Fool Me Once…

Rehab stays, divorce, infidelity, cops breaking up fights between suburban mothers, and inflammatory gossip running through it all. “This is why people don’t speak with their neighbors anymore,” I’ve thought on more than one occasion, or “This crap would make a reality tv show look tame…”

Hearing neighborhood gossip, the words said behind my back pierce right through every one of my insecurities. It’s happened more than once. As a military spouse, sadly, it’s sort of expected to have those socially awkward moments, but I find that living off base this time around has brought far more immature behavior than I’ve ever had the misfortune to experience.

I may not always share the quality openly in real life, but I am an extremely sensitive person. In my working life, there were many times spent in tears and crushed after job performance reviews. “Needs improvement” in black and white for all the world to see felt like a hot poker searing right through my gut. It’s uncomfortable at best, and more often than not even constructive criticism sends me wanting to curl up in the fetal position sucking my thumb. I get that it’s irrational, extreme even. But the initial sting of these situations is a gut level response, involuntary. Highly sensitive people are “the ones whose feelings are so easily bruised that they’re constantly being told to ‘toughen up'”, according to Psychology today.

Being an overly sensitive person in this toxic frenemy environment is soul-sucking agony. Think J.K. Rowling’s dementors sucking the life out of Harry Potter.

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Mean people just suck ….the life right out of you. Why do we tolerate and participate in this demeaning behavior? Is loneliness too high a price that we will settle for people we’d probably not choose otherwise? I’ve wrote about real friendships many times. I still feel the same about being real and showing up authentically, but I have to say adult friendships with kids can be a real pain in the ass challenge.

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“Why would they be so mean, Mom?” she asked, tear-stained cheeks turned up to look at me. “Not every family works the same way,” I tell her feebly. “It’s life. Not everyone is nice.” What goes unsaid is just how angry I am. I want to tell her that for some reason, two can get along just fine but when three are involved, there is usually one left out. It broke my heart to watch them break hers. What I pray she takes away from these encounters is to remember what it feels like. Remember what it’s like to be mocked, ridiculed, and excluded. Remember. Then have compassion and empathy enough to never participate in making someone else feel that way.

What I feel most sad about is the fact that it took me this long to figure it out. What should have been glaringly obvious took me a while.

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It may have taken me a detour or two to get here, but I’m here now – wiser, and with eyes wide open.

via Daily Prompt: Glaring

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Just Say Yes

How many times do we do things from a place of fear?

“I don’t want to go to that birthday party. I don’t know anyone.”

“What if there is no one to talk to?”

“What if I join that running club and everyone is faster than me?”

“Let’s just sit in the car in the school pick up line. That way I won’t have to make small talk.”

I do – a lot more than I’d like to admit. Things like avoiding parties. Signing up for the minimum of school stuff. I’m a homebody. I like my space. But….every single time I just say yes and take a chance – I always end up having a great time and am grateful I made the decision to just go. Even when it’s hard.

Sure, sometimes its awkward. I keep thinking about these little people that my actions influence. What do I teach my kids about getting out and meeting people in our new community if I’m not willing to try? Oy. This parenting thing will make you deal with your stuff, won’t it?! How can I complain about not having adult friends if I’m not willing to be open to the possibility?

With all that vomited all over the page, here’s what I’m looking forward to over the next six months:

Saying yes. Yes to birthday parties, social invites, and even joining the local running club. (And yes, I am cringing at that!) It may be hard. It may be awkward or uncomfortable, but doing the uncomfortable is something that I have yet to regret. The bonus is that I will be better armed to teach my kids how to say yes to opportunities – even when it scares them.

Do you have to force yourself to say yes, or are you a natural extrovert? When you move to a new place, how do you put yourself out there and meet new people? If you are military, do you stick to fellow spouses or branch out?

Defeated

I needed to pick up a couple of things for dinner at the store. Three items was all I was getting so it was to be a quick in-and-out trip. I asked my daughter if she’d like to come with me to grab some stuff. She said yes and went to get her shoes. She’s become a great big helper in the kitchen and has a radar-like instinct whenever I open the fridge, inquiring if there’s something she can do.

