Category Archives: Thought Patterns

What’s going on in my head

Eating Paper

This weekend, I participated in a 5K run/walk with several cousins. Most of them ran, but I /walked. I still went 5K and enjoyed the hot chocolate provided by the race. Walking back to car, we fell into conversation about terms, brand names, and idioms. For instance, in the US, we call small bandages that you stick on “band-aids” even though that is a brand name. It has become synonymous with the item itself. However, once in Stratford-Upon-Avon, I had a little trouble getting one at a Boots chemist because Brits call those little bandages “plasters.” I had no clue – but I did have a mighty blister; so, I persevered until I got what I needed. Band-aid is a brand name recognized as a product name regardless of manufacturer pretty much across the United States; however, there are other examples that are more regional.

In the Deep South, all carbonated soft drinks are Coke. When you stop at the gas station, the person going in will ask everyone in the car if they want a Coke. Then they will ask what kind of Coke they want and that may be anything from a Dr. Pepper to a Sprite to a Fanta. In other areas of the country soft drinks are “pop” or “soda” and in parts of the south those terms are becoming more and more common, but Coke is still well recognized. Still even more regional is “Nabs” for packaged peanut butter or cheese crackers because Nabisco was the first company to market them. I’ve lived in several places and this term seems specific to parts of Mississippi, not even the whole state.

I say all that to say this: as I have gotten older, I often use idioms that I think are common to everybody only to find out that they are apparently specific to my family alone. For a long time, I felt like such a weirdo until I decided that perhaps my family simply had very colorful ways of saying things. Perhaps many of the sayings were translations from some translation from the Danish side of my family. Maybe they had their roots in the rural Mississippi part of my family. Who knows? The end result is that we have LOTS of colorful phrases, one of which applies when you are feeling sorry for yourself and having a pity party. You say that you should “just go out back and eat worms.”

I’ve shared a little with you about my foundling cat Drucilla. She’s been with us for about a year and a half and is probably the highest maintenance demon I have ever had in my home. She is a love, don’t get me wrong, but she is so imperious that most of the time I refer to her as the Tsarina and she seems to think that name fits. Because she has no incisors and her renal health is delicate, I often feed her tuna and, recently, sardines (which remind her of her trips to the Black Sea as a kitten). She jumps up next to the fish plate indicating that it is time for Cook (that would be me) to serve up a smackeral. If I fail to do so within what she considers to be a reasonable amount of time – two minutes – she “goes out back and starts eating worms.” Actually, she starts eating the paper towels. Not even kidding. Sometimes she jumps up on my desk and starts eating my papers there. Perhaps when she was living in the woods she once found some grease on a piece of paper so she tests every piece of paper now to see if the miracle repeats, I don’t know. I just know that I find these little gnawed scraps of paper all over the house if Her Imperial Majesty is not given a little bite of fish every 90 minutes or so during the day. Ridiculous. She fills her stomach with paper rather than wait just a little while!

Then I look at myself.

How many times in my life have I gone for the cheap substitute because I got tired of waiting? How many times have I sold myself short because I didn’t put the work in?

There have been times I have failed when I legitimately gave it the best I had and I think that’s okay. We are not all meant to do all things. Sometimes we have to know when it’s time to walk away AFTER we have given it our best. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the times I half-assed something I said I wanted, then abandoned it before I got it. Those are the things that haunt me. I have always been well-known for my patience, which ranks somewhere alongside a toddler in the candy aisle and a beer drinker waiting for the restroom. Yeah. Schoolwork was always easy for me before college. I rarely had to study; so, I never learned how. Then, when I needed to know how, I didn’t even know what I didn’t know.

From time to time, the question comes up: what advice would you give your younger self? That would be mine. Give it your best if it’s something you really want. Stay focused, swallow your pride, ask questions, and never settle for eating paper.

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%.

