Thursday, October 30, 2014

Try Again. Fail Better.

Isn’t life funny? Everyone around you has opinions on what you should or shouldn’t do; on how you should or shouldn’t live your life. Even me.

Guilty. As. Charged.

I would often sit around and remark on how “broken” other people were. Truth is, that’s easier to do than admit that I, myself, was broken, isn’t it? After all, no one wants to deal with their own shit. Not really. It’s easier for us to talk about what is wrong (or was wrong) with everyone else, instead of focusing inward and doing something my significant other had told me to do awhile back, “Keep your head down and stay in your own lane,” he said.  

But here is the thing:
You will continue attracting the same people (just wearing different faces) until you learn the lesson that they are sent to teach you. And the same situations will continue to repeat and manifest themselves in our lives until we finally say, “No more. I’ve already been here. I have already learned this lesson. I’m not going to repeat it.”

Broken people give broken advice. Same as broke people give broke advice. The financial and personal sides of life add up so well, don’t they? If you wouldn’t take financial advice from someone living paycheck to paycheck, why on Earth would you take life advice from someone who doesn’t (respectively) have their own shit together in that one little area? And why do you still subject yourself to surrounding yourself with broken pieces, when you haven't made yourself whole yet? 

You wouldn’t. You shouldn’t. I won’t.

I don’t pay much heed to relationship advice from people not currently in a happy, stable relationship. I often brush off advice on living my life or parenting from people who don’t have kids, or people whose kids are out of control, or from people who are making the same stupid mistakes that I am, daily.

In my eyes, Robert Downey Jr. said it best:
“Listen, smile, agree. And then do whatever the fuck you were gonna do anyway.”
Perhaps another (more vanilla) way of saying it, is “follow your heart” or “listen to your gut”, but I’m partial to Downey’s take on it.

I see it all the time. I hear it all the time. “So and so gave me advice on this, and now I’m even more confused,” or “Someone said I should…”

My reaction is always the same? “Do they have to live with the consequences of your decision? No? Then why do you care?”

Mind you, I am not perfect. Far from it actually. I have a million and a half quips, quirks, shortcomings and character flaws. In fact, taking the time to list them would fill up more than a page or two. On the flip side, I never try to hide my shit. I won’t lie about it. I’ll admit to being flawed and broken and imperfect. I don’t receive validation from other people, because I know, that at the end of the day that at least I am genuine about it. Well, now anyway.

Flaws and all.

Here is a doozey for you, I was almost a mean girl again. Almost. (A couple of years ago, I made Regina George look like Mother Theresa) But, finally, I snapped. I realized that, no, I’ve already been through this lesson. I refuse to repeat it. And if that means making snap decisions and cutting people off, I will do it. Every. Single. Time.

Because I know me. I know that if I surround myself with spite, I will become spiteful. I know that if I surround myself with dreamers, I won’t do what I need to do. I know that if I surround myself with bullshit, I become bullshit myself. Worse still, I am often guilty of amplifying my environment; of taking whatever is going on and becoming like an emotional sonic boom, where it comes out of each one of my pores. I can’t help it. That’s one my character flaws. I often times become my (sometimes amplified) environment, which is one reason I am so particular about safeguarding it. Every time I don’t, I end up screwing up….in massive ways.

But here is the funny thing about the last 48 hours: I learned something. A lot about myself. And I did a major accountability check....of myself. And while my words can be biting and often harsh, they have to be sometimes. And I’m okay with that. While my bitch switch rarely gets flipped, when it does….it’s probably best to duck and cover until the fallout subsides. (Yes, I know this is yet another character flaw. Don’t act like you don’t have them.)

However, something deeper has come from all of this. As much hell as I have given my significant other for a few things, I find myself now living (and loving) a small mirror of his life – cherishing my alone time, time with my daughter, time with him and not getting in the middle of things that I don’t need to be in the middle of. And I see it now, and it makes sense to me. But it took all of this to push my nose straight into a lesson that I thought I had learned, but hadn’t quite yet applied, of keeping my head down and staying in my own lane.

