Category Archives: Lessons Learned

Love that doesn’t hurt

I was so, so terrified of falling in love again. I was afraid of being consumed, of feeling once more the raging fire of passion that would only grow bigger and bigger until it destroyed yet another part of me, burning everything around me to the ground and forcing me to rebuild my whole life — you know, just like the last few times around. I was used to love ending in a cataclysm. I was used to love hurting, the way it had hurt for my entire life, and I’ve often wondered if there is such a thing as love that doesn’t hurt; many have said there is, but I had never seen it, so I couldn’t really be sure.

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I fell in love with either of my partners, but for both, it was probably much sooner than I was willing to admit. I was afraid to treat either as a sure thing or get too comfortable, because historically, that’s always been when the real trouble started . . . but now, contrary to what I feared, I’m not being consumed at all. Yes, my heart trembles a little bit every time I look at them. Yes, I’m practically unable to stop myself from covering their skin with as many kisses as I can possibly fit onto them. Yes, I start craving their presence again as soon as they leave. Yes, I want to write them poetry and songs; though the depth of my feelings are impossible to convey in words, and so all the words I come up with always end up feeling inadequate. Yes, I would happily do anything and everything within my power to alleviate any suffering they might endure. Yes, I want to do anything and everything within my power to help them achieve happiness. But I’m finding that none of this is really the same thing as being consumed by love, and I think the difference is that I never feel like I’m at their mercy (well, except during very specific times when I want to be). No part of my sense of self or self-worth depends on their approval, nor do they try to make me feel like it should. I’m not spending a lot of time and energy trying to “improve” them in some way or convince them that they don’t need to “improve” me; I never feel like I’m trying to fend them, their judgment, their unexamined prejudices, or their obsession off. Finding equilibrium with them isn’t even a little bit difficult, even when there have been brief moments of tension. I demand nothing of them, and they demand nothing of me — everything we give each other is given freely. And if one or both of them should leave me, well, I already had a life of my own before either of them came along, one that I built up myself; it would be emptier for a while, but I wouldn’t have to start over again from scratch. I depend on them for nothing, and they depend on me for nothing, so it’s easier to focus on simply being with them, without being plagued by the potential consequences of not being with them.

I’m learning that just because the stakes are so much lower than they were in previous relationships doesn’t mean the love is any less; the lack of movie-esque drama has no bearing on whether the love we have is real — and in fact, it may even be more real, because we’re not confusing pathos with depth. It doesn’t hurt. There’s still plenty of fire, but it’s a warm hearth and a light in the dark, not a blaze to burn the whole house down.

A couple of months ago, I remarked that it’s been a pattern in my life that the things I’ve been most afraid of doing have always been the things I most needed to do, and maybe I should just assume that pattern will hold. It appears I was right — and I’m glad for it.

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“Long is the way, and hard, that out of Hell leads up to Light.” — John Milton

I may still have a lot of healing to do, but at least I don’t hate myself anymore. Considering where I was a year ago, that’s pretty huge.

In fact, I haven’t experienced any suicidal ideation in almost a year, either — also huge, since the last time in my life I can remember having gone for longer than a couple of months without even a brief, completely casual fantasy of dying was when my age was in the single digits.

My boyfriend, Edward, has had a lot to do with this, of course. This relationship has been more healing for me than I can really describe. Who knew that relationships didn’t have to be an endless roller-coaster of drama and hardship? I sure didn’t — until now, that is. We each have our issues, of course (I don’t know that I could ever really relate to a partner who didn’t have a fair number of issues, to be honest), but at least this one is willing to actually talk through them with and not take them out on me. Simply not being blamed for everything that ever goes wrong in another person’s life (whether I actually had anything to do with it or not) has had an incredibly positive effect on my psyche. So has receiving consistent validation that in point of fact, I’m not crazy, selfish, or otherwise in the wrong for thinking that certain ways of communicating are healthy and appropriate, and some definitely aren’t. I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that I never imagined things could be so . . . easy. (Not to say that it’s easy all the time — no good relationship ever is — but as it turns out, it’s also not supposed to be insanely hard. Well, okay, some things are nice when they’re insanely hard.)

I’m still not where I want to be in life, but for the first time ever, I really, truly feel that I deserve to have those things — a steady full-time job, a place to live where I pay at least half the bills, a college degree, all that good stuff. I’m not entirely used to this feeling, but it’s growing on me.

How nice to feel that everything isn’t ultimately going to turn out to be hopeless bullshit!

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I am not “nice” nor “sweet”.

It always feels a little strange whenever someone calls me “nice” or “sweet”. I don’t think of myself as either of those things, and I certainly don’t try to be so.

