Category Archives: friends

How do you love yourself?

Last night I was feeling kind of insecure about mistakes I’d made earlier in the day, about times when I was not my best. My mind went to the old familiar place of shame and fear that I am not good enough. Then I went to the next habitual place of “what can I do to be better?”

I think I set a lot of challenges for myself, like Nanowrimo, or this month’s, “exercise everyday for 60 min”, for not totally healthy reasons. I think I am often trying to better myself as opposed to loving myself. And maybe, probably, those two things don’t have to be opposed. But for me, loving myself hardly ever enters into my mind, or my life. I am not sure I even know how to love who I am, without the constant striving. I have a really hard time forgiving myself for not being better.

But that is not how I treat people that I love. I love my husband, my daughter, my friends, for every little part of them. They don’t have to be perfect, or better than they are. I love the whole package.

So, how do I turn even a fraction of that love towards myself? Last night, in my quasi-dream state I thought I might make it into a challenge (of course I did), something like “Try loving myself for 30 days.” Heh.

I am really not sure how to do that. I have some vague ideas about being attentive to what I am feeling when I am eating, drinking, walking, reading, etc, to see if I like how I am feeling, as well as notice my self-talk and try to develop a more loving “inner voice.”

I don’t know. I feel like I have come a long way in the last few years. Therapy and avoiding situations that reenforced a negative self-concept have really really helped. But there are so many layers to this onion. I need to keep working at it.

So, how do you love yourself? Do you have any insight? Practical, spiritual, psychological? Cause I would like to feel better about not being better.

[cross posted from my blog]

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You Are What You’re Thankful For

If what I’m grateful for helps define who I am, who am I?

Clearly I am someone who loves sleep and food, first off. Not exactly the first thing I’d put on my resume. Let’s try that a different way: I am also someone who has learned to revel in the most basic aspects of being human. Much nicer.

If I love technology and social media, maybe I am not merely a yuppie asshat but also an introverted yet curious person who likes to learn.

So AM is (among other things, of course) a person who loves beauty and tries to push herself a little outside of her comfort zone, knowing that she has the resources to take care of herself. Tabby is a person who values loyalty and thoughtfulness, and she puts a high priority on her relationships.

I like this question: I’m going to be looking at those November Facebook posts, and all the other November gratitude announcements, differently now.

So, what are you thankful for?

Monday Mind Hack: Some Grudging Gratitude

I was slow finishing this post, so now my co-blogger has not only beat me to the punch but also come off as far more high-minded than I. Well, that’s only fair, as she is far more high-minded than I am.

Gratitude can be a great mood-altering substance: change your perspective and feel thankful for what you do have instead of dwelling on what you don’t. When you develop the habit, it’s easy to feel suddenly grateful for everyday things like a game of cards with your kids, a pizza, or a perfect peach. (OK, perfect peach is not an everyday thing, but you see what I mean.) You can go all “Double Rainbow, All the Way!” without the acid and the resultant letdown.

I don’t really have trouble feeling grateful. I often go to sleep at night feeling grateful for my bed, knowing that many people don’t cuddle under fluffy blankets on flannel sheets and a soft but supportive mattress. The good fortune involved in such a happy circumstance does not escape me, even after something like 15,000 nights of doing the same over the course of my life (I subtracted a few hundred nights for summers at Girl Scout Camp and the last year of my futon.)

I just don’t like being told to be grateful. Consider: it always happens when you are in conflict, or when someone is telling you to STFU.

“Mom, my shoes are too small and I’m starting to lose circulation from my mid-calf on down.” “Just be grateful you have shoes!”

“Cleaning coffeeshop toilets feels like such a waste of my Master’s degree.” “Just be grateful you have a job.”

If you’re on Facebook, you know that November is the month when your friends begin listing the things they are grateful for in their status updates, kind of like February is the month when NPR starts featuring blues musicians. (Kidding! I love NPR—some of my best one-sided friendships are with NPR hosts.)

I would by no means suspend any pleasure of theirs, and I enjoy the little peek into the thoughts and feelings of my friends. (I admit, I am one who does not mind reading what people had for breakfast as their status updates; I am weirdly voyeuristic curious that way.)

Reading them every day for two weeks now has me edgy, in that pouty “don’t tell me what to do” way triggered by the “just be grateful you aren’t a shoeless hobo” superego in my head. But I know it’s good for me, so here goes, and now I’ll be all caught up.

