Sometimes where we want to be and where we are leads us into darkness. Allow Ira Glass to light your path.

{ 0 comments }

LOFB - Noa“She’s a really good person, how could she do something like that?”

“He’s a bad person. You should never talk to him.”

“Those people are evil. We’re the good guys.”

“I’m a bad person. I’m too sick to care for my family.”

We tend to think of people in just those two categories. They are either good or bad, and that’s the end of the conversation.

If you’re good, you can only do good things, or you may fall into the label of bad. You are unshakably good until you make just one mistake. Then, you’ve become bad.

If you’re bad, you can never, ever be good. There is nothing worse in the entire world than being called a bad person. You are irredeemable. Your actions, thoughts, beliefs, and self are all bad.

Do you see the problem with this?

This starts when we’re children. You’re a good kid, how could you go to a party and get drunk? You’re a bad kid, so you’re being suspended. We internalize those labels, defining ourselves through potentially just one single action. Just one, and that’s how you think of yourself.

Forever.

I had this tendency until very, very recently. Dividing myself along those lines, people I knew along those lines. My experiences were either good or bad. My life and decisions were good or bad. No grey.

Reality is somewhat…messier. We are who we are. We are not good, nor bad. We simply exist. We live lives, love people, make decisions.

Those things are neither good nor bad, they are healthy or unhealthy.

I am me. Sometimes I make healthy decisions, sometimes I make unhealthy ones. Sometimes I love unhealthy people, sometimes I love healthy ones. Sometimes I am healthy. Sometimes I am not.

At the core, I am still me. 

The people you know, the people you love, the people you hear about, are neither good nor bad; they simply are who they are. They make healthy and unhealthy decisions. It is up to them to become healthy or unhealthy, but they, and you, cannot be divided over such broad and harsh lines.

Thinking about all aspects of my life in this way has been so damn freeing. I’m not a bad person if I don’t get any work done one day. I probably made some unhealthy decisions and need to make healthier ones, but I’m not a bad person. I’m not a good person who can fall into disgrace if I make one imperfect call. I simply am who I am.

Imperfect. Healthy.

I’d rather be healthy than good.

{ 0 comments }

LOFB - Noa“Funny helps me through pain.”

“If you find the need to be funny often, then maybe you’re in pain too often.”

You’re right. I am in pain, and I have been for way too long. And for way too long, I’ve used funny as a cover for pain.

I’ve been in pain since I was a child. I could bore you all day with a sob story about my father, my step-father, and several abusive relationships, but does that really matter?

No.

What matters is that when I was faced with pain, I had to walk on, move through, knowing that the way out was not to shirk away from it.

But here’s the thing. No matter how much you know that the you have to move though pain, it will strike fear in you. It might be a little (“I’m afraid of being laughed at.”) or it might be a lot (“I’m afraid that this could either be the best or the worst decision of my life.”). Either way, fear.

And that fear can amplify that pain to an almost unimaginable level. Your heart races, your stomach turns, your body tightens, you lash out.

This fear will try to cripple you.

At least where you are right now (though painful) is familiar, but making a choice to move through can bring good or bad. That fear will try to tell you that it will be bad.

And there lies the bigger choice.

Anyone can walk through pain. Anyone can stand when you feel like there’s nothing to help you do so.

But not everyone can walk through fear. Anyone can justify the decision to stay in pain, and learn to soothe with any number of different salves to avoid walking through your fear. The fear will tell you the pain is worth remaining in, so at least you don’t have to deal with fear.

But why would do you that to yourself? Why have I continued to do so? Because FEAR IS POWERFUL.

But you can only become better by walking through. You can only move to a better place by walking through.

Your decision to move through can have many different outcomes–good and bad–but the shield against fear is knowing that you are tough. That you are strong. And that no matter what happens, you can change your situation for the better.

Listen to those who tell you that you can move. Cast away those who tell you that you can’t.

Know that you can rely on YOU. YOUR ingenuity, YOUR strength.

And all you have to do is move through the fear.

{ 0 comments }

If you haven’t watched Mike Birbiglia’s stand-up special, My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend (available on Netflix), then you’re missing out.

This is one of my favorite stand-up sets that I have ever seen. He takes darkness from his life, finds the light into it, and owns it fully, and hilariously.

WATCH IT.

