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!

 

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. 

News flash: It’s better to be impressed than to impress.

I was 9 years old the first time I remember trying to impress someone.

It was about 50 degrees outside.

I challenged my sister Dawn to a run around the block. More like, convinced her that if she didn’t go with me, she could just stay home and continue being bored and everyone would know that I was the fast one. Methods aside, I convinced her to go with me.

The block was probably about 1/2 a mile but at the time, it seemed more like 5. We took off. I loved running. I wanted to be fast. I was the fastest kid in the neighborhood. Note: I didn’t say the fastest GIRL in the neighborhood.

We circled the block and huffed and puffed up the driveway. Dawn’s relentless competitive nature helped her keep up with me, most of the way.

I remember grabbing a glass of orange juice. I knew that was the healthy option so that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to be fast and healthy. Dawn casually grabbed a bag of Doritos despite my warnings that she was cancelling out her run with those Doritos. My dad (a known health nut) walked in as we were sitting down for our snack. I caught his attention “Hey Dad, Dawn and I just ran around the block. I’m drinking this healthy orange juice and she’s chowing down on Doritos.”

Dawn said, nonchalantly, “Yeah. Doritos are good.”

Dad nods. “That’s nice.”

Not quite the praise I was looking for. Wasn’t he impressed that we went all that way? Wasn’t he impressed that the healthiness continued with the orange juice?  I’m being who you want me to be, Dad! If I wasn’t doing this to impress someone, then why was I doing it? Why couldn’t I just eat the Doritos with Dawn?

Dawn didn’t care about impressing anyone. At the time, I just looked at her thinking, “What’s wrong with you? Don’t you care what he thinks?” In all honesty, I don’t think she did.

So then why did I care so much? Why do I still care?

It’s funny. I’ve spent a lot of my teen and adulthood trying not to care what other people think (especially my dad). This is a 25-year nagging feeling I’ve been fighting against. Yet, it’s made me challenge myself most of my life. Yes, I’ve accomplished things for myself, of course. But a small part (probably bigger than I’d like to admit) of that was trying to impress other people as well. Did it all start with orange juice?

It’s good to care a little bit about what other people think. Everyone cares about what other people think (except for the competely apathetic). As always, it’s about moderation. Spending all my time concerned about what other people think and letting that dictate all of my decisions is very unhealthy. As a teen, that behavior led me to be extremely susceptible to influence. And believe me, the influence was not as positive as my parents would have wanted. I was trying to impress anyone who would be impressed.

My dad wouldn’t be. Other adult figures were barely impressed. Other successful, athletically inclined kids were too busy thinking about their own lives to be impressed by me. I had to find someone who I could impress. This method definitely took my far, far out of the way of the path I originally intended on travelling. In fact, I’m lucky I made it back safely.

Knowing what I know now, I would say that trying to impress people is not a good way live your life. It may be better to be impressed by people. Other people appreciate people who appreciate them. Thinking back to my dad, maybe if he’d been impressed by the things I was doing specifically to impress him, I wouldn’t have gone down that darker path. Maybe I would have. Is this really just about orange juice? Probably not. But, I can’t really blame my parents for everything bad that’s happened in my life, can I?

Showing appreciation and that you’re impressed by another person is a great way to make them feel good about themselves. I know for a fact that I like to surround myself with people who make me feel good about myself, don’t you?

Today I spend more time trying to appreciate other people, notice their accomplishments (no matter how small), compliment them, let them know just how much of a bad ass they are. People need that no matter how much they deny it.

And, maybe sometime, try to impress them. It will fuels your competitive side. And without competitiveness, Dawn never would have gone on that run.

Did Teddy Roosevelt hate Monarch butterflies?

One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Teddy Roosevelt’s speech Citizenship in a Republic in 1910.

To me, this quote means that we need to keep trying things, fail or succeed, no matter what others say. Daring greatly means taking risks, even when (especially when) the odds are against you.

I’m horrible at following Teddy’s advice. I care too much about what the critics think and where the odds are stacked. I tell myself I don’t enjoy writing and choose a hobby that’s also enjoyable, but much easier, then I do that instead. I’m working on it, I’ve read the book, I’ve taken small steps toward the arena, I’ve written the blog posts. But eventually I’m going to have to actually take action (write something meaningful) despite my reservations.

When I think of the man in the arena, I think of my husband Donnie. He’s always been the man in the arena, (sometimes I have to push him into the arena) but hes always been different. At nearly 7 feet tall, one gets accustomed to standing out from the crowd. But he embraces it. He lives his life the same way, his way.

Last night, we were watching the life cycle of Monarch butterfly and there were literally hundreds of thousands of

butterflies in one tree (a group of butterflies is called a kaleidoscope – how cool is that?!). There were so many butterflies crammed on each limb that the branches drooped down. Meanwhile, the tree next to it, same type of tree, was completely empty. I remarked, “Donnie, if you were a monarch butterfly, you’d be on that other tree enjoying your space and mocking the butterflies that were uncomfortably cramped on the other tree, “Stupid butterflies.” He agreed.

 

While, being in the arena has major benefits, one thing Donnie never gets used to is the criticism. Who can? And, boy is he criticized. He’s failed. He’s succeeded. He’s dared greatly. But the other butterflies don’t understand that. They only understand sameness, routine, conformity. It’s instinctive. Donnie wouldn’t survive as a monarch butterfly.

Luckily! We are not butterflies. We are humans (duh). We need to stray from the kaleidoscope and try new things to grow and thrive. We have to go through a lot of pain, dust, sweat and blood to succeed and live whole lives. But it sucks in the arena! (Clearly I’m conflicted) Many of us (me) never enter the arena because we (I) anticipate the pain involved. Unfortunately, if we never enter the arena, we could be (gulp), “those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

For the record, Teddy Roosevelt probably didn’t hate Monarch butterflies.

Everyday I’m hustlin’

I know how to play volleyball. I’ve played indoor 6s for two decades. I’m comfortable there. I’m good. I’m reliable. I’m confident. But beach volleyball is something I play a few times each summer with a few people who are just “messing around.”

I read somewhere that when trying something new, you should be humble. Learn all you can. Don’t pretend to know everything. If you do, people will resent you, overestimate you and you may not improve. Which is the ultimate goal when you’re learning.

