Tuesday, May 22, 2018

On Royal Weddings, Birds, and Shifting Social Tides


Last Friday, Seth and I stayed up late to watch CNN's live footage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle getting married. I'm so very glad we did. I've casually followed the lives of the British royals since I first saw Diana and Charles get married as a little girl, so naturally I was interested in seeing their boys get married too. I watched them be born and grow up, after all, so -- like many people -- I guess I feel like I know them a little bit. Plus, Seth and I already watched the live footage of Prince William and Kate Middleton getting married years ago and had a wonderful time.

Harry has always been my favorite of the two princes though, so I was especially interested in seeing him sort of find someone eventually and settle down. Imagine how thrilled I was when he chose someone not only smart and poised, but biracial as well. Being biracial myself, that really means something to me. I was born in the 70's, so I very definitely grew up with the message that girls like me don't get to be princesses. We certainly were never considered pretty, or desirable, or noteworthy, so it's been quietly blowing my mind a little bit that I can actually recognize myself in the face of one of the British royals -- something I really didn't think would ever happen. Yes, there are still plenty of bigots out there that think we mixed girls (Meghan Markle included) ain't shit, but they can't change the fact that this is just huge.


At any rate, watching that wedding was just what I needed, so haters be damned. Some people really seem to get something out of feeling miserable all the time and focusing on everything that's wrong with the world we live in, but I don't. As melancholy and depressed as I can get from time to time, I always choose happiness, and cheer, and optimism as often as it makes sense to, so it was really nice to spend an entire evening thinking about gorgeous white flowers, and crazy English church hats, and a beautiful mixed girl marrying the best prince for a change. 

It was nice spending the next morning filling my Facebook feed with articles and photos from the wedding as well -- something nice to look back on when the "memories" function reminds me in the future. And since my page is pretty well free of all the fake friends and annoying people I've been complaining about for a while now, I didn't have to put up with a single negative comment mocking me for actually caring about something as "frivolous" as a royal wedding. It was a really nice break from all the negativity and I'm glad I took the time to experience it. It's nice to know that life hasn't made me so jaded by 42 that I no longer have the ability to feel as innocent and enchanted as I did back when I saw my first royal wedding at only 5 years old. 


A couple of weeks ago, I finished the original set of video courses that I'd been chewing on here and there for months, so I eagerly started a few more -- one about performance psychology (to keep me juiced up about my workouts), one about the Irish identity (to start connecting with some of the cultures from my 23andMe ancestry reports), and a third on birding (for no other reason than I love birds and would like to be better informed about some of the ones that live here). Workout time really has turned out to be an ideal time to also try to learn something, so I really wanted to keep the learning train going.

I also downloaded a birding app from Cornell University yesterday and installed all the recommended guides to birds in my area. I played with it so much last night that I eventually gave Seth an Excedrin headache, but it sure was fun regardless. I love learning new things and I feel fortunate to have such easy access to really great learning platforms that are affordable (if not completely free). I don't know how people can actually choose to sit on social media all day and waste 100% of their time online when there are unlimited things to do, and read, and learn, and see. 

Now if only I could actually make some new internet friends that are interested in at least a few of the same things I'm into, particularly self-improvement. It's been nice to be rid of all the victims, and panhandlers, and losers I've been jettisoning from my life lately, but I haven't really met many worthy replacements yet. I guess until I do, there are always the new Facebook groups I've been going to. They're something.

Friday, May 11, 2018

On Inner Peace and Progress


Every so often, it occurs to me that I'm actually a lot more satisfied with myself and my life than I tend to think I am most of the time. It's pretty much impossible to sell me things I don't really want or need and I don't fall for the same bullshit schemes other people seem to lap up just like it's mother's milk. I don't wish I was a different person or dream of living a radically different life one day. Not anymore. There's definitely always room for improvement, of course, but I'm also pretty content with who I am and with how I fill my days. Anything I'm not currently satisfied with is either temporary or something I'm actively working to change for myself.

