2018-A look back at my progress

It is January 1st, 2019. This is the day where a lot of people are considering their resolutions for the new year. To be quite honest, the end of the year kinda snuck up on me. I hadn’t thought of any goals I wanted to achieve in 2019, apart from hopefully getting my own place sometime in this new year. Also, finding a job by which I can fully support myself is also a big goal for this year. I’m thankful for those who have helped support me emotionally and financially over this past year, truly. Without them, I would have not made it very far.

This past week I’ve been reflecting back on how much I changed over the course of 2018. On Jan 21st, 2018 I started massage school. It’s hard to put into words a summary of my experiences in massage school. I made vlogs throughout my time in school and a week ago, I deleted all but 4 of them. Looking back on the different stages I went through during school was uncomfortable and painful, but often growth is. It was quite freeing to delete those vlogs because I didn’t want the reminder of where I’d been. I am, most definitely, looking forward.

I finished with massage school on Aug 16th, 2018. I skipped graduation and it felt amazing to do so. It was the first step towards doing what I needed for myself despite pressure from others. I also left school with miniscule self confidence, which was surprising. In the weeks after school, I searched for a job. On Aug 31st 2018, I was hired on at Lowe’s and I’m still employed there. My confidence has been restored and that confidence has trickled over into other areas of my life.

One thing I’ve struggled with for YEARS has been good boundaries and holding others to treating me well. If I don’t respect myself and demand that I am treated with courtesy, respect and decency, no one else will. In the not so distant past, I used to be a real bleeding heart, being emotionally involved in everyone else’s turmoil or struggle. I have noticed a marked change in myself recently and it has been a welcome surprise. I am aware that I cannot “save” everyone around me nor does everyone want this from me. Sometimes, I need to just back the hell off and not be involved. In doing so, it does not make me an uncaring person, it makes me a person with good boundaries. A big part of what I’ve learned is this: I cannot love someone into loving me. No matter how much I give of myself, it will not change their heart nor will it make events play into my favor. I have to take care of me first and just allow the rest to simply be. It’s no reflection on me or my value if someone doesn’t love me back. That has been a difficult but valuable lesson which I’ve learned this past year.

I also realize that how much or how little I give does not influence how favorably others feel towards me. I’m finally able to set better  boundaries from this epiphany. Granted, this is still a work in progress but I feel my awareness is stronger now and I’m in a much better place mentally and emotionally than at the start of 2018. This is the one thing I am thankful for the most.

Much of 2018 was filled with growing pains and tough decisions. It’s been a rough road but I’ve survived. I am looking forward to the new year. I know my evolution is not finished but I feel strong as I type this post.

 

Happy 2019 everyone. I truly wish you all they very best this new year has to offer.

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That time of year, again.

Well, it’s that time of the year again. The time of year where many are thinking about friends and family and gifts and whether kids are naughty or nice. That’s right, Christmas is just a few days away now. I’m back working in retail so there is not escaping the fact that Christmas is upon us. I’ve been looking at decorations since the end of November when we still had Halloween stuff for sale. Nothing screams “The holidays are upon us!!” quite like coming to work and being greeted by a fourteen-foot inflatable grim reaper at the entrance, joined by inflatable, ten-foot tall snowman and Santa.

I haven’t written in a while, which I took as a positive sign. Maybe not so much has been on my mind lately? Not so! I just haven’t found the words to express what all I’ve been thinking. Lately I’ve felt very disconnected from myself and having a hard time saying present. To me, those symptoms do not indicate that I am “OK” and I’ve been trying to figure out what is going on with myself. I hadn’t come up with much but the familiar dread of the holidays was definitely in the back of my mind, moreso that I had realized. At work, people have been wishing me “Merry Christmas” and it took me off guard! I surprised me. Why?? I realize I had been trying to ignore the fact that it was coming. This year, as with every year, I am simply looking forward to the new year so I can celebrate my boy’s birthdays. I try to mentally skip over Christmas and it’s been this way for years.

