Love is a Battlefield

boundariesFor whatever reason, one of the most viewed posts on my blog this week has been a “breakup letter” of sorts. I wrote it many years ago…2008 to be exact. And if that doesn’t date the letter enough, it was originally published on my MySpace page! Just for giggles I tried to log in to my MySpace page, but I couldn’t. Guess my poor page was canceled due to inactivity or something. I’m pretty sure I’ve admitted once before that I was truly sad to see MySpace fall by the wayside. My page was absolutely adorable. Being the perfectionist that  I am, I worked on it regularly, ensuring it looked just right and portrayed me just the way I wanted to be seen. No such luck with Facebook. Same boring blue for everyone.

Truly though, this isn’t a post about Myspace. Or Facebook. It’s about the blog entry that has been so popular this week. More than that, it’s about me.

Believe it or not, I don’t talk about me very well. In fact, it’s one of my least favorite topics. My discomfort with the topic of me was the root of the difficulty I was experiencing when I referred to blogging as virtual exhibitionism many moons ago. It was also what made me cringe and…let’s be real…come close to having a panic attack…when I saw what had been drudged up from my past.

But then something happened. In the midst of the sheer terror involved with thinking someone may have caught a glimpse of the real me, the interior me, the me I work so hard to keep inside, I realized something even more upsetting.

I could have written that entry recently.

I could have written it this morning, even.

I’m fighting the same battle today that I was 5 years ago.

The same, infuriating battle that has no hope for resolution.

The same battle that drains so much of my energy can often (albeit, less often than in the past) consume me, and always leaves me drowning in a pool of my own rage and unmet needs.

Intellectually, I know many of the right answers. If I were my own friend, I know how I would coach myself to develop and demand healthy boundaries. I know what I would say to help validate the feelings I’m experiencing, but then start working to release the emotional hold those feeling maintain. I know exercises to identify cognitive distortions and retrain automatic thoughts…

But none of that matters.

I’m trapped in the same place I was five years ago with very little improvement.

And it’s infuriating.

The truth is, I’m not sure that I’ll ever be able to move past this without professional counseling. But I’m just not willing to let her spend my money on top of all that she’s cost me emotionally. I know, I know…that’s very mature, right?

I wish I had a happy conclusion for this post. A light-hearted look at what I’ve gained from this experience and how I’m attempting to grow. But it just doesn’t exist. At least not right now. Right now it just hurts. And I just feel trapped. Right now, I guess both she and I just need your prayers. Thanks.

On Being an Armless Supermom

As  I was just discussing with a girlfriend, I desperately need to invest in a baby sling or carrier to free up my hands. My lack of entries is evidence of the amount of time I actually have these days without a baby in my arms. So is my messy house, my subpar dinners, and my to do list, which has many more items added to it these days than items crossed off. Having three little ones at home has definitely been a huge change in terms of what I can get accomplished during the day. I’m either going to have to lower my standards for what being a homemaker means, quickly figure out a way to juggle my new responsibilities with my old ones, or quite possibly go crazy.

In all honesty the transition from two to three has been a breeze. Many people over the years, ranging from my mother to my Intro to Psychology professor freshman year of college, have told me how difficult the transition between two and three children is. I’ve heard horror stories about sibling jealousy, marital discord, and parental incompetence. I’m pleased to report that we are having issues in none of those areas. The boys are getting along smashingly…sometimes literally. My marriage seems to be unaffected. To my knowledge, neither Josh nor I feel incompetent to handle our brood, which now outnumbers us by one. As I recall, the transition from one to two was much worse. Ben has moved right in and I don’t think any of us remember life without him.

The only real challenges I’m facing are those encountered during the day on account of having no free hands. And as I mentioned earlier, this situation can be quickly remedied with the purchase of a sling or carrier. This purchase definitely needs to occur sooner rather than later or I might never be able to find the floor of my house, we may go broke thanks to my desperate pleas for Josh to pick up dinner on his way home, or we may just have to revert to people who never eat home-cooked meals and don’t remember what it’s like to find clean laundry in the dresser or what their house actually looks like sans mess.

The later is absolutely not an option. I am plagued with perfectionism and I could never live like that. I take pride in my home-cooked meals that I’m strategically placing on the table as Josh walks through the door in the evening. I love it when my mother inquires how my house could possibly be so clean despite the little monkeys that live here. Making a home is what I’ve chosen to do with my life and I intend to do it to the very best of my ability.

Truthfully, that mentality can be rather problematic for me. It makes me a little crazy sometimes as I’m racing to meet some goal or stretching to meet a standard that only exists in my own mind. However, for the time being, I’m perfectly capable of juggling my high expectations for myself and I don’t have any intention to lower them.  Down the road, sometime after reality smacks me in the face, I may write an entry or two documenting my journey to embracing realistic expectations of keeping house, raising a family, and what it means to be a good wife and mother. In the meantime we absolutely must purchase a baby carrier so I’m not forced to face my own human limitations.

