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Insight Timer – My New Jam.

home-timer-phoneI’ve always known meditation was something that would benefit me, as my mind is a big bowl of chaos 9 days out of 10. But I’ve had a hard time even stilling my mind enough to make it through 5 minutes and after those 5 minutes I never feel refreshed, I just feel frustrated.

BUT! My therapist (DRINK!) recommended an app to me: Insight Timer. And it has something called “guided meditations” which I guess is a common thing I’ve just never heard of. Some have explained “guided meditations” as a good introduction to meditation, with the ultimate goal being doing it self-guided. But others have said, “Eh. Some can ONLY use guided meditations, if you only ever do guided meditations, that’s okay. Whatever works for you.”

I like the later of the responses because takes the pressure off of me, as I’ve often felt guilty for not being able to successfully meditate. This way, I can just stick with guided meditations for awhile. And y’all? Guided meditations are SO MUCH EASIER!

The insight timer has a bajillion guided meditations, I’ve been a bit overwhelmed by it and have basically just been working my way through the most popular ones under the “sleep” category. Many of them reference the term “yoga nidra” which I need to research more, but most of them guide you through relaxation of body and mind.

Yes. I get how silly that is, that I need help relaxing. But y’all? It works. I’ve been doing it for several days now and it’s really helping me fall asleep. Last night it didn’t work as easily, but I think it’s because I was listening to it with Nikki and I started getting paranoid that maybe she thought it was weird and it made my mind whir more and not relax. But most of the nights it’s been great and really helps me fall asleep. I’ve done two morning meditations and they’ve been good too. Short, sweet, affirming…exactly what I need.

This post is basically just informative. So I can share my discovery with you. This weekend was not quite as energizing as I was hoping it would be. I had hoped to get some good resting and relaxing in but failed miserably. I’m a little frustrated with that because I’m getting wound up a lot, feeling a little on the edge of frenzy as soccer and school picks up. I had tried to practice my “self care is healthcare” this weekend and schedule some time to nap and rest but I just felt guilty for trying to nap and rest.

(Yes. I’m aware of how ridiculous that is. Feeling guilty for trying to take care of my mental health. We will save that for another day.)

So I needed the nighttime sleep help for sure. I’ve been unable to stop waking up early, but if I can go to sleep easier at night, then hopefully I can balance it all out. Let’s just hope this Insight Timer app keeps helping me. If you check it out and you find anything good (I wasn’t lying when I said there were nine million of them.) let me know! I think you can actually connect, make “friends” in some way but I’m not sure if I’ve figured that part out yet.

Anyway – if you check it out tell me what you think!

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Eavesdropping on Myself

I was having coffee with a friend and she was telling me about how she totally forgot to see if her kid’s soccer stuff fit the day of their new season evaluations. It didn’t fit so she frantically had to scramble to buy stuff while they were at school on the way into work and she has no idea if it will fit or even if they would like it. So, of course I to her, “Well – that’s shitty. You know your kid’s friend does soccer AND gymnastics AND music AND dance lessons and her Mom has a full time job and I’ve never seen them without the right gear. AND she always looks flawless. You can’t even handle this one thing. You’re the worst. Your kids are going to remember the shame of this night forever.”

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I talk a lot about the value of language and how you will never hear me complain about “political correctness” because I want to know if my language could offend someone. I’m certain to be ashamed and embarrassed at first, but since I believe everyone has the power to teach me something, I would hate to build a wall from learning from entire groups of people just because my language was unwelcoming. (FYI – GLAAD has a great resource page explaining why certain words are “problematic” which speaking of anyone in the transgender community. I send this link out a lot lately with discussion of transgender rights.) Word choice is incredibly important because in some communities certain words incite extreme negative feelings. My kids knew the word “faggot” was a terrible slang word long before they heard it on the playground (which they have already heard quite often), so there is no part of them that ever hears that word and doesn’t bristle in defense of their brother. WORDS MATTER. And knowing what words trigger what negative feelings to people you would rather not alienate – that is KEY to building a diverse community.

