MLYB Mom Spotlight: Sadie Cusson

It’s MLYB Mommy Month!

This month, I’ll have a new badass mommy on the MLYB Podcast each week.  To kick off our Mommy Month in honor of Mother’s Day, I had the pleasure of speaking with badass mom/my friend, Sadie Cusson.  Sadie is a working mommy to an almost 3-year-old little girl named Emma Daisy (that name is so cute I can’t even say it most of the time without squealing from all the cuteness).  I chose Sadie as my guest because not only is she a badass broad, but she’s a passionate, yet super respectful crusader for normalizing breastfeeding.

Call me crazy, but I feel like the world needs more people who are truly out to educate and inform, rather than shaming those who don’t come around to their way of thinking.

After choosing to breastfeed her daughter and learning as much as she could about the process, the benefits, the challenges, etc., Sadie chose to share her journey.  In this weeks podcast, Sadie shares all about how she went from not knowing much about breastfeeding to becoming a true advocate and educator.

After hearing some of the negative commentary about how breastfeeding moms just needed to cover up, Sadie took to social media for a short video demonstration about why it’s not just that easy for moms to cover their babies.

Breastfeeding Video

You can view Sadie’s subtle and powerful breastfeeding PSA here.

What I also like about Sadie’s posts and commentary is that whether I agree with her or not (and this applies to most things, not just motherhood and breastfeeding) she almost always makes me think and evaluate my own position on things, and I always walk away feeling more educated than when I started.

I really never understood why people got so upset over boobs, and I also never understood the big deal about covering up.  This video left me with the simple thought of, “Oh, that’s why.”  Sadie is amazing at getting her point and views across without ever vilifying or shaming those who are different.  And I AM HERE FOR IT.

Soon after, Sadie caught some heat for a Mommy and Me breastfeeding photo shoot that was nothing short of stunning and beautiful.  I watched as people commented on her post and she gracefully handled every nasty word with calm, collected, thoughtful responses that never shamed or shut them down, but that merely served to support her own stance and choices as a mother.

Basically, it’s fine to breast feed your kid.  It’s fine to bottle feed your kid.  It’s cool if you want to cover up, and it’s okay if you don’t.  If you don’t like looking at something, look the other way.

It’s JUST THAT EASY.

Mommy and Me Breastfeeding Photo Shoot

Seriously, how gorgeous is this mother and daughter?

HOW CUTE IS THIS BABY?!!

These two are gorgeous.

Don’t agree with everything you’ve read or seen here?

That’s cool.  You don’t have to.

What you do have to do is realize that there’s more than one way to skin a cat (how awful is that expression, by the way?), and your way is just one of many.  Different doesn’t mean wrong.

You can be passionate without being an asshole.  You can share knowledge and your journey without being a closed-minded dick cheese.  A shitty delivery of your point of view is just a good way to be ignored because all it really does is shame and alienate others who might be different from you.  A good delivery of your point of view can create a bond and a sense of fellowship, regardless of you differences.  After all, we’re all on the same team, right?  Aren’t all moms just looking to raise kind, healthy, respectful little humans that won’t grow up to be serial killers?

Happy Mommy Month to all you fabulous mommas out there!  Cut yourselves and each other a little slack.  Y’all have way more in common than you think.  Now, come together, you super moms and make motherhood your bitch.  ❤

 

 

***You can hear more about Sadie’s story on this week’s episode of the MLYB Podcast available at midnight on Monday, May 7th on both Libsyn and iTunes!***

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“That’s just who I am,” is a Bullshit, Made-Up Narrative

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Photo by Marco Secchi on Unsplash

My parents split up when I was 11.  Mom told him that if he didn’t stop drinking, then he needed to leave.  He made it three days before he started packing up his shit in his truck while my sister and I sat in the living room watching tv.  We could hear Mom and Dad arguing, so I turned up the volume on the tv so my sister Amanda couldn’t hear.  She hugged her crocheted bunny and cried.

“That’s just who I am,” Dad said.

“That’s your mother talking,” Mom sniped.

I heard them argue back and forth for a few minutes while Dad continued packing his shit into laundry baskets and carrying it out to his red Mitsubishi pickup.  Every time he came back in, they’d start up again, Dad muttering something about how Mom was trying to change him, and Mom saying that drinking wasn’t who he was.  When he clung to his original assertion, that yes, he was in fact, a miserable drunk through and through, I could hear Mom saying, “Fine.  Then, if you love these girls, you’ll leave.  And you won’t come back.”

Dad finished packing up his truck.  He hugged my sister and I and told us that he loved us, but that Mom and Dad just couldn’t stay married anymore.  He took the last of his belongings with him as I watched him through the glass sliding door.  He got in his truck, never looking back at me, and I watched him as he drove away, the sounds of his missing muffler disappearing among the rush hour traffic of Warwick Avenue.

Here’s the thing:  That’s not who Dad was.  My mother knew it.  I knew it.  My sister knew it.  Even then, as just two kids, we knew it.  We knew what kind of person Dad was.  We knew what kind of person he was capable of being if he could just lay off the alcohol.  We knew that he was sad and broken, and somewhere along the way, Dad let that define him.  Not one of us believed that that was who he was.

But Dad did.  And because he did, he wasn’t going to get sober.  He wasn’t going to model for us the proper way that a husband should treat his wife or how a man should treat his kids.  I mean, I loved my dad and he loved us, but he could be a real piece of work sometimes.  That’s why Mom had to let him go.  And eventually, when things got worse and Dad deteriorated even more, my sister and I had to let him go too.

You are who you decide to be.

I thought about this today while I was in the throes of yet another inner shit talker negativity spiral.  I was struggling with a little writer’s block, and immediately, my inner shit talker seized the opportunity to tell me what a piece of garbage I am.

You’re pathetic.  You’re already tapped out of ideas.  This is just gonna be another thing you give up on.  This is going to be something else you’ve failed at.  

I know.  My inner shit talker is a real twat waffle.  And she knows just how to hit me where it hurts.

That’s just who you are.

When I heard this last part, I could almost hear the wheels in my head screech to a grinding halt.  Those words echo when I hear them, even if they’re in my head.  Each syllable morphs into a deep, thick, manly Rhode Island accent, which sounds just like my father’s voice.  Whenever I hear that sentence, I remember Dad.  I remember how wrong he was, but how he’d tricked himself into believing it anyway.  You’re only who you believe yourself to be, and for him, he ended up exactly where he said he would.  And it didn’t have to be that way.

As my inner shit talking voice turned into Dad’s voice in my head, playing “This is just who I am,” on a relentless, heartbreaking loop, I snapped out of my funk.  I’ve gotten really good at sniffing out my inner shit talker.  I’m hip to her jive, and I know how to shut that bitch down before she spins out of control.  I know that whenever Dad pops into my head, I should listen, because he’s probably trying to teach me something.  And knowing him, it’s usually a way to learn from his mistakes.

I thought about those words, and all the times I’ve used them.  It is almost always reserved exclusively for really low points in my life.  When I ballooned up to 240 lbs., I remember coming home from a short trip downtown.  My legs and back were killing me.   My ankles were swollen from a short walk around Forsyth Park.  I cried on my back patio, short of breath and frustrated.  I puffed on my cigarette, sobbing about how a classmate had asked me a few days before if I was just pregnant or fat.  “I’m stuck like this,” I cried

“This is just who I am now,” I said as I cracked open what would be the first of many Michelob Ultras and drowned my sorrows.  A drunken food binge probably followed.  I probably woke up the next day to get a greasy breakfast to cure my hangover.  And the vicious cycle started all over again.

Something similar happened back in 2016.  I’d hit a wall professionally.  I’d quit my day job the year before to make a go of things on my own, and things had not panned out the way I thought they would.  I pitched a fit in the middle of my kitchen as I’d just gotten rejected from yet another job.  The tip of the iceberg was when I went to fix my dogs’ dinner and I dropped the food bowls all over my kitchen.

“I’m a fucking joke,” I cried.

“I’m stuck like this.  This is who I am now.”

Both of those times, I stayed where I was for a while.  I stayed unhealthy and overweight and drunk because I believed that that was who I was and that was all I was capable of.  I stayed professionally and personally aimless because that’s where I was and I chose to stay there.  If you attract what you put out, I was putting out that I was garbage and incapable of change or success or happiness, and I got back garbage that was more of the same and I stayed miserable for a while.  That may not have been who I was, but I believed that’s who I was.  That’s who I became.

Eventually, I figured out that I could just get off my ass and exercise.  Little by little, I wasn’t crying or getting winded every time I went for a walk.  My ankles didn’t swell at the first sign of physical activity.  I quit smoking because I was tired of being a twenty something who was chronically out of breath and had a permanent, nasty cough.  I realized that my success was directly related to every decision I had made up until that point, and I took responsibility for where I was and realized I could decide where I was headed.

It required change and work, but if you want to move forward, then you’ve got to stop standing still.

At some point, I realized that I was more, and I deserved better.  Once I entertained that idea, I ran with it.  I had to fake it a little at first, but the more I practiced this whole, “I’m actually not garbage,” crap, the more I believed it.  The more I believed it, the better my life got.

I remember this one day in the middle of the bookstore where I was at one of these low points.  Chris sat in the cafe with me as I piled self help books into my basket.

“I can’t believe I’ve turned out to be such a failure,” I said.

“You haven’t turned out to be anything.  You’re just in a rut.  I wish you could see yourself the way I see you,” he said.

As nice as that was to hear, it didn’t make a bit of difference.  It didn’t hurt, but it didn’t matter that he didn’t believe that was who I was; I believed it.  And only I and I alone could change the story.  It wasn’t until I believed I was worthy and that I believed that I could create a life that was different, that was better, that my life started to take shape the way I wanted it to.

Whether we like it or not, we are responsible for where we are.  I get that shit happens that is beyond our control, but even what we do with it and how we react to it are up to us.  This has been a tough pill to swallow, especially for someone like me who is easily irritated and has a temper.  Seriously, do you know how hard it is to accept that it wasn’t someone or something else that made you mad, but YOU that made you mad?

Still trying to wrap my mind around that one.  But I’m trying, so that’s all that matters.

You know that saying “When someone shows you who they are, believe them?”  Well, I’d like to alter it to read, “When someone shows you who they believe they are, believe them.”  Because we are not etched in stone.  We are forever growing and changing and evolving, or at least, we are capable of it.  But it starts and ends with US.

