Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The Power Of Buttons & Goblets & Internet Friends

Two weeks ago I found myself in that the hazy, irrational kind of place where I'm convinced I can't let myself rest or watch TV or do fun things, because I haven't done "enough" yet. I don't know how much "enough" is, I just know I never reach it. 

I am working on this. I'm at the point in therapy where I can see some of the lies I'm telling myself, but not to the point where I don't still believe them. It's exhausting, seeing both sides, knowing your brain is sabotaging you, knowing that many of your core beliefs about yourself are wrong, but not being fully equipped yet to do much about it. 

I'm also wrestling with the guilt and helplessness of seeing so many jobless friends struggle. Everything from "How dare you be sad, you've got a roof over your head, don't you?" to "If you aren't doing something to tangibly FIX THIS for people right now then you are worthless." But how, brain? Should I write things to make people laugh, or write things to tell them they're not alone? Should I focus on jobs helping a few people In Real Life, or spend more time on blog posts that will be read by - and maybe help - so many more? What do I do, when is it enough, and how do I do it all without falling apart myself?

Which brings me to last Friday, when I did NOT want to join Movie Night over on Discord. I was tired and overwhelmed and just flat grumpy - but thank goodness, I showed up anyway. Because afterward, I felt so much better. I always forget that magical, transformative power of human connection. Even just connection through text on a screen. For over 2 hours I laughed and joked and interacted with other people online, and that simple act finally made my frazzled brain stop running laps, and take a little breather.

After the movie I felt just good enough to open the mail from our P.O. Box. I'd been putting it off because I knew there would be good things in there - the letters and packages from you readers are always good - and I thought I hadn't earned the right to see those good things. Kind of a mild self-punishment thing. (Am I the only one who does this? I mean, I do my share of weird stuff, but this one feels especially odd.)

The first package was from my friend Kristi in Canada. I've talked about her a lot here: she's a reader I met through Instagram who makes amazing props, and is the only person I know who's a bigger Labyrinth fan than me, ha. She also loves The Princess Bride as much (or more) than I do, and over the past several months I've been virtually cheering her on through her latest build.

Here, let's open the box together:

Oh yeah, I'm liking where this is going.


Ready to see what's inside?

::fangirl flailing::

Here, in case you don't recognize it:

Kristi hand-sculpted, molded, and cast the goblets from the famous iocane powder scene! She'd hinted that she might send me one, but after pulling the first goblet out of the box I was overwhelmed to discover she'd sent two, a complete set. I knew how much work she'd poured into these - all the setbacks and frustrations and times she nearly gave up - so these cups are dearly precious.

After that I opened several sweet cards, one of which included a package of bright teal & orange buttons, just because Jen (another Jen) saw them and thought of me. 

The reminder that people I don't know sometimes think of me is honestly surprising enough, but little gifts like this? Gobsmacking. Every time.

Finally I opened Leisa's envelope, which had a few small sheets of paper inside. She'd written separate notes for both me and for John, and though I've never done this before, I hope she won't mind my sharing what she wrote to John:

...even when no one else notices. It matters.

I stood there with both notes in my hand and tears in my eyes, and I thought again about the power of words. For a lot of us, words are all we have right now. We can't hug each other, most of us can't even see each other, except maybe on a screen. It's too easy to isolate ourselves into oblivion, to be "too tired" or "too busy," so we skip the video chat, we ignore the text, we let the call go to voicemail. 

But here's the thing, bots: our brains can be lousy companions in a crisis. For a lot of us, our brains are downright abusive. Spending too much time alone with our accusing thoughts and crumbling self-worth will always go badly. That's why we need people. That's why we need to be the people who remind others how much they are loved, and how their own brains could be lying to them. 

You're probably tired of hearing this, but it's never been more true: it's OK if 2020 is beating you up right now. It's OK if you find yourself binge-watching TV, spending too much time on Tik Tok, and avoiding all the things you "should" do. It's OK if you're overwhelmed and easily distracted and can't focus. You're allowed to fall apart. You're allowed, even if all you've done for the past 8 months is survive

All I ask is that you don't fall apart alone. Talk to a friend today. Text, call, video chat, whatever you're comfortable with, but have a conversation. Sit on the phone and watch an episode of Bake-Off together. Browse Pinterest and send each other costume ideas or pet memes. Interact. Get out of your own head for a while. Remind yourself that there are people who love you for you, not for how well you do your job or how clean your house is or how much you do for other people. Just YOU. 

I've been trying to follow my own advice lately, and it's been good. It's been good. I started playing video games again for the first time in 7 or 8 months, and it feels nice to laugh and yell and brag to John when I win. I've started counting my time talking to friends each day as "work" - not in the sense that I have to do it, but in the sense that it has value, and that it's just as important on my daily list as writing posts.

I've decided I won't hold back my own fan mail anymore, because the times I feel I don't deserve to read it are the times when I need to read it the most. In fact, to that end, after 12 years I've finally made a little card display in my office, so I can keep out a few favorites and see them every day.

(We had to replace my original twine with wire after the cats kept chewing through them. Ahhh, CATS.)

Mostly, though, I'm trying to talk back to the part of my brain that tells me I'm not doing enough. I'm still new at this, but I told John the other day that CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) appears to be the science of arguing with yourself: telling your own judgmental thoughts why they're wrong and where they can stick it. It's hard to stand up to yourself when you're by yourself though, so just like everything in life, I'm learning it's easier and so much better with good people by your side.

I guess what I'm saying is, thanks for being some of my good people. Thanks for being someone else's good people, because I know you are. Even when no one else notices. Even if YOU don't notice. It matters.

I hope to have a better display eventually for both my cards and my new goblets (gotta add a vial of iocane powder, of course!) but here's my temporary spot for Kristi's Battle of Wits:


So listen, this week? When your brain starts in on you again? Try arguing with yourself. Maybe not out loud, and maybe not in public - unless you want some extra social distance - but tell your thoughts why they're wrong, and where they can stick it. Trust me, you've earned it.  



P.S. Quick reminder that this is the last week to get your e-mail entries in for this month's Squeegineer Give-Away! Hit that link for details on how to enter, and to see the new goodies I've added to the prize boards.


  1. You always always always deserve to open fan mail! Think of all the hilarious and touching posts you have written over the years. You've given us all such joy. And as I recall, you do have a drawer marked "iocane," it just might not have any in it!

    1. I'm astounded that you remember our little Iocane drawer! Even I almost forgot it! :D

  2. Suki being right by those jars made me think that I could never have a display like that in my house, because my cats would have those on the floor in seconds. All shelves must be investigated and napped on. The quantity of knickknacks have greatly diminished over the years because of them, lol.

    Your posts are always so comforting to me and seem to come at the perfect moment. You and John are so greatly appreciated!

  3. I like the idea of CBT being the science of arguing with yourself! One trick my CBT sessions taught me - when you're getting down on yourself, imagine what you would say to a friend who was saying the things that you're hearing in your head. Most of us are much better at comforting/cheerleading/forgiving our friends than ourselves :)

    1. My CBT lady told me 'If you treated your friends how you treat yourself, how many friends would you have?' At the moment the phrase that can't be said enough is 'be kind' if you are handing out kindness, it is not at all selfish to be at the front of your own queue. Ever.

    2. This is *such* a good tip, I should mention it more often. Thank you for the reminder.

    3. I am very long way past 16, but Ellie Goulding's hit 'Army' sums up the little world of EPBOT and FOE beautifully... when I'm with you, I'm standing with an army... Thank you all for the light, my beautiful virtual army.

    4. Yes! I was going to suggest that. It's a great tip, one I don't use enough, but a great tip. I also use that when I'm afraid to ask a question "if someone else asked this, would they seem dumb?" because my social anxiety makes me think I should keep my mouth shut.

  4. I'm so glad you enjoyed the goblets! You absolutely earned them with all the encouragement you've given me. I can safely say that those goblets would not be in existence were it not for the fact that I wanted to gift you some... if I was only making them for myself I probably would've dropped the project entirely after the second or third setback! But I had hopes they would put a smile on your face and I'm so glad to see that they did.

    I can't wait to see their final place of honour in your house, until then it looks like Suki's keeping a good eye on things!

