Living Life Out Loud and Feeling a Bit Exposed…

I’ve made a very conscious choice to wear faults and failings, as I do my triumphs and adventures, on my sleeve.

Sharing thoughts, experiences and feelings with the world; online and often, is commonplace for me.

LivingOutLoud

At worst, it opens me up to judgment and scrutiny from strangers and haters. At best it opens up my heart and life (and message folder) to people who become great friends and allies in the altogether hectic, painful, beautiful, difficult and wonderful life.

Wow, I started in with the pithy pretty early in this blog.

Hang in there please, this should be good and useful stuff if you manage to shovel through the schmaltz and stick with me until I wrap this up.

So, why am I so open? Am I simply an insecure and needy exhibitionist type? Do I crave acceptance and absolution from strangers and friends and plead my case regularly and publicly in an attempt to win you all over? Am I so arrogant that I think an audience will benefit immeasurably from my experiences?

There’s almost certainly an element to all of these things.

Here’s the thing that I keep coming back to though:

Every person who lives and breaths is amazing, complex, beautiful and we all have some ugliness mixed in in varying degrees at various times.

I sincerely feel that the distance between each and every one of us decreases with candor and sharing. I also believe that the absolute shortest distance between people is shared laughter.

LaughterShortestDistnace

I share stories and very actively toil to add an element of humour when I share thoughts and experiences. Sometimes it is in the form of self-deprecation, sometimes the stories I share are absurd enough that they require no finessing to be funny.

Here’s the thing though; You and everyone else has absolute power to twist anything I share. You can throw confessions or thoughts back in my face. You can alter and contort any of my experiences or stories with simple additions, exclusions, amplifications or exaggerations as you see fit.

VulnerabilityHemmingway

Once I share anything, it is no longer exclusively mine. By virtue of taking the time to read the words I write, you own a bit of real estate in my life, my heart and my head. I give it to you and anyone else who chooses to read my blog or anything I share freely.

Some people put a great deal of effort into building walls and feeding an identity that makes them feel safe or secure. Some people put their best face forward all the time and want to convince themselves and the world that they have their s*** together.

I have no hope of ever convincing anyone that I have my s*** together. I am a hot mess with a big heart and high-ideals. Being as deliciously different as I am means I am privy to hurts and helps far superior to anything I’d ever have imagined I’d feel or know.  I feel like I have the freedom to be myself openly and honestly, and I feel like that makes me a better friend, role model to my children, and generally a happier freer person because I don’t have to worry about people finding out about the real me, as the real me is the me I get to be most of the time.

It also means I see greatness, brokenness, faults and fabulousness in everyone else I see and meet. There’s not as much distance between you and me and everyone else on this planet as some people perceive. We’re all fighting battles, and we’re all learning in varying degrees and with varying speed and success.

I am an observer and a participant in this life, as we all are.

Even after years, or decades, of living life out loud, I am still absolutely devastated when people interpret my kindness for weakness, my vulnerability for feebleness, my quirkiness for foolishness, or my earnest for naivety.

VulnerableSign

I share my learning with people, in the hopes that they will share theirs with me, and we’ll both be better off. My opinions and beliefs are changing all the time based on the stories and opinions people generously share with me.

The absolute best and worst part of my existence is people.

Being naked and vulnerable as I choose to be means there are people who don’t require much encouragement to decide that they are far superior to me in some or many ways.  Sometimes, for whatever reason, people hurt other people in cowardly, backhanded or childish way.  Sometimes our closest friends and staunchest allies break our hearts with words and actions, despite having the absolute best intentions.  Because I choose to let people into my thoughts, and life so actively, people can hurt me without too much effort.  I get that.  And for the most part, I can take the good with the bad.

VulnerableNotWeak

Because I openly and honestly share my struggles with ADD, depression, parenting, professional life, friendships, marriage, self-esteem, relationships, power struggles, pain, loss, Love, learning, travel, health, hope, happiness and sadness;  some people dismiss me, or attack me, with my own words. Other people engage with me on a level of trust and Love and friendship that makes this whole life more manageable for both of us I think.  It is a risk we all take when we share a bit or ourselves I suppose.

If you take the time to read or share any of this with me, you get to decide how you relate to me, and my journey. You get to decide if you find my choices and behaviours uplifting or abhorrent. You get to decide if you feel superior, equal, or comforted. You get to decide if you see some of yourself in my observations and experiences. You have total control over how you decide to pick up what I am throwing down as I share these (and any other) words with you.

