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The Neighborly Thing To Do

I’ve been mulling over several things regarding current events and I hadn’t finished mulling so I didn’t post this morning.

BUT I AM DONE MULLING!

Not really. But I’ve reached a good stopping point regarding one issue. A mulling rest area, so to speak.

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This time of year it’s common to see these notices posted from Combat Veterans regarding their hatred of fireworks and their request for neighbors to honor that around Independence Day. This is always very favorably received and I notice images like this are shared out by my liberal AND conservative friends and family. This is one of those issues that everyone can seem to stand behind. I love those issues. I don’t like fighting so when everyone agrees my heart is happy.

AND I AGREE TOO. I hate loud noises and I don’t have any combat induced PTSD. So I can’t imagine how much more awful fireworks would be if I did. I hope the neighborhoods respect those requests by these heroes.

But you know what I don’t see? People getting pissed off and declaring anger that “Fireworks have been banned!” I don’t see groups rallying in protest and shooting off fireworks ANYWAY because they LOVE FIREWORKS and there’s no triggering for them! Just excitement and awe! I don’t see any kind of responses like that from anyone. On the contrary it’s always just support.

Could you imagine if I stood outside my neighbor’s house, my neighbor the combat vet, and just shot fireworks from the sidewalk and said, “This is a free country! I can do what I want! I love fireworks! WOOOO!” Do you think people would rally behind me?

Jeezus, I hope not. I hope they would tackle me to the ground and apologize to my neighbor on my behalf.

To me, refraining from shooting fireworks when you live near a combat veteran is the same type of gesture as removing a Confederate Flag from the state grounds, even if it means nothing more to you than a symbol of your Southern Family history. Governor Bentley may not see Jim Crow laws or Desegregation Protests or the KKK when he looks at a confederate flag, but he knows others in our state do – MANY do – so he decides, as a state official – to not fly it on state grounds. It’s a gesture of kindness and empathy. He’s not necessarily saying, “I see the flag as a symbol of hate!” – but he’s recognizing members of his community DO see it that way and he’s trying to be respectful of that, even if he doesn’t feel the same way.

Just like when you see the sign in your neighbors yard requesting that you refrain from shooting fireworks since he/she is a combat veteran. You may not be triggered by loud sounds, you may LIKE fireworks, but because you do not like the idea of your combat vet neighbor suffering with PTSD episodes, you avoid buying the fireworks. The fireworks may not mean the same thing to you as they do to your neighbor, but you respect his viewpoint and refrain anyway. Because it’s the neighborly thing to do.

Removing something that is a symbol of hate to MANY; and refraining from something that is a PTSD trigger to your neighbor…these are steps we take to be neighborly. To strengthen our community. To say, “I do not feel the same way about this thing as you do, but I do not want to cause you to have ill feelings, so I will avoid that thing that causes you those ill feelings.”

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Last year there was a billboard like this that popped up around Christmas. I’m not a Christian but this billboard upset me because it is one of the many attitudes atheists take towards Christians that implies their faith and religion is stupid. I DO NOT LIKE THAT. It’s not a neighborly thing to do.

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To me, this one is much better. It’s basically just seeking out like-minded people. Am I the only one that sees the difference? They both serve the same purpose, but one alienates our neighbors, one does not.

Maybe some think this is our country becoming “Too PC!” for our own good. But I think both instances (the fireworks and the confederate flag) are simply examples of people being neighborly. Of people wanting to strengthen their community. Of people taking a moment to stand in the shoes of their neighbor and making a decision based on how THEY feel.

That’s the kind of community I want to live in.

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Pandora’s Box Of Donuts

I stumbled upon this comic last week. I’d love to embed it here so you can read it but the owner doesn’t provide an easy way to do that and I don’t want to include it if he doesn’t make it easy to do so. If you have time? Go read it. If not? I’m touching on the important parts here.

He draws pictures showing examples of how other people stop their own version of self-harm. The pictures really make the content better – but here’s the transcript from part of it:

Harm reduction is a way of managing behaviour that is potentially risky, damaging, or unhealthy by putting in place plans and techniques to reduce the harm of those behaviours.

Harm reduction is an alternative approach from suddenly stopping a behaviour (‘cold turkey’ or abstinence). Suddenly stopping a habit can be really hard, and some people find that it just sets them up for failure, which makes them feel powerless.

