Thursday, June 18, 2015

What's 'normal'?

"Normal" - it has always been something I wasn’t.  I would tell people 'I'm not normal'.

I'm not normal.  I'm crazy.  My brain is broken.  I'm odd.  Weird.  A dork.

I also used to say, long long ago, that I was stupid.

People will believe what you tell them about yourself.

Worse?  YOU start believing what you're telling yourself.  It becomes exactly who you are.

When I met Jeff I had been working on NOT saying I was stupid for a few years.  I had created a new online name at that time -  SmartChick[number] and that's how he met me, and that’s the name he still calls me sometimes :)  I AM smart.  But it was also the opposite of STUPID and as far away from comfortable as I could get really.  It took YEARS for me to re-write that program in my head.  I had to go out of my comfort zone and actively say I’m smart!’ when that made me sort of sweat. [I would say I was stupid as a way to be non-threatening, as a way to get ahead of the jokes about me because I was still so nervous and stressed I would walk into walls (not kidding) or spill things on myself, and while not technically STUPID it was my way of telling people 'I KNOW']

I would NEVER ever tell people that I'm stupid at this point in my life.  Never.  I had to really, really work on that.  Stop myself.  Change my online name.  BECOME 'smart chick'.  I changed my perception of myself, and changed it permanently.  It's so normal to me now that I cannot even THINK of a time I would say I was stupid.  It's such a mean thing to say about anyone - why would I call my own self such a name?  

In the last year I have also stopped saying 'I'm broken'.  I don't LEAD with my child abuse any longer.  I am who I am.  I may explain that I have social anxiety once in a while, because that's far closer to the truth than 'broken' or 'weird'.

This has become my new normal.  This is me now.

That's what I'm talking about - how to change your normal.

Take, por ejemple, a drug addict - let's say meth addict because that's the extreme we've all seen on tv.  Their 'normal' is worrying about, acquiring, and ingesting drugs.  Their 'normal' is isolation, bad hygiene, bad sleep, bad nutrition, theft, lying, scamming, deception...  That's a normal life for an addict (in this example anyway).

If you lead a certain life, you have a certain 'normal'.  If you want a different life, you need to change your 'normal'.

A recovering drug addict would have to become a non-drug user.  Their new normal would be abstinence.  Watching for triggers.  Vigilance.  Reflection.  Actively pursuing sobriety and recovery.  That normal is tough - and the recovering addict might say 'why can't I just be done?  Why is this a constant fight with me?  Other people don't even THINK about drugs - why ME?'

And the response sucks too.  BECAUSE THAT'S YOUR NORMAL.  You want a sober life?  That’s the normal.

For me, my normal right now is sitting.  Sedentary.  Inactive (huh, like a hypnotized sloth I'm inactive.  I''m practically pining for the fjords)
'That parrot is definitely deceased!'
'No no, he's merely pining for the fjords'
Being inactive doesn’t help my depression OR the size of my ass.  I need to get back to what I was doing when I felt good.  But it can't be a project, like when I lost all that weight (and have gained it all back because PROJECT).  There isn’t an end.  An ‘Achievement Unlocked’ award .  

It just has to become who I am.  My new normal.  This is why that stupid saying even exists - 'it's not a diet, it's a lifestyle!'.  Only, that never really rang a bell with me. But changing what I'm doing because that's my new normal, that makes sense.  

Like, dammit - I'm a sugar/carb addict, and even a little bit of it triggers a bio-chemical reaction in my brain that I can't control.  Sweet+savory+fat = Size 14 pants for me.  So my new normal is saying 'no' to that.  My addiction is my normal.  Sedentary is my normal.  I want a new normal, so I need to take action and create one.  It becomes just more of who I am.  So on top of addict, and sedentary, I also have recovering and moving as my normal.  Simple.  But not easy.  It’s conscious effort, not the original program running in the background.  This is in your front-brain, until it becomes the new script.

