Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Balancing Stress of the World

I regretfully say that it's - again - been awhile. Just as I thought I was inspired to write more frequently, I turned away. I've got a handful of drafts started, but couldn't bring myself to continue writing about them because the topics are a bit more personal than I want to share at this point. It's challenging for me because people that are in my life know that I share that stuff readily, but revealing those personal stories to the faceless online world is quite different. So I, ahem, overthink about what it is I want to share. Today it's a bit easier though.

The topic today is that ever so common "S" word, stress. If you look up a definition of stress, it lists words like, strain, worry, and tension (and I must note, than on one web page I looked it, one of the banner ads flashing above the definition of stress, was talking about Stage 4 cancer. Really? Someone had to go there?). Wouldn't you say that stress is one of the biggest epidemics we all share? For myself, 99.9% of my stress, my tension, is self-induced and self-created (the first step is admitting you have a problem, right??). But good God look at all the stress that is out there in daily life! It is no coincidence that I am writing about this as the nation is focused on the devastation in Moore, Oklahoma. Yet we're still surrounded by the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing and the freeing of the missing girls from Ohio, 9/11 is a part of our daily language now, and of course, we get news daily of military happenings from around the world. Locally we have heard story after story of bodies being found, and women who have gone missing. On smaller scales, but just as stressful for all of us are family matters, lost pets, financial matters, job stress, health issues, ... the list goes on and on. Just this morning, a friend of mine was stressed about not taking pictures at a wedding she was at this past weekend. Stress isn't just shootings and bombings and natural disasters. It's the "Dammit-I-should-have..." thoughts, and the, "What-do-we-do-now" instances every minute of every day. (Hell, I stress out when I go over my self-imposed Coke allotment for the day.) So with all of us constantly bombarded and surrounded by stress, someone please tell me why we willingly seek it out more?

This occurred to me last night as I turned off the Oklahoma tornado coverage and turned on our local news. I was about five minutes early and caught the end of the show Revelation. It's a TV show, so it's mindless entertainment, right? I'd never seen it before, but in those few minutes, I saw a story that contained back-stabbing, distress, and people threatening to kill one another. I looked at my husband while shaking my head and said, "I just don't get it. There's so much of that crap in the real world, why do we seek out MORE of it as entertainment?" It's difficult to find an escape if you turn on the TV, and even if you avoid the news. Most of TV today is "reality" or reality, where people yell and scream at one another, play one another, lie, cheat and steal. Then there's the drama shows usually surrounding scandalous love affairs and murder. I'm sorry, but why is that entertaining? Admittedly and thankfully, I have not been directly impacted by either an affair or a murder, but even the thought of watching stories about that stuff is far from mindless entertainment for me because I know people really experience those things. I don't watch medical drama shows because I find nothing entertaining about life and death matters. And how can it be entertaining for someone who has been impacted by a murder, an affair, or a life and death matter? It worries me that we find such things entertaining.

Now I'm sure some of you are saying, "They are just stories," and yes, you're right. But to me, and I'm sure lots of people like me, they are stories based on an aspect of real life somewhere. Everything is inspired by something that comes from experience. If someone has been through a plane crash, are they really going to run to the theatre to see Flight? Or how about Twister. Do you think do you think any of the people from Moore, Oklahoma are going to watch it anytime soon? 

On a way less real scale, this past Sunday, my husband and I went to see Iron Man 3. I was looking forward to the special effects and the continuation of the story, and I like a good story. But I gotta admit that there was probably about 10 minutes of the movie where I closed my eyes, turned my head, or checked my phone. I just don't see how even in stories, people getting shot, killed, blown-up, kidnapped or terrorized is enjoyable on any level. Not to mention the feeling of justification when the bad guys get theirs. My anxiety kept going up and my heart was racing. I feel that way enough outside of a movie theatre, but yet I just paid money to go feel that way.  

I've noticed that as I have gotten older (I'm only 38), more and more I chose to watch less and less TV, and go to fewer and fewer movies for that reason. Sure there are things to take away from those shows and films, but in my little life, those experiences can come from other places, like even the real life dramas, stresses and traumas happening. Sure I'm more emotional, sympathetic and empathetic than I maybe should be, which is why these things hit me so hard. But I am one person trying hard to cut down on the amount of stress in my life, and it's a fine line between being informed about everything (i.e. watching and reading the news), and taking it all in. It's a fine line between being entertained and seeing the reality of what I'm watching. For those of you that can watch that stuff and not take it in, I am envious.

That's why I watch sports, and shows like Dancing with the Stars, Modern Family, re-runs of sitcoms like Friends, Scrubs, or That 70s Show. They may hit on real topics, but they don't have the extent of real life drama per se. Call it denial if you want to, but it's my way to escape the reality of life sometimes, to bring some simplicity in, and to laugh amidst the bad and the sad. Heck, I even watch cartoons, the good ones from when I was a kid. I had that put into perspective for me during the events of 9/11/01. I heard on the news a bit about a man who didn't know how to explain what had happened to his kids, so he did the best he could, his kid responded by saying how stupid it was for people to fly planes into buildings, and then they did what he thought was the most simple and pure form of escape on a night like that - he and his kid watched cartoons. I thought it was brilliant. 