There are times when I think about Dad and how sad he was.  I think about how much he believed he was nothing.  I know how much he hated himself.  I know that’s a lot of why he drank.  And he really believed that the life he had was the one he deserved, the only one he was capable of living.  Sometimes, I wish I could go back in time and just hug him, and tell him how wonderful he was and how he deserved so much better, but I know it wouldn’t have made a difference.  He was what he chose to be.  He used to say shit like, “I ain’t gonna make it to 45 at the rate I’m going.”  He started saying that in his twenties.  And he died at 44.  We could’ve told him he was wrong until we were blue in the face.  Dad was who he chose to be, and he was the only one who could’ve chosen differently.

Do you see?  When you short yourself, when you resign yourself to settling for less, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  The Universe will only give you what you ask for.  If you tell it you deserve crap, you’ll get crap.

I’m not saying to question someone every time they act like an asshole and then tell you, “That’s just who I am.”  That’s who they choose to be, and you’ll need to evaluate whether or not they’re worth keeping around.  After all, the only person that you have control over is YOU. But if you’re acting like a dickhead, and you say, “That’s just who I am,” know that it is who you are choosing to be, and you can choose to change it or at least try to change it.  So, if you want to be a douche nugget, that is your choice, but know that the people who are subject to your douchebaggery reserve the right to cut you loose at any time for the sake of their vibe and sanity.

Case in Point:  I’m a little prone to making things about me sometimes.  I’m actively working on this, because it’s not cute, and I despise it in other people.  So, I should probably get a hold on that garbage.  But, there was a time many years ago where I thought it was one of my endearing qualities, just another quirk about me.  So, when someone accused me of making something all about me, I quickly retorted with, “That’s just who I am.”  And then I got all shocked and indignant when my friends began ghosting me one by one.  They were probably just really smart, not wanting to be around a self-centered ass bag, but in my mind, they were bad friends for not accepting me, warts and all.

That’s not how it works.  Life is short and no one should have to put up with an unapologetic asshole.  That’s not what people mean when they say, “Be Yourself,” and you know it.

I’m not saying you should be perfect.  I’m not saying that I still don’t occasionally make it all about me or fly off the handle and blame someone else for my mood.  What I’m saying is that I’m not resigned to the idea that it’s who I am.  Drinking wasn’t who I was.  Overweight and miserable wasn’t who I was.  If I had to pick one thing to say about myself, it’s that I am a person who does her best.  Am I always great at it?  Well, some days are better than others.  I am who I choose to be, and so are you.  Resigning yourself to mediocrity or settling for less than you deserve is not a great way to make life your bitch.

Look, all I want you to realize is that you’re not etched in stone.  I’m not.  My Dad wasn’t, whether he realized it or not, but his story has ended. Your story continues.  You can rewrite the middle or the ending any time you want.  Be yourself…unless you’re an asshole, then you know, try to be yourself, only better.

And yes, sometimes who we choose to be takes work.  Hell, most of the time it does.  I can’t think of one worthwhile thing that doesn’t require at least a little effort on your part.  Seriously, if you want a different life, you need to do something different.  If you want to be healthier or less insane, it’s gonna require a little work from you.  If you’re not willing to do the work to be the person you want to be, that’s on you.  You’re basically putting it out a message into The Universe that says, “Meh, good stuff is too much work.  Crap’s fine.  I’ll just take some more crap.  Crap’s easier.”

UNIVERSE:  One steaming pile of shit, coming right up!

You’ve got a choice.  You can choose to be shaped and defined by your circumstances, or you can realize that you are in charge and you alone can change course.  Choose to be the best version of yourself.  Choose to always strive for better.

Who will you choose to be?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paying with Pennies

Two days ago, I competed in the third workout of the Crossfit Open.  For those who don’t know, the Open is a worldwide competition where crossfitters gather together to perform five workouts over five weeks.  The best get to go on to Regionals for a shot at the Crossfit Games, but for the rest of us, it’s a chance to test all the training we’ve been doing all year long, reach personal bests, or just have fun with our community.

This is my first Open, and I’ve been pushing myself.  It’s been a lot of fun.  Every Thursday, the workout is released to the public, and on Saturdays, my gym hosts all of us as we do the workout together.  Last Thursday, Dave Castro, director of the Crossfit Games released the following workout:

Workout 18.3

2 rounds for time of:
100 double-unders
20 overhead squats
100 double-unders
12 ring muscle-ups
100 double-unders
20 dumbbell snatches
100 double-unders
12 bar muscle-ups

Women perform 80-lb. OHS, 35-lb. DB snatches

Time cap: 14 minutes

Well, obviously I wasn’t doing that.  I couldn’t string double unders together yet, and I didn’t have muscle-ups by a long shot.  Luckily for me, they also release a scaled option.  Unfortunately, this was it:

Workout 18.3 (Scaled)

2 rounds for time of:
100 single-unders
20 overhead squats
100 single-unders
12 chin-over-bar pull-ups
100 single-unders
20 dumbbell snatches
100 single-unders
12 chin-over-bar pull-ups

Women perform 35-lb. OHS, 20-lb. DB snatches

Time cap: 14 minutes

Well, fuck me.  I don’t have pull-ups yet.  The thought of getting to that bar and hopelessly dangling around in front of people while I tried a pull-up I wasn’t even close to getting made me cringe.  I texted my friend Jordan bitching and moaning about how I wasn’t going on Saturday and how Dave Castro owed me $4 because I’d paid 20 bucks to participate in this Open and I couldn’t even do the fucking workout.

