Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Ramblings that became papers... Part Three

Here's another one.  Now this batch of rambling wasn't intended to be a class assignment, but it was recommended to me that I attempt to write down what I was dealing with at the time to see if it would help me at all.  Then an instructor that I trusted with it encouraged me to go ahead and let people see this.  Of course, Steve had also said the same thing, but I'm a coward when it comes to this stuff so I'm just now getting up the gumption to post it.

I'm also not promising it's going to stay here very long, so if it suddenly vanishes don't blame your internet connection.


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          27 July 2017


Finding Myself Again


As most of our friends know, Steve and I have been travelling to business events four times a year and having an absolute blast doing it.  We choose to serve as volunteers at each of these events and will continue to do so as long as they’ll allow us to.  The experiences there, the friends we reconnect with, the family ties we’re building… there’s simply no way to explain all that we get from serving and if we ever find ourselves not being able to serve, I’m sure it will be absolutely heartbreaking for us both.  One of the biggest gifts we get from these trips is how much we learn about ourselves and the opportunities to grow as individuals in ways we’d never consider if we weren’t part of this community.
          However, I’ve been struggling for the past four events.  During the events I’m always having fun, always smiling, always planning for the next event, always watching for the next opportunity to help, always looking for the next bit of knowledge I can get my paws on.  But as soon as the event is over and we’re ready to go home, I begin reflecting on myself and it’s been a pretty miserable downward spiral of personal disappointment, internal criticism, and self-loathing that I can’t seem to control.  This past event was so bad that I couldn’t even keep it bottled up long enough to make it back to our hotel room before I exploded at Steve and let it slip that I’ve actually been suicidal for a few days after each of the last few events, and this time was already worse than any of them.
          I don’t really know why I’m feeling it so important to write all this out.  People say it’s therapeutic to put our thoughts and emotions down in words, but to me it just feels like I’m trying to make myself the center of attention and throw a pity party.  As I’m writing this out, I’m already strongly considering not letting anyone see any of this and just keeping it to myself where it belongs.  After all, what purpose does it serve to put this in a public forum if I don’t want to make a spectacle of myself?  Maybe I’m just trying to explain myself.  Maybe I’m just trying to justify my actions.  Maybe I’m just being selfish.  Maybe I’m just trying to catch my thoughts as they fly around my head in fast forward and stick them down on fly paper so I can make sense of things myself.  All I know for sure is that I need to find some way to release all this pent-up confusion, anger, disappointment, and God knows what else is running rampant in there before I really do lose my grip on life in general.
          In my quest for personal growth, I’ve been looking to a group of mentors who set amazing examples of what leadership should look like and what I’d like to embody.  Their opinions are incredibly important to me, their advice is something I take to heart when I hear it, and their disappointment would absolutely gut me if they were to voice it where I could hear it.
I’ve been doing everything I can to live up to what is taught to everyone in the program.  We’re taught to stop hiding in the background and to let people see us shine in all our glory.  We’re taught to look at ourselves and see unmatched beauty in everything looking back at us.  We’re taught to celebrate our achievements and to stop criticizing ourselves even in jest.  We’re shown ways to envision all of our potential and the first steps we need to take to get there.  We’re shown opportunities to grow as individuals, as parents, as business owners, and as leaders.  Most of all, we’re taught to get out of our comfort zones and to embrace what scares the hell out of us so we can turn ourselves into those people we want to be.
In trying to do these things, I’ve not only stepped way out of my comfort zone, but I slammed the door behind me and tossed the key into the nearest bog so I couldn’t flee back as soon as it got frightening and difficult.  People may have seen me changing in unexpected ways; some good, some bad.  I’ve been attempting to accept flaws in myself that I have considered unforgiveable my entire life, and I’ve been trying to avoid being complacent in the things I just haven’t wanted to face or fix.
A few years ago, I was quite happy being in the background where I was unseen and I was free to do what I felt inclined to do when it needed to be done without anyone knowing I was doing it.  I was a bit like the little cobbler elves in the stories, I suppose.  Things just got done without anyone really knowing when or how, especially tasks no one else wanted to do.  By staying in the background, I didn’t have to answer to anyone but myself, and let’s be honest, my expectations of myself are pretty damned astronomical.  Especially as I’m arrogant enough to believe that I can always do better than what I’ve done.  Yes, “arrogant” is the correct term here as opposed to “confident”.  Why?  Because I’m a perfectionist and I will always point out to myself what my errors are and how easy it should have been to avoid making them.  And, for the most part, I won’t make them again.
