Life is short, keep it simple

If you miss them, should you tell them?

By Jessica Militello

The other day on social media, I saw one of those posts that say something to the effect of “life is short, keep it simple,” followed by a list of things like, “if you miss them, tell them, if you want to talk to them, call them,” etc . And of course, it is the way of social media to prod and poke holes into literally everything a person writes, some of it justified, some of it not. I obviously don’t 100% know the thought or intention behind the original author’s post, but at its core, when it comes to being vulnerable and sharing your feelings, the concept of telling someone you miss them or asking to spend time with them is beautiful. When it comes to healthy, reciprocal relationships in your life, yes this is a great idea. Unfortunately posts like this also fall in front of the eyes of people who are hurting from a loss, struggling to accept what is despite their feelings, and use quotes like this one as a justification to reach out to someone who, deep down they know they shouldn’t but do so because, hey, like the post says, “life is short.”

What I don’t love about this post is the idea it expresses of “keeping it simple” by acting on your emotions just because you feel that way, when feelings are often much more complicated. This is why months after a breakup we wonder, “if they were bad for me, why do I still miss them?” or “they treated me like crap, but I still love them,” and wonder how that could be. The thing is, feelings don’t necessarily reflect reality of the situation, and we end up feeling pathetic, confused, or shame in cases where we still miss and want to talk to someone who we know we are better off staying away from.

Having a feeling about something and reaching out, in many cases, is actually not “keeping it simple.” Sometimes it’s ignoring reality, trying again and again with the same person who already showed us who they are, and not accepting the situation as it is, instead acting based on how we wished it would be. We ignore what is and focus our attention and time in the sunk cost of trying to love someone into magically transforming into the potential of what we see and completely abandon ourselves in the hope that if they keep seeing that we miss them and care for them, then maybe they’ll finally be ready, be the person we need them to be, and we will finally be loved, all while abandoning and not loving ourselves.

In these cases, the fact that life is short is precisely why you should not tell them you miss them or tell them anything. Sometimes keeping it simple means accepting that you miss them and also accepting that it is best to keep them in your past. Sometimes you are actually making it very complicated when you insist on staying in contact with a person that you have already learned staying near is not best for your well-being and peace of mind.

Next time you are struggling and see a post like this, it’s okay to miss someone, but telling someone will not change the circumstance, make them ready, or be able to meet you where you are, and if telling them you miss them is going to cause you to go backwards in your ability to heal and move on, then remember-life is short, keep it simple.

Can People Change?

 When they want to, have a plan to, and a discipline to stick to it

By Jessica Militello

We try to implement new habits and hobbies, or see a motivational quote that inspires us only temporarily, or we see statements about others, suggesting what they didn’t do for you, they easily will do for the next person, or if they took you seriously enough, they would have changed, and if they didn’t change for you and they did with someone else it’s because of how they felt about you. With such one-dimensional quotes out there about our relationships and overly simplified advice on change it’s no wonder we judge ourselves for not being able to improve overnight, or why we think others can just magically change for us based on our own expectations and projections.

Well first of all, people treat you how they feel about themselves, not how they feel about you. And secondly you are not magical- not to change yourself quickly and simply, or for your worth or perceived lack of it to make someone go through the five steps of change all the way to the maintenance phase and continue it.

Wait- five steps? Don’t people just easily and magically transform for a job or a person like these stupid quotes say? Well who am I to tell anyone what to believe, but the next time you wonder why you can’t simply change your thoughts and habits almost overnight, or if your worth can magically transform someone else’s, let’s go over the five steps to change to even see what it takes for change to occur.

  1. Precontemplation- Before you even begin trying to change something you need to have some kind of thoughts that recognize that your behaviors are somehow not conducive to your best self. Let’s start with something simple- Every time you go out with your friends on a Friday night for dinner, you end up ordering drinks, staying out until 3 in the morning, and you realize that every time you do this, the next day when you wake up for work, you feel tired, hung over, sick, moody, and it feels like the longest day ever. That is as far as precontemplation goes. And the next week despite knowing all this, you do it again anyway because you’ve only got as far as pondering that perhaps this isn’t working for you, but you aren’t ready to change. Notice this all has to do with you, how you feel, what you think, what choices that you are making, and what’s comfortable and familiar. Okay-great, now for the next step.

