Slogging Through Mud

Do you ever feel like you’re working hard and getting nowhere? Two steps forward, two steps back, with maybe a trip along the way and a hard fall on your backside?

Throughout my life I’ve tried to maintain a positive, can-do attitude while battling anxiety and low self-confidence. I try and fail and try and fail and try again, and it seems I barely move forward. It’s like slogging through mud.

When I was young, I was never really good at school… or piano… or track… or BASKETBALL. (Last 30 seconds of the game. I was that girl. Granny shots if I had to make a free throw.) I never had that sweet taste of success. I’ll admit that for most of those things I didn’t really try very hard. The bar was so high. My inner critic was fierce. I mastered the internal shrug and contented myself with drawing, playing the piano when nobody was around, and communing with my German Shepherd. If my dad saw me giving up, he would just shake his head and look disappointed. My mom cushioned me with excuses.

The truth is, failing sucks. Playing the wrong note at a piano recital is like being smacked. Knowing people are laughing at you for not being able to shoot a basketball is humiliating. Giving up meant hanging on to whatever shred of dignity I felt I had left.

Then my little sister came racing up behind. What I couldn’t or wouldn’t do, she would do, and would do it better. Where did the drive come from? Why didn’t she feel the same tether holding her back that I did? And who could compete with that? I gave up trying.

My husband is like her. I watch him excel at what he does and feel his vexation at watching my two-step dance. I see my kids moving forward with an internal fortitude that gets them over the humps of wavering confidence. I see them work hard and succeed. Where does that tenacity come from?

What drives success?

Me? I’m just trying to get by and not get pulled under.

One of my all-time favorite quotes is the one Brene Brown uses as the basis for her book Daring Greatly.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” ~Theodore Roosevelt

I clung to that quote when I was a teen. I believe in it. I’ve thought of it throughout my life when I’m trying to summon courage. But it appears that the critic of which he speaks lives within my own head. She’s a tyrant, the passenger in the driver’s ed car with the extra brake pedal. Just when I think I’m cruising along just fine, I get pulled up with a jolt. “What do you think you’re doing? You’re not any good at that? Nobody will want that? If you say those things, people will shake their heads. They will laugh behind your back, or worse yet, in your face.”

I shake it off and go back to trying, but it has an effect. It’s the lingering background track of everything I do. It’s like trying to run with an extra 50 pounds. It doesn’t stop me, but it sure slows me down.

Sometimes my inner critic is reflected in the eyes of others.

Once I was running the Race for the Cure with my sister, her kids, and my kids. Running is something that brings me joy. I’m not the fastest, nor am I the slowest. Running a race with my family filled my heart. We all took off, everyone at their own pace. (No running together in this group.) I reached my young niece, who had started strong, but was now walking and crying. “It’s okay,” I consoled her as she trotted next to me. “You can walk. Just finish!”

Her reply? “They said don’t let Aunt Cathy beat you.” More tears. My heart sunk. I felt like the clown. Like the laughing stock of my family. I shrugged it off and tried to remain upbeat. I urged her to run along with me. She did, crying the whole time. And then, at the end, she took off and left me in the dust.

Those words have lingered for over 10 years now. My inner critic likes them. She reminds me of them frequently.

There was a magical period of time when my inner critic was drowned out by the cacophony of life with four kids. Those kids imbued each day with purpose and meaning and filled my life with a waterfall of love. Their I love you, Mommys in stereo pushed my inner critic aside. Their belief in me, their mom, to do great things, was all I could see and hear. As they grew into their teen years, she appeared again on the sidelines, occasionally offering commentary that I didn’t have the time to listen to.

But as life got quieter, her voice once again became clear.

Now she sits there, filing her long nails, legs crossed, the top one swaying. She flips her long, straight hair, gives me the side-eye, and with a wicked smile says, “Looks like it’s you and me.”

I’ll do my best to ignore her and keep moving forward, one sloggy step at a time

Photo by Amine M’Siouri from Pexels

Tell me about you. Do you have trouble finding success? What’s holding you back?

