Tag Archives: motivation

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

5×12

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I present to you my great and secret shame:

IMG_20150107_123527331

Shown with small enthusiastic ferocious terrier and larger loving but ultimately pretty useless Border Collie mutt for size comparison:

"When do we get our cheeseburgers for being such good models?"

“When do we get our cheeseburgers for being such good models?”

That, gang is a bag of t-shirts. A big bag of t-shirts, which has been sitting in the closet/Moon Man’s office/the basement for…lordy, two years now? Three? Long enough that I no longer have any idea what t-shirts are in there, and had completely forgotten he ever even had the red dino one on the top.

Now hold on to my Great and Secret Shame for a minute; we’re gonna circle back around to it.

Yesterday I was talking with a Very Dear Friend; she’d checked in to see how the Smoking Cessation Plan of 2015 was coming along (for which she gets 10 billion karma points, as she was the first non-Buffalo Moon Ranch resident to do so), and we were chitchatting about how one of the most challenging bits for me is figuring out what to do with myself. It’s not just about the nicotine addiction, y’know; it’s about the habit, the repetitive action, the thing you do to fill gaps in the day. What do you do when you’re a nonsmoker who gets to the restaurant before your friend does? What does a nonsmoker do when she has 10 minutes before her next meeting, since that’s really not enough time to, say, watch an episode of Friends? These are roughly 10-12 5-minute increments through the day, y’all, nearly an hour of time; what do nonsmokers do with that hour?

Very Dear Friend suggested blocking out that hour as “Time Formerly Known As Smoking Time Which You May Not Claim And Which I Shall Use For My Own Nefarious Purposes” (I may have changed the suggested title a bit there), but the problem is that a lot of smoking time was spent in the gaps between other things–having a meeting scheduled at 1:00 meant that I would pop out for 5 minutes around 12:45. Showing up to the movies early so we could get tickets and popcorn meant taking 5 minutes to grab a quick smoke before going inside. Et cetera. And since most of those things aren’t really movable times–they’re not going to agree to push all my meetings up to be back-to-back so I can spend a free hour in the afternoon, and they’re not going to just start the movie 5 minutes early because I’m ready before they are–those gaps still exist, still need filled with some small thing.

Enter the t-shirt bag.

While we were talking, it occurred to me that perhaps what I needed was a “fidget”, a little thing I could do with my hands that would mostly leave my mind free to wander/plan blogs/try to remember whatever it is I’m forgetting at the moment, that would take about 5 minutes or could be done in 5-minute increments. I thought about dusting–I always think about dusting–and added that to the Possible Options list, along with “tidying a small corner of the world”, “lovebombing someone out of the blue”, and “some small sort of exercise”…but then I remembered the t-shirt bag.

That bag, which has been sitting forlorn and forgotten, was originally destined to become a t-shirt quilt. Not that I know how to make a t-shirt quilt or anything ridiculous like that–there are a lot of tutorials online, and a lot of instructions, and goodness knows I have a lot of friends who quilt, but I’ve never personally made one and have only the dimmest idea where/how to start. (And no, that’s not a request for help or advice; one of the things I’m giving myself permission to do in 2015 is Trying Things Without Having to Get Them Right on the First Try. This could end up beautifully, or it may end with a pile of scrap fabric and me in tears. Who knows? We’ll see when we get there. And I’ll get to do some on-the-fly problem-solving, which is never a terrible thing to do.)

So I’ve dragged the bag up from the basement, where I found it after 10 minutes of playing “where was the last place I saw that dang thing?” around the house. I’ve gathered a bin to put the cut-up pieces in, and my fabric-only scissors. There’s a reasonable chance that I’ll set up a folding card table in my office so I can work between calls, and failing that, I’ve already picked a nice spot on the living room floor where it can sit and be an eyesore and probably eventually get peed on by one of the dogs or torn up by one of the cats.

And I reckon I can use my 5-minute increments to make babystep progress with the thing: cutting the shirts apart; trimming the pieces to…the right shapes? squares maybe? still pretty fuzzy on this step; stitching them together in a meaningful way TBD. Heck, for all I know I might be about to embark on an adventure of making the world’s saddest collection of potholders, dust cloths, and trivets. We might end up with 8 patchwork pillowcases that don’t actually fit any of our pillows. There’s a very real chance we’ll end up with a garbage bag of cut-apart t-shirts and half-formed quilt blocks that ends up going back in the basement for another two or three years.

