Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Thoughts on social media (plus a week-long challenge)

Ah, social media. It's been spoken about countless times, so my ramblings might look like blobs of redundant nothingness through your computer (or smartphone) screens. But I still want to share my thoughts about it in my little corner of the Internet over here.

While social media has connected us in many wonderful ways, it has also disconnected us---not just from others, but from ourselves. I feel like I wouldn't even know who I am if it wasn't for this blog and the validation I receive through it. If I write a post and no one comments on it, I feel like an insignificant bore. If I post what I believe to be a witty or inspiring tweet or status update and nobody "likes" or "favorites" it, I become quite certain that everybody hates me. And I know I'm not alone in this.

When we don't get validation in real life, we try to find it on the Internet. When we STILL don't get it, we fall into a soul-sucking black hole. (I tend to exaggerate everything, but that observation sounds about right actually.) People resort to cyber-bullying and creating fake profiles and tricking people into downloading computer viruses and making it their goal in life to get "x" number of followers on *insert social media page here* by *insert date here* so they can have an excuse to celebrate or feel important---even though they have every damn right to celebrate for no reason whatsoever and would still be important if they lived in a box under a bridge. But no. People have to prove their worth by getting noticed on the Internet these days. It's like the world is screaming, "If you don't have a substantial social media following, then screw you."

One thing I pride myself on is not having a personal Facebook. About 98% of the people I know have one, but I know that I would much sooner gouge my eyes out with a fork than subject myself to the validation seeking, popularity contest, land of comparison that is Facebook. But even so, I still find myself falling into some of its traps through my Facebook blog page.

I've even heard that excessive social media use leads to a severe lack of empathy for others. And it's no wonder! Technology is turning us all into self-centered robots. Most people's biggest concerns of the day consist of someone calling them ugly on Instagram or unfollowing them on Twitter.

And I've noticed that I'm more myself on the Internet than in real life. Or maybe I'm actually less of myself. Either way, it sucks. No one should define their identity or self-worth through a blog or social media page. It's like a slow death of the human spirit. I can barely remember who I was before I started using the Internet and creating social media profiles. Can you?  

Here's my challenge: 

1. Do not check stats or pageviews for a week (or a month if you're feeling ballsy) if you have a blog or social media page that allows you to do so. If you want to take it a step further, never check them again (unless you have to for business purposes).  

2. Because Facebook is the worst social networking site in my opinion (sorry Facebook), no Facebook for a week (or a month if you're feeling ballsy). Turn off your notifications. Do not go on Facebook at all, even if you're not officially logged in to YOUR page. NO FACEBOOK PERIOD. (I bet a vast majority of you will fail at this one. I'm not trying to be mean, but I know that Facebook addiction is a real thing.) If you want to take it a step further, delete your Facebook altogether.   

3. Give three people a compliment in real life (or six people if you're feeling ballsy). If you want to take it a step further, tell three (or six) people who would least expect it---a co-worker you've barely spoken two words to, a stranger at the grocery store, or one of those telemarketers that everybody hates.  

4. No cell phones at the dinner table for a week (or a month if you're feeling ballsy). Even if you're not using it, don't let it sit by your dinner plate like a dying tomagotchi. Using it or not using it, taking your cell phone to the dinner table with you is rude. I've done it plenty of times before, but I always feel like an asshole when I do. No more. Put it away and try having an actual conversation with whoever you're eating dinner with. If you want to take it a step further, encourage your dinner mates to put theirs away too.  

If you do the challenge and would like to email me about it, my address is: MadisonSonnier[AT]gmail[DOT]com. Let's do it together starting NOW.

<3 Madison      

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Closure

Do you ever randomly start thinking about an ancient flame, friend, or other person who was once a major part of your life, but is currently no part of it at all? I do. Sometimes it's a fleeting thought after hearing their favorite song on the radio or accidentally on purpose getting a glimpse of their profile picture on Facebook. Sometimes it's like someone tipped over the dirty laundry basket titled "old feelings" inside my soul and the contents of that basket begin to fester and contaminate and make me have dreams and thoughts about said person on an alarmingly consecutive basis.

Four years ago (FOUR YEARS), I had a very dramatic and upsetting fall-out with one of my best friends. (Dear people I know in real life who read this blog: Please don't ask me who this person is if you don't already know. That is irrelevant and my business.) Once upon a time, we were thick as thieves. We told each other everything (and I do mean EVERYTHING). We were there for each other unconditionally. She spent time with me because she wanted to, not because she felt obligated to. And she spent time with me without needing other people to be around to break the ice. She was like the sister I never had. I am a better, more open person for having had her in my life. But shit happened as shit often does, and we haven't seen or spoken to each other in four years. After the expected period of grief and anger, I moved on pretty smoothly. Bad feelings diminished. I felt healthier and happier. I rarely gave her a second thought, and whenever I did, feelings of rage and betrayal were no longer attached. I had moved on. I was happy.

So why has she been taking up so much of my mental space lately? Why do I find myself fantasizing about having a conversation with her? Sitting in the front seat of her car again? Having her number in my phone? Being in her wedding someday? It's not so much that I want or expect us to be best friends again. I just all of a sudden feel like she is a piece of unfinished business in my life. Sound familiar?

There is so much taboo surrounding the subject of thinking about or pining away for things from the past. "Move on," people say. "Things change. People come and go. Focus on the present!" While all of that may be true, I am not going to preach it here because it sounds too simplistic and verges on insulting. That's like losing your thumb and hearing someone say, "Welp...You don't really need that sucker anyway. Be grateful for all your other fingers." And no, I don't think this analogy is too far-fetched because I've actually heard people compare break-ups to losing a vital limb or body part. I can't say I've ever gone through a personal loss of that magnitude, but I can understand how someone would feel that way, based on the losses I have suffered and the knowledge of how awful it would be to lose people I currently have a strong emotional attachment to.

Loss and the feelings associated with it demand to be acknowledged, no matter how much time has passed. 

I can't tell if the feelings I'm currently having are because I want to reconcile a friendship that was never meant to end or simply because I need closure---to let her know that I forgive her and don't hate her and that I hope she can say the same about me.

But whatever the case, I think I'm just going to try to let it go. Closure is incredibly elusive, and a lot of people never get it. Not all endings need to be wrapped up in a pretty bow, and I believe you can forgive someone without directly contacting them. I think old feelings pop up to teach us something about ourselves, not the other person.

I believe that the fact that I haven't yet found "my people" is contributing to my desire to reach out to my old people---the people who were only meant to be my people for a little while, teach me a valuable lesson, and then be set free. Maybe that's all this is about. 

After reading this, you might still be tempted to contact people from your past. That's okay. It might even be beneficial. In spite of everything I just wrote, I might still reach out to my old friend if these feelings persist (although that is unlikely). But just brace yourself for the fact that contacting them could reopen old wounds, frustrate and bewilder you all over again, or kick you right back to square one of the healing process.

And if you decide to NOT reach out to them, then just feel your feelings with the comfort of the knowledge that they will pass once again. Shed new tears for old circumstances without shame or embarrassment. Figure out what your soul is trying to tell you by tipping over your dirty laundry baskets. Forgive yourself in addition to forgiving others.

You don't need closure from someone else. You need it from yourself.

<3 Madison      

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

12 things I learned from Christina Perri's Head or Heart show


In honor of Christina Perri's 28th birthday today, I wanted to share some things I learned/experienced from attending her Head or Heart show in Atlanta on April 30th with my mom. And if you are befuddled as to why this was a big deal for me, then you haven't read my eBook yet. I AM ON TO YOU.  

Anyway, I feel obligated to share the following monstrosity of a photo before I begin. (We were only allowed to take one photo, so I didn't have an opportunity to manipulate my face into a more attractive expression. Oh well.)


The following are things I learned both from the trip to Atlanta, the meet and greet, and the concert. I am writing this because I want to commemorate this event somehow. So if you're not a Christina Perri fan, I'm sorry. And go away. Just kidding. You can stay if you want. You might learn something.

1. It's okay to ask for help. 

After driving up and down the same road about 67 times, my mom and I finally stopped to ask a security guard for directions. He looked lost in thought and the task at hand, so we were afraid he would wave us along and not help, but that was not the case. He pointed us in the right direction, and we arrived at the venue in time. Speaking of the venue, we also had to call and ask THEM if it would be a problem if we were running a few minutes late for the meet and greet (which we were), but it was not. Had we not asked for guidance in those instances, we probably would have gotten hopelessly lost and missed the meet and greet altogether. Most people will be more than willing to help you as long as you are willing to ask them to. 

