September 29, 2022: Voice

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My voice matters. I came out of the womb with something to say. My parents were typical New Yorkers, and I inherited their inability to sugarcoat or bite my tongue. That never changed, but along the way, I realized the cost of living one’s truth and speaking your mind. The alternative never appealed to me. Whenever I tried to keep my thoughts to myself, especially in a confrontational situation, it felt like I had swallowed a grenade after pulling the pin.

Three years ago, I began writing more and speaking on social media, and one thing continued to plague my mind. Why would anyone want to hear my story? I felt an immense amount of guilt because if I told of something traumatic that happened to me, it somehow competed with the more traumatic stories of others.

That is not the case. Most humans crave connection. Some feel relief by telling their stories, and others feel comfort from hearing them. We are all trying to navigate this crazy world, and it helps when you don’t travel down this road alone. It is not a competition of trauma. The validity of our feelings does not become negated simply because someone else went through something worse.

Today was long, so I will keep this post short and sweet. Don’t silence yourself because you believe your voice should stay in the shadows to shine a light on someone else. There is enough room in this world for every voice, and each one is valid. Say what you need or want to say, and never apologize.

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September 28, 2022: Bravery

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I used to be brave. During one of my classes in college, a girl looked over at my ankle tattoo and remarked, “Wow, you’re brave!” Up until that point, I had never looked at myself that way. I suppose perception varies, but I was accustomed to living a life full of daring experiences. For example, I traveled to Jamaica by myself for a week. I worked at some very odd part-time jobs while completing my undergraduate degree. I had adventures camping, going to music festivals, and meeting tons of different people from different worlds. I didn’t feel fearless. I just felt like myself.

Yesterday, I discussed with someone about a move they made across the country. As I listened to him talk about the logistics of the move, I began reminiscing about all the times I went through the same process. After college, I moved to Atlanta, where my parents and brother relocated a few years before me. That move didn’t feel scary. When college ends, one assumes they will move somewhere. When I was 25, I met my ex-husband online and moved to Virginia to be with him. This one was scary. Not too long before the move, I purchased my own home in the Atlanta area. I secured a teaching position at a top elementary school. I finished my master’s degree in education.

So, why would I leave everything I had worked for and move to Virginia to be with a man that proved to be less than a stellar human? I thought that I fell in love. Looking back, I didn’t fall in love with him. I fell in love with someone who enabled me to stay on some formulated life schedule I created in my mind. I settled.

With a recently operated on foot, two dogs, two cats, and a truck filled with my life, I made a move to Hampton, Virginia, the armpit of America. I remember how brave I felt. My parents were against it, but they were against any risk-taking they deemed wrong based on their neurotic opinions. I know that I felt brave. I was taking control of my destiny. I never did anything without a complete calculation of cost and benefit. It proved to be the worst mistake in my life. Not the move, but the man. That is a story for another day.

My bravery came to a screeching halt.

Fast forward twenty-one years. I do not feel brave anymore. I feel scared, and I want my bravery back. I want to run toward the fires. I’ll put the protective gear on, but I don’t want to stay entirely safe for the rest of my life. Sometimes those fires surround amazing experiences that I do not want to miss.

From 2002 to 2020, I focused on staying safe because I created three humans who are not responsible for the consequences of my bravery. I became a mom, and in my mind, that meant staying away from all of the fires. I kept them safe. The leaps I took during that time were scary, but I was married. I had a partner in crime, per se. I only took risks if they were highly calculated and were for my husband or children. I followed their desires and their needs. I moved my family across the country in 2013, but that felt like a decision made more for their benefit. Staying in a city full of racism, crappy weather, and a toxic family felt riskier than a journey to Colorado.

Two years ago, I jumped off the tallest cliff in my world. I left my marriage, walked away from my family, ended toxic friendships, and chose myself. That fall temporarily wrecked me, but I have no regrets. I feel myself coming back. This adventure comes with many emotions: freedom, loneliness, fear, exhilaration, pessimism, etc.

I now struggle with the feeling of fear, but I also can’t pinpoint what cliffs I want to jump off. My two younger kids are sixteen and eleven. My responsibilities somewhat limit the opportunities to express my desired bravery. However, I know that I am on the right track because my wanting to run into those fires now feels less like a want and more like a need.

I figured out the secret…too late.

People around the world wonder what the secret to happiness is. Billions of dollars are spent on books, seminars, therapists, etc. in the search for ultimate bliss. I thought I would never find it. I did all of the things that people told me to do. I graduated college… a few times. I got married. I have three amazing kids. There was one problem. That was not my road. That was not the road that I genuinely chose for myself. My parents, society, and authority figures decided what my path would be. I never realized that my anger stemmed from an inner voice fighting the influence. I was essentially brainwashed.

