'A Joy Untainted By Guilt'
Ain't it funny how stuff magically shows up at just the right time or right when we need it?! I had not long started writing about this new chapter that seems to be beginning for me, when I came across this, searching for poems to read in a voice class I'm taking. It spoke to me in so many ways: the deliciousness of autonomy and of choice, my very real experience of facing middle age when it feels impossible I could be there, and an optimism for a self-determined future, joyful, wise and jolly.
Do I see myself as alone? Perhaps not always, but I am currently enjoying my solitude: my book-piled bed, my midnight suppers. I too have my fears... "but not about loneliness."
(born October 24, 1923, Ilford, England —died December 20, 1997, Seattle, Washington, U.S.), English-born American poet, essayist, and political activist who wrote deceptively matter-of-fact verse on both personal and political themes.
This September my 12-year old went off to boarding school.
I feel a need to qualify that he asked to go.
You should know: It has just been the two of us (with the occasional interloper admittedly, she says quietly) for the past ten years. And this summer I cried almost every day at the thought of him leaving. The image of returning to my empty, empty house. To a life where the literal son I have revolved around was gone. My anchor - the thing I stayed put for, got up at 6am for, whose needs and desired happiness has dictated virtually everything I do - would be setting me adrift.
(He, meanwhile, took great delight in milking my tears and dread for all sorts of extra screen time, snacks and treats… ever the opportunist!)
Then the day itself came, when I dropped him at the gates (quite literally, as I wasn’t allowed inside for Covid reasons) and he skipped off without so much as a backward glance.
Was that sound the sound of the door shutting… or my heart breaking?
I made the long journey home, hanging on every WhatsApp message telling me ‘it’s so fun’, ‘we all stayed up late talking’, ‘could I have some more cash? My pocket money’s already run out!’.
The house so quiet. So very, very quiet. Where was the endless soundtrack of PewDiePie commentary, and Fortnite gunfire?
I was waiting for the desolation to kick in…
Was that going to be before or after I chose what I wanted for dinner?
Wait, repeat that: ‘chose what I wanted’… Wha… anything I like?? Or nothing even?
Suddenly I’m aware I have both the time and mental bandwidth to think about the question long enough to actually make a choice… for myself – how weird!
I poured a glass of wine… because I could.
Note: I have become practically tea-totaled over the past decade, finding the benefits of a drink or two no way outweighing the cost and resentment felt the next day (single-parenting being a relentless (and yup, thankless) task).
And so go the following few weeks… Feeling and discovering my way through this new, unfamiliar territory of life without the constant constraints of full-time parenting.
TV? I’ve now got full control over the remote – Jane Austen marathon? Bridget Jones trilogy (the comfort food of television)?
Truth is, I don’t seem to need it – my go-to fix to unwind, or should I say Zone Out from a wearing day. I’m not really feeling the need to zone out… Perhaps it’s the extra hour’s lie-in without the school run that’s doing me good.
When Friday night rolled around, a girlfriend asked me out for happy hour drinks. The immediate, “sorry, I can’t,” response formed in my mouth – don’t have a babysitter, have to collect boy-o from practice… blah, blah, blah.
But wait, no.
No, I don’t have to do any of those things. He’s off in school having a ball, I can do whatever I want to do!
Woo-hoo! Yes, to happy hour drinks!
“Hell, come to my house - I’ll make the cocktails!”
(Fun) fact about me: I used to enjoy a little mixology back in the day (before it was even a word). Although I choose to call myself a Concoctionist – it sounds more fun (and kinda naughty).
I purchased bottles of liquor that haven’t been in my freezer since baby formula forced them out to make room. And I got to mixing the first celebratory drink of my new empty-nest life.
The song, “Cherry Bomb” by the Runaways, was the inspiration for this particular number. It’s been rotating on in the car. “Look out world, I’m your wild girl,” seems to sum up my growing delight at all this newfound energy and freedom. Plus, who doesn’t want to sing: “Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-cherry bomb!”
It was a good night. The girls admitted they’d worried it would be a bit heavy, having to console me in my childless state. But satisfied that my boy is happy and enjoying his new challenge, it didn’t take me long to remember the freedom and autonomy I used to have, and the Fun Julia I used to be before strict bedtimes, nagging, the endless task of finding the other dirty sock... and before “no” became the automatic response – whether it’s , ‘can I get a tattoo’ or ‘are you free tonight’?
