a softening

soft stuff som

Lately, there isn’t much to talk about except my business. So my apologies for going full-on Capricorn here.

Last week, what looked like more work coming my way was the complete opposite. What was great about this was that last week, I found this group of writers and found a lot of support and advice for my client quandary.

The advice went along with my gut feelings: it’s time to move on.

Including with that situation, I’ve taken two other leaps of faith–joining another writing platform and a mastermind group.

Investing in my business while it seems everything else is going to shit–it’s scary, but it’s necessary.

One message that has been showing up over and over, in my own daily tarot readings that I post on twitter and just in things I’ve read–it’s being true to myself.

Currently, that message seems to be about knowing my worth–and not compromising to get it.

And that can be extremely hard to form when circumstances are trying to shape your own self-concept. And the past few months have been an invitation to push back on those circumstantial messages.


I said this in my monthly post for my $10+/month patrons on Patreon, and elsewhere here on this blog–that if circumstances aren’t shifting, there’s something greater being worked.

The past couple of weeks have been particularly rough, mainly because other work that I thought was coming through this month didn’t come. A client decided that the work available was below my rate and not worth my time or money. Then I did a maybe unnecessary backbend to do the work. But I wanted to make sure that it wouldn’t be a precedent for my rates.

Summertime is slow, and I wanted to help us both out.

But the work had already been assigned. Oof. I could have used that work! And I was using that promise of work as a way to stop myself from freaking out. Now it seemed like my freakout was warranted.

I have been spending my time prospecting, but that process probably needs refinement–just because the results suck. Maybe my expectations are way too high.

It’s also a process that requires, upfront, a lot of time and effort. It also takes time for my efforts to show any fruition.

And I don’t feel like I have any time left. And trying to effectively communicate that frustration with time, and the lack of it, was really hard to do last week.


Last week, I had a conversation with my biz coach which made me feel misunderstood.

If you haven’t gotten a sense of who I am already, I’ll just tell you that I am an emotionally intense person. I’ve come into acceptance that this is who I am, for better and for worse.

I’ve known this coach for a few weeks, but I’m starting to get the sense that because they are from the coaching realm, they are also in the realm of performative positivity. I can’t really express the darker sides of owning a business without popping back up and being positive about it.

I felt judged. And I felt like I needed to hide this large part of myself in the future.

Yet there’s no time to hide who I am, either. It’s a conundrum. I do think intimacy requires trust, and there are levels. From that conversation, I learned that she wasn’t properly prepared to deal with my emotions–which aren’t freak or strange. It is par for the course to be emotional about your work as a business owner.

I’m grateful for their presence in their life, but that convo requires a boundary and opacity adjustment.

And thankfully, I’ve found others who can take on those weary woes and provide support and tips on changing my mindset without excusing the rather stark circumstances I’m in.


And those circumstances…last week, with all the disappointment and with feeling unseen, but also finding great support at the same time…I’ve had to accept that even though I’m doing the best I can, things still aren’t going my way, like psychology Rick Hanson talks about accepting difficulty.

But these undone things are not who I am.

I didn’t know that I took a certain deep pride in being able to take care of myself. And, I still am taking care. It just involves me putting out more fires, quelling the insistent voices that want things from me.

I’ve talked about how humbling it’s been for the past six years to live here in Florida. But last week, I really felt like I had been made low.

I’ve never been this pathetic in my life.

I asked for a lot of help in grad school, with many mostly unsuccessful fundraisers–and I got over my pride with that. Grad school was and has been impoverishing–although I have no regrets.

It’s more that I have always felt above all of this happening to me.

Being this helpless happens to other people, but not to me.

But no–this has happened to me, over and over. Four years ago this month was when I became homeless and was wandering around the city for a month, and finally the trauma of that manifested into high anxiety, sadness, and shame last week.

I don’t know if you could call it PTSD, but I could call it a very painful reminder of how precariously placed I feel.

I have never really had time to process that. For a while, my mom was wiring me money so I could be in Airbnb every few days until a couple I went to church with decided to let me stay with them for a month.