A few years ago, I wasn’t the least bit interested in trying to pretend I was pretty or had a model’s physique.  I knew I had a decent chance of waving to a small child without that child bursting into tears and hiding behind a parent’s leg, of walking past a group of people on the street without hearing sniggering or jokes about dogs or cows, and of being able to find clothing that was reasonably close to the current fashion fads despite not being a super model. I was the girl with the “great personality and sense of humor”.  That was more than good enough for me.
A few years ago, when someone asked me how my health was and how my body was holding up I was able to congratulate myself on defying what the doctors had told me and being able to push myself even when I wanted to quit and take the easy route the doctors were offering.  It was expected that I wasn’t going to give up and that I was simply going to “out-stubborn” my condition.
Over the last couple of years I’ve been going out of my way to change all of these things.  I’ve forced myself to join parties with friends and have made a fool of myself to ensure that I’m not a wallflower anymore.  I’ve changed my wardrobe and my hair, begun wearing jewelry, and dabbled in make-up to show off my looks and body shape.  I’ve slowed down my physical activities and allowed people to do things for me so I don’t risk hurting myself the way doctors keep fussing I’m going to if I don’t let them shove medications and surgeries at me.  I’ve changed my behaviors, changed my goals, and changed my daily activities to suit what I think we’re supposed to be living up to when we go to our quarterly events around the country.
And it’s not working the way I was hoping it would or even close to the way it is intended to work.
I’m not getting braver by being out where everyone can see me and what I’m doing at all times.  Instead, I’m second-guessing my every decision and every move, sometimes refusing to do anything until I’ve gotten reassurance or permission to take the next step.  I’m not getting any more confident about my looks and the way I dress.  Instead, I’m getting angrier and angrier at my reflection for not measuring up to society’s idea of beautiful or what I want to look like, and too many times I feel like I’m wearing someone else’s skin.  I’m not getting healthier by resigning myself to my health issues and letting everyone take care of me the instant I feel a bit of pain.  Instead, I’m getting weaker and less able to accomplish basic daily tasks that my family counts on me to be able to do, and my frustration is rapidly becoming the only thing that is getting stronger.
And I’m growing more and more ashamed of myself and floundering more and more at the conclusion of each event when I don’t see the results I know my mentors are looking for.
Looking back over what I’ve written here, I think I’ve found my answer, and I’m quite certain it’s going to upset some people and really disappoint others.  While I’m sorry about that, especially as those I think I’m going to let down the most are the very same people I have been striving to model myself after, I am actually quite confident that I’m doing what is best for me.
It seems to me that I’ve been so busy trying to be someone new that I’ve lost track of who I am.  I’ve been so focused on everything I need to fix about myself that those attributes I was proud of to begin with have somehow morphed into the very things I’ve been so ashamed of these past few months, which is pretty much the opposite of what is actually being taught.  Somehow, my mind took their teachings of ways to develop our strengths and twisted things around so that, to me, my strengths appeared to be character flaws that needed to be erased.
I LIKE being in the background where I can choose when I want to be seen and when it’s someone else’s time to shine.  I LIKE knowing that when something needs to be done, I can find the most effective, most efficient way to do it without having to go up the “chain of command” or ask permission to get it done.  I’m not afraid to step up and admit when I’ve made a bad decision, but I can’t do that if I’m too bloody afraid of disappointing people that I won’t make any decision at all.  I LIKE knowing that while I’m not the prettiest gal in the pack, I actually do have a pretty cool personality and I’m confident enough in myself that I can make jokes at my own expense without worrying that I’m damaging my self-esteem or allowing others to make fun of me.  I LIKE knowing that I’m still stubborn enough to tell my body and my illness to suck it up until the job is done, and knowing that I’m still strong enough to ignore the discomfort and push through like a big girl because that’s how my body will get stronger.
While I’m going to continue to grow and develop myself, I’m no longer going to cast aside who I was before and try to start over completely.  I forgot that personal growth doesn’t mean eradicating everything and trying to rebuild from scratch.  It means accentuating the good while grinding and polishing the bad until it isn’t something that needs to be hidden.
I’ve finally realized that personal growth doesn’t mean turning myself into someone else.

Personal growth means learning who I am, what I have that I can offer to others, and how to thrive with that knowledge.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Ramblings that became papers... Part Two

Here's another one of my papers for y'all.  This one was a comparison/contrast essay that I put together after going through one of my typical afternoons where I couldn't decide if it was the cats or the kids that was driving me crazier.

