One is the Onlyest Number (aka: Pathways)

Life is a maze of pathways.

When we are young, the paths seem fewer. Wider. Simpler to choose. Well duh…I choose the path with the great job, perfect spouse, 2.5 kids, and a 3-bedroom house with a picket fence. Okay, maybe not with the picket fence, because those babies require maintenance.

But as we journey forward in life, those paths begin to multiply. They are murkier, shrouded in mystery. We think we have wandered down the path leading toward our destiny, only to discover that we’ve wandered into some ghetto by mistake. Whoops. Backtrack.

So we choose new paths, with new starry-eyed goals, and new hopes for a better lives. Surely this time, we’ll get it right. Right?

I used to be so good at picking the seeming winners. I wanted to graduate from a university. Bingo! I did it. I wanted a traditional marriage to a good man, with three kids, a golden retriever, and a house in a sleepy suburb. Bingo! I got that, too. Only later, the good man turned out to be not so good, so that path grew more like the journey toward Mordor, until i worked up the courage to flee.

I chose a new path. One with just me, and three great kids. (Only no more golden retriever, because, sadly, she was stolen from us.). It turned out to be the best path yet. My kids and I make one happy family together. I have a career that I enjoy, our health is good, and I feel that I have an optimum balance of work, hobbies, and rest.

But there is only me.

I’m not completely alone. My kids and I have a terrific relationship. We talk, support each other, and laugh together. What more could I ask for? One of my sisters lives nearby, and though we rarely talk or get together, I know that I could call her in an emergency. So I guess that’s kind of a support network.

Still, there is only me. (Cue Whitesnake)

I am the only parent i our household. Which means, I get to be the nurturer, enforcer, provider, protector, teacher, and final-decision-maker. Those are my roles, as Mom. I can pretend sometimes that my kids are my friends, but truthfully, they have their own lives, with their own friends. And there are many things that I can’t share with them the way you can with another adult.

I am my only friend. I’m friendly enough with people I encounter at work or the occasional meetups I venture out to. But I do not have any close friends. If something exciting were to happen in my life, I would scream about it to No One and Everyone on Twitter and my blog. And possibly with people at work. I would not have a friend to share it with. If something bad happens in my life, well, I would probably write about it in my journal, or deal with it internally while listening to sad music. It is up to me to cheer for myself. It is up to me to comfort myself. Because, there is only me.

Luckily, I am good at being the only one. I’ve had a lot of practice. And I’m a pretty darned good friend to myself. I treat myself to an occasional chai, or glass of good wine. I know myself well, so I know just the right things to say to motivate me. I compliment myself and cheer my own accomplishments. Most importantly, I like myself. And I will never leave me.

This path of Onlyness isn’t the path I thought I would take. I thought that by now, after being single for nearly five years, my life would look a little different. I thought that I would have a couple of close friends to hang out with and chat about stupid stuff and important stuff. I thought I would have been in a serious relationship, maybe even remarried, but to someone much better for me. Why not? I’m a kind, honest, interesting, intelligent, and funny person. But neither of those paths led anywhere. They were only ever dead ends. Somehow, it always ended up with only me, standing there, wondering what went wrong.

So I chose a different path. The path of purposeful Onlyness. A path on which I no longer seek friendships or relationships to fill whatever voids I may have, as doing so only led to deeper voids, and more hurt. A path on which I allow people come and go as they choose, and not chase after them. Nor will it hurt when people go, because we will never be close to begin with. A path on which I will not ever again allow myself to be emotionally weak and vulnerable with others. I will instead hold others at a distance, safe in my aloofness.

On this path, I go out to see concerts, movies, and plays with Only Me. I try new foods. I read great books. I work hard at staying fit, advance in my career, and focus on raising my last two teens to adulthood. I do not look with envy at those who are on a different path. I instead celebrate my own path, and offer myself the love, respect, and appreciation that I know I deserve. Is the Only path a lonely path? Yes. It can be. But no lonelier that when I was on the wrong path, searching for togetherness, and only finding aloneness. Better to admire the garden from a distance than to pick the flowers and be stung by bees.

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One Small Thing (aka: Life-Changing Baby Steps)

Big things start with small steps.

It isn’t a new concept. From the moment we were born, we learned and grew in small increments. Before we could talk, we babbled. Before we could run, we had to crawl. Then stand, Then take our first wobbly steps forward. But at last, we could do it — we could run! After that, we mastered running. Owned it. Our childhood motto was: Why walk, when you can run? Some of us still run.

But first, we had to crawl.

Change requires baby steps. It is astounding how much we berate ourselves for not being able to reach our personal potential. Why can’t my body be fit and toned? Why can’t I lose twenty pounds? Why can’t I save enough money to do the things I really want to do? What’s wrong with me?

We blame it on our lack of willpower. Our genetic inheritance. Our own laziness. Or, we try — really, really try. We follow the latest fad diet and exercise like crazy until we tear a muscle, or gain back the weight. We start hoarding money, only to realize that we’ve forgotten to budget enough cash to pay the bills, or buy enough groceries for the family.

Instead of growing, we grow discouraged.

But we’ve forgotten that every positive change starts with small steps. Teeny tiny movements in the right direction. Like learning the sounds of each letter of the alphabet before we are ready to learn to read.

MSNBC’s news website has a lifestyle segment that I often enjoy reading, called Better. Each day, it features tips for one small change that we can take in order to improve in some area of our lives. Sleep better. Eat better. Have better relationships. Be better in the workplace. Manage our finances better. Each time I read one of the articles posted, there, I walk away with new ideas for one small thing to try. One tiny change that may lead me to better habits, and assist me as I strive for excellence.

Because isn’t that what this is all about? Not just trying to grow for the sake of growth, but to strive for excellence. To live our best life possible. To be all that we can be.

I have had a decades-long goal of becoming a better homemaker. I want for my family’s home to be comfortable, aesthetically pleasing, and clean. Even back when I was a full-time SAHM/Homemaker, I was a terrible housekeeper. I could cook well, and sew adorable curtains to hang in the windows. I could paint walls and add special touches to make our house feel like home. But our home was rarely ever clean. I’ve certainly come a long way, as have my kids. But I’m still not where I’d like to be.

I began with baby steps. Start by making your bed. I don’t remember where I once read this advice, but after my ex-husband and I split up, I began to make my bed every day. And know what? I grew to appreciate having a well-made bed to sleep in each night. I also began to keep a very clean bedroom. Uncluttered surfaces, vacuumed floors. Each small change added to my daily happiness, and reduced my stress levels. Soon, I hope that this state of being always tidy spreads to the rest of the house. That’s a little tougher, since those are shared spaces, and my kids, well, they remind me of myself twenty years ago. Some days, I wish that they could just magically become organized teens, with neat bedrooms, and organized school binders.

And know what? Someday, they may get there. They just have to start with one small change. The same is true for you, too.

I’m a Unicorn, not a Villain (aka: Musings of a Mastermind)

Want to know a secret about me?

I was not always an INTJ.

Gasp! Impossible! I know, right? After all, I have taken the MBTI (Meyer-Briggs Type Indicator) multiple times, on multiple websites, and even in paper form. I once even paid to have my results summed up by an MBTI certified psychologist. And every single time, at least, throughout the past decade, I have scored the same. INTJ.  Introverted Intuitive Thinking Judging. AKA The Mastermind. AKA The Systems Builder. AKA The Psychopath. 

Okay, not really that last one. But there is a disturbing number of villains associated with my MBTI type. Or rather, people who appear to be villainous until you get to know them better. https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Myers-Briggs_Type_Indicator/INTJ . (Also note the  curiously low number of females on this list).

Female MBTI Personality Types

Once upon a time, though, I was not an INTJ. I took the test when I was around 22 years old, a preschool teacher, young traditional wife, aspiring mother, and conservative super-Christian. Back in those days, I was still super-social, with a wide circle of friends, and plenty of parties and get-togethers on the calendar. I even used to throw parties. I played Bunko, sold Tupperware, and went to scrapbooking socials.