For the rest of today and tonight, I am going to keep an eye on what is happening down south with the storms and the tornado aftermath, I'm going to watch Anderson Cooper for a bit, but I am also going watch the Dancing with the Stars finals, and perhaps maybe an episode of Animaniacs while getting a Twins game score. A good dose of reality mixed with a good dose of escapism. For me, it's best to not ignore either one, and highly important to learn how to not take in the reality so much. Balance. I'm trying...

Until next time (whenever that may be!)...

Friday, April 12, 2013

Share the Positives

Good day, everyone!

I read some quotes recently that spoke to me. "Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction. Break the habit. Talk about your joys." A close relative of it is, "Promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate." They both relay the same basic message, and put together they encompass so much more than individually.

How often do you really see that kind of thing though, meaning the positives? Look at your Facebook newsfeed. Do you see more complaints or statements about something that is wrong rather than right or good? Look at the comments people leave on articles posted online. They can be some one of the most outwardly nasty, mean, and degrading things around. Listen to talk radio. Would those shows be 3 or more hours long if they were talking about what's good? Not likely. Take a look at any aspect of the political world. Good luck finding something positive in that arena. Or, simply ask someone, "How's it going?" More often than not, the response is said in a ho-hum manner. If something good is said, it's quickly followed by something not so good, as if on purpose to negate the good. I do it, I'm sure you do it, too. Why is that??  

Everyone sees things differently, of course, and I certainly don't have the answers, but for me personally, I feel like we live in a world where we can't share the positives in our lives. I think we're taught to not make other people feel bad, to not "show off" or give any sort of impression that our lives are "better" than someone else's. We are fearful that the act of saying something positive about our little corners of the world might just make other people feel that way, even if it's not intentional. I know I am certainly fearful of that, and constantly conscious of it. I think we all need to be a little easier on one another, and not be so quick to judge or shut someone down. I believe that this is also one of our greatest addictions. 

It also seems pertinent that it's a matter of our focus, and what our own outlook is. It's true that what you feed gets nourished and grows. And I think we can all agree that it's so much easier to just slide down a negative spiral, than it is to climb out on the limb where the fruit is.  It makes sense; It's easy to be negative and lose control, and it takes effort and energy to achieve a goal.

A friend of mine believes with her whole being that what you put out into the universe, will be heard, and in time come to you. If that is indeed true, and we're putting out negative after negative, complaint after complaint, what then comes back? Do any of us like being surrounded by all that garbage? Not at all, but we get used to it, don't we? One complaint fuels another, then another, and so on. I think this is maybe where the old adage, "When it rains, it pours" comes from. But, what if we were to put out there what makes us happy, what is good in our world today?  Misery loves company, so we have learned, but does that then mean happiness loves solitude? 

I was brought up in a family that had a pretty pessimistic view of the world, and I'll admit that I am a skeptic, and I have a tendency to see the cup as half empty sometimes. When I find myself in those situations, I turn the circumstances around in my head. And it has to be done consciously. Rather than saying to myself, "People are so mean" or "That is the worst idea ever," I ask myself questions, like, "Why are some people so mean?" or "How can they see that as a good idea?" In doing that, it takes me to a place of putting myself in someone else's shoes, of reasoning, and searching within myself to try to block that stuff out of my little corner of the world. It's inescapable, but I don't have to allow (or continue to allow) someone else's mood or bad day to ruin mine, or tarnish the shiny spots in my life.  And neither do you.  It's something that will always have to be in practice, but wouldn't it feel better to practice looking at the good than the bad?

I feel compelled to add though, that I do think there is a place for some negativity, and that it can be healthy.  We all experience and witness some really crappy stuff in life, and there IS a lot to complain about.  But when we bring it forth in a manner that shows defensiveness, righteousness, and close-minded thinking, we turn everyone and everything off.  On the flip side, if we bring those things forth with an open mind, with a desire to shift the focus to what is good, practice empathy, and don't look towards everyone as "upping" you, those same things can then be a connecting tool.  It's those things and those moments that create deeper relationships, opportunities for learning from one another, and opportunities for change and growth. 

I've said it before, and I'd like my blog to be a place where people share and connect.  To follow through on that a little more, I'm going to practice what I am preaching here, and share a positive of my little corner of the world with you all:

This might seem generic, but it is a beautiful day where I am. Keep in mind it is April 12, and we had about 5 inches of snow yesterday and into last night. It looks like, and really is, winter outside, and it's got almost everyone up in arms about it. But it is so pretty out! There are tiny flakes of snow that won't amount to anything slowly falling to the ground creating such a serene and peaceful setting. I went outside earlier and it's not very cold, just refreshing, and there are still birds chirping everywhere. Each day, nature always has something beautiful or amazing to show us, and I think we just need to take the time to really take it in. It can change your mood and perspective.   

