Whether or not you’re concerned that the White House is in danger of turning into a satellite campus for the Kremlin, there is one thing we can all (hopefully) agree to be thankful for: we live in a country where we possess the freedom of expression.
Think about that. I mean, really let it sink in.
If you have a book, film, artistic work or even a simple bumper sticker-sized message to share with the world, no one will physically prevent you from putting it out there.
You can proclaim your faith – or lack thereof – and you won’t be thrown in prison.
You can champion a cause that sears your soul. At the top of your lungs, and in broad daylight.
So, in honor of this privilege, it’s time to realize that “just add water” is only a good directive for condensed soup and Chia Pets. Not so much when it comes to speaking your personal truth.
I was not having a good day.
Nothing catastrophic, just letting everything from bad drivers to people moving through the supermarket checkout at the speed of smell get under my skin. I needed some musical therapy, STAT.
But the tunes I craved were encased in cheesy goodness that was mocked by much of the world at large.
But I didn’t care.
I whipped out those CDs (yes, CDs…the things that you now use for drink coasters), cranked up the volume and proceeded to get my groove on to…
One of my very favorite Far Side cartoons is the one where the guy is admonishing his dog, “Ginger, I told you to stay out of the garbage! I’ve had it, Ginger!” and all she hears is “Blah blah blah…Ginger…blah blah blah…Ginger!”
I find it hilarious because – more often than I care to admit – I converse with my dogs like this after they’ve dug a hole to China in the backyard or treated the cat box like their personal snack bar. As they listen to me ranting in exasperation, I can see the thought bubbles forming above their canine noggins: “Oh, silly woman. If only you knew the joy of dirt flying in your face, or the delectable taste sensation of fresh cat turds. But alas, I shall let you continue in your blissful ignorance of the finer things in life.”
(Okay, so my dogs have ridiculous thought bubbles. They get it from their Mom.)
In this age of people sharing everything from their lunchtime burger to their family vacations on social media, it would seem that none of us have a problem being seen.
But being looked at isn’t the same as being truly seen.
It’s not a big risk to share a meme or join in the latest Facebook argument over whether we just swore in the savior of the free world or a misogynistic Cheeto. But revealing your whole, true self to the world (and no, half-naked selfies don’t count)…that’s an entirely different animal.
And it’s easier said than done. I know, because I wasn’t willing to do it for a very long time.
Like, oh…for about four decades.
We all fall in different places on the scale of competitiveness. Some are completely passive when it comes to keeping up with those around them. Others will knock their brains out trying to one-up anyone over things ranging from the obvious (career and monetary success) to the asinine (taking eight minutes to order a drink at Starbucks to show us black coffee loving rubes how it’s done).
I’m not saying competition doesn’t serve a purpose. Try having a Super Bowl where no one wins. Or a marketplace where there is only one brand of anything available. Sometimes we need competition in the world to keep things exciting and in balance.
But what about in your own life?
When I left my last corporate job almost six years ago, I thought I had the trajectory of my writing career all figured out. I had dreamed of making films since college, so that was first on the list (to date, I’ve been fortunate to have written and produced two: Anniversary and Waiting For Goodbye). But beyond that, I figured I was destined to be a full-time freelancer. After all, what other option was there for a cube farm refugee with a knack for words?
I got a decent amount of work straight out of the gate. And that was partly due to the fact that I was so elated to no longer be starring in my own personal revival of Office Space, I would write about anyone or anything. From executive officer profiles and Facebook campaigns to video scripts for spray tan gadgets and robotic surgery, I took everything that came my way.
But after some time, I started to feel that something wasn’t right.
Okay, so I am one of those weirdos that actually likes grocery shopping. I find it oddly therapeutic, and the people watching opportunities can’t be beat.
So, one day this week after loading up my cart with an inordinate amount of healthy stuff, I decided the scales needed balancing. And the most expedient (and delicious) way to do that seemed to be potato chips. So, I happily veered my cart out of the produce section and headed for the snack aisle: home of crunchy fried potato goodness.
And there it was.
I still remember the day that I gave notice at my last corporate job. I was nervous, shaky and borderline nauseous. Yet I was also elated to be starting a new (and definitely comfort zone busting) stage of my life. When I explained my situation to my boss, she was thankfully awesome about it. We moved forward amicably and set about arranging for me to wrap things up before my last day two weeks later.
And then I had a totally bizarre experience with one of my co-workers that completely befuddled me.
“That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.”
Normally, that phrase is said with irony after some outlandish statement. (“This cake contains anti-oxidant laden dark chocolate, plus protein rich milk and eggs. Therefore, it makes perfect sense for me to be shoveling it in my mouth at six-thirty in the morning. Pretty sure Jillian Michaels eats a slice right before she bench presses a truck.”)
I have definitely used sticking to my story in defense of breakfast cake (and will continue to do so). But I’ve also employed it in some less frivolous scenarios. Like sticking to a story I really wanted to write when it just wasn’t working.
A workout that consists of one push up. Reading 2 pages of a book. Writing 50 words.
Yes, those are actual daily goals.
And believe it or not, they can lead you to exercising for 30 minutes a day. Reading over 100 books a year. Or writing multiple books of your own, one after the other.
I’m talking about the concept of “mini habits.” And as ridiculous as it sounds, they actually do work.