2020: Year of Resolves and Transformation

Click here to go straight to my 2020 New Year’s “resolves”!

It’s an interesting revelation to realize well into your adulthood that you are pretty much unchanged, personality-wise, from when you were a child. If you were neat as a kid, instinctively putting your toys away after playing, you probably still find sweet pleasure in maintaining that cleanliness in your home. If you were a bossy kid, always telling the rest of the neighborhood how to manage the kickball league in the street, you’re probably just itching to become manager in your current department at work.

As a child, I always appreciated the quiet and intimacy that nature and my closest loved ones provided. For example, when my family and I lived in Illinois up until I was nine, my mother would take my older sister and I into St. Louis, where we would visit one of the city’s most notable landmarks, Forest Park. I couldn’t have been more than five or six at the time (I could still fit in my stroller, though goodness knows my mother should have kicked me out by then), but I remember the long strolls we took through the winding pathways beneath ageless trees. The inherent silence of the area (my mother preferred off-peak park hours) as our footfalls padded upon the wide pathways and the wind nestled into the lush crowns above our heads, created a sense of security that I wished could last forever.

At the time I began this post, I was sitting before an artificial fireplace with a cat dozing to my right and my older sister crocheting in an armchair to the left, and I found the sentiment rising in me again. Over thirty years have passed since I last set foot (or stroller) into Forest Park, but the silence of my current stance and the company kept have not diminished my adoration for quiet moments. No TV blaring in the background; not even the pleasing trills of music. Just…quiet and good company.

2019: Last Looks

Reflection into the past naturally brings me into reflection of this year alone. Though I did set a few resolutions to give me structure and a sense of stability, that is a far cry from having any control on the outcome. I can be a very emotional, stress-influenced person: if I don’t set a plan or a schedule on how my life is supposed to proceed, I freak out and shut down. This results in no progress being made, sending me further into a panic.

That’s why my primary resolution for 2019 was to spend time with the people I love. Though the emotional toils of 2018 drove this decision, it could have been easy to make this priority almost mechanical. Hanging out with friends and calling family on a regular basis seemed simple enough.

But when the lives of your friends and your family are just as real and complicated as your own, you can’t simply tuck time to talk to them in whatever gaps are available. I also learned that just hanging out or talking more didn’t make me a better friend or daughter.

And then, something else happened that I didn’t expect.

My own life started to break down.

And then I broke down.

For a few months in, I tried to ignore my own physical symptoms–the exhaustion, the lethargy, the insomnia, the anxiety, the brain fog, the migraines–and forced myself to keep going.

Keep working. Keep giving. Keep helping. Keep nodding yes.

When Winston Churchill said famously, “When going through hell, keep going,” I’d like to think that he didn’t mean until you physically can’t get up. I certainly don’t think he meant stand at your desk, take a look at the To-Do List–filled with tasks you’ve done over and over again for years–and burst into tears because your head has been throbbing for nearly six months and you’re just so sick and tired of being sick and tired.

It’s a shame that it took half a year and a point where I was dizzy and near-fainting before I realized why. I was paying attention to everything but my own well-being.

The Turning Point

By mid-summer, I was visiting doctors, counselors, and therapists at least three times a week to figure out what was wrong. I was on heavy medications and getting bloodwork and CTs to find a deeper meaning to my ailments than simply psychological. It wasn’t until September that I finally received some kind of answer.

“Surgery?” Numbly, I held the phone to my ear as the physician’s assistant provided me with the vague results of my head CT. “It’s bad enough where I need surgery?”

The PA wouldn’t expand on her original instructions. “Just come into the office. You can discuss the procedural options with your surgeon then.”

When I arrived later that week for my appointment, the surgeon explained that most of my symptoms were a results of increasingly severe inflammation in my nasal cavities that had been growing worse over the last year–“and probably longer,” he said. This was the reason for many of my physical symptoms: my brain and body were literally being deprived of oxygen it needed to function normally. “Sounds like you just only started feeling the severity of everything this last year.”

Since I was no longer responding to any of the medications they were giving me, endoscopic surgery was the next best solution.


One month later, I lay on my couch with gauze strapped to my bloody nose. I was fully congested but forbidden to sneeze, blow my nose, or even sniff. My mouth was parched from hanging open every night in my attempts to sleep through the pain. Sufficed to say, I felt like all my symptoms of the last year had multiplied tenfold.

But even through my recovery, my 2019 resolution rose to occasion on its own in a way I hadn’t expected. Though I had felt too miserable to remember to check on my friends, they had been kind enough to check up on me.

In fact, they did more than just check up on me. As I lay prone, eating nothing but rice, bananas and chicken broth every day, so swollen internally I could only breath through my mouth, my loved ones came to me. My father stayed with me for a few hours after surgery while the anesthesia wore off, taking the “day shift” while one of my closest friends (who had volunteered to drive me to the hospital) took the night between her shifts at work. Friends dropped off groceries at my front door when I was too sick to even text them.

On my birthday, while I was still too nauseous and dizzy to even wear my glasses, the well wishes poured in through texts and Facebook notifications. I held four-hour phone calls with my mother. I even heard from old friends I hadn’t spoken to in years.

By the time I returned to work, even my coworkers–some I hadn’t thought even noticed that I was gone–lit up in smiles when they saw me enter the office. This notion surprised me–I had spent years living under a radar and assumed that not many people noticed me. I assumed that even less of them cared.