So, when I started actually playing beach volleyball (no sideline beers), I took the humble route. I let everyone know “Hey everyone, I’m a beginner.” That was very hard for me to do. I don’t like failing publicly (I do a lot of that in Toastmasters… but I’m a beginner there so it’s ok). I don’t like sucking at things. It’s why I don’t bowl. Like, ever.

The reason I went the full disclosure route, is because I didn’t want those players to think that I’m a veteran who just sucks. This way the general consensus becomes “she’s really good for a n00b.”
If you’re gonna fail, it’s the best way to fail.

I made sure no one had lofty expectations of me. People gave me the benefit of the doubt when I messed up and made dumb moves.

It’s like when I used to wait tables and I’d have a bad night where nothing seemed to go right. I’d mess up so many times that finally I’d just tell the people, “It’s my first day.” The rough edges get smoothed, shoulders drop and people have a little more empathy for my errors. What? Everyone did it.

So when I went to my third high level doubles beach tournament, I told all my partners, hey, I’m a n00b. Among high verticals and even higher egos, it was the best approach.

It was a queen of the beach tournament. Basically, the idea behind that is: the best teammate wins. You are matched up with each person in your pool. You start each game with a new team. No prep time. No practice. Just playing. Whoever wins the most games with different teammates, wins the tournament.

This is very difficult because many partners spend years trying to find their mojo. We had 20 minutes and then it was over. But… we were all on the same playing field.

So back to me being a n00b. I was walking around all n00b-like. Putting my sand socks on the wrong feet and sunscreen in my hair (really selling the n00b-status). It was borderline hustling. I wasn’t the best among this group of women, but I definitely was not the worst, not even close. That’s the big problem with the n00b strategy. Employed in a competitive setting, like this cutthroat tournament among strangers, it becomes my glaring weakness.

My partners treated me like a toddler, coaching me and putting me in the least favorited positions. At this point, I know as much about strategy as they did. I’m not an idiot. But… I sure felt like one.

It was even worse that the other teams knew I was a n00b. That means, they picked on me. And BOY, did they pick on me. They served me every ball. Some nails (low and hard) and some lobs (high and easy). But, you better believe every single serve (and most attacks) went my way.

Typically, I can handle being picked on a little bit but this was a little boy on ant hill with a magnifying glass and I was writhing around in the scorching heat (this is an appropriate analogy because it was literally over 100 degrees that day). Even Kerri Walsh-Jennings couldn’t handle being picked on in Brazil at the 2016 Olympics. Competitors finally realized that maybe Misty May-Treanor was the amazing one and they should have been picking on Kerri all along. They more than made up for the misappropriation of serves by taking Kerri way out of her game by serving her off the biggest court in the world. She couldn’t pass, she couldn’t hit. Eventually, she fell apart. I, being a shorter player, never overestimated Kerri and always knew Misty was the real talent. But I felt for Kerri. It happens to the best of us.

So after hours of beatings and humiliation that July day, I was sunburned and dehydrated and so was my spirit.

I learned many lessons that day, which are as follows.

– Never underestimate your competitors or your teammates

– Be honest, don’t try to under promise so much people look down on you

– Be confident

– Hydrate

– Hustlin’ is only effective if you’re a phenom.

I think it’s ok to be honest about being new at something. It’s good to admit when you don’t know something. But maybe I took it a little too far with the n00b volleyball status.

Nice guys finish last because kindness always wins.

“Be nice” is what I tell my kids when they are “not nice.” It’s also what I say to my adult friends, family members, irritable people waiting in line at Firehouse subs, anyone who’s not “being nice.” It never occurred to me to look deeper into what “be nice” actually means.
“I know there’s a difference between being nice and being kind, and I’m going to figure out what it is.”

That’s what I said when a good friend of mine told me she wanted to work on being nicer. (NOTE: It was not in response to me telling her to “be nice.”)

After some research, I think I’ve figured it out. It’s about motive.

Being nice is externally motivated. A nice person craves acceptance and acts nice in order to belong.

Being kind is internally motivated. A kind person cares less about what people think and more about “doing the right thing.”

TRUE CHARACTER IS WHO YOU ARE IN THE DARK

A nice person avoids confrontation and saying no. He will not express anger for fear of upsetting someone, but in the same right, will have anger outbursts due to long-held resentment.

A kind person doesn’t seek confrontation, but will not avoid confrontation if it means being untrue to himself.

A nice person is not true to himself for fear that he won’t be accepted

A kind person is authentic and is not diminished by others’ disapproval.

TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE

Being a “kind” person is my ideal self. It’s why I read all those self development books. I would love to always be authentic, true to myself, care less about what others think, no need for approval, honest. Okay, I’ll be honest. The last year, I’ve done way better at the genuine part. 

 In the article I read, it said that most people look up to those who aren’t afraid to be genuine. But, sometimes, the real, fallible you isn’t socially acceptable. Sometimes, doing what’s right isn’t popular. These are the times, when I really look up to those kind people, the ones who are strong, confident and do what’s right, regardless of what other people think.

If you want to stop being “nice” and start being “kind,” stop looking to others for love and approval and look inward instead. 

I think I’m going to stop telling everyone to be nice. It’s the kind people who really have their shit together.

Couples who idealize each other are happier

Michaelangelo believed that his sculptures were resting in the stone, waiting for him to release them. The way I see it, that’s how we all are. We are resting in stone and over time, we are sculpted. Into what, well, it’s determined by the sculptors.
For better or worse, we choose our sculptors. They are the people with whom we choose to spend our time. Our friends, our family, our spouses. They sculpt us. Most importantly our spouses. I think it’s because this is the person with whom we are most invested.

Generally, the Michaelangelo Phenomenon means, “Couples who idealize each other are happier.” But it’s not just idealizing, it’s helping each other become our ideal selves. 

I’m not always so certain that we’re doing this marriage thing right (we learn as we go).  

Are there times when we might have a bit of an inflated opinion of each other? Yes.

Are there times when we annoy the crap out of each other? Yes.

The Michaelangelo Phenomenon exists between us. This is one area in which I know Donnie and I are killing it. We believe in each other, we idealize each other, we sculpt each other. Without that support, it would be damned hard to achieve our dreams.
In fact, I think we annoy other people with our blind support for each other. Donnie regularly thanks me for my “unbiased opinion” of his work. And he knows that this blog has got some pretty eloquent writing in it, and he doesn’t have to read a word. (I’ve read some out loud to him, he’s not much of a reader.) If you asked him if I could be president, he’d probably say “Yes, if she put her mind to it.” That’s how annoyingly supportive he is.

