Sometimes people ask me how I get ideas for blog posts. Really, the question is how do I find enough time to let everyone know about everything that bugs me?

For example, here are photos I've been holding onto for a while. It's a series of the dumbest engagement photos ever. But wait. Before you click I'm going to tell you that they are actually someone's real engagement photos. And if you thought it was too mean to call out David Dellifield for being an asshole to me, then you are probably not going to like that I'm linking to real-life photos to dis them. So if you feel high and mighty, don't click.

Really, though, I encourage you to click. Because first of all, these people liked their photos enough to let their photographer put them on her blog. But also, these photos are part of a trend where people do completely stupid, out-of-the-ordinary things for their engagement photos, so they feel that they will have a special, extraordinary life.

But newsflash to all you newlyweds spending too much money on engagement photos: You will not have even an ordinary life. But you will wish you did. You will dream of an easy family life, and easy marriage, and a dog that is housetrained even when you're gone the whole day. You will not get that. No one does. And everyone wants it.

So the engagement photo trend is terrible. Horrible. And the corollary to that trend is the tablescape trend.

Maria Killam, who is great, and who picked out all the colors for my house that I love, came to my house to visit and started talking about tablescapes. She said they are a huge right now and I need them.

As far as I can tell, they are tsotskes draped all over the surfaces in one's house. They are arrangements of objects that could not withstand normal family life, for people who do not have a normal family life. Tablescapes look like wishscapes — that is, a melange of junk that someone thinks expresses why they are special. (Country Living is full of this stuff, overpriced New York custom-made furniture capped with farm-fetish crap to give a room a rich-but-down-to-earth feel.)

The whole trend reeks of fakery. Just like the staged engagement photos. I often get on my high horse about fakery. I call everyone out on it because I think I’m the queen of coming clean about everything. But the people closest to me are able to call me out on my own fakery.

For instance, I’ll use Xanax for my problems, but I can’t do Xanax all the time or I’d be a narcotic addict. And anyway, I have to save Xanax for when the Farmer wants sex and I’m stuck, curled up in a ball.

Don’t tell me I shouldn’t take a Xanax to have sex, okay? I’m still very fun after just one pill, and I don’t even know if the Farmer can tell the difference. And don’t tell me to meditate instead, because the best meditating I ever do is when I’m on Xanax. Time really goes by fast that way. I can really sit still.

So I’m trying to decide how to manage my problems best: Meditation or medication? I have tried a wide range of medication, but I miss having a mind that races. Do you know how many blog post ideas I have in one day? Ten. Twenty if you count the bad ones. It’s just that I’m too scattered to write one every day.

In hindsight, my racing brain is a big reason I moved from New York City to a farm. Here\’s what I took a photo of the last time I went to New York City: It’s me trying to get visual peace so I can think.

I think I chose to have calmness around me on a farm so I can focus on the craziness in my head.

You can say that this is not functional, but I think this is how most people have wild success in their career. By letting their brain be wild. It’s a choice.

But the people around me might be getting sick of it. And I have had enough comments on this blog from kids whose parents were crazy for me to know that no kid wants a parent whose mind is racing about stuff that is not the kids.

But it’s so hard to give up having a brain that goes nonstop through rants and tirades and ten hours of work in ten minutes. It’s hard to give that up to be a medicated, normal, kind, accommodating, person.

And now, we come full circle. Because I’m telling you that I like being different. Like the people in the engagement photos. I don’t really want that; anyone who thinks they are special is on the road to hell. Because feeling special is just a way to avoid doing the things that most people do to fix the problems that you have.

One way to get ideas about how to do what others do to fix your problems is to find a coach. The New Yorker has a great article about how everyone needs coaching. It’s a surgeon writing about how weird it is that surgeons don’t have coaches and what he does in order to find one for himself. (I honestly feel like the undertone of the article is that, like most surgeons, he has too big an ego to get coaching, and what he really wants is a writing coach, because like most surgeons, he wants to be great at everything.)

But the article is instructive in that we each need a coach in order to get what we want. He has good evidence about that. And I can see that when I coach people it’s so easy to see what they should be doing, so I can understand how I should have a coach for myself, as well.

If I were my own coach, I’d look at the discrepancy between what I say I want and what I’m doing.  I say I want to be calm, but what I’m doing is getting worked up about engagement photos and making a living linking to stuff I hate. This is not really the action of someone who wants to be calm.

I want to be calm for my kids but not so calm that the rest of my life is boring.

You must be wondering what I’m learning in couples therapy. I mean, we go there twice a week. We must be learning something, right? What we are learning is how to calm ourselves down in the moment.

