ThxFriday, If It Takes A Lifetime Edition.

Gettin’ back to gettin’ swole; clarity and revelations and necessary disconnections; perfectly-timed musical soundtracks at the gym; playing catch-up in the quiet; fat tush birthday celebrations for my mama; washing that red right out of my hair (at least, until the next time); an impromptu post-salon dinner date and debrief; creepy dolls for the creepy corner collection; gentle nods from gentle folks; culinary coping mechanisms; the very first listen of a brand new album; letting people help; writing it out; and looking forward to hitting the road to where the Blues began.

“A man is the product of all the people that he ever loved. It don’t make a difference how it ended up. If I loved you once, my friend, I can do it all again, if it takes a lifetime.”

Happy Birthday To Me.

My 43rd birthday is coming up in a week and a half. It’s at this time, more than any other (like, say, NYE), when I reflect on years past as well as look ahead, and I think about things I might want to do differently (or do/not do at all in the first place). It’s a good time to set intentions, you know? Decide what I want this new year to look like, inside and out. So I’m heading out of town tomorrow, books and journals in hand (along with a camera and the determination to stay off the internet as much as possible for a few days), for that very purpose.

I have another blog entry in the works. It’s centered around the notion of going along to get along, the two sides of compromise, and the resulting anger, sadness, and frustration I feel (mostly toward myself) when I realize what I’ve done: in most cases, it’s called settling, and it’s also called making yourself small for the sake of someone or something else.

Anyway. I mention that because it’s what led me to the conclusion that this coming year is going to be all about becoming my own champion. Saying no when I should. Speaking up and out when I want/need to. Refusing to take someone else’s shit for the sake of “getting along,” assuming their shit is unreasonable, of course – there is such a thing as good compromise. Letting go of the fear of being ridiculed or shamed or abandoned or disliked. No longer making myself small to fit in someone/something else’s shadow. TRUSTING MY GUT.

(Gee, is that all?)

Thing is, while it may not be easy, it’s certainly simple. But I realized this, more than anything, is the lesson I’ve needed to learn all along: Stop putting myself at the mercy of anyone else. I’m great with the whole independence thing, doing pretty much everything myself. I’m also pretty good with boundaries when it comes to family and friends. For some reason, though, as soon as I enter a romantic relationship, all backbone and boundaries go out the window. At least for a little while. I’ve been told more than once that people see me as someone who takes no shit from anyone, especially a dating partner. I love that that’s the perception; I hate that it’s not necessarily the truth. But hey, growth opportunity, right?

So… intention #1: Be as fierce and badass on my own behalf as I am for everyone else.

To be continued.

Insights, inventories, and a small weekend update.

What is it called when you assume all other humans engage with others and with life the same way as you (and you’re, like, really wrong, yet you continue to be surprised when you’re confronted with reality)? It’s not cognitive dissonance, it’s not confirmation bias, it’s… well, it’s something I seem to experience on the daily, whatever it’s called. And that’s neither here nor there, it’s just something I’ve been pondering. It would just be nice if I could bear in mind that everyone is different, as is how they choose to navigate life, and that my way isn’t necessarily better (or worse) – just different. It will be especially helpful to bear that in mind once I finish my MSW and (eventually) begin working with clients, since having any kind of expectation on how another person is able to traverse life’s mental/emotional obstacle course is nothing but frustration waiting to happen.

A lot of years ago, I was involved in a 12-step program wherein you’re encouraged to admit to yourself and others what you’re powerless over, become open to accepting help for that thing, do an honest personal inventory, right your wrongs as best you can to clear away the shame, do your best to keep your side of the street clean and avoid future shame, and help others do the same. While I am no longer participating in that program, there were (and are) a lot of really useful things about it I still carry with me. In particular, I am always looking at my side of the street to see what my part in things is, and I (usually) do my best to keep that clean and well-tended. I try to bear in mind how my behaviors affect others, and take good care with all of that.