Well, the answer now is: Yes! …(though still not to the tattoo)
I have seen the light. These past ten years have been a long tunnel, and I got kind of lost in it. Bogged down in the ever changing current of ‘Shoulds’ when it comes to ‘good parenting’ – frantically trying to cover all my bases, always do the ‘right’ thing (if only there were a definitive guide to what that even is) and all the time comparing myself to lots of people who seem to have all this figured out.
A perfect recipe for misery.
A little bit of space, self-care and soul nurturing doesn’t make me any less a loving parent – it’ll make me a better one. My boy’s gone off to explore his options. So must I. It was never his job to be my anchor… and surprisingly I’m feeling more grounded than ever - now that I’m not drowning in the full-on pressure of raising a child alone. (It takes a village!) And better he sees his mum with her mojo (albeit making mistakes and being human) than an empty husk, twisted into knots, trying to be a perfect parent… (spoiler alert: which doesn’t exist!)
You know all this. I knew all this… and still got myself muddled. Parent or not, if any of this rings true and you feel you’re feeling a little lost, take a moment to remember You. Take a day, a night (arrange the babysitter, give yourself permission). It doesn’t have to be drastic (and doesn’t have to involve cocktails) – just visit with your You, whatever that means to you. Take the time to do something you love to do, make choices just for yourself, check in with what You need.. It’s your life too and I’m guessing that striking a good balance between our ‘You’ and our devotion to our angelic charges (or other priorities) is actually the best way to keep everyone sane and enjoying it.
I’ve got this opportunity to get a bit of my life back and I’m making the most of it... Look out world!
This drink’s a twist on a classic Cosmo (my fav if made well). Not a fan of the super sweet, I like to keep them fresh and tart (I’m talking about my drinks)…
2 measures Absolute Citron
1 measure Cointreau (use the good stuff – better taste and cleaner buzz)
1 measure fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 measure pure pomegranate juice
Shake with plenty of ice and pour into a fancy-ass martini glass over a small scoop of finely crushed ice (my son once bought a $5 hand-grind snow-cone maker at a jumble sale. I rolled my eyes at the time but it has come in surprisingly handy for this new kind of frosty delight!)
Finally, top with Cherry essence sparkling water (brands like Waterloo or Bubbly or similar) to give the bomb its name and a bit of sparkle.
Relatively low in sugar for a fruity cocktail and high in anti-oxidants and vitamin C… I mean, you can almost say it’s good for you!
Mocktail Version: a special drink boy-o and I would make as a treat. It’s called:
1 part pomegranate juice
2 parts Passion Fruit La Croix
(a squeeze of lime if you’re feeling frisky)
Please note: alcohol itself is not the answer and for the sake of all our loved ones, don’t drink and drive!
Joyous Crimbo Limbo (one of the best ads of the season: explains it all)
Never a more legitimate excuse to watch TV and eat chocolate, so all the more impressed and thrilled with myself was I this morning when I felt the urge to put down the remote and instead write to you with my good tidings.
I have to keep the spirit going because, like a Hobbit with breakfasts, I still have Second Christmas to look forward to (one of the joys of being divorced with children). But between then and now, there’s the little matter of NEW YEAR’S EVE. Written in capitals to emphasis it’s over-hype (and often accompanying anti-climax)… Yet still as good a time as any for a little reflection and figuring out what I’d like to focus on in the coming year.
I’m not sorry to kiss 2017 goodbye – Not that I want to wish my time away but this last year rather floundered and flopped… Truth is, I’m not sure how present I was in it, so no surprise it whizzed by without me. Did I make new years resolutions last January? If so, I don’t even remember them. Probably the old stand-bys: eat less, exercise more, be happier. Vague and ill-defined, uninspiring and quickly forgotten.
So – let’s try again, shall we?
Wait… is this just a futile annual exercise inevitably leading to disappointment?
I tell myself I’m going to do all sorts of stuff that I never actually finish or follow-through on - all the time, not just at new years…
September: resume my strict dietary regime post Hawaii (binge) Adventure – um… pass the M&S mini chocolate bites would you?
October: create weekly blog posts – ha! Sadly you can see for yourself
November: write for an hour at 6am every morning – that lasted 6 days
December: be organized and ready for Christmas before the 25th – I’ve still got bloody presents to wrap and my office Secret Santa to deliver – no guesses there!
My therapist says I have a problem with boundaries… that’s why I keep moving the goal posts for myself and I let shit slide, despite my good intentions. I’ve put it on my list of things to work on but… So you might think that my making resolutions is a total waste of time, but I figure if I aim for nothing, then that’s all I have a chance of getting. At least if I try, something might stick?! Shoot for the moon and all that…
I know about setting goals – I help people set them for a living (yes, I see the irony). So I know they have to be specific and engaging, actionable and result orientated – and (very importantly) written down. My first ever column post was all about setting goals. (Awww, Bless!) - from a long time ago.
And of course, publicly declaring your goals can be helpful too, in terms of accountability, so here goes.
In 2018 I am going to:
#1 Play More
Sometimes I feel so middle-aged I could cry. Nothing to do with the wrinkles and sun-damage but the heavy, boring weight that has no relation to how much chocolate I eat but the burden of responsibility and grown-up, real world living – reality I think they call it.
Laughter, joy, joking and creating are the anti-dote. So I intend to make time EVERY DAY for some silly, inconsequential, creative fun – doing shit that makes me laugh or get excited, just for the sake of.
Like the fluffy unicorns. OMG I loved seeing these guys every day – ridiculous presents bought for my Writing Group gal-pals a whole month before Crimbo, just so I could hang out with their cute little selves for as long as poss.
#2 Consume Less
I have a fear of lack… Somewhere I’m terrified that I will have to do without, miss out, be left empty-handed. I’m pretty sure it’s this that fuels the hoarding – and the crazy buying sprees I launch into every time I’m away from Bermuda and the prices seem reasonable. I buy shit just because I can afford to. But that is CRAZY, because trust me: I HAVE ENOUGH!!! (Well, as we’ve established, WAY MORE than enough!) So, like Ann Patchett (see earlier facebook post) the consuming has got to stop!
Can I really go a whole year without shopping? Umm… let’s start with a month – good timing as the credit card is maxed out anyway – and we’ll go from there.
Plus – NO MORE FOOD WASTE. I over-buy at the grocery store too. My plan is to empty the cupboards and the freezer – use it all up, and even though it’s Bermuda and stuff goes off faster than Trumps twitter feed, my aim is to not let anything go to waste… which means more organized meal plans, shopping trips and an end to Fridge Jenga – my fun game of stacking the refrigerator so full that you have to catch things from dropping every time you open the door – and it’s so stuffed that you don’t even see the molding zucchini at the back of the shelf until 3 sloppy months later.
#3 Tidy Up
This is the year.
I suspect I am actually a minimalist at heart, the idea of throwing everything in my house away fills me with a mixture of thrill and panic. I swear by the Marie Condo method – it really worked wonders on my wardrobe (apart from all the new stuff I’ve just bought on this trip!) but I got a bit stuck on the books and so lost momentum.
But the plan is to go back and tackle the rest. I’m giving myself six months. I want to have my mid-year Christmas party ‘Yuly’ – which you are all invited to of course - and I want the house to be sorted by then. The freedom from ‘stuff’ is so enticing I hope that, category-by-category and day-by-day, I will finally get it done.
And of course I will eat less, exercise more and be happy… but that goes without saying.
What about you???? What are your resolutions for 2018?
What do you want to focus on… Have happen… Bring to the world?
Dare to share your hopes and aspirations here for the coming year – and we can keep each other posted on our progress, ok?
Enjoy the Taint (he-he!) and here's to a happy, healthy (joyful, free and tidy) New Year!!
We’re reminded of all the studies showing that gratitude, practiced regularly, can lead to: greater happiness, improved relationships, increased physical and mental wellbeing and ever better sleep…
Posts and articles will reiterate all sorts of simple ways of introducing more gratitude into our lives, like:
The Thanksgiving coverage may also include fun and bonding ways of sharing a gratitude practice with others. E.g. at your table, whether that be celebrating Thanksgiving today or not, each take turns to relay something you are grateful for with fellow party-goers. Or make it a game by everybody writing down a list of three small things they truly appreciate, mixing them all together then having others try and guess who authored each one.
But of course, you’re not going to hear any of that stuff from me. I’m not going to jump on that covered-(band)-wagon and write about the importance of gratitude just because it dove-tails nicely with a day's calendar event, am I?
