For years I focused on my weight, wanting to get it down. I exercised. I got frustrated. It just slowly climbed. Emotional stress was bagged and wrapped tightly, always carried. Worries were with me more than my shadow was.
I worried. About money. About my appearance. About work. About making the moments happen. I was driven, but spinning my wheels in tight circles.
When I stopped focusing on these issues and just lived, got up in the morning and focused on tomorrow things started to change.
My voracious appetite dwindled. I began to shrink. My headaches decreased in number. Unhealthy relationships brought back stress, as I sought to offer my partners everything to be the perfect partner. Instead, I faced criticism. Stark. Private. Personal.
I smiled at the world and had to grow or break. The more stress I faced, the more my habits changed. With someone else sniping me, I couldn't afford to do the same. I grew. Stronger, harder, thinner, and brighter.
I quit worrying. Why not look for the bright moments, why not just flow with what life has to offer- good and bad?
Why focus on what other people think, especially the ones with constant complaints spewing out? Why not, upon running into them, offer them positive as other beautiful people had done for me in the past? Why not look where I'm going, look for solutions instead of blame?
I'm at a point of freedom. I need this time for me to solidly be me, to reach a point where I stay true to me, even in the face of love. You can't really love if you give yourself away so much, to be what someone else desires. You become less rather than more, anxiety creeps back in along with insecurities. Their moods and whims try to shape you and unhappiness is not a companion worth having.
Faced with spinning, frustrated and mired down you can keep digging in or you can let go, reach out and find the tools and support- material, emotional, psychological- to take that proverbial baggage and discard it. You can become the person you want you to be. You can care or not. You can dance. You can explore yourself and the many paths ahead of you.
They say, when one door closes, a window opens. I've found that the walls, well, they aren't real. Walk through them. Close your eyes, believe in you, and see what happens when you do.
I stand on stages entertaining a variety of crowds with different shows. I tell stories in the lanes. I connect with fascinating people. Earlier this year, I faced a crowd of over a hundred and forty people day after day; there was a rush as I turned on the microphone and the words carried us all to other places, away from the Texas heat.
I believed I could. They believed. I did.
You are free to believe in what you choose, but choose wisely. Believing you have limitations is a brick wall that you make in your own path. The only person it stops is you, and the worst part, is that wall is not real.
See you on the other side.
Monday, August 21, 2017
For years I focused on my weight, wanting to get it down. I exercised. I got frustrated. It just slowly climbed. Emotional stress was bagged and wrapped tightly, always carried. Worries were with me more than my shadow was.
Tuesday, August 1, 2017
Weather is a part of life. We joke about the weatherman and how wrong the weather predictions are. When we don't want weather to hit, we tell ourselves what we want to hear. It's only a low chance of rain, it will pass fast, they're always wrong, this never or always, and why read that pesky warning. If I ignore the warning, and just look at the chance of rain or snow, I can live comfortably in denial. There's the other extreme too, of immediately react for the most extreme potential. Both extremes are dangerous.
Second week of July in Illinois, weather warnings were up. The forecast called for possible rain. The fine print mentioned water levels, flood levels. I did think about that, recalling this area of the country got heavy rain through June. The ground was still saturated. I was concerned. My carport tent survived the worst storm, laundry was soaked though as I'd had to get out there and do extra staking. Friends let me visit them Wednesday, laundry dried while we caught up and had the chance outside of the frenetic pace of life to visit.
I got home. The warnings looked worse. I asked several people about them, if it flooded several more feet from run off what would the river do? I was thinking about putting everything back into the van. Both of the intelligent people I talked to explained why I was safe and likely overreacting. I kept my laundry in the van, but didn't move the fridge, groceries, kitchen or totes of personal items back in. Totes don't leak until they are submerged. Why would I expect that, partially ignoring the voice of reason that seemed like the voice of overreacting in my head. Even then, warnings were that we might get fifteen feet total rise, and the river was almost at fourteen. It was swollen but mostly within its banks. Another foot shouldn't be that bad. Rationalize.