The downside to the Michaelangelo Phenomenon is when one or the other is not working toward his/her ideal self. It can be really frustrating when the person who supports you, believes in you, motivates you, sees you failing. I know I want to write a book. Each day that goes by that a book isn’t being written makes me feel guilty. Not only am I letting myself down, but I’m letting him down. Because he believes in me.

This is the part we try to work on. It may not be the right time. It may not be the right goal. So, we must back off or redirect our annoying support.

All in all, I think, with the right sculptor, the Michaelangelo Phenomenon does make couples (people) happier.

When the sculpture is finally revealed, it’s going to be amazing.

3 bricklayers… and finding my true calling

This morning on my way to work, I heard the parable of the three bricklayers. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard this parable before but I forget a lot of things if they don’t directly apply to my life at that present moment. (It’s good to have a blog).

Three bricklayers were working side by side.

When asked: “What are you doing?”
The first bricklayer: “I’m laying bricks.”
The second bricklayer: “I’m putting up a wall.”
The third bricklayer: “I’m building a cathedral.”
bricks

To me, this parable is about perspective. Based on the type of water cooler talk I hear (“Is it 5 yet?” and “I can’t wait until Friday” and “Are you trying to look busy?”), most people are laying bricks or putting up a wall. What I mean by that, is that people see a task and complete that task because they have to. They do the work, they get the money, appreciation, recognition, whatever. They don’t do the work because they love to do the work.

Most people don’t think of their jobs as a “calling” or a “vocation;” To most, a job is a job or a career. I’m definitely not completely exempt. I won’t lie, I’ve dreaded Mondays and watched the clock. I think we all have at some point.

You spend your whole life dreaming that you will someday stumble across your calling and then you will live the rest of your life fulfilling that calling. It’s not that easy.

I think it starts by following aspirations and it ends with perspective. I’m a writer. Am I writing famous acceptance speeches? No. Am I writing screenplays for comedies? Sadly no. But I am writing… a lot. That’s where my calling lies. I write because I love to write. When I’m writing, I’m not watching the clock. Most of the time, I don’t get any special bonuses or awards or recognition. Sometimes, when I’m writing, 5 p.m. on Friday evening can come and go and my mind is so engaged in thought and in practice that I’m practically floating over New Zealand.

To me, that… is building a cathedral.

How to let go of always being in control

Question: How many of you would say you are in control of your own life?
Question: Raise your hand if you agree with this statement. “When it comes to my life. It’s important to always be calm, cool and collected.”

The key word there is “always.” I’m not saying you shouldn’t ever be calm cool and collected.

BUT… As adults, I think we don’t allow ourselves to be goofy or silly because we think we always need to have it together. Many of us are so worried about what other people think or about what could happen if… We present ourselves as this perfectly put together package. We won’t take any risks because we might fail and then how would that look? When we were kids we wanted to grow up so badly… And look at us now. Just look at us!

Dad in control
When I think of control, I think of my dad. I imagine a time my family went to Wilson Lake. We went to Wilson Lake every summer. But this time was different. I was finally old enough to try waterskiing. We got out on my Aunt Barbie’s boat and she said it’s best that someone demonstrate how to water-ski before I jumped out there. So my dad, the athlete and the “everything expert,” jumped into the water.

My dad had never waterskied before.

He put the skis on, grabbed the ropes and gave Uncle Ken the thumbs up. Ken gunned it. Dad fell. Ken gunned it. Dad fell. Ken gunned. Dad fell.

A self-proclaimed bodybuilder, my dad was very strong in those days. He had quite a grip. So, that wasn’t the problem. Being the gritty man he is, he tried again. And again, and again.

Each time he went up, his shoulders were hunched and his whole body looked incredibly stiff. We watched from the boat as he leaned back and forth. Then Aunt Barbie said, “He looks like he’s trying to drive the boat.” We all laughed. It really did. He was trying to control the boat from the back.

In only a few minutes, my dad held up the sign for stop and fell back. He didn’t want to ski anymore, he said it was “dumb” and “not fun” and “exhausting.”

Well yeah! I don’t know how familiar you are with waterskiing but… that’s not how you do it. You’re supposed to lean back and let the boat pull you.

He could not relinquish control to the boat. This is classic my dad. He always has to be cool and in control. But, control is an illusion! He had no chance in hell of controlling the boat, so why try?

Me in control
I can articulate my dad’s thoughts so well because, gulp, I’m the same way. I’ve struggled with the illusion of control my whole life as well.

When I was 5 months pregnant, I lost a baby due to a very rare genetic abnormality. Something happened to me when I lost that baby. I was devastated. It hurt more than anything I’d ever experienced. I was confused and I questioned my own mortality. My anxiety skyrocketed. I worried. I worried about my kids. I worried about me. I worried about my husband. I became obsessed with all my worry. At times, my anxiety got so bad that I had actual physical symptoms. Feet, hands numbing. Headaches. Heart palpitations. Digestive issues. Then I really had something to worry about!

I burned my hand once and it got infected. I thought, “Welp. This is how I die” It was about that bad.

I justified that if I think of every possible scenario that could go wrong, nothing will go wrong. Because what are the odds that the very thing your researching, obsessed over, will be the thing that goes wrong? Maybe on some level I thought that’s what happened with my baby. I was caught off guard. I wanted to prevent that from happening again. I was trying to control and predict my future, my family’s futures, with worry.

It felt like no one understood why I was so anxious. Most would say that I worry too much and laugh it off. I just stopped talking about it and started internalizing my worries.

That was not a way to live.

Having worries and negative thoughts is human. Like having hands. Hold your hands up like this. These are your negative thoughts. Bring those thoughts closer to your face. Closer. Closer. Now your negative thoughts are so close to you they are impairing your view of the world. This is how I was living… or not living.

I knew I had to let go. To relax. I was gripping those ropes so hard my hands were bleeding.

A solution

Then I was introduced to Brene Brown’s Power of Vulnerability. It came out at the perfect time for me. Brene says we should let go of certain things in order to cultivate a wholehearted life. Take a look at the list on the left, which of them describe you? Trace your finger to the right of that one to see what you could have if you let go of perfectionism, need for certainty, to always be in control.