My recent disenchantment with so many of my old friends has found me trying to make some new ones that share some of my current interests and values. I found a few Facebook groups to join and contribute to that seemed promising. I've also been attempting to actually talk to people that seem personable. As a result, I've had a few superficial "let's get to know each other" chats with some new folks I've met and I've noticed something about the way I speak about myself and my life. I speak with confidence and pride about my accomplishments, my relationship, and the person I've worked hard to become. That's a far cry from how I used to talk about myself in the now distant past -- very carefully, as I was constantly worried that the truth of my life would seem as pathetic to other people as it did to me.

I'm not sure when or how it happened, but at some point I guess I stopped pretending I like myself and started actually liking myself. I'm proud of how honest, spiritually grounded, and responsible I've become over the years. I'm proud of the fact that I'm no longer settling for ho-hum relationships with boring, embarrassing men I don't actually care about or, worse, feel ashamed to be associated with. I'm very proud of the way I can say with complete candidness and confidence that I'm a full-time professional writer that can feed her family thanks to her skill with words. It's been fun to see how impressed new acquaintances are when I talk about what I do and what I'm into as a result. It's like seeing myself through fresh eyes and truly being able to say I like what I see. 


In other news, I deleted my LiveJournal this morning. I posted a final entry stating my intentions a couple of weeks ago along with a few links to other places I could be found in the future if people were actually interested in continuing to know me. I figure that if folks haven't taken me up on my offer to follow me one or more of those places by now, then they simply don't care enough about keeping in touch with me for me to be bothered any further. So as of now, I'm gone from there. Free at last.

It does feel a bit odd though. Even though my journal there hasn't been active in many years at this point, actually deleting it closes a pretty major chapter in my life for good. LiveJournal was the catalyst for many serious changes in my life. The choice to start writing there was directly responsible for my later decision to start my business and become a professional writer. It's where Seth and I met many years ago when I was still married to my ex. Most importantly, seeing myself through the eyes of the people that once read and loved my writing there showed me that I was so much more than the unremarkable, unimportant little Macy's salesgirl my ex-husband and family saw when they looked at me. That was then and this is now though, so it's time to let go.

Next order of business is to go through my friends lists on the rest of my social media and scrub it clean of anyone else I really no longer want to know. I don't want to know any more losers, or mooches, or sad little excuse makers with no self-esteem. I only want to associate with people that lift me up, inspire me, or make my life better than it otherwise would be.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Angelus

The Angelus - Jean-Fran├žois Millet (1857-59)
That painting there -- Millet's The Angelus -- is one of my favorites right now, as it makes me think of the head space I'm in these days and all of the things that are positive about it. To begin with, it depicts a couple that not only works together, but prays together, taking a moment to bow their heads for the Angelus at dusk. They're hard-working farmers that work the land, not fancy folks that live easy lives. They work hard for everything they have, but it's a good life they live and it's one they never forget to thank God for. 

When I look at that painting, I see the standard I'm aspiring to, both on my own and within the context of my relationship. My ideal life with Seth looks like that life. In fact, I think I've made a decision. Whenever I get around to fixing up my desk area and making it work-friendly again, I think I'd like to buy a framed print or canvas of The Angelus and replace the nondescript print of my mother's that's currently hanging over my desk. At one point, I thought I'd replace it with a piece of my own art, but I think this is much more appropriate for where I'm currently at in my life.

It's amazing how differently I process the passage of time when I feel like I'm being consistent about  doing something good for myself. For instance, it's now the second day of May. At my current age, time has a way of zipping by at what honestly feels like a breakneck pace sometimes and the start of yet another month normally finds me feeling disappointed in myself because of how little progress I made as far as moving my life forward over the month before. This year has been different because of the way I've stuck by my decision to make exercise a regular part of my life. 

Every time I realize another month has passed and a new one has started, I can't help but also realize that means I've successfully completed yet another month's worth of daily exercise and mindful eating. I feel productive, disciplined, and proud of myself on a level I just haven't in years. I've kept up with my promise to myself and to God that I'd start every day with prayers, a set of rosary mysteries, and some Bible study as well. And as if that isn't enough, I've been getting back into my video lectures lately as a way to keep my mind busy while I work out. This is me at my best and most productive. I'm thrilled to see this version of myself isn't something that's simply been lost with age.


