Category Archives: Habits

Good behavior

Keeping it Real or Keeping it Quiet

Yesterday I wrote something on my personal Facebook page that reflected a very deeply held belief of mine – very deeply held. However, it was inappropriate for me to make that post. I’m not going to say what it was and I have since deleted it because I realized that I really should have just kept my face shut.

Last week, I mentioned Brene Brown and her book Dare to Lead. In that book, she advises everyone to have a “square squad” a very small group of people (whose names will fit on a 1-inch by 1-inch piece of paper) whose opinions matter to you. Those are the people you listen to, not the people in the cheap seats who have something to say about anything and everything you do. You listen to only a select few who will tell you that you are “outside of your integrity” on some action. That’s another phrase Brene uses – outside your integrity. There is so much packed into that! And to say that “you are outside” your integrity is much more applicable than to say that “you are wrong.”

What I posted yesterday wasn’t wrong; however, it was harsh and edified no one. It was unnecessary. It was outside my integrity.

I used to watch the show America’s Next Top Model (complete guilty pleasure and intellectual bubble gum). I stopped watching after the season featuring an aspiring model from the Bronx. This girl was just mean as a snake! Hateful and spiteful for no reason. Her reason was that she was just “keeping it real.” The things she said might have been true, but they didn’t need to be said. Nothing was gained by saying them and no one would have been hurt had those things remained unsaid. Likewise, nothing was gained by my comments yesterday and no one would have been hurt had those things remained unsaid.

The world, in general, spends so much time spewing negative energy at us, right? It’s exhausting! I try really hard to be a source of positive energy. I failed yesterday. For the two members of my Square Squad who gently called me on it – Thanks.

Now. Here’s hoping next time I will pause, stay inside my integrity and keep my face shut.

When 60 is 100 and When It's Just 60

“You can fool some of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” There is debate over whether or not Abraham Lincoln actually said that and, frankly, I don’t care because regardless of who said it, I believe that it is true. However, it isn’t in fooling others that I think the greatest danger lies – it is in fooling ourselves.

I was a smoker for the better part of 20 years. I quit for a little while a couple of times in there but let’s just say that I was a smoker for 20 years for simplicity’s sake. I smoked as little as two cigarettes a day in that time and as much as two packs a day, and I probably spent more time in the latter category than the former. I would readily admit to being a smoker. Still, I couldn’t really bring myself to buy cigarettes by the carton. Somehow, buying buy the carton was only for hardened smokers. The smokers’ equivalent of an IV drug user. Buying by the carton made the whole thing seem a little too premeditated to me like I could quit smoking any time if I didn’t have that carton there – like I would, you never knew. Who was I trying to kid? I wasn’t going to quit smoking just because I wasn’t buying by the carton; I was just paying more per pack. Even so, over the course of 20 years, I can count on one hand the number of cartons I bought. I was just lying to myself. God knows I wasn’t fooling anyone else.

Several years ago, we had a discussion at work over whether you can give 100% all the time. My colleague Brittney argued that you can while I argued that you can’t. If you have a cold, obviously, you can’t give 100%. The night I went to work after having to put my dog Trey to sleep that morning, I wasn’t at 100% for sure! But, I’ve changed my mind. I think that she was right. Even with a cold, even the night after putting Trey down, I can give 100%. My 100% might not be as much as it is on another day, but if it is all I have that day, then it’s still 100%.

Let me say that another way because I think this is really important. If you ask me on Monday to give you all the money in my pocket and I give you the $1.72, the lint and the Lifesaver that’s in my pocket, I’ve given you 100% of my money. If you ask me on Tuesday to give you all the money in my pocket and I give you the $.47 that’s in there, I’ve still given you 100% of my money, even though it is less money than I gave you the day before. See what I mean? 147 is 100% and 47 is 100%.

When you are depressed or grieving or extremely stressed, I believe that it is really important to give yourself time to heal. We let infections heal, we let broken bones heal, we should let bruised psyches heal. For me, during this time, I am being gentle with myself, but still assigning myself single daily tasks. They aren’t necessarily huge tasks, but every day, I have to get something done. I cannot sit on the couch watching British police procedural shows all day. I will admit that my days are not as productive as they are when I am operating on all cylinders; however, this is where 60% is 100%. However, this is also where it is crucial to be honest with myself.