With Brene’s help and meditation, I’ve worked through my anxiety (and it is work). One of my biggest struggles is to be who I am, where I am. I internalize and overanalyze too much.

Sometimes I try to emulate my sister. A woman who has more potential stressors in nearly every aspect of life than anyone I know. And yet, she has no problem letting go. I think the advice “laugh a little every day” started by someone who had met. When she’s having fun, everyone is having fun.

She doesn’t constantly worry about when her son will have his next seizure. She’s ALWAYS living in the moment. She doesn’t worry about being embarrassed, she gets right out on the dance floor and does the humpty dance at the company Christmas Party, with no shame. And people LOVE her for it.

By letting go of being cool and always in control, Dawn’s the coolest person in the room!

I think it is so important to let go of being in control and of what others think because it robs us of some pretty amazing and necessary experiences in life.

What’s more amazing than waterskiing??

Now take a look at you. Are you often in the moment, sitting back, letting boat pull you? Or are you gripping the ropes?

I feel most at peace when…

Journal prompt: “I feel most at peace when…”

The first thing that comes to my mind is “when I’m doing something creative.” I’m lying. Specifically, the first thing that came to my mind was drawing but I didn’t want to admit that because it sounds silly. Or at least, I think it does.

I should probably say something like “writing” or “exercise” or “playing with my kids.” When I asked Anya (11) when she feels most at peace, she said “When I’m sleeping, I’m the most at peace.” And that makes perfect sense to me.

When I’m writing, I feel like I’m in a sudden downpour and I’m running around frantically with my rain barrel trying to catch as much watery goodness as possible. In other words: No peace.

When I’m exercising, I have a goal. It’s solid determination. Does it make me happy? Yes. Does it make me feel more alive? Yes. Peaceful? No way. With all the adrenaline pumping through my veins, I can’t even imagine what peace is like.

When I’m playing with my kids, I should be at peace, right? Not always. I’m Momming. I’m making sure these kids grow up to become responsible adults. I’m the designated responsible adult. Plus, I’m too busy trying to conquer the task of not touching the floor of the playground fort while monkey-swinging it all the way to the other side. Playing with my kids is fun, not peaceful.

When I’m drawing in my private sketchbook that has a lock on it (the lock is invisible, as in it’s understood that this is not for random perusal), I feel the most at peace. I can oft be seen sighing peacefully while sketching flowers from our flower garden or drafting out compositions for some of my favorite quotes.

So without shame (ok, maybe a little shame), I say that drawing is a no pressure, creative outlet that brings me peace.

 

 

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

“If I knew I couldn’t fail, I would…” Man, if that’s not the ultimate open-ended statement. Honestly, if I knew there was absolutely positively no way that I could fail, I would do everything, anything.

I would publish a book.

I would be a freelance copywriter.

I would create more artwork.

I would start a jewelry-making business.

I would become a fashion blogger.

I would become a health expert.

I would become  life coach, therapist.

I would pull off the greatest bank heist in history.

This list could go to the moon and back but I only have 10 minutes to put my thoughts on paper. I know the point of this exercise is that, whether or not the chance of failure exists (it always does), we should go for it anyway. Except for that whole robbing the bank thing. Going for it anyway is very hard. I can’t imagine a world without the chance for failure and I’m not sure I want to. Without failure, what happens to the thrill of success? What is there to hope for if success is guaranteed?

Failure builds character. It creates hope. It is what makes people great.

So how about I try a new exercise and do a few of those things above, knowing full well that I may fall flat on my face?

Something very important to me.

It’s that time again. The Your Turn Challenge Time.

I know these topics are merely suggestions but I’m going to use each of them, not matter how incredibly broad they are.

Day 2: Tell us about something that’s important to you.

Breakfast.

Breakfast is super important to me. It shapes the way my entire day pans out. In fact, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Yep, THAT important. So what better to be my “important” blog post than breakfast.

I know I’m not supposed to write about what I had to eat today so I won’t. It was just toast anyway.

What I will tell you is that I AM NOT a morning person, and yet breakfast is my most favorite meal.

Breakfast is important to me.

I am not a morning person.

What a sad coincidence.

I will NOT be a failure Seth Godin!

“I have nothing to write!! Writing is dumb. I quit!” …is what I said the other day when I wrote about having writer’s block. The next day I discovered a blog challenge by Seth Godin’s cohort Winnie. It was like God and Seth got together and said “Danielle, you need a boost. Here you go.”

It’s The Your Turn Challenge is a 7-day blogging challenge inspired by the Your Turn book by Seth Godin.

According to Winnie, she was struggling with her Blog Every Day challenge. Basically, Winnie’s doing what we’re trying to do in the Blog Squad: Zipop, Blendra, Cerrem and the whole gang. The only difference is that while we keep each other accountable (sort of), marketing thought leader Seth Godin keeps Winnie accountable. Seth told her: “Every day you don’t put up a blog post, you’ve failed…..” Being in the same office as Seth Freakin’ Godin, her chances of failure are minimal.

To help her blog everyday, Winnie thought of strength in numbers. “We’ll all do it together”! I’m on board Winnie! In fact, I’ll be the skipper!

Today’s topic is as follows:
Day 1: Why are you doing the Your Turn Challenge?

As if you haven’t already inferred from the context above, my reasons are the same as Winnie’s: Accountability. Motivation. Contagious Energy. But mostly, to keep this blog going!

My New Year balloon of blogging was slowly releasing helium and Winnie just showed up with a truck full of helium tanks.

What if I don’t have what it takes to be a writer?

This morning, as I was flipping pancakes with my special ultra thin and flexible pancake turner, I thought. Man, anyone could be a great cook with the right tools. And then, I started thinking of other things that are so much easier with the right tools.

Building. Donnie’s always making do with what he has for tools, but he’ll comment on how much faster, better and more efficient he’d be with the right ones.
Art. The right pencils and paper and paints and space and inspiration definitely make it easier to be better at creating art.

What about writing? Do you have to have the right “tools” to be a great writer? (by tools I mean mind)

I’m listening to Steven King On Writing and he said something that’s stuck with me this week. He said (and I’m paraphrasing), Writers are born with the right equipment. You can’t make equipment and you can’t make a writer. You can’t train to become a writer if you’re not one.

Of course, then he goes on to water it down a little by saying that you only have to be born with one tiny bit of writer in your blood. But, it still got me wondering (more like doubting), what if I wasn’t “Born to write? How do you even know if you were? Am I wasting my time pursuing something that’s not “in my blood”?

