I’m a mess. And that’s okay.

I feel fake.

Not all the time.  But lately, at least on the internet, I feel like I’ve been putting my “best self” forward. And that’s fine, I guess. But it’s not particularly genuine.

I have business cards! I was at an awards show! I wrote some stuff, and people read it!

I’m proud of all those things, I really am. And I’m glad I can share them. But between the collection of #humblebrags, the over-edited status updates, and the filter-on instagram version of my life….

I mean, it looks like I’m the kind of person who puts on pants before noon. Who watches intellectual TED talks, instead of mindlessly binging on Dr. Phil.  Who always, always gets along with her picture-perfect family.

And that’s simply not true.

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So here’s the reality, friends:

I’m insecure, overzealous, and uncoordinated. I swear, sometimes when I shouldn’t (sorry, mom).  I don’t exercise enough…unless you count running late, I guess. I make jokes that aren’t funny, and I laugh at them. Out loud.

(Yeah. I’m that person.)

I suffer from foot in mouth syndrome, fear of missing out syndrome, there-are-always-clothes-on-my-floor syndrome. I also make up syndromes a lot, apparently.  I’m messy. I play mind games without meaning to, mostly with myself.  Sometimes, I have trouble being happy for people.  I can be a bad listener–or worse, a good listener but  a terrible responder.   I am sensitive to a fault; I use big words when I do not need to; if there is a mirror nearby I will be looking at myself.  I’m kind of awkward. Definitely impulsive.  Occasionally preachy. I don’t know how to hide irritation, even when I should. I cry at commercials, laugh when I’m nervous, and rarely think before I speak.

I’m a mess. And that’s okay.

It’s not that I’m proud of these qualities. Not even a little bit. But I’m not ashamed to recognize them, either.  They mean I’m here, I’m awake, I’m aware, I’m human, and I’m trying to be better.  They mean that even through imperfection–serious, serious imperfection–I can still live, love, and be loved.  We all can. And we can love other people through their not-so-perfect, too.

That’s amazing.

The judgement machine of the online world sometimes makes that difficult, I know. We put a filter on everything. We compare our everyday lives to everyone else’s “greatest hits” (thanks, Facebook).  We blog about the times we win, not the times we lose. We talk about the times we have been wronged, not the times we wronged others. We manufacture our own stories in which we are the heroes.

But we aren’t heroes. We’re People. We make choices. We have personalities. We have bad habits and imperfect histories and honestly, we’re pretty boring most of the time.

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So let’s take solace in the fact that we won’t always be perfect.  The fact that we will annoy people. We will try to be helpful and it won’t work. We will apply for jobs and not get them.  We will suffer failed relationships, send regrettable text messages, and come in last place.

I’ll be a mess. You’ll be a mess. We’ll be a mess. And that’s okay.

Life isn’t about being perfect every time you show up–life is about showing up, period.  And tomorrow is about being a better you than you were today. If we were perfect today, then tomorrow would be pretty boring.

(And right now, by pretending I have it all together, by pretending it’s only smiles and professionalism and good news, my internet-self is probably pretty boring. Hopefully this helps to keep it real.)

Love.

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A Year of Shaunanagins Quotes (or, how I was awkward, contradictory, and occassionally insightful during 2013)

Just went through all my posts from 2013 (all of them. yeah. I know.) to see how this little piece of blogland unfolded over the past year.

Here’s how it went down.

– – –

First, I got really motivated.

Because in the end, my goal is to wake up each morning, look the world in the eye, and say “What, Life? Yeah, I’d tap that.” – I Have Chosen My Word for 2013 (and it’s going to make for one interesting year)

It’s easy to become defeated when you see other people doing cool things.  But what if you were to take that pang of ‘This is something I find awesome.  Noted.’  and turn it into motivation?  – Jealousy has a stage name. It’s called Inspiration.

Then, I became a big advocate for awareness and listening and storytelling…

Here’s what we need to do: Care about the stories. Let them speak. Respect the storytellers. Share your own stories, if you want to. And whatever your story is, however different it is than someone elses, whatever you choose to do with it: You aren’t broken. You’re just another person with a story and a body, and no matter what, those two things belong to you and you alone. – Sex, Lies, and Storytime: “It’s okay, you’re not broken.”

