. . . There You Are

I’m not sure why I signed a contract with myself to carry excess baggage forever. Well, not “carry” exactly, more like burden myself with. Well, not “burden” so much as chain myself to. Yeah, that’s more descriptive. Heavy-duty, unbreakable, all-consuming, suffocating chains. Everywhere I go. Endlessly.

I remember reading a depressing sentence that really hit home. It was written in answer to someone who wanted to escape their many disappointments in life by running away from it all. The pragmatic, blunt, honest response was, “No matter where you go, there you are.”

Ouch! In other words, your baggage is chained to you. It’s going with you.

A few days ago I wrote that throughout my life I had done some really stupid things. I wanted to know I wasn’t alone so I googled, “What is the stupidest thing you’ve ever done?” The answers were disappointingly lame. I felt even more alone.

But then I realized I was guilty of doing the same thing. I talked about making mistakes but had not been willing to divulge the stupid things I had done.

So here’s a small sampling: I was introduced to one of my son’s acquaintances at an important social function. She wasn’t a close friend, was somewhat overweight, and I had been forewarned that she could be needy. She had been married for a few months, but had come to the function alone. She stood on the periphery of the group with a hopeful smile on her face.

I was anxious about making a good impression on my son’s friends and was therefore a nervous wreck. Social functions are not my forte and I tend to blurt.

In an attempt to be supportive and welcoming to this girl, I blurted out, “When is your little one due?” Thank goodness we were out of earshot of the group.

You guessed it. She wasn’t pregnant. I tried to cover my unbelievably stupid faux pas with lame excuses like, “You have such a healthy glow.” And, “I thought I heard that you were trying.”, etc.

She was gracious about my mistake, but in return seemed to expect my undivided attention from that moment on. She gathered my contact info and started writing me daily. She wanted my opinions, my advice, my acknowledgement, and my acceptance. I felt like I owed it to her and she knew that. She capitalized on it. I dutifully played my part because I wanted her forgiveness.

I found myself desperately wanting out of this contract. Sure, I made a really dumb mistake, but do I have to carry it with me forever? Will I somehow be atoned if I do so?

We eventually went our own directions, mostly. She still contacts me occasionally. She did get pregnant soon after and has a beautiful baby.

But I still ruminate over my stupidity and the way it might have influenced future actions on both of our parts. I have chained this memory to my psyche forever. It crops up to bite me whenever it feels like it. It reminds me of my immense capability for thoughtless stupidity.

No matter where I go, there I am.

Is There a Right Reason to Write?

Maybe it’s because I’m a little hard of hearing or maybe it’s because I’m not as quick witted as I wish I was or maybe it’s because I’m an introvert. Whatever the reason, I’ve always preferred the written word over the spoken word.

When I’m upset about a local occurrence, I write a Letter to the Editor. When I’m feeling imaginative, I write children’s stories. When I want to touch base with a friend, I text. When I’m feeling anxious about my meager contributions to the world, I blog.

So it was with some amusement that I listened to a good friend of mine explain why he would not write a blog about classic motorcycles. I have been trying to convince him he should because he knows A LOT about old motorcycles and loves to write (or so he claims) – a match made in Blog Heaven.

“I don’t need notoriety. I don’t need accolades. I don’t need money thrown at me,” he stated firmly.

Right. Like that’s exactly what happens when you post a blog. Snort.

I started blogging after I went through some very stressful, self-induced anxiety stupors – complete with racing heart, sleepless nights, pacing, sweating, preoccupation, and general malaise. These stupors were brought on by my saying and doing some really stupid things. I turned to the internet for comfort, hoping to find stories and advice from people who had experienced the same thing. Misery loves company, after all.

Nada. Zilch. Zero.

I had googled “stupidest thing you’ve ever done” and got cute stories about forgetting names or getting in the wrong car. Ha! There were also a series of humble brags about jumping off of tall things and facing off with bad guys. Wow!

I felt adrift.

Was I the only loser out there? Was I the only person who did outrageously stupid things then spent weeks flogging themselves over them?

I was dejected and demoralized. But, instead of continuing to berate myself, I decided to try to make something good come from it. I would blog my stories of stupidity so people like me would have some company. A little Schadenfreude therapy, if you will.

I thought my good friend would do his motorcycle blog for the same reasons – except for the stupidity and Schadenfreude and ‘misery loves company’ parts. I thought he would want to share what he knows for the betterment of humanity. Nope.

So who’s better adjusted? The person who doesn’t feel the need to share their knowledge because they don’t need approval from others or the one who writes to fill a need to feel worthwhile by getting approval from others?

Apples v oranges or the crux of the human conundrum?

The Dangers of Being ‘Event Oriented’

When I was a child, my mom, step-father, and I would take long car trips to visit relatives.

My step-father was all about making time, so stops were infrequent. Sight-seeing was unheard of, and the few stops for eating and bathroom breaks were fast and furious. It was awful.

Fast forward to my adulthood. For our family trips, I planned stops at every tourist trap, scenic overview, and wide spot in the road I could find. I wanted the trip to be about the journey not just the destination.

