Be Brave, Let Go

There's a certain bravery in fighting for what you want, in loudly proclaiming, "Mine."

There's also a certain bravery in ending the fight, in releasing fists tightly gripped, in saying, "No more."

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Because sometimes, without knowing it, the fight for what you want becomes driven by fear...fear of loss, fear of loneliness, fear of failure, and most definitely the fear of answering the question, "Who am I without this fight?"

When you fight because of fear you forget to soothe yourself and instead look outward for validation that the fight is worth it. 

Except the validation is never enough.

You will never be satisfied with the "good job," the "you're on the right track," or "of course I like you," because you will become a bottomless pit of neediness. You start keeping score, building mental checklists, even creating rituals because you feel if you can measure it, maybe then it's true. 

Your external validations will give you comfort for a moment, yes...but only for a moment, and then it's back to counting. 

Everything becomes small. Each moment is plotted onto an endless flow chart of "What does this mean?"

You then start to think that if you can just prove yourself one more time, show how much you deserve it, how hard you've worked, how wonderful you really are, how much you truly care, that it'll just happen. A light will go on in someone's eyes. A door will miraculously open. Your dream will come true. 

The bad news is, you will never prove yourself from this place of fear. You will never get someone to see you as worthy (and you are, already) when you are screaming it in their face. You will never make an opportunity happen if you can't believe that you will be okay without it

Be brave enough to let go. To sit in silence with just you. To validate yourself and believe in your own work. To allow someone--without prodding--to see your value if they so choose, knowing that even if they don't, you still have value

Be brave. Let go. You are enough

Notes to My Younger Self: The Simplicity of Courage

Notes To My Younger Self is helping spread the word about The Post College Survival Kit. That's right! PCSK wants to help you know you don’t have to wait till your thirties for a better job, a cuter apartment, financial stability, better relationships + friendships. 

My twenties had two distinct halves: fear and courage.

While I could tell a thousand stories from each of those halves, I'll boil it down to what I really learned during that time (and, let's be honest, I still work to practice): 

Fear complicates, courage simplifies. 

Fear brings endless anxiety, drama, and inaction. 

Courage brings singularity of purpose, clear vision, and the freedom to say "what's next?"

Here are the five main things I learned throughout my twenties through trial and error, great advice and massive amounts of reading and journaling. Each takes courage, but also consistently yields far more reward than the alternative. 

Without further ado...

Be kind.

You never know how a genuinely kind word or action toward someone will affect your life, your career or your love life. And remember...there is a difference between being nice and being kind.

Be first.

To say "I love you," "I'm sorry," and "Yes!" Jump in, don't keep score, and revel in the power of words simply and wholeheartedly said. 

Be honest.

With your friends, your family, your boss...and above all, yourself. In fact, what do you REALLY want? Journal it all down first if you have to, get a therapist, or hit the pavement or gym to untangle the knots of what you think you SHOULD want and what you TRULY want. 

Be open.

To trying new things, to dating that guy or girl who isn't your "type," to asking for or granting forgiveness, to letting go of your need to be right or liked or perfect.

And above all...

Be true.

To yourself (even if you don't quite know who that is yet), to what you value (even if the rules change), and to your dreams (even if you have to re-imagine them). 

Of course, I could give so much more advice (pay your bills! practice...everything! don't go to work drunk! find a way to move/work out that doesn't bore you! masturbate!), but these points are the foundation to help you begin to answer questions on your own.

And hell, what are your twenties for but to learn how to answer questions on your own? (I mean, besides having the metabolism to eat pizza on the regular?) 

You've got this, you brave beautiful thing, you. Get it, get it. 

 

Not Alone in Our Collateral-Damage-Craziness

"Just wanted to let you know I read your book last night and really loved it. I had a super shitty break-up in July that I'm still grieving from, so it was nice to read your perspective and find that I'm not alone in all my collateral-damage-craziness. Thanks for writing your book - this girl loved it."--Nicci

We are always far more alike than we are different. #truth

Get the book on Amazon, then read on any device with the free Kindle App.

 

Attitude Adjustment

My parents were big on "attitude." Have a good one, or figure out how to have a good one, fast.

Or hell, even figure out how to have a neutral one, but never, ever have a bad one. 

(A bad attitude is different than negative emotions, but the two often go hand in hand. Being sad is part of the range of human emotion...but one can still be sad while also sporting a decent attitude.)

It was good lesson to learn because attitude shapes outcomes...perhaps not always actual outcomes, but most definitely perceived outcomes. 

