Grown Ass Conversations

“I don’t want to talk about it. The whole thing feels stupid and ridiculous. That’s why I texted you. I wanted to tell you about it but I don’t want to talk about it.”

But I did want to talk about it. What I actually wanted was for him to simultaneously find a magical way to tell me I was right, I was wrong, I was super smart, I was super silly, and this was the miraculously simple way to fix the whole thing. That should be easy enough, right?

Instead he just loved me through it. And told he some soft truths about myself. Things I already knew. Things I was working on. Things he was proud of me for making progress in. The truths are actually pretty hard. They are things I hate to think about and just want to function in their dysfunction. But they don’t because they are, well, dysfunctional.


“Why do you feel ridiculous?”

“Because I am grown. Grown ass women aren’t supposed to get up in their feelings about this kind of thing.”

“It’s exactly because you are grown ass woman that you are capable of having the grown up conversations.”

“But what if I’m wrong?”

“Then that’s on you. I watch you do this thing pretty often where you feel a kind of way and should do something about it, but you go to your programming that says you are probably wrong and so you do nothing and nothing changes and you just take it. Now understand that I am not saying you are less than, I am saying that you are too hard on yourself.”

“I might do that a little.”

I might do that a lot.

I watch folks who are able to say anything. They are able to engage in confrontation in a way that makes my skin goose up. They are able to have the conversations – provoke them even – and keep moving forward. I am trying hard to be that person. To say the things I want to say fearlessly and openly. To be honest with people even it exposes a weakness or a wrong. To open loops that might close differently than I would like them to, or worse, not close themselves at all.

This season’s Big Brother is the Celebrity edition and it has been very interesting. I am watching these somewhat accomplished folks participate in varying degrees of empowerment. During many of the exchanges I find myself so frustrated that person A won’t just tell person B to go to hell, you are not the boss of me. They should say it. Person A deserves to say it and person B deserves to hear it, but they don’t. I would like to think I would. I probably wouldn’t.

But the real truth is that candidness is part of being a whole, real, honest, decent person. It isn’t fair to people I want relationship with to have to bear the judgement of my unspoken assumptions. It isn’t the way I would want to be treated. I would want them to have the courage to come to say what they needed to say. More than courage, I want to be seen as the kind of person with whom it is safe to have those kinds of conversations. I want to be a grown up and I want to be with grown up people. If I hope for that level of maturity from others, it is reasonable that I have to foster that type of maturity from myself.

It’s a funny little Catch 22 that I notice more in woman than I do in men. It’s the “if I have to ask for it, I don’t really want it” or its cousin, “if you loved me you would just know.” I don’t know where these tendencies come from, but I will be the first to admit that I have them. Further, they make sense to me in an inarticulable way. But it also makes sense that we should be able to ask for what we need, have adult conversations about wants and happys and hurts.

I’ve done much better the past year opening my mouth and exposing my inner thoughts. There’s something to be said for safety and confidence. There is also something to be said for the being able to see a real glimpse of unconditional love for oneself and others – not in the wild or in the pretend, but in your own life, involving your own heart. Like any other behavior, it is easier to understand and adopt once you see it modeled.

The neat thing is that motion creates momentum. The more I speak my thoughts, the more I think, the more I get comfortable with having all the thoughts, the more I feel okay to speak, the more connection I create, the more love I am able to give, the more love I am able to receive, the more positive my thoughts, the more I am able to converse, the more resilient I am when things are funky, the more whole I feel, the healthier I am, the more I speak my thoughts.

Take all the time you need to go through that spiderweb of interconnected healthy. Nothing happens in a vacuum. None of us are labels or defined by one singular thing. Sentient, dynamic, eclectic beings we are. That movement of all things in us and around us is a beautiful thing.

Unstuck, Unwasted, Unbroken

I snuggled into bed last night with the understanding that I was, quite possibly, the happiest woman on the planet. His arm heavy across my body, skin warm against my back, breath soft and slow on my shoulder. There is no place I feel safer or more loved. I click through the happy of the day. The kids – all six of them – are still thrilled with simple boxes of chocolate. We all made it to Dairy Queen Wednesday. My teenagers still like it when I play Xbox with them. My beloved wrote me a poem for Valentine’s Day. Even the residual hormonal yuck that is shark week and the hot flash that tried to take me out were a beautiful reminder that I am alive, balanced, and not pregnant. (Seriously, we have six children, I am holding out – in NO hurry – for grands at this point)

My writing for the day crossed my mind and I was satisfied with it. It feels good to work out some of that brain stuff in a way that feels both real and responsible enough to allow public consumption. It did occur to me, however, that maybe I give the wrong impression. I come back to the details of the work so often that maybe I don’t give play to the big picture in my writing. I know the big picture is well served in the other places I am. My happy is no secret. But in the pages, is it as documented as the other stuff? I don’t think so. I woke up this morning feeling a need to be more clear.

I live in a constant state of wonder. My brain is constantly creating open loops. Like, I wonder

  • is pink still my favorite color or has it finally become purple
  • am I being intellectually honest on my 2nd amendment position
  • should I go back to creamer in my coffee
  • could I learn more about plants
  • was Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam really that great
  • how do you discuss systematized racism in a way that allows for productive discussion
  • does he think my butt looks good in these jeans
  • how much time have I wasted
  • what’s for dinner
  • am I fucking up my kids
  • am I fucking up myself
  • did I put the clothes in the dryer
  • where are my keys

I could keep going. I just had to stop myself at the last one when I realized the next one was, “I wonder how many wonders I can wonder.” It’s a thing.