So, thank you from the very bottom of my heart for sharing the journey with me occasionally, frequently, or closely. Please take it easy on me, and anyone else that has the courage to share a bit of themselves with you.  And you can be as open or as guarded as you want with your life and experiences, and I will go ahead and keep living my life out loud and feeling elated and vulnerable at differing times and to differing degrees.

Guess that’s it for today.

Thank you, especially because this was a long one, for tuning in and sharing the journey with me.

Random Friday Insights on Friendship

I’d like to talk about friendship.

The best place to start, I think, would be to openly and publicly acknowledge how fortunate I feel daily, considering what a huge pain in the ass I can be, to have the friends I do.  We are surrounded by a multitude of absolutely amazing, supportive, honest, kind, interesting, entertaining, diverse, intelligent and loyal people.

It is a really big deal to be able to say that as an adult, because I was a desperately lonely and undeniably awkward child.  Outside of family, I have only one true friend I have known since childhood.  We were 5 years old when we met.  Neither of us has ever been accused of being normal or conventional.  We both march to the beat of our own drum, and neither of us would be considered mainstream or predictable.  It is an honour to know her.

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I hit my first social stride of having more than just one or two good friends at any given time in University.  I managed to find some like-minded individuals who have popped on and off the radar for nearly two decades now.  Another wave of socially secure relationships blossomed as I entered the workforce and met a gaggle of geeks that I absolutely adore to this day.  Another wave when I started dating my husband and met some of his friends.

The most obvious and seemingly secure influx of social bonds has happened since becoming a parent.  You join a club when you become a breeder.  You have something in common with people whose paths you may never have crossed otherwise.  As your children grow, you come across other parents, and have an amazing icebreaker and common bond that plants a seed of friendship in a way that I never would have thought possible before having children.  Some of the people we’ve met through school and kids activities have become an absolutely integral part of our lives. I am of the opinion that many of these people would have had cause to run away screaming from my rather larger than life personality, were it not for the impetus to get to know me because our kids were friends.

The flip side of the formula that has lead me to the social comfort of the friendships I relish (as there is always a flip side) is that I’ve also earned a few fairly harsh critics and even some genuine haters.  You know you’re doing something right when you have actually earned some haters I think.  In most cases this is worn as a badge of honour, as in most cases, it says a lot more about them than it does me.  Douche-bag and Dee do not mix.  Never have.  Never will.  People who have a nice shiny veneer and very little depth or substance, or those who go through life deeply cognitively dissonant are allergic to me as I am to them.  And that’s perfectly cool.

There are other occasions, when I really like, admire, and/or respect somebody, but we’re simply not compatible for one reason or another.  And that’s okay too.  Frequently when this happens, a relationship at arms length of each other is a very acceptable compromise.  This is also okay.  Other times, there is no compromise and the only reasonable option is avoidance.  I’m really very good at that too.  Perhaps a little too good.  Walking away is something I have grown quite a reputation for.  I’ll unpack that one another day in another post.

I digress.

One of the wonderful things about having little to no filter as both myself and my husband do, is the early and ongoing separation of people who are compatible, and those who are not.  I jump in with both feet and my whole heart when I find someone new and fantastic.  Most people admit to being quite terrified of that level of enthusiasm at first.

One dear friend, who I have seen or spoken to nearly every day for the past few months openly admits to being more than a little stunned (but not put off) when first made aware of my existence.

“I thought you were an absolute lunatic.  Smart, but a lunatic.” She recounted to me one afternoon as we chatted about the old days.

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Despite being a “complete lunatic” most of our friends openly and frequently convey a fondness for us.  Grumpy and I often get praised for our honesty, generosity, humour, acceptance and huge capacity to take people exactly as they are.  It seems strange being venerated for these qualities, as it is always by people who quite effectively mirror them back at us.

So what am I trying to say today?

I guess I can sum it up like this:

Life is short.  Time is precious.  We’re all very busy.  Healthy human relationships that last for moments or lifetimes are an absolute necessity for getting through this life.

Take the time to find people who fill you up and make you want to be a better, kinder, more effective person and openly appreciate them when you get the chance.  Opening yourself up makes you vulnerable of course, but the rewards are immeasurable.

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You will sometimes be surprised where you find them.

Be generous and genuine with your appreciation of people.  We all feel under-appreciated at times, and saying thank you to someone can be the difference between a disastrous and delightful day.

A series of bombshells and bad news has culminated this week.  Some of it has to do with me directly, some of it is more peripheral.  But I received a message – both through Facebook DM and text that completely buoyed me.  The woman that sent it is a pathological over-achiever, a gorgeous human being, an amazing and dedicated mother, a huge influence in mine and many other people’s lives, and is working her way to being a national and international expert on a very real and controversial social issue.  The message read:

“Hi Dee, just want you to know that you are an angel to so many people.  You are one of life’s shining lights xxxxxxxxxx”

Yeah, I cried a little when I read it.  Especially because we’ve had to make some really hard decisions and face some really tough realities after getting kicked quite squarely in the guts after trying tirelessly to do the right thing.

Now, the truth is, I get persecuted for openly and frequently sharing gratitude and compliments on social media and in life.  Some people will accuse you, as they have me, of being disingenuous, gushy.  Be assured, every time I offer a kind word or compliment it is absolutely in earnest.

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Opening yourself up to people is hard.  Trusting people totally leaves you vulnerable.  Knowing when to hang onto friendships and when to say enough is enough is a difficult an inexact art.  But the relationships we forge add substance to life, give us context, and, provided they are real and true friendships, help us to look at the bits of ourselves that are difficult to accept.  Healthy and supportive friendships make the good times better, and the dark times bearable.

So if you are reading this, and you are my friend IRL or more frequently online than in the real world, THANK YOU!

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Have a great weekend.

 

Fish and Chips, Funny Quips, Memory Lane Trips, and… What Kind of Pics?

One of the coolest things to come of our impending celebration renewal of vows (currently a week away) is the reminiscing.

My flatmate from a semester I studied at the University of Calgary has taken a very rare break from her work to come down and join us for the party.  After being stopped by the drug dog, interrogated for two hours, searched, and then finding out that it was actually the dude next to her that was carrying and she just kinda got caught in the crossfire, she arrived safe but shaken through our threshold a couple of days ago.  She’ll be adventuring around the Auckland region with one of the many new friends she’s already made, and then heading out to the Eminem concert on Saturday night, before catching a plane to embark on a two day journey to get to Orlando Florida for a work gig.

THAT is friendship.  Also, probably more than just a little bit of foolishness.  But then, if, I recall, as a team, we always did have a bit of a penchant for foolishness, so why would it wane after 15 years?

Here is a picture of our good friend Coen and Alie… and our fridge at University.

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NOTE:  IF ANYONE ANYWHERE HAS SEEN THIS MAN, PLEASE LET US KNOW!  We have scoured the Internet for our long lost Flying Dutchman friend, and it has turned up nothing so far.  If you know him, tell him to get in touch with either Alie or myself!  We’d LOVE to see him.

Back to the story.

For the past two days, the house has been full of friends, kids, and various visitors.  We’re putting the finishing touches on the run sheets for the day, finalising menus, all that type of stuff.

While I was off gallivanting in California last week, the bridesmaids and another friend (who is a stellar event manager) have spent hours on the phone and Internet organising EVERYTHING for the day.

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I’ve got no idea what I did to deserve friends and sisters like these, and even with my generally extensive verbosity, I just don’t have the words to tell them how much I Love and appreciate them, not just for what they’ve done for us recently, but for the years and years of support and ups and downs and all that they have been through and we have weathered together.

*sniffle*

So, part of the preparation seems to be a lot of trips down memory lane.  Friends of mine are meeting for the first time, and sharing eerily similar stories about the things we got up to in days gone by.

Oh my word, I have crammed a lot of adventures in over the past 35 years.

The thing that has struck me though, is that I look back on the many foolish things I’ve done, and the time I spent in my youth, and it generally makes me sad.  Talking to my friends about it over the past few days though, oh my… did we have some fun.

So last night, we drove out to get some Kiwi fish and chips.  My two friends shared stories about the fun we had and the mischief we got up to.

I’ll spare you the gory details.  We did have an amazing laugh about a Halloween party in Calgary where we hosted people from various nations and continents in our small res apartment.  One of the Germans very loudly proclaiming “I have a bratwurst in my pants!” while our Newfie friend (dressed in completely politically incorrect garb) was yelling “Coen, COEN!” (pronounced K-oo-n) across the room to our flying Dutchman friend who was standing with the gorgeous social butterfly lad from Ghana.  The hilarity of that night is easily fodder for one of the best comedy sketches that could ever be written, and we weren’t even trying to be funny or ironic.  Just being young, foolish, insecure and enjoying our time together as we all knew that it was fleeting.

More than a decade on, I’m languishing in the rather sheltered existence of wedded bliss. I have a suitcase full of memories of the time before time when I was footloose and fancy-free.  And the many varied paths my friends have taken, both getting and staying married, or single, breeding, or not breeding, traveling or building careers.

I am enjoying learning vicariously about life as a single person from the friends who are out there in the dating trenches.  It is quite mind-boggling how things are done in the digital age.  It turns out a lot has changed since I was single, and there’s way more happening on dating scene in 2014.

Wow.

So being happily spoken for for more than a decade now means I have not been privy to the wonders of technology that are bringing people together in this digital age.  When I was a young lass, I’d date people I ran into at work, school, or out socializing and courting and chaos would commence from there.

It is no longer so simple.

There are dozens of sites and apps for people to go to in order to find Love, or a romp, or anything at either extreme or in between.

You can hook up with someone at a moment’s notice anywhere in the world, by swiping left or right on your smart phone.

It just happens that my friends are not only quite attractive women, they are also charming and funny and therefore the object of more than a little bit of attention out there in the singles scene.

And you know what happens to them with alarming frequency?

How can I put this gently…

Well.  They get sent pictures of the male anatomy, that really ought to remain unseen in polite society, with no solicitation.

I found this little sketch on YouTube, and I think it is important for those single people out there to take the time to have a listen as it offers some fairly sound advice:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDIdJ46HSkg

Why I found this so fascinating I don’t know.   It was also quite a shock to be faced with the fact I am so utterly out of the loop and, I guess, a bit of a prude.  “What do you mean it happens ALL THE TIME?”  I gasped upon hearing literally dozens of stories from my girlfriends.

As a result of seeing these girls, we have been engaging in a lot of conversations about dating etiquette, then and now.

I’m not sure if it is a testament to our age and the increased confidence that comes with being over 30, or if things are really genuinely changing, but as far as I can tell many women are gaining the upper hand in this dating dance.

Dating today means there is no waiting for the man to make the first move.  It is okay to say no, and it is absolutely okay to say yes as well.  Being single is not a sin, and being separated and sowing wild oats does not make you a harlot or a social pariah.  Strangely, my gorgeous guy friends who are recently back in the game are finding it much harder than the women, and in my small study sample, that seems to consistently be the case.

All this talk of dating exposed my beloved Grumpy’s strangely chivalrous side.  Despite being quite a cad in a lot of ways, the man I married is a gentleman and, quite genuinely, a fabulous feminist.

“I just don’t think you should ever be in a position where you feel like you owe any of these guys anything.”  He said to our friend. “There are some real jerks out there, and just because they buy you things or shout you plane rides, you shouldn’t feel obliged to them for anything.”

Well.  Colour me gushy, my gorgeous Grumpy feels genuine concern and protectiveness for the women we know, and also thinks it is about high time they had the option of being out there chasing a bit of tail of that’s all they want to do.  Double standards be damned, but a lady should still be treated with dignity and respect, and she should certainly be showing the same level of regard for the hearts and minds of the men she dates.

So.  In conclusion.

I am enormously and immeasurably thankful to NOT be out there in the trenches of the dating game.  Regardless of the improved ease the online environment has given to participants wishing to engage in, well, anything you can imagine from what I gather.

I’ve met my match.  And as our friends have oft pointed out  (rather coarsely at times) perhaps the only man on the planet who has what it takes to handle the fantastic tapestry of chaos, kindness, Love and confusion that is Dee.  And vice versa.

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So all the best to those of you out there on the dating scene, and also to couples old and new that are toughing it out together in good times and bad.

Thanks for tuning in.

My Response to a Fantastic Article on Calling Women Crazy

I haven’t read an article quite so confronting since the article that prompted me to write a blog that included a picture of myself inebriated in Fiji wearing little more than a mini-skirt and leopard print bra.  That article was about the shocking self-hatred and body image issues that have perpetuated in women for generations.  This one was about calling women crazy.

What a can of worms has been opened.

