Do Something Everyday That Scares You

At the start of 2015 (February to be precise, the scariest month of every year), I purchased this book/diary. I brought it with me every where, and one day my boss spied it sitting out on my desk.

“So, have you gone skydiving yet?” He asked with a sly grin.

No, I thought… BUT, I have joined three different Meetup groups in Seattle; gone to a movie, and a play, and a festival BY MYSELF; and have tried octopus sushi… all within two months. I’ve also freely complimented my servers and fellow bus riders AND followed-through on 4/5 of my social commitments.

As of this nanosecond, I’ve also committed to posting a blog once a week (yes, I know everything’s been said, but it hasn’t been said by me); planned a trip to Ireland, and accepted an invitation to join a new professional organization.

OK, so this blog post is really about two weeks late… but it’s still published.

Bring me giants!

It has been proven by science that we do not give ourselves enough credit for the things we do. At least Megan-science (aka years of observation). I know some quantifiable-extraordinary people: two rocket scientists, a world-traveler, at least six software geniuses, and a plethora of brilliant artists.

I also know a 70-year-old woman who is determined to go to the gym for 15 minutes twice a week; people with chronic depression who tell the funniest stories; and a man who makes me smile every time I see him by being kind to friends and strangers alike.

They’re all my heroes.

But doubt is a powerful foe, and in spite of their achievements, my knights-in-shining-armor often let slip that they’ve lost their sheen. They fear that they’re not good enough, or not doing enough with their lives, or have missed out on something they should have been doing. They forget that between them they’ve: written a novel; moved across the country to pursue a new and better life; produced their own plays; conquered a heroin addiction; found love again; and rolled out of bed every morning to participate in the daily grind of humanity.

Doing something scary does not mean jumping out of a plane; it means sending a text to someone you haven’t seen in four years, or driving to the other side of town. It means putting a toe (maybe even two!) outside of your comfort zone and embracing the consequences. It’s an exploration of the mysterious continent: yourself.

We, and I most definitely include myself in this summation, should consider that we do not know everything, especially not how our actions affect others or how much we mean to them. And, quite frankly, we may never know … but if we can believe in ourselves, we’ll find the courage to not only skip over the molehills, but to conquer the mountains.

Problematic People

And why you never want to stoop to their level.

People suck. Well, some suck more than others. And some have suckiness thrust upon them… usually by parents who spoil them rotten. The point is, there is always going to be someone out there who annoys the piss out of you.

Take S, a certain acquaintance who is outstandingly narcissistic and parasitic. S uses people I care about, draining them of their energies to the point where I’ve seen them neglect their own needs. is clingy. Suffocating. S is the bane of my existence.

Back in the day, after a certain amount of time spent dealing with S and feeling like the situation was only growing more intolerable, I decided enough was enough! No more Miss-Nice-Guy; I’d beat S at their own game. I’d be the one getting what I wanted all the time… damn the consequences. I started manipulating my friends, I made snide remarks behind S’ back, and I started to clandestinely exclude S from social get-togethers.  I was finally going to make myself feel better by treating S exactly as was warranted.

It worked great! … So great that I ended up alienating my friends and being viewed for a time as a cold-hearted she-dog. For all I know, there are still some who view me as such… and really, there is no one to blame for that but myself.

Oh sure, I could make excuses about immaturity and bad advice solicited from others, but to do so would be self-deceiving. In short, because I took the low road (even though I mistakenly believed I had the moral high ground), I wound up becoming someone I didn’t like and… surprise! Not many other people liked the new me either.

Thankfully, I did manage to salvage my self-respect and restore my good name, but only after leaving the S debacle alone. Full stop. At the time it felt like “giving up.” Now I realize it was sanity.

Did I ever make peace with what I had done? I’m attempting to, chiefly by writing this blog post.

People like S will always be in my life. Whether within my own family, my workplace, or other activities in which I participate. However, being the sadder, but wiser, girl I am, I now recognize that the best  course of action is to simply walk away from these people and not let petty grievances drag me down. And, if I find myself in a position where I can’t leave, clapping my hands over my ears and singing lalala  is a feasible Plan B.

