Want to Really Change How You Feel?

Meme after meme the message arrives: “Being happy is a choice,” or some version of that. And I don’t disagree with that message except that it doesn’t really get anybody anywhere. I guess this is the problem with relying on memes as life guidance; limits on the number of characters make real help hard. So, in the interest of a wider audience, we get: “Choose to be happy.”

OK, here I go. I’m choosing it. I’ve got my chooser on (as one of my favorite pre-school teachers used to say), and I’m going to turn it to happy. Great! Done. Perfect.

Not so much. Okay, if that didn’t work, I’ll smile until I feel happy. I understand there’s actually some evidence for this strategy.  I’m willing to bet it’s because when we smile, more people smile and are nicer to us. For our purposes, this example actually shows the problem with the more minimalist “Choose Happy” meme. In order to choose to be happy, we may have to do something different, and while you are welcome to start with smiling, or any other fake it ’til you make it approach, I’d like to suggest something a little more difficult that has the added bonus of lasting longer than that fake smile (maybe that’s just me, I just can’t fake smile for long). Continue reading

You Need Some Fun

I have a dear friend, who has the gift of seeing the things that are below the surface, the things we don’t willingly share with everybody. She has sensed in me whatever it is exactly that she senses in people and her prescription: “You need to have some fun.” I’ve been thinking about that sentence a lot (because I’m like that). A few days after that conversation, I was at an event at church and the woman next to me, who doesn’t see below the surface but puts tiny incomplete puzzle pieces together quicker than a stroke of lightening, looked at me and said: “What are you doing for fun?” I’m a little thick sometimes, but when the signs come in human form and are all saying the same thing, even the thick among us stop and take notice.

I rattled off some things I’m enjoying lately, and of course mentioned how much I like my work, and she said: “You know that’s not what I’m talking about.” She was right, I did. In this life where my hobby has taken on some elements of obligation and scheduling (has become what I refer to as a jobby), things that I do for the sheer fun of it are scarcer than they have been at times in the past. There’s usually some ulterior motive to my fun. A walk with the dog gets us both exercise, time to read shrinks my reading list for my practice, a night out with my husband gives us a chance to really talk and address some things that need addressing at home, playing the guitar will make the next gig better… You need to have some fun. Continue reading

It’s What’s in Her Head

I had a lovely friend approach me today about my last blog post where I talk about the time (years) when I avoided looking at my body in the mirror. She was shocked that this was the case. She told me she thinks I’m extremely attractive (aw shucks), so she was surprised by what I wrote.

Slide1We talked for a while, trading stories of body image and our first-hand knowledge that attaining a lower weight had not, for us individually, magically created a healthy body image. We digested the stats, that 90% of women are dissatisfied with the shape of their bodies, that up to 50% of women are on a diet at any given moment, that the average woman spends 31 years of her life on a diet, that women – when provided with silhouettes of body types – consistently choose shapes that are larger than they are.

It didn’t take me long to convince her that my body image problem was, at least to some degree, independent of my former body shape problem. In fact, I saw her get it within the first sentence of my response. She got it because she knows, as I think many women do, that for many there is no reshaping of the body that’s going to be adequate. I’ve experienced this many times, reaching (or at least nearing) a weight goal and still only seeing the flaws, setting yet another goal toward recapturing my only minimally adolescent body. Continue reading

“Girls Like Us”

I can remember the shame washing over me like a hot blanket, but not the yummy kind you want when you’re cold – more like the warm blanket when you’ve wet the bed and you know the heat will soon give way to cold, stark, lonely humiliation: perfect for a 15 year old on a large stage in front of several classmates.

It was sophomore year. I had scored my first big part in a school play, Rosie in Bye, Bye, Birdie. I quickly discovered, much to my delight, that I not only got to sing a solo number, but that it required a solo dance as well. Yay! I asked if I could choreograph it; at least that’s how I remember all that happening through the mists of time. So I went to work at it. And over some amount of time that I can no longer recall, but feel comfortable guessing was not insignificant, put together a dance to show to our director, who was on loan from a prestigious local theater.

slide1The time came in rehearsal and I did my dance number for the director’s approval. I was really proud; proud to have the part, proud to have been allowed to handle the dance myself, and proud of having done it and performed it the way I wanted to. When I finished, as I caught my breath, I realized that it was pretty quiet. I looked up at the director, who was sitting on a folding chair at the front of the stage. She looked at me with obvious discomfort and said a few words that I don’t remember and then she said the thing I will always remember: “Girls like us can’t leap.” There was then some elaboration about my size, a vague reference to bustiness, and the way all of that looks in the air to other people. She even demonstrated how she looked leaping so I would really understand, made fun of herself, drew parallels to large animals. And there I stood. Not so proud anymore. Continue reading

“You Could Be Nicer”

So, I’ve been on a little bit of a social media diet. It probably doesn’t look like it to folks who follow and interact with me because I’ve gotten real strategic about it. I still hop on several times a day, I just don’t stay because, frankly, I have a lot to do and for me personally, there are SO many rabbit holes. I’ve found that my self-imposed limitations have really served to keep me from re-reading stories and news and to prevent me from seeing 7 different versions of the day’s outrage instead of just 1. So, it’s working and yet…

slide2The heightened political and social tensions have brought so much stuff to the forefront. I don’t think anybody would deny that. One of the pieces of stuff that I’ve noticed is a whole lot of attempts to disarm pissed-off women. Now, I know this will come as no surprise to those of you who are married to or live with a woman, or who grew up with sisters, but disarming a pissed-off woman is as tricky as disarming a pissed-off man. Our society has not  seemed terribly interested in disarming men, but we’ve gotten real good at disarming women. Yep, we’ve gotten so good at disarming women that now women will do it to each other. Here are some examples of the ways I’ve seen people attempting to disarm pissed-off women. People tell them to:  1) get the “real” facts or simply state that the disagreement is because of her lack of smarts, 2) let all of that anger go and find some gratitude, 3) focus on herself and her family (you know, because that’s less stressful), and 4) find a nicer way to say what she’s trying to say. “You can say all that in a nicer way, you know without the anger (or the cursing, heaven forbid there be cursing). You can fix it without anger (been there, tried that).” When I see these kinds of responses on social media, I can just hear somebody saying: “You can win more flies with honey you know.” Continue reading

There Are Many I’s in Team

I’ve heard it. You’ve heard it. We’ve ALL heard it some time or another: there is no I in team. It’s one of those super swell sentences meant to diminish individual desire in favor of the group goal. You’re on a team. You are no longer an I.

Obliterating the “I” in terms of ego… I get it. I really do. You can’t hog the ball in hopes of scoring every goal when someone else has a better shot. You can’t do a instrumental solo in the middle of the verse. You can’t eat all of the chocolate cake for the family party. You can’t do any of these things and still be working for the good of the group. Yeah, I get it, but still NO “I” in team? NONE? I have a problem with it. Well, I have a couple of problems with it. Continue reading

I Know You’re In There

It is so so so doggone easy to get into a habit.

A habit of turning on the radio or TV when you get in the car or enter a certain room;

A habit of leaving a dirty dish on the counter instead of in the dishwasher so it can call of its friends to join it over time as others see what a good idea you’ve had;

A habit of waiting for a break in the conversation to give your response;

A habit of making sure everyone else has clean underwear without checking your own drawers (see what I did there… drawers… sometimes I crack myself up);

A habit of saying: “No, it’s fine, I’ll get [do, make, clean, carry, fix] it”;

A habit of thinking: “I’ll do that as soon as _______”;

A habit of caring for others instead of yourself;

A habit of ALWAYS thinking;

A habit of filling up all of the spaces with information, sounds, stories, words, entertainment;

slide1A habit of being the last in line;

A habit of going to bed last and getting up first;

A habit of saying yes when you mean no;

A habit of eating the leftovers nobody else wants;

A habit of carrying all of the bags in at the same time rather than asking for help;

A habit of giving up before it actually becomes an argument;

A habit of dressing for function not form and assuming you could never have both;

A habit of being satisfied with not bad;

A habit of shrinking when the voices get loud;

A habit of hiding when it’s time to dance.

I implore you, do something different. The world needs you at your real size, at full volume, on the dance floor, on the street, at the podium, at the lectern, on the phone call, in the studio, at the microphone, on the bullhorn, at your laptop doing YOUR thing. There is nobody else like you. We need what you have inside. If you don’t bring it, where on earth will we get it? Do something different. See how that feels. Call me and tell me about it, put it on my FB page, or tell me why you think you can’t 240-367-9730. I can help.

Overthinking Joy to Death

Something really weird is going on.

As context: I have a tendency, on average and below average days, toward overthinking things. I have an idea about changing something, say scheduling a trip to visit a friend. I’ll start by gathering some info (my M.O.) and then I think, and think, and think, and think, and often I think about whether or not I SHOULD do it (I keep encountering the role this word has played in my life) for long enough to either lose interest or be distracted by some more pressing concern, like what I ‘m going to make for dinner, or why my calendar is blowing up. I overthink my intuitive urges to death.

slide2Right now, though? I assume it’s because I don’t have the emotional energy for the overthinking part, but maybe it’s because I’ve unchosen SHOULD for 2017. Either way I just don’t seem to be going there in the same way. There’s been a lot more action, albeit it slow and gentle. I have a notion about something and maybe I gather some info, but mostly I do something about it. And you know what? Things are SO much better. Even in this time of sloth paced engagement, I am making more important strides than I have in months. I feel more able to see a desirable path in front of me. I am more clear about what needs to happen next and I’m more willing to see where that leads. And all of THAT is adding the hope and joy that I need to weather this loss. Continue reading

When Is It Good Enough?

My friend and I were walking back from the bus stop this morning, lamenting what we still had left to do before the kids return from their last day before the break. I shared that I was almost done getting presents. She pointed out that I had said I was done a couple of days ago…. and I did. And I thought I was. And then I entered the spin zone.

slide1“Maybe that’s not the right gift for her.” “Maybe that won’t actually fit him.” “What if … what if… what if….”  I used to make fun of my mother for this very thing. “Mom, it will all be fine. Everyone will love it. Stop fussing.” I had no idea. As my friend and I talked, she wisely said, “You know you’re never really done,” meaning there’s always one more thing you COULD do if you thought about it. I said, “You’re right. Maybe we should just decide to be done right now.” We laughed, and thought that was a good idea, and then returned to our own homes where we could choose not follow that advice for the rest of the day. But maybe it really is that simple. Maybe it’s as simple as deciding it IS good enough. Continue reading