Frog Hunting – Episode 2

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Note from the author: This is a follow-up to the post “Frog Hunting,” which you may want to read first.

 

After six months of unsuccessful attempts to meet men online, I canceled my online dating account.

Then, after eight months of unsuccessful attempts to meet men in person, I joined a new dating app.

And it’s been chaos ever since. In fact, I had to put a hold on my account because I was talking to too many men at once. Believe me, that is a sentence I never thought I’d say. Last month, there was a moment when I was actively trying to schedule four dates at once. I submit this as proof that not only is there a God, but he has a spectacular sense of humor. (I also submit those monkeys with the crazy noses, because COME ON.)

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I’ve only gone on five dates so far, and all of them have had some special moments, as most first dates do.

But there’s really only one that I need to tell you about. And it’s a bit of a long story, but that’s necessary for you to get the full effect. So bear with me.

 

I met this gentleman (we’ll call him Gary) for a beer at a local brewery. ThinkstockPhotos-517501476

(For the record, the beer was excellent. I would always recommend going somewhere you like on a first date because then even if the date is terrible, you at least get to enjoy some aspect of it.)

Gary is a good-looking man, and his dating profile is full of photos from his military days, which adds a level of attractiveness that I’ve never actually understood. Talk to the Bennet sisters or Debra Winger if you need further clarification on that point.

Anyway. We shook hands, sat at the bar, and started chatting. He seemed nice, genuinely interested in what I had to say, and like a financially viable adult, which at my age is 80% of what makes a guy worth dating. I had already learned from our online conversation that Gary was new to Indy, that we had some hobbies in common, and that he worked for a popular mattress company.

What I soon learned in person as we talked about sports and local restaurants was that his job perfectly described his personality: a snore.

Trying to see if the soporific quality of his conversation was due to the topics at hand, I asked him, “So, Gary. Are you a church-going man?”

He smiled. “No, not really. But I’m very religious.”

He said something after this about growing up in the Methodist church, but I was so busy trying to figure out how you could claim Christianity as your faith, be religious, and still not go to church, that I totally missed what he was saying. I tuned back in when he said, “But actually, I’ve started a new project lately!”

Anticipating some clarification on his spiritual situation, I said, “Oh?”

“Yes! I just purchased a snorkel mask and wet suit in order to snorkel the White River to find snails. I’m planning on starting my own snail farm! I’m a big escargot person. Do you like escargot?”

You guys. He was so excited about this. It was the first inkling of emotion he’d shown in half an hour. (But can we also point out the inherit hilarity of saying you’re a “big escargot person?”)

“I…I guess I’ve never tried it,” I said, as my brain struggled to discover the line between the Methodist church and the culinary delicacies of the White River.

He smiled a genuine smile. “You have to try it! I usually get my escargot from Walmart.”

Struggling to keep up, I tried to match his humor. “Oh! You know, one time I was in Walgreens and they were selling sushi. I could not figure out who would buy sushi from Walgreens in Indiana!”

He shook his head. “Yeah, that’s weird. But the Walmart escargot is really very good.”

He was serious.

“Oh.” I said. It occurred to me that I’d been saying this a lot. I didn’t seem to be successfully participating in this conversation. I tried to engage.

“And…the snails in the White River are…escargot material?”

ThinkstockPhotos-178580834“Definitely!” he said, and launched into an explanation of the origin of said snails. I admit, I didn’t fully follow, because his voice is incredibly monotone and I am not a robot, but I gathered that at some point a group of famous Chinese snails ended up in Lake Michigan (“They must have been really lost,” my friend Emily said when I told her this) and traveled down the White River into Indiana.

You guys, the White River is not glamorous. It’s sort of like the Hudson. Necessary for the economy, nice to have, but I’d never get in it. I don’t care if those snails had Scottish accents and looked like Matthew McConnaughy, they can stay in the White River as far as I’m concerned. (By the way, Matthew’s been looking sort of weird lately. Maybe I need a new “hot man” to reference. Let me know if you have suggestions.)

Anyway. Feeling way out of my depth (pun intended), I decided to change the subject. I asked him about his cat, which I’d seen a picture of on his profile.

I kid you not, people: Gary spent the next 15-20 minutes filling me in on the diseases and other physical issues that his cat has had over the last few years. Once he started talking about how he spent a year picking scabs off this poor cat every night, I finally pulled out my phone to check the time.

“Well, I should probably get going. Thank you for the beer!”

