Tag Archives: inner demons

Liar

Depression is a damn dirty liar.

(Oh, by the way, pottymouth warning.)

Depression is a damn dirty lying liar who lies.

I know this about depression. I know that it twists things, distorts them, hides things, takes pictures from the least flattering angle with terrible lighting against a background that makes you look all sallow. I know that it misremembers things on purpose, pulls things out of context, finds details that distract from the truth and fixates on them. I know this. I have fought this battle many times, and I know its tricks.

I know that forgiveness is a key part of a generally happy life, and I practice it as much as possible; but I also know that depression keeps excellent records of the things you have forgiven people for–the things you’re so, so sure you’ve forgiven people for–and trots them back out to hurt you again. It will recite the things the school bullies shouted at you or whispered to you or passed you in a folded-up note or etched into your binder that time they stole it from your locker. It will tell you that if you’re going to argue that having a bunch of friends who all say you’re awesome must mean that you’re awesome (you’re outvoted, after all), then having a bunch of people tell you you’re worthless must be equally true for the same reasons. Even if they’re people whose opinions are usually valueless to you; even if they’re people who have been dismissed from your life because they were never going to be people who helped you be your best self. It will call you every name you’ve ever heard, and invent a few new ones along the way. It will become your new worst friend and your new best enemy.

I know that activity is a way to combat depression, and I try to stay busy; but I also know that depression will sap you of your energy and your motivation to do things. It will remind you of the things you’ve tried and failed at–we can’t all be experts at everything, but it will tell you that you’re particularly good at failing and will flatly refuse to acknowledge any successes you’ve had. Or it will chalk them up to teamwork, or someone else’s help, or dismiss them as a fluke. It will tell you that nobody believes in your ability to succeed at anything, and that they’re completely gobsmacked if, by some unlikely miracle, you accidentally don’t suck at something sometime. It will tell you that any accolades or praise you’ve received have been people’s attempt to encourage you to keep trying, that they come from the exact same place as a parent going batcrap crazy with excitement over a toddler peeing in the potty. It will do everything it can to block you from doing things–anything, any thing–that distract you from its insidious voice.

I know that exercise is a way to combat depression, and I have over the last several months added near-daily exercise to my lifestyle. In this particular instance I am recovering from a Medical Thing That Happened(TM), so exercise is on the “do what you can, and that might not be very much yet” list; but depression will tell you that you’re not doing anywhere near enough, that you should be over it by now, that you’re being a huge wimp and should be pushing yourself more…all while it’s siphoning off what little energy you physically have and suggesting that instead maybe you should in fact just lie there a bit longer, because maybe you’re not up to going for a walk and besides it’s all hot outside and the doctor said to take it easy and to take your time with recovering and ha ha ha you’ll just take any excuse at all to keep being a disgusting lump, won’t you, because that’s all you are and all you’ll ever be. It will tell you that you’re this close to losing everyone and everything you have ever loved because you’re so disgusting, so you may as well settle in with the Doritos and the trash tv and try not to look too surprised when you die alone of a heart attack and nobody notices because everyone has left you.

I know that reaching out to people can help combat depression, and I have somehow managed (despite some social anxiety and self-image drama) to build a circle of beautiful, wonderful friends; but I also know that depression will tell you that you’re being a tremendous inconvenience to them if you try to make contact. It will tell you that they only like you because of what you do for them–that you are at best a convenient and capable assistant who can be replaced by an unpaid intern at a moment’s notice–so if you dare to ask them for anything they will immediately drop you and never look back. It will tell you that when they go out of their way to offer help, they are counting on you never taking them up on that; or that what they are secretly saying is that they want you to emotionally validate them, to congratulate them for being Such Very Nice People(TM) but that they don’t actually want to do anything (remember, you’re the giver here, never the receiver) so you have to put on your happy face and fall all over yourself about how wonderful they are and send them a thank-you note and a fruit basket but never–good god, never even once–actually accept any of the things they’re offering. Not time, not company, not assistance. It will tell you that you must never let them see you cry, then remind you that the Very Nice Doctor called you “stoic” and got all mad at you (in reality, she very kindly suggested that you give yourself time to grieve, but depression lies, remember) when you didn’t fall apart in her office.

It will tell you that you lost the baby because you are a failure at being pregnant, and it will tell you that you may have to have a D&C because the ultrasound found residual tissue in there and unless it sheds itself by next Friday that’ll mean you can’t even miscarry right. You’re a failure at being pregnant and a failure at not being pregnant. And you’re a failure at recovering physically from the miscarriage, and a failure at grieving because you’re not crying all the time and a failure at recovering emotionally because you do cry sometimes, and it’s only been a week but you should be over it by now except that you’re a failure there too because you shouldn’t be over it by now and what kind of monster would even think about being over it after only seven days; and you’re a failure at activating your support network and a failure as a wife and let’s not even get started on the state of this house, shall we, but if anyone even hints that they’d be glad to come help you will seriously consider moving to a cave in the mountains because of the shame–the SHAME, I say–of letting anyone see you as anything other than perfectly composed and capable at all times.

