Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The Anxious Guru

I should have known the week was going to be bad when I found out Oprah was hosting the after show for the Michael Jackson documentary.

I was planning on watching it regardless, but the fact that Oprah was behind it made me REALLY want to watch it and face reality and believe it.

Yes, I’ve watched it. And yes, everything is terrible. I think we need to believe these guys and realize that Michael Jackson’s love for sharing a bed with little boys wasn’t normal and he wasn’t a good guy.

I tucked myself in to watch the whole documentary on Monday/Tuesday of last week and it was startling and upsetting. I felt really stupid for justifying his crazy behavior with the narrative he forced down our throats that his childhood was insane and he just liked being a kid again. 

Then, I found out personal news that caused me to facepalm again. And then my favorite murder podcast got dropped because of sexual harassment and misconduct, and if we can’t trust our Free Willy soundtrack singers and our murder podcast hosts then WHO CAN WE TRUST?

But as the great Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.”

But man, I was really hard on myself last week because it felt like I was getting bad news left and right. It was the kind of week where I needed to reach for my emergency Xanax… except I found out it had expired in 2016. (Isn’t it ironic? No, not at all.)

However, the fun thing is that my job is to help other people handle this stuff. So not only was I down on myself because of life, I became even more down on myself because I felt like I was a hack who SHOULD KNOW BETTER. But that’s silly. I need to feel my feelings!

I mean, what kind of development coach/aspiring self-help guru/Muppet influencer would I be if I had never experienced the same feelings as everyone else? I know how to handle a poor leader because I’ve been poorly led in the past. I know how to get over my fear of change because I’ve been through a lot of change and learned how to handle it better. I know how to get on top of my anxiety because I’ve been anxious for YEARS and have finally nailed down a “treatment” that works for me.

So, here’s what I spent the week doing that helped me regain my confidence, move forward knowing what I know now, embrace the mistake-maker within me and continue going:

Writing. Not to go all Alexander Hamilton on you but I wrote my way out. I always write down everything I’m feeling until my hand hurts. It always feels better to get it out, and then to read it. Then I read it again the next day. Have I gained any more clarity? Am I feeling better? Honestly, we just need to bring back diaries. Why do we give that up when we’re teenagers?

Music. I made a playlist called “BRING THE JOY” and I’m really fucking proud of it. It’s full of upbeat songs to give you a confidence boost and bring the mother effin joy. (But uh, maybe leave the Michael Jackson off the list. And then R.Kelly while we’re at it. And probably hymns of the Catholic Church.)

Friends. As an emotionally repressed Irish person, I don’t tend to share my feelings too often. But I know that when I isolate myself, I just feel more alone. So I either share what I’m going through with a trusted few people, or I just surround myself with people so I don’t feel alone in my thoughts. Last week, I actually made plans, reached out and called someone, had dinner with my best friend instead of eating solo steak and had my high school friends over for a spa day with 10 bottles of mimosas. If that doesn’t cure a sour puss, WHAT WILL? (No, really, I’m asking. What will?)

Exercise. Unfortunately, moving my body always helps… and the pain occupies my brain. I worked out a lot. I went to barre, yoga and even ran a few times on a treadmill so that I could raise my endorphins, get strong and feel something else. (I’m not a runner, so my shins have been killing me and that is worse than all the other feelings!)

Acts of kindness. I visited my aunt’s bagel shop to surprise her… but she wasn’t there. So, that would have been nice of me. But I did bring bagels to my best friend who recently had a baby, and I left them on her porch like a bagel fairy! I bought a beer for friends, some robes for the spa day, and just tried to shower other people with love. And shower in general. That was a kind thing to do for the people around me.

Do something different. A good ol’ break in the routine always helps. I’ve typically gone the old Britney Spears route and cut my hair. But I don’t want to because I really like my long hair! So… I got extensions. Like, the fill-in kind so that your hair’s not longer, just fuller. WHATEVER. At least I didn’t get lip injections like I wanted to!

Retail therapy. I bought the following items: A dress, a fancy razor, the aforementioned hair extensions, fancy natural sunscreen, books, records, sunglasses and…  a rotisserie chicken. That was less about therapy and more about the fact that I needed to eat dinner and didn’t feel like cooking.

Feel the feelings. At the end of the day, I’m going to be okay! I always am. Time is the best medicine. But I’m allowed to be sad, anxious, upset, etc. every once in a while. I’m a human being. And I’m allowed to take the time that I need to process what I’m going through. And I did. And I feel MUCH better for giving myself the space and not making myself feel even worse.

Life is fun. Sometimes it’s a rollercoaster full of ups and downs, sometimes it’s like a salad spinner where someone is pressing a button and you’re thrown all over the place and covered in salad dressing. (I’ll work on that analogy, but I think I’m going somewhere with it.)

I’ve been very lucky in my life. The past few years have been insane after moving back from Los Angeles and trying to figure out what the hell I want. (No big deal.) But I finally feel like I’m in the right place at the right time, and I’m excited (rather than anxious) to see where it goes from here. I’m in a career that I’m passionate about, I have creative outlets, I am traveling and experiencing so much, and I truly feel surrounded by family and friends who love me, support me and appreciate me for who I am. 

We don’t always end up with the “love of our lives” or the “dream job” ... and sometimes we will make bad decisions that throw us off-path or hurt someone unintentionally. But all that has made me a much better, more intelligent person. And I’m glad I can help other people through their messy parts by being A GODDAMN MESS!

I know better. I will do better. But until then, I’m gon’ cry into this basket of Reese’s eggs while I re-watch Leaving Neverland and scream WHY?!??! 

(Bonus points if you read that in Nancy Kerrigan's voice.) 

Thursday, January 31, 2019

I Did The Whole 30, And So Can You! Maybe.

*note: i would have used the same dress for the "after" but IT LITERALLY RIPPED INTO SHREDS AFTER THE FIRST WEAR. so it's not a fair comparison really. especially when your body is 85% chest. but trust that the skirt fits much better now and that my face looks like that all the time when i look in the mirror. no whole30 will change that.


You guys. I did it! I finished a Whole30. It was not perfect, as I had to travel in the middle of the month and it was really hard to attend work dinners in a foreign country and ensure everything was compliant. I also stupidly realized in the last week that the chipotle peppers I was buying had sugar in them. I’m a dummy. But oh well. The point is… I did it.

I have decided to write about my experience, and it will likely do nothing for you. I have learned nothing groundbreaking. I have had no spiritual experiences, outside of one crazy energetic day where it felt like I took Viagra for my creative dysfunction. I didn’t even have any major withdrawals, cravings or temper tantrums.

Oh, wait, just kidding. I had a temper tantrum this past Sunday after skipping lunch and trying to defrost a steak in the microwave and accidentally cooking it instead. (I did not eat the microwaved steak, but I did cry for having to throw it away.) (Which is dumb because it was just a regular ol’ 4 oz portion of steak, not something fancy like a rib eye or a New York strip. And my father bought it for me, so I didn’t even pay for it. And I had 3 more in the freezer.)

So… yeah. I’m sharing this because I’m proud of myself and it was a big deal for me! I have been wanting/needing a change badly. I have never really liked vegetables. I have the mindset that weekends are for splurging and purging. (I don’t really purge, I just thought it sounded cool.) A single serving of wine was easily an entire bottle. I made more post-barre stops at Kappy’s Liquor in Malden, MA than I’m willing to admit. I just didn’t feel good, and I have gallstones, and I wanted to do something dramatic because I live for the drama.

It is complete. It is done. And it was a success! It wasn’t about weight loss for me... is what I would say if I were a fucking liar. I lost 11 pounds! The best part is that I felt like I did that without even trying. I didn’t increase my workouts, but I do barre and/or yoga 3-4x a week. I didn’t measure any food servings or anything. I just ate clean, even if it meant having a reheated baked potato for dinner because I was lazy.

Let’s get the most impressive part out of the way… I had no alcohol in 31 days! THAT’S IMPRESSIVE FOR ME. I started the Whole30 on Thursday, January 2nd and didn’t have a drink on the 1st - so there was an extra alcohol-free day in there. Other than that, I had no sugar, dairy, grains, soy, legumes, fun, love, excitement, etc. for 30 straight days.

WHAT WAS MEH
1) Basically making no plans for an entire month
2) No alcohol, obviously

The positive sides of the “meh” parts were that I read ten books and I was able to reframe my mindset around alcohol. I mostly drank because I was bored and it felt like something that just went with dinner. Sure, there were some days where I’d have to dress up a glass of seltzer to make it seem more special. But honestly? I actually didn’t miss it too much and felt like not drinking gave me a lot of clarity. I lived easily without it. I missed having a social life more than I missed the actual alcohol.

WHAT WAS GREAT
The energy! I am mostly a good sleeper, so I can’t tell if the Whole30 made much of a difference there but I did sleep really well the whole time. But the energy I had waking up, in the middle of the day, during my workouts… it was unlike anything I’ve ever felt. And there was no crash. It just kept going and going and going.

Did you guys know that FOOD is FUEL?!?! And when you eat BETTER food, you have BETTER fuel?! Like, you can go from a broken down Toyota to… A REALLY NICE CAR. (I’m not good with cars. I drive a Honda. I love my Honda.)

Also, this probably had to do with the energy, but I felt EXTRA creative the whole month. I was constantly coming up with ideas, writing blog posts, pitching shit to people, etc. I even pitched a workshop idea to my barre instructor. Right now, I’m verbally signed up to do a lot of work this year that I don’t think I’ll be able to manage.

ADVICE I TOOK
Following Whole30 hashtags on Instagram. It kept me motivated and gave me some ideas.

Primal Kitchen avocado oil mayo & replacing peanut butter with cashew butter. Those got me through the month… I went through too many jars.

I hate bringing salads for lunch because i hate washing tupperware and I always leave it at work and then it gets gross and i just end up throwing it out. So, advice I received was lettuce wraps. I took chicken salad lettuce wraps almost every day. And they were THE BEST IDEA.

