Delaying Tactics

Man, 11 days since my last post? I had no idea it had been so long. Time flies, I guess. It’s been a busy 11 days, so hopefully I can be forgiven for neglecting my blog for so long. When last I wrote, I had just been to church for the second time, and had just finished my first week at my new duties in the receiving area of my store. Things have definitely gotten more interesting since then.

For one thing, I actually managed – with the help of a good friend, who deserves all of the organizational credit, because I would have trouble planning my way out of a paper bag – to run my first session of an RPG called Dungeon World, which I’m sure I have mentioned int he past. The first session was at a nearby game store, and it was me, my friend, and two gals he knew from work (we all work at the same company, just different stores). I thought the first session went really well – people made fun characters relatively quickly, the system didn’t get in the way, and I felt like I was able to improvise pretty smoothly, all fo which seemed to lead to a great first session. I say first, because this week we got together again, this time at my place, and two additional gals showed up – making the demographics 4 women, 2 men, which is weird, but awesome. The two new players again made up new characters quickly, and we finished up the adventure that had been started in the previous session, finally killing the Spider-Witch Florimel and returning some very traumatized children to their families. It was a lot of fun, and a big confidence boost for me, because I had been really worried that I wouldn’t pull it off very well. hopefully we’ll have another game soon.

Also, my birthday was this past Sunday. I turned 35, which sounds like a lot now that I think about it – so usually I try not to, because then it involves me trying to work out how close I am, percentage-wise, to becoming a Steve Carell character. You know the one. I celebrated thusly: on Saturday, after having nabbed the second Captain America movie on Blu-Ray earlier int he week, I started watching all 9 Marvel movies, in in-setting chronological order. I managed to get all the way up to the Avengers before calling it a night, then the next day, my birthday, got through Iron Man 3 and Thor 2 before going out to dinner with three friends, all of whom are awesome. We went to a Brazilian steakhouse called Fogo de Chao, and if you’ve never been to such a place, let me tell you – it’s like a festival of meat. They have a salad bar, but mostly, you sit at your table, and you have a little thing at your place setting – one side is red, the other green. When you flip it to green, servers magically appear with all variety of meats and give you pieces, until eventually you are so full that you get what one of my friends called the ‘meat sweats’. Then, for dessert, two of my friends, both women, rolled out a dessert they had constructed especially for me – a three-tiered pyramid of donuts from various places around Houston. Let me tell you, I was very full at the end of the night, and very happy. If any of y’all are reading, let me say this to my friends and family(both those who were present, and those present in spirit): I love you guys, and each one of you has helped me to have a life worth living. You have made my life so much better by being a part of it.

As for my professional life, I’m mostly used to working in the receiving area of the store now; my back still aches from being on my feet and carrying boxes all day, but it’s far less stressful than customer service for me. And I get to listen to audiobooks, music, and podcasts while I work – so far I’ve made it through Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown, Reality is Broken, by Jane McGonigal, all of the On RPGs podcast, and most of the podcast episodes of the Knights of the Night group dealing with their experiences with Dungeon World. At home, I’ve also been reading through a good book, through it’s taking longer than it normally would because I tend to read before bed, and my new job means that when I get in bed, my body tends to prefer sleep to reading much of the time. The book is called Friendfluence, by Carlin Flora, and it is about how friends influence us, change our lives, and can actually have an impact on our physiological well-being. It’s a pretty good read, and I look forward to finishing it (mostly so I can point out to my friends exactly what their presence is doing to my brain, which seems fun to me). I am still waiting to hear back from the Via Hope group on whether or not I will be accepted into this round of training for Certified Peer Specialists, and I should hear back from them by the 22nd.

All in all, it’s been a busy week and a half, but in a good way. I’ll make an effort to keep my blog more updated, because I know it’s something I have been neglecting, and I have some ideas for other things to write, but right now my body is telling me it was a bad idea to get up this early, so I’m going to listen to it and relax on my day off.

Authenticity

Again, I’m sorry for the delay between entries; this time I have a much better excuse. I’ve actually been visiting my family in St. Louis for the past couple days, and while I meant to write a post while I was there, I kept getting distracted by things like food and sleep. But the trip went well; it was good to see my parents, and it gave me a chance to do some things I’ve been putting off for a while. I read two books between leaving Houston and coming back; one was a book on Captain America (because, let’s face it, he’s my favorite superhero and he’s awesome) called The Virtues of Captain America, which talks about Cap’s virtues in philosophical terms, and explains why he’s a good role model, even though he’s a fictional character. If you’re a fan of Captain America, I recommend reading it.