In my view, there should be two kinds of people present with any social issue you want to address: The storytellers, who have experienced an issue firsthand (aka the people who Know), and those who try to understand the stories (aka the people who Listen). –  The Truth about Awareness

We care a lot about “Freedom of Speech,” which is great, but it’s easy to forget that with Freedom of Speech comes the Freedom to Listen. – Making Friends Who Disagree With You (is the healthiest thing in the world)

There’s something dangerous about leading with anger (however justified), instead of stories.  Or with accusations instead of ideas. Don’t get me wrong, passionate people willing to call out society’s bs are AWESOME.  But they’re way more awesome when they come with a side order of compassion, a willingness to gently guide people to awareness. – Rape, Outrage, and the Language of Solutions

I would much rather read the story of someone who can’t bear to hold that story in. I want to read words which are necessary to someone–not a sprint towards an empty wordcount, not a checkmark on the bucket list. – The Most Common Writing Advice (is kinda stupid)

Though it was pretty clear that I didn’t have many answers myself.

What are “friends,” then?  I don’t know. – The People Who I Know (But Don’t Really Know).

I really, really like hostels. I don’t know why.  – 10 Reasons My First Day in Halifax Will Be (Really, Really) Hard to Top

When I was a kid, I tried to run away from home (all. the. time.).  I don’t know why. – In which I am “Vagabond Chic”

For some reason, I don’t blog about music much. I don’t know why.  – Five Reasons I’m Optimistic About the Future of Music

So, how could I not know?  I mean really, really know what they had gone through. And what they were still going through. Until they wrote it down, I’ll admit that I really didn’t. – The Truth about Awareness

That didn’t stop me from having some strong opinions…

Certain types of people are more favoured for success in this world. I’m not saying that’s always right. I’m just saying that if you’re talking about discrimination based on personality type, you need to broaden your argument. – The Not-Really-One-or-the-Other Vert

Before we all flutter to the comment sections with our personal stories and claims of “I work harder than you work,” let’s get real:  You should really hire some of us.  You should really not hire others. Everyone born in this twenty-year period is not meant for the same job, nor are they bound to infect workplaces with the same “sins.” – Kids. These. Days.

The universal definition of “woman with values” is almost entirely based on what a Lady consumes, or lets into herself, rather than what she creates. How weird is that? – What Does it Mean to be a “Woman with Values,” Exactly?

I’d think sports fans, of all people, should be able relate to how deeply symbols can manifest in our lives.  How important a team is to a community.  How important it is to let that team be inclusive and, you know, not racist. – I Hurt an Entire Culture, and All I Got Was This Stupid T-shirt

It’s a pretty straight-forward formula: As soon as we are able to pronounce our moral superiority to someone, we are able to label them as “other,” we are able to fear them, we think we can do whatever we want in retaliation…It’s messed up. It’s totally messed up.  When we let the worst of what we see and hear set the standard for our own behaviour, autonomy, and responsibility to each other, we lose. When we refuse to learn from the unsettling things we see, and point fingers instead, we lose. – How NOT to Respond to the Abercrombie & Fitch Remarks

Do feminists have a right to be mad? Yes.
Do they have a reason to be mad? Yes.
Should they shout it from the rooftops?  If they’re willing, yes, perhaps they should.
But I have to be honest: Jaded rooftop shouters scare me, especially when I can’t quite understand what they’re shouting about. I tend to tune them out.  Even if they’re right.
– Rape, Outrage, and the Language of Solutions

Including a whole bunch of thoughts about the whole “learning” thing itself.

Why is it that important places like study rooms, lecture halls, churches, government institutions and courts so often lack windows?  Are we really expecting people who can’t even see the sky or the ground to be responsible authorities on the world’s direction? – Life, Learning, and “Windowless Cave Education”

I’m not saying  that every activity needs to involve a life lesson. What I am saying is that life lessons need to involve more activity. – Life, Learning, and “Windowless Cave Education”

Terms like “studying French” or “learning a new language” always sound so simple–they don’t properly embody the embarrassment, frustration and word-wrestling I’ve been doing these last few years. It’s a rewarding process, but it always plays games with my confidence. Or, at least, I always play games with my confidence. – Quebec, You Make Me Self-Conscious (But I’m Just Being Silly)

I have already learned things [from traveling]. Very personal, real things. Things I can actually take home with me. I hate how romantic and empty that sounds, like I just skipped through a field of roses, and found God, and “Oh, friends, you wouldn’t understand.” I don’t want to be one of those people who talk about traveling like there’s no other way to live or learn (though, if you have the resources, I highly recommend it). – That Awkward Moment When You Start Finding Yourself

I did some reflecting on relationships and people-stuff…

Welcome to human relationships, friends–they’re weird. When people take their clothes off, they get even weirder. So no, they don’t need your judgement. They need your love, and they need God’s love. Please leave the close-mindedness at the door. – Sex, Lies, and Storytime: “It’s okay, you’re not broken.”

