i’d like you to be my biggest cheerleader, but i NEED you to be my biggest critic

Someone told me that my partner (I suppose they thought I could only have one, or perhaps it was a “general” partner, as in the “general” you) needed to be my biggest cheerleader. I appreciated the thought, while immediately dismissing it as not relevant to my own situation. “I don’t need a cheerleader,” I told myself. I’d dubbed this group of guys my “fan club” in high school, but I’d outgrown that childish need, no? In my more recent experience, a partner may happen to be our greatest cheerleader– but all too often this person showers us with praise and fails to provide any substantial support. And their words achieve very little, no matter their grandeur.

But, later, I reflected on this sentiment. Some night, I don’t remember, as I fell asleep. A tiny, almost aggravating thought. My partners, especially the one who stays by my side nearly all the time, are, in fact, my greatest cheerleaders. Always have been, and, frankly, I love it. Even my more casual partners– that may not be first to cheer me on, usually do to life conflicts– provide me the fullest support possible at the soonest opportunity.

Despite my initial resentment of the statement, (Of course I don’t need validation all the time from my partners and friends, how insecure do you think I am?) I kind of like the idea. I’m grateful my partners are my biggest cheerleaders.

My partners are there for me, clapping loudest and first.

They are the Princess Carolyn to my Bojack Horseman. They are the first to support me in an endeavor. They tell me, every day, how beautiful I am. They are the first to like an article of mine or follow up with a comment.

My partners are there for me when I fall asleep at night. When I wake up in the morning. And every moment in between. I rarely find myself without someone to offer me comforting words or a hug…or anything at all…whenever I ask for it. Often without any delay. They will tell me my dreams are amazing and I am wonderful and even when I’m down on myself, they’ll pick me right back up.

My own, incredible munchkins are the first to offer the sweetest, most sincere compliments out of thin air when I am feeling particularly low. Some say kids are terrible, callous, and cruel. I disagree, but perhaps only due to my personal experience.

Nobody, but nobody, could say their support system offered them more “cheers” than my own loved, chosen family– and it is beyond painful for me to recognize that it is not this way for everyone.

And, now, as I think about it, I do wish everyone had what I have in my…tribe? Polycule? Whatever you want to call it. I wonder if I instinctively dismissed the idea, not because I disagreed. But rather because I took it for granted. Like breathing. Some people cannot count on that “unconditional,” ever present love and comfort from anyone. Not their romantic loved ones, not their family, not their “best” friends…not even their own mother and father. How could they not desperately want that from someone?

It is an unfortunate reality that too many fail to have their partners offer them anything even close, which I believe is why the sentiment rings so loudly whenever it is spoken. Because a lot of people do not have partners as their greatest cheerleaders. God knows, enough people’s greatest abusers are those that claim to love them. And for many? Their most loved one(s) stay by them every day, but for no reason in particular. And that is…very sad.

So, please, support the sentiment!

I have trust issues, like many. I am not saying to simply trust pretty words and compliments. I’m exhausted, frankly, listening to story after story about a girl swept off her feet by the perfect guy who “did everything right” (read: said all the right words) only to have him drop her on her face, quite unceremoniously.

I also understand that not everyone speaks words of affection as their love language. I, as best I can, try not to push for sugary words and affectionate gestures (though as snuggly as I am, it can be hard not press for hugs!) So I can understand when my partners -might- not express such affection for me (though, curiously, they do anyway!). Nor would I hold it against them if they didn’t. (Of course, it’s all too easy to say you don’t care about that which you have. So take what I say with a grain of salt).

And, yet, would the world be worse off if we could do this for the person(s) we claim to love the most? What if we tried to be the most positive, the most enthusiastic person in that person’s life? Would that be so bad? I don’t think so. Although, in an attempt to keep myself grounded, I do also think this…

Please, please don’t forget, please, there’s something far more valuable in addition to being someone’s greatest cheerleader!

