How dare you?

Recently, someone I know spent a great deal of time trying to talk a friend out of getting a divorce. She was convinced that this divorce would be the worst possible thing her friend could do. She applied a lot of pressure and created a ton of doubt. The jury is still out as to whether she changed her friend’s mind.

But the whole time this was going on, I was thinking, “How dare you?”

First of all, you have no idea what goes on behind closed doors in any relationship. And it’s not for you to decide how someone else is to live life. Even if what that person is doing seems like a monumental mistake, it could be the catalyst that brings on greater things for him or her in the future. At the very least, the experience may be an important life lesson. The choices one makes are what shape that individual. You don’t have the right to determine someone else’s shape.

In my opinion, the only time you should try to intervene in another person’s decision-making process is when that person is contemplating suicide. Because that’s the one choice in life from which one cannot turn back. Give your opinion about other things if asked, yes. But don’t get all definitive unless someone is about to step off a cliff.

I came by this belief the hard way. Once, I was in a relationship that was making my life so miserable that I decided it was time to move on. I had all my stuff packed. I had decided what to say. I was ready.

And then I made the mistake of telling my oldest sister. And she screamed at me. Because she liked the guy.

At the time, my self esteem was so low that that was all the discouragement I needed. Maybe she was right. Maybe this was a huge mistake. I mean, he was a nice guy. A great guy. Was it his fault that he left me feeling unfulfilled and alone? Was it his fault that I felt as though we had no common goals, that we were working toward nothing, and that our future would forever be exactly the same as our dreary present? Was it his fault that I felt more like his mother than his partner? It’s not like he beat me or cheated on me. What were the odds that I’d wind up with anyone better?

And so, with tears in my eyes, I unpacked. And he never knew. And we stayed together for another 12 long, miserable, unsatisfying years. What a waste. What an unbelievable waste. For both of us, because he certainly deserved more, too. It’s one of my biggest regrets.

Discouragement is an interesting word, when you think about it. It basically means that you are taking away someone’s courage. No one has a right to do that. Ever.


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Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

I am so grateful for all that Fred Rogers did for me.

Several years ago, I wrote about the fact that Fred Rogers was really the only father figure I ever knew. That post was entitled, “Fred Rogers Was My Father”, and I really meant it. I genuinely believe I wouldn’t have made it to adulthood without Mr. Rogers and his neighborhood.

Recently I went to see a documentary that’s in some theaters called Won’t You Be My Neighbor? I learned even more about this amazing man and what a positive impact he had on the world. He spoke to children about the Vietnam war, and about the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, and about 9/11. He explained divorce and death to us. And most of all, he talked about kindness and decency and the fact that we’re all okay just the way we are. He made us feel safe. That’s all most kids really need, isn’t it?

I’m so glad that he wasn’t alive in 2007 when conservatives tried to blame him for an entire generation’s sense of entitlement. They claimed that because Mr. Rogers told children that they were special, they grew up to be lazy and didn’t feel like they had to work for their achievements. I was outraged. Many people were.

What’s next? Drop kicking puppies into active volcanoes? I mean, seriously. What were they really saying? That it would be better to tell kids that they were worthless, and that they need to man up? Here was a man that gave millions of people the self-esteem to rise up from their dysfunctional circumstances and have emotionally healthy, productive lives, and Fox News and their ilk were attacking that legacy. It was disgusting.

I highly recommend that you see that movie. The most poignant part, for me, was when they showed a clip of Mr. Rogers, as Daniel the tiger, wondering if he was a mistake, and Lady Aberlin reassuring him that he most definitely was not. That really resonated with me as a child. It still does, if I’m honest. The man was a saint.

When the lights went up in the theater, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. And when I got to my car, I really let loose. I am just so grateful for all that Fred Rogers did for me. He knew me so well, without even meeting me. And I needed that. So very much.

Fred Rogers

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The Imposter Experience

My whole life, I’ve been waiting to be found out. Not discovered, like some pretty girl sitting at a soda fountain in Los Angeles, destined for stardom. No. Found out. Exposed for the imposter that I am.

I expect to be grabbed by the elbow. “You don’t belong here! How did you get here? Get back to the service entrance, wench!” “You don’t really fit in those clothes, that house, that job, that relationship, that car!” “You can’t have good things!” “That achievement? It’s a mistake.” “You are a fake, a phony.” “You are not worthy.” “Sure, they love you now, but only because they have no idea how flawed you really are.” “Just you wait. It’ll all turn to shit sooner or later.”

If any of that sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone. It seems that 70 percent of us have the imposter experience at some point in our lives. Note that I’m not calling it Imposter Syndrome, as many people do. It’s not a mental illness. It’s not some flaw in your brain chemistry. You are not broken. We are not broken.

Yes, an attitude adjustment wouldn’t hurt. Habits may need to be changed. Chances are you learned this negativity at your parents’ knees. Talking about it helps.

The more we realize how common this thought process is, the easier it is to realize that its these thoughts that are the imposters, not you. Not us.

Don’t let these ideas fester. Don’t let them hold you back. Don’t allow them to stop you from trying. That way lies stress, anxiety, and depression.

Let yourself feel your success. Don’t just dwell on the failures as if they merit more of your time. Write down the compliments, not the insults. Allow yourself new experiences.

In case no one has ever told you: You deserve all the things. You deserve them as much as anyone else does. You belong here, too.

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Shame, in Retrospect

I know a few people who are embarrassed about the way they lived in the past. Conservatives who once were hippies (Personally, I don’t see the shame in being a hippy, but to each his own), peace activists who served in times of war, survivors of multiple marriages, former cult members who have since come to their senses… all have decided that they have reason to squirm when people ask them their story.

Hearing this always makes me feel profoundly sad. First of all, even if you feel you made mistakes years ago, the fact is that you’re a product of your mistakes as well as your triumphs. You wouldn’t be who you are today if not for all your past experiences, so even if they might make you uncomfortable, they still have value.

Second, by not being open and honest about your past history, you are missing out on some valuable teaching moments. I have learned a lot of wonderful life lessons by hearing people’s stories. “Well, I’ll never do that,” is a valid and worthy conclusion to draw. (So is, “Man, you used to be so cool! What happened?”)

How wonderful to learn from a mistake that you yourself don’t have to expend the energy to make! Even more wonderful to learn by example that you can change and evolve into something you never would have anticipated.

So if you feel you’ve erred, make amends if you can, serve your time if you must, and turn yourself in if justice needs doing, but don’t waste time with regrets. Don’t go through life wearing a cone of shame. Own it. Share it with others. That’s the best way to give your life significance.


Give Me a Break. Please.

Recently I met a new artist in the virtual world of Second Life. He is amazingly talented but lacks confidence. He’s desperate to break into the art scene, but doesn’t know how to promote himself. I remember what that’s like. When I first started making fractals, I was so inexperienced I was afraid to show them to anyone. (And frankly I should have been. Looking at my early work makes me cringe.) Then I met my friend Bau, who took a chance on me.

Before I knew it I had a display in a gallery. I was so excited. I was so nervous. I was so proud of myself. Bau had to teach me how to display my work and set it up for sale. I was that green.

Since then my confidence has gown and I’ve shown my work in dozens of virtual galleries. I also have a (woefully out of date) website, and I sell my work in the real world in the form of posters, mugs, greeting cards, ornaments, ties and puzzles on zazzle.com.

None of that would have happened without Bau giving me my first break, and I’ve never forgotten that. Since then, I’ve done the best I could to pay it forward by helping a few artists get their start, and as soon as I met this guy and discovered how talented he was, I knew I’d like to help him.

To make a long story short, I got the most amazing and influential artist in all of Second Life to check out his work. This was no mean feat. It took me years to get a display in her gallery. I didn’t really feel like a successful artist in Second Life until I got a display there.

Well, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink, as the saying goes. This guy was so rude to my friend that I was mortified. So here I handed him an opportunity on a silver platter, and he handed me back the platter with poo poo all over it. I have to admit it. I went off on him. I mean, I really lost it.

I don’t take these types of things lightly. If my trust with that gallery is broken, the next time I want to help an artist, she might hesitate. And that’s SO unfair for the next person.

The next day I get an e-mail from this guy saying, among other things, that I needed to apologize to him, that I’m a harsh and angry person, I’m crazy, and I need to check my ego.


I hate being misunderstood. I hate doing an over-the-top amazingly wonderful thing and then getting hostility in return. I stewed on it for a day, and realized that OF COURSE he’d think I’m a harsh and angry person, because I was, indeed, harsh and angry with him, and since the world apparently revolves around him, he naturally must think that this incident was a demonstration of my overall demeanor despite all my previous kindness.

But you know what I hate the most? Seeing such an amazing opportunity go to waste. I’m on the ragged edge, financially and emotionally and spiritually, so I would LOVE to get a break like this, especially if it were related to employment, housing or romance. It could be the difference between my keeping a roof over my head or sleeping in my car, the difference between a life filled with love or a lifetime of loneliness. So if anyone were to give me a chance right now, even one tiny little break, I’d grab it with both hands and run with it, and I’d be grateful for life.

So that guy will be waiting an awfully long time for an apology from this harsh, angry person. And it turns out he’s decided to not display in any gallery, proving that if things don’t go your way, you should take your marbles and run home like a little girl.

Come on. Give me a break.


Even this cat knows the guy screwed up.

[Image credit: disruptingdinnerparties.com]