Posted in about me, ebb & flow, meandering, mindset

Perfectionism, skill, imposter syndrome

I am a recovering perfectionist.

For a long time, everything had to be just right. Edit, erase, start over. Make sure there’s always a straight-edge handy. No streaks, no cracks, no chips.

I realize this is fear-based.

I’m better about it. I don’t spend an hour carefully curating which font I’m going to use on slides for public presentations. Find one, make sure it’s good enough (primarily: legible), and spend the time on the real work.

I’ve hand-drawn cards for my students with music notes on them that are not each exactly the same. Someone volunteered to laminate and cut these cards for me, and they’re not all the same size. Deep breath, use them anyway, they still work fine.

However…

I am also not always a good judge of “good enough” versus “the best I can do right now” (which might not really be good enough).

I was looking through pictures from an old blog the other day. I had shared quite a few recipes, and there was one pic with each … and many of them were not good at all.

These kinds of realizations make it a little bit harder for me not to get thrown back into perfectionism, or into give-up-ism, or just into heightened self-consciousness.

Ultimately, my photography skills are limited (though that’s on my to-do list, and has been longer than I’ve been blogging) and my photography tools are limited (phone, though a real camera is on my wish list).

(That’s why I’ve given myself permission not to have a photo with every blog post. If I don’t have one or can’t relatively easily take one that works for the post, I’m going without. It’s not a photo blog—they’re here to enhance or to attract, but the words are what I’m here for and, I assume, what you’re here for.)

And you see how defensive I immediately became? Oof. Brains are funny. And this post isn’t supposed to be about photography! So then I debate: edit those paragraphs down (or out) and stick more closely to the topic, or keep them in and let it be more real?

Today, real wins. Paragraphs stay. (Sometimes, I choose to stick to the topic more closely.)

This rabbit hole occasionally brings me to this: what is life like for people who don’t have this problem? People who can create the details (like the font, or the photo), and be satisfied with it, and be correct that it is satisfying, and then move on? Or is that one of those things where I’m comparing my insides to others’ outside and everyone who creates anything has this struggle in some capacity? Or am I expecting to be able to do something easily that others have spent hours working on?

That happens with my students. Often. They see that I can play instruments easily. They see some other students who can play their instruments easily. And they assume they “just can’t do it.” When really … they need to put in the time.

I would take better photos with more practice, for sure. Would I choose fonts more easily?

How do you differentiate between imposter syndrome and just needing more skill?

What’s your experience?

Posted in about me, hope, meandering, mental health, mindset, vulnerability

Toxic Thanksgiving

When you are Other in your family—for whatever reason—holidays are stressful.

I always felt trapped on Thanksgiving and Christmas, because “the holidays are about family” but my family was toxic. There was nowhere else to go when I was living at home, and it took me moving across the country to be able to set a boundary after I moved out.

Thank goodness for books, right?

Our current tradition is to go to a National Park or National Monument for Thanksgiving. They’re not crowded, and all cultural Thanksgiving expectations are eliminated.

What a relief.

We have an advantage here, in that there are so many National Parks and Monuments within a few hours’ drive, so we can go for two or three days without issue. Sometimes we camp; sometimes we stay in a hotel.

Maybe you’d like to break the tradition, too, but you’re not near many parks. Or aren’t interested in them. What do you like? (I hear you, people who answered “sweatpants, book, tea, couch”!) What is relatively nearby?

If you’re in this emotionally disastrous place, if Thursday is a day you dread (or worse, the whole weekend) because of the people you feel obligated to spend it with, I’m sorry. I know your pain. Our reasons might be different, but the hurts still hurt.

I encourage you to examine your obligation and to see if maybe there’s somewhere else for you to go, ideally with someone who is safe. (If not this year, since that’s in two days, perhaps next year?)

