ThxFriday, Outshined Edition.

Long-overdue phone dates (Hey Girl!); bacon, egg & cheese biscuits with a side of Pod-loading; hang time, snack time, and scary haunted house time; proper introductions; much-needed hours (and hours) of football, fun, laughter, and a Gummy Bear or two (or six); Chipotle by candlelight (swoon); chicken biscuit salvation; surviving yet another fundraiser; Mother Nature holding her tempestuous tongue for the day; a safe and cozy place to hide from the storms; watching creepy movies (with an added real-life creeper for good measure); new neighbors without a Yorkie in sight; the return of sleepwalking, as long as I don’t leave the house; beer and boogie with Electric Six (I buy the drugs!); having nothing to worry about (for real); couch naps; late-night Alaskan shout-outs; and waking up early to pack my bags to make my way up North, for time with one of the best humans I’ve ever been blessed to know. And then some.

Ten-(one)Four Brain Dump

Tag team, back again…

  • Today is the 14th. It’s the birthday of two old friends of mine from MN, both of whom have since passed away within 6 months of each other. It’s completely unrelated, except for the part where they both struggled with/battled addiction, and ultimately lost. I am still tender over both of them, and today is the day when I think about them most. Addiction is such a THING. I… I don’t know. I was telling someone the other day that there’s nothing much worse than looking back on the wreckage of your life and realizing it was all your doing. Watching people destroy themselves is really effing hard; watching them try to manage, try to control perception, try to convince themselves and everyone else that everything is okay… it’s just so much work. And destroying ourselves seems to go against our very nature: the desire to and instinct for survival. But then, maybe drugs and booze are just what people turn to in order to try and survive the pain of being alive. It’s just messy, and probably warrants a post all by itself. For now, I’ll just say that I miss ‘em both, and will continue to carry them in my heart.
  • I remember the first time I found myself in the throes of shame and misery and all that stuff, and I finally took the plunge and shared the things running through my head and the things I’d done with a friend of mine. And I remember, just as well, how she laughed and told me she’d been there, that she got it. It was then that I realized I’d crossed over to trusting her. Trusting her to listen, to have my best interests at heart, to stick around and not run away screaming (or making fun of me) when I shared something big and scary. After a lifetime of not really being able to trust anyone to stick around or be consistent, this was pretty huge for me, and it’s helped guide my relationships since. Friendship or otherwise.
  • That said, I’ve realized lately that there doesn’t have to be a catastrophic/dramatic event to get there with people. You know? Trust is not an immediate thing with me, by any stretch. I used to think I trusted everyone until they gave me reason not to; now I know that the opposite is true. Building solid trust takes time, and for someone as impatient as yours truly, this can be a pretty big hurdle. Right now, the new dude and I are about 2 months in, dating-wise, and we’re working our way through it all in fits and starts. We still have a great time together, and it’s still easy and fun and awesome. Things come up, questions are raised, a little crazy rears its head (or pulls into the driveway), and the result is a two-way street of me feeling safe enough to express concern or ask questions, and him being willing enough to walk and talk me through things, with care and kindness. He’s pretty thoughtful, and it gives me the space to sort through things. It also gives me enough room to see just how deeply I’ve allowed myself to be affected by spending time with untrustworthy, unreliable, and/or unpredictable people. It’s a little unsettling, but we’re figuring it out.
  • Along those lines, I’m learning how to pick my battles and sort out whether or not something really matters in the grand scheme of things; if I have a legit cause for concern or if it’s based in old stuff; and ultimately, if it’s worth it to me to stress about something – or if I can just let it go and see how it turns out. Releasing my kung-fu grip on life, I suppose. But there are things that have come up in the last few weeks where, after some consideration, I just realized it wasn’t worth getting upset over, probably wasn’t even worth mentioning.  And of course then I wonder if I’m just rolling over, or if I’m actually letting go and growing a little here and there.
  • There is, of course, power in being powerless. Recognizing when I have absolutely no control over a person, place, situation, or whatever – and then opting not to respond to/worry about the outcome until it’s actually come to pass – is HUGE. Mind you, I still want to change things and make everyone and everything do what I want, when I want it, but if/when I can just let it all go and accept present moments as they are, and in fact treat them as though they were just what I wanted all along… hell yeah. Inserting distance between myself and situations, myself and other people, actually feels pretty good. Solid without going overboard.
