Reflection Cube

Three-dimensional thoughts

Category: Work

picture of peacock, something to prove

Something to Prove

Motivations Behind Our Decisions and Life Choices

I used to want to be a doctor.

And a soldier.

And a scientist.

To some degree or other, I wanted to pursue all of these paths because they would make me seem smart (intellectually strong) and/or physically strong and brave. And growing up, I often felt that I was perceived by others as weak and dumb.

I wanted to be cool and tough and courageous and respected.

On top of that, I wanted to become a scientist not only because I was in love with science, but also because I was deeply interested in an avid and gifted scientist at the time. Indeed, even my doctor goals were related to this (though perhaps not entirely motivated by this attraction). I wanted to be his equal. I wanted to have meaningful conversations with him. And the only way to do that, I thought, would be to become a scientific person too.

Other people, situations, and extrinsically-sourced desires were dictating my choices in what to study and pursue.

I even learned the violin (and played flute and cello for a while) because I had a crush on a musician.

So some good things came out of many of my goals, even if they were motivated by external sources:

I took a lot of science in high school (although you might not know it now, as I’ve lost a lot of the info I picked up then, since I’ve had little opportunity to consciously apply my knowledge).

I learned musical instruments. The motivation, however misguided (potentially), actually did land me on a path that meshed well with my interests and abilities.

If I’d enlisted in a branch of the military, I’d likely have encountered the crest of my health issues much sooner, at a time when I perhaps wouldn’t have understood how to deal with them or effectively search for the answers.

If I’d earned a PhD in chemistry or become a physician, I might be in significant debt right now, and would be stuck with a path that requires stamina I don’t even have.

In terms of the knowledge learned, I would likely have deeply enjoyed chemistry (especially biochemistry), molecular biology, or medicine. But the practice and lifestyle thereafter, perhaps not so much. I would have run out of energy way too soon in my career, and as a doctor, I would have wanted to steer my medical practice in the direction of more long-lasting, preventative, and holistic approaches (which may have been feasible, but likely wouldn’t come without some measure of a fight to which I was unmatched with my own low energy).


Where to Look for Honest Insights Into What You Were “Born to Do”

Your Childhood

When I was probably about six or so (IIRC from family videos), I said that someday, I was going to play violin and guitar.

I forgot all about those words in the years that followed.

And yet, lo and behold, I learned both. In my childhood, it appears I knew myself better than I’ve known myself in most or all of my life since.

Only in recent years did I watch that video in amazement.

Also in my childhood, I used to write books. They weren’t very long or sophisticated, but I created a ton of them. All sorts of non-bestselling fictional works, complete with colorful construction paper covers. 😉 I would also voraciously devour mystery books.

What were you like as a child?

Were you compassionate and tenderhearted?

Inquisitive?

Did you dissect dead bugs?

Did you gravitate toward math or logic games?

Often, our childhood personalities and interests can be keys to discovering our culturally/self-suppressed abilities or passions.

And yet at the same time, sometimes we can struggle with a topic as a child, only to discover in subsequent years that we love and excel at that very thing.

When I was about eight, I didn’t want to play the piano at all, and declared through my tears that I’d never learn.

Today, I enjoy playing the piano, and even teach a bit (which is not exactly my favorite thing to do, unless the student is motivated to learn and not simply being required to do so).

As a child, I struggled with math. Up through the sixth grade, I largely hated it.

However, in seventh grade, I switched to a different curriculum, and a switch flipped on in my head.

I loved math.

I almost couldn’t get enough of it.

So many problems to solve. So many puzzles.

In conclusion, then, we should each look to our childhood for clues as to what we might excel at or enjoy now, but we should not necessarily look at our childhood struggles or failures as signs of what not to pursue, because our brains change a lot from that point to adulthood, and we gain function and fluidity in our faculties that was not present in our more formative years.


People Pleasing

Many of us (myself included) have pursued fields to which we are ill-suited, in an effort to prove that we are fearless, brainy, capable, or respectable. Or in an effort to be like someone else or please someone else.

And in our efforts to cater to others – or their opinions of us – we often end up displaying an opposite image – as we are swimming in the wrong waters. We struggle to breathe. We flounder and flail our arms wildly in the ocean. Our souls are slowly and painfully crushed by the weight of foreign waters under which we sink in solitude, unsure how to swim or how to ask for help.

In these moments, we are rarely pictures which speak “fearless, intelligent, capable, or respectable”. We instead appear more pitiable.

Conversely, there are few things more beautiful than watching someone enjoy and excel at what they were made to do.

Do you see a man skilled in his work?
He will stand before kings;
He will not stand before obscure men.

– Proverbs

Sometimes, it takes time to discover what that thing is, and it’s okay to get scraped and beat up along the way. It’s okay to try things and find out that they’re just not for you. It’s okay to “fail”.

But it’s good to be aware of our motives for choosing a path.

Because often, we’re hoping to prove to others and ourselves that we’re something we’ve never been (or never thought ourselves to be). Perhaps something we think others want us to be.

For example, if we’re not naturally extroverts, and we choose a profession which requires us to be “on” all the time – with little opportunity for recharging – we’re going to get burned out.

Extroversion is not about being talkative, and introversion is not about being quiet. It’s about how you recharge your batteries.

Introverts can “act extroverted”, but only for so long. After a certain period of time, they begin to wear down.

This happened to me. I was working in retail for two and a half years, and customer service for a total of three. I became burned out and lost touch with my emotions, heart, soul, and almost my mind.

I lost myself, as I felt I had to work really hard at creating a false persona just in order to keep my job.

It’s good to stretch yourself, and I learned a lot from my experiences. But there’s a difference between stretching yourself and sacrificing who you are. And I did not only the former, but the latter.

I lost my passion for living. I lost my sanity. I lost my faith in humanity. I lost my sense of life purpose and meaning.

And all (or largely) because I was significantly out of my element, trying to breathe in an environment that, for me, was suffocating (though there were several reasons for that).