1. Online friends: I talked to one of my first online friends to go “IRL” with me on the phone yesterday. She reminded me how accessible joy can be when you’re receptive and curious, which made it a lot easier to make the rest of this list.

2. My gas stove, which merrily spits fire if I get too wild in the kitchen, making me feel temporarily like a real restaurant chef.

3. Chocolate cookies from Rustica, which are truly better than you can imagine. You may think you have had a cookie just like this, but if you haven’t been to Rustica, you have not.

4. Peaches: obvious. Best. Food. Ever.

5. The musicians in my family, because letting my music education go was one of the hardest things I ever did, and now it’s all right back in my house again.

6. My southern roots, which I embrace by making grits dressing and banana cream pie and creamed greens and sweet tea and biscuits and gravy. And peaches, obviously.

7. Grad school, where I met my people. I don’t see many of my people anymore, but grad school was the first place where it seemed I might actually have a people. Had a best friend who just Got Me. And got a husband too.

8. Coffee. My other best friend.

9. Learning to knit, which makes me feel competent in a way that a PhD and 500+ published encyclopedia entries do not. Turning a heel on a sock makes me feel like a magician. Also, knitting means always having an excuse to fall out of a conversation.

10. Cocktails: my favorite part of having cocktails is when someone else makes it and hands it to me. We like to drink something we call Tuccis, after Stanley Tucci, and they bear a strong resemblance to the Parisian Cocktail.

11. MPR, my constant kitchen and car companion.

12. Computers, without which I could not have my job, could not stay home in my little hidey hole office, could not have those Facebook friends.

13. My light box, which keeps me marginally sane.

14. My bed, where in the encroaching cold of November I burrow down under several blankets and still try to steal body heat from my beloved, who is—thankfully—only mildly grumpy about that.

I’m in it for the everyday stuff

At the risk of sounding supremely grinchy, I’m not a huge fan of the daily thankfulness posts that circulate on Facebook and elsewhere during the month of November. I’m pretty sure I participated a couple of years ago and I *do* get the point, I just like the idea of implementing that kind of thankfulness throughout the year, not just in November. And I think it’s tempting to really go all out every day in November and then feel “done” for the other 11 months.

It’s a little bit like my parenting philosophy, or even my friendship philosophy. I don’t like overdoing it on holidays or other special events as a way of making up for lackluster participation throughout the rest of the days. Ideally, I think we should be thankful on a regular basis, and we should be eagerly and actively involved in parenting, in partnership (if applicable) and in friendship and other important relationships all of the time, not just on birthdays and anniversaries, Thanksgiving and Christmas/Chanukah/Yule/Whatever December holiday(s) you choose to mark.

I certainly fall short of that on a regular basis, but it is what I strive for.

I know for myself, I would rather have my partner kiss me sincerely and show that he cares about what I have to say whenever we are together than to neglect me for other interests until it’s a holiday or some other jewelry-buying occasion and then make a big deal of it. Luckily, I have someone in my life now who does both (the everyday stuff and the holiday stuff) but if I had to choose, I’d take the everyday good stuff over the holiday make good every time.

Similarly, I know it means more to my kids to have me there helping with homework, giving hugs and offering encouragement every day in their lives than if I were less available but bought them really expensive gifts to make up for it.

I do think that marking holidays and having traditions is a worthwhile part of family life (and human life!) so I don’t mean to sound down on holidays. It’s just that I think a little bit goes a long way. And I really don’t think there should be Christmas music and decorating going on the day after Halloween. It’s more special if those things happen after Thanksgiving (thank you, Nordstrom).

And I think that thankfulness is a very healthy practice. We all have so many things for which to be thankful. I just prefer to make that an everyday practice instead of a November-only practice.

Mind Hack Monday – She Shells

No matter how introverted I say I am I still need to connect with people. But that connection hasn’t always been easy for me to make. And, recently, I have been wondering why it is so hard.

Not that I don’t have friends. I have actually been blessed with many wonderful close friends. They are truly amazing, so I guess I must be doing something right. But, well, I just moved to a new city and now I am faced with the prospect of having to build a social life from scratch.