  • I started something a while back, at the suggestion of the wonder-therapist, and it has been WORKING. I’m not surprised, mind you, although I was absolutely dubious. I’ve been writing down the things that I’m worried about or afraid of, and then folding up the pieces of paper and putting them in a tin. It’s my Trouble Tin, and by writing down the fears and physically setting them aside, I somehow managed to grant myself and my brain something of a reprieve, and am able to move on, focus on work, stop feeling anxious or afraid… it’s kind of awesome.
  • It’s also awesome to realize that there haven’t been too many things going in that box lately. Letting go = fewer fears.
  • Some weeks ago, I recognized an old behavior that was trying to sneak its way through. Despite being strong, self-sufficient, and independent when I’m single, spending time with friends whenever I wanted or doing my own thing, for some reason I’ll start putting my life and plans and everything on hold when I start dating someone. You know, to make room for them (whether they ask for it or not). So, I’d stop being able to commit to plans with friends on the off-chance the boyfriend was going to want to hang out… you know. Crap like that. I have no idea where that started, or when. Why on earth would I ever think that putting my life on hold to make room for someone else was ever going to work out well? The reason people date you is for who you are when you meet, right? Having interests and activities other than the person you’re dating is pretty critical. For a lot of reasons. So it surprised me when I realized I’d been inching towards doing that with the current dude, and I was even more surprised when it sank in that I’d been doing that for years. As soon as I saw it all for what it was, I immediately raised up and made the conscious decision to get back to the business of being ME. I need to be happy and interested and interested and engaged and awesome whether there’s someone else around or not. I’ve got the “not” part down pat, now I just need to make sure I keep doing my own thing. Ninja is still dating other people, as far as I know, and he’s also working on building a life of his own here, which makes perfect sense. And that means there is no reason why my life shouldn’t be just as full, just as much of a priority. Fortunately, I nipped it pretty quick, but it’ll probably take some conscious adjustments for a while, just to be sure I’m tending to my own side of things. It’s possible to have a full life AND make room for someone, when the time comes. I was just never very good at balance, I suppose.
  • I’ve been studying on impulse control, too. Or in some peoples’ cases, the complete lack thereof (er, not that I can relate AT ALL). What is it inside a person that makes them think it’s okay to do something, or say something, when it’s pretty obvious to the rest of the world that it’s conduct unbecoming, at best (and at worst, it’s borderline psychotic)? I mean, some of it could very well be attributed to mental illness, past trauma impacting current rational thought… stuff like that. But there are also plenty of people who do and say crazy things without giving it a second thought, and who allow themselves to be driven by faulty instinct. Those are the ones who interest me.
  • There’s been a lot of crazy going on/revealing itself lately.
  • Conversely, I’m just as interested in people who have the resolve and patience of… well, whomever or whatever has a lot of resolve and patience. Saints? I have a few friends who refuse to engage with people for the simple fact that it would give the person what they want, and these friends of mine have a vested interest in making sure that doesn’t happen. I LOVE THIS, and admire it to no end, because invariably I get sucked in by people trying to get a certain response or trying to control a situation. At least until I realize what’s going on and then I clam right up. But I’m working on learning to sit with things in that arena, too. There’s fun to be had with it, and I also loathe feeling like I’m being manipulated, for any reason, so all the more reason.
  • Okay, I’m starting to get vague (and, you know, LONG-WINDED), so I’ll wrap this up by saying: I am pretty damn content these days. *happy sigh* Also, I cannot wait to travel up to MN this weekend to spend time with that friend from the second bullet point. She’s pretty much the best. I originally scheduled this trip for two reasons: to see her, and also to distract myself from something else that’s happening this weekend. But because of #3-5, that second reason is no longer valid. So… I WIN. <3

ThxFriday, Ghost Bird Edition.

Breaking pizza spells with Angry Balls; Boyz II Men ABC BBD… and CBT; culinary reputation building across the miles; that Saturday night feast – I mean, damn; plus, the company fit for that feast; funny cats and awesome kids; juicing all the while; doing the time warp (again); maid Magenta; sage advice and wisdom; rapid onset illness and recovery; the quiet respite offering and construction avoidance; surprise arrivals; Lemmy gnomes; the Monday night football curl-up (now, with more soup!); plan cancellations and the freedom they afford; Bad Feminist; late night thunderstorms; getting to roll back over; raising up and taking it back; always having a choice (or three); long-time-no-sees (and the free drinks to go with ‘em); GFY gifs; surviving OSHA PAT; every single thing about last night; a latte start to a rainy day; emergency hair witch visits; and all that I have to look forward to. There’s just so much. <3

Deal breakers, concessions, and all those shades of gray.