What I do try to be is just, treating other people the way I think they deserve to be treated. This means that while there are many people I treat with kindness, there are certain people I’m not nice or sweet to at all; that doesn’t mean I go looking for conflict with them or that I particularly enjoy conflict, but if they bring it to me, I hardly shy away from it. Sometimes I take a pretty harsh line even with people I love, if I think that’s the only way to get through to them; sometimes, I even say things that are designed to hurt them, because pain is the only teacher most of us really obey.

Because good is not always nice, and nice is not always good. I don’t do “nice”; I do “honest” and “just”, as much as possible. (Frankly, I think it’s sad that me honestly communicating the good I see in somebody is met with “You’re so nice/sweet”; it speaks to a fair amount of injustice having been done, that the people who say that to me seem a touch incredulous when I’m simply calling it like I see it.) Some people don’t deserve to be treated kindly or with respect . . . but a lot of people do. All I really do is try to act according to that standard. And yes, compassion is the soul of justice, but often that means compassion for those who have been wronged, which necessitates taking a clear stand against those who have done the wrong; to remain neutral or “non-judgmental” in such cases is to tacitly condone that wrong. And in those cases, I really don’t give a shit whether I seem nice or sweet — to anyone. I don’t like to be unnecessarily hurtful — I’m rather paranoid about it, actually — but when someone has well and truly earned it, I will gleefully deliver the pain. And there are certain kinds of people whose approval I don’t want — sexual predators, bigots of all stripes, you get the picture: basically, anyone who repeatedly, unjustly hurts other people without remorse. Hurt someone who fully deserves it? Fine by me; I’ll even applaud you. Hurt someone who doesn’t deserve it? You’re a jackass, you don’t deserve respect or sympathy, and if you refuse to even attempt to atone for it, I sincerely hope you rot in hell. If our feel-good, stay-positive-at-all-costs society says that makes me a horrible, hard-assed bitch, so be it. After all, as Krishnamurti said, it is no sign of health to be well-adjusted to a sick society.

(This also means that if I have kind words and hugs and kisses for you — which I do for most people I know, because I don’t think that most of the people I know deserve unkindness — you can assume that I think you’re a good person [at least at heart, even if your flaws are fairly prominent] and that you deserve kindness and caring. If I didn’t want you in my worldspace, believe me, I’d leave no room for doubt. But if I treat you with whatever displays of love I feel are appropriate — and my definition of love is pretty broad — please don’t start with the “I’m not worthy” routine. You don’t deserve that, so don’t you fucking do that to yourself.)

There was a time in my life when I did try to be “nice” and “sweet” as much as I could — always giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, trying to stay on good terms with as many people as possible, suppressing my anger and hurt when I’d been wronged in the interest of “forgiveness” (when no one told me that forgiveness is hard fucking work, there is no such thing as “simply” forgiving, and stuffing down all your negative feelings about what happened and pretending it’s all somehow okay “in the end” — as if you’ve truly arrived at “the end”, as if anyone can before they’re dead — is not the same thing as true forgiveness). Being brought up Christian tends to enable such unhealthy modes of thought and behavior, and it’s not as if the rest of our society, however secular, is disentangled from these remnants of religious dogma.

In trying to be as non-destructive as possible, I ended up doing more damage, to myself and to other people — and I learned the hard way that inaction is frequently just as dangerous as action, if not more so. I’m here to tell you that if you try to always be “nice” and “sweet”, you risk doing a great deal more damage to undeserving people through your inaction than you would have if you took some sort of “negative” action against those who deserve it. If nothing else, you do damage to yourself; as just one example of many, ask me about the years I spent suppressing my rage at the dude (to call him a man would be to take pity on him, and he deserves none) to whom sating his own lust was more important than having an ounce of concern for my well-being, when I was all of fourteen years old, too young to know better, and he was far, far past the age when he should have started knowing better. Or, you know, don’t, because we’d be here a while. That’s what the memoir I’m writing is for. The memoir is for illustrating all the ways I damaged myself and other people by denying my sense of justice in favor of what I thought would make me more acceptable, more worthy of love, less alien to everyone else, so other people won’t make the same mistakes I made. And it’s about how I was conditioned to do that damage, about how we all are, because our culture enables it to such a dangerous degree in so many ways that it boggles the mind.

So if you’re someone who tries to be “nice” and “sweet” all or most of the time, think about what I’ve said here, and ask yourself whether it serves you and the people around you as well as you think it does. Don’t make the same mistakes I’ve made. You don’t have to be nice and sweet to be good.

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When youth meets charisma

When I was seventeen, I fell in love with a thirty-one-year-old guy. For the sake of not incurring a lawsuit (I mean, it’s not libel if it’s true, but just the same), let’s call him Peter.