Other People’s Advice

A lot of people used to tell me that I would be a good nurse, or that that profession would be a smart choice for me.

I do care about helping people in their journey to healing – in every way. I feel deep concern and compassion for people.

And it’s not uncommon for people to associate these characteristics – especially in females – with the profession of nursing.

If you care about people, enjoy math and science, and are female, then obviously you should choose a high-paying profession such as nursing. 🙂

And I’m not in any way intending to disparage those who suggested I should consider pursuing this field.

But the reality is, I’d be poorly suited to nursing, because:

  1. I’m a germophobe.
  2. I can’t get immunizations.
  3. I’m somewhat wary of certain aspects of our modern healthcare practices and system, and would have a hard time (in terms of conscience) administering some types of medicine or supporting/ensuring the execution of certain medical practices.
  4. My body is extremely susceptible to infection and disease, not so much because I neglect to eat well or take vitamins, but because of certain genetic mutations and chronic conditions I have (things which are difficult to change).
  5. If I had to be interacting with lots of people nonstop and on my feet for twelve hours straight, I’d generally lose my mind and become both mentally and physically unwell.

Volunteering for one semester at a hospital, taking a CNA class for a day, and working for over six months at a medical imaging facility adjoined to a hospital was enough to convince me that nursing is definitely not for me.

But had I listened only to others’ opinions of what path I should pursue, I might have felt compelled to choose nursing, because it’s “practical” and what every compassionate female should consider doing. 😀

I’m still learning to separate what others want, expect, or hope I’ll do from what I actually think I should do. I guess I’m still learning what it is to have opinions about things, or personal desires (although that might be difficult to infer from reading my blog?), 🙂 and to recognize those opinions and desires as normal or okay or “valid” (in terms of my “right” to them).

Having interacted with many nurses throughout the years, I’m truly grateful for those men and women who are brave enough for – and well-suited to – the profession of nursing. It really does require a unique skill set. You’ve gotta have tough guts – both literally and figuratively.


Conclusion

Don’t pick something because you have to prove to someone else that you’re something or someone.

Don’t pick something just because it might make you look or sound cool.

Don’t pick something because others think you’d be great at it (although, if you want to pursue a certain path, it’s wise to ask others if they think you’re well-suited to that. Just realize that their answers may or may not be correct.).

Don’t pick something because others are pressuring you to.

Pick something because your childhood self always knew you should.

Pick something because you become energized, not enervated when you do it. (Passion, Ability)

Pick something because you know you’re good at it. (Skill, Talent, Ability)

Pick something that will benefit and brighten up the world around you. (Need)

Seriously, following that path is one of the coolest, bravest, strongest, smartest things you’ll do.


© 2018 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved

mountain climbing - perseverance, diligence, motivation, keep trying

Feeling Dizzy?

Why is it that I always learn more poorly when preoccupied with the awareness of overarching, long-term, daunting, seemingly unreachable goals? Why does this awareness impair my ability to retain information and learn efficiently in the short term?

It’s as if I’m climbing a mountain or a steep cliff. Looking up at the top – so far away – weakens my knees and makes it impossible to take the next step. I get dizzy, and stop moving.

When I’m pursuing an interest as a hobby – with no intention of necessarily turning it into a career – I actually pick it up faster and eventually become more skilled and comfortable with that “hobby” than I typically do with a trade or skill I’m attempting to master for a living.

Perhaps the awareness that there’s more “at stake” if I “fail” in my career-focused pursuits actually causes me to behave more timidly in my experiments, practice, and projects? Perhaps I’m more afraid to “break things” when there’s potential future livelihood at stake?

Perhaps I’m concerned about sullying my Github account with unusual or potentially “junky” coding projects, so I refrain from trying anything new or interesting or different (i.e. breaking things), in case a future potential employer will notice that I’m a ruthless coder who has no qualms about employing haphazard coding practices?

Yet this fear and timidity keeps me from acquiring new skills, deepening my reserves of knowledge and experience, and from sharing with others the things I’ve tried and learned – and failed.

The cure is creating an inner environment that fosters creativity. Creativity is related to exploration and learning. As long as we are being critical, we are not creating.

The great thing about “hobbies” is that they free us up from the perceived need to be critical of our work. Hobbies allow us to break free from those chains and truly explore.

You can’t make things unless you break things.

How is a cake baked?

By breaking the cleanliness and pristine appearance of your kitchen and clothes – covering them in flour and dirty dishes. Yes, you just broke something. Congratulations. It was a necessary sacrifice for the end result, the finished work of art.

How is a house built?

By sawing wood. Breaking.

How is an argument won?

One of two ways.

By fearlessly and ruthlessly dissecting the opponent’s viewpoint and arguments so that an appropriate counterargument can be created. Or, by breaking your own pride and choosing not to press the matter. In different situations, different actions are called for, but they always involve breaking, whether inward or outward.

Creators are breakers. They aren’t afraid to get messy.

As long as that critical inner voice is examining, challenging, and questioning all your thoughts and work, you’ll be poring over old pieces of information and old ways of thinking, trying to fix things from the past. Edit, revise, delete.

But when you’re caught up in the flow of creativity and unfettered learning, you’re not thinking about the past or what went wrong or should have been. You’re in the present. You’re going along for the ride, wherever it may take you. And you don’t care where it takes you or if you’ll get messy, because anywhere you go, you’ll learn something.

We learn things the most effectively when we get messy doing them. When we have tangible results and reminders of our adventure. When we make a mistake, or take home a “souvenir” from our “field trip”.

But the only way to get messy is to stop trying with every mite of ourselves to prevent that from happening.


I picked up the piano somewhere around ages 10-11 – with no particular intent (IIRC) of turning it into a career. I fell in love with it and for years, often dedicated hours a day or week to practice.

But it didn’t really feel like practice. I was just having fun.

No goals in mind, beyond discovering and understanding more deeply a subject with which I was smitten.

And the more I’ve learned in recent years not to beat myself up for mistakes I make on the piano, the more creative I’ve become when I play.

