The One In Which I Tell Perfectionism To Take A Hike (Part One)

For your perusal, here’s a (partial) list of things I consider myself to be at least reasonably good at:

  • Being a mom
  • Writing
  • Drawing/Painting/General Crafty and Creative Stuff
  • Baking
  • Yoga

And here’s a (partial) list of things I consider myself to be spectacularly bad at:

  • Math
  • Scrabble/Sudoku/Really, any sort of puzzle game
  • Direction (Like, when I’m driving.  Or when it comes to knowing where I am. I’m not bad at taking direction.)
  • Not taking things personally
  • Healthy confrontation, or… any kind of confrontation
  • Relationships
  • Bowling
  • Most sports
  • Computer-y stuff beyond basic web-related stuff and Microsoft word
  • Making fried eggs
  • Keeping plants alive
  • Snorkeling
  • Skiing
  • Talking on the phone
  • Dealing with stress in healthy ways
  • Public speaking, and really… speaking in general

A few initial questions (that aren’t really to be answered, but just put out there into the cosmic void);

Why is my “bad” list so much longer than my good?  Why could I have kept on going indefinitely for the bad, and had to really search and struggle to come up with the five on my good list?  Is this really how I view and quantify my skills or lack of skills, or are they being filtered through a veil of depression (I know the answer to that)?  Does it really matter if I’m not good at bowling?  Do I have to be good at everything?  Who said I had to be good at everything, and why did that carry on into adulthood?

I have a point here, but it’s lost in a cloud of physical and mental fatigue at the present time.  Part two, tomorrow.


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Gratitude On The Four-Letter Days

I write in a journal daily, but that wasn’t always the case.  I started journal writing when I was old enough to hold a pencil, and have kept up the habit somewhat sporadically ever since.  I filled several in junior high, several in high school, and then just went in phases, sometimes skipping years at a time.  But at the beginning of this year (January 1st in fact, because I’m cheesy like that), I committed to daily writing again, and haven’t skipped a day yet.

Some days, I write multiple pages.  Some days I write a paragraph.  And some days….. some days all I can muster is a single word.  And it’s usually not a polite word.

Today’s a single word kind of day.  And I decided – in a flash of inspiration as I drove to CVS to get something the nine year old needed for a project – that I would counteract the day (both in my journal, and right now in this blog post) – with gratitude.  I do that sometimes on my personal Facebook page, but not with any real regularity.  And I should, because it helps.  It sounds very woo, and corny, and Oprah-esque, but there really is always something to be grateful for.

So I hereby give you my first four-letter-day gratitude list.  (And I encourage you to write your own!)  I’m listing five, for no other reason than the fact that it’s a nice tidy number.

1. New friends.  Of course, I’m grateful for old friends too, but today’s about new friends.

2. Familiarity.  You know how when you’re at your own house, everything’s just…. familiar?  I’m sitting in “my” spot on the couch. I’ve got my laptop on my lap. I hear the hum of the fan. I’m drinking tonic water (which became my “fancy” drink after I gave up alcohol) My daughter’s singing.  There are sounds of someone cooking in the kitchen. It feels familiar and it feels like home.

3. Technology.  This one’s a mixed bag, for sure, because I seem to spend just as much of my time frustrated with technology as I do enjoying it.  But Technology. Is. Amazing.  It allowed me to complete and submit all my schoolwork today (including a resume, the first one I’ve ever written).  It allowed me get about a million questions answered.  It allowed me to chat with a friend, on and off, for the entire day.  Technology helps my life to be better, fuller, and more convenient.

4. The desert. I never knew I’d enjoy the desert as much as I do, but the desert in general has become one of my favorite places.  The desert is my church.  Yesterday, we went for a nearly 8 mile hike, and came home exhausted, dusty… and clear-headed and relaxed.  Desert hikes are easily one of the best things about living in Phoenix.

5. Tomorrows.  Yes, we’re never guaranteed a tomorrow, but I like to think about tomorrows because 1) It’s just hopeful, and hope is good.  2) Tomorrow means I’m still here, and 3) Tomorrow is a new day, and a fresh start.

