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!!

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.

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.