Naturally Dreamy

A blog about my life as an INFP living with an ESFJ, INTJ, and my pup. I blog about earth-friendly living and life through my eyes – not necessarily in that order. Come put your feet up where life is Naturally Dreamy!


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My Journey with Anxiety and Appreciating Friends

Friends are so important. Now that I am making some new ones, I am realizing just how much they are important.

When you compare having friends to isolation, the comparison really stands out. When I first started this blog, I was basically living in isolation, and this was one of the first ways I started reaching out. I had just come from a place where I struggled to relate to any of my peer groups, and the more I struggled to relate, the more anxious I got, the more anxious I got the more I was outcast, and the more I was outcast the more anxious I got. It was a cycle I couldn’t cope with anymore, so, given the choice, I opted to stay at home, and not go to any social functions if I could help it.

There were some people in my last home that tried to reach out to me, but I just couldn’t really accept it – anxious about why they were doing it, and worried about relying on them too much.

I couldn’t deal with the heaping loads of guilt and flashbacks about how I had navigated a social situation, or how I had treated people, or what I had said. Until I could not stay up nights thinking about these things, I said, I wasn’t ready to go back into society.

It was a very dark time.

Now I have hiked, step by step, out of the morass of difficulties I was facing 10 years ago. And these last two years, I have made TWO NEW FRIENDS. I have also deepened and strengthened THREE OLD FRIENDSHIPS. So now I have five irl friends. (I also have several internet friendships that I really treasure. ^_^)

So here are some things I’ve noticed about why friends are important:

They are different than you. Friends bring perspective. You have enough in common with them that you can appreciate their viewpoint, but they come at situations differently than you. This helps widen your field of view. This is good for building your compassion muscle, as well as instilling hope into what may otherwise be a bleak or fraught situation.

Friends bring new voices in your life. When I was “isolating”, I still lived with my family, so I did have companionship. And I started getting on the internet and branching out, and that was also helpful. But the people I lived with still lived largest in my mind. They knew me better than anyone, so if they condemned something I did, misunderstood how I lived my life, or made me feel insignificant, it became the law I lived by, even if I disagreed.

Now, I still live with my family, but having friends and new perspectives being brought to me helps me realize that my family’s are just one of a sea of voices and perspectives. I still go to my family for advice and input, and it’s actually even more helpful now. Now a word from them is not what I live or die by. I have a support structure that includes them, not that is them.

Friends have strengths in your weaknesses, and vice versa. Friends are so cool and unique and I love that relationship so much! Because of the differences between friends, there is usually this wonderful overlap where the things you’re strong at they feel weak in, and vice versa. So you can be amazed at them for what comes naturally to them, which feels encouraging, and validating, and all manner of good. And then you can also feel stronger through their strength. And on the other side, having you around makes them feel better, and they can rely on you for things you don’t even know you’re doing!

Friends make life feel worth living. At least for me. As an INFP, understanding people, and discovering how humans work is a major drive in life. So friendship makes life feel fulfilled. So much is out of our control, and needs changing, and feels hopeless. But within your group, you could have made someone’s day, or had a good time, or made a new discovery, or been able to comfort them, or unlocked a new understanding about the world, or just shared your life… and that is everything. Even if it’s actually just a tiny, tiny, tiny bit of the world. It is everything, and I think that is how it is supposed to be.

So, as you might surmise. I love friends and friendship and growing relationships.

Now imagine feeling like I’m not allowed to like it. That to enjoy, appreciate, admire, or love friends or their relationship is wrong.

Not only wrong, but sinful – in two completely separate ways?

Yeah.

That was me.

Reason 1: In my last place, I had also kind of gotten into religious zealotry, believing that nothing was important if it was not of eternal importance. There was only one thing should matter to me, and that one thing was God, and if anything mattered more to me than Him I was wrong. And there was one thing I didn’t want to be – and that was wrong. I couldn’t stand the fact that I might be doing something wrong. Which is another reason I further isolated myself both phsyically and mentally – not only should other people not be important to me, but if I messed up with them, I couldn’t stand it.