Moving can be exciting. You get a fresh start, on everything, even who you are, or, at least, how you present yourself to others. This time, I told myself, I am going to be more outgoing. I’ll try to talk to people I wouldn’t normally talk to. I’ll have more confidence, be less guarded, and be a better listener.  You know, “be myself” but better. 😛

Contemplating my struggle with friendships and relationships makes me think of my daughter, whose friendship mojo is strong. In the six weeks since we have moved here she has made several really good friends, had 3 sleepovers, and almost daily invitations for playdates/hang outs. Her social calender is so full it needs 13 months.

Not that I want that. I couldn’t handle that. But I would like to make at least a few meaningful connections. And it would be nice if it didn’t seem so hard.

I recognize that a big part of my problem is my impatience. I haven’t yet figured out how to enjoy the slow and somewhat obscure process of vetting, I mean, making friends.  In the past I relied on intuitive (snap) judgements regarding compatibility. But, the new me, in my new city of Brotherly Love, is trying out new things and new people. I am meditating on remaining open, and curious. And that helps, a little bit. But sometimes it doesn’t.

Of course, sometimes I have to think “Maybe it is just me.” Maybe everyone else I know easily makes full and satisfying friendships. Maybe they often get that experience of being “known” and accepted. Maybe once an outsider, always an outsider. (and maybe feeling negative about the process isn’t really helping:P)

I don’t know. I really don’t. All I can do is just keep showing up and putting myself out there. Or maybe I should give up looking for a specific outcome but somehow not give up on the process. But, I should probably not crawl back into my shell. Unless maybe it is my shell that somehow, paradoxically draws other interesting shell dwellers to it.

Intimacy

I’ve been thinking a lot about intimacy this week. No, not just *that* kind.

What is true emotional intimacy? How do we establish it? How do we nurture it? How much of it do we need in our daily lives in order to feel connected to other people and not just like an island adrift? How do we decide who our intimates should be? How does intimacy change naturally over the lifetime of a relationship (whether it’s with a friend, family member or romantic partner)? And how do we know what needs to be done in order to reestablish it if it fades or whether we even should? And if it dies in an important relationship…how should we grieve and then move on?

Why 40 Questions?

The idea of starting this blog came about in the shower, like many ideas do. It was another morning waking up tired, thinking about the full day ahead, worrying about lots of big and little issues that I have been meaning to do something about for a very long time, but still haven’t. “I can’t keep going like this,” I thought. “Something has to change.” I’m not one to be coy about my age, but really, at 41 you have to realize that if there are things you are hoping to do in life—learn the cello, organize your office, write a book, do a headstand—the time ain’t gettin any riper.

The idea that came to me between lather and rinse (don’t repeat, it’s a waste of product) was to start writing about it. A blog. Something that would call my attention back to those things I want to do more than I want to click through internet links all afternoon.

The trouble with personal blogs written by neurotic cerebral types is that we’re very good at unspooling ideas and theories at great length. When there are two of you, it gets better—or worse, depending on your point of view. My husband and I can turn an argument about a coffeemaker into a two-hour discussion about family of origin issues and how we carry on in the face of the ultimate meaninglessness of life. And then the coffee’s cold.

The idea of blogging with friends seemed like the perfect solution. In real life, we bring each other gripes, rants, and sticky wickets, and usually in the end it moves our thinking forward. Supportive “you go girl!” friends are great, but sometimes a great friend prods you a bit and says, “Hmm, I see it a little differently.” What I like best is when a friend asks that good pointed question that picks up the problem and sets it in a new light. Suddenly there’s an open window in what felt like a closed room. Good questions are amazing things.

Plus we can try to pick up each other’s slack when a full week means minimal blog posting.

So: 40 Questions. 40 is a shorthand for this “the time is now” time of life. Questions are how we keep things moving forward.

It’s my hope that as we get our bloggy feet under us we’ll keep asking each other questions—not just the three ladies of this blog, but friends and strangers, regular and irregular visitors too—and find ourselves moving forward in all kinds of ways.

For me, I’d like to get in the shower some morning and think, “I can’t wait to get to this,” instead of “I can’t keep going like this.”

We have some ideas that I hope will unfold in the coming weeks and months to help us shift into the next gear. Thanks to everyone who has been reading and commenting—some comments have opened a few windows for me already, and I hope now and then we can do the same for you.