Enjoy!

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          Have you ever seen someone in charge of a group of children become overwhelmed with the situation and throw their hands up in the air as an exasperated, “It’s like herding cats!” escapes their lips? 
          As a person who has raised both children and cats with varying degrees of success (depending on who you ask), I feel I can confidently say that there is definite merit to the above statement.  There is so much in common between the two such as the complete lack of concern over what the desired behavior actually is, the need to turn private time into a spectator sport, and the ability to somehow sound like a herd of elephants despite being a fraction of the required size.  Of course, there are also obvious differences like feeding, bathing, and how to keep them in one place.
          Take the need for good behavior and good manners.  Neither small children nor cats care one iota about how their behavior reflects on the adult in the situation as long as they are enjoying the moment in their own fashion.  For children, this typically manifests as giggle fits and running in erratic circles around the area while the parent frantically tries to corral them in a dignified manner before resorting to tripping someone.  For cats, this often plays out in what should probably be hysterical antics when something that has just been forbidden from the feline is stolen anyway and gets batted around the house for quite some time while a human follows in zigzags, making vain grabs for the item in question and demanding the animal stop the game and return the possession immediately as if actually expecting this to happen.
          Next is the ever-popular Olympic sport waiting to happen “peeing before someone or something forces their way into the bathroom”.  This one is fairly self-explanatory.  There isn’t a parent alive that hasn’t found themselves in the unenviable position of being trapped on that throne with at least one child or cat planted squarely in front of them critiquing the entire process.  If the door somehow gets locked before the invasion occurs, there will be fingers or paws (or in my case, both) stuck under the door repeatedly until the event comes to its conclusion.  Sometimes there is musical accompaniment if the doorstop is found.
          Then there’s the ability of a creature that weighs anywhere between ten pounds and a hundred pounds making adults everywhere suddenly question the structural integrity of their homes just by moving rapidly from one location to another.  If there are stairs involved, there is real danger of home d├ęcor randomly leaping off the walls and shelving.  If there are more than one of said creatures moving in tandem, chances are a local Richter Scale is alarming some poor soul tasked with monitoring geological threats.
          As mentioned earlier, there are some distinct differences between raising children and raising cats.  Meal time is one instance that springs to mind.  Feeding cats is a matter of shaking a food container and getting out of the way of the stampede no matter what is being offered as a meal.  For added entertainment, one may choose to hang around and watch as feline paws snake out and grab dishes belonging to other animals in attempts to garner larger portions.  Feeding children generally involves dragging reluctant bodies away from video games and television shows, shooting down arguments about why this child doesn’t want to eat that vegetable or why that child expects to have another meal prepared that is more to their tastes, followed by refereeing repeated attempts to sneak the healthy parts of entrees onto the other child’s plate while claiming to have finished everything themselves.
          Bathing techniques is another area that differs greatly between children and cats.  When cats are involved, the process is almost guaranteed to start and finish within five minutes.  The occupants of the home are informed that a feline needs a bath and the smart occupants quickly vacate the premises.  The cat is introduced to a couple of inches of water, much splashing and screaming ensues from all parties involved, the cat either escapes or the human restraining the cat decides personal preservation is more important than a clean feline, and bath time is ended.  When children are involved, the process is almost guaranteed to drag out over a few hours.  The occupants of the home are informed that a child needs a bath or shower and the child in question quickly goes into fits of denial.  Eventually the child is introduced to the combination of soap and water, much splashing and offkey singing ensues, the child runs out of soapy water or the house runs out of hot water, and bath time is ended.
          When one has had all they can take of children or cats running rampant throughout the vacinity, confining them to one area differs according to species as well.  There are a couple of techniques that work well for cats, ranging from using catnip as bait to get them into a room with a door that closes to picking them up by the scruff of their necks and dropping them unceremoniously into a sufficiently sized kennel.  Rather than using catnip, I have found that turning on electronics in an isolated location of the home is the method of choice for keeping children in one place for extended periods of time.

          So, as you can see, the phrase “like herding cats” is actually pretty accurate when applied to children.  Just remember, however, that while there are many similarities in how both are raised, society still tends to frown disapprovingly when children are shoved into kennels, no matter how much they may have earned it.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Ramblings that became papers... Part One

Just remember, y'all asked for this.  This particular assignment was to illustrate cause and effect.  We were instructed to choose a subject and describe how it affected something else, offering examples along the way.

