This is for anyone who ever wished they had a cheat code list for me:

1. Listen to me.

Giving me your full undivided attention and remembering conversations we had makes me feel like I am loved and respected. I don't care how small or immaterial it may have seemed at the time, conversational fragments stick with me for a very long time. I attach meaning to them and if you can make me feel like you are really listening to me without any ulterior motives, then there's a very good chance you are one of the most important people in my life. I want to listen to you, but I am easily distracted. I try hard to really listen to people and it goes beyond the words people are saying. I take body language, eye expression, tone, how fast or slow someone is speaking, external factors like how they may respond to an interruption or a new train of thought, all of that is relevant to me. I just love people who are good conversationalists and I seek them out whenever I can. I talk a lot, but I'm not a very good conversationalist so I need people in my life who can guide me through diaglogue in a way that tells me they see what I have trouble with and want to help me in a subtle and unobtrusive manner.

2. Tell me the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

While I'm sure many have lied to me and gotten away with it, once I find out that someone has been deliberately deceptive or flat out lied to me, any respect I may have had for them is immediately diminished. It doesn't matter what the lie is, once you have been dishonest about a small matter then I will know you can't be trusted with larger issues either. The way you do small things is the way you will do big things. I'm not always going to call you out on this, it makes me so angry I have trouble keeping my temper when the person is someone I care about. If I don't care about you expect to feel a little chilly around me. My time and energy are valuable, I only have so much to go around, and I'd much rather focus on the people that are building me up rather than those who are weighing me down. The one exception I will make for people is when it comes to feelings. If you are unsure of how you feel and you tell me something that feels like a lie to me, I'll cut you slack since I'm very often guessing about how I feel. 

3. Believe in yourself.

I'm only one person and I get worn down and tired of trying to be everyone's cheerleader when I need that kind of encouragement myself. I know your faults, I see your flaws. I put those in a compartment and leave them there unexplored because what you are good at matters far more than what you have problems doing, being, or achieving. All weaknesses are merely opportunities to grow and growth is a part of life. Not only can you handle all of the things you think you can't, you haven't even begun to tap into how incredibly talented and amazing you are. If you invite me into your life let me know where your boundaries are. I automatically assume that everyone is also on a relentless quest for self improvement so I'll tell you ways I think your life could be better even if you don't want to hear them. Everyone has a different set of priorities. I know a lot, but you are an expert when it comes to your life. Making your own mistakes will teach you far more than listening to me ever will.

4. Tell me about yourself.

I love to try and understand other people. If you are like me then I want to move to the next level which is partnering with people whose skill sets enhance or play well with mine. Work is fun for me. I derive a great deal of satisfaction over doing a job well and wiping the dirt off of my hands when we are done. I love to be a member of a productive and hard working team that has a lot of fun doing things others didn't think we could. When you tell me what you want or need I feel special and valued. I like it when people bring problems to me because very often I have ideas about how to move toward a solution. There is a difference between strategic problem solving and you wanting someone to listen to some variation of the same problem without taking any action toward resolution. Go ahead and rant or vent as needed, sometimes we need to get things off of our chests. But then take a moment to make a conscious decision to let go of whatever keeps holding you back and I realize that change can be difficult and take time, but you can do difficult things, and I can too.

5. Recognize what is right.

The majority of people will complain about what is wrong or tell me what they don't like. This has very little value to me. It is astonishing how many things are running smoothly that we fail to notice on a daily basis. Are you grateful for all the times your clock or phone tells you the correct time or angry when the battery dies? What do you like? Notice that and get curious about why that particular item, fragrance, food, piece of clothing, furniture, color, or sequence is pleasing to you. Is it the right color, the right height, the right shape, the proper depth, an appealing texture; use your analytical or sensory skills to inform you and take note of these things. A well decorated room, a well dressed person, a great meal, a fun outing, the perfect date; you're looking for elements that stimulated the pleasure and reward centers in your brain. Once you know what is right you'll be less likely to discard something that was working for you. Don't toss everything and start from scratch until you have determined there is nothing of value in your current system. Few have this skill. Cultivate it and you will grow.

6. Add value.

I work at a grocery store. It's not rocket science or brain surgery. It's getting items on the shelves so they can go out the door. Adding value occurs when someone had an expectation and you were able to exceed it. Sometimes people mistakenly think that this is giving the customer whatever they want. The customer is not always right. When I deal with people who are upset and want a concession I ask what they think would be fair or reasonable. I try to avoid offering them something because if my offer is too low I've further angered them and if it is too high I've cost the company. Address the problem, apologize if necessary, find out what they want, communicate what you are willing or able to do, and try to negotiate and compromise when you can. Never compromise your value system. Act with integrity and recognize that you can't please everyone. Someone who bullies you isn't a customer you want supporting your establishment, you will always be catering to them and you will lose respect for yourself. Hand off problems or enlist help if you need it and that can be in the form of an emotional rescue if you are so angry you can no longer effectively deal with someone. You are far more valuable to me than anyone who walks through the door and I hope you feel that.

7. Take care of yourself.

This is a large, but important one. Self care is understanding what you can do and where your limits are at. It means mastering the basics. Breathing, hydration, sleep, hygiene, food, movement, spirituality, feeding your mind, taking breaks and giving your body and brain time to rest and relax all fall under the category of self care. It means asking for help when you need it and valuing yourself enough to see when a problem is too big for you to handle on your own. Self care can take decades to really understand. It means listening to your body and honoring that feedback. We can't always drop everything when we are hungry, but if you know that you are the type of person who needs to eat every three or four hours and a friend invites you for a six hour outing, pack a snack. Say no to everything except that which you are willing and able to do. Build flex time into your schedule, if school is a five minute drive, I'll give myself fifteen minutes to get there. Then I'm not stressed when my daughter can't find the rest of her art project that's due that morning.

8. Enrich and expand my world by telling me about your ideas and experiences.

My life is full of experts. It's probably even fair to say that I collect them. Whether you are an attorney, an engineer, a real estate agent, a hairdresser, or you can sense how people feel without them telling you, I want to know what you do and if I can't better develop that skill in myself, then I want you around so when I run into situations where what you do well is helpful to me or someone else, I want to know that I can go to you and include you on my problem solving team. I value your insights, your perceptions, your spreadsheets, your sensory input, your ideas that haven't occurred to myself or others, and I want to try and answer some of the questions I have about life. Do I really want to go to a place or has a friend that I trust told me it is focused on the typical tourist and I'll be disappointed? Which ballpark is going to give me the most bang for my buck? Your adventures are cool to me, make me feel like I was there when you are telling me what you saw, ate, and did. I'm happy when you are. Even if I am envious of an experience you had I want to hear all about it.

9. Tell me what you would have bought me.

I dislike receiving presents. I love sporting events, but please do not buy me tickets because I have very specific ideas about where I want to sit and who I want to be sitting with at a game. Receiving a present makes me feel like I have some sort of emotional obligation to you and I don't like that either. Sometimes the present will be exactly right and then I am full of tears and joy and I feel exposed and vulnerable. I would rather not receive a present at all than go through that type of an experience. If you really feel like you have to give me something, give me cash or tell me about what you would have purchased or done for me. Tell me - I was visiting The Grand Canyon and I wanted to buy you a framed photo of it because I know how much you love the wide open untamed wildnerness. Or - I was at the mall and I wanted to buy you a new baseball cap, but then I wasn't sure if you wanted a throwback or something more current. I like the idea of presents more than I like actually receiving gifts. I like things that are personalized and thoughtful even if they cost very little. Tell me - I was going to take all of your clothes in to be monogrammed, but felt like I should leave a few things in your closet because it's cold this time of year (this is a joke and I hope you smiled).

