Moving On and Cleaning Up

Well, Dear Reader, we are about to let 2021 close its door (Hallelujah!) and, without a doubt, I am ready. I get giddy at the thought of a blank canvas and wiping the slate clean. I’ve reinvented myself so many times in my life and faced so many setbacks that I could be bitter and angry. And, truthfully, I was for a long while. Sometimes, making the effort to live differently after living one way for so long can feel like it takes too much energy. I’ve been there. Trust me. You labored to build that wall of protection. You struggled to ignore the loneliness so you could keep others at arm’s length. You battled against yourself and your needs for so long – trying to convince yourself and others that you are better off alone. Man. I know that feeling. But, how exhausting, right?

As we shut the front door on 2021, I could end the year off by telling you how to prepare to clean up and declutter your house. It’s really what I do best. In fact, last year, I did just that. In January 2021, I encouraged folks to do this old challenge with me. I posted pictures of the items I was discarding every day on Facebook (Day 1: One item. Day 2: Two Items. Day 3: Three Items, etc.) until I had pitched over 500 items from my home. I could write about how to declutter your closet, but I already did here. I could tell you how to organize your spice rack – again, been there, done that. I could even ask you to sell all your shit and start all over again. But wait. I’ve done that too.

Let’s be honest here. I’ve evolved since I launched this blog in 2011 with this post (I know, right??) with the idea of helping you to simplify by discarding all the things you no longer need. I think my heart is still in that simplifying space, after taking a five-year break from writing and then posting this piece, it seems that now I want to help you discard outdated ideas and limiting beliefs, not just physical stuff. We tend to make everything so complicated. (Does he like me? How will I know when he likes me? How many dates do we have to have before I tell him how much I really like him? Good God, woman. Have a drink, enjoy the company. Fucking relax a little.)

However, in the same vein of telling you how to get rid of any tangible item that no longer brings you joy – I am going to ‘suggest’ ways you can let go of ‘stuff’ that no longer serves you. After all, I’m a bit bossy – but I also am walking this walk right alongside you. I’m no expert at having my shit together, but I sure am trying.

Wanna try with me? Okay, then. Grab a drink. Settle in. Let’s work this out.

Simplifying your mental space can be as simple as discarding clothes that no longer fit. But I posit that it will be a tad bit harder. Time and time again I saw people rationalize keeping something because it cost them so much. I get it. When you spend a lot of money on something, it’s hard to get rid of it. The same thing goes for your mental space. When you’ve lived with specific ideas and beliefs for so long, they’ve attached themselves to you as though they are your identity. I’m not telling you it will be easy to change these things. I’m simply asking you to consider a new set of ideas. Ready? Here we go.

1) Declutter your home. I know, I know. I said I wasn’t going to tell you to do this. But I’m not talking about getting rid of half-used candles, broken items, and socks with holes in them (but, yeah, of course, get rid of those). I’m talking about items that hold energy you no longer need—pictures, letters, ticket stubs from concerts with old boyfriends, etc. You don’t need a bunch of stagnant energy hanging around. (Disclaimer: If you’ve experienced a death of a loved one recently, I’m not talking to you. Take all the time you need to grieve.) You other people? Build a fire. Burn it all. You don’t need to look at it anymore because it no longer serves your greater good. (Hey! A bonus song!)

2) Get rid of bad mental habits. My son has recently started saying, “I’m so stupid!” after making a mistake. This deflating self-talk is unacceptable behavior, so I make him say two nice things about himself when I hear him utter a disparaging statement. The same thing goes for you. Stop saying you’re fat. Stop feeling guilty for taking a much-needed nap. Stop apologizing for wearing ‘Mom Clothes’ around the house. Stop feeling sorry for yourself because your husband cheated on you. Wash your face; get out of the house. Make a list of all the things that make you absolutely fucking wonderful, and read the shit out of that list every time you try to tell yourself otherwise.

3) Cut out toxic people. If someone dares to tell you, to your face, that they don’t like you, then put your shoes on and walk out the door. Do not look back. Accept any apology, of course, but apologies do not have to equal reconciliation. Here’s why: You can aspire to be the most mentally healthy person on the planet, but everyone – every-fucking-one – has the potential to become toxic when they are in a toxic relationship. Get the heck out of there before the shit from their high-horsed position runs downhill and gets all over you.

4) Take charge of your money. Money is energy. It doesn’t matter if you make $12 an hour or $120; if you aren’t taking control of your financial situation, someone else is taking charge of it for you. That negativity will occupy too much space in your life and drag you down. Create a budget, set clear goals, and your financial decisions will become much more straightforward. The day I decided I wanted to build a home was when it became easier to say no to things I really didn’t need. Er, um, except this perfume. I really did need this perfume.

5) Remember that time is currency. When the pandemic first hit, I worked full time and had my massage therapy practice on the side. As a massage therapist, I wasn’t considered ‘essential’ in the first wave of COVID, so I couldn’t see clients. One night, my son commented that he liked spending time with me after school as we were coloring. We had been finding ways to spend our evening together since I wasn’t seeing clients. I closed my office right away – not because of the pandemic – but because time with my son was more important. Start getting rid of the activities that no longer bring you joy and spend that time doing something that brings greater meaning to you. When you make room for better things, better things will come. (Albeit, a bit ‘Field of Dreams’ – ish, but true nonetheless).

In summary, we often think that we should be adding to our lives for it to be better. I disagree and strongly recommend that you start subtracting. Life is complicated enough without you adding more to it. The less you own, the less clutter you have, and the less time you invest into things you don’t want to do, the simpler life becomes. When you spend time with people that drain your energy, you are not giving the Universe time to expand your trusting connections. Are you ready? I damn sure am.