As soon as I met him, we were fast friends. He was kind, funny, well-read, and had a seemingly endless supply of patience and understanding when he listened to me vent about my problems. He was dating someone at the time, but it wasn’t long before I was hanging out with both of them regularly, in a rather Three Muskateers-esque fashion. I didn’t feel anything more for him than devoted friendship, and since he was already attached, I felt secure in the notion that he wouldn’t want more.

That notion turned out to be false. To make a long and convoluted story short, he and his girlfriend broke up, and he began confessing his feelings for me immediately afterward. I was admittedly flattered, but I could think of several reasons why it wasn’t going to work between us — he and I were in very different places in life; I was likely to be a different person in just a year’s time, never mind three or five; I didn’t want to ruin our friendship . . . and then, there was the slight complication that I was still underage, and would continue to be underage for several more months. I voiced all of these concerns to him; he acknowledged the difficulty with my being underage, but swept the rest under the rug by saying he couldn’t help how he felt. Gradually, I let myself fall in love with him — at least, I thought that I was.

For reasons that would take a whole post of its own to explain, my parents, while uncomfortable with the idea that my best friend was a dude nearly twice my age, never outright forbade me to see him. My father, however, suspected that my relationship with Peter was becoming more than a close friendship; in the interest of protecting Peter and myself from his scrutiny (and possible legal action), I insisted that we were just friends and nothing more. My father didn’t say as much (then, anyway), but looking back on it now, it was pretty easy to see that he wasn’t buying it.

Now, my father is a deeply troubled person, and there are good reasons why I haven’t spoken to him in almost four years. He did a lot — and when I say “a lot”, I mean a whole fucking lot — of damage to my psyche over the duration of our two-decade relationship (which is probably already clear to you, dear reader, given that I’m writing about having had a relationship with a much older guy while I was still underage). That being said, there are some things he did get right. There are many nuggets of wisdom he passed down that often seemed unfair at the time (and truthfully, the manner in which he passed them down was often hurtful in ways that I still carry with me to this day), but turned out to be things that have served me well to remember.

The one he gave me in this instance, trying to explain to me why it wasn’t a good idea for me to pursue anything with Peter, was, “Honey, it’s not that you’re on Peter’s level. It’s that he’s on yours.”

I was offended. I thought that if a thirty-one-year-old found me worthy of his time and attention, and he was treating me like an adult, then clearly there must have been a good reason for that. I was so tired of being treated like a moron all the time — especially by my father, which made me even less keen to consider what he had to say about this, since it seemed to include the implication that my intelligence was lacking — that I was all too happy to believe Peter when he said that I was as intelligent and mature as any adult. For once, an adult was taking me seriously, not dismissing me out of hand and constantly invalidating my perceptions of reality — another thing that my father did, all the time and about everything, which made me unwilling to listen to him. (It’s amazing how some parents manage to shoot themselves in the foot that way.) Peter gave me hope that maybe, just maybe, I was competent enough as a human being to make a happier life for myself than the one I had — and all I could see was my father trying to crush that, just like always. Why couldn’t someone just find me worthwhile for once? Why was it so important to my father that I never believe anyone who told me that I was intelligent and mature for my age (even though the people who told me so were many in number, and so few of them had anything to gain from it)?

What I didn’t understand, though, was that intelligence and emotional maturity are two very different things. What’s more, age doesn’t necessarily translate into emotional maturity. Just because Peter was a chronological adult didn’t mean he was a psychological one (my calling him a “guy” and a “dude” instead of a “man” is quite deliberate). And just because he may have thought that my maturity was on par with an adult’s didn’t mean that it actually was. Really, anyone who could look at a sheltered teen with severe daddy issues who was being forced to take prescription psychotropic drugs (for bullshit reasons, I might add, but that’s neither here nor there) and say, “Now there’s a real woman” is probably not the most qualified person to judge such things.

Later, I learned the hard way that my father was right: Peter’s maturity was closer to a seventeen-year-old’s than mine was to a thirty-one-year-old’s. To make another long story short, Peter demonstrated it very clearly and in a way that caused me great pain, and I stopped associating with him of my own volition.

Mine was a folly that all too many young and troubled people commit. I wanted to escape my unhappy situation, and Peter, with his money and car and own apartment, gave me the means to do so. I wanted to feel that I was capable and sane and worth something, that I had a bright future ahead of me that I deserved and was within my grasp, and Peter made me feel that way. And really, Peter had enough charisma about him that it was hard not to get suckered in. When you’re that young, troubled, and inexperienced, an older person treating you like an equal doesn’t just seem like a godsend; it’s like a drug. And you want so badly for it to all be real that you’ll do whatever you have to do to keep believing in it. What’s more, you want so badly to express your gratitude to this person who makes you feel like you have a real shot at happiness that you’ll remain loyal to them no matter what hurdles you face, no matter how many people tell you that this person isn’t good for you, no matter how many times you hear the question, “Don’t you think it’s a little weird that a grown adult is spending that much time with a teenager ten/fifteen/twenty years his junior who isn’t related to him?”, no matter how many other relationships you lose.

