The funny thing about boundaries is…

…people test them!

Once you begin living in your truth, a flame is born that attracts all sorts of people. A light will shine in you that some can’t resist. For me, there have been are echoes of my past; chapters of my life I haven’t and do not want to re-visit, as well as personality-types I’ve moved away from.

The characteristics portrayed below are simply not right for me due to my past experiences.

My boundary: Not wanting to spend a lot of time on my phone and/or engaging in conversations that do not add to my life.

What I’ve experienced: People who require constant contact, people who send me numerous Tik Toks/Instagram reels, and people who feel that a daily “How are you?” is meaningful conversation.

[Can we all agree that the sharing of videos is not a substitute for connection?]

My boundary: I am not going to fix you. I will support, but it is not my job to make someone else’s life amazing.

What I’ve experienced: Somber, emotionally slumbering individuals resistant to seeking help for themselves. It is taxing.

My boundary: I do not discuss sex with someone unless we are headed in the direction of becoming partners. Not everyone is entitled to this information. It is okay to have some mystery.

What I’ve experienced: People expressing their kinks without being asked. If you post about about sexual acts on social media*, I’m going to assume you are tacky. While I would I would have found that entertaining and edgy in my 20’s, and would have ignored or played off my discomfort because I wanted so desperately to be liked – I’m approaching 40 years old. Hard pass.

*And it isn’t your line of work.

My boundary: My feelings are not up for debate. I say what I mean.

What I’ve experienced: Passive-aggressive comments and social media posts because my feelings were not in line with someone else’s desires. I said what I said. We can discuss it to understand more, but no one should be trying to change someone else’s mind when they have said no.

I have granted others too much access to me for years and was not discriminating over who I gave my free time and energy to. While I can’t specifically pinpoint why I allowed that for so long, I know it is not realistic or healthy for me. My boundaries are relatively new and they feel good. They feel like a step in the right direction of not settling for what I could easily get and readying myself for people and experiences that will enrich my life.

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Cheers…to myself.

We are coming up on the end of 2022 and all I can really say is that I survived it. I didn’t thrive, nor wow. I didn’t succeed or fail. I just…hung in here.

I’ve been single since my separation at the end of July. I’ve talked to a few people and recently went on a couple of dates, although nothing has panned out beyond that. It isn’t because of any one common reason except that each experience brought a lesson to light for me; something about the interactions reminded me of an event or feeling in my past, forcing me to acknowledge that I wasn’t going to get anywhere by participating in “old Stacey” habits.

Old Stacey habits:

  1. Tolerating less than I deserve. Read my texts but disappear, only to come back when it is convenient? I’m not going to give people my attention who cannot and do not reciprocate. Entertaining all attention thrown my way was something for my 20’s – definitely not for me approaching 40.
  2. Latching on to someone who makes me feel sexy and desirable. I’m worth more than what my body can provide and I want the whole package, not just the part of it. I want the whole thing!
  3. Making excuses for people. Can’t make intentions known, even when I ask directly? I’m not interested in potentially starting a relationship with anyone who can’t articulate their wants and needs and respect mine.
  4. Taking on “project people”. I will need my next partner to be a whole person on their own, not someone I need to fix, take care of, lift up, provide what they need to succeed, motivate or inspire. It isn’t my job to make life happen to you, especially as we are just getting to know one another. Piggy-backing off of this, I should not have to carry the entire conversation. Conversation is give and take – questions and answers. Funny anecdotes and random insights. It is a two-lane street.
  5. Jumping from one relationship to another, even if the new one doesn’t quite fit and/or is full of red flags.
  6. Not speaking up for what I need (which ties into #3). Historically I’ve taken whatever I was given and have not, until my separation, spoken out loud what it is that I need. Acknowledged my love language. Thought about my attachment style. Reconciled what I did and didn’t receive throughout my childhood and formative relationships. If I can consider someone else’s needs I definitely need to be conscious of my own – always.

I’ve been in relationships much of my adult life. Perhaps this should be #6 – because perhaps that’s a problem. Maybe I need to just date myself; focus on myself, my goals, and treat myself the way I want to and need to be treated. My identity and value as a person has always been attached to another and, at this point in my life, the bottomless well I’ve seemingly kept for others is empty. It’s time to pull buckets of fulfillment up for myself.

What can $450 do?

I’ve taken about 75% of the career coaching courses and have reviewed the first draft of my new resume, along with a few paragraphs of notations. (Please see my last post.) My biggest takeaway is that I spent $450 to realize that I am not a career-oriented person.

