Take your worries for a walk.

Sing your worries a song. Dance with them. Tell them a joke. Or bake them a pie.

I love this idea. I mean, I totally love it.

It’s the rarest of gifts: a brand new idea. At least  it is for me. I didn’t make it up. I found it online, attributed to Dr. SunWolf, in the form of these words: Invite your melancholy outside for a walk.  Or read it a poem.  Or bake it chocolate chip cookies.  

Hmm. Melancholy. That’s a word you don’t see much these days. Well, there are actually times when I feel something like melancholy. Not always, thank goodness. Not even most of the time. But worried? Now you’re talking my language. Almost never is when I’m not worrying about something. Or more accurately, a lot of things.

There are the ritual worries (Did I turn off the stove?), the mama worries (Are the kids all right?), performance worries (Am I working hard enough?), dumb worries (Are my arms too fat?), widespread worries (Can this plane really fly?), phobic worries (Is that a snake?), panic worries (Is this a heart attack?), and achievement worries (Did I list enough worries? Did I overdo it? Am I boring them already?). You know how it is.

When I turn out the light and close my eyes at night, my worries swarm in. Like clowns piling out of a circus car, they push and shove their way into my line of sight. I hear their call: “Now that it’s quiet, it’s the perfect time for you to think about… Us!”

Some of them masquerade as helpful reminders (“Are you sure you couldn’t do that better if you gave it a bit more thought? Right now?”) Others just bust their way in with sledgehammers (“Your sedentary lifestyle is going to kill you!”) And even though, after all these years, I’ve come to expect their arrival, it’s hard to loosen their grip.  Often impossible.

That’s why I love this idea of taking your worries for a walk. I love it so much that I want to hold it on my lap and give it a big kiss. Because: if you can take your worries for a walk, or paint them a picture, or warm them a bowl of split pea soup, that must mean that you and your worries are not one and the same. You are one thing. And your worries are another.

I don’t know about you. But up until now, I have never questioned the notion that my worries and I were inseparable. Whither I goeth, here cometh my worries. Up until now, my range of responses to worries has consisted of two options: 1. Worry. 2. Try not to worry (a strategy that so rarely works, there’s really only one option, which is: worry).

But now comes a new perspective: The summons to worry can be ignored. It has no basis in law. Or physics. You and your worries are separate entities. You are not knotted together into the same straight jacket. You can be pried apart. There can be a space between you. And worries.

By which I’m definitely not saying, “Don’t worry.” Because, as we’ve already noted, that approach does not get the job done. Worrying is a habit. It’s a well-worn path. An old familiar. It’s the way we’ve always done things around here.

What I am saying is that later on tonight, when I close my eyes and my worries crank up the volume, I think I’ll try something new.

“Hey! Short time, no see!” I may say. “Take a seat in that comfy chair, way in the back. Put your feet up. I’ll get to you when I can. If you hear me singing, feel free to hum along.”

And in the meantime, I think I’ll go for a walk.

Posted in affirmation, boundaries, encouragement, gratitude, inspiration, kindness, peace of mind | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

When I’m 64. And a half.

This past Sunday afternoon, my granddaughter’s best friend threw her a surprise 17th birthday party. It was great. You know how, a lot of times, the surprisee figures out the plan beforehand? Well, this time, Ms. Birthday didn’t have a clue.  She was so surprised when we yelled “surprise” that she burst into tears and locked her keys in the car with the motor still running.

With complete objectivity, I have to say, my granddaughter is one absolutely terrific girl. A primo girl. Beautiful inside and out. Which is both totally wonderful and totally weird for me. Because she’s 17. And she’s my granddaughter.

By which I mean – HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE? To wit: The other day, when I told this same girl the name of my new blog, shygirltalking, her response was, “But you’re not a girl!”

Yes. Okay. I was expecting that. I knew what she meant. She wasn’t saying that I’m not female. She was talking about the age thing. Because she knows this is mine: 64. And a half.

Plus, I’d already said it to myself. Whenever a grownup woman uses the word “girl” to refer to herself, there’s always a disapproving wag of the finger from the feminist in her head.  As in, don’t demean me by calling me a girl. I’m a woman. W.O.M.A.N. And not only that. I’m a full-time, walking, talking, AARP card-carrying, do-what-you-have-to-do-when-you-have-to-do-it Grownup. Woman.

Damn right. Most of the time. Or at least some of the time.

Susan Spangler, shy girl talking, pictures & words

Because, in spite of the countless ways that my body is determined to validate the laws of gravity, the girl I was is still inside. All the girls. You know what I mean, right? The whole “inner child” thing?  Kindergarten girl. Elementary girl. Middle school girl. High school girl (that one’s definitely in it for the long haul).

Goofy, dreamy, scared, shy. They’re all still there. Still wanting, needing, whining, giggling, longing. Still demanding to be heard.

The way it feels to me, life in the grownup zone is a series of internal, eternal negotiations between the woman and her girls. Ego and id(iots). So that, at any point, you’re the age that you are – plus all the ages you ever were.

