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Operation UNunhappy Over & Out

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“And that letter hath she delivered, and there an end.”  ~William Shakespeare (Two Gentlemen of Verona, II, i)

SAVboatsnight

This will be the last entry of my “Operation UNunhappy” blog.  For those of you that have read all (or even some of) the words I’ve written over the past two and a half years through this outlet, I thank you and I appreciate your support.  I’m not saying I’ll never write or blog again, but if I do, it will be under a different guise and theme than this one.  I may keep this blog and just change the name, or maybe I’ll start a whole new one in the future…I haven’t decided yet.

What I have decided is that I have come to believe you can’t achieve happiness by constantly seeking it.  I believe that, if we’re lucky, we get to experience small moments of happiness here and there, every once in a while – sometimes they appear of our own making, and sometimes they are pleasant surprises bestowed upon us by others or by fate. I think mostly they’re just a byproduct of regular old life; hopefully just by living your life the best that you can, you have more happy moments than unhappy ones.  But to constantly be on some incredible journey to seek out this overarching, grandiose every-moment-of-life overflowing barrel of happiness – it’s just not possible.  Or advisable, in my opinion.  “Happy in that we are not over-happy,” said Hamlet, one of my favorite Shakespeare lines – even way back then, there was a cautiousness against overdoing it in the search for contentment.   

A few years ago I made some big changes in my life to try to get happier, which was the impetus for starting this blog.  Did the changes work?  In some ways, I’d say yes, definitely.  Has everything progressed the way I’d hoped it would?  I’d say no, not really.  I’m starting to feel stuck again and those feelings of wondering have come back, leading to ruts of anxiety and uncertainty and frustration.  One of the other reasons I don’t feel like continuing this blog series is because I fear it could be on the verge of becoming a constant complaint-fest about all of the many things and people I’m frustrated with – no one wants to read about that, and I don’t think it would be good for me to write about it all the time.  

I do feel like I get more easily and quickly frustrated with the daily intricacies of life than most people.  I don’t know if it’s a genetic thing or just my personality.  Maybe it’s that inner perfectionist that I keep trying to fight, wanting everyone and everything else to be perfect too.  I’ve had fantasies of just being completely 100% honest all the time with people and situations that irk the hell out of me, but I’d probably need to invest in some body armor if I wanted to make that dream a reality.  Why can’t we just say what we’re feeling and thinking of all the time?  (Or at least like 65% of the time?)  I mean, I know why, but it just seems sometimes that we’re so obsessed with being polite and non-confrontational that we’re dying inside of repressed feelings and sentiments that, if we could just free them, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad after all.  Maybe that’s the real key to contentment, but we’re so concerned with how everyone else feels all the time that we continually neglect our own needs of expression, and silently go on in glum survival-of-the-mediocre mode.  God I really must come from British roots after all…

I know I have it pretty good in the overall scheme of things.  Everyone has to deal with many aspects of life that are frustrating, annoying, angering, overwhelming, heartbreaking; if we’re lucky, we have family and friends and captive co-workers to be our sounding boards and help us through those tough times.  If we’re really lucky, we can afford to pay therapists to listen when family and friends get tired of doing it (or when we’re too annoyed with family and friends to talk to them about it). And if we’re broken – well, we all deal with that in different ways…some good, some not so good.  Healing is hard.

I’ve enjoyed writing this blog, and it helped me in many ways to face both past and present challenges.  It was cathartic to write about losses and traumas in my life (I still miss the smell of popcorn paws every day), and I meant every word of the heartfelt Life Letters to My Nephews; being Ant Kristi to my nephews is definitely near the top of the list of what makes me UNunhappy during the good times. Thanks for bearing with me as I waxed on (and on and on) about my trips to England and my fascination with the Tour de France.  And I apologize for those less-than-stellar posts (mediocre movie & croissant reviews, you know who you are). 

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I feel like I’ve gotten out of this blog what I needed to…and I hope it provided a moment or two of occasional entertainment, education, or value (somehow) for you too.  For better or worse, things end; isn’t that one of life’s most important lessons?  Thanks for the words of encouragement during these times of transitions over the past few years.  I’ll keep the blog site active for now and if you stay subscribed, you’ll get any new posts that may come along under a different/new blog name, but it may be a while. 

“Tis time, I think, to trudge, pack and be gone.”  (Yes, one last Shakespeare quote, from Comedy of Errors, which seems fitting for a large portion of my life thus far.  You are now freed from any more random Shakespeare quotes!)

Operation UNunhappy over and out.

