That “Demon Voice”

louis ck

I have had a rough week. A shit week. One of those weeks you try to blame on the full moon, Mercury being in retrograde, the weather, your sinuses, hormones – whatever – but you know better. know better.

It’s been a rough week because I let it be that way, or rather, I didn’t do anything to stop its slow and steady progression into the 7th circle of Hell. It turned into one of those weeks when it’s tough to even get out of bed. And what did I do? Did I do things to nurture myself? Sleep better? Eat better? Get out of the house and do things that make me feel good? Not really. What I did was beat myself up for letting myself get swallowed into a pit of depression and negativity. And I felt like a total fraud.

Why? Because I’m supposed to be writing about positivity and making good changes in your life and how to “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive” (If you don’t know that reference, check this out.) and there I was stuck in the complete opposite.  And because that inner “demon voice” was making me very aware of all those things.

I’ve always called that voice my “tapes” in my head but it’s just negative self-talk and doubt. It’s that nagging voice that’s telling you you’ll never be good enough, smart enough, skinny enough, rich enough – just fill in the blank but whatever it is – you’ll never be enough. It’s the one telling you everyone knows you’re a fake, that you don’t deserve that promotion, that you’re never going to amount to a damn. Amy Poehler came up with the phrase “demon voice” and I think it fits so much better. Here’s what she has to say about it in her book “Yes, Please”:

That voice that talks badly to you is a demon voice. This very patient and determined demon shows up in your bedroom one day and refuses to leave. You are six or twelve or fifteen and you look in the mirror and you hear a voice so awful and mean that it takes your breath away. It tells you that you are fat and ugly and you don’t deserve love. And the scary part is the demon is your own voice. But it doesn’t sound like you. It sounds like a strangled and seductive version of you.

Wow, did that hit the nail right on the head! And that demon voice was telling me loud and clear that I was a fraud. Who the hell did I think I was trying to talk to people about being positive when I was feeling so completely the opposite? Then it hit me that what I was here to do wasn’t just share about being positive. What I’m trying to do is share some insights about how to live a positive life from the perspective of someone who’s dealt with depression throughout her life. I’m not trying to come at this as though I already know it all and I’ve mastered this whole thing. I don’t wake up in the morning with little birdies pulling back the sheets and singing for me as I dress to go skip merrily in the meadows sharing my glitter and rainbows with the world. I can say with all honesty that has never happened. Pretty sure if it did, my family would be checking our insurance to see what kind of inpatient mental health care treatment facilities it’ll cover that have liberal pet policies.

So yeah, I had a shitty week. Mostly because I’ve allowed a lot of things to build up lately without dealing with them. It’s like feeling the flu coming on but instead of taking your meds, or going to lie down in a cool, dark room, you decide to keep chugging along with your day just hoping it’ll be merciful and go away. It doesn’t. And then when it does hit, you’re worn out and exhausted and completely unable to deal with it. But having a rough week and giving myself permission to be angry or sad or depressed doesn’t mean that I’m not a positive person. And it doesn’t mean that rough week is going to turn into a rough year or a bad decade. It’s a bump in the road. And part of maintaining a positive attitude is learning to deal with the bumps in the road, the minor headaches, the petty annoyances when they come along rather than ignoring them until they turn into something major. It also means I’ve got to be the one to tell the demon voice to shut the fuck up already.

lalala

And with that – I wish you a good weekend. I’m going to have one if it kills me!

In With the Good, Out With the Bad

happiness

Hello again and Happy Friday!

I’ve also been doing a lot of thinking about what direction I want to go with this blog. It would be very easy to just yap about whatever comes to mind, but it might not be that entertaining (or coherent) to read, and it’s really not what I want to accomplish with this. There’s little point in writing if you don’t have a purpose, and I think that my purpose is simply this: I want to share a bit of what I’ve learned in life about cultivating a positive attitude and (the more difficult part) keeping it, and how to live a happy life. I feel very strongly that a lot of our happiness is entirely dependent upon our outlook in life. Simplistic? Maybe. But if there’s a chance that changing your outlook might change your life, why  not give it a shot? You’ve got nothing to lose!

