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  • What If You Stopped Believing Your Bad Habits Are Bad?

    coffee beans and crumbs on a plate
    image by basswulf

    “I really need to start leaving some food on my plate. I always eat every last bite. I probably eat so much food I don’t actually need just because it’s there…”

    I was saying this to myself in my head the other night after dinner. I’ve said it many times. But that night, for whatever reason, some part of my brain argued back:

    “Why? Why do I need to stop clearing my plate? I’m not even a little bit overweight. I eat mostly healthy foods. Is eating everything I’m served–by myself or others–really an issue? Maybe I’m filling my plate up with the perfect amount for me. Maybe the typical restaurant serving is actually appropriate for this fat kid in a little body. 

    I’ve heard plenty of times that my clean-plate habit is bad, so I believed it was.

    But is it really that simple?

    Other “Bad” Habits of Mine

    I skip social outings to stay home and read (am I making myself unhappy?), and I do a very poor job of keeping in touch with friends (am I making myself lonely?). I often don’t eat breakfast until several hours after waking up (am I screwing up my metabolism?), and I sometimes eat big meals very late at night (am I screwing up my sleep?).  I wear gym clothes and no makeup for work (am I hurting my productivity?), and I avoid talking on the phone (am I hurting my business?). I rarely stop to take pictures of special moments (am I failing to capture memories?), and I just can’t make myself post regularly to social media (am I failing to promote Alternative Badassery?).

    Without context, most would consider these habits bad, or at least counterproductive. But let’s take a closer look…

    They’re Habits Because They Serve You

    That whole internal debate over whether finishing all my food was truly problematic spurred a series of evaluations of many of the habits I’ve been thinking I need to break. Bailing on happy hours, not reaching out to friends, only sporadically interacting on social media–what if we said “Resting and relaxing, enjoying quiet time alone, keeping private things private” instead? Well, then it all just sounds like an introvert‘s means of self-preservation, doesn’t it? I’m merely behaving as I’m naturally inclined to behave.

    What about my late eating schedule? I don’t know, I haven’t actually noticed any negative side effects from this routine. My metabolism seems to be humming along just fine, and I’ve tried everything under the sun to help me sleep, including experimenting with what and when I eat–that doesn’t seem to be a factor. What’s interesting, though, is that shifting my eating times back usually means I get more done in the day, because I’m able to allocate more of the morning–when I’m at my best–to other tasks. I get to breakfast after my brain power dies down a bit. What’s the problem here? Why do I keep thinking I need to change this?

    As for not “getting ready” for work, I am no more productive with makeup and presentable clothes on. Again, I’ve tried it. All getting dressed and pretty does for me is take up time in my day that I could be working. And phone calls? I’m horrible. I’m awkward and ineffective on the phone and always rush the conversation. My business is better served if I stick to email. It’s just a stronger form of communication for me.

    Oh, and never taking pictures? Turns out I may remember more of the experience by not snapping a photo of it anyway. Sweet.

    Are Your Bad Habits Actually Bad?

    I’m not saying you should rationalize smoking a pack a day, or finishing a bottle of wine or pint of ice cream every night. C’mon.

    Maybe, though, what you’ve been told is a bad habit is actually a helpful practice in your life. And maybe, then, you can give yourself a break about needing to change things. You can ignore the advice that’s good for most people and just go with what works for you.

    I’m betting you can avoid some future failed New Year’s Resolutions this way. What do you think?

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  • How I Know He’s “The One”

    flowers spelling out I Love You
    image by @Doug88888

    Note: Another sappy Valentine’s Day post from me this year. Who am I?

    John doesn’t believe in “The One,” which is fine and sounds more harsh than it is. Specifically, he doesn’t believe two people are undeniably destined for each other, that they’re this perfectly-matched pair that the universe is set on bringing together so they can begin this beautiful, effortless relationship, and continue to mesh magically till the end of their days, living happily ever after. Which is to say, he thinks no relationship is perfect and every relationship takes a lot of hard work, compromise, sacrifice, and the like. He thinks it’s not all sunshine and rainbows and sometimes it sucks and sometimes you’re just total shit heads to each other…but you work through it.

    And hey, I completely agree with him on this. It’s not always easy. There are some tough days.

    But I believe. Here’s why.

