When the Healthiest Option is The Finger

I got into a scuffle with my sister a few weeks ago. She’s my sister so of course we were able to talk it out and I don’t think we’re any worse for the ware. But it got me thinking,  and if I’m being honest with myself, I think that we both could have saved a lot of soul-searching and ruminating and hurt feelings if she would have just told me to suck it.

In truth, it was a situation where I meant well and I felt that what I was sharing was meaningful and important and necessary. But at the same time, I think I also was trying too hard, I was frustrated and I unintentionally came across harsh and judgmental.

Some people don’t suffer from anxiety about everything they say and every encounter that they have. But my sister and I are both worriers and ruminators. Over-thinkers and those of us that suffer from anxiety and perfectionistic tendencies usually tend to assume that there is something wrong with ourselves and that everyone else is right. This could also just be a self-confidence or felt-safety issue. Whatever the case, because of this, my sister and I are also both disposed to constantly trying to exasperate all avenues when it comes to trying our hardest to find the most decent and healthiest response to every circumstance, giving everyone else the benefit of the doubt. In other words, we don’t want to be seen for the crazy people that we are, so we tend to work a lot harder socially and often put up with a lot more in certain situations than others would tolerate.

You don’t have to suffer from anxiety to relate to this. If you’re someone that was raised to try and always see from someone else’s perspective, or if you are someone with a  good heart that has worked hard to be healthy and have healthy relationships and want to be perceived as such, then you might know a little of what I’m talking about.

But a lightbulb went on when I was mulling this over on my run the other day (don’t be too impressed–I wasn’t running fast, ergo had some time to think), and it occurred to me that while it’s a good quality and goal to be a good listener, to be slow to anger, and to assume people always mean well, sometimes the healthiest response is to just tell someone to shove it. Or as my mother would say, “Tell them to go kick rocks!”

Now, I’m not saying to just pick a random hard conversation and just tell someone to piss off. Please know that I am fully advocating using your judgement here.  My point is some of us miss the fact that there are times where it’s fully warranted. People like my sister and I can have a hard time identifying these times because we so badly want to be the people that are seen as understanding and always having the healthiest and wisest and most mature response. So sometimes we can get into situations where our mind is playing twister just to figure out what that response might be. And the thought that I had the other day way, if you’re in a situation where that’s the case, and you feel like you are genuinely being misunderstood or unfairly judged, or being more harshly treated than you deserve, that might be a situation where the healthiest option really is to just give someone the proverbial finger–or the real finger, if that’s your style.

Even if your tendency is to just assume that you’re the crazy one, that doesn’t mean that you deserve to be unfairly spoken to or unfairly judged. We do ourselves a disservice when we don’t hold others accountable for the way they communicate with us because we miss an opportunity to stand up for ourselves and we do others a disservice because they miss an opportunity to be checked and to grow. If someone is straight in the wrong, save yourself the heartache and let them know.

Nobody is perfect. No one is always 100% right on the giving end and no one is always 100% wrong on the receiving end.

It’s noble to be good to those around you, but it’s vital to be good to yourself as well.

 

Giraffe, Africa, Animal, Tongue, Sticking Tongue Out

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Feeling Overwhelmed: How Do You Eat an Elephant?

Feeling overwhelmed…

Where to start? Where to begin? We’ve all been there. Staring into the eyes of a seemingly insurmountable feat. Maybe it’s applying to grad school, maybe it’s that immense beast of a project at work, maybe it’s the family laundry pile you’ve been ignoring in your basement because you just don’t even know where to jump in. Mountains, whatever their form, can be extremely overwhelming.

…what questions feed that feeling?

I wish I could say that by now I have mastered this monster, being overwhelmed, but the truth is I still get stuck more often than I would like to admit. One of my biggest challenges is that I still tend to see the mountain instead of the steps. In a dual-post last year, I wrote on how feeling overwhelmed can lead to some major procrastination. And it’s this question of not knowing where to start that’s the culprit of the stalemate. But if we really unpack this riddle of where to start for a moment, we will find that often this dilemma is anchored in other questions…is there a right place to start? How will I know?

Like I said, obviously this is not unfamiliar territory for me, I’ve written on similar dilemmas before–my very first blog post was about perfection paralysis, discussing how worrying whether you are doing something right can seriously stall you out. Feeling overwhelmed is such a motivation killer and can stop you in the muck if you let your mind run rampant with all the different avenues to pursue and continually questioning which one is right. This idea of endless avenues is pervasive. We find it in the dating world where there’s no shortage of dating sites to be on and apps to utilize. In the writing world there’s endless articles, Facebook groups, writer’s workshops, magazines to submit to and competitions to enter. I’ve experienced this most acutely in my recent job search. With so many avenues to pursue, it’s not any wonder that we end up with the questions, where do I start? Where do I end? And is it enough? In this light, being overwhelmed is really a crisis of definition, or rather, a lack of guidelines.

How do we overcome it?

When I get stuck in this cycle of more questions than answers, I again have to remind myself that when you don’t have any way of knowing if you’re doing enough or doing it right or where to start or when you’re finished, it’s best to just pick something and do what you can.

