Whatever Wednesday: Doughnuts at the Carwash


Do you remember when you were a kid? The littlest things made us happy, didn’t they? Like those machines that you put quarters in and get tiny toys that break the instant oxygen hits them? They were fabulous for all of 1.5 seconds, right? Or how about sitting in your room, building things out of Legos or playing with Play-doh? It did not take much to put a smile on our faces. Ahhh, those were the days.

Flash forward to adulthood. Get up at the break of down to drink did coffee, run around like crazy to get ready for work and/or get the kids ready for school and/or both, ultimately forget something, have to go back for it, drop the kids off, go to work, or run errands, then finally get home at the end of the day, dinner, maybe a little time to yourself, and then bam. Bedtime. How the hell bedtime get here so fast? Close your eyes after setting your alarm so you can do it all again the next day.

Did you take any time for joy? Any little things tucked into your day that made you smile and giggle as if you were a 5 year old who just got the toy you wanted out of the quarter machine? No? Well, that’s a damn shame.

The key, as a lot of people will tell you, to staying happy, is to maintain a stranglehold on that childhood innocence and wonder. Pick up just enough common sense and cynicism to function in the grown up world but dear GOD don’t let that childhood innocence and wonder dissipate. Do stupid stuff. Let go. Have fun. Laugh inappropriately and loudly at everything, anything, and nothing at all. Do things that make you smile, often, with people you love.

Stuff like I do with J.

Stuff like what we did tonight at the car wash.

We ran to the grocery store to pick up a few things to finish off dinner. Then, we spotted the doughnuts. Lately we had denied ourselves this guilty pleasure but tonight they were salacious sirens nestled in a forest of sweet treats, begging to be rescued. We reluctantly (okay, not so reluctantly) rescued six of them, planning to take them home and hug them ever so gently with our stomachs after sending them for a ride down the esophagus flume.

After the grocery store, we checked to see if the car wash was open. The past week and a half has covered the car in salt, snow, and other random ick but because of the frigid temperatures, we have been unable to wash it because well, the water would just freeze instantly.

The car wash was open, so we turned in after a horde of cars passed by. Two lanes were open, and we, we chose the one with the idiot. His driver side door was open, his feet on the ground, a cigarette hanging from his lower lip as if it were a man clinging to a cliff waiting for a stiff breeze to come along. He wore a hat, a fedora style hat, and glasses. He slid his card into the slot, tapped the screen, and stared curiously at the screen. One of the employees came over to help him, sliding his card in for him. As we idled behind him, we watched the vehicle in the other lane surge forward.

I evaluated the situation after we sat there for a couple more minutes, put the car in reverse, and headed for the other lane. We pulled up, I activated the screen, made my choices, paid, and moved forward as the winner in the other lane sat there, continuing to struggle with the machine.

An employee directed us onto the auto-fed car wash. As I popped the car into neutral, J grabbed the doughnuts.

“Which one you want? The cruller?”

doughnut in carwash“Sure! Just a minute.” I put my wallet away, then took the doughnut. I squealed like a little kid. Doughnuts. In the car wash. I took out my phone and snapped a pic. There was just something so gleefully delicious about eating a sweet donut whilst hidden in the soapy flaps and rollers of the car wash. It felt so wrong yet so damn good. Best damn cruller ever.

Joy in life is found in the simplest of things, the things we forget how to see when we get past a certain age. Just like Journey advises… don’t stop believing.

And now? I’m gonna have a doughnut at 10pm at night.

Because joy.

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What Would Your Trophy Say?


“It’s psychotic. They keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity.”

~Mr. Incredible, The Incredibles~

Ah, good old mediocrity. The goal for which everyone aimed, right?

Not really.

In the sixth grade, I completed in the school’s spelling bee. If memory serves correctly (I’m getting old and yes, there is truth to the old adage that brains stop working as well once you hit a certain age), I won the class competition which is what placed me in the school’s bee.

I won the school’s spelling bee.

Don’t ask me what word I spelled to win because I don’t remember.

I remember, however, thinking winning was kick-ass, especially because I was one of the younger kids in the school. I beat the older, (and I thought smarter), kids that day.

I did not make it past the county spelling bee, however, despite studying my ass off. The other kids there were simply better at spelling than I. (I know, completely shocking, right?)

I have the trophy stashed somewhere, probably in a box long gone, to be honest. Who knows. It is a symbol of victory, of not settling for anything but the best.

I also played soccer as a kid. Our team did not win a lot of games, we definitely did not win regionals or go to any sort of championship. At least, I don’t remember us doing so. Know what we all got at the end of the season? A tropy. For mediocrity.

That trophy, while pretty, is completely worthless. Sure, it has my name on it and is a symbol of a lot of physical exertion over a few months, but meh. There is no victory attached to it therefore it means nothing.

We do not need to reward people for mere participation. For just showing up. Awards are meant for people who go above and beyond expectations, who fight like hell to do their very best and dedicate their lives to be the very best they can be at what they do.

Trophies don’t go to people who half-ass it. At least, they shouldn’t.

I think anyone living with a mental illness who battles through their days just to survive, however, should have a damn trophy. Because that? IS HARD WORK. Getting out of bed, doing what needs to be done, making plans, living – that is damn near impossible for someone with a mental illness. Doable, but damn near impossible without an extreme exertion of energy, both physical and mental.

It is a well-practiced tango between mind and body – convincing the brain to properly control the body to do what it needs to in order to accomplish the most base tasks like eating, showering, cleaning, etc. Same days? It’s more like the hokey pokey – you put the left arm in, you take the left foot out, you do the hokey pokey and you shake it all about. If you’re lucky, you fall asleep and start all over again, praying that your mind & body are back in sync the next day.

If you created a trophy for yourself or someone you loved who struggled with a mental illness to inspire/empower them, what would it say?

Tell me down below!

I’m gonna have to give some thought to what mine would say. Stay tuned for that update!

Finding Life at the End of the Comfort Zone


On our refrigerator, there is a simple black square magnet with white words in English sprawled across it. This magnet blends in with our refrigerator, making the words even more noticeable as it rests at the top of the freezer door, right in the center. What are these words?

They say this:

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” ~Neale Donald Walsch~

J purchased it for me on a dreary Sunday last winter during a visit to a local art museum. Of all the colorful things in the gift shop, the simplest thing, devoid of any true colour, caught my eye.

Why?

Because the words spoke to me. They challenged me to push myself further than I was comfortable. For the first time in weeks, I felt hope. When we bought the magnet, it was not too long after Sandy roared through our area, leaving me more traumatized than I wanted to admit.

Over the past year, I have pushed myself past my comfort zone. I auditioned in NYC for Listen to Your Mother (and am auditioning again this year, only for Northern New Jersey), I joined an in-person mom’s group, and I am back to pushing myself again after a setback with former neighbors which left me afraid to set foot outside by myself, even after we moved.

Within the past month, I started going back to the gym, I’ve ventured to various places by myself, and I plan to start walking around the neighborhood once it’s not covered under a ton of snow and the temperature won’t turn me into an instant popsicle. Oh, and I am learning how to drive in the snow. Slowly. Don’t laugh, most of my driving years were spent in the deep south where it does not snow often. Yes, I am a Jersey girl and perfectly capable of tolerating the cold but that doesn’t mean I know how to drive in the snow. It’s not that difficult to do, I’m realizing.

I owe this diving out of myself to the courage in asking for help.

I made a phone call back in December to our nurse practitioner to follow up with her about the situation with the neighbors. I saw her back in August due to extreme anxiety because of the situation – anxiety which left me afraid to open the blinds, turn on lights, or do anything beyond sit on the couch and watch TV for nearly 5 days straight. My sleep even suffered and my appetite vanished. I refused to leave the condo, in fact, unless J was with me. I needed help. In August, she prescribed something for anxiety. It worked and got me through the remainder of our time there as well as through our move.

But my prescription ran out.

We were happier at our new place. It was quiet, no screaming children at 11pm, no neighbors calling us names, no trapped in a dark condo. Instead, there was peace, quiet, and a lot of sunshine as all the blinds were opened and the light poured in from every possibly window. I still found myself triggered by certain situations and sounds despite the new tranquil environment. Shell-shocked from the former residence.

Then J was suddenly let go from his job and we faced losing our brand new place. With some careful maneuvering and help from family and a few wonderful friends, as well as some well-timed freelance work,  we managed to hang on. He found a job, and has been working steadily. I am still trying to  get freelance work going but haven’t lost hope.

While he was unemployed, I was the rock. I did not panic, I held fast and trusted that he would get a job. Once he did, I unraveled – fast. I was wildly unprepared for the roller coaster exit.

J sat me down one night and quietly shared his observances – that he was worried about me, I wasn’t myself. He suggested I call our NP. I struggled with the suggestion. I made it so far without medication. So far. Through a divorce, through the struggle of job-hunting and never hearing anything back, then through Sandy. All of this by myself. I was not sure I wanted to take a pill to get by again. I couldn’t. Could I?

Finally, after realizing every possible option but taking medication had been explored yet I  was still struggling, I made that call in December. We talked about SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), situational issues, and what medications had worked for me before. I talked quickly, fighting the urge to just hang up. She was wonderful and very non-threatening, telling me that she would call in the script and I could pick it up if I chose to but did not need to feel beholden to it.

I picked it up the next day.

It has been almost 6 weeks and I have picked up a refill.

The medication is helping quite a bit. I am focusing, I am laughing, and I feel more like me.

Going back on a medication felt like defeat. It felt as if I was calling it in, giving up. But I know that I tried everything I possibly could before making that call. Making that call? WAY outside my comfort zone. It is the most uncomfortable thing possible to call your doctor to tell him/her that you are not emotionally stable. Yet, if it were a broken bone, I would have rushed to the ER. Stigma is a pervasive bastard – I hate it.

Every morning now, I swallow hope, in the form of a small white pill.

One day, perhaps I will get to a point where I will simply hold hope in my heart and mind, not in my stomach or blood stream.

But for now, that is where my hope lies, intermingling with my stomach acid and my blood cells flowing through my veins.

I’m okay with that because I know it is without a doubt, what I need to be the best me I can be right now.

Making Small Moments Matter


There is no inspiration like a deadline for a writer.

I’m up against a personal one at the moment. I don’t have to sit here and write for anyone beside myself. But yet, I dragged myself out of bed because I realized I had not yet written my 500 words for the day.

Know what I did instead?

I had a great day.

I woke up at 8ish, and as the world came into focus, I noticed snow had covered the world outside just enough to turn everything white. I got up and opened the blinds all the way to savor the crisp white landscape greeting me. After crawling back into bed,  my boyfriend completely surprised me and brought coffee upstairs. We sat there, the two of us, his daughter still asleep, and talked as we stared out the windows at the snowy scape.

As we chatted, the snow began to fall again. Softly at first, then it increased to the point that the houses across the field were barely visible. A knock at the door let us know his daughter was awake and he left to go downstairs with her.

I got dressed and made myself breakfast. We would be heading to the gym soon and I did not want a full stomach when I got into the pool.

They ate shortly after I did and then we all got ready to head to the gym.

One of my favourite things about swimming is the meditative quality of the water. Sometimes, I do entire laps with my eyes shut – on purpose. I focus on the movement of the water around my body and the grace of gliding. Today was my third day in a row back at the gym. I had stopped for multiple reasons but am glad I am going back. It is a slow start, much like this writing has been.

When we got home, the girl and I made marshmallows. She read the ingredients and the directions, eagerly wanting to taste each and every ingredient. The only one she did not like was the dab of vanilla extract (which, let’s face it, isn’t delicious until it’s been added to something anyway).

As we prepared the cornstarch & powdered sugar to coat the casserole dish the marshmallows would rest in, we happened to accidentally get into a snow fight inside and somehow ended up with it all over ourselves, laughing like the happiest of fairies the entire time. Cleaning up the mess wasn’t annoying at all (the old me would have never done something like this). She was blissfully happy at tasting the marshmallow fluff and proudly took a spoonful up to her dad for him to taste.

It’s tiny moments like these which took up my entire day and are the reason that I am sitting here, in the dark, listening to When Doves Cry by Prince, typing like mad into WordPress to make my personal deadline of writing 500 words before midnight.

Like going to the gym, I need to get back into writing every day. So far, I have done just that with my words. I have also been okay with just WRITING and not organizing. Hitting publish even if I am not sure that it’s something I want out there.

A life is meant to be lived and you should do what you are called to do. For me, that’s writing. This month, all these words which have poured forth have been therapeutic. After my divorce, I stopped writing prolifically. I felt I had nothing to say or no right to say what needed to say because I was an absolute wreck. Turns out, I have a lot to say. I just had a lot of internal bullshit to wade through first. I may still be wading through it but that’s okay too. Because we are all just human and we all have our own bullshit to wade through.

What matters is that you get it out and have people to share your bullshit with – even if they just sit there and wrap an arm around you, saying nothing at all because sometimes? Sometimes that’s exactly what you need.

Other times, however, exactly what you need is a snowstorm in the kitchen with a child.

That’s exactly what I needed today.

And now? Now I’m going to sleep.

G’night, y’all.

 

Tossing the Emotional Baggage from Your Train


Many of us stand frozen in our paths because we are afraid of disappointing someone or being called out as a hypocrite when what we do does not back up what we say. Here’s the thing – how people react to you is not your gig. It’s theirs. They choose how to judge you and nothing you do or say will change how their judgement of you. You cannot repack or carry their emotional baggage. The only baggage you are responsible for is yours.

I read a great post today about a minimalistic approach to life. Of course, it focused on the minimalistic approach to material things but what if we took this approach and applied to to our emotional life as well and set free all the baggage from the past and refused to carry it for one second longer?

One of my earliest favourite movies is The Mission with Jeremy Irons and Robert DeNiro. Irons plays a Jesuit Priest in the Amazon. DeNiro is a plantation owner who has some society debts to pay. He appeals to Irons and follows him into the wilderness, carrying a large load of items on his back as they trek through the jungle. Despite falling multiple times as they struggle up a particularly steep hill, DeNiro refuses to cut the load off. Finally, after a fall when DeNiro is almost at the top, Irons cuts the load from DeNiro’s back. DeNiro looks at Irons in disbelief, almost angry that he has taken his penance from him. Then, DeNiro sits down and cries in the jungle, mourning the loss of the load and, it seemed, his gratefulness for having been relieved of by a priest. (Disclaimer – it has been quite some time since I have seen the movie and this is how I remember the basic scene/storyline of this aspect of the movie. Please feel free to correct me if I am wrong)

What if we were able to do that for someone? For ourselves? Lighten the load a little by refusing to carry emotional baggage with us? Imagine if we could truly start each day anew with no baggage whatsoever on our hearts or our minds? A sort of blank slate, if you will.

But wouldn’t you have to be emotionally frigid to do that?

No. What you need to be is mindful of how you allow things to ebb and flow into and out of your life, ensuring a balance of positive and negative – not allowing either to outdo the other. (For I believe that if we do not know sorrow and pain we cannot be truly grateful for the wonderful and amazing).

So how does one achieve this minimalistic state of a baggage free emotional life?

Well, for starters, you could complete the ritual of Kolinahr – I kid, I kid. Being Vulcan is not logical, Captain.

Here are a few steps I have discovered to living a (mostly) baggage free emotional life:

1) Deal with things as they happen – Don’t hold things in. Process events as they occur. Talk about them, write about them, get it out of your system. The longer things sit, the more they fester and you don’t want that creepy Uncle from The Adams Family perched on your back, do you? No. Of course you don’t. So before your problems sprout arms, legs, start wearing a holocaust cloak and go bald, deal with them before you turn into the Hunchback of Notre Dame because Uncle Fester is camped out on your back.

2) Do not let experiences jade you – Just because one situation with one person turned out a particular way one time, do not let that be the standard by which you judge similar situations with different people in the future. People are all different and sometimes, they might surprise you with their reactions. We all know what “assume” breaks down into, right? And we are not asses. Well, not all of us.

3) Listen to what the other party is saying – Don’t sit there hearing them as if they were the teacher on Charlie Brown while you formulate what you want to say to defend yourself. Actually listen to their concerns. When they are done, take a few minutes to respond, beginning your response with a rephrasing of what they said so they know you heard them. Validation goes a long way and repeating what they said helps you better understand what they’re feeling as well because you’re saying it in your voice.

4) Do not have conversations about important situations when you are angry – Trust me on this one. Wait until you have calmed down and then talk. Discussing things when you are both angry never ends well. It is wiser to wait until you have both calmed down and are capable of having a rational discussion. Otherwise, you just end up having a talk that looks like this (I don’t really like the parenting in this video as they delay dealing with the child’s outburst but it is a perfect example of what an angry conversation will accomplish – nothing):

5) Be brave enough to admit when you are wrong. We are not always on the side of right in a discussion, behaviour, or life. We screw up because we are human. (To be human is to err, correct?) It takes a lot of chutzpah to admit you are wrong. Don’t admit you’re wrong if you know you’re not – that’s not cool either. But when you are wrong, admit it, and ask at the same time how you can fix the damage that has been done. Accountability goes a LONG way.

6) When you feel wronged, say something. Staying silent harms everyone, especially you. This is reminiscent of the first step, yes. But I also want to encourage you to phrase things like this, “When X happened, it made me feel like Y. How can we work to improve how we do this so no one has to feel like Y again?” This way, you are not being accusatory and offering to form a partnership to improve how things are managed in the future. (There are certain situations in which it is best, of course, to say something to someone other than the person who wronged you such as cases of abuse, etc, but still – say something to someone who can help you work through it or escape the situation. Do not continue to suffer in silence.)

7) Remember that how people react to you is absolutely not your gig – it is theirs. This is the best piece of advice a therapist ever gave me. Living by it is difficult at first but once you start to do so, you realize that as long as you do your very best to resolve a situation or to share how you feel, how people choose to react to that is their gig. You absolutely positively do not own how anyone chooses to react to you. That’s all them. End of story.

Do I guarantee these steps will lead to a minimalistic emotional lifestyle free of all that baggage you have been lugging around? No.

But it’s a damn good start.

What changes will you make in your life this week to move toward a more minimalistic emotional lifestyle? What do you think would be the most difficult thing for you to let go of emotionally? Share below!