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pining for the past

Isn’t it fun to talk about the “old times?”  My husband and I can spend hours talking about our lives as children and comparing and contrasting our experiences. Often, my memories involve dear loved ones who are no longer with us here on Earth.

Interestingly, some of my best memories are those featuring my children as little boys. A parent never ever grasps the concept that in a few short years, your dependent, adorable and sometimes frustrating children will be grown up. Conversely, as children, our parents sometimes remain stuck in our minds as the middle-aged people we knew in the past.

This kind of reminiscing can be fun and sentimental, but a person can get mired in thoughts of the past, wishing for today to be more like “then” or feeling depressed that those people who played such significant roles in our lives have passed.

I suppose I have always been a forward-thinking person. I never was one of those parents who clung onto my children’s babyhood, saved tons of baby clothes or worse, posted tons of embarrassing kid pictures of them on social media. It’s natural to fondly remember the sweet smell of their hair, their chubby feet or the pride you felt watching them play sports. It’s also normal to remember grandmothers, parents or others.

My forward-thinking personality has protected me from going through life feeling as if the past was the best part of my life and that the future is hopeless. For every pang of sadness knowing I will never bear a child again also comes a hope and plan for a future that is completely different, yet equally satisfying in its own way.

This hasn’t come without sacrifice. I believe if I hadn’t made a huge life change in my 40’s, I might feel differently about the future. Taking my future in my hands and basically creating a new one has shown me that life is not just fate and happenstance. It’s up to you to lovingly and carefully place the past in a fancy box to be opened occasionally. I find that opening that box when I am feeling down is not a good idea.

The past ten years have seen many, many changes and challenges that I did not anticipate. Life seems more difficult now than it did 20 years ago. If we are honest with ourselves, even the rose-colored past had its share of sadness, grief, and difficulties. That’s the paradox. Love the past and cherish it for the memories it holds but don’t romanticize it. Take what was good and see if you can replicate that into your present life. It just might turn out better than you could have imagined.

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setbacks and disappointments

They’re a part of life. Rarely do plans go as smoothly as you might like. I am usually an optimist and therefore have no contingency plans in the event of a setback or disappointment that either slows progression of a plan or completely changes it. Some, like my husband, would say that my optimist or idealism is akin to me burying my head in the sand while I refuse to believe nothing bad will happen. Ultimately, I have found that no amount of preparation for a setback helps me deal with the emotions behind it.

How do you deal with such things? Does it depend on the severity? Do you get flustered or fall into a spiral of depression and self-fulfilling prophecy?

There are times in which I find myself spiraling. Usually, this happens when I don’t give myself the time and space to feel the disappointment in the first place and hadn’t prepared for the possibility of plans being changed, becoming blindsided.

I was taught that it’s best to push forward at all times. Move on. Plan. This usually backfires in a big way.  I’ll give you an example. Months ago, my husband and I were extremely close to moving to a new home. Ultimately, we decided not to pursue the home while we waffled a bit (mostly me) on the idea of moving at all. When the day came that we had originally had on the calendar as “closing day,” I fell apart. It wasn’t a good day in many ways, but the fact that I had not mourned that dream finally hit me. I allowed myself to be sad about it and eventually was able to deal with things.

Weight loss efforts are most often a series of ups and downs with setbacks occurring regularly. If you think you had a great week but end up with a weight gain or no loss, you have some choices. You can eat your feelings and sabotage further weight loss next week or you can be mad, curse the scale and jump right back into it.

Telling yourself that life is full of unmet expectations, disappointments and setbacks is okay. Falling apart after one happens to you is not the way to deal with them. Give yourself a set period of time to digest what has happened. After you grieve, get angry, curse the world, punch the wall (just kidding!), or blast some loud music, then you can settle back into your routine and move forward.

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halt! part deux and vampires!

