Girlmore girls, shoes, and eternal youth (sorta) on Facebook.

1. Gilmore Girls: Every so often Gilmore Girls would come up in conversation and I would confess that I had never seen it. Eyes would go wide. Gasps would be heard. Chests would be clutched (theirs, not mine). It was, if I may be so bold, an even bigger deal than when people found out I had never seen any of the Star Wars movies. (My husband rectified the latter shortly after we were married, and later made me watch the new ones as well. I remain unimpressed… sorry Star Wars fans.)

Sometimes I like to have some noise while I work, and I was tired of my regular podcasts, so over the last few weeks, I decided to fill that gaping hole in my pop culture library.

I finished the last episode a few days ago, and I kind of wish I’d nerdily live-blogged my reactions, but I think I mostly enjoyed it. I bet my reactions would have been solidly different if I’d caught this show when it first aired. I was younger then, and probably would have identified more with Loralei (Lorelei? Lorelai?). But now that I’m an old, cantankerous bat, I found myself identifying more with her parents, minus the snobbery.

Sookie is mad

I sort of wanted to throw all the shoes at the screen during season 7, but that’s over now, and I’m glad. Team Luke forever. I hated all of Rory’s boyfriends, and I’m extra mad at Dean and whoever decided that a great way for a kid to lose their virginity was to do it with a married guy. Excuse me while I pick up my cane again and wave it around whilst shouting “get off my lawn,” but any story line that involves cheating fills me with rage and sadness. Sookie is my favorite and I must shamefacedly admit it’s the first Melissa McCarthy role I’ve seen. She is rainbows and glitter and I’m super sad she won’t be coming back for the probably ill-advised reboot.

2. New Shoes: So I mentioned briefly, somewhere, I think? That I started getting a runner’s knee issue on the outside of my right knee. Weird, since I do not run unless being chased by a hungry bear. It ruined my walking routine and has seriously bummed me out for lo, all these many months.

One of my many doctors (I collect them, for funsies) suggested I go get my feet analyzed and get proper shoes to deal with my high arches and pronation. This was after he had me bring in my sad Fila shoes that I got for $15 at Costco. I think he was a little cross that we had been doing all this stretching and resting after I assured him my workout shoes were “fine,” because $15 Fila shoes that are also probably 10 years old at least are not fine.

So I went to Wasatch Running Center and immediately found myself extremely intimidated. But I was soon put at ease by being told to put on socks that were not my own and jog down a pseudo catwalk in the store in front of all the people. Right, so it was super embarrassing, but also very helpful. The lady that helped me was very nice and I spent a BAJILLION MILLION dollars on shoes and arch support inserts that make my feet want to run for fun.

These, plus arch support insert things = hooray.

These, plus arch support insert things = hooray.

Just kidding, I will never run for fun. But I took them on a couple of test walks and NO KNEE PAIN! Confetti and cupcakes for everyone.

3. Bookface hair: I got bangs. Or fringe, if you’re fancy. I haven’t had bangs for a very long time. At least several years. I have to get used to them feeling like creeping things on my forehead but so far I am not filled with drastic-hair-change-regret also known as DHCR — a terribly sad and tragic condition. We should make ribbons and organize a 5K walk to raise funds for the cause. Free Thin Mints for everyone suffering from DHCR. #imasurvivor, see, I grew out a pixie cut. Solidarity DHCR sisters! And also, I could have used some Thin Mints during the process, for sure.

Anyway, so not having DHCR is good, but I am a little concerned that my new bangs hearken a little too much unto high school hair, but they are at least, less crispy. And also, if we’re honest, less brown.

bangs

Mega props to Kismet for the Napoleon Dynamite caption for my throw back picture. I laughed for days.

I would sort of like to update my profile photo on Facebook with this terrible Photobooth picture (the one with the phone hiding half my face, just to be clear) so that those who know me in real life will not be startled when they bump into me at the market and discover I have a giant regent-era mustache on my forehead. BUT, alas, I will not do any Facebook profile picture updating ever again.

Why? You ask? BECAUSE. A profile photo change is not like this quiet thing that happens. It’s BROADCASTED, you know? When you update your photo on Twitter, nobody is the wiser, and sometimes you even have to announce it so people don’t wonder who you are because your tiny thumbnail looks so different. But on Facebook, it is NEWS. It sticks your GIGANTIC new photo in everyone’s feeds. Everyone’s! And then all the people comment on it and it’s very, very embarrassing. It’s way more overwhelming than posting a bang-shot to my tiny, private Instagram account. I guess I just don’t like making Great Uncle George in Koosharem feel like he has to complement my skin tone.