Last year, when I was trying to learn coding quickly enough to become “employable” within a few months, I completely burned myself out. I was so preoccupied with a daunting goal – and so aware of how far away I was from reaching that goal – that I became more stressed and struggled to think clearly. (I was also still eating foods to which I’m sensitive, which was making me sick and hampering my processing/memorization ability.)

I am surrounded by friends and family who are highly skilled and gifted as engineers. It is easy, when surrounded by such kickass prowess, to unfairly compare yourself to that level of accomplishment and skill, and to expect yourself to reach a level of competence and knowledge within months that has taken them years or even a lifetime to acquire.

When making such a juxtaposition, you begin to view yourself as a pebble surrounded by boulders, and wonder how you will ever “measure up” or succeed like that. (Comparison is a nasty game to play, for all parties involved.)

I have a tendency to idealize other people and their qualities (and/or to disparage my own abilities and level of accomplishment while comparing myself with them). Sometimes, I only see the positive in other people’s lives and stories, forgetting that it likely took them a lot of crying, falling, and bleeding to get where they are.

And for sure, some people – including most undoubtedly many among my friends/family – seem to just have a knack for engineering. In addition to that, many of them had an earlier start in this field than I did (Not only chronologically, or in terms of years, but also in terms of age). This does not, however, mean that it’s impossible to learn engineering or programming later in life (if 24, almost 25 can be considered “later”).

It is helpful to remember that it took them time to get where they are now, even if they were always talented, and excelled in their craft at an early age. If they started learning at five, or ten, or fifteen, and are where they’re at now professionally (and are all older than I am) – then I have a lot of years to make it where they are. That is actually encouraging.

In this light, my overwhelming feelings of inadequacy and futility begin to look a little stupid and myopic.

Frustration is normal. Feeling frustrated does not mean that you will be unsuccessful, or that accomplishment is impossible. Frustration is something that we all experience. It is what we do with it – or in spite of it – that predicts our future.

Many who hear me play the piano today do not know that when I was about eight, my mom was trying to teach me the piano, and I was extremely frustrated. Frustrated to the point that I ran away to my bedroom, crying. Declaring that I would never learn the piano.

Two or three years later, I picked it up like a long-lost friend. Or a novel stranger.

And my romance with the piano has never died. (Though I haven’t given it enough love lately.)

In fact, today, I consider piano to actually be one of my stronger skills.

“Success” doesn’t happen overnight. And the road to it isn’t as seamless as most of us think.

What we see – when comparing ourselves to others – are the certificates, the diplomas, the credentials, the titles, the job offers, the promotions, eloquence, flow, smooth execution, sales, growth, profit.

What we don’t see are the 10-20 years sprinkled and stained with long nights, setbacks, “failures”, moments of feeling like a failure, moments of slacking, brain “deadness”, confusion, “dumb” questions, tears, sweat, inward or outward cursing, “dumb” search engine queries to solve problems, and the aid or burden of people – friends, family, professors, mentors – who pushed them in the right or wrong direction. The people who supported and encouraged or sabotaged and encumbered them. We don’t see what they struggled through, in order to become who they are today.

Instead, we see the finished, polished, sharp product that emerged from the flames.

And we assume that that’s how they always were.

That they were never rugged, rough, unpolished, raw, “purposeless”, like us.

We assume that they started out polished, and that consequently, there is no hope for us, because we cannot start out like that.

It’s normal to stumble. To “fail”.

It’s normal to have off-days where you’re just in a funk and don’t feel like you’re getting much done, even though you try to put in the effort. You’re not always going to feel the things you want to feel (a “sense” of progress, accomplishment, smartness, or excellence). But that doesn’t mean action and change aren’t taking place.

In fact, if you’re always feeling “smart” or “competent” in your work or studies, then you’re in the wrong place.

As long as you feel inadequate and lost (but not quite hopelessly so), you’ll keep trying to become qualified for the job. You’ll keep searching and studying and desiring to learn. You’ll stay far away from complacency.

And yet, at the same time, if you feel too inadequate and lost – and beat yourself up for being so – you’ll also get stuck in the swamp of complacency that way.

In the end, then, it’s important to be aware that there is much we don’t know. It is important to feel inadequate, but also to realize that everyone is inadequate in some fashion – in different areas at different times of their life. It’s important to realize that this is normal.

Once we can reach this realization, we can stop expecting the unrealistic of ourselves. We can stop being critical of ourselves and our work, afraid to fail, break things, or get messy. And that’s when we actually start making things and learning.

This is why, when pursuing “hobbies”, I’m actually free to learn and create more effectively. I view failure in this arena as acceptable, because there’s no career or future at stake. Failure is “normal” or “okay”. Or maybe more accurately, there is no such thing as “failure” in this arena. Failure does not exist, because there is no one and nothing to fail. There is only ground to be discovered.

On the other hand, when there is the perception of someone or something to fail…

…It’s like the problem you encounter when you’re around other people and trying to read fast, or type quickly. You can barely read at all, or you make more errors while typing.

…Or like when you’re trying to sleep. You’re so busy overthinking sleep, and analyzing how you’re going to fall asleep, that you hamper the natural flow of actually falling asleep.

Why do our thoughts interfere with our ability to act, learn, read, type, or fall asleep? One would expect that “thinking harder” would tend to yield the desired results more than “not thinking”.

We think that by just thinking harder, we can more effectively control our situation. Learn more quickly, fall asleep sooner, play the piano faster.

I’m currently teaching my neighbor piano. One thing she’s shared with me is that when she stops “thinking” about how to play and just “does” it, she plays better (and I would agree – this seems to be the case).

I’ve found the same thing myself.

It is only when we stop thinking about the sheet music, the finger placement, the duration of the notes, that we actually play them correctly.

It is only when we stop thinking about typing – and controlling others’ opinions of our typing – that we type at our normal level of speed and accuracy.

Only when we stop thinking about sleeping – and about controlling our sleep patterns – do we fall asleep naturally.

In essence, it is only when we let go our sense of (or desire for) control that we actually regain it.

