Grand Expectations

Does anyone else build up their expectations to a completely unrealistic level only to be let down every time?

I’ve had so many of those occasions in the last week or so and I just can’t get past it. I feel like I should be able to manage it more and not get so emotionally invested in things. But on the flip side, on that rare occasion when things meet or exceed my expectations, I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything.

I was thinking about the StrenghthsFinder test this morning. I took it years ago and go back and reread my strengths every now and then. I did that this morning. Some of them were so relevant it was eerie.

For example, my number one strength was discipline. The very first sentence in the description is, “Your world needs to be predictable.” Pretty much me in a nutshell.

“Faced with the inherent messiness of life, you want to feel in control. The routines, the timelines, the structure, all of these help create this feeling of control…Your dislike of surprises, your impatience with errors, your routines, and your detail orientation don’t need to be misinterpreted as controlling behaviors that box people in.”

This is one of those things that I just don’t connect up on a regular basis. Of course certain situations ramp up my anxiety–I’ve lost my control. That’s the basis of my anxiety. If I can’t control a situation, I don’t know how to handle it. I don’t know how to deal with it and push through. In many of those situations, I tend to just shut down.

My second strength, appropriately enough, was deliberative:

“You are careful. You are vigilant. You are a private person. You know that the world is an unpredictable place…You select your friends cautiously and keep your own counsel when the conversation turns to personal matters.”

This is the one that’s hitting home right now. The friend part is pretty spot on for today and it’s what I beat myself up over most. It’s the one part of myself I’ve been working the hardest at for the longest amount of time. I want to be able to open up and be completely vulnerable, but I’m never ready. Going back to the last strength, I always want to be in control of the situation and I never am, by my own choice, by the way.

Perhaps the most dead-on (and definitely most relevant), however, was my third strength: futuristic.

“You are the kind of person who loves to peer over the horizon. The future fascinates you. As if it were projected on the wall, you see in detail what the future might hold, and this detailed picture keeps pulling you forward into tomorrow…When the present proves too frustrating and the people around you too pragmatic, you conjure up your visions of the future and they energize you.”

I do this all the time. When life is just too much for me to handle, which is pretty much all the time, I retreat into my head and plan out future events. It could be planning out the next day or imagining all of the possibilities for the next get together with a friend or it could be planning my wedding, decorating my first house, imagining my kids, grandkids, etc. And on some more somber days, I imagine my parents dying and planning their funerals, my brother dying and having to help his family deal with that, a future without my favorite furry friend. You can pretty much ask me how I think any future event will go and I can give you a detailed description, because I’ve given it a lot of thought.

Going back to the friend scenario, I get it in my head that I just need to tweak this one thing next time and everything will just flow and work out exactly as it did in my head. I have reimagined the same scenario hundreds of times by now, only changing the location, the season, my clothes and the beverage in my hand. Those reimaginings are what keep me going, though. Those are what I imagine as I’m falling asleep every night as my anxiety is telling me that’ll never happen. Stop dreaming.

This is where I get myself in trouble, though. When those events come and go and they don’t live up to that grand expectation I’ve created, it’s disappointing, to say the least. Nothing can ever live up to the dream. That realization is gut-wrenching.

But dreamers still dream.

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I’m back.

Sort of.

Things have been changing around here.

I’m feeling restless again. That seems to be a thing that happens to me at the beginning of every year now. Last year I was feeling restless with my job, but this year I’m feeling restless with my living situation.

It’s not that I don’t feel like I’m welcome at home–I know my parents love to have me around. But I’ve been feeling like I’m not giving them enough space to just be them.

My dad had a knee replacement last week and has only been home a few days. He’s way ahead of schedule with his recovery and I feel like I’m in the way. I’ve never been comfortable with “sick” people and hospitals and I’ve been forced to deal with both more than ever this past week. But is it wrong of me to say that I’m disappointed his recovery is going so smoothly and quickly? There’s a part of me that wants a better story to tell. Then the other part of me incessantly reminds me that he’s a person, too, and doesn’t deserve that kind of hardship.

We got back from our annual trek to Hawaii 5 days before my dad’s surgery. Because of his level of discomfort, we had to change our expectations for the trip. We did a lot less walking and a lot more laying around. I could get on board with that, but it took some time to get used to. I was looking forward to walking into town everyday and taking a beach walk at least once a day and swimming in the lagoon and ocean and maybe even trying out the brand new fitness center. Instead, we walked into town on an average of 3 times a week. We did a beach walk about twice a week. We swam about once a week. And we never used the fitness center. We were there for 3 weeks.

Now, I know that I could have gone off and done all of that on my own. And I probably would have enjoyed it. But my anxiety ramps up to a crazy level when I think about doing things on my own. If I had a friend along, without a doubt, we would have gone off and done things on our own. I just can’t handle being completely alone in a place like that.