A good attitude means the difference between, "At least I gave my best and enjoyed myself," and "Holy god, why the fuck do I even try."

(It's okay to be frustrated--frustration can help drive the need to seek better solutions--but a constant approach of negativity or surliness or resentment can make for a pretty shitty life.) 

The trouble is, as adults, we don't always have people around who both know us intimately AND have the courage to tell us to fix our shit.

(Parents are better than friends at helping with attitude adjustments. To have one or two friends in adulthood who can help you honestly process through your ish is a gift.)

That means we gotta tackle our own shit head on...a thing that is far easier said than done and can take a lot of practice. 

Even the attempt at an adjustment is a step in the right direction. Your situation may indeed suck, and you may indeed need to re-evaluate if you should be in said situation. 

But this moment right here? It's yours to be present in. It doesn't have to be all kittens in rainbows, but it also doesn't have to be a hateful cloud of resistance, either.  

Take a breath. Grab a snack if you're hangry. Walk away for a second if you need to. Or just give a brief "thanks" that you're still alive and kickin' and have a brain to think through things. 

You are luckier than most. Truly. 

5 Lessons from 2014 (to date)

2014 is kicking my ass.

It's been kicking my ass so hard that I haven't been publishing much for fear that every post would be about the inky blackness of my soul (like FOR REAL, y'all. ALL THE FEELS.)

So instead of posting the mad, mad details of this mad, mad year, here are a few of the things I've learned/am learning in the midst of one of the most emotionally diverse times of my life. 

1.  Be the First

Be the first to say "I love you," and "I'm sorry." No one wins when you keep these words to yourself. 

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2.  Fuck Perfection

I've never been more painfully aware of just how little I have my shit together.

There is part of that awareness that shatters me to a million tiny pieces and makes me feel like a floundering, drowning underachiever, and part of it that's freeing.

Either way, "good enough" (or even just "enough") takes a lot of practice...and it's better than not creating or finishing anything at all because you're afraid it won't be "perfect."

So fuck perfection, which leads me to...

3.  Just Show Up

Sometimes you just need to show up. That might mean getting a few sentences on paper when you'd rather not, showing to an event you know none of your friends are going to, or just being available.

Get the first part down, take the act of making that first step...you never know what happens if you just show up.

4. Quit

Sometimes you gotta stop trying to make fetch happen. If you've given something every opportunity to succeed and it's not (and probably won't), it's okay to say goodbye.

At the very least, quitting gives you room for something new.

5.  You Are a Work in Progress...

...but even the best projects can use a hiatus. At this point, I have no fucking clue where this ass kicking year is leading me, or what final lessons I'm supposed to learn, or even when it's supposed to let up.

There are days I power through, determined to figure my shit out. There are other days--more frequently of late--where I sit back and just say, "I have no idea. And that's okay."

Admitting that I have no clue is--like shedding perfectionism--both awful and freeing.

It's a total letting go of the need to be right, it's rejecting the idea that I have to have an answer to matter, and it's releasing the need for a plan as the thing that gives my life meaning. 

Deep stuff, though. When I get overwhelmed, I eat a lot of brownie brittle and binge watch terrible, emotionally void television.

But I think there's some progress of late. Maybe. And if not, that's okay, too, WHICH IS HARD TO EVEN TYPE. 

Baby steps. 

On Rejection

"Rejection is a form of guidance."

These are wise words that are applicable to just about everything...your work, your relationships, your life. It might feel bad in the moment, but rejection and failure aren't simply "no"...they're a "yes" to an adjustment, a tweak in direction, a new movement.

Embrace it, feel it, be grateful for the message. 

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What's Wrong With You?

Plenty.

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Let me go back. 

I used to hate this question. I hated even the thought that people might be thinking this question. 

"You're 34 and single...what's wrong with you?"

Plenty.

Divorced at 26. 

Prone to "out of sight, out of mind" tendencies.

Hogs the whole damn bed.

Has entirely beautiful, well-communicated conversations in head...then keeps things to self.

Uses humor as an avoidance technique.  

I think this question is born from the false notion that people in relationships have somehow gotten their shit together better than the rest of us. 

Meh, I disagree.

We all have shit wrong with us. Just sometimes you find someone whose shit either doesn't bother you all that much or whose shit you're willing to overlook or whose shit you simply ignore. 

Relationships aren't a cure-all for shit, or a magic line in the sand that erases shit. They're instead a journey with someone through the shit you already have and the shit life gives you. 