Carbs & protein. If all else failed, I knew that as long as I ate some protein and some carbs, I’d be full and have some energy. When I traveled, I packed Justin’s nut butter packets and took fruit from the hotel breakfast buffet every morning so I could be prepared. For barre, I always ate a banana and some walnuts about an hour before. It worked so well.

THE ADVICE I IGNORED
I read that you shouldn’t rely on fruit and nuts when you travel… but that’s 100% what I did. I hate raw veggies. So, to each their own. And to me, apparently I turn into a squirrel while traveling. No big D.

Also, I didn’t start over when I thought something went wrong. Like when I was traveling and probably ate sugar or something cooked in butter. I am still proud of myself for sticking with the diet (when I was in control of what I was cooking) and making the healthiest choices I could when it was out of my control. So, no - it wasn’t perfect and in the eyes of the Whole30 gods, I’m likely going to Whole30 hell (which hopefully involves a lot of bread) but oh well. It was a fucking challenge and I did it. thank u, next.

ADVICE I GIVE
Make small adjustments. If you drink your coffee with lots of cream and sugar, find a compliant creamer. It doesn’t need to be torture. For the record, I like my coffee like I like my men… medium-bodied and NEVER after 2pm because I won’t be able to fall asleep.

Eat what you WANT to eat, and swap out the things that aren’t compliant. Craving a big bowl of pasta? Use zoodles. Craving french fries? Make roasted potatoes! Or pan fry potatoes in coconut oil. Want a sandwich? Use 2 brisket butts as bread. You can even make cheese out of cashews! Sounds gross to me, but YOU DO YOU.

Other advice? Just don’t make plans for an entire month. No matter what the plans are, you will always want wine. Yoga class? Wine. Shopping? Wine. Visiting a baby? Wine. Definitely wine.

CLOSING STATEMENT
Thumbs up. I feel really good. I feel inspired to take on more challenges (that don’t restrict alcohol.) I feel more in tune with my body and I have a LOT of energy. So all in all, it was good and I recommend it! It didn’t change my life or anything (because I thought it would make me see 20/20 again, but ALAS HERE I AM WITH MY GLASSES ON.)

I will continue to eat as “clean” as possible because it was pretty easy and I didn’t need all the nonsense (like dairy or sugar.) And I liked all the ways I prepared veggies, so I can factor those into my meals a lot more. Potatoes aren’t the devil, so I don’t need to feel guilty about eating them. Almonds alone are boring, but roasted almonds with cayenne are delicious. Frozen banana in a food processor tastes like ice cream. Eating an hour before my workout gives me crazy fuel. And I love cooking, so why not do it more instead of relying on takeout for the weekends?

But I still want alcohol and the occasional pizza.

Now, who wants to get a couple dozen drinks?

Sunday, January 20, 2019

The Joys of Imposter Syndrome

There is a scene from my first year of high school that I remember vividly. I was wearing an ill-fitting blue shirt from Express and a pair of Old Navy jeans. I was in the locker room, expected to change into athletic clothes for gym class. Badminton was on the schedule that day.

I slowly walked into a stall to change, but there were no curtains or doors. Everyone around me changed out in the open. I remember feeling dread and panic that I had never felt before. I had been in dancing school since I was 3, and we never had to change in front of each other. I guess we may have at recitals, but with leotards and tights, it was more graceful than changing all together in the locker room. I was staring at lady junk and it was super aggressive.

I didn’t have any friends in that class with me, so I was scared and ashamed. I hated myself so much and I did not want to DISROBE in front of these people I barely knew. These girls with their lack of shame and zero body issues!!! I couldn’t believe I was being put in this position, and that I was the way that I was.

From that day on, even when they stopped making us change for gym class because it was Everett High and they didn't care, I wore sweatpants nearly every day to school.

I’m not kidding. Once, we went to the beach on the last day of school and it was 101 degrees outside. I wore an oversized Gap sweatshirt and sweatpants. My friends made fun of me for years (it was even brought up recently.) I even met Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys during Backstreet’s prime (alright) and I was wearing the same outfit. My armor was men’s clothing from The Gap.

That was a long time ago, and I have grown a whole lot. Nowadays, there is a little less irrational fear and shame surrounding my body, but I still have insecurity issues. I notice that it comes out more often in the face of praise. I fold into myself and a little voice screams, "Deny! Deny! Deny!" that way I can never be exposed as a fraud. Imposter syndrome. It's all the rage these days.

I almost never feel like I belong or I deserve anything at all. Someone once told me that I was intimidating because I never spoke to them, and I literally didn't speak to them because I was shy and never thought anyone ever noticed me enough to care. One person accused me of actively leaving them out when I just didn't realize anyone wanted to be my friend. If I'm invited to something, I assume it's because someone is trying to be nice. I was even surprised when my BEST FRIEND asked me to be in her wedding. This is who I am.

It’s like I honestly believe that my true place in this world is alone in one of those wide open stalls in the high school gym locker room. I should always be in hiding and ashamed of who I am. And that sucks because I’m like really good at some things. There are a lot of wins that I should celebrate!

