Month: November 2014

Time Out

The holidays are a tough time,

Even if you love the holidays, they’re a tough time.

People get a little wired at the holidays. Wired full of all different things – all at once.

In my little piece of the world alone, we have all of these things going on at once:

Feeling on top of the world.
Feeling like the world is on top of us.
Not really being sure where we stand in relation to the world.

Starting something new.
Ending something old.
Reigniting something old instead of finding something new.

Feeling like an expert. Feeling like a novice. Feeling competent. Feeling inept.

Starting a diet. Ending a diet. Breaking a diet. Obsessing about a diet.

Writing. Not writing. Writing about not being able to write.

Loving a job. Hating a job. Accepting that a job is just a job. Looking for a new job.

Being in love. Not being in love. Looking for love. Questioning Love.

Ready to be quiet. Ready to make noise. Ready to listen to the quiet. Or hear noise.

And THAT’S just a snippet of my tiny little irrelevant piece of the world!

I’m telling you, the people I know are all over the place. Never in the same place at the same time. Never on the same page. Some have expectations that are too high. Some have no expectations or low expectations. Some just have conflicting expectations. Or conflicting ideas about what their expectations should be.

And that makes the holidays tough for me.

Not tough in a bad way, mind you. Just tough in a tiring, mildly draining way. Over the course of just a few days, I feel like I’ve watched the equivalent of thirty movies (my estimated guess).

I’ve experienced the build up, the tension, the wondering, the stress of not knowing, the denouement, the resolution, the laughter, the crying, the character development and the words, words, words.

And I’ve experienced a lot of it. From lots of different people. In a short period of time.

Holidays are easy for me these days, but even I get wired. I get confused but i know that it’s probably not confusion.

It’s probably just me being slightly overwhelmed with so much going on.

Yesterday I sat down at a table in a restaurant waiting for the others to arrive. The very sweet, very young waitress named Jasmine asked me how my holiday was. I said I was glad it was over.

And then I felt bad. Because I don’t mean it in a bad way. Just a ‘ready for it to be over’ way.

I felt like telling Jasmine to ignore me and to love her holidays, to embrace her youth, to seize the moment.

Then I remembered that Jasmine is a waitress. Jasmine experiences the holidays every single time she works. Jasmine knows what the deal is.

Personally, I want life to go back to normal. I want to deal with only one or two or three people and not the tens of billions it feels like I just encountered over the span of a few days. I want to catch up with one or two people a week, not one or two people per hour.

Mostly, I want to forget that everyone I know is right smack in the middle of a detailed and complicated journey.  I love their journeys and I want their journeys to be good. But I want to forget what I know about their journeys and just write and draw and get the cardio going. I want to just drink coffee and enjoy the weather and eat something not-too-unhealthy. I want to be a better person for knowing so much but forget the nitty gritty of everything I know.

I just want to be.

I just want to be so that when I run into someone I love, I have the bandwidth to give them my all, at least for a minute or two.

I gave Jasmine an extra tip on top of the extra tip.

Then, later, I thought maybe I should have given her more.

xoxo, d

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Be Angry. But Not Too Angry.

My relationship with anger is very messed up.

Luckily, I know it, so I don’t trust anything about anger except for the fact that I feel angry sometimes.

I remember feeling angry when I was a child, but mostly I think I just felt overwhelming frustration that I confused with anger. I would say that my middle name was frustration, but frustration was probably actually my first name. And my last name.

I was frustrated for sure.

I grew up being everything that didn’t yet have a name to identify it. I was a nerdy but cool kid – long before the two types could form a socially acceptable and recognized hybrid. I was an introvert with excellent social skills so I was constantly mistaken for an extrovert. But instead of being congratulated for being out of my shell when I was out of it, I was questioned about why I was in my shell when I was inside of it.

“Are you okay?”

I heard that a lot.

“Uh yeah. I’m READING.”….I said often. In my head.

And I had depression despite also having a sometimes sunny but almost always enthusiastic disposition.

Yeah. I had depression but I didn’t act depressed. Instead, because I got the genes, I acted engaged, interested, curious, aware, inspired, driven and excited.