In closing, here’s your song, Dear Reader. Aren’t you tired of trying to fill a void with the wrong things/people/ideas? I am, for sure. What are you getting rid of in 2022? Pounds? Clothes? A job you hate? That dumb boat? A relationship that sucks the life out of you? I’m curious. Drop me a line in the comments below.

PS…Numbers for last week’s post blew the rest of them out of the water. Thank you to whoever shared the post. If you like this post and think others might like it too, feel free to share it on social media. Hugs! See you next year!

Brave Is The New Beautiful

Good morning, Peeps! Yesterday morning, I took a three-mile walk in Northwest Arkansas with two extraordinary people at Coler trail. Both are in their seventies and dare I say, they kicked my ass. (I. Must. Walk. More.) Temps were close to 80, and I was happy. The outdoors. Good people. Christmas Day. Dogs to pet. A great week behind me. It was truly wonderful.

The two-hour drive home offered some much-needed quiet time, and admittedly, I’ve been thinking about you today, Dear Reader. I’ve been piecing together what I wanted to share and how to share it without making anyone mad. I wanted to write about being brave and vulnerable and owning all of that 100 percent! The new year is upon us, and life is passing each of us by. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to take some risks. I’m not talking about blind stupidity…but I am talking about letting some walls crumble – or, at minimum, cautiously removing a brick or two. Do you want 2022 to be better or not? I certainly do. Then we need to put ourselves out there.

I get it. It’s scary. I had pretty much decided no one would ever see me vulnerable again. I mean, if you are weak, you get hurt, right? That’s true. But who decided that being vulnerable means being weak? As I said last week, a life without risk is an unlived life. Recently I’ve realized – despite my desire to stay calm and mysterious – that I’m the one who loses out on life’s pleasures when I lock myself away and stay behind those proverbial, metaphoric walls.

“So, what started this line of thinking?”

Well, glad you asked. Grab a drink and settle in. This story begins with a gun.

If you’ve been following me for a while, you might remember that two Christmases ago, I was given a gift certificate for a shooting range. That led to an introductory handgun safety class and some time at the range, where I learned I was a decent shot for never having held a weapon. Fast forward about two years to last weekend.

I was invited to another range. I had a good instructor. He was kind. He was patient. He stood close by. He whispered instruction and encouragement in my ear and never made me feel inferior despite the fact that I wasn’t very sure of myself and sliced my thumb open on the first shot. Because of his patience and kindness, I felt empowered, strong, vulnerable, and safe all at the same time.

Read that again.

I felt both vulnerable and safe at the same time.

It’s possible, folks, to let down your guard and experience this. Not all humans are assholes. I know, right? In the past, feeling both vulnerable and safe for me was akin to mixing oil and water – or more accurately…gasoline and a match. In other words, I think I’ll pass. Never let them see you sweat, right? 

But here’s the deal. It’s not brave if you aren’t scared. And I was scared that day – of many things – and I decided to be brave despite all of it. So, grab that drink, Loves. If it’s permission to be brave you need, I’m passing that shit out like it’s cheap candy at a small-town Christmas parade. 

The new year is upon us, and you can live as you’ve always lived if you want to. But take this in: If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. Want to be braver? So do I. So here’s how we are going to embrace bravery in 2022 (and, hopefully, beyond…):

1) Stop Listening To Nay-Sayers. There will always be someone around to tell you it can’t be done. There’s always an asshole ready to remind you of your past mistakes. People who never take risks are the first to say you’re being foolish. Respectfully…fuck ’em. I know this is easier said than done. But if you are going to be the captain of your ship, you need to realize that both the Titanic and the Santa Maria captains were brave. The outcomes were completely different between the two, obviously, and well…you have to prepare that this may be the case for you, as well. Do it anyway. 

2) Don’t be afraid to fail. If you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying. Many people in our history learned numerous times how not to do something – they never considered themselves a failure (think Thomas Edison and the lightbulb.) I have started three businesses in my life. One was a huge success, and the other two paid the bills…barely. I never considered myself a failure with the latter two. I simply learned better ways to do it next time I’m brave enough to jump into another business venture. 

3) Always (always) trust your gut. Many don’t know how to do this. Most of us listen to the voices of others and never learn to take direction from our Higher Self. Many ignore the signs, and many live lesser lives because of it. You must be willing to stop listening to those you love sometimes and start getting quiet enough to hear your own inner voice. This isn’t easy. In fact, in a world where people are full of opinions and ‘best intentions,’ this is really one of the most challenging steps.

4) Be willing to lose (or give up) everything to start over. Back in 2004, my (then) husband prayed for change. He felt strongly that something drastic needed to happen to be happy. Within 24 months, he lost his job, home, and later, the marriage ended. But yet, if you met him today, you’d realize he is the happiest he has ever been in his entire life. (And I’m delighted for him). Sometimes you have to lose significantly to really win. Blogger Leo Babauta calls this ‘burning the farm‘. So, strike that match. Go on. I triple-dog-dare ya.

As we close for the day, I invite you to make a list of all the things you’ve wanted to try or do but were either too afraid or too worried about what others would think. I did, and I posted it here. Meditate on all the reasons your fear has been holding you back and imagine what life would be like for you if you took steps to break down the walls and be braver. Then release those fears to the Universe and go live your life. 

As usual, here’s a song for you today. I’m also leaving you with some questions:

Are you willing to be weird? Are you ready to step out onto that range and shoot for what you want? What are you doing to make sure you get the life you were destined to have? Drop a line in the comments to tell me how you have been brave…because if you have done it once, you can do it again!

I can’t thank you enough for sharing this on social media. I am delighted when I have a glass of wine with people I just met and they say “I love your blog”. I am so very grateful to you, Dear Reader, for sharing with your friends. May you be blessed all year with prosperity, abundance, and – yes – great love.

