Thursday, May 29, 2008

toxic people?

In the comments of my "don't be this person" and "what to say" posts, I got a lot of talk about toxic people. I understand the idea, and there are some people that I do my best to avoid -- or wish I could, in the case of someone it's not that easy to cut loose. But mostly, I think inappropriate responses to other people's news is usually well-intentioned. Witness the responses to PastaQueen's unfortunate headache problems -- people want to help her with their 9,000 suggestions, but it becomes a little overwhelming. Plus, there is probably the suspicion that the person who "wins" and figures it out gets to be Jennette's BFF. I think that's the case for most of my, er, "well-wishers" too -- they want to make me happy, even against my will. I was just a little bitter about it because I reserve the right to make my own decisions, no matter how wrong they may seem.

I think there is a reason that recovery programs of various stripes have "no advice" rules. Giving advice tends to turn the attention off the person with the problem and onto you and how much you know. It also suggests that if the person doesn't try what you are advising that further problems are due to their lack of listening to you. I say this as someone who loves to give advice, because, really, I am so smart. I'm sure I've been the annoying person who didn't respond appropriately on many occasions.

Anyway, no new news to report. Everything is just sort of stuck, except that my nephew continues to do well and get stronger.

Monday, May 26, 2008

update, from the airport

I'm flying again today, coming back tomorrow. Then leaving Friday and coming back next Wednesday. I will be in five states between today and my return. Sounds like fun, eh? I love my beautiful new home, it's my favorite place in the world. And I'm a bit grouchy about the fact that I'm almost never there. Even last night, as I was enjoying a glass of wine with my husband in our back yard, my mind was just racing over all the things I wish were different in my life. I have to learn to relax and hope that things will change in their own time. Now you know what my trophy wife daydreams were all about. Still trying to sell our old house, family members with all kinds of health problems, and my lack of much time to deal with it all. I'm fat, resentful, and having a hard time appreciating all the good things about Fancy New Job and feeling nostalgic about Low-Paying but Low-Stress Graduate Assistantship.

I think of that song "Count Your Blessings" and feel bad for not focusing more on all the good things in my life: Tiny preemie nephew is doing well. My sister is out of the hospital and feeling fine. My dad is improving. Our old house is getting plenty of showings, one is bound to be to the right person. My husband is taking all my time away in stride and taking good care of me. My kitties are wonderful. Fancy New Job is creative and interesting work and I get to play with all the newest computer stuff. My 9-year-old Honda seems to be holding up beautifully to all its new demands. I love my house. We finally paid off the new appliances. My husband's school district finally signed their contract. I have my health -- which always sounded like a throwaway thing but I'm learning it means a lot!

So life is not so bad here, just busy.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

some good news

(not the news I posted about, that's still in the works and I don't know anything for sure yet)

My sister had her baby, two months early but she and the baby seem fine right now. You can imagine how I felt at 4:00 a.m. when the phone rang, knowing that there were worries, but I felt a deep, quaking gratitude that everything is OK. I'm headed for a visit this afternoon.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

by request: what to say

Vickie writes, in response to my last post about what not to say when a friend tells you about something she thinks is good news, "I would LOVE to see you write a posting about WHAT TO SAY when you are the friend." I think that's an excellent point -- I spent my whole post talking about what not to say and never gave any suggestions for how to be supportive.

Probably the number-one thing to do would be to listen. Sure, all of us can go on and on about something we're excited about, to the point of being boring. For the first two or three iterations, I think the friendly thing to do is to listen anyway. Try to see what is so exciting about this news.

If she's happy, be happy for her. As long as the exciting thing is not obviously life-threatening ("I met this great guy on the Internet last night and he's taking me to his cabin in the woods this weekend!") it's probably best to try to have faith that she's smart enough to figure out the details. "So you're quitting your job to write a novel? That sounds exciting! What's it going to be about?" The nice thing about it being her life and not yours is that the consequences are also hers and not yours. Let someone else be the wet blanket. Like I said, "no one will love you for this, even if you're right. Actually, especially if you're right." I think the nicest thing someone could do for me in the situation where I did do something dumb, and crashed and burned, would be to say, "I always thought you could do it too. Sometimes things just don't work out." Not, "I always thought it was a stupid idea."