I know.  That’s not a great attitude.  I’m a real brat when I want to be.  I’m working on it.

The next day, I went in the gym, feeling extra ornery, still pissed about 18.3, feeling like shit because I was PMSing and going on Day 5 of a Whole30 (If you haven’t done a Whole30, your first week and a half is miserable).

Guys, I can’t say enough good things about having a tribe of people around you who inspire you to be better and who lift you up.  They are the only thing that could break me out of my negativity spiral, and trust me, I don’t make it easy.

After a pep talk from Caleigh and a lot of encouragement from Jordan, I decided to go Rx and spend all my time doing double unders…one at a time.  Turns out, if you tell me something enough, I’ll eventually listen.  Everyone was saying to see this as an opportunity to attack your weaknesses, so that’s exactly what I’d planned to do, once I got over my temper tantrum.  I spent all of Friday afternoon in my driveway with my jump rope, teaching myself to go straight into a double under without doing three singles first, successfully.

On Saturday morning, I stood in front of a group of people and chipped away at that workout, one rep at a time.  In 9:03, I finished 100 double unders.  Before the time cap ran out, I had time to do 20 overhead squats and get back to the jump rope.  Personally, I think me not getting frustrated and losing my shit was the real victory that day.  I bought what Dave Castro was selling, and I paid him in all pennies.

I even won Rookie of the Day on Saturday.  See?

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Pretty sweet, huh?

I jokingly referred to my double under debacle as “paying the man in all pennies.”  It reminded me of when I worked at Starbucks and people would look me dead in the face, smile, and say, “Sorry, I need to clean out my wallet,” while they dumped pennies all over the goddamn counter and the line was out the door.  And while I counted, they’d keep saying, “Sorry there’s so much change,” like I was too stupid to count.  But you know, you can’t get mad because pennies are still money.

When I was in college, I distinctly remember this one night where we all wanted to drink, but none of us had any money and a group of us started emptying our pockets, couch cushions, you-name-it to pool our money together for a case of Natty Light.  As my future husband, Chris and my friend walked out the door with a Ziploc full of pennies, I remember someone saying, “We should snap a picture of all of us right now and put it on a TEAMWORK poster.”

Why didn’t my customers care?  Why did my friends and I so shamelessly march to the register with our bag full of pennies and case of beer? (FULL DISCLOSURE:  That was NOT the only time I ever bought alcohol with coins)

Because pennies are only annoying to the people who have to count them.

Pennies are the most annoying way to pay someone, but that doesn’t make them any less valuable.  Whether it takes forever to count your money or not, your shit’s still getting paid for.  Whether or not I did 100 double unders all at once or one at a time doesn’t matter.  I can also assure you that not one person watching me on Saturday gave a shit that my dubs were one at a time.  100 pennies and a dollar bill are the same damn thing.

The point here is patience.

It’s like anything we do, isn’t it?  Isn’t my sobriety one moment, one hour, one day at a time?  Didn’t I learn to do a lot of my Crossfit shit one rep, one pound, one day at a time?  Aren’t I building my business one sentence, one page, one blog, one hour at a time? Isn’t progress, no matter how big or small, still progress?

There’s a reason that “one day at a time” is a cliché; it’s because it’s goddamn true.  How often do we look at any big goal and get overwhelmed before we even get started? (Yes, I’m looking at you and your messy garage, dear Husband!)  It’s like if we can’t make the money we want, have the body we want, get fill-in-the-blank right away, that we don’t even want to try.

Raise your hand if you’ve eaten healthy for two days and were appalled when you didn’t magically have a six pack.

:::raises hand:::

Raise your hand if you ever tried something new and gave it up or wanted to give it up because you weren’t good at it right away.

:::raises hand:::

I could go on.  Right now, I’m feeling seriously overwhelmed trying to build my business.  I want my blog up.  I want my podcast up.  I want my ebook launched.  I want my book published, but it needs to be edited.  I want all this to be done and have the dough rolling in so I can make it rain.  And just thinking about it makes my head explode, not because I can’t do it, but because I can’t do it all in a day.

But what I can do is take baby steps.  I can set aside a few hours a day to write blog content.  I can designate a few hours at least one day a week to start recording podcasts.  I can edit my ebook.  I can set aside some time, even if it’s just an hour or two a week to edit my memoir and get it one step closer to publication.

My sobriety has happened one day, one meeting at a time.  My business was built one sentence, one day, one client at a time, and though I’m not exactly rolling in the dough, I’ve far surpassed my earnings in the last two years.  My fitness happened one workout, one movement, one moment at a time.  I hit my first toes to bar today, and I can tell you that shit took me over a year and more misses than I can count.  And it all brought me a little bit closer to where I needed to be.

