Tag Archives: attitude

Out of Adversity Comes Awesome

Life moves quickly. I whiled my weekend sourcing luggage and committing to one. I’ve had travel inoculations. I’ve made a financial strategy re banks and credit.

I know the average blogger pulls the “Gosh, I’m so sorry I’m not writing, I’m so busy!” shit a lot, but in this instance, it’s true. In 5 months my whole life needs to have been imploded, stored, sold, paid for, or packed into a suitcase. I’ve written indepth about this over at The FullNomad.com today. Read that here.

I’d love nothing more than hours to pound on my keyboard, pontificating on Steffness and Infinity World, but things gotta get done, man.

I’m charged. Chuffed. Stoked. Whatever you wanna call it. 58 days ago I blew out my knee. This weekend is the first I’ve done stuff without having to baby my knee much. I rode my bike! I’ve photographed! I’ve felt freedom after nearly two months of feeling trapped.

CharcoalMore importantly, I feel like a victor. I coulda panicked when I blew my knee. I could’ve pushed too hard out of fear. There’s a million ways that all could’ve gone so awry.

Instead, I trusted my instinct, hoped for the best. I trusted my caregivers too, but ultimately realized I was the person in control of everything. That’s a hard place to tap into when injured because injury itself feels like loss of control.

Not so, however. I could’ve sat there and done nothing but wait for the knee to heal, but I found a happy medium. If not for the knee injury, I would not have finally realized I need shoes in the home to minimize my long-time calf problem that causes pain while walking. I wouldn’t have learned a passive approach to stretching my hip flexors, which is a huge problem-solver with low-back pain. I also wouldn’t have discovered the abductor stretch as the single-most important stretch I can do for hip stability, ending a major issue for the last year.

Without the knee injury, I’d be going to Europe with a lot less confidence in how to deal with my tricky back after travel days. I can’t tell you how much cash I’ve spent over five years to fix my body, but this knee injury gave me the most important keys I’ve learnt in all that time. Invaluable. What a gift. Hey, thanks, torn meniscus. You rocked my world in a good way.

How bizarre.

Perspective, Grasshopper

0d67403c40e1fc86b2e6156a37f5b0cbIf I had to guess my single best quality for living abroad, it’s what I’ve just described — my choice to make adversity into an advantage by learning something new about myself along the way. Adversity happens, people. Deal.

Was I born with that? I don’t think so. Maybe a bit. But I think it’s mostly a developed skill. You have to want to get something out of bad situations. It’s an attitude and a choice. Develop that skill, and hard times are never as hard again.

It’s about learning to learn. Learn everything possible, every day, every way. Question everything. Believe in yourself but also know that you don’t know shit when it comes to cosmic proportions. I leave room to doubt myself, if only because it forces me to become sure of myself. Zen, that.

The Gift of 40

These days, I feel blessed I didn’t get to see the world in my 20s. Granted, I know some freakin’ awesome 20-somethings out there travelling, but I also know how much has happened in my years since when I would’ve been travelling, had life not derailed on me, and all that perspective will temper my world-view in wonderful ways.

10950585_752150741570470_1275021983_nI’m so much more empathetic. I’m accomplished. I’ve almost managed to claw out of my debt through hard work. I’ve had a lot taken from me but a lot taught to me too.

There’s a sense of peace and invincibility that comes from all those things. They’re similar to what you learn on the road, too, but I learned them in two regional postal codes.

I love being a woman in my 40s. 42 looms. Shame in aging? Screw that. The 40s are when you understand who the hell you are, what you’re made of, and just how much you can face down. It’s the decade when you finally get past all the posturing, you grasp just what’s not worth wasting time on, and you recalibrate. Or if you’re lucky, that’s how your 40s will go down.

Is my 5-year-plan for world travel just a midlife crisis? Then I say I love midlife crises! Imma gonna have the best midlife crises EVER. Why the hell not? What’s wrong with saying I WANT WHAT I WANT AND I WANT IT NOW?

Absolutely nothing.

It’s Either This, or That

Should I be settling down, buying a home, and being conservative for my retirement? What, here, in one of the most out-of-control real estate markets on the planet? Give your head a shake, bro. I’ll have less financial burden on the road than here.

Kick-ass1-500x472Should I be married and having kids? With the planet on target for 9 billion people in 2050, I think you’re cool without my participation in the breeding program, all right?

And frankly, while I absolutely know I will always regret not having kids, I promise you, I would’ve really regretted HAVING kids. And having kids knowing full well you would resent their impact on your goals, time, and freedom pretty much makes you cruel or foolish to bring a life in the world and saddle them with your bullshit.

That “regret” of not having the family and the home and the fence comes from understanding the full potential of the human condition. I get it, man. I know family is wonderful. But I can’t have that and be the person I’ve always dreamt of becoming. That’s not selfish, that’s self-preservation.

And funny thing is, when I’ve dreamed of my future, it’s never included a spouse, a marriage, or a kid. I’m not adverse to the spouse or marriage, but I’ve never viewed it as something I require for the life of my dreams. I’ve never imagined myself as a mother. Not even once.

I chose not to have any of those things as a trade for freedom to follow my whimsy. Until now, my whimsy has been unspectacular. I’ve always been a late-bloomer. So at 42, just watch me go.

In the end, I get to travel, become the writer I know I can be, and leave a legacy of words and trips and photographs and creation. That is the choice I make. That is the trade, and it’s a fine one at that.

A Last Good Look, Then No Looking Back

These days, I enjoy reflecting a little on calendars and time, and how much falls between it all on the life/adversity spectrum. It’s fun, remembering where I’ve come from, because I’m about to leap into the great unknown and not look back anymore.

Soon, the past is prologue and the story begins anew.

That too is a choice.

I can’t help it. I’m elated to batter my keyboard, lost in thought about all the lessons I’ve learned and just how useful everything I’ve ever been through will be, once I’m ambling up old town cobblestone streets, lost in places I’ve dreamed of being since I was 15 and reading Paul Theroux on my front lawn. This writer, man, the worlds he brought me seemed like an untenable dream.

Now I’m the woman I need to be to have what I dreamt of all that time ago.

Life’s about to become one hell of a trip.

Depression isn’t a CHOICE, People.

This post was in response to something that has now been removed from the web. The author of the original post, Mary Rose, in comments below has asked that this similarly get removed. While I understand why she thinks post is “hateful,” I respectfully disagree — this is an angry post, and anger was an understandable reaction to what was originally written, from my perspective.

I’m also of the belief that we NEED discussion about these things, and Mary Rose isn’t the first person to maybe be a little quick-worded in writing about something daunting like depression, and therefore I will not be removing this post.

This post should be seen as a snapshot of what someone’s mental process is after reacting to something they take the wrong way.

Anger isn’t hate. It’s a justifiable emotion, and, yeah, I was angry when I wrote this. It doesn’t mean I wish Mary Rose harm, or that I disrespect HER. I took issue with her words, and that’s clear here, I felt. The comments are where to disagree with me, of course.

Times like this are when we learn what kind of reach our language choices have — and LOTS of people are guilty of telling people to cheer up when depressed, whether they mean it as flippantly as it sounds, or not, and it’s to ALL OF THOSE PEOPLE this posting is directed. Thanks for reading.

***

So, I started my Saturday wanting to drop-kick someone for a post they wrote in which they asserted depression was a choice and one could just happily choose to move on.

Know how I know someone’s never experienced REAL depression?

When they tell you to move on, to “choose” a better attitude, to buck up and deal. C’mon, everybody! GET HAPPY! Let’s watch the Partridge Family and have a love-in!

Here’s an image for you. Tortured guy goes through life dealing with endless depression, finally decides being unhappy to his very core is literally too painful to endure anymore, and kills himself. Let’s say there is a St. Peter and some Pearly Gates. Suicided Dude shows up there, and St. Pete goes, “What the hell are you doing? You coulda just CHOSEN to stop being depressed. Wow. Waste of life there, selfish dick.”

And Suicided Dude’s jaw drops, and he goes, “WHAT? I coulda JUST STOPPED being depressed? Why the fuck didn’t anyone tell me it was like putting on pants? JUST DON’T DO IT? Who knew? Aw, man. Don’t I feel like a dumbass. The next 40 years mighta ROCKED.”

Right. Sounds pretty fucking dumb, doesn’t it?

That’s never gonna happen. Why?