“People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.” Let’s add on to that pretty little cliche, shall we?  People also come into your life just to laugh with you when you awkwardly trip up the stairs.  Or to silently inspire your next haircut.  Or to just be attractive.  Or to be intriguing.  Or to remind you that you need, need, need to come up with better ice breaker lines. – The People Who I Know (But Don’t Really Know).

Though personally, I was a hot mess with the whole social interaction thing.

I can’t seem to get it quite right. Yesterday, I parted ways with a dear coworker by saying: “Have a good one! And by ‘one,’ I mean, like, life!” Yeah. That sounded exactly as awkward out loud as it did in your head. –  An Unauthorized Guide to (Sucking at) Saying Goodbye

Another friend, who evidently sucks less than I do, tried to strike up a meaningful closing conversation over dinner:
“So, where do you think you’ll be in five years?”
“Pregnant and sad.”
What kind of response is that? [I wondered. As I said it. Out loud. I didn’t even miss a beat, you guys.]
  An Unauthorized Guide to (Sucking at) Saying Goodbye

I probably won’t even stay in touch (empty promises 1; Shauna 0).  I want to, but I don’t really know what “stay in touch” even means. –  An Unauthorized Guide to (Sucking at) Saying Goodbye

“Well, I guess, I mean, that gives you an excuse to buy a new one?” I offered. The world’s most house wife-y response to a broken bong. – How I Learned the Ukelele on a Train (and other transient tales)

I found the musician sitting in the “Activity Car” after her set, and approached her cautiously. “‘Scuze me. Can I ask you something, maybe?” As if she could say no. As if we weren’t stuck on a train together for two days. – How I Learned the Ukelele on a Train (and other transient tales)

Sure, a year is a long time and a blog like this is hard work…but also, how do you go up to someone and say “Yeah, I have this website where I write about myself. I’ve been doing it for a year. So no big deal.” – One Year of Blogging!

I also wrote a lot about identity…

I don’t think we should restrict identity to the things that “count” as milestones. – People are Trees, Not Timelines

We have to branch out. Timelines are great at telling base, simple stories…but they’re not so great at telling the whole truth. And when it comes to our own identity, our own History, we deserve the Truth. – People are Trees, Not Timelines

We all wear so many costumes, and speak so many languages. It’s an interesting process,  playing a role (not that you’re faking it, but still, it’s playing) every time you walk into a certain place, or consider a certain person. –  Living Between the Lines

In some ways, I think identity is somewhere in the cracks. It’s not in the office, or at a friend’s house, or at family dinner. It’s in those first few seconds when you wake up and aren’t quite sure where you are yet. When you’re driving—just driving, and for a moment you stop thinking about where you’re going. When someone touches you on the shoulder, or the hand, and your body unconsciously warms to the contact…When the pressure melts away for a few seconds, all that’s left to do is practice being human.  –  Living Between the Lines

“Who am I today?”  That’s all that really matters, in the end. Screw the coulda/woulda/shoulda.  Screw worrying.  Screw the fact that I do both of those things…until that mantra walks in and gives me a role to play. Today. – Five Sentences That Changed My Life

Whatever your offering is, you should do it. Do it actively. Do it because you need to. Do it because it will make the world a better place. Do it because it’s who you are. And most importantly: Do it because you wouldn’t be able to stop, even if I told you to. – The Most Common Writing Advice (is kinda stupid)

Though I had a little bit of trouble explaining myself.

I hope that you can be a blogger without having to pretend you know everything–or worse, having to pretend you can put that “everything” into a list.  – (Why This Article Is Not Called) “20 Ways to Be a Twenty-Something”

Mostly, my life isn’t about quick tips. Neither is yours.  It’s about celebrating and mourning, sometimes at the same time. It’s about getting confused and getting the giggles. It’s the word “Oops,” and it’s the word “Love,” and it’s feeling unsure. – (Why This Article Is Not Called) “20 Ways to Be a Twenty-Something”

 “I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.”  Of course you don’t. Of course I don’t. Look at those loaded words, momma, look: “know,” “want,” “be,” and *shudder* “grow up.” – Because Easy Answers are Boring

Oh, growing up. That is something else I wrote a lot about.

