A Question of Selfishness

I realized I was going down a dark hole after I spent days obsessing over a stupid question I had blurted out at an inopportune moment. I was sure I had brought shame to myself and my family. I was certain I’d ruined lives and changed the course of history. While lost in this bizarre mental oblivion, I suddenly realized that the next day was a loved one’s birthday. Gulp.

At some point in life, I convinced myself that I must serve a penance for doing or saying stupid things. I must berate myself, even as I steep my brain in the cortisol this punishment releases. I couldn’t allow myself to enjoy food, entertainment, sleep, virtually anything, until I had sufficiently beaten myself up. I thought this self-flagellation would somehow “fix” things.

I can only guess that this act of martyring myself was supposed to prove I possess a loving, caring nature. But, in reality, it is just plain selfish. Not to mention, bad for my hippocampus.

While I waste precious time fretting, the people I care about are left hanging and abandoned. I’m not doing them any good by obsessing over my mistakes. Mistakes, I might add, that most people didn’t even notice. Nobody marked their calendars. No one demanded I lose sleep over it. It was all me.

I managed to salvage the birthday, and this near miss ended up giving me a gift. I finally realized I needed to get out of my head. It was time to think about others. To really think about others.

Let it go. Live in the moment. Breathe. I used to think those were lame platitudes that promote selfishness. Now I realize they are actually words to live by.

Now excuse me while I plan the next birthday party.

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Accentuate the Positive

It lies in wait. I can feel it at the edge of my consciousness beckoning to get in. It’s dark and insidious. It has no mercy.

My only recourse against it is to ignore it, but my self-doubt won’t let me. I try humming my favorite song. I think about new story lines. Sometimes I even yell, “NO!”

These meager attempts at stopping it are futile. My inner voice has turned on me. It has become the enemy. For some reason it has decided that I deserve to be berated.

My job is to chance its mind. My mind.

I have to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. It’s that simple. What’s not simple is the implementation.

Some of the best advice I’ve read is to ask yourself, “Is this fretting and berating yourself doing any good? Will it change anything?”

The answer is, of course, NO! So common sense tells us that a more productive stance is to let go of past mistakes, forget embarrassing moments, laugh off stupid utterances, don’t dwell, and just live in the moment.

One of the things I like about New Year’s Day is we’re encouraged to start anew – do a complete reset.

So I’m giving the ‘reset’ plan my all. Goodbye gnarly, cruel, belittling thoughts. You’ve been given your notice. I’m going to like me for me. I’m going to eliminate the negative.

I’m going to accentuate the positive.

Happy New Year!!

Encouragement

It doesn’t take much.

A kind word. A supportive nod. A friendly smile.

It really doesn’t take much.

Unless you’re made of steel and have confidence streaming from every pore, you might need a boost every once in awhile. A glimmer of hope. Encouragement.

Maybe you’re feeling like a failure. Maybe nobody has noticed, let alone commented on, the children’s book you wrote and are so proud of.

Maybe you’re feeling unwanted. Maybe nobody asks for your opinion or even calls just to chat.

Maybe you’re feeling like a poser. Those paintings you worked so hard on are sitting in the basement collecting dust.

Maybe you just want to curl up under your quilt and watch Netflix all day. Maybe nobody would notice your absence.

Then somebody smiles warmly at you in the grocery store. Then a coworker tells you they liked something you wrote for work. Then someone stops to look at your painting at the outdoor art market and says, “Beautiful.”

Lo and behold, the next morning you start a new painting or sit down to write the next installment in your book series. But most of all, you can’t wait to go out into the world to spread your own warm smiles.

It doesn’t take much.

. . . 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.