If I want to move forward, I need to move up; surround myself with people and places that are better, smarter and more talented than I am; people I can learn from; people who inspire me to be better. I mean there are times you have to be able to help people and lift them up, but daily? Daily, I don’t need any more people projects. I don't have enough time to invest in this anymore, to committing to fixing anyone else (or trying to) of making anyone a project. Because I already have one.


And so do you. Yourself.

So the next time you are getting broken advice form a broken person, first, make sure that person isn’t you…and second, remember that all you really have to do is smile, nod and do whatever the fuck you want to do anyway. Why? Because you are the only person alive who has to live with the consequences of that. And that is the best piece of "advice" I have ever received, because when I stopped listening to everyone else, I was able to hear me again. Finally. 

And when I did hear me again, this is the first whisper I heard: Try again. Fail better. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Your Biggest Problem Is “I’m Gonna….”

One of the biggest, most whipping, full-sized, vastest skirmishes I have ever gotten into with my significant other was over two simple words: “I’m gonna.” However, I shouldn’t have been fighting with him, I should have been wrestling with myself.

It went a little something like this….
Him: “You’re brilliant. I know you are talented and gifted, but you have far too many ‘great’ ideas and take far too little action on them. That makes it hard for people to believe in you. Even me sometimes.”

Naturally, myself, being an utterly irrational girl at the time, I was outraged. I mean like Italian-housewife-with-a-frying-pan-and-the-mouth-of-a-sailor-who-was-willing-to-fashion-a-toothbrush-into-a-shank sort of livid. There was a little yelling, a few tears, a slammed door or two and a man (who was right all along – by the way) choosing to be exiled to the sofa for his nightly siesta.

Yes. It’s true. I can really be a girl sometimes. And also a mammoth pain in the a--...but that is another story for another day.

But why was I so choleric about a stupid statement, you ask?
Because he was right. And oh my God, I hate when he is right…I mean, who did this guy think he was? It’s my job to be right. Not his. Pffft.  

But he was. He was a thousand percent in the right. I had been so overwhelmed, so depended upon, so tugged at my skirt where I was at the time that I lacked follow through on my dreams. The “I’m gonna’s” in my life had begun to the eclipse the “I dids.”

And, as mad as I was at him that chilly December evening, the truth is, I was really mad at myself.

Furious even.

So here we go….
Being a writer, I replayed the entire conversation in my head about a million (or so) times over the
next few days. Naturally, I adopted the stubborn attitude that “I would show him. I would prove him wrong, by turning the ‘I’m gonna’ into ‘watch what I did.”

But he already knew that. He knows me better than I do myself most days.

He knew precisely what he was doing. Never has this man had a laissez faire attitude when it came to me. He knew I needed to be pushed – and sometimes kicked squarely in the bum. I hadn’t been challenged in a while. And he knew I thrived on that.

So I sucked it up, told him he was right (oh he loved that) and then I did the solitary thing I rarely do….I asked for help. From him. And he was more than willing to give it to me.

Building dreams….
When I told him what I wanted to do, what I needed, he said, “No problem. I will make it happen. We will work on all of this together.”

So we did. Of course, as we always did, we bantered back and forth, got frustrated with one another throughout the creative process (if you can believe it, I am horrible at communicating in this area…because I am a control freak of the worst proportion and he actually wanted to be told what to do), but he would still give me the progress he made on helping me build MY dream as the days and weeks progressed. Despite some (cough) creative and intellectual differences. Well, and him getting mad at me because I wouldn’t tell him what to do – which still shocks me to this day -- we still moved forward. But, then again, that is what we do. We have evolved a lot in the last few years. More than what folks know. 

Then, I changed my mind on how I wanted to showcase my model (I told you I am a girl – we change our minds). I wanted to (as I would often tell him) ‘go big or go home’. But, he wasn’t even mad, he was all aboard to press on, and to redo the work he had already done to help me get where I wanted US to be. After all, he isn’t just my partner in life, he’s also my business partner. We compliment each other on the areas the other is weak in…both personally and professionally. And, despite our differences, we have always made a dynamite team.

All because he believed in me. But even more than that, he believed in what we were doing, not what we were “gonna” do.

