Being an adult is a pain in the ass, not only due to responsibility and taxes and expectations of maturity, but because we make it so damn hard on ourselves.
Essentially we, as adults, have created an impossible standard under which to achieve happiness. Primarily, I am referring to an epidemic that spreads faster than head lice and it’s this idea of authenticity and being true to yourself. I suppose this is where I should insert my disclaimer that in no way do I advocate group think, sheep mentality, or head lice.
I think that many of us would agree that, ideally, it would be fantastic if we could all be true to ourselves. And I think that if most of us were completely honest, we would admit that this would be a selfish way of living. I know that many people don’t want to equate “carpe diem” as selfishness, and perhaps this is because they don’t know how to translate it into Latin, but in reality you can shove all the stars in your eyes that you want to, living authentically is fairly self-centered. And this is why:
To be completely and truly authentic to yourself means to be completely and truly inauthentic to anyone else’s way of authenticity. There will always be an imposition on someone or something. Should one person’s happiness come at the sacrifice of another’s? And this is where the teenagers whine, “But we should be allowed to do what we want! We need to be true to ourselves!”
Adults like to think they are sophisticated in the world of gray, but truth be told, they are not. Adults like things in black or white because that’s how things can be categorized. It’s just how they are wired. And really, this whole quest for authenticity and being true to the self is all a smoke and mirrors trick so that all of us don’t have to face what the real honest fear that most all of us have at our most basic core, and that is forming connections with other people.
If all of us are running around being true to ourselves and finding what makes us who we truly are, then we won’t have the ability to connect with other people and to forge meaningful relationships.
There is a great deal of risk in connecting with people. There’s the risk of getting hurt, of course, but also of seeing a person be someone else. It’s the childhood trauma of seeing a teacher at the grocery store, hiding behind a parent while enduring an awkward conversation. If we get to know someone as a certain individual to us, we don’t want that to ever change. Until it does. And then what?
Then we have a choice. We either choose to accept that this person is a fake or a phony, or ‘inauthentic’. Or, we choose that this person simply changed, as people do.
But isn’t it easier to simply not connect in the first place? To place people in rigid characterizations and then cast them out when they don’t fulfill the expectation? We do this constantly with celebrities, politicians, neighbors, friends and coworkers. The moment someone doesn’t follow a pattern or a script that person becomes a fake.
Why do we do this? Why do we set ourselves up to be unhappy? Authenticity is unrealistic for ourselves and for others, so why set it as a standard?
There are far too many questions but I do know this: as I have worked on moving myself out of isolation and more into networks of various relationships, I have become more happy. Coincidentally, I have become more real. I’ve cared less about being true to myself and I’ve cared more about seeing what is true. A healthy shift, I believe.
People are weird.
I say that with a great deal of affection for all the weird, but they are still weird. It seems that no matter how “old” we grow up to be, we still resort back to wanting to be the best on the playground. It might be having the best cartwheel, the faster basketball dribble, or wanting to like the most popular kid. For whatever reason, kids are naturally competitive. It doesn’t matter which row can pass its papers in faster, it just matters that one row can be fastest. There always has to be someone who finishes a chapter first or an exam first or a sandwich — it doesn’t seem to matter. Someone will check out a book that has ten more pages than another kid and leave it to another kid to find another book with thirty more.
And we don’t grow out of this, do we? I could highlight any number of examples but they are fairly self-evident. Instead, I want to alienate most all women by focusing on what is called The Mommy Wars.
Generally what would happen after an introduction like that is I would begin listing my qualifications as a mother by either apologizing for working, not working, or some hybrid of both. That is usually the formula for “these types” of posts. Hopefully I don’t knowingly fall into that trap. I know my qualifications as a mother because I’m a mother of two kids who are functioning as I type this. Of course, one is feeding fruit loops to the dog with a pipe cleaner and the other is wearing his pajamas under jeans, but that is neither here nor there. Sure, another mother could come in and question my floors just as validly as she should question the fruit looping, but my kids are happy, healthy, and I can show her where I keep my mop.
I do have a point.
We are all mothers. I can actually hear the feathers ruffling and offended uteruses. Yes, I know all the ins and outs of how some women have children and others do not, and this might be choice and it might not, and how insensitive could I possibly be?
Oh the wailing! So much hysterical wailing.
I am not going to validate my sensitivity so get the wailing out now; I can wait.
We are all mothers because we all have invested interested in our and the next generation. This is what mothering is. Mothering is nurturing in whatever context it can.
I am so tired how women will spend so much precious energy in destroying one another. What does it matter if some mothering is done as stay at home mothering? And for that matter, what on earth could possibly make the difference if other mothers work while they do their mothering? This is essentially a grown up version of who plays tag better — everybody is It and they’re not even chasing anyone. What is it about women that makes us think anyone cares what we are doing?
Because help me understand this situation more clearly, we still have child poverty, sexual abuse, sexual assault, health care issues that affect women nationally and world wide, spouse and partner abuse, our children are being sold into the sex slave trade, and this list can continue with more passion than I can handle — yet, we are still fighting with each other over who is a better mother?
Are you kidding me? You’re telling me that you care more about deciding who has prettier penmanship than whether or not children should be considered prostitutes or victims.
So here you go; I’m handing out the gold stars to everyone tonight so that everyone is finally equally recognized as the perfect martyr they are. Gold star to you, Working Mother — I won’t list all the reasons why because only you could tell us. And Gold Star to you, Stay at Home Mother — for all the reasons you could willingly share with us.
Now, everyone go post their Facebook statuses about how their gold stars are just a tiny bit shinier or bigger than the mother standing next to them. Because this is what weird people do.
There’s a reason why I hate Valentine’s Day. It has nothing to do with being spurned by a lover or being single on The Big Day. There is no connection between my distaste for the holiday and a tragedy — though having a horrific allergic reaction to quinoa should be a part of it. I purely dislike Valentine’s Day simply because it is an unnecessary holiday.
Valentine’s Day creates far too much stress and pressure in any sort of relationship dynamic. I remember when my husband and I were fresh into our new marriage and it was one of our first married Valentine’s Days as a Mr. and Mrs. We were young and had bought into the whole Day of Romance ideology yet we weren’t all to prepared for it either. We were brand new parents — our son was only two months old — and didn’t even consider that hiring a babysitter would be close to impossible where we live. At the time, we lived in a college town with young couples in similar situations such as ours. All young with young children and all doing the best they can to woo their spouses in semi-spectacular ways.
So we brought our baby with us to dinner. He was a newborn and was actually no problem at all — slept the entire time. Unfortunately, we also lived in a town with restaurants that didn’t believe in reservations. Everything was packed solid with Valentine’s diners. You would think my two month old newborn would have been the grumpiest person. I can assure you — he was not! Finally, after waiting over an hour (or maybe more, my blood sugar was low and all went hazy) we were finally seated. Service was terrible. I couldn’t blame the server for the poor service. What a night! The food took an other hour to arrive. By the time the whole experience was over everyone was in a foul mood. Except the baby who had slept through the whole thing and I was extraordinarily jealous of him.
After that night, my husband and I learned to postpone our Valentine’s celebration by a week at least. Over the years, though, it became less important. And this is why:
Valentine’s Day, like too much in our culture, has become all about the overture and less about the people involved. Why do we spend so much money — yet again — on flowers or presents or food or elaborate dates when what we should be doing is simply saying we love people? Love is not demonstrated by extravagant gift wrapping or roses. It’s shown by presence and time. Yet somehow, after already spending our way through the holidays, we have been programmed to believe that we need to spend our way through emotional connection, too. And not only that, we have also been told that if we don’t have “a sweetheart” who buys us love than we are not worth anything.
Because all we need is one more category of “us vs. them” in this life, right?
So sure, I skip Valentine’s Day because I my sweethearts know I love them every day. They know it because I take care of them and tell them so. I kiss and hug them. I buy their favorite treats at the grocery store. I fold their laundry and hide funny pictures in their school binders. I call them everyday around the same time and chat about nothing. I text them random pictures when they’re at work because I know they’ll laugh. My sweethearts get spoken to while we’re in line waiting for a cashier and I let them merge in front of me on the freeway. (Except the guy who rear ended me last week; I’m not sure I consider him a sweetheart.)
Everyone else can enjoy their red roses and chocolates or heart-shaped pizzas — whatever makes their hearts flutter or gets them the diamond ring. I don’t need a Valentine when I’ve got a little girl to read books to and a boy who thinks I don’t know he’s behind in math.
(I always know.)
Lining your shooter as you knuckled down, carelessly finding me inside the chalk dust. I was just another glass duck, nothing important to add to your collection. No matter. You were playing for keepsies while everyone else plays for points.
And before I knew what had happened I was shot out of the ring along the rest, just another casualty of fudging while nobody is looking. Pocketed and then forgotten, tossed aside and then dumped. I thought.
The seasons changed once more and little boys pull out their chalk and draw their circles. They rummage around dusty old drawers finding forgotten little marbles that once shined and reflected light. They try to polish up the glass that is now a bit scratched and dull. Good enough, they think.
It feels good, you know, to feel those conquests protesting against their containment in a pocket again.
So here we are again, you and I. You’ve tossed me in the dirt; your shooter is once again ready to take aim. Only this time is different. This time you aren’t prepared for the sun in your eyes.
And it’s bright.
