Posted in hope, mental health, mindset, thoughtfulness

“I like you, just the way you are.”

I saw this a couple of months ago and saved it. I knew I wanted to share it—or the gist of it—at some point, but I wasn’t sure how. Finally, I just decided to quote it and cite it and let you just read the original.

A good portion of my pro-bono work is defending abused children. It’s a cause close to my heart. In the course of my work I met a man who was an adult survivor. You wouldn’t have known it looking at him. He was this gigantic Polynesian guy. Wild curly hair. I think of him every time I see Khal Drogo on GoT. He was counseling some of the little kids, and doing a fantastic job of it.

I visited his home to get his opinion on something and I noticed a little toy on his desk. It was Trolley. Naturally curious, I asked him about it. This is what he told me:

“The most dangerous time for me was in the afternoon when my mother got tired and irritable. Like clockwork. Now, she liked to beat me in discreet places so my father wouldn’t see the bruises. That particular day she went for the legs. Not uncommon for her. I was knocked down and couldn’t get back up. Also not uncommon. She gave me one last kick, the one I had come to learn meant ‘I’m done now’. Then she left me there upstairs, face in the carpet, alone. I tried to get up, but couldn’t. So I dragged myself, arm over arm, to the television, climbed up the tv cabinet and turned on the TV.

“And there was Mr. Rogers. It was the end of the show and he was having a quiet, calm conversation with those hundreds of kids. In that moment, he seemed to look me in the eye when he said ‘And I like you just for being you’. In that moment, it was like he was reaching across time and space to say these words to me when I needed them most.

“It was like the hand of God, if you’re into that kind of thing. It hit me in the soul. I was a miserable little kid. I was sure I was a horrible person. I was sure I deserved every last moment of abuse, every blow, every bad name. I was sure I earned it, sure I didn’t deserve better. I *knew* all of these things … until that moment. If this man, who I hadn’t even met, liked me just for being me, then I couldn’t be all bad. Then maybe someone could love me, even if it wasn’t my mom.

“It gave me hope. If that nice man liked me, then I wasn’t a monster. I was worth fighting for. From that day on, his words were like a secret fortress in my heart. No matter how broken I was, no matter how much it hurt or what was done to me, I could remember his words, get back on my feet, and go on for another day.

“That’s why I keep Trolley there. To remind me that, no matter how terrible things look, someone who had never met me liked me just for being me, and that makes even the worst day worth it to me. I know how stupid it sounds, but Mr. Rogers saved my life.”

The next time I saw him, he was talking to one of my little clients. When they were done with their session, he helped her out of her chair, took both of her hands, looked her in the eyes and said: “And remember, I like you just for being you.”

That, to me, is Mr. Rogers’ most powerful legacy. All of the little lives he changed and made better with simple and sincere words of love and kindness.

But I have to say—the more I learn about Fred Rogers, the more impressed I am. Maybe over the summer, I’ll revisit some old episodes…

 

 

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Posted in mental health, mindset, physical health, thoughtfulness

Relaxing vs. wasting time

I’ve had so many conversations with people that follow this general path:

“I was laying on the couch and reading but couldn’t help but think about all the other things I had to do and how I was wasting time.”

We can’t “be productive” all the time.

In muscle strength building, the time spent strength training causes lots of micro-damages to the muscles. We get stronger when we rest; the muscles have time to repair the damages which makes them stronger. Over time, the muscles adapt to the increased demand: increased strength.

Our daily lives cause lots of micro-damages to our spirit (or soul, psyche, self, or whatever you want to call it). We need rest to be able to recover, just like our muscles.

It’s not wasting time. Preparing healthy food, getting enough sleep, exercising are all not wasting time (though they definitely use time); relaxing isn’t wasting time, either.

For me, the difference seems to be intent.

If I’m fooling around online, reading articles, watching videos, playing games because I’m procrastinating, I don’t feel rested when it’s done—I feel stressed, kind of ashamed, and somewhat drained because I have all this stuff to do and I’m wasting—or wasted—time.

On the other hand, if I decide that today I’m going to spend an hour just reading articles and watching videos or playing games, I feel OK about it.

As a small tangent, I feel the best when my down time isn’t on a screen. I think that’s because I have spent so much procrastination time doing these things that there’s a subconscious connection between emotional fatigue and non-productive work on screens.

So. Schedule yourself some down time to spend in a way that helps you relax and recharge. I would love for this time to happen daily, but given life as it is, that’s just not feasible for many of us.

That said, if you take 15 of the minutes you spend on email and social media to power down, suddenly, there’s time on more days than we thought.

My main go-tos are reading, coloring, playing ukulele, and drawing or doing calligraphy (which I just started and am subsequently still really bad at). With the hammock back in action, just laying in it for a while sometimes hits the spot. Occasionally, a massage is in order.

How do you relax? Are you able to set aside the to-do lists for a while?

 

 

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Posted in about me, differences, exercise, mental health, mindset, motivation, physical health

I am a runner, but…

I’m here today to give some confidence to the slow and less enthusiastic among us.

I’m a runner. I’m slow. Lately, I’ve been running 12- to 12.5-minute miles. At the fastest I’ve ever been, I ran 5K in 29:20 (or something close to that). Once.

(I had only one other 5K under 30 minutes. It was a Komen run. I’ve long since learned about the dark side of the Komen organization and I don’t patronize their events. But I couldn’t get rid of my only sub-30 bib, so I trained to be faster—something I nearly never do—just so I could break 30 minutes again, have a new bib, and get rid of the Komen one. Also in that race, I placed second in my age group, something I don’t anticipate happening again unless there are only two of us.)

Anyway, I’m slow, but I get the job done.

