Thursday, July 18, 2013

Trolls in the forest

 The average troll

Last night, I was to have the house to myself. Larry was traveling and Sam, who plays Sunset League baseball, had a game. I had a new movie to watch as well as a new novel to start and would prepare my favorite "me" dinner of steak and tater tots (it used to be tacos before I made tacos half a million times for my children).

We were in the middle of a heat wave. It would be over 90 degrees when Sam threw the first pitch.Frankly, I didn't think he should play, but he's 18, he's a college sophomore, and does this for fun. 

Mid-morning, Larry texted me "suggesting" I try and catch Sam's game. He had been looking forward to it himself before his trip came up, maybe I could go instead.  

Well, no, I thought. I will not be Mommy and Daddy tonight. Tonight I will be Mommy handing Sam his water and sunscreen as he leaves, and making him his own dinner of steak and tater tots when he gets back. 

I was fine with this. Until my troll showed up.  Her name is "Selfish Mother."  

Selfish Mother reminded me of how life is short and that Sam will probably be too busy next summer to even come home and while he is on the field, doesn't he deserve to see someone cheering him on from the stands? Does it even matter that he had to explain to you in (embarrassingly) recent years that in baseball you have to be up to score?  Of course not. Was it your happy, proud face that mattered? Yes, it was. With all the opportunities I have to do exactly what I want, asked Selfish Mother, couldn't I just eek out a few hours for the sake of my son's happiness? 

In comparison, asked Selfish Mother, would this be my last opportunity to have steak and tater tots? 

As promised, today I will discuss trolls.   

First, a word about Mood Therapy (est 1980-ish) ) which is about changing our view of reality by changing what we tell ourselves about it. It is based on scrutinizing self-talk. Anyone who has even flipped through a self-help book knows that self-talk goes on every minute of the day, and not always in silence if you can drive and pretend to be on the phone.

Every now and then, like everyone does, I get hung up on a negative thought, or a social stumble, or a mistake that might have hurt someone's feelings.  Sometimes my "self-talk" leads me to sulking or dwelling, or feeling guilty, etc. Other times my self-talk leads me to the drive-thru at McDonald's, where it is very supportive of cheeseburgers, as long as I don't have fries.

When we're fragile, or feeling insecure, or overwhelmed, or unloved, or not popular, or haven't published our novels yet, self-talk can be very unfriendly.  

I call this "Trolls in the Forest-talk" and as crazy as it sounds, (that's"Crazy Troll" talking) I've shared my thoughts about troll-talk with people I respect who have responded with, "That's. So.True."  When someone says "That's. So.True," a blog post is born.


Susan's Trolls in the Forest Philosophy for all Ages

 Life is a forest.  It is a magical, sunlit, dense-with-meaning, occasionally gloomy, but overall mystical place of beauty. There will be paths, of course, some which exist and some which may need to be forged. The length and depth of the forest is not known, but it's not your job to know. It's your job to travel, take in the surroundings and rest when you need to.

In every forest are trolls. They vary in shape and size, some are fierce and frightening, some are big and annoying. None of them are attractive. They will stop you. They will tell you things. They will make you sit with them. They aren't pleasant, yet they seem truthful so you listen.

As you listen to troll-talk, the forest grows gloomy. The path looks different and difficult now, shrouded in shadows from overhead, gnarly branches.  Your troll ignores this and continues to advise you of your mistakes, your failures and your shortcomings. You wonder: could  such an ugly troll be right? But there you sit, listening.

When you realize you need to move on, your troll leaves you and you resume your travel but now you're thinking about how tired you are, how hungry, how hard this journey really is. You think about this instead of things you should be thinking about and the forest darkens around you. You suspend travel for another day. 

Your troll meanwhile, has moved down the path to wait for you.

The thing to remember about trolls is that they are there to challenge your confidence and attitudes. They thrive on making you question yourself. It's their job. When a troll has done its job, it's good for another visit.  The only way to deal with a troll is to look right at it and call it what it is. 

If you're a visual type (and by now in this post, I hope you are) look at the troll . Talk to it. Say, "Troll" and move on.  If another troll pops up further along do the same thing. Have fun. Punch your troll, push your troll over, maybe refer your troll to the forest of someone who done you wrong. But keep moving.

Some people can't see the forest for the trolls, but with all my heart, I believe we would like to. Keep your reasonable mind open and clear because it casts light on the path and trolls don't enjoy a well-lit path. They lose their power, they shrink. Eventually they become too small to see and get stepped on which is how many trolls meet their end.

The End

My troll wanted me to attend the game out of guilt. I told my troll that guilt as a motive is more selfish than anything, and then I pushed my troll over. 

Then, I kind of wanted to change my plans. 
I kind of wanted to see an inning or two. 
Maybe three. 
I kind of wanted to wring another nice memory out of the summer.

Sam smiled at me from the mound.
He pitched a shut-out. 
Later,we had steak and tater tots together, and he explained what "shut-out" means.

All is well in the forest.


  1. Great post. My life, at times, can be taken over by trolls. I am going to remember your advice the next time they dare to appear!

  2. Yes, on some days, mine too. Just remember, they're loud, but you're bigger.