Make the Most of You

From an early age we learn from the societal expectations that we need to be like this famous person or that family member that does everything right and looks the right way. We are told we need to act right and do the responsible thing. We are pressured to do this or that because that is what the family believes in. 

Even if we aren’t told who we need to be like, we are told who we shouldn’t be like. This was more of the case in my life, at least externally. I consistently heard how this family member or that was stuck up or self-centered or whatever. I also heard how entitled my parents were to have everyone else do something for them.

More

Episode 5: Make the Most of You

Failing Imperfectly
Episode 5: Make the Most of You
/

Learning to lean in and be the best you for you is a journey that has its ups and downs. With practice and persistence, you can be the best you.

Family Doesn’t Mean Everything

I have a friend who has some deep and painful issues with her family that we’ve been talking about quite a bit lately and it reminded me of all of the work I’ve done over the years to overcome some similar familial challenges. I won’t tell you her story because it isn’t mine to share, but I thought I would go into some of my story and some of what I shared with her from my experiences. 

More

Holidays

We are full force into the holiday season and that brings either tremendous joy or immense stress, or both, for each of us. Today, I want to focus on how extended family impacts us.

As a child, we always got up and went for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. I do remember being able to open presents at home for Christmas, but we had to get moving and ready to hit the road. I don’t remember ever staying home for either of these holidays. As I got older and my parents divorced, holidays were split even more. I didn’t notice that I was bugged by not being home until I was an adult and lived in a different state from family and couldn’t afford to travel. I spent one Christmas by myself and it was so relaxing. It was refreshing.

more

It’s Time to Rebuild

Life is a lot different today compared to just a couple of months ago. If there is anybody who can say that it isn’t, please tell them to share their story with me. I mean, how can it not be? Everyone went through the toilet paper rush and the lack of meat in stores and the boomerang advice of ‘wear the mask’, ‘no, don’t wear the mask’, ‘okay, yes wear the mask’. Others also went through trauma of one sort or another. Some are still in that trauma. For those who have or are still there, my prayers are with you. I don’t know how to help any other way right now.

We all used to have a life that we were living, sometimes without a concern of tomorrow. I used to travel for work frequently. I would go to friends homes or have double-date nights out or just go shopping. We have many expos and events that have been canceled this year. Absolutely every plan we had for this year has been canceled or rescheduled to next year. I haven’t traveled outside of Utah since early March. There have been zero double-date nights.

Life is different.

My husband now also works from home 100 percent of the time. His company is unwilling to open an office while cases are so high. They have no date in sight of when they will return to the office. We went from sharing an office to selling a guest bed so we could have our own offices. We have lunch together pretty much every day.

Life is different.

Is that a good thing or no?

In my life, my response is yes and no. No because I don’t get to travel and so many fucking people are dying or getting sick with last side effects that nobody knows how to cure, or if there is even a cure. Yes because we were forced to slow down and our society has been upended, hopefully paving the way for some better years.

Through all of the trauma and pain and change, we have a unique opportunity. We get to rebuild a new life. We get to design how we live our life as we come out of this pandemic. Do we know when exactly that will be? No. We don’t need to. We get this time to slow down and really take stock of what is important to us. Did you want to go back to school but couldn’t find the time? Did you want to start a garden? Yes, you did because all of you new gardeners took all of the supplies I normally buy. Did you want to pick up a new hobby or side gig? Did you want a new pet but didn’t have time to dedicate to training? Yeah, a lot of you have cleared out shelters. Thank you and be good to those pets.

For me, I don’t know how I will rebuild my life. What I do know is that I want to be more intentional on my health, my personal growth, my relationship, and my hobbies. I want to make more time for the house projects and the family (this includes friends) that are close enough to see. We need to be with them more often. I want to grow this website and our overlanding site as well.

I am going to build my life coming out of this pandemic intentionally.

How are you going to build your future? What are you changing? What are you keeping?

I Have Got to Recharge

I am one who needs to recharge frequently. Whether it be simply from working five days a week or because I’ve been around a lot of people, I need time to get my mind right. Now, let me tell you what ‘getting my mind right’ really means for me.

