Friday, October 30, 2015

Get Ready For Gratitude

Tomorrow is the last day of October. That means a few things: Halloween, candy, Daylight Savings Time ends, and then it's November. 

Your Facebook news feed will first be flooded with photos of your friends and their children (and dogs) in Halloween costumes, and then with a month's worth of status updates about what people are thankful for. 

I enjoy participating each November, posting each day about what I'm grateful for. I've written about this before. More than once. 

Over the summer, I was in a class with a woman who announced that gratitude is over rated. It took every ounce of energy I had to stay seated and not climb up on my soap box to tell that woman about everything she's missing out on!

Fortunately for me, this blog is my personal soap box! Instituting a gratitude practice changed my life. I can't emphasize that enough. Life is difficult. Some days have me in tears. If at the end of these days, I'm not grateful for a glass of wine, my hot tub and a spouse who is present, then what are these things for?

I've heard complaints about people who post negative updates all year long but are suddenly thankful every day in November. So what? Good for them! The beauty of Facebook is that it's optional. You don't have to log-on or read someone's status updates or engage with anyone. The "Unfollow" option is the greatest feature ever added, use it! And while we're on the subject, I'd like to remind you: these people are supposedly your friends. If you're not glad to see what your friend is grateful for, then maybe that person isn't truly your friend. (I'm a big advocate of frequent re-evaluation of one's friend list.)

Even if those people annoy you, even if you think it's hokey, even if you think gratitude is over rated, I challenge you to do it anyway. You don't have to post to Facebook. Just sit down once each day in November and write down three things you are thankful for that day. If you can't find three, start with one. 

If you need some more convincing, try this book: The Joy of Appreciative Living, it's one of my favorites. The facts are impossible to ignore: people who list things they are thankful for each day are genuinely happier. 

Make this November about you and your gratitude! Then please tell me about it!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Calling All Weirdos

Last winter when I was doing some traveling, I spent some time with a guy I was getting to know. At one point he said "You're so tough. You play roller derby, you have all these tattoos, you're on this adventure and you do scary things. You're so strong. But you cry when you're hungry or tired or cold. I don't get it. What's that about?" I can still recall the sensation of my heart sinking, slow and heavy, like a smooth polished stone, as I realized that this person simply did not get me. 

In this guy's defense, I'll say not everybody gets me. In fact, there are just a few sacred souls who I believe truly do. And while I don't know that anyone gets every thing about me (hell, even I don't) the people who love me sure do try. 

I have a powerful emotional world and I'm not afraid to hide anything. People aren't used to that and sometimes they don't know how to respond. With me, what you see is what you get: tattoos, tears and all. 

Years ago, I had a boss who told me "You're a sensitive one...You're an emotional one...I'm going to teach you to be like me..." For three long soul crushing years, I tried. Eventually, I realized I didn't want to be like my boss. I wanted to by myself. When I finally got up the guts it say so, it didn't go over well. I was told I made other employees uncomfortable, they didn't feel they could talk to me, I was unapproachable. At the time, I was upset. I didn't understand. Years later, I can see quite clearly that I probably was awkward as hell because I was trying to hide my true self inside those office walls. 

When an ex-boyfriend once called me a weirdo, I was taken aback. "Gonzo is a weirdo," he eagerly explained, appealing to my deep rooted adoration of all things Muppet. Yes, he was correct and yes he has an appreciation for the work of Jim Henson, points for him. The boyfriend meant "weirdo" in an endearing way, and I get that. I've filled that role for a guy more than once. What I mean is he loved the idea of me more than he loved the reality of me. I get it. I've been guilty of that as well (the tortured artist, the hardworking cowboy, the sexy fireman. Need I go on?) The truth is the reality of any relationship is different than our idea of what it "should" look like. 
So how do we find a middle ground? The goal is to find someone who appreciates us as a whole. Someone who deals with our quirks and maybe even appreciates them. And someone for whom we feel the same. That can be a lot to ask.

I'd forgotten the Gonzo comment until I was watching the new Muppet show last week. Gonzo appeared on screen in a loud patterned shirt and I was struck with a vivid memory of that conversation with my ex. I got to think about it and you know what? Gonzo is pretty f-ing brave. He's always doing crazy stunts and chasing after that chicken he's in love with. He works hard, he's loyal to his friends. He likes cracking a joke. Sure, the others laugh at him and sometimes he's awkward, but that's what happens when you put yourself out there! I'm not ashamed to be in the same category as Gonzo!
Photo from Wikipedia

Someone else's idea of me isn't real. My idea of me isn't real. The truth lies in my actions, in the energy I put into The Universe. I get grumpy when I'm hungry and cry when I'm over tired. Someone who loves me knows when to say "You need to eat something," and it all works out.

