then telling myself (and other people) that I’m full of fear, when I’m really not. Like, I’m reinforcing old beliefs and old behaviors by repeating the party line that may have been true at one point, but it’s not anymore. It’s like the final step before you do the CBT thing of reconditioning your brain to think new, true thoughts instead of old, comfortable sweater ones that have just worn a groove in your brain and come out of your mouth without you actually thinking twice about it.

I don’t even know if this is making any sense. Basically, I’ll find myself thinking that I’m scared of something, or upset by something, or even OKAY with something, only to realize I’m actually not. Operating on autopilot. But the actions follow the thoughts, right, so if I’m telling myself (erroneously) that I’m afraid of or upset by something, then I’m going to act like it (and tell other people that, too). If I tell myself I’m okay with something, I’ll try to act like I am, when I’m really not.

But the truth will start trying to bubble up, if/when you’ve made room for it. There’s no denying that feeling, when you’re doing or saying something that goes against what you know to be true and right and good for YOU. And if I can stop telling myself these things and come at it with a fresh perspective, then it’s likely that the experience – and maybe even the outcome – will be different.

So… yeah. Telling yourself the truth about what you’re feeling and thinking – and telling others, too – matters. Nobody benefits when you keep things to yourself (although there is, of course, a limit to what people want or need to hear, but that’s another story for another time). The hurdle, for me, is getting past the “I’m skeered!” business, because the reality is, I’m not. I’m a grown-ass woman, fully capable of telling the truth (all of it) and speaking up and out. Nothing to be afraid of, since I know I can survive pretty much anything.

I already have, you know? And the things I’m supposedly afraid of are things I’ve been through and seem to be doing just fine.