That charity came at a cost, though–they basically pushed me into an abusive situation with a fellow church member.

And then I ended up here–in stable housing on going on four years. I never thought this would be an accomplishment, but it is.

And not to be super dramatic, but I’m trapped here without a car (but thank goodness for Lyft). So that means no real social interaction offline, or even a chance to say–screw freelancing, I’m going back to work.

I really am doing the best I can, even if I don’t like the results. And that’s especially tough to swallow during Virgo season, that wants to find the best or most efficient way to do things.

But then those expectations, for the best, start to be almost unattainable…


As someone who is entirely too hard on herself, I have to remind myself that I don’t live in a vacuum, that even if my mindset is jacked up on doom, the environment I live in–my house, my city, my state, and my country–all play a key role in how I can see opportunities from the challenges I face.

In particular, how we see individuals with money vs. how we see corporations with money are entirely different. Corporations are officially seen as people thanks to our kinda screwy SCOTUS, but they aren’t seen as morally corruptible like people are.

If you’re broke in America, then it’s your fault. You’re lazy, unproductive, and spend your money on the wrong things. It doesn’t matter if you’re paying taxes into a system that isn’t completely serving you (and a lot of this depends on the state you reside in). You’re just not working hard enough.

But if you’re a corporation who gets a myriad of tax breaks from the state and federal government, hide money in offshore bank accounts, pay workers poorly while give C-Suite executives golden parachutes, then you’re serving your stakeholders. Good job!

In America, poverty and debt are moral failings, even if the game has been rigged in your favor or against you.

So with that in mind, how can I keep beating myself up for doing my darnedest to support myself?

Something has to give here. And something has.


There’s a softening that’s happening inside of me and towards myself.

It’s not even that I have high expectations of myself (I still do). It’s that I can’t even clear a bar of self-sufficiency right now.

And in Capricorn terms, that makes me feel pretty useless especially to myself. And that’s even without capitalism incessantly whispering lies in my ear that I’m not productive, or valuable, enough.

So who is this person emerging…the one who can’t pay all her bills, the one who struggles and sees lights of hope flicker on and off on the horizon?

Going even deeper–I thought I had overcome my perfectionism, a perfectionism so deep and layered, it was a part of my everyday life.

So OK: I wasn’t publicly crying over test grades in junior high (this only happened once but you know how bad it must be for a double Capricorn to cry in public).

In high school, I gave up trying to be perfect scholastically in general because I knew others would excel despite my best efforts.

In college, I learned to compete with myself because again–someone would always be smarter

I’m doing good enough and it’s still great! Hallelujah!

I really thought that my adult life didn’t involve the crippling perfectionism. But here it was, still wrapped around me like a kudzu vine.

But I still was used to having all the right answers for everything. And that goes back to wanting to feel useful.

Even still–that’s a lot of pressure to put on someone, to put on myself, even if money is tight and I’ve been used to being great at everything.

Don’t I deserve some grace? Some understanding? Some love? A break? Wouldn’t I offer the same to someone who is in my shoes?

Even within my work this summer, I’ve noticed places where I was missing the mark. It felt foreign–to miss things, to be wrong. And of course, stress is probably adding to it, but I’m so used to not missing the mark.

I’ve performed under immense pressure for most of my life and it not affect my work. And this year, that era is ending. I can feel how fragile and susceptible I am.

Whether it’s a cumulative effect of being in survival mode, or just a place in my life that is calling me to identify with inner riches…I can’t keep doing things the way I’ve done for the past 40 years.

Maybe my whole life is a coping mechanism…


There’s so many trite things I can say about learning from mistakes, but one thing I’ve missed from being “so above it all,” was the freedom to be a fully human being.

Again, it’s hard for me to separate myself from the world I live in. If you’re not a rich, straight cis white man, the freedom to be fully human becomes limited. And maybe this is something I picked up on as a kid and internalized.

But even within restrictive cultures, within restricted finances, within restricted spaces…there’s still space to free myself from the expectations that I have to have it all together.