Depression is a goddamned dirty lying liar who lies, and it is an abusive douchecanoe who cannot be trusted, and it is a jerk with no soul and it is everything that is wrong and everything it says is wrong (even when it sounds really reasonable) and it will lie out of its lying mouth and it is a stupidhead and its face is stupid and it really, really sucks.

…And knowing all of that doesn’t fix it, so today I am coloring in my coloring book and I am petting the dogs and I am breathing, just breathing, and waiting for it to pass. It will pass. It always passes.

Dammit.

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Filed under Don't Make Me Come Down There, General Musings and Meanderings

Not My Croissants

Ok, I have to confess something here, and I’ll totally, totally understand if you come after me with pitchforks for it: I’ve been holding out on you guys. I have been selfish and un-sharing, and I’ll turn in my Commie ring if I need to. I get it. Mea culpa.

See, there’s this blogger whom I ran across a while back. And by “ran across” I mean “with whom I survived Introduction to Practical Self-Loathing and Applied Fat-Shaming 101, aka high school gym class”, and by “a while back” I mean “approximately 1994”. We’ve drifted through each other’s orbits every so often since then, and since I’d recently decided that what I needed to do was take up bellydance (this is also a thing that drifts through my orbit every so often, so don’t start marking your calendars for my grand dance debut anytime soon or anything like that) and I was given to understand that she had also done bellydance and perhaps would have some Helpful Resources for People Looking to Shimmy Their Jiggly Bits, I did a bit o’ googlin’. And found her bellydance videos (she’s got two of ’em! SCORE), but also found her vlogs.

Which I have been watching for like the last three days straight.

And not telling you about, until now.

/hangs head in shame, sends self to corner forever

But here’s the thing, y’all: I found this video of hers today, and … well, look, just watch it, ok?

/blinkblink

/notices hand is numb, looks at it, realizes it’s been raised to Jeebux for the last 5 minutes

/notices tongue is dry, realizes jaw has been hanging open for the last 3 minutes

For those of you who couldn’t watch it right now for whatever reason, here’s the jist: Krista was eating her breakfast and noticed her husband’s savings-club-sized box of croissants on the table. Without really paying much attention, she opened it and started eating from it…then realized that these were her husband’s  croissants. They weren’t her croissants–she didn’t pick them out–and she didn’t even particularly want one. But they were there, so she was absentmindedly eating them, because that’s what you do when there’s a Tasty Foodstuff(TM) right there in front of you. And it hit her that she was participating unconsciously in someone else’s habit–that she was letting her day’s diet include a choice someone else had made–and that maybe she didn’t need to do that. Maybe she could just, y’know, not eat her husband’s croissants.

/goes fully Shug Avery walkin’ to her Daddy’s church and singin’ “Maybe God Is Trying to Tell You Something”

Here’s the thing, y’all: how many times (lord, lord) have I eaten someone else’s croissants? How many times have I let someone else’s choices become part of my day without it ever occurring to me that I had full control over whether I wanted to be part of them? How many times (glory, hallelujah) have I let old versions of my own self determine what I would do today (you better preach, sister)?!

I get antsy sitting at stoplights, because I used to have a car that in its final days would just, y’know, up and die sometimes. Particularly at stoplights. And since my then-fiance had failed to pay the bills for several months, taken all the money I’d given him for said bills and spent it on god knows what, then run off with a 19-year-old voice major, I couldn’t afford to do anything about it. Eventually the car completely died for real, and we sent it off for scrap and I was on foot until I could (with my parents’ assistance) get another cheap beater lined up. Stoplights made me nervous because if the car died there, there wasn’t a dang thing I could do except push it to the side of the road and pray that it started again. But now my husband has a good job, and I have a good job, and we both got raises within the last 6 months and have roadside assistance and reliable vehicles. If the car dies at a stoplight, we can afford to get help. But somehow I’m still antsy about them because I useta couldn’t afford to fix the car 10 years ago? A decade later and I’m still eating the same old croissant?

My father was a smoker. There were always cigarettes in our house. When I became an adult, I started smoking, because smoking was a thing adults did. To be fair, there’s an element of addiction here…but at the core, 18 years later I am still smoking my father’s cigarettes (fewer now than before–I’m babystepping to being nicotine-free). 18 years of eating the same smoky croissant? Really??