But one thing I do know is that I’ll have a way to fill those 12, 5-minute gaps each day. With something that isn’t a cigarette, and which might just turn out to be productive and lovely.

I’ll take it.

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Filed under General Musings and Meanderings, Play Nicely

King Nosmo

/flails

/flops onto couch

/looks pathetic

You guys. YOU GUYS. Everything is wrong and nothing makes sense and it’s all TOO HEAVY and it’s all pretty ridiculous when you think about it but right now it is all 100% crisis all the time and how does anyone even live like this?!?

/flings pillow onto floor

/makes tragic face

So it’s 2015 now, yay cheers etc, and 2015 has the potential to be really amazing in some very groovy ways, and blah blah bright and shining future, blah blah loads of promise, blah blah living my best life owe it to myself am incredible and deserve a body that supports my blah blah blah so I’m quitting smoking. Like, right this second I am in the process of quitting. Quitting is a thing I am doing, right now, today, as we speak–not “going to do this year” or “am planning to try” or “have started thinking about how it wouldn’t be a terrible idea”, but am currently, immediately, present-tense-verb quitting.

No, I’m not going cold turkey, because cold turkey is a thing I have tried before and I’ve got too much “shut your doodyheaded mouth, I’m a grownup and can do what I want” for cold turkey anything to work–it lasts about 15 minutes, and then I flip the table and go do whatever it is I’m trying not to do, but rebelliously this time. Instead I’m doing a self-directed stepping-down sort of thing: yesterday I smoked roughly once every two hours, which was my usual MO; today I’ve upped that to once every three hours, and will camp there for a day or two. Then every four hours, every five, every six, every as many increments as it takes to get me to the point where I forget an increment because the banshee screaming urge isn’t there anymore. Which means that today is my first real day of not just popping out for a smoke whenever I feel like it (I only smoke outside), so today is the first day that I’m having to battle the habit fo’ realsies.

And you know what I’m learning more strongly than anything else? That for me, smoking is tied to a lot of activities in my life. I got up from the computer earlier to refill my coffee cup, and my inner “smokeytime!” bell went off. Went to the restroom a bit later, noticed the dogs wanted out? Smokeytime! Thought about how I was not going to smoke yet, and maybe I should write a blog post about it, and thinking about writing the blog pinged the Smokeytime bell because I spend no small amount of time composing my thoughts over a nice cigarette before actually sitting down to write.

I smoke before we get in the car to go someplace; I smoke after meals; I smoke before bed; I smoke when I’m bored. I smoke when I take the dogs outside, and before you play the “well, just don’t go with them” card, I’ll note that our larger dog, Charlie, was a stray before he went to the shelter and was already microchipped with a defunct address so there’s about a 99% chance he was dumped by his former family and so he has profound trust issues and is perfectly happy to just pee right on the deck if I don’t go with him and watch him go down the stairs and stand there and reassure him that yes, he can come back in when he’s done. So I pretty much have to go out with them.

So I’m starting to find those niches, those places where a cigarette goes whether I’d noticed it consciously or not, as I’m brushing up against them throughout the day. And I’m finding that I’m not as murderous yet as I’d kinda expected to be–maybe that’s coming later, oh goodie–but I am confused. Like, what do you people even do if you’re not running out for a smoke every 90 minutes? How do you blog without smoking first? How do you refill your coffee cup? How do you leave the house?

It’s currently about 10 degrees here, because, y’know, January on the Great Plains. So you mean to tell me that y’all nonsmokers (I guess I’m working on joining you, so maybe I should change that to “we nonsmokers”) just, like, don’t throw on a coat and go stand outside in the arctic air ten times a day? You don’t go huddle under the overhang when it’s raining? We don’t find ourselves thinking “huh, I’m breathing awfully easily–must be time for a smoke”?

What do you do with all that free time, then? Where do you read your catalogs? What do you use your deck for, if not The Place Where You Go Smoke?