In my mind, when something good happens, it’s pure luck. When something bad happens, it all makes sense. There is a man who I was always really attracted to and eventually fell in love with. He told me that he was attracted to me the very first time he saw me and I never believed him. It wasn’t until he told me literally everything I was wearing, how my hair was done that day and recited the words that came out of my mouth (and I wasn't speaking to him) that I realized, “Wow, did I make an impression on him?”

It took a lot of self-discovery and convincing to believe that actually happened. That I was capable of attracting such an attractive man. That someone felt mutual feelings for me. But when he eventually stopped calling on me years later, I immediately understood. It made perfect sense to me. Like I had been waiting for it to happen for years. I almost felt relief. “Finally, now I don’t have to wait around to be told I’m actually NOT as interesting and attractive as he claimed!!! HA! I win!!!”

I feel that way about everything. When I receive good feedback, it feels like a mistake. When people like me, I don’t understand. I personally think I’m socially awkward and super weird… so, what are they even talking about? I am confident, and I’m proud of how I show up in life. I have worked quite hard to love myself for who I am. But I can’t seem to quiet that first feeling of shock.

How did I trick these people into liking me/my work?

When it all boils down to it, I do know. I know that I’m kind of funny and even mildly attractive. I work hard to maintain a positive attitude. I'm all about "bringing the joy." I go out of my way to make people feel calm and comfortable (which makes me a good HR person, or teacher, or facilitator.) I’m confident in my style, humor, looks, intelligence, all the things. There’s no reason to feel bad about anything, but sometimes I just can’t help it.

In fact, I am actually sort of glad that I still have that scared little teenager inside of me. That sounded gross, but you know what I mean. She keeps me humble. She keeps me working hard to overcompensate for what I think that I lack. She keeps me from ever making anyone else feel that way, and from ever feeling that way about myself again. I honestly think she keeps me curious about what is outside of my comfort zone and to be more afraid of staying within its limits than outside of it. Because when I’m constantly inside the limits of my comfort zone, I feel shame when I’m dragged out of it. If I actively pursue what’s outside of it on my own, then that’s empowering! Not shameful.

Getting through life with all its minefields of insecurities is a real pain in the dick. It’d be a whole lot easier if we could just learn to start believing people when they tell us what they feel about us. Whether it’s good or bad. And leave it as that. If we stop overthinking and disagreeing, then the conversation could end and we could all go on our merry ways.

For instance, when someone says, “I like your jacket” I could respond with a simple, “Thank you!” and move on with my life.

Instead of what happens now, which goes something like “Oh, thanks. It’s actually not a real leather jacket. It’s fake. And it’s ripped on the inside. Like my soul. Just kidding. It’s from Topshop! It’s like $80. You should get it! It feels real… feel it!”

The scene ends with a bewildered conversation partner… cautiously stroking my outstretched arm. Eyes widening in discomfort and slight horror. A bewildered Patty walking away, repeating the scene in her head, asking why she couldn’t be normal.

But I'll never be normal. I'll always be my crazy self who is playing out the most boring con of all time!

And since you made it this far, I gift you with a picture of me meeting Nick Carter in my outfit of shame. I'm pretty sure it's the only time in my life when feeling like I didn't matter to a person was the God's honest truth. I did not matter to Nick Carter outside of that Somerville apartment building where he was illegally getting a tattoo at 1am. That day, I was just a normal teenage girl who knew she was unattractive to a man who found her unattractive. And all was well.


Thursday, January 3, 2019

The Christmas That Taught Me How To Live




My life is essentially a Hallmark Christmas movie.

Except for the fact that Hallmark doesn’t really include sad love stories about girls who get ghosted and eat paleo chili for dinner every night in their line-up. But when it comes to finding Christmas spirit, I’m your gal.

A lot of people ask me why I love Christmas so much, and I never know how to answer them. The truth is, Christmas is actually the most boring part of the Christmas season. It’s my least favorite day of all. And not every Christmas season has been a good one for me.

One year I got lost in a religious shrine (I was a little kid and my mom LOST ME). I was wearing a bright yellow hat… and my mom lost me. Another year, I dealt with devastating loss. Another year, I had to have surgery, followed by pain medication and waking up to my best friend’s dog licking my face. Those weren’t great years.

But all-in-all, Christmas is a special time of year for me. It’s just so extra. And I’m pretty extra. It’s when the maximalist, optimistic side of me really gets to shine. Everything’s all sparkly and glittered up for the season. We’re forced to be more social. We’re allowed to drink more. We can start spending money on sequins and velvet that we’ll wear for only a month. It’s great!

That being said, I was a bit worried about this past Christmas season. For some reason, I was feeling anti-tradition and out of sorts. I didn’t feel like watching the same old movies I always used to watch… like The 12 Dates of Christmas starring Zack Morris. Obviously. I was sick of my 24-hour Christmas playlist. And by this year, I’d seen every single Hallmark Christmas movie so there was no joy in them anymore. (Just kidding, there’ll always be joy in them. Literally. In every movie at least one character is named Joy.)