Doctors scare the bejeezus out of me–not because of the sticky-poky-pinchy part, but because of the judgey-shamey-belittling part. I got the Your Problems Would Go Away If You Just Lost the Weight lecture when I was being seen for a broken finger. I got the “you are clearly exaggerating for the sake of drama” response when I was underreporting how spectacularly bad my menstrual cycles could be. I threw my back out once, saw a chiropractor, then got a lecture from a General Practitioner about how chiropractic is straight-up quackery and how if I wasn’t going to make my situation better (read: lose the weight immediately, preferably via bariatric surgery) the least I could do is stop making it worse. So I have tended to avoid doctors, because I don’t need to hear again how I’m a horrible person…but I’m not a horrible person. I’m a mighty fine person, and my body is just my body, and if the doctors I’ve seen historically have had epic fat-hatred issues, that’s pretty much their own damn croissant to eat.

So y’know, it occurs to me that maybe I can do something about this. Maybe I can just, y’know, not eat somebody else’s croissants anymore. Maybe I can sit at the stoplight or go see a doctor or leave the cigarettes at the gas station and say “actually, those are somebody else’s croissants, and it is not my place to eat them”. I can say “I don’t even really feel like eating a croissant right now, thanks”. I can say “I am full and do not need this croissant”.

I can just not eat other people’s croissants.

Holy cow. I can not eat other people’s croissants.

Krista Kubie, you’re a genius and I love you. And to those of you who are just finding out about her for the first time, I am so, so sorry. You can pelt me with croissants later if you need to. And I can choose not to eat a single one.

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Filed under Don't Make Me Come Down There

Not a Rockstar Today

Things at which I have failed in the last 24 hours:

  1. Being height-weight proportionate, therefore
    1. Being able to fit into all those clothes I bought back when I’d lost a bunch of weight, or
    2. Being willing to buy new clothes, because by gosh, I will keep losing weight this time for realsies even though it hasn’t worked so well historically, so
    3. Dressing like I have any idea how fashion works, what looks good on me, or for that matter, what size I even am.
  2. Exercising or maintaining dietary habits that would bring me any closer to changing #1 (I can’t turn down free pizza. I’m pretty sure it’s in the Bible or the Constitution or something.)
  3. Using those sticky pore strip things. I don’t want to talk about it. It was a fiasco.
  4. Taking a shower, because I’m not leaving the house today, and for that matter,
  5. Leaving the house today.
  6. Not freaking out when we left the house yesterday, because we had to drive on the scary highways. On the plus side, I did not actually shut all the way down, though I may have blathered for a while to distract myself.
  7. Having enough money in the bank to:
    1. Make a down payment on a house, or
    2. Make a down payment on a car, or
    3. Make a down payment on a pony, or
    4. Survive for six months in case of layoff, or
    5. Survive for one month in case of layoff.
  8. Calling my college friend who wanted me to call her; see also:
    1. Calling my mother,
    2. Calling anyone who knows things about real estate,
    3. Calling anyone at all whom I was not literally being paid money to call.
  9. Writing a blog post.
  10. Walking the dogs. Fortunately, we have a backyard, so they can do their business there.
  11. Playing folk tunes I have successfully played before. Violin practice today was…screechy.
    1. Practicing for the full hour I’d set aside. My poor neighbors didn’t sign up for that.
  12. Working on bushwhacking the weeds that are slowly devouring the back yard. And the front yard. And the side yard. And the flower pots, fer cryin’ out loud. Stupid trees with their stupid helicopters.
  13. Dusting, vacuuming, or sweeping. Basically anything involving making the floor cleaner than it currently is.
    1. Ditto for the shelves.
    2. And the bathrooms.
    3. And the windows.
    4. And my desk.
  14. Writing book reviews of the last five-that’s-right-I-said-FIVE books I’ve read. In my defense, three of them are a series and I’m planning to review them all together.
    1. Finishing that other series I started, which Moon Man has finished but I got distracted.
  15. Having flawless skin, hair, nails, teeth, or indeed any other body part. I thought acne was supposed to just be a teenager thing. APPARENTLY NOT.

…and that’s just the last 24 hours, y’all. And just the first 15 things I thought of off the top of my head. I also failed at setting up my sewing machine or using it in any kind of way, or organizing the freezer despite things falling out when I open the door, or decluttering any part of this rummage sale we call a house. I have not been a rock star in the last 24 hours, so to speak; I’ve barely been a rock.

But you know what? That means nothing whatsoever about me as a human being. Yes, I could have made some more productive choices. Yes, I could have done some more productive things. But my decision not to do so–my failure to accomplish stuff–does not mean that I am personally a failure. To swipe a line from Zig Ziglar,

Failure is an event

 

Here’s the thing, gang: today is World Suicide Prevention Day, and I think that makes today an excellent day to be having this conversation. I have dealt with depression for as long as I can remember–some days with more grace and triumph than others–and one of the first things depression will tell you is that you are a failure.

