New post on the collective grief of COVID-19 is on Medium – click here to read it.
This is heavy. Sometimes we need to cry in the grocery store.
Dear Girl Who Told Me to Shut Up,
First off, I apologize for ruining the first song of the Ray LaMontagne concert for you by chatting with my friend. Your rage caused you to whip around and snarl “Are you done talking yet? Can you shut up now?” with such malice that my response was an artful, succinct “Wow.” Truly, there was no other response for me to give. It was a wow moment.
After you told me to shut my pie hole, you didn’t give me another glance. But we were henceforth bonded by our now mutual rage. Our connected energies were lightsabers battling in a galaxy far, far away. I was like: “on guard, you Dark Force Sith, to the death.”
See, I let your rage spread to me. It duplicated itself and I now felt the same about you. My anger changed you into a horrible shell of a human with a stupid looking demon face who probably chewed with your mouth open while throwing things at dogs.
I let my anger ruin the next song while I marinated in the wow of it and plotted my Jedi revenge. I stared at you, Shut Up Girl, seething with the hatred you sent and the injustice of what you said. But then I remembered this quote and it immediately snuffed out my rage:
Anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
I was allowing anger to ruin a rare night out with friends. And for what purpose? It was so unnecessary. So I let it go and did the opposite. I stared at you again and took out my lightsaber but instead of rage, I sent you compassion, forgiveness, and love. Yup, a big ole sloppy love saber. Your dumb demon face disappeared and I saw your humanity again.
I saw in that moment how anger is a poison that serves no purpose but to sicken us and ruin our connections. It does not allow us to feel compassion for others. It makes it so we can’t see others as humans also having human experiences. It also takes away our ability to listen — like, really hear the words.
While I can’t eliminate future anger, I can eliminate its longevity and the potency of its poison. I can use it as a reminder to be more compassionate and to connect with whoever/whatever pisses me off. Why do I feel this? Is it serving me? How can I let it go? Does it really chew with its mouth open?
I really did love you for the next hour we spent connected. When you stood up to leave, I saw you were carefully cradling a new poster of Ray LaMontagne and wearing a t-shirt with his face and these lines on it:
I wanted to hug you and say: “That’s what I’m talking ’bout, Shut Up Girl! Aw, you get it.”.
You really wanted to hear his music and my yapping ruined that for you. In the future, though, please consider the humanity of the person you are confronting. Wielding rage only serves to infect others with rage. It does not serve us. I love you, Shut Up Girl, and I hope you found a lovely spot for your new poster.
May the Force be with you,
Anger is not only a poison, it’s also a choice. While it does serve a purpose, sometimes that purpose is just to realize you’re being a little bit of a shit. They also forgot to mention that it’s contagious, so wash your hands and your thoughts.
I recently went to the wedding of one of my oldest friends. I’m not talking old as in elderly blue hair, I’m talking old as in decades long. We’ve been besties since we were 14 and that was – *gulp* – 21 years ago (no need to do the math, thank you). For those of you with old friends like this, the ones that started before you could (legally) drive, then you know how special they are.
I have the additional pleasure of having two old friends, which is actually just one friendship binding three of us. This dynamic is even more special because we have to balance multiple people / multiple crazies in one relationship. When I say “special,” I’m using a loose definition of the word special. I’ve seen Big Love, polygamy ain’t easy.
Old friendships are the best. You don’t have to pretend or guess or do anything but be yourselves. You accepted each other just as you are a long time ago, so there is no explaining because you already get it. Old friends know who you are but also who you were. They know all the things that have happened in your life that changed you, all the angels and all the skeletons. And you know that they will always be there, no matter what you do or how far apart you live.
Old friendships are also kind of the worst because they’re like a mini-marriages. Once you pass a certain threshold of friendship years, you become family and the relationship becomes permanent. Once you seal that deal, you have no choice but to weather the hard parts…which is essentially the definition of marriage.