But he didn’t believe in me because of the I’m gonnas that I was feeding the world…. But, more importantly, because of what he had already seen me prove myself capable of.

The last time I said “I’m gonna” with no follow through.
One humid May afternoon, as I was agonizing over a decision, he took me out for Mother’s Day. And I remember this day vividly, because I made the command decision that it was the last time I would ever let “I’m gonna” fall out of my mouth and hit his ears.

He looked at me, straight in the face, and said, “I love you. No matter what you decide, I love you. But this is killing you. It’s sucking every ounce of you down with it. Go. Quit. No notice. No nothing. Just go. Because you are never going to be able to do what you are amazing at if you stay there. They are sucking the life out of you. You are always tired, upset and angry. Every day lately. You are stressed out and frustrated and overworked and underpaid. And my girl is better than that.”

So I didn’t tell him I was “gonna”. I just did what I had to do, and told him about it after the fact.

And you know what? He was proud of me. Not because I was “gonna” do something, but because I did something.

So what have you done lately?
Ever since that day, he still wants me to build my dream, to build a dream with me, and we don’t talk about what we are “gonna” do….we just talk about what we have done. And I am back to doing what I LOVE. What I was BORN to do, and it’s the best thing I have ever done; something I would have potentially missed out on, over a few misplaced and misguided “gonnas”, that if he hadn’t kicked me in my arse about, I would still be doing – still a master of justifying my own bullshit.

I tell you to beware of “I’m gonnas” because I know there are many of you out there who say you are “gonna” do something tomorrow, next week, next year…but you never do it. You lack follow through. You have the best of intentions, but, at the end of the day, nothing ever gets done. The days turn into weeks, the weeks to months, the months to years and then one day you wake up and you’re still working that shitty retail job you hate, surrounded by people who do nothing but party and live paycheck to paycheck…and they are 40. They have gotten nowhere, they spend their lives on “gonnas” and let their dreams die….because they were too afraid, too cowardly to take action. Will you choose that same life? Or will you do something better? The thing you were BORN to do?

Here is the scary thing: People notice this; they can see straight through your I’m gonnas. They notice this more than anything else. The constant “I’m gonnas” make you appear like a joke. Because the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Because accolades are only given once the work is done, the sweat wiped from your brow and the mission accomplished, not over flowery words and shallow, empty promises.

After all, “I’ve done” is a far better qualifier than “I’m gonna.”

So do yourself a favor, and drop the I’m gonna’s from your vocabularies of promises and daily conversations. Instead, think about, “What can I say I have done by the time the sun sets on this day?”

“I’m gonna” will kill you, it will poison your life and bury a stake in the heart of your dreams. Because you will find every excuse, every distraction to turn the “I’m gonnas” into yet another tomorrow, further letting what you are supposed to do slip away, causing the loss of the one commodity no one can make more of: time.

I know, because I’ve done it. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

How I Learned to Let Go...And How You Can Too

There is a certain art to letting go of things, I think; a serene grace that is challenging (if not impossible) for we, as human beings, to fully grasp – let alone accomplish.

And when I say we, I really mean me, but, I think there are others like me out there who can relate. And maybe, if you're out there, this will help. 

I am the worst at this; this “letting go” business. I will hold on to grudges and past hurts as if the Universe will somehow stop making them – and here is a hint, it won’t. I have held on to resentments and anxiety as if they were my kindred.

And here is another hint...they aren’t.

Because holding on wasn’t harming those who harmed me (or who I convinced myself had done so), holding on was actually killing me instead.

Over the past four years, I have had a plethora of ups and downs and sideways moves. Some were at the hands of others, but the ones I am the least proud of were the ones inflicted by my own hands. After a severe trauma two years ago, I said and did things that I should have never said nor did. I had a complete, total mental breakdown. I was weak and full of rage.

I was angry at the world.

The problem was that I took that anger out on the people who least deserved my wrath. And there is no repair for that. The damage I inflicted with my hateful words and horrible attitude was too deep to forget. Forgive…maybe, but never forget.