I had also been a bit sad, and I was worried that it would take away from the magic of the season. So I had a choice: wallow in my own self-pity… or enjoy my favorite season in a different way.

So I made a decision to set my expectations really low and not overwhelm myself with holiday spirit and tradition. And you probably know where this is going, but by doing that - my Christmas spirit was better than ever!

In previous years, I would listen to Christmas music non-stop and watch nothing but Christmas movies every night in an attempt to FORCE Christmas. This year, I listened to my usual podcasts and audiobooks but sprinkled in holiday music whenever I felt like it. I ended up listening to whole albums at a time and finding new songs I loved. I slowly decorated throughout the season, adding little things here and there rather than taking everything out and blanketing my apartment all at once.

I also tried new potential traditions (if I feel like it), like having my sister and friend over to bake Christmas cookies. I went to Los Angeles and visited my friends where we drank cocktails and I walked his dog in 70-degree weather. I also continued watching Hallmark Christmas movies (and yes, I used the app to check off the ones I’d watched)... but I also kept up with other important shows like Vanderpump Rules and Scientology: The Aftermath.  

I was a season mixed with plans and downtime. Christmas-themed content and regular life. I never felt overwhelmed, my expectations were low, and I never felt that pang of sadness that soon it would all be over (which usually happens as soon as it begins) because I was being present. Maybe that’s the “present” that Jesus was talking about when he first talked to Santa Clause about bringing presents to children. That’s how the story went in the Bible, right?

The reason I love Christmas so much remains the same… it’s sparkly and pretty and festive and fun. But people tend to despise Christmas season because there is so much going on and complicated family relationships and whatnot. So, I decided to just calm the fuck down, lower my own expectations, be kinder to people and show lots of love to the people in my life in my own weird way. (Through baking them cookies and buying them sneakers, obviously.)

So, yeah, this Christmas ended up being a GREAT Christmas after all. I wore a Santa hat paired with a red plaid coat and a shirt that said, “What a man, what a man, what a mighty good man” with a picture of Santa on it. That is who I am. A Christmas Maximalist who brings the joy! But instead of waiting all year (and literally counting down the days) - I’m going to incorporate more of that spirit into my everyday life.

I’m going to live in the moment, lower my expectations, be kinder, wear whatever I want (no matter how EXTRA I am) and bring the God damn joy ALL YEAR ROUND!

But I’m still going to eat paleo chili every night. Because I feel like it. And it’s like, really good. It has squash in it! You love squash!

Ps. Remember that time my mom LOST ME in a RELIGIOUS SHRINE? There's so many things wrong with that statement!

Monday, November 19, 2018

Getting Old and Getting Wise

It has become a running joke (with myself) to mutter “I’m old” as a response to literally anything and everything these days.

“I fell asleep while reading and went to bed at 9pm last night. I’m so old.”

“Go out in the city?! On a weeknight???? I’m too old!”

“I stay in on Friday nights because I’m too stressed and tired from the week. I’m old.”

“Ugh, so much drama in your friend group… I’m too old for that shit.”

The truth is that it has nothing to do with being old, and everything to do with my personality. I was never a fan of late nights and have always preferred staying in and watching cheesy Christmas movies. My age has nothing to do with it.

Yes, I’m aging. That is just a fact. But my body is actually stronger than it’s ever been (due to actually working out) and my mind is a hell of a lot sharper (probably because of all the podcasts I listen to.) The older I get the more I realize that the pain of getting older isn’t about the aches in the body or the hangovers that are actually significantly worse. It’s about the knowledge we gain from the experiences we’re forced to go through.

To be fair, I’m a 32-year-old single, white female with no children so my life lessons are likely much different than others my age, or in general. Yet, I still think the toughest part of growing up is not our sagging skin or aching bones. It’s the shit we have to experience.

But what makes me feel old is all the shit I know now that I didn't know back then. 

Such as:  

Everyone's path is different. Sometimes, our friends look like they’re more successful than us because they’re married, or having children, or have higher titles, or are working out all the time, etc. I often get so caught up in comparing myself to others without thinking of the fact that our lives, priorities, values, industries, etc. ARE ALL DIFFERENT. How can I compare myself (a facilitator in the sports industry, or HR Manager, or improv comedian) to my friend who is a dental hygienist or public information officer for a police department?

Or, when I was performing, I would look at other people’s success as my own failure. At the same time, I was doing NOTHING to further my own career. I wasn’t taking any classes, I wasn’t trying to get representation, I wasn’t creating my own material, I wasn’t networking AT ALL. I would do shows here and there and created a web series with my friends. But my own lack of hustle/interest in my career was why I was “failing.” Eventually, I realized that I didn’t even really want it all that much… so why was I upset that I didn’t have something that I didn’t want?

Sometimes we have to go backward to go forward. When I realized the above (that I didn’t want to be an actor in Los Angeles), I moved back to Boston because I re-organized my priorities. Doing that meant nearly starting over and taking a step down in my career in order to get where I wanted. It feels like a total failure at the time but straightens itself out over time.