The underlying meaning of this post relates to my previous one, in that we should feel free enough to embrace the good in our lives, and share our good news with the world. I'd love it if each of you who read this would comment and share a positive of yourself or your own life. If you don't want to, that's fine, but try doing it in another way in your own life. You just might inspire someone to look at an aspect of their own life in a different, more positive way! 

Thanks for reading, and make it a great day! Until next time...

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

It Could Always be Worse, but it's Alright to Feel Bad

Hi there and thanks for coming back!  I hope the sun is shining in your world today!

I recently learned who Brené Brown is and am enthralled with her work.  Some of you might know her from TED talks.  (http://www.brenebrown.com/videos)  I also saw her on Oprah's Super Soul Sunday show, discussing her newest book, and delving further into the results of her 12 years of research on taboo topics of vulnerability and shame. (http://www.oprah.com/own-super-soul-sunday/Full-Episode-Oprah-and-Brene-Brown-on-Daring-Greatly-Video)
(http://www.oprah.com/own-super-soul-sunday/Full-Episode-Oprah-and-Brene-Brown-Part-2-Video) There is so much I could write about in regards to Brené talks about, but today, one aspect is really sticking out in my mind.  It's something we all do, and we know we do it, but Brené has given it a name.  It's what she calls, "Comparative Suffering."  It's when we rank how our suffering compares to others. 

Today, I woke up with an annoying headache.  A simple, little, frustrating headache.  I get ones like this from time to time as a result of a knot in my back that I'm convinced will never go away, TMJ issues, and having braces move everything around in my mouth and extending down to my neck.  Like I said, annoying.  A few good jarring twists of my head and a loud crack usually take care of it.  Usually, but not all the time.  My chiropractor is a miracle worker and will always get the pesky little tight spots that I can't get.  (Heck, one time I went in to see him and everything was so tight that when he cracked my neck, that the very tippy top of my head adjusted!  It was the most amazing, relieving feeling ever!  But I digress.)  I've aspirined, I've watered, I've stretched, yoga-ed, rubbed, and it just isn't going away easily.  A visit to the beloved chiropractor is not in the cards today, so here I am purposely just letting the day go by as I sit on my couch and feel crappy.  I'm choosing to let it get me.  And about 2 weeks ago, I lost a day of my weekend due to a migraine (from the same tightness that I have today, but it was just centering from a slightly different spot).  As that crossed my mind today, and as my dog started barking at nothing, I lost it for a second.  I got snappy at the dog, and got a bit teary-eyed, simply because I don't feel good.  I thought to myself how stupid it was to get that way from a mere headache.  And the comparisons started.

I started thinking about family members, friends, people I've seen on the news who are truly suffering from what I deem legitimate problems.  Things from MS, to arthritis, to paralysis, ... cancer.  Those people have reason to not feel good, to spend a day on the couch, to get emotional about what they are dealing with.  I don't, and I have no idea what it's like to be in their shoes. 

I thought of my brother who battled cancer for a year when he was a teenager, then again for 5 years as an adult (17 years after the first bout).  He went through chemo, radiation, numerous surgeries and hospital stays.  And I remember what it meant to me to have him at my college graduation, less than a week after he had a major operation where he had been literally split open on the table.  I'm sure he wanted to just stay home and lay low, but he didn't.  He put himself right in the middle of a gathering of about 5,000 people, to be there for me.  (And what made it all that more impressive was my dad did not attend because he just had rotator cuff surgery, and was worried about getting bumped.)  I can't imagine how vulnerable he felt, how crappy he felt, and how much he physically hurt.  But that whole day, he never complained. 

I thought about a friend of mine who passed away a few months ago after a long battle with pulmonary disease.  He was the definition of inspiration.  He battled his disease for years, and never once complained.  He got up each day, embraced his life and went to work teaching students, and went home to be a devoted husband and father.  He lived his life in full all while waiting for a transplant, receiving and recovering from one, being hooked up to oxygen, and then again, being told he needed another transplant.  Even when things were looking grim, and he started to look a bit rough, he smiled, he got up, he lived.  He was nothing but grateful, and he didn't complain. 

Heck, my dog has hip dysplasia, and there are times he has trouble getting up.  But does that stop him from playing, or jumping on the bed to sleep with us?  Nope. 

And I'm crabby and complaining about an annoying headache.  There's my reality check.   

Then I remembered a lesson I'd been taught about compartitive suffering a few years ago actually, before I actually knew what I was doing had a name.  At that time, I was getting a lot of stress induced migraines and they were totally impacting my life.  I don't get the lines or light sensitivity, but I get tired, highly sensitive to smell, my stomach constantly spins and I ALWAYS throw up a few times (overshare, I know).  My doctor sent me to a physical therapist.  During one session while I was waiting for him to come into the room, I took a look around at the other people there.  I saw a woman who looked to be in her 80s, and she was stuggling to move around with her walker.  Instantly I felt so much empathy for her, and I felt ashamed that I was in there for a drastic headache.  When my PT came into the room, he asked how I was doing.  "Eh, ok, I feel bad though being here taking up time for a headache when I see someone like her out there who can't walk," I said.  He looked me right in the eye and said, "But this is impacting your life, isn't it?" 