Maybe I read it wrong or perceived it wrong, but isn’t perception reality?

For now, I’m agreeing to disagree with King on this one. I think writers can be made. I think creativity can be made. I think it’s all about exposure and practice. So I’m going to stick to a path of exposure and practice to become a writer that I may or may not have been meant to be.

How to win an argument

I’m terrible at arguing. I can never think of the right things to say to back up my point of view. And when I do have the most well-put together case, I end up making the other person mad. It’s a lose-lose so I just keep my mouth shut. Keeping my mouth shut is sometimes just as difficult, does that make it a lose-lose-lose? I think it does.

Then this article caught my eye. Now I can, as they say, “Criticize with kindness.”

So here it is. (Paraphrased from brainpickings.org) Better practice these steps if you’re going to make it through next Thanksgiving.

1. Restate your opponents’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that he says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.
2. List any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
3. Mention anything you have learned from your target.
4. Then, and only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

It sure blows that whole sandwich theory out of the water. I can’t say I’m going to pick fights with every Joe who has a differing opinion but I can say I learned something.

One thing I can say is that this article will ensure the next family dinner doesn’t come down to fisticuffs.

3 easy tips to get people to read your blog posts.

It worked. You clicked on the link to my article. A catchy headline like the one above promises insightfulness and knowledge devised in a easily read article that maybe includes a quick tip or takeaway. As long as you can skim the article and see the tips numbered or highlighted in some way. Don’t want to waste too much time actually reading.

In a world full of noise, how do you get people to actually read??

1. Catchy headline
So, because you didn’t read that first paragraph and your eye went directly to the number 1 (We want answers!), here’s the first tip I’ve gleaned from scanning articles from actual experts on this topic. Write a catchy headline with a promise. Here’s a headline formula I found:
Number (or trigger word like “how”)+Adjective+keyword+Promise

I wait until I’m done writing my article to decide on a headline. It’s got to answer the question. “Would I want to read that article?” And, be honest. In other words, “My day at work.” is not something anyone other than your mom would want to read.

2. First sentence
Just because you have a catchy headline, and you got me to your blog, that doesn’t mean, I’m going to actually read what you wrote. I came here for a reason and mostly like I’m going to skim this page until I find what I’m looking for. This is why the first sentence is super important. Your first sentence should answer the question, “Do I want continue reading?” It should contain just the right amount of information to keep your reader interested without spilling all the candy in the lobby.

3. Short sentences and baby words
Long sentences are the worst! Nothing will stop me from reading quicker than having to read a sentence more than once. Same goes for wording. Save your big boy words for impressing your Ivy League buddies on Trivial Pursuit night. If I don’t know what the word means, I’m not going to keep reading. Keep it simple, stupid.

Well, there you have it. Three easy tips to get people to your blog and reading. I’m no expert but these are the things that keep ME reading others blogs. Don’t get me wrong, there are so many more reasons I read blog posts: content and exceptional writing both have a lot to do with that. These are just 3 tiny things anyone can try right now.

Nobody tells this to beginners, I wish someone had told me.

I watched this video derived from an audio track of an interview with radio personality Ira Glass. And it’s basically an answer to all my doubts of being an artist.

THE GAP by Ira Glass from Daniel Sax on Vimeo.

Yes. You read that right. I said artist. You know, I didn’t always aspire to be a writer. Ok, yeah. I always wanted to write. But I wanted to be so many other things too. An artist. A psychologist. A singer, although I can’t sing. A reality star. (That last one is a joke because who in her right mind would ever want that?!)

In college, I pursued art. Wait, scratch that. Let’s go back further. In 6th grade, I wanted to be an artist. I would doodle and draw, deliver my drawings to my family members and solicit feedback. When I realized I wasn’t as good at drawing as Jennifer Wasinger, I stopped drawing for a while.

Fast forward a few years to high school (zip zoooopp swish!) art was an easy choice for an elective. Of course, Art 101 was full of football players and potheads and basically anyone who didn’t want to do actual work. I was one of the best “artists” in that class but that wasn’t too difficult. I just cared a lot. So I moved on to Basic Drawing, which became more specialized. I didn’t realize how many talented artists we had at Maize High School. I started to doubt myself. I’m not good enough to continue, I thought (pretty much every day).

Then came college. I spent my freshman and half of my sophomore year, undeclared. Finally, I’m not sure why, but I declared Graphic Arts. I love design. I wanted to design. I LOVED my hands-on art courses. I’d spend hours drawing. Hours. I only got better and better. Drawing is one of my TRUE passions.

Then came Design I. I was terrible with gauche. What the hell is gauche anyway (I thought at the time)? Because, I’m more a sketch artist, I struggled to make neat paint swatches and execute with clean lines. My poor craftsmanship carried over to Printmaking as well. I’m pretty sure my Printmaking teacher had a stamp with my name on it that read, “Ambitious designs, but your edges are very untidy.”

I began to get discouraged. People would tell me that no graphic designers were getting jobs and that it was impossible. Most GD majors aren’t designing at all.

So I quit.

When you get to 1:07 in the video, that’s me in college.

I quit. I switched to Liberal Arts in Communications. This was a ridiculous switch considering I’ve seen countless T-shirts that read “I have a degree in Liberal Arts. Do you want fries with that?” I guess I just thought it’d be easier to write.

I did pretty well in Communications and I was lucky enough to get a job that didn’t require me to bathe potatoes in peanut oil. I love writing. No, I’m not a designer by trade, but I do design things. And I love the balance of writing and creativity that I get to experience nearly every day (Yeah, I’m one of the lucky ones).

But every now and then I wonder what could have been. If I’d watched a video like the one above. Or, if someone told me that being disappointed in my work was just part of growth.

Comfort zones: not as comfortable as they seem

I’m uncomfortable. My skin is itching. Or maybe that’s resentment trying to seep its way through my pores. Why did I let my friend talk me into this? This is hard. I’m not good at it. In fact, I’m consistently failing. I hate this. A few words come to mind:
Humiliation.
Fear.
Uncertainty.
Shame.
Growth.

