Tag Archives: kindness

Good/bad friend

4 Nov

I’m a bad friend.

I don’t call my friends and see them as much as I would like, especially the ones outside my immediate circle of good friends. SP, MK, LS, SH, DP, ND…I see and talk to them all the time. But others, I don’t contact them as much as I would like to. For example, my good friend SS was here this summer. She lives in Asia, and she came back to Minnesota in June. I kept meaning to call and see her since she was actually within 45 minutes of me and not literally halfway around the world. I never did, and she left last week to go back to Korea. That makes me sad – that I couldn’t get around to call her and get over my slight phone social anxiety to call. FAIL.

My roommate SR moved at the end of June. I have no idea what happened, but she stopped talking to me right after that. I considered her one of my really close friends, and all of the sudden she doesn’t talk to me anymore. I even sent a message to her saying, hey I noticed this, I miss you, I’d love to know what happened, and she never responded. And I didn’t get invited to the wedding either. So clearly I did something (although I honestly cannot tell you what that might even remotely be), so clearly I was a bad friend to her in some way. FAIL.

I have a few people from high school that I’ve reconnected with on Facebook. We have great Facebook conversations, and when I see them at a random social event, they say we should get together sometime. Then when I message them to set up a date, I never hear back. FAIL.

But on the other hand…

I have friends that say I’m a very important person to them. I had two friends last week go through some sort of crisis, and for both of them, I was able to be there and listen and share my experiences and perspective. Both said I was a huge help. WIN.

I have friends that I talk to on a regular basis, and they contact ME. It’s not always me driving the friendship. And that tells me that I mean a lot to them. WIN.

I’m very loyal to my friends. And they say that I’m an important part of their lives. WIN.

I give gifts, including awesome pumpkin hats I knit for babies which look so damn cute, if I do say so myself.

pumpkin-hat

I just have a hard time reconciling these things. Am I a good friend or a bad one? Am I both? How can I be both? I know I’ll probably never have an answer to this; it’s just been on my mind a lot.

If any of you have any ideas on this, I’d love to hear them!

Merry Christmas!

25 Dec

christmas-peace

Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I wish you the peace, love, joy and hope of this season. Let’s remember, too, those less fortunate or who may be struggling this time of year.

Merry Christmas!

Discontent in dance

21 May

I haven’t written about dance in a long time, other than a post about Showcase. That’s because dance has been a source of discontent for me lately.

Which is very weird.

Dancing is my passion and my joy. I LOVE dancing. It gives me confidence and happiness. Occasionally it sends me to the thinky place. But when it does, I know why.

I can’t pinpoint where the discontent is coming from. And if I can’t pinpoint it, I can’t begin to address it.

Frustrating.

My lessons have been going so well lately; we’re making HUGE progress. And I’m not going to the thinky place on them. I just get a weird feeling when I pull in the parking lot or walk through the door of the studio.

And I don’t think it’s anything directly with the studio or my teacher. I think it’s something in me that’s getting in the way of me letting dance just fill me with joy.

REALLY frustrating.

I’ve been trying to listen and see if I can figure out the feeling. Friday night I journaled by hand for almost two hours just to unload my thoughts and see if I could see the pattern. Nothing yet. And I’m tired of this feeling.

SO FRUSTRATING.

I feel like it ties to my confidence in who I am and my belief in the studio environment being what it really seems to be. That the feelings are genuine and real. That’s not completely it, not by a long shot. But I think it MAY be a start?

I’m just thankful I have a patient and supportive teacher.

How to care for the 5-year-old in me

11 Apr

A really cool side effect of dance is that it allows me to work through all these issues in my life, some of which I didn’t even know I had, and then I’m a better, happier person once I’ve worked through them. The downside is that it makes me work through all these issues in my life, some of which I didn’t even know I had.

I mentioned yesterday that dance was bringing up yet another issue for me to deal with. This one has to do with a really old pain from childhood that I never realized was there let alone as much as it is. Don’t worry, it’s not something massively serious like abuse or abandonment. But for a while, I couldn’t even articulate what it was about.