My distaste for open loops is also a thing. I spend an inordinate amount of time attempting to close the loops before they get overly distracting  or tangled up with each other. And, at the risk of offending my loops, some of them are more fun, others are more interesting, a few are actually productive, and some are just unfortunate.

The productive ones are my love/hate loops. I really love the work that comes from learning more and going deeper. I really hate the effort and the realness it sometimes requires. I understood a long time ago I am wired to want to be the best version of myself. More accurately, I would really love it if I could figure out how to become a better version of the best version of myself.  There are a bunch of reasons for this I am sure – but the root is love. The better than best version of me gives love people can receive and is able to receive the love people give. And, sitting here in this chair on this morning, I think I may have inadvertently answered the question, “How would you define success?”

The biggest challenge and opportunity in this journey is chicken/egg. I have all the wonders about myself as a person and in relationship to other people. Those wonders allow me to understand myself and relationship better. They also open me up to influences, both positive and negative. They do not guard me against mental sabotage, either from others or myself. So while I am always getting better, the tangled pieces require a lot of attention and that’s where the nouns and verbs tend to be the most helpful.

So you’ll see the messy that is the byproduct of my wonders regularly. But let me be clear so that there is no mistake made – either by you or me. While the appearance may sometime suggest otherwise, I am unstuck, unwasted, and unbroken. I am not shackled by past transgressions or perceptions.

For a minute I thought I was stuck. I had the toxic on loop (or so it seemed). I talked about it a lot with my closest people. I journaled it regularly. I sat alone with the hum on many occasions. In honesty, I got to the point where I realized I was dangerously close to wallowing, “picking scabs” if you will. Pushing the bruises so they stayed at the surface instead of allowing the wounds to heal. But I was not stuck. I was healing. And healing takes the time it takes and the path that it will. That is the opposite of stuck. That is progress.

The trick is to be mindful of the time it takes. The balance there is delicate. You can’t rush it, you have to give it the room it needs to do what it does. I did not find myself in the place where I had no clue about myself overnight. I was not going to figure the pieces out overnight either. To drift took time. To come back will take time. But time is finite and limited. Worse, we don’t know what those limits are. We are all just guessing at the time we have. To allow time to pass unfettered is to resign your life to the whims of chance. I just can’t. I have already lost a huge amount of time and watched myself allow waste to consume. But waste is redeemable. I understand the process of upcycling.

And I was out for a while. I yolo’ed a bit (I really dislike that term but it so frustratingly fitting in this concept), I ran a while, I hid for a minute, I bloomed slightly, I tangoed mostly. I can see how an outsider would consider those thing indicative of a broken person. I myself had moments of feeling brokenness. But I have come to understand the bones are solid even when the cosmetics look to need a little work. Dislocated and strained maybe. But not broken. Strength in our bodies comes from hard work, moving more than you thought you could, enduring more than is comfortable. When that workout is done, you may be sweaty, sore, and tired – but not broken.

So I am going to continue writing my wonders. Some may seem more painful than others, but they are not wonders  independent of other wonders. All the wonders touch each other in some way. It’s like “Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon” for the thoughts of the many. I wouldn’t trade any of them. I just need to acknowledge that I often have more than I have the opportunity at times to address here.

Started 2/15/2018
Completed 2/18/2018

Brooks was Here

There are these really interesting things going on in my head right now. It looks a whole lot like freedom. Unfortunately, because I am currently unlearning and relearning that concept along with a host of other things about myself, what should be a somewhat easy and beautiful brain float has become super fucking overwhelming.

And what do I do when my brain becomes overwhelming? Well, when I am doing it right, I write. And this single act of nouns and verbs has become quite the interesting project in a way that it really never has before.

I have always put nouns and verbs on paper in a way that I hoped could be read by other people. I understand not everything has to be “in the world” to be valid. I also understand that some things should not be out in the world. But, by and large, the things that I put on paper have the expectation of being fit for public consumption.

But words stay the same over the course of time and change. People do not.

Being overwhelmed creates lack of structure in the thoughts. There are so many ideas trying to push their way to the front in an attempt to be sorted and accounted for. It makes the coherent assembly of nouns and verbs a struggle.

In all honesty, it isn’t just being overwhelmed. It’s the freedom to do it the way I want. I have been writing since I was 10 years old. I have the general gist of the activity down. But there have always been rules set down by someone else. Boxes I knew I had to fit into, boundaries I knew I couldn’t cross.

There is a comfort in the box. Sure, it sucks because you are forced into being someone you aren’t. But, there is order, understanding, and a general “way we do things around here” that, while stifling and damaging, is comfortable when it becomes what you know. When your confidence to trust in your own judgement is reduced to ruble, you second guess everything. When your desire to create something outside yourself is judged and mocked, you harshly judge your own motives. When your ability is marginalized, you start believing you are no good.

When your efforts are labeled too much, too loud, too open, too indulgent, you start to believe those things and you forget that you are a smart, capable, caring, basically decent person. You don’t need the box, you never did. But you functioned inside of it for so long that it is comfortable and you’re not really sure if you know how to do it without it. You worked really hard to rid yourself of the box, to have the courage to break free of it. You know the work that took. But, here you are anyway, trying like hell to recreate the box so you can feel comfortable once again

Trying like hell to recreate the box so you can feel comfortable once again.

Trying like hell to recreate the box so you can feel comfortable once again.

Trying like hell to recreate the box so you can feel comfortable once again.

How fucking stupid is that?