Now – in with the good, out with the bad. What do I mean by that? Simple – if you want to begin taking steps toward a positive attitude, you’ve gotta do some weeding. Bring in good (positive) and chuck out the bad (negative). And there’s one area in particular that’s a really good starting point for your positive revolution: “social” media.

Why the quotes? It’s called social media, right?

Yeah, well I put quotes around it because I’m pretty skeptical about the social aspect of it all. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and I guess if you still go that route, Myspace – they’re all social media sites. The problem is, they quite often turn into anti-social media sites. And according to some estimates, we average as much as three hours a day on these sites. So given that our interaction on these sites has such a tendency toward being negative, is it any wonder a lot of us are having issues trying to stay positive?

Now, I’m not advocating quitting social media altogether, mostly because I know it’s impossible for many of us. But I am suggesting you take a good hard look at why and how you use it. It’s easy to say, “Well, I have to stay connected for work” or “I just have a Facebook page to keep up with old friends” or “I want to keep an eye on what my kids are doing”. Take a moment and think about it – why, specifically, are you on Twitter? Or Facebook? Or Instagram? Or Tumblr? Are you using it to further your career? Are you really keeping up with friends? Are you spending your time monitoring your kids’ activities?

Or are you using a “like” or a retweet in place of really socializing? Are you promoting your business or staying connected with business colleagues? Or are you just getting on to bitch about your job or your co-workers? (Side note: be careful with that. Increasingly, employers are using social media posts to penalize employees, and in some cases, people lose their job over careless posting.) Are you really keeping your kids safe? Or is that just an excuse? Do you really have  to spend all the time that you’re spending online? Would that time be better spent elsewhere? And would doing something else rather than sifting through your Twitter feed or a mountain of Facebook posts make you happier? I’m betting it would.

Like I said, it may not be possible to go completely off the grid where social media is concerned. But you do have some control over what effect it has on your life. For many years, I was that rabid social justice Facebook friend that everybody dreads (and probably hides from their feed). I posted every article and photo and meme that illustrated my idealogy because I wanted the whole world to know just exactly how I felt about the issues I was passionate about. And even though I absolutely abhor confrontation, I was always ready to get in a deep philosophical debate with anyone that didn’t share my views. Sometimes it devolved into something that resembled two kids at recess trading “yo mama” snaps. And because I knew  I was in the right, there was no way I was gonna back down.

Then I started to pay attention to how it made me feel when I got in these stupid arguments. The first thing I realized was that if anyone who didn’t knew me saw what I was saying, they’d think I was a total asshole. The second thing I noticed was that I wasn’t changing anyone’s minds. You either think Pluto is a planet or you don’t. No amount of talking is gonna change your mind! (I’m not going to out myself and tell which side of that argument I was on, but I think the photos speak for themselves.) The other thing I noticed was that it made me feel icky inside. Reading other people’s comments, reading my own, hell even reading the articles that spurred the arguments made me feel so negative and angry and small inside. And that’s when I started to change how I used social media.

I began by “unliking” a LOT of pages. I did a spring cleaning and got rid of all of the news channels, political blogs, activist groups – I just unfriended or deleted all of them. And instead of getting into verbal sparring with people I didn’t agree with on my friends list,  I learned to “hide” people. Or if they were someone that didn’t have an active role in my life in the “real world”, I just deleted them. I don’t really need to keep up with someone I barely knew in high school if all they do is post things that make me upset. That’s the perfect illustration of that whole question of it being “social” media or not.

I also actively sought out blogs and sites that were rooted in positivity and happiness. And I have found some great ones. Just check out the links at the end of this post. I stopped commenting on people’s posts if I didn’t have anything positive or helpful to say. That thing we learned as kids about not saying anything if we didn’t have anything nice to say – that still works! And it’s a damn good way to run your life. It used to be common knowledge that talking about politics or religion was a bad idea in polite company. We seem to have forgotten that with the advent of the Internet.