The guy is Don Ferguson, and he wrote this book, and one of his specialties is couples who have some sort of post-traumatic stress disorder attached to them. I think we have that. Probably in both of us. I mean, the Farmer worked on his parents’ farm for 40 years and then they gave their farm to their daughters’ kids instead of the Farmer. While he was still working on the farm. I think that’s a sign that he has had a hard time for a long time.

So, in our therapy, we learn how to calm ourselves down in the middle of whatever we are doing. And while I like to think that the Farmer is emotionally retarded and I’m just going to couples therapy for him to get his shit together, the truth is that I have a lot of the same problems he does.

One of  which is that I can get worked up about anything. Because I think it’s interesting. But I need to be able to stop it quickly if the people around me don’t like it.

So I am choosing meditation over medication. I like the idea of being able to calm down for people I love, but to be not calm for me. I have had my head racing for so long that it’s sort of my comfort zone.

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  1. Just Plain Brian
    Just Plain Brian says:

    Speaking of engagements, I was very excited to see a link for “Engagements” at the top of the blog.  I thought it was remarkably practical of you to streamline the marriage process and allow readers to propose to you through the site.   Imagine my disappointment to discover that the link wraps on my phone, and it was really “Speaking Engagements”.

    Of course, my lawyer disagrees with me.  She says no court in the country would consider this false advertising, and that while judges can perform marriages, they cannot compel them.  But she did tell me not to give up. Her exact words were, “Get out of my office, you loon!”, but she yelled it in a very encouraging way.

  2. Katherine
    Katherine says:

    RE: Feeling Special… I agree that feeling too special can be a curse and get in the way of doing the things you need to do to get over or through everyday life problems. But for someone struggling with depression, or just having a bad day where they are beating up on themselves, feeling special can be a key element to working up the courage and energy to make a difference in your own life.

    And I think having some fun photos to commemorate a special occasion is a good thing. And a bit of staging and dressup for fun isn’t bad either. My only problem is with spending a lot of money (which a newly engaged couple more than likely does not have) on something so ephemeral.

  3. Heather B
    Heather B says:

    Hey all, I’m the photographer of the “dumbest engagement photos ever.”

    A while back I was proposed a “sponsored post” on this very blog promoting my photography in exchange for a camera body that I was selling. I declined.

    I guess I received my “sponsored” post after all, and I didn’t even have to give away my camera. Thanks for the traffic! And please check out my other work, I hope you’ll find it isn’t all that dumb.

    Heather
    http://www.eclecticimagesblog.com

    • Suspicious
      Suspicious says:

      Oh, wouldn’t we all like to see that exchange!  And is it just coincidence that it centers around Austin, Melissa’s stomping ground?

      • Gofuckyourself
        Gofuckyourself says:

        wow! mature much!?!?!?!?! All you ‘FUCK’ers as penelope loves to throw that word around as if to make her point so ‘fucking’ poetic and seriously she is so ‘fucking’ cool for doing so!!!!! O.M.G Oli! way to be another ‘fucking’ trendsetting bashing bastard! It’s amazing to me that all you that LOVE what this crazy bat shit bitch is preaching is normal or sane??? i am beginning to question the sanity of the whole lot of you…. And may I add that I have asked quite a few friends, which has (I know) unfortunately led to more traffic to this FUCKing blog, that crazies tend to attract crazies and that I had thought I was crazy but I am pretty FUCKING sane and pleased a shit to be!.  So take that in your hands and GO FUCK yourself….Is that too much???? AHHHHHHH I don’t FUCKING care! 

    • Penny
      Penny says:

      Congrats on the free site traffic. But this might have worked better for you if you kept the photos available to view. Otherwise, it might seem you don’t stand by your work.

      • Heather B
        Heather B says:

        thanks. over 5k hits in one day, i’ll take that.

        as someone else said, i made it private because i respect my clients WAY more than subjecting them to ridicule and unnecessary rudeness via the blog post and the kissing a#$ commenters. not only was the post insulting to my work, but to my clients it’s hurtful, rude, and just plain MEAN and i won’t stand for that.

        • Davednh
          Davednh says:

          This was the point of my original comment…

          I find it interesting that David Dellifield is called out as “being an asshole” but immediately afterward calling out these photos as “the dumbest engagement photos ever”.  I don’t understand why people don’t call this out.  My point originally was that we can like or not like the photos but when we decide we have to tell everyone how “bad” they think they are, there is something sad going on psychologically.  I’ll probably get flamed for this point but it seems sad that this generation of pseudo-intellectuals has become not only tremendously narcissistic but when they still don’t feel good enough, they choose to tear down others to feel better.  Seems sad to me, that’s all.
           
          P: I hope when you teach people how to blog, you can teach people how to make a point without dragging someone else down to do it.     

