Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I Don't Feel Bad

Well I survived Christmas, in case you were wondering… Earlier this week I made that comment to an acquaintance and got this response “If you feel relieved when it’s over, you’re doing it wrong”. (We’re still talking about Christmas, right?) While that sounds like it should be true, I don’t agree. I just spent the last six weeks trying to figure out what would make my loved ones happiest. I made lists (checked them more than twice), asked sneaky questions, bought gifts, hid gifts, wrapped gifts, wrote cards, etc all in an effort to show the people who are special to me just how much I care about them. It’s fun, rewarding and exhausting. When the last gifts were unwrapped on Christmas morning, I secretly let out a huge exhale of “ohthankgoodnessit’sover”. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way and I think it’s totally okay because it shows I’ve put a lot of thought and emotion into the efforts I made for my loved ones and isn’t that a big part of what this whole thing is about?
            And so with Christmas behind me and only three days remaining in 2011, I am now focusing my energy on determining what my New Year’s resolutions will be. When I was in my early 20’s, I made long lists of resolutions each year, vowing to perform all sorts of miraculous change but I usually got frustrated and gave up by February. Now I always make at least one and I’ve found that the fewer there are, the more likely I am to remember and follow through. It's important to me to make resolutions because it helps me set a tone for the new year and have something to strive for and look forward to. It also helps to remind me that all things do pass and I always have the ability to change. My only resolution for 2011 was to be less reactive and I’ve made a lot of progress but I think it will be an ongoing journey for me.
            I still haven’t decided exactly what my 2012 resolutions will be but I know that I’m unhappy with how much clutter there is in my house and with the way I talk/feel about people who I find frustrating. I need to take the next few days to reflect on these issues and decide what kind of change I want to make and how to go about doing it. I’m excited to have this blog as a tool for stating my goals and holding myself accountable. I’m also hoping to hear from my friends/readers about any resolutions and progress.
            So here’s to a few days of reflection on an eventful year that’s coming to a close and an exciting new one that’s about to begin!

Monday, December 19, 2011

FaceBook Vs Reality

           Last week I deleted two of my FaceBook friends. That was a big deal for me. I don’t do it very often, mostly because I don’t accept someone that I don’t actually know or remember. These two gals had histories of making comments I didn’t approve of, one was political and the other personal. That might sound petty and in fact one of them sent me a private message telling me that deleting her was immature, but it made me wonder why is it considered immature and what is an acceptable  alternative?
            I’ve been giving this some thought for months now as I’ve pondered these women’s comments, along with those of my other FaceBook friends. I can’t think of any other social setting where someone stands up in front of all of their friends/family/acquaintances and randomly says something like “Anyone who voted for Obama is an f-ing idiot”. Sure, you might say that to people whom you know share your views but probably not to a group including many people who likely did vote for him (Because he’s the president, which means he received the majority of the vote. Maybe some people don’t understand that). In day to day life, if someone said the things they post on FaceBook there would be repercussions, the greatest being people would not continue to listen to the rantings if they didn’t agree with them.
            I really believe that FaceBook is changing our social norms to a certain extent. The person I deleted was upset by it but honestly we’re not really friends. This is someone I went to middle school with and can’t remember interacting with past 8th grade, not to mention the fact that I moved away from that school after our sophomore year of high school. I can’t tell you anything about her other than her name and of course her political opinions. This is not someone I would interact with in my day to day life. If I did and she said the things to me that she posts on FaceBook, I would choose not to interact with her anymore, which is the same as deleting her. That’s just what you do. I don’t understand what an acceptable alternative would be. Sure, I could argue with her or ignore her but neither one of them seem productive to me.
            I’m not saying I won’t remain FaceBook friends with someone who has different opinions than I do. Just like in real life I have plenty of actual friends with varying views on life. I don’t mind that at all and I appreciate being able to have legitimate discussions about valid issues. And it's not just political issues that bother me. What I don’t care for is being called names or being angered by someone who obviously doesn’t know or care about the opinions or feelings of their audience. Likewise to the “friend”who makes mean comments about my photos or posts. I wouldn’t tolerate that to my face and I’m not going to put up with it on my FaceBook. What I'd like to see is an "acceptable" way to unfriend people. Maybe a little message that goes out that says "Perhaps you need to re-evaluate the way you act and/or treat people". Or maybe I need to figure out a way to nicely say that in real life too...

Friday, December 9, 2011

What are we looking for?

