Raising My Standards

I’ve been thinking a lot about a term I’ve heard more and more in the last several years: Microagressions. It’s usually used in terms of how we slight members of marginalized communities. How we’re all a little racist or misogynist. Since that term has entered my vernacular, I’ve noticed a lot more subtle bigoted behavior. This has heightened my awareness of these small behaviors that are often just subtle way to be…well…mean.

Most of us probably look at ourselves as good people. We come forward with donations when a community member needs support, we offer condolences when someone experiences loss, we suffer sleepless nights after global tragedies. And I do believe all of this is good. I know that by those standards I’m very good. But…the more I have looked at my life the last few years, the more I have noticed my own tendency towards small slights of other people (these microagressions) – and it’s making me take a harder look at how I define “good” in my world.

I think the rise of social media and the ensuing surge of stories of terrible people has allowed us to excuse ourselves more and more for smaller slights. I mean, I haven’t gone on a racist rant in the middle of a store and told a person with brown skin that Trump is going to kick them out. But I’ve seen no less than three similar videos of other people doing that since the election. I mean – that asshole is a TOTAL RACIST. And because I see that type of behavior shared out regularly, I have defined that behavior as “bad” and by default myself as “good” without recognizing the smaller negative acts I may commit daily.

You know how we all have an increased fear of kidnappings because our media allows us to spread stories of kidnappings regularly so we feel like they’re common? I feel like the same phenomena is happening with “evil” behavior and we are now looking at these videos of terrible people doing terrible thing and using THAT behavior to define “evil” and by default the rest of us are “good”. But you know what? When I really think about microagressions or small slights, I think I’m doing a disservice to myself and to others by setting the bar so low to be considered good.

So I’m taking time to think about things like my retweets. That’s probably an area where I give myself the most “buffer” area to be mean. I don’t usually use my own words to slight others, but I sometimes laugh at the words other people use and therefore retweet them because I think they’re funny. And somehow – even though they’re mean – I remove any responsibility for them because they’re not mine. Sometimes there are tweets insulting Trump supporters or Christians and they kinda hit home to me and make me laugh so I retweet them but that’s kinda dickish, you know? I mean, do I get to absolve myself of the harm they do because they’re not my words?

I mean, it’s no secret that I dislike Trump and I’m trying my best to be proactive in fighting his agenda. But I think that can be done without being mean. And let me clarify: I DO NOT THINK ALL CONFLICT IS MEAN. I think it’s important in the scope of history and change not to tender-step all of our conflicts. But I do believe there’s a way to be “mean” that isn’t remotely productive and sometimes I retweet that type of stuff because – I’ll admit – it makes me laugh.

If you can’t see that image above it’s a tweet I retweeted that says: “Seriously. Donald Trump addressing Congress feels like a fever dream I had after I had my gall bladder removed.”

And it made me laugh. So I retweeted it.

But then I started thinking about how when people posted stuff like that about Obama I got my feelings hurt. I mean, it’s one thing to say, “This policy is terrible and here is why:_____________” But it’s another thing to say, “This guy on my TV doing his job is giving me terrors…” Do you see the difference?

I’m not saying because I retweeted that I am somehow evil or mean. Or not “good” by some definition. I’m just saying that I am not really looking at my actions alone because compared to the greater scope of the internet…I’m freakin’ Ghandi!

And I know this is the time where a lot of people like to say, “Don’t be so hard on yourself!” And I’m not beating myself up over it, it’s just a new perspective I’ve been adopting lately. And honestly? It started with noticing small microagressions from other people that hurt my feelings. Small slights/jokes people make against liberals and their “snowflake” status, or about atheists, or Obama supporters, or feminists. Those tiny comments from otherwise “good” people that prickled my sensitive heart. My reaction to small slights from other people just heightened my awareness of it, and am trying to think about how words have power, not matter now “small” they are.

Just because you’re not standing from a rooftop screaming, “Liberals are ruining America!” doesn’t mean you’re “accepting” of all different political views. Just because you’re not changing your Facebook Cover photo to “F*CK TRUMP” doesn’t mean you’re helping mend the political divide in our country. I just feel like I’m letting myself get away with snarky behavior because it’s not as bad as some, but when I’m on the receiving end of that same behavior? It stings. So I’m reevaluating how I define “good” in myself.