You see, I had been in a toxic relationship for so long, that I, myself, became toxic.

Since then, I have written apology letters I have never sent, I have atoned with a higher power and asked for forgiveness for my sins. Yet, I still couldn’t let go.

My shame, my pain, my powerlessness over the wrongs I had done were consuming me. And that fed in to my anger and rage against a toxic environment that pushed me (consistently) to the brink of completely losing it. I was self-absorbed, ego driven, manipulative and a straight up asshole. And I can admit this, because this was all necessary in my process of letting go.

And you know what? People judged me.

And you know what else? I don’t care.

I know who I am, what I have done and what I have not. In fact, I am often my own harshest critic. Thing is, this was part of my process. This was part of my growth.

You see (and perhaps this is the writer in me), I would OBSESS about exposing people for who they were, I would plot and plan and craft ways to condemn them with the written word. But why? For what? To what end?

The truth is, I don’t really know who these people are, good or bad. I’m not God. I don’t truly know if they are still the same way. I don’t speak to them, nor they to me. Perhaps, they have changed. Perhaps I had to change to understand this. Perhaps, this was part of my lesson; to accept and embrace my imperfections and wrongdoings in order to just start letting go. Because obsessing was literally killing me. I was poisoning me from the inside out. And it wasn’t until I realized this that I knew I had a choice to make. I could either let go, or die.

And breathe.

This is part of letting go.

The other night, I was scrolling through my newsfeed. I saw a name. A name that usually makes me feel badly about a series of events.

But I (finally) felt nothing. I was finally indifferent.

You see, I had finally forgiven myself. I had let go.

So something I normally wouldn’t have liked out of my own ridiculous need to justify my own bullshit, I liked it anyway.

Because I had begun to let go.

Then, the hamster in my head began spinning even more feverently. I thought, if I can feel no love nor hate for someone who I once had both emotions about, why can’t I do this for people I have felt nothing for in the first place?

And that was when it happened. That was the moment. The turning point. The epiphany – of sorts. It was four o’clock in the afternoon, and I was sweeping my kitchen. I looked up to the sky and said, “If you can hear me, I need your help. I am often arrogant and selfish and strong willed about these things, but I can’t do this on my own. I need your help. Please, help me to let go. Help me glean the wisdom that the only way I can change the world is if I change myself. And I need to do this.”

But it wasn’t a “poof”, there was no magic existential lightning bolt of awesomeness that catapulted from the sky and cleansed my soul to where I was immediately and automatically inspired to let go.

But it was a start.

Ever since that day, I find myself letting go of more and more.

But do you know what else I found when I started to let go?

I found me again. Better still, I began to create a me that I am becoming more and more proud of. For the first time in 35 years. 

And I missed her. And I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Letting go is an art form; it is an impossible task for some of us in a dreary world where we seem to float from one tragedy to the next, but, ironically, it is also the one thing, the most important lesson we have to learn if we are truly committed to creating a person inside of us we can be proud of; it is the necessary apex of self-discovery we have to reach before ascending the downside of the mountain.

After all, a new adventure awaits us there too.

All we have to do is….let go.

There is something I said to a friend earlier, that once (not too long ago) applied to me as well, and it was a lesson that my stubborn asshole self couldn’t learn any other way: "I am compassionate enough to reach out my hand when someone is drowning, and strong enough to fight for what I know is right, but I am also wise enough to know that if the person who is drowning isn't ready to reach up and help pull themselves up, I will drown with them."

And I'm not in the business of drowning. Well...not anymore. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Greatest Love Story Never Told (Part 8)

We got in the car that morning, him still refusing to tell me where we were headed. His eyes were twinkling as I kept interrogating him on the way. He, however, was resolute in telling me where we were headed, despite me performing my very own home version of the Spanish Inquisition. He insisted that it was a surprise.

Once we got several miles out of town, I lost my cell phone signal (cue gasp). Naturally, being the co-dependent individual I am on my phone, had a meltdown.

“Oh my God Jon, I have no signal and we are out in the middle of nowhere. What am I going to do????”
He laughed at me as he watched me try to “Lion King” my phone – you know, holding it up like Raffiki did Simba when presenting him to the animals – desperately trying to retrieve some type of link up with humanity.
And nothing.

He giggled at me for 45 minutes…which is right about the time I gave up.

He said, “This weekend is about us. No Facebook, no texts, no cell phones. Just us. You’ll be alright.”

“Okay. I trust you,” I mumbled, begrudgingly, resigning myself to being ‘unplugged’.

Our first stop was “The Apple Store” and not the geeky, genius bar Apple Store. A little place off the beaten path that had an apple orchard and baked goods. He ordered us one of his favorite things there, a turnover. And for a brief second, I was able to retrieve a signal and post about said mouthgasm. He laughed as I made him go forward in the car and in reverse, just long enough for me to get my post off into cyberspace.

Where he told me we were staying...
About an hour later, we pulled in to where he told me we were staying. The cabins looked like this. I said nothing. I was in shock. I mean, afterall, my idea of “roughing it” was a two star bed and breakfast. The place he took me was a truck stop/cabin I-don’t-even-know-what. I swallowed the lump in my throat and closed my eyes and he walked in the office to “check in”. I kept saying to myself, “Give it a chance, Shauna, it might not be that bad.”

He emerged from the office moments later, and doubled over with laughter. He got back in the car and said, “I’m not going to make us stay here, I just had to see what you would do. We are staying somewhere else.”

“You ASSHOLE!” I exclaimed. “I was in the car freaking out…and….REALLY????”

We both laughed for the next hour in the car, where we got to our actual destination…a little resort in deep in the Hill Country, with beautiful cabins on the mountains.

After we checked in, we sat on the porch and watched the sunset. It was beautiful and serene. We even had a little feline visitor who quickly became our friend.

Where we actually stayed...
That night, we went downstairs, had dinner and sat out next to the humongous fire pit. We ended the night in the cabin, listening to music as he tried teaching me how to dance.
It was perfect.

The next day, we got up early, had breakfast and went hiking all day in Lost Maples. It was an amazing trip.

And, that Sunday night, as we drove closer to San Antonio, we both admitted that we didn’t want to go back -- even if only part of it was in both of our heads....we got to a point where we just "understood" the other. Because when it was just us, when there wasn’t anyone else in the way, everything was perfect. As we walked back into the fire, we both said we would try and do better.

We are, however, only human….and we didn't. 

Part 9 (coming soon)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Greatest Love Story Never Told (Part 7)

September was a strange month for us. It began in a crescendo of awesome, then sunk, then rose again. It started off with a trip to Fredricksburg that we took one weekend. And we had an amazing time. We, as we often did, planned just about everything last minute, but we spent two absolutely glorious, drama free days there. And, it was then that I noticed a few things:

1. Our talks in the car. They were always open, free and meaningful. Talks neither of us could have with anyone else. And we know this, because we admitted it to each other...finally.

2. He stared at me a lot that weekend, thinking I wasn’t looking or didn’t notice, but I did...and that comes into play later.

3. That when we were “away” from the people we both proclaimed (at the time) ‘friends’ everything was right with the world. It wasn’t ever until we came back to San Antonio that there was interference and drama from those outside our circle. 

And that was when my resentment for said people began to build. A lot.

Yet, I still attended every baseball game. I was always the first call when he would lose his keys on the VIA park and ride to the Spurs games, and he still called three times a day…sometimes more.

September also became the month that I resolved to create and work on a list of people who I loved, and to remind them every day that I loved them…him most of all. So, first thing in the morning, I would text my loved ones a personal message. Then, again, the last thing I did before I went to bed was the same.

He would rarely respond, other than a smart ass remark most days, but I kept on anyway.

It wasn’t until he sent me these that I realized how much he had started to count on those messages throughout the day:

But yet, always the interference from the outside that month. Too many people poking around, asking questions and inserting themselves like tampons in our business. Funny thing was, they all came from “his” side of the fence, not mine. There was a lot of conniving and manipulation and just outright deceit. Finally, I had it. I couldn’t take it anymore.

