A Brief Ego Blip

Last month I wrote a post about the Little Free Library that we built for our front yard, and my blog got 670 views that day. Clearly the subject resonated with people. I was really, really proud, because I’m currently averaging 107 views a day.

Throughout the day, I kept visiting my statistics page to watch the numbers go up and up and up, and it was such a rush. I didn’t want the feeling to ever end. But I knew it would, because this isn’t the first time this has happened on this blog.

One time I wrote a post that got 762 views in one day at a time when I was averaging 45 views a day. Ironically, it was called “Holy Screamin’ Cats! I’m Trending!!!” and it was about yet another viewing blip of 376 views. So the post about the trend exceeded the post itself. It will be awfully hard to break that record. Fame, however, is fleeting, as you can see by my statistics below.

I think that how someone deals with that says a great deal about that person. I could have mourned the loss of all that attention. I could have gotten bitter about the return to the status quo. I could have suffered ego withdrawal. But instead I’m choosing to look back at it and smile.

I’ve learned over the years that it’s impossible to foresee which of my posts are going to be popular. And in a way, that makes it fun. Roller coasters that are predictable are not nearly as exciting.

Thanks to all of you who have been along for the ride!

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Leggo My Ego

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve always had piss-poor self-esteem. I’ve always felt kind of weird. Different from everyone else. Like I don’t fit in.

Because of that, I leave myself rather vulnerable to criticism. Any hint of censure from someone else causes me to think, “Maybe THAT’S it! That’s what has always been wrong with me!” I’ve spent most of my life searching for that puzzle piece that will make the picture complete, the problem solvable, and allow me, finally, to be like everyone else.

So when the moderator of a local storytelling group kicked me out and said, among many, many other things, “Your ego has been growing exponentially for months… Your need for more and more recognition has been tiring for me to deal with,” it caused me to place myself under a very harsh microscope.

Am I egotistical? To me that means being selfish and uncaring about others. It means being vain and conceited. It means feeling like I’m better than those around me.

That doesn’t feel like me at all. But that’s the trap, isn’t it? If I am egotistical, would I be capable of seeing that?

Is that the image I project? I asked a friend of mine who is a counselor, and she said, “If anything, you’re the most understated person I have ever met.” That was a relief, because I truly, genuinely don’t feel superior to those around me. If anything, it’s just the opposite.

And I try really hard to use my blog to highlight causes that need help. I’ve also volunteered and donated, and lent my writing skills to people and groups that need to spread the word about their organizations. I vote. I recycle. I try to comfort people when they’re hurting. I ask for help even when it makes me uncomfortable. I compliment those whom I admire. I try to give people credit, especially when I feel like their efforts have been overlooked. Are those selfish acts?

But egotism also means talking about oneself, being opinionated, being boastful. I do have to own that. My blog is mainly about the things that rattle around in this head of mine. It’s about the way I see the world. Is that bad? Is it wrong? How could I write every day about anything other than my own experiences? And 99 percent of my entries are, in fact, opinion pieces. Everyone has opinions, don’t they? As far as I know, I don’t try to force anyone to agree with me.

I asked my counselor friend if it is wrong to be proud of my blog and my book. She told me I should be proud of both. I worked hard on both of them. There’s no shame in feeling good about things that have taken so much effort. There’s also nothing wrong with gaining confidence from their success.

It occurred to me that this critical man only knows me from the stories I’ve told in his group. Well, one of his rules is that the stories you tell have to be about yourself. It seems to me, then, that talking about oneself in that context isn’t egotistical. It’s what’s required. But it did cause me to look back at all my stories. Most of them have been recorded and are on line, if you’d like to hear them.

The first story I told was for the theme Who Do I Think I Am? I told the story of Chuck, the love of my life, who died unexpectedly, and how that sent me 3100 miles across the country to start over. I think this was my best story of all of them.

The next theme was Personal Mountaintops. This was a story about moving from Florida to Seattle, and comparing and contrasting the two places. I’m a little bit embarrassed about this one, because it sounds like my attempt at stand up comedy in retrospect. But that wasn’t what I intended, and it came from a sincere place. I was trying to bring across the profound changes I was experiencing.

My third story was on the theme of Comfort Zone. I told the story that I had told years before for StoryCorps, which they decided to include in their anthology. It was about being the last person to see someone alive. Supposedly. And then learning that my reality wasn’t the only reality.