But today, on a day when I’m feeling clear and sane, let me tell you a secret: Depression is a damn liar. It’ll tell you all sorts of things that aren’t true. It’ll pick up things you’ve heard from other people, jokes the jerks in school made, gossip that spilled over from the water cooler, snotty comments the tv commercial people make in an attempt to sell overpriced skin creams, and it’ll repeat them back to you. It will enumerate your shortcomings. It will compose entire epic sagas about the things you are not and may never be (I once cried for an hour because I was never going to be on MTV’s Real World. I don’t even want to be on that show–and I’m too old for it now anyway–but the fact that I wasn’t “one of the pretty people” was devastating to me that day). It will tell you just enough truth to make you think it’s all true, and then it will sucker punch you in the gut.

And one of its favorite lines is “you’re a failure”.

But now you’ve got a bit of ammunition to use against that one. I fail at things, you fail at things, we all fail at things. Nobody is perfect, as they say, and if they were they would be spectacularly boring. You are not meant to be perfect: you are meant to be flawed and bumpy and lumpy and have baggage, because that’s how we connect to each other–it’s like rock climbing, where you rely on the craggy bits and broken-off parts to make it to the top. If it were “perfect”ly smooth, you’d slide right the heck off.

Failing at things is ok, gang. You’re allowed to fail at things. You’re allowed to fail spectacularly sometimes, because that’s how the quickest learning gets accomplished. You’re allowed–heck, I’d argue that you’re required–to be imperfect.

So the next time the inner demons come nosing around, remind them that failure is an event–a thing that happens and is done, whereas you endure. Explain that you’ve got plenty of time left to sort out what went wrong and take a different approach tomorrow. Tell them to sod right off, because you’ve got gloriously fail-full living to do.

And if their voices get too loud, if you (or someone you love) find that you just can’t seem to shout them down, please also remember that you’ve got backup: you can always, always, always call the folks at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can reach them at

1-800-273-TALK (8255)

and they have all the time in the world to listen, to care, and to help connect you with other folks who will also listen and care. You’re not failures, kids, you’re humans. And we love you for it.

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Filed under General Musings and Meanderings, Play Nicely

…And Not, When I Came to Die, Discover That I Had Not Lived

Good afternoon, hooligans! Today’s post is going to be another Audience Participation one, and I’m going to need you to grab a few supplies so you can play along. So I’m going to go refill my coffee cup, and while I’m gone, please gather the following:

1. A notepad and pen/pencil/marker/crayon/fancy quill/etc

2. A spray bottle with plain water inside

/pours coffee, adds cream

/stirs

/sips

…Are we all back now? Yes? Good.

At the top of your piece of paper, let’s start by copying down the following quote:

Come Alive

Now beneath that, we’re going to make a list. Here’s what goes in it:

  • Your favorite hobbies, activities, etc. The things you do “just for fun”
  • Those moments in your life when you were having so much fun you felt like you were getting away with something–the moments people describe in books as “So-and-so thought she must surely be dreaming, and pinched herself”
  • Things you could get paid to do, but which you would be just as happy doing for free (think “dream job”, think “volunteer efforts”, think “if they stopped paying me, I’d still keep showing up anyway”)
  • Things you enjoy so much you’re totally willing to pay other people so you can do them (for instance, Moon Man is taking flying lessons. These are not cheap, but he enjoys them so much I’m pretty sure he’d sell his organs on the black market if he had to, to keep going with ’em)

Once that’s done, sit with the list for a minute. Just…sit with it. Look at it, smile wistfully, think things like “ahh, if only I had all the time and money in the world”; shake your fist a little bit at the rude disruption that is your normal life; idly consider buying a lottery ticket; let your thoughts drift to whether you remembered to set up the DVR for that show you want, or whether you’ve got time to mow the grass when you get home before running the kids to Scouts. Think about the reasons you’re not able to do all the things on your list: finances, time, other commitments, social expectations (“that’s not a very grown-up thing to want to do”), etc.

And as soon as you’ve got the Reasons Why Not fixed firmly in your brain, I want you to pick up the spray bottle, say “NO” in a firm voice, and spritz yourself directly in the face. Y’know, like you’d do with a cat who’s trying to eat your begonia.

Look back at the list, think about your excuses again, and repeat: NO (spritz).

Here’s the thing, y’all. I get it, I really truly get it, that part of Being a Responsible Grownup(TM) means that you have to make choices, you have to prioritize things, you have to make decisions based not just on your short-term happiness but also on your long-term solvency. It’s ok; we’ve got a mortgage too, so I’m certainly not saying you should just ditch everything and go try being a professional snowboarder full-time (though if you want to and are able to, I’m also not saying not to do that).