And that is to be their consistent (not constant, but reliable) check. I am glad, and grateful, that my partners are so wonderful to me and so generous with their words. But what I need more than that is for someone to pull my head out of the clouds. To say, Hey, I love you, but what you did was wrong. What you said was wrong. And you need to fix it. Because if they won’t, who will?

My friends, love them dearly, but they will never hold me to the same standard as my partner. Frankly, they haven’t earned the right. Nonetheless, they won’t do it. My family, bless them, will do it, but not to the same degree. And they aren’t with me every day.

I need that from someone who is always there with me. I’ve, for better or worse, clung closest to the ones who managed to find a way to criticize me and get through to me (I’m not always the most receptive to harsh words, by which I mean, I’m pretty awful about it.) And even though I’ll kick and scream the whole way, I haven’t left. I haven’t rejected those who tell me I’m wrong and I need to get it together. Because deep down, I know I need to hear it. I know it’s hard, but that’s life.

People all too often leave when it “gets hard.”

By which they mean, “when the person didn’t just agree with me like they always did.” And then they’ll shrug and say they “need a partner who will be their biggest cheerleader.” Something I’ve seen too many in my life do. I do understand, at least a little. Because we want one person to Just. Be. There. For. Us.

But that often means giving up on the most wonderful relationships. When we can’t deal with hard conversations from those who know us well, from whose opinions it is more difficult to escape. And it seems easier to find the next new shiny who will say nothing but sugar to us.

But if they can’t tell us the truth? All the fanciest cheers in the world won’t make up for it. And we need that someone, or those someones, in our lives. More than anything. Be someone’s cheerleader– don’t feel even a tinge of guilt over it– but when it comes to your nearest and dearest?

Be more.

no, you can’t help those who don’t want to help themselves

Sometimes I’m good at instinctively knowing what people want, but it’s not always that simple to delve into a person’s true self. more often I find out. By talking to them, by listening to them, by spending years with them. I like doing this for people. It makes me feel like I have a purpose, like a practical guardian angel.

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is all damage “good damage”?

is all damage “good damage”?

“Because if i don’t [write my book] then that means all the damage I got wasn’t good damage it’s just damage. I have gotten nothing out of it, and all those years, I was miserable for nothing. I could have been happy this whole time…what was it all for?”

Bojack Horseman, S6E10, Diane

Sometimes we gain benefit from our trauma. I won’t say “everything happens for a reason,” but, like the Japanese art of kintsugi, we find a way to emerge more beautiful after we’ve been “broken.”

I know many stories where the ugly duckling transforms into a swan. Where the damage is transformative, rather than purely destructive (which isn’t to say I’m glad it happened! but, yes, some good came of it…) I can’t say how common this is, but it seems these people often come into my life. And I’ve seen a bit of this firsthand…

So, yes, I’ve seen “good damage.”

Living in a time of isolation has brought that sharply to my attention. Seeing who dealt with it almost as if nothing were happening– and those who fell apart and acted like their civil liberties were under attack because they couldn’t get a haircut.

Of course, most of us feel somewhere in between. I didn’t know anyone who quite fell -apart-, but some handled it better than others. It’s a little bit funny how the people I expected to do well have had more trouble, and the people I expected to not be able to handle this surprised me.

— and no, the difference was not those who struggled with financial issues exasperated by the crisis, versus those who worked from home as usual, mostly unaffected by the stay at home orders.

Nor those with higher risks when it came to their health and the health of their loved ones, versus those who had relatively little to fear regarding their own health and the health of those close to them.

No, the difference wasn’t any of that. But those whose lives were a little more of a struggle than most? They seemed to handle it with an ease that almost shocked me. Many of those who struggled financially, emotionally, etc actually did better after the crisis hit. I thought their emotional resources would have been tapped, but no. It was almost as if they were used to weathering hard times already, and this was just, well, another inconvenience to get through.

Certainly, trauma can be good trauma. Or at least, damage can have a silver lining.

I am grateful for my “good damage.” I almost hope it on anyone in privileged situations, because without it, they can turn out shallow and weak. But while it’s almost hopeful to believe that all trauma is for a purpose, I cannot believe this.

Sometimes there is no reason for the hurt. No lesson. No…anything. Or at least, not much of any of that.

I do believe there is a limited amount of “good” that can be gotten out of “good damage.” And sometimes there isn’t anything at all to be gained.

What was it all for? Why did Diane live a miserable early life? She’s fictional, of course, but I’ve known Dianes in my life that were real people. Maybe Diane could have been happy instead of miserable. If she’d let go of her childhood and focused on the good people around her (and there were plenty!) Maybe she did waste all those years for nothing.

Maybe there was no reason. Maybe she did it to herself for nothing. And there’s no deeper meaning, which, as the show touches on, is something humans try to attach to everything. It doesn’t matter how deserving that event/situation/person is of said meaning or not.

Sometimes you’ve just gotta suck it up and move on.

Sometimes the trauma is worth spending time on. Sometimes you need to reflect on it, or turn it into art. But sometimes there’s nothing there. And I can’t tell you which is “good damage” and which is plain, old “damage.” You’ve gotta realize it for yourself. With this trauma, whatever good you got out of remembering and trying to process your bad feelings is over.

That book you’re trying to write, or that awful breakup you want to turn into Taylor Swift worthy lyrics, will never happen. It’s time to simply move on and be happy. And it sucks that you wasted those years, but it won’t do anything to continue wasting your life. You might as well be happy now. Diane finally did figure it out and wrote stilly, fun young adult books. Because she enjoyed it and it made her happy. And I hope you do the same.

Because sometimes that trauma that tags along after you needs to

I can’t promise you will ever leave your trauma in the dust. Mine follows me along, annoyingly. But mostly I ignore her, that unwanted feeling and those unhappy thoughts. Because she’s no longer good damage. She’s just..damage. And she’s no good to anyone, least of all me.

Sometimes it makes us more beautiful…and sometimes…it’s just junk. Toss the junk.

…what makes you happy? Are you holding on to any unhelpful damage that is keeping you from it?

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stupid piece of shit; a reflection on my inner voices

That voice, the one that tells you you’re worthless and stupid and ugly? It goes away, right? It’s just, like, a dumb teenage-girl thing, but then it goes away?”

S4E6, Bojack Horseman

There’s this little voice that’s followed me around, like a little lost puppy. She isn’t malicious, but her bite is sharp. But she doesn’t mean any harm, she’s just being a puppy.

I think some of us, at one point or another, told ourselves the voice would go away. We’d become secure, confident, mature. Whatever that word means.

But it didn’t go away.

If anything, it grew worse. I grew addicted to humiliation and degradation in the most mature of activities. Don’t ask me, why, I couldn’t tell you. All I know is that I need it to relax, to fall into subspace.

She wrapped herself in my conscience. A soft, subtle reminder triggered by harsh words and a feeling of unacceptance. That nobody would ever understand me. Want me. Despite crystal clear evidence to the contrary. She still suggested that perhaps I imagined the kindness and support.

I no longer expect the little voice in my head to go away.

My other, conflicting, voices reassure me. As well as the voices of loved ones that tell me I’m beautiful, kind, knowledgeable, and other lovely descriptors. Even the occasional compliment in my inbox that says strangers find me comforting and thought provoking. It doesn’t stop the “bad” voices, but it provides a nice contrast.

Not that I need to stop them. I don’t bother with smothering that pesky little voice. I, as a kind soul pointed out, have come to a “radical acceptance” of myself, the good and the so-called bad. I think Miss Pesky, as a matter of fact, keeps me humble. A symbiotic voice among the multitudes. Which is not a bad thing.

So I shall go about my day and try, as best I can, to listen to the voices that I choose. And live my life knowing I’m doing my small part to make it better– regardless of the annoying noise that, I have no doubt, will continue to follow me.

I think that’s being human.

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diane from bojack horseman: “but mostly, it’s just the famous people, right?”

Diane: Ugh. Of course, the first time BoJack dates a woman his own age, she’s basically just a stunted 20-year-old.