The other day, I had a conversation about dating someone with a significant illness. About what life looks like when you commit to someone whose health is at the forefront of any sort of consideration you make. What it must be like to live with someone going through all of that on the regular. The stress, financial strain, lack of freedom in certain areas, lack of spontaneity… things like that.

In addition, a (sober) friend of mine is dating someone who recently relapsed. The question there is, can you continue to date that person? Is active addiction something you can transcend? Would you, if you could? Should you? (“Should.” Nothing more subjective than THAT. Whose opinion counts or matters, in that scenario, other than your own?)

I know a lot of people who’ve made concessions in order to make relationships work. Sometimes, those concessions seem to me like way too much of a compromise, bordering on settling. But then I have to realize, what works for one person and is okay with one person isn’t going to be the same for everyone. And “settling” vs. “compromise” is a matter of perception anyway, right? Easy for you to say, one way or the other, but you never really know until you’re in it yourself. Rendering judgements on the choices and relationships of others is… well, I think it’s a global pastime, whether it’s fair or realistic or reasonable or not.

In the past, I’ve certainly done whatever I could to make things work with people; in hindsight, I probably did too much. I don’t regret it, though. Being all-in, and living and loving with my whole heart, is who I am, you know? Making better choices in friends and lovers is the key. And I am such a romantic, such an optimist at heart, I tend to operate under the guise that love can, and should, transcend all of these things. That if it matters enough, you can get through it. That regardless of someone’s health struggles, once you make the decision to be with them and to stay with them, you figure out how to make the rest of it work. And sure, you might be taking on a lot, a life of hardship and struggle, but you’ve got someone to do that with. Even if it’s just for 5 years, or 10, or 20 – or with no guarantees of time at all, other than the present moment.

It’s such a Pollyanna view of life, isn’t it? Even when I know the truth, that sometimes (most times?) love just isn’t enough.

Upon reflection, though, I actually have deal breakers, too. And despite coming at life from a “love shall overcome” mentality, I also lived life in a world of black and white for a long time, out of a need for security and safety and consistency (hint: it doesn’t really work like that). Like: I’m okay with this (and this and that and that, too), but I am absolutely NOT okay with that, nope not never. This is good, THAT is bad and wrong, and that’s all there is to it. Etc.

Of course, there is value in determining what it is I actually am okay with and what I’m not, rather than trying to force something to work for the sake of of making it work. And what I’m okay/not okay with can be fluid and change, depending on where I’m at in life. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, this forever, etc. Determining that I’m not okay with something doesn’t mean I’m a bad person, or closed-minded, either; it just means that I have limits, and the desire to protect myself from harm, emotional or otherwise.

However, even that can go overboard and you find that you’ve protected yourself so much, no one else will ever have any room to be let in. More than anything, I fear closing up and shutting down and never giving someone else the opportunity to know me (someone who deserves and wants to be there, of course). It’s important to me to be sure I’m not “protecting myself” from a place of fear, insecurity, “what if”, or anxiety that has no basis in reality or present moment. Holding people accountable for the past actions of others or fear of the future isn’t fair, nor is it the way to build new and better relationships.

As an aside (and somewhat related), I just got an email from my mom, telling me she is planning to leave her church to attend another one because of a woman who drives her crazy. This one person has the power to drive my mother out of a place where she has found happiness and acceptance. Apparently, Mom has reached HER limit and has determined it is more worth it to her to find another church (and let this woman drive her away) than try to find a way to get along and make that situation work. I have opinions on this, of course, based in 40+ years of personal experience, but then, it’s not up to me to decide where someone else’s breaking point is.

Anyway. A lot of times, it would be easy to claim one side or the other in a hypothetical situation. It’s not until you find yourself in the situation for real that you see what’s what. What’s real, what’s realistic, what you’re made of. Sometimes, you figure out that you’re actually okay with certain things you may have otherwise thought not. Sometimes, too, you’re confronted with a situation where something you thought you’d be okay with is met with a resounding HELL NO from the depths of your core. So it’s real life experience that guides you through these things. You can talk about it, write about it, or read about it, you can watch a movie and try to figure out what you’d do differently… but the only way to really know is to be in it.

