Lesson #3: Fake it ’til you make it

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I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve. Apparently, when I’m sad, people can tell. When I’m mad, the stench comes off me like three week old trash. Really? And I thought I was so good at hiding it. That’s a lie. The past year, I’ve worn my heart on my sleeve in hopes that people would recognize my struggle and come to my aid.

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But here’s the thing: If you’re putting off a stink that’s smellier than a dead raccoon in a pile of cow poop, people probably won’t want to come to your aid. In fact, they’ll stay clear of you–about 1,000,000 miles clear of you. Wouldn’t you? Who wants to smell dead raccoon and cow feces all day? No one. And yet I expected people to WANT to. That was a mistake, because most expectations go unmet. And that’s not me being cynical. It’s just reality. Drop your expectations to avoid a life FULL of disappointment. Once you do, you’ll find people surprise you much more than you ever thought. BUT DON’T EXPECT THAT TO HAPPEN EITHER!

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What I’ve learned is that I have to fake it ’til I make it. I’m allowed to have anger, sadness, fear, and disgust (yes, I just listed all the Inside Out emotions but the most important one), but I don’t need to bring everybody down with me. If I’m mad at someone, I’m the type of person who wants to fix the conflict right. this. instant. I don’t care that we’re at dinner with a bunch of friends who look really uncomfortable right now; we are going outside to work this out! But that’s not always the right way. Sometimes, you have to allow yourself to be uncomfortable for a little while. Patience is truly a virtue. That stupid cliche is right.

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Put a smile on your face, and resolve to solve the situation later. Because you love your friends, and you owe them your happiness, and also, look at their faces; they look like they’ve just eaten cow shit for dinner. Of course, I’m not condoning dishonoring your emotions. What I’m suggesting is to hold from acting on them right away. Be angry, yes, but don’t allow it to control you. Let it work itself out; and then, an hour later when you’re at home and you still feel those gnawing claws of frustation, perhaps it’s time to address the issue, with yourself, with whoever caused the frustration, with life. Whatever it takes to prevent it from taking over and dictating your actions, and eventually, everything else.

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It may sound like bullshit to have to smile your way through life. That’s not fair! Life doesn’t deserve my happiness when it does nothing but bring me down! But here’s the thing: By smiling, you’re actually throwing up a huge middle finger in Life’s face AND ALL THOSE WHO WRONGED YOU. It’s a snarky way to look at it, but hey, whatever helps you keep that smile on your face. Plus, smiling tricks your brain into thinking you’re happy and sending little happiness receptors to all parts of your mind. So REALLY, you’re beating that mother-effer at its own game. Smiling is basically you stealing third, and who doesn’t want to steal third? It gets you that much closer to homebase.

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Now go find happiness, and you steal it!

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Lesson #2: Treat yourself as others would want to be treated

My mom is a wise woman, and she’s helped me through many a struggle. We oftentimes get on each other’s nerves, but isn’t that just a sign of love? I bring her up, because she gave me a good piece of advice this morning…

I’m prone to base my identity off my reputation. For instance, if people don’t like me, even just one person, then I must be doing something wrong. For that reason, I avoid conflict and say “I’m sorry” even when the fault isn’t mine. By saying “I’m sorry,” I’m hoping to gain back the person in question’s favor. They’re mad at me about something, right? I don’t know what I did, but I must have done something wrong, right? Because they’re mad at me. Like my mom, I’m that person who assumes every honk she hears on the road is at her. So I pretty frequently correct myself when no correction is needed.

Gosh, just writing this depresses me.

But on the flip side, it’s also helping me understand myself. It’s helping me understand that I need to forgive myself. In the grand scheme of things, I need to forgive myself, as we all should. People will disagree with me or with something I do, but I need not chastise myself. I need only love myself and give time to those I feel time is owed–to my truest friends and family in this world.

I also need to own my feelings. You see, there’s a little man who lives inside my brain–he’s quite small, but he has a mighty power. He has the ability to sic his pet beast, Guilt, on all thoughts positive or negative in my mind. Mostly the negative ones.

You think your best friend betrayed you? And now you're mad and ignoring her? You're a terrible person. How dare you be mad. She's just doing what's best for her. Stop being mad, and cater to HER feelings.
You think your best friend betrayed you? And now you’re mad and ignoring her? You’re a terrible person. How dare you be mad. She’s just doing what’s best for her. Stop being mad, and cater to HER feelings.