The last time I updated my picture on The Facebook, I deleted the big huge photo from my timeline thinking that would be that, but no. No, indeed. Facebook still sent it out to everyone like it was the latest and greatest cat video.

So I will be bangless and 39 years old on Facebook forever, the end.

Personality Type

personality-type

I remember taking a personality test way back in high school. After some digging it looks like it was probably the Hartman Personality Profile. I remember I got a ‘blue’ result and was mad because I wasn’t a yellow. Yellows were outgoing and fun loving, and that was kind of the persona I tried to put on in my teens. Blues seemed more complex and I didn’t like the description at all.

I am now a white (introverted, quiet, home-body, avoider of conflict), though that is a guess based on what I can remember about the color personality types. It looks like the only reputable place to take a Color Code test is here, and it’s set up kind of oddly. It wants you to answer the questions as if you were still a child, which seems problematic — I got a yellow result doing it their way, but that’s because that’s what I wanted to be as a kid… it wasn’t who I was, and it’s not who I am at my core. Not at all!

My friends like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality tests, which I think are considered more accurate and the personality standard today, anyway. Curious after my friend Kat had been talking about her results, I found a test and took it.

My result? INTJ. Which stands for Introversion + Intuition + Thinking + Judging. I don’t understand it all yet (I’m still researching) but what I’ve learned so far about this type is hilarious. And by hilarious, I mean SPOT ON. It’s very entertaining to read about my own personality quirks! It’s like they are a real thing and not just my random, unique weirdness. It’s kind of reassuring I guess, that I’m not as big a ‘lone reed’ as I thought… though INTJ is one of the rarest personality types, and it’s even more rare in women.

rareintj

Wikipedia states “INTJs are one of the rarest of the sixteen psychological types and account for approximately 1-2% of the population.”

The “I” in INTJ stands for Introversion. Essentially, INTJs are introverts who prefer small, intimate friend groups rather than maintaining large a large circle of social acquaintances. We expend energy in a social situation and go home feeling quite drained. We need a recovery period after a social interaction wheras most extroverts (the outgoing type) thrive on social interaction and feel fulfilled and ‘filled up’ after a party.

653790f4a7cde6e402e62fc2ed69e8ed

This is SO me. My idea of a great time is being alone. My group of close friends is very small, in fact, the only reason I have friends at all is because they kind of forced me to be friends. That sounds awful, but if they hadn’t taken the initiative, I wouldn’t have any friends and I wouldn’t feel like I needed any. Like, at all. Moving away has shown me that I do need and miss them, but I would never have missed what I didn’t have if they hadn’t barged their way in in the first place. If this sounds unfeeling and cold, trust me, they all know how weird I am and for some strange reason, love me anyway.

The “N” stands for ‘iNtuition preferred to sensing,’. This link explains: “intuitive types are comfortable in the realm of abstract thinking. They prefer to solve problems by pondering them rather than engaging in hands-on experience. They connect to symbols and metaphors, and are more likely to remember the “big picture” of an event and the way it felt rather than the details that occurred. They’re the type of person who, upon arriving at a destination, realizes they didn’t notice any of the landmarks along the way, because she was caught up in an idea.”

I think this is a nice way of saying we can tend to be dreamers who like to live in our own heads a lot. I am forever arriving at my destination and becoming somewhat alarmed that I don’t remember driving there. I call it going on autopilot. I generally don’t listen to music in the car so I can have lots of time to spend with my own brain. I always thought this was peculiar… and I suppose it is, but it’s nice to know there are at least 4 in 500 other women who may do the same thing — ha.

The “T” stands for ‘thinking preferred to feeling.’ Yes! From Wikipedia: “INTJs tend to value objective criteria above personal preference or sentiment. When making decisions they generally give more weight to logic than to social considerations.”

During my late teens and early 20s I heard a lot from boys/men I was dating was, “You’re like a guy.” I think this was because I was fairly logical and that was somewhat unusual in their experience — at least I hope so. It might have been because it was stretching it to call myself an A-cup. Bah-dum-dum-ching!

