Don’t sweet talk me

More of Candace’s inner workings

I’m not good with sweet talk. It’s really hard for me to be all, “I love you so much. I’m glad you’re in my life. You look amazing. You’re the best parent/friend/lover I’ver ever had.”

That doesn’t mean I don’t think it. I even sometimes write it here or in a greeting card, but it takes a lot for me to say it out loud. It even makes me uncomfortable. So I’d rather rib the people I love. It’s the way my family rolls.

I love you. Whatever, don't make a big deal about it.
I love you. Whatever, don’t make a big deal about it.

It’s also hard for me to accept compliments. That doesn’t mean they don’t matter to me. They definitely do. A lot. My sister is plotting a move to Germany. A while back, she told me the hardest part of moving is not living close to me anymore. It was a really sweet thing for her to say. After all, we lived across the country from one another for 12 years. Now it takes about four hours to get to her house. I didn’t really know how to respond to what she said. I’m sure I stammered a response, acknowledging that I, too, like her.

Last year I broke up with a guy who was all about the sweet talk. It made me uncomfortable. It was really tempting to say, “you don’t love me! You don’t even know me. You met me a month ago! Stop telling me I’m pretty. It’s weird!” It was never going to work.

So don’t take my lack of warmth as a sign that I hate you. It could be that I hate you. I mean I’m not particularly open with people I don’t like, but it might not mean that either. I’m a tough one to read.

I, however, have no trouble going on and on about how much I love pumpkin cookies, Blue Bottle lattes, Kangoo class and the super soft Under Armor tank I bought at the sample sale. $12!

You may all pull out your Psychology 101 books to see what this lack of verbal intimacy says about me.

Advertisements

Deeeeeep down

Here’s a look deep down in my psyche. Something I don’t like to talk about, but fine, let’s go there. My default belief is that success is for other people. No matter how hard I work, no matter what I put out there, I’ll never get to the top because someone else is already there. I feel like I need to accept the good-enough option because I’m never going to get the best of the best. And sometimes I fear I subconsciously sabotage my own efforts to achieve what I want because middle of the pack is comfortable.

I made it to the top ... of Seattle's Great Wheel.
I made it to the top … of Seattle’s Great Wheel.

What we learn in our childhoods sticks with us through life. The beautiful thing is, if you learn what your default is, you can recognize it in life and get out of your groove. But that default setting never really goes away.

Sometimes when my hustle gets me no where — like I pitch 10 stories and get one rejection response and the other 9 are flat-out ignored — my go-to is to take it down. Why put 100 percent effort in when I can take it down to 60 percent and get the same 10 rejections, and still tell myself I tried?

A friend and I were sharing dating frustrations the other night. We put in all this effort and get no where. Are we on the fugly list? (yes, that’s a thing.)

Sometimes it takes a lot of work for me to pull myself out of the not-for-me groove and keep my effort strong. I know it’s total BS. I know what looks like “success” to an outsider really isn’t for that person sitting at the top. I mean, I won’t name names or anything, but I see plenty of marriages that look great from a distance, but when I look a little closer, I think, “good God! That’s not good. I definitely don’t want that!” Or the successful career that means sacrificing fun time. I don’t want that either. I like knowing my evening and weekends are mine. All mine.

So we all have our beliefs. Some believe their looks will take them everywhere, therefore they don’t go out without the perfect outfit and full eye makeup — even to go grocery shopping or the gym. Some try so hard to please everyone else, believing the reinforcement they get will carry them through life. I think I have plenty of company in the not-for-me club. Am I right?

No judgements. We all are who we are, and that’s a beautiful thing, too.

I’m (not) the best!

I don’t want to be the type of person who only does things if they can be perfect. I’ve been editing self-help books based on four personality types, and this was yesterday’s topic. As I read these books, sometimes I find myself nodding along.