If that’s just not possible (and there are a million legit reasons why it might not be—don’t flog yourself), build in some self-care. Take something with you to do. Make sure you have clothes to be able to go for a walk or a run (depending on what you prefer). Maybe plan something with nearby friends for some time in the day when family obligations are lower (in the evening, for example, if you have an afternoon meal). Sometimes just bringing unfamiliar people into the mix puts the bad people on good behavior, which at least will buy you a respite.

You are loved. You are worth it.

 

Posted in meandering, storytelling

Conversations with homeless

In the span of a few days, I had conversations with two homeless people. (Well, I had a conversation and I overheard a conversation.)

I was waiting on the platform for the train. A woman who looked homeless decided to run across the street to get some water before the train came.

A man standing nearby started talking. He said he felt bad for her, that in addition to her homelessness, she had addiction issues, and that makes everything harder. And she’s a she, which makes everything harder.

He talked about how he’s homeless, and the steps he’s been taking to get himself housed. If things keep going the way they are, in another couple of weeks, he should be able to get a place to live. He was happy with what he’d been able to accomplish so far. He shared an idea he had that would legitimately make him some decent money … if he could save enough money to make the initial investment in the idea.

Later on the train, there were two people talking—a  man and a woman—though the man really more was giving prompts than participating. They were standing on opposite sides of a not-crowded train. I can’t call it eavesdropping, because I couldn’t not hear them.

While most of the conversation was about an actress and was moderately tedious to listen to, at one point she was talking about her living situation. She said she had been homeless off and on for the past ten years, and that she’s been in her current apartment for a year. She talked about how nice it was to have space where she could just lock the door and be alone.

I have celebrated anniversaries of many, many things, but “having a place to live for a year” has never been on the list. I take that for granted. Even in my barely-getting-by days, I never questioned whether I would have a place to live. Privilege.

I had also never thought about the “space to be alone” aspect of homelessness. (Honestly, I haven’t thought about most of the logistics of homelessness.)

I have, for a long time, wanted to talk to homeless people and hear their story. See what they have to say. But it doesn’t feel safe. I mean, I’m sure that most of the people who look approachable are approachable. But those aren’t good enough odds for me right now. whether that’s just a knee-jerk purse-clutch reaction or is legit, I don’t know.

And if I was them and someone just wanted to hear my story out of curiosity, I’m not sure I’d want to tell it.

So I was grateful for these two interactions to give me a little bit of insight.

Posted in hope, meandering, mindset

Education is important

Without getting into debate (right now) about what should be taught or how it should be taught (I have a lot of opinions on those pieces), EDUCATION IS IMPORTANT.

We have taken education for granted. For so long, people have just gone to school. It doesn’t directly cost anything. We complain about this teacher or that policy or the start time or the PTO, but the school, the system, an education is taken for granted.

(I recognize my privilege in saying all of this. There are many people who are not that old who have seen much strife in the school system…and it’s still there, in slightly less brazen ways…but that’s another post for another day.)

I live in a state where education is being severely manipulated for monetary and political gain. (One politician just made $12M on his charter schools. See “Eddie Farnsworth” for more information.)

All of the local-to-me school bonds and overrides failed yesterday except one. A slew of anti-education people were elected or re-elected. Despite a statewide 6-day teacher walkout last spring. Despite tons of grassroots work to help people understand the severity of the problem here and now.

Old people whose kids have already gone through the system are notorious for voting against school budgets (where I’m originally from) and against bonds and overrides (where I’m currently living) because they’re “not using it” any more.

But we all* benefit from an educated populace. The rising tide lifts all boats.

*Except the people who are monetarily and politically gaining from uneducated people who can be easily swayed. But that has an upper limit, and I suspect that pretty soon, we’re going to smash our heads on that ceiling, and it’s not going to be good. For any of us.

Support your local public schools. Ask your teacher friends who the best candidates are for the school board. Learn about the legislation that is helping and hurting. Find out how the budget works, and what money is getting spent on. Help education reform. Help legislators use current research to make decisions on standards and best practice.

Our country depends on it.

Posted in meandering, storytelling, vulnerability

Speaking plainly is not necessarily dismissive

Sometimes, I talk about significant things as if they’re just another thing.