Okay, maybe a little. But only because today is as appropriate as any, to recognize the truth that gratitude is a steppingstone to happiness. It is a pathway to personal (and inter-personal) peace as we each recognize that we have enough and we are enough - freeing us from fear and selfishness. Gratitude is the key to putting problems into perspective by reframing our obstacles as learning opportunities.
Gratitude's benefits are not for one day, but for everyday. Watching an old Ted Talk from 2011 by Louie Schwartzberg, entitled ‘Nature. Beauty. Gratitude.’ I glimpsed, at soul level, the transformative affects that gratitude enables. I was particularly moved by the inspiring words of Benedictine monk, Brother David Steindl-Rast:
“You think this is just another day in your life. It’s not just another day, it’s the one day that is given to you today… and the only appropriate response is gratefulness. If you do nothing else but to cultivate that response to the great gift that this unique day is, if you learn to respond as if it is the first day of your life and the very last day, then you will have spent this day very well.”
Spare ten minutes and watch it (here), and remind yourself how simple gratitude can make, not just today, but every day, “a really good day”.
p.s. Thank you Turkeys everywhere!!
Back in the Saddle, On the Wagon – And All Sorts Of Other Horsey Metaphors
‘Habits are hard to break’ they say… except only BAD habits it seems.
Good habits, that take ages (and often hard bloody work) to create, are able to disappear almost overnight. Ugh! Why is that?!
I wrote a column for the Royal Gazette virtually every single week for five years. Some weeks it would come easily, I knew what I wanted to write about – I’d been rehearsing ideas in my head all week and when I sat down to it, it would simply pour out. Other weeks however, it was like squeezing blood from a stone… But I still did it! I sat there and thought and worked and fiddled until I had something – not always great, ‘they can’t all be winners’ I would console myself, but something.
What started as a good way to share coaching tools (and hopefully drum up some business) became something far more valuable to me. It forced me into a great writing habit: sticking to a deadline, being expected to produce something… and then sharing it. Admittedly I only imagined 3 people ever read it – one of them being my mother – but each week I still had to swallow the anxiety and ‘preciousness’ about putting my writing ‘out there’, and desensitize myself to those perfectionist fears of it not being finished or good enough etc. etc.… because either way, it had to be in.
Each week was practice, and on the whole, writing got easier and I got better at it (I think). The action I was taking spurred more action. The writing job literally made me a writer.
When the newspaper downsized, I told myself that regardless, I would continue the writing practice. Writing is what I want to do… love to do in many ways - not only this column/blog. There are creative projects that have been rattling around my head for years that are looking to come out. So now’s the time, right?! But see how much I’ve written in the past 2 weeks…? ZERO.
These past two Monday mornings – my dedicated 'writing time' – you’d have found me on the sofa watching Hallmark Christmas movies and eating chocolate… oh the shame! How did I fall off that good wagon so fast!
Quick aside: Back in the dark ages, I used to be a smoker… I know, gross! But I thought it was cool, until I didn’t, and then I decided to quit. It was before the days of the smoke-ban in bars and three moody but successful weeks into my smoking abstinence I was out for a drink with friends, someone offered me a fag and without thinking it was in my mouth, lit and I was dragging on it – before I could remember that I had given up!
Bad habits usually equal instant gratification… we know what we’re getting - the short-term gain of proven pleasure responses: ‘yum, ahh, ooh!’ make them so easy to fall back into.
‘Good’ habits on the other hand are usually to do with our long-term vision. They can feel more like ‘work’ than pleasure as they often take us out of our comfort zone. They’re rarely a quick fix serving to distract us/soothe us/medicate us from the bigger picture of ourselves. You have to keep your eye on the end-goal to get the benefits and satisfaction of them – and so for someone like me with poor impulse control, and a bit of a hedonistic streak let’s face it… good habits can be hard to hold onto.
I say I love writing, but it’s more that I love ‘having written’. The process itself can feel almost painful – there’s the constant battle of ‘why am I doing this? Who cares what I have to say? Who am I to think I’m a writer? Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.’ Jeez – thinking about it makes me wonder if it’s worth it at all. But at the end of the day, when I’ve completed something, even though it’s not perfect – if it reads right in my head and I feel like I’ve shared something that might help or touch someone’s heart – inspire someone to some new thought or action, or better yet, bring a smile to their face… then it feels good.
So the question is – how do I motivate my reluctant-ass to sit in that chair and write, goddmamit?
I miss the threat of an editor sending a snarky reminder email if my copy was five minutes overdue. I miss pulling teeth for money – it’s not like it was a lot of money, but ‘no copy, no pay’ was enough to off-set the grind. I miss readers saying they’d enjoyed my piece, got something out of it… even if it was just my mom.
This is what I need. Plus a reminder of my long-term goal: what do I want to be getting from this? What will this practice give me? And maybe I need to revise this.
These are all vital keys to motivation… I write about these a lot (probably because I battle with them so much!).
So here’s what I’m going to do:
What about YOU, huh??
Is there a saddle you’ve slipped off of? Are there some good habits are you struggling to keep?
What can you do today to put these 4 motivation keys into practice?
Leave a comment here if you want to share and to get some great accountability – I’ll hold you to it! How will you celebrate your success of getting started again? What is your end goal and how will that benefit you?
Let’s hit the trail together, my friend! Tally ho!!
It's HOW Many Days Til Christmas?!?
Happy Halloween everybody!!
Love the treats but the nasty trick is… when the sugar rush has worn off and we wake up tomorrow – it’s NOVEMBER!!!
Christmas is just 7.5 weeks away?! And I feel like I’m still working off my turkey belly from last year!
‘Life moves pretty fast’, as Ferris Bueller says, and like many, you might be asking yourself ‘where did the past 10 months go?’ and be wondering just when and how you’re going to fit in all the things you had planned to do this year in the two months of it that are left.
If that wasn’t pressure enough, as we move into this most joyous of seasons… isn’t it true that the ‘to do’ list literally doubles and time shrinks - filled with parties and preparations (and the occasional hangover).
It can leave us feeling less than festive viz. ‘downright bummed out’ - if we’re starting the new year with some misplaced sense of ‘I didn’t accomplish anything in 2017’ as we roll over the ‘to do’ list into our next set of resolutions.
Fret not! If any of this sounds familiar then I have a great set of tools to help you handle the overwhelm that too often accompanies this time of year. I’m offering a Lunch-n-Learn at the end of next week which will have you walking away with: a new perspective, and a tamed ‘to do’ list.
It’s just $25 to attend – and FREE if you work for an Benedict Associates EAP client company!! What a bargain! Bring your own lunch on Friday, November 10th to the Emporium Building - 69 Front Street (above Flanagan’s). Spaces are limited so call the lovely Helen on 295-2070 ext 0. to book your spot.
Head into the holiday season prepped and with a plan of action to get done all that needs to get done and start 2018 on a clear path… (if not a clear head!)
P.S. All this talk of Christmas freaking you out?
Let’s look at the plus side – it’s the start of the Hallmark Christmas Countdown…(oh yeah!) The high-fructose-corn-syrup of television making that fuels an insatiable appetite for predictable, formulaic Christmas slush which is the best (or is that just me?!)
Ok - full disclosure…? I actually have a secret dream to be in my own Hallmark Christmas movie!! (Move over Candace Cameron-Bure! hehe)
P.P.S And if you’re wondering how the girl that is late for literally EVERYTHING (that’s me) is this time so early, on the bauble and far ahead of the game… with my Christmas tree up and all decorated and looking fly…
Yup – you guessed it. Not so much early as perhaps a little tardy in taking it down. I was aiming for another Yuly party, but the summer breezed by so fast it didn’t happen… next year! But no worries, in the Pitt household, we’re always happy to have Christmas 365… Now where’s the eggnog?!
Julia Pitt is a trained Success Coach and certified NLP practitioner on the team at Benedict Associates. For further information contact Julia on (441) 705-7488
Conversations with my Sock Drawer
A few weeks ago a friend asked if I had a book she was looking for. I dug around in the endless piles and dusted it off. ‘The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up’ by Marie Kondo. The irony. Bought years ago with good intention (like them all) … until it got swallowed into the bookshelf overflow and general clutter. Besides, I’d later heard the comment, “that’s the one where she talks to her socks to keep them happy…” I figured yeh, I’d never read it.
Yet somehow now, the prospect of giving it away made me crack the spine – just to see. As they say, ‘when the student is ready... a small, Japanese organisational guru's manual appears’.
I have often joked about my untidiness and knack for accumulating things. Writing it off as: “interesting isn’t neat!” However, taking photographs through my house recently, I suddenly saw it through an objective lens (without the glossing-over I have trained myself to do)… it wasn’t a pretty picture.
How good we can get at just ‘putting up with’ things.
In my defense, it’s not like there are stacks of newspapers you can’t move around… and yet, here these are that I’ve been holding on to (because I can’t help feeling they’re pretty cool).
The truth is, I am a bit of a hoarder (little h). And I’ve been drowning in STUFF for the past few years, feeling completely helpless to do anything about it… because I didn’t know where to begin.
Half of the stuff isn’t mine… inherited. A lot of it was expensive… does that mean valuable? I’m not sure… Most of it is nice/a slice of history/functional/useful/handy if I ever (fill in the blank) in the future… How do you get rid of that stuff?
I really didn't know until suddenly this simple, little book has shown me a way. Not only has it broken the overwhelming task of ‘tidy the house’ down into really small chunks so that each bite feels manageable... and arranged it in a progression that intensifies after practice and skill. More importantly, it has offered a valid measure for deciding what to keep and what to move on…
So simple and yet previously overlooked – perhaps because it didn’t seem ‘intellectual’ enough… or maybe even from feelings of undeserving… The straightforward question: does this thing bring me joy?
Not the SHOULDS or the SOMEDAY I MIGHT NEED IT or the JUST IN CASE or the BUT THAT WAS YOUR GRANDMOTHER’S… just, DOES THIS SPARK JOY IN ME?
If we got to pick (and we do btw.) wouldn’t we choose to have more JOY? What really sold me was her suggestion: ‘imagine walking into your space surrounded only by things you love, that bring you joy’. What an overwhelmingly tantalizing prospect that is and suddenly I am fully on board to do the work.
And what is the work… talking to my sock drawer? Yes – in part.
The 'MariKon' system is to touch and hold each object in turn and ask ourselves, “does this spark joy?”
I can tell you, in the beginning, kneeling on the floor holding a white t-shirt and asking myself, ‘is this sparking joy in me?’ made me question the sanity of the whole process. But then strangely, an answer started to come… Joy? I don’t know about joy, but comfort, yes. ‘It’s easy to wear,’ I thought ‘and flattering… as t-shirts go’. The blue one however, next in the pile, is scratchy and requires ironing – no joy there. And so it began.
I am three weeks in. Doing a little bit every day… and what’s crazy is that I’m REALLY enjoying it. Not words I ever thought I’d hear myself say about tidying! I am finished with the closet. Nine bags of clothes - that didn’t fit right, weren’t really my colour or were more about the buying than the wearing… (so head to Orange Bay if you’re a size 8-12 and long in the leg!)
I mean, look at this sock drawer… a thing of freakin’ beauty!
And what a different relationship it’s created for the objects that remain. More gratitude. Now I can see what I have, and feel a desire to treat those things I love, well. I love picking socks in the morning!
The more I do, the more I realize this is less about tidying and more about having a measure of what’s important in life. The questions can be applied to anything. ‘Does this spark joy in me? Do I really want this in my life?’ You start looking at things in a whole new way when ‘joy’ is your yardstick.
6 months, she suggests. It is a process that will likely take 6 months to do the whole house – not the 2 weeks that I had vaguely imagined that the ‘Sort the House’ item on my To Do list would take… The item that has unsurprisingly been carried over from week to week for the past 10 years!
So six months from now my house will be joyful! I’ve said it now – it’s official. Hold me to it - nothing like giving myself a little accountability…
And what about all the life changing magic that Marie Kondo promises will follow? Watch this (tidy) space I guess.
Love That Crazy Sh*t
Little says ‘unhinged’ like laughing hysterically by yourself on an otherwise dark and silent airplane… until shushed by a fellow passenger leaning into my solo spotlight. I just pointed at the manic raccoon face and slunk deep behind my copy of ‘Furiously Happy’…
Blame author Jenny Lawson and her (NYT bestselling) autobiographical musings and anecdotes from a woman diagnosed with a litany of mental illnesses and disorders - sounds hilarious, right?!
But it’s had tears rolling down my cheeks - for all the reasons tears do that.
I absolutely love this funny, uplifting book that not only writes openly about mental illness, but also celebrates it! Not like, ‘yay! I’ve got depression and anxiety,’ but like, ‘hey, this is the way I’m made - a bit different, given - and with a ton of great. Let’s deal with it and make the most of it!’
Elsewhere in the world you’re weird if you don’t go to therapy! And anyone who’s anyone has a Coach, right? Because Coaching is awesome! …Here in Bermuda however, mental health is still such a taboo subject. Any kind of helping profession or personal development tends to get lumped together: as somewhere you definitely don’t want to be seen, with an attitude of: ‘I don’t need help, I’m not crazy!’
Hello?! This sh*t (mental illnesses, in their multitude of classifications and degrees of severity) affects a LOT of people. If not you directly, then I bet you know someone close by…. Aren’t we tired of pretending like mental issues don’t exist, being swept under rugs, hiding behind brave faces, desperately trying to look ‘normal’ and ‘fit in’ when perhaps inside it feels like worlds are crumbling?
“Unapologetic…” is a word used amongst ‘Furiously Happy’s rave reviews, and it’s precisely this which makes the book so darn inspiring. Accepting her diagnoses, recognizing that how her brain works is part of who she is and that it brings its own joys alongside the pain… owning her ‘crazy’… allows the author to live fully.
We try so hard to fit ourselves into this box that society's designed. Who in society, I don’t know… but there’s this general collective idea of how we’re supposed to act and think and be like (and btw. having any kind of mental illness is definitely not in the criteria)…
I know how hard I’ve tried over the years to stuff myself into that constricting cube.
So when, whichever way you try, you just don’t fit, it’s really easy to spend your time and thoughts chiding oneself, feeling bad or useless or undeserving or pathetic, ashamed, less than, self-pitying… and even more depressed or anxious because you’re constantly apologizing for the way you are and lamenting the fact you aren’t ‘normal’.
What a waste. And this is what Jenny Lawson says. Life is too short to spend the time you do have feeling bad about feeling bad, or feeling sorry about the way you are.
The book’s title comes from her decision on how she intends to spend the ‘free’ time that her illnesses give her. When she can be, she is not just happy and grateful… she milks joy. She launches into her creativity and sparkle, and shares with us the adventures of her gloriously unique mind and quirky perspective. Out of the darkness she finds the light – and the comedy. When she’s not stuck under a duvet or a table, this gal lives and loves and laughs… furiously.
Couldn’t we all take a page out of her book?
Whether or not we have a diagnosis, we all have our own versions of crazy.
And the truth is that we get to define our own ‘normal’ too, if we dare. Let’s love the life we’re given, and live it furiously happily!
** Living with any mental illness or condition is isolating enough. You are not alone and you don’t have to do it alone. We all need help sometimes and there is help out there for you… so please reach out until you find what works for you.
Old Before I Know it
What makes a person old? Is it the years they’ve been alive? Because ‘old lady’ does not come to mind when I see pictures of people like Tao Porchon-Lynch, Betty White at 95 or any number of dynamic, beautiful women celebrating big number birthdays… And yet this past week, at mere youthful age of 41* I have never felt more like an outdated, antique old fogey.
It’s Facebook that did it. Not comparing myself to everyone else’s airbrushed photos – I have long since stopped doing that. I mean, just trying to use Facebook.
In highschool, age 16, when the Russian computer geeks in my class advised me to get an email address, my reply was, “why bother, this whole World-Wide Web thing, is never going catch on!”
Yeh, that’s always kinda been my approach to technology. I get dragged along and swept into it, but usually only to a bare minimum level and always reluctantly. Don’t get me wrong. I love my computer – I learned to type on a type-writer so I totally appreciate the joys of Cut and Paste and the genius of Spell-check. And yes… I do send emails!
I have had a Facebook account for years but I can count the number of things I have ever posted there on one hand – always accompanied by a strange, uneasy feeling of shame or embarrassment as soon as I’ve done it. I occasionally look at other people’s postings – but have to limit it as every time I start scrolling down that feed list I enter a black-hole that literally sucks hours from me at warp-speed.
The thing is, I don’t want to stop my weekly column, even if the Gazette can’t publish it. So I figured I would post them on Facebook… which brings us to last week: setting up this new page, trying to assemble photos in Photoshop, figuring out how to post things so that people can actually see them, working out all the moving parts… I was like a monkey using power tools – it was painful and I’m sure would have been just sad to watch. I would say it was like I had a mental age of 6, but six-year-olds cope way better with technology than I!
My mother told me that in 1969, when she went to tell my then 90-year-old grandmother that men were about to walk on the moon, my grandmother replied, “switch the television off. I have seen enough in my lifetime, I don’t need to see that.” She was born in the 19th century for goodness sake, so perhaps she had a point?
