10 Things I Wish They’d Told Me Sooner
June 21, 2012 § 2 Comments
There are all kinds of damaging beliefs we carry – from our childhood, our adulthood, our religious and non religious experiences and our backgrounds. They affect how we think about ourselves as people, as women – as lovers, as partners, as teachers, as career people, as friends. They can make us narrow. They can throw us off course. They can make us unhappy, and misguided.
Here are ten things I wish that someone had told me – much, much sooner. They pertain to more than just women. These are human things.
1. Don’t be afraid to be different, because what you want is different
Feminism personally has given me the confidence to decipher the difference between what is socially expected of me and what I genuinely want for myself. And I’m not saying those two things are always clean cut, there are things that my parents may want for me that are social expectations but that I also feel because they genuinely love me, they want me to be happy and all of that stuff. And so it helps you decipher what is expected of you versus what you do for yourself, or what you want to do for yourself. And also I think that it gives you the confidence to recognise that your value is not based on what attention you get from men or the success of your relationships with men but it’s based on who you are as a person and the things that you want. It’s a question of self determination. Honestly, I always say it’s like this taste of freedom and once you have it you can’t go back. Like now that I know, I’d never settle for someone who isn’t completely comfortable with who I am.
2. Do a lot of things. And make each thing you do reflect the values you want
I think now, people think they should be successful by the time they’re 30, and I just wanted to say to them, you know, have four different professions and many different lovers. It’s okay. …The whole idea is not to figure out what you should do that will matter, but to make each thing you do reflect the values you want. …Because we don’t know what’s going to matter in the future.
3. Stretch out. Don’t curl up. Get big. You’re big.
But then there are nights like last night. When just hearing his name in a movie, or smelling a certain whiskey on my husband’s breath, or tasting a certain Chinese dish, brings it up. And to say “brings it up” is not quite right. “Up” implies levity, and action. What I really mean is Shuts it Down. Everything. When I describe this feeling to my therapist, I make a motion with my hand. I slide my open hand over my eyes, like I’m playing peek-a-boo, except I never raise the hand again and smile. My body detaches from me. All that therapy, all that yoga, all those saintly patient boyfriends go to shit. And there he is, above me. And I am on my back. And I can’t feel a thing.
“I’m sorry I’m so weird,” I often tell my husband on nights like last night. I whisper this, and grow small, the front of my body collapsing in on itself. I bring my knees into my chest, and regress to infant mode. “Stretch out,” he says when this happens. “Don’t curl up. Get big. You’re big.” And then, when I don’t: “It’s okay.”
My man. My guy.
4. Let others walk their own path.
It’s an interesting idea actually: Two strong forces – Love and Control, and how they compete with one another at times. We only ever try and control the ones we love, but by controlling them, we are not truly loving them. We stop being true to THEIR journey. Love and control can never exist in the same space. Unconditional love is letting those you love live and walk their own path; it’s letting them hit rock bottom, as hard as it is to witness, and as difficult as it is to do we have to stay true to what their journey is and simply love them through it. When we try to control, we make it about ourselves; about our desired outcome; about our advice or voice not being taken or heard.
5. Don’t expect disaster.
She can live through it, Miss Taggart, because we do not hold the belief that this earth is a realm of misery where man is doomed to destruction. We do not think that tragedy is our natural fate and we do not live in chronic dread of disaster. We do not expect disaster until we have specific reason to expect it – and when we encounter it, we are free to fight it. It is not happiness, but suffering that we consider unnatural. It is not success, but calamity, that we regard as the abnormal exception of the human life (Ragnar Danneskjold, 696).
6. There are no dating rules.
Dear everyone: You understand that if there was a book that taught people how to not be single there would be no more single people, right? (Involuntarily single people, anyway.) People are not monolithic. You cannot trick people into loving you by treating them like math equations waiting to be solved. It’s dehumanizing. If you want to date a human being you have to treat other human beings like human beings. It’s not that complicated.
Here are the only actual “rules”:
1. Be a person with a life.
2. Respect other people and their lives.
3. Be patient.
4. Don’t be desperate.
That’s really all you can do. And there’s still no guarantee that it’ll work. But at least you won’t be trapped in some loveless marriage, bartering passivity for diamonds for the rest of your life. Okay?
7. You have a “psychological immune system.” You can feel happy even when things don’t go as planned.
8. You should ask for what you want. There is no shame in wanting.
For some ridiculous reason we do not express our wants because we become afraid of appearing too blunt, too aggressive or even too demanding. But why is wanting something considered a bad thing? It isn’t. It is the basic human condition, to want, to desire, to dream. We owe it to ourselves to simply ask.
Most people live their lives in 3 realities:
- Caring WAY too much and being afraid of what people think of us.
- Alternatively, exploding from the restriction of holding our tongues to the point that we don’t care at all.
- Or we form a sea of resentment, and each and every time we negate what it is that we want, or don’t take the time to ask for it, the sea only widens and deepens its bounds.
We should feel no shame in wanting things, and we should have no shame in asking for what we want. How else will people know what to give us if we don’t?
9. Every woman needs a cornfield.
My high school English teacher—I’ll call her Mrs. Jensen—who married at 17, bore her first child at 19, and was a farmwife and mother of four by age 22. When she felt overwhelmed, she’d retreat into a field of tall corn near her house and hide there, listening to her children search for her, until she heard a cry of genuine pain or felt ready to reconnect, whichever came first.
“Martha,” Mrs. Jensen told me, “every woman needs a cornfield. No matter what’s happening in your life, find yourself a cornfield and hide there whenever you need to.”
10. You don’t have to be good.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.