I’ve been told I am unusual with all of the self-seeking and inventory-taking. That your average Jo(sephine) doesn’t do such things, really, and instead just operates on cruise control in relationships (friends, lovers, family, etc.). It’s possible most people are just better at relationships than I was/am, but I also think there’s some truth to some people not owning their own stuff, whether they can’t, or just won’t. And there’s also truth to a lot of people opting not to think so damn much, I suppose. :)

I’m nowhere near perfect at the self-reflection thing, and a lot of times it takes someone else’s perspective to show me where I’ve got room for improvement. Example: I am strongly averse to shows of passive-aggressive behaviors. Like, I get borderline angry about it sometimes. Unfortunately, because I grew up around it and have been surrounded by it and was modeled that behavior, I do it, too. (Man, I hate that.) And I don’t always recognize it when I do it.

A friend wrote a post not long ago about how it is we get annoyed or angry at things in others, when we ourselves do it, too, and how that requires double-extra self-checking. This is one of those things for me, and I think the problem is you can only do so much self-reflection and evaluation on your own before you start missing things. Outside perspective matters. I’ve said this before: you can claim yourself to be a paragon of virtue, patience, tolerance, and love, but if you’re living alone in the woods or on top of a mountain and never find yourself challenged by another human being, it’s way easier to say those things.

You find out who you really are when other people enter the picture (or, in some cases, when they leave).

Anyway. By doing all that inventory-taking and gaining insight into who you are and HOW you are in the world, you can change the trajectory of your life – at least, that’s this person’s humble opinion. If you find yourself constantly frustrated by the outcome of things, and you seem to experience the same or similar outcomes on a regular basis, then it may be time to take a look at your insides and see what, if anything, you can do to change. If you find yourself in relationships with similar (or hell, even completely different) people and none of them work out but you’d like them to, then digging a little deeper on the inside might help.

I started thinking about all of this because I know damn well all the stuff I carry around with me has led me to this point, where I am right now. WHO I am right now. What’s that pithy saying? Life is 10% what happens and 90% how you react to it? And I think once you take stock of what you’re carrying and take ownership of your part in things, rather than paying no attention at all or insisting on laying all the blame elsewhere instead, a much bigger world opens up. It just seems really important, not only for your own benefit, but for those around you. Again, with (two of) the Four Agreements: Be impeccable with your word, and always do your best.

————————————–

It’s been a hell of a weekend. On the good side: I’ve been eating well, getting plenty of sleep, and went to the gym both days, and I went into the office today to get some work done while it was quiet. I also got to see a friendly/familiar face at the grocery store on my way home, which always makes me happy.

On the less than stellar side: I woke up to a dead bunny at the end of my driveway on Saturday (which felt a whole lot like an omen); the air-conditioning crapped out in my car on the hottest weekend of the year; a favorite employee at one of my local stores made a highly-inappropriate comment about my chest tattoo that embarrassed the hell out of me and made me not want to return; and Ninja and I have opted to call it quits.

I guess that’s the big one, and for many reasons I won’t get into, it’s for the best. Doesn’t make it suck much less, of course, but knowing it’s the right thing helps. I think the fact that we’ve been apart for a few months softened the blow a bit, too. So many good things came out of the past year that I can’t begrudge any of it; I just have to hope we both find whatever it is we’re looking for. We’ll see if friendship is possible down the road, once the dust has settled, but for now I’ll be disconnecting, for my own sake.

So, there’s that. Interestingly enough, it all coincides with my decision on Friday to finally get back to living life here in the present moment, instead of hanging my hat on some kind of future hope that really shouldn’t have ever been there in the first place. Funny how things work out.

ThxFriday, Something More Than Free Edition.

Long-distance Friday night movie dates with my sweetheart; the discovery of “Life Itself” and the joy of passing it along; productive Saturdays and the paring down of unnecessary things; overdue dinners with good friends (and that handsome man, J’Zargo); the delicious simplicity of eggs, onions, and parmesan; a magical pairing of champagne and sorbet bringing thoughts of the Kool-Aid Man (OH YEAH); much-needed feedback and affirmation of correct course choices; cooking all day to the sounds of Sunday thunder; surprise Amazon deliveries to help me find my way; continued inclusion from the NC contingent; the duality of those damn Superman balloons; finding the good in all of that bad (if they can do it, so can we); power outages sparking impromptu firefly time; gaining insights, pushing back, and the clarity that comes with a little time and distance; wet baseballs for a place to dig deep in the company of friends; Noelle (Noelle Noelle Noelle); saving the nose, no spite to the face; steamy Thursday Cheekwood visits (with a friendly face “long time no see” bonus); 7 days to Ninja time <3 ; and waking to the end of a two-year wait. Southeastern spoke my heart for a real long time, but I’m ready to move up and on.