  5. Your mind tells speeds, mine slows to a screeching halt. Since the end of June, I've been trying to motivate myself to organize 1 room so I can paint it, and only as of yesterday do I have it enough done s that I could pull out the furniture from 1 wall and begin. In doing so, 1 of the pieces--an antique chifferobe--started to fall apart in my hands. So, I haven't even gotten the floor prepped for the painting because I had a minor meltdown and went back into my hidey-hole headspace. I need to get this room painted, and a little bit of touch-up on a couple of spots in the rest of the (small) house so that I can get the tons of xmas stuff out and decorate. You see, I have to decorate. I gave it a lot of though, and since I'm going to be morbidly depressed this holiday season (I lost my husband in January, a friend in March, a good friend in June, and my sister-in-law last month) I am going to do it with the pretty lights around me. Sitting in a dark house would only make things worse.

    Sorry, I have no clue where the hell I was going with this.

    1. I'm so sorry for all of your losses. You have a lot of weight to bear. I lost my husband last year. It is very hard--the first year especially, as you do all of the 'firsts' without him. And you have all of the other losses, as well.

      Do your best to be kind to yourself. Whatever you have to do to make it through is what's right for you, no matter what anyone else says. I wish peace for you as you continue to learn how to bear the unbearable.

    2. Jedi hugs to you.

      And I feel you on the house things: I started a remodel a room project back in Dec. 2015, put it on hold in 2016, thought the quarantine of March - June was a great time to get finished, had to go back to work in July so have been chipping away at it on weekends weather and funds permitting, and it's still not done and I feel so defeated by it.

      I have to keep reminding myself I am only one person, with one set of hands, doing everything to keep my life and house functional. So Jedi hugs.

    3. I have no helpful words, but I'll add my love and virtual hugs to the rest, Susanna. I'm glad you commented. Sometimes it helps just telling someone what you're facing, so I hope you'll keep doing that.

      I can't tell you how much I wish John and I could come help with your house, at least. I'm guessing you're not in Florida, but if you are, *please* message me.

      Wishing you peace, healing, love, and all the sparkly lights.

    4. Darling! I am poor as a churchmouse, but I will Paypal you $100 right this very minute if you could find someone to paint your room for you. Or do you live near northern IL or northern MN?

      If you don't get it painted - to heck with it - string up those lights and you won't see the old paint. Hang in there. Glue the chiffarobe. I'm sorry for everything you've gone through this terrible year.

    5. I'm so sorry for your loss. You are doing great! And sparkly lights really do make all things look better. I just bought a new tablecloth that is making me really happy because it changes up my dining room, so maybe if painting isn't happening right now (which is totally fine) maybe you can update in another way. They say just switching out artwork between rooms can change the look and cost nothing. Hugs!!

  6. I'M NOT THE ONLY ONE WHO HAS THE MAIL PROBLEM! Wow, that was affirming to see that there's another person with the mail struggle - my husband has to force/supervise that I open letters from people because otherwise I just keep saving them... for when I deserve a treat (which brain also believes is never). Wow, so much just clicked. Thank you for being vulnerable and creating so much good for the world!

  7. Beautiful build, Kristi! Jen, I'm stoked to hear CBT is a useful tool for you.

  8. My pastor once told me that any time someone writes him a positive note, he files it away. On days when he's really down on himself and feels like nothing he does is worth it, he'll pull out notes and read them as a reminder to himself that what he thinks is true in that moment isn't always true--may not even ever be true. It's always stuck with me. So I make a point of putting it in writing for people I admire or care about.

    When my boss announced she was leaving for a new job, I wrote her an e-mail to thank her for the kindness she had shown me and the investment she had made in me. She wrote back and said it had made her cry. You never know when your kind words will be a lifeline for someone else.

    So to Jen and John: Your creativity is inspiring, and your honesty is precious. I wish for you both the knowledge that you are enough, just as you are, and you are appreciated by so many of us.

    For anyone else reading, I'm glad you're here on this journey. It's nice to find corners of the internet where we can share what we love with like-minded, kind-hearted folks. May you find the blessings you need right when you need them.

    1. Crying. I am very isolated, caring for my 94 year old mother. I'm a children's librarian, and the kiddos used to fill the void of the friends and beaux I used to have in my former life; now the kids aren't allowed to play or come to storytime, and pretty much everything is virtual.

      It makes me feel so happy that I have all of you 'friends' on Epbot. The best people in the world! Thank you for your words.

  9. I always try to remember to tell myself that I should try to look at/treat myself the same way I would treat my friends.
    Because I have no problem supporting and being proud of my friends, but for myself I tend to put the bar an entire Eifeltower higher....
    So sometimes I try to look at a situation and ask myself "If would be in this situation, what would I say to them".
    It helps with being kinder to myself.

  10. You are a god person who battles HARD and does John. You have nothing to apologize for. In fact your battles remind those of us in John's position, how hard you are battling. GOOD FOR YOU. And give the cats a cuddle for me.

  11. EEeeeeee!! You probably heard my squeeing from here, on the other side of the country! To see my note and wee gift for you on Epbot, made my week! I'm trying to do things like that more: if I see a person with cool, colorful hair, I say something, even though my brain says "They don't care about your dumb old lady opinion." If I see something I think would make a nice little surprise for someone, I buy it (if I can), even though my brain says "They get so many cool cards & gifts, they don't care about some dumb thing from you." It gives me a boost, even if I never get a response (though this response was delightful), and I hope it helps the other person have a better day. I know how much I'm lifted when someone says something nice to me, or I get a surprise postcard in the mail, and I want to spread that around. You set such a great example for all of us to just be good people and do our best. And you ALWAYS deserve all the good things that come to you, don't ever believe otherwise.

    1. You sound like a cool person, Kiraboodog!

    2. "Dread Pirate Robots" is the best name I've heard in ages!

  12. Thanks for being my Good People today - tomorrow is my birthday and I took the day off work so I could do paperwork at home (I have a whole day's health insurance paperwork to do because clearly I suck out loud and I deserve to punish myself on my birthday). Maybe, just maybe ... I'll do something for myself, too. Just maybe. Once the paperwork is done. And after the self-scathing-flagellation for making it another orbit around the sun without achieving any of my goals, dreams, plans or potential. Maybe. It may involve a chocolate eclair.

  13. Thank you, Internet Friend. I needed the reminder about human connection even/when you are tired. I won't back out of the socially distanced trunk-or-treat on Saturday. I will bag up candy for other people's children and toss it to them from the bumper of my car. My mental health will be so much better for it. (I was never worried about my physical health. My reservations were all about the mental energy of TOO MANY PEOPLE. Quarantine is my happy place??)

    Today (10/29) is National Cat Day and National Hermit Day. I wish you the best of times celebrating both in proper style.

  14. Every single Epbot post is a gift. My heart leaps up when I see a new one (but I'm never upset when there isn't a new one, because gifts are too precious for every day).

    It breaks my heart that you are so hard on yourself, Jen. I hope you know at least a little - how much joy you have brought people over the years!

  15. I am glad you let yourself find some joy! You definitely are a ray of light in my life! I have a super long comment for today because I have been so focused on finishing Halloween costumes that a number of posts have gone by without me saying anything I wanted to on them!

    I loved all the kid costumes!! Those were so great! I have 4 little kids, and we always do a family theme for our costumes. I also love to get my craft on, and make as much as I can of the costumes. This year we are going as a D&D theme: Dad is DM, Mom (Me) is adventurer, Oldest girl is an owl bear, younger girl is a pixi, oldest boy is a death slaad, and youngest boy is a beholder. We have had so much fun already!

    I also always love the facebook round-up post! Thanks for still taking the time to get everyone's permission to put them up. They make me so happy!

    Lastly, here is my comment for this post: you can count me as someone who thinks of you as a friend, even though we have never spoken--not really. Here is something I thought you might like I found today: Ghostbusters Theme Medival Style!
    Also, while looking that one up, I found that there are kind of a lot of those things! This one doesn't have words but I might like the music better...

    Internet Hugs!

  16. It really is easier to be kind to someone else than to yourself, isn't it? Thank you so much for everything you do to make the world a better place - you do a lot of it, and it all matters.

    I'm so glad you put up your fan mail display: it should help to remind you of the many people who appreciate you!


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