When we compare our situation to what isn’t – to someone else, or a place at which we haven’t yet arrived, or a quality to which our work doesn’t measure up – we’re looking at the top of the mountain. But seeing how far we have to go just disorients us, and we lose our footing. We lose control.

If you’ve climbed a mountain before, you’re probably familiar with how the “top” seems perpetually elusive.

And our future and goals are that way. There’s always more to add. More to learn. More to achieve. If we keep our eyes on what “should be” or what currently “is not”, we will become discouraged, disoriented, and dizzy.

If we fail to focus on the present, we prepare ourselves to fail.

We must redefine success as learning, living, loving, and laughing in the moment. Success is not somewhere in the future. Ultimately, it is not found in a paycheck, a career, or a title. Success is enjoying the journey, and learning in every moment.

The future will take care of itself, if we embrace the journey in front of us, break things, and let go.


Note: I’m not saying don’t work hard, have plans, or care about doing anything with your life. If you don’t do any of these things, life will throw some extra challenges your way. But I think you already know that’s not what I’m saying in this post. 😉 This is just a disclaimer.

Thanks for reading. <3

Please see full disclaimer.


© 2018 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved

migraine pain - brain on fire - what it's like having a migraine

What It’s Like Having a Migraine

Ever had a migraine? Do you know a migraine sufferer?

A migraine is not just a common or severe headache. It is that, but much more. A migraine with aura means a migraine accompanied by sensory disturbances or odd perceptions or sensitivities to various stimuli. An aura is something that can show up for people before a migraine or seizure. However, I often experience mine during the migraine.

Everyone’s migraine experience differs in some way from others’ experiences – in the presence or absence of various symptoms, the severity and timing of those symptoms, and the triggers and remedies.

I’ve had migraines since I was six (or at least, I first recall experiencing them at that age), and only since radically changing my diet and lifestyle in recent years (especially the past year or so) have I seen major improvements.

I don’t get migraines very often now, but when I do, they’re still quite the nightmare.


Walking Through a Migraine

It’s 11:15 at night. You just got home from work, and you feel a throbbing pulse of knotted-up heat surrounding your right eye. You try to massage your head and dig at the deep pain, but it is too deep to reach, and it almost feels like any pressure you apply just pushes the pain deeper inside.

“Light jazz” music is on the radio when you walk inside. Normally, this type of music can give you a headache, but now, it’s triggering feelings of nausea. The lights are too bright, and the smell of garlic bread and pasta seeps through your nostrils and pierces deep into your head, setting on fire your already inflamed brain. The pain intensifies and spreads. You wish your remedies could pervade your head this quickly, could heal the damage as fast as it’s inflicted.

You faintly, dizzily wobble up the stairs to your bedroom and lie on the floor in the dark.

It’s been a long day, but you want nothing to eat. Even imagining food or the smell of it makes you sick.

You struggle to find a comfortable position.

Once you do, you don’t want to move. Doing so – even an inch – just reignites the fire.

Even the slightest motion is infinitely painful. It hurts to talk.

People visit and ask you questions. “Are you okay?” “What can I bring you?”

You attempt to respond as briefly and painlessly as possible, not speaking too loudly or moving your mouth too much. Which then prompts them to ask you to repeat your response, because it was not discernible the first time.

Inwardly annoyed – at your own hypersensitivity and pain more than anything – you muster the strength to speak more loudly (if possible), knowing that may set you back for the next several minutes or hours.

You know that they care and mean well, and you don’t want to ignore them. But it’s so painful to shout. You feel like you’re shouting. All sound is magnified. The vibrations of sound fuel the flames permeating your head. And it hurts to move your jaw. It hurts to think.

Your cognitive function is compromised, and it’s painful – if not impossible – to process thoughts efficiently or lucidly.

In response to your loved ones’ queries, you request a hot cloth to place on your face. This will aid in blocking the traces of light biting through your eyelids, as well as relaxing muscles and possibly clearing some nasal congestion, removing at least some pressure from your head.

After about five or ten rounds of heating and applying the hot cloth, you’re beginning to feel some improvement, but you know that your only hope for seeing the end of this migraine is taking pain reliever and trying to sleep it off.

But…nope. Unless you’re fortunate, it’s still there in the morning, if slightly less so. “Hey there!” it greets you. “Didn’t think I’d leave so soon, did you?” Your head feels like a block of lead weighing down your pillow, and you know you lack the energy or equilibrium to get out of bed uneventfully right now.

The pain has traveled since you fell asleep, radiating to other areas of your head.

Once you finally manage to safely descend from your bed to the floor, you attempt to rebalance yourself enough to make it down the stairs, and repeat the hot cloth procedure. You also prepare a cup of tea so that you can drink in the steam (and eventually drink the tea).

You finally feel like eating something mild, and after doing so – and continuing to apply other remedies – the final traces of your migraine at last begin to fade.


Migraines and the Workplace

In the workplace, staying home for a migraine is often viewed as a weak or unnecessary decision. As far as I recall, I never called out for a migraine (perhaps because I feared it’d be viewed as an “excuse” not to work), and so I remember dealing with them while working.

(The first manager I worked with there was pretty kind and understanding, and once he found out I suffered from migraines, he encouraged me to do whatever was necessary to care for myself, but he left soon after I was hired, and leadership changed a lot after that.)

I wonder how much the quality of my work was compromised, as migraines can diminish my thinking/processing ability, and also render me more dizzy and clumsy (I did spill/break my share of things at that job, a highly active and fast-paced position).

To make matters worse, at my first workplace, we were actually not allowed to have water bottles with us. We were only permitted to somehow carve out the time to walk far away from our work area (which was not always allowed) to drink water (laced with germs, heavy metals, and likely fluoride) from the water fountain.

If employers are going to “demand” that their migraine-suffering employees show up to work, they should at least make provisions for their staff that would aid them in coping with the pain:

An electric tea kettle.

A quality water filter.

Maybe some gluten-free tea bags with minimal ingredient lists.

Pain relievers (at least – or including – natural options such as boswellia and maybe white willow bark. Businesses should be able to get away with providing these if they label them as “food” and not “medicine”).

Slightly longer breaks.

Light sensitivity glasses (and/or yellow-tinted glasses for desk jobs), or allowing employees to bring/wear their own on the job.

If businesses are unwilling to make these accommodations, they should not expect employees to show up to work while suffering from migraines, unless they want to risk damage/loss in inventory, information, or labor processes and work quality due to clumsiness/dizziness, severe pain, and impaired neurological processes in their employees.

Chronic illness and autoimmune disease rates are only increasing, so the long-term solution is not simply to fire these employees and hire healthier ones.

The solution is to make our workplaces, homes, and environment cleaner, less toxic, and safer for – and more supportive of – those with chronic illness.


Triggers and Remedies

Some things that may trigger migraines for me (sometimes, they start out as garden-variety headaches and “transform” into migraines):

  • Dehydration.
  • Prolonged exposure to blue light or sunlight.
  • Crying.
  • Walking inside the mall (which I don’t do anymore).
  • Excessive physical activity.
  • Running, or lifting weights.
  • Eating dairy, eggs, corn, coconut, or foods high in various glutamates (tomatoes, grapes/raisins, black beans, foods [such as soups] with the ingredient MSG [monosodium glutamate]).
  • Eating foods high in refined sugars.
  • Eating foods containing dextrin, dextrose, or maltodextrin.
  • Exposure to gluten/wheat (sometimes even without consuming it).
  • Certain types of “jazz” or other “light music” (not quite sure how to describe this music, other than that it sort of tastes like peaches canned in pear juice).
  • Exposure to petroleum for more than a few seconds.
  • Exposure to synthetic fragrances (even briefly smelling them on other people).
  • Smiling for long periods of time (something I still have to work to do less, but often do because sometimes people perceive me as angry or upset if I wear what feels like a neutral face [I have deep-set eyes, so this makes me naturally look a bit more austere or intense when I’m not smiling]).
  • Staying at a party for more than maybe 1-2 hours.
  • Riding along in a car but not driving (in this case, I can usually only prevent a headache or migraine if I’m lying down or resting comfortably against something, or am riding along only for a short time). Additionally, the scents/smells of others’ cars often bother me and make me feel unwell.
  • Sickness.
  • Not taking magnesium.
  • Not getting adequate sleep.
  • Walking through a hardware store.
  • Walking through the laundry detergent aisle.

Some remedies that can help:

  • Being in a quiet, dark place
  • Putting a warm cloth on head
  • Steaming face over hot tea
  • Drinking water/tea
  • Taking natural pain relievers

If you are a migraine sufferer, what are some migraine triggers for you? What things help?


Please see disclaimer.


© 2018 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved

Colorful rays of light and energy

A Little Encouragement For Your Monday

Some questions to soothe the anxiety commonly induced by Monday madness and melancholy:

– What’s the worst thing that could happen today?

– How likely is it that that thing will happen?

– Am I going to give others the power to offend me?

epictetus quote about rock, insult, offense

Remember that it is we who torment, we who make difficulties for ourselves – that is, our opinions do. What, for instance, does it mean to be insulted? Stand by a rock and insult it, and what have you accomplished? If someone responds to insult like a rock, what has the abuser gained with his invective? – Epictetus

– Does it matter what others think of me?

– Who is one person who could use an encouraging word today?

– If I should get fired (or in some way “fail”) at work today, what good might come from that?

– What is going well?

– In what way can I set an example for my colleagues/clients/family today? (Perhaps through kindness, a listening ear, diligence, eating a healthy lunch/dinner?)

– What am I doing better now than I used to? What helped me get there? Who helped me get there?

– What faculties and abilities do I take for granted that allow me to do what I do?

– Why am I at this place? What led me here? What keeps me?


And Some Phrases/Reminders to Tell Yourself <3

– Who I am today is not who I was yesterday. I am stronger and more knowledgeable. I’ve learned from yesterday’s mistakes.

– My mistakes (even those mistakes I’ve accidentally repeated) do not define me. They do not diminish or describe my character, and they largely point to my level of fatigue, stress, or workload. My “success” or “failure” within this sphere of life cannot amount to or measure my worth.

– Nothing others say to me can be offensive to me unless I permit it to be.

– Others may express disappointment in me, but I am giving my very best, and seeking/implementing feedback where I can, so I have no reason to be disappointed in myself. I am only human.

– There is more to life than this workplace/position/season. And instead of pulling work into the rest of my life, I’m going to endeavor to bring beauty and life to this place.

– There will be some people who just don’t like me – no matter how hard I try to be friendly and likable – and that is perfectly OK.

 

Sending you bunches of cyber hugs right now. <3 <3 <3

<3 Kate

teddy bears hugging

Photo credit: Pixabay (CC License)


 

Please see disclaimer.


© 2018 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved

Torn

This is something I wrote last year (with slight modifications), in an effort to express myself and sort through my thoughts.

Torn

Sitting here, writing songs
With a tea kettle burn on my left arm,
Wearing my tee shirt and yoga pants,
Wishing I had a good tune, to get up and dance.

Got a mind full of questions
After such a long day.
Watched the people's expressions,
Tried to study each face.

I went to the mountains,
Drove to the store.
Read a good book,
And tackled some chores.
And I'm not really sure
Which things mattered more.
Am I wasting my life?
I don't know, but I'm worn
And I'm

Torn between the surreal and mundane
The mental battles and the physical pain.
Not really sure which one feels more insane.
Maybe the questions I'm asking are lame, but I'm

Torn between the blue sky, the green earth.
Yet somehow, I think without one, there's a dearth
Of the other, they cover and link with each other.
The flesh and the soul often breathe together.

Not really sure where this conclusion brings me.
It's nice though to know every moment has meaning.

Washing laundry, fixing tires,
Paying bills, repairing wires,
Dancing in the rain and fire,
Climbing mountains, soaring higher.