When my mom was still alive, Christmas was her favorite holiday. She enjoyed having the family around. Derby pie (her adaptation) was always on the table as was the “tradition” (to us) dishes. Nevermind we just had basically the same big meal for Thanksgiving. We’d have most of the same things for Christmas too! The best kind of do over out there.

Now, before mom died, I still dreaded Christmas. Why?? Because there was so much pressure for it to be a Norman Rockwell kind of holiday. My mom wanted the version of Christmas she had with her family grown up. We didn’t ever light the Menorah like my grandparents did but the aspect of everyone getting together, laughing and telling stories is what she wanted. The years before 2014, between my sister and I, were strained. I couldn’t take being around her for more than a few days at that time. We were very different people back then. We did not get along but we tolerated each other, for mom, during the holidays. The pressure of making our get-togethers was something that I hated each year. I don’t like fake and I hate forced, in the vein of keeping an illusion alive. However, in December of 2015 we worked hard to keep that illusion alive. It was the last Christmas we had with mom. My dad was especially stressed. He knew full well that this was our last Christmas with “Granny” and we allll needed to play nice. I remember he scolded the younger kids for scrapping with each other. He knew we needed to make the day all about mom, which we tried. We did our best and got through it. All the adults knew it would be her last holiday. It’s difficult to carry on the facade of joy with that fact in the back of one’s head.

So, here I sit, wrapped in a blanket at 5:45am on a Monday morning, typing this post. It is December 2018. So much has changed this past year, making this time of year difficult and again, I’m not excited about the holiday. There are no tree or decorations in the house. The most I bought for the house was scented pinecones, which are hidden behind items on the bookshelf. At least there’s a whiff of something nice in the house. I think my  disconnectedness has been coming from my trying to forget it’s nearly Christmas time. I feel I can’t cry at work. I feel I shouldn’t show sadness while most everyone else is excited and hopeful. I can’t seem to ignore the “Merry Christmas” well wishes from customers. However, I can endure and wait it out. Just eight more days until it’s all over. I can get through this.

Progression: It takes on all forms

The definition of progression, according to Merriam Webster’s online dictionary is:

pro·gres·sion | \prə-ˈgre-shən \ n. :

1 : a sequence of numbers in which each term is related to its predecessor by a uniform law
2a : the action or process of progressing : ADVANCE
b : a continuous and connected series : SEQUENCE
3a : succession of musical tones or chords
b : the movement of musical parts in harmony

Growth and progression in life can take on many different forms. Our way of thinking changes and our outlook on life evolves over time. This is a good thing! It means we’ve incorporated the lessons we’ve learned along the way and we are not stagnant.

I have been signed up with a certain fitness group for over a year now. I have made great strides and am now around (within a 5 lb +/- fluctuation) of my weightloss goal. My blood pressure is under control and my cholesterol levels have improved. These health changes, for me, are huge. I never thought I’d ever lost the weight given how many times I tried and failed. The things I’ve learned over the past year have been fantastic and are proven to work. I am a healthier version of my former self and now, I need to maintain this new me for the long haul.

Today, I decided to end my fitness membership with this group. Now, to some, this might seem like I’m a quitter but I disagree. No coaching program is meant to continue for the rest of your life. There has to be a “graduation” period where you can stand on your own feet, unaided. You have to trust in the knowledge you’ve gained and put it into practice. That’s my plan. I am very thankful for the support and guidance I received during my time in this fitness group but in my heart, I know it is time to move on.

With new apps downloaded and a plan of action in mind, I am excited about my new journey.

World Mental Health Awareness Day 2018

Today is World Mental Health Awareness Day! I found this out from a post on Twitter. Thank you, social medial. You keep this little hermit crab in-the-know.

I’ve written a lot about mental health on this blog. I’ve made no secret of the fact I’m a therapy alumni, have had depression and have had anxiety. The conversation about mental health is an important one. The bias towards mental health issues still exists, which is unfortunate.

