Unusually Enriching

When confronted with something new, many people’s first reaction is to think it “weird,” or maybe even “stupid.”  But over time, you get used to the unusual thing and then it’s just “unusual” or you don’t even notice it anymore.

I felt that way when I first started seeing unusual spellings of “everyday” names.  I know, I know, where do I—who chose this spelling of my name—get off making remarks about the way someone’s name is spelled?  But, in my head, at least the “y” still sounds like a vowel and it was an easy switch.  No, I mean names where people are using numbers instead of letters to spell the name, or maybe insert a “silent” letter for what reason I don’t know.  Those still seem “weird” to me, but I’m running across them more and more these days, so it’s becoming less jarring.

Also, with our culture becoming more diverse, I’m seeing lots of interesting names, and spellings.  Just look at your Uber or Lyft account, for example.  If you take a look at the trips you’ve taken with them, you’ll see all sorts of unusual names.  Names like Esvin, Fnu, or Ekkaphot show up regularly in your account (at least, if you live in larger cities).  Yes, sometimes they pose a pronunciation challenge (which I enjoy), but I also am fascinated to see these names and wonder what the origin is for them.

The same is true with clothing.  Back where I went to school, if you didn’t wear Jordache Jeans, Jellies, or other clothes popular in the 80s, you were mocked, a lot.  And I’m sure this was true of many other times throughout history.  But nowadays, I walk down the street and see someone sporting the current fashion walking next to someone wearing mis-matching colors and patterns, or maybe someone wearing MC Hammer pants.  While a sight like that might initially be a shock to my eyes, a few moments later, I realize that people are able to be who they are; to let their fashion freak flag fly, as it were.  Which is awesome!  I’m certainly not someone who’s up to date on the latest clothing trends—and sometimes, the latest trends are ugly to me—so I think it’s great that you can find whatever style floats your boat in the stores nowadays.  There’s no limit on choices, and people are less likely to be publicly mocked for proudly displaying their personal fashion sense.

Things like these are why it’s so important to get out of one’s comfort zone and see more of the world.  Even if it’s a big city within your own country, you grow so much as a person when you experience new things and meet new people.  It might be something as simple as finding a new dish that you love, or something deeper, like learning a new philosophy.  But if you can be open to new things, there’s no end to how your life can be enriched.

But I think some people are afraid of learning new things, because they’re afraid of losing hold on their old life.  What they’ve known for most of their life has become comfortable to them; even the parts about it that they hate.  If you experience the same frustrations, then you know how to react to them.  But when something new comes along, you don’t know how to react.  And for some people, that’s scary.

But not for me.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m a Gemini, or if it’s just the way I was born, but I often become bored with things that happen the same way all the time.  It’s part of why I can’t stand a lot of the music right now . . . too repetitive.  I even need variety in how I go home; I get bored if I take the exact same route every day.  So I switch it up every now and then, just to keep things interesting.

So, as jarring as it might be to occasionally see names spelled unusually, or to see “weird” combinations of clothing, I would MUCH prefer that, as opposed to everything and everyone looking the same.

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A Hero’s Fall

Whenever I see the question “Who is your hero?” on a cute little quiz (like Buzz Feed, or even in some magazines), I’ve never really known what to answer.  I used to think I didn’t have any heroes.  Sure, there have been people who I respect quite a lot, but I always thought that a “hero” was someone who you looked up to in a way that you wanted to be like them.  And, in fact, that’s actually the second definition of the word, according to Dictionary.com

2.    a person who, in the opinion of others, has special achievements, abilities, or personal qualities and is regarded as a role model or ideal:

Well, my mom had thankfully taught me that it was better to be my own person, than to try to be like someone else, so wound up looking inside of myself to form my moral compass, rather than looking to others.  Another thing she taught me was to not put people up on a pedestal, because the more you idolize them, the higher they get placed on said pedestal, and the harder they’ll fall when you see them for the real human being they are.

I saw that first-hand when I learned that Sherlock Holmes was not only a brilliant detective, but he was also a drug user.  Although fictional, Sherlock was probably the closest thing I ever had to a “hero.”  I used to love how he could use logic to solve any crime, and I still use logic to this day to solve problems, or even to figure out “whodunit” in movies and books.  But when I first learned of his drug use, I was absolutely crushed.  I had no desire to use drugs, and had always viewed drug use as an unhealthy escapism that only “weak” people do because they can’t cope with life.  Yet, here was Sherlock—whom I’d always thought was highly competent and strong—taking drugs as a way to escape his life.  And, in truth, he was escaping the doldrums of his life when not on a case.

I did eventually get over my disappointment in my youthful hero, and came to fully comprehend what my mother was saying about not putting people too high on a pedestal.  And since then, I’ve been able to accept people much better for their flaws as well as their good points.

That viewpoint helped me to see that idolizing athletes, movie stars, or other people in the public eye was NOT a good thing.  Sure, much of what we know about them is fabulous, and something to be envied, but you never know what lurks in the shadows.  Ghandi wasn’t quite the wonderful human being people initially thought him to be.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. allegedly cheated on his wife, repeatedly, as did JFK.  Even Billy Joel (who I still consider my favorite musician) has quite a few skeletons lurking in his closet.  And in today’s society—where dirty laundry is being aired as a form of “entertainment”—it’s getting even harder for people to hide their own personal Mr. Hyde.

In many ways, the fact that secrets are being told is a great thing.  I fully believe in openness and honesty in this world. Not only because it’s the morally higher ground, but also because, the sooner we’re all honest with each other, the sooner we’ll learn to accept each other as full human beings, and we won’t think ourselves such horrible people, or that “I’m the only one who [insert “bad” personality trait].”

However, the downside to all of this new openness, is that we’re going to see more and more of our heroes’ foibles.  Especially in this MeToo movement.

First, there was Harvey Weinstein.  Then Bill Cosby.  And there have been others along the way whose inappropriate behavior has crushed us in various ways.  I wasn’t surprised to hear about Harvey.  I was surprised and saddened to hear about Bill, and even Kevin Spacey.  But the one that’s just recently been brought to the fore has shaken me most of all . . . Morgan Freeman.

I had loved Morgan as Easy Reader on the show The Electric Company.  I thought he was the coolest cat, and he really did help instill a love of reading in me.  After that show ended, I didn’t see him in anything for years, until the movie Teachers.  I was thrilled to see him again, and have enjoyed watching him in many movies over the years.  He conveys a calm presence with a hint of a wink so well, that even when he plays the villain (like in the movie Wanted), you still can’t help but like him.

But to hear that he’s almost as inappropriate in his words and actions towards women as Harvey Weinstein, honestly breaks my heart.  So, maybe I have more people that I consider “heroes” than I thought I did, but maybe they’re people who influenced me as a child.  And, maybe, like my mom said, those childhood heroes hit pretty hard when they fall off the pedestal that I (unwittingly, perhaps) placed them on.

Oh how I hope I never learn anything truly negative about Jim Henson.  That one will crush me for sure.

Successful Jealousy

Some people think that fear of failure is what keeps them from achieving the goals they think they want.  But there’s another school of thought suggesting that fear of success is what actually keeps many people from . . . well . . . succeeding.  I think it’s probably a little bit of both, but for today’s purposes, I’m going to discuss the fear of success.

I don’t think everyone who sets out to achieve their goals is afraid of succeeding; there are many people who are able to visualize what they want so strongly, and never waiver from it.  And I say “Good for them!” for being able to do so.  I know that for a while in my younger days, I was actually afraid of success, though–if you’d told me that back then–I would have vehemently disagreed with you.  But as I got older, I started to hear niggling voices in my head about what so and so family member would think if I succeeded.  I’d already heard people say that I was “too skinny,” or that I thought I was “better than” certain members of my family for wanting to eat at “uppity” restaurants like Olive Garden (I’m not even kidding).  So, the thought of being richer than my family was very scary, because I worried how “snooty” they’d think I was if that happened.

Then, when I began to read more about celebrities who’d come from “nothing” to achieve their dreams of success, I’d often hear horror stories about people coming out of the woodwork trying to get into their good graces (most likely hoping for a handout).  Even worse are those who seem so jealous of someone else’s success that they do their best to run a smear campaign against said celebrity.

Case in point, is the family of Meghan Markle.