This is the quote that greets me when I open my bullet journal:

  “Courage doesn’t allows roar.  Sometimes it is the quiet voice at the end of the day, saying, “I will try again tomorrow.” ~ Mary Ann Radmacher


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6 Rules I’d Never Use For My Toddlers

  1.  I have evil friends who send me links to articles that they know I’ll want to refute, especially articles that are in list form.  I can never resist them.  They just make it too easy.  And,
  2. My obligatory disclaimer: This post is about ideas, concepts, and philosophies.  It is not an attack on an individual.  I don’t know the author of the original article.  In fact on a second look, I couldn’t even find an author credited.  It was published by a Montessori School.  They gave their point of view;  I’ll give mine.  It’s kind of how the internet works.

Having said that:

The article in question is one titled, Six Unusual Rules For Disciplining Your Toddler That Are Effective.  The author and I…. disagree.  🙂

I don’t have a toddler anymore (at the time of this writing, my youngest is 9), but I remember the toddler years very, very well.  The author and I do agree on one thing:  toddlers definitely require a very specific type of parenting.  But we part company on what that specific type of parenting might entail.  Toddlers need a ton of patience, a ton of understanding, and a ton of grace.  It is HARD to be 1. 2, 3 years old.  Their list, unfortunately, takes none of this into account.

Here are their six rules, and why I’d do things differently.

Rule #1: “If you’re in the room while I’m working, you need to work also.”

What’s the goal? As you complete your chores, your children should stop bothering you or help ….  Tell her she doesn’t have to help you, but she can’t just sit there and watch you; she must go in another room. She’ll have the option to help you with your chore and be with you or be by herself.

Oof.  This genuinely makes me sad.  First, kids (and toddlers especially!) love to be with their parents as they work, whether it’s on laundry, sweeping the floor, or making dinner.  They also generally love to “help” – help is in quotations only because a 12 month old unfolding your freshly folded laundry to put it in a new pile isn’t technically helping… but she sure feels proud about doing it!  As they get older, more able to follow directions, and more dexterous, they’ll enjoy helping in more and more ways.  And if they don’t want to help?  Maybe they just want to be with their parent.  Maybe they just enjoy your company.  Maybe they want to chat.  Good grief, let them!  Don’t banish them to another room. Life is short.  Time with your kids is precious and fleeting.  For real.  In a couple of months, my oldest “baby” is turning 21.

Perhaps one of the most disturbing parts about this point is when they say that this rule works because “she’s given a choice so she’ll feel as if she’s in control of the situation even though she’s really not.”  What’s described in this sentence is manipulation…. and manipulation of someone we love is never, ever a cool thing to do.

My alternative rule:  If you’re in the room while I’m working, you’re welcome to help.  If you don’t want to help, you’re welcome to just keep me company.

Rule #2: “You get whatever you get so don’t get upset.”

What’s the goal? It ends the bargaining over such things as the color sippy cup he gets, which kids TV character is on his paper plate, which sheets are on his bed, etc.

This is just being controlling for the sole sake of being controlling.  I ask you, seriously, WHY can’t your child have the sippy cup he wants, or the paper plate that he wants, or his preferred sheets on his bed?  The answer to that question generally lies somewhere in the vicinity of, “Because they need to learn that they can’t always get what they want!” And/or “Because they need to learn that life isn’t fair!”  Yes, sure.  We can’t always get what we want.  And life isn’t always fair.  But guess what?  These are lessons that life and circumstances will, unfortunately, teach them… ideally with you as the parent at their side to help them navigate.  You don’t need to actually CREATE harsh lessons for your kids just because you can!  On the contrary, home should be the safe space, the soft spot to fall, the place where you can drink from your favorite cup.  I have a favorite cup (actually I have several of them, depending on my mood, what I’m drinking, etc) and I always make sure to use it.  Am I so inflexible that I literally can’t muster up the emotional fortitude to drink out of another one if need be?  Of course not. But you guys:  we all have likes and preferences.  A favorite cup is such a simple, simple way to honor your kids’ likes and wishes and show them through that one small gesture – which feels like a BIG gesture – that you love them.

My alternative rule:  I will always try to listen to your needs, respect your requests, and YES… you can have the purple sippy cup.

Rule #3: “We aren’t going to argue about money.”

What’s the goal? Prevent your toddler from pleading and begging for things.