I was so upset that I actually ventured out of the house to the regular Thursday night gathering at two of our best friends’ home and I sat in the living room, and I read the article aloud to a dear friend Polina who has just returned from Russia, and I cried.  I have gone there perhaps a dozen times in over four years.

My own unique brand of genuine mental illness involves a brilliant array of symptoms, including a strange, and difficult to explain social anxiety.  Despite being a loud, gregarious, and vivacious personality, I have a hard time leaving the safety of my home to engage in social activities.  I adore entertaining at our house, and I get out of my front door to do other things no problem.  I am certainly not agoraphobic.  I very much like attending business meetings and networking and schmoozing.  I have a travel addiction that would make your head spin. Every one of my children have been on an international flight within four weeks of their birth, and I could quite happily live out of a suitcase indefinitely and be in a new city or country every few days.  I miss the comfort and safety of home and friendships back in NZ when I travel, but this is eclipsed by the non-committal and brief relationships I get to engage in as I meet new people on buses, planes, in queues and elevators etc.  While I absolutely and genuinely adore and appreciate my (our) friends, the thin skin and extreme empathy that tortures this lady means any social interaction, while exhilarating, is also extremely depleting and draining as the thoughts and feelings of the people I spend time with actually “get in” and dwell in me and I am left with an overwhelming desire to help or comfort them because, well, I probably Love them more than I do myself I suppose.  So any social interaction involving someone I care about means I give not only a long warm hug, but I give a part of myself, and also feel compelled to fill up space with noise and laughter which is at times very draining as well.

Beating people to the punchline.  A gutsy defence mechanism or just self deprecating?  Probably both…

We’re all a bit nuts. Admitting it and dealing with it is okay.

That long-winded rant may not help the case I am attempting to make in this article.

I shall leave it in though.  As it’s important that this post be somewhat visceral and inarguably real, because if you’re taking the time to read this I want you to understand just how raw the nerve that was touched actually is.

Okay.

Deep-breath Dee.  You can do this.  You are the absolute queen of the over-share.

Mismanaging my own and other people’s mental illness

A defence mechanism that I’ve evolved is to very openly and publicly admit and share my struggles with genuine mental illness, as well as my many quirks and eccentricities.  I do this in the hopes that it may take away the sting of people calling me crazy.  I beat them to the punch every time by peppering conversations with mean or invalidating personal comments like: “But that’s only because I am bat-shit cray cray.” Or “It’s okay, I’m not offended, everyone knows I am proper crazy.” Or “But then again, what do I know, I’m not exactly the poster girl for mental health.”  I am going to try and curb this, and I’ll tell you why later.

Beating people to the punch.  A gutsy defence mechanism or just self deprecation?  Perhaps it is both.

Beating people to the punch. A gutsy defence mechanism or just self deprecation? Perhaps it is both.

I have to admit, I am also as guilty as most at dismissing some situations and interactions I don’t like by chucking in the “yeah, but that’s fine, because they’re just next level crazy” stamp.  You know what, sometimes people are impossible, and their own worst enemy.  I could tell you stories about bullies at work, mean girls, sexual harassment, terrible clients, and a handful of ex-boyfriends that would make your hair curl (most of whom were lovely and are now happily married to gorgeous, kind women and raising equally gorgeous kind children – but wow, I tried to save a few total jerks as well, before I met Grumpy) Even when dealing with the biggest basket of irrational or deluded you can imagine, I try desperately to be kind and appreciate their struggle. I put forth a huge effort never to marginalize them or their feelings.  If they have recognized their issues and or are trying to be a better person, they deserve a fair shake and some extra understanding as far as I am concerned.  A recent run-in with a very difficult character indeed meant that the other people involved with this person were keen to knock them down or attack the struggles that they were going through with mental illness and addiction issues.  Although completely taken aback and fed up with this person, I did not attack them personally – even in retaliation, as boy oh boy did they attack me. Because they are in the process of trying to sort themselves out, I made a conscious decision to drop it.  (My husband just reminded me that at the time I actually very much wanted to retaliate.) I won’t be inviting this person to our re-wedding, but I also wish them no ill.

Saying that, I have very little tolerance for people who use mental illness or make excuses for seriously amoral or damaging behaviour.  We are all working through stuff, and we all have to coexist, so appreciate other people’s struggles and sensitivities as much as you can and show some respect.  Just because you have been diagnosed with a social, mental or physical disorder, or are depressed, or going through a particularly tough time, does not give you the right to be a creep or a jerk.  It may mean that you have to work considerably harder at certain things and put in more effort to be gentle with those around you, but it does not give you a get-out-of-jail-free card to do despicable things.

Trying not to be a jerk is something we all have to put more effort into sometimes...

Trying not to be a jerk is something we all have to put more effort into sometimes…

Lets look at this a little deeper at this “crazy” label shall we?

How “crazy” is someone who:

–      Laughs loud and often

–      Is raising happy and healthy children

–      Enjoys a diverse range of meaningful, stable and fulfilling relationships

–      Owns and operates an increasingly strong and successful business (even after a very rocky start indeed)

–      Is happily married to a kind and brilliant man

–      Can keep several dozen projects in motion at any given time

–      Almost always has a kind word for strangers and friends

–      Openly admits to having a vast array of flaws and foibles and chooses to learn from them rather than lament them and stagnate

–      Have absolutely extraordinary bursts of productivity and achievement

–      Frequently faces fears head on

–      Rarely shies away from adventure or misses opportunities

–      Doesn’t just like, but LOVES the absolute crap out of things

Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm

No apologies please :-)

No apologies please 🙂

Yes, there are times when I completely lose the plot.  This can be tied to hormones, events, or stress.  It is true that there have been times I need to be swept up off the floor and given some serious recovery time before being able to get “back in the ring” and fight the next round in life.

However, I genuinely believe that I get better, and stronger, and smarter every year.  I am becoming the kind of person I would be absolutely honored to know and spend time with.  I achieve this with the help of some seriously amazing, deliciously diverse, painstakingly patient, and brutally honest friends and family.

So here’s what I think we should all aim to do when dealing with our own or other’s genuine mental illness:

1) Admit and acknowledge that we’re all broken.

We’re all dealing with stuff.  We all lose our shit from time to time and we all hit walls that we can’t easily get around.  Admit it, and do not use it as a weapon or a tool to nominalize people or their emotions.

2) Use humor- but be kind

It is a fine line between accepting and making light of a serious issue like mental health, but I think it is important that we try and find that fine balance.

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It is a fine line sometimes between making someone feel like you are laughing with them, or at them. With them GOOD. At them… not.

The one person who is both the most supportive and at times the biggest jerk is my beloved husband.  He can say and do some remarkably hurtful and unnecessary things – and is notoriously bad at not being able to pick up cues short of being screamed at to shut it when he has crossed a line.  He drops a great deal of “BBC – Bitches Be Crazy!” and “Whoa baby, you’ve had an extra steaming hot cup of crazy today haven’t you?” Sometimes, I can absolutely handle this and find it quite freeing to share a laugh with him about this stuff, other times it is just the trigger to send me into quite a tailspin.

So this suggestion is a difficult one, as it can backfire terribly.

I do feel, that discussing difficult things in a lighter manner and couched in humor can take a lot of the sting away and make it easier to deal with.

3) NEVER stoop to gaslighting or emotional manipulation

Movie poster that coined the term gas lighting

Movie poster that coined the term gas lighting

If, when dealing with a person or situation that makes you uncomfortable or the outcome looks as though it may not swing you your favour, you hear/catch yourself pointing out a person’s mental illness, or insinuating that they are somehow broken or crazy, you are probably gaslighting.

Work very hard not to.

Sometimes the mentally ill can be irrational, difficult, even delusional or hysterical.  Sometimes you are just being an asshole.  Work really hard to be honest with yourself and them about which one is happening when you’re dealing with people please.

4) Know the difference between enabling and supporting people with mental illness

Back to the honesty thing.  Sometimes you’ll have to have some hard talks with your mentally ill friends and loved ones.  About their behavior, about your concern for them.

The razor thin line my nearest and dearest tread with me when I am having an episode is the line between confronting an issue or incident of concern in a way that makes me prepared to face it and learn from it, or simply lose my shit completely.

A less than useful (although, inarguably sometimes VERY useful) coping mechanism I employ in life is abruptly and completely ending relationships.

I cut people off completely and indefinitely and never EVER look back.  This won’t happen with the inner-most sanctum (husband, nuclear family, oldest and dearest friends) but it is a thing that I do that weighs heavily on people who Love me or so I have been told.

