The Importance of a Hug

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

One of the more difficult parts of being single, living alone, and working remotely is the fact that days can go by with me talking “in person” to another human being or having any physical contact with someone. It’s a weird thing when I really sit down to think about it. No handshakes, hugs, high fives, or even a passing touch as you walk by someone. Depending on my call schedule and what else I have going on I might not even talk to another person.

Last January I got the flu and for two weeks the only other people I saw were the nurses in the doctor’s office and the pharmacy technician. Otherwise I was alone, I talked to as little people as possible because I would just start coughing like crazy, and I was just me. It was a long two weeks.

Days without physical contact with another person … it’s not something I think about very much, until it’s been days, like this week. Then yesterday, I talked to a couple of women after Mass to ask them to pray for a very close friend of mine who’s battling breast cancer. One of them gave me a hug; she gives the best hugs. The kind of hugs that last a good long while and aren’t just the ‘hug equivalent’ of the “how are you?” question. You know the ones!

A friend and I are buddy reading the book Unworried: A Life Without Anxiety by Dr. Gregory Popcack. He talks about one of the ways to reduce anxiety and to calm yourself down when you’re having an anxiety attack is a hug.

Go to your spouse or a good friend and ask them to give you a hug. Don’t be quick about it. Relax into the hug until you feel yourself exhaling the stress. Hugging actually syncs your heart rate to the other person and increases the presence of oxytocin, a powerful “calm down” hormone products through interpersonal bonding.

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There’s not a solution to this ‘lack of physical contact’ in my life right now. Truthfully, it is what it is. I have great friends who give good hugs. I was told by a friend who I saw a few months ago after years apart about how great of a hugger I am. Maybe I’ve learned not to take a hug for granted because they aren’t commonplace in my life.

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Impostor Adult

Photo by Andreja Mihailovic on Unsplash

A few weeks ago two things happened at work, both involving people touching my hair in a weird way. A man on our team pulled my bun, and then a young woman on our team petted by hair. These two events immediately sparked me to say “That’s not okay, you’ve crossed my boundary, please never do that again.” They were both taken aback of course … probably because the culture on our team encourages this kind of ‘family bonding’ atmosphere.

As I told this story the following weekend to my book club including that one of these people also has a nickname for me, they asked (aside from the obvious ‘don’t touch people at work’ thing) what the root issue was. Why does the nickname bother me? It came down to “those things make me feel like a little kid.” They make me think that people aren’t taking me seriously, that I’m just ‘one of those millennials,’ and that I’m an impostor and I don’t belong.

Impostor syndrome is a real thing and Alison over at AskAManager (seriously one of my favorite places on the internet) writes about it a lot. This article is particularly good. As I spoke to the young woman (from above) after the event she asked “why does that bother you, I was just being friendly” I said “it makes me feel like a little kid.” Both she and my book club think that’s ridiculous, I’m obviously not a small child. A woman in my book club asked me “what makes you think you aren’t an adult?”

My answer, “I’m not married and don’t have kids.” She said immediately, “why do those two things make you an adult? My sister is 50 years old, isn’t married, and doesn’t have kids … is she not an adult?” Immediately I said, “well she is … but it’s different for me.” Is it though? I’ve set a weird double standard!

Well, because even though many are delaying marriage and children, it still seems to be the marker of adulthood. People who are clearly adultsjust can’t adult” today or are “practicing adulting.” The fact that ‘adult’ is a verb is a whole different issue. But, back to the matter at hand: I was reading a book earlier today and the author writes the 5 markers of adulthood. What are they you ask? “Leaving Home, Finishing School, Establishing Financial Independence” so far, so good “Getting Married and Having Children.” ugh

According to this list, I’m only 60% of the way there, and “a 60 isn’t even close to a passing grade,” says the former A+ student.

We could argue that list forever. Should that list be governing my life? No, probably not, okay, definitely not. Is it making me feel like I’m an “Impostor Adult”? Yes, and as the red squiggly lines keep telling me, I can’t even spell that word. What can I do about it?