We are all works in progress...and to assume that a relationship or lack of relationship signifies a lesser or greater amount of shit is to not understand shit. 

Says "shit" a lot.  

So I've decided that to be a single person who has to pretend like her shit is together all the damn time in the hopes that someone won't look at me as if I not only have an expiration date (34! YOUR EGGS ARE DYING) but also won't assume my single status must signify that I am simply unlovable...well, it's exhausting.

So I'm done being afraid of this question.

I'm done asking this question of myself. And I'm done getting defensive when someone asks or assumes it of me. 

Because the only right answer is that at any given time, I'm working on (or ignoring, let's be honest) (ignores personal issues) something about me that could use a little tweaking.

To reach for someone else's idea of perfection--and assuming it's required before one can be loved--is not only unrealistic, it denies the basic self-compassion needed now in the face of imperfection to say, "You're all right. Relax. Try again tomorrow."

There's no timeline on this whole "practicing life" thing, after all.  

 

 

Perfectly Wonderful People

Perfectly wonderful people are perfectly wonderful.

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You may go on a date or five with one of these perfectly wonderful people and have a perfectly wonderful time.

But for whatever reason, this perfectly wonderful person isn't the right perfectly wonderful person for you.

You try to make it fit anyway because you think you should, or you've been single for a long time, or you're horny, or...all of the above. **raises hand**

While there's something to be said for Dan Savage's "Round Up to One" theory there's also the whole idea that you don't have to fall in love with every perfectly wonderful person you meet just because they're perfectly wonderful and single and you're perfectly wonderful and single. 

Case in point:

I dated a man last fall who was perfectly wonderful. He was smart, successful, good looking and had the coolest laid-back vibe. He was a sweet single dad with full custody of his son, had traveled the world, and had great taste in music. 

Yet as much as I enjoyed spending time with him, I could never conjure up anything more than platonic feelings for the dude. 

Which, you know, is perfectly normal. 

There are lots and lots of perfectly wonderful people out there. You don't have to fall in love with a perfectly wonderful person just because you have the availability or the capacity to do so. 

Well meaning friends will push you to try to conjure up feelings or the desire to make it work. It's cool...they want you to be happy, to kick it with your pants parts with someone who they think is as cool as you are. 

But sometimes--and I think this is more true as you proactively develop a satisfying single life--you'll meet people whom you like and admire and respect...and nope. 

You might feel frustrated when you meet these perfectly wonderful people, especially if you're hoping to meet the next Mr/Ms Right, but see it, instead, as an opportunity.

  • An opportunity to build a friendship...
  • An opportunity to learn something new from someone else (or about yourself)...
  • An opportunity to enjoy a dinner or outing that's outside your norm...
  • An opportunity to relish the power of seeing a good thing and still saying "no"...
  • An opportunity to potentially meet the other wonderful people this wonderful person knows. 

Sometimes easier said than done in the wide world of competitive sports, er, love. But if you're a perfectly wonderful person, you'll figure it out. 

The Five Love Languages

I've been loving digging deeper into The Five Love Languages lately, and thinking through how they relate to all of our relationships, not just the romantic ones. Take a listen to this episode (which still remains our most popular!) to learn more! 

5 Valentine's Day Tips that are Actually Good for Your Relationship

There are a million Valentine's Day guides out there that are mostly written so that women get what they want and men don't feel guilty that they never get her what she wants. 

But what if this Hallmark Holiday didn't have to be dreaded by some, and breed disappointment in others? 

In fact, what if it could actually be a day where your love for the people you love was a day where you actually enhanced and grew your relationships?

Here are 5 Valentine's Day tips that are actually good for your relationship: 

1. Lower your expectations

Listen, people aren't magic. They can't know what you want or what you don't want unless you say it. Oh, and also? One day over the course of a year doesn't prove or disprove your love for someone. 

Give your partner a break, celebrate the day if you'd like, make it as big or as little of a deal as you'd like, but at least tell your partner either way how you'd like it. (Boom.)

2. Skip the usual

Flowers and chocolates are lovely, and cigars and booze are the tits, but do you really want to do the same thing millions of other people are doing? Which leads me to...

3. Recreate a feeling

It can be tough to be creative...unless you know where to start. How about the beginning (we hear it's a very good place to, you know, start)?

Recreate the feeling of your first date, or the first time you kissed, or the first time you knew you were in love. Go out to that seedy dive bar you met at, have the same meal you had on your third date, or sip a bottle of Boone's Farm and make out in the backseat like you used to when you were kids.