I was actually even told by a parent, many years before I grabbed hold to this cultish zealotry – “Okay, we’re going to church, and you’re going to see your friends, right? But remember that is not why you are here. You are here for Jesus, not to have fun with your friends.” And if I could go back, and just completely defeat that idea I would. Because that is actually so not true – church should be fellowship, and growing together. Friends and community is the best part about religion and faith, and is what is said to be the most important thing in the Bible.

It was such an off base thing to hear and believe that community is not important because “it’s not about Jesus”, but I didn’t realize it, and I tried to be less excited to see my friends, less devoted to befriending them, and tear down my love for them whenever I saw it being built up. I couldn’t endanger our souls like that.

Redefining what I believed, and what was important to me, and just taking time to observe the world was how I walked out of this one. When I did, I was ready to go back and apologize to the people I had tried to cut out of my life, and try to start making connections.

Reason 2: As if that wasn’t terrifying enough… The real kicker was seeing my dad and his behavior. My dad, if you don’t already know, was an element of fear and terror in my life. I wanted to make sure I never did anything he did.

But through my own lack of understanding of nuance, that eliminated a lot of things. I didn’t understand there was a difference between flirting with a waitress and being warm with a stranger. I couldn’t decipher that there was a difference between getting 16 cards after a restraining order and taking up someone’s time telling them a story. I wouldn’t infer the discrepancy between empty praises and promises that stung like knives because of a history of abuse, and giving compliments and praises to a friend. (After all, I hid my fear and terror from him – my friends could all be hiding their terror of me.)

I could take my dad yelling at me and attacking us. What I couldn’t bear was when he would say he liked something I did. Then I would never do it, or wear it, or try it again. How I never wanted to pass that on to someone else.

The solution? Never be nice or warm or kind or heartfelt to anyone! Then no one could ever feel worried about my intentions. (So simple!)

I have written a little bit about my struggle to climb over this wall here on my blog. It took me years before I dared use a heart on Twitter. Now I use them all the time. It took me ages to try to wish someone happy birthday without feeling like I had just made the declaration of a century, and waiting to hear back that I had ruined their life. It took, well, it took friends.

It took me receiving compliments, and hearts, and well-wishes, and warm thoughts and all those AMAZING parts of life to realize – they didn’t scare me. They made me feel better about life. They made me feel valued. They brightened my day.

Huh.

So, I started in little ways, practicing doing the same. It was lovely each time I saw it go okay.

As I started growing in confidence that friendships were a valuable element of life, and that I could be kind and complimentary to others without it hurting them, I kept branching out.

One step was to sign up with Bumble BFF to see if I could make a local friend. Eventually, I made a lasting connection on there with someone who was very open and bright as the sun. She used emojis everywhere, told me immediately how much she valued our friendship, and stuck to me through ups and downs in our personal lives. I was uncharacteristically warm back to her, not wanting her to feel like I valued her any less. She helped me to tap in and continue to practice feeling positive vibes towards those who impacted me. And that it was okay, and not a sin, and beneficial to both parties.

As I became more confident, and settled and less panicky talking with her, I had a second person approach me and ask if I’d be friends. From my confidence in talking with my Bumble BFF, I charged ahead and said “Yes!” (It was dizzying to have been crying in my room the year before because I had no friends in my new home, and the next year have not just one but TWO!)

This other person is very skilled in encouraging words of affirmation. They have further helped tear down my walls of worry, in two distinct ways:

A) They told me right off that they wanted to be friends because I had been a light in their life. Huh? So I’m not an agent of evil? I’m not secretly terrible and everyone is pretending so they don’t get on my bad side? Am I… actually okay?

B) Their outright and unprompted declarations (they are an ISTJ, I think, and so are much more able to say blanket statements that I refrain from as an INFP lol) settled my anxiety so many times, and made me feel so valued and strong. In their mind, I am smart and thoughtful. This made me feel capable and kind. This was an incredible feeling. It wasn’t like anything I had shirked from from my dad. It was a feeling I wanted to spread to everybody.

And so I started trying to. Which has been an incredible journey.

The final thing that all of this growth culminated in together is the reason I began to pen this post.

I have been so excited about meeting this last friend and the growth that has come from it, I have felt a soaring level of apprecation for them. Because they are so forth right about saying they’re glad I’m in their life, and praising aspects of my personality, I’ve felt like I have persmission to also unequivocably believe the same back.