First, there was that insatiable yearning to grow up. After that, the sense of infinite possibility that lasted for years. Then, poof! All of a sudden, 60 looms. To paraphrase a line from the Sopranos rerun we watched last night, life gives us the dubious gift of knowing when we’re getting old.

Wait! What? Old? Are you talkin’ to me? No, no, no. That wasn’t on my agenda. I’m not ready yet. The girls aren’t ready.

The girls thought they had a choice? Come on. All that time you spent thinking that “old” was something separate and different from you? Check with the mirror. (Not that 64 is actually old in today’s world. Or even looks that old. My mother is 91. She thinks all this talk ridiculous. She can still jitterbug and recite Shakespeare, and she knows from old.)

But to get back to my point… What was it, again? Ah, yes. Getting older. Entering a new phase of life. Which, as always, entails the process of revising your self-image. Which is exhausting. The brain rebels each time it has to be done. Especially this time.

In fact, it sometimes feels as if we humans aren’t equipped to encompass the idea of our own aging process. Probably because it took a few million years before any humans actually lived long enough to become old. So, in order to age gracefully, each one of us has to take a kind of evolutionary leap.

And even after we’ve leapt into this mysterious new territory, the girls are still hanging on. Still our sidekicks. Our constant companions. If we’re lucky, some of them may have learned a thing or two along the way. Take Shy Girl, for example. She’s finally figured out how to talk. Even if it did take her 64 years. And counting.

Posted in encouragement, inner child, inspiration, peace of mind | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

the comfort zone

Don’t you love that phrase? Me, too. So reassuring to imagine that there’s a tangible place where you can feel comfortable. And comforted.

The comfort zone. Where did that idea come from? About 30 seconds of online research taught me that it was first used to refer to the range of comfortable temps on a thermostat. Okay. There’s that. But my comfort zone looks more like this:

Susan Spangler, shy girl talking, comfort zone, pictures & words

Our living room. Not an exact replica. I’ve moved the furniture around several times since I drew that picture. There’s a lot more art on the walls and clutter in general. Not to mention, it has an actual ceiling that’s painted, well, white. But it’s close enough. If you walked in the front door, I think you’d recognize it.

I’m a homebody. That doesn’t mean I’m a good housekeeper (ahem). I just love to be at home. In the center of the comfort zone.

Here’s what got me thinking about zones of comfort: Blogging. Specifically, writing this blog. And beyond that, personal blogs in general. Two years ago, according to Wikipedia, there were more than 156 million blogs online. By now there must be a zillion. Lots of them sell things and offer advice. Maybe most.

Probably no one knows how many blogs are up there or out there or wherever the Internet is in space. I mean, how could anyone possibly keep track? I guess there must be algorithms to extrapolate percentages from small samplings. If a person knew how to create an algorithm. Or what an algorithm actually is.

But anyway. My theory is that a hefty portion of blogs are probably a lot like this one. A kind of journal, with unlimited pages. A place to reflect on ideas and feelings and experiences. A sort of a conversation. Except that you don’t know who’s listening. If anyone.

And for a shy person, that part is okay. It’s kind of intriguing, really. Putting your thoughts out there. Into the space between the comfort zone and the rest of the world.

Posted in boundaries, comfort zone, encouragement, home, inspiration | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment


“Everyone who has taken a shower has had an idea.
It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and
does something about it that makes a difference.”
–Nolan Bushnell

I saw that quote online last night. I see a lot of quotes online these days. Who doesn’t, right?

Anyway, the guy who said it was, as you can see, Nolan Bushnell. I never heard of him, but his quote made him sound very bushy-tailed. You know, a get-up-&-go type. I googled him. He is: founder of Atari, Inc. and Chuck-E-Cheese. An interesting combination, don’t you think? He’s in the Video Game Hall of Fame. He’s also on the board of Anti-Aging Games and a founder of BrainRush, which incorporates brain science and game technology to develop educational software. I’m impressed. He must have some amazing showers.

But back to the quote. On goodreads.com, where I found it, all the quotes are followed by hashtags. You know, so if you like this quote, you can click to others like it. And one of the hashtags for this one was #showerthinking. I love that, don’t you?

We all know about #showerthinking. It’s a lot like #doingthedishesthinking and #drivingthecarthinking, right? One of my friends also refers to #swimmingthinking. But I think the best kind of #thinking takes place in those few moments after you wake up on the rare mornings when you didn’t have to set the alarm and no one else is around to disturb you.

You’ve drifted out of your last dream of the night, your eyes open, and it’s as if your brain has been washed clean. You have a few thoughts, fresh as dew. Maybe, if you’re really lucky, an idea pops by. It doesn’t stay long. Moments of clarity are always short. But while they last, it feels so good.

So this morning was one of those for me. I #wokeupthinking that I’d start a blog. Today. I got into the shower. I thought up the name: Shy Girl Talking. Because that’s me. And here it is.

Thank you, Nolan Bushnell.

Posted in encouragement, inspiration | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments