1. I let myself off the hook, when I'm not interested in something. This seems like an obvious concept, but in this life we are constantly bombarded with options for the New and the Better. If you let it, the world is really good at telling you where your interests should lie - and where your time and dollars should go - and shaming you if you deviate. Got a new place? MUST DECORATE. Got a DVR? MUST WATCH HOT NEW SHOW. Care about fitness/beauty? MUST TRY NEW FAD/PRODUCT.
My grocery list looks more or less the same every week. I try a new lipstick color or nail polish once or twice a year. And I don't belong to a gym, or go to any exercise classes. And I'm perfectly happy with my mealtime, cosmetic, and fitness routines. They work, I'm happy with how I look and feel, and they're simple enough to allow me more time for those things that do interest me.
I have a finite amount of time and energy, and I can only do so much with it. So I curate my life with care, filling it with those things that bring me closer to the most authentic and enjoyable version of myself, and avoiding those things that won't. I recognize my limitations, honestly evaluate where my interests lie, and then just let go of anything that doesn't fit.
Right now, I'm into music, festivals, travel, creative self-expression, self-improvement, and spending time with my friends. Those things soak up the lion's share of my mental juice. And I don't beat myself up over not having the time and interest to also "squeeze in" cooking, fashion, beauty, interior design, social media, and technology. Christ, I'm exhausted just thinking about all that stuff.
2. I created the Validation and Closure Sock Puppet. Switching tracks here in a big way, but stay on board. You'll like this quick visit to Crazytown.
When I was in my twenties, my relationship with my father was incredibly difficult. This was partly due to things he'd done, and what do you know, partly due to things I'd done, too. Funny how that works. I can't tell you how often and how hard I banged my head against the wall that was trying to get him to validate my feelings. I wanted him not necessarily to admit to some laundry list of wrongdoings, but to just say he understood where I was coming from. That he recognized and appreciated my viewpoint.
Yeah, that never happened.
It took me a looooong time to accept my parents' fallibility. They're our parents, after all. We grow up thinking they have all the answers. They don't, obvs. They're just as flawed and human. They have egos that bruise just as easily, pride that's just as bitter to swallow. And when I gave up on the mentally exhausting pursuit of trying to reach them through some impossibly narrow window of my own design, I was a lot happier.
Funnily enough, that's a lesson I've had to learn in all my relationships. Particularly when it comes to the closure of ones that are ending. It never ceases to amaze me that, when I tell a friend or lover precisely what I think is wrong with them, that they don't say, "Oh my god, Ellie. You're absolutely right. I was wrong about X, Y, and Z, and your viewpoint is so much more rational than my own. I can't believe I didn't see it that way before!" Stunning, I tell you, the infrequency with which I hear this.
And yet, I still go on fruitless pilgrimages to find that holy grail of external validation. Just as recently as yesterday, I was this close to buckling into my suit of armor and questing after it. Thankfully, I let the moment of anger and hurt work itself out without the added pain of me embarrassing myself. And as I sat there, enjoying the very relieving sensation of feeling my negative energy dissipate, I struck upon an amusing thought: It's just as likely that I'll hear the things I really want to hear from him, if I pin this person down under my interrogation lamp, as it is my own fucking hand will say them to me. And I actually pictured forming a mouth with my hand, looking at it, and asking it my questions. I pictured it responding humbly, chastised, holding its little hand-head down in shame while it said exactly what I wanted it to.
Then I pictured it with a sock on it. And googly eyes.
And that's when I realized how ridiculous it was, this need I had, for his validation. I have to validate myself. I will process my relationships and drawn my own conclusions - my partners will do that same. And if I have some burning need to hear a magical combination of words that will suddenly make it all OK? Then I'll take my goddamn sock off my foot, put it on my hand, and say them to myself.
3. I use social media on MY terms, not the terms it tries to dictate to me. I have a skeleton Facebook account, solely so that I can use Spotify. There's nothing on it besides my name. I can't tell you how much satisfaction I get out of having opted out of the Facebook game years ago. For professional networking, I completely understand it. For personal use, no. No way, no thanks, not for me. I'll take nostalgia and privacy over a "feed" (JUST THE TERM ITSELF, UGH) cluttered with the words and images of hundreds of strangers, all determined to impress me in one way or another.
Twitter is a pool I dip my toes in for my own entertainment. But it hasn't yet lured me into the deep end. I get its appeal as a connector, particularly among people with lots of online friendships. Me? I just like to hear myself crack wise.
And then there's Pinterest. Ah, Pinterest. So many conflicting thoughts I have about you! Love it for travel ideas. Love useful boards about organization and time management. Think it's awesome for foodies and cooks. Pretty much loathe its predominant message of CONSUME THESE MATERIAL GOODS, though. It just didn't ever hook me. Something about it feels so secondary. It's second-tier inspiration. Once removed from the actual source, whether the source is a delicious cake that I could smell and taste, or a book where I could read a brilliant quote in context, or a painting the brush strokes of which I could better appreciate up close. Pinterest, to me, is a sticky web to get stuck in, one where I could spend hours pining wistfully after things I may never have. It feels almost frantic, in scope. You can't have just one board, after all. You must diversify! You must have tangibles and intangibles and wish lists and to-do's and so on.
MUST COLLECT ALL THE THINGS, as Allie Brosh might say.
Again, I am exhausted at the thought.
There's something to be said for unplugging and enjoying what we already have, celebrating what we already do, rather than being on a constant mission to find and name what we lack.