Have you ever taken your spare change to a CoinStar machine?  You know that joy you feel when you see how much money you actually have?  Yeah, I’m living that shit right now.

Baby steps.  Pennies.  It all adds up.

So, the next time you feel defeated before you begin, or you’re staring at a long road ahead, instead of thinking of all the reasons why you can’t, start thinking of just one thing you can do in service to your goal.  Start putting pennies in the piggy bank.  Devote just one hour to decluttering your house instead of trying to clean it all in one shot.  Make it through today without a drink (and maybe catch a meeting), go to the gym today, devote an hour or two to yourself and your passion.  Do something.  You might just be surprised at how quickly all of your efforts add up.

When life gets hard and you gotta pay the man, pay that bitch in all pennies.  Counting them is annoying, but that’s not really your problem, now is it?  You got this.

Guilt and Shame are NOT Badges of Honor

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Photo by Asdrubal luna on Unsplash

So, February 16th came and went.  It was five years ago that my dad passed away at 44.  I still feel bad about how things ended.  I feel bad about cutting our last phone call short because I was busy.  I feel bad that I saw him maybe three or four times in the decade leading up to his death.  I feel bad about every fight we had. I feel bad for every time I called him a drunk or a loser, even though most of those were just me being a teenager who was mad at her dad for never being able to get his shit together.  I feel bad that he died alone in some shitty room in my grandmother’s house.  I feel bad that I took care of all of his final arrangements when my sister was the one who was closer to him and should have been the one calling the shots.  Fuck, I even feel bad about this one time when he bought my sister and I Mickey Mouse balloons and I asked him to exchange them out for something different.  To be fair, he’d gotten those same balloons for us before and also, I was five years old.

I’m thirty-one now.

Basically, I feel bad about a lot of shit.  Just last year I had to put down my three-year-old German Shepherd because she was sick with Canine Myasthenia Gravis and Megaesophagus.  I’d tried really hard to keep her alive; I fed her upright (do you know how fucking hard it is to feed a dog in a high chair?), I gave her all her meds, I bought her the special neck pillow and the bed, treated her pneumonia after she aspirated because that shit just happens even when you do everything right, etc.  But in the end, I couldn’t save her, so I did the kind thing.  At least, I thought it was the kind thing right up until the moment she slipped away, and then I cursed myself for being such a garbage dog mom and sobbed on the floor, cradling my lifeless dog telling her how sorry I was.  When we got in the car, I remember I just kept saying, “I’m going to hell for that.”

So, when someone accuses me of being a grudge holder, I can’t help but laugh because, by far, the longest standing grudges I hold are with ME, MYSELF, AND I.

Does that resonate with anyone?  Have you ever been irked by people who can do something shitty and they just like…get over it and sleep soundly at night?  Have you ever been accused of being too hard on people, only to think to yourself, I’m no harder on them than I am on myself.  What’s the big deal?

The big deal is that you shouldn’t be such a dick, not even to yourself.  Chill the fuck out.

I was raised Catholic.  I went to church on Sundays and went to Catechism on Tuesdays and I listened while someone constantly told me that I was a sinner, I was born that way, and I would die that way, and I should tell God I’m sorry all the freaking time so he will forgive me.

Ya’ll have heard of “Catholic Guilt,” right?

Well, I totally have that.  I’m an optimistic agnostic at best, but that part of my Roman Catholic upbringing stuck with me.   I have it so bad that I could walk into a church right now, and even a priest would probably look at me and say, “Girl, you’ve got to let that stuff go.”  I know that’s probably true, but sometimes it just feels like there aren’t enough Hail Marys and Our Fathers in the world.

“Jesus, Alicia.  What the hell did you do?”

Nothing special.  I lashed out in anger and I was cruel in moments where I could have been kind (WHO THE FUCK HASN’T?), not that Dad made it all that easy to be kind to him.  Which reminds me:  If you can, choose kindness.  You can literally never go wrong choosing kindness.  I have never regretted one instance of kindness in my life.  There were plenty of times where I was kind to my father, only to have him be a raging dick face to me anyway, and there were times where he was a total dick face and I was a douche nugget right back.  Can you guess which one keeps me up at night?

In the end, my dad and I were at least on speaking terms, which in and of itself was a real achievement for us.  Our last words to each other were “I love you.” And, as my sister kindly reminds me, he was, in fact, suffering from alcoholism and he was kind of a jerk most of the time, so we did our best.

The truth is, that shitty, nagging, “I’m a piece of garbage” feeling isn’t really guilt at all; it’s shame.  Brene Brown (I’m going to mention her all the time because she’s amazing, so get over it) talked about this in Daring Greatly AKA my personal development bible.  She says that guilt is I did something bad and shame is I am bad.  And one of those feelings is linked to addiction, suicide, anger, aggression, etc.  Can you guess which one it is?

Look, when you do something shitty, it’s normal to feel guilty.  In fact, that’s the good person in you reminding you that you are in fact, a good person who did a shitty thing.  Guilt gives you something to aspire to.  It gives you a lesson to learn from.  If you do something bad and you don’t feel bad, you’re probably an asshole or a sociopath and we can’t be friends anyway.