I went from feeling ashamed to feeling like I had been taught one of the greatest lessons in life.  It was indeed impacting my life.  I missed work, and I missed events.  Just like that woman in the other room's life was impacted by her aliment, but with different circumstances.  What he said helped me accept that I needed help to deal with the dang migraines, and when I accepted that, it wasn't so much of a mental-weight anymore. 

Which brings us back to the present.  When I heard Brené discuss how we compare, and thus hide our own suffering because we believe it isn't as bad as someone else's, it was like she was speaking about me (I'm sure many of you would feel the same way).  Her point was that we all suffer from something - illness, disease, injury, divorce, job loss, financial issues, loss of a loved one, mental illness, ... the list goes on and on - but we need to stop ranking who has it worse, and acknowledge what is happening within ourselves.  Once we acknowledge and accept that, we can then deal with it, and to do that, we have to talk about it.  For me, talking about it takes away it's power.  I bet if I had talked to that woman in the physical therapist's office, I bet we would have found a lot of common ground in how we were feeling.  And I think it's that commonality we need to look for more than which one has it worse.  Our individual circumstances for pain, embarrassment, and suffering will always be different, but it's the underlying factors - how we feel about those things, how we see ourselves as a result of those things - that connect us all.  And haven't you felt better, felt less ashamed or embarrassed when you knew you weren't the only one feeling a certain way?  Misery loves company, but so does healing, and feeling validated. 

So as for me and this pesky headache?  Yeah, it's putting a little black cloud over my day, but it's alright because everyone has a little black cloud of something.  It's giving me pause to remember that this too shall pass, I'm not going to let it take any more of my mental energy, and that I am grateful for this day. 

Remember that you never suffer alone. There is always someone who shares your feelings, and is willing to listen to you, and help you through it. You just have to let yourself be vulnerable enough to reach out. (A bit of a teaser for Brené's talks.) I encourage you all to take a look at Brené's TED talks and Oprah appearances. She's inspiring, validating, I think each and every person can learn something from her.

Thank you to my brother, my friend, my dog, my physical therapist, and Brené positively impacting my life, and giving me a good dose of humility, reality, and perspective.

And thank you for reading!  Until next time...

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Constant Ticker of "I Should...."

Hi there!  I hope all of you are well, and thanks for coming back!  I'm giving you all a warning that I am about to reveal some of my crazy.  Maybe it's revealing a bit much about myself, but it's not like it's a big secret.

I am extremely hard on myself.  Extremely.  Along with that comes anxiety.  And along with that, comes a lot of internal debating about anything and everything. EVERY. DANG. THING. A constant cycle of "shoulds" race through my mind like the ticker on ESPN or CNN. "I should respond to so & so's email right now." "I should make that recipe I pinned on Pinterest." I should finally do that project I said I was going to do weeks ago." "I should eat a salad rather than nachos."  "I should do laundry later and go for a walk now."  "I should drink water rather than Coke."  "I should go figure out why my printer won't scan." And at this exact moment, the dog is next to me moaning out of boredom, so my mind says, "You should quit typing and pay attention to the dog."  I should I should I should I SHOULD.  IT'S ANNOYING to be this way, and it's not a very fun way to be. There is no real relaxation, no peace of mind. It's really difficult to find pure enjoyment in a lot of things when you're constantly telling yourself you shouldn't be doing what you're doing, or that you should be doing something different instead.   Do any of you do this, too?!  I hope not, but I'm sure I'm not the only one.  It's a feeling of never being able to win.  It's knowing I'm making my life way harder than it needs to be.  It's debating with myself on what the "right" thing is in regards to every aspect of life, all the time 24/7.  Anxiety sucks, but I've been this way all 38+ years of my life, so it's not new.  It's not until I sit and really think about it when I realize how crazy it really is!

Hence, the lengthy delays in my blog posts.  I know I - ahem - should have posted sooner, but I've been debating about the direction this blog is taking.  Since before I even started blogging, I had created a topic list of things I'd maybe like to write about, and have come up with dozens and am always thinking of more.  But I deliberately put off writing.  For one, I feel like every entry needs to be my most well-written body of work ever - that just spewing off the hip isn't enough.  Secondly, as I conceptualize posting ideas, I get carried away by very loud speaking thoughts, which immediately jump onto that ticker in my head.  As I think through a topic, I find myself asking, "Why write about this and put it out in the world?  Who really cares about what I have to say, or what I do with my life and my time?"  I mean, my life isn't any better than anyone else's.  What I do in it isn't anything special.  I know a lot, but wouldn't consider myself an expert on anything per se.  I don't really have anything new to add to life in general, like the next greatest craft idea or a new, yummilicious chicken recipe.   

