Tag Archives: note-to-self

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

Tangled Hair and Matching Silver Jumpsuits

Today one of my favorite authors tweeted that “It is a profound thing when someone in your life picks up the slack EVERYwhere else, so that you can pursue something as selfish as writing”. She followed it up with “Even if you’re the breadwinner (I am), you still have this strong sense that someone else is making sure your life and family WORK … while you sit by yourself trying to get something out of you. Something that will never fully *be* out of you”.

Hold onto that thought; we’re going to circle back around to it in just a minute.

A couple of days ago, one of my favorite musicians was presented with an opportunity to perform at a venue that’s a frankly perfect fit, and which would boost his exposure exponentially. We were all making celebratory “squee” noises when my practical side kicked in, and so we spent a bit of time talking about whether there was additional equipment he might need for this gig to make it as successful and smooth as possible, which a group of devoted fans might come together to help him obtain…at which point he freaked out a bit, because it’s one thing to work a thousand hours of overtime so you can buy a bit of equipment, and another thing entirely to have people buy it for you “just because”. Eventually we dragged a wish list out of him, but lemme tell ya, it was not entirely unlike pulling teeth. From a dyspeptic bobcat. With chopsticks.

Hold onto that thought too. We’ll be back for the musician in just a second.

Earlier this week a friend started a sentence with “As Mama BW would say”. I laughed, and laughed some more, and laughed and laughed and laughed–that helpless, “Jeezly crow, my entire universe has just tipped sideways and there’s nothing I can do but laugh” cackle–because despite having had some folks tell me (in some cases, directly to my face) that the things I write here were percolating into their lives and making them think about the world in new and different ways, this was the first time that it really, truly, really truly for really truly reals sank all the way in that people were seriously, honestly, actually reading and internalizing the stuff I say. Little ol’ me. On my little ol’ blog. That I started for kicks and grins.

…Now here’s where I tie these snippets together.

We’ve talked before about how one person can make a difference in the lives of hundreds of other people without realizing it. They can be the inspiration behind a food drive, or a fund drive, or a concentrated work effort that results in people being housed or saved or dug out from disaster. One person doing small things when the opportunity presents itself can, in a sort of domino effect, improve the lives of countless numbers of people.

But when we think about People Making a Difference, I suspect we tend to think about some sort of Work-With-a-Capital-W. We imagine folks sitting on the phone for hours, drumming up donations from local businesses. We think of people hauling boxes full of canned goods. We think of people flying to remote areas and hacking through miles of jungle to deliver medical care.

We think of sweat, and we think of effort, and we think of sacrifice.

We don’t tend to think of artists. Or writers. Or musicians.

But here’s the thing.

The author way back in that first paragraph? Yeah, one of her books (which has gotten rather a lot of recognition and won awards) features a protagonist with whom I can profoundly identify. I’ve reviewed Eleanor and Park here already, so I won’t go into a lot of detail, but I’ll say that Eleanor is the sort of unmanageable-haired, unfashionably clothed, outcast character that I think a lot of kids can identify with–and the kids who will see themselves in her are the sort of kids who desperately need the reassurance she provides, that no matter how crappy things may be right now (and how dark the night may get before the sun rises), it really does get better. There is always something to hold on to, something to fight for, and someone who will believe in you.

I dunno about y’all, but I’d submit that undertaking the grueling process of writing a book that might save a kid from suicide is pretty much the opposite of a “selfish act”.

And the musician in the second vignette? One of my favorite photographs on the face of god’s green earth shows my father holding the toddler version of myself. We’re wearing matching silver jumpsuits that my mother made (the ’70s were hard), and I’m holding a microphone: Dad used to be part of a band, and we were at one of his gigs, and the picture is a snapshot of my first-ever solo number. I’ve been told I said–er, sang–“doo doo doo” before handing the microphone back to him, and was met with wild applause. Fast-forward 30 years or so, and you’ll find another photo of my father and me, this time with him walking me down the aisle while the musician in question plays at the front of the room. We lost Dad four months after he and I took that walk, and now, whenever my musician friend plays, it opens a space in my heart where Dad and I can spend a few musical moments together again.

I dunno about y’all, but I’d submit that giving me a safe, beautiful, and comforting way in which to reflect on some of my most cherished memories is well worth the price of some performance equipment, for cryin’ out loud.

And then there’s me, coming finally to realize that the things I say here are having an impact on other people. I can use words to lift people’s spirits, rally them to action, help them examine the world from a new perspective, and think about their choices in different ways. I can help them become their best selves. And while I feel guilt sometimes, that Moon Man is off holding down a full-time office job while I’m over here “just” blogging and doing some part-time work, I have to remember that what he is doing is participating in the process of encouraging his fellow human beings–he’s just doing it in a “shadow investor” sort of way, while I hold down the chair in front of the keyboard.

So the final takeaway is this: we who work in creative fields, we who have artistic abilities, need to stop selling ourselves short. Writing can be a selfish act, sure; and music can be a just-for-fun sort of endeavor; but we also have the abilities to touch other human beings from inside their hearts. We help shape the world just as surely as the fellow who builds a highway or a house–we just build from within.

And I dunno about y’all, but I reckon that’s every bit as valid–and healing, and necessary–as any other job.

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

Un- “Just” -ified

I want you to take a look at something.

Fancypants Holiday Office Shindig 2013

That’s the picture from yesterday’s Fancypants Office Holiday Shindig Recap, and I want you to take a good long look at it. Really examine it. Feel free to click to embiggen, or print it out life-size (I’m about 5’7″ barefoot, probably 5’9″ in those heels) and stare at it for a bit. Now, go through and circle all the things in that picture that can realistically be described as “small”, “little”, “wee”, or other synonyms I’m too lazy to list right now. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

/files nails

/checks email

Are we all back now? Yes? Ok. Now, if you’re like me, you’ve probably circled some things on the tree, plus the clutch handbag (side note: I totally scored that clutch for, like, $5. Thrift store FTW!). There’s a chance that you circled the shoes, and if so, that means they’re doing their job: they have this bizarre space-folding ability to make my pontoon boat feet look dainty. I actually wear a size 11 shoe. Snowshoes? None for me, thanks, I’m good.

But–let’s be honest–you probably haven’t circled much else on the side of the picture where I’m standing, because–let’s be honest–there’s not much about me that’s small. I’m a large lady. I wear large clothes. I have big hands, a broad face, and longish hair. I wear only drop or hoop earrings–no posts for me, thanks. My regularly scheduled purse is a diaper bag, fer cryin’ out loud, and I’ve got a voice that can carry to 24 school-aged kids at a crowded swimming pool during a summertime field trip. I have laughed loudly enough that I could feel the sound waves hitting a table that my hand was resting on at the time. I am not, and I apologize if this comes as a surprise to you, a teensy li’l thang.

My blog posts are long, my sentences are complex and occasionally rambling, my vocabulary is large, my words are polysyllabic. I’m big all over. I mean, c’mon, what did you expect from a gal who goes by “Mama BuffaloWmn”?

So why, dearlordinheaven, why do I feel the compulsion to diminish the words that I write?!?

…I should give you some context.

Yesterday I fought a pretty bloody fight against my internal demons and programming, and posted about how I was a total rock star this past weekend. Arguably, I’m a total rock star more frequently than that, but that was the most recent obvious example. (Fighting…urge…to…add…qualifiers…and…apologetic…statements….) Since I work from home, I was simultaneously sending and/or replying to assorted emails, and since a startling percentage of my social life is conducted online (we live in the future), I was also sending and/or replying to personal correspondence via various sites and media.

And you know what I noticed? An astonishing amount of my correspondence included the word “just”: “Just wanted to see if 3 PM EST works for you”; “I was just wondering if you’d prefer to move the meeting to Friday”; “I was just unsure whether you’d be home tomorrow”; “I’d just like to add my two cents here”; etc, etc, etc.

So on the one hand, I was all singin’ my own praises out in front of god and everybody, and on the other hand, I was starting, like, every single message with an apology for the simple act of communicating with people–which is doubly hilarious, because a lot of those messages were replies. People were expecting to hear from me, and I still found myself compulsively apologizing for the intrusion in their day.

/blink blink

It’s an act of self-diminishment, is what it is, and I’m here to tell ya, it’s gotta stop. It’s no different than the need many of us feel to apologize for every little thing whether it actually merits an apology or not (there’s an amusing anecdote about that in this post about the Overuse of “I’m Sorry”–look for the bit about the bears); it serves no purpose other than to make us seem smaller, less intrusive, less imposing…and for a person like me, where every other facet of my existence is large, bold, and infinitely noticeable, it’s perhaps a touch on the ludicrous side for me to try to be the dainty, shrinking violet. Especially with my words, of all things.

So that’s my mission, ‘Tracters: I’m going to make a concerted effort to reduce my use of the word “just”. Ditto for “simply”, “merely”, and so forth. I mean, they’ll still be allowed when they’re being used in a non-self-abasing way–how else am I supposed to say “No, thanks, just the coffee for me” without sounding overblown? Somehow “No, thanks, the coffee will suffice for my needs though I appreciate your dedication to thorough service and your offer to bring me additional beverages or treats” doesn’t have the same casual feel I shoot for in restaurants.

But I don’t get to use them as a way of excusing the fact of my existence. I don’t get to use them as an attempt to slip my way unnoticed into a conversation–especially when it’s one where I was explicitly invited to participate. I don’t get to use them to diminish my voice, my thoughts, my opinion, or my messages to the world.

I’ve been told that my words are my greatest gift; seems to me like it’s plain rude to try to play them down.

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Crucify

There are three words that you will see over and over in this post. Those three words are not true. Not yet, anyway; it is my hope that they will someday become true. Maybe if I say them often enough, and loudly enough, and in front of enough people, they will become true. I hope to god that they someday become true.

Those words are I forgive myself.

forgive

When I was a freshman in college, I was in love with a boy who wasn’t in love with me and I nearly drove our friendship into the ground because I just couldn’t stop trying to be good enough for him.

I forgive myself.

When I was a sophomore in college I did run a friendship into the ground because I didn’t listen to the warnings of everyone who told me that you should never, ever be roommates with your best friend. Sometimes I miss ‘Gael so badly it hurts. Sometimes I catch a whiff of someone wearing the scented oil she used to wear, and I think I might lose my mind right there on the spot.

But I forgive myself.

When I was a junior in college, I fell in love with exactly the wrong boy, and my parents hated him, and I made them suffer through five years of dealing with him and then another two years of watching me pick up the pieces after he finally ran off with a 19-year-old voice major.

I forgave him, and I forgive myself.

My senior year of college didn’t happen for several more years, because I was busy working at–and then losing–the job at the daycare center to make ends meet, and then I took the job at the Last Place on Earth I Wanted to End Up In and worked there until a shift change opened up and I took it and went back to school and am now $25K in debt for a degree I’m not using; this is particularly poignant because when I went to school in the first place, I was on a full-ride scholarship, which vanished when I dropped out to support the guy in the preceding paragraph.

Moon Man, who is now paying that debt, forgives me, and I forgive myself.

I didn’t talk to my father for the better part of two years, aside from perfunctory three-sentence conversations, because I was so angry with him about my teenage years. To be fair, he was kind of a rat bastard for a while there; but we eventually made our peace and became friends and then became good friends and then he died and I would give anything to have those two years back.

But I forgive myself.

And speaking of Dad, the last time he was in the hospital, that last week he was in ICU and everything was going downhill fast, I realized I hadn’t seen the “Do Not Resuscitate” code on his door placard and I mentioned it to the nurse who told us we had to request it each time he came in–it didn’t carry over from hospital stay to hospital stay–so we told him that and he had them put the code back on the chart but two days earlier he had been crying, begging not to let him die, and three days later his heart flipped out and they couldn’t try to save him because I had told them about the missing DNR and so maybe it’s kind of my fault that he’s dead.

And it is absolutely not true that I forgive myself for that, and I might never forgive myself for that, but I feel obligated to try.

And then his funeral was nothing at all like he or I had hoped it would be but I was quiet because I didn’t want to make it harder on the other folks than it already was and I forgive myself for that

And I had started losing weight and trying to quit smoking before he died but then he died and I put on 80 more pounds and am still smoking and i forgive myself

and i know full well that it is unreasonable to try to be a “good woman” because that’s not even a well-defined concept but i keep trying and trying to be good enough for you and him and her and them and all of us and i forget to try to be good enough for myself but it doesn’t matter because it always always always feels like i am failing so i forgive myself

and i am not going to memorial day because i do not want go visit that goddamned box that holds the body that used to be my dad and mom is pretty pissed at me about it and i understand that but i just can’t force myself to do it because dad is in the wind chimes and in the flowers and in the clouds and in my dreams and not in the goddamned box that i might have put him in anyway and i forgive myself

and i’m not magazine-pretty and i never  did write that book of poetry and i quit my irish dance class because i was sick for three weeks and missed three classes in a row and my hair still needs trimmed and i snore and my shelves are dusty and i feel jealous at inopportune moments and i don’t think i’m living up to anyone’s expectations including my own and i’m nowhere near as interesting as people imply or at least i don’t think i am and all the funny stories in the world will not save my soul from this crushing boring lonely fear

and i forgive myself

because i have to forgive myself

because there is no one but me who is angry with me about these things

so i forgive myself

so that i can keep breathing

some days it is all i can do to just. keep. breathing.

so i forgive myself. i will try to forgive myself.

i have to forgive myself, because crucifying myself afresh every day is just. not. working. anymore.

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

P Is for Pretty

Last week my friends participated in a Fun Way to Pass the Time that was making its way around Facebook; this one was the Alphabet Game, where you ask a friend to assign you a letter, then you take the letter you’re given and post it on your wall, and ask other friends to come by and leave you a word (or short phrase, depending on how you play) that describes you and begins with that letter. If they want, you can give them a letter too, and thus it keeps going and everybody gets lots of fun compliments.

As it turns out, this is also an excellent way to hunt down the latest hidey-hole of your inner demons. Here’s how: My friend had a letter on her wall, so I gave her an appropriately complimentary (and accurate) adjective, then requested a letter of my own, for kicks’n’grins. And the letter she gave me was P.

So I went to my wall, posted the letter and the instructions for the game, and waited for the responses to start coming in; and about a half-hour later, I realized my shoulders had tensed up a little bit, because I had spent that time brainstorming possible responses, and what I had come up with was Portly, Plump, Pudgy, Porcine, Piggish, Prudish, and Pissy. The most complimentary thing I’d thought of was “Persnickety”, and even that’s pretty borderline. And yes, I know these were my friends that I was polling, and so they would theoretically come up with nice things to say about me, but I, in all seriousness, could not for the life of me think of even one thing that started with P and which I perceived as both accurate and non-pejorative.

Not. Even. One.

After a little while I came back, braced myself, and checked for comments. And you know what the first one said?

I quote: “Poet, philosopher, philanthropic, pleasant, persuasive. Should I keep going?”.

And that was followed by “Prism, as in, filled with rainbows and capable of spreading them around.”.

Eventually I also collected “Perfect” and “Pleasantly Pedantic”, among others, but I tell ya, those first two were like … I dunno, like a fist of love square to the gut. I think I actually, literally said “oof”.

Because of all the words I had brainstormed, not even one of those had made the list. Heck, not even the spirit of any of those had made the list. I’d gotten so mired in the voices of my inner demons that it hadn’t even occurred to me that there might be another voice out there with a different opinion.

Now here’s the real kicker, the “coulda knocked me over with a feather” response. Hold onto your hats.

The “Poet, philosopher, philanthropic” responder came back to my comments to tell me that her daughter had requested that she add “Pretty” and “Positive” to the list.

Pretty.

And Positive.

For a bit of perspective, the daughter in question is 12. And for a bit more perspective, she’s got Asperger’s Syndrome, which means a lot of different things to the various people it affects, but in her case, one of the symptoms is that she calls things like she sees ’em, whether or not what she’s saying is technically considered socially appropriate. Thanks to her parents’ patience and constant coaching, she’s learning how to respond to social cues (from what I can tell, it’s kind of a call-and-response thing for her–seeing a grimacing face means “stop talking”, for instance); and sure, she fudges a little bit on the truth sometimes, because as Dr. House has often quipped, “Everybody lies”, and besides, she’s a preteen girl. But if you ask her for an opinion, you’ll want to brace yourself, because she’s going to give it, without embellishment or facade, with absolute honesty and exactly zero tiptoeing. Personally, I find this kind of refreshing, but that’s neither here nor there; the bigger point right now is that She Who Does Not Do Much BS-ing called me “Pretty”.

Me.

Pretty.

Look, she’s a smart kid. I can’t imagine she doesn’t know the word “plump” by now, and it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if she knew “porcine”. She reads a lot, y’know.

But instead she went with Pretty. And Positive. To go along with Philanthropic and Poet and Pleasant and Prism.

/blinkblink

So the good news is that I found another splinter cell of inner demons, and am currently working on beating it to death with a big psychic letter P with the word “PRETTY” written on it. It’ll take a second, I’m sure, but the drones have reported their location and we’ve sent in a strike force. Stay tuned.

The other takeaway is this:

thoughts-e1317945585137

I thought–incorrectly–that I’d put my friends in a predicament where they were going to have to figure out the polite way to say “piggish”. I thought that I might come back to find people trying to tap-dance delicately around the words “pouty” and “prude”.

I thought that I might have no responses whatsoever, because people would decide that if you can’t say anything nice, you shouldn’t say anything at all.

And as it turns out, I was dead wrong.

So that’s your Something to Think About for today, ‘Tracters: what are some things that your inner demons tell you which, if you asked anybody else, would be diametrically opposed to the responses that you receive from outside your own head? What are some of the things you currently think about yourself which are just dead wrong, at least from an outsider’s perspective?

Is it possible, even a little bit, that if you asked a 12-year-old who pulls no punches, she would describe you as “Pretty”, no matter what the fears inside your skull are saying about you?

It’s true that you’re the expert on your own reality. That is absolutely true.

All I’m saying is that every once in a while, it might be worthwhile to check in with the outside voices. There’s a very real chance that you’ll be blown away by what they have to say.

 

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Filed under General Musings and Meanderings, Play Nicely

(Re-)Beginnings

It’s been a minute.

I’ve been stuck on a mental hamster wheel all my own, and that is nobody’s fault; it’s just there, and I’ve been on it, and that’s been fun but I think I’m all done with it now.

So let’s all watch this video (fair warning: there’s pottymouth, but the bigger message is way more important than the individual words), and agree that tonight is our last night in the rut, and while we’re here we may as well tidy it up a bit and carve our name and imprisonment dates on the walls so that whoever finds it next will at least have a clean place to be and a reminder that it’s possible to get back out again; and then let’s acknowledge that our pencils are sharp enough and stride forth boldly into tomorrow morning full of purpose and intent and vigor.

Let’s do this.

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Says Who?

Today’s post is as much for my own benefit as anyone else’s. I have found myself bogged down in expectations lately, almost all of them self-imposed, and am trying to codify my approach to confronting these sorts of issues; basically, it all boils down to asking the irritating kids’ question, “Says who?”. Hopefully it can help me talk myself through the minor crises that occasionally prevent me from throwing caution to the wind and living the life I want regardless of implicit social expectations; if nothing else, maybe it’ll make me think a little more critically about my knee-jerk, “I can’t do that because dear god, what would people think?!?” responses (in this case, it came up partly because Moon Man suggested going to an all-inclusive resort for our better-late-than-never honeymoon, and I went into full meltdown at the thought of the Beautiful People(TM) seeing me in all my hippo-in-a-bathing-suit splendor).

Here’s how the “Says Who?” Though Exercise looks:

1. Identify the speaker. In other words, ask, “Says who?” Who is it that is telling you that you have to live a certain way, or act a certain way, or do certain things? Is it the nebulous “They” that speaks for social conventions, as in “they say you shouldn’t eat cake for breakfast”? Is it someone specific, as in “The Queen of England told me to use the outermost spoon first”? A good starting rule might be to ignore advice that doesn’t come from someone who knows your last name–if the advice is aimed scattershot at the world at large, it really might not apply to your life. (Exceptions can be made for advice coming from experts, though it’s always a good idea to verify whether those experts are working from a secret secondary agenda–who paid for the study they’re quoting? Was it a corporation? If so, the results might be slightly skewed.) If it came from someone who really does know you and really is motivated by helping you live your best life, then it’s worth consideration.