It feels like a barren wasteland lately in the creative world. When discussing this with a friend of mine today, she and I both concluded that there seems to be an unspoken fear that is keeping many people away from their passions. Not long ago, I felt as if I was part of a strong and nurturing blogging community. She felt the same. Now many of us have retreated into our own worlds and lives; we’ve closed our shutters. And while this doesn’t mean we have necessarily stopped writing, it means we have been slow to share and even slower to read what others have written.
Or perhaps my friend and I are the only two people at this party — though I don’t think we are.
I do believe there is a fear of fear that has crawled under our beds and reach for our ankles when we get up in the middle of the nights. It stretches out with its long scaly fingernails and gnarled knuckles, waiting for the moment when we say or write something that could possibly taken out of context or misconstrued. And then? It pounces.
Defensive creating is no way to create and so it is much easier to not create at all.
Our world has become very fragile, hasn’t it? Collective egg-walking is precarious and anxious; especially when people around you begin arguing over whether or not the eggs should be brown or white; farm-fresh or store-bought; organic or stolen from the farmer. Or if it is even human to be walking on eggs in the first place. Perhaps they should be replaced with enviro-friendly plastic eggs or maybe we could just meditate and pretend their eggs in an imaginary sort of way.
Soon, there are protest signs waving around with clever slogans celebrating the tolerance of egg-walking or people being interviewed pleading with the public to be judgmental of those who choose not to walk on eggs. Facebook arguments erupt over the issue. Quotes by Martin Luther King, jr. and the Dalai Lama are retweeted by the thousands on Twitter. Two men who, I ‘m sure, never thought they would have to intervene on walking on eggs.
We have all completely lost our minds.
Because the issue, of course, is not about eggs — it never was. The issue is that in our quest to be fair and tolerant of everyone we have become fair and tolerant of no one. How? The old playground rule of “there’s more of us than there is of you” was only fair because children ruled by fear. Children have no concept of empathy or democracy or even fairness. Children align themselves with majority because they are afraid of the repercussions that come from by being in the minority. And this is why the pointless classroom game “Heads Up, Seven Up” is still being played to this day — because even though everybody knows the game has no point and is stupid, it will always be chosen on rainy days by the majority of students. Why? Because it celebrates the popular kids and keeps the less than popular kids quiet.http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/judgmentSo here we find ourselves in a world where many of us have so much to say but instead we keep quiet. Our words have been sacrificed at Tolerance’s altar in order to avoid confrontation and contention. But to what end? This hasn’t happened in order to bring about true tolerance.
“Tolerance” does not mean to remain quiet; it’s a “willingness to accept feelings, habits, or beliefs that are different than your own”. This is a fairly textbook definition. At no point does it define “tolerance” as “willingness to be adopt feelings, habits, or beliefs” or the “willingness to have other feelings, habits, or beliefs forced upon you”.
Misused words seem to be in style at the moment, sort of like chalking hair and bringing back fads that should have died in the same decade they were first born in. Where Tolerance is tossed around like crimped hair you’ll find Judgmental — as in, if a person is not Tolerant than he or she must be Judgmental. And this, in particular, frustrates me.
Just like having money, being judgmental has become an unpardonable sin. However, in both cases, it is what a person does with both his or her money and judgment that really matters. ”Judgment” is simply “an opinion or decision based on careful thought” or, my favorite definition, “the process of forming an opinion or evaluation by discerning or comparing”. Being “judgmental”, then, is the use of one’s judgment.
I can’t believe everyone has suddenly forgotten what these words mean, so why has it suddenly become unacceptable to utilize our judgment out of fear of seeming intolerant? Why is that we care more about the eggs we are walking on rather than the fact we are wasting our lives walking on them in the first place?
And now we are held hostage by inaccurate word usage and defensive reactions. Nobody wants to be labeled as Intolerant, or a -Phobe of some kind, or a Hater, or an -Ist, or an -Can, or a -Crat, or a This or a That. Everybody simply yells or clicks “Like” or “Share” or “What-Have-Yous” and you know what?
I don’t even care anymore.
I don’t care if people share my opinion on gay marriage or drinking age or lotteries or the war or who should be president/senator/mayor/fire chief or where women should breast feed or if I should wear a motorcycle helmet or if we should vaccinate our children or if working moms/stay-at-home-moms are best or if we should outlaw plastic shopping bags.
I just can’t find it in me to raise my blood pressure.
I do care about engagement. I care about sharing ideas and sharing hope and sources. I care about exchanging jokes and teasing in good fun. I care about asking for thoughts and opinions. I care about posting interesting articles and graphics. I care about illustrating and pointing out my passions.
I care about being able to say, “This is what I believe. I know it might not be what you believe, but I believe this. Tell me more about what you think.” I care about respecting my peers and colleagues in creative spaces.
I even care about eggs. Scrambled, boiled, over easy, and baked into food. I love them.