The Time I Thought They Forgot My Birthday

The Universe schooled me this week.

I thought my coworkers were going to forget my birthday. You know, kinda like what happened to Molly Ringwald in Sixteen Candles. Except I am a GROWN WOMAN and felt really dumb worrying about people forgetting my 43RD BIRTHDAY. And yet, I worried.

“Maybe you should drop a hint?” my sister half-joked.

“I can’t do that! I’ll look crazy!” I answered.

So the anxiety stayed in the back of my mind for the next few days. I wondered why I cared so much. I don’t really like being the center of attention, so why did it matter if they remembered or not. It matters because them remembering makes you feel like YOU matter, I thought to myself. Oh right. That makes sense. Conversely, if people forget, it means you don’t matter. Nobody wants to not matter. Duh.

Anyway, these girls remembered like a boss. They remembered so hard. Balloons, decorations, cupcakes, flowers, a card, lunch and treats. They even sung the birthday song. They outdid all previous coworker birthday celebrations. How could I ever have doubted them? That was silly.

Universe: When will you learn? I got this.


#Throwback Thursday: Where Perfectionism Exists, Shame is Always Lurking

Originally published 5/19/14

My good friend and I were taking our lunchtime stroll when I mentioned how my recent 3 week cough had gotten me to the point where if I coughed too long and hard—I peed a little. What’s that about, I pondered, since I had a C-section birth. Is it just typical aging? I’m only 40!

“They say we are supposed to be doing those kegel things,” my friend noted.

“Yeah, in the car at red lights or whatever,” I said, “I never remember to do those things.” Why can’t I remember to do things, I thought silently.

My friend sighed and unknowingly answered, “There are just too many things to do!”

I agree. There are too many things to do. And it’s pretty overwhelming when you insist on trying to do all of them. I’m in awe that we even try.

Recycle or prepare to see your face on the wall of awful citizens.
Don’t use too much electricity and get those green lightbulbs, too.
Don’t eat too much sugar. Or carbs. Or meat. Or dairy. Or fat.
Eggs will ruin your life. Oh nevermind, eggs are awesome.
Drink tea but not coffee..oh wait coffee adds years to your life..who knew.
Walk 5 minutes every hour or come to terms with an early death.
Use sunscreen and make sure it has SUV protection..oh I mean UVA.
Get teacher gifts but no more apple items for pete’s sake.
Moisturize. Exfoliate. Condition. Floss.
Use glass, not plastic everyone knows plastic contains BPA.
Eat organic. You know, if you want to live and all.
Keep your photos archived, backed up and printed if you want to be a good mom.
Get your oil changed every 3000 miles ok how about every 5000.
Do your breast exams or it will be your fault when you get cancer.
Change your air filter do you want your kid to get asthma?
Clip the cat’s nails or you’re going to suffer the consequences.
Lift weights because you know you lose muscle mass every year after 40.
Read or stay completely ignorant.
Don’t watch too much TV because then you’re just wasting your life.
Keep up your gratitude journal because people who journal have happier lives.
Back up your files and if you don’t, your hard drive will definitely go bad.
Update your iOS if you want to be in the know.
Rotate your tires or you’ll have no one to blame but yourself for that blowout.
Cut the grass or the neighbors will think you’re bad lazy people.
Take these vitamins but not these or these, but yes these, no not those, these.
Register for PTA but only if you’re a good parent.
Remember birthdays or just be a thoughtless sucky person.
Meditate or just have that heart attack instead.
Drink 8 glasses of water and no diet soda doesn’t count.
Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc.

“You don’t have to do all of those things.” —People who live what must be a wonderful and peaceful existence.

Yeah. But.

Perfectionism is a self destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment and blame.” —Brené Brown

Nailed it! That’s exactly how I operate.

I have often been criticized for being bossy, uptight and wanting things “just so”. Part of that I attribute to a bit of a roller coaster home life. I had no control then so, in order for me to feel ok as an adult, I need to have as much control as possible now.

But the other part, I had not considered. The not wanting to be judged. Not wanting anyone to tell me I messed up. Not wanting to look like I don’t have a handle on things. Because if I have a handle on things, then that means I am worthy and I am good enough for people to want me around. I am worth spending of their time and energy.

I know I am not alone in these feelings.

How many of us think:
If I don’t lose this last 20lbs, I am clearly not datable. If I don’t get these photo albums made, I won’t have any proof that I love my child. If I don’t remember a to ask my friend about their surgery, I am a self involved loser. If I forget to get back to a colleague, clearly I am incapable of handling my job. If I have a car wreck, it must mean I am a half wit. If I don’t play that game with my child, I am a terrible parent.

Brené talks about the usual “I am enough” type things, but what she says about permission slips caught my attention. She said a lot times, in order to stop beating herself up about things, she has to write permission slips for herself. I give myself permission to _______________.

I give myself permission to:
Be lazy.
Take a break.
Let things go.
Be too tired to finish.
Not read a book.
Watch trash TV.
Slip up and yell.
Forget things.
Not be in the mood to deal with certain things all the time.
Let go of guilt.
Be ok with knowing I did my best.
Just get by sometimes.
Be silly.
Not sweat the small stuff.

We are supposed to live in the moment. But plan for our future. And also learn from our past. Let’s give ourselves permission to do all or none of these things any time we damn well please.