I’m trying to use (maybe too many) words to talk about how this softening is happening. I started to notice it in the past couple of days. I don’t know how to explain it, but I do feel like a different person.

I’m not as interested in surface-level hierarchies of how we view people, of who’s better, smarter, more affluent, more connected. And a lot of times, these are Capricorn concerns…as we climb the mountains of life.

It’s not just that we want praise or recognition. Capricorns want security.

But as my rubric for success continues to change, my rubric for security has to change, too.

There’s a lot falling into arrears, falling away, and I don’t have enough emotional bandwidth to hold it all.

I am not my past due bills. I am not my lack of transportation. I am not my dreams deferred or dashed. I am not the countless rejections and heartaches I’ve received and endured. I am not even the loneliness that I’ve become used to.

I am not all the things I lack.

And I try to think about the other freelancers and solopreneurs that are struggling just like I am right now, on the brink of a new life.

I’m not alone in this.

I’m not alone not only in this business struggle, but just in life in general. When I write these words, I wonder if someone has ever felt these things before, before I was born, before this century or millennium, even before we had words…

I may have a unique life, but I know this isn’t a novel feeling–of inadequacy and soul exhaustion, but continuing on anyway, knowing that circumstances are temporary.

Can I tap into the history of humanity, or even to the consciousness right now, and feel that this isn’t new? That there are others right now, just as human as me, trying their best, failing, and continuing to try, and trying not to take this on as a moral failing…but as a sign that they’re trying?


In the ashes of my hopes and expectations, I stand…looking for places to be grateful.

I work towards being more grateful, because I don’t want to be covered in bitter ashes forever

Gratitude is not a feeling, but a daily practice.

I am grateful right now that I’m not homeless. I am grateful that 22 years ago this month, when I was supposed to go to college and my father’s paranoia prevented me–that I was able to go to the following year and finally finish.

I am grateful that for now, my phone is still on. I am grateful that if and when it turns off, I’ll be eventually to turn it back on.

I am grateful that I will be paid for work later on this month. I am grateful that I’m creating space for better clients to come along.

I am grateful for the little personal pizza that I’ll be heating up in a few minutes for lunch and that I don’t have to eat ramen again (as much as I love it).

I am grateful for all these lessons that have introduced me to someone who could be more unfettered…someone who isn’t all exact angles…someone who can carry greater compassion for herself, and in turn greater compassion for others.

I am grateful that I can keep writing about the same thing over and over and glean more wisdom and grace for myself…and that people like you continue to keep reading.

I am grateful that I’m learning that I am not the things that happen to me. I’m something far more weighty and valuable.

I am a fallible human being, worthy of love, grace, and compassion.

I am person who keeps trying.

If you liked what you’ve read, I’d love your support as a patron on Patreon. Tiers starts at just $1/month. I blog about things that I don’t post here.

If you want to give a one-time gift or monthly gift, hit me up on Paypal.

Thanks for your support! 💘

 

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true success

miguel-bruna-704166-unsplash

Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

I had my weekly coaching session with my business coach yesterday, and it was a humbling experience because I felt like I had run out of runway to take my life in the direction that I have wanted to for so long.

My writing business has taken a while to recover from losing an anchor client back in April. So for going on five months now, I’ve been trying my best to get a new one. Technically, this anchor client would be my coach: we barter writing services for coaching services.

But I have tunnel vision–no, myopia, about this goal.

And that’s a typical Capricorn–get that money!

But I am miserable.

And it’s not just because of limited funds. It’s that life has become about this one thing, and the rest of me is resisting–and rightfully so.

my precious

Last week, my coach and I talked about scheduling my time better (something that came up around this time last year). And I didn’t do anything about it last week because somehow time got away from me. 🙄

I dealt with the pressure of time pretty well last year. I was having these low-key panic attacks over writing, waiting until the last minute to get things done. I sought out an astrologer, we worked on those issues, and then I had more structure.

But then I slowly got out of the habit of having structured time to do the things I want and need to do.

Being so driven for one thing has made me dull. What am I outside of this one goal, outside of what is, or isn’t in my bank account?