Last week, I had anxiety every day. I don’t get it often and I haven’t had it for a while. It comes out of nowhere and I don’t know what triggers it. I tried to vlog about it but that wasn’t working. I would get this feeling of dread in my chest and it felt hard to breathe. Every muscle felt tense, especially my back and legs. I ached all over. I felt like I’d worked out when in reality, I’d just stood at a register most of the day or did nothing at all (as it happened on my days off too).

I have felt increased stress working the customer service desk. I had this fear I’d be put back up there, with the ringing phones. Having to answer the phone while doing a transaction is stressful. Especially if the person you’ve transferred the call to doesn’t pick up and it rings back several times. This makes the person on the line angry and they can get nasty after a while. I have found I do not thrive in this sort of environment. There is too much happening at once and my body stays in “fight” mode hours after my shift is finished. Realizing the effect this sort of stress has on my body, I applied for a floor position to get away from this environment. I got the position and in a week I should be in my new position.

Recently I talked to someone about this anxiety I’d been experiencing. The response was disappointing, one of someone with a negative bias towards mental health issues and not what I expected from this particular person as they have also experienced anxiety.

Nonetheless, it got me thinking about how important it is to support those going through something that I/we may not understand. I was thinking about nature vs. nurture and how our unique experiences shape us. Two people can be placed in the same environment and they can react differently to the same trauma. Some people tend to thrive under intense stress, others are crushed by it. This does not make one person stronger than the other, it means we’re different. We all react differently to adversity and process differently based on our collective experiences, upbringing and biology. All of us. Reacting poorly or struggling with a situation does not make you a whiner or a”victim”. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to coping skills or tools. It’s not “all in your head’ nor should you compare your experience to another’s struggles. We all have obstacles. Depression, anxiety or any other mental health diagnosis is not a sign of weakness. People with a mental health diagnosis’ are not broken either. They/We just process things a little differently and that’s fine.

For me, my focus has been realizing my triggers. A better understanding of how I tick helps me process stresses in a healthier fashion instead of reacting to them. This endeavor is a work in progress, like always. I must say, despite a few setbacks this year, I am feeling more confident, more positive and happier overall. The difficult changes I’ve made in my life are paying off and for that I am truly thankful.

Dear Mother Nature (an angry poem)

**This came to me in the shower, as I prepared for my workday. Sometimes, I sing in the shower. Other times, I channel Dr. Seuss. 

 

Dear Mother Nature, I think you’re a cunt! Mother Nature exclaimed, “Why for and for what?!?!” Today marks the first day of my monthly bleeding. With high emotions, cramps and malaise soon proceeding.

I don’t have time for this nonsense! Could we invent a switch? A switch which keeps me flipping from “princess” to “bitch”?? A switch which magically shuts off the flow. Seriously, I have places to go. I have places to go and better things to do. And why, oh why must my bowels get involved too?!

I have work today and I cannot ditch! To do otherwise would be remiss. Beside my register, I shall sit. I am chained. Held by an invisible chain. Beside my post, I must remain. With bathrooms 10 yards away. I shall clinch my butt cheeks and pray. I pray that I don’t pass gas. I pray my muscle tone will hold fast. Surely this discomfort will not last, that long. Hopefully I am not wrong. I must be strong.