Yesterday I had my final standup paddleboard session of the summer. I had such a strong practice Thursday night, so I was excited to build on those skills yesterday. It was a big group, so my usual boards were all taken, so I chose a narrower, shorter one. I was expecting super speed, but no.

At least I didn't fall in.
At least I didn’t fall in.

I was paddling hard, sweating, but I was far behind the rest of the group. I was getting frustrated as I kept putting all my energy into each stroke, careful to watch my form, but I was confused. Was I tired because I took Kangoo in the morning? Maybe. I was kind of hungry. Maybe I was low on energy? I’ve done half a dozen of these group tours. I’m never the fastest, but I’m never the slowest either. A friend once told me if you’re not the best and you’re not the worst, you know you’re in the right place.

When I finally made it to the turnaround spot, the coach looked at my board. “See how there’s water pooling up by your feet?” he asked. “Your board is underinflated. You should have pumped it before you left.”

Now I was even more frustrated. I rent my board. I’ve never been responsible for maintenance on it. How would I have known that? No wonder I was working my ass off and getting no where. I kind of wanted to cry. I wanted my last session of the season to be awesome, not frustrating.

My group paddled back — again with me working harder than everyone else — as we passed the boat house, my instructor told me I could stop and switch my board, but we were already 20 minutes over our tour time, so I figured they wouldn’t be out long anyway. I thanked him, told him I was exhausted and was just going to be done. One of the guys in the group saw me turn my board and called over, “Great job today!”

I wanted to yell back, “Fuck you and your fully inflated board, bro!” But instead I just muttered a “thanks.” He didn’t know about my board struggles. He just thought I was in the wrong group.

As I pulled my board out of the water, I wondered if I was being a baby. Maybe I should go grab another board and keep playing with the group. It would be months before I got another chance. Was I quitting because I didn’t have a perfect ride?
Nope, that can’t be it. I’m pretty bad at soccer, but I keep going every week. I’m not the best in my Spanish class, but I kept going there, too, even when French came out of my mouth and the class laughed.

Stuck in the middle

Did you overlook Middle Child’s Day earlier this week? Typical!

We always dress like this.
We always dress like this.

My mom tells about when I was little, and I broke her heart because I’d always go to my grandpa before her and dad, if Grandpa was around. That way my siblings and I each got an adult’s attention. Yes, I grew up the typical, complaining middle child. I was desperate for attention. I tried so hard to be special. I got grumpy when I wasn’t.

I remember racing my brother and sister in after school to tell our mom about the fire drill or assembly or whatever special thing happened that day before my sibs could. Sometimes I won, sometimes I didn’t. I probably would have fared better if I didn’t announce, “I get to tell Mom about …” as I ran to the door thus sparking competition.

It’s commonly accepted in psychology that middle children tend to be opposites of their older siblings. They believe their older sibling gets all the glory while the younger sibling escapes discipline. In general, middle children tend to be secretive, not revealing feelings. I don’t think that’s true of me at all. Everyone knows how I’m feeling, and I didn’t especially feel like my brother was more glorious or my sister less disciplined.

Middle kids tend to feel like they don’t have a special place in the family. This is definitely true for me. I think that’s why I moved across the country at age 18. I needed to find my special place.

But most true of all for me is that middle children tend to be great peacemakers. They read people well because they’ve been doing it all their lives. I think that’s a great strength of mine. For better or worse, I usually tolerate people who others don’t tolerate very long. I tend to see the best in people. I give more second chances than I probably should. I’m the one people come to for advice or to air injustices.

Growing up, I was always on the team, too. My brother and sister never teamed up against me. It was always me with one of them against the other. That’s a comfortable spot for me to be in, and I’m good at getting there. That sounds manipulative, and maybe it is.

My co-workers and I debated the pros and cons of each position in the birth order. None sounded especially cushy.

I’m all right

After anxiety attack days – like yesterday – I like to update you all and make sure you know I don’t think I’m a hot mess and my life is a disaster.