So far in my attempts to distract myself and fill those 5-to-6-minute gaps I’ve played a couple of silly little games on Facebook, read a bit of the book I’m working on, researched pear cake recipes (we have a box of lovely pears that are about to go bad, and wasting them is just not ok), and at one point just went and stood outside and did some deep cyclic breathing because how do you even measure the time if not by trips to the deck?

/sighs

/flops over

This is all just so terribly ridiculous, and so terribly difficult, and so terribly ludicrously hilarious. I’ve been a smoker for literally half my life–and for my entire “legal adult” life: one of the first things I did on my 18th birthday was buying a pack of cigarettes, just to try them, because I could. I have never been a grownup without also being a smoker. I have no idea how to make friends at the coffeeshop without striking up conversations at the smoker’s corner on the porch. I have no idea how to go to the airport without immediately identifying all the smoking-permitted zones. I have never learned how to not have a lighter in my purse at all times.

But this is a thing I am doing, because it is a thing I have decided to do, because reasons. This is a good thing to do, and I will be glad to have done it. This is a day I will be proud of–and a post I will chuckle about–later when I’m a firmly established Former Smoker Who Has Successfully Quit.

And in the meantime, I’m 7 minutes from my every-three-hours smoke break, so I’m going to go put on my jacket and get ready to go. Because while I am in the process of quitting, I’m not there yet; and for a person who craves routine, it’s nice to know for sure what I’m going to do with the 6 minutes between 12:00 and 12:06 PM.

Pray for me, y’all. And then pray for Moon Man, for strength in dealing with me.

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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

Remarkable

Yesterday my friend became the 61st person to sign up to run the 2015 Iditarod. The Iditarod, if you’re not familiar with it, is a dogsled race that travels more than 1,000 miles through the Alaskan wilderness–just you, some dogs, and a whole lotta distance between yourself and the finish line–and it’s run each year in March. AKA, the dead of winter. In Alaska. Temperatures of 50-60 degrees below zero are not uncommon, and last year’s champion set a new record by finishing it in slightly more than eight days. The last musher to cross the finish line took just shy of two weeks to finish. Y’know, just a nice li’l snowy vacation-length jaunt with some doggehs and the frostbite-within-30-seconds cold. NBD.

(ahem)

Now, here’s the fun thing about Steve (did I mention his name is Steve? His name is Steve, by the way): this “I think I’ll go run the Iditarod” plan isn’t the only spectacularly remarkable thing on his “been there, done that” list. Heck, depending on how you look at things, it may or may not crack the Top 5. His Iditarod musher bio blurb is…well, follow the nice link there at the beginning of the sentence and you’ll see what I mean. I recommend you sit down first, and maybe grab a nice bracing beverage.

/waits

/files nails

/wonders if anyone else would find it funny if she started referring to him as an “OveraSTEVEr”

…So that’s Steve. Hold onto him for a second–we’ll be back around for him shortly. In the meantime, please enjoy this video of Drew Drechsel, whom I do not personally know but who seems like a Very Nice Fellow.

There we see the lad competing (in a qualifying round) on a program called American Ninja Warrior, which is based on the Japanese Sasuke, which is essentially a great big ol’ super-insane obstacle course. It consists of 4 stages, each more difficult than the last, and as of this morning, Sasuke has been run 30 times with a whopping 3, yes three, people completing it (one fellow has finished it twice, which is just crazycakes). 100 people try each time, gang, so that’s a pretty, um, noteworthy failure rate. And the American version is on its 6th running, with zero completions so far (though last year one guy almost made it through stage 3. Alllllmost). People don’t run this thing because they think they’re going to win it–they run it because they want to try.

And Drew, as it turns out, is actually the fellow who provided the quote that kicked off this whole post in the first dang place: a few weeks ago, over on his Facebook, he posted the question, “What awesome thing should I attempt today?“.

And y’know what? I love that.