I just read an article called “The Psychology of Getting Unstuck.” These sorts of topics are very interesting to me because, I’m a “mover.” As I mentioned before, I’m a GREAT starter of things. I love trying new things. Keeping it interesting. I can’t sit still. If I stay in one spot too long, I start getting depressed. Feeling stuck. Feeling like I hit the “OK plateau,” which early psychologists believed was the “upper limit of one’s innate capacity.” Even a comfort zone gets a little uncomfortable after a while.

So when my friends asked if I wanted to do the “Blog Every Day” challenge again, I said yes. But this time, my intentions are different. Instead of achieving the daily goal of “posting a few words, even if its craptastic, just to get it out there,” I’m taking it a step further.

To keep from falling into blogging complacency, my goal is to improve my writing (and thought process) through deliberate practice.

“Deliberate practice by its nature, must be hard.

When you want to get good at something, how you spend you time practicing is far more important than the the amount of time you spend… Regular practice simply isn’t enough. To improve, we must watch ourselves fail, and learn from our mistakes.” -Joshua Foer

I know it’s going to be very hard. And some days, I’ll just want to throw some words on a web page, just to get it over with. But, I’m going to try my best to be uncomfortable and itchy and fail a whole bunch of times this year when I open WordPress.

Don’t start something you can’t finish.

I’m really good at trying new things. In fact, I’d say I’m the best at starting things: projects, reading books, workouts, diets, even cleaning the house.

I get an idea. I flesh out my idea (usually pump it full of nearly impossible supporting ideas). Then I start my project. It’s going really well. I’m productive as hell as I work ambitiously through my new project. I’m the best at this new thing.

Then it hits me.

This is going to be too much work. I’ll never finish. Who do I think I am trying to execute a nearly impossible idea like this? I have clearly overestimated my talents. I’m not an expert in this field. This won’t end well. No one will read this book. No one reads this blog. No one will know if I skip a week’s worth of workouts. No one will see my messy house.

I’m reminded of fighting words I hear often in movies, “Don’t start something you can’t finish.” The guilt sets in.

-I see my chapters every time I log into Dropbox. Hours of work compiled into 12 documents that are just sitting there. Sad, incomplete, empty.
-I have 5 books with bookmarks about 1/2 way in. An Audiobook unfinished.
-My blog reminds me the last time I logged in was a year ago. A year. Ago.
-I’ve lied to my workout app. That’s right. I lied to an app because I didn’t do my goal number of workouts (in case you couldn’t tell how I feel about this one, I think it’s pretty shameful to lie to an app.)
-My house remains a mess. The parts I cleaned are getting cluttered again. As I walk through my house everything is speaking to me. Overwhelming me with to-do list items.

My vacation is almost over and it’s about time to get back to work. A time when I’ll leave all these unfinished things behind and once again become “too busy” to finish them. Sad, but true. Maybe this year will be different. Maybe I’ll finish something. Maybe I’ll workout consistently and not be forced to shamefully lie to an app. Maybe I’ll have the guts to take the next step with my book.

The beginning of a new year is great time for excellent starters like me. In 2015, I’ll start this new thing where I finish stuff. As difficult as it is, I will fini-

2015: The year of gratitude

“Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”

I just read this quote – posted on Facebook by chief vulnerability superstar, and my personal heroine, Brene Brown – and it’s a perfect first of the year post for two reasons:

1. A few friends are known to light my flame every now and again (you know who you are).
2. It reminded me of one of Brene’s guideposts toward wholehearted living, focusing on gratitude.

After I read Brene’s super awesome, enlightening book on vulnerability, I wrote her 10 guideposts on a piece of paper and pinned it to my cube wall so I could study them and work on them one at a time. A girl’s got to have goals right? And, after all, who wouldn’t want to live wholeheartedly?

This year, I will be putting a great deal of energy toward practicing: “Letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark in order to cultivate gratitude and joy.” Ya, I just went psycho-babble on ya’ll!

Basically, I’m gonna be thankful for what I got and happy in happy moments, instead of worrying about what could happen and suspicious when things are going too well.

If you haven’t read The Power of Vulnerability, where have you been? What have you been doing? Get on it! If you have read it, feel free to use this list.

Let go, cultivate.
Let go, cultivate.
Let go, cultivate.

Happy New Year and Joy the World (< see how I’m working on that?)
image

Nerves.

Here I am. Sitting at my desk eating lunch. Now’s a great time to write a blog post. I can’t think of anything. Well, nothing but the butterflies in my stomach.

It’s less than four hours until my presentation. That’s what I’m thinking of.

In about 30 minutes, I’ll eat something to avoid those tummy growls mid-punchline.

In about 1 hour, I’ll go connect my iPad to the projector to make tripley sure it works.

In about 2 hours, I will check my wifi connection yet again.

In about 3 hours, the room will fill up.

In 3 hours and 20 minutes, my heart will be racing and I will be repeating my first lines in my head over and over so I don’t start with a lip-slip.

Just checked my wifi again.

Should I charge my iPad and iPhone? Yep. Better do that. Both have 97% battery life, but, you never know.

I think I’m ready.

Carry on

I heard this line in a song the other day (by the other day I mean, nearly every day because I really, really like this song), “May your past be the sound of your feet upon the ground.”


To me, this quote is really thought-provoking as I spend a lot of time dwelling on the past. Basically, it’s telling me to move on (or Carry on if you’re familiar with the song). Maybe that’s why I like the song, because it’s a constant reminder that I need to put things behind me and not dwell.

Some days, I feel I’m constantly bouncing from dwelling in the past to worrying about the future. I tell myself, “Only use the past to learn for the future. That’s it. Spend just enough time there to remember what you learned.” I’m not saying reminiscing is bad, I’m talking about those “learning experiences” we’ve all had. They’re over. I learned, and now, it’s time to carry on.

Even if I have to consciously try to live in the present.

“If you are depressed, you live in the past.
If you are anxious, you live in the future.
If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”

~ Lao Tzu

The Advice Whisperer

Today was a little rocky.

Started off with me spending 80 frickin’ dollars at Urgent Care so they can tell me that my kids DON’T have ear infections… yet. But “Come back in a week.” As if I’m some sort of millionaire hypochondriac.

Then, I go and get way too involved in other people’s issues. For some reason, I have this innate need to help people; solve their problems. I take EVERYTHING personally. This stress was heavy on my shoulders. AND IT WASN’T EVEN MY STRESS! I have plenty of things to worry about without this breaking my back. I was this close to making a few specific prank-calls or sending anonymous hate mail and also considered Googling “how to legally take someone down.” Not sure if any of those things would be work-appropriate.