Memories can be powerful things, and can even remind you of all the reasons why you like each other in the first place. 

Don't have a lot of memories in the old bank yet? How about you...

4. Try something new

Creating new, positive experiences together are an incredible way to strengthen your bond.

In fact, studies show that for new and old couples alike, experiencing something new or novel together releases the same chemicals that raged through your body when you were first falling in love. You know, "butterflies" 'n shit. 

So try a new restaurant, take a class together, or see a show. No flowers or chocolates needed here to create an exciting feeling for both of you.

And, of course, exciting feelings lead to other things. So you should probably...

5. Bone real good

Sex, as you know, is a wonderful thing. If you've been together for a while, you know the perfect combination to your partner's body. High fives to you for that great accomplishment (really!), buuuuttt...it's easy to get stuck in the tiniest bit of a sex rut when you've memorized the script. 

So bone real good someplace new, try a new position or play with a new toy. Or hey, just bone real good slowly...take your time, try to find a spot on your partner's body they didn't know they had, and just enjoy each other like it's the first time you've seen each other naked.

Meow. 

There you have it. Whether you choose to celebrate or not, have a great time with that special someone, and love the one(s) you're with!

Want more great Valentine's Day tips? Check out Episode 111, How You Can Make This Year the Best Valentine's Day Ever

It's Okay to Care

"I don't care."

"Whatever."

"It's not a big deal."

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These phrases are tiny lies we tell all the time, whether because it's a social norm, or because we don't want to "stir the pot," or because we want to be perceived as agreeable. 

Other times we use sarcasm or jokes to deflect, to not speak honestly about what we really want or what we're feeling.

I personally struggle with always trying to soften approach when I need to communicate something less than positive by telling a joke or two. It's a "save face" thing, and while there's nothing inherently wrong with wanting to lighten the mood, it's a way to shield myself rather than actually be vulnerable and real and honest in the moment.

All that to say...it's okay to care.

It's okay to feel passionately about things.

It's okay to ask for exactly what you want, without mincing words. 

It's okay to tell someone exactly what's bothering you, without emoticons or jokes or an "I dunno, maybe I'm just being weird."

You don't need to be mean or unkind in your delivery, just say what you mean to say. We back off a lot from these true words because we are afraid that people will leave, or be angry, or think less of us. 

It's easier to back off, to not make waves, to keep things to ourselves.

It's easier, yes, but potentially leads to less meaningful connections with people (because we stopped ourselves from being vulnerable enough to make them)...

...or less fulfillment when we don't get what we want (because we never asked)... 

...or more resentment toward others (because we never mentioned what bothered us).

We won't always get it right (I certainly don't), but trying is better than not. And at least at the end of the day, we know we left it all on the table, lived honestly, and cared about something.

You Don't Have to Have Sex

Dear Sarah, 

I'm 20 years old and I am terrified of the prospect of having sex. Yes, the thought appeals to me...but there are just too many uncertainties to consider. I know girls who've been having sex for years and none of them have had any unwanted circumstances. But I know they exist and I don't think I could bear to risk it.

I was wondering how you managed to have such confidence and self esteem. I can't seem to conjure any up. Whether it be because I spent four years of my life being told I was useless, and worthless by the people who should've been supporting me, or because I will never be as in shape as I want to, whenever my boyfriend comments on how sexy, beautiful, gorgeous, adorable, or amazing I am, I can never believe it. No matter how much I desperately want to. I am proof that you don't have to love yourself to love someone else. But I don't want it to be that way. 

Help?

M
 

Hey M,

Oh man, I wish we lived closer to each other, because I would take you out for a cup of coffee, hug your face off, and then we could talk about all of this in person and I'd tell you that there is no certain date or birthday or timeline that you just have to KNOW things by.

In fact, I would say that right now is the most confident I've ever been in my life, but it's been quite the process to know and love my body, my mind, my "me-ness." Sure, I've always been very confident in some things...but those have only been tasks or actions, and not necessarily reflective of the confidence I've felt about myself.

And if I'm REALLY being honest, I still have moments where I look at my body and I'm overly critical, or where I walk into a room and immediately panic inside because there are at least fifteen other women who are more beautiful and more confident and more self-assured than I am. 

So I don't always get it right, but I get it right these days more often than I get it wrong, so I'll take the small wins.

All that to say, don't worry that you're 20 and haven't quite figured out this confidence thing. 

But I feel like your issues go a little deeper than a simple crisis of confidence. Please listen very closely: 

You are not worthless. And you are most definitely not useless.

