Selfish or Self-Care?

It’s Monday yet again. It comes with infuriating regularity. Although Monday and I will never be friends – except perhaps after I win the mega-millions lottery – recently, Mondays, for me, haven’t been so bad.

In life, we have two choices.  We can devote our time to activities we love, surrounding ourselves with, if not exactly low-stress endeavors, at least endeavors that do not prompt the need for an impromptu intervention … or we can devote our time to fighting against things we hate.  Which is better?

Until very recently, I devoted my time, energy, and whole heart into a cause I am passionate about: animal advocacy.  What I’ve learned is that the nightmares never end, figuratively and literally.

I loved what I did, and I’m still active in the animal advocacy world, but I found out that devoting myself to it exclusively led to high stress levels that affected me physically and emotionally.  I stayed with the job, subjecting myself day in and day out to nightmare scenes I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, and for a lot less money than I realistically needed to survive.  I was tirelessly devoted to my job out of loyalty and dedication to the cause, letting myself suffer financially and mentally for far longer than I should have.  At last, I had no choice but to change jobs.

Now, I work with food.  Yummy foods.  I work for a food broker, managing a variety of vegetarian and vegan lines.  I find my sleep is a little better; the worst thing in my nightmares about my new job is the rumored Great Carrot Revolt coming in the fall of this year.  My job is interesting, and I am surrounded by what I love, food.  And did I mention, I work with food?

It’s only been a couple of months since I left my animal advocacy job, and while I can sleep a little better now, there are situations and images seared into my brain that I will likely carry with me for the rest of my life; thank the Gods that be that my mental library of horror is no longer being replenished daily. I have no regrets about leaving the job behind, but I do struggle with a little bit of guilt for leaving the cause.

It’s a much better situation that I am in now, of course, and I find myself looking forward to going to work instead of wondering what fresh level of Hell I will be walking into every day.  Discussions about food are, hands down, much more satisfying than discussions about defenseless animals trapped in unthinkable situations.  Still, the guilt is there, an itchy spot in my brain that I can’t quite scratch.

I’m very busy every day, with a different set of jer … ummm, associates to deal with. But the worst abuse I face now is someone trying to launch a new line of snack packs with no understanding whatsoever of their target audience.  No longer do I face veiled, and not-so-veiled, threats from low-lifes who regularly exhibit sociopath and psychopath tendencies. No longer must I explain to a well-meaning donor that the world does not, in fact, rest on my shoulders and no, I cannot control everything and everyone. No longer am I faced with images that could very well be in a Clive Barker film … and not in a good way. 

Oh, the work is challenging, and I am in a management position meaning I have a lot of responsibility and must be on top of my game … BUT our meetings at my new job revolve around food, and who doesn’t love food?  We are all enthusiastic about our jobs, and our days are filled with delicious excitement, not horrible dread.  And still, there it is again; a twinge of guilt.

I no longer argue with the belligerently ignorant in our midst over why leaving an egregiously crippled animal to starve is animal cruelty, and I don’t have to explain, with pictures, video, and tales from the field, for the umpteenth time why horse slaughter is a horrific fate for any horse and should be permanently abolished.  I can go home from work and just “be,” like a normal person, without collapsing into tears on my bathroom floor over what I’ve seen that day.

I will deal with my slight twangs of guilt in favor of a life I can enjoy.  I am proud of my past work in the advocacy group, and I know they will continue to succeed in the fight to protect the helpless … they are an amazing organization doing amazing work.  I still follow news, with a heavy heart, and get involved in ways that do not consume my life and scar my soul.

I know that some would say I abandoned the animal advocacy group, but I look at it as self-preservation.  Sometimes, you need to accept your past accomplishments and opt for taking care of yourself.  It doesn’t mean you stopped caring; if you ask me, it means you care too much.

Moving and Grooving … Not So Much

When I heard that moving and changing jobs were two of the items in the Most Stressful Life Events, I decided hey…I’ll do both at once.

To those of you who pull up roots and move across the country, kudos to you.  That seems like a lot of fun (said no one, ever).  Your accomplishment almost makes me feel badly for complaining about my semi-local move.

