Friday, September 4, 2015

Should feelings have an expiration date?

Raise your hand if you've ever been in one (or all) of the following scenarios:

~ Crying over something/someone you lost several months or years ago

~ Getting angry over something you thought you had adequately resolved last week

~ Feeling like a radically changed and empowered person one day and a weak, hot mess the next

*awkwardly raises hand on all counts*

It has been said that grief does not have an expiration date, which is totally true. But what about our other feelings? Should they have an expiration date?

Are we allowed to get angry over something that once felt resolved and justified? Are we allowed to be embarrassed about something that happened days or even years ago? Are we allowed to suddenly be afraid of something we thought we weren't afraid of anymore? Are we allowed to get our feelings hurt all over again by the mere memory of something that hurt our feelings in the past?

I'd like to say yes. I think we are allowed. But that still doesn't stop me from occasionally feeling like my ever-fluctuating emotions aren't justified. Sometimes I drag people through the mud with me without meaning to. Sometimes I behave in an overly dramatic manner. Sometimes I analyze the absolute SHIT out of something that may be better off left alone. And sometimes I simply feel like I don't have the right to have intense feelings about something that is over and done with.

I don't have the answers to this emotional phenomena, which is why the title of this post is a question rather than a statement or an idea. I rarely know how to deal with my own feelings. I'm rarely able to tell the difference between what's worth bringing up and what's worth letting go. Sometimes I wish my feelings and thoughts had an off switch, but if that were the case, blog posts such as this one would not exist.

So with that said, I'm handing the torch off to you guys today. Should certain feelings have an expiration date? How much past analyzing is allowed without getting a slap on the wrist from the personal growth industry? How can you tell the difference between what should be fixed and what should be left alone?

I need a friend.

<3 Madison    

Monday, August 24, 2015

A little epiphany about fear

Fear is an elusive subject for me. It's tricky to define, tricky to conquer, and tricky to write about. In fact, I usually steer clear of posts and books about fear because so few of them offer up anything new. So I don't blame you if the mere title of this post bores you to tears.

As most of you may know, I have pretty high anxiety levels. I get myself worked into a frenzy over the smallest things. Making and posting this video felt like a huge accomplishment to me, even though most people might consider it a simple task. I never, ever thought I would have the guts to put myself out there like that, but I did. And even better, I received a good response. Some of you were even greedy enough to ask me to post more videos! (Not happening, folks.) ;-)

Facing fears has been something of a project of mine lately. Proving myself worthy of the things I'm afraid of has been like a minor addiction. I've been inspired to work on my verbal communication skills, open up to people more than I think I ever have, start setting goals again, take risks, and look for opportunities to better myself both personally and professionally. I haven't made any sweeping changes in my life (I prefer baby steps), but some seeds have certainly been planted in the right places.

And the more I learn about fear, the easier it is to face. There's still a lot I don't know and a lot I need to work on, but I experienced a pretty inspiring epiphany the other day: The lead-up to the thing you're afraid of is WAY worse than the actual thing you're afraid of. 

The hour before the job interview or first date.
The plane ride before the skydiving.
The sleepless night before the big decision, presentation, or other work/life experience.

But once you're face to face with your fear and have reached the point of no return, anxiety tends to dissipate. You made it. The thing is happening. There's no turning back. And most importantly of all, you're still alive and well!

It's a comfort for me to know that the build-up of tension and nerves is the worst part --- not whatever it is I'm afraid of. Once I've taken the jump, it can't get much worse. In fact, it's usually all uphill from there.

And don't even get me started on the relief, joy, and/or sense of accomplishment you feel once it's over! Most of the time, reward and growth can be found on the other side of fear. By simply getting to that other side, in whatever capacity makes sense, you've already made a ton of progress and shown yourself what you're capable of. It's a wonderful feeling.

Class dismissed.