1 – Give yourself permission to narrow your focus or narrow your field. For me, this might look like choosing one or two favorite job boards and working on applications only through those channels. I know this sounds sacrilegious but in this day of endless job board channels with thousands of jobs posted on each, there’s no way to thoroughly search all of them and keep up with all of the opportunities that they produce; better to make a focused effort on a few channels than to allow all of it to overwhelm you at once.

2 – Setting your own finite goals about what you want to accomplish is key in combating this. Create your own definition, your own guideposts. This might look like setting a time frame to get done as much as possible in a set block of time, whether it’s an hour or four hours. Or perhaps giving yourself a unit goal would be helpful, like committing to complete three applications a day.  Committing to the approach, the habit, or the goal will go a long way in helping to make the endeavor manageable.

3 – Get comfortable in accepting the fact that there will always be multiple ways to proceed or more you ‘could’ do. As an idealist, I have an incredibly hard time with this concept. I like things to have a right way, to be defined, finite and neat. The truth is, only you can decide what’s “enough.” Make sure you are determining what you can handle. Break it down. Make it bite-sized. We know by now that so many things that overwhelm us don’t actually have right or wrong answers. The only wrong answer is not taking any action, not participating at all. Like Nike says, just do it!

Fleeting Thoughts Friday 9.23.16 – Rock, Paper, Scissors, Gratitude.

I recently had a very revealing conversation while driving home with a good friend. We will both be 30 years old next year, and for whatever reason, this number seems to drive us crazy. It’s a time in which many people (especially women) are taking stock and thinking about all those boxes that they have or haven’t checked yet—as though we were given a 100-foot-long checklist when we were born of exactly what we’re supposed to accomplish by the end. And unfortunately, the two measuring instruments that we most often tend to utilize are what we feel we are supposed to have accomplished already and what our friends have managed to do by this point.

And honestly, who can blame us for falling into this trap? From a young age, almost our whole world is set up to compare our performance to everyone and everything around us. If I’m being honest, I’m not sure if there has ever been a season when I haven’t been concerned with where I am compared to the rest of my peers. High school classes, test scores, college acceptance, graduation rankings, job offers, relationship status…the list just goes on and on.

In a western world acculturated by the next newest technology, hottest vehicle, highest job title, biggest house, most successful spouse, and most angelic children, it’s difficult to escape this comparison game. I call this kind of thinking a trap because it truly is pointless. Not only does it breed terrible feelings of inadequacy, but also it engages us to play in a rigged arena, living life as though we’re in some ultimate game of Rock, Paper, Scissors trying to outdo the people next to us. If we were all given the same opportunities in life, starting from the same place with the same package, then maybe it would be fine for us to look around and judge our status based on where everyone else is, if we were all clones. But we don’t live in that world! We are born with different parents, in different households with different income levels and different talents, temperaments and attitudes in each and every one of us. So comparing ourselves to one another is about as sensible as comparing a ferret to a fish.

We spend a whole lot of time thinking that we could have more, that we should have more, and when we get it, we wonder why we don’t feel any happier, any more content. But what if we spent more time on the opposite? What if we trained ourselves to recognize that we could just as easily have a lot less? That we could be much worse off? Honestly, at any given point in time while we are thinking about how we wish we could find that perfect job/spouse/house/child, someone else is wishing they had your package.

By the culmination of our conversation, my friend and I had determined that gratitude really is the beginning of contentment. Moreover, it is the antidote to comparison, envy and inadequacy.

Gratitude breeds contentment, contentment breeds happiness, and happiness breeds health and wholeheartedness. This is important to know because, as we discussed above, it works the other way too. Comparison leads to envy and discontentment, which leads to a constant feeling of lacking, which breeds a feeling of inadequacy and overall ugliness.

But I’ve been learning that discontentment, comparison and envy are not the only things that can be squelched by practicing gratitude. The more I process this application of gratitude the more apparent it becomes that gratitude covers a multitude of garbage.

I struggle with anxiety; it’s just a part of my truth. My anxiety is pervasive. There’s not an area of my life that it doesn’t touch. My anxiety makes me a careful, cautious and concerned person, but it can also make me into a negative person if not checked. All that worry produces a mindset of constantly coming up short, feeling like I’m not enough or we don’t have enough to deal with a specific circumstance, causing me to focus on worse-case scenarios a majority of the time. But I’ve noticed a significant advantage to refocusing my mindset on what I do have that’s going right in any given situation, and not to sound all Pollyanna, but this practice has definitely helped to calm my mind and make me into a more positive person.

I’m not saying that anxiety can be simply done away with completely by thinking happy thoughts – mental health is a real struggle and should be approached like any other illness – with serious professional attention. I am saying that practicing cognitive awareness and positive reframing can be one of the tools in our arsenal to help combat the storm of worry and negativity.

We need to stop thinking of life as a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors and more like a game of Solitaire. We’re not all in a game together playing to one-up each other, we’re all playing different games at the same time, and the only people we should be competing against are ourselves. The only time we should be looking in on someone else’s game is to support each other in the process. Are we doing the best we can with what we’ve been given? Are we giving our all to make the best decisions about what’s right for our own lives? Are we acting with integrity, humility, generosity and thankfulness? To paraphrase a gem of wisdom that was recently shared with me, the only time we should be evaluating what our neighbor has is to make sure they have enough, and the only time we should be evaluating what we have is to give thanks.