I have always wanted to talk misunderstandings out and solve them from non-emotional spaces. I can be the guy in the “it’s not about the nail” scenario and annoy my friends by trying to solve their problems rather than just listening to them vent.

That isn’t to say that I’m completely non-emotional. I am a female, I have nonsensical hormonal fluctuations and PMS; I am definitely not a robot. I’m sure you could probably do a search through my archives and find a lot of situations where I made a choice claiming “it felt right.” But the majority of the time, I tend to make decisions based on pros-cons lists and less on feelings or emotions. If I am being unusually emotional about something, logic will be what calms me down. Focusing on those pros/cons, writing it out, looking at it rationally, and coming up with solutions or coping mechanisms will all help me deal with an overload of feelings. I don’t feel better after a big cry session unless there is actual, concrete problem solving going on as well.

The “J” stands for ‘judgement preferred to perception.’ From Wikipedia again, “INTJs tend to plan their activities and make decisions early. They derive a sense of control through predictability…”

I am SUCH a planner. But not in the sense that you might imagine when you hear the word ‘planner.’ I’m not good with set routines, schedules or hard and fast rules (eg: Yoga at 10am sharp every single day forever!) But I make all kinds of larger-scope plans (eg: do Yoga a few times this week!) and am not very good at spontaneity at all. When Tracy calls to tell me she’s on the way to my house and we’re going shopping, it can ruin my day. I need more time to process. Sometimes I gird my loins and go and end up having a great time, but ideally I like to have a few days’ notice before an activity that requires leaving my house (or having visitors). I am the absolute worst with friendly neighbor drop-bys. I will all-out hide from the door and not answer.

welcome-mat

The phone ringing unannounced can give me the same kind of anxiety and I don’t answer unless I have to… and even then…

7079604a9bd18d7de6278ad78077d81d

I think this fits this “J” section as well: I’m also a spectacular planner and organizer of time for others. If you need a plan for exercising, homeschooling, budgeting, remodeling / renovating, mood boards, a business plan, a gardening plan, a floorplan or floorplan revisions, a self-improvement plan… oh my word, am I your girl.

destroy

I LOVE research and I adore compiling that research into an orderly project with executable instructions. Seriously, research is what I do for fun. I’ve had a few clients over the years that have had me organize a custom homeschooling plan for them. They give me parameters like what their budget is, the ages and levels of their kids, the time they have, the other things they need to fit in, and I deliver a veritable book with curriculum choices, daily schedules, and even a customized teacher-planner if they are into that kind of thing. I LOVE IT and wish I had more time for stuff like that.

I’m still learning about all of this, but I really loved the INTJ information I found at this website: Oddly Developed Types. So much of it rang true. I had a good time reading parts of it out loud to the kids. They were like, “Did someone study you? Did they write this up after they met you?”

What about you? Do you know your color type? Have you ever taken a Meyer’s Briggs test? I’ve taken lots of them now, and keep getting the same result. I think I’m married to an INTJ as well and we get along spectacularly.

I want to talk a bit more about this, so we’ll see if I can organize my thoughts a bit more on the subject before March is over :) What say ye? Boring or fascinating? I’m kind of fascinated.

Yes, my kids are in public school this year. I have finally stopped crying about it.

(tl;dr version at the bottom) It was such an incredibly difficult decision for both me and my husband. We have so many strong convictions about homeschooling, it felt like we’d failed when we couldn’t figure out how to make it work this year. Especially since a huge part of the reason I walked away from one job opportunity into this one was so that I could continue working from home and thereby continue putting my kids first and homeschooling.

school

The original work plan

But life has a way of kicking you in the shorts. That is, it likes to take your best laid plans and poop all over them. The plan when I took this position with Sun Tail Mermaid was this: I’d help design a new line of mermaid tails, and I’d design and invent a new monofin swim flipper. We’d develop and launch these products and then my role with the company would move to a much more removed, super part time position, eventually backing out of the picture 100%.

SIDEBAR: There’s this misconception out there, even among family members, that I OWN Sun Tails. I don’t! I own a share of the company — that was just part of the hiring deal — but I’m not the head honcho.

Anyway, that timeline has NOT gone according to plan. It has taken ten times the amount of time we thought it would to test and perfect the products, and we’ve had all kinds of manufacturing hiccups and bumps along the way. I held out hope until just a few weeks before school was going to be starting that I’d be able to get everything done to that point where I could back out of the picture and return to homeschooling, but it just didn’t work out.