2. Hugs are important.

I love hugs, but often feel weird about giving or requesting them. But Christina hugged every single person that went through that meet and greet line, whether they asked/wanted her to or not. If you want to give somebody a hug, I say go for it unless the circumstances are completely inappropriate or creepy.   

3. All good things are worth waiting for.

My mom and I got to the venue a pretty good while before the show was set to start, which was a good thing and a bad thing. It was a good thing because we got an awesome spot (front row!) and a bad thing because we had to wait and wait and wait for the show to start. Being in a standing room only venue while not feeling super well (lady problems) can be a tedious experience. But Christina (and her opening act Birdy) put on an amazing show, so the standing and waiting was worth it. But it WAS nice to sit down when it was over...   

4. Lighten up, even if it's your job to be super serious.

A downside to being in the very front row at a concert is the Hitler-y security people that banish you to shame when you try to take photos. Because of this, my mom and I only got one photo and it was of the back of Birdy's head. I know that guy's job was to prevent people from filming/taking pictures of the concert, but I don't think it would have killed him to lighten up a bit and "pretend" he didn't see a few camera flashes. People are going to take pictures at concerts anyway, amiright? The next time you want to reprimand someone for doing something that isn't really that big of a deal, be cool and cut them a break instead. If nothing else, consider it an act of kindness.   

5. Put your entire heart into the things you're passionate about. 

I think you can tell when someone is truly passionate about something and not just going through the motions or doing what they're doing out of a sense of obligation. Christina was incredibly enthusiastic throughout her entire show and never once looked like she wasn't enjoying herself or wanted to get it over with. There was a powerful sense of abandon in her performances. She just let go, had a good time, and did the best she could. That's how we all should treat the things we love---and not just career related things.  

6. Don't be afraid to share your stories.

I love when artists share the stories behind some of their songs before they sing them at concerts. Christina did this with several of her songs, and some of the stories were pretty personal. But people paid attention, and people were moved because she told them in a way that people could relate to. I think we all have similar stories because we all sort of go through the same things. Sharing your stories (like I do through this blog) bridges the gap between you and "other people." Because believe it or not, those "other people" are actually a lot like you.   

7. Know that you are never alone. Ever. 

One of my favorite moments from the show was when Christina sang "I Believe," one of my favorite songs by her. It's a song about not being alone in what you're struggling with, and she cut the audience into three groups and made each group sing a certain lyric/mantra towards the end. And if you've heard the song, you know those lyrics/mantras are:

"This is not the end of me, this is the beginning."
"Hold on."
"I am still alive."

Doing this was a fun way to connect all the strangers in that audience to one another, and I'm willing to bet that every single person in that room was moved by that song because they could relate to it. If you've never heard it, I encourage you to go listen to it because I'm sure you will relate to it too. But the bottom line is that regardless of what you're feeling right now, somebody somewhere is feeling the exact same way. I can guaranteed it.      

8. Love openly and fearlessly.

If you're familiar with Christina Perri's music, you know she writes a lot of songs about love and relationships. As I wrote earlier, she shared some of her love (and heartbreak) stories during the show, and it became very clear to me that she falls hard, fast and fearlessly into love. Call me a hopeless romantic or an idealist, but I think that's the way it should be. It may mean having your heart broken more easily, but love is one of the most extraordinary things a person can experience, whether it lasts ten days or ten years. So love the people you love with your entire heart, and maybe one day you will find someone who loves you the exact same way.      

9. Fear is all in your head.

This is something I am constantly learning and relearning. One of the stories Christina shared during her show was about how she absolutely would NOT sing in front of a crowd when she was first starting out as a musician. She literally felt like she couldn't do it and would (and still does) get incredibly nervous before going on stage. She went on and on and on about how afraid she used to be and how much she held herself back, but just look at where she is today. She said she realized that her own head was the only thing standing between her and success. Once you get your own thoughts and beliefs under control (which is easier said than done, but totally possible), you will become a force to be reckoned with.  

10. The people you look up to struggle with the same things you do.  

One of the reasons I feel so drawn to Christina Perri is because she is unafraid to wear her heart on her sleeve and be open about her struggles, both past and present. Even her tweets are honest and authentic! I feel like she and I have shared (and continue to share) similar struggles because we're both very emotional people. Not only do I look up to her, I feel like I can genuinely relate to her. It's important to remind yourself that even if someone seems to have a glamorous life, they still have fears and insecurities just like the rest of us.  

