How to Thrive in Calm When You’re Used to Chaos

I’ve allowed their opinions to linger longer. These opinions need to go away. Find a new home. I shou

How to Thrive in Calm When You’re Used to Chaos

Ever meet one of those people who just seems to have a knack for brushing off criticism and judgement? Ever meet one of those people who walks around happy and confident all the time?

Me neither. I sure like to act like I am, though.

Since I first began to speak phrases, I’ve been optimistic about life; in fact, one of the first things I ever said was “when my’s gets bigger”. And I’m sure the universe chuckled and thought to itself, “Look at her thinking that she can plan out her life. She’s just so damn adorable.”

(Of course, my other favorite phrase was “my’s do it” because even though you do not need proof of my lifelong stubbornness [or as the boyfriend calls it: my “ability to be purposefully difficult”], I’m compelled to reiterate that I really have been this way since birth.)

I can see the good or the benefit or the calm in any storm. I thrive in chaos because I’ve learned that it is temporary. And that in and of itself is on par with psychosis.

It’s an almost crazy re-rationalizing of a trauma. Why deal with the negativity when one can focus on the positive side of each and every single situation? It’s more of a glossing over than an actual coping with the issue mentality.

Which means that no real clarity or growth is ever achieved. Which means that mere words turn into therapy-inducing self-esteem issues.

Case in point: to this day, I am still extraordinarily critical of myself based on some long-gone opinions held by men (my father, my former boyfriends, and even my daughter’s father*) that were once important but are now long-gone.

The men are gone, but for some reason, I’ve allowed their opinions to linger longer.

These opinions need to go away. Find a new home. I should post these opinions up for grabs on the List of Craig. They wouldn’t go for much, but at least I’d be rid of them.

At least they wouldn’t play over and over in my head like a soundtrack.

The rational part of me knows that these words should have no relevance of any kind. They should not define who I am, who I was, or anything about me.

They were ignorant words that I awarded with value. They were fake and demeaning and unworthy of my attention. And I admit, I paid them a lot of attention.

In order to silence the words, I have to face them and take away their tight-fisted hold. I have to acknowledge that yes, the words were said, but their current existence is because of my continued regard and not because they contain truth.

  • I don’t need to try to be perfect.
  • I don’t need to try to be less analytical, less logical, or less fond of donuts (hello, donuts are soooo not the devil).
  • I don’t “always need to be pretty so that [a man] will continue to find me suitable” — actual words spoken by my** pastor’s wife out loud to me as I hysterically cried to her about the end of my marriage. My tear-streaked face apparently didn’t meet with her standard of beauty. Seriously, people, this is one of the reasons that I am not an advocate of church or the God in the Bible or teaching women to be subservient to their husbands. But that’s a post for another time.

Anyway.

I know that they say that it’s difficult letting go of old habits, but I’ve spent years and years spinning and placating and debating and conceding. The chaos is familiar.

My brain really just needs to learn to enjoy the calm, to appreciate the quiet, to realize that another person’s recriminations have no bearing on my life. I must learn that I can cope just as well in calm as I did in chaos. I must learn to stay in the present and stop focusing on the past.

Perhaps then the soundtrack will cease playing, and the words will finally go away.

I’d love to hear from you. What do you do when you start to dwell on old criticisms or judgements?



*I do not refer to my daughter’s father as my ex-husband. Ever. The term ex-husband reduces him to a former, no-longer held title and fails to honor his place and importance in my life. It’s not something he would even care about or probably even notices, but I felt it merited an explanation.

**Former pastor’s wife. Not pastor’s former wife. I’m sure they are still married. And her face is probably free of mascara etchings. At the time, mine was not.

How to Pull Yourself Together When Life Doesn’t Want to Cooperate

Pull Yourself Together - the accidental heroine

How to Pull Yourself Together When Life Doesn’t Want to Cooperate

The last few days have been ugly (see also: challenging, ridiculous, tumultuous, gut-wrenching, and mother-effing overwhelming). Yeah, ugly pretty much sums it up.

I don’t like ugly.

I don’t like being told that I just need to stop being a crybaby and stop throwing a tantrum because I didn’t get my way.

I don’t like not being able to articulate the depth of my “wait, what the hell?” confusion properly.

I’m not just sad or just disappointed or just appalled. I’m d) all of the above.

I had to wonder if there was even a word for this abject state of disbelief. There is; it’s called aporia. Knowing this doesn’t begin to placate me not even a little bit.

But that’s not really important.

What is important is that I don’t think a lot of us are functioning very well in this state of aporia/aporia state (or however this word is supposed to be used).

A lot of us are trying to figure how to pull ourselves together enough to successfully pseudo-function. So, really, what are we supposed to do?

Start by making a list. You need to have an action plan in place for this type of emotional assault. A reference page if you will. These are the actual tasks in their actual order from a list I made when my daughter’s father and I separated. Because of my absolute Type A personality, I created Pinterest boards for each one and kept them up. I’m not even going to attempt to rationalize it.