It’s no longer my parents and teachers telling me to what time it is.  It’s more of a voice in my head, reminding me that this next step is BIG. And, naturally, that I need to be BIG to greet it effectively. Though really, I don’t know what exactly being BIG means. – Busy Being a “Big Kid”

As we grow up, we have to change to greet our new discoveries. We adapt. Mostly, we learn what we can expect from people, and what we can expect from ourselves.  That we all need a little help sometimes, but we still shouldn’t count on anyone. That we are more capable than we ever thought possible, but that we can’t do it alone–though, some days, we’re going to really have to try. – Busy Being a “Big Kid”

We all have little moments like that, I think–whether we’re 7 year old kids, 20 something college students, middle aged mommas, maybe even as we trek through the much later years.  Wondering what comes next. Working through what we do, but optimistically unsure of where we are going. – Because Easy Answers are Boring

Most lives don’t fit into any sort of beginning-middle-end box.  Even if they do, most of us are probably just hanging out in the “middle” looking for reasons and analyzing our lives like it’s the “end”.  And most people don’t quite fit where they are, at least not all the time. – Thursday Night Brainwaves: How DID I get here?

And, apparently, my brain played a lot of tricks on me:

When I have never done something, sometimes I assume it’s because I could never do it. This is one of the lies my brain tells. – Watermarked: How Rivers, Oceans, and Leaky Faucet-ing Won Me Over

Of course, nothing is actually over. That’s just my brain playing tricks again. A year well spent is an achievement, not a loss. Note to self. – One Year of Blogging!

Ten thousand hours, the song repeated to my tired brain. If you’ve practiced for ten thousand hours, you should be an expert. That’s how it works, right? – Quebec, You Make Me Self-Conscious (But I’m Just Being Silly)

My faith also seeped into a couple posts:

I am thoroughly convinced of two things: Life is a joke. And life is sacred. – Taking “Canada Class” (or, how my sense of humour runs my schedule)

I intentionally attend churches which disagree with each other. I do this for the same reason I wear one earring that says “Oui” and one which says “Non” every Sunday–because Truth usually hangs out “somewhere in the middle.” – A Tale of Two Churches: Living in DC During the Gay Marriage Showdown

I don’t know that someone should aspire to believe anything, least of all anything supernatural. I would much rather be a woman who constantly uses the brain God gave her–even if that means that her idea of “God” has to change as she learns things. – What Kind of Woman Do I Want To Be?

We are fragile, mortal, reactive, aware, sensitive—but we should not be afraid. – On Fear, Love, and Bombs in Boston.

My faith is getting more and more present-tense oriented (“Will everything be okay? Let’s go with yes. Even if it’s not okay, it’s okay. Right, Jesus?”).  – That Awkward Moment When You Start Finding Yourself

After awhile, all these wonderful friends and prayers and instincts sent the message that “You can trust God. You can trust some people. You can trust yourself.”  No one learns to believe something as crazy as that alone. – Watermarked: How Rivers, Oceans, and Leaky Faucet-ing Won Me Over

Also, I seemed to think that abstract ideas could “meet” each other?

Basically, regret is what happens when empathy meets taking responsibility. – Living With No Regrets (is bullshit)

 The Taboo Tab is working.  It’s showing the next generation what happens when creative writing meets community meets compassion. – In Which I Ask You For Help (and may I say, you are looking LOVELY today).

What I do want to be is a woman of grace–you know, that thing that happens when personal values meet interpersonal compassion.  – What Kind of Woman Do I Want To Be?

I used to play the‘How DID I get here?’ game all the time–when growing pains meet the travel bug, you rarely know completely where you are, how you got there, or what to think about it. – Thursday Night Brainwaves: How DID I get here?

But through all my awkwardness, I stayed intensely grateful. Especially to you readers, because you’re awesome.

Every time someone thrust their story into my hands and said “Here, have it. Edit it. Show it to the world.” they made an active decision to share themselves with this project and this community. And, thanks to the amazing nature of this community, it became a safe place to talk and to learn. So much trust. So much love. – (On the Taboo Tab) One Year of Blogging!

THANK YOU for an amazing year. Thank you for reading. I love all the comments you leave me, and they make my day (actually, now they make my year). You rock. Seriously. – One Year of Blogging!

I needed a ton of help, coming from all sides–from upsides, downsides, from inside, outside, from everywhere. Is this getting cheesy? I’m sorry. I promise it’s honest. I just owe a million thank yous. – Watermarked: How Rivers, Oceans, and Leaky Faucet-ing Won Me Over

This offering only works as long as it’s me writing–me, needing to write, having something to say.  Not my arbitrary need-to-put-words-together.  Not a clog of cliches on the internet, stealing time from much more important words. Just me.  To you.  It really only seems to work as long as you are there reading.  Every time you stop by, you are accepting my selfish, crazy offering.  Thank you for that. – The Most Common Writing Advice (is kinda stupid)

Because, this:

I want to be the kind of woman who is thankful day by day, step by step. Whose thank yous aren’t loaded attempts to control the future, nor quiet warnings of her standards.   She will never say ‘This is good. If I am grateful for this step, can the next step be just as good, please?’  No; I want to be the kind of woman who is grateful because it is just who she is.  And when she says thank you, she simply means to say, ‘That step was good. You helped make it good. Grazie, gracias, merci.’  What Kind of Woman Do I Want To Be?

Oh, and here are my 5 most hit/shared/commented on/liked posts of the year:

1) Sex, Lies, and Storytime: “It’s okay, you’re not broken.”

2) 7 More Reasons WestJet is Basically the Mr. Rogers of Canadian Airlines

3) Meet the Neighbors: A Guide to Canada for Americans

4) What Does it Mean to be a “Woman with Values,” Exactly?

5) Kids. These. Days.

– – –

That step was good.
You helped make it good.
Grazie, gracias, merci.

You Don’t Have to Finish That Book. Really.

Twenty pages left, and I can’t finish this book.

This is deep and psychological, you guys. I’m sure it is. I was fine with reading it—20, 30, 100 pages at a time. I almost missed a bus or two, completely engrossed. Yet here I am, barely making it through a paragraph of the last couple chapters. I even considered returning the borrowed book to my best friend’s shelf because ‘oh, I’ll be back to finish it.’

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But I won’t. I know I won’t, because I did the same thing with that biography this summer. With almost every Stephen King book I’ve ever started. Nearly with 1984, though I finally finished that one on my third try.

So here I am. My friend is showering, and I’m staring at the familiar blue cover. Twenty pages. Not even. You loved this book. It’s almost done. What’s the hold up?

Because I don’t want it to be done?

Because I know, I know, it’s one of those content-y books, where the juice is in the middle and I’m avoiding disappointment?

Because my attention span SUCKS?

As I opened the book and attempted a way-too-conclusive-sounding paragraph (last night, and the night before, and just now before writing this), I couldn’t make myself care. After a couple sentences, I just closed the darned thing altogether with a sigh of oh, this isn’t any fun anymore.

Cue massive wave of guilt:

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What I find interesting about this isn’t my inability to finish the book—like I said, my attention span SUCKS (in all caps). It’s the fact that this so-called failure bothers me so much. Like I’m doing a disservice to the author by not letting them finish their 300 page point. Like I’m abandoning something. And what if the book is like Of Mice and Men? What if it doesn’t hit you until the end?

(Of Mice and Men is only 100 pages. Mostly dialogue. Not a fair comparison.)

Still: Guilt, guilt, guilt.

But this guilt is all nonsense. Not finishing a book doesn’t hurt anyone, not really. It’s okay to skim articles, to fall asleep during a movie, to only watch the last period of the game, to not finish a book. It’s okay. This is playtime. This is you trying to be enlightened, or entertained, and you have a right to that.

On his productivity blog, Chris Bailey wrote a similar simple but honest story:

“In my second year of University, I decided to subscribe to The New York Times (Sunday delivery). Every Sunday morning, before my roommates woke up, I would wake up early, press a fresh cup of coffee, and sit down with the paper, skimming the week’s articles. This continued for a couple of months, until May, when my roommates went home for the summer.

That’s when I realized something. I didn’t actually enjoy reading The New York Times. In my head, I liked the idea of being a guy that reads The New York Times every Sunday.