“‘Cause the hammer needs the nail, and the poor man’s up for sale. Guess I’m doing what I’m on this Earth to do. I don’t think on why I’m here or where it hurts. I’m just lucky to have the work.”

A prelude to insights and inventories.

About 15 years ago, I dated a guy for a few months, only for us both to realize and agree we made better friends. No harm, no foul. Not long after, he began spending time with another young lady. And by young lady, I mean she was quite a bit younger (uh, but still more than legal, in case that needs to be clarified). Their interactions were casual, but they were intimate, and they spent a fair amount of time together.

If you asked him, they were barely more than friends with benefits. If you asked her, you could see right away she was really into him but tried her best to act casual. And if you asked him again (and threw some dubious side-eye in there), he might tell you she appeared to have feelings for him and was hurt by his lack of commitment to her, despite telling him repeatedly she didn’t mind and didn’t care. He knew better. But he would quickly follow that up with a caveat: “I’ve made it totally clear to her I’m not interested in a relationship, that I just want to have fun, so my conscience is clear. I was honest with her about my intentions, and I told the truth, so it’s not my fault if she sticks around and gets hurt.”

Uh…

Here’s the thing. I totally get where he was coming from, because at that time, the focus was on making sure your side of the street was clear. Telling the truth, being honest about your intentions, all of that stuff… if you’re good on that, then what anyone else chooses to do (or not do) is up to them. Right? Personal responsibility has to start somewhere, eh? And ultimately, you cannot be responsible for another person’s reactions or feelings. Obviously, it’s ideal to take others into account and try to do right by them, be kind, etc., but at some point a person’s feelings (thoughts, reactions, etc.) are theirs to manage.

That said, what if you are the strong one (by strong, I mean emotionally and/or mentally), and you know the other person is being hurt by what’s going on but they don’t necessarily have the power to do right by themselves at that moment? What if you know damn well your behavior is affecting that other person, you know you’re never going to give them what it is they want or need from you, and you know they’re clinging to hope that really shouldn’t be there? Do you have a responsibility to take your “doing right by them” a step further and end it? Even if you’re getting what YOU want out of the situation, they aren’t, and you know it. So, is leaving/ending things the right thing to do, in that particular situation? Or do you just let it play out until either you get bored or they find it within themselves to move on?

This post is like an intro to the next one, wherein I dig deep into the concept of self-examination (emotionally and mentally, not physically, although you can do that, too, if you want, I guess), personal responsibility, owning your part, and what to do when you encounter people (read: future clients) that seem constitutionally incapable. I split ’em up because otherwise it would have been a novel, and this seemed like as good a place as any to stop. 

Just, That, and Sorry (because of nothing).

I didn’t start taking any sort of interest in writing until my late 20’s. I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember, and always loved the way words felt and sounded – or, in some cases, how I imagined they’d sound. (Thankfully, someone kindly and gently corrected me the first time I ever said “re-SPITE” out loud, and I learned right then to check pronunciation on all them faincy words I was dying to use.)

It wasn’t until I found myself dating a wordsmith some years ago that I recognized something in myself yearning to communicate in lovely written ways. I’ve latched on to writing as a preferred means of communication and expression for myriad reasons: I can take my time with it; I have something to refer back to; and, most importantly, I can absorb more when the words are in front of me as opposed to being spoken. You can paint pictures, elicit emotion, and tell your heart and story with words, you know? Language is such an exquisite thing; it has the power to connect or divide more than just about anything else.

As I’ve gotten older, my desire to communicate clearly and effectively (and occasionally heart-string-pluckingly) seems to be moving toward the notion of less being more. Simplicity. I, in fact, actually suck at keeping things simple, but I sure as hell admire it in others. One of my favorite musicians, Jason Isbell, is like the master of simple words and phrases, and boy howdy does he do it well.

Anyway. Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of articles about HOW TO SPEAK AND WRITE. Do this, don’t do that. Say this, remove this other word from your lexicon immediately or else. Etc. Below are links to what I’ve read, as well as little blurbs on my own experience… and then, of course, I have more to say.