Have you personified your inner critic like I have? What attributes does he or she have?

What Would You Do If You Were Not Afraid?

This is my mantra.

I’ve not always been a particularly fearful person. I climbed trees as a kid. I hike alone. I frequently travel by myself. I don’t avoid airplanes. I talk to strangers and approach dogs.

Yet when it comes to opening myself up, I’m a coward. I’ve been that way most of my life. One of my ten defining moments (thank you, Dr. Phil) was in a middle school class called “Creativity” when my teacher Mrs. Marshall wanted to hang my poem on the gallery wall. I was proud of that poem. It came from my heart. But because it came from my heart, my heart would be pinned up on that wall, exposed to all.

I said no.

I’ve always wondered if the trajectory of my life would have been different had I said yes. It’s an easy thing to say no. It’s safe. Nobody can hurt what they don’t know is there. But what if I had said yes? What if my poem being on display would have resulted in support and true praise. Would I have been inspired to keep creating for others, instead of just for myself?

I’ve written before about my first blog post, how my finger hovered over that enter key for what seemed like hours. My stomach did flip-flops. I knew I would feel exposed, all my tender parts wide open to the predators. But that’s not what happened. People were supportive and encouraging. I became a part of communities. And gradually I built confidence.

My battle with fear began after a battle with cancer. There’s nothing like facing your own mortality to help you reevaluate your life and choices. That’s when I took on the mantra, “what would you do if you were not afraid?” And I started doing those things. I went back to school and became a teacher. I took on my first class. I spoke up at meetings. I created a blog. And life became deeper and richer. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my life of being a mom to my kids. I’d just been doing it from a blind, a bunker, looking out and staying hidden.

To this day, my kids know me best. It took a lot for me to open up to my adult friends. It took a long time for me to participate in book club conversation. (I wear anxiety like I’m holding a squirmy toddler.) But every time I did it, every time I let myself feel the flip-flopping of my stomach and the hot flush of embarrassment, it got a little better. Brick by painful brick, I built my confidence.

I still battle fears. I don’t like opening myself up to being judged. That’s my kryptonite. But I find joy in my journey and where I am now on my life’s path. I have a blog. I have my art in a gallery. I have art online. I still hope to write a book.

Good things are out there.

What would you do if you were not afraid?


If you are interested in checking out any of my photography or art designs, you can find me on Fine Art America, Redbubble, and Zazzle. Thanks for stopping by!

PTSD

So, who watched the debate?

My son told me they talked about it at a work meeting this morning, where it was described, aptly, as a sh*#show. I told him I felt that by watching I had volunteered to be flogged. He didn’t watch. He’s better about self-care than I am.

I’m curious how anyone can support Donald Trump. Each time a scandal comes to light, each time he gets up on stage and spews his hateful, divisive rhetoric, I think that will be the end of his support. I wake up to hearing the same excuses, rationalizations, and justifications for his abhorrent behavior. My neighbors on three sides have Trump flags flying. At this point if you are still a Trump-supporter, I’m questioning your humanity.

“Nice people made the best Nazis. My mom grew up next to them. They got along, refused to make waves, looked the other way when things got ugly and focused on happier things than “politics.” They were lovely people who turned their heads as their neighbors were dragged away. You know who weren’t nice people? Resisters.”

― Naomi Shulman

It was torture watching our bully president rage over both moderator Chris Wallace and former VP Biden. His whole demeanor was aggressive and mean. He repeatedly name-called and dehumanized democrats by calling us crazy, left-wing liberals. This democrat (me) is a human, with a view that you should help others and be a good steward of both money and natural resources. Come over for coffee sometime. I’ll show you my garden, such as it is. You can meet my dogs. They are sweet. I’ll tell you about the peaceful protests I’ve attended, what they’re really like and what prompted me to go. What name-calling and depersonalization do is to make someone the other, to make him/her less than you. It’s the first step toward being able to commit atrocities. Don’t think I haven’t wondered who’s coming for me.

