VACATION! (Ugg.)

There is no greater surprise in the world than the realization in adulthood that vacations are SUPER STRESSFUL. At least when you have a family. I’ve taken a few short vacations on my own and THEY ARE PERFECTLY LOVELY. They are the picture-book image of what vacations should be: Equal parts fun and relaxing.

FAMILY VACATIONS ARE NOT QUITE LIKE THAT.

Now. It’s still worth it, obviously. I love a good vacation. Harry Potter World was amazing last year and I still sometimes sink into a tiny depression over missing it. This year? Denver and Breckenridge to visit my brother and his family. And I am SOOOOO looking forward to it. BUT OH MY GOD, SO MANY THINGS TO STRESS OUT ABOUT.

First? The weather.

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 3.35.00 AM

Let me just say that when I wake up here in Alabama? We are already at the “HIGH” for the day. So there are no winter clothes anywhere within reach in our house. But those lows in the 40s mean we need to be packed for “chilly” and “warm”. And I say “we” because I’ll back for the two little kids. Then there’s the activities we’ll be taking part of outside – so we’ll need to be prepared for all of the above. AND THIS STRESSES ME OUT.

Then there’s the prep for leaving the house. I don’t want to leave anything behind to be wasted because WE DO NOT WASTE FOOD IN THIS HOUSE. So I have to plan meals accordingly. Oh – look – we have a bunch of mushrooms leftover from stir-fry night. GOING IN THE LUNCH BOXES! Hmmm…not going to finish the juice…WHO NEEDS CREAMER FOR COFFEE WHEN WE HAVE JUICE!

And the house MUST be mostly clean. For two reasons. 1) Because I don’t want to come home to a mess to clean up. and 2) Because I don’t want the people who are helping with our house and pets to think we’re more disgusting than I admit we are. I never profess to keep an immaculate house, so it’s not at that level, but the beds are made and the counters are clean.

The stress of packing doesn’t have only to do with clothing, but also other things we might need. Chargers, technology, screens, books, art, things to do on the plane, things to do in the car, snacks, and cosmetics. Now, we will grocery shop so we can get a lot of stuff there, but we need to prep for the drive to Nashville, the flight to Denver, and the drive to Breckenridge all before we do a grocery stop.

And then I’m super-worried about my kid’s behavior. We’re visiting family we only see ever 2’ish years. WE MUST MAKE A GOOD IMPRESSION. And oh my GOD, that’s a hard thing when you’re living with someone for a whole week. Wesley is certain to tell me he hates me at some point in time and THAT STRESSES ME OUT. Of course my family is realistic and know we’re not perfect, and they love us either way, BUT STILL. Please tell me I’m not the only person who completely stressed out about my kid’s behavior when visiting family. I think it’s because I still have memories of family discussing the ill-behaved kids at family gatherings and I don’t want that to be my kid!

(Also – I feel like going back in time and defending the parents of those ill-behaved kids. I’d get in a time machine and say, “GIVE THEM A BREAK. THEY ARE DOING THEIR BEST.”)

So, all of this has me not sleeping. And that’s okay because I know once we get there? It will be heavenly. Because even though I’ll be stressed about whether we packed the right things, and if my kids are behaving, I’ll still be on vacation and I can’t stress about the million of things at home that I stress about every day. Nope. Those things won’t be there. So, no matter what, I’m going to feel rejuvenated in the mountains of Colorado.

Bring it on!

It depends on the circumstances…

Warning: this post is a little metaphysical and deep but I do make sure to wrap it up with the phrase “holy poop balls” so in the end, it all balances out.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of “circumstantial happiness” and how it relates to my own happiness. Circumstantial happiness is exactly what you think it is: Happiness dependent on circumstances. For example: Your house, your family, your job…this is all circumstantial happiness. Which is great as long as those circumstances remain, but what if they don’t? What if they go away? Once you grieve the loss of the circumstance to which you tied your happiness (because of course that’s expected no matter what type of happiness you enjoy) – can you still be happy?

I’ve been accepting my own happiness lately, realizing that when I don’t let my anxiety control me, I’m deep-down happy. I have moments when the battles with my anxiety or depression cloud that happiness – but when the fog lifts I’m always happy. And I know this because there have been times in my life when I was not. There have been times when I was left in peace and silence, I would still be miserable. This is not one of those times. Right now? I’m blessed to be happy.

But I would like to be more Zen about it. I would like that my happiness is not connected to my material experiences, but rather just a level at which I vibrate constantly regardless of job or marriage or home or possessions. This is obviously not a measurement you can easily quantify and determine: Yes! I’m there! Or Nope! Not yet. It’s not like losing weight or training for a marathon, it’s a challenge with a very obscurely defined goal, but one which I find fascinating nonetheless.

I think it goes back to mindfulness. IT ALL GOES BACK TO MINDFULNESS. I swear, the more mindful I can be, the better I am – which is why mindfulness SEEMS LIKE THE MOST DIFFICULT THING IN THE WORLD.

But I was listening to someone talk about mindfulness on a podcast this weekend and he pointed out that berating yourself in a moment for not being mindful…is actually counter to the concept of mindfulness.

AND HOLY SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS. That blew my mind.

Mindfulness is not forcing myself in one specific mindset and focused on life and beauty of the moment, mindfulness is simply embracing what is. If my daughter and I are doing art at the table, and moment has me anxious about an upcoming project at work or sad over frustrations with my other child, then I need to let that exist in that moment. Yelling at myself, “Be present! Enjoy this moment coloring with your daughter!” that is not actually being mindful. Being mindful would be accepting my anxiety and acknowledging my sadness. Let those things exist in the moment if they need to. Let those feelings be passengers, but don’t let them drive the moment.

And I think that’s where happiness outside of circumstances hides. In the ability to allow these moments their truth, even if their truth is not the picturesque moment we’re striving for. Yes, it seems like happiness and mindfulness would be smiling at my daughter and really savoring this moment with her drawing at the table. And that would certainly be a happy moment. But the deeper happiness would be allowing myself to simple be me, and giving my anxiety and depression permission to sometimes exist, to nod towards them walking down the road.

Hello, my friend anxiety. I see you there. I know you are here because we are traveling soon. Hello, sadness. I know you are here because we’ve not been sleeping well. Thank you for existing as some evolution offshoot of my innate need to survive. But in this moment I don’t really need you, so you’re welcome to hang out and watch, but I’m not going to let you pull me away, okay?

I keep feeling like my emotional goals can only exist outside of my anxiety and depression, but they are part of me and I need to give them attention in some moments. I need to discover their cause and address any needs that may need attention. But happiness and mindfulness are not mutually exclusive from anxiety and depression. Another phrase I heard: “Allow them to sit, but don’t make them a glass of tea.”

So this is going to be how I shift my mindset a little. Happiness does not need an anxiety vacuum to exist. Happiness is not necessarily the absence of depression. Mindfulness is not some perfectly beautiful yogi sitting in the sun-lit room listening to the sounds of nature outside the window and meditating on the impermanence of beauty. Mindfulness can be me, allowing my anxiety about a trip to exist while still feeling happy about the life I’m living.

Holy poop balls. Those are some deep thoughts for a Monday morning.

Are We All Trying To Be Two Different People?

Glennon Doyle wrote a piece yesterday about a man who left her a terrible insult on her Facebook page the same day he announced via his own Facebook wall that his pregnant wife found out they were having a daughter.

There are not two of you, sir. There is not you, the father – and you, the internet misogynist. The internet you IS YOU. If you are a misogynist on the internet, you are also a misogynist in your daughter’s nursery. While you are holding her. While you are whispering to her your dreams for her: That she uses her heart and her mind and her passion to live a big life of purpose.

It was a great piece and I highly encourage you read it.

It got me thinking of all of the Anti-Clinton and Anti-Trump memes and status I see on my Facebook feed every day. I think we can take the message about concerning dual personalities into our own Facebook spheres.

We are in this scary political time where fear drives people to click links and view news; so the world of media focuses on rare (but terrifying) stories of tragedies and headlines are baiting with fear-inducing phrasing that rarely have anything to do with the content of the article itself. Political discord is built on Worse-Case-Scenarios that are posed as guaranteed outcomes if opposing governing bodies win any election. We have gone from trying to form a global melting pot to a perpetual fear of the OTHER and people who make money off our eyeballs on their content are capitalizing on that.

And all of this fear and anxiety is most easily expressed behind a Facebook status sharing nothing but a meme insulting anyone in your circle who thinks differently from you.