I’d been feeling anxiety since the weekend. I had two anxiety dreams, but other than soccer starting, I couldn’t really pinpoint what was bothering me. Things spiraled out of control Wednesday. I went running in hopes of mitigating my stress, but that caused more. I got off the treadmill and felt horrible about stopping after 2.5 miles. My goal is always 3.1. I came home and Carlos greeted me at the door and guilt poured over me. I felt like I’m not good enough for him. He used to have four family members now it’s just me, and I stop home for two hours and leave again. I saw two emails that stressed me out: 1 about the soccer team rosters and schedules. The second was about my gym membership, asking if I was ready to commit to the (steeply discounted) price I’d been holding out for. I sat in my chair feeling like my world was flying around me. I had to get going to Spanish, but I wanted to skip, feeling like I hadn’t studied enough and wasn’t good enough.

But I wiped my tears away, put some drops in my eyes, grabbed my books and went to class. And after about five minutes in class, I put everything else behind me. I had fun with my classmates, as we wrote funny sentences using only the words we know (Mine: My colleague is eating grapes at the grocery store).

A little anxiety resurfaced today, but I kept in mind three pieces of advice

  1. From Caley (my therapist): If you name your feelings, they lose power. “I’m feeling anxious because …”
  2. From a yoga teacher: All you have to do is breathe. Anything else that happens is a bonus.
  3. From some user feedback I read today at work: “Fix your shit!!!!!!!!!” (I joked to a co-worker that I was going to print that one out and hang it up on my desk.)

After work, I hung out with Navani. We had our own group therapy session. We commiserated about feeling anxious and how once things get going, we can spiral them out of control in seconds. As we were getting up to leave, we both seemed lighter. Not bad for skipping a workout to sit in the park with frozen yogurt, right?

On the train back to Manhattan, I read “The Gifts of Imperfection,” by Brene Brown. Amazingly, the chapter I started is called, “Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle.” I reread this part about 10 times, “I don’t need to figure out how to keep going with this level of anxiety. I need to figure out how to be less anxious.”

It’s not that people who live “wholehearted lifestyles,” the focus of this book, don’t have anxiety. They are just anxiety aware. Bells went off in my head. I’m anxiety aware! I knew what was happening to me this weekend. I recognized all the signs. I got out my anxiety toolbox and mitigated it. I named my feelings and I breathed in and out. I went for a run (which usually helps) and I allowed myself an evening off. My life is never going to be anxiety-free — and I don’t want it to be. That would mean not experiencing new things — but I know how to lessen the effects, and I did it. Two years ago, I would have sat with that heavy feeling in my belly, unable to eat for a week.

Instead of listening to “All Alone” from Fun. Again tonight, I’ve got “All Alright” on repeat.

I’m all alright.

Not good enough

“I hate feeling anxious. Can I have some of your happy medicine,” I asked a friend today.

“Why are you anxious?” he replied.

I didn’t know why. Spanish class? Freelance project? Soccer starting? My upcoming trip? Committing to the gym? Returning to boot camp? Carlos? A new magazine I might write for? My lack of friends in the city? A guy telling me he just wants to be friends (even though I felt the same way)?

What I really wanted to do was go shopping for a new outfit, go for frozen yogurt and go home to watch TV all night. But I told my friend I was going to the gym for a run before Spanish class.

My run felt great. I was focused and strong. But when I got off the treadmill, the anxiety came back when I read two emails. One about the soccer team rosters. The other was my total due to the gym. Then I came home and Carlos greeted me at the door. I felt guilty. I don’t feel like I’ve been giving him the time he deserves. Plus, I’m leaving him soon for a week.

So what’s giving me anxiety? Not feeling good enough. I trying to make up for a lack of one thing with something else. Like, I’m not in my dream job, so I’m going to work out a ton instead. I can’t afford to travel, so I’m going to learn Spanish instead. I’m not in a relationship, so I’m going to write for magazines instead. The truth is, I’m not where I want to be. And that’s stressing me out.

