One of my initial concerns about blogging was how private I wanted to be. If this was a place for me to share experiences and explore ideas – many of which would be frowned upon by long-time friends and family members – did I want anyone and everyone to know what I was writing about? Or did I want to keep my identity a secret?
Initially I kept everything as quiet as possible. But I am notoriously bad at keeping secrets about myself. When it comes to my life, I am a believer in “don’t ask, don’t tell.” I believe we all want to feel known and understood, and if our online personas are the way we let people know who we are, then sharing that content might bring us that much closer to feeling known and understood – and, ultimately, loved.
Reading through this post from 15 years ago, I struggle to remember which coworker this was, though I have a pretty good idea. She left a few months after I started and later helped me get an interview with her new employer, but I decided it wasn’t a good fit as the job was a lateral move in many ways.
I also realize I was making a lot out of nothing. She gave me the link to her blog and that constituted permission for me to read it. If I had told our mutual supervisor about her blog, though, that would have been a bad idea. (That supervisor was a hot mess, but I had yet to discover this fact.)
I still struggle to practice detached compassion, whether with colleagues, friends or family. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in other people’s problems, especially when your own problems feel insurmountable or trivial. Solving their issues – or helping them find solutions – is extremely validating.
Then there’s the matter of codependency. For years I saw that word as being exclusive to alcohol and drug addiction, but I finally came to accept that codependency is ubiquitous. It’s the subtext in so many songs and TV show plotlines. It sneaks into every relationship, whether with a romantic partner or a parent. In short: codependency is a bitch.
At the heart of all of this is boundaries: setting and maintaining those lines of involvement, whether physical, mental, spiritual or emotional. Knowing when to call someone on their behavior because they have breached a boundary line and dealing with the potential fallout. I still struggle with this, too. But like this blog, I am a work in progress.
Regular readers of GWM will be familiar with this tradition: I share 10 resolutions for people, organizations, etc. other than myself. This year, I’ve incorporated some video clips to better illustrate my resolutions.
1. Stop abbreviating words just to be clever (Millennials). I’m blaming them, but it may not be completely their fault that the media is now saturated with obvi, totes, ack…you get the idea. Do you have a problem with letters? No? Then spell the whole damn word!
2. Make adult bibs socially acceptable (American society).
3. Drop the “vanilla diamond” marketing strategy (LeVian). The chocolate diamonds are bad enough, but now this company has begun calling traditional white diamonds “vanilla.” The first time I saw one of their ads with this crap, I started yelling at the screen because it’s complete bullshit. My bestie Deena, who’s worked in the jewelry business for over 20 years, agrees. Not only does the emperor have new clothes, he also has a fabulous new vanilla diamond ring!
These are DIAMONDS. Period.
4. Stop expecting to be validated on social media for all of my opinions (social media users). I’m guilty of this, too, but I gotta say I’m tired of doing this and I’m tired of seeing others do it as well. When we put our opinions out there for all the world to see (or, at the very least, our friends and friends of friends), there is bound to be someone who disagrees. Worst case scenario, no one even notices. In either instance, social media isn’t a megaphone or bullhorn that’s guaranteed to get you interaction, especially of a positive, validating nature. If you understand this, then share on. If not, then maybe it’s time to rethink your communication strategies.
5. Make pencil eraser caps that fit without tearing (office supply manufacturers).
6. Contract a musician to create new hold music (IRS). Every time I’ve had to call the IRS over the last few years, they have had the same hold music. I’m not making that up; this guy has noticed it, too. Surely the IRS can afford to pay someone to create new music, or perhaps Pandora or Spotify would be cheaper. Either way, this music needs to go.
7. Use headphones with my electronic devices when in public places (everyone). You know this person: they are blasting their music or a video from their smartphone, tablet or computer so loud that it flashes you back to the ghetto blasters and boom boxes of the 80s. That is a flashback I don’t need, nor does anyone else. Headphones are cheap. Get a pair, get two. Hell, get three. THEN USE THEM.
8. Bring back the clean shaven look (bearded dudes).
I wish I could turn this photo upside down and their beards would disappear, like those old pens with the girls in bikinis. Right side up, he’s got a beard! Upside down, he’s shaved!
So many hipsters…so many beards. I’m tired of it because as Great Grandma A would say, “why did you have to go and disfigure your face?” I can’t see YOU. All I see is scraggly hair covering half your mug. Unless you’ve got a terrible skin condition or you wear a beard for religious reasons, it’s time to shave and show the world your face.
9. Continue developing shows that showcase diversity in casting and subject matter (Hollywood). It’s great to see so much diversity on TV shows, whether it’s from a major network or a streaming service. A few examples include Master of None, Transparent, Orange is the New Black, Fresh off the Boat, Black-ish, and Telenovela. When made by producers, directors and writers who are part of the cultures represented, these shows take the stereotypes and demonstrate if and when they are applicable, but also illustrate the commonalities with the average white American. In the coming year, I hope to see shows featuring people with disabilities, Middle Easterners, Eastern Europeans and folks from former Soviet bloc countries.
10. Choose love (everyone). A couple months ago, I had a dream in which I was in a room full of people. I stood up in front of them and said, “I figured it out! It’s so simple. Choose love.” When I woke up, I was in the best mood all day, because it’s true: we always have a choice in what we are going to say or do. There have been so many instances this past year in which individuals, from political candidates to photographers, police departments to passengers on a train, have made that choice in a public forum. Sometimes that choice shows fear and engenders divisiveness, anger and hate. But sometimes that choice sheds light on the brightest, best parts of humanity. When we choose love, we shine a light that only keeps growing warmer and brighter, eliminating the darkest places all over the world.
What are your resolutions for everyone else in 2016?
Thank you to everyone who responded to my last post on dealing with depression. It’s been nearly a month and while I don’t feel as awful as I did, I still have some bad days, interspersed with fair to middlin’ days. I continue to journal about all the feelings and honor my flow when it comes to socializing and interacting with the world.
After I wrote that last post, I noticed something that I think deserves mention. When those of us who struggle with depression are honest about how we are feeling, sometimes those who are “normal” (and by that I mean people who have never been formally diagnosed with depression) present the depressed person with what I’m going to call escape routes. Those may take the form of a trip somewhere, a meal out, a weekend adventure.
Sometimes no mention is made of the depressed person’s struggles. Sometimes it is. And while I’m sure their motives are coming from a genuinely compassionate place, and they may not know what else to do or say, I want to let them know what is the most helpful thing they can do: hold the space.
Holding the space for someone who is going through a difficult time in their life – whether it’s because they are grieving a loss, chronically depressed, physically ill, caring for someone who is ill, or a host of other reasons – can be the kindest, most compassionate thing you can do. It doesn’t require elaborate displays, big promises, witty words or clever memes. It doesn’t ask either party to do anything outside of their personal comfort zone. It just asks you to be present.
Holding the space looks like any or all of these things, at least to me:
a Like, heart or smile emoticon on a Facebook post or in a tweet
a virtual hug
a hug in person
a note in the mail that says “I am thinking of you”
a private message (email or social media) that says “I am thinking of you”
I know that asking people to do what may look like nothing of substance may fly in the face of what society deems helpful. I think most folks (myself included) want to contribute tangible items or experiences, because it’s measurable.
But here’s the thing: it’s the little moments of grace and goodness, the one-sentence messages of love and support that grow bigger and brighter in the heart of the person who receives AND in the heart of the person who gave. It’s the heart emojis that show we are willing to spread love in a world full of fear, anger and hate. It’s the intangible work of holding the space that, in time, presents tangible results – ones that foster hope, faith and love in the world and shine a light into the darkest of places, no matter where those dark places may be.
Here’s another post that originally started in July 2011. It’s undergone some heavy editing, but the core idea of joy and love remains.
A few years ago I had a couple single folks tell me that a divorcé(e) is someone who was once loved enough to have had someone marry them. My mind is still boggled by this logic, because it seems to discount the possibility that love wasn’t even a factor in getting married. Some marriages happen because “we’ve been together for [insert number] years, I guess I owe him/her,” “he/she asked and I didn’t want to hurt their feelings by saying I wasn’t ready,” family pressure/expectations, a pregnancy. In some cases, marriage is used by abusers as a way to gain control over a partner. Those things don’t constitute love. Obligation and fear, yes. Love, no.
Part of the issue here is that society and the media can really screw with our notions of what makes for a healthy relationship, what constitutes a good, loving marriage, and what love is. I know I’ve had some wacky ideas for a number of years about love and relationships. Personally, I blame “Love Boat.” I should have never been allowed to watch that show. The story lines basically went like this:
boy and girl meet, flirt, sit at the Captain’s table for dinner
boy and girl fight on the Lido deck the next morning over some crazy misunderstanding, with the girl stomping off, nearly flattening Jill in the process
boy gets sage advice from Isaac the bartender, while girl flirts with Doc and realizes she can do way better with whats-his-name from the night before
boy and girl reconcile and leave the ship arm in arm, telling Julie the cruise director and Gopher they’ll be back on their honeymoon
The truth is more like the Supremes’ hit song “You Can’t Hurry Love”, or Frank Sinatra’s “Nice and Easy.” Love needs time to grow roots and blossom. Rushing to get to the good parts rarely leads to a loving, supportive relationship, much less a lasting marriage. You want all of that? You have to work for it – and it starts with working on YOU.
I try to be compassionate to the men & women I know who want to be married, or in a long-term relationship. But so often the conversations descend into whining and bitching over the dating pool and a big honkin’ glass of self-loathing. Sometimes the self-loathing is couched in “I’m totally fine being single” or “I’m happy with my life,” as if that negates all the whining and bitching. Sorry, I’m not buying it.
Because here’s the thing: if you truly are happy, you’re not going to throw any energy at those moments when your phone isn’t blowing up with OKCupid messages or when the person you thought was Mr./Ms. Perfect (and potentially Mr./Ms. Right) turns out to be emotionally unstable, a philandering narcissistic asshole, or worse. If you have faith that, at some point in your life, you’re going to find the perfect partner, those instances of dealing with nitwits will be like a SnapChat image in the big Smartphone of Life: it will (ideally) disappear within seconds.
