Cardboard People

I want to first apologize for being overly chatty. My annual bout with laryngitis has begun and already I’m feeling the sting of not being able to communicate freely. Not being able to talk is a fate worse than death, as far as I’m concerned. I can’t speak. I can’t laugh. I can’t sing. It all sucks. I jokingly say that getting laryngitis is God’s way of telling me to shut up and listen. And so I will….later. But this is my forum and dammit! I’ll use it to send smoke signals to the rest of the world, since I can’t talk. ūüôā

Today’s random thought is about the behavior of people, and the masks we wear. Now, I get the whole “time and place” thing. We can’t (and shouldn’t) just say what ever is on our mind when ever we think it. I’m talking about something deeper. Something that defines our character. I’m talking about who we are, on the inside.

We all know that one person. That person who talks a big game but, in reality, is totally different. When they’re in groups they behave one way, and in private they are totally different. These people tend to be “boogie men” that walk around in the daylight.
(I say boogie men, but clearly I’m not only referring to men. Don’t leave me hater comments about how women are boogies, too. Trust me, I’m very well aware. It just sounds silly to say “boogie people” and I don’t care all that much about being PC.)
These are the people who you hear others talk about and think, “Really? He seemed so nice…” and you’re left with a distorted image of him because you’re not sure what to believe.

I see right through those facades, normally. I suppose it isn’t that I see it, with my eyes. I feel it. Something about that person just rubs me the wrong way. And I’ll try to work through it, but ultimately I find that they are just not nice people.

They’re shape shifters. They take on the appearance of their personality to suit the people near them. When someone else joins in, they change again. They are the personality equivalent of cardboard – shallow.

And when people are like this, it’s the very worst. They play games with other people. They pretend to be kind and nice and as soon as


If you have the depth of cardboard, you're useless

the doors are closed, they are horrible and rotten. Their dysfunction leads to other dysfunction. People who love them might make the excuse, “It’s not like that all the time” or “He just had a really bad day” or “She didn’t mean it. She was just upset.” Yeah… I don’t buy it.

Listen, I get that we all behave somewhat differently within the constraints of social situations. Obviously, when I’m at my daughter’s school, I’m not going to swear like a sailor. Conversely, when I’m at the bar with friends, I’m not going to be demure. I am, however, totally, 100% the same person, no matter what. The person whose thoughts you’re reading now would be the same person you’d hear in real life.

The really messed up part about cardboard people is that because they absorb whatever is around them, they never assume the blame. It’s always someone else’s fault. They deflect and avoid responsibility because they never fully see that their behavior is a choice. And the people who love them are left carrying the blame….not understanding what they did wrong. It’s upsetting.

No single person is perfect. No one. But I value imperfection. I value growth. I value independence and individuality. I don’t want to keep up with “the Jones'”…hell – I don’t even know any damn Jones’. But overall, I value my ability to think and choose for myself, without being a bitch, and without making other people responsible for my choices. I am who I am because I am willing to make mistakes, learn from them, grow, change, cry, laugh, feel, adapt, think, love…..I am willing to live out loud.

And this… this is the quote of the day from my favorite musical of all time: Evita (secretly, I long to play Eva Peron on stage someday)

“Better to win by admitting my sin than to lose with a halo.” ~Eva Peron

In other words… I’d rather people hate me for who I really am than to love me for someone I’m not. I feel sorry for anyone who feels differently.


Tim Tebow and the hand of God

¬†This post has been a long time coming. ¬†It’s been milling about in my head for days/weeks/months. ¬†Technically, I’ve had a very strong opinion on Tim Tebow since we drafted him back when Josh McDaniels was blowing up¬†coaching the Denver Broncos. ¬†Ugh…. McNugget is a whole other issue. ¬†This is about Tebow.

Tim Tebow AP Photo: Jack Dempsey

Tim Tebow AP Photo: Jack Dempsey

But… it isn’t.

Sit tight with me, folks.  I need to give you some background.