<3 Madison

Monday, August 10, 2015

Choosing your army

I've never been one of those people who has tons of friends and acquaintances. I haven't been in a ton of meaningful relationships, and it still baffles me that it's so hard for me to talk to and reach out to people when I'm not typing words behind a computer screen. Friends and family have come and gone like the weather, love interests have moved on with impressive speed, and meaningful moments of human interaction have turned to dust.

Maintaining relationships is hard, and creating new ones is even harder. 

The redeeming factor of this disheartening fact and seemingly endless struggle in my life is that I don't need a ton of people by my side to be happy. I've discovered that the less friends you have, the easier it is to actually keep up with them.

I only have 25 friends on Facebook. (Yes, I finally joined. Double yes, I regret it at times.) I don't see that number increasing anytime soon, nor do I send friend requests to people I don't know or have no interest in truly connecting with. That's huge for me. It's interesting that the people who have the largest social media followings are the people who tend to feel the most alone.

For the most part, genuine connections and interactions are extremely undervalued these days. For so many years, I've struggled to understand why so few people seemed to accept me or want to spend time with/talk to me, and I've recently decided that a few people is better than none at all. Why obsess over who doesn't like you when you could turn your attention to who does?

I can count my friends on one hand and my acquaintances on about three (not that I have three hands). And I'm okay with that now more than ever. The best part about my little friend group is that each person fulfills me in different ways. They are all unique people who fill unique roles, and maybe that's what finding "your people" and choosing your army is all about. I know who to turn to when I want to laugh, who to turn to when I want to bear my soul, who to turn to when I want to be spontaneous, and who to turn to when I simply want to hang out and do nothing.

Here's what I've learned about finding and keeping your own army of companions:

1. If you have to work for their affection, they are not your friend. 

This is so important that I want to annoyingly say it again in all caps. IF YOU HAVE TO WORK FOR THEIR AFFECTION, THEY ARE NOT YOUR FRIEND. In middle school (some of the worst years of my entire life), I spent more energy focusing on how to impress people than I did on my math homework. I manipulated my brain into thinking that people who didn't like me at all were my friends. I cringe just thinking about it. It took me until the end of 8th grade to find a group of people who seemed to genuinely enjoy my company. Although it's nice and perfectly normal to want to impress your friends to some extent, it's even nicer to know for a fact that they like you just as you are. You will never have to question how your real friends feel about you.

2. Having things in common is wonderful, but differences keep things interesting. 

Some of the closest friends I've had in my life have been like my polar opposites, yet we've still gotten along great. So many people stress the importance of finding common interests, but too many common interests can get old really fast. I love being introduced to new things and new ways of thinking. I like to be challenged from time to time or have silly debates over whether or not reading books is better than playing video games. I like the sense of being changed in a good, healthy way by someone who has something to teach me.

3. Relationships take time and patience. 

As nice as it would be for a friendship or relationship to effortlessly blossom on day one, it rarely happens. It takes time to warm up to and get to know people. It takes time for someone to become a worthy and integral part of your life. It takes time for relationships to evolve into what they are meant to become. I often get impatient with the process of getting as close to someone as I'd like to be, but rushing things never works. I've been on both ends of that spectrum. That said, it shouldn't take forever to form a real connection with someone. If that's the case, there is resistance coming either from you or the other person. Find people who love you as much as you love them. They are out there somewhere.    

4. Everyone you love is going to hurt you at some point, whether it's on a small scale or a large scale. Deciding whether or not to keep them in your life depends on the ratio of pain and happiness.  

Getting close to someone opens the risk of being let down by them. And if you're a part of someone's life long enough, they will eventually disappoint you. Does this mean you should run for the hills? Hell no. Deciding who is worth keeping in your life comes down to how they make you feel in the grand scheme of things. Do they drain you and constantly put you down, or do they fill you with joy and make you a better person? Love and friendship means you are willing to forgive the bad and only look for the good. It means knowing the difference between what matters and what doesn't.

Now go forth, and assemble your army! Because I can't even describe how wonderful it feels to finally have mine.

<3 Madison         

Friday, August 7, 2015

Facing my fear + answering your questions




Well, here I am, guys...In all my awkward, imperfect, unedited glory.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to submit a question! Thank you for caring, encouraging me, and being excited about something that I wasn't too excited about myself. And if you still like me or like me even more after watching this, I profusely thank you for that as well.

Overall, I'm really glad I did this. It will give you all an opportunity to see the real me, help you get a feel for my personality outside the blogosphere, and hopefully inspire you to face your own fears...even if your voice shakes or you blink your eyes too much.

As an added bonus, here are 10 self-deprecating thoughts I had while watching this video. I won't be offended if they match your own.

1. That rapid blinking though.

2. I really do sound like I'm about to cry. I'm glad I pointed out that I'm not.

3. I should've brushed my eyebrows before I filmed this.

4. I wish "um" was a more intelligent sounding word.

5. This is painful to watch, but at least I have a few semi-charming moments here and there.

6. "I don't know if this is backwards or not." Seriously? It's a webcam, not a mirror. Ugh.

7. Arrgghhh! I forgot to say the name of the guy who asked the funny question about braces. THANK YOU, ERIC. I'M SORRY I FORGOT TO SAY YOUR NAMEEE.

8. DAMN IT. I also forgot to say the name of the guy who asked question #11. Sorry, Grant!!!

9. That junk food analogy wasn't bad. High-five to myself.

10. YAY, IT'S OVER.

Thank you. I love you. Please stick around.

<3 Madison  

Friday, July 24, 2015

I will face a fear if you send me your questions!

Hello friends!

This year got off to a good start in regards to getting out of my bubble more often. I faced difficult truths in my life and dared to start over. I made new friends and reconnected with old ones. I danced at my brother's wedding. I survived a long string of bad news. I created opportunities instead of waiting for them to show up on my doorstep. I changed my hair. I started writing a book. I stopped taking everything so personally and learned how to lighten up more. I embraced human contact instead of avoiding it. 

But I've noticed myself retreating again lately. My anxiety levels are higher than I'd like for them to be, and if I'm not careful, my discouragement levels quickly follow. It's ridiculous how easy it is to fall back to a part of yourself you thought you didn't recognize anymore. I don't want to recognize the part of myself that is paranoid, isolated, astronomically anxious, and overly sensitive. That's not who I really am.  

So I want to do a simple little something about this, but I need your help! 

I've always loved watching videos of my favorite bloggers (because I love seeing the person behind the screen), but I've always been too terrified to post one of myself. I can't even tell you how many times I've considered and obliterated the idea. Maybe finally making a video of myself will help me take a huge step out of my comfort zone and (hopefully) show me that it's not so scary out there. 

And if you guys enjoy my blog and are anything like me, I'm sure you'd love to see me in person, hear the voice behind the blog, and marvel at how unforgivably awkward I am in real life! Right?! (No pressure there.) And it would also be good for me because I would be facing a massive fear while also connecting with you all on a new level. It would be like removing a mask after years of feeling safe behind it. 

So here's the deal: If I get AT LEAST 10 questions from 10 different people (no cheating), I will answer your questions on video and post the entire unedited monstrosity right here on my blog for everyone to see. You are more than welcome to submit more than one question, but I want to hear from at least 10 different people so I can rest assured that I won't be practically talking to myself. Ya feel me?  

If I end up getting a surprising amount of questions or receive questions I do not feel comfortable answering publicly, some of them may get cut. Otherwise, I will be happy to answer any questions you have...And don't feel confined to asking me questions about writing or personal growth! You are also welcome to ask me basic or random questions like what my favorite color is or if I've ever punched anyone in the face. (Spoiler alert: Blue and almost.) 

If YOU would like to help me face my fear of public humiliation, please post your questions in the comment section of this post or email them to MadisonSonnier[AT]gmail[DOT]com. The deadline for question submission is August 5, 2015. If I receive my minimum of 10 questions (from 10 different people) by then, I will make the video and post it sometime within the week following the deadline. 

And if you never see the video or hear another word about it, you can safely assume that I didn't receive my minimum number of questions. I will not make this video if no one is interested. I REFUSE, I TELL YOU.  

Sound like a plan? Then ask away!

<3 Madison  

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Where I've been

Hello friends.

I don't need to tell you that I've been MIA lately because you can clearly see that for yourself. This is the first time I've gone more than a month without blogging, and that has me a little worried about my sense of direction and the little readership I've built up over the last few years. I don't want to disappoint you or myself.

I don't really have anything specific to share, but I wanted to pop in and let you all know that I'm still alive and hopefully offer a bit of insight as to why it's been so quiet over here in my corner of the Internet.

~ Some recent events in my personal life have left me unable to properly verbalize my thoughts and feelings --- out of respect for my family's privacy (including my own) and an inability to process those things myself, much less try to write anything about them. I've found it difficult to focus on blogging the way I generally know how, and every post idea that crossed my mind was quickly squashed. As I said once before, I won't write a shitty blog post for the sake of posting something new. I'd rather just stay quiet.

~ I've had a good deal of writing work keeping me modestly busy lately. (Yay!)

~ I'm trying to read as much as I write. Book recommendations are welcome and appreciated.

~ One of the reasons I started this blog back in 2011 was because I felt lonely and depressed. I thrived on the little online community I created and had more friends on the Internet than I had in real life. But my face-to-face relationships have been growing recently, and that has proven to be more meaningful to me than the words I've exchanged with strangers through a computer screen. That is in no way an insult towards the wonderful people I've come to know through this blog. I will always want to talk to you guys. But when I need a shoulder to cry on, I should reach for a real person --- not an electronic device.  

~ I'm working on a new book, and I never announce stuff like that unless I believe I'm creating something that could actually take off. I hope to have more news throughout the rest of the year and maybe start an official website for updates on my writing life in general, but I just feel compelled to note that I've been very dedicated to this project in recent weeks. It has been a vital source of creative therapy for me, and I work on it every day.

~ I need to live my life and solve my problems before I can help you live and solve yours.

I thank you for sticking around, and I'm sorry if I've been failing to do the same. Feel free to email me if you want to talk or hear a little more about what I'm working on.

<3 Madison

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Moments

I feel perpetually overwhelmed by moments and how quickly they come and go, almost as if they never happened at all. I live a relatively unextraordinary life. I wake up, I climb out of bed, I get dressed, I pour myself a glass of water, I check my email, I check the weather, I try to be productive, I try to be present, and I try to be and do enough.

But every now and then, I am lucky enough to experience moments that exceed the ordinary and mundane. For me, those moments are everything. While they're happening, I'm on top of the world and nothing can hurt me. When they end, it feels like falling off a cliff and fading into oblivion in a matter of seconds.  

I experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. An encouraging compliment is enough to make my day while a glance of judgment or disapproval is enough to ruin it. If my emotions aren't shooting from 0 to 100, they're in a coma. Special moments sustain me and prevent my ability to feel from failing me entirely. I thrive off these moments. I live for them. And yet they never fail to depress me even more because they always have to end.

But the worst part isn't that the moments end. It's the ghosts they leave behind. The empty seat that was once filled by someone you love. The quiet house that was once full of noise and life. The frail body that was once held by comforting arms. The rainy sky that was once filled by sunshine and blue. The dry throat that was once filled with laughter and champagne. The favorite pair of shoes or jeans that don't fit anymore. The back of a book that once had a beginning and a story yet to be discovered. The full casket that radiates nothing but emptiness. The retelling of a moment like it happened yesterday only to be met with deafening silence and tragic forgetfulness by the person you shared the moment with. The beautiful and innocent yesterdays being measured against the scary and uncertain tomorrows.

We must constantly seek out and create new moments. We must forget the people who forget us and let go of the things that don't want to be held. We must remember to take more pictures, pay more attention to each other, put our phones away more often, and say the things we want to say before it's too late.

We must find new moments and constantly look for reasons to look ahead instead of over our shoulders. Because as much as I love it back there, I will never see where I'm going if I don't turn around.    

<3 Madison