Those things that people told you about yourself are lies, born from their own messed up and flawed perception of themselves and the world. They are sad, twisted beings, and cannot be relied upon to deliver facts about you, or about anything else. 

I know this sounds like a hard task, but don't add fire to their lies by believing them yourself.

Obviously, that's easier for me to say here on the other side of my screen than it is for you to put it into practice. So, I'd suggest two things to start:

1) Talk to someone--Therapy is not bad, and it's not a sign of your own weakness if you talk to a professional who can help you untie some of your knots. In fact, I think it's the brave individual who says, "Well, I've done about all I can do on my own, and I need help now."

The cool thing about talking to someone is that it gives you a neutral party to hash things out with...someone who knows how to ask the right questions to help you reach your own conclusions. It can be an incredibly empowering experience.

Quick note: it's totally okay to "shop around" for someone you trust and vibe with, so if you have the time and means, meet a few different counselors or therapists, until you feel like you both "click."

2) Engage in activities that will help boost your confidence--Is there something new you wanted to try? Is there something you used to do in your childhood that maybe you haven't revisited in awhile, like playing an instrument or swimming lessons? Or, how about something you really, truly enjoy, even if it seems small?

Putting time and effort into creating new experiences through things you enjoy will help boost your confidence when you see what you can do. For me, it's always been a few different things, like hitting little milestones at the gym, completing a personal project, or taking an improv class. Find the right combo for you...the stuff that feels both effortless and challenging, and tackle it. 

OK, on to sex.

You don't have to have sex until you're ready to have sexPeriod.

It doesn't matter what age you are, or how long you've been with your boyfriend. If you don't feel ready, you're not ready, and that is 100% okay. 

Here's the thing, though...sex shouldn't be scary, either. It should be something awesome and enjoyable and pleasurable and fun to do when you're ready.

So if you're terrified of unwanted consequences, I'd say it's time to see your gyno to talk about birth control (if you haven't already). Educate yourself on wonderful sites like Scarleteen, read books like Because It Feels Good, get to know your own body, and ask as many questions as you'd like from your doctor about sexual health.

Then talk openly with your boyfriend about protection, what you're feeling or thinking about intimacy, and what your concerns are about pregnancy or disease. A good partner will be more than willing to talk to you about these types of things...even if it's uncomfortable for a minute.

A good partner also won't pressure you to have sex until you are comfortable and can enthusiastically consent. So have one talk or lots of talks until you both are ready to go. 

But again...you don't have to have sex! Even if you've been dating for a while! And even if you have feelings for each other!

When should you have sex? When you want to, when you're ready and when you've said yes. That doesn't have to be today or tomorrow. It's whenever you feel whole and healthy and ready. 

And when that day comes, have a metric shit-ton of fun, okay? 

Love, 

Sarah 

Got a question? Need advice? Let's talk. 

Just Because It Feels Bad...

...doesn't mean it's a bad emotion to feel. 

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We've been fed this idea that there are "good" emotions and "bad" emotions.

But emotions are just emotions...they're normal things to feel and experience for a time, the whole damn range of 'em. 

In fact, it's totally okay to be angry with a friend or a partner who doesn't uphold their end of a perviously agreed upon bargain. 

It's totally okay to have a day or five to be sad over something broken. 

It's totally okay to be over-the-moon excited about a new crush, a new book, a new restaurant, or your new vacuum (it's a Dyson! Those motherfuckers are awesome!).

It's totally okay to be in love with your job, to put in extra hours because the sense of satisfaction you get from completing a project that you dreamed into existence pretty much trumps everything else in your life currently.

Look, I'm not even advocating for BALANCE in your emotions all the time always. Sometimes you'll be devastatingly sad for a moment, sometimes you'll be downright giddy. No big deal...it's on the spectrum of how a human feels in a lifetime. 

All emotions, "good" or "bad," can teach us to find or propel us toward something new.

Joy can be a drug-like thing, pushing us to making positive things happen in our own lives and the lives of others. Gratitude is like a Mogwai in water, breeding ever more gratitude. Hope can get you out of bed on even the darkest of days. 

We LIKE joy and gratitude and hope; that shit feels super nice, right?

There's a danger, however, in assuming that the only emotions worth having are the ones that feel like puppies and rainbows. 

But anger can be an extremely useful emotion, even though it doesn't feel great while you experience it.

Anger can provide clarity over (perceived or real) injustice, allowing you to better articulate a problem and suggest a solution. Or, it can burn away lingering sadness after a breakup, paving the way to greater healing (and eventually, the ability to move on).