  1. I have been, am, and always will be a Denver Broncos fan, despite the fact that some have accused me of being a bigger Indianapolis Colts fan.
  2. Beyond that, I am a football fan, through and through. ¬†The world stops in my household on Football Sunday. ¬†And Monday. ¬†And sometimes Thursday. ¬†And Saturday, during the playoffs. ¬†Yep…. I’m that guy¬†girl. ¬†So this little rant of mine that’s coming is well founded. ¬†This isn’t something I am regurgitating from talk radio or my husband. ¬†I can think for myself. And I know what I’m talking about.
  3. I am a believer. ¬†I don’t know how far into saying “I’m a Christian” I will go, but if you had to categorize me, yes. ¬†I’m a Christian.

Now that you’ve got some background on me, let’s get started.

Yep… the Denver Broncos are winning games. ¬†And yes, Tebow is leading them. ¬†And yes, he’s a Christian. ¬†And yes, he brings some energy that is exciting and inspiring.

I am so tired of hearing, from my fellow fans, “Tebow’s taking us to the Super Bowl.” ¬†Are you kidding me? We win a few games and all of a sudden we’re a championship team? ¬†Give me a break. ¬†I don’t know how it is in other cities, but I’ve been told that Denver fans are some of the worst in this sense. ¬†We win a few games and suddenly we’re a Championship-caliber team.

Wrong. ¬†We’re not. ¬†And let me tell you why.

  • Tebow is still a rookie quarterback. ¬†He’s green, still. ¬†He’s not accurate. ¬†He still makes stupid choices. ¬†He’s still learning, for Pete’s sake!
  • We can’t go to the Super Bowl with a quarterback who can’t pass consistently and accurately. ¬†And we certainly can’t go with receivers who couldn’t catch a ball in a 3 foot net surrounding them. ¬†Seriously! ¬†How many balls are thrown and hit them in the chest or the hands and they drop it. ¬†Geez! ¬†It’s embarrassing.
  • The defense is playing inspired football. ¬†It’s the only thing we have going for us. ¬†But does anyone remember the ’06 Bears with Rex Grossman? ¬†He had the worst QB rating, ever, in a Super Bowl. ¬†And was mediocre before that. ¬†The defense got them to the Super Bowl. But defenses don’t win Super Bowls. ¬†And if I measure us against the Green Bay Packers (a well-rounded, solid team), there’s no contest.

But it isn’t just that. ¬†A very good friend of mine (who is also a fan just of another team), had a discussion with me last year when we drafted Tebow. ¬†I was pretty fired up about it, then (go figure, huh?) because we drafted a quarterback when we really needed help with defense. ¬†But whatever… bygones. ¬†He asked me. “Is it the fact that he’s a Christian?” ¬†Yeah… it was part of it. ¬†I wasn’t sold on Tebow. ¬†And the whole Christian thing was a turn off. ¬†I was over it. ¬†Just play football, you schmuck. ¬†But then I saw some interviews. ¬†And I saw how he carried himself in the media. ¬†You know what I found? ¬†He is a Christian, but it’s *us* who are making that into what he’s about. ¬†The media is sensationalizing it. ¬†I didn’t really care. ¬†I just wanted to see the guy play football.

Then… Tebowing. ¬†Wow. ¬†I don’t think I’ve ever seen a quart back more polarizing than he is. ¬†People are all types of pissed about the Tebowing thing. ¬†Let me be clear: I don’t give a rip about Tebowing. ¬†People are like, “It’s not Tebowing, it’s praying.” ¬†Sure. ¬†It is. ¬†Who cares, though? ¬†For some of these people, I am truly shocked! ¬†I mean, really? ¬†True Christians who are passing a blanket judgment on others, and for what? ¬†For the glory of knowing that they are somehow better because they “pray” and don’t “Tebow.” ¬†Whatever. ¬†I know enough about Christianity to know this much:

It is not my place to know what’s in the hearts of men. ¬†It is *my* responsibility to have a relationship with Christ, and He will take care of the rest.

