Monday, February 16, 2015

Happiness Project: Tax Season & Lent & Enough

Tax Season & Lent are not the same things, although there are commonalities.  For instance, they come around the same time.  Tax Season is longer.  Also, they both involve giving up things that are important to me so that I can have something else.  Lent is about getting rid of crap that keeps me away from God.  Tax Season is about working long hours for four months so that I can work fewer hours later.  I also enjoy the challenge of interesting tax returns and the short-term companionship of tax clients.  But when it comes down to it, it's about giving up spring, family, and myself.  It's about working from one crisis to another, because that's how we roll.  It's about having my integrity questioned every damn day by someone who ought to know better by now.

Bottom line, it's about keeping me away from God and what I am coming to believe God expects from me.

And this is my choice.  And this is something I'm choosing differently this year.  I'm still working.  There are too many people who are counting on me for now, and (contrary to my boss' opinion) I have a boat load of integrity and feelings of responsibility.

How am I choosing to be different?

Well, right now, it's all theory.  I'm sucking out loud at making better choices.  I am tired, grumpy, impatient.  I keep having mental scenarios in which I deal with situations that not only haven't happened, but probably won't happen.  I am angry all the time.  Even when I'm faking calm and peace and sincerity.

So, this is the theory:

I am not taking worry home.  I admit, I woke up this morning and immediately started to dread going to work.  And today is Sunday.  And tomorrow I have a doctor's appointment and personal training until about 3.  To practice my new happiness project, I played a game and concentrated on digging diamonds instead of crap.  Then I prayed a prayer of thanksgiving for everything in my life.  And I prayed for courage, discernment, and hope.  And I drank coffee, got the kids ready for church, and off I went.  At church, I was with people I love and who love me.  Or at least like me.  And I had no patience.  I couldn't enjoy the blueberry yum-yum.  I worried about things and started crying during one of my favorite hymns.  It's a happy hymn too.

Now I'm home and trying to decide whether to read a novel or go to work.  The reason I would go to work is that I would (God willing) be alone and I might actually get work done without someone dropping shit on my desk and telling me to handle it now.  But I might not.  And the thought of getting in the car is making my heart explode in my chest.  I am thinking book... or maybe going to Lowe's to buy paint and supplies...

My friend had a stroke.  He has recovered and is probably healthier now than he has been in a long time.  He told me he has had to let it go.  And he has, too.  When I get crazy, I try to model his demeanor, hoping that the inside stuff will fall into place.  That works better than you'd think.  Not so much today, but most days.

And now.. Monday.  It struck me that I am filling my time with mindless activity in an effort to distract my brain and make it relax.  And that isn't working.  Because if I don't have to think about what I'm doing, my mind fills with garbage.  The scenarios that won't happen.  The scenarios that might happen.  Lunch.

So, new theory.

Begin mindless mindfulness.  Plan my day, don't go with what I think I might feel like doing.  Add something new: discipline.  (Insert shades of grey jokes.  No wait, don't).  Structure.  Not too much, or I won't do it.  Not too little, or I won't do it.  Enough.

Plan what I eat.  Not a diet.  Crap, I gained five pounds just typing the word.  Know what I'm going to eat, make it available, so I don't have to think about it.  I can't think about it right now.  I'm too depressed.  My only option appears to be chocolate and pretzels.  Prepare other things.  Enough.

Plan to spend time with the people I love, even though all I think I want to do is soak in the bathtub for about a week.  Don't invite people to sit in the bathroom while I soak.  That's too much.  Spend time with people.  Not too little not too much.  Enough.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

So begins the task...

After ten years, I am in the process of ending a dysfunctional relationship.  If this were a marriage, there would be support groups.  Who would stand by while their friend stayed with a person who expected them to do everything, but told them they were useless every day?  Who would watch as their friend tried to make things perfect so their partner would not get angry and sulk?  Who would stay quiet while their friend beat herself up taking responsibility that wasn't hers without authority or reward? 

Not my friends.  And this is why, for the past several years, my friends have encouraged me to find a new job.

These are the things I like about my job:

1.  I have (most of the time) autonomy.  I know what needs to be done and I do it.

2.  I have (most of the time) flexibility.  If I need to take my children or grandchildren to school or to the doctor, I can do it.  When I need to go to the doctor, I do it. 

3.  I work with clients who are (most of the time) grateful to have me help them keep track of their own businesses or do their taxes.  I have had many people say that they feel well treated by the people in our office.  I am especially pleased when I can dissolve a crisis with kindness, patience, and understanding.  I feel appreciated by my clients (most of the time.)

This is what I hate about working in my job:

1.  I have complete responsibility without authority.  I can't really make decisions, and when I do, they are often randomly circumvented by the owner, but I am held responsible when things fail.

2.  While I have flexibility, it is partly because I am paid by the hour.  If I don't work, I don't get paid.  Still, my boss expects to be able to call me when I am not working and help him.  I was once walking on a mountain, enjoying my second honeymoon with my husband, when my boss called to get me to walk him through the e-verify process.  When I said that what I would do is read the instructions and follow them, he got angry with me.