Here’s the thing about money (and I have been married for nearly 25 years and we have run the full gamut when it comes to our money situation):  There are three general scenarios when it comes to requests at the store.  1) Sometimes you simply don’t have the money for something.  You just don’t have it.  In which case, it’s entirely appropriate to tell your child, “I’m sorry, we can’t buy that today, but we can put it on your wishlist/get it next payday/save up for it”, whatever.  This is both honest and fair.  Might your child still be upset or disappointed?  Sure!  I’m sometimes upset and disappointed when something’s out of my price range too.  But you honor their feelings, you help them through it, and you move on.  2) Sometimes you do have the money, and you don’t want to part with it for some reason.  Maybe you’re judging how they want to spend it.  Maybe you want to spend it on yourself.  Maybe you just feel inconvenienced by the whole thing and saying “no” seems the simplest option.  If that’s the case, I’d gently suggest doing a little work to find out why you’re saying no.  Maybe you have a perfectly valid reason.  Or maybe you’re being a hypocrite who’s telling her child, “We’re not buying extras today,” at the very moment that you’re paying for your overpriced Trenta caramel iced coffee with an extra shot of espresso.  (True story) Getting at the “why” is important, for both of you.  3) You do have the money, and you say, “yes!”  This is honestly one of my simplest pleasures as a parent.  I love being able to be in the moment, and gift my kids with something that will make them happy…. whether a pack of gum, a cake pop from Starbucks, or more slime supplies from Hobby Lobby.  There is nothing wrong with saying yes to your kids.

Learning to say yes more often to my kids was one of the simplest, single most life-changing parenting decision I’ve ever made.  We are designed to want to give to those we love (in both tangible and non-tangible ways)  It feels good to give because it IS good to give!  It is a win-win for both parties.  The author’s takeaway from this point is, “The way this works is if she asks for you to buy, say, a toy then you say “yes” or “no” and nothing more.” I think my kids, even as young kids, are always deserving of honestly, the right to ask questions, and the right to a discussion.  (P.S.  A discussion isn’t the same thing as an argument.)

My alternative rule:  If we have the means, I will try to say “yes” to your requests as often as possible.  If I say, “no”, you are absolutely welcome to ask why, and I will always give you an honest answer.

Rule #4: “There isn’t any such phrase as ‘I’m bored’.”

What’s the goal? This teaches your small fry to entertain himself.

So, first of all, I have taken some long (LONG), required history classes in college with really, really dry teachers.  BOREDOM IS REAL.  Let’s just start there.  It’s not a bad thing to be bored (some great ideas sometimes manifest themselves out of boredom), nor is it a bad thing to help your child think of something to do to alleviate said boredom, if he desires that help.  We all get bored from time to time.  As adults, we’ll often say, “Hey, I’m bored.  Want to go for a walk, go see a movie, go get some frozen yogurt?” This rule is another example of expecting your child to be a robot, rather than a human being… AND expecting more of him than you do from adults.  People get bored!  It’s okay!  Your “small fry” will learn to entertain himself all on his own, all in his own time.  It’s controlling and cruel to tell him 1) that he’s not allowed to feel something 2) that the something he reports feeling doesn’t even exist, and 3) that you refuse to help him with the problem – if he does in fact, view it as a problem.  If one of my children announces that they’re bored (which they honestly don’t do all that often, mostly because they do know how to entertain themselves, despite my not having ever implemented rule #4) I’d ask if they wanted some help thinking of suggestions.  Oh and by the way, making your kids do chores when they’re bored – a popular suggestion in mainstream parenting – is also controlling, and cruel, and completely counter intuitive to actually helping them learn to navigate boredom in a healthy way.

My alternative rule:  If you’re feeling bored, feel free to ask me to help brainstorm.

Rule #5: “I’m not working after 8 pm.”

What’s the goal? It creates established bedtimes as well as time for yourself …Tell your little ones that a new rule has been developed by the U.S. Department of Labor that states you must not do any “mom” work after 8 pm. But hold firm to your conviction and pretend that it’s out of your control.

From the “It should go without saying” department:  Parenting is a 24 hour job.  I hate to break it to you.  Yes, time for yourself is important, and yes, as kids get older you’ll be able to have more flexibility in this area.  But when kids are little, especially when they are toddlers, they might need you at 9:00.  Or at midnight.  Or at 2:00 in the morning.  I’m really glad that this was a rule we never implemented in my family, because some of my favorite memories of the kids were snuggled up on the couch watching TV together, sitting around the kitchen table for endless amounts of time, piling in bed to watch a movie.  Chatting. laughing, having deep conversations.  I wouldn’t give any of it up, for any amount of missed sleep.  I’M THE MOM.  I’m always the mom, and I don’t stop being the mom just because the clock strikes a certain hour.