10. Spend time with me.

More than anything I value time others spend with me. We don't have to be doing much of anything, I just want to be near the people that I love. Every year my children receive a 'Fun Day With Mom' for Christmas. No matter what they choose to do on their day I gladly, willingly, and joyfully give them my time and attention. I'll sit through movies I don't understand and can't comprehend if that's what one of them wants me to do. I'll pay for things I normally wouldn't, the time and money are theirs to spend as they see fit. There is no greater gift you can give me than your time as long as you give it willingly. Tell me - I want to spend some time with you. I have some ideas, but I'd like to hear what you would like to do. Ask me - how can we plan an outing that will be safe for you and fun for both of us? I have spent endless hours daydreaming about what I would like to be doing at any particular moment. Some of my greatest memories involve sitting around and hanging out with my friends talking about whatever beneath the sunny skies. Even if you were rich, my love doesn't cost a thing.

11. Apologize if you have hurt me or someone close to me.

At no point in time have I ever had anyone in my life that didn't require an apology. Today my manager apologized to me before I left for the day. She was angry because she felt her Christmas Eve was being threatened. I think she misunderstood what I was saying, I had a choice to make, discuss my ankle now, or wait. I chose to address it today and perhaps that wasn't the best idea. More than almost anything I hate hurting those who are close to me that I love. I will go to great lengths to avoid this ever happening, but I will also raise topics when I see that discussing them sooner prevents a later catastrophe or less than ideal situation. She didn't owe me an apology because she hadn't really done anything wrong. She hurt my feelings and her apology erased a lot of that. I don't want to get into some of the other feelings that were raised during our conversation. I left feeling better than I had, I think she felt I didn't understand where she was coming from when I actually did. Her family is everything to her and she gives so much at work she should be able to spend one day with them cooking and mourning the father who is no longer here on earth.

12. Forgive me.

When people hurt me I try to forgive them as quickly as possible, not because of anything they have done, but because I deserve that inner peace and tranquility. It greatly bothers me when I feel like I am on the outs with someone that I respect. Sometimes I respect people without loving or liking them. If I feel like we have an understanding of sorts, and I do something purposely or inadvertantly, please let me know and I will do what I can to make things right. I make a ton of mistakes. I'm not afraid to fail, I have a lot of confidence, I'm pretty sharp and bright, but I know I have hurt people's feelings and done things that I shouldn't have that hurt them. Even if we aren't close, if you can find it within yourself to forgive me for things I have done, said, or both, I will be very grateful to you and see you as having strength of character. This doesn't mean you brush things under the rug, I can handle being told I am out of line or crossed a line. Calling people names is generally a poor strategy, but if you point out where I erred and forgive me before I issue an apology, kudos to you my friend.

13. Respect my food.

Long ago I wanted to be able to go to a party and eat whatever others were having. As someone with multiple food allergies it is unsafe for me to eat certain things and you telling me that I'm not really allergic to bananas and am probably eating unripe ones tells me that you are someone I can easily live without. Telling me that you made something for me or a food is safe for me when I know it isn't communicates to me that my safety and wellbeing are not your priority and I will feel angry and controlled if you do this. I went out with a guy who wouldn't eat potato chips because he knew I was allergic to potatoes. It's not a very severe allergy, but that's the kind of behavior that makes me feel safe, loved, understood, valued, protected, and cherished. Accept the fact that I am a grown woman who has lived this long and I've had to learn some lessons the hard way. It can take me a week to recover from an allergic reaction, that's time I won't ever get back. I'll be so drugged up on whatever the emergency department sent through my veins to keep me alive I won't be able to do much other than lay around. Just be there for me, ask what would be helpful or what I need. If there's something you can do for me, I'll often tell you, but I probably need to be asked first.