A Freak Show of the First Order

After a recent visit, a friend told me that she loves it when I come to her house because I make her feel normal. Okay, Hmm. Now, friends, I can take that one of two ways:

1. Damn, girl! That flaky-assed, three-ring, freak-show you got going on over there makes my life feel positively June Cleaver! or
2. When you share your thoughts and struggles, I realize that they are like mine and I don’t feel so alone.

I’m going to choose to believe that she meant it the second way for three reasons:
1. Even if she meant it the first way, she would never be so crass or cruel as to even hint at it.
I watched a BrenĂ© Brown documentary on Netflix called The Call to Courage. Her common sense and straight-forward approach to life and leadership resonated so much with me that I got her audiobook Dare to Lead. I’m listening to it for the third time and am picking up things I missed the first two times. While I don’t know that I will ever lead people again, I believe that applying strong leadership principles makes me a better employee, friend, and person in general. Knowledge gained is never wasted. One of the tenets of strong leadership that she proposes is to always assume that people are doing their best. I have to admit that this is a HUGE struggle for me. I am just certain that the idiot parked in the passing lane doing the speed limit is there specifically to slow me down. And popular culture would have us believe that people are often snarky and have hidden insults in what they say. Right? It’s not easy to turn that off, to decide to give people the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they just phrased it badly. Maybe that driver is just zoned out and unaware that they are blocking the passing lane – I’ve done that myself. I know my friend and I don’t believe she would deliver a back-handed compliment like that; so, I’m going to choose to believe that she meant it positively

2. It makes my life more pleasant to believe that.
One of my college philosophy professors accused me on the regular of creating my own reality – and I’m fairly certain that he did not mean it as a compliment. However, I believe we all do it to some degree and it dovetails with the previous paragraph. I can choose to be irritated about something or I can choose to not be irritated about it (to some degree – there are always variables like whether or not it is your children pushing your buttons or plucking your last nerve). And I suppose that you could say that in deciding that an intentional slight is not an insult is creating my own reality. Well, if that’s the case, then, yes. I did it then. I do it now. I will continue doing it. And, what’s more, I recommend it highly.

3. It fits with my belief that we are all more alike than we are different and we would know that if only we really talked more.
“The First Order wins by making us think we’re alone. We’re not.” This quote from the latest Star Wars movie really struck me. Replace The First Order with Fear, Depression or Anxiety and the statement is just as true. Those feelings keep us isolated and silent. We don’t really confide in anyone. I mean, I often see people use memes featuring quotes to describe their own feelings; but, I don’t think that really counts. It’s using someone else’s words. To really connect, we have to use our own words and to select individuals. We can’t just cast everything out over the internet (she says as she writes a blog to be read by strangers talking about connecting on an intimate level). I think you know what I mean, though. I have those close individuals with whom I share my deepest fears and darkest corners, and I have those who share them with me. We know we are not alone.

We each have a ring in the flaky-assed, freak-show.

Pity? Party of One?

So, I’ve kind of been over here all “Lesley-Gore-It’s-My-Party-And-I’ll-Cry-If-I-Want-To” and here come some friends busting in the joint with gifts for me, screwing the whole thing up. Nothing will kill a good pity party vibe like getting an amazing gift. Here are three of the ones I got:

“You spoke my words.”

That’s a pretty tough gift to beat there. After reading “How To Survive The Loss Of,” a friend told me her own experience of losing her “life” after a sexual assault. (I put life in parentheses there since I don’t mean her life in the terms of pulse and brain activity. I mean her life in the sense of her home, her marriage, and her job. You know – nearly everything but her pulse.) I have known her for many years, laughed with her over a million things (she’s the funniest woman ever) and I had no idea that she had survived an assault at all, let alone that she had she survived wave after wave of polluted crap that smashed into her afterward. She stood up to each wave, but, like me with the loss of my wallet, it was the loss of something small that sent her to her knees. I’ve always really liked her and I am blown away with the honor of having her say that I had spoken her words.

“Your writing is insightful, funny, and grammatically correct.”

