Tag Archives: me me me

Shrug It Off. Or Not.

Manners. It’s one of those things I wish I cared about less than I actually do. It’s one of the reasons I don’t think of myself as a laid-back person even though I often seem that way to other people. My Mom was first and foremost the person who made me care about manners. She knew every rule and let me know what they were. I was a rule-follower by nature and I took to it naturally. I read Miss Manners books and columns. For fun. (I still do.)

As an urban dweller I’ve had to shrug off manners a lot because here in the Northeast people tend to be a bit brusque, plenty brash, and not exactly readers of Emily Post. We’re all smushed together and sometimes you just have to stop caring.

I’m not always successful. Which is one of the reasons why going back to a rush hour commute is the biggest downside of going back to work. I try to drown it out, I try not to care about the lack of courtesy, but it’s an effort.

Lately, though, I’ve had a string of worse than usual encounters with bad manners. Not just having everybody stand at the front of the bus instead of moving back (ARGH!), not just people cutting me off in traffic (GRR!) but in-your-face rudeness.

Two of them were about exactly the same thing. Apparently to some people “sorry” is a lesser word than “excuse me.” While I care about courtesy, to me it’s the thought that counts. I don’t care if you say “I’m sorry” or “pardon me” or whatever you choose. But in Target when I saw a pair of tights on clearance and reached for them, then realized they were the wrong size and reached for the pair next to them before I saw that I would be sticking my hand across another woman’s line of sight, I let out a quick “Sorry!” snatched the tights and got out of her way as fast as I could.

For this I received a tongue-lashing in the middle of a crowded Target on a Saturday because didn’t I have any manners and know how to say “Excuse me”? 

But here’s the thing that makes me crazy when this kind of thing happens. It is bad manners to correct or call out someone’s bad manners. I mean, I’d be willing to make a case that it’s okay if it’s your kid since you’ll want to direct them to apologize for their behavior to the aggrieved party. But if it’s an adult, even if it’s a family member or someone you know very well, if you’re going to let them know they did something impolite, you do it quietly and privately and kindly. 

So yeah, this was a double whammy. Someone I didn’t know called me out for bad manners when I’d already apologized for my bad manners. I wish I could recover from this kind of stuff and shrug it off, but I haven’t yet developed that skill. When someone flips me off while driving I feel angry and frustrated for a good hour or so afterwards. And this was no different. All afternoon I felt annoyed and angry because I’d been treated badly even when I’d already tried to make it right.

It happened again last week on the bus. To avoid making a woman with a baby stroller move from her spot in the aisle, I had to squeeze my way through a packed aisle to get to the other exit. As I walked I said, “Excuse me … sorry … excuse me … pardon me …” but one woman yelled at me after I walked by and said “sorry,” angry that I hadn’t said “Excuse me.” This time I was happy that another man nearby took up my cause. “She SAID ‘Excuse me,’” he called out. Even though he was showing just as bad of manners as she was (correcting someone else’s behavior in public) at least he was trying to look out for someone.

One thing I’ve learned from those experiences, coming in such close succession, is that to avoid them in the future–the only way I can really help myself is to avoid them–is to say “Excuse me” loudly whenever I get in anyone’s way.

Another lesson learned: no more trips to the Cinema Pub, a movie theater with food in a Boston suburb. I was there this weekend with a friend seeing Her, and I admit the audience didn’t quite look like I would’ve expected for a decidedly quirky and unusual film with a rather small audience. Sure enough, they were a raucous and rude group. I can’t help but think the setup–which felt more restaurant than theater–contributed to the atmosphere. 

I did my best to hold myself back. While it’s impolite to call out bad behavior, there are times when it’s okay. Like, for example, when you’re in a place like a theater where quiet is expected and a manager could be summoned to remove people for impolite behavior. I kept my mouth shut as a few groups of them chuckled through serious scenes and giggled like children during sexy scenes. 

But I lost it when they started making wisecracks about halfway through, joking during the dialogue and laughing in response so loudly I couldn’t hear the movie anymore. I looked over and gave the glare. When that didn’t do anything, I shushed. I shushed maybe 2 or 3 times over the course of half an hour. Yeah, it didn’t matter much. They could’ve cared less.