I fell asleep somewhat chagrined. Had I overreacted that day? Had Gracie too? I fell asleep wondering, but relieved she and Roxi had gone to stay with friends away from the river. I would stay and watch camp.
I slept. It didn't rain that night. It did not rain that night. No rain that night.
But runoff. Runoff slowly, subtly raises water levels. A friend taught me that during the bad Minnesota flood years ago. It's not the rain, it's the runoff.
I woke up Thursday because the fan stopped working. Had the power gone out? I sat up, looked out the window. Water everywhere. I fumbled contact lenses in. The kitten looked confused. I grabbed him, my wallet and phone. I went facebook live and jumped out. If something happened or was happening, I wanted folks to know and it looked bad. How would anyone know we needed help if I didn't get word out? Could we get out?
The water was mid-calf. I ran to dry land. Thought. Ran back. No current yet. The van was getting wet as water rose. The carport tent, fridge and other items were already knee deep in water. I started slowly as thoughts came together. Get the table. Get the chairs. The fridge is floating, nothing I can do to save that. Already face down, burnt out and drowned. Unplug the power cords. Be relieved the power is out and I'm not getting electrocuted. Pause as an avocado in one of my kitchen bowls floats out the door as if headed on an adventure. Wave goodbye to it. Shock. Numbness. Video. What to do. Water rising.
Water was now mid-thigh in the carport tent. The van was almost knee deep. Did I mention the transmission died on the journey to the park? It was on the list of things to deal with. Now a different more immediate list took precedence. I went for help getting it moved, of all the times for a transmission fail, this seriously was the worst time. I went to the owner of the park, he was busy pulling boats out of the water. Boats are expensive, beat up vans are cheap. I understood his choice but wasn't happy with it. He didn't seem to understand that it was not able to move itself.
I found a guy with a diesel truck, talked him into towing the van to the parking lot out of water for the moment. He was initially resistant, but it was my home and I was politely persuasive. After he moved it, he was surprised to find himself glad that he had helped. I thanked him. I went back, started hauling Gracie's pop up trailer out by hand. One of the other residents saw me, he ran and helped. We got it to dry land. The water kept rising.
Friends gathered and dispersed. Some knew what they needed, what they lost and could easily express it. A place to stay for a family with two toddlers. Clothes, dog food, tent, air mattress.
I out word out.
A lot of folks offered help. Places to stay were found. Clothing poured in. Red Cross was a buzz word.
My friend Terrence Hespel was a shining knight. He kept me focused and gently guided me through my shock. Kimbelle, Terrence, Tammy, Joya, Steve and Nicole and several others offered me places to stay. Steve and Nicole took in the family with two toddlers. The weekend at Faire was solidly focus on the patrons and the magic. In the back of my mind, the avocado kept bobbing past me.
Monday, Terrence took me to the van that did not run. We looked at the stinking stuff I thought I saved. He got a garbage bag and we dumped a tupper of personal paperwork, hobby gear, and a good portion of my life into that bag. If you haven't dealt with a flood, here's a fun fact. Flood water that goes through areas where people have septic tanks pick up and carry the waste with the water. It's nasty water. I got a severe sinus infection just from the first morning of sloshing around in it. The doctor told me it's common when people go into floods.
Then we went to Red Cross. Cause they help, right? They offered clothes. Canned foods. Hot processed foods if you can drive there daily, and hot showers and a shelter to sleep in again great if you have transportation. They opened a case for me. Made me list everything I lost. I was on the verge of losing it to tears when Terrence stepped in. I finally just pulled up pictures from my camp. After making me do that, then the worker explained I could have cloth gloves, paper painting masks and weak large garbage bags to clean up with. There would be no financial assistance and I was warned not to move back in due to more heavy rain in the forecast and two dams to the north being at capacity already. So after making me list everything, what I was offered was minimally useful. There was a multi agency help center set up for three days. I couldn't get to it, staying with wonderful friends two hours away, safe and indoors. I called. Still more of an emotional wound than a help. They just kept offering me shelter, without transportation.
I found out the week after that the only people given financial assistance were people with kids. In retrospect, I would rather not have gone to see them and saved myself from having to rehash my losses for them to map. Apparently, they are helpful if you have insurance and need to make a claim or if you have kids. Otherwise, the help was minimal and not practical unless you could drive there daily or staying in their public shelter was your only option. I wasn't impressed. I was disappointed, considering how many friends donate and volunteer. I guess, if your going to donate: give appliances, contractor strength garbage bags, vinegar, toiletries, pet supplies, household goods, rubber gloves, muck boots. Those cloth gloves were useless in dealing with soaking wet fecal mud covered objects.
The same week the water went down enough for Tammy and I to go and buy muck boots, rubber gloves and strong contractor garbage bags, and vinegar to clean up with. My camp was still sitting in stagnant water that almost came into the top of the boots it was so deep. Tammy worked on getting the Shelter Logic carport tent ready to move to dry ground so we could take it down and bag each part to disinfect and clean it. I was relieved it withstood the flood. If it could handle it, I could too.I carried six loads of my own gear, now garbage to the dumpster. Irony. The one tupper of clothes I had filled to give away before the flood had floated but stayed in the tent. This ended up being good, as we had poop scented clay mud all over our clothes by the time we were done.
We wore mismatched clothes, laughed, and headed to McDonald's to wash, sanitize ourselves from head to foot as a guy sat watching, looking perplexed. Apparently he had never seen anyone use sanitizer like body and face lotion.
That night and the next day I soaked then scrubbed parts of the carport tent with vinegar water. It got hosed down and sun dried. Everything got vinegar washed and scrubbed and sun dried. Tammy, Terrence and their son Alex have been the finest hosts, making this easier to deal with and letting me stay the season at their house so I can recover financially rather than end up further strapped trying to rotate camps at state parks.
Friends. Friends reached out. A double steamer and rice cooker from Eddy Jeff. Dishes from Roger that ended up with one of the families, a number of people bringing in bags and bags of clothes, dog food and other needed items, Kathie and her husband bringing me colored pencils and a beautiful pen her husband made to replace the ones that wept their colors as they tumbled out of my life. Others sneaking a generous tip in my hat with a sweet note. Getting out to New Mexico to buy a new van, and having Suzy surprise me by loading the van up with a plethora of donations: spices, measuring cups, cups, towels, dishcloths, an air mattress and bedding for my van with new pillows, several framed pictures of the Painted Lady with children to take the place of some that were lost. Her brother, my friend Ivan drove up eight hours with Bridget from Mesa Arizona with more donations and gas money to help. A camp utility tent, kitchen gear for camping, a stove for me and a machete to keep me safe on the road. There were toiletries, brand new clothes, several crates of food stuffs, all useful and all well received. Brand new clothes, beautiful homemade tie dye, stuffed animals for kids. So much useful stuff. Judy sent Bridget to get my measurements, she knew I needed new garb for the painted Lady and dark faerie tales. Judy is a seamstress for one of the festivals. Judy is making the garb I need, taking a huge item off the heavy to buy and do list.
The flood took place in hours. The Fox River crested at over 17.5 feet. Flood stage is 11 feet. I was lucky it wasn't higher or faster.
It's taken weeks to organize, sort, and finish letting go of things that weren't really saved.
Now, I work forward. I've got a vehicle, James, the new van who is perky and performs reliably. I'm following up on closing out the old van whether it gets repaired or becomes scrap. My camp mates and I are waiting on a refund from Fox River Recreation that is supposed to come in a month. I'm figuring out what I still need, starting to pick up pieces to fill gaps.
Ivan asked in New Mexico how I felt about losing the stuff. My answer now is the same as it was to him then. It hurt but the new pieces that folks have given, those things now have positive memories attached to them. Those things came with love. Some of the stiff I lost reminded me of my past two relationships. Better to let go of baggage than carry it.