And if your normal is feeling like an outcast/weirdo?  Those of us raised in abuse, who have shattered normal-meters.  Who can't survive long in social situations, us who have very quick agile brains that make connections others don't see (due to prolonged exposure to crazy).  Those of us who have seen enough of life to know that Stephen King might actually be a biographer, not a fiction writer.  The way your brain works, misfires and all, is your normal.

You ARE normal.  You're normal the way people with black hair or a club foot or bad teeth or pattern baldness are normal.

The first step to feeling better (in my stupid opinion) really is to stop calling yourself anything.  In your head, on 'paper', to other people.  Not weird, not odd, not depressed, not anything.  Because we've made a habit out of leading with the abuse and damage.  That's not all of who we are.  People with bald spots don't immediately tell people about it, or wear a sproingy arrow hat that points to it.  It's just part of who they are.  Same thing.  
I love this picture.  SO much.
That's really the biggest hurdle.  Because if you can re-write that script in your head, you can start to just be YOU.  Even if that you can only be at a party for 30 minutes - you find out you can be calm about it.  You can say 'I have another engagement I need to leave' even if the other engagement is sitting on your couch.  You don't have to be nervous, or apologetic about YOU.  And you can stop hating you, and wishing for a different you.

You can layer new normal on top of your base-line.  Positive self-talk.  Exercise.  Medication.  Meditation.  Whatever it is that helps your brain function better and helps YOU feel less crazy – that can become your normal too.

Depression?  NORMAL.  New normal?  Depression, + take meds that help, get enough sleep, get exercise, stop eating processed foods, etc.

Anxiety?  NORMAL.  New normal?  Anxiety + [whatever works here].

Clumsy?  NORMAL.  New normal?  Clumsy + slow down, be aware, deliberate movement, flat shoes.

Fat knees?  NORMAL.  New normal?  Fat knees plus remembering that those knees get you to the park, to your kid's events, to your job or your fun.  And reminding yourself that knees are just knees and NOT HAVING knees would be abnormal.  Having knees of any kind?  NORMAL.

It takes being kind to yourself.  Stopping the internal hate war we wage against ourselves.  It does take work, because this isn’t the original program that has run in the background your entire life.  It’s a constant, conscious, overwrite of the tape installed in childhood.  But getting a new normal is worth the work of the rewrite.  Because the new normal will be what helps you feel better, to feel PEACE.

And I dunno about you, but PEACE is what I’ve been looking for since I started this journey.  Hope I find it soon.  I feel like I'm closer, anyway.
I wanted a pic of a headstone that said something about 'found peace at last'
But this is funnier.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Still surprised

Last year I started a zero-sum budget.  I bought envelopes and we started using cash only for restaurants, each of our spending (gas, my manicures, etc), groceries.  I started buying cashiers checks each payday toward our rent because we kept having to pay a late fee, so this way a chunk came out of each payday.

Last year we paid off two loans - one personal loan and our debt to The State of California.  PAID IN FULL.  We haven't ever again paid a late fee on any bill, ever.

Last year we managed to save over $5,000.
Our actual envelopes!  Also, I need a manicure.  Hmmm.
Last year I managed to supplement my hair/manicure budget by recycling our cans/plastic bottles and also by ganking other people's recycling out of the dumpster.  I SWALLOWED MY PRIDE.  I probably got over $100 from other peoples recycling alone.

Last year I paid attention to my Ebay sales with renewed interest and managed to save, in a baby savings account all my own, over $500.  That doesn't include the money I would withdraw now and again to buy Mike some random groceries or buy some new pants or whatever.

Last year we went to 5 concerts!  We went to Vienna for a week!  We budgeted for it and it was awesome.

Last year I felt like I got a good, firm grip on my life.  Finally.  At 54 years old.  I started living my life from inside of it, rather than feeling like I was looking at my own life through a window.

