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Simple life advice: Don't freak out all the time!

Monday, July 23, 2012

The bottom of my monitor has always been a graffiti wall for Post-Its, little stickers screaming militant bits of advice as to how to never mess up. "TENSION IN EVERY SCENE." "DETAIL." "NO SAP."

Along the top of the screen went the Chinese food fortunes, advising on personal habits. "TODAY, YOUR CHARM WILL HAVE THEM SINGING LIKE BIRDS." "ENHANCE YOUR KARMA BY BEING KIND TO EVERYONE YOU ENCOUNTER." "ATTEND TO BUSINESS TODAY. LEAVE THAT STREET-SIDE FLOWER ALONE."

I was content haranguing myself with motivational minutia until about May, I would say. A bunch of little things were going wrong, which set me on an extended period of tortured navel-gazing. And after the extended period of tortured navel-gazing, I hit a wall. I was seriously bumming myself out, dissecting all the things, whether each and every choice was the right one for my goals and life, whether my penchant for crap television was contributing to the downfall of society, whether I needed to go on a macrobiotic diet, so on, so on. I was feeling like Tracy Flick on a Quaalude.


Suddenly, I was bored with myself.

I thought back to past challenges. Invariably, things worked out best when I stayed open to learning but stopped over-analyzing, stopped trying to impress and stopped comparing myself to others. When I wasn't worried about what everyone else wrote, my writing sounded most natural. When I wasn't overbooking, my relationships were healthiest. When I wasn't neurotically insisting everyone try the Sparkling Cider Cinna-Skinny Cocktails, I threw the best parties.

Supporting Document One that we all worry too much about nothing is this astute New York Times story from Tim Kreider on the so-called "Busy Trap."

"Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work. They schedule in time with friends the way students with 4.0 G.P.A.’s  make sure to sign up for community service because it looks good on their college applications. I recently wrote a friend to ask if he wanted to do something this week, and he answered that he didn’t have a lot of time but if something was going on to let him know and maybe he could ditch work for a few hours. I wanted to clarify that my question had not been a preliminary heads-up to some future invitation; this was the invitation. But his busyness was like some vast churning noise through which he was shouting out at me, and I gave up trying to shout back over it."

There had to be a space somewhere between, "up and move to the Bahamas," and "be a total pill all the time." Some things, of course, you can't control. You cant control who dies or gets sick, what accidents occur, how the weather explodes. But you can control other things, possibly even the neurosis that comes while standing in the shower as your deep conditioner soaks in, brooding over imaginary things that haven't happened. Imperfection is totally entertaining and healthy. I was just hoping to LIGHTEN THE EFF UP.

My birthday was in June. To mark the occasion, I decided I would stop picking lint out of my belly button and go to a drag queen show in these subtle, understated shoes:


Then I would focus on writing some interesting things I enjoyed. I would eat what I wanted in moderate portions. If I messed up, that was fine. I'd correct without implementing a leather flog. I would let no person's judgey tweet dissuade me from watching My Big Fat Toddler Kardashian Wedding Makeover Palin Cookoff, if that is what I felt like watching.

I gave it a go.

One of the first results? I won a contest at work that I didn't even enter! I felt authentically great, less Tracy Flick and more Elle Woods. The rules of hair care really WERE simple and finite!


I took down the old Post-Its. It's not that they weren't valuable pieces of advice. It's just that I already knew all that stuff without having to scream it from little sheets of paper stuck on with dirty tape. Also, fortune cookies taste like butt.

I replaced them with a new note, somewhere between the bottle of Excedrin and the vial of White Diamonds.


3 comments :

  1. Excellent. We ALL should do this. This is EXACTLY what my mother and my husband have been advocating for a while now.

    But when you really really believe that if you just worked harder, everything would be better...

    when you really really believe that everyone should try the Cinnamon Cocktails because you spent time mixing up this OhGodIt'sGood combo...

    when you really really believe that Tracy Flick is a fine role model for pushing overcommitment and overzealousness to achieve the greater good...

    then it's really really hard to let go and loosen the eff up. Really really hard. Because you believe that becoming content means becoming complacent - and you believe that complacent people are the very reason that you became such a overbearing, overcommitted, frazzlebitch since you have to do so much more to make up for those lazyasses who do nothing.

    Although I am watching a lot of crap TV and loving it, so perhaps I am evolving...

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  2. I think crap TV might be the key to all higher universal understanding. Just a feeling.

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  3. Look at those shoes. I'm so jealous I can barely type these words.

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