Better to let go than let it drag you down and pollute your life. My friends, so many offering help, hugs, meals, gifts, items. This crazy summer, this flood, has given me time to really think and to appreciate the love and compassion my friends have. Some day, when the time is right and I am ready, I will find a guy who is as motivated as Ivan driving right hours, as intuitive as Terrence knowing what to say and do to keep me on an even keel, as loving as all the friends who took note and offered aid, anticipating and giving without considering our needs a hassle. Someone who communicates openly and honestly who has a parallel philosophy and relationship goals. For now, I am going to keep focused on rebuilding my life. I am going to enjoy my kitten. I am going to do extra work flying around doing side gigs. I am going to enjoy time with friends, making more beautiful memories.
Friends have been the strongest safety net. It has been humbling and at times I blink back tears just realizing how much they've been there bringing me up and it's made it possible to smile even at the darkest moments.
I love my friends. Each of them is exceptional. I have great gratitude, my heart is flooded with it in a beautiful way!
Thursday, June 15, 2017
Fourth of July approaches, red white and blue decorations bloom and our thoughts turn to magnificent fireworks.
It is my second year working fireworks. I've learned a few important facts worth sharing. Safety first folks. That should be common sense but I remember being ten and watching my drunken father shoot his brother in the arm with a Roman candle. They had to drive out of state to get the Roman candles to shoot at each other, as New York was a sparkler only state. Imagine them trying to goof off by chasing each other with sparklers. If it seems dangerous, please use caution or at least hold yourself accountable. My uncle always said he just didn't dodge fast enough.
Consider pets, let neighbors know so they can tuck pets inside if they're nervous. Consider where you are going to set them off. A twenty foot tall fountain under a ten foot tree is a recipe for fire, not fireworks.
Have your water handy. You probably won't need it but be prepared.
Now with safety covered, let's talk sales tactics and options.
Tents. I worked for an excellent company last year in Minnesota. Everyone was trained, professional, and prices were reasonable. Be careful with tents though. Not all companies are as high quality as Renaissance Fireworks. A lot use a few items that are reduced price to seem like a better deal than their competitors- and you get so busy being delighted by a small discount on a few things you don't notice you are getting gouged on everything else.
Buy one get one can be cool, but price compare: the store not doing bogos likely has lower per unit prices. It is okay to price around. Math is your friend.
Second, quality in sales experience. You're spending money to have a special memory with loved ones. Go where the sales staff makes your buying fun, where they can find out what you want and offer you the fireworks that will delight rather than disappoint. At The Castle we gathered and watched a display of the new fireworks we were considering selling. We rated them on quality and price. It shouldn't be like buying fast food. Last year, I enjoyed talking with people and helping them out to put togethet fun displays from novelties to heavy weight show closers.
Don't limit yourself by being lured to a little stand when you can go to a larger location with more options.
I was impressed with the giant display of heavy weight 500 gram fireworks we have at The Castle, tables and tables. The alphabet hardly had enough letters for how many we have available. Not ten, easily over thirty options in 500 gram heavyweights and that's a conservative estimate.
Third, assortments. Assortments can be amazing or lame. Skip the single company assortments for ones good fireworks sellers put together. Mark and Jay put fantastic assortments together with great value. No lame fillers. Various fireworks from multiple companies. Shawn, Jeff and Cory put together assortments at The Castle of excellent favorites starting around thirty dollars all the way up to a thousand dollars- worth far more than what you're paying. They know what's good and they put it together for you to make it easy.
Don't let a cool wrapper or gimmicky name be your deciding factor. Find out what it does. Watch the firework on YouTube, is it what you want?
State laws limit what you can sell. In Minnesota we were often frustrated as folks wanted fireworks we could not sell by law. They knew, asked and we had to tell them over and over that we could not sell artillery. They shrugged, left and drove to Wisconsin to by their artillery. We would have loved to sell them what they wanted but our hands were tied by law. We had plenty of people who still bought our fountains, novelties, and 500 gram fountains; as I said our prices were reasonable and we made it a positive experience.