Go out and just ‘find me a husband’ (well, we know how that search has been going lately).

I could just go and ‘have a baby’ (um, last time I checked, it takes two).

So the third and only option really is to deal with my stuff. Rewrite the definition of what it means to be an adult. Remind myself of the experience I bring to the table. Change the conversation in my head. I am a strong, capable, adult woman … and whether I wear a ring on my finger or have a kid crying for me in the middle of the night or not, I’m still that person. I’m not an impostor.

Reading Tools

Beth, Anne, & Me on her I’d Rather Be Reading Book Tour at Mainstreet Books in Davidson!
(also I was SUPER sun-burnt this day, apparently)

I was sitting with some acquaintances the other night when my reading life came up. I told them I met my reading goal for the year of 175 books, now I’m at 188. Unless something weird happens in December, I’ll hit 200 books this year. I can’t even believe it. But as I was talking about some of the things I do to help me track my reading, they said “you should write about these tools so we can take advantage of them.” Well, ladies this is for you!

Here are the tools that help me track my reading progress, find books to read, and use my library better.

  1. The Library Extension: This is the best way to add books to my hold list at the library. You just install it on Chrome and it shows up on Amazon and Goodreads. It tells you if the book is in the library catalog, how many copies exist, and if any are available. So when I see a book from a friend on Goodreads or click over to Amazon, I can see if it’s available at the library, simply click ‘place hold,’ and then go over to the library website and add it to my list. It’s a lot easier than looking up the book, finding the right edition, and placing the hold.
  2. Goodreads: Keeping track of the books I want to read was the biggest need I had. Will my TBR list of 700 ever be empty? Probably not, since I’m always adding to it. I have a lot of different shelves for who recommended it, a list of 2018 books, books from Anne (see below), books I own, what I’ve recommended, book club reads, etc. Goodreads is also the best way to track where you are on your reading goal. It’ll tell you if you’re ahead or behind and also will keep track of what you’ve read. You can either manually add it to the reading challenge list or mark it as ‘currently reading’ and then ‘finished’ in the app or online. In the app you can also scan a book to add it to your TBR or Currently Reading list.
  3. The Library Holds List: The greatest love affair of my life is with my library. I’m there at least once a week, sometimes more. I keep my hold list at the max most of the time for new releases, recommendations, audio books (which I put on USB to listen to in the car), and more. You can pause, suspend, and even save for later within their online account. I do a lot of strategic things with my list by keeping a few spots available for ‘it’ll be a year before this book is available’ books, and a bunch where I’m #1 on the list and I just don’t want to walk to the shelf to get the book when I arrive at the library (kidding, sometimes it’s on shelves but not at my library). Jon Acuff always says that he loves the library because it “makes him feel like a boss” since he can take home 5 or 10 books at a time. You can’t do that at the store, that’s an expensive habit!
  4. IRL Friends: Beth, Mary Grace, Elisabeth, Lisa, and Sarah are my best in real life book friends who share amazing recommendations. I keep track of their recommendations on Goodreads (and also follow them there), and I trust their recommendations because I know them and their reading style. Does every book they read make sense for me? Of course not – but I also like being able to read the same books as my friends so we can talk about it.
  5. Book Podcasts: I listen to two book podcasts regularly. Anne Bogel’s What Should I Read Next is my favorite. I love Anne’s recommendations and can judge by her plot summaries if I’ll like a book. The shownotes pages are also amazing since they list out every book that was mentioned in the podcast. I’m always adding to my TBR list (and she has a special shelf in Goodreads). I also like Annie Jones on From the Front Porch. She’s the owner of the Bookshelf in Thomasville, GA. I also like her reading style and typically love books that she’s loved. Their shownotes aren’t as extensive, but a great resource!
  6. Bookstagram: I follow a few great people on Instagram that not only promote books that publishers send them for free, but they read a lot of books and have similar reading styles as me. Here are a few of my favorites: What Should I Read Next, Anne Bogel, Annie Jones, Katelyn, and Kate Olson. Also I’m just now realizing that my best bookstagram friends are all named Anne or Katie (in some form).
  7. Modern Mrs. Darcy blog: This is Anne Bogel’s blog. As I’ve said before with her podcast and Instagram, I appreciate her recommendations. She has a great way of cataloging reads by topic, season, monthly updates, etc. 

