2013 in review

Standard

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,400 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 40 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

We are all worth more than this

Standard

I stood up for myself yesterday and it felt terribly good.

The kind of “terribly good” where I was immediately conscious of my place in this world, my past failures to stand for up myself, and how ridiculous it is that anyone has ever tried to make me a doormat. I felt all of my 33.5 years and used that feeling to explain succinctly, calmly, and in all finality why what was thrown at me was not going to happen and why.

I was in a situation where I was viewed simply as a warm body filling a much needed space. My presence there was being used with no regard to my readiness or my ability and without my knowledge. There was no respect for my personal schedule and I was told we were all expected to be “on call”. I was thrown into interactions with strangers with no clue how to answer their questions and after several apologies, they were (understandably) annoyed with my ineptitude.

Yesterday was Day 3 and I was stressed out to the same level I was at when I managed a beautiful, but poorly-supported-by-its-owners bookstore in 2007.

Here’s how it went down:

I found out by accident that my entire schedule had changed that day without prior warning and without any notification. I objected and asked why this happened and when I was supposed to have found out about it.

I was told (not by the manager) this is the way it is and we are all expected to be vigilant and attentive at all times to the Holy Schedule even to the point of calling in on days of to see if we’ve been scheduled that day or not.

I said if I had been told that was the way schedules worked here, I wouldn’t have accepted the position.

After a slight flustered silence, I was told that this is just the way things are and I’ll get used to it.

I said I would not because that doesn’t work at all with my personal time outside of there and something needs to change or this will not continue to be a good fit for me.

Later conversation with the manager:

I repeated everything from above. I asked why I wasn’t told that the schedule is done this way, why I wasn’t given the heads-up that it had changed so dramatically, and finished with why this would not work for me personally. I also said that if I couldn’t be trained properly and actually have someone shadow me during said training, I wouldn’t continue working there.

I have worked in customer service and retail for over 15 years. I have dealt with inept management, corrupt ownership, back-stabbing, sexual harassment, and a screaming match with a manager in a parking lot over her incredibly unprofessional response to my two weeks notice. For those of you who have worked this industry, none of this comes as any surprise to you and I’m sure you can add to the list.

What I fail to understand time and time again is why so many businesses are run so poorly. I hold myself to a pretty high standard of work ethics (which doesn’t always make sense or keep me sane), so I can understand when others don’t match me. But when the basics of a good working environment are thrown out the window in favor of chaos, warm bodies, “just getting by”, no emphasis on communication, and a serious lack of teamwork, I have to wonder why a place even bothers to turn on the OPEN sign. The money they make must be pretty good and sustainable for such a lack of oversight.

When management’s expectations of its employees is that of theft, lying, and ineptitude, there is a serious breakdown and elimination of trust and communication that every working space needs. When beeps sound every time someone moves around the back room so that you can always be accounted for, there is an anxiety that builds subconsciously in your brain. When you are required to have a “buddy” with you when cleaning the parking lot, there is a voice in your head saying you can’t be trusted.

So when the environment you work in needs to resort to these measures, they are not attacking the problem in order to make things better. They are not ensuring theft, lying, and ineptitude will stop. They are not providing a safe and welcoming atmosphere to spend a major portion of your weekly life in. They are blindly attacking with no game plan and taking everyone down with the ship.

I call bullshit.

Every worker is better than that. I am better than that.

So I laid it all out on the phone last night…I specifically pointed out what would need to happen in order for me to continue working there. Management agreed to my specifications, so they’ve been given one more chance. Though I need the money, they need me more.

And they will not be allowed to forget that.

Estrangement during the holidays

Standard

This Christmas, it will be 8 years.

I can hardly believe it.

8 years since we’ve been in the same room as my in-laws. I have hazy memories of that Christmas: most of us gathered at R & S’s house, eating lots of food, gift exchanges, and laughing at the latest snowman acquisition that S got: it looked like one of those little kid figurines that stand in the corner in time-out and we all shared a laugh about that (later, that scenario would be twisted around to look as though we were laughing and making cruel fun of S for owning it). And that’s about all I remember.

Oh, one other memory: driving home that night, I remember telling John that I had a really nice day with his family and that I felt as though we were all finally really getting along.