I know that I’m not presenting any new wisdom with this post. My only aim is sharing what I’m going through presently. This week I made a new attempt at focusing my mind on gratitude above all else, and I came up with a saying; it’s silly, and it’s simple, but it’s been working for me:

Don’t complain and don’t compare
Just be thankful for what’ s there

Don’t judge or envy how others are livin’
Just be grateful for what you’re given.

I have to apologize – this thought was more full-fledged than fleeting. Sorry, it is what it is. Nonetheless, I hope you found it useful. Happy Friday!

Procrastination Station: Part II – The Law of Intertia, the Lie of Multitasking, and the Truth of Discipline

So in the last post, Procrastination Station: Part I – Priorities, Productivity, and Eating Crow, we talked about some of the effects of procrastination and lack of productivity. And we were left with a question: how can we get the train from Procrastination Station to ProductivityVille?

Answer: We have to buy a ticket on the Determination Express and ride the line of Hard Discipline. Okay, admittedly, I got caught up in the train lingo, what can I say? I enjoy a pithy metaphor. And no, the irony does not escape me that, not surprisingly, it has taken me more than a week to write this conclusion. Nevertheless, in this post, I have set out to nail down some specifics that I am learning about combating procrastination as it is a continual struggle for me on this journey of writing SurpriseYou’reAdopted.com

  1. Realize What’s Fueling Your Procrastination. On the surface, it’s easy to attribute procrastination to just laziness. And I am willing to concede that sometimes, the chores that we have to do or responsibilities that we have to take care of are just not as fun  or as easy as ignoring those things and vegging out all day. I think we can all agree that Netflix is more appealing than writing your term paper, or finishing that PowerPoint deck for work on Monday. But more often than not, there’s usually another layer of something holding us back.
  • Is your procrastination coming out of fear? If I’m being honest, for me it always comes back to some kind of perfection paralysis fear. My post is not going to be perfect, my approach is never going to be just right; I could always be doing more, it’s never going to be enough, why even bother trying at all?
  • Is your procrastination coming out of being overwhelmed? I know that a large part of mine is. Right this very moment I could list any one of ten different people that are doing leaps and bounds more than me with this writing thing. Often, we can get caught up in not knowing where to start. I might have writers block, or even a mess of ideas that I have no clue how to organize that feels insurmountable.
  • Is your procrastination coming from a disillusionment that you have more time than you think you do? This one gets me all the time. I will never be early for anything I do in life because my brain always assumes that I have more time than I think. But again, this is a part of growing up: realizing your real parameters, preparing for the inevitable roadblocks, leaving yourself extra time to accept the unexpected.
  1. Acknowledge the Source and Move On…the Key word here being MOVE. I wish that I could sit here and tell you that there is a magic remedy to these roots. There’s not. We’re all scared of failing something. Guess what? We need to start anyway. You may not end up with a perfect PowerPoint deck for work, but I can guarantee you that in most circumstances, your boss will notice if you don’t get it done at all. You may be putting off that term paper (or blog post) because you’re scared of bombing it and failing that class (or writing useless crap that gets you nowhere), but you will definitely fail if you turn in nothing at all.

On this topic I am throwing down the gauntlet to declare that good things don’t come to those who wait, they come to those that will themselves to start. And as far as the disillusionment of having time on your side, I’m here to tell you that Murphy’s Law is real and it is the rule, not the exception. So we need to start training ourselves to hit the GO button. I say ‘training’ because it’s like a muscle, it takes practice, dedication, and consistency. Doing something is better than doing nothing. And true, you may not get exactly where you wanted to get, but on the other hand, you will never get anywhere at all if you don’t start, and then you will never know what could have been. I may not know exactly how to get through that post, that work project or that paper; but I know how to turn off the TV, I know how to start the computer, I know how to create a fresh document. So break it down into smaller steps that you can do, find the little wins along the way, and eventually it will all add up to the big W.

Additionally, when we put off our responsibilities, we ultimately rob ourselves of the prime circumstances to produce our best work. Now I’ll be the first person to admit, I need a deadline, I need the pressure of a time limit, that helps me…at least I think it does. Truth: I have always been a terrible procrastinator, so I tell myself that I work well under pressure because I’ve never given myself another option. What could I do with an extra day to edit? Would I be a less neurotic person with lower blood pressure and a better product? I’ll tell you what, I’m working on finding out.

  1. Realize that the Law of Inertia is Real. For those of you that zoned out during eleventh grade physics, the law of inertia states something like “a thing in motion stays in motion and a thing at rest stays at rest unless acted upon by an outside force.” And for those of you that actually paid attention and did well in physics and then went on to do something fabulous with your lives like actually studying science and are sitting there thinking that I have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m willing to concede that, but gimme a break, alright? I’m doing the best I can, I’m obviously a writer for a reason.

Where was I? Oh yeah…inertia. In Part I of this set, I talked about not having written my blog for a good six weeks. And reality is, halfway through that, I hadn’t written in so long, that I lost my momentum, and it only further added to my dilemma. Now I had to share why I wasn’t writing, write something remarkable to come back, figure out how to not get off track again, honestly the whole thing just feels massive. The point is, starting up from a state of rest is tough, and often a much bigger challenge. So do yourself a favor and don’t waste your momentum, do everything you can to keep it going.