But SHIT, yo. I alienate the crap out of myself with the language I use when talking to myself or describing myself to other people. I don’t take time to really think about word choice like I do when I’m talking about marginalized minority groups. I just grab the first (and often negative) phrasing or words that pop into my head without ever taking time to think about the messages I’m giving myself.

(BTW – I’ve discovered a new podcast and the hosts use terms like, “Shit, yo” and now it’s my vernacular which works for a 41-year old white woman, don’t you think?)

If I have to point out an error to someone I take the time to do it gently while reinforcing positive messages too. I consider respectful language when talking ABOUT or TO people prone to bigotry. I play my words in my head first before advising someone who is hurt or down on themselves. I think before I speak.

But do I take ANY time to consider language I use referring to myself? Nope. Not at all. I evidently want to choose words that welcomes diversity as long as the group is diverse with people not me.

Sometimes I’ll casually use a overly negative word or phrase to describe myself or my behavior and I’ll get called out on it in therapy. And it’s not just that ONE word or that ONE phrase that is problematic. But it’s all part of a bigger picture of me trying to look at my life and myself in a more positive way. Specifically with how I interact with the people around me. I carry a lot of anxiety about relationships and social interactions and by framing myself in a negative way constantly, that reinforces those anxieties. I constantly feel like I’m a terrible and inadequate Mom. (Hell, I wrote a whole blog post about it recently.) I often “jokingly” describe myself as a terrible wife and hard to live with and I build my husband up as this superhuman man who puts up with me.

And no matter how I play off my “Mom of the Year” jokes and sarcasm or my “Why he stays married to me” humor as all lighthearted – it’s not. I have moments or days or weeks or months when I feel very unworthy of anything of value and those “jokes” and self-deprecating language are not helping me build the foundation of self love I so VERY much need.

Donnie dropped the ball on something recently and his first instinct was to feel terrible and my first instinct was to ease his mind and give him reassurance and love.

But I dropped the ball yesterday morning and I beat myself up about it all day. That conversation from the beginning of this blog post? That was a conversation I had with MYSELF. And that is DAILY. When I write it out like I was saying that stuff to a friend? It sounds TERRIBLE and CRUEL. I mean, what a shitty person to talk to a friend like that! If I heard someone talking to a friend like that in a cafe, I would be OUTRAGED. Hell, I probably would have gone over there and been like, “Dude. You need new friends. This woman is an asshat. Come finish your coffee with me.”

I need to be as in-tune with my own feelings of self-worth as I am with everyone else’s. I need to take the time to consider my language towards myself like I do towards anyone else. I was careful in how I addressed the mistake Donnie made because I wanted him to remember that he’s been working 60 hour workweeks and so he shouldn’t stress out about this one error. But when I’m looking at mistakes I made? I’m thinking about all of my friends who do it so much better than I do and I just allow myself to continue talking terrible to myself.

Here’s another one:

My friend was talking about how her husband is always talking about how sexy she is. I just straight up told her, “Really? That’s crazy. You’ve put on so much weight. You never wear makeup. Your boobs are so saggy and you’ve got that CRAZY distorted muffin top and since you’ve put on weight none of your clothes fit so that belly just hangs out over everything and I CAN’T BELIEVE HE FINDS YOU ATTRACTIVE. That’s insane.”

I mean, COME ON. Don’t we all want to punch that woman in the face? BUT THAT IS HOW I TALK TO MYSELF. And it sounds fine and acceptable in my head until I type it out here like it’s a conversation with a friend. Then I’m like, “Yo, BITCH. STEP OFF. SHE’S SEXY AS SHIT AND HER MAN IS LUCKY SHE EVEN GIVES HIM THE TIME OF DAY.”

(I’m totally pulling off that language, don’t you think?)

So I’m trying to really think about how I talk to myself. How I describe myself. I’m trying to look at it from the outside and hear my words like I’m eavesdropping on two friends in a restaurant. If the words I’m hearing makes me want to stand up and gut-punch the girl saying them? I might want to reconsider my message. No one deserves to be talked to like that. NO ONE.