The other book was one I’ve read before – Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection. I though it had some good stuff the first time I read through it, and my second read-through definitely confirmed that – and it helped me to work out some things I’ve been going over in my head recently. Recently, my work has been asking employees if they would voluntarily self-identify as having disabilities – which includes things like mental illness. There doesn’t seem to be a benefit to me self-identifying, but there’s a part of me that wants to – and a part that is scared to, as well. 

That’s where authenticity, as the title implies, comes in. I don’t tell anybody at work about my depression, mostly because I am afraid of how they will react to hearing it – will they reject me? Will they tell the managers? But at the same time, keeping that from people – when it is an important part of my identity – means that I constantly feel like I’m hiding something, that I am lying to people. I am showing them a face that isn’t really me – I’m not being authentic. And not feeling like I can act like myself is not a cool feeling. It’s good when there are times I feel I can joke around and discuss things with my co-workers; those are times when I feel like I’m being myself. It’s becoming clear to me that feeling like I can be myself – not just parts of myself, but all of myself – is important to feeling happy and comfortable. While keeping my mental illness secret might help to keep my job safe, it doesn’t help my own sense of well-being.

I also have been feeling that my weight is a problem. I’m not particularly fond of what I see when I look in the mirror in the morning – I don’t think it makes me any less worthy as a person, but it does kind of bother me. So that is something else I am going to get back to working on. I’m going to a consultation at a place called My Fit Foods on Thursday, to see what kind of diet they recommend; they sell a number of ready-made meals intended for helping people to lose weight, and I’m looking into a fitness program – inspired by the one Chris Evans used to get ready for the Captain America movies – to get some exercise in. It’ll be rough – I haven’t felt like I’ve had a lot of energy lately – but it is something I want to do, and I think it will help to make me feel better.

The Language of DBT, Part 2

So last night I had this really long, cool post about distress tolerance skills all written up, with cool anecdotes and everything, and it took me over an hour to write. Today I find out that it didn’t get posted, and didn’t even get saved. And today has kind of sucked for me, though it is something that I won’t be going into right now. So instead, I’ll just link to a site that covers them: Crisis Survival and Acceptance Skills.

 

Meaningful Work

So it has taken me quite a while, but I have managed to work my way through more of Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection. And as I keep moving through it, I continually wonder exactly how it is that she has such a direct line into my head. Chapter after chapter, it sounds like she’s either reading my mind now or has in the past – but I would imagine a lot of people would feel that way, reading through this book. It seems to cover a variety of situations and circumstances that are common in all of our lives, simply because of the way in which we live or lives. The one that really made me want to write something, though, is Guidepost #9: Cultivating Meaningful Work.

Those of us who have jobs go to work. But not all of it is meaningful. I like working at B&N, but I don’t really find any meaning in it; it’s just something I do to make money and get experience that I can use further down the road. What Dr. Brown calls meaningful work comprises  a number of different factors, on which she elaborates: gifts and talents (when and how we use the gifts that each of us have), spirituality (being able to share our gifts and talents with the world), making a living (the ability to use your talents to, well, make a living), commitment (how committed we are to our particular area of work), supposed-to’s and self doubt. Both of the last two are linked, because every time we think of something that we are supposed to do – “I’m supposed to hate my job,”, “I’m supposed to care about making money, not meaning” – we start to doubt ourselves, and drift away from being committed to doing any meaningful work.

She talks about other things, as well, but I really like this chapter, because while I have a job, the meaningful work I do is totally unrelated. To be honest, it’s here. I don’t have to write this blog; there are reasons why writing it could be problematic for finding another job. But I find meaning in it; it lets me explore what is going on in my head, talk about issues that have meaning to me, and do it in a public forum where anyone else who feels inclined can comment. It might end up helping other people who have had or are having similar experiences, too, and that’s always a plus. I used to think that, when I ‘grew up’, I would be a writer of fantasy novels; now it turns out that I did end up writing – just doing an entirely different kind. 

It turns out – according to Dr. Brown and another author, Marci Alboher, that more and more people these days are pursuing what they call slash careers – writer/surgeon, carpenter/playwright, lawyer/artist – in order to give themselves as much of a helping of meaningful work as they can. When people don’t feel fulfilled doing one thing, they’ll often turn to something else – maybe not as a full-time job, but as something that helps them to express themselves, and use gifts and talents they don’t get to use in the rest of their professional lives. I take some solace in that, because no matter what else I end up doing in my life, I can always write – whether on this blog, or on something more private, or something more whimsical – and find some sense of meaning in that.