BECAUSE DEPRESSION ISN’T A CHOICE.

Here’s what Hippy Guru Writer says about “leaving depression behind” in this blog post:

Depression is manifested anger and fear. An extension of the above. Take Usana multivitamins, Univera cell renewal, and exercise for fun. Do it alone if you feel like everyone thinks you’re a loser. Get out of your stale mindset. Enjoy the space inside of yourself and tell the demons inside that they are not welcome there anymore. Tell the part of you that doesn’t believe in you that while you appreciate its special, non verbal brand of tough love, you’re renting all the space inside of you out to new tenants. These new tenants are all the magnificent, hidden, scared, doubtful parts of you that have been beaten down by the giant called depression. Tell it to leave you now. You do not need it to sit on your face anymore.

MULTI-VITAMINS? Really? 30 push-ups? Insta-glee? “Yo, demons! Get outta my space! Hasta la sayonara, BADDY!” What the fuck?

I’d just tell her to fuck off but she’d tell me I’m manifesting my anger and fear. Which, actually, I kind of am.

Namaste. Hakuna matata. Awimbaway!

Image 'Depression' by David Baldinger. Source: http://www.dbaldinger.com/drawings/depression.html. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Generic

Here’s the deal. I’ve been down the depression road and back again. In my descents into darkness, there are a few things I’ve gleaned to be true.

(Reminder: I’m some chick sitting cross-legged on the floor in boxers as I write this, and not a trained professional who bled money for a degree to learn about psychotherapy. Mm-kay?)

Anyhoo. I’ve learned there seems to be both SITUATIONAL and BIOLOGICAL depressions. Now, situational is when it kinda makes sense that you’re down over a long period of time.

Maybe you’ve lost a job, got dumped, shattered your leg when skiing, have creditors chasing you down and no prospects, or maybe you had your mother die. Whatever. Being depressed then not only makes sense, it’s part of being human, and it’s a necessary journey for our growth. It’s not a DEFECT to be ignored and leap-frogged over, it’s a natural situational depression that means our soul’s hurting a little. It may be treated with chemicals, diet, and/or exercise, and that can take the edge off and make fighting one’s way back easier. It still takes a long time to do right.

Biological depressional, however, is a total beast and the reason why it can lead to suicide is because your chemistry overtakes logic, emotion, and everything else. It’s being under a black cloth and not knowing how to find your way out. At its darkest, it is a living hell that isolates you from your dreams, family, friends, and every aspect of your life. Your anger and hopelessness catastrophically cut you off from everything and everyone.

The most insidious part of depression is how it can take over and you’re so incredibly in the dark you don’t even realize it’s an illness. It’s been nearly 6 years since a chemical depression brought me to the brink of suicide, thanks to bad-ass birth control pills I was on that caused an imbalance in me.

The idea of that EVER happening again is terrifying because I had absolutely no control over this darkness that was consuming me for the first 4 months. It was a horrifying descent to the brink of madness for me, and I thank my lucky stars I got past it.

But then assholes like this Hippy Guru Writer come along, who think they’re being helpful for depressed people by going, “Come on, Skippy! You can do it! Just a little hill, and we’ll have climbed right on outta Unhappyville, boys and girls! YAY, HAPPY-CHOICE TIME!”

And do you know what that does to someone who’s actually clinically, biologically depressed? It increases the self-loathing, hopelessness, and frustration, because they remember the 287 times they have gone to bed at night telling themselves it would be better in the morning, promising that they would get up, “do everything right” and have a great day. Then, they get up, a trigger happens, and they’re fighting tears and hyperventilating, just because work beckons in 45 minutes and they need to “pretend” again.

So, on behalf of everyone who’s currently being crushed by depression, I’d like to tell you to fuck right off if you think you’re a part of the solution by telling someone to “get a grip” and move on. They don’t have the objectivity to do it for themselves, thanks to people like you and whatever chemistry’s at fault.

Luckily, I’ve fought depression on both the chemical and situational fronts, and I can tell you it’s as different as summer and winter. In my situational depressions, occasionally things transpire that I find fun and enjoyable, I might even have a whole day or week that’s good, and those are the natural highs/lows of a system that’s functioning properly despite suffering a recent blow the mind needs to heal from.

