Friday night spaghetti and a swipe; The Nations Nashville Neighborhood Pancake Breakfast, building community one pancake at a time; jazz brunch with The Combo at The Stone Fox, always and forever; small world connections, how-we-met reflections, and time with the object of all of my affections; playing DJ on the gorgeous system and a rousing game of “Guess What Year”; cozy, lazy Sundays filled with couch time, nap time, kitchen time, and together time with a backdrop of HoC, TD, GoT, and Team America; lunch for breakfast; fancy food for charity; having the most fun; comfort food Tuesdays; tending to the things and building up the trust; evil urge resistance; being so much better than that; having something to teach; having more to learn; braving the waves together; Skype dates and catch-up texts; and kicking off the countdown with that perfect cup of coffee (I’m gonna need it), a biscuit & some bacon (need is a relative thing here), and the knowledge that I’m as great as I always hoped I’d be, with plenty of room for better. <3
For years, I’ve made the joke that I’m a Quarter Rican, since my grandmother’s family on my dad’s side lived in Puerto Rico (they’re originally from Spain). Ninja likes to add that it means he’s got a 25% chance of getting stabbed on any given night. :) So, yesterday, my sister posted a photo of my nephew standing in front of a class project about his Scottish heritage (on my mom’s side). Apparently, the clan motto is**, “Conquer or Die.” It would appear that I come by all of my stubborn survival attitude honestly, then. So, by embracing it, I’m honoring my heritage, right? Right.
(And if you cross me, I will cut you. Just FYI.)
**Edited to add: There were two clan mottos, since there were two clans. My grandfather’s was mentioned above; my grandmother’s was, loosely translated, “I embrace the unfortunate.” Or something along those lines. I’ll opt for the former, thank you.
There’s been a lot going on lately, most of it good, which often means the writing falls by the wayside. I’m trying to get back to it with some regularity. Quiet on here = I have better things to do than over-think and wax poetic/philosophical/etc, usually. Either that or I’m so spun out that I’m trying to make sense of things before I dump it all here. Fortunately, it’s primarily the former in this case, although I do have a few posts in the works (consider yourselves warned).
Anyway. I’ve been thinking a lot about the question of who I was, before ALL THE THINGS happened. You know? Who was I, before the big separation? Before the time on the streets? Before the traumatic relationship experiences? Who was I, all the way deep down, before life happened?
And of course, all of that is kind of a trick thought process, right, because we are the sum of our experiences. We are the things that have happened to us, the people who’ve crossed our paths, the things we’ve seen and done, the thoughts we’ve conjured, the love (and hate) we’ve felt… we’re like patchwork quilts of moments and memories, with spirits of papier-mâché. At some point, I suppose you can make the decision to no longer carry those things, to no longer let them affect you; but more often than not, you’re already changed.
When I think of who I was, all-the-way-deep-down-before-life-happened, I imagine I was trusting and loving, more than anything. My family tell stories of me, as a young kid, going up to strangers in church and sitting with them, holding hands. Of me, asking what the Salvation Army person was doing ringing the bell, and then trying to put all my money in the kettle when I found out. Things like that. Generous heart and spirit, with a heaping side of stubborn independence. I like to think I’m getting back to that. Slowly but surely. I’ve gone through a lot of stuff, and being the way I am, I tend to carry it all with me.
It’s a heavy-ass load sometimes.
On the positive side, you amass insight and experience that enables you to see other people for who they really are, regardless of how masterful they may seem at manipulation or disguise. So, there’s a reason we carry life with us: so we can learn from things and, ideally, stop making the same decisions that don’t work for us. It’s a good defense mechanism, one that serves a good purpose – but, as with anything, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. And that’s where the insecurity, mistrust, walls, knee-jerk reactions, and all that other crap comes from. Secondary reactives, right?
It reminds me of a story I heard about a researcher, going in to classrooms with little kids, like kindergarteners and 1-2 graders, and asking them questions like, “Who in here is an artist?” *they all raise hands* “Who in here can sing?” *all hands go up* “Okay, who in here is a writer? Plays sports? Etc.?” *again, with all the hands* And then, this researcher goes into high school classrooms to ask the same questions. This time, less than half of the hands are raised. And even fewer, in college classrooms. So, something happens as we get older – the world starts telling us who we are (and what we’re worth), and we stop listening to the voice inside that tells us the truth.
You know. The real Roxanne.
I am finally in a place that, for the most part, has afforded me the opportunity to explore the question of who I was before the world inserted itself, and to re-engage from there. With a whole lot of life experience to go with it. To me, there’s nothing more powerful than that.