Last year I forgave myself for having disabilities.  I started celebrating the fact that I have learned how to move through life even with those disabilities:  debilitating social anxiety, OCD, dyslexia, possibly somewhere low on the aspergers scale.  I stopped apologizing and calling myself weird and broken.  I stopped acknowledging my disabilities at all - they have LONG been incorporated into my life and personality, I didn't need to remind myself at every turn.  I'm FINE, I'm functioning, I've been taking care of myself since I was a baby.  Everybody has 'stuff'.  *shrug*

Last year I learned that my body hates certain foods and it's ok if I never eat them again.  Like fruit.  and lettuce.  I learned I could lose 30 pounds by giving up grains.  I ALSO LEARNED I COULD GAIN BACK 20 OF THOSE POUNDS because life is stupid without cookies and what not.  I learned I could use some of that Ebay money and buy back some jeans in a bigger size since I got all high and mighty and tossed my 'fat' clothes.  yeah.

Last year I learned that my depression is going to be with me forever.  I beat it back by taking wellbutrin - by getting enough sleep and by getting a LOT of exercise because endorphins/dopamine/serotonin keep my brain happy - sadly exercise alone does not smaller my ass, but whatevs.  I need a happy brain.  Last year Jeff started asking me 'have you walked today?' because he can tell when I haven't.  It finally registered that while I will have the depression beast to consider for the rest of my life, I can take responsibility for what I CAN control and that?  felling of being in control?  SO HELPFUL.  I learned to recognize the signs and do what I need to do to keep myself sane(er) - walk? alone time? sit in the sun? all three?  Whatever it is, I can handle it.

Last year I learned SO MUCH about narcissism, and dysfunction.  And how letting it all go, dropping the rope - best decision I ever made.  And with that, all the fear left me.  I'm not scared anymore.  It's easier to leave the house, easier to talk to people.  The tape loop of negativity playing in my head?  gone.  Those ghosts don't exist anymore.  I had the power all along.  I dropped the rope and it went away.

Last year I started learning, and I'm continuing it through this year, that even though I am still absolutely convinced something woo-woo surrounds me, I don't have to give it any headspace.  It has no power over me.  I started thinking about it like 'the earth turns, I don't know how that happens.  The interwebz is not a bunch of computers in a big room somewhere, so I don't really know how THAT works.  Planes fly, I seriously can't explain THAT.  So the woo-woo surrounding me?  meh" and with that, a huge burden also lifted off me.  I don't really care anymore.  I don't look for it.  I don't question every dream, every hairpin.  <--I do NOT pick those up anymore.  It's as much a part of my life as my brown eyes and so I quit stressing over it.  I just accept it.  And wonder of wonders, it seriously doesn't bother me anymore.  *shrug*
Photograph of alleged Man In Black taken in October, 1986, in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Credit: James W. Moseley

Last year I started focusing on the future.  Saving money, sorting out our various retirement accounts, paying off bills.  We have goals now - some huge (we're going to Ireland!  for two weeks!  OH EM GEE) and some sort of wacky (I'm seriously considering buying a double-wide in a 55 & over trailer park and owning it for the rest of our lives) and some goals seem so very out of reach (be completely absolutely debt free, able to live on paychecks and savings and NEVER using credit or having a loan again).

But if you don't have a goal, what are you aiming for?  Where will you be in a year?  I like having a goal these days.  It's part of letting go of fear.  I'm a groan-up (wink to TW!) and I'm fully capable of owning a home OR renting forever and taking trips and all that, and deciding this stuff with just conversations between Jeff and I - not me and the million ghosts who used to live in my head telling me I can't/I'll fail/I'm stupid.  Bye, ghosts!

Last year.  Man, last year was sorta crowded.  But I still feel like this year will be huge.  Change is coming.  For me anyway.  Could be internal change, could be external (face lift!) could be both.  This next year may just be the wind-up to the huge *POW* of the year after.  

But suddenly life is SO EXCITING!  It's actually FUN - not in the fits and starts of my previous lives, but I'm INSIDE MY LIFE NOW!  I'm invested in it, I'm INTERESTED in it, I'm living right here, right now.  Not running in fear from me, or bills, or what I said/did while drunk - there is no fear.  And that freed up SO MUCH SPACE.  

I'm really, consistently, MOSTLY, happy these days.  Well, slap my ass and call me Judy.  I still can't seem to get used to that feeling.  I LOVE IT.