In other words, I used to be a totally different person than I am today.

When I took the MBTI for the first time in the late 1990s, I wasn’t even close to an INTJ. I forget the type, but it was associated with being warm, caring, and nurturing. It was a highly typical female personality. I may have still been an introvert, I don’t know. But my profile didn’t look anything like it does now.

So what does that mean? Does it mean that the MBTI is bullshit, as VICE so eloquently summed it up?   Some say that the tool is invalid for categorizing unchanging personality traits, because a person’s mood can affect his or her answers, or because the person may be one way in the workplace, but exhibit different traits outside of work. And yet, the tool continues to be used widely by therapists, potential employers, educators, and more.

Or maybe the tool itself is functional, but a person’s personality traits are not as unchangeable as we once thought. Perhaps environment, trauma, and other life circumstances can impact different parts of our personality. After all, I was not always an unsociable cave-dweller. I did not always live inside my own mind, putting pieces together and creating systems.

And yet, here I am.

I recently tried Good & Co., a popular career app that offers multiple quizzes to help you discover more about your personality, and to match you with companies. The first couple of quizzes yielded predictable results: I was a Mastermind. I was a Unicorn. No kidding. But then, as I took more tests, the results began to change:

Tiare's Good&Co Profile

 

Excuse me? An Advocate? Sociable? How and when did this happen? Maybe my personality at work is nothing like my personality outside of work. Or maybe I just happen to be the kind of INTJ who generally gets along well with people and likes to be kind and altruistic. Or maybe personality is far too multi-faceted to be neatly divided into little labeled boxes.

And maybe I am thinking about all of this in a very INTJ way.

 

Do You Believe in Magic? (and other Great Commercial Jingles)

*Creaky old lady voice*

Back in the olden days before Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube, we kids used to watch this thing called TV. It had thirteen channels full of entertaining TV shows with laugh tracks and catchy theme songs. In between the shows, there were plenty of ads, all with commercial jingles.

What’s a jingle, you ask? Why, a jingle is a clever, catchy little tune. And back when commercials were awesome, jungles did way more than just tell you about a product. They wormed their way inside your brain and played on repeat on your internal cassette player. They wormed their way into your friends’ brains, too. So much so, that at school talent show auditions, at least twenty kids would get onstage and belt out a commercial jingle instead of a radio pop song. Heck, we girls even made up hand-clapping games to Dr. Pepper and Coca Cola commercials out on the playground!

Needed to hire a lawyer? We kids could sing you the jingle containing the telephone number. Not sure what to make for dinner tonight? Hamburger Helper, help your hamburger helper make a great meal! Shopping for a new car? GMC Trucks! It’s not just a truck anymore! 

80s kids were quite possibly the most commercialized generation.

I don’t understand what has happened since then. Nowadays, commercials are super boring. I mean, obviously they’re still there. But my teens and I just passively watch, eyes glazed, waiting for them to end. We couldn’t tell you a single product motto. We can’t recall anything special about any advertisement, except for the cute, dancey Christmas ads and the one with the talking lizard.

Where did the jingles go?

My poor kids. It’s like they’re living in the Mad Max era, and all the water (aka commercial jingles) has dried up. “Please mother,” they cry, wringing their hands together. “Please show us YouTube videos of Ronald McDonald ice skating with kids and singing about believing in magic!” So I do. I even throw in a few Woodsy the Owl ads while I’m at it.

Name that Brand!

Just based on the commercial jingle lyrics, how many brands can you name? (Feel free to sing along)

  1. Double double your refreshment! Double double your enjoy-ment!
  2. Now go tell your Mama what the big boys eat!
  3. Good time! Great taste! That’s why this is our place…
  4. It’s indubitably (indubitably) delicious!
  5. We’re gonna catch some rays! Catch some rays!
  6. Make a ru-un for the border!
  7. Plop plop! Fizz fizz! Oh what a relief it is!
  8. No it’s never, never the same place twice!
  9. They’ve got the best for so much less, you really flip your lid!
  10. The taste is gonna move ya when you pop in in your mou-th!

 

In case you’re hooked on jingles now, and need a little more flashback, here you go:

 

 

In the Dark (aka: Hiding From the Black Mirror)

Quick! Come inside and close the door. Yes, I know it’s dark in here. No no — don’t touch that light switch! Here, sit close to me, and I’ll light a few candles. Better?

Why are we whispering? Well, it’s a complicated story. It all began about two weeks ago, when I discovered this television show on Netflix. It’s called…here, I’ll write it down for you:

BLACK MIRROR

black-mirror-logo

Shhh…don’t say it out loud! Are you nuts? They’ll hear you!

Oh, now I’m being paranoid? Well, you would be, too, if you’d seen the horrors I saw. Every single episode. All four seasons. I can’t believe I made it through alive.

White Bear

How do I explain Black Mirror? Well, it’s so real. And yet, somehow, not real. Imagine our everyday human lives and social experiences becoming so intertwined with technology, that we become dependent on it. Imagine technology determining where you will work, what neighborhood you will live in, who your friends will be. Imagine parents following their children’s every step via an app. Or having the ability to record every memory, every moment of your life, and being forced to recall those moments for other people. Imagine someone stealing your DNA, then using it create a digital copy of you. Imagine being spied on by an organized group of hackers, who then blackmail you into committing atrocious acts while they watch.

Entire History of You

That is the world of Black Mirror. Or is the the real world, as reflected by Black Mirror?

What’s that? You want to watch Black Mirror, too? Have you learned nothing from this conversation? Well, okay. It’s available for your Netflix bingeing pleasure. But here’s a tip: don’t try to watch it all at once. A couple of episodes at one time are enough to leave you disturbed and anxious. Also, feel free to watch it out of order.

Hang the DJ

What’s that? Which episodes were my favorites? Tough question. Here’s my Top 10 ranked list, from best to worst.

  1. Hang the DJ
  2. USS Callister
  3. Nosedive
  4. White Bear
  5. Shut Up and Dance
  6. Be Right Back
  7. San Junipero
  8. Metalhead
  9. Arkangel
  10. The Entire History of You

Ack! What are you doing? Put away that iPad! If you’re going to watch Black Mirror, then you’ll have to do it somewhere else. This is now a technology-free zone. Yes, I’m serious. No cell phones, no tablets, no Alexa, no IoT devices of any kind allowed here in my safe space. Got it?

Oh, it’s just a TV show, you say. It’s not real. None of those things could ever happen in real life.

*Unplugs you*

I think I’ll read a book now…

 

 

Letters I Will Never Send (aka: Life in the Desert)

2017 Goals

Well, I did it. On the very last day of 2017, I have managed to accomplished the one and only tangible goal I set for the year. What was that goal, you ask? It was to read 55 books. Yay, me!

I know. Big whoop.

That is exactly how I feel about meeting my goal. Meh. Whatevs. Had I failed, had I only managed to read 54 books, or even 40 — gasp — would it have made any difference? No, not at all. 55 was just some random number I came up with in order to participate in the Goodreads Reading Challenge. It was fun, I guess, to see if I could do it, but also kind of pointless. Who cares whether I read 55 books? What matters more is whether I read anything of value, anything noteworthy, anything lasting.

Reflections & Lessons Learned

I didn’t set any other goals during 2017. Most of my life was about maintenance. Maintain my consistent good efforts in my career. Maintain my weight. Maintain my regular fitness routine. Maintain my family and home.

I also had unwritten, less-defined social goals. Go out of my way to talk more with people at my workplace. Attend one or two meetup events per month in order to get to know other people, and maybe try a few new social things. The idea was to break out of this social desert I’ve been existing in for the past 6-7 years. Maybe even make a friend or two.

But then I did something really stupid. Something that took an incredible amount of courage to try, but was still stupid. I gave dating a try. After all, I had been divorced for a few years. I’m still fairly young and attractive, a great person, and fairly interesting, so why not?

Unfortunately, it went too well. I spent the summer dating the man of my dreams. He was ideal for me, in every possible way. We had so much in common and got along beautifully. We were even compatible in bed — something I had assumed would not happen in my lifetime. But Mr. Right did not feel that I was right for him, and he moved on. I can’t blame him for that. He has every right to seek the woman who is right for him.

And that was the end of the dating experiment. Because after you’ve met your ideal partner, well, there’s nowhere else to go but downhill, into Settlesville. I already spent 17 years being unhappily married to someone I had settled for. I have zero interest in repeating that history.

What did I learn from that failure? I learned that I can’t handle losing friends. Because that is what he had become to me. Strip away the romantic stuff, the kissing and flirting and sex, which I can live happily without, and we had developed such a good friendship. And then…nothing. Another abandoned friendship. The inevitable fate of every single close friendship I have ever formed. And as usual, not my decision.

The pain of losing a close friend is the sharpest, most intense pain I have ever experienced. It hurts worse than natural childbirth. It is harder than divorce. It is as deep as grief. The only solution that makes sense to me, the only way to keep it from happening yet again, is to never form close friendships with anyone ever again. Not in a romantic or platonic sense. The end result, the rejection and abandonment, is far too high a price to pay.

Luckily, I have had many years to practice being my own good friend. I’m pretty good company, I must say. I’m interesting, and kind, and funny, and I have great taste in food, music, and movies. Not to mention books. This year, I plan to take myself out on more solo hikes, to a concert or two, and maybe, just maybe to a live sporting event. All activities that I have been avoiding, saving up to do when I finally have a person or two to share my life with. Well, no more. I have waited long enough.

I still very much miss the people I once called my good friends. I think about them often. I still miss Mr. Right, too. I write to him weekly — letters about my life, wondering about his, sharing jokes I know he’d laugh at, all the things I wish I could share with him. Letters I will never send. Letters I pretend he’ll read, because the only way I know how to cope with the leaving is to pretend that they have all stayed in my life. That they are still my friends. That they still care.

2018 Goals

I have no idea what my goals are. I have no current actual, tangible goals. I have ideas, like traveling with my kids, volunteering in my community, writing stories, and paying off debts I inherited in the divorce. There’s also the usual maintenance stuff. But until I have written these down along with a clear objective and a timeline, I hesitate to call them goals.

I have no more relationship goals or dreams of any kind.

Hey, I know! Maybe this year, I’ll set a goal of reading 75 books. Why not? I have the free time. And just think of all of those books waiting to be read. And if I fail? Well, then I end the year with a few less literary notches on my belt. No pain, no big loss. I’ll drink to that — Cheers!

Cozy Còsagach and Hygge Happiness

Some of us are just better off barefoot.

A coworker of mine didn’t buy this. For Christmas, she gave me not one, but two pairs of warm, fuzzy slipper socks. I love the heck out of slipper socks! So comfy, and that fits well with my philosophy of hygge. (More on that later).

Sadly, it took less than three days before I was down to a single, mate-less slipper sock, its partner and buddies nowhere to be found. I’m sure they wound up in the secret place to which all sockmates vanish, and are drinking and dancing the night away. At a sock-hop, no doubt. My feet, as usual, remain bare.

But no worries. Socks are not required to live the hygge life.

Oh silly Jupiter Girl, says my inner snob. Hygge is soooo 2016. We’re all about còsagach now.

Ok fine. Whatever. Danish hygge, Gaelic còsagach, the idea is the same. Get cozy.

Hygge Defined

I am all about coziness in our family’s home. There is nothing better than to come in after a day in a cold, loud, and hectic world, and be surrounded by warmth, family, and good food. Thick, hearty soups and chowders. Soft sweaters. A crackling blaze in the fireplace (for those of you with fireplaces).

My family loves nothing better on a chill winter’s day than to curl up with soft blankets and throws on the couch and read books, or watch a TV show, or just converse with each other while scented candles glow across the room. Throw in some steaming mugs of earl grey, or perhaps some rich, sweet cocoa, and you have just defined our version of hygge. Or còsagach. No matter what you name it, it means the same thing. Home.

No socks required.