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.

Celebrating Faking It.

I read this article yesterday about the imposter syndrome (which is one of my favorite syndromes) and it really hit home.

There are moments in my clarity about cluelessness when I get to witness a remarkable thing. A coworker makes a brilliant point. My co-parent practices superhuman patience with our angry toddler. A friend performs an act of extreme generosity. When that happens it’s like a flash goes off in the room. You see it. When someone does something truly good when you understand that no one knows what they’re doing, you notice. You appreciate. You feel like you’ve leveled up just bearing witness to the thing. These are the moments you think, Humans are awesome. Anything is possible. I have a lot to learn. It’s a good feeling.

I love this idea even when applied to ourselves. That if we find the truth in our ineptitude and not shy away from it, we can also find true pride in our successes. If you’re trying to convince yourself you’re awesome at everything, you might miss when you are really truly awesome at something.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the minutes in my day and how I spend those. I’m valuing self-care a lot more, not trying to pack it all in to the point where the anxiety of “it all” paralyzes me and I do nothing. Nope. I’m avoiding that trap now, but I’m still trying to find that balance. That balance between productivity and peace. I sleep better knowing I’ve done something important with my time, but if I try to do too much important I don’t sleep at all. And part of trying to find this balance is really trying to find truth in my talents and my faults. I don’t want to waste time by doing something I’m terrible at, no matter how much I think someone else wants/needs me to do it.

It’s the first day of December and I want to use the next 31 days really trying to forge new habits so that I call allow for greater effectiveness in how I change the world. I’ve been driven to action since the election (see here: http://northalabamaprogressives.com/) but I don’t have a lot of spare time so I’ve been really thinking about that balance and how I choose what to give attention to. I don’t have a real formula yet – but I’m definitely working on it 🙂

Here’s to not being afraid of our faults because none of us really know what we’re doing.

The Power Of Actually Answering A Good Question.

“How Do You Want To Show Up In The World?”

This is a question I am supposed to be working on in…um…my…uh….book club! Yeah! My book club! (My friends in any of my book clubs are thinking What? We are?) Totally not something I’ve talked about with any mental health professional! No way! ‘Cause I’m totally not someone who would talk about therapy every day! Nope!

Anyway…

It’s a good question. But there are a lot of good questions out there. (I’m also working on these questions posed by Leah Peterson.) We hear these type of good questions and we think about them for a few minutes and maybe our scope is expanded for a moment as we ponder them, but then the dryer dings, or our boss comes in, or our kid swears he’s starving and then we kinda move on with our lives. Maybe we answer them in a vague sense in our heads for a moment, but we don’t really answer them like all good questions deserve to be answered.

So. My…book club insisted that this question be answered in a practical sense. So I kept a page in my bullet journal accessible where I scratched out ideas for a few days, and then yesterday I tried to clean it up a bit so that I could really hash it out in my favorite way this morning:

ON MY BLAAWWWWWWGGGGGG.

The first thing I kept coming back to, is that I want to be a good listener. This sounds a little more charitable than I truly intend. The truth of the matter is that I just really like really rich conversations and I love learning from other people. I love laughing at other people’s self-deprecating stories. I love expanding my view from other people’s histories. I love connecting with vulnerabilities. I just love good conversation, but mostly I love being on the listening end of good conversation because I’m much better at talking when I’m behind a keyboard. I don’t want anyone to think I’m being at all charitable…I don’t like listening for how it helps the person I listen to, I like listening for how it helps me.

But then I thought about times I’ve not really liked conversations I’ve been in, where they’ve sucked me dry instead of built me up. So I started thinking more about how I want to attract positive energy in the world. I want to put out the kind of energy in the world that pulls in the kind of people who want to build each other up, instead of tear each other down. I want to attract people willing to be vulnerable with me, willing to recognize our own privilege and our own need to put into the world what we want to get out of it.

So, how do I attract that kind of person?

I become that kind of person. And I really think I’m there more and more every day. Mainly because I am building a personal tribe of truly beautiful people. And you can attract a beautiful spirit by accident, but I’ve got an arsenal of them in my life and I feel like – in that quantity – I must be doing something right.

I don’t think it’s about being Happy! Happy! Happy! all the time. But I think it’s about being sincere and…god I hate this word because it’s become so overused but…AUTHENTIC. I want to be authentic. I don’t necessarily want to try to be the person who I think the world can love, I want to love who I am so the person I present to the world can also be loved. Does that make sense?

(SIDENOTE: My dishwasher is broken so it’s BREAK THE SOUND BARRIER LOUD. When it’s running I have to put in headphones with music so I don’t hear it. So, I’m trying to write this really profound and introspective entry with music blaring in my ears to drown out the dishwasher. I’m not sure this is really conducive to logical thought flows.)