For me, reading has become my lifestyle. I always have a book in my purse, on my nightstand, in the kitchen, around the living room. I do monthly ‘buddy reads’ with two different friends (we meet monthly to video chat), have a book friends group with people at work, and an IRL book club.

This year I have been writing about my reads every month, not sure I’m going to do that in 2019 because it takes a while and I’m not sure it’s helpful. We shall see – but I find that writing about what I read is really helpful. Also I don’t think a long post about each book would be useful – but maybe a one minute review like my friend David over at Restless Pilgrim does would work. 

Dear Friend

Dear Friend,

I know that life is busy, things get hectic, and we can’t accomplish all of the things we want to. I know that I don’t know what it’s like to have a baby, two toddlers, three with another on the way, or six of all ages running around the house. The thing I do have, as a single woman who loves kids, is time.

I know I’m out of town a lot, but when I’m home, I desire nothing more than to hang out with my friends and catch up. I know we can’t always go out for a glass of wine or a pedicure or see a movie. I know you’ve got a lot going on at home with all of those little ones. I know that sometimes you’re just so tired you can hardly stand up straight – and you’ve still got three baths to give, five stories to read, and kids to put to bed who want nothing to do with sleeping. 

Although all of that is true, I still want to be your friend. Even more, I want to help you. I wish you’d be willing to ask for help, and then actually receive it.

The worst lie being told about motherhood in our society today is that you have to do it all. You have to be the perfect mom who has a great job, whose kids are involved in everything under the sun, who is always dressed well with perfectly dressed kids, who feeds their kids only veggies and homemade nutritious food. Not only that you’re supposed to be the perfect wife too.

Let’s all call BS on that now. None of us is perfect.

I’ll say it again, as a recovering perfectionist, None of Us is PERFECT. Truthfully we aren’t supposed to be and we can’t be. It’s just the truth.

So why are we trying to convince the world otherwise?

We all need help sometimes. Some of us more than others depending on the season of life we are in. Please don’t be afraid to show me your mess. I’ve been sharing mine with you for years. I’ve been crying on your shoulder as another birthday goes by without a man by my side in marriage. I’ve been expressing my self-doubt about whether I’m good enough at work to take on a new project. I’ve been showing you the messiness of my home by having your over when an afternoon of cleaning would have been a better use of my time. I’m not afraid of showing you my mess, and I wish you weren’t so scared of showing me yours.

Why?

Because I want to help. When your husband has to go out of town and the thought of being alone with the kids for the weekend amidst all of the other things on your plate overwhelms you, I want to take up residence in your guest room and cook you breakfast, play with your kids, give them a bath, and read story after story before bed. When you just can’t think about getting up off the couch because your morning sickness is more than you can handle, I want to come grab your kiddos and take them out for the afternoon so you can have a moment to be nauseous all alone.

I’m great at telling stories. I give great baths. I’m pretty fun with pretend games. I can climb up and down the slide over and over again with no problem. I make a mean mac and cheese and my PB&J is the stuff of legends. I can cut apples like nobody’s business, and my cleaning skills are on point. Rocking babies to sleep is my superpower, and I want nothing more than to be your friend when you need one the most.

I know that you’re ‘supposed to be able to do it all, all by yourself.’ But I’m calling BS. You can’t. I can’t. But We can, together. Why do you think that women put with up with polygamy for centuries? It wasn’t because “their husband earned the affection of all those great women.” PLEASE! It was because they lived a sisterhood and helped one another out. They needed each other, they used one another to help raise their children. They divided the housework amongst themselves. They took care of each other when they were sick or pregnant or recovering from childbirth or nursing all the time.