Also, telling “your little ones that a new rule has been developed by the U.S. Department of Labor that states you must not do any “mom” work after 8 PM” is a flat-out-unabashed lie.  Like manipulating, lying isn’t something you should do to people you love.  It’s just not.

My alternative rule:  I’m your mom 24 hours a day.  Full-stop.

Rule #6: “When you talk that way, I can’t understand what you’re saying.”

What’s the goal? It helps to stop screaming, rudeness and whining.

This is the only rule that I (kind of, sort of) agree with, only in the sense that it’s okay, and preferable, to set boundaries for yourself, and for how you’re treated.  But – and it’s a big but – just like adults, kids are allowed a full range of emotions, of feelings, and of opinions.  Sometimes strong feelings come out sideways (this does not just apply to kids).  Sometimes we whine when we’re upset (this does not just apply to kids).  Sometimes we say things in the heat of the moment that we might not otherwise say (this does not just apply to kids). And sometimes we take things out on the most convenient target, even if it’s someone we love (again… this does not just apply to kids).  We are HUMAN BEINGS, and we possess a giant array of feelings, of behavior, and ways of expressing ourselves. In a perfect world, we’d all behave politely and communicate maturely every second of every day.   But it doesn’t always work like that.  Which is where grace comes in.  Sometimes heaping amounts of grace.  Yes, setting boundaries is important, and yes, it’s absolutely okay to talk to your child – in much the same way you’d talk to an angry spouse or friend or family member – about their delivery (for lack of a better word).  But their feelings, like ALL their feelings, have validity.

Finally, the author says, “When toddlers do any of those things, they’re only looking for drama or attention.”  Maybe so.  But if they’re looking for attention in such a volatile way, perhaps it’s because they’ve failed to get it elsewhere.  Perhaps their “screaming, rudeness, and whining,” is in fact, a literal cry for help.  Behavior never exists in a vacuum.  Find out why it’s happening, and you can address your issue.   Ignoring your child, shutting him down, or insisting he stay quiet will ultimately only make the situation (and your relationship) worse.

Children are to be seen AND heard.

My alternative rule: Come to me when you’re upset, and we’ll figure it all out together.

________________________________________

The article closes with this:

We’re sure there are more fantastic rules like these out there—or perhaps you can create some of your own. Yes, it’s true that some of these (or maybe all) aren’t really rules but rather an announcement of policies in your home. Either way, whatever you call them, they’re sure to make your life (and your toddler’s) go a bit smoother.

Sure, it’ll make your life go a bit smoother if your goal is to have quiet, compliant, obedient children.  But if you want to have…. REAL children?  Children who feel valued, and confident, and loved?  Children who know who they are, who own their feelings, who stand up for what’s right? Children who are capable of healthy and genuine connections with their parent/s and with the people around them?  You might consider doing the exact opposite.


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Clocking Out

Solely for the cuteness factor

It’s been such a week. With the exception of my little adventure yesterday, and maybe the time… nope, that’s it, just my little adventure yesterday… it’s been a highly stressful, highly emotional, highly anxiety provoking week.  And I’m tired.

Today I spent the day – the whole damn day – working on school work.  If you’re reading this and are unaware, I went back to school to study psychology this past summer.  I was really selective about who I told in the beginning, mainly because of bubble-bursters, but it’s not really a secret.  I went back to school, and it’s an adjustment, and I love it and it’s hard and it’s scary and it’s stressful and it’s liberating…. all at the same time.

But I don’t really want to talk about school.  I just wanted to clarify that it is ME who is going to school, because I got a comment a few posts back asking, “If you’re an unschooler, then why do you have a planner with lesson plans in it?”  I have a planner with lessons in it because I’m in school.  My kids are not.

So to sum up:

I had a hard week.

I worked on school work all day.

I’m very tired.

It’s 7:00 at night, and we’ve announced a yoyo dinner (I totally just googled whether or not that was a universal phrase or something just my family used, because it occurred to me that I didn’t know.) The Google says that lots of people use it.  Anyway, I finished my school work, it’s yoyo for dinner, and I. Am. Done.  I would actually go to bed right now, except that I am already waking up way too early and going to bed at 7:00 wouldn’t help in that regard.  Also, the two younger boys are in Tucson with friends, and won’t be home until very late.  As any mother can tell you, I won’t be able to really sleep until they’re safely home anyway.