And yeah, it made my blood boil. I wish it didn’t bother me so much. I wish it hadn’t pulled me out of the movie and lessened my experience (I, for one, loved the movie). More than that, I wish I could shrug things off, just move forward, not hold a grudge. 

That’s just how it is, I guess. There’s a lot of things that have changed in my life and in my personality. I have become more relaxed, more laid back. I worry less. I don’t spend so much time focusing on the future, I live day to day. There are just some things I won’t ever shake. 

There are worse things.

Word of the Year

I am not much for inspiration. I don’t like uplifting quotes. I hate motivational speakers. These days there’s enough to worry about day to day that I find much of what’s out there trite or cliched.

But when several of my friends (like Cheryl and Casey) began to announce their Word of the Year I gave it some thought. I like the idea of giving your year a theme instead of a resolution. The question was, did I have one word, however broad, that could cover the months that lay ahead? I felt like so much was undefined and unsure, so much was unsteady and uncertain, I couldn’t think of anything that really worked. 

Calm? Well, yes, calm is good and it would be nice to have some, but it’s not really me. 

Better? I felt like I needed to have my life set and in place before I could really worry about being better at anything.

Nothing stuck. I decided this just wasn’t the year for me to find a theme. I would just focus on getting through day by day.

But then my word found me. 

When I wrote that post last week, I was throwing a lot of stuff out there that was difficult to say. I think most bloggers struggle to hit publish on that kind of post. But I also know those feelings are usually a sign that you’re just putting out something good. So I went with it. I went on Twitter and put up the link saying I wasn’t sure how well I was walking the line between stupid and gutsy… And then seeing that word “gutsy” I just felt a real ownership of it and it all came together.

gutsy Word of the Year

So GUTSY is my word for this year. Not just about blog posts, but about everything. It was definitely how I felt about navigating the job search process these last couple weeks as I negotiated a couple different offers to try and make the best decision. Negotiating is not my forte. I took a negotiation class in law school. At our first project I came in with the lowest settlement of all the plaintiffs in the case, which I’d found to be more than fair. Yeah, I’m apparently too reasonable for that kind of work. So that took some guts and some confidence. 

Watching so many people audition for Listen To Your Mother Boston let me see a lot of guts and take real pride in what we’ll be putting on stage. 

Starting a new job, coming in confident and strong and ready to do the best I can.

And dating, of course. I’ve been waiting for a message from a guy. He said he’d message me when he got back from a trip for winter break… which ended over a week ago. So I messaged him. I tend to be willing to take the first step even though it leads to a decent amount of rejection–dating with kids is not for the faint of heart. But I didn’t want to wonder. I wanted to know if he was legitimately done with me or if it was just life getting in the way, as it so often does with me. So I messaged, he wrote back, and now we’re going out again. See? Gutsy pays off. 

Mostly, I feel like it’s a “me” word. One that fits my personality but can still serve as a reminder to step up and do the thing that scares me. This time in my life is not one to be afraid. I’m building it from the ground up and I need to take ownership of it. Gutsy is who I want to be this year. 

Not So Free Writing

I enjoyed last week’s free writing post (and it seems like you guys did, too) so I was getting ready to do the same thing again this week. I even wrote one. 

I did not post it.

Because I have a problem.

I am already an oversharer. And lately it has been harder blogging because I have so many things that are not blog appropriate. Divorce stuff. Navigating life single stuff. Money stuff. I feel like I should be able to share it all, but it’s just not the right time for a lot of it. And for some of it it’ll never be the right time. Some stuff just doesn’t belong out there, you know?

So I started free writing… and… um… it all just kind of came out. All the stuff that I’m holding back just ended up there in my little text box and I just could not hit publish and pretend it was all okay because it was a free write.

So sorry about that. I’m going to have to put a little more effort into my free writes than most people, I think, because the stuff that really wants to be said is exactly what I cannot say. Blast.

But I also HATE vaguebooking (aka writing overly vague stuff on Facebook) and vagueblogging is just as bad and I just did it to all of you. So I’m going to make a few simple but significant pronouncements just so you can feel like you’re up to date and I can feel like I don’t have to push all the things so deep down inside.

Thing one: work has me down to half time. It sucks. I am trying to figure out how to get by. And I am once again looking for work.

Thing two: money is, obviously, tight. 

Thing three: divorce proceedings continue. A court date was had. I still don’t know how long it’s going to take to get everything settled, and I’m honestly worried about how new job arrangements are going to potentially mean everything changes and gets complicated.

Thing four: I am lonely a lot. With less work and the kids gone for a week at the beginning of the month, I felt like a hermit.

Thing five: I have started dating again. And that one isn’t going to get a whole lot more detail added on because that one fact alone probably means my Mom (hi, Mom!) is going to call me freaking out because it’s too early. (Save yourself the call, Mom. It’s time. I’m ready. It’s ok. I am a grown-up, no one is going to meet the kids, it’s really ok.)

So there you go. Feel better? My free write had way too much sharing about those topics. Now you get some reveals without me giving you far more information than any of us really needs. 

It’s going to be tricky to navigate how to move forward from here and what to share. But I also don’t want to feel like it’s a great idea for me to not say anything when it takes so much effort to be quiet.

Still, for now, you’re going to have to be okay with mostly minor anecdotes on these subjects. Like how I was simultaneously proud of myself and aware of being seriously pitiful when I bought myself a stack of 11 Lean Cuisine meals because they only cost about $1.25 each if I got that many and that was going to be so great to give me a supply of cheap lunches but OMG now I’m the lady buying 11 Lean Cuisines and (even worse) now I’m the lady EATING 11 Lean Cuisines. See? Now that’s an overshare I think we can all be happy with.

Of Names and the New Year

its complicated Of Names and the New YearI’m not making any resolutions this year. Because I don’t know enough about my future to know what goals to set. I know so little about the details from here that I can’t fathom trying to impose that kind of order on them. 

Here’s one example.

I’ve been thinking about names a lot. About mine, specifically, and what I’m going to do about it. 

Raised in a conservative, religious household, waiting to get married and have children, I always planned to take my husband’s name. I gave it little thought until I got older and started my career while still single. In the end, though, I opted to change my name for two reasons: to make my husband and I into a recognizable family to everyone, and to eventually identify myself as my children’s mother.

Now, though, half of those reasons are gone. Keeping the name for my kids sounds like a nice sentiment, but it’s not one that tugs at my heartstrings. I feel more connected to my maiden name, it doesn’t have the same baggage as my married one.

But then I start looking to the future. If I go back to my maiden name, jump through all the hoops it will take to change it, re-brand myself to all the people who’ve met me in the last 6 years, then that’s great but what if I get married again? Would I stick with my maiden name, only to be in a household with three last names: mine, my spouse’s and my kids’? 

Do I have the guts to change my name again if I did get married? Do I want to have a different name than my kids at all? But wouldn’t it be better than keeping my ex’s name when I’m with someone new? 

I have no answers to these questions. I don’t know what the future brings. I’ve never had so little control over my life and I still don’t know what to do with it and how to manage it. 

When I do have the power to make a choice, there’s no easy answer. 

I may not have resolutions, but I do have hope. I hope that in 2014 things get easier. I hope they get more stable. I hope I can get my footing financially and logistically. I hope for less big questions with complicated answers. I hope I can read more books and see more movies. I hope that Listen to Your Mother Boston is a fantastic success. I hope I get to write enough. I hope I can get the money to go to more conferences and visit more friends. And I hope you’ll all be here with me.

Celebrations

I get disillusioned with people a lot. (It probably has a lot to do with how often I ride public transit.) But I am feeling all sorts of happiness towards humanity. Because I had a wonderful birthday for the first time in ages. 

Once upon a time, my good birthdays were my own responsibility. I would run away from everyone and take myself to a movie and get myself a book and sit myself down for a delicious lunch. As good as those days were, they were also lonely. 

And in the frenzy of family and the holidays, it’s tended to get a little lost in the shuffle. (Or a lot.)

But this year I had a wonderful week, a full week, lots of work, lots of fun, a general delight.

20131205 143935 e1386691960640 Celebrations

 

I was lucky enough to run a Blogging Workshop at the Massachusetts Conference for Women. It was a great conference and getting to be a part of it was thrilling. I love teaching as a rule, and I loved getting to talk to so many women about how to leverage their online presence. Can I do it every year? Please? 

