Strap in. This one is long. The past week has been cray cray. And I started thinking about whether I have mottos or, more appropriately, rules I live by that help me navigate stress, uncertainty and the general craziness of life. The more I thought about it, I realized that my outlook on life had changed so much over the past 2-3 years and I had developed a set of “new rules” for my living my life. And much to my delight, I realized that I had actually been adhering to these “new rules” a majority of the time. So what are these “new rules”? Grab a seat and let me tell you…
Ask for what you want – Even if you don’t get the job, the promotion, the date, etc., you’ll know the answer. Instead of being haunted by a bunch of “what ifs” and “if only”, you will have the answer. And sometimes you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Forgive. Forgive. Forgive. – It’s my second favorite f-word. And if you know me, you know I cuss a lot. (I apologize. I know it makes some people uncomfortable). The energy wasted on anger and hatred doesn’t do anything positive for you. You could spend time being angry at the person who treated your heart like trash. You could form a shrine of hatred towards the company that laid you off even though you were getting amazing evaluations. You could exert hours of energy towards badmouthing someone who hurt you. Or you could choose forgiveness. I don’t make this suggestion flippantly. I’m not suggesting that it’s easy. It’s not. But you have to make the decision to forgive and move the fuck on (Two f-words. One sentence. Boom!) During my last conversation with a very toxic individual, I had an epiphany. He was busy talking and being his normal manipulative self. I was depressed, sad and broken but I still had the strength to think, “I’m done. This is over. No grudges. No anger. No more conversations.” I couldn’t hold the anger in my body anymore. It was taking up valuable space that could be used for far more productive things. Joy. Happiness. Laughter. Useless Kardashian trivia. (Happy Belated Birthday Kylie Jenner!!)
When fear wins, you lose – Damn I gotta start writing bumper stickers y’all. But, seriously, when you operate from a place of fear, nothing good can happen. Here’s why. Fear isn’t real.
(Unless we’re talking fear of physical harm or something a lot more tangible than self-imposed mental blocks. Seriously don’t jump off a balcony while screaming “Fear isn’t real!! That tall black girl from the blog said so!!”)
Fear is a self-created barrier. Fear is conjured up from past rejections, speculation and, often, unfounded assumptions. Fear is created from the stories we tell ourselves. When I was younger I was teased about my looks and my height. I assumed that all the little boys on the playground must have been correct. I must be an ugly cow. I replayed these insults in my head for years. Into my late 20s, I was convinced that they were right. They said it. They must have been right. I would try to talk to a guy and the words wouldn’t come out. I would be replaying this story in my head: I’m tall, awkward and unpretty. No one was forcing that sentence to replay in my head except me. I realized that I was in charge of my story, my narrative and my fear. That realization changed the game. What stories are you replaying in your head? Are these stories based in reality? Or, more likely, are they narratives manufactured from a bad experience, a past failure or the opinions of people who don’t even know you?
Believe in your own beauty, strength, power, etc. – Hey, if you don’t. No one else will. I have a confession. Recently, I was looking in the mirror and thought, “I think I’ve gotten prettier in the last year.” Then I looked at some pictures and realized I’ve looked about the same for the past 10 years (Black don’t crack y’all). I was floored. (I know this sounds egotistical and annoying but hear me out). I realized that my belief in my own beauty was entirely within my own control. I’m beautiful, dammit. That’s all there is to it. Now, you try.
When people hurt you, it reveals their character, not yours – I used to take other people’s actions personally. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I realized that other people’s bad deeds were a manifestation of problems within that particular person. I realized that any time I had acted poorly towards someone or failed to consider other people’s feelings, I was acting from a place of fear, inadequacy, brokenness or self-loathing. Very rarely did my actions have anything to do with the person who was being harmed. I, then, realized the inverse theory must be true. When someone lies, cheats, or disappoints it has nothing to do with me. So I’m learning (very slowly) to not take it personally. Instead of getting angry, I move on and wish them the best.
Meditate, chant, pray, go to therapy, etc. – Seriously. Do whatever you gotta do to get your mind right. The world is a crazy place. One moment you’re on top of the world and the next moment you can be in the gutter. Nothing is guaranteed. Jobs. Relationships. Health. It’s all a crap shoot. No one should be forced to deal with all of this stuff alone. No one can. Pray to your higher power. Get quiet and meditate. Take a yoga class. Go for a run. Talk to someone. There is no shame in helping yourself. In fact, if you want to be the best version of you possible, you need to make time for you. It’s just that simple.
When you feel bad, do good – I volunteer a lot. When I was going through some of my darkest moments, I consciously decided to be of service to other people. Helping other people puts life into perspective. Yes, some jackass broke my heart. But, on the bright side, I actually have a roof over my head and can afford food. When you’re confronted with people in difficult situations who are so grateful for your time and service, it makes you realize that your problems (while real and valid) are bearable.
Wine, cheese and good music – Do I need to explain this one? I’ve realized that my requirements for life are minimal. This rule may not apply to you. But find your happy place, your happy things or make a happy list (examples here and here). Don’t overindulge. But make sure to enjoy. I tried being vegan for a year in college and one day I woke up and told my roommate “Life is too short to never have cheese again.” Props to my 19 year old self. She knew what was up.
Don’t self-sabotage – For as happy as I try to be, I get immediately suspicious when things are going well and I assume that it will go south soon. If I meet a guy that I like, we connect and things seem to be going well, I immediately assume that it will not work out. I’ve realized that often times my behavior can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I automatically assume that good things don’t last then they won’t. I’m actively working on not practicing “self-sabotage”. If someone knows the answer to this one, you know how to reach me.
Focus on the people who care – It’s easy to focus on the people who contribute negatively to your life. Part of reason these people take up so much real estate in your brain is because you want to understand the source of their negative actions, you want a resolution and you want to feel better. I’ve realized that for each person who treats you poorly, there is a team of people who care about you who are ready and willing to show up and show you a good time. When I was going through some of my darkest times, I’ve found solace, support and a kind ear from the most unlikely people. Certain people have become my personal MVPs because they rose to the challenge of just being there. I cherished their support, kindness and patience. And, in turn, I’ve tried to extend the same graciousness and support to people who need it. All of us end up crying at salad bars at some point (or at regular bars…). And all of us could benefit from a friend who smiles, wipes your tears and just says, “Yep, this sucks. Let it all out.”
Learn to Accept The Lack of Closure – Life is not a Katherine Heigl romantic comedy. And thank god for that. There are lots of situations when you don’t get an explanation or closure. And dammit you want that closure. You want to know why you didn’t get a promotion. You want to know why you didn’t get a second date. You want to know why you didn’t get an interview. You want to know. But guess what? A lot of times, you don’t get an answer. You were overly qualified and didn’t get an interview. You thought you really hit it off with a guy and he disappears. Instead of chasing a ghost and demanding answers, be secure in the knowledge that sometimes you don’t get closure. Life isn’t a perfect package wrapped nicely with a decorative bow. Life is messy, complicated and confusing. And sometimes no resolution is your resolution. (I smell another bumper sticker coming on…)
Speaking of music…hey girl, I made you another playlist. Strictly to be played while drinking wine and noshing on a little cheese after midnight. And, yes, I eat cheese alone after midnight sometimes. I also work out 5-6 days a week. Don’t look at me like that. No. You’re a loser. (Can we talk about Beirut for a second? Okay…maybe later.)