But what I am saying is that we get in this habit somewhere along the lines, where we have these things that we love–lovelovelove–to do, but we train ourselves out of wanting them by doing a sort of call-and-response kneejerk listing of all the reasons why we can’t do them anytime we start to think about them. We tell ourselves that we don’t have the time, or the money, or the freedom; we tell ourselves that other people will be disappointed in us; we tell ourselves that there are much more productive/important/useful things we could be doing instead.

In other words, we teach ourselves to associate our passions with Things We Cannot Do Because of Reasons…and when you think about it that way, doesn’t it seem just a little bit backwards?

Rather than listing the Things We Have to Do instead of pursuing the things we love, perhaps we can think about the things we can release that are standing between us and our bliss. Perhaps we can look at our budgets not as roadblocks, but as opportunities to practice conscious spending so that we can clear space for the things that make our soul sing (look at it this way: if your kid was a natural dancer, utterly passionate about it, and the only way to pay for his lessons was to kill cable, would you seriously still be watching Friends reruns? Or would you call the cable company right the heck now and tell them to come take the box away?).

Perhaps we can reevaluate how we spend the hours of our lives, and choose to put our bliss ahead of, say, the dusting.

Now look, I’m not saying everyone should run out and quit their jobs tomorrow and go become surfers or macrame artists or whatever. Some of you adore your jobs, and if you’re getting paid for your bliss, then good on you; and for those who aren’t so much desperately in love with their job but who, like me, are pretty strongly attached to the safety of knowing the lights are going to stay on, then by all means, carry on.

But stop letting yourself be the thing that’s standing between you and coming alive. Stop drafting a narrative in which you are prevented from your bliss because you’re following some made-up rules about How Grownups Are Supposed to Make Choices. Break the “I want to but I can’t” thought process–use a spray bottle, if that’s what it takes. Instead, start figuring out ways to clear time, clear funds, build opportunities for yourself. You are the only one who can give yourself permission to be wildly, blissfully, “I’m having so much fun I’m pretty sure I’m going to get in trouble for this” alive–so spritz yourself in the face until you’ve killed the habit of killing your own desires.

Try this: pick up that list you’ve made, and number the entries. Guess what? You’ve just made yourself a to-do list. And as a Responsible Grownup, you’re supposed to do the things on to-do lists. So come alive, get out there, and start crossing things off.

The world needs people like you.

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Filed under General Musings and Meanderings, Play Nicely

Thank You, Fred Phelps

Dear Reverend Phelps,

Word has spread that your health may be failing. I am in no position to offer you anything but sympathy and my prayers: if you are to recover, may your recovery be swift and simple; and if it is your time to leave this life, may your transition be smooth and peaceful. I hope that your nearest and dearest are keeping you good company, and that you are comfortable and well-cared-for, wherever you may be. Illness can be a frightening time, and I hope that yours passes quickly.

But since recovery gets harder as we get older (it happens to us all) and someday the fight will simply be too much for your body, I want to take this opportunity to thank you while there is still a chance that you will (somehow) stumble across and read this blog post.

Thank you, Reverend Phelps.

I don’t suppose you hear that all that much these days. It’s pretty “in vogue” to publicly rebuke you, to curse your name and to sling hate at you. If we’re going to be completely honest here, I’m sure you can understand–you haven’t exactly been known for your “free puppy kisses and lollipops for everyone” approach to spreading your message. But I believe strongly in the idea that everyone who enters our lives is a blessing in some way or another–even if it takes a bit of soul-searching to find the blessing buried at the bottom–and you are no exception to that rule.

Here’s what I mean:

1. You’ve taught me about respect. If this is your first visit to BuffaloTracts, you may want to stop at this post before your blood pressure shoots too high, but if you’ve been here before, you know that you and I don’t really have a whole lot of beliefs in common. That’s ok; we don’t all have to agree. But the process of writing this letter–more precisely, the process of deciding how to address this letter–has really underscored what I’ve learned about the difference between agreement and respect; i.e., I don’t have to agree with a single thing you say to respect that, for instance, you have earned the title of “Reverend”, at least within your own organization. Whether I would join your church or not is irrelevant; and whether you would have any title at all in a church I would join is irrelevant; “Reverend” is your title in the church you lead, and “Reverend” you shall be called. It’s a respectful thing to do, much like calling the Pope “Your Holiness”. Thank you for helping me pin that down.

2. You’ve taught me that a person should never, ever be judged by their parentage. I went to school with a couple of your grandkids; as I recall, they were actually pretty nice folks. I mean, sure, we had to steer clear of certain topics, but even that was a good learning point: that it’s absolutely possible for people with radically different beliefs to coexist peacefully, as long as they’re all willing to play nicely and share the toys. And since I came from a lineage that included a lot of blue-collar folks but went to school with a lot of doctors’ and lawyers’ kids, I came in primed to feel inferior based on my background–but you and your grandchildren helped me see past that and start learning to recognize people’s individual merits regardless of what family tree they grew from. It did great things for my self-esteem, frankly. Thank you for that.

