Wednesday, September 27, 2017

I'm Not Your Type

Recently, I went to a restorative yoga class. I've wanted to go for a long time but never did because a) they cost money and at-home yoga is free and b) Sitting still is hard for me. I meditate for about 20 minutes; then, I'm done. I can hold a pose for about 5 breaths; then, I have to move. It's outside my comfort zone. But, I'm always preaching at myself to step outside my comfort zone, so I went. It was amazing, and I'm so glad I went, but this isn't about stepping outside your comfort zone.

Actually, this is about knowing that sometimes, it's okay to stay in it.

What? Hell, you say. Life BEGINS at the end of your comfort zone! Nothing great ever happened in a comfort zone! The magic happens when you step OUT of your comfort zone. I know. I've read the quotes. I believe them too. Sometimes.

On the other hand, I am very comfortable with a lot of things about myself: I don't run, spin, funnel beer, bungee jump, knit, do crossfit, drive go-carts, ski ... off the top of my head. I've tried some of those things and don't enjoy them. Others, I know without trying, will hold no joy for me. No thank you, I don't wanna. No amount of peer pressuring or encouraging or shaming will sway my resolve. I know myself. Please, by all means, run, spin, funnel beer, bungee jump, knit, do crossfit, drive go-carts, and ski until your hearts are content. Enjoy! I am thrilled not to be joining you.

This has come up many times for me, but most recently as I've been reading several books about personality types. I've written about this before because it fascinates me. My husband and kids have all been "typed," and I often encourage people I know to take the tests as well so I can know them better via their types.

As I was listening to Anne Bogel*'s new book Reading People, a point she made really resonated with me. For personality assessments to work, people need to answer honestly. Seems like a no-brainer. However, when some people take these tests, their answers reflect who they aspire to be rather than who they actually are. Makes sense, right? If you answer questions with the reaction you'd hope to have rather than the reaction you'd actually have, your result will indicate who you want to be instead of who you actually are.

Circling back to comfort zones and stepping out of and staying in them, sometimes, I'm too quick to try to stretch outside my comfort zone. I'm an INFJ and a highly sensitive person, so if I put myself in a position of having too much interaction or stimulation, I will be M I S E R A B L E. People rely on me and need me not to be miserable. One of those people, my Lily bear, is also highly sensitive person but a capital E extrovert. I'm sensitive to noises; she's sensitive to lines in her socks. I need quiet, she crawls out of her skin without noise. I prefer relaxing in the same room together reading separate books and not talking; she prefers watching and discussing reality tv while eating skittles and playing on our phones.

It's conflict in the making, but we manage to work it out. It can't always be loud and it can't always be quiet. Knowing yourself better allows you to make better choices to take care of your own sanity. Sometimes we watch tv; sometimes we read.

Such is life, and love, and family...choosing when to step out, when to stay in, and dealing with the consequences of our choice. Sticking with those that bring joy, and adjusting to make better ones the next time. Sometimes, it's super important to step outside your comfort zone. And sometimes the only thing you find outside of your comfort zone is discomfort. It's wonderful to want to improve yourself, but it's also wonderful to be okay with who you already are.

Everything in moderation...even moderation. -Oscar Wilde
If you love personality tests, please let me know! I would love to talk about it with you!


*Anne is Modern Mrs. Darcy and also hosts the wonderful podcast "What Should I Read Next?"

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Good Enough.

I went to see Stevie Nicks on Friday with my daughter. It was an incredible show, and Stevie Nicks is a GODDESS. But that's not what this is about. In order to see Ms. Nicks--whom I have adored for my entire life--from the vantage point of the nosebleed seats, I tried to make everything perfect. My hair, my outfit, the day, the experience ... my nails.

I have a love/hate relationship with my nails. When I was young, I wanted them to be long, and they refused to grow. Now, I feel like I'm constantly cutting them off because they grow with wild abandon, and I prefer them short. On Friday, they were long-ish, so I decided to paint them. Pink with gold sparkly tips because it was the 24 Karat Gold tour. I'm that guy. I own it.

It took me about 7 1/2 hours to paint them. They were perfect for about 15 seconds before I messed them up. Is it just me or does your bladder immediately realize it's uncomfortably full as soon as you finish painting your nails?

Anyway...Here is something you may or may not know about me: I used to like things to be perfect. You probably would not know that because I am mostly kind of a mess. I never achieve anything close to perfect and have gotten quite good at embracing the good enough, but I did like perfect.

My 20-year-old stomach was PERFECT until fetal Chloe decided she would need to be cut out. My car was PERFECT until I misjudged the distance of a drive through pole. My floor was PERFECT until someone (who remains unidentified) put a bunch of scratches in it. My bed was PERFECT until my little puppy girl chewed the corners. I could go on and on ... and on. But you get it.