I don’t understand the trending lingo or the need to prove my productivity using percentages and values I don’t have access to (although my wife says to just make it up). I don’t hold any specialty certifications, nor do I have any accomplishments I can apparently quantify in a resume that will stand out among the masses. However, I’m confident in my ability to speak and relate to people. All I need is a real conversation.

But the thing is ~ I’m not built to be married to a career, nor am I highly motivated to drastically increase the revenue streams of the already well-off. The truth is I’d rather use that energy to build something for myself, like building my Davis Made brand and expanding brick-and-mortar sales locations. Or, engage in an activity that creates a tangible result, such as having our vegetable garden supply all of the veggies we need to eat for the year, or ridding our house of the dust and spiderwebs. It took me $450 to realize how unmotivated I am to fuel the dreams of others when I have my own agenda.

Being as productive as I have been for so many years, it’s a bit of a shock for me to realize that a standard career isn’t what I want. I’m going to continue to work on sharpening my resume, learning about myself and figuring out what it is that I want. I know what I don’t want – and that’s to be caught up in the rat race where all that matters is money.

So I’m chewing on all of this and likely will for a bit. Almost like Facebook is listening to my inner-most thoughts, I ran across this art installation entitled “Can’t Help Myself” while scrolling today:

A more formal take on this piece can be found HERE.

It feels like it was on purpose that I stumbled across this when I did. It’s haunting, beautiful, and so relevant in how I see people managing their lives while trying to find a balance between that life and what needs to be done to afford it. I’ve wasted so much energy in my adulthood chasing things that didn’t matter and giving people who didn’t deserve it access to me, much like this machine spending years trying to keep its shit together, only to not even need any of that shit ~ because it ran on electricity, not on the fluid it was programmed to try and keep pushing into itself to survive.

So, what can one buy with $450? I can tell you what I’m beginning to see I bought – realizations about myself and my goals. Fuel for my journaling. The understanding that, career-wise, I may be a square peg in a world of round holes. Motivation and inspiration to grow and learn more about the things that bring me happiness. The clarity of what my priorities are and the beginnings of brainstorming of how I can preserve them better in a world that is constantly pushing and pulling at my concentration.

“The best way to find out what we really need is to get rid of what we don’t.” – Marie Kondo

The past couple of weeks have been challenging for me because I fell into a cycle of restlessness and interrupted sleep patterns. As mentioned in my last post, sleep deprivation increases my anxiety and my anxiety increases my sleep deprivation.

In these cycles, I begin to fixate on things. I refer to it as “spinning” because the same handful of thoughts will circulate around until something breaks it. The interruption can be as simple as acknowledging it out loud it or taking action. An example of the latter would be if there’s a project left unfinished…just finish it. Even if that project isn’t a priority or even a part of what is bothering you, sometimes completing that one thing feels like a balm on a rash.

So when I began my spinning, I also began my plan of actions.

Although I can’t attack all of my stressors at once, I pick something I can accomplish. Last weekend I finished the majority of decluttering my closet and drawers. I donated a large tote of clothing, shoes, and miscellaneous household goods to my local Salvation Army and kept a small stash of items to resell. Just like most people tend to do, I accumulate items I don’t really need or obtain joy from. A significant part of the prior weekend was making the decision of what to keep and what to pass on.

The result? A much smaller choice of items in my wardrobe which feels like a breath of fresh air, with plenty of room to get creative with each piece’s versatility.

So, this action took care of a physical need. Now on to a mental one.

At times, these spin cycles make me question if I am leading the life I want to lead. This current cycle is one of those. I have had…what can only be scientific classified as…a metric fuck ton…of work stress. This has me questioning if my current field of work is healthy for me or has it become too much. Has the nature of my job changed or have I? [Answer: it’s likely a bit of both.]

Again, I chose to take action. I’m working with a professional resume-writing and career coaching company to revamp and revive my career goals. While it may be taboo to be sharing this because a co-worker or one of my bosses could read this, I am choosing to take this decision as a positive one. I’ve been in my career for just over 17 years and it seems logical that one could feel a bit stale. If I am to stay in my industry, I need to be re-energized and working with a coach can help me re-evaluate my skills and set career goals. As in, sometimes we need an outside source to remind us of what we bring to the table and what we have the potential to bring.

