Writing Prompt: In what way are you strong?

I am the type of person who regularly needs to be reminded of my strengths. I need nearly constant praise and I’m not ashamed to ask for it outright. One of the ways that my last therapist got to know me (and other patients) was by asking what my strengths were. I had to look at her list of words to find mine.

Recently, I’ve been filling out a lot of job applications and writing a lot of resumes. The part that I always struggle with is writing down what I’m good at. This feels strange for me, because I’m enthusiastic about finding other people’s strengths and telling them what they are. But for some reason, looking at my own strengths is harder.

Here’s my list from therapy:
Compassionate
Loyal
Enthusiastic
Hard worker
Smart
Resourceful
Passionate
Honest

That’s a pretty decent list, but it took a lot of prompting from her and a lot of hemming and hawing from me to come up with it. I’m really good at thinking of one instance where I wasn’t something and deciding that means I’m not ever that thing. Like, once I lied and told a guy that I didn’t have any more cigarettes so that I wouldn’t have to give him one, so obviously I’m not compassionate OR honest. But I’m also pretty good at looking at my negative thoughts about myself and pretending that one of my friends are saying them. I can look at that thought and say to myself, “If Tori Lynn said that about herself you’d slap her silly and tell her that that makes no sense and then you’d buy her coffee.” Whether that actually helps or not depends mostly on my mood.

The end-goal of this prompt for me was to look at the question “Why do so many people struggle to see their own strengths?” I’m not sure I can answer that, but I know I can talk about why I struggle with it.

When I look at myself, I can see the internal struggle happening every time I have the option to be one thing or another. When I see somebody having a hard time with their groceries, I have the option to help them and slightly inconvenience myself, or I can ignore them and go about my business. I have to think about it. I have to weight the pros and cons and make a decision. Most of the time, I decide to help them. Anybody on the outside would see that and say that “helpful” is one of my strengths. But if I’m looking at it, I know that I had to think about the situation before I made a choice. That doesn’t seem genuinely helpful to me, which, in my mind, translates into “not actually helpful.”

If my friend were to explain that to me, exactly the same way I just did, I’d nope at them. I’d say, “But you chose to be helpful. You made the conscious decision to be helpful. That’s probably a better definition of helpful than someone who does it out of instinct. Because you realized that you had the option of ignoring it and not making extra difficulty for yourself, but chose to do the kind thing instead.”

I can’t seem to make allowances like that for myself, unless I frame it as a hypothetical thing that someone else said. Which, while not ideal, seems to work pretty well as a self-care method.

Maybe that’s the secret to letting yourself off a little easier. Tell yourself that it’s okay, you love yourself anyway, then take yourself out for ice cream or coffee. Treat yourself like your best friend.

❤ Eli

Adulting: What It Is and What It Should Never Be

I think about the awkward transitional phase between being a “young adult” and being a “real adult” a lot, mostly because I’m in it. Every time I pay a bill or cook my own dinner I feel like a real adult. Those are the types of things that real adults do, right? But even though I have a job and credit cards and a car payment, I’m still only considered a young adult because I’m in my early 20s.

It’s sort of akin to the feeling of being a pre-teen. You get the weird emotions of a teenager, and often times you get the responsibilities of one, too. But when you want to do something that a teenager would be able to do, you’re thrown back into your pre-teen status. I remember that phase, and it’s just as awkward as the one I’m in now.

The area of my life that it pops up the most in is money. People think, often, that because I’m a young adult that I’m not good at being financially responsible. When I’m dead broke and can’t afford to do things that other people want me to do, they frequently assume it’s because I’m not being smart with my money. Honestly, I’m better at paying bills than several real adults that I know. When I don’t have money, it’s usually because I spent it all on bills. Mostly the problem is that I have a very low paying job. I mean, I make more than minimum wage, but only about a dollar more. When you take into account phone bills, internet, rent, electric, car payments, food, gas, credit card bills and the other miscellaneous things you need to run a household (dish soap, cat food, tin foil, garbage bags) it’s sort of amazing that I can afford living at all. My wife works a part time job at minimum wage because of her health, so she contributes absolutely as much as she can, but we still struggle sometimes.

Our most recent big splurge was seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We decided to make a date night of it on New Years day, because we’d both worked the night before and hadn’t been able to celebrate. That’s it. The big splurge was $40 for a movie. I feel like that’s not something that most people would see as reckless as far as money goes.