So to try to start to work through it, my therapist suggested I think about how I would treat a 5-year-old I saw with this pain. And it turns out, that’s a really hard question. I can’t even begin to answer it.

I’m really struggling with this. What can I do for myself that will help that 5-year-old in me? Examples are things like stay in bed all day, watch movies, buy a treat for, go out with a friend. I can’t think how any of those would help the 5-year-old in me. So if those things don’t, what would?

So those of you who are parents…how do you help your children when they’re in emotional pain?

Those of you who aren’t parents…how do you take care of yourself and nurse yourself through pain?

The power of words to unite

3 Jan

As many of you know, I’ve struggled the last week with how I matter in this world. I still don’t have any answers, but I’m becoming more OK with that.

What I haven’t told you is this struggle was actually a major depression. I didn’t tell you because I didn’t recognize it as such at the time and also because it’s hard to admit you struggle with depression. It rarely rears its head in my life anymore. Anxiety is mostly what I deal with, and even that is greatly less than it was. Depression rarely shows up in me anymore, although I’m realizing that it happens more than I thought it did. It tends to happen around major events with my family (like Christmas) and it tends to happen to around major events that lead to natural let-downs afterwards, like Showcase.

Tonight, I didn’t go to the dance studio for group class because I have a cold. I think I’m still in the contagious phase, so I didn’t want to go breathe on everyone there. When I got home, I started to check a lot of the blogs I follow since I didn’t get a chance to do so yesterday. I saw this post from The Bloggess. She is normally one of the funniest, irreverent bloggers out there, and I laugh out loud at her every time I read it. But her post yesterday was about her struggle with depression.

READ THIS POST. She articulates so well what the struggle is like. Thankfully, mine isn’t a physical manifestation like hers, but it is a mental manifestation in a way. Mine results in me being super-hard on myself and wanting to just crawl in a hole and stay there and not do anything and not talk to anyone and eat bread. Like most people who struggle with depression, I’ve learned to hide it from most people when I’m going through it. Consider yourself a very good friend if you’ve ever seen me in tears in the lowest depths of it.

The Bloggess talks about how cancer survivors are celebrated for their bravery and survival, because they deserve it. But her point is also that people struggling with depression should be celebrated for their bravery and survival. We don’t do that as a society, and we should. Because living with depression is a battle too.

Read her post. And then look at the over 2000 comments she got in response, most of whom are from people like me who found her post to really resonate.

And in reading those 2000 comments, you’ll realize that there are a ton of people who go through this. If you’re one of them, those 2000 comments will help you see you’re not alone. Even when it seems like you are, and you’re afraid to talk to your friends about it because you don’t want to be judged or have it change how they see you, you are not alone. Many, many, many others struggle with it too.

And there’s power in those numbers. It helps immensely to realize that when you feel the most alone, you’re actually not alone.

Recognize that there are probably people in your world who struggle with this. Let them, and all of your friends and family, know that you’re there for them and you love them. Even if you think they’re totally happy and healthy. They may be, and hearing those words out of the blue is great. And if they’re not, those words will be powerful and incredibly helpful.

And for every place above that I talk about depression, substitute anxiety and reread it. The message is the same.

Help spread the silver ribbon movement and be a warrior against the stigma of mental illness. You never know which of your friends you may be supporting.

False compliments

29 Dec

I have a very hard time accepting compliments. I usually don’t fully trust or believe them.

Blame my childhood for that. But I’m working on it and I’m getting  a bit better.

Except for compliments from my mother. When she compliments me, I immediately have a reaction of disbelief. Thankfully, not outwardly, so she doesn’t really know I don’t believe her. (Can’t imagine how that disbelief would be another example of a bad daughter in her world.)

I think in my childhood, especially elementary school, I had examples of people being mean, talking about me behind my back while being nice to my face, and falsely building me up to knock me down later. That has all stayed with me in huge ways, and I work very hard to not let those memories and feelings impact me now. Sometimes I’m not real successful in that.

I had an epiphany today. I also get some of this from my mother’s compliments. When I was a kid, she complimented us all the time. I think they became meaningless because no matter what we did, we got a compliment.

