Lightbulbs! In my brain!

I knew absolutely NOTHING about Whitney Cummings before I listened to this podcast yesterday. I mean, a face popped into my head from a sitcom I only knew from commercials, I think named after her? But that’s it. But holy SHIT if that podcast didn’t leave me thinking ALL OF THE THINGS.

Long story, short. She had a strange childhood where her parents abandoned her in very real ways and it led her to a therapeutic/recovery process mainly through al-anon which I’ve had my own experience with but that’s another topic for another day.

She talked about a lot of “realizations” through her journey but one of the ones that hit me the most was her talk about being a martyr. I have always known I have those tendencies, but I’ve had people in my life who are – what I now call – Miserable Martyrs. Those people who whine and complain about what all they do all the time because they want everyone to know how hard they have it.

But the kind of martyr she talked about – what I’m now calling the Caregiver Martyr – hit a little closer to home. The person who does things for people even when they don’t ask and then gets upset when the person doesn’t acknowledge that.

I felt the burn on that one.

My case is a little different from hers, I think. It sounds like she did it seeking approval/love. Mine is a little different, I think. I do a lot of my Caregiving because I adore being cared for. The problem is, I have determined, is that I also long for someone to be proud of me. And I can’t handle if – for one moment – they’re not.

OUCH. That’s so embarrassing, it hurts.

I’ve been thinking about this since the podcast. I think it comes down to the fact that I made my Dad angry – A LOT – growing up. He was a great Man and a great Father but he had some anger issues and while he never laid a hand on me, he did sometimes call me insulting names when he was angry with me. The kind of names that still make me flinch when I hear them used on other people on TV and movies. And those wounds dug deep, I think. So deep that for each one, I think I needed 900 compliments to heal them.

My Dad was not stingy with compliments, I do have vivid memories of him praising me as I do him insulting me. But you know how it is, 100 people tell you you’re smart and then one person calls you a dumbshit and the other 100 never existed.

So. I can go about caring for my family and be mildly okay without compliments or thanks. (MILDLY.) But the second a criticism is thrown out there? AND MY EMOTIONAL TRAIN WRECK BEGINS.

A perfect example:

I’ve been working 40 hours a week with a 90 minute commute every weekday for the past 2 weeks now. Counting my sub 1-hour lunch break I’m gone from the house at least 9 hours every day. All of that and I’m still dealing with all of the after school activities for the kids, making sure we all have dinner, packing lunches, cleaning the house, doing the laundry, moving the grass, all while Donnie uses his non-work time training for his Ironman and playing video games.

And this is fine with me with the periodic praise/thanks…UNTIL THERE IS A CRITICISM.

Then all hell breaks loose.

He walked into the office Thursday night and said, “Do I smell pee?” We are dog sitting, so I think that was his worry, but I freaked out because I work my ass off trying to keep our house smelling good and checking every corner for treasures from any animals. I stormed around mumbling, mopping floors, cleaning, and then I went to the kitchen and stuffed my face.

One subtle, not even directed at me, criticism – and I lost my shit.

I tell Donnie all the time, I would be 100% okay with this balance of responsibility if he gave me 15 compliments/thanks for every ONE criticism. I’ve kinda always known that, it’s less about me wanting the praise than it is me NOT wanting criticism. One negative note and I’m falling down a pit of despair feeling worthless and depressed.

I’ve kinda always known that, but listening to her relate it to her childhood forced me to relate it to mine and I thought: Holy Shit. It was like that with Dad too.

After he would have his fits of anger, and would say horrible, soul-crushing things to me, he would always find a moment to sit me in his lap and offer a very sincere apology followed by praise. Some nights I’d lie in bed just waiting for him to calm down and offer that reassurance. He didn’t get that angry often (as a parent I now know once is too often) but when he did, I just got through it knowing he’d give me my praise and compliments soon. JUST BE PATIENT.

So I think my issues with not handling criticism well is that, in the rest of the world, they’re not followed by mounds of praise and apology. So I don’t know how to handle it.

REVELATIONS!!