One of the worse things I do to myself is surf Pinterest!  Seriously.  It's kind of what prompted this topic as a post.  I love Pinterest and I hate it, too.   :)  When I look at stuff that interests me, anything I know I could do turns into something I SHOULD do.  It'd be difficult for me to even say it's perhaps something I want to do, it just immediately gets added to the never-ending to-do list.  Then it cycles on that ticker, and almost literally itches at my being until I do it.  But then I don't get around to doing it, and the shoulds talk louder because they've lived in my brain longer.  But because it's addicting, I keep surfing, finding more ideas, and of course, that links me to other peoples' websites and blogs.  And that's what makes me question whether I'm going in a good, or right, direction with my own. 

I read other blogs where people post recipes, crafty doings, decorating projects, organizational ideas, and I feel like I should be posting those things, too  I mean, I spend my time cooking, photographing, decorating, scrapbooking, organizing, ....  So when I see so many other blogs out there with that kinda of content, I feel like that's what I should be posting about and that I'm going about this all wrong.  I never wanted this blog to be a journal, which it seems to be so far, nor do I want it to be a "brag book" with me posting about all this stuff I do.  By nature I'm not a self-promoter, and like I said above, I don't feel that I have anything special or ingenious to post about.  (The few times I have posted things like that on Facebook has been done at the encouragement of friends, and although I did it, I still feel uneasy about it.)  I feel like if I post about things I create or do, that it would come across as narcissistic or arrogant, or that I'm like, "Hey, look at me!" or feel that I'm trying to be better than them, when that would never be my intent at all. But where the conflict comes in is that I do not, in any way, think that of other bloggers.  I've never once gotten that read from any blogs I've read, nor do I feel that way about any of those bloggers or pinners, whether they're strangers or friends.  I guess I'm more open-minded to other people, and more easy-going on others than I am of myself!  (Again, I'm sure I'm not the only one like that!)

My friend, suburbanfarmmom.blogspot.com, posted this on her Facebook page the other day, and it immediately hit home about my goal with my page:

As I've said before, I want this to be a connecting tool with those of you out there in social media world.  And as I read that, I am asking myself why I am writing about this.  I think I'm just trying to work through some of that anxiety I talked about, and the feelings of doing it "wrong", and trying to move on.  To give myself permission to be OK with whatever I'm doing at any given moment, and to feel like it's OK to post things I do.  To remind myself that by sharing more parts of my life will indeed create more connection, and maybe make others feel like it's OK to do as well.  I'd encourage anyone else to do it, and people have encouraged me, so I'm going to encourage myself to do it, too!

I should go now, and go check on how that homemade stain remover that I found on Pinterest is working on a shirt.  Change that.  I'm going to go now, and check on a new trick I came across and am trying!  Hmmm, maybe I'm making progress!!   

Until next week, when I WILL post again!  Take care, everyone!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Knowing Me Knowing You

Hi there and Happy New Year (a bit after the fact)!  Thank you for coming back to my blog!  I really appreciate it.  It's been quite awhile since I've made the time to write, so I'm getting back on the proverbial horse here at last.

The other night I couldn't fall asleep, and got sucked into two episodes of Oprah's Next Chapter.  I've always liked Oprah, always been drawn to her life lessons, and drawn towards how she looks for and finds deeper meaning in nearly every aspect of life.  That's stuff I resonate with, as I've always had a deeper level, and I'm not shy about putting it out there.  But on that night in particular, in the wee small hours actually, as I was watching her talk to Whitney Houston's mom, Cissy, then Drew Barrymore, it occurred to me that I seek out, watch, and listen to interviews a lot.  Interviews of people from all different walks of life, whether they are on Oprah, on other talk shows (though I rarely watch them), news story interviews, post-game sporting event interviews, even the backstage confessional booth snippets on Dancing with the Stars (a show of which I am a junkie!).  And sometimes on topics of things that really don't interest me.  Then like a light switch, it just kinda clicked in my head as to why I am so drawn to what other people have to say. 

No matter who it is talking, I find that in some fashion, I can relate to them or at least learn something from them.  It's usually on a philosophy of life, or the way someone/something made them feel, a struggle they have been through, or something they think of themselves.  But more than that, I am profoundly interested and moved by people's stories and what makes them tick.  I'm always amazed by someone's journey to where they are and who they are at any given moment.  I enjoy hearing what people have to say and what's really on their mind.  I think that's why I'm such an addict of Facebook, and Instagram - they are both sites in which people choose to share a part of themselves with the world.  And if there is something that I can learn from someone, or something I can take away from what they have been willing to share, it makes the world seem smaller.  It makes me feel like we as people are really more alike than we are different, and I always hope that other people feel the same way when they take the time to really think about it, and go to that deeper level inside themselves.      