Alternatively, if I do begin a different path, I need to see how my experience translates with the current trends and the confidence to take that leap. This is why I feel my decision to work with a professional on this is a win/win situation. No matter the outcome, it should improve my situation. Instead of sitting in that pool of frustration, I’m doing something about it and, as it usually does, it’s gotta start from within.

If you can relate to any of this, please leave me a comment below! If you feel comfortable, share a way you get through your ‘spin’ cycles. One thing I love about blogging is that we never know who is reading. We never know if our one tip or piece of advice can be a saving grace for another.

Sleepy Time Routines & Striving for Peace

For years, I’ve been yearning for a life free of prescriptive and/or addictive substances that act as a substitute for sleep, peace, and calm. I am not convinced that struggle and hardships beget success, that a person’s worth depends on their level of productivity, or that anyone should eat, sleep, breathe their ‘grind’ in order to achieve goals. I used to think those things and they are likely a contributor to depression and anxiety in my adult life.

I occasionally have trouble sleeping which has been a double-edged sword for me. If I don’t sleep enough, my anxiety is worse. If my anxiety is bad, I can’t sleep. I have a hard time functioning.

In the spirit of openness, I have a prescription for anti-anxiety medication and am largely caffeine-free because it has only served to heighten my anxiety over the years. I also believe in examining my lifestyle and seeing where there can be improvement. I’ve read about how I shouldn’t scroll on my phone or watch T.V. before bed – about how I should find myself a sleep routine that trains my body and brain to realize when it should begin shutting off for the night.

So, here I am, fully settled into a sleep routine that I LOVE. Here’s what I do every night:

First, because it’s still chilly at night, I turn my heated blanket on.

Second, I spray my bedsheets and comforter with THIS room spray.

Third, I lather my hands with THIS lotion.

[Do you sense a theme?]

It’s all about the smell! I’ve fallen in love with lavender fragrance. It is peaceful, calm, soothing and it gets me in the mood to snuggle in and relax. There’s nothing like snuggling my head into my pillow with all the good smells. Do I look at my phone after that? Sometimes, but I do prefer to read a book until my eyes become tired and my mind quiet.

This is what inspired my latest works, which are now available on my website. Something as small as a scent can transform a mood – and, if you’re like me, perhaps even some lavender could help ease you into a more relaxed state. All you have to add to each of these reed diffusers is the essential oil fragrance that puts you in the best and most relaxed mindset.

…and from here, I can continue my baby steps toward figuring out how to cultivate more peace in my life.

Healing and getting to know myself – starting at the Root.

I can pinpoint exactly when my life shifted into a better gear: it was the morning immediately after I attended the journaling and meditation workshop I mentioned HERE. I woke up early and the first thing I did was reach for a recently gifted journal to write.

For the first time in my life, I wasn’t just recording events or ranting – I was diving into something much deeper. I didn’t know it right then and can’t realize the full extent of it now, but I can see and feel the rippling effects of it. Journaling has helped me begin the process of getting to know myself.

I also purchased a beginner’s book called “The Ultimate Guide to Chakras” by Athena Perrakis, Ph. D. , as these were mentioned in the workshop and I was curious. I had been feeling emotionally off-balance for so long and didn’t want to go back to relying on pharmaceuticals to reconnect. The book starts with the Earth Star Chakra and moves upward; the second Chakra being the Root Chakra. This is where the book began making sense to me – when I read the symptoms of an unbalanced Root, I related to them. Using my own words, I was ‘spinning in circles’ with just about everything, unsettled in my relationships with others, wildly swinging between joy and despair, and frustrated with feelings of lack of progress, no matter how hard I tried.

While I’ve since moved on with my learning of the Chakras, I wanted to celebrate the progress I am making in getting to know myself, plugging back in to my life, and finding the ground. I wanted to revisit the Root Chakra with my latest series of candles for the Grounded Goddess in Schenectady.

Browns to represent the earth, with flashes of vibrant red for strength. The candles are scented with clove, which is said to be protective, an attraction of what you seek, and helps to connect with feelings of love and safety from childhood (says Athena Perrakis, Ph.D, in The Ultimate Guide to Chakras, pg. 51). Lastly, these candles will be topped with tumbled red jasper pieces.

I can’t express how much better I’ve been feeling since that day where I picked up my journal and began. I look forward to writing – to finding a deeper understanding of myself which, in turn, has helped me give others a bit more grace. I feel like I’m making progress, while realizing the journey is on-going.

What does healing look like? [A personal reflection.]