Go Love Yourself

Well, Kids, the weather is doing its weird stuff again here in the Ozarks. Freezing temps at night and mid-50s during the day. Weatherman Ron says it’s going to be 71* on Christmas Eve. I’m not upset over this. A White Christmas is idyllic, but frankly, it all turns to slush here in about two days. I love the snow, but I severely dislike that muddy, slushy gunk it turns into once it starts to melt. I’ll be in Arkansas Christmas Eve into Christmas morning and plan to hit Coler trail for a brisk little walk. So excited.

This is a nice segue into our topic today, which is a little ditty about you and self-care. I realized I’m starting to recycle through some of my ideas because I wrote about self-care at this same time last year. But, to me, self-care isn’t something that goes out of style. After all, if you don’t learn to love yourself, then you can’t really love anyone else – not in a healthy way, at least.

So, grab that drink and settle in today. I want to share some of my revelations over the last year and how self-care has played a big part in that.

As I grow wiser (Ahem…older…) I am no longer afraid to ask a partner, friends, family, or co-workers for the space I need. As an introvert, I already like my alone-to-recharge time, but my specific personality type needs a bit more than other introverts. As a writer and a thinker, my brain is always on fire. Therefore, downtime is not only desired; it’s vital to my well-being. You may not be that extreme, but I still think you’ll glean some great points from today’s list.

Got that drink? Here we go.

1) Fix what needs to be fixed. Ask yourself what is stopping you from loving yourself. Sit with that answer and be prepared to make changes. I used to obsess about the number on the scale. Then I realized that my weight isn’t a reflection of who I am as a person. On the flip side, I also realized that I cared more about others than I did about myself – which kept me from scheduling time to plan to be more healthy. Once I realized that my time is a commodity and I am responsible for that time, I was better at scheduling a walk or a hike before anyone else ate up that block on my calendar.

2) Realize you aren’t perfect. No one is, so in tandem with that statement, stop comparing yourself to others. It can be so easy to look at someone with a really nice fancy house and feel intimidated by that. But you never know what kind of debt lurks behind the corner in that house. Newsflash: Instagram is make-believe. Besides, if you wait until you are perfect before you start to love yourself, you’ll be waiting a long fucking time. Amiright? So. Here’s what I recommend: Sit down in a quiet space and make a list of all the good and awesome things about you. Whenever you are tempted to beat yourself up for being imperfect, then pull out the list and read it OUTLOUD. You, Friend, are guacamole. Stop telling yourself you are free salsa.

3) Get to know yourself. Figure out who you are and what you want. Discover what you believe and understand what your values are. Never in a million years would I ever have thought that I like to build fires and camp in the back of my car. You couldn’t have convinced me two years ago that I would get excited about going to a shooting range. I made a bucket list last year and another for this year and just started working on the plan. Additionally, I made a list of what I wanted in a partner and surprised the shit out of myself with that one, too. If you don’t know who you are, you’ll be anything anyone says you are. If you don’t know what you want, you’ll let others tell you what you want. Don’t do that. I encourage you to be the author of your story and own the narrative before anyone else gets to do it for you.

4) Forgive yourself. This one’s tough, but it is essential. You need to let go of the past, let go of those evil deeds, let go of your shame. It’s effortless to look at your history and judge yourself. But you are judging yourself on a decision made THEN, but NOW you have new information. It’s absolutely unfair to do this to yourself. It’s like reopening a criminal case from the 1980’s except now you are armed with the science of DNA. You can get caught up in the “If I’d only known then what I know now” bullshit loop when you let yourself do that. Repeat after me: I made the right decision at the time with the information I had at my disposal. In other words, it helps no one for you to beat yourself up for a past decision while you are sitting in the present tense. The phrase “Lessons learned” is a real thing.

5) Practice self-care. You knew this was coming. Self-care isn’t all beach-front vacations and expensive food. I’m all for those, trust me, but it can be anything you do for yourself. Me? I’m just as happy in my mom-clothes, cuddled up with a smutty romance novel and cheap wine as I am by the beach. Add a handmade quilt and a fireplace and boy, howdy. This mama is one happy clam. I’d even say this is better than the beach because…well…sand. Blech. My point is: Self-love and self-care go hand in hand. Do what you need to recharge and treat yourself. Need some help? Here’s a list.

6) Don’t give up. Life will throw you a curveball once in a while, and yes, you might even catch that bastard right square in the eye. It will suck. It will hurt. It will definitely leave a mark. Take all the time you need to heal, and then…get up, dust off, and move on. You are the total sum of all the experiences you’ve ever had in your life. Don’t let that shit wear you down. Chin up, tits out. You got this.

I don’t know why this song is stuck in my head today. It’s about those who take risks and dance to the beat of their own drum. I think practicing self-care can be risky. Some folks don’t like it when you start putting yourself first. But I invite you to look them square in the eye, use your polite and calm voice and say “Go fuck yourself.” A riskless life is a life unlived. So, kiss the girl. Book that massage. Take the road trip. Eat dessert. Say yes to yourself.

PS…Thank you for reading. It makes my heart happy when you let me know if I struck a cord or two. If you liked this post, and feel others may like it too, then feel free to share it on social media.

It’s The Little Things

I realized recently that I usually start out telling you about the weather in the first paragraph of my blogs and then asked myself: “Why do I do that?” Do they care? Isn’t there an app for that? I rationalized it away by affirming that my mood – and my writing – is often related to the weather. The weather also drives the day’s activities as well. Cold and rainy? Books and pajamas. Mild temps and partly-sunny? Hiking or a road trip. Hot as hell and humid AF? Planted somewhere near a large body of water. Today is really no exception. It’s a chilly day here in the Ozarks and I’m working to the tunes of Carole King in the background. I’m still not convinced that winter might settle in, but it is definitely windy enough to prepare a bug-out bag (that’s tornado talk) or fly a kite if that’s your thing. 