  4. MrLovingKindness
    MrLovingKindness says:

    IMHO, meditation is the best thing ever for
    anxiety/depression. However, it is a major (albeit worthwhile) time investment.
    I spent 5 years averaging 1.5 hours a day before I had significant breakthroughs.
    Some people require less practice, others more, but (like a musical instrument)
    to make decent progress, generally requires at least an hour a day of practice.
    That said, sitting quietly in-and-of-itself does have the benefit of calming
    the mind, but that isn't really meditation.

    An excellent beginner's book is Mindfulness in Plain
    English by Bhante Gunarantana.

    Be well,

    http://mrlovingkindness.wordpress.com/

  5. MrLovingKindness
    MrLovingKindness says:

    IMHO, meditation is the best thing ever for
    anxiety/depression. However, it is a major (albeit worthwhile) time investment.
    I spent 5 years averaging 1.5 hours a day before I had significant breakthroughs.
    Some people require less practice, others more, but (like a musical instrument)
    to make decent progress, generally requires at least an hour a day of practice.
    That said, sitting quietly in-and-of-itself does have the benefit of calming
    the mind, but that isn't really meditation.

    An excellent beginner's book is Mindfulness in Plain
    English by Bhante Gunarantana.

    Be well,

    http://mrlovingkindness.wordpress.com/

  6. Amy Wolcott
    Amy Wolcott says:

    I have been reading your posts for a few weeks now. I have not fully related to many until now. There are aspects of your life and thoughts that I definitely respect and admire (yes, admire)….I think you are a strong woman, but this entry is ME. I have been struggling with ‘diagnosed’ anxiety for almost two years now. It started with racing thoughts, but really it more so started with the realization of my racing thoughts….I believe I have always been like this. I am now trying to figure out how to ‘grow older and wiser’ with this ‘struggle’. Most of my stress is from figuring out how to deal with it correctly. How do I keep my character, how do I share this appropriately with people, how do I not use medicine, etc. I sometimes feel I am less deserving of things in my life now (such as my super calm and understanding boyfriend) bc of this ‘issue’. I am like you though in that I don’t want to change this about myself. I fully believe this anxiety is also where my drive and motivation come from. The strength to change jobs, speak my mind, be ‘outside the box’ at times. Meditation vs. medication and what anxiety means to me (in so many different ways) was summed up by your post. Thank you!

  7. renae
    renae says:

    Are you noticing craziness more? Because as you become more calm you’ll be more aware of the craziness, and it might fool you into thinking that whatever is getting better is getting worse. It’s like when I eat healthy, I start to notice anytime I’m not, and sometimes feel bad about it. I try to remind myself to feel good about noticing.

  8. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I have a good friend…a photographer who takes such photos. They do crazy stuff with their clients..lie down on pavement, go into a pool with their clothes on, that kind of thing. But you know, she and her husband who take the pictures, they really are that extraordinary, their life really lived from that “left field” approach. They struggle with all the stuff we struggle with, but their attitude is genuine. And their top clients are this way too. When they are not, it shows in the pictures. She often comes to me after a shoot saying “how do you make a family that does not smile, or hug each other, look fun and loving?” She doesn’t get that not everyone who is loving APPEARS as such in a zany way–it’s more of a challenge to tap into the more subtle cues.  It’s the same with decor. And design. A good designer or decorator (or photographer) will take your lifestyle into account and not force something on you that rings hollow.

  9. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I have a good friend…a photographer who takes such photos. They do crazy stuff with their clients..lie down on pavement, go into a pool with their clothes on, that kind of thing. But you know, she and her husband who take the pictures, they really are that extraordinary, their life really lived from that “left field” approach. They struggle with all the stuff we struggle with, but their attitude is genuine. And their top clients are this way too. When they are not, it shows in the pictures. She often comes to me after a shoot saying “how do you make a family that does not smile, or hug each other, look fun and loving?” She doesn’t get that not everyone who is loving APPEARS as such in a zany way–it’s more of a challenge to tap into the more subtle cues.  It’s the same with decor. And design. A good designer or decorator (or photographer) will take your lifestyle into account and not force something on you that rings hollow.

  10. Kathy Berman
    Kathy Berman says:

    I think you two are really lucky to have found each other at the right time in your lives. Because I am 71 and have been married and divorced 3 times, I have finally learned that love is a crossing of the T’s–taste, touch, and timing. I have had 2 loves that each was at the wrong time. So I let go–one before we had touched. I fully intend that there will be others in my life. The trick I think is to stay a loving person. If anything else, people like being around you more.

  11. Grace
    Grace says:

    I don’t get it.  To me, saying “I like being different” is the same as saying “I like being special.”

    But, Penelope says anyone who thinks they are special is on the road to hell.

    The thing is, we are all unique.  Which makes everyone and no one special.

    Sometimes we cling to what makes us different – we wear it as a badge; as an excuse to treat people badly.

    My aspie friend, after yet another rage at me, said, “Look, this is just the way I am.”