Now, I’m not suggesting that I want to marry your husband – although he may have been the last good one out there. I’m suggesting that it’s okay that we can’t do it all alone because we don’t have to.

One of the benefits of having a single friend who likes kids and isn’t afraid of messes is that she’s willing to walk into yours. I’m willing to change diapers, clean bathrooms, fold laundry, take kids on an adventure to McDonald’s or the Aquarium (why doesn’t anyone want to go to the aquarium with me?), brew a cup of tea, bake cookies, bring dinner or lunch, do the dishes, vacuum the floor, or whatever you need.

Because that’s what friends do. We’re there for one another through it all. Please let me help you, let me love you in this way. Not because I know you’ll do the same for me (although I sure hope you have the chance to), but because it’s how we can lean upon one another.

You might not be able to even think of taking your kids to the library all by yourself because it’s just ‘been.a.day.‘ But I’m well rested, showered, and had a good breakfast – and I can do anything for 3 hours. 

So friend, don’t be afraid to ask. I won’t think any less of you – honestly, I’ll think more of you because you recognize it takes a village. We all need each other … I can’t help if you don’t ask, I won’t impose myself on your life, your family, your home. If invited, I will come in and help. I want to. Please let me.

Your friend.

Evil Intentions

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How often do you sit around and think about evil you can do to intentionally harm other people?

I didn’t know what to do with this question. I thought it was a trick. It’s what Father said to me in confession the other night after I finished running through all of my sins which included ‘judging other people and their intentions.’

I was speechless, which is not something I am very often at all.

So he repeated himself, “I mean, where you really just sit around thinking evil thoughts about people so you can inflict pain on them.”

I meekly, very tentatively, answered, “Never?” Yes, in the form of a question. I thought it might be a trick question. Maybe he’d heard something in the list of my sins that he was trying to point out to me. Maybe I’m thinking about evil more than I realize.

Then Father said:

I mean, people aren’t sitting around figuring out how to harm you. I don’t doubt that there are evil intentions behind what people do, but I don’t think they are the masterminds thinking of them. There’s an evil force behind many of the things that bother and bug us – but it’s not the people inflicting them most of the time.

He said, “I say this because that helps me when I think all the people in the world are out to get me.”

After confession I went to pray my penance, Mass started, and I was feeling like the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders.

I had had a rough day at work yesterday with some people, meetings, emails, calls, etc (the reason for getting my butt to confession). A few times I messaged people at work saying, “I.CAN’T.EVEN.” People drive me nuts. This is not news. But why?

Because I assign evil, annoying intentions to their actions. The truth is that they aren’t doing these things to drive me crazy.

Then this morning in my morning prayer I asked the Lord to help me remember that people don’t have evil intentions, that they are just being them, even though I think that’s super annoying and irritating.

So one of my churches did something fabulous in their bulletin. I sent it to my sales consultant and manager and got a reply that says “these are great to show other churches.” My first reaction was “UM, of course – that’s why I sent it to you to see. How could you think I wouldn’t share this with other churches? Why do you think I’m stupid? Why do you think I can’t do my job? Why do you think I’m inadequate?”

Is that was she was thinking when she sent that email?

No. I mean, frankly I don’t know her intentions, but she’s seriously got bigger fish to fry than sit around thinking about how to try to annoy little ol’ me. She didn’t send that maliciously. I made that story up. I wrote that shitty first draft (that’s a Brené Brown thing, a summary in this letter is super useful to help me understand from Rising Strong). 

I’m amazing at writing these and declaring them Gospel Truth. The truth is that most of us are too wrapped up in our own minds, thoughts, actions, and life to even think about the larger story of someone else.

I did that crappy thing because of all of these other things going on in my life, but she did that crappy thing because she sits around thinking of all the ways she can hurt me over and over again. REALLY? She has time to sit and think about what she can do to hurt me? Katie, give me a break – you’re special, unique, worthy, and dignified – but not part of her every thought, word, and action. And when other people do think of you, they aren’t figuring out how to harm you (99.9% of the time).

Today, working on remembering to give even more of the grace to others that I want them to afford to me.

40 Reasons Why: no. 38

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no. 38: litanies

I think my first introduction into Litanies was in high school. I can’t remember the first time, but I have grown in my appreciation of them in the last few years. I was once praying the rosary with a friend and she was leading and did the Litany to the Blessed Virgin Mary at the end.

I’ve also had a tenuous relationship with the Litany of Humility over the course of a few years. I know I need humility, but I dislike asking for it because it can be painful to really practice that virtue!

The Marian Consecration of St. Louis de Montfort preparation prayers also includes a few litanies … long ones too!

I was most recently introduced to this Litany of Trust from the Sisters of Life. I have found it to be just what I’ve needed lately.

Lastly, I’ve been praying this Litany for the Church in Crisis by my online friend Laura every day at 2:57pm. Praying that on the 1st day of the #sackclothandashes 40 days was the impetus for embarking on this 40 day time of reflection.

On Being Late

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“Traffic was so bad.”

“Have you seen the construction on 77?”

“I’ve got so many things going on.”

“I really tried.”

“I’ll put 4:45 on my calendar so I’m here by 5.”

“You know you love me when I’m late, it’s just who I am.”

But seriously people, let’s get it together. Why are we always late for everyone and everything? Why is everyone in my life always running behind? Why are people startled when you call them at 3pm when your appointment was set for 3pm?

Why are people doing Instagram stories about how late they are for Mass while walking in to Mass? Isn’t that just making you more late? Do you actually care about being on time?

Now, I get it, everyone’s late sometimes. Just a few weeks ago I was staying at a friend’s house helping to care for her mom while she and her husband and son were at a family event on the west coast. We did everything right to leave the house in time for the 9:30am Mass. Except when we were ready to transfer her from the in-house oxygen saturation machine (aka sapphire, since she’s giant and blue) to the portable oxygen tank, I couldn’t get it to work, realizing that it was empty. So I had to change out the tank, figure out how to hook up a new one, and then “rush” off to Mass with a woman who doesn’t walk very fast and every red light on the 10 minute drive.

I dropped her and then went to find a parking spot in the back before rushing in myself and squeezing into the very last pew (had to strongly encourage an elderly woman and a nun to move over) which my companion had found. I ended up being five minutes late … right around the Confiteor.

We’re all late sometimes. It’s the nature of a life that is full. But are we all late all the time? Isn’t that just poor planning? Do I not get this because I don’t have kids? Is it too much to say that ‘being on time’ is my love language (along with sarcasm)? [Those aren’t official Gary Chapman approved love languages, btw.]

Do I just need to get over it? Should I just start being late too since obviously no one cares about this?

Well, to be fair, some people do – my counselor does – my time starts at my appointment time whether I’m there or not. Yet, I can’t remember a time in the last 9 months that she was on time!

Doctor’s offices care if you’re late to your appointment, but don’t mind letting you sit and wait until they are good and ready for you. I give them a break though since I’ve been ‘fit into the middle of the schedule because I felt like I was dying’ and I’m sure made someone else wait because of it.

My chiropractor is very rarely late. He also apologizes to me at almost every single appointment if I had to wait because I showed up early and he wasn’t ready!

A friend of mine with three kiddos is always either early or on time. My friends with one kiddo are always late – but to be fair they were all like this before kids. Old habits die hard.

I guess the thing that bugs me is that it doesn’t seem to matter at all to anyone, except me. Maybe that’s the real issue. I’m the issue. Me and my ‘being on time’ love language. Maybe that’s why the Lord makes me wait for so many things from him, to teach me that it’s okay to be late.

So I’ll just pack a good book to read while I wait on yet another person for our lunch date or doctor for an appointment or friend for our video book call.