The joy to be found in shopping for a special meal; handmade cards, full of rotten; early bedtimes; earlier mornings and rackin’ up those karma points; hours in the kitchen netting oh-so-worth-it results; pot roast (and green bean) perfection; afternoon rugby and a little family time to boot; Mother Nature’s forced vacation; all the pretty snow; warm homes and cozy beds; preferring – nay, demanding – difficult truths over blissful ignorance; saying everything there is to be said; separation of person and deed, of emotion and reason, of what’s mine vs. yours; leveled playing fields; removal of poisoned apples; grace, dignity, optimism, and love; seeing, feeling, and living the growth; finally getting back to work; and the willingness to slow it down, open it up, and embrace whatever’s next.
Friday night pre-show dates; beautiful weekend weather; road trips and hotel stays; the honor of the meet; ALL THE FOOD, and I mean, every last bite; ALL THE SAKE, and I mean, every last sip; being treated like a (well-fed and well… drinked?) queen; the very necessary course correction; a dignified Costco; sorting it out and shaking it off; scissor wisdom and gorgeous cuts; dinner with moms; catching all the way up; our little bouncy princess and her first weekend home; beers and burritos and a little bit o’ Heat; and the next few days of showing and celebrating love, in all its forms and shapes, by: lending an ear; volunteering in the cold; supporting local scenes; cooking for a ninja; taking care of self; and embracing whatever’s next.
Love is a verb, so let’s get to it. <3
(Yes, I know. I’m mixing cowboys.)
A few weeks ago, I met with Noelle TWT. At this point, things are going really well in my life, and before our appointment I found myself wondering what the hell we would even have to talk about. So, when I walked in and told her that things were good, she asked how I felt about that. And her point was, a lot of times people don’t know what to do with “good.” They know ups and downs real well, but the middle part where everything is solid can seem… boring. I can assure you, as I did her, that I will never, EVER bemoan “good.” After years of ups and downs, I cherish this part, and am doing my best to maintain it.
So of course when everything is going well – the job, the basic necessities (home, food, clothing), relationships (family, friends, Ninja) – that’s when all those other things start to bubble up to the surface. Long-held beliefs that no longer fit; old defense mechanisms that no longer work; acquired behaviors that no longer feel good or right; and, lately, triggers. By that, I mean there are things people say or do that send me into a tailspin, whether one of shame, or self-righteous anger, or who knows what. There are a few people who, just by existing, set me off and affect me in some way I can’t understand but internally I feel like HULK SMASH, and it’s weird. I imagine someone actually sitting next to me, pressing a button on my head, and me going from a calm, sane, insightful being to having absolutely no control or capacity for rational thought.
Queen Amygdala, at your service.
Many years ago, I remember someone saying, “Of course your mother pushes your buttons; she’s the one who installed them.” And there’s a lot of truth to that, not just with your mother, but anyone you happened to grow up with, as well as any experiences you may have had that shaped who you became. (More on that in another post.) So, lately I’ve been spending more time focusing on what it is that sets me off, trying to determine origin, and then honestly? Trying to rational-think my way out of them.
I’m sure you can imagine how well that’s going.
But I can’t explain how odd it feels to feel rational about something one minute, only to have an emotional/visceral reaction completely to the contrary knock you off the rational horse. And when someone else bears witness to it, that just makes it worse. Being ruled by old stuff that’s no longer relevant, responding and reacting to things that really aren’t that big a deal in the grand scheme… bleh. I hate it. Once again, going back to the whole “rational control freak” business. I want to be perfect and calm and have no triggers; I want nothing to matter and nothing to hurt and I want to rise above everything and just be BUDDHA BUDDHA BUDDHA. Or at least be able to observe it all with humor and grace instead of reacting to it.
There’s an old Bob Newhart clip where he is a therapist, and his treatment is to ask people what they’re struggling with and then just tell them to STOP IT. That’s all he does. There are times when that sort of thing actually works, too, which is funny. I know damn well that I allow myself to spiral and will get stuck in the secondary reactive response mode to something, and then just perpetuate it until it gets bigger than it needs to be. And THAT is what I’m working on getting away from. Recently, I came away from a situation feeling like a naughty puppy who just got her nose smacked for doing something bad/wrong. And normally I would say that sounds like a bad thing, you know, being a grown-ass woman and all, but it actually snapped me out of a haze and helped me course-correct. Which then helped me realize/remember that I actually do have control over some of this stuff, if not most (or all) of it.
Sometimes, you just have to be reminded of who you really are. And sometimes, those old triggers might be housed in your idea of who you used to be, who you’re supposed to be, or who you became, whether you liked it or not.
I think it’s time to uninstall some o’ them buttons.
When I was in middle school, my former step-father decided I was acting like a “teeny-bopper” with entirely too much interest in makeup, boys, and things like that. At one point, as part of a punishment for who knows what, my bedroom door was removed and I was forced to swim laps in the pool.
Nothing kills the enjoyment of something you love (like swimming) quicker than making it a punishment.