In my relationships, I'm usually the one bring the topics onto the deeper levels.  I find that I always want to know more about everyone and their respective lives, but I never want to pry, so I'm quite careful and aware of going too far, even though I'm sure I do at times.  Even as a young kid, I wanted to be understood, and wanted people to care about what my story was, and out of that I think came my sincere interest in everyone else.  Sometimes it feels like being that deeper conversationalist, and the person always asking questions makes me seem too serious, but I don't have the energy or time for superficial, fake, or one-sided relationships.  We have all been there, done that, and I for one won't do it again.  Life is way to short for that crap, and when we are all so pressed for time, those kind of relationships aren't the ones to put energy towards. Although I am pretty jaded and skeptical a lot of the time, I do believe with every ounce of my soul that the connections you form with the people on a deeper, "true colors" personal level make you family.  Maybe that is just me because I always wanted a bigger family, and wanted a family that didn't have the problems mine did.  But as I stepped out into the world and made my life, I made damn sure that people I spend my time with, give my time to, share myself and my life with, are people that are willing to do the same in return.  It takes time of course, and not everyone is comfortable showing their true colors, rightfully so.  It's a very vulnerable place, and it takes a lot of time, mental effort, and trust (in yourself and in the other person) to be that open.  For myself though, I decided a long time ago that I'm always going to throw myself out there, as I am, right from the get go, so I tend to open up rather quickly.  (Just for the record, I wasn't like that until after high school.  There are two "versions" of me: one from birth to age 17, and then 17 onward.  Although they are both still me, they are really quite different.  I'm sure I'm not the only one who can say that.).  What you see is what you get, and it's always authentic.  And part of that is genuinely wanting to know people.  Also, to see what I can learn from them and their experiences, and what lessons they have learned that I can use in my own life.  That is what draws me to people each and every day, and also why I'm so interested in staying up half the night listening to people talk, even though I'll never meet them.

I mean, don't we all learn best from one another?  We learn how to get through life, how to deal with problems, how do deal with things and people we don't like, how to make vodka lemonades out of life's lemons, and how we best like to spend our time and with whom.  And for those that are willing to go to that deeper level, we can analyze and learn why we are the way we are, maybe how to change the things we don't like about ourselves, and how to maybe see things differently.  

So maybe take some time and listen to someone with a truly open mind.  Listen to their story to learn and understand, and resist the temptation to judge.  (Not easy, I know, but don't you feel that we are all too quick to judge, and to slow to give the benefit of the doubt?)  Realize that even though you are listening to one person, what they are saying is most likely felt by millions.  And that someday, for some reason, you may feel the same way if you haven't already.  By focusing on someone else's story, you may be surprised at what seeps in and sticks with you when you let it, and how much your own world may open up.   

Just yesterday, I watched an episode of The Doctors, and they interviewed the first U.S. person to receive a face transplant. A 20-something year old who referred to his pre-accident self as arrogant and self-absorbed. Now, he lives in gratitude and feels a responsibility to live life to the fullest. I bawled as he told his story. He mentally never gave up throughout his 30+ surgeries (so far). (And here's me, I give in to a mere headache.) By all accords, he shouldn't have survived his accident. He was told he would never eat again, talk, ... kiss his daughter. Yet here he was, with a new face, talking, living, with the capability to do everything he was told he wouldn't be able to. As he talked of the moment he could first feel his daughter's kiss, you would have to be heartless to not be moved by it. One kiss, such a simple act, but imagine if you couldn't feel it. I tell ya what, it prompted me to be really present in the moment when I shared a kiss with my husband when he came home from work. I just nope I remember to be that aware of how special each and every kiss is, like each and every bite I eat.

My life is very rich because of who I've let in, and who has let me in to theirs.  To those of you who share yourselves with me, I hope you know how appreciative and grateful I am.  You really are part of my family, and I am so grateful and lucky to have each and every one of you in my life.      

Wouldn't life be a lot nicer if we all took the time to really listen to what other people have to say, to know their story, what makes them tick?  And to be  especially when they offer their truest self?  It's not about always being on the same page, but showing compassion, understanding, and acceptance.  Things I think we all could use more of.

Thanks for reading!  Be well, everyone.  Until next time...    

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I've Had Enough...

My mind is all over the place right now, and if I don't get some of this stuff out of my head, I am going to go crazy.  This won't be the most well-worded post because I'm typing at the speed of my brain, and some of the rules of grammar might be neglected.  I don't care.

First of all, as I sit to type this post, I am keenly aware that it is an arrogant thing to post about what runs through my own mind.  I mean, who really cares what I have to say?  I know this.  Yet those of you readers that know me, know I am not an arrogant person.  It feels very weird and I feel very vulnerable throwing myself out here like this with each post.  But as I said when I started my blog, I am doing this as a way to connect with people, and talk about things that maybe others are thinking but yet not talking about.  I guess I hoped that there would be more written responses to my posts, and some good conversations starting that way, but so far that hasn't been the case.  I'll admit it's made me question at times if it's worth it, but I'm fairly certain that what I think and feel, is thought and felt by others, too.  This is just a new way of connection that I am exploring.  I've also come to realize that it's also therapeutic for me.  I was a journalism major, and writing is one of the best releases I have.  I had forgotten that part of myself.  So for those of you that read my posts, and might have even the slightest care as to what runs through my head, know that I appreciate it so much more than I can ever express. 

Onto the next thing in the racetrack of my mind...