Over the last 20+ years, I’ve amassed a wealth of experience with what I’m NOT okay with. It’s pretty basic and reasonable: I am not okay with dishonesty, lying, or manipulation. I am absolutely not okay with passive-aggressive behavior. I am not okay with unfaithfulness or cheating. I am not okay with abuse, whether emotional, physical, or verbal.

And yet, even a few of those deal breakers have some subtle nuances, in certain situations, where other things would need to be taken into account. There is a part of me that screams, “HELL NO” when I contemplate being in a relationship with an active addict/alcoholic, but that is the same part of me that struggled my way through relationships like that in the past. But at this point in my life, I could see the possibility of finding myself in that situation and figuring out how to navigate through it together, if at all possible. And sometimes, a person who is being passive-aggressive simply needs to learn a different way of communicating, and you can figure that out together. Lying, or being manipulative… that’s something else. I’m not entirely sure you can overcome that behavior. Those are usually indicative of bigger problems on the part of the other person, and not likely to change anytime soon.

So, yeah. Living life in black and white, or trying to make sense of things, trying to compartmentalize and label… it’s all an effort to feel safe and secure in the world, right? To know our place amid the fundamental ambiguity of being human. I’m still pretty open to learning, to questioning those beliefs, to expanding my comfort zone without actually breaking anything, or feeling as though I’m settling. Basically, checking in on things and picking my battles. Sacrificing a battle to win the war. Giving up on my need to be right all the time, and instead opening up to bigger pictures.

I don’t know. It almost seems like I’m trying to get at something deeper than just figuring out if I’m okay with someone lying or cheating or having an illness or relapsing, though, you know? Because there are no right or wrong answers; it’s all up to the individual person to determine what works and what doesn’t, what’s okay and what’s not. I just think it’s important to question this stuff and revisit from time to time, so that I know whether or not I’m living the best life as my best self. If what I’m doing, or if the person with whom I’m spending time, or the friendships I have, or the job I’m working, go against what I’ve deemed important and/or necessary and/or in keeping with who I want to be and the life I want to live, then it’s up to me to make that change, to do something different. I am the only one who can decide whether or not it’s okay – and it is the same for everyone else, too.

Related: WORRY ABOUT YOURSELF.

In other/old news, I started reading the anxiety management book; one of the first things it said was how people struggling with anxiety believe that if they can just trace it back to the source, they can fix it. (AHEM.) But the truth is, your brain has developed pathways and sometimes the neurotransmitters are operating on overdrive, so it’s not just a matter of figuring out where it’s coming from; it’s also a matter of retraining your brain (CBT). And this morning, the wonder-therapist said that it can take 400 times of repetition before you retrain your brain, unless you somehow incorporate fun and/or novelty into it – then it only takes 12. So, you know. In response to anxiety and all the crap it brings with it, when it crops up again I’ve been tasked with figuring out ways to respond and correct and all that in fun and/or novel ways, in order to get back to my core self, not the anxious self. I appreciate a challenge.

In the meantime, this weekend is all about reflection and self-care. I’m focusing on eating well and juicing, making sure my body gets all the nutrients it needs and not much of anything else; spending time with friends (as well as doing some things on my own); tending to things at home and crossing them off the list; and doing my best to disconnect from being online so much. It’s too easy to find what you’re looking for sometimes, you know?

So… yeah. I’m once again choosing which wolves to feed. It feels good to live (and love, and BE) with intention. <3

ThxFriday, Taco-Flavored Kisses Edition.

Dinner with my favorite uncle (my only uncle, but still); early morning laughter; core stabilization; doing different things and keeping options open; sending off the shitbirds; Instagramming strangers; being raised better than that; the party after the party; pretty much the best massage ever (all praise Consuelo!); panic at the disco; seeking (and following) illuminated butt wisdom; getting realigned, inside and out; sushi with the girls; Sunday night music hour(s); 8:30 bedtimes; comfort foods with comfort friends; knowing the butchers by name; cute little cleaning crews; flying penises and GFY’s; prepping zen; a meal well-made, and time well-spent, with company well-tended; clarity of vision; 23 points heading into the weekend; waking up content on a rainy Friday morning; special deliveries; and a weekend ahead of who knows what, why, or where – we’ll just take it as it comes. <3

The Origin of Things.