Now, I’ve never met Meghan, so I don’t know if she’s the nice humanitarian that she appears to be, or if she’s really someone who’s let fame and becoming a Royal go to her head.  Nor do I care.  But the sheer number of spiteful articles out there from her family leading up to the wedding makes me think less about what kind of person Ms. Markle is, and more about the kind of people the rest of her family are.  And if you haven’t seen how much of a smear campaign they’ve been running, just type “Meghan Markle sister” into any search engine and you’ll see a ton of articles where Meghan’s sister criticizes her for one thing or another.  Meghan’s brother also jumped on the bandwagon, as well as her father.  No wonder The Queen was livid with them.  By the time the wedding rolled around last weekend, I was not only sick of hearing about Meghan’s dress, or the wedding, but I was even more tired of hearing about her stupid family.

Meghan’s sister had labeled Meghan all sorts of snotty names that show nothing more than the bitterness of someone who is jealous of another’s success.  Then,  in his own set of articles, her half-brother claimed Meghan is a “phony,” and that he thinks she might be “embarrassed” of her family.  Well, no duh!  When family airs their jealousy and crappy feelings on international news, I don’t wonder why Meghan hasn’t had as much to do with them over the years.  I know that I wouldn’t want to speak to someone who talked shit about me just to get their 15 minutes of fame.

But this is one of the unfortunate side effects of being a celebrity nowadays, it seems.  So many rags looking to get the “latest scoop” on someone, and they’re willing to scrape the bottom of any barrel they can find to dig up even the smallest spec of dirt.  Throw in some disgruntled (and seemingly white-trashy) relatives, and BOOM, you’ve got fodder for years.

So, even though I don’t know Ms. Markle, I want to applaud her for staying strong and not reacting back to all the bad press her family tossed around before the wedding.  I hope that I act with as much dignity and strength if I ever become famous and have similar issues.  Because, honestly . . . I fear I might lose my shit.

Un-Healthy Relationships

Today’s gonna be a rant about movies and TV shows that deal with romantic relationships.
Craig and I are finding it harder and harder to watch those kinds of things without getting utterly pissed off at the writers.  I’ve heard that most people write about what they know about, and if that’s true, then it’s no wonder that there are so many divorced people in this country (and possibly the world).
 
Granted, Craig and I have only been married for 5 years (together for 9), so we don’t have “all the answers,” nor do we necessarily think we’re experts on healthy relationships.  But I can tell you that we don’t fall into any of the “classic” traps that you see in relationship-based entertainment.
 
Our biggest pet peeve with these stories is communication, or lack thereof.  Every time we see a scene where a couple has a “misunderstanding” because they weren’t completely honest with each other, we throw up our hands in disgust.  If we’re watching said show at home, we even pause it to discuss where the couple “went wrong,” which then leads to a discussion about how frustrated we are that these kinds of unhealthy relationships seem to be considered “normal.”  When one member of the couple answers “I’m fine,” or “Nothing” when asked “What’s wrong?” by their significant other, we again get disgusted and have to discuss that for a long time.
Another annoyance for us is when couples are mean to each other.  Case in point, the TV show Black-ish.  We used to LOVE this show when it first came on.  It was funny, well-written and gave us points to ponder and discuss.  But over the last couple of seasons, it seems the writers have been upping their abuse of Rainbow.  It’s always annoyed us that her mother-in-law, Ruby, verbally abuses her (while Dre says nothing), but lately Dre himself has been increasingly abusive to her.  So much so, that we’ve often wondered why she stays married to him.  We used to be excited for a new episode to watch, but now, it’s one of the last shows we think to pull up in our streaming list, for the very reasons listed above.
I’ve even started watching less and less romantic comedy movies due to these issues.  Craig still enjoys them a bit more than I do, but he agrees that the communication and crappy behavior in them causes him to enjoy them less than he used to.  I just can’t waste my time anymore on a movie where two people seem to hate each other so much, or whose relationship is based on a lie . . . but then suddenly fall in love with each other (usually after having sex) and everything’s “okay.”  Films like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days or Failure to Launch really hit a new low in my opinion, so I’m even pickier than I used to be.
What we’d like to see happen is for writers to stop writing about what they know, and start writing about how things could be.  You know how some people say that we learn by what we watch (which is certainly true for children)?  Well, why can’t people start writing about healthy relationships?  I’m not talking about The Brady Bunch which I HATED because of how unrealistic it was, but there’s definitely a happy medium between Everybody Loves Raymond (Ray’s mother . . . grrrrrr!) and a Stepford family.  There are still plenty of interesting and dramatic things to discuss in relationships without everything having to be so secretive.  Craig and I have plenty of drama in our lives, but we sit down and discuss things in a calm and respectful manner.  I don’t think I’m always right and him wrong, and he doesn’t treat me like I’m “the little woman.”
Maybe the viewing audience wouldn’t be interested in that sort of thing right now (especially with the current fondness for hyped-up drama from “reality” shows), but I personally would love to see TV and movie execs give something like that a solid chance.  Because, how can we change our reality into something better, if we don’t know what that looks like?

Wanderlust

As I’ve said before, I moved around a lot as a child.  By the time I was about 33, I had lived in as many dwellings.  Not all of them were new cities, and there were years when I stayed put, but I had packed up and MOVED 33 different times by my early thirties (with about 10 of them happening before the age of 16).  Basically, my early years were spent as a vagabond of sorts.

There are several “consequences” that can come from a life like that.  One, is that someone might establish roots somewhere, and never, ever, ever leave, because they’re looking for stability.  They might end up living in the same house for the next 50 years of their life, because they’re looking for stability.

Another possible outcome–as in the case with me–is that I don’t know how to stay in one place.

When I first lived on my own in Chicago, I had a great apartment.  It was very close to work, close to amenities and transportation, was affordable, and in a neighborhood that had once been a bad drug area, but was recently cleaned up, and starting to become the new “hot spot” in town.  As great as it was, after about a year there, I started feeling this itch to leave.  I didn’t want to leave Chicago, because I loved it.  I had a great landlord, who was very responsive, and always brought me flowers for Valentine’s Day (something he did for all the women living in his units, including his daughter in the back).  But yet, there was still this itch to leave, to change something, to shake things up.

Thankfully, I eventually resolved the issue by rearranging the furniture to give me the appearance of a new space.  But this is an itch that crops up every now and then with me, and–while it now takes longer than a year before the itch kicks in–when it hits me, I feel this wanderlust growing inside of me, and I feel like I need to go.  To leave wherever I am and look for what’s over the horizon.

Lately, that’s what I’ve been feeling about where I live now.  I don’t necessarily want to leave Alameda, because I love this little island.  And I don’t necessarily want to move to a new place, because we have an AMAZING apartment at a SUPER cheap rent.  We would never be able to afford something like what we have anywhere else in the Bay area.  Hell, the only reason we have such a sweet deal here is because our landlords inherited the place, and wanted good, responsible tenants more than they wanted a thick bank account.

And I DEFINITELY don’t want to leave my husband, Craig.  I love him, and I love our life together.  I had no idea just how badly I needed his sweetness and unconditional love in my life, but oh, how I did and do!

And yet, there’s still this urge inside of me to leave.  To be somewhere, anywhere other than where I currently am.  To have a new vista, or new something to do.  And I know that–if Craig and I weren’t together–chances are, I’d be gone already.  Being with someone can put a serious crimp on the vagabond lifestyle.  But, again, his love and support help make up for it.

But with this latest bout of wanderlust, I’ve been feeling a sense of guilt along with it.  Like I should be mature enough, and settled enough in myself to stop “running” every few years.  I’m 47 years old, for goodness sake!  Shouldn’t I be more interested in buying a house, or getting a better mortgage than I am in wondering what “else” is out there to see or do?

We’re led to believe that, to be truly happy, you need to stop wanting that “something else.”  There are sayings all over the place that quip “True happiness is not in having what you want, but in wanting what you have” and other such stuff.  The guilt running through my head is a direct cause of these kinds of judgemental quotes.  Then it morphed into a sort of depression over the internal war about leaving versus staying, where I wondered what’s “wrong” with me for wanting “more.”  Where I felt badly that all the wonderful things I have in my life wasn’t “enough.”

But on the other side of that depression, I can see it for the judgement that it is.  While I agree, that acquiring tangible “stuff” can’t make you happy, there’s nothing wrong with wanting new experiences, or new towns.  It’s part of what makes me such a well-rounded person.  Part of why I find it pretty easy to adapt to changes in life (even the ones I haven’t instigated).

So, maybe all I need to do is just take off for a trip somewhere soon.  Maybe going someplace I’ve never been before (even for a weekend) will help satiate my need to rove for a while.