What’s Really Holding Me Back?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what direction I want to go with my business. Since the beginning of this pregnancy was a little rough, I took some time off. I’ve still been servicing all of my existing customers but I haven’t done much to generate new business or even grow my current business. As I was cleaning out the garage today in preparation for our big move, I found myself staring at my Mary Kay nook. Since our apartment is small, I keep a lot of my stuff (not product. I’m talking about booth display stuff and shopping bags and peanuts and whatnot.) in the garage. I realized as I looked at all my stuff that I needed to make a decision. If I’m going to make this “break” a permanent one, I need to do it. Otherwise, I need to get moving again.

I just don’t even know how to make this decision. I adore both my sales director and my adopted sales director so I’m sure I’ll be spending some time on the phone with them soon, but ultimately I need to figure out what I want and what is best for my family. And really, that’s just an excuse. Working my business in no way negatively impacts my family. The boys don’t mind at all when I’m gone. They love having Josh all to themselves. And what family would complain about additional income? Especially the significant amount that comes in for the small amount of time I actually spend out of the house. So, I guess what it really boils down to is do I want to do the work?

That question really bothers me. I’m not at all a lazy person. I’m organized and get a lot done on a daily basis. But, for some reason, when it comes to getting my business moving again, it seems like laziness is exactly what my problem is. But even that doesn’t make sense. The work it takes to get moving isn’t hard at all, it’s a lot fun. I love holding parties and skin care classes. I love getting to know new women and helping them feel beautiful. I love watching other women fall in love with both Mary Kay products and the company. I love the products and the company and its so much fun to share that.

This is why I can’t make a decision. I keep going around and around with myself and I can’t even pinpoint what the problem is. So, I told myself I was going to get rid of it all. I was going to have a big going out of business sale and give away all of my supplies, training materials and other goodies. That very literally made me want to cry. I don’t want to get rid of my Mary Kay stuff. I’m a really good consultant, and, more importantly, I really enjoy it. I achieved a lot of success very quickly and then dropped the ball.

Why? The truth is, I know the answer, but I don’t like it. And I definitely don’t want to admit it. But I’ll lay it out here. Maybe if I just admit what the real problem is, I can finally make a decision and get moving.

I’m not satisfied with mediocre. I never have been. Not personally and not with my business. But in my business, I reached a point where I was going to have to stretch myself, step out of my comfort zone and overcome some personal belief barriers to keep moving. So what did I do? I froze. The truth is I froze before I even moved to Texas. Based on what I learned about my business doing my taxes, it appears I froze right before seminar last year. Then, the move and the rough start to my pregnancy were perfect excuses to watch my momentum slip away. Sad isn’t it? I was faced with an opportunity to grow, something I claim I want to continuously do, and I didn’t. I told myself I couldn’t. I just shut down.

But knowing is half the battle, right? I don’t know if that’s true or not. I know very well what the problem is, but I still haven’t faced it. I keep trying to call it another problem: a family conflict, a time conflict, and energy conflict. Deep down I know, as I’ve already mentioned, that none of those are really the problem. I guess step one is to refuse to make excuses for what the problem really is. From now on, when thinking about or talking about my business, I will be honest about the real reason I’m not working right now. Step two is to decide whether I’m going to put on my big girl panties and grow or if I’m going to stay in my comfort zone and look back fondly at the time I spend in Mary Kay.

To further complicate the problem, either choice comes with its own brand of fear. If I move forward with my business, I’m going to have to face the fears that shut me down before. Walking away from my business comes with the fear of regret for what might have been. I’ve spent far too long trying to make this decision based on which fear would be easier to deal with. (I’ll go ahead and tell you. For me, it’s the later.)

As I said, the thought of walking away from my business honestly brings tears to my eyes. I love Mary Kay, the woman, the product, the company, the women, the mission, the charity, everything. I suppose I’ve come to that crucial point that all relationships eventually reach. The point where love the feeling isn’t enough. It’s time for love to be a verb. I just have to decide if I’m going to take action.

Russian Roulette

Despite the arrogance of my last post, it really does hurt to watch people I care about suffer. I get so angry with them because I honestly believe they choose to be in the situations they’re festering in. Nevertheless, it breaks my heart to watch them slowly and almost systematically destroy their lives. Believe it or not, that is not an overstatement. People seem to have so little comprehension of the fact that the choices they make today will most definitely affect the rest of their lives. At the very least, every choice has the potential to do that.

Lately, I feel as if I’m the one who’s trapped. Trapped in some viewing room watching people I love slowly torture themselves. And, somehow, they don’t even seem to realize they’re doing it. How is it possible to sabotage your own future and not see what you’re doing to yourself? How is it possible to be so blind to your own situation that you can’t hear the truth that a trusted friend tries to share with you? How is it possible that when I reach out to try and help, all they see is someone who “acts older than she should,” someone who just needs to “lighten up?”