Payday: A Modern Comedy/Tragedy

There is much on my mind this week as this is my second post in as many days. I doubt such frequent positing will become a habit, however. As I said in yesterday’s post, I have been at my new job for about a month. Since last payday, I have been looking forward to today. Payday.
During moments of reflection and daydreaming the past few weeks, I imagined what I would do when payday arrived. I thought about my upcoming trip to Las Vegas in November. I set a figure in mind for how much I wanted to save from my check towards expenses. My dad has been talking about his desires to travel and it got me thinking. “Hey! I bet I could travel too if I plan wisely!”. I’ve always wanted to travel out of the country. I have my eye on Scotland and I started researching AirBnB for available places to stay in various cities. I dreamed of traveling by myself and having a great adventure! All on my own! “How brave of me to consider such an undertaking, given my tendencies towards anxiety!”, I thought. Also this past week, I have been dreaming about the house I will have (eventually) and how I will make it my own. I went on Wayfair’s website and saved furniture ideas for all the various rooms in a house. I chose a canopy bed/frame which spoke to me and I decided on which version of convertible sofa I would like to have. Nothing too flashy. It must repel pet hair (because I could finally have my 3 dogs join me if I had a house of my own), be comfortable and must convert into a bed for guests. When payday rolled around, I planned to catch up on some past due bills and I wanted to make some headway on a few other debts that were on my mind.
Thursday evening, lying in the darkness, I though, “Why don’t I check my account and see if my direct deposit has arrived?”.
How quickly one’s joy, hope and optimism for the future can drop into sadness, depression and despair. I am working part time at the moment so my check isn’t massive but I was definitely expecting it to be larger that what it was. About $200.00 more than what it was, in fact. Was I shorted money? No, no. This figure I was seeing was indeed accurate and correct. I went to sleep thinking about all the things I would not be able to do if I continue to work for this wage and so few hours a week (which on average is 25-30). I could only be able to pay one of my outstanding bills and maybe buy a few things at the grocery. That’s it. There would be no large total to put away for my upcoming trip. No money to save for my Scotland travel dreams. No money to save towards a downpayment for a modest house, most likely in the ghetto (thanks to ridiculously high housing costs here). None of it. I went from optimism to despair in a matter of moments.
This morning, when I woke, I was still feeling quite dejected. I knew I needed to pay that one urgent bill, so took care of that first. I was able to put a small amount on two outstanding medical bills. I did move another $25.00 into my savings to keep me from overspending. I then proceeded to search the job listings. Again. I’ve been job searching since July of this year. I found two jobs at the hospital and I applied for both. They are full time and I think would pay comparably to what I made at my position I left to attend massage school.
<Side Note: My massage therapy licence is still processing. My massage insurance does not kick in until my licence is active therefore making me hesitant to practice “under the table” without licence or insurance. Some folks are willing to do this but I’m not.>
Questions which have baffled me for some time are: What do people do to make a living wage? What sort of jobs allow a single person to live on their own and have their basic necessities met? What sort of job does one have to do in order to afford a house vs. renting? Are these privileges only for the “elite”?? Is the “American Dream” not for everyone, even Americans? One of the biggest reasons I feared becoming single was the fact I’d be throwing myself into (potential) poverty and (highly probable) financial instability. To be fair, finances were rather hit and miss due to the seasonal aspect of my ex’s business. However, knowing someone else was out there hustling and earning more than me seemed to help my piece of mind to a degree.
Becoming financially independent is my biggest goal. Being able to provide for myself should not seem so unlikely and distant. I can’t live with my dad forever. (Thanks dad, I truly appreciate all you’ve done/are still doing for me!!) I know the picture of my situation will change in time. I wanted it to be sooner than later and my impatience could be a good catalyst for positive change. Right now, I am trying to shake off this disappointed feeling in my gut. I will work my last closing shift of the week and for this I am thankful. I am also going to look for more things to be thankful for. Gratitude erodes despair and fans the flames of hope. It does for me anyway. And, who know? Perhaps I’ll get to pet another soft, sweet, adorable puppy at work today, like I did yesterday. (It truly was the highlight of my evening!)

Customer Service

Customer service is a delicate business. Experience with the public is a general requirement of most every job I’ve ever seen listed. When you’re good at customer service, folks leave satisfied. If you’re great/fantastic/fabulous at customer service, people sing your business’ praises, remember their experience and definitely tell others. If you suck at customer service, people will also definitely tell others about their bad experiences. It’s funny how little middle ground there is. For the best examples of this, just scroll through Yelp!