In the car, she asks what the speed limit is, if I’m going too slow or too fast. She asks if I will get a ticket. She sees a cop and asks what he’s doing. (It’s a speed trap.) She tells me to speed up so I don’t get a ‘slow ticket’, you know, because she’s four and knows how to drive. She says 5000 other things that i will not list. We arrive at the store – Walmart no less. (If you don’t know, I really can’t stand Walmart and try to avoid going there if I can help it.) It was just a few items so I didn’t feel like driving into our regular store.

Once inside, we grab some apples, and my daughter decides that now would be the perfect time to launch into a whiney campaign to beg for these pouch mashed-up fruit things:

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We have a rule in our house. Tantrums will get you no where. The answer to whatever you are asking becomes an automatic “No” when you throw a fit. We are consistent with this. I attempted to joke her out of it, “Have you lost all your teeth?! Are you an old lady who has only gums and can’t chew?! When did that happen?!” She giggles and snaps out of it. Or so I thought. Rounding the corner to the pasta sauce aisle, she started in again crying and stomping and wailing about the “fruit thingies”. She’s getting pretty worked up. I remind her that she’s asked (repeatedly), and I’ve answered.

Choosing the self-checkout is always a decision I make when I feel anti-social. I love self-checkout. I don’t have to hear remarks about what I’m purchasing, or make small talk. It’s not that I’m being mean or rude, there are just sometimes when talking to people takes more energy than I possess. Today was definitely one of those times. While I’m checking out the four items, trying to read the screen and move along quickly, another customer at the next self checkout lane starts in to talk to my daughter telling her what she thinks about her behavior.

“Ma’am. If you would please not talk to her right now, I’d appreciate it. It really doesn’t help.” I was even-toned. I never raised my voice. I probably sounded more exhausted and pleading than anything. I made sure to not be rude, but just kindly ask her not to address my daughter. Basically I was thinking, ‘Would you just please pretend you don’t hear her and go about your business and leave the me the heck alone?! I’m trying to get this done!’ Meanwhile, the screen is not cooperating, the attendant is looking uncomfortable and a line of people is starting to form. I can feel the heat of their eyes on the back of my neck. I’m being burned by the stares I’m receiving.

The lady turns her head over her shoulder and mutters just loudly enough so I hear it, “Well. The apple sure doesn’t fall far from the tree!”

I don’t know if I’ve ever been so angry at someone I don’t know. Hannah is completely out of sorts. I’m shaking and am about to lose it. I turn toward the attendant and inform him that the computer isn’t working, and I apologize, but I’m going to have to leave my items there. I need to leave.

Immediately.

Shocked by her audacity. What I can only describe as pure, unbridled frustration, I turn back toward the woman (who now will not acknowledge me) and say, “You know, your comments help no one. That was uncalled for.” Then I scooped up still-hollering Hannah and rush out. If I didn’t, I may have actually decked the lady. I sure wanted to.

Now both of us are in tears and I crumble in the car. We cry all the way home. I am the epitome of defeat.

Every parent has had meltdowns in the store. (If you haven’t, your kid isn’t old enough – just give it time. It will inevitably happen.)  But if you see it, assume the parent is doing the best they can. Don’t judge. Don’t be careless with your words and opinions.

Just because you have an opinion doesn’t mean anyone wants to hear it. Or needs to hear it. They just may be having an awful day. Your words may be the ones that crush them.

Being Open

Three years living in Hawaii encompassed a large amount of sun, beaches, getting fit, and personal growth more than anything. Lessons that I think I have mastered, and then something will come up from behind and smack me upside the head.

Recently I was asked to “friend” someone on social media that I’d met a few weeks ago. She seemed nice and was very enthusiastic. But I didn’t know her that well. What was my hesitation? Why be cynical? Why be so guarded? This person thought enough of me that she wanted us to get to know each other better.  It didn’t matter that I will be moving in a few months. Or that I will likely never see her again after.