During the debate, Trump got personal. It was awful hearing him steamroll Joe Biden and dismiss his son Beau in order to smear Hunter. I thought Biden had a classy parent comeback. He acknowledged that Hunter had dealt with his drug issue and that he was proud of him. What a great dad! Those boys had to be dealing with a lifetime of trauma after losing their mom and sister. Their dad did everything he could to alleviate their suffering, but nothing can make up for that. Some of us are more resilient than others.

If you want to see the fruit of the tree, turn the spotlight on the Trump kids, none of whom were wearing masks during the debate, in direct violation of the rules set by the venue, showing at the very least a contemptuous lack of respect.

Joe Biden is not a perfect candidate, but he has what it takes to lead this country. He’s not going to be a cult figure. We don’t need any more of those. He does have experience. He knows people, and knows people who know people. He has experience on the world stage. He knows how to form coalitions, and he understands that shows of force and belligerent attitudes don’t push our country forward. He will hire experts and defer and delegate. This, my friends, is leadership. Getting on stage and yelling the loudest is not.

Please vote blue. We desperately need a reset.

Side note: In looking something up, I found that there’s a whole Wikipedia page devoted to Trump nicknames. This grieves me. This man should not be leading our great country.

What Will You Do, Democrats?

I’m exhausted. I know I’m not alone. There’s been a constant barrage of norm-breaking, lies, and corruption from this administration. It’s easy to feel outraged. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Every day it seems there’s a new story. More chaos. It’s so easy to feel powerless. But we’re only powerless when we give up our power.

So do something small.

Wajahat Ali posed the question on Twitter, what will you do, Democrats? The responses ran the gamut. Hold them to account. Take to the streets. March on Washington. I agree with all of those things, but realistically, I won’t be doing most of them. I will count on my own elected officials to hold them to account. I won’t be flying to Washington. I may hit the streets, masked up and with my sanitizer in my pocket. But one thing I can do is help my local democratic group. Starting Friday, I will be filling out cards and mailing them. Old school, as my kids like to say.

Ponder the inspiring words of Kamala Harris in her VP acceptance speech at the DNC.

So, let’s fight with conviction. Let’s fight with hope. Let’s fight with confidence in ourselves, and a commitment to each other. To the America we know is possible. The America we love.

Years from now, this moment will have passed. And our children and our grandchildren will look in our eyes and ask us: Where were you when the stakes were so high?

They will ask us, what was it like?

And we will tell them. We will tell them, not just how we felt.

We will tell them what we did.

Kamala Harris

What will you do?


P.S. In 28 hours after Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away, Democrats raised over $90 million. This was thrilling news.

Speak with your feet in the street and shout with your credit card out.

2020, Are You Done Yet?

“Fight for the things that you care about. But do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

― Ruth Bader Ginsburg

So, how’s everybody’s year going?

It’s been so hard to write anything coherent lately. (And by lately, I mean the past few years.) I have issues with anxiety, and these past 4 years have had me quite stressed out. I know I’m not alone.

It’s not just having Trump in the White House. It’s also knowing that people I care about are supportive of him despite his despicable character, his atrocious policies, and what seems to be his determination to be our Dear Leader for life.

I know I don’t do myself any favors by constantly updating myself on the latest scandal or misdeed of this administration. It’s all consuming because it’s so important. If mental energy were votes, Biden would have a clear path to the White House.

As it is, I cling to every Republican Voters Against Trump video and every whistleblower, thinking that this is the one that’s going to tip the balance. I thought it would be child separation. I was wrong. I thought it would be his abysmal response to COVID 19. I was wrong. I thought it would be his real view of our veterans. This seemed to push a few more people away from him. But this is a cult, and as with any successful cult, people are stuck in it by fear and righteous indignation and can’t be simply peeled away with logic and good sense.

And as if things couldn’t get worse, our fighter on the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has passed away. It has been about 24 hours since I heard the news. This seems to be my breaking point. I had hoped against hope that she would fight it out to the election, to the inauguration of a sane president Biden, and to a little retirement before cancer got the best of her.

But cancer is a bitch. Cancer doesn’t care about the state of the world. It doesn’t care if there is a mobster in the White House. And it certainly doesn’t care about the plans a diminutive powerhouse of a woman.