I think I need to work on giving myself the praise and apologies. If no one every criticized me about my domestic existence? I’d keep this balance of work no questions asked. I only seem desperate for praise if a criticism has been handed out. So my issues relate less to “WANTING ATTENTION” and more to “NOT BEING ABLE TO HANDLE CRITICISM”.

Isn’t that fascinating?

Okay! Now I’m off to clean toilets so I can hopefully squeeze in a run before Nikki’s soccer game today. If anyone has any recommendations about How To Handle Criticism Gracefully And Without Losing Your Shit, please let me know.

Stumbled upon this photo of a lamp my brother made and it always makes me happy for reasons I can't even explain.

Señora Grumpypants Feel Enlightened

Holy Carp y’all – I was grumpy last night.

(I’m leaving that typo because I really like the idea of religious fish.)

I was snapping at the kids and my husband and I was all sorts of unpleasant in all sorts of ways.

I always hate that. I try to preach the whole “Ripples of Awesome!” and “Spreading Joy!” method of living but some days those outlooks are so far from my actual behavior inside the walls of my home that I kinda want to punch myself in the face.

My Dad used to reference his frustration with his own anger issues, and how he had learned that you carry around frustrations during the day that you can’t release because it’s considered very rude to yell at the lady ringing up your groceries. Or you don’t want to flip off the guy who wouldn’t let you merge on the highway because he could be a psycho that will shoot you. Or you don’t want to yell at your coworkers for not making new coffee when they empty the pot. Any of those things can build frustration into your day that you don’t release, and then you get home and you just let it all out where you’re comfortable.

Dad said, “You take it out on the people in your family because they won’t leave you. But one day they will.”

That’s how I felt last night. I’ve just been tired lately. And stressed. And I just carry that around all day. I’m worried about the house and my new job (I have my first full-home photo shoot today and I’m SO NERVOUS) and my kids and their personal struggles and my husband and his knee and shoulder and whatever else is ailing him…I’m worried about all of that and it makes me turn into Señora Grumpypants (Look for her in Avengers: Age of Ultron) and I keep it bottled up until I get home and then I totally lay it all out on my kids by showing them absolutely no patience and guilting them for acting like…well…kids.

DAMN THEM!

#MomOfTheYear

But recently I’ve had these small glimmers of enlightenment. Have you had those moments? Where for one second you suddenly truly feel that thing you tell yourself all the time but you don’t actually believe it? Things like:

I love my body! I don’t have to be skinny to be beautiful!

As long as I’m a good person, it doesn’t matter how much money I make!

If I treat others with kindness and love, then I’ll feel it in return!

You know – those affirmations you tell yourself that a lot of times you don’t truly believe? But then, in a moment, it clicks and part of your heart is all like, “Hell yeah, I’m beautiful. Screw this diet!” And those moments are just BRILLIANT and why we keep going, right?

Well – one I’ve been trying to tell myself lately is:

None of this truly matters.

I get so stressed about stuff that really doesn’t matter if you look at the big picture of life. So what if I don’t do this one thing perfectly? Really? What is the worse that can happen? So what if I don’t get my floors mopped before work? I mean, is there really someone who would have bought my house today if the floors were mopped? So what if I don’t lose this weight by the time we go to Harry Potter world? Should I really let that affect my trip?

Things like that.

And lately, I’ve actually gotten these small moments of release where I’m relaxed because I truly believe the affirmation: None of it really matters. And in that moment, I’m not stressed. It’s like I just let go of it all and for this brief second I feel a million pounds lighter.

And those are great feelings.

The lightness doesn’t stick around for long, but the fact that it shows up at all is reassuring. The fact that there is a part of me that can relax in the moment and see some of this stress for the futility that it really is, makes me feel better that I’m not going to collapse under the weight of it all.

And I woke up this morning and had one of those glimmers…those little clear views that the stress is completely unnecessary. I had that moment of peace which reminded it’s all going to be okay.

It was only a moment, and then I starting freaking out again, but still! That moment helps calm down Señora Grumpypants so that hopefully she won’t spread her grumpiness to her children when she wakes them up for the day. And those moments of enlightenment is what make those affirmations important because the moments get closer together if you keep telling yourself, “It will be okay.”

ripple

Kindness In The Face Of Irritation

Twice lately I’ve received angry emails for various reasons (I’m a point of contact for a few different things which means strangers sometimes email me) and have resisted the urge to respond with a, “OMG. Chill out! It’s not a big deal! Here is the information you need that will get your underwear untwisted! JEEZ.”

In both cases that was the general tone I used in the FIRST draft of the response, but not in the SECOND after I had some time to think.

Because – truth be told? I’ve been that person irritated behind the email. And I received a kinda and empathetic response instead of an irritated one and it made me feel 9 million times better.

(That’s a scientifically validated number. I did the math. It was actually 9 million times better.)

So, instead, I’ve offered kindness. Empathy, “Yes, I understand the frustration…” followed by important information, “these factors have played a part in causing you irritation…” and then a plea for forgiveness, “I hope this helps you understand the problem and that this does not jeopardize our relationship.”

And both times? It got an apologetic and appreciative response in return. Same as the one I gave the person on the other end of my irritated email.

Here’s the thing – sometimes we’re going to get irritated. And often, rightfully so. There are a lot of irritating things in the world. I’m currently irritated by the cost of a soccer season where both of my kids have played two games without uniforms and the season only has 7 games. WHERE DID MY MONEY GO IF NOT TO UNIFORMS?

See? Irritated!

And I may or may not have already emailed someone about it.

(I have not. But I have emailed someone about other issues that irritate me.)

We’re all going to be irritated sometimes. Some (me) more than others. And sometimes we (me) will send irritated emails to someone because we feel like what irritated us needs addressing. AND THIS IS OKAY. It’s often necessary that those voices get heard before policies change. HOWEVER, if I responded back with more irritation then that person will get even MORE frustrated and the ripple of suck will just spread across the universe.

Instead, I put myself in their shoes which I can easily do because I get irritated often, and wait. They threw in the pebble of ANGER and FRUSTRATION into the pond and I can just let the ripples wash over me until the water is calm again. And then I can respond with kindness and send those ripples back to the person in hopes to help fade their anger in the slightest.

I’ve done that twice recently, mainly because someone did the same for me.

It works both ways.

So! If you’re the kind of person who has a position where sometimes you get angry emails, stop before you fire off that response with a similar tone. (Man, the one I first typed out recently was SO SNARKY. I’m so glad I waited.)

We can’t stop and think when it’s an angry phone call, or any angry face-to-face encounter. But we CAN if it’s an angry email. We can pause and really think about our response.

And as someone who recently got a kind response to an angry email? I can tell you – it was the thing quickest to calm me. They didn’t promise change or correction, they just offered empathy and that helped immensely. So I returned the favor to the angry email I received and received an appreciative response in return. I like to think that person who responded kindly to my frustration is the reason I responded kindly to another person’s. So, his response not only helped ME, but helped the next person I talked to.

That’s how kindness works, I guess. It spreads – and I need to remember that more often than I do.

Mala

Mania.

There are two tidbits of depressing advice/wisdom I had to reference often in my professional life, before two years ago.

1) Most people hate their jobs
2) Your job doesn’t have to define you

And while these things are depressing when you’re in college and hoping your professional life will be amazing and rewarding, they are still true.

I’ve been lucky that I’ve never had a job I hate, but I’ve had plenty of jobs where I was unchallenged and unfulfilled and therefore BORED TO DEATH. Hence those two tidbits being mantras to remind me how blessed I still was. Even if I was bored or unfulfilled. I got laid off the first week of March in 2013 for the third time in my life. I was depressed (THREE TIMES!) and had no idea how we were going to survive because we had some financial issues we were dealing with.

Then I got an opportunity to work with a company that does a lot of different things – but one of them? Web development on WordPress run sites.

BOOM.

That’s my favorite thing in the world to do! It started out small, hourly, but having someone regularly to do handle that part of the clientele brought on more work in that area so I’ve spent the last two years getting a steady paycheck doing something I love. Also? I’ve learned more about PHP and CSS and WordPress and databases and hosting and domains and DNS in the last two years than I had in the 10 years prior.