My rock is always there to support me. Classic bff stuff like “Yeah, you’re right” and “Those guys are jerks.”

But The Advice Whisperer is who actually turned my day around this time, from the verge of tears back to my usual self. Cold, hard third party perspective is sometimes just what I need to step back, take a look and reanalyze (maybe without all the irrational emotion).

I don’t know if it’s the refreshing cool fall air, the iced coffee from earlier today, the beer I’m drinking now or the contact high I’m getting from some of my more unconventional neighbors, but I think I owe my good mood to the advice whisperer.

So… thanks.

I actually like writing every day

The idea of writing every day seems daunting.

I don’t have enough time.

I don’t have anything to say.

I’m not motivated enough.

I used to dread writing a blog post every day. I’d wait until late at night when I really really didn’t want to write and then make up some lame excuse (see above). Or post some half-hearted, bs post.

Now (this week) I really enjoy writing every day. Once I log in to WordPress and start typing, it just flows out of me. It’s almost like sitting down and logging into WordPress is a trigger. The words come pouring out. It’s like a release. Venting, sort of. By the time I hit publish, my chest is lighter. My head is clearer.

“Donnie, can you do bath night? I need to write my post.” And get this, HE DOES IT. I love writing every day.

I’m an idiot, and that’s ok.

Gotcha! I would never admit to being an idiot. Well, not in general. But… there are some things I don’t make much of an effort to learn.

For example, there are states I couldn’t point out on a map. I know. It’s pathetic, but other than passing a memorization test in the 5th grade, it hasn’t really been a setback. It’s like a teacher telling you that you have to learn this math because you won’t always have a calculator handy. Jokes on you, Mr. Al Gebra! (names have been changed to protect certain wrong teachers) I just Googled Delaware. Found it as quickly as I could enter 8×7 (It’s 56). Why was that one always the hard one for me?

Screen Shot 2013-08-30 at 8.48.15 PM

So, there you have it, I’m a geographical idiot. (and maybe a times tables idiot, too). Some of that just never stuck with me. Maybe because I’m not too passionate about it?

But, some knowledge I intentionally avoid. Seems weird, right? I intentionally avoid THE NEWS.

Here’s why: Like my friends Zipop, Siri, Basically Chelsie and Blendra, I’ve had my bouts with anxiety and maybe even some depression (ok definitely depression… we all have our stuff). At one point, I was at the bottom of a very steep hill. Every time I thought my foot was secure and I could begin climbing back up, I’d slip on some loose dirt.

That loose dirt was bad news. A robbery, a rape, a kidnapping, a murder. I couldn’t handle it. No, those things weren’t happening to me. But they affected me just the same. As if those were my close friends and family. Then the worry began.

I flipped the channel.

I never flipped back. If the news is important enough, it’ll find me.

So I guess you could say I’m a current events idiot, too. But that’s ok with me. I think I will try a little harder to learn about geography though.

I’m a fraud

I have a chance to speak for a group of people in the near future about a topic you’d think I’d do well with: Women.

I LOVE women. Some of my best girlfriends are women. My mom is a woman. I am a woman. I’ve spent countless hours researching, rehearsing, rethinking and redoing an entire 30-45 minute presentation about women. And yet, my worst fear is that someone is going to figure me out. Someone is going to say, “No. There’s no way that’s right.” and then, I’ll be standing up there alone, completely alone, with nothing to say. Nothing on my mind, but shock and uncertainty. What if they think I’m a fraud?

No amount of preparation can take that haunting thought away. In fact, I’ve sort of been avoiding my prep time, in hopes that I will get past this negativitiy. In my mind, fear is prevalent. “Fraud. You are a fraud. What do you know? That doesn’t even make sense.” (I’m pretty hard on myself). I guess a lot of this uncertainty is that I’m telling stories in my presentation. Stories from my point of view, with my reactions and my observations. Like most of the stories I tell, no one will be there to chime in and say, “Yep, that totally happened.” It’s just me. In front of a bunch of men. Telling stories about me, a woman.

As the presentation date gets closer and closer, my anxiety heightens. I tell my friends, family, coworkers about my concerns and they nod and say “uh-uh.” They don’t know. They don’t know what it’s like to be up there. A known fraud. On stage.

Deep down I know it will be fine. Everything will work out fine. If I mess up, I’ll have support. I won’t crash awkwardly to the ground and skin my knee (like I did on Logan’s scooter). If history repeats itself, it will probably go quite well. I’m hoping history will repeat itself. I’m hoping the audience will feel educated, enlightened and entertained and never suspect that I’m really a fraud.

Audiobooks are my jam!

Two years ago, I made a New Year’s resolution to read one self development book per month. That lasted one month. New Year’s resolutions are made to be broken, right? It bothered me though. I just could not find the time in the day to read.

Audiobooks? I tried that too. I’d put an audio book on my iPod and run with my book. That lasted half a mile. Boooring. I need music when I work out. So… that didn’t work out.

Then I started listening in my car. Game changer. It just makes sense.

I was driving a total 1 hour and 30 minutes every day of the week and most of that time was spent idly listening to the radio or Pandora.  So, I found the time! No excuses now.

I didn’t bother with a resolution because we know those are meant to be broken and I didn’t want to ruin the productivity train I just boarded. In a few short months, I’ve read 5 books! All self development. (Do you call it reading when it’s an audiobook? Or is it listened to? Doesn’t sound as smart.)

jenny lawson

I would like to recommend one in particular that I enjoyed, written by a blogger I admire.
This book was hilarious. Jenny Lawson tells great stories. I especially like her style of writing. I laughed with her, was outraged with her, and was sad with her.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) (Unabridged) – Jenny Lawson
Warning: If you are offended by foul language or grossed out by taxidermy, don’t bother buying this book.

Are you scared yet?

My boss is always saying “that’s an opportunity for growth” when he makes me do something I really don’t want to do. Not simple things like paperwork but things that scare me like public speaking and public speaking. I dread every minute of preparation and sweat through most of the presentation but when it’s all said and done I feel awesome, accomplished, fearless.

Why not make that feeling reoccur on a daily basis? (Maybe on a bit of a smaller scale.) So, starting Tuesday, I’ve been facing small fears and enjoying it.