Ant Kristi

Lost in Austin (But Finding My Way)

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“Come, thou shalt go home, and we’ll have flesh for holidays, fish for fasting-days, and moreo’er puddings and flap-jacks, and thou shalt be welcome.” ~William Shakespeare (Pericles, II, i)

As I sit in front of a warm fireplace on a cold, rainy November night, I’m reflecting on the fact that it was four years ago this week, the day before Thanksgiving 2009, that I moved from Albuquerque NM to Austin.  The day I arrived was also cold and rainy, and we unloaded much of the moving van in a drizzly haze.  My Dad and I had caravaned in my car and the moving van over two days time to break up the trip.

It was not the best time for me, which had precipitated much of my decision to move.  I was still heartbroken and reeling from a recent divorce, and had decided to leave my anxiety-ridden job of 7 years at a disease management company that was itself crumbling.  It was not an easy decision to leave the city in which I’d spent most of my life, but it seemed a logical one.  My family had been in Austin for almost twenty years by that point; it had taken me two decades to finally follow them.

On that rainy night of my arrival, I moved into a depressing duplex on a dismal street filled with struggling families and broken down cars.  But my family did their best to dress it up and give me the warmest welcome possible.  I was grateful to finally just be here, among them, no matter what the circumstances.  Moving is a big risk at any time, for anyone.  I didn’t exactly outrun my depressing circumstances, and it was quite a struggle to find a decent job in the middle of the worst economic recession in modern history, but I was here, and that was the goal.

A lot has happened in those four years since.  Births and deaths, finding jobs and quitting jobs, leaving that depressing duplex for a new home, stress and setbacks, risk and realizations.  I’ve been privileged to travel during that time to see sights I’d always wanted to see.  I’ve been lucky to make one or two new friends in four years, which may not seem like a lot, but one of the facts I’ve come to realize (and accept) about myself is that I’m not one that makes friends (real friends) easily.  So I’m grateful for that too.

Four years still doesn’t seem like enough time to consider myself an Austinite though.  I still get lost all the time; if it weren’t for my iPhone, I’d have no idea where I’m going in the hilly streets of this city (with no reference points to guide me).  And whether you’re lost or not, Austin’s traffic woes will drive you mad.  The extreme heat and the humidity and the ever-present mosquitoes have been hard to get used to (I’m not sure I ever will) and make outside activities pretty undesirable for me.  I miss the perfect weather and seasons of Albuquerque and the striking beauty of New Mexico landscapes and sunsets.  In four years, I haven’t been able to find a decent Sunday morning breakfast spot like I had in Albuquerque.  The cost of living here in Austin is about double what it was in NM, and I still have to remind myself to call them breakfast tacos instead of breakfast burritos.

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The pink Sandia Mountains lit by an Albuquerque sunset.
I miss you Q.

But there’s one overriding factor that validates all those drawbacks (which are relatively minor), and it’s a pretty powerful one: family.  Every time over the past four years that I’ve been asked why I moved to Austin, I’ve always responded with the same answer: it’s where my family was.  It may not sound like much, but it’s pretty much everything.  It’s hard to beat being near your family.  It hasn’t been perfect, and there have been ups and downs, but we’re here if we need each other, and I’m thankful for that.

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So during this week of Thanksgiving, I’m thinking of how grateful I am for each one of my family members: their love, their health, their support, their proximity, and their help.  Thank you for bringing me here.  Thank you for putting up with my mood swings and fluctuating aspirations.  Thank you for all the car battery jump starts, free handyman repairs, midnight urgent care trips, family dinners and home-cooked meals, babysitting advice, leanable shoulders and listening ears.  I don’t say it enough, but I love you all and appreciate each one of you.  And – you’re lucky you live in Austin, because it’s the only city in Texas I would’ve moved to (it is pretty cool here, in a hot, humid, Austin-weird way).  Thank you for helping me find my way (whatever that may turn out to be).

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Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

À la prochaine!

Ant Kristi

LLTMN #2: Bullying – Don’t Do It, Don’t Take It

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Dear Nephews:

Today is the first day of school for all of you except Wyatt; Hudson you’re starting 4th grade (which is everyone’s favorite in elementary school), Truman 2nd grade, and Andrew is beginning kindergarten!  Wyatt we celebrated your 3rd birthday yesterday at the pool with friends and family and your little girlfriend Ella.  You’re all growing up so fast!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how people treat each other, and now that you’re starting a new school year, you’ll be dealing with this a lot too.  New friends, new classmates, new schools for some of you, new sports teams.  I think that most of the time, most people are decent, and nice, and respectful of the other people around them.  But not always.  It’s kind of a scary world out there right now, and sometimes people are not going to treat you the way that they should.

Sometimes, you’re going to run into bullies.  Or they’re going to run into you – on purpose, with a jab to the ribs.  And they’re not always who you expect them to be.  But all bullies do have some things in common:  they’re going to be mean to you, they’re going to try to intimidate you, and they’re going to try to make you feel bad.

Don’t let them!