I have the same issues with investing in friendships and meeting people at church. Why chit chat with people I will likely never see again since we are due to leave? Perhaps borderline anti-social, I remember the meet and greet portion of services attended as a kid with a special kind of uncomfortableness. I would often make that the exact moment to head for the ladies room, conveniently returning to my seat when that part concluded.

I have this other friend who is an open person. Until someone shows their crazy, she welcomes them with open arms. I, on the other hand, tend to be more closed off. Not as a defensive posture, but more from a self-protective nature. I tend to want to make sure someone isn’t crazy BEFORE letting them into my personal world. I often ask myself in situations what would she do?

So I thought about my Open Friend and how she would handle this. There’s a reason she has a billion virtual friends that she ACTUALLY knows. She’s open to it. By clicking a little button, I made the decision to be less guarded, and more accepting…more open and less closed off.

While silly and trivial in the big scheme of things, I’ve found that it’s the little things that all add up to the bigger picture of our nature. I want to be less like my closed off, fearful, self-protective by nature, and more open to people and new experiences.

All it took was the metaphorical click of a button to choose:

acceptance

graciousness

bravery

honesty

openness

risk

love.

And I chose to chat with a lovely couple at church. (Even though it was initiated by my daughter’s insistence that she have a cookie.) I have never once regretted being open to new people, even if I forget that at times.

What about you? Are you a naturally open person or self protective?

Things You Should Not Say To Me While Ringing Up My Purchases

There are so many instances where I’ve nearly left a pile of drool at the checkout line because my mouth was gaping open, shocked at the audacity of people and the things they say. So much so, that I felt compelled to share the list of what customer service people should never say to me (or anyone else) at the register.

1. Do not tell me how to parent my child. If I wanted your advice, I would ask for it. And if I’m asking for advice, I’m probably not going to solicit someone who I don’t know, doesn’t know my kids, or someone who may not even have kids of their own. Seriously – I’m sure you are just the “best auntie ever”, but if you don’t have kids of your own – you really shouldn’t be handing out parental advice. (The only exception to this would be if you are a teacher.)

1.b. Don’t parent my child for me. This has happened to me only twice. Both times a person attempted to tell my son what not to do. (He was eyeing the candy and the clerk told him no.) I laughed. (And no, I didn’t buy the candy.)

2. Unless you are 1000% sure – do not comment on what a “big boy” my baby is (when she is in fact a girl in head-to-toe pink!) Just say how beautiful my baby is and move on.

3. Do not comment on the price of an item. As in, “Whoa! You’re gonna pay how much for that?!” No lie. This actually happened to me, over a pair of $40 jeans. Umm. You work here. At the place that sells the jeans at the price you are balking at. Why the shock?

4. Do not make judgments out loud about anything I am buying. Everyone is of course entitled to their opinion. I just don’t need to hear yours when you feel critical or morally superior.

5. Don’t ask weird questions. Questions like, “Wow. you have a lot of vegetables here. And all organic. You some kind of health nut?” How the heck am I supposed to answer that? “Why yes, I try to be a super-wacko!” Good grief!

6. Please, for the love of all that is holy, do not tell me your life’s story. I am sure you are a very sweet person and working retail is VERY hard, I know. But these two minions in my cart have a limited attention span. If we don’t speed it up, I’m seriously going to have an aneurism.

7. Yes, 15-year-old customer service rep, they are feminine products. No I’m not really embarrassed, but I can clearly see that you are. I’m sorry. It’s part of life. You’ll get over it.

8.  Please don’t tell me to do your job for you. At the Navy Exchange there are a few customer service reps that sit while ringing up customers. I don’t have a problem with that. I used to be a bank teller, I know long days on your feet are rough. But there is one rep, (the one I avoid like the plague) who is rude and actually said, “I’m too tired to get up and reach your stuff. Put  your stuff closer to the scanner.” It was literally inches from her hand. I almost laughed. Then I realized she was dead serious.