One day this week, 60% was just 60%. I didn’t do my task that day. I didn’t do the laundry. I was lazy. When we say that we are going to quit smoking, we have to at least really try to quit. When we say we are going to lose weight, we have to at least really try to eat more mindfully. And if I say that I am going to improve my mental health, then I have to at least make some sort of effort. I didn’t that day. But, that day is over and I’m not going to beat myself up about it either. “What’s done and cannot be undone.” Although maybe quoting the psycho Lady Macbeth isn’t the best source I could choose right now.

Anyway, my point is this: right now, my best efforts at finding a new job and getting my life back in order are not the same as my best efforts when I’m in top form. However, if I’m to get back to top form, I’ve got to honestly give my best, even if my best is just 60%.

Sounds We Feel

I like music – all kinds of music. Here lately, I have found myself listening primarily to my Move It playlist on Amazon. This list includes music that makes me want to walk, dance or just nod my head, and it includes music by artists ranging from Avril Lavigne to Godsmack, from Shakira to Rob Zombie, from Charlie Sexton to My Chemical Romance. It’s a weird mix, but it works for me.

I prefer to listen to this playlist using headphones to minimize distractions. As I mentioned last week, I am a Disturbed One and I really love the drum track from The Light, especially through headphones. I noticed this week how much I also enjoy the bass track from Lenny Kravitz’s Are You Gonna Go My Way, which made me realize how much I enjoy bass tracks from other songs like Voodoo and Live and Let Die. The thing about bass guitar, though, is that I don’t know that I hear it as much as I just feel it. I mean, I must be hearing it because I can differentiate the different tones; but, it doesn’t feel much like a sound on my eardrums if that makes any sense. Still, I find myself trying to find that bass track and follow it.

During periods of grief, my mind is disordered. There is so much going on in my head that I can’t seem to get my mind to settle on anything. I’ve heard this mental state referred to as a pot of boiling water and I think that analogy is apt. There is a lot going on all at one time and it’s difficult to get a handle on anything. Finding one issue or thought and focusing on it is more like pulling out the bass track in Bohemian Rhapsody than you might think. Finding order in the chaos of Vicarious helps me find order in the chaos of my own mind.

We all have tools to get us through periods of difficulty. It’s important to continue to use and develop those coping mechanisms that work. It is just as important to seek help when those coping mechanisms are overwhelmed. And it is crucial to recognize that coping mechanisms that include self-harm must be replaced with edifying ones. I mention that because while my loud music therapy may not make any sense to you, it works for me and it hurts nothing. However, if I were drinking Stoli through a fat straw while I was listening to the loud music, that would be another issue entirely.

If you are using a destructive coping mechanism, please seek help from a mental health professional. Call a psychiatrist, psychologist, grief counselor or suicide hotline. Get help to find mechanisms that will let you actually survive whatever it is you’re grieving, working through or experiencing. Call someone and do it now.

If, however, you are just looking to tweak what you’re doing and you wanna share some loud music, hit me up. I’ll share my playlist with you. And, if you’ve got some jams to share, send them on!

Now, I’m late for my therapy session with Rush and Tom Sawyer charges by the hour.

Peace.

The Contradictions of Grief and learning to call the wolves

A friend of mine sent a text just to check on me Monday. At first, I told her that I was fine; but, then I told her the truth. Grief is a strange thing. When you are dealing with the grief of losing a job, some days you wake up like, “Ooh-rah! New challenge! Let’s do this!” Other days you feel like you’re just circling the Drain.

I admitted to her that Monday was a Drain day for me. As it happened, it kind of had been for her, too. She is grieving the death of her sweet 19.5-year-old Yorkshire terrier Pedro. It was a great comfort to me to know that I wasn’t circling the Drain alone and I appreciated both her text and her honesty more than she knows.

I once knew a woman who would regularly quote Jeevan Pradhan by saying, “If you… throw me to the Wolves… Then I will come, leading the pack…” When she said that, you could almost hear P!nk and Gwen Stefani singing bra-burning, Helen-Reddy-style, ooh-rah, feminist power anthems. And there are days when I feel exactly like that – a Dharmesh Agravat “You can’t throw me to the Wolves for they come when I call” kind of feeling. Then there are days when I feel like the chewing gum stuck to the roller rink floor.