So who could have thought it was possible for me to have a depression monster inside of me too?

But I did.

I had a depression monster living inside of me and directing my every move. The depression monster was in charge of everything all the time.

I was just the depression monster’s bitch.

Being a slave to a depression monster is exhausting. You spend so much time negotiating with the depression monster to do the basic things that you then compromise your ability to negotiate the rest of life’s issues. And, it turns out that having depression doesn’t exempt you from experiencing the rest of life’s issues.

So I’m sure I experienced anger when I was younger. I just think I had no idea what it was or what to do with it.

And I’m positive that I never learned what to do with it.

Because to me, everything that happened in my life ended up becoming part of the negotiations with the depression monster.

But now I’m an adult with lots of skills and lots of experience and far less patience for the monster. I think of the depression monster as being inside of me but asleep. Or dormant. Or just not up to getting all in my face.

I work hard on a daily basis to keep the monster quiet. It turns out that life is much easier with a monster who’s asleep.

But sometimes I get angry. Or anxious. Or sad. Or frustrated.

Sometimes, because I’m human and because I’m living the life of a human, I feel the things that everyone feels.

And then I get confused because my experience with “everything else” is fairly limited.

I don’t like anxiety, I have learned that.

I’m not typically an anxious person, but when I do experience it, I know immediately that I really don’t like it.  And in a way, I feel lucky because I think mild depression is probably easier to manage than any level of anxiety. That is NOT an informed or educated opinion. It’s just a guess based on never having lived the anxiety-ridden life.

I definitely don’t like sadness or frustration either, but I have come to realize that both will happen on occasion. I’ve learned to think of both states as “normal” in a reasonably normal life.

That just leaves anger and I’ve found anger to be completely confusing.

On the one hand, I hate anger because it’s an overwhelming feeling for me and I don’t particularly enjoy overwhelming feelings of anything. On the other hand, now that I understand that a certain amount of anger is “normal” and “acceptable,” I kind of enjoy going with the anger flow for a little bit.

I like saying a lot of dramatic, exaggerated versions of ‘F___ THAT!’ in my head.

I fantasize about telling people off. And then knowing that I told them.

I like feeling like I could get really loud if I ever actually allowed myself to get really loud.

And then, of course, I worry that maybe I’m enjoying anger too much. Like maybe I’m an officially angry person.

So tonight, after thoroughly enjoying a short but highly poignant period of anger, I looked up anger online. I was hoping to find a test that would tell me whether I’m a normal person who experiences anger sometimes or whether I’m the opposite – a maniac who keeps my anger under control but is always on the edge of totally losing it.

I found a test called the Anger Test at a site called angermanagementresource.com.

Unfortunately, despite countless efforts, I could not get the ‘Start Test’ link to start the test.

So I got angry. And frustrated. And sad.

And then I wondered if the broken link was the actual test of how angry one gets.

And then I was pleased that I hadn’t kicked in my computer screen just because a link didn’t work.

Here is a list of the questions on the anger test. I don’t know for sure what the good or bad answers are supposed to be but I can guess.

  1. Are you someone who “never gets angry?”
  2. Do other people think you’re angry?
  3. Are you critical of other people in your mind and thoughts?
  4. Do you criticize and/or use insults when you speak to others?
  5. Do you frequently lose patience with people or situations?
  6. Do you have a hard time putting yourself in another person’s shoes during a disagreement?
  7. Do you sometimes yell or raise your voice to get your point across?
  8. Do you find yourself frequently in arguments?
  9. Do you think about acts of aggression or violence?
  10. Have you ever been physically aggressive or violent with another person?
  11. Have you ever been arrested or had the police called because of your actions?
  12. Have you ever been reported for domestic violence?
  13. Do you take out your frustrations while driving?
  14. Do you find yourself unable to let go of grievances and resentments?
  15. Do you replay negative experiences over and over in your mind?
  16. Do you often think that other people are a bunch of idiots?
  17. Does it seem to you like other people “just don’t get it?”
  18. Do you think about getting revenge on others?
  19. Do you sometimes forget what you said or did while you’re angry?
  20. Do you find yourself getting angry in any kind of regular, predictable or cyclical pattern?