I've had enough in regards to some of the fall out in response to the horrifying Sandy Hook school shootings. All over TV and radio, in newspapers, online, and on Facebook there are people arguing about what is right for this country in regards to gun control and mental health issues.  It frustrates me to no end that in the midst of the most unthinkable grief that people are going through, people are arguing and forcing their opinions out into the world as if it's the only correct one, and just continuing to spew anger because someone disagrees with their viewpoint.  An intense, heated or passionate discussion is one thing, but when people just throw the gloves down and go at it, it's crossed the line of civility.  What happened to being open-minded to someone else's opinion? What happened to remembering that what might be right for one, may not be right for another?   There is no one right answer to anything, much less topics of this magnitude.  If there were, there'd be no argument.  But that doesn't seem good enough for some people out there.  More than ever I have been shown that some people just want to argue for sake or arguing, and for trying to be right.  But all that does is just compound the negatives, and spread the anger, and it deters away from the matters at hand.  What good has ever come from an argument?  I think most people would say they want to be treated with respect, compassion, kindness, and friendship, or as it'd been said, "we should treat others as we want to be treated".  At what point do people throw that out the window and not give a crap about someone else's feelings?           

Those kids and teachers at Sandy Hook left this world seeing the anger, and hate, and bad in the world.  Now as we all mourn the loss of those precious lives, we see their loved ones focusing on positives, wanting their loved ones remembered for their good qualities, and are searching for ways to have the positives outshine the negatives in the world.  They want us to come together, to be better, to be positive influences in this world.  A parent of one of the surviving children said that his son is now scared of "the bad guy" all the time.  That kid's parents don't want their son living that way.  None of us want to live that way.  We all know we can't eliminate or shut the bad out, but those kids knew no bad, no hatred.  At what point in life do we learn to be so awful towards one another? 

So much energy is spent arguing, or trying to be right.  Imagine what would happen if all of that passion, that energy, were spent on doing good in the world.  If it were spent LISTENING to other people.  If it were spent cherishing friends and loved ones, and actually telling them - not just assuming they know.  If it were spent trying to come to an understanding of someone else's point of view, without insults or judgment.  We all know how it feels when someone tells us they love us, when someone understands us, and respects us.   I fail to comprehend why that way of living is not more prevalent, especially in trying times.  I'm not suggesting we all sit together and hold hands and sing, but that we quit fighting over our differences and forge ahead with our similarities. 

As I scan my Facebook news feed, I see more and more expressions of friendship and kindness being shared by people sending their love and support to Newtown, CT.  People sending wishes of peace, love and friendship to people they have never even met.  It's that type of thing we need more of everyday, not just in times of tragedy.  Wouldn't you agree?  Wouldn't that give you a more positive view of the world?  Your kids??

I even got involved in a small way and I made a ribbon to hang on my Christmas tree to honor the kids and teachers.  I found a scrap of white ribbon, and a scrap of a Crayola ribbon.  To me, the Crayola ribbon symbolizes the youth that was lost, and the teardrop eyelet in the center represents the millions of tears shed by those with an aching heart.  It reminds me of the sadness I feel for the victims, their families and friends, and everyone in Newtown.  But it also reminds me of the innocence that we all still have inside of us, the love that we can share with one another, and how we can come together.   

So, I am going to close this post, go take some aspirin to alleviate the headache I have, and focus on some positive, good, and happy things, and remember that the world is a pretty great place. Together we make it great. Apart it is broken - we are broken. I hope that as we realize that more than ever as we now move on and deal with tragedy. And just maybe, change our little corners of the world, and  in that way make the whole world a little bit better than those kids and teachers left it. They deserve it. We all do, too. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Four Reflections of This November

Oh, the holidays are here, and November is coming to a close.  I know so because my head is spinning.  I feel this incessant desire to plan, make list after list after list, and be constantly moving to get everything I want done, done.  But I also feel this need to just sit and reflect.  I try to do both and that is what gives me the spinning sensation.  So I'll take this opportunity to be still and do my reflecting while I take a decorating break and type!  In trying to keep it somewhat organized, I've divided my thoughts into four reflections. 