But I, it seems, have adopted her same attitude to Social Media. I just haven’t wanted to know - tried to avoid the whole messy business if I could… but it turns out, I can’t. Not in the business that I’m in. Not if I want to stay current in the world as it is. I can have my opinions about how “the kids of today… blah, blah, blah,” but this is where the world is and if I’m not in it, I’m out of it: defunct, out-moded, old news.
Part of my aversion to it, I realize, is that I didn’t believe that I could learn it. That I’d ‘missed that boat’, that it was somehow ‘too complicated’ and I was too ‘past it’… but that is the fuddy-duddy mentality right there. If you think you’re too old, you are – whatever your years.
So I have decided instead to adopt a mantra from Bernice Bates, a yoga teacher in her nineties. “I can’t do that…YET,” she insists people say in her classes.
I am off to find some young whipper-snapper to teach me how this whole Social Media thing works… It may take a lot of tries and possible 100 years but I’ll get there… and even at 141, I’ll be all the younger for it.
Shying away from the world and what it throws at us only ages us before our time. Embracing life (and change) as the adventure it is, keeps us only growing bOlder!
* Yes, while I feel 41 is already a shockingly high number and I’m completely perplexed as to how I reached it, it nevertheless is still young compared to what I hope to live to…
Julia Pitt is a trained Success Coach and certified NLP practitioner on the team at Benedict Associates. For further information contact Julia on (441) 705-7488, www.juliapittcoaching.com
I’ve a friend who swears by his revolving wardrobe. Not a fancy closet that spins around, a simple set of trousers and shirts that all coordinate and get paired up when they reach the front of the rack, then get washed, pressed and returned to the back. With slightly differing numbers of tops to bottoms the matches get varied through the cycle. As a mathematician, he could also tell you just how many potential variations his system holds.
Cue for a gentle roll of my eyes. I’d prefer to be unique, thank you. I wear what my whims fancy. I pride myself on spontaneity. But lately I’ve noticed that flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants can sometimes be exhausting, a lot of time and energy spent… flapping.
Particularly towards the end of last year I felt ragged. There was never enough TIME. I needed to claw some back and knew I had to instigate some efficiencies. My new project for 2016: making time.
I started with a ‘time audit’ to see just where my hours were slipping away. Sure enough, I lose many minutes standing in front of a full closet debating what to wear (and invariably end up choosing the fat-pants because deciding becomes too difficult). Similarly, standing in front of a full fridge wondering what to eat - I sometimes spend so long trying to figure out ‘what I feel like’, I run out of time for lunch.
Being neither a chef nor a fashion plate, I’ve decided it’s more important that I eat and actually get dressed than always find the perfect choice. Wouldn’t reducing the guesswork free up valuable time, let alone mental space and energy, which can be directed to more important things?
My plan is to automate – schedule the heck out of it. This will take some serious upfront planning, but I see how it could save time (and stress) in the long run. If I knew what I was doing beforehand, wouldn’t life run more smoothly? ‘Duh?!’ will be the response from many …but I am not naturally an organized person. Certain people just seem to have the gene. Not me. Chaos is more my go-to: fun, frenetic, anything-can-happen, but also confusing, disordered, messy. Chaos is not currently serving me.
I intend to make several changes over the coming month to set up this year for greater productivity with less ‘work’ – time-wasting busy-work that is. I’m aware changing habits is more like turning round a cruise ship than a jet-ski. It will be interesting to see how I maintain the momentum. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.
This week’s challenge is to schedule time for ‘wardrobe pre-selection’. Inspired by stylist Jacqui Neath-Myrie’s trick to check the weather forecast the night before and choose her climate-appropriate outfit ready, accessories and all, so no thinking is required first thing the next morning to look great. I’m attempting this on a slightly bigger scale: a whole week in advance using the 10-day forecast, cooler/warmer alternatives at the ready (fat-pants as a comforting back-up). I’ve estimated an hour and a half for this prep task. I’ll let you know how it goes…
**This article was also published in the The Royal Gazette
Julia is a trained Personal Development Coach, certified NLP Practitioner, writer and public speaker. Using coaching methods, tools and conversation, Julia helps her clients achieve the goals they set for themselves and transform their lives. Here she shares her own personal development journey on her life quest for authenticity, growth and having a good time!