Control

If you were thinking this was going to be an ode to 80’s Janet Jackson music, you’re about to be very disappointed. That post will be titled, “Miss Jackson if you’re nasty.”  This one is about the need for control, a need I didn’t even realize was such a force in my life until recently.

From elementary school all the way through graduate school, I was the person who volunteered to take the pieces of group projects and put them together into the final product; not because I was a selfless person with nothing better to do, but because I wanted control over what would ultimately be our grade. I’ve known for a long time that I wanted the control in that type of situation, but only recently have I come to realize that a need for control has impacted other areas of my life, as well, often in a much deeper and more impactful way.  

I think the reason my need for control never dawned on me before is that I’d been thinking about it in terms of controlling other people; which is not the case. While there may be some benefits to people doing and saying whatever I wanted them to all the time, I don’t need that (and, frankly, it sounds exhausting to have to figure out what other people even should be doing or saying all the time; I have a hard enough time figuring out my own shit). Ultimately, I just want a sense of control over the trajectory of my own life.

I’ve been aware for a while that I have a very tough time with feeling stuck or trapped, whether physically, mentally, or emotionally. What I didn’t always realize is that the feeling of being stuck, is ultimately a feeling of being out of control. Physically, if you’re stuck, you have no control over the movement of your body. Nothing sounds more panic-attack-inducing to me than being completely physically restrained. Being psychologically stuck isn’t much better, although we often have more control over that than we give ourselves credit for. For example, having to go to a job every day that I don’t like, don’t find fulfilling, etc. will eventually make me feel stuck. Do I have control over that situation? Realistically, sure. I have options.  I could just quit and potentially not have the money to pay my mortgage, car payment, etc. Or, a better but more difficult idea…I could change my perspective and look for things about the job to be grateful for. Still, it feels like I have no options because I can’t afford to exist without a paycheck, and learning to enjoy a job I feel like I hate just goes against my nature. Again, I understand that I technically have options, but I feel stuck, which equals a feeling of being out of control.

Another example… I am a planner. Me and spontaneity just don’t get along. I need to know what’s about to happen. If I haven’t planned for it, I’ll have major anxiety about having to do it, especially if it involves social interaction. In a way, being able to plan provides a sense of control. If I know what to expect, I can control my response to it even before it happens. The unknowns leave too many question marks, too many ways for the situation to have the upper hand. I suppose that’s at least partially why I have such a debilitating fear of death, the ultimate unknown.  While some people may claim to know what happens when we die, I don’t have a confident belief in any theory about the afterlife (or lack thereof), and there’s no way to plan for something that can’t be anticipated.

I don’t think I’ve always felt such a strong need to be in control; my need for control has grown as I’ve gotten older. When I was in college, I could get blackout drunk and be fine with it. Now, if I wake up the day after having a few drinks and I don’t feel like I was completely present and in control, I get an uneasy feeling and I regret it. My anxiety has also grown as I’ve gotten older, and I’m sure the correlation is no coincidence.

In my journey through personal growth and self-reflection, I’ve read a lot of quotes about control, most of them emphasizing the fact that trying to control everything will drive you into a state of misery and frustration…


“The more you try to control something, the more it controls you. Free yourself and let things take their own natural course.

Unknown


“Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it.”

Kahlil Gibran

And, alternately, quotes about controlling the one thing we can always control…

“You cannot always control what goes on outside, but you can always control what goes on inside.”

Wayne Dyer

“The control center of your life is your attitude.”

Unknown

“When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening. That’s where your power is.”

Unknown

I fully, whole-heartedly endorse the sentiment behind these quotes. Anxiety and the need for controlling outside situations, people, and circumstances are dangerously intertwined and are the ingredients in a recipe for a nervous breakdown. But no one, no situation, can control your thoughts. Our thoughts hold immeasurable strength and they can lead us down the darkest rabbit hole, or into the brightest opportunities for hope, love, and joy. The problem is that, although it sounds contradictory, the rabbit hole often feels safer. It’s certainly easier. Changing your mindset, relinquishing control over external nonsense, and learning to adapt your thoughts to match desired outcomes…well, that takes hard, intentional work. I feel like I am eternally in that work, still hoping I will one day get consistent enough that it becomes habit.  I’ve got a toolbox of things like meditation and gratitude intended to help me exercise control in the one area where I should be, my thoughts, and create new patterns of thought that serve me rather than torment me. Cognitively, I know all the things. Practically, I’m just not working hard enough at it and I’m failing. But I’m learning. And I haven’t given up and don’t intend to. If it’s a work in progress for the rest of my life, that’s what it will be, because mental health and wellness is that important, that worth it, and NO ONE has it 100% figured out. Remember that the next time you start beating yourself up over feeling what you feel or thinking what you think. Control or no control, we’re all in this together.

