Posted in audience participation, connections, mental health, parenting, socializing, thoughtfulness, tips, vulnerability

School. Virus. Sadness. Self-care. Hope.

Here in Arizona, the governor recently announced that public school buildings are closed for the rest of this school year. (Schools aren’t closed; the buildings are closed.)
Teachers and principals are still working.
I’m sad for all of the kids and teachers and parents who had something in the fourth quarter to look forward to. This is many seniors (remember: not everyone likes high school, so for some, this is a relief) and others moving up a level. Performances, dances, ceremonies, awards. “My last ____” just disappeared.
I’m sad for all the kids who go to school to get structure, to get love, to get consistency who are now looking at five or more months at home (spring break plus fourth quarter plus summer).
I’m sad for all the kids who are now working manual labor to try to help their families make ends meet. (Yes, that includes elementary-aged kids.)
I’m sad for the parents who are stressed out about trying to make their kids do their schoolwork (when really, love and connection and emotional safety are way more important — now and always…though those are different than “do whatever you want; another post for another day).
I’m sad for all of the lost birthday parties and quinceañeras and bar mitzvahs and  playdates and baby showers and weddings.
I’m sad for all of the people whose anxiety has shot up.
I’m sad for all of the people who have lost someone (virus-related or not) and can’t seek comfort in community.
I’m sad for all of the people who are separated from loved ones who are hospitalized (whether because of the virus or not).
I’m sad for all of the people who continue to mingle with others because they are so unwilling to accept their own vulnerability.
Stay in touch with people.
Do things at home that make you feel good.
If cleaning the house is a “should” and creating art is a “want,” create art. There’s enough to do that needs to be done (work for some, dishes, cooking, dishes, keeping other people and animals alive, dishes, laundry, dishes … so many dishes). When you have time outside of the needs, spend time on the wants. The shoulds can get done later.
Truly.
(If cleaning the house feels good, then do it! I know sometimes cleaning is a drag, and every now and then, a cleaning bender is mysteriously inspired. Wait for inspiration. And if you’re never inspired … it’s OK.)
Play.
Create.
Soak up beautiful things.
Take advantage of so many arts being available online (performances, galleries, etc.).
Turn on some music and dance and sing in the living room. (And make a house rule that no one makes fun of anyone else for how they look or sound doing it—emotional safety is important and “harmless teasing” erodes emotional safety.)
Get outside. Not socially, but sun is good for you in a myriad of ways.
Read. (Books, magazines, whatever. We were pounded with what “counts” as reading when we were in school, and it was bullshit. Read whatever interests you.)
Exercise. Go for a walk or a bike ride or do yoga or weightlifting or aerobics in your living room or your yard or on your patio.
Support the people around you and let them support you. We’re in our own little cells now, but we can still reach out and stay connected. Talk on the phone. Talk via video chat. Text. Email. Write letters.
So when it all passes and the fear settles and the anxiety reduces and we can gather again, we have changed the world for the better in the mean time.
In the mean time … stay home.
Posted in connections, differences, mental health, mindset, podcasts, socializing

Introverts need people, too

Solidarity incited among introverts via memes in the theme of staying home versus socializing.

They’ve always rubbed me the wrong way because they didn’t fit me. I’m definitely an introvert. And I definitely enjoy socializing. (In certain contexts.) And, as I wrote about recently, a good girlfriend date is definitely energizing.

My depression is always triggered by some sort of emotional disconnect, whether a breakup or just (“just”) feeling socially isolated. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy looking for the roots of this, but I think the most oversimplified premise is simple: people are social animals.

That runs contrary to the introvert memes.

Perhaps ironically, I was out in the local mountains alone, listening to podcasts, taking pictures, enjoying the perfect weather. It was wonderful and recharging. The first podcast I listened to?

The Happiness Lab, Season 1, Episode 4: Mistakenly Seeking Solitude. Their thesis was everyone is happier interacting than not interacting (as a generalization, but regardless of introversion/extraversion), and automation is causing emotional issues. They talked about the invention of ATMs, bar cars and quiet cars on public trains, and the Museum of Ice Cream. (How did I not know that was a thing?!)

(I was recently tipped off to The Happiness Lab, and I’ve loved every episode I’ve listened to so far. They’re only a season and change in, so I started at the beginning.)

As I continued wandering through the mountains, I thought about blogging about the episode, made a note in my phone, and carried on.

A day or two later, I was listening to Work Life, another one new to my rotation that I’m loving. Adam Grant, the host, was talking about the use (and misuse) of personality tests in the workplace, when he interviewed Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. (Excellent book, if you’ve not read it.)

Adam: Most people think about introversion extraversion as where you get your energy. Like, extraverts from people; introverts get it from being alone. But when Susan studied the science, she learned that wasn’t quite right.

Susan: Everybody, whether you’re an introvert or an extravert, draws energy from other people. And I think that we don’t make enough distinction between how many people and in what kind of a setting. [emphasis mine] There ends up being an idea that introverts are anti-social and I always say, it’s not that, it’s just differently social.

(The conversation with Adam and his wife that follows the above dialogue is very funny.)

Susan goes on to talk about the recovery time introverts need after a party or other over-stimulating event. It doesn’t mean we don’t get energy from people. That’s just … too many people. Past the point of diminishing returns.

This all lines up exactly with what I’ve been thinking for a long time. I felt a little more at peace with myself after hearing people who’ve actually done research said what I’ve been thinking and feeling all along.

How does any of this resonate with you? My curiosity about your opinion is piqued a bit more if you listen to one or both of those podcasts.