Now that you know about boundaries and how to start making and enforcing them, I would like to talk about something that I’ve experienced and maybe you have as well. There is a person known in self-help circles as an “emotional vampire.” Emotional vampire is a colloquial term for toxic people who drain us of our energy and leave us feeling emotionally exhausted. They have a parasitic quality in that they provoke emotional reactions in others and “feed off” their emotions as well as resources.  (From thoughtcatalog.com)

Do you know one of these? My question to you is this. Is it the fault of the “vampire” or is your fault that your boundaries have not been erected and enforced with this person? Likely, it’s a combination of the two. The answer might depend on the type of vampire you’re dealing with.  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/emotional-freedom/201101/the-5-types-emotional-vampires-in-your-life

I happen to be very good friends with a “Victim” vampire. She is a very sweet, caring person, but refuses to take responsibility for her life and seems to demand sympathy. I have found that occasionally distancing myself from her and replying to her in an unemotional manner quickly diffuses any further “bloodsucking.” In the past, I allowed myself to get pulled in by her. I always looked for solutions to her problems and even gave her money to help her pay a bill. I have referred her to jobs, messaged friends on her behalf and prioritized her needs above mine.  This went on for about 10 years before I finally realized that I was taking on her problems and they didn’t belong to me.

As a caveat, there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with helping a friend. I am a generous person and I’m also an empath. If I gave money and time to every cause and every person who tugged at my heartstrings, I would be broke and exhausted. I had to keep myself from becoming exhausted and I did feel exhausted after taking on her problems.

I now have boundaries set up with her. I do not respond to her messages if I’m doing something else. I tell her I’m working or going to sleep or whatever. It took a few years and a few of her “emergencies” to finally realize that she would be okay regardless.

Posted in mental health, Uncategorized

Halt!

Hello, dear readers. Today I want to talk about boundaries. The concept of personal boundaries is not a new concept to most people, especially those on the path of self-improvement, or as it’s called these days, being “woke.”  I’m not going to waste too much time defining what boundaries are. If you are fuzzy on this topic, I recommend this book.

This is a great book written from a Christian perspective and even though I no longer consider myself to be a Christian, it was the first book I ever read on the subject and it opened my eyes to a concept that I always felt inside of me, but never had a name for before.

As a recovering codependent, I have to admit that boundary setting and enforcement does not come easily to me. I’m learning. Let me give you an example of a boundary: Suppose you have a very strong aversion to cursing, yet your coworker throws F bombs around on the daily. At first, you might have laughed it off, while inside, you felt like an angry little monster might break free from your body and stomp around, hurling criticism at the offenders. That’s how it always felt for me; you may use any analogy you wish. After a couple of months of this scenario, you wonder why your coworker hasn’t intuited your dislike of the cursing, yet you haven’t said anything to them about it. You might think that they should be able to read your face or just infer from your body language. Wrong!  This is a game that women especially like to play. (Yes, I am one, so please don’t accuse me of sexism) Generally, most women of a certain age weren’t taught how to stand up for what we believe in. We were taught to be accommodating. While it’s great to be accommodating, if your virgin ears have had enough of being assaulted, it is your responsibility to say something. It might be a very scary thing to do. There are risks involved when you take a stance. Your coworkers might deem you a prude or exclude you from conversations.

This is the tricky part. Can you let it go? How important is it to you? What are the consequences? There are some boundaries that are a “must enforce” and there are others that, if enforced or even verbalized, can have devastating consequences. There are ways to verbalize that can save face for everyone involved and those are reserved for situations like the example above. Humor helps and sometimes a heart to heart talk with the offender(s) can do a world of good. It’s likely they had no idea you were offended and if they care, they will make an effort. There are other situations, such as emotional abuse, physical violence, etc. which must be swiftly and succinctly addressed.

The way in which the offender reacts says a lot about that person and your relationship. I want to add a caveat. Sometimes the offender is embarrassed or even surprised when you verbalize your boundaries and your expectations. In that case, they may initially react negatively. Give them time to process.

A note about expectations. A good conversation about your boundaries will also contain your expectations. An expectation is different than an ultimatum. An example (using the example above) could be something like: “In the future, could you remember not to use those words when I’m in the room?” Hopefully, they’ll catch on, remember and change their behavior, but that doesn’t always occur. A gentle reminder may be in order. If they blatantly ignore your requests, then it’s time to reassess.

Honoring your boundaries is something that is not easy for many of us. Often, it’s best to start out slowly. I guarantee you’ll feel better when you live with integrity.

