Buttons Come and Buttons Go

I think the autumn season may have finally arrived here in the Ozarks. At least, anyway, it’s cool enough to mow the lawn without passing out and to order a hot maple & vanilla latte. It comes at a good time because Fall is my start of hibernation – as if the last two years haven’t been, I suppose.

Fall in the Ozarks typically starts with a bit of rain and a threat or two of a tornado. It isn’t uncommon for us to go with ten days of dreary and cool weather. Some people hate it; It signals the end of outdoor activities, but this is when I am in my most peaceful state. I like the cooler weather – sans any snow – and I feel less guilty snuggling in with a good book when the weather is rainy.

Last week I wrote about how much can change over the course of a year. I think I’ll keep with that theme again today if you don’t mind. I’ve got my cup of coffee ready, so why don’t you join me? Go on. Grab a drink. Settle in.

I recently announced I was resigning from my current position “to pursue another opportunity.” Job changes are always tricky for me – even when the next opportunity is exciting, pays more, or allows me to do what I know I’m good at doing. My sense of loyalty encompasses me with a shroud of guilt, even when I know that the change is best for me. 

When I struggle with certain decisions or challenges, I (as a writer) will typically look to children’s literature for the answer. Adults can make life so complicated, and sometimes I need a new view. Take Charlotte’s Web, for example.  In 2006, Kansas banned Charlotte’s Web because “talking animals are blasphemous and unnatural” and passages about the spider dying were also criticized as being “inappropriate subject matter for a children’s book.” Whatever, Kansas. This novel is a great children’s story, and if you think about it, it is really about vulnerability, friendship, diversity, inclusion, and grief. Reading such a book through the lens of adult experiences reveals themes that one can’t visualize as a nine-year-old.

Today (this entire month, really), I’ve wrestled with change, and while I cuddled in my blanket in a quiet space, I reminisced about another story that was one of my son’s favorites. Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons is a story about non-attachment, letting go, and moving on. It is a story about accepting that change comes and goes, and it’s up to us to decide how to handle that change.

When faced with change, we can do one of three things: Accept it, fight it, or ignore it. I don’t recommend that last one. Change will happen whether we participate in it or not. Now, I’m not suggesting that if you’ve experienced one of the three most stressful life events (death of a loved one, divorce, or the loss of a job) that you just shrug and say, “Whatever. I’m fine with this.” I mean, please, take all the time you need to grieve. I am just saying that ‘buttons come and buttons go‘. Often change happens for us, not to us, and can lead to some big insights.

Take my divorce, for instance. I was bitter and angry for a very long time. And there were so many people available to help stoke that fire whenever I was ready to stir the coals. But I had to decide to stop putting wood on that fire. I had to be the one to decide: Do I want to be right or do I want to be happy? I believe the experts call this the ‘acceptance’ part of the grieving cycle, and truthfully, I never thought I’d get here. And because I thought I would never get here, it probably took longer than it should have to arrive.

So maybe it’s a job. A relationship. A pattern of behavior. Whatever. We can always find something in our life that is begging for change. Transitions are complex – I’m not invalidating that at all. But there are some ways we can navigate change to stay as calm as we possibly can during it.

  1. Admit to yourself that change is hard. Change can be both good and challenging at the same time. Give yourself time to process the change. I used to bury myself in work to ignore my feelings of fear, anxiety, and dread when faced with a significant life change. It turns out this isn’t helpful. I know, right? But, if you sit in the space, accepting that you don’t know what is going to come next (Buddhists call this space “nothingness”) there will be a moment when you start to accept the change.
  2.  Avoid asking everyone you know for their help and opinions. I’m super bad about this. Because I battle anxiety, I struggle with the fear that I’ll make the wrong decision and later regret it. It can be paralyzing at times, and it keeps me stuck in places I don’t need to be in for longer than I need to be there. If you are stuck, seek therapy. A good therapist can help sort out the details without having any stake in the game. 
  3. Stay moving. This point isn’t about exercising, relax. (Although, that’s not a bad idea.) This point is: Continue to grow. You can’t grow if you don’t keep moving (I know, plants do it. But you aren’t a plant.) I’ve continued to write this blog even when I haven’t had the energy at times to do it or felt as though I’ve had nothing really to offer. Keep moving forward – even the tiniest of steps can help you to find clarity.

I hope this helps today, and as always, I leave you with a song. Life’s changes can feel like a landslide at times, but there are so many seasons of our lives, and each one of them brings a new direction if we let it. You may be going through the worse time of your life right now – and I empathize with you. I really, really do. I also know that it will, eventually, get better – especially if you lean into it.

What A Difference A Year Makes

I went to get a massage the other day – big surprise – and the therapist and I started talking about birthdays. She hit a milestone recently, and I, too, so we started discussing how we were changing: bodies, mindset, attitudes, etc. I turned to her and nodded, “Oprah said that once a woman turns 50, she just stops giving a shit.” She replied, “I certainly hope it starts sooner than that for me because, frankly, I’m getting fed up with all the nonsense.” I couldn’t agree more.

Later I saw a quote that read, “A year can make such a difference. You won’t even recognize yourself.” Oh boy. Ain’t that the truth. It’s actually alarming just how much a person can change in a year. (One of my friends has worked her ass off – literally – and lost 110 pounds this year. Another got his product into two major grocery store chains. Two others weren’t so lucky and life threw them curveballs that will alter their lives forever.) But I’ve experienced several changes, too. Mostly in mindset. And to me, mindset changes are some of the more difficult ones. Yes. A year can make a huge difference in so many things.

Like what? Well, I’m about to tell you. This is my creepy online diary, after all, so grab a drink. Settle in. Let’s find out.

My life. My goals. In the past, I’ve let others define what I do with my time. A husband who doesn’t work? Okay. I’ll work more. A friend who likes Greek food? Okay. I’ll choke it down. A boss that can’t handle conflict? Okay. I’ll dance around the issues. All of that has changed. I want to tell you there was a moment when my priorities became more important than anyone else’s, but it was gradual. I realize I might lose some folks in my life because I keep setting boundaries and putting the brakes on the co-dependency. And honestly? I do not care, which leads to my following change.

Saying “No” more often. And I’m unapologetic about it. For example, this is the first weekend in FOREVER I’ve had zero commitments. Seriously. The only two things I needed to do were 1) cook up all the Blue Apron meals that seem to be piling up in my refrigerator before all the ingredients rot, and 2) cancel my Blue Apron membership. I was asked to go someplace, and I turned down the invitation. I had plans. I had plans with myself, my kitchen, and the most recent Nicholas Sparks book. (Spoiler: Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, someone dies. – Essentially every Nicholas Sparks book ever written – except this one was actually good, even if it was completely unbelievable. But I digress.) Also, let me add…‘No’ is a complete sentence. You don’t have to explain it any further if you don’t want to. Which is a nice seque…

Flipping the switch more often. I’ve been told that I have a high tolerance for bad behavior, which has been confirmed in many ways, but I realized that this pattern no longer serves me, and I’m starting to give less of a shit about a whole heck of a lot of things. Somewhere along mid-August, as my birthday approached, my F-it switch got a little touchy. Touchy as in…easier to flip. Some of the walls I thought had crumbled went back up. Some of the people I started to trust, I stopped trusting. Some of the work I pretended to like, I stopped liking. Some of my volunteer commitments seemed less rewarding. You get the picture. In other words…the people-pleaser up and left town. It was like I walked off stage in the middle of the third act, not giving a fuck at all about taking a final bow in that story. At first, I was a bit confused. Then I simply shrugged. Meh.

Being less assessible. I grounded my son from his tablet last week and Lordy. It was exhausting – for me. Trying to keep a busy and inquisitive nine-year-old occupied for four hours each night was hard. However, we started watching an older show together (“The Middle“. You have to watch it.) and to my surprise, he loved it. (I watched it before I had a child and it was funny then. It’s even funnier now.) So it’s now our thing. Eight at night, we take our vitamins, settle in, and watch two episodes of our show. He turned to me last night and said “When I get my tablet back, can we still do this every night?” (Queue Frankie Heck narration): I realized that being accessible to everyone else had left me less accessible to my favorite human on the planet. I vowed right then to do everything I could to protect this time.

Comfort over cool. I wear a lot of Chuck Taylor’s now. My jeans have turned into jeggings. My shirts are a tad bit longer, and a tad bit baggier. I do not care. I do less webcam-on meetings because I do less make-up. I wear sports bras – and those are my fancy ones. I’m not saying I don’t care about my appearance. I’m saying I care about it less often.

Stop dieting. I’m going to eat when I’m hungry. Stop when I’m full. Make better choices 80% of the time. Move more, sleep more, breathe more. I’m also going to stop with these meal plan services because all I feel is guilt and frankly, the food is gross. Seriously…I’ve tried them all (Daily Harvest is nasty, btw. Refrain. You’re welcome.)

Laugh more. Okay – it’s no secret that I watch documentaries about serial killers for fun, and I am highly addicted to true crime podcasts. I love psychology and am fascinated by the sheer craziness that goes on out there. But it’s made me a little dark. And cynical. And fearful. So, a switch to funnier and more uplifting stuff has helped. Also, a good Nicholas Sparks book thrown into a pile of Lanine Moriarty and Karen Slaughter is a refreshing change, even if I like to dog on the poor man. After all, he’s living in a pretty expensive house in New Bern, NC and I’m here writing on a free WordPress template with exactly zero sponsors. I should be nicer to him. Except….

Stop being nice. There’s a big difference between being nice and being kind. Nice is done because approval is sought. Kind is, well, just because. Nice people are resentful people (and co-dependent, and boundary-less, and ‘sweet’). I once won an award in college entitled “The Russell Stover Award” because I was so ‘nice’. Yeah, that’s right. I was always so worried about what other people thought and wanted to fit in so badly, I was nice. And it wasn’t until about two years ago I realized that winning the treasured “Russell Stover Award” was not a compliment. Brene Brown says (paraphrased) that people with boundaries are some of the kindest people on the planet. I agree.

Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others. – Brene Brown

Relax more. Everyone needs that one person you can text at 3 pm on a Saturday and say, “Hey, I know it’s short notice, but do you wanna come over later? I’ve got cheap wine, and I’ll let you kick my ass at Scrabble.” Not everything has to be a fucking discussion about the meaning of life. I’m in my brain enough – it’s the curse of being an INTJ and an Enneagram type 5. There are times when I just want to pour fancy honey over store-bought frozen snacks and ask, “Yellowtail or Barefoot?” all the while asking if (even though I’m American) she’d allow British slang in our game of Scrabble (i.e. Wanker). I pay good money to pour out my emotions bi-weekly, and I have this blog that no one really reads. After a hard week, I don’t want to get dressed up and pretend to like sex. I simply want to relax.

I tried REALLY hard to make this photo smaller but my FREE WordPress template was an asshole.

So, essentially, long story long…Yes. A lot has changed in a year. I’ve changed a lot in a year. And I suspect there’s a lot more change left to come if I live long enough.

Finally, the part you, Dear Reader, have waited for through this entire blog. My song for you. It actually is a very good, well-themed one, so grab that corkscrew (or in my case, leftover screw top) and pour yourself a drink. Enjoy your week! Thanks for reading.

Get Out The Map, Jack.

Last night I spent the evening with my two closest girlfriends, drinking wine and eating a copious amount of carbohydrates. Before I launch into my word scramble, I just need to remind you: Spending time with good friends is underrated. These two know me better than anyone – probably even better than I know myself – so I urge you today to call up a good friend and go catch up.

But that’s not really my topic today, even though the activity does feed into the theme a little.

I’ll admit, I’m still reeling a bit over the loss of my good friend, Bill. If you want to read more about him, take a look at this post. But for now, let’s just say that I’ve recently been thinking a lot about how short life is and how much of my life I’ve wasted trying to make others happy.

I don’t have a lot of BIG ideas for you today, but I have a few takeaways from the evening that popped into my head while driving home last night. I’m not one to take a situation for nothing less than a thought-provoking ‘lesson’. For me, the INTJ, I can take a perfectly good night of laughter, sugar, alcohol, and foul language and turn it into blog-fodder. Truthfully, it’s something I immensely dislike about myself – the ever-present analysis of every single encounter, not being able to turn off my thoughts. My inner voice whispers to me constantly: “Just have fun, dumbass.”

But whatever. Here we are. So, grab a drink and settle in. My brain is on fire this morning, and I want to share my drive home with you.

Lessons from the southside of town include the following:

1) Find financial balance. I’ve shared before with you, dear Reader, that this last half-decade of my life has been a lesson in frugality and overcoming fear. I still have so much PTSD when it comes to money that when I do come across a pay increase or some extra cash, I briefly panic – like the Universe made a mistake or something. My friend, Machell, reminded me that there’s an art to saving/spending, and while I talk a lot about ‘balance’ in life…when it comes to money, I’m not good at putting ‘balance’ into practice. I was celebrating a victory with them last night, but, in reality, in the back of my mind, I am still in shock, thinking the Universe might have made a mistake by giving me this incredible opportunity. BUT…for the record…I took a breath, told myself I had earned this opportunity, and…I ordered the coveted perfume today with that extra found money. Yes. I’m a classist bitch at times. I own that.

2) Outsource if you can. Businesses do it, why can’t you?. Hell, the place I work is dumping millions and lining the pockets of consultants every day. (Remember…I was once a consultant. I know how much they get paid). But, life is fleeting and if possible, time is better spent with the people you love than it is doing shit you hate, eating up your most precious commodity: Time. There’s something to be said about humility and pushing through challenging situations. I get it (really, I do). It builds character and makes us stronger. But that’s different than torturing yourself when you don’t have to. I was teasing both of my friends because they have someone come clean their houses occasionally. Neither works full time, and their children are grown…but if I dig deep inside myself…if I had the money…I would, too. (Jealous, much? Hmm….) I hate to mow my lawn and clean my house. (I like to ORGANIZE my home, but I wouldn’t say I enjoy cleaning it). I want SOMEONE ELSE TO DO IT. And…(here comes the justification) I’m not a lazy person. Fuck, I worked for three days last week a 100* + fever. Lazy isn’t a word used to describe me. But time is running out, and life is too short to weed-eat on the weekends and clean up cat hair all the fucking time. (Next stupid purchase: A Rumba).

3) Get out the map. As a consultant, I traveled for work a lot. So much so that I knew exactly what day my son was conceived in 2011 because I was only home two days that month and was too exhausted to have sex on one of them. I could tell you which bar in DFW would pour ‘over the 5 oz. line’ and where each Starbucks was in Terminal H and G in ORD. Because of all the business travel, I rarely ventured out for pleasure. As morbid as it seems, I told my friends last night where to scatter my ashes when I kicked the bucket. (I’m a bit obsessed with dying and go over my after-death plan a lot. Another blog. Another time.) “Just forget the expense of a funeral, have a party at Copper Run, tell the funeral home to divide me into four generic zip lock bags and dump me off in Perdido Key FL, Monterey Bay CA, Northampton MA, and Newport RI.” To this, my friend replied, “Well, I think we should at least travel to these places together while you are still alive so you can share with us what you love about them so much.” Good point. Not so practical, but yeah. Roadtrip!

4) Laugh more. I mean, LAUGH…not a little chuckle…the snort-and-wine-comes-out-your-nose kind. The type where you have to cover your face because you look so ridiculous. Do that. Do it often. Make fun of yourself and your silly antics. It takes a lot of self-reflection and a genuine fuck-it attitude to laugh about times that were really awful at the moment but are now just a humorous part of your story. I’m talking about looking back and laughing hard about the time a 45-year-old soccer mom got ruffied in a biker bar in west Springfield and almost puked in the Uber. Or the time you perched on the floor with a grieving friend in her freezing-ass kitchen while she sat there without a shirt (because she vomited on it) in her most awful bra, swollen-from-crying-face. I told her she looked super sexy, but that her breath was terrible (and truthfully…I didn’t look much better, just coming off the flu and having not brushed my teeth for three…maybe four?…days). And, of course, let’s not forget to laugh about the birthday party when I consumed a ‘homemade gummy’ that left me feeling like I needed to call 911. I can handle my alcohol, but that gummy? No. Way. Never. Not Again.

My point today: You ain’t gettin’ any younger. I Fakebook stalked my current boss and learned that I had graduated from high school twenty years before he did. In other words, I’m old enough to be his mother. And NOT the ‘Oops, I had too much to drink at a high-school river party in Webster County and wound up in the back of a truck’ kind of age difference. A legitimate, Baptist-approved sort of age difference. And He. Is. My. Boss.

So…get your suitcase, wash your face, buy a new bra (Yup, I’m talking to you!) and start living your life. Spend time with the people who fill your soul and love you for all the dumbass things you’ve done. Life is passing us by moment by moment. Get out your map, fill the cooler, and call out sick…on a FRIDAY. The reality is: 2022 will be here before we know it, and I bet you’re asking yourself, “What the fuck happened to 2021?

Nothing. Nothing happened. That’s the point.

So here’s your song. It does fit with today’s theme (gasp), and who doesn’t love Rob Thomas?