The job part of my life is where I feel like I’m stuck in the young adult world. I’m still working towards what I want to be when I grow up. It’s not a fast-food worker, that’s for sure. But I don’t know what it is. After a physically demanding, emotionally draining, eight hour day at work, I often think I just want a quiet desk job somewhere, answering phones and taking messages. But even that sounds like something I would eventually loathe going to five days a week. I want to do something that doesn’t leave me feeling like I haven’t accomplished anything at the end of my day. To be more succinct, I want to do something that leaves me feeling fulfilled. I think that’s something that every young adult wants, maybe even most real adults.

Long story short here, being a young adult skews people’s view of you. I think that’s weird. Work is rough and most people hate what they do 5 out of 7 days. I think that’s weird, too. We should all just quit our day jobs, do what fulfills us, and stop being weird about young adults.

❤ Eli

Happy Holidays

I’m writing this post from my new tablet keyboard, bought for me by my wife for Xmas.

This was my first Xmas with my new in-laws, and it was weird. I have only ever celebrated this holiday with my own family or my wife. I have never done anything for this holiday with anyone else’s family for any reason. But this year, we did Thanksgiving with my family, so we did Xmas with hers.

I’m here today to talk mostly about how strange families are and how odd a holiday based on pagan traditions with the name and face of Christianity is.

I’ll start with families. This family has traditions that are different than my family’s traditions, which pretty much makes sense. For example, my family opens stockings Xmas eve. This family opens everything Xmas morning. Not much of a difference really, just a few hours. But it  makes a difference when you’re used to one thing and end up getting something else. I certainly miss my family today, more than I expected to. I’m hoping that we can go see them today, even.

The other thing I’ve been thinking about (which I think about pretty much every year) is the oddity of this holiday in general. I write Xmas for exactly the reason that conservative Christians are worried about. I’m trying, actively, to take Christ out of Christmas. Knowing that the origins of this beloved holiday are predominately pagan, I am acutely uncomfortable with any Christian aspects of it. I don’t like the songs that talk about the star or the three wise men or baby Jesus in the manger. I like the ones that talk about sleigh rides and snow men and even Santa. I don’t put an angel on top of my tree, or even a star. I try to stay true to the origins of the holiday, especially since I lean towards paganism myself.

My wife and I have talked this year about what we want to do for a tree next year, when we will hopefully have a little more room. We’ve been talking about doing a little extra research and making a wiccan tree, or something that more accurately reflects how we both feel about the whole thing. With more planning than this year (we bought our tiny, pre-lit tree on impulse one day), this seems like a totally achievable goal.

Which brings me back to the family thing. I’m a little worried about how my wife and I are going to start our own family traditions with all of the traditions of both our families looming over us. I’ve never really thought about how married couples start their own traditions. It must be something that every new little family does, but it’s not one of the things that people talk about when they talk about new families. Maybe it’s supposed to be easy and just happen naturally. It’s definitely something I’m going to need to talk about with my wife.

I hope your holiday, whatever and however you celebrate, is as nice as mine has been.

❤ Eli

❤ Eli

I can accept the universe’s plans for me.

Two days ago, my wife and I were in a car accident. We walked away sore, but not severely injured. The kicker for me, though, is how bad the accident could’ve been. If we had been three seconds faster, the truck that turned right into our little Kia would have directly smashed into my wife. If she had been hit, she wouldn’t have been able to hit the brakes and we would’ve rolled down a hill and onto the freeway below. This thought is terrifying.

My initial reaction was “DON’T DO ANY MORE THINGS THAT MIGHT LEAD TO DEATH.” I feel like this is a reasonable first reaction, but even then, I knew it wasn’t an actual possibility.

I have struggled with anxiety (among other thing) for most of my life. I have found ways to cope and even ways to make myself better through my mental illness. Since I’ve gotten my fancy smart phone and a tablet, I’ve found tons of apps that are geared toward the things I struggle with. One of my favorites is an app called Worry Box. It is an app where you put your worries and fears into a box, decide whether you have control over the situation, and then either help yourself find a course of action if it is within your control, or find the words to help you cope if it is not something you have control over. It can be very helpful.

Today I made an entry called MORTALITY. I talked about being afraid of my wife dying. I talked about not knowing what I’d do with myself if she died. I talked about being afraid of dying myself. And then as soon as I checked the box “not controllable” it was like something had been lifted. I found the words “I can’t control everything” and “I can accept the universe’s plans for me” and another layer of weight evaporated. It made me think about what I can control.

I can control the amount of time I spend with my wife. I can control how productively I spend the rest of the time I have alive. I can control how many enjoyable things I do in my life, on a daily basis. I can, to some degree, control how many toxic people are in my life, where they are, and how much I come into contact with them. I cannot control whether she or I lives or dies. But I can control most things up to that point.

And as cheesy as it may sound, I now intend to. 

I just finished Legend of Korra and I need to talk about it.