    He Made Me More Excited About Life

    Before I met John, I was entirely content with being single–even permanently. Whatever, I had so much life to live, and none of my ideas involved a significant other. I never felt lonely or incomplete, nor was I bothered by being the only single person in a group of couples. It didn’t even cross my mind to care about that. But then I met him, and soon I had this relationship to work into my life blueprint. And I wasn’t just okay with it; I was excited about it. I was already pretty gung-ho and enthusiastic about exploring this world and finding my place in it, but everything sounded way, way more fun when I considered doing it with him. I had no idea my future could seem so much better than it already did.

    I Wanted to Be Around Him and I Didn’t Even Know Him

    Within, like, a day of meeting John, I knew I wanted to hang out with him and I had no idea why. I was new in Houston, and I wanted specifically him to show me the city. But why? That’s so weird. And I remember telling my sister I’d quickly realized I was doing things to get his attention, too, which baffled me. I’d strategically–but sort of subconsciously–enter a room he was in and say something random, hoping we’d get a conversation going. Again, after only about a day. Something in my brain just knew.

    I Felt Way More Comfortable Around Him Than I Should Have With Someone I Barely Knew

    The first time I went to his house, I came in PJs and brought a toothbrush. It was like he was a dear old friend and I knew we’d be up late and I’d just crash there. I’d been in Houston all of a month and already I was sleeping over at a buddy’s. This is my story, and yet even I realize how absurd this sounds.

    Our Relationship Began With 4 Back-to-Back Dates

    Okay, they weren’t really dates so much as they were just watching TV or making spiked hot chocolate. But the point is, we were together four nights in a row before we both thought, whoa, we’re spending a lot of time together. Four nights in a row? Who does that? And then we kind of just shrugged and moved on.

    There Were No Games or Questions

    We didn’t wait a specific amount of time to call or respond to a text. We didn’t worry about seeming pushy or needy. We didn’t think about what we were doing or analyze where this was going. It was just easy. It felt comfortable and good and right. We just went with it. No drama.

    I Happily Made Exceptions for Him

    I stayed up late and drank alcohol on school nights. I slept in and skipped the gym. I bent my strict diet rules for ice cream dates.  I did fun stuff on the weekends instead of laundry and work. These are things I would have never believed my ultra-disciplined self would eventually do. But I did it all with a huge smile on my face.

    He Was the First Guy I Said “I Love You” To

    I’m a very literal person–it used to really piss people off until I developed better social skills–and as such, I choose my words very carefully. Plus, the L word? I mean, that’s big. So I always assumed I’d know when it was love, and I’d never say it until it was. John said it first, early one morning. I was thrilled, but didn’t say it back. Again, it’s a big deal. I thought about it all day, and pretty soon I was sure–I loved him, too. He was leaving my house later that night, and I walked him to the door and gave him a hug, and said it: “I love you.” (Actually I sort of choked it out and had to repeat myself because he couldn’t understand me.) He smiled and we hugged and kissed, and he left. I walked upstairs to my bedroom, sat down…and tried not to vomit everywhere. I was shaky and light-headed. A big, big deal.

    We Started Talking About Marriage, Kids, and Growing Old Together Around the 2-Month Mark

    And it wasn’t weird or uncomfortable. We smiled at how crazy it would seem to other people if they knew, but it wasn’t crazy to us. We just chatted about this stuff like we were discussing what movie to go see. Not that we felt they were trivial topics, but more that it seemed reasonable and logical for us to consider these things.

    He Went Home With Me to Indiana for Christmas, Also After Only 2 Months

    I’m not kidding when I say the possibility of us not working out and then me awkwardly coming back alone or with someone else next year didn’t even occur to me. Nor did I think much about the fact that this was a pretty big relationship milestone to be reaching so soon. It seemed way weirder to me to not include him in my holiday festivities than it did to bring him along. Just after we made our Indiana trip plans, I did Thanksgiving with his family.

    He Made Me Feel 100% Secure

    At some point in our relationship, I became relatively unconcerned with how I looked around John. That’s never happened for me with any other guy. I’m not a particularly secure person, at least in terms of my physical appearance. But John consistently told me that although he thinks I’m gorgeous, it’s my heart and mind he’s in love with–and I believed him. Somehow I could just sense his sincerity…and it felt so nice.