I cried a lot.

We found a charter school where all the kids could go to the same building. It’s smaller, and we hoped that would make for less culture shock. I had all kinds of worries — though I had tried very hard to make sure my kids were operating at and above grade levels, I’d have these nightmares where they’d go to school and get yelled at for being dumb homeschoolers who didn’t know how to raise their hands or ask before going to the bathroom.

My bad dreams were a waste, because they’re doing great. They love it, actually. All of them. It hurts my feelings a little bit :) But mostly I’m really thankful, because it’s just what we have to do this year (and maybe next?); I’m very glad they aren’t miserable.

The Myth of Free Time

A weird thing I keep hearing is, “Oooh, isn’t it nice to have all that free time?” And I’m like, “Huh? Where is this free time? Did I not fill out the right form? Did it get waylaid en route to my door?” Putting the kids in school didn’t help my schedule at all, in fact it made it a lot more difficult. I knew they’d be miserable (as they were last year) with me cramming in homeschooling around my demanding work schedule, so putting them in school was 110% for them. In no way has it resulted in some magical 8 hour workday I’d have if I worked in an office and they were in an after school care program or something (their school does not have one). They’re happy, but all the things I feared about a public school lifestyle are true.

For YEARS people have said, “Oh you’re so brave/awesome/patient for being a homeschooling mom! I could never! I don’t know how you do it!” And I’d roll my eyes so hard they’d stick to the back of my head. Because give me a break. Homeschooling is easy compared to this! Lazy! Relaxed! We wake up when we want to. We eat breakfast at a leisurely, non-frantic pace. There is no morning shouting over backpacks or misplaced lunch bags. There are no early morning freak outs about the level of the gas tank in the car or the fact that we ran out of bread or peanut butter and no one noticed the day before when I could have gone to the store without making everyone late.

During the years when I did not *have* to work, the actual homeschooling (school type work stuff, grammar, math, etc.) of four kids took up only a few hours of our day. We had the rest of the day to explore nature, hike, go to museums, watch movies that corresponded with our studies, read piles of wonderful books, spend time at the library, enroll in co-op classes, and do science projects. Oh the free time I had then! I had time for small side businesses and projects, time to read and relax on my own while kids played! I’d stretch out on a blanket at the park, or we’d enjoy the lake shore or swimming pools while everyone else was in school. Sigh. I miss those days. I miss that life.

I am in the car for an hour every day thanks to J being in early morning seminary this year and the distance from our house to seminary and their school. We’re in the car longer if we are waiting at the school for someone to get done with band or orchestra (not worth it to go home and come back). I realize that’s not true for everyone. If they were attending the public schools in our neighborhood things would be simpler. But again, their school felt like the best choice for them, and they agreed. We toured many and this one won hands down.

THE HOMEWORK. I can’t even. We have like, five minutes together (this is what it feels like) to eat and relax, spend time together… but it’s eaten up, stolen, by homework. Homework is the devil. I hate it so much. It is so difficult to keep every kid’s class requirements straight, and papers get lost from their lockers to home. I didn’t have this much homework as a kid. I get that teachers think it reinforces concepts, I get that they don’t have enough time to devote to everything in class even though they have my kid for the bulk of each day. I get that national standards force teachers to ‘teach for the test’ and are under a lot of pressure and some of that spills over into homework. I get it. I just hate it, that’s all. I’m allowed to hate it. Me hating it shouldn’t make any teachers out there feel attacked, they do their best, I know (and I love my kids’ teachers, they are super). It just is what it is: life sucking, time robbing, evening ruining, satanic devil homework from hell. #iampronetohyperbole

We are not even going to discuss the volunteer time at the school that is required and asked of me. I have no idea how I am supposed to fit this into my life. How do parents who work at offices fit this in? Do they take vacation time? A sick day? I don’t get it. I know why the school wants it, B loves it when he has reading buddies come to his class (upper classmen or volunteer parents) and I wish I could be there, but I just can’t. Plus there are fundraisers and parent meetings and Managebac training… it just feels like this whole LIFE. And while you might be all, “Holy cow, homeschooling moms are super amazing / intimidating / crazy / masochists.” I’m all, “You’re all insane, you have no idea. Homeschooling is CALM. This is full of crazy. I am dying. Send life preserver. Drowning. Halp.”