This morning, she told me my hair and my look was especially pretty today. Now, I have the day off work, and I don’t have to be anywhere until 5:00pm today. Plus I knew I was going to spend most of the day making earrings with beadweaving. So I did shower today, but I barely dried my hair so it has some weird waves in it. I didn’t flat-iron it so it’s kinda big on the bottom. I have my glasses on and no makeup. I’m in my Sunday jeans, which are a pair of jeans that very comfortable but about 3 sizes too big right now, and I’m wearing one of my ex-husband’s long sleeve t-shirts that he didn’t want when we divorced. In short, I’m a bit of a mess and can’t really go out in public right now. There is no way my hair or my look is pretty, let alone especially pretty. NO WAY. I don’t know a lot about fashion (ask AL and RM about that), but trust me, there is no way.

When she complimented me, it immediately took me back to being a kid and not believing her compliments. I think the one today was proof to me that her compliments aren’t based on reality; they’re just words she says to try and make me feel better. I know this isn’t an entirely rationale reaction, but there it is. Couple that with my childhood experiences in school, and it’s very hard for me now to believe compliments.

Add to that the issue of when my dance teacher compliments me. I don’t believe his compliments because of everything I just described above, and part of me feels like it’s his job to make me feel good about my dancing so of course he’ll compliment me. Rationally, I know that’s not true and he doesn’t compliment unless he means it. Emotionally, though, really hard for me to believe.

Sooo…it would appear I have yet another area to work on. I need to start trusting that when people compliment me, they really mean it. Of course there are times when we compliment each other to make the other person feel better, even if we don’t totally mean it. But for the most part, people generally mean it when they compliment someone. So I need to work on trusting that.

And I need to remember that even if my mother’s compliments are not based on any sort of reality, she’s just trying to do something nice.

And I should trust people more that they’re not going to hurt me the way I was hurt in elementary school and junior high, and they’re not being false.

And I shouldn’t get down about having another area to work to improve myself. At least I’m aware of these areas, right? That’s half the battle, I think. At least I hope so.

Because I think this area is going to be a tough one to overcome.

Christmas with the family

28 Dec

So you all remember how I was dreading Christmas with my family a bit? Remember how I told you that I was going to suck it up and try to engage my sisters in conversation?

Well, I did. I talked to them. I asked about their lives. On the few occasions they asked about mine, I gave much more detail than they were looking for, just to try and inform them on my life.

And in the end, it went fine. I could tell they weren’t really interested in what I had to say. Body language made that CRYSTAL clear. But at least I felt like I did what I could to try and connect with them.

I was blown away though by their thoughtlessness. My mom made a big brunch on Christmas day as well as a big dinner. Both times, I rinsed the dishes (with some help from my brother). My sisters never made any effort to help with that. They just sat at the table and talked. And I didn’t want them to help for me, I wanted them to help so they could acknowledge all the work my mom put in to make these huge meals. But it never occurred to them to help.

Remember how I was going to go to my sister’s Christmas eve? Yeah I ended up not going. By the time that afternoon rolled around, I was so tired and drained from having all those people around 24/7. And I knew Christmas day was going to be worse. So I didn’t go and stayed home enjoying the house to myself instead.

Everyone else went though. Well everyone who was invited which didn’t include my brother. Weird. (Another reason I didn’t go.) But my sister JO had told my sister AK that she’d bring some appetizers. JO never asked my mom about that, so JO expected to have the kitchen all day on Saturday. Not knowing that I needed it to make tea ring. So I got up early to start it so she could have the kitchen. But again the thoughtlessness – it never occurred to her that someone else might need the kitchen and so she might need to negotiate timing with someone. And then once she found out, she just expected me to adjust or delay.

So JO makes three appetizers and takes them to AK’s. She left the dishes for my mom to clean up. And she brought the leftovers back and left in the fridge for my mom to deal with. SIGH.