I realize it’s important for people to be informed citizens and to be aware of what’s going on in the world around them. I’m just suggesting that for some of us, a constant barrage of bad news and negativity is not healthy. I’ll be the first to admit that I still spend too much time online, and still sometimes get far too involved in arguments when it’s an issue that I’m passionate about. But I’m trying to choose my battles carefully. And I’m trying to tune out the bad and welcome in the good. And I am a much happier person for it.

Just remember that every little change you make for the better will bring results. And maybe toning down your “social” media presence is a good place to start!

Here are some links to help you bring in the good. Please feel free to comment with other resources that help you stay positive.

Positively Positive

Goodnet

Tiny Buddha

Positive Focus

Project Happiness

Action for Happiness

Still Daddy’s Girl

dad baby

I’m going to switch gears a bit today, so bear with me. 

Today would have been my dad’s 65th birthday. I say “would have been” because we lost him far too early, when he was just 62. If life were fair, he’d have lived to see today – the age when people typically retire and get on with the next phase of their lives. He worked hard enough when he was alive to have earned that rest. But  that’s not how things worked out.

I’ve started this post several times now, each time trying to somehow tell Dad’s story in a way that will make the people that didn’t know him understand just who he was and what made him so amazing. But I can’t quite put it into words. A lot of what made him my hero had to do with the fact that when it would have been easier to walk away, he stayed. When he was just 25, he wound up with custody of my brother and me. I was five and my brother was just a baby, but he didn’t hesitate at all, even though it meant moving back home with his parents and working two jobs to support us.

It was never easy for my dad to say “I love you”. He was a product of the family and the times in which he was raised and that just wasn’t something he could do. But I never doubted for an instant that he loved me deeply. He was deeply sensitive and passionate, but tried his best to hide that from most people. He had some very strong ideas about what it meant to be a man, and I think expressing his emotions would’ve gone against those beliefs. Yet he would send me a dozen roses every Mother’s Day. And would call me when he heard a song on the jukebox that reminded him of me when I was a little girl. He’d send me cards – really mushy greeting cards – to say all of the things I’m sure he wished he could say himself.

daddy at my wedding

He was the first one to tell me that he wasn’t the “perfect dad”. I told him I didn’t think there was any such creature. He’d drink and call me and apologize for the mistakes he’d made. I finally told him that his mistakes didn’t matter because I knew he did the best he could with what he had, and that I always knew he loved me. And he got credit for staying. No matter what else happened, he was always there and I knew he loved me, whether he could say it or not.

There are a million things I could say about my dad, but in the end you really just had to know him. If I had to sum him up, here’s what I would tell you: I never met anyone that didn’t like him. Even his ex-wives had to admit that underneath it all, he was a good man. He could tell a story like no one else, turning something tragic or scary into something that would make you laugh until you couldn’t breathe. He loved George Jones and always called him by his first name as though he were an old friend (and I suppose he was). He was a rabid fan of the University of Kentucky’s basketball program. He had an entire room in  his house decked out in UK gear. He was simple in a lot of ways but incredibly complex in others like I suppose we all are. And he was a good father.

Two and a half years later, and I still miss him every day. But now the memories make me smile more often than cry, and as I live in his house (minus the UK room – sorry, Daddy), I’m still surrounded by reminders of him every day. I know that he knew how much I loved him, and I hope he knew he was my hero. I told him I’d always be a Daddy’s girl, and I still am.

I love you, Daddy. Happy birthday.

dad at my graduation

Tell Me Something Good

(…tell me, tell me, tell me…)

Yes, I do love 70s funk, but that’s not what’s on my mind right now. Chaka really is the best, though.

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to accept a negative belief about yourself and how hard it is to embrace the positive? How many times have you heard someone shrug off a compliment that you’ve given them? Tell someone “I love your dress” and they respond with “Oh, this old thing?” or “It was the only thing I had clean.” or something like that. But some brat in 4th grade tells you that you’ve got bird legs and 40 years later you’ll still remember it and cringe. What IS that?

