Coping with the Poo Days

Yesterday, I was sad. Blue, if you prefer. It was what I like to call, in my ever-so-sophisticated vernacular, a “poo day.” Because I felt like poo, and everything looked like poo, and the whole day was pretty much shot to poo as a result of it.

There was no reason why. I had a wonderful holiday. My office is gorgeously quietly this week with pretty much everyone gone on a mass vacation spree. Yesterday, I spent the majority of the day rocking out to my Florence + The Machine Pandora station while catching up on both my filing pile and my Twitter backlog (shhh, don’t tell!).

But poo days don’t have reasons for being. They just descend like a cartoon cloud and follow you around, shrouding you in your own personal rainstorm and making you feel drained and discouraged.

And even if you’re perfectly aware it’s just a stupid cartoon gloom and nothing is seriously wrong, that doesn’t make you feel any less crappy. It just makes you feel like a moron for not being able to shake it.

 

Poo Happens

There were plenty of logical explanations for why I might have been feeling blah yesterday:

  • I could have been going through a crazy dip. (It doesn’t happen often anymore, but it still can);
  • I live in cold, gray, drizzly Buffalo;
  • I’m SAD-prone and have been watching the sunlight disappear shortly after lunchtime for weeks now;
  • I’m in what I call my “squiggly line week” (a.k.a. the week I mark on the calendar with a discrete squiggly line to let the husband know it’s “that time,” so watch out); and/or
  • I’m a side hustler who’s temporarily all hustled out.

But I know how to deal with all of these things. I have one or more of them going on most of the time, and they rarely faze me. Or if they do, the funks they cause are prolonged and I can sense them coming before they hit. (I’m a maverick at reading my emotional swings, due to the craziness.)

No, the reason for yesterday’s cloud was something very mundane:

  • I am human; and
  • Poo days sometimes happen.

There doesn’t have to be a reason, and you don’t have to feel bad if you can’t shake yourself out of it. You just have to take care of yourself as best you can while you’re in it. Here’s how:

 

Coping With a Gray Day

As a recovering crazy, I have a special appreciation for the fact that we are not our moods. It took a long, hard time for me to realize and truly understand this, but now I’ve become adept at letting all sorts of moods and emotions pass through me without letting them define my day or myself.

Sometimes you’re just “off.” Some days are a wash. It’s o.k. The cloud will lift. Just focus on getting through the day.

I asked my lovely readers to tell me how they get through the blahs, and I got some great feedback:

 

From Facebook:

I have recently taken to doing silly things that get me out of my funk… like skipping down the street or riding shopping carts in a parking lot. This is probably not appropriate for people who care what others think however. When all else fails, there’s always alcohol. –  Sarah Goshman

Writing always helps me and of course belting out to pandora in my office [Cordelia note: a lady after my own heart!], sometime I get crazy stares since I am tone def but I don’t care! – Tracy Schwartz

I can’t really control what happens at work, but after I get out, it’s a quick workout, a cup of my tea and my computer (either reading or writing.) That’s basically what I do every day in the winter. In the summer, a nice long walk…then tea and my computer 😉Abby Has Issues

It’s okay to laugh when I tell you I wear sparkly things when I am having a blah day. I can’t be blah and sparkly! But that’s probably not the kind of thing you’re going for. – Chrysta Bairre  [Chrysta, it so totally is.  I love this idea!]

Go look in the mirror…smile (a real one) and truly tell yourself you love you! Makes me feel better, people forget how important it is to refuel your heart from you! ♥ – Sonya Contino

 

From Twitter:

A walk and some fresh air does the trick most of the time.@Lori_AnnKruse

Accept it. breathe. drink something warm. journal. paint. read in my favorite coffee shop.@jdartagnanlove

Awesome advice, all!  In addition, hare some of the ways I’ve learned to get through a poo day:

 

1. Look At It From the Outside

Seriously, picture the cartoon cloud. Remind yourself this is a temporary state you find yourself in — nothing is really wrong, nothing is wrong with you, certainly — it just is what it is.