Here’s the thing, y’all. Every year a sizable number of Iditarod mushers “scratch”: they withdraw from the race partway through for one reason or another (dogs get sick, mushers get injured, sleds break down, the weather tries to destroy them–last year’s frontrunner had to scratch when a storm kicked up and tried to blow his dogs to Canada). Ninja Warrior competitors have a staggeringly low completion rate. But every single one of them, from the folks who come in first to the folks who come in dead last to the folks who don’t make it past the first checkpoint on the race trail or the first obstacle on the course, every single one of them tried to do something amazing.

To borrow a line from John Green,

tumblr_n38gusYzv41tn18ozo1_1280

(John there, if you’re not familiar with his work, is a novelist who has written a handful of books, won awards for dang near every one of them, and has most recently become insanely famous for his YA novel, The Fault in Our Stars, which became a bestseller and got made into a super-successful movie and now he’s a kaspillionaire. And he runs a grassroots movement that mobilizes his fans and puts their collective shoulders behind various philanthropic projects. I imagine his calendar is terribly complicated.)

Look, y’all, we can’t all win the Iditarod. Heck, I can’t currently win a race with the dogs to catch things that fall off the counter while I’m making dinner. But Steve is going to try, and who knows, he might go down as that Rookie Who Caught Everyone Off-Guard. We’re not all going to win Ninja Warrior, but Drew straps on his shoes every season and takes a whack at it and maybe this will be the year he joins the very, very short list of finishers. My friend, Funky Peacenik, is not going to singlehandedly feed everyone who’s hungry, but she’s making a heckuva good attempt. My friend with the Red Purse is not personally going to be able to connect every person with health care, housing, and food assistance, but she’s getting about 300 folks per week, which ain’t shabby.

What you are driven to do–what you are driven to try–is probably not going to be the same as what I want to take a shot at…and that’s ok, because what matters is that you find something remarkable that sings to your soul, and you go for it. You don’t have to succeed on your first attempt; heck, you don’t even have to come very close. We’re not all going to end up with biographies that make other people want to reassess all their life choices. We’re not all going to do insane flippy-runny-jumpy-soary things. We’re not all going to save the world.

But it’s up to you to decide that today is the day you’re going to take the first steps toward a life that you’re proud of. If you’ve already taken the first steps, then it’s up to you to keep going. If you haven’t picked a dream yet, it’s up to you start brainstorming.

So choose the way in which you’re going to be remarkable, and go for it.

We’ll be here, ready to cheer you on.

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Filed under General Musings and Meanderings, Play Nicely

Buffalo Tantrum: You Are Not a Tree

Ok, look.

I’m going to say two words in a second, and I’m predicting with about 95% confidence that nearly everyone reading this is immediately going to think of someone else. Ready? Here goes.

Professional Victim.

Here’s what I mean by that phrase:

That person whose life is always in some sort of full-tilt crisis–financial, emotional, spiritual, etc.

That person whose Facebook reads a lot like a wish list–“Can anyone help with X?”, “What I really need is Y”, “If you have a Z to spare, I could seriously use it right now”.

That person who has a spectacular list of Folks Who Done Done Me Wrong–their ex, their boss, their neighbor, life in general.

That person who has identified–sometimes repeatedly–the One Thing That Must Change So That I Can Be Happy/Fulfilled/Productive/Etc but which they are, for whatever reason, flatly refusing to change (if asked, they’ll say they can’t change it, and give you a long list of excuses. Er, reasons).

That person who is always waiting for someone else to come solve their life for them–via infusion of money, by divorcing them, by graduating and moving out, by perpetually validating them and bolstering their ego so they never have to learn their own coping skills, etc.

That person. You know the one.

Now that you’ve got that person (or people) fixed firmly in your mind, delete them. Erase the image. That person is out of play. Instead, reread the list above from the bottom to the top, and check all the boxes that could by any stretch of the imagination apply to you:

Are you the one who is just waiting for the day that your spouse finally quits loafing around and starts looking for a job for reals? Who knows for certain that if you could just sell the house and move to the country, everything would be ok? Who can, off the top of your head, think of the Top 10 People Whose Choices Drove You To This Chaotic Place?

Are you the victim in your own story?

‘Cause honey, if it’s you (and yes, I am looking pointedly at a few of you right now, and no, I won’t tell you  who they are), then grab a helmet right quick because I am about to drop three brickloads of truth onto your head in rapid succession.