Anxiety helps us know that something is "off," that there's discord somewhere that needs resolution, like a little warning light that you need to try harder or back off or simply relax and breathe.

Sadness helps us process or grieve loss, it cleanses us in a way few things can, washing, re-setting, making room for happier memories, greater joy. 

Because making room or providing contrast is one of the best things emotions do for us. As good old Brene´ Brown says: 

“Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

Recent studies even show we don't (and probably shouldn't) experience just one of these negative or positive emotions at a time. In fact, this study (with a fan-freaking-tastic follow-up article here), says that 

"The specific concurrent experience of happiness and sadness was associated with improvements in psychological well-being above and beyond the impact of the passage of time, personality traits, or the independent effects of happiness and sadness. Changes in mixed emotional experience preceded improvements in well-being."

Of course, prolonged negative feelings that make it difficult to feel anything else (e.g. prolonged anxiety, depression or shame) can be dangerous, and many people often need help from a professional to re-set.

But in the day to day scope of things, allow yourself to feel the broad range of what you, as a human, are capable of feeling. 

Start with simply asking yourself why you feel a certain way. If it's a positive emotion and you nail down your "why," be grateful.

If it's a negative emotion and you nail down your "why," ask yourself how you can leverage that emotion for positive change. 

Above all, don't beat yourself up for being sad or anxious or angry. Just be those things, feel them for a bit. By the time they pass, your capacity to experience something more pleasant will be greater. 

 

 

 

People Aren't Magic

You want him to just "get it" but he doesn't.

You want her to know why you're mad without you having to say it (again).

But people aren't magic.

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Sure, we can be intuitive at times, and some people have a gift for anticipating needs, wants and desires. 

Mostly when it comes to other people, though, we're a little clueless. We all work from our own frames of reference, recipes of unique experiences and truths and knowledge.

It's hard enough to know yourself well enough to figure out what you want or need at any given moment, let alone anyone else.

Pile onto THAT the fact that we haven't yet experienced everything life has to offer, so it's entirely possible that what we needed yesterday isn't the same thing we need today.

Yet we still expect to go through life with the people around us magically knowing how we're feeling, or anticipating the gestures that make us feel all gooshy inside, or saying the words we need hear to feel love, or uttering precisely the right apology to make us melt into a pile of lovemeat.

(Gross.)

People aren't magic. 

He can't know you hold a special place in your heart for long dinners with just the two of you if you don't tell him.

She can't know that when you first started dating, your heart would flutter each time she texted during the work day just to say hi, and how now that she doesn't do that as much, it makes you feel less wanted.

He can't know the exact way you like to be touched unless you tell him the exact way you like to be touched. 

She can't know that it really, truly makes you upset when she is flippant about your work day unless you stop being cold and silent, and you know, stop expecting her to magically figure it out.

People aren't magic.

While there is, of course, beauty in discovering just who that human is that you enjoy sharing your time with, finding those sweet, tiny spots they didn't know they had, buying that gift and sharing it at just the right time, you also can't harbor resentment over things not given when you've never asked. 

Asking or communicating wants and needs well requires a certain level of vulnerability.

There's the chance someone will think you're weird that you really love non-romantic touch, or that flowers, to you, are not just romantic, but an actual symbol to you of his love and affection.

But if someone truly cares about you, they will want to love you in both the way they know how to give, and the way that you best receive love. 

So speak up, ask for what you want.

While people aren't magic, they do possess the ability to learn the magic that makes you tick.

Ask One More Question

In the midst of hardship or conflict in your relationships, it's easy to quickly fall into "fight" or "flight."

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You'll yell and scream, passionately swinging for your stake in the ground, or you'll withdraw, refusing to acknowledge or deal with the situation at hand. 

In many ways, it's easier to do one or the other...but I counter that neither is terribly productive, and neither really helps to bolster your relationship, or move you toward a better understanding of each other.

Don't fight or flee...ask one more question.

Instead of angrily asserting your opinion, or passionately defending yourself, ask one more question.

"What do you mean when you say...?"

"How were you hoping I'd respond when...?"

"When I act this way, does it make you feel...?"

Ask one more question.

Ask it calmly, with a genuine desire to understand your partner (or your co-worker, sibling or boss) better.

Breathe through and move past your own need to be right, and instead think, "Is my need to be right truly greater than the need for our relationship to be healthy?"

Then ask one more question.

Listen carefully, hearing your partner express to you how he or she sees the situation, his or her unique feelings or point of view about the argument.