My last friend who lives at home is starting to talk about moving out. She’s shared a room with one of her sisters most of her life and that sister is about to graduate from college and possibly move back home. My friend would kind of like to have her own place before that becomes a reality. I had always imagined us sharing a first place, but that feels like a big step that I’m not ready for yet.

On the other hand, I think my relationships with my parents would only improve with a little distance.

But they just redid my bathroom…I just figured out how to make my bedroom mine…I can’t leave Cocoa and Charlie…I don’t want to cook in some dinky little kitchen…I don’t want to have to pay for my own groceries and utilities and cable and cell phone and insurance…I still want to be able to be as present as ever in my niece and nephew’s lives…I want to be able to walk out the door and go for a long walk through my own private paradise…This is and always will be my home…

But how long is too long?

How scary is scary enough?

When I think about it long enough, I realize that there are going to be enough changes in my life this year. I don’t think I need to overdo it and completely overwhelm myself with the prospect of moving out, too. I think the more realistic thing is to find one thing that can be just mine. One thing that I can do by myself and for myself that is outside of this house. That alone is an intimidating proposition. And I think that might be enough of a catalyst.

I need to start creating a life for myself outside of this house.


I’ll keep you updated.

Can it at least be February now?! I want to move on from January!

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I think I accidentally fast forwarded to December.

Allow me to explain: it’s the first snow of the season up here in Gray Duck country. End of explanation. It all spiraled from there.

Last night, in anticipation of the snow (and just the general transition to frigid temperatures), we (I) decided it was time to move the porch furniture inside for the season. That involved shifting a lot of furniture throughout the whole house. But I was determined to get it done because once everything was in its winter position, I could set up the newest addition to our Christmas decorations out on the porch: a giant (fake, obviously) Christmas tree!


(Our last surviving pumpkin is sitting proudly next to the tree!)

This morning I woke up to snow flurries. The ground was still green, but the snow continued to pick up. It just started to taper now about 6 hours later. We now have a few inches of snow piled up on our deck!


I wasn’t expecting to be so excited about it! Usually the first snow of the season is kind of depressing. Here we go again. But not this time! This time I was listening to Christmas music while getting ready, thinking about Christmas movies, Christmas cookies, Christmas cards, end of the year calendars, presents for the kidlets. And then I remembered it’s not even Halloween yet.

I don’t even care! I just went for a walk through the gorgeousness, again listening to Christmas music (what up, Mr. Bublé?!), and actually teared up at how incredible it all was.

My parents have been telling me that they’ve noticed something changing in me lately. They’ve seen how thankful I am for everything and how much I appreciate my life. That really struck me today. It’s been a perfect day so far, but it hasn’t been out of the ordinary at all. We usually have the kids on Fridays, but we got today off so I’ve been taking advantage of the free day.

I’ve been able to find something to be grateful for in every situation. And when I’m in that place, I feel it. Deeply.

Isn’t that what I said December (and Christmas) was all about?

But, wait. It’s still October! Happy Halloween, Happy Thanksgiving, and then Merry Christmas!

Screw it!


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The past 30 or so hours have felt different than what I’ve accepted as normal lately. It’s not that everything has gone perfectly and lived up to every unrealistic expectation I might have. In fact, I think most things have deviated from the “plan.”

But I’ve noticed every single little beauty and blessing.

That tends to happen to me a lot at this time of year. Everything is so gorgeous with the leaves changing color and dropping, so cozy with the cooling temperatures and return of the blankets, so delicious with more apple flavored treats than I ever imagined and so exciting with the growing number of birthdays and the anticipation of the holidays.

This year has been extra special for me, not only with the addition of my nephew, but with the quality of my time spent with family and friends (with a few exceptions).

It got to the point yesterday where I actually thought, “How did I get so lucky to have such an extraordinary life when so many people live such ordinary lives?” But I know that my life looks pretty ordinary to a lot of people, too. I guess that’s the secret, though. You have to recognize all of the extraordinaries in your life, no matter how big or small. They add up fast!

My dad and I were walking around soaking in all of the fall colors last night and our conversation turned toward an old, ailing tree that I’ve always called The Tree of Life. It sits alone on top of the highest hill on our property and our most beloved pets are buried beneath it. We were trying to figure out what we want to replace it with when it inevitably dies. I kept suggesting a tree that would either flower in the spring or change colors in the fall. While my dad agreed, he pointed out that those trees don’t grow very fast.

As we wandered, we pointed out all of the trees that could work. At some point my dad suggested an Oak. Oaks are pretty much his favorite trees. He went through a period where he saved every little Oak seedling because there weren’t many trees around. Now he has forests of towering Oaks. Because of the number of Oaks we already had, I immediately dismissed that idea. But as we made our way around the property for the second time, I noticed that there weren’t nearly as many Oaks on the back half as there were on the front half.

And then I thought: If I’m going to continue to call the tree on the hill–whatever it may be–The Tree of Life, what better tree is there to represent our family? Oaks are big, strong, sturdy, stable trees. That’s how I think of my dad, the leader of our family, the one who created such an amazing life for his family. We already have so many memories planted on that hill, why not go all the way?