Appreciate Them, Appreciate You

After seeing the amount of people who reached out as I dealt with not only physical problems, but mental and emotional ones, too, I was struck with the amount of damage my low self-esteem and dismissive attitude has possibly done. How many friendships had I lost by assuming that people didn’t like me? How many people’s opinions did I unintentionally disrespect because it was faster and easier to believe that they were just being nice instead of actually saying something out of love?

If I wanted to truly show loved ones how much they mattered to me, I also had to believe how much I mattered to them.

Sound a little self-serving? It certainly did to me.

But, think about it like this:

How many times has someone complimented you, your clothes, a solution you gave in a meeting, or who you are in general?

What was your knee-jerk reaction to the compliment?

Did you wave it off in embarrassment?

Did you say, “Oh, I’ve gained so many pounds; it’s not fitting like it used to”?

Did you defer it to another person: “Oh, Joey mentioned the word ‘bootstrap’ earlier, so he was really the brainchild for it.”

Why did you blow the compliment off? To sound humble? Because you don’t feel like you deserve it?

Look at it from another angle. Instead of questioning why you said it for yourself, recognize that you just blew off someone’s verbal positivity in your direction. Someone literally tossed you a lovely gift, and instead of catching it, you slapped it away. Or, you caught it and immediately began criticizing the gift itself. Or, you caught the gift and, right in front of the person who gave it to you, gave it to someone else.

Accepting a compliment isn’t just allowing yourself to feel good. It’s receiving the person’s kindness towards you, letting it sink in, and appreciating to the full extent.

2020 New Year “Resolves”

Which brings us–finally!–to my 2020 resolutions.

Or–as I have determined to call them–my 2020 resolves.

As I do every year after Christmas day, I consult with my family and encourage them to set goals as we all march into the New Year. Years ago, they didn’t take this ritual nearly as seriously as I did. I don’t know if I had a direct effect on their changed minds, but they have commented on how incredible and fun-filled my last few years have been–and how they seem to be getting better and more fulfilling as each new one rolls around. Though 2019 was…a smidgen rough, I certainly can’t fault it on the level of activity or the lessons learned.

Regardless of the reason, I was immensely pleased when, as the New York Square New Year’s clock chimed past midnight on the TV, my family nestled themselves into a makeshift circle and took turns sharing our resolutions and goals for 2020.

Since I felt I had to pause my progress halfway through 2019, I’ve decided to stay on the current path of internal work and well-being. Though I do have New Year’s resolutions (concrete goals like achieving the splits or taking a dance class or finally gaining a voice-over agent), my main focus will be on my resolves–adjusting lifelong habits, emotional hangups, and overall life perspectives into more positive, assertive, productive, true-to-self manifestations. Focusing appreciation on my loved ones will continue, of course; however, I am also going to focus on improving my own self-esteem, well-being and mindfulness.

Novel, ain’t it?

In summary:

#1: Take Yourself More Seriously

For years, I often felt like not much was expected of me. This I felt on both a personal and a professional level. When I was busy victimizing myself (which I applied throughout my adolescence and 20s), I blamed my parents, my teachers and managers for this point of view–everyone but myself. Even worse, instead of choosing to defy this stigma, I played it up. I was loud and bouncy and perky all the time. I bumbled and pretended I couldn’t do things well, especially not the first time. I laughed at myself and acted like a silly ten-year-old well into my twenties.

Until I thought–why?

Why did I keep selling myself short? Why did I act like some silly, ditzy little girl all the time? It wasn’t me–at least, not all of me.

It’s been a defense mechanism I’ve used for years, but it’s not one that I want anymore. It no longer serves any purpose. It’s not fun. It’s annoying.

I’m ready to start blaming the one person who perpetuated this behavior in me–and I’m also ready to hold her accountable so that she never makes excuses for herself ever again.

The way I want to truly be will require me to cut the crap–something that should have been said and done a long, long time ago.

#2: Self-aware, Self Care, and Self Prepare

Funny what you notice once you start feeling better mentally, emotionally, physically.

What are a few things I noticed after my nose surgery?

  • Huh. My house is really dirty.
  • When did I accumulate all this clutter in my house?
  • Why am I nearly 40 and still never had a long-term romantic relationship?
  • When did I gain all this weight? Why do I feel so old?
  • Omigosh, I cut off a LOT of my hair last year.

These are all small things by comparison, but when you’re trying to succeed in the world of “adulting,” it’s when all the little things build up that can really make you feel out of sorts. So, now is as good a time as any to begin sorting through it all–both with the internal work and the external work.

I’ll touch on a few of the changes in future posts, but in the meantime–changes will definitely, definitely be made.

Do what you need to do to feel good about yourself, that brings you peace of mind.

#3: You Have a Choice

As I said in my last post last year, it’s easy to go through life on autopilot, living each day in a reactive way. But what would happen if we lived proactively? Just because we’re used to waking up and climbing out of bed on the right side, doesn’t mean we can’t try climbing out on the left side for once. What about the art classes or the dance classes you always wanted to take but never did? The smile you chose not to give the cute guy or girl, because you assumed they were out of your league?

When you choose not to do something because you assume you already know the results, that’s just it. You are assuming. You don’t know for sure. You assume you’ll be a horrible dancer. You assume your art will suck. You assume you aren’t attractive enough and will make a fool of yourself. But you don’t know. And you will never know the actual results until you freakin’ suck it up and try.

You have a choice to live life exactly the way you want to live it. You entered this world with yourself, and you will escort yourself out. Don’t you two deserve to have conscious control with what you want to do with it?

I certainly do. After 37 years of ignoring myself and assuming I was not pretty, talented, smart, good enough to do or be anything, I finally had another thought.