The Problem With Valentine’s Day

There are two kinds of people in the world; those who love Valentine’s Day and those who hate it. You may move back and forth between the two groups depending on the status of the relationships in your life at the time, and you’ll likely have mixed feelings about the holiday if you’re being truly honest with yourself. If you think about it as a day to celebrate love, well, what could be bad about that? Love is awesome. Love is what makes us feel alive. As much as it seems the world is so full of hate much of the time, the truth is love is all around us if we’re open to seeing it. Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be about romantic love only. We love our families, our friends, our pets, nature. However you give and receive love, it’s something to celebrate everyday, not just on February 14th.

But I’ll tell you why people hate it (because, believe me, I’ve been there more years than I haven’t)…COMPARISON. Comparison and pressure. Talk about killing the mood. Especially today when scrolling through your social media platform of choice can easily nudge you, like a kick to the groin, into a downward spiral of self-loathing, jealousy, and all sorts of existential questioning. All of it bullshit, by the way. You’ve probably heard the saying, “Don’t compare your behind-the-scenes with other people’s highlight reel” (or something along those lines). That guy who bought his wife those gorgeous flowers and that sparkling diamond she posted a picture of on Facebook? Maybe he’s abusive behind the scenes. Maybe the sappy words that girl you knew in college posted about her man is only telling a small part of the story. And if you don’t know the whole story, don’t make assumptions.

I’m not saying it’s always that serious, but the married couple on Instagram gazing into each other’s eyes like one of them just came back from war, posting about how the sun rises and sets in each other’s pants? Come on. They disagree on things. They argue. They have flashing thoughts of holding a pillow over their spouse’s face until they stop breathing once in a while. Romantic relationships are hard. For everyone.  Think about your own relationship. I’m sure there are times you are totally lost in love, and there are times you question the whole institution of marriage. Sis, Bro, we’ve all been there. But anything worth having requires effort, so we work through the tough stuff to get to the prize at the bottom of the cereal box, because we know it will be so worth it.

It all comes down to perspective and realizing that people will only show you what they want you to see.  Seems obvious, but when we’re looking at a photo of the flowers Jennifer’s boyfriend sent her at work, or Paul’s post about how deeply in love he is with his gorgeous, spectacular wife, Melissa, their 2.5 kids, and Golden Retriever named Bo, it can be easy to forget. We see some version of “perfect” and we believe everyone else has it but us. Again, I call bullshit every time. There is no such thing as “perfect.” Maybe people can be perfect for each other other, or perfectly suited for a given role, but everyone has problems, everyone struggles sometimes, and everyone forgets how good they’ve got it once in a while.

When I was single, I HATED Valentine’s Day. Surrounded by gifts I wasn’t going to receive, couples I’d never be, focusing on the one type of love I didn’t have, rather than the other types that I was blessed with. I was sure I’d never find that type of love, wasn’t worthy, wasn’t desirable, was just all-around inadequate. Now, being married and a mama to the most precious gift I’ve ever received, my entire perspective on Valentine’s Day has changed. I do now have that type of romantic love. But, still, that’s no longer my focus. Now, on Valentine’s Day, I celebrate the love of family. That means not just the love I share with my husband, but also with my parents, my brother, brothers/sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews, extended family, friends I consider family, and especially my son. That’s a lot of people and a whole lot of love. I am so grateful for all of these people, and when I think about all of the people in my son’s life who love him, I am extra grateful. I believe we all have love in our lives, but we get so narrow-minded in where we notice it. If you truly look around and can’t find any love in your life, please reach out to someone (in-person, online, somewhere) and connect, get help, and most of all, love yourself. I may not be showered with material gifts on Valentine’s Day, but when my husband wraps his arms around me, or my son snuggles into me, or I’m spending time with my parents or best friends, I feel so much love, and my heart is full. What’s more worthy of celebration than that?


V Day breakfast for my Roo. It may not be Pinterest-worthy, but it’s heart-shaped. So, at least there’s that.

Thoughts on MLM (from someone who’s been there, done that)

These days, everyone is looking for a side hustle. And multi level marketing/direct sales companies can certainly be appealing with their relatively inexpensive start-up costs, and stories of those at the top who have left their 9-5 jobs to earn lots of money (not to mention the cars in the company color, trips and cruises, and other high-value freebies) selling a product they love. When you truly love what you do, it doesn’t even feel like work, right? [insert barf noise here] Oh, and don’t forget the product discounts.

Is it possible? Absolutely. There really are people (typically women, many of them moms) who enjoy the flexibility of a work-from-home job that can actually provide significant income for their families. We see those women in their Facebook groups talking about how their MLM company has changed their lives, how they are so grateful for the sisterhood and the extra time with their kids, and we want that, too.  And rightfully so. As a mom, I’m constantly trying to find a way to make enough money to quit my day job and work on my own terms so I can spend more time with my son. Side note, I haven’t found it yet, so if you have any brilliant ideas that aren’t an MLM (I’ll get to that in a minute), let me know.