Nothing had ever quite been right when we all got together. I knew about his family’s background of dysfunction and rampant estrangement throughout the generations, but I figured, like all families, when the shit hit the fan, there may be some verbal sparring or hurt feelings, but everyone would come back together again because unconditional love would win over all. I had no other experience except for that so it was hard to imagine anything else happening. Even after a particularly loud and hurtful screaming match a month before our wedding, I still believed.

Except this family was so damaged and weakened from generations of sparring, estrangement, hurt feelings, and self-imposed martyrdom that shiny thoughts like unconditional love and forgiveness weren’t going to save it.

We eventually accepted contact from two of his brothers after they were unceremoniously dumped from the family too. A couple of years before that, we were reunited with our (ex) sister-in-law and nephew during her bitter but much-needed divorce from another brother. It’s good to have blood relatives back but the loss of years (especially being able to watch our niece and nephews grow up) weighs heavily. Nothing will ever be the same. We can smile and eat together and catch up on each other’s lives and get to know our niece (who was a baby and living in NJ when this all went down) but there will always be the gap of silent years hanging over us. A gap that was initially forced on all of us against our wishes but which ultimately drove us all apart.

John and I? We made it. We’ve been together 14 years and counting. To look at us now, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell what we’ve been through. Holidays? Holidays are tough. No doubt about it. We spend a lot of time reminiscing about the years leading up to and after the estrangement. We make further peace with the idea that his parents are simply gone and that reconciliation, at least in this scenario, will not come. And sometimes we get angry that the holidays aren’t quite as magical as they used to be because they’ve been sullied by family who will no longer be present.

But ultimately, we’ve learned to be thankful and grateful for the family and friends who have stood by us and who have shown us unconditional love. They are the ones we surround ourselves with and who we define ourselves by. Each and every one of you is the best gift we could ever hope to get each Christmas. Thank you for waiting under the tree for us every year. Your presence in our lives is indeed a present.

A Week Of Christmas: You Don’t Always Get What You Want

Standard

Clara Sayre:

This Christmas, it will be 8 years. Focusing on giving back to those who care and love us unconditionally will help make that number not hurt so much (I hope). – Clara

Originally posted on E-stranged:

“Through the reciprocation of energy, always, and every time, we will get exactly what we put out there to others. Like Karma, whatever we do will indefinitely come back to us in some way shape or form. When goodness is given, it is likely to returned.  When you support someone, you will be supported.  When you Love, you will be Loved.  If you give someone your last dollar, someone will help you equally. This is the law of the universe. What selfless characteristics do you portray to benefit your reality? Expand.” 
― Will Barnes

It was ideas like the ones suggested in the quote above that kept me hooked into dysfunction and abuse for entirely too long. I used to be a bit embarrassed about my preoccupation (and eventual disgust) with such New Ageisms and clichés. In hindsight I can see why these ideas were so attractive … I wanted love and caring…

View original 455 more words

“To be loved is to be recognized as existing.” –Thich Nhat Hanh

Standard

For the past couple of years (and on and off many years before then), I’ve been studying Buddhism through its many prolific writers: Thich Nhat Hanh, Noah Levine, and Lama Surya Das being the ones I’ve turned to the most during this time. I ordered the book Dakini Power by Michaela Haas, which is about women in Buddhism, but it arrived in Ann Arbor after we’d already left for our jobs with the circus, so my hope is that the book was purchased by someone who needed it more than I did.

I’m currently working through Hanh’s You are Here which my mom found at a thrift store and mailed to me. I’ve dog-eared and underlined so many pages already and I’m only halfway through the book (yes, I’m one of those readers who marks in a book…I don’t find it sacrilegious at all; instead it’s a way for me to quickly reference quotes that get me through a particularly bad day or anxiety attack). Same goes for Das’ Awakening the Buddha Within. Both books have turned into texts akin to the Bible for me; truth and wisdom are found on every page and my self-concept expands.

I was raised Christian…I have a deep respect for the words of Jesus, not so much the churches and many figureheads of said churches. The good ones keep me from completely turning my back on the faith I was raised in, but I also realized I needed more. I wasn’t getting the answers I needed though I threw myself full force into it in my later teens and a good portion of my twenties. Now I’m not entirely sure what I consider myself, but I do know that my spiritual nature will always incorporate the wisdom of Jesus along with other spiritual influences.