Excuse me while I go check on flights . . .

The Feels Are Coming

Someone recently sent me a chain mail on Facebook (FB).  It was one of those that’s designed to give you “the feels,” while also quietly coercing you into forwarding the chain on to others, with a not-so-subtle challenge/competition thrown in for good measure.

Now, first off, I HATE those kinds of things.  I abhor each and every one of those memes that have phrases such as “Like if you have a heart,” or “I really need a hug.  Let’s see who cares enough to send me one.”  Things like that are designed to guilt-trip you into responding and/or forwarding this manipulative crap on to someone else.  I’m rebellious enough that I immediately scroll past any meme that has words to that effect in them.  I refuse to share, and I refuse to acknowledge that I’ve even seen it.

But it’s not just the manipulativeness about them that bothers me; it’s also that–while they’re an attempt to reach out and tell people you’re thinking about them–they seem SO impersonal to me.  99% of the time, the person who sends or posts one of those did NOT write it.  It just got sent to them somehow, and they decided to share it, or forward it onward.  So, something like that never seems genuine to me.  Throw in that some of them have horrible grammar and/or spelling mistakes (or worse, use text shortcuts like “u,” “ur,” etc.) and I just cringe all over.

So, when this meme was recently sent to me via personal message (PM), I wrote back to the person and asked that they not send me those kinds of things anymore.  I explained my reasons for why I don’t like them, and did so in a calm, point-of-fact manner (at least, I hope I didn’t come across as rude).

However, as I pondered it a few days later, I found myself trying to defend my position again (to myself, not the sender).  A bit of soul-searching helped me realize that–while it might not be the most personal message–at least the person who sent it had the thought to send it directly to me via PM.  That got me to reflecting on how bad I’ve been at keeping in touch with people over the years.  I have hundreds of “friends” on FB, and still more people not on FB that have meant something to me over the years.  Aside from holiday cards, postcards, or sending Birthday wishes to them on FB, I don’t stay in touch with most of these people.  Even though there’s still a fondness for them in my heart.

So I decided that I will make up for that in 2018.  It’s not necessarily a New Year’s resolution, but I feel like a hypocrite for refusing any sort of nice message from someone, just because I think the method is impersonal, when I haven’t been personal enough with people I care about myself.

Some people will get a long email or letter, while others might get a short but sweet note on FB via personal message.  A lot depends on the person and how much s/he has touched my life.  And, that’s not to say that a short note won’t be heartfelt, because I’m going to make sure to really express how much s/he has touched my life and in what ways . . . but some people have only been in my life for a brief time.  But everyone who has touched my life has made an impact, and I want to let people know that I feel that.

I don’t know if it will take me the full year.  I haven’t yet counted how many people I will be reaching out to.  But 2018 is going to be the year where I send the HELL out of “the feels” to the people in my life.

Get ready . . .

Too Much

“I know you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed.  But can you ever just be whelmed?”
“I think you can in Europe.”

~ 10 Things I Hate About You

As you can probably tell, this post is late.  I’m bummed that I didn’t have the presence of mind to get this one written and posted before now, but maybe you’ll understand by the time you finish reading this blog . . .

I know I’ve written before about how busy my life is.  But lately, my life has been CRAZY busy.  My mother has commented in the past how I like to keep myself busy; and while that’s true to a certain extent, I don’t like to be so busy that I have very little time to myself, or that I feel so overwhelmed and stressed all the time, like I do now.  It bothers me that I don’t have enough down time to speak with friends and family unless I somehow squeeze them into my week; usually by combining the chat with one or two other tasks to make it happen.

It’s actually gotten so bad, that I completely forgot to pay rent in November until Craig mentioned it on the 7th of the month!  That is truly not like me!

The frustrating thing is, that I sometimes feel like I don’t have control over how busy I am right now.  I mean, yes, in the long run, I DO have control . . . I can choose to not take any more VO classes, or work on my photography, but that would essentially put a halt to my chosen careers; which doesn’t seem like an option to me.  I could also fully choose to not socialize with anyone, whether by phone or in person.  But honestly, I don’t even socialize all that often as it is, so I feel like cutting even the small bit I do out would be essentially me turning into a hermit (which I don’t want to do, either).

