Thursday, March 21, 2013

What popular culture doesn't tell you (A musing on life, love, success and humanity)

Every now and then I find myself reminiscing about all the beliefs I used to hold about life and society and challenging some of the ones I still have.

I took a personal survey one time that asked me what I would say if I could get one message out to a large group of people. Aside from "be nice to each other," I would pretty much say something like this:

On life: You are going to die. I know that sounds morbid and horrible, but it is the absolute truth of human existence. We are all going to die. You know what that means? It means that the zit on your face, your annoying co-worker, your bad hair day, your slow Internet connection, the opinion of someone who's name you won't even remember in six months, the hole in your favorite pair of jeans, and the fact that your favorite celebrity is (OMG) in the news for yet another scandal does not mean shit. None of it matters. Be happy, love people, and do whatever you want to do with your own life. No one else can live it for you or make your decisions.

And those feelings you're feeling and those super hard/seemingly uphill battles you're fighting? They're normal. Growing up and facing new challenges is going to suck, and you may not even know where to begin when it comes to that nightmarish road to adulthood. Give it permission to suck. Give yourself permission to be hopelessly confused. You do not need to have your entire life mapped out or even the next month of your life mapped out the second you step out of high school or college. In fact, if you choose to sit around doing "nothing of particular importance" every day for a year afterwards, it's okay. I'd rather do nothing of particular importance than throw myself at the first career opportunity that comes my way because people say I'm supposed to.

Take your time. Live your life. Feel your feelings. And stop following "the rules," because guess what? They don't exist. They're an illusion.      

On love: Love is the only thing that truly matters. Not just romantic love, but the kind of love you feel when your grandmother hugs you, when your puppy wants to play, when you hold your child for the first time, when you share a laugh with someone, when you're engaging in an activity that fills you up with passion and excitement, or when a total stranger performs a random act of kindness on you. Love, in all its different forms, is beautiful.

Also, love whoever you want. Your heart is no one's business but yours. If someone else can't feel what you feel in your heart, they have no right to tell you who to love.

Also, it's okay to be single. It's more than okay to be single. The purpose of life isn't marriage or finding "the one." It upsets me when people think they're supposed to be in a relationship. Your relationship status and/or sex life is nobody's f****** business. And I would totally support the desire to actually SAY that to the next person who gives you flack about "still being single." Yes, you can swear if you want. And if you DO want to find love, but haven't yet---be patient and stay open. It might just come when you least expect it.    

On success: Money does not equal success. Status does not equal success. You wanna know what DOES equal success? Happiness. If you love what you are doing and wake up every morning feeling excited about new ideas and possibilities, then you are successful. It doesn't matter how much money you make or how many accomplishments you have under your belt. Doing something that puts a smile on your face is MY definition of success.    

On humanity: You are not perfect. The concept of trying to have it all together is extremely overrated. If you want to go to the grocery store in your Mickey Mouse pajamas, go for it. If you accidentally burp at the dinner table, the universe will not disown you. If you lose your temper, it doesn't mean you're a terrible person. If you have days where you hate yourself, doubt yourself, and conclude that you deserve zero of the good things in your life, it means you're a human being who feels and struggles just like everyone else.

You're not always going to have it all together. You're going to have days where you make mistakes and do things you're not proud of. You're going to hurt, regret, doubt, fear and lose. But the world will always keep spinning.

Do your best. Say you're sorry. Choose goodness. Mess up over and over and over again. Keep going. Take care of yourself. Take care of others. Cry. Complain. Take risks. Be who you are. Do what you want. And embrace your imperfect humanity.

<3 Madison      

Monday, March 11, 2013

Remembering the good

I think everyone has days where they question the good things in their life when the good things aren't going as great as usual.

Maybe you had an upsetting spat with your amazing and supportive significant other.

Maybe the pressure accompanied with your dream job is wearing you down.

Maybe your new baby is driving you insane, and you haven’t adequately slept in weeks.

Maybe your best friend forgot your birthday.

Maybe the renovation to-do list for the adorable little house you just bought seems exhausting and never-ending.

Your brain has a tricky way of making you question things.

“Does my significant other truly love and support me?”

“Do I really want this job? Maybe I should quit...”  

“I was crazy to think I was ready for this new baby. I don’t know how to be a good parent. I’m a failure.”

“Looks like my best friend isn't such a good friend after all. I clearly need better people in my life.”

“I've been working on this new house more than I've been enjoying it. Maybe I should just go back to my previous living arrangements, and leave this to-do list with someone who has more time, energy and enthusiasm." 

So should you really conclude that your significant other doesn't love you, quit your dream job, assume you’re a horrible parent, send your best friend to the corner of shame, or leave your new house behind and go back to your previous living arrangements? Nope. It means you soldier on and remember that you have a good thing in your life even when it sucks sometimes.   

We can’t always expect the good things to be totally good. Realizing this has been sort of life-changing for me. My brain likes to jump to conclusions and try to convince me to run screaming when something doesn't go my way. I used to listen to my brain a lot, and I still do sometimes. But if I were to listen to everything my brain told me, I’d be unhappy and miserable for giving up so many good things just because they weren't good 100% of the time. Every day is a challenge to listen to my heart and my gut instead. Every day is a challenge to peacefully settle into the knowing that everything is unfolding exactly as it should.   

I have a lot of good things in my life right now. I have been so full of happiness, passion, love, creativity and inspiration. I’m excited about where my journey is leading. But along with all that happiness, passion, love, creativity, inspiration and excitement, there have been moments of discouragement, doubt, melancholy, fear and uncertainty.

But am I going to question and/or forget about all the good stuff during those moments? Not this time. And you shouldn't either.

<3 Madison      

Friday, March 1, 2013

Miscellaneous thoughts (Part 3)

~ Things are never really as bad as they seem. When something seemingly stressful or bad happens, it's normal to immediately go into survival or "woe is me" mode. But here's what you need to remember in times like these: You will live, the feelings will pass, some blessings are in disguise, and feeling strongly about something doesn't make you pathetic or weak.

~ You will adapt to change. It may take a few days. It may take a few weeks. It may take a few months. But you will adapt. Give yourself the time to do that.

~ I saw a quote on Pinterest last week (I see a lot of great quotes on Pinterest) that said, "Opportunity is missed by people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." I would like to confess that for a huge majority of my life, I expected that real opportunities were the ones that magically fell into your lap like a giant cosmic sign from the universe---no hard work, no resistance. Just magical blessings to be called "fate" or "destiny." But as I grow up, I'm starting to realize that opportunities aren't always going to fall into your lap, and they aren't always going to be magical---at least not at first. You have to do the work. You have to show up every day. You have to keep working at something and believing in something even when it seems so hard and so overwhelming that you want to crawl under a table. It won't seem hard and overwhelming forever. Someday it will all pay off. Someday it will all make sense. But as long as opportunities aren't coming to you, you have to go to them.

~ It's okay to be yourself. I know that sounds horribly overused and meaningless at this point, but really think about what it means for a second. In what areas of your life are you thinking, "I should want, do, or be _____."? Maybe you think you should want a car. Maybe you think you should do yoga. Maybe you think you should be more outgoing or social. If you don't want a car, don't get a car. If you hate yoga, don't do yoga. If you're quiet and solitary, don't pretend to be outgoing and social. BE YOU.

~ You are not the thoughts your mind makes up. Your mind can be extremely convincing. You should really stop listening to it. Some people say to follow your heart, but take your head with you. While I agree with that to a meager extent, I really don't like listening to my head sometimes. I think I should leave it behind more often and just follow my heart instead.

~ People care about/notice way less than you think they do. Just because you constantly amplify your own flaws doesn't mean that everybody else is doing it too.

~ Power naps are great. Giving yourself permission to take breaks is also great.

~ Don't give up before you've even started.

~ Never make a final decision about something on the same day the idea is planted in your mind. Always sleep on it for a night or two. If you still can't push the idea out of your mind, then you can make a decision. We live in a society where the concept of diving off a cliff without prior contemplation is way too glamorized. And the concept of reflection is way too underrated. So reflect before you dive.

~ Don't forget to love people.

<3 Madison

p.s. Happy March!!! :-)