Author: Beth Mosley

When Everything Is Crap

I knew I wanted to write a blog today, but couldn’t bear to think about topics that I deemed acceptable: Positivity. Grace. Kindness. Gratitude. Acceptance. Patience.

I didn’t feel any of those today. In fact, even thinking about these things made me angry. I felt really ugly feelings. Everyone I saw was doing or saying something that I thought was silly or stupid or naïve. The only thing that felt like a good idea was shutting myself off from everyone and everything. When my husband tried to make a joke and brighten the mood I came back with sarcasm, sadness, or nagging.

No one would want to be around me. Not even myself.

What was this? I had been happy and energetic just days ago. Creativity was flowing and I had excitement around projects, including planning to bake my son’s birthday cake, planning his party, planning an anniversary trip with my husband, and connecting with friends.

Now, all of it just looked like stress. Stress I didn’t want. Stress that wasn’t worth any reward that would come from it.

So, I thought about writing a blog, but couldn’t get past this feeling. What was it? Then I remembered a South Park episode that perfectly defined what I was thinking. If you aren’t a South Park fan, it’s OK. I included a clip below:

Stan Has Cynicism

Stan is inundated with things that used to make him happy, like spending time with friends playing a video game, eating ice cream sundaes, and going to the mall. Except now all he sees is shit. Literal shit instead of an ice cream sundae. When he thinks of the mall he thinks of everything there he hates. When he thinks of the video game he only thinks of how the game could be better. Nothing is right, nothing is good, nothing satisfies. A doctor diagnoses him as a “cynical asshole”. Cynicism. That’s what I was feeling. I, too, was a cynical asshole.

Personally, I think that this cynicism I feel, whether it’s about work, friends, or projects, is a shield I put up for protection. I’m scared. Scared of not doing well at work, scared of uncertainty, scared of being rejected by my friends who I am self-conscious around and feel less than, scared of failing at anything I want to accomplish. The cynicism gives me the excuse to stop. Stop trying, stop being vulnerable, stop expressing myself. Unlike some of the other members in this community, I have very little experience with therapy. I don’t really have any profound wisdom about how to deal with it, but I can say that identifying it as a shield I’m using to hide my fear is a huge step that I don’t think I could have done without working on myself through meditation and reading books like The Gifts of Imperfection. There are a few things I learned from reading Brene Brown and from our wise friends Megan and Karly on the Facebook Live the other day that did help pull me out from cynicism:

  1. DO SOMETHING. Cynicism paralyzes. If everything is shit, why do anything? It’s a perfect excuse to not do anything. To wallow in our negativity. It’s the ultimate shield from letting anyone penetrate into our vulnerabilities, our desires, our failures. So, to combat cynicism I actually force myself to DO something, anything, and that helps a lot. Megan explained a fantastic exercise to help with this yesterday during our Facebook Live (if you haven’t seen it, go watch it!)
  2. PLAY. Brene Brown emphasis play as one of the guide posts for practicing wholehearted living. Honestly, play is something I struggle enjoying, probably because it’s impossible to be cynical while playing, especially while playing with toddlers. When I play I have to forget who I am and everything on my to-do list. I have to be 100% present, or my kids notice (very strict play rules in our house). They know when I’m having fun, and they have fun too. Play clears my mind and rejuvenates my soul. There’s nothing that putting on Michael Jackson and dancing with a 4 year old won’t cure, at least temporarily.
  3. MEDITATION. Cynicism sticks me where I am. Meditation helps me get unstuck and get beyond. Meditation reminds me that there is no “I”. There’s no future. There’s no past. There is only now. It reminds me that everyone I know, including me, will be dead someday sooner than I like to think about. These ideas make cynicism feel like a laughable waste of time. I like to think of meditation as giving me the superpower of now.

Do you ever struggle with crippling cynicism? What does it look like to you? How do you combat this feeling and allow yourself to honestly participate in all areas of your life?

The Problem With Receiving

When I pick up my kids from daycare, it always goes the same way. In the car on the ride home I ask my oldest (he’s almost 4) if he had a good day. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I get a yes. More often I get a blank stare or a “hrmph”! and a kick on the back of my seat. If I push it further he will say “I don’t want to talk”. I don’t blame him, he probably is inundated with questions and stimulation all day and just really wants to quietly digest it all. So, on one particularly awful day I decided to mix it up. As we pulled out of the lot, I flipped the script on him. “I had a really bad day today, Jonah”. He instantly looked concerned and interested. He asked why. I said “I made a mistake at work.” He looked confused. “But it was an accident?” “Yes.” He looked unimpressed. “What else happened?” he asked. “I feel like I didn’t do a good job at work today.” “What else?” This next one was hard to explain, but it was the last straw that almost brought me to tears. The icing on the cake of my bad day. “I forgot to bring an umbrella for us and that nice man had to give me one.” It was pouring. Jonah didn’t want to get too wet, so I was in the process of taking off my hoodie (while holding his little brother) to give to him. My plan was to run to the car and get the baby in, then let Jonah use my hoodie to stay a little dry as he got in. As I was doing this one of the Dad’s picking up his daughter at got out of his car with an umbrella. He asked if I needed one. I embarrassingly said yes, but stammered that I’d be fine, we just needed to go a short way. “No,” he said “take this, we get them all the time at work. Keep it.” I thanked him and promised I’d give it to him the next time I saw him. He reassured me it wasn’t necessary, and hurriedly got back in his car to leave. I felt not gratitude, but embarrassment, shame, and a lot of anger at myself for being unprepared. After I told Jonah the third reason why I was having a bad day he looked at me with a lot of confusion. “Why is that bad?” I couldn’t explain, so I said after thinking a few seconds, “I guess it’s not, honey, is it?”

As I was listening to the audiobook of The Gifts Of Imperfection the next day, something Brene Brown said hit me like a ton of bricks. “Until we can receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgment to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help.” Now, that’s an ugly truth if I ever heard one. No one wants to admit that they don’t give with an open heart… I thought I did that? I take pride in being the fixer, the helper, the go-to for any crisis. Could I be judging everyone I helped as harshly as I judged myself for needing help? I don’t think I do this consciously, but rather unconsciously in the process of developing self-worth in the way Brown explains:

“I understand how I derived self-worth from never needing help and always offering it. It’s as if we’ve divided the world into ‘those who offer help’ and ‘those who need help’. The truth is that we are both.”

When someone needs advice, direction, or assistance I put them in the “those who need help” category. No one always wants to be in this category, right? I certainly wanted to be in this category as little as possible. I prided myself in being in the “those who offer help” category. I wanted to be one of those people who have their shit on lock so well that they always have time, energy, and ability to help. When I was offered the umbrella by the Dad at preschool, I was forced to look at myself as smack dab in the middle of the “those who need help” group. I needed help in more ways than one, too. I was (am!) in need of help in other areas too, since I was so overwhelmed with work and family that I was making stupid mistakes and thinking that I was existing on 4 hours of sleep a night just fine. I was not only a member of the “those who need help” group, I could be the exhausted, harried mayor.

Brene Brown suggests that the way to find your happy place in each group is to embrace connection. To give yourself permission to be imperfect, to fall apart, to need advice or assistance.

“If connection is the energy that surges between people, we have to remember that those surges must travel in both directions.”

Easier said than done, though, right? I found the rest of The Gifts of Imperfection incredibly helpful in making progress in this area and overall in striving to embrace my authentic self and live a more wholehearted life.

How do you receive? With an open heart or with judgment (on yourself or others)? I, for one, am going to start practicing giving and receiving from a more honest, open place.

Wanna help?