I’m grateful for…

January 2017

  • Holly (my sweet kitty, who’s been with me since I was 10 yrs old)
  • understanding friends
  • Bubba (the best Best Friend a girl could ask for)
  • clean drinking water
  • Zack (my younger brother, who is pretty cool)
  • MassHealth (yay health insurance!)
  • good night vision
  • YMCA discount membership (YMCA Greenfield MA)
  • my long winter coat (calf-length)
  • I don’t have food allergies

February 2017

  •  my new winter boots (a much-needed gift from my brother)

Ways to Improve Happiness, Backed by Science!

A friend of mine recently sent me a link to this blog post (titled: “A neuroscience researcher reveals 4 rituals that will make you a happier person”) from Business Insider.  It describes (duh) four ways to increase your happiness, and the neuroscience research that backs them.

Ask yourself what you’re grateful for.  Even negative emotions like guilt and shame stimulate the brain’s reward center; Worrying about something does make your brain feel better about the issue, but it’s not a long-term solution.  Gratitude will apparently stimulate the parts of the brain that produce dopamine and seratonin, which actually do make you feel better.  Even searching for something to be grateful for can have positive effects.

Label negative feelings.  Even biologically, suppressing negative emotions isn’t a good practice.  Describing the negative feelings in one or two words can reduce the emotion.  It’s that simple.

Make a decision.  It doesn’t have to be perfect or the world’s best ever decision, it just has to be “good enough.”  The act of making a decision increases the feeling of control over our lives, which lessens stress.  “When you make a decision on a goal and then achieve it, you feel better than when good stuff happens by chance.”  Interestingly, there’s a good note in the article on how this ties into building good exercise habits.

Touch people.  Not the kind of touching that gets you in trouble, but the kind that indicates acceptance and connection.  Apparently “social exclusion activates the same circuitry as physical pain,” so even small touches like handshakes and pats on the back are okay.  Touching someone you love, even just holding hands, can actually reduce pain.  Research supports five (long) hugs a day for four weeks to seriously boost happiness.  In lieu of hugs, getting a massage will work as well.

Finding My Life’s Purpose?

This article appeared in my Facebook newsfeed earlier today; The author, Mark Manson, poses and discusses “Seven Strange Questions That Help You Find Your Life Purpose.”  I found it a fascinating read, and wanted to spend more time considering his Questions.  Maybe this will help shed some light on what I should be doing with myself.

Here’s the truth. We exist on this earth for some undetermined period of time. During that time we do things. Some of these things are important. Some of them are unimportant. And those important things give our lives meaning and happiness. The unimportant ones basically just kill time.

So when people say, “What should I do with my life?” or “What is my life purpose?” what they’re actually asking is: “What can I do with my time that is important?””

So here are Manson’s seven questions (some with explanations), and my hopefully-thoughtful personal responses.

1. “What’s your favorite flavor of shit sandwich, and does it come with an olive?”  In other words: “Everything involves sacrifice.  What unpleasant experiences are you able to handle?”

  • I’m not afraid of answering phones.
  • I can wake up at 6 to be at work for 8:30 or 9.  (I much prefer staying up late.)
  • can write some programming code.
  • I can clean up cat sick without being sick myself.
  • Proofreading for grammar, spelling, & punctuation.

(Side note: Olives would not make said sandwich any more appetizing for me.)

2. “What is true about you today that would make your 8-year-old self cry?”  What did I used to love doing that I don’t do anymore?

  • I liked playing hide & seek as a kid, both in the house and in the woody swamp in the backyard.
  • I haven’t played in the snow or danced in the rain in a long time.
  • I used to absolutely obsess over swords & other weaponry.
  • I wanted to go on adventures.
  • I used to do a lot more baking than I have been.
  • I love swimming, almost to the point of frolicking.
  • I don’t read nearly as many books as I used to.

3. “What makes you forget to eat?  Don’t just look at the activities that keep you up all night, but look at the cognitive principles behind those activities that enthrall you.”

  • Reading (specifically getting lost in a different time / place)
  • Organizing & spatial optimization
  • Designing costumes (mostly historical garb), to absurd levels of detail
  • Project ideas for fabric or yarn (related to point above)
  • Planning and researching for travel

4.  “How can you better embarrass yourself?”  Translation: “There’s something that you think about, fantasize about doing.  If your reasons for not doing it are based on what others would think, then you’re screwing yourself over.  Chances are you’re actually avoiding something you truly care about because caring about that thing is what scares the shit out of you.”