Probably pretty damn. But you know what else, it is also completely normal. We fight to hold on to comfort, even when that comfort is toxic. Even when the alternative is healthy. Even when the healthy is more comfortable once you get the feel of it. Being coerced into the box didn’t happen overnight. It took skillful manipulation and time to put you there. It takes time to work all those things back out. It takes honesty in taking responsibility for the parts of it you are responsible for. It takes confidence to refuse ownership for the parts you aren’t. It takes trust in those who love you that they will still love you through the change, through the growth, through the fuck ups, through the wins. It takes faith in your own inner, real, raw, regular goodness.

Even as I go back through that last thought, I understand that it takes more than faith. It takes more than trust. Those things, when broken down into their honest forms, are easy. All that can happen in your brain, in the quiet privacy of solitude without interference from anyone else. What it really requires is testing, trying out, tasting – “an untested virtue isn’t a virtue” kind of workout.

That’s the part that is scary. That’s the part that will put you back in the box. The box sucks too but there is some comfort in dancing with the devil you already know versus the demon you haven’t vetted yet.

But Brooks was comfortable in jail, institutionalized for the box. They made him leave. He wanted to go back. He couldn’t.

I wake up scared. Sometimes it takes me a while to remember where I am. Maybe I should get me a gun and rob the Foodway so they’d send me home. I could shoot the manager while I was at it, sort of like a bonus. I guess I’m too old for that sort of nonsense any more. I don’t like it here. I’m tired of being afraid all the time. I’ve decided not to stay. I doubt they’ll kick up any fuss. Not for an old crook like me. ~ Brooks Hatlen, The Shawshank Redemption

He called prison home. Freedom made him afraid all the time. He hung himself, decided death was better than figuring out how to be his own person. Still scared I may be, but a Brooks I am not.

#TeamGnat

I don’t think I have ever been so excited to see a sand gnat in my entire life as I was Sunday. Kids were slapping themselves silly and the adults were reaching for sprays and remedies.

I sat on the bench of the picnic table in my backyard and felt like a kid at Christmas 4th of July.

Weather is not my favorite. I like it one way – hot and sunny. I will tolerate warm and sunny. My face starts distorting at rainy (don’t even ask what my hair does). When the mercury dips south of 70, I get nervous and it is all downhill from there. Fall is my least favorite time of the year because it’s the furthest away I ever am from summer.  Hurricanes? Snow? Just. No.

This aversion to a wide range of weather patterns is not new to me. I’ve known this about myself for a long time. I typically get more moody in the winter and have to pay a bit more attention to my general outlook during those months. I live in southern Georgia for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is our milder, shorter winters.

Listen, I have been known to occasionally have the ability to pull my shoulders back, put my head down, and bulldog my way through situations that are less than fun. I am no stranger to the harder things and I can carry my own in the physical toughness/mental fortitude department. I am typically a pretty positive person with a seemingly deep reservoir for optimism. All that being true, this winter has seriously kicked my ass.

I didn’t realize what was happening until pretty late in the season. I have had a lot going on. There is way more change happening in my life than I am typically accustomed to. I am at this interesting moment in my life where I am happier and safer than I have ever been and that translates into more movement of environment and self than I can keep up with most days. My life resembles a drunken game of speed Yahtzee. Just when I think I have found my groove, I lose it again.

Since I came off the corporate payroll in October, every single strategy I have attempted to employ in my life has had roughly the same life span as a lovebug with about the same level of usefulness. And I have worked really hard on strategies – time blocking, goal setting, accountability, schedule keeping, free range, lists, reminders, affirmations – you name it. But, none of those things have helped. This all get pretty frustrating especially when the things I am attempting to accomplish aren’t even new to me. I would simply like to be a better caretaker of my family (food, chores, availability), a better friend (time, attention, support), and a better steward of myself (health, writing, self care). That’s it. That’s not a lot. I’ve done it before.

I have, surprisingly enough, been pretty gentle with myself in the process. I am very careful to watch how I talk to myself. Even those “better”s in the last paragraph gave me pause as I was worried how others might view them. I know that I don’t mean I think I am less than. I have come to a comfortable place where I know I will always want to be better and that’s okay. I can want to be better while still being happy with the present.

Except when the present looks like me last week, playing Call of Duty, in my pajamas, at 1:30 in the afternoon, hands wrapped around an Xbox controller being the only thing that kept them from being thrown up in utter defeat. I had completely given up on even trying to figure out why I couldn’t get the gumption to go to the gym, why I couldn’t noun and verb, why the laundry pile up was unphasing, why brushing my teeth seemed like the biggest chore in the world at that moment. Seriously, hadn’t I gotten my whole family up, out, and on time? That’s something.

But, the universe loves me and I have the best friends. A text came in completely unrelated to my life or Call of Duty. But because I have friends who think the deeper thought and love without judgement, I found the space to think about it for two seconds longer in a slightly different way.

Holy shit! It’s this effing weather. This is my first winter without a regular job. I have no frame of reference for being prepared to go through this particularly off putting time without a pretty rigid foundation for things I just have to do. I can’t find a center because I have been unable to spend any real time outside and I don’t have the crutch of the job. I wasn’t prepared to go into this season without a plan. The whole thing had caught me off guard.

I was encouraged by the realization. I instantly felt better. There was nothing I could about it at the moment. As good as I am, I cannot change the weather. But there is comfort in knowing. I took solace in that and felt a little better killing zombies.

We had a multi family potluck Sunday. The sand gnats showed up and I couldn’t have been more excited to see them.

