It’s A Wonderful World

Good evening, Dear Reader! I’m trying something new…posting in the evening for a bit, to see if that changes the stats. I’m all about those stats, you know. (Wink. Wink. I don’t give a shit about stats.)

We are in the beginning stages of ‘Fall’ here in the Ozarks, and I could not be more thrilled. I find it offensive that Dunkin’ Donuts has ‘cold brew pumpkin spice’ on the menu. Pumpkin-Spice-Anything ain’t supposed to be served cold. Are you pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down, Dawg? Hand me a hot PS latte with cinnamon sprinkles, and leave me alone with a book. Please.

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 grumpy.

That said, I seem to be evolving a bit since moving into my tiny home, and it got me thinking this might be a good blog post for you folks. So, since Target seems to be marketing Hallo-Thanks-Mas as all one big long holiday, here are my quick tips (before we get into the good stuff) for not going into debt in the next 85 days: 

1) Don’t buy shit you don’t need.
2) Don’t buy them shit they don’t need.
3) Don’t tell kids there’s a Santa when you are the one who worked your ass off all year to buy that Nintendo.

There. A Simple Holiday Summation by Denise. Boom.

Now…about that evolutionary thing I mentioned before. 

Grab a drink and settle in. I think you might like this.

I’ve been happy for nearly an entire year. I know, right? The last nine years have been challenging to say the least, but around this time last year, I started waking up to the fact that some things were not working in my life and clearly, I was the only one who was going to change that. So, as I wrote in this post last week, I set out to make some changes and here we are, a year later. So. Um. Yes. {Cracks knuckles}:  I am full of joy. 

If you don’t know me personally or have just recently started reading my creepy online diary you may not realize the significance of this. But let’s just say…it’s been years – years – since I felt the way I felt true joy. 

What did I do to achieve 98% bliss? So. Many. Little. Things. Which all, in turn, helped me evolve into the person I want to be. I’m still making some tweaks here and there, picking up some interests, and dumping things that no longer serve me, but yeah. Finally, things are good.

Here are my takeaways from the last few years. I hope they speak to you in some way:

1) Don’t get too attached to an outcome. I’m tenacious. I’ve got ‘grit’. I believe in myself. I will keep trying long after something has served me. But over the last year, I learned that it is okay to get to the top of a mountain (i.e., achieve a goal) and think, “Hmmm. That’s pretty, but it isn’t spectacular.” Instead of being frustrated by the wasted time and energy, be grateful for the opportunity to learn. That doesn’t lessen the experience.

2) Be okay with saying you aren’t okay. In October 2020, I started posting videos via Facebook urging people to reach out to their friends and shed 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 when people act like they are okay but then wind up 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 make lifestyle changes, or find yourself facing 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, though. I joined many online car-camping groups and felt supported by the members. I know I can reach out at any time. I even slept in a stranger’s driveway when I traveled to Minnesota this summer that I ‘met’ in a FB group called “Roadtrip Her.” 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. Helping others is the best thing you can do for yourself so put yourself out there. Read to a little kidTake food to older adults. Sign up to do taxes for the low-to-middle income folks in your communityBe 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.) I volunteer at my son’s school. I give money to class projects. I do ‘data clean up’ for an organization in Delaware late at night. I love organizing sock drives and watching kids’ eyes light up at book fairs. I like clean data. I enjoy the feeling I get when I help kids go on field trips when I know their parents struggle to buy groceries (Ahem, I was one of those parents not so long ago). Volunteering leaves little time for you to think only of yourself.

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 your status is “in a relationship”, remember this nugget: 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 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, because if you really look around, the world is a beautiful place – you just gotta change the view occasionally. 

PS…If you liked this and thought others might, too, feel free to share on all the social thingamajigs.

Damns Not Given

Good morning, Dear Reader. As I mentioned in my last post, it is hot AF here, and I do not like it. But the good news is, I can afford air conditioning and ice cubes. That says a lot about what it takes to make me happy.

I’ve been thinking about you, Dear Reader. I was thinking about how I can offer you some advice on getting rid of even more things. Honestly, I’d love to spend our time together today, helping you eliminate some limiting beliefs. I’ve collected all kinds of golden nuggets of wisdom over the last few weeks. Enough that, I think, I can piece together a patchwork post of wit and good information. So. Shall we?

Well, go on then. Grab a drink. Settle in.

1) Enough is a decision, not an amount. Case in point, I used to be a huge fan of Milk Duds. I mean, I still am a huge fan of Milk Duds. But I used to devour an entire box of those babies. I now can have one little handful and save the rest for another day when murder is on my mind. Same with wine. I can make a bottle last two, sometimes three, days. I used to consume wine like a thirsty redneck at a free beer trailer at the local truck pull. I have enough clothes. I have enough glass jars (Sigh). I am enough just as I am. And, you are, too.