You go through the same waves as marriage: you get the most beautiful example of human interaction and partnership, but it also requires work, patience, understanding, and commitment. You get all the good stuff: closeness, memories, love, laughter, and knowing each other so well. But you also get fights, predictability, irritation, butt-hurt feelings, and knowing each other obnoxiously well. You know so much about each other that you can’t get away with anything, they know what you’re going to do before you do it. Annoying! Stop reading my mind! Rude…
My two besties and I are all living our own lives now, separate and far away, so it seems it would be easy to disconnect. When you go down different paths and don’t talk everyday, it’s easy to temporarily forget the reason you signed up for this commitment in the first place. Like marriage, at some point you will probably think the phrase: “maybe we’ve just grown apart.” But like marriage, really letting go of that person is a big, BIG deal. This relationship is binding and that person is family. It’s forever, in sickness and health, in distance and closeness, till death do you part.
Now we are getting married (as in real life marriages to real life people) and having babies, so our family is growing. I see each of us opening our hearts without question to these new additions and they are automatically added into our mutual marriage. We come as a package so whoever marries one of us, marries all of us. Sorry dudes.
I know that our paths will continue to diverge. But the roots are there and the roots are deep. A little wind can’t knock us down; we’ll just bend, adjust, and stay upright. I know that when life throws something at me and I need them, my two old friends will be there. If someone pisses me off, watch out for my besties — angry mama bears protect our own.
So, while old friendships do come with unique challenges, I speak from experience that they are worth it. Old friends will always come home to each other, we will always be waiting, we will always be there. We are the lucky ones. I can’t wait to see what the next 21 years hold for my two besties and I. And the 21 years after that…
To close, on homage to a tradition that started when we were 21 and decided to take the below photo of us making our biggest smiles ever:
Oh what sweet little, round baby faces. Since then, we’ve taken this photo at every important occasion. It’s actually quite physically taxing and results in our necks being sore the next day. Every time. Here’s one taken of us last year:
You can guarantee that we’ll be taking this photo for the rest of our marriage. Love you girls!
Old friendships, like marriages, require patience, love and commitment. If you’ve got those things, then you get the good stuff and that stuff is GOOD. Trust us.
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I wrote a piece on the horrors of first date impressions for Meet Mindful, an online dating site to serve the mindful lifestyle. If you want to hear about how my crappy car saved a first date, go here:
If you’re single and ready to mingle, check out Meet Mindful, started by a great group of people with their hearts in the right place.
When the plastic margarita cup hit the floor on purpose, we knew we had probably gone too far. My husband and I were in Cabo for a wedding when travel stress led to not enough fajitas which led to margarita brain which then led to my husband jumping in the pool with my camera. All of this led to the biggest and most beautiful fight we’ve ever had.
The specifics of the fight aren’t important because there really was no need for this fight. Neither of us were that angry about the camera faux pas, and it could have been resolved with one sentence from both of us. But neither of us said that sentence, we let it escalate and that is important. What happened the next morning is what is really important.
I got up at sunrise, my spinning head making sleep impossible, and went for a walk on the beach. I was spinning because I couldn’t understand why the fight happened at all. As a chronic self-explorer, I wondered what I did to make it escalate and I wondered what we could do to not fight like that again (for more on my self-exploratory ways in marriage, see Mirror, Mirror On the Wall).
I sat on the shore as the sun rose and took this picture. It reminded me of our fight: a crash against an unexpected obstacle.
I went back to our hotel room to talk to my husband, to hear what he thought about the whole ordeal. He was waiting for me with the same confused eyes I had. What happened last night? How did we go there? Why is the floor so sticky?
I almost started laughing, the fight was that unnecessary, but I didn’t. Every fight deserves respect and is something to learn from, not only about your partner but more importantly about yourself. Fights are like sudden eruptions of really honest communication; all the deep, dormant, masked emotions slowly build under pressure and spew out for attention. When the volcano explodes, it’s important to sift through the rubble.
For those in relationships — particularly the ultra-committed, in it for the long haul ones like marriages — you know fights come with the territory. They happen and they always will, no matter how compatible and in love you are. I think it would be weirder if you didn’t fight. I would wonder who’s holding what in and when is it going to end with a margarita crashing on the floor.