We parted ways without talk of another meeting, and when he texted me the next day to schedule a date, I politely declined.

See, the thing is, I do some weird things. Last weekend I spent approximately 20 hours learning how to solve a Rubik’s Cube. But I am not under the impression that this hobby makes me more desirable toward men. Snail farming, while…unique…is not a chick magnet. Perhaps I should have explained this to him at the time, but I was too busy not gagging on my beer during the flea and tick conversation.

 

Moral of the story? I don’t actually know. Why don’t you tell me?

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Fear Factors

Oh, hey! Haven’t seen you in a while. How’ve you been?

I purposely did not post for the month of March because I was out and about, running communication stuff for a large conference, and trying to do any extra writing would have likely resulted in spontaneous human combustion.

Then, when I returned, I fully intended to start again. But I got scared.

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Two fear factors:

  1. Once I stop something hard for a while, it gets incredibly difficult to start again. What if it’s too hard? What if I’m not good at it? What if it hurts? That’s true of most things – working out, playing music, being honest. The gap between my last victory and today grows too large for my memory to throw me across.
  2. I’ve experienced some weighty relational tensions in the last two months, and I feel too vulnerable to bear my soul to the public. What if people who are upset with me read it and think it’s about them? What if it is about them? As an introvert and a people pleaser, my worst-case-scenario involves me being honest, someone misunderstanding my honesty, and said person becoming upset because of the misunderstanding. (This falls right after the scenario in which I am late for an important social event and get kidnapped by giant spiders.)

So, now what? You know why I’m afraid to write. What do you think I should do?

Yeah, I was afraid you’d say that. ThinkstockPhotos-638654162

Sigh.

Fine.

Here I am, starting again.

As a reward for coaching me through my fear, next week I’ll update you on my dating life. (Teaser: there are snails involved.)

If there’s something you are dreading or putting off this week, join me in doing it anyway.

Good Enough

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It seems that someone (who I suspect shares a large portion of my DNA) recently reminded my grandmother that I have a blog.

I say “reminded” because she definitely knew at one point, but apparently she forgot and stopped reading. I know someone reminded her because she’s been in the hospital, and when I called her to check on her earlier this week, she said, “I just heard that you are writing and when I get out of here I’m going to go home and read all about you on the internet!”

My first thought was, “Dammit, Jan!” which is a phrase we use in our house that basically means, “I can’t believe I got myself into this mess and now I have to deal with it,” and actually has nothing to do with a wonderful woman we all know in real life whose name is Jan. Just trust me when I tell you that’s the short explanation.

All that to say, I felt slightly uncertain of what to do, because my blog isn’t really grandmother appropriate. I mean, it certainly could be worse. I could be blogging about my side job on the stripper pole. I’m not. I’m writing about my life.

thinkstockphotos-606675604And although my expensive college education didn’t teach me helpful things like how to change my car oil, I did learn that you can write about anything, and get away with any language or uncomfortable topics, if you are good enough.

But, of course, that means you have to be good enough.

And so, since I am an anxiety-prone individual, my immediate concern of my grandma-appropriateness quickly spiraled outward to the worthiness of the whole enterprise of me blogging. Is this okay? Am I okay? Am I doing something worthwhile? Am I doing a good job?

This week I went to visit a friend I hadn’t seen in a while and her young daughter put on a comedy show for me. It was as awesome as it sounds. (Why do golfers wear two pairs of pants? … In case they get a hole in one!) After the show, my friend said to her daughter, “I think maybe I should send you to theater camp next summer.”

The little girl smiled quickly, but then in the space of a second her face changed to uncertainty. “Do you think I’d be good enough?” she asked her mother.

Oh man. We learn so young to question ourselves. To doubt that we can measure up. To say, “Should I even do this if I can’t do a good job?”

I know I’ve written about this before, but it’s worth coming back to.

You don’t have to be good enough. You just have to do it. You just have to start. To try. To step forward. No matter who is in the audience, and no matter what you think they may think.

Don’t let the people watching decide what you’re “good enough” to do. 

I will continue my grandma-inappropriate blog. Because “good enough” does not control me.

Disordered Thinking

 

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You see, I’d like to think I know myself pretty well. I majored in psychology, so I know how humans work, and I have a basic knowledge of mental health. I’ve taken many online personality tests, and I invest a lot of money to learn more about myself and then process what I learn. At this point, I’m rarely surprised by something I learn about myself.