The first word, “that,” is one I’ve always worked to remove from my writing – ever since a former boss (who was a marketing exec) told me it was something to keep an eye out for. It’s extraneous, a lot of the time, and now I’m at the point where it bothers me if I use it too much. So, out it goes.  https://www.themuse.com/advice/15-words-you-need-to-eliminate-from-your-vocabulary-to-sound-smarter

The second word is “just.” This was an interesting read, because I’d never really paid attention to how much I use that word. And it does, in fact, feel like I’m attempting to excuse what I’m about to say – whether it’s actually true or not. So, out it goes. There’s nothing wrong with being more definitive (and concise) in what you say, especially because it is still possible to practice empathy without it (see the last link for why I’d even say that in the first place). http://www.businessinsider.com/former-google-exec-says-this-word-can-damage-your-credibility-2015-6

“Sorry.” This is a bit of a two-fold issue for me. I have known a lot of people who would say “sorry” for no good reason – everything from asking for a piece of paper to asking for something to be redone because it wasn’t correct in the first place to apologizing for asking a question. For starters. To me, it rings false; it’s not that it comes across as weak, it just comes across as annoying, occasionally flippant, and disingenuous. Conversely, there are times when I will say that I am sorry for something, but it’s not that I am apologizing; it’s instead that I am sorry something happened to someone else, and I’m expressing THAT. I just hate having to explain that, because invariably someone will respond with, “Why are you sorry? You didn’t have anything to do with it.” or “Don’t be sorry.” COME ON, guys. You know this one. *sigh* http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/23/opinion/when-an-apology-is-anything-but.html?_r=0

Of course, after reading all of those articles, I happen across this one, essentially telling me to disregard everything I just read because women are getting attacked all over the place and maybe just leave us alone? http://nymag.com/thecut/2015/07/can-we-just-like-get-over-the-way-women-talk.html

The thing is, I am always looking for inspiration in how to communicate better. How to turn a phrase in a different way. How to be more clear and for there to be less risk of misunderstanding. Nothing feels better to me than to know the words I’ve written have somehow touched the heart (or mind) of someone else in some way. Just last Friday, I watched “Life Itself” and was inspired by Roger Ebert’s use of language – so much so, I want to go back and read more of what he’s written. I want to find more writings by more people, more words and phrases and styles, by which to be inspired and changed. If an article telling me to remove the words “just”, “that,” and “sorry” strikes a chord – and not a chord of shame or feeling small, but a chord of “yes, that sounds and feels right” – then I’ll listen to and play that chord for as long as it resonates.

sorry

ThxFriday, To Your Love Edition.

Allowing for less-than-graceful responses to relatively minor setbacks (sometimes I adult better than others, ahem); the shifting of gears and backup plans FTW; retail therapy that brings the power of video calls; getting back to nesting; weathering the storms for freedom (and BBQ and friends and fireworks, too); new neighbor baby showers and a Viking ship crib nearing its time to set sail; the always joy of family dinner time; a week of relative freedom and room to breathe; the power of “me, too” coming from all different directions; reclamation of power, choice, and perspective; cooking as self-care; welcoming the struggles for stepping stones to healing (woof); books that speak your language; learning to keep company with the ghosts; long-distance movie dates with my NC sweetheart (the 2-week countdown starts NOW); and looking forward to spending time with friends from both near and far.

It’s been a hard as hell week for a lot of us, I know, so be good to each other, y’all. Love your people with all you got.

ThxFriday, Freedom ’15 Edition.

Ninjas on arrival; uneventful travel time; pizza, family, smooth intros, and a toothless little Ladies Man; lazy days and lengthy naps, followed up with a fancy family dinner; nightcaps in the hotel lobby bar; small world collision connections; waking to a day of celebration, love, and pride; Hey Girl brunch with a favorite friend; more wandering, more naps, and plenty of time to get fancied up; celebrating love (always and forever) and the marriage of two great people; doin’ the barefoot boogie; Mr. Bow Tie smooth operator on the dance floor; photobooths and photobombs; the bourbon bar, the donut bar, and the hotel bar (again); keeping every little thing in perspective; awareness and acceptance; embracing the lessons; the security in knowing exactly what I’m doing (even when it doesn’t feel that way to me or anyone else); recognizing the Real Roxanne; and looking forward to another long weekend with you-know-who, with lots of food and fun and family (but no fumes or flooding, please).

And also: