I Have Excused Myself Far Too Much

I’ve realised, in one sudden, fell blow, that I make a lot of excuses.

Excuses to be less than honest, with myself and others. Excuses to not take care of myself. Excuses to not live up to my commitments, to not honour my word. Excuses to justify my actions and thoughts. Excuses to overlook things I need to deal with rather than actually dealing with them.

The issue with being deceived is you don’t know you’re deceived. And when someone comes to tell you otherwise, you end up being faced with believing them or believing your experience, your thoughts, your perception, and your emotions. At first glance, it makes no sense to doubt everything you perceive to trust someone else’s perspective. But in this case when I started digging, I mean really digging, really examining myself honestly I realised they were absolutely right.

I don’t know when I started making so many excuses. It doesn’t really matter, the fact remains I’ve been making excuses for myself copiously. And there is a time and place for understanding, for realising I am imperfect, for being gentle with oneself, and there’s a time and place to hold oneself to a higher standard, to get it together, and to be disciplined and committed.

So I apologise to everyone. I apologise for every time I said I would do something and I didn’t, whether it was directly to you or just in general on this blog. I apologise for being so blind and foolish and selfish and mired in self-pity and being just…tiresome because of that. I apologise for allowing myself to cling to my issues, for being addicted to misery even while I hated it, for making this mess. I am sorry for everything I may have put any and all of you through.

I feel like my word isn’t worth very much at the moment, so I don’t want to go making promises and commitments. All I want to say right now is I am going to be harsh with myself, in a good way. I’ve had to take a long, hard look at what I’ve allowed myself to become and how I’ve blamed everything but myself, and I am deeply grateful to the person who finally made me do this and I’m also very sorry for how I have hurt and betrayed this person. They deserved none of that, and I hope they are genuinely free from everything I put them through.

I want to stop making excuses for myself; I didn’t used to, and I’ve been wondering for a while what changed between my very disciplined self and where I find myself today…and it’s excuses. Which the aforementioned person realised long before I listened. Habits and hurts from past relationships, a wide range of them, have been used by me to excuse patterns of behaviour that have caused a great deal of damage to what I love most. It’s not a lesson I’m going to forget, thank God. It damn well better be one I don’t waste.

So no more excuses. No more skimping on chores because I’m tired – I could get up and make some tea and go for another two hours, I know this. No more indulging rather than real self love; I know better, and yes discipline is hard, but it’s not impossible, I just need to stop talking about it and do it. All the accountability in the world won’t change a thing if I don’t actually do it. No more putting off the things I know are most important for more sleep, for another episode, for menial projects that just don’t need to be a priority. That’s what I need my life to be. I’m already working on it, right now. If you pray, please pray I won’t stop, I won’t be discouraged, I won’t be distracted, I won’t stay in this very bad place I’ve created for myself.

Thank you.

Christmastime Theory

I was talking with my Mom the other day about how there is this sadness to Christmastime. This is something that until the last few years I haven’t really gotten. Christmas is almost always a wonderfully jolly time for me, it’s full of so many happy memories, I get to spend time with my family, I love all the traditions, the decorations, the movies, the music… There were some rough patches, certainly, with my parents’ divorce. But Christmas was a light then too, even if it did become a little more complicated.

These last few years, I have felt more of this…underlying melancholy. And I know lots of people experience it, I have a few friends who don’t like Christmas music ‘because it’s sad’, and my Mom’s husband doesn’t like hardly anything about Christmas because it makes him sad. Last year I wrote about how I was missing the Christmas spirit until I got to watch the Charlie Brown Christmas special with my Mom, and that seemed to do the trick. This year, while I am still struggling with a lot of things and there is no small amount of stress and unrest in various areas of my life, I have gotten several good doses of that Christmas spirit, so I’m less worried about myself this year.

But my Mom and I are wanting to get her husband a little more into things (in part because it’s not fun when he doesn’t want to participate in anything, and it’s heartbreaking to not be able to share the seasonal joy somehow), and so here we were discussing this phenomenon and the reasons behind it. I’ve never fully understood why people feel so sad at Christmastime, not fully. We talked about seasonal depression, with less light and such (it’s overcast here almost all the time now), and being away from family and alone at Christmas, the stress of the season, and the one reason cited most often by her husband, the commercialisation of Christmas. My Mom and I, sliding smoothly into problem-solving mode, considered a few things that might help counteract these things, but I felt rather…dissatisfied. Because this is not something I’ve had much firsthand experience with so I cannot speak from experience, nor have I done any research on it so I can’t give conclusions based on that either.

Naturally, I came home and began researching :o)

 

Google immediately provided a plethora of results citing this spike in depression around the holidays, lots of tips to ‘beat the blues’ and such. Which was rather frustrating because they did not explain why there is this spike around holidays, why it often seems to relate directly to the holidays save when people are made more aware of family strife or lack of family to spend time with, and these articles just said the same things that a standard article on depression would say. These things are helpful, I know, but it bothers me that a season that is built around joy and love and light and family and friends and giving and humanity at its best and hope could generate this kind of depression. It makes no sense to me, there had to be something out of the ordinary that made this a phenomenon related to Christmas rather than always being cyclical depression.

 

After some more digging, I found a few particularly helpful articles: “The Science of Sad Christmas Songs” and “Understand & Coping with the Christmas Blues”, as well as the comments on this post, “Why Does Christmas Music Make Me Feel Sad?” The first article discusses how we can actually like sad music because it helps us experience and release those feelings of sadness, purge them, as well as to explore them more deeply and gain a kind of strength from doing so. This is something I have experienced; there was a time I got really frustrated with Buffy: The Vampire Slayer because there was always something going wrong, something heartachy, until I learned to embrace the sadness, embrace that ache, not to cling to it or wallow in it, but to genuinely experience it, appreciate it, and allow it to be part of my life in a good way (just not my entire life). Then I read this line: “Some experts suggest that it’s not the music that’s sad, there is something else in our lives making us sad that needs to be addressed.” This too tracked with my own past experience. Several years, I have struggled with feeling homesick, overwhelmingly so sometimes, and I would start decorating for Christmas in October to focus myself on something that made me feel happy to counteract it, to keep myself from sinking into a deep depression until I could go home. It worked really well, and now that my Mom lives close to me the homesickness isn’t nearly so bad (I always miss home at least a little, all the same). Last year, I know some of my sadness came from a sense of loss and discord in certain relationships, until I could focus decently on Christmas (thank you, Linus).

So this was a little helpful, regarding my own experience, but it still didn’t explain the Christmas-specific blues. Sad music makes people feel sad, not just sad Christmas music. And friends who have told me they don’t like Christmas music have not said they don’t like songs like “Blue Christmas” or “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”, but rather all Christmas music makes them feel sad.

Cue article #2. The crux of the article states:

“This time of year is especially difficult because there’s an expectation of feeling merry and generous. People compare their emotions to what they assume others are experiencing or what they’re supposed to feel. Then they think that they alone fall short. They judge themselves and feel like an outsider.”

The article goes on to note that this is a very stressful time, with added financial pressure, business, loneliness, grief from missing a deceased loved one, estrangement, trying to please one’s relatives, etc. It’s a high-pressure holiday, with apparently high standards…or at least, that’s the prevailing perception.

So this got me thinking. Christmas has always been a notably emotional time. When I was a child there was so much excitement, intense emotion, joy. It’s so vivid sometimes that I feel like I’m 6 years old again. Then as I grew up, the emotion changed. It’s less about the surprise on Christmas morning and more about just getting to go home and see the people I love. Getting to share the traditions and music and movies and food that we all loved together for as long as I can remember. Still a deep joy. Then it became mingled with grief. Grief that my family is never fully together. Sometimes someone can’t make it to the family dinner. Grandparents have been lost and are deeply missed. Add to all this the traditions and decorations, all the sights, smells, sounds, and tastes of the season, and all the years of memories attached to these…whether I am fully aware of it or not, I think there are all those memories of emotions from past Christmases also being re-experienced. It’s a tumultuous time, and the older I get the more Yuletide history gets unearthed each year.

 

Then, too, there is the focus of Christmas. Peace on Earth. Goodwill to all Men. Now, I love this. This is the heart of Christmas for me. Personally, I see this in a more religious context than some, but even for those who are not religious I feel that Christmas is a time when everyone, all of humanity, is at its best. I love it. Christmas is the light in the darkness.

But how many times is there that melancholy note in a Christmas tale? That mournful, lamenting tune in a song? It’s not directing us solely to look at that light, but at the darkness which needs that light. And that, oh that is the sadness I tend to experience this time of year. I think there are a lot of people, and my Mom’s husband is one of them, who are more inclined to see all these surrounding issues, the darkness and gloom. People in need. People often forgotten until this time of year. So much suffering and neglect. Broken homes. Broken relationships. Broken lives. And this contrasts brutally with the sparkly decorations, and the rich eggnog, and then twinkling lights, because there are so many people outside of this joy, so much that is painful and desperate and forgotten and abandoned, and it just makes you want to cry, your heart aches so much

 

No wonder we aren’t entirely sure why. We end up almost plagued with all these deeply emotional triggers, and I haven’t even gotten to how advertising also tries to play our emotions and deliberately activate certain emotional triggers (don’t worry, I won’t, this isn’t that kind of post).

I narrowed the issue down to this: we have this beautiful, perfect image that we think is the standard for holidays. And when things don’t line up, whether it’s the rest of our life the rest of the year, our relationships, grieving the loss of being together due to divorce or estrangement or death, the stress of having to deal with difficult people, remembering that there is so much wrong in the world and maybe we haven’t done all we could or should, or maybe it’s never going to be enough, and it all feels either futile or like it’s a sparkly shell and nothing more, and all these things steal our joy because comparatively we aren’t measuring up to that standard.

Christmastime is when everything is at its best. That’s why I love it so incredibly much. It makes us pause and look at things in the most hopeful light, how things could be. It’s not an accurate snapshot of the present, but a very hopeful look into the future, and we try to make it happen as much as possible in the present. But when things don’t line up, when there is that discrepancy, we realise at the same time that there is something seriously wrong with this world.

And we are still living in it.

I think that when we start seeing this, we have to face it, that wrongness. Now the real work of it begins, where we don’t just have Christmas waiting for us in the morning, when the lights aren’t ‘magically’ appearing thanks to the lovely persons taller than our 6-year-old selves, but now we are grownups and we have to bring this Christmas down to earth. Now we have bills to pay. Now we have family struggles that go beyond arguing over a new toy. Now we have suffered real loss and we miss those people, we miss what we thought our life was going to be, what we thought it should be. We have to be brave and strong and determined, and it’s hard. Because the longer we live the more we see, and then we find ourselves looking around us at Christmastime and while we are inspired and encouraged by how people try to reach out and alleviate tragedy and suffering, we also see a lot of tragedy and suffering. The winter is very dark.

This Bible study I’ve been doing has several recurring themes, but my favourite has been our need to focus on God. Whenever we are afraid, anxious, worried, when those errant thoughts come at us to try to discourage and dissuade and distract us, we are to pray because it focuses us on God. When we need peace, when we feel that discouragement and the whispers of doubt, when anxiety wraps around our heart and starts to squeeze, Paul instructs us to be thankful. Thankfulness reminds us of who our God is, what He is capable of, what He has done for us, faithfully, and it refocuses our attention, our thoughts, our hearts on Him. And just like that, we are reconnected with that infinite peace that passes understanding.

A few months ago, I would have dismissed this as Christian triteness (I say this as someone who has been a devout believer almost her entire life) because it sounds so…unrealistic. Now I’ve lived it, and from my own experience this is the most accurate description I’ve managed thus far.

The best part about how Paul writes about this kind of prayer is that he never tells us to ignore what’s going on around us. Thankfulness is never, ever the turning of a blind eye to the suffering and darkness that surrounds us in this world. Because it is very dark, and denying that doesn’t make it better. Christians are never told to look away.

Rather, we are told to be a light in the darkness. We are taught to abide in Christ. This is our starting point. We can look to the Ephesians 6:10-18 passage on the armour of God, where Paul tells us to first, first, we gird ourselves in Truth, and first we put on the breastplate of righteousness, and first we put on those shoes of peace. We get ourselves ready, we go to God and we get filled up. And then. Then we take up the shield of faith, and the rest of the armour that we haven’t discussed in Bible study yet :o)

So my theory right now (and I say ‘theory’ because I want to live it before I testify to it, I don’t want to get ahead of myself) is that by orienting ourselves to focus on Jesus Christ, on the Advent, on the Incarnation, on the hope that is our Lord and Saviour, on the Light that came to save the world from darkness, on the source of our peace, we are equipped to stand amidst this darkness and be that light, bear the Gospel, share that peace. Without this, I think the darkness tries to swallow us, to dampen our light. And that’s the enemy’s trick, isn’t it? To distract, dissuade, and discourage us, however he can, so we don’t do what we were created and called to do.

So really…it’s a kind of self love that’s needed first. We have to get ourselves close to God, and I don’t say that in a ‘You better make sure your relationship with God is good, or you’re going to be in trouble’ sort of way. I mean, there are things that only God can give us, and we need those things, without them life is miserable, to the point that even Christmas is miserable. That’s not how I want to spend my life, especially my Christmases.

I was so scared last year that I wasn’t going to feel the Christmas spirit. That I would lose my joy like I’d heard so many other people talk about experiencing themselves. I didn’t want that excitement to be something I’d grown out of. I didn’t want life to have stolen away something I loved so, so much. I was going through the motions, sometimes getting a little hint of Christmas spirit here and there, and then it would be gone again, fleeting. Until Linus Van Pelt came to the rescue. It’d been well over a decade since I’d seen that movie, but that was exactly what I needed. I was Charlie. I went through exactly what he went through. And Linus, darling, wonderful Linus reoriented him, and me. And that Christmas feeling was back.

We need reminders. We’re human, we forget, we get distracted, we get busy. The surrounding darkness, wherever you believe it comes from, keeps vying for our focus, trying to overwhelm whatever good we have and can be in this world. So we need reminders. That’s what Christmas is for, and Easter, the Eucharist, they’re all to remind us of the Truth, refocus us on God. This is where we must start, with God, with Christ. For me, it has to be more than just an acknowledgement that ‘we need to keep Christ in Christmas’ – that’s not enough for me. I need to read the Nativity. I need to set up my Nativity scene where I see it. I need to meditate on it. I need to start with carols, not just Christmas music, carols and really focus on the words. And most of all, I need to pray, because there is no way, no possible way, we can survive this darkness that pervades this world without God. And once I’ve done that, I can go in peace. I can share joy. I can happily bake cookies, rather than getting stressed at how it’s taking longer than I’d planned. I can get excited about picking out just the right gift, rather than worrying about…just all sorts of things. Once I remember my Joy, I can share it with others who need it. But I have to do the remembering first.

This my theory. I don’t say this to be preachy, I certainly don’t expect everyone to agree with my perspective; I do sincerely hope that people can take snippets, though, and derive their own approach that fits what they believe and what they need this time of year, regardless of what holiday they want to love and celebrate.

My theory is that this year I can strive to be mindful of those feelings and I’m going to go to God. Not to try to be ‘cured’ or rid of them, but so I can keep my eyes on Him, so I can worship Him regardless of how I feel. So I can miss those I’m not able to be with, and be grateful that God has given me a soft heart, that I still feel compassion, that I still feel. So I can see that darkness and suffering and know that there is hope, that there is nothing so dark that God’s love cannot shine there, and so I can remember He has equipped me to do something about it. So I can walk where and how He wants me to walk. So I can release what I think Christmas should be, let go of the perfect image I have and see the beauty that is right here in Christmas 2016, see the joy and love and peace that I am living through right now. And it’s not perfect, but it’s still a beautiful gift. It isn’t supposed to be perfect, not yet, not this side of eternity. So it’s okay if it’s a messy Christmas. It’s okay if it isn’t our ideal. That doesn’t make it joyless, and it doesn’t make our hope any less real.

So it’s okay to feel whatever I feel. It’s okay to be sad and to miss people and to grieve. That doesn’t make it any less Christmassy, that doesn’t make me any less of a faithful Christian either. Jesus cried too. Sadness does not mean that Christmas is false or a failure. Nor do we have to experience sadness at the suffering of others in order to be allowed to enjoy the good things at Christmas, by the way. Because Christmas does not depend on perfect celebration, but on the perfect Saviour whose Advent we remember and celebrate this time of year. A Saviour that I hope, above all, I am able to know better by keeping my eyes on Him this year, as much as I can.

And to do that, I need to come to Him as myself, and that includes some melancholy days. He can handle it. He gives me peace. He is my hope. And He is my joy.

 

To test my theory, I am beginning with four things to properly orient myself, and three things to keep me oriented daily (and I post them here so I feel more accountable). Right now, I have this Christmas meditation that is doubling a blog post (yay for multitasking);, next I will be reading the Nativity story in Luke, after which I will be placing a Bible in each of my main rooms, opened to Luke 2, as my first Christmas decoration (I got this idea from the only ‘Keep Christ in Christmas’ post I have seen that actually talked about how to do this apart from obnoxiously reposting such things on Facebook); and then I will put up my Nativity Scene (once I find it) before any other decorations. Then daily I want to start my day with prayer and devotions (which is going to be the hardest because I suck at getting up in the morning), I want to give someone something (time, cookies, a little present, a nice message, something) every day, and I want to keep researching, just a little each day, for ways to keep myself focused properly this year (so I would love suggestions if anyone has some, religious or otherwise, I know there are probably tons of ways people tap into the Christmas spirit).

And hopefully, come January, this won’t be just a theory anymore :o)

Brace Yourselves. An Incredibly Long Journal Entry Is Coming.

Today has been a very educational day.

I finished up my second job, for this part of the year, which means I will no longer be working two jobs simultaneously which is wonderful and I am incredibly grateful because it means I get to have my introverted one day off a week from dealing with people without which I want to curl up and cry several times a day back.

Since this was the last day I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, and because I’ve been able to clear my mind over the last week (due to other situations I don’t need to get into here) I’ve also been able to genuinely consider things that some other people have told me over the past while. One person is quite sure that I am INFJ (I think I’m best described as a combination of INFJ and INTJ, not that this is overly important here), and as such I am very much affected by the emotional states of those around me. Towards the end of the day everyone was packing up, there was lots to do, everyone is tired and wants to go home, and what my Mom and I had to pack up tends to take a lot longer so we felt rushed, and my Mom kept mentioning that, and I was tired and when I’m tired I like focusing on one thing, not being interrupted and forced to listen or respond to things that are inconsequential (i.e. being told for the, I kid you not, fourth time in half an hour that my Mom is going to try to fit everything into her car – I love her, but this is a frustration for me), and I become noise-sensitive when I am over-stimulated like this so every time one of those hall tables was taken down and those legs slammed into place, I would flinch except I don’t like that being observed because people either feel bad or get defensive or ask me what’s wrong and I don’t want to talk about it, so I reign it in so I’m flinching internally and my mental and emotional state is speeding towards a not happy place…

I was in a real good mood when we finally finished.

Driving home, I did a lot of praying, found some good, loud music (ironically, I’m noise-sensitive when I’m over-stimulated, but if I can get one, single thing like loud music to focus on it settles me and it is emotionally cathartic for me), and was fairly calm by about halfway home. So then I started thinking about this person’s theory/observation that I’m deeply affected by the emotions of people around me. And I thought about how everyone else is trying to move as quickly as possible to avoid holding others up. And how everyone just wanted to get home. And how people were also perhaps disappointed about how the day went. And then when my Mom thinks I’m upset about something (which I can appear to be when I’m stressed, over-stimulated, and feeling rushed) she feels somewhat anxious which I think makes her talk more, which is of course the exact opposite of what I need in that situation, which makes for a vicious cycle unless I remind myself of that and make myself appear to be absolutely fine (and no, I cannot just tell her I need her to not talk to me right now, because her anxiety is due to past experiences which means telling her things like that even with a lot of gentleness tends to not only offend her deeply, which I don’t want to do, but makes her feel guilty and upset and discouraged and it’s just not at all a good situation – I do not advocate dishonesty, but at present me choosing a specific behaviour despite how I feel has been the best course of action).

I think I can agree with how I’m affected by all this. Plus, just being tired because I’ve been dealing with people every single day for over two weeks, have not had time to myself to recover and think properly, have had to do a lot of small talk which is in itself a form of torture on my psyche (not exaggerating, it’s brutal, and people who do not experience this do not understand what it’s like, and that’s okay, I’m glad you don’t grasp the feeling), and I came home and ate cupcakes and napped for four hours. Now I feel disoriented but at least capable of thinking.

Several times today I would suddenly lose the word I was thinking of while speaking, I stumbled over simple sentences, I kept confusing things while talking to my Mom. I must have said four or five times ‘Good grief, what is wrong with me?’ or that I needed a nap or I was out of it, until I realised wow, this is not hyperbole, my brain is fried. And I felt decent, could have done with more sleep, but I didn’t feel grumpy and miserable like I often do when I’m feeling drained. I think that was just a form of over-stimulation or the beginnings of what came to a head later in the day. So that was fun.

I’m not entirely sure what to do about this yet, although being aware of it is interesting in itself. I mean, I don’t know how to make it better in the moment, afterward I know that I need recovery time (which is why, apart from having to teach Sunday School tomorrow – which I enjoy doing – I’m going to be severely limiting my interaction with other people, to give my self a real break, a good recovery day, and let myself get back to normal). The nap helped too, and I don’t feel guilty about it like I often do, like I should have been doing chores instead or schoolwork. Instead, I recognise this is a real need and I will be better off if I take care of myself first. So I ate quickly, brushed my teeth, and went to sleep, sans alarm so I would sleep as long as I needed. And that was one of the best naps I’ve had in a long, long time.

And it’s already been really helpful because I’ve had a chance to think about a lot of other things. For instance, I read an article on MBTI personalities and what things bother each type the most, and for INFJ it mentioned that while they like being needed and love helping people and being supportive, when they are constantly prevailed upon by people to meet needs like a therapist, or a personal problem-solver, or a parent, and particularly when this goes one-way, then it becomes incredibly draining and stressful because of the pressure placed on them. I wasn’t entirely sure if this applied to me, but then I reconsidered it after my nap, and I realised that this might be what happened between myself and my former best friend years ago. We used to spend tons of time together, grew up together, had sleepovers, had lots of common interests, talked tons; she was my closest friend. Then in high school, I began helping her with schoolwork, which I didn’t mind. We’d study together, work on projects together, I’d explain things she didn’t understand right away (I tended to do well in school, it suited how my mind works). Then she would read during the ‘teaching’ part of science class, and then ask me to help her during the homework half. Then in university we went to the same school, and she wouldn’t buy the textbook for the class we shared, but would come and ask to borrow mine. She would come and ask for help with papers, but wouldn’t edit when I gave her a list of things to edit for, she just wanted me to read it and make changes I thought were needed. She would come and talk to me when she wanted to rant about something or talk about what was making her stressed or anxious (this started years before, but intensified in undergrad), but if I made suggestions she always had a reason it wouldn’t work (without trying it) or would just ignore me, and be back to say the same thing the next day. If I tried to share what I was going through, she would seem very distracted and I don’t remember there being a lot of sympathy or response in general, so I tended to just not share much. I realised at one point that when I’d call home to talk to my parents, I spent like half the time talking about my friend and the latest issues, which wasn’t good. Then one night at a church prayer meeting, my pastor was talking about dealing with the things that disturb our peace with God, and I realised my friend was what was disturbing my peace. Now, at the time this was misconstruing what my pastor meant, he was talking about if we felt convicted about something we needed to deal with it rather than let it separate us from God. But this issue with my friend really was the main source of unrest and frustration and stress in my life at the time.

So I drove to her house afterward, and I told her that I felt we had not been friends for a long time because things were not working both ways, I did not like how she was treating people (other issues I don’t need to get into here), and as gently as I could (although I now really dislike my choice of words) I needed her to leave me alone (oh this makes me cringe so much now) until she dealt with that. I need to say here that I genuinely regret how I handled this part because I don’t think I should have ended the friendship, I should have told her how I felt and if she had, as I feared she would because of past experiences and hence my rather abrupt conversation, responded defensively and turned it around on me and just not listened, then I should have stuck to my guns and made myself heard and asked for space, not for her to ‘leave me alone’ because that was just…bad, bad, bad wording.

But at the time I was not good at sticking to my guns. Avoidance was my best strategy, my only strategy, or I’d just bend to whatever the other person wanted. I was horrible at sticking up for myself, I swallowed even more than I do now, and while I never want to stop being gracious I also am really glad I’m not such a pushover anymore. But that’s another journey we don’t need to get into here. So this was the best I knew how to do at the time, and given what I know about my personality and how my mind works now I do think that what I needed was at least a break from that relationship. Because it had become very one-sided. I was feeling pulled, constantly, to the point that just seeing her, before a word was spoken, I felt stressed and pressured, like I was psyching myself up to deal with whatever would need to be dealt with in her life today. And I loved her so much, I still do. I miss her, we had some wonderful time together, she was a fantastic friend. I don’t really know when exactly things swung into this dynamic, but I know it wasn’t good for me, and probably not for her either overall. I still wish I had handled things differently, but I also know that you don’t know better until you do. I sincerely hope I handle future situations like this better.

Lastly, I’ve been thinking about this concept of being aware of emotions, taking a step back and acknowledging them, examining them, practicing mindfulness. I’ve been told about this in the context of meditation, but also regarding mental/emotional health, MBTI analysis, etc. It’s something I’ve sort of tried to do, but it’s been hard in the moment. Tonight, though, I responded to a message with an answer I knew wasn’t the one the person was hoping for, but it was the right thing to do given my mental and emotional state. And I didn’t get a response right away (not that they had to respond right away), and at first that was fine, I was secure in what I knew was best given where my head is at and what I’m capable of until I can fully rest up. And then more time passed, and I started to feel the beginnings of anxiety. I have this deep-set concern about disappointing people, especially those I love most. I hate it telling people things they don’t want to hear (unless they’re people I’m not close to and who are being assholes, then I have no issue telling them some truths), and in the past with this person in particular I have gone along with what they wanted or thought was the best choice despite how I felt and what I believed was the best choice, and I’ve since learned that’s not been a good idea (so many of you are thinking “Obviously…” right now :oD), but I did it because I didn’t want to make them feel bad, I didn’t want them to think that I wasn’t committed, I didn’t want to be accused of being faithless or acting out of fear or whatever, I didn’t want them to feel unloved, I didn’t want to lose them. And then…I sort of lost them anyways.

So I wasn’t getting a response, and I feel the first stirrings of anxiety, and at first I was telling myself “No, don’t think that, it’s fine, you know you need a day off, that’s okay,” and then I was getting annoyed because I was thinking “Well, I should be able to feel how I feel, and I should get to say I need a day off still, and I should get to prioritise myself…” and getting all worked up over imagined attitudes because my mind doesn’t know when to shut up. And when it kept resurfacing, particularly this anxious feeling, where I was repeatedly bracing myself to have to defend what I needed, or explain myself, or just gearing up to deal with me feeling guilty and sad because I made the other person feel sad and disappointed (what a mess, hey? please don’t think this person is awful, they are wonderful, there’s just been a massive range of experiences in the past we are re-navigating and I’m dealing with a lot of things, as you all can see, with my own emotional and mental health and learning to make good choices – a lot of this could have been avoided if I’d learned to prioritise loving myself and not choosing things against what I felt was wise and felt comfortable with, but that’s a whole other post) I finally remembered ‘mindfulness’.