It means a couple of things. First, for me it means releasing all of the thoughts and focus I’ve exerted. This usually comes after a week or few of work, or after a conference. I end up mentally exhausted and need time to clear my mind and do things that refresh me. Sometimes it is nothing but reading or watching TV. Sometimes it is mowing the lawn or reorganizing something, and boy have I been doing a lot of reorganizing lately. Sometimes I need to walk outside or be in nature.

The second thing ‘getting my mind right’ means for me is that I need to decompress from so many stimulants. When I’m around a lot of people for a any period of time, I get drained. Just traveling for work drains me, but the flights to and from are recharging for me. I know, that’s weird. If we have big groups of our local family and friends for a good day of barbecuing, I need time to recharge. Even our annual trip back to New Mexico for Christmas over-stimulates me and I need time to recharge. Those first few hours on the road back while Eddie is sleeping, yeah those are peaceful and wonderful. Even when driving in snow.

Why don’t I just avoid what over-stimulates me? Because I don’t want to. Life, for me, isn’t about avoiding what over-stimulates me. Life is about balance. Even though I might be over-stimulated, I still am most likely enjoying myself. I can be over-stimulated and happy at the same time. I can be over-stimulated and having a great fucking time. Being over-stimulated doesn’t always mean something isn’t good for you. Except drugs, those stimulants are always bad for you.

Needing to recharge is something that every person should balance with everyday life. Life comes at us fast and doesn’t always make sense (uh hello, we are living through a pandemic right now). Living life today means working, sometimes really long hours, taking care of not only ourselves, but also family members of all ages and pets, and possibly trying to enjoy some hobbies. Hobbies can be recharging. Work can be recharging. Family can be recharging. But for some, these can all be truly amazing things that just drain the energy from a person.

I am that person. I enjoy my work, spending time with family and friends, and all of my little hobbies. But that doesn’t mean that sometimes, and quite frequently, I need time to decompress and recharge. There is nothing wrong with needing to recharge. In fact, if you say you are taking care of yourself first but you don’t give yourself time to recharge, you truly are not taking care of yourself. You know, in my opinion. Recharging doesn’t have to be a week off of work. It doesn’t have to be leaving the kids behind for a weekend or more while you go off on some retreat. I mean, it could, but recharging doesn’t have to be some grand event.

Recharging looks different to everyone and for me, it looks different every week. Some weeks recharging is simply taking some time to walk the dogs after dinner each night. Sometimes it is reading some fiction fantasy book. Sometimes it is having the house to myself for hours or days at a time. My body and my soul usually tells me what I need. If I listen, I feel so much better. If I don’t listen, I get more and more overwhelmed and over-stimulated until I listen.

Recharging isn’t a bad thing. Being an empath and needing to recharge doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you. You do you and take care of yourself first. I am.

Why Are There So Many People

I hate crowds. HATE crowds. In any situation. For many different reasons. Crowds stress me out and ruin my mood. It doesn’t matter if the crowd is the crowds at the mall, in the mountains, or large family gatherings. Crowds are not for me.

I used to think this was just a factor of being introverted. I believe, and I haven’t researched this, that many introverts are also empaths. I am both. I am an introvert and an am empath. I believe both prefer to avoid crowds.

Crowds drain me. It’s like they suck all of my energy out of me without me being able to control it. After being in or near crowds, I need to be alone. It makes life difficult around holidays or when camping in busy times. Going shopping, grocery or for “fun”, is difficult too. Hiking is miserable when other people are on the trail. Conferences are two-fold for me.

I cannot define how many people determines a crowd to me as it varies based on the day. Sometimes a crowd is as simple as just a few people hanging out. Most of the time, it is anything that most people would say is a small group. All of the time, it is mass quantities of people in one location.

No matter the occasion, as the volume of the group goes up, my energy and ability to function in the group goes down. I think that there is a part of this that has nothing to do with being an empath or being introverted. I can hear everything and I am always tuned in to everything going on around me. When there are a lot of conversations or a lot of people doing things, my senses and my brain absorb all of it. No matter how much I try, I cannot figure out how to shut this off. Hell, meditation in my nerd nook in my office can be difficult depending on the dogs moving around, people staying with us, or merely the sounds coming from the windows at 5:30 am.

When I know I’m going to be around large crowds, or crowds in general, I’ve learned to try to plan time to desensitize and recharge. I haven’t mastered it around holidays when we are visiting family because I am also contending with my need to make sure I’m not being too rude by taking time to be by myself, but I do plan around the trip. I have learned that for almost any vacation, I need to take time to recharge once we get home before jumping back into work. I always plan BBQs on Friday or Saturday, or on Sunday when it is a holiday three-day weekend. I used to do this to make sure I had a recovery day from drinking, but now I continue so I can recharge after having people over.

Don’t get me wrong, I love our family and friends. I love hosting for people to come over. I love seeing our nieces and nephews. But I also get physically and emotionally drained by it. The key for me, whether I’m an empath or an introvert, or just me, is to plan around crowds. If I plan for time to recharge after being around a crowd of any size, then I can handle crowds more often. If I don’t plan, my over-stimulation takes over and my emotions and reactions become a damn mess. Just another reason I plan pretty much everything about my life.

You Are Too Close

Part of who I am yearns for closeness and feeling love from others. But the rest of me yearns for solitude. It is a difficult balance that I used to ignore by drinking alcohol to be more social. Alcohol released my feeling of overwhelm or nervousness when around others, especially large groups. I used to think I was weird or had something wrong with me. I mean, there are lots of things wrong with me, but this isn’t one of them.

As I continue to grow as a person, and as I continue to research and learn more about who I am and the emotional and psychological dimensions impacting my life, I have discovered that I am easily overstimulated. Once I discovered this, I had a direction in how to adjust my life so I can recover from over-stimulation a lot easier than relying on alcohol to relax me.

One of the effects of being an empath is that we get overwhelmed and overstimulated by too much physical contact or too much time spent with others. Those who aren’t empaths and may be extroverts don’t understand this at all. They take offense to us needing to distance ourselves and take me time. My husband is one of those extroverts. He lives to have a lot of people around him and thrives off of the energy of other people and large crowds. I thrive off of alone time and no contact with other people. We are very different and once I stopped drinking and these needs became more prominent, it was a bit of a shock. We had to learn to function together with our different personalities while also learning to honor each other’s needs.

This quarantine and social distancing has affected both of us very differently. In the early months, he was driving me absolutely crazy. We were following the stay-at-home orders very closely and weren’t seeing local friends or family. Eddie has been working from home consistently and had no human contact other than me. I was losing my mind. I got to the point that I told him he needed to go to someone else’s house so he can get his energy out with other people. Since he didn’t have any interaction with other people outside of Zoom calls for work, he was driving me insane. Eddie is a fun guy who likes to pester and annoy me. It’s all loving, but I had hit my capacity for handling it. We had no time away from each other, even with him now having an office in a basement room.

As for me, well I’ve been generally perfectly fine staying home and not seeing people. I struggled when we had a friend here for about a month and then my mother-in-law right after, but it wasn’t anything to do with them. My struggle was primarily around having too many people around me. I didn’t feel as though I had any separation from people. As long as this quarantine/stay-at-home/social distancing continues and as long as I can get Eddie out of the house and in contact with other people who are staying home too, I could stay home forever. Yes, I want to travel, but without other people around.

I foresee that once life starts getting back to normal and we are able to be around larger groups, I’m going to have to slowly re-integrate myself into groups. I’m going to have to be more prepared and plan for giving myself the time and space I need to recharge. I’m going to have to be able to identify my reactions that indicate I am overstimulated. I’m going to have to relearn how to stand up for myself and my need for space and quiet. It won’t be easy, but to preserve my sanity, it will be worth it.

I Have a Lot of Empathy

What is empathy and how do I know if I have it? Is it really something I can “have?”

According to Psychology Today, empathy is the ability to recognize, understand, and share the thoughts and feelings of another person, animal, or fictional character. Empathy is not to be confused with sympathy. Sympathy is the feeling of concern for another person or a desire for the other person to be happier. When a person exhibits empathy, they are feeling the grief or sadness or angst of another person. When a person is sympathetic, they are recognizing the feelings the other person is having and are wishing that person well. You can by both sympathetic and empathetic at the same time, but they are not interchangeable.

Yes, empathy is something that every person can have. Empathy is something that is generally developed as children. There are some people who do not know how to be empathetic and then there are the empaths who are so empathetic that they sometimes aren’t able to distinguish an empathetic feeling from a personal feeling. People can have a lot of empathy and still may not be true empaths.