I’ve quoted Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club before, but this quote really reminds me of what I am.

You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis. You are all singing, all dancing crap of the world.

This individuation from old coping mechanisms–chiefly delaying gratification to the point that I never get any when tasks are done–it’s painful, but it’s also one that makes me laugh because this is when I feel like the all singing, all dancing crap of the world.

Coping mechanisms work until they don’t. I’m not sure how long I’ve been running on fumes, but I’ve reached the point that effort alone isn’t enough. Working hard isn’t getting me anywhere because I feel terrible and self-defeated about it. It’s an inescapable ouroboros of misery, a leminscate of terror.

When I reach out to people about business opportunities, it almost feels like I am tossing coins in a fountain, just wishing for something to come back. But I’m putting in much more effort and intention in every email and contact request I make.

Why can’t I give myself any credit for that skillful effort?

Sure, I can rewind back to how my parents were hypercritical of me, how they rarely gave me praise for any good I did. Their brittle view of their little girl and firstborn was one that already interfaced with my unyielding, intense, and, at times, cruel way I looked at myself.

Yet my “inner mean girl” never seems to be hurling insults and epithets at me–well, not that often. It’s more that she withholds any credit, any praise, any celebration of success. If I do celebrate, it seems stupid because it’s not the big win. That’s all that matters to me.

And what an empty life that is. It’s not self-discipline. It’s self-deprivation.

No carrots, just sticks.

Business is actually picking up, but I am acting like I’m going to go through my own personal recession again. The fear keeps me on this treadmill of terror. I keep running, running, running…and getting nowhere. I’m lost in a labyrinth of longing and loss.

I’m just tired, sweaty, and sore–and for all the wrong reasons.

And to my credit–having a successful business isn’t for some deep personal reason. I’m still doing this because there aren’t any other options right now. This is it. This is about survival. I am committed, whether I want to be or not–but I want to be.

What’s interesting about all this, too–this is all happening in the background. It’s subliminal messaging I’ve given myself probably for my whole life. It worked for a while, being this driven and merciless to myself.

But not anymore.

My coach asked me what success looks like–without this big win that I’m obsessed with.

It was laughable but ultimately sad because I didn’t think I was that successful.

My coach pressed back with questions: well, what about finishing your client work on time? What about following up on emails from prospective clients? How many people did you reach out to last week?

The problem is a lot of what I do just ends up disappearing into the ether of time. I don’t keep track. They are just tasks or events that occur, and I move onto the next.

I can only seem to congratulate myself for tough wins, like when I finished this project over the weekend that seemed to be mired in doubt and confusion from the client. So I just decided to finish it and hope for the best.

The client accepted the work and gave me a 5-star review. And here’s the GIF I used to celebrate:

YES

I celebrated that win on Twitter today, but according to my coach, I should be celebrating much more often.

And back to how I grew up–we didn’t really celebrate much of anything, not even my birthday after a while.

But I am tired of feeling like life is a slog when it comes to my everyday life. If life is about the journey, not the destination, then it’s time to start acting like that. It’s time to start embracing the bulk of my life.

So my homework for this week is to schedule my time so I can start doing more of the other things I love–like tarot and astrology professional development, writing professional development, and journal about my work day.

Astrologically, I realized today that there’s a lot of restructuring (Saturn) and healing (Chiron) that has been going on in my life for the past few months. It’s uncomfortable, painful, and even embarrassing sometimes.

A lot of old hurts and wounds are being drawn to the surface for healing. But the timing isn’t quite right yet. But that’s OK. Healing is still in progress.

What’s funny is that so many times as I’ve been working to get to a place of OK to better, I always think–now the real healing is going to begin. I’ve finally arrived! But there are always layers, layers which have served as protection for a battered and weary heart.

The healing journey is never-ending, but it does get easier, because eventually there are less layers, even if we accumulate new hurts and wounds along the way. And also–we accumulate wisdom and other therapeutic tools to keep us safe and to help us heal more quickly.

This time, I’ll say again that this seems like I’m in the inner chambers of all that I’ve endured and what’s befallen me…and letting the weight of all the years just all fall off of me. I wish it was some dramatic reveal, like a slinky evening gown that I could shrug off.

And that’s because I’m impatient. And rightfully so. It’s been a constricting time–not only by circumstances, but my own almost grandiose ambitions and expectations I have for myself.

I hate to glorify suffering, but I can at least see some semblance of sanity woven through the last six years of my life. It’s like what I said last time, how my heart has expanded with empathy. I feel so much more connected to my fellow human beings because I’ve been so much closer to my dusty existence than the loftier life of the mind.

I didn’t have to choose that empathy, though. And I didn’t all the time. Sometimes I chose bitterness and entitlement–and sometimes I felt those choices were unavoidable and inevitable. Even still–choice or no choice–I want to choose differently now.

And failing over and over, but still rebounding and trying again after each failure–sure, that’s part of my journey as a double Capricorn, trudging up and sometimes falling down the mountain. But so is triumph, the mountaintop view.

That brings me back to what I believe success is. It’s not the just the glittery, glorious triumphs, the accolades, the praise and the parades.

It’s the gritty rebound.

It’s picking yourself up out of the mud and trying again. It’s letting people help you get up again. It’s helping others get up and keep going.

So it brings tears to my eyes to admit this to myself for the first time: my time in Florida has been extremely successful, that my life is a glittering, glorious success.

It’s time to feel good, and proud, about that.

feel good SOM

If you liked what you’ve read, I’d love your support as a patron on Patreon. Tiers starts at just $1/month. I blog about things that I don’t post here.

If you want to give a one-time gift or monthly gift, hit me up on Paypal.

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friends for all seasons

friendship ali SOMThis dovetails a bit from the last blog post I’ve written, but this is less about awful housemates I can’t currently escape and more about the people I choose to spend my time with.

Friends have meant so much to me. I’ve grown up to value them even over family (more out of necessity). I’ve read plenty of books on friendship.

But as I grow older, I’m starting to see how I need to redefine what friendships and relationships mean to me–and to be more flexible as life changes us all.

The Marriage Plot

While I was away adventuring and examining a new place to live–which you can read about if you’re a patron of my blog at Patreon–I had a conversation with my friend about the limits of relationships, about how American culture has made marriage to be this panacea for all emotional fulfillment. “Leave and cleave” is the evangelical phrase that I grew up with.

You drop all your friends except the married ones, and your spouse is your best friend. I’m not against the latter (even if I don’t find it to be necessary), but I am against the former.

While I was in church, I remember two friendships with fellow musicians, both men, that ended up with jealous spouses. And I understand the jealousy–it’s what we’ve all been taught. As a woman, you should be the only person to satisfy every need your husband has.

And that’s setting up everyone for failure.

I’ve grown to realize that we can’t really fulfill every emotional desire for our partners. It’s a lot of unnatural, ungodly pressure to glorify a human being like this. On top of this, shouldn’t we be personally responsible for our own happiness and fulfillment?

Our Blessed Multifacetedness

I do hope if and when I marry that my spouse has his own friends, of all genders. It’s not to say I’d transcend jealousy, but people are so multi-faceted, and we’re only going to get some of their natural glimmer. Other people will shine through and catch different sides, bringing out sides that no one else can.

There’s an oft-quoted passage of some book or essay about the friendship of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S Lewis, where one of them remarked about how they loved when other people joined them for conversation, because they could experience other sides of the person that they couldn’t necessarily bring out. I believe there was something about how the other laughed differently around other friends.

It’s a loving tribute to friendship, and it shows how secure that person feels. They don’t feel responsible to be that 360-light that can shine through their friend completely. They take joy in knowing their friend differently through the eyes of other people.

Really Knowing People

One thing that’s been coming up for me is how I treat my friends. Lately, we’re all running in similar circles, and in spiritual circles, usually you’re talking about heavy stuff.

