Sunday, January 19, 2014

Life Lessons I Learned the Hard Way

I haven't been regularly blogging for a while, and I miss it. I just felt like I needed to give myself permission to use my spare time to actually relax for a little while, and not feel like I have to be doing something productive 24 hours a day. I have a hard time chilling out, and sometimes have to force myself to do so, usually when I'm on the verge of a complete nervous breakdown(which is about 4-6 times a year). But now I feel like I've watched enough Netflix to kill some of those pesky overthinking brain cells, and I'm ready to get back to regular blogging.
In between episodes of Friday Night Lights (oh, Tim Riggins) and American Horror Story, I also spent some of my downtime reflecting on the past year. I'm not one for New Year's Resolutions-I've completely accepted all my bad habits, it’s fine.  But I think getting a little introspective as the year changes is kind of unavoidable. I think if I had to describe 2013 in one sentence, I'd say that it was a year of hard lessons. For a few years prior I was really feeling like my life was on a particular trajectory, and that I'd more or less figured things out. In 2013, it kind of felt like the universe was actively trying to remind me who's the boss. Things just didn't quite seem to go how I wanted them-there were some disappointments, and some hard truths I had to face. And that's ok-now I can go forward with a little bit more knowledge, and maybe make better decisions( probably not though).
Reflecting on the year, I've started to really think about all the important life lessons I've ever learned. I never just listen to advice, and use it to make good decisions. I like to learn everything the hard way, usually fucking up my life for at least a few weeks, and sometimes for years. So here’s some real talk about the lessons I’ve learned in my time.

Sometimes being a good friend means keeping what you really think to yourself- I know that when a friend is going through something shitty(especially when it comes to their relationships) it's hard not to put your real two cents in. And if they're in a dangerous situation, you absolutely should. But more often, it serves both of you better if you just shut up and offer your support. The classic example is when you hate your friend's boyfriend, and they come to you after one of their fights. You might want to tell them that the dude is a dink. But then they make up, and the friend is wary to turn to you again-and might even push you away entirely- out of loyalty to her loser boyfriend. Sometimes it's better just to listen, and that goes for all kinds of situations.

You shouldn't expect anything from anyone-ok, whoa whoa whoa, I don't mean this in a cynical way. I'm not saying that no one is ever going to do anything for you. They probably will. Lots of people have come through for me, and I am infinitely grateful for those people. But you shouldn't expect it. You should expect to have to handle everything on your own. Because when someone goes out of their way to do something for you, that's a huge gift and I think you should see it that way. It takes some active thought to be there for another person, and I think it really needs to be appreciated when someone else thinks about your well-being and helps you out. But on another note(and this may be sort of contradictory)....

If you need help, ask for it- I have a hard time admitting when I can't handle the load by myself-I have always had that difficulty asking for help. But in the past few years, I've realized that sometimes I need someone to help me get through something. Even just a friend to tell me they understand. And I can tell you that I have never reached out and asked for help and not received it. If you are going through something, tell someone close to you and ask for help. Everybody goes through shit sometimes, and you should never feel like you are alone. Just make sure that you're doing what you can to help yourself, that you're thankful to those people who come through for you, and you return the favour in their time of need.

You should never be too scared, or too embarrassed to take care of your sexual health-I can't believe I'm about to make this story public information. But ok, deep breath, here goes. A few years back I was having a conversation with a friend about how the movie "Kids" really freaked her out and made her think about how anyone could be HIV positive. And I think around the same time I had the flu or something, and I made to great call to look up my symptoms online. Among other things, the internet told me that my symptoms could point to HIV/AIDS. And I had a steady boyfriend, but you never know right? Oh my god oh my god oh my god fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck I'M GOING TO DIE. I just started thinking about how you know, you don't even have to sleep around, it just takes one person and I could be that one low-risk person who is terribly unlucky and that poster I saw at school said that a lot of people with HIV don't know they have it, and what about all the other STIs, I heard you can get chlamydia from a towel like holy shit I'm freaking out.
 I confided my fears in a few people, who told me, if you're really worried, go get tested. But I was too scared. I just couldn't do it. I spent months torturing myself that even though my flu had passed and I had no other symptoms or risk factors, I could have something-the thought was just lodged in my brain. Finally, after my 46th panicked call to my sister, she pretty much told me I had to go get tested or she wouldn't talk to me about it anymore. So I did. And, as you probably guessed, everything was completely fine(well, except my raging anxiety problem, but I don't think the gyno could do much about that). And not only that, the doctor commended me for being proactive about taking care of my health. The relief was orgasmic. Since then, I’ve talked to tons of other people who have had similar freak outs over nothing. It’s just one of those things that doesn’t get talked about openly. I know that my fears were a little far fetched. But I could have saved myself seriously a lot of stress if I would have just gotten tested the moment I thought about it. The peace of mind is worth sucking it up and facing any slight embarrassment you feel for the few minutes that you spend with the doctor. If you think you should get tested, just do it. I'll go with you.
Oh and another good lesson here is that if you're a complete basket case like me, you might not want to watch "Kids" and then Google your flu symptoms.

Worrying about something doesn't make it any more or less likely to happen-
This is a lesson I've learned, but definitely one that I have a hard time putting into practice. I think that almost without fail, the things I have worried about the most have never happened. And the shitty things that have happened are the things that I never thought about at all. Worrying is a waste of time.

It's really hard to forgive yourself when you hurt someone you love
-I think we often focus on the ways that other people hurt us, and don't always think about the ways that we may have done them wrong. But let me tell you, when you do something shitty to someone you care about, it really sucks, even if you didn't mean to hurt them. I don't know if it's entirely possible(because sometimes you only see it in hindsight), but I urge you-and myself-to really think about how your actions affect people close to you. I know that in the past, if someone told me they didn't like some way that I was acting, I never really took responsibility for it. It was always their fault for not accepting me for who I was. But sometimes it really was my fault. And it's a lot harder to forgive yourself than someone else.

You might be able to handle more than you think-I think one of the biggest parts of anxiety isn't just worrying about things that might happen, it's worrying that you won't be able to handle it when they do.  I've seen a cheesy quote superimposed on a photo of a sunset on Facebook- "You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice" or something like that. Laaaaaaaame. But you know what, I have really found that to be true. I spend a lot of time worrying, but when things have really gotten tough, I've always somehow manned up, navigated the situation, and come out ok(although maybe a little more dead inside) in the end. Have a little faith in yourself to be able to handle a crisis, though let's all hope you never have to.

No matter how much you think you've learned, you don't know jack shit about anything-
Some of the things I've gone through this year have been really similar to things I've been through in the past. So I thought, ok, I've been here before. If I do this and this, I should get this outcome. But life doesn't work like that. There's always different circumstances, different people involved, you're at a different place in your life, whatever. You might think you have things figured out but no sir, you do not. This has been one of the scariest life lessons I've learned yet. It actually kind of negates all the others. We're just here, doing what we do, and none of us has any idea what the fuck.

That's definitely not an exhaustive list of all the lessons I mean, I'm constantly making bad choices and sometimes learning from them. But I'm going to put a lid on it for now. I don't want you to think this is me getting on my high horse and doling out advice. I don't believe in giving advice, because one more thing I've learned is that nobody takes it, including, as I mentioned before, myself. Once someone gets an idea in their head about what they want to do, they're pretty much going to do it no matter what anyone says, and just learn their own lessons the hard way. But I felt like this was a good way to go with my first blog of 2014-just clean out the closet a bit.

I'm happy to get back to blogging. I'll probably do some beauty entries soon. I’ve been going through a phase where I feel kind of shitty and unattractive, but also too apathetic to do anything about it. I think this phase is commonly known as "Winter". I haven't completely let it all go-I've been keeping it up at the gym at least. But I think it's time to really pull myself together, get back to blogging, start showering daily, and stop leaving the house in sweatpants.

Well, I'll start with the blogging, and see where I go from there.

Thanks for reading-as always I appreciate it hugely and I'd love your suggestions for future entries, especially if they involve me going shopping. Til next time, xo.

Are you inspired? The internet tells me Bob Marley said this...or was it Marilyn Monroe...


  1. Great post Ruth. It's comforting to know that others I know struggle with anxiety and stress. It's totally true that I worry about all the things that never even happen the most -- to the point of losing my ability to function in life until it subsides, depending on the intensity of the situation. I've found meditation and yoga very helpful, as well as healthy eating and exercise! Sounds like a tough year, but a year of good lessons. :)

    1. Well thankfully not all these lessons were learned in one year! But I did have kind of a tough year- honestly nothing awful happened, but I often felt like I was being mentally tested. One really upsetting part of the past year is that for a while there I was convinced that I had gotten over my anxiety- but in 2013 I had a few pretty bad bouts with it- and it really is a lot like you described. I too take comfort in healthy eating and exercise. A huge part of the reason I l love the gym is how effective it is in soothing my anxiety.
      Thanks for reading Gill!