Be yourself, even if they don’t like it

“Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! MOMMY! I looooooooove these light-up shoes! Please, please, please, I will pay you back. I will do the dishes the rest of my life. Please!”

Logan half-screamed at Shoe Carnival holding an LED, rechargeable black high top, blinking in rhythm to what I’m certain was the beat of Golddigger by Kanye West. I took one glance at the price, $50!!? I reminded Logan that we were here for the deal on cheapo gym shoes.

Logan looked to the ground, turned around, and took the shoe back to its display.

I’m completely impervious to his strikingly blue sad eyes just before he looked away. I move on. “Let’s see here, Sketchers? Fila? Anything under $30. That’s what we’re looking for,” I say, completely stoic. “Do you want green or orange?”

Logan sighs, “Orange, I guess.”

“Hey, Danielle, can you go help Anya? She’s on the other side of the store, ” says my mother-in-law. She thinks she’s sneaky but I know exactly what she’s doing. She’s a sucker for those baby blues and Logan’s will be stepping out of this store in LED-style.

Logan half-screaming, tears streaming down his face (he’s a happy crier). “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! MOMMY! I looooooooove these light-up shoes! Ga (grandma’s nickname) is buying them for me!” Me, acting shocked (unconvincingly), “Wow, you are one lucky boy!”

My MIL apologized a nonapology. I know she loves spoiling them so I let her. I feign frustration. It’s a game we play.

Logan put those shoes on the minute we got home to show his dad. He bounced around in the shadows so Donnie could really get the full effect of the light show. Then Donnie says, “Those are really… crazy looking shoes.” Then I get a text from MIL. “Are you sure those are cool? I don’t want him to get made fun of. If he gets made fun of, let’s take them back and get other ones.”

I sighed. No. We will not do that.

  1. I don’t care if they are “cool” and I don’t want Logan to care either.
  2. What other shoes would we get? Take a poll of the kids who made fun of him then go to the store and get what THEY want for Logan to wear.

No. I will not do that.

I responded. “If he gets made fun of, it’s a life lesson.” MIL didn’t like that. She’s very protective.

Donnie told me that she’s probably extra cautious because when he was young, he had new everything. He was a trendsetter. In middle school, trendsetters get eaten alive. Anything new or different is subject to incessant criticism. He took it hard.  “She doesn’t want that for Logan.”

I countered. “Well, I never tried anything new. I made decisions based on what was ‘cool’ or what I saw other kids do. I never acted like myself, I acted like others. I didn’t make any friends because no one knew me. I didn’t know me. That’s not a way to live. I don’t want that for Logan.”

Donnie admitted that it’s better to be yourself and let other people hate you for it than to be someone else and have people not even notice you.

I drove home that day, singing along with the “I’m still standing” by Elton John (how appropriate). At a stoplight, I turn to my right mid-chorus (because we all have to check out who’s driving the cars next to us.) And the guy smiled. Kinda laughed. I thought “Oh. He’s laughing at me for my unabashed performance of an Elton John classic.” then I thought. “I don’t care. I’m having fun. This is me. This what I want. I don’t care about what you’re thinking.” and went right on singing.

Don’t you know I’m still standing better than I ever did
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid!

 

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To be happy, you must be grateful.

Mudita (moo-deet-a): when we can be happy for the joys others feel.

DISCLAIMER: I hate to keep hitting you with more Buddhist words (who am I kidding? I love it, shamefully), but it’s what’s at the top of my mind right now. If it offends you, please look away.

Carol got a promotion. “Good for you Carol!”

Jenny just won a trip to Jamaica. “Wow. That’s awesome.”

Larry and Susan just had their dream wedding, all expenses paid by her parents. “Congratulations you two!”

I struggle with mudita. It’s not that I’m not happy for other people. It’s just that, when I see success and happiness in others’ lives, I can’t help but compare that to mine. “Geee. I didn’t just get a promotion.” “I never win anything.” “It’d be nice if my parents even bought me lunch every once and while.” This is not being happy for other people. It’s envy.

Why do we do this? (I know I’m not the only one)

I (we) scroll through Facebook and Instagram browsing through the lives of people I (we) may or not have even met in person and all the while becoming increasingly jealous. Everyone’s lives seem so perfect. Then I (we) proceed to poke holes in the life I (we) thought was perfect.