Then… and this was the kicker for me today…. I hear, on the news, that some Pastor in Castle Rock, Colorado is preaching that God is helping Tebow win games. ¬†‚ÄúIt‚Äôs not luck,‚ÄĚ Wayne Hanson said. ‚ÄúLuck isn‚Äôt winning six games in a row. It‚Äôs favor. God‚Äôs favor.‚ÄĚ

What. The. HECK? ¬†I can’t claim to know God’s plan, or know His thoughts on Pro-Football. ¬†But I’m gonna take a guess that winning/losing in the NFL doesn’t really rank compared with famine, disease and tragedy that the people on this earth face on a daily basis. ¬†So that’s just asinine, to assume that it’s God’s favor. ¬†You know, people on the opposing teams (and fans) pray, too. ¬†Just sayin’.

I made a joke, recently, that seeing Tebow “Tebowing” probably ripped a hole in the time/space continuum. ¬†Let me be clear: I don’t mind that he prays. ¬†I don’t mind that he’s a Christian. ¬†I don’t mind that people are mimicking him, all over the world (notice I said mimic, not mock). ¬†I think that God does amazing things with people who get on their knees for Him for *any* reason. ¬†That’s His business, not mine. ¬†For once, we have a guy who’s a pro-athelete getting on the news for something other than rape/drug abuse/domestic assault/etc. and actually inspiring adults and children to be better people, to reach for their goals, and to have faith in something bigger than themselves. ¬†That is absolutely amazing.

Here’s what I can see, as a fan and as a woman of strong spiritualism: Tebow doesn’t pray that God will help him win the game. ¬†He’s said this, out loud. ¬†When Tim Tebow is praying, he prays that God will give him patience/guidance/strength/focus…whatever. ¬†The reason he is able to come back after a fumble or interception or 3-and-out series and play like it’s his first drive is because he has the divine gift of focus. ¬†That’s all. ¬†His faith keeps him strong and focused and determined. ¬†And that’s not because “God likes Tebow” any more than God likes any of us.

I have long said that Tim Tebow has talent and a drive to succeed that I’ve not seen in a while. ¬†He is, essentially, the Rocky of Football. “What he lacks in skill, he makes up for with will.” ¬†Give the guy time and space, to grow into the NFL. ¬†I believe in his abilities. ¬†He’s not, nor should he, be ready to “take us all the way.” ¬†He’s just a man. ¬†And he’s still learning.

He makes it fun to watch the Broncos play, again. ¬†We haven’t had that in a while. ¬†I like Tebow. ¬†I do. ¬†But I’m not going to run out and buy all the Tebow gear I can find, because his future in Denver is uncertain. ¬†But please, people… lay off the whole “God/Tebow/Christian” thing. ¬†He’s just a man.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

Who is in my head?

**Side note: I’ve started a Facebook site for theflameinside, and I’d love it if you connected with me there. That makes it easier to share with your friends, if you find a post that is particularly moving for you. Or just to hear some of the other news I’ve got that isn’t necessarily blog worthy. Check it out here!

I have found myself hearing the things I say to myself in an acute, very sensitive way. And I’ve come to a few conclusions:

  • Very few of the tapes that play in my head are actually *mine*. Often, they are other people who have said things that have stuck.

    Useless tapes we play

    Courtesy of graur razvan ionut

  • Most of the time, they don’t even make sense!
  • The person who did say it has bigger issues than I do.

Here are a few examples that fit the bill:

  • “You’re too heavy to cut your hair to your shoulders. It’ll make you look fat.” (Um….wrong. I know a few beautiful ladies who are heavier who have short hair.)
  • “You’re stupid.” (This couldn’t be more wrong. I won’t even give credence to the statement by explaining why.)