My job at Lowe’s has been going well so far. I’ve been there a month. I am learning things quickly and appear to be swimming vs sinking. By a cruel twist of events, they’ve assigned me to the customer service desk. First off, I did not sign up for THAT particular position. I applied to be a “cashier”, working a register, away from the phones. The ringing phones, whose tone I hear echoing in my ears as I drive home from my shift. After my first taste of working “the box” (the service desk) I asked one of the head cashiers if I could never be scheduled up there again. She answered back in a sing-songy voice with “Oh whyyyyy?? You do so well up there!”. *Enter feelings of disregard* I was then told I was scheduled up there for at least two full shifts on the weekend. As it turns out, I’ve been up there for two weeks. Thankfully, I do get to move to a position working the floor. I do not know when I start but I’m hoping it’s sooner than later.

Last night I closed and it was my first time ever working an evening shift. In the evenings, there’s a different dynamic. The biggest task of anyone who works “the box” is answering the phone. Our store manager has been after his staff to answer their phone calls. There have been daily customer complaints. Just last night I had two significant angry customers on the phone, yelling/venting their frustration. I was stuck and personally could do very little in either situation. With the first, I took a detailed message and emailed the department head. With the second, the customer wanted me to stay on the line, not transfer or put him on hold until I had someone to help him. This one was especially frustrating as I was up at the desk all alone. This person might have been one of the multiple calls I transfered to management that rang back to me. As I stood there holding the phone with this annoyed man on the other end, a manager (who was also on a phone call) appeared. I waited until the manager finished his call and I grabbed him for this customer. It was a tense situation for me and I felt very helpless and on my own. As I waited to for the manager to finish up with his first call, the man wanted to know the manager’s name. I told him. Then he wanted to know the manager’s last name…..as I still waited. All of it left me shaken. I don’t do well with confrontation as it is, even if it’s from a voice on the phone.

While I haven’t been threatened physically at work, the threat of workplace violence is not far from my mind. Especially when when working a job where I am the “front line” for the public. Perhaps the idea of violence is in the forefront of my mind due to a required training module about “Active Shooters” when I was hired. Perhaps it’s because I have noticed how more impatient, angry and entitled society has become. (Thank you, internet. You’ve opened my eyes to the ugliness of the world.) It seems people are more isolated and lonely now days too. I think feelings of loneliness are the tinder for a perfect storm of violence. There are layers of other emotions under the facade of anger. People do not think rationally when they are angry and this fact is never far from my mind. After a stressful shift last night, I woke to a distinct feeling of dread. I have two more evening shifts at customer service this week. I am not looking forward to being yelled at by people on the phone. Or in person.

I recall an interaction with a gentleman who came through my checkout line one morning. As I asked him how his day was going, he responded with something along the lines of “same shit, different day”. We chatted briefly and as finished his purchase, I wished him a better rest of his day. He then told me he was lonely. It was just him and his dog at home. The short trip out to the store may have been one of the few human interactions he had during his day. I suspect this fella’s average day is the same picture for many throughout our community of retirees. This conversation stuck with me because I know what loneliness feels like. I too have felt overlooked and ignored. There have been points where I too have felt like no one cares whether I exist. (This is a FEELING, not actual reality.) In reality, I have people in my life who I can call or text when I am lonely. I know not everyone has that. Combine loneliness with a frustrating customer service experience? On a good day, a minor frustration can be processed within a short space of time (dependant on one’s rumination habits). It is an irritation but probably won’t ruin the rest of the day. Dealing with a bad service experience, compounded with feelings of loneliness/disregard/feeling overlooked? It could be the perfect storm.

In a world where shootings at businesses are a reality, it leaves me feeling very uneasy whenever I have an upset customer/patient/person. When I dealt with angry patients during my stint at ER registration, I did not always feel safe either.  Again, I was never threatened with violence on the job. However, I know how a situation can escallate. It has happened across the country numerous times. The motivations of shooters are not always clear. Mental illness has been a scapegoat in some of these cases. I have always felt whatever motivates a person to acts of violence has to be more complex than simply anger or mental illness. In my mind, the catalyst for violence is an accumulation of adverse events coupled by layers of conflicting emotions and an inability to process all of these factors.

So when I transfer a phone call and no one answers for the third time. When you’re angry, you feel ignored and feel like no one cares. Know that I care and I am doing my best to help. Please don’t shoot the messenger.