Being Cool is the Fonz’s Job

“Thanks for letting me have friends over. I always feel happy after spending time with them,” Hannah said as we drove away from her friends’ house. We had just wrapped up a sleepover with Hannah’s silly twin sister friends, Trista and Jenna*.

“I’m glad you had fun,” I said.

“Kids at school are always trying to act older than they are. They’re afraid of not looking cool,” she told me. “But with Trista and Jenna, we don’t care if we look silly, we just have fun and act our age without worrying what we look like. I just want to be a kid while I’m a kid.”

Impressive observations for a 13-year-old.

I told her that it was good that she realized that and was making a conscious decision to let herself be vulnerable. “Lots of people have fear of being judged so they spend a lot of time editing themselves. Brené Brown calls ‘cool’ an emotional straightjacket. You care less what people think as you get older, but some adults still wear the straightjacket.“

“Yeah,” she agreed. “It’s a bummer.”

And it is a bummer. Because cool is overrated. And pretending to be someone else is exhausting. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

*Not their real names


Be Gone, Before Somebody Drops a House on You Too!

So Hannah has this “friend”, Sonya*. I knew the Sonya was bad news from the very beginning of this dreaded friendship. I’m 40. I’m an expert troublemaker spotter by now. But it took Hannah time—and many discussions about how this girl was definitely not growing toward the sun—for her to figure this out.

It was confirmed when Sonya educated Hannah waaaaaay too much about the birds and the bees (covered in one of my previous posts). Finally I told Hannah she’s not to hang around with Sonya anymore. She was fine with it.

Fast forward several months and one grade. Sonya has changed, Hannah informed me. “Can I pleeeeease be friends with her again? Really, she apologized and she has really, really changed. For real.” Ohhh, well shoot, if it’s FOR REAL then suuuuuure.

Truth is, Hannah’s school is very small and Sonya will be around most likely through high school graduation. Lucky us. So I told Hannah she was old enough to make her own decisions about the types of friends she wants to have and so it was up to her. I set aside my feelings…my KNOWING….that Sonya was Sonya and she gots issues that would reveal themselves once more. Hannah would have to learn again.

Sonya was on good behavior for a few weeks. Then Hannah started not wanting to go to school. I finally got it out of her that Sonya was up to her old tricks which included, but are not limited to, manipulation, undermining and planting seeds of self doubt and inferiority. Hannah could see it much quicker this time. I listened as she told me story after story about Sonya’s latest betrayals.

It was hard for me to convince Hannah that Sonya acted out of fear and insecurity until I stated a quote I heard on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday:

“People act on the outside how they feel on the inside.”

Hannah gasped. “Wowww, that is really good.” I watched as it sunk in. I threw in “When someone shows you who they are, believe them!” to close out the lesson.

We agreed that we would not give Sonya any more power over her. Like Glinda the good witch told the Wicked With of the West, ““Oh, rubbish! You have no power here. Be gone, before somebody drops a house on you, too.”

*not her real name

There is no Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde here

Election season was rough, you guys. Signing on to Facebook was like walking into a field of landmines. So. Many. Memes. I couldn’t believe the bitterness that was happening between “friends”.

Meanwhile, I had a super close friend who I’ve communicated with almost daily for the past 12 years. We never have disagreements and act like fools, I thought. We’ve discussed everything there is to discuss, I thought. There’s nothing that we could possibly ever seriously clash over, I thought. Until we discussed the election.

All of our talks take place via instant message. So message by message this friend of mine, who was as close to the “perfect guy” as I’d ever seen, morphed into someone else. He started repeating talking points I heard on the news. The ones I turned off because they seemed to me to be coming from people from another planet. People who were super messed up. “Bad people”. But my friend had never seemed like a bad person. He couldn’t just suddenly be an ogre. What did it all mean!?!? Suddenly up was down. Down was up. It was all very unsettling.

This person I thought I knew suddenly seemed like a stranger as I realized it was more than just politics. It was a whole set of beliefs. How had I missed all of this? He was one of my closest friends. One of my favorite people in the world. There were few people on the earth I thought better of than him.

There was nothing I could do but to quit talking about it altogether and pretend it never happened. Except it had happened and it bothered me even though I knew it shouldn’t. And I tried to ignore it and push it away, but it still lingered in the back of my mind like that song you can’t get out of your head (Oh Mickey you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind, hey Mickey! ….What? I’m not old).

Several weeks after these exchanges, my friend asked me one day what I had brought for lunch. Since our conversations, I felt like he was a little more apt to get all Judgy McJudgerson on me. That day I had a meatless dish and I told him I didn’t want to say because he’d make fun of me. He didn’t understand that and said, “I’m not mean just to be mean.” It kind of jolted me back to reality and made me remember who I was dealing with. It was my friend, not a jackass.

So. It took me a little bit to realize that we are turning our friends into our enemies with the flip of a switch. One hot button topic and our friends are “unfriended”. They are still the same giving, loving, special people we have enjoyed all the other days of our lives, yet we let one certain type of disagreement change our view of them forever. Instead of looking at what they show us 99% of the time, we choose to take the 1% and blow it out of proportion.

I have learned that if my friend can be as wonderful as he is AND be a member of that party aka hold certain beliefs, then the people of that party can’t be all bad. Politics are polarizing. But we are all people with families and friends who are, for the most part, trying our best. We should see eachother as people first more often. I think it might help.