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2013 in Numbers

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2: Countries visited
Paraguay and Argentina.

9: States visited in the USA
New Jersey, New York, Texas, Arizona, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Massachusetts.

>1,000: Job postings read

5: Number of cities I sort of thought about moving to
San Francisco, Hoboken, Chicago, Louisville, and Indianapolis

1: Number of Emergency Room visits
So damn close to making it another year hospital free. Alas, no. But it could have been a lot worse.

3: Number of pets
Grateful for no losses.

1: Major appliance purchased
Oh the joys of home ownership. Thankfully it was January when my fridge died so I could keep some stuff in a cooler on the back porch. Sometimes ya just gotta be classy like that.

2: Number of times my car was towed
What? You don’t have to have your car towed when you get a flat? Clearly you don’t own a car that doesn’t hold a spare tire. If you have bad luck with tires as I do, I don’t recommend this. But I do recommend a AAA membership.

0: Times I thought I had my life figured out

Countless: Laughs, cries, conversations, and tender moments with remarkable friends, old and new.

Thoughtfulness and Disappointment

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I’m constantly disappointed. This is something I’m working on: adjusting my expectations to lessen my disappointment.

I’m a listening and an observer. I tend to think that this is why I’m a thoughtful person. If a friend mentions in passing that he loves pie and doesn’t care for cake, I take mental note of it and, month later, bring a pie for his birthday. When a friend comments on something she likes while window-shopping, I go back and get it for her as a gift (when possible). I don’t think of this as an extraordinary effort. It’s merely how I approach things.

Because this behavior is second nature, it’s easy to expect the same in return. But the reality is that the vast majority of people don’t remember that you drink tea and not coffee, or you prefer vanilla to chocolate, or that you’ve been wanting your own copy of that book you constantly talk about and have checked out of the library 10 times. It seems that those who do are the exception, not the norm. Even so, it’s hard not to be disappointed when you realize that your brand of thoughtfulness is not to be returned.

Don’t be mistaken. The disappointment is not driven by material goods or lack there of – the disappointment stems from a deep-rooted feeling that those who love you don’t seem to know you at all. And for me, it goes even deeper into believing that I’m not worth knowing or remembering such details about.

The reality, of course, is that it has nothing to do with me. What comes naturally to me doesn’t to others and vise versa. We’re wired differently. You can’t force someone to do something for you that you deem appropriately thoughtful. Accepting that doesn’t mean you have to like it, but it does help curb some of the disappointment.

Home

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Do you ever ask yourself, ‘Why am I here?’ Not in an existential way, but a more immediate way. Why did I get in my car and come here.

I remember in 2003 I started a new job. Given the timing, I wasn’t able to take time off to travel to my family home in Indiana for Thanksgiving. I spent the holiday with friends but was sad not to be with my family. Since that time I’ve only been away from my family on one other Thanksgiving and have always joined them for Christmas. But this year I’ve been wondering why. Yes, I love my family. But I feel disconnected from this ‘home’ and now my ‘home’ is where my house, friends and pets are back in Pittsburgh.

Maybe it’s because of the maturity that comes with age, I don’t know, but now 10 years later, holidays don’t seem to carry so much meaning for me. I come ‘home’ because it’s what I’m supposed to do.

Sail Away, Sail Away, Sail Away

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Last May I went on a yoga retreat with Belize Yoga. The trip ended on Thatch Caye, a small private island with nothing more than a small eco-resort. At the end of class one evening, laying in the shade of a palapa, surrounded by the crystal blue Caribbean Sea, Jessie lead a guided meditation. The short version: You’re at the dock surrounded by everything from your life – your possessions, your family, your friends… and the boat is waiting for you. What do you take with you?

Belize

Sunset on Thatch Caye. May 2012.

I was stunned by this unassuming question. I went through a mental checklist. No, no, no. No. In my meditative state, all I wanted was for me to be on the boat. Alone. Save for someone to drive it. (I don’t know how to drive a boat, after all.)

This was so profound to me. How could I want nothing and no one I love? AND want someone else to drive?! When I got home and told Jane about it, I cried. Probably a lot. It’s like my personal identity was shattered. But the truth is, I was struggling and just wanted someone, anyone but me, to take the lead and steer me in a new direction without any obligations, or burdens.