Brickload #1.

Brickload #1.

Brickload #2.

Brickload #2.

Brickload #3.

Brickload #3.

Here’s the thing: I get it that change is hard. I get it that in some cases, change really isn’t practical–for example, right now Moon Man and I are living in a house that neither of us is particularly enamored with (his ex-wife picked it out), but it’s old enough that it needs some pretty costly upgrades before we can sell it for enough money to break even on what’s left of the mortgage. Yes, we could theoretically do a short-sale, and we could theoretically just walk away from it and let the bank sort out why the payments stopped and the house is suddenly vacant, but it’s not quite so dire that we’re willing to take that step. We just, y’know, grumble about it sometimes.

But six months or so ago, we decided that we needed to make an active choice in the matter. We had spent a (really pretty embarrassing) amount of time playing the “We’re So Tormented” fugue on the world’s smallest violin, blaming his ex for picking this house and “forcing” him to buy it despite it being wildly overpriced, blaming the builders for using cheap materials in its construction, blaming the economy for “stranding” us here–but the bottom line was that there are not, in fact, any guard dogs patrolling the property and keeping us from leaving. We’re here because we choose to be, and if that’s a choice that really, truly makes us miserable, then we are the only people who can change that–so we either had to commit to leaving or commit to staying, and either way, we had to accept that the choice was completely, entirely, utterly ours to make.

So we stayed. We’re being aggressive about saving money so we can start making upgrades, and once it’s ready to sell and we line up another house, then we’ll make the big jump. But in the meantime, this house is ours, and we are here by choice, and we are taking ownership of that decision.

But it all had to start from the realization that we are not, in fact, trees. We can move. We can just get up and go.

Now, look, I’m not saying that there aren’t repercussions. Every choice has consequences, and you have to factor those in and decide whether you can live with them. You don’t exist in a vacuum, after all.

And you’re the only one who can make that judgement call. I can’t really even advise you, let alone decide for you whether declaring that from now on you get to spend one night per week doing something that is of interest only to you (a hobby, a sport, a night out with friends) is worth having your spouse grump around the house–but I can tell you that if you decide it’s not worth it, then you have to own that choice, and you do not get to blame your spouse for keeping you from your friends. You are keeping you from your friends, by choosing to prioritize your spouse’s desires over your own. I can’t tell you whether you really will be better off by leaving a relationship that looks toxic from way over here, but I can tell you that if you stay, you have to own that choice, and you do not get to blame your partner for “making you miserable”. I can’t tell you that keeping the job that is driving your blood pressure higher than your bank balance is better than the financial risk of leaving it and just hoping you find something else, but I can tell you that…ehh, you get the picture.

Here’s the bottom line: I’m pretty much over the professional victims in my universe. If you never have any money, then you need to have a come to Jesus meeting with yourself and sort out why that is–perhaps “I don’t currently have a job” is a good starting point (and do not come to me with “nobody will hire me”. What you really mean is “I do not want any of the jobs that will hire me, because I would rather complain about my finances and try to get other people to solve my life than take a job at the fast food restaurant down the street”). If your marriage is miserable and you dread going home, why do you keep doing it? Have you considered counseling? Don’t come to me with “we’re staying together for the kids’ sake”, either, because a Google search for “does it damage kids if parents stay in an unhappy marriage” brings back 2.2 million results and the entire first page is full of blurbs that say, in a nutshell, “yes, yes it does”.

If you are unhappy where you are, why don’t you change it? You are not a tree. And if you choose not to change it at this time, then own that choice. You cannot be the victim if you are in charge of your own narrative.

And trust me, honeychild, ain’t nobody impressed with a professional victim.

**Note: if you are in a situation that is unsafe, where you are not safe at home but have been threatened or “warned against” trying to leave, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7223 (SAFE). If you are so overwhelmed by your current situation that you think the only way to change things is by ending everything, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). I love you hoodlums, and while change can be scary, it needs to be the sort of scary that turns out well for our heroes/heroines in the end, y’know?

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

Blessed Are the Peaceniks

I want to tell you about my friend.