When the O’s left Monday morning, they made no effort or offer to clean up anything before they left. So there was a ton of laundry for my mom to cope with – sheets and towels. I tried to help her with that as much as I could. The bathroom was a disaster. Four kids, including two teenage girls, and me sharing it for 3 days.

The picture doesn’t even do it justice because you can’t see the mess on the mirror and the toothpaste blobs in the sink. And the hair all over the floor. So my mom cleaned that. I was planning on doing it but she beat me to it. Grrr.

However, there was one redeeming event on Christmas day. A Christmas miracle, if you will. During the afternoon, my brother-in-law RO drinks a beer. Now, you all know my mom keeps a dry house. But she’s always allowed RO to have beer. (I think it’s when her children drink that she gets upset and bothered.) So on Christmas, when RO got his beer, my other brother-in-law joined him as did my brother. So I thought screw it. And I made myself a whiskey ginger with the tiny bottle of Jameson TL had given me for my birthday.

Ahh sweet bliss! To have a drink at home. God, how I’ve missed that! And yes, I had the whole tiny bottle of Jameson. It tasted so good! Probably the best whiskey drink I’ve ever had. God bless us, everyone!

Yay! It’s almost Christmas. But gah, it’s almost Christmas!

19 Dec

I love Christmas. Like I’ve said before, I love the holiday season. (It’d be better if we had snow and a chance at a white Christmas. I mean, it’s Minnesota. How can it not be a white Christmas? But whatever, I’m not bitter.)

SIGH.

The downside for me is spending a whole day with my whole family. My sister JO from Chicago is coming into town with her family. So it will be all of us. All 18 of us, if everyone shows up. Oh, crap, we’re 19 now if my brother’s girlfriend joins us.

To a lot of people, that probably sounds great. Family – yay! But my sisters still see me as a four-year-old, I think. They never ask about my life or how I’m doing or how dance is going. They have zero interest in me and my life. Most of the time, I’m fine with that. But on big holidays, it would be nice if someone besides my dad and sometimes my brother paid attention to me.

(I refer to my sister JO as the golden child. She can do no wrong. My mom thinks she’s just the coolest kid and so special. I think Mom’s overcompensating for ignoring her middle daughter, but whatever. JO and her family will stay here with me and my parents, so there will be no escape for me.)

Example: My sister AK (who lives here in town) and her husband bought a new house a year ago. AK called me last week to invite me over on Christmas Eve. I kid you not, her voice mail was “Well, we invited Mom & Dad, and we invited the Os, so I thought I should invite you too.” Um, thanks? Glad to know I’m so wanted. Then I found out from my dad that she really just wanted to invite the Os to see the new house and it kinda grew from there. What’s funny is that in the last year they’ve lived there, they’ve never invited me over to see the new house.

My family is tough too because they all (except my brother) have a very different political view than I do. And normally I would be OK with that, except they also don’t really believe other points of view are valid. Makes sitting there listening to conversation challenging at times.

And I can’t even have a cocktail to help me get through it!

So I’ve been thinking a lot about this the last week or so. Kinda dreading it.

But then I realized…how much of this whole mess is my responsibility? Yes they don’t care about my life and they don’t ask questions, but do I try to meet them halfway? Not really. The last few holidays, I have very much sat quietly in a corner (almost literally) and tried to hide. So I need to suck it up, buttercup, and try to talk to them. Because my sisters have no care about my life, they probably have no clue how important dance is to me. So why would they ask about it?

So I need to try and start conversations with them. No matter how much or if they return the favor. If they do, great! I’m not looking for new best friends, but it’s weird to have your sisters be the people who know you the least. If they don’t, fine. Then I can boast I took the high road and wasn’t met halfway. (Insert superior dance here.)

So I’ll go to my sister AK’s house Christmas Eve. Although I will not go to church with them. Ugh. Their church scares me. Far too much like 1950s Catholicism. Women should stay home and have 6000 kids, men should go hunting. And don’t you dare question anything – just do what the pastor says you should do. So I’ll go hang out with them for a bit. And try to make conversation.

And on Christmas Day, I’ll hang out with everyone, again trying to make conversation. I’ll smile and laugh and watch football. I’ll try to bond with them and show interest in their lives, and hope they can focus beyond themselves for a bit and ask about mine.