I think more people feel that way than we realize. It can be hard to admit those feelings to yourself and even harder to admit them to others. But you have to recognize them and let them go and find the strength to move on, even if you have to steer the boat yourself.

Good Enough

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I’m a perfectionist. And as a perfectionist, I’m rarely satisfied with… well… anything. I always want better – even if better doesn’t really exist. There is no such thing as “good enough” for a perfectionist. It is truly an exhausting way to live. Because I’m not talking about your run-of-the-mill overachiever. I’m talking about never feeling adequate even with straight As. Feeling like you’ve not gotten enough done even when you work a 60 hour week. Feeling unrecognized even when awarded accolades. You simply never feel good enough.  Honestly, it can be debilitating.

Jane has helped me tremendously over the past few years – helping me recognize how much my perfectionism was running my life and helping me learn to accept the lack of perfection in both my world and myself. But I have backslides.  And those backslides hit like an avalanche. I can go into a tailspin, unaware of how easily I fall into my familiar habits: working too much, isolating myself, neglecting the things I enjoy, deeming myself unworthy, etc. Perfectionism can be a slippery slope to depression and anxiety.

After my last backslide, Jane and I were able to recognize the signs leading up to it. In theory now, when I see these signs, I can make changes and keep myself out of the tailspin. But like a lot of things, it’s easier said than done. All I can do is my best, even if it isn’t perfect.  No matter how hard that is to accept.

a pinch of intimacy

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I’ve realized that my most intimate relationship is with my acupuncturist. I’ve been seeing him for more than a year… so… you know… we’re in long-term relationship territory now. He knows all of my issues, both medical and emotional. I feel totally comfortable around him. And, really, there’s no one else who can tell me to take off my pants and lay down without leaving me stunned.

But like any relationship, it can be an emotional roller coaster.

Every session starts with a little chitchat to decide what’s tops on my list of troubles so we can focus the treatment. Since my last session, I’ve had trouble sleeping and have been very tired. So there we go – a nice little treatment that should help me relax and get a great night’s sleep. All was fine and dandy until the last little needle.

Needles in the feet hurt. For me, they hurt a lot. I cringed with the right foot, but rapidly recovered. Then the left foot. Oh the left foot. Once the needle was in, he asked if I was okay. I said yes, but then immediately started crying. I was dumbfounded. The tears weren’t from pain. They were from… I don’t know what. “Why am I crying?” I’m pretty sure he wanted to say, “I have no idea.” But as surprised as he was, he didn’t. He left me alone. And I cried. Quietly releasing whatever it was that those crazy little needles stirred up inside me.

When he came back in, he said he never thought of this treatment as being one to bring tears, but anything can happen with energy work.

I felt great when I left. And I slept well that night. But the response I had to the treatment has lingered with me. It’s almost like a reassurance that something is going on – proof of change. And change is good.

Sunday Night Anxiety

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I don’t like Sunday nights.

Around 5:00 or 6:00 I start to freak out about all the things I should have gotten done around the house. And then I freak out about the things coming up in the workweek. And I can’t help but wonder how the weekend went by so fast.

So I get super productive for about two or three hours – cleaning, doing laundry, paying bills, etc. I scurry around trying to get a week’s worth of chores done in a few hours, trying to make up for what feels like a lost weekend. Obviously, I have a hard time settling back down for bedtime because I’m still so anxious.

The rational me knows there’s no reason to feel this way. The world didn’t end because I didn’t mow the lawn. No one is keeping track of when I clean the house. It’s not likely Monday at work will be any different from the previous Mondays. But I haven’t been able to break the cycle. And I know so many others who have the same Sunday Night Anxiety (let’s go with SNA for short).

So why can’t we just dump the SNA? If we were happier with the Monday through Friday, would we still have SNA? Is it embedded in the American way of life?

I practice yoga and I read about being present and the rational me totally gets it. But putting it into practice is hard. And I don’t think I’ve found a way to make it click for me. Awareness is the first step though, right? Change can start now – with a little help from ativan.

calendar of hate – no, really

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I hate having low self-esteem.

Yepp.

After Andi’s post last week I found it particularly amusing that this was my calendar page on Friday. And yes, G and I bought a calendar of hate to keep us entertained at work. That is all.

Drunken Appreciation

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Have you ever had one of those nights where you think to yourself that you are blessed?