 

Appropriate and Acceptable

Can I be real a second?
For just a millisecond?
Let down my guard and tell the people how I feel a second?
Now I’m the model of a modern major general
The venerated Virginian veteran whose men are all
Lining up, to put me up on a pedestal
Writin’ letters to relatives
Embellishin’ my elegance and eloquence
But the elephant is in the room
The truth is in ya face when ya hear the British cannons go…
Boom!
~ A very frustrated George Washington as written by Lin-Manuel Miranda

I’m not even going to discuss Hamilton right now. It is pure genius and folks will either listen or they won’t, hear it or they won’t, get it or they won’t. I don’t really have that in me right this second.

I don’t really have a whole lot of anything in me right this second and it’s getting a bit tiresome.

Let me be real a second. I get encouraged to write on a regular basis by folks who genuinely enjoy what I have to say. There’s like six of y’all and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that. And if it were only you half dozen or so for the rest of my life, I would like to think I would keep pushing publish. I would like to think I would still fancy myself a writer.

I don’t feel like a writer much of the time and I am pretty sure that’s because I approach this whole thing all wrong. I have this idea about what it is supposed to look like. I am supposed to have a guided topic. This blog space is supposed to be more cohesive. I am supposed to have a plan. I am supposed to, supposed to, supposed to.

And it I haven’t checked all the “supposed to” blocks, well, then…

And I am definitely not supposed to get onto this super public space and just let my guard down. It is indulgent and basic to be in a public setting – even if it’s just the six of us – and have the audacity to believe that these nouns and verbs, my nouns and verbs, are any more legitimate or time worthy than anyone else’s. That’s next level arrogance and who am I really to think that I have the right?

So, I go back to being small. I try to do the things on my list, the things that make me feel real, but in an “appropriate” way. Seriously, even as I am typing that I don’t even know what the hell that means. You are talking to a person that has a hard time cleaning the house if the radio isn’t super loud, who has a hard time psyching herself up for a run if she can’t go fast(ish) for a billion miles, who is 41 years old and is fixing to get married in a white dress to the hottest man she has ever met with a wedding suitable for a 25 year old blusher. My life isn’t small. I don’t live there. It isn’t who I am. It isn’t who my family is. We have a reoccurring joke about our individual and collective extraness. But I am a person who is still ridiculously and frustratingly aware of what other people think.

Yeah, don’t say it. I already know. You aren’t supposed to care about what other people think – especially those who, in the big picture, have opinions that don’t matter. I get it. I also know that chocolate pudding and whipped cream for lunch isn’t a healthy option, but you can bet your ass I get down with that too.

It has just struck me as funny that I have been in this situation bunches before. You probably have too. It isn’t a writer issue, it’s a whatever part of you is important issue.

The mommy cartel is a fierce one. Do you work, stay home, vaccinate, homeschool, engage in sports, pay for piano, buy the dance costume, travel with the team, fix organic snacks, limit screen time, post pictures on social media, co-sleep, spank, entertain Santa Claus, buy Lucky Charms, volunteer as room mom, schedule playdates, breastfeed, understand the progressive parenting strategies, helicopter, tiger, free range, hide in the bathroom with a great bottle of Malbec…. are you an appropriate, acceptable mom?

Life partner? Do you have date night, authentic conversations about your feelings, too much sex, no sex, joint facebooks, separate friends, independent bank accounts, a five year plan, the same last name, never go to bed angry, the same waistline when you met, regular phone calls with their families, close the door to the bathroom, sexy texts, copious amounts of quality time, detailed coparenting strategies, lady in the street, freak in the bed, dinner on the table, 50/50 household responsibilities, gender roles, traditional home, hide in the bathroom with a great bottle of Malbec…. are you an appropriate, acceptable life partner?

Professional? Do you have the right credentials, love your job, tolerate your coworkers, participate in office fun, voice your opinion in meetings, reinvent yourself to fit the culture, considered assertive, aggressive, overly ambitions, qualified, on your way up, watching the clock, moving into a new field, living your passion, selling out to the grind, hiding out in the bathroom with a great bottle of Malbec… are you an appropriate, acceptable professional?

If you couldn’t tell, all this “appropriate” and “acceptable” juggling always leads me to hiding in a bathroom with a great bottle of Malbec. People aren’t supposed to live that way.

I am not supposed to live that way.

So here is the habit I am going to attempt to put into practice – just writing the shit and letting the letters fall where they may. Maybe that appeals to my six folks, maybe it gains more, maybe I end up pushing publish for no one other than myself. Whatever the outcome is, I have at least identified the elephant in my bathroom. And look – now there is more room for you to share that bottle of wine…

Information Sources – He Said / She Said (ep. 2)

My second question for the He Said / She Said was a tad harder than I though it would be. With all the wonders I have in my head on a regular basis, I just naturally assumed presenting topics would be easier. Turns out, it isn’t.

Come to find out, my wonders can get a bit overwhleming when I try to put them in a neat package idea with one concise and clear question. Becasue I am really attempting to be respectful of everyone’s time, I consider it to be a duty of sorts to present topics in that manner – clear and concise.

It doesn’t always work out that way. So I set out to find new ideas in my typical fashion – podcasts. And that got me to thinking, “How do other people get new information, expose themselves to new ideas, or stay informed?” The light bulb went off. I probably should ask the panel. Knowing where they get their information from is probably pretty insightful. It also lends itself pretty readily to asking you all how you stay informed and what that means to you in the first place.

Here are a few of the responses, and we would love to hear your thoughts as well.

How do you consider yourself “informed” or “exposed”?


I generally stay informed and available to new ideas by way of social media and the internet. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, are my Sunday paper everyday in real time. I don’t watch the news. It’s too negative. Someone is always getting kidnapped or shot. And I haven’t had cable in 5 years.