About this time last year, I wrote about “connection” and how we were all starting to feel the months of isolation due to the ‘VID. I hope we are coming out of that a bit, even with this latest surge and a new variant, but I wondered over coffee this morning: Did the last twenty months ruin us for life? Even me, the INTJ / Type 5, canceled my number one way of keeping up with people. Have I become even more anti-social than I already am? Or…did I just become pickier about who I let into my life? Someone asked me why I axed my primary Facebook account and I told them to read my blog post (Shameless, right?) but truthfully it all comes down to one truth…

People can’t ruin what they don’t know about.

Most of those ‘friends’ don’t know me anyway. Some only saw a foul-mouth typist with a cynical sense of humor. No one invited me to have coffee so they could learn how much I love to help my son’s school or the many ways I participate in making my community better. No one really asked what breaks my heart about the world we live in and what gets me excited. Some judged me for not being a Christian – because of my little-to-the-left viewpoints. Truth is? I’m a huge fan of Jesus Christ. It’s just His followers that get on my nerves. Yes, it’s true. I love Jesus…and I cuss a lot…and voted for one or two Democrats in my life – although I’m intrigued by Libertarians. I know, right? I am an enigma.

So here we are today, together, while I pose the question: How do we get the connection we need in a world that is so disconnected from reality? We are the most connected generation ever – what with our Tweets and Likes, and Tiks and Snaps. So, Dear Reader, why are so many people lonely? Hmmm. Grab a drink and settle in. Let’s discuss how we might be and feel more connected to others. 

Connection is so powerful. It’s more than just being part of a group. It’s about belonging and feeling as if your presence matters in the grand scheme of things. We can think we are connected when, in reality, we are simply a member of a group. You can be in a room full of people and still be lonely. Just as you can be part of several groups or part of a big family unit and not feel connected to another soul. 

For those like me – the self-sufficient do-it-myselfers – it just so happens that connection is more important than you might think. Connection can lower anxiety and depression, help regulate emotions, improve self-esteem and increase empathy for others. Several studies show that feeling a sense of connection can even strengthen our immune systems. In this day and age, we applaud self-sufficiency while we view the seeking of closeness as weak. Neglecting our need to connect actually puts our health at risk. In other words, we are hard-wired for connection despite our Myers-Briggs personality type, Sun/Moon/Rising signs, and whatever else label you’ve attached to yourself. 

I’m not great at reaching out to others, but I’m getting better. I, like everyone, am a work in progress. But here are some things I’ve done to improve connections with others, and I hope they help you:

  1. Recognize connection needs vary. Everyone has their own sensitivities to feeling a connection or lack thereof. For example, I don’t need to spend a lot of time with people to feel connected, but I do like it when people remember little things about me (Milk Duds are my favorite snack, Skrewball is my favorite whiskey, May is a shitty month for me, I don’t like loud people, places, or events, etc.). Because of my own experience and needs, I tend to pick up on the little details about others. I have a shitty short-term memory, but there are things I remember: Cardamom is your favorite spice. You don’t like pumpkin pie. Mother’s Circus Animal Cookies are your favorite cookies. Those god-awful Cherry Mashes are, to you, delicious. I may not remember your birthday, but I do know that your spouse died on Labor Day weekend and it’s a tough holiday for you. Other people might find that creepy, so I try to be mindful of this. I realize it could be construed as stalkerish, but really, it’s just the way I connect with others.  What do you need to feel connected? A handwritten note? A text in the morning? My son’s? I always say “Who loves you, baby?” as I send him off to school When I forget, he reminds me. I think this is one of the ways he feels a connection to me.
  2. Learn to be present in conversations. It has been said that attention is oxygen for relationships. When meeting with people, get in the habit of being present by giving them your full attention. It’s funny what people will tell you when they don’t tell you anything. I have a good friend who is witty and extroverted and just an all-around fun guy. When he speaks to me about his life, I can always tell when we hit on something that hurts. He’ll look down and shrug – and with a soft smile – say, “But whatcha gonna do?” Suppose you listen carefully, observing facial expressions and body cues. People will often “tell” you when they are hurting with their “tells”. In those moments, I beg you: Don’t break the connection by checking your phone, looking around the room, or letting your mind wander. In fact, a squeeze of a hand means more at that moment than any words you could voice.
  3. Learn to show some fucking empathy. Mutual empathy is a robust connector made possible by mirror neurons in our brains. Mirror neurons act like an emotional Wi-Fi system. When we feel the emotions of others, it makes them feel connected to us. When we feel their positive emotion, it enhances positive feelings. When we feel their pain, it diminishes the pain they feel. If someone expresses emotion, it’s OK and natural for you to feel it too. However, like in this Ted Talk by Celeste Headlee, resist the urge to ‘share your story’ at that moment because it kinda feels like a ‘one upper’. Don’t you just hate it when you’ve bared your soul and they turn around and try to “one up” you? Ugh. Stupid, stupid person.
  4. Develop the habit of emphasizing positives. Psychologist John Gottman first observed that marriages were less likely to survive when the positive/negative interactions dipped below 5-to-1 (or five positive interactions to every negative interaction). People need affirmation and recognition, so get in the habit of looking for ways to affirm and serve others.
  5. Learn and apply the five languages of appreciation. Some know these a ‘love languages’ but that seems a bit weird in a work setting. The thing is, though, everyone responds to their love language, no matter where you are. I used to be a “words of affirmation” and “acts of service” kind of gal. But as I’ve grown, I’ve learned to affirm myself, so affirmation from others isn’t quite as important now. In fact, if someone tries to ‘cheerlead’ me now I get pissed. Who appointed you Pep Club President? I certainly do not need a Pep Club President so back off, Jack. However, surprisingly for an aspiring minimalist, I have realized that gifts (simple ones – not $8,000 diamond rings – although…ahem) tend to increase my sense of connection. My friend Carol always has Milk Duds or Salted Caramel Chocolate bars for me along with a list of new book recommendations. Jay sends me cookies. Machell and Bonnie give me wine. (I’m sensing a theme here). Dedee once gave me, literally, a pot to piss in (another time, another story). The point? They get me – and that’s how connections are formed. 