I enjoy the idea that Buddhism encourages oneself to take responsibility, to always search, and to do so in peace. The mantra I’ve been using lately speaks of this: “Be mindful. Be present.” (“In Buddhism, a moment of mindfulness is like a ‘grace'; these moments can consecrate every activity, waking each of us up to the sacredness of what we do, as we do it.” – pg. 71, Awaking the Buddha Within, Lama Surya Das) I should embrace my anger just as I embrace my joy. I shouldn’t live in the past and I shouldn’t spend copious amounts of time wishing for the future. I need to be in the present, in the now, and take joy in the simple fact that I am here. Hanh writes about how every task you do, you should do in mindfulness:

“Stopping (shamatha in Sanskrit) and deep looking (vipasyana) are the elements of Buddhist meditation. Deep looking is possible once stopping has taken place. On the cushion, we must stop. During walking meditation, we must stop. Even when we are in the kitchen washing the dishes, we must wash the dishes in such a way that stopping is possible. Every moment of dishwashing should give you joy, peace, and happiness. If it doesn’t, you are not washing dishes as a practitioner. The kitchen is a place of practice…When we wash dishes, it is not only to get the dishes clean. It is to live every minute of the washing. So wash each bowl and each plate in such a way that joy, peace, and happiness are possible. Imagine you are giving a bath to the baby Buddha. It is a sacred act.”

I am inclined toward impatience and living for the future (“The past no longer exists, and the future is not here yet.” – the Buddha). That is where my natural tendencies have formed the habit of defaulting to. I am rarely satisfied in my present moment and I sacrifice constantly, hoping that such sacrifice will make my life in the future much better. But I never reach my future life because it’s always two steps ahead of where I am realistically (“What does it profit us to kill time just to get by while we wait for the weekend or the next summer vacation and consequently overlook the miracle of the present moment? – pg. 108, Awaking the Buddha Within, Lama Surya Das). I have trained myself to be immensely impatient with everything…something isn’t worth doing unless it can be done in a hurry and require the least amount of inconvenience on my part. Tie those together with my tendency toward perfectionism and you have yourself one stressed out lady. It’s no wonder I am drawn to Buddhist writers who show me how to slow down and appreciate each moment for what it is. It will take a lifetime to work on this, but at least I’m slowing down and learning to be mindful, sometimes one baby step at a time.

Buddhism has always intrigued me especially after meeting author/meditation teacher Noah Levine (Dharma Punx, The Heart of the Revolution, and Against the Stream) in Portland, Oregon when AtS came out. Powell’s Books hosted him at their store on Hawthorne and we crammed in with the large crowd to hear him speak. He spoke about his life (which most, if not all of us there knew by heart after reading Dharma Punx until the pages were falling out) and how Buddhism is relative and important for Westerners of all ages. He has devoted his life to helping young people discover meditation and breathing techniques instead of resorting to violence and drugs. He writes in a way that makes it easy to understand the basics of Buddhism and I appreciate everything he’s done to that end. After the talk, we all got in line for him to sign books and I heard story after story of young people saying they had always felt like religion had no place for them and they were feeling hope after hearing him speak. The fact that Buddhism is considered a philosophy rather than a religion helped also (“Buddhism today is best thought of as an ethical psychological philosophy or nontheistic spiritual practice, needing neither dogma nor belief to be practiced and accomplished.” – pg. 111, Awaking the Buddha Within, Lama Surya Das).

I guess what I’m rambling on about is that I’m excited and feeling optimistic about discovering something that, through studying, will help me have peace with my anxiety and with others. It already has in small ways and though I forget most of what I promise myself I will remember the next time I get impatient, angry, or intolerant, I always return to the small collection of books I’ve acquired and read through the underlined words to bring myself back.