I have seen people post horrible memes and statuses on Facebook regarding politics of their opposition that they would NEVER say to the face of someone they love. I’m voting for Hillary Clinton. There’s no surprise there. Yet no one has started a political conversation with me to inform me that my candidate is a corrupt idiot who will lead our country to an economic wasteland.

But holy crap if I don’t see that sentiment all over my feed.

And my side is worse. There are postings of insult after insult of people considering voting for Trump yet are any of those people taking time to recognize that there are friends and family in their circle voting for him – EVEN IF THEY DON’T KNOW IT. I know several respectable people who are voting for him. So, while he scares me, and I don’t quite understand, I’m not going to post something insulting about his supporters unless I’m willing to sit down with my friends and family and say the exact thing to their face.

We all are allowing ourselves different social rules on Facebook than we do in face-to-face interactions. That weird liberation from typical social norms tempered with the political climate of fear and anger has created monsters out of many of us.

All I think is that maybe we ALL remember that there can’t be two of us. If we are judgemental assholes online – simplifying people into worthy/unworthy based solely on their political leanings – then that’s who we are in the real world too. Consider the political statuses and memes you post. Now, imagine the friend or family member who votes the way that meme or status is slinging insults. (If you can think of NO ONE who votes differently than you do, we have entirely bigger issues to discuss.) Now, imagine that person standing in front of you. Would you say the words in that status to their face? Would you mock their candidate of choice if it was just you and them in a room together? Or would you maybe try to have a polite discussion with them about politics? Because if you can’t imagine doing either – then maybe you’re just adding fuel to a fire you never wanted to start.

But if you want to watch all of the relationships you have with people who vote differently burn, then keep pouring the gasoline. I think we’ve lost control of the fire at this point anyway.

Improving Digital Communications


“Oh! Look! An Email! I’ll read it during this 90 seconds I have while my lunch heats up.”

Zoot reads email

“Oh. This is a lovely email that needs a lovely response. (Or maybe: This is a question that needs a well thought-out answer.) My 90 seconds is up. I need some time to actually compose a well-thought out response. I’ll do it later.”

LATER NEVER COMES.

Zoot forgets entirely about email

This is my life. And it goes for Facebook messages and Twitter DMs and Instagram comments. I’m really bad about using small pockets of time – while waiting in line at Target, or waiting for my meal to heat up, or waiting for my kid to get out of the bathroom – to check messages and emails. THIS IS A TERRIBLE HABIT, I have decided. Because I never have time to respond if it requires more than 1 or 2 sentences and so I wait, and then eventually I forget about it. Not because the message or email wasn’t important. But because the message or email was digested during a rushed moment of “waiting” when my long-term memory is turned off to conserve energy for the task that I’m waiting on.

If it’s an email then at least, weeks or months later, I’ll go through my inbox and eventually see it and feel really bad and probably not respond because I feel so terrible. OR, if it’s some other message, I’ll miss it entirely and never remember it again. Email has an inbox where nothing gets cleared out unless I clear it out. But FB messages and Twitter DMs and Instagram comments just keep getting buried under other messages so I no longer see them, making them permanently forgotten.

SO. What is the solution? FIX ME, BLOG FRIENDS? Do I only read messages/emails/tweets/comments when I have time to respond and/or address them? BUT THEN HOW DO I PASS TIME WAITING IN LINES? Do you have designated “check communications” times? I keep my email open all day, maybe that’s the problem? Although email I at least notice once in awhile, the other methods of communications get lost after time. FOREVER. I at least address my inbox once a month or so. The Facebook messenger app is the place where messages go to die.

Productivity v/s Piddling

I wasn’t planning on writing a blog post this morning. I was very happy to have discovered I had $114 in my Amazon account from the Amazon settlement and I really wanted to finally buy the perfect bag I’ve been shopping for forever. I found the bag (I don’t know if it’s perfect in general – BUT – it’s definitely going to be perfect for my vacation coming up to Breckenridge.) and had time to kill so I surfed around Facebook for a bit and found this article about the art of piddling.

A piddler does not fix a leaky washing machine, or a slipping transmission, or a hole in a roof. Such work is necessary, and the more necessary a labor is, the farther from piddling it becomes. A piddler may use tools, but only small, light ones, and only on things that are not needed right then. Changing out a car battery in the dead of winter is not piddling, because it is a necessity. But tinkering with a lawn mower in the middle of February is, especially if the grass is deader than Great-Aunt Minnie’s house cat and buried under a foot of snow. Doing a load of laundry is, of course, not piddling. Organizing one’s sock drawer by color and fiber is.