And I’ll be wishing for a cocktail and Prozac.

Looking in the mirror

12 Dec

Everyone has a picture of themselves, and it’s usually one that formed early in their life. It’s a picture of who you perceive yourself to be.

No one has an accurate picture of themselves, and what’s really sad is that people sometimes don’t see how they’ve changed. That’s when it’s helpful to have friends who can hold up the mirror for you and help you see how they see you. Let’s be honest…very few people see themselves as others see them. We often see ourselves in a much more negative light.

I have a few friends who can hold that mirror up for me. And they’re direct enough to know when I need it and in what form I need to hear it. AL does a great job of that as does RM. My dance teacher tries to do it with my dancing. (I just need to learn to believe him.)

But every once in a while, life holds the mirror up for me. Tonight I had dinner with my friend MH. MH and I went to junior high and high school together. We lost touch after high school, and then we got back in touch via Facebook. He and I went out to dinner a year ago or so (actually we realized it was eleven months ago) and have talked since then. Like I said, tonight we had dinner at the Longfellow Grill. Awesome food by the way – you should check it out.

Anyway, we talked a lot tonight. And a few times, he laughed really hard at something I had said. And it struck me that they were things I didn’t think were super funny, but by the way he laughed, I realized that they were kinda witty. And I’ve never seen myself as terribly witty (sarcastic yes, witty not so much). But that’s not the first time something like this has happened, and it made me realize that wow, I am actually witty and funny sometimes.

The same thing happened when friend NM, with whom I tend to trade verbal barbs, made the comment that I was verbally creative because he always lost the witty war. I had no idea he thought he lost (I thought I did), and I had no idea that he thought I was so witty that he couldn’t keep up.

I know it sounds weird, but moments like these start to sink in and change my perception of myself. Maybe I am witty and funny, and maybe I do have things to offer this world. Although I’ve changed a lot since I was 14, that fourteen-year-old still comes through in how I see myself. And it’s moments like this these really make me sit up and think about how much I’ve changed and what’s different about me. And realize I’ve come a long way and overcome a lot of issues. And start to believe that I actually am a pretty awesome person.

And just because it’s so damn cute:

Dance anniversary

22 Oct

Today is my dance anniversary – two years ago, I walked into the dance studio for the first time – and totally changed my life.

Prior to starting to dance, I had made a lot of progress on myself, my anxieties, my issues, but I still had a long way to go. I had also ended a relationship a few months prior to that, and I was depressed and lonely. I decided to try to find a new hobby that was also somewhat social to try and get out of the house. I had always loved Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire movies, so when I walked by the studio one day, I thought why not?

I knew I had zero coordination, but Arthur Murray claims that they can teach anyone to dance. I checked out their website and saw they had a free intro lesson. What the hell – let’s give it a go.

I had my first lesson with Shane. The beauty of Arthur Murray is that they break down each dance into such a basic step that you literally are able to do the basic step of a few dances (foxtrot and swing in my case) by the end of your first lesson. After the lesson, I got the sales pitch from Barb, one of the studio owners, about buying a package of intro lessons. I had been bitten by the dancing bug completely by then, so I signed up for 12 intro lessons.

I decided to try a group lesson too. At the time, I had some bad social anxiety and going outside my comfort zone was not an easy thing for me to do at all. (It’s kinda amazing I was even able to walk in and try a lesson.) But I knew I’d have to do a group class at some point, so I sucked it up and went. I remember Jay was at the desk when I got there, and I remember telling him that it was my first group class and that I didn’t really know what to do. He was so kind and helpful – he was actually teaching the class I was going to, so it made it easy. They’re all so good at putting you at ease. It was great. At some point I went to a practice party but I don’t really remember when that was.

I had two more private lessons with Shane. Then Barb came to me before one of the parties and told me that Shane had broken his leg in a motorcycle accident and would be out for a long while. In the meantime, Nate would be my teacher.

And the rest is history.