2. Contemplation- This step involves considering different options or ways to go about what you were in precontemplation over. These phases do not necessarily go on any kind of trajectory either. You can be in precontemplation over something for years and never go further. But staying with our Friday night example, you may recognize you are not 21 years old anymore, your hangovers take a bit longer to recover from, you look and feel like complete shit the next day, and you realize that this kind of living is not working for you. In this step, you may consider having this kind of outing on a Saturday night instead since you are off from work on Sundays. You may consider drinking less or going home earlier, or perhaps not doing something like this every single weekend, but again you still have not acted upon it, these are all just thoughts that are beginning to swirl around in your mind.

3. Preparation- Okay so Saturday morning you woke up late, hung over, got to work late, fell asleep at your desk, and your boss caught you and you got in a lot of trouble. Your bad habits are affecting more than your beauty sleep; now it’s affecting your work. Something that affects you in a serious way, like getting in trouble at work for example, may make you take your ideas to change a bit more seriously. It could also be an experience that you add to the contemplation box and still do absolutely nothing about because you are just not ready to change your habits. You’ve met up with these friends every Friday for the past 10 years and for whatever reason you just aren’t in a place to make changes. Sometimes what is comfortable and what you’re used to takes precedent over making a change even if you know that the change is for the better. But, for the sake of explaining preparation-you getting in trouble was finally your wake up call, so you decide that next Friday you are definitely going to only have two drinks and go home by midnight.

4. Action- It’s time to follow through on your plan. You told all your friends and yourself the new rules- two drinks max and home by midnight. Your friends say okay, but they give you a hard time about it. But for the first two Fridays you totally stuck with the plan. You woke up on Saturday morning feeling way better and you’re super proud of yourself. But you’re in a group chat and your friends are talking about stories and sharing jokes about things that happened after you left! You feel a little left out and annoyed that your “new rules” are ruining your fun. Well- next Friday you aren’t going to miss out again, plus you’ll just make sure not to put your alarm clock on snooze, so you at least get to work on time. You stay out late, you still hit snooze the next morning, and you still show up to work super late and hung over. So much for step 4- you know this change is good for you but you’re not liking the results so far- back into step 2 of change. See how easy it is to go back on the steps? Imagine something harder like beliefs you were taught your whole life about love, relationships, eating habits, or maintaining a healthy weight. These steps, similar to grieving are not at all linear and can start, stop, restart, and stop again depending on the difficulty of the change and how long you’ve been maintaining the kinds of life or mindset that you are trying to reform.

5. Maintenance- As it would appear from my example, you went through with all the steps, but you were not yet in a place to maintain it. A big part of maintenance is recognizing that what’s best for you is not usually going to have the instant gratification or reward we are generally seeking for making a change. In the Friday night example, you knew what you were doing was not conducive to how you felt and it affected your life, but you had a hard time breaking a habit, and doing what was best for your situation by maintaining the changes, and accepting that missing out on some fun was a bit of a sacrifice for your job, health and happiness. Some models of the steps of change actually consider it a six-part process including relapse because it is completely normal to struggle with maintaining a change.

I wanted to keep my example simple by using the Friday night story, but you can take it and change it to anything. These five steps are not so simple, not only for how others choose to or fail to show up for us, but also for us to have compassion for ourselves for when we struggle with changes we want to make and stagger forward and backward at times. What I like about knowing these five steps is it helps me to be mindful not only with myself, but with others. If changes are this hard to make when we recognize there’s a problem, it would be impossible for someone who has not even started the precontemplation step. On the other side of it, while it’s nice to have empathy for someone else’s struggles to do better as a person, we also need to recognize when their inability to address their own habits and behaviors becomes a detriment to our own well-being. So the next time you are struggling, have compassion for yourself and others, but also recognize if someone is unable to change. People don’t just change when they want to change. Not for a job, a relationship, or anything else. We change when we want to, are ready to, have a plan to, and a dedication and discipline to stick to said plan- save this as a note to self and anyone else too.