Wait. I’ve only felt like I can think that because they’ve said it to me?

Hm.

So I still had a wall, a block. I knew friends were important. And I knew I could tell them they were important. But I didn’t feel allowed to feel they were important.

Nothing is more exciting, amazing, or incredible than friends to me. But I didn’t believe I was allowed to feel that way.

Like strangers misunderstanding a smile as an invite, I worried about elevating my friends to the status that they actually occupied in my life without express permission from them. And as an INFP who lives in her head a lot, and relies on creating abstract stories, and frameworks, and auras in order to really understand the world, cutting off this way of relating to my friends, cuts off more than it might seem.

So, recently, piecing together the lessons I have learned these last 10 years:
– tearing down the idea that its a cosmic mistake to place value on friends
– deconstructing the idea that compliments are mercenaries of terror
– feeling appreciated and valued myself
– doing a bunch of introspection as I make these new friends, forge new connections with old friends, and analyze the heck out of everything trying to make sure I don’t mess up lol, and realizing where my panic lies
– feeling a growing appreciation of my friends and the impact they have on my life
– reading articles and pins about friends, and how people value gestures they received in the past, and what gestures mean the most to them
– understanding better how I as a unique person make friends, where my tripfalls are, and what my strengths are

Altogether, I have come to the conclusion, that Yes. I am definitely allowed to appreciate, love, value, and hold my friends in high esteem. I feel like I need a waiver signed that they consent to live in my head. Your likeness may in perpetuity be used for daydreams, ruminating on gift ideas, random thoughts of “Hey they taught me this!– if you agree, sign on the dotted line. But, they have all stuck around through so much, they definitely want to be in my life. There’s really no limit to their dedication to the relationship, which means that I can be as “flowery” as I want to be in my appreciation of it without troubling them – because they have definitely chosen me, and all the seeming strangeness that is me and it would only be good to fully embrace and return that love.

I can be enraptured by their skill in working in differing perspectives. I can be in awe of the way they face hard things I don’t even know how to begin looking at. I can believe they are the most important endeavour in my life. I can appreciate how their sharing of their experiences influences me to change and grow as a person.

The reins I had been holding onto so tightly, I could finally let go, because it was completely unnecessary and styming me as a person AND as a friend. To feel all of these things, but to reject them because I worried about their impact on others – when the impact would only be a positive one?

I could allow myself to be inspired – to poems and artwork, research and communication – because of them.

All of that was okay. My worried were unfounded. But I couldn’t know that until I tried. And I couldn’t try until I had confidence. And I have been blessed with friends and acquaintances and random encounters that have helped propel me towards taking one more confident step after another.

And now, my inner world – spilling over to my outer world – is so much more rich because it is populated not only with wonderful friends, but the freedom to believe they are wonderful.


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Petsitting and Doggo’s New-Found Joie De Vivre

I’ve been petsitting as a full-on sidejob (instead of just here & there) for about a year now, and it has had some unexpected happy side effects.

I noticed, I think it’s been good for me – I feel like I have something of my own. I have a flourishing petsitting business. I am a well-reviewed petsitter.

I do good work at my other job – and it’s a wonderful job that I absolutely love being at – but I think something personal is somewhat lost in its distance & officeness. I know I have one of the keener eyes for detail, but still, I’m mostly autonomous – I come in, I do my work, a couple times I’m told “Good catch!”. And I feel mostly replacable (though quite protective of my accounts – it doesn’t take much for me to consider something “my baby” and needing my sole attention – a control issue I’ll eventually have to work on dedicatedly) – but it is an office job after all. And it’s remote, so I sometimes only exchange a few words a day with my coworkers.

As a petsitter people are talking directly with me. They’re reviewing facts and details I provide about myself, and they are choosing me as their sitter for their dog. And when they come back, they are giving me a review.

And people are saying my updates are helpful, that they were never worried with their dog under my watch, that my questions showed that I cared. It’s a giant confidence boost to do & run something myself and return a good service to people.

Petsitting also revealed a giant hole – sat-for dogs received more petting, more outside time, more play than my own, dearly-beloved, dog did.

A little less than a year later, I’ve finally rectified that! And as an INFP, that genuine-ness feels good.