Almost.

Now, I decided in all of my wisdom to take the new job first, and commute back and forth while arranging my physical move.  Why not?  How can it possibly be bad to slide into my new position, over an hour away, while trying to arrange moving companies, downsize my belongings, and pack for the move?

First, let me say that I am moving from an area with high tourism this time of year.  Second, let me say, I hate tourists.  Thank you, young family in the mini-van, for playing something on your car DVD player that I could watch while stuck in the bumper to bumper traffic during my commute.  Thank you, as well, Mr.  Older Gentleman in the baseball cap for keeping me safe by refusing to drive at the speed limit.  And a special thanks to all those who somehow manage to crash their cars so perfectly that all travel lanes are blocked in all directions, at rush hour.

And did I mention that I live over a bridge? Not in the troll variety, but definitely in a pain-in-the-ass variety. As in a bridge that is the only way in and the only way out of my little piece of hell. Picture this, if you will, 10 to 12 toll lanes spread across an expansive highway, chock-full of vehicles as far as the eye can see, who, once through the toll lanes, ALL must merge down into two – count them, people, two! — tiny bridge lanes. It goes about as well as you would think. Fun and games, people, fun and games.

And let’s not forget the truckers … all of whom seem to travel at the same time (I mean, really!?) and all of whom, instead of coordinating their driving so that they all make their way through one end of the toll entrance or the other (I don’t care which, just pick one!) would rather spread out into numerous lanes across the vast sea of traffic and then, using their sheer size and apparent disregard for simple etiquette, squish whole lanes of vehicles into an untraversable funnel that keeps everyone involved from moving forward.  What did I say above? Fun and games. I honestly think that if people truly knew how to take turns AND if trucks could please, for the love of God, just follow each other through the toll lanes, that traffic could be eradicated on the Bridge I hate so much. As it is, it’s like trying to pour mud through a pinhole.

When I finally complete my hour long, now turned three hours long, trip to the House of Forgotten Boxes, I need to organize, scrutinize and itemize my belongings before stuffing them all in bags with sticky notes that say, “Dining room,” “Bedroom,” and “Who cares?  I should have tossed this out years ago.”  I believe my belongings multiply in direct proportion to how many hours I have spent driving. Seriously, it’s true.

It’s amazing the things you convince yourself to keep when you are moving. What should be a purge instead becomes a stroll down memory lane.  “Awww, the receipt from that one store I went to that one time somewhere I don’t quite remember, three years ago.  Better keep that, I may need to return whatever the hell this was.” “Look, it’s my Halloween costume from sixteen years ago.  I can use this again someday.”  “It’s my favorite Crocs!  Ummm…okay, never mind, I can throw these away.”

My new job is great, and the people are fantastic.  I feel a little lost when they discuss local adventures; I feel that I almost understand, but then they throw some twist in there that makes me do a Google Search later.   “Let’s get crabs at Dave’s after work, his lawn mower opened that chicken egg last Christmas.”  I nod and smile.  I may even try to act like I know.  “Ah, yes, Dave certainly did pick that oyster out of the chimney.” Blank stares follow, and they all talk about me over the water cooler at lunch.

I haven’t learned the shortcuts of my commute yet, either, and when people ask how I get to work they offer all sorts of useless advice.  “Oh, you should have turned at that snowball stand on the west corner of the dirt road.”  One day I’ll get it, but for now, I am lost in every way.  And that’s just the commute.

At work, in my new building, I am convinced that people randomly switch floor stickers in the elevator.  I find myself wandering around the rooftop looking for the printer, or down in the basement with the janitor, who, as it turns out, is a lovely person despite his overall serial killer-like vibe. He gave me a wonderful recipe for salmon fritters.

At home, I am surrounded by boxes that clog once familiar doorways, causing me to get lost in my own house, which is saying something considering the size of this house (have you seen my house? It’s small … as in tiny, like Jerry’s mouse-hole tiny).  I haven’t seen the kitchen in a week, but my daughter tells me it is still there.