First:  If someone is bullying you at school, or at practice, or anywhere else, please tell someone! Talk to a grown-up who loves you, who is supposed to protect you and that you trust: a parent, a grandparent, an aunt or uncle, a teacher.  But tell someone so they can know what’s happening and can help you make it better.  It may take a while for the situation to improve while things get worked out – but if you never tell anyone, it might never get better.

Second:  Bullies LIKE to see you upset.  If you can ignore them and be the better person, sometimes that’s enough to make them just stop and go away.  It’s not easy!  Sometimes bullies can be so mean to you that you might want to cry or yell or say something you wouldn’t normally say.  And I’m not saying that there aren’t times when you would need to defend yourself and fight back if necessary to protect yourself.  But most of the time, bullies just want a reaction out of you – and if they don’t get one, then in a sense, YOU’VE WON!

Third:  This one is really hard  – but sometimes being nice to bullies can also make them nicer people.  You have to use your judgment on this one – again, sometimes it’s just best to ignore the bullies and avoid them – but, it’s my experience that bullies usually do what they do because they’re sad, lonely, miserable people.  They haven’t been treated very well in the past, and so they tend to treat other people bad too.  They think that’s going to make them feel better (to be mean to others), but actually it just makes them feel worse, and then the cycle starts all over again.  If you have the chance to be nice to someone like that, they’re usually not expecting it, and sometimes it’s just what they need to “shock” them into also being nice to someone for a change.  They then get to experience how THAT makes them feel, which is very different from their usual. 

Just be careful with that one – you don’t want the bully to think that you want to be a “bully friend” and also bully people along with them – don’t ever let them talk you into also being a bully!  Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking that the bullies are the “cool crowd” and that you want to join them – they’re not, and you don’t want to be a part of that!  No one – and I mean no one – likes a bully.  Instead, be a part of the really cool crowd that helps the other kids and people who are being bullied – stick up for them, say something to someone to help them out.  Never just stand by while someone else is being treated badly.  Stand up for GOOD – be the superhero!

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I also think bullies are mean to people because they are jealous of something you have, or something you are…they treat you badly because you have something they want, or they think you’re smarter or better-looking than they are, or you get to do something that they can’t do, like play a certain sport or travel to places they want to go.  This isn’t your fault – you are who you are, and if a bully doesn’t like it, that’s their problem, not yours.  But be humble – don’t flaunt what you have or be arrogant about it.

I guess I was pretty lucky that I was not bullied at school very much when I was little like you guys are now.  But I have run into plenty of bullies at other times in my life – surprisingly, mostly as an grown-up!  Yup, that’s right boys – you have to watch out for the bad guys (and girls) even when you get older.  I wish all little kid bullies grew out of their meanness, but some people are unlucky and unhappy enough to grow up into big adult bullies as well.

I remember being bullied sometimes by a girl who lived in the same sorority house with me in college.  I won’t say who she was, but I’m sure some of my friends will remember exactly who I’m talking about – she was icy and harsh and would get right in my face to try to intimidate me if she was upset about something (which seemed to be most of the time).  I hadn’t encountered that kind of meanness very much in my life before, and I was scared of her!  I usually just tried to avoid crossing paths with her.  I hope she is a happier person now!

I’ve been bullied by a few bosses at some of my jobs.  One of those bosses lived in California, so our stormy relationship was conducted mostly over the phone.  But bullies can bully even over phone lines; he would yell at me, and he was unreasonable and uncaring.  Most bullies are their own worse enemies however, and this was the case with him; I only had to wait him out (although it was a stressful wait), as he made many bad choices and eventually got fired for using drugs at work.  (NEVER DO THAT KIDS!  NEVER DO DRUGS PERIOD!)

Another boss I had here in Austin actually threatened me; she would try to intimidate me because she was worried that my work would make her look bad.  This woman had something very terrible happen to her a long time ago which I suspect made her a very sad and unhappy person.  But boys, just because you’ve gone through something really bad doesn’t mean you then get to treat other people badly for the rest of your life.  Life is very unfair sometimes, yes – but to let it make you into a mean person who then bullies others is not the answer.

I’m being bullied right now in my job.  There is a person there who has decided, for whatever reason, that they don’t like me, and so they decided to bully me because of it.  I’ve been nothing but nice to that person since day one, but we are also very different people and I think they feel threatened by this for some reason.  So this person insults me, and intimidates me, and does things to make things more difficult for me while at the job.  This makes me very sad; I took the job to explore my interests and be UNunhappy and now I have to deal with this bullying barrier.

So far, I’ve tried to ignore that person’s meanness and just continue to be civil to them while trying to do the best I can at my work.  Remember how I said that bullies usually just want to see you upset and get a reaction out of you?  I can tell they are waiting for a reaction, so by refusing to give them one, I’m actually taking away some of their power that they think they have.  Your PaPa has told me many times that in this situation, you must “be the better person, take the higher road.”  That’s good advice boys, remember it.  