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A Blessing And A Curse

It’s funny. When I was talking to my therapist about my “mission to avoid collapsing into the black abyss” (I like giving my therapy goals different overly-dramatic names) I was laughing about how a lot of my problems come from FINALLY CONQUERING MY DAMN SOCIAL ANXIETIES.

Stay agoraphobic. Leaving the house ruins your life.

Kidding!

Kinda.

I definitely was not in a happy place back in my Never Leaves Home Or Talks To People phase. And I definitely do not want to trade in the tribe and community I’ve gained for the peace of no life. HOWEVER, it is funny to look back at all of the balls I’m juggling and see how many of them are because I felt it was important to get out of the house and make friends.

DAMN YOU, FRIENDS.

The problem is – now I can’t live without them. So I’m compelled to not let any of them down because I’m terrified to go back to the days where I wallowed in my solitude. And for some reason – in my head – they’ll all forget about me if I don’t say, “YES!” to everything they offer.

And saying “Yes!” to every thing a friend offers wouldn’t be a problem if I didn’t have SO MANY AMAZING FRIENDS. That’s the downside to finally conquering your social anxieties – you might meet a lot of amazing people AND THEN NEVER SLEEP AGAIN.

I saw two friends at Publix this week that I haven’t seen in forever and just getting hugs from them boosted my heart and my soul and THAT IS WHY I CAN NOT SAY NO. Part of it is definitely the fear of abandonment my therapist helped me uncover, but part of it is also that I just love the energy I get from being around people I like. I no longer run and hide when I see someone I know at the grocery store – I scream their name and give them big hugs. WHO AM I?

So the secret is finding a balance. And focusing on those outings and events and obligations that give me a positive NET GAIN of energy. I have a few that zap me more than they fill me and those need to be kicked to the curb.

And maybe meeting some assholes once in awhile.

It’s easy to say “NO!” to assholes.

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Mental Health Facebook Break.

Dramatic “I’m Leaving Facebook” posts are so cliché, especially during a Presidential campaign. The whole, “I’m taking a break from Facebook because the internet is upsetting me,” status always makes me feel very mixed feelings. First? Extreme eyeroll because I’ve seen so many ugly sides of the internet in my decade and a half producing online content, Facebook is nothing. Second? BUT FACEBOOK IS AMAZING. It’s how I find amazing articles and hilarious memes. It’s how I keep up with my friends and family. It allows me to be social without anxieties. I LOVE FACEBOOK.

But the third thing I feel? Is always jealousy. Because y’all? For every 10 wonderful things I see on Facebook, I see one terrible thing that changes the way I look at someone I previously liked or respected. And I hate that.

Last week someone I would hug if I saw in person posted something basically saying that there’s nothing scarier in the world than someone who is openly voting for Hillary Clinton. ME. I’m the scariest thing in their world right now? ME? REALLY? And then this weekend I saw someone sharing out a story another Military Mom wrote slamming Ghazala Khan and included a comment about ignorant people who saw her husband’s DNC speech and “FELL FOR THE PROPAGANDA.” And so, you know, since I shared out his speech and posted 2-3 different statuses about it, then I guess I’m that person who is ignorant and fell for the propaganda.

And I just can’t.

The last few weeks have been tough on my kids. They both have needs that fall about 180 degrees separate from each other. My parenting life is like having one child deathly afraid of the dark, and another allergic to the light. Helping one seems to constantly hurt the other. My house still hasn’t sold but I’m trying to keep it show ready constantly. My husband worked 14 hours yesterday. I’m going to therapy once a week in an attempt to get my oxygen mask on before helping those around me.

Even without the election season and the ugliness Facebook dishes out at me, I’m having a tough time keeping my own mental health well enough to give my family what they need. But Facebook lately has been hacking away at my sanity one Hillary Bashing Meme at a time.

