Show up where your people are. You might learn a thing or two about them and about yourself.
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Welcome to the Crying in my cheesecake podcast. I am Danielle your host here, and I am grateful that you were here. I promise I’m not saying that flippantly. I really am grateful if you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen the, I began playing Fortnite. With my oldest son, this past fall, he’s been playing it for about two years now, and quite frankly, I got so dang annoyed. Everything out of his mouth was fortnight. This fortnight that some kind of speak of legendary and rare, an item shop time or whatever. I got fed up with it and found myself bitter angry and truly resentful that I even allowed a PlayStation four and fortnight into my house to begin with.
The thing is, I know why I was bitter and angry over it. It had become an addiction with my son. You see my husband and I have very addictive personalities and what was actually making me bitter and angry over my son’s constant Fortnite chatter was that he was displaying behaviors that I know all too well. For me, all I could talk about was my next meal. How delicious a specific food was, how much I’d long or even lust for a certain food or drink, et cetera. If I wasn’t talking about food, I’d for sure be thinking about it. In my episode in the season one was called Pinterest and porn. You’ll see how quickly scrolling Pinterest was like porn to me and would make me feel hungry and then I’d go eat when I was, for sure, not even hungry to begin with. Scrolling, Pinterest caused me to start the habit queue scrolling was my trigger, and seeing the beautiful food plates was my cue. My routine was to scroll for as long as I needed, and then my routine was to go to the kitchen and eat. My reward, I was satisfied or gratified in that moment when I obviously felt lonely, angry, or specifically for me, my emotional trigger is disappointment.
You see, I’ve been in a good place for years now, years. And until recently I say recently, probably about December-ish of 2021, I was encountered with a disappointment, again. I entered into a relationship with someone really, probably this past summer of 2021. I absolutely adore this person, and then like so many people in my life, this person greatly disappointed me, left me high and dry. Literally, like in school when the teacher said group project time, and I always felt like I got stuck with people who started off great and then never did their fair share of work. Not only was I left overwhelmed and exhausted from double the work, but my family life suffered my homeschooling of the kids suffered in my mind. It wasn’t the traditional hours. We were doing school. My mental health went to the pits because I literally worked for six weeks every single day, every single day, I didn’t get a break, and if I did have a break, I was still on call with my clients and the joint projects that had more clients.
One day I snapped at my husband. I went upstairs and sat in the bathroom and I just cried. I knew I had hit my wall. I knew something needed to change. And I realized the scale had gone up some the physical, you know, like my weight scale, my sleep was suffering and that lingering feeling of disappointment came bubbling to the surface as the root cause of my mental decline. You see disappointment as a trigger for me to lose myself, I forget who I am, I forget to take care of myself.
I feed myself inflammatory foods while that may be within my caloric budget. These inflammatory foods don’t work well for my body and they actually perpetuate the cycle of feeling like crap all the time, mentally and physically. I realized during this breakdown that I needed to do something different. I had to face this problem that was laid in my lap head-on. I faced it, confronted it, and there was no resolution. And even at the time of recording this episode, there’s still no resolution. I had to do some very hard things and the disappointment has been in my face every day. Disappointment is my trigger of addictive behaviors, food and alcohol.
I know this and I realized I was engaging in inappropriate behaviors around food again. I wasn’t exercising like I wanted to, my body felt like it was fighting a flu nonstop. Because you see, my body feels just like fighting a flu because the body inflames to fight off illnesses too. It’s that same rundown feeling. Instead of pushing myself further, I decided to slow down. I did the bare minimum I needed to keep my business going and I embraced my son’s fortnight. If I don’t understand something, I want to learn more about it firsthand. Come to find out fortnite taught me even more about myself and what I’m actually doing in this life.
Three things I’ve learned since playing Fortnite is the first one is my son is more like me than I realized. My son has gotten so much better at choosing friends. The people he plays with online are people he knows most of the time or connected to the people he knows. When he was younger, he had trouble making friends, and quite frankly, he still does sometimes because he’s so much more mature than most people, his age. The things that he is interested in, the kids, his age are not. He gets annoyed with immature banter and immature games. I learned my son is so much like me. I struggled with making friends and I still do.