I’ll have to ask other people about Number 2….whether they think I’m angry. I’m kind of scared to know what they think. If it turns out that everyone thinks I’m just angry, I may have to rethink my life plans.

And then I’ll have to call a psychiatrist and ask whether Number 18 is a critical question because I do Number 18 every time I get angry.

I LOVE doing Number 18.

But don’t worry. I always include going to prison voluntarily in my revenge fantasies.

Because however angry I might be, I am far more into accountability. I would never take revenge and then even try to get the sentence mitigated.

I’m SO not that person. I would serve a sentence without requesting any leniency despite my exemplary behavior.

I also have a feeling I could help some of my cellmates be less angry. Because I think I can help people with that sometimes. Especially if I understand why they’re angry.

Okay, I need to get that )(*&^% link to work. Before it really pisses me off.

xoxo, d

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Oops, I Did It Again.

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I listened to moody music today.

Not a lot of it, mind you. But enough to take me straight into funky town of the brain.  Looking back, I can remember exactly how it happened and why I didn’t stop it from happening.

I was on my way to my local coffee shop (Politics & Prose).

It was a pretty day. A very pretty day.

And I was thinking about a street near my local coffee shop that I would really like to live on.

It’s DC, mind you, so the chances are very good that living on a street I want to live on is not possible from a financial standpoint.

But it was a pretty day and I was working on business matters and I remember thinking that maybe today I would work on something that brought in the big check that would enable me to buy a house on the street I love.

Yeah, that’s how my mind works.

So I went into my local coffee shop, which is also a bookstore, and headed down to the  downstairs cafe where they keep the coffee.

I set up my laptop and strategically organized my tabletop accessories as only a true obsessive can and proceeded to draw a comic strip.

A song came into my earphones that I knew I shouldn’t listen to because it was one of my favorite workout songs. And I didn’t want to accidentally go into workout mode. I wanted to stay in comic strip drawing mode. So I clicked on Playlists.

And then I accidentally clicked on a Playlist I haven’t listened to in ages.

I knew immediately that I shouldn’t do it.

But it was a pretty day and I had coffee. And people seemed happy and there was a chance that I would work on something that would get me the big check I need to buy a house on the street I love.

And the music was good.

The music was familiar and had a good beat. The music was sexy and inspiring and, well, it was moody.

And yes, I am not allowed to listen to moody music.

But I did.

I listened to about seven moody songs before a friend arrived.

As it turns out, seven moody songs is more than enough to take my impressionable brain to funky town.

I’m sorry, Spandau Ballet. I’m sorry Sting from 1982. I’m sorry, Talk Talk and Talking Heads.

I’m sorry that your songs make me blue.

It’s me, not you.

Tonight I’ll turn it around. I’ll watch an episode of Will and Grace or Friends. Those shows always make me laugh in a simple, idiotic, oblivious way that brings my mood up.

And I’ll do some dancing in place to Love Canon while I walk the dog. That works too.

I’ll take a bath, draw a strip, send a few emails, read a few emails. I’ll drink a Coke One in the big green plastic glass with the big green plastic straw.

And I’ll try to remember that no amount of self awareness or personal insight will ever change the fact that listening to certain moody 80’s music makes me moody.

That’s it.

No more certain moody 80’s music for me.

Well, maybe I’ll listen to it again. But this time I’ll follow it up with MANDATORY ABBA.

ABBA always works.

xoxo, d

Do It Anyway.

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I can write a lot of things, but I can’t write music. And I wish I could. Because music saves people. Music saves moments and days and years and times when nothing else is helpful in softening the harsh edges.

The list of music that has helped me in the past and that helps me now is long. I name my playlists after the effect they have on me. I have playlists that help me get up when I need to get up. I have playlists that help soothe me when I need to be soothed.

I have a lot of playlists for moving – as in exercising. Those playlists generally include songs based on my perfect beats-per-minute pace for doing whatever I’m doing. Let It Whip is one of the most perfect cardio songs ever. Let It Whip, By Your Side by Tenth Avenue North, Burn for You by tobyMac and almost anything by Love Canon.