So, I’m going to be all melodramatic and take a break from Facebook. I’m going to roll my eyes at myself. Right now my mental illness is in remission but if I don’t make sure to stay healthy, it’s going to falter and so I’m recognizing the triggers and I’m removing them where I can. My kids and my husband need me to be at my 100% best for them and I can’t do that if I’m falling into these downwards spirals of anxiety and fear and sadness from stupid crap people post on Facebook. I take it all too personally. I have to walk away.

But I need you to do something for me. I need you keep an eye out for those things I love on the internet. Great articles about politics and empathy that help me keep faith in humanity. Funny crafts incorporating Harry Potter and Pokémon. Cute videos of pugs. News about my favorite TV shows. If I don’t get a steady flow of that stuff via email/twitter/my blog, I may find myself tapping that Facebook vein again and I need to stay away until I no longer scroll through my feed with fear.

“But just unfollow them!”
“Just unfriend them!”

I’ve done that for the first time – SEVERAL TIMES – this election cycle. But that feels shitty. I want to STAND UP for myself and for the people I support in politics and in government. But we all know how pointless that is. And sometimes relationships are tricky but also important. Sometimes the ripple that conflict starts can damage other relationships. And unfollowing someone gives me a false sense of safety which also makes me feel yucky. I’ve unfollowed several people recently and I kinda feel worse not knowing what they’re saying about people like me than I did when I saw the insults to begin with.

I just need a break. My kids, man. They’re so fragile right now and I wish I could write more about it because you all always give me the best advice, but I can’t. They’re getting too old and it’s too personal. Just know that some days (like yesterday) can be beautiful and painful and enlightening and terrorizing and I need to be as close to the top of my game as possible. And if I’m too fragile myself from the hateful atmosphere I’m seeing on Facebook, then I do them no good. And they didn’t ask for it to be an election year when they needed me the most, so I can’t punish them for that.

Keep an eye out for the good stuff for me, okay? If it weren’t for Facebook I would have missed out on Stranger Things which I adored so I need you all to keep me in the loop.

Much love. See you on Twitter and Instagram and – as always – here on my silly little blog.

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The Hardest Lessons We All Must Learn

Alternately Titled: “A Shit-Ton Of Shame”

I often cite a particularly difficult lesson I learned over a decade ago because when I say “Over a Decade Ago” I feel like it implies that I am much smarter and wiser now. SO MUCH TIME HAS PAST! 10 Years! I’m so much better!

The lesson was that using the word “retarded” casually is offensive and hurtful to people with – or people who love people with – intellectual disabilities. AND I LEARNED IT 10 YEARS AGO! I AM SO MUCH SMARTER NOW!

But the truth is – I have learned many similar lessons in the 10 years since. I just don’t like to cite those because it removes the narrative I’ve set up that The Zoot Of Today Is So Enlightened.

Also? These lessons are hard. They are the hardest lessons.

The lessons I’m talking about are the ones where you have to categorically recognize: I WAS WRONG. And since they are lessons often connected with the negative impact of those you wronged (Like the ID community in the case of the r-word) then you can’t help but feel a SHIT-TON OF SHAME.

Here’s how it unfolds.

STEP 1: You say something.

STEP 2: Someones tells you what you said is offensive/insulting/derogatory etc.

STEP 3: You defend yourself.

AND THEN YOU WALK AWAY FEELING ANGRY TOWARDS THE PERSON AND YOU HOLD STRONGER TO THE WORDS YOU CHOSE BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT A RACIST/MISOGYNIST/HOMOPHOBE/BIGOT!

“Wait, Kim? How do you learn a lesson there?”

Well. It’s not exactly what I have done. But two things of note:

1) It’s what I WANTED to do. DO NOT CALL ME A BIGOT.
2) It’s kinda what I’ve done in the past, I’ll be honest
3) It’s what a LOT of people do. Most, maybe.

Here’s where the lesson starts to unfold…

STEP 4: The words the person correcting you use rattle around in your head for awhile and you can NOT STOP THINKING about them.