If only I could translate that concept to my day-to-day life.

I find myself singularly focused on events. Be it a family reunion, Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas, or even a doctor’s appointment. I plan everything around that one event at the expense of my every day life.

I wake up thinking about the event. I plan my activities around the event. I hurry through meals, grocery store trips, errands, all so I can get back to focusing on the event.

The event could be months away, but it is still my priority. Everything is purchased, planned, obsessed over, and singled out to make this event a success.

The pressure becomes enormous.

The day of the event arrives and I’m busy fretting and fussing. All must be perfect.

Inevitably, something is forgotten, goes contrary to plan, or is just a dud. Stuff happens.

I crumble. All is lost. I have failed. I ruminate over ‘what could have been’ for weeks.

Here I am, fifty-something, and I’m just now realizing that I’m missing out on the journey by fixating on the destination. A destination that I balloon into an unrealistic and over-the-top fulfiller of joy and satisfaction.

I’ve been rushing through my life to get to these special occasions, only to watch them fall flat under the pressure I’ve piled on them.

The next occasion I experience is going to be as low-key and as spontaneous as possible. No more micro-managing and no more unrealistic expectations of grandeur.

Let the journey begin.

Does this Hashimoto’s Make Me Look Fat?

Let’s start with the science-y stuff. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is an auto-immune disease in which a person’s own immune system attacks their thyroid. While being pummeled, the thyroid goes through phases of over-action followed by under-action. So some days your pulse races and you’re uber energetic. On other days you’re listless and your brain feels like it’s lost in a dense fog.

Hashimoto’s can be a tough one to diagnose because it can look like so many other things – depression, anxiety, dementia, digestive ailments, hair loss, diarrhea/constipation, mania/fatigue . . .

The first step is to get a TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) test and a test to see if you have antibodies to your thyroid. If high and/or positive, you will be prescribed thyroid hormones. These won’t cure you, they’ll just help even out your thyroid hormone levels. You get to take these every day for the rest of your life.

Welcome to the rollercoaster. You now get to navigate the Wild West of theories, concepts, and testimonials. Some articles will tell you to give up gluten and dairy. Others will say that’s just a fad – you need grains for heart health and dairy for your bones. Some will tell you to take selenium and digestive enzyme supplements, but not too much. Some will say to exercise, others will say not so much.

Two opposing schools of thought will say to take either desiccated pig thyroid (T4 and T3) hormone because it is more natural or to take synthetic (T4) hormone because it is more standardized. Good luck figuring that one out.

If you’re like me, you will try all of these suggestions. Soon your counter will be covered in supplements bottles – magnesium, D3, Ashwaganda, calcium, the B vitamins, L-theanine, Black Seed Oil, Sleepy Time Tea, gluten-free flours and breads, dairy-free “milk” and “butter”, etc, etc.

In the meantime, you may be hyper-sensitive to any weight gain, hair loss, your wonky sleep patterns, and your brain health.

Anxiety might try to take over your life. Don’t let it. Be calm and carry on. Eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, take walks in the pines, breath deeply, try keeping a food journal or just a journal, and drink plenty of water.

And, most of all, know you are not alone.

A Mother’s Unexpected Legacy

My mom died 4 years ago this October. She was a few days away from her 92nd birthday.

I’m still going through her paperwork. Every time I sit down with a box, I have to fold everything up and put it away when it comes time to get tough. I can’t bring myself to throw her personal paperwork away. There are old cards, lists, newspaper clippings, and odds and ends.

Going through a box the other day, I found a scrap of paper with a verse in her handwriting. It was about planting a garden, except each vegetable name went on to become a homophone. Peas became peace, squash became, well, squash, and lettuce became let us. So you would plant 3 rows of peas – of mind, heart, and soul. 4 rows of squash – indifference, selfishness, grumbling, gossip, etc. It was inspirational and I was so impressed with my mom for writing it.

I decided it was a rough draft of a card she was making for us children. I lamented that she didn’t actually make the cards. What a wonderful gift they would have been.

Today, right before I sat down to write the story of my mom’s lost verse, I googled the first line. To my amazement, dozens of entries popped up. It is obviously very well-known.

At first, I was disappointed, then, not to be deterred, I decided Mom must have sent her verse to a publisher a long time ago. I studied the scrap of paper. It seemed old. There were add-ins above lines, like she had changed her mind as she wrote.

But, as I did more research, I found that the poem was attributed to other people that weren’t my mom.

Instead of feeling sad, I realized this episode was actually an incredible tribute to my mom. I’d always known she was a talented writer, so I readily gave her credit for this verse. She was definitely capable.

This helped me realize how much respect I have for her.

Her legacy will live on, verse or not.

Am I Actually Stupid and Just Don’t Realize It?

I grew up in a household in which I was praised for everything I did. I continually heard, “You are so good at that!”; “Where did you learn to do that so well?”; “You are so smart!”; “I wish I could do that.”; “No really! You are so smart.” I’m pretty sure I was the best sleeper, breather and tv watcher, as well. I could do no wrong.

