Thursday, August 6, 2020

You Just Always Have to Be Different, Don't You?

What if you stop, look around at your life, and take full stock of what you have right now. What if you accept that the line of work you are in has never been a good fit, even though you are fully capable of doing it - even damn good at it. What if you take a step back and consider that there might be something else you're good at, something that gives you more joy. Or somewhere else you’d rather live. 

What happens if you acknowledge that other people's dreams are not your own?

Conversely, what if you keep doing what you have always done, because it's safe. What if you do not change anything, because this works as well as it ever does, for anyone. What if you stay stuck and just don't acknowledge it: chin up, stiff upper lip, what have you. 

What happens if you assume that whatever is considered normal - by society, your family, etcetera - must be what you want, too? Because really, even if you know deep down that it isn't, who is going to admit that?

We are told that we are supposed to know what we want and what we are going to do with our lives by the time we hit our twenties. We are told that we need to figure out how we are going to make money and who our life partners will be no later than our mid-thirties. And if you reach forty and haven't figured out your senior years, what the hell are you doing with your life?

Do people actually get it right from the beginning, like seamlessly? I guess there are always anomalies, but I look around at the people I've known for a long time (in my family and beyond) and I see a lot of really amazing people who did not get it all figured out for many, many years. Who didn't get things right the first time. Yet I still know all these people who believe that if you have money, you are married, and you have your retirement figured out (and you did it all right in the first go), then you are truly successful. So financial stability. Marriage. Retirement. I notice that "happy" isn't in the equation. "Fulfilled" is also missing. Are happiness and fulfillment really not necessary to be considered a success in this world? Moreover, why do we care if we're seen as successful by other people? Why do their opinions matter so much? Someone reading this is definitely clutching their pearls...

I think a lot of us graduate high school thinking we have to buy into The American Dream, even if we don't call it that. It is reinforced in pop culture: written about in books and magazines over and over again, featured in rom-coms and Hallmark movies (dude, I love Hallmark movies, I have no idea why). It is ingrained in us even if we're trying not to pay attention to it. And even people like me, who never really go with the flow, who cast a gimlet eye at anyone telling us how to live our lives - even we buy into it on some level. 

So what if you take a moment to look at how many people following the idea of The American Dream are actually happy? If it is your dream, you may really be happy with it. But it is not everyone's dream. That's just not a thing that happens with humans - we are all very different from each other. We want different things. We value different things. Our hearts yearn for different things. Some people love math - like really, really love it. I love words - like way more than most people think is normal. We all love and value different things - so why aren't we looking for what we, as individuals, need to have in our lives in order to feel fulfilled? Why aren't we looking at those things to determine the kind of life we're going to live, the kind of successful we really want to be? And who the hell gets to decide what success is for us? Why is success having money, but not just being really f****ing happy? Who is making these determinations and why are we falling in line with them?

My version of happiness has never been the one I saw advertised. It's one of the reasons I keep starting and stopping my artistic ventures (writing, blogging, sketching, painting, playing piano, singing, you name it). I end up having to concentrate on doing the normal things, like working a regular job and having a retirement plan, and I have a hard time making room for anything else. I get discouraged, and then I start to get miserable because I'm doing what's expected of me but not what I want to be doing. And then I start up another artistic venture/project/whatever and for as long as it lasts I am so content, so happy to be exactly where I am in life. So why do I keep succumbing to someone else's idea of what life should entail?

It has taken me until my mid-forties to realize that the unhappiness I find in the status quo is not just me bucking authority. It's easy to categorize me as difficult, hell I've been told by a family member that I "just always have to be different." It's a lot harder for people to accept that I actually want different things out of life than they do. And I am not remotely alone in this. 

What I do not want to continue doing is compromising my dreams because of some societal ideal that in reality most people cannot, will not, or are simply unable to achieve in their lifetime. Come up with your own dream. It is bound to make you way happier than someone else's. And do not let anyone tell you that it is not good enough, safe enough, stable enough, normal enough, or worse that it is just a fantasy and can never become your reality (even though people achieve crazier stuff every day). If the only thing you have to say for yourself at the end of your life is that you did what was expected of you, how are you going to feel? And how different would you feel if you were able to say that you actually figured out what made you happy and made it happen?