Well, the experts call it “negativity bias” – yeah, there’s an actual name for it. There’s a whole psychological theory behind it, but long story short, positive things have less of an effect on a person than negative ones do. And when you think about it, that’s just sad. It means that no matter how many compliments, commendations, awards, and general kudos we get, we’re more likely to remember the insults, the screw-ups, the faults. I once read somewhere that it takes ten positive events to overcome one negative. Math’s not my strong suit, but that seems like a lot of work to overcome one negative thing!

Which means as a parent, our kids don’t hear the positive things we say to them in quite the same way they hear the criticisms. And it means we have to be really careful about how we talk to them because our words are going to ultimately become that tape that plays in their heads over and over when they try to accomplish anything in life. When we tell them “You did great, but…”, they’re not going to remember the “you did great” part; just the part after the “but”. A lot of us probably think we’re going to raise little monsters if we don’t keep their egos in check, but there’s a difference between rewarding them simply for breathing and offering them genuine praise when they do something well. My kids have sometimes accused me of complimenting them just because of my natural bias as their mom. Y’know, “Oh, you have to say that because you’re my mom.” But I don’t offer false compliments. If they couldn’t sing well, for instance, I just wouldn’t say anything at all because we’ve all seen the first few rounds of tryouts on “American Idol”, and nobody wants to be one of those poor unfortunate souls! So maybe instead, I’d just encourage them to do something else. There’s plenty of time for the world to try to break them down, so as parents, we need to build them up!

But it also means that, as adults, we can learn to stop listening to that negative self-talk and realize that the only reason we still remember that kid in 4th grade calling us names is because of some weird trick of our psyche, not because we actually have bird legs. We can learn to give and receive compliments gracefully. It takes practice but it’s definitely worth it. Try it out! The next time someone pays you a compliment, before you open your mouth to discount it, just pause for a second and say, “Thank you!”. Try to be gentler with yourself. Before you criticize yourself for messing something up, remember that nobody’s perfect and nobody is good at everything. When you hear that negative self-talk tape going in your head, hit “stop”. Remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can. It’s okay to be kind to yourself.

Well, Bless Your Heart!

thank-you-animated-gif

First of all a HUGE thank you to all of my new subscribers and supporters! You guys are the best!

Now, we’re all friends here, right? Because…well…I have a confession to make.

Sometimes I get angry.

I mean really angry. Really quickly.

It usually happens when someone’s not behaving the way I want them to. I’m in a hurry and they’re walking too slowly in front of me. I need to get through the aisle at a store and they’ve jackknifed their cart sideways while they’re trying to figure out which brand of canned peas to buy. I’m trying to read quietly in a waiting room and they’re yammering on their cell phone at top volume three inches from my ear. We all have these moments, don’t we?

Well, a few months ago, I was smack in the middle of one of these moments (hissy fits, tantrums, whatever you wanna call them), I can’t remember all the specifics but if I remember correctly a woman and her brood of kids had darted out of a store directly in front of me while I was driving through a parking lot. But all of a sudden, out of nowhere, I heard my grandma’s voice: “Bless their heart.”

Now let me explain something. My grandma was my hero – an absolute saint in my book. She was the kind of person who rarely said anything bad about someone, and if she did, it was almost immediately followed by something like, “…but she means well” or my favorite, “Bless her heart.” It was like a gentle reminder to herself and to the rest of us that there’s something good in everyone, if you’re willing to look for it. She wasn’t necessarily a highly metaphysical woman, but she was kind, gentle and a lot of fun to be around. Essentially everything I want to be in life.

So there I am, ready to blow a gasket because someone has done something too slowly/quickly/loudly/etc when I hear that voice: “Bless their heart.” And it stopped me in my tracks. Suddenly, I saw myself in that mom’s shoes and I’m seeing what it’s like to try to take a shopping trip with the kids running amok, begging for you to buy them something, needing a drink, a trip to the potty, a nap, a timeout. You’re just trying to get something for dinner, and trying to make it through the store as quickly as possible, hopefully with your sanity intact, and you can’t possibly fit them all in the shopping cart and there’s no one to babysit and…

“Bless her heart.”