Getting along with people is one of the great skills that you’ll need all your life.  It’s been one of my own personal challenges for a long while now, but I’m working at it.  I’m so grateful to have all of you in my life to help me out with it too – being your aunt is both a challenge and a blessing!  If you’re ever having trouble getting along with someone or especially if you’re being bullied, I hope you know you can also come to me as one of your safe people anytime.  I’ll help you.  I’ll protect you.  Always.

Love,

Ant Kristi

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Life Letters to My Nephews #1: Being Your Aunt

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Author’s Note:  This post begins a series called “Life Letters to My Nephews,” or LLTMN for short.  Each letter will focus on a different topic and contain observations, sentiments and advice about life that I hope my nephews may one day find useful or interesting.  Hudson, Truman, Andrew & Wyatt:  I write these letters to convey how much I value, admire, and love each one of you!

Dear Nephews:

As you know, I don’t have any kids of my own.  There was a time in my life when I wanted to have a child and be a mom, but it just didn’t work out that way.  But that’s ok, because now I think that one of my main purposes in life was to try to be a good aunt to you instead!

(By the way, if you’re wondering why my name is written “Ant” Kristi instead of “Aunt” Kristi, click here to find out the reason.  Hudson, you were probably too young to even remember the story, but you’re the one behind it all!)

I remember when each one of you was born like it was yesterday.  I was very happy to actually be there at the clinic when Wyatt was born, but for the rest of you I still lived in Albuquerque then, and had to wait anxiously for someone to call me on the phone to tell me that you were finally here.  I remember holding each of you for the first time when you were babies and smelling your “new baby” smell (until it turned to needs-a-diaper-change smell and then I handed you back off to your Mom or Dad, which is an aunt’s prerogative).

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Wyatt at 1 day old!

I remember one time Hudson when you were about three and I was visiting for a weekend; you had a pretend kitchen set up by your room with a whole tub full of plastic fruits and vegetables and other foods.  You took me by the hand and said “Want to play restaurant with me?”  I said “Of course,” and for the next hour, you walked back and forth across the room between me and the play kitchen asking me what I wanted to order.  I’d say “a hamburger please” and you’d go pretend to cook it and then bring it to me: “Here you go.”  Then you’d take it back and ask me what else I wanted.  “A slice of tomato on a banana please,” and you’d bring them over.  We went through each piece of plastic food about 28 times.  You never got tired of it and you had such polite manners every time.  It’s one of my favorite aunt memories and I loved it

I also love that each one of you is so different.  And it’s good to be different – if everyone were all the same and did the same things as everyone else, the world would be a very boring place.  Always be your own person and be true to yourself.

When I finally made the decision to move from New Mexico to Texas a few years ago, the main reason was because my family is here and because I wanted to be an active part of your lives.  Now that I’m here, I love watching each of you grow up, although it’s going by way too fast!  It seems like it was just a few days ago that we were all sitting around a table on a beach in Florida discussing what the first baby’s name would be, and now all of a sudden Hudson is 9 years old as I write this.  It doesn’t seem possible. 

Sometimes I just watch each of you and think about what you’ll be when you grow up:  a teacher, a police officer, an artist, a songwriter, a baseball player…or maybe a professional wrestler, a pirate, a zombie, a lawyer, a rodeo clown…the possibilities are endless really.  I wish for each of you that you find things to do in life that make you full of joy and spirit and comfort and peace, whatever they may be. 

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Nephew Corner on my refrigerator
(The paper says “Happy Brithay to the bestes ant en the world.”)

I love being your aunt because you all make me laugh and make me think on my toes.  I love being your aunt because you challenge me in many ways.  I love being your aunt because you each add purpose to my life and that makes me UNunhappy.  And yes, I love being your aunt because I get to give you back to your parents after you’ve tired me out for the day.  🙂 

If I’m sometimes strict with you, it’s usually because I’m looking out for you and your safety.  Sometimes it’s because I see how much you have to offer and I want you to live up to your incredible potential.  But it’s always from a place of love and concern for you as a person and my nephew.  You are my family, the closest things to children of my own that I’ll ever have.  I may not know how to really be a parent, but I’ll always try to be a good aunt for you.  I might mess up sometimes, but I’m giving it my best shot.

So if you ever need anything, just let me know.  I love all of you and would do anything in the world for you.  Well almost anything….I won’t eat meat for you, even if you cook it yourself – I’ve been a vegetarian for 19 years now and it’s too late for that.  Also, I probably can’t kill any bugs for you, they freak me out too much (especially moths).  And I will never buy you a real motorcycle, they’re too dangerous. 

But most anything else, you can count on me.  Always.

Love,

Ant Kristi

ant-with-flower

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