Years ago, I read Don't Sweat the Small Stuff, and in it the author describes a Buddhist teaching regarding impermanence. Everything--including us--has a beginning and an end and will experience changes along the way. Some changes can be perceived as less than favorable, but it's just a perception.

This idea reminds me of Leonard Cohen's Anthem:
Ring the bells that still can ring 
Forget your perfect offering 
There is a crack in everything  
That's how the light gets in.

When we realize that things (and people) -- nails, cars, beds, floors, ourselves -- won't ever be perfect, then we can accept and even love them as they are. I love my imperfect stomach and bed. I am good with good enough. Full disclosure: The floor still pisses me off a little bit, and I mentally kick myself sometimes when I see the dent in my car. 

And as for myself...I try really hard in every moment to be kind and loving. Sometimes I succeed, and sometimes I tell people to fuck off. 

I start every morning praying, meditating, writing a love letter to my husband and trying to pour goodness and love into my kids. Sometimes, before 5:15 a.m. I've called someone an asshole. Like my 18-year-old cat, who just strolled into my yoga room and peed on my rug. That's a dick move.

My daughter wrote a blog one time entitled, "Perfection, Rejection & Other Words That Are Dumb." I highly recommend all of her writing, but this one today. In it she quotes John Steinbeck: 

“And now that you don't have to be perfect, you can be good.”

That's powerful. It goes along with another of my favorites from Gretchen Rubin: Don't let perfect be the enemy of good.

I am not perfect. I no longer try to be. And from that vantage point, I see that no one who matters expects me to be. They accept my flawed, scarred, good enough self.

My sweet friends, if you are trying to be perfect and beating yourselves up for falling short? I see you. I feel you. Give yourself some grace. You are good and kind and loving. You're doing an amazing job at being your husband's wife, your kids' mom, your friends' being exactly who you are. 


Friday, September 15, 2017

Who Do You Think You Are?

A few weeks ago I finished a draft of a book that I have been writing for a long time. I started writing it several years ago and in a computer catastrophe lost 39,000 words. It took me a long time to try to again, but finally I started. Bird by bird ... word by word, because I had to tell this story. My story. I already tell it in everything I do and everything I am. I tell it in how I love my husband and parent my children. I tell it in how I eat and sleep and dress and speak and drink. I tell it in the way my stomach knots up every time a phone rings. And I tell it in the sweat on my palms every time Brad's plane lands 30 seconds late or Chloe takes too long to text me back or Peyton hasn't gotten home by 3:00 or Lily's bus is 4 minutes late. I tell it in that sense of impending dread...waiting for the bottom to fall out of my dreams.

But shit gets in the way of telling this story that's so obviously mine. There are other people and feelings and opinions and families, but even before them, there's me. I had to admit that I am a writer. Not that I write, but I am a writer. There's a difference. It's a gift or a curse, depending on the day.

I don't choose to write; I have to. I write on little scraps of paper and in (multiple) notes apps and two blogs and 47 journals and 32 titled and untitled Word documents. When I'm driving I tell Siri to write shit down for me and then try to decipher it later--often to no avail. Two minutes ago, Brad came into my new yoga/writing room (which is Lily's old bedroom with a chair, yoga mat, some plants, a laptop and a bunch of big ideas) and said, "Baby, why are you writing now? We have so much to do." Because. I. Have. To. The words in my head won't give me any peace until I liberate them. Maybe I'm not actually a writer but a schizophrenic? Maybe it is the same thing viewed from different perspectives.

I recently walked past a house I see when I walk a certain path. It was a broken down purple house, but I always liked it. Now it was completely renovated: New paint, new door, completely new look. I told Lily that night, "You should see the purple house. Someone fixed it up, and it's beautiful." She didn't look up from her slime before muttering, "Yeah, I saw it." Shocked by her lack of enthusiasm, I pressed, "Don't you think it looks nice?" Shrugging her shoulders she said, "I guess. But it was unique before. Now it just looks like every other house in Cortland." Wow. This is the same kid who saw a field of beautiful flowers where we saw a million. freaking. dandelions. "Why would you kill them, Daddy??" She's something else.

Perspective. So, I finish the shitty first draft and send it to a few people who I trust with my heart. Because that is what it feels like to release your words out into the world. Here's my heart. Do you like it? Please don't stomp on it. And the first little bits of feedback from these people I love so much feel like ...

You know ... yummy things that make you feel like you're just going to melt right into a puddle. You like it? You think it's good? Really?

But the puddle phase is short-lived. Because I reform back to a person and resume editing and criticizing and second-guessing and re-writing and, "Who are you to"-ing. Sometimes it feels like if I say all the mean stuff to myself, it will hurt less when someone else says it. Of course that's not true. Yesterday, when I shared all of this anxiety with one of my soul sisters, she said, "Whatever fear tells you you can't do? That's exactly what you need to do."

So today, my bitchy inner critic shows up to say, "Who are you to write a memoir?"

Well...Who the fuck am I not to?