My mom, a very wise woman, taught me long ago that it is important to be good at fighting. What she meant was that it isn’t important to win fights, but it is important to fight well, to fight with respect, with an open mind. That is what my husband and I are learning to do. It’s immensely challenging because fighting well requires you to put your ego aside at the very moment your ego gets called out. Nothing gets resolved when your ego is in charge because the ego just wants to win. You have to demand that your ego backs down and the ego doesn’t like to do that. But that’s when you tell your ego who’s boss…
That morning, we walked on the beach for an hour and scrutinized last night’s Eyjafjallajökull — Iceland’s famous volcano that messed up plans for days, causing the need to reroute millions of passengers. This is exactly what happened to us — we erupted and had to reroute ourselves.
We identified what made it progress from an argument to a fight. There is a big difference in vocabulary and it matters. A “fight” typically means physical aggression and use of weaponry while “argument” means differing points and verbal disagreements. While the only thing that was physically hurt was a plastic cup, it was still a fight. It was a fight because we threw words at each other and the sole purpose of those words was to hurt the other. Those were our weapons. So we declared that morning that we want to argue, we don’t want to fight.
We established ground rules to help prevent our arguments from escalating to fights. Things like: no yelling, no cussing, no slamming of margarita cups. These are our triggers. We agreed to moments of silence and found we should do more moments of silence when arguing. You can hear a lot in a little silence. Silences are like pressing the pause button; you can rewind and see things from a different angle. Silence helps you cool your magma chamber, think about what s/he said, and determine what you really have to say.
That’s as far as we got that day in Cabo, but it was revolutionary. We still argue from time to time (’cause he’s a boy and I’m a girl) and I’m still learning how to not drop the F-bomb (’cause he’s an Aries and I’m an Aries). But since the margarita fight, each argument is calmer. They end easier, without escalation, and always give rise to eye-opening discussions. We want to prevent hotspots from forming and use what we’ve learned to not throw molten rock at each other. Because in the end, it’s our choice whether we fight or whether we argue.
Nobody likes when Eyjafjallajökull spews liquid hot mmmagma. But it happens and the key is to reroute, find calmer air, and keep the margarita in the cup.
I recently had to deal with a very strong personality. When I say “deal with,” I mean I had to confront an aggressive man with a peacock complex and questionable respect for women and get him to do something he did not want to do.
This man, Jim, was doing work on our backyard and he was large in every way: height, presence, voice volume. He filled your space, stole your authority, and everything went his way. His words were fast and forceful, leaving you with nothing to say except: “Sounds good, Jim.” We found ourselves agreeing to contract changes that we should not agree to and then we found ourselves with a problem.
I have to mention what irked me most about Jim was that he called me “sweetie.” I hated him calling me that, it was condescending and it filled me with a useless rage. Not to mention, Jim calling me sweetie made me feel like a sweetie, like a silly little girl who did not need to be taken seriously. It was his way of subtly putting me in my place and it was annoyingly effective.
I knew our confrontation was coming for 24 hours, so I marinated WAY too long in the anticipation. I practiced what I was going to say, I bounced ideas off my husband, I imagined push-back scenarios. The only thing this marinating accomplished was that I became more and more nervous, which made me more and more insecure. I let it saturate me and I came out all soggy dog. What a lousy foundation from which to confront Jim. I felt like such a sweetie.
Then on my drive home to meet Jim something interesting happened. I started thinking about energy and how because his energy was more overt, mine was diluted. I realized this only happened because I allowed him to dilute me, I allowed him be stronger than me, I gave him my permission. A simple sentence came into my head and shifted everything. The sentence was: “You are not stronger than me, Jim.” It was utterly true. He wasn’t more powerful, he just acted like it. I wasn’t a sweetie, I just acted like it.
For the rest of my drive, each time I said that sentence, I believed it more completely. I became calm and certain, and now looked forward to our confrontation.
This time when Jim walked in the door I felt taller than him. This time when he called me sweetie it did not dilute me. This time I was the bigger presence. Using advanced ESP, I sent him my sentence: “You are not stronger than me, Jim.” I let him and his voice volume talk at me for a bit, filling the space with blah blah blah. I smiled as he talked, I was cooler than a stoned Snoop Dogg, y’all. When he was satisfied with the blah blah blah, I said: “Jim, let’s go take a walk.” I saw him visibly taken aback, he stumbled over some words and followed me outside.
