Be a favorite of your favorite people.

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I just had this thought: “If there aren’t an equal number of people saying bad things about you as there are saying good things, you’re not being entirely authentic.”

I may have the proportions wrong. But this got me thinking.

You can never please everyone. It’s taken me a long time to grasp this.

And here’s something that I’ve found extremely liberating: I know that there are people who don’t think highly of me. That’s fine. You know why? Because I don’t think highly of them either. The ones that come to mind are, in fact, terrible people.

Petty. Ruled by their ego. Materialistic. Disingenuous. Liars. Dull.

Really REALLY boring, in fact. To me. Not to others – and that’s good, too. We all deserve our champions. We all deserve someone in our lives who thinks we’re the bees’ knees – preferably multiple people. Everyone deserves loyalty.

But I don’t give a fuck what the other people think. Because at the end of the day … EVERY day … the people I admire most also admire me.

I want to make it clear, I’m not being snotty. This is not sour grapes. This is real. This is important. It’s a revelation to me, after 37 years of trying to please everyone.

I can’t. I won’t. And that’s okay. Because when I look at my life and my sphere of influence, this is what happens in my brain:

– I know (and love) who I am.

– I know (and love) that I can and want to always improve.

– I know (and love) a lot of wonderful people who …

– know (and love) me.

– I know (and love) that I can’t please everyone.

– And I know (and love) that I can stop trying.

– I know (and love) that some people won’t like me. Often because of the things I (and others) love about me.

You can’t go through life telling people to fuck off. That’s not nice or productive or maybe even sane, really. But you can recognize what matters … WHO matters … to you personally. THAT is your real “sphere of influence.”

I am a favorite of my favorite people.

That might be my new life motto: “Always be a favorite of your favorite people.”

Don’t Let the Dog Urine (or the Ants) Get You Down

I came home the other night after an 11-hour work day in reasonably good spirits, took my dogs out, poured a glass of wine, walked into the bedroom and found a puddle of dog urine on my bed. 

This has started to occur with some frequency.

And for a few minutes, I started to melt down. Every self-pitying thought about coping with things alone, and how no one ever takes care of me, and how my life (along with my apartment) is a fucking mess, etc. came flooding into my brain and I sat on the edge of the bed and cried. And then I rolled into a ball (away from the puddle) and lay there wishing my life were different. 

And then I went through a litany in my head of all my failings, of everything I need to get done that I haven’t done because I’m always too busy or too sad or too happy or too lonely or too something. 

And I lay there for a few minutes longer wishing someone would just take care of all these things for me. 

And then … I got my shit together, and started thinking of very practical solutions to my problems which brought that downward spiral of thoughts to a halt. 

Everything I don’t like about my life is my responsibility, and I can change it. They’re small things anyway, because most of the time, I rather love my life. Yes, I wish I had a clean, antless apartment all the time and dogs that always behaved and no debt and a car that didn’t make annoying noises all the time. 

But I don’t really want someone to take care of everything for me. It’s my life. All mine. I wake up in the morning and every decision about my day is mine to make. 

This is not a small thing. I feel like I’ve always put myself in positions where I was relieved of the ability to make choices. (That’s oversimplified and sounds rather dramatic, but it will take another blog post to write about what I feel about freedom vs security and the ability to make choices about one’s life. Next time, maybe.)

And it’s all temporary. I won’t always work so much. I won’t always live paycheck to paycheck and have a ridiculous amount of debt. I won’t always have dogs. (I kid. I love those monsters.) I’ll eventually find a guy who is smart and funny and loving and respects my autonomy who isn’t already married or a work of fiction. 

Or awkward. Or predatory. Which seems to be mostly what I attract. One or the other. Possibly both. 

It’s a journey. If nothing else, my life is teaching me patience. And I was inordinately proud of myself for jumping off that train of negativity. If I can consistently do that, I’ll be fine. 

Contemplating the Nature of Love

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I don’t think I ever in my life felt more vulnerable than I do right now.

It’s an uncomfortable fog of thoughts swirling around in my brain, one that never seems to cease, even in my sleep.

But if it coalesces into a coherent treatise on the nature of love, I suppose it will be worth it.

I have been on a mission over the past two years to understand love better and love more selflessly in the process. To love as I want to be loved – not with a grasping possessiveness but with generosity. Not because I want to gain something but because I want to give.

It’s hard in part not because I’m naturally possessive (I don’t think I am) but because love is inextricably tied up in our society with gender relations and power and pride. Despite the Judeo-Christian ethics largely dictating American culture that give lip service to the notion of love as a generous act, we don’t treat it that way.

We are a grasping, materialistic, power-hungry people. And we will likely become more so under the influence of our current leadership.

And so love often becomes a power play, more about control and having than generosity and giving. That model perpetuates because it’s the only model some of us have ever known, and it rarely occurs to us to question it.

But I’m questioning it. I’ve had an excellent example to follow – a friend and mentor and possibly the first person I’ve ever met who is entirely capable of selfless love.

I haven’t always shown gratitude for his lessons. I’m stubborn and proud and rarely good at being vulnerable. And perhaps this post is as much a love letter and thank you note as it is an essay on the nature of love. Because he has always been patient with me. And as a result, he has taught me greater patience and self-confidence and compassion.

Friendship, truth, loyalty.

I falter, often, but change takes time. I consider myself something of an existential philosopher, constantly considering how best to live this one lovely life I’m given.

Love has always stood at the center of that life, the most important thing. But I’m trying to consider it in very different terms these days. As something I give without asking anything in return. As something I can experience without the physical and often arbitrary manifestations of it.

I’ll continue contemplating it and working on it and writing about it. It’s good, meaningful work, and I need some good, meaningful work in my life.

Tomorrow Will Be Better

My quote for today comes from Maria Popova – something she said in a post about a graceful and loving post-break-up letter Simone De Beauvoir wrote

“To give space when what one most yearns for is closeness, that is both the great test and great tragedy of love.”

I can’t help but feel a little bleak today. So I’m indoors with my dogs and a book. Veronica Franco: Poems and Selected Letters

It will get better. I have plans. Embryo plans, but plans nonetheless. Hard work is the answer to any kind of grief. And I worked hard today. 

I’ll work harder and finally accomplish something. “At last I can start suffering and write that symphony.”

I need a life that makes me excited to get up in the morning. 

Not a very insightful post, really, and probably more than a bit self-centered, especially in the wake of Manchester. 

I’m grateful for a lot of things. Friendship. Truth. Solitude. Books. Dogs. My beautiful brain. A paycheck. Two of them, in fact. Love, from a distance or otherwise. 

And tomorrow will be better. 

Do What You Can

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In that last post, I quoted a line from a book by Shauna Niequist. There’s a part of that quote – the part about not fast-forwarding yourself into a future you haven’t yet earned – that I’ve been considering a lot in the past several days.

There are a lot of things that I want in my life that I don’t yet have. And while I fully believe I’m the only one who can make things happen in my life, I hadn’t exactly thought of it in terms of “earning” my future.

I think I should start asking myself that question as part of my morning and evening journaling. What can you do today to earn the future you want? What did you do today that puts you one step closer to that future? Does the way you live your life now make you worthy of the future you desire?

I feel like that’s a good reflection exercise.

I’ve read from a variety of different sources about the value of writing down on paper, in very specific terms, where you want to be, say, 5 or 10 years in the future. I’ve always had a hard time with the specifics. I think that’s because sometimes the specific things I want to be part of my life are beyond my control. And I don’t want to commit to paper something I can’t guarantee.

But I had a very clear vision this morning as I was getting ready for work of what I wished I was doing instead – of exactly how my day would be carried out and who would be in it if I had my way. It was a lovely way to start my morning.

And then I went to work and got bogged down by a bureaucracy that only seems to be getting worse every day, and all I can think about now is that vision of my future. A future that – while it isn’t wholly in my control – could be exactly what I need.

I’m always harping on control, and I get frustrated sometimes because I feel like a lot of what I think will make me feel fulfilled is beyond my control. So what am I supposed to do?

“What I can” is inevitably the answer. Focus on what you can do and work your ass off for it, and ultimately everything else will follow. The result may not look exactly like what you’d envisioned, but if you put in the effort, it will be good.

It’s not scientific, but I believe sending out positive vibes will result in good things coming back to you.

So I’m going to spend some time today writing out my vision. It’s not for public sharing – not right now, anyway. It’s just for me, to give me a beautiful sense of direction (something I feel like I’ve been lacking a bit.)

And I’ll take what I write and develop a list of what I can do to make it happen. Something concrete I can review every day while I ask myself “Is the way I’m living now pushing me toward what I want?”

I already know that some of what I’m doing now is. And the major thing that needs to change is my attitude toward my work and where I want my career to go. It’s stagnant and has been for awhile. Ironically, it’s probably the one area I have the most control over. Which should be comforting.

I just need to get off my ass and get to it.

Getting Unstuck & Letting Go

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“Don’t get stuck in the past, and don’t try to fast-forward yourself into a future you haven’t yet earned. Give today all the love and intensity and courage you can, and keep traveling honestly along life’s path.” – Shauna Niequist

I stole that quote from a book called “Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace and Learning the Hard Way.”

I haven’t read the book – only a handful of passages. She has some excellent thoughts, but there’s too much god-talk for a good heathen to tolerate, and she often comes across as judgy and sanctimonious. I like those two lines though.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my past. I found myself recently (and somewhat defensively) telling a friend, “I’m not who I was at 23.”

I’m not. But I don’t think I should be so defensive. I’m not proud of a lot of my past behaviors, but I’m also not ungrateful for what I learned from them. They’re a part of my past, a major factor in the person I am at 37, a woman I’m genuinely proud to be. I still have a lot to learn, but – barring a freak accident – I probably still have a lot of time left in which to do so. I hope so.

Regardless, I know what I value in a way that I’ve never known before. I love who I am in a way I never have before. I possess a self-respect that I never before had. I’m not afraid of everything and everyone anymore. For the first time in my life, I am unapologetically me.

Two years ago, I sat in my bedroom, alone and in tears shortly after telling my husband I didn’t love him and wanted to divorce, and posted on my Twitter account, “I am not a good person.” I think I really believed that for a very long time. And I don’t anymore. I’m not stuck in a past I can’t change. I’m no longer making decisions out of a sense of shame and guilt.

So maybe now I can concentrate on the second part and stop trying to fast-forward myself into the future. My present is nice. I need to treat it with care. Another new favorite quote is this: “Stay in the present moment, and the past and the future will fall naturally and easily into place.”

I don’t know to whom to attribute it. A friend wrote it in her notebook and posted a photo on Instagram, but I suspect she got it from somewhere else.

I keep trying. I’m not a fatalist. I don’t believe things are predetermined. I believe in human ability, not divine intervention. But I also know I can’t control everything. Only myself. And when I let go of what I can’t control, things do seem to fall into place. (And I’m a much better person to be around.)

There’s still a person I want to be, and I’m not her yet. I’m not as graceful as I’d like (physically and emotionally). I’m not as mellow, not as understanding. Not as well-read and educated despite all my formal education. Not as productive. I still have a lot of work to do. And I have all the control over that.

About a year ago, I wrote a list of immediate goals. I didn’t look at it again until recently and was surprised how many of them I’d accomplished, without really thinking about it. Imagine what I could accomplish if I dedicated real effort to it.

But it’s nice to know – since I’m always talking about starting things – that I have actually started. I haven’t just talked about it and sat back, letting life go by.

And Spring is a good time to start more things. It’s easy to feel alive and energetic when everything else around you is coming alive.