Within the last eight-ish years, I’ve joined three different MLM companies, and am currently still a member of two of them. I won’t name names, and I honestly don’t have anything bad to say about any of them, but I will refer to them as X, Y, and Z for the purposes of explaining my decisions.  I’ve been with X the longest and continue with them because there is no fee to remain an independent consultant (that’s not what this company actually calls it, but I’ll use that general term universally) and you get the same product discount even if you’re not active, so there’s really nothing to lose.  Plus, I genuinely do love their products and I still hold out hope for an occasional sale (which I do get, but I mean very occasionally). I joined Y because I loved the product and still do. However, the commission per product was very low and there was a monthly fee; albeit a small monthly fee, but when you’re pretty much breaking even, it just doesn’t seem worth it. That’s the problem with a product that doesn’t cost much; the percentage you make from each sale/the percentage discount on your own purchases isn’t significant unless you’re selling a whole lot. I joined Z less than a year ago. Again, absolutely love the products and wanted the discount. This company charges a relatively low yearly membership fee and actually frames it as the opportunity to become an independent consultant OR wholesale customer. Fair enough.

With all of these, no matter how great I believed the products were, I quickly blew through friends and family who were willing to purchase or host Facebook parties for me, and then I gave up. I just didn’t know where to go from there, and all the Facebook groups and online trainings in the world just couldn’t make me good at it. So this is where all of you who are currently working your MLM business look at me and say, “Well, that’s it…you’re not good at it. It’s because of you, not the company.” And you’d be right. I’ve come to terms with the fact that, no matter how badly I wanted an MLM business to be my ticket out of the 9-5 (or for me, 11-7) world, it’s just not for me. So, that’s why I say don’t come to me with promises of wealth and freedom as part of your downline. Oh, that’s another thing. I’ve never sponsored, or even tried to sponsor, an independent consultant. I wasn’t successful, and just couldn’t bring myself to try to drag anyone else down with me.

Now, with all that being said, I’m not knocking MLMs at all. It’s not a bad business model, if you ask me (granted, I have absolutely no business background or expertise whatsoever), and I know for a fact that many people are successful with them. I’m not entirely sure what they have that I don’t; more perseverance, more general confidence, more connections, more sales experience (although, if you ask anyone who is successful in an MLM, they’ll tell you that you don’t need any sales experience if you truly believe in the product), better networking skills? I don’t know, and it really doesn’t matter. Back in the day, before everyone and their mother/daughter/sister/niece were getting into MLM, I remember hearing the term “pyramid scheme.” It’s a pyramid alright, but I don’t like the word “scheme.” The word “scheme” implies deception, and I don’t think that’s the case. In my experience, MLM companies are pretty transparent in their compensation plans.  We may receive an unrealistic, or atypical, message of the level of success to expect, but that’s kind of on us to navigate, so you can’t blame the company. And for those at the top who have grown large teams and are making significant income, some of it passive, it is a full-time job. Those who do it well and actually care about what they’re doing put a lot of effort and time into training and supporting the teams they’ve built. I’ve seen some truly fantastic leaders in the MLM world.

These days, it’s easy to log on to Facebook or Instagram and become inundated with posts and messages from people who want to tell you all about why you should buy their product or join their awesome MLM company. You’ll ask an innocent question in a Facebook group and suddenly you’ve got 20 direct messages from other women “just like you” who have the perfect solution (but only after they’ve tried to form an at least somewhat inauthentic relationship with you because that’s what network marketing is all about…relationships) and I understand why you’d be annoyed by that. To be honest, I get annoyed sometimes, too. But the point is this… at the end of the day, we’re all just trying to make a living doing something we can actually get excited about. No one is trying to deceive you or get you to join a cult. There’s a kind way to let someone know you’re not picking up what they’re putting down. So, try to remember that the next time someone approaches you with their MLM product or “opportunity.” It’s not about you. It’s just about the hustle. And the struggle is real.

Life Lessons from TV Show Try-Outs

Back in July, I submitted a contestant application video for Wheel of Fortune. On October 1st, I received an email inviting me to attend a local audition. The email also happened to mention that they were looking for contestants for Best Friends Week, so we were allowed to bring a best friend along to the audition. Last week, my best friend, Mel, and I fulfilled a dream we’ve had since becoming friends over 20 years ago and auditioned together for Wheel of Fortune. I don’t yet know if I/we will be invited to be contestants on the show, but, regardless, this experience has served as an important reminder for me to take advantage of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Whether they’re big or small, serious or silly, scary or comfortable, we get one life to live in the best way we can. So, if we are given an opportunity to experience something positive that we may never again have the opportunity to experience, in this our one and only life, we’ve just got to go for it.