Do It Anyway is on my Feel Better playlist.  There have been days when I’ve listened to Martina McBride sing Do It Anyway on a loop…over and over and over again. Do It Anyway is a good mantra for me since I live with a reliably unreliable mood. Some days I want to do this or that. Some days I don’t want to do anything, including this and that.

I think of my mood as having a life of its own. And I try my best to do what I’m supposed to do and what I think I would want to do if I didn’t have an unreliable mood.

Yesterday I didn’t want to do what I was supposed to do. There were activities on the schedule that I generally love to do, but yesterday I just didn’t want to do them. Luckily, these days I can actually make myself do things anyway. I can come and go and show up and enjoy whatever it is for whatever it’s worth. Luckily, these days I can force myself to do what’s on the schedule – something I didn’t used to be able to do.

It’s a helpful skill.

So yesterday I did what I was supposed to do. I hope nobody noticed that I was phoning in my performance, but I can’t spend too much time thinking about that.

Then, on the way home from doing what I was supposed to do, I began my good old habitual behavior of lamenting the fact that sometimes I don’t want to do things even though I wish I wanted to. I began talking the talk of ‘why am I like this’ and ‘what a total pain this is.’

And then I told myself to shut up.

I was nicer than that to myself because I’m generally nice to myself. I don’t like the chemistry in my brain, but I like myself. I wouldn’t be mean to me.

But I did tell myself to shut up. Nicely.

And I didn’t preach anything hopeful or positive or uplifting to myself. Because that sort of preachy positive stuff really just pisses me off.

Positive sayings are easy to say when you’re feeling positive. Positive sayings when you don’t want to do what you’re doing or feel what you’re feeling are really just annoying.

Then, before calling it a day, I did a few little things I know I like. Even though I didn’t feel like it.

And I did a few little things I knew I should do. Even though I didn’t feel like it.

And that was yesterday.

Today, for whatever reason, I want to do things. I want to do things even though my desire to do things has nothing to do with any efforts I’ve made or haven’t made.  It’s just the luck of the day.  The random flow of the chemistry in my brain that makes me feel a way that has very little to do with how I would otherwise direct – or want – myself to feel.

Such a pain.

So yesterday, I listened to Martina McBride’s Do It Anyway.

I looked up the lyrics and wondered where she was when she wrote that song. I wondered where she was in life and where she was in her head. I wondered what she was trying to overcome at the time or whether she was just really smart about life and knew that everyone has to overcome something at sometime or another.

And then, thanks to the internet, which I really wished I had had when I was younger and less skilled, I found Mother Teresa’s nod to Do It Anyway, apparently based on Keith Kent’s original “The Paradoxical Commandments.”  I looked up Keith Kent and he  turned out to be a good man. A man who wears many hats, including leader and lawyer. I like that guy. I’ll send him some art.

I ordered a few of Keith Kent’s book and I’m looking forward to reading them. Of course I’ll only be able to read them on a day when I feel like it, but that day will happen. It always does. At least so far.

I always have days when I want to. It’s a pretty reliable schedule even though I never promise myself that I’ll want to soon. I never know whether I’ll want to eventually, never, sooner or later. Even though I’ve historically always eventually wanted to again, who knows if that will happen next time.

Mother Teresa’s Do It Anyway verses were reportedly written on the wall of her home for children in Calcutta, India.

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.  Succeed anyway.

                        If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.
Be honest and sincere anyway.

                        What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
Create anyway.

                        If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.

                        The good you do today, will often be forgotten.
Do good anyway.

                        Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.
Give your best anyway.

                        In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.

This is the version attributed to Mother Teresa

And here are The Paradoxical Commandments by Dr. Kent M. Keith.

  1. People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
    Love them anyway.
  2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
    Do good anyway.
  3. If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
    Succeed anyway.
  4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
    Do good anyway.
  5. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
    Be honest and frank anyway.
  6. The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
    Think big anyway.
  7. People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
    Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
  8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
    Build anyway.
  9. People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
    Help people anyway.
  10. Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
    Give the world the best you have anyway.

