Why do I have so much self-esteem? I work at it.

Self esteem. Pass it on.

(Originally published on Opinions for Nothing.)

Clearly, I would not be friends with people who are not awesome, so I am mystified by one friend's low self-esteem. I told her that, if I could, I would gladly give her some of my self-esteem because sometimes I feel like I have too much. We were chatting online with a few of our other girlfriends at the time, and one asked why is it that I have so much self-esteem when they have so little. I didn't always.

Why do I have so much self-esteem? Innate narcissism is the most likely answer. Thinking that I am better than most people I meet can't be hurting either.

Kidding! Mostly.

It's much easier on yourself if you are kind to yourself and think nice things about yourself. You can stop thinking negative thoughts about yourself. There's a psychological technique called thought-stopping that is rather simple to master. If you Google it, you'll see that it doesn't work for panic disorders or chronic worry, but it absolutely works for replacing negative self-talk with positive self-talk. Have a couple of positive phrases about yourself worked out in advance. Every time you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself, say, "STOP!" in your mind, then think the positive thought. It is that easy.

I am not the prettiest, or the slimmest, or the smartest, or the funniest, or the anything-est, but I am great. I like who I am. I like most things about myself, and I am actively trying to change the things I don't like. That is the best that I can do, so there is no need for me to be the one to berate myself for anything. I am a pathological overachiever. This makes me come down very hard on myself, but it is almost always about how much I can achieve, not who I am.

Rejection is difficult for anyone, myself included. It stings, but I shake it off with no damage to my self-esteem. When I am rejected (for a job or a potential client, by a man...), I chalk it up to fit. I don't take it personally, at least not for too long. I like who I am, and I can't be anything else other than that, so if I am rejected for something about who I am, it's fine. It means I was not a good fit, and that situation would not have ended well.

It does not mean I was not smart enough, talented enough, pretty enough, funny enough...

I am more than enough. I am awesome.


Remembering My Friend, Vladimir Reid a.k.a. Volodiya a.k.a. WAYNE!

Me-and-volodiya

(Originally posted on Opinions for Nothing.)

I don't remember the first time I met Volodiya, but it was sometime in the first few months after I transferred to University of Alaska Fairbanks, so it would have been in the late Winter or early Spring of 1994. He was an RA in another dorm, but was friends with some of the girls in my dorm. He and I were friendly, but we didn't become friends until the Fall semester, when I became an RA and we worked in the same dorm.

Volodiya and I got into the habit of watching Letterman together. We'd order a Supreme pizza and hot wings from Pizza Hut, then go down to the little store in the lobby of the dorm complex to buy a couple Fruitopias while we waited for the pizza to arrive.

V spent a semester in France. He was either forgetful about the time difference or a very inconsiderate friend. Either way, I'd occasionally get a 5 AM call from him. He'd tell me about the boys he'd met and I'd catch him up on the gossip.

One year, for Spring Break, we stayed at a lovely cabin in the woods where V was housesitting for a professor. There was drinking, and inappropriate behavior amongst all of our friends, and it was so much fun.

One of our favorite bars to hang out in was the Captain Bartlett Inn. Volodiya would give me tarot readings there and tried to teach me the meanings of the cards. I have a terrible memory for things like that so I usually reverted to making things up based on the pictures when I would give him readings.

We graduated from college in 1997. Our class voted for Volodiya to be the graduation speaker. His speech was fun and nostalgic, like an internet meme. He talked about roller skates and parachute pants and Madonna.

Some time after graduation, when I was back in California, V was living with his boyfriend in Seattle. I visited them for a weekend. It was my first time there. I loved his urban life. Seattle was like Alaska Light. A lot of my college friends settled there.

The last time I saw Volodiya in person was about nine years ago. I went to Seattle for a visit and stayed with my best friend, Joanne. We spent one of the evenings with V and some others, hanging out like old times.

After that, we kept up through phone calls, but mostly online, through MySpace, then Facebook. A few months ago, when I posted a new picture of my slimming self on Facebook, he commented, accusing me of getting a facelift and saying he'd scratch my eyes out if I had.

Last week, I saw fake tarot readings in a sitcom and it prompted me to post that memory of us on Facebook. I tagged him in it and I am glad I did. Because of that post, one of his friends reached out to me today to let me know that Volodiya died yesterday, after a long bout of pneumonia. When he was living in Seattle, he contracted HIV, so the manner of his death does not come as a complete surprise. I did not expect it to come so soon, though.

I'll miss my friend dearly. He was the type of friend I could pick up with after many months without contact and everything would be just as it always was.


Unbreakable

What doesn't kill me makes me awesome(Originally published on Opinions for Nothing.)

I don't think I'm invincible, but I do think I'm unbreakable. I believe, with every ounce of my being, that there is nothing in this world that can happen to me from which I won't recover, emotionally. Nothing.

I consider all possibilities. What is the worst thing that can happen? How would I deal with it? I have the answers to those questions and, whether or not I am right, having thought about it gives me the strength to get through it. It's not morbid to think about those things. I am realistic and I know that the worst thing to happen isn't the likely thing to happen, but I want to be prepared. Loss of limb? Death of my spouse or my child or my sister? Loss of sight or hearing? Chronic or terminal disease? Loss of all of my worldly possessions? I've considered them all. I will be distraught if (when) one of those things comes to pass, but I will not be destroyed. One day, many days ahead, I will emerge on the other side.

Last year was the worst year of my life. At the low point of the worst year of my life, my mom was killed in a car accident. It was already bad before that, and it was worse after. 2010 was my nemesis, kicking me when I was down, throwing salt in my wounds, kneeling on my chest every time I tried to stand up. I don't believe that time heals all, but I know that every situation is temporary. My mom is never coming back -- that is permanent -- but every day since she died is a day that I lived, a day that has passed, a day that will never come again. Everything changes, and if I can continue to think, and act, and breathe, and be myself, then I can survive any situation. I may be changed, but I will also be whole, unbroken.

This life is the only one I get and I will never give up on myself.


My Dad

My parents' wedding day

(Originally published on Opinions for Nothing.)

My dad was 19 years old when he married my mom. She was 16 years old, and three months pregnant with me. My parents separated when I was five years old, and divorced when I was nine years old.

My dad wasn't known for his lawful behavior. He didn't make court-ordered child support payments. He infrequently took advantage of court-allowed visitations with his children. He did not adhere to laws prohibiting the possession, use, and sale of illegal drugs. Two of the three things on that list caused him to be in and out of jail for much of my childhood.

My dad was book smart without a college degree. After he left the Air Force, he was an engineering technician until the recession of the late-'80s and early-'90s. After that, he drifted from odd job to odd job, preferring those that paid cash so he wouldn't have to make child support payments. It's unfortunate that he never grew up.

When I was in college, I made peace with the fact that my dad was never going to change and never going to be the kind of dad I needed. He was family and I still loved him, but as long as I expected him to act like a father, I would be disappointed. I resolved to treat him like an uncle -- not even a favorite uncle. After that, we had a much better relationship.

Eventually, my dad paid off the back child support with an extended jail term. I was well into my 20s by then. When he was released, he moved to New Mexico to live with my retired grandmother. He had a steady job and had been promoted to a supervisory position when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Eighteen months later, at the age of 50, he was dead. Today would have been his 57th birthday.