My general boredom and cruising of the different platforms (which I have tried to limit because it can be toxic, duh right?) side effect is reading different headlines as to what’s happening in the world. But unlike traditional news outlets like CNN, FOX news, and such that swing heavily to the right or left, and could allegedly be fake news, (HAHA), allow me to form my own opinion. You can find many different posts about any topic on all the platforms, and decide for yourself as to what you feel is going on.

That’s one of the things that makes net neutrality a very interesting and scary topic. Especially when you consider that the decision for 324 million people is decided by 5 unelected officials. Just regular ass people from the FCC who went against 83% of those 324 million people. But I digress.

The other way i get into new ideas is podcasts. I tend to be in my truck a lot on long drives. Nothing eats up time like listening to podcasts. I’d say conservatively I listen to 5-7 hours of podcasts per day. I’m constantly bombarded with different perspective, which I then take and formulate my own thoughts. Or at least I try too.

I’ll leave with this thought, I heard it from Denzel Washington. I’m not sure where he got it from and I didn’t do the time to research it further. “If you don’t listen to the mainstream news your uninformed, if you listen to the mainstream news, your misinformed” Quite the quandary we are in as Americans these days. And I thought propaganda was a NO NO!!

 

Andrew


Actually, the way I get information and the way I’m exposed to “new ideas,” hasn’t changed at all because the world, in particular the USA, hasn’t changed that much at all. There is a saying that goes, “If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready,” and the same holds true for information. If you stay informed, you don’t have to get informed.

I was blessed to have parents who always made sure we understood history..all of it. The problem is, too many people don’t seem to understand or even care about history, so many of the things that are happening now seem foreign to them. Couple this with the fact that too many people believe that the words “commentator” (opinion) and “journalist” (unbiased) are synonymous, and you end up with people who don’t know what to believe or worse, what THEY believe because they are ignorant to our history. So, they only seek out and listen to those commentators who regurgitate the same “truths” that they already believe.

People aren’t open to receiving new ideas because it’s more comfortable to hold onto their old ones, and that has nothing to do with social media, the internet or anything else. To anyone who knows and understands history, and who has been paying attention, nothing that is happening now should be surprising because we’re just repeating old patterns. Or, as my late grandmother used to say, “The years may change, but the days stay the same.”

GR


This has been difficult for me to find the words to address, simply because the question implies that being informed or exposed is a priority.

I have to admit that I made the conscious decision to disconnect from mainstream news outlets in order to practice intellectual self-defense for my own well-being some time ago. In doing so, I’ve drastically devalued the concept of being informed or exposed to high amounts of information.

Through the use of social media, where I like to interact with friends and family, I can see many topics that are on the forefront of discussion and debate from a sociological and political standpoint, so I am never too far from knowing what is in the latest headlines or what many popular topics are. However, I tend to seek information in areas of interest rather than open myself to whatever is chosen to be broadcast.

I am a firm believer in the importance of societies learning history in order to keep from repeating past mistakes (there’s a clever phrase for this that I can never remember with accuracy, but I’m sure you’re thinking of it), so I enjoy podcasts and documentaries that highlight historical events that are relevant to today’s political and sociological climate. I also like to connect with other people and families that I meet and discuss big, heavy, controversial topics in a personal, face-to-face setting when the time is appropriate. Through these discussions, I am opened up to different ways that people see the world, interpret what they see, and apply what they see and know to their own lives. I have found that personal relationships with others is a much more rewarding and fulfilling way to be “informed” with the outside world.

Barry


There was a time I was a news junkie. That coincided with my “eat politics for breakfast, lunch, and dinner” phase. That can to a screeching halt after I had the opportunity to be a state delegate at the Georgia State Republican Convention in 2008. There’s something about watching the process up close and personal that forces you to come to terms with the way things do and don’t work. But that is a topic for another day.

The important thing is that it was then I realized the way I gathered and processed information had to change if I was going to create a real life with real ideas and real impact. I stopped watching the news. I instead began to look for different ways to gather new ideas. The truth is I was so burnt out that I buried myself in novels for a while and absorbed the world of make believe that was fiction, but at least didn’t pretend to be real life.

Now, most of what I do is chase rabbits. I’ll find a particular meme or shared article on social media interesting, either for it’s content or lack thereof, and hunt it down to it’s origin. It is astounding how often the original post is so far off from the actual truth or intent. It emphasizes to me how lazy we have become in believing what other folks put in front of us as fact.

Podcasts have become invaluable. The wide variety of topics is seemingly endless. Moreover, the diversity of perspective is one I simply can’t get in everyday life. Different belief systems, background, socioeconomic demographics, cultures, ideologies, etc. are all represented and available with a touch of a button. In truth, these ideas vary in truth and reliability as the internet has become the wild west of information. However, Hearing the idea and listening to the dialogue has been invaluable at broadening the wonders I had and creating a forest of new ones.

 

April

Daring Greatly and Running with the Wolves

I have become the kind of person that reads multiple books at a time. There was a period in my life where I would have believed this to be unthinkable. How do you pick which one to read and when? How will you keep track of what you are doing? How will you ever finish anything if you are doing multiple things?

The first two questions sorted themselves out so easily I am almost embarrassed that they were even concerns. That last one? Now that one is valid. I do find myself leaving books unfinished. For instance, I started reading One Amazing Thing by Chitra Divakaruni over a year ago. It’s not a hard read, at 219 pages it isn’t long, and the story is pretty great. I just finished it last night. However, I have found that I don’t waste a lot of time on books that don’t interest me. In the days of “one book, then another” it was common for me to slog through a work I found less than interesting simply because I already felt pot committed. I felt compelled to close the loop before I moved on. Now, I just don’t pick it back up.