I’ve been going through heavy things, and I’m glad to have friends that have been able to bear my burdens. I sometimes tire of talking of the same struggles over and over. It ends up being this script that I blindly follow and have memorized–I’ll show my wounds and you show me yours.

How I’m wired (which I just mistyped as weird), I like going deep with people. But I really can’t do that with everyone. There are definitely people in my life where we keep it light and laugh (yet it’s not that I don’t keep it light and laugh with closer friends, either).

The problem is when I go with that script of sharing burdens, and the script is flipped to sharing about other things, sometimes I stumble in not seeing my friend as a whole, complex person.

Recently, I had one of those moments where I was conversing with a friend, and I really wasn’t hearing what they were really saying.  It was turning into a conversation about differing ideologies and where we were on different parts of our life journeys.

The important part of the conversation was that this was more of a very strongly worded treatise of how this person saw life and themselves. Granted, it’s not one I fully agree with for a number of reasons, but the conversation would have been a lot shorter and more meaningful if I had just acknowledged where they were–which is really all they wanted.

Of course, people don’t ever outright say, “Please acknowledge me where I am on my journey.” But I’m old enough and wise enough to see when that’s necessary. I only wish I had recognized this plea sooner than later. But I had been so used to talking about certain things…when the script was flipped, I lost my footing.

Sometimes, it’s really not about being right, but about being a good listener.

An Old Capricorn Habit

This year, I’ve really had to learn how to hold my tongue and listen more. I’m so exuberant with my support and my advice, it’s like tsunami waves. Most people don’t want or need that sort of torrential support.

I’ve gone through a lot of hard stuff in my life, so I’ve gleaned a lot of wisdom, a lot of it seemingly beyond my years. And the knee-jerk advice-giving that I tend to give is usually spot on.

But. If the person isn’t ready to hear what you have to say, it’s something I must acknowledge.

What most people want is to be fully seen and heard. Recently, I even looked up articles on how to be a good friend without dumping loads of unsolicited advice.

Maybe it’s a little scary to just let someone’s words of heartache, confusion, anger, or sorrow just wash over you. Of course, if you care about your friend, you want lessen their suffering.

If you just listen, are you doing enough? Sometimes, it doesn’t feel like it. You see your friend going down a familiar road of heartbreak, and you can only offer that you’ll be here for them.

We can only be responsible for our own personal journeys.

We can walk alongside people through certain parts of their lives, which is always a privilege, not a right. But ultimately, we can’t make people take the steps towards their own salvation.

We can share our own stories. We can offer support. We can empathize. We can ask how we can be of help. We can even ask if we can offer some advice.

But that’s about it.

And this is the gift of healthy boundaries. We can be full of compassion while we understand where the other person ends and where we begin.

The Magic Eye of Friendship

I have this point, where if I’m about six months into anything, I’ll start to really see someone, or a job, or a living situation, for what it is. Sometimes it takes longer, but the truth of things start to comes out.

Usually after this six-month period, the gossamer gauze of perfection fades as reality comes to the fore. And then I see how I haven’t really see this entity in its entirety. I see how I may have glorified it and put it on a pedestal.

Now the imperfections are sometimes ones that I can’t really justify in even tolerating, let alone accepting. I had bent my neck up too high, lost in the glare in the limelight of idolization.

When I start to look through my relationships, like it’s some magic eye picture, and the real image of how things are starts to emerge.

So many times, I don’t like what I see.

I’m learning how intolerant I am, but also how far I’ve come in my own journey of maturation. And this goes back to the idea of using the same ole scripts with friends. We’re all evolving and learning, and there’s a dynamism that I forget about.

And maybe because this is something I’ve been learning to do with myself, one lesson I’m learning is to integrate these disparate parts and learning to love them–if I can.

Another lesson would be to start seeing people, places, and things as they are, without the gloss of forlorn hopes and the dross of desperate dreams.

You have a misunderstanding, or a debate that goes on far too long–and it’s not even what’s being discussed, but how. There’s a condescending tone, or there’s an intransigence, or a lack of grace. Or the person is manipulative or downright mean.