Shame, on the other hand, is the megaphone of your Inner Shit Talker, and it’s the little feeling inside you that tells you that you are a piece of human garbage.  It’s the thing that tells me that I’m a shitty daughter and sister and a dog murderer.  It tells me that I am all of those things and because of the mistakes I’ve made, I’m a dumpster fire of a human being.

My therapist used to talk to me about my guilt, never making the distinction between guilt and shame.  She’d ask me why my guilt kept me up at night, why I just can’t seem to forgive myself.

“Because that’s like saying it’s okay.  And that would make me a bad person.”

I didn’t realize it then, but I’d just said a fucking mouthful.

How the actual fuck does constantly telling yourself what a piece of shit you are make you less of a piece of shit?  Seems counterproductive.  That’s a stupid argument.   Even in church, they taught us to confess our sins, wish to be absolved, and we would be forgiven.  Whatever you believe in, life should work the same way.  Seriously.

Couldn’t you just own the shitty thing you did and try to be less shitty in the future?  Couldn’t you use it as fuel to go around spreading some non-shittiness in the world?  If you fuck up, own it, apologize, and move on.  As the wise AF Rafiki once said:

“Ah yes, the past can hurt.  But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.”

I can keep replaying the movie reel of all my failures in my head over and over and use it as a reason to think I’m crap.  Or, I can understand that just like every other person (you know, because I’m not special…just like you, remember?) makes mistakes, and I did the best I could at the time under the circumstances.  I can apologize and try to be kinder in the future.  If I feel bad, I can try to remember that it’s because I did something bad and not because I am bad.  And that way, my mistakes can mean something instead of just being fuel for whatever self-destructive bender I can think of.

If I feel bad about all the times I reminded Dad of his failings, I can make sure that at least in death, that Dad’s drinking and his douchebaggery aren’t the only things anyone ever remembers about him.  For real though, he loved my sister and I a lot, and when he laughed, I mean really laughed (not at someone’s expense), it was fucking contagious and incandescent.  He had the best laugh in the whole world.  This one time, my sister got sick on the night of the Father/Daughter Dance, so we stayed home and he got dressed up and made us a fancy dinner of steak and lobster and we had a dance party in that living room.  Best. Night. Ever.

So, in the spirit of trying to move forward, I’ve made a conscious effort to stop kicking the shit out of myself.  My dad wouldn’t have wanted that for me.  I know he loved me and he knew I loved him.  That doesn’t mean all the mean things we said and did to each other are all of a sudden okay.  And it doesn’t mean I’m a shitty person.  It just means that I choose peace and forward motion because I deserve that.  Everyone deserves that.

And seriously, putting my dog down was the kind thing.  *repeats to myself* I am not a dog murderer.

If you’re feeling bad about something, so bad that you feel the need to beat yourself up about it, a more fitting tribute to your mistakes is to learn from them and use them as fuel to be more kick-ass.  There’s no gold medal for who can hate themselves the longest.  The fact that you can see the error of your ways is proof enough that you’re a decent person.  We are all crap at life sometimes.  That doesn’t mean you are crap.  Mistakes don’t define you. You’ve done the best you could.  Move forward and choose peace.

Gandhi Would’ve Returned His Shopping Cart

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Photo by Ishant Mishra on Unsplash

What?  You know he would have.

Picture it:  You pull into the parking lot of the grocery store and you’re looking for a parking space and…THERE’S ONE!  So, you flip on your turn signal and go to pull in.  You start to park and…FUCK.  There’s a stray fucking shopping cart sitting right in the middle of it.  And what’s worse; the goddamn cart return is just a few feet away.  HOW LAZY CAN PEOPLE BE?!!

Side Note:  If you don’t return your shopping cart, you’re the worst kind of garbage human and I don’t think we could be friends.  Please do better.

So, you find a new parking space and you park your car and you seethe and bitch and moan the whole walk to the entrance because you’re still salty about missing the sweet sweet parking space because of the inconsiderate cart abandoner.  Been there.

Something clicked for me one day while I was grocery shopping and some garbage human dropped some items on the floor.  Rather than pick them up and return them where they belonged, this guy just kicked the items under the shelf.  WHAT A DICK.

Seriously.

As I began to walk past the sad little floor items, it dawned on me:  I could pick that shit up and put it back.  Rather than giving this guy the stink eye and being aggravated and heading home and bitching about the asshole at the store who couldn’t bother to pick up his shit and going on and on about how some people are just the goddamn worst, I could just solve the problem myself.  I could be Gandhi.  I could return those stray little pieces of produce to their proper place and be like freaking Gandhi.  I picked that shit up off the floor, and just like that, I became the change I wanted to see in the world.

That is, until I got outside and some dick bucket had left their cart in the parking lot and it rammed into the back of my car…which was parked two spaces away from the cart return.

Shopping cart abandoners, serious question for ya:  What the actual fuck is your deal?  Why can’t you just put your cart back?!  Did you have an emergency come up?  Do you have some sort of ailment that prevents you from maneuvering the cart between the return rails?  Please tell me.  I just want to understand you heathens.

As I moved the cart away from my car, I looked up to see stray little carts all over the place. WHAT KIND OF GODLESS DYSTOPIA WAS THIS?!

No.  I wasn’t gonna bitch.  I had just picked up floor produce and become the change a few minutes ago.  I was freaking Gandhi right in the middle of Walmart Neighborhood Market.  I would Gandhi the shit out of this parking lot.