Tis the season for holiday get togethers. As I've stated before, I'm not exactly a "Christmas person". I enjoy many parts of Christmas, I enjoy the lights and decorations, I like giving and receiving gifts and I actually really like seeing Santas. One thing I don't like about Christmas time is the obligatory nature of it. ("How can you not love Christmas?!" everyone gasps) Not only are you expected to participate in holiday festivities, but it's understood that you want to and you love it. Everyone is so excited for the annual Christmas party. I think it's fine. I enjoy the good food and drinks and visiting with people I don't see very often. However I think I'm the only person who looks at it as several hours of torture delivered by pantyhose and high heels. If I could wear jeans and boots, I'd be much more excited.

Similarly, I'm looking forward to going out to cut down our Christmas tree this weekend but I'm not so excited about having an actual pine tree from the forest in my livingroom for the next three weeks. I'm really just terrified to see what my youngest cat will do to it. It's funny how a lot of things in life are like this; we love them and anticipate them but there's always a part that we dread. I've noticed this expecially with the seasons. All winter long we look forward to summer and then it's too hot so we look forward to fall. We haven't gotten much snowfall yet this year and I hear a lot of people complaining about it, until we get 20 inches and then that'll be too much.

Perhaps it's our nature as humans (or maybe just as Americans) to always be looking for that greener pasture. I know it's something I catch myself doing and try to discourage. So when I'm feeling overwhelmed by gift shopping or stressed about what to wear to the Christmas party, I try to remind myself how fortunate I am to have these "troubles". And there's no sense in looking for a greener pasture because it'll be snow covered til May!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Just Look Forward

           I’ve been doing a lot of cleaning and organizing lately, in an attempt to be more organized.  Over the weekend,  I came across my old journals stashed away in a box. There are seven notebooks spanning the last 10 years of my life. I have kept these journals with me though all my moves and I’ve treasured them, but I have never ever read them after writing them.  I’ve never had any interest in rehashing my previous experiences and emotions. Last night I thumbed through a few of them, just checking to see how old they were. Of course I couldn’t help but skim a few passages. It was amazing to me how quickly I became emotional. What surprised me the most was that overwhelmingly I wrote about struggling with my anxiety, which is something I still deal with today.  I paged through a couple of them, then put the books away and moved on to the next box of stuff to sort through. Several minutes later, I found myself thinking “So 10 years ago I was feeling anxious and disorganized and wanting to work out more. …How is that different from now?” and I felt really bad.
            I know we all struggle with not being where we thought we’d be at any given point in life. If you had told me 10 years ago that at age 33 I’d be divorced and living in Montana, I would have argued with you like crazy. But I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason and I know that everything I’ve experienced has led me to where and who I am today. Do I wish I had done some things differently? Of course! But I didn’t and there’s nothing I can do about that now. I have to remind myself of that on a regular basis.
            I am sure that if I read through more of my journals (which I have no intention of doing) I would see how different I am now and much I’ve grown. Honestly, I don’t know what the 23 year old me was expecting the 33 year old me to be like and I can’t even begin to imagine what life will bring in the next 10 years. What I do know is that I’m closer to my family than I was 10 years ago (physically and emotionally), I have a lot of fantastic people in my life who treat me well and love me,  I’ve learned a lot of cool things like how to ski and garden and shoot a gun, and I’ve raised some very wonderful pets who have improved my quality of life greatly. Sure, I guess I wish I made more money or drove a nicer car or traveled more…but would those things really make my life better? Probably not.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What Nascar Santa taught me.

Earlier this week I was walking my dog in my neighborhood and I came across this

My first thought was just "What the H is that?!". The wind was blowing and this thing was hopping around a little bit. Even the dog was startled. My next thought was that I needed to take a photo to post on my FaceBook because it was ridiculously funny. I snapped my photo and kept walking but then it occurred to me that making fun of this thing seemed contrary to my recent efforts to keep my thoughts and intentions positive. I realized that this decoration probably brought someone a lot of joy. So then I wondered what brings me that much joy and would I ever put it in my front yard and expect my neighbors to look at it for six weeks? The best thing I could come up with is that I really love elephants, but I still wouldn't put an inflatable Santa riding an elephant in my yard.

It got me thinking about the things that make me happy on a daily basis. I know it's cliche, but it's definitely the little things in life that often bring us the most joy. I love wearing funny patterned socks, having silly ringtones on my phone and buying my dog silly toys. They're definitely minor things but there are days that looking down at my rooster socks, or seeing my dog carrying around a giant stuffed corn cob perks up my day and makes me smile. So the next time you see something that makes you wonder "Why the heck would anyone do that?", the answer is probably for joy.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Childless and happy. Yes, that's a thing.