  • Ever since I started going to renfaires, I’ve wanted to become a merchant and travel around, selling my wares at faires & festivals across the country.
  • Relatedly, I want to have a storefront to sell my stuff from, but am somehow terrified of actually setting up an Etsy store.
  • I daydream of the historical dresses I want to make, and the balls & parties I would wear them to.

Great things are, by their very nature, unique and unconventional. Therefore, to achieve them, we must go against the herd mentality. And to do that is scary.”

Yes.  Yes it is.

5.  “How are you going to save the world?”  Find a problem you care about and start solving it.

  • Animal welfare
  • Climate change
  • Women’s health & rights
  • Education

6.  “If you had to leave the house all day, every day, where would you go and what would you do?”

  • Hiking to discover woody trails and scenic vistas and waterfalls
  • Dancing!
  • Time with cats (somehow…)
  • Travel to national parks & monuments
  • Renaissance Faires
  • JoAnn’s for fabric and yarns
  • Maybe join a book club
  • Learn new languages

7.  “If you knew you were going to die one year from today, what would you do and how would you want to be remembered?”

  • Adventurer
  • Cat Lady
  • Badass Dancer
  • I would want to leave inspirational life-wisdom for my people.
  • Honestly, I kinda want to be like the Dos Equis guy, The Most Interesting Man in the World.

So, what are some common things among my responses?  What is important to me?

  • Animals, esp. cats
  • Being active (hiking, swimming, dancing)
  • Adventures (travel, renfaires)
  • Keeping my mind active (languages, planning, design, organizing, problem solving, coding, reading)
  • Creating (actually making the things I design)

OK.  Now, Self, we just have to get past the fear to go do the things…

Procrastination vs. Goals & Dreams

Hi.  My name’s Tiffany, and I’m a procrastinator.

It can get pretty bad.  I’ve pulled all-nighters writing school papers, even for something as simple as putting together a Powerpoint once.  I’m currently procrastinating applying for jobs, which is going to backfire tremendously if I don’t get a hold of things soon.

I’ve known that I’m a procrastinator for a very long time, and it’s only gotten worse over the years.  It recently occurred to me to wonder why I procrastinate; like, what’s at the root cause of this behavior?  I don’t necessarily think I’m lazy or that I can’t manage my time; I write To Do lists all the time, and some things get crossed off, but other things keep rolling over to new lists and never get done.

So I’ve started researching for causes of procrastination.  These are some of the causes that articles mention:

  • Fear of failure (aka “negative perfectionism”)
  • Fear of success (if self-worth is tied to achievement)
  • Addicted to working at the last minute (b/c adrenaline)
  • Can’t tell people “no,” even to something they don’t want to do
  • Overwhelmed & can’t “chunk” (split project into smaller bits)
  • Stressed & seeking symptom relief
  • Problems thinking long-term
  • Lack of motivation
  • Lack of focus
  • Lack of interest
  • Skill deficit (don’t want to appear dumb, etc.)
  • Rebellion
  • Low energy levels / fatigue
  • Inability to prioritize or make decisions

… and the sources I got them from:

After a few articles, the causes start to repeat, so I’m just going to stop there.  To some degree, I identify with all of those causes.  The question becomes, how can I defeat them?

I need to defeat Procrastination.  It’s the Big Bad, the boss fight at the end of the game, the thing that completely changes the outcome of your life.

As I learned in Full Contact Magick, it’s important to know what you want from life.  I have a list, and I even coded the things that don’t require having money to do.  However, after several days of having my stepbrother around the house, I have made an important goal.  It even has a deadline incorporated in it.

Move out before I turn 30.

This gives me about 2.5 years to find stable employment and save up enough money to afford my own space.  More importantly, my current job will end by May 2016, so really I need to lock in at least one source of regular income in the next 8 months.  Or else I’m f***ed (and not in the fun way).