Person: Every time I self harm I say ‘never again, that was the last time’, and then I feel like such a f*ck-up when it happens again. It’s a vicious cycle.

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Harmful behaviours are often coping mechanisms – things that help you process difficult emotions, or stressful events. Suddenly removing a coping mechanism, even a harmful one, can deprive someone of the very thing they need to survive a rough period.

Harm reduction is a way to gain some control over something you feel you don’t really have a grip on. Successfully controlling a bit of what happens around ‘uncontrollable’ feelings can help it feel more manageable, instead of a big scary thing you can’t do anything about.

I think there’s a lot of wisdom in that, especially as it relates to my stress/emotional binge eating. That is MOST DEFINITELY a harmful behavior, and I most DEFINITELY “feel like such a f*ck-up” when I fall off the wagon so-to-speak. I’ve definitely been applying some of the theory to this in my life lately, especially finding ways to gain control before the harm begins.

One of the examples one of his readers gave was this one:

I’m Rashaad, and I sometimes have manic episodes. I’ve had problems with money when I’m manic – I impulse-buy things online that I can’t really afford. Once I gave away hundreds of dollars to charities online, and then I didn’t have enough money for rent.
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What I do now, if I feel like things might be slipping into a manic episode, is to make sure I have enough food and necessities for a few days, and freeze my credit and debit cards in a block of water. That way I can’t just impulsively buy something, and if I do feel like I really really need something I have to wait for my cards to melt out. That extra time often gives me a second to consider what I’m doing and decide whether it’s really necessary.

dunkin-donuts-dozen-boxWell! I found myself doing JUST THIS last week. I mean, I didn’t freeze my credit cards because that wouldn’t help with the binge eating, but I did something similar.

Someone brought donuts into the office early last week. This happens often and WITHOUT FAIL, one morning I’ll come in to a quiet office and eat 2-4 of the donuts in the boxes sitting around. I’m never hungry, I bring breakfast with me. But because they’re there, and because I love donuts, I eat them. And there’s no such thing as a “stale donut” if you have a microwave.

So – you know what I didn’t do? I never opened the box. They were there ALL WEEK And I walked by and thought about how much I’d love whatever was in the box, but the box was closed. And as long as I didn’t open it, I could convince myself it was full of gross donuts. (LIKE THERE IS SUCH A THING.) Or that it was empty. I looked at that box and considered opening it 100 times, but I never let myself. That was the way I was giving myself control. I was NOT going to open that box. And I didn’t.

I did allow myself a few extra pieces of chocolate last week, but still…NO DONUTS.

Some days I would fantasize about the box. What if there were just 6 glazed donuts waiting for my face. Or chocolate covered. Or blueberry. And how delicious would those all be heated up in the microwave for 10 seconds and then stuffed in my mouth. DELICIOUS. And sometimes I walked toward the box, “Just to see…” BUT I DID NOT OPEN IT.

It feels weird to be proud of something so silly, but there it is. Me figuring out how to gain control during a week that should have featured several nights of binging. Between my over-packed schedule and my anxiety and my scary bike rides and open water swims, I had TONS to push me to the fridge. But I somehow let that box be symbolic to me for something and I just thought about that box all week and how, yeah, I ate some chocolate here and there. I ate a late night peanut butter sandwich. I ate TWO burritos instead of one. But none of that is out of control and the box of donuts was NEVER OPENED.

Victory in the small things, my friends.

Making My Best Efforts Not To Thwart My Own Best Efforts

Thanks for the suggestions yesterday! I opted to start The Fosters on my ride this morning. The problem is I’ve seen a few episodes here and there so I know some of what happens, so I may have to start with something BRAND NEW to really keep my mind occupied. But it worked for this morning’s ride!

SO. I wanted to update y’all on some of my efforts to get a handle on my stress eating. Reminder – since we contacted a realtor about selling our house last Fall I had gained 15’ish lbs. Before that I had gained 5’ish back from what I call my “fighting weight” which is my ideal race weight. So, basically? I was 20’ish lbs up from my fighting weight at the beginning of June.

I’ve been doing better. It helps that I’ve worked out 11 days straight, some days 2 separate workouts (yesterday I ran 5 miles before work and swam a mile in the evening) thanks to my triathlon training. The evening workouts really prevent the stress eating because that’s my most vulnerable time – the evening – so if I have a workout to distract me it tends to help.

