Beware Abundance

I absolutely love buffets, so I try to avoid them. I am frugal by nature, so when I’m charged a fixed price in an all you can eat situation, I tend to try to get my money’s worth. In other words, I gorge myself. I don’t think I’ve ever left a buffet without feeling slightly sick to my stomach and at least moderately ashamed.

Abundance is not something I’ve experienced very often in my life, so it’s not surprising that I tend to overdo. It brings out the worst in me. I can’t imagine who I’d be if I lived in a constant state of abundance. I suspect that this is why the super rich are, for the most part, despicable human beings. If they exhibit even a shred of decency, they’ve no doubt had to work extremely hard to maintain it.

When you have to work for what you need, you appreciate it much more. When you aren’t completely sure you’ll get what you want, it inspires you to strive toward your goals. Achievements are so much sweeter when you’ve actually had to achieve them.

It’s the struggle that defines us. I don’t think pride is such a bad thing when you’ve seen a hurdle and have managed to clamber over it. Yay, you! Victories are all the more delicious for having been hard-won.

I have much more respect for those who try and don’t always succeed than I do for those who have had everything in their lives handed to them on a platinum patter. For most of us, life is not a buffet. But there’s a certain dignity to being figuratively lean and hungry, all while maintaining your integrity.

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Standing in My Integrity

I once stayed in a 16-year relationship because I didn’t want to hurt the guy’s feelings. Like most women, I’ve been trained since childhood to put everyone ahead of myself. And I’m good at it. Too good.

Some things never change. I came across this article about a school in Utah where the little girls have been instructed that when boys ask them to dance at a school function, they cannot say no. (We wouldn’t want to hurt little boys’ feelings, now would we? Even if it makes the girls uncomfortable in the process.)

I had a visceral reaction to this story. Girls need to learn to say no. They need to know it’s okay to say no. They need to trust their gut instincts. And boys need to learn that no means no.

Without these lessons, you wind up with 53-year-old women like me, who prize integrity above all else, but still tend to sacrifice it to smooth things over. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t ruffle feathers. Keep your opinions to yourself.

It’s really kind of funny. I’m always told I have a strong personality. (Like that’s an insult—and one that’s never directed at men.) People have absolutely no idea what an inner struggle accompanies my ability to speak up.

Speaking up does not come naturally to me. Not at all. When something is bothering me, I generally have to agonize over it for days on end before I can take action. And during that whole process, my stomach is in knots. I lose sleep. I grind my teeth. I rehearse what I want to say over and over again in my head. It’s not a pleasant experience. But I’ve found over the years that not speaking up is even worse.

I’ve been working really hard on standing in my integrity lately. Speaking up more promptly. Agonizing less. Saying, “No, that’s not okay.” Figuring out why doing what feels right to me is such a torturous undertaking.

Integrity should be the place where I reside all the time. It shouldn’t be some thought balloon that I pull along behind me. It should be my natural habitat. And the fact that I was ever trained otherwise is outrageous. That there are still girls in this day and age that are being spoon-fed this crap is disgusting.

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The Danish Girl

I had a very unique, delightful and emotionally fraught experience on my birthday recently. I invited a friend of mine who just happens to be transgender to go with me to see The Danish Girl, a movie about one of the very first people to go through gender reassignment surgery.

First of all, if you deprive yourself of this movie, it will be a tragedy. Not since Doctor Zhivago have I seen such epic cinematography that sweeps you up and places you right in the time and place, in this case Copenhagen, Paris, and Dresden in the late 1920’s. Every single frame of this film is a work of art.

And the costumes are luscious, the color vivid, the music spectacular. And the acting? If this movie doesn’t bring home a boatload of Oscars, especially for Eddie Redmayne, then there is something wrong in the universe.

So now let’s address the elephant in the room: the controversial subject matter. I can’t pretend to understand what it must be like to be transgender. I can’t imagine the struggle for acceptance, the feeling that you’re being forced by society to be someone that you really aren’t and never were, the utter confusion as you try to make it to selfhood despite the resistance of pretty much everyone around you. But this movie helped me imagine it more clearly than ever before.

And then try making this type of transition in the 1920’s, when many women weren’t even allowed to vote. Talk about piling on. It must have felt like trying to embrace being a sub-species. No doubt about it—Lili Elbe was very brave. And I just discovered, thanks to Wikipedia, that she shared my birthday! That makes me proud. While I watched that movie, celebrating my birthday, I was unknowingly celebrating hers, too.

The experience was all the more intense because of the friend sitting next to me. Every tear shed on screen, every physical blow endured, every yearning moment, seemed to be radiating outward from the seat beside me. It made me want to cry. And all I could do was hold her hand. In the face of such brave struggle, that gesture seemed pretty darned pathetic.

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Support Creativity!