YouTube Preview Image

{ 0 comments }

LOFB - JenI’ve always had a fairly strong sense of denial about my mortality.  Growing up I was a ridiculously healthy kid and despite myriad self-destructive and addictive tendencies, I made it through the first 39 years of my life relatively unscathed.  But then my 40’s tore through me like El Nino, eroding everything in its path.  Suddenly I found myself trapped in a body filled with willfully disobedient organs and noticed that my knees, once capable of completing marathons, started clicking like a Ubangi tribesman after only twenty minutes on the treadmill.  Almost overnight the food became too spicy, the music too loud, and I found myself craving dinner at 4:00pm and watching Hoda and Kathie Lee.*

*Nah, I’m just messing with you on that last one. . .but not about dinner. . .dagnabbit.

The fact that I’m a mother combined with some pretty big health scares over the last few years have made me feel like I’m on some cosmic “60 Minutes” set, listening to the clock “tick-tick-ticking” away the minutes of my life. I’ve even started reading the obituaries religiously.  Not as a somber reminder of my mortality but more of a “Better you than me” kind of schadenfreude. In an attempt to dodge the Big D I’ve tried to be fairly proactive about my health.  I don’t smoke and I don’t drink; but when it comes to exercise I am a lazy bastard and on any given day I will be filled with so much candy that Mexican kids will be whacking me with sticks.  I would give anything for a magic pill or elixir or surgical technique to extend my life as I am of the belief that any problem can be fixed by throwing a shit-ton of money at it.  Sadly, all the money in the world can’t buy you youth and immortality*

*Just ask Kris Jenner.

I know death is an inevitability and part of the grand Lion King circle of life and as such I should embrace it as just another mystical journey but I just can’t jump on that hippy-dippy bandwagon.  Even talking about death makes me more jittery than Ty Pennington on Red Bull. Death terrifies me, and it should fucking terrify you, too.  Why?  Because it.  Will.  Kill.  You.

But in the long run, burying your head in the sand and ignoring your imminent demise makes about as much sense as Ozzy Osbourne on NyQuil.  Eventually you have to face reality.  Eventually, you have to face the Darkness.

I am under no false illusions that I am a responsible adult, but in the interest of protecting my children, I am forced to impersonate one from time to time.  So, I cowboyed up and made an appointment with my Farmer’s agent to discuss  ((gulp!))  life insurance.

Now, let me preface by saying that my agent, Kellie Jo, is rad as shit.  She is a competitive racquetball player, has a wicked sense of humor, and her office is always stocked with a plethora of fine chocolates.  All things being relative, visiting Kellie Jo should be a pleasant experience, but somehow whenever I meet with her I walk in with a smile on my face and a spring in my step and storm out of there more pissed off than Kanye West at a Taylor Swift concert.  It isn’t Kellie Jo’s fault.  It’s the way the word “death” is casually tossed around like a drunken whore at a biker bar and the how numbers on her little calculator drive home the sobering fact that I am worth more dead than alive.

I’d already met with an attorney after my divorce to rewrite my will and estate planning so Gil didn’t decide to go all O.J. on my ass and take my stuff, but I’d kind of been putting off the whole life insurance thing because I’m a little skeeved out by the fact that not only do I have an expiration date like a carton of Yoplait Lite, I have a price tag too.   Life insurance is like an abusive boyfriend gently stroking your hair and telling you everything will be okay while he throws you up against a wall, takes your money, and leaves you with a sense of impending doom.  And if you have a medical history like mine, the son of a bitch will take a lot of your money.  A lot.*

*I’m not saying that you should lie to your insurance agent about your medical history, but if you’ve had any past issues with eating disorders or substance abuse then, well…OK, fuck it.  Lie like a hooker being paid by the moan.

Walking out of Kellie Jo’s office, my wallet was considerably lighter, but my sense of security felt stronger and more solidified.  But still there was that overwhelming sense of “holy shit I’m going to die”.  No matter what I do, or how I try, or what miracles of modern science or cosmetics arise in the not-so-distant future, someday I will simply cease to exist.  And then what?  An afterlife?  Darkness?  Nothingness?  And what will I leave behind for the world to remember other than some unpaid parking tickets and a fabulously well-dressed corpse.*

*Because there is NO damned way I’m going to meet Joe Black without a killer pair of shoes.

Over the years my views on death have been altered more times than Oprah Winfrey’s wardrobe, but now I’ve reached an odd and begrudging sort of…acceptance. Death is just the grand finale; the ribbon on the gift of life that ties the whole thing together like Jerry Springer’s “Final Thought”.  And life is indeed a precious gift, but like all gifts there comes a time when it gets worn out and you need to drop it off at the celestial Goodwill to make room in the closet of humanity.

But in the meantime I’m going to have so much plastic surgery that you could bounce a quarter off my forehead.  I may be maturing, but I’m still me.

{ 2 comments }