14. Let me fail.

Many have been critical of my parenting style. I'm usually very critical of it myself. I have read books on parenting, taken classes, gone to therapy myself, had my children speak to professionals, involved teachers, pastors, family members, friends, neighbors, and medical professionals. I often feel like a complete parenting failure, but these are my children and believe me, I'm trying to do the best that I can given my limitations and theirs. We are intelligent, stubborn people. We color outside the lines if we bother picking up the crayons at all. I had this vision in my head before I had children. Nothing about parenting was what I expected it to be. I once started crying when my aunt told me that I was a good mother. Sometimes I feel like I am. Other times I feel like the least qualified person on earth to guide these younger beings through the world. I don't follow the rules if they don't make sense to me and I can't make myself do anything that seems nonsensical. Even if I'm going to be punished for noncompliance, I can't force myself to do what my inner core tells me to avoid. 

15. Let me risk what is mine.

Almost everyone I meet tries to talk me out of dangerous things that I want to do. If they don't outright tell me I am a foolish thrill seeker the expression on their face is often enough without the lecture. I am hard on myself in so many areas of my life that I want to break free, cut loose, and really feel alive. Obviously I no longer own a cool car so I'm no longer tempted to go out on a stretch of highway and see what my machine can do. I don't know how to fly, I don't own a sailboat, I don't have a motorcycle, or a snowmobile, the most advanced transportation mode I have is my bike apart from my car. Sports, speed, and machines do the same thing that sex does to my brain. It tells me, you worked hard and now you can play hard. Letting the wind whip through my hair and feeling the ice on my face probably doesn't make sense to you, but it does to me. I don't hook up with guys for the night, I have very high standards as far as that goes, but I can immediately sense who would be a fun playmate once we're together. When a friend of mine asked what a guy would think of me not having a bed I told her that if he needed a bed for sex he was automatically off my list; a creative lover will suggest the shower, the kitchen counter, or come up with his own ideas

16. Nurture me.

I have a lot of trouble with this. I need people to bring art supplies over and spend time doing whatever with them. I have a creative side, but it's shy and undeveloped. I can write for hours, but the scissors, glue, and construction paper are kind of scary to me. I rarely drink and I've found that I'm the type of person who will reach for a bottle whenever I need to feel calmer. Making me feel safe about exploring different artistic mediums is huge to me. It doesn't have to be expensive, we don't have to be good at it, art is meaningful to me because once I'm done I can tell a story about how what you're seeing impacts my life or represents something you may not know or see about me. When I was in college I took a ceramics class. I think I would have done better had I not been so scared and inhibited. I tend to be a very practical artist. Once I learned how to make crowns and whitening trays I was a wizard in the lab. That's the kind of thing that is a lot of fun for me. I can also rearrange your furniture or go through your kitchen or wardrobe with you and come up with solutions that may not have been immediately apparent to others. 

17. Play games with me. 

I love games. The games that are the most fun for me are those with unwritten rules. Flirting is a big game to me, but I meet so few people who understand how to really get the most out of a situation or conversation that it's often disappointing. I sense when people have a lot of sex drive. I do too and it's really hard for me since I don't sleep around. One of the biggest thrills is when we're not alone, but you make me feel like you and I are having a conversation or experience that is completely separate from the group. Intellectual stimulation is foreplay to me. Touch my hand, look at me a certain way, say things that you know I will understand that others will hear, but not interpret correctly, and I'm halfway to the big O without you removing a single item of clothing. I can literally be seduced by a handful of words and an 'accidental' touch, but if this sounds easy, know that it may be more difficult than one might think. I like to make people work for things and when he can make me feel like the stakes and temperature are climbing while holding out on me so we can both get more from the encounter, all I have to say is dang...

18. Hold me.

 I need to be held. I need someone to put their arms around me, give me a hug, kiss my cheek, and treat me like I'm that small scared child who needs comfort, support, unconditional love, and protection from real or imagined danger and evil. My mind can be a really dark place. You don't have to say anything, stand next to me, reach out to me, hold my hand, rub my back, ask if I need a bath, a snack, or a someone to make sure I get safely into bed for the night. One of the people who saved my life asked me what we could do to get me into bed without any further danger, he stayed on the phone with me until I told him I was going to be okay. He was calm, he didn't call me crazy or tell me my fears were all in my head. He gave of his time and used his soothing voice and rational mind to walk me through the bedtime routine. Brush teeth, comb hair, wash face, walk into my room, crawl under the covers; he gave me activities to do and had me cross them off of the list. The next day I sent him the contact information for my therapist. I haven't needed that since then, but it's in the back of my mind at times.

19. Let go.

Not everyone will get along with everyone else. Maybe we love each other, but we're stuck in an unhealthy relationship. I will do my best to let go and would ask that you can find it in yourself to walk away, let go, or put whatever space you think we need between us. There's a distinction I make between space which is a physical concept, and distance, which can also be physical, but usually falls under psychological or emotional to me. If it's meant to be we will find a way to reconnect. Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself or someone you love is recognize that you can't help them, your love is harming them or you, and you need to just let go. This is extremely hard to do and it can create pain and a sense of loss. It's hard for people who need or want closure, sometimes there isn't any. I don't have all of the answers and neither does anyone else. We can handle this and get through it no matter how hard it may seem. I haven't done this nearly as often as I should have in the past, but inevitably, once I do, I have that newfound sense of peace once I've come to terms with the emotions.

20. Read what I have written.

This morning I told a close friend that I am a writing machine. Writing is a large part of my identity, the day doesn't seem complete unless I've written something somewhere and I have friends who have received scribbled poetry on the backs of envelopes or bills I need to pay because that's what was handy. I need to write. I need people to read and try to understand me because I don't always understand myself very well. Writing is a way to learn more about me and I love hearing feedback even if you tell me that what I wrote sucks. To read me is to know me, to know me is to try and love me. My mom hasn't read anything I've written since I wrote Shore Tears. She told me she wanted to read things I wrote so I sent that to her. She said it made her cry, but then she was critical of it and not in a helpful way. Tell me it sucks, but also tell me how I can make it better, if you can't do that, your feedback isn't constructive and then I think you're being intentionally hurtful. I try hard not to hold back, but critical feedback can be delivered tactfully too.

21. Let me be.

You may or may not be a person who wants to change others. I will change on my own, in my time, when I feel that change is needed. I try to accept others for who they are, and would request that you do the same. I need that kind of acceptance. Show me why changing will benefit me, don't try to sell me change. I need space, I need time to be by myself and just think. I also need someone to come over, turn off the computer, put away the books, turn on the faucet, and tell me to do my dishes. I'm not perfect and I try to keep improving, but at some point in time I am chasing a futility and my time would be better invested elsewhere. You don't have to understand me. I am weird. I'm quirky, I'm okay with that. My life is somewhat unconventional. I will tell you anything you want to know, but you have to ask for it and you have to make me feel like I'm getting something in return. I like two way streets which is funny because many of my relationships feel one sided in some manner or another. I need people who are playful to keep me from being too serious, but present it in a loving and fun manner rather than telling me there's something wrong with me because I can write a book a month and can't figure out how to tell anyone else what I am feeling.

22. Share your sense of humor with me.

Be witty. Be outrageous, be clever and silly, amuse me by what you say, how you say it, and the things that you do. Be sarcastic, tell me puns, laugh out loud, smile at me. My youngest daughter raises her eyebrow at me, my oldest makes me laugh when she pretends we are at a country tea party in Jolly Old Victorian England. My aunt and I call each other Vicky and have for the past sixteen years. Two of my sisters call me Jerry and that's what I call them. I have dozens of nicknames, pet names, and inside jokes that only me and my friends think are hilariously funny. A guy I can't stand once told me I would be the perfect Ice Princess if only I were taller. My friend from California is a die hard Dodgers fan, he calls me The Snow Queen and I know it's not just because I live in Wisconsin. Send me YouTube videos that mock minimalism and I will laugh hard. Your scathing political humor is welcome here as are your droll comments about relief pitchers, bunting, sac flies, diving into first base, and your scorching hot flat earth takes. My manager has a great sense of humor and so do most of my friends. Whether it's wacky word play or a deadpan delivery I am a sucker for those who can make me laugh. 