This may explain why I talk about choices with my children on a constant basis. I push them to do well in school, but not for the same reason as some other parents. I simply know that their success in grade school will determine the amount of choices they give themselves when they turn 18.

I raise them as agnostics. They know their ancestry and are proud of their Jewish heritage. However, they do not attend synagogue or recite any prayers. We have the most amazing theological discussions because of their blank canvas. They know that the choice of belief systems is entirely in their hands. They know that their beliefs may change or evolve. At the end of the day, they have choices.

I impress upon them that I will not be disappointed with them for life choices. Alright, I might not be cool with prison or crack. Other than that, their life is THEIR ducking life. They can have kids, have no kids, stay single, get married, have 20 cats, live in a tiny cabin in the woods, choose any sexual orientation, etc. Why do I want to afford them all of these opportunities? I truly love them. I will not live vicariously through them, nor will I make them conform to societal ideas of superiority.

I want them to enter the adult world with an open mind about everything.

Love your kids, raise them to be kind, show them the world, be honest with them, and teach them that life is their exploration.

One more thing: Why do I say that it is too late for me? Maybe I should not feel that way. However, there were forks in the road that existed. If I were to make a u-turn now, I would find that the road has been destroyed beyond repair. Duck.

Stupid People Have More Fun

I constantly read articles about happiness. I am intrigued. Everyone thinks they have key. They believe that they have found the secret to happiness. Be grateful. Practice forgiveness. Exercise. Pray to someone or something. Give your time and money to help others. Save an animal. Eat healthy. Jesus Christ, some even push that probiotics are the path to a blissful existence.

I am here to tell you that I have the answer to the whole enchilada. Be stupid! Be ignorant! Be complacent! Ditch empathy! You will be enlightened. Do you want to know why? You won’t give a duck…about anything.

You won’t watch the news, because you won’t understand it even if you do. You won’t care that nobody gives a duck about you, because you don’t give a duck about anyone else. You won’t care about the atrocities in your community or around the world. You won’t care about the details of life that plague the more intelligent humans on a constant basis.

Parenting: Well, you would be stupid, so the bar you would set for your kids and yourself would be pretty damn low. Who gives a duck what school they go to? Baby sign language? Duck that. Your kid would be lucky to get a bottle filled with Kool-Aid. Discipline? Um, no. School? You wouldn’t be able to help them with their work even if you wanted to. Isn’t that what you send them to school for? I could go on all day. I won’t. Let’s just say, that realm of parenting style isn’t pretty, but what is wrong with simply keeping kids alive? Everyone’s gotta have a goal!

Health: Stupid people end up at the hospital when they are literally dying or if they accidentally use bleach for contact solution. Haven’t you ever watched the thousands of videos displaying the result of stupid stunts? Hey guys, let’s put a slide, on a roof, covered in ketchup, and hope we land in the baby pool on the ground, fifteen feet below. That will definitely end well. Those blessed with even an ounce of brain power analyze EVERYTHING pertaining to health. Have a red spot? According to the web, you were either bitten by a mosquito or you are going to die from a flesh-eating bacteria. Have a stomach ache? You either need to go to the bathroom or you have cancer. Eat organic. Take vitamins. Watch out for sugar, carbs, gluten, soy, meat, fat, artificial sweeteners, and the rest of the foods on the long list of shit that will KILL you. Stupid people live on WHATEVER the duck they want to, and they don’t give a shit. They only run if they are being chased by a zombie…or clown. BTW, I am scared to death of clowns. Thank you, Poltergeist. You will not find any electronic device, analyzing everything from heart rate to step counts, attached to a dumb person. I will be purchasing mine in a few months. Do I exercise a lot? Nope.

Money: Roof? Food? Clothes? Stupid? You’re good. Some of the most resourceful people are actually not the truly smart ones. They rely on instincts to simply find some way to satisfy basic needs. It’s actually quite impressive. Smart people spend years of schooling and career building to attain the same needs. Does the fancy, luxury vehicle get you to the same spot as the bus? Do you really need 800 buttons in your car? Ok, maybe I’m talking crazy shit now. I like my buttons. I have no idea what half of them do. Those are for the “really smart” people, I suppose. Stupid people are definitely responsible for the majority of those “12 Great Hacks” for bullshit articles. The hacks are so ducking stupid, that a smart person would never come up with them.

I would love to see a study that compares the overall health of stupid people vs. intelligent people, because I have a theory that the stress of “living healthy” is ducking killing the brighter bulbs. Maybe Darwin wasn’t including intelligence in his definition of “fittest.”

Don’t give me shit about mocking people with lower IQ’s. Don’t attack me for the use of the word stupid. I am personally exhausted by the banning of particular words in the name of political correctness. I do not walk around, calling anyone stupid and neither should you. I just want to share my own observations, so you can understand why I would like to bash my head into a wall continuously until I am really stupid. Well, in comparison to Stephen Hawking, I am already there. No concussions necessary.

I think that stupidity would cure depression and anxiety across the globe. Fuck Prozac. They need to come up with a drug called, Stupenza, which gradually reduces your intelligence until you are at a level of stupid that you are content with.

Have a great day. Dare to be dumb!

Fake It

I heard a great TED talk recently about how to overcome the overwhelming feeling that you are not qualified/talented enough to reach a sense of belonging. The main theme that I took away from the talk was actually something that I have been saying for years. FAKE IT ‘TIL YOU MAKE IT. I always used it as a joke about various experiences; however, I don’t think I ever took it seriously. Why would I? It is what people say when they don’t have any clue what they are doing. Right?

I decided that I need to attempt to apply this theory to my life. I’m not sure yet what aspects need the most “faking,” but I am pretty sure that there are several that need immediate attention. So, my first “fake” will be to write every day for a year. I don’t know what I will write about, because I never feel as though I have a topic that people would want to read about. That is the point! I am going to fake it. Maybe, after a year, I will feel less pressure in the writing process. It is possible that this will torture me to my core. Only time will tell.

So, if you are currently feeling out of place in your life, whether socially or professionally, try faking it. I don’t know if it will work, but it sounded good on a long road trip surrounded by tumbleweeds and a teenager behind me occupied by her earbuds.

Choices

I have slowly realized that life is stressful because of the amount of choices that we have to make on a daily basis. I see pictures of people in poor communities around the world. The people seem to be smiling a lot more than those I am surrounded by on a daily basis. I’m not talking about the fake smiling that people display to society as part of a societal norm established throughout time to convince others that we are “happy.” I’m talking about the smiles that result from true bliss.

These people are struggling with making sure that their basic human needs are met. They work to feed themselves and their families. They face medical needs with no access to care. They live in homes that seem completely unacceptable to the majority of first-world individuals. Yet, they are smiling. Is it possible that their joy is purely based on their lack of choices? Are they grateful for what they have, because there simply are no alternatives? They need to walk miles to get water. That is a struggle, but not a choice.

As part of a modernized, American society, we face an unimaginable amount of choices. When we were kids, what was the one question adults always asked? “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Holy shit. I’m 4 years old! What the duck? I just chose to have Frosted Flakes instead of a Pop Tart. Isn’t that enough for one day?

My latest personal mantra when faced with stress is, “Well, at least I don’t have to walk five miles through rugged terrain, faced with threats of wildlife or rape along the way, to get a bucket of water that I have to carry on top of my head all the way back.”

I sat for an hour last night perusing through all of the possible media outlets to find something to watch. An hour. I just wanted to watch some television. I became so overwhelmed with the amount of choices, that I finally gave up, and went to sleep. My husband is currently watching, “Locked Up,” in the other room. He will watch whatever is on when he turns on the TV. He will eat whatever is around. He truly does not struggle with choices. He doesn’t even look back at the choices he has made…as far as I know. I am jealous. That seems like a much easier existence.

I, on the other hand, stress about every single choice that I have to make or the millions that I have made! I love sleep, because it is the one period of time during the day in which I don’t have to make any choices. Have I mentioned that I love sleep? That is another topic for another day.

I have 3 kids. I make choices regarding them on a daily basis. I have to decide about their health, education, discipline, social life, etc. Some of those choices are minimal in effect, while some have potentially huge consequences. I think I am realizing that the thing I need to teach them the most is how to deal with choices. They need to learn, not only how to make them in the least stressful way, but also how to cope with the reality that they will not always make the right ones.

“I should have…,” has become so much of my internal dialogue. Maybe I just lacked the ability to navigate through the amount of choices I faced throughout life. It is possible that the problem lies in the fact that I just ponder the alternative for an infinite amount of time.

I have some very big choices to make in the near future. I want to just make those choices with confidence, rather than the constant consideration of the alternatives. I don’t want to look back.

I also want to turn on the television and just be content with watching, “Locked Up.” After all, it is a bit satisfying to know that there is a huge likelihood that none of the choices I have to make will land me in a maximum security prison having to then choose which gang to belong to 🙂 Except, in prison, I wouldn’t have as many choices to make! Hmmmmm. Nah.

So, tomorrow, I will wake up, go to my kitchen, and turn on the sink. I will not walk five miles with a bucket of water on my head. I will attempt to genuinely smile. For now, I will sleep.