  1. Realize that Multitasking is a LIE. I know that there are a million books and articles out there about multitasking, and that it’s a great “skill” that we all like to put on our resumes. But honestly, I think that in this age of phones that can play music, computers that can surf the net and live chat, and Pert Plus 2 in 1 conditioner, we have bought into a rouse that multitasking is a skill that we can not only accomplish, but are expected to master.

Maybe our technology, and possibly even our shampoo can multitask, but we humans certainly can’t. What we call multitasking is really just interrupting ourselves from accomplishing any one thing at a time in a timely manner. Several organizational studies today show that multitasking is the antonym of focus and the nemesis of productivity. I NEED to learn how to focus again. Even just in the time-span of writing this post, I have checked my phone twice, gotten up to add sugar to my coffee, started three other posts, and contemplated going on Pinterest to research my Thailand trip (Reality Check: I have procrastinated finishing this two-part post so much that I am now sitting in Hong Kong International Airport three hours away from landing in Bangkok). Not to mention the fact that I don’t ever write in straight sequence, when I write, I spill all of my ideas in random order and flesh them out in random order as well…sorry if that’s apparent. If you’re like me, getting distracted by everything that you have to do and then trying to do it all at once, we need a new plan. So by all means, make a list of everything that you have to do, and tackle them, but take them on one at a time. Practice finishing each one and then moving on to the next. It will be hard at first, but you will be more productive. Getting four things done on a list of ten is better than tackling all ten and getting none of them finished at all.

  1. Remember What the Real Goal Is. We have to figure out how to do the hard job of reminding ourselves that we want the overall result more than we want to spend the day watching Netflix. We have to learn to remember that sometimes the destination IS worth more, knowing that our end goal is worth more than the reward of instant gratification. We have to remind ourselves that we chose the thing that we are putting off because we actually DO want it. We chose to get that degree, to go for that promotion, to run that race, to lose that weight, to write that blog.

Plato once wrote, “The first and best victory is to conquer self.” There’s also a saying somewhere by somebody that goes something like, She that knows discipline knows freedom.” This is the Truth of Discipline. Discipline is the key to freedom, the key to unlocking the person you have inside. Discipline is the key to our potential. Discipline is choosing your goal over instant gratification time and time again. This means committing to the right road rather than the right now, to accomplish something that means a great deal more to you. And after a while, you realize that choosing your goal is choosing yourself. Safe Travels!

“There are no short cuts to any place worth going.”
— Beverly Sills

“Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.” — Lao Tzu

“We are what we repeatedly do, excellence then is not an act, but a habit.” — Aristotle

Procrastination Station: Part I – Priortities, Productivity, and Eating Crow

For those of you that have been following my blog, you may have noticed that I haven’t posted anything in about 6 weeks or so. I can’t really explain why, I haven’t exactly unpacked that thoroughly yet; but I can tell you that starting up again has been a quintessential Achilles heel and my own personal form of torture.

It’s easy for writers to have ideas, it’s difficult to actually make them into real words that flow together in a succinct piece. Honestly, I truly believe that the hardest thing for writers to do is write. See, an idea is perfect before we ever mess it up by trying to flesh it out with words – words that might not be as right or as perfect as our ideas seem to be. As soon as you start to put words to an idea, you are committing to a direction, narrowing down how it comes out, making choices with every key stroke, hoping that they are the right ones. Speaking of making choices, this brings us full circle back around to my very first post on perfection paralysis, and a very specific tool of paralysis that I would like to explore: procrastination.

oreos & pizza shirt

Procrastination is the opposite of productivity. Or more to the point, procrastination is a lack of productivity towards what matters. I specify “what matters” because I think it’s important to highlight the fact that one can be very productive, without actually working at all towards the goals that we have laid out for ourselves. Do you know how many times I have cleaned the house and done the laundry just to get out of opening my laptop to write?

Everyone has struggled with procrastination at one point or another and has suffered the effects of this self-made toxic swamp. Our train pulls into Procrastination Station, which seems to be this really awesome and attractive party town, and before we know it, we’ve been roofied by Netflix, robbed of all our time and energy, and left with no fuel to get out. As if this isn’t bad enough, the effects of procrastination usually turn us into the worst version of ourselves.

I would like to take a moment here and point out that I believe that the effect of procrastination on us is directly related to our level of maturity. I will elaborate: we didn’t care about procrastination as kids because back then we believed that our time was limitless – ergo, priorities are not something that are understood until later on in life.

imgres

You remember when you were a teenager and you had absolutely no issues whatsoever spending an entire day in your pj’s marathoning America’s Next Top Model? Those days were great. We ate whatever we wanted and couldn’t for the life of us understand why on earth our parents – who, in the all-wonderful privilege of adulthood, had no one telling them what to do – insisted on getting up and, ya know, doing things. Why would anyone choose to run errands, garden, or clean the garage when you had the option of staying in bed?

What ever happened to those carefree days?