2) Reactions are overrated. I’m learning that even if I react, it rarely changes anything and doesn’t make people suddenly love or respect me. It is sometimes better to let things be, let people go, don’t fight for closure or ask for explanations. Chasing answers and running down theories require a level of energy I no longer wish to expend.

3) Don’t be afraid to say ‘No’. Boundaries, baby, boundaries. You don’t even have to go any further into an explanation if you don’t want to; “No” is a complete sentence. You can be polite (“No, thank you.”) or you can be like me (“Fuck no. That’s ridiculous.”) On the other hand…

4) Don’t be afraid to say ‘Yes’. When I got a text asking me if I wanted to go on a road trip as a first date, I had to catch myself. I typically would say ‘No’ to something like this because of the guts it took to step outside my comfort zone. But I didn’t. Against my better judgment, I said “Yes,” and I’m glad I did. Still hanging with that guy, and I kind of like him.

5) Trust your instincts. If it feels wrong, don’t do it. I sometimes get some pretty strong signals from the Universe, and I’ve learned when to trust that. Some things I’ve experienced have given me a firm idea of what is good and what is not. If you start to quiet your mind, you, too, will better tap into that discernment.

6) Get real damn good at not giving a damn. If I’ve taught you anything this year, it’s to avoid the drama while whispering to yourself: “Not my circus. Not my monkeys.” I also like the version “Not my pasture. Not my bullshit”. This one little truth can bring you right back to the present moment and permits you to look away, swipe left, or keep scrolling. You do not have to attend every argument you are invited to. Amiright?

With all that said, I’m keeping it short today. It’s Friday. We want to get down to the weekend business, don’t we? So, let’s kick this one off with a good song by a lovely little band out of Texas. I missed them in concert recently, and I’m sad. Thank goodness for Spotify, right? And you’ve got me, of course, feeding you all kinds of good music. (He’s got one that’s kinda naughty if you listen closely). You’re welcome.

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to share it on social media. I was looking at my stats, and I’ve had as many visitors since January 2022 as last year. Thank you for that, Dear Reader. I appreciate the nod.

Life Revised

Well, Dear Reader, it happened. We did, indeed, receive snow here in the Ozarks. But, even with six inches on the ground, I was able to get out yesterday – which is why there was no post.

But don’t worry your little soul. Even in my absence, I pondered the topic and found that thoughts swirled in my mind most of the day Sunday. So here we are today, a Monday with coffee in hand, united by a single keyboard. I’d tell you today to grab that drink and settle in, but I’m not sure I should be encouraging you to day drink on a Monday. But, you know, you do you.

I got my coffee. I got my thoughts. I got you, Dear Reader. Let’s do this. But first…

Never forget that you are fucking magic. Yes, you are. I am picking up a collective vibe that some of you may need to hear that today. So there. You heard it. Now all you got to do is absorb that shit and believe it in your core. Now, on with today’s topic.

Do you know who’s going through a lot right now? Literally, fucking everyone. So, with that in mind, why is it so hard to be kind to each other these days? And I don’t even want your finger-pointing COVID-based explanations on this, People. Really. I do not. This started waaaaayyyyyy before March 2020, and you know it. There’s a sense of entitlement in the air. Is it Mercury’s latest retrograde? I mean, Mercury does some pretty shady shit when she’s in retrograde. Still, I don’t remember reading that she turns people into assholes while cruising backwards through the Universe, ya know?

After the defeating scene at the recycling center that will forever be known as The Glass Bottle Episode, I touched on this. I mean, a dude from Canada had to show three dozen people who live in a city where the church to people ratio is about 1:13 how to be kind, for fuck’s sake. I would have thought a bunch of eco-friendly AWD-vehicle-driving hippies out recycling their fancy IPA and organic wine bottles could have been a bit more aware of the humiliation of others. Still, I guess even liberals can be assholes. Right? I mean…even I have my moments.

So, I wonder if – just for today – we could just take a moment to NOT talk about how unkind the world is and simply go over a few ideas on how to teach yourself to be a bit more kind. Shall we? Okay. Let’s do that.

Oh. I almost forgot. Grab a drink. Settle in. Here we go…

Behave like an inquisitive three-year-old. By that, I mean to ask more questions. When it comes to my personal relationships, I do my best not to jump to conclusions. I have started asking for clarification when I’m unsure how to take what was said. But I wasn’t always this way. When my ex and I started dating, he said something about my ‘thick thighs .’ I took that an entirely different way than it was intended – and was mad at him for days. Apparently, the man likes thick thighs, but I did not take it as a compliment. A lens marred by poor body image and the lack of follow-up questions significantly contributed to a miscommunication. In the book “The Four Agreements,” we are reminded to not take anything personally. So yeah. That. Don’t take anything personally and ask follow-up questions.