3.  My boss claims to rely on me to do everything, even when I am out for 6 weeks after hip replacement surgery, but he says that I am not worth my wages, which are $16 an hour.  He claims that I am important, but he questions my integrity.  Yeah, I know, he has trust issues.  We are all crazy as a bag of cats.  I need to take care of my own crazy.

I really did not mean to get specific.  I wanted this to be about me.  About how I have to cast off the notion that I owe anything to a person who doesn't respect me.  How I owe something to myself and to my family.  How I can't cling to a shitty place because I'm afraid of change.  I haven't decided whether to leave the whining up there.  I think I will, because when I see it in writing, it is harder for me to say, "Well, there really are good things..."  "He doesn't mean to be unkind, he's just scared..."

This is what I know:

1.  When I leave, the bridge will burn.  I won't burn it, he will.  He will feel angry and put upon.  People who I have worked with will think I am unfair and ungrateful.  I want them to understand, and say, yes, it's time to move on.  Great job, while we were here.  I don't want to be thought of with anger.  It's in my nature.  I want to be the responsible one.  The reliable one.  The rag rug.  No, wait... Yeah, I have to take care of my own crazy.

No matter when I go, it will be a bad time.  Things will not be neatly wrapped up.  Even if I go out in a pine box, I will be to blame.

2.  God wants me to go.  Messages are flying at me.  Subtle Facebook memes that mean as much as a generic horoscope, are talking to me directly.  In James Earl Jones' voice.  The message is: Don't Waste Your Gifts.  The gift of writing, the gift of empathy, the gift of problem solving.  The gift of parents who worked and saved all of their lives, serving us creamed chipped beef on toast, and leaving me with a safety net of enough.

Yesterday my blood pressure was 185/111.  I won't go into the details of the discussion before that, because I've got it down now and I'd like to keep it that way.  That is a message, no?

3.  I don't have a plan.  Not much of one.  I can take care of the personal friends and family who rely on me for taxes or bookkeeping, at least for now.  I need a room of my own.  I need to do something with my gifts.  I need to do something very scary.  I need to move on.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Let it go... the birthday party

A while back I read a blog in which the author talked about setting limits.  She said, among other cool things, that when you set a limit on your time and energy, and someone gets mad, why do you care?  Often this is an acquaintance or even a stranger, but even if it's friends or family, why do you care that they are angry that you have protected yourself?  (I need to find a way to save things I've read on the internet through Facebook.  I hate that I can't remember the source.)

In any case, this is a big problem for me in my New Year's Resolutions.  I want people to like me even if I don't like them, and so I do things I don't want to do in order to be accommodating to people I don't care about and who sure don't care about me.

Dad said that was Lyndon Johnson's problem, although it still doesn't explain Vietnam.

My husband looked at me funny when I told him and suggested that some might consider that to be a little bit crazy.  OK, he didn't say "little bit."  I added that to protect my feelings.

So the lady who wrote the blog said, why do I care if strangers are upset?  Am I afraid I won't be invited to their birthday party?

This is a picture of me at my own birthday party many centuries ago.  I'm the one with the cleverly wrapped ball.  This, like all of my birthday parties, ended in tears.  

Why?  Because I'm as crazy as a bag of cats.  I want people to come to my party, but I don't want to be there.  I want to be invited to parties, but I don't want to go.  I want people to like me, even if I don't like them.  Go figure.

So the point is not that I'm neurotic, but how my being this kind of neurotic is making it hard for me to let things go and to say no to things I really don't want to do.  

This week, after a series of unfortunate incidents, I said no to something I shouldn't have started.  And now people are mad at me.  I'm mad at them, but I don't want them to be mad at me.  And I know in my head that I shouldn't justify myself, but I want everyone to know I'm right and they are badly maligning me..  God that sounds so pathetic.  With reason.

OK, Kathy.  Let it go.  Move on, don't worry about what other people think.  Don't justify; don't talk about it anymore.  No one cares.  And you didn't want to go to the birthday party anyway.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Glass of Water

I found this on Facebook the other day.  It was interesting, since my priest Mother Jill had used it in a sermon a few weeks ago.  It was more interesting because my friend had said he thought about me when he heard the sermon.  "Put it down, Kathy!  Put it down!"

How many metaphors do I need before I learn to let things go?  Last Friday, I interrupted my own story to go on a tirade about Free Scotland, an issue that only affects me because my Facebook friends care about it.  Yesterday, I got into a huge (if one-sided) argument with the characters on a Lifetime movie.

I worry, too.  I hear about a car accident and wonder if I know anyone in it.  I'm afraid the tax season is going to be painful.  I can't decide whether to do something I really don't want to do or risk hurting someone's feelings.  (Baby steps.  I know I should say no, but I think it will be easier to just do it.  Unfortunately, I'm going to do a shitty job because it's not my thing and my heart isn't in it.  Wow.  I think I'd better re-examine that one.)

