The destructive power of self-pity….and the abundance that is waiting for you, when you stop the pity party
As a mom, public humiliation is a near daily occurrence. Especially when you have a drama queen for a daughter.
“Let’s get out of the water, and hang out at the play structure!” I say.
We’re at the beach. And Clara is unimpressed with the suggestion. My son, Liam, is all about it though. So we slowly make our way to the shore.
I help towel Liam off, and look over to see Clara flopping around on the ground….her wet body getting caked in dry sand. She then looks at me in disgust, as if I made her do it.
She’s deliberately making a bad situation worse. And she is pitying herself. haaarrrrd.
Why does she do it?
Partly, it’s attention. But also, it’s a power play. She feels a lack of control. And the best way she knows how to deal with it, is to invite excessive, self-absorbed unhappiness to the party. Because then? Then! Someone might see how forlorn she is….and hand her what she truly wants.
Oh the injustice! Surely, someone will come to her rescue.
The pattern of self-pity
I know this pattern well. Not only because Clara uses it all the time (cue the B-roll footage of the Fruit-Loops vs Cheerios meltdown at the grocery store)…but because I too have used this strategy.
And what I’ve come to realize? Is that self-pity is THE most destructive mindset on the planet.
It is the equivalent of locking the door to your own success. Your own happiness. Your own peace.
Because it takes away all sense of ownership to those things. And worse? It places all the power for change, outside of your control.
Woe-is-me = Woah-is-me
A broken heart? It takes time to heal. But what makes a bad situation even worse, is slipping into “woe-is-me” for the long-haul.
Lately, my theme song is “It’s Raining Men.” Why? Because ’80s disco is highly underrated. Hallelujah, amen!
But also. Because I recently stopped feeling sorry for myself, after being told….. “we had our time, Linds.”
I stopped holding space for the idea that I was shattered….beat up….on the losing side of the battle. Instead? I started to believe that I was worthy of love.
I crave it. I want it. And I’ve set my own thermostat to “looking for casual fun.” Which in turn….attracts casual fun.
And Jesus. That’s all it is. You want abundance? Look for it. Stop closing your eyes. Stop busying yourself with rolling in the sand.
I pity the fool….who throws a pity a party for way too long
This same thing? Has happened with money.
For a long time, I was living from paycheque to paycheque. Buying the discount fruit (only a bit of mold). Drinking the bargain wine (just plug your nose). And getting by with the same underwear I wore in my college years (see “lack of men” discussion above. This may have been a contributing factor).
I’ve been desperate to move into my own apartment….living with my parents apres-divorce (also a likely contributing factor to the same “lack of men” problem above). And although I’ve been teetering on making that happen? It wasn’t until I realized I was pitying myself (look at me, struggling entrepreneur!)….that I could turn my mindset around.
How the fuck did I do that?
When waffling over moving into an apartment (“I don’t know if I can quite afford it”), my best friend gave me the advice…. “you can manifest that shit, Linds.”
I put down the deposit.
And low and behold, in the coming weeks, my income increased. Like….substantially.
I knew I had to make shit happen. But also? I adjusted my internal thermostat (yet again!)….to “looking for money.” Which in turn….attracts money.
You want it? Look for it
My god. This lesson? Has been huge for me.
And yet? It seems too simple.
Can it really be as easy as…..you want it, look for it?
I think it is.
The mind is a powerful thing. Hell, I once heard a story about a guy who thought himself to death, after being locked in a freezer. The freezer was broken (it was room temperature), and yet, the guy convinced himself he was freezing to death. And did.
It’s not a matter of straining really really hard. Wanting something desperately. With every fibre of your being.
It’s also not a matter of tantrum-ing with all your might. And hoping someone will right your wrong.
It’s more like….getting out of your own way.
It’s more like….orienting your mind.
It’s more like…..bringing awareness to the thing you truly want, and ditching the sense of lack that goes along with it.
Create aTinder profile….for you life
I almost liken it to creating a Tinder profile for your life. It takes balls to admit you want something, because shit….if you fail, and don’t get that thing? Zero hits? There’s all kinds of disappointment. And your ego? Ya. Pissed right off.
There’s something extremely vulnerable about admitting “want.” Because in the wrong hands, it could be interpreted as “not good enough.”