3. You’ve taught me that wildly disparate people can absolutely work together to achieve common goals. I think the various counterprotests around the nation are excellent examples of this–there is no way anyone can possibly convince me that every single person in the human wall at Aurora, or the human wall at Texas A&M, or the human wall at the University of Missouri, or the human wall at Newtown, or the human wall members of Angel Action, or the other human walls that come up when you search for “human wall Westboro Baptist Church” (about 425,000 hits when I searched just now–wow, that’s a lot of object lessons!) all knew each other before they arrived to form their walls on those days. But there they all were, some of them arm-in-arm, some of them wearing huge angel wings that they’d built for the occasion, some carrying signs, some revving motorcycle engines to drown out your chants–there they were, united by a common purpose. Total strangers. Working together. It brings a tear to my eye every time. Thank you for that.

I suppose the bottom line here, Reverend, is this:

rock-of-ages-e1380981517484

I have (again with the honesty) absolutely not enjoyed the experience of interacting with you. We are not friends, and we are not particularly likely ever to be friends. I have not enjoyed seeing you on the streets of my childhood hometown, I have not enjoyed having your signs as part of the background scenery as I grew up, I have not enjoyed watching you gain a national stage, I have not enjoyed seeing Topeka’s private shame get international press, and I have not enjoyed witnessing the hurt and anger and fear your message has caused.

But I have learned to appreciate your existence for the lessons you have taught: about respecting someone despite fundamentally disagreeing with them; about basing your opinion of someone solely on that person’s own merits and actions; and about people’s abilities to overlook their differences in pursuit of a higher common goal. All those lessons, I think, were important in deepening my relationship with god. My god–not your God, because they are not the same entity at all.

If the role of a pastor is to bring people closer to the Divine, then by gosh, I reckon you’ve done it. For me, a woman whose sexuality and beliefs and politics would absolutely have inspired a garishly colored sign had you and I ever met in person.

Thank you for that, Reverend. You’ve done your work. Now rest comfortably, recover quickly if that is to be your fate, or transition gracefully if your time here is done. You’ll be in my prayers–whether you want to be or not.

Blessings to you,

Mama BW

 

Update, March 20, 2014: Fred Phelps has passed away. I hope his transition was peaceful and that he was surrounded by love as he left this life and entered the next stage of his soul’s grand adventure. I will continue to pray for his family’s peace during this difficult time for them–it is never easy to lose someone you love–and I trust that we will all take this opportunity to tell our own loved ones how much they mean to us. Remember, gang, today also happens to be Mr. Rogers’ birthday; let’s all be good neighbors and make careful choices about which Fred we want to be most like. Love you hooligans.

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Filed under Don't Make Me Come Down There, General Musings and Meanderings, Play Nicely, Share the Toys

Please Help. Thank You.

Nobody panic: the title of today’s post is not actually a request. It’s a script, and one I would do well to memorize. One I think a lot of us would do well to memorize. Here’s why.

About a week ago, a dear friend of ours returned from a four-month trip around the world. She’d originally planned to be gone for a year, but the fun ran out and she came home a little early. Exactly zero people were sad to see her back so soon, and everybody fell all over themselves in an attempt to make her re-entry as easy as possible: people drove her to pick up her car, people brought her coats and crocheted her a beautiful scarf because it’s cold right now, people took her out to dinner. People literally debated who would get to have her come stay with them for that first few days. It was adorable and lovely, and made my heart smile.

But then the First Week Re-Entry Period wore off, and she started looking for longer-term options. I mean, you can couch-surf for a little while, but sooner or later you want a bedroom with a door. So she came over, sat down, and said “I’m given to understand that you have a guest bedroom. Do you think I could live here for a while?”

We said yes (because duh), and now we have a housemate. Hiya, roomie!

Now, here’s the reason I’m telling you that story: I’ve realized, as I’ve thought about it, that if I had been the person needing a place to stay, my dialogue would have been ZOMG so insanely long. I would have said something like “Hi! I brought you these cookies. I hear you have a guest bedroom, and I am currently looking for a long-term place to stay, and I know it’s probably terribly inconvenient and I will absolutely understand if you’ve got other plans for that room–like family coming to town or occasionally using it for overnight guests or storage or something–and that’s really totally ok, and I won’t be offended at all if you say no, but do you think I could maybe possibly sleep here just for an incredibly short amount of time while I frantically try to find anyplace at all to live? I promise I will cook and clean and grovel and shovel the driveway with a teaspoon and give you footrubs and make exactly zero noise and I am willing to give you every single dollar I ever encounter in exchange for rent while I live here, and OMG please no don’t feel like you have to feed me because I will live off melted snow and whatever acorns I can steal from the neighborhood squirrels”.