So, I’m just clocking out.  I’m washing my face and putting on my Snoopy pajama pants and I’m reading a book.  Not a school book, or a book that I’m reviewing for my blog, or a book that tells me how to be a better me, but just a book-book: with drama and intrigue and pages and pages of escape-from-real-life bliss.  I might read it in the bath tub.  I don’t drink anymore, but maybe I’ll make myself some tea.  Maybe I’ll go all out and light a candle.

And just like yesterday, I know it doesn’t actually fix anything, but it’s still a piece.  A piece in the intricate web of self-care that has for some reason found itself unraveling as of late.

I’ll be okay.


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Happy Distractions

So, I wrote that Tuesday was a bad day.  And it was.  But in the interest of total honestly, it was actually the vertex (look at me, using my College Algebra words) of a bad… stretch.  It’s been a stretch again.

Today though, I got to not think about that for a little while.  In an awesomely impromptu, quickly planned little adventure that was just drummed up a couple weeks ago, I had a friend fly out from San Diego, just for the day.  Just to get pierced together.  We threw a little whirlwind shopping trip in there too, and a stop at Sprouts and Starbucks.  And then I brought her back to the airport.  How cool is that?

We drove and chatted, and bonded over a great number of things, including our shared lack of directional skills.  In my defense, there is a MISSING EXIT on the 202.  There’s a 2, then there’s a 4, but there’s no 3.   Where did Exit 3 go???  And also, why would the directions have you go east to take a u-turn to go west, when it was completely possible to just go west in the first place?  And also, right turn only lanes need to be more clearly marked.  I’m a big fan of printed directions, and don’t usually trust GPSes.  But dude, did they ever fail me today.

It was a good day, and a fun day, and getting new piercings always makes me feel a little bit like a superhero.

Good company.  Good conversation.  Good times.

Did it fix anything?  Well, no.  Life is… life is what it is.

But it helped.  It certainly helped.


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The Anatomy of Anxiety (AKA A Boy Running In Circles)

Once, when my nephew was little, he got really scared and panicked.  I don’t remember the details of what it was that happened exactly, but I clearly remember what followed.  In the height of his panic, and not knowing what else to do, he ran in circles.  He literally just ran in little frantic circles, oblivious to everyone and everything around him, until his parents were finally able to get him calmed down.

I think of those circles sometimes in the context of trying to describe acute anxiety, and/or panic attacks.  I know I write about depression more frequently than anxiety, but anxiety is often my bigger sticking point.  Dealing with anxiety is HARD.  I like to think about it as depression’s dirtier cousin.

I would think most people in 2017 are familiar with, at a minimum, the physical symptoms that come with a panic attack:  Take your pick from a smorgasbord of: dry mouth, nausea, racing heart, dizziness, faintness, chest pain, stomach pain.  Sometimes there are hives. Sometimes you start experiencing tunnel vision, or even temporarily stop hearing what’s going on around you.  When my anxiety is on high alert, I always feel on the brink of either throwing up or passing out (or both), and the anxiety over either possibility just compounds the anxiety I started with.  I have trouble speaking.  My mouth doesn’t seem able to form words. In its most extreme form, it literally feels like you’re dying, and you’re incapable of convincing yourself otherwise.  Not just incapable of convincing yourself really, but incapable of merely believing it to begin with.  This stuff is real.  Anxiety is real.  And it’s debilitating.

But as far as I’m concerned, none of that is the worst part.  And don’t get me wrong, it is terrifying and awful in its own right (and something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy), but for me it’s just not as terrifying and awful as the other piece:  What’s going on inside my own head.

Which is where the running circles comes in.  When I’m in the midst of a panic attack, I feel like I’m going crazy.  And I don’t use the word crazy lightly.  I know it’s a term that’s thrown around casually all the time, (“Oh it drives me crazy when people text and drive!” ) Which, yeah, that drives me crazy too, but it is a very VERY different thing than literally feeling like you are in fact, going crazy.  Like, I need to be hospitalized and locked up or locked down or shot with a tranquilizer because I AM GOING CRAZY.  Every synapse in my brain is firing at once.  It’s sending out a “Danger! Danger! Danger!” signal, but there’s too much… noise.  To0 much chaos.  All inside of my own head.  I can’t hear anything.  I can’t feel anything either, other than the aforementioned physical symptoms.  Outward people do not exist. All there is, all that exists, is pain and fear.  Honestly more fear that just about any I’ve ever experienced. My brain is convincing me that I am under attack. I am afraid for my actual life, and I want to run, but … you can’t run away from your own mind.  The enemy is, quite literally, inside you.