Disclaimer: I fully admit to being a whiny pants baby who hates certain types of change (namely the type that requires stuff from me). For many, public school is just a have-to, ain’t no way around it kind of decision. Because work. Because single parent. Because life. Because socioeconomic status. Because homeschooling is weird and out there and unknown and therefore scary; or impossible or eschewed because of any number of other valid reasons.

tl;dr: The back and forth and the homework really cuts into my work time, but this was a solution for the kids, not me. I just have to deal. I have to work with what I have, work more effectively and productively. It’s hard. I don’t have time for a lot of the things I’d like to do (like do more stuff with this house at a quicker pace, for example). But I am happy the kids are happy. And that’s no small thing.

Homeschooling while working from home full time

This past school year was a new adventure for us in homeschooling. With my husband working full time outside the home, and me working full time in it… juggling kids and school was quite a trick. Towards the last part of our second semester, we finally landed sort of accidentally into a good routine. My oldest, J, thought it would be fun to do a ‘day in the life’ type photolog. We didn’t get all the photos we would have liked, but I suppose what we got gives you a good idea of what our days looked like before school let out.

A Day in the Life

6:00am: I had to become a morning person.

IMG_3079 copy

If you’re a long time reader you’ll know that I have always struggled with mornings. Getting up this early, this regularly would NOT have worked for me in the past. But one of my doctors was finally able to get my cortisol levels back in line and it is WILD. I’m still on hydrocortizone, but we’re getting to the point where I will be able to wean off of it. My eyes pop open around the same time every morning (without an alarm!!!) and I am no longer able to make myself sleep in. Even if I’ve had a rough night. It’s basically miraculous. And it saved my butt this year.

Mornings are still rough for me on the whole (eg: if I have to go somewhere early, it can bring on an episode) but mornings at home are easier to manage.

6:00 – 7:00am I had to make a little quiet time for myself before anyone else was up. I had to forbid myself from even looking at my inbox of phone messages until after I’d had this time to myself or I would lose my mind.

IMG_3062

My body and health are both high maintenance these days. If I skip this time for yoga and meditation, it would really wreak havoc in my system. My stress levels would go through the roof and episodes would start up again. This hour every morning keeps me grounded and feeling like I am in control.

7:00am: Wake up the kids.

IMG_3083

This was new for all of us, and not particularly easy on anyone. As homeschoolers (with a night-owl mom) we always took our days at our own pace before, maybe not starting school until 10 or 11am. But in order for me to have a good block of work time, we had to get started earlier. It didn’t take long for everyone to adjust to earlier bedtimes and earlier mornings, but it was painful for a while.

7:00 – 7:30am: Get ready.

IMG_3160

It helped with the entire day if I was able to get fully dressed and ready before we got embroiled in school and work. I didn’t always, sometimes I’d be in yoga pants at 6pm, but I can tell a difference in how the day goes if I get ready early on. Same went for the kids. Getting them ready for the day helped us all get in the mindset that we had things to do.

IMG_3103

We created some extra incentive – if they could be done with all of their school stuff and chores by a certain time period they’d get more time on their electronic devices. If they dragged their feet and did not get finished with school work until later in the day, they lost all electronic device time. That was incredibly motivating for them and worked really well.

7:30 – 10:00am: Breakfast and school.

IMG_3120

We made breakfast and everyone would get started on their school stuff.

IMG_3111

My three older kids are very independent at this point (they were grades 3, 5, and 7 this year) and don’t need me as much. I spend the hours after breakfast helping B get through his Kindergarten work, and doing the things with the kids that required my involvement like spelling, science, and unlocking devices for Xtramath or Teaching Textbooks.

10:00am: Mom “goes” to work.

IMG_3159

My business hours start at 10am and this is the part that would probably not work if someone was homeschooling a gaggle of little ones. The baby monitor acts like an intercom. It allows me to hear what’s going on — if any altercations erupt or if someone is being obnoxious I can deal with it, but it helps to have older kids who are responsible and you know, past the era of spreading peanut butter all over the sofa.

The big kids finish up on their own after I go upstairs to work, and bring their work to me so I can check it. If they need to fix anything, they do it right there near me. After school is all finished, they do their chores.

12:00pm: Lunch break.

(This is where we fell off the wagon and don’t have as many photos.)