You grew up, that’s what happened. Congratulations, you’re an adult. When we are young, we see time as this infinite, slowly moving thing that’s only there to torture us with how slow summer vacation can come. But somewhere between our last precious summers as adolescents and the first time we realized that we actually need to schedule hang out time with our family members and friends weeks ahead in our calendars, we grew up. See, maturity comes with recognition of our own mortality, and thus, knowing that you have a limited amount of time to do the things you want to do. Growing up means that you realize that even if you live to be a hundred years old, you can’t do it all.

I-Dont-Want-To-Grow-Up

There are so many things that I would love to be, careers that I would love to have. If it were up to me, I would be the wandering artist and the tenured professor; I would be the at-home mom that’s there for everything and the kick-ass business woman who works 29 hours a day and still has time to go to the gym; I would live a lifetime as a city mouse and a lifetime as a country bumpkin. But alas, having a limited amount of time on earth inherently comes with the inevitable truth that we have to make choices. Choices means prioritizing. Often times we get confused and caught up by our multiple desires, and we think we must be crazy because we do want it all, and everyone else that’s content must know something that we don’t or they must have less that they want out of life. The truth is, having priorities doesn’t mean that we don’t want multiple things, the very definition of picking priorities means doing the adult task of deciding what we want most.

But back to the main question: Why does a lack of productivity have such a negative effect on us as humans? The truth is, when we are not productive, it holds up a mirror to our own mortality; it reminds us that our time is limited, and thus lowers our self-esteem by instilling in ourselves a disappointment for not having utilized our time to the fullest. So what do we do? We metaphorically kick the dog, or realistically, yell at our spouses.

Procrastination doesn’t just have a negative effect on our overall goals, it affects the people we love. I picked a fight with my husband yesterday simply because I had wasted my entire day watching Sex and the City reruns. Was laying in bed all day in my pajamas listening to Sarah Jessica Parker wax poetic on her glamorous yet imperfect love life in Manhattan glorious? YES. Did it help me get any closer to my writing goals? Any closer to publishing a post? No. Did I feel like a miserable blob when I rolled over and realized that the sun had gone down and the entire day was practically gone and I had accomplished nothing. Yes. Obviously I did the healthiest thing I could think of and I blamed my husband…if he had not been busy watching football we could have gone to the store much earlier together.

TAKE NOTE MEN: We watch smutty TV all day because you watch Football!!! It’s YOUR fault I haven’t showered, or gotten dressed or done my weekend laundry!!!

Am I right ladies?! I mean how dare he sit on his own couch in his own house watching football on the one day he has off after working an 80-hour week?!!

That’s right, I completely decided to ignore the fact that his own activities had no bearing on the truth that I was a total waste of space and oxygen and human existence yesterday.

Real love and real friendship is someone telling you the truth. Sometimes we can love and hate people for the same thing. Yesterday, my husband saw right through my smoke and mirrors and called me out on the fact that I wasn’t really angry at him, I was angry at myself. Sometimes I hate that he’s as smart as I am. On top of that, I was even angrier at myself because I couldn’t even argue that I was taking in new story material…I was watching reruns! Writing this all out makes me realize that I probably still owe him big for my ridiculousness yesterday. However, that’s relationships and forgiveness.

My new friend Parita, owner of the blog myinnershakti.com, and someone I look up to, recently wrote a piece about making the best of your time here. In her article, she challenges her readers to ask yourself: is what you are doing with your time right now really how you want to be spending your day? We can apply this question here and ask, when your head hits the pillow that night, will you be happy with what you accomplished?

Recapping: maturity is what helps us to understand the need for, and identify, priorities, but procrastination breeds self-loathing for lack of working towards those priorities; this in turn, turns us into useless, dog-kicking, swamp monsters.

The question is, how can we get the train to move on from swampy Procrastination Station to ProductivityVille? Since we’ve discussed the reality and effects of procrastination, in the following post I will unpack some specifics on what I am learning about fighting procrastination and share a few key truths that will help fuel the train out of town. Stay tuned!

Little Orphan Everybody

I used to think that my life was uniquely ridiculous and messed up; that I had certain dysfunctions because my childhood was so, well dysfunctional, being a ward of the state and all. Now all that is partly true, but I also spent a good amount of time thinking that most of the world out there had totally normal families with no issues.

Having walked (sometimes crawled) the earth now for 28 years, I’m calling bullshit.

You get a few drinks in with somebody and they will divulge everything to you. And I have to tell you, I finally feel normal.

I used to think it was just me that had crazy family members that would marry the same guy three times over, family members that are alcoholics, addicts, abuse victims, survivors of suicide, recovering from eating disorders, or comprised of confusingly appendaged nuclear units.

Not the Norm

Guess what? Turns out, everybody is like that. This is gonna sound wrong, but I’ve never been so happy not to be special in my entire life. #sorrynotsorry

I also spent a good amount of time in my adolescence thinking that there were a lot of right ways and wrong ways. This was partly due to the my perfectionism born out of the bottom falling out of my home life at a young age, and also partly due to what I understood from the church: that there was a right order to life and if you didn’t follow it, you will be judged, and your life would be irreversibly screwed.

down by the river

I would also like to take this moment to call bullshit on that. I now know people who had kids before they were married, who didn’t go to college right away, who got divorced and remarried, who got fired, who started new careers, who drank in high school, who got by with C’s…guess what? For the most part, THEY’RE ALL FINE! So imagine my shock when they didn’t disintegrate or burst into flames years down the road…WTF?!