In my one chemical-based depression based in imbalance, it got darker and darker so that no light entered my life at all. I tried to think my way out of it, do things to cheer myself up, but it often backfired and became worse because it meant I really TRIED, only to FAIL AGAIN, so it perpetuated the feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness that define true depression.

Of course, being unable to “cheer” myself up then had nothing to do with failure at all — that was the nature of the illness. It took two years to undo, but I did it — with the help of medication, exercise, diet, and great friends around me. There was no one cure. There usually isn’t.

The last year and a bit, I’ve been in a mild situational depression because I knew I was unhappy, and I couldn’t figure out what part of my life was the problem. But that’s not actually a situational depression — it’s just being plain old unhappy, indicating change is needed.

I can’t tell you how many times I tried to “think” myself out of my situational grumpiness, either. There are times when thinking one’s self out of a mood works, but when there are actual causes and those causes haven’t been mitigated, choosing “happy” isn’t usually enough. Sometimes, you actually need to change a lot in your life, and that’s not always an option — especially not in this economy, which has given a lot of people reason to be depressed and scared.

You may think you’re giving depressed people a pep talk, but in actuality, you’re likely part of the problem.

Here’s an idea. Be quiet. Listen. Ask them if they need to talk, and just listen. Sometimes, there are no solutions. Sometimes, it just takes a while of hangin’ on, holdin’ out, and hoping. And most of us do those things in different ways, whether you approve or not.

But if all it took was a decision, they would’ve fucking solved life a while ago. Mm-kay?

Don’t just get off your high horse, shoot it. Please.

Believe, Baby

I’m blogging so much because I don’t want to write my book. You realize this, don’t you?

That’s okay, it’s just temporary. I’m adjusting. Going straight to work on the book is too ballsy psychologically — it’s accepting I’ve really been laid off, and it’s acknowledging that I have choices I need to make about my future.

It’s also terrifying financially, because writing a book TODAY likely doesn’t pay for two to three years, if ever. But we don’t talk about “if ever” because I’m choosing to believe the hype.

Have you ever read my writing about believing the hype? Possibly the single most powerful line I’ve ever learned off a talkshow, that’s what that is.

Patti LaBelle was on an episode of Oprah that was all about Fabulous Women in their 50s or something, and the question du moment was, “If you could tell your 35-year-old self any one thing, what would it be?”

So, Patti grins and goes, “Believe the hype, baby. Believe the hype.”

I’m TRYING to force myself to have this point of view where I believe I’m All That, Yo, but it’s difficult. Let’s face it, some insecurities take a lifetime to get over. I’m working on things. But getting tossed from a job, even if it’s by a boss who’s so upset her eyes have been red all day, doesn’t do a lot to prop up the self-esteem, no matter how channeled you are into running with the unemployment opportunity.

This week’s about transitioning — it’s about resting and chilling, getting in touch with silence and not talking to people. It’s about thinking about things I want, and little things I need to accomplish. Mostly, it’s just finding focus, cleaning house, and recharging batteries. And lots of baking. Oh, lord. Step back from the flour, lady.

Not sure I’ve explained the particulars of my situation to y’all.

I’m in the awkwardly strange situation of being in an open unemployment.

I’m laid off indefinitely; they have three months to get enough work to give me my job back, but someone else has seniority. On July 1st, I either will be back at work or cut a fat severance cheque. If, however, I was to take a new job before that 3 months, I’d lose severance. If I decline to return to the job when I’m offered work again, I lose severance.

The uncertainty of this time off makes me wonder how committed I can be to it. It makes me think about choices I have to make. My bosses know theirs is the last job I ever want. Everyone knows I want to write a book.

I’m not good with uncertainty.

You tell me a thing’s a certain way, I’m head-down and moving on, man. Tell me what is, and I’ll show you how to accept it and get over it. But keep me in suspense, have me living in the unknown of this-way-or-that? A part of my brain’s always chowing down on the potentials to try to process the invariable “what ifs” that come with.

But when it’s What Is? Pfft, I’m down with that. I just need to know, then I make a plan and run. Otherwise, my focuses scatter and I’m a twitchy scattered fool too.

For now? All I can do is reduce the chaos around me as I try to figure out the direction I’m supposed to go in.

I’m pretty sure that direction is writing.

It doesn’t make it any less scary to be “pretty sure” of it. I’m fucking terrified.

Writing’s easily the hardest art to pursue emotionally, and that’s biased, sure, but every other art has buffers between you and it. Art can abstract and be only an aspect of a view into the artist’s mind. Photography reveals nothing of the picture-snapper. Music can be picked apart in 20 different ways and can be liked and disliked at the same time. “Great vocals, but the melodies sort of suck.”

But, writing?

There’s nothing HERE but my words. That’s IT. Hi, reader! See? Nothing. Me, you, my words. That’s what we got, that’s all that’s there.

Emotionally, signing up to write a book at the same time I’ve become unemployed and can’t afford a life at all, it’s just kinda like agreeing to take a long dark walk into the deepest parts of my mind that, y’know, I’m more than happy to avoid. All alone — very, very alone. And when I want a break from it? I’m too broke to take social breaks — just getting out of my Cube Ghetto costs $4.50 return.

I’m not scared of monsters, I’m scared of long dark walks in unrelenting caves. Like writing. And I’m scared of not having excuses. I gotta put my money where my mouth is. I hate that.

Work — the 9-to-5 rat-race kinda dealio — is an excuse. “Oh, I never do X anymore because of work.” It’s such a time obligation and mental distraction that it’s easy to buy or sell the “got no time, I’m a workin’ stiff” excuse.

Take work out of the equation, then what can you blame when you avoid it? Nothing.

You know what I got?

I got no excuses. You, me, the fat lady in the street, we all know it. I got no excuses. I got time, I supposedly got the will, I got skillz. I just ain’t got no excuses.

For now, I have the “but my house is a mess!” excuse but that’ll be dead and gone by Monday, I imagine. Don’t worry, I’m stretching that out.

Then? Yeah. Onward.

Belief in yourself is easier when it’s not the only thing between you and the street. I’m not well-monied. I’m one of those people who’s two cheques from the street at any given time. This city isn’t kind to the lower-income sorts, and fear’s something I’m pretty in touch with right now.

But I still got belief. Do I believe the hype? Nah. Not yet. But I believe discussion’s merited, and that’s a start.

[Oh, and I’ll point out the PAYPAL DONATION button top right. And if you think I’ve got gall for doing so, just remember who’s doing the writing. There’s nothing wrong with me believing my work possibly might be worth something to you. I’m also pretty aware not many people have money to give these days. There’s nothing wrong with me point out a link, is all.]

Life x Hard = A Given

“Experience is a brutal teacher, but you learn. By god, you learn.” -C.S. Lewis.

This year, when adversities come your way — and they will — remember that quote.

That’s the one piece of knowledge that has gotten me through every experience in my life. Continue reading

From There to Here

In 2007, I spent 7 months working for a toxic employer.

By the time I left my job, I was close to the highest I’ve ever weighed, at my most negative and always whining, feeling sorry for myself, and feeling pretty hopeless about everything, especially about writing, which I’d been sucking at for nearly a year at that point.

I quit that job, even though I was always taught leaving a job in less than a year was a crime I’d be judged heavily for. I realized  one day in August that, if I didn’t leave, it’d be the end of any Steff I ever knew; I was approaching the negativity point of no return. Continue reading

Woe is You? Oh, ho! Woe is US!

I’m giving a few people a stay of execution on Twitter.

Soon, the unfollows will commence, as I seek to find new folks to fill my ADHD hours with.

Who’s in danger of getting the axe? Anyone who keeps whining.

See, I’ll bitch. Bitching’s good. I encourage rants and bitching. I even encourage being argumentative and incendiary. (Obviously. Look at me!)

But if all you’re doing is whining about how the latest inconvenience in your life is, well, an inconvenience, or you’re moaning about what a loser you are, or doing the whole existential pity-party “Why me?” bullshit, well, I could probably be filling my cyberspace better.

Why you? Because it’s your fucking turn. Like it was for me for 10 years. Because that’s the way the cookie crumbles. Because, for the REST OF YOUR LIFE, you will experience inconveniences, tragedies, and heartbreak. Because that’s life. Because it takes thick skin. Because you have to want it. Because you have to FIND the good shit in the middle of the tough shit. BECAUSE. Because. Continue reading