There’s this guy who stands outside at parent walk-up at my son’s school. I do not know him. Every day when I walk up, he stares at me. I don’t mean lingering glance, I mean full-on staring at me like a I was prancing down the sidewalk with a singing kangaroo hanging out of my purse. And he does it every. single. day.
It happened last year, too. Never a “hello” from this guy or a smile or even a weak, “you look so familiar.” Nope. He just looks at me without blinking for an inordinately long amount of time. My kids have asked me who he is. I don’t have any idea, except that he is a grown man with apparent respect and boundary issues.
Now….normally I’m not a confrontational person. My father calls me “peace keeper”. I prefer to avoid arguments when possible. I try to model problem solving behaviors to my kids. I’m not violent. But this guy, this guy is stepping over a line and I think it’s because I am female and I am small and to this man, small female equals powerless. Voiceless.
It makes me angry. It makes me wish I was some secret super-ninja so I could just reach out and snap his arm in half and leave him in a heap by his truck.
The funny thing about my size is that – as I said to my friend today – I am not small on the inside. I am mighty, lionhearted, and full of righteous indignation. You will not make repeated attempts to humiliate me or back me into a corner and not receive commensurate response.
So one day, as I was walking towards my son, this man was walking the opposite direction (towards me), his gaze fixed on my face the entire time. I had had enough. I stopped, right in front of him, took off my sunglasses, and asked him loudly if he had a problem. Yep. Gangster style. Threw out my arms and said “do you have a problem?”
Actually now that I think about it, it was much more Jennifer Love Hewitt screaming, “What do you want from me?!?” than anything else.
The guy… a bit unsettled by my Moms in da Hood behavior… stopped, looked at the ground, muttered something, and then made a beeline for his vehicle. Since then, each afternoon at walk-up, he makes a concerted effort to look anywhere else but at me. There have been a handful of afternoons that I stare directly at his face, daring him to look at me. He doesn’t.
Victory? Maybe. Maybe he’s not a bad guy. Maybe he thinks I’m a bitch (I don’t care.) I think plenty of men don’t know how scary/creepy/intimidating they can be. Maybe he was clueless. Maybe he’s just rude. I don’t know.
What I do know – or hope – is that thanks to our brief exchange he won’t choose to look at a woman like she’s on the damn dinner menu just because she’s small, or attractive, or defenseless against it. He knows now that despite appearances, she might call him on his disgusting behavior. A lion may live within her.
I never understood the phrase “what kind of fool do you take me for?” As a child it was strange to think there might be a variety of ways one could be a fool. Now I know there are innumerable ways, incomprehensibly vast are the possibilities.
A young fool, an old fool, a stubborn fool, a blind fool, an optimistic fool, a lovesick fool… You get the idea. I suppose it should be a comfort to us that we all will embody at least one of these fool archetypes in our lifetimes.
It isn’t. In fact, my ego bristles at the thought. The mere implication that I’ve been had sends me reeling. Yet, I rush in. I take people at their word. I believe love always wins. I’m a textbook fool.
Maybe it’s not that I mind being foolish. Maybe I just don’t like having it pointed out to me. There’s the rub. It’s embarrassing to have egg on your face and worse to have to clean it up yourself because the loud accusing voices have gone eerily silent.
Fools are hopeful, generous, and sometimes make stupid choices – but I always think they have great intentions. I want to open myself up and expose my intentions. Then I wouldn’t be called a fool. I’d be called a humanitarian. Maybe if I was understood I’d be better loved.
Yes, I’m quoting Tom Hanks as Coach Jimmy Dugan in the classic film A League of Their Own. The entirety of the quote is thus:
“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”
Now, Coach Jimmy was talking about baseball in this clip, but I think this sentiment can be applied to a lot of other things in life. The movie itself is about half the Americans who were a part of what we now call the Greatest Generation. The extraordinary women who held this country together during World War II. Their husbands went away to fight, and these women put on their big girl britches and handled it. They worked in factories, some joined the armed forces themselves and yes, some played professional baseball. We women are magnificent creatures: adaptive, nurturing, capable, with strength unexpected in common hours (to borrow from Thoreau).
Tonight – in the shower, of all places – I got to thinking more about this. It stemmed from a conversation I had earlier today about respect, dignity, equality, and all the things going on in our country and our world today, and this quote is what came to mind. Why? Because I cannot think of a single hero, a single inspirational story, a single great achievement that happened without some pain or struggle or sacrifice.
When we talk about the greatest generation (my grandparents), we talk about their fearlessness. Their work ethic, their grit. Where do you think that came from? Put simply, they had hard lives. Yes, they were happy and yes, they lived at quite an extraordinary time in America’s history, but they definitely carried much on their shoulders. Many of them were mature as kids, holding jobs and carrying a workload at school that was greater than ours (much greater than that of our children). They didn’t have the technology we have or many of the creature comforts that have made us soft. Seems to me there’s something to be said for adversity. Friction. Failure.