Writing Tips for Beginners

9 Totally not scary, solid pieces of advice to get started on your writing

By Jessica Militello

So there are some of you out there that has a writer within you, but you wonder if your ideas are any good, who even cares what you think or know, you tell yourself that surely there are others who have had the same idea and already made it and probably did a better job than you ever could, you wonder how to even get started,  if it’s a waste of time, and before you know it, you just talked yourself out of doing something you wanted. 

Now before you start judging yourself please know this is very common and it is very important to know that for this reason your new ideas will never stand a chance against your inner critic if you don’t have a good plan to go against it. It’s like going against a seasoned lawyer in court and your positive thoughts are being defended by Joe Pesci’s character in My Cousin Vinny.

But! if you’ve ever watched that classic film, then you know there is hope- not just for the guy who technically never took his Bar exam, but also for you to do what it is you want, which in this particular article is write. So here is some pretty solid and not too scary advice on how to at least get started on some writing, whether you have your sights set on writing a book, poetry, articles, whatever you want.

  1. Figure out what it is you want to do and do it.

What does that mean for you? If you write poetry, you’re a poet. If you write articles on new restaurants in your area, you’re a writer. Don’t let fancy titles, degrees, how much or if you are getting paid for something make you think you aren’t legit. How many times have you followed a blog or read a book where the author said they started it just because, and because they were being true to themselves it just took off. Don’t psyche yourself out, if you have something you want to make or feel you have something to share with the world-then do it. Which brings me to my next point.

2.Don’t let the money or lack thereof deter you.

Now this piece of advice needs to be very clear-if you are hired for any kind of writing work, then your time is precious, your work is valuable, work for “exposure” is a fucking lie, and in 2020 not only is that magazine or website in a pandemic-you are too, so don’t take any shit about “pandemic rates,” or reduced rates. Their business being in a pandemic does not equal a five-finger discount via your mind for cheap words and ideas. But what I mean by this point is, do the work you want to do, understand that building a client base, or what ever you are pursuing takes time, and pursuing anything is a process that will not be a yellow brick road into a money pit.

3. Nothing you come up with is going to be something no one has ever written about. Write it anyway.

Even the first inventors of light, the wheel, what ever, got their inspiration from something that already existed. Is anything truly original? When I came up with the idea for this article I knew for a fact that the same topic has probably been covered dozens of times. Are there more experienced, even better writers than me who wrote about this? Of course- but I’m not competing with anyone else, I’m writing what I want, what I feel others can relate to, in a way that makes me happy and fulfilled.

4. But maybe you’re worried about where to get your inspiration from

Don’t overthink it. We literally have millions of thoughts everyday and amazingly the majority of those millions of thoughts are actually the same ones that we allow to swirl around in our mind. Have you found yourself googling questions to some of these recurring inner monologues or simple curiosities and either you couldn’t really find the exact answer to the question or weren’t satisfied with what you found? Well-there you go, you just found a topic. But maybe you have a topic and still feel a bit overwhelmed or stuck-which brings me to my next point.

5. When you have writers block or don’t know how to get started

200 words a day, my friend. So technically this isn’t actually my own advice, but I can’t remember what famous writer said this, so credit to the dead writer that I once read said this but can’t remember who \_0_/. This has to be the most solid and procrastination-proof advice. I mean c’mon, 200 words takes maybe a few minutes and the time you lament wasting on social media or ruminating about the past and future can totally be used for this instead. There is nothing to add to this. I have spoken.

6. Time is a social construct. You have time.

Okay, so I don’t really know anything about time being a social construct, these are just the things that amuse me to say, but to continue from my last point- even if you found an extra hour in the morning, or on the train to work, or in the bathroom away from your desk (kidding-then again if you spent an hour a day in the bathroom at work, you probably would get fired and then really you’d actually have tons of time to write, but also, bills and food would still be a thing so maybe don’t) but seriously, imagine if you spent even 30 minutes every day writing 200 words. That’s 200×7 which is already 1400 words, times 4 weeks in a month, which is a lot of work in just a month all from a little time management.

7. If you start out writing on one topic and start divulging into many others

Then go! Keep going- write it all out, your mind wants to be free and you have more to talk about then you thought. Write everything you want and worry about it later-unless you are doing work on a deadline to be sent to a client or editor for publication, it really doesn’t matter. (Side note- I think I am going to do another one of these pieces specific to advice for writing an article, including sticking to the topic on a deadline help)  You may end up falling into a whole other topic and you can clean it up or make it into multiple chapters/pieces of work later. It does not matter how off into the weeds you go or how long you take to finish anything; that’s for you to know and that’s all there is to it.

8. Thinking of what others will think of your work as you’re writing it

If you are worrying about what people will think of your writing, how others will perceive you, and if your words are going to be interesting enough, you’re only going to mess yourself up and get writer’s block. This happens to me a lot, particularly when I’m starting out with what I’m writing and part of it goes back to the advice in number 5. Normally after I catch myself doing this, I just take a breath and write it out however it is sitting in my mind. This at least gets you started and you can fix it up or change it afterward.

9. Worrying what people will think of your work after you wrote it

I felt compelled to add this one based on experience after I started sharing writing that was in my own tone and based on personal experience. I worried about how/if my humor came across, if my articles were too long, if my cursing (which was refreshing to write how I really talk) was too much or seemed too crass- pretty much I was worried about people judging me for who I truly am. These feelings are normal; you’re gonna want to go back and edit things that you’re afraid sound stupid or too honest. But the fact that I feel self-conscious tells me its what I need to share, not just for myself, but for others to know that we all go through the same doubts and fears. There are legitimate things that you should focus on for your reader-clarity, conciseness, general flow of the article, grammar- worrying about what people will think of you or if you sound silly is not one of them. If people like your writing-amazing, if not, then they just aren’t your demographic. In this instance, its important to remember what inspired you and why you feel compelled to share it.

Okay- so that’s nine pretty good (in my opinion) pieces of advice to at least help you get over yourself and all your overthinking to at least get started. Stop procrastinating- do what makes you happy. Life is way too short to not do the things you want because you’re worried about what someone else will think. People are always going to have opinions-some good, others bad- so fuck it, might as well aim to impress yourself. Good luck!

Coping with Loneliness in a Pandemic (or just in life in general)

Use your mind for you, not against you

By Jessica Militello

Before all this pandemic stuff descended into our lives, people were already struggling as a society with loneliness. According to a study by Cigna in January 2020, 3 in 5 Americans feel lonely. With the pandemic, most people have struggled with feeling even more isolated.

If the monotony of pandemic life has been bringing you down-please know it is normal to feel lonely, bored, angry, sad, worried about when the fuck this is all going to end, and wanting to return to a normal life.

We may not always be in control of what happens to us, but we can control how we think and feel about it, and take steps to better our situation, at least for the sake of our mental health and peace. In light of my own feelings in dealing with all of this, I thought I could try to help others by compiling a list of actions and ideas to help you to deal with similar feelings, many of which can apply to loneliness in general, whether there’s a pandemic or not.

  1. Acknowledge your feelings, be understanding that this is not a normal time, and have some compassion for yourself

I’m not sure if anyone expected some quick fix “make all your troubles go away” type of article, but if that’s what you’re looking for, it doesn’t exist. It’s okay to just acknowledge everything is fucked up right now. What does denying this do for you? Let me tell you something about pushing feelings down- it doesn’t work. Why? Because all you did was store them away for a later date. You can’t run from yourselves, ladies and gentlemen. There’s an episode of the original Twilight Zone called “Stopover in a Quiet Town,” where a couple find themselves in this perfect-suburbia neighborhood and it is completely empty, creepy as fuck, and they have no idea how they got there and all they want to do is leave wherever the fuck it is that they are. Toward the end of the episode they find a train station, they get on the train and they’re super-excited that they’re escaping this nightmare of a creepy, empty town where there’s no one there, only to lift the shades in their window seat to realize they didn’t actually go anywhere. They thought they were going somewhere because they were moving and guess what? They went in a big ass circle and ended up exactly where they started. Now where am I going with that very long run-on sentence of a story? That is you every time you feel an uncomfortable feeling that you don’t like and don’t want to deal with, so you run from it. It comes out eventually. It spills out when something or someone random upsets you and you flip the fuck out over what may have been frustrating or annoying but wasn’t actually that big of a deal, or when you date someone new but you still carry around the hurt from your last relationship because you pushed it down, and everything you feel in your new relationship, happy or sad scares you, so you run. Feelings are information, they tell you something so you can learn about yourself, grow, and better yourself. There is a lot going on right now in the world in general-A LOT. Which brings me to my next point.

2. Reevaluate the role that social media is playing for you and your thoughts-adjust accordingly.

I have very strong feelings about how stupid and pointless I think it is to spend time curating your life to appear a certain way to not only friends and family, but acquaintances, people who feel neutral about you, exes, and complete fucking strangers, instead of spending the time focusing on yourself and doing things that truly add to your happiness. There is definitely a way to curate your Instagram so that you are getting fun, interesting, and helpful information, but if you are mindlessly scrolling, comparing yourself to others, then I would suggest at least seriously minimizing the amount of time you spend daily on it. I personally deleted my Instagram for almost a year before I got back on, and the way I use it now is so different to the past when I was unhappy with myself and using it when I was bored or seeking validation. There are plenty of apps that can help you with time management with your phone use. You can even set a timer and when it runs out, okay, back to reality-literally. Especially during a pandemic, with increased anxiety, depression, and worry- minding other people’s curated business is not doing anything good for you.

3. Stop waiting for people to reach out to you and throwing a pity party for one when it doesn’t happen

When we feel lonely all of our interactions or lack thereof are put under a microscope thanks to the annoying inner critic in our head that likes to play detective to prove its point to us about how not important and forgotten we really are. Don’t play this game with yourself and then get mad at everyone else for how you made yourself feel. It goes a little something like this- we feel lonely, have critical thoughts about how we aren’t good enough, we think of people that we’d like to talk to, and then when they somehow don’t telepathically see our bat call to reach out, we feel badly and it makes us feel more lonely. What you are looking for is validation from others-validation that you matter, are important, and have value. This is a big fucking mistake because you are putting your worth in the eyes of others. Have you lived on that roller coaster before? I have- when people validated me, I felt amazing, when they didn’t, I felt inadequate and would find other ways to fill my voids. First and foremost, lonely in a pandemic, or just lonely on a Friday night, you have to realize you matter, you are important, and you belong- whether you are spending time by yourself or you’re in a room filled with 20 people. If you don’t feel good about you when you’re alone, those same doubts will be your plus-one at an amazing party (when we’re allowed to have one of those again.) This is something you can evaluate and focus on with that time you freed up from using Instagram so much. However, I’m taking you a bit into the weeds on self-worth, so let me bring you back around to the subject. As soon as you get out of your head about needing other people’s validation- if you’re lonely and want to talk, well, God damn, pick up your phone and text, call, or video chat with a friend. Are they someone who majority of the time answers, reciprocates, and enjoys your conversation? -well, there you go. Listen- there’s a difference between someone who isn’t necessarily the first person to be blowing up your phone with calls and texts, and someone who just feels neutral about you or disinterested. Listen to your gut-you will know the difference. And if you notice that if you never reach out to them, they don’t reach out to you and you have feelings about that, then that’s fine too. This is your life-you are allowed to have thoughts about something and change your mind. You are allowed to think, “hey if I don’t call this person, they never call me, maybe I’ll leave them alone because I don’t like the way it makes me feel.”  And if you never hear from them again- well, there’s your answer. It doesn’t make them a bad person, and it doesn’t mean you don’t matter. It simply is- wish them the best and leave them be. But purposely isolating yourself because you want the ego boost from others to reach out first-NO-so pick up the phone and connect with your friends when you’re craving a chat.

4. Well- you sent that text, made that call, but they just didn’t have time for you at the moment

Uh-oh. Looks like it’s just you and your thoughts again. Now what? Well, since we’re not gonna take this as an excuse to mindlessly scroll on Instagram, maybe it’s time to grab a pen and paper and spend a little time getting to know…… (cue dramatic music) …yourself. I know, I know-sounds so boring, right? I don’t know, does it? When’s the last time you did something like this? Grade school? Never? -Okay, seriously. Make a list of really cool things you always wanted to do, you know- those random passing thoughts that you have from time to time of things you’d like to try but ultimately ignore, like learning a new language, starting that blog, watching that movie that you didn’t get to see when it first came out, starting a garden, listening to that crime podcast you thought sounded interesting, but never listened to. You get the idea here- what about things you enjoyed doing but stopped for any list of reasons? Painting, drawing, dancing? The things you bring up when someone asks what you like to do in your free time that you mention you once did but have some completely bullshit excuse of about why you stopped because you’re too embarrassed to admit that aside from work and other obligations it’s basically fucking nothing? Yeah that stuff. A pandemic can’t stop you from doing any of these things, even if it’s fitness-related, because there are many places offering free outdoor classes, livestreams, and zoom classes too. There’s many options here to keep your mind occupied. What about an event, a time in history, a topic that you were always curious about? Again-podcasts, movies, documentaries, books, and YouTube are available on pretty much every subject.

5. The great outdoors

Sometimes you gotta bring it back to basics. These days people feel a need to be doing the most fun, super exciting “Instagram-able” thing and it’s just not realistic. What did people do with their lives before all this technology and perpetual big-brotherness of watching each other’s lives via our phones? When was the last time you watched the sunset, or got up early enough to watch the sunrise, or the moonrise at night? Go for a bike ride, visit some of your local museums and parks that you never go to, get some binoculars, try some bird-watching, or star gazing, or just take a long walk and say hello to the strangers you pass by. It’s amazing how a small gesture like that can make you feel more connected. Stop and start up a conversation-plenty of people are dying for an in-person connection, and if they don’t reciprocate, that’s okay too-keep it moving.

6. Take care of your mental health

Now some of you aren’t going to want to hear it, but I don’t give a fuck. These are pressing times-therapy can help. We are probably the most accepting generation of actually dealing with, acknowledging, and taking care of our mental health through therapy, whether in-person, via the phone, texting, therapy apps, whatever works for you. The older generations didn’t have this open dialogue and acceptance of talking about and taking care of their mental health. You would never hear friends or family even discussing it to each other let alone over lunch at a restaurant. People are inside a lot, working from home, literally only working then going home, not able to see older or sick family members to reduce risk of getting them sick, out of work, what ever, you know the deal, there’s a lot happening. And if you don’t have a non-judgmental outlet for these thoughts, then please see bullet point 1 again for the result. Talk to a really compassionate, non-judgmental friend or family member,  or a therapist, journal your thoughts (seriously-daily or almost daily journaling has changed my life), but do not keep everything bottled up, or minimize your feelings and judge yourself by saying others have it worse. You’re right, others do have it worse. But if your arm was broken, would you not go to the hospital because other people who are there are suffering more or dying? No- you would get help because you having a broken arm and someone else dying are two completely separate things. Someone else having it worse doesn’t mean you don’t need help. I can give you all the tips and advice to find ways to quell loneliness, but the heavier stuff that you have to deal with is up to you.

I really hope, in the very least, this article helped someone to feel seen, know that they aren’t alone in dealing with loneliness, and have some compassion for themselves in what they’re feeling. It can be unsettling to feel isolated and alone with our thoughts and worries, but you do matter, you aren’t alone, and even though we can’t always control our circumstances, we can control how we choose to handle it. Acknowledge your feelings and take the opportunity to strengthen the relationship you have with yourself so that whether you are alone, with tons of friends, single, or in a relationship, you feel valued, important, and loved, because you already give these things to yourself and other people in your life only enhance that- they are never the sole source or provider of this. Being alone doesn’t cause loneliness, rather our expectations, thoughts, and feelings on being alone causes loneliness. But being around others also doesn’t necessarily make us feel better-it is still our thoughts and feelings about ourselves that will make us feel connected or not. If you don’t feel good about yourself, even with others’ acceptance or love, you will always question it, or it will never feel enough, so no matter what-you always have to work on your self-esteem and self-worth. You may not always feel great about the situation, but at least you know you have tools to help yourself and not feel dependent on anyone else for happiness or value.