In my current situation, no one threw me to the Wolves – it was just a business thing. It happens. This process might actually be easier for me if there was someone I could target with my anger, but there just isn’t, which kind of sucks, too. Anger is a stage of grief and my stage really wants a target. The fact that it doesn’t have a solid one increases my frustration, which makes me even angrier. It is wholly unsatisfactory to be angry at a Situation. But, that is where I find myself. UGH! What a completely ridiculous cycle – and one that I must break if I am to ever call the Wolves.

I am a huge fan of the band Disturbed, a Disturbed One, as the band says. They recorded a song called The Light which is a personal favorite for several reasons, not least of which is the drum track. (a-MAZE-ing) I recommend listening with headphones to really appreciate everything going on in there. I also recommend reading the full lyrics, which I’ve included below. The line that I keep repeating to myself on my Drain days is: Sometimes darkness can show you the light. It’s a hopeful thought for surviving the Drain days on my way to creating more Ooh-rah! days. As I concentrate on the Light and understand the lessons of the Darkness, I’ll learn to call the Wolves.

Then, before you know it, I’ll be back, leading the pack.

Like an unsung melody
The truth is waiting there for you to find it
It’s not a blight, but a remedy
A clear reminder of how it began
Deep inside your memory
Turned away as you struggled to find it
You heard the call as you walked away
A voice of calm from within the silence
And for what seemed an eternity
You’re waiting, hoping it would call out again
You heard the shadow reckoning
Then your fears seemed to keep you blinded
You held your guard as you walked away

When you think all is forsaken
Listen to me now (all is not forsaken)
You need never feel broken again
Sometimes darkness can show you the light

An unforgivable tragedy
The answer isn’t’ where you think you’d find it
Prepare yourself for the reckoning
For when your world seems to crumble again
Don’t be afraid, don’t turn away
You’re the one who can redefine it
Don’t let hope become a memory
Let the shadow permeate your mind and
Reveal the thoughts that were tucked away
So that the door can be opened again
Within your darkest memories
Lies the answer if you dare to find it
Don’t let hope become a memory

When you think all is forsaken
Listen to me now (all is not forsaken)
You need never feel broken again
Sometimes darkness can show you the light, beautiful

Sickening, weakening
Don’t let another somber pariah consume your soul
You need strengthening, toughening
It takes an inner dark to rekindle the fire burning in you
Ignite the fire within you

When you think all is forsaken
Listen to me now (all is not forsaken)
You need never feel broken again
Sometimes darkness can show you the light

Don’t ignore, listen to me now (all is not forsaken)
You need never feel broken again
Sometimes darkness
Can show you the light

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Dan Donegan / David Draiman / Kevin Churko / Mike Wengren
The Light lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

How to Survive the Loss Of

Through the years, my aunt Judy has given me some great books. The three that have had the greatest impact on me are: The Gift of Fear, Against Rape, and How to Survive the Loss of a Love. Because I like to continue a good ripple of sharing knowledge, I have bought and given (or rather lent and never seen again) several copies of each of these books myself. The first two are amazing books and I still recommend them highly; however, it is the third one on the list that is relevant here.

The book is a small one and can really be read during a single, long, soaking session in the bathtub if you like; but, the authors recommend that you take it slower than that and I agree with them. I can’t remember when Judy gave me the book, whether it was the first time a boy broke my heart or during the aftermath of one of my subsequent abysmal choices in a potential mate. Whenever she gave it, the book has been useful to me during more than one romantic disaster and during other losses, as well.

The thing that struck me most in my first reading was how they defined “loss” and how they applied the stages of grief to so many events – even small daily ones like missing a phone call or, like today, my old wallet being chewed up by a beagle puppy.

Of all of the things that have happened in the last month, that was the one that sent me to bed for a nap. How silly is that?

The truth is that the wallet was one I got as a “free gift” when I ordered the Highlander series videotapes. Yes, videotapes. (I told you it was old.) It was pretty disreputable looking already, but I liked it. It was soft and all nice and broken-in. It was convenient to move from one purse to another or to just stick in the pocket of my pants or in my hoodie pouch, which is where it was today. It fell out while I was playing with Dexter and in the ten seconds that I didn’t realize what he was doing, he had already chewed it up pretty badly. It is still useable – or it would be if I didn’t have this neurosis about broken things. But, I do; so, the wallet that I have carried for the past 22 years or so, will be discarded.

And that was what drove me to a nap.