The theme he gave us for my fourth story was Change of Heart. I talked about my insecurities about my looks as opposed to my confidence in my intelligence. And basically I was trying to say that beauty comes from within.

Story five was on the theme The Hardest Thing to Say.  So I talked about the nightmare that is internet dating. I thought this one was pretty good. Several other people have used that topic as well.

In January, 2016, the theme was Starting Over. I told the story of having a gypsy give me the evil eye, and how that kind of gives me an out of jail free card. In other words, if something goes wrong, blame it on the evil eye.

Mistakes was my 7th story. Now, this one may be why that guy began to think I’m egotistical, because I told a story about all the amazing things that had been happening to me recently. I talked about the StoryCorps anthology that I’m in, and all the media publicity I was getting, and the fact that I was about to publish a book. But the story was mainly about my shock that all this great stuff was happening, and how I really felt that I had done nothing to deserve it. Still I have to admit it was shameless self-promotion. But, hey, you can’t make this stuff up.

My next to last story was about the theme Say Yes. This was about desperately wanting my sister’s approval, and how hard I tried to fulfill her dying wish, and how devastating it was that I couldn’t do so. And it was also about how amazing my nephew is.

My very last story didn’t get recorded, unfortunately. The theme was You Can’t Always Get What You Want, so I told the story of my recent vacation all alone on the romantic Oregon coast, and how in the end it turned out to be a wonderful time regardless of my being all by myself. It’s still a beautiful place, after all.

Do any of those (well, except that one) seem egotistical to you, given the requirement that stories are to be true and about yourself?

So after a week of soul searching, and trying to determine the health of my ego, and picking my stories apart with a fine-toothed comb, I tend to agree with my counselor friend’s ultimate conclusion. Apparently I represent something to this guy that pushes some button or other, and causes him to be hostile and have a low opinion of me, but this is through no fault of my own.

Maybe he has a book in him that’s dying to come out, and somehow my pride in my own book has triggered him more than my many compliments of his writing ever did. If so, that makes me sad. But this is pure speculation. I’m quite sure I’ll never know.

Yes, I’ll continue to write about myself, because I’m pretty much the only frame of reference that I have. But I’ll also continue to be fascinated with the world and all the people therein. I’ll continue to want to learn from others, and about others. I’ll continue to delight in those who get me and support me, and be confused by and try to figure out those who don’t. I’ll continue to be glad that I’m just a tiny part of a big, amazing universe, and I’ll always, always enjoy observing bits and pieces thereof in this blog and getting your feedback.

And maybe instead of trying to figure out what’s wrong with me, I should just work on getting a thicker skin. There’s a thought. Sigh.

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The Bloody Big Head by Katiesparrow1

At the risk of sounding egotistical, I hope you like my book. http://amzn.to/2cCHgUu

 

Licking My Wounds

Recently I met the cousin of a friend, and he’s amazing. We seemed to have a lot in common. Our politics are in line, and that’s really important to me. He’s around my age. He has an energy that he puts out that makes me feel really comfortable. Even better, he doesn’t live that far from me, and he’s also good looking, which never hurts.

After talking to him a few times, I decided I couldn’t let this opportunity pass me by. Even though it’s against my Southern upbringing, I decided to stick my neck out from my safe little shell and make the first move. I texted him and said I really enjoyed talking to him. Would he like to meet for dinner tomorrow?

He responded that he had something doing tomorrow, but maybe we could do so on another day. I thought, “Okay, that’s understandable. It was short notice.”  “Another day” certainly sounded encouraging. I knew we’d be crossing paths briefly the next day, so I thought we could make plans then. I found myself happily humming in anticipation the whole next morning.

When he showed up, I couldn’t wipe the stupid grin off my face. Until I realized that he wasn’t reciprocating. In fact, he was formal, tense, and left so quickly you’d think his butt was on fire. Message received.

Okay, so apparently he’s just not into me. It happens. In fact it has been happening a lot to me in the past year. God, it hurts like hell, but unfortunately I’m starting to get used to it. I’m starting to expect it. Frankly, I’m sick of it.

But why the mixed signals? That is monumentally effed up, if you ask me. He could have easily said, “Thanks so much. I am flattered, but I have a girlfriend.” I wouldn’t have known the difference, and my ego would have remained intact. Would that have been so hard?

