Where You Work is Unimportant
Today I was talking with a friend about where she works. She has worked there for a very long time and she feels like she can't leave, though there are days that she wants to. I asked her what it was about her job, and she said that she basically likes what she does, but that some of the people are difficult to deal with, and it makes her want to find a better place.
I had to lay the truth on her as quickly as possible: There are difficult people everywhere. You will never escape them. Most likely, when you go to your next job, you will find the same kind of difficult people. Why? Because these are the types of people who bother YOU. These people who seem random and chaotic are not. They are there to help you be better. They are there to help you be stronger. They are there so you can let go of whatever it is about them that bothers you.
Though it might be hard to believe, this is where the magic happens. This is where you can improve your whole life by simply viewing these people as an opportunity, not a burden. There will always be someone at work who bothers you. It might be one, two, three, it might be an entire gaggle of people who bother you. But no matter what they are doing, the problem is yours.
I have had these people problems everywhere I go. I very recently figured out that all I had to do is remove my reaction to their behavior and the problem vanished. Like a flash, I saw in a specific person all the other people in every other job that had tortured me in one way or another, and I realized that I had been giving these people the power. I realized that all I had to do was let them be, to be okay with what they were doing, and I would be free. The challenge came when I realized that most of these people bothered me because they were treating me in the same way I sometimes treat myself and others. they bother me because they remind me of ME.
I realized that in order to be okay, I had to be okay with me. I had to accept my darkness, my bad side, my hypocrite. Not only accept it but embrace it. That is some very challenging shit to wade through, but when you do, and you come out on the other side, you enjoy your work more. You have more confidence. You understand that on a very basic level, you cannot be swayed.
I realized something that I will carry with me for as long as I work and live among people.
I just have to see the storm, I don't have to be the storm.
I can stand outside and observe, but the moment I try to correct the storm, or argue with it, I become a part of it, and I start to lose myself. I become, quite easily, what I believe I hate, thereby confirming my bad feelings about this person in the first place. It is so ironic it is almost painful.
But to stand outside and observe? To make note of what is happening and not engage? That is freedom. That is power. When you cannot be swayed by perceived threat or danger, you have liberated yourself from your own demons. Give it a shot. Try it with one person who bothers you. Figure out how you can let that go and see how your life changes.
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The Chip On Your Shoulder
For a very long time, I had a problem with men. I blamed them for everything that went wrong for me professionally. My problem started when I was in art school. I think I was 26. I looked around at my professional and educational environments and realized, aghast, that there really was an old boys club, it very often did dictate the way things would go, and I really was powerless to stop it.
But I took this problem to such a level that it made me angry. It made me ugly. I was hateful. I very often made things harder on myself because of my distrust of and grudge against men. And not just the men who were active in The Old Boys Club, I would immediately distrust any man who was middle aged and white. It was ridiculous. In being angry about it, I was giving the situation and the issue and people who I thought were responsible, more power. I had altered my personality with my anger.
I was known as Angry Sara. I even started a blog which railed against FWGs (Fucking White Guys). I told you, I was ugly. It is such an embarrassing thing to me now, that I behaved so spitefully, that I carried around so much anger by choice, and I really didn't have to. It made my life so hard.
It was not until I turned 40 that I realized, with the help of a good friend, that I had to stop. In that moment I realized what I had been doing to my life, to my body, to my spirit. I had been crushing it. I had been taking an external experience and internalizing it so that it created a world outside of myself that confirmed my deepest fears and anxieties. Every time a man even looked at me sideways, I was relegating him to The Old Boys Club. I had taken a few isolated experiences and completely skewed my perspective with them. The chip on my shoulder was so large, it was weighing down my entire life.
How did I get over it? As with everything in life, recognizing and admitting the problem was a huge first step. After that, it was a lot of energy work, a lot of yoga, and a lot of looking at myself to see how I had been doing the same things to myself that I was accusing these men of doing. Was I not asking for what I saw myself as worthy of? Yes. Did I sometimes sabotage my best efforts at work? Yes. Did I on occasion throw myself under the bus? Absolutely. Did I accept bad treatment without protest? Yes. I began to see that the problem was not them, the problem, as hard as it was to admit, was me.
I was for such a long time looking externally for blame that I was excusing accountability in myself. It kept me from growing. It kept me from developing. It kept me from myself. I had to grieve for the years I lost to this pattern of behavior. I had to own up to that it was not in fact, everyone else, it was me. But I did it. I turned it around. It has been incredibly tough. I still work on it all the time, but I am better, and I have proof.
The other day, after a particularly rough several weeks at work, my boss asked me if I had had difficulties at other jobs because I am small and I am a woman. I have to tell you, when he asked me, it felt like I could breathe. I could talk about it with him, whereas before, I had not allowed myself. I thanked him for asking me, told him that yes, that had been my experience in the past, but I did not want to mention it because I didn't want to carry that chip on my shoulder. His response was like the pealing of church bells: "You don't seem to have a chip on your shoulder about this at all."
That is what victory sounds like. When you know you have conquered something that for so long (14 years to be exact), held you back. That the things that are actually going on outside of you don't control you on the inside. Over the last several weeks at work, though they were rough, I lost no sleep. I was upset for maybe a day or two. I did not carry it with me so that it affected other parts of my life. I could deal with this problem at work and not let it infuse its bullshit into the rest of my life, which is really quite wonderful.
I have no chip on my shoulder about this now. I am free from the cage I had built around myself. And you know what else? When this type of thing happens now, it doesn't in any way control me. It is a reminder of the person I used to be. The person who used to allow others' behavior to dictate her worth in the world. The person whose anger surrounding bad treatment turned her into the person she most feared she was.
So, if you have a chip on your shoulder, about anything, consider what it might take to shake it off. It might take weeks or years, but in the end you will be free. You will no longer limit yourself with your emotions or anxieties. Wondering if you have a chip? Ask yourself what stories you tell yourself about others, then ask if that is true of yourself. Your answer just might surprise you.
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Sex is Like Potato Chips?
Heard this one before, huh? I was discussing this the other day with a certain friend of mine, and we just so happened to be eating chips. We both love chips. We both love sex. It felt logical.
Since then, I have re-considered. Sex is nothing like potato chips. When I eat a chip, I am satisfying my appetite. It is a simple physical function. My mouth waters for more, then I might eat something sweet with it, then back to the salty chips, then maybe something to drink. It is pretty simple.
When I have sex, (and I am the first one to admit that I have an appetite), I am generous and giving. I open myself and become vulnerable. Emotionally, energetically, spiritually, physically, I am awake. I am not simply consuming another. It is not the satisfying of an urge as much as it is an expression and a conversation.
But while it seems quite easy to talk about chips, we still can't talk about sex, as vital as it is. Try talking about sex as if it is just a normal part of life and people get uncomfortable. If you are a woman and you are openly sexual, you are shamed. Sometimes overtly, sometimes not, but there is a judgement that comes to women who are open sexually. The most acceptable way for men to talk about sex is by way of bragging. It ends up being about exploitation.
Then we have the food comparisons:
The wonderful reality is that sex is like nothing else. Sex is not just an act, it is an exploration, a way to go deeper into yourself and share that bit of spectacular with another, as well as be a witness to and appreciator of their special kind of spectacular. Sex is powerful enough to change your mood, your day, your life. When was the last time a potato chip did that for you? It is time to stop marginalizing actual sex and put it in the spotlight where it belongs.
When we treat sex as if it were an urge or an appetite, we lose. We lose ourselves, we lose each other, and we lose the ability to achieve our true potential.
I have lots of friends with whom I can talk about potato chips. We can go on for days and days about what we like. But sex? I know few people with whom I can speak openly and honestly about this topic. It is time to start talking about sex.
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Dating is Like James Cagney
I have taken on a new belief system about dating that uses James Cagney as a metaphor. James Cagney was an incredibly versatile actor in the early-ish twentieth century, and great. Stupendous in every role that he played. Those roles were often contradictory, much like dating can be. I will lay it out.
At one point today, there was a man whom I had recently shared certain intimacies with, texting me and telling me that I had abandoned him. He spelled out, in no uncertain terms, how awful of a person I am, how cold I am, and how my karma is going to catch up with me. He sent me roughly fifteen messages letting me know how badly I treated him. Of course, I could not help but think that he in fact was my karma catching up with me, and that I might want to cool it with the whole dating thing for a while. I happened to mention this story to an ex. He responded by telling me that at the time of our break up, he had also felt abandoned. To top that, earlier in the week he had compared dating me to trying to care for a pet tiger.
I have had a lot of James Cagney as a gangster. The guy who does the wrong thing every time. The guy who is out for blood no matter what the consequences. It tires me. It wears me out. But I keep on going. I keep gutting it out. Why?
Because the Yankee Doodle Dandy James Cagney is such a delight. He lifts my spirits and my heart. He lets me know there is something out there worth holding out for. That is the dating life that I want. That is dating and relationships at their finest; light on their feet, lovely, and wonderful.
Yes, there are some times when you absolutely positively have to kill every motherfucker in the room. But those brutal and awful times are worth it when you finally get to dance on the table.
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