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Better Than Nursing a Hangover

I know that Spring is a reasonable time to clean, to go through your closet and pack up all your cold-weather gear, unpacking the summery items like flip-flops and tank tops.  All I remember from this past Spring was that I was really busy and got very little done.  I kept meaning to do a bunch of household projects and snuck in a few here and there, but never a full scale attack on my to do list.  Granted, the shoulder/neck injury I was dealing with (lots of appointments between an ortho, chiro and physical therapist) made it impossible to do some of those things.

Earlier this week I hadn't been feeling too well, just run down and over the holidays, so I opted to stay in on New Year's Eve.  In years past, I would have regretted this decision.  This year, it led to me finally getting things checked off that damn list and to keep my original promise to myself about Pinterest:  only pin things that I might use and make sure to go back and use them or delete them every so often.
  • Bathroom shelves that have been sitting on the floor of bedroom for months, finally installed thanks to a Pinterest pin.  Using scotch (or painter's) tape, you mark where the holes are on the shelf (frame, etc), then put that strip of tape on the wall.  At this point you can check it with a level, then drill the holes.  Sets you up nice when you're afraid of drilling multiple holes and destroying your walls. 
  • Kitchen thoroughly scrubbed, even the stove top.
  • Curtain rod finally hung up in the living room (the curtain have been pinned up there for far too long) thanks to yet another Pinterest pin.  This was another fear-of-drilling episode for me, but Pinterest saved me...with Command hooks...
  • All laundry washed, dried and put away ON THE SAME DAY.  It's a freaking miracle.
  • Nail polishes culled for my niece (now I just have to ship them).
  • Made some Sonoma Chicken Salad because it kept popping up on Pinterest, too. 
  • And, finally, I asked a friend if she'd consider writing something for this wee blog.  She said yes, so you've got someone new to look forward to on LostGirls!
It was pretty fabulously productive for days I usually spend recovering from overindulging in drink.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Dear Diary

I have kept journals all of my adult life and had done so through almost all of my teens.  I never thought of "keeping a diary" as a way to expunge my secrets, but there is some credence to the argument that people who get out their guilt on paper tend to be healthier.

The human brain is pretty fascinating.  It makes it possible for us to compartmentalize things that we are not yet able to handle.  It is like those thoughts and experiences go into cold storage.  When we're ready to deal with them, we know where they are.  The problem is avoidance and denial.  It's not that we can't deal with certain things, it's that we simply are not willing to.  We procrastinate on things that we think will be too painful, not realizing that bottling it all up is hurting us far more.

For many of us, writing resolves that problem.  It is a hell of a lot harder to admit your guilt over something out loud to another person than when you write it to yourself, for yourself, and have power over what happens to that piece of writing next.  There have been times when writing about a particularly painful incident helped me to understand that the only thing I could do was let it go and move on.  And those pieces of writing can get tossed, shredded or burnt to cinders immediately.  I never have to look at them again.

We all get hurt by the people we love and we don't always know what issues they have that contribute to their behavior towards us.  Writing about these things has helped me to understand something simple - that I don't understand why some people are the way they are.  That I may never understand that.  That I have no power over that.  Sometimes the only choices you have are to accept it, and love them unconditionally, or just walk away.  They aren't pretty options.  When you're dealing with relationships of any kind, things get complicated.  Being able to unravel some of that mystery on paper has helped me keep my sanity.

My point with all this is that being able to handle some of life's more interesting moments on my own has helped me to be not only a happier person, but a better friend.  I am far more capable of being a shoulder to cry on when I have dealt with my own crap.  And when I do lean on a friend, they no longer feel like that's all I ever do.  I suppose I've found balance.

All even-keel would be a boring way to lead a life and I am certainly made for rougher seas.  I think of writing every day in a journal as the best way to maintain my sea legs. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Old Habits

I honestly don't know where to start, so that's what I'm starting with.  Nothing prolific, quotable, inspirational - just hopping back in.

BlogHer's NaBloPoMo signup email for January went out this week and, although I still don't feel like writing or know what to say on here, I know I'll regret letting this go any longer.  No matter how much an artist loves their art, there are dry spells.  Successful bloggers work through them at all costs.  I admire that, very much, but this was never really a business enterprise.  As much as I love writing and I really enjoy blogging, I never aspired to be the next Pioneer Woman or get on staff at HuffPo.  While this keeps me from feeling like a complete and utter failure, I still don't want to let LostGirls fade away.

This started with me, but it was always meant to be a collaboration.  And despite having all these people in my life who would probably love to have their voice heard on here, I haven't been making the effort.  For god's sake, I haven't even asked.  So the lack of my writing isn't the only problem I have to solve.  I have to get other people involved again.  I hope Meg and Mary, possibly even Seth, will want to stay involved, but I really want other voices on here, too.  I have so many great conversations with people, especially people much younger than me, and I'd really like to share them with you.  Not the conversations - the people.  They have so much to say, but they're not necessarily going to sit down and create a blog to say it.  So I guess my New Year's resolution will be to motivate myself and others to be a part of this site again.

I hope you'll bear with me here - when you've had writer's block and you've allowed it to stay a while, there is a period of time when the new writing ain't that great.  Another resolution for me is to allow myself shorter pieces.  This isn't Tumblr, so I don't feel like we should only have short posts.  But I recognize that I need to mix it up a bit.  And that not every post has to have a picture.  If we manage to simplify without losing meaning, maybe we can get a post per day on here.

So here's to the short and sweet.  And to New Year's resolutions that we actually intend to keep.

- Jess

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Subtlety or Subterfuge?

While I admire subtlety and diplomacy in people, when possible, I view it more as trickery when it comes to a media publication.  What am I on about?  Well, I recently discovered a magazine (it will remain unnamed only because I have no intention of giving them free advertising) which I believe to be a bit deceptive.  And I find that deception downright creepy.

Darling: the popular form of address used in speaking to a member of the opposite sex whose name you cannot at the moment remember. - Oliver Herford

I may not ever decide to pick up a copy of, say, Garden and Gun, but I am glad to know quickly what they're about.  Then there are magazines like Lucky Peach - you may not know by the title that it's a foodie magazine written by some well-known chefs, but you don't need to look past the cover of any issue to understand its basic premise.

The first things that bothers me is the idea of creating a magazine that claims to be a lot of things, but buries a major part of its own agenda.  I do not know if the intention is to deceive, but when a magazine is created to target young women and nothing said or shown on the cover hints at one of its most basic aims...well, it feels a bit like luring people in under false pretenses.

Modesty: the gentle art of enhancing your charm by pretending not to be aware of it. - Oliver Herford

The discovery of this magazine, for me, comes at a time when I am first hearing all about the "anti-feminist movement."  Really disheartening.  Even disturbing.  And I'll be writing about that in a separate post - but I realize that I may be more sensitive to this type of possible deviousness put into print because I'm realizing just how many women think that feminism isn't necessary.  Or, worse, some sort of evil.

I fear a magazine that hides the agenda of bringing women back into an age when virtue and modesty were their most important attributes is likely to be poisonous to the generation of girls in this country who are now entering into womanhood.  I would prefer they learn Caitlin Moran's version of how to be a woman over someone else's idea of it being an art that one must  not only learn, but practice in order to be accepted/loved/whatnot.  I fear this.  I am actually frightened for this generation.

So if you're looking for a magazine to pass the time and you aren't interested in a feminist publication, let me start you out with a few recommendations:

Mental Floss will trick you into learning things by being hilarious and downright interesting.

Lucky Peach will broaden your understanding of food culture and the writing is excellent.

Psychology Today is another cerebral gem and not as fuddy-duddy as it might sound.

I have mixed feelings about the alternative women's magazine Bust, but not about editor Debbie Stoller (the creator of Stitch 'n Bitch).

And if you're looking for high fashion and exceptional interviews, the UK's Lula may be pricey, but is said to be well worth it.