Some quotes that have been good for me lately:

“Our universal tendency is to try to stay away from all this suffering, so we are always trying to escape from ourselves. Society offers us all kind of ways to do this: television, radio, novels, magazines, cars, telephones, and so on. We abandon our territory just like that, leaving it in a state of disorder and pain. We want to run away from it. Our culture and our civilization are characterized by this tendency toward escape. But the Buddha advised us to do just the opposite. We have to come back to our territory so we can bring order and harmony to it…We are afraid to face our inner pain, so we run away; but the Buddha says with great compassion, “Do not be afraid, my friend.” – pg. 53, You are Here, Thich Nhat Hanh

“If you feel irritation or depression or despair, recognize their presence and practice this mantra: ‘Dear one, I am here for you.’ You should talk to your depression or your anger just as you would to a child. You embrace it tenderly with the energy of mindfulness and say, ‘Dear one, I know you are there and I am going to take care of you.’ There is no discrimination or dualism here, because compassion and love are you, but anger is too. All three are organic in nature, so you don’t need to be afraid. You can transform them.” – pg. 5, You are Here, Thich Nhat Hanh

“Each of us is like a river, whose waters are forever changing. Westerners often use ‘mind’ as a primary definition for the self. ‘I think, therefore I am.’ But Buddhism points out that you are not what you think; like the weather, what you think is unpredictable and subject to change.” – pg. 82, Awaking the Buddha Within, Lama Surya Das

“We all have a tendency to resist change, particularly in those areas where we most need transformation…The fact is that we all tend to hang on to our negative habits and frozen behavior patterns. We keep retracing our steps; we keep walking the same circular patterns. We don’t climb out of our ruts, our comfort zones, however dissatisfying they really are. Buddhist philosophy tells us that there is a way to take charge, change direction, and peel away ignorance so that we can see with total clarity.” – pg. 61, Awaking the Buddha Within, Lama Surya Das

“The traditional elder, Kalu Rinpoche, once told me that he didn’t believe that a seeker who had ties to Christianity or any other faith had to convert to Buddhism in order to practice Dharma. The truth, after all, belongs to anyone who cherishes it, lives it, loves it, and is committed to it.” – pg. 42, Awaking the Buddha Within, Lama Surya Das

Book Review: Something About You (Just Me & You Series) By Lelaina Landis

Standard

Something About You (Just Me & You Series)
http://lelainalandis.com/books/
By Lelaina Landis
Published 11/13

If you’re a virgin to romance novels like I was, you couldn’t do much better than to begin your foray into them (that is, if you’re looking to jump into the much reviled, yet much loved and purchased genre of romance) with Something About You.

Let me quickly give you a little background as to how I ended up reading and reviewing this book: Author Landis read my review of Sylvia Lucas’ childfree book, No Children, No Guilt and emailed me to see if I’d be interested in reviewing her debut book. She was careful to check with me first how I felt about the romance genre and my honest answer was that I’d never read anything from it and it wasn’t my go-to genre like science fiction and fantasy always has been. But I was intrigued and I told her I was up for the challenge.

I tried very hard to go into the first chapter with an open mind. But after almost 10 years of bookselling experience, the auto-pilot reaction of derision kept threatening to surface as I got to know the main character, Sabrina, and her first encounter with Gage Fitzgerald, who was undoubtedly being set up as the good-looking male in the inevitable forthcoming sex scenes. I rolled my eyes a bit at his name and the high society back drop that most of the characters lived in, but I kept going. I have a hard time relating to characters who have money, who name-drop alcohol (I’m not even sure what vintage port actually is), and I am completely oblivious to brand names in high fashion.

Here’s the thing though. The story unfolds around Sabrina, who is the Chief of Staff to an underwhelming, unlikeable Texan representative, and though she’s a bit high strung and tightly wound at times, you can’t help but like her. You admire her strength of character, her inimitable work ethic, and the fact that she knows what she wants and she goes for it. She is a feminist in all aspects of the word (though it’s never mentioned as such) and she has a healthy, strong, sisterly friendship with Molly, who marries Sebastian, who happens to be Gage’s best friend.

Molly and Sabrina’s friendship is a real winner in this book. While most television shows, books, movies, society, etc. focus on the petty, backstabbing stereotype of female friendships, this book focuses instead on a friendship between two women who have known each other for a very long time, who will call each other out in the most loving yet brutally honest way, and who have each other’s backs through thick and thin. By the end of the book, I was actually a teensy bit jealous of their friendship.

But this is a romance novel and so far I’ve only alluded to there being the inevitable sex scene. What may surprise you (because it definitely surprised me) is that the first hot and heavy scene (besides a make-out session in Chapter 2) doesn’t happen until almost 300 pages in. Don’t go skipping ahead now that I’ve told you where it’s at either; it’s well worth your time to get to know the characters and the plot before delving into the bedroom romp.