It’s like having a cold or a headache — it sucks, and you’ll have to make some adjustments to accommodate it, but you’ll get over it.

 

2. Go Easy on Yourself

Don’t beat yourself up for not being on your game or try to force yourself to do things you’re not up to. Just shrug, keep moving and be patient with yourself.

 

3. Tackle the Little Things

Let the big life goals and major projects be for a day. Focus on folding the laundry or typing that report or taking the trash to the curb. Do what you can, and let yourself be o.k. with that.

 

4. Tackle Only What You Have To

When I’m in the midst of a funk, I tend to go into energy saver mode. I only do the things that are strictly necessary to get through the day, and I don’t push myself to do them with the usual flair and aplomb I normally invest.

Being forced to do this drives me crazy, because I’m all about living with awesomeness in every little detail, but some days, ya just can’t do it. Recognize that and let yourself let some things slide.

 

5. Pile on the Goodness

I fiercely combat poo days with everything I can think of that makes me happy:  PJs, cuddles with puppies, fancy coffee drinks, naps when I can fit them in, guilty-pleasure reality shows.

Think of the things you’d do to cheer up a friend who was in a funk — or the things you wish your friends would do for you — then do them for yourself. Take good care of you.

 

6. Remind Yourself It’s a Mood, Not a Commentary on Your Life as a Whole

Yesterday, I didn’t feel like being cheery or ambitious or awesome. I really just wanted to crawl back into bed and stay there. But that didn’t mean I’d suddenly lost all ability to ever create anything again. It didn’t mean I’m secretly unhappy with my life or my goals are all wrong or I don’t have it in me to make them happen.

It just meant that, for that day, I was gloomy.

Resist the urge to place too much value on the poo days. They will pass. (Tweet, tweet!) Treat yourself kindly when you’re in them, and you’ll go back to feeling like yourself again in no time. I promise.

How do YOU handle poo days?

Image: Flickr

Fun (and Sometimes Disturbing) Ways That People Have Found My Blog

I thought I’d take a break from the usual routine to share with you all a running list I’ve been keeping since the advent of this blog.  It’s been one of my least expected (and most delightful) sources of amusement from running CCIQ.

Said list documents all the strange and sometimes disturbing search terms that have led people to my blog.

As any fellow blogger knows, reviewing these searches can be a fun way to kill time when you should be writing a post instead.  Not only is it entertaining to see the odd array of searches that somehow point people to you; it can also be amusing (-slash-disturbing) that people are even running some of these searches to begin with.

So, here for your reading pleasure, I’d like to share some of my favorites (with occasional commentary).  More to come the next time the list gets sizeable again.

Enjoy!

 

Amusing Searches

“why do brussel sprouts make me feel so good?”

[and the closely related] “brussel sprout mystery”

“what’s the deal with the panda hat giant?”

“medicine hat couponing”

“Cordelia needs a job”

“I need some free money hello”

“I’m not supposed to be normal” [hell yeah!]

“snooze button I will not give in to you”

“bipolar a little” [why yes, sir, I am!]

“what lies beneath the Vatican movie” [I see where this is coming from but find it amusing nonetheless]

“imaginary friend cheese hat”

“called it quits an hour ago. be careful”

“Everett Bogue idiot?”  [I’ve found his direction a little too existential for my tastes since he ended Far Beyond the Stars, but I wouldn’t go that far…]

“Cordelia’s mom” [your mom!]

“I’ve become a complete moron but”

“I mean all the awesome and cool kids are” […Are what?  Reading my blog, I presume…]

“I’m not telling you cos you will find it” [o.k., this so makes me want to know what “it” is (and where it is)]

“hem pants husband’ [yeah, husband!]

“I am not Cordelia”

 

Mildly Disturbing Searches

“Cordelia sucks” [hey!]

“dreams of being caught doing a crime”

“I want to paralyze myself?” [at least they put in the question mark?]