For example, I’m divorced and re-married. I plainly talk about things in my first marriage, about things in my divorce, about things as they are now.

It doesn’t mean that none of it is significant, or that it didn’t matter, or that it was easy, or that I don’t feel feelings about it.

Simply this: it’s part of my story. I own it.

Some of my story, I’ll talk about with most people (or I’ll write about it). Some of it, you’ll need a higher security clearance before I get that vulnerable with you.

But it happened. Lots of amazing things have happened. Lots of horrible things have happened. Lots of mundane things have happened.

Some have been my fault (for better or for worse).

Some have been dumb luck (for better or for worse).

Some have been someone else’s fault (for better or for worse).

Most have been (D) all of the above.

Regardless of how any person or event or outcome came into my life, it’s part of my story.

So. Don’t interpret casual conversation to mean that the topic is light. It’s just part of me.

Posted in from the book, gardening, hope, marriage, meandering

Hope

I’m writing a book. This is a little piece of it, written about six months ago. I expect that I’ll share a few more bits of it, and also that some things I write for the blog will end up in the book. Editing is likely.

I was recently struck by the abundance of hope in my life.

A couple of weeks ago, I built garden beds and planted a garden.

I don’t know a lot about gardening, but I’ve been able to grow a fair amount of produce in the past. The whole process of gardening, right up until you taste what you’ve grown, is a continuous act of hope.

Actually, I might argue that eating truly fresh produce isn’t the end point but merely resets the cycle to the beginning.

In a few weeks, I’m getting married, an act of hope unto itself.

But this is my second marriage. Wrapped up in all of the same hopes as the first one are the hopes that it will be better, that I will be able to implement lessons I’ve learned, that I’m not ignoring red flags.

We bought a house. Are the neighbors friendly? Is the location good long-term? Will it age well? I hope so.

People need hope to live well, even if it’s not something we actively label. (I don’t really think about it most of the time with regards to gardening, for example, but it’s definitely there!)

As a person who has battled depression off and on, hopelessness is heavy. Even a little bit, any slice of light through the darkness, is life-changing.

My senior year of high school, I took World History. I remember two things from it, and only one is academic.

NO HOPE

People change when they are without hope—sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. I’ve seen it in my own life. I’ve seen it in others. I was shown examples over and over through history. I see it in our current events.

The other thing I remember? Being on the high speed line (a local train) on a field trip—no idea to where—and Jeff asking Mr. Burke if we could leave our lunches on the bus.

Where do you have hope in your life? Are there places you’ve given up? For better or for worse?

Posted in gifts, hope, meandering, thoughtfulness

Gift-giving

When I got married the first time, my mom gave me an earful for not registering for towels. “Towels make good gifts,” she said.

But he and I were both adults, combining independent households (we both owned our own places at that point), and we had more than enough towels. And we had received good-quality new towels as a gift for registering.

Towels would not have made a good gift (unless, I suppose, there was something unique about them, something that made them different enough that having more towels wouldn’t simply be a storage issue).

But the issue here isn’t really towels. It’s gifts.

I’m strongly of the opinion that as a general rule, a gift should please the recipient. Giving someone else something that I want is not a good gift—unless they want it, too. The best gifts please both parties—one is happy to give it and the other is happy to receive it.

I’ve given gifts off of registries that were not at all interesting or exciting to buy. But I knew they were the mundane stuff that many of us hate to spend money on, and I knew they’d be welcomed and used. Not an awesome giving experience in some ways, but in other ways, it was perfect, because I knew they wanted and would use it.

Now … I’m going to say that we can’t always know that the recipient will be pleased. Even people I know well don’t always love gifts I’ve given them, and it’s often harder when the people are more removed. There is definitely a thread of “it’s the thought that counts” in gifting. But I do think there should be more to it than social obligation.

Most of the time, I personally would prefer not to receive a gift at all than to receive a “generic” gift. But I don’t like scented things, I don’t use many “luxury” personal care items (bath bombs, lotions, etc.), I don’t enjoy wine, and that eliminates the majority of generic gifts for women. Maybe if I loved smelly lotions and candles, I would feel differently about this. *shrug*

It’s important to me to make my best effort to give gifts that I think people will like. And I have a special affection for people who do the same.

Because of a bunch of factors that I had written out but made this too tangent-y (even for me!), I don’t often receive gifts, so much of this is academic.

But.

For my 42nd birthday, my husband threw a surprise party. Some of the people who came brought gifts. Each gift was different (a bag for dancing shoes, a stainless steel water bottle with a cool saying, earrings, a vegetarian camping cookbook, and others), but every single one—no exceptions—in some way said, “I know you.” The party was amazing without any material extras, but gifts were, on that day, a way for friends to show love in a different way.

“I know you.”

Maybe that’s why I’m not into generic gifts so much. I don’t have a couple of wrapped up scented candles in the closet in case someone brings me a gift and I don’t have one in return. I give without receiving. I receive without giving. Over time, it evens out.

This thread pops up for me many times in September or October. People are talking about how much Christmas shopping they’ve gotten done. I can’t possibly start Christmas shopping this early. I don’t know what the few people I buy for are going to want. My husband might just go out and get it himself between now and then. My son changes his mind every 45 seconds. (Last year, I started planning a big Lego birthday surprise a month ahead of time, and he was marginally still interested in the kits we bought by the time his birthday rolled around.)

I’m sure there are some things I could pick up now that would still be relevant in a few months. But what if I find something better in six weeks? (Oh yeah. I suffer from that disease, too. I’ve saved so much money in my life by not buying something because what if I find something better later?)

What about you? How do you shop? What do you prefer to give and receive?

Posted in meandering

Interests, topics, and what’s to come

My brain is swirling with where to start. A little bit of paralysis by indecision. I decided to just lay out an overview, so there’s less First Real Post pressure.

I love health and fitness and expect to write about topics in this category often. Exercise, food, sleep, stress, support networks, balance, financial security, mental health, and on and on.

I’m planning to share some recipes that I make around here. They’re nearly always someone else’s recipe (credit always given!), but they’re tasty, and blogs are a great place to find new recipes.

I’m a teacher by trade and have thoughts to share about education in general, about things I see and do while at work, about the art of teaching, and, because it’s a big deal locally with the upcoming election, some of the politics involved.

As a general rule, I don’t want to write a lot of expressly political things … but nearly everything IS political in some way. So don’t expect much—if any—in the way of direct thoughts about specific people, controversies, etc., but there is politics in food, in health/wellness, in education, in pretty much anything that is at all worth talking about.

I’m a mom and a wife, and I have thoughts to share about pairing, parenting, and culture.

Speaking of culture… ours has some pretty great things about it and some pretty not great things about it.

I listen to podcasts and have often wished I had a person or a group who was listening to the same stuff so we could have a conversation about it. Now I can at least ramble, even if it’s only one-way.

I love psychology and brain plasticity, and you’ll probably see that woven into most of what I write.

And whatever observations or thoughts I have about whatever crosses my path. I’m struck by how people interact, how traffic moves, how language is used, what assumptions are made, and on and on.

Oh! And some reincarnations of posts from other blogs I’ve written. (All the same topics as listed above, but that’s not terribly narrow…)

I’m sure there are other things I forgot. I’ll write about them, too.

Always, I’m interested in conversation. But I learned on a previous blog that leaving comments open forever leads to so many spam comments. So I’ll leave comments open for a while on each post, and we can chat that way. If you’re reading this somewhere way down the line and there’s a post that comments are closed but you want to chime in, contact me, I can open it back up again so you can throw in your two cents, and then close again when we’re done.

I don’t necessarily fit in a niche—as an individual or as a writer—but I know a lot of people enjoy my writing. Hopefully, you’re one!

One more thing: choosing photos to accompany posts is not a strength, so sometimes, the picture will be kind of random, or somehow weirdly tangentially related.