Let's be real.  This is me we're talking about.  Give me the tiniest bit of wiggle room and something in my life is going to become fuel to make someone else giggle.  I'm told my instructor was thoroughly amused.

And we're off...

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          Children are wonderful, aren’t they?  They’re cute, funny, unpredictable, entertaining, and they can even be used as legal child labor at home, or as gophers when you just don’t feel like getting up to refill your glass during a television show.  However, they’re also to blame for a pandemic running rampant across the nation.  Children are, in my opinion, the reason adults all over the world are completely losing it.  Don’t believe me?  Let me explain.
          Before children came along, I had my future planned out in intricate detail.  I even had a schedule for when I would finish my schooling, when I would start my chosen career, when I would impress my bosses and get the big raise, when I would find Mr. Right and trick him into proposing to me, when we would buy our dream home, when we would hit the lottery and retire in luxury.  You get the idea.
          Now that I have children, there is no such thing as a schedule.  What we have instead is a list of activities that are planned as a family and devolve into frantic races to complete school science projects that are “forgotten about” until the night before they are due.  Our days can be set to the tune of “Flight of the Bumblebee” as alarm clocks go off at thoroughly indecent hours every morning and adults scramble to finish daily tasks before the children appear like miniature hurricanes and announce the need to attend dance classes, sports practices, scouting activities, church youth meetings, play dates, and the occasional school production.  Knowing about such things more than fifteen minutes in advance is apparently forbidden in the “Children’s Handbook of Life”.
          Before children came along, I was the proud owner of a substantial vocabulary that could be counted on to dazzle most of my friends as I articulated my thoughts in complete and precise sentences flowing with several syllable words guaranteed to make me sound like I held a doctorate in pretty much every field of study available.
          Now that I have children, managing to form and spit out a complete sentence is worthy of a victory dance.  My adult friends have running bets on how long I can go before announcing that I need to “go potty” or that something is “ucky”, which is now the technical term for something that is unpleasant to touch or smell.  Stuttering is now its own dialect which can be clearly understood by other adults who also have smaller versions of themselves running around.  The rate of the stutter and the volume of spittle escaping as we attempt to convey our thoughts is just the accent identifying the region in which we live.
          Before children came along, I could remember phone numbers from every home my family ever lived in.  I could recall the names of every person I’d ever called a friend, as well as their close relatives and pets.  I could read books once and vividly remember each and every plot twist months later when quizzed about them.  I could tell my parents every license plate they’d ever had registered to their vehicles throughout my childhood.  I could even recite the American presidents in order through Ronald Reagan.
          Now that I have children, I have to use a calculator to work out how old I am.  I enter a room and stare around in confusion as I rack my brain to figure out why I went into that room in the first place.  I have to cycle through the names of every child I’ve known, all of my siblings, and most family pets in the hopes of randomly shouting out the actual name of the child I’m attempting to discipline.  Once I manage to get the name right, it’s a complete toss up that I remember what I was yelling about to begin with.
          Before children came along, I was very aware of my physical appearance.  My hair needed to be just right and “fly aways” were captured and tamed with brutal efficiency.  My clothing choices were based on how well they flattered my eye color or accentuated curves without being flashy.  My nails had to be kept just the right length, shape, and color to catch the eye while not clashing with that day’s clothing color.  Shoe and clothing purchases were made often in order to keep up with current fads and the seasons.
          Now that I have children, my hairbrush gets to wave at my scalp in passing each morning before my hair gets shoved unceremoniously into a ponytail holder that may or may not be set at a haphazard angle on my head.  My outfits are thrown together purely on a “this was on the top of the pile” strategy that has so far miraculously avoided landing me on the “People of Walmart” website.  Shoe and clothing purchases are now made based on how well they hide mystery stains that always manage to appear on the way to important functions.  I wear an obnoxious amount of paisley and floral.
          Yes, children are definitely cute, funny, unpredictable, and highly entertaining.  But don’t let them fool you.  Their real purpose is to fulfill the age old Mother’s Curse we all laughed off and foolishly ignored when we heard it: “May your kids be JUST LIKE YOU!”  If we made our own parents completely nuts, it’s only logical that our children are going to have the same effect on us!

          Just remember, whenever you see a mom holding that sweet child in her arms and rocking gently back and forth in an absent-minded way, that’s just Mother Nature preparing us for the days when we’re found curled up in the fetal position rocking and humming to ourselves in terror because our grown children just promised to come back home… with grandchildren.