11. Music brings people together. 

As cliche as it may sound, music is a huge connecting factor. Sometimes a single song can lift a weight off your shoulders in a way that nothing or nobody else can. And there's something really special about standing in a big venue with people you don't know, and yet they are people who are there for the same reasons you are. I definitely recommend listening to music daily and attending more concerts. Music is good for the soul.   

12. Enjoy the simple things.

I get really excited about the simplest of things, which is probably one of my favorite things about myself. As my mom and I were driving back from Atlanta, we got wonderful views of the Atlanta skyline. I LOVE city skylines, so this made me really happy (even though the traffic was a nightmare and gives my mom anxiety every time she thinks about it). Even if you live in a big city and see the skyline all the time, try to see it from a tourist perspective every now and then. Try to see EVERYTHING from the perspective of someone seeing it for the first time. You live in a beautiful world, so pay attention to it.

Thanks for reading!

<3 Madison     

Friday, August 15, 2014

Joining the depression/mental illness defense bandwagon

In the aftermath of Robin Williams' death (I AM SO SAD), I've seen a lot of people speaking out once again about the horrible stigmas associated with mental illnesses. I've heard about people lashing out at Robin Williams and referring to him as "selfish" and "a coward," among many other things I'm sure.

There are a lot of issues that need attention in this world, but I must say that this is one I am especially passionate about. People with mental illnesses get stereotyped and discriminated against like nobody's business, and I'm so tired of it. I guess I just wanted to join the bandwagon of people speaking out against this issue by briefly writing a few words to:

a) people suffering from mental illness
b) people who know/love someone suffering from mental illness

I also want to provide some resources that might be helpful and inspiring if you fall into either or both of those two categories.

If you are suffering from mental illness...

~ You are NOT a fundamentally flawed piece of insignificance and shame, which is probably what most people will lead you to believe with their thoughtless comments and actions. You are struggling with a very real, very valid issue. Your struggle is just as significant as someone with a terrible flu or a body that is broken in nine places. The status of your mental health is NOT YOUR FAULT and I understand that you can't just wake up in the morning and will yourself out of it. You matter. Your story matters. You are doing the best you can.

~ You are not alone. One in four people struggle with mental illness, and there is help available if you're one of those people. I will provide some resources below, but nothing beats professional consultations. Just remember that the first step is usually the hardest, but it's also the most important. For the longest time, I did not discuss my own struggles with mental health. To be honest, I STILL don't discuss them very much because we've been conditioned to believe that struggling with mental health makes us weak and that our problems aren't valid because they can't be seen with the naked eye. The fact of the matter is that some people may very well judge or misunderstand you. But for every person who does that, there are probably ten more who won't. So try to speak up (and I will too). Find people who understand. Find people who can help. But whatever you do, don't go at it alone. Don't be the next shocking suicide story because everyone thought you were totally fine and dandy when you were actually living in a mental hell.

~ It really does get better. I know that probably sounds like an annoying and infuriating cliche if you're depressed or mentally ill, but if you stop reminding yourself that things will get better (even if you don't always believe it), you will sink even further into that black void. You will not be like this forever. Your condition will improve, and I strongly believe in the hope and promise of a better, more fulfilled future. You do not have to give up. You do not have to kill yourself. There are so many ways out of your mental prison. They might be more tedious to get through, but they're there. I promise.      

If you know/love someone who is suffering from mental illness...

~ Do not try to "fix" them. Trying to fix someone with a mental health issue is the equivalent of giving someone with a gaping wound a band-aid. "THIS OUGHTA DO THE TRICK." No. It won't do the trick. If anything, it will make matters worse. Sure, some mental health issues are less serious than others and can probably be alleviated (or even cured) with some good old-fashioned self-help or other forms of self-therapy. I once dealt with some minor mental issues by myself and turned out okay. (See my eBook.) But most mental health issues are too great to be dealt with by non-professionals. Be there for your loved ones in any possible way that you can, but don't discourage professional therapy---ESPECIALLY if you suspect their life could be in danger.