He finally decided I needed to join the neighborhood swim team in order to redirect my focus on something wholesome and good and whatever else. So join I did, and I ran, swam, kicked, jumped, and did whatever else was involved in training. If I’m being totally honest, I enjoyed it, and felt really good, physically. (That may also be romanticizing it all, 30 years later, hard to say.) But then came the first swim meet, and along with it, my overwhelming loathing and fear of competition. Panic, fear of failure and disappointing people, you name it, I felt it. And because of that, during my first meet, I almost drowned. Inhaling water, choking, the whole nine. Ever since then, I have avoided competition of any kind like the plague, and nurtured my hippie ways by just wanting everyone to win, and no one to be disappointed or sad, ever.
Anyway. The original intention of this post was to reflect on my first year as an official football fan/watcher (it was going to be really brief), but then it got me thinking about the notions of competition and comparison and how that all plays into sports and the people who love ‘em. So, here goes.
1) There is a lot of smack-talking in sports, especially between fans. I will admit to enjoying doing a bit of it myself this past year (and I’m pretty good at it, if I do say so), and it’s pretty funny. But I’ve noticed that the smack-talk falls into two very different camps: those who are lighthearted and funny about it, and those who immediately turn it into a vicious personal attack, with a whole lot of personal/emotional investment behind it. I don’t think I’ll ever understand that – getting that invested in something you, for all intents and purposes, have NOTHING TO DO WITH. And having no trouble with character assassination just to feel better about your chosen team.
2) “I’ve been a fan longer than you. You’re not a REAL fan.” Really? Is that all you have to feel proud of? It’s like people who brag about listening to/liking a band longer than you, or being a native to a particular city that’s experiencing an influx of “outsiders.” I get that there’s a difference between city pride and this, of course; it’s fine to be proud of where you’re from/where you live, but when you start judging people because their parents didn’t have the foresight to procreate in your town… just SHUSH IT. Same goes for being a fan of a sports team. So what if you’ve liked them longer? What does that actually mean? And judging people for being fair-weather fans is the same kind of crap. Who cares? I mean, really. No one wins a prize at the end of life for being a loyal sports fan when your team sucks (I’m looking at you, Titans fans) or when they’re really, really good, either. Just like no one wins a prize for suffering fools just because you went to elementary school together or your families were friends. If you’ve been a fan for 20 years, that’s awesome! Be happy about that, feel tied/invested in the community, etc., I get it. But judging other people with that is just simple, and borderline common.
3) That ties into the need to compare and rise above and be better than. “My team is better/has more class than yours,” our fans are better than your fans, etc. Okay, sure. Except remember that time when your team’s fans destroyed your city? Or one of your star players came clean about cheating? Remember when your town got looted because of the sports team winning/losing? (Why did it get so quiet all of a sudden?) That selective memory thing is so interesting. And the way people are so quick to judge, to get all snuggled up in righteous indignation… phew. Black pots and glass houses, y’all.
4) And then you’ve got all the people who feel compelled to brag about the fact that they don’t watch football and don’t care about it, falling into the, “I’m better than you because you like that stuff” camp. Like people who brag about not owning a TV and getting holier-than-thou with people who do, or people who don’t drink or curse or whatever and choose to look down on all the sad, empty, terrible excuses for humans who do. Now. I will be the first to admit that there was a time that I was absolutely this person, when it came to watching sports. I was SO sure I was a better person because I didn’t have any interest in such a barbaric thing where people were obviously overpaid and the corruption certainly ran rampant. Mind you, this was when I was in high school and I felt that way about everything, but still. OBNOXIOUS. Keep it to yourself. If there’s a reward at the end of life for being so pious and abstaining from enjoying football, congratulations! You win.
5) That said… if people cared half as much about poverty, education, domestic abuse, or ________ as they did about deflated footballs, or CHEATING, or proving how much better their team is than yours (even though they personally had nothing to do with it), we could sure effect a lot of change in the world. This is not to say there aren’t some huge issues in the NFL that need changing, or that there isn’t room to care about this stuff AND other stuff, but that’s another post for another time. I’m just saying, all those armchair activists who are still lamenting ol’ Tom Brady’s win, or who are certain the Seahawks deserved to lose because of someone using PEDs, would do well to channel that anger into something that might actually help humanity once in a while or something. Just a thought.
6) My gentleman friend and I were on opposite sides of the Superbowl this year, and it was fantastic. There was friendly competition, some smack talking, a lot of laughter… and you know, that game was awesome, and I sure would have loved for the Seahawks to win, but I came to the conclusion that I was happier Ninja’s team won because he was so damn excited about it. I don’t care that the Patriots have won so many, or that people hate TB. I don’t care about deflated footballs or terrible (and I mean, TERRIBLE) calls by the offensive coordinator, although that needs to never happen again. I came away from it all just happy to see my dude happy, and that was enough.