Patience. Speaking of time, patience is a bitch of a lesson to learn. I’m a fast-paced girl in a slow AF world. When I get ideas, I want to act on them RIGHT THEN AND THERE. When I want something, I want it then. But other people aren’t on my schedule, and pizzas don’t need to be ordered for dinner every single night. Raises will come, higher titles will come, people need to grieve, medication will eventually work, exercising will pay off, people will calm down, etc. I can’t control anything and I need to stop giving up when things don’t go my way in a timely manner.  

We need to respect (and believe) what other people want, and what we want. When someone gets mad at me, I have fought and fought until they responded or liked me again. A strategy that has never been successful, or made me feel good about myself. So I stopped doing it. When someone tells me what they want, I need to respect their feelings and stop fighting for them to change their views. If someone doesn’t like me, I can’t make them like me.

And for that matter, I need to be honest about what I want, respect what I want and clearly communicate what I want. I can’t keep ignoring what I want in the hope that someone will eventually come around.

We need to take accountability. When we hurt people, whether it was our intention or not, we need to accept responsibility and apologize.

And finally (for now), “that’ll never happen to me” doesn’t exist. I’ve been drugged and sexually assaulted. My best friend has had skin cancer. My aunt had breast cancer. My father had a heart attack. My ex-boyfriend went completely blind in his early twenties. My cousin committed suicide. Friends have died of drug overdoses.

Horrible things don’t just happen to other people. They happen to us, too. We need to take care of ourselves, make the best decisions we can, and also be more generous with ourselves and other people when things go wrong.

There are things we can control, and things we can’t. There is no use in blaming other people, making judgments or excuses, but there’s also no use for getting defensive and beating ourselves up. We need to accept that things happen to all of us, and the people we’re close to.

We just need more empathy. Just because we haven’t experienced something ourselves, why can’t we understand other people’s points of view? Why do we have to judge other people who are going through something we literally know nothing about? It just doesn’t feel productive to me.

For example, sometimes I listen to true crime podcasts and think, “I would have definitely been able to fight that guy off!” Sure, I have horribly weak arms, but my legs are as strong as tree trunks. I’d claw him with my nails! I’d throw him off with my charm and wit!

Uh, not likely. I have no idea what would happen if I were faced with the same situation as those women. I could have the strongest tree trunk legs in the world, and a whole escape plan in my mind, but it doesn’t mean I’d survive. After all, even trees are sometimes uprooted by the strongest of winds.

So, yes, I’m old! Old but strong! Old but tired. I look back on my 22-year-old self and laugh at that person who thought she knew so much but had no idea what she was going to go through. I’m sure when I’m 42, I’ll look back on my 32-year old self and laugh at her for writing this post when she was about to go through so much harder shit.

But that’s the point. The lessons we learn through LIVING make us older, but wiser. Stronger, but exhausted. And hopefully better equipped to handle the more life we must go through. But life is still going to surprise and shatter us. The biggest tool we need is compassion for ourselves, and others, to get through it.

So, no, I still won’t go out in the city ON A WEEKNIGHT. But if you want to do that… more power to you! I understand where you’re coming from!

(No, that I still don’t understand.)


Monday, October 8, 2018

Germany & England & Ireland & Germany


Before this September, I had never left the country.

Sure, I had booked a trip to the Bahamas when I was in high school and then backed out of it the night before because I was afraid of traveling with a former best friend who hated me… but that doesn’t count.

I blame my lack of international travel on anxiety and being afraid of language barriers and immigration and all the overwhelming nonsense of traveling abroad. Now that I’ve done it though, I’m ashamed because it’s literally nothing more than a SMALL extra step upon arrival in a new country. When I arrived in Frankfurt it was no big deal, and when I arrived in London it took almost an hour… but the actual process went a little bit like this:

“How long are you staying here?”
“Answer.”
“Have a good time.”

*stamp*

Done.

Traveling far away from home, in countries where I couldn’t take my phone off airplane mode, helped me truly relax. I could just give in to new experiences because I had no other option. I was 5-6 hours ahead of my usual time zone, barely had internet access and couldn’t call my family or friends. This would typically bring me great anxiety, but for whatever reason (Cymbalta) I chose to LIVE MY BEST LIFE.

The reason for this trip was primarily work. Back in April or so, my colleague (Judith) and I found out that we’d have to travel to Herzogenaurach, Germany for work in early September… and that we’d also have to be there two weeks later. That left a week in between where we’d be in the U.S.

For me, traveling back to Boston would have been a minor inconvenience… but for Judith (who lives in Portland), we’re talking about a 9+ hour flight. I decided that I’d do some traveling in between because I’d never been abroad. Judith also had some convenient arrangements (a son whose father lives in England, a partner who was traveling to London for business during the week we’d be there, a sister who lives in London with spare bedrooms, etc.)

So, that is how a three-week trip to Europe happened for Ms. Patty Barrett.


