Monday, August 27, 2012

be a people trainer

It's a subtle truth that I've come to understand:  people treat us the way they do because we allow them to do so.

Now, I'm not talking about total strangers who give you attitude on the subway or those terrible acts of random violence that happen to people.  Those are different.  And I'm not getting all Secret-y on you and saying that you make your own reality, but I am strongly suggesting that you have a hand in it.

Here's how I've seen it in my own life:  many years ago, I was in a friendship that wasn't particularly healthy.  We counted on each other for moral support, but weren't always as clear as we could (or should) have been about how we wanted to be supported -- we never trained each other on this.  So we did for each other what we would have wanted done for us, and sometimes it was right and sometimes it was wrong.  There were times I tried to jolly her out of a sadness when I should have just let her cry.  There were times she tried to logically convince me that my situation wasn't as bad as it was, when all I wanted was someone to hear my pain.  Nothing inherently wrong with any of this except that we sat on our feedback.  Instead of saying, "Right now, Kate, all I want is to be sad," my friend would get angry or lash out at me.  Instead of me saying, "I just want to be irrational right now and still be loved," I would hurry to get her off the phone and just cry by myself.

It got to be craptastic.

I can't speak for my friend, but over time, my resentment grew, and my patience eroded. Why can't she just give me what I need? I kept thinking.  We ended our friendship because we didn't know how to share what we needed, and neither one of us could train the other in this area.  (In fairness to us both, there were many other factors that contributed to the demise of our friendship, but this was a big one for me.)

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, since my sister is raising two little boys, and I'm still looking for Mr. Right.  (They seem unrelated, but bear with me.)  My sister is "training" her little boys to grow up and participate in society.  She's teaching them "please" and "thank you" and reminding them not to put their feet on the table while Nana is eating or not to pull Maisy's tail.  And they take this information because, well, she's the mama, and it's backed up by daddy.  That's one kind of people training.  (Generally, best reserved for little people.)

The other kind of training is related to making a relationship work.  For example, I know that I am not the most flexible and spontaneous person in the world.  I long to be, but in my heart I know I'm pretty square.  So it's a good idea, especially if I'm dating someone who is less schedule-bound than I am, to make it clear that I don't care what we do or where we go, but I'm most comfortable when I know what time and where to meet.  Training him to treat me in a particular way.  (Or, if you take issue with the concept of "training" a date, offering him the opportunity to treat me in the way that is most comfortable for me.)

Why is any of this important?  Because if you don't teach people how to treat you, they'll treat you in their own default way.  And that means you're looking for a needle -- the person who will naturally treat you in the way you want to be treated -- in a much larger haystack.  And in a city of 8 million straws, who has time for that?

Monday, August 20, 2012

you're not a burden

Have you ever been so bored that you couldn't be bothered to do something to entertain yourself?  Well, the other day I had a similar situation -- I was so lonely that I couldn't stand to reach out to my friends, even though I knew they were just a phone call away.  I didn't want to be a burden.  I knew that I had nothing positive to offer them, just "blah" and "meh" and "waaaah."  And who would want that?

When I thought about it more, though, I realized that I would want that.  I would want my friends to reach out to me when they were sad or lonely or feeling empty.  And we could talk about it.  Or we could talk about nachos.  Or the crazy-assed hairdo I saw at the grocery store this weekend (seriously, it was epic).

Fittingly, not soon after I had that lonely spell, a great post came up on my friend's facebook page from a woman named Alyssa Royse.  I'm posting highlights below, but you can see the whole post here, and I recommend that you do.

She says:
When you allow someone to see you as fully human – good and bad, strong and weak, healthy and sick, brave and scared – you let them know that it’s okay for them to be fully human too. That lessens the burdens of fear and shame that hold us back. It shows us that we can be loved for our humanity rather than rejected and shunned for it.

Hoarding your humanity is a selfish act, when you realize the gift that it is for others.
She also says:
What’s worse, when you don’t let us in to the bad parts, you’re telling us that you didn’t think we could be trusted with them. And you make that knowledge the cause of your greater suffering. You let us increase your pain by not letting us share it. Is that really what you want to do? Tell us you don’t trust as and let us become something that increases your pain? I doubt it. I bet you hate that idea, so think of it that way. Because that’s what it is. We will second guess things that we could have, should have, would have done, if only you’d been honest.

You are not a burden. You are a human. You are a flawed and fabulous multi-faceted thing and when I say that I love you unconditionally, that means ALL OF IT.
So if you're feeling meh, or blah, or really want to talk about nachos, reach out and call someone.  Don't text, don't email, don't poke them on facebook.  Get old school.  Pick up the phone and have a voice-to-voice conversation.  See if it doesn't make things better.

I will.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

what are you paying attention to?

I've been watching the Olympics lately, and I have to say, I feel both inspired and lazy.  Inspired, obviously, because these are the world's top athletes demonstrating their skills in the most intense competition in the world.  And lazy, obviously, because I'm sitting on my couch eating popcorn and cheese and not swimming/running/jumping/making my horse dance/etc.

But it makes me think -- so many people spend so much time watching television, and how often are they truly inspired?  I'm not.  I mean, I watch the Biggest Loser, so I'll admit that my tastes run towards the self-improvement, but does Gordon Ramsay yelling at a bunch of aspiring chefs make me feel tingly and excited?  Does watching the BAU chase after serial killers make me proud of myself? No -- in fact it stresses me out.  But, like a train wreck, I'm drawn back to it week after week.

(Don't judge.  You have some equally horrendous guilty pleasures.  And if you don't, well, I have some popcorn and cheese you can eat and a horse you can make dance.)

The same thing goes for music.  I noticed that my running music, last time I ran, went like this:

Angry song
Angry song
Angry song
Fun, Upbeat song

Angry song
Angry song
Angry song
Fun, Upbeat song

And I have to say, that run was harder.  Maybe it was the humidity, maybe it was the popcorn and cheese, I don't know.  But it does make me wonder -- should I be surrounding myself with more inspiring and loving sensory input?  Or is the impact the same if I'm listening to Evanescence as when I'm listening to Miley Cyrus?

(I told you, don't judge.  They're both equally awful.)

There's something to this, I think -- lots of folks believe that your physical surroundings (i.e., that pile of dishes in your sink, Kate) is a reflection of your inner mental state.  The more clutter in the hall, the more stuff that's unresolved in your head.  So let's turn this around:  if you're putting visual clutter and noise into your "hall," isn't that going to have an impact on your head?

Maybe, maybe not.  Try it.  See if watching only uplifting shows (no more Law & Order SVU for you, Sandberg) makes you feel better.  Watch what impact your music choices have.  And decide for yourself.

As for me?  I'm going to eat more popcorn and watch Usain Bolt again.