Those of us who are empaths struggle with the feelings of others’ situations taking over our life. We may end up with anxiety or depression. For example, I am an empath who has to cautiously determine what shows or movies I watch because I take on the stress or pain of the characters. I really enjoyed watching Sons of Anarchy years ago, but my empathetic response left me feeling extremely stressed the rest of my day. I had to stop watching the show. This was the first true example of recognizing what was happening to me that I could identify as a trigger. Even still today, I started watching Outlander and had to pause and maybe even stop because of the reaction I was having to the show.

Shows are just one example. When my friend lost her father recently, I took on the pain and feelings and emotions of losing a wonderful father. It was as though I personally lost a father. Maybe it didn’t help that my dad had just overdosed and proved how far gone he is. Either way, I had a rough few days around my friend’s father’s passing.

When my friend’s are going through hell, I am right there in hell with them. When family is struggling, I am struggling too. I absorb the feelings of what other’s around me are experiencing and experience it with them. This is not something intentional that I do. In fact, I don’t know how to minimize it or even prevent it. I have not learned of any method of potential control over my empathetic response.

So, how do you tell the difference between having a lot of empathy and being an empath? It may be simple, it may not. I truly believe there are different levels of empathy and different levels of being an empath. If you are at all concerned that your level of empathy for others is causing issues in your life, I recommend speaking with a professional. As for me, right now I can generally identify when it is happening and I can work with it.

Empathy is important in our lives and in our society. I wish more people were just a bit more empathetic towards others. We might see more people caring for other’s and helping each other more.

Thoughts About Family

I’ve seen so many quotes that say things like “family is everything” or “blood is thicker than water.” These are all over social media and people use them in everyday conversation. The underlying theme is that, no matter what, family sticks together.

I wish life was as simple as that. For some families, it is. For mine, it is not. If I were to stick with my family no matter what, I would not be where I am today. I would be living a much different life supporting people who only take from others or supporting everything the drug addicts do. If family was the only thing that mattered in life, my life would be miserable and depressing.

The thing about family is you can’t choose who your blood family is, but you can choose who you consider family. Blood may literally be thicker than water, but familial blood does not have to rule your life. Your life is yours to live.

I choose to associate and keep close quite a bit of my family. I used to force relationships with more of my family but got tired of being the only one who put effort into those relationships. Keeping family close means different things for all of them. It depends on the relationship. It depends on their efforts as well as mine. Relationships are a two-way street.

I have family I would give a chance to have a relationship once they turn 18 and can make decisions for themselves. I have family that will never have a chance to come back into my life. That sounds harsh, but it is my reality. I choose not to support those who keep taking more and more from me or those who abuse drugs and emotionally abuse those who take care of him.

That brings me to my father. I don’t even like calling him that. It feels dirty. It feels wrong. I could use sperm donor, I think that is from a movie, but I can’t think which one. But I’ll call him dumbass because that is what he is. Dumbass has been a drug addict most of my life. It has escalated year after year. More and more drugs. From meth to opioids, he is or has been on all of them. Well, dumbass broke his ankle, got home from the hospital and then overdosed on what he had in stock. If my grandmother had not called my sister worried because he wouldn’t answer the phone, he would have been there on his own and may have possibly died. How do I feel about that? He died to me many years ago. There is no feeling left there except for disgust and annoyance. Today I am more frustrated that he keeps manipulating my grandmother to pay for things that allow him to be home and continue using drugs. Dumbass text me two days late for my birthday and included the typical poor me message. First, he got my phone number from my grandmother’s phone without my permission and has sent harassing messages a few times since. Second, this is the first birthday in over 10 years that he even bothered to try to get a hold of me. Selfish. He is extremely selfish.

Recently, one of my friend’s lost her dad due to health complications. I was more devastated about his death that I would have been for dumbass’. Her dad was a good dad. He was loving and funny and a guy I enjoyed being around. I can’t imagine not hearing his jokes and voice ever again. He was more to me than I ever thought. It sucks that death brought those feelings. I already miss him and it’s been years since I saw him.

Family is not just comprised of those who you share blood with. Family doesn’t have to be people you see or talk to frequently. In my opinion, family is a connection that can’t be explained. My family is comprised of more than just my blood relatives and I will do anything for that family.