Because that’s how I roll, yo. That’s how I’ve always rolled. The idea of coming right out and asking for something I need–especially if there is any chance whatsoever that it will inconvenience someone else–makes my head explode. I get into a guilt spiral like you cannot believe, and I tend to avoid these sorts of conversations at all cost.

My friend, on the other hand, had a need, identified the need, and came right out and asked for help.

/blink, blink

Mind = blown.

Which is why we’re talking about this today. How many times have you needed something from someone, and approached the request in that slinking, tail-between-the-legs, hat-in-hand, sheepish, oblique way? How many times have you started the conversation with “I’m so, so sorry to ask for this”? How many times have you built an “out” into the request–things like “I understand if you can’t, and that’s totally fine, because I know you probably have plans on that day, but if you happen to be free…”?

But hang onto your socks, kids, ’cause I’m about to drop a cosmic bomb on your head: What if you started thinking of requesting help less as this Big Horrible Thing That Will Inconvenience Everyone You Love, and started thinking of it as a gift to the person you’re asking?

What if you took a second to revise your role in your own head, and decided that you were no longer the tragic supplicant but were instead the Bringer of Opportunity–in this case, the opportunity for someone you love to build up a little extra karma, or repay you for a kindness you’ve already done for them?

What if you chose not to slink into the room, but to stride in, knowing that you were offering the chance to be an agent through which the Universe could work its magic?

Ecstatic Motion

 

Sure, asking for help can seem really scary and overwhelming–what if the person says “No”? What if it really is a huge inconvenience? What if it turns out that nobody actually loves you enough to show up when you need them the most? These are all legitimate, valid fears, and it’s totally ok to take two or three or a hundred bracing breaths before you make the request. It’s also totally ok to have a Plan B, Plan C, and Plan OMG in case the request-ee really isn’t able to provide the help you need.

But it’s also ok to make that leap of faith and trust that the Universe has put the safety net in place. It’s ok to approach this as your way of letting your friend pay you back for that time you helped him haul 40 boxes of books into his new third-floor walkup apartment. It’s ok to think of this as an opportunity for the request-ee to build some preemptive karma, so that when they need a new kidney, they know who to call first.

It’s ok to need other people, and it’s ok to let them help you out. It’s ok to be the Universe in ecstatic motion, and trust that the Universe knows who needs to build some karma and who needs a chance to learn some things about themselves and who needs a chance to grow, and it’s ok to be the person who provides those opportunities.

It’s ok to call in a favor.

At the risk of showing the depth and breadth of my geekitude, it’s ok to help us help you help us all.

And you can do it with four simple words: “Please help. Thank you”. That’s it–no apologies, no excuses, no circuitous language. The world won’t end. The friendship won’t be utterly destroyed.

You can do it.

I have faith in you.

Help prove me right on this one. Please. And thank you.

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Filed under General Musings and Meanderings, Play Nicely, Share the Toys

I Kinda Rule: Holiday Edition

I have been working on this post since Sunday afternoon.

So far what has tended to happen is that I think for a few minutes about what I want to say and how I want to say it, then I stride purposefully toward my office so that I can sit down and start writing, and somewhere around the 10-steps-from-the-office-door mark 35 years of training leap up and bash me over the head with a giant mallet labeled “HUMILITY”. If that doesn’t slow my roll, it breaks out “SHAME”, and if all else fails, it falls back on “SELF-ABASEMENT” which, as trump cards go, is pretty much always effective.

Which is how I’ve come to spend three days not writing this post. In the meantime, I’ve done some laundry, cooked some food, had I don’t even know how many frivolous conversations with people, wrapped some presents, and watched some television. Heck, yesterday afternoon I took about a 20-minute nap. That is how hard I’ve been avoiding writing this post.

And that’s why it’s extra-important that I write it: because it’s about how I was actually kind of a rock star this weekend. And if anyone else I care about had been a rock star, I’d be all about bragging on ’em. I’d post about ’em on Facebook. I’d write blogs in their honor. I’d take and post pictures, and talk about them on the phone with my mother. But when I’m the one who broke out a little extra awesomeness? Somehow that’s taboo, and my internal filters clamp down like I’m about to share some state secret I don’t even have the clearance to know–let alone to share with the world.

And that’s not ok, when it comes right down to it. “Humility”, they say (where “they” = C. S. Lewis), “is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less”…and I agree with that, but I’d hasten to point out that nowhere in there does it say anything about refusing to think of yourself at all. We are permitted to brag on anyone who does something awesome–and that includes ourselves. I am permitted to brag on anyone who does something awesome–and that includes myself.

I’ve written 363 words now and I’m still elbow-deep in caveat. To heck with this; I’m goin’ in.

