Being Assertive

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“For no one can fill/ those of your needs/ that you won’t let show.” – Lean On Me by Bill Withers

I’ve always been a humble sort of person. Someone told me in the last year that I’m the least pretentious person he’d ever met. Another friend said I’m so easy going that if someone couldn’t get along with me, then the problem was definitely with the other person.

It’s true that I don’t carry ulterior motives, try not to over-bill myself, and what you see is what you get.

Usually.

Sometimes, however, when you’re this kind of person, others sometimes walk all over you. And because you’re laid back and go-with-the flow, you don’t get out of shape about it.

And when you’re this kind of person already and you get depressed or anxious, you think you *deserve* to get walked all over.

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Until you get fed up.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I will go to bat for anyone else any day and never for myself. I see solutions to other people’s problems so clearly and know how to help them. Or at least advocate for them.

I’ve been working for months on telling others how I feel even if it scares me. There are still plenty of things I can’t say out loud even though I think they are true. I told a friend the other day that some of his behavior was scary to me. At the risk of losing a friend and of course questioning whether I had done the right thing, I did it anyway. That was probably the biggest example of me building the muscles I need to build in order to be more assertive like I’d like to be.

I have two minor, silly examples from the last 24 hours when I have been assertive.

  1. Last night at dinner, I placed an order exactly as the restaurant had told us in the past to order it. It’s a barbecue place, and even though I don’t eat meat, they have a salad I like, and it comes with two hard boiled eggs.  My son loves hard boiled eggs, too, so we started ordering an extra side of eggs for him. Last night, I ordered the salad (which comes with eggs, as you now know), and a side of hard boiled eggs for my son. My salad came out, with eggs on it, and the server said, there are your eggs. I was a little baffled and she flitted away before I could ask her if my son’s eggs were coming. Another server happened by, and I asked if she could confirm if the salad was supposed to come with eggs or if I happened to always get eggs when I’ve ordered it in the past, just in case, you know, they make it without eggs now. She said it comes with eggs (as I thought), so I told her I’d order a side of eggs. She looked pained and unsure that I was being truthful. The other server came by a few minutes later, set down the eggs in a little bowl, and said condescendingly huffy, “you were supposed to pay for them, but here are your eggs. Enjoy,” and walked away scowling. It wasn’t the most pleasant experience, and I very badly wanted to assure them this was how I had placed my order, but they were busy and frankly I didn’t want to talk to either server again. But, I am glad I stood up for what I wanted, for what I ordered. In the past, I hadn’t. It wasn’t the first time they didn’t understand what I was ordering. I did decide to kill with kindness by cleaning up the table to make it very easy for them to clear: silverware together, trash gathered, wiped up crumbs, etc.
  2. I got a haircut a few weeks ago. It looked pretty when I left the salon, because, duh, it always looks amazing when you leave the salon. I had told the lady who cut my hair that I typically didn’t have time to blow dry it and that I needed a cut that would dry okay. Fast forward to pretty much every day since the first wash after my haircut. I don’t like it. It looks dippy and I don’t feel pretty. I want something else. Counter to what I would have done in the past, which was settle for the haircut and just deal with it, or go to an entirely different salon (avoidance), I called the salon owner and simply told her I had very patiently tried to get used to it, but that I hadn’t been able to really love this haircut. She can see me tomorrow! And I even asked if she’s going to charge me, and she said, of course not! Phew. So glad I asked.

Again, these are tiny examples but they signify progress I have made in being more assertive about the things I want.

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Thanks for reading.

Publix Half

I think I last wrote on Wednesday that I had ruled out doing the half marathon. In a wave of anticipating regret if I didn’t run it I decided I *did* want to run a half marathon on Sunday after all.

Follow the dotted line on this picture if you’re interested in seeing the half marathon course.

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I bought a bib from someone who couldn’t run, so I paid a lot less than I would have by signing up last minute, and I got to run as a man, haha!