Her real name starts with M, but she goes by Funky Peacenik. She’s curvy and tattooed–I’m actually pretty jealous of her tattoos–and strongly opinionated about beer. She will punch you in the mouth if you admit to shopping at Walmart or choosing GMO over organic foods (she’s a Buddhist. She’s not punching anybody. She talks big, though) and goes religiously to her local farmer’s market. She’s a wizard with a camera, and does love on an epic and courageous scale that I can only halfway wrap my brain around.

She’s also personally–specifically, individually, and personally–responsible for an insane percentage of the amount of good that gets done in my corner of the world.

Here’s what I mean:

Each year, I coordinate the Buffalo Stampede. A group of us get together, adopt a family through a local children’s organization, and then gift-bomb the heck out of them. Over the last two years we’ve donated something like 88 individually wrapped gifts, plus just short of $500 for food. Peacenik introduced me to the children’s organization–so she’s pretty much the Prime Mover for that entire drive.

Each year, Moon Man and I sponsor a Back-to-School Buddy through the same organization, providing school supplies and clothes and “any little extras you want to toss in” for a kiddo whose family needs a little help getting ’em set up for school success. Last year we sent a 3-year-old to his first day of preschool with more Spiderman stuff (his favorite superhero) than is even holy, and this year an 8-year-old started the 3rd grade tricked out in so much pink (her favorite color) that I think my eyes actually stopped registering that color. Again, Peacenik is the reason we know about that organization at all. So add those two kids to her tally.

Peacenik herself works at a food bank, and y’all know how I am about food banks. So over the last few years, thanks to donation bins at the grocery store and a Stone Soup Supper and Food Drive we did here for my birthday last year, I reckon there have been a good 300-400 pounds of food donated to that food bank. Plus she hooked me up with appropriate outfit tips for a swankypants fund drive silent-auction-and-restaurant-sampling gala that benefitted the bank, so I got to feel cute and philanthropic. So given their pounds-to-meals conversion ratio, add somewhere around 300 meals provided to hungry people to her karma tally–and that’s just the meals added on my watch. She reaches hundreds of people every day at her job, so feel free to do complicated multiplication to get her actual karma points.

On a personal note, we held a garage sale to benefit my mother a few years back–Dad died without life insurance, and funerals are expensive. Peacenik brought over a giant shipment of items to donate for sale, and then turned around and bought a bunch of stuff herself; so let’s conservatively guess that she added $100-150 in karma to her pile there.

And did I mention that she is now thinking of fostering puppies? Puppies, for crying out loud.

So here’s the bottom line: sometimes Peacenik gets a little down, as we all do from time to time, about whether she’s having any real impact on the world and whether her attempts to be a decent human being outweigh her bad hair day, grumpy mood, or oversleeping the alarm clock. And Peacenik, honey, if you’re reading, this, I’ve got about 100 Christmas presents, $500 in Christmas food money donations, two fully outfitted Back-to-School buddies, about 300 meals for the hungry, and $150 in garage sale cash–plus puppies–that say that yes, you are in fact making a difference. A great big, gigantic, enormous, amazing difference.

And because BuffaloTracts readers are amazing people, it wouldn’t surprise me a bit, Peacenik, if some folks read this and then turned around and said “huh, y’know, that Back-to-School Buddy thing sounds cool. I wonder if anyone in my area does that?”, or “Y’know, I should really donate to my own local food bank this week”, or “OMG FOSTER PUPPIES. Count. Me. In”.

So yeah, I know sometimes the day is stupid and long and full of mean people being crabby, and I know sometimes you have to bear the brunt of that. I know sometimes running away to hide in the wilds of Canada sounds like a vastly superior plan, and I won’t stop you if you decide to pack up and go.

But if you hear nothing else today, please hear this: you make a difference. You have made a difference. You have inspired others to make a difference, whether you really pieced together the direct chain of influence or not.

You are changing the world for the better, every single day.

And nope, I’m not just talkin’ about Peacenik anymore, Dear Reader. 😉

So this one’s for Peacenik…and this one’s for you. Sit down sometime and think about the good in the world that can be traced directly back to you and your influence. I think what you find may surprise you.

Even if you never know it

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Filed under General Musings and Meanderings, Play Nicely