“I want to punch my sister”

“I want to punch my baby”

“why can’t I stop doing the middle finger”

“guess who I am (I just added you on FB)” [this one has a little too much of the stalker flavor about it for my liking]

 

Truly WTF? Searches

“I have a lot of random rocks and boulders” [good for you?]

“mobile home Cordelia”

“711 in Cordelia”

“Argentina vacation packages”

“why can false eyelashes be dangerous?”

“foster saps”

“Cordelia flood zone”

“Cordelia spanking Chelsea” [Chelsea, I am so very, very sorry for this one]

“ah shit you”

“mother overpants” [again, so curious to learn the story behind this one]

 

What About You?

O.k., so I already know that Abby’s search terms kick my ass a dozen ways to Wednesday (follow her on Facebook for occasional search term updates).  But for the rest of you bloggers, what have your favorite search term lead-ins been?

Or, if you’re one of the people who happened to find me through one of the searches above, feel free to explain yourself and/or let me know if my site provided any assistance to you with your needs.  (Seriously, “mother overpants” guy.  I am so talking to you.)

Image: Flickr

Never Feel Guilty for Following Your Dreams

A while back, A.J. O’Connell left a comment on a post (“The Way Things Are Isn’t The Way Things Have to Be”) that really got me thinking. She wrote:

“I still feel like since my comrades at the newspaper (and most people I know and love) are trudging along, meeting society’s expectations and suffering for it, so sometimes I feel like I’m not carrying my fair share.”

Her words struck me because this is something I’d secretly been feeling, too, but I didn’t fully realize it until she pointed it out.

When I tell people my plan to quit my job, the response I most dread hearing isn’t “You’re crazy” or “That’s impossible.” (I’m perfectly fine with those responses, because I know they’re entirely mistaken.) The response I dread hearing is “Well, wouldn’t that be nice?”

I hate, hate, HATE that phrase.

First and foremost, because it’s a form of the completely unattractive woe-is-me-ing I can’t stand hearing other people say. If you’re unhappy with something, change it. If it can’t be changed, learn to deal. Complaining and resenting do nothing but make you and everyone around you miserable. Rant concluded. Proceed with normal post.

I also hate that phrase because it makes me feel selfish for not trudging along with everyone else. It implies I’m trying to get away with something that isn’t fair, that I think I’m better than everyone else, or that I’m somehow harming other people by following my dreams. I’m not, I don’t, and I’m not, but that phrase still leaves me feeling like I’ve been punched in the gut.

It’s funny (or really, kind of sad) how thoroughly one person’s bitterness can undercut you.

 

Bad Vibes, Deconstructed

Guilt-trippers, like naysayers, are 100% worthless and to be ignored at all costs. But this particular guilt trip is tough for me to shake off because I’ve had similar guilty thoughts of my own since making my decision to escape the 9-to-5.

If you’re trying to do anything that’s a little out of the ordinary — or that other people secretly wish they could do too (but aren’t) — chances are you’ve felt some pangs of guilt yourself.

The good news is, you’ve got nothing to feel guilty about. The “wouldn’t that be nice” jab (like any other weapon in the guilt-tripper’s or naysayer’s arsenal) is faulty to the Nth. Let’s take a look at how well it really holds up:

 

Guilt Inducer #1: You’re trying to get away with something that isn’t fair

It’s unfair if you follow your dreams, and someone else follows their dreams, and you both put in the same amount of work and faith and passion… but in the end, you achieve your dream by some random fluke of luck and the other person fails by another, crappier fluke. (Not your fault, incidentally, but still universally unfair crappy.)

It’s unfair if you steal someone else’s dream away from them, cheat them out of their dream, or if your dream somehow infringes on the achievement of theirs. (Your fault, and also crappy.)

It’s unfair if you can only achieve your dream by hurting, lying to, stealing from, or taking advantage of someone else. (Your fault again. And shame on you!)

If someone else isn’t following their dream and you are following yours, that’s not unfair. That’s their fault for not following their dream.  (And don’t let them start telling you all the reasons why they’re not going after what they want. They’re not. End of argument.)

 

Guilt Inducer #2: You think you’re better than everyone else

The truth is, we’re all way too good for a subpar existence, and we all deserve better. But you can’t live anyone else’s life for them. You can try to motivate, or inspire, or give helpful pushes, but in the end, yours is the only dream you can bring into existence.

Downplaying your own dreams to make someone else feel better about not following theirs is stupid. (Tweet, tweet!) Sorry to be mean, but that’s the brutal truth.

You owe it to yourself and the world to live the best life you can. Period.

 

Guilt Inducer #3: You’re somehow harming other people by following your dreams

There’s nothing “take one for the team” about trudging along just because everyone else is.

We have to live our own lives the best way we can, and there’s nothing noble or self-sacrificing about resigning yourself to being miserable just because everyone else is doing it.  If anything, you owe it to those around you to go for your dreams just to prove it can be done.

Would I have locked step with the office drone lifestyle if I’d known, out of college, that it was completely feasible to live a minimalist, location-independent life and spend my days sitting in coffee shops writing things and being awesome? Hell to the Yes. But I didn’t even know such a lifestyle existed, let alone that it was possible. All I saw were people locking step, so I did the same, even though I felt kind of icky even as I was doing it. Had I found back then one fraction of the bloggers I currently follow, things could have been so very different.

There will always be people content to trudge along for a paycheck and live their lives quietly or desperately on the weekends. You’re not depriving the world of anything it won’t miss by being one rogue out of the horde of mindless drones. If anything, you owe it to people to show them there’s an alternative.

 

So, What Do You Say?

The next time someone throws the “wouldn’t that be nice” grenade your way — explicitly or implicitly — what do you do? How do you handle it?

I, for one, aim simply to nod, as Zen guru-like as possible, and say, “Yes, I think it would be.” And then I will go along and keep striving for what I am striving for.

Hopefully, the person will start to think I might be on to something.

*Cordelia postscript: Having made my impossible dream happen, I can tell you from experience that it is quite nice. 🙂

What guilt-trips have you been letting get you down, and how will you punch them squarely in the gut? Share your triumphs and tribulations in the comments!

Image: Flickr

What Story Are You Telling Yourself?

When I was a little kid, one of the funnest games to play was “let’s pretend”: “Let’s pretend the living room is the ocean, and the furniture is islands, so you have to swim to get to them!”… “Let’s pretend everything is opposite, like we can only move backwards!”…  “Let’s pretend I’m a really rich person and you’re my butler!”

(O.k., so you usually can’t get your younger siblings to go along with that one, but it’s worth a try.)

The awesome thing about the “let’s pretend” game was that it made the boring everyday things around you seem suddenly new and exciting. In the blink of an eye, you weren’t stuck inside with nothing to do on a rainy day; you were on a cool adventure, and everything you saw was part of that adventure.

Banisters were trees. Trees were giants. The world transformed around you, just because you said so. (It’s a handy trick to use if you’re babysitting, too. You’d be amazed how excited a kid can get about brushing his teeth or helping clear dishes if you make it into a race or a secret ninja test.)

 

The Power of Frames

The way we frame things matters. When we get older, we may stop intentionally imagining the world around us into something different. But while we’re no longer saying “let’s pretend,” we’re still telling ourselves stories that change the way we view things — and not always for the better.

It’s way too easy to cast yourself into a role. You’re the overworked, under-appreciated martyr. You’re the only nice person left in a world of jerks. You’re no good. You’re too good. Everyone else is no good. You’re hopeless. And, like magic, everything around you seems to fall into place to support that role.

Self-stories have a way of becoming self-fulfilling. If you look at the world through whatever-color glasses, guess what? Everything will look whatever-colored. (Tweet, tweet!)

But that doesn’t mean that it is. (Or that it has to be.)