However, this is not an excuse to pussy foot around issues, and allowing me to get my way for fear I may toss my toys out of the cot and cut you off is not a valid excuse to let me be an asshole.

I think the same logic can be employed with anyone you deal with, diagnosed mental illness or not.

Be frank but fair, and know who they are and act with respect, Love and concern, and if the relationship is strong enough to weather the storms it will be rich and rewarding indeed.

5) Try not to trivialise or play the victim when dealing with mental health issues

Underplaying serious concerns or ignoring things because they are tough or uncomfortable is not going to help you or your loved ones.

Know when you are out of your depth, and seek intervention and support when you are.  This is relevant for those personally dealing with concerns, as well as their support networks.

6) Be gentle, but honest

Use kind words. Avoid blame. Don’t generalize.  Know the difference between the illness and the person.  Don’t bring up the past as a weapon.

Hang on, but also know when to walk away.

It is a delicate and difficult dance indeed.  And I look forward to hearing more about other people’s journey’s dealing with this stuff personally or supporting loved ones through them.

7) Know when to ask for help or intervention 

When a problem is getting to the point it consumes you, and you no longer feel control of it.  Get. Some. Help.

8) Be calm

My husband insisted I put this in.  And he is absolutely calm – to the point it drives me around the bend.  Sometimes I crave a reaction from him, but he’s gotten so good at weathering my storms and riding my rollercoaster.  Literally anything I have thrown at him so far in our lives together has hardly ruffled a feather.

Don’t think for a moment I married a saint.  He has faults a plenty, but when it comes to dealing with his wife, and the many other diagnosed mentally ill humans in our life,  he is always a beacon of strength and calm.

9) Stick to the facts

Self explanatory.  Don’t make things up, don’t embellish, don’t gaslight, don’t be a jerk basically.

10) Avoid attack and defence

As in any human interaction or any communication punctuated sequence of events, there is a risk of a small thing escalating to a very big thing.  Defensiveness and offensiveness is a sure fire way to turn a potentially useful and valuable event or interaction into a total clusterfuck where nobody wins and nothing is achieved.

11) Don’t try to “fix” people

Know who you are dealing with, and know the difference between them and their disease.

You can’t change people.  They have to do that for themselves.

Know when to walk away, and know when to stick around, but don’t ever wait for someone to become something you want them to be.

You will only be empty and disappointed.

Celebrate the great things, acknowledge and face those things you do not like, but don’t every expect someone to become the kind of person you want them to be.  They are who they are, and if that isn’t enough for you to stick around, then walk away.

12) Know the difference between the disease and the person, and remind yourself of this when things get tough

Again, self explanatory.

WHEW!

What a marathon.

Disclaimer:

This is just my own personal observations and meanderings.  I am not a qualified mental health professional, or a relationship expert.  I am just someone who is fascinated by human relationships and communication, and these are just words on a screen that I am sharing with you based on my own extensive experiences with successful and unsuccessful relationships.

I am absolutely a self proclaimed feminist, and therefore, stooping to “bitches be crazy” or peppering your brain, your language or your behaviour with offensive and inaccurate shit or eluding to all women being crazy is so counter productive on so many levels and you (and I) need to try and sort that shit out.

Watch how you talk.  It affects how you think.  And that affects how you behave.  And that affects who you are.

Hope it was worth the read.

Please feel free to get in touch and comment.

XXOO

Reflective NY Blog from Somewhere in the Middle of the Tasman Sea

This time last year we were traveling all around North and South America with my family, my best friend and his family.

Checking out Glacier National Park in Chile

Checking out Glacier National Park in Chile

Have been missing them, and remembering what an absolute comfort it was to share the adventure with them and the handful of friends we made that trip.  At least we will see them IMMIDIATELY – IF NOT SOONER (our friend Gabriel’s catch phrase) once we arrive back in our beloved Land of the Long White Cloud on Monday as they are there visiting for Christmas.

Gabriel and the children at Sabatini's at breakfast

Gabriel and the children at Sabatini’s at breakfast

So much has happened since then. Some things have been wonderful, others terrible, and many simply indifferent.

The year has brought unspeakable grief, as well as lofty and hard-fought triumphs and accomplishments, both for us personally and for people we know and admire.  New babies have arrived, while other children and people have been called away too soon, leaving a lot more questions than answers, but living on forever in the hearts and minds of those left to mourn them. Couples we know and Love have purchased homes or tied the knot, while others have made the final arrangements in going their separate ways.  Just like any other year, 2013 has been punctuated with joyful and terrifying new beginnings or anticipated, sometimes shocking, or even on a few occasions, long overdue endings.