We walked through the backyard and I pointed out the issues we had with his work. I presented him with two options to fix them, and instantly he agreed to one. I was not bitchy, I was not pushy, but I was not a sweetie. I was stronger than Jim and he knew it. It was that simple to confront him.
Jim left agreeing to a lower bill and doing more work for free, and we were not enemies. But, he did not call me sweetie as he left, he used my name.
I found there was difference between Jim’s strength and mine. His was aggressive, contrived, and turbulent. Mine was serene, steady, and gentle. I didn’t have to resort to aggression to tame his aggression, I just had to be a strong me.
I wonder now about all the times in my life that I played small, that I played the sweetie because that’s where I thought I belonged. How many Jims have overtalked me and dictated what happens to me? I always thought that since I wasn’t a combative person, that equated to me being weaker. But that’s not true at all. Strength is a personal choice and you choose its form, so choose one that fits. Sometimes strength is a calm, kind approach. And sometimes sweeties are the strongest.
When Jim comes to your door, channel Snoop D-O-double-G and know that he is only stronger when you allow him to be.
Before my wedding, I asked many couples if anything changes by getting married. The general consensus was no. My husband and I, however, respectfully disagree. We have been married for, like, eleven months so we know pretty much everything about marriage. Feel free to ask us for any pointers.
I am moderately serious when I say that. Something about our particular combination creates a superstorm of self-exploration that we cannot avoid. I think it’s because we are both extrapolators, meaning we see small things and expand wildly from there, seeing that small thing through to its full, possibly exaggerated potential. Because of this mutual trait, we went through years in the first three months we were married.
Here’s what happens when you get married: you suddenly realize that marriage is mostly about who you are, not who your partner is. Your partner is obviously important, but we all know that; why else would we subject ourselves to first date cringing, red lipstick, or getting our hearts trampled? We take our search for our partner seriously, but once that search is over, it moves internal and you start searching for you.
You will find your partner serves as a brutally clear mirror that reflects back exactly who you are. It’s like one of those magnification mirrors your mom used to have (and probably still does) with the fluorescent lighting specifically designed to show every pore and wrinkle. Through this mirror, you get to see all your beauty; why your spouse loves you, how you are such a special bird. But all your peculiarities show up too, all the creepy-crawlies you said you’d get to one day. They all come front and center and ready for orders.
Some people may have seen this all-knowing mirror in other situations, and some people might not see it until years later, but I first saw it the minute we came back all lovey dovey from our honeymoon. Then *bam! slap! whappo!* …hoooolyyyyyyyy sh*t. I immediately felt the weight of what marriage truly is and I quickly went inside to hide.
I went through the shock privately, stunned by the news flash that marriage is kind of a big deal. Over the next three months, the realization grew and transformed and haunted me like twin ghost girls in a hallway. I panicked about being a wife and distanced myself from this amazing man I married. All I could see was everything I had to combat in myself in order to be the wife my husband deserves (aw…).
I failed to discuss any of this with my husband until one night when we simultaneously collapsed. Little did I know, he had been going through exactly the same shock and, per our similar personalities, we were ready to talk at exactly the same time.
So we talked. The moment we started talking about the fear, it drifted away. What replaced the fear was an intense motivation to stop holding back from everything, to be everything I said I would be. I also had the delayed revelation of what a husband is, and more importantly for me, what it means to be a wife. A marriage is a fascinating human relationship, the most intimate one you will ever have. It is the scariest, hardest, most complicated bond you will ever have. It is also the most self-aware, internal, beautiful place for massive growth.
What I know beyond a doubt is in order to have a good marriage, you have to be a good you. Harder than it sounds, and such a gift if you think about it. Marriage gives you an unbelievable opportunity to make each other better people, but it requires habit breaking (yuck), painful exposing (lame), and awkward vulnerability (no thanks). The bottom line is: if you want a happy, “all in” marriage, you can’t hide from yourself anymore. You have to pick up each creepy-crawly you saw in that mirror, dissect it, research its origins and then figure out how to outfox it.
And now if someone asks me if anything changes by getting married, I will say: “Yes. Everything. It’s all a choice. And you have to choose to fight for it.”
Getting married means you marry two people: your spouse and, surprisingly, shockingly, yourself.