 

Red Flags

I’ve begun to realize there’s one surefire to tell when I’m operating based on faulty self-stories. Any time I find myself thinking in terms of things that “usually,” “always” or “typically” happen, I should learn to stop myself right there, because I’m probably telling myself a story that won’t lead to anything good.

For instance:

  • This guy’s gonna cut me off. SUVs usually cut me off…
  • Of course she dumped that project on me. People always dump their projects on me. I’m the only one who ever does any work around here…
  • One more load of dishes to do. Typical. The chores never end…

Can you tell which sad, sorry stories I’m telling myself about my life in these examples? Here are the underlying (/unattractive) assumptions:

  • Everyone else drives like an idiot. Everyone is only out for themselves. SUV drivers are obnoxious. Woe is me. [Cordelia note: I personally do believe that the ratio of obnoxious SUV drivers to obnoxious small car drivers is considerably high, but an assumption is still an assumption, so I’m trying to be more charitable. Apologies if you’re one of the nice ones!]
  • Everyone wants to take advantage of me. No one appreciates how hard I work. Everyone else is just goofing off playing online poker or updating their Facebook status. Woe is me.
  • My life is ruled by chores and errands and I’m helpless to do anything about it. I’ll never have any time for myself. It’s all on me. [My husband is actually perfectly willing to help out if I ask him, but I rarely ask anyone for help because I’m too busy doing everything myself and then stewing over it.] Woe is me.

In summation: Not good, folks. Just plain Not Good.

 

Bad Story. Bad!

(In Which Cordelia Confesses She’s Not Always That Great)

In case you couldn’t tell, way too often I tell myself the “woe is me” story. I cast myself as the harried Girl Friday who does everything for everyone and never gets a break.

And what happens as a result? I’m stressed. I resent things. I dwell on petty inconveniences. I’m inundated with stress because I’m approaching the world stressfully. I’m easily irritated because I’m focusing on all the things that irritate me.

It’s not pretty, and I don’t like it. Actually, I feel pretty awful admitting to it. It’s a horrible way to approach a life. I’m not sure how I acquired it, but it’s time for a redo, stat.

 

Self-Story 2.0

(New & Improved!)

I’m deliberately trying to teach myself a different story now. For all my Cordelian ideals, I still find myself defaulting to the old story when things get hectic or I’m not feeling particularly strong. But I’m learning to catch myself when the bad self-casting kicks in and to start the new story playing instead.

The new story is infinitely better:

I’m taking control. I’m on my way to something better. I’m Cordelia, and I’m calling it quits, because there are better things to do with a life.

Are the same stresses and petty inconveniences still there? Yep. Of course. But I don’t mind them as much. The world seems a little rosier in my new role, which means I’m reacting to it better, which in turns makes better things happen.The story perpetuates itself.

Is this sort of self-narrative a little too golly-gee-whiz perky? Damn straight it is.

Sort of a silly “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me” affirmation? Might be. What of it?

I’ve takenthe opposite approach, and personally, I think it’s crap. If I’ve got a choice between stories to believe in, you bet your sweet tail I’m going for the happier one.

I’m done bemoaning the world I think I’m stuck in. I’m ready to start creating the world I want to live in.

So, what kind of story are YOU telling yourself?

Image: Flickr

Screw the Game of Life. Here’s the Real Way to Play It

I never played The Game of Life as a kid. Count it among the many random ways my childhood was deprived of things most normal American children experience (including getting something from the ice cream truck, seeing The Goonies and going to a birthday party at Chuck E Cheese).

Maybe if I’d played it back then, when things like jobs and life insurance policies seemed cool because they were “grownup,” I would have enjoyed it more. But when my husband introduced me to the game recently (I’m trying to make up for lost experiences), I have to say I was disappointed —  and also oddly disturbed.

I was expecting the game to be more of a choose-your-own adventure, something that lets kids role-play being an adult by making various choices and then seeing what the consequences would be. And there is some of that.  (Don’t want to buy that auto insurance? Guess who just got into an accident!)

But for the most part, I felt like I was being moved along on a conveyor belt, collecting things as I was told to based on random numbers generated by a little plastic spinner arm.

