Five Sentences That Changed My Life

I don’t want to throw clichés at you.

Clichés, my high school teachers told me, are worse than useless. They’re uncreative. They’re filler.  Usually redundant, always unimaginative.

They were right. Of course they were right. Even the things I live my life by have never really been “clichés”–my mantras and reassurances come from quotable places, but they matter because they caught me by surprise. Yes. That. That right there. Never thought of it that way before.  

Usually I consume words, but every now and then, words consume me. (sorry. that was cheesy).

Those are the rare, rare words that stick.

Here’s a peek:

Im-not-worried-about-you

I know, how simple and strange.   “I believe in you. I trust you with yourself.”

Obviously these are terrible words to say if you’re actually worried about someone. But if you have faith in someone’s survival skills, it’s a pretty great way to share the faith without demeaning their situation.  To say that it’s normal to be falling apart at the seams, rebuilding, laughing, crying, calling a friend at 3 am, insert lifeline here–they are going to be okay. At least, you think they are.

That seems to be worth something. It was worth a lot to me.

You-are-where-you-were

This is part of the poem “Transient” by Al Purdy…a great poem, though not overly relevant on the surface. But these words, these two lines–dude. The best way I can describe it is, they let me move.

It’s a weirdly big deal, and I can’t really explain it, but anyone who knows me well has seen these words written on something (my blackboard wall, my binders, in pen on my arm).  The words are honest, and make no assumptions: Yes, I was always headed to wherever I am. And yes, the dirt under my fingernails, the person that I am, this can be “home.”

These are lovely ideas.

Everything-might-happen

Here’s some tough love. Sometimes, it’s someone else’s turn. A person you love will leave, because they’re meant to be with someone else. A family member will die, because they’re in a lot of pain.  Your business will fail and you’ll be left with nothing, because society needs to move forward and economies change.

You can spend a lot of time and energy trying to figure out why that happened to you. Trying to figure out the reason. Thinking in a vacuum–something must have happened to you, so that something else can happen to you. Post hoc ergo hoc propter hoc.

Now, I’m a pretty religious person.  I believe that everything does happen for a reason, and I believe in resurrection–closed doors leading to more open ones.  But it’s silly to think that the exact reason for everything has to do with you, right now.

God has a lot of kids to look after.  At one point, you’re going to end up being collateral damage. We take hits for each other all the time, whether we know/like it or not. That’s the price we pay for balance, for the circle of life, and for the privilege of being so beautifully interconnected with each other.

Your fate does not only belong to you. But what you do with that fate? That’s all yours, baby.

Does-everyone-realize

The ladies down at everyoneisgay.com say awesome stuff all the time, but this line from Danielle really stuck.  So simple. So valuable.

Fact: If you worry things are going to suck, and you’re wrong, you’ve wasted your time worrying.

Fact: If you worry things are going to suck, and you’re right, you’ve wasted your time worrying. So you’re miserable twice as long–waiting for the thing, dealing with the thing, recovering from the thing.

Constructive concern is a go. Any other “worrying” gets served with this lovely question:

Who-am-I-today

This is my mantra.   I close my eyes and repeat these words in my head as I rock back and forth–because I’m totally sane, obviously.  It’s an every-other-day thing, at least, and I have no shame in my brief reality checks. These words bring a great deal of focus: “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 the mantra walks in and gives me a role to play. Today.

“Who am I today?”  A student. An employee. Sometimes a writer, always a sister and daughter.  I’m pretty alright at those roles, once I remind myself what they are–and who I am.  Right here, right now.

What phrases give you pause, comfort, or something-in-between? Which sentences shape your life?

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Three More Things I Couldn’t Live Without (and the lessons they taught me)

Let’s start by addressing a point one reader/friend made after last week’s post“You gotta stop stomping on all your prized possessions, dude.”

As much as I would like to defend my trademark…he was right.  Here’s how that one ended:

Bonus lesson: Don't step on top of aerosol cans. Not even if you're trying to be artsy. Though, since this already went down, I could probably pretend it symbolizes something fancy...
Bonus lesson: Don’t step on top of aerosol cans. Not even if you’re trying to be artsy. Though, since this already went down, I could probably pretend it symbolizes something fancy…

Ungh. Onwards?

[If you missed part one of “Things I Couldn’t Live Without (and the lessons they taught me),” you can read it here.]

5) Guitar

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What it taught me: Don’t underestimate “amateur.”  

This is the latest and greatest lesson I have picked up.  Seriously,  if you only read one of these, read this one.

The record company I’m interning for has the single greatest outlook on music, art, and culture that I have ever experienced.  The people who have made Folkways what it is (guys like Moe Asch, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger) are wholly inspirational.   Take one of Guthrie’s famous quotes: “Anyone who uses more than two chords is just showing off.”

W.G. keeps it real.

A few days ago, the interns all started talking about their musical backgrounds–the instruments they played, the classes they took, even the  degrees they held. I tried to slide in under the radar with this one, but we’re a small group. The conversation eventually turned to me.

“How about you, Shauna? Are you a musician?”

Awkward. “Well…I mean…I play music, sometimes. I picked up the keyboard, and I sing I guess, and I’m learning guitar.  But…I’m not any good.”

You know that feeling in the air when you’ve just said something out of line?  The chatter stopped.  One of the interns, a guy who had gone to college for music, turned to me sharply.

“Don’t say that. Seriously. Don’t say you aren’t ‘Good.’  Do you love music?” I started to answer, but he did it for me. “Yes. Do you play music? Yes. Do you love it?”

“Absolutely. Yes.” I rubbed my thumb over my fingers, blistering from practice the night before.

“Then you’re a musician.”

You know what? He’s probably right.  Sure, I have only had a guitar for a month now. I learn how to strum from YouTubers with cute accents.  I know a few songs… if you count slamming down G & C chords over and over while reciting the lyrics to Thrift Shop.

It’s perpetual amateur hour in my bedroom, and that’s totally okay. 

The fact is, I listen to, learn about,  and talk music all day.  I get inspired.  When the clock strikes 5, and I race home so I can get to my own instrument. I play, and it’s good for me.  It’s sometimes even good for other people–I recently received an anonymous message from someone who was at a New Years party where I played the keyboard :

Hey Shauna,

A friend of mine from the New Year’s party (you haven’t met him) wanted me to tell you that: “[you are] really talented and really made [his] new years to hear [your] performance.[you] resparked [his] passion for music, [he’s] re-picking up piano again… after a 12 year break”

Is that not the most beautiful thing?  I guess that in the end, loving and sharing music is what it’s all about.

6) Curling mousse

IMG_8790

What it taught me: Embrace what’cha got.

My hair.  Oh goodness, what to say about my hair?

Well, I guess the first thing to say is that I have hair at all, which hasn’t always been the case.

 

Yeah, I shaved my head in high school. We’ll call it an exercise in philanthropy, since I raised a bit of money and donated the hair to charity. Mostly, though, the head shaving was a result of the same “Well, why the heck not?” attitude that landed me in DC.  It’s a repeat of why I dyed my hair brown: I told someone in passing that I would totally do it. The opportunity presented itself. I totally did it.

Most. Freeing. Thing. Ever.

The whole process was a pretty big deal for a 15-year-old girl, especially one with braces and glasses (the word you’re looking for is “teenage heartthrob”). Up until that point, I had all but hidden behind long blonde locks.  If my haircut was half an inch shorter than necessary, there would be tears. My 9th grade email address was busy_being_blonde (heh. this was also my creative peak).  Not surprisingly, the head shaving was liberating.  My hair doesn’t define me.  Imagine that.

Since then, my hair has been just about every length. It has been most styles, too.  One of the many things I’ve learned from all this is that my hair is irrevocably curly. I mean, it’s really, truly, naturally curly.  It’s not going to be un-curly without a fight…and I do not have time for a fight.  All I have time for is a mousse.

When it comes to my curls, I can’t beat ’em, and I’m no longer in the business of shaving them right off.  The only option left is to join ’em.

7) ‘Senorita Margarita’ body wash

IMG_8787

What it taught me: Smell is associated with memory. If you’re moving on, change it up.

New body wash is my #1 weapon against homesickness.

…yes, actually.

I first discovered this trick in high school.  I was headed to France for an exchange, and was terrified of myself.  I figured France would be awesome, but it was my first time away from home and I didn’t want to mess it up with my emotions. I wanted to be able to take advantage of all that awesome. I needed to make sure I didn’t get homesick.

I knew smell could trigger nostalgia, and I wasn’t taking any chances.  I very deliberately left my collection of vanilla soaps at home. It was a great call.

Smell and memory have the craziest relationship. I know you cannot completely hide from scent-triggers, but when you move to a new place, it could be worth it to smell like a new you.

(And hey, you never know…maybe I’ll end up bringing Senorita Margarita home with me.)

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Remember, this is the second in a series of three posts on “Things I couldn’t live without (and the lessons they taught me).” What would make your list? Comment below with your list, or blog your own version and throw up a link!