You might be surprised by the way your partner sees the world, or how one thing that seems insignificant to you is felt very deeply by someone else.

So ask one more question. You never know where it might lead. 

Learn more about my thoughts on questions as a means of reconciliation on Relations: the Podcast

Move, Dammit

You've got that pit in your stomach.

You're worried, anxious, unsure.

You're going over every possible scenario in your head, making assumptions, creating narratives that don't really exist in the realm of fact, and you feel like if you sit there one minute longer with those thoughts swirling in your head, you might punch someone/something, burst into tears, or both.

You've tried to talk about it with friends, this thing you're struggling with, and it helps some to air it out. But it's still there, lurking, the thing you can't solve, or can't know, or can't resolve.

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While it's probably beneficial at some point for you to sit down, dig deep, and get to the root of what ails you, you're already too keyed up, and hell, even if you had the discipline to still yourself and paw through your own mess, where would you begin?

So stop thinking for a minute and move. Move, dammit. 

Get up, get out, create something new. Hit the treadmill for 30 minutes, or face that work project you've been dreading. Do something mundane and rote--but productive--for the next half hour, and see what happens. 

Clean your kitchen, focusing on all the little nooks and crannies the rag misses in your regular cleaning efforts.

Take a walk, focusing on the sound of your feet on the pavement or grass, the way the late afternoon sun filters through the trees, the way the air smells crisp and clean. 

Move, dammit.

Get outside of yourself for a minute. Do something that makes you proud of what you've accomplished, even if it's just checking a thing or two off your to-do list: changing the oil, cleaning out your closets and donating clothing, organizing your docs on Google Drive.

After a half hour, re-evaluate. See what happens when you give your brain a chance to think of anything other than the thing you've gnawed to death for the last day. 

You might just find that the thing you're looking for, the answer to your problem, or even just the clarity to move to step two, is right within your reach. 

So get up and go. You've got this. 

 

"Single" Doesn't Have to be a Way Point

2013 was a year of "slow blogging" on good old TNR. And I loved it. 

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I do realize, however, that "slow blogging" brings with it the good, the bad, and the ugly:

The good: I only wrote when I wanted, what I wanted, how long I wanted, and fuck all that "Web-friendly" whatnot because I'M AN ARTIST OR SOMETHING. 

The bad: I wrote, like, 12 posts for the whole year, and after six years on this blog and literally writing hundreds of posts before then, it's probably been a little too slow.

The ugly: All my shit has felt, well, a little sad. I did a lot of digging down into the "why" of some things, lots of insight on breakups, lots of stuff on being enough, letting go, and how you're maybe doing it wrong

But I'm NOT sad. This year has been amazing and I'm super duper excited for 2014 (I've got some big stuff in the works and can't wait to share). 

I finally published my book.

I started a podcast that is doing AMAZINGLY well (um, we beat out Dr. Drew one weekend? We debuted at #1 in SEVEN New and Noteworthy categories?? We literally have had HUNDREDS of thousands of downloads!?!? WHAT IS HAPPENING!??!).

I've been happily single all year. Dating when I want. Flirting when I want. Sleeping smack dab in the middle of the bed when I want.

Orrrrr...just striking up conversations with strangers just for the hell of it, with no expectations or desired outcomes...you know, because talking to people, connecting with other human beings is FUN.

But I haven't talked much about these things. And I haven't written much helpful stuff on the true joys of being single. 

How singlehood isn't something one has to simply survive, but can truly be a thing which can make one thrive and grow and be. 

How those times when you question yourself can be a perfect time for activity: the gym, some work, even some housekeeping. And when you're done...new perspectives.  

How you can say "no" to perfectly wonderful people who just aren't perfectly wonderful for you...and be perfectly okay with that.  

"Single" doesn't have to be a weird purgatory, where you live a stilted sort of half life waiting for someone to complete you. You know you're complete already. And if you should meet someone, it's a bonus to an already full and fulfilling life.  

All that to say, do your thing, do you. And make 2014 awesome. 

 

You Are Powerful

Life is a little like a scale.

Or maybe more like a cycle.

Or a Venn Diagram. I dunno, I'm bad with charts. 

Let's go with Venn Diagram. Boom. 

On the one side, we have our "youness", on the other, we have the shit we're good at.

Some days we'll feel pretty alright with being us, and that'll drive that day's work.

Other days we will doubt our youness, and those are the days we just have to rely on the shit we're good at.

The best days are the days there is a balance...we trust our unique ability to be powerful, as well as our ability to execute the things we know. 

If you're single or in a relationship, these rules still apply. In fact, most of the rules apply when it comes to your love life, but we often forget because we buy the lie that our personal lives are one thing, our love lives are another. 

Be you. Trust yourself. Love.  

The Lie of Being the Best (and the Alternative Truth)

I'll be perfectly honest and say that I'm going through one of those "dig deep" times. 

I was faced with one of my flaws recently, a lingering sense of pride born out of perfectionism and the need to be right. 

In turn, I had ugly thoughts about others and myself, and while much of it remained hidden, some would seep through the seams every now and again, showing itself in haughtiness or arrogance, or in sharp words delivered on the heels of insisting I was right. 

What I'm discovering is that perfectionism, or the pursuit of being "the best" (an arbitrary distinction as it is...for every person who insists some artist, or city, or restaurant is the best, there are others who insist and argue against it), is an insidiously dangerous way of approaching life.

It's alienating, it inevitably forces one to trod on others on the way to a perceived ideal, and it breeds a cycle of judgment between yourself and others. 

Personal Best vs. THE Best

There is nothing wrong in taking satisfaction from doing a job well. But there is a vast difference between seeking to achieve your personal best and being THE best. 

One would think, as a person who has actually read a book entitled, "The Gifts of Imperfection" I might have internalized the following message a little more: 

"Perfectionism is a self destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”

Holy balls, Brene' Brown...why don't you just punch me right in the face?

Perfectionism, the pursuit of being the best, makes it all too easy to continue deflecting judgment while piling in on thick for everyone else, and thereby creating what Dr. Brown calls "The 20-ton shield."

Perfectionism doesn't allow much room for genuine kindness for those who are struggling, doesn't really see much need for community, and ultimately isolates the person who pursues it.

And, if at the end of the day, we are defined by the quality of our relationships and not the quality of our accomplishments, it can be a lonely road indeed. 

Perfectionism also keeps one from true authenticity in the effort to save face and appear to have all the answers. Simple phrases like "I don't know," or "I don't understand" are approached with fear, when in reality, admitting the lack of an answer can actually create room for deeper, better dialogue or build another touchpoint for a relationship. 

We create perfectionism out of our own perceptions of perfectionism...an arbitrary set of rules, laws, truths or lies that we tell ourselves is "correct."

Miguel Ruiz says that the problem is we not only judge ourselves harshly by this arbitrary standard, but also:

“We judge others according to our image of perfection...and naturally they fall short of our expectations.” 

The Alternative

The alternative lies in authentically working toward being your best self, the best version of you. The one who is kind, authentic and asks questions instead of faking answers. Which means you can still be the person you know yourself to be without making excuses or conforming to someone else's standard.

The best version of you doesn't need to fight to be right, but instead relaxes in the knowledge that your value is not intertwined with your rightness or wrongness.

In turn, you also don't believe that someone else's rightness or wrongness is tied to their value...which, I will tell you, blows my fucking mind. 

It's perfectly okay to do your personal best in your pursuits and your hobbies and your passions. Ruiz encourages readers to do their best, but only with the knowledge that: 

"Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret."

A Kick in the Pants

Back to digging deep...I have been hurt several times over the years by people who wanted to be the actual best, scrambling to the top in a mad grab for power or recognition, and yet I found myself exhibiting some of the same behaviors recently.

I could try to paint myself in a better light by saying that at least my behavior wasn't on such a grand scale, but who cares about how little or small the scale is when you are hurting yourself and others? That's just me saving face. Again.

As I dig deep, I can see the little pockets here and there where I allowed this thing to rule my life. I want to be a better version of myself, but it's going to take a little dismantling and rebuilding, a re-shaping of how I approach the world, and especially in the things I accomplish.

Pride vs. Satisfaction

I'm finding that there's a big difference between pride in what I do and satisfaction in what I do.

It's a shift in approach that seems subtle, but actually provides an entirely new frame to achievement.

It's entirely possible that I'm playing with semantics. But the definition of pride leaves little room for positivity:

"A high or inordinate opinion of one's own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc."

While the definition for satisfaction:

"Confident acceptance of something as satisfactory, dependable, true, etc."

When I take pride in something, or act proud, I do so because I believe I looked good or better than someone else. Someone or something else has become my yardstick.

When I take satisfaction in something, I know that I simply love what I did and am happy with the result. It's an internal contentment in the fact that I know I did my personal best, no more no less. No yardstick, just me.

So here goes. I'll do my personal best to keep digging.