I didn’t draw that guy. Found him on Google. But my Guilty Beast kinda looks like that…

Let me give you an example of how Guilty Beast dictates my conversations. If one of my friends snuck into my house one night and killed my entire family in cold blood with a machete, here’s how I would approach them:

“Hey, I’m angry, because I feel like you killed family. And that makes me sad. BUT I know you were just doing what you thought was right, so it’s probably hard for you to hear that… REALLY hard actually. I just wish you would have maybe asked me first, because killing my family would obviously hurt me, but I get why you didn’t, because how do you ask, “Would it be alright if I killed your family?” You probably knew I’d say no. You probably knew I’d yell at you or call you names. I get that you probably think I’m a bitch, because I can definitely be one. And that’s not fair to you. Of course it isn’t. Communication just isn’t our strong suit, and that made it hard on you. I don’t want you to think I’m putting all the blame on you, because I’m not. If anything, it’s my fault for not seeing that you wanted to kill my family and talking to you about it. I mean, I even caught you sharpening your machete last Tuesday! Gosh, what kind of a friend am I? Look, before you say anything, let me just say I’m really sorry. Friends?”

What the eff?
What the eff?

Probably really confused that friend, but hey, they get off scrotch-free! You think I’m kidding. Anger makes me feel guilty. Guilt makes me feel angry. So I just avoid the anger. Here’s the catch… Whether or not I’m voicing my anger, the anger doesn’t go away. And I’m just failing myself by not allowing my truth to come out. By not allowing myself to own my emotions.

So, friends, FEEL your feelings. That’s what they are there for. To feel. Don’t over-analyze. And don’t make any rash actions. Just feel your feelings. Be honest with yourself and those closest to you. If they care, they’ll listen. They’ll help you work through them, and they’ll apologize if they’ve hurt you. Because you are about yourself, you should listen to yourself, as if you were listening to a close friend. Treat yourself like a child, in need of comfort and support. It’s not your fault for being human. It’s whoever created you, that’s who! If anyone is to blame, it’s the Masters of the Universe!

First and foremost, be at peace with yourself. Forgive yourself. Love yourself.

Treat yourself as others would want to be treated.

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Lesson #1: I Am The Problem. And So Are You.

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I’ve realized since picking this blog back up that I need to focus on a theme. I have to ask myself, What can I offer the world via my blog? What insights do I have that those reading my blog crave? Initially, I was going for the “I’m young and twenty-three” angle, but I’ve learned that’s not enough. There’s lots of “young and twenty” blogs out there. What’s new? Where and how do I stand out?

For the past year, I’ve been going through an extreme emotional, physical, and theoretical transition. I have experienced depression, anxiety, sadness, excitement, determination, depersonalization, fear… sometimes it feels all at once. I’ve gone up and down, thrown side to side, and good grief, I am dizzy. As you might have read in previous posts, I have A LOT to complain about. And THAT right there is my problem. All I’ve been doing is complaining. Who wants to read that? What I’ve discovered in just the past few weeks is that if we take time out from complaining to find the good in our greatest challenges, we might find our solution.

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I have a friend who has been telling me from the beginning that “you, Stephanie, are the problem,” which I, of course, immediately defend, or rather rebel, against. “Are you kidding? No, I’m not. It’s not my fault this happened. It’s not my fault that happened. It’s not my fault she betrayed me… Are you saying IT’S MY FAULT?” I can go on and on like this, but he stops me mid-breath to say, “No. You are the problem.” NO I’M NOT, I scream. I’m not kidding. I’m always screaming at this point. HOW DARE YOU BLAME ME FOR WHAT’S OUT OF MY CONTROL!

But that’s the thing…

You see, it may not be my fault that so and so did this or that…. but it’s my choice on how I respond. It’s my fault that I’m letting what life hands me bring me down. It’s my fault that I’m brooding and letting my past taint my present, what’s right in front of me. I am in control of how I respond to life. I am in control of my happiness. Because I do believe happiness is a choice. It’s not simply given to the lucky. Don’t get me wrong–I think some people are more apt for happiness (i.e. the obtuse), but I digress. What matters is what I’m doing for myself to be happy, not what others are doing for me, or to me, or with me.

I am the problem. But I am also the solution.

I am on an active search for happiness, having dedicated myself after a long line of mistakes made. So if I can provide anything to a world of young, naive, eager twenty-somethings, they’re the stories of my mistakes, my observations, and what I’ve learned in effect.

I am the sculptor and the sculpture, itself–just as we all are.

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So, what’s my theme, you ask. Well, I’m still thinking of a nice, concise tag-line to sum it all up. Feel free to help me with that. But, for now, my blog, in essence, embodies the life of a young woman who readily admits her failures and actively seeks to gain that consequential wisdom needed to achieve a lasting, purposeful happiness in life.

I can’t wait to share all I’ve learned and have yet to learn.

I’ll start with something simple. Love yourself. No matter what. No matter what anyone else thinks. Love your feelings. Your emotions. Your past. Your present. Your future. Be grateful, be happy, and love yourself. Always.

Easier said than done? Of course. Let’s get technical in posts to come.

Hello from the other side

I went to Vegas as a poor 23-year-old this past week, from Saturday to Tuesday. Still seems unreal. What feels especially unreal is how well I felt I fit in. How much the lifestyle intrigued me.

One of the friends I went with scored first class tickets on the flight there. We sat down with more than enough foot room. With 12 seats taking up first class, you almost felt like no one else was on the plane. Just you and your little first class world. Offered orange juice or water. No thank you. Continental breakfast? No thanks, but thanks. Your friend will have some, though, from which you’ll sneak bites. Cereal, milk, fresh fruit, cheese, three cinnamon rolls. Free alcoholic beverage. Space. A curtain and partitions is all that separates you and coach. Hello from the other side.

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And then you fall asleep, waking up only when the plane touches ground, and you leave before everyone else–the woman with three children attached to her hips. The man with a frayed beanie. The 13-year-old traveling by herself for the first time, scanning the crowds for the safety of the relative she’s visiting. The old couple shadowed by 50 years of history and memory.

Vegas, Baby. Time to win some money–money that you never see unless you catch a ride on some rare comet of luck. Unlikely. Lost.

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On the way home, you look down from your oval window 50,000 ft. up. Coach. Trapped. The smell of body odor and breath and limited space. Complimentary soda. Headphones, and your neck pillow. A curtain and partitions is all that separates you and first class.

Hello from the other side.

There are a lot of old people at Barnes and Noble…

Which has nothing to do with the theme of this post… Well, sorta.

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I’m not offended by it. It’s comfortable actually. There’s just something about old people that makes me feel all warm inside. Maybe there’s something about them that gives me hope. They’ve lived such long lives, and yet, they’re still out and about… and smiling. They’re still incredibly interested in what the world has to offer. I hope at 87, if I make it there, I’m still high on life. Or let me rephrase… I hope by the time I’m 87, I’m MORE high on life than I am now. I hope to look back and have no regrets. Fat chance, right? You wish, Steph.

As I write this, I realize I’m setting myself up for incredible disappointment. What am I actually doing with my life? I’m sitting at a Barnes and Noble doing work for a job that has me sit for eight hours a day. Don’t get me wrong; I LOVE my job. I get to travel and see AMAZING places. But does it fulfill me? I like to think so. But will it fulfill me in the long run? Will I look back and feel satisfied? Will I employ hindsight and then settle into a big, fluffy, metaphorical arm chair with a sigh of contentment and a smile of pleasant finality? Right now, I fear that isn’t in the cards for me just yet. I need to do something. Something more.

I need to do something that scares me, but something I’m ready for. Like move to Ohio? Maybe? My aunt seems to think she can get me a job up there. Could that be something I do in the next year? Move six states away from my family? Can I actually do that? The thought terrifies and excites me at the same time. But isn’t that the beauty of life. Shouldn’t I do the things I fear in order to experience the thrill of living?

The Old Man and the Sea

I just finished reading Ernest Hemingway’s famous baby novel, “The Old Man and the Sea” just the other day…

Initially, into the first few sections, I wondered, “Ok, so what’s all the fuss? Why is this book even famous?” And then the old man snagged the Marlin. The battle ensued, until finally, FINALLY, he reeled that sucker in. And I actually felt pride for the old man–for the old man who could have easily settled for retirment years ago. Who says being 65 means you should stop confronting the hardship of life? Who says turning 70 means you shouldn’t try? Who says being 120 classfies as the age to “put up your sword”?

With bloodied hands, the old man allowed himself to catch his breath. The marlin tied up beside him. Nearly 30 feet in length. The simplicity of Hemingway’s words parallels the simplicity of the story, the environment, and the theme.

And then come the sharks. I did not expect this.

And by the time there was nothing left of the great marlin but a skeleton, I felt the deepest sort of disappointment in my gut. Even after the first shark took its hold and tore away a chunk, the marlin lost its purity. And I think the old man felt it, too. Plenty of meat still clung to the fish, but suddenly the meat that was left became even more precious. I guess it goes to show that no matter how hard you work for something, once you get it, you can lose it just like that. In the blink of an eye, all your hard work gets lost down the drain of life. As if nothing mattered. As if your bloodied hands stand for nothing at all. And as your only witness, you come to accept your life, all those trials and tribulations that, in your mind, could be recorded as epic tales, as a blip on the chain of existence/history, too small to see with the naked eye. You come to accept that you are in fact no one at all–just the main character in a story no one will ever read, other than yourself, that is.

Phew. What a good book. I have a soft spot in my heart for short, simple books packing HUGE universalaties. Word? Whatever.

Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word

I feel guilty that I’m not you….

Listful Thinking

I’m feeling bad right now because I haven’t posted anything here in weeks. MONTHS, MAYBE.

I know it doesn’t really matter. Nothing was riding on this. No one was staging a hunger strike to get me to write, or holding people hostage, or sending me threatening notes. It’s not a big deal, or even a little deal. In fact, the word deal should not be brought into it at all. Nevertheless, it’s hard to look my blog in the i’s, especially since it turned five in September and I wasn’t even there for it.

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