And so, I’m left with little more than what my nephew did:  running in frantic circles, except circles that only figuratively reside in my own mind.

There are things that help (believe me, I am well, well versed in anxiety remedies, both natural and pharmacological).  There’s meditation, there are grounding techniques, there are breathing techniques, there are helpful acronyms from CBT.  There are drugs.  My toolbox is full.   And yet, while most of them help… in some cases, at certain times and in certain places, none of them help ALL of the time.  Especially during my “trigger” places:  big, crowded events, and uh…. small, intimate events as well.  Basically all social situations, except with people I know very, very well.  Driving, particularly downtown. Certain restaurants. Certain people.  Making phone calls.  Going to new or unfamiliar doctors or dentists.  Every Tuesday that I go to therapy.

I don’t think I’ll ever be free from anxiety.  And that’s not me being pessimistic, it’s just me being … realistic.  It’s how my brain is wired, for better or worse.  I have good days (lots of good days), but they’re punctuated by not-so-good days.  And I can get in a really good place, and do a super good job with my self care, and using my tools, and being really mindful about what’s going on around me, and maybe I’ll go weeks without a problem.  Maybe months.  Maybe years!  But it’ll still be there.  Ready to wrap it’s fuzzy little tentacles around my brain at the next opportunity.

The good news?  The positive in all of this?  My track record for surviving my anxiety (and my depression for that matter)  is still 100%.


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Bad Days

One week ago I decided, and announced, my little challenge to myself to write a new blog post for every day in November.  I like to challenge myself, and I always think that 30 days is the perfect amount of time… long enough that you feel like you accomplished something when you’re done, but not so long that it feels unattainable.

The problem with 30 day challenges, of any type, is that they don’t take into account the sick days, or the bad days, or the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, VERY bad days.

Today is a bad day.

It didn’t start out bad.  It actually started out kind of nice.  Mike took the morning off because my Land Cruiser needed new tires.  He didn’t have to go to the tire place until 10:00, so we had a lazy morning drinking coffee and watching a show I’d just discovered on HBO.  (It’s called The Leftovers, and it’s pretty interesting).

He drove my truck over, I picked him up, and then I dropped him off again a little while later on my way to therapy.

And then… things didn’t go as planned.  It was all my doing, and it was one of those things where it was fine fine fine (good, even), and then somewhere along the way I derailed it.  I don’t know why or when I did it exactly, but I caused things to go south.  Things went south really hard and really fast.  And the problem with knowing that YOU are the one who precipitated things going bad, is that not only are you then dealing with the bad day, but you’re also dealing with the guilt at having caused it, and then the guilt of feeling guilty when you know you could choose to let go of it.

And before you know it, it’s just a yucky, yucky, gross day, and you feel almost powerless to stop it.  Sometimes it seems like it’s okay to just let it be a bad day.  And let it be enough to just say, “Yup.  Today’s a bad day.  Tomorrow will be better.”

I have a migraine, and I can’t remember if I had it before the terrible horrible day started, or after.  I think it was before though, and I think that crying for an hour probably didn’t help. ‘

Today’s a bad day.  And I have a migraine.  But tomorrow will be better.


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The Balm Of Music

So, I’ve mentioned in past posts how much music has meant to me in my life, especially as an adult, especially over the past year and a half. It seems counter-intuitive, since crowds generally really rev my anxiety, but going to live concerts to hear my favorite bands is one my all-time favorite things. I listen to a lot of things, and go to a lot of concerts (next up is Pink in March :)), but my basic modus operandi is to get stuck on one band/album/song, and listen to it obsessively. Like over and over and over until I get sick of it and have to move on to something else.

Blue October is the band that has provided my soundtrack for the past year. They’re probably not a band that a person who tends toward melancholy should really listen to (they write about heavy stuff), but so help me I CANNOT STOP LISTENING.  And really, the effect of the subject matter can go both ways.  It sometimes does make me a little extra… weepy.  But it also empowers me, and makes me feel like someone has put a voice to so much of what I’ve gone through.  We saw them in concert a few months ago, at this tiny little venue in Flagstaff, and it solidly lands itself in my top five favorites. My 17 year old – who loves music as much as I do – was the one who first introduced me to their music, but I can take full credit for being the one who finally discovered that their frontman/lead singer, Justin Furstenfeld, also made a totally stripped-down, acoustic album of their best songs, and is about to release another one.