I’ve been debating myself lately about this weird illusion our society has created where success (or PERCEIVED success) is defined by:

1) How busy you are
2) How little sleep you get
3) How much you check off on your To Do list
4) How little time you waste

This has been a debate in myself because I’m an inherit planner (a trick to combat anxiety as mentioned yesterday in the comments) and so time should not be wasted. BUT! I’m also very proudly dependent on my sleep and refuse to sacrifice that if I can avoid it.

I’m often reading or hearing people talk about “how little sleep they get” and here I am doing my best to get in bed by 8pm and feeling suddenly like I’m less because of it.

I love to veg out and watch TV. LURVE IT. But, I often have this one part of me that’s like: GET OFF YOUR ASS AND DO SOMETHING because I feel like if I’m not DOING something on my list then I’m a failure. But then there’s another part of me (the part that LURVES sleep) that says, “Life is short. Who cares if the floor is clean. This activity right here is making me happy.”

The article about piddling hit home because I used to piddle a lot more. I used to organize things for no reason other than I liked organizing. I used to rearrange furniture and rearrange the stuff on my desk. I HAVEN’T DONE THAT IN AGES. This article reminded me how nice it is to busy yourself doing something completely unnecessary while convincing yourself it is totally necessary in that moment. I MISS PIDDLING.

I feel like I have two very different parts of my brain battling it out and I think that’s not a surprise as I’ve always showed characteristics of having an engineering-type brain AND an artist-type brain. They’re both there but neither are dominant enough to provide any guidance. I’ve always been good at and and love math, but I’m also a very qualified space case who daydreams and doodles. I don’t do either WELL, but they are both very present and often create these dueling moments which DOES NOTHING TO HELP MY ANXIETY.

Let’s nap! And then let’s color in that new coloring book! And then let’s put all of our Harry Potter memorabilia on that one shelf that is boring upstairs.

The floor is gross. I need to clean the upstairs toilet. I’m behind on my email.

And it’s not even like it’s obvious which one will make me HAPPY because I’m just as happy wasting time with my Harry Potter knickknacks as I am crossing chores off my To Do list. What I’m not happy with is ONE voice in my head berating the other voice when the decision has been made.

And I’m also not happy that society seems to push me towards my “To Do” list more when – WHY? WHY ARE WE CONSTANTLY GOING GOING GOING AND NEVER SLEEPING? WE NEED MORE SLEEP, PEOPLE.

(Says the girl who wakes up before 4am at least 5 days a week.)

I had to cancel several therapy sessions in a row due to an inability to get it in around work as I’m about to go on vacation and need to get paid for as many hours as possible to make up for the days with no paycheck. This is a sucky fact of life that you forget about if you live with a salaried job. By the time I see my therapist again it will have been over a month and while she gave me homework that goes along with a lot of the work we’ve been doing, I think I’m going to shift gears with her instead when I see her and go in this direction. How do I find the right balance for me? How do I avoid neglecting the piddler/artist side of my brain because all of my friends doing ALL OF THE STUFF on Facebook make me feel guilty? How do I find the balance between “Doing what life needs me to do” and “Not forgetting the value of mindless piddling” to keep me at peace and to manage my anxiety?

Also – I gave up training. Not only did I realize I can’t run successfully through the night – thereby breaking me of my goal of 100 miles at my race in September; but I also realized it’s impossible for Donnie and I to both train during the same season. (I know. This is a lesson we already learned but we thought it would be easier since he was just running and not doing multi-sport training.) I’m running maybe 20 miles a week now? And it’s kinda nice. I’m going out for 3-5 mile runs a few times a week and THAT IS IT. And as guilty as I feel as an ultra-runner, it has been SUCH A TREAT not having to plan my life around running.

So, yeah. I need to find the balance because whenever I allow myself time to piddle, or a break from obligations, I am happier because of it. But then the guilt sets in because it feels like EVERYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD IS SUPER PRODUCTIVE AND SACRIFICING SLEEP AND I’M THE ONLY ONE WHO NAPS ANYMORE.

Where do you fall on the piddling/productivity scale?