Maybe you are feeling discouraged because
That venture that you started transformed into rust.
Your steady, unseen efforts got lost in the dust.
Get up, keep moving on, get up because
It's not about the end - it's all in the process.
The glory doesn't matter - it's the progress
That you make in every moment
When you're faced with disappointment.
The struggles that you face have been anointed.


© 2017 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved

 

stereotypes, uniqueness, stars

Stereotypes: Part 2

This is the second part in Reflection Cube’s series Stereotypes.

If you haven’t read Stereotypes: Part 1, feel free to check it out here.

 

Stereotype #5: Depressed individuals are weak or self-focused.

person resting in bed, cuddling cat

Photo by Chris Abney on Unsplash

There’s an unhealthy stigma – which is only beginning to dissolve – in our culture that says a depressed person is a weak person.

Depression, like any illness, happens to the best of us – to the strong and weak alike. Depression typically involves biochemical changes in the brain (though this is not the only factor in depression). Wacky neurochemistry is a monster too powerful for even the hardiest spirit to combat alone.

So a depressed individual is not weak. In fact, significant mental strength is drawn upon by persons who fight and survive depression (make it out alive).

Regarding the “self-focused” accusation frequently thrust upon depression sufferers:

In order to recover – or at least prevent themselves from sinking deeper – depressed individuals may (and, generally, should) be compelled to concentrate on their own needs for a time, so it follows that they might come across as a little “self-focused”, but depression is rarely (if ever) an attention-seeking tactic.

The insinuation “You’re just trying to get attention” is made by those who have never experienced depression, or perhaps never experienced it in the utterly debilitating and overwhelming way that many individuals do.

This is one of the most excellent pieces I’ve ever read on depression:

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/8-things-people-with-hidden-depression.html

Also a practical, short read on how to express support for a depressed person:

http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20393228,00.html#how-to-show-you-care-2

 

Stereotype #6: Physically attractive (by society’s standards) women have below-average intelligence.

silhouette of woman standing in sunlight near shoreline

Photo by Gianandrea Villa on Unsplash

The assumption here may be, I suppose, that if you’re attractive, you must be vain and seriously obsessed with maintaining an attractive appearance. You obviously spend too much time in the mirror (and, therefore, less time reading or learning).

There seems to prevail – particularly within occidental society – an outlook which precludes the possibility of being both beautiful and smart. You can’t possibly have the time, money, or the genetics, or whatever to be born with or to achieve both beauty and intelligence. You just can’t have it all! If you “lucked out” with looks, then by default, you must have paid the price with another part of yourself (like, brains).

(For my perspective on beauty, click here.)

Unfortunately, this stereotype can negatively influence an attractive woman’s career opportunities – her ability to land a job or progress upward in the workplace.

Women have been fired for beauty.

Another example:

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/debrahlee-lorenzana-sues-citigroup-claims-bank-fired-sexy-article-1.178086

More attractive = Less intelligent

Beauty Discrimination in the Workplace

Beauty Discrimination During a Job Search


There’s no way I can cover all the stereotypes out there, but these are a couple that came to mind. And no doubt, there are countless others that haven’t crossed my mind, which I may be guilty of unwittingly believing and supporting.

What stereotypes drive YOU nuts (can be one(s) you’ve noticed that don’t directly affect you, or something you’ve personally experienced)?

Share about a societal stereotype that you’ve observed or perhaps caught yourself perpetuating. Who knows? You might see it pop up in another Stereotypes post!

pretty yellow flowers

Photo by Jacob Townsend on Unsplash

 

© 2017 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved

 

Weary of Waiting in the Wasteland?

STORY TIME!!

Alexa wanted so badly to get her license. She had wanted that even before she was 16. Her parents had made her take intensive online driving studies and endure a slew of practice hours, and yet they still didn’t feel she was ready.

“They’re just overprotective.”  reasoned Alexa. “They don’t want anything to happen to me. Will they ever stop thinking of me as a child?”

Even her younger brother had been allowed to get his license, and now he was driving her places. Sooooo embarrassing.

Her parents had made a rule. For every “concerning event” that transpired while Alexa was driving, that meant at least seven more hours of behind-the-wheel practice.

One evening – around sunset – Alexa was practice-driving after some volunteer work. She was driving a less familiar car with an odd mirror setup that, for her, created a blind spot to the left (others didn’t seem to find this mirror problematic).

According to Mom’s instructions, Alexa attempted to get in the left lane to turn onto the road leading home (there was only a short distance in which to make this lane change).

Suddenly, Mom grabbed the wheel, crying “NOOOOO!”

And to their left sped a small, neutral-colored sedan, emerging from its hiding place within Alexa’s blind spot and the bright natural light.

Alexa had almost creamed the sedan.

She could immediately sense Mom’s shock and disappointment. And Alexa felt intensely disappointed in herself. This meant at least seven more hours of BTW training, which felt like forever, because she suspected that there would always be another “concerning issue” prolonging the practice time. And seriously, how could she have missed that sedan? Why did she even agree to drive that stupid car in the first place?

They arrived at the house, and Alexa hurried to her room and locked the door.

Her future flashed before her mind. She saw herself being trapped in her parents’ house at 30, unable to drive, not independent at all. She felt that she would never be allowed to act like an adult, even though at her present age, she technically was one.

She felt completely trapped.

What was wrong with her? Why couldn’t she get anything right? Her brain didn’t seem to be on her side anymore. She was even struggling in her college math class, which was unusual for her (and she had no obvious explanation, like no love or romance in her life to cause distracted thinking). What on earth was happening? Maybe she would be a handicap the rest of her life.

She didn’t want to go on existing.

Finally, Alexa began to recognize that there were health problems afoot. She had been fighting severe headaches and sinus congestion for a while. She suspected she was suffering from chronic infection, and possibly other issues. So she began to visit some doctors, took a prescribed antibiotic for a suspected sinus infection, and learned that she had many environmental allergies (to pets, mold, everything). This information was relieving. She’d found, at least, a partial explanation for everything that was going on!