In other news, I got a wonderful surprise in the mail today. My monthly delivery from ButcherBox arrived safely and I was thrilled to see it contained the salmon special I added to my shipment this month. Anyone that has known me for long knows how much I love the different food delivery services I use to supply us with good quality things to eat and ButcherBox is my favorite way to get responsibly sourced meat. Up until recently, you haven't been able to get seafood through them though, so I was really happy to see they were offering a salmon special for the very first time. With any luck, this will be the first of many.

Food and meals are another area of my life that is pretty well in order and that I'm thankful for. I love food, love cooking, and have a real passion for food culture. I read voraciously about food, study gastronomy, and welcome the chance to explore new territory when it comes to good, simple, delicious food. I'm also lucky enough to be with someone that is the same. So many of the men I've dated in the past have been so limited and had so little curiosity about anything truly wonderful in this world, so Seth's attitude is really refreshing. I can't wait to cook this salmon up for our Friday Fish Day meal this week. Life isn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but so much about it is good nevertheless.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Out with the Old, In with the New


Every so often in life, I appear to arrive at a kind of... social crossroads, for lack of a better way to describe it. At first, I just find I have trouble relating to my friends groups to the same extent I once did. Then I start noticing myself becoming actively irritated with individual members of those groups, usually because something they do, say, or think seems immature or unreasonable on one level or another. Then one day I just wake up in a state of active disgust with nearly everyone I know from that group and just want to be permanently rid of most of them.

That gradual process of disillusionment is what eventually caused me to realize I'd outgrown the friends I'd had throughout my teenage years, as well as most of my core family. It's what made me want to jettison myself from the online art community years ago, not to mention cut ties with almost everyone that even remembered I used to make digital art. Now it's officially happened with that group of LiveJournal people I used to be so tight with. I'm just sick to death of how petty, and gossipy, and childish they all are.

These are feelings I'd been aware of for quite some time. However, the whole David incident was what really dragged them out into the open. I'm not the sort of person that takes kindly to another person's decision to ignore my wishes and just hop right over any boundaries I might have set, but that's exactly what David eventually decided to do. Right after I removed and blocked him on every social media platform I could think of, he went out of his way to track me down and tweet me on Twitter, the one place I'd forgotten he had an account and failed to enforce a block. Then at some point yesterday, I got another message from him basically begging for another chance at friendship. I had previously responded to the tweet with a brief explanation as to why I didn't want to be friends anymore, but I didn't dignify yesterday's follow-up message with a response at all. I'm only going to tell you once.

I was later unfriended by another mutual friend of ours, I assume because David decided to complain to the rest of his friends about my lack of interest in rekindling our friendship and this chick wanted to kiss up to him the way she always does. This other person had been on my last nerve for a while as well, so it didn't really bother me, but yeah. All this implies that there's been all sorts of behind-the-scenes talk about me and my decision not to be friends with David anymore. That's just ludicrous, as David and I have never met or hung out in real life. We haven't even really interacted online all that much in recent years. I get that I was exactly the type of person David usually seeks approval from, so I'm sure this was a blow to his ego, but that's about it. He really doesn't even know me.


So I really got to thinking: Who the hell goes out of their way to contact someone they know for a fact doesn't want to hear from them instead of simply respecting that person's decision? An even better question would be: Who the hell does any of the things some of these damn people have done over the years to make me start feeling this way and what does that say about the kind of "friends" they are? Seriously, most of these people are complete fucking losers. They're chronically unemployed, unable to cultivate healthy romantic relationships, unnaturally attached to their parents in many cases, and perpetually dealing with one personal crisis after another. These are people that have tried to hit me up for jobs, for money, and certainly for my personal seal of approval on whatever dumb-ass decision they're about to make with their life next. 

All that was one thing when we were all still in our 20's or even our early 30's. Now though? We're all well into our 30's (at the youngest), in our 40's, or even older (50's in David's case). These people should be showing some measure of personal growth by now -- some improvement in their ability to control their damn impulses and certainly to respect other people's boundaries. David literally spat on mine as soon as possible and then did it again when he felt enough time had passed that I "should" be over what happened and ready to be friends again. Don't even get me started on these other tools. 

At any rate, I'm pretty worn out as far as these people go and I'm way ready to be done with them. I'm astonished at the fact that I didn't reach this point years ago. I also think it's time I start thinking about who else from that crowd I want to get rid of because they're entitled, petty, immature, or just plain annoying. It may even be time to finally delete my LiveJournal, as it's my final remaining tie to a large portion of that crowd. I just don't know how many ties I even want anymore to the people I used to know there or to the person I used to be back when I still considered them friends.


As far as happier news goes, I found out a little earlier in the month what the theme for this year's online TCM course is going to be -- musicals! In other words, it's the best theme it could possibly be as far as my getting excited goes. Seth and I both love classic musicals, but we don't know a ton about them from a film studies standpoint. There are also many important musical films one or both of us have yet to see, so we're looking forward to filling in some of the blanks. Class starts at the beginning of June and I'm eagerly looking forward to it.

I also finally bought myself an actual grown-up URL the other day (shannonhilson.com) that I currently have forwarding to this blog. I may also open up a Blogger blog for my business that may double as a sort of professional website at some point and have a second URL forward to that. My new workout habits have really made 2018 a productive year for me so far and I've been having fun embracing ways to keep that going, both personally and professionally. "Out with the old, in with the new" is definitely my motto in a big way right now.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

On Growing Up and Its Consequences


So I cut ties with a couple of friends this week. Sadly, it seems that the more of my own issues I resolve and the more growing up I do, the more I start to see some of my so-called friends for the losers, eternal victims, and rotting garbage people that they are. As far as how I feel about that? On the one hand, I'm really pleased to realize I've grown enough as a person to finally assess such situations accurately. But for someone that really hasn't had many close friendships to begin with, growing up can also be a really lonely process. I definitely feel like I lose friends these days at a much faster rate than I make new ones.

This time, the people in question were a middle-aged male friend I'd known online for years and his female partner of about a year whom I was only just getting to know. (We can call them David and Terri for the sake of this post.) David is of the age where people that haven't really taken very good care of themselves over the course of their lives start having serious health scares and something to that exact tune finally happened to him maybe a month or two ago. He's also been struggling with some pretty serious depression and anxiety lately, some of it probably related to the health scare and some of it not.

Now David has always been a little bit stunted as a person. Like many people I've known online, he sees and presents himself as one thing when actually he's another. (No real judgment on that front. We've all been there, including me. Hell, especially me.) Like many people in that boat though, he claims to tell it like it is and to be all about brutal honesty, but only when he's the one dishing it out. When someone else is serving it up -- even if it's someone he claims to respect -- he handles it with all the grace and dignity of a toddler. That's not actually the reason I cut ties with him though. That happened because I decided I could no longer tolerate the way he treats people, particularly his partners. 

The night before last, David initiated what would eventually evolve into a 24-hour meltdown on Facebook -- one of many he's had, but much worse than usual. I won't get too much into the gory details, but suffice it to say he flippantly decided to dump Terri without even telling her first for reasons that are still unknown and was using Facebook to be what I can only describe as cruel, abusive, and sadistic about it. He also kept baiting his friends the entire time, apparently as a test to see who cared enough about him to put up with his behavior. As if that's not enough, it came out at some point that this was not an isolated occurrence, but something David has made a habit of doing to Terri ever since they've been together. We apparently just hadn't had the sublime treat of seeing it play out on Facebook before.

David's toxic mood eventually exhausted itself and he (of course) decided he wanted to get back together with Terri at that point, so a half-assed apology was posted to all their friends. David blamed his depression and his meds for the outburst, expecting that to somehow make everything OK. Terri's obvious hurt and confusion at the situation though, as well as David's apparent enjoyment of it at the time, was... really triggering for both Seth and me. We've both had experiences in our younger years with people that treated us exactly that way -- like we were toys to be played with instead of people with actual feelings. Saying those experiences were traumatizing is putting it really mildly, David's behavior (and Terri's later decision to defend her abuser) was just the last straw for both of us.


I'm a pretty low-maintenance friend and I can overlook a lot of things, because honestly, my friends have had to overlook a lot of bullshit on my end over the years as well. You can be a victim. You can be an adult baby. You can be someone that sadly lacks any sort of self-awareness. You can be a complete drama queen that sucks at life. (Although don't expect me to be all that close if you are those things. I'll probably just hang out in the corner praying for you and hoping you eventually get your shit together until you eventually do.) You don't even have to be a particularly good or attentive friend to me. 

You can't be an abuser or give me any reason to think you enjoy being intentionally cruel to people though. Under any circumstances. That's where my hard limit is and it's a hanging offense. I have no interest in knowing someone who's like this. And if you use your mental illness as an excuse for whatever unspeakable thing you did? Expect me to be doubly bothered. Seth and I both struggle with similar issues, but we don't take our issues out on others like that or use them as excuses not to take responsibility for any poor choices we do make. Ever. 

Now neither of us told David or Terri off before disappearing from their lives. We just quietly unfriended and blocked, the better to avoid drama, because David at the very least is the type of person that can't not make a big fuss about such things. But the fallout as far as mutual friends go was still pretty much what you'd expect it to be. David has built himself a pretty cozy echo chamber full of nothing but fellow victims and card-carrying yes men, so it didn't take long for people to start telling him and Terri everything they wanted to hear -- that we weren't "real" friends, that we clearly didn't "understand" depression so our exodus really didn't matter, and all sorts of similar soothing lies.

But the thing is... we were real friends. We do understand mental illness, probably better than anyone. We are loyal, compassionate, and forthright as well. We might not be the friends you want 100% of the time, but we are the type of people that will always be the friends you need. And David lost us. He fucked up and pushed good people to their absolute limits the way he always does sooner or later. It's just a matter of time before Terri gets tired of being treated this way the way David's numerous other exes also have and walks away as a result.

For Terri's sake (and for the sake of her child that's completely stuck in the middle of all this), I hope that either David gets his shit together or she sees the light and walks away before too much real damage is done. I can't worry about that though. It's sad that I had to walk away from yet more friends when I already feel like I barely have any, but it is what it is. That's life and all that. Thank God I have the wisdom to do so instead of clinging to damaged people that have no interest in self-improvement and outmoded situations that no longer serve me.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

On Figurative Spring Cleaning


I don't know where the time goes, but it's definitely that time of year again. Lent is over with. Easter has come and gone. The weather is warming up and Seth has officially had to add tending the lawn to his rotating to-do list again because it's green and actively growing. I'm busy managing my business as my clients begin to make their usual post-tax season plans for their content needs. Collectively, we're starting to think about the warmer months and the different possibilities they bring with them.

As far as how I'm doing personally, I'm happy to report that I'm still doing an A+ job of keeping up with the workouts I promised myself I'd stay serious about way back in January. When I first started, I don't know that I expected to see much of a difference in how I looked or felt after only three months, but I've been pleasantly surprised. I've lost a few pounds for sure. I'm also feeling stronger, healthier, and just better all around. A lot of the issues I simply blamed on getting older before have even noticeably improved (i.e. less energy, lower moods, and lower sex drive) much to my great relief. I feel a lot less "old" as a result.

I've been feeling a lot more motivated in regards to other things as well. Just knowing I'm being proactive about my health and watching my physical state start to move in the right direction as a result has helped me with my depression and made me feel more optimistic about certain things. Knowing that I'll only continue to get slimmer, and healthier, and more comfortable in my own skin has found me getting excited about maybe actually "doing things" again in the near future -- going places, working on personal projects, and -- most importantly -- actually recording my life again. My thoughts, my experiences, and my adventures.

That said, it recently occurred to me that it's about time to streamline my online presence again and let go of some dead weight. Although I never thought I'd see the day at one point, I really no longer post on LiveJournal or even check in there with any consistency. When I do feel the need to share something about my life, I tend to do it on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter instead. When I want to actually flesh out some of my more complicated thoughts by journaling the old-fashioned way, I tend to come here -- to Blogger and to this particular blog. I'll probably leave my LiveJournal account open for now, as I do have a handful of decently close friends that still post there. I also very occasionally still feel the need to blog behind closed doors. 