Now…if you just get angrier and angrier and rant about how Political Correctness is ruining our country? Then you are missing out. Because the next steps are where the true beauty unfolds.

STEP 5: You feel shame because there’s a part of you that sees a bit of truth in the words the person used to point out the error in your words/actions.

STEP 6: You start to really think about that. I mean REALLY think about it. The painfully type of thinking about it because the shame really starts to surface. SHIT-TON OF SHAME.

STEP 7: You realize the person was right and you go forward in your life with a little more enlightenment.

STEP 8: YOU FEEL DAMN GOOD ABOUT YOURSELF. There are so many people who go through their WHOLE LIFE never being open to change AND LOOK AT YOU! YOU ARE OFFICIALLY A BETTER PERSON THAN YOU WERE BEFORE!

Now, full disclosure: The shame kinda subtly lingers for a long time. Sorry about that part. But that comes with the territory of evolving. You see the old you and kinda cringe a little. I still cringe at how casually I used to use the word “retarded.”

But, like I said. I didn’t just go through this 10+ years about about the word “retarded.” I’ve also gone through it about racism and how I discuss and look at movements like Black Lives Matter. I’ve been politely schooled on several occasions and I’ve gone through the steps above and I’ve dealt with the lingering shame of realizing how privileged I am and how much a part of the system of racism I have unconsciously become. No one has come out directly and called me a “racist” because I have kinda and empathetic friends who know that – around me – maybe kid-gloves are necessary. But they’ve called me out. They’ve corrected me. I’ve gotten defensive. I’ve felt shame. AND THEN I HAVE LEARNED AND PATTED MYSELF ON THE BACK.

Because if you survived the cycle of the hardest lessons? And come out a better person? And not stopped at the “RANT ABOUT HOW PC IS RUINING AMERICA” – then you deserve to be gentle and love yourself. It’s a hard journey.

Enter Steve Clemons – one of my favorite political writers. He tweeted this last night.

Let’s just call that: STEP 1

And what followed (because this was on twitter) was a TON of angry criticism. (Call that STEP 2.) Steve responded to a lot of it. And partly defended himself (STEP 3) and said he’s told men to smile too. But also, you can see, he started seeing how much pain those comments cause women because they get held to different standards than men. If you look at some of the conversation threads, you can see where he’s authentically learning how upset this makes women and listening to the lifetime of “being told to smile more” many of them have suffered when men are told that at a much smaller rate. Obviously he thought about it. Steps 4-6 happened in several different threads for Steve before he finally responded to his own tweet.

If you find yourself thinking “Eh – what he said isn’t too bad.” Then consider this blog post your STEP 2. I’m ashamed to say that – even as a woman – I have still had to learn lessons about misogyny and how I contribute to it as well sometimes with comments on women’s “niceness” and appearance. Having a daughter helped me get past STEP 3 and learn my own lessons. I still catch myself telling my daughter to “smile” when I never tell my sons that. If you still struggle to see the problem with it, here’s a good NPR story about it.

Y’all. Even as I’m writing this I’m struggling getting to STEP 8 about the whole “telling my daughter to smile” lesson. That’s probably the one I’ve learned the most recently and I’m still so ashamed when I allowed myself to really look at my parenting and see that I’ve NEVER told my sons to smile and have told my daughter to at least a gagillion times.

GAGILLION TIMES.

So, Steve Clemons? I feel ya, dude. I’m a liberal feminist Mom raising a daughter and I’ve made the same mistake. Thank you for learning the lesson and making me feel a little better about my own errors.

And if you can’t list anything you’ve learned in this manner then there are a few possibilities:

1) You’re enlightened naturally. CONGRATS!
2) You’re scary and your friends aren’t comfortable correcting you.
3) You’ve never made it past STEP 3.

Here’s to all of us dealing with the shame of learning hard lessons together. The more we do, the better our world becomes. Here’s to feeling a Shit Ton Of Shame together!