“I’ve spent enough time feeling like I’m not worth the time or energy. How would it look if I spent less time focused on my endless ‘faults,’ and more time turning my life into one that makes me feel happy, empowered and fulfilled?”

I don’t know the answer to this. But it sure will be interesting to find out.

Happy flippin’ new year, ya’ll. 🙂


Want to recap on my 2019 resolutions? Read my old post below!

The One Question I Never Asked (aka Finding Life Balance)

I’m more excited than I should be typing this, but I can’t help it. By this time tomorrow, I will be out of Atlanta and in the company of my sisters, my mother, and my nephew on the other side of the country. It will be my first real chance to step away and review the true status of my life balance as of 2018.

I’m extremely grateful that I have the option and opportunity to step away from everything, if only for just a week and a half–and literally just in body. But sometimes, that is all you need.

(Mystic statements aside–seriously, I hope that’s enough time. :|)

I won’t go into the details of how this year has been for me just yet. I’m going to save that for a huge and exciting New Year’s Day Extravaganza POST AT YEAR’S END!

What I will do for now is reflect on the impact that this year has had on me, in regards to my life balance.

New City, Old City

Since I moved to Atlanta ten years ago, I have been struggling to find my proper life balance. In 2008, I arrived with the usual 20-something stressors of a woman with a new job in a new place:

  • New, bigger, busier city–and me with zero social skills
  • Relocating with no furniture, no family or friends, and no money

It’s a lot to process for anyone. At the time, I didn’t know that some of my stressors were due to my introversion, my social anxiety, and my high levels of environmental sensitivities. I simply felt like a mess in every situation I fell into.

A person can live in a city for years and still consider it a stepping stone to where they really want to be.

And honestly? Until just a few weeks ago, that was exactly what I considered this city.

I was living in it. I wasn’t living as part of it.

My Life vs. “Their” Lives

I look at some of the friends I grew up with (thanks, FaceBook) and watch the progress they’ve made as the years have passed. Some of them are rising acting stars, playwrights, successful novelists. Some of them have been happily married for years. One or two have a baby on the way. A couple of them have several babies.

I look at their lives…and a pang hits my chest.

It’s not envy. I couldn’t be happier for my friends who have all obviously worked hard for the lives they wanted.

Still, it is human nature to look at someone else’s life that appears, for all intents and purposes, to be perfect; reflect internally on your own; and, just for a blink, think, “Why is my life not that awesome?”

Oh–you don’t do that?

Well…I do, dagnabbit.

Life Balance Revelation

I’d like to share a story, if I may.

At the end of 2017, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to dive back into daily meditation. I used to be a huge proponent for meditating in high school but had grown away from it as the years (and college and depression) passed through. Meditating has always made me feel better, but the time it takes to prepare a sacred spot can be time-consuming.

“Excuses, excuses!” I’d told myself on that first fateful December 2017 night, and thus lit a white candle and inserted some industrial-strength earplugs to help me maintain my focus.

I chose a visual meditation method in which I ascended to a plane where an ethereal group therapy session was being held (yeah, I don’t skimp on my imagery!). The facilitator, a black woman with short hair and deep purple robes, welcomed me, introduced me to the group, then asked me why I’d come.

Immediately, I released all of my emotional woes to her and the group. As I had “imagined” everything around me, I knew it was a safe enough place to tell them all of my frustrations and problems. I knew I wouldn’t be judged for “taking up too much time” or being whiny or just mind-vomiting. I knew that “they” were there to help me.

The Question That Changed Everything

Sure enough, the facilitator and company listened patiently, and asked questions appropriately to gain clarity of some of my concerns. Internally, I was rather impressed with my own imagination. I hadn’t gone this far into characterization in a long time; maybe one of my woes (could I still write fiction?) wasn’t as far gone as I thought.

Then, the facilitator looked at me, took a deep breath, and asked someone that I had never, ever considered asking myself.

Why are you waiting to be happy?

My real eyes POPPED open.

“…Huh.”

I don’t know why this was a question that I’ve never asked myself.

I don’t know why, despite the significant number of counselors and therapists I’ve had, I’ve never heard that question.

It’s a simple enough question.

And yet.

Shaken out of my meditation, sitting there in the darkness of my bedroom as I repeated the question to myself, I had absolutely no answer to give.

Making Life Balance THE Priority

If I’m watching everyone around me have such a great life, why am I not doing anything to enjoy my own life?

Seriously. Why am I not getting off my lazy butt and looking into all of the events and adventures and projects that will lead me to my best life ever?

I mean, will the steps I need to take to gain my life balance be difficult?

Heck. YES.

But, I want to be happy. So, I took a deep breath and made the effort to be happy.

And 2018 has been the absolute fruits of that effort.

But.

One thing this year taught me is that life balance does not stop with just getting out of my house more, traveling to other countries, and switching my fashion sense (I like skirts. So sue me.).

The last three months alone opened my eyes to a lot of emotional and mental damage that I wasn’t even aware of. Mentalities that I thought had made me proud, independent, and strong had in fact made me bitter, isolated, and standoffish.

I thought life balance was only about external forces: balancing work with play, sleep with physical activities, social interaction with time to yourself.

I forgot about building and maintaining relationships; understanding why I behave and react to events the way that I do, and taking time to check in on myself.

Because I wasn’t doing that.

But this year was making me realize I needed to. In more ways than one.

I’m still determining what my game plan will be in 2019. However, I do know that my focus will be on developing a fully realized life balance for myself.

And that will start with getting away from home to clear my mind–if just for a moment.

Adieu, Atlanta. I will see you again at year’s end.