That’s kind of when it hit me. That’s the moment that all of those little extraordinaries provided me with that overwhelming sense of gratitude.

I don’t know how to carry this with me throughout the rest of the year, but I’m so incredibly grateful for the little glimpses this season has provided.

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The Wait

It’s a lonely night.

I’m lucky enough to have someone I can reach out to in these instances, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to do.

I still have trouble stripping back all the layers and being completely vulnerable.

Without any of us realizing it, my parents raised me to keep the ugly feelings inside. Me being of the generation I am, that doesn’t feel natural. I feel like I should be able to be me, ugly or pretty, all the time. But I have to unlearn the bad habits and retrain myself. And I desperately want to.

But it’s hard.

It’s really hard to grow up.

I have these flashes of clarity and confidence, but that’s all they are. They disappear as quickly as they appear and leave me feeling hopeless.

I know I’ll find my path one day, but the wait is excruciating.

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I’m just going to say it: Facebook sucks.

I mean it’s amazing, but it sucks.

I have learned that my mind just can’t handle the constant comparisons. So-and-so is engaged! So-and-so is married! So-and-so is pregnant! So-and-so bought a house! So-and-so got a new “grown up” job! So-and-so had so much fun drinking with friends last night! So-and-so went on an incredible vacation! So-and-so has the best family!

Carrie doesn’t care! Or rather, Carrie does care and is actually a little jealous.

See, all I hear in my mind is: I’m not engaged, I’m not married, I’m not pregnant, I didn’t buy a new house, I don’t have a “grown up” job, I don’t go drinking with friends, I didn’t go on an incredible vacation, I don’t have the best family.

I’m not recognizing the joys of the little things in my life. It’s making me question my relationships (we don’t do that, so we must not be as close as them). It’s making me feel inferior. I’m such a loser.

And I’m done with that mindset. I’m done with the comparisons. I can’t live like that anymore.

Last week I did a little experiment. It was hard, but I kind of gave up Facebook. I only let myself check it once in the morning. That’s it. (We actually did have an incredible little day trip, (which I should share with you sometime) which helped for about 2 days.)

Then my sister-in-law posted a video of my niece. And my cousin posted a picture of her little one. And one of my best friends posted a picture of her family on vacation.

I realized that I was a lot happier without it, but I didn’t want to give it up completely. I still love seeing posts from my closest friends and my extended family that I don’t get to see often. And oddly enough, those don’t stir up any jealous feelings.

So today I unfollowed everyone I wouldn’t acknowledge if they walked past me on the street. Which ended up being most of my “friends.”

We’ll see if I feel like I’m missing out on anything, although I don’t think I will.

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The teeter-totter continues.

I don’t know how to talk about this stuff anymore. It’s a big thing to put your baggage out there for the world to see. Even if it’s only a teensy, tiny corner of the great big blogosphere. Even if it’s only one of your best friends.

After causing what I might call a stink, I finally got to hang out with one of my best (and busiest) friends this week. I had made a loose promise to myself and to her that I was going to talk about certain deep subjects. I made a promise to myself that I was going to let myself go and just go with the flow. I broke both of those promises.

Now, however, I think it turned out exactly how it was supposed to. In the aftermath, I made some more bad decisions and, somehow, got the message and validation I was yearning for all along.

I don’t know what this means. I can’t sit around and analyze everything anymore. That’s one of the lessons I learned that night.

I actually had an anxiety attack as I was trying to fall asleep. I know that there are people out there whose anxiety strikes more powerfully and more often than mine, but that was a wake-up call for me. My mind is constantly playing games with me and taking me places it doesn’t need to, but it usually quiets down enough for me to be able to fake it and, damn it, fall asleep!

But that night my mind just kept screaming at me and replaying the days events through a darkened lens. I couldn’t escape the thoughts. I needed a release. I felt like I was possessed. I sat up and yelled at my brain to STOP as loud as I felt comfortable doing with my parents a few rooms away. I didn’t notice for a few seconds that I was sobbing uncontrollably.

I made no effort to stop.

I watched the clock as the minutes ticked by. After the longest five minutes of my life, I realized I wasn’t crying anymore.

A few minutes later, I received the texts I had been waiting for. One of them simply said, “Don’t let your mind start running.”

I don’t think anything had ever hit home like that. All of a sudden I felt very secure.

The next morning I woke up feeling motivated and happy. The feeling hasn’t really left all week and it’s starting to give me more confidence. I finally feel like I can stop trying to prove myself and just be myself.

My anxiety never goes away completely, but I’m starting to notice some triggers that really cause it to spiral out of control. If I can identify them, I can avoid them. Learning to live with anxiety is also a lesson in self-control. It’s definitely a process.

My birthday is in about a week, so I’m really curious to see how that unfolds. 22 has taught me a lot, but I have a feeling it still has a few more surprises in store.

As always, I will try my best to Keep Calm & Carrie On.

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