And what if you're jealous of your friend's good news? Admit it to yourself. Don't try to pretend that you're really worried that her diet is bad for her health, or that her new job is going to be too much for her if it's really that you're green with envy. Once you admit it to yourself, you probably won't need to passive-aggressively make her feel bad for reminding you how much your life sucks.

I don't know, though. It's one thing to act as if you believe in your friend and are always happy for her when she's happy, and there for her when she's sad, and that you trust her to figure out her own problems. It's another thing to really be that way. The best friend in the world would actually be those things. I have had a few, and felt really lucky. I can't say that I've always been that person myself, but I am trying.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

just my opinion: don't be this person

In the last few months, I have had lots of ups and downs. We hear a lot about "fair-weather friends," but I find that some friends actually have no problem being there for me when times are tough, but who don't know how to handle happy news. At times, I have been appalled by the reactions I've gotten when I've tried to share good news with family and friends. In no particular order, when a friend is excited about something, here's what not to do.

Don't...
  • cut her off and tell her why it's a bad idea -- no one will love you for this, even if you're right. Actually, especially if you're right.
  • tell her why it's not going to last.
  • immediately counter with something more impressive of your own without taking a moment to say "congratulations."
  • make a joke that is really a dig or an insult.
  • quiz incessantly for details, especially monetary ones or ones she cannot possibly know.
  • focus on why this good news for her will be good news for you.
  • focus on why this good news for her will be bad news for you.
  • refuse to care because it's not really going to affect you in any way.
I've noticed this in situations ranging from finishing my Ph.D. ("I guess you'll think you're smarter than everyone else now"), new jobs ("how much will it pay?"), new houses ("but I'll never see you anymore"), weight loss ("Everyone gains it back"). Each time, I really was surprised that so few people would hear me out and be happy for me. Especially friends who complain about me not spending more time with them.

I know that I should just be happy for myself, but nothing takes the wind out of my sails like being excited about something and having the person I tell not seem to care. Sometimes it makes me wonder if it's even worth sharing good news. Maybe it would be better to just work the new job, move, etc., without letting people know. They'll figure it out eventually. Is it just me, or does this happen to you too?

Monday, May 12, 2008

so tired

I sometimes wish, in my weaker moments, that I was pretty enough to be a trophy wife.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

famous blogger alert

I was sorry that I had to miss Jennette's book-release party, which sounds like it was a blast, but thanks to her TiVo Alert, I caught her appearance on the Today show this morning. I watched the show especially for her and it was worth suffering through the clip on Jenna Bush's wedding to see her, looking and sounding all professional on TV. She spoke well.

I was distracted by one small detail... was wondering if the makeup artist used lip plumper on her -- her lips looked really amazing. I know that's a bizarre comment even as I write it. I don't remember staring at her lips when I met her in person, which is probably for the best.

Anyway, it's great to see the book get such great publicity, even if they couldn't use the word Ass on the Today show. They used two little stick people in place of the S's on the book cover photo they used.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

blog doldrums

It's been harder to post because I feel like I'm in the doldrums -- stuck between where I am now and where I want to go -- in so many areas of my life. My old house is still not sold, which is an endless source of angst and new projects that will hopefully make the difference to some prospective buyer. I still am squeezing in exercise in the margins of my life instead of having time to make it a priority. I still am not able to sustain enough energy and interest to journal my food and stick to my points allowance. I've been doing OK -- trying to stick to the basic things, like eating plenty of fruits and vegetables -- even if I could be doing more.