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It turns out Charles is exactly 3 days older than I am, as we were born the same year. I really doubt it, but the girl who sold me his bib said I ran about the same pace he would have run. He threw his back out or had back surgery so he couldn’t participate after all, and I kept thinking, “I’m running this for you, Charles!” like I was some sort of hero or martyr.

The girl I bought the bib from was going to run with me, but she also had to bail because she was very sick. 😦 We were going to take MARTA together. After I learned that, I quickly made other plans to catch a ride with another girl, who I had run in a group run with a month or so back. This turned out to be a great plan, as we were able to talk the whole time! She was funny and she’s a fellow mom, so we got to vent about life post-baby but also talk about how much we love our boys!

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It was around 40 degrees outside so we hung out inside the Omni for a bit, taking the opportunity to pee and stretch as much as possible, but also avoiding the cold for a long as possible. My bib was in corral B, which meant I would have been able to start like a minute sooner than she would have in corral C, but I hung back, suddenly nervous about running by myself. Who knew I was so needy? I definitely had had my freak out before getting a bib about getting to the race by myself (this is one of my hangups, as I can get quite worked up about parking places and running late!), but then I was able to make a plan A (MARTA with bib girl) and then plan B when that fell through. Where there’s a will!

I had been worried about getting to her house by the time she wanted to leave, and after that I didn’t really worry about time or even what to do. She’d run this race twice before, and she just knew things, so I just followed her lead and didn’t worry! Now I know what the deal is with this race so maybe I can guide someone next year.

Downtown Atlanta is so pretty, so that was nice to enjoy:

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The race was pretty good! The course was gorgeous, ran through some really historic parts of town (including Ebenezer Baptist, the Carter Center, etc.). We ran places I’d driven through a million times and through neighborhoods I’d never laid eyes on.

My time included a potty break where there was long line, a few water stops, and jelly bean stop. There were green jelly beans all over the road after that stop, and I couldn’t finish the ones they handed me. There were all kinds of handouts, which was nice in some ways, but a little too much in other ways. I would have needed a serious goody bag or a sherpa to collect and carry all the food they handed out. And runners are trashy! There was so much trash on the ground!

The police and other volunteers along the course were so sweet to cheer us on. I tried to thank them as much as possible. Many folks turned up to cheer on their friends, but they also cheered everyone else on. I got a little teary when the marathon course split from the half, as I was super proud of the marathon runners soldiering on to twice as many miles as we were running. They seemed so heroic to me! Maybe that will be me next year, too. Hmmmm.

My friend and I stayed together most of the race, she got a burst of energy the last mile, so she ran on ahead. I was so proud of her as I know she’d trained up to this race more so than I had. She also had time to snap a shot of me after I crossed the line, sweet!

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It was all in a all a great experience and I’ll run it again, definitely with someone I can talk to the whole time to make it fly by. I’ll try to run it AS myself next time, too, haha.

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Thanks for reading.

Energy, Where Are You?

Earlier this week I was feeling great, motivated, and ready to kick butt. I lifted weights pretty intensely two nights, then did major stretching on day 3, and then ran 7 miles yesterday. It was pretty cold outside yesterday and I had wanted to run a longer distance, but I was stopping to walk too often to keep going.

My mind is especially racing today and I want to either go to sleep or go do something different than routine. My body is sore, which is something that felt good the first few days this week but now makes me feel like I have the flu. Not good.

I was planning to run in the Atlanta Publix Half Marathon this Sunday, but I haven’t purchased my entry and am feeling overwhelmed physically by what would be a really busy Sunday if I were to run in it anyway. I did register for a half in Knoxville in April, so that will happen soon enough.

There’s a friend’s baby shower Sunday afternoon and another friend whose baby I need to go meet that has stuff for the girl with the baby shower. It should be something to look forward to, but thinking about it makes me feel ragged right now. Anticipating exhaustion is exhausting.

And I’m running a 5K next weekend with friends, which I hope will be easy as it’s less than half the distance of what I run usually. It will be my first 5K where I’ve actually been running a lot before I take to the course. I will be the seasoned runner compared to the old me, who, at age 23, could never run and then still run a 5K in about 30 minutes. I’m trying to decide whether to stay with the group of friends or try to be competitive against myself. I’ve gotten myself down to 8 minute miles a few times.