What a strange world we live in. We are surrounded by creative people, people with talent that we can only dream about, and for the most part they’re the very people who have to struggle to survive. And that struggle often takes away from their ability to create.

Imagine a world in which creativity were rewarded; a world in which uniquely talented people were given the time and space to produce beauty, and use their imaginations for good causes. Creative people are often the problem solvers of this world, if only we’d get out of their way and allow them to do their thing. We need more people who think outside the box.

Well, you’re in luck! You have an amazing opportunity to support the arts, and it won’t cost you a dime. I have a dear friend named Sean Kagalis, and he’s an incredible folk musician. He’s part of a website called ArtistSignal which has a really interesting setup. You go to the site. You create a password. You vote for your favorite artist. Each month, the artist with the most votes gets $10,000. This month, Sean is currently ranked third, but the month has only just begun! With your help, he could win that 10k, and be able to tour more, and this would do wonders for his career.

You can vote once, or vote once an hour like I’m doing. I just leave his web page up the entire time I’m logged into the internet, and click the vote button whenever it tells me I can again. It only takes a second, and you could really help change a wonderful person’s life. Wouldn’t that feel great? Go here to vote, and to check out his music, too!

Come on, guys. You know I don’t ask you for much. 🙂

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The REAL Sword of Damocles

Most of us are sort of familiar with this Greek story. The sword represents peril. It hangs by a single horse hair over Damocles’ head. All well and good. But the moral of the story is actually that people in positions of power can never rest easy in spite of their luxurious lives. They have too much responsibility and too many things can go wrong.

To that I say boo freakin’ hoo. People in positions of power ask to be there. They work for it. They often lie, cheat and steal for it.

If you really want to know what it’s like to sit beneath the sword of Damocles, try being poor and powerless sometime. Try struggling every single day just to make sure your kids have enough to eat. Try knowing that you’re one flat tire away from losing what little financial cushion you’ve managed to scrape together. Try living under a viaduct and worrying that if you sleep too soundly, one of your fellow homeless people may rob or attack you. Try living with the knowledge that if your boss doesn’t like you, he’ll find a way to make you lose your job, and then you’ll lose everything. That is the real sword of Damocles.

According to Bernie Sanders, half of the people in America have less than $10,000 in their savings accounts. In other words, the majority of the people in this land of supposed  milk and honey will have to work until they drop dead. Retirement is a pure fantasy. I personally would give my left arm to have as much as 10k in my account. I’ve never had it, and probably never will, even though I’ve been working since I was 10 years old.

Okay, rich people, I’m sure you lead stressful lives, too. But you have something the rest of us don’t have: options. So don’t you dare expect me to feel sorry for you.

End of rant.

Try living my life for even two seconds, you pompous gasbag. (Image credit: crooksandliars.com)
Try living my life for even two seconds, you pompous gasbag. (Image credit: crooksandliars.com)

Dammit Robin WIlliams!

Well, the news just broke that we have lost another amazing talent. And it’s quite obvious that the world was unaware of the depth of his suffering. That makes me sad.

Robin Williams was successful, creative, extremely intelligent, talented, funny, and full of life. He was so loved. He had so much going for him. And yet he cut his own life short. We will never know the true nature of his struggles. I hope that he has found peace.

Having said that, I just have to add that suicide pisses me off. It is the most selfish, cruel act that one person can inflict upon those around him. It is heartless, thoughtless and mean. It says, “My suffering is so bad that I’d rather cause you to suffer instead.” And for people like me, who have struggled with low grade depression our entire lives and yet have muddled through, persevered, and kept on living, it’s the ultimate insult. So I’m angry at this man whom I admired so much.

If all those gifts that Robin Williams was given still did not result in happiness, then what does it take? Is there any point in trying to achieve excellence? What are we all working toward? Perhaps we need to shift our focus and reprioritize.

It is just such a waste. SUCH a waste.

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[Image credit: theguardian.com]

I Don’t Want a Jetpack

When I was little, my favorite cartoon was the Jetsons. This fascinating story of a family living way in the future, amongst efficient and complicated gadgets and jet cars always excited my imagination. I was convinced, as were many of my contemporaries, that by the year 2000 we’d all be flying around using jetpacks in a world where the robots would be doing all the work.

I was really looking forward to this future, and at first was rather disappointed that it didn’t come to pass. But in retrospect, I’m rather glad it hasn’t. As much fun as it might be to visit, I wouldn’t want to live in a world that’s so cold and clinical and devoid of nature. The Jetsons lived in a world without trees or water or the random messiness of life that makes it so interesting. It also seems a little devoid of purpose. There’s no real struggle if everything is done for you, and without struggle there’s no growth.

I wouldn’t want to give up camping trips or serendipity or variety for a jetpack. If everything were convenient and easy, what would we talk about? What stories could we tell? What would I blog about?

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