2. Truth-check everything. Run it through your Morality Filter: “Does this adhere to my spiritual/religious/other moral code?”. Then run it through your Ethics Filter: “Will this action cause any real harm to anyone else? If so, is that within tolerance?” (example: the argument could be made that sending that get-well-soon card to your ailing grandmother would contribute to her mail carrier’s shoulder strain. I’d send the card anyway.). Finally, run it through your Truth Filter: “If it’s morally and ethically ok for me to do this, does it just plain make sense? Does the argument for it seem valid?” If it fails any of those filters, it’s probably not a great idea.

3. Consider your lifestyle. Does the advice mesh well with the way you want to live your life? If this was going to be your only chance to make this decision ever in life, could you happily live with your decision until the day you die? Most decisions aren’t that black-and-white–you almost always get the chance for a do-over later. But it helps to think about it; for example, the Diet People say cake is a no-no most of the time, and you’re never allowed to “pig out” on it. To the Diet People, I say, “Well, then, since you won’t be using your helping of cake, I’ll just take that for you”. A lifestyle that prohibits cake is right out of the question for me, and if I can never lose my mind and have a cakefest again, then I might actually throw myself off a bridge. Mmm, cake.

Let’s work through a couple of examples.

A. The Makeup Debate. It seems to be the case that women are expected to wear makeup these days, particularly in professional settings.

Says Who? I dunno, everybody? Most of my friends seem to wear makeup regularly, but I don’t remember anyone specifically saying, “Mama BW, if you want people to take you seriously, you need some eyeliner”. Mostly I hear it from the makeup ads, now that I think about it, and they’ve definitely got an agenda.

Morality: I don’t think my spiritual side cares one way or another about whether I wear lipstick.

Ethics: Animal testing is bad. Smearing chemicals on my head “just because” is bad (though I do moisturize, so I acknowledge my hypocrisy).

Truth: I’m frankly unconvinced of the Makeup = Good argument. It has never yet prevented me from getting a promotion to a supervisory/managerial role.

Lifestyle: I see no reason to feel obligated to wear makeup every blessed day. That’s a lot of effort for exactly zero return, as far as I can tell. However, I reserve the right to wear it on days when I want to feel extra fancy, in the same way that I have certain clothes that I wear on fancy days.

Decision: The makeup stays on the shelf unless I want to play with it. Screw the social expectation.

B. No Fat Chicks at the Fancy Resort.

Says Who? The brochures, which show only the Beautiful People(TM). Of course, they also show only beds that have been made, so either there’s also a “no rumpled linens” rule or they’re not showing the whole picture. This is definitely not something I heard from anyone who actually knows my last name.

Morality: I can’t imagine going to a fancy resort would offend my spiritual side. If necessary, I can do extra prayers at sunrise or something to appease it.

Ethics: I balk a bit at the idea of spending that much money on a vacation when I could be using to help someone else, though I also acknowledge the “you must also nurture yourself” argument. Ethics check fails, but within tolerance.

Truth: I cannot imagine I’d be the first fatchick to ever set foot on their pristine shores. And if I am, then they are apparently very, very new to this industry. Fat people are everywhere. I’m just one of ’em.

Lifestyle: It wouldn’t break my heart at all if I never went to a fancy resort–I’m more of a bed-and-breakfast fan–but it’s definitely dangerous to start restricting myself from certain activities based just on presumably doctored and definitely staged photographs.

Decision: The resort is fair game at a conceptual level, even for fatchicks like me. Whether we actually go to one remains to be seen.

…See how that works? I’m certainly not recommending that every single decision in life goes through this big long internal-debate process. But it does seem to me that if I think about expectations in that way, it might help me silence some of the inner demons, who are all too happy to freak out if I try to leave the house in workout clothes (“Fatchicks cannot be seen in workout clothes! It shows off how fat you are!!”) or go to a fancy restaurant (“Everyone will know that you’re not cool enough to be here! Run away!!”).

Because really, while the inner demons know my last name, they almost certainly have a secret agenda, and I can pretty much guarantee that it does not support my desire to live my best, most fulfilling life.

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