And it’s not even just: “IS THIS MEAN?” It’s also, “WHAT IS THE POINT?” When I leave a comment or make a tweet – is there a point? I mean, it’s okay to just be silly, half of the shit I write online is just silly. But sometimes I find myself playing the, “Me too!” card in a moment that belongs to someone else. Like if someone writes a Facebook status about something difficult and instead of providing them comfort, I take the open door to talk about MY OWN similar problem…what is the point? Is this what the person was hoping for? No. They wanted comfort. Sympathy. How can I provide that without making it about ME?

I’m trying to remember that words have power, even if they belong to other people. I’m trying to remember that being “good” is a spectrum and just because I’m not on the “evil” side, doesn’t mean I’m 100% on the “good” side either. I want to go to bed at night proud of who I’ve been and not worried that I may have hurt the feelings of someone I respect. I want to be confident that I put more good into the world, than bad. I want to feel like I did my best at being kind.

I want to raise my standards.

Faith.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Faith. When I was privately suffering from depression as a teen, I had Faith that God still loved me even though I didn’t love myself. That Faith saved my life and prayer saved my life. No one else knew the pain I was in because I gave it all to God and I’m not sure I would have survived without that Faith.

Oh, and I had a terrible fear of Hell if I had killed myself, but that fear doesn’t really provide the nice narrative I need about Faith right now so let’s push that aside until a later date.

But Faith! It saved me.

As I have been without Faith in a God for many, many years now, I’ve been thinking a lot about Faith in humanity. I live in a pretty fantastic bubble of kind and compassionate people. Even if we disagree politically or spiritually, I’m 100% certain I would have friends who would come feed me if I was starving or clothe me if I was cold. I have Faith in those people to help me if I truly needed it.

I also have Faith that they’ll check on me if they think I need it. I’m trying to return the favor and let people know when I’m thinking of them as well, and I just feel like I have created this wonderful cocoon of love in my life.

But then shit happens.

Sometimes it’s a mean thing posted on Facebook about how all Liberals are evil. (I mean, some of us are, I’ve unfollowed many, but not ALL of us.) Other times it’s something global like and act of terror or a celebration of hate. Or sometimes it’s just stupid gossip and drama in my local life. The there’s basic shitty attitudes or bigoted opinions. Other times it’s just my own insecurity. But these things have me question my Faith in humanity and I start to ask myself, “Are we conditioned for evil? Can we truly spread kindness or is evil too strong?”

But I refuse to believe that. I refuse to lose my Faith. I’m taking time today (after seeing a lot of shit this weekend, I’ll be honest) to notice the good in people. The love and kindness. I’m not going to let a few bad things this weekend desecrate my Faith. Because while I saw a bunch of crappy stuff, I also so great strengths of friendship and love and I can’t forget the good underneath the bad. I can’t lose my Faith.

Let’s be kind to each other today, my friends.

It’s Okay To Be Not Okay.

I don’t feel like I’ve done a good job lately of building a 3-dimensional/authentic view of myself here on this blog. I tend to get several “don’t be so hard on yourself” or “you’re too stressed” or “stop doing so much” responses and I never really know how to respond to them because all I feel is, “I think I’ve done a poor job presenting myself if these are the responses.”

And it’s tricky. I write here in the mornings and I haven’t been sleeping well lately. I toss and turn a lot, I cough a lot, my back hurts, and I’m just anxious. So when I get up for the day I don’t always feel great and I often have stress dreams so when I noticed the trend I thought, Zoot, maybe you’re just writing about the WORST moment of your day and so now you’re giving off this view of a sad, anxious person who is too hard on herself?

So I thought about that for awhile. But even that didn’t seem right. If it had I would have responded to comments and emails, “Oh – I’m fine! I just start the day kinda gray!” And that didn’t feel truthful either.

An then I ran with a much wiser friend on Saturday and she talked about how she’s just accepted that sometimes it’s okay to be sad. And maybe “unhappy” or “sad” is a more accurate depiction of her general state of mind. And we talked about that awhile and I really found myself thinking about that idea. And then I thought about how one friend in particular told me once that maybe I should consider the fact that I found comfort in my anxiety.

So I thought about all of these things together during the last mile of my trail run this morning. The sun was shining and I was running on a trail I normally hate but it seemed oddly beautiful today. And I considered how maybe I’m not doing a good job painting the picture of my life. And maybe not with my real world friends or family either. The other day my husband said, “I miss Happy Kim.” and I understood what he meant, but I also wasn’t sure “Happy Kim” was necessarily who I wanted to be right now.

During our run I remembered that The Oatmeal had done a comic about this one time and I thought I’d find time to hunt it down and re-read it. It’s called How To Be Perfectly Unhappy and rereading it with our conversation fresh on my mind really helped me understand my current state of living and my current mindset.

I am not happy. And that feels weird to say because I know that suddenly society says: OH NO! FIX IT! BE HAPPY! I experience joy and bliss and love and laughter and fun…Sometimes for hours at a time. But the underlying feeling is stress and anxiety and sadness. But it’s not at the level where I’m worried about myself, I’ve been in dark times where I can’t get out and it’s not like that. I have great runs, or empowering tattoos, or games with family, or margaritas with friends and I laugh and I smile and I love my friends and my family and my life. But the underlying sense of it all is concern and anxiety and I’m starting to just be okay with that. Like my friend said, “Sometimes we’re not meant to just be happy all the time. It’s okay to just be sad sometimes.”

I know the difference between “a case of the sads” and “can’t escape the darkness” and really, right now? It’s very much the first one. I’m just sad a lot as life is not going how I want it to go right now. We’re stuck in a weird limbo where we’ve moved out of our house but it hasn’t sold yet. Politics are a concern as are relationships I’m worried can’t survive the political climate. I’m concerned about my kids as they’re all facing their own challenges in life and many of which I can’t help. I’ve put on 20lbs that I’m trying to lose as I ramp up to my April stage race. I’m not sleeping well and exhaustion strips me of any normal level of enthusiasm.

But I’m not sure I would change anything.

Theres is stress with concern over my kid’s challenges, but that stress drives me to try new things or to be more mindful in parenting. I’m anxious about the political future of our country but that pushes me to stay active and make phone calls and send emails and write newsletters. I’ve always spoken about how my anxiety has very concrete “positives” that I don’t like to forget and when it’s all manageable, I’m okay with suffering the restlessness in my life as a tradeoff for the feeling of purpose or engagement of fulfillment. My anxieties help me give my life meaning and that…is not “unhappy” really, it’s just not “happy” either.

There are just a lot of things worrying me, but they give my life purpose right now. It’s not irrational worries (like when I have to make a left turn somewhere, that shit is BANANAS) which have plagued me in the past. They’re worries and concerns that keep me busy and give me purpose. I’m hard on myself because I want to be better, but I don’t think I’m irrationally hard on myself. I still watch a shit-ton of television and don’t feel even the slightest bit guilty about it. I spent stupid amounts of money on microbrew beer BECAUSE I HAVE STANDARDS, PEOPLE. I don’t feel guilty that the money is not going to something a little better.

Yes, I’m hard on myself in many ways, but only in ways that I want to drive myself to be better. I’m stressed and probably doing “too much” but it’s because there are a lot of things that are important to me and help me feel like my life has meaning and purpose. I’m anxious about things out of my control (like my children and their development) but it pushes me to think outside the box and try to find things that I can control. But it also forces me to recognize I don’t have control and to try to be mindful.

And right now all of that is overwhelming and making the “general feeling of happiness” something that eludes me. But I’m still enjoying moments of laughter and joy. We started a D&D campaign with the kids this weekend and I had two days of great running. I got a tattoo and put a bigger one on the calendar for May. I bounded joyfully through puddles and closed my eyes in the sunshine while I walked my dog. The joy and beauty and laughter is still abundant in my life and I’m learning to be okay with the anxiety underneath it all. It’s not necessarily something I have to fix, I’m finally learning. I just accept it as an ebb in the river of my life. There can be purpose and fulfillment in sadness and I just want you all to know that I’m okay with that.

Connections.

A friend of mine asked on twitter the other day what your 2017 word of the year would be – and I thought for awhile and finally said: RESIST. Because I’ve been politically minded for a month now and it’s hard to think of anything else.

But then I thought about it a little bit. I still know that’s going to be an important part of my year…monitoring politics and lending my voice and my hand to resist changes I don’t support. However, that’s not what I want the year to be about. I would love to be optimistic that my resistance is only needed in small moments here and there, so maybe I should think of a more optimistic word.

And then I decided: Connections.

I would like to be more deliberate about taking moments to make making real connections with the people I’m interacting with. I’ve been working several years on being a better listener and this year I want to REALLY focus on that. I’ve gotten better about making sure I ask questions in conversations (that took about two years to train myself to do, I’ll be honest) but I still tend to get excited in conversation and think about what I want to say next. I want to enrich connections by being present and focusing on what the person is saying as they’re saying it.

I want to make sure I keep this in my mind with my family as well. I’m bad about giving my friends or new people more of my attention in conversation than I do my family. I would never sit and stare at my phone if I’m having a conversation with you – but I would do that with my husband and my kids. Which is terrible, I know.

I want to work on making sure any moment I’m connecting with someone – that moment and that person is what is holding my attention. Not my To Do list, not my social media feed, not my next engagement. This is not some sort of altruistic thing either, it’s really deeply selfish. I like the way real moments with people make ME feel. I want to try to enrich the connections I’m making with people because – as I’ve conquered a lot of my social anxieties – I really find I’m given new energy when I walk away from a good encounter. And on the other side of the spectrum, I feel terrible when I walk away and realize Shit. I bogarted that conversation. I want to make sure I’m allowing for real connections with people, everyone from the cashier at Publix to my trail running friends who I’ve met for a beer. Because they MAKE ME HAPPIER.

There are tons of other things I’m going to try to do this year, I want to focus on writing, I want to get my health back in check, I want to SELL THIS DAMN HOUSE (Inspection is today, please keep your fingers crossed for us) and I want to be very proactive in making this world better. There are specific items on my To Do list for the year and I’m packed full of resolutions. But – if I choose one word that I want to focus on for the year, it will be CONNECTIONS.

Here’s to enriching our lives by connecting to others. Welcome 2017.

Stuck In The Roundhouse. Off The Track.

We’ve had some weird issues lately as it relates to Wesley and the challenges of raising a child who struggles with processing some emotions. While I’m no longer comfortable sharing his story online, I find myself daily wishing I had friends who I could call who really understood these challenges. Just last night I was thinking, No one. I know no one in real life I can call right now to seek counsel. There needs to be support groups, the problem is it’s not an easily compartmentalized or categorized struggle. It’s not autism. It’s not ADD. There’s no physical ailment. My kid struggles with processing shame and anxiety and resorts to anger. There’s no cute logo to put on my license plate to find other parents struggling. The best I can do is hang out at Target and find the kid pitching the tantrum and the Mom doing everything she can to remain calm (because – due to various counseling from therapists and doctors and books and TED talks – remaining calm is always a must) and just walk up to her, slip her a bottle of wine with my phone number on it and whisper in her ear: Call me.

I think she would find that creepy though. Right?

I don’t know. I’m also feeling a little anxious because this entry has gotten shared a few more times than my usual stuff in a few more different platforms and I’m keeping an eye on it. I’m happy people relate to it, VERY happy, as I think it’s important for all of us to recognize our privilege, but THE INTERNET IS FULL OF CRAZY PEOPLE. But when my stats spike for ANY reason I start to panic a little. Once I wrote an entry about how we should quit hating on people who shop on Thanksgiving and quit forgetting that some people need that double-wage day to help with Christmas and HOLY SHIT. That thing got shared like 20K times and I got all of the crazies in all of the land. I had to finally close down comments because I was deleting mean ones (MY BLOG, MY RULES) left and right. And I’m like, If an entry defending shopping on Thanksgiving brings out this much rage, then one about white privilege is going to get really hairy.

I also had to attend a social event last night where there was a lot of people in a small space and you all know my anxieties develop exponentially in those situations. The more people in the smaller space the worse my anxiety. People think anxiety attacks are hyperventilating and freaking out but for me? My anxiety attacks manifest in a few different ways, but the most common way is my whole brain starts to shut down. I try to become part of the furniture or wall or floor and just freeze in some sort of catatonic state. I’m terrible. People kept thinking there was something wrong with me and I’m like, “Oh – don’t mind me. Just faulty chemistry in my brain and this much stimulation and socializing causes all of my neurons to misfire making me unable to relax or enjoy myself! I’m dying on the inside! Merry Christmas!”

UGG. Seriously. I hate myself some days.

And let’s don’t even start on how my running has stopped completely. I came away from my last crazy race weekend with some crazy shin splints and a lot of apathy and the two combined have not done anything to motivate me. Then send my husband away on business for a week and me having no family to turn to for help (see first paragraph) and I just sat on my butt all week.

Ugg. Some days, you know? It’s just like your brain is trying to handle several different conflicts at once and you just cant seem to get on track going in any direction? My train has been derailed inside a roundhouse. Not only am I off track, but there are 14 options in front of me and I can’t even decide which track to finally head down when I get back on which makes me lose all motivation to right myself. I’ll just lay here upside down in my engine car hoping there’s snacks somewhere.

Tomorrow will be better, I’m sure. The rain is supposed to clear which will be nice as I haven’t seen the sun in several days.