There are a few others, though, that I’ve heard in my years that stick with me. Even though they weren’t said with malice or intent. Here are two that I hear that have actually done me some good:

  • “When you run, it sounds like elephant footsteps.” (Thanks, BFF#1 – I think of it every time I run, but it forces me to shorten my stride and run with better form. And yes…every time we run the Runnin’ of the Green, I will remind you. ‘Cause it’s funny!)
  • “You can’t do that.” (I realize this is a general phrase I’ve heard a lot over the years, but it’s part of what drives me to do anything.)

This story is about those two phrases. I’m not sure if I’ve told the story before, so if I have, bear with me as I tell it again. If not, then you’re in for a heartwarming and amusing tale of foolishness.

BFF#1 told me that me feet sounded like elephant footsteps the very first time we ever ran together. I weighed about 198 lbs, and had never run (on purpose) in my life. She called me on Friday and said she’d be running the very popular Bolder Boulder (a challenging 10K race), and asked if I wanted to do it with her. I did. Sounded fun (I would come to regret that!).

So there we were. About 1/2 K into the 10K. Amongst the other 1000’s of runners were the unmistakable “whap-whap-whap” sounds of my heavy feet. (Insert her comment here.) Now… at the time I was a little mortified. All I could think of were the awful various “you’re-a-fat-girl” random tapes that I could so easily cue up. But, I did it. I performed horribly. 10K took me 1:40 to do. And I suffered for days afterward and thought, “What the heck was I thinking? I’m not a runner!”

Now, insert the other comment here: “You can’t do that.” I was determined to prove whoever it was in my head wrong. Yeah…I can. And I so I did. I started running. Small runs, at first. 2 miles here and there. Then a little more. And then a little more. And the next year, I ran that same 10K in 1:10. A full 30 minutes less. And then, I was hooked. I started running more and more and more.

The next year I really wanted to do the Colfax Half-Marathon (which is 13.2 miles). But I was a little short on cash and felt a little weird about it because, despite the fact that I could and had run longer distances, that tape played over and over. “You can’t do that.” The week before the event, BFF#1 calls and says she’s running the event as part of a relay team with the people she works with.
**Side note: I love BFF#1. She is one of two people who have known me, inside and out, good and bad, dark and bright, and loves me anyway. Nothing (and I repeat *nothing*) has ever happened between us with the intent of hurting the other. But that being said, there is an unspoken competitiveness between us. It’s a good thing. It always pushes us further and challenges us to be better people. I’m grateful for her every day.
But…all of that loveliness aside, I was like, “Oh hell no! You’re not running that event if don’t!” So I managed to come up with enough for the registration and there I was – ready to run the entire distance, alone.

There was a cool satisfaction I had; sort of an empowered state of mind. I *could* run it and now, I was going to.

Imagine my surprise when I get the call from her, the Friday before the event, and hear these words: “We’re not running it. One of the guys on our team is injured.” Wait…..WHAT?!? She was gracious, as she always is, and offered to take me to the start line. The hubs would meet me at the finish to get me home. For the next two days I lamented my stupid need to be competitive and felt like an idiot because now I was going to torture myself for 13.1 miles…and for what? For the glory of knowing I was a “real runner”?

Race day arrived. My BFF picked me up and drove me. I expressed my uncertainty at the distance. I was nervous. But, being the amazing friend she is, she just encouraged me and made me feel better. She dropped me off and I stood there, looking at all of the other runners and still had that nagging need to come clean to her. So I called. The conversation went something like this:

me: (ring ring)
her: Hey! Is everything okay?
me: Yeah….no. I’m still nervous. And I have a confession. (sigh) I was upset because you were running the relay so I signed up for the whole half-distance so I could prove that I wasn’t a loser and then you aren’t running it and now the joke’s on me because I will be kicking my own ass for the next 13 miles while you go home and relax and I’m stupid!
her: (quietly) …I know that’s why you did it.
me: I’m sorry.
her: It’s okay. I’m glad that it helped you push yourself to do something that is uncomfortable. You’ll do fine. I know you’ll do great.