Not to be a downer, but the long and short of it is being ‘good’ and doing ‘right’ doesn’t always guarantee you a good life.

the sun will come out

At least, not one in the sense that I thought. No matter how perfect you try to be, how many ‘right’ choices you make, shit happens. You lose people. You fail, people let you down, you lose jobs, you get dumped, some dreams don’t work out. There are no guarantees. Just surprises. And that’s okay, because it turns out at least we’re not in it alone.

I would also like to take this opportunity to say that my favorite people are those that will share their crazy, the ones that aren’t afraid to tell the truth. The ones that aren’t scared to divulge that one of their parents had an affair, that they got fired for failing the drug test, that their brother had a love child at 17, that their uncle is technically married to their cousin, or their cousin is technically their brother, or that their family tree looks more like a bush…

family tree

If you haven’t reached that point yet, you’re not fooling anybody. Just let it out. Come to the other side, where we all know that the Island of Misfit Toys is actually just a planet called Earth.

On the other hand, if you have no idea what I’m talking about, stay where you’re at. You’ll ruin the vibe.

Whatever. I’m totally normal.

Unique snowflake

High School 2.0

I wasn’t going to do a post on this because it seemed personal and more inconsequential to the outside world than my previous posts. None of this information is revolutionary. Also, it makes me feel like a huge dork and waaaaay too vulnerable…which is exactly why I decided that I needed to share it anyway.

I recently went to my 10-year high school reunion…

I waited until the absolute last minute to decide to go to that reunion. Thinking about walking into that reunion felt a lot like walking into high school freshman year. All of a sudden my palms started sweating, my throat went dry and everything that I was wearing felt wrong and my hair forgot how to be normal…I had all but resigned myself to not going, especially since I had thrown a big retirement party for my mother that afternoon.  Anyone that knows me knows I am a curl up on the couch under the blankets, binge-reading and watching Netflix kind of decompressor, not one to rally and go out after having spent the last 24 hours surrounded by people…say it with me: Introvert.

I moved to California to go to college and then back to Chicago after that, and truth be told, I don’t hang out with anyone that went to my high school from my graduating class. So who was I possibly going to talk to? And for those of you that weren’t there, let me just give you a glimpse into the nerd-dom that was my high-school career:

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I didn’t go to a grade school in my community that fed right into my high school. I knew a grand total of two people going into high school. I didn’t have an established group of friends at school, so I ended up getting along with a little bit of everybody. I got good enough grades. After giving the swim team the old high school try my freshman year, and realizing that it wasn’t a good fit with asthma and needing knee surgery in the middle of the sophomore season, I ended up in the theatre (mostly because I was terrified of saying no to the directors) I did contest plays and group interpretations, and then devoted my every waking minute to the Speech team when I wasn’t working on the newspaper staff. I eventually became president of the Drama Club and the Editor-in-Chief of the Newspaper…so obviously I was the most popular kid in school…Oh, no wait, my life isn’t an episode of ‘Popular’…yeah now I remember, I was a huge dork.

So there I was, feeling great about my excuses for NOT making it to my reunion. But then I stepped back and realized that that was exactly all they were, excuses. At the same time, it occurred to me that I have been at this juncture before.

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I know that this is really cheesy, but I didn’t go to my prom. I had some interesting experiences in place of it, but looking back, I kinda wish I had. I always thought that I would go to my own prom growing up, then the time came and went and I just didn’t. Standing there deliberating over whether or not to go to this reunion, I realized that I had the exact same thought process. I always thought that I would go to my reunion, (who am I kidding?! I totally daydreamed about being a rich writer/actor/oscar-winner/director/philanthropist at my reunion, arriving in a helicopter prepared to lift everyone to my Chicago-based penthouse where the real party would commence – don’t ask me how I was going to fit everyone in one helicopter, planning was clearly not part of the daydream…And don’t act like you didn’t have similar day dreams of crazy success, I know I’m not the only delusional one…).

This specific pattern was one that led me to some regret in the past. Now there are a lot of bigger things to regret for sure, but the point is, I didn’t want a repeat of that. I didn’t want to miss out on another opportunity that only comes by once. For better or for worse, you only get one real ten year reunion, with all its awkwardness and anxiety.

I was sure that the reunion would suck, (not in any way due to the planning, our class president did a great job). But I also realized that I didn’t want to spend the next ten years wondering if that reunion sucked, I would rather just have that experience, sucky or not, and know. Admittedly, the decision to go didn’t quell the rising nerves, crazy hair or wardrobe crisis that I was facing. I was on the verge of a full-blown panic attack…

Then I remembered that I am a GROWN WOMAN. I’m self-sufficient, and accomplished and I have spent the last ten years learning how to be me. In the famous words of that wise sage, Drew Barrymore:  “I’m not Josie-Grossie Anymore!”

