Day 12: Seeing in Others What We Hate About Ourselves

How did it go?

Today felt like a long day.

I got a new journal yesterday to begin in August (the one I got from my husband for Christmas will be full by then), and so today I went out to get some stickers and such to personalize it. I always love the feeling and thought of a new journal, and I always get new ideas for how the new one will function, so I look forward to seeing that pan out.

Other than that, it was another day of apartment-searching. I’ve done my duty of calculating what I can afford and making my comparative list of “must haves” versus “would be nice to have.” What came along with today’s search, though, had me thinking. I began to feel guilty about the type of apartment I can afford versus what I feel someone like me should have. I’ll put it this way: what I can afford is actually better than what I feel I deserve.

What does that say about my mentality?

Nothing positive, I’ll tell you that. But I simply don’t know what to make of those feelings or really how to articulate them. I guess that’s something else for therapy.

What did I learn?

One of the hosts of my favorite podcast, Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, said in an episode: “We hate in others what we hate in ourselves” (or something along those lines). Unfortunately, I can’t remember what season or what episode this was in, and I can’t even remember if he was quoting someone else or not. But the idea has stuck with me, and I saw it most in myself today.

(Quick background: I’m currently living with my mother in her basement suite while I work to save and pay off some debt.) My mother wanted to put together a desk she has had for about two weeks as soon as we got home from apartment-searching. I, on the other hand, wanted to analyze my housing options and put together my new journal layout. As I was moving the old desk to the garage, I was thinking: “why now, at this very moment, are we doing this?”

Now, please don’t misunderstand. I am thankful my mom has allowed me to live with her rent-free for a few months while I get some things settled. It’s just odd to do after living on my own for, well, a long time.

Anyway, while I wasn’t angry or anything at this sudden desire, I thought to myself how many times I had done that to my husband. We would have gotten home from something, he’d be tired, but I’d insist on doing something around the house, thinking that would be as good a time as any. And, as I was thinking, I realized I had no idea why, really, I did that, and I didn’t like the person I was in those particular moments.

So, other than learning that I am too much like my mother, I learned that what can annoy me in others are the things that annoy others about me. Isn’t that interesting?

While this may not seem positive, it did one positive thing for me: helped me to learn about myself, why I react the way I do at certain times, and why I feel certain things. Which is, in essence, what this challenge is about for me.

Here’s my thought: maybe we should do some internal digging the next time we get upset with something someone else is doing. It may just be something we don’t like about ourselves.

Day 11: Researching Myself

How did it go?

I started looking at apartments today. There’s something about apartment hunting on your own that is both sad and (almost) exciting. All I care about is finding a place I can afford and that is good for Belle and the cats.

I also started listening to some writing and career podcasts, and I even downloaded some writing courses on iTunes U. Just partaking in those makes me feel I am moving in the right direction personally.

My neutrality doesn’t seem to be going away. Instead, it seems to be turning into periodic breakdowns. I guess I’ll have to see how it progresses as I get ready for my next work event, which will most likely cause some anxiety and help the spiral into breakdowns.

What did I learn?

One thing I started to realize, especially as I look at apartments, is that, in the past (including most recently, before relocating), I tried to plan everything in life. And that just isn’t possible. I took advantage of people close to me and relationships. I made people feel like they were inconveniencing me because I had made all the plans but didn’t make them feel they had a say, even if that wasn’t my intent. I thought if I just planned enough, nothing would go wrong because I would have planned for it all.

Guess what? God showed me different.

My mom used to tell me “if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” And she’s right. His plans are so much better than any I could have thought of. I just have to work on trusting that.

I also realized what gives me anxiety: thinking about the future. I realized it always has, really, but my way to try to combat it was to just keep planning. Heavens knows that didn’t work, either! I need to focus on the present, because He holds the future.

In a Christian podcast I was listening to, the speaker recommended taking an “inventory” of your mental whereabouts at certain intervals throughout the day—your thoughts, your feelings, what is driving you. I got to thinking that it may be a good idea to do to help me focus on the present.

So, I’m going to set my phone’s timer for 90 minutes during the day, and each time it goes off, I will stop, assess myself, and write down what I find. Almost as if I am researching myself, and that may be just what I have to do—research myself.

Day 10: The Taming of the Tongue

How did it go?

I may start referring to Friday’s as “Therapy Fridays” because it seems I have a lot to think and say after my therapy sessions. My therapist says it seems like I’m doing a little better, though I do need to keep an eye on those “neutral days” and take note of how often they occur and how long they last. As of now, my feeling of neutrality hasn’t left me, so I guess I’ll see how it progresses (if it does).

Anyway.

Even though I’ve felt neutral, I took today to…relax. I cleaned. Belle helped me vacuum (well, she barked at the vacuum which, to her I guess, is helping). I focused on my writing. In fact, I completed a draft of one article, and I thought of an idea for another (which has been approved and I already started). I took today as an opportunity to work on my passions, and I already feel a little more empowered by it.

I came across a quote this morning on a Christian profile I follow on Twitter that impacted me. Now, I’ve seen this quote a few times before, from the same account, but today it seemed very relevant.

“If you want to get over a problem, stop talking about it. Your mind affects your mouth, and your mouth affects your mind.”

I know this seems a little reversed since I go to therapy, and what do you do in therapy but talk about your problems. To me, though, what this is saying is most relevant to the last part of the quote: “Your mind affects your mouth, and your mouth affects your mind.”

There are plenty of Bible verses about the tongue. Proverbs 15:4 states “a wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” And James 3:5 says, “the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.”

My therapist seemed to like where my ideas about this quote took me, and it led to a better understanding during my session.

What did I learn?

That quote adjusted my perspective today. I’ve realized I talk so much about what I feel is going wrong and not enough about what I can learn. And I realize it’s something I’ve done for a long while now, not just the past few months. And I want to change that.

I think what the quote is saying is that we should reframe our thinking. And we need to pray about it.

Have you heard the phrase “have you prayed about it as much as you’ve talked about it”? That’s what I think of with this quote.

And it’s something I need to hold myself accountable with from here on out. On everything.

Day 9: Good Timing

How did it go?

It’s a little hard to explain today. I’m still moving through an “episode” so my world seems a bit fuzzy at times. In some moments I’m alright, then something tiny happens and I’m not. But one thing did encourage me this morning, and that was a—you guessed it—podcast episode. Except it’s a different one than any of the others I’ve mentioned.

I haven’t found a church here, and I’m struggling to connect with God. I know the enemy wants as far away from Him during difficult times, but I am trying to find my way back. I follow my pastor from my previous city on Twitter, and he often Retweets Joel Osteen. So, in an effort to get some time with God more often, I subscribed to Joel Osteen’s podcast on iTunes. This morning, I listened to the most recent episode: “Right on Time.”

And I think listening to it this morning was perfect timing.

I definitely felt more positive, more empowered, more convicted after listening to it. It was a great way to spend 30 minutes of my morning commute.

Today also gave me more opportunities to figure things out. (Sorry, that’s the only way I can think to put it.) And I’ve realized something: I don’t want to be alone because my mind won’t stop spinning, but I also don’t want to be around others because then I have to perform a certain way. (Have you ever heard of “speech acts”?) But I realized I’m okay alone when I’m with Belle, writing, or even reading.

So I’ve decided I’m going to take some alone time. More than I have recently. I also think that’s the only way I’m going to gain a deeper connection with the Lord.

What did I learn?

 I guess sometimes we do just need to be alone. And sometimes we need to revel in that alone-ness. And being alone is different than being lonely, especially if that alone-ness can bring you closer to the Lord.

The Joel Osteen podcast episode today talked about how God’s timing is always the perfect timing. We should not get upset or frustrated because something isn’t happening as fast or in the way we would like it to; God is moving. We have to trust in Him and His timing.

I learned that’s hard for me: trusting in His timing.

I believe in Him, and, deep down, I believe He can move mountains. But I need to spend time with Him to truly believe that. Which means I can’t rush anything because I haven’t figured out how to spend that much-needed time with Him yet.

Nothing will happen until I get my heart and soul right.

Day 8: One Positive Thing at a Time

How did it go?

Today I tried to stay in a state of faith throughout the day. While it may not have made me “I’m so happy!” positive, it kept me grounded and focused. That isn’t to say nothing positive happened today.

I received an email regarding a magazine pitch I sent in last week, and the magazine will “consider” my article for publication. I just need to send it in by the second week of August. It took a lot for me to not squeal in my office. So, like a normal person, I went outside and did it. I am really excited about the opportunity, and, if anything comes of it, I will definitely let you know.

I have noticed it is still (a little) easier to get up in the morning. I’m still not perfect, I’m still not jumping excitedly out of bed every morning. But I’m no longer just angry about it. It no longer ruins my day.

I found an interesting article that offered some good ideas, and I thought I’d give them a try. So I took his “bucket” ideas and created my own, thinking about what matters to me in those categories. I’ve decided it’s something I’m going to work on (at least) weekly. Simply writing out those things seemed to empower me.