So my partner and I borrowed all of Avatar: The Last Airbender from the library and pretty much binge watched it. That was fun. It’s one of the kids shows that I really liked as a teen and I liked it just as much when we watched it together. Korra is a totally different situation though.

Korra is a big show. It’s a kids show that doesn’t talk down to kids. It has some real issues in it that don’t often make it into kid’s shows.

I’m gonna do a little list.

  1. Platonic relationships being just as valid as romantic ones. Mako dates Korra and Assami and then he decides to find out what he’s like without a girlfriend. He winds up building a great relationship with Wu and it’s shown to be equally important to him. (While I really appreciate this, I honestly think that Wu is gay and a little bit in love with Mako. I mean, pretty much everyone is in love with Mako at some point, so I don’t think that’s much of a stretch.)
  2. PTSD, recovery, and self-worth. Korra gets really fucked up. She shows a lot of classic signs of PTSD. She gets help recovering from it, even though she tries to ignore it for a long time (which is a typical reaction to mental illness). She learns that people can help her, but they can only do so much. She learns that whatever thing is holding her back, she can learn from it and grow stronger. She openly says it’s not something she will forget or move on from. But she discovers that she has the strength to turn this horrible thing into an overwhelming compassion for others.
  3. Family ties. Was I disappointed that Assami and her father grew closer even after he fucked her over? Yes. Was I annoyed that Junior was accepted back into the family after he fucked everyone over? Totally. Was I frustrated that Korra’s uncle was the only family member who fucked somebody over and wasn’t immediately forgiven, probably only because he was evaporated into spirit dust??? Omg, yeah. But I guess one of the themes of the show was how your family helps you. The cool thing is, nobody puts biological family on a pedestal over adopted family. Tenzen is arguably there for Korra more than her real dad. Ginora takes care of Korra like she does her biological siblings. Bolin takes Kai in immediately, without expecting anything at all from him. Adopted family ties are shown to be just as strong as biological ones. That’s pretty rad.
  4. Gay stuff. There is not much of it. I know that as a queer individual, I jump onto every queer thing (real or imagined) in any media ever. Call me desperate. I don’t care. The ending with Assami and Korra blew me away. There was no doubt about that one! A totally clean cut, obvious ending where the girl gets the girl! Just kidding. It was mildly ambiguous. If you didn’t already expect them to get together because you think everyone is gay, you might’ve just assumed they were two “gal pals” (shudder) going on vacation together. If they had wanted to make it 100% clear, they would’ve had Korra and Assami kiss. They’d never shied away from having all the heteros kiss. But aside from that, every gay person saw it for what it was. The happiest gay ending ever.

There are faults. There are things in this show that, were I watching it with my children, I would have to contradict. But there are so many things that aren’t even broached to children. The opportunity never even arises to have a conversation about those things because kids aren’t exposed. I think that’s the big deal for me. It opens up an avenue for parents to talk to their kids about some stuff that’s sensitive. I dig it.

13 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Sooner

In a similar vein to my last post, these are things that I wish someone had told me about being in your 20s when I was, oh, say 15.

  1. Life will get in the way of your plans. Nearly every time. Don’t ever stop planning, but be ready for an unexpected turn.
  2. Always get a copy of your lease and a receipt for any money you give to your landlord. Seriously. Always.
  3. It’s sometimes really hard to go to work. Go anyway. Being someone they can depend on is a good thing.
  4. On the other hand, don’t be afraid to call out (with enough warning) if you need a mental day. You will be able to get through the shorter pay check. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.
  5. Don’t let people walk all over you. When people are taking up the whole sidewalk, don’t walk in the street. When they see you walking resolutely toward them, they will move. If they don’t, say excuse me.
  6. Take up exactly as much space as you need. Being a person gives you the right to exist in the world. But don’t forget that other people need space to take up as well.
  7. Don’t you ever, ever, be afraid to tell people what you think. At work, at home, in the store. If someone says something offensive, tell them. This will get easier the more you do it.
  8. As tempting as it may be, don’t try to reinvent yourself as a “real adult”. There is no such thing. Be a person. Be true to your ideals and your beliefs. This is what marks you as an adult.
  9. Don’t smoke. It’s bad for you and it’s really hard to kick.
  10. Spending money on things you need is not frivolous.
  11. Keep in touch with your friends. Set up coffee dates.
  12. Expect people to leave. You can’t all stay in the same city, or even the same state. People will move away. You will move away. Suddenly you will be in a city where none of your friends live. That’s okay. Make new ones.
  13. Finally, and most importantly, be kind. To yourself, to others, to the planet. This will make living a much easier task.

❤ Eli