Gratitude

CICEROWhen you’re feeling low, one of the tools you can sharpen is expressing gratitude. It sounds counter-intuitive but dog knows intuition is not a reliable source of evidence anyway.

When we are thinking of things for which to be grateful, most of us might start broad and name things like sight, hearing, legs, arms or general intelligence. The more we practice, the more detailed we tend to get. The more detailed we get, the more often we might notice things throughout the day, not just once or twice a day.365

At the end of the day, I find it nice to log on to my app, 365 Gratitude, and it’s an opportunity to think about some of the cool things that happened that day.

The more I get into my atheism, the more wondrous I see life. Our time here is short lived. We have built our society on the backs of those who came before us. Their wisdom and knowledge have helped us and our wisdom will help those who come after us. Part Lifeof what I intend to share is waking up from the mythology of religion.

I will be at the American Atheists  convention in Cincinnati easter weekend so that may interrupt my video-making/blog-posting as well. Hope to see you there!

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Narcissism

When I was working at a pet supply company, I worked with a person who thought she was the smartest person in the room. I began to do some research about narcissism, borderline personality disorder, sociopathy, psychopathy and the Dart Triad psychopathy.dt

Moving forward, I began to be vigilant about anyone who came into my life with these traits. The irony was, at the time, my drinking was ratcheting up and what I thought was normal (to be empathetic) was turned into hate, ambivalence and antipathy. I was being selfish, cold and calculating myself.

narc2Fast forward 3-5 years and now I am still vigilant about narcs. I urge people who are out there to understand that narcs can be very persuasive and charming. Also, if you know someone who is in the depths of addiction, avoid believing they are narcissist until they have been sober at least a year.

You can’t mentally diagnose a person who is in the depths of addiction with psychopathy, bipolar or BPD. It is very important they remain sober for some time before they are diagnosed.

That being said, people who are diagnosed as NPD, psychopath or something similar sobneed to be watched and/or ignored.

That seems like a contradiction but you may need to watch them until you’ve determined they are a danger and once you have done so, ignoring them is the best way to keep them at bay.

Again, when you are dealing with an addict, you cutlikely will have to give them an ultimatum- either get help or get out of your life. Trust me, if they choose to continue on their path of destruction, you will be grateful for cutting ties.

But I urge you to get familiar with the narcissist and psychopathic symptoms and if you ever see these types in your life again- run!

Expectations

One of my bad habits is having high expectations- of others, events and sometimes blamemyself. When that happens, I often get disappointed over and over and hold grudges.

I couldn’t understand why people wouldn’t act a certain way (to my satisfaction, of course). In the beginning, I am sure I blamed other people. Eventually, I knew I was the common denominator but I couldn’t figure out why I expected so much. Often I would meet people (especially at a new job) and they would earn my trust and then do what I considered betraying me. In reality, I Give-yourself-permissionwas likely being dramatic and too controlling of the way my life unfolded.

Once I went through my addiction to alcohol and began recovery, I learned that it was OK not to expect this to happen or that person to be kind to me. Is it nice when things go my way? Of course. But expecting it to go my way and then feeling low when it doesn’t, it’s just too much negative energy to manage. It’s very stressful and exhausting.

However, once I gave myself permission to stop attempting to control things, life became era lot simpler.

I wasn’t angry as much. I didn’t have as much to complain about so I think my demeanor was more tolerable. I received more pleasant surprises and I was more relaxed when something unexpected popped up.

Lowering one’s expectations doesn’t mean to have low standards. It reminds me of a skit on Mad TV from the 90s where they talked about a dating service called “Lowered Expectations” and all the people were blatantly leflawed in some way. I don’t think someone should have low expectations for a mate or quality of work or friends. I think basic respect is a must and certain other criteria are important.

But what I am talking about mostly is expectations that are either too high for someone to achieve consistently or expectations for small, unimportant things. When you can relax, sit back, and enjoy serenethe possibility of what is to come, it can be exciting… in a good way.

This is where being a control freak can really take a toll on you and everyone around you. Consider not having such high expectations for every little thing in your life and the serenity will follow….

Mindfulness

thoughtfulOne of the techniques that can really help when you find you have a bad habit you want to minimize is mindfulness.

If you definitely feel like you want to change a bad habit and some of the other topics I’ve mentioned have rung true for you, then taking the time to be mindful of these things can be the first step to slowing them down- probably not getting rid of them altogether but certainly making that habit rear its ugly head less frequently (and possibly, with less intensity).

Once when I was in high school, I didn’t like the way I was treating one of my best jessfriends. She was morbidly obese and, as you would expect, lots of people made fun of her. For some reason, it began to “cramp my style” and I was not being as nice to her as I knew I should have been. When I caught what I was doing, I became mindful of how I was talking to her and made a concerted effort to be more kind and more patient.