That's what we all desire and deserve, to be received and understood. To be wanted, not simply tolerated. That doesn't mean everyone always likes us or agrees with us. It means they know our truth. It means they understand our intentions. I'm not only talking about romantic endeavors, but any relationship.

We can't expect a romantic partner to be our everything. It's important to find our own tribe, that collection of like minded souls who make us feel less alone in the world. The more you embrace your true self and eliminate people who don't support that, the more room you create for people who do. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Put It On The List

This year, my birthday gift to myself was to get my hair cut short and colored in shades of blacks and reds. It's something I've been wanting to do for a long time. The next day, while I was squinting at myself in the bathroom mirror trying to decide if I liked my hair or not, I thought Boy, I just do whatever I want anymore. This could get dangerous. I meant dangerous in a good way (Is that a thing?) I've had one adventure after another this year and I like it!

In August, I ran a 180 mile relay race with 11 other people through the Teton Mountains. It's not the type of thing I ever imagined doing and while I don't think I'll ever do another relay, it changed my parameters when it comes to running and what I'm capable of. Prior to that race, I'd never run more than six miles at a time. Now I'm looking at saying "A half marathon through Zion National Park? Sure, let's do it!"

My husband running in the Grand Teton Relay

These new realizations of my capabilities (with my hair and my running) have led me to re-evaluate my Bucket List.

I've had a Bucket List for years. I started it after watching The Secret and becoming enamored with The Law of Attraction and gratitude. I figured if there were things I wanted to do, I should write them down so I could focus on them. Occasionally I'll encounter someone else who has a Bucket List, but I've never met anyone else who keeps a physical list with them. I write my list at the back of whichever notebook I'm currently using for writing, which goes with me everywhere. That means every couple of months I have to transcribe it into a new book. It helps me remember what's on there and why, and it prompts me to think about how I can make some of those things happen for me.

Playing roller derby was on my Bucket List. I made that happen. As I've discussed before, derby was a powerful force in my life that showed me I can literally do anything I want to. That was the first thing I ever crossed off my Bucket List and let me tell you, that's an awesome feeling! This January I crossed another item off my list-a visit to Mount Rushmore.

A few weeks ago, my husband told me he's going to make his own list. I responded first with raised eyebrows, because of course I have been trying to get him to do this for years, but I quickly threw in words of encouragement! He explained, however that he doesn't want to call it a Bucket List. First of all because it implies he's going to kick the bucket and he doesn't like to acknowledge his own mortality (okay...) but mostly because Adventure List feels like a more fitting title for him. I like that idea.

Of course, my hubby's attitude caused me to re-think the title of my own list. I do kinda internally cringe at the thought that what I'm saying is "Hey, here's a list of things I want to do before I die," even though I know that's exactly what it is. But then again, isn't that what all of life is, really? I don't know that I want to change the title of my list so much as re-purpose it to Bucket List as in I want to fill up my bucket of life, instead of kicking over an empty bucket when the time comes.

Me running in the Grand Teton Relay
It has taken me a lot of time, tears, therapy and trial and error to find this "dangerous" adventurous part of myself and welcome her. It's certainly not something that can be perfected. Some days are happier and easier than others. During that relay race, which went for 36 hours, I didn't get any sleep and I pushed my body past its limits. Near the end, my feelings were hurt by something a teammate said. I cried and said "I'm done." I let someone else run my last leg. I was done and I couldn't push myself any more. It was not my best moment. Some of the other people on the team asked my husband "Isn't she going to be disappointed? Won't she feel bad about herself for not running the last leg?" and knowing me as well as he does, he reassured them that I was going to be just fine.

Am I disappointed I didn't finish my final leg? Yes and no. I ran as hard and as fast as I could for my first two, one of which was at 4am. I'm proud of that. I was more reactive than I like to be by getting upset, but that was real. That was me as raw as I could be, in front of a bunch of strangers. It wasn't pretty, but it was me and I don't feel bad about that.

Running a relay wasn't on my Bucket List but I kinda want to put it on there just so I can cross it off! That was a huge accomplishment and a hell of a life experience!

Now whenever I think of something I want to do or have or a place I want to visit, I turn to my list. I want to own a tank of sea horses, drive a race car and have a beer with Dave Matthews. What do you want to do? Just put it on your list!