Like Chris, I want to be a person who reads things. Important things. And of course, I want to care about and finish those things.

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If only.

But I’m not that person. I’m a hyper-interested person, emphasis on the “hyper.” I play the field, sampling a chapter or two of every book that catches my eye. Then I feel bad about it, because isn’t that, like, literary promiscuity?

But there’s nothing to feel bad about. Really. And I would much rather be a person who is honest with myself then a person who finishes every. single. book. out of pride.

So give yourself a little permission, bloggy friends. Permission to read when you have something to read, to write when you have something to say, to go to the party when you have someone to see…but also, permission to not finish the book, to not force words that you don’t care about, to leave the party early.

(…unless you’re reading Of Mice and Men. You should really finish that shit.)

Making Mountains Out of Moments

We’re really bad at auditing our own histories.

Okay, I can’t speak for you. You’re probably great.  But other people, over-sensitive, nostalgic people like me, struggle with making sense out of a personal past.  We get caught up considering moments. Moments distract from patterns.

And patterns are what matter.

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Now, I’m all about good ol’ reflection.  When a long-term relationship falls apart, for example, doing a solid autopsy is just about the most positive response you can have. It’s constructive.  It’s necessary.

Good. Great.

But when things are fresh, when memories and emotions are running high, our autopsies tend to trace scars instead of patterns.  Sometimes, when we should be looking at recurring toxic (or not-so-toxic) behaviours, we dwell on moments.

And if you focus only on moments, friends? You are in for an emotional ride.

You’ll relive and relive and relive the really intense stuff.  Only the really intense stuff.  The major disappointments. The I-can’t-even-breathe-right-now romantic gestures. It becomes a mental scorecard–was the whole thing horrible, the worst, or was it unbelievably amazing? Was it that time I cried all night, or the time I laughed all night? I don’t know. I don’t know.

(Neither, guys. It’s probably neither.)

Instead of looking for patterns, we pit “good times” against “dark times” in our minds, acting like our history is defined by extreme stories and emotional confrontations. We forget the day-to-day behaviour. The reactions. How communication worked (or didn’t), and how do you feel about that?

Focusing only on tear-stained memories of “good times” and “dark times,” can paint a pretty dramatic and unfair picture of all these things.  Sure, mega-scars need healing, and the happy times are worth remembering…but in most cases, using only the most epic stories to illustrate how things went down might not be the best tactic.

Basically, it’s big picture time.

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The relationship thing is just an example, of course. In general, we seem to have a habit of over-valuing stories drenched in perception and projection (and probably other dangerous things that end in -tion).  And that’s a pretty big problem when our little-picture memories are this malleable and unreliable.

Can big-deal moments be important? Of course, of course, of course. I’m not talking about overlooking major losses, abuses, and epiphanies.  Intense things can happen, and they can effect us.  Fallible as they may be, our memories make us who we are.

But, when we’re trying to learn from something long term, to make sense of ourselves and our pasts, we cannot just lean on landmarks.

When we are auditing our lives, little antecdotes shouldn’t override the whole story.

Living with No Regrets (is bullshit)

This is going to shake some people up. I think it will, anyways, based on the number of people who claim “NO REGRETS!” as their mantra (hashtag YOLO?).

I’ll disclaimer this by saying that I’m not picking on the sentiment behind the “no regrets” claim. I just feel the need to tear the literal concept apart. “No regrets! ” sounds increasingly like a thin veil of optimism, rather than a genuine way to live. Because, honestly, can you really be an emotionally healthy human being without a little bit of this?

Regret
Basically, regret is what happens when empathy meets taking responsibility. “I feel bad that you’re feeling bad. I feel worse because I played a role in the situation. I’m going to apologize and move forward with my life now, but I will remember this so I don’t repeat it in the future because that’s what a genuine apology looks like, guys.”

Every time you apologize sincerely, you express regret. Every time you feel a little guilty, the lessons from that (constructively) become a part of who you are. Even if you have to cancel on a friend, the regret that it was necessary (again, empathy meets responsibility) is probably a genuine sentiment.

So where does this concept of living with “no regrets” stem from? I think it boils down to two basic principals:

  1. You should move forward with your life, instead of dwelling on the past.
  2. Everything you have been through got you where you are today, so…God bless the broken road, amiright?

These both sound great in theory, but I don’t think you have to completely abandon healthy regret to value these imperfect ideas.

You should move forward with your life, instead of dwelling on the past: Okay, yes. Dwelling is not a good scene in any case–dwelling on future worries, on past loss, on that zit you can’t get rid of. I think aiming for “no dwelling” is a good call. But regret doesn’t have to be debilitating. It doesn’t have to be obsessive. It just has to be genuine and, hopefully, constructive. Maybe this is my history major talking, but completely tossing out the past seems like a dangerous game to me. Healthy regret doesn’t mean wishing moments or people back from the dead. But it does mean conducting a fair autopsy.

Everything you have been through got you where you are today: “But but, crazy blogger lady, ‘no regrets’ just means we value those mistakes instead of feeling bad about them!” I hear you. I get it. Especially on the “moving forward” front, this is a decent attitude. But I truly believe that when you have done something bad, “feeling bad” about it is healthy. It shouldn’t be a guilt that consumes your future, but it should affect you somewhat. It should make you take pause.

Sometimes we make bad decisions. You can marvel at the way “everything worked out in the end,” or see the silver lining, but you are still allowed to feel negatively about certain consequences and take responsibility for your role. You’re allowed to regret making a mess. You’re also allowed to feel proud when you clean it up, or build something new. It’s all part of the same game. Healthy regret helps you learn from your past, and to see those lessons fabricate.

Yes, I think there is such a thing as healthy regret. And while “NO REGRETS!!!” is a pretty ridiculous idea, it’s fair to say that there’s an ugly side of the sentiment that should be actively avoided.

Healthy regret should:

  • Be forgiving and constructive
  • Motivate you to apologize sincerely
  • Allow you to recognize when you are inconveniencing another person
  • Allow you to recognize when you have made bad decisions
  • Help you make better decisions
  • Force you to challenge yourself and find solutions in the future
  • Make you more forgiving of other peoples’ mistakes
  • Make you more grateful for the positive things in your life, as they stand in contrast to those regrets

Healthy regret should NOT:

  • Force you to live in the past
  • Fuel victim mentality
  • Be applied to something that happened to you, which you never had control over
  • Assign blame outside of loving self-reflection
  • Work against forgiveness
  • Create debilitating guilt or fear
  • Lower your self-worth
  • Make you less grateful for your life because of past pain and mistakes

This is totally achievable. It has to be. Regrets are natural, and it’s hard to control when they come up. Instead of denying them, we should learn to process our regrets in a constructive way. And if we don’t…

Our apologies are going to really suck.

What Kind of Woman Do I Want To Be?

Easter is always a major time of reflection for me.

…Okay.  By “always,” what I really mean is “Well, uh, it’s been a thing for the last couple of years?”  Being a young adult is sometimes like that, though. I’m quick to declare things part of my identity.

Easter weekend has played a major role in that identity, so it stays sacred.

I like the idea of rebirth. I like spring. The whole vibe that comes with things getting warmer/more colourful/livelier makes for a very positive, spiritual occasion.  I do a lot of “resolution”-type thinking around Easter. What burdens do I need to emerge from, butterfly-style? Who do I want to become?

“Stop worrying about finding the right person. Start working on becoming the right person.”

I read that the other day, and it stuck.  I agreed with the idea, but it made me wonder: what does the “right person” look like?

What kind of woman do I want to be?

woman

I want to be the kind of woman who writes thank you cards. Who lets managers know when she gets good service. Who writes appreciative reviews for small businesses.  Who lets artists know when they have touched her life, and lets politicians know when they have done the “right thing.” I want to be the kind of woman who wholeheartedly recognizes little miracles—and who approaches those miracles, if they have a face and a name.Who lives through gratitude, and means it. Who has a whiteboard on the wall, with a constantly revolving list of people to notify; ‘Hey, you. You’re alllllright.’

Celebrate people

I want to be the kind of woman whose gratitude is a constantly distributed gift, an open bar; not an investment with an expected return.  Accessible. Unconditional. Loving.   I want to be the kind of woman who is thankful day by day, step by step. Whose thank yous aren’t loaded attempts to control the future, nor quiet warnings of her standards.   She will never say ‘This is good. If I am grateful for this step, can the next step be just as good, please?’.   No; I want to be the kind of woman who is grateful because it is just who she is.  And when she says thank you, she simply means to say, That step was good. You helped make it good. Grazie, gracias, merci. 

