Monday, June 3, 2019

What I Like About Myself

I initially sat down to write about how I’ve been dealing with a lot of shame-based stress for the past few weeks. I can’t seem to shake it, no matter how many tactics I employ. But I couldn’t find the words to articulate exactly how I’m feeling.

Frustrated, I left my computer and walked my dog while listening to Conan O’Brien’s most recent podcast episode with Hannah Gatsby. They talked about self-deprecation, which she deals with in her Netflix comedy special that is amazing if you haven’t seen it! Conan said that his self-deprecation started when he was a kid and he has grown past all those insecurities and become who he is today, but he still falls back on that childhood habit of hating himself.  

I feel you, Conan. I feel you. 

Self-deprecation is a habit that started when I was a kid, ashamed of who I was. But I grew up… and accomplished A LOT of things. And yet, that childhood habit is still sticking around. No matter what I do, no matter who I am… I’m not good enough.  Or, at the very least, I don't want anyone to think that think I'm good enough!

When I got back and sat down to write again, I just felt exhausted. I’m so tired of writing about my mental illness. I’m tired of writing out thoughts about shame in an attempt to free myself from it or make excuses for it. What I need to do is start practicing a new habit: self-affirmation instead of self-deprecation.  

So, today, I’m doing something crazy and writing the things I like and appreciate about myself. In an attempt to free myself from constant shame and find humor in something other than my own inadequacies, I'm folding in this new habit.

It was really fucking hard, and I wanted to add SO MANY disclaimers. But I didn’t. Well, I did… but then I deleted them. Some of them. 

So, ahem, here goes nothing. 


I like... 

- My resilience and that I prefer to not consider myself a victim, or be cynical. It makes me more forgiving and assume good intentions.

- My toned legs that make me feel confident in skirts, dresses, and jeans. Just not shorts. Never shorts.

- That I am funny and quick-witted.

- That my body is curvy and proportionate. Even when I don’t like it, I’m grateful for its shape! My childhood dance instructor told me I was chubby but proportionate. So, at least I’ve got that going for me! (Proof: A disclaimer that I let slip.)

- That I’m creative and curious. I'm not afraid to try or learn something new.

- My ability to make friends and deep connections anywhere through sharing stories, being vulnerable and being empathetic.

- My hard work ethic, and ability to always go above and beyond even when there’s no reward other than it being done or having made someone else’s life easier.

- That I am hopeful, optimistic and persistent, even when things look dire and all signs are pointing to it not being true or not working out.

- That I moved across the country and gained major perspective about adapting and what I want from life. As a natural homebody, who couldn’t even stay the whole night through a sleepover as a kid, the fact that somewhere else in the world feels like “home” is incredible.

- That I have maintained my most important friendships throughout my whole life. Having people in your life in your 30’s that you met when you were in elementary school and high school is really special.

- That I always follow my heart. 

- Seeking joy wherever I go and ensuring other people are having a good time too.

- That creating a sense of community is important to me. I prioritize making people feel as though they belong and that they are seen and heard.

- That I'm an old soul. 

- That I have bad eyesight, because my glasses really suit my face.


Now that that's over. 

Self-deprecation has a time and place, and I likely won't eradicate it from my life or my "routine." But, it's a nasty habit. I need to decipher the difference between playful self-deprecation (I'm Irish Catholic, so I aim to please!) and shameful self-deprecation (I'm a disgusting trash monster.)

When it's coming from a place of genuine belief, then I need to reframe the thought. For example, I am not a disgusting trash monster. I am a cute trash monster! Like Oscar the Grouch, except with more fur and fewer friends.

Yeah, this is going to be a long process. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The 100% Not Guaranteed Cure for Anxiety

Not to brag, but I got into crow pose once (that's not it)

Being very open about my issues with anxiety doesn’t bother me much at all, but lately, I have felt like it is becoming my identity. I had recently seen one of the very popular Jen Gotch necklaces on a friend and almost purchased the “anxiety” one before deciding no, I’d claimed my anxiety enough.

We get it, Patty. You have anxiety! There is a medical diagnosis on my file, several posts on this blog/my Instagram and conversations I’ve had with almost anyone that back that theory up. I’m not ashamed of it, and I think being open about it is important and helps other people not feel so ashamed.

But the necklace I wanted from the Jen Gotch collection (which I actually can’t get because I’m allergic to artificial jewelry, which makes me a very high-maintenance girlfriend but then again I’d always prefer a loaf of bread to jewelry) (FYI, fellas) is resilience. I love that word. I even facilitate a workshop on building resilience! (I'm including a snippet of an exercise from that workshop below!) So what am I doing focusing on my anxiety when I should be focusing on my resilience?

Since it’s Mental Health Awareness Month, I wanted to share some of the ways I’ve "cured" my anxiety over the past year or so and became much more RESILIENT.

Physical Activity. I’ve already talked about this, so I’ll keep it short. I was afraid of going to group yoga/barre classes because I thought I’d get made fun of or be way behind everyone else. Turns out, that’s bullshit. Everyone in the class, whether they’ve been doing it forever or just one class, is struggling through practice. That’s what yoga is… practice. You’re not supposed to be an expert, you’re supposed to be learning. Barre is a workout, not a choreographed dance. (I think I have that fear instilled in me from the time Aunt Viv took a dance class in Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.) Your thighs are supposed to burn. Planks are supposed to be hard to hold. But the goal for everyone's the same: stick to it, get better and get stronger.