And so I did it. I went out, ran 13 miles through old neighborhoods full of memories and with the support and encouragement of the people who loved me and believed in my success. And yeah…. at about mile 12 I was in pain and regretting every stupid step that took me from the start line to where I was. But after crossing the finish line I was overwhelmed with so much pride that I cried. I still have my finisher’s medal hanging in my office. It is a reminder of what I can do if I put my mind to it. (I also did the same event with BFF#1 the next year.)

This is the moral of the story: most of the tapes we play for ourselves are played when we’re facing adversity. And that’s when it’s easiest to believe. Pay attention to what you say to yourself when the chips are down. And refuse that voice admission into your choices. Some of your tapes, like mine, can be motivating. But others are destructive. What are you playing for yourself and it is suiting you? If not, destroy that tape. Replace it with something else.

I’ll give you one: “If you can control it, you can do whatever you put your mind and heart to. I believe in your power.”

And you can quote me on that.

I’m just not that into you

I’ve been having a pretty good week. Riding this wave of contentment has felt great. I haven’t been looking for reasons to be dumpy, and when some reasons have presented themselves, I’ve dismissed them and moved on. I’m not sticking my head in the sand, I’m just comfortable with not letting anxiety and depression take hold of me. It’s been great.

But it’s funny how it can sneak in a back door, when you least expect it.

So there I was, minding my own business, working on a Christmas present for my dad (I’m giving him a framed family portrait of our whole family – but having to Photoshop some people into it, which is somewhat time-consuming). I was browsing through old photos so I could find the people I need and I stumble on an old portrait session of myself with my mother. And I was thinner. And pretty. Wow… I was so pretty.

Now, two things happened:

  1. There is a really great picture of me with her, but I didn’t want her in the photograph with me. At all. Like….not.even.a.little. So I pulled it up and removed her, digitally. Which kind of messed with me.
  2. Spending that much time on a picture causes you to actually *look* at it for a while. And the whole time I’m looking at my face thinking, “You were perfect back then. Look at your face shape and your eyes and your lips. You were stunning.” Were. Was. And then….that messed with me.

And so the pain took hold. And for a while I was stuck with it. I was remembering how painful that visit from my mother was. I was remembering the emotional turmoil I was in. And then….I was remembering how it felt to feel pretty and desirable. To be fair, that picture was taken only 15 lbs from where I’m at now. But those 15 lbs might as well have been 150 lbs last night.

I remembered the mistakes I made that led me to disordered eating. I remembered the damage I caused my body. I remembered the damage I caused my soul. I started recounting all my mistakes. Friends I lied to, horrible things I said to myself….the selfish way I neglected my husband and child. I knew, in my head, that the girl in that photo wasn’t better than me. Actually…she was way worse off than I am. But she was me. And I am her. Last night, I just couldn’t escape that.

I went to bed and had very restless sleep. Sometime in the wee hours of the morning, I had a nightmare. Among other, very personal things that happened in the dream, there was an ugly little tar-covered demon chasing me. I kept trying to get away from it, but it was always right there, just reaching out to get me. It was scary. And sad. I woke up screaming and terrified.

I was awake for a while after that. And thought a lot of about what that dream meant. And it occurred to me: that demon was *inside* that girl in the picture. But not in me now. Sure, I have to be vigilant against it. If I let my guard down, it’s too easy to slip into bad habits. But that thing isn’t in me now. And it’s clear that I don’t want it.

I did fall back asleep, finally. And woke up this morning feeling a little relieved. Although it was scary, my subconscious was reminding me that I’m not in that place anymore. I’m just not that into you, Bulimia.

And then, I was reminded that I was beautiful, and real. And human.

It’s probably a break through for me. I was able to feel the pain, and move on without it. That’s a big deal in these parts of the world. It feels good to be able to move past it. Yay for me.