RBG fought the good fight – for us. Now we need to pick up the banner and continue the fight – for her.

Upon the news breaking, there was a swirl of seemingly immediate political talk of replacing her with a conservative justice. I had to turn it off. I can’t take it any more. Can’t we even have 24 hours of political radio silence? Can’t we give her that respect?

I found it interesting that she passed away during Rosh Hashanah and what that symbolizes.

Think about her sitting on the court these past 3 1/2 years. Despite her age. Despite cancer. What will we do to carry the fight forward? For starters, it wouldn’t hurt to give to the cause. I’m donating a dollar for each year RGB sat on the Supreme Court. That’s only $27, but if we were to all give $27, we just might make a statement. Won’t you join me?

https://secure.actblue.com/donate/bidenharris2020

Let’s light a candle for RBG. Let’s have a moment of reflection and remembrance. Let us all to take stock of what’s at stake right now.

Then vote like your life depends on it.

I’ll leave you with this.

““When I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court] and I say, ‘When there are nine,’ people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.”

― Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Share Your World – 8/27/18

It’s time for another installment of Cee’s Share Your World. Here are my answers to the latest questions:

Do you prefer eating foods with nuts or no nuts?

Lately, I’ve been nutty. I used to avoid anything with nuts, I’ve come to love them in and on all kinds of baked goods.

Do you sleep with your closet doors open or closed?

I sleep with them in whatever state I left them in. I’m honestly oblivious to the condition of my environment, at least until we have visitors, in which case every out-of-place object becomes glaringly obvious.

Are you usually late, early, or right on time?

I’m usually a little early or right on time. I get stressed out if I’m late, and even more so if someone else makes me late. My husband is more of a slightly late person, so you can picture how that goes.

What did you appreciate or what made you smile this past week?  Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination. 

Spending the day at the fair with the kids was a lot of fun. We watched the X Treme Air Dogs at the Oregon State Fair on Saturday. What a fun time! Those dogs were amazing athletes! They are competing again this weekend. If you’re at the fair, check it out!


As always, thanks to Cee for the chance to share our worlds. Have a great week!

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Bliss

Still my bliss, though family dynamics have changed (am I their bliss?), the gorge in that picture endured a huge forest fire, and running was interrupted by work and a broken toe.

Under A Pile of Photos

Ah, bliss. A word that encompasses so many areas of my life. Pure enjoyment. Passion. For Photography 101 we were asked to represent out idea of bliss in a photo. I could not settle on just one.

My family is my bliss.

image Exploring the highlands north of Tucson with our son and his fiance

image My husband and partner in adventure

image Most of the family enjoying a beautiful sunset at one of our favorite spots

Being in nature l

image Oneata Gorge in the Colombia River Gorge, Oregon

image A lovely stream on one of many hikes

And running – my newfound bliss

img_20150713_100018.jpg Running for joy and sanity

What is your bliss?

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Share Your World – 8/20/18

It’s time for another edition of Cee’s Share Your World. Here are my answers to the latest questions:

Which tastes better: black or green olives?

I’ve never been a fan of olives, but, like mushrooms and avocados, I’ve developed a taste for them fairly recently. I happen to have a container of olive tapenade in my fridge right now. I finally got to Trader Joe’s (not in my town) after craving it for weeks. I guess I prefer my olives all chopped up and mixed together.

What’s your favorite room in your home?

My favorite room is not actually a room at all. It’s my back patio. In the summer I spend a lot of early morning and evening time out there. (It gets insufferably hot at mid-day.) The hummingbirds buzz around and the dogs lay at my feet as I drink coffee, write, and edit pictures at my patio table. In the evenings I watch the stars and play (such as it is) the guitar out there.

What fictional family would you be a member of?

I think I’d be pretty comfortable in the Weasly family.

What did you appreciate or what made you smile this past week?  Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination. 

I’m still loving that my son and daughter in law are here. It fills my heart to have them close by.


Thanks to Cee for this chance to share our worlds! Have a great week!

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