Posted in about me, ebb & flow, follow-up, gifts, meandering, motivation, vulnerability

Hello? Is this thing on?

I like to been seen. So do you. Might be in totally different ways or contexts or audiences, but we all want to be seen, understood.

As a kid, I was introverted and socially anxious, good academically, and eager to please. In elementary school, I more or less spoke when spoken to. I remember clearly getting in trouble for blurting out an answer once in fourth grade, and while I can’t say for sure that’s the only time it happened, it was rare enough that that once sticks out.

I was “seen” by doing my work well on time. A sticker or a pat on the back. Because that’s good enough at that level and that was enough.

As school got harder, I found a niche and a family in performing arts. I was never great at any of it, but I was dependable, and for what we were, that was enough.

And then we all grew up and life went in planned and unplanned ways, and some combination of social struggles (in part because of childhood emotional trauma, in part because we societally don’t value introverts), and “good enough” and “dependable” not being enough to be seen, and choosing a career path (teaching) that’s considered “less than,” and within that choosing a specialization (band) that is constantly fighting for time, students, space, validation, I’ve spent a lot of time feeling … invisible.

All this to say that this is why I have a stormy swirl of emotions regarding birthdays (and now also Mother’s Day).

Because I want to be seen. And if the anniversary of being born is a socially acceptable day to get positive attention, I’ll take it.

But we’re adults and I’ve certainly heard enough times to grow up, that birthdays are for kids (with the possible exception of milestone birthdays, though their importance is pretty random unless you’re becoming eligible or ineligible for something legally).

Birthdays always runs into gifts, and I’ve written about gifts before.

I don’t like obligatory, “I have to have something to give you” gifts. But I love gifts that are thoughtful. A couple of years ago, The Climbing Daddy threw a surprise party. A few people brought gifts: a stainless steel water bottle; a bag for dance shoes; a vegetarian cookbook for backpacking (or camping) and a gift card for REI; a pair of earrings from a friend who always picks out the best earrings. (Others, but that’s enough to make the point.) They are really different things, and they all say HEAT all over them. Having the party in the first place was amazing enough. Gifts that say “I see you, I know you” were icing on the proverbial cake.

 

 

Posted in connections, just a quote, mental health, socializing, vulnerability

Congruity

A quote crossed my path. It ties into my thoughts a few weeks ago about hidden sides of people, though that train of thought was more about context.

This one is more personal. Intimate.

“There’s the you that you present to the world, and then there’s, you know, of course the real one and, if you’re lucky, there’s not a huge difference between those two people.”
-David Sedaris

I’m not sure how much is luck and how much is by design. (I have thoughts about that, but they’re not coherent so I’ll keep them to myself for now.) But I agree that congruity makes for a generally happier existence … unless you’re a jerk.

Posted in cancer, connections, differences, ebb & flow, mindset, socializing, thoughtfulness, tips, vulnerability

Talking to people going through hard things

A friend’s father-in-law is in his final hours. I would not text her right now to complain about … anything.

Thinking about that led me to realize that perhaps people get situations confused. Or just aren’t able to find out what direction to go in other difficult situations.

When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I was inpatient at the hospital, had a seemingly endless string of tests and procedures, one of which landed me in ICU overnight, and was somewhat overwhelmed. But within two weeks, I was home.

Despite being home, cancer treatment often lasts a long time. I was admitted to the hospital in mid-May and finished treatments in mid-January. I’ve known too many people who tally up years of treatment.

Once the initial storm settled, socializing was really important, because I couldn’t do most of the other things I was accustomed to doing.

A relative had gotten a flat tire, and started a conversation with, “Well, I know this is nothing compared to what you’re going through, but …”

And no, it’s not, but in real life, that doesn’t matter. I mean, I wouldn’t complain about what my spouse made for dinner last night to someone who was food insecure, but the people in my social circle are, for the most part, all secure in food, housing, and other basic needs. (Except healthcare. Welcome to America.)

OK, I got off on a tangent there, but what I’m saying is—the majority of my people share similar annoyances, with the occasional life-shaking event.

Is the life-shaking event finite? A death, the onset of serious illness or injury, loss of a job, for example?

If yes, they’re not in a good place for you to bug them with minutiae. (“I was just diagnosed with cancer.” “OMG really? Can you believe I got a flat on my way to work today?”) Choose another friend for that.

If their life-shaking event is chronic (whether permanent or temporary) and the initial blow has passed, then you need to know, in response to a story about the flat you got on the way to work, would they say:

Must be nice to be able to go to work/have a car to get a flat/etc.

or

Oh man! That sucks! Why did it take AAA so long to get there?

And base your decision on that.

If you don’t know, ask.

“Hey, I know you’re going through xyz shitty thing right now, and I wasn’t sure if you wanted to talk about that, if you were looking for conversation just to be kind of light, or if you were looking for just normal conversation.”

Or something like that.

Then people who really need you just to be there and hang out have you there and hanging out (um, maybe not literally), and people who really don’t want to hear about your shit won’t be offended by your insensitivity.

Posted in know better do better, mindset, parenting, socializing, vulnerability

Singing out loud

A few years ago, I was driving, The Kid accompanying in the back seat. The weather was nice, the windows were down, and he was singing.

It didn’t matter that the windows were down. It didn’t matter we were stopped at a light and the people next to us could hear him. He was just singing.

I admired him for that and decided that I would try to not care, either.

Because really … who cares what some random stranger(s) in the car(s) next to you thinks?

(The answer is, apparently, most of us.)

Sometimes I can turn it off—the caring what people think—sometimes I can’t.

Because it doesn’t matter what they think. Whether they like my music, like my singing, like my voice. I’m not singing to please an audience when I’m driving—I’m singing because I love to sing and it makes me happy.

A couple of weeks ago, I was at a birthday party, and the playlist was 80s music. I knew almost all of the songs and could sing at least the chorus if not the whole song.

And so I did.

Not if I was talking to someone, of course—that’s rude—but waiting for my turn in a dice game? Waiting for a slice of cake? Helping clean up? Why not?

And you know what? It felt pretty good just to sing along and not care. Sometimes people joined me, sometimes not.

Another piece of that? Whenever I’m out and about and see a person who is happy singing or dancing and not caring that people can see or hear them, it makes me happy, too.

Spread joy.

Good music on in the grocery store? I’m singing. (Doesn’t happen that often, but more than never, now that I’m more often the target demographic.)

Do it! What do you have to lose?

Posted in mindset, vulnerability

Overcoming fear

Have you seen Alex Honnold’s TED Talk?

Alex was the protagonist in Free Solo, a movie about one of his climbing pursuits. He’s famous for free soloing, as the movie title says, which is rock climbing without gear.

Normally in rock climbing, one wears a harness that is tied into a rope that is secured to something else, so if the climber falls, there’s a way to catch them.

In free soloing, there’s no rope or harness.

(In bouldering there is also no rope or harness, but boulderers don’t climb very high, relatively. A fall is going to cause some solid damage but unlikely to be lethal.)

So anyway.

Alex climbs hundreds or thousands of feet up walls without a rope. Mistakes are lethal. Unless there’s a ledge, there’s no rest.

(Not my jam.)

But the interview was interesting because he talked about fear.

There have been many things that I’ve been afraid to do in my life. I’m getting better at pushing through that, because most of the fear is unfounded.

Climbing a 3,000-foot rock face without a rope? That fear is not unfounded.

His solution?

Prepare.

Prepare until it’s part of you.

(Obviously only applies to that which can be prepared for.)

“Doubt is the precursor to fear.”

Have no doubt; you’ll have no fear.

Good advice.