So when I was sitting in my counselor’s office, complaining, I wasn’t expecting to be surprised. I was talking about how I’m incredibly, almost unbearably, tired despite the fact that I’m doing everything right. I’m not eating sugar, I’m exercising, I’m taking lots of emotional and mental space, and I’m saying no to things that will cost more than I have to give.

My counselor nodded as my whining spun down to a stop.

“Well, Ashleyne,” she said casually, crossing one leg over the other, “since you have Recurrent Major Depressive Disorder, it makes sense that…”

I have no idea what she said after that.

See, for almost two years now, I’ve been telling everyone and their pet gerbil that I’m depressed. I took the whole “speak the truth and the truth will set you free” thing to heart. I know I’m depressed. But in this whole process, no one (not my doctor, not either of my counselors, not my psychiatrist, not my masters-degree-holding roommates, not my stuffed orangutan) has said the word “Disorder” out loud while looking at me.

Huh.

Longterm, it doesn’t really change anything. I’m not ashamed, or afraid, and I don’t think I’m crazy. I will continue to deal with my depression the same ways I have been.

But it did surprise me. This is a thing. I have a disorder. It’s not just that I don’t know how to handle my shit, which is what I’ve been thinking for quite a while now.

There’s actually something broken. Out of order. Misplaced. A recurring problem that doesn’t have a simple solution. And it has a name.

I tuned back in as my counselor said, “…which tells us that it really is a chemical problem and we can work with that.”

Huh. Okay. We can work with that.

I have a label. Alright. I can work with that.

So it’s still true: Speak the truth, for the truth can set you free.

I know myself a little better now. Serves me right for thinking I was done learning.

The Inner Dialogue

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My Emotional Self: BAAHHH! I HAVEN’T WRITTEN A BLOG POST AND I HAVE NO IDEAS AND I’M NOT EVEN A GOOD WRITER AND WHAT AM I GOING TO DO I GIVE UP IT’S OVER I NEED A NEW LIFE DREAM I’M GOING TO GO MAKE SOME BROWNIES

My Logical Self: Seriously? Calm down. You haven’t written about your depression medication yet, and it was on your list of potential topics. Just do that.

E: Oh. That’s a good idea. But I don’t really want to.

L: Why not? There’s nothing of which to be ashamed.

E: Who talks like that?

L: Not this again.

E: I’m not ashamed. I’m bored.

L: Only moments ago, I thought you were going to pull out your proverbial hair. I am offering you a viable solution, and you find it boring?

E: Well, yeah. Because drugs are just drugs. It’s like ice cream. Some people like vanilla, some people like caramel pecan crunch supreme. Some people like that SoyDream crap; some people have to eat that because they can’t eat the real stuff. You just have to try different ice cream and see what works for you and if it makes you sick.

L: What a delightful analogy. However, I would like to point out that you’ve already had three conversations this week alone concerning ice cream. So something must still be worth talking about.

E: Of course it is. It’s relatable. Ice cream is relatable. Everyone’s tried it, everyone has an opinion on it, and most of us love it. So why wouldn’t we talk about it?

L: Even though you will not change anyone’s opinion by talking about it.

E: Sure. But I might suggest a brand they’ve never tried, or a flavor…oh. I see where you’re going with this.

L: You have an astonishing intellect.

E: Shut up! I’m very mature! Leave me alone.

L: …

E: I still don’t know what to write. It’s hopeless. I should just take the site down.

L: Sigh. Perhaps communicate your experiences with medication and how you have found it helpful, and what areas others might expect to encounter difficulties?

E: Like how I had to try three different medications before I found one that made me feel consistently better instead of worse?

L: Yes. Like that.

E: And how I’ve now moved to a third dosage of my current medication in order to balance out my mood swings and energy depletion? But I’m still solidly depressed for a day about every 5 weeks. And that may never change. And I don’t love that I’m pumping drugs into my body every day, and maybe will be for the rest of my life. That’s depressing enough on its own. So I try not to think about it. I just focus on dealing with my emotions and my energy level and let my doctors think about the drug stuff. And I still hope that maybe I’ll figure out how to manage all this stuff on my own without the drugs.

L: But also, if you don’t, it’s not your fault.

E: Yeah. I forget that sometimes.

L: Don’t worry. I’ll be here to remind you.

E: Oh, goodie. Did I forget anything else?

L: No, I think you summarized quite well.

E: And you are quite annoying.

L: Thank you.

E: I guess I can write a blog post after all. Maybe I don’t need these brownies.

L: Perhaps you could start with some vegetables, and save the brownies for after lunch.