This music changed my life. As my daughter likes to say, it touches my soul. I can’t hear it and not be transported. Not be moved. Like deeply, deeply moved.

This song is just one of about a half-dozen that I’m currently listening to on repeat.  The lyrics are empowering (as the title suggests, it is all about learning to rise above fear), and his voice is amazing. If you need a new life anthem, this is it:


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Embracing My Midlife Crisis

Yesterday, Mike asked me if I was having a midlife crisis.

He didn’t ask me, now that I think about it.  It was more like a statement:  “This sounds like a midlife crisis”.  He didn’t say it in a mean or condescending way.  It was much more matter-of-fact than that, and, to be fair, not really out-of-line with the conversation at hand.

We were talking about my current affinity for piercings.  And when I say, “current”, I really mean an affinity that I’ve been nurturing for the past several years now.  It started with my nose ring (which I got around the same time I dreaded my hair, which I’m told was another midlife crisis red flag), and progressed to stretching my ear lobes, then piercing my cartilage, and my daith, and my tragus.  Earlier this year, I took a young friend with me to my piercing shop – because one of my favorite things to do with visiting friends is to go get pierced together – and fulfilled a long-held desire to pierce my belly button.

Not a lot of people know that about me. so there you go.  I pierced my belly button shortly after turning 43.  And I love it.

I got my first tattoo at 30, which the young 20-something guy at physical therapy told me was “really late” to get started, and a couple of months ago, I got my tenth.  I have no plans to stop.

And I mean, you can call it a midlife crisis if you want.  But I’d have to argue that it’s pretty much the opposite.  In my mind, a midlife crisis is a sort of desperate and frantic thing.  An outward expression of an inward mind that is freaking out about getting older.  It’s an attempt to grasp at … something … to help reclaim some idea of youth.

And can we stop right there for a minute and acknowledge the fact that “middle aged” is a really silly concept to begin with?  I get it, and I understand that it comes from averages and everything, but none of us – not a single one of us – knows how much time we have left earth-side.  So the idea of me, or anyone, being middle aged is purely hypothetical.  Yeah, sure, I’m not 20 anymore.  And I’m actually really glad about that.

But to get back to my point:

I’m not desperate.  I’m not frantic.  I’m not freaking out about getting older, and I’m not trying to reclaim my youth.  I’m just finally being myself. 

I spent the better part of four decades trying to live for everyone else.  Trying to please my mother, my friends, my teachers, my church.  Everybody but myself.  A free, and related, piece of advice:  This life strategy does not work, is not actually attainable, and just makes you miserable.  You’re welcome.

I like piercings.  And tattoos.  Full stop.  My extended family does not.  And you know what?  THAT’S OKAY.  I mean it is really, truly okay.  I’ve decided that a lot of what people call a midlife crisis is not a crisis at all, but a person finally deciding that they are going to stop making decisions for anyone else.  That they are no longer going to give two flying flips about what their friends or their family members think about their hair or their clothes or their job or their hobbies or their piercings.

You don’t have to like the way I look.  You don’t have to like ME.

You don’t have to like me even a little bit.

I like me.  It has taken me a (painfully) long time to say that with any honesty, but I do.  I like me … warts and shortcomings and all.

I am strong.  I’m kind.  I have a big heart. I am empathetic. <—- (filing those away for the next rainy day, when I might not necessarily believe them).  All that other stuff?  Piercings, tattoos, clothing?  That’s just packaging.  It means nothing.

And what I’ve realized in the time it’s taken me to write this blog post is that I don’t actually care if I’m having a midlife crisis or not.  I really don’t. Whatever I’m doing, whatever you want to call this stage of life:  I’m going to keep it.  In fact, I’m going to embrace the hell out of it.  It feels good, it feels right, and it feels freeing.

That 20 year old girl, the one who did what she was told, and didn’t make noise, and didn’t stand up for herself, and didn’t pierce her belly button – even though she desperately wanted to – because nice girls didn’t do things like that?  She wasn’t me.  I mean, I was in there, somewhere … but I was buried under a morass of religious and societal and self-imposed pressure.  I barely had an original opinion in my head, and I wouldn’t have honored it even if I did.

I have opinions now.  (A massive understatement, if ever there was one, for those who’ve read my blog for any length of time. :))

I am comfortable with and happy with and proud of those opinions.

I am comfortable with and happy with and proud of who I am.

Even – or especially? – if it took me 43 years to get here.