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I have been on the phone for about three weeks trying to schedule my new cable in my new house, and I have been assured a cable worker will be at my new home sometime between now and December 23, 2022.  Somehow, my mail has been getting lost.  At least, that’s what I’ve been telling the bill collectors, but I’m not sure how much longer they will keep buying it.

As stressful as all this is, I know it will be worth it in the end to be settled in my new home and job.  But for now, I believe I may have crossed through the third gate of Hell.

And obviously, I can’t find my way back.

The Road to Hell …

Well, you know the rest. It’s paved with good intentions. Every year, usually during the alcohol-fueled bonhomie of New Year’s Eve, we perform the annual ritual of making New Year’s resolutions.  Over 95% of the resolutions made are based solidly on good intentions. Of course, there’s always that 5% or so of not-so-good resolutions some people might make… the ones left unfulfilled because of the fear of civil or legal repercussions, or the actions of vengeful spouses.

For the rest of us, the arduous task of keeping our resolutions starts the morning of January 1st. To quote Shakespeare, “It was the winter of our discontent.” A few weeks into the New Year – or if you’re like me a few days – we realize that maybe we bit off more than we could chew. Then lo and behold, it’s almost the end of January and we’re facing a moment of bitter shame inner reflection.  When this happens, we go into three stages of reactive consciousness:

  • Hey! I still have eleven months to do it. I’ve got this. Eventually. Maybe.
  • That was a stupid resolution to make in the first place. No-one would ever keep that resolution.
  • Did I even make any resolutions for this year? I should really get on that for next year.

Researchers at the Foundation for American Intention Loss (F.A.I.L.) have determined that the failure to follow through on New Year’s resolutions is the second most common reason for self-loathing among Americans; the first being the failure to vote last November.  I tend to agree with them. That’s why I decided long ago to stop making New Year’s resolutions.  I have plenty of other ways to generate self-loathing, which I do fairly well I’ll have you know.

Instead, I took to heart the old saying, “How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time!” Okay, so look. That’s just a saying. I wouldn’t really eat an elephant. Elephants are like my third favorite animal, right behind horses and pigs. Plus, I hate hunting. And I don’t eat meat. So yeah, it’s just a figure of speech symbolizing how one handles a large problem or issue. Not really condoning the eating of elephants, people. Just wanted to make that clear.

The point is, rather than set one large 365-day goal, I’ve set 365 small daily goals.

Now, I don’t want to go all “Dr. Phil” on everyone, but I find it much easier to accomplish daily “baby steps” than to try to accomplish a resolution of say, “I’m going to write a novel during 2018.” Resolutions are like term papers. You think you have plenty of time to finish them, but you wind up pulling an all-nighter the day before it’s due. Where’s the fun – or learning – in that?

BUT, when you make a small resolution each day, accomplishing it is quite easy. Start reading a book. Call Aunt Eleanor. Give a cheerful “Hello” to the checkout clerk who always looks overwhelmed. Clean the bathroom. Take the dog for a walk. Don’t rage at the rude drivers. Okay, so some are harder to achieve than others. Learn something new. Organize my closet. Well, maybe this one should take two days. But you get the idea.

Soon you’ll notice a change. The self-loathing-o-meter readings will start to drop.  Your family and friends will notice your increased self-confidence and hopefully brighter demeanor.

Better tell them what you’re doing for 2018 though…lest they think that you’re up to something.

It’s Not Just a Ball Dropping

Once again, New Year’s Eve is upon us.  Some see it as a reason to celebrate the end of a year. Others, especially the seasoned partiers among us, call it “Amateur Night.”  Still others view it only as an excuse to stay up late to watch Anderson Cooper get picked on and the ball drop in Times Square. In its simplest form, it’s a day that marks the completion of a specific period of time, and while that sounds boring, it’s not really. We celebrate the fact that after 365 days, 6 hours, 8 minutes and 38.4 seconds, this large chunk of rock and water travelling at 67,000 mph (yes, that’s faster than a speeding bullet) we call Earth, has arrived at the same spot in the universe it left 12 months ago without hitting something and spiraling wildly off into space killing us all. Hmmm, I guess that’s a pretty good reason to celebrate.  Before I go on, let me take my Neil deGrasse Tyson hat off (and hope that the smarter ones among us, I’m looking at you Paul, don’t end up correcting me on my figures – I worked hard on that).