I stopped browsing Tumblr posts on Pinterest (because what else do you do after a nap?), and said quite calmly and objectively to myself, “Okay, so let’s examine this. How come I am feeling so anxious?” And I realised it’s because I am afraid that if I am honest about myself that the worst case scenarios that have happened in the past will happen; but the aforementioned person is not in the same place at all that they were before, and I know better too, so while I do need to be aware and thoughtful and not repeat the same things that got me into trouble the first time around, that doesn’t mean me being honest about my emotional and mental state is going to lead to bad things. And even if it did, that would simply be an indication that our current friendship needs to be backed up and worked on until we can both be honest about such things without negative responses from either person – and of course, this is what I was anxious about, until I thought it through and realised…that’s okay? It’s okay to back things up and try again when you realise things are going wonky? And it’s not the end of the world? And I don’t need to cling to this image that I want so tightly that it makes me this anxious and we need to just deal with things and work through things and if both people in a friendship won’t work through them then that means they aren’t friends and there’s nothing there that hasn’t already been lost anyways?

I don’t mean that cynically, it’s just a logical kind of honesty I needed to tell myself. It’s not the end of the world. It’s not. The end. Of the world. Breathe. If they felt disappointed, it’s not the end of the world. They’ll live. I am not entirely responsible for their feelings, nor should I be, nor can I be. It’s not the end of the world. Even if in the highly unlikely scenario they responded in a remarkably negative way, I could even ignore them until I knew I was ready and able to reply well, I could prioritise myself, get myself in the right mindset, and then respond and work it out. It’s not the end of the world. They might not like what they hear. It’s not the end of the world. If I went with the other option in this situation instead of what I know I need, then things would not go well, that’s a very clear pattern given repeated past attempts, and while it still wouldn’t be the end of the world it would mean an entire week of me being miserable and exhausted because I didn’t take care of myself. Indulgence vs. self love. Self love won. I’m going to go have a brownie.

And then I got a reply a while later, and it was all fine anyways. Silly brain, calm down.

Oh, and I got a new teddy bear today! I haven’t named him yet, but he’s gorgeous, and handmade, and it was love at first sight.

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It’s been a really long week where I’ve been too busy to really think, so now that I napped and thought, this is like all my journalling that’s built up and built up until it just exploded in one massive post…

If you made it this far, kudos. Give yourself a treat, you’ve earned it.

Treat Yo Self

Brief update: I’ve taken a mini-sabbatical from chat and blogging in order to clear my head and get my feet under me. This was one of the most successful attempts  at meeting my self love needs I’ve ever had, so yay for that. My bunnies have gone to a new home; I am currently finishing up with my second job; I am currently gutting and re-organising my apartment. It’s been nice to get to some of things, although I am missing my bunnies a little. And tonight I was able to get the primary cause of emotional turmoil to a good a place, which makes everything seem a little more settled.

I’m learning to focus on myself (which I’m still pretty inconsistent with, to be honest), I’m learning to focus more on the things which feed my soul (like my faith, music, time with the right people at the right time, good food, enough sleep, saying ‘no’ to various things, etc.). And it all feels rather strange. Not in a bad way, but in an ‘I’m in very unfamiliar territory right now’ kind of way. Sometimes that’s a very intimidating feeling. And I am feeling right now like a lot of what I’m used to relying on, the things I was hoping would be a source of consistency in my life, even a lot of old habits that I recognise now weren’t very good habits in terms of self love…these are now unavailable and/or actively being removed from my life. Things look and feel different, and part of me, a very loud part of me, does not like change, not one bit. Very inclined to dig my heels in at the moment. The internal battle continues. But at the same time, I feel rather proud of myself for identifying something I’m feeling while I am feeling it, so again yay.

Which brings me to the topic of this blog: self-love vs. indulgence. I wrote before how I realised I have frequently caught myself veering into indulgence when what I really needed was self-love. For me, that sometimes means discipline (telling myself ‘no’ when I want things that are not what I need, and then spending time and energy meeting my needs rather than pursuing cravings that arise because I haven’t met my needs – you see how this easily becomes a vicious cycle if I just let myself go), and often it means just being more thoughtful about what I do and why I choose to do it.

The best way I’ve come to process this came from my latest source of viewing pleasure /background noise: Parks & Rec.

If you haven’t seen this masterpiece of modern art, I highly recommend it. The two characters featured here, Tommy and Donna, can be fairly described as ‘indulgent’ (especially Tommy in the early seasons). In this particular episode,  they have set aside a day to ‘treat’ their selves. Not themselves, I do know my grammar – but ‘yo self‘.

Another character, Ben, is at this point in the show struggling with depression, and Tommy and Donna bring him along to try to cheer him up. When he tried to engage in the ‘treats’ that Tommy and Donna were drawn to, it only stressed and/or confused him more. Entirely unhelpful, left him feeling worse than ever. Fortunately, Donna realises Ben is like a fish out of water; so she asks him, if he could blow money on anything in the world, what would it be? Which gives us this glorious moment:

 

Seriously, watch this show. Zero regret.

By the end of the day, Ben breaks down in tears confessing this is what he needed. To feed his ‘self’. His soul.

Indulgence can be good, it can be precisely what we need. The best part about this episode is how it illustrates that the indulgence that serving as genuine self love is unique to the individual. Sometimes, self love looks a lot like indulgence. However, there is indulgence for indulgence’s sake, and then there is indulgence for your sake. To fill a genuine need that this particular indulgence can actually fill. This is where indulgence becomes self love – or, rather, when giving to your self, focusing on your self becomes a healthy, beneficial, essential act.

Now, I know I’m still pretty new to this whole self love thing, so I’m by no means claiming expertise, wisdom, or even that the concepts I’m running with are decently proven yet. But I am pretty sure even indulgence serving as self love is not going to get to the root of the issue(s) that got the person into the state they’re in (unless the issue was complete lack of self love). This is not the way to solve all of one’s problems. I still have to deal with people and situations that are difficult, stressful, worrisome, disappointing, frustrating, discouraging, hurtful, and sometimes that just piss me the fuck off. But that capacity to deal with those things has to come from somewhere. It requires energy. It requires some sort of foundation, grounding, an anchor, something to be a point of reference for reality. It requires patience. The capacity to think, to process. And if my life is a testament to anything, it’s that I am a finite being without infinite resources, and therefore at some point I will run out of what is required to deal.

And I have a few times now. It’s awful. I have come very close to doing things that a year ago I would have never thought I would ever even consider doing. I have had a couple times where I just about went entirely numb emotionally, and that was a bit concerning to go through. I have had some extreme emotional reactions where the degree to which I was upset really concerned me (‘questioning whether certain relationships were healthy’ kind of extreme). I have gotten to the point where I just had no hope left, no trust, not desire to continue with certain things that I genuinely used to relish.

I do not want to be in those places again. I don’t, I really, really don’t. And I don’t think I can entirely avoid them, life happens, we all end up dealing with difficult things at some point, and sometimes we end up tapped out. However.

I can treat my self. I can keep those internal resources built up. I can focus regularly on what gives me strength, peace, courage, keeps me balanced and healthy. And from that place, I can deal with these things so much better than always trying to scrape by and desperately hoping I get a day or two of peace before the next calamity strikes.

Sometimes that means I need a break, even from people I love and want to be around. Sometimes it means making myself unavailable so I can focus on myself. Sometimes it means not hitting the snooze button 6, 7, 8 times and instead getting up to pray (not sure which is harder right now, giving up those last 30 minutes of sleep or the other stuff – don’t look at me in that tone of voice, I know I’m not alone in this, sleep is a delight). Sometimes it means giving up things I want, things I really, really want so I can give myself what I need.

Good grief, I feel like I’ve been this spoiled little child who always went after what she wanted for years and years and is only just now realising what a bad idea that is. We all like to think we’d be Charlie Bucket, but I’m pretty sure I was one of those other kids in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.

My point is this: You gotta know your self to love your self. Other people can give ideas and suggestions, and I am not wrong for realising they do not fit me. Not everyone has to do yoga, play sports, like music, learn to knit, go to church conferences, go to therapy (yeah, I said it), stay in, go out, change their diet, get more sleep, change jobs, get a pet, drop a hobby, vacation somewhere hot and humid. We are gloriously unique individuals, thank God. What’s important is being attentive to ourselves, and if a need is not being met that we figure out how to meet it. And then follow through.

Behold, the areas in which I am still wildly inconsistent. But I will do better.

I could at this point launch into a discussion of how Rudolph (ah, Christmastime claymation, how I have missed you) also illustrates the celebration of and attention to the unique aspects of our selves is essential to living well. I could also dig into how this concept is related to Sabbath in the Bible (Leviticus 16:31, Deuteronomy 5:12, Mark 2:27). Or I could sleep.

See, this makes my blogs shorter too. Everybody wins.

I Feel You, Paul

I honestly do not know how I would have survived this Fall without this Bible study. I don’t like making it sound like I’m the center of the universe, as though God scheduled my life and all the things that effect it as well as this Bible study, everyone else who is participating in said study, at the same time all to get me through (I feel that takes the concept of Divine providence and smothers it in human hubris), but I do know that I need this Bible study and it is helping me so incredibly much. I am extremely grateful.

So I’ve been studying about righteousness this week (doing some catch-up), and through this particular chapter of the Bible study I think I’ve found the way to describe my struggle with feeding my soul ‘junk food’ vs. actually feeding my soul.

It’s indulgence vs. self-love. At least, these are the terms that make sense to me because of how I define each.

Indulgence is a concept the current culture loves to include in advertising and various philosophies. You should indulge in chocolate when you’re having a rough day or feeling down. You should indulge in a shopping spree. You should indulge in food that tastes really, really good. You deserve this. You’ve earned this. All these little frustrating, discouraging, disappointing, saddening things that happen, you should reward yourself with product X.

Now, like much advertising, I believe there is a vein of truth to this, but it get skewed for the purposes of whatever company is advertising. I believe that we need to love ourselves, not only when we encounter the harder times in life but every single day. It is a genuine need. I’m still not good at it, certainly not consistent, but I know the premise is accurate. And these darling advertisers then try to sell us on particular ideas of how to love ourselves, so the products and services themselves are not merely an option, a want, but perceived as need.

And darn it, if I didn’t get sucked right in. Not into all the products themselves necessarily, but certainly into the mentality. Because I realised the ‘junk food’ I get in the habit of consuming is indulgence, and it is a poor substitute for the love and care my ‘self’ genuinely needs and is seeking to fill.

For example. The last few days I have a mountain of stuff to do. Which is great, and it’s all stuff that I either love doing or can include something I love (like Christmas movies/tv shows while I do paperwork). But I keep choosing to binge watch tv shows instead. Do the bare minimum. I am only just prepared for work, which stresses me. Then I get home, catch up on a little bit of stuff, eat, and tell myself I’ll just watch one episode and then work. Three episodes later, I am tired and just go to sleep. And then I don’t want to get up, because sleep is easier than dealing with thinking about certain things right now.

And then I’m more stressed because I’m more behind, I still haven’t done what I need and really, really want to do (I’m actually excited to do it, and then something just sucks all the life out of me). And ’round and ’round we go.

Cue the Bible study.

The lovely Priscilla Shirer notes that Paul struggled too, which is something I entirely missed/forgot. I tend to think of Paul as this incredible man of God who is, really, the first Christian theologian. A great Christian. Fantastic example. And this man writes, in Romans 7:15-19:

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.

This is that painful, frustrating struggle that makes me kick myself half the time. I feel stuck, fighting with myself. All these bad habits, repeatedly bad, genuinely bad, choices that leave me in worse and worse shape until I just…knock it off and do the right thing. Get up off of my bed, and go do chores for an hour. Pick up the pen and actually do the paperwork. I spend more time ‘motivating’ myself to get started than actually working on all the things I want to do (which, I’ve decided just as I write this, that I am calling myself on my own BS, and friends, lovely readers, if I ever say I am ‘attempting to motivate myself to go do _____,’ please know that is full on BS, I am not ‘motivating’, I am laying about hoping I will spontaneously develop good habits in place of this indulgence, and since this has not happened at all in the last 27 years of my life…I’m pretty sure that’s a crap strategy).

Priscilla writes that ‘corralling our flesh can be monstrously hard.’ It is a genuine struggle. But I think I have some insight into at least some of why it is such a struggle.

It’s indulgence masquerading as self love. I have to break the bad habits of indulging to try to fill my need for self love. Because when it leaves me unsatisfied, I try more. And more and more and more and more, until 3 hours have gone by. I did not do what I needed to do, what my self needed me to do. I tried to substitute junk food when my soul has been half-starved, and then I’m all ‘gee, why is it so hard to get myself in gear?’ Now, this is not the only reason I’ve had trouble lately, I have had some genuinely bad days and I’ve shared some snippets of those. I’m not saying this is the key that’s going to change my life and make everything easy.

But it does take away some excuses. Best of all, it reveals some lies I’ve been buying into, and explains why they are lies. Indulgence is not the same as self love, not always, at least. And I have to be more thoughtful regarding my self. I have to be purposeful. I have to choose my self.

I have to parent my self. Really, that’s what it comes down to. All the things my parents didn’t let me do as a kid, eat cookies for breakfast and stay up super late and go outside without a coat on and watch tv for 5 hours a day…yes, one of the best parts about being an adult is I am responsible for myself which means I can eat cookies for breakfast, but at the same time…I am responsible for my self. And my self deserves better than to be granted every single desire.

And crap, I’m already over 1200 words. I’m going to wrap this up and talk about the delight that is Parks & Rec next post. In the meantime, I shall attempt some thoughtful self love.

Tuesdays Are Better

I’m exhausted, but I’ve calmed down and I can write a more positive…well, a more accepting blog today.

Things are, for the time being, settled. Which means for all intents and purposes, I am pretty much on my own. It sucks, to not put too fine a point on it, and for now I don’t trust myself to delve too deeply into my emotions on this, but at least my expectations are in a more realistic place and I don’t feel like things are so…one-sided and futile. And that’s all I’m going to say about that, because the headache is starting and that’s not helpful.

So I’ve primarily been trying to focus on what I have to get done today, re: work, and then had a spur of the moment (which is not like me at all) visit with my Mom, where we went to Michaels which thank God has their Christmas stuff up. So I am semi-covered in glitter and got some new Christmassy things, then we got Starbucks (I actually like the pumpkin spice lattes, which I’ve never tried before, so that was a win) and had a really good visit.

I think, therefore, I am going to go back to my oldest distraction/cheering up strategy during the Fall (which I’ve realised is my least favourite time of the year because this is usually when all the really sucky things happen – it’s the Monday of seasons for me, albeit a very pretty season with dress-up options), which is to dive into Christmassy things as much as possible. I’d been sort of saving Christmassy things because I was planning/hoping to share them all with my significant other, but I don’t really know if or when that will be possible this year, and I need the…Yuletide bubble of glittery, pine-scented joy. So I am going to put together a Christmas specials list (because I have very repetitive paperwork that goes nicely with movies), and re-construct my Christmas playlist because my computer decided that could be randomly deleted :o/ And tonight I shall commence Operation: Winter Wonderland. Hopefully with pictures to share with all you lovely people, because fun things are good to share.

If anyone has suggestions for music or movies or cool decorating ideas, you will absolutely make my day :oD

I love all your faces. Thank you for listening to me ramble. I hope everyone had an excellent Halloween, if that’s your thing. And if not, today marks day one of awesome candy sales, so enjoy the daylights out of that.

I Hate Mondays

I legitimately hate Mondays.

I’m not really sure what to write. I can’t write about a lot of it without revealing some personal relationship things and I just feel like that would be kind of bitchy to do right now, so I’m just…not really sure how to even begin processing this.

I feel like communication with my significant other is pretty much awful all around. And I am once again at a place where when I have tried to open up about how I feel and what I’m struggling with, it’s not gone well. So that’s awesome.

I think that I should be preparing myself to be largely on my own for the next while. Possibly long while. And no, I don’t really know what that means. Honestly, tonight, your guess, dear readers, is as good as mine.

I keep trying to pin down my emotions, that’s been a fun game I’ve been attempting lately, and it just keeps coming out as sarcasm. Mostly I’ve been able to reign in the part of me that wants to lash out. Sometimes I think I’m frustrated, then I’m angry, then I’m just heartbroken, and then I feel helpless because I don’t think the most important person in my life understand what I’m asking. Mostly I just feel alone.

And I don’t mean to belittle any of my friends by that statement, the wonderful support I’ve gotten means so much to me. But there are some relationships that can’t be supplemented. And I think I’m going to have to learn to live without.

No idea how. None whatsoever. Not that the thinking part of my brain is functioning very well at present.

That’s it, that’s all I got. Nothing deep, nothing hopeful. Just a rant about how much I hate Mondays and feelings, and lots of sarcasm if anyone is interested :o)