Her health improved decently. She became a much safer driver, and eventually (over a year later) was permitted to take the driving test. At last!

After that painful, embarrassing season, Alexa was able to look back and realize that, had she had her license at the time and been driving alone in the sunset that night – attempting to change lanes – she might have missed something and caused pain, hassle, or even death for the other driver and herself. Her instructor (mom) was still in the passenger seat for a reason.

This valley that she had traversed was necessary to lead her to recognize and address her health issues, so that she could be safe on the road and enjoy a higher quality of life.

— — — — — — —

Dylan didn’t understand it. He was doing his very best at work, while others were slacking off. Every day, he kicked butt, worked up a sweat, and did the job of two or three people. That was the problem. He worked too hard, which only inspired his teammates to idle around. (Why did they operate this way? Why couldn’t they all give it their best simultaneously? Be in this together?) But Dylan couldn’t justify not working hard. His conscience wouldn’t allow that. He had to give his best, no matter what others chose to do. But maybe he was giving more than his best. If he continued to burn himself out, he would no longer be able to give as much.

He didn’t allow others to experience the consequences of their dormancy. He simply masked their issues by his own diligence. But then, he didn’t think they would suffer if they were found to be slacking. They had special connections to higher-ups, whereas Dylan kept his head down and his nose to the grindstone. He didn’t bother – or even know how – to glad-hand his way to favor. He was just…himself. Dylan tried to be kind and encouraging and supportive to everyone, but he couldn’t manufacture an energy he didn’t have (especially anymore, since he’d exhausted his energy resources), in order to impress his leaders.

If there was a mess leftover that night – and he had worked at a normal pace while his colleagues had slacked – he had a feeling he’d get blamed for it. And so he continued to hustle like a workhorse, heeding fear and conscience.

Dylan was only 22, but he felt like he was aging fast. He was working so hard to please his bosses and to maintain favor with everyone – and, most importantly, to do a good job – but he knew that he could not go on like this for much longer. He had communicated his concerns with leadership, but little, if any action seemed to have been taken. Or if action had been taken, it hadn’t been very effective.

But Dylan never ceased to observe his environment, and the ways people functioned in their roles. He observed excellent leadership and poor leadership. He made mental notes of the qualities of inspirational, trustworthy leaders, and of the less desirable qualities of superiors who operated simply as bosses. He learned what he valued in a leader, and what qualities he would desire to embody should he ever become one (though he deemed this opportunity unlikely, and didn’t necessarily desire a leadership role). More importantly, he learned what kind of person he wanted to become in general – leadership aside.

The climax of Dylan’s stint with this company began as follows.

Dylan sought to cross-train and transfer to another department. After all, others who performed just as well or who worked less dependably than he had been allowed to do the same. Cross-training and transferring was generally respected and valued here. Dylan figured that since he had put so much into the success of his team and his store, his leaders would (hopefully) be glad to help him grow.

Two leaders expressed great excitement about the idea and their support for Dylan. But unfortunately, they were not in positions to accommodate his ambitions. The decision was up to the head manager. And the manager did not like Dylan.

As you may have guessed, Dylan was not allowed to transfer to the other department (a team which, in fact, desperately needed more hands).

This decision by the manager was significant motivation for Dylan to look around for a better job and get out of there. And with the help of supportive friends and references, he did just that.

This low point was the impetus he needed to seek a more gratifying work situation and an improved quality of life.

Once he became thoroughly sick of the valley, he sought higher ground, and was no longer afraid to make the climb to get there.

His disappointment and mistreatment was a gift in disguise.

Typically, we desire to feel like we are in control of life. Peacefully situated on the mountaintop, safe from all the s**t getting dropped on the ground. We want to be secure, successful, and shielded.

We yearn to be free from pain, emotional suffering, disease, setbacks.

But I ask you this: how can you appreciate a beautiful thing fully when you don’t know its absolute contrast?

How can you enjoy the splendor of light if you’ve never beheld darkness? If you’ve never known what light is not?

How can you thoroughly appreciate sweetness unless you’ve tasted that which is bitter?

How can you relish excellent health if you’ve always enjoyed it? If you’ve suffered no affliction with which to compare it?

How can you love the sunshine if you’ve never witnessed thunderstorms or a cloudy night?

How can you feel beautiful if you’ve never known what it’s like to feel ugly or unwanted?

How can you appreciate who you’ve become, if you’ve never battled any vices or sins?

You cannot reach the mountaintop unless you’ve walked through the valley, and up the winding hills. There is no shortcut.

Alexa and Dylan’s stories represent my own.

I was that kid who thought she’d never be allowed to grow up. Little did I see, all the “setbacks” kept me from dying young.

I was that young adult who thought she was going to lose her mind and fall apart physically while continuing to work in a taxing, unappreciative corporate environment. But I learned so much through my years there, and the pain gave me the strength to move forward and make the effort to leave. I also learned what kind of person I don’t want to be, and gained a greater vision of the person I aspire to become.

Just a reminder to treasure the valleys as well as the mountaintops. The dips in the earth, the concave terrain, the chasmal valleys are what make the mountains the soaring heights that they are.

nad-hemnani-41314.jpg

 

Enjoyed this piece? You might also like:

Where Shadows Sleep

My Favorite Quotes

My Favorite Quotes

Below are some quotes that have meaning for me. While most of them are pretty self-explanatory, I’ll briefly expound on several of these and what I love about them.

 

A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new. – Albert Einstein

I am a perfectionist and constantly afraid of failure, so this is a great reminder for me to chill and just jump in the water. Eventually, I’ll learn how to swim.

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. – Winston Churchill

Same idea here. If you’re doing anything that matters, you will experience “failure”. But then, it’s only really a failure if you let it stop you, right?

Go as far as you can see and you will see further. – Zig Ziglar

I tend to agonize over my inability to see several steps down the road in life. But life’s a journey to be enjoyed. All I’ve gotta do is take another step and see what the view looks like from there. Once I take that step, I’ll see new objects from new angles. Only then can I make more informed decisions about the future.