Good Days and How to Appreciate Them

It’s a fascinating revelation as a person who is clinically depressed, anxious, or just naturally pessimistic, to realize that they are having a good day.  To wake up smiling and thinking back on recent events with love and joy is…well, a novelty.  While others may not give a second thought on how well a day went, this kind of person will sit, reflect, and even marvel a little at how it is even possible to feel this way.

That it is still possible to feel this way.

Last Sunday was the annual live Dragon*Con performance of The Blood Crow Stories cast and crew as they presented episode 1 of their upcoming Season 3, “The Neon Lodge.”  Earlier this year, through whirlwind circumstances I may divulge at a later date, I won the lead role for Season 3.  The hero of the season, Kesha Charles, is strong, resourceful, and confident, and doesnt take crap from anybody.

And I was terrified out of my mind on how, exactly, I was supposed to play her.

However, yesterday’s live performance went off smoothly.  The audience was engaged and really seemed to enjoy themselves.  By the time it was over, all I remembered were the grins of the cast and crew, the pride and excitement of my friends who came to watch (all seven of them!!  I have seven friends!! :O), and a strange, comforting calm as I (*gasp*) interacted with strangers.

Rewind to The Down Days

Last weekend was not a good day.

In fact, I would term last weekend as what I call “down days“–days that take you to the very bottom of yourself and sap your strength, your motivation, your emotions, and…in worst cases, your will.

Last Sunday was a day that I didn’t want to speak to anybody.  I didn’t want to leave my house, or post a blog entry, or work on my novel, or clean or text or care.

Yet at the same time, I wanted to talk to someone.  I wanted someone to sit quietly with me.  I wanted–needed–someone to hold me.  I needed that human contact to help remind me that I was a human being, and I existed. I wanted to shout and scream and expel all of the negative energy into the universe.

But I didn’t want to burden anyone with my stress.  So I called no one.  I ran the few errands I could make myself do.  And I told no one how much I didn’t want be alone.

Most down days last, as the name entails, a day.  This one stretched on through Wednesday.  More than anything, I wanted to avoid people and work and anything that prompted thinking or moving.  I had a chronic headache, shaking limbs and general exhaustion.

The last “down day” I had was five years ago.  If I made it through then, I knew I could now.  I had to.

And slowly but steadily…I did.

How You Know You’re Having a Good Day

But enough about the down days.  Considering that today is a marketable 180-degree difference from last week means that progress is being made.  Not only that, but I recognize that I am happy, that I enjoyed myself this last weekend.  And I know that I want more of that.

For those who also want to remember the good days as they come, here are a few signs that you are in the middle of one–that you are enjoying it to its highest potential.

1. You wake up smiling

Ever have those days when the world just feels like it’s in Technicolor?

Don’t know what Technicolor is?

Me, neither.

But, I know that Looney Tunes switched to Technicolor when re-releasing shorts, and classic Looney Tunes shorts are epic.

When you wake up on a good day, the world seems visually quieter, slower.  The sun is bright.

And you remember that you are alive.  You can do things.  And there are many things in this world that are still beautiful.

The beauty and vibrancy of nature.

2. You turn into a silly, happy fool

Oh, you know what you do when you’re happy.  You can’t explain it or help it–you just feel good.  And it’s been so long since you have.  Happiness erases years and makes you feel like a carefree child.

You play your favorites songs or involuntarily hum to the songs you hear on the radio.  You find the remnants of your favorite hobbies and think, “Ima start these up again!”  And then you actually do.

You call loved ones on the phone and chat in a way that makes them think in pleasant surprise, “WTF is she on?”

Or, you dance like this–and dang it if you don’t commit:

Arin Hanson Dances
Thanks, Arin Hanson–you know what I’m sayin’.

3.  Social media doesn’t terrify you

The term itself says it all.  Social media.

Present that term to a super introvert with social anxiety issues.

Even though I have FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram, I use them both rarely and poorly.  Even when I do take pictures of something I like, I lament silently on whether they’re public-postable.  Then, I overwhelm myself with questions on whether I’m impinging on someone else’s rights to post a pic of them in it, and is my pic too blurry, and nobody will like it anyway–

Aaaaaand then I freak myself out and don’t post it.

On a good day, the thoughts don’t go as long.  Either I post it cuz I wanna, or I don’t cuz I don’t wanna.  Mind you, it still takes me about 5 – 10 minutes to write the caption under the pic–but I do post it, dagnabbit.  And that’s what matters.

4.  You rejoin the world

Three years ago to this day, attending DragonCon was a far-blown pipe dream.  I never, ever could have imagined that not only would I attend it, but I would also cosplay in it and perform at a panel.  Just typing that sentence leaves me staggered, humbled, and absolutely ecstatic.

That being said…I think this vid sums it up a little better than I can.

Dragon*Con 2018, baby!!!

5.  You want to give, give, give

One of the main reasons anxiety and depression suck is because of how selfish it makes you.  You think thoughts like, “I am stupid.  Nobody likes me.  I can’t do anything right.  I don’t want to talk to anyone.”  Me, me, me.

The cruelest part of it all is, you can see yourself being this way, but you can’t just pull yourself out of it.  You want to–you want to so badly–but it doesn’t work like that.

If you do manage to pull yourself out, however–the welling of love and understanding is almost overwhelming.  The shadowy silhouettes that fluttered in and out of your life become actual people.

Friends.  Family.  People who love you.  Who like you.  Who want to help you.  Who want to see you succeed.

You finally recognize how long they’ve stuck around, despite your crappy moods.  And more than anything, you want to express to them that you know–that you appreciate it more than they can possibly know.  You love them, too!  And you just want them to please–please stay in your life.