The Paradoxical Commandments” were written by Kent M. Keith in 1968 as part of a booklet for student leaders, which is so cool.

I think I’ll work on a set of commandments for those with unreliable brain chemistry.

I’ll give you a sneak peak at how it goes.

You won’t want to ________________ (fill in the blank).
Do it anyway.

Do it anyway. Because it’s more helpful to do it than to not do it just because you’ve got some bad chemistry in your brain.

And, once in a while, hopefully you actually want to do what you’re doing.

xoxo, d

The Problem with Quiet

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If Quiet comes to you easily, this isn’t the blog for you.

If the idea of actual Quiet doesn’t scare you on even some micro and impossibly invisible level, then you’re in the wrong place.

But if Quiet is a struggle for you, in even the tiniest way, keep reading.

First, we should probably define what Quiet means, which, of course, we can’t.

Because Quiet is different for every person. And Quiet, for even one person, is different at different times.

Which is the problem with Quiet.

Quiet is like Success, Happiness, Joy, Relaxation, Accomplishment and any other words that sweep too broadly to be defined without further information.

Try it. Gather more than one person in a room and ask them their definitions of Success, Happiness, Joy, Relaxation, Accomplishment or anything else you can think of. Sure, there might be some overlap in themes, but mostly there won’t be overlap. Because people are different. And even if there’s overlap, it generally becomes narrower once defined.

For instance, you and I gather in a room, virtual or otherwise.  And we answer this question:

“What do you want most of all?”

And, just for the sake of this essay being shorter than Anna Karenina, let’s say we both say happiness.

Let’s just say we both say happiness, even though I would never say that.

But let’s just say.

Okay. We both want happiness most of all.

But what does happiness mean? For me, it would probably be good health and/or the closest thing possible to the absence of stress. But I wouldn’t call that happiness since I have issues with the word happiness.

But I digress. For you, happiness might be something more exciting like true love and world peace. Who knows?

Or maybe your happiness would be roller derby and flea markets. Who knows?

Because even if you knew what your happiness would be, you’d have to think about what your happiness would be for now. And for later. And for after later.

It’s not that you would need to know exactly what your happiness would be, but it would be helpful – and insightful – to understand that your current happiness might not do if for you as much later. It would be helpful to allow yourself to allow your definition of happiness to change.

Because wants, needs, resources, unavoidable conditions and general ideas about life will change your perspective on happiness over time.

Which brings us to Quiet. And I’ll assume you can see where I’m headed. Because you’re smart.

Your definition of Quiet is very personal to you. And it’s a ‘for now‘ definition that is susceptible to change over time.

And so, the problem with Quiet is that it’s a useless word without further information.

So it pissed me off today when I heard Oprah say something about getting quiet so that you could find your true self.

I know Oprah shouldn’t piss me off. I like Oprah. I do.

I respect her journey. And her discoveries. And her contributions. I do.

But I worry that so many people are listening to Oprah and thinking that getting quiet works for everyone. Or that it’s easy. Or that it’s automatically better than being unquiet.

And I know Oprah doesn’t mean for any of those interpretations to be interpreted, but Oprah has experienced a lot more than the average person has experienced. Oprah knows what all different sorts of quiet sound like and feel like. When Oprah talks about Quiet, she is talking from a place of knowing all about Quiet.

But most people don’t know about Quiet. Because their life isn’t Quiet.

Or because the lives of those around them aren’t Quiet.

Or because, for them, Quiet has been a hurtful experience and eventually Quiet becomes a thing they avoid.

I’m sure that Oprah would agree with that, but she doesn’t need to think about it. Because she has many, many, many resources that enable her to achieve the exact kind of Quiet she needs to achieve in order to be with her inner true self.

I don’t mean to end on a noisy or disturbing note. I just mean to say that when you hear the word Quiet, don’t think it has to be the kind of Quiet you see in the magazines in line at Whole Foods or in the Oprah magazine article that tells you to take walk in the woods.

Quiet is your Quiet. It’s how you define Quiet to be for you and for you for now.

And, just for the record, I prefer my Quiet to be not so quiet.

xoxo, d