~ Do not judge, stereotype or belittle them. Dealing with a mental health issue is hard enough as it is. It's even harder to talk about. If someone takes the brave step of opening up to you about an issue they are having only to be met with a barrage of cruel or ignorant comments, that is as detrimental to the personal growth process as someone pushing a baby who is trying to take his/her first steps. They will never want to open up to you (and probably anyone else) again. They will keep it all bottled up. And when they keep it all bottled up, tragic shit starts happening. When a loved one is trying to talk to you about something like this, you listen. You don't offer meaningless advice. You don't blame them or their life habits. You don't attack them. You don't make assumptions or ignorant comments based on a small amount of knowledge. You listen and be there for them unconditionally. You let them know that you love them just as they are and that you're willing to see them through their struggle. Anything less than that could be a tragic mistake.

~ Educate yourself. There are oodles upon oodles of resources about depression and mental health out there, so if you have little knowledge of these issues or think they're not that big of a deal, I suggest you get busy. Do some Googling. Crack open some books. Talk to some mental health professionals. The more you understand, the better you can deal when someone you know or love is struggling to maintain their mental well-being. Knowledge is power in this case, so suck up as much of it as you can.

Helpful and inspiring resources

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

TWLOHA (my favorite organization): http://twloha.com/home

Another great organization: http://www.bringchange2mind.org/

Awesome blog post #1: http://keltiecolleen.buzznet.com/photos/strugglingwithdepres/

Awesome blog post #2: http://sarahbessey.com/depression-fault/

Awesome blog post #3: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2011/10/adventures-in-depression.html

Awesome blog post #4: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2013/05/depression-part-two.html

One of my favorite movies ever is "Silver Linings Playbook," and it sheds a thought-provoking light on mental illness. I recommend buying the DVD and watching the special feature titled "Silver Linings Playbook: The Movie That Became a Movement." I couldn't find it online, but it's definitely worth watching if you struggle with depression (of any kind, of any severity) or any other mental health issue that makes you feel as if you're not an important part of the world. http://www.amazon.com/Silver-Linings-Playbook-Bradley-Cooper/dp/B00A81MV3U/

An online hub for all things mental health: http://psychcentral.com/

Please take care of yourself. You are so important.

<3 Madison

p.s. I am not a mental health expert, and nothing I say on this blog should substitute professional guidance. These are simply my views and opinions on the subject.

         

Monday, July 28, 2014

10 more things to remind yourself on a daily basis

My article 10 Things to Remind Yourself on a Daily Basis is one of the most popular articles I've ever written and probably brought many of you to this little blog of mine. That, and my Tiny Buddha articles. Especially this one. (Shameless plug central)

I think it's good to remind yourself of what really matters every day, especially the bad/stressful days when you feel a lot like this.

Although sequels are rarely better than the originals, I would nonetheless like to present you with 10 MORE things to remind yourself on a daily basis in case you're looking for an extra pick-me-up this week:

1. Make sure you're meeting your needs, however big or small. 

A reader recently wrote to me to tell me that she was feeling overwhelmed with the responsibility of meeting both her own needs and the needs of loved ones who were depending on her. I want to be clear about the fact that we all have responsibilities and should look after our loved ones (something I haven't adequately emphasized in the past). The trick is to find balance. Balance is everything. While I don't support throwing your responsibilities to the wayside and thinking in terms of me, me, me, it's still important to regularly check in with yourself to make sure your needs are being met. That might mean setting boundaries. That might mean taking a vacation. That might mean writing down your priorities in order of importance. Whatever it means for you, make sure your needs are being met, however big or small. All your needs are important.  

2. Try to be nice.

In case you haven't already noticed, people can be pretty rude to each other. In fact, my last two posts had passive aggressive undertones that I'm not very proud of. Why do we have to be so snarky and cruel towards each other, whether directly or indirectly? I've recently realized that "killing with kindness" is way more satisfying than fighting fire with even more fire. People can't hold kindness against you, so just be nice.    

3. You don't have to justify your feelings. 

For the twelve billionth time, you feel what you feel for a reason. We all experience situations differently, and everyone processes emotions in their own way. If you're upset about something that someone else thinks you don't have a right to be upset about, don't waste your time or breath trying to justify your feelings to that person. You feel what you feel, and you wouldn't be feeling it if you didn't have a reason. Period.

4. Success does not equal happiness. 

I read a really great post recently, and I'd like to pass it along: http://www.hollywoodhousewife.com/2014/07/chasing-achievement.html. Being successful will not necessarily make you happy. If you're chasing achievement and equating your self-worth with how successful you are, you will likely feel more miserable and empty than happy. Trust me. I would know.

5. Know the difference between what's worth fighting for and what isn't. 

What are you currently fighting for in your life? Is it truly worth it? Is it worth it to fight for that relationship that makes you feel like a shell of a human? Nope. Is it worth it to fight for that dream that fills you with a sense of meaning? Yep. If you're working too hard for too much, something's gotta go.  

6. You can do whatever you want. 

You are in charge of the actions you take on a day-to-day basis. If you want to read a book, read a book. If you want to take a road trip, take a road trip. If you want to adopt a dog, adopt a dog. Where there's a will, there's a way.      

7. Breaks are not optional; they're essential.

It is important to take breaks when you need them. It has actually taken me a week to write this blog post for various reasons. Had I not taken a break, I probably would've hated it and not published it at all. Your mental, physical and emotional well-being comes first. Always.  

8. Nurture your internal environment.

We all have an internal environment, and it's important to tend to it in the same way you would tend to a garden. Make sure you spend plenty of time cultivating your creativity, being alone, and engaging in activities that nurture your mind, heart and soul.    

9. Put in what you want to get out.

In other words, give what you want to receive. (I'm working on this one.) If you want love, give it. If you want a friend, be one. If you want results, earn them.   

10. Love is needed most when it's hard to get and/or give. 

This is a big one, which is why I saved it for last. You need love the most when you feel you deserve it the least, and the people who are the hardest to love are the ones who need it the most.

Have a great week!

<3 Madison  


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My aversion to blaming and shaming as a motivational technique

As someone who has suffered from soul-crushing feelings of depression and self-hatred, I can't tell you how fired up I get about people who blame, shame and ridicule others in an attempt to light an unstoppable fire under their arse.

These people have an extreme superiority complex and think they're the bee's knees because of what they've accomplished. They look down on people who have accomplished less. They practically laugh in the face of common, severe, and very human problems such as depression and lack of self-confidence. These are real problems that cannot be fixed with a super lengthy and excessive speech or article about how we're wasting our lives away and need to get off our asses and make something of ourselves.

I've never been a fan of blaming and shaming as a motivational technique. That might work for some people, but it doesn't work for me. You never know what someone else is going through. There are people in the world who have a hard enough time getting out of bed in the morning, much less accomplishing something big and note-worthy. There are people in the world who take the slightest form of criticism as a sweeping and harsh judgment of their character (because it's how they're wired). There are people in the world who are still struggling to find themselves and pave their paths, and when these pretentious assholes (excuse me) dump gallons of shame on them for not having their shit together yet, it's quite detrimental to the already excruciating process of growing up and figuring out who they are/what they want as a human being.

And who are these people to blame and shame anyway? What do they know? What gives them the right to sit behind their computer screens and preach to the choir about people who aren't working hard enough or being good enough? Don't they have anything better to do than make people feel worse about themselves when they already feel bad enough?

Clearly, this is a touchy and personal subject for me. I apologize if it sounds like I'm yelling at you or something. But if you're a blamer/shamer, I encourage you to stop and think about the message you're sending out. Does shaming other people make you feel big and important, or are you genuinely trying to help? (You're not, my friend.) Did blaming and shaming work wonders on you, and are you trying to work wonders on others? (You're not, my friend.) If you had no money, no status, no success, no external validation, and no material belongings to your name, who would you be? Would you still feel impassioned by telling your massive success story and berating people who don't have a similar one? I encourage you to consider all these questions if reading this post made you angry because you do everything I described in it.

On the other hand, if you're nodding your head or saying, "AMEN SISTA," then you probably understand where I'm coming from and also feel fed up by the horribly demeaning "motivational techniques" we see popping up everywhere. So I encourage YOU to just ignore them. If you can tell that a video or article is going to ruin your day within the first ten seconds of watching/reading it, don't finish watching/reading it. Gravitate towards the resources that inspire and uplift you. If you want to rant about everything that doesn't, be my guest. (I obviously did!!!) But when you're done ranting, work on surrounding yourself with the things that DO light a fire under your arse and inspire you to be a better person.

We are all doing the best we can. I truly believe (and feel inspired by) that notion. Every person and every situation in life is different. Some people are going to be more successful than others, and that's okay. Good for you, and keep up the awesome work. Just don't go around rubbing it in everybody's face like you're the Queen of Sheba.  

We are all in the same boat. We are all human. We are all fighting the same battles. So let's stand beside each other instead of above each other, yes?

<3 Madison            

Friday, July 4, 2014

On feeling left out

Not to sound like a whiny victim (which means I'm about to sound like just that), but throughout my life, I've repeatedly struggled with getting and/or feeling left out, excluded, ostracized, overlooked, swept aside, ignored...You get the idea.

I don't generally see or hear very many people talking about the deep emotional scarring that comes with feeling like you don't belong anywhere. As a perpetual outcast, I feel the need to be a voice for all the other perpetual outcasts of the world...The outcasts who Google things like "I get left out of everything" at 2 in the morning while squinting at the results on their screen through red, puffy eyes...And then not finding anything better than a wikihow article that tells them to just get out and talk to people. (GEE, IF ONLY I HAD THOUGHT OF THAT.)

My ongoing experiences with exclusion go way back to elementary school. There was a girl in my class named LeeAnn (NAMEBOMB) and I really wanted to be her friend. That's it. I wanted to play kickball with her at recess and be invited to her secret club house meetings and talk about last night's math homework with her. I had a simple craving for her companionship, and I don't think I was weird or pushy about it at all. But alas, she confronted me one day and basically told me that she wanted to be my friend, but just didn't want me hanging around her all the time. Then she never spoke to me (or acted like a friend to me) again. BAM. RIGHT IN THE SELF-ESTEEM. And similar incidents have been taking place in my life ever since---being the third (or fourth or fifth or sixth) wheel while hanging out with a group of people, being the person who walks either in front of or behind two other people on the sidewalk, contributing something awesome or witty to a conversation only to get drowned out by someone cooler or ignored altogether, not getting invited to things...The list goes on and on and on.

The constant ostracization I've suffered has almost completely prevented me from trying to get close to people at all. If I get the slightest nugget of an inkling that someone doesn't want me in their life, I keep my distance. Or worse yet, I let resentment build up in my soul like a flesh-eating virus if I really wish they would like me and they don't seem to.

Being left out and forgotten hurts, even if you're not as ridiculously sensitive as me. No one wants to feel like the ugly duckling, waddling in the background and trying to keep up. It sucks. And it's okay for it to suck. I totally get it.

If you're currently suffering from a "nobody seems to like me" hangover, the following words of potential comfort are for you...From one fellow outcast to another:

~ Make room for the people in your life who DON'T treat you like you're nothing...even if you can only think of a couple. A couple of true friends are worth more than a million fake ones. Spend as much time with those people as you possibly can, and they will fill in the gaps that those other people will never be able to. Also, Internet friends totally count. But real life friends are better because they can hug you and hold your purse while you go into a bathroom stall that doesn't have a purse holder. (EVERY WOMEN'S BATHROOM STALL NEEDS A FREAKING PURSE HOLDER, AMIRIGHT?)

~ You have permission to bitch and moan a little, as long as you don't make bitching and moaning your trademark. I try really hard not to bitch because most people have better things to do than listen to someone bitch. But a true friend will let you bitch all you want and still validate your right to bitch about whatever you're bitching about. So the next time someone excludes you from something for the umpteenth time, feel free to bitch your little heart out. It's good for you.

~ It is okay to be angry, sad or lonely in the same way it would be okay to say "ouch" if someone punched you in the face. Being left out is like a metaphorical, emotional punch in the face anyway, so ignore all the bullshit articles and books that tell you to stay positive or choose joy when all you feel like doing is throwing darts at a picture of the person who repeatedly snubs your attempts at companionship. Do whatever YOU need to do to feel better. Go for a run until your lungs feel like they're about to explode. Write an angry letter and then delete it. Go out with a friend and vent about how horrible people can be to each other. Go to the beach by yourself and watch the waves. Eat a giant bowl of chocolate ice cream and watch re-runs of your favorite show. Grieving a friendship or relationship that never was and never will be is exactly the same as grieving a friendship or relationship that has died or faded. Feelings of rejection, anger, sadness and loneliness come along with both of those situations, do they not? So don't berate yourself for feeling whatever it is you feel. Your feelings are valid and acceptable.    

~ You can always talk to me if you're suffering through anything that has been discussed in this post. I will understand. I will let you bitch to me. I might even bitch to you and tell you about all the stuff that inspired this post---stuff that I refuse to passively aggressively blog about because I don't want to be THAT person. Believe it or not, there are people out there who will understand you and include you, and I try really hard to be one of those people. YOU MATTER TO ME.

<3 Madison

p.s. Happy birthday, America. xx