Reflection #1
It's hard to believe that Thanksgiving has already come and gone.  Thanksgiving itself means that it is a time to pause and reflect, live in the present, and taking notice of the good in all our lives.  I always hope that everyone does that because I think that needs to happen more often in the bustle of life.  I've always been one to reflect and take notice, and this holiday was no exception.  I always know I'm having a good time when I don't think of being anywhere else than where I am at that moment, and that's how I felt this Thanksgiving.  My husband, our dog, and I spent two days and nights at my stepsister and her partner's cabin, along with their two dogs, my dad, stepmom, mom, and one of my husband's aunts.  The guest list alone is what makes me thankful - being able to spend a holiday with most of our family in one place at one time (although we do miss those who live far away, of course).  The best part is, everyone truly likes each other and gets along really well.  It's quite unusual to have a family and stepfamily being as intertwined as mine are, but I feel so lucky that it has become this way.  It's not always rainbows and kittens and sunshine, and believe me, it still has its share of struggles, but it is the good that came from the bad.  It wasn't until my brother was in his second bout with cancer that the lines between family and stepfamily started to erode.  When he eventually passed, that really was the catalyst for my two families becoming like one.  This sounds just awful, but if my brother were still here, a holiday like this Thanksgiving would not have happened.  Oh sure, some will say, "You don't know that", but oh, yes I do.  This has even been a topic of discussion amongst my family and we are all in agreement.  My brother had a lot of anger and resentment in him, and he was the dividing line between the two sides.  He and I had our time with my dad and stepmom, and then our time with mom, but he would never work at building a relationship with our stepsiblings.  I'm certain much of that had to do with the fact that my mom was alone, and he didn't want to do anything to hurt her feelings, or make her feel "second best" .  I on the other hand, was a lot younger, and I welcomed a bigger family.  I wanted to be closer to that new side, but I also felt the worries of showing preference or hurting feelings.  But in my own young ways, I did reach out and forge relationships with them to a certain extent (again, stopping at a certain point due to how some people might feel), but my brother was set on being the driving force behind the clear division, purposely or not.  But when he got ill again, went downhill, and into hospice, he actually became the reason the lines faded.  My three parents needed to work together, support one another, help him, and support him.  Once he passed away, my dad and stepmom took it upon themselves to look after my mom.  Since then, there have been countless birthdays, holidays, projects, and typical evenings spent together.  Like I said, there are still struggles, but the reality is that it's pretty dang good.  

I do not answer the question of, "Which would you rather - have your brother here, or have your family be the way it is now?" because there is no answer.  Of course I want him here, and miss him every day.  But yet I'm so grateful to have moments like we did at Thanksgiving - together as one family. 

Reflection #2
On a WAY lighter note, this is also the one year mark of me having braces!  Yup, I got braces as a 37-year-old, and by choice.  No one told me I needed them, although I probably should have had them as kid, but really, my teeth were fine.  I just decided to do it because I felt my teeth shifting as I got older, and the few "imperfections" I had were getting more and more obvious, but only to me.  I didn't set out to get perfect teeth, just to fix a few things that bugged me.  I had actually planned on doing it for a long time, but finally bit the bullet last year.  In all honesty, I would have totally chickened out, but my husband and I had set aside flex money for it, and I couldn't come up with any other medical or dental things to use the money for.  So here I am at a year, and for as good as it has been, I'm ready to be done with it.  I find out how much longer they will be on next week!  Here's to hoping it's just a little while longer!!

Reflection #3
It is also the one year mark of my temporary retirement!  Last year, my job was cut, and I left the company I had worked at for nearly 13 years.  It was hard to say goodbye to my work family, but leaving that job was a blessing.  I felt trapped by it, the "velvet handcuff syndrome" as someone once referred to it.  I had a good job, I made good money, I had freedom, I got along with my boss (my department was just the two of us), and I liked most of the people.  But I didn't like what I did, and I didn't like the way things were going at the company.  I always longed for something more, but I didn't know exactly what that was, and I wasn't about to give up the perks I had for something unknown.  I am not by any means a risk-taker, and I certainly wasn't going to choose to leave a good thing at a time when jobs were so hard to come by .  So for me personally, leaving allowed me to finally look beyond the walls of that place, and I felt like I could breathe again.  I've spent the past year putting my life in order from cleaning out and reorganizing every one of possessions, to doing some redecorating, and doing projects I always wanted to but never *thought* I had time for.  I've spent so much quality time with my aging beloved dog.  I've spent time looking at my life, learning about it, analyzing it, figuring out ME, like doing my own psych study.  It's been an opportunity for me to really figure some things out about myself, and deal with some things I needed to.  And there are moments where it's like I can feel it all coming together.  It's been a fast ride this past year, but I'm so grateful that I have had this chance to slow down from the pace I was at before.  I have a wish that everyone at some point, in some manner, gets the same opportunity.

Reflection #4
Another Gopher football season (well, except for an upcoming bowl game) has come to an end.  Gopher football is a big deal in my house because both my husband and I were in the U of M Marching Band (a topic I will surely write of at later dates), and football seasons now are like the next best thing.  We spend game days with our friends who truly are our family, and every game day is the best "family reunion".  It's the most heartwarming experience to be again surrounded by so many people that we've been through so much with.  I guess you could say we have season football tickets for a few reasons other than the actual game!  It's always bittersweet when the season ends because the weekends of tailgating, reunions, and just being around the college football atmosphere are on hiatus for another year.  But on the bright side, that means it's hockey and basketball season!     

I'm sure as time goes by I'll write about each of those four reflections more, and in more detail, and hopefully that won't be boring to those of you who read my posts. 

I hope you all have had the chance to do some holiday reflecting of your own, and that you all have so much to be thankful for, at Thanksgiving and each and every day. 

Later, Friends!  I'm goin' back to the jolly work of Christmas decorating!!  Thanks for reading, and until next time...