When you’ve got nothin’, you’ve got nothin’ to lose

**Just to start out, for those who’ve visited my blog before: check the sweet new logo I designed. I also messed around with the background, too. I’m super happy with it. And now my blog feels a little more like mine. I thought of it in an anxiety-riddled sleepless night. Yup…this is what I think about at 3am while I’m wide awake staring darkness in the face: logos. I actually think of other things, too. People… but that’s not this post.

This post is about my job. I haven’t documented how awful my job is, because it really isn’t. The reason I am looking for a new job (unsuccessfully, so far), is because the pressure of what’s expected of me has been too much to bear. So you might be wondering what I do. I’m in marketing (and design), trying to expand a business that’s been slowly dying. Additionally, I haven’t been given the time or tools to be successful. And the worst part is that I actually hold myself accountable to those unrealistic expectations.

But now I’m starting to lose my hold on my give-a-damn. I just don’t care, anymore, about that place. It’s so unhealthy. And today, I told my boss that I was taking meds so I could handle working there. It was somewhat liberating. He said, “We need to get you off Xanax. You shouldn’t have to take that.”

…..At first I could feel the irritation creep up my back and take residence in my neck… but I simply said, “You’re right. I shouldn’t. But we should take a break from the ideal world we think we should live in, and look at the reality we actually live in.” Score one for me. And that empowered me. I actually felt better than I have in a while. I told him, plainly and directly, that I didn’t blame him. I don’t. But that my limit had been reached a while ago, and it’s not acceptable for me to live with the pressure and unrealistic expectations and slowly lose the battle everyday. Until that changes, I have to do what’s best for me. And I’m proud of that.

A special shout out to the amazing friend that always believes in me. It’s been because of that love and support that I’ve been able to continue and push through some of the deep, dark places I’ve been in.

The last couple of days have been better. Knowing that I have direction has released me from some of the weight that was crushing me.

That and……… I’m not gonna lie, I’ve been drinking my fair share of milk, lately. Yum. I see a new ad campaign ahead for dairy farmers:
“Milk….it keeps you out of the loony bin.”

This is the meaning of Christmas

I’ve long spoken of my disdain for the holidays.¬† The greed.¬† The outrageous behavior.¬† The ridiculous parents that spoil their children (who are already spoiled and misbehaved).¬† The people going further into debt because they just *have* to give that present to so-and-so because “it’s what you do for Christmas.”¬† The fighting between family members.¬† The nonsensical drinking at functions and the following justification because “it’s Christmas” and that makes it okay.

And I won’t even go into the “keeping Christ in Christmas” thing.¬† Today.¬† This time.¬† Out loud.¬† (Not gonna lie, I am totally on a soapbox in my head, but no one needs to hear that.)

BFF#2 even got me a “Humbug.”¬† This little creature that is ugly and, for me, symbolizes the ugliness of the season.

But beyond that, you might be asking yourself, “Why?¬† Why, flame, are you so fired up about this?”¬† I’ll tell you why.¬† It’s a little sad story I like to call the history of my life.¬† It may be depressing in the beginning, but stick with me.¬† It gets better, in the end.

I wasn’t always so jaded.¬† For the first few years of my life, I didn’t know enough to be jaded.¬† That all changed when I hit the ripe old age of 6.¬† I learned, then, that things aren’t fair.¬† And you know what?¬† I was okay with that, for a while.

We were poor.¬† When I hear my friends (who are all doing well for themselves) talk about not wanting their children to “go without,” you’d think they meant food or shelter or something equally important.¬† But no… they’re talking about laptop computers and other bullshit.¬† When I say, “I went without,” I mean that quite literally.¬† At times I didn’t eat.¬† At times we didn’t have electricity.¬† I was even homeless for a small time, and lived in a parking lot.