    True.  And you have a right to be different.  But you have no right to expect that people will continuously accept bad behaviour, whatever the reason behind it. 

    It is ok to have a racing, creative mind.  Many, if not most, “normal” (whatever that is) people do.  “Normal” is not about being calm, slowing ideas down, or having sane thoughts. It’s about not always acting on our thoughts, not always showing every aspect of every emotion that is being felt, being able to focus enough to get something done, and to understand that there is a time and a place for everything.

    When we are in control of ourselves, regardless of the crazy we are thinking, we have options.  Crazy can be exciting, but it closes many doors and ends relationships and opportunities that gave and offered so much. 

  12. Grace
    Grace says:

    I have not had an easy marriage, though my dog is housebroken.  But I really know people who have had marriages much smoother than my own.  At my young co-worker’s wedding, his wife told me that they rarely fight. I assumed she was naive, and I said,  “Just wait, you’ll see, that’s all gonna change.”  But, surprisingly, 6 years later, all is pretty peaceful in there world. She says that they still have not had a big fight and that they are quite happy.  And she’s not lying to me – her and her partner are just well matched.  They do everything together.

    I know, this may seem boring, but after the drop down knock em out fights I’ve experienced with my estranged partner, it all looks rather attractive. Though it is the exception, marital bliss can exist.  Just like a lottery win.

  13. Mark Wiehenstroer
    Mark Wiehenstroer says:

    “Tablescapes look like wishscapes – €“ that is, a mélange of junk that someone thinks expresses why they are special.”
    I don’t believe the majority of wealthy people have ever subscribed to this style of interior decoration. And for good reason. Simplicity and elegance are their main objective with only a few pieces on display so as to focus attention to them. Put the other stuff away so the room looks neat … and so your stuff isn’t collecting dust. I hate dust.

  14. Xanax
    Xanax says:

    Unreasonably judgmental, short-sided, rude, obscenely intrusive, and perhaps even evil…

    …you mean, like this blog post?

    • Anonymous
      Anonymous says:

      I’m tired of the term “blog post”.  It doesn’t encapsulate this writing, which has a literary profoundness that escapes one-third of these comments and commenters.

  15. Lak
    Lak says:

    Yeah!  What she said.  

    Besides not being able to see the weird for weird’s sake photos, I absolutely love what you’re saying here.  The bit about the surgeons, and the wth about your man’s family.

    And the respect that you’re showing for other people’s feelings and learning to calm in the midst of a tirade.  

    I like you more and more!  

  16. Mark Wiehenstroer
    Mark Wiehenstroer says:

    The human brain – the last great frontier from a human being’s perspective.
    Most everyone including myself likes to classify and neatly organize various thoughts, ideas, and experiences to create order out of chaos. Then we think we have it figured out or at least mostly figured out. We create definitions, perform research, and do our level best to understand ourselves and other people. It works … to a limited extent … and even though great strides have been made we’ve really only scratched the surface. The worst mistake in my estimation is to diagnose and label a person’s mental condition and tell them to receive a certain treatment because they fit in a box that’s already been designed for them. Our grey matter responds to meditation, medication, exercise, and other stimuli differently for each of us. What works best can really only be determined by the individual with help … and help can come from any number of sources including physicians, coaches, friends, etc. 
    Here’s an article published in Wired magazine about a year ago titled “Inside the battle to define mental illness” that I liked and I think expounds upon what I’m saying here –
    http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/12/ff_dsmv/

  17. Liane Benedict
    Liane Benedict says:

    I did not see the photos, but I am not a fan of engagement photos in general. I think it is a stupid idea personally but to each his own. What do I care if people want to be trendy or stage the shot of what they think is the beginning of a fairy tale life. Just don’t call it authentic.

    Heather I bet you are a great photographer. No offense meant toward you…and your grandpa sounds cool.

  18. Marni Sampair
    Marni Sampair says:

    If you think meditation over medication will work, you have too much time on your hands. From my quick 2 minute impression you don’t have any time on your hands. As an avid fan of being medicated I tell you, “your missing the right one” Consider Adult ADD, Adderral -not XR. Works wonders, doesn’t dull your sexual appetite. Controls your “outside” voice, your “inside” voice doesn’t speak as loudly. Makes, me “me” but in a little more tolerable dose. I’m just saying…

  19. Anna Louise
    Anna Louise says:

    The Alpha-Stim creates a meditation like effect. It treats anxiety immediately. There is not an issue with dependence and addiction as with Xanax. The Army and some VA Hospitals are using it with active duty and veterans for PTSD and stress. Some practitioners use it with autistic spectrum children and adults. I use it myself for stress and some other aspie symptoms. For example when my hearing gets super sensitive or I’ve been exposed to too much noise it is helpful to calm down the nervous system.

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