Despite the times you can be an emotionless mess, canceling plans because you can’t find the energy to support them, or snapping at them when they’re asking if you’re alright for the fifth time, you love them and they mean so much to you.  And you will help them however you can, so just tell you want they need, so you can do it!

And most times, you want to do it all before the next wave of depression and anxiety returns.

Because, believe me–it does return.

When the Good Days Go

The bad news is, there is no immediate, one-time cure for depression or anxiety, social or regular.  Even if there is medication to help reduce the symptoms, medicine alone can’t fix it.  Finding the right combo of medicine, therapy, and inner strength are the best ways to maintain control of your life and keeping the good days coming.  It is hard work and long work, but it does reap rewards if you stay with it.  The frequency and the duration of the down days reduce, and if you can just make it through each one, you’ll start to acknowledge them less and less.

Another way?

Remember that today, you are in a good day.

Remember how good it feels.

Remember that, if the down days return, you always have the chance to bring the good days back.

Love Languages Pt 1 – What You Want and Why

Let’s jump right in–I am fascinated by the concept of love languages.  They’re not just applicable to romantic relationships–oh, no.  Everyone you know and meet has a set order of preferences to their languages.  And if you can be perceptive enough to learn what that order is, you’ve possibly earned the faith of a family member/friend/coworker/mother/brother/child for a long, long time.

In the last eight months, I have met, engaged, networked, and interacted with more people than I have in the last three years combined.  For a so-called highly sensitive super introvert, this can come as…a bit of a shock.

That being said, I did find myself enjoying the interactions and learning that, despite the crap going on in the world, there are still so many absolutely amazing people.

It wasn’t just the new people, though.  After visiting my sisters, nephew, and mother during the Fourth of July and hanging out with my friends, I started thinking about how people express their love and affection to each other in different ways.  I once had a potential love interest who always wanted me to tell him how amazing I found him.  Sometimes, I just wanted him to sit beside me and enjoy a quiet moment.

Remember that Alanis Morissette line?  “Why are you so petrified of silence?”

Seriously, why are you so freakin petrified of silence?  If you’d just shut your trap for five seconds–

Ahem.

Long story short, that relationship didn’t last–for various reasons.  However, we might have assuaged the pain a bit had we both been more open and responsive to each other’s love languages.

What are Love Languages?

The first time I heard about love languages, my reaction wasn’t the most mature or open-minded.

Ron Swanson Fast Zoom
“Oh, look–another thing with a label.”

“Love languages” was coined in 1995 by Dr. Gary Chapman in his book, The 5 Love Languages.  After recalling a moment of emotional dissonance with his wife (which they thankfully resolved after his wife tearfully asked him to “just hold her”), Dr. Chapman explains that there are five major areas in which individuals give and respond to affection.  They are, in alphabetical order:

  1. Acts of Service (aka doing things for someone else)
  2. Physical touch (aka…physical touch)
  3. Quality Time
  4. Receiving Gifts
  5. Words of Affirmation (compliments, encouragement, etc.)

While we may generally appreciate from all these areas, each person has a unique primary and secondary language that triggers a higher, stronger positive response than the others. To determine a person’s order of love languages, Dr. Chapman developed a straightforward either-or quiz for single people and people in relationships.  Based on the answers in the quiz, the love language results rank by their tallied scores.

There can be various reasons for individuals preferring–or rather, identifying more strongly with–one love language over another.  Maybe your parents gave you an inordinate amount of a certain “type” of love as a child.  A lot of physical touching.  Calling you “beautiful” and “the most amazing thing ever.”  Perhaps you were deprived of a certain love language as a child, and it became the language you now long for in your relationships.

Reasonable Doubt

When I first bought The 5 Love Languages and read it years ago, I was still skeptical.  Love is love, I thought.  When people talk “love languages,” they’re just being nit picky.  They need the wordy definitions and the test results, because they feel like all their needs aren’t being met.

But then I thought back to that old boyfriend–and how he always had some poetic words for how he could see himself in my eyes or how nice my butt looked in jeans.  And then I thought about my response to his words–or rather, lack of response.

And I thought about the failure of that relationship.

And I realized, it certainly couldn’t hurt to take this more seriously.

My Love Languages

I last took the Love Languages Test in August of 2017.  That was my second time taking it, and I recalled that those results were different from the very first time I took it circa 2010.  I was curious to see if there was a difference in my results in a year’s time (it has been a crazy year), so I took it a third time, just before I started writing this entry.

Here were my results:

10Acts of Service
8Physical Touch
8Quality Time
3Receiving Gifts
1Words of Affirmation

The only difference between this time and last time is that physical touch and quality time have flipped–or rather, met in a synchronized second-place standing.  But that makes sense–because they are definitely of equal importance to me.

Quality time.  When I was a child, some of my favorite memories include me sitting quietly in the same room with my family.  One of us is reading a book.  Another one is drawing.  Yet a third, putting a puzzle together.  We didn’t have to say anything; we just knew that we were all there, together and content in each others’ presences.

Goose holding goslings in the rain

Physical touch.  As I’ve progressed into my 30s, my physical sense of touch has heightened immensely.  Maybe it was because I’ve been single and lived by myself most of the time, but I’ve become severely aware of when I’m touched–anywhere.  I don’t respond (too) awkwardly, but I definitely notice.

Handshakes become a world of concentration.

Hugs are breaking news in my head.

And when I’m reaching out to touch you?

Yes, I am giving myself a pep talk.  Doesn’t everyone?

