Learning to Just Listen

About a year ago I read an article that popped up on Facebook. The article was about the importance of listening. Just listening. Not cheering people up, not offering advice or feedback, not relating to people. Just listening.

This article completely re-framed how I approach supporting my friends.

What stuck with me most was not trying to cheer people up. When someone comes to you for support, to lean on you through a hard time, to tell you about their depression or stress or sorrow, don’t try to cheer them up. That trying to cheer someone up actually pushes them away. When someone is down and you focus on bringing them up, they don’t feel supported or heard. They may even feel guilty for having the feelings they have. And next time they feel this way, they won’t come to you.

“Things will get better”, “Look on the bright side”, “Think of all the other great things going on”. All of these seem like kind things to say. But in actuality, they are the worst things to tell someone in pain.

The kindest thing you can do for someone who comes to you for support: live in that moment with them. Hold their hand. Say things like “that sucks” or “that sounds really difficult”. Validate the feelings they are expressing, rather than trying to change them to nicer feelings.

I always thought of myself as a good listener, and a good friend. But I was definitely the friend that wanted to cheer you up, make you feel better, think positive. This concept opened my eyes to all of the moments I was probably missing.

I do believe it is human nature to want to make things better. When babies cry we want to find a way to make it stop. When someone scuffs their knee we find a band-aid. So sitting in a moment and allowing things to go unfixed feels counter intuitive. It feels against human nature to not fix someone when they are in pain.

And yet, it also makes sense. When I am upset I don’t want answers, I don’t want rainbows, I don’t want solutions. I just want to be listened to.

So, I started listening. I stopped offering advice, offering solutions, I stopped looking on the bright side. When friends opened up to me I listened. I told them how hard that sounded, how stressful that must be, how sorry I was to hear they were going through that.

And I’ve found many magical moments to connect with people because of it. By listening, just listening, I have learned so much more about the people I love. And I am so grateful to live in those moments with them.

 

-Darci

I’m Still Here

This year has been hard.

I have had more surprises this year, more challenges, more growth, more love, more depression than any one person could possibly predict. This rollercoaster of a year has kicked my ass more ways than I can count, while also bringing me some of the most fantastic amazing life changes.

None of this year is how I pictured it would be at the start.

My career has been turned upside down twice. I got out of a terrible job, into another terrible one, and finally found a place so amazing I still can’t believe it’s real. My family has broken my heart over and over and over again. My loved ones have picked me up and wiped my tears every single time. My partner and I have grown into something so much better, so much stronger, than the best of romance films could have dreamed. An injury took away running, and I don’t see that coming back any time soon. I joined a women’s only kickboxing gym that is quite possibly the best thing to happen to me all year. I planted my first ever garden and actually kept something alive.

And there are still two months to go.

But I’m still here. And I think I’m ready to get back to sharing my thoughts with you all again.

For this week I will leave you with this: if you are depressed don’t keep it secret. Tell your inner circle, you’re going to need them on the dark days. Go to therapy. It’s hard work, but once you start doing it you’ll never turn back. And when life really kicks your ass, kick back.

-Darci

An Independence Day Full of Anger

Tomorrow is our nations biggest national holiday. The day that we are supposed to be consumed with pride for our country. We celebrate by grilling meat, baking pies, and exploding things in the sky. Objectively, it’s a pretty solid holiday.

But this year, I don’t feel particularly full of pride for my country. The state of our nation has sunk to a horrifying low point that I honestly don’t even know how to talk about some of these horrors. How can you celebrate your country, be proud of your country, when your government is actively operating concentration camps? How can we celebrate our founding values when our government has become the very thing we rebelled against? When anyone who is not a white man lives in daily fear of the next law that will serve to oppress them? When there is a real possibility that the president will actually get re-elected in 2020?

When your country is full of hate, how do you love your country? How does one reconcile that there is still an alarmingly large percentage of people who support the government and all their atrocities? The racism that fuels the treatment of immigrants, the sexism that fuels the laws being written to restrict women, and the greed behind all of the motivation. At best, there is still eighteen months left of this horror. At worst, this is only just the beginning.

I am not proud to be an American this year. I am not proud to be from a country that criminalizes the poor rather than helps them. I am not proud to be from a country that rejects or imprisons people because of the color of their skin. I am not proud to be from a country that operates concentration camps. I am not proud to be from a country that uses fear as a manipulation tool to profit from. I am not proud to be an American, and I do not love my country.

We will still grill. I will bake something with red, white, and blue. We will probably watch Captain America. I will probably even wear our country colors in one form or another tomorrow. We will enjoy our day off from work and try to find some joy in all of this mess.

But I will not forget that I am angry. That I have been angry for quite some time now. And I will not become numb to my anger. I am no where near done being angry.

 

-Darci

The Democratic Race Officially Starts Tonight

If you don’t know, tonight is night one of two of the first Democratic Debate (NBC 6pm Pacific Time). There are 20 candidates. And I’m already exhausted.