There was definitely a time when I was “lighter.” A time when I too made insanely stupid choices. But, you’d be a fool to assume that I would go back to that time if given the opportunity. I have no idea how I managed to escape primarily unscathed. Don’t think for a second that I don’t realize how lucky I am to merely have a few emotional scars from that period of my life. I just don’t understand how so many can be so blind. Sometimes it feels like everyone around me is playing Russian Roulette with their lives. I pray everyday that they also emerge unharmed, but the thought of what that chamber could hold terrifies me.

And What Are You Doing to Resolve This?

fix itSo often these days, as I sit and listen to my friends complain about their problems, whether they be personal, financial, work-related, whatever, I just want to scream, “STOP!” I just feel like if these people would spend even a fraction of the time they spend complaining praying about the issue at hand, they would feel so much better, have so much more direction, and not get so overwhelmed by petty things. I don’t say that to be mean. Of course, I have no problem being a sounding board for my friends. It’s not healthy to keep things bottled up. But, when they have the same problems week after week, month after month, it just gets a little ridiculous. Prayer aside, I want to ask them, “What are you doing to resolve this issue?” But I’ve learned that response doesn’t go over very well. I just can’t stand to sit, trapped, listening to a never-ending “woe is me” rant that has absolutely no direction…and that I’ll inevitably be hearing again in just a matter of days or weeks. (Brace yourself for the smug sarcasm that follows.)

“So, Frank, you feel like your life has no direction and you’re not where you expected to be by your late 20s? Well, what are you doing to resolve that?” Frank (who doesn’t exist, by the way) would look at me like I had two heads. Why on earth would he make an attempt to seek out direction in his life when he could just spend every night of his life going to the same bar he’s been going to for years or getting stoned with a bunch of people who also have no direction in life.

“Julie (still not a real person), you’re frustrated because none of the guys you date take you seriously? What are you doing to resolve that?” Again, I’m talking like a crazy person. How could the fact that she dresses like a slut and is incapable of spending an evening sober possibly have anything to do with the type of men she’s attracting? Surely wealthy men with advanced educations and fast growing careers are just dying to get into a relationship and consider spending their life with someone who is advertising herself to be a shallow, insecure, freak who will do anything you want on the first night you meet her. “No, Suzie, I can’t imagine why he didn’t invite you to his office party. Oh, you found out he took his girlfriend. Yeah, I guess he used you.”

“Wow, Hannah (In case you haven’t caught on, none of these characters actually exist.), you’re really stressed out about how much debt you’re in and it’s starting to get hard to make your minimum payments? What are you doing to resolve this?” I’ll let my readers guess. Do you think Hannah has cut up her credit cards and is avoiding the mall to prevent impulse buys? Of course she’s not! In fact, she just bought 3 new pairs of shoes today. It really helps her to shop when she’s stressed out, you know.

My favorite Scrubs quote ever came from the end of an episode when JD was mentally pondering the lessons learned in said episode. He mused, “I always assumed growing up happened automatically as you got older, but it’s really something you have to choose to do.” I swear I got up and did a happy dance. :) I couldn’t believe how simple yet profound that statement was. JD (or more accurately his writers) hit that nail right on the head! If only I could teach all my friends this same lesson. Unfortunately, I think most of my friends, like me, want to learn all their lessons the hard way. They don’t want to benefit from the wisdom I’ve gained by growing up faster, they want to continue wandering aimlessly hoping that all the answers will fall on their laps and all the right doors will magically open for them.

I’ve got news for anyone that will listen. NOTHING will EVER magically fall into your lap. If you want something, you’ve got to work for it. And, just wanting “something” and “working” aren’t enough. You have to know what you want and work specifically for it . A very wise woman I know often says “the only difference between a dream and a goal is an action plan.” She is so right. To achieve anything, you must be working on purpose. Define what you want, break it down into smaller goals, then daily goals. Every day, make a list of things to do to get closer to that goal. In fact, make that list at night before you go to bed. Then,when you wake up the next morning, you know exactly what you need to accomplish. Every minute of every day, ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing right now getting me closer to where I want to be?” Write that phrase down and post in in places that trip you up: by the computer, over the tv, on the fridge. I think humans have an inner drive to succeed; in my faith based opinion it’s the desire to become everything that God intends for us to be. I don’t think it’s possible for us to be truly happy when we’re not living, working, and playing up to our full potential.

Too often, I watch my friends allow themselves to be bogged down by situations that don’t make them happy. These situations are usually easier or less scary than what they could or should be out in the world doing, so they just stick with them. As a result, every day, they get a little more unhappy, a little more discontent, and a little more down on themselves. That’s why I just want to shake them and scream, “STOP!” I want them to realize that they are not victims of life or circumstance. I want them to understand that they are in whatever situation they are in because they choose to stay there. Absolutely no one can give their lives meaning except for them. I personally think they need to reach up to the Lord and ask what direction they should take with their lives. At the very least, they need to get honest with themselves about what they want and how to realistically achieve it. If only they would hear that from me…