Month: September 2013

Happy Birthday! (AKA When My Sister Slept With My Ex-Boyfriend)

Let me tell you a little story*. It’s about relationship lines.

*I’m particularly fond of this story, because it involves my sister, and she is one of the funniest people I know. Usually, without even trying to be. She’s also perhaps the single best story teller I know (I won’t ever try to compete with her in that arena). She doesn’t consider herself an artist, but I think she’s subversively creative and brilliant in a most unexpected way. And if she tells you a story, it will be absolutely true– but seriously one of the most ridiculous things you’ve ever come across. And you will probably spit out your beer and/or pee your pants. I would literally base my choice of a life partner on if they had the same sense of humor as us. She’s just that crazy.

It’s like, she was god’s special gift to me. Like the time she photoshopped eye liner on a picture of herself sleeping with our new dog before she would let me post it (it was about showing off the puppy, to be clear). Or another favorite of mine, her take on the one night stand: “Maybe it’s just not [for] you… But I could never imagine my life without it.” She also makes awesome clay-mation animals.

Basically, we are yin and yang. She’s my best friend and she totally balances me out. And whenever we spend time together, I am usually typing or scribbling away, because I can’t keep up with all the amazing things coming out of her mouth and I must have them all written down (I used to do this with Leo, too). I still maintain I could make a killing if I ever was able to accurately convey her stories on paper. Since this one involves me and my ex boyfriend, both rather demure characters compared to her, it is watered down by our lameness (sorry Leo–I’ll take most of the responsibility for it).

Anyway, this is one of those examples of her making my life ridiculous. She just kind of does that, wherever she goes. It’s like confetti on New Year’s in Times Square, but 364, 24/7. (I won the sister lottery)

So this summer my boyfriend of a long time and I broke up. I call him “Leo”. My sister’s name is “Camilla”, for the purpose of this blog (and because it sounded like something she would never choose as an alias for herself). We moved into a farm house together (not the Phish one, but similar, I’m sure) in May. They’ve always loved each other, but especially once we all moved in, it became apparent that they were totally hitting it off.

I would come home from work every night (well, the nights I worked) to find them hanging out at the kitchen table (this was an upgrade from Leo’s and my last apartment, in which we’d made the kitchen the “art studio” and ate most of our meals in bed– and that was most of the extent of what happened there). They would invariably be in deep discussion about something I had utterly no interest in either listening, or contributing to.

This made the transition from couple (with either of them) to threesome a little tricky for me. Separately, I loved my sister and I loved my boyfriend. But together, I felt alien to them both. They had so much in common that I just didn’t share. It wasn’t because I felt left out or my feelings were hurt (neither of those were the case). It was because I realized how little I had in common with both of them, compared to them together.

I was glad that my two closest people loved each other. On the other hand, after awhile I just wanted a buddy of my own. I wanted to have a boyfriend who I could talk with (and we’d both actually care about what the other had to say) as well as they did with each other. Seeing them reminded me what I wanted to have with someone, that Leo and I had somewhere along the way, lost.

I still knew I was the glue that held them together, and I loved them both and knew they loved me back. I was happy they’d found a friend who just so happened to live with them (very convenient, especially for a chatty Cathy like Leo).

One time, Camilla swore he brought home donuts for them to share because he knew it would snare her into staying up late and talking with him after work (yes, he’s that heartbreakingly adorable– sometimes).

And sometimes I felt like I was getting a babysitting package out of the deal; their adoration for hanging out with each other allowed me some of my coveted alone time, so it wasn’t all that bad.

But eventually, I came to understand, in part through their relationship, that Leo wasn’t “it” for me. He didn’t care about the things I wanted to babble on about, and I felt the same with him. It wasn’t right or wrong, we’d just grown in different directions.

Within this new family we’d created, I was the odd man out. The fact that I didn’t even feel jealous, gave me room for pause. I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything in particular by not being involved in their verbal exchange. The fact was, if I was going to be in a relationship, I just wanted to be with someone who was on the same page as me. We loved each other, but our interests and personalities had stagnated. We didn’t challenge each other anymore.

That he was sitting there, getting on like ladies in a knitting circle with my sister (who was totally loving it, as well), only served as a stark contrast to what we’d lost in our relationship over the last five (and a half– not sure why I always feel compelled to tag that on) years. Hey, things happen.

So we broke up after my best friend Hilary’s wedding (the first one I’d ever been to).

And yes, I’m that weird, that it took me going through the whole day with her to really understand what a “big deal” marriage was. (I just never knew!) But watching Hilary and her now-husband exchange vows in front of everyone shook me. Not only was it sweet and emotional, I realized that I couldn’t imagine myself saying those things to him. We just weren’t there anymore, if we had ever been.

It wasn’t lack of love, it was lack of compatibility. He was more compatible with Camilla, at least in the way that made you want to hang out with someone, if I was being honest with myself.

There was more to it than that, but this is about Camilla and Leo. And how they broke us up. Just kidding.

So we broke up. He lived with us for another six weeks or so while he saved up money to move out to Colorado. That went pretty well– I even wrote a post about why you should live with your ex-boyfriend– until the end. (I didn’t finish that post, because by the end I wasn’t sure it actually was a good idea, after all).

The last few days, we almost killed each other. But that’s a story for another time. He moved out August tenth. (Eventually, it became a countdown until the tenth, I think for us both.) His birthday, however, was August fifteenth. So five days after he had finally moved out, he texted my sister asking her if she wanted to go out and get a drink.

They’d gone out plenty of times before (I’m not super into going downtown, and besides that, you can’t exactly go out drinking with your ex-boyfriend. It’s just not kosher… Living together? That’s totally fine.). They’d both told me stories of people mistaking him for her boyfriend and vice versa. I never thought anything of it, but I laughed at the stories and appreciated the ridiculousness of anyone thinking that the soul equivalent of siblings, were sleeping together. (Blech!)

I went to bed nice and early that night, and woke up early, too. Part of me felt like I’d dodged a bullet, not having to go out. It may have been one of the first perks of our break up. I’d woken up at some point early in the morning and had heard them coming back, along with an unfamiliar male voice. So I knew they’d come back with a guy, and knowing Camilla and her man-eating ways, I simply assumed it was the guy Camilla was going to sleep with. (She does love her some one night stands)

So when I got up to make myself some tea, I expected to see Leo on the couch. I was kind of looking forward to hearing about the stupidness that had gone down the night before. He and Camilla never disappointed with ridiculous bar stories from the evening (funny at first, but after awhile it always seemed to be a slightly different version of the same thing. In fact, I don’t know why I kept falling for asking them how it went…).

But instead of Leo’s crazy hair on a pillow (and maybe some melted sherbet smeared across his chest, which was his signature move after a night of heavy drinking and summer time heat), I was surprised to find my sister’s friend Jack (someone with whom she had a romantic history) camped out on the living room floor.

As soon as I walked in, Jack woke up and started complaining to me how he was sleeping on the living room floor. I don’t know if he expected me to give him my bed, or what. Then he told me that he had expected that he would sleep with Camilla when they came back from the bars, but instead, she’d taken out some extra blankets and told him that Leo was sleeping with her.

So, that made things a little more interesting than just throwing a tea bag in some hot water, as I’d originally intended to focus on for the next five minutes.

I didn’t really know what to think. It was his birthday, and he’d spent it sleeping in my sister’s bed– with the bedroom door closed distinctly shut (stuck so shut, I couldn’t even try to quietly pry it open in order to get a lay of the land, if you know what I mean). In fact, I’d noted that when I woke up, and took it as evidence that she’d hooked up with whomever they’d brought home from the bar.

But I tried not to jump to conclusions. Part of me wanted to laugh, but part of me said it was too early for this type of shenanigan (and maybe that I needed a nap already). My stomach did a little flip. I definitely wanted him to be happy, but with my sister? I knew they loved each other but it had never seemed in any way sexual. It was something to wrap my head around, for sure.

My mind jumped to conclusions; what I would do if they decided to get married? What would I wear? How awkward would it be, on a scale of 1-10?

When Leo and I were breaking up, I’d said to Camilla (kind of joking), “You date him! Keep him in the family.”

Because we both loved him and neither of us wanted to see him leave our lives; it just wasn’t right for me and him relationship-wise. Now that this offer I’d made had potentially panned out, I was stuck wondering if it was one of those “be careful what you wish for” scenarios.

After stewing on and off all morning while I tried to keep myself busy with chores (someone had thrown a pizza crust into the recycling, but unfortunately that only took a few seconds of my time to correct). I finally came to a conclusion (it came in three parts, as all good conclusions are wont to do):

First of all, I’d wanted to break up with Leo; I knew it was the right thing.

Second, I wasn’t pining for him.

And third, I genuinely wanted him to be happy.

So if that happiness was for some strange reason with my sister, who was I to stand in the way of that? That would just be selfish and ultimately stupid, because it certainly wouldn’t bring me any closer to finding my own best partner (who I could be fairly certain, wasn’t my sister, either).

If, by some stroke of fate, they had indeed begun to fall in love and last night was their consummation of said love (sort of weird brother-sister type love that apparently had gone totally under my radar) then who was I to stand in their way? They’re both adults; they can make their own decisions.

I knew deep down something I’d always valued was open-mindedness in allowing people in your life to form their own relationships. And being secure in yourself, in terms of your own value to your friends and family, to not require extreme forms of loyalty to prove it.

Basically, that’s a fancy way of saying I decided I didn’t care if my sister dated my boyfriend. And in return, I like to imagine that the same is true, that someone would grant me the freedom to be with who I wanted, even if it meant dating their ex or sister/brother (it just occurred to me that not being lesbian, the sister thing is probably a moot point, but hey, I’ll keep my options open).

In other words, I only wanted to dish out what I could take, and I knew if it ever came down to it, I would appreciate that freedom in my own relationships.

Besides, there is no sense in controlling what someone else does, if that’s even possible to do in the long-run (and whoever would let you control them against their own will, is not really worth bothering with anyway). It seems like that’s ultimately for people who are insecure and unhappy. It’s just a more righteous sounding form of jealousy.

Mini segue:

I’ll never forget the time I was dating this guy who I really liked (in middle school). I left for a party, thinking how happy I was to be dating him (I was obsessed). At the party, a girl who I happened to think was really pretty, walked up to me and told me that she was dating him, and hoped I didn’t mind. What could I say? Of course I minded! I was totally enamored with him. I thought he was the hottest guy I’d ever seen, and totally cool to boot. But honestly, what would that have accomplished? He’d decided to date someone else (unbeknownst to me), and I had to make peace with it. So I said “Sure, no problem.” I’m sure I was upset, but what purpose would that have served?

I didn’t want to be with someone who didn’t want to be with me. People will ultimately gravitate to who they are attracted to; there’s no purpose in trying to get in the way of nature. I remember I learned that in seventh grade, and it’s a lesson I continue to remind myself of today. You can’t control things like that. And if you take the long-view of things, why would you want to?

And it serves no purpose. The people who love and are attracted to you, feel that way despite the existence of other people in their lives. You have to have faith that the right people will find you, and you will find the right people. Attempting to cattle-heard your family and friends into specific roles with one another is a futile exercise that will only make you less popular among the people you love.

It’s like how they say if you love something, let it go (I’m pretty sure Christina Aguilera came up with that one). In our golden days, I never worried about Leo cheating. Worrying about cheating is antithetical; if the person is a cheater, they’re not worth worrying about. And if they are worth worrying about, then they won’t cheat, because you’re their number one. He was really loyal. That was something I always loved about him.

Even if you really love some one– in fact, especially if you really love someone– you can’t force them to love you back. Now in this case, I wasn’t trying to force Leo to love me; I was actually rooting for him to find someone else to be happy with. Yeah, from a conventional stand point it may have seemed weird at the concept of my sister and boyfriend dating. But weirdness and social mores aside, I would be the asshole if I let some weird social connection taboo and my inability to get over some internal awkwardness be the reason that I attempted to forbid two people whom I truly loved, from loving one another. I would just not want to exert my power over someone in that way.

I believe totally in the freedom of relationship choice, and that extends to cases such as this. In fact, I was even slightly happy the whole scenario had arisen, and I’d been forced to confront my true feelings on the matter. It made me evaluate my feelings from a more objective perspective, if I wanted to make it out of this without driving myself crazy imagining them on top of each other (still makes me a little green, and not with envy…) that’s what I would have to do.

However, that didn’t stop me from setting up a speed trap to get to bottom of my sister and Leo’s over night ex-capade. Even though I was okay with the idea of going to their wedding in a few years (I would wear black– only because it’s flattering), I wanted to know what exactly had happened. I felt they at least owed me the truth, if I was going to be so cool about it. So I grabbed a book that I pretended to read, and camped out on my bed, in full view of the bathroom, waiting for one of them to come out, full bladder and all. And hence, become ensnared in my little web of truth.

If you’re wondering, no, my pre-determined open-mindedness on the matter did not stop my heart from pounding when low and behold, Leo in tee shirt and boxers, emerged from Camilla’s room, presumably to take a pee. (Even when we dated, he never let me watch him pee. And he’d consistently turned down my requests for a fountain pee… Which I won’t explain here, and was sort of a joke. Sort of.)