I should know better. I’m a therapy graduate. I learned to control my anxiety there. Hell, I work for the therapist now. I really should know better!

I’m off to play with Carlos and review my Spanish verbs before class.

American emptiness

When did our lives become so empty? When did we start filling ourselves up with and defining our worth with things? It’s depressing.

I’m currently reading “Living Large: From SUVs to Double Ds Why Going Bigger Isn’t Going Better” by Sarah Z. Wexler. I finished chapter 6 on my way home from work – a depressing day at that, reporting on the aftermath of the Boston Marathon attack – and got even sadder. The chapter featured DeShawn, a teen who chose a Wal-Mart shopping spree for his Make-a-Wish day. DeShawn’s reasons for wanting things make sense. He is mainly confined to his bedroom, so the tech-loving young man wanted to make it a cool place to be. He bought a computer and system for music creating and editing.

Still, the chapter made me sad. He didn’t pick out anything for his parents or the siblings who accompanied him on the shopping trip. I don’t mean to judge the kid. He’s facing something I haven’t faced and what he wishes for is his business. It just got me thinking about how we consume (that is the whole point of the book).

A favorite game of Americans is to fantasize about winning the lottery. I don’t need to win millions in the lottery or anything, but winning a grand would be awesome. I’m on a tight budget. That would make a difference. I could afford to buy some furniture for my apartment. With $5,000, I could pay off my student loan and be done with that once and for all. With a million, though, I could start a scholarship fund. I’d love to do that. And buy a Chelsea apartment with in-unit laundry. Heaven!

But I don’t need these things. I have everything I need in life. I have a job that allows me to live in Manhattan. That’s not nothing. I can admire the blooms and appreciate a sunset in Central Park for free. I can enjoy a conversation with any one of the 8 million interesting people in this city.

Yet, the allure of consumption is always there. Am I right? My friend AJ and I were chatting this weekend. He said, “the only reason TV exists is for the commercials to sell things.” I’m not quite as jaded about TV, but it’s a weird thing, isn’t it? It’s a way to fill up our lives, but it means nothing. It’s an escape. Some of it it fantastic literature played out (even AJ can appreciate that). Lots of it is crap.

Food for thought on a sad day.

A big swing

I had an epiphany yesterday. If I was offered a job outside of New York today, I’d be ready to take it. I feel like I could leave the city without any regrets. I’ve accomplished what I set out to accomplish here. Is that crazy? Maybe I’ll feel differently tomorrow. And this is not to say I’m packing up and subletting my apartment. Just that I feel like I’m in a settled place in my mind and my heart.

In October 2011, I gave myself permission to go crazy, spend a ton of money and move across the country. It was like I was pendulum tied to the left for so long that when the knot was loosened, I took a huge swing to the right. This is an analogy my therapist liked to use. I called her late last summer on a freak-out day when I felt like something wasn’t quite right.

“It’s OK!” she assured me. She said it sounded to her like I finished that big swing to the right and was starting to settle toward the middle. She told me it was a good thing. If I didn’t make that swing, she’d be worried about me. Similarly, she told me to expect to go back and forth a bit before finding my new happy place in the middle. I hesitate to use words like “settle” or “rest” because neither of those words describe my happy place.

But I’ve found happiness NOT jumping from one thing to the next without a break. I don’t need to everything right now. I can do one thing at a time. When I was swinging, I’d go to bootcamp and then a date on Tuesday and out with friends then running on Wednesday and grocery shopping and NYU on Thursday and a Broadway show on Friday then come home and write some magazine articles.

Now, I can drop things I’m not that into, and I can take a day or two off.

This has been quite the journey, and I’m glad I could embrace it. I feel like so many people are given opportunities like this, to rewrite their stories, but it freaks them out, so instead of taking that big swing, they try to hold on to the ties holding them back.

For me, though, I want to take it for all it is. This is a one-shot thing in life. And I want it.