One night, as we were talking, I told him that I couldn’t take it. If I could have the fortitude to tell people to buzz off and mind their own business, so should he. But, I made it clear that if he was “with me”, he’d better damn sure make it clear to those self-same individuals, because continually living in what felt like eternal limbo was driving me insane.

He refused.

And I simply could not (and cannot to this day) understand why. I told him, “Why do you care about so many people who never have a conversation with you unless you reach out to them first, or unless they want a bar tab paid? Why do you hold on so tight to people who have already let go of you?” I remember telling him that night, breaking down into tears that I knew he was better than that, that I saw such greatness in him, and that his obsession with holding on to what was gone (and should remain that way) made no sense to me, as I watched that war within his own heart and mind tear him apart. 

Because the truth was that watching that, watching him wrestle with a past full of people who didn't really care about him at all tore me apart. You see, I have never had any issue with cutting people out, letting people go. Not because they are bad, but because I realized that they are bad for me; that they aren't meant to go where I am going...and that's okay. I don't feel a need to collect people, to remain "friends" (Facebook or otherwise) with people who don't add value in my life. Long ago, I decided that if you aren't making deposits in my life, you're making withdrawals, and if the withdrawals exceed the deposits, something is very, very wrong. 

As someone who spent most of her life trying to "fix" the problems for everyone else, I was lied to, used and often taken advantage of. When I saw the same things happening to him, I simply could not stand for it. I recognized those people for who and what they are, and they were (and are still all) people who continually judge others...who they, themselves, aren't even close to getting their own shit together. 

He was (is) better than that. So am I. And I had no time, nor patience, to trifle with people who wanted nothing more than to remain in the past, in their past and to bring nothing but that past to our proverbial present table. 

Not that I would ever tell him who he can or cannot have as friends, mind you. But rather, I recognized, early on, those people who were not his "friends" at all. People who would do nothing but use him or take advantage of his generous heart. People who would talk badly about him behind his back, but still come to him for financial assistance. No. Not acceptable. People who didn't give a shit about him on his birthdays or other special occasions. And people who I know did not, because for the past three years weren't around for a single thing, unless Jon or I paid for it. They did nothing; contributed nothing; gave nothing...and only showed their faces when they wanted something. 

And those who did do something...anything at all...over the last three years? Well...they
always asked me (or him) to reimburse them. Ha. Some "friends" those are. Assholes is more like it. Assholes who pretend to be successful and "balling" on Facebook, but people who still to this day are unable to cover their own bills, whereas he and I have not only been able to cover our own bills, but move forward and become even MORE successful financially and in our relationship since they have been gone. Coincidence? I think not. 

You become like the five people you hang around with most. We hung out with losers and liars. I stopped. And while he did stop hanging out with them, he wouldn't cut them out completely -- but I did, and I never felt even the slightest tinge of guilt over it. But that was where we disagreed. He wouldn't cut them out completely. He got stuck. 

My argument has, was, and will forever be the same, "When you leave the door open to the past, the past will come calling. When you answer the past, it still has nothing new to say. Let go completely. Delete the photos, delete the messages, delete the people. And if God wants them to catch up, or reunite you, He will. But holding on to anything, or anyone just for the sake of holding on to them, collecting people, takes up the space that the next person God wants to lead to you into your life." 

See, that's why I never have an issue with it. God puts in my path who he needs there, he removes people for the same reason. And, I have enough trust and faith in him to see that, and to remove people who He doesn't want there anymore, so I can clear the space for new introductions....because that's the only way to move forward. One day, I think he will understand that too.  

Not that I ever claimed to be perfect, you know, I’m not. Never have been, never will be.

And, as the middle of September bled into arguments about people who needed to exit our lives (that he didn’t see yet), at the end of September, he said, “Let’s get away from here. Let’s just go. When it's just you and me, it's perfect. And I want that again. Let's just get away from all the dicks and the drama. Pack your bags. We are leaving for the weekend, and I'm not telling you where we are going.”

So we did. We packed our bags and skipped town to a destination I didn't know about just yet. And it was exactly what we needed, because it turned into the surprise vacation of a lifetime…the one that changed everything. 

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