After that lovely day, my lovely friends and I met up for drinks after the Conference. And this happened:

 Celebrations

It’s the little things. My people are there and they’re looking out for me. It makes me happy. 

What did I do on my actual birthday?

I gave myself a pretty fantastic present. You’re going to be jealous.

I took a nap. 

It rocked.

Operation Jess Gets Her (*%^# Together

My Mom noted that of late my posts have an air of “Woe is me.” To which I responded, “Well, yeah.” 

I am trying not to get stuck in the Land of Self-Pity but man it’s hard these days. I cannot seem to move at an appropriate speed. I either go full throttle and feel overwhelmed or I turn completely stagnant… and feel overwhelmed. 

I’ve given myself a few months to let it happen, take it easy and not beat myself up too much. So far, the results of this aren’t exactly stellar. 

Okay, to be fair, I’m doing pretty darn well for someone who’s only been in an entirely new lifestyle for 6 months, with a new job for only 3 months. In my head with all the divorce stuff, I’m fine. I occasionally get incredibly angry, but that’s about it. And that, I think, is something I should feel okay about. That’s pretty above average in the coping skills department. 

So yes, I’m proud of myself for moving on, moving forward, etc. However, except for facing in the right direction and taking my first couple important steps, I’ve haven’t moved forward much.

There are just so many opportunities to feel sorry for myself. So. Very. Many. 

I went through this after Graham’s diagnosis and that lasted well over a year. Every time anything good happened to anyone else’s kid it felt like a slap in the face for me. I’ve moved past that, mostly, but it took a lot of time and a lot of therapy (for him and for me). 

The issue now is that there are just so many ways to feel bad. It isn’t just seeing happy couples doing well. It isn’t just the anniversaries, the fancy vacations, the family pictures. It’s also the complaining.

It’s when they have a difficult family photo shoot. We aren’t doing photo cards this year. There’s the money, and then there’s the feeling of forced happiness that comes from a card with a newly-single parent who is so very obviously single.

 

It’s when a spouse leaves town for a couple days and they’re stuck caring for kids alone. I feel hyper-aware of the differences between  my normal days and other people’s.

It’s when their work is too busy. I  just think about how they’re a decade into a career while I’m starting from scratch. 

It’s when a kid is sick. I’m jealous that they are already at home with that kid, and don’t have to change anything to help their child feel better.

It’s when their credit card gets stolen. Yup, that sucks, but the odds are that person has other credit cards, plenty of money in the bank, and no real harm done. 

I am stuck in this place where everything that happens to everyone else is really about me. And I hate it. 

I don’t want to be like this. The energy required is extensive. 

The other day I walked on to a crowded bus where people did exactly what they always do and cluttered all up in the front instead of moving to the back. There was nowhere left to stand, so I asked loudly for them to start moving back only for a woman with her stroller to get in my face, immediately incensed that I’d asked her to move. I hadn’t been talking to her, of course. She wasn’t in the way.  I was talking to the idiots beside her who stood there oblivious while people continued to crowd into about 5 feet of space. I avoided the confrontation but I went to my seat astonished at how much anger and energy must be required to assume that any negative thing someone says is about you. Yeah, it took me about 10 seconds to see my hypocrisy.

Maybe I don’t pick fights with people, but I do fight my own little internal skirmish. And I always lose. And everyone else’s life everywhere is better than mine.

It is pitiful, really. But it’s my default brain setting at the moment. And that needs to change.

I need to get myself together.

The holidays are coming. I don’t just have to think about a Thanksgiving without a turkey, a New Years Eve without a kiss. I also have my stupid birthday, where I have a long tradition of feeling lonely and sorry for myself instead of happy and excited. I do not want to just cope with the next 6 weeks. I want to make some merry, dammit. 

I want to relax and feel like I have everything under control.

I want to straighten up my house and lose that next 5 pounds. 

I want to enjoy my days alone and spend that time doing something other than recovering.

I am not exactly sure how to make all this happen. Will it work just through sheer force of will? Can I draft a check list? Is there a mantra to recite? 

I have no idea. But I’m going to try.