9. Please don’t check your phone in the middle of our transaction. I think it is very rude for customers to talk on cell phones while simultaneously treating the person behind the counter as if they are a robot. It’s obnoxious and demeaning. I keep my phone off and I expect you to do the same.

1o. Do not act as if I don’t exist. I am a person, too. Please don’t have a conversation with a co-worker and ignore me entirely.

I won’t be rude to you, you don’t be rude to me, mmmkay?

What crazy things have you heard while being waited on at the checkout line?

Ripples

With the onset of fall, the upcoming hustle and bustle of the Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas hoopla, I’m feeling a bit nostalgic about our life (and weather) in Hawaii. There is much I do not miss about life in Hawaii, but when I’m freezing my tootsies off in the pacific northwest rain, wearing warm boots and still cranking up the thermostat – I sometimes wish that I could go back – maybe for just a bit to warm up.

More than the weather, the beaches and eating fresh delicious pineapple whenever I felt like it, I miss my peeps, the people who have made such an impact on my life. Makes me wonder about the impact I have on the people around me, and in turn the impact that they then have on others.

When I met Katy and Liz,  they were just a couple of moms with their kiddos at the playground. They’d been friends for a while, and their easy camaraderie was attractive and easy. It would have been so easy for them to shut me out, do the “mean girls” thing, and off we go our separate ways. But they didn’t. And it’s made all the difference.

As Katy put it – she had to stalk me for a while before I came around. I am slow and cautious to make friends. (In my defense, I had just had Hannah and was a little out of it too!) Katy is one of those people that makes friends easily, and makes the process look effortless.  She has the gift of being a great friend yet isn’t a doormat, and she is still able to keep her family the priority.  Her husband also rocks and gave me some great training tips along the way. (Not to mention that he is seriously one of the funniest people ever! 😉  With her encouragement, we joined a bootcamp class and forever changed our lives through diet and some hard core workouts. We met other people. Liz ran a post pregnancy run with such joy that I marveled at her and didn’t “get it” then, as I wasn’t really a runner at that point….I have been inspired by Nina, another close friend who I looked up to as a fitness mentor (aka ROCKSTAR!) although she downplays how awesome she really is. Seriously?! Who wakes up at o’dark thirty to run and is jumping around all excited!!??? (That would be Nina!) I found confidence I didn’t know I had – and even went to the 3 day class. I was sad to not be in the same class as my friends anymore working out side by side, but I knew with limited time left in Hawaii – I had to suck up as much of our instructor as I possibly could!

Which brings me to Christina – the seriously bad a$$ trainer. Words don’t describe (although I’ve tried) how much she has taught me. And more than just about fitness and diet. And then along came a new neighbor,  Jayde. She is rockin’ her deal called This Strong Body on Facebook which is a community of like minded folk who are doing their daily diet/fitness thing.

All of these seemingly random people that either for a short time or lifetime, have had a ripple effect in each other’s lives.

If Christina had never become a trainer….
If Katy hadn’t “stalked” me…..
If Katy hadn’t been a runner…..
If I would have declined invitations to parties….
If I had said “No” to bootcamp…..
If I would have quit bootcamp….
If Nina didn’t run like a gazelle……
If Nina didn’t make me laugh and turn me on to Shut up and Run…… 🙂
If Jayde hadn’t moved in next door….
If I would have stayed inside and not set out the sprinkler to entice her kiddos over, thereby baiting her….(muahahhahahhaha!)
If……

Even people now through the medium of Facebook can affect each other. I know I am inspired by people I only know through my friends on Facebook. I’ve watched lives transformed and become “friends” with people I have yet to meet. (Hey that’s you Laura and Casey!)

All of this to say, that it’s amazing what a ripple affect one can cause by person’s choices. Choices to smile and and say hello. The choice to risk new friendships, put yourself out there and know that sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

I hope my “ripples” can positively affect someone to be their best, the way that I’ve been bettered by the ripples of others.