20 candidates is a lot. Like a lot a lot. How on earth are they going to make a significant splash, make themselves really stand out from one another? And why on earth does the DNC think this is a good strategy for taking back the White House next year? Samantha Bee can’t be the only one who sees that most of these candidates talents would benefit the party by running for something other than the presidency, like say the senate.

Yes, I hope that a democrat wins the presidency next year. Yes, I believe that the conversations happening are important. Yes, I think being engaged and educated with your options is wonderful. And yes, I think we have some very interesting candidates to grapple with. But I am also very jaded. 2016 still stings. And I’m not sure I am ready for the long road again.

November 2020 is a long ways a way. Tonight is just the first of many debates and conversations before we actually get to vote on anything. And while the democrats debate for final candidacy, the American Internment Camps are only getting worse. There is so much going wrong in this country, so many horrors to contend with, it’s hard to believe that all 20 of these candidates time is best spent running for president. DJT isn’t the only problem in our government right now, he is being highly supported and enabled by an entire party. So why focus on being president, when you could focus on being a senator and be a part of taking away that support system?

I will probably end up watching the debate. As much as I want to be able to tune out what is going on, at the end of the day I can’t. And these are the questions I am most interested in hearing answers for:

-Why are you the best person to beat DJT?

-How will you make your promises a reality? There are lots of nice ideas and concepts out there, lots that I would love to see implemented. But how are you actually going to make it happen?

-How will you work with conservatives to make progress and change happen? This country isn’t just divided, it’s polarized. How are you going to engage the conservative side of the country to bring about change that everyone wants?

For me, it’s not just about who has the best ideas. It’s about who is the most realistic. Who can demonstrate that they actually understand the true complexity of the issues, and that they actually have a plan to address those issues. Who get’s that it’s not just about beating DJT, it’s about beating an entire way of thinking?

The road is long, and it’s just now starting. And ya, I’m already exhausted.

 

-Darci

Letting Go of Being Perfect

Perfectionism is a dangerous pitfall. To some extent, I really do believe everybody struggles with living up to their own high expectations. For some, that leads to over working ourselves. For others, it leads to procrastination and underachievement. But I really do believe we all suffer from the disparity of our expectations for ourselves. Have this job title, earn this salary, cook these meals, keep things constantly clean, have successful hobbies, raise my kids right.

A good friend of mine is very crafty. She is always carrying around some project she is working on. This past weekend she was doing just that, and she knew it was just not quite right. She had messed up a stitch or two, that to her were painfully obvious. But instead of obsessing about it, instead of pulling it apart and redoing it, instead of throwing the whole thing away, she chose to be alright with it not being perfect. In fact, she plans on hanging it in her home for everyone to see. She told me this was her exercise in being ok with not being perfect. Because in the past she knows she would have been very frustrated and probably considered the whole thing a waste. But when she accepted that it would not be perfect, she realized that she actually still really liked it; and more importantly that she was the only one who could see this tiny mistake.

And to be completely honest, I don’t think I’m there yet. I have given up many crafty hobbies because I was not good enough fast enough. I still obsessively clean my home daily and that’s a whole other blog series in and of itself. I don’t go after things I want because I know others are better than I am.

I’ve been thinking about how perfectionism is holding me back. Not necessarily from a job title or a salary, but from happiness. After all, none of us actually art perfect, so at best we are just creating a good illusion of perfectionism. And most of the things we feel we are failing at is really just perceived imperfections. What if I could learn to be a little easier on myself? What if I could let go of my need for perfection and just learn to live my life the best I can? And what if I could even be happy with that?

Here are some things I am working on to help me let go of my need for perfectionism:

Be Kind to Yourself
It may start to feel like my blog has a theme this year outside of angry feminist. 2019 is my year of Self Love, and all the ways that shakes out. So of course the first step in learning to be ok with not being perfect, is to be kind to yourself. Change the dialogue. Instead of getting dragged down by your list of ways you don’t stack up, make a list of affirmation and things you like about yourself. Focus on your personality qualities that you like about yourself, rewarding relationships in your life, meaningful experiences.

It’s Not All or Nothing
When you feel the need to beat yourself up for your perceived imperfections, remember that life is not an all or nothing deal.  You don’t need to be the best at everything to be loved and respected. You are good enough as is. Full stop.

Be Less Critical of Others
A bad habit we are all guilty of is comparing ourselves to others. Sometimes we do this and it leads to us feeling inadequate, and sometimes we do this as a way to inflate our ego. Either way it’s not doing you any good. Focus on being patient, kind, and compassionate with others.

Surround Yourself with Good People
Have you heard that you are most like the five people you spend the most time with? Who you spend your time with has significant impact on your personality and your perspective. So surround yourself with people who have qualities you want in yourself. People who are smart, people who are generous, people who are gracious, people who can help you grow.

 

The reality is that no one is or ever will be perfect. But maybe we can work to be a little happier instead.

 

-Darci

Burning Out

We all have bad days, even bad weeks. But at what point does it cross over from a bad day to a full on burnout in life? At what point do you accept that this fatigue and apathy is long term and needs to be addressed?