E: Fine.

 

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Being Mediocre

“I know people say that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. But I also think that something can be worth doing at all, even if you can’t do it well.” – My Boss

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I don’t like doing things I’m not good at.

That does not mean I don’t like trying new things – I actually really do, because I’m not supposed to be good at them. I’ve never done them before. Try a new sport? Sure. Step into a new role at work? Why not? Travel to a place where I don’t speak the language or understand the culture? Sign me up. I don’t mind making beginner’s mistakes.

But once I’ve tried something and started to invest, I want to be good at it. There are a whole host of things I’ve done a few times, maybe enjoyed as a beginner, and then stopped doing.

The simple reason is I don’t live up to my own expectations. And I do not enjoy that.

Take art projects, for instance. I know enough about art and photography to know when something is “good.” And most of the time, my art projects don’t measure up. It probably doesn’t help that my brother is an artist as his profession, and siblings were made for comparison, but when I try to paint, draw, or photograph something, it pretty much never turns out the way I want it to. And I don’t like that. At all.

Some other things that fall under this category: cooking elaborate dishes, gardening, decorating, verbal processing, volleyball, tongue twisters, video games, and on, and on, and on.

Most of these things don’t impede my everyday life. It’s fine I don’t like decorating. I just ask for help. Like from the housemate who rearranges her room every other week, perhaps.

So is it a huge deal that there’s a list of items that I don’t like to do because I’m not good at them? Well, no. But can I live life to the fullest, really enjoying every moment, if I’m trying to avoid doing things because I’m not as good at them as I’d like to be? Probably not.

Therefore, I have decided to lower my expectations for myself. 

Just like that. Nailed it.

Great, moving on…  Yeah, right. It’s never that easy. But I’m trying.

To that end, I present to you a photograph I took on a recent hike:

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The Commute

My friends, let’s not be afraid to do things we aren’t as good at as we want to be.

And if, at any point, you don’t meet your own expectations and you need a reminder that you are doing just fine, simply Google Image search “You had one job.” You’re welcome.

And Then They Were Losers

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Mistakes

Losses

Failures

From one to the next to the next. A downhill slope.

As children, we aren’t usually taught to lose well. Americans in particular have an incredibly low tolerance for losing.

The reality is, we all lose sometimes. We all fail.

But in a culture where former greats are shamed for being less great, the best goalie in the world calls her opponents “cowards” because they beat her, and the end justifies the means, we don’t know what to do with losing.

When was the last time you lost at something? Or failed? Or even just made a huge mistake? Were you able to separate yourself from it? Did you see the nearly invisible line between “I failed,” and “I am a failure?” Did you cross that line, maybe without even knowing it?

Last week, I mentioned Kerri Walsh Jennings. In case you don’t remember her (I didn’t until last week) Kerri is a three-time Olympic gold medalist in beach volleyball. She is 38, has three children, and has had five (FIVE!) shoulder surgeries. In a match in 2015, Kerri dislocated her shoulder while attempting to spike the ball. Apparently unfazed, they popped her shoulder back into place and she finished the game. She won.

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Kerri (center) after she dislocated her shoulder in a match.

You get the idea. The woman has grit beyond measure, determination, and perhaps even an unhealthy level of drive to win.

I admire her very much.

But beach volleyball requires a partner. Kerri’s partner, Misty May-Treanor, had announced the 2012 London Olympics would be her last. Immediately following her gold medal win with Misty, Kerri said to her opponent, silver medalist April Ross, “Let’s go get gold in Rio.”

Think about the moment when April said “Yes” to playing with Kerri. There was a lot involved. Kerri had three gold medals and an unbeaten streak in the Olympics. Kerri would be forced to switch from her natural left side to playing on the right. Kerri had the experience, the history, the accolades.

If anything happened between London and Rio, it would rest on April’s shoulders, right? The world was very aware of what Kerri could do. The question mark, the uncertainty, the one who could fail, was April. But she still said yes.

I want you to think about that. Someone looks at you and says, “I believe in you. I want you on my team. Let’s go perform in front of the ENTIRE WORLD. And if we fail, they’ll probably blame you. I won’t, but they will. What do you say?” Would you do it? Could you maintain your sense of who you are, even knowing you could fail? Would you have the guts, the self-confidence, to say yes?

Here’s the real question: Knowing that you will fail and lose and make mistakes, will you choose to say yes and to play with courage anyway?

 

For the record, they lost a match in Rio. And Kerri blamed it entirely on herself.