While speaking with a close friend, I couldn’t put my finger on a specific reason behind my emotional turbulence. In this past week, I had a day where I emotionally shut down. I left work at 9 a.m., crying, and continued to cry in bed (still in my work clothes) until about noon, with smaller crying spells into the early evening. A couple of days later, I felt extreme anger and frustration. I spoke to strangers and about other people in ways that do not represent who I am. Yesterday I felt nothing at at. Today? Peace. Joy. Contentment.

This is the healing process. This is me healing through my mother’s passing and the stress of her diagnosis in early 2019. Through years before that, making myself sick over what others thought of me. Through treating my body like a dumpster and talking to myself like there is something inherently wrong with me. Through pushing my body to the limits in my early 30’s and acknowledging [today, in my late 30’s] that I really hate conventional exercise and today’s diet culture. Through over-caffeination, late nights, and too much alcohol. Through allowing others to treat me poorly and disrespectfully because I thought any attention was better than none at all. Through the parenting I received and prejudices ingrained in me that are not useful. Through things I have said to others that served no purpose other than to inflame and cause harm.

Although the lows are…low and difficult…without them, there would be no comparison with the highs. I think that’s why there are so many damned articles about how healing IS messy. Without the “mess”, we have nothing to compare to the “clean”. If I wasn’t feeling so many emotions with such intensity, I wouldn’t be considering how I can overcome the obstacles or being present in what I was feeling in the moment.

My healing is a roll of the dice every day for me. To others, it may look like unanswered calls and texts; a sudden disinterested in maintaining a relationship. My healing requires keeping more to myself because I am easily overwhelmed. I am changing my participation level in the busy and distracting world we live in.

As for my distaste of exercise – I spent too many years harping that a certain style was superior than the others. I spent too much time selling and not enough time listening, watching, and learning. I have and still use physical activity as a way to help manage my anxiety levels but I am saying it now, out loud and with conviction, that if I not enjoy the activity, I will not do it. Because consistency is so important, I will not reach my fitness goals if I hate the exercise enough to not be consistent with it.

With that being said and out of the way, I am not holding myself to my 2x a week resistance band training with cardio peppered in. At this point in my life, getting my brain on to a healthier path is my main priority. I am starting from the inside and then will move to the outside. I don’t want to feel like a fitness routine has to be a “go hard or go home!” type thing. I will continue the cardio movements I enjoy (which is primarily outdoor bike riding and the Peloton nature rides when the weather isn’t cooperating) but I am adding yoga to reduce stress, and removing the strength training. I signed up for a yoga course through Peloton and am looking forward to the 20-30 slow, mindful movements. And that’s how I know it is the right thing to do – I am happily anticipating the classes instead of trying to find ways to avoid it. See? Listening more. Healing is meant to change, if only we do not fight it.

How do I get through the loss of a parent?

In my last post, I shared that my mother passed away.

I have been plodding along at a slower pace since then and although I have my moments of sadness and anger (the latter being in situations that do not generally call for it), I feel I am doing pretty well. My counselor had suggested reading up on grief, in case I was someone who needed to identify and label feelings. I have not done so. I don’t feel I need to put whatever emotion I may be experiencing into a box. I don’t need it to make sense. It can just be – in whatever form it is in.

While I have kept myself busy, I have not kept myself too busy. I haven’t plunged into any new hobbies nor habits to pass the time. I’ve made it a point to be quiet, yes, but I’ve also gone out and had fun. Between a vacation to the beach, the ordering of a new bicycle, the long weekends at an AirBnB planned in the near future with my wife, a craft show the weekend after next, bike rides alone and with others, reading of books, fetch with the dogs, dinners with my dad, and the usual things like chores, work, and home-life…I have a lot of good and positive things going on. Due to all of this and despite the weight of the last few days of her life and the whirlwind days that followed, I know I will make it through the rest of my life just fine.

By appreciating the good things going on in the here, now, and in the future – I believe this is how I will make it through her passing. I don’t need an article to explain this to me; I’ve been doing it without much effort. I think this is what being quiet has shown me – my mind and body knows the way and all I need to do is not struggle or force anything.

My mom’s last coherent words to me were “keep your faith”. I will, mom, and I’ll see you on the other side. But for now? There’s so much amazing left in this world that I want to experience.

So, can a Budget Planner REALLY help me? [Final thoughts]

I have come to the end of my budgeting experiment. See my prior posts HERE, HERE, HERE

I learned quite a bit about myself by using that little Walmart budget planner. Forcing myself to write out everything I spent held me accountable to my goals of minimizing my purchases, condensing purchases when necessary, prioritizing my savings, and how I struggle to stay loyal to my goals. It began a transformation of how I view spending.