Oh, but that thought makes me feel tired. Pushing myself seems like the worst thing I could do right now.

I’ve been pretty grumpy today, too. Maybe I need sleep.

Thanks for letting me whine at you. Here’s to hoping for an energetic Friday where I can get stuff done.

Inputs

Ever want to cover your ears and go, “la-la-la-la-la?”
My senses get overwhelmed all the time lately. There are too many things competing for my attention.
Some attention grabbers are external: take for instance a moment last fall. My son won’t sit still, my phone is ringing, the waitress wants to take the order, and we’re at dinner with new friends as I’ve discovered I’ve lost my brand new credit card that I had just used to pay for parking. Okay, deep breath. This situation all worked out and I somehow kept my cool and even laughed through it. The phone call was my bank letting me know someone had found my card and had called them to report it. Dinner turned out fun and ended with ice cream. My son was a holy terror but somehow managed to eat his dinner and we didn’t get kicked out of the restaurant. And we made knew friends.
If you’re like me, the attention grabbers that reside inside my head are the real stressors. I can’t diffuse them with as much ease as I did at the restaurant. On the outside, I have it all together, but instead it’s like being inside a movie theater and all the walls have come down between each theater and all the movies are playing at once. Loudly, with lots of vibrant colors to draw attention.
It doesn’t really matter what makes up the inside inputs, but it does matter how I control them.
I get overloaded more easily these days, trying to attend to all the things I need to do, need to remember, need to address, or want my attention. I compulsively, I admit, check email far more often than is healthy, and I treat it like I am the phone operator trying to connect all the calls coming in.
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Look how easy and glamorous I make this look!
At work, especially, I treat email like I am on a game show and I must reply quickly and exactly right or I can’t progress. The problem is, I was in the middle of answering another question when I stopped to check my email. I ran a report to answer the first question and checked email as I waited for the report to run. Then a colleague approaches and asks a question, which I try to answer on the spot, because I already know from experience I will never do if I keep interrupting myself. Which I will and do.
Same thing happens when I am home alone (home with family is a whole OTHER story). I start some laundry and then feel smug in how productive I’m being. Then I feel a rush of energy and decide to make something to eat. I look through the items on hand and realize I am going to have to either get creative or go to the store. That makes me feel tired so I end up grabbing an apple instead and sit at the table, chewing away as I look at my phone, meaning to reply to an email or RSVP to an invitation. Instead, I see new emails and posts on Facebook and Instagram, read articles, watch videos, and basically follow a rabbit hole far past the end of the apple.
I realize the washer is done so I get up to transfer the clothes to the dryer. Oh, there are clothes in the dryer, except they are all wrinkly, so I run the dryer for a while to fluff them up. I notice the trash is full, but I don’t take it out. “Later,” I promise it, as if it’s longing for its destiny to land in the dumpster, a thought that makes me laugh out loud. I register that the dishes need to be done, but I will wait on those until after I eat, so I can do them all at once. I may eventually turn on the tv, completely forgetting the laundry, a meal, emails, the trash, the dishes, and lots of other things. If I turn on the tv and lie down, it’s over: I’m taking a nap.
I’d make a terrible phone operator.
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A telephone operator putting through a call at a switchboard circa 1930. (Photo by Keystone View/FPG/Getty Images)

How do you deal with too many inputs in your day-to-day life without getting overwhelmed?

Thanks for reading.

Funk

I’m not really doing Lent this year.

My colleague and I were talking about Lent yesterday and he asked what I gave up this year. I told him nothing. And that I had thought about what I haven’t had and just saying that’s what I had given up. I thought I hadn’t had wine, but then I remembered, oh yeah, I have had wine since Lent started. Dang it. The wine was good, though.

I got a hair cut on Tuesday. I took a great run on Monday. My day got away from me yesterday and I wasn’t able to run. I’ve been sleeping okay, after I take something to help me sleep. But the kid still likes to wake up super early.