What did I learn?

My release is writing. When I deny myself that…well, it isn’t good. I can’t deny myself writing. I love it. It empowers me. It feels meaningful. I find value in the action of doing it and in sharing my writing with others. I don’t want to deny myself that any longer.

I realized I need to stay in communication with my faith throughout the day, but I don’t quite know how. I am hoping today—writing out prayers, small prayers throughout the day—will help me find how to make that steady connection. (And if you have any thoughts, I’d love to hear them.)

I guess I neglected myself for a while. And when you neglect yourself, you can’t be there for anyone else. I need to take this time to get back in tune with me. I’m learning what that means.

Day 7: Positivity Isn’t Without Negativity

How did it go?

I woke up with a heavy sense of dread and complete sadness. As is most often the case with depressive symptoms, I can’t tell you why I woke up feeling this—I just did. I somehow managed to get out of bed and get ready for work—shower, brush my teeth, get dressed—which all seemed to happen in a mixture of slow motion and speed, with a pause every so often for a dry sob. It was the least amount of effort I’ve put into my appearance probably since having to administer early morning finals when I was teaching.

As the morning progressed, even before I got Belle and I in the car to leave, I just felt everything welling up into anger. Anger that I had to get up, anger that the Keurig didn’t seem to like the coffee pod I had placed in it (thereby only giving me a half a cup of coffee), anger that I had a commute, anger that I’m so tired…and anger that I feel so worthless and undervalued. I just felt inexplicably angry.

I know, I know. Where’s the positivity?! you ask.

On my commute, I listed to TED Radio Hour’s episode “The Case for Optimism.” For some reason, Tali Sharot’s piece in the episode struck a chord with me. She made the case that we are natural optimists, but that too much (or even too little) optimism can have its own negative side effects. Take a listen, and maybe you’ll see why it stuck with me.

As the day wore on, those feelings of frustration and anger never seemed to really go away. They dimmed, perhaps, enough for me to harness some energy for work, but I could feel them all day. I managed to do my job. I got excited about an article I’m writing (more on that once it’s complete). But, deep down, those feelings didn’t go away as I had hoped.

It released when I got home. Yelling at my mom, a flood of tears, screaming into my pillow…and Belle laid near me the entire time, reminding me she was there when I was ready. The one living creature who (I feel) doesn’t judge me for my emotions or decisions.

So, today was not full of positivity. I couldn’t find a way to reframe what I was feeling. But it wasn’t without a lesson.

What did I learn?

In weak moments, pray. As I bawled and screamed into my pillow, I just cried out in prayer. Because nothing else seems to help. And maybe that’s sign enough.

But I think Sharot had a point about positivity. Up until a few months ago, my general optimism served me well. Then real life hit, and suddenly choices had to be made that optimism…well, frankly, optimism wouldn’t be enough. And, in hindsight, I think I was a little too optimistic. I let it cloud my judgement. Just as I am trying to force myself to be positive now, no matter what emotions I face, I think I forced myself to be positive because I didn’t know any other choice. AS Sharot said, though, realism is valuable—that tiny lack of optimism can be realism.

Maybe I shouldn’t push down negative feelings to replace them with positivity. Maybe I need to embrace that negativity, that little bit of realism, in order to become positive.

Day 6: Neutrality

How did it go?

Have you ever had one of those days where you don’t feel fantastic…but you don’t feel terrible either? A day where you just sort of…float around, knowing what you’re supposed to do, trying to do it, but not really feeling motivated to do any of it?

Well, that was my day.

I don’t want to say I felt empty. At the same time, though, I’m not sure I felt much of anything. Even the two podcast episodes I finished today didn’t help other than to distract me on my commute. I guess that’s how depression works–some days you’re good, some days you’re not, and some days you’re just…there, a shell.

Maybe today was just a neutral day.

Then again, maybe God was using today to show me something.

What did I learn?

I don’t think my learning about the day stops just because I write. I think I learn a bit more about what my day had to offer me even as I write. Maybe what I learned today, then, is that neutrality is okay.

I also learned I don’t like feeling like a shell of myself. Yet…I’m not quite sure how to achieve not feeling like that when, well, I do. Maybe that’s something I’ll learn along the way.

I learned, too, that God wants us to call to Him in our times of trouble. We need to realize that we cannot rely on ourselves or what the world has to offer for wisdom and healing.

So maybe it’s not so much about being in a “good mood” all the time, but rather to diminish the negative thoughts. And maybe it’s about drawing closer to God.

Maybe that’s what neutral days are for.