On balance this has been the year we have stayed closest to home since our first ever-overseas trip together more than a decade ago.  Unfortunately, staying close to home did not mean getting all that much closer to those we know and Love.  The year whizzed past and appointments were made and frequently not kept to spend time with the people we hold dearest.  In a household that used to open its doors several times a month, or even a week for dinners or parties, we found that just getting the kids fed and watered and meeting work and general commitments and appointments left us with precious little time or energy for much more than sleep.

Perhaps we haven’t made the strides we’d have liked to in our environmental and alternative energy initiatives.  But we’re always moving forward, however stifled the pace may seem. We’re palpably close to re-wiring so that we’re hooked up to the 8 Kilowatts of solar power that is collected from the cottage to service our primary property in the city.  That’s going to feel great.  My parents bought us a worm farm for Christmas (thanks guys!), our third electric vehicle will be arriving soon, and Grumpy is still working on a stunning little micro-hydro system to ensure we can power through our energy needs (including charging the cars) during the rainy days of winter up in Matakana.  And last but not least, I am still making plans to try and get us completely off grid for 6-12 months and surrounding the move with the single most elegant and engaging PR campaign EVER!  Do I have to stay in the country for that whole time?  I guess if we actually do plan on being carbon neutral, my travel addiction will have to take a back seat for the duration.  I break out into a cold sweat just thinking about it though.

Some other stuff has popped up, big stuff that is taking priority at the moment and will do throughout the year.  I have faith that it will come together how and when it should though.

So, as is customary, I will start the year with lofty and ambitious ideas about the things that will be accomplished with some Hobbit planning and savoir-faire.  I’ll likely fall short early and hard and probably just carry on much the same as I do every year.

I will, however, share with you a short list of things that will absolutely be made a priority this year, and I encourage you to take a few moments to do the same.

1)  Laughter will be an absolute priority:

We already laugh loud and often, but instating some sort of quota and ensuring it is met might be something worth investigating.  Is there an app for that?  There ought to be.  I may get Grumpy working on it…

2)  More nature, less Internet: 

I may have to take extreme measures such as joining a tramping club or finally buying a paddleboard or sea kayak so we can walk to the bottom of our yard and venture out onto the harbour.  Finally planning and planting the extensive food forest we’ve been talking about for years now.  So watching it grow, and raising the kids to get out and pick and appreciate fresh fruit and vegetables was once a pipe dream that is set to become a reality.

3)  More visits: 

More, actual, look people in the eye and hear what they are saying and share words and hugs and laughter in person instead of on social media VISITS.  A few months ago, I ran into a woman who I Love and admire beyond words. I had not seen her in person for nearly a decade.  We caught up in Manhattan of all places, and just touched the very tip of the iceberg on what has come to pass for us since our exceptionally close friendship way back in the late 90’s.  She is only just up the road, and I mean to see her, and so many other people, and when I do, it is a touch of magic and the most effective and sincere remedy to the constant nattering of my frequently troubled mind.  Friendship is a mighty force indeed, and one that I fear I take for granted.

4)  Get rid of stuff. 

I want have a serious desire to just have less crap!  I’ve taken an awesome step in the right direction by curbing consumption this year.  I used to relish shopping and picking up trinkets or hunting bargains on our travels or even in our own back yard.  I took a 6 month self-imposed shopping sabbatical which successfully changed my habits in that department in a real and lasting way.  Christmas shopping was an absolute chore this year, and precious few people got gifts.  Yet, as far as I know, all the salubrious and flourishing relationships remain pretty much in tact.  So yes.  Less stuff.

5)  Take it easier.

So, among the many things I know, yet frequently choose to ignore is that failure is actually an option.  Trying and falling flat, can be a far more fruitful and useful endeavor than getting something right or having it fall easily into place.  And as long as a person is always moving, learning, and growing, there’s no need to move mountains all the time.

There’s a fairly long list of other stuff I intend to do of course, but I shall leave it there.

Hope that the New Year is safe and amazing whatever you may be doing.  And if 2013 was less than stellar for you and yours, I do hope that you are able to leave it behind and have a much better 2014.  It’s my year (Chinese Astrology) and I expect great things are afoot.