Then I heard the rest of the story from my friend. He’s in the middle of a divorce, and apparently his wife did something pretty awful. He’s probably a bit gun shy.

That makes sense. I’ve never been known for my stellar timing. But the sad thing is that even if he did feel the connection that I did, now he won’t ever get in touch when he’s reached the point where he’s ready, because I’m sure he’ll think that after blowing me off, that bridge has been burned.

Part of me thinks that I dodged a bullet. I am a little too emotionally fragile myself these days to be someone’s transitional woman. But part of me wishes that I could say to him, “You have no idea, yet, how messed up the dating world is for our age group, and just how many crazies are out there. Eventually you’ll find out. When you do, I hope you’ll try with me again. If I’m still available, you might just discover that I am worth the effort. Because I thought you were.”

But there’s always a chance that my first assumption was the right one. He wasn’t interested. No doubt his wife was thinner, prettier. He hasn’t been in the 50-something dating world long enough to lower his standards to a real person. Yet. I guess I’ll never know.

It is a good lesson to be reminded that not everyone has the same priorities or agenda that I do. I tend to forget that sometimes, to my everlasting regret. But meanwhile, I freakin’ give up. No more first moves for me. Waaaaay too painful. Honestly, I don’t know how men do it.

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On Being Enlightened by a Guru

Once upon a time I was a freelance editor. I suppose I still am, technically. I just haven’t pursued work in that arena for quite some time. I enjoyed it, yes, but mainly did it to keep the wolves from the door. The wolves are still out there, but my door is a little more solid these days.

Anyway, early on I was approached by an owner of an independent press to edit a new age book about enlightenment. The author, basically, felt that he was enlightened and had written a book so that others could reach that same state. He claimed to be “beyond ego”, and yet he felt he had all the answers. The book was basically one long conversation with a woman who was seeking enlightenment, but apparently was going about it the wrong way. The author spent the entire time explaining how wrong she was and how his way was the only correct way.

About halfway through our professional relationship, the owner of the press asked me my honest opinion about the book. It’s never a good idea to ask my honest opinion, because I’ll most definitely give it to you. So I told him that the guy came off as arrogant, egotistical and full of himself, and I therefore found it impossible to take him seriously.

That’s when I found out the owner had written the book himself under a pseudonym. I was mortified. My opinion hadn’t changed, but I was still mortified. And I was also politely told that clearly I didn’t have much experience with new age books, because that was simply “how it was done”.

I wasn’t fired, but he certainly didn’t thank me in his acknowledgements. Actually, he thanked no one. I don’t suppose it would do to admit that you needed any form of help or support if you are supposed to have all the answers.

What did I learn from this experience? From that day forward I couldn’t take any new age book seriously. I think it’s natural to seek answers and attempt to improve our lives, but I’ve never personally known anyone whose life was completely transformed by reading a book. Even followers of the most widely accepted religious tomes are inherently flawed.

It’s good to expose yourself to other philosophies, it’s great to be inspired by others, but it’s rather insane to think that one person writing one book is going to solve all your problems. Life just doesn’t work that way.

The world is full of gurus. I would like to think that many of them are sincere, albeit overly confident. Others see the weakness in people and decide to profit off of it. Either way, you should always maintain a healthy skepticism.

I sincerely believe that there are many paths, and each of us has to find our own, and while you may meet a lot of people who can impart wisdom to you on your journey, to fixate on just one is pure folly. Travel with caution.

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[Image credit: imgkid.com]

How Delicious It Is to Feed Your Ego

There’s nothing more satisfying than doing something you’re really good at. That feeling when everything falls into place. That sense of being in the zone. It’s almost like you have a calling. For a brief shining moment, you are superhuman.

Whether we know it or not, we all have a talent. If you think you don’t, you simply haven’t identified yours yet. It might be something basic, such as making the best pancakes. Or it could be something more complex, like having the ability to memorize pi to the 22,000th digit. But you have a certain something, I guarantee you. Ask friends and family, “What am I good at?” You’ll see a pattern emerge.

I used to know a guy who made the most amazing pottery you’ve ever seen. I haven’t spoken to him for about 20 years, but I still have some of his pots sitting on my shelf. His was a rare talent, and it made me crazy that he had absolutely no plan to make something of it. He used to say to me, “Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you have to do it.” And in fact, he became an electrician. You’d think he’d at least have a pottery wheel in his garage, but no.