Tuesday: The scissor-lift. I’m terrified of heights. I get queasy on the mezzanine at work. I cling to the door on balconies. I can barely stand on a 6 foot ladder. So when I was asked if I wanted to board the scissor-lift at work, I had the “no” right on the tip of my tongue. But I said “YES!” I don’t know what came over me. But I did it. We went 20 feet straight up and I white-knuckled the safety rail as it swayed back and forth the entire way, gently telling myself that I was going to live through this. And I DID! And I’m pretty proud of myself. BONUS: We got some great shots too. That picture below is looking straight down.

photo 2

Wednesday: Automotive work. I changed my cabin filter.

Thursday: Multitasking with kids. I took all three kids with me to the gym, where I’d be multitasking volleyball and mommying. Some may say this is more of an inconvenience than a fear and to those people I say, “Hey, this is my fear list so shut the hell up or I will be on your fear list.”

Friday: Public speaking. Today I was supposed to walk through my presentation with my boss. This in and of itself is scary to me. Almost as scary as the presentation sometimes. There’s something about people I know watching me speak that really gets me. I don’t know if you noticed but… I didn’t do anything that scared my today. Bummer. But, I’ll work on it for this weekend.

My goal is to continue this for 20 days because then it may become a habit and what a great habit to have!

scares you

The Cabin Filter Challenge

First I’d like to say I’m sorry I didn’t post last night. I was not feeling well (that’s an understatement). I actually considered writing a short witty blurb from my bathroom floor but that idea was quickly squashed by, well let’s just say I was busy.

Anyway… after a horrible night followed by a pretty bad morning, I was feeling almost back to myself after lunch so I decided to do something productive. I did take the day off after all.

Feeling especially ambitious, I decided to change the cabin filter in my car. It can’t be that hard right? I pulled out my trusty manual. Flip to the page on pollen filters. WTF? It says Dust and Pollen filter right there at the top but skips straight from seat belts and floor mats to wipers. Not one word on the filters. photo 4

I started to wing it. Which is always a bad idea with me and automotive work. I knew it was behind the glove box but it looked a little complicated, I didn’t want to blow up my car so I did some research. After a little youtubing, I discovered that I needed a video instruction for Honda Pilot. It’s very similar to an Acura (which is what I have).

Then I got to work. Here’s proof that I did it. You can see my chipped nail polish.
photo 3

I had to remove the entire glove box to get to the filter. I actually had to get in my car underneath my glove box to get the last bolt off. I felt all mechanic-y.
photo 2

I got it out!! Ew! That was a dirty filter! Could it be the source of all my nasty allergies??
photo 1

I made sure everything was back in its place before I jumped up and yelled “F*** yeah!”

Then I thought I’d start the car to see if it smelled fresher.

My car wouldn’t start. Sh*t! I broke it!

I text Donnie. “Guess what? I changed the filter by myself” After he send his shocking praise and approval, I told him that now my car wouldn’t start. He reassured me that it wasn’t my fault and simply changing the filter wouldn’t kill the car. I’m all “Simple, huh? That shit was complex!”

Turns out, my battery is bad and couldn’t handle me having the door open for 45 minutes. You’d think they would’ve caught that at the dealership I went to last week… FOR A BATTERY SERVICE!

The point is, I am totally proud of myself for doing something I was incredible intimidated by. It goes along with my recent, “Do something everyday that scares you.” Best part is, I didn’t break my car.

Small talk and social awkwardness

I was shopping at the mall the other day and saw someone I went to grade school with. We weren’t exactly friends but we weren’t enemies (unless, hypothetically, you were the type of person to hold onto bitterness about a another person telling you all the kids were saying you were a slut behind your back because you didn’t wear a bra in 3rd grade.) But, who holds onto grudges for 20 years? Not me, no way!

So I saw her walk in store where I was. She looks great! Dammit! I duck behind a clothes rack wishing I’d have worn my best wedges. The entire time we were in the same store, I avoided her glance. We were on separate sides of the store.

Eventually I didn’t see her and figured I was in the clear, I stepped up to the checkout to pay. I glance around one last time to make sure I didn’t miss a jewelry sale or something.

HOLY HELL! She’s right behind me. Did she see me? She’s acting like she didn’t. So this is what we’re doing, then. We’re acting like we don’t know one another. This is fine. I’m cool with this. I don’t know you, I don’t know you. Shit! I turned around again. Good, she purposely looked away.

I paid and flew past her to the exit thinking I dodged a bullet on that one. Would it have been the worst thing if I’d said hi? Or if she said hi? No, probably not. But for some reason, my first instinct was to hide.

This is no isolated incident. I happens ALL THE TIME. I avoid people I know when they are outside of the setting to which they belong. And if I don’t avoid them, I get all nervous and say dumb things.

For example, I ran into to my old volleyball coach last night and because she was smiling right at me, I decided to be a grown-up and say hello.

Me: Hey, how are you?
Her: Great! We’re in camp right now.
Me: I’m not.
Her: *Silence*
Me: I mean. [pointing at Riley] I’ve got my own camp right here!
Her: Yeaaaahh. Ok, see ya.

What the hell was that?! I’ve got my own camp? What does that even mean?

I panicked. I kept thinking. Don’t go all TMI on her. And then I literally cannot think of anything to say. Maybe I need to work on some small talk conversation topics but until then, I’ll stick to hiding behind clothes racks.
socially awkward penguin

Determination

I did not want to work out tonight.
I was intentionally shooting hoops and riding Anya’s scooter so I could justify it later.

These are all the excuses I made:

“I feel dehydrated.”
“It’s too sticky outside.”
“Look! The neighbors are here. They want to hang out.”
“It’s too late. I’m tired. I just yawned.”

I did the workout anyway. Donnie made me.
25 minutes of pure hell. That is, if hell were 25 minutes of fast paced cardio and calisthenics. If you think about it, hell would be doing this workout with no results. (I’ll keep you posted.)

Here we go. Right off the bat, Shaun T is yelling at me to kick higher. I can barely keep up. I’m so thirsty.

Fast jog.
High knees.
Plank.
Burpee.
Ew. Cotton mouth. Need water.
Downward dog.
Jumping jacks.
I’m gonna puke. I think I’m gonna puke.
High kicks.
Jabs.
My head is spinning and sweat is dripping from my hair.
Upper cuts.
Cross jacks.
Heisman.
And… Stretch. Whew! I made it through. That was tough.

I’m never drinking a beer before my workout again.