So, what about you? Are you feeling a loss of connection? What makes you feel connected with others? How do you show others you want/need connection? Please drop a comment or two. I love to hear from you. Until next time…here’s your song

PS…If you liked this post and think others might like it too, please consider sharing it on social media. Please and thank you!

Play That Funky Christmas Music

What a great day here in the Ozarks. It’s nearly sixty degrees outside, and while it is the middle of December, I’m not complaining. I love getting outside, and this is the perfect weather for it. I’m eagerly checking my weather app to find out what it will be like this weekend because I am so excited to try out the back of that car. Before you go thinking all those naughty thoughts, I recently became enamored with the idea of car camping. It’s a thing – like van life – only not in a van and, um, not for life. Anyway, I don’t like the heat, so this is the perfect temperature for my experimental phase.

I ain’t gonna lie, though. With the holidays right around the corner, I’m trying to stay busy because I’m not above admitting that a sense of loss has crept in over the last few days. I’m missing my brother and my father – who both liked cars and the outdoors. Daddy always loved putting together our Christmas stocking stuffers and I really am terrible at it. Also, as a single parent, it kinda sucks that I have to buy and wrap my own Christmas gifts and stuff my own stocking. Additionally, with every fire I build, I find myself really missing my friend Bill, who passed away in June. I could use his advice today on a few things, and it sucks that he isn’t here to give it.

I shared recently that I’m finally in a good place – and I am. Even with the melancholy intro of this blog, please don’t think for one moment that I’m not. Be that as it may, I didn’t build this version of myself overnight. This version was built on experience. On disappointment. On pain. I’m not afraid to tell you all that, Dear Reader. After all, vulnerability is the new strong, right?

I tell you all this because I’d like to give you a few tips on how I plan to cope in the following days. I think it’s absolutely okay to admit to yourself and your support network that the next few weeks might be challenging. I also think it is equally important to devise a plan so that if or when grief and sadness starts to take hold, you’ve prepared a strategy to thwart it. While I have come a long way since 2016, I heard this song (Santa, Tell Me…) yesterday, and it kinda put me in a funk. I quickly found this song (Christmas Dance) and shook it off. But…my point is today…it isn’t always easy to shake it off, especially if the loss was significant. And it’s okay to ‘be with the funk’ for a bit. If you were looking for permission to admit you are hurting, then permission granted.

However, let’s get back to the planning, shall we? This good little Virgo has made a list so go on now. Grab a drink and settle in. Let’s work this out on paper together.

1) Fix what needs to be fixed. If you know you aren’t going to have the energy to cook (and you most likely will not), then figure out who is going to cook. If you can prepare anything in advance, then do it. City Butcher and Marie Callender cooked most of my Thanksgiving dinner. No rule says you can’t call up Stop & Shop (or Schnuck’s or whatever grocery store is in your area) and order your entire holiday meal. If you will be alone, this is vitally important. You need to eat.

2) Stay away from sad media. Do not watch Love Actually. Do not listen to Last Christmas. Do not, and I repeat, do not scroll social media where all the perfect people and their perfect families have all gotten together and pretended to like each other. Pop yourself a big-ass bowl of popcorn and watch “The Family Stone” so you can remind yourself that all families are dysfunctional and you can laugh about it. Bonus advice, go easy on the booze.

3) Forgive yourself. The holidays are a time when folks start forgiving people and making amends. How about you forgive yourself for a change? Forgive yourself for putting up with shit you didn’t deserve when you didn’t know any better. Forgive yourself for that thing you did that makes you cringe when you think of how it hurt a loved one. There’s a big difference between guilt and shame (and I’ve got a good post on shame coming soon), but, nonetheless, it’s time to put both of those feelings aside. Write yourself a letter asking for forgiveness as if you were writing it to the one you hurt the most. We often are our own worst enemies, as Bill told me, so please, let it go.

4) Go somewhere. I plan to get the hell out of here for a few days. My son is going to be at his dad’s for Christmas and I’m damn sure not going to sit around over the holiday watching Hallmark Christmas movies with access to a tremendous amount of horribly sugary food and a box of wine. Even if it’s just for a night. Most people, if they haven’t promised the guest room to the in-laws they don’t even like, will be happy to host you. People love being nice during the holidays. Let them. If you can afford it, there are some *wicked cheap Airbnbs. You’ll still be alone, I know, but at least you won’t be alone in the house that holds all the memories. (*For you, Bon Bon).

5) Take your meds and brush your teeth. If you already battle Seasonal Affective Disorder, anxiety, or depression, this isn’t the time to go radio silent and go off your medication. I’m a huge advocate for taking a pajama day every once in a while, so if that’s your plan, I applaud you. Just do it responsibly. Watch something completely impossible to smile at – I recommend Pitch Perfect (the first one). If you’re in a shitty mood, there ain’t nothin’ like a Riff-Off to make you smile. No Diggity, Yo. (I just sounded very white and very uncool, didn’t I?)

I hope this blog helps you today. If so, drop a comment below. I’m leaving you with a Christmas parody – if you’re a Swifty, I’m sorry. If you aren’t a Swifty, then you’re welcome.

PS…if you liked this post and think others might like it too, please consider sharing it on social media. Please and thank you.