After all, you have the chance to be a padawan to a Jedi master, so that you can someday become someone greater and happier than who you currently are. What kind of fool would pass that up?

Thankfully, that’s as far as Peter got with me before I got the hell away from him. Nevertheless, variations of the same theme played out a couple more times in my life after that, in which things went even further and more disastrously.

If your JM gets you enough under their thrall, then their will becomes your will, their values your values, their interests your interests, their goals your goals. You easily dismiss or even cast aside anyone who questions or disputes the vision of this person upon which you’ve come to depend. And even when your JM is clearly in the wrong, you find reasons to keep believing that they’re justified in what they say and do: they meant well, nobody’s perfect, you can see how various traumas in their past cause them to act the way they do, that person who called them out was a crazy and/or abusive asshole anyway. Sometimes, you feel like half your life is spent justifying your association with your JM to other people — but it’s everyone else who has it all wrong. You’re not “making excuses” for your JM. They just don’t understand your JM like you do. And it’s you who will reap rich rewards for your loyalty . . . eventually. Once your JM gets their shit together — well, no, maybe once you get your shit together. Once you can figure out a way to impress them enough that they’ll start treating you like a true equal again, since they stopped doing so at some point along the way. Once you’re a real Jedi master yourself, not just a padawan. That day will come, right?

Meanwhile, the whole affair is running you ragged. You’re exhausted all the time, but you can’t put your finger on why. If you have a job, you never have as much money as you wish you did, because you spend so much of it trying to keep your relationship with your JM afloat — movies, museums, restaurants, gas, groceries, rent, bills . . . and if you don’t have a job, your JM is constantly taking you out, buying you things, and otherwise spending their hard-earned money on you. You’re having the time of your lives together, and your JM assures you that the secret to being a successful adult is being able to be a kid at the same time, or knowing when to be an adult and when to be a kid, or some similar idea that is designed to “set you free” . . . though being “free” sometimes feels a lot like being a slave to your JM’s every whim — thoughts which you quickly set aside, because you don’t want to think poorly of your JM, who is a good person even if they do have a few problems. If you ever need to rest, or if you just want some time to yourself once in a while, your JM is disappointed and concerned: something is wrong, you must be depressed, you should make $CHANGE to your life in order to fix it (and how convenient, that means your own lifestyle will match up even more with theirs — won’t that be fun?), and come oooonnn, live a little! Well, you spend all your free time “living a little”, but you’re not living enough. And once you start living enough, you’ll surely be as happy, fulfilled, and full of win as your JM is.

Except that your JM is never truly happy. There’s always some adversity to overcome, some interpersonal drama that’s causing your JM to suffer, some past trauma that your JM just can’t seem to get past. And it falls to you to ease their burden. After all, your JM has helped you in countless ways; what kind of ungrateful jerk would you be if you didn’t do everything you could to reciprocate? Your JM may not explicitly state this, but they don’t have to — you already know it, as well as you know the color of your eyes.

Regardless of how little your JM ever actually moves forward in life, how much of their own advice they fail to follow, or how much you yourself start to feel that maybe this relationship has gotten a little toxic, you still feel compelled to stick around. You and your JM have already been through so much together; you can’t leave now. They need you as much as you need them. You love them. You would follow them to the ends of the earth. Everything that annoys, saddens, or downright infuriates you about your JM is surely fixable; there’s still hope that everything will be just as good and promising as it once was. Besides, so many other people have screwed your JM over and hurt them badly in the past . . . you don’t want to be like them. You won’t be an ungrateful twat who can’t see the true worth of your JM. You refuse to hurt them like everyone else did.

But you are “just like everyone else”, and this is inescapable. It’s not because you’re as bad a person as your JM says all the others were. It’s because you, like all the others, were suckered in — and you, like all the others, will be shamed, raged against, and possibly even cast aside the second you fall out of line. Should you ever decide to leave, should you ever reach your breaking point and be forced to leave to save your own sanity, you’ll be the latest of a string of villains your JM has encountered; you know this, even if you don’t know how to articulate it. You will be held responsible for your JM’s ills — not failings, no, that feels like too strong a word; just ills. And because you love your JM despite everything, the very thought of being cast as a villain in their mind and the minds of everyone to whom they’ll relate the sad tale of your parting henceforth . . . it hurts. You’ll have given your all to this person you love, without whom you’d still be in that dark, hopeless pit in which they found you, and it will all have come to nothing. Not to mention that you honestly don’t know what you’ll do without your JM to guide you. Without your JM, you would feel like a limb has been cut off. Without your JM, you’re not even sure who you are.

But the day will come when it’s time for you to part with your JM. Either you’ll finally get fed up and leave or your JM will dispense with you, and make no mistake: it’s a matter of when, not if. And when that day comes, you will be thrown into a state of vertigo; all at once, you’ll feel hurt, confused, angry, sad, and empty. Where will you go from here? Is it even possible for you to go anywhere from here? Hell if you’ll know. For what will seem like an eternity afterward, you won’t. You’ll have spent so much time following your fearless leader wherever they went that you’ll have forgotten how to lead yourself — if, indeed, you ever knew how to begin with. You’ll spend countless days and sleepless nights trying to piece it all together: why you all of a sudden weren’t good enough to stay with your JM; why your JM had to be such an asshole; how you could have been so stupid and such a pushover for so long; how much time, energy, and possibly money you wasted trying to make it work . . . how much it hurts that the good things about your relationship with your former JM — the camaraderie, the emotional support, the carefree nights you and your JM spent shooting the shit over beers that you may or may not have been legally old enough to drink, the friends you met through your JM whom you’ve also lost — are gone and not coming back. How you wish it hadn’t had to be that way. How you want nothing more than for your former JM to just stop trying to stay young using the youth of others — really, stop trying to have their cake and eat it, too, trying to be the wise older mentor while also remaining forever youthful — and grow up already, so they’ll stop being too toxic to be around and you can forge a better, stronger, healthier relationship than the one you had before. And as impatient as it’ll make you feel, you’ll wait for that time to come.

You’ll wait . . . and wait . . . and wait . . .

And still, that time won’t come. It may come someday, if your former JM gets enough knocks to the head that they realize that in truth, they never really were the sagacious master they thought they were. But that day will be pretty far off. It may also never come at all — and you’ll have to learn to be at peace with that possibility.

But over time, you’ll learn to stand on your own two feet. You’ll come to understand that you really are competent enough to move forward on your own, and that what your former JM claimed to see in you wasn’t entirely bullshit, even if the ways in which they were trying to bring it out (or so they thought) definitely were. When you need guidance and emotional support, you’ll get it from people who give a damn about you, not the ways in which you keep their egos inflated. And you’ll be able to figure out who those people are because you’ll know what the alternative looks like. You’ll be sadder, but you’ll be wiser.

You’ll have outgrown your need for your former JM, and slowly, over time, piece by arduous piece, you’ll find that you’re okay with that. You’ll move on with your life, and you’ll have plenty of fun figuring out who you are, by yourself, without anyone attached to your hip.

And then you’ll say to yourself, “That was fun. Let’s never do it again.”

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So where have I been this whole time, anyway?

Well, remember when I said that I felt like 2013 was going to be a better year for everybody?

I was wrong. So very wrong. There are no words that can adequately convey how wrong I was. Hi, my name is Wrongy McWrongerson — how do you do?

Seriously, this doesn’t feel like 2013 so much as 2012 Part Two. 2012, Revised Second Edition. The remix album. Whatever you want to call it. Quite frankly, I’ve been so busy wading through headache after heartache after headache after heartache that I haven’t had the capacity to even think about this blog, never mind post on it.

For instance, one of the biggest things I’ve dealt with this year has been the regrowth of those tumors that were surgically removed from my abdomen last year, this time on my uterus. Not even a month ago, I went under the knife again — another laparotomy, meaning another huge lateral incision in my abdomen to take the uterus out; not to mention the cells that had gathered on the surface of my colon and liver that had to be burned away (with FRICKIN’ LASER BEAMS!). And we haven’t even seen what the biopsies taken from what organs are left in there will reveal; that comes on September 3rd, when I go in for my post-op appointment. Thankfully, we were able to catch this problem before it got too out of hand — but still, it hasn’t been a walk in the park.

And to top it all off, I still haven’t managed to convince my doctors to put a stereo system in the great, big space where my reproductive system used to be. Dammit.

And that’s far from all. I could go on and on, really, but who wants to listen to me whine for a whole post? It’s far more productive, I think, to talk about the things I’ve been learning from all this; after all, there is no better teacher than pain. And because I’ve been experiencing a lot of pain, I’ve been learning more than I ever thought was possible to learn in such a short period of time. This is a good thing, right? Silver linings, and all that.

So, the lessons I’ve learned or had reinforced, in no particular order:

– There’s nothing like a serious medical crisis to show you who really gives a damn about you.

– At the same time, just because someone is there for you in a crisis, be it medical or of another kind, doesn’t necessarily mean they have your best interests at heart. People who are fond of playing chess with human pawns will latch onto you really hard in times of struggle, if you let them. So will leeches.

– I’m lucky to have the unconditional love and support of my family — that is to say my blood relations. A lot of people don’t have the kind of built-in support system that I do; many people’s relationships with their family are too toxic to be relied upon. This isn’t to say that my family doesn’t have their share of problems — they do, and some serious ones, even — but I know that they have my back when the shit hits the fan. And for this, I am grateful.