Not Ellie dying, losing my job, my roof leaking, missing Christmas with my son, my dad falling, or me being sick. Nope, none of those things were enough. It was the destruction of a freebie, 22-year-old, worn-looking wallet that finally sent me to pull the covers up over my head.

But that happens, right? I mean, after Katrina, the thing that really sent me into a meltdown was realizing that I had to buy new Easter baskets because the ones I’d used since childhood were destroyed. Bear in mind that I lost literally nearly everything I owned, but it was the $10 Easter baskets that had me breathing into a paper bag.

I’m not a mental health professional or a grief counselor; so, I have no clue why that is. However, what I do know – what I learned from How to Survive the Loss of a Love – is that grief is real and must be experienced. Regardless of what kicks it off, the feeling must be acknowledged, felt, and moved through. That last part is incredibly important. It must be moved through, not lived in. However, if we don’t acknowledge our grief and allow ourselves to feel it, we are more likely to get stuck in it.

So, I’ll grieve over this silly little wallet, take a nap, cry, blow my nose, then order a replacement and get on with it.

Happy New Year, Loki.

(You jerk.)

Loki with a fishing net
A Norse mythology image from the 18th-century Icelandic manuscript “SÁM 66”, now in the care of the Árni Magnússon Institute in Iceland. Image uploaded from http://www.sagnanet.is and turned, cropped and color-corrected with The GIMP Version 1.2.3.

In early December, I told a group of friends that the worst thing that had happened to me in 2019 was that I lost a few vacation days. In my mind, I was displaying gratitude that my year had been so good. I thought I said “thank you” to the universe; but, Loki heard me say, “Loki, son of Leufey (Norse gods always hear insults as mentioning their fathers) eat dirt! Nanny-nanny-boo-boo!” So Loki turned to Baldr and said, “Hold my mead.”

Within two weeks of my pronouncement, my roof was leaking, I found out that my son could not come to visit at Christmas, I had a cold, and my dog died. Seriously?!

To say that I was thrown for a loop would be an understatement. I cried for several days over my first Christmas apart from my son. Then, I cried for several more days over my Ellie girl who was geriatric but apparently perfectly healthy on Saturday and dead by Thursday because she seemed to just decide that she was done and she refused to eat. The truth is that although I’ve been feeling sorry for myself for a couple of weeks, to pretend that I am not enormously fortunate would be disingenuous, at best.

I am an educated, white woman living in the United States; so, I enjoy safety and privileges I have not earned.  No bombers are dropping ordinance in my comfortable neighborhood. I have not been accused of any crimes that I have not committed. I have a wonderful job that pays me enough to own my home and enjoy the luxury of pets. Although I’m sure there are people who wouldn’t piss on me if I was on fire, I have family and friends aplenty who love me. The truth is that, like so many of us living in industrialized nations, I have no real complaints – regardless of what advertisers tell me. (Except perhaps that I am idiotic enough to tempt Loki AGAIN.)

Here are wishes for myself and for others who are as fortunate as I:

  • May we always acknowledge our blessings.
  • May we seek not only knowledge but also wisdom.
  • May we be honest, yet compassionate.
  • May we love others the way we say we do, and
  • May Netflix give us another season of Henry Cavill in, well, anything.

Amen.

Pleading the 5th on the 4th

My first three cycles of this campaign were not easy; but, I got through them and felt great. My fourth cycle has been an uphill battle and I’m not doing well at all. I have restarted it several times – most recently on Monday, but I’m still not doing it right. However, I believe that I have identified the problem and will start anew. Again.

In my first three cycles, I did several of the tasks every day. For the fourth cycle, I thought I was going to be cute and change it all up. Here’s the problem with that: a habit is a consistent way of doing something. By switching up my exercises, my consistency was lost. That just threw the entire system into chaos – CHAOS, I tell you! I’m not even drinking water like I’m supposed to. In fact, the only habits I’ve kept to are making my bed and taking my medicine.

It doesn’t matter that I’m still watching my diet and am as active as I was when I rode the bike daily, it was the process of actually riding the bike daily that got my brain into the right place. So, I am returning to the patterns that I used in Cycle 3, only adding mowing lawns two days a week and hitting my StepBet active goal of 7322 steps daily.

This is all about developing healthy habits. I lost sight of that and changed (then lost) my foundation habits. My Cycle 4 overhaul was a mistake. I know how to fix it now; so, pardon me while I go ride my bike.