I tear myself away (it is SO hard once I’m in the work head-space) and join everyone for lunch. I check in with them on school, make sure everything got done. Chores have usually started by now.

The whole house (except for my room and bathroom) is split up into sections for each kid, so as long as they do their chores the house gets a decent tidying up every day. We do a deep clean not on a schedule, just when it’s needed, and usually on a Saturday. They are usually done with their chores by 1pm and have the rest of the afternoon free. They can walk to the park, play their screen time, play games, read, whatever.

1:00pm – 5:00pm: Mom works, kids play.

IMG_3161

This part worked amazingly well. I’ve never been a hover parent, so my kids know how to play and entertain themselves, and they love to read. It got a little boring for them sometimes, but I usually got four hours of uninterrupted work time here. Not always though. Sometimes it was one of those days where everyone was listless or one kid was just being ornery to everyone and causing problems, or other things interrupted me like doctor appointments or running kids to and fro for dance and scouts and stuff like that.

When neighborhood kids were home from school and done with their homework they’d start showing up and my kids would disappear outside to play.

5:00pm: Dinner and clocking out.

desertbeach

The most difficult part of my day right here, well not the desert beach picture, that’s great, but clocking out. It’s just so hard to tear myself away and then make myself turn it all off and not come back to it after dinner. Sometimes I had to to come back in the evenings to work, but I tried really hard not to. Once the weather got nice we’d drive to a park or something to get me physically away from work and make a more tangible break at the end of the day.

8:00pm: Bedtime.

I love our night time routine. It’s so nice to have family time that doesn’t have anything to do with school, work, or chores. We gather in N & K’s room, read scriptures, say prayers, and then I read a few chapters from whatever book we’re reading together. B. usually likes to be tucked in after prayers, and then I read a bit longer to the older kids. I try to be in bed with lights and devices off by 10:30pm so I could wake up and do it all over again.


That’s it! We sure are glad school is out. I probably switched tenses a lot above (no time to proofread) as our schedule now is similar and we’re doing a lot of the same things. Without school stuff to worry about it feels a lot less stressful, though. I won’t lie to you and say this was easy, it wasn’t, but I do recognize that being able to work from home and homeschool my kids makes for a very privileged life all the same.

I’m not sure what this coming fall will look like. We’re in the process of packing up our little Wyoming rental here for a big move to Utah. Sun Tails is growing and life is very, very busy.

Being authentic

When I finally decided to take a leap and head up Sun Tail Mermaid, my business partner and I initially structured the operating agreements so that my identity could remain hidden. Not because we thought we were doing anything wrong, but because I didn’t want to make things awkward or uncomfortable for anyone that knew both myself and the individuals involved with the other company.

Sensitive Species

But, as I’ve mentioned, it was soon apparent that we’d need to patent my monofin. But how to do it? Could you patent a product in the name of a company? Yes, but the inventor’s name was required by law to be on the documents. Documents which would eventually be public. Couldn’t we patent it in someone else’s name? Sell them the idea, but retain the rights? Too risky, and pretty unconventional besides. My patent attorney was baffled. Never, ever, had she come across any inventor not wanting their name up in the big lights, so to speak.

Yes, well, how do you do? My name is Jessica and I want the spotlight exactly zero.

We were also discovering it would be more challenging to launch a business without even being able to utilize our own personal and professional networks. Coming out of the closet, so to speak, was becoming more and more important.

I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that it all created quite the existential crisis.

Panic button

This is navel gazing at it’s finest, you guys. But here goes.

I was rather loud and obnoxious and spotlight-loving in high school. I was in the drama club, for crying out loud; where the goal was, to literally be on a stage under a spotlight. It makes my throat close up to even talk about it now.

And my friends and I regularly did really stupid attention-grabby things. Amber and I would rig our backpacks to split, and then have an ocean of tampons and maxi-pads spill from the slit in the middle of the hallway, then kneel scraping them up and shoving them back in, acting embarrassed and purposefully bonking into people and generally causing havoc. Or we’d spray our crotches with water before we went on stage to make an announcement at an assembly.

spartans cheerleader

I might on-purpose tuck a long stream of toilet paper into my panties and let it trail behind me in the crowded school halls like it had gotten stuck there whilst in the loo. Sheelagh gave me a fart machine from Spencer’s Gifts in the mall, and I’d let it rip during a history exam, then watch gleefully as students hastily scooted their desks away from my person, disrupting the class and annoying the teacher.