Posted in connections, ebb & flow, know better do better, mental health, mindset, socializing, vulnerability

Your contribution to collective emotional pollution

“You choose what you put out into the world.”

I don’t remember where this crossed my path recently, but it was timely.

It ties in to an earlier post about negative people—from a first-person perspective.

My output of complaining goes in cycles. When I notice it’s increasing, I make an effort to cut it back. It makes my life better, and it makes better the impact I have on the people around me.

(There’s a difference between complaining and talking about something negative that’s happening.)

Soon after seeing the sentiment, I was posting on Facebook. I had been driving The Kid to school, followed by getting myself to work, and the way drivers in front of me interacted with traffic lights was not enhancing my morning commute.

I know there are people who would have joined me in my rant about these drivers.

I chose to post a light and lovely story about The Kid instead, which still got interaction—from many of the same people—but of a different variety. And we were all a little smiley-er for a moment.

(Caveat: there’s a lot of bad stuff happening in our world, in our communities, maybe in our families or homes that we need to speak out about. We can’t pretend these things don’t exist. I’m not at all suggesting that we whitewash all that and just share rainbows and unicorns. Again: there’s a difference between complaining and talking about something negative that’s happening. I could argue that staying silent in the face of injustice—whatever the scale—is allowing said injustice to be put into the world.)

If making the world better by contributing to it in a positive way is insufficient motivation for you, there’s some truth to “you get what you give.” Not in a tit-for-tat kind of way, but I can attest that seasons in my life when I have been friendlier, more attentive, less negative, etc. to and around the people in my circle of influence, in general, I have been met in kind. And it has been easier for me to let go of those who did not treat me in kind. (Certainly, exceptions exist. There are people whose insecurities don’t allow them to be kind, regardless how they are treated.) Saying, “I’m going to be nice to people just so that people are nice to me” might leave a smear of “ulterior motive” in your intentions and knock things out of whack.

Or, we could just boil it down to: reputations are hard to change. Build a good one.

You choose what you put out into the world.

 

Posted in about me, connections, mental health, socializing

Socializing while busy

If you read Monday’s post on time organization, you know I feel busy too much of the time.

This is a sentiment shared by nearly everyone in my social circles.

(If you don’t, please go to Monday’s post, read it, and tell us your secrets in the comments.)

A while back, before Christmas, I had plans one weekend. I was getting together with one friend on Friday evening and another on Sunday afternoon.

It’s hard to schedule time to see people, and my socializing is often limited to people whose kids play well with mine. This isn’t all bad—I’ve met a lot of great people through school and play dates—and not all of the local people I’d like to see face-to-face fit this mold.

Anyway. I was excited to make plans with both of these people. (Sans children!) And then that weekend came and, as usual, I was tired and felt overwhelmed by All The Things and dragged my butt to my first date … and it was lovely. We had a great time, and I left feeling energized. My cup was fuller than it had been before we started.

Exact same story repeated on Sunday.

In either case, I would have felt some disappointment if they’d canceled but also relief. One less thing to do. Time to get done some of the other things.

Ultimately, it was good to squeeze in the time together. It gave us some face-to-face connection—something in ever-shorter supply.

If we hadn’t gotten together, I would have spent the time doing mundane things off the to-do list, and while there’s value in getting those done, they wouldn’t have fed my soul the way a couple of hours with a good friend does.

I guess what I’m saying is, even if you’re busy, make some time. Have dinner or coffee or take a walk or make some art or something with a friend or two. Your lives will be richer for it.

Posted in know better do better, mental health, mindset, podcasts, socializing

Podcast quote: negative people

I started listening to the Work Life podcast, by Adam Grant. I love it! Super-interesting.

Since they’re relatively close to the beginning of the podcast, I started at the beginning.

Season 1, Episode 3 was “The Problem with All Stars,” and while it was interesting to listen to, the piece that was most striking to me was not about the main topic at all.

From the transcript:

“Emotional contagion is something that I became interested in many, many years ago when I was working with a colleague, ‘Meg’ as a pseudonym, and I wasn’t even reporting to her, she was just working in my environment. I knew she was negative but I didn’t think much of it. And then one week Meg went on vacation. And it was amazing. Like suddenly the team, me, everybody — our shoulders lowered, we were more relaxed and happy. And then she came back and everything went back to the way it was and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, how amazing that this person, who I didn’t even report to could have such a tremendous influence on not only my mood, but the mood of everybody else.”

This isn’t surprising, but it brought to mind a lot of scenarios from the past few years. Times when I’ve been frustrated to be consistently in the presence of constant negativity. Times when I’m sure I was the one bringing the group dynamic down. Scenarios from longer ago, also from both sides of the fence. Which brings me to…

The concept applies to family dynamics, of course. When one person in the house is always (or even just often) miserable or angry or high-strung, it takes a toll on everyone in the house. And because this typically develops over time, it follows the boiling-a-frog fable. (In that case, the person who points it out is more likely to be ostracized than the person causing the problem … but that’s a tangent I’m not going to ride out today.)

And socializing.

Really, it applies to anywhere with people you’re in proximity to. At the grocery store and someone ahead of you is chewing out the cashier? Changes your environment. Someone unpleasant on the train? Next table over at dinner is full of crankiness or anger or vitriol? These change your experience, even if they’re not chronic, like a coworker or housemate would be.

Obviously we don’t have control over all of these situations, but it’s worth the time and effort to see where we can eliminate or reduce contact with negative people … and also to be introspective enough to know when it is us. (Not self-deprecating and assuming it’s always us … introspective and having a solid guess as to when it’s us.)