Guest dog or not, Doggo is going on 2 walks a day, getting copious outside time, play when he wants it, and more concentrated attention. It doesn’t change when we have another dog over, and I feel so good about that. I didn’t realize what I was missing – but I knew for the last several years something didn’t feel right.

Since January, while learning how to train leash reactivity, I’ve also learned some things about how to make his life better overall. I’ve switched to positive reinforcement only (most of the time – I still slip up). I’ve seen a dramatic change and I love not believing I need the tool of negative reinforcement (versus what I’ve been told since we adopted him).

Since January, we’ve also increased his heart medicine, given him a dental, and got his nails at a better length – so I don’t know what it is, but ….

EVERY morning now, Doggo is out of bed. He used to wait for me to get up. This morning he walked over, thonked his head on my shoulder, playfully nudged my elbow, and then under my ribs, like trying to push me out of bed.

This dude is ready to start his day, every day!

In my last post, I said he was barking less. That is not the case any more. xD But he is learning *when* to bark and how to find other things to do instead. But I also learned something from a pet owner who said “I’d expect nothing less” when I said that at drop off Doggo would be barking again. “Terriers are like that” she said, and I had a *brain explosion* moment. My dog isn’t just oddly aggressive AND friendly? This is a terrier thing? He’s being normal for his mix of breed??

It’s exciting seeing both Doggo and I have something special come from petsitting and having the chance to learn so much on the way. It’s great seeing him make friends, and be able to trust his repeat buddies more each time they come.

No matter the reason, I’m glad Doggo’s uncovered a new zest for life (which is crazy at 12 years old!). It’s exciting to see us both flourish in confidence and to also see us enjoying life together more, because we’re actually doing more, together. And I don’t feel so scared if something goes sideways while we try new things (like leash reactivity, grumbling at other dogs, barking at roomies) because I can now work on any issues that arise without sacrificing my principles – armed with sliced carrots, and reassurance we can tackle any issue. πŸ™‚

P.S. I also write a book with my book club! A choose-your-own adventure style book! If you want to check it out you can pre-order a PDF or Kindle edition for 99Β’. ^_^

Honestly, when they asked “do we have any writers/aspiring writers in the group?” and I said, “Sorta?” (because I have 3-5 half-story ideas that I’ve never been quite able to give up or yet finish xD and plus this blog πŸ™‚ <3) I had no idea that one day we’d have physical copies of the book we wrote in print with a commissioned-80’s reminiscent-professional cover! :0 I was just focused on turning in my piece on time. xD


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Relationship Hokey Pokey: The Missing Pieces

Doggo’s “Life Enrichment Plan” has been successful above expectation! (Especially since I didn’t have any expectations/specific goals!)

We’ve taken more walks than usual. I think taking walks with the dogs I petsit gave Doggo a newfound enjoyment in them. Usually when we’d go for a walk, we’d get out there and we’d kind of both be like “Well, you brought me out here – now what do you want to do?” It usually consisted of Doggo fast-walking, sniffing a few things, and then we were back home. My recurring daycare that I walk 1-2x per day walks literally a mile an hour. xD

He’s a beagle and the walk is done to provide his mind & nose the stimulation it lacks. So sometimes we’ll cross back and forth in front of a spot for 20 minutes. Sometimes, on warm days, we’ll walk to a spot, and he’ll plop down and just look at the traffic as it drives by. Which works well for me & Doggo – because I’m not worried about Doggo overextending himself as he just stands there, sniffing the air with the other dog. πŸ™‚

With Doggo’s lunch, we’ve been practicing his commands. And for the “sport” I’ve been free-shaping teaching him “soccer”. I’ve switched it up sometimes playing hide and go seek. Or today, instead of commands, I scattered his lunch and covered it with a blanket for him to burrow under. πŸ™‚

Doggo surprised BT the day after I started this regimen – we were about to go out for a drive and Doggo was silent, though intrigued. He only barked in excitement a few times just as we were about to head out together. It’s been a difficulty sometimes as from the first hint of an outing Doggo has a hard time keeping his excitement contained or focused.

Doggo’s barking less during conversations, as well, and doing better with overly-licking his paws (though he still does it more on days that other dogs aren’t here – even if he doesn’t feel like doing anything else I’ve tried to interest him in).