 

You probably have. I have. The problem is that when the sun rises and the alcohol wears off, I’m right back into my doom and gloom attitude where I cannot see the positives and think that my life is nothing but a challenge.

 
This is why I am writing tonight. I may be a bit on the drunk side of life (4 martinis will do that to you) but I cannot express to you how many times I realized tonight that I have amazing people around me and if I have these wonderful people around me, I must not be so terrible, right?

A while ago, a few of my friends and I decided to form a “literature and liquid” group. Basically, a book club for people who care a little more about drinking than talking about the book (really, I think we spoke about our most recent read for about 90 seconds!). The purpose of the group is to talk about the book we have read but also to remember to connect to each other outside of work. Tonight was one of those nights.

Allow me to indulge my loving self right now. I cannot get over how wonderful these women around me are. I really feel so blessed I could burst and I am, at the same time, so sad that tomorrow I may forget it all. There are three women in the group. The first, MW, is like a sister, a mother, a best friend, a mentor, a colleague, and a master chef all rolled into one. My life would feel so absent without her. The second, MB, is stunning. And, I mean that—absolutely stunning. Her personality and her beauty have yet to be matched by anyone I’ve met. She listens. She cares. Truly cares. The third, MC (yes, all of their names start with “M”), is so very strong. I listen to her speak about her choices and her life and I wonder how anyone could be so resolute and strong in their decisions.

I admire all of these women and I think to myself, based upon my viewpoint of myself, how in the world do these women enjoy themselves around me? But, the truth is, they do. MW tells me so often, “You are my favorite.” I don’t know that she will ever know how much that means to me. Even if she doesn’t mean it (which in my drunken haze I really think she does) it has such an impact on what I think of my “true” self. I hope someday I remember to thank her for what she has done for me. 

And, then I’m brought to my thinking about this blog and my fellow Kousanahan—Roya. I’ve been in 14 weddings. 14!! I’ve listened to the long speeches and thought, “I’m not going to wait until I get married to let the people I love know what I think of them.” Shame on me for not doing this sooner. I struggle with low self-esteem and I know Roya is struggling with life. Who doesn’t? But, damn, if Roya could just see herself through my eyes for one minute—hell, 30 seconds—I think her life would be transformed. She is beautiful. Kind. Funny. Contrary. Honest. Loyal. Loving. Stunning. She is one of those individuals that I’m blessed to have in my life—one of those individuals that when I’m around I think “how am I worthy of being around her?” She is the person who has saved me from myself many times over the past several years and I wonder if I will ever be able to repay her for what she has done, is doing, and will do for me in the future.

This blog post is a ramble.  But I do it in hopes that people realize that while it is great to realize how blessed we are when we feel uninhibited (i.e. drunk!), it is even better to be able to remember this when we are completely “with it.”

 
Hug your friends. Recognize their brilliance. See that if they are around you—you too are fabulous!!!

ALERT: Low Self-Esteem!!

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Allow me to vent for a few moments to publishers and authors. If you want someone to read your books, don’t make the covers so embarrassing.

Let me explain.

Last month, my therapist handed me the book “Breaking the Chain of Low Self-Esteem.” He wants me to read it. Anyone that knows me knows that I can read really quickly but I prefer to take my books with me when I go out so I can read any chance I get. With this book, there is no option to do that unless I am perfectly comfortable with feeling as if I am being judged.

Let’s be clear. I have low self-esteem. I am NOT okay with feeling like I am being judged!

What stupid publisher (I know but I’m going to make you work for it) would say, “We have a book about low self-esteem. We should slap a bright red cover on the book with the title of the book so clearly that it looks like it is a neon sign!?!?”

I know that I need to work on my self-esteem. I get it. But, reading a book in public with a bright red cover announcing to the world that I need to work on my self-esteem is a bit much.

Thanks but no thanks.

I am off to find a self-help book with a cover with a fake title (something like “Most Intelligent Thing Ever Written” or “Idioms of Science” or “Andi is Beautiful”)—something that will help me feel better about myself as I read it in public and have people look and me and think, “Wow! That gal is smart!” or “That gal is beautiful!”

Perhaps this exercise in realizing the stupidity of the choices of some people and companies is the first lesson in raising my self-esteem. Heck—I know, given the chance, I could come up with a better cover for this book. Looks like my therapist won—I just said something nice about myself!