Being the friendly guy he is, Leo saw me in bed and came into the room to say hi (this was post-pee, I didn’t want any accidents when I dropped the bomb). I tried to be as casual and suave as possible (which, in my case, is like the grace of an elephant doing an agility course).

“So… How was last night?”

“Good.”

“Did you hook up with Camilla?”

“What?”

“Well, you slept in her bed. On your birthday. And your pants are off.”

“She’s like my sister.”

“You have no pants.”

“I’m pissed at you for even asking me that question. We didn’t even cuddle.”

Now that threw me. Ew. They didn’t even cuddle? Was cuddling like… Something you were expected to do with your sister/brother? I still don’t really wanna know the deal with that, but it made me think they cuddled.

Except later Camilla said the exact same thing, without provocation (like who asks someone straight up “did you guys cuddle?”). Which just then made me wonder if I should have expected at the very least, that they cuddled. The jury’s still out on the cuddling, let’s just put it that way. And apparently, if this ever happens again, that should be the first question I ask.

Where was this cuddle denial coming from? I wouldn’t have originally thought to ask if they had cuddled. Now I felt a little grossed out imagining that happening at all. Having good old one-night-stand-sex would have been awkward enough. Cuddling was way more… Incestuous.

Besides the cuddling question, turns out, Leo was offended that I would have even considered that they would bump uglies, no matter how much alcohol was involved. “Five years, Emily. Five years.” and “She’s like a sister to me.”

Have you ever seen Sister Wives, Leo?

I haven’t either, but I’m pretty sure that’s what this is about.

Camilla’s version of the story is that she didn’t want to sleep with Jack, who’d ingratiated himself into the end-of-the-night plans, and she preferred to non-cuddle with Leo instead of being expected to put out for an ex-flame. Additionally, she felt bad imagining Leo sleeping on our formal/uncomfortable couch on his birthday. I was on board with that. I could tell she was just trying to help a friend out, and I loved her for it. The last thing I wanted was for Leo to feel unloved on his birthday. She was just being sweet, and it made me glad all over again that they’d become good friends.

So short story long, they didn’t hook up. [And supposedly, they didn’t even cuddle.] And apparently, upon hearing about my post-bathroom inquest, Camilla thought it was hilarious that I’d even entertained the idea.

I guess they both thought it was patently obvious that if your ex comes home drunk with your also drunken sister on the night of his birthday and spends the night penned up in her room with her in the same bed with his pants on the floor (while meanwhile a guy she has hooked up with in the past, is left on the living room floor all alone), it’s clearly obvious nothing untoward happened.

I think the thing I would have felt most weird about was if they just hooked up that once and left it at that. That might have been a little gratuitously awkward for my taste. You can find just about anyone to sleep with for one night– right, Camilla? If they were going to put me through all the weirdness and mental imaging, it better at least have been for a few months of actual dating. Maybe even a wedding down the line (for which I already had a black dress that would look just smashing).

Anyway, the moral of the story isn’t that my sister and ex boyfriend still are able to look at each other purely as brother/sister and not as anything involving touching of privates. The real moral of the story, at least for me, is to be open-minded about relationships in my life, especially those that don’t directly involve me. We can’t choose who we love. (Sometimes it’s even our second-cousin’s step son. But I’ll save that story for another day…Or maybe not. I value a hilarious story, but I also kind of value my life.)

And if manipulating and guilting the people in our lives away from doing what they want or need to do is how we intend to find our own peace of mind, it’s never going to work. You can’t control everything. In fact, it’s often the most important things you can’t really control at all. At least in my life, the best things tend to happen naturally, and I like to think that’s because they were meant to be.

Make the best of what’s in front of you and form a positive experience around it– it is entirely within your power to do so. Besides, it’s always going to be a little weird when the people we love have moved on with someone else. It would have been a little funny for me to hear of Leo sleeping with someone new, whether it was my sister or not.

That doesn’t make it bad. Just because my emotions say one thing, doesn’t mean I need to let them rule my actions, or that I need to take them seriously. I’m sure my face would have gotten red and I may have felt a bit flushed. But what’s the alternative? Would I prefer he never settle down and find happiness with anyone ever again? Jealousy is not an emotion I will allow my life to be about. And if you’re acting on an emotion, you are allowing your life to be about that emotion. It only strengthens it.

I’ve found that sometimes our strongest, most visceral emotions are our most instinctual ones– meaning ones that don’t always serve the higher purpose, of what we ultimately want to be or become. I think that the road to happiness is paved with not taking your thoughts or emotions too seriously.

You need to know when to step away from something that isn’t making you feel good, and realize that it’s not you. It’s just a complex cocktail of chemical messages surging through your nervous system, also known as emotions.

I’m not saying to ignore your emotional self all the time, but if you have even a little bit of self-awareness you can start realizing when you’re being ridiculous and that it’s not serving your happiness. It’s fairly easy to recognize when you feel like shit.

I know they didn’t actually hook up, but that morning I felt that I had learned a lesson, and not just about what it would have been like if they did. I was forced to face the concept, for maybe only an hour or two of wondering, that life isn’t always picture perfect: sometimes things get gray. In fact, they’re usually in the gray. The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t really know anything for sure.

Often the best thing you can do for yourself in times like that (apart from setting a trap and cornering them into a post-bathroom-bedroom-confession) is accepting what is. And finding the positivity in that.

We choose whether or not to be happy, and part of that choice is allowing ourselves to create positivity where it may seem like there isn’t any to be had. You can only be sad if you’re singing a down-and-out country song in your head. If you feel lucky, you are lucky. If you feel blessed and grateful for your abundance, you are that, too.

During our entire break up, I focused on the positive and felt lucky for all the great, amazing things in my life. That’s the sort of mind set that allows you to rather easily navigate the difficulties of the usual morning annoyances, like your sister sleeping with your recently-departed ex.

Don’t focus on what isn’t perfect. Maybe you’ll realize your own version of perfection is something entirely different than you’d imagined all along. And honestly, Camilla and Leo, if you ever find yourself lonely and at a bar together on your respective birthdays, please feel free to cuddle as needed.

Meanwhile, I’ll be looking up your exes and best friends in the yellow pages…

Just kidding.

Nobody uses the Yellow Pages anymore.

Apologies/Fucking Up

Why I don’t beat myself up over being wrong, and why you shouldn’t either.

Here’s the thing, I call myself out a lot when I think I’m in the wrong. Because of this, I’m pretty good at apologizing.

But here’s the corollary: I also don’t beat myself up over it. I mess up, stuff happens, life goes on. I make mistakes (I’m sure other people do too, I just don’t see them nearly as much as my own).

So if I mess up (more like when…), here’s what I do:

1. I admit it as soon as possible after the ball’s been dropped (by yours truly, of course).

2. I apologize*

*Huge caveat: I only apologize if I can do it sincerely. It can’t just be to sound like how I’m “supposed” to sound in that particular situation, and it can’t be because I think I’m expected to to it. If I don’t think I actually did anything wrong, I can’t apologize– because that would be insincerity/lying, and is kind of antithetical to what an apology is about. If you apologize for something you don’t really feel sorry for, then you’re encouraging a relationship based on false feelings. Ultimately, that relationship is kind of worthless, if you’re required to lie about who you are to maintain it.

Another way of saying it is this: if someone needs you to apologize, but you don’t think you need to, then you have other issues to work out that you simply fake-apologizing will only cover up temporarily. Those types of relationships either need rehab, or to fade into oblivion like MMMBop (or for those of you to whom that reference is lost upon: a meteor will also suffice as a visual aid). Don’t waste your time doing anything but either fixing what’s truly worth it for you to keep, or moving on from that which isn’t.

Let’s do an example. (They’re just so fun)

If, for instance, your friend Shelby gets upset that you talked to her ex, who’s also your friend, you may be in a spot where you’re expected to apologize. Shelby wants you to show loyalty to her by disowning all people whom she has a problem with. And apparently, all of your relationships with friends must filter first through her approval guide.

But if you personally find this logic annoying at best, totally unbalanced and nuts at worst, then you can’t apologize. If you think your friend Shelby is being a nutso biyatch, then you can’t, in all good conscience, apologize for something you don’t think you did wrong.

You can say, “I’m sorry you feel that way, Shelby” or “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings.” But you can’t actually say (sincerely) “I’m sorry I talked to Steve.” And that might be what she wants to hear– and that might be the only way to truly end the argument. But you’d be doing it under false pretenses. That means, continuing the relationship only based on a false premise– that you agree it’s wrong to talk to Steve.

That would mean one of two things:

A. You agree to cut your relationship off with Steve, in which case you’ll likely resent Shelby for controlling your life and making you feel the need to do this.

Or,

B. You won’t stop being friends with Steve (because you don’t really think that’s necessary), in which case your duplicity is patently obvious, and you’ll likely be found out again, in which case you’ll be back where you started (and Shelby will really be expecting a major apologetic overhaul this time).

Not to mention until then, you’ll be worried she’ll find out you’re secretly going to the movies with Steve this Friday (whoops, now we’ve got another problem on our hands…Look, that’s gonna have to wait for another post)

You can say, “I’m sorry that upset you,” with honesty. But you really can’t say “I’m sorry I talked to your ex boyfriend” and actually mean it–  when what you really mean is this: “I’m sorry I talked to your ex boyfriend Steve, even though your break up had nothing to do with me and he was a mutual friend of ours before you started dating… So actually, that’s batshit-crazy now that I think of it… I’m actually not sorry at all that I talk to Steve. In fact, he’s a better friend than you because he’s not the one hounding me about this crap!”

See how that works? Right. It doesn’t.

Either mean it, or zip it.

Apologies can be cathartic and are perhaps the best way to finally feeling peace after a lot of mental and emotional tension caused by a disagreement– when they’re sincere. But apologizing can also be catering to lighter forms of mental illness and giving people their own way for demanding too much of so-called friends.

Make sure you’re doing what’s best for the relationship and yourself, and not simply giving in in order to keep the peace. If you have to capitulate too much for any one relationship, you’d be wise to ask yourself, what exactly makes this worth it?

Additionally, if you’re constantly running around apologizing for things you don’t actually feel remorseful for doing, your apologizes will soon become like the peso– not worth very much.

When you can apologize because you mean it, that’s great! Because you learned a lesson. You are then an even better person than you were before you made the mistake (even though you may have seemed cooler to the person you pissed off, prior to making that mistake…) They just don’t realize what a good bargain keeping you on as a rehabbed friend really is!

As a rule, I want to populate my life with people who are laid back, and who value the same types of things I do. Things go much more easily when you surround yourself with people on the same value/apology-wavelength.

If you feel like you’re apologizing too much, or they’re not apologizing enough, and one of you is consistently getting offended, then maybe it’s time to look elsewhere for a more compatible friendship. It’s stifling to try to change yourself so as not to ruffle feathers, when that’s what you naturally do. Maybe just go find a friend with some scales, instead. Your old friend will be much happier with a gentler spirit, and you won’t have to listen to John Mayer’s “My Stupid Mouth” on repeat, while crying into your muzzle.

I have to eat crow all the time. But for me, I consider it an occupational hazard. I think a lot, write a lot, and put a lot on the table. I like people to know how I feel, and I want to know how they feel, too. I take chances, but I tell the truth (sometimes my truth changes from day to day). Sometimes they pay off well and other times they take me a few steps back. The truth is, I’m not trying to piss people off, I’m just being myself. But by virtue of that, I do piss some people off.

To some I apologize, for instance when I understand why they’re upset, or I realize where I actually did go wrong, and usually I can’t sleep until I fix it. I like apologizing, because I really do like keeping the peace. But there are always going to be people who disagree with what you do (whether it’s in your career, how you raise your kids, what your marriage is like, or any other number of infinite possibilities, there are going to be people who criticize you for it, internally or otherwise). If you run around apologizing for every single thing you do, you’re kind of like living in reverse. Apologize for what rings true to you as something you need to work on, but don’t apologize unless the feeling of wanting to repent is truly there.

Knowing when not to apologize is important to maintaining your equanimity. You don’t want to feel like a puppet who’s made to dance every time the master snaps their fingers. Apologies are not meant to manipulate. Sometimes people are going to find fault with your prerogative. Apologizing to every critic is like dissolving your backbone in an acid wash– (if that needs further explanation it’s this: don’t do it.) Maintain what’s important to you and have enough understanding of why you’re doing what you’re doing, to know that you stand behind it and why.

You don’t owe everyone an explanation, but keep it in your back pocket to remind yourself in times of doubt. There will be people who love and agree with what you’re doing, and others who think it’s ridiculously stupid. If you look at anyone with any amount of success in the world, you will see that that’s true for everyone, perhaps even greater, the more successful the person.