The key to setting goals and actually achieving them is to keep things manageable and unthreatening.  To that end, I am setting myself weekly goals (b/c I know sometimes life gets in the way), and making sure they’re attainable:

  • Apply for 2 jobs each week
  • Complete 1 sewing commission (sewing for someone else) each week
  • Work on 2 other sewing projects (sewing for me, maybe?) each week

As you can see, that’s 5 things to do, and there are 7 days in a week.  Totally doable.

Other things that I should do in the next 2.5 months (before Samhain):

  • Business cards for tutoring (advertise at local high schools?)
  • Start the Etsy store (start by posting the resistor jewelry)
  • Complete the self-trainings for my current job in a timely manner (for once)

I’m thinking about starting a small notebook and recording the things I work on each week, so I can keep track of my progress (and not apply for the same job twice).  And hey, today’s Saturday; tomorrow starts a new week.  Beginning implementation….

Bad Things I’ve Tried To Forget

While clicking through the Internet earlier today, I read through several articles / blog posts by women who’ve had bad relationships.  And it got me thinking about my Bad Relationship.  The Evil Ex.  The one whose name might as well have a Taboo on it, because I refer to him as He Who Must Not Be Named.  Even thinking the name gives me a sort of sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Several months ago, I heard from a mutual friend that his wife, in the process of divorcing him, was seeking full custody of their son (who’s younger than two, I think).  I emailed her, offering my assistance, because the thought of him raising a son is terrifying, and it’s been over a month since I’ve received her reply.  I kept putting off writing the response, because then I’d have to think about that time in my life and all the things that went horribly wrong.

I wrote to her today.  A few minutes ago, in fact.

And it left me feeling very delicate, like a breeze could blow right through me.

But I know that now that I dug up some of those memories I’d buried, I need to actually do something about them.  So here, in no particular order, are some of the things that contributed to what was probably the worst year-ish of my life.  (*taking deep breaths*)

  • He pulled me out of a dip too fast, causing me to re-injure my knee.  He got so angry at having to drop out of that contradance that we had a fight in the basement of the dance hall where he threatened to break up with me.
  • I have vague memories of a Facebook conversation with a woman from a nearby dance, where she told me that he spent the night with her and that he cheated on me.  I didn’t believe her.
  • He wanted a threesome, but only with another woman.  I’m straight, and the only woman I felt comfortable enough with was in a committed, monogamous relationship.  So he twisted both our arms into a threesome.  Twice.  Which, BTW, was not an enjoyable experience for me, either time.  Too much insecurity, I think.  That, and lady bits don’t do much for me.
  • I couldn’t find the ticket stub for the MassPike, to determine how much our toll should be, and he got really upset that he had to pay the maximum amount.  I had been dead asleep until we were at the toll booth.
  • He wasn’t feeling well, so I drove almost 2 hours to visit him and make him soup, and he didn’t even pretend to like it, because it was canned soup and not from scratch.
  • The weekend we were at Falcon Ridge, he kinda ruined my tent poles despite my explicit directions on set-up.  That’s small potatoes, though, as one night he started to have sex with me while I was still asleep.  It took me a long time to recognize that as rape, because I couldn’t string two words together, never mind give consent.  It was terrifying, flickering between awake and dream-scape and having no idea who was having sex with me.
  • He convinced me to take out $2000 of extra student loan debt.  I don’t even remember what I used the payout for.  I’m still paying back the loan.
  • He ruined my relationships with just about everyone; my parents, my friends, folks in my dance community.  (This is still having repercussions today, five years later.)  He was very abraisive and opinionated, so when the inevitable arguments happened I supported him because I loved him, and that pretty well isolated me.
  • And then he told me that we were spending too much time together and he felt smothered.
  • He broke up with me in the middle of a 3-day dance weekend in Burlington (at least 5 hours’ drive from home), when we’d carpooled and were couchsurfing together.  I completely fell apart.  The next morning I told him about a dream I’d had that night, and he kinda pouted and said that he felt like I was drifting away from him.  (Looking back on this… what?!?)
  • Exactly a week after he broke up with me, he started dating one of my college professors.
  • And then he cheated on her, with me.  (I still loved him, so it didn’t bother me.)  For maybe a month or two.
  • He was reluctant to give me back Big Dog, the stuffed animal I’ve had since I was two, when we exchanged stuff so none of my things were at his place anymore & vice versa.
  • The attitude he’d cultivated in me, of “I should say yes because I don’t have a good reason to say no,” landed me a one-night stand after a friend’s birthday party.  I tried to go on a date with the guy the next week, but he kept putting his hand down my dress during the movie, and he didn’t want to come dancing with me.
  • My self-esteem plummeted; I was unemployed and didn’t qualify for unemployment and couldn’t find a job and started to feel like all I was good for was sex.  It seemed like that was the only times he’d spend time with me.  I vaguely considered offering guys sex in exchange for dance admissions.  And when I brought this up with He Who Must Not Be Named, he got a little down and said that he had to go because his girlfriend expected him to be at home when she got out of class.
  • Ah yes, and all of our sexual encounters had no protection, because he refused to wear condoms.  All of them.  Including that instance of anal sex without lube.  (No, that was not fun, either.)  He rationalized it by saying his low sperm count meant he didn’t need them.  (His fathering a child proves this false.  Thank all the gods above & below that I took my pills religiously.)
  • I broke up with a pretty amazing guy to be with this asshole.  I sincerely regret everything about that, and am so so glad that amazing guy and I have now become such great friends.
  • While we were at NEFFA, our couchsurfing hosts apparently offered to swing with us, and You Know Who was ok with this.  I totally missed that cue (if it was even actually there), and he seemed amused at my reaction when he told me (which was a resounding NO, because they were like, my parents’ age).

