Toastmasters to a married woman.

"I'm tired."
"I have a headache."
"Didn't we just do this last week?"

When I first started going to Toastmasters, I wanted to go all the time! I'd go to Toastmasters every day if I could (maybe a couple times a day, if the mood struck).

In those first several months, I looked forward to Toastmasters meetings, I did extra practice on the side, writing and re-writing speeches until I was satisfied, I dreamt about Toastmasters.

Then I got comfortable. I went through the motions. I showed up for the obligatory meeting, feigned enthusiasm, but over the span of minutes, I was bored… then, without warning, I'd be called on. Suddenly, my heart would start racing, I'd stand up to speak extemporaneously, adrenaline pumping, sometimes I got a chill down my spine. And I'd leave feeling a renewed vigor. A zest for Toastmasters again. It was that good. Why don't I do this every day (a couple times a day when the mood struck)?

The next time someone proposed that I go to Toastmasters, I sighed. Ugh. I'm tired. I have a headache. I have too many things on my mind. Didn't we just do this? When the opportunity presents itself, why do I resist? I know it's good for me. I know it's enjoyable.

Then, I realized how familiar my excuses sounded.

Toastmasters is like sex.

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If my kids were critics…

If my kids were critics, I don’t think I’d ever be upset after a critique.

Kids are incredibly honest without prejudice. They aren’t jealous. They don’t project shame. They are NATURAL critics. They do it when you don’t even ask. Most of the time they do it without you asking.

Case in Point:

Logan (8): “Mommy, you know I love you, right?”

Me: “Yes, of course!”

Logan: “Your story wasn’t really that funny… but I still love you.”

Then we hug it out.

Notice how his critique began with a positive and ended with positive, with a little something to work on in the middle.

The best part about a kid being my critic is that I can tell him he’s wrong and then send him to his room while I retell the unfunny story to another person.

If my kids were critics…

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.

Wakeboarding… boarding the wake

My back. My knee. My hamstrings. My shoulders. My sinuses. 

I am a wakeboarder.

When Donnie came home with a new wakeboard. I was not surprised. It’s how Donnie works. I say I want to wakeboard, eventually, I will get a wakeboard. It’s just good husbanding. 

Naturally, I had to be the first one to try it.

After watching literally minutes of YouTube training videos, I was more than ready to rock that wake!

Donnie manned the jet ski while I boarded the wakeboard. 

He gunned it and I ignored my screaming back while I held on with all my strength and popped up. First try (but I’m pretty sure I made it WAY harder than it was supposed to be). I squatted my back leg as I surfed over the water behind the jet ski.

One time round the lake and my back leg was ON FIRE. I shifted around. I’m not sure how much shifting to do because I didn’t want to face plant into the water (as my coworker kindly warned me). Finally, I had to. I straightened my back leg. 

AGGGGHHHH! BOOM!

I tumbled around as the lake water irrigated my sinuses. 

Thumbs up! I gave Donnie as water poured out my nose.

“It was fun until I fell! Let’s go again. But don’t let me fall.”

I am a wakeboarder.

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!

Addiction

I’m an addict.

There I said it. That’s the first step, right? Admitting it? Well I admit it. Shamefully.

I can’t stop buying plants. I can’t stop deadheading, pruning and digging. I can’t. 

I thought I was done buying plants this year when I got 2 giant Crape Myrtles to flank my front sidewalk. There. Beautiful. Half off. And I’m done. 

It’s too hot to keep planting anyway. All that’s left at the nurseries are scraggly, half-dead close out plants. I’m done. My garden is almost full. It looks nice. I’ll maintain and won’t plant another thing until next year. Well. Maybe I’ll pull some perennials out of my pots and put those in the ground. There. Done. I did get these free succulents. I’ll put those in pots inside. There, that looks super classy. Now, I’m done. What else could there be. I’m done.

Lowe’s has 75% off all plants on Sunday?! What!?  I won’t go. I don’t need anything? Why would I go? It’s probably all dead stuff I don’t need to try to revive anyway. I’m avoiding Lowe’s. 

This morning I went to Lowes and bought 20 more plants for $30! Guess I better get to planting. If you think about it, I’m doing something good for the earth by planting more plants. My house looks nicer. I’ll get a nice tan. It’s hard work, which is fulfilling. This is a good thing. It’s not a problem… just one more plant.

 I can stop anytime I want.

I’m not an addict.