I have known for a long time that I have no interest in having children. I’m very  comfortable with that. I know 15 women who have had babies this year. I’m not exaggerating.  I was at a baby shower this spring and there were at least four pregnant women there. Of course, at some point it came up that I don’t want to have kids and a friend responded with “REALLY??!! I didn’t know that about you!!” as if I just announced I have some horrible disfigurement that I keep hidden. So I went through a brief phase of questioning myself. The funny thing is I never really got to thinking “Maybe I want to have a baby”, it was more like “What is wrong with me that I don’t want to have a baby?”.
Fortunately I was able to work through that on my own pretty easily. I just don’t have an urge to procreate. I don’t love babies. I don’t find the thought of being pregnant appealing. And I really don’t feel bad about any of that. I do love the fact that I have friends who wanted babies badly and were able to have them. I have lots of friends with children and I really love many of those kids. I’m not saying I hate kids or don’t ever want to be around them. I ‘m just saying it’s not for me.
I think most of my feelings stem from my childhood experiences. I grew up as an only child til the age of 12, when my mother remarried and I suddenly had four step-siblings. It was a complete nightmare. My step-father’s ex-wife was psycho and the kids were brainwashed into doing horrible things.  Ever since then,  I have felt strongly that I would never want to put children through a similar situation.  When I got married in my early 20's, we thought we would have children and when we divorced  I felt great relief that we hadn't.
Now I’m in my 30s, childless and unmarried. Thankfully I have a wonderful boyfriend who shares my feelings on the subject of kids but it’s interesting to me how many people find my situation “unusual”. I’m not sure why that is. I suppose it’s just human nature to want to have a family. I know there are things I’ll “miss out” on by not having kids and sometimes I wonder if it means I’m selfish but I really do like the lifestyle I have and the experiences that are available to me. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and that we all have a purpose in this life. Mine just might involve less babies and more cats than most women.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dog Seeks Man

The longer I’ve work in veterinary medicine, the more I’ve come to believe that when it comes to acquiring a pet, it’s the animal that finds the human and not always the other way around. I don’t really have any solid religious beliefs but I think I fall somewhere between a Buddhist and a Christian. I believe in power of The Universe, in karma and I also believe that we each are a soul who is on a journey and we are all connected in some way. Each being that crosses my path, whether it’s human, dog, cat or rattlesnake, has a purpose for being there, even if that’s not always clear. I hear stories all the time of animals showing up on people’s porches or being found along the road and to me there is often no other explanation than this is a soul that needs to be in the person’s life. Sometimes the animal needs the human but sometimes and more often, in my opinion, the human needs the animal. I have seen people’s quality of life improve dramatically after acquiring a pet that they didn’t even plan to get.
It has become one of my favorite parts of my jobs to learn the story of how a pet and owner found each other. I used to feel hesitant to tell clients “I believe they find us and not the other way around” until I had the discussion enough times to know that there are lots of people who agree with me. There are many people I know who have had experiences similar to mine.
It may sound corny, but I truly believe that my dog is one of my soul mates. First of all, I’m a cat person but when he came into my life, I was in desperate need of a loyal companion and he was in need of physical care. In the 6 years he has been in my life, I have been through a lot of change and I know that I was able to be stronger more independent person than I would have been if I had been living without him. He has provided me with comfort, companionship and even a sense of protection at times. All are things that I really needed. Plus he has a ridiculously funny personality and we are quite a match.
Even when I’m having a bad day, I try to remember that just by doing my job I’m encouraging that human/animal bond and helping people care for their animal counterparts. And then I’m always greeted at the door by my best buddy!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Is a New Year really new?

            I have found that I do some of my best thinking on the elliptical machine at the gym. Now I know I may be jinxing myself, with one whole month still to go in 2011, but while working out today I was thinking about what a great year this has been for me. For the first time in several years, I’ve made it all the way through (almost) without any major crisis or life altering event. At this time last year, I breathed a huge sigh of relief at the idea of a new year. I remember thinking “Whew, I had a rough year…well rough three years, I guess…Well, rough seven years…” and then I got to thinking that this is just life. We get married, divorced, move, lose jobs, get new ones, meet new people who are good for us and not so good….All of that stuff I’ve experienced in the past several years just adds to who I am and how I will handle the next issue.
            My only New Years Resolution for 2011 was to be less reactive, or “more zen” as I like to say. Looking back on the year, I can see my efforts made a difference but it’s still a work in progress. I try to think before I react but unfortunately there are still times where my emotions get the best of me. Looking forward to 2012, I’d like to work on that even more so I’m trying to decide what I’d like my New Years resolutions to be. So far, I have a couple thoughts: meditate regularly and eat a healthier diet but the big one is that I know there are people who come into my life who drive me nuts that I need to have more patience with. I believe that everyone comes into our life for a reason so I want to take time to figure out what I am supposed to be learning from these folks or sharing with them.
            I know I could make a simpler resolution or even none at all but I’ve made at least one every year for as long as I can remember. I like having something to strive for and hold myself accountable to. Plus I like to think I’m bettering myself as a person and now it’ll give me something to blog about!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Be Thankful Tomorrow Too