I spend a lot of time contemplating the origin of things these days. Feelings, emotions, thoughts, reactions… all that stuff. I want to know where it comes from, what’s causing it, etc., because at some point, I realized that figuring out where things come from helps me determine whether or not it’s an appropriate feeling/though/emotion/reaction to the current situation at hand. And ultimately, it helps me to return to the source and nip that shit in the bud.

So, like, last week I was having horrible anxiety. The kind that prevented me from sleeping, but rendered me unable to do (or want to do) much else. Brain running a mile a minute, constant butterflies, inability to focus, underlying sadness… and it was a visceral reaction to a situation that honestly didn’t warrant it. Adding insult to injury, I wound up acting on it (in a relatively minor way, thank goodness) and then having to own the behavior. It wasn’t comfortable, for a lot of reasons.

But I know all the right things to do, right? I reminded myself to sit with it. I forced myself to reach out to friends, who all helped in their own ways. I made dinner plans with family. In other words, I got back to the business of being me, instead of allowing the anxiety (and resulting shitty thoughts and feelings) to rule things, and it helped. Immensely. So much so that, 24 hours later, I’d made the transition from worrying and stressing and having my catastrophizing imagination on overdrive, to seeing the reality of the situation and no longer giving a shit. I referred to it in my ThxFriday post as achieving WTF enlightenment and “whatever” nirvana.

There’s a lot of freedom to be found in not caring. (I’ve been applying this lesson everywhere, and boy howdy, does it work!)

And yet, that still doesn’t solve the original issue. There’s a lot to be said for reconditioning, and it’s entirely possible I could heal it all up and reprogram my brain and anxiety response simply by engaging with people who live life with integrity and who treat me with respect and loving kindness. Learning to trust people and situations, as well as the truth that I will be okay, no matter what. I have every intention of doing all of that, regardless. But I also think I need to identify triggers, trace them back, and sort through THAT. Tending to the structural integrity of my psyche, you know? Little dings in the armor here and there are fine, but at some point after 40 years, things begin to warp and crack and break.

Right now, I think my reaction to certain things/situations is broken, and while it’s feeling a lot better, I don’t want to have to contend with this for the rest of my life if I don’t have to. Anxiety makes me imagine the worst – and then believe my thoughts. I get rattled, confused, distracted, short-tempered, fearful, stuck in fight or flight, and basically experience a complete loss of self. It’s pretty terrible. It’s a toss-up between recognizing it’s not “truth,” and feeling completely powerless to do anything about it, as to which part sucks the hardest.

Anyway. It seems to me that this particular anxiety started in my late 20’s. Prior to that, I’d spent years coming at relationships from a place of insecurity, but it was different. I have a feeling that the two years spent in a dysfunctional, drug-fueled, traumatic relationship with a junkie who would disappear for days at a time to be with the woman he really loved, only to come back when he needed something or when she’d push him away, left me with a touch of the PTSD. All of that in conjunction with extended crystal meth use probably did a number on my brain, because the things I imagine now – the thoughts that pass through my mind when I’m feeling insecure or afraid – are a lot more intense (and ridiculous, and awful) than they ever used to be before. It’s possible, too, that some of it comes from age and allowing it to fester, as well as being in several less than stellar relationships afterward which only served to exacerbate (and reaffirm) the fears and insecurities.

So there’s a lot of work to be done. I know where it comes from, I know it’s not based in reality and that there’s a difference between the anxious gut and my REAL gut. They say very different things, a lot of the time. This past week or two has been a prime example. Thankfully, I’m learning to speak and understand/interpret both languages, and operate accordingly.

ThxFriday, The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack Edition.

Sleep as respite; perfect weather for a Hustle; voicing concerns and riding the waves; learning again to sit with/in silence; all of my dudes and the Sunday soothe; the Jack Palance mantra; heeding the need for comfort; impromptu family dinners; after-dinner drinks and listening parties; Isbell and Buckley from the sweet spot; curling up to football; internet search mishaps; achieving WTF enlightenment and the “whatever” nirvana; Music City PandA; finally getting the joke; backing the truck up; Minnesota musings; poolside cocktails, Wooten brothers badassery, late-night stops at the ML Rose, and Alice in Chains (Layne Staley 4Ever); calm and truth on the other side of anxiety; sleeping in – just a bit; keeping it simple; calendar perspective; the magic of trouble/worry jars and learning to leave it there; and a weekend ahead of tending to and sending off and hanging on and letting go.