But surely for everything you love you have to pay some price. – Agatha Christie

Isn’t that true for anything we love? Whether it’s a person, an animal, a job, a career, an identity you’re creating for yourself, a love interest – you invest, you compromise (where you can). Anything we desire requires a sacrifice of something else – be it time, freedom, autonomy, money, sanity.

I’m either my best friend or my worst enemy. – Whitney Houston

I…can definitely relate here. Like, I feel like nobody gets me like I get me (although I don’t really understand myself either, to be honest). Hence, I’m my best friend. But I’m also my worst critic, and have punished myself for things many times in the past. Anyone else relate?

If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. – Jane Austen

While I may be taking this quote from Emma slightly out of context, what it brings to mind for me is my struggle to talk with those I love about my love for them. Or even to show them my love in nonverbal ways. My brain freezes up, my stomach gets fluttery, my mouth gets stuttery….

I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend. – Thomas Jefferson

While I’m all for choosing one’s friends carefully (like, not hanging out in crowds that’ll get you in trouble), I don’t believe “careful” means choosing people who will simply be sounding boards that boomerang all my personal beliefs and comfortable ideologies back at me. Hanging out with people with whom I disagree enables me to understand other points of view. My views might stay the same, or they might change, hopefully in a more informed direction.

When we’re afraid of hanging out with people who are very different from us, there is often a subconscious fear that we will have to adopt the whole package of that person or none of it. We’re afraid that if we socialize with that individual, we’ll turn 180 degrees and be everything that we’ve been taught to detest and even ridicule. But individuals with strong minds sift. They take what makes sense to them, discard what doesn’t, and create their own unique package of ideologies and values. They don’t buy into stereotypical, pre-processed packages that other people think they should espouse. Strong individuals don’t fit into a mold, and they are inquisitive, always seeking truth and better understanding. This frees them to listen to various viewpoints graciously and with genuine interest.

The more I see the less I know for sure. – John Lennon

Yep. Especially today. Information overload. Choices galore. Fake news. What’s a person to think?

Also, the more I observe people, the more I realize how little I know about them.

To love someone means to see him as God intended him. – Fyodor Dostoevsky

If we could see all individuals as if they had attained their full potential and consummate refinement, in what ways might the world change?

I shall never be ashamed of citing a bad author if the line is good. – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

When I’m contemplating quoting someone or sharing information, I often consider the source, and what people will think of me if I share anything from that source. Yeah, I’m a wimp.

Are there occasions for not sharing something accurate and of high quality, primarily because of the source? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. – Plato

Light exposes all things beautiful and nefarious.

If money is your hope for independence you will never have it. The only real security that a man will have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience, and ability. – Henry Ford

Over the past few months, I’ve been learning that independence is an illusion. Money cannot provide true independence, because we’re always sacrificing something to get that money (like time, energy, sanity, identity when working for someone else). We are always a slave to something, or someone. (Sorry, depressing thought.) We just have to choose what we’re willing to enslave ourselves to, and what things/people just aren’t worth it.

Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing. – Thomas A. Edison

Most of us are “busy”. But are we possibly busy going through the motions – directionless, passionless, and reactionary? What if spending time being “lazy” and mulling over possibilities, contingencies, and ideas saved us time, energy, and grief in the long run? Without allowing space for reflection, we risk running 100 mph in the wrong direction because we did not allot the time to park, look at the map, and course-correct. We risk wearing ourselves thin by overexerting, when we might instead overexert our minds to build a machine/process/system to do the heavy lifting for us, improving quality of life for all.

If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right. – Henry Ford

It’s all in your head. Wait, wrong expression.

I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it. – Pablo Picasso

There’s no substitute for jumping in there and getting your hands dirty – whatever “dirty” looks like. 🙂 I’ve found that approach is how I learn best. My challenge is not being afraid to feel/look stupid while I fumble around to get my bearings.

Don’t aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally. – David Frost

Because your product or project will be the most genuine and real if it’s coming from your heart and your natural or acquired talents. If at all possible, do what you love. Even if it makes nothing. Even if it’s a pursuit on the side. At the very least, it will foster congruence between who you are and what you do, promoting wholeness.

Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful. – Albert Schweitzer

What is your definition of success? I’d love to know!

If it comes as a constant surprise each and every time something unexpected occurs, you’re not only going to be miserable whenever you attempt something big, you’re going to have a much harder time accepting it and moving on to attempts two, three, and four. – Ryan Holiday

Story of my life. Something unexpected pops up and thwarts my efforts and plans. Good reminder not to let that squash me, and to keep getting back up.

We are afraid to care too much, for fear that the other person does not care at all. – Eleanor Roosevelt

No one wants to be the only one making effort. I’ve experienced this with acquaintances with whom I think I want something more. I’m interested but afraid of rejection, he seems interested but afraid of rejection. But we aren’t sure what we’re reading. So we act like we don’t really care. We’re afraid to ever make a move.

You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength. – Marcus Aurelius

This resonates with me strongly – especially right now. There are many circumstances in my life completely beyond my control, and I can allow those things to make me feel trapped, or I can cultivate mental freedom, realizing that no one and nothing has the power to make me unhappy, discontent, or fearful, unless I let them/it. These emotions require the consent of my mind.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. – Steve Jobs

If you’re like me, you’re afraid to rock the boat and not please people or fit in. Robust words.

Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters. – Albert Einstein

Old habits die hard. And often, little habits grow bigger. If you can’t trust me not to pilfer coins from the cash register, how can you trust me to accurately report company expenditures, profits, and commissions?

Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful. – John Wooden

Can’t add anything to this.

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

You’ve got what it takes to be a mover and shaker! I know it! Forge your own path.

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. – Thomas A. Edison

Are we prepared to get up and try again 10,000 times? Hey, T.E. did it.

There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. – C.S. Lewis

Beautiful. And freaky.

Did I totally ruin your favorite quote? Do you have a different or additional take on any/all of these? Let me know in the comments below! I look forward to hearing from you. 🙂

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

%d bloggers like this: