Monday, February 28, 2011

Communication Gives Me Zits

Communication gives me zits.

Okay, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe I just pick at my face when I’m stressed out, and communicating in a mature way stresses me out, which makes me pick at my face, which makes it look like I have zits. It’s an evil, evil cycle.
Off and on, I have wondered what exactly made me different from other people, because I certainly have never felt as if I truly belonged. Over the years the things that made me self-consciously different have changed: I’m tall, I’m red-headed, I read too much, and at one point I wanted to teach cats to write with pens taped to their paws.
Today, I am probably most self-conscious about my total lack of ability when it comes to good, healthy communication.

Sometimes, it is incredibly obvious to me and others that I am failing at that whole “communication” thing: my face gets red and I mumble something incoherent, then back out of a room as fast as possible. This is usually what happens when I am put on the spot and I want to say no to whatever is being asked of me, but I can’t bring myself to do it. This is especially true when there are other people watching the scene.

Other times, I will think that I have communicated quite well, but it turns out I am less capable of using the English language than I thought, because whoever I said whatever I said it to acts as if I never said anything. This is very similar to the scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding when Toula’s mom asks her fiancĂ© Ian if he’s hungry.

Mom: Would you like something to eat?
Ian: No thank you, I just ate.
Mom: Okay, I make you something.

My third communication predicament is definitely the one I am most guilty of. This is the case of the “You Should Know.” I realize it is incredibly ridiculous, but I suffer from a terrible disease where I am surprised – angry even – when someone doesn’t know something I haven’t told them. Basically, I am somehow thinking that I telepathically told someone something, (I can’t communicate out loud, but I am definitely good at communicating in my head; are my brain waves not loud enough to hear?) so I am surprised when they ask me to do something or assume something about me that is WAY off the mark of what my actual goals are, what I want out of life, or what I want for breakfast. I mean, I know what I want, shouldn’t they know what I want if they hang out with me, even on a semi-regular basis?
To escalate the problem of the “You Should Know,” I have to admit that even when confronted with a misconception about me, I rarely just out-and-out correct the person. Instead, I seethe and blame them for not knowing what I haven’t told them instead of spitting out two simple sentences to remedy the situation, something like, “No, you are wrong. I do not actually know all the words to Thriller.”

It’s amazing I have any friends at all.

Basically, I’m not sure I could communicate myself out of a paper bag. What makes this worse is that now I recognize these little “anti-communication strategies,” even as they’re happening, but I’m still not quite at a point where I can change them yet. It comes one small piece at a time. Right now the piece is “recognition;” I haven’t quite moved on to “corrective action.”

So bear with me, invisible audience. I’m working on it – communication, that is. I’d say that I’ll let you know how it goes, but who knows if I’ll be able to tell you?

Love and You Should Know Kisses,


Monday, February 21, 2011

Sleeping on the Floor

When I can’t sleep for an extended amount of time, I get out of bed with my pillow and a blanket and lay down on the floor. It almost always works: regardless of how long I’ve been tossing and turning, moving to a different surface does the trick and I immediately fall asleep. After a couple hours – when my arm has gone numb or my back screams at me to wake up – I can haul myself up off the floor, get back into the bed and fall asleep with no problem at all.
Strange, I know. I don’t think that this trick has anything to do with my body craving hard surfaces. I think it has a lot more to do with removing myself from the space I was in and putting myself in a new space. Somehow the shift off the mattress works as a switch on my brain, and whatever it was that was keeping me awake – because obviously it wasn’t the bed – clicks off with the change of location.
You would think that knowing this would have changed how I handled other problems too, but that is not the case. You would think that I would be able to draw some parallels between being able to sleep on the floor and moving out of any other space that made me restless. You would think…and you would be wrong.
It has only recently occurred to me that the things that make me angry or hurt have everything to do with how I handle a situation and very little to do with who hurt me or made me angry. Basically, instead of shooing these people out the door, I could change the way I react to them, or * GASP * tell them how I feel and ask them to stop.
If this seems like a simple concept, you’re way ahead of me in the game of life. I have only just identified my ego as my biggest enemy, and for the first time in my life I actually get it when my dad tells me that you can’t change people, you can only change how you react to people.
But just because I get it doesn’t mean I can follow through with it, or I would be sleeping on my proverbial floor more often. If I got it completely, I would be able to demand more for myself, and stop trying to sell myself short. I would be able to ask for what I need instead of hoping others will recognize what I am worth and treat me accordingly. That approach hasn’t worked so far, so I think it’s time I try a different approach. So I’m getting out of the bed and choosing the hard uncomfortable floor to help flip the switch in my brain, the switch that says I’m not worth something unless someone else has noticed it and said so.
So, instead of waiting for someone else to notice how much I’m worth, I’m going to just tell him or her myself. Perhaps by doing this I can also convince myself that it’s true. Maybe, eventually, I will be able to start sleeping the bed again, because I will have moved it to a new, better, more restful, space.

Love and floored kisses

Monday, February 14, 2011

Progress Report 2011

On February 18, 2009, I wrote a blogpost. It was the beginning of the year off I had taken to write a book or six, and it was called A Recipe for Disaster. When I read that post, I almost don’t recognize the down-trodden, aching soul who wrote it.
Two years ago, I had just quit a job at a company that I no longer believed in and ended a relationship with a man that couldn’t make me happy. In the midst of a lot of personal disappointment and waning self-confidence, I am at least proud of the fact that I recognized that I was the only one who could correct my situation: that it was going to take a major shift in my thinking to start putting myself first instead of hoping other people would do it for me.
Two years ago, I had little more than an idea that I could take a year off to write and recover emotionally and physically. Two years ago, it took everything I had to get out of bed and do something for me. Two years ago, I was plodding toward my own happiness, knowing it was out there and taking the small steps I needed to take to find it, but having no idea whether I could reach it or whether in the long run it would be worth it. Two years ago, I could only think a year ahead, and a year seemed like a really long time.
It’s hard to measure how much you have changed in any amount of time unless you can go back and find evidence of the person you were before. I haven’t read that blogpost from two years ago since last year when I wrote my progress report of my first year of writing. I don’t remember being as surprised then as I am now of how much different I have become.
Let’s start with the obvious first: I have published a book! Savoring Chelan is doing better than I anticipated; I am about to reorder for the third time, and I expect a lot of sales over the summer. Every single horrific, middle-of-the-night worry I had about publishing Savoring Chelan has not transpired: no one has told me that it is an ugly, stupid book or that the recipes suck – at least to my face anyway. In fact, I just recently found out that I was the second bestseller for the local bookstore for 2010, right behind Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – and my book came out in the end of October. Of course not everything came out exactly as I envisioned, but a lot of it came out better; the point is that I was still my own worst enemy but it ultimately didn’t matter.
I am still working on numerous fiction and non-fiction projects, but I have given them less priority as I start working on a second cookbook for the Leavenworth area. This isn’t to say they’re less important: I have simply decided that it is to my advantage to build up a name for myself first and then use that name to publish the works that are closer to my heart.
The most important piece of progress, however, is the improvement of my emotional state. At the risk of sounding like a self-aggrandizing asshole, I’m so proud of how far I’ve come! Perhaps the shift was subtle to the outside world, but my state of mind has done a 180 in the past two years. This doesn’t mean that I don’t still subscribe to some very limiting behaviors and ideas, but for the first time in my life I am able to catch myself before my own fears overtake me. I’ve been able to focus on being healthy, both physically and emotionally, and I actually want to be instead of just complaining about how bad I feel and feeding off the attention others give me for feeling that way. It’s not always easy, but I’m starting to learn to trust others like I never could before (without even realizing it), and I’m able to finally act on what I know will make me feel good instead of going along with what will make me feel bad. To me, at least, this is no small feat.
So, now that I’ve gotten all that off my chest, let’s go through the list I made on my progress report a year ago:

1) Confessions of a Travel Addict – done. Needs to be sent to more publishers/agents. UPDATE: on hold. May self-publish later.
2) Started a serious novel that I got the idea for while traveling through Australia. Have now written 48,000 words – roughly 162 pages. UPDATE: Finished. Needs to be edited.
3) Started a funny novel about dating in your twenties. Have written about 19,000 words. UPDATE: Still in progress.
4) Wrote a short story called Jim’s Wedding, about 22,000 words.
5) Started a project to create a recipe book that pairs local wines from the Chelan Valley with recipes from the area. UPDATE: DONE! New one started!
6) Joined a writers group. UPDATE: Still in it; love it, can’t wait to go every month!
7) Trained for 2 half marathons. UPDATE: no more half marathons…but still running (much shorter distances) on a regular basis.
8) Ran 1 half marathon. (see above)
9) Took a week-long road trip to see Jasper and Banff.
10) Went to Oaxaca (Mexico) with my parents and managed to get myself a 3-month house sitting gig there for this coming summer. UPDATE: Best 3 months of my life! Going back in May!
11) Have already skied more this winter than I have in all other winters put together, minus the winter I was a ski instructor. UPDATE: Must. Ski. More.
12) Realized that a year is not enough time to finish all these projects that I’ve started. UPDATE: And neither is two years, apparently. Moving in the direction of making it a lifetime project.

Love and progressive kisses

Monday, February 7, 2011

Me, Myself and My Ego

Me: "Nnnnnn….nnnnn….nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn"
My ego: "YES!"
Me: "Nnnnnnnnnnn….nnnnnnn….." {stop, pause for breath, mopping of brow, starting over} "NNNNNNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOO!"
My ego: "Yeah, we’ll see how long THAT lasts."

I have a problem. I can’t say no. People ask things of me, and my first response is to do whatever it is they need me to do because it will obviously make their lives easier.
I have become convinced that this is because of my ego. My body and my mind are a united front on this one, but unfortunately they are not quite as strong as my ego. This is how it usually goes:

Other person: “Morgan, I need you to drop everything you’re doing or think is important and take on this all-consuming task for me. It will pay little, take up a lot of your time, and it’s way below and/or far away from what you want to be doing, but I really don’t see you having problems juggling all the other things you’re doing, so I don’t think this will be that big of a deal. Whaddya say?”