– You don’t have to put up with situations in which you have to take what little respect and care you can get. If someone is taking you for granted, and they aren’t your underage child, you can and should walk away.

– How much money you make doesn’t matter nearly as much as how you manage your money.

– You cannot pour from an empty cup, no matter how much or how long you try. In order to give, you have to take — or receive (and yes, there’s a difference) — some things to replenish yourself. You will burn out otherwise; it’s a question of when, not if.

– If someone doesn’t want to get better or have a better life, your love will never be enough to help them, no matter how great it is. No matter what they may say to the contrary, there is no code to crack, no secret password that will allow you into the places where others couldn’t go, no blunt object strong enough to force those walls down. They’re either going to want something better for themselves enough to let you help them or not, and that’s a choice only they can make. And no matter what they ultimately choose, it does not constitute success or failure on your part; in fact, you have almost nothing to do with that. If they try to tell you otherwise, they don’t understand how love and support actually work.

– You can say you want things all you want. You can want those things on a purely intellectual level all you want. But unless you also want it deep down, where it really matters, you don’t actually want it very much at all. If there’s always an excuse for why you’re not doing the things you say you want to do, week after week, month after month, year after year . . . it’s time to get real with yourself about what your priorities really are. If you say you want help and support, but there’s always some reason to push away the help and support that’s offered you, it’s time to get real with yourself about whether you actually want it. Your priorities are what they are, and what makes you happy is what makes you happy — and those things are okay, no matter what they are. Be honest about it, though, and save yourself and those around you who are invested in your happiness the heartache of seeing what you only think you want be perpetually unrealized.

– If you don’t have your own house in order, how the hell can you be a safe harbor for those you love?

– “Give credit; accept blame” — provided you don’t take it to an unhealthy extreme — isn’t a bad rule by which to live.

– Real love may change its form, but it never dies. It cannot die. (Even if you really wish it would, which can be quite unfortunate.)

– Your life will improve at least threefold if you learn how and when to shut the ever-living fuck up. You have two ears and one mouth; prudence dictates that you must use them in that proportion. Really, it solves so many problems. (Maybe that’s ironic coming from one of the reigning queens of TL;DR — that would be me, in case it wasn’t already abundantly clear — but hey, at least you can stop reading a blog post and start up again whenever you want, if you want. Not so when you’re interacting directly with other people.)

– Knowing how to say “Enough is enough” and get out of a situation that’s slowly killing you is a really important skill to have.

– Love without respect is not love at all, but patronization.

– If one person insists all the time that you’ve got $CHARACTER_FLAW, but literally everyone else tells you the exact opposite of what the one person says, it’s probably safe to assume that the one person is full of shit (and most likely projecting hir own failings onto you). This also applies to any sycophants and/or generally submissive people the one person may have around hir.

–  You can’t hang out with only sycophants and submissive people, and then complain that you don’t have any “real” friends who “really” care about you. (Well, you can, but that doesn’t mean it makes any logical sense.) A real friend is someone who’s willing to stand up to you and whack you on the nose with a newspaper when you’re doing something destructive. If you only surround yourself with yes-people (while pushing away those who try to offer you more than that), of course they’re not going to know what to do when you’re in dire need of support. They look to you for direction! Start hanging out with people who will call you on your bullshit, then, and make sure you don’t get all defensive and shit when they do.

– You may very well have the potential for greatness, but until you start actually doing great things that have a great impact on the world, you are not great or in any way special among humankind. Any thoughts to the contrary are mere delusions of grandeur.

– Your intelligence, no matter how above average it is, does not excuse you from having respect and empathy for other people. If you honestly believe that everybody around you is inferior to you, you’re the problem, not them.

– Intelligence is not the same thing as emotional maturity.

– You can’t bank on intelligence and charisma alone getting you to where you want to be. You can’t woo the kind of life you want over to you; you actually have to work for it.

– There are no situations in which it’s a good idea to put somebody up on a pedestal, no matter who they are or what they are to you. If you do it anyway, the only person who can be held responsible for your bitter disappointment is you.

– When you’re in a relationship, it’s a good idea to keep in mind (and note that keeping something in mind is not the same thing as making it an obsession) that your partner always has other options, no matter who they are, what their gender is, or what kinds of self-esteem issues they have. If you don’t want those other options to start looking really good to your partner, you’d better make sure you’re treating your partner as well as you possibly can and not taking them for granted. If your partner is a selfish asshole who would cheat on you and/or leave you for someone else no matter what you did, at least then you can honestly say that you didn’t contribute to that toxic mess.

