S is for September…

…which, you know, is coming up here in a few days AND WHERE THE HELL HAS THE TIME GONE.

Being a few weeks in to this current round of school, I’m realizing just how much I’m going to have to hunker down and focus, which hasn’t been a real strong suit lately. (Por ejemplo, I’m sitting here in Minneapolis ON VACATION and just now submitted a paper due this morning, when I had plenty of time to work on it this past week, ahem.) So, in keeping with the theme, S is also for:

Studying. This stuff is actually so interesting to me – between learning about genetics and effortful control and environmental influence, as well as digging into the welfare system and studying on the American Dream (TM), such as it is – studying won’t be a hardship. At all. I just need to re-prioritize something fierce.

Sobriety. I’m taking the month off from drinking, because even though I don’t do it a lot, I’m finding that even one glass of wine puts me straight to sleep and kills any motivation I might have to study or write.

Self-care. Eating well, exercising, getting enough Sleep (there’s another one), going to Noelle and the chiropractor and my favorite masseuse… these are all necessary things for balance.

Seeking. I never really ever stop doing this one, whether it’s a new apartment or a new way of thinking/seeing something, always and forever seeking. But also,

Sitting. Learning how to sit with things, even sadness, discomfort, loneliness… I’m getting a whole lot better at this, but there’s always room for better.

Single. I can’t say I have any interest (at ALL) in braving the dating pool again anyway, but I do know that when I should be studying, I have a tendency to dig around on dating websites instead. Also, cleaning toilets, but I’m not going to refrain from that this month. No more so than usual, anyway.

Social media respite. This is a big one – I’m signing out of Facebook for the month. I’ll still cross-post from Instagram, etc., but I waste entirely too much time on there, and it adds to the noise and static in my brain, rendering me effectively useless when it comes time to focus. Too much noise, not enough viable content, and way too many opportunities for butt-hurt. This falls under the self-care section, too. Big time.

SNAP challenge. I’m excited about this! One of my school assignments is to live on $29/week for food, which is the statewide average for SNAP (food stamp) assistance. Since that’s about what I spend at the butcher on any given week, it’s going to be real interesting to do this successfully. Yet another good reason to lay off the wine. :)

And, finally, S is for “See you in October!” I’ll still write here – a lot, I’m sure – but this feels like the very best time to take a little break and go live life for a while. Novel concept, that.

ThxFriday, Bat Birds, Dirt Bugs, and the Great Minnesota Get Together Edition.

Dinner with friends, old and new; steak skewers, wine, and misspelled potatoes; tending to the things and knocking down the list; family dinners with hilarious kids; taking a ride in a new R8 (and giggling at the gawkers); pajamas and study day Sunday; friendly fantasy football drafts for the fun of it; apartment explorations tempering home frustrations; trustworthy pandas and entertaining passengers; getting adjusted, inside and out; safe spots for come-aparts; when wallowing’s abated by the underlying wisdom; feeding the beast with 50% off shoes; new friendships, new babies, and new perspective opportunities; S is for September, and so much more to come; and just looking forward to the annual “dear friends, family fun, face-stuffing state fair” pilgrimage. <3

Communication Breakdown

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
– George Bernard Shaw

I recently had the pleasure of bearing witness to what can only be referred to as an adult version of that little kid game, “Telephone.” It went like this (and keep in mind I am none of the following people): Person 1 has a brief conversation with Person 2 about A Thing. Person 2 goes and relays conversation to Person 3 about Thing, because Person 3 is involved in the process. Person 1 hears Person 2 relay conversation, and felt fairly and accurately represented. However, Person 3 misinterprets/misunderstands tone and intent of story from Person 2, and comes to the conclusion that Person 1 is upset about Thing, and that Person 1 has an attitude problem about it. So, Person 3 goes to Person 4 (who is higher up on the food chain) and relays the incorrect interpretation of Person 1’s attitude problem. Meanwhile, Person 1 happens to be walking past Person 4’s office and overhears the conversation taking place. Suddenly, everyone is frustrated, all for different reasons, and I am left feeling as though 1) I need to fix it, and 2) WTF.

Communication has always been, and is, really important to me. Scary, but important. I need to feel seen, heard, and understood in order to feel safe with people, and it’s upsetting when I feel like that isn’t happening. Obviously, I’m not always going to be clear, direct, or whatever else is needed for quality communication to take place, but I certainly do try, and I also try to improve when and where I can.

Upon reflection, and especially after seeing that whole situation unfold (and continue to unfold, UGH, but I think I got it sorted out for everyone), I realize there are a LOT of barriers to effective communication. In the situation above, it’s someone’s interpretation of a message being relayed. And that interpretation could be affected by the person’s mood, mindset, world views, a bad start to the day… anything. Compound that with the erroneous interpretation being repeated, and you have a recipe for… well, a pile of poop. Especially when dealing with multiple people who are unwilling to simply ask clarifying questions before jumping to conclusions.

But then, there’s the internet. Tone, intent, and all sorts of other subtle nuances are lost when communicating in writing. And of course, you still run the risk of the other person using their filter and mucking up the message.

And then there’s the whole thing with trying to communicate with people who are incapable of reciprocating in kind. They’re passive. Passive-aggressive. Defensive. Liars. Manipulators. People who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves or others. Folks who are closed off, closed-minded, or so entrenched in their own mindset they can’t hear (or won’t hear) anything else. People who are too invested in their own stories, their own self-interest and preservation, to entertain anyone else. Insert fingers in ears and a la-la-la. You can’t communicate effectively (or at all) with people like that. And that, of course, means you can’t connect with them, either.

On my side, I’m realizing just how much fear has gotten, and continues to get, in the way of me communicating with others. Like, at all. Shutting down and out is my default. But it’s sure as hell not ideal, nor does it lend itself to the desired end result: connection.

I hate that.


 

Consider this the first of many, many procrastination posts. Now that I’m back in school (and especially now that I have an assignment due by Sunday but I’m heading to MN on Friday for the weekend), I have a feeling I’ll suddenly have a LOT more to say here. Not school related. Go figure. 

ThxFriday, Replace the Character Set Edition.

Basic Kneads and more of that miracle work; sudden storms with a biblical bent; welcome invitations to studio celebrations in the company of some of the best; orientation from the comfort of home; the always joy of cooking, plus brown rice satisfaction; learning to focus on end results instead of paths taken to get there; doing the things that feel so impossible, yet so impossibly necessary; new friend yoga time; big picture realizations keeping it tender, keeping it real; happy accidental possible new home discoveries; the return to school bringing better direction for all this attention; and a weekend ahead of doing all that needs to be done, with perhaps a few moments of fun.

For those of you keeping track at home…

  • I started online classes tonight for my MSSW. I’m only taking 2 courses each semester since I’ll still be working full time, and that seems like a reasonable load. Each of these classes will have the occasional live/online meeting, but otherwise it’s mostly self-directed. I like this, because I’m-a-loner-Dottie-a-rebel-etc., but it also stresses me a little because if I don’t have a set schedule and calendar of places to be and things to have done, I feel a little out of sorts. I think this will be really good for my organizational skill building, calendaring, etc. I mean, they give you a syllabus for a reason, right?
  • Also, loss of control = GOOD FOR ME.
  • The online thing will also be really helpful for working on building a facial filter, because right now I don’t have one. At all. I’m a truth-telling fool, and even my face complies with that way of being. We’re supposed to have webcams for participating in class, which means people are going to see every thought as it crosses my face, and I might also forget I’m in view and, I don’t know. Pick my nose or something. Developing an external surrounding awareness is definitely a growth opportunity. Plus, I’m *pretty* sure no one is going to be focusing on me while they’re trying to pay attention. I mean, crazy, I know, but I’m totally not the center of anyone else’s universe. (I don’t get it, either.)
  • Some folks were scratching themselves, chewing/eating, and doing dishes without muting their mics or getting out of camera view. HILARIOUS. My favorite part was at the end when one woman’s dog jumped on her lap and licked her face. Repeatedly.
  • I am so, so glad to have started classes. I’ve had some pretty significant anxiety for the last few days, and I think a good part of that was school-related. I can already tell how good it will be for me to have something else – something productive – at which to direct my focus.
  • On that note… I came to the conclusion it would be best for me to further sever ties with Ninja, at least as far as online interactions go. I don’t know what will happen down the road, but I couldn’t be connected to him on Facebook anymore, for myriad reasons/sanity preservation. It was hard, but absolutely the right call. (I still marvel at how you can love someone and yet know that distance and no-contact is the best course of action, but there it is.) The ball is in my court for reaching back out if/when I am so moved, and I’m okay with that.
  • Another hard part was also disconnecting on FB from his mom, because we got close and care about each other a great deal. But I have every intention of staying in touch with her, especially since she and Papa Ninja were so encouraging of me and my scholastic endeavors. They’re good people.
  • As far as Ninja goes, he’d bought me a birthday gift that, for logistical/practical reasons, I had to send back to him. And as soon as I dropped it off at the post office, I went to my car and cried. It felt … final.
  • But then, I’ve been crying a little almost every day, and I think a lot of that is from a pretty significant “AHA” shift in big-picture understanding that has come about in the last week. More on that in a separate post, but it’s all really positive, ultimately, and it’s okay. Onward and upward, for real. I don’t mind crying when it equals healing.
  • I’ve potentially found a new apartment, and have been in contact with the homeowner over the last few days. I’m excited about the prospect, but will definitely not be holding my breath. More to come on that.
  • Because hey, why not take on more major life changes, all at once? I should change jobs and get pregnant, while I’m at it.
  • My current house sags. I always knew the floor in the living room slanted from one side to the other; my comfortable couch is no longer comfortable because you’re basically tipping forward. But apparently the floor in my bedroom slants from the exterior wall to the inside, and it seems to be getting worse because I feel lopsided when I’m in bed. My new mattress is heaven, but feeling uneven doesn’t make for a solid night’s sleep. I’ll have to try and rearrange my room this weekend, make do until I find a new place to live.
  • Last night, I finally made it to a yoga class, and will be going back to that, for sure. I’d forgotten how helpful it can be to not only have a friend to go with you, but to also go to a group exercise class and be surrounded by like-minded folks. On top of that, I’ve been needing to embrace the yoga for my back and neck issues, so it’s thumbs-up all the way around.
  • I’ve been questioning my desire/urge/drive to do and say things lately, wondering what the motivation is, as well as desired outcome. Being driven by fear – fear of financial insecurity, fear of abandonment, fear of ridicule, fear of hurting others, fear of whatever – is a hell of a thing, and I absolutely prefer to just rise above, move on, let go, and not engage. But if the livelihood or well-being of someone else (or several someone else’s) is threatened in some way… then what? Is it okay to just sit back (or walk away) and let things transpire because of my favorite “not my circus, not my monkeys” mantra? I gotta say, sometimes it really sucks to be so hyper-aware and sensitive and concerned about EVERY OTHER HUMAN ON THE PLANET.
  • But then, I suppose that is also my super power, and I should just use it for good – at least, whenever and however I can. Whatever that means.
  • I currently have what appears to be six black hairs growing out of my chin, all around a mole. How many hairs comprise a beard? I’d grow them out and call them curb feelers, but I’d be lopsided. It’s like cats who lose whiskers on one side; they lose their balance. I need as much help staying on the beam as I can get.
  • So I guess I’ll tweeze.
  • And when you start talking about errant mole hairs… it’s time to sign off. <3

Notes from the Observation Deck

  • I finally broke down and bought a (nice-looking!) file cabinet I put together last night, so I can get rid of the bankers boxes and old paperwork cluttering up my spare bedroom/office. It feels good, and I’ll likely spend a fair amount of time culling and tossing/shredding this weekend. Also, killing whatever spiders took up residence. ಠ_ಠ
  • While I was going through the boxes, I found some cards and letters and postcards I’d saved, mostly from long-ago ex’s, but also some from friends and family. For as much of a romantic as I am (or can be), I’m also pretty no-nonsense when it comes to saving things. I throw stuff away, and rarely (if ever) regret it. This is one of those times I’m grateful I held on, though. It felt really good (and timely) to be reminded of some of the great people I’ve had in my life, great choices I’ve made or opportunities I’ve had… it made me a little nostalgic and wistful, but not at all blue. Just happy to have had the experience at all, and to have amassed the wisdom that came along for the ride. It can be easy to forget, if you don’t save those reminders.
  • One of the cards was from someone I dated back in MN, until he moved away to finish school. I loved him dearly, but the long-distance thing just wasn’t something either of us was able (or willing) to navigate, and we eventually lost touch. I hate that; he was one of the really good ones, and one of the best people I’ve known. It’s nice to have him, and those cards, as a frame of reference for everything that has come to pass since then. I need that sometimes.
  • That all fits in with my new endeavor to only keep the things that bring me joy. All those cards and photos and letters are important, for a lot of reasons, so they’ll stay. There aren’t that many, so I don’t feel like I’m carrying too much around.
  • Thinking on MN… it’s coming up on four years since my friend Paul passed away. I always think about him this time of year. And it’s fitting, because in two weeks, I’ll be flying up to Mpls to spend the weekend with a dear friend so we can eat our way through the MN State Fair. She and her family are always good for what ails, and I’m so, so grateful for such a good and easy friendship. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to see anyone else while I’m there, but I should probably make that effort.
  • I’m making that effort here, too, with respect to friends and family. I am sure the change and lift in spirit this past week came – at least in part – from getting out and spending time with loved ones. I’m also excited to get started with the whole school thing again; I’m never more on fire than when I’m learning and thinking and doing – I suppose it’s just having a productive place in which to direct all that brain power.
  • I’m also really grateful to have so many things and people keeping me busy. Idle mind/hands = devil’s workshop and all that.
  • I keep thinking about something a friend of mine said, that at the slightest hint of someone trying to manipulate her in some way, she will intentionally refuse to give them whatever thing or reaction they’re after. It’s something I’d like to get better at; if nothing else, becoming more aware when that’s what’s happening, and then simply opting not to participate. I get sucked in pretty easily, and I think sometimes that’s because I give everyone the benefit of the doubt – way more than I should. It always catches me off guard when someone is manipulative or mean or selfish in a terrible way, I guess because that’s not my default. There’s a part of me that would love to be aware enough, insightful enough, and quick-witted enough to intentionally do the OPPOSITE of whatever the person is after, just for the hell of it, but I’ll happily settle for just not getting sucked in to someone else’s attempts at running the show.
  • Things I’m excited about:
    • my new mattress, which arrived this afternoon (it’s been 15 years, y’all)
    • another craniosacral/lymphatic massage with my favorite miracle-worker friend/masseuse
    • the gorgeous weather we’ve been having lately
    • my new filing cabinet (yay, organization!)
    • another Sunday poolside date with friends
    • starting school next week
    • the brown rice avocado salad I made earlier this week that is still delicious (especially with tequila lime chicken covered in miso dressing)
    • blue mason jars
    • wonderful people having babies
    • unexpected visits at work from past families (even when the news ain’t great)
  • I just realized that list was turning into this morning’s gratitude post, so I’ll stop. I am just relieved as all hell to have turned the corner I knew I’d turn eventually. It feels good to feel good.
  • Tomorrow would have been the 1-year anniversary of my first date with Ninja. It’s kind of crazy to think back on everything that’s transpired since then. All the ways I grew and learned and changed… it’s a lot, and I marvel at that sometimes.
  • And it’s now, more than any other time I can recall, that I feel more like myself than I ever have. There’s still more to be done – there’s always more, isn’t there – but it’s almost like this last year was just what I needed, and I’m right where I need to be.
  • I’m good with that.

ThxFriday, Shift, Lift, and Switch-Flip Edition.

Early work departures and getting in on the color rotation; Friday night fun at the fair (complete with funnel cakes and fireworks and human cannonballs); an early morning worth-it wake-up for the Pfunky Griddle nephew sendoff; post-potato pancake naps; making a start in the effort to lighten loads; poolside mimosas and spirit-lifting laughter; a very necessary Monday off; court-related respites; textbook arrivals makin’ it real; waking up to realize the sadness fog has lifted; automatic sleep pattern shifts to accommodate the work; unexpected visits coinciding with prior day fond thoughts; the joy a new filing cabinet can bring; baby arrival time for some pretty great people, and the best pre-kid video ever (#GoBeParents); old letters and cards bringing much-needed and welcome reminders and perspective; and looking ahead to another massage, more of the purge, and the arrival of a way-overdue, brand new mattress for my favorite steel four-poster bed.

It really is the little things. <3

ThxFriday, Duality Edition.

I’m having a hard time being clever this morning, so I’m just going to write it out. Last weekend, and all this week, I’ve been sad, blue, depressed, frustrated, and every other down-in-the-dumps adjective you can conjure. My heart still hurts. Work has been less than awesome; we’ve had a lot of ugly people taking advantage, a lot of negativity being thrown around, and my little friend Paige passed away on Wednesday. I haven’t been eating well or exercising or working through school orientation, and the weight of not doing right by myself feels heavy enough to just keep me planted on the couch. Finances, home struggles, etc. etc. In the grand scheme of things, none of it is terrible, but it all adds up, you know? There are a lot of tough things going on, everywhere, with everyone, all the time, and I’m not always very good at practicing resilience and not just carrying it all around with me; for some reason, I seem to think I can ease the world’s burdens by taking it on myself.

(Where’s my Captain Caretaker cape? :) )

But even in the midst of all of that sad, I actually remembered to notice the good stuff (maybe I was just worried I wouldn’t have anything to write about today, if I didn’t). My amazing family, celebrating my birthday and making me feel special. My nephew getting to spend the week out here. Getting out of the house for a show and being glad I did. Friends and loved ones, reaching out and taking me to brunch and sending messages and flowers and every other way they (YOU) took the time to show/remind me that I’m loved. The fact that little Paige isn’t suffering anymore, and we’re still helping people, every day. Meeting with Noelle. Getting a massage/craniosacral/lymphatic work done by a miracle-worker and letting go of a lot of heavy in the process (and making a follow-up appointment to continue the recovery). The mutual “miss you” messages. Finding things to laugh about, and changing the subject when necessary. Opting to take a day off to tend to ALL THE THINGS and knowing it’ll make all the difference. Remembering to take deep breaths and be kind to myself and others.

So, here’s to finding the good. It’s not always as easy to see, especially if you’re prone to focusing on the negative (which, conversely, is SUPER easy to find), but it’s there. I promise.

Thank you all for being part of it.

Kid President wisdom

ThxFriday, Name-Dropping Edition.

Road trips in the TT; singing at the top of my lungs; the new Jason Isbell​ album being better than I thought possible and a perfect addition to my soundtrack; The Shack Up Inn​ and the oh-so-awesome Sky Shack; Rust​; Delta Blues Museum – Clarksdale, Mississippi​; Oxbow Restaurant and Catering​; Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Arts​; Dreamboat BBQ​; Red’s Blues Club​ (and especially Anthony “Big A” Sherrod); Babalu Tacos & Tapas – Memphis​ for 24 years of way-overdue catching up (and strawberry mimosas); Stax Museum of American Soul Music​; blissfully quiet weeks; cute little helpers; amassing inspiration for the impetus; compound butter; avoiding all the crazy; sharing the Home Chef​ love; buying books for school (eeeeee!!); knowing the difference between isolation and hibernation; progress in the iPhone to Android transition (stupid iMessages); making lists of all the things and charting a new course; the kindness of strangers (and friends); attitude adjustments and better outcomes because of it; unexpected presents; mac & cheese, chicken tenders, wine, and cookies for dinner (embracing my inner bachelor/6 year old); setting intentions to the moon; and looking forward to a day by the pool with family, the arrival of my spirit animal nephew, the 2nd annual birthday Hillbilly Casino​ show at the BEast, birthday brunch with friends, and otherwise spending Y43D1 being my own damn champion. <3

Breakups and birthdays, being and becoming.

With the ending of things with Ninja a few weeks back, my birthday this coming weekend, and taking that little “breakation” in between (I tend to leave town right after significant breakups in order to disconnect, readjust, and clear my head a bit), I’ve found myself thinking back on the last year a fair amount. Remembering the good, finding the lessons and room for growth, and doing my best to maintain big picture perspective about it all – all without wallowing. I think I’m doing pretty well in that regard, so there’s that. Admittedly, I’ve been a little low and dragging ass the last few days, but it’s all good. I know it’ll be different tomorrow (it always is), and I know there are things I can do to make sure of it.

Birthdays represent a new year and new beginnings to me, and another chance to get things right. Of course, that doesn’t mean I got things WRONG, necessarily – but there are always opportunities to do things differently. I try to avoid making judgement calls or assigning value to behaviors or choices (this is good, that was bad, better, worse, etc.), and instead just look for ways to grow and change to better suit the person I am, as well as the person I want to become.

So here, for posterity’s sake, are some (okay, a lot) of the things I’ve learned (or re-learned) and observed over the last year, and hope to carry with me into the new one. In no particular order:

  • There’s a pretty obvious and unavoidable duality to life (and all the things and people and experiences in it); find some way to appreciate that
  • Sometimes it doesn’t matter where the flowers or balloons came from
  • Do things that make you feel good about and proud of yourself
  • Pay attention to and acknowledge those feelings when they happen
  • Take good care of your body; it’s the only one you’ve got
  • Learn the difference between motivation and discipline; one’s a whole lot more sustainable and dependable than the other
  • Trust your gut and instincts; they’re real, and they’re there for a reason
  • If you’re out of touch with your gut and instincts, find a way to reconnect
  • Learn to recognize when fear or insecurity might be clouding your perspective
  • Stop making life any harder than it needs to be
  • Be selective in who you trust, and with what
  • Stop worrying so much about what folks think, especially when they don’t really matter in the grand scheme of your life
  • You don’t need to win, you don’t need to be right, and you don’t need to sway anyone over to your side
  • Sometimes it’s okay to just keep your mouth shut
  • Embrace the notion of dignity preservation – yours, first and foremost, but also that of the people around you, whenever possible
  • That said, don’t let pride get in the way of allowing yourself to be human, either
  • Find – and own – your part in things
  • Always, always tell the truth
  • Be open to the possibility of new or different truths
  • Remember there are always at least three sides to any story
  • Ask better questions
  • Don’t be afraid of the answers
  • Expand your list of sources
  • Outside perspective is not only good, it’s necessary
  • Both words and actions carry weight
  • When the two are at odds, pay attention to that
  • Try not to be a hypocrite
  • If you are, try not to be an asshole about it
  • The Four Agreements are always applicable
  • Don’t suffer fools if you don’t have to
  • Let people go when they don’t want to be there
  • Love those who stay with every bit of your heart
  • Regret is a waste of time, and so is worry
  • Show and tell the people you love however and whenever you can
  • Love is, after all, an action word
  • Reach out to old friends; you might be surprised
  • If you’re going to judge people, judge them by the content of their character
  • Be kind
  • If you can’t be kind, do good
  • Say hi to strangers; they might need to hear it
  • Human connection is critical; do what you can to remove any self-imposed obstacles to that
  • Don’t try to avoid painful situations if it ultimately comes at your own expense
  • Emotions can’t kill you, and they will pass – all of them
  • Learning to sit in/with discomfort will help you remember that
  • There is such a thing as healthy anger, and it’s a GOOD thing
  • Stuff doesn’t happen for a reason; it happens as a result, or sometimes it just happens, and that’s okay – it can still be important and have meaning
  • Find a way to find the good
  • Practice gratitude every day (there’s a reason it’s called “practice”)
  • Practice forgiveness (letting go) while you’re at it; not for anyone else’s benefit but your own
  • Sing at the top of your lungs and dance whenever you can
  • Let go of your fear of not being “enough”
  • Especially if it’s keeping you stuck somewhere you don’t want to be
  • It’s all going to be just fine
  • Better than fine
  • I promise

Phew.