And, even more frustrating is that I feel that the amount of stuff I consciously put on my plate would be just the “right” amount of busy . . . but unfortunately doesn’t factor in the odd thing here or there that Life brings to the plate.  Like our car breaking down, so we had to go shopping for a new one (which took up two and a half weeks, including weekends).  Or, having issues with nearly every aspect of a recent company function, so that I had to put out one fire after another, during my last two weeks at that job.

When things like that crop up in my life, I guess I don’t know what is the “right” answer.  Do I just say “screw it” about the car, and wait until life calms down?  Do I have that same attitude about things going wonky at the job?  Do I then (because I’m stretched thin as it is) pass on seeing a friend for a birthday milestone, when I haven’t seen him in almost a year?

Yes, those are all options, I know . . . but they just don’t seem like viable ones to me.  And, the thought of taking everything off my plate, so that I can be prepared for the unforeseen things that pop up makes me feel like I’m not trying to improve my life.

I’m sure there’s a middle ground, but I don’t know what it is yet.  How do I find the “Whelmed” part of life?

And believe me, I know that mine is not the only life that’s been crazy busy lately.  I’ve spoken with several individuals who–like me–can’t believe 2017 is almost over.  So many of us are feeling stressed right now, that I don’t expect sympathy from anyone, and I actually feel like there’s a “Yeah, what else is new?” aspect to the conversations I have with others about it.

So, I’d really like to find out if it’s ever possible to be just whelmed, but even that sounds stressful.  Dictionary.com has the definition of “whelm” as:

” . . .to roll or surge over something, as in becoming submerged.”
But maybe it’s not as stressful in Europe . . .

Personality Precedence

I’ve had a conundrum of sorts invading my brain for the last several weeks.  It’s not something I think about every day, but it’s often enough that I felt the need to write about it.

The issue is this:  When two people have differing views on something that affects them both, whose side wins out?  I’m not talking about grand-scale things like people being allowed to sit at a restaurant counter regardless of their skin color, because that’s a no-brainer in my opinion; discrimination is bad.  Period!

No, I’m talking more about smaller, everyday differences that usually only affect the two people involved.  Let me explain . . .

Let’s say that someone is a hugger.  Their natural instinct is to go around hugging everybody because they love spreading their joy.  Now, let’s say said hugger comes across someone who doesn’t like to be hugged, or even touched.  Whose personality gets to win?  It seems like a logical answer–the person who doesn’t like to be hugged shouldn’t be accosted if s/he doesn’t want to be–but the hugger is now denied being true to him-/herself.

Here’s another scenario . . .

My brother told me he’d seen something that made him think of me, and he bought it for me.  When he described the item to me (a leather necklace with leather dog-tags that said “Gemini” on them), it didn’t sound like anything I’d be interested in.  I don’t wear much jewelry, I’m not into leather, and I’m CERTAINLY not into dog-tag type things.  So when he asked if I wanted him to send it to me, I said “Thank you for thinking of me, but it doesn’t seem like something I’d get much use out of.”

I’ve mentioned that situation to a few people since it happened, and nearly everyone thinks I should’ve let him send it to me and then discard it without him knowing.  But my conundrum is: Why?  If I’ve acknowledged and thanked him for thinking of me (which I did several times in that conversation), why should I accept something that I’ll likely throw out, or at best will collect dust in my house?  Just so his feelings don’t get hurt?  What about my feelings?  And what about when/if he finds out later that I tossed said gift away?  Then his feelings will DEFINITELY be hurt.

Since that incident, other things have come up that make me ponder which side is more “right” than the other, or which personality should take precedence.  For example:

  • Should someone with a dietary restriction accept personally harmful food from another person just to make the giver feel good about their gift?  And then do what, just throw it away after the giver is gone?
  • Same question for someone who’s trying to lose weight . . . Should they accept food from a “food pusher” (who likely equates food with love), just so the pusher’s feelings aren’t hurt?
  • Should a teenage girl have to walk around school all day with her grandparents, just because it’s happened in the past?  What if the girl would feel crappy all day, because she’d have to put on a facade just to please the grandparents?

One of the first times this question arose in me was when I learned about customs when traveling to several Asian countries.  I learned that–if you dine with a Chinese family–it’s expected that you eat everything that’s offered to you.  And if you refuse something, it’s considered very rude.  Well, I’m a picky eater.  Always have been.  So why are the cook’s feelings more important than my comfort?  Why should I have to eat food that I might find disgusting just to appease someone else’s feelings?