Mel and I auditioned for a television show once before (we were in our late 20s, I think). A soap opera. Mind you, I can’t act at all, nor do I have any interest in doing so. But, when a soap opera holds open auditions at a local Boscov’s, you just do it because how many people do you know who can say they’ve auditioned for a soap opera? It was an experience; one that didn’t cost us anything, and gave us some laughs and a story to tell for years to come. While I certainly have no acting ability, I am legitimately good at solving Wheel of Fortune puzzles, at least from the safety of my couch (although I think we did well in the audition, too), so, I was much less nervous this time around. I remember standing in that line wrapping around multiple floors of Boscov’s shaking with fear inside as I repeated the couple of lines over and over in my head. Why I even bothered to be nervous is beyond me. In both cases, the bottom line is that there were literally no stakes. What’s there to be nervous about when there’s nothing to lose?  This is an important life lesson, I think; one that I wish I’d really embodied much earlier. But, that’s kind of the thing about life lessons…you tend to learn them when it FEELS too late to really take advantage of them. I’m not saying it’s actually too late. It just feels like it is because you’ve already wasted time not knowing, not understanding, or not listening to them. Especially now, I’m a lot more comfortable with the prospect of making an ass out of myself than I used to be. I’m rather interesting, if I do say so myself, because, while I have terrible social anxiety, I really don’t have a problem getting up in front of a crowd. It’s the more intimate interactions that make me want to run away.

Anyway, my point is this…When fear is the only thing standing in the way of you taking advantage of an exciting, interesting, or fun opportunity, ask yourself, “What do I have to lose?” If the answer is “nothing,” go for it. At the very least, you’ll walk away with a story to tell and one less “what if” to wonder about. So go ahead, spin the metaphorical wheel of fortune. You just might land on the million. 

WOF

 

What the What is My What?

I am almost 38 years old and I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I have a pretty clear picture of WHO I want to be, but that person is financially secure and not drowning in debt. That is the part I struggle with. How do I get to that place without succumbing to the everydayness (sure, that’s a word) and apathy of it? How do I find something that lights my soul on fire (because, really, isn’t that what everyone is ultimately looking for) AND pays the bills? When I hear people say things like, “My job doesn’t even feel like work because I love what I do so much,” I want to barf all over their paycheck. I mean, good for you. Really. But I’m bitter and jealous and I’m allowed to be. So here is the part where self-help gurus everywhere tell me anything is possible if you want it badly enough, work hard enough, and believe in yourself. It IS possible to achieve your goals and live your dreams. Well, the truth is, I believe that. The problem, however, is that I have no identifiable goals and dreams other than raising my son well (but I’m putting a check mark next to that one already because it’s a given and, unfortunately, doesn’t pay very well), and being financially secure, preferably while also having more time to spend with my Roo (that’s my son, for those of you just joining the party).

Let’s take a quick detour to the land of goals, shall we? How many times have you been advised to set “SMART” goals? In case you are one of the lucky ones who have never had to do this, SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. I get it. I get why that makes sense. But, man, I don’t know if I’ve ever rolled my eyes harder.  And maybe it’s just me. Maybe most people have goals they can actually define in this way. Maybe I’ve just never cared about anything enough or wanted anything badly enough to even take the time to set the goal. I read personal development books (that term sounds so much more sophisticated than “self-help”) and listen to podcasts and everyone is talking about goals, goals, goals and how to find your path to achieving them. Meanwhile, I’m just over here screaming, “But how the living F do I know what I even want to do???”  Sure, I’ve had fluctuating dreams; for about two weeks, I was really passionate about opening a non-profit under Dave Eggers’ 826 model, and for a while I only wanted to work with dogs (because, ya know…humans). Recently, I’ve been interested in social media marketing. But nothing sticks. Nothing has really had a hold on me.

Having a child has changed how I perceive time and its value and, suddenly, I so strongly want something else. But there’s no point in a why if there’s no what to apply it to. (Huh?… Stay with me here) My point is, I don’t know how much therapy, soul-searching, and reflection it’s supposed to take to figure this out. I am inspired by people like Rachel Hollis (who, incidentally, I have developed an enormous platonic crush on) who do their job well and light a fire under my ass. I’m excited to go to the PA Conference for Women next week because that’s how I felt when I left the conference last year. Sure, the books and the podcasts and the conferences help me find the tools, or the how.  So, I’ve got my why, I’ve got my how, but what the what is my what?!? I feel like this is typically the first piece of the puzzle for people, but, for me, this piece must have slid between the cracks of the couch or jumped into the dark hole where all the missing socks go. Never stop searching, though. Just like those socks, it’s gotta be there somewhere. Holler if ya hear me. 😉