In the span of writing this, his ex-wife emailed me back.  She & her therapist agree with me that He Who Must Not Be Named is a narcissist.  She said there’s nothing to grieve, because none of it was real.

It may not have been real to him, but it was real for me.  I don’t grieve the loss of … anything having to do with him, really; I grieve the loss of the relationships I had with my parents and friends, and what was left of my innocence.  I think I have to finally recognize all the agony he put me through.  The pain and fear associated with a rollercoaster of emotions and never knowing what might spark a threat of breaking up.  I’m pretty sure this is emotional abuse.

I wish I could reach back in time and slap my younger self for being an idiot.  And then I’d hug me, for a long time, and tell younger me that I’m awesome and will be even more awesome without him and all his drama.  That I’d end up with amazing friends who love how nerdy / geeky I am.  That I shouldn’t drop hobbies and activities I love out of my life just because the current boyfriend doesn’t like them, too.

The only good thing to happen during this year or so disaster is that I learned how to lead while dancing.  And it turns out I’m pretty damn good at it.  I’m popular now, and the guy you thought you stole me from is now my best friend.  Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Voldemort.

Loyalty

I’m not entirely sure how to organize my thoughts on this feeling, so this may be a bit disjointed…

Part of my thoughts on this stem from reading a piece of Avatar fanfiction (yeah yeah, I know) which is probably one of my favorite things on the internet.  It’s over 750,000 words across 91 chapters, including author’s notes explaining why they wrote it that way and how it actually applies to real life.  I kinda like what this story does more than the cannon series; it just makes more sense.

Anyway!  Aside from this being better than the show & I wish this would be made into an anime or manga series… The characters all have something that their sprits bind them to.  For those of Water, it’s family; Earth needs deals & contracts.  I’m not 100% sure what Air’s is, but it has something to do with their Way (a taught lifestyle? it wasn’t really clear).  Those of Fire are bound by their loyalty.

“And I thought truce was bad.  When you guys say loyalty…”
“Ah, yes.  We mean the bonds of fire and spirit to one’s clan, one’s lord, and one’s followers…”
“Loyalty is having somewhere you belong.  And people you’d walk through fire for.  Though for some of us, that’s easier than others.”

Loyalty isn’t logic. It’s like love. You can choose who you associate with. You can keep people at a distance, long enough to know if they’re worthy of a closer look. You can decide what you will do, if you feel that first pull toward another’s fire. But sometimes you meet someone, and you see that they embody all the virtues you’ve been raised to hold as sacred and honored. And you know.”

“When loyalty rests with one unworthy of it, honor requires that it not remain.”

“Who do you look to, dragon-born?”
“I am cast upon the waves, for my clan is fled and our stronghold ashes.”
“Who would you look to, dragon-born?”
“I seek a great name, one worthy of my blade and fire.”

“A great name must be noble, and benevolent, and honorable beyond reproach, because the great names lead and defend the clans in war. And war is none of those.”

So sometimes I feel like I’m searching for a great name, one who is strong enough to lead and defend me and honorable enough to not take advantage of that… And other times I feel like I’m the head of a very small clan, just trying to identify my clanmembers, never mind finding a loyal lord…

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Another piece to this puzzle comes from noting who I enjoy spending time with and who I avoid.  Some people can bring me from a decently good mood to angry at everything in less than 10 seconds, and other people do the exact opposite.  I’ve also noticed that while I can interact with a wide variety of people, there’s a specific group that I always invite to things.

A reference to the Empathy post, I think that that specific group consists of people that vibrate on, if not the same frequency I do, at least on complimentary frequencies.  I usually feel good and enjoy time spent with these people.  Perhaps these people are my adopted clan?

I’m still not sure I’m explaining this properly, because clan and family are not quite the same thing….

A child’s first loyalty is to their parents, and I’m not entirely sure I’m still loyal to mine… But I still consider myself part of my mother’s clan (and that is a clan; she was the youngest of seven, so I’ve got boatloads of cousins), though not necessarily my father’s clan (a little too much awkwardness in interactions).  And I am definitely loyal to my brother.

At any rate, I think it’s good to have identified these positive relationships and the people I enjoy being around.  Whatever I call them.

A Brief Note on Empathy

I’ve had this article called up for a few days, so I’m not sure which friend posted it to Facebook, but some bits of it spoke to me so I thought I’d write a bit about it.

An empath is someone who is highly sensitive to the energy and emotions emanating from people, animals and everything that exists around them.”

I’m still not sure if I’m an empath or if I’m just good at reading body language.  Maybe both?  I read the article, and these are the characteristics listed that I think actually apply to me (Bold is especially strongly apply):

  • Often says yes to others without thinking of their own needs.
  • Relationships can often move too fast and can become intense very quickly as the empath connects on a deep, intimate level very quickly due to the ability to absorb other people’s energy and emotions.
  • Can find themselves taking on and absorbing other people’s problems and being used as a sounding board or dumping ground so that others can offload their emotional baggage.
  • Instinctively knows when someone around them is not being truthful.
  • An empath’s mind is an inquisitive one and they are constantly searching for answers and theorize and philosophise constantly.
  • Connects very strongly to the animal kingdom and identifies very easily with the emotional and physical pains that animals go through.
  • Is often most at peace and feeling harmonious when spending time with nature and roaming around the outdoors.
  • Very creative and highly imaginative, writing, art, music, painting, dancing, acting, painting, building and designing are a few of the traits that empaths very often are passionate about.
  • An empath will likely get distracted easily when they are doing things they don’t enjoy and will quickly zone out or day dream when placed in situations where their mind is not stimulated.
  • Can struggle to fully relax in the company of others and really let their hair down and have fun, unless they are extremely comfortable and at ease with those surrounding them.
  • Prefers their living space to be clutter free and minimalistic*; chaotic surroundings make for chaotic minds for an empath and they have enough inner sensations happening without cluttering their psyche further.
  • Crowded places are emotionally overwhelming and downtime is required after social gatherings.
  • Highly sensitive to sounds, smells, bright lights and the feel of certain fabrics.
  • Can become shy and withdrawn as a method of self-protection. This can result in empaths becoming introverts as a way of avoiding the emotional and physical pain that often stems from interactions.
  • Empaths may have an addictive personality and can pick up habits such as drinking alcohol, playing online games or excessively indulging in a particular interest as a form of escapism to blot out feeling so much pain.

Wow.  Okay, more of these apply than I’d initially thought.

“The key to thriving as an empath is to recognize each of the traits and then spend time thinking about each one and looking at how it may be negatively impacting or hindering a certain part of life.”

I noticed that even more of the original list (25 items long) than I’ve included here are things I used to do, or things that I have done, and have since taken steps to not do anymore because I recognize that they are not conducive to my well-being.

Empaths must be sure to surround themselves with others whose energies vibrate at a similar frequency so that they are not vulnerable and exposed to energy that can cause them harm.”

And if that doesn’t explain the friendship my bestie and I have, I don’t know what will.

* This is part of why I want to purge my belongings.  I have too much stuff, and my room feels crowded and stuffy.