Working with Nate has been so fantastic. I think his teaching style fits my learning style very well. Plus we have similar senses of humor, so we end up laughing a lot. But the main thing about Nate is that he is so willing to help me through the issues I encounter through dance. And believe me, there have been a lot. Performance, leaving my comfort zone, Cuban motion and expressing that side of me, having very high standards for myself and a short timeline by which I expect to meet those standards, arm styling and feeling awkward, getting stuck in the thinky place, doing things outside my comfort zone (I know I already mentioned that but believe me it should be mentioned twice!)…so many issues. And Nate has been there to support me, help me, and occasionally drag me through whatever wall I run into. Truly a supportive person. I’ve learned a lot and grown a lot. I honestly believe I would not be as good a dancer as I am or have made the progress in myself and my issues if I had been working with another teacher.

The rest of the staff has been awesome too. Amy and Rachel were (and continue to be) so helpful in teaching me about clothes, makeup and how to be a girl. When I started dancing, I owned a hair dryer, a curling iron, a brush and a comb. Now I have (and actually use at various times) a hair dryer, two curling irons, a flat iron, three brushes, two combs, three kinds of hair spray, hair tonic conditioner, mousse, heat protectant spray and curl-making spray. I also own and use about triple the makeup I used to use.

I’ve also made so many good friends with the other students. Going to the studio is an opportunity to catch up with people. I go to dinner and get together with them outside of the studio too. It’s like a whole another family for me – a family who understands me, knows what dance means to me, has a common interest with me, and just accepts me for who I am. The studio is where I feel most comfortable being me. And what’s weird to me is that people see who I truly am and think I’m fun, I’m funny, I’m smart, I’m talented, I’m kind and they enjoy being with me. That’s a whole reality I’m not used to experiencing.

My first performance was Super Saturday in March 2010. I had not done any sort of solo performance since I was about 8, and I had a really bad experience with a piano recital when I was about 4. Add to that my lifelong behavior on trying to stay in the background, and I had no idea how I would react to doing a dance performance. I worked with my therapist on some techniques to lessen my anxiety and make it a good experience. But I also was very up front with Nate about it, and he did whatever he could to help me. I usually tell him about issues I’m running into through dance because I think it’s important for him to know what is impacting me in dance.

I wish I could repay the staff and especially Nate for everything they’ve done for me over the last two years. They have no idea how great they’ve been, how much they’ve helped me grow, and how much I appreciate each of them. I know I can’t repay them for what they’ve done for me, so I try to pay it forward to other new students who come into the studio. I can try to do for them what the staff and the other students did for me. But I will always be grateful to the staff and especially Nate.

By starting ballroom dance, I discovered my passion in life. And for the first time in almost 40 years, I found something I was actually talented at and could do really well. And maybe become really great at. That was a new experience for me. And I still have trouble accepting the talent piece – am I really that good? That’s an issue I’m still working on.

And you know what? Turns out – I love performing! For me, I get such a rush performing, and usually my dancing goes up at a performance. I look forward to Super Saturday and Showcase each time. Showcase is like Christmas morning to me, every single time.

There have been a lot of benefits for me in dancing. Physically, I’ve lost weight, my posture is better, I have more muscle tone, I’m more poised and more graceful. Mentally, I’m happier, I’m more confident, I now leave my comfort zone more often and with more ease, I know that who I am can be interesting to others, I laugh more, I have more joy in my life, I have a happy place. I can’t imagine who I would be if I hadn’t started dancing.

Right now, I’m in Bronze III, and I’m a pretty good and talented dancer. The dances in my program are waltz, tango, foxtrot, cha cha, rumba, swing, hustle, west coast swing, Lindy Hop, and Viennese waltz. I think after Showcase we’ll be adding bolero and maybe mambo? (I can’t remember – Nate has the plan.)

There are so many things I love about dance. It’s graceful. It’s allowed me to express a creative piece of me. It’s a constant learning and improvement process. It’s social. It’s something I’m good at. And I try to allow dance to lift me, make me happy, and bring joy to my life.

And I thank God every day that I took that first step into the dance studio two years ago.

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