GERMANY PART I

Did you guys know they serve meals on transatlantic flights? For free! With wine! And refills of wine! And Baileys! Followed by another meal?!?! I was shocked. I actually don’t remember if the food was good because I was too excited. The flight was only about 6 hours, which is basically the same as the flight to Los Angeles or Portland, so I couldn’t believe all the additional benefits flying over an ocean brought.

My cross-country expectations have now been raised, and it is doubtful they will be met.

I landed in Frankfurt at 5:00 am and took another quick flight to Nuremberg and eventually made it to my hotel around 7:30 am… which was about 1:30 am in the U.S. So, naturally, I slept away my first day in Germany. That is until my boss texted me and asked if I wanted to, “Go on an adventure for snacks.” I thought he was embellishing a quick walk around the corner, but he actually meant we were bike riding through the German countryside to an Aldi.

It sounds pretty, and it was, but I haven’t ridden a bike since I was a teenager and I was terrified of riding on a bike that I was too short for... in the street… without a helmet.

Whatever, I’m alive.

The week was spent working in a training space titled “The Shed” so what I’ll say about my week in Germany is this:

  • Tiny German towns with medieval towers give me heart eyeballs
  • BUTTER PRETZELS are delicious
  • I love glass bottles of Coke Zero and glass bottles of EVERYTHING
  • Any country that provides cold cuts for breakfast is good with me
  • I love tiny little Nuremberg sausages! And that is not a euphemism
  • My favorite German word is “Feurwerzeufaht” which essentially means firefighter access… I just think it’s a fun word

ENGLAND

I could write a love letter to London.

It was the first city I’ve visited in quite a while where I just fell completely in love and wanted to move immediately. I kept saying everything was “delightful” and “charming.” My friends kept laughing at me for being so smitten. But it’s true, everything was delightful and charming! Have you been? Don’t you agree?

Before leaving for my trip, I watched The Crown for the first time. People have been suggesting it for years, but I never cared much for the British royal family. (Meaning, I had no feelings either way.) However, since I was traveling to England and the queen the show is about is still reigning, I thought it’d be cool to get a quick history lesson.

To no one’s surprise, I loved the show and became obsessed with the British monarchy. The entire time I was in London, I also watched Victoria (because it was available on England’s Netflix) and fell in love with the Victorian era. And yes, I did travel across an ocean just to lie in bed and watch Netflix. Deal with it.

The coolest part about this trip to London was that I stayed with Judith’s family in Barnes/East Sheen. Normally, I’d be afraid of burdening someone with my presence for that long - but she convinced me that we’d be very welcome and that I’d be foolish to turn down a free stay in London.


 I took her up on her offer, and I’m so glad I stayed with strangers. Hilarie (Judith’s sister) provided me my own little (delightful, charming) room and staying there was my favorite part of the whole trip. Not only did I get to experience London for the first time, but I got to know new people (including Hilarie and an 11-year-old girl named Lucy, who is basically my spirit animal) and I was able to have experiences I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Experiences like attending a high school rugby game at a private school in the country (which would have been creepy under different circumstances), seeing Tom Hardy at a posh restaurant, ordering curry while watching Strictly Come Dancing, taking the tube and bus everywhere, and having a drink at a local pub filled with men who did not want me there! 



Other highlights from my ten days there:

The Tower of London was by far the coolest experience ever. We saw the crown jewels, a traitor gate, an old chapel from the 1300’s and a TORTURE CHAMBER. It’s always nice to spend a Sunday afternoon in the place where King Henry VIII murdered his wives!

Warner Brothers Studios Harry Potter Tour was unbelievable. I got to see all the sets and costumes and learn new facts that I never knew (like all the crew members are the people in the portraits at the school.) It also had a HUGE model of Hogwarts that they used for all the exterior shots. It was unreal. It was also funny to visit with Judith’s son, Beau and his dad, Noel (who is Judith’s ex-husband.) Hilarie was there as well. It was a funny little crew, and I had such a great time.

Harrods, where I was finally able to buy a Paddington Bear stuffed animal surrounded by women shopping at Hermes.

Dinner at Murano, a Michelin star restaurant.

Fish and chips at a “posh” pub where Tom Hardy was also drinking a pint with his wife. I didn’t believe Judith when she said it was him, but then her nephew Hugh said he saw Tom Hardy touring his boarding school that day.

Marks &Spencer. Judith talked so much about Marks and Spencer (a food market/department store) and then we finally went and I tried on hideous velour dresses with Hilarie while Judith shopped for “knickers”.

Sunday roast dinner by my lovely host, HIlarie.

My time in London was seriously special. I can’t wait to go back!


IRELAND

I have yet to mention that Judith and Hilarie are from Ireland. They have the most (charming, delightful) Irish accents. It was so much fun to hear them talk to each other. They both spoke so quickly and I had no idea what they were saying most of the time… but it was still fun.

Judith felt that since we would be in Europe, she’d be remiss if she didn’t stop by and visit her mother, who is ill. She invited me to tagalong for a night in Limerick and since I’m of Irish descent and have always wanted to visit Ireland, I figured it would be a missed opportunity to not go with her.