Open your mouth when necessary, and say what’s in your heart. And know when to back off and understand that sometimes we unconsciously make room for more compatible relationships through discord with current ones. Maybe it’s time to move on from the friend who sees the world so differently from you. And maybe that space will make room for someone who can support you on your current journey a bit more, and vice versa. Maybe your big mouth will be better appreciated elsewhere. 😉 (At least, that’s what I like to tell myself…)

Apologize, but don’t do it out of fear. Do it with the strength of your full conviction behind it, or don’t apologize at all. It’s a sword that cuts both ways, and make sure it’s being used on your behalf and not against you as a manipulative tool by someone who cares more about getting their own way or protecting their fragile ego, than maintaining a happy and mutually fulfilling relationship.

I’d like to add I apologize pretty freely when I feel I’ve done wrong, but the best relationships are the ones where I’m not continually inspired to do things that annoy the other person, and so I’m continually apologizing (or expected to).

People who are out for sympathy and apologies at every turn are what I like to call high maintenance. There’s nothing wrong with that per-se, if that’s what you’re into. I’m just a low-maintenance kind of person. I try to be understanding when someone does something I don’t love, especially if they apologize, but even if they don’t, I can usually see something from their perspective and I try to give benefits-of-the-doubt out like candy at Halloween.

So, sometimes I like to think I’m allowed a little slack to mess up now and again– and my good friends will roll their eyes or call me out with humor, instead of hit block on the contact list. It’s a two-way street.

Over all, I don’t think things are really that big of a deal. Like, ever. (Because they’re not. Seriously.) If I do start making a big deal out of things, I know I’m usually the one who’s being unbalanced, not the other person. And I know nothing anyone can do to me really hurts me, unless I give them that power. (And why would you give someone or something that you can’t control the keys to your feelings like that?)

Know when you’re wrong, and make amends. But don’t live your life in guilt. Be yourself. If you feel bad, own up to it and apologize. You will feel much better. But if you don’t feel bad, don’t compromise your values for a false apology. The relationship with someone else is not worth selling yourself, and your own true values, short. Surround yourself with people who value you as you are deep down, and with the people who are willing to stand by your side as you change and grow. We all make mistakes along the way, and your best friends are the ones who are able and willing to roll with the punches. People who get offended too easily and require constant reassurance to maintain the relationship are excess weight in a long journey.

Personally, I prefer to travel light.

Know thyself and stay true to that. Your true friends will find you and stand by your side, and the rest will fall away. The best things in life don’t require will power or constant vigilance to maintain. Other people are in your life, but ultimately you’re the one who has to live with yourself. Know what’s important to you, defend that with your actions (including apologies), and let the rest go.

I’m sorry that this is the last sentence.

Eat More Kale (Here’s How)

I should be eating kale right now…but instead I’m eating trail mix (and re-heating the same cup of coffee for about the third time today). Oh, the mid-day energy slump… Spare me, please. (Anybody?)

But let’s just pretend, for the sake of this article, I am indulging in one of my favorite new, self-taught recipes, and I just sat down with a nice steamy bowl of kale. So, although I’m not currently– Wait, sorry… Okay, I just switched over to eating kale. (Thanks for waiting)

So, although I am currently eating kale, I am still willing to provide you with this recipe, thus breaking the cardinal rule of all saints: do not eat and sit in front of your Macbook at the same time. I’m pretty sure that was the most important rule Jesus wrote on stone tablet. (He would have used an iPad but Steve Jobs was holding out on him until the official launch date… Okay, I’m done.)

The other day, while I was buying five-plus dollars’ worth of kale (If you don’t know, that’s a lot of kale. Too much, in fact, to fit nicely into my backpack, which I had brought to carry my groceries when I rode my bike to the store– Oops.) I had a nice little old lady ask me (I had to take out my headphones to answer her, and The National was playing, so I’m glad she asked such a great question…) “How do you cook that stuff?” and I was happy to oblige with an answer because just recently I had taught myself how to cook that stuff, and it was pretty damn good! (And even better: extremely easy.)

So what did I tell that cute little old lady with little old lady glasses about how to cook the kale? I told her this secret recipe that I will now share with you.

1. Get a bunch of kale.

2. Put it in your backpack and ride home on your bike.

(Make sure the kale doesn’t fall out, if your bag begins to flap open. Gravel is not part of this recipe.)

3. Let your dog out to pee (don’t make a fuss; it only excites him).

4. Get out a pot (The metal kind. The other kind is fine too, although it doesn’t figure into this recipe… unless you’re way more skilled in the culinary arts than me.)

5. Peel the kale leaves off the stems and put them into the pot (the metal one, stay with me).

6. You can rinse if you want, but I’m usually too lazy.

This may have disastrous effects years down the line. But that’s why I’m eating kale, to counteract all the washing of produce I don’t do.

7. Add water to the pan. I don’t care how much. Surprise me.

8. (If you like it, then you shouldda put a lid on it.)

9. Put it on stove top and heat until smoke-like water begins to form under the lid. This is called steam. This is called steaming kale. This will produce (you guessed it)= steamed kale.

10. When your kale is done enjoying sauna, drain it.

(Well, don’t be rude! Offer it a towel! Have you no common courtesy?)

11. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, olive or coconut oil, garlic. Any other spices beyond the basics are yours to experiment with but I cannot guarantee your results. (Note: cinnamon does not pair well with kale.)

12. Bon appetit.

Recipe notes:

I’m pretty sure this recipe has gotten me out of a loop of cravings, that is, when I was actually able to pry myself from the pull-n-peel Twizzlers long enough to prepare/consume it.

Little old lady in the vegetable isle, this one’s for you. Go with courage, dear woman, into great kale unknown.

Coming Out Of The Closet (As A Writer)

This is an e-mail I sent to a few of my family members this morning, after a well-meaning brigade of advice and job opening notices. This is my coming-out letter of my pursuit of writing as an actual job path. I was inspired to write this after time and again, not knowing exactly how to respond to their gentle coaxing to get a real job. It doesn’t really change the fact that I’m still, for all intents and purposes, willfully unemployed, but I think it does offer a bit of closure in terms of knowing where my head is at and why I seem like such a bum (and am always available for doggie play dates between the hours of 9-5).

I decided to post this because I think this is something, that to some extent, we all struggle with– familial honor and obligations in one form or another. Feeling anxious over whether or not we fit our parents’ concept of success is something that seems to be ingrained in even the most stoic of psyches. No matter how independent we like to think we are, most of us have an achilles where our parent’s opinions of us lie.

It’s one thing to deal with criticism from the outside; quite another when you’re self-inflicting it with your parent’s critical voice playing on repeat loop in your head. For anyone struggling with this, just know that your family does, in fact love you and they all want the best for you. And maybe their advice is good for you… but then again, maybe it’s not.

What’s important is that you follow your own path, and perhaps that path involves trying and “failing”, while learning an invaluable life lesson. Or maybe your path will lead you to success in your chosen field. Either way, don’t let what other people want for you determine who you’ll become. We are each given one life and one life only (at least one life at a time 😉 as best as I can discern) and it’s up to you to make the most of it. We can’t live vicariously, and neither can our parents through us. Best intentions from loved ones aside, sometimes the most courageous step is the one in which you declare allegiance to yourself. I hope you enjoy.

(And for the record, I was amazingly surprised with most of their sweet and generous responses. It almost brought a tear… And then, a little panic. Because they don’t tell you this– but sometimes, it’s actually harder having the pressure of people you love rooting for you, than it is going it alone.

Go figure.)

__________________________________________________________

SUBJECT: This is the kool-aid I’m drinking…

September 17, 2013, 11:36 AM

While I appreciate your well-intentioned advice, it has come to my attention that simply sitting quietly and attempting to graciously fend off your career-advances, might not be the best option. So, here’s some clarification (with love). I’ve written it down because I have trouble articulating myself (in non-written form) when it comes to matters that matter as much as this does to me (and apparently to you, as well).

First of all, if you have five minutes to watch the video (link at the bottom) which I stumbled upon today, this succinctly and eloquently (not to mention charmingly) enumerates the reasons I feel that I must take this opportunity, which I am currently work carving for myself in the blogging world online. It is important for me to do this well I am relatively young and unencumbered. There will always be more jobs out there, should my mission fail. But my youth is less likely to last than jobs are to be available.

I do believe, if the time comes, I will always be able to find a job I don’t love to settle for. I’m just that optimistic.

In the short amount of time I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve gotten positive feedback (including people who have great paying jobs, but feel unfulfilled with their jobs and lives) and people who have told me that my writing is entertaining and helping them feel like there are, in fact, people who value the same things they do (and don’t value others, as much as everyone else). These people have urged me, both directly, and through their positive response, to keep writing (rest assured, none of them were McCarthy’s– so no one has broken rank). 😉

But more importantly, I enjoy writing. I also enjoy connecting with like-minded people who make the world feel like a smaller place. I find it fulfilling to think that my random musings and what I’m learning in life is actually helping others. I think it’s helping me to be a better person, too.

I’m happy with my life right now, with doing my own work, from home, on my own time. I’m doing research and learning about how to build an online web business. Yes, I have a lot more work to do to get where I want to be. But I want to put my intelligence and talent to work for myself, making my own money, as determined by my own actions, and living life with the freedom that I’ve found and now believe, makes it worth living. The opportunities are quite literally endless; and the rewards are based on the amount of time, focus, and dedication you are willing to put in.

I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s going to be a hard road. But it also wasn’t that easy for me to do the “easy” work when it was mind-numbingly boring and I questioned my reason for inhabiting the earth. I was making money, yes. I also kind of wanted to die. To my way of thinking, the reason for our existence is to give our best to the world. I’m not out to be a super hero, but I do want to make a difference doing something that actually matters to me. I’ve been exposed (when you weren’t looking) to a great many people who do enjoy their work, who have flexibility and freedom of when they do what they do, can eventually command their own prices, and who enjoy financial abundance, as well.

The only reason I would believe I don’t have what it takes to make that happen for me, is failing to believe in myself.

I don’t feel as lost and directionless as I may appear. I’m happier than I have been in a very long time, and I continue to follow my happiness, and what I enjoy doing. I’m building my life over again, based on foundations that matter to me, instead of the old life I had, built on foundations that mattered to everyone else. Plenty of people make their livings (in fact, sometimes better livings than I could even imagine) doing this, and I believe I can, too. Even making a regular living doing what you like to do is huge success in my book. Not to mention, I’m happier with much less– materially– when I’m following my heart.

Although I haven’t officially “taken your advice”, and gotten an approved-of-job, your pleadings have not fallen upon deaf ears (just stubborn ones). They’ve urged me to focus and work harder to make my real dream come true, so I don’t have to revert to the other, less enjoyable route. I know I’m a shameless optimist, but if you have to turn your passion off for the greater part of your week and spend your most promising years of your youth stuffing your talents for a fixed-income pay just to play it safe, then I don’t understand what’s so great about life. That’s a pretty bleak outlook, which, at this tender young age, and in all my current rebellion, I’m simply unwilling to accept.

I’m not arguing that those jobs aren’t great for some people. I think there’s a job to suit everyone. I’m sure some of the jobs you’d like for me to take, other people might actually like. I’m not being melodramatic, but at this point in my life, with how much opportunity I feel I’ve got left in me, I would rather walk in front of a bus than knowingly sell myself for less than I’m worth. I’ve got something to contribute and the amount of time I spend doing it is proportionate to the amount of faith I have in myself. I’m putting all my eggs in my own basket.

So I’m not arguing what you suggest are not good options to set up a certain amount of stability. I know for some people, that’s the most important factor, and perhaps some day that will be mine, too. But for now, and I only speak for myself, this is the best option– to at least try. I really put faith in giving things a try, and although my “tries” in the past may have seemed like failures, I’ve learned from them. I think a lot of my tries stemmed from the assumption I couldn’t do what I really loved and get paid for it. It’s something I have to remind myself sometimes, that there are people out there who’ve done what seems like the impossible: made a living while having fun doing it. My life isn’t worth anything to me if I can’t use it to prove the same of myself.

One thing I’ve learned, once I get something on my mind, if I don’t at least give it a shot, I’ll have regrets until I do. I will probably not ever have another time in my life when I am as relatively free to explore my options as I am now. And I know you think I could do both: work a regular job and do this on the side. And you’re right, I could. But I don’t think it’s optimal to devote yourself full-time to one thing while your passion lies fully elsewhere– that is, given the option, which at this particular moment in my life, I’ve been blessed with having.

I’m okay with the notion that I was born into a family that doesn’t particularly value the same type of things I do. I am not criticizing the way you did it; I think it’s great, if that’s the way you chose and it worked for you. I realize it may seem as if I’m fighting an uphill battle, but this is the way I think the world should be and I’m acting with the idea of being the change that I want to see. I wish the same things that I’m expecting of and for myself, for everyone else who would want it. I don’t think I’m special; I just think I know what I want and I’m finally owning up to it. The truth is, I’ve known for years. I’m just finally coming out about it.

My theory of life is this: you can do what you love. And you can get paid to do it. I know that’s heresy around here, but there are people getting their picture taken with Oprah who say differently. Apparently, they know something. I’m going to continue to learn from the people who’ve done what I want to do. They’re not selling me anything, except belief that I can have the life I actually want, instead of settling before I ever gave it a go.