So imagine my surprise when I got beat in a game or got a lower score than a classmate. It had to be a fluke, I’d convince myself, over and over. I definitely had attitude. A somewhat dangerous attitude.

What’s the dangerous part? I had a “let me do that” attitude. Even when I didn’t have a clue how to do something. And I’d blurt out ridiculous statements because I was fairly certain I knew everything. I’m sure I gave out bad advice, instructions, directions, you name it. All because I was “so smart.” Thank goodness nobody was harmed during the blurting of my stupidity.

To the contrary, people were always nice to me, making me believe that I made perfect sense. Nodding in agreement even when I’d state something stupid like, “Mt. Everest is 16,000 feet tall.” It’s 29,000. And to make matters worse, I said that to a mountain climber. Or, “I only paid $8.25 for this $10 item. That’s like 6% off.” Sigh.

When it finally dawned on me that maybe I had a real conundrum on my hands (thinking I was brilliant, when I might actually be stupid), I went into a tailspin.

I wondered if I had damaged my extraordinary brain somehow. My family wouldn’t lie to me. I must have breathed in some toxic fumes or something.

I started to microscopically analyze everything I said or did. I kept score. My brain was losing. I began worrying and fretting. My identity was tied into being smart. I didn’t know how to behave if I was actually stupid.

I was caught in a vicious cycle. If I did something smart, it was a lucky guess. If I did something stupid, it was the real me. I couldn’t win.

Then I realized my family had only been trying to build my confidence. They meant no harm. I’m sure they thought I’d succumb to the self-fulfilling prophecy and actually become smarter. I wish it were so.

So, for now, I’m a work in progress. Trying to think before I blurt. And trying to convince myself that maybe I’m smart when I’m not being stupid.

There’s a loophole to everything.

When Being an Introverted Narcissist Can Be Hard on Your Health.

Some traits of an introvert:

1. Likes to be alone.

2. Quiet and reserved.

3. Doesn’t enjoy being in crowded social situations.

4. Doesn’t relish small talk.

5. Needs to recharge after social gatherings.

6. Introspective.

7. Self-aware.

Some traits of a narcissist:

1. Lacks empathy.

2. Exaggerated sense of self-importance.

  • 3. Feelings of entitlement.
  • 4. Selfishness.
  • 5. An excessive need for praise and attention.
  • 6. Doesn’t like criticism.
  • 7. Judges others.
  • Try imagining a person who exhibits the worst behaviors of both an introvert and a narcissist. Having all those bad traits together in one psyche would be hell. I should know, I managed to do it.
  • Imagine being painfully self-aware, feeling stressed around crowds, thinking you’re smarter than most, yet possessing questionable social skills. Now imagine being in any social situation and blurting out an ill-thought-out question, a stupid comment, or an inconsiderate observation, and freezing up when you should be explaining yourself. Now throw in being painfully self-aware and absolutely convinced that your statement, question, or lack of response has just ruined lives and irreparably harmed people’s self-esteem or their perception of you.
  • That is the perfect recipe for harmful, lingering, and painful rumination. I blurt out something inconsiderately inane and blow my chance to fix it because my mind goes blank. Now I own it – lock, stock and barrel. It will follow me for life. I know this from all the past stupidities I’ve hoisted on the world. They dutifully come back to haunt me at 3:00 am. And, since I’m so influential, important, and powerful (in my own head) everyone involved is thinking and talking about what I did. They will surely dwell on it, causing them to think less and less of me. It can also ruin what could have been a joyous memory of a special occasion, causing me, instead, to get queasy when thinking about it. That’s sad.
  • That, of course, is an exaggeration. I have to keep reminding myself of the famous quote, “You wouldn’t worry so much about what other people think of you if you realized how seldom they did.”
  • I don’t know how many times I’ve apologized profusely to someone the day after blurting out something stupid, only to realize they don’t even remember what I said or half the time, that I was even there.
  • You’d think I’d learn from that, but no. I fall back on my delusions of importance and influence. I’m convinced they’re just being nice to my face, but are actually talking about it behind my back.
  • Even talking about this is narcissistic. Why should you care about what goes on in my mind? I’m self-inflating my importance, yet again.
  • If I had to explain why I’m writing this, I’d say I want to help someone else going through the same thing. I’d like them to know they are not alone and let them know that ruminating doesn’t do anyone any good. You’re not paying a penance. You’re not driving home a lesson. You’re not making everything better. You’re actually releasing stress hormones into your body, some of which are kind of rough on it.
  • We all hate to hear, “Let it go!” Or “Why are you still thinking about that?” Or “Oh no, you actually said that?” So sometimes it can be hard to talk to people about it. But know that their are people who understand, be it a trusted friend, a doctor, or an empathetic family member.
  • Things that have worked for me are – writing it down; trying positive reinforcement techniques – instead of beating yourself up, make it a positive by thinking of the good things it could have caused, even if that only means schadenfreude therapy for the people involved; finding the humor, if possible; anti-anxiety supplements like L-theanine; a long walk through the woods; focusing on other people’s needs; and just plain getting out of my head for awhile.
  • And, most of all, realizing that I’m not alone.