Private Eyes and Posted Lives

Yesterday, albeit a bit chilly, was glorious. I worked outside most of the day, prepping for winter, if winter ever comes. (I’m secretly channeling my inner Jon Snow: “Winter is coming”). I used my new self-propelled electric mower to give the yard one last pass for 2021 and raked leaves. I even built an illegal fire in my backyard to burn off some pieces of wood that had been piling up, proving once again that you can take the girl out of Webster county, but you can’t take Webster county out of the girl. But, hey, S’mores. Amiright?

All that activity, coupled with waking up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday, made me super tired, and I was sound asleep by 9:30 p.m. That’s the upside of hard labor. Unfortunately, it also meant I was wide awake at 2 a.m. on this fine Sunday morning, so I thought I get a jump on today’s blog. I see a nap in my future, and I don’t want to leave you hanging. After all, I promised you an explanation for why I canceled my Fakebook account, right?

So, grab a drink. Settle in. Let’s talk about anxiety, human interaction, and all the things social media means to a good little INTJ like myself, shall we?

First, let me say, if you are a social media horndog, I am not judging you. I get it; I really do. If you run a business, the world more or less demands that you be active on social media. Also, I’m not entirely truthful when I say that I canceled my Facebook account. I have one; I have to. The entire platform forces you to have a personal profile account if you want a public page (where I post about my writing). Also, as I mentioned in my last post, I’m the PTA president at my kid’s school, and I’m an admin for the PTA Facebook page. Can’t be an admin without a personal profile. It’s a tricky trickster, that Facebook. But we knew that already, did we not?

Anywho, all that said, I did cancel the account I’ve had for years, and my ‘newer’ one only has five friends: Two PTA board members and the three people in charge of all the stuff when I kick the bucket. In fact – proud boundary-honoring moment here – I received a friend request from someone I knew in high school and a few others recently, but I politely sent them each a message stating, “Hey, I received your friend request on Facebook, but due to the superficial nature of social media, I declined it. I am, however, open to conversation anytime.” I then gave each of them my phone number and my email. So far, only one has reached out – proving my point entirely.

Again, I’m not trying to convince you to cancel your profile here. But, because I promised, I will share a few reasons why I canceled mine, and none of it has to do with the inability of practically everyone on the planet to be bipartisan. It also had nothing to do with vaccination mandates, gas prices, or the fact that some people insist on pushing the latest MLM scheme – although all of those are excellent reasons to cancel an account. Nope, mine was more personal. Got that drink?

Photo credit: Keep It Glam

1) I’m not doing “pathetic and angry” anymore. The algorithms on that platform are designed so that they can remind you of ‘memories on this day’. Well, every day for the past six years had been shitty with very few exceptions. And I know that sounds negative – there were a few good days in there – but every damn day, I was reminded of something that happened one year, two years, three years (on and on) ago, and it would mentally set me back. At times it would bring up so much anxiety because of the past trauma that I couldn’t function. As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve worked tremendously hard to dig myself out of that hole, and I’m finally back to feeling like myself again. I don’t want to look back. As cliche as it sounds, there is a reason the windshield of my car is bigger than the rearview mirror. I’m living life looking forward, not looking back.

2) I’m was tired of people lying. My favorite: The good Christian wife who posted daily about how her husband was such a godly man; a true spiritual leader of their family. I’m not going to go into any details here, but I will say this: he wasn’t so godly when he wasn’t home. End of discussion. Even the person I was dating would post conversations that led people to believe we (he & I) actually had them. We didn’t. The typed conversations between “Me” and “Her” were made up. But props to him for his creativity because those made-up Facebook conversations were sometimes better than the ones we were having for real.

3) I was tired of posing. People get a false sense of who you are when they only see what you post on social media. Around the time of my most recent birthday, I felt that I hadn’t branded myself well. For those not familiar with marketing terms, every company has a brand and works like hell to protect their brand. People have a brand, too; they just don’t always know it. Like companies have bad years, I had had a few bad years. I wanted to rebrand. And that rebranding started with me simply wanting to be more private. INTJs loathe the limelight; I’m no exception.

4) I long for intimacy. When I say “intimacy” I don’t necessarily mean physically (although, ahem…). I mean, I want to surround myself with people who want to get to know me and to understand me. I don’t want relationships where people halfway listen and then offer advice on what essential oil I need when that is not what I need at all. Someone said it best last week. “We all just want someone to listen to us, right? We don’t need advice all the time. Ultimately, we just want someone we can be ourselves around to share what’s on our minds.” Yes. That. My ‘tribe’ may be small, but it is mighty. I don’t have much in the way of family connections, and I’ve had to choose my family. When I die, the two people in charge of doing all the death-related shit don’t share a single drop of DNA with me. But they know me, and they love me anyway. Never once have they said or done anything to hurt me on purpose or lash out because they’ve had bad days. I trust them – literally and figuratively – with my life.

5) A minimal digital footprint makes stalking hard. I get it, there is this creepy online diary thing I do, but for the most part, I value my privacy. Hell, if given the opportunity, I’d change my full name and go off-grid. I live a pretty simple life here in SOMO. I’m definitely not Instagram-worthy, and I don’t want to be. I just want to live over here, quietly, with my one bag of facial products, four pieces of jewelry, and my little black dress. If someone dies in my life, I will notify the applicable people. If I get a new job, the essential people will celebrate with me. When I have a birthday, I’ve learned that the people I trust the most will be there. I’m not easily impressed, but I am certainly easily entertained. I no longer feel the need to ‘live my life out loud’. (Yes, Margo. I get the irony of this as I type this blog post).

So, there you have it. Nothing too earth-shattering. I probably could have summed it up with “I just got tired of everyone’s bullshit” and been done. But then I couldn’t leave you with this song and I would have been wide awake for nothing. So, it’s a win-win for both of us, wouldn’t you say?