(Side note? There is a disproportionate number of “hunters” on Tinder. Or at least, a disproportionate number of men holding trophy carcasses…..which is SUCH a turn-off. And would be, even if I wasn’t a vegetarian).
But if you don’t WANT it….if you don’t LOOK for it….you’ll never get it.
Put it out there!
Looking for: a job I love!
Looking for: a hot bod when naked!
Looking for: a meditation app that doesn’t put me to sleep!
You want it? Stop pretending you’re a special snowflake. Like life is “sooooo haaarrrrd for me….but, like, especially me. Poor me. I’m not getting my way!”
Open the door to abundance
If this past month has taught me anything, it’s that we all have the power to reach for what we want. And if you’re waiting for someone to hand it to you? You’re only gonna end up with sand in your bathing suit.
I am slowly learning how to stop making a bad situation, worse.
And good god. I have never felt more blessed. More lucky. More abundant. More laid. More rich. And more happy.
I stuff my mom’s old wedding dress into my suitcase, and force the zipper closed. Even my suitcase is protesting the idea of marriage.
The celebration? My parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. The emotions? Mixed. And I’m not exactly sure how to deal with it.
On the one hand, I feel incredible warmth. These are two people that I love deeply. And Jesus. They’ve shared a journey and a half together! They met when they were teenagers, for god’s sake. And although I’ve only ever witnessed a quick peck here and there….I hear stories about make-out sessions they used to have….my dad’s younger sisters peeking through the crack the in the door. An “education” they called it.
When I was little, I was well aware of the phrase, “opposites attract,” and I always felt that it applied to my parents, perfectly. My dad….tall, quiet, stoically hilarious, and extremely athletic. My mom…..short, boisterous, and could easily make friends with a fly on the wall.
They never seemed “in love,” to me. But love was there. In a kind of….yin yang respectful way. They did their own shit. They settled into their own roles. And they never wavered from them.
To this day….my mom bakes….because my dad has a sweet tooth. My dad calls when he’s gonna be late….because my mom is a worry wart.
They watch tv on different floors of the house. Her? Y&R. Him? Survivor.
But I think I’ve always wondered……have they always been happy together? Like….TRULY happy?
I don’t doubt they would say “yes,” if I asked them. Or some kind of wise variation of “yes”…..you know….the kind of bullshit that people write on post-it notes at a wedding shower. The secret to a long marriage is…..(pick your cliche).
How marriage defines us
When I lived in BC, my dad would come to visit on business. Just him. And we’d go out for dinner. It was a rare occasion to get the guy alone, and it always surprised me that he’d pick Indian, or Thai, or something with bold, bright flavours. My mom hates spicy food. And she’s got a solid rotation of roast beef, stew, meatloaf, and tuna-noodle casserole.
I’d tell my dad about the plans I have to travel to Bali, or South Korea, or Portugal….and he’d chime in, and say…. “You should go to Africa! I would go there in a heartbeat!” But my mom is a homebody. She hates to travel. And so they don’t. Travel, that is.
I’d mention….I’m kind of getting into Buddhism. I like the principles. He’d tell me…. “I actually think there’s something to the idea of re-incarnation.” And yet, he goes to the same Christian church he’s gone to for the last 35 years….with my mom.
As a kid, you always sort of wonder about your parents’ sex life (as vomit-worthy as it is to imagine.) I can remember “walking in on them” once. When I was 5 or 6, I barged into my parents’ room after a bad dream, only to be met with a panic of blankets being tossed into the air (“Lindsay! What do you want?!?”). The next day? My parents installed a lock on their door.
Smart move. And yet….I’m not sure how often it was actually used after that.
Older couples often tell you that everyone goes through a transition in their marriage. You go from being romantic partners…..to companions. Sex stops altogether, and you just…..enjoy growing old together.
And maybe that’s true. But is everyone happy with that?
Fuck marriage….I think
After my own divorce, the idea of marriage has left a bitter taste in my mouth. I can no longer fathom evolving and growing alongside a single person….through ups and downs, twists and turns…..for the rest of my life.
I mean, fuck. I thought I could do it. I followed the formula. I created a replica of my own parents’ marriage (or so I thought)….
And yet, it left me feeling hollow. And unfulfilled. And unhappy.
In the weeks following the initial break of my marriage, I can remember stuffing my brain with books by Esther Perel and Wednesday Martin…..convinced that human beings weren’t meant to be monogamous at all.
“We’ve got it all wrong”….I thought….”These rules of marriage….this promise we force everyone to make….it’s archaic!”
I took a hard swing towards the side of polyamory. Certain that love was not finite. That the heart could withstand connection without ownership, labels, or a sense of possession over someone else.
Turns out….that kind of love is incredibly hard to pull off, and requires monk-like levels of enlightenment that, frankly, I just do not have.
And so, I am left with all kinds of skepticism about marriage. Not sure if I just didn’t do it right, or if no one is doing it right.
Not sure if I want freedom to roam, right now….or for the rest of my life.
Can marriage support personal development?
I can remember the conversation I had with my parents, telling them all the reasons I wanted to get a divorce. None of them making any sense to them.
“You want freedom? You want independence? You want to be inspired by someone who can keep up with your growth (and push you to grow even more)? What the hell do you mean? Those aren’t ‘irreconcilable differences,’ are they?”
For me, levelling up, expanding, pushing the boundaries, realizing your own potential, and evolving….it is the PURPOSE of life. And I think sometimes, marriage can restrain that.
Personal growth is…..personal. And when a shift happens in a dramatic way, it can feel like the other person you are sharing a life with, is no longer walking beside you. And THAT is a scary feeling. Because you don’t know if the person will EVER catch up. And if it’s even possible for them to catch up at all.
It is my worst nightmare to settle into the La-Z-Boy version of who I am. Comfortable. Domestic. Reliably familiar. To no longer reach for a higher version of myself. Simply because, well, my husband needs me to fulfill a certain role.
I think about the life my dad could have had. The way he could have pushed himself outside of his own comfort zone. The way he could have lived with boldness, and abandon. Backpacking the world. Learning how to cook exotic dishes. Becoming a Buddhist.
And yet, he’d probably be the first to tell you, that trading that life….the life he could have had….for the one he was now, would be a definite no.
But then again, his definition of happiness is probably very different than mine. His definition of the purpose of life, is probably very different than mine.
How do we measure the success of marriage?
I raise my glass, and cheers my parents. “To fifty years!” we all say.
I stop and wonder, if there is a different marker of success we can use, when it comes to marriage. Rather than simply….the passage of time.
To me? A successful relationship would be one in which both people grow and evolve…..so much so, that they look almost nothing like the individuals who first entered the relationship. A simultaneous yet independent evolution….like a game of tennis.
But is that kind of relationship even possible?
I’m not sure I trust that it does.
I wander up to my parents’ room, at the hotel we’re all staying at for the big celebration. I chuckle at the locked door, knowing full well that there’s no way in hell I was interrupting anything.
I knock. My dad opens the door. And it’s hot and stuffy in the room.
“I hate the sound of the air conditioner at night,” says my mom.
I wonder……but does my dad?
Maybe he doesn’t give a shit. Maybe I’m projecting my own ideals onto their relationship, and casting judgment in the meantime.
If there’s one thing divorce has taught me, it’s that no one has ANY right to decide what is “right” or “wrong” for another couple. In fact, I’ve begged my family to grant me that same level of acceptance.
Happiness…success….fulfilment…..it is truly your own to define. Even if you struggle to define it.
“Did you put on sunscreen?” my mom asks.
“Yes, I did!” says my Dad.
I hear this exact conversation. Every single morning.
And it drives me nuts.
My dad, being the health nut that he is, goes out for a bike ride, or a walk, at 7:55 am, every day.
My mom, being the caring, over-protective, anxious type that she is, makes it her mission in life to ensure that no one gets sunburnt, no one forgets their keys, and no one puts mushrooms in the pasta sauce (my sister doesn’t like them).
Awwwww. How sweet, you might say.
And yes, it comes from a loving place.
But when you live with someone (day in and day out), who is trying their damnedest to bubble wrap everyone, and everything…..well…..it’s waring.
I know this.
Because for the last 17 months, I have been living with my parents.
And at 37 years old….it is pretty much the last piece of information you want to divulge to anyone.
Particularly the hot guy you go out for nachos and beer with.
“Your place, or mine?” he inquires.
(My high voice comes out in full force)
“Uuuummmmm…..let me see….maybe yours?” (please god, tell me that sounded nonchalant)
But when you leap off the cliff of life…..and you somehow find the balls to “start over”…..it is so often your parents who are there to catch you.
For me? My do-over, is divorce.
And it’s a decision that has made me a bit of an outcast. In some circles.
New beginnings are polarizing. And everyone seems to have an opinion about whether or not you’re making the “right” or “wrong” choice.
My parents? In the “wrong” choice camp. Which makes their support all the more difficult to receive (never mind how difficult it must be for them to GIVE it).
And don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful AF.
But after almost 20 years of independence….it’s….a humbling experience….to have to play by someone else’s rules. Especially when there’s an undercurrent of disappointment in the air.
“I’m in transition.” I tell people.
“My new life is….in the works.”
And there are days when those words feel true….and days when those words feel like a complete lie.
But my god. That’s “starting over” for you.
It’s a free-fall for a while. And more like a tilt-a-whirl than a roller-coaster.
But then one day, you land. And you start to find your bearings.
And the boulder you’ve been pushing, in this uphill battle to reorient your life….it actually starts moving.
And you almost don’t believe it, because well, you’ve been digging in your heels, giving everything you have, for so long. And that thing hasn’t budged.
I am now 2 weeks away from moving into my own apartment. And it scares the shit out of me.
Which is insane, because I’ve wanted it for so long.
But when the thing that’s existed only in your dreams, drops down to earth….it’s almost like….it can’t be trusted.
Movement is scary. Because, strangely, you were getting comfortable with being stuck.
And really? What I’m finding, is that “starting over” is a totally different thing than “starting.”
When you start something? Everyone is psyched for you.
You’re getting married?! You get an engagement party, a shower, a bachelorette weekend getaway, AND an over-the top wedding day!
You’re getting divorced? You get a trip to IKEA by yourself, and months of (literally!) rebuilding your life.
My mom, unsure how to support her daughter through a decision she does not support….got me 2 new frying pans. It’s….I care….but I’d rather you didn’t do this.
People love to celebrate new….but not necessarily new beginnings.
And depending on your perspective, new beginnings either scream “you fucked up” or “you’re growing.”
I have friends who are beyond psyched for me. They’re all….exclamation marks, and party gifs.
But I also have family members who are all…..good for you. Period.
Which…as a people pleaser? Kills me.
But change? It’s personal.
And if you’re gonna play the “clean slate” card (which….my god….it is anything but clean), you’ve gotta be ok with pissing some people off.
I think back to the day I moved into my parents’ place. Convinced that it would be a two….three month stay, tops.
And…..well? We all know how that turned out.
But that’s the other thing. Starting over is almost never…..wham bam thank you mam. It is full of false-starts, and exhausted “I give-ups” and second strength. It takes way longer than you think it’s gonna take. And for a long while, it feels like you’re walking in the dark, hands outstretched, not sure if you’re about to run into a wall, or an open road.
And so, as my reno’d life begins to take shape, I give my mid-air cliff jumping self a hug. Don’t worry, girl. It’ll turn out.
I am FILLED with pure fucking joy.
Even though I know. This summer? I’m gonna get a sunburn or two, and kind of wish my mom had warned me to put sunscreen on before I left home.
My $200 Asics got a hole in them…..6 weeks after I bought them.
Although, in Asics defense, I do workout every single day. And maybe 42 workouts isn’t that horrible for a shoe.
My active lifestyle is a mutha-f-ing source of pride! And I’m not afraid to own it.
It took me DECADES of work to get to this point! And I feel like I’ve earned the habits I’ve created!
It feels weird not to sweat in a day.
And for me? Working out is automatic. Never an “option.” Always a given.
They say that 95% of our thoughts and behaviour, comes from our subconscious mind. And so, the trick to making anything routine? Is to slide it on in to the “subconscious” category.
But what about bad habits?
It’s the same deal….but in reverse. You want to bring those bad habits into conscious thought. Then DECIDE not to do them.
The bad habit of racism
This? This! Is the lesson I’ve been reminded of, over the past week….amidst the rioting and chaos and anger that surrounds the death of George Floyd.
Now, I’m not a political person. I’m not an activist. And also? Being a white woman from Canada, I speak from a certain place of…..privilege.
I would never in a million years consider myself racist.
But something that this movement has brought to light for me, is the habitual, routine, and subconscious way that racism exists in our own minds.
Generation after generation, black people had their rights and freedoms stripped away from them…..treated as property. Abused. Dehumanized.
Racism oozed it’s way into the grander scheme of things. Systemic poison.
And injustice became habitual. Automatic. A given.
It’s just the way society operated. As disgusting as it was (and still is).
And it was only in the last 60…70….years, that racism even BEGAN to be challenged. Brought to light. Taken out of the “subconsious” category, and moved into the “conscious” category.
But as we know….bad habits are hard to break…and tributaries run deep.
Unpacking your bias
I try to unpack my own subconscious mind. Struggling to understand the ways in which I too am biased. Or subtly judgmental.
And it’s uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable.
I think back to my own childhood. I may have had one black friend in elementary school. But that was about it.
My neighbourhood was predominantly white. And I didn’t think much of it.
I do remember the expectations I had…."black people were always good at sports." And they could probably "dance really well."
It wasn’t a negative interpretation….but a generalization nonetheless.
Most of my experience with race? Came from TV.
Like most children who grew up in the 90s, Family Matters was a TGIF staple. I detested Steve Urkle. But not because he was black. Because, well….Jesus how annoying.
There was often a “sassy” black girl on some of my favourite shows. Lisa Turtle on Saved by the Bell. Charlie’s girlfriend, Grace, on Party of Five.
Peter on ER was one of my very favourite characters. But truthfully, I can remember my 12-year-old self thinking….wow, a black doctor….good for him.
Survivor almost always featured a “token” black guy. And I’m almost certain I learned about the stereotype that “black people can’t swim” and “black people are lazy,” by watching the show.
Once I hit high school, the phrase “once you go black you never go back” hit my ears. And I can remember being very curious about what it would be like to date a black guy. My every sexual desire supposedly satisfied.
I loved Beyonce. Usher. Jay-Z. And I was well aware of the “strangeness” of Eminem…a white rapper.
The road to un-learning
Aaaalllllll of this. Lives in my subconscious.
And it's incredibly shameful. It makes me angry. It makes me resentful. It makes me utterly uncomfortable.
And that’s not even the worst of what it could be!
There are many people who judge black people in MUCH harsher ways! Not to mention the stereotypes that exist for other races!
And so, as I shine a light on the biases that exist in my own brain, I realize the importance of bringing them to my conscious mind. To boot them out of my subconscious. To allow each interaction with someone….regardless of race…….to be fresh, new, and untainted with preconceived notions.
I mean, my god. Would I not want the same for myself?
But it feels almost impossible to un-learn something.
How do you re-program? How do you do a Ctrl-Alt-Delete hard reset?
And Jesus, if I feel frustrated by this…..I can’t imagine the frustration a black person might feel! To not be seen for who you are…..but rather, to be seen as someone you are assumed to be?!
The judgment, the characterization of a race…..it lives in the crevices of society. And we are fed the idea that everyone in life can be cast into a “role.”
Do not sit idly by
I think one of the most important things I’ve learned over the past week, is that silence……is just as harmful as active abuse.
Silence is the choice to ignore. The choice to accept. The choice to condone the status-quo.
And if we are truly committed to breaking the bad habit of racism, it’s gotta be out loud.
How do you change the story? You put down the book, and pick up a new one.
Self-education is huge. And rather than just accept what is being served to me, I’ve really become aware of the importance of changing the channel. Exploring the pages of history that were not written. Or maybe written….but appearing only as a footnote.
Show up to the battle
These thoughts? Swirl in my had as I lace up my Asics. Holes and all.
I head out for a run, and only when I reach the half-way point, and turn around, do I realize that the wind was at my back the entire way there. I have to push hard to run the same distance home.
Huh. It hits me. Imagine having to work 2x as hard, to do the same damn thing.
This is what racism does to those who bare the brunt of it.
Like wading through mud. When others get to take the bridge.
I think of my white children. Desperate for them to be sheltered from the onslaught of racial profiling that will inevitably pierce their subconscious.
But no. If they don’t know about it. They’ll never be able to help change it.
And although it may seem counterintuitive to look the beast in the eye…..love will only ever win, if it shows up to the battle.