– When you’re meeting with an ex-partner to tie up the loose ends of a breakup, it’s good form to leave your friends at home. We stopped bringing our whole posse along to assist in giving our exes the kiss-off back in high school. Adults know how to face other adults on their own.

– It’s unhealthy to spend all of your free time, or even most of your free time, with other people. It’s especially unhealthy when it’s the same few people all the time. You should not be attached at the hip to your significant other, your best friend(s), or your significant other and your best friend(s); that’s not what healthy boundaries look like.

– Just because someone has helped you advance in life doesn’t mean you owe them your life, soul, and firstborn child. No matter what they’ve done to help you in the past, you stop owing them jack shit once they start getting toxic.

– You know how they tell you, “Don’t leave your current job until you have another job”? Turns out that applying that same principle to romantic relationships can be tricky. It’s not that it never works, but it can make dealing with some of the baggage from the previous relationship that much harder, so treading carefully is definitely in order.

– There are many things that are simply impossible to understand until you’ve been there. Sometimes, the only way to become a more compassionate person is by fucking up badly.

– If you don’t deal with the problems you’ve got now — meaning really deal with them, not make a tiny bit of headway here and there, dragging your feet — the universe has a funny way of making things explode in an attempt to autocorrect your life for you . . . and when it does, you’re not going to like it, because the universe is also a sadist (no better teacher than pain, right?). So it’s really in your best interest to fix your life on your own while it’s still relatively easy to fix, rather than wait for the universe to rudely awaken you, grab you by the ear, and drag you along a much bumpier path.

That . . . was a lot. I wouldn’t mind taking a break from learning shit the hard way; quite frankly, I think I’ve earned it, at this point!

May the rest of the year go easier on all of us.

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It’s been a long time. How have you been?

It’s been forever since I’ve posted to this thing. 2012 was . . . quite a year, to put it mildly. I didn’t believe in all that “end of the world” nonsense until I was about halfway through the year, when I started seriously questioning whether there was something to the idea that 2012 was the end of the world as we know it, if not a literal apocalypse. Just about everything got shaken up, and not only for me — it was a trend I noticed in the lives of damned near everybody I know. The old order was thrown out, and a new order established itself.

I know it’s awfully late for a 2012 summary post, but these thoughts have been percolating in my head and trying to get out for almost a month now, and, well, better late than never. The condensed explanation for my absence (from this blog, anyway) goes like this: major abdominal pains beginning in February, an unnecessarily drawn-out process to figure out what the problem was that included two major surgeries, the removal of two cantaloupe-sized tumors engulfing both my ovaries (which also meant removing my ovaries, along with my greater omentum and appendix, both of which had pre-cancerous cells on them) in May, healing up all throughout June, finding out that a beloved former voice teacher of mine also had cancer, a couple of cancer scares with a couple of friends, health issues with other family members, quite a few people whom I either knew personally or know people who were close to them dying of various causes (cancer being the cause for some of them, because apparently 2012 was the year for cancer-related issues), close friendships of mine that had lasted for years suddenly splitting up with no warning, jobs coming and going, and my heart getting broken way too often for way too many reasons.

So yeah, I haven’t exactly had the energy to do much more than post things on Facebook, as far as the Internet has been concerned.

Nevertheless, I learned a hell of a lot last year. And as painful as some of those lessons were, I’m better for having learned them; I certainly know more about myself than I did before, and quite a bit about how other people work, too. So here are some of those lessons that I either learned for the first time or had reinforced, in no particular order:

– When you’re suffering from a major, potentially life-threatening illness — like cancer, for instance — you find out who really gives a damn about you.

– Unfortunately, you don’t find out about some of them until after it’s over, and that’s when it can really suck.

– I’m not the politely tolerated burden to my family that I always thought I was.

– It’s one thing to be betrayed by your blood family. To be betrayed by your chosen family, however, is infinitely more painful.

– The grass is not greener on the other side.

– Every single time I ignore my intuition, I get into trouble. Every. Single. Time.

– Intuition and lizard-brain paranoia look and feel very similar. However, if you’re trying to find reasons to stay in a situation instead of finding reasons to leave it, there’s a pretty good chance it’s your gut trying to tell you something, not lizard brain freaking out.

– Ignoring a couple of red flags here and there is not a good idea. Ignoring or trying to rationalize red flags for years can only end in explosive disaster. When you’re one of only a couple of people who’s stuck around after literally everybody else has headed for the hills, mostly independently of each other and all for the same reasons, you should probably start seriously thinking about why that might be happening. Hint: it’s probably not because you’re one of the only people who truly understands the person or thing to which you’ve been loyal.

– Being treated badly by someone really makes you appreciate the people who have treated you well.

– My boyfriend may drive me batshit crazy sometimes, but he’s still the best partner I could have asked for, and I will never take him for granted.