However, the danger of getting distracted is real. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown has easily been one of the most effective books I have ever picked up. I have gone back to this one again and again. I have yet to finish it. I am working on resolving that now.

My multiple reading habit is not what I sat down to tell you about. It just kinda happened that way. I sat down to tell you that I am reading Women who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I can’t say if it’s the work or the timing, but it has catapulted itself into the top 5 of books that have rocked me at my core. I was only on page eight when I encountered

Wild Woman is the health of all women. Without her, women’s psychology makes no sense…She is what she is and she is whole.

She canalizes through women. If they are suppressed, she struggles upward. If women are free, she is free. Fortunately, no matter how many times she is pushed down, she bounds up again. No matter how many times she is forbidden, quelled, cut back, diluted, tortured, touted as unsafe, dangerous, mad, and other derogations, she emanates upward in women, so that even the most quiet, even the most restrained woman has a secret life, with secret thoughts and secret feelings which are lush and wild, that is, natural. Even the most captured woman guards the place of the wildish self, for she knows intuitively that someday there will be a loophole, an aperture, a chance, and she will hightail it to escape.

And the whole damn thing just gets better and better.

One of the clearest insights for me, so far, pertains to creativity. I won’t be coy.

Writing lately has been rough. Because it has been hard and I have the ability to distract myself with so many other things, I haven’t done a lot of it. As that creativity gets squashed, it becomes harder to find my center. The weather doesn’t help. I have gotten lost.

You can call it writer’s block. I don’t. I believe in writer’s refusal and I have indulged in a good bit of that lately. I needed focus. I needed something small, manageable, measurable, interesting, productive. I needed a blog series. Wolves is the perfect book for that – later. It is too much right now. I am still curled up with it in my private brain. But the idea is still a good one. Daring Greatly could work.

I sat in the Thinking Chair and opened up my copy. Incidentally, it looks like it has been read a hundred times up to page 157 and exactly zero times anywhere after that. It’ll indeed work.

Again, I don’t know if it’s her work or my personal headspace, but the book feels different in my hands from all the other times before. Instead of starving for the words, looking for some sense of explanation for what goes on in my brain, there is encouragement, understanding, and comfort. There is a sense of not just seeing the map, but knowing you have already, to some degree, successfully traveled this way before.

I’m sitting down with Brene again. I am gonna share those Thinking Chair moments here. If you aren’t familiar with her, may I suggest you find 20 minutes and 13 seconds for this awesomeness.

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2018 – Honesty

Every year (or nearly every year), I write a little something that speaks to the intention for the up coming year. It typically centers around one word couched in a cute, anecdotal story, tied all up at the end with a cute little “go get ’em” bow.

I have been trying to write the 2018 piece for over three weeks now.

I looked through old writings, new blogs, unfinished journals. I thought about revisions and memes and philosophical literary quotes. I contemplated all the strong woman, be positive, get motivated, you are amazing sources I knew.

I still had nothing.

So I did the only thing I knew to do; I just dropped it. This wasn’t the year for that. 2016 and 2017 had been overwhelmed with so muchness, maybe it was just time for a breather year. So I shelved it with promises of schedule keeping (which I have never done), gentler self talk (also not a strong suit), and greater honesty. Little did I realize the one thing I thought I had on lock would be the very thing that got me.

If you asked me if I was an overall honest person, I would immediately say yes because I am. I am not a thief or a liar. I am not a rule breaker, generally speaking, although I really like to play one on TV.

However, if you asked me if I was an always honest person, I would say no because, well, I’m honest. I would go so far as to say there are times when honesty is not the appropriate course of action. I would go further and say that I wouldn’t even want people to be honest with me all the time. And I think that’s mostly true.

This topic has my brain going in a hundred different directions. I am going to back up just a second and try again.

I shelved the idea and counted that an okay thing to do because 2018 was the year of schedules, gentle self talk, and honesty. As life is ought to do, it decided to test my gangster right off the bat.

I have been known to say often that I am a jealous woman. It is typically tagged with something to the effect of, “and I don’t even feel bad about that” or “that’s just the way I am.” I have even gone so far as to justify holding on to the trait explaining that I have very good balance on my jealous nature because I realize that it is often irrational and, as long as I have that level of self awareness, it’s okay.

I have come to the very uncomfortable conclusion that it is not okay. All of that up there is inherently dishonest. In a cute twist of irony, I came to that realization while utilizing that acute self awareness to enforce some balance.

Let me be clear that this is not a moral edict on jealousy. Jealousy just happened to be the fear based emotion that spotlighted my particular moment of intellectual dishonesty. And make no mistake, jealousy is a fear based emotion.

I was ate up with jealousy yesterday. The funniest part is that it was all of my own doing. All by my little self, I worked my brain up into such a tizzy that the distraction was consuming. It was all completely fabricated in my head, so I set about doing the self aware work to talk myself down.

Me ~ Oh my effing shit I think I am about to give myself a panic attack.

Other Me ~ Honestly, April, you are being a tad ridiculous.

Me ~ I am aware. This is all very silly and I am working on sorting through the asinine.

Other Me ~ Great. Let’s start with things you know to be true. [Super private stuff that I am not sharing here. #sorrynotsorry]

Me ~ Yes, all of that is true.

Other Me ~ So now we can safely say that all these things [more super private stuff] are not true.

Me ~ Yes we can say that. I feel much better. Thank you Other Me.

Other Me ~ You are very welcome. Now, how do we keep this from happening again?

That bitch. I really hate it when she does that. Especially when I am not ready. I wasn’t ready. Other Me did not care.

Side note – if you think I have complete control over The Many, you are wrong. While I have leashes for all and muzzles for some, complete control is not a tool I possess.