Next season, though? IT’S ON.
Cat Poop Vacuum and the Terrible Transmissions; uneventful road trips, despite all the warnings; moving past the C-word (in fits and starts); laid-back and lovely days in Maryville; understanding the source of things; opting for honesty (always); warm fuzzy puppy bellies; eating all the snacks; Duck Rabbit Milk Stout delirium; witnessing one hell of a game; the power found in powering off; dates with Dad; afternoon naps; improving relations; the entire Vidal/HONY/Mrs. Lopez story; recognizing the presence of trust; the joy and relief of pulling that report; scholastic progress; Kimmel & Fallon; embracing a need for structure and consistency; taking financial hits in stride; couch talks and living room dances; Sam Cooke ear worms; and Friday morning coffee, croissants, and cheese, with a text message promise of doughnuts on arrival.
And this. Making lovely sounds with what you’ve got. Happy happy Friday, y’all.
Terrible opera with fancy cocktail redemption; Saturday morning snow; DJ Jazzy Brunch and the IDGAF embrace; disco naps for a rapid refresh; doing Sunday’s work on Saturday; exquisite food & wine in some of the very best company; quick visits, overdue hugs, and (lots of) free eggs; stocking up and holing up at home (lazy Sunday FTW!); how Ninja got his food groove (and kitchen) back; They Hate Us cuz They Ain’t Us; good for the spirit productivity (and rest); new sushi joint enjoyment; just a little Patience (yeah yeah); learning to embrace the brat (and let ‘er go, too); relinquishing control; remembering autonomy; little Tre (who pleads, “les pay!”); taking needed time, doing needed things; PDX plots and schemes; curling up to Chipotle, wine, Top Gear, and @Midnight; starting the day with a latte & croissant (it’s National Croissant day, y’all!); and the start of a 3-day weekend that looks, smells, and tastes like victory. Go Seahawks!
Some weeks ago, I got notification of a post from Raptitude entitled, “Where Self-Esteem Comes From.” I just now took the time to read it in full, but at the time, only skimmed over it. In the first little bit, he talked about hearing a person say something to the effect of, “I like who I am when I’m in this place, or when I’m doing this thing,” and that it stuck with him.
It stuck with me, too.
I’ve been struggling a bit over the last month or so with a few things. The primary struggle has been surrounding weight gain and a complete lack of exercise or activity. My back has started giving me trouble a bit more regularly, and I’m sure it’s exacerbated by the weight and lack of core strength. My hips ache for no good reason sometimes. I feel weak and tired a lot. My clothes are tight, I’m lumpy in places I prefer not to be… you get the idea. And of course it’s wintertime. In the winter, I get the blues. I also get dried-out skin so my wrinkles are a bit more prominent, my scalp is an itchy mess, I put on hibernation weight, and the last thing I feel like doing is getting up and exercising, much less eating healthy. Trust me, I know the solutions, and they are available to me; I’m just. Not. Doing. It.
But of course, all of this is taking a toll on how I feel about myself and my life, and I know it. I’ve just been carrying it around with me, you know? So when the Raptitude post came up, it touched on something I’d already been pondering. What does my life look like when I feel good about it?
This is not to say I’m unhappy, or that I don’t have a lot of really good things going on. I just know that I’m selling myself short, and could be doing even more. I’ve just been struggling to find the motivation and, for lack of a better word, the stick-to-it-iveness needed to get back on track. Attempting to determine what my real priorities and values are, rather than falling prey to thinking I should do something for whatever nebulous made-up reason.
So, here. I like who I am when I:
- Am kind to/compassionate with/thoughtful of/helpful for others
- Am busy and actually take care of things that need tending to
- Cook and eat healthy foods
- Get up early to exercise and enjoy the quiet mornings
- Journal every morning
- Make the effort to spend quality in-person time with loved ones
- Make people laugh, and make people happy
- Practice gratitude
- Tell the truth
- Am learning something new
- Embrace the Four Agreements
- Get out and try new things/see new places
- Dance in Ninja’s living room (or really, I’m finding, when I spend time with him in general)
And as David wrote in his post, there are plenty of things I do that I enjoy, but that maybe don’t make me like who I am when I’m doing them. Like eating all that junk food at work, or sleeping in, or wasting so much time on Facebook/the internet, or making snarky remarks to/about people. Things like that. I might derive satisfaction from that stuff, but invariably it’s short-lived and then I’m looking for more, and doing it again; while in the back of my mind, I’m well aware that I’d probably have more long-term, sustainable joy in life if I were to engage in more of the things above.
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. So I’ll pick each of those starfish up, one by one, and I’ll put ‘em back in the ocean for as long as it takes.