I don’t really have an answer to this, but it seems to me that most people think you should just “suck it up” and not make the other person feel bad.  But the problem is, in every one of those scenarios, SOMEONE will likely end up feeling badly.  So, again, who’s feelings take more precedence?

And, more importantly, WHY should people just “suck it up?”  Why isn’t it enough to just acknowledge and appreciate someone’s efforts or good thoughts?  To basically say “Thanks, but no thanks.”

I’d honestly like to hear your opinions on this, dear readers.  I’m not interested in Miss Manners’ take on this (I’ll tell you why I can’t STAND that person in another blog), but I’d like to hear real people’s thoughts on the subject.

Doing Better

Ms. Angelou has lots of wonderful words of inspiration, but this quote has been swimming around in my head a lot lately.  Always interested in being the best human being I can be, I’ve read a lot of self-help books.  In nearly every case, I’ve grown because of them, and learned to “do better” in my life.

I’m going to share some of the ones that have led to the biggest improvements.

The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman

This was the first self-help book I remember reading.  It might not technically be considered a self-help book, but so much of what was said in there spoke to me in profound ways.  Through this book, I learned about many Zen teachings, and how to accept that the body that is Alyx Morgan is completely separate from the energy (or soul, or whatever ethereal word you want to use) that’s currently living in it.  That helped me to not fear death or to become too attached to things in this life . . . it’s been SO freeing!

Shortly after a major breakup in my late 20s, I read a series of relationship-based self-help books that also helped me learn things about myself:

Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus by John Gray, Ph.D.

I found so much of what Dr. Gray says in this book helped me to understand the reasons for my emotional needs, but also to not expect my future mate to know exactly what I wanted or needed from him . . . I needed to be able to speak up and make my needs known.  Before this book, I used to think that if someone “really loved me” they would automatically read my mind and give me what I needed . . . how wrong I was.

The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

This book was such a HUGE eye opener for me.  I’d never before considered that people spoke different “languages” of love, but he spelled it out in such a way that I could easily see which love languages I speak.  This added on to Dr. Gray’s book so that I knew how best to phrase my needs to my potential mate.

The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz

Aahhhhh, this lovely little book.  While this book is technically a relationship-based book, it’s SO much more.  It’s not just about our relationship with other people, it’s more about the relationship we have with ourselves, and how to love yourself enough that you don’t feel the desperate need for love from others (something I’d done most of my life).

There’s one self-help book that I haven’t read all the way through yet:

The Dark Side of the Light Chasers by Debbie Ford

I’ve started reading this book several times, but have never finished it, so maybe I’m still not ready for all of the lessons in its pages.  But the biggest takeaway I’ve gotten from this book is to embrace my “bad” traits as well as my “good” ones.  That there are times it’s perfectly okay to be a “bitch,” or “needy,” or “angry.”  Every human being is made up of multiple facets, and as long as we don’t judge them, we can see where they are useful.  For instance, if I feel someone is trying to take advantage of me, that’s the perfect opportunity for me to let out my anger and/or inner bitch, to let whoever know that I won’t be taken advantage of.  Yes, eventually I’ll learn how to do that without the aggression, but there’s still nothing wrong with said aggression.  Accepting all facets of myself has been extremely helpful in not beating myself up.

As for the last book I’ll discuss in today’s blog . . .

Codependent No More by Melody Beattie

I’m currently reading this book and it’s answering SO many of the remaining questions I’ve had as to many of my behavioral characteristics.  I had suspected that my relationship with my mother was codependent to some extent, but reading this book I can see just how pervasive my codependency is.  In the book, I’ve found several keys for releasing myself from the chains that have held me for such a long time, and I feel like I’ll be able to work through most of the rest of my issues with the lessons I’m learning here.  I’ve been noticing the places where I’m acting in a codependent manner, and have already begun making different choices in my actions and reactions to situations and people.  I had originally checked this book out of our local library, but it will be owned and sitting on our bookshelf very soon.