How do you get to that level of happiness? I recommend a three-step process.
Shut the hell up. Drop the bitterness and the attitude problem. Stop telling the world how upset you are with online dating, with the guys/girls in the town where you live, with navigating relationships. Even if you feel that way, stop talking, tweeting or posting about it, because you’re putting all this negativity out in the world and it’s harshing any possible mellow you could achieve.
Fight your demons from the inside out. Y’all know how I love analogies, so here’s a good one: some of us have nasty demons or dragons inside of us, put there by unfortunate circumstance or choices we’ve made over the years. These creatures demand food and attention, and can be so unruly that often we don’t know how to tame them. Work with a counselor or therapist if necessary to do one or both of the following: a) find your sword that will slay the beasts; b) find compassion to turn those monsters into docile pets.
Open your heart, even if it’s just to the smallest things. Maybe it’s working with those in need, such as shelter animals, disabled veterans or the homeless. Maybe it’s being compassionate to friends and loved ones who are struggling with personal challenges. Whatever it is, opening your heart and filling it with light that comes from being kind to others is the best way I know to show the universe that you’re in a space where joy and love are welcome.
There’s no guarantee that you’ll end up married if you follow these steps, but at the very least you’ll feel better about yourself. That being said, I’ve seen enough friends find the relationships they were longing for, all because they stopped working against their own best interests and started loving.
I have a confession to make to all the people I know who recently got engaged, married, fell in love, moved in with someone, lost weight, got a new job, got a promotion, bought a house, car, or a major appliance.
I’m not happy for you. Any of you.
And the truth is, I haven’t been happy about anything good that’s happened for you for a long time.
I have tried to dredge up some happiness, though. Believe me, I have tried. The sad truth is that time and experience and my current state of mind has jaded me to the point that when I attempt to conjure up true joy for someone else’s bliss, all I hear are platitudes and shallow well-wishes coming from my lips. My brain is so full of snark and sarcasm that when I see social media posts from people about the awesomeness of their loved one, or how things are going so well in their relationship, or how much they love their new job or body or couch, I avoid saying anything in response because I know all that vitriol will ooze out of my cerebellum and into my fingers as I’m typing.
I hate that this is true. I hate that I am taking more joy in the stories when someone is miserable than when someone is actually happy and achieving their goals and dreams. Because I have not always been like this.
I can accept the fact that I have major narcissistic tendencies. I’m fully aware of my weaknesses. I’m very good at self-flagellation for any and all times when I’ve said the wrong thing, didn’t say the right thing, did or didn’t do something that would ease someone else’s suffering. I’ve worked hard at being kind and compassionate, because that doesn’t always come easily to me.
But this inability to exalt others is tough. It eats away at me. And it increases those feelings of wrongness.
I have been trying to get to the heart of why I feel this way. A line from “Desiderata” gave me some insight:
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve compared myself to others, whether it’s in terms of possessions, physical appearance, wealth, relationship status, or education. The compare/contrast tactic is ultimately a weapon of self-destruction. I’m working on being aware of when I’m doing this, and refocusing my attention on finding my happy place: a place that isn’t contingent on what I look like or how much money I make; a place where I want the best of everything for those I love. But the path to my happy place isn’t always easy to find, and even when I do find the path and actually get there, sometimes I wake up and discover I’m back in the not-so-happy place.
So if you don’t see me clicking Like on your Facebook post, or sending you congratulations, it’s because I’m still working on getting – and staying – in my happy place. And once I get there, I promise to send you a postcard.
This coming Saturday will mark my 4th year of blogging. Hard to believe I’ve been doing it this long, maybe because I’m sporadic in my postings. In honor of this anniversary I’m going to try extra hard to post something every day this week.
Image details: Cook And Moore served by picapp.com I learned about manifestation and the power of intention from Bedazzled, the original 1967 starring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. It was playing at a theatre in L.A. a few weeks ago and a good friend invited me to go see it, since I’d never seen the entire movie. About halfway through the film I realized that this movie was a great way to learn how to manifest, and how when we manifest from a place of ego, as Stanley Moon (Moore) does when he aligns himself with George Spiggott, a.k.a. the Devil (Cook), we’re ultimately dissatisfied with the results.
I learned about friendship and the importance of authenticity from Sex and the City: The Movie. (I don’t think I need to mention who stars in this flick.) Sure, there’s sex and nudity and titillating content. But at the heart of this movie is the message that friendship means you are authentic and honest without fear of judgment. Since this is still in the theatres, I don’t want to give anything away to those who haven’t seen it. Just know this, ladies: it may make you rethink the nature of your friendships with women, and if those friendships fully embrace your true self and honor the essence of others.
I learned about acceptance and compassion from Lars and the Real Girl, a very moving, funny film from 2007 starring Ryan Gosling as a troubled young man who falls in love with Bianca, a sex doll. His family and the community rally around him as he works out his extreme shyness and intimacy issues through his relationship with the outgoing yet disabled Bianca. Through the process they all learn a lesson on how important it is to be accepting of others, even when it’s hard to understand why they do the things they do, and loving them through their process of self-discovery.