Nowadays there are movements to stop bullying, which I believe in and am a part of. There are movements to respect people’s feelings, and I also am fine with that. Movements to keep people from saying things. Movements to keep people from being triggered. I can’t help but wonder if we’re doing this all wrong.
Shrinking this down to include only my household, I think that in my efforts to provide my kids with a soft place to land, I may be inadvertently depriving them of their potential. I think that I am part of a generation that may be working too hard to protect ourselves and each other from the very things that will make us – and them – great. Perhaps our kids will live up exactly to the standards we set for them. Perhaps that bar is getting lower and lower all the time.
Does that make sense? Maybe not, but let’s follow the thread and unravel the sweater and see what’s left behind. My dad said something to me today about his work environment being so different than it was even 15 years ago. “What do you mean?”, I asked him. “Well, nowadays, if you say something that even slightly comes off as harsh, you hurt someone’s feelings, they’ll just quit on ya.” I am so surprised by this because Dad works in construction, which historically is a field chock-full of gruff guys who can take a bit of criticism. What – if anything – does it say about society that a man can’t correct another man’s work for fear of hurting his feelings? Are we at a point now that we cannot hear criticism or we do not wish to improve, or we shut down and quit a job each time a situation is uncomfortable? Is this what happens when every kid in a tournament receives a participation trophy? Is this what I create when I run to the school every time my kid gets picked on?
Further down the rabbit hole, I think about the stories I’ve read or heard about great women in history. Strong women. (Women in particular because that’s who I identify with. Powerful, defiant, rebellious ones – well, for the same reason.) Fiery. Fierce. Independent. Defiant. The world changers. WHY were they so strong? HOW did they become so? WHAT was so important to them that they were willing to risk their lives? WHY are we still talking about them today? Would we know their names at all if they hadn’t experienced some injustice that lit a fire within them to reshape their world?
Would ANY of these women have made history without first being told they couldn’t?
In a word… no.
I put it in perspective for myself and ask the same questions. Would I be me if I hadn’t been hurt before? Would I feel so triumphant if I hadn’t had to figure out how to claw myself up from rock bottom? Would I be so passionate if no one who spoke to me was ever allowed to hurt my feelings? I think not. Granted, a certain amount of fire is in my blood, and I was more or less “born this way”, but I don’t think I would be this version of me if I hadn’t had to go a few rounds in the ring.
I think that kids learn resilience from standing up. I remember some parts of my own childhood and the feeling of pride that swelled in me when I finally conquered something I had been working on for ages. I don’t believe I would have felt that pride – or felt anything at all – if someone had done the hard work for me. Now, I have this thought when I watch my own kids struggling. Of course I want to run to them when they are frustrated about trying something for the twentieth time. I want to reach down, swoop them up in my arms, complete the task for them and make it all better. If I’m honest, though, that’s got nothing to do with them and everything to do with me. I want to make ME feel better. I want to soothe my OWN heartache. I want to keep myself from hurting because when they are upset, of course I feel it.
I’ve resolved to hike up my boots and get the fuck over that.
You see, before they can stand, they have to be allowed to fall down. We do them no favors by shielding them from ugly and uncomfortable parts of life. In fact, we do them a great disservice. We underestimate their capabilities when we don’t let them handle difficult tasks on their own. They need to find their own voices, and then they need to figure out what they want to use those voices to say. Without adversity, they cannot ever truly discover who they are and why they believe what they do.
Life is hard for all of us. It’s a struggle. It is, and I know it is, and I am not making light of that or trying to minimize it in any way. There are big hurdles for each of us, and each journey is different. Divorce. Death. Sickness. Pain. Heartache. I have been hurt a lot in my life, many times by people I love and trust. That’s very hard to go through. It’s hard to heal from. Hard to talk about, and hard to forgive. Hard to move forward, hard to grow, and hard not to get stuck in resentment or bitterness. The hard, though, is part of the journey. Without the trials, there couldn’t be triumph. We cannot be victors if we are unwilling to step into the skirmish for fear of having our feelings hurt.
(I say this with love, as I am one of the MOST sensitive souls out here. I’m not advocating for rudeness, but I know that rude people exist. My kids will either crumble into dust at their first unpleasant conversation, or they will know how to handle it and feel secure in themselves. I want them to be bold and confident and capable. That’s what I’m getting at with all this.)
I want my kids to know that life is good, that it’s full of love and light and good people and potential and promise. There’s another side to that coin, though. I also want them to know that life is grind and sweat and conflict and strife and it’s fucking hard. I never want to see them hurt. I do want to see them succeed – and I want to see fire in their eyes when they do. I’d much rather have world-changers as kids than comfortable semi-adults who can’t handle confrontation. It’s SUPPOSED to be hard. After all, the hard is what makes it great.
I scribbled the words excitedly in my journal like a 15 year old writing about her new crush. So profound. Or was it? I can never tell with these thoughts that occur to me in the shower, or while driving around town, or while I’m half-watching Law & Order: SVU and half-making an imaginary grocery list. (Does anyone else do that? I’d imagine it’s a normal part of life as a mom/household manager/toddler wrangler.)
Anyway… beige. The walls in our apartment are beige. I don’t mind it. It’s not particularly exciting, but it’s fine. Beige is a neutral – one of the blending colors. It’s a color that allows all the other decor to be seen. Beige is a good background because it isn’t memorable or noticeable. It does not stand out.
Don’t be beige is my new motto. So what exactly do I mean when I say, “don’t be beige”?
I mean show yourself. Reveal who you are. Don’t be afraid to live your life at full volume because you think someone else won’t like your song. In order to live a fulfilled life, you need to in full glory and magnificence, without any care for what anyone else thinks.
I think that people are comfortable being beige. Beige isn’t scary. I get that. They feel beige is safe. It’s polite. It doesn’t offend. I tried to be beige, I tried to please people, tried to blend, tried to step back so others could have the attention. While blending in and being beige may make others comfortable, ultimately living life this way ends in disappointment and regret.
Two major things I noticed while I was consciously camouflaging myself:
There is no benefit to me. – I gained nothing from stepping back, dimming my own light or quieting my passion. Literally nothing good comes from silencing my voice so that someone else can speak. I get no life experience, meet no new people, and receive no praise because no one sees me. And ironically trying to please others didn’t make them like me more ore less.
There is no benefit to others. – The people who shine do that because of who they are. Colorful, magnetic, fun, talented. My beige-ness didn’t accentuate them. It only hid me. Worse, being beige causes me to miss out on contributing to the world in a way that only I can.
When I realized I wasn’t being my authentic self, I made a choice to be more colorful. I spoke up when I felt passionate. I accepted invitations to parties. I wore the sexy dress without worrying what someone else might think. Creatively, I have so much to give, and expressing that through writing, podcasting, and other venues allows me to contribute something tangible to the world. My kids see me being silly and it shows them that they can be silly too. I follow my own rules and beat my own drum and in the same way, peers and friends hear me telling my story and they are emboldened to tell their own. It’s a beautiful domino effect.
These days, I have renovated my soul. There is no beige. I am memorable. I stand out. I am not a neutral, because I have a voice and I’m not afraid to be seen, and my home – and my whole world – is so much more colorful.
So as I’m sitting here at my desk (read: on my bed) this morning I’m thinking about the concept of marketing. Direct marketing, grassroots, bad videos that go viral, things like that. The purpose of my search was to find out how I could best reach a wider audience with my book and podcast. The answer, so far, is I don’t know.
I have an online profile coming out next week, and a blurb in a local magazine. I asked for both of those. Up to now, that’s been my strategy: If you don’t ask, you don’t get. A part of me believes, though, that if the work is good the people will like it.
If you build it, they will come. right? I don’t make a habit of arguing with classic movie talking cornfield logic. So if my work is good enough, it will attract followers.
Still, I can’t help but wonder what might happen if I had just one BIG name. One influencer. One celeb who read the book and loved it and wanted to pass it on. The work IS good. And because it’s good I want it to reach many people – and hug them and validate them and save them – and so I’m impatient for it to go global.
So, my friends, I’m asking you – will you be my influencers? Will you support my small endeavor so that it becomes a large endeavor and eventually a movement? Will you help me build it, so they will come and read and listen and grow? Write a post! Interview me! Link to the book, buy the book, share it on kindle. Listen to the podcast, share it, tell others if you find value in it! I’d be so grateful.
Although well known and oft-repeated, that’s actually a misquote. Thoreau wrote, in Walden, that “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Here is the full quote, in context:
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.
Thoreau was talking about the void we all feel and the common impulse most humans feel to try and fill it with material things. Walden is a journal of sorts, detailing his time in the woods and away from modern society, searching for inner peace and finding himself and new perspective there.
A friend and I were discussing this “quiet desperation” quote last night, as we discussed our respective marriages and marriage in general. Our conversation focused on the complacency that occurs after years of seeing the ins and outs and annoying habits of another human being’s existence. I think it’s so common for husbands and wives to leave the runway together, aimed for the stars and the experience of a lifetime, only to land early on a makeshift dirt runway in a place just outside Settle Town, USA.
Is that obnoxious? Maybe so, but you get what I’m saying. If most new brides and grooms begin the marriage with the best of intentions – which I believe is the case – how do so many of us end up in a ditch somewhere, disoriented and disheartened at what our lives have become?
I’m not even talking about 10 years in, guys. I myself have been married for 9 years, but the trouble started brewing quite a while ago and I don’t think we’re unique in that. I talk to so many men and women – friends, colleagues, acquaintances – who are at most, content in their marriages and at worst, extremely unhappy and in some cases, depressed. Most of them are not seeking divorce. They just want to live their best lives and they want to do it with a willing partner who shares their interests and passions.
[Side note: For some reason, whenever I hear the term “quiet desperation” in my head the Queensryche song “Silent Lucidity” starts playing. Interestingly, the song is about lucid dreaming, which is being able to consciously control what happens in your dreams. So in a way, it’s related. ]
The “quiet desperation” quote came up discussing marriage because my friend and I were connecting on some shared issues. The others I’ve spoken with relate to the same issues and experiences, too. Even though all these people are having this same experience, none of them (none of us) are really talking about it. It’s a secret struggle. There is so much irony in something so commonplace and universal being something we hold inside and keep to ourselves and work to camouflage on social media.
Let’s don’t lead lives of quiet desperation any longer. Let’s start talking to each other, and communicating with our spouses, and stepping outside the confines of the rules of marriage if that’s what it takes. The only time that exists is the present, and it’s crap to waste it wondering if we are loved, wondering if we had married someone else, would we be vacationing in Mykonos right now instead of stuck at home washing dishes for an ungrateful partner. That’s not life. That’s not what life is for!
So how to we get back in the air? How to do get out of Settle Town and back en route to our dreams and wildest fantasies (hopefully together with our chosen partners)? Honesty! Speaking our truth! I think we all have to learn to be uncomfortable for a moment in order to be blissfully happy for a lifetime.
Believing we are alone is what fosters our desperation. In truth, nothing is singular and everything is shared. We are all connected. We are all pieces of the same consciousness having several different (but oddly similar) human experiences. As Thoreau said, we would be wise not to do desperate things. We would be wise to realize that we are not alone, and the future is what we make it.
I’m rambling, so I’ll leave it there. Namaste and happy Monday! XOXO
“…the future is beautiful, alright? Look out the window. It’s sunny every day here. It’s like manifest destiny. Don’t tell me we didn’t make it. We made it! We are here. And everything that is past is prologue to this. All of the shit that didn’t kill us is only… you know, all that shit. You’re gonna get over it.” – Rob (Ron Livingston), Swingers
I’ve been thinking a lot about destiny. What it is, what it means, how it works.
Every day when I pull a tarot card or cards for the day, I journal them. Sometimes at night I just play with the cards, trying to get a feel for them and for reading. Last night I pulled some cards not to journal, but because I wanted an answer about something.
One of the cards that popped out was the Wheel of Fortune card (from the Wild Unknown Deck). It’s a gorgeous card, messy and colorful and full of meaning. At the top, a crescent moon and stars. The man picture of the card resembles a Native American medicine wheel that’s been made from yarn and twigs. A colorless sun shines beneath the wheel. An owl sits perches atop the highest twig branch.
The meaning of this card is heavy. As a 10 card it represents completion – the end of a cycle. The Wheel itself represents change rolling in, sometimes good and sometimes uncomfortable, but always necessary. I see this card as a positive one, as change brings growth and growth leads us to our highest good. In the guidebook, it says the Wheel of Fortune is the card of Destiny.
Long after I’d pulled the cards and studied them, I kept thinking about the concept of Destiny. Is it something that happens, or something that just is? Does it happen to us or for us? Do we all face our destiny, do we create our destiny, do we have the power to change our destiny (because free will is obviously a thing).
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the truth of the wheel is much simpler than that. I hopped out of bed, grabbed my journal and a pen, and scribbled:
“What if it’s less about finding destiny or destiny happening to us? What if I AM destiny?”
Boom. Lightning moment for me. What if I – what if we all – have much more power than we believe, or were told, or have ever imagined possible, over our future and how our lives play out?
Maybe destiny is something that, on the path to spiritual enlightenment, we begin to meld with? To have the thing, we must BE the thing, right? To have joy, we must be joy. To have love, we must first be love. This is how we match vibration and allow things to become true in our lives.
So… what if to activate a certain destiny, to realize our fate, all we have to do is become it? Similar to a choose your own adventure novel, where one path leads to page 24 and another leads to page 116 and we get to decide our own ending. What if that’s been the point all along? Through shadow work, meditation, visualization, inspired action, learning, teaching, growing, loving, laughing, experiencing, and believing before we see, we both sketch out or own future – which is fluid and in motion, like the Wheel – and then step into it?