We're working hard to get the Castle and Children's House ready. We have a great team working to make fireworks buying an experience that starts off your holiday with a Wow and a smile. We love fireworks and want to share that delight with you.
Have a great 4th of July!
Sunday, June 11, 2017
The people we choose to be around have an impact on our well-being.
Surround yourself with selfish people and you will find yourself getting tired, feeling lonely and constantly giving without reciprocation. These folks only notice you when they want something from you or they want an audience. They've got nothing to give but superficial platitudes and often when they aren't focused on enough- they will create a situation just to get attention. They feel entitled. They use charisma and drama to make their life a stage you get stuck on if you get too close. They take. Leaving your garden full of a stubborn, thorny weed that consumes all the nutrients and pushes out the healthy plants.
There are false friends who seem vibrant but are actually there on an agenda to use you, to amuse themselves or manipulate you to their advantage. They listen to you for ammunition. You trust them and you bleed for it. They skip merrily along uncaring or even delighted by the drama and destruction. These folks are dangerous. I've learned you can recognize them when they boast of how they've screwed people over or how they "love their boyfriend because he's an asshole", and the love seeing the wreckage. These are the poison Ivy vines snaking through, looking healthy as they strangle other plants and smear their irritating oil all over others around them, contaminating relationships for their own advantage. Usually financial, but sometimes just because. These folks usually have sociopathic tendencies. They don't want the people around them healthy. They often talk about wanting to see the world burn or society fall, chaos lovers.
On the other hand:
In your garden seek out and nurture:
Authentic friends. People who reciprocate. People who demonstrate maturity.
Listen to what they say, how they say it, how they treat others. How they regard others. Do they regard others?
Do not excuse or dismiss toxic behaviors. They do not just affect that individual, if that person is close to you- it will impact you and those around you.
I've been quietly weeding my garden, ripping out the narcissists, self absorbed, enablers, toxic, false friends, and unhealthy. I'm not responsible for those folks and having them around detracts from the health that I and the people I care about and am connected to have.
I'm taking time to assess, to nurture that garden in my heart.
It is not my responsibility to help those folks, but it is mine to be the best me I can be and to nurture the healthiest relationships I can with those I feel are worth investing in- those who invest back.
I hope you tend your garden. Be careful what you let grow there.
In comics, there is a narrator who communicates the pertinent nonverbal information to the reader. In life, we each have a narrator in our heads.
How we are feeling, what we are perceiving: it changes the narrator's focus. The narrator sticks with what we linger on.
I've been fighting anxiety this spring. Fighting anxiety is like trying to beat up a swimming pool full of water. The water splashes, moves out in waves, gets unbalanced but remains mostly in the pool. In the end, you stand there feeling frustrated and exhausted and still anxious- and those closest to you have retreated out of the splash zone. Looking out and realizing you're making no progress, you try harder. The hard work isn't working. The water remains.
The narrator tries to shift perspective but you don't leave the pool. You've got a fight to win for peace of mind. The narrator becomes negative as that part of you knows you are going about this backward but you know if you just push through...
Some folks rewrite the narrative here. They can't bear the weight of failing and they decide anxiety will always be a part of them. They come up with justifications and long ways of living that take them around every pool in their path.
I stopped fighting the other day, sitting and watching butterflies with a friend. My narrator had a chance to be heard. My narrator said "Flying not falling."
Swim instead of panic. Float. I went out, found myself a little black kitten, knowing I feel better with a little fuzzy companion.
My narrator backed off. Kitten distracted and mind finally not spinning through the worry hallway of my mind. Anxiety grows when it's fed. Confidence grows when you feed it. You can feed one but not both. Float.
Silly as it seemed, instead of fighting the fear and anxiety, I let go and just focused on the positives around me and the things I can change and address. Feeding confidence instead of uncertainty.
The anxiety lessened. Then it lessened more.
My narrator could have been destructive, admonishing me further into a worse state of mind. My narrator could have swept the anxiety under the rug to try to make me look superhuman.