In the meantime, I think more people should read The Gifts of Imperfection – you’ll probably be surprised at how much of what she talks about in it applies to you.

Workin’ 9 to 5

Just wanted to post an update saying that I have been, and will be busy tomorrow, working at my B&N job, which is a little crazy this week because of our upcoming inventory. Once it’s over, and I have some time to rest and gather my thoughts – probably Thursday – I will post something a little more thoughtful and in-depth. I’m still working my way towards The Gifts of Imperfection, and so it will likely be about that.

Oh, and I have heard from Calla, and she’s doing well, so that’s good news to me. Well, I’ll be back on Thursday.

Imperfection

I started reading Brene Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection earlier today, and I have to say that even a few pages in, her topic really resonates with me. It seems to be largely about learning to feel comfortable in our own skin and not judging other people for things we have done ourselves. As someone who has been struggling with mental illness- and inferiority issues – for a long time, that really hits home with me.

One of the hardest parts about learning to manage my depression, from a therapy standpoint, was realizing that I, as a person, am worthwhile. I have to find worth in myself, because placing all that I find worthy outside of myself means that it can be easily lost – a friend I place worth in might leave, items I value might be lost or stolen. But my own worth is internal. Now, this was a problem for me, because, being depressed, I didn’t feel like I was worth anything – to myself or to anyone else. It’s why I tried to commit suicide, in part.

The Gifts of Imperfection speaks to that; it says, at least to me, that one of the bravest, most courageous things we can do is place that worth in ourselves. And not in a way that places us above other people – but in a way that lets us realize that we are worthwhile, much m=like them, and that we are capable of the same successes and failures that they are, and vice versa. And the way we find this worthiness – at least according to Dr. Brown – is threefold: courage, compassion, and connection.

Courage is important because it takes courage to express that we are afraid we might screw up. It’s hard to admit to others that we might have moments of weakness – especially if we have worked hard to give the impression that we have no weaknesses. But that courage to show others that we are capable of error – that we are human – creates the possibility of a connection between us. In a similar manner, it takes courage not to judge others; that feeling of superiority that we get from thinking we’re better than others is nice, but fleeting. 

The judgement part, for me, was actually one of the easier things to learn. I’ve screwed up a lot over the years, and I’ve hurt a lot of people and let a lot of people down. I know exactly how fallible I am, and so I don’t judge anyone else for their actions. In Menninger, there was one woman who was terrified to speak up in one of our groups because, as it turns out, she had tried to commit suicide once – and she thought that was such a horrible thing that we would ostracize her. When I heard her say that, I just looked at her, smiled, and said, “I’ve tried twice. That woman over there has tried four times. Nobody’s going to judge you here.” That makes it sound like I’m some sort of saintly character, but I’m not; I’ve lied to my friends and family before, I’ve manipulated people, and I’ve done plenty of bad stuff. 

I think that doing that, and being in a place like Menninger, really showed me the dangers of judging other people, and how much being judged hurts. And so I’ve made an effort since then to avoid laying judgement on people. It’s a process, and it’s something I have to work at; like it says at the beginning of The Gifts of Imperfection‘s first chapter: “Practicing courage, compassion, and connection in our daily lives is how we cultivate worthiness. The key word is practice.” So, I practice. 

More on the book as I move through it.

Local Update

It’s been a few days since my last post, and that is largely because I don’t have a whole lot to share at the moment. I had to miss my Family Connections group for work today, so I don’t have any update on that front, and I haven’t heard from Calla in the last few days. I haven’t gotten any traction in the job search lately, either; I applied to Enterprise, but was turned down out of hand because I don’t meet their experience requirements. That seems to be a very repetitive song these days, sadly.

I picked up a book at work today; it’s on something I wrote about several months ago, the 5 love languages. it’s something I’ve been interested in for a while, and I’ve seen a lot fo copies, in a lot of varieties, being sold at my store; I picked up the one for single folks (because that’s what I am) and I’m going to be reading through it in the next few days and seeing what it has to say. I’ll probably have some things to say about that as I read through it, and I’m also probably going to pick up another book by Brene Brown called The Gift of Imperfection.

Until I have something of interest to say, though, I’m not going to post just to post things. If readers have ideas about things I can blog about, I am all ears (figuratively speaking of course), but otherwise, I’ll post when I have something to post about.