I stopped the car and instead of grumbling to myself about the situation or shooting an exasperated look her way, I just smiled and waved the mom and her kids on. She’s having a WAY rougher day than I am. And I remembered a snippet I’d read in “Reader’s Digest” years ago (while in a doctor’s waiting room, no doubt) about a grandmother who was driving in her car with her granddaughter when she noticed herself on the verge of full-on road rage because another driver carelessly blew by her like she was standing still. Remembering that her granddaughter was in the car, not wanting to expose her to any new four-letter words, she simply said, “I wonder why that guy is in such a hurry?”. Her granddaughter laughed and said, “I’ll bet he’s on his way to his wedding and he’s running late!”. And the grandmother realized it was one of those a-ha moments and decided that, instead of losing her cool when someone ticked her off on the road, she’d just assume they had some kind of emergency (like being late for their own wedding) and let it go. And she found she got irritated far less often and enjoyed driving much more.

I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not saying that I am able to get into “Bless their heart” mode and stay there all the time. I don’t know anyone who’s that chill, except maybe the Dalai Lama and he’s just on a whole other level, really. I’m not saying there aren’t occasionally times that I wish the fleas of a thousand camels infest someone’s armpits when they cut me off in traffic, because sometimes I do. But I find the more often I say it, the more often I try to get myself into that frame of mind, the easier it is to stay there and the easier it is to not sweat the little irritations. And I’m pretty sure it’s probably good for my blood pressure and all that stuff, so it probably means I can eat more bacon, which is a definite bonus in my book.

Bless your heart.

(And here’s a really cute baby sloth because they seem like they know what being chill is all about.)

Have a great fourth of July!

baby sloth

I Don’t Know What I’m Doing Either, But We Might as Well Have Some Fun!

Well, here we are. Don’t you just love that new blog smell?

It’s true what they say – the first step is the hardest. Watching that stupid cursor blink while you’re trying to come up with something pithy and wise to share with the world can be maddening. But I’ll share a little bit about where I am and what I hope to accomplish with this blog.

I’m at a point in my life where I’ve come to a few realizations. One is that nobody knows what they’re doing. Not really. Nobody has their shit together all the time. We don’t like to tell our kids this but we don’t know what we’re doing, we’re scared to death we’re gonna mess it up and we don’t really believe we’re adults anyway so how the hell did we get to this point?!? *Deep breaths* We’re gonna get through this together!

portlandia

So here we are all together on the Internet, trying to make it through life without going off the rails and maybe hoping to have a little fun along the way. And as we bump along, we’re going to make mistakes but we’re also going to learn a lot (hopefully). And that’s what this blog is all about – learning and having fun. I’d love this to be a place to share hard-earned wisdom, funny stories, hopes, dreams and failures. I’d love to hear from other people – moms, dads, men, women, kids, anybody who has something positive to add to the conversation(s).

There’s going to be lots of sharing about parenting, about love, about travel, work, kids, relationships, family, and everything else life has to throw at us. I love to hear about what Oprah used to call “Aha Moments” – you know that moment when the light bulb comes on and something finally clicks? I love to hear people’s stories – where they come from, what they’re about, what struggles they’ve overcome and where they’re going. I love people that are living a bit left of center. Or hell, maybe a *lot* left of center! I love people with new ideas and different ways of living and doing their thing. I love it when people throw off expectations and “shoulds” and just do their thang. Like one of my favorite singers, Michael Franti says, “All the freaky people make the beauty of the world”.

I hope to connect with other people who want to share their lives and stories. I hope to share some stuff that I’ve learned along the way and stuff that I’m still learning. I hope to share cool music and positive stories and good advice and stuff that makes me belly laugh. (Also, full disclosure – there will be cursing and real talk, so if that isn’t your thing, consider this your warning.)

So hey, nice to meet you. Check back or subscribe – we’re gonna have some fun!

chris pratt

Peace,

Mama Bear