The easiest way to explain how I fall short in fulfilling my goals is that I made it through June 12th before I stopped adding to the book. If you saw my last post, you will see I had a lot happen all at once. When experiencing disruptions, I have difficulty with staying strong in my path. In this case, while I did not record my purchases in the book, I did not go buck-wild with my spending. I indulged in some delicious food with my friend Leah – but my entire mindset shifted. Before thoughtlessly purchasing anything, I thought to myself, “will this improve my life?”. If not, I didn’t follow through with it. If it was “yes”, I gave myself permission to make the purchase and enjoy it, guilt-free!

I have made several purchases recently that fit into the “life improvement” category. Between a new laundry line system for the backyard and a gigantic wooden indoor laundry drying rack, I also purchased a vanity chair to replace the hard metal folding chair (the new chair has not arrived yet), and this LED desktop vanity mirror:

If you can’t tell, I am super pleased with this!

There are 3 other members in my household and to have the ability to get ready in a space separate from a bathroom is extremely helpful. This mirror also takes up less space than what I had been using – a tripod phone ring light and a precariously balanced, large oval-shaped wooden mirror.

But you’re probably wondering about the bottom line – did I add to my savings account? Did I cringe at my credit card bill? As for the latter, no. I was pleasantly surprised and paid it off with a single paycheck. Typically, I have to split the payment between my bi-weekly paychecks. As for the former question – I added an extra $600 into my savings account. So, while I cannot give you a breakdown of precise numbers, the end result is that my credit card bill was significantly less and the extra money that I would have normally otherwise spent into my savings account. I’d call that a win!

I am coming out of this challenge with a healthier mindset of money, spending, and what it means to me. Healthier in that I am mindfully purchasing items instead of letting my emotional state influence me. These items have a daily impact on my life and are not things that lose its newness after one wear. I am focusing more on quality items I can use repeatedly instead of choosing the cheapest route – I want to “buy it once” and once only.

While I will never be done learning about myself and looking for ways to improve, I am done with writing down each and every expenditure – at least for now! I am feeling optimistic and confident in all that I have learned during this budgeting experiment.

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Disclaimer/Note: I do not get paid for any links added to my posts. So while I posted a link to the chair and mirror I purchased, I do not receive any monetary benefit for linking these items. 🙂 In a world full of influencers, I just want to be honest about that.

Relationships in my 30’s: How is it I’m finding myself but losing others?

Later this year, I turn 38 – my 20th year high school reunion, if we were to have one. While I feel as if I know less and less about life the older I get…I do know that since nearing my mid-30’s, I am cautious about meeting new people.

I like that word – “cautious”, My wife used it to describe me and it’s far gentler than the word I’d use, which is “standoffish”. I have a hard time moving past the acquaintance phase of relationship-building because, deep down, I fear rejection, mockery, and disloyalty. I have known a lot of it.

That’s one of the things about making friends as an adult – I’ve had the time to become jaded by failed relationships. I no longer throw my feelings and energy toward potential new friends unless, of course, I have had a couple of cocktails. I’m not alone – Alex Williams wrote for the New York Times, “…[y]ou have been through your share of wearying or failed relationships. You have come to grips with the responsibilities of juggling work, family and existing friends, so you become more wary about making yourself emotionally available to new people.” [Check out the article in full HERE.]

Besides that, there’s significantly less room for things that don’t serve me or bring me joy. I decline invitations to activities and social gatherings that I’m uninterested in; I know myself better and treat my time like the precious commodity it is.

Lastly, I am drawn to people who are inspiring, determined, positive, and creative. I feed off of that ~ it inspires me to keep working on myself. I have little patience for those who [unhappily] allow their lives to become stagnant. It’s caused me to drift away from people. I want to keep learning and growing. Sometimes people get stuck, repeating the same misery endlessly. I’m over it*. As my mother used to say, “The Complaint Department’s closed.”

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*Those who know me in person know that what I am about to write goes without saying. But you, as my reader, likely haven’t met me. Not everyone can get out of their own way and move past obstacles in their life. I have, and always will, support and encourage people to seek help from professionals for these issues. I don’t have a lack of patience for those who always keep trying – it’s the type of people who have the tools and choose the route of self-pity that I cannot tolerate. No thanks. Take those bad vibes elsewhere.