I woke up today feeling especially craptacular. As I often do when this happens, I decided to consult the internet as though it held some solution. I ended up taking an online self-esteem test. It said that having anything above 20 meant low self-steem. When I added up my score to be 24 I didn’t think I was that bad off. Then I saw there was another page…

I don’t know that there was any confusion about whether I had low self-esteem but I periodically I like to check to make sure I’m still dealing with the same crap. And I am.

Advertisements

Therapeutic

29Apr12

I started back in therapy. I realized that I was just a bit more of a fuck-up lately than usual. I was watching too much tv, spending too much time searching the internet, wasting time at work, thinking way too much and eating like crap. Every night I would tell myself that I would stop doing these things the next day but I never would. Whatever resolve I had to make changes in my life was gone by morning. Then I’d feel like crap for my lack of motivation and thus the cycle started all over again. I kept waiting for some sort of defining moment, a line of demarcation that would separate how I was from how I wanted to be. I felt like there needed to be some symbolic break and then I started to feel even more depressed because that never happened. It was a very black and white way of looking at things, which is typically how I am. The situation was made even worse because I knew I was a mess and horribly unhappy but I didn’t have anyone who would understand where I was. Thus not only was I a fuck-up, I was a lonely fuck-up. I knew I needed to do something different to get unstuck and I figured starting therapy would be a good start.

I went back to Sherry, who I’d seen before. She is very matter of fact and nonjudgmental, plus she gives homework. I appreciate that and the fact that she holds me more accountable than I would be on my own. We’ve talked about a few different things but mainly focused on my fear of being happy and my great capacity for overthinking things.

One of the things she mentioned was the idea that changing myself doesn’t have to be black and white, that I could make small changes that over time would make a bigger difference than I thought they would. It seemed too simple to actually be true but I figured she was the professional so I trusted her. She told me to find a hobby and I did. I started knitting and I love doing it. I committed to less time on the computer, less tv time, and less diet coke. The diet coke part has probably been the hardest. I also committed to yoga and/or meditation and whatever books she assigned to me. I’m not a yoga/meditating person so I feel a little cheesy doing it but I do find myself feeling a little better when I’m done.

So we slowly work on the other things: figuring out why I’m so afraid to allow myself to be happy and why I think the universe will some how try to bring me down a notch if I am happy. It’s hard to undo a lifetime of Irish Catholicism, though. And we work on getting me out of my head. I try to stop myself from thinking, thinking, thinking (perseverating is a much more accurate description) by being aware of what’s actually happening, not what I’m thinking about. I try to retrain my brain and get out of the mental ruts my thoughts always end up in.

I do feel better. Not great, not exactly happy but better.


I believe I’ve already made it abundantly clear that I shouldn’t work with people. Whatever that quote is about loving humanity and hating people, that is so me. This week I’ve had some priceless clients and one redeeming stranger.

People send blind emails to our agency all the time, requesting help with their mortgage. This week’s email was from a woman who said that she needed help to save the home she shared with her beautiful children. Well, thank god your children are beautiful because otherwise I would have turned you away. I get that she was trying to make her case sound more…desperate? appealing? whatever it was, I wanted to tell her that Wells Fargo really didn’t care if your children looked like deformed midgets as long as you can pay your mortgage. I didn’t.

Then there is the client I’m working with who is a therapist. A grown man, a 60 year old therapist. He emailed me and said that if his lender didn’t give him a loan modification in the next two weeks he was never making another payment again. It’s possible he wasn’t saying it in the voice of a petulant three year old but that’s how it came across. I wanted to tell him to go into a time out. I didn’t.

But what restored my faith in humanity? The drunk black guy I saw as I was walking to the grocery store. He was sitting at a little patio table outside of a restaurant. When I walked by he said, “Hey pretty lady! [Buuuuuuuurp!] Mmm…beer. Oh right. Pretty lady, come back!” Thanks, drunk dude.


Underdog

20Feb12

Today was awkward person day at Target. There was this guy in the little restaurant who just kept talking to this woman and her two kids at another table. He wasn’t being creepy, I think he was just slightly developmentally delayed or at least not the brightest bulb in the bunch. He was old and frail looking, and he probably didn’t have anyone else to talk to. I felt sorry for him and embarrassed for him. It was obvious that the other people there were uncomfortable too. If you’re a douchebag/bitch/idiot embarrassing yourself, I would be incredibly annoyed by your existence and probably make that clear when I insulted you in a way that you were too slow to catch up on. I don’t have a lot of patience for people who are consistently like that.

Give me an underdog, someone who’s just trying, someone clueless doing the same thing and I feel like I need to protect them. I blame my mom for this one. She is a smart ass who can verbally rip someone to shreds in an instant. And yet every year at Christmas we went and bought the ugliest tree because no one else would and she didn’t want it to be alone. She would pick mismatched and broken things at the store because she knew no one else would. We always cheered for the sports underdog. When I was a grown up, I picked my first dog because she was so hideously ugly I knew she would end up being euthanized if I didn’t take her.

I don’t know what it says about me that I think this is something I should hide…


Documentary

11Feb12

The Lumineers, Of Monsters and Men, Canon Blue, and Arcade Fire are on constant repeat for me lately. Love them.

Today was a weird day. I was walking by the Mexican restaurant in our neighborhood. The main window is right against the sidewalk. There was a woman sitting along in a booth in the window, crying. Admittedly it is strange, given the amount of time I spend in my head, that I tend to also be very observant of other people. It’s like each person I encounter is a potential mini documentary, and I love me some documentaries. Again, it’s an odd mixture because I would consider myself enough of a misanthrope that I wouldn’t want to hang out with them but I am fascinated by what motivates them and what their lives could be like. Maybe I should have been a documentary filmmaker.

Anyway, all this to say that I really wanted to know why she was crying. I wanted to know what was wrong. I wanted to know why she was sitting in the front window to cry and why she was doing it alone. I wondered if she looked out the window in amazement that everyone else’s life was still going on while she was dealing with whatever it was that was making her so unhappy. That’s how I felt after my dad got his liver. I would leave the hospital and just be amazed that everyone else was still going about their lives when it felt so consuming to me. I knew it wasn’t logical but that didn’t change it.

It sounds like some morbid curiosity , nosiness, or a desire to make fun of her or trivialize her situation. It wasn’t, though. It was empathy, the kind of thing I try to pretend I don’t really have. My natural response to seeing someone sad or hurting is to want to comfort them or fix things but I try to keep that soft, squishy center buried deep within my magic shell of protection. Once when I was working at a plant store in Columbus, a woman came to the counter with a wreath and she looked incredibly sad. She got right through my magic shell so I asked her if she was ok. She told me the wreath was for her 16 year old son’s grave, as tears streamed down her face. As I was the epitome of professionalism, I burst into tears as well. I didn’t even know her son, but I was sad that anyone would have to deal with that level of grief.

So often I see people just at their surface level and have minimal interaction with them. It’s strange then to see someone who has let their guard down enough to give you a glimpse into their life if you’re paying attention. It’s one of the times when I feel like I’ve shown up uninvited into someone’s life so I owe them a little respect instead of my usual sarcasm.


Perfect

02Feb12

I’m the perfect sort of buzzed right now. If someone talked to me, I could easily talk back. I’d be talkative. I could tolerate people’s bullshit. I feel either happy or accepting enough of the fact that I may never truly be happy. Or perhaps just drunk enough that I don’t care. Maybe this is what it’s like to go through life as a happy person. It doesn’t seem so bad right now.


Back in the 90s, I discovered Tim Sandlin, an amazing author. I own almost all of his books and I’ve read then more than once. (As a side note, I found another amazing author, T.R. Pearson at the same time. He wrote A Short History of a Small Place, which is still a book that makes me feel happy just to think about it.) His main characters are usually fuck-ups, in the sense that they think too much, make bad decisions with a sense of humor and sarcasm, and struggle to find their way in the world.

In a matter of a few sentences he was able to capture what I’d been trying to put into words for years:

“Sometimes in life we experience moments in which it doesn’t matter that we’re going to die someday. We escape time by living right now, past and future cease to exist. These moments of present awareness are all that matters, all that justifies existence. Usually I get this feeling of being alive now in nature or listening to music or something independent, but it’s possible to find the present with another person. To share reality– that’s the greatest thing that can happen to a human.”

I don’t know that it would be possible for me to live in a constant state of present awareness, but I would certainly like to spend more time in the present and not so much in my mind. But to me this is more than just being aware. It’s about an actual visceral feeling I get where I realize how insignificant i am in the grand scheme of things. It give me the perspective I can lack when I’m so wrapped up in my own life. To me this is the moments that I have when I’m outside in the late at night in summer time. There’s a sort of otherworldliness about how silent it is. Even the most mundane noises at night seem a little more magical.

It’s this, from another book I loved: “The moon, climbing so slowly that no one notices, shines down on Main Street. It casts a deep shadow on one side of the street and an eerie brightness on the other, where the sidewalk is bone-white and the little glass windows of the parking meters glisten as if they are wet.”

It’s like existing in a world where the usual things that occupy so much of my day are gone and there’s nothing but the perspective of stars. And in the moments that it’s happening, nothing matters other than being there and the incredible sense of perspective. It’s so not the way I usually am, but I’ve consistently had this same response to being outdoors at night. I’m alone because no one else seems interested in the idea so I can’t really speak to what it would be like to be there with another human. Music is another way that I have these transcendental moments, although just as fleeting. Sharing an amazing song with someone is probably the closest I will ever come to finding the present with another human.