And I am not kidding when I said it was the coolest, most hilarious 24-hours I’ve spent anywhere in my life. The Irish were hands down the friendliest people I’ve ever met. It was incredibly noticeable. It was more than waving or saying hello… it was clear that anyone would go out of the way for a complete stranger and was actually interested in what they had to say and where they were from.


I explored the city and visited a medieval castle, potato market, riverside walking path and an old church. It was really beautiful. There were even swans in the river! But the best part of all was dinner. I assumed Judith would be taking me somewhere very local and Irish… and she did. We went to Jasmine Palace. The best Chinese food in all of Ireland.

And you know what? It was really good Chinese food.

We met one of her other sisters, her friend from college and friends from childhood and had the best night. Upon hearing it was my first time in Ireland, they refused to let us go back to the hotel and sleep for our early flight. They took us out for a pint (which is Guinness, you don’t even need to specify in Limerick) and all the pubs were filled with laughing Irish folk of every generation. It wasn’t like Boston, where everyone goes to their own spots geared towards their age demographic. Every generation was out in the same pubs. We saw bachelorette parties, groups of old men, old women, people in their thirties, young kids… and everyone was SO RIDICULOUSLY NICE.

It made my heart swell, and it made me proud to be Irish.

The girls all promised that if I ever came back, I had tons of places to stay. Now that I’m less afraid of being a burden, I may take them up on that. But even if I get my own place, I am definitely calling them to drink some pints and eat late-night chips covered in various gravies.



GERMANY PART II

On Sunday night, when we were heading back to Germany, I was likely in the worst mood I had been in during the whole trip. I could have cried, and not just because we were back at London Stansted flying on RyanAir which is the worst airline and the worst airport. Officially.

But somehow, I found the strength to be a good friend to Judith… just kidding, she was a good friend to me and let me be miserable while also telling me to get my act together. But really, I got the strength because right before our plane was about to board they changed the gate (those fuckers) and I literally JUMPED the stanchion and RAN like I’d never run before so that we’d be first in line at the next gate.

We were. Judith trailed behind me laughing her ass off.

Getting to Nuremberg from London was a disaster that I don't need to go into, but RyanAir is quite an experience and I wouldn't recommend flying them if you can avoid it. But, then again, the tickets are SO CHEAP.

We spent our first day shopping in the town center of Nuremberg which is full of cobblestone and gothic cathedrals and even a castle! But more importantly, I bought a NEW COAT from a saleswoman at Zara who made me cry and then I fell while entering a restaurant and almost sprained my ankle! 

Our next four days in Germany were spent sleeping, working, complaining a little bit, eating schnitzel and the best Italian food we've ever had (?), drinking tons of Coke Zero and finally calling it a trip. 

Oh, and I also found out through a StrengthsFinder assessment that my top 5 strengths are: Strategic, Input, Empathy, Intellection, and Developer. My strengths lie heavily in strategic thinking and relationship building. So, that’s a cool thing I know about myself now.

One of the questions I was asked, now knowing this information, was “What can people expect from me?”

“A socially awkward, emotionally intelligent, highly aware and lively individual who promotes others and builds relationships through shared personal experiences.”

So, all in all, it sounds like this trip was far more than a European adventure. It was an adventure… to my soul.

Nope, sorry about that.



HOME

Traveling for three weeks was exciting, amazing, eye-opening, lovely, CHARMING, DELIGHTFUL and tough AF on my anxious heart. I thought a lot about the good parts of living in the U.S. (and the dumb parts that are super dumb) and my perspective has increased immensely.

There was also something oddly cool about working in Germany and having my own badge to get into the campus. I felt like I had arrived. Where? I don’t know. There was just something about this trip that clicked for me. I finally feel like I’m in the right place, doing the right thing, at the right time.



But the best part of the whole trip was spending so much time with my pal, Judith. I met her this year… on Skype. She works in Portland, and I work in Boston. We had only been together in person three other times this year. Yet, I don’t know a person I have ever felt so instantly bonded to.

On my second trip to Portland (after only meeting each other once), she was insistent on picking me up every day from my hotel and driving me to work with her. We call each other at least once a week, and not because we need to for work. Our jobs are totally independent of one another. I feel so lucky to have met this warm, lovely, wise and hilarious friend this year and have spent 3 full weeks abroad with her as my support system at work, and then staying with her sister, meeting essentially her entire family, and then becoming part of it.

Experiences like that are a dime a dozen. And even though I’m not writing a guidebook any time soon based on my travels, I feel like I had a trip that could never be duplicated and an experience nobody else could have. I won!

As expected, I have been bitten by the travel bug and I’m already looking up flights for my next trip to London… and basically everywhere else in the world.

If I could leave you with any advice, it’s this:

Sometimes, it’s GOOD to take candy from strangers… as long as they adorably call them “sweets” and offer you a spare bedroom.  

And, do something that scares you. Get out of your comfort zone. You will grow tremendously and become A WIZARD 'ARRY! ... or just a new person. 

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