Another huge gift! After reading “I’m Pretty Sure I Should Be Rich By Now,” this friend, who is a wonderful writer himself, called to encourage me to continue to write, saying that he enjoys the thoughts that I share and how I share them both verbally and mechanically. What a delightful surprise! It’s always wonderful to hear that your work resonates with others and, even better, that it doesn’t make someone twitch! Bonus gift! I know that sometimes I take liberties with grammar; however, if you visit with me often, you know that I generally do it for emphasis. It’s important to me that my language mechanics be as nearly correct as I can make them so that you can hear what I have to say without being distracted by the monstrous way I’m saying it.

“Your writing is always very concise, reflective, and thought-provoking. The reason I miss it so much when you are silent.”

This was after I asked her to read “Mixed Metaphors Inside the Asteroid Belt” prior to publication. My thoughts are like ping-pong balls in a tornado – bouncing all over the place, hitting first this thing, then that thing, then each other. It’s bedlam in there! And that particular piece had even more metaphorical collisions than most; so, I needed to get another set of eyes on it. Sometimes I am afraid that connections, analogies, and metaphors that make perfect sense in my head sound like the Mad Hatter when I let them out. It’s both comfort and confirmation when someone understands the point I’m trying to make with my occasionally unconventional comparisons. Again – awesome gift!

Each of these gifts (and others I didn’t mention) have gone a long way towards helping me through grief and get a handle on what I need to get done next. However, as I mentioned, they completely ruined the Pity Party for One I had going in full swing over here. While it’s still true that I can cry if I want to, I feel less inclined to do so.

Thanks, you guys.

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.

I’m Pretty Sure I Should Be Rich By Now

Look. I know how this works – or how it’s supposed to, anyway. I’ve seen the movie.

In Julie & Julia, Julie decides to cook her way through Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Along the way, she starts blogging, people follow, more people follow, then Boom! She’s famous and making money on her blog. If life imitated art, I would not be clipping coupons right now.

But, it doesn’t and I am.

Silly, stupid or naive as it sounds, I really did think that something might come of this. I would send these random thoughts into the ether, someone with literary connections would read them, and suddenly I would in the middle of a five-book deal. Instead, I’m sitting in the middle of my bed wearing pink, cat pajamas surrounded by actual cats. (Hmm. Rereading that sentence gives even me a little pause.) I don’t even make pocket change for my words; so, what’s the point?

The point is that I enjoy it. While I certainly had some wild dreams of my writing leading to financial stability, I’ve accepted that, as the saying goes, I will probably be working until noon on the day of my funeral. Regardless of whether or not I ever make a dime from it, I have to write. There is something in my soul that is fed by the click of a keyboard and the blink of a cursor. And I need to write about things that matter to me. I won’t write about people with Kute names, or about the 10 things you should be eating, saving, washing, cooking or buying. We all see clickbait and we do what we are supposed to do – we click. That drives numbers, ratings and, potentially, revenue for the sites. If they list the 20 greatest gadgets we should buy right this minute from Amazon, then they make a little something-something from Amazon. There are all kinds of ways to make money on this. But, as I said, I don’t.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not some kind of purist “suffering for their art.” Dude, if I could make some cash and still do this the way I like, I’d be all in so fast it would make your head spin! Maybe I don’t push the revenue generation because I don’t want that to be my main focus. Maybe it’s because I’m afraid that I will set it up to make money and then not make any. (How awful would that be?!) Or maybe it’s because I’m so clueless on how to do it that I don’t even know what questions to ask to get started. Whatever the reason, I just talk.

I talk about things that are happening to me, things I think about, things I think are important, and things I think might be useful to someone else, too. Like a message in a bottle, I send my thoughts out, hoping that someone finds them. When you find them, I hope that they have some value to you. I hope they are thought and conversation provoking. I hope they bring a little light on a dark day. If they do, that’s fantastic.

If they don’t, you can always find plenty of Kute make-up and shapewear tips with the next click.