The story revolves around Sabrina and Gage, an unlikely couple of opposites who meet at a wedding and whose best friends are convinced they should get to know each other better. Throw in some complicated and dysfunctional family issues that every character is either trying to overcome, make sense of, or just live with and the fact that Sabrina has no desire to have children (a real relationship killer or so she assumes) and you have some good subplots to carry the book along. And there is an in depth story. This book isn’t focused on skimping over details and character development in order to deliver 50 pages of raunchy sex between strangers where the woman is a damsel in distress and the man is a self-assured, sexist demi-god. It guides you through the character’s day to day lives, it presents challenges (Gage is a shock jock on the radio and Sabrina is in politics; a bad match if ever there was one), and it doesn’t even get heavy-handed with the over-arching theme of being childfree, but neither does it shy away from the idea that a woman can know she doesn’t want children and not have it be the end of the world. Sabrina stays true to her desire to be an awesome auntie someday and not a mom ever even when it means experiencing heartbreak and tough love.

I wasn’t, unfortunately, a huge fan of how the book ends…literally. The last three sentences were a bit too schmaltzy and uncharacteristic of Sabrina for my taste. And there were definitely times throughout the story where it seemed to embrace a soap opera stereotype a bit too much for me: the prissy bitch of a stepmother who was Sabrina’s father’s mistress for the entirety of his marriage to Nola, Sabrina’s mother, the two characters with physical disabilities who find love in one another – though I did like the way they describe themselves, “…we’re the old, beat-up dolls no one else wanted to play with. The dolls with the missing legs and the purple knee joints.”, and the richy-rich environment that everyone fits into except Gage, who is from a podunk town in Iowa.

All in all, though, I would say I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the book and especially enjoyed reading a strong, childfree female character in a romance novel. Her decision not to have children introduces the “crazy” concept of safe sex and various birth controls methods in the midst of sex scenes and lo and behold! that doesn’t take away from the steamy words you’re enjoying a bit more than you’d like anyone to know about. ;)

(Two funny personal connections to the book: on page 11, when the city of Paris (France) is mentioned, a character assumes it’s Paris, Texas being talked about…Paris, TX is only 30 minutes from where I live now and the only “big” city worth driving to within a wide radius of my town. On page 323, Sabrina calls a number that turns out to be for Mercy Medical, a hospital in Des Moines, Iowa. My husband’s old band, Brandtson, wrote a song called Mercy Medical, named after that same hospital.)

Book review: No Children, No Guilt by Sylvia D. Lucas

Standard

No Children, No Guilt
Sylvia D. Lucas
Copyright © 2011 by Sylvia D. Lucas
http://sylviadlucas.com
All rights reserved.
Kindle Edition

“I have three cats and I like them precisely because they’re not children.” – pg. 22

I have had a pet cat for 12 years. Even as I type this, he is sitting on my lap, staring at me patiently, waiting for me to pet him and pay attention to him even though I am typing on my laptop. Soon, he will meow plaintively because I have not picked up on the cue that he wants all of my attention right now. And so as he turns around slowly to jump off of my lap, I feel immense guilt at ignoring him and begin petting him as he wants. I don’t do this purely out of love; I do it out of obligation and not wanting to continue the guilty feeling.

You see, I don’t enjoy having a living being fully dependent on me. I didn’t realize that until a couple of years into have a cat. But I also don’t like being the kind of person who just gives away her pet because it doesn’t fit into her lifestyle anymore. So we have kept the cat, given him love, food, and shelter, and we clean up hairballs with as little patience as you can imagine.

As I read Lucas’ e-book, No Children, No Guilt, I recognized in her the same type of person, though our decisions about not having children come from very different angles. While Lucas expresses an ambivalence toward children from a young age (her innocent carelessness with a doll and not understanding her friends cooing over baby clothes in high school), I didn’t realize mine until my mid twenties when it finally struck me that I actually had a choice in the matter. I was the kid who played with dolls obsessively (and Micro Machines, plastic dinosaurs, and Legos) and I made money babysitting while growing up (and enjoyed it). A few years ago, I was a friend’s nanny for her 4 month old until he was almost a year old.