After more idiotic antics at college, I moved away and became involved with a manipulative freak-show of a human being. To put it bluntly and succinctly, it was a scary, twisted, nightmare of an abusive relationship and when I finally emerged three years later, I felt like an empty shell.

My high school years seemed horrifying from this new, broken vantage point. More so, I think, than most, because I was so over the top. I mean, who isn’t at least vaguely embarrassed by their teen years? But I’d gone from one extreme to the other and couldn’t tell where I was supposed to land. I wasn’t comfortable with the pre-nightmare persona, and had no idea who I was post-nightmare either. It seemed the only answer was to clam up and observe.

This clamming up became quite a comfortable place to be.

Go away, I'm introverting

Twenty years later, I was sitting in my little office contemplating what, exactly, I was so afraid of. My health, after steadily improving had taken a nose dive as I tried to gird my loins for the mermaid-out-of-the-closeting. I’d burst into tears trying to put my real name on Facebook. I couldn’t do it.

I finally faced the fact that some of this old, moldy baggage was still mucking about in my heart and brain spaces.

This was alarming. I am not one who enjoys lying on a psychiatrist’s couch marinating in the past (no offense to those of you who do). I had no desire whatsoever to contemplate endlessly, my formative years and analyze them under a microscope in order to sort out what might have led to what, and why I now identified so strongly as a quivering, little brown church mouse.

Baggage Dept

So I mulled things over. The then, the now, the in between. And thankfully with only a handful of phone calls to my lovely mother and without too much introspective headache, I realized something that is probably quite clear to you already — it was something I already knew on some level, but just hadn’t connected all the dots.

The crazy personality in high school was a form of armor, because of course it was. It was safer to construct the embarrassing situations myself rather than wait for one to come along and surprise me. I’d had too many rejections and mortifications in elementary school and junior high, so this way, I was in control. I laughed at everything (and I do mean everything) as a way to show that my status as misfit didn’t bother me. And if people didn’t like me, it didn’t matter, because I wasn’t being real with them anyway.

245/365 - Never let your guard down

It likely wasn’t much different than any other coming-of-age survival tactic, a variety of which I’m sure are regularly deployed in institutionalized learning environs the world over. From the goths layering on a thick coat of “I don’t care,” to the jocks with their hard, shiny veneer of toughness – we were, many of us, just shielding and protecting ourselves from the various horrors of high school (and life in general), no?

These were things I already knew. But what was a bit more of a revelation was the fact that I was still toting around some fairly heavy-duty armor in my grown-up late 30s. Only it was of a different sort. I know, right? Duh, everyone says.

Armor complete with a vast moat; thick, impenetrable walls of stone; and a drawbridge, tightly drawn. It’s a wonder how my small band of friends ever managed to survive the crocodiles and various man eating fishes to forge across and batter through.

I should clearly order this book straightaway.

I should clearly order this book straightaway.

Recognizing this made for quite a significant paradigm shift. I wasn’t really all that afraid of potential feelings or sticky relationships, I was simply afraid to put myself out there; to be authentically me.

It was an uncomfortable thought to consider that my cozy, agoraphobic, hermity ways might not be entirely the true me. I decided if I deconstructed some of the bullet proof glass and bomb shelter walls that made up my comfort zone, I’d maybe find a happier, more self confident person inside. Or at least one unafraid to stand up and say, “Hey, I made something rad. I think you might like it. And if you don’t, that’s cool.”

Stuart Smalley would be so proud.

An ancient SNL skit for the uninitiated.  The inimitable Stuart Smalley.

After all, the painful years of youth are long since past, and certainly no one on Facebook (I finally braved it, thank you) gives a rat’s banana what I may have or mayn’t have been like over two decades ago.

Oy, the navel gazing has turned into outright belly button lint gathering*, so I’ll sum up. It turned out that merely discovering and acknowledging this whole armor wearing thing was more than half the battle. I am definitely, and authentically still very much an introvert, but I’m a braver and more courageous one, and I’m not ashamed to say this has been my theme song of late:

I promised no more to-be-continueds so I won’t say to be continued… I’ll just say that perhaps I’ll write more on this subject should the fancy strike, mayhap at some loosely defined appointment in the foggy future.

*Do not, I repeat, do not search Google images for belly button lint sculptures. I am going to need to vomit.