Burnout is not simply a result of long hours or being over worked. It stems from a lack of control in life. Maybe the place that you work is being mismanaged and you are helpless to change it. Maybe you feel your work has no meaning. Maybe you don’t have a hobby or project that brings you joy outside of your work. Maybe you are so focused on helping others that you have no time or energy left for yourself.

I’ve come to realize that I need to be much more focused on myself. I need to prioritize not just taking care of myself but nourishing myself. I need to not only find my boundaries but stick to them. And I need to be more intentional of listening to my instincts. By getting stuck in my routine and focused on the go go go part of life, I wound up incredibly depressed and burnt out.

By the time I realized how burnt out I was, I didn’t just need a break I needed a full life shake up. I was in a job that was demanding and unfulfilling, working for people that are cold and incompetent. I was far more concerned with others needs than I was with my own. And all my free time was spent focused on others. I wasn’t sleeping, my skin was a mess, and the very concept of leaving my house became so overwhelming my whole body would feel like wet sandbags.

I didn’t need a break or a vacation, I needed a complete re-evaluation.

But the real kicker is that there were warning signs that I ignored. Red flag decisions at work that the ship was sinking. Demanding patterns from friendships that I know how to recognize but ignored. Small breakouts in my skin that I know how to deal with but didn’t make the time for.

I was just so stuck in my routine and my think positive attitude that my whole life had to be up in flames before I realized I needed to do something about it.

2019 is my year to focus on me. By the end of last year I was so low, so depressed, so burnt out, I knew I had to finally address it. It hasn’t happened over night but I have already come a long way.

I found a new job. Unfortunately not all work situations can be improved. Sometimes you just have to move on. I’ve learned a lot in my twenties about what I need from my job. And more importantly, I know what I am not looking for anymore. I found the next chapter and am taking all the lessons learned and putting them to good use.

I’m learning to say No. Perhaps my biggest hurdle. I don’t like saying No. I think a part of me has a fundamental belief that a person shouldn’t say No. But I am working on it.

I am working on boundaries. Both personally and professionally. Work-life balance, investing in friendships that are fulfilling and reciprocal and letting one sided friendships go, and listening to my inner voice. She often knows what’s up.

Change is hard. Growing is painful. Depression sucks. And burn out is awful. But all of these things are necessary. All of these things have a light at the end of the tunnel. And all of these things lead to better things. If you let them.

Darci

Sometimes You Have to Fail

You’ve heard it a thousand times: failure is a part of life. It’s a theoretical we all know. There are thousands of movies romanticizing the journey of failure. But when it actually happens to you it sucks. Sure there is a light at the end of the tunnel, sure you are going to grow and find something better and feel like this all happened for a reason and that timing is everything, sure it’s not the end of everything it’s just a bump in the road. But it sucks.

Without failure we couldn’t become the person we need to become. But becoming is painful. It’s not glamorous. There aren’t actually make overs or meet cutes with Chris Evans or constant hangouts at bars with your friends, and there are actually budgets and bills and stress acne. The world keeps spinning and life moves on even though your world is falling apart.

But despite the pain, despite the grief, despite the anger, despite the struggle, failure really is an ok thing. It’s an important part of life. And yes, it really does make you better in the end.

So. What good comes from failure? Here are some reasons why failure is actually ok.

We All Fail

It happens to everyone. People lose out on jobs they wanted, get dumped, don’t get that promotion, get fired, lose that race, and more every day. Failure is embarrassing but it’s the most relatable thing. It’s hard to see in the moment, but we all fail at something in life. Everyone has experienced failure, you are not alone.

Failure is a Good Time for Self Reflection

It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. It’s about self discovery and finding the meaning in your life. Failing sheds light on the places you can grow. By allowing failure to dig deep into your character, you come through with a better understanding of who you are and where you want to go.

Failure Makes You Stronger

Without failure, there is no progress. There are countless famous success stories of how failure lead to the ultimate success. JK Rowling, Oprah, Bill Gates, and Walt Disney to name a few. And sure, we probably won’t all become successful billionaires because of our failures. But we can learn a similar lesson: failure can be emboldening. It teaches you how to keep going and fight for what really matters to you.

Failure Leads to New Things

New jobs, new relationships, new hobbies. Endings lead to beginnings. Meet new people, try new things, explore new paths. You finally have nothing holding you back from pursuing that career, going on that date, trying that new recipe. Before you had nothing pushing you to try something new, now you have nothing holding you back.

Failure Teaches You Empathy

Life experience changes your perspective of the world. Things become less black and white, right or wrong, and you realize that life has no one path to take. Through your own struggles you become more empathetic to the struggles of others. You can be more present with others, more vulnerable, more genuine. Failure makes you a better friend.

You Learn That Failure Doesn’t Kill You

Yes, it sucks to fail. It sucks to lose out on jobs or relationships or things that were really important to you. When it happens you can feel like your whole life is crashing down, your self esteem plummets. But eventually you realize something: you survived. You find a new job, a new relationship, a new hobby, your life goes on and you may actually end up being happier because of it. And once you learn that failure doesn’t kill you, you may actually start taking more risks in life.

Failure sucks. But sometimes you have to fail to get to the next chapter. And sometimes, you may even be better off because of it.

 

Darci