These books have helped me grow over the years, and I’m forever grateful to them.  Are there any books you’ve read that have taught you things, or helped you to “know better,” and subsequently “do better?”  Please let me know, and maybe I can add them to my bookshelf, too.  😉

Celebrating (?) Alcohol

Today’s post is going to delve into some songs . . . namely songs that seem to endorse drinking or being drunk.  Please know, before I go any further, that I’m not against alcohol, or drinking.  I just don’t understand why people seem to like songs that celebrate it.  Maybe it’s because I personally don’t drink anymore, and so don’t have those experiences to connect to.

I did drink for a while.  From the ages of 14 to 17, I used to drink with my mom and our friends (especially when we’d get together for a bonfire).  This was because–when my mom found out that I’d had my first rum and Coke–she pulled me aside and said that she would buy for me, but only if I drank at home, so I could find my limit in a safe space.  I think this was a VERY wise thing to do, because 1) she’d make sure I wasn’t out driving under the influence, nor riding with anyone who was; and 2) she’d made the subject of drinking a safe one, rather than turning it into a taboo that a teenager would want to test out.

So anyway, I started drinking early and quit early as well.  It was a summer night up at the cabin, and my mom, our friends and I were there for a long weekend.  We sat around a bonfire down by the lake, and I’d had 6 Screwdrivers (more vodka than OJ), half a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20 Grape, and half a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20 Orange (think of the cheapest “wine” you can find).  I didn’t feel any of it go down, and apparently I blacked out so that people had to carry me back up to the cabin and put me to bed.  The next morning, I had no headache.  No hangover.  No amount of “paying” for the night before.  That scared the crap out of me and I haven’t touched a drop since.

So, maybe because I started so young, I missed all the “fun” of alcohol and being drunk, or maybe I’ve spent enough years without it to see things with clearer eyes.  I don’t know, but that–coupled with my love of knowing song lyrics–makes it so that I often can’t “enjoy” songs about drinking.

For instance:

Margaritaville, by Jimmy Buffet (lyrics in the video)

I’ve hated this song with a passion ever since I can remember.  I’ve also had a strong dislike of Mr. Buffet for a long time, as well, mostly because of this song (which I admit was the only thing I knew by him for a long time).  The lyrics have him talking about a “beauty” of a tattoo that he can’t remember getting, and later he talks about cutting his heel because of a broken flip flop, but he doesn’t worry because “. . . there’s booze in the blender, And soon it will render that frozen concoction that helps me hang on.”  Ugh.

Friends in Low Places, by Garth Brooks (lyrics here)

There are TONS of Country songs that espouse the “benefits” of drinking or being drunk, but this one was such a favorite when I frequented a karaoke bar back in Michigan, that it just strikes me as the penultimate “drinking makes everything better” song.  I mean, the guy in the song shows up drunk to someone’s wedding, causes a scene (even though he says he didn’t mean to), and then slinks away to some bar “. . . where the whiskey drowns and the beer chases my blues away . . .”

Marry You, by Bruno Mars (lyrics in the video)

This song also falls into what I call the (Not) Love Songs category.  It’s a catchy tune and I enjoyed it for the most part (too repetitive) until I fully listened to the lyrics recently.  It’s basically a song about two people so drunk (possibly in Vegas, I haven’t seen the video) that they’re going to do something “dumb” and get married.  He doesn’t know if it’s “. . . the look in your eyes, or is it this dancing juice . . .” and he doesn’t care.  And, he also doesn’t care if you want to “. . . break up after you wake up.”  I mean, seriously?!?!?  I’m sure there are people who’ve had this as their wedding song, because he says “I think I wanna marry you” so many times.  But honestly . . . If someone says they think they want to marry you . . . wait until they’re certain.  PLEASE!

But Craig introduced me to a song that seems more honest about getting drunk:

Alcohol, by Brad Paisley (lyrics here)

I’m not normally a fan of Country music, but everything I’ve heard by Brad has been pretty funny and good (I’d liken his writing style to Train for pop music), and this song is no exception.  Here’s the true (and sometimes funny) story of what happens when you let alcohol be your “medicine.”  A sample of the lyrics:  “You had some of the best times you’ll never remember with me . . . alcohol.”

So, let me state again that I’m not against alcohol.  Not at all.  What I am against is the celebration of the foolish things that drinking too much can make you do.  But maybe I just can’t relate because I got scared shitless for not having a limit and not paying for it one night back in 1987 (a problem that I know many people wish they had).

And I’m okay not relating.  I’ll sit over here with my water, thank you very much.

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