Say “no” more often. Look, People, can we just simplify this and declare 2022 the year of “Hell YES!”? I mean, there’s even a whole book about that very thing, but for those of you who like short reading assignments, here’s a Clif Notes thingy. The basics? If an activity doesn’t elicit a “HELL YES!!” out of you, then it is most likely “no” in some form. Worried about making someone mad if you say “no”? Well…first, get some therapy. That will help. Secondly, (Note this!) boundaried people are some of the kindest people on the planet, and they say “no” all the time. My friend, Jen, is one of them. That woman can deliver a “no” to an invitation faster than Patrick Mahomes can run to the end zone. And she does it with such intention and kindness that you almost want to thank her for turning you down. Really. I am not shitting you.

Stop being nice. Do you want to be a kinder person? Then stop being so fucking nice all the time. There’s a big ol’ fat difference between being nice and being kind. Nice people are not kind. Nice people are smarmy. I can say this because I am a recovering ‘nice’ person. Nice people ignore their needs and have poor boundaries. They are unsure of what they want so they are, most of the time, unsure of what they need. Stop that shit already. It isn’t working. I have been told all my life that I’m a ‘really helpful person’. That sounds like a compliment. I mean…helpful people are nice, right? Yes, they are. And they also sacrifice more in a relationship and don’t realize their needs aren’t met until one day they look up and know they have nothing left to give. And then they are really fucking angry. That’s a sad state of affairs, folks. So, here’s the deal: Takers will always find ways to take. Stop pushing their drug of choice on them (Their “drug of choice” is your inability to say ‘no’). I am warning you, though. It might get ugly. Drug addicts don’t like it when you stop dealing. Find your support system and stay strong.

That is it today. I thought about this post all day yesterday as I watched people stand in doorways as if they were the only people on the planet. I also realized I still struggle with each of these points when it occurred to me that I was too nice to ask them to move their fucking asses so I could buy yet another sticker for my water bottle. Thankfully I was with a really kind guy who watched all of this go down and said, “Make a path, folks, make a path.” Okay. He didn’t say that. It was more like, “Excuse us, Miss, we’re coming through” but nonetheless, I got my sticker because of him. Left up to me, we’d probably still be standing there.

So yeah. We are all a work in progress. Be kind. Love yourself. Eat dessert. And here’s your song. Like Ernest Hemingway (probably not him) always said: Write drunk. Edit sober. Life is a series of revisions. Follow your heart.

PS…if you liked this post, I would be absolutely giddy if you shared it on social media. One of these days, I plan to pay my rent with this writing gig, so, yeah, thanks.

Pillows and Perspective

I’m up a bit later than expected today, nestled under the covers sipping my mid-morning cup of coffee with eggnog. I couldn’t sleep last night, which is really no surprise. I battle insomnia, and getting to sleep is a chore on most nights, at best. I did all the right things, though. Took my sleep aid at 8 pm, my anti-anxiety meds at 9:30, and started my ten-minute meditation right at 10:15. I was breathing in the calm, breathing out the stress. You know, all the stuff.

It was hot; then it wasn’t. Then hot again. I think I’m finally at the age where a comfortable climate will never be something I feel again. Then, of course, the pillow wasn’t soft enough, making the ability to fall asleep that much worse. So I switched. Wouldn’t you know it…that one was too soft. I felt like I was in a real-life version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. “This pillow is too hard. This pillow is too soft…” except none of the six pillows on my bed were “just right.” 

Then I remembered something I used to do when I was a kid when I couldn’t fall asleep in the hot southern Missouri home where we had no air conditioning: I switched positions so that my head was at the foot of the bed and my feet were at the head of the bed. The fans (Yes, plural.) were hitting my head ever so lightly, and, I don’t know, it just ‘felt’ better. I think I was asleep within ten minutes of changing my sleeping position.

This story is a nice setup for what I think will be a halfway decent post today. The subject? How changing our perspective in difficult times can significantly impact our ability to cope with discomfort. Some call it ‘reframing’ or ‘changing the narrative.’ Both are correct, but to summarize: The ability to look at a problem in a completely different light can make all the difference in the world. If you disagree, at least you know my trick for finally finding a way to fall asleep via the foot of the bed. That’s your takeaway.

Today I’m going to tell you about some of the ways I’ve managed to change my perspective and arrive at an entirely different place from the original story I was repeating day in and day out. So, grab a drink and settle in. Let’s put our head at the foot of the bed.