When I think about building a community of good people, my instinct is to think I accomplish this by being the court jester or Mary Poppins. The kind of happy and joyful person who sings songs even when she has to take medicine or makes jokes that makes everyone laugh. But that’s not true. I think to really attract the kind of people I truly want in my life – people willing to have tough and honest conversations about how to make this world a better place – I need to be authentic. I need to be vulnerable in my faults. I need to be able to laugh and to smile, but I also need to be willing to admit my errors and discuss my wounds because it’s when we’re vulnerable with each other that we make real connections. The court jester who performs only keeps the crowd while she’s performing. I want to keep the crowd indefinitely. I can’t change the world by myself, but if I build a tribe of like-hearted people maybe we can change the world together?

I want to celebrate complexities. I know that sounds profound, but it’s really not. I spent years trying to fit into some group…Was I grunge? Did I hang with the punks? The hippies? The goths? Was I trading Grateful Dead bootlegs? Was I obsessed with owning all of the Doc Martens? Was I outdoorsy and did I know all of recent Widespread Panic setlists by heart? I spent years trying to build a facade of who I thought people liked. But over the last decade (or two) I’ve been settling in to the realization that sometimes I want to hippy-dance around the house listening to Scarlet Begonias and other times I want to jam to Katy Perry. Sometimes I want to read books that open my mind to other cultures and histories, and other times I want to read about vampires. Sometimes I watch documentaries about modern slavery (which you should all watch) and other times I watch non-stop superhero television (which you should also watch). I don’t want to classify people as in single categories and not allow for nuance. This goes for me and for everyone I meet. Just because I know you’re a Christian or a Trump supporter doesn’t mean I can’t find something to learn from you. We are all complex. I don’t believe in God, but I believe in prayer. Complexities are to be celebrated, not discouraged.

There are two other words on my notes page I’ve been trying to hash out into more complex ideas: Art. Bravery. I’m not sure what I want to do with those words and how I want to expound on them in how I show up in the world. But I know they’re both important.

I’m scared of a lot of things. As I grow older I choose which fears might be worth tackling. After Dad died I decided my fear of people and of leaving my house needed to be tackled. Last night I had dinner with 10+ amazing women and I felt at home and comfortable in the presence of these women at an event I more-or-less organized myself. It was a discreet event where I was trying to create a safe place for liberal women to talk and vent, hard to “promote” if you don’t want to alienate people. But my efforts worked and I had amazing energy-filled conversations with strong like-minded women and I thought to myself, That was very brave of you, Kim.

I don’t want to conquer my fears of driving or travel or anything yet, but I want to push myself outside of my safety boundaries in ways that I think may help expand my world view without sending me into a catatonic state of panic. So, I guess I want to be brave,…but MY kind of brave. Not the “bungee jumps” kind of brave. Not the, “travels to Europe alone” kind of brave. Not the, “makes left hand turns” kind of brave. But maybe the, “Needs a meal with inspirational women so plans it herself” kind of brave.

And now: ART. I like to look at writing as art. But I also like to look at my bullet journaling as art. And my doodling. I look at ART as anything I create as a way to express something I’m feeling. My friend Leah also posted this: “‘I can’t talk about it. I need to art about it.’ -Me, not making sense but making total sense.” And that’s when I wrote the word “ART” down in my notebook. YES. I have to art about it. Sometimes that means staring at this compose screen on my blog and hashing out my thoughts with my words. But other times it means zendoodling and just meditating on something while I color simple shapes. Other times I’m feeling anxious and overwhelmed so I draw out my weeks in my bullet journal to sort out the chaos. I want to write. I want to continue to put my words into the ether as a way of keeping my mind right. But also…I want to art. Right now that seems to be meditative doodling, but I’m also not against other forms of art down the road. I just know there are many times I have things inside of me that feel like they’re fighting their way out, and writing mostly helps, but I’m open to other means of release as well.

There’s no simple answer to a question as complex as: How do I want to show up in the world? I’ve proved that with my 1600+ words here. But man, it’s a good question to actually sit down and try to answer. I think there’s one last thing that I’ve been a little hesitant to write because it sounds a bit narcissistic and I feel like it needs a LOT of explanation but: I want to inspire. This sounds lofty and maybe pompous and definitely pretentious and presumptuous. But it has two parts: 1) I have been inspired by friends and family and I would love to return the favor but also 2) I have taken journeys in self-exploration and self-development that have bettered my life in so many ways and I want other people to see that and be inspired to take their own. It’s not as much as I want people to say, “Kim inspires me!” I want people to say, “Kim’s journey inspires me to take my own!”

Eek. That still sounds super pretentious and self-righteous. Maybe I’ll hash that one out a little more.

And what about you? How do you want to show up in the world? My *ahem* book club *ahem* totally wants to know.