Is this social media’s fault? Was (were) I (we) more satisfied with my (our) lives before Facebook? Does it have anything to do with satisfaction at all? I don’t know. I was hoping you would answer these questions.

Here’s what I think. It has more to do with gratitude. Like I tell my kids, if we point out the things we are grateful for, we’ll be fully aware of ALL the things we should be grateful for. Then, maybe we’ll be less inclined to point out the things we don’t have.

Here’s what I think:

For mudita, start with gratitude.

Pass the prapanca please

To get right to the point.

Prapanca (pronounced Pra-punch-a, which is important because it’s fun to say)

– useless narrative

– borrowing pain from the future

– anxiety spiral (that’s my definition)

I came across this awesome word in my meditation book: 10% Happier. Finally, a name for all that negative, anxiety-filled, egoist self talk. Prapanca.

We all have that voice in our head that we think has our best interest at heart. Until it doesn’t. That voice (bear with me, I’m not crazy. But that’s what crazy people say, so maybe I am) in our heads, our conscience, ego, said can get very loud and annoying. I know mine does.

Her name is Penelope. She’s a bitch, that Penelope. Always being the “devil’s advocate” to all of my awesome ideas. Side note: Can we please stop starting speeches with “I hate to be the devil’s advocate” when we’re about to say something really negative and bitchy? Just stop. Don’t be the devil’s advocate. We know you don’t reaaaaallly hate it. Besides, I’m pretty sure all devil’s advocates go to hell. Something to think about.

Anyhooooo… Penelope tells me that I’m a fraud. That I shouldn’t ask for a promotion because I probably don’t deserve it… or who do I think I am? She’s responsible for forboding joy, perfectionism, and self-doubt. All the things I despise about myself.

Penelope is prone to prapanca. If, I give her too much power. In other words, if I listen, humor her, believe her, enable her.

My goal with meditation is to quiet the prapanca. Recognizing that the conversations I’m having with myself (er, hm, Penelope) are useless narrative that’s prone to become and anxiety spiral. And, we don’t want that.

Here’s how I will be doing this.

Danielle: I think I’ll go for a run.

Penelope: What if people see you doing pushups like that? I think they think you’re stupid. You look too fit. A fitness fanatic. Crazy. Obsessed.

Danielle: STFU Penelope. I’m trying to run here!

Penelope: <Repeats phrases over and over but louder this time to compete with all the yelling.>

Danielle: Breathing. Stepping. Right foot. Left foot. Right foot. Left foot. Focus. Breathe.

Penelope: but I—

Danielle: Nope, bringing attention back to breath. Legs moving. Running. Breathing.

Pretty soon that bitch Penelope is dead. Died of boredom. And I prevail.

Ok, she won’t be dead completely, but the idea is that if I recognize that the prapanca narrative in my head cannot be proven true or false and it’s simply useless, I can change Penelope into someone more like a Poppy. Who is healthy, beautiful, bright, confident and… POSITIVE!

Relax don’t do it

I have time on my hands. 

I’m a busybody. I can’t sit still. Our first day of vacation, after I ate my breakfast, I sat out by the pool… for like 5 min. Then I launched into a few sets of pushups, squats and lunges around the pool. What else am I gonna do? Relax? Pssshhh.

After I was bored with that, I snagged Riley out of the water and we headed to the resort Waterpark. Three hours there, then back to the house. Then… cleaning. Yeah. I’ll clean the kitchen. The kitchen that was destroyed by 20 people that morning, in a rush to down breakfast and head off to a volleyball tournament. 

Cleaning. Cleaning. Cleaning. Hmm… It’s pretty clean. Now what?

I’ll take a shower. Yeah. I need a shower. 

Shower=check!

As soon as everyone gets back I head off to the store for supplies. I get back and most are 3 deep in Bud Light. It’s 4 pm. Vacation drinking. I get it. But… I’m bored. 

Workout? Someone wants to check out the fitness center. Let’s go! I put 2 moms through a workout. 

Then back to the house for dinner. More sitting around. More drinking. More chilling. Do I relax? Ok. I’ll relax. 10 minutes later… Walk? Someone wants to walk around the resort. I’m in! Let’s walk. 