During a particular interaction in the library, I was proud I was able to take my time to talk to her instead of knee-jerk reactions to what she said. Choosing my words more carefully and watching my tone, I was able to treat her like she deserved to be treated and, possibly the first time in my life, realize that habits can be changed. But is it hard? Sure. It’s not something you try once and abandon because it’s too difficult.

swearThis also reminded me of another scenario you may be able to relate to- swearing. Some of us swear like sailors in our personal time. My husband and I do this when we are alone with each other. I suspect many men do this when they are around “the boys.” Some women do too. However, most of us, even the swearingest among us, know that when we are around children (especially other people’s children) we are very careful not to say certain words.

This is proof. If you are capable of changing your language habits around children, you kidare capable of doing so with others. The question is, do you want to?

When it comes to mindfulness, I admit, it’s easier to just go about my day on autopilot. So I’ve had to remind myself to be mindful. Change is hard, especially when we are practiced at something.

abuseHave you ever heard of a situation where a woman was in an abusive relationship and you couldn’t understand why she didn’t leave? I’m no expert but I think part of it is that it’s familiar. The enemy we know is better than the (potential) enemy we don’t know. Not knowing what a new life will bring without our abuser is scary. We don’t know if we will be able to persevere. We don’t know if things will be worse overall. We don’t know if people will support us. The unknown can be a scary place.

comfyIt’s not too much different than mindfulness and changing a bad habit. Quitting smoking. Quitting drinking. Quitting drugs. Quitting social media. Quitting a stressful job. And so on….

The current place we hang our hat is comfortable. Maybe we know we aren’t doing something as healthily as we could. But there is payoff in laziness. We’ve practiced this habit for a long time and we’re good at it. Changing is work. It can be stressful. time

But only when we realize that the stakes are higher for losing a loved-one versus wallowing in our complacency does it tend to shift our energy. Maybe, if we realize this before it’s too late, before our loved ones have had enough, maybe we won’t completely exhaust them and the trust they have in us.

Sorry!

One of the ways I have been loving myself more is not saying “sorry” so goddamned livingmuch. I started noticing I was saying it too much and when I dig a bit, I recall, when I say it (in those inappropriate times), my self-esteem is low and I feel like I’m in the way. It’s not an endearing trait.

 

In addition to treating myself better, I bet there will be a difference (subtle or otherwise) in the way others treat me and/or the way I perceive they treat me.

I’ve already talked about loving yourself and how to love yourself more and be kind to yourself (because you can’t guarantee anyone else will). And this “sorry” business is one of the ways that helps with that topic.

poorThat reminded me to convey the basic gist of my blog/YouTube channel: you can be a real asshole sometimes! Saying “sorry” excessively is annoying but not saying it at all can be infuriating, especially for our loved ones. The ones we supposedly love the most.

So, needless to say, for those of us in recovery from addictions, it is important to renew our family’s trust in us. Not only is it important for us to make a big apology (when we are ready) for our actions during our active addiction but it is also important to make living amends. One needn’t be an addict to do this. If you think your life could use some perking up, try this.

changedMy understanding of living amends (an unwritten rule in Alcoholics Anonymous) is twofold- one, you apologize as quickly as possible when you knowingly do wrong to someone. The other way we create a living amends is catching ourselves before we do the wrong.

You might ask yourself “how do I do that!?” Well, in some ways, that’s what my shares are about. Digging deep. Finding out what makes us so angry, annoyed, sad or pessimistic. Improving our attitude towards ourselves and towards life can have a ripple effect and touch all aspects of our existence- our personal life, business interactions, family communication, friendship maintenance etc etc….

mindful-peopleOnce we pinpoint our flaws and/or ways in which we know we are hurting ourselves (in other words, we know we have a bad habit and we know that bad habit may hurt others AND, most importantly, we don’t want to hurt others) we can slowly improve ourselves and our lives. Mindfulness is what can help us avoid practicing those bad habits.

For example, one of my flaws is sarcasm. It can be used to be funny but it can also be hurtful and mean. If I choose that flaw to work on, I can be mindful of the way I talk to people. When it comes to my loved ones, I let it “all hang out” so they tend to see the good, bad and ugly of me. I show them my not-so-sweet side because I don’t fear they will run. As a result, I am not as mindful of the way I talk and act around them.

However, should’t we want to treat them better than anyone? Being mindful can literally giphyentail focusing on that particular thing during the day. Instead of being a zombie or robot, I can be present and observant about the way I act, react and respond to my husband and son. I can do this until it becomes second nature.

So save your sorries for the appropriate times. Don’t apologize for living and sincerely apologize when you’ve done something careless.

Good luck!

Bye bye, 2018….

Dear lord….2018 has been both a tough and satisfying year for me.

JobLossIn January, a few days after ringing in the new year, I was let go from my job. On the one hand, I was relieved and on the other hand, I was pissed. My pissedom was mostly due me feeling like the reason I was given for being let go was bogus. It is my belief I was let go because they couldn’t afford me anymore. But instead of being honest, that is not what I was told by my boss.