Morgan’s body: “Ummmm….I don’t think this is a good idea…”
Morgan’s mind: “Yeah, I’m thinking that I’m already mentally exhausted, and Body isn’t doing all that great…”
Morgan’s ego: “OF COURSE we’re going to do it! Did you hear what that a$$hole said? He thinks we can’t do it! Of course we can do it! We can do anything! You can sleep when you’re dead, Body! You’ve got a long way to go before you show people that you’re worth anything, Mind! This is the answer! Stop being namby-pambies and BUCK UP!”
Morgan’s body: {checks reserves} “Well, I guess for a little while…”
Morgan’s mind: “Gee, Ego, you’re right. People will respect me more if I…”
Morgan’s ego: “SHUT UP AND GET TO WORK!”
{Enter montage of Morgan running in circles like a chicken with head cut off, ended with short video of Morgan lying in the fetal position}

Morgan’s body: “Can’t. Go. On.”
Morgan’s ego: “Yes you can! Get up! GET UP GET UP GETUPYOULAZYIDIOT!”
Morgan’s mind: {gathers last reserves of strength} “Nnnnnnnnnnn….nnnooooooooo!”
{Ego momentarily silenced}

It’s a cycle. I get a control on what it is I want to do, start feeling good about it and energized about what I will be doing, then someone asks something of me and I’m convinced by my ego to say yes. Suddenly all my energy is going into my new project that isn’t even mine, my body gives out, I burst into tears at the thought of all I have to do, and my ego only shuts up when there’s nothing else I can give and I have to go back to all the people I’ve promised things to and tell them I am wholly incapable of doing them.
I then get my time back, start doing things that make me feel better (take time for runs and yoga, eat better, drink less, sleep more), get a handle on things, start getting things done, and someone else comes in with a request and my ego perks up and takes over.

I’ve noticed recently, however, that my ego never serves me well at all. Not only does it push me to do things that aren’t on my priority list, it also won’t let me admit when I’ve done something right, or accept a genuine compliment when it’s given to me. Even when I am complimented on whatever it is my ego talked me into doing, it is unimpressed.

Other person: “You’re doing a great job on this project that you didn’t have time for but managed to fit into your schedule anyway. In fact, you’ve put far more effort into it than we expected. I can’t believe how much you can get done.”

Morgan’s body: {tremulous smile before collapsing}
Morgan’s mind: “Well that’s nice that he noticed, but he’s right, maybe we could spend more time on…”
Morgan’s ego: “You are SO ANNOYING! Don’t you see, if we gave even more we would get even more praise? This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the things we could get from this guy. Besides, we all know that we could have worked a lot harder. If he’s impressed now, just wait until he sees what we can really do!”
{Morgan’s mind is stopped from slapping Morgan’s ego in the face by the need to hold on to Morgan’s body to keep her from using the last of her strength to run far, far away}

Morgan’s mind and body: “NO! NEVER AGAIN!”
{long pause}
Morgan’s mind and body: “Er…well, at least not for right now. Right now we’re too tired. Maybe later.”
Morgan’s ego: {evil smile…wiped out by full-on punch in the face by Morgan’s body}

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

For Paul: A Second Chance

Almost a week ago, Paul Raney was killed in an argument with a friend. Paul is a 22-year-old from Chelan, and I knew him because he was a 6’4” tall redhead with a gift for teaching kids to ski, even if he sometimes had to get on his knees to hear them. He was good at what he did, and he was also good at reaching things in high places for me. He did not deserve to die.
This blog started out as a hopeless, helpless rant against death, but after writing out four pages about it, it came to me that what it’s really about is second chances, and what we can eke out of a senseless tragedy so that it doesn’t have to be a total waste of life.
This is not a political statement; I don’t want to talk about who shot him or what will happen to him. What I do want to talk about, however, is that there are no second chances with death. Sometimes it amazes me how easily lives are taken – traded, bartered, used as collateral – when each of us only has one of them. You cannot apologize to death and ask for another chance, for yourself or another. Death is hard enough to face anyway; facing an unexpected death is that much worse, but when it all comes down to it, all death is final and it cannot be argued with.
So I can rant about it, about how unfair it is, and how we should all be more careful, but ultimately, I want to be able to say something more positive when I remember Paul. I want to remember all the funny things he said, his bright neon snow gear, and how much the kids in his lessons loved him. I want to remember that losing Paul reminded me that life is much too fragile and too easily taken away to waste it. I want him to know that I am going to take the second chance that he was not allowed and I’m going to wring every last drop of life out of it as if it were a sopping wet towel. I know that someday we all will die: that with death we don’t get another chance. That may be true, but I can choose this, this moment, losing Paul, as my second chance at appreciating life.

Love and second chance kisses