– “All charming people have something to conceal, usually their total dependence on the appreciation of others.” — Cyril Connolly

– Some periods of time — years, for instance — are about moving forward. Others are about battening down the hatches and waiting for the storm to clear, about simply enduring.

– However, doing your best to endure is no excuse for thoughtlessly hurting other people. You either give a damn about someone besides yourself, or you don’t. And there is not a single thing that can excuse the latter.

– That being said, certain first offenses are more forgivable than others, and someone who actually cares about you as a person should be willing to work it out. If said someone isn’t willing to work it out the first time you hit a bump in the road, that’s a pretty good indication that zie wasn’t worth getting so worked up over in the first place.

– Some offenses really do cross the forgiveness event horizon. They’re few in number, but they exist. At least, they shouldn’t be forgiven, unless your greatest aspiration in life is to be hurt over and over again.

– You really are the company you keep. Guilt by association isn’t always complete bullshit.

– I’m at a point in my life where I need stability a lot more than I need excitement or perfect fulfillment. This is especially true for my career goals: as much as I love bartending, I’m not at a place in my life where I can deal with the general instability of the restaurant/bar industry without putting the rest of my life on hold — including school. Maybe that will change in the future. But right now, my needs are what they are, even if they’re not what I wish they were.

– I need to play more video games. My geek cred has been slipping over the past several years. And quite frankly, books and movies can only take you so far into another world (much as I adore books!); there are times when being an active participant is far and away more satisfying than being a passive observer.

– While I wouldn’t say I’m a passive observer in the rest of my life, I could stand to be even more of an active participant in it than I already am. Letting go of my nigh-paralyzing fear of inconveniencing, burdening, or steamrolling other people will be a good start.

– Sometimes, even when you do everything “right”, you still get fucked over. There actually are cases in which one party is entirely at fault for how things went down, and searching for some measure of equality by finding reasons to blame yourself in fact only perpetuates the unfairness of the situation. There comes a point where it’s okay to stop asking what you could have done better; sometimes, there really is nothing.

– Endings are frightening as fuck. But “frightening” is not always a synonym for “bad”.

– Even when you’re better off for something having ended, you’re probably still going to mourn it in some way. You might mourn a single aspect of it, or some aspects, or all of it. You might mourn in a subtle way, or in a far more encompassing way. All of these ways of mourning are okay, and beating yourself up for not being able to completely move on within a certain timeframe will only prolong the process.

– It’s okay to want justice, no matter what your religion, somebody else’s religion, or popular opinion says to the contrary. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should try to serve it yourself, but wanting it and hoping for it are not wrong. To want justice is to affirm your belief that the forces of good should ultimately prevail.

– Still, some things — and people — don’t deserve to be held onto.

– You don’t have to have faith that the bastards will get what’s coming to them, because it’s not a matter of faith, but of probability: you can’t be shitty to person after person after person without eventually pissing off someone who will make you pay for it. The bastards might even piss off the wrong people over and over again, all the while wondering why on earth everything keeps going wrong for them. This fact has helped me sleep many a night.

– It’s worth figuring out whether you’re reacting badly to another person because you’re seeing someone else who hurt you in them, rather than because they’re actually mistreating you.

– People who say “I’m not afraid to be honest” to excuse being rude and hurtful to other people are actually cowards. They’re deliberately rude because it’s a more socially acceptable way of taking out their aggression than straight-up punching their targets in the face. Even though, you know, punching people in the face is more honest than trying to pass off unnecessarily blunt comments as “having the courage to be honest”. (Not that I’m advocating punching people in the face. What I’m advocating is not being an ass to other people in the first place.)

– Haters gonna hate. When they hate, it about them, not you. Do your best not to take it personally.

– When the truth hurts, it becomes all the more imperative to deliver it with as much compassion and concern as you can possibly muster. Piling more hurt on top of what already hurts can only backfire.

– 2012 was especially hard on a whole lot of people. None of us are alone in having suffered.

– Even when you feel like you’re all alone, no one is ever alone. Sometimes it’s a matter of putting yourself and your pain out there, so that the people who share in your pain will see you and come to you. And sometimes it’s a matter of letting yourself see that you’re not alone, of not resisting the people who are with you.

So I’m still here. 2012 tried valiantly to break me, but it failed. And two weeks into the new year, the whole world feels lighter, cleaner, freer.

Let’s all make 2013 a better one, shall we?

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Filed under Assholes, Tramps, and Thieves, Bartending, Lessons Learned, Love, Observations, Philosophy/Musing, Things I Know Now That I Didn't Before

On the fear of change

‎”Change scares me — but I know that about myself. Usually when I’m scared, it’s an indication that I ought to plow ahead. It’s not particularly easy and I would love if it weren’t the case, but it tends to work.” — Alison Sudol of A Fine Frenzy 

Note to self: start plowing ahead like that more often.

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