Self care exercise, hair cut, and sleep aren’t cutting it. I’ve been in a funk since late last week. Energy way down. I feel like sadness is emanating from my pores. Maybe I need to change my meds.

Being in a funk to me feels like being stuck in mud and not sure what to do about it. It feels helpless. I’m starting to feel like I am cycling through the downer part of my bipolar cycle. Or maybe I’m in the descent to it. I have some ideas of how to feel better immediately, but those ideas are things that aren’t necessarily good for me and would probably lead to the manic side of my bipolar cycle.

I’d like to get off this ride and just be normal. For now, you’ll find me doing this, I guess. I need to go find a wall to rest my undersized plump elbows on:

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Tell me a joke? Make me laugh? Please? Leave me a comment in any case. They don’t show up until I approve them, so if you don’t want me to publish it, I won’t.

Thanks for reading.

Getting Better

At least, at running.

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Hooray! Sub 9-minute miles average! My fastest average yet, and 8 mile run is pretty great, too.

I hadn’t run in a week so I was happy to be running, I bought some new running gear, and I’ve been lifting weights. And it was gorgeous outside. All were good contributors to this time.

I thought I was running kind of slowly, but I guess it’s gotten easier to go faster? Kind of magical.

 

Feelings

I chatted with someone this past weekend who said he “wasn’t into feelings.” After some questioning, I understood his comment to mean he is uncomfortable or annoyed by people who are over-sharers of their emotions and feelings. That’s understandable, but for a while I was beginning to wonder how self centered he was!

As a person who struggles with identifying how I feel, labeling my emotions correctly, and then sharing my emotions with others, I was reacting to this guy by thinking, “wow, is he only talking to me about this because he knows me well enough to know that I don’t talk about my feelings all the time?”

This wasn’t a heart to heart by the way. He was merely making conversation.

I can’t stop thinking about it, though, as this is so central to the work I’m doing in my life now.

If you search for images on emotions or feelings, you’ll find A LOT of images.

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Wouldn’t it be funny if I printed this out and started pointing to the face of how I am feeling when I talk to someone? I’m afraid even if I did that, no matter what I say in conversation, I’d still point to “Happy” unless I am either mirroring their emotions or trying to prove a point, usually through a joke.

I find other people’s feelings to be fascinating. Especially when I see someone who is willing and able to exhibit strong emotions.

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I’m also a seeker of the best word or phrase when deciding on expression. This chart is a great example of what I may go through, when I feel a certain way and I try to muddle through the nuance of how to describe it.

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I think it’s a really good chart! I may print it out and see if it helps me pinpoint my emotions more readily.

I noticed that I keep using the terms feelings and emotions interchangeably. That’s not exactly correct, but I do have trouble with identifying both. Emotion describes how your body is reacting to a stimulus, and a feeling describes how your mind interprets that emotion. And, I have to add, your thoughts are the rationalizing of what to do and behavior is what you do eventually with the thoughts and feelings. Hence, the wise advice of thinking before you act.

My issues stem from questioning my emotions and the feelings they evoke. My default is to think WAY too much, question myself WAY too much, before I act (or not act). I squash my feelings so I often deny myself from letting my emotions evolve into feelings. I play it safe because my whole life has been a series of good results (mostly) when I kept my feelings to myself and bad results (mostly) when I reacted to something. In other words, I have been a lot less likely to make a fool of myself or hurt others if I keep my stronger, truer emotions to myself. I have been a cool, collected person. I deny myself so much eventual happiness this way — maybe?? — which is of course severely frustrating.

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Thank God for running. And meds. And therapy.

Thanks for reading.

Irked.

I’m having a silly work issue and no one believes me when I told them the system wasn’t working.

Even Josef didn’t fully believe me. Said he was playing devil’s advocate by suggesting it was operator error. If it had been operator error, I would have known that earlier than the two full days and nights of trying to work through the issue. I don’t pretend to be a genius, but come on, don’t treat me like I’m stupid.