Unbecoming behavior from one whom we expect to be unbecoming is, for better or worse, acceptable. Unbecoming behavior from one whom people respect and admire is shocking, if not horrifying, to behold.

If, however, some sort of confrontation does become necessary between you and your S, be direct. As a communications professional, I can tell you that “I statements” do work much better than “you-centric” finger wagging. Keep calm; don’t let your voice rise with your temper. Above all, don’t knock yourself out while knocking your head against a brick wall…. if you’re not getting through, there may come a time when you simply have to grin (with clenched teeth) and bare it. Ah, adulthood.

That said, here is today’s parting metaphor: a gnat in the ear is not worth a stinging cheek when you strike yourself while trying to rid yourself of a pest.

Fake It ‘Till You Make It

I call it the Introvert’s Dilemma  (#692) … the “Everyone’s-Looking-at-Me-and-is-Judging-Me-and-is-Going-to-Interrogate-Me-and-If-I-Don’t-Have-the-Right-Answers-They-Will-Evict-Me-From-The-Human-Race” syndrome.

As introverts live so much inside their own heads, they conduct most interactions with imagined versions of the people they may (or may not) encounter. As a result, they often overestimate how invested the other party is in any given situation, because they are playing both roles… and fully committing to them. Trust me, I have played entire 3rd Acts in my head for which I deserve a Tony.

However, reality rarely measures up, and if we are not disappointed by the other person, we are often relieved at how BRIEF the actual interaction is. This is especially true when ordering food at a restaurant, conducting business at the post office, and going in to speak to one’s supervisor when they call you into the office.

However, although survival in these circumstances is worth celebrating, is it any wonder that most introverts (myself included) then feel the need to retreat and recharge? After all, 90% of my energy was spent in the hour before I went somewhere: I conducted 15 interviews in my head, mentally repeated the facts 50 times, anticipated the joke I would tell if the situation became awkward, AND had Exit Strategies Alpha through Echo all ready to go.

… and all that was even before I triple-checked my look in the mirror.

Despair not, for I have found that the solution to curtailing this massive waste of energy is to pretend like I know exactly what I am doing.

You see, as I mentioned earlier, most human beings we encounter daily do not give two figs about “the other guy”. As my dear colleague quips, “Copernicus called; You are NOT the center of the universe.”  And you know what, fellow introverts? THAT’S GREAT!

The truth is, the more I look nervous, the more I fidget at a party, the longer it takes me to say “Hello” … the more attention I draw to myself. However, if I stroll into a reception with my head held high, shoulders back, and smiling… people tend to leave me alone because they assume I am exactly where I am supposed to be, doing what I do. And, because I have my eyes open instead of glued to the floor, I am better prepared to exchange a greeting with someone else or accept their offer of a drink (or, as much as one may wish to avoid it, a hug).

This is true not only in social settings, but also business ones… people respond to good carriage; in fact, they admire it. I don’t know why… probably some innate biological response that says: “this lion knows how to stalk about properly; I don’t think I’ll try to eat her.”

Thankfully, my training as a singer has enabled me to conquer my inclination, as a tall girl, to slump… and as I progress in my profession, I am  thankful for it. Whereas I used to be very self-conscious of being taller than the boys in school, when I wear high heels now I get compliments from the women and men (over whom I am towering) alike.

It’s simple:

* Shoulders back

* Chest slightly elevated

* Spine straight

* Eyes forward

* Move with purpose

Not only will you look better but, because you are opening up your airways, you will literally breathe better and think more clearly (oxygen to the brain and all that).

Is it work? At first, until your body remembers how good it makes you feel, and then you will start to make these physical adjustments reflexively.

In any case, it is a far more valuable investment of your time than rehearsing for the encore performance of  “Chow Mei–wait, I  Meant Fried Rice! and Orange Chicken.”