By the time I was 8 years old, we lived in San Diego and had it rough.  My mother was sinking further into addiction (her drug of choice was meth, but I suspect she did other things, too).  She was also struggling with undiagnosed severe hypo-thyroid disease and narcolepsy.  My step-father, at the time, was sexually abusing me, and using heroin.  We had several other people living with us, all unemployed and all addicted to drugs and alcohol.  Both my brothers were working or away from the house a lot of the time, trying to make a living and/or escape the madness.  I had no such luck.  I immersed myself in books, school, and other cerebral activities.  If I was in my head, my heart was less attached to the awful situation I lived in.  We got two checks at the beginning of the month, every month.  Disability and child support.  We lived like Kings and Queens for the first couple of weeks.

The problem is that Thanksgiving and Christmas come at the end of the month.¬† When I was 9 years old, I didn’t eat on Christmas Day.¬† Nothing.¬† Not over-cooked turkey.¬† Not mushy stuffing.¬† Not even gross gelatinized cranberry sauce.¬† Not. Any. Thing.

When I was 10, we got on some sort of list that delivered food baskets for the holidays.¬† We also got presents that year.¬† I got a jacket.¬† And a toy, I think.¬† I remember my mom asking me what I wanted, and I felt uncomfortable asking for anything.¬† I didn’t know who was giving me a present, and I certainly didn’t think it was right to *ask* for anything when they were being generous by giving me anything at all.¬† I would be happy with what I got.¬† And at the end of the day, that’s something that’s never changed.

When I was 11 years old, I got a bike.  Someone, a stranger, bought me a bicycle.  A 12-speed.  I was floored.  When I was 13 I got make-up and a journal to write in.  The very first entry I made in that journal was that, someday, when I was older, I would do the same thing for a kid who was in need.

When I was 13 years old, I understood these things:

  • Life isn’t fair.¬† And you had to deal with it.
  • Poverty existed, and I was living it, but “poor” was a state of mind.
  • The best gift you can give or get is love.
  • Regular people had the power to do extraordinary things.
  • Although adults make really bad choices that make their lives the way they are, children suffer.¬† A lot.
  • The kindness of strangers can literally change someone’s life (and it’s changed my life a number of times).

By the time I was 14 years old, I lived with my dad.¬† We didn’t have a lot.¬† I’d even say that we still lived below the poverty line – but we were not poor.¬† We chose to make do with what we had instead of going on welfare.¬† My daddy sacrificed so I could have little things.¬† I did without, sometimes,¬†so my dad still had money to go out and have adult space.

Fast forward to adulthood.¬† Those bell ringers you see?¬† I give whatever change I have in my pocket or purse to them.¬† And my daughter does the same.¬†¬†I was in line at the grocery store, once, and a woman wasn’t able to pay for her Christmas meal (ham, potatoes and stuffing), so I paid for it.

But the tradition I have that is the most important to me is “The Giving Tree.”¬† (If you don’t know what that is, go to your local grocery store and find the Christmas tree that’s normally near the service/customer service¬†desk.¬† There will be a tree that has little paper ornaments on it.¬† You can choose a name, go buy a present, bring the name and present back to the store and they will get it to the child.)
I go to the store every Christmas, and pick a name off the tree.¬† I look through the names and almost always find a name of a child who reminds me of myself, at that age: a girl about 11-14 who has general interests listed but no specifics.¬† I look, hard, for a gift that matches those interests and bring it back.¬† Sometimes it’s been a diary.¬† Sometimes a winter coat.¬† Sometimes an art kit.¬† Every year I do this.

That is what Christmas is.¬† Christmas is the act of giving.¬† It’s the act of giving to make someone else’s life better, without the expectation of receiving and without the sense of obligation.¬† I do this every year because I said, when I was 13 years old, that I would.¬† If you’re looking for Christ in your Christmas, this is where you find Him.¬† In giving.

I was moved to write this post after reading The Bloggess’ post about how she gives, and the suggestions she makes¬†for her readers.¬† She inspired me.¬† And I hope I inspire you, this year, to give.¬† It doesn’t have to be money.¬† Give of your heart.¬† Give of your time.¬† Be kind.¬† Love people.¬† That is the spirit of Christmas.¬† Everything else is just noise.