If you want to dig in and find out how social media stresses people out and how Facebook, in general, is the devil, I’ve included some links here. I didn’t feel the need to rehash what you – the smart people – probably already know.

And, for those of you who do still have all the social media thingys…I appreciate the most recent shares. Please feel free to continue doing that. My numbers are up, and that’s a start. I heart you, big time, for the free promotion.

More reading for ya…
The Role Social Media Plays In Mental Health
Just How Harmful Is Social Media?

The Facebook Papers
Blogger Dean Smith says this about social media
Need a digital detox? Read Olivia’s blog.

So You Say You Want An Evolution

The weather has again turned into fall, and you know, I’m okay with that. It isn’t supposed to be nearly 80 degrees two weeks before Christmas in Missouri. Nonetheless, it isn’t entirely freezing, so my body and soul are pleased. Remember, I only like the weather when it’s between 45 and 75 degrees. Anything outside that range makes me a bit grumpy.

With that said, I do seem to be evolving a bit, and it got me thinking that this might be a good blog post for you folks. I know, I know. This close to Christmas, I really should be writing about something superficially focused on simplifying the holidays, right? Okay, then. Let’s get that out of the way…

1) Don’t buy shit you don’t need. 2) Don’t buy them shit they don’t need. 3) Don’t spend one second with toxic family members and frienemies. 4) Don’t drink too much at company parties and puke in front of your boss. 5) Don’t tell kids there’s a Santa when you’ve worked your ass off all year to buy that Nintendo.

There. A Simple Christmas Summation. Boom.

Now…about that evolutionary thing I mentioned before. Grab a drink and settle in. I think you might like this.

Last week I called my friend, Kayla, and even though the conversation was super quick, she said to me, “How are you doing? You sound really happy.” I replied, “Things are good, I think. I mean, they aren’t awful.”

But two days later, it actually WAS eighty degrees outside, so I decided to take my lunch break over at my favorite park – getting in those steps, you know. Spotify had just released the “Your Top Songs 2021” playlist (it’s a playlist Spotify provides based on the songs you listened to the most during the year), and I couldn’t help myself. As I was walking, this song came up, I found I had a bit more pep in my step and…wait for it…I smiled. Like, I goofy smiled. (I should probably tell you that every single song last year on my “Your Top Songs 2020” was sad and depressing. Right then and there, I put a moratorium on sad songs for the entire year, proceeded to create my Good Vibrations playlist – it’s public, you’re welcome – and that’s where we find ourselves today.)

Anywho, driving home from the park, I rolled the windows down, and when this song came up on my playlist, I started laughing and turned the volume up – loud. I was waving my arm in the air, snapping my fingers, and singing to myself – very loudly. (Okay. Not to myself. Everyone could see – and most likely hear – me. I apologize to anyone who was at the stoplight at Battlefield and Glenstone that day.) The point is: I actually thought, “Holy Sh*t…I think I am happy. So that’s what it feels like.”

You probably won’t really get it, especially if you don’t know me personally or have just recently started reading my creepy online diary. But let’s just say…it’s been years – years – since I felt the way I felt that day. Even today, in our 1:1, my boss said, “How are you? You look better. You look happy.” Of course, with all the ‘this is not sexual harassment’ disclaimers that go along with that statement, etc.

So. What’s the difference?

As I said…evolution. Life is a series of trials and tribulations. (“Blessings…testings…blessings…testings…”). I’m on the up side of the valley, I suppose. But, I can also tell you…while I do believe fully in the Universe’s interest in ‘having my back’, I’m going to take a bit of credit here. I’ve worked incredibly hard over the last 24 months to pull myself out of that proverbial valley. Me. This Girl. I. Did. The. Work. And, I’m still doing it.

How? In various ways, I suppose. But I think I can sum it up for you in a few points. Got that drink?

Here are my take-aways from the last few years. I hope they help:

1) Don’t get too attached to an outcome. I’m tenacious. I’ve got ‘grit’. I believe in myself. But most importantly, I’m flexible, and I have a growth mindset. What does that mean? It means you can achieve each and every one of the goals you set for yourself and still feel like ‘sumpin’ ain’t quite right here’. That’s a sign that you are changing, and you are evolving. It’s okay to get to the top of the mountain and think “That’s pretty…but it isn’t spectacular.” It’s okay to say “I shaved my legs for this?” That doesn’t make you a pessimist. It makes you hungry for something better. Stop settling for crumbs.

2) Be okay with saying you aren’t okay. In October of 2020, I started putting out videos via Facebook urging people to reach out to their friends and shedding some light on mental unwellness. People were feeling the impact of COVID fatigue at that point and no one was paying any attention. I was, essentially, telling people I wasn’t doing so hot myself, and it was okay to admit it. The videos are gone, as is the Facebook page (at least I hope so) but the message is still essential. (On that note: Call someone today. This is the time of year people act like they are okay at work but then wind up on Saturday taking enough Klonopin to kill men half their size. Do not text them. Call them. {Steps off the soapbox}).

3) Find a community of like-minded people. Whether you want to learn outdoor survival skills, want to learn more about how to cook on that new Traeger, or find it challenging to face the death of a loved one, there is a lot to be said about finding a support group. Support groups aren’t just for those who are ‘suffering’ or ‘sad’. A support group can be just that…a group that supports you in anything in which you need to be supported. I joined a ton of car camping groups online, and while I’ve only spent two nights in the back of my car so far, I feel supported by the members in these groups and know I can reach out any time. While some of my close in-person friends are like “You wanna what?” these crazy-ass car campers are, like, “You go, Girl! That bed looks awesome!” and “Don’t forget the bear spray!”

4) Put yourself out there. (Gawd. Shame on you, Margo. Not like that.) Helping others is the best thing you can do for yourself so put yourself out there. Volunteer. Read to a little kid. Take food to older adults. Sign up to do taxes for the low-to-middle income folks in your community. Be a designated driver. I don’t care; just do something that takes the focus off yourself and your sad little life (I say that in love.) Do you know what I did? I volunteered to be the PTA President at my son’s elementary school. Yes, I know. Me. BUT…I love it. I absolutely love organizing sock drives and watching kids’ eyes light up at book fairs. I get all giddy when I ask people to donate water bottles and face masks because our school is completely out of supplies and watching them actually donate shit! I love volunteering in this role and frankly, it leaves little time for me to think only of myself.

5) Choose the right tribe. I wrote about my tribe last year in this post but it’s important to remember that your tribe doesn’t have to be big to be mighty. Additionally, if you are “unsingle”, remember that the partner you choose for your journey makes all the difference in the world. I’ve been married twice, and I can tell you this: I have never in my entire life felt so unsupported as I did in both marriages. We all need folks in our lives who support us, believe in us, and know when to kick us in the ass if we need it. Spend time with the people who straighten your crown, not with those who tell you that dress would look better if you lost ten pounds. Do not spend one more minute with anyone who doesn’t even really like you.

So, in summary, evolution isn’t always pleasant, but it is always worth it. As is my nature, I’m leaving you with this little ol’ song by Pink, because if there’s anyone on the planet who doesn’t give a shit what anyone else thinks, it’s her. I, like you, have paid full price for a few mistakes so I get it. I do. My advice? Just throw your head back and spit in the wind. Trust me. It works out.

PS…I did, I really really did, cancel my main Facebook account, so if you like this post and think others might like it, too, please consider sharing it on social media.

PSS…The entire “I canceled my Facebook account” thing will be explained and turned into a fantastic blog shortly. Patience, Grasshopper, patience.

Nothing New, A lot Gained

A few months ago, I read an article about a woman who bought nothing new for an entire year. At first, read it and thought, “How does one not buy anything for an entire year?” After re-reading the article, I realized I had missed an essential component: She didn’t buy anything ‘new’ for an entire year. She shopped for the items she needed on e-bay, thrift stores, flea markets, and various online marketplaces. Additionally, she borrowed items from friends if it wasn’t something she needed more than occasionally.

I began thinking about my personal commitments: Reducing my carbon footprint, keeping my credit score above 700, and my overall disdain for dusting. I wondered how I would do on this type of journey., although I have some doubts. Anyway, I decided to try it. I got to work developing some rules on what I could buy if needed that was new. I decided I would exclude some items from the nothing new purchase challenge:

  • Food and personal hygiene items. Used? Gross. No thank you.
  • Gifts for others. I’m not awful.
  • Handmade items from local artists and crafters. Especially now because times are tough for them, however, I did make it a priority to purchase ‘services’ and not ‘stuff’ (i.e. Massage therapy versus massage lotions).

Since most of my holiday shopping is already completed, I decided to start this December 1st. I admit that buying a ‘new to me’ car within the first three days of December was a massive motivation for putting a moratorium on excessive spending. Still, even the car wasn’t ‘new’, so that’s a bonus. 

What am I learning, thus far, during this self-imposed challenge? Well, grab a drink and settle in. I’m going to tell you what the first five days in December have already taught me.

First, more mindfulness for sure. When my internal selfish child screams “But I need it!” the adult in me asks if I could get “it” used or if I really needed it all. If I did need it, and it had to be new, I asked myself if there was a locally-owned store I could get it before hitting the big-box chain. 

When searching for a new book I discovered Thrift Books. I realized – if I’m honest – I typically don’t hang on to books after I’ve read them, and they end up in the Little Free Library my son and I put in our front yard last year. Therefore, Thrift Books is a better choice for me. Plus, my Little Free Library also gets in a lot of donations, so I have several in my TBR pile already.

I’ve also learned about my community. So many cute local businesses help support local artists like The Local Bevy owned by my friend Andrea. I also love the Footbridge Trading Company. There’s also a ton of free events. I joined Meet Up (this is NOT a dating site) and took a look at what the library has to offer. Since I haven’t been shopping much, and the weather has been amazing, I found a great place to walk, a quiet, out-of-the-way coffee shop, and a way to get out to Ozark, MO (not of the Netflix “Ozark” fame, btw) that avoids the highway altogether.

But most serious of all the lessons learned: I realize I still struggle with turning to retail therapy as a temporary fix to self-doubt and overall boredom so temporarily, I’ve deleted the Pinterest and Amazon shopping apps from my phone. This, most likely, is a carryover from my “more money than brains” period of my life sprinkled with a bit of parental influence. Issues that certainly make therapists foam at the mouth when they see me coming, I’m sure.

So what new things have I purchased thus far? Nothing. I haven’t purchased anything for five days other than food and personal services (I got my hair and nails did). I’m crossing my fingers to make it through the entire month without buying one new item. I’ll count on you to keep me honest.

I’ve realized that in the past, my actual failure was the inability to delay the desire for the item. I’d say this might have even played into purchasing the newer car over the weekend BUT (Whoop…here comes the justification…) the vehicle itself is a better choice for what I’m planning to do in the near future

The last time I did a ‘nothing new’ month was back in 2015; I had so many eye-opening Ah-Ha moments. So far I feel like I’m not really missing out on anything and I plan to continue through January, too.

What about you? Do you struggle with delaying gratification? Do you shop to fight boredom or sadness? Do you buy what you don’t really need just because you can? Weigh in here and share your favorite easily made meals. That’s my next endeavor: More at-home meals. Until then, I’m going to leave you with a song because who hasn’t always wanted a tree fort in the yard or a monkey?

PS…I’m hearing from several folks that you’re liking the blog. This makes my heart incredibly happy. So, shamelessly, I’m asking you to share it on social media if you would, please. The more the merrier. Thank you!