“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
– Christopher Robin to Winnie The Pooh
As I kid, I loved the tales of a potbellied bear and his posse that included a tiny pig, a grumpy donkey and a boy who adored him. His innocence made me smile, and I could definitely relate to his insatiable sweet tooth (honey for him, anything chocolate for me).
But as an adult, I realize that the stories aren’t just cute, they are full of wisdom and comfort…two things I could certainly use right now.
Which is why I’m writing this today.
The other night, my husband asked me, “If you could choose one moment in your life to live over again, what would it be?”
As one scenario after another flooded my mind, I decided further clarification was in order. So, I countered with, “Do you mean ‘relive’ as in it was so awesome I want to experience it again? Or as in, ‘Man, I screwed that up, and I wish I could go back and fix it?’”
He smiled and said, “Which one did you jump to first?”
And my response surprised me.
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.
“I’m only human.”
I used to say that all the time. Usually when I was failing miserably at something and wanted to deflect any suggestion that I should step up my game.
“I can’t write a book. I’m too busy. “
“I can’t create a website. Technology hates me.”
“How am I supposed to eat a salad when a perfectly good pan of brownies is in grave danger of going stale?”
I’m only human.
But while those three little words provided me with a handy-dandy hall pass for avoidance, it always felt wrong. Like I was using my status as a mere mortal as an excuse to not rise higher. To achieve all that I knew I was capable of.
So, what’s wrong with declaring yourself to be human?
“You can make more money, but you can’t make more time.”
I’m not sure who originated that quote, but I’d always accepted it as true. After all, there are lots of ways to create more cash.
Invent something the world can’t live without.
Find a better job.
Have a garage sale.
Beg, borrow or steal (not highly recommended unless you want to stand on a street corner, pay interest or get arrested).
But there can’t possibly be a way to make more time, right?
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.