This weekend was Moon Man’s Fancypants Holiday Office Shindig. and I looked like this:

Fancypants Holiday Office Shindig 2013

Some of you may recall the saga of The Dress from last week, when I came to grips with the idea that my nieces and nephews deserve to grow up with an Auntie BW who is confident enough to post a picture of the nice model wearing the dress she herself is planning to wear, even knowing full well that she and the model will look different in it.

And y’know what? I rocked that dress. Yes, the model and I looked different, which is probably just as well because it would be very confusing if everyone on earth looked alike. No, I did not have a team of hair- or makeup stylists. And yes, I totally had backup flats in my purse, because my Mama didn’t raise no fool. But it deserves to be said: I looked cute. I wore the heck outta that dress, and I will probably wear it again for future shindigs (there’s a charity dinner we attended for the first time last year, and I betcha we go again this year, and the dress would be perfectly appropriate for that event). Shee-yoot, I might wear that dress to the grocery store. I felt great, very confident, very stylish, very with-it, and it showed.

And–and and and–I got all the way through the fancypants shindig without throwing, dropping, or catapulting any food! I did not belch or sneeze on anyone, I used my napkin like a grownup lady, I picked the right fork on the first try, and I meandered graciously with a glass of wine and didn’t spill a single drop. I am a total rock star, kids, and don’t you (or I) forget it.

The face of a total rock star.

The face of a total rock star.

And then the next morning we came home and did the final preparations for the Buffalo Stampede Adopt-a-Family 2013 holiday party. We started this last year, this business of adopting a family through a local children’s charity and having everyone in our group (the “Buffalo Stampede”) either select one family member to buy for or just bring cash to donate to the grocery store gift card we commit to including. Then we pick a date and throw a party, and everyone brings their gifts to show off and wrap together while enjoying warm beverages and snacks and good, festive company.

It all sounds pretty straightforward, reduced to a few sentences like that, but the reality is that there’s a not-insignificant amount of coordination and work involved. For context, I started working on this in October. We had roughly 20 families participate in this year’s Stampede; so for the last 60 days or so, I’ve done Facebook postings, shopping, replied to emails/text messages/instant messages/Facebook messages/calls, fielded last-minute questions about sizes and/or color preferences and/or ages and/or preferred stores, and made sure each person in our assigned family had at least one designated Primary Shopper. I’ve counted cash. I’ve filed gift receipts. I’ve selected and gathered coordinating gift wrap, tissue paper, and gift tags, and picked up garment boxes and gift card holders.

And then there’s the party itself, which needed coordinating plates, bowls, and napkins (I may have gotten slightly OCD with it all). I made sure the snack spread included an actual entree (in this case, a big pot of chili) in case people needed a meal option. I had an entire table of arts’n’crafts supplies for the kiddos, including–wait for it–a planned project (superhero snow globes).

See? Snowglobes.

See? Snowglobes.

Hilariously, all the families with kiddos had to bow out of the party because of illness or other crises, so we grownups made the snow globes ourselves, and had a blast. Heck, I even made personalized party favors–and wrapped them individually in gift bags with (you had to know this was coming) coordinated gift bags, tissue paper, and a charming candy cane.

I made a  bunting, people. With inspirational quotes about generosity and taking care of your fellow humans.

See? Bunting. Pay no attention to the cat.

See? Bunting. Pay no attention to the cat.

And it paid off like mad–the turnout was pretty good at the party, the insane flu bug running rampant through our friends group notwithstanding. Our goal was to have at least one present per person in our 6-person adopted family and $75 to put toward a grocery store gift card, and at last count, the total haul was somewhere around 50-55 presents and $160 for the grocery card. Which, and let me be very clear on this point, is an awesome and amazing testament to how generous and loving the Stampede folks can be. I’m deeply honored to know these folks, and deeply proud to be counted among their friends.

The gifts for the family. That's pretty much the exact opposite of an empty stocking on Christmas morning.

The gifts for the family. That’s pretty much the exact opposite of an empty stocking on Christmas morning.

So y’know what, 35 years of training with your mallets and your inner demons? Out you go. If asked, I would say that What I Most Want to Accomplish With My Life is “make a positive difference in people’s lives”, and my unofficial answer is “…and look cute doing it”.

And that, objectively and honestly speaking, is exactly what I did this last weekend.

In other words, I kinda rule. And I deserve to celebrate that fact.

So this one’s for me. Congratulations, Self, on being a total rock star and an all-around swell gal, and double congratulations for doing so in a photogenic way. High-fives all ’round and a nice shot of victory whiskey for me. Attagirl. Et cetera.

Maybe I should make myself a medal.

P.S.–To everyone who participated in this year’s Stampede, Thank you. Without y’all, I’d just be a madwoman with a Facebook account and insufficient supervision. You are generous and incredible people, and … and I’m about to get sniffly again, so I’m stopping here. Love you hooligans.

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Filed under Don't Make Me Come Down There, General Musings and Meanderings, Play Nicely, Share the Toys