As we complete each year, New Year’s Eve holds a special place in my heart. And while I’m not big on the whole resolution thing, it’s always been a moment of self-reflection. New Year’s Eve, especially this year, is for me a confluence of emotions that bring back a lot of memories and presents thoughts about what might lie ahead for me as I make plans for some serious changes in the coming year. I know, heavy, right?

This year, I’m celebrating my own version of the ancient Roman holiday of Carmentalia. It was a festival celebrated around this time of year in honor of the goddess Carmenta. She had the power of looking back into the past, and looking forward into the future based on what she learned from the past. Pretty nifty gift if you ask me, and don’t we all wish we had that power? The power of using what we’ve learned from the past wisely.

I feel that I should take a moment to explain. The time around New Year’s Eve always represented a personal trifecta for me. I was born on December 30th, a last-minute tax deduction for my father. I won’t say what year it was, just know that the AARP has me in their membership sights. Discounts at Denny’s are great, but yeah, not yet. Of course, there is the “normal” reason for celebrating.  I made it through another year without blowing anything up, or getting sued for anything I’ve written here. And miraculously, my kids and animals are all still alive, as is the one plant I’ve laid claim to. Go me! And this December 31st would have been my 19th wedding anniversary. I say “would have been” because my divorce was final this past January, hard on the heels of my 18th anniversary.  Believe me, that was a positive event despite also being a disappointing one. And since then, the dating world opened up in front of me in all of its anxiety-inducing glory. I know, it’s weird, right? Glorious and exciting, but weird nonetheless.

Anyway, as I said, I’ve decided that I’m going to celebrate Carmentalia. And I’m going to have a little chat with Carmenta herself. I need answers. Where have I been, where am I going, just what the hell is up with Tinder?

I have big plans for the coming year and life changing events are on the horizon. It’s a thrilling and good-scary time, and long-overdue. Ever the realist though, the raging introvert in me shouts, “Yeah, okay, so you’re starting a new adventure in 2018, but let’s not go overboard, okay?” I guess I do have a New Year’s resolution after all. And that’s to put my hands over my ears shouting “la-la-la-la-la, I can’t hear you!”

In the meantime, placating the introvert in me actually sounds like a peaceful way to usher in the New Year and ready myself for what’s sure to be a wild ride. So, this New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day will find me ensconced on my sofa – with some equally introverted company, grazing on leftovers and sipping on a lovely Moscato a friend gifted to me, while the TV alternates between a 24-hour marathon of “Psych” and the showing of all 6 “Thin Man” movies. I know, I know, it won’t be the chaos that is Times Square when the ball drops. But, hey, it’s not like I can completely disregard who I am after all. And why would I want to? Plus, this will no doubt ease my mind and prepare me for the next 67,000 mph race around the sun.

Bring it on 2018 and Carmenta. I’m ready.

Happy New Year, Happy Life

Another year has passed us by and the year coming…well, let’s just hope for the best, shall we? I thought about resolutions this year, but the thing with resolutions is – they are all too often made half-heartedly and therefore easily broken. Plus, who says we have to make serious commitments to life-altering changes only once a year? Wouldn’t it be better to make adjustments as the year, and life, wears on?

Deciding on foregoing resolutions will certainly help one’s self-esteem – no resolutions made, no resolutions to break and feel guilty about later in the year month week. I mean, seriously, who needs more guilt?

Be a better person. Live a better life. Take chances. Those are resolutions worth making and would hopefully be easily kept. As for that diet or exercise regimen? Sure, make those too if you want, but just remember, promises casually given, even to oneself, are easily broken. In which case, don’t beat yourself up for it…I have no doubt throughout the coming year there will be times when you will feel the need to change some aspect about yourself or your life – seize it! For all intents and purposes, those decisions, those opportunities, they are your New Year’s resolutions, even if they come in July.

Inner Salvation

There will never be another me. I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but there you go. I’m too damned old and too damned fed up with others who think they should have some level of control over me to placate unworthy people anymore. I’m me. And I’m happy with that.

 

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