Unfortunately – the company hasn’t had much work in the web development department lately – and I find myself looking for work. AGAIN. I don’t want to call this a layoff because I’m staying on with the company in a very limited capacity in case anything comes along, but financially? It might as well be. My regular paycheck is no longer something to be trusted and it will be reduced at least 90% I think, depending on what they still need me for.

When things like this happen, my mania is spotlighted. I normally only deal with your garden variety anxiety struggles. But, during extreme situations, I suffer these manic episodes that are (usually?) short-lived but still a reminder of how close I sit on the precipice of severe mental and emotional collapse. This was basically the roller coaster I rode yesterday. ENJOY THE RIDE!

(Sidenote: I’m feeling more stable this morning. I’m lucky that these episodes are rare and short-lived. I’ll write more about where my heart settled tomorrow. But it is somewhere in between these two extremes. Thankfully.)

[sobbing uncontrollably] WHY IS THIS HAPPENING AGAIN? Why can’t I just enjoy a feeling of professional and financial security for more than 2 years? Am I just the layoff Queen? DO I HAVE TO CANCEL MY TRIP TO HARRY POTTER WORLD?

[smiling broadly with tears in my eyes] I am so lucky to have had that job for even two years. I learned so much that it’s made me hirable even at 39. Some people get laid off from jobs where they’ve been doing the same thing every day for 25 years and can’t find work because they have no usable skills. I can’t believe how lucky I was. I’m in such a better position than most. I worked for and with women who were great role models – something I needed both professionally, and spiritually. I’ve been blessed.

[crying while soaking in the bathtub] I AM JOBLESS AT 39! What if we don’t sell our house soon? What if we’re stuck in this huge house without my paycheck anymore? What if my stupid professional luck causes us to lose what savings we have built up? Donnie has worked so hard to get our finances in order – what if my stupid inability to hold a job ruins that forever? Why did he get strapped with such a financially unlucky wife? He deserves better.

[smiling while scrubbing the porch] This is the universe giving me some free time so I can get our house in shape for the market and keep it that way! This is a blessing in disguise! Our house is going to sell SO FAST – all because had the time to take care of it! This cloud is ALL SILVER LINING, BABY!

[curled up in the fetal position in bed] There’s no point. Why do I even bother? I’m no use to anyone.

[smiling while eating donuts] I’m blessed with amazing friends who bring me treats to make me feel better. They call me or email me with potential work! They send me love and tidings of support. I am so lucky and I will take this blessing and use it to be strong and to make my professional life even 100 times more rewarding than it was before! NOTHING CAN STOP ME! I CAN CONQUER THE WORLD!

[sobbing uncontrollably] I’m the worst investment ever. Why bother visiting my brother in Denver in July? Why bother going to Harry Potter world? It’s all so selfish and pointless and zaps money from our savings while I’m contributing nothing financially to the family. I give nothing but take everything.

[Smiling while drinking tea.] Look at me. Drinking tea. Life truly is beautiful. I don’t have a steady source of income, but I have this amazing family and a roof over my head and my health and friends and a wonderful community and I have been giving blessings beyond anything I deserve in my life. This one setback is NOTHING, this is just a tiny bump in the road. I’m going to be fine. We’re going to be fine. The world is beautiful and I am strong and powerful and I can now start the path to my dreams.

[sobs]

I took this picture to document the insanity of my morning frizz halo.  But it's about how I see myself every day.

Learning to Love My…Face?

Thanks to a recommendation from one of you guys, I found myself listening to a podcast yesterday that was an interview with Isabel Foxen Duke. She was discussing emotional eating and some of her words just knocked me for a loop. I mean, it all seems SUPER obvious once I think about it, but the kind of thing where you’re like, “Oh…yeah…I guess I could look at it that way…” and it kinda blows your mind.

She talks a lot about how body image plays a huge part in emotional eating. I had never quite connected the two like she did. I can’t really do her thoughts justice here, but just trust me that IT MADE PERFECT SENSE. I mean, it’s not like I thought the two issues were unrelated, but I never connected them as directly as she was able to.

(Look! I ended a sentence in a preposition! It’s like a throwback!)

But it got me thinking about body image and how – truthfully – it’s not my body I hate.

I mean, I hate that all of my clothes fit a body 15lbs lighter so I always feel slovenly wearing only the “biggest” of my wardrobe and I don’t really like any of it. So, if I could go shop for this body? I could probably learn to love it pretty quickly.

But – here’s the thing – the reason why I think I’ve always wanted a more fit body is because…I hate my face.

Saying that just cracks me up. “I HATE MY FACE!” Just seems like something so silly. But, the more I think about it, the more I realize how true it is.

See, Isobel was challenging listeners to think of someone you truly feel is gorgeous at a body size that is bigger than your own. And I could list out 50 right now. Some real friends, some celebrities, but all people who weigh more than me but that I think are stop-a-clock gorgeous and who I would trade appearances with in a millisecond.

And it’s all about their face.

Not even necessarily with makeup, I’ve seen my one friend right after she had a baby, and at the end of a 5K, when she’s sick…and none of those times was she fixed up or wearing makeup and she always looked SO PRETTY. Like, I’m super-intimidated by her beauty, even post-childbirth, and it’s because her face is gorgeous. She also carries a confidence about her that is sexy, but I honestly think that on same days I carry a confidence too – my insecurities are weird like that.

So it really is all about my face.

I think that I feel like the more fit I look, the less it matters that I hate my face. Isn’t that twisted? I have this vein on my forehead that someone I was in a relationship with once a million years ago told me made it look like I had had my face stepped on. So, you know, those words repeat themselves over and over constantly. I’m getting older so I have the chicken neck thing. I have horrible bags under my eyes. My eyebrows are crooked. And not in a way that waxing/shaping whatever would help, it’s like my FACE is crooked.

I think this is why I never got into makeup, because it requires spending a lot of time looking at my face, which I hate.

HOW WEIRD IS THAT?

So she kinda rocked my world and shifted my perspective.

It was just interesting to really take stock of my self-image and realize that in reality – this body, even at 16lbs heavier than when I was at my fittest – isn’t something that I hate. I could probably learn to love it if I could afford to re-dress it. (Although, if I could stop emotional eating, the weight would just drop off.) It’s mainly that I hate the redness of my skin and the shape of my eyes and the vein on my forehead and shape of my teeth and…so on and so forth.

And that was a weird realization. I kinda just thought it was my body I hated when I looked in the mirror, but it’s not as much as my face. Because the women who I look to as being gorgeous? Are the ones with the beautiful faces. Not the ones with the fit/trim bodies.

BOOM.

So, yeah. That was interesting. I thought about that a lot yesterday. I looked at my instagram page and it’s full of selfies but I know that the main reason I take those is because I fight SO HARD not to be “that girl” who won’t take pictures of herself. I don’t want to be the person who won’t be in a picture because I feel ugly. So I take a selfing and use a filter that dims the red of my skin and I take it at an angle where the bags are less and the vein isn’t as prominent. And I look at those pictures and they’re not ugly. I mean – why is my perspective so messed up? I think it’s because I walk by the mirror and I see the halo of frizz and the dark circles and the chicken neck and all of that makes me want to be skinnier because at least THAT I can control.

So, yeah! (I’m just going to start every paragraph that way.) This was all very enlightening to my own body/self image issues.

I guess I need to work on reprogramming because I know I’m not hideous. I like my eyes and my hair and if I’m wearing mascara I can actually walk by a mirror and not turn away. So, maybe I just need to work on being a bit more honest and seeing the GOOD in the person in the mirror – and not just the nose I hate. (DAMN YOU, DAD! THAT NOSE IS MUCH EASIER FOR A GUY TO PULL OFF!)

What about you – do your body image issues really apply to your body? I would be okay with this body forever if I could clothe it, but this face? This face is going to take some time learning to appreciate and love. And no amount of calorie counting will help that…which is equally depressing AND liberating.

“EAT ALL THE DONUTS! THE FACE WON’T GET ANY UGLIER!”

I took this picture to document the insanity of my morning frizz halo.  But it's about how I see myself every day.

I took this picture to document the insanity of my morning frizz halo. But it’s about how I see myself every day.