Me ~ That’s super sweet of you, Other Me. I’m good for right now. Just a little bout of jealousy and we all know I am just a jealous womaHHHHHH. SHIT!! What is that????

Other Me ~ The onset of another panic attack. A really good one too. I made it for just an occasion as this. You like?

Me ~ No. No I do not like. I do not like at all. I already did the work, sorted my brain, talked myself down. We are done here.

Other Me ~ Nope. You did the easy work. April 2016 work. It’s time for the advanced level 2018 work. The real, get your shit together work.

Me ~ Fuck you. I’m taking a nap.

And that’s just what I did.

While that course of action worked for the duration of my nap, the seeds planted still sprouted and this “what do we do with it now” idea hung around demanding that I address it.

“I am a jealous woman” is a dishonest statement. I can make it true if I used the fiercely protective or vigilant of one’s rights or possessions definition. I will defend me and mine with my life. But I don’t mean it like that and I know that I don’t. When I say it, I mean feeling or showing envy of someone or their achievements and advantages and feeling or showing suspicion of someone’s unfaithfulness in a relationship. That, my friends, is fear not love. And I have committed to living a life of love and not fear.

So the truth is I now have to replace the word “jealous” with fear and figure out the root. I have to. Anytime I find that the talk down answer becomes, “because I am afraid” I have vowed to go deeper and work that out.

What fear causes jealousy? The fear of being unworthy of the thing that creates envy or suspicion. Being unworthy. In case you are curious, that flies directly in the face of my other promise of “more gentle self talk.”

The honest truth is I am not unworthy even while I feel unworthy. That’s honest. That’s how I am committed to 2018.

Intro Via Cereal – He Said She Said ep.1

A few weeks ago I encountered an article on a topic that isn’t typically discussed openly or in mixed company. The article invited about two dozen men to share their views on the topic. I found the whole article fascinating. I was able to look into the candid thoughts of a variety of men on a topic I would never discuss directly.

That gave me the idea for He Said / She Said.

I sent an email out to 7 people – 3 women 4 men. I asked them if they would care to participate, at their own discretion and in their own way, in discussing different topics. The topics will be all over the place:

  • who pays on a date
  • when does the Christmas tree go up
  • how many sexual partners is too many
  • Which candy bar is superior
  • is football too dangerous
  • gun control
  • favorite cereal
  • current events
  • If the title of the He Said / She Said is sexist because “He” is first

What follows is the first question and the reply. We hope you enjoy it and participate.

I know this question sounds ridiculous. But I promise it isn’t. If you answer it thoughtfully, it will be a great, non traditional, introduction of a little bit about who you are as a person before we tackle something a bit heavier.

What was your favorite cereal as a child? Is it the same now? Why or why not?

I was a weird kid. My favorite cereal when I was growing up was Life with Cheerios running a close second. I never really cared much for the sugary cereals as a kid. Occasionally a bowl of Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries maybe but, for the most part, I was a Life and Cheerios kid.

As an adult I’d have to say Lucky Charms, hands-down. Then again, as an adult, cereal isn’t a breakfast food anymore. It’s more of an evening snack kind of food. I can’t remember the last time I ate cereal for breakfast.

Thom


In the pitch blackness of the early morning hours, I’d wake to sounds of Daddy getting ready for haul. Laying in bed, tucked under flannel sheets and handmade quilts and grannie squared afghans, I’d muster up the courage to slip out onto the cold floor. The hiss of the cast iron radiator would let me know the heat had been turned up. Quickly donning my pink terry robe and slippers from the Sears Roebuck catalog, I cracked open the door and scurried down to the kitchen.

Momma would be flying around, making coffee, packing his lunchbox, filling his thermoses with hot cocoa and soup. Two leftover meatloaf sandwiches and a whoopie pie would be neatly wrapped in waxed paper and tucked into the steel gray hinge topped box.

Daddy, larger than life…layered for the long day on the water in waffle weave long johns, wool socks, flannel shirt, a hideous hand knit gold and seafoam green sweater vest, and a pair of corduroys, would be prepping his cereal.

“Susie Q…what you doing up?”

I’d shrug.

Taking down a bowl from the cupboard, I’d retrieve the lone biscuit from the white paper which previously held three. Daddy would be ripping and tearing his two into his bowl. Daintily, I’d break mine into neat little uniform pieces.

“Honey, it’s all going to the same place.”

Sugar bowl in hand, he’d sprinkle some on mine, and tip the hand a little too heavy on his.

The milk poured, we sat together at the kitchen table, waiting for it to get just the right amount of soggy. With each sip, steam from his coffee would repeatedly fog up his glasses.

“Think we’ve got time for a quick game of cribbage?”

Beaming…”yes Daddy.”

A. Lynn


Favorite cereal:  Cheerios at first, and then Cap’N Crunch, who’s not even a real Captain, or Cap’N cause he doesn’t have enough stripes.  I think I read somewhere that he’s actually a commander. Hmm, Commander Crunch? Nah, not feeling it.  The fact that someone took the time to research a character on a cereal box is both funny and disturbing, as is the fact that I not only remembered that fact, but also shared it..with no shame.  Anyway, I don’t eat cereal now, and I haven’t eaten Cheerios or Cap’N Crunch since I was about 13. #TheThrillisGone.

GR


My favorite cereal as a child was Fruity Pebbles. After pouring the milk, I would patiently wait a couple of minutes for the cereal to become a blissfully wonderful mix of crunchy and soggy pebbles as I proceeded to devour them one heaping spoonful at a time. I enjoyed both the texture and the taste as I ate each bite. Also, after I had chased every last stray pebble down with my spoon and consumed every one of them, I was left with a sweet, fruity flavored milk that I would drink from the bowl.