It didn’t feel like fun; it felt like obeying orders.

 

I Have to Do What, Now?

What if I didn’t want three little peg-headed children? What if I wanted two  (Or none at all, for that matter?) Or what if I wanted to wait until I had a little more money to properly support them?

And did I really have to buy a helicopter on my modest teacher’s salary just because that’s the space I landed on? What if I didn’t want a helicopter? I already owned enough things I couldn’t afford, including a house, a business, two horses, and apparently all of my dead aunt’s 50 cats.

Being told what to do and when to do it, and then doing it, isn’t my idea of a super-fun time. When I reached the “Day of Reckoning,” I had the little family of five that had been assigned to me, a collection of ridiculously pricey items, and a life insurance policy to cash in on. But I didn’t feel any sense of triumph or accomplishment.

All I’d done was check off the boxes I was supposed to, exactly the same as my opponent (although I have to admit he’d done it much more successfully than I had). And now that I’d reached the end, I had nothing to show for it but a bunch of stuff I didn’t want to begin with and the sense of having been pushed through a series of events I’d had no say in.

Woo. Hoo.

Quite frankly, I was hoping for a little more out of Life.

 

So This Is What It’s Like to Be a Grownup?

I think the reason I disliked the game so much (I found myself actively resenting it by the end, and not because I’d lost) was that it’s actually an all-too-accurate depiction of what it’s like to be an adult. And I don’t agree with The Way Things Are in real life, either.

I can accept that sometimes random events (fire, lottery windfall, etc.) happen to you when you least expect them. I can also accept the notion of a giant spinner arm of fate/God/what-have-you that grants certain people “luck” and other people misfortune on a seemingly random basis. I may be an idealist, but I understand that sometimes the good guy doesn’t always win in the end. (I don’t necessarily like it, but I can begrudgingly accept it.)

The thing that bothered me about The Game of Life wasn’t these random ups and downs, but how compulsory it felt. Just like my actual grownup life, I didn’t feel like I had much input into how I went about living. I was simply following a preset line, doing what I was supposed to do whenever I was expected to do it.

I may have more say in the real world over whether or not I buy a helicopter, but there are still plenty of spaces along the road of life where you’re expected to do or acquire certain things just because that’s the way most people normally go about it. There’s a generally accepted blueprint for living, and most of us follow it without thinking twice.

You can tell because other people are guaranteed to notice when you’re not following this blueprint. You reach a certain age, and people start asking you “when you’re going to” do various things: When are you going to get married? Start having kids? Buy a house? The implication is that you either should have done these things by now, or you’re about due to, because the typical life goes along a continuum just like the board game, with certain actions you take at certain stages.

Everyone’s board looks a little bit different, but the basic layout is the same: go to college, get a job, get married, have 2.5 kids and a 2.5 car garage house, work 9 to 5 five days a week, keep doing that till you’re 65, and then (if you’re lucky), you reach the end space, where you get to finally relax and just live life (if you have the money and health left to do so). You move along the winding, colorful spaces with everyone else, collecting things at the points you’re supposed to, and that is considered a “life.”

 

Break Free of the Board

Personally, I have a problem with that. A big problem.

I don’t have a grand master plan for the future, but I can tell you I’m not too enthused about the idea of living my life as a series of checkpoints and to-dos. Especially when they’re someone else’s. (Tweet, tweet!)

I have a to-do list of my own, thank you, and only so much time in which to accomplish it.

I don’t care what I’m “supposed to” have done or “supposed to” have gotten by my 28th year of living. I don’t care where everyone else’s little plastic cars are on the board. This is my life, and there’s an awful lot I’d like to do with it. And none of it will get done if I waste my time trying to make my life conform to the usual pattern.

Which is why I’m taking my little plastic car off road to see what kind of adventures I can come up with beyond the board. I don’t know about you, but I think that sounds like a lot more fun.

What’s your take on the game of life? Are you ready to off-road it, too?

Image: Flickr