What my Primary Love Language Means to Me

I can see why receiving acts of service would mean the most to me.  In the modern days of click-once-to-buy, ttyl, lol, G-ma, the feels, and other quickened, abbreviated ways of life, it seems like most people are simply in a rush for themselves. Not only that, but I’ve often lived alone and/or noticeably far from people I care most about.  When I find out that they performed some task on my behalf, it fulfills two levels of joy within me:

  1. In their busy lives, with so many wonderful people to care about…they were thinking of me.
  2. They slowed down to do something that they knew would make me happy.

I still struggle with my self-esteem–to the point where I often feel I am the personification of “out of sight, out of [everyone’s] mind.”  I push through this struggle by not wanting to put anyone out and thus taking on everything myself.  Ironically, I grow bitter at my own self-fulfilling prophecy and grumble under my breath, “Not like anyone would help me, anyway.”

Feeling Loved

A couple of weeks ago, I had my gentleman friend over to hang out for a few hours.  “Sorry about the mess,” I apologized as we wandered into my galley kitchen to see what we could find for snacks.  “I’d been meaning to wash the dishes.”

As I walked into the living room to turn on the TV,  I heard an odd noise behind me.  I ignored it at first, because my mind refused to believe it.  But the noise sounded again, and I turned to confirm what was indeed happening in the kitchen without me.

My guy friend was hunched over, half-hidden by the sink and the half wall dividing the rooms.  The duet of china and silverware played from somewhere between his feet.

Slowly, I approached the counter space that separated us.  I didn’t want to frighten this strange, domestic beast while it ventured within my habitat.  However, I couldn’t stop the perplexity from bursting out of my mouth.  “What are you doing?”

He shot up, a white plate in one hand.  “I’m loading your dishwasher.  Well, first I’m emptying it of the clean ones.  These are clean, right?”

I must have been staring, because he impatiently waved me back into the living room.  The plate glinted in the beams of the track lights.  “Weren’t you putting in a game?  Go on, sit down; I’ll be done in a minute.”  And then he watched me–until I actually left the room.

Love Languages:  Want vs. Give

Having (and letting) someone clean for me out of affection was a surprisingly sobering experience.  Even when I popped back in the kitchen a few seconds later to ninja-help, he promptly (albeit good-naturedly) ordered me back out.  No one had ever ignored my “Oh, you don’t have to do that” before.  No one had ever let me…not be in control before.

For once, I was allowed to rest while someone else took care of me.

To my surprise…I liked it.  I appreciated it.

I felt…loved.

According to Dr. Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages, a person’s order of preferred love languages isn’t just geared to what they want to receive.  It also connotes the love languages they like to give.  For example, if someone likes to receive words of affirmations, they’re more likely to give them to others, as well.

But I wondered–were there ever circumstances where a person’s preferred received love language was notably different from the one they preferred to give?  If so, why?  What could/would cause a difference?

These were good questions (thank you, me :3).  And I wanted to know if any of them held true.

This love language expo was not over.  Not by a far shot.

 

Click here to take the Love Languages test!  And feel free to share your results and your thoughts behind them.

What Being Car-less Has Taught Me

On December 23, 2015, at approximately 5 o’clock in the morning, I was on the road in my trusty 2002 Grand Am, pushing through holiday traffic toward my mother’s home, seven hours away.  My radio was humming from my mixed CD, and the night around me glittered with the headlights of my fellow travelers.

Then, in the form of a fleet-owned semi truck ramming into the side of my car and veering me off the highway, my transportation world as I knew it changed forever.

Three weeks later, I received the fateful call from the fleet’s insurance company that they were totaling my car, that it was less expensive to just pay me for its value than it was to repair it.  I was mortified, devastated, and burst into tears in the middle of my office cubicle.

I have no car, was all I kept thinking as coworkers rushed over to make sure I was okay.  I live in one of the busiest, biggest cities in the United States, and I have no car.  I have no car!

Fast forward to today — more than four months post-accident, after multiple financial checks, several budget adjustments, hours of new and used car research, and one bittersweet car-buying seminar later — and I am still without a vehicle.  I must admit, I am exhausted.  I am tired, I am wound up, I am irritated, and I am annoyed.

But not for the reasons I thought.

That being said, the lessons that I have learned these last 4+ months have not all been easy — but they have certainly been helpful in how I have been changing my lifestyle.

 

1. I don’t need a car to survive.

The first month and a half after the accident, I was renting a car almost every weekend.  Enterprise offered some great weekend specials, and I used them as much as I could.  Even then, I was averaging between $150 to $300 for just two and a half days of travel.  Not bad for once every two or three months, but after about the fourth rental in eight weeks, I needed to find other means of food and personals shopping.

At first glance, being without a car in a place like Atlanta was terrifying.  Mind, everyone’s experience would also be very different from mine.  Home location, family size, and job location can all affect how this could impact a person’s experience.  For me — single, no kids or pets, living alone and probably more independently (*cough*reclusively) than I should — having no vehicle has given me much time to reflect on what I need and don’t need in my daily life.  It’s also taught me how many ways and opportunities I can to relax and enjoy myself in the comfort of my home — and that I can no longer ignore nor avoid that random pile of junk I need to sort through.

Hmm…guess I still need to get on that.

2.  Mother Necessity is a great provider.

Being raised as someone who was very selective about where she shopped, I would have turned my nose up at shopping for produce at a retailer like Wal-Mart.  Wal-Mart was good for contact lens solution, multivitamins, frozen foods, cereals — and maybe yogurt.  But apples?  Bananas?  Ground beef?  Bah.

