Weather: low 70s. Sunny. Lake is calm.
So I was doing my usual surfing around zee net and was reading some of Wil Wheaton’s blog when I came across this entry,
“Being a Grown-up” and found myself smiling a lot. Now I have nowhere near Wil’s readership, fame or general charm, but I really commiserated with the ideas there.
We’ve settled into our apartment in Michigan fairly easily. I’m still looking for a job, but it’s not breaking my back. Husbeast’s job is covering us fine for now. House back in Indiana….News on that soon. Good news. We bought a second car for me, so I’m not clawing the walls with cabin fever (it’s a bright orange 2007 Chevy, enough to get me around locally, and to work, once we get to that point.)
I was just puttering around the other day– done some laundry, surfed the web, cleaned the apartment– and I was listening to a song as I waded around the usual websites. The song is immaterial but a line caught my ear and suddenly I was crying. Not from sadness. I didn’t recognize the emotion at first. Realized I was happy. Really and truly happy.
I think people forget that Happy doesn’t mean everything is alright, perfect, and settled. This was the Happy that comes with realizing that a long slog through an untenable situation is finally ending. That, although there are still challenges and possible obstacles ahead, they’re not the same, soul crushing things I’ve been dealing with the previous 10 years and they are going to be off my plate. FINALLY.
I looked out the window at Lake Michigan. Some storm clouds had rolled in and the lake was a little turbulent. It felt cleansing, rather than ominous.
I felt content. I know it’s not going to last forever, but I’d forgotten what that felt like. Like a song that you haven’t heard in years, and suddenly it comes on the radio, and you suddenly remember the lyrics and a smile pulls your lips up.
It came back this morning when I wrote a lengthy post on Facebook about trying to step away from polarization in thinking, about trying to start working with people instead of always being in opposition to things. After writing it, I realized that’s where I’m happiest. When I can step back from the snarling warfare that has become every discussion/debate online, and really look at both sides. And see that everything in this world is not either/or. That there are always more options than just A vs B. That this world is so much more complicated than a soundbite, or 140 character vent or Facebook post. (Including mine). And I’m okay with not knowing what the right answer is. That I can see that parts of arguments FOR and AGAINST something might have equal value. I’m wary of anyone saying they have all the answers or, more off-putting, the ONLY answer.
In deference to Wil’s post that I linked to up there, I felt something click into place reading it. I’ve felt like a fraud of an adult for a long time. Not because I’m irresponsible, or that I act immature, but that I don’t feel like I have all my shit together. I’m 47. Shouldn’t I have a better grasp on….well, everything? After reading Wil’s post, I finally was able to shed that last bit of insecurity. I think the reason I feel content for the first time in a while is that I’ve come to terms with MY definition of being an adult. And I’m completely secure with it.
For me, being an adult means taking care of your obligations, taking care of those in your care, and understanding, with acceptance, that some things in your life are meant to happen, and some are not. That you can do ANYTHING you want (within legal boundaries of course), but there may not be time to do EVERYTHING. Letting some lesser dreams go to focus more energy on the ones you REALLY want to pursue. There’s peace in not letting other people’s negativity infiltrate your soul. You can empathize without absorbing. You can sympathize without making it about you. You don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to. And it’s okay not to weigh in on everything that crosses your path online. Having passionate ideas is good for your brain. Do what you can to help others, do what you can to lift up others in need, whether physically, emotionally or spiritually. But the key factor is, keep YOURSELF out of the equation. By this I mean, do things without need for recompense, praise or reciprocation. Do things because they’re the right thing to do.
A few things I’ve learned recently, and I try to practice are:
1: Accept apologies without suspicion or judgment. Even if you doubt the person’s sincerity, let it go.
2: Question any possible inflammatory statements before posting or saying them. Will the outcome be helpful or merely inciting others to fight?
3: Know when to walk away from a discussion that has lost its purpose, become needlessly mired in personal insults or has reached a stalemate. (Also know when to walk away from people who are constantly engaging in these kinds of arguments)
4: You owe nobody an explanation when you say NO to a demand for your time or services that you deem excessive or unfair.
5: Be nice. To everyone. Be polite. To everyone. Be compassionate. TO EVERYONE. However, this does not mean you have to agree with them, support their actions or let them walk all over you.
6: Creativity starts when you stop worrying about what others think or what the market wants. Make what you want to make. Stop taking the advice about creativity from people who don’t create.
7: If the internet becomes overwhelming, or you find you’re getting angry at people you don’t know, or if you find yourself getting bored scrolling, turn off the computer and go do something else. In fact, start doing it more even if you aren’t any of the above.
8: Lastly, you are under no obligations to talk about or reveal anything about yourself, ever. It has to be a choice. Anyone who tells you otherwise has an agenda.
These are the things I’ve learned and am trying to apply daily. And in practicing what I preach, you, gentle reader, are fully entitled to ignore, object to or embrace these things. Do what’s best for you.
I guess this whole happiness things does pivot on choices in the end. You can choose to be happy– remove the things from your life that are unnecessary or causing undue stress or fostering unhealthy attitudes– or you can choose not to be. There’s no penalty or judgment in either direction.
I suggest, humbly, that we all try to find our own guidebook to being an adult and stop beating ourselves up for not meeting some arbitrary criteria. Be the best adult you can be. Don’t condemn others for not adult-ing the way you do.
But let’s all try to grow up a little. It’s not hard. It’s not scary. And you’ll shed a lot of baggage in the long run.