            I’ve noticed many of my FaceBook friends using their status updates this month to list things that they are thankful for. I’ve enjoyed seeing these posts and I’d like to encourage everyone to make it a habit of doing this all year long. I’ve kept a journal since college and I try to write something every day. Last year I started doing a “gratitude list” at the end of each entry after I got the idea from a book I was reading at the time. Each day, I try to list at least three things that I am grateful for at that moment. Sometimes the items are serious and thoughtful, such as I am thankful that I have a fulfilling relationship, or a supportive partner, or such loving parents. Other times, depending on the day, I’m thankful for chapstick, my pajamas and white wine. Making the lists has definitely helped keep my outlook positive and reminds me that even when things are unpleasant, there is always something to be thankful. I got a flat tire, but at least it didn’t cause an accident. When I hear a co-worker complaining about work, I think “We should all just be thankful that we even have jobs right now”. It’s always easy to focus on the things that aren’t going right, but the law of attraction says that like attracts like, so whatever you are thinking about and spending your energy on is what you attract to yourself. It might sound hokey at first but if you really think about it, it makes sense.
            So I challenge you to give it a try. Keep a little notebook, and each day take a few minutes to jot down a few things that you have appreciated or that have brought you joy during your day. It will make you see that there really is so much to be thankful for every day. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Search Is Over. (I hope...)

            I’ve always felt that I missed out on having a normal dating experience. I got involved with my ex-husband when we were 19. We were on and off for a bit, moved in together at 21, were married at 24 and by the time I turned 27, I was newly separated. I immediately got involved with a very horrible man because I was lonely and he was the exact opposite of my ex. I’ve heard this happens quite often. I still can’t believe I did it. I moved across the country at age 28 and was single in a relatively small town for the next three and a half years.
            I don’t think the dating experiences I had in those years were quite what I would have had if I was ten years younger or even if I was in a more populated area. It was certainly fun at times but generally frustrating, exhausting and a heck of a lot of effort with very little results. However, I do feel that I learned a lot of very valuable lessons about not only men and dating, but about human beings in general and especially my own self and how to recognize and prioritize what is important to me.
            A major lesson learned was: something is not always better than nothing. It took a while, but I came to realize that watching a whole season of The Sopranos in bed with my dog might feel lonely, but it’s a whole lot better than sitting through dinner with some creep who keeps saying “I’m so pleased with how good looking you are. You are even better looking than your photo. I’m so pleased…” Yuck.
            Also, physical attraction and chemistry are very important and it doesn’t make you shallow or selfish to want it. I had a brief phase of online dating (okay maybe not so brief) and almost all the guys I met were nice and had potential online or on the phone but I’d show up, shake his hand and wish I could say “Thanks but not thanks” and go have a cocktail with my girlfriends instead.
            Through these experiences, I learned to listen to my intuition in a way I never had before. Things that were red flags early on almost always turned out to be just as significant as I suspected, even if I thought initially that I could deal with it or if my friends thought I was being too picky. For example, he didn’t go to college because he can’t decide what he wants to do. Or, he won’t neuter his dog because he doesn’t want to take away his manhood. Or even worse, he doesn’t like dogs at all.
            The man I’m with now is an incredibly good match for me. I feel that I’ve finally found my mate. And while I experience so many feelings of love and appreciation for him, I am still occasionally flooded with a sense of relief that says thank goodness I am finished with all that searching.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Perhaps It's Christmas Magic

            With less than a week to go til Thanksgiving, I’ve already watched two Christmas movies, gone to a Christmas concert and even listened to Christmas music on a long car ride this weekend. I’ve even made my own wish list for my family and have gifts in my Amazon shopping cart waiting to be purchased. This is all way ahead of the game for me. I’ve never been a Christmas person. I’m not a Scrooge but I’ve just never really felt a lot of excitement about the holiday season.
            I’ve always figured my feelings (or rather lack of) about the holidays came from growing up as an only child. Sure Christmas was always fun and exciting, at least as much as it can be when Christmas morning is two adults watching you open gifts and then you play with them by yourself all day, but it certainly wasn’t an explosion of wrapping paper and noise that I now know is Christmas in a multi-child household. And of course there was the year my mother had a friend dress up as Santa and come to our house on Christmas Eve night to tell me to go to bed on time. I was probably four or five years old and I still think that has something to do with the anxiety I still feel as an adult about following rules. However, this year I find myself looking forward to the holiday season in a way I never quite have before.
            This will be the second Christmas I spend with my boyfriend and his fairly large family. Last year there were nine people (and two dogs) in the house for Christmas and it kind of blew my mind. I do love his family dearly and they treat me very well but there are some things I just don’t understand because I don’t have any siblings. Initially I asked a lot of questions like “Why does everyone talk over each other and argue at the dinner table?” or “Why are you and your sister so mean to each other?”. Don’t get me wrong, my mother and I can argue like nobody’s business, I just didn’t realize that all families were that way.
            This is also the second Christmas since I’ve met my biological father and I now have even more family with him, his wife and my grandparents in my life now. Last year, my boyfriend and I hiked into the woods with snowshoes to cut down our own Christmas tree and lit the candles at his church’s Christmas Eve service. These are things I had never experienced before yet had always longed for in a way and now I’m looking forward to them. So when we all sit down to Thanksgiving dinner next week, I know I have a lot to be thankful for.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

How I Flipped My Switch

            Right around my 31st birthday, I was feeling down on my luck. I was living alone in a basement apartment and I had just been dumped pretty hard. That spring I had been contacted on Facebook by a childhood sweetheart and in the course of 3 months my life had been turned upside down and I was back to where I’d started, only feeling much worse.
I don’t know exactly when it was, but I had a moment where I actually saw the light bulb come on in my head and I said to myself “This has to have happened for me for some reason” and it was in that moment that my thinking literally shifted and I realized that this experience, and the ones before it, happened not to me but for me. The guy had gained or lost anything. He seemed to fall out of the sky, shook the hell out of things and then took off, back to his simple existence. The universe brought this loser around to teach me a lesson. I can see now that the universe was trying to teach me in more subtle ways but I just wasn’t paying attention so it kicked my butt. What I learned in that particular lesson was that I was so desperate for a romantic partner that I was willing to give up everything that was important to me just to have one. Everything about the situation screamed THIS IS A BAD IDEA but I thought “Surely this is meant to be simply because it is so ridiculous”. I’m still not totally sure how I was justifying that. The whole thing stopped me dead in my tracks and after a few days of crying my eyes out, I realized I needed to get my ass in gear. I started seeing a counselor to help me process my feelings and get on a track that felt right. I moved in with a friend who had a spare room to rent and I surrounded myself with people who cared about me and supported me. I initiated contact with my biological father at that same time because I realized there are many people who love me and deserve to be in my life.
            The experience with that old boyfriend changed my life in a way that nothing else ever had. I could see the shift in my thoughts almost like they were discs sliding and locking into place. Ever since then, I see the world differently. Less than six months later, I lost my job and while it did devastate me to a certain point, I know I handled it in a completely different way than I would have a year earlier.
            Now is has been over two and a half years since “the incident” and sometimes I can’t believe it ever happened to me. The current me could never fall for that BS but I am truly thankful for the experience. I love who I am now and I know that makes it possible for others to love me and for me to give them my best in return. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I've Learned Something Already

I’ve been wanting to start this blog for almost a year now. I’ve felt, for a long time, that I have some really great stories and thoughts that I’d like to share with the world. So I’ve been writing journal entries and stories, but not posting them because I wanted my first blog entry to be something really profound or witty, or both. But then today, I got a flat tire and as cars were zooming past me I thought this is the kind of stuff I want my blog to be about. So here goes nothin’…
           The concept here is pretty simple: I believe that if you are a nice person and you act the way a nice normal human being is supposed to act then you will contribute to society and people will treat you nice in return. Seems easy enough, right? I consider myself a nice person. I’m friendly, outgoing and generally positive. This evening I was standing along the road with my co-worker trying to figure out how to change a flat tire, something neither she nor I had ever done before. We were both wearing nursing scrubs, it was getting dark and starting to snow and we could not get those dang lug nuts off. For some reason we were both really surprised that no one stopped to ask if we needed help but then I got to thinking “Would I stop to help if I was driving by?”. I’d like to think so but I’m not really sure. What I can say for sure though, is that after having this experience, I definitely will do so in the future.