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Why We Need To Remember The Name Anthony Rapp

Everyone is talking about Kevin Spacey.  I can’t get on my computer without seeing his smiling face – which, in light of recent news, now just looks smug and leering – along with snippets of his latest official statement.  Like a lot of people, I was a fan of Kevin Spacey.  I didn’t know him personally, of course, but I always enjoyed his work.

Now his name fills me with revulsion.

So I don’t want to talk about him.  I want to talk about Anthony Rapp.

I didn’t recognize the name Anthony Rapp at first.  A quick IMDB search however, reminded me that I did very much recognize his face, largely in part because he was in one of my favorite movies of my teen-hood: Adventures in Babysitting.  He played Daryl, the goofy, obnoxious, but big hearted neighbor and best friend to Keith Coogan’s Brad.  His catchphrase was a cocky and sardonic, “Ya think?”  I really enjoyed that character, partly because he was the perfect foil to Coogan’s straight-laced Brad, partly because I have a tendency to favor the best friend, character-driven roles over the lead, and partly because Rapp just made him likeable.

He went on to act in many other projects, both on stage and screen (many of which I’ve seen), but to me he’ll always be Daryl Coopersmith.

Last week, Anthony Rapp came forward as having been sexually assaulted by Kevin Spacey when he was just 14 years old.  Spacey was 26 at the time.  In the days that followed, Kevin Spacey responded with an odd and highly, highly disconcerting “defense.”  He doesn’t remember the event at all, and it must have just been a terrible, drunken mistake. Oh, and by the way, he’s gay.  Which means…. what exactly?  That because he’s gay it’s okay that he assaulted a 14 year old kid?  That gay people are inherently pedophiles?  That gay people aren’t inherently pedophiles?   That being gay excuses him from heinous behavior?  My brain doesn’t even want to wrap itself around all the ramifications of his disgusting and harmful statements.

Dear Kevin Spacey, this has nothing to do with your sexual orientation, and everything to do with the fact that you, as a legal adult, assaulted a 14 year old.  Nobody cares that you’re gay.

The public’s response over the past week has been rightfully and overwhelmingly supportive of Anthony Rapp.  What he did in going public with his story was painful, and personal, and brave.  His voice joined the collective voices of the many, many women who have come forward as of late, to share their own stories of harassment, assault, and misconduct.  I honestly don’t remember a time when there was such a broad, glaring light shining on this issue, and it’s at once horrifying and freeing.  Freeing because people are finding strength in numbers.  People are finding unity in the rallying cries of, “me too.”

Just a couple of days ago, a male friend of mine shared his own experience of ongoing sexual harassment and physical assault in the work place.  If his story was not horrific enough, management did nothing when he finally reported it.  But wait, that’s not really true.  What they did was promote the woman who assaulted him.  And as a post script, he – like so very many of us women who have been assaulted or harassed in the workplace, on the streets, in our private lives – has been living with a heavy burden of shame.

Let it sink in a minute.

The victims, who have done nothing wrong, are feeling shame.  Multiply that shame times a million, and you have the kids.  The 8, 10, 14 year olds who carry the shame and the pain and the confusion of having been assaulted at such a young age, a weight that is often carried into adulthood.  A weight that is often never shared.  Never lifted.  Never exposed to light.

That is why what Anthony Rapp did was so important.  He is being a voice for those who are unable to do so.

I read an article yesterday that attempted to excuse Kevin Spacey.  It’s not like he had sex with him, the author maintained, he just came on to him.  First, in Rapp’s own words, Kevin Spacey put him on a bed and laid on top of him.  Laying on top of someone is not synonymous with flirting.  Second, he was a CHILD.  And third, attitudes and articles like his are exactly why people are afraid to come forward.

What Anthony Rapp did was important.

There are always those who want to say, “But he’s innocent until proven guilty!” “People are wrongfully accused all the time!”  (Again, a big reason why victims are so afraid to come forward) To them I say:

WE HAVE A VERY BIG PROBLEM.  And I hope that the light keeps shining on it, and I hope that people keep coming forward, and I hope that the sound of the collective “me too’s” continues to remind people that they are not alone, and that it is not their fault.

It is not your fault.

It is not your fault.

To Anthony Rapp, and to everyone who is coming forward … to the overwhelming amount of victims who have not come forward … to the overwhelming amount of victims who still blame themselves, who still find ways to excuse their perpetrator’s behavior:

You are brave and you are strong. It is not your fault.  I believe you.  I see you.

And I’m so very sorry.


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