It is my anxiety-saver in so many ways. Not only did changing my mindset help, but actually going to the classes 3-4 times a week is a tremendous help. I feel refreshed and energized every single time I go which helps me get through anything and everything. It’s the easiest money I spend all month.

That wasn't that short.

The Dentist. FUN FACT: In 2012, a dentist poured bleach down my throat during a root canal. He said he didn’t, but I tasted it… and I also immediately vomited. So... needless to say, I’ve had major dentist-related anxiety since then. So much so that I stopped going for 7 years. Because of this, my anxiety caused me to believe that my teeth were rotting. I would have teeth-related dreams that woke me up in the middle of the night. I would change the subject whenever anyone else talked about going to the dentist (because I just wanted to avoid the topic completely.) I kept prolonging it because I was afraid ALL of my teeth were dead and it would cost me $5 million.

This year, I decided enough was enough. Well, one of my teeth decided that for me. It broke, and it hurt a lot and I had to do something about it outside of giving up sugar (which actually helped for a long time!) I did some research, found a dentist that looked trustworthy and went. It was no big deal. They were great. All of my teeth AREN’T dead, there are just a couple of issues and we have a plan in place to fix them. (In fact, we’ve already fixed the worst of it!)

A huge weight was taken off my shoulders and despite the happiness knowing that my teeth are okay and I can go to the dentist without being poisoned, I felt empowered by taking control of a situation that was causing me such stress. I had no idea how prevalent it was in my day-to-day until it was addressed.

Getting a Dog. For years, I have wanted a dog. I almost got a dog when I moved to L.A., but instead, I got a cat. I thought it’d be easier for me since they’re so low maintenance. I’m obviously very glad I did that because I love Ruthie more than I love myself. But… the reasons for not getting a dog were completely related to anxiety.

How would I take care of it? What if my schedule wouldn’t allow it? What if I was bad at it? What if I couldn’t go out anymore and always had to come home and take the dog out? What if I never trained it right and its bad habits lasted forever? I decided this year that it was all bullshit and I was just afraid! I was afraid I wouldn’t be a good caretaker (which I know that I am) and I was afraid of changing my schedule/routine even a little bit.

So I got one, her name is Billie. She is THE BEST. But, as expected, she has turned my world and routine completely upside down and has brought on many smiles but also lots of crying fits. But guess what? As time goes by… it gets better and easier to manage. It’s only been a week and some change, but we’ve already made so much progress. It’s hard fucking work, but at the end of the day I rescued a dog and I get undying love and attention!!!

Basic Communication. The biggest trick I’ve learned to become more resilient is addressing things head on. Instead of assuming something, I ask what’s going on. Instead of being weird and shy about something, I say what’s on my mind. Instead of being repressed and withholding, I’m open and vulnerable.

I read a book that said anxiety is one of the more productive disorders to have because it keeps you safe. That’s good for times when I’m walking down a dark street at night and cross the street when my gut tells me the guy on the corner in a trenchcoat is up to no good. But it tends to lead to more harm than good when I pull further and further away from people and make stupid assumptions based on nothing. Yes, our gut tells us a lot and we should listen. But an anxious gut also makes up crazy stories sometimes like, “Your boss isn’t responding to your email because he hates you and you’re getting fired.”

So, to counteract all that crazy, I try to be more patient (by waiting and not making up stories) and then address things when they become valid concerns instead of letting tension or weirdness grow.

Say Thank You, Not I’m Sorry. Thank you for listening. Thank you for being patient with me. Thank you for waiting. Thank you for moving out of the way for me. Thank you for holding the door. Thank you for reminding me. Thank you for bringing this to the top of my inbox. Thank you for letting me vent. Thank you for understanding. Thank you for giving me the time. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for being there. (Those last 2 were just lines from a Linda Belcher classic Thanksgiving song.)

All are good ways to reframe: Sorry for dumping all of this on you. Sorry for making you wait. Sorry for existing in your space. Sorry for not getting back to you. Sorry for being a shitty friend. Sorry for being stupid. Sorry for taking your time. Sorry for putting this all on you. Sorry for making you do this.

(Obviously, there is a time and place for apologizing. But that is not when you're walking down a hall and someone moves out of your way, or when someone holds the door for you, or if you're me -when SOMEONE ELSE DROPS SOMETHING.) 

Those are just a few examples, even if they seem silly and obvious. To a person with anxiety, they're all huge deals. But an exercise I'd like to share (introduced to me by my colleague and best pal, Judith) is this: Identify 3 times in your life when you've shown resilience. Arrange them in order on a timeline. Take a step back and look at your timeline. What do you see?

Likely, you see a person who overcame a whole lot and grew in some way from every single experience. How can you use that to motivate you to take more risks and push yourself even further outside of your comfort zone? Can you use that perspective to get yourself through a current anxious or tough situation? 

Obviously, there is no one cure-all for everyone. But I have alleviated a lot of my general anxiety and become far more resilient through all of this (and a once-daily pill!) I try to push myself out of my comfort zone as much as possible in order to learn that doing new things, shaking up the routine and heading towards the anxiety is the way through it.

Even if it involves a $250 co-pay for a root canal. That’s nothing when your brain makes up a story that it’s going to be $5 million!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!


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