So a couple of questions will arise, mainly: Do I like what I’m seeing here about this person, or do I like myself when I’m with this person?

All Kinds of Friends for All Kinds of Seasons

People are complicated. We’re all carrying things that we don’t like to even acknowledge, but then those unspoken things influence how we see ourselves and each other. Some of those things fit like codependent LEGO blocks. Sometimes their jut out like spikes on a tire. And sometimes, they don’t bother us at all.

Not everyone can be our besties. Not everyone will ever earn the right to know us deeply.

And that’s OK.

We have friends we just do things with. We have friends we can call at 3am in the morning when disaster has struck. We have friends we bare our souls to. We have friends we just shoot the shit with.

We have friends who are drinking buddies, travel buddies, fellow parents, colleagues…

I still love the MySpace term, “activity partner.”

One thing that has been so tough for me to learn, as someone who is practically an open book is that not everyone should read my story; and that I also won’t be able to read everyone’s story.

Going slowly with people, letting them reveal themselves to me…to savor the unfolding of the unread pages and chapters…it really engenders real, well-earned trust–on both sides.

I shouldn’t ever rush this process, because I may skip over things that I should have seen earlier.

Again, that reveal may uncover some non-negotiable traits. We may have to walk back or away from each other.

And that’s OK.

We can respectfully adjust our expectations and boundaries, but that usually involves a level of detachment that I sometimes still struggle with.

Open Hands

Whomever comes in my life now, I try to hold with open hands. I can’t hold onto anyone, and no one can hold onto me.

Life happens, so often. Our journeys switch gears and routes and focus. We change. Our desires change.

But the beauty of how we’re all different means that there are so many ways to be friends, to love each other, to be there for each other.

I don’t have to aim for intimacy every time.

But I can always aim to be kind, to be a good listener, and to make sure I leave people better than how I found them.

Redefining My Priorities

As I learn how to become more healthily detached from people, places, and things, I’m starting to place friendship in a more sober-minded, less exalted place. Friends are important, but they aren’t my panacea for my life’s issues.

This has probably come a deeper sense of self-reliance. I’ve been in a place of forced solitude since I work from home and currently don’t have extra funds to go out.

I’ve also learned to lean on my spiritual support team–which involves entities like angels and guides–tireless beings who are always here for me. I could always lean on them more.

Even though I may only have a few close friends, I feel encouraged to expand who I’m friends with and to keep a looser, open hand.

I want to see people eye-to-eye: not as people to be worshipped because I have some sick friend crush on them; or people to be disdained because they don’t meet my friendship needs.

The equanimity and blessed diversity of friendship.

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A Lenten Season of Self-Kindness

Lent SOMSo I was gonna give up Twitter for Lent.

I never grew up with Lent being a part of my Christian faith journey. Non-denominational, evangelical churches are not about High Church/mainline church traditions, or the Christian calendar, except for Christmas and Easter. I was exposed to Lent while attending a Covenant church in Chicago. The Covenant Church–specifically the Evangelical Covenant Church–is a Swedish offshoot of the Lutheran church. Hello, mainline church.

One time, I gave up chocolate. It was the one year that my co-worker brought into the office Frango Mints chocolates from Marshall Fields. Assorted flavors. Yet I resisted. I have tried to give up cursing. That didn’t really work. I can’t remember how long I lasted. Although, I can say that it’s not necessarily about being successful. No, my inner perfectionist would love to wear a badge of honor that says that I made it through a chocolate-free Lent. From what I understand, it’s more about the forty-day journey of temptation and reliance on God’s power and strength while embracing one’s frailty and humanity.

Or something like that.

After a few years of giving up church of all kinds, I’m back in church, doing a bit of social media for an emerging not-church service on Saturday nights as well as the actual church. Oops. Probably can’t give up Twitter–’tis my (volunteer) job.

But I haven’t tweeted since Tuesday (Mardi Gras), which is fine, I guess. Right now, I’m working on some technical writing and I have to learn about some technology and read pages and pages of text just to write one page of text. And right now, I would be twitter-bitching my way through this, without any sort of response from my followers.