1) Life’s little valleys happen for us, not to us. I used to be the first person to cry “Why is this happening to me?” In 2016 I let a man I loved talk me into quitting a perfectly good job, moving back to the God-forsaken land of Southwest Missouri, and fighting like hell to make a dollar to keep us all afloat. The marriage started to fall apart (big surprise) and at the time, I wasn’t sure there was a lesson in this. I was so hung up on telling the story of what happened to me that I didn’t realize at the time what was happening for me. The shift came in therapy when the therapist asked “So, what did you learn?” forcing me to change the narrative. Ever since then I’ve been able to feel better about myself and my experience, about my ex-husband, and about the circumstances around what got me here from there. So. What exactly did I learn? Glad you asked. First – never marry a man that refuses to pull his own weight. Next, I can live on a lot less than I thought I ever could so I’ve learned how to save money. Third, accept help when it’s offered – which is still a challenge, but I try. And finally, when allowed to rise from the ashes… don’t forget the lessons. I save more, give more, and value more than I ever did before we packed that U-haul.

2) It’s okay to be afraid. In the past, I was the last person on the planet ever to show vulnerability. The “never let them see you sweat” force was strong with me. But my perspective changed in those dark times between 2016 and today. I’ve learned to open up, to be brave, and to feel the fear and do it anyway. I knew how strong I was and just how much I wanted to help other people by coming out the other side better than I went in. Before the day we drove out of Michigan to Missouri, I NEVER would have shown a lick of vulnerability. I’m still not super great at it, but some people have seen it because I feel safe around them. And some people are now benefiting from my experience because I’m sharing the experience. (Hence, the creepy online diary.)

3) Quitting and accepting the seasons are not the same. Search the internet for ‘quotes about quitting’ and you’ll find a million that tell you not to do it. I’m not a quitter by nature. I have a high tolerance for bad behavior and this unfortunate character flaw hasn’t served me well. But by changing my perspective I’ve come to know that there are seasons in every person’s life. And seasons are meant to change. If you accept that a season of your life is over and that requires a different direction…it isn’t quitting. It’s growing. Like the leaves on an autumn tree…it’s accepting that it is time to let go and move on. I’ve realized that anything unhealthy is just not worth the fight and there must be a lesson or two that I picked up along the way during that season in my life. In other words, it’s okay to walk away from anything toxic – a job, a relationship, family members, and thoughts or habits.

4) “No” is a complete sentence. I was the ‘yes-iest’ person on the planet. I was nice. I was sweet. I was committed to the very end, even long after I got depressed just thinking about saying yes. But nice people are resentful people. Nice folks are just people with no boundaries and they are explosions waiting to happen. By changing my perspective, I realized that saying yes to things I didn’t want to do wasn’t making me any ‘nicer’ – it was making me more resentful. I realized that saying “no” was actually the nicest thing I could do in those moments. So, say “No” and say it unapologetically.

5) I’m sorry doesn’t mean it’s okay. Growing up, I was taught that if someone says “I’m sorry” then that was that. Things were to go ‘back to normal;’ This narrative became repugnant when I realized that the “I’m sorry = Acceptance” story was most likely the root of my ‘I have a high tolerance for bad behavior’ patterning. I concluded that even though an apology was nice, what I really wanted was changed behavior. When the behavior didn’t change, my responsibility was to set boundaries on what I would and would not accept. In 2017, unchanged behavior led to a divorce. No need to get that dramatic in most cases. I’m just saying that you can accept the apology and still move on (or, at minimum, take a different route). I once had someone tell me that their financial issues were none of my business. It’s true, they aren’t, however up until that point, this person had freely shared their salary, the dwindling balance of their mortgage, how quickly they paid off their car, bragged about the increasing amount in savings, etc. etc. etc. So, of course, I was shocked when I asked a simple question one evening and they exploded (yes, exploded) with “It’s none of your f***ing business.” Um. Okay. I was hurt by the behavior and then a little bit pissed off about it. Eventually, they apologized, but something in me had clicked that night (I think it was my F-It switch) and now when they try to discuss their finances with me I just stop them in mid-sentence: “You know what? Your finances are really none of my f***ing business. Please stop.” In this case, I learned that I couldn’t change another person’s behavior, but I could sure as hell change mine.

To wrap this up, whether it’s sleeping with your head at the foot of the bed or changing your old behavior by reframing all the experiences you’ve labeled as ‘bad’, there’s a lot of value in accepting a new perspective. And, in doing so, we can gain greater insights and achieve more happiness. Changing perspective is a healthy exercise if we want to be empathetic, rational, and compassionate. So…shake up that narrative a little. Ask yourself: What if I look at this differently? How could that change the outcome? It might just blow your mind a bit.

I know this might be hard to follow today. It’s esoteric… it’s metaphorical… it’s long. But let me know in the comments if I’ve made any sense at all. If I haven’t…well…at least I’ve left you with a pretty good song. You’ll want to click that link because the optimistic spirit of this song is part of why it’s a great song about perspective. So…sip that coffee (or eggnog…or whiskey…or coffee with eggnog and whiskey) and enjoy.

PS…if you’ve read this far and liked it, could you share it on social media? Or hit that ‘follow’ button? I’d appreciate it so much.