    I Moved in With Him After 5 Months

    It was supposed to be temporary until I found a new apartment, but we were delighted to realize officially living together worked for us. We’ve been roomies ever since.

    He’s Making Me Feel Differently About Kids

    It’s not that I thought I for sure I didn’t want them, it’s just that the whole parenthood thing wasn’t super appealing to me. As I’ve fallen more and more in love with him, though, I’ve warmed up to the idea, mainly because I’m so excited to give him the babies I know he wants and see him be the fantastic daddy I know he’ll be. (I originally wrote “I can’t wait, ” but I can TOTES wait. I can wait a good, long looonnnggg while.)

    He’s the Only Other Person I’d Rather Spend Time With Than Myself

    I think even without any of the above, this simple fact is proof for me that John’s “The One.” I need a significant amount of alone time, and I’m naturally a major loner–so much that I think it would probably creep you out to know how long I could go without human interaction and still be perfectly happy. But aside from my required solitude, I’ll always choose being with him over being alone. I can’t say that for anyone else in this world.

    So yes, I believe in “The One.” You can’t convince me there’s another person out there who could make me write all that.

    Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all.

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  • They’re Wrong About Pessimists

    multiple paths
    image by hockadilly

    “You’re always so negative.”

    “Look on the bright side.”

    “Nothing pleases you.”

    So-called pessimists are used to hearing this kind of talk from family and friends. I should know–most of those closest to me consider me more or less a pessimist, and never fail to remind me of it.

    I’ve always kind of felt they were a little off in their evaluation, though. Like, a naturally negative person? Me? It doesn’t seem right. My observations don’t seem negative to me; they just seem real. They just reflect reality. And besides, if I really pressed them on it, I know the same people calling me a pessimist would agree I present the sunshine-and-rainbows side of things just as often. I’m an idealist if there ever was one.

    So what the hell? Clearly, others are noting something that’s different in me from themselves (god, what else is new?), but if it isn’t pessimism, what is it?

    I have an idea.

    They Call You a Pessimist…

    My loved ones constantly point out that I “find something wrong with everything.” Well, you know what? That’s because there is something wrong with everything. You follow? As in, nothing’s perfect, right? I’m not trying to be a Debbie Downer; I’m just trying to consider all possibilities. All angles. All outcomes. Good and bad.

    Now if I were a pessimist, wouldn’t I be all doom-and-gloom and find every situation completely hopeless and not see any good in anything? Wouldn’t I be feeling like the world is unfair and nothing ever works out and no choice is a good choice and so on?

    See? I’m not negative; I’m just real. I’m just careful and deliberate and conscientious and painstaking.

    I’m just a strategic thinker.

    …But Maybe You’re Just a Strategic Thinker

    This distinction became clear to me when I completed the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment. “Strategic” is my #2 strength.

    According to the researchers at Gallup, publisher of the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book, the Strategic theme showing up in my top strengths means I’m able to see repercussions of an action or plan more easily than others. When faced with a decision, my brain goes down a million possible paths, visualizes where each one likely leads, and either stores the option for later comparison or eliminates it.

    So when I explain, Mom, that I agree academia would be a great fit for me BUT there are so few jobs in the subjects I care about AND I’d need to be willing to move my future family around to seriously pursue an academic career AND I suspect I love learning way more than I’d love teaching, I’m not trying to be difficult. I’m just doing what I do very well: assessing all potential roadblocks.

    I like a rosy picture as much as the next person, but I’m unable to ignore the what ifs. That’s not pessimism; that’s strategic thinking.

    The World is Lucky to Have You

    Apparently, the ability to anticipate possible obstacles “…is not a skill that can be taught. It is a distinct way of thinking, a special perspective on the world at large,” says Gallup. Well, how ’bout that? And we can agree this is a highly-valuable skill to possess, right? A brain that sees multiple futures and informs and warns others accordingly?! Hell yeah. That’s, you might say, a helpful person. That’s, perhaps, a caring person.

    That’s not, necessarily, a Negative Nancy.

    So, let me be the first to say: Thank you, “pessimists.”

    ***

    Discuss

    Have you been called a pessimist? Have you maybe wrongly called someone one?

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