The battle resumes

I’m back to the battle. It’s been a tough several days in my part of the world. But in the last week or so, I’ve made some pretty big decisions.

Part of the reason I have been struggling so much is the sheer unrelenting stress that I’ve been under at work. I’m a sticker-outer. I’ll wait, in a holding pattern, for a very long time when I’m unsure about something. Although I tend to be spontaneous with little choices (like, jeans or slacks today?), when it comes to the bg stuff, I’ll wait it out. Often times, I wait too long.

In the case of work, I allowed myself to wait too long. And last week, on my little break from work (6 glorious days off!), I made the decision to start looking for a new job. It wasn’t/isn’t to make that choice, but I had decided that I’ll never get better when things aren’t improving. All I’m doing is masking symptoms with the meds. And… I don’t want to be on meds forever.

Mediocrity has become the acceptable form of performance at my office. That isn’t something I handle well. I’m not tolerant of people who choose not to put forth their best efforts. Every now and then? Sure… we all have days when we decide that we can’t focus on things too long. But all the time…every day, this is how it is. I can’t handle it anymore. Their shortcomings become my responsibility. And I literally can’t take on any more.

So… there we are. I re-did my resume. I started job searching. I’ve sent out a few. No responses, yet.

There is a little bit of fear in that. I’m pretty fragile, right now. I’m putting on a very tough face for the world, but I’m breaking underneath. Hopelessness… it’s the worst. And when you’re putting yourself out there to be judged, personally and professionally, it is a little scary. So… I’ve been really struggling, inside.

I’m afraid of many things. Truthfully – they’re all the unlikely things. I’m afraid of falling down stairs. I’m afraid of zombies. I’m afraid of boogeymen under my bed. Turns out, I’m also afraid of failure. Which I realize is a very real thing for most people.

We make choices based on pleasure and pain. But pain is always the stronger motivator. And for too long, I’ve tried to justify the work ethic in the company I’m with. But now, the pain has become too much and I’d rather face judgement and failure from prospective employers than the misery at the office.

I’m praying, hard, every day. God… show me the way out. Give me strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Give me grace. He’s listening; I’m sure of it. And He’s sending me angels, and support, everyday.

It’s a slow process.

If you’ve been in this situation, you’ll understand that.
But know that you’re not alone. And be careful of allowing yourself to isolate. You may think that people are tired of hearing about it. You may feel like you’re a burden. You may even be tired of talking about it. That’s okay. First – the people who love you will never tire of helping you. Second – the definition of burden is “a heavy load”. It is heavy to *you*, but they have the strength to help you carry it for a while. And third – you don’t have to talk about it to talk. Just be sure you’re talking. Silence has a tendency to fill up with the very worst things.

If you haven’t ever dealt with depression or any other mental illness… maybe this will help:
There are good days, and there bad days. Everyone has those. But my bad days seem worse. And personal. Like, something goes wrong and it’s like everything in my body is screaming at me what an idiot I am. And then, because I’m already feeling like crap, every little thing that happens reinforces what a terrible human being I am. The ability to “let it go” and recover is hard.
If you’re watching someone go through it, be patient. Support them. Remind them that they are a wonderful person, even if they don’t feel that way. Ask how you can help. They may not know the answer, but it’ll mean everything that you asked. Take it one day at a time, and remind them to do the same.

The goal isn’t to only have good days. The goal is to have less bad days and more good days. The goal is to be able to identify when you’re overwhelmed and handle it in appropriate ways. The goal is to be able to recover.

You may have to make changes in your life to allow that to happen. You’ll do this when you’re ready. And when you’re ready, trust me, you’ll know. Until then… be patient with yourself.

My BFF said to me, “It’s okay to lose a battle or two. It’s fine. Don’t lose the war. Keep fighting.”

I will. I am. This war has only one victor – and that’s this girl. And you can quote me on that.