No, it’s not as simple as going to an interview and signing a contract. It takes more time and more self-motivation and hard work. I already have the first two, and the ability for the last.

When I was growing up, you always told me I could be whatever I wanted to be. Well, I want to be a writer. And I want to help people in that way. I’m obviously not perfect, but I think I’ve got some worthwhile things to say and some positivity to contribute to the world. There are a great many authors and speakers who have helped me through my darkest times. They were some of the most formative voices of my life, and that’s the type of thing I have come to value the most. I think the best way to live a good life is to put your effort and your passion together. One feeds the other, and you create a virtuous cycle, instead of a vicious one.

I’d like to add that the internet has changed the way writers are able to make money. It’s not all about landing a book deal now; it’s marketing and reaching masses of people. Advertising and speaking are two ways you can make money (you know how I like to speak). You don’t need anyone’s permission to succeed; you just need people who appreciate your work, who want to read it. It’s a real democracy in a way. The money flows where the people go. I know I’ve got potential for an audience, based on the response I’ve gotten over the last almost two months. If 200 people liked the article I wrote, out of 1,000 who saw it, I have to reach the other 2,000 out of 10,000, for example. Now it’s about the more business-end of things, which I’m currently learning and implementing.

I’m not trying to sell you on imagined success; I’m just trying to give you an idea of what I’m actually working on. You don’t have to be on board with it, and I’m not even asking that you are. All I’m trying to do is allay some of your deep-seated fears that have you think I’m blind to what’s going on around me and that I have no plan and no idea of how things work and that I’m destined to fail. If I fail at this, then I will thank my lucky stars every day when I’m able to land a comfortable stable job (and you’ll win). Or, I’ll still keep working on it but I’ll work a desk job while I do so (either way, you win).

I went to school because it was expected of me, not because I had a burning desire to do so. I never “knew” what I wanted to do because I never knew what I wanted to do existed as an option. I’m now making it an option.

I am not here to toot my own horn (rather, to simply show you that I have one) but ever since fifth grade, I’ve had teachers and professors encourage my writing. It’s taken me a while to finally believe in myself and get to the point where I can say this it what I want to do. I don’t know for sure how I’ll get there, but I’m pretty confident it’s what I want. And the fact that I went to college and got the degree still serves a purpose for me: as a reminder that I have the qualifications to do something more, but I’m actively choosing to pursue what’s important to me instead. It’s not because I can’t; it’s because I can do something that I think is a better fit for me all-around, as a complete individual.

So. That’s what I’m going to do for now. And if I eventually have to get a real job to support myself while doing it, I will. But for now I’ll focus on the gift I’ve been given, which is time afforded to me to focus on doing what I love– living life, and writing about it. I haven’t ever felt more alive. I believe people were born with talents for a reason. I want to use mine to benefit myself and others. This is the best way, at this time, I know how.

Thank you for standing by while my life goes to ruins 😉 . Just be thankful my savings (or big ideas) will run out sooner or later, and I will eventually be forced to face the music, whatever it is I’ve created for myself. If I didn’t think this was worth the risk (and I’m aware it’s a risk, but it’s one I’m willing to take) I wouldn’t be doing it. I’m whimsical, but I’m also practical to some extent. I know this isn’t easy for you to witness, but worst case I end up broke, but still better off than most people who are still in debt from college and who still don’t like their jobs, or know what they want out of life. This is for them, too.

This isn’t an ego trip; it’s something I feel I have to do to prove to myself that I can do it.

http://www.marieforleo.com/2013/09/value-what-you-do/#more-5403

By the way, I don’t have Aunt Sally’s email, but please feel free to pass along to her as well 🙂

I love you all and thanks for listening.

Emily

Writing People Off

Today I am writing about writing people off.

(You see what I did there?)

I used to write people off. If they did something that annoyed me and I didn’t feel like dealing with it, I would just kind of stop answering their calls, or texts, and stopped seeing them. I remember doing this with a casual boyfriend once in high school (which still makes me feel sort of shitty, though I’m sure he’s just fine now–) and with other people along the way.

Instead of directly talking about what was bothering me, I allowed myself to believe the friendship was replaceable, you know, the way “who” is to “whom” (seriously, I still don’t know when to use which). Much easier to find other people to surround myself with, than manage all the damages along the way. I stocked my drawers with plasticware instead of investing in cutlery: lasts forever, but eventually has to be washed. (Note: this is bad for the environment.)

Generally in life, I’ve been lucky to have plenty of people around me so that my gaps in relations didn’t always stand out (living in the home town and close to family helps). It was easy for me to fool myself into believing that friendships could be written off, without explanation, and that there was not really any collateral damage to be had.

All I had to do was find another friend, of which there always seemed to be an endless amount (quality may vary). And if I did ever pause to consider the damage, I assumed it would be the burden of the person who’d wronged me. I felt infallible in this way. I was, after all, the one in control when I did the dumping.

In addition to having a que of friends and family to replace those sad souls who fell out of my good graces, being an independent person made it easier for me to imagine that whomever I’d cut out of my life was the one missing out, not me. I didn’t need people the way they all seemed to need each other; I like spending a good amount of time on my own.  I like reading and writing and taking walks by myself. I thought Facebook was stupid (I still do, actually).

In fact, sometimes it felt like too many people who wanted a part of me. I know that’s a weird complaint to have. But whenever it rained, it poured, in terms of social invites and requests for visits. It was like my own little version of survivor, and whoever didn’t make the cut would simply make my life that much easier. (Conversely, whenever I actually wanted to do something there seemed to be no one around– Murphy’s Law of my social life.)

To me, people were disposable after they showed defect. I didn’t consciously devise this rather grim outlook, but over the years, that’s what it amounted to, in non-flowery language.

So let’s just say I’m no stranger to the game of cutting people and relationships off when they show signs of wear. On the flip side, I’m also not a stranger to people cutting me off.

Funny thing is, the people who’ve cut me off over the years are a lot more forgettable than the people I’ve actively avoided myself. You might think it would be the opposite, but I find it easier to acknowledge that I may not have been someone’s cup of tea, than to know I’m on the giving end of the hurt. I’m no saint, but I don’t like hurting people– even though I’ve certainly experimented with it in the past.

I have to say, it feels worse being the person who writes someone off. At least for me, it’s the worse of two evils. I’d rather be left to imagine what I did wrong and eventually forget about it and make new friends, than knowingly hold a grudge against someone. It’s the type of stuff my nightmares are made of (literally). It’s like that saying (which I will probably butcher) about how holding on to anger is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.

I was the one with a string of broken relationships (not that many, but enough to cause discomfort– which at this point for me, is one or more), but I’d fooled myself into thinking that the voids didn’t really exist– because they were of my choosing. It never occurred that perhaps I was the broken one, who couldn’t handle a little bit of trouble here and again and still come up on top. I never realized it, but for most people in my life, I was a fair-weather friend. I couldn’t see it at first, because I had always prided myself on being there for people when they were in need. But instead, I bailed out for other reasons. Like when someone did something that pissed me off, or we had a different way of viewing the world.

I was happy to be Mother Theresa to the people I deemed good enough, who had managed to avoid my particular emotional land-mines. But anyone who pushed just the right (read: wrong) button could expect to hear a great many of their phone calls go straight to voice mail. (Over the winter I had a really cool one, but I’m pretty sure it’s generic now, which makes it a good thing I’ve stopped cutting people off…)

I thought it was part of growing up and becoming a woman, learning to say no, self-preservation and all that. Now I see it was avoidance and failing to learn the lesson that speaking up and open communication would have provided me. We need each other in life– simply cutting people out when they aren’t perfect isn’t what being a true friend and humanitarian, as I fancied myself to be, is about. Not to mention, when you do find someone perfect, please, get in touch with me. I want to meet them.

About a year ago this happened between a friend and I. I thought he’d taken advantage of me financially and it really annoyed me. Basically I was going to buy something and he asked me to buy him one, too. I said sure no problem, assuming he would pay me back for it (preferably without me having to ask him). Well, he didn’t. It ruined my night (because I thought he was being selfish, cheap, etc.) and I held it in and let it simmer on medium-low instead of addressing my concern, and it ultimately ruined our friendship (for awhile).

What was essentially a miscommunication, wherein my inability to speak up in the moment, or at least broach the subject in a frank way after the fact got in the way of our friendship, as that one single misstep on his part turned into my perceiving everything he did with malicious intent, like he was out to get the best of me in every conceivable way (also known as paranoia). And every time he failed to pay me back what I felt was obvious he owed me, my resentment grew.

Eventually, for me at least (since I was the one with the problem and he probably had little to no idea what was going on in my head) the elephant in the room became too much to bear. I cut myself off. I stopped answering his calls and texts. He was left, no doubt wondering why I’d suddenly grown so cold.

I knew this hurt him, but my logic was that he should have known better than to take advantage of me, be so selfish, etc. I kind of felt bad, but more than that (apparently, because I followed through with it for almost a year) I felt he’d gotten what he deserved and that I’d taken the only possible way out which would preserve my peace of mind and my righteous principles (you pay your friends back when they buy something for you on loan).

I also told myself the friendship wasn’t worth salvaging if he was the “type” of person to do something like that. So I just pretended we’d never been friends, instead of having the courage to explain to him that what he’d done that made me feel slighted, and give him a chance to explain his side (it would have been nice to hear what he’d thought, perhaps he’d forgotten, or thought I owed him money and that purchase I made paid him back for it, who knows?). What I do know is that I thought he needed me more than I needed him.

Socially, that may have been the case. But in terms of emotional baggage, there was no escaping the fact that I’d allowed a sour thing to solidify into an oozing pustule of dormant negativity. While our relationship was no longer physically in my life, the seed of dispute remained. And as long as I kept him out of my life for this reason, there was no escaping the fact that I couldn’t have a fully clear conscience, no matter how much I seemed to have forgotten him and the incident.

After about eight months of playing the wronged woman, something made me realize life was too short for this kind of thing. I didn’t want to live in a town where I had jagged social connections I would have to avoid and most of all, my sentimentality finally caught up with me. I remembered all the ways he had been a good friend, and that I was letting one sour incident ruin my relationship with an otherwise good person.  So, I don’t remember all the details but I reached out to him and we got together. It was a relief to see him again.

Not incidentally, this was during an otherwise emotionally-tumultuous time that had broken down my walls and increased my humility (also known as a break up with my long-time boyfriend) and I think that really opened me up to realizing the value of compassion, love, and forgiveness. When you lose the single love of your life, you can either grow bitter or softer. The latter was me; and I realized the feeling of wanting to find human connection through any type of interaction– not just a special romantic one.

So we got back together as friends and I finally got over the money miscommunication. I’d decided that either I needed to either speak up or let it go. That was the only way to keep my mind and emotions in sync.

If it wasn’t worth addressing, it wasn’t worth holding on to. And the real reason I became friends with him again, was because I was slowly learning that writing people off hurts you even more than it hurts them. It’s like taking your insecurity or personal flaw (whatever it was that other person brought out in you) and putting it under a glass dome that preserves it and prevents it from being transformed by the light of growth and wisdom. It’s holding on to whatever made you upset in the first place via stagnant negativity.

There’s a quote that reminds me of this which says something like, “Whatever the size of things that upset you, that’s the size person you are.” Basically, you can measure your character by the type of things that ruffle your feathers.

The truth is, grudges hurt the holder of the grudge more than the person they are held against. You can’t do anything if someone cuts you out of their life. I mean, there are the requisite things you can do, like reaching out with a phone call, sending a letter, you know, giving it the old college try. But once you make an attempt and the person refuses to respond or admit anything is wrong, when it clearly is, you can (or eventually, you must) let it go. I’ve had a few people just cut me out of their lives, and being on both sides of the scenario, I can say that the person doing the cutting out is usually the more reactive, defensive one.

Writing someone off seamlessly is an illusion. It seems like taking control and being in the right, marking your territory and being assertive. But it’s really illustrating your inability to handle communication, and shining a spotlight on your oversensitivity. I’ve grown to appreciate the people in my life who are straight up with me about where I stand with them. If I piss you off, let me know. It doesn’t have to be in a disrespectful expletive-rich rant, but you can still state your case. Speak softly and carry a big stick… But please, speak.

It’s kind of like how I’ve noticed that men can form friendships that last basically their entire lives. My ex Leo has friends he’s known since middle school, and they’re still his best buddies. Girls don’t tend to stick together like that. I think it’s because guys tend to say what’s on their mind, tell each other off, and then be fine five minutes later. Girls think they’re being nice by stuffing their feelings and letting them simmer until they can’t take it anymore and make out with the other’s boyfriend (maybe those are two different things…)

In my family, we’ve been working on communication and the tendency of two of my family members (who shall remain nameless) to simply stalk away during a disagreement when things aren’t going their way. I’m glad to say this hasn’t happened in awhile (knock on wood) because we’ve all gotten better at communicating with one another respectfully, so more gets said, but there feels like a lot less attacking going on. We have more enjoyable times together because of this.