I clearly have issues with friendships because most of the relationships in my life take from me and don’t feel reciprocal. I’m not saying I need to be reciprocated on everything, but there are very few people in this world to provide me growth opportunities or make me feel like we’re on the same level or similar outlook on life. I see that happening with him too. Playing Fortnite with my son, has allowed me to help my son navigate relationships and help him know that it’s okay to not be on the same page as others, and it’s okay to be acquaintances with people and not friends with some.
The second thing I learned is, I already knew this, but I love boys. I was a middle school English teacher for four and a half years. I taught inner city, eighth grade English, and I loved it. Like I get excited thinking about it, the boys were my favorite character. I’m an English teacher, character. And the boys were my favorite character because they were the most emotional people and truly the most gentle of souls. Watching boys navigate their place in the world while having all sorts of outside influences that, of course the hormonal changes inside, was so stinking precious to witness.
The thing is, playing with my son online with his friends, the core group of boys fight each other to play with me. You see, you can only have four people playing in squads. Please don’t ask me why this is the case, but you can only have four. Well, two slots are taken by my son and myself. So then that only leaves two slots for two other boys. When I was just starting playing and quite frankly, I still suck compared to all of them. They would take turns, staying with me to keep me safe. Literally, my son would call out, stay with my mom or the boys would say, who’s got, and they use my screen name. They provide me direction and actually teach me how to get better. I think that’s actually really cool.
I think that reminds me why I prefer the company of men when I was younger. I loved being taught and led and directed, but in a safe environment, it allows me to thrive. As I was originally writing and thinking through this episode I had tears in my eyes remembering just how much I grew up around these men in my community and how I was allowed a seat at the table. Moments with the boys on Fortnite remind me, even though they’re 11 year-old boys, these boys are being raised by great parents who are also teaching them what a man should be. And I see little pieces of leadership in them and it brings tears to my eyes. I love boys. I also love seeing that these boys are like encouraged to live out what masculinity is. And I don’t know, it’s just, it is so precious and such an honor that I get to play with them. There is a girl that plays sometimes and her mom told her after she was like, oh my gosh, Danielle plays with me when you play with me. And her mom said, that’s ridiculous, that I play. And I’m like, you know, what’s ridiculous? Honestly, is when parents aren’t meeting their kids where they are not showing up in the spaces that they are to help guide and love them well. That’s, what’s ridiculous, and I will go off on that some more. Maybe later if we get there. If not, maybe another time.
The third thing I learned is that I too need to be careful where my time goes, the connections I’ve made on the game with my son and his friends opened my eyes to why my son only talked about the game and his friends, et cetera. I found myself doing the same to my husband and being that annoying person. My husband has been completely fine this whole time with my son and now me, because he’s like you get it now. Some of us just love to play games because it’s a challenge and it’s not risky or unsafe. He gets it. He thinks it’s funny that I play Fortnite, but he’s not into that kind of game, my husband’s not. He’s more into games like Zelda, Mario, civilization. But I grew up playing Call of Duty. When I was in off season after school, I used to drive to one of my friend’s house and there were, there was two guys and me and we played Call of Duty for like an hour, and then I’d go home and do my homework.
It was just fun to let down and play something mindless and yet be challenged in another way. The thing is, just like anyone in any, anything else I need to be careful where my time goes. I complained so much about how long my son was on the video games. But, then I saw myself sliding into that tendency too. The responsible, healthy Danielle knows she needs to set timers. So I do now. When I get on to play, I tell the boys how much time I have, and they’re like, okay. They actually keep me on my target, by the way now. And it’s funny how, when we speak up for ourselves and say what our boundaries are, the others will abide by them and keep you to your boundaries. In fact, when I get on the boys will ask how much time do you have mama?
And then they help me by keeping me honest with the time. And you know what, it’s interesting because the kids do the same thing, I have until 9:30 till bedtime, crazy isn’t it. How we can build that community. All that, to say that fortnight brought about a lot of emotions for me, and a lot of acceptance and encouragement to do what I need to do when I need to do it. It’s reinforced my boundaries with people, my business, and my priorities. It’s helped me build relationships with my son and his friends and their parents, most of their parents all know me. Fortnite has opened my eyes to another layer of acceptance of who I really am. And that is okay.