My narrator prefers to stick the neutrality as much as possible. That person you are frustrated with today may turn into an amazing person over the next five years.
Each of us has our own story, it's as healthy as we make it.
I'm enjoying the relaxed muscles and returning appetite, the refreshed confidence that comes with anxiety release.
How does your narrator talk to you?
Wednesday, June 7, 2017
Balance, it takes constant work. Walking across a low wire, only a few feet off the ground, you still fall if you get distracted.
You can practice low elements like a low wire with minimal safety gear and logical spotting. Off balance? Step off and start over.
In my youth I spent a lot of time practicing skills on low and high elements. Two line bridges, Cat's cradles, giant ladders, high wires.
High elements over ten feet up, sometimes over twenty or thirty feet things are different. We did not practice these skills to perform for audiences. We faced them as challenges to overcome trust issues, develop communication and listening skills, to problem solve, develop self esteem, confidence, and teamwork. We all came from broken places, sharp edged children who could cut you with words and who carried emotional wounds that colored our worlds stark.
We learned when you are working with a partner, keep reaching, keep trying to communicate and listen. Instead of taking affront that the anxious person cuts in verbally, understand and sooth. Instead of getting annoyed at the slow speaker, keep catching yourself when you interject. Apologize. Trust. Everyone shares the work. Everyone succeeds together.
We joked, "That which doesn't kill us makes us stronger." The time I shredded my arm catching a fiberglass cargo net, but not quite well enough. The heavy rope I was on pulled me back. Thanks, Physics. The cargo net kept a good chunk of my arm. Bandage on. I went back up.
The last three years, I've spent a lot of time and energy focusing on trying to be healthy in a partnership, trying to encourage my partners to choose to heal as well.
Not everyone wants to heal. Not everyone wants to be what you see they could be, if they were brave enough. Low hanging fruit, habits.
I own that I am working through issues of anxiety, esteem, and that in the two relationships I felt insecure. Why?
Part of it was knowing my partners weren't interested in anything more than temporary. Sometimes, to feel more secure temporarily, I put that thought on the backburner and kept planning and working forward. The abusive behavior and gaslighting of the first. The second waiting until he was done to communicate issues that we could have addressed months before. We both failed to communicate as well as we should have from the start.
It hurt to realize we had been out of sync for a while. That part of the hurt was not doing the fun things couples do when they love each other, the laughing, flirting, surprise gifts, wanting pictures of each other. We had bypassed that for routine and gradually spent more time in our heads. Resentments build in such a place.
Trying to put pieces back together that were flawed from the start, the pieces seemed to fit better. Hurts were still there. Feelings of under appreciation, different priorities.
I'm tired. I'm taking time to go back to friends and memories, to look at where old wounds still hide. To address them.
I can trust my friends with the ropes. I've learned that. Giving the ropes back to the people who inspire me, who encourage me.
In turn, there I am, taking the ropes sometimes for them. Because. Trust. Love. We achieve more, we can face daunting tasks easier when we do it together.
Sunday, June 4, 2017
Many too good to be true sales pitches rely on assumptive logic. The nitty gritty details would get in the way, so only the ones that serve as bait get dangled. You know you should be wary, should ask more questions but you don't.
How often do you count your change when it's handed to you? How often have you been surprised to find out an assumption was wrong? Drive time doubled because of traffic, relationship stressed due to varying assumtions in both parties, faced frustration of trying to undo damage?
When we meet people we make assumptions. We observe and decide how we are going to interact based on appearance and behavior, communication sitting on the sidelines saying "why won't you let me start Coach- seriously?"
In a world as diverse as ours, this can lead to friction and misunderstandings rather than respect and understanding.
What can we learn or grow with if we communicate. Open minded.
Stress drops away. Trust can have a place. Relief and appreciation are revitalize you.
You can't get anywhere in relationships with others if the relationship is based on assumptions. You can start over. You can create a real, healthy relationship if you are willing to participate and heal.