Back at the resort. More sitting. More chilling. Ok, I guess. I’ll sit here for a bit. 

10 minutes later… Time for a book and the soft leather couch. Now. Now, I’m relaxed. 

Good night.

I’m right! (and other things I’m wrong about)

Lighting strikes the same place twice: wrong!

A penny dropped from the Empire State Building can kill you: wrong!

The blood in our veins is blue: wrong! (For most of us anyway)Blue blood

The earth is flat: wrong!

Riley (4) won’t make a huge mess in my new car with just one tiny cracker: wrong!

There are so many things we’ve been wrong about. If we all know this, then why do we try sooo hard to be right all the time? I’m no exception. I’m shamefully on a never-ending quest to know everything about everything. But, thankfully, that’s impossible. We can’t know everything and we shouldn’t. In fact, much of what we do know (FOR A FACT!), could be prove false in 5, 10, 50, 100 years from now. 

So instead of always trying to prove myself right and make sure my rightness is known, maybe I should ask mysel how wrong I am, most of the time. It’s all over the place, the wrongness. Seeing only right, correct, done, stifles growth and, let’s be honest, makes me look like an ass.

Who cares if I’m right about how to pronounce a word, or the best substitute for oregano in a recipe, or what to do at a 4-way stop? Ok that last one’s important because I’m certain no one actually knows and “safety first,” am I right? 
The point is: I need to question the things I’ve filed away as “solved” and continue questioning what I think I know, what I value, what I learn. I think this is how I’ll  grow. 

Or… maybe I’m wrong about that. 

Tell me I’m not alone.

Anxiety is a mother.

Anyone who tells me they have no anxiety is lying.

One thing that makes me feel better when I have anxiety is to know that I’m not alone. I think that’s how support groups and forums originated (?). As much as I dislike the term “normal,” when I’m in my anxiety spiral, I just want to know that what I’m experiencing is normal. I’m not alone.

So many people suffer in silence, alone. Afraid they are overreacting (hypochondria), overprotective, or experiencing anxiety for some unwarranted, unrealistic reason.
When I’m really worried, I’m amazed at the power of two simple words: Me too.

I thought about this today when a friend told me her insecurities and struggles. I knew that the physical anxiety symptoms  were a typical response to what she’d been through recently. (Sorry for the generalities due to privacy). In our conversation, I realized she was looking for some sameness. Some empathy. Some people don’t have a Kendra to say “Me too” or a Donnie to say “You’re normal.”

So I did her the favor. I said “Hey. Me too. I’ve had that exact same symptom when I’ve been extremely stressed.” I told her a personal story of a time when I’d been extremely overcome with worry. My legs went numb. My fingertips tingled. I had heart palpitations. Just. Like. Hers. She was shocked. She’d googled every possible disease associated with her symptoms and she never believed it was simply anxiety.

I could almost see the weight lift off her shoulders when she said, “Really?”

I told her about my vulnerable moments that caused the anxiety with the same symptoms. And she unfolded. I like to think she left my house a little bit less stressed, knowing that she didn’t have an incurable disease,  that she likely wasn’t dying, and that she was not alone.

It’s ok for things to suck sometimes

I’m listening to a new book called, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.

I was 10 minutes in and already laughing at my own expense. Yes I feel guilty about a lot of things and yes I feel guilty right now for feeling guilty. 

When I’m mad, I get frustrated and mad more quickly about petty things.

When I’m anxious, I become more anxious about being too anxious all the time.

I love looking into these feelings, discovering what makes me tick. Why I am the way am and maybe how I can change for the better.

I’m always looking for the next self help book that will help me be better, better at writing, better at momming, better at making art, better at volleyball, better at life. Sometimes I can be deep into these books and totally bought into the message that, yes I can be happier if I just tweak these few things and keep my kitchen sink clean. Gee, I guess I never realized that I wasn’t happy enough… until I saw a book that pointed it out or social media posts of seemingly happy people to compare myself to.

What I’m learning from this particular self titled “the anti-self help book,” is that maybe we just have bad days, anxious days, angry days, guilt-filled days. It’s a just a matter of seeing it for what it is and not letting those feelings take over my entire week, month, year or life.

Sometimes life sucks and the sooner I accept that, the better I’ll be.