Also? I don’t like running long distances. On regular evening runs around the neighborhood, I’ll go between two and four miles. Four was more common when I ran with running club. I just ran four this morning for the first time in probably two years. (I did a 10K last winter, but we walked a fair amount.)

Two half marathons taught me that I don’t like running half marathons and, until further notice, don’t need to run another. (I’d walk one, if someone was interested in walking together.)

For a while, I had stopped listening to anything while I ran. That turned out to be good, because I could use the time to clear my mind. Most of the time, I still run without music or podcasts, but every now and then, I don’t want to be all up in my head and take something to listen to. Sometimes The Climbing Daddy and I run together and talk.

Also? I don’t love running. I’ve never had a runner’s high. After a couple of miles, it starts to feel tedious.

But I love (and need) the benefits that come from running. Nothing is a better mood stabilizer. Can be done nearly anywhere. Just need weather-appropriate clothes and decent shoes (and good socks, if not in Vibrams).

So, to the people who run without loving it, who don’t run far, who don’t run fast—I am one of your people. If you need a running partner for a dose of anti-depressant, let me know.

 

 

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Posted in know better do better, mental health, mindset, parenting

Believe people; respect boundaries

A while back, I was at a going-away party at a school. There were sandwiches, chips, etc. set out cafeteria-style, and some of the lunch ladies were helping distribute it.

lunch lady: Do you want some chips?

me: No thank you.

LL: It’s OK to cheat.

me: It’s not cheating.

LL: You’re on a diet. It’s OK to cheat.

me: I’m not on a diet. I don’t actually want any chips.

There are a few problems with this conversation.

First: If you offer and someone says no, respect them, believe them, and move on.

Second: If you’re not going to believe them, don’t project your issues onto them and assume they’re on a diet.

Third: If they are on a diet (or following a diet), don’t try to steer them off it.

From the other side:

If someone offers and you don’t want it, say no. If you do want it, say yes. If you’re not sure, say you’re not sure. Use your words.

If someone continues to pressure you to eat food that you told them you don’t want, you are not obligated to eat it just because they lack manners. Stop teaching people that ignoring boundaries gets them what they want. (Why was she so invested in me eating chips, anyway?)

This applies to so much more than food. Shall we take a tangent?

I learned this first in teaching. You establish classroom rules, with positive and negative consequences. You enforce consistently and fairly, and kids typically learn how to function in your room.

Fortunately, I had a solid foundation of this before having a kid of my own, because this is a boundary they push constantly.

If a kid asks you for something and you say no, maybe they ask why and you give them a solid reason (because you have a solid reason, right?), and they ask again, the answer is still no. And still no. And still no. And if, on the 14th time they ask, you’re so tired of them asking that you change the answer to yes just so they’ll be quiet, they have just started to learn that pestering you is the way to get what they want. Or they’ve continued to learn it, if it’s not your first time.

We can get mad that they pester us, but if we’re rock solid in consistency, they learn. No catchy “technique” compensates for inconsistency. (Holy cow it takes a long time, though. Years.)

(That said, if The Kid—or a student—offers a counter argument that is solid, I will acknowledge that it’s a solid argument and explain why or why not it works in this case. Because we’re two people having a conversation. Because I want them to learn to advocate for themselves, even (especially?) if it’s inconvenient to me. Because I want to be fair, whether “fair” results in their happiness or not.)

When a mobile child is in your space (as mobile children are likely to do) and you don’t want them to be in your space, gently tell them. They don’t read body language in that way. And while it is a parent’s responsibility to keep their kid in check to some degree, if the kid is bothering you, tell them. Model boundary-setting. (Also helps the kid to learn that it’s not just their parents making up arbitrary rules about how they should act around other people.)

Back to the original tangent:

This is not a lesson we stop learning. I bet you can name someone who will crack if you keep asking. Or three other someones who never say no in the first place.

Set reasonable boundaries and stick to them.

Respect other people’s boundaries.

But also—it’s not your job to set other people’s boundaries. That’s something they need to learn to do for themselves.

And, to add one more layer … I learned in therapy—and this blew my mind at the time—that setting boundaries for yourself includes keeping yourself reigned in. That explosive anger (among other out-of-control actions) is not respecting your own boundaries.

In light of that, respect your own boundaries. Learn anger/sadness management skills. (I list anger and sadness because, in my experience, those are the two emotions most likely to lead to disrespecting yourself.)

This is such a pervasive problem in our culture, in all walks of life, across all different habitats. See what you can do to make it better.

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Posted in know better do better, mental health, mindset, motivation, podcasts, thoughtfulness

Podcast re: addiction

There’s not a bite or a sound clip or a quote for me to pull from this podcast—there was just too much—so I’m just going to recommend listening to the whole thing.

Dax Shepard (Armchair Expert) talks with Johann Hari about his research and books exploring addiction.

Much of the information was not new to me. I already knew that the American system of shame and punishment doesn’t work (and don’t understand how that’s not obvious to everyone, honestly). I already knew other countries had put systems in place for controlled legalization and rehabilitation with stunning effects. I already knew that addicts are largely survivors of trauma and that healing the trauma is how to get rid of the addiction in those people.

I didn’t know that we knew all of that well before Nancy Reagan’s campaign.

Larger than that, I didn’t know where the War on Drugs started, despite some familiarity with jazz history. That story—fairly early in the podcast—is worth the listen, even if you don’t listen any farther. It’s horrifying.

I also found validation in some of his information. Again, not information that was new to me, but it’s always affirming to hear it from someone else.

Go listen, then come back and let’s have a conversation, shall we?

(Also, some of Dax’s arguments made me crazy, especially given some arguments he’s made on previous episodes. But that doesn’t change the fantastic content from Johann.)

 

 

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