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I think we all kinda feel like Josie Grossie…I’m pretty sure that we all spent high school trying to be relevant, just trying to be seen, just trying to matter. Thank God that we can all now just spend our time with the people that we love, just trying to survive, pay our bills and enjoy life. Nobody else has to live your life, so what does it matter what anyone else thinks of you anyway? I know how to feel comfortable in my own body and my own clothes and I am comfortable with who I am. I am capable of holding great conversations with people. I have 2 degrees in pretty social industries.

While my daydreams of stardom clearly didn’t happen yet (sorry guys, maybe in ten years) there are a few things that I did learn:

NUMBER 1: Alcohol at a reunion is a great idea. Too much alcohol is not, but for the most part, it’s awesome to have something to lubricate an awkward situation to help everyone be a little more brave and take a chance on talking to someone that they know but might otherwise pretend not to out on the street during your lunch break in the middle of the work day.

NUMBER 2: NO ONE is better than anyone else, and NO ONE is cool in high school.

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At your reunion, the beautiful and popular people will still be beautiful and sociable and close. But you come to see everyone in a new light. With luck, everyone has grown up and realizes that inevitable truth: that we are all nerds just trying to go through life without looking stupid. Everyone was just as uncomfortable and nervous as everyone else. I think everyone feels just as nerdy, just as out of place, just as desperate to be accepted, just as awkward around their past secret crush that they never worked up the courage to talk to in the past…So I decided to dive in, and go big or go home. I spoke with people that used to intimidate me. I spoke with guys that were outright mean to me in school. I even connected with some great mentors again. And I had a really great time.

NUMBER 3: At the end of the day, having friends always counts for much more than how you come across them.

I used to worry about fitting in with the right people at the right times, not to the point where I forced friendships, but I was always a little jealous of the girls at school who just seemed to belong to a specific group. They knew where they fit. Some people say the friends you make in high school will be for life, some people say it’s college, some people say it’s grade-school or on your first job. The truth is, the more people I meet, the more obvious it becomes that you can meet great people that will enrich your life at any point, from anywhere.

Each group is pretty much equal. It doesn’t matter what circle you are in as much as it matters that you find a circle eventually. Size doesn’t matter as much as quality. If you have a few good friends that you can trust implicitly, that will be there through anything, that will tell you the truth when you need it, that will love you no matter what, that understand and share your sense of humor, you are a rich person.

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The Wonderful Thing About Triggers; A Trigger’s A Wonderful Thing

I absolutely hate going to restaurants that have an endless amount of food options to choose from because, without fail, I cannot decide until I have read every single one, analyzed, categorized, weeded-out, regrouped, narrowed-down, weighed, and zeroed-in. Of course, inevitably I have no doubt chosen the wrong thing because how could anyone determine what the right option is on a menu as extensive as the Torah. Thanks CheeseCake Factory…I’ll just have the Alfredo.

I have battled perfection paralysis all my life. As an adult, it’s gotten worse. The simplest decisions can seem insurmountable. Second-guessing becomes second nature and the task of finding that one right answer to every question in a sea of inevitably irreversible wrong choices fast becomes a recipe for spiked cortisol levels and multiple panic attacks. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with being cautious. I take pride in the fact that I am a cautious person. Caution is prudent, but perfection is crippling. Sure, not making the wrong choice feels good, but making no choices at all, taking no chances, doing nothing, gives you no results at all. And I, for one, don’t want to be standing in the same place ten years from now, or even next year for that matter.

So this year, with this blog, I am taking some steps to face down this monster because I am tired of being stuck in place. Knowing that I am not the only perfectionist out there, and knowing that when writing, you should write from what you know, I have decided to share some steps that I have uncovered as nuggets of wisdom to combat this beast.

1) Find the flaws in your thinking. I remember when I was a teenager, my mom allowed me to repaint my room. It took me forever to decide which color to go with. I went back and forth for weeks about what to do. I remember feeling like if I just wait long enough, if I just look at all the options, then I will find the exact right color, the one that is meant to be on my walls surrounding me for all the years to come.

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There are notably some innate flaws in this line of thinking. There might be a few things less consequential than what color you paint your bedroom walls as a teenager, but I was sure that there was a right answer, and it plagued me. Obviously I was approaching this situation as though I was never going to get the opportunity to paint a room ever again in my lifetime. I had one chance to get it right! This thinking resulted in my bedroom walls being painted no less than 5 different colors, and I don’t mean in a row, I mean all at once (yes, I painted my ceiling too–orange.) God bless my mother. I feel it important to share here that my walls were still painted like this when my husband proposed…he knew what he was getting into.

2) Know there is no such thing as “right.” Perfection tells us that there is one right answer. This is scary because this thinking shows us that the odds of making the right choice are automatically, ghastly stacked against us from the start. But the truth is, in 95% of life’s choices, there is no right answer. Also, if there is no right answer, logic tells us that there is no wrong one either. And guess what? That extra 5% of situations where there are right answers, they don’t have endless options, there’s usually two.

“Okay, so there might not be a “right” answer, but what about a best answer?” If there are a million right ways to do something, there will always be changes, even if they are improvements, that you can do to your project. This is why we perfectionists need to learn to accept good enough to move out of the village of Perfection and into the town of Pretty Good. And let’s face it, as perfectionists, our choices and our work usually actually ends up being Pretty Damn Good.