I just used Gandhi as a verb.  It’s fine.

I walked up and down the row of cars, snagging stray carts and returning them to the cart returns (notice that I said returns, as in plural, as in more than one, as in many, as in there’s literally a fucking cart return like every five parking spaces).  As I did this, I saw a woman about to abandon her cart.  She actually started walking away from it.  I walked towards her rogue cart with my sweet Gandhi-inspired cart conga line in tow, and as I did, she made eye contact with me, and went back and returned her cart to where it belonged.

Gandhi would’ve been so proud.

The truth is, there’s a reason that people don’t shut up about Gandhi.  Props to this guy, because he was really onto something.  How many times do we go about our day, bitching, pissing, and moaning about this and that, and never doing anything about it.  If something’s bothering you and you have a means to improve that situation at all, whether it be through action or attitude, then it’s your goddamn duty to get off your ass (or mental ass, whatever) and do something about it.  You don’t have to solve all the problems, but you do have to make sure that you’re not a part of them.

This year, I made it my New Year’s Resolution to talk less and listen more (that and you know, kicking that whole drinking thing).  I try to be self aware, but truth be told, I’m guilty of monopolizing a conversation here and there.  And I can also make anything about me.  Seriously.  ANYTHING.  Just ask my mom. Or my husband.  Or my our marriage therapist.

I don’t love this about myself.  It’s not a pretty color on me.  But it’s also a quality that I really fucking despise in others.  In fact, if I’m going through a hard time, and I’m around someone who can’t seem to do anything but talk about themselves and their shit without so much as a, “How are you?”  I will lose my shit and cold shoulder them into oblivion.

I know.  Not cool.  Not very Gandhi at all.

It’s not our job to change other people or make them act the way we want them to; it’s our job to model that which we desire.  If I have a problem with self-centered ass bags, then need to not be self-centered ass bag.  It starts with me shutting the fuck up and checking in with someone else besides myself.  Am I always perfect at it?  Fuck no.  Hell, just yesterday I was at a Mind, Body, and Spirit Festival with one of my friends and after a while, I realized I’d spent a good chunk of time talking about myself.  And in that kind of situation, I realized the only thing and the best thing to do is to just acknowledge it, own it, and course correct.  Good news is, all it takes is a little, “Hey, I just realized we’ve spent all this time talking about me.  How are you doing?  What’s going on with you?”

Why is this the easiest and best course of action?

Because it’s what I would want in the same situation.

It’s not complicated, folks.  We’ve all got shit that peeves us to the core.  But if you’re in a position to live by example, then you need to do it.  And if you’re doing nothing but complaining, then I hate to break it to you, doll, but you’re part of the fucking problem.

Gandhi probably wouldn’t approve of my language, but I think he’d agree with me here.

Be the kind of friend that you’d be friends with.  If you hunger for change, then start with yourself.  After all, the only person you have control over is you. Nobody responds to yelling or bitching or complaining, just ask my husband.  That’s the fastest way to get tuned out.  Action and integrity are what influence and inspire people.  So, get out there and set a goddamn example.  You don’t need to be perfect; you just have to try.  Trying and failing trump inaction any day.

And for the love of God, put your shopping carts where they belong.  Be the change you wish to see in the world. ❤

 

 

 

You’re Not Special. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Up until the other day, I hated Valentine’s Day.

I used to be sort of indifferent about it.  You know what day I really love?  February 15th.  Discounted candy, anyone?

But for real, my husband Chris and I never really celebrated.  We could go out to dinner or buy each other shit on any day of the year, with a lot less hassle.

And I don’t claim to be an expert on relationships, but I’m of the mind that if you only do that shit for each other one day a year, you’re probably doing something wrong.

Anyway, on February 14, 2013, I got really into Valentine’s Day.  Chris had gotten back from Afghanistan the previous March (that’s a whole other story for a different day), and I just wanted to do something normal.  Without delving too much into military life and living with a combat veteran, I’ll just tell you that our lives had really changed from what they were pre-deployment, and I just wanted to feel like a regular person who worried about regular things.  So, I cleaned the house and ran all over town getting a tan and buying Chris something (I don’t even remember what it was), and getting dolled up and making plans and getting excited that he’d gotten me a rose and a heart-shaped balloon.

In the midst of all that running around, my father called me that afternoon.  As was customary, my parents always called me on Valentine’s Day to tell me how much they loved me, which, at the time, I thought was weird.  It’s crazy how we can take such things for granted.

Anyway, he called me to wish me a Happy Valentine’s Day.  I told him how swamped I was and I’d been running around all day.  I remember it was a Thursday.  I remember standing over the sink with my phone wedged between my shoulder and ear while I washed dishes.  Our conversation couldn’t have been more than five minutes.  I told him I had to get going so I could get everything done before Chris got home from work.  I told him I’d call him the next day.  I told him I loved him and he told me he loved me.  I never did call him the next day, and on Saturday, February 16th, I got the call that Dad had passed away.