At age 41, Fruity Pebbles remains my favorite cereal for all the same reasons. I guess, when it comes to food anyway, I don’t grow tired of the same flavors and textures. I still indulge, on occasion, in a box of Fruity Pebbles that I will share with my two sons (9 and 6 yo). They have their own favorites, but they also enjoy my favorite when I go rogue and stray from the healthier choices that I typically try to consume on a more regular basis.

Barry


You can refer to me as “Cornflake Girl”. In addition to being my answer to your first question, it’s also a great Fiona Apple song, so instead of obsessing over what pseudonym I should use, I’m Just gonna go with Cornflake Girl.

Favorite cereal as a child was probably cornflakes. Or maybe Chex or Crispix, whatever my mom had bought at the time that was even relatively “normal”. My mom was older, and had fed into the whole organic gardening hippie health food movement of the ‘70s, so most of what she bought more resembled yard rakings than anything that would have a cartoon mascot trying to sell it to children. She refused to buy anything that had a sugar glaze, or frosting, or marshmallows, or toys, etc. “You don’t need all that sugar!”  Little did she know that we went to the sugar cannister on the countertop, the one she used when she was baking, and spooned no less than 1/4 cup of sugar directly onto her “healthy” cereal. So her strategy backfired in that respect. I only got to illicitly taste the other cereals, what I considered the GOOD stuff, when I was at friends’ houses on sleepovers. Hopefully none of *their* parents were having a crisis of health conscience and only eating Raisin Bran or something.

I really don’t eat cereal at all now. Trying to do low carb was the initial motivation with that. Whenever I do have a carb lapse it tends to be later in the day. I’m all about eggs for breakfast now. Maybe oatmeal was my favorite before I switched away from carbs. Or the Chex. Chex is and always will be pretty damn awesome.

Cornflake Girl


Fruity Pebbles, hands down, has always been my favorite cereal. Lucky Charms is great, but it’s just too much damn work separating out the marshmallows. I think I saw somewhere that they made a box of just the marshmallows, but that feels gluttonous somehow and I just don’t think I can get past that to actual enjoy it. So it’s Fruity Pebbles.

We never got them much as a kid. Mom always bought the economical cereals. Every once in a while, that beautiful box would show up. It never lasted long. But I appreciated it. And though my little girl brain couldn’t have articulated it, I know that cereal became equated with appreciation for the special things.

I moved out of my parents home the summer before my senior year of high school. I always had Fruity Pebbles, even if I didn’t have much else. It was walking distance from my parents’ house. One more than one occasion I woke up to find one of my sisters, usually the youngest, in front of my TV with a bowl of her very own. I did a lot of the things that most 17 year old kids would do if they lived on their own. My sisters always kept my secrets and I never complained about them eating my cereal. Back then, bribery is what I would have associated that box with. Now, I am able to recall how great it felt seeing my kid sisters enjoying something I was able to do for them all on my own – and the bribery.

Today, I could eat Fruity Pebbles any time I want. I don’t. In fact, I rarely do. I am always afraid I’ll mess up the nostalgia of the thing. It sounds bizarre to have such a crux of conscience over cereal, but I am a woman of many wonders and this is one of them. I wonder if keeping the nostalgia is better than enjoying the cereal. I wonder if I will still think it tastes as good as the last time I ate it. I wonder if I am over wondering all of it. So, unless the kids pick it (which they rarely do), neither do I. But the box still makes me smile.

April

Asking the Questions

“Asking the proper question is the
central action of transformation…

Questions are the keys that cause
the secret doors of the psyche to swing open.”
~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes,
Women who Run with the Wolves

New Year’s Day is fast approaching. Weather notwithstanding, it is one of my favorite times of the year. While I do not think one particular square on the calendar is more conducive to setting the intention to do better than another, I do love the way January 1st kind of stands there, hands on hips, giving a great reason to try the hard things that shove us out of our comfort zone. In fact, it almost demands that we do so.

Over time, the dance on January 1st has had the tendency of being more cliche than the Electric Slide at a wedding reception. We all know it’s coming, we all know the steps (eat better, exercise more, quit a bad habit, pick up a good one, turn, and repeat). But most of us love it (at least until mid-January), get excited at the first beat, kick our shoes off, and jump on the dance floor. There are the others that refuse to participate. Their resolution on New Year’s Day is to make no resolutions. In a move that has become almost as banal as joining the fray, we sit in our chairs and side-eye the uninspired choreography.

I have been a proud member of both those groups. I am still super supportive of both approaches. I do love a line dance (even a really old one), and am one of the easiest people on the planet to get out on the dance floor. The need to do what makes us comfortable is not lost on me. When we do the best we can with what we have, we are living our best life.

But am I doing the best I can? And there it is. That was my one question that birthed a wealth of questions that, like January 1st, demanded attention. In truth, I have been asking that question my whole life. However, I was asking it from a place of fear. That place would only allow me to ask it in a shallow way and give the “well of course I am” answer. But of course I wasn’t. Once the question became, “Am I really doing the best I can?” things changed.

Today I want to encourage you to ask questions. Are you a “get up and dance”er or a “chill out and watch”er? Does that change? Why? Maybe your questions are completely different than mine. Maybe you need to create some new ones, revisit some old ones, phone a friend. But ask the questions. There may come a time when the answer makes us question the asking. The answer is hard and the work to process it is real. And, as in most things, the rewards for that kind of effort are great. We got this.

Thanks for the coffee,
~A