I’m also trying to be smarter during those vulnerable moments. Those moments where you’re just tired/overwhelmed/upset and you think, “Shit – who cares, I’m going for broke” and you order 2 meals for lunch takeout instead of one. You eat one in the car and then one at the office so no one knows you ate two lunches. (What? Never done that?) I’m trying to really look at those moments and then look at how I’ve been getting up at 3am some mornings just to get my workouts in. How I’ve been stressing about open water swimming and cycling on the road to gear up for this triathlon. All of that effort does not carry as much weight if I’m still gaining weight in the process. A leaner body will do nothing but help my efforts so why give myself another hurdle to jump over?

Of course, I’m not always going to have a training schedule this insane, so I’m not sure if this method will work, but for now? It is. I’m down to 2 pieces of candy from the office bowl a day and I’ve stopped my nightly beer habit. I actually had to really deal with that habit because it had become nightly beer(S). One night last week I had THREE in one night and I was like, “Kim! That’s a weekend quantity! Not a weeknight quantity!”

(Yes, I talk to myself.)

So, I nipped that in the bud. Now, I didn’t just tell myself NO MORE NIGHTLY BEER! But, I am being smart about it. I’m waiting until later in the evening to decide if I want one so that I only have time for one, and then I’m being honest with myself about if I really want one. It’s become a habit, so I don’t want to have one unless I’m really going to enjoy it. Not just because it’s there. I bought a 6 pack Saturday and I’ve not touched it yet, so that’s working much better.

I’m also really tired. This week I have stuff planned every night. I had a 1-mile swim last night, I have a group training session tonight and tomorrow night, and I have a play with a friend Thursday night. Not every week is like this but I’m going into this week and seeing that schedule and knowing that weeks like this are the PERFECT recipe for a 6-pack of donuts in the parking lot of Publix.

(Holy crap, that sounds really good right now. STAY STRONG, KIM.)

I’m about 5lbs down from that 15lbs. I would love to lose another 5+ before my race. I can’t get down to my preferred race weight in that time, but I made it through several races this year above that weight, so it’s not ideal, but I can do it.

I just need to just look at that mile swim I did last night every time I want to stress eat. I did not want to do that swim. I was so tired. SO VERY TIRED. I had a full day, up since 4:30, ran 5 miles, worked 8 hours, did some freelance stuff after work, cooked dinner, did laundry, and then had to go swim. And I didn’t want to go AT ALL, but I DID. And I need to look at that person who made that decision and not punch her in the face by eating 6 donuts or drinking 3 beers before dinner. That girl deserves better. She left the house to swim a whole mile when all she wanted to do was curl up in bed with a book. She deserves respect and love – and stuffing her face full of donuts in a fit of anxiety is neither.

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Replacing The Negative With The Remarkable.

I’ve been a huge fan of the Nerdist for ages. He’s a great interviewer and while I have no idea who 6 out of 10 people are that he interviews, they’re always great interviews and fascinating. He does a great job of picking guests. Last week he interviewed Stephen Tobolowsky who I knew by face but not by name. That guy was FANTASTIC. He had all of these great philophical ideas to share and he was just interesting and the interview got a little mind-bendy at times. One thing he mentioned though, was what he does on the first day of the classes he teaches. He gives everyone a blank journal and tells them to write down everything remarkable they see happen in their lives or around them.

And then my mind was blown.

IMG_8009WHAT A GREAT THING TO DOCUMENT. The best thing to me is that the definition of “remarkable” is so very personal. My sister-in-law made these beautiful ring bearer boxes for her wedding that I just guffawed over. Someone delivered flowers to my boss and I was totally moved by the gesture. Things like that, things that caused me to just be amazed in some fashion. Why not document those things? What a great way to give those moments more power in your life than the negative moments.

One night last week we did a late run to Target. The kids wanted to use some of their money to get slushies, something they are never allowed to do. I told them it was fine (we had a long day) and they walked over to the concession area to see if it was open. I didn’t go with them, I just know that Nikki was crying and didn’t want to talk about it until we got outside. Turns out? The person working behind the counter acted snotty to her when she asked if they were still open. And she’s like her mother and carries those moments very deep inside of her. She said she felt really stupid. (Sidenote: She did say, “Now I know what you mean when you say sometimes my tone makes you feel stupid.”) She was devastated and I told her how I understood and those moments bug the crap out of me too, but I begged her, “Please. PLEASE. Please, let it go. You are giving her power she doesn’t deserve to have over you. We don’t want that girl’s attitude ruining your day.”

But haven’t you been there? Haven’t you held on to an ugly moment like that but let the remarkable one fade away?

I think that’s why I like the idea of documenting remarkable moments. It gives them more permanence in our memories and our hearts and maybe we push out the ugly that we don’t want to hold onto, yet we do anyhow.

So! Another page/project for the bullet journal. And another day to celebrate having the bullet journal as a method in my life. Any day we can celebrate the bullet journal is a DAMN GOOD DAY.

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Learning To Love Familiar Faces – The Value Of Letting Go Of Our Own Definitions

Something I’ve noticed changing in my life as the years pass with me facing my social anxieties head on, is that I truly love seeing familiar faces. Before I started putting myself out there circa 2010, if I saw a familiar face in the grocery store I would run in the other direction. Sometimes I would pretend I didn’t notice/recognize someone even if we made eye contact. It was like I was facing a danger in the wild and my instinct was the fly away. Every. Single. Time.

But now, I truly feel joy when I see a familiar face. I think that’s why it bothers me so much when I get a name wrong. Because I’m really happy to see this person in front of me, and calling them the wrong name does not really convey that joy successfully. It’s a weird shift that snuck up on me. Sometimes the face might belong to someone I haven’t talked to in person in a few years, so I quickly pull up Facebook to remember their name and then I hunt them down and say, “Hi!”

Did you get that? I will SEEK OUT someone who I haven’t even spoken to in years, take the time to make sure I have their name right, all just to say, “Hi!”

I mean, I would have hidden from my BFF 5 years ago if I wasn’t in “the mood” for socializing.

I’m still a total mess and I still humiliate myself during at least 2 out of every 10 social encounters, but I legitimately like seeing people I know now. Which is a very weird thing. EVEN IF I LOOK LIKE SHIT! I could be wearing my lawn-mowing clothes, smell like sweat, and have a shopping cart full of tampons and I’ll still be excited to see a familiar face at Target.

(Sidenote: I still don’t need tampons thanks to my ablation over a year ago. Hard to believe I haven’t talked about the misery of my reproductive system in over a year! YAY FOR BURNING MY UTERUS!)

And this change is what brings me back to something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. About how dangerous it is to repeatedly “define” ourselves. I held on to that “social anxiety” definition for a long time. As well as the “homebody” definition. “Yeah, I have severe social anxiety. I don’t do that kind of stuff. I’m a homebody.” But somewhere a long the way I started letting go of that as I started embracing growing my tribe. I still get so anxious at every encounter, and I still embarrass the shit out of myself on a daily basis, but I’ve learned that the Pros outweigh the Cons time and time again.

I often say, “I can’t give up sugar. I tried once. Didn’t even make it 24 hours. It was awful.” And all of that is true, but I wonder how much truth I’m adding to it because I KEEP SAYING IT. Maybe I should work on how I verbally define myself. “I’m a stress-eater. I binge eat when I get upset.” “I can’t give up sugar.” “I’m addicted to Diet Coke.” All of these things I just repeat as a way of making an excuse as to why I can’t change. But look at me! I’ve made so many positive changes in my life by letting go of certain definitions.

Does anyone here remember my failed attempts at becoming a runner back in 2006/2007? I tried to do my own training and kinda survived to a half-marathon level (but not really) and then totally screwed up trying for a marathon and declared – OUT LOUD – several time, “I just have to face it: I AM NOT A RUNNER.”

HA! I’m totally a runner.

I do the same with cycling. I’m constantly saying, “I hate cycling. It scares the shit out of me. I won’t ever like it, I’ll just learn to live with it.”

But how much of that am I setting into concrete because I just KEEP SAYING IT OUT LOUD?

(For the record, I do really hate cycling.)

DO YOU SEE? I CAN’T STOP MYSELF.

So. I’m going to try to work on that. There are times where I do need to explain myself and my actions to people in conversations. Especially people I’m training with, they probably need to know how intense my fear of cycling is. BUT – I need to work on how I say it, maybe. “I’m really trying to overcome my fear of cycling.” “I’m trying to learn to love cycling.” “I’m struggling to embrace cycling.” That type of thing. It verbally let’s the person know where I stand but it removes the absolute and adds a type of action that sets me up for success in the (very distant) future.