Give yourself permission to prioritize your emotions.  You have the power to decide which emotions you are capable of currently facing. It’s not about stuffing down your emotions as to avoid them; if the emotion wants to linger, then it will still be there when you finally get to it. If you decide that you are not ready to face an emotion and it dissolves into nothing without you having to address it, then good riddance.

You are in charge of what you think about, what you face, what you deal with; your emotions do not have the right to overrule this authority.

Look for the experts. Find like-minded, articulate, intelligent people with whom to share your stress. In the last five days, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time reading the most eloquently written blogs, columns and tweets. I’m probably on information overload, but I find it oddly soothing. No, I’m not interested in reading opposing point of views; I’m not paying them any mind right now.

I’d love to know how you are keeping/pulling yourself together. What are you doing to keep yourself sane when life has clearly edged toward ever-loving crazy?

You’ve Been Betrayed; Now What?

What to do when you've been betrayed - the accidental heroine

You’ve Been Betrayed; Now What?

It took you a couple of days, but you’ve finally reached that point.

That point where you’ve raised your hand into a salute right about eye brow height and declared, “I have had it up to here. Things are about to change.”

Good. I’ve been waiting.

Let’s admit it: we’ve been betrayed. And we know it.

You and I both know what she did to us. What she let happen to us.

You and I both know that we’d like to break things or hit walls or set fire to her clothes and her expensive car in the driveway of her beautiful house (a la Bernadette from “Waiting to Exhale”).

But I’m not down for us to share a prison cell.

I’m also not about to let you take on this pain alone.

So this is where we’re at right now.

Let me be the sage one that’s kinda been here a time or two before; let me give you some advice.

What to do when you've been betrayed - the accidental heroine

Do not apologize for her betrayal; it’s not your fault. It’s not up to you to seek forgiveness. You had nothing to do with it. You can not try to speak on her behalf. You can not let her off the hook. She needs to own this.

Do not think that you could have done anything to prevent her betrayal; you do not control anyone else’s actions apart from your own. She made the decision that she made for whatever reason she made it. You could not have been a better friend/wife/sister/mother/daughter, more encouraging, or more entreating. Your actions do not have any bearing on her’s. She alone is responsible for her decision.

Do not gloss over her betrayal; you must honor yourself and acknowledge the truth. You are not allowed to let yourself think “the word betrayal seems like a bit much” or “it’s not really that bad” or “I’m sure she didn’t mean it like that.” It’s not too much. It really is that bad. And yes, oh yes she did.

Do not call her betrayal a mistake; it was a choice she made to betray you. You can not say things like “well, maybe she didn’t know better” or “maybe she wasn’t raised the way I was” or “maybe she just needed more time.” You can not excuse her behavior as a product of bad upbringing. You can not make her betrayal akin to having bad manners. She didn’t burp at the dinner table; she betrayed you.

Do not try to understand why she betrayed you; you are not entitled to her why. You can not force her to explain herself. She owes you nothing in the way of an explanation. It shouldn’t matter anyway. An explanation will not change what she has done. And it certainly won’t make you feel better.

Do not utter the phrase “if we could just go back in time”; you already know that you can’t. Stop allowing yourself access to the word “if”. There is not one single what if? that could make what she has done any more stomachable. Stop torturing yourself with scenarios that conclude in different outcomes. You already know the outcome. You already know the conclusion.

Do not think “someday she’s going to regret this”; she most likely never will. You can not think for one second that she has your self-awareness and compassion and humanity. Clearly, she does not. You can not allow yourself to hope that she will develop an iota of guilt over what she’s done, what she’s allowed to happen. She will not. She would not be able to live with herself if she did.

Do not think that she’s ever going to give you an apology; you need to learn to move on without one. An apology is reserved for hurting your daughter’s feelings or missing your best friend’s baby shower or bumping your grandma’s shoulder as you savagely reach across her for the last piece of cake. This is not a bruised shoulder; this is a betrayal. In order for her to ever muster up an apology, she would have to begin to feel regret. We’ve already established that she won’t.

Do not think that her betrayal has anything to do with your worth and value; your worth and value have not changed. Period.

Do not let her betrayal consume you; you will get passed this. You are allowed to cry. You are allowed to eat your feelings. You are allowed to drag your body to exhaustion on the treadmill. You are not allowed to stop and stay in this pain and hold on to it for fear that if you let go of it then no one will see that it was important in the first place. You are not allowed to be the keeper of the flame of the pain. You must let it go. You just have to.

Please please please know that I’m right here with you. I’m not going anywhere. I’m disgusted and humiliated and devastated just like you.

I know you still have so much you want to say to her. So do it. Text her. Leave a voicemail. Write it down. Send it to her if you must. Do what you have to do.