I want to be the kind of woman with an open-door policy. Who knows her neighbours by name, aim, and favourite food…if they let her. I want to be that obnoxiously sweet lady-two-doors-down, the one who makes lots of casseroles. Funeral? Casserole. Moving day? Casserole. I could be that woman, I think. That would be a good woman to be.

(Unless the neighbours aren’t into casseroles. I am also open to making cookies.

…Dream big, right?)

I want to be the kind of woman with lots and lots of stories. I never, ever want to be boring. I don’t suppose anyone does want to be boring, but…if I’m aiming to be casserole-lady, I would prefer to be fun-casserole-lady. IMG_0102I want to be the kind of woman who was there for that thing. Who has the scars, tattoos, pictures, friendships, and memories to prove it.  I want to be the kind of woman with guitar-bred finger calluses, with laugh lines and dimples, with sun-kissed shoulders and tired, blistered feet.

I want to be the kind of woman who has mastered the art of witty retorts. Who laughs a lot, and who swears every now and then–because honestly, cursing sometimes makes the punchline better. Sometimes. Not always. And not in mixed company, I guess. Hopefully, though, I can be the kind of woman who mostly keeps company which can handle crazy stories and cursing.

IMG_0070I want to be the kind of woman who exercises. I’m TOTALLY NOT that woman right now, but I would like to be.  Or at least, I want to be the kind of woman who goes for walks, and can throw a ball around with her friends/family. I won’t aspire to be good at sports, or to be anything  other than clumsy and awkward when I play outside…but I do want to be the kind of woman who plays outside.

(Besides, I hear it’s “good for you.”)

I want to be the kind of woman who dresses up for Halloween.  And who puts up Christmas lights.  Who plays pranks on April Fool’s Day–and sometimes on other days, too (’cause she’s funny, remember?).    I want to be the kind of woman who has mastered the art of appetizers, conversation and corny holidays.  Who knows how to make a good martini.IMG_0849 Who has a solid supply of not-so-secret recipes and crowd-pleasing playlists.

(I know, I know, all of this costs money. And I know that money may not always be there.  Hopefully, I can be the kind of woman that is okay with that, too.)

I would like very much to say “I want to be a woman of faith,” but I don’t know if that’s fair. I don’t know that someone should aspire to believe anything, least of all anything supernatural. I would like very much to be a woman of faith–because I currently am, bibleand it serves me well. But again, not a fair goal. I would much rather be a woman who constantly uses the brain God gave her–even if that means that her idea of “God” has to change as she learns things.

What I do want to be is a woman of grace–you know, that thing that happens when personal values meet interpersonal compassion.  I want to be the kind of woman who can hold herself to a code of loyalty, honesty, and kindness, but who uses those things to Love better–not to be condescending or proud.

Right now, I describe that as being “Christian”.  I can’t imagine grace is confined to “WWJD”, though.

So, grace. Lots of grace.  I want to be the kind of woman who is radically patient with people and with herself.  Who has the courage to love the world, even when it seems particularly cruel. I want to be the kind of woman who can (gracefully, gracefully) step in and help someone who is hurting, and understands that “help” and “hurting” have many different faces.

I want to be the kind of woman who is continually educated and insatiably curious. Who speaks a couple languages, who knows her geography, and who travels lots and lots. I want to be the kind of woman who knows enough to be aware of the fact that she knows nothing.  Who has about 10 questions for every answer.  No, I don’t want to be the kind of woman who puts her job and education before family–family should always, always come first.  But I do want to be the kind of woman who brings the family (and the edgy jokes, and the free spirit) along for the ride–and makes sure the ride involves lots and lots of learning.  I want to be the kind of woman who lights up when she talks and hears about the world, and whose curiosity is infectious.

Yes; That’s the kind of woman I want to be.

What about you?

(Happy Easter/Joyeuses Pâques, everyone!)

– – –

A Semi-Informed Guide to Surviving (or maybe even enjoying) Young Adulthood
A Semi-Informed Guide to Surviving (or maybe even enjoying) Young Adulthood
Hey Christmas, Did you lose weight? You look different this year.
Hey Christmas, Did you lose weight? You look different this year.
Jealousy has a stage name. It’s called Inspiration.
Jealousy has a stage name. It’s called Inspiration.