I’m so angry right now. Frustrated. I even cried a little.

I feel like the little girl I used to be, trying to explain something to the adults and older siblings in my life and no one believes me. I’m not being petulant or trying to cover for my lack of efficiency. I am WELL aware of my lack of efficiency — but this issue was standing in my way, making my lack of efficiency even WORSE, thank-you-very-much.

It’s a crap feeling and makes me want to run away, frankly.

Time to look at those ocean pictures again, I guess.

When I Want to Run Away, I Look at the Pretty Ocean Pictures

It would be so nice to go stare at the ocean right now. My heart is crying for it. Heal me, Ocean, I want to say to it. Tumble me like a rough stone and make me smooth. Let me form a seat in the sand and let the waves form a back-and-forth blanket over me. Let my tears join the sea.

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I know the water is heavy and the sand can rip away my skin. I know there are creatures in the ocean that would just as soon eat me for dinner.

But that almighty weighty crash and stinging salt breeze whipping through my hair would do wonders for me now.

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It’s an ineffable primordial feeling to respond to the sea, a feeling I carry from my earliest memories. My son surely has a similar set of feelings imprinted.

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I especially love the wildness of a summer storm on the sea. While I wouldn’t care to be there for a hurricane, there is a thrill to seeing Mother Nature doin’ her thang.

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And then, this magical thing happens:

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The whole place is simply that: magical. Food for the soul.

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Ahhhhh.

Summer can’t get here quickly enough.

Fasching Weekend in Helen

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It was a date weekend for Josef and me, and there were activities all weekend. Between costume changes and making new friends and staying up way too late each night, the weekend flew by!

My sister gave me Jem and the Holigrams earrings for Christmas this year, and this was the perfect occasion to wear them. I met this group of ladies who had stumbled upon Helen and found out about our party Friday night. I don’t really know what my costume was, but my wig and tights matched.

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I was very tall that night. Josef’s suit is made in the same material as the Bavarian flag. He was playing music between the sets of the live music.

That feather boa looked great, right? I danced with my friend Sue, and after the song ended, I smelled something funky. I wasn’t sure what it was, only that it smelled horrible. I left the dance floor in a hurry in order to leave the smell. BUT IT FOLLOWED ME. In the words of Cathy of the comic strip in the same name, ACK!

I made Josef smell me, and he smelled it, too. BARF.

I couldn’t last all night smelling like this. The culprit was the feather boa. The good thing about the location of the party was that it was possible to go home and change, so I did. I don’t have any pictures of my second costume, but the only thing it had in common with the first costume were the shoes, tights, and earrings. The dress, the boa, and the wig were set out to air out.  I’ve had the boa since college, and apparently when you store them for a long time and then introduce body sweat, what results is the nastiest smell I’d smelled in a long time. And that’s saying a lot as the mother of a young child who has had diapers in the recent past.

I changed into a white dress and wore a silver wig. And the party went on.

The next day was the tubing parade, and I put on my unicorn outfit!

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Here’s our whole group as we set out on our adventure.

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That night there was yet another party, and I went as a cat.

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It was fun, but I was pretty tired out. Plus I was developing a pretty bad sore throat. We invited folks over to our house, where they all made fun of me because I had no voice.

On Sunday, right before we left to go back to Atlanta, I helped Josef move some furniture. We were moving a futon, and I was walking backwards with it. Bang! went the side of the futon on my shin. I reacted to it hitting my shin by straightening my legs, and OUCH! went my lower back. Son of a gun, it hurt! Between my throat, shin, and now back pain, I wasn’t sure how I’d deal with a small child once we got back to Atlanta. I worried about work the next day, too.

I wound up calling in sick, got the child to school, went back home and slept all day. I’m much better today. My back is 95% better, my throat still hurts a lot, my shins still hurt, and I have a barking cough. I really want to go run but I think I’d better heal some more.

And today is Valentine’s Day, so I am sending lots of love to the readers who take the time to read this!

Thanks for reading.