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comparison

It has been said that “comparison is the thief of joy.” (Theodore Roosevelt). This holds true even more so today than when it was first spoken. Social media, the evil that it can be, has turned comparison into an art form.  Where else can you spend hours scrolling through the curated lives of friends, family and strangers? Just take a glance at your Facebook or Instagram feed. Did you know that there are even people on Instagram that are called “influencers?” I’m not sure what the qualifications are for such a title, but think about what that means for you. Are you allowing strangers or even friends to dictate what your values are? Are you changing yourself to keep up with others? Are you feeling depressed or resentful after spending time on Facebook or Instagram?

If so, perhaps it’s time for some detox. First of all, let me be the one to tell you that you are valuable just the way you are. Today. What you bring to the world is far more important than what you look like.

Secondly, once you have embraced that concept, it’s time for a social media cleansing. There might be people in your Instagram feed who inspire you to be a better version of you. This is where things can get dicey. I follow some inspirational people on Instagram and I often learn a great deal from them. However, these people are telling you things and showing up on Instagram in a way that benefits THEM. Read that again. Yes, your favorite inspo on Instagram is most likely trying to sell their latest book or market themselves in such a way that you rely on them, thus becoming a consumer of what they’re selling.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but for detox, I recommend taking a break from all social media until you no longer feel withdrawals. In my opinion, this is necessary in order to start connecting with yourself. Feel your feelings. Start a journal if that helps. Think about how you feel when you are alone with your own thoughts, not the thoughts of others. Write down or contemplate what brings you joy or what makes you angry. Start a gratitude journal. Some days it it will be very difficult to find anything to be grateful for. I know because I have tried this experiment myself and found myself feeling grateful just for the coffee in my mug or the fact that my cat hasn’t puked up a hairball today.

I have found that the unfollow option on Facebook helps me immensely. I no longer engage in political flame wars or spend time thinking about my high school friend’s seemingly perfect life.

If you have never lived a life without social media, you may find this difficult. If you rely on it to connect with important people, shoot your peeps an email and just give them a heads up that you’ll be reachable by email or text for a bit.

I grew up without social media and it’s helpful for me to remember that 20 years ago, I didn’t know or care about what old friends were doing. I didn’t know how many kids they had, where they lived or anything else about their lives and I was okay with that. At first, it was fun reconnecting. Now that I have more knowledge about their lives than I care to, it’s time to reel it in a notch.

If Facebook or Instagram comparisons are robbing you of your joy, take a break. It will be there when you are ready to come back.

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were you seen?

Hello dear readers. I wonder if any of you participated in last week’s experiment to be seen. I did. I can tell you that since I have begun not hiding, I have felt more authentic. I don’t mean literally hiding, although that could be fun, lol. I mean not shrinking. For me, that also meant not giving a fuck about what I look like during certain times. I still wear makeup to work and usually “do” my hair, but on my days off, I’m not doing that. I can face the strangers at Target and Walmart “naked” as myself, no fancy clothes and no makeup. It’s hard here in the south to make that commitment. As a non-native southerner, I have learned that many southern women pride themselves on being put together. It’s up to each of us to decide how much of ourselves we hide behind our clothes  and our hair and our makeup. For me, it’s an experiment to allow my true physical self to be seen. It helps me. You may be different.

This week I will still be practicing being seen. I will also incorporate some other things, such as not apologizing so much.

Posted in Uncategorized

oh, hey…thanks for stopping by

Hello dear reader. Thank you for dropping by. If you are not new to my site, you may have noticed, or maybe not, that my previous posts about random topics have disappeared. I have decided to refocus this blog to reflect my quest for self-discovery. I hope you stick around. I believe that in today’s world of social media posturing, in your face “news”, constant distractions and worry about our future there lies an even greater need to rip off the masks that we all wear, discover what makes us unique and learn to embrace ourselves as the beautiful creatures we are.

I have named this blog Taking Up Space. I mean owning your space in an intentional way. Imagine looking down at yourself, your body as you walk down the hall at work or sit on your couch at home. As you look down, what do you see? If you’re anything like me, you see a woman who wants to be something else. Smaller or taller or prettier or smarter. Something that I have learned recently is that you have every right to occupy the space in the world that you need. Right now. Today. At this minute. Don’t shrink. Don’t apologize when it is not necessary. Don’t look down.

This is something I am going to practice. In my next blog, I’ll report back with the results and how I felt taking up my space.