Kelsey: Well, BoJack’s stunted, too. He got famous in his twenties, so he’ll be in his twenties forever. After you get famous, you stop growing, you don’t have to. Every celebrity has an age of stagnation.

Diane: I’m glad I never got famous. I mean, I did write a best-selling book, but I’m not famous-famous.

Kelsey: Oh, it doesn’t just happen when you get famous. Your age of stagnation is when you stop growing. For most people, it’s when they get married, settle into a routine. You meet someone who loves you unconditionally and never challenges you or wants you to change, and then you never change.

Diane: But mostly it’s just the famous people, right?

“Yesterdayland” S2E2, Bojack Horseman

It’s all too easy to pass on issues as being someone else’s problem. The rich, the famous, the poor, the….insert whatever you’d like here. It’s not people like ourselves. I love that Bojack Horseman makes it explicitly clear that they let nobody off the hook.

None of us are too good or too privileged to avoid all toxic and otherwise unwanted and unhealthy behaviors. And that’s okay. Self awareness allows us to remember something very simple, but very crucial:

We’re all human.

And that, as we’re all stuck inside our homes getting on each other’s nerves, is something very important for us all to remember.

I’m sorry to not have much more for you today, but I just wanted to pass on this message.

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the five or six stories running through my head on a loop

I’m watching the new, and final, season of Bojack Horseman. 

Normally I skip right past the intro, but I can’t locate the Amazon Fire remote.  So I’m stuck watching the intro animation. Oh,well. And as I’m lazily watching, and half searching for the remote, something catches my attention. 

It’s not a throwaway. The intro. It’s a part of the story. A glimpse into his mind. The show is fantastic; there’s always something new that I observe from each watching. But this time, it’s the introduction that’s caught my attention.

It’s the five or six stories running through his head, on a loop. 

The old introduction was him mindlessly wandering through his life. Parties, a messy house, etc. The new introduction? It’s all the people he’s impacted in his life. There’s his story with Sara Lynn; his old boss, Herb; his ex-girlfriend that he nearly strangled; etc.  And it’s as if all these people are on his mind, in an endless loop.

I have my own rotation.  Mine are trying to be a good daughter; my ongoing struggle with my ex metamour and its affect on my munchkins, my partner; balancing my “personal” life with my “outside” life, with my girlfriend, partner, friends, play partners; building my business;  building my creative outlets and sharing them with the world…

That’s what I’m thinking about.  All the time.  I don’t juggle partners; I juggle my whole life.  Or rather I transition- sometimes smoothly, sometimes more abruptly- between stories.  Sometimes my stories overlap.  Sometimes one gets greedy and demands more of my time and attention, ignoring the fact that the other stories in my life need me, too. These are the five or six stories on my mind.

Perhaps I’m overthinking this, but it’s still a nice story.

With every repetition of the introduction, I’m reminded of what stays with him, every second of every day.  Something makes me believe he’s not haunted by those thoughts, but rather, these are the stories he’s trying to resolve.  That he’s acknowledging in an effort to be…better.

Those stories, all running through my mind at the same time, can be distracting. I’ll often lose myself in thought, even when I’m standing right by you— and it’s because of those stories, looping and never stopping.  And I can’t stop it.  I want to give myself a break, just for a little bit.  But I can’t.  Because minds work in funny ways.  They follow me into my sleep.  The first thought when my mind wakes, unless I’m temporarily distracted by a more fun wake up.   

I apologize if I am not present with you, because of the distraction of those shifting stories. 

It’s just, I can’t ever quite put them off to the side. They’re always in my head. One or the other of them. And the smallest phrase can trigger a story back to the forefront of my mind. I don’t ever let them go, either, although that would free up emotional space to take on a different, new storyline. But I’ve got to take care of these, first.

I’ll simply have to be patient and get my current tasks accomplished. Then maybe my mind will once again be a clean slate. Or maybe I’ll simply take on another story.

It’s funny how the mind works.

I wonder, too, just how many others think this way. Five or six stories running through their head on a loop.

Anyway, I just wanted to share!