I've backed up and unpublished my other three Blogger blogs for now though. I realized that I haven't updated any of them in well over a year (almost two in regards to a couple of them). I can't say I feel any real desire to revive them anymore either and I dislike allowing dead accounts to stay live once I know I won't ever be back. These days, when I'm in the mood to write actual informative content of any kind, I tend to want to capitalize on my efforts and sell it to third parties instead of just posting it up somewhere for other people's free consumption. Any time I feel like writing about those topics on a personal level, I can easily just do it here.

So that is where I'm at and that's where my other blogs have gone (on the off chance anyone actually cares or was wondering). I figure it will be easier to actually blog more consistently if I'm able to focus all my efforts on just one narrative. It'll be easier for those that actually do want to keep up with me to know where to go for any news as well. Stay tuned.

Friday, January 19, 2018

On January and Self-Improvement

So this year I decided to give some of that "New Year, new me" thinking the old college try (instead of just making fun of other people for doing it). Surprisingly, it's actually working out so far. Sometime around Halloween, Seth and I decided we were getting really tired of being so out of shape, so we bought some exercise equipment. Nothing super fancy -- just a stationary bike, a Gazelle Edge, and a set of resistance bands to start with -- things we could realistically picture ourselves using on a regular basis. Then after New Year's, I started working out. Not just "whenever" either. I actually came up with a consistent schedule that I've been sticking to. 

Monday through Friday I've been doing 30 minutes of cardio right when I get up before work or anything else has a chance to demand my ongoing attention. In addition to that, I've been doing some very basic strength training on Tuesdays and Thursdays after my cardio. Although my eating habits have honestly been pretty decent lately, I've been more mindful in that arena as well. Just the usual things -- watching my portions, cutting back on empty calories, and eating as much fresh produce as possible. Most mornings, I've also been taking the time to eat at least a small breakfast -- usually just toast and fruit with coffee, but sometimes an egg or some deli meat and cheese on an English muffin if I'm hungrier. 

The idea wasn't to drop a million pounds as quickly as possible the way it normally is when I think about fitness, but to actually come up with something sustainable I could see sticking with permanently. I don't want to do what I've watched my mother do the entire time I've been alive -- let her health and quality of life slide downhill until she eventually reached a point where she probably couldn't do much about it even if she wanted to. When I'm her age, I want to be healthy, happy, comfortable in my own skin, and living my best life. I guess I realized that if that's going to happen, I need to get the ball rolling toward some positive change and it seems to be working so far.

I didn't expect to notice a difference so quickly, but I have to admit that I do. I have more energy and less of that nagging chronic pain I've just learned to live with 24/7. I'm also already getting stronger and can tell I've lost a couple of pounds. (I'm purposefully not weighing myself yet so as not to become too preoccupied with weight.) Best of all, I've actually been sticking with it and feel like I can do so more or less indefinitely, which is the real goal. On my good days, I even enjoy it and look forward to it!

I also like that this has helped me reclaim my mornings and make them at least partially about me again. I've spent the better part of the past year making breakfast for my mother every day because of her health problems, which means I'm almost always the first and only one in my household up at the start of the day. I'm the sort of person that really resents being stuck with any sort of responsibility, especially if I'm the only one, so my attitude about all of this has honestly been pretty sour and getting worse all the time. I really missed being able to do as I liked in the mornings instead of getting up solely to do something for someone else that they really ought to be doing for themselves.

Taking that time to improve and nourish my body first thing (as well as pray -- something else I need to be doing more of) has done a lot to make me feel like I'm prioritizing myself and taking the time to actually enjoy my mornings the way I deserve to. I also love the optimistic feeling that comes with knowing I'll wake up every day a little bit stronger and healthier than I was the day before. At one point in the past, I was reasonably fit and very well-groomed in general. I felt like what I saw when I looked in the mirror was consistent with the proud, creative, valuable person I know myself to be inside. I'm looking forward to that being the case again one day soon.