I have a busy month coming, full of trips. In one week I will take four plane rides. This is our busiest season and everyone is working very hard. So it's weird that I feel so stuck in a rut.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

feeling good enough

I think the reason behind my vehement dislike of celebrity gossip is that it seems to be there as an object lesson for what happens to you if you don't measure up, in some minuscule way, to some imaginary standard. If you really pay attention, though, you can see it as proof that you never can win the game they want you to play. The more beautiful and successful you are, the more that certain people will be watching you like a hawk for some sign of weakness. Better to accept that it's a losing game, and find something else to do.

I'm thinking of this again because I did a mini-triathlon today -- shorter distances than I've done before. This morning, my pre-race jitters were all focused on Feeling Not Good Enough: worrying that i look fat in my tri suit, worrying that people who knew me from races before would be remarking at how fat I'd gotten, worrying that I just wouldn't finish the race and would fail in some spectacularly embarrassing way. Mostly I wished I had trained more.

I got over my worries because you can't think while you race. You just have to do. Plus, everyone was excited, and I got caught up in that. Basically, I told my inner critic to shut up. Here are the distances, if you're interested: 250 meter pool swim, 8 mile bike on paved roads,
1.9 mile run. I finished in 1 hour, 1 minute, and 36 seconds. I did better than expected and actually think that I did better than anyone else would have expected too:

The swim part of the race was in a pool, so they couldn't start everyone at once. They grouped us in waves based on how fast we thought we could finish. I think I told them 8 minutes. This put me smack in the middle of the waves. Each of us was sharing a lane with another swimmer, and I think they also tried to guess, by looking at us, how fast we might be and have us share a lane with someone else of similar ability. He put me in a lane with another girl of similar size, probably figuring that we would be slow and wanting to group the slow women together. I know he didn't do it by our predicted times because he didn't call us by the right names. Interestingly, my partner was the very first one in our wave to finish the swim and I was the third -- finishing in less than 5 minutes. I passed her on the bike early on, and one man in my wave passed me. Another man from my wave passed me early on in the run, and she passed me again midway through it. I stayed on her tail and passed her in a final sprint to the finish. So the two women they may have written off as "Slow Fat Triathletes" finished third and fourth in the wave, beating two thinner women. It was fun to have her to race with. This was her first race and maybe we'll have a rematch in another race.

I really missed racing and wish I had more time to train. I am thinking very hard about ways to change things around so I have more time for fitness and more time for myself in general, even if it means giving up some other things. I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, I am going to do my best to give my inner critic some time off.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

no more celebrity news for me

I'm a regular reader and fan of Elastic Waist, and even did a guest column long, long ago. But I find its celebrity news items to vary from "yawn" to "WTF?!"

Last week, I innocently responded to a post about how Jimmy Kimmel told Sarah Silverman that he "loves her thigh fat," (or more accurately, that she said he said he loves her thigh fat). Another reader, who shall remain nameless because he/she did not provide a name, responded, a little defensively, I thought, "Jen, is there a weight limit below which you're not allowed to be worried about your body?"

You know, I don't have any kind of power over people's ability to worry. If I did, I might make it so that none of us were able to worry about our bodies. Worrying about our bodies contributes absolutely nothing to our abilities to change them for the better, anyway. In my own experience, and from my readings of various weight-loss memoirs, getting past worry to acceptance was a better place to start taking care of your body.

But if you want to worry, go ahead. I'd gladly donate my own ability to worry, if I could somehow remove that part of my brain and give it to you. But I can't be bothered to worry about Sarah Silverman's non-existent thigh fat, or whether Catherine Zeta-Jones is anorexic, pregnant, sporting a muffin top, or just standing in a position that makes her stomach stick out in one picture. I'll just skip the celebrity gossip parts, just like I skip the magazines like People and Us that tell us "Stars are Just Like Us! They eat hot dogs! They like coffee! They usually have two arms, two legs, and a head!" I refuse to care about this stuff anymore. I bequeath my guardianship over Sarah Silverman's thigh fat to the anonymous poster. Good luck!
"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07