20130407-095606.jpg
I haven’t seen everything on my NY to-do list, but that’s OK

1 in 8 million

A year or two after I graduated, I returned to my college town for a visit. I was in a downtown cafe having brunch and reminiscing about our college days with my then-boyfriend. “You know what I miss about Bellingham?” I asked. “Wherever I went, I was always running into people I knew.”

As if on cue, our friend Chad walked through the door. Now, Chad is a friend we met in Bremerton. He really had no reason (that we knew of) to be in Bellingham. Let alone to walk into that cafe at that time on that day.

(At my going-to-New York party, Chad gave me a mixed CD featuring Seattle artists. It has this song on it. “My family lives in a different state.”)

Since that moment, I decided my test for knowing I’ve established myself somewhere is to run into people I know.

Does that happen randomly in New York? No. Well, that’s not entirely true. I ran into Navani on a Midtown street once. I saw my apartment broker coming out of the subway in my neighborhood. But neither of those were Chad-level flukes. Navani and I worked in Midtown, and Robert shows apartments in my neighborhood.

New York is a city of 8 million people where loneliness reigns – especially if you have shallow roots here. It’s really hard to make a connection with any of those 8 million. A new friend asked me the other day if I have many friends in the city. I told him no. I have a few. He’s been here five years and said he doesn’t have many friends either. It just seems to be the way. It’s an uncomfortable place for me in that regard. I have tons of friends. They just live in other states.

I’m gaining a cat-mate next weekend. My sister’s cat Carlos is coming to live with me. One concern I have is who is going to check on Carlos when I go out of town. Quyn hates cats, so she’s out. Navani lives too far away. Barbara has more than enough on her plate. So … I hire a cat sitter, I guess.

I’m not writing this post to make you feel sorry for me or tell you I’m miserable. I’m not. It’s just something I’ve been noticing and thinking about lately. Maybe because I live on my own now. Maybe because I recently had a breakup. Maybe because I visited my old roommates this week and missed those living room conversations with them.

Luckily living without roommates has other redeeming qualities.

7 stages of getting back to awesome

Yesterday I alluded to dealing with grief. Yes, that’s true. Chad and I broke up. He gets credit for being the dumper. So I mourn a three-month relationship I thought would be a lot longer. Thank you to the friends who called and texted after reading that post. I didn’t mean to be so alarmist, still your words meant a lot. I love and appreciate you all.

I’m going to write about grief again today, but I want you to know I’m doing alright. I’m onto the acceptance stage and looking positively at my future. Yes there’s still a void, but I have hope (and friends and projects and swimsuit shape to get into).

Anyway, I find the human mind fascinating. Sometimes I think I should have finished that psychology degree. Maybe someday. Definitely not today. But one thing I find so interesting is how the brain protects us. When we deal with loss, we go through the seven step grief process. It allows us to process the news in bite-size chunks we can handle. If we dealt it with it all at once it would be all-consuming and we’d crumble.

Shock

Denial

Anger

Bargaining

Guilt

Depression

Acceptance

I also find it fascinating that we go through these steps after the death of a relationship. Of course it’s more consolidated after a three-month relationship than the death of a spouse.

I think I combined shock and denial into the first couple of days. Of course he doesn’t mean it, I reasoned. We were talking about having babies just last week. He’ll be back, calling tonight. (Nope.)

Then I got a little angry. My friends helped me get mad. “How dare he treat you like that,” they demanded when I defended him.

I’m not so sure about the bargaining. I’ll trade you your slippers for my keys? I did think of that, but I didn’t actually say it.

Guilt. I guess I did think for a fleeting second, “maybe if I hadn’t asked that question … .” Wait! No, I needed to ask that question. And I needed to push for an answer.

Yeah, depression set in this weekend. Hence the ice cream, beer and brie in my fridge/freezer.

Acceptance. I think now I’m wavering between depression and acceptance. Give me one more day to be certain.