I’ve treated the time as a sabbatical. Although, after I was let go, I was ready to jump into job-seeking and networking, I knew I did not want to get another desk job. No worries! Within days I got the flu and was miserable for a week or two.  I lost all motivation to network but I eventually attended a few times for the first half of the year.

We were strapped for money but we made it work. I’ve become an expert in belt-alditightening. Around May my husband sold some property he had inherited and we’ve been living partially off that. In many ways, I became lazy, allowing myself to escape real life by binge watching Netflix and YouTube. At least I didn’t start drinking again. A check mark in the benefits column from 2018.

smartI feel I’ve grown as far as my recovery is concerned. Even including my personal bombshell in June of deconverting from theism. Sitting through AA meetings, “god” & “higher power” talk became more difficult from which to suspend disbelief. I found SMART Recovery and started attending those meetings once a week (still do). As a result of my atheism, a lot of AA habits went away- praying in the morning, talking to my sponsor and “working the steps.” I learned a lot of good things from AA and I still intend to implement what I consider the good stuff in my sobriety.

serenityThings have mellowed in the last several months and I really feel positive for 2019. It feels like only a few years ago 9/11 happened. Time has flown in the TEN years since the great recession began (and only two or three years since the real estate market in my area started getting better). I can’t believe it’s been so long since we turned over the new millennium.

Life in extreme conditionsI’m very grateful to be where I am today and hope I continue to grow and mellow. If I can impart any words of wisdom it is to continue to work on your resilience- it’s one of the greatest tools you can develop as a human being. I also look forward to loving myself more. There are many people in my life I don’t think have my best interests in mind and I need to grow the huevos to let them go.

Life is short, sculpt it any way you like and try not to hurt others while you’re doing so.

regrets-of-the-dying

Why Bother?

It occurred to me that some people might think “Why should I care if someone thinks I’m beyourselfan asshole?” I think that is valid- to a certain extent, you shouldn’t!

 

One of the things I’ve been striving for is being myself and not caring so much what others think of me. You can’t please everyone so one action I take can be perceived as good & positive by one person and annoying & intrusive by another.

The same can be said of my ideas. Carlin once said in one of his sets he felt self-help stuff was garbage- that life is not that difficult and really doesn’t require the help of gurus.

I disagree.

confused

For myself, I have been puzzled by many things in life, wondering what to do in certain circumstances. Part of that has been due to a lack of confidence- perhaps I really do know what to do but doubt my instincts. Sometimes asking the advice of others (friends, family, counselor, self-help book etc….). At other times, I’ve been confused because I don’t know how to stand up for myself, which is related to lacking confidence. I could go on and on.

If seeking advice from someone other than yourself is beneficial, go for it!

For those of us who have empathy and care about others, we don’t want our style of living to be a burden to people. If we’re not married to certain habits and willing to change those so as to make others comfortable, let’s do so.

puppetI will take myself for example. I once wanted to control as much as possible, particularly what others thought of me. If I felt someone had a misunderstanding of me or an action I took, I might try to control the situation by explaining myself and why I did what I did and so on. Once I understood the concept of focusing only on myself and my actions, I let go of others’ opinions of me and attempting to explain myself.

This ties in to “being myself.” I continue to struggle with my natural, introverted desires to have “me” time and when I have go out in public,  I prefer to be left alone. I don’t want to talk to sales people, I don’t (usually) want to chat with people I know I’ve bumped into unexpectedly, and I don’t want to flirt with strangers. This can be perceived as being rude, aloof and asshole-ish.

But mostly, being an asshole has more to do with intent. Being selfish, lacking empathy, and purposely making others uncomfortable when it benefits you is different than my introversion. At one point, I went so far as to experiment with being more friendly and warm and I found it actually stressed me out because what came along with that action is that I was caring too much how people perceived me and when they didn’t respond in kind, it pissed me off. It was creating expectations in me that made me feel worse than before.

careIn my opinion, we should care about ourselves first- be as healthy and content as possible. Once that part is reasonably maintained, then we can move on to worrying about others because if we aren’t fit, there is no point in making sure others are. If we haven’t been maintaining our well-being, we can become resentful, run down, and hypocritical.

Again, I’ll use the airplane analogy- flight attendants tell you during the safety demo that if you are sitting next to someone who might need help in an emergency, place your mask on first before helping them. You can follow that to the logical conclusion that if you are too busy helping the person next to you and run out of oxygen before you have successfully put their mask on, now there are masktwo people in jeopardy. If you help yourself first and successfully get your mask on, you can easily help the person next to you.

So we should care about the suggestions I’m making insofar as 1) It will help with our own health and 2) it contributes to the well-being of others. Ultimately the well-being of others creates a net gain of well-being for us. So perhaps it’s selfish but the seeds we sow today may not see benefits until further down the road.

Think about it.