And because of all of that and because losing a Dad who was only 44 years old is a real bitch, I hated Valentine’s Day.  I hated that I got wrapped up in all the hearts and flowers garbage and that it made me cut our last conversation short.  So, I’ve spent the last four Valentine’s Days seething and rolling my eyes at people who got into it.  Because if they only knew my secret and very special pain, they’d feel differently.

Blah fucking blah.  Cue the sad violin.

I was talking about this with my friend and gym mom Linda in the parking lot outside the gym the other day, and she just looked at me like I was an idiot and told me that it was a stupid reason to hate Valentine’s Day.  I was a lucky girl who had a Dad that wanted to make sure that I knew how much he loved me.  And let’s be real; he was drunk during most of our conversations, and they always had about a 50/50 shot of going south.  Our short call ending in an “I love you” could have just as easily been him hanging up on me or bitching at me or me hanging up on him.

That’s what happens when you think you and your problems are special.

I’ve really been trying to connect the dots on this idea.  I tear through personal development books like Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting.  Mark Manson probably did the best job of talking about it in The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.  So, I’d already begun wrapping my mind around the idea that a lot of our pain and anguish and worry stems from this notion that our problems are somehow special or unique.  For me, it got worse because I retreat when something shitty happens.  And I will tell you from experience; isolation is the goddamn fertilizer that makes the delusion of uniqueness and the “woe is me” attitude grow.

Personally, I blame my parents for telling me I was the smartest and the prettiest and the funniest (well, that part they were right about), and that shitty song I remember singing in school, you know the one:

Because you’re special, special

Everyone is special

Everyone in his or her own wayyyyyyy!!!

And participation awards.  It’s probably a little their fault too.

The truth is, common sense would dictate that if we’re all special, then NONE OF US ARE SPECIAL.  We can’t all be fucking special.  If you want to feel special, go get your fingerprints done.

So, I already kind of knew this but I didn’t really grasp it until I started going to AA meetings (again, a whole other story).

I’ve felt my fair share of shame in my life, but hitting a point so low that I felt like I needed to go to meetings took the cake.  I don’t really believe in rock bottom, but I knew I didn’t want to see what was beneath the incident that scared me straight…straight through the doors of an Alcoholics Anonymous Meeting. During my second meeting, the group leader called on me and even though I wasn’t going to share, I still had to utter the words, “Hi.  I’m Alicia and I’m an Alcoholic.  I’ll pass.”  Shame.  I felt nothing but shame.

Funny thing, though; the longer I attended meetings, the more I realized that I was not alone.  During my first share, I only shared, “Hi.  I’m Alicia and I’m an alcoholic and I fucking hate that I’m here.  Thank you.”  Two strangers hugged me.  One chick who was sobbing and way worse off than I was started thanking me for my words.

Hmmph.

The more I listened to their stories, the more I realized that I was not special and neither was my problem.  I shared my low point with other members and they just kind of looked at me like, “That’s cute.  Now let me tell you about some real dark shit.”  And while I still don’t love the idea that my life has come to this, I can say that the shame and sense of loneliness disappears a little each day.

You know what?  I’ll bet that’s why they all call each other when they want to drink.  It’s almost like you’re more inclined to do stupid or self-destructive shit when you’re feeling alone and isolated.  It’s almost like their shared bullshit is what bonds them to each other.  That’s some groundbreaking shit right there.  Mind BLOWN.

I’m not special; that’s probably one of the most comforting life realizations I’ve had in a long time.  Nothing snaps shit right into perspective like talking with someone else and hearing, “Yeah.  Been there.”

I sometimes wonder how Dad’s life would have been different had he known this.

I’m not the first person to have a drinking problem.  I’m not the first person to lose her dad.  He wasn’t the only person to ever die young.  I’m not the first person to hate Valentine’s Day.  My husband isn’t the only guy to come back from war with PTSD.  My bank account isn’t the only one to have a pitiful balance.  And I sure as shit am not the only person sitting on a shitload of student debt wondering, “Why the fuck am I not more successful and how the fuck am I supposed to pay this shit back?”

All those people that I envy or put on a pedestal have problems just like the rest of us.  They’re not fucking special either.  I’m not the only one with problems and neither are you.  Your shit stinks just like everyone else’s.

How comforting is that?

No matter how much your life starts resembling a dumpster fire, there’s always someone in the same boat.  And they’ve survived; you can too.  And once you realize this, it’s sort of impossible to feel alone.

As I stood in the parking lot, listening to Linda tell me what’s what and that I’m one lucky chick to have had that phone call as my last conversation with my Dad, I realized that she too has her shit.  My other friends do too.  My friends with kids and the nice cars probably don’t remember the last time they took a shit alone.  My AA friends probably all showed up to their first meeting hating themselves.

All I can do is keep going.  Keep moving.  Keep trying to live my best life.  And be thankful for the shit I do have, you know, like a kickass final memory of my Dad on Valentine’s Day.

There’s nothing life can throw at you that it hasn’t already thrown at someone else. And in that regard, my dears, you are NOT ALONE.  Quite the contrary, actually.  We are very much together in our shared pains in the ass.  You’re gonna be okay.

You’re not special, just like the rest of us.  Baggage buddies for life. ❤

So, the next time you feel like isolating or wallowing or complaining, try asking someone else how they’re doing.  You’ll both feel better.

Happy Valentine’s Day, you hot fucking messes.