And what I’m hoping is he’s building confidence, emotional wellness, as well as his brain having more engagement, using more of his energy, and bonus: we’re spending more quality time together. ^_^

Some days I don’t do all of them – if we go out for a drive, I don’t always play a sport with him. Sometimes the commands & the sport merge, or it’s too cold to go out for a walk. But it’s nice to feel more engaged with Doggo’s care and to be proactively thinking of what he might want to do than just being like “well, he’s laying in his bed, I guess he’s fine.” And it’s nice that we don’t have to do them all the same way each time – that flexibility means a lot to me.

However, I also figured out some of the big pieces to my reluctance of having animals with high energy needs in my care! (And honestly I see where it’s coming from, and don’t really see a way around it ::shrug::):

Seasonal Allergies

Since moving to this locale, I’ve developed rather strong seasonal allergies. I always forget just how much they affect me till that season rolls around again. My recurring daycare needs an hour outside in the morning (the absolute worst time to be out), an hour outside in the early afternoon, an hour outside mid afternoon, and another half hour outside in the evening. My dog loves him, and he only comes twice a week, but that is about my limit. Without the rest days in between his visits during allergy season, I’d be in bad shape.

But if Daycare Doggo *doesn’t* have that time outside he is incorrigible. πŸ˜‚ He will chew on anything (except for his toys), start making trouble with my dog, try and start wrestling with me… So it’s out we go!

During those months I am sometimes taking the strongest allergy meds round-the-clock, slurping down black tea, using a saline flush on my eyes, and still having trouble functioning. My eyes itch unbearably, my nose runs, I get sneezing fits. Sometimes I’m blowing my nose so much that it’s impossible to work because I’m literally blowing my nose and *can’t* work at the same time. My head feels out of sync with the rest of the world, and I get fatigued from the fighting my body is unnecessarily doing.

With my doggo, I can let him outside to do his thing, play his favorite games inside, and chillout together when I’m really not feeling well. His requirements don’t require too much of me. But with other dogs, their normal is something that puts me up-to or past my brink of health for 4-5 months out of the year.

Roommate Preferences/Dislikes

My roommates are more reserved when it comes to the “loving animals” department. They’ll treat them civilly, and wish them well, but they don’t like drool, or slobber, or the animal being underfoot, or begging. I’m doing this petsitting at the approval of them, and it feels like any moment it could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

They also are used to my Doggo. Doggo has a litany of commands/words he knows, and he also just understands English and tone really well. It’s endearing, but also slightly comical & frustrating, to see my roommates try to use Doggo’s commands on guests and be puzzled when it doesn’t work. Unfortunately in one roomie’s instance it’s also the point at which they just blow up and shut down.

I had my friend here during one of my petsits with a more active, younger dog. That doggo was only here for a night or two and I wasn’t quite sure of the fit, and it ended up with me saying that it probably wouldn’t be a good fit in the future – but not because of her energy or playfulness! (She didn’t grant my doggo’s request for space, even after he asked several times & I tried to persuade her too.) But the stay was a LOT more fun with my friend here. There were multiple little things the dog did that caused me to figuratively glance over my shoulder to see if it was annoying my roommates, that my friend embraced and read her signals and played graciously with her. It was so much fun having another person there to enjoy the animal like I did, or even encourage me to embrace the doggo’s unique personality even more.

You can be regent of *this room*

When it comes to cats and their need to feel in control of their territory, I can grant that – to an extent. You can reign over my room, its windowsill, and its closet! But, er, not the rest of the house.

I live with two other people, I petsit, and I’m adventurous by nature. A territorial, sensitive-to-change creature is probably not going to ever be happy with this set up. Dogs come and go, I might jet off to see a friend or France, and I like to throw the windows open in spring.

I’ve never quite meshed with sensitive people or beings well – I’m clumsy in nature and often require a lot of grace for mistakes. When a cat reacts to the feeling of lack of control by marking (often peeing) in the places they feel no control – that’s really not going to work well because I probably can’t change the issue much without feeling very boxed in, too, because I’m working within parameters, as well. (You’re worried because a cat is outside so you want the windows shut; I want the windows open to save on electric bills and because I’ve been in socially isolated for 6 months. You’re marking the houseplant because you feel insecure after that dog chased you; I want that dog here because it’s my job and Doggo’s best friend. You want stability; I want possibilities.)

My personal history with cats doesn’t have this kind of issue in it, but the cats I’ve had have usually had at least the stability of my parents being their caretakers – if it’s going to be only owned by “random me” and have a basecamp of one room, I’m sorry but I can offer no more. (Though I’m still a backup fosterer for my local shelter, so I can hopefully still help with getting cats homes! :D)


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Relationship Hokey Pokey

After researching a few behavior issues, I wrote a list of activities I want to implement with Doggo each day:

5 minutes of obedience practice
10 minutes of confidence boosting activity (maybe agility? fetch?)
1 walk/bike ride per day practicing reactivity

Whew. That sounds like a lot of work.

Wait?…

So, basically I’m saying “So you want something from me in this relationship?”

I love the responsibility of pet ownership – I will clean litterboxes, pick up poop, feed and provide water all day long. That’s fun for me.

But (as I learned with cats – post to come, probably) animals actually could use some more interaction, too. That sounds like work. And it also sounds weird to me.

I think it might be because I’m not used to putting something or much into relationships to make them work well. I think it might be partly a byproduct of being a youngest child (and also from a difficult home).

If I wasn’t noticeable, I was doing something right.

If I wasn’t being annoying, or too energetic, or requiring a lot of help, I was being most helpful to those around me.

The way I knew a relationship was working was my absence of interference.

Well now something is (or has been and I didn’t realize) calling for my active involvement. It took me being annoyed by petsit dogs (not all dogs just nap all day in between take outs and play sessions – what am I supposed to do then?) and going on walks and finding “oh my gosh this leash reactivity isn’t a good thing and what I’m doing isn’t working!”. It took me reading 5 books on cat behavior to realize that sometimes you need to do things in the pet-human relationship and me being like:

It’s also not easy with my executive function (Te) being the lowest in my INFP stack (consistency & completion isn’t our fortΓ¨). But now I think I’m ready. It sounds fun. And I can be pretty good at forming habits. πŸ™‚

And I can be involved in something! I can put myself out there and give it a try along side someone else. I don’t have to be perfect, but just do something interactive, try new things, ~consistently~, with Doggo.

Maybe this will be the start to me putting more energy into my friendships and family relationships too? Who knows? (🎢You put the energy in, you get… I don’t know?… out, and that’s what it’s all about!🎢)

After 20 minutes of mental complaining I’m now really psyched to see what this will be like, actually. πŸ˜ƒ

Let’s go!

(I am full aware that this makes me seem (and feel!) like a wimp when it comes to relationships of all sorts – especially when I’m usually the one who is “too much”, saying so to an animal – “You’re too much work!” feels AwFuL. It’s also an ongoing issue I’m still attempting to process and fully sort out the motivations, thoughts, and emotions behind my reticence. But this is one piece of the picture, and I’m glad to start the process where I can improve, and not rest fully in the static self-blame, though I definitely have that to figure out as well.)


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My first furniture purchase & I love these eco-friendly blankets (mini-review)

(This is a post that took a while for me to edit/decide to post, so if you feel like you’ve heard about my chair… yeah, this is about 2 years old. :P)

I bought a chair second hand! We had all been using temporary furniture up until this point, and it’s my first furniture purchase, so I was super excited! It’s a tad small for both me and Rimfire to fit on, but it has an ottoman where we can both stretch out on. Being small, it also means I can move it pretty easily by myself. πŸ™‚

DSC05847

It had a few stains on it, and some of them I’m pretty sure came from the giant, lovely, friendly Rottweilers who pushed their rather slobbery nozzles towards me as I tested the chair. After scrubbing it with stain-and-scent lifter it felt fresher but still had some eau-of-someone-else’s-house… and a smoke scent that came from nowhere? I also wrapped and left it in the sun for a few hours (a natural bed-bug killer! just in case, didn’t want to start any issues).

But with all of this minor stuff, I started considering how I’d like to re-upholster it. Despite the rather thorough cleaning I gave it, I knew I’d feel more comfortable if it had a cover on it. While tossing around ideas, the idea of using Mexican blankets arose.

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