I’d like to pass this message to her myself:

Dear White Woman Who Voted for Donald Trump:

I’ve always known (and told my daughter) that if women would stick together, we’d rule the world. If we’d just get out of our own way (and cattiness), we could make everything right.

I was wrong.

I expected your vote to stand for all the women that can’t vote or don’t have a voice or have long since died because of the abuses of this world.

I expected you to vote against bigotry and racism and misogyny and heterosexism.

And again, I was wrong.

I’ve always wondered if I was born during the time of slavery, if I’d have accepted it as the norm.

I’ve always wondered if I was born during the time when women lacked the right to vote, if I’d march for it or just accept it.

I don’t have to wonder anymore. I would have fought. I would have made myself heard. I would have done my best to rage against the norm.

I will not live another day wondering what I would have fought for in the past; I will live them knowing that it’s up to me to keep fighting and standing up for what is right.

I will be the best kind of white woman (lest anyone mistake me for you) on the right side of history.

I promise you, I will.

And I’m not expecting the same from you. Anymore.

What to do when you've been betrayed - the accidental heroine

How I Give Myself a (Much-Needed) Break

Take a Break - the accidental heroine

How I Give Myself a (Much-Needed) Break

It’s no secret, but I don’t always have my shit together.

You don’t seem as shocked as I expected you to be…

Anyway.

Sometimes, I don’t want to keep up on my lesson planning and grading and documenting and data analyzing.

Sometimes, I don’t want to meal prep on Sunday so I can have lunches I actually like to eat during the week.

Sometimes, I don’t want to cook myself dinner when my daughter is spending time with her dad (yes, I know that this will be a thing I will have to do when she heads off to college, but I’m not ready to address that issue just yet).

Sometimes, I get stressed out by all the details and responsibilities and to-dos and deadlines. Sometimes, I’m just tired.

I do this to myself; this overthinking and over-analyzing is just part of my personality. And it’s exhausting.

But life still expects me to be capable and responsible and get my shit together.

I’ve had to learn that stressing myself into immobility isn’t really effective; this literally accomplishes nothing.

I’ve had to learn to give myself permission to take a fucking break.

I’ve had to learn that it’s okay to take some time to re-calibrate and just do what ever I want to do, like:

I hit snooze, stay in bed, and cuddle with my dogs. They’re rescue dogs; they deserve to be over-loved for the rest of their lives. That’s the excuse I tell myself anyway.

I give myself an extra few minutes to dawdle by using dry shampoo. To protect my chocolate chip cookie hair color, I try to only wash my hair a few times a week. Honestly, by the time Friday comes, my hair is like 90% Batiste dry shampoo.

Take a Break - the accidental heroine

I blog instead of grading papers. Totally acceptable. Technically, grading is a form of writing, and blogging really is writing so, in essence, I’m just reallocating my writing responsibilities. Yeah. That’s what I’m doing.

I grab a sandwich on the way to work. If I’m really just not in the mood to make my salad for lunch, I run to the grocery store and buy a deli sandwich – usually chicken salad. Laziness is no reason to force myself to eat a school lunch; that’s a bit too drastic a punishment!

Fine. I sometimes grab a Twix or Snickers bar. Don’t judge me. I can’t even say that the daughter put it in my cart. It’s me. I bought the candy bar. I just wanted the candy bar, okay?!?

I take a nap when I get home from school. Like a Kindergartner. I even change into my pajamas and get my pillow and blanket and lay on the couch with the television on for background noise. Just like nap time back in the day. Honestly, an hour nap makes the rest of my evening not such a “damn, I’m exhausted” struggle.

I binge watch Netflix shows. With no regrets. Which is not the same thing as “Netflix and chill”. Which is what I learned after I told a boy that I was going to “Netflix and chill” when he asked me what I was going to do for the weekend and he went on to explain what “Netflix and chill” actually means. I didn’t mean it that way. Clearly.

I listen to audio books. Sometimes, my brain likes to try to overwhelm me with thoughts of all the things I’m supposed to accomplish in a day. Sometimes, the only way to get my brain to shut up is to give it something else to listen to instead. The best book I’ve ever listened to is Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear read by the author, Elizabeth Gilbert. Elizabeth’s narration is perfection, and I find myself thinking about what she was saying and not about the dreaded data meetings that I have to attend.

I focus on my students. High school is still just like high school. And there’s nothing like the teen soap opera of break up and make up to keep me from dwelling on the stresses in my life. It’s easy to get the fuck over myself when my students are making fun of me or laughing at me tripping over air and reacting in slow motion.

Clearly, this is a work in progress, but I’ve finally come to the realization that I’m a grown-ass woman, and I can take a break whenever I feel like it. Now, I need to get back to the assessment data that I was avoiding by writing this blog post!

So tell me, what do you do to give yourself a break? What do you do to help you get over your damn self and not take yourself so seriously?

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