Busy Indeed

Wow, the last several days have been full! So little time for writing, but time for reading. This is a great post about friendship at How I Learned to Wear a Dress — check it out!

Where Has the Passion Gone?

Dear Tabby,

You helped inspire this post. And no, it is not about sex or even romance, though you obviously could inspire either of those things. (rawr)

It’s about those passions that keep you going through the day: the thing that keeps you happily up at night, the thing you don’t have to put on your to-do list because you won’t forget it, the thing that makes you ignore the passage of time.

I have had very few men in my life (and I’m not just saying that in case my mom is reading). I have had a lot of passions.

Music was my passion for a long time. I was a music major for a while in college, and I practiced up to eight hours a day between singing and piano. Then writing took over and music faded. I had always written, but I dove into fiction with, well, a passion, at least for another few years.

But I had also discovered philosophy, especially philosophies of language and culture. Suddenly my world was crackling with significance, and it seemed as if my infinite appetite for systems and theories—just say it, my intense nerdiness—might have a home.

And on and on it goes. Academia, vegetarianism, babies, homemaking, yoga, cooking, homeschooling, community organizing: I jumped into all of these things with an intensity that is, to people who don’t do intensity, a little hard to understand. And it is even harder to understand when that intensity just stops.

It used to bother me when it stopped, because it stops pretty cold sometimes. It’s like you said, Tabby:

When friendships faded or changed, I felt like I had failed somehow.

All that time and energy put into a relationship, a career, a hobby, a “calling,” and then it ends—what a waste. Or at least, that is what I thought for a long time. But now I see that just like friendships, some passions aren’t meant to last, but they are wonderful while they are there.

And also just like friendships, you have to nurture them in the midst of all the crap that interferes. Otherwise you find—as I have in the last few years—that the few passions you have left are looking rather lifeless, and for some the fire has just plain gone out.

So now, friends, I’m a little stuck. I’m a person who’s always been driven by intensity, but I’ve got nowhere to put it. Maybe I’m like a midlife cougar, hoping to find an all-consuming romance when I ought to be grateful I have someone to go to Home Depot with of a weekend.

Maybe.

But I’m not ready to give up yet. I have high hopes that, once I let go of those old interests that aren’t doing it for me, something new and shiny is going to catch my eye. It might be the start of a beautiful relationship, or it might just be a torrid and short-lived affair, but I think passion—probably a lot of passions—is still out there for me.

Are you doing anything to keep your passions alive? Or are you, like me, a little at sea without an intense love to throw yourself into?

[By the way, if you are an intense person or are a person perplexed by living with an intense person, check out Lisa Rivero’s blog Everyday Intensity]

Friendship at 40

Where would any of us be without our friends? Whether you are a person who has one best friend who is like a sister or a brother but even better, or you’re a person who has dozens of friends, or somewhere in between, everyone needs at least one great friend.

Friendships at 40ish are different from friendships at 20-something. For me, one of the key differences is that I have grown to accept the natural ebb/flow of relationships and I don’t fight so hard to keep all of my friends close all of the time. When I was younger, I was a collector of people. I felt responsible for keeping in regular contact with anyone I considered a friend. And then, when friendships faded or changed, I felt like I had failed somehow. But now I realize that there is great truth in the saying that some friends come into our lives for a reason, or for a season, or for a lifetime. And even though it can be sad to realize that a friendship is changing, and that the close bonds you once shared are no longer there, it’s freeing as well to recognize that change is a constant in life. And not all of us are meant to be intimately connected with all of our friends from birth to death.

That said, it can be more of a challenge to maintain those close ties at this stage of life. Many of us are juggling parenting, marriage/partnership, working, caring for aging family members, or even our own health issues, and we lose sight of the importance of staying connected with the very people who can help us to stay sane during these demanding times. Some of us are more gifted at this than others. I have one friend in particular (you know who you are!) who still manages to remember birthdays, and other important dates, and she sends cards and picks up the phone to call on a regular basis, despite the demands of her own life. She’s a treasure and I am grateful that she is patient with me as I am not so good at picking up the phone to return her calls!

So I think the trick at this stage of life is to figure out for ourselves which friends (and family members who are also friends) fill us up, and how to balance our lives in a way that allows us to maintain closeness with those people. What do you do to stay closely connected with the people in your life who fill you up?