Fate would have it that my neighborhood sits behind a Wal-Mart.  Like, literally a five-minute walk behind it.  After my rental car revelation, practicality and one-stop shopping was going to work massively to my advantage.

At first, Wal-Mart tried to shut its automatic doors and lock itself up at 11:30 am when it saw me coming.  “Turn your nose up at me, will you?” it growled as I was forced to resort to entering from the underground labyrinth under the parking lot.

The aficionados who’d told me to only buy produce from farmers markets and small/local grocery stores would have probably cried silently as I piled my cart full of strawberries and oranges and spinach and…those odd little yellow mangoes and two pounds of chicken parts.  But you know what?  It’s close by, it’s accessible, and it’s convenient.

And those pre-bagged ambrosia apples might be some of the best I’ve ever had.

 

3.  People care.

As I always say (or complain; whatever), being a shy, anxiety-riddled introvert can, quite naturally, keep you to yourself at home and at work.  Your friends are very few, and you don’t tell everyone the whole story.  It keeps the conversations from being too long.

Despite my ways, word disbursed throughout my office that I was (originally and still) without a car.  The losing the car lost ground pretty quickly, but the subsequent car search breathed new life each day.

“How’s the car search?”

“Do you have a car yet?”

“Hey!  Are you—”[insert hopeful car-driving pantomime here]

At first, the new attention was extremely jolting, and I shied away from saying much beyond the stuttering, “Oh, you know…just…trying to figure things out.”

But then the questions extended as initial eagerness melted into concern.  “How did you get here today?  How are you getting home?  Are you traveling by yourself?”

The attention confused me.  Why were all these people asking me these questions?  What was their ulterior motive?  What did they possibly want from me?

Then, after a fairly close friend told me point-blank, it hit me.

People were asking me these questions because…they cared.  If they didn’t care…they wouldn’t have asked.

Depression can easily make you selfish and jaded.  You can forget that, somehow, your existence might matter to people outside your own skin.  For friends and coworkers who might have been wanting to find an excuse to talk to you for years, the lack of a standard necessity is the perfect opening.

For me, it’s like someone shining an LED flashlight into a self-created, windowless room.  You try to keep the shadows going, because that’s what you’re used to.  But then, you have the revelation:  you kind of like the light.  You can see where you’re going, and you like how thinks look in the room.  And then you think about other sources of light, their brightness and their warmth, and how you can see outside of the room, as well.  The shadows were getting old, and it can be so much work to keep them up.  And suddenly, not only do you want the lights to see you, but you want to know all about the lights.

So to speak.

 

4.  Time to put up or shut up.

One of the biggest decisions I had to make from the start was one of the scariest:  how was I going to get to work?  My job was in the lower midtown of the city.  The commute via car was between 30 – 45 minutes on a good day.  But I didn’t have a car.  So that meant nothing.

At first, I called my good-hearted Samaritan coworker who lived fairly close by, and we carpooled amicably for the first three months.  But then his schedule changed, and I was both too nervous to approach anyone else and, I guess, too proud to burden anyone any more than I already had.  So, after a head-in-hands session of resolution, I went back to the methods of my college ways, jumped online, and typed two words into the search:

Public transportation.

[I actually typed in “marta bus schedule near me,” but let’s keep the melodrama, shall we?]

The first couple of days were rough.  I had to wake up at 4:45 am to get ready and walk to the bus stop, which I then rode to the train station closest to me.  From there, it was a 25-minute ride downtown, where I then hopped onto my company-specific shuttle that rode me straight to the building’s drop-off port.  The total ride took me nearly two hours — and a lot  more human interaction and stimulus than I’m accustomed to.

But, like with anything, I adjusted.  I had to.  I am a healthy, combat-trained woman who (when she gets enough sleep) has a pretty solid-functioning brain and can (must) mold herself accordingly to get herself to work.  And I’m an adult, dagnabbit.  It’s how I roll.

Of course, my coworkers learned of my change in travel, and two of them who also live in my area have offered to give me rides home when I would like it.  I take them up on it on occasion, but I find I enjoy the mornings to myself and the surge of urgency as I lock up my house and race out of my neighborhood only minutes before my bus is supposed to reach my anticipated stop.

Works better than coffee.

 

Watch for Lessons 5 – 9 in the next post, where I garden, turn myself into a sail, and absolutely loathe all things car-related.

Square B, Round Hole

…the problem with pounding a square peg into a round hole is not that hammering is hard work. It’s that you’re damaging the peg.”  –Paul Collins

It was a concern that I’ve been pondering a lot lately, but it lifted to the forefront of my memory when my friends and I were reviewing an old quiz that I had taken when I was in my early twenties.

One of my friends stared at me as the other read the choices I’d left written in pencil nearly ten years ago.  “ ‘You look forward to how you will be punished when you arrive late.’ ”

I covered my face with my hands and buried myself into the couch cushions.  “I can’t believe I wrote that.  I honestly don’t remember writing that!”

“Suuurre.” The second friend smirked, but not maliciously.  I had brought down my book Your Erotic Personality (we’ll just save that explanation for another day) for them to check out (again, for reasons I don’t think I can really explain).  At any rate, it was a refreshing evening of food, wine, and candid talk that I haven’t really had as much as I would like.

In fact, after they had left, I began thinking about how very little I was in the mood to have more.  It was an odd dichotomy, that:  wanting more, but being afraid of it when it was arriving.

I’ve lived in Atlanta for nearly ten years, and since being here, I’ve had a lot of firsts:  first big city, first love, first real heartbreak, first job firing, first retirement plan, first martial art, first black belt, first work-from-home, first road trip with a friend.