And as Lucas delves into the childfree topic and picks apart the emotions and reasons behind it, I once again felt a sense of relief that someone else out there gets it and she wrote about it so that people like me wouldn’t feel strange or guilty. I write “again” because I had the same feeling when reading Jen Kirkman’s I Can Hardly Take Care of Myself. Because no matter how solid you’re feeling about the decision not to have children, there is always an underlying feeling of guilt that you’re letting your family, friends, the church, your community, and the Universe all down by not conforming to parenthood.

Which is why I loved a section on page 14 in Lucas’ book where she releases the reader from that guilt:

“Stop thinking you’re supposed to want them…Accept that…not wanting your life as you know it to go undergo an absolute and irreversible reconstruction is perfectly natural, and that being a mom simply isn’t the life position you’re looking to take on.
Accept that raising a child is just not your thing.
But do it without feeling like you’re an unimaginably horrible person.
You don’t have to want a baby.”

Lucas tackles the “selfish” argument deftly, acknowledging that childfree folks are, indeed, selfish but not necessarily in a negative way, rather as a statement of fact. She points out that parents are also just as selfish in their want of children as childfree people are in their lack of want.

One of the best parts in the entire book, in my opinion, shows up right at the end when Lucas points out that there is nothing wrong with childfree people dipping our toes in the waters of “what if?”. In fact, she writes that doing so isn’t any different than wondering what our lives would be like in another job or if we had chosen a different major in college. And my favorite quote comes soon after this section:

“Refusing to ask questions often means there’s some fear about the answers – and that’s a pretty compelling reason to ask them in the first place.” – pg. 45

I also appreciated how Lucas didn’t ostracize parents. She recognizes that her reader may be a parent and takes pains to admit that parents, particularly mothers, have to deal with judgment and criticism just as much as childfree men and women do. And she points out that it’s been her experience that the majority of people she’s met who have children firmly believe, “If you don’t want them, you shouldn’t have them.”

All in all, I enjoyed Lucas’ views on being childfree. While it reads more like an essay rather than an e-book, that didn’t take away from the knowledge being imparted. The openness in which she writes about her life, her two divorces, her pro-choice views (which are very eloquently and succinctly explained on page 16 in a way that made me give a round of applause), and her current marriage helps bring a personal touch to what can sometimes be a very academically-treated topic.

Because in the end, that is what being childfree or being a parent is all about: the personal touch we place on it. As Lucas is fond of reminding her reader throughout, “Live and let live”.

——————————-

Copyright (c) 2008-2013 quieter notions

I am 33.

Standard

cropped-1122001118.jpg

14 years ago, I began walking in adulthood. I did so very poorly. I was uneducated in the ways of living on my own. My muscles were unused, flimsy, and unaware of their potential. My voice was that of a child’s, unsure and still used to asking for permission. My eyes were wide, opening themselves too much to strangers. My body, ungainly with the extra weight it had never encountered before, was foreign to me. Yet, I was pushed into the world, unready as I was.

14 years later, I look back on that time and I am grateful, but cautiously so. I was not ready for my world to get bigger, but I was forced into it and that is the only reason why I can claim who I am today. I made many mistakes, I fell to rock bottom many times, I discovered people who didn’t like me and I learned how to be okay with that, I forged friendships that were supportive for both people involved (rather than friendships that depended on me to do everything for them), and I learned to love myself.

6 years ago, things started falling into place. I was 27. The lessons I had learned over and over again finally clicked around this age. I learned who I was as a person, independent of anyone else. I learned my likes, my dislikes, and who I wanted to be as an adult. I learned not to accept things because they were the default and I learned that some defaults  are okay to accept. I made decisions for myself and no one else. Most importantly, I learned not to apologize for being me.

Now I am 33…in six months, I’ll be 34. I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up, however, my muscles are used, strong, and aware of their potential. My voice is steady and sure of what it says and asks. My eyes are open, seeing what is around me and taking it all in before making judgment. My body, still a bit ungainly with the extra weight it’s been carrying all these years, is familiar and comfortable to me. I have been pushed into the world and though I am not always as sure as I just described, I am ready.

——————————-

Copyright © 2008-2013 quieter notions

Quick thought

Standard

On being both a perfectionist and a control freak:

* When we come to you with self-doubt and a general state of unease about ourselves, telling us that we’re great, wonderful, the best at what we do, marvelous, and everyone thinks so, what you’re doing is perpetuating the idea that we need to keep remaining perfect, regardless of how impossible it is. Ex. I was a good student, a good worker bee, a good writer, a good musician, a good high school theater actress, a good everything. Nothing wrong with that, but after a lifetime of hearing how good you are, you begin to realize that you’ve maybe internalized that goodness/perfection a bit too much and now hold yourself to an impossible standard. Having others misguidedly attempt to encourage you only stresses the fact that you need to keep being this way.

* If we want to dwell on our horrible day, the details of which we can give to you so perfectly that it will feel as though you were there yourself, give us three minutes to dwell, acknowledge that it was indeed a horrible day and then distract us. By talking through every detail for the next five hours, you reinforce with us that this day is worth reliving every detail and picking apart everything. If we see you expending energy on the things that we expend energy thinking about 24/7, this will only encourage us in this neurotic and self-destructive habit. Breaking this habit is necessary, but difficult and we couldn’t do it without you. But you need to prove to us that our monumental catastrophes are only day to day stresses and once talked about for a few minutes, we are allowed to move on with our day.

* For many of us, our job is our life. It is how we describe ourselves, how we plan out our days, and what we give the most thought to. We can tend to go overboard with our dedication to our jobs, putting in more thought and energy than we are actually getting paid to do. Don’t ever let us get salary jobs because we’ll be taking the work home with us every day and weekend. We need to turn the work portion off when we get home. We need to be encouraged to do so and to pursue other scholarly pursuits and general frivolity in order to derail us from our one track minds.

I don’t mean to put the burden of rewiring us on you; at the end of the day, it is us who have to make that decision to break our impossible habit of perfectionism. But how we are interacted with goes a long way in breaking that habit or perpetuating it. As someone who is straddling the habit and attempting to swing my other leg over to the freedom side, I know I wouldn’t have done it without some amazing and strong people (namely, my husband) who stood up to me and stopped allowing me to hold myself to such a high standard. Because the thing is…you don’t even realize you’re doing it until someone points it out…

——————————-

Copyright © 2008-2013 quieter notions

Dead hamster dreams

Standard

file00099709883

I had a dream the other night.

It featured my long-since-dead pet hamster I had when I was a little kid. In this dream, I discovered this hamster at my apartment recently…it was still alive, but barely. I immediately tried feeding him, giving him water, and a bath. He clung to my hand pitifully and I felt his fluttering heartbeat in my thumb.

I woke up feeling immense guilt. I remembered that I had had similar dreams when I was little…taking care of a living creature, however small, weighed heavily on me and I worried that I would forget my pet, only to find it half-starved and dying many weeks later. It never happened, but the possibility of it happening was ever present in my mind. So my dreams would take over, playing out the death scene over and over again, leaving guilt in my waking moments for a homicide that never occurred.

As an adult, I still pay close attention to my dreams…death is a recurring theme, but from what I’ve read in dream interpretation books, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can mean a symbolic ending of something or attempting to resolve anger or anxiety toward yourself (or at least, that’s what this website says). I never dream about my own death (though some dreams bring me to the brink of death and then I wake up…apparently you can’t die in your own dreams?), but have put most of my friends and loved ones through their own death walks and I’ve awakened in the throes of mourning each time.

For a good portion of my life, I have had daymares pop up all of a sudden that center around potential accidents I’m about to take part in. I’ll be driving down the highway and in a split second, I “see” a truck sideswipe me, sending me off the road and into a ditch. This accident loops over and over in my head until I determinedly send it on its way, focusing instead on singing along with a song. The daymare that happens the most often is when I’m at the top of a set of stairs. Every single time I encounter stairs, my mind immediately flings my body down the steps, head over heels, until I lay crumpled at the bottom with a broken leg. I haven’t yet had this happen, but even the thought of it encourages my hand to seek the handrail and each foot to take its time on each step.

Being in my thirties and experiencing this helps me subjectively look at it rather than being completely reactionary, as I was when I was a child. Not to say it doesn’t emotionally affect me at all, but I’m able to step away from the fear and try to make sense of it.

Is this preoccupation with death quietly trying to focus my attention onto something that needs fixing in my life?

——————————-

Copyright © 2008-2013 quieter notions