Cutting someone out of your life is different than growing apart. Writing someone off is kind of like playing Houdini: Now you see me. Now you don’t. It’s not the same as old friendships changing and people finding new paths as life takes them in different directions. That can be painful, but it’s also gradual and feels less personal, more mutual. It’s easier to understand and come to terms with. It’s the difference between your family dog dying safe and warm in their bed of old age versus getting hit by a car on the highway.

Growing apart feels like a natural progression in life and even though you’ll miss the person, there’s not a ton of awkwardness when you see them, because it’s not personal and it’s not hindered with secrets and resentment and other ugliness of the human psyche that doesn’t need to be fertilized. It’s simply the changing of seasons in life, whereas cutting someone off often happens in close relationships that suddenly change form without much warning.

For instance, my second to last ex (I don’t need to make up a nickname for him, but it’s fun, so let’s call him “Vince”), who I broke up with almost six years ago, still won’t talk to me. I wanted to be friends with Vince after it was all said and done, because I still cared for him. But he was too hurt or too proud or something to want to remain friends. To me, someone who’s not willing to let bygones by bygones is holding onto unnecessary emotional baggage.

Look, break ups suck. That’s common knowledge I’m willing to accept. But I think they suck more when you’re not willing to accept the good things about the person you just dedicated years of your life to. That’s just unrealistic to all of a sudden act like strangers and call it healing. I think I’m better about it, and always have been, simply because I’ve always held the door open. He would rather nurse his wounds than accept love from someone who wouldn’t stay his girlfriend.

True relationships aren’t based solely on someone’s “use” to you. They allow for growth and change which is inherent, like it or not, to this realm we live in. Life throws shit at you. You either roll with the punches, or stay pig-headed and continually get knocked down.

I would much rather date someone who is friends with their ex than someone who is holding onto residual feelings (whether they seem like love or hate, they’re feelings they clearly haven’t come to terms with). I’m not saying let’s still have sleepovers and do each other’s hair (although Leo, I would still totally brush your mane). But I think that being able to be friendly with people, all the people you’ve known in your life, even people you’ve slept with, is important. At least, it is for me.

Call me crazy, but I don’t fancy living life with a trail of social carnage behind me. The people who have cut me off have wounds deeper than my own regarding our relationship. Although it isn’t fun being cut off, I’d rather be on the receiving end of that dysfunction, than the owner of it. I’m cleaning out my own closet, but sometimes you have to wait for your neighbor’s spring cleaning to have all of your old relationships restored. When you’ve tried your best to make amends, and the other person isn’t ready to call a peace treaty, you’re wise to accept it and move on. At least you know you did your best.

And I’ve been on both sides. Knowing what I know now, I’d choose to be cut off over keeping a fight brewing. Life is too short for that sort of shit.

There’s something about the passivity of it happening to you that allows you to let it go, even if you miss the person and wonder about the cause of their sudden absence (Was it something I said? In my case, most certainly…). But if you’re the one holding the grudge, it’s like a light that never gets turned off– there’s a certain amount of energy somewhere in your body that is maintaining that level of separation from love and forgiveness, which is your natural state of being. It’s the aforementioned poison you drank, while waiting for the other person to die.

The other person will move on with their imperfections and find people who have fewer wounds to defend against them. But you are stuck in your own mire, a self-created hell of separation and lack of love. That’s not the way we are meant to live. You think you’re the one in control, but you’re really not in control if you’re using your power to hang on to negativity. That’s like having the kind of power Hitler had. Great, but used in the wrong way.

If you’re the person holding the grudge, it takes up precious energy you could be using to enjoy your life and live in alignment with love. It’s the kind of energy that I bet some day they’ll find causes cancer and other types of illness, which we’ve already begun to realize is related to stress and mental states. It’s like black holes of negativity stored in your body, proportionate to the amount of anger and resentment you hold, along with the number of people you’d dread seeing on the sidewalk.

You can be right, or you can be happy. You can protect your ego at the cost of your relationships, or you can learn to forgive and realize that the weakness of others is so often the weakness you hate in you. The amazing thing is that the reason we most often cut people off is because they push a button about something we fear to find within ourselves.

For example, I was switching jobs and stressed financially at the time that that exchange happened with my friend, and he had unwittingly pushed a financial-worry button in me that set off a chain of events which ultimately were out of his control. Should he have offered to pay for the thing? Yeah, I think so and that would have been nice for him to offer instead of me having to ask (which I refused to do, being stubborn and hating to discuss money between friends).

But was that worth everything I put myself through emotionally? No. And could I have simply said something in the moment, which would have certainly allowed for a learning situation in which we explored the boundaries and expectations of our friendship? Yes.

Eventually I learned that I didn’t want to live my life in a way that compartmentalized and differentiated between between people I like and those I’m going to avoid. Maybe it’s just the fact that I live in a small town, but you’re always bound to run into the person you’re trying to avoid. I didn’t want to have any of those people. And when I stopped thinking like that, it made walking out my door each day entirely more freeing.

I now live in way more a happy, loving world, and it was all because of my choice one day some time ago, of making a change in how I would start thinking of, and treating people. You can think it sounds cheesy, and it does. But the experience of feeling weightless and carefree-er is worth whatever label you may instinctively throw my way.

It was kind of similar to how I stopped worrying about always looking perfect and being made up in front of people. I didn’t want to live in that ever-present fear anymore. I no longer wanted to live and breathe more life into the concept that people could hurt me by not thinking I was beautiful every moment of every day. They can only hurt you as much as you’ll let them, by perceiving their weaknesses as being more powerful than your strengths and by perceiving negativity in your own mind.

And I’d also learned that hurting someone else, as the old cliches and sayings go, really does only hurt you. It’s a simple and indisputable fact of this universe I currently seem to find myself inhabiting.

So, file this under lessons learned by a taste of your own medicine… Because a year after that thing with the friend and the money, I just recently experienced getting cut off by someone close to me. And this time, I was on the other side of the equation. (Cue dramatic music).

In this situation, I realized (for certain) how badly it felt to be mysteriously cut off from a friend. And just when you thought everything was just fine! (That’s what they all say…)

It’s fitting that I was forced to feel exactly what revenge I had extracted upon my friend. What seemed at the time like a bitter lesson, was made sweet by the fact that I was finally able to truly sympathize with the people I’d hurt by allowing my ego and temper to get the best of our relationship and mutual learning potential.

So although I’d already made amends with my friend and buried the hatchet he never really knew existed, it still never hurt to take a taste of (or, be force-fed) your own medicine, just for good measure.

Consider it duly noted: it does suck and feels seriously stressful at first to be cut off from someone close to you, unexpectedly. Especially for this reason, it’s an infraction against fellow man that I plan to not commit again.

I’d like to note, that finally accepting I was cut off, and realizing why it had happened, and the fact that I’d learned a lot about what not to do myself, I was able to be at peace with losing that particular person. Some people simply aren’t meant to walk the entire journey by our side. I also realized that the only reason I’d ever cut someone off was because I’d been fearful– fearful that something they had said or done would actually cut me down or cause me pain, or spike my defenses up.

This allowed me to understand the person who’d cut me off had ultimately been afraid of my ability to hurt them. Not meaning to, I’d touched a sensitive spot that I didn’t know would give such a reaction. Seeing it in that way made it a lot easier to feel love toward them, even though we were no longer in communication with one another.

After a few bouts of anxiety, pain, and some tears, that’s how I finally freed myself from feeling badly about it.

And please note: cutting someone off is different than needing time or space from someone who continually abuses you, or causes you distress or whatever. Cutting someone off is without communication or explanation to someone you are close enough to theoretically “owe them” one as to why you’ve suddenly disappeared.

In other words, where it would be weird otherwise, for you to drop off the face of the earth without notification. There is protecting yourself, say, from a stalker, and then there is licking your wounds and playing the martyr who is right “on principle” and willing to sacrifice a close relationship on little more than semantics. One if self-protection and common sense; and the other is avoidance. We all know the difference when we’re in the situation, which route we’ve chosen. One is strength and the other is weakness.

Keep your thoughts, actions, and words in alignment as much as you can if you want to maintain a peaceful existence. Basically, walk the talk. If your feelings are important enough for you, you will voice them and then put them into action. If you can’t stand behind your feelings, then you aren’t in alignment and you need to figure out where the signals are getting crossed, between what you feel and what you’re willing to act on. Don’t say one thing and do another.

If someone asks you if something is wrong, and you say no but keep them locked out anyway, that’s called being passive aggressive. That’s not mature, and it’s not embracing your independence. It’s simply disempowering yourself by misaligning your words, thoughts, and behavior. If it’s bad enough for you to be upset about, collect your thoughts and state your peace. If it’s not actually bad enough to be worth the mention, then why are you stewing over it? These are helpful tools for you, guideposts to untangling your inner web of emotions. This is where learning comes in. It’s more work than shoving your feelings and pretending things are okay, but it’s also a lot more beneficial and eventually results in increased happiness and a feeling of power in your life– this as opposed to a messy web of complicated relationships in which you have to cover up lies, remember false stories, and wear a plastic smile when you find yourself, despite your best attempts, in the same cereal aisle as your worst nemesis (read: last year’s bestie).

So, with how it went down, if I had spoken up to my friend about paying me back, it would have been something like, “I’m going to stop talking to you because you asked me to buy something for you and when I gave it to you, you didn’t offer to pay me back.” Which, put into words sounds kind of ridiculous. But that would have been putting my actions and words in correspondence. See how that works as a litmus test? That just goes to show how I ultimately overreacted, when the situation could have been corrected with a simple, calm conversation.

Like, for example, if I had said “Listen, I feel a little taken advantage of. What happened to you paying me back for X?” (Hopefully with some humor to diffuse the awkwardness.) It would almost certainly have ended with him being able to rectify the situation, either by offering to pay me back, or explaining why he hadn’t thought I’d wanted him to, why this was actually what I owed him from something I’d forgotten he’d paid for, etc. Pretty safe to say, that wouldn’t have resulted in the temporary but almost year-long lag in our relationship. This is the difference between using communication and just cutting someone off.

Yes, the silent treatment is easier. No, it doesn’t accomplish anything.

And if they really screw you over, you can always say, “I need to take a break from having you in my life, because you really hurt me.” Or whatever. Either way, it’s still better to be open and honest about why you’re doing what you’re doing. If it’s worth you cutting them off, it’s worth you doing them the favor (and the next people they come into contact with) of at least letting them know why. I happen to believe it’s really good karma to help people learn their lessons (and I mean that in a non-malicious way).

And not only that, when you say your thoughts out loud, it forces you to really make sure that they’re what you want to be thinking. It forces you to be in alignment between what you think, and what you do. That’s one of the most important, and trickiest, things to do in life.

I’ve stopped working for people when in honesty, I probably should have told them why I wasn’t available to sit anymore. We might have found a way to fix it, instead of me abruptly telling them I wasn’t available past a certain date. There are so many examples where, if I had implemented this in my life before, it would have saved numerous relationships. Good for me, good for them. It’s a win-win when you’re up front. And if they storm off, they would have been pissed at you either way. It’s not like you’ve got anything to lose by being completely honest. But most people respond to honesty. It takes integrity to stand with conviction, and people like that. Besides, whatever other people think, it’s a lot easier to like yourself when you act with conviction on your beliefs.

And this isn’t to say you stay best friends with every single person you’ve ever been best friends with. Or that you need to keep your ex on speed dial and invite them to your engagement party. Or that you keep a job that isn’t working for you.

It’s to say if someone pisses you off or something just isn’t right, do yourself a favor (and I mean that quite literally) and respect your feelings enough to honestly explain to them what they did and seek to rectify the situation. Chances are, they didn’t know what they did hurt you. Or, they did, and they’re an asshole. In which case you then will not need to be left wondering whether you did the right thing, and you can go on your way without feeling guilty. You’ll know that you tried and it simply wasn’t meant to be.

But most likely of all, they simply made a mistake and they’re aware of it (to some degree). They’re not a bad person; just an imperfect one. A lot of people would jump at the chance to explain themselves, and ask for an apology. But they don’t get the chance between their own self-awkwardness and your stone cold silence. How many relationships have ended this way?

The more I learn about life, the more I realize there is no “getting out” of stuff. There honestly are no short cuts or cheats. Just like every time you steal, karma comes back and bites you in the ass for more than the value of what you stole, there is no getting around lessons we are meant to learn. Simply cutting someone off is screwing yourself out of a learning experience in communication and forgiveness and understanding. Who is perfect enough to say they’ve never made a mistake? And how much more do you value the people in your life who were willing to give you a second chance after things went to hell in a hand basket? Those are the keepers. Be a keeper. Good for you, good for the planet (okay, good for the planet on a social level…I say it still counts.)

Those friends who stick by you through thick and thin, well, we’re fond of the rhetoric but it seems we’ve forgotten what “thin” really means. Sometimes thin is when someone seems to really screw you over. And being there through that would mean being there long enough to let them explain, or apologize and make it right. It’s not always just being a sympathetic ear, it’s being a sympathetic person who’s willing to overlook someone who’s honestly sorry for letting you catch them in a moment of less-than-graciousness.