I don’t think you have to make a living from your special abilities, whatever they may be, but it’s a great disservice to your soul and to the wider world if you don’t exercise the gifts you are given in some capacity. Let your light shine.

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[Image credit: community.becomeanex.org]

Foul Weather Friends

Everyone has heard of Fair Weather Friends—those friends who are more than happy to be in your life when all is well, but when the stuff hits the fan, they’re nowhere to be found. Nothing like a stormy sea to make the scales fall from your eyes regarding that type of person.

But I’ve also come to realize that there’s such a thing as Foul Weather Friends as well.

Case in point, my friend B. We had a lot of wonderful times together, and I saw her through some fairly horrible stuff, too: Her miscarriage, and the time her husband beat her black and blue. But then one day I told her I had finally found my religion of choice, and it was like I flipped some sort of switch. She abruptly stated that she could no longer be my friend.

Why? Well, it turns out that through all our years of good times and bad, she really only saw me as someone she could convert to her charismatic religion. She saw me as someone she could save. And once I had sailed into a different spiritual port, once I had found some peace that wasn’t secular, she viewed me as a lost cause, and we never spoke again. It’s ironic, because we never really talked that often about religion in any meaningful way. But she needed me to be a little lamb lost in the woods, I suppose, and once I could no longer fill that role, I outlived my usefulness.

I also had a very short-lived romance in which my Romeo of choice quickly lost interest when he discovered I was no shrinking violet who would gaze up at him adoringly and wait for him to tell me what to think. I was entirely too stable and confident to fit into his world, but he quickly found someone who was clingy and fragile enough for his tastes, so I suppose he lived happily ever after. I, on the other hand, felt that I had dodged a bullet.

Other people have a strong desire to feel needed to the point where they surround themselves with people who are needy. Once a needy person learns to stand on his or her own two feet in this type of dynamic they, ironically, are no longer needed.

But perhaps the most toxic of Foul Weather Friends is the type who goes out of his or her way to create drama, isolation and/or instability in your life to create an artificial form of dependency. Abusive spouses will often do that. They will isolate you from your family, and say things like, “You’re too stupid to make it on your own.” All this so that you won’t leave.

Every once in a while it’s valuable to evaluate your friendships. Ask yourself if they are bringing positivity and encouragement into your life, or drama and codependency. Ask yourself what role you play in their lives. Are you simply there to massage their egos? If so, then run, do not walk, to the nearest exit.

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[Image credit: borderlinepersonalitytreatment.com]

Mother Nature Trumps the River Goddess Every Time

It can be a heady experience being a bridgetender. After all, you are operating a piece of equipment that can weigh several million pounds if you work on one of the larger bridges. You also control the flow of marine, vehicular and pedestrian traffic. You can make people very late for work. If a boater is rude to you, you can make him paddle in circles for a while before opening the bridge for him. (Not that I’d ever do this, of course, but one hears stories. Cough.) Because of this power, a friend of mine jokingly refers to me as the “River Goddess.”

Last year, the five drawbridges in Northeast Florida that are managed by the Florida Department of Transportation opened 18,000 times. That’s a lot of people depending upon us to get where they’re going. And despite the fact that a lot of people assume we do nothing but sleep on the job (which infuriates me, because while I cannot speak for others, I have honestly NEVER slept on the job myself), the vast majority of us take bridgetending very seriously. Someone’s life could be at stake if we didn’t. Just Google “Drawbridge Death” some time, and you’ll see what I mean.

But just when you start to get a massive ego, the universe has a way of putting you in your place. For example, check out these photos that a coworker of mine took while on the job on June 26th, 2009.

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He was minding his own business when he saw this huge water spout going up the St. Johns River. There are actually several really good Youtube videos of this same water spout here, here, and here. This was a very bad day to be a bridgetender.

Fortunately this water spout, when it did hit land and turn into a tornado, somehow missed all the bridges and actually caused no injuries or fatalities to anyone in Jacksonville. But it really goes to show that Mother Nature can very easily slap you down if she wants to. If this River Goddess had been on duty that day and that water spout had decided to hang a sharp left, she would have been one very unfortunate statistic indeed.