And that’s actually what I want to give up, for good–this need for a response.

I’ve been on Twitter since 2008 (I think?) and it’s exposed some things about me. I have this human flaw, though: I want to connect with other human beings. I have another one: I want to share what’s going on with me. Twitter may or may not let those “flaws” flourish. Lately, I’d say it’s made my humanness feel like it’s a flaw altogether. It’s not.

Within the past six months, I have endured so many excruciatingly painful, dehumanizing events, with increasing intensity and insanity. The cliche of “the dark night of the soul” doesn’t even come close to describing what’s gone on and goes on. It’s more like camping out in the valley of the shadow of death. I’ll be grateful when this indefinite camping trip is over, and I’ll be grateful about how I’m even stronger and more resilient. Oh, I can’t wait for the glory of hindsight. I can see many silver linings which are almost enough to distract me like a toddler is distracted by a shiny object from the godawfulness of life. But I cannot give anymore public dispatches from my time there. As immediately accessible Twitter has been for sharing these things, what has not been healthy for me is taking the abysmal silence that my candor draws at all personally, or taking it at all.

This week, I read an excellent article in the The New York Times, “How to Be a Friend in Deed,” about how people are so godawful at helping people who are in crisis, and how not to be one of those godawful people. And there are so many people who suck at this, more than those who don’t. This confirmed what I experienced in grad school and afterwards. So maybe instead of insanely thinking that people will change their responses, can change. But I can only change so much.

As a writer, I was wondering why I couldn’t convey my suffering in some compelling, actionable way, even as I came to grips that I did need, and still need, help. It’s not just Twitter. It’s even meaningful Facebook groups that are created for this very type of support. I could deconstruct this, especially along racial lines, but there’s nothing that I can do about my melanin count. I could talk about the cult of personality, about popularity, about beauty about how all of these inane things that I have no control over and have nothing to do with me. I continue to drop my bucket into an empty well and hope that somehow, some day, I’ll draw water.

What can I do about it? Share the suffering offline, with way fewer people–probably with as many people that I can count on one hand. I have that many people and I don’t need to expand that number. Keep taking one foot in front of the other, even though almost every day, I see absolutely no point in doing so. Be my own best cheerleader, and be OK with being my own cheerleader, especially when I am alone.

So I’ll be back on Twitter in a bit, because I do need to to bitch about the minutiae and detritus about life, just not my actual life. The transparency that I’ve lead my life with has gotten me more enemies than friends. Transparency is valuable, but costly. And there really is nothing wrong with having a little more opacity, a little more mystery, a little more safety.

Social media can be the worst listener, the most inconsistent therapist, and the flakiest best friend. And it wasn’t always this way. I grew up with this medium throughout my whole adult life (since 1997). Throughout the past two decades, it’s grown increasingly fractured because there are more and more people using it. Sure, it’s an early adopter’s lament.  Still, all that means is that I can use this goofy medium for what it is good for in my life right now: livetweeting shows, learning about all sorts of things, breaking news, watching celebrities self-immolate by their own words, and shooting the shit.

Adjusting those pesky expectations–or not having any at all: this would be my nirvana. Instead of abolishing Twitter for forty days, I can just let it be what it is. I can use Lent as a way to start something new and healthy for myself, as a season of self-inquiry. How can I keep and better value my depth for myself? How can I engender true and safe reciprocity of sharing in healthier ways with better kept boundaries? How can I vanquish the overshare demons? Not to sound like Gwyneth Paltrow, but how I can be more conscious online, instead of just mindlessly typing things?

The past few months have been a long lesson in learning how to be less severe with myself, and then, being less severe with others. And that is good, so very good. It is a goodness I hope to continue to be lead and purified by. This censoring isn’t a deprivation, but a necessary practice and celebration of self-kindness.

If you do practice Lent, I pray it’s one of new-found self-compassion, self-love, and boundless grace.

If you liked what you’ve read, I’d love your support as a patron on Patreon. Tiers starts at just $1/month. 

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Thanks for your support! 💘