And, even though I believe in forgiveness as a tool for mental health and spiritual growth, I have a terrible time letting go of past hurts.  Hurts done to me and hurts done to others by me.  I replay them, I revisit them ("OK, I'm going to tell this story one more time and then I'll let it go, BUT...")  I nurture them.

Caring deeply is a great thing, but there are limits.  These things (not the Lifetime movie, but the other things) are really things I can give to God.

Worrying endlessly is not a great thing.   Other than my superstitious belief that if I worry about something it won't happen, I can't see any benefit.  That superstition isn't true, either.  Stuff still happens.  Or it doesn't.  Give it to God.

And holding on to embarrassments or hurts or anger is really really not helpful.  Not even a little.  Yeah, yeah, fool me once and all that, but reliving the pain doesn't protect you from future pain.  And if you are an INTP Writing Spider, like I am, you still fall for the same thing again.  I may be trying to teach myself a lesson by telling the stories, but all I'm hearing is, "if I'd done this differently, it wouldn't have happened."  But sometimes, it's not me.  (What?)  Sometimes, I don't control the situation.  (No way!)  Sometimes... oh wait, all the time, I can't change the past.  Give it to God.

Put down the water glass.  Don't be paralyzed by worry, anger, fear, or even the endless possibilities that are spread before you.  Put down the water glass and pick up your life.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year

It is said that one should start the New Year as one hopes to continue it.  This makes me wonder why so many people, including me often enough, choose to begin the new year hung over and wondering who they kissed at midnight.

This year, I begin as I'd like to continue.  Sort of.

I begin by writing.

Now what.

See, that's a problem.  I say, "I begin by writing," and I have nothing more to say.  I say, "I am a writer," and I forget all of my words and go back to Diamond Digger Saga.  I say, "Today is the day I write," and ... hmm, let me get a cup of coffee.

I recently read an article about churches that want to grow but don't want to change.  The author said that that was like saying, I want to lose weight and get in shape, but I want to eat cheeseburgers all day.  The truth of this article struck me, not just for my small, rock-encrusted (but lovely) church, but for myself.  My own self.

I have to change.

I am 54 years old and have been pretty damn sure of myself since I was two, but I have to change.

Now, there are people out there saying, "Damn straight, it's about time, too."  This is the bad news for them.  The things I need to change may not be the things other people want me to change.  For instance, I need to say no. Every day.

I had a discussion with a great friend and great mind, Morgan, who talked to me about how successful kind people set limits.

It isn't kind to pick up someone else's rocks and carry them.  You aren't helping them, you are saying "you can't do this, so I will do it.  Even though my back is killing me and you are an ungrateful wretch."  You see how that sounds less kind now?

It isn't kind to agree to do things --- organize the food drive, bake a thousand cookies, copy all of the literature for a class, when you don't want to do it and you feel angry that the person even asked and put you in this place anyway.  What were they thinking, making me have to say no?  Not so kind.

It isn't kind to let someone behave boorishly or cruelly, and keep them from the consequences of their actions.  It isn't kind to them or to the world.

It is kind to be polite and civil, even if you have to be direct and even angry.  It is kind to be respectful of all people, even the ones who smell bad or who vote Republican on a regular basis.  Treat people as if they were people you love.

RESOLUTION NUMBER 1:  Treat people as if they were people I love.

RESOLUTION NUMBER 2:  Set limits that respect myself and my loved ones. (Practice smiling serenely and saying, "I know you can handle that")

Then there is the whole cheeseburger and Diamond Dash Saga thing.  I want to be healthy and fit.  I want to play with my grandchildren and talk to my sons about things I don't quite understand.  (What do you mean, a Quark isn't a character from Star Trek?)  I want to be able to walk.  A lot.  I'd like to be able to bite my toenails again, but that day may have passed.

I am working with a personal trainer, but she can't make me get up everyday and practice what she teaches me.  I have to do that.  Put down the Nook.  Or maybe I can sit on the stability ball and play Diamond Dash Saga.  Hmmm....

I am eating junk.  The only veggie I had last week was macaroni and cheese.  (Hey, I'm Southern.  That is a veggie.)  I like veggies. I love eating a rainbow a day.  I love fish and seafood.  I also love chocolate and double grilled cheese sandwiches.  OK, a rainbow a day.  Less junk, more interesting food.

RESOLUTION NUMBER 3:  Get up and do something.

RESOLUTION NUMBER 4:  Eat a rainbow a day, and make sure every bite you eat is worth it.  (Is that two?  We'll call it one.)

And finally, for now: do what I need to do.  I know that just because I'm good at something, that doesn't mean it's what I'm meant to do.  I know that other people love me but they don't know what I'm meant to do either.  I know that I am wasting my gifts, and that is a very very rude thing to do.

RESOLUTION NUMBER 5:  Thank God for my gifts and my grace by using them in ways that God loves --- creatively, kindly, courageously.

That's not too much to ask, is it?

Happy New Year 2015.