Atlanta was also the first time that I was able to label segments of my personality — why I tended to get snippy at times and why quiet was often an important — alright, necessary — part of my life.  Words that I’d never thought about surged into my mind.  Introvert.  Hypersensitive.  Anxious.

And then there were — and are — times that make me wonder.  Was I using words like “introvert” and “hypersensitivity” and “social anxiety” as crutches to keep myself from experiencing the world?  I’d experiment by going out to a party in a location teeming with people — loud, young, boisterous, defiant people — and end up shaking and silent in a corner by the time I arrived.  A friend or family member would ask me what was wrong, and unless they knew about my struggles, I simply lied and explained that “I’m just tired; I had a long day at work,” or “I just haven’t eaten.”

What’s worse, I’d lie to myself in the process.  “Oh, I just took my 5HTP too late.”  Or, more commonly, “B, you’re being stupid.  No one’s attacking you.  No one cares what you do.  Just chat with someone — anyone.  This feeling will go away.”

This feeling will go away.

What feeling?

The feeling that your head is being squeezed like a vice every time you’re surrounded by massive amounts of stimulus.  The feeling that, every time you’re about to make a phone call or order food or even just tell a joke to a cluster of strangers, you’re holding your breath and talking yourself out of talking for long.  The feeling that, as soon as you get home from work (especially Fridays), you just want to turn off your phone, flop down on the couch, and lie catatonic for at least two days straight.  The feeling that, when invited to a public event, you need at least a week (heck, make it two) to pep-talk yourself into believing you will have a good time, and no, you won’t have 30 people laughing in your face — and that if they do, who flippin’ cares??

Yeah.  That feeling.

Looking back, I can recognize that I’ve always enjoyed the company of myself or a few to the company of many.  Some of my favorite childhood, adolescent, and college memories include me writing for eight hours straight with no interruptions, taking 10-mile rollerblading excursions with my older sister, or treating myself to a live wrestling show (or two) where the crowds were shockingly respectful and refreshingly kind to me.

That being said, I have recognized a difference in my overall sense of self that did not exist before.  While there is an exuberance and hope for the future, there is also a fear and hopelessness of the present.  While there is calm that everything will be okay, there is my fear towards how it is now.

How do I finally relax?  How do I learn how, not necessarily to fit in, but to fit?

As a child, there was a strange, billowing, orange-warm aura of naivety that made me less afraid to reach out and try new things.  Now in my thirties, that aura has become thin and brittle, blue and icily aware of too much.  The next step is finding the happy medium — a sweet, calm, soft magenta that serves as the perfect filter to my inner world and the world around me.  Finding it, and being ready for the changes it will entail.

 

Portrait of an Involuntary Hermit

“You’re probably hypersensitive,” my counselor told me two weeks ago.  “But, I just found out several months ago that I’m a severe introvert,” I thought.  “And, I suffer from anxiety and depression.  And, I haven’t regularly been around large amounts of people my own age since, like, college.”

If it wasn’t happening to me, I probably would have rolled my eyes at this seeming hypochondriac and told her to “suck it up and stop victimizing yourself.”  But apparently, that has been on the list of items that I had also defaulted into doing — beating myself up for not being…”better” at the things that came normally to everyone else.

And now, as I sit inside and type this blog entry, I sort through the list of items I have planned today versus the list of items that are actually happening around this big city.

Me:

    • Go for a walk.
    • Wash clothes.
    • Work on work.
    • Go shopping for shoes.
    • Attend a coworker’s promotional party and escape as soon as I can do so unnoticed.

The Big City:

    • DragonCon
    • The Decatur Book Festival (one of the biggest book festivals in the country)
    • College football games
    • Festivals out the yin-yang

Yes, my list is a little bit longer in length, but the difference in impact is astounding.  I browse on Google at the details of the Decatur Book Festival — the booths and the speakers and the clubs — and I know, as someone who wants to make a living as a writer, that I should be involved in all this.  I scan the DragonCon images and tell myself, “You love science fiction and fantasy!  Why are you not trooping downtown?”

Aaaaaand then the anxiety floods in.  Dagnabbit.

It’s one of those moments where you just sit and wonder, what in the world happened in the last ten years to make you into such a recluse?  Having been involved in my taekwondo school for the last eight years, it was easy to be busy there and feel that I was active and actively making a difference.

However, since I’ve taken a sabbatical from TKD to pursue my original loves, I’ve found it very…daunting to turn the next page in my life.  Oh, I want to turn it.  I want to shed every outdated and juvenile part of me and emerge bright as a sparkling new phoenix.

But what is the recipe?  How do I find the path that conciliates me without overwhelming myself?  Do acknowledge the hustle and bustle of the city, yet pick a few items at a time and gently acclimate myself back into my interests at a nice, even pace?  Or do I plow in, 100%, into the heart of 600,000 Labor Day visitors, metaphorically electrocuting my anxiety into maximum overdrive or supreme meltdown?

This requires more pondering.

But it’s also stuffy in my house.  So I think I’ll keep pondering out in the sun.

The Fear Who Would Be King

“Everybody walks their own path. These paths may touch, they may intersect, and they may even merge for a length of time. They will never, however, be exactly the same path.” B-ism, 07/17/2012 I have a confession to make. I’m afraid of becoming a published author. I’m afraid of what will happen. I’m afraid of what it will mean. I think I have a variance of graphophobia. Considering I’m trying to become an author, these all may serve as some serious roadblocks. When I was about twelve years old, my middle school class took a trip to an ice skating…