3) Stop worrying about tomorrow’s consequences of the wrong choice, and start considering what you are missing today. I’ve been trying to write a book about my life, how I grew up and my experiences as an adolescent since I was 16. My fear is that I will not get it right of course. Whatever I write today, there’s a good chance that I will feel differently about it five years from now. The novel, the play, the blog post that I write today would be completely different if a younger or older me wrote it. This is a reality that I will have to accept to move forward. On the other hand, the longer I wait to dive in and write what’s on my mind, the more opportunities I miss to capture the present. I’m pretty sure that I cannot put myself back in my 16-year-old mindset. I can try to think back, I can draw on my experiences through the haze of my memories, but it will never be as fresh, or as raw, or as authentic. That’s why experiences, and the present and producing what you can, doing what you can right now matters so much. Tomorrow you will be a different person, with different experiences, and perhaps different perspectives. Capture what you can now. I don’t think that there is any going back.

4) Now is the best time. You’ve heard it everywhere. Carpe Diem. There’s no time like the present. And I am learning to admit that a published and produced play today is better than dreaming of the perfect play that I could produce tomorrow if I just let it marinate a little more. I can’t call myself a writer if I don’t ever finish any pieces. You can’t be a blogger if you don’t ever post and haven’t got a platform. You can’t be an actor if you never go to the audition to get cast.  I am working hard to remind myself that my good ideas produced and in action today are better than my perfect ideas of tomorrow not yet taken shape. Perfectionism can be overcome when you realize that reality is better than possibility. You are what you do and what you produce, not what you think about doing or think about producing.

I’ve been terrified to work on this musical that I’ve been developing for almost 2 years with a very talented musical theatre friend of mine. Setting aside that I am a major nerd for a moment, I’ve gotten almost nothing accomplished on this project as of late, and it’s all my fault. I have gotten so caught up in being afraid that I will mess up the story and fail miserably that I haven’t done anything. What if what’s in my head is better than what comes out on paper and I ruin this wonderful premise? Again, the thought process here is that if I don’t work on it, then I won’t mess up the story. I secretly hope that one day the heavens will open and bestow upon me the perfect plot, characters and content, if I just wait until tomorrow, epiphanies will abound. All of this is driven by the flawed belief that the musical that I will write tomorrow us better than the one that I can write right now. Again, this is “flawed” because the reality is that tomorrow never comes. Literally, by its very definition, tomorrow will never come.

The real step here is that I need to stop being afraid of producing crap. I need to accept what comes out. Will every line of everything I create be gold? NO. But since when is that a criteria for eventually producing great work? John Patrick Shanley’s work won multiple Oscars when he created “Moonstruck” and “Doubt.” However, “Joe Versus the Volcano” was a dismal failure when it came out. So maybe I can avoid writing crap if I never get around to writing anything, but that also automatically guarantees that I’ll never write anything good either. You can always edit, or scrap something and start over; but you can’t improve upon something that doesn’t exist. You either take the path or you don’t. You either turn the knob and see what’s behind door number one or you don’t. Theorizing about grad school doesn’t get you that Ph.D. And the clock is ticking either way. What are you going to have to show for it? Action begets answers, whether or not they are the answers that you were hoping for, at least now you know and you have more information to work with. Theory begets more theory, nothing concrete to work with or build upon. Be smart. Make educated decisions, but make them.

5) Stop worst-casing; Start expecting awesome. I think it’s pretty obvious from the examples that I have shared above that there is an innate tendency for those suffering from perfectionism to worst-case and what-if every situation to its ultimate negative conclusion. Worst-case thinking only feeds the perfection beast, it is the food that giant feeds on. This is a habit that must be broken to triumph over perfectionism. You must work against your ingrained tendencies to jump to the worst conclusions. It is a muscle that must be worked out daily. Do things we fear happen sometimes? Yes. They will. But not all the time; probably very rarely in fact. Feed your self-esteem beast instead. This one is a better pet to keep and deserves your love and attention, and will help you to cope with whatever results come out of taking action.

6) Many things can be righted if you choose wrong. Okay, so there might be some rare things that you cannot undo or redo. But for the most part, life can be fixed. It might not always be easy to do, but usually you can make it happen. Especially in a America, this is the land of 50 second chances (at least that what I keep telling myself).

A good solution today is better than a perfect solution tomorrow. Quick and dirty wins the race. 80% is DONE. Good enough is Good enough. Perfection is the enemy of the done. They’re all true. Pick your favorite and run with it.

Am I saying that you should always go with your first draft? Your first inclination? Your first gut choice? I don’t know…maybe. Maybe edit and go with the second. But if you are a perfectionist, plagued by the paralysis of the perfect choice, then definitely don’t wait and go with the 15th re-write.

This, my first blog post, is by far not what I thought it would be. My blog aesthetics are not what I thought they would be or probably even what I will stick with. I had no intention of making this post my very first. I think that the title is probably all wrong and I am worried about whether or not having a better title and a better first post will have more of an impact and what if I have completely blown it with this first post, turned away readers and missed the boat completely???!!! But this is the post that came out today. It’s the post that is most developed right now. It’s in the right format right now. And I’m not getting any younger. So I pulled the trigger…Let the wild rumpus start!

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