I recently went through a break up with a long-time boyfriend, who was also one of the closest people I’d ever had in my life. He was like my world and family wrapped in one person. After living together for five years, we split and he moved across the country. One of the things that made it more bearable for me (and allowed me to stop mourning and experience the positive side of the changes that were taking place) was that we didn’t write each other off. We stayed friends. It’s one of the most peaceful feelings to know that I’m still friendly with someone who’s still in my heart and who has been such an enormous part of my life, and my growing up. I don’t have to cut myself off from the feelings I have for him, and that’s a gift.

Although most people said “You’re broken up. You can’t be friends. It’s not natural,” I was adamant about the importance of maintaining positivity in our relationship, even as it changed forms.

People have this weird idea that remaining friends means you can’t move on. I’ve found the opposite to be true: it’s harder to move on when you’re actively cutting yourself off from feeling all the feelings– not just sadness, but residual love. Pretending the person has no good qualities or that they’re not still worth loving or caring for due to a change of title, is what’s silly.

In fact I believe this is the reason I’m at peace now, and have been essentially since it happened. I didn’t think breaking up was a good enough reason to write somebody off. To me, that didn’t seem natural. He had still been my friend. He’d been a lot more than someone I’d slept with. He was somebody who had been my entire world and who’d taught me more about love than perhaps anyone else in my entire life. Changing a label about what we were to each other didn’t change his value to me; it just shifted it into a different realm of my life.

It gave us space, but didn’t suddenly eradicate our love for one another. I wasn’t going to throw him out just because he was no longer my future husband. That seemed cold, the opposite of the love we’d spent the last almost six years growing together. Making the choice to not write each other off was the single best decision we made in the break up, which directly contributed to how okay I am with it now.

I think to deny your fondness for someone in the face of more practical concerns, like breaking up or having an argument will only magnify the pain that makes you want to turn away in the first place. To at least to admit you love someone, even when it hurts and even when it’s hard, is to empower the truth and empower yourself along with it. You can’t change how you feel. All you can do is accept where you’re at, or be in denial and cause yourself more pain. If you cared about someone enough so that their actions hurt you, chances are it’s worth it to speak up and let them know how you feel, instead of holding on to the poison that causes you to write them off. Don’t turn away from pain in fear, or you will keep coming back to more. Embrace how you feel and seek for a way to understanding and forgiveness.

Lastly, if you want more peace in your life, don’t write people off. And if you can’t find it in your heart to do it for the other person, realize that you’re ultimately doing it for yourself. You will feel that weight lifted from your shoulders when you do (maybe you weren’t even aware of its presence or how heavy it was in the first place). Don’t carve a stone heart. Communicate. It doesn’t mean you hang on to what’s not working; it allows you to keep what’s good and be free of what’s not. Sometimes, you just need some light in there in order to be able to tell the difference.

More Meditation, Less Cowbell

My friend came over a few nights ago and forced meditation upon me. He then forced beer and squash blossoms (from his garden…he’s a bit of a walking oxymoron) and pickles that were too spicy, but I digress. Regarding the meditation, I’m grateful he made me do it. The beer (which led to wine, which led to vodka, which led to waking up way too early with a puppy and a hangover– not so much).

However, I sit here writing this, so glad he kicked my ass back into meditating because like working out, every time I do it it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done and I promise myself to keep up with it. And like working out, I don’t usually do that. But I’m going to give it my best shot because meditation is very simple and the pay off, compared to investment, is rather impressive.

Fifteen minutes out of your day in meditation can in fact change your life– and that’s not by having unprotected sex or winning the lottery. It’s by a simple shift in perspective, made real by coming in touch with your innermost being. The beauty of meditation, to put it as simply into words as I can, is that it connects you with your life spark.

If you don’t meditate regularly, or find yourself being fully immersed in the glorious presence of the moment as it is now (this happens to me often whenever I’m driving and listening to music or in the yard with my dog), then you are short changing yourself. You’ve been given the keys to the castle but you haven’t bothered to walk down the path that leads there.

And if meditation seems boring or like too much work, you should to do it more, give it some more time– because you clearly haven’t experienced the awesomeness it provides. It’s like turning on every cell in your body with love and light. It’s just that worthy of a cheesy promotion.

_______________________________________________

There is something about living in this dense material world that constantly directs our attention outward. I love people and interacting with them (either that or I’m avoiding those things because I need space), but I recognize the importance of being able to be by oneself. To me, being happy while being alone is one of the keys to living a good life.

And I don’t mean just the ability to enjoy one’s own company. I mean overcoming the fear of looking the very darkest parts of your being straight in the eye– and laughing. Because you know they’re really just illusions created by your own mind. That’s probably more important than anything else. It’s our low, and ultimately ignorant opinions of ourselves that ultimately keeps us down and apart from our true power– both of achieving the lives we want, and simply being happy with what we have now.

We are born alone and we die alone. While man certainly isn’t an island, only by ourselves can we reach enlightenment– or even just plain old happiness. Other people will leave us, die, or eventually pass through our lives. The most important (and longest) relationship you will ever have in life is with yourself. If you can be your own best friend, you are richer than most.

That isn’t to say people aren’t important, but being by myself– and I don’t mean being by myself to brood or over-analyze things– but seeking out solitude and space in which to actually BE is probably the most important gift I can give to myself and, ultimately, to the world, because I’m a better and more centered person for it.

Meditation teaches that life is greater than the sum of our mental illness. And by mental illness, I’m talking about the kind that every single person I know has to one degree or another.

That’s not negative, by the way, it’s positive: if we realize our weakness, we can work to weaken the weakness itself. I believe people are capable of much more than they perceive, and I think our particular brand of wide-spread mental illness– needing to be in a constant state of doing or distraction– greatly diminishes our natural power and innate sense of peace. Many people are not in touch with either of those things, and our entire world suffers from it.

No one would not benefit from everyone tapping into the source of their humanity. It’s our birthright as humans to know our inner greatness. But hardly anyone talks about this, let alone makes it an actual priority. It’s far from socially-acceptable. And if you make that your highest life purpose, you’re a bum. Exhibit A (me). I’m a happy bum, though.

Sitting quietly by yourself is nothing to fear. The cacophony of thoughts, worries, judgements and criticisms running through your mind day in and day out as you attempt to live and be happy, is what you should really be afraid of.

Last night during meditation with my oxymoronic friend, for instance, I was trying to practice transcendental meditation. But for better or worse, I found myself practicing more of a Vipassana-type thing (whereby you empty your mind and simply focus on your breath coming in and going out through your nostrils, as well as other sensations). Through this, you can actually feel the energy fields in your body come alive by conduit of your awareness. I have a nice mantra (I told him it was “penis”– but it actually wasn’t), but I felt compelled to empty my mind of even that. That’s what felt the best for me in that moment– no thought. It was like a cool glass of water on a hot summer day. I was tired before the meditation, and after I felt as if I’d just taken a great yoga class or had a massage. It was that clarifying– in just under twenty minutes of what essentially looked like me sitting in my garage, with my eyes closed, doing absolutely nothing.

I found some clarity on my writing and some new topics I wanted to touch upon. But more important, I was met with a reminder of what I really am, and the recognition that I’m meant to be on earth here and now, and doing what it is I love. It renewed my sense of faith in my mission here on earth.

Sometimes our lives lose focus. Sometimes we feel lost and we don’t know for sure that this all isn’t one giant messed up experiment derived by Greek Gods in the clouds who sip wine and laugh at our misfortune, betting on our outcomes like horse races (and wearing fancy hats). Sometimes we feel like puppets and other times we feel like there’s nothing out there at all. I don’t know which idea is more disconcerting. Luckily, in my more lucid moments, I know neither one to be true.

This clarity is available to anyone willing to look within and slay their own dragons. For me, that’s what life is about: slaying each and every negative and disempowering thought, belief and idea, until all that’s left is inner peace.

You know what I realized one time several months ago, that has changed my outlook on life ever since? It’s probably my best-kept secret to happiness because it had that much of an effect on me.

I realized that almost 100% of all the critical thoughts I had in my head about me had never actually been articulated by anyone except me. In other words, all the things I imagined people thought or said in negativity, were totally made up in my head! I alone was the one playing the tape of self-criticism over and over again. People rarely criticized me to my face. Whenever I thought I wasn’t good enough or smart enough or whatever-enough, that was just my own take on it. That was MY disorder; me judging myself. And yet I thought other people were critical (they might be, but not nearly as much as I was on myself).

And once I realized that, I also realized I had the choice to refuse to believe anyone’s perceived negativity about me: why should I believe someone else’s opinion on me is more important than my own?

That’s the type of wide-spread mental illness I’m talking about. It’s the type of mental illness that I think is the root of a lot of so-called evil in this world. At the very least, it’s behind quite a bit of dysfunction. When we aren’t clear on who or what we are, we cause destruction on an outer level that affects everything and everyone around us. Meditation sheds light on these idiosyncrasies of the ego-driven mind.

This is why I believe that meditation and knowing oneself are the keys to not only your own happiness, but to truly saving the world. I know that seems like a stretch, but hear me out.

A few years ago, I didn’t feel good about myself, as an effect of feeling lost and unsure of my place in, or the larger meaning of, life. Because of this insecurity, I felt the need to create some sort of persona I thought would help make me happy and successful. That was because I didn’t even know who I was, or what was important. My life had become a sick amalgamation of what everyone else valued or wanted for me.

My life and the person I had become were basically all an illusion. Is it any surprise I was the least happy I’d ever been during that time? And yet on the outside, people thought I was happy.

Part of the project of creating this persona to feel more grounded and happy, was the need to buy “special” things to elevate myself. For example, to feel above other people who couldn’t afford it or didn’t have as “good of taste” as I did (Surprise! This didn’t work at making me happier, but it did succeed at making me a passively-aggressive consumerist jerk.)

And I’m being blunt about it, which makes me sound like I was an asshole, which I was. And I wouldn’t have put it in those terms then. I wasn’t even fully aware I was doing it. I knew something was awry, but I would have sugar-coated it to myself and anyone who would listen, by saying I just really liked that thousand dollar purse or coat, and denied it had anything to do with building myself up in the face of lacking true substance. I felt lost and I was looking to fill a void. Simple as that.

This led to me spending ridiculous amounts of money on things I didn’t need. Okay, so that’s not positive for me or my bank account.

But on another level, how this affects other people and the world is this: that insatiable need to consume which I just laid out for you regarding my own story, is what leads Americans to over-spend (buying things they do not need or cannot afford)– like in extreme cases, the housing bubble which was part of the 2008 financial crash. Or, on a personal level, accruing debt that requires them to work in jobs they don’t find fulfilling and which slowly sap their soul, the whole time upping their stress levels and dissatisfaction with life (and pre-disposing them to disease…but that’s a whole other story.)

It’s a vicious cycle of not-so-good things happening, and a lot, a lot of people are involved int it.

This greedy lack of perspective (ignorance) contributes to probably an even greater detriment to humanity as a whole: the proliferation of sweat shops, in which innocent people in third world countries pay with indentured servitude and sometimes worse, because we want goods which are mass-produced so we can mass-purchase them. It’s also not good for the environment, and probably a million other things I can’t even fathom, but that are affected through our insistent need to consume more and more, while never quite reaching that root of the issue that compels us to perceive ourselves as lacking in the first place.

Then, if this isn’t insane enough, once we’ve acquired “enough stuff” it suddenly becomes “too much” of not the right stuff. So we then try to get rid of these mass-produced pieces of junk at garage sales so that we have more space and more money to go buy essentially the same thing–with a different story about why we suddenly need that instead of the old one. Land fills fill up, poor countries keep on producing this stuff while underpaying their workers. Oh, and the rich companies keep getting richer, as the gap between rich and poor grows. Do you ever wonder how the rich keep getting so much richer than the rest of us? I’m not a professional financier and I’m sure it’s very complex. But knowing what I know of the world mixed with a little common sense tells me things might shift, even a slight bit, if we all stopped drowning our sorrows in surplus material goods.

We’ve filled our lives with more shit and more gadgets than ever before– and yet depression is on the rise. People have lost touch of what it means to truly live. People have lost touch with happiness and have settled on zombification via pills and medicines which we fool ourselves into thinking are okay for us because a doctor told us so. This allows us the dubious ability to simply carry on our routine existence without questioning the true meaning of life. Have you ever stopped to think why we are here and if life is worth living if the majority of your only true resource– time– is spent doing something which doesn’t give you joy?

Maybe it’s just me.

But the way I see it, you’d probably be better off smoking marijuana and taking LSD– although I’m not arguing you should do those, either. But just to be clear: people put their faith in a marketplace that says marijuana, a plant, is not okay to consume, but a cocktail of (self-admitted potentially deadly) chemicals crushed into clean shapes and pretty colors that could compete aesthetically with Apple products, are fine for daily consumption. This is the type of insanity I’m talking about. But I digress.

_______________________________________________

I simply refuse to believe the beautiful chain of events that led to you and I being put on this earth at this particular time in the world, is simply to make someone like Donald Trump richer, while you hate your sterilized life in an office with no fresh air and pre-approved vacations. It’s like a grown-up version of having to ask for a bathroom pass in school. Or a grown-up version of school in general. In fact, if given the choice between most peoples lives after college, and school, I’d probably regress back to school years. The daily grind makes school look like a plum dandy deal to me.

Forty hours of the week, every week (except for two, alright) for the most energetic and opportune years of life is too much to be doing something you don’t like. Hell, I think ten hours per week is too much of that. I think any hour per week of doing what you don’t want to do should be a short-lived scenario at best.

You can think I’m a dreamer or that I don’t live in the real world, but I define my real world, and that’s led directly to my happiness. What have you defined? Did you let everyone else define the meaning of life for you? How’s that working out for you? Do you think it will get better after that raise, promotion, car you’ve got your eye on? Take a look at the things you’ve wanted, and gotten in the past, and see if you’ve ever been that much better off after getting them.

You know what they say. Be careful what you wish for…

You think you can’t change the world– your own personal world, or that around you? You aren’t giving yourself enough credit– or responsibility. Humans run the world. Not Americans, not Indians, not Arabs or Europeans. Humans. Humans hold the key. Our humanity is an untapped resource we’ve gotten expert at covering up, to the detriment of our earth, animals and children. If you think you need to go to a job you hate every day so that you can buy a half a million dollar house and drive a brand new car and buy all the things you want, then you will. But don’t sit there and complain if you’re still not happy. That’s disempowering. You always have a choice. Especially in America. I’m not that patriotic, but I will say that about us.

How many people live their entire lives like this? How many times do you have to buy the next new thing, to realize it didn’t make you happy? You are the walking definition of insanity. (And really, I mean that as good news– whenever we feel like shit, don’t we want a diagnosis? And it’s your lucky day because this one didn’t even require a co-pay.)

If you realize that humans are animals– who live in nature, without money and working only for what they need to live– then you may start to see life a little differently. Do animals acquire possessions and insurance policies?

Have you ever stopped to think that perhaps the best insurance protection is not buying more than you can afford to replace or let go of? That maybe the best way toward peace is to relinquish your attachment to things? And maybe happiness isn’t things going your way (which will never happen 100% of the time), but maybe it’s learning to see the bright sides of things, and to even be happy even when things don’t go your way? To me, that sounds like a much more solid bet, than trying to play god to everything around you and always forcing things in your direction (again, a rather impossible feat, but that doesn’t stop many people from trying).

Some people have even found ways of living without money. I’m not suggesting you need to do that; I know for many of you it’s probably a stretch to say you could make your coffee at home instead of paying five times that amount to have someone in an apron make it for you. Or to suggest you may actually survive without your cell phone.

But if you are willing to have more faith in yourself as a natural part of this earth as opposed to the consumer and advertising industries and other, equally as messed-up people’s opinions of you, then you might look for another way. You might start to realize that the life you’ve built based on what the world thinks is important, isn’t working out for you the way you thought.

That can be scary and certainly unsettling, but it can also be the best thing that ever happened to you– because it snaps you out of your miserable fog and opens your mind to a new way of life.

And please don’t misconstrue my point: I’m not saying that the trappings of modern-day society are bad in and of themselves– they’re really just neutral tools, like knives and guns– whose use or abuse makes them “good” or “bad”.

It’s when people live their lives simply for the sake of acquiring things that in the whole scheme of things will break, get lost, stolen, or eventually they’ll leave behind either way, that the trouble starts. I’m not here to say what will make you happy or that you need to give anything up. Only you can know if the way you’ve set your priorities is serving your happiness and, by extension, the greater good.

And by the way, you don’t need to be a slave to things or to other people’s opinion of you. People won’t stop talking to you (at least not everyone) if you stop caring so much what people think. You can keep worrying about the Kardashians and keeping up with them if you want to. But I will say from experience: finally loving, and even liking myself and owning my personality and beginning to use my talents, are the best things I’ve ever done in life– and no one is sitting there congratulating me for it. I’m not making any money writing, but I’m happier than I’ve ever been. And all those nice things sit in my closet. They’ve got nothing to do with my soul, and they never did. It’s not that money and nice things are bad. But there is a reason why they say money can’t buy happiness. And it’s not just because of the Beatles.

If you step back and are willing to momentarily divorce yourself from your previous assumptions, you can’t help but see that nothing is more beautiful or precious than the man himself, in all his naturally perfect imperfection. What we really love are people, animals, nature, love, joy, laugher. All the cheesy Hallmark things– there’s something inside every one of us that secretly (or openly, god help you) loves those things. Whether we want to admit it or not, those are inherently valuable. Those are what we are built to desire, from the depths of our souls. The outer stuff which is man-made is nothing more than an illusion.

Who creates the value of a diamond? And who creates the value of a man? If you honestly ask yourself that question in relation to your own life, you will realize the value of an object is nothing more than an agreed-upon illusion that makes a diamond more valuable than a rock in your driveway. Or that make the things you buy to impress others, more important to you than enjoying your day on a regular basis, while carrying a generic backpack.

Are you going to base your entire life on an illusion? I don’t know about you, but my most important resource is my life. I consider how I spend that to be my highest responsibility while I’m hanging out on this globe. You may think I lack ambition or direction because I live a life that makes me happy (and, coincidentally keeps me out of the rat race). That’s alright. I only wish you happiness. And I’d also point out that people who feel happy in their own lives generally aren’t looking to find fault in the way others live theirs– because they don’t have open wounds to cover and defend, and they’re more busy enjoying themselves than buying into a cycle of negativity.

That’s just my personal philosophy. I’ve worked at jobs I don’t like and made money to buy things I thought I wanted or needed and for myself, I’ve come to the conclusion that death is probably a better solution than that. Because the other version is a slow death in which one actively suffers. Please remind me: how is that better than cancer?

I’m not advocating suicide; I’m advocating for finding another way so that suicide doesn’t look so appealing by comparison. And sometimes the smarter the person, the easier their ability to be dissatisfied with life.

I believe depression is ultimately ignorance. You can be terribly intelligent and simultaneously ignorant. And I think that’s the case for many people– too smart to be happy doing drudgery, but too ignorant of their own personal power to make the change.

And the world is missing out on their greatness as they sit behind a desk in a costume* that makes them (supposedly) look more important than they feel, while they search in desperation for any way to distract themselves from the slow death via boredom and lack of feeling useful in any meaningful way.

*Dry clean only

I also find it ironic that people who didn’t, or don’t currently, particularly like their job-lives still attempt to pass this path off to me, because it’s all they know, and all they can imagine anyone else doing. Some people believe it’s simply part of life to get a job, any job really, and keep at it until you’re just old enough to not be able to enjoy life as much as you could when you were young. To base your success around the things you own and the status people decide to give you. Some people think it’s natural to devote the best years of your life to padding the pockets of the rich at the expense of your soul just to fit in and keep people quiet. And others resent the people who value their lives to much to buy into that.

“But you’re not SUPPOSED to LIKE what you do! That’s beside the POINT!”

I just don’t feel the same way, that’s all. It’s not like I’m sitting there studying your every move with judgment if you want to live that way. That’s totally up to you. I’m not anti-establishment; I’m just into being myself. I’m not anti-anything, but when what someone is doing isn’t working for them, I’m all for making a change.

And the more I’ve opened myself up to that idea– that life can be about happiness and love (because that’s why life exists– to spread that positive energy) the more the universe has stepped in to reassure me that this is in fact so. It’s an uphill battle on the outside, in terms of what the world values, versus my own personal beliefs. But while I may seem lost to people who think happiness comes only in the form of mansions and 401k’s, I feel at peace and content with my life. And at this current station, I wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s not to say I won’t change. But I’ll change when the urge strikes; not because I’m living my life in fear of the future.

And that’s not complacency speaking. It’s obvious that I’m not perfect and or I don’t have all the answers. The more I live here, every day, I’m made aware of how little I really know. But I’m honestly alright with that, too. I’ve stopped trying to prove myself to myself or anyone else in that way.

I’m changing and learning every day, and there are still many ways I would like to grow and things I’d like to work on. But I’m going at my own pace and I do what I believe is important, based on my own inner urges and not unsolicited advice by people who think they know me, but truly don’t (there’s probably only one person in the world who actually knows me, and that’s my sister– because she actually listens and has an open mind).

I’m learning to put all the “things” in life (from big to small, they’re all just details) into perspective of the larger picture– which I’m happy to admit I don’t fully understand. But I also don’t feel the need to; that’s part of relinquishing my control in exchange for peace.

If you are happy, then you don’t need to change a thing. It’s in frustration, anxiety, stress, sadness and depression that we most often find the need to go deeper, move within, and seek answers to questions the world doesn’t seem to provide. If you are searching for answers, go within yourself. This world is complex and often disheartening, I know.

You (and by that I mean your awareness– the part of you which has always been witnessing your life unfold for as long as you can remember) are the only constant, and it is therefore beyond question or suspicion. Have faith in the single thing you’ve been given, the most true part of you. That will show you the way.

_______________________________________________

Meditation is self-reliance in its purest form. And you don’t just have to sit in one place in silence, although that’s the most intense and perhaps quickest way (toward finding yourself, and therefore, answers and some comfort/relief).

But simply living a life of awareness in the present moment, of your current breath, goes a long way. Enjoy your music, enjoy really listening to someone else who wants to talk to you. Enjoy your pet. Spend time in nature. These are naturally meditative things, if you allow them to be. I’ve even read a mystic who says smoking can be a great meditative tool. It’s not just for people who live in monasteries or only eat vegan food and wear LULU Lemon see-through pants. It’s for everyone with a breath to follow– it’s not esoteric and it’s not above or below you.

Meditation is for enjoyment; it’s not serious in the way that people tend to imagine. The only reason I take meditation seriously is that it works. It’s tapping into the essence of life and coming back to the real world with treasures from another realm. It really is that magical.

Try it for yourself if you are feeling lost. And if you’re too intimidated by that, spiritual teachers are great guides for people who are more comfortable sitting and reading a book. I recommend some of them here. I’ve found their teachings to be personally helpful in bringing out my most authentic life view and philosophy.

And if you don’t know the exhilaration of reading something that strikes a chord within and makes you feel that you are undoubtedly connected with the universe, that is the absolute best I can wish for for anyone. It’s one of the best feelings (highs) I’ve experienced. It makes you feel alive and gives you hope where maybe you had lost it all from living too much in your head and the racing ambitions of the outer world.

Be in peace. The great paradox of life is that it goes by too quickly to not spend it doing what you love, but it’s an awfully long haul if you’re stuck somewhere you don’t want to be. Nothing is impossible. If you want it, there’s a way. We are never beyond changing for the better. Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed. That’s become my most basic philosophy, and it’s served me well so far. I wish all those answers you seek for you, as well.

If you spend some meditative moments with yourself, you will come to feel more at home in your body and in your life. The changes that come about from those moments being in touch with yourself will bring untold greatness. After all, what could be greater than happiness and peace, ultimately? No riches in the world can compare; we’ve seen people who have them, and yet are still not happy.

You are meant to be happy. You are meant to live in peace. First believe that.

And then

just breathe…

Why You Should Love Having Haters

Jake confronts a long-time critic.

Jake confronts a long-time critic.

So here’s a funny thing. I’ve never had my writing out and out, straight up solidly dissed the way it has been in the last week (on Reddit). That’s the good news!

Now for the icing: Publicly. And by total strangers (or people I know and love who are using pseudonyms…another likely possibility). Strangers who are reading my stuff on the internet. This is a promotion. I’ve got to admit, I’m feeling pretty honored right now.

Okay, maybe not that honored. But a little honored. If not honored by the haters, honored by the chance I’ve been given to learn from what it feels like to have something you worked on totally torn to shreds by a few nameless, faceless internet commentators.

Now, you may be asking yourself: is this like the time your acting teacher told you pointedly, not everything is about you, and you decided to take it as a compliment– meaning that there was potentially existent confusion about whether or not everything was, in fact about you? The answer is no, this is hopefully a lot different.

I double emphasize hopefully.

But actually, in a backward way, I’m enjoying this process of feeling so much e-hate directed toward me, and perhaps even more personally, something I’ve worked at producing. It’s an entirely new feeling. Even people who think/know I’m less than perfect don’t usually get up the nerve to say it to my face– so I’m finding this bad-review situation uncomfortable and exhilarating at the same time. It’s like coming out of the closet– as a person with ideas that some people apparently really disdain (and that’s putting it nicely).

Not that there was ever any doubt I am the conduit of ideas and beliefs that aren’t popular.

Based solely on how my thoughts tend to differ from the way the world works in general, I should have known this would happen. In fact, a psychic told me years ago that it would. 😉 I think mostly, I was taken aback by people laughing at certain things I’d said which weren’t meant to be funny– they’re the kinds of things (like ego and intuition and even astrology– though I haven’t fed that one to the wolves yet) that I consider to be just part of daily jargon and my conceptual view of the universe.

But to the certain readers on a certain site who found fault, it was apparently like I was arguing why Harry Potter probably was based on a real wizard boy (It was: Daniel Radcliffe! Duh.). Let’s just put it this way: if you think the Salem Witch Trials are bogus and couldn’t happen today, the writers of those comments give a good indication that the same vein of sentiment is alive and well.

So when I first got wind of all the harshness, I was a little ruffled. Especially when it seemed to me that I was going out of my way to be self-deprecating, light, and friendly while perhaps interjecting with a bit of tough love). My reaction was basically the equivalent of screaming “Wait– but I’m NICE!” back to a school yard bully who’d just stomped my iPod. I guess you could call it the “Why poor me?” thing.

But after having a few days away from it (not even to mull, because I actually forgot all about it until I signed on a few days later– and the negativity had expanded in quantity– literally, not one shred of positivity or constructive criticism! Though there’s a possibility someone came to my defense, but I can’t tell whether it was that, or they were actually adding to the negative comments… I’m still learning my way around this stuff) to relax into my new role of shitty blogger, I’ve realized that well, I’m not exactly some cute little girl streaming rainbows from her pigtails. I do have some ideas that are kooky to mainstream society. And I’m not apologetic about it– I think it’s apparent the world would do better to change from the way it is, in many aspects, so whatever seems crazy now, actually has the potential to save it in the future.

And there’s no reason for the “Poor me” mentality. It really is okay if people don’t like what I do. In fact, I knew from the beginning that was going to happen. There was just a disconnect between logic and feeling, when it actually did occur.

And this is something I already knew about myself: I probably put too much emphasis on people liking me. I’ve always been a people-pleaser (I think Oprah calls it “the disease to please”– dis-ease being the operative word, in my opinion). But in a really awkward twist of genetics, I’ve got got some strong ideals which run counter-pop-culture and the mainstream. That’s not for the sake of being iconoclastic; it’s just the way my mind works.

I know logically that the point of what I write is to make people think, and to challenge some of their automatic ideas about the world and their place in it. It’s not that I’m always right or my ideas are the best and brightest, but I think there’s value in allowing oneself to be open to new ideas and ways of viewing our context within this mysterious universe.

Even if you decide the ideas aren’t for you, there’s still value in assessing them for yourself. It’s like how I look at taking calculus in college as totally unnecessary and ultimately I’ll probably never do another thing with it in my life, but it still expanded my mind and the way in which I’m able to view other completely unrelated concepts.

So while I’ve been blessed with a love of writing and talking and a penchant for adopting strange ideas and views that make people laugh (at me, not with me), scowl, walk away, and other not-as-pleasant things, I’m also equipped with a relatively thin epidermis. A skin which is apparently my new lot in life to work on callousing.

And the truth is, it’s a lot easier for me to maintain my ideals when there aren’t real-life examples of the opposition standing in front of me. Because I do really love people, and my ultimate tendency is to like whoever’s in front of me, no matter how many shitty things they’ve done in the past (like say Astrology isn’t real, or diss Adventure Time). It’s not for me to judge anyone– and that’s never more apparent than when a living thing is standing before me. I cave! I’m okay with that. It’s good for the soul to live in that kind of cave 😉

And as for the criticism itself, if you take a step back and think– they’re just words in a forum! How can they even have a physiological effect on me? It’s pretty amazing. We’re talking one or two sentences, max. So I’m also realizing that it’s amazing just how sensitive we are to fellow man, and how in tune we all are with each other– whether we want to make fun of chi and energy and all that hippie stuff, well, I’d argue that your negative chi* is what compelled you to write those things in the first place! 🙂

*I don’t believe that the concept that the universe is ultimately energy is all that strange, anymore, but I suppose there were people who believed the earth was flat in the face of such evidence, as well.

Apart from flexing my thick-skin muscles, and growing my awe for human inter-connectedness, this is yet another lesson in compassion and humility.

This was already something I was consciously working on (a week or so before my negative press in the forums): not criticizing creative endeavors without first establishing a respect for the artist’s courage in making the creation in the first place.

I hope this serves to make me think twice before the next time I’m quick to criticize work someone else put time and effort and thought into. And that’s not because those commentator-people are wrong to think I stink at life, or that they aren’t entitled to their own opinion. Hey, sometimes I read my things and want to cringe at how dogmatic I was being, or errors within the writing itself.

And please make no mistake: I never claim to be perfect, and all I’m doing here is opening myself up to learning and growing, but just doing it on paper. I’m doing it that way so that hopefully others can gain some insight to their own journeys though it. I live my life as a guinea pig, and so I don’t expect anything more than honesty and openness and awareness of myself. I’m not right and you’re not wrong. There’s really not a whole lot of right and wrong in my life anymore. And of course there are mistakes along the way, which will be chronicled. It’s messy. Just like life.

It takes five seconds to sound off on a comment board with something cutting down what someone has, in all likelihood, worked hard and long and not only that– put a piece of their soul into. It’s not that I’m arguing against constructive criticism– in fact, I very much welcome it. Constructive criticism comes from a place of understanding and mutual respect, and anything based on those two things, I’m gonna be all about.

But while it’s easy to have an opinion as a purveyor of other people’s efforts, I’ve been trying to step back a moment and look at the creation I feel the need to criticize and wonder what, in myself, elicits such a reaction? What’s inside me that’s fighting it or getting defensive? Perhaps, is it hitting on my own weakness, and is in fact pointing to a truth I’m not ready to hear. Or maybe… it just sucks.

But what’s to be gained by telling someone something like that, in those uncertain terms? At least, if you are set on telling them how much it sucks– have the presence of mind to enumerate as to why, in fact it does really blow. And if you’re going to criticize someone, I think the only way to do it so that you both feel good, is that you’re doing it with good intent.

Tearing them down is not good intent. Telling them why you think it needs work so they aren’t wasting their time with something that’s horrid, is more like what I mean.

And even then, it is just your opinion. We’ve all heard stories of movie studios passing up films that went on to become blockbusters, and the same with books and publishers, artists and galleries, the list goes on. The more I hear these stories, the less likely I am to listen to anyone but myself. (Still, it’s nice to be able to gracefully accept criticism and listen to it, whether you act on their suggestions or not.)

It’s like when you wrote an essay in high school and your teacher made you back up your opinions with “why”. It’s not good enough to throw a rock at a glass house and run away (in your Cinderella glass shoes). That’s what makes constructive criticism constructive— it constructs an argument. It builds something up instead of just tearing it down. Any old idiot can tell you you’re nothing. But good constructive criticism is like good collaboration. It’s well-thought out and is backed by good intentions. Regular criticism is just putting someone down to make yourself feel better. (Which it doesn’t actually do, on any more than a superficial level.)

How many times have we criticized movies or novels, yet how many movies or novels have we personally filmed or written? It’s not to say you can’t have an opinion, but regardless of your opinion of the product itself, you can still allow yourself to be moved by the very humanity it took to bring that single seed of thought to life.

You cannot argue your life is not richer for the experience of something new– whether you hated it, or loved it– if it roused emotion within you, it presented you with an opportunity to better know yourself and experience the rich diversity of the human experience. I used to always say if a movie made me cry or want to throw up, or anything that seemed terrible, it was probably a fantastic film. Maybe not fun to watch and maybe I wouldn’t want to see it again, but whoever was behind the camera knew what they were doing. And even during nausea or sobs, it was still a hell of a lot better than something that didn’t make me care at all.

And I don’t mean to imply that my stuff is better because people dislike it, either. I’m not playing Jesus, here. But it’s really nice to be able to work on humility in the privacy of my own home. It’s like getting yourself in halfway decent shape before you start jogging outside in just a sports bra. I feel like I’m pumping iron with my growing-a-thick-skin-muscles. I knew I needed to work on it, and how lucky am I? The personal trainer comes straight to my home!

My mom always told me growing up that I was never going to be liked by everyone– because no one is. She meant it in a freeing, optimistic sort of way– and I’m finally realizing just how liberating it is to embrace that concept in real-life, head-on, facing my fears of being inadequate at the one thing I love doing and [gasp] not being loved by every single person who crosses my path while doing it.

And, I think it’s worth noting how different it is to realize the concept in theory (of course it makes sense… not everyone loves even Angelina Jolie, or Jesus) versus employing that theory in order to deal with the feelings that arise when someone does in fact, not like you.

To illustrate my point: when I was helping my very talented ex with his art career I’d always point out, “Hey, all of the best actors, musicians, and artists I know, have a million rejection stories to their name. (Trust me, I wikipedia’d them all throughout college instead of reading the assigned literature.) In fact, I literally look at rejection as bringing you closer to your eventual success.”

And I really meant that. But even relatively good advice we have no problem doling out to those we love takes on new (rather more difficult) meaning when it’s applied to one of the most intimate of subjects– ourselves.

I do live in la-la land for the most part. I’ve got my own inner world and usually I prefer it to the so-called real one (and I’m also a believer that to a great extent, we create our own outer world through our inner thoughts and feelings). But even so, I don’t believe in sheltering myself from constructive criticism.

And that’s coming from someone who generally believes in the purity of work from one person following their intuition in spite of what anyone else says, and that criticism, especially made too early in one’s project or career, can harm more than help. But I still believe in accepting criticism, even if it’s just to listen. If for no other reason than that it exists and I refuse to live my life in fear, or harboring blind spots.

Exploring my mind publicly has actually helped me realize one of my biggest fears.

What I always feared most was being changed in the eyes of the people I loved, by what I’d written… And well, that’s always a possibility. But I didn’t realize how much a stranger’s words could sting– someone I didn’t even know or personally care about! Then I allowed myself to feel the awkwardness of people not liking me…And then I was able to accept it, and then I was able to be okay with it.

I knew when I first started out, that the day would come where I would have to face it head on. And the only way to do that was to make sure that I stood behind everything I wrote.

At the very beginning of my journey with this blog (which is still pretty new) I realized if I was putting myself out there, it couldn’t be with the ego– or it just wouldn’t work. You are only really sensitive to criticism when you are living through your ego. When I checked my ego (it’s an ongoing process), I was able to take some space and step back. I think it made my writing more valuable to the type of reader for whom I wanted to write, and I think it also allowed me to make sure that what I was writing was something I could stand behind. Something that if criticized, I would be able to have my own back on and feel centered in the face of that criticism and still remember why I wrote it. Not because I wanted to engage in a debate, but just so that I could know in my heart I’d done the best I could.

I don’t expect to change the world on a grand scale, but I do have standards of quality. I write what I write consciously, and I take a lot of time with it. It’s something I enjoy fully.

I think whether we mean to or not, we are all changing the world, every second and every breath. Whether we mean to be role models or spokespeople, by our very being, that is what we are. We are always teaching and always learning, and the best we can do is to become aware of that fact, and act and think accordingly.

That is what I attempt to do here, by exposing my struggles, weaknesses, and what I’m learning and working through with them for the benefit of those readers who find solace in knowing that they are not alone, even on silly mundane things like living with your ex or feeling bummed about working on your birthday. That’s what life is about– little things that we share as humans. And that’s the reason I write.

You’ve always got to better yourself and not rest on your past success. Life keeps going and we’ve got to keep growing, or our spirits perish before our bodies. But if you’re sitting there feeling sorry for yourself because someone wasn’t a thrilled-to-death fan of something you did, you’re not helping anyone– least of all, yourself.

I always come back to this quote I heard from Gwyneth Paltrow, “What other people think of me is not my business.” Do your best, listen to your heart, and just keep moving on. Some people will love you and some people will hate you. Some people will buy your products and some will not. Some people will give you good reviews and others will laugh in your face. That’s nature and the inconstancy of the universe, not an identifying factor of you or your work.

It certainly never hurt anyone– least of all me– to be a little humbled by the humble pie they just consumed. So that’s cool… I’m digesting. But with that said, I think it behooves us all to soften our opinions against others a little bit here and there, simply because if you want to find the positive, you can. You can find it in yourself to at least respect the person for putting themselves out there and proffering it up to fellow man to aid him in his quest to better know himself.

Like I said, that’s how I’ve been trying to live my life before this whole comment thing started, so it’s especially serendipitous I should be on the receiving end of my own lesson.

Ultimately, I do what I do because I love it and as a bonus, it’s nice when I feel as if I’m helping someone here and there– even if that help is just enjoyable reading for a few minutes out of their busy day. I’m becoming more of a live and let live person myself, but I don’t know if I’ll ever fully be rid of the type of opinions and brain waves/neuro-connections that make people adore and deplore me.

But no matter what, I’m not doing it for that reason, for either result. I’m doing it for myself, because writing is a way I find purely enjoyable for expressing myself and exploring the parameters of this strange breathing apparatus known as life. I think the real reason I started writing this post, in fact, was actually to point out the ridiculous humor of the simultaneous people who love you more for of your writing with people who declare it’s nearly ruined the last ten minutes of their existence.

It just goes to show the ludicrousness of life, and to each their own. There’s something out there for everyone.

So, I hope you loved this article. Or I hope you hated it. Or I hope you cared so little about all this shit that you want your time back. Or I hope you didn’t read it at all. I really just hope I can stop because this joke isn’t even funny but the point was, I wish you the best whether you’re reading this or not. And other than that, I’m going to keep doing my thing.

I really just hope for world peace, actually…