***

And now it's time for some conversational fragments:

***

Her: "I'm sorry I snapped at you."

Me (feeling immediately better): "It's okay. I forgive you. You don't owe me an apology."

Her (standing up to hug and kiss me): "It's not okay. That's how I was raised, you do something wrong and you apologize..." She said more, but I was so lost in feelings of love and safety that I couldn't process anything more.

***

Him: "Always trust your gut. I turned down a job in October for similar reasons - just didn't feel right."

Me: "Thank you for that validation because I'm second guessing myself. Glad you honored yourself that way, shows maturity not that I ever had a reason to believe otherwise <baseball emoji>."

Him: "Sometimes you just know what's right."

***

Me: "Can't get you out of my head so I decided to drop by and say hi, positive the glamour of your job has you sipping scotch while overlooking the Scottish moors when you're enjoying a heated discussion on strategic chess openings <winking emoji>."

Him: "Great to hear from you Jessica! Love the imagery, hysterical! I'm in Tokyo, wishing I could get a view of the eclipse, but obviously, not here. Hoping you're well & I'll share the scotch, no worries."

***

Me after reading a heartfelt message that contains private info: "This is ridiculous. I'm so sorry to hear you've been dismissed, particularly as <redacted>, and you have more than atoned for your sins. I've never cared for her and can't imagine why she didn't use the block function if she felt so threatened. Please keep in touch and know that if you need a character reference I shall be more than happy to provide one. I just read her dig at you. I'm so sorry sweetie..."

Him: Thanks Jess, I will. At the end of the day I'm sorry for any hurt I caused her and I want only the best for her and any of the women who have been involved in this. I want this world to be better than it is and I want to be confident that I'm doing my part to make it so."

Me: "You are. Just be you."

***

Him: U r just earning respect from real baseball and real sports fans. Don't stop, I hear u loud and clear!"

Me: "Ha! Thank you. The majority of the time I am very respected and feel the love. He has no right to question what I tweet or retweet. Buzz off buddy. My dad is dead and you are not in charge of me."

Him: "Ignorance is bliss."

Me: "Truth."

***

Him: "I know from personal experience that they find their way through such things. I have five kids all grown up now and their mother and I had a tumultuous relationship. We all came out of it better. Trust in yourself to guide them regardless of what is said or done around them. They work it out."

Me: "Thank you so much for that. I'm trying to work on myself more and stress less. So much of what I worry about is completely pointless and will never happen anyways. Just have to love them and myself more."

Him: "Now you're talking. This is the best posture to maintain. I find there's so much we cannot manage around us and it's like you say, it's pointless to worry. Stay focused on the stuff you know you can easily deal with, love the last line in your message, you said it. Now just do it. Cheers."

***

Me: "Help me remember to get cash. I just got my nails done and forgot I didn't have cash."

Him: "What did they do, take them off?" 

This is still one of the funniest work memories that doesn't include my manager. Sometimes the delivery is everything. 

***

Me: "Can I get my employee discount please?"

Him (waits for a while as if contemplating my order): "No."

He was kidding, but since he was so calm and matter of fact I didn't know he was joking. I swore I was going to get back at him and then one day I did. I work with fun people.

***

Me: "I can be pretty emotional." 

Woman one: "I'm pretty logical."

Woman two (raises her eyes and gives me the look): "What is this, opposite day?"

This was hilarious, but maybe you had to be there.

***

Her: "But, what if I had a boyfriend?"

Me: "You don't have one. Stop worrying about problems you don't have right now."

I didn't think this was particularly funny, but she still brings it up as one of the moments when I made her laugh.

***

Me: "Either way, could you do me a favor and keep in touch?"

Him in his very British accent: "Oh absolutely. Of couse I'll keep in touch."

I have the best friends.

jj

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