Category Archives: myself and i

the expectations game

blairbee

| Yep, I always ride my bike in a silk skirt. With my $5,000 Chanel bag in the front basket, obvi. |

Friends, I don’t know about you, but lately the internet has been getting me down. One of the biggest problems about having access to so.much.information is that it’s become all but impossible to tune out the things that make you feel inferior. Hearing about how blissful everyone else makes their life sound on Facebook while you’re curled up in a ball on your sofa with a juice glass full of rosé. Scrolling through images on Instagram, wondering how everyone else’s houses are so full of pristine white backgrounds and custom furniture while you can barely keep the piles of discarded shoes from eating your living room. The million-dollar listings, the runway shows, the bloggers with horrible grammar getting free Gucci bags…it’s all a lot to take.

Of course, we can tell ourselves it’s fake. And we do, sometimes. We remind ourselves, in our saner moments, that these photos are posed. They are staged, perfectly lit and airbrushed, sometimes by actual professional photographers. The clothes are on loan, the furniture is from a showroom, it’s all an act. “This is not real life,” we repeat to ourselves over and over. But still. That green-eyed Internet monster…she’s more powerful than you’d think.

I think it’s possibly worse when you’re in the line of work I’m in. Being a person who’s been in the blogging world for approximately 87 years, the problem is that I know. I know that these girls posting about their fabulous new dress from Brand X aren’t doing it out of the goodness of their heart. I know that when a blogger I read starts writing a little too gushingly about her newly renovated sunroom or her “preview” of the Nordstrom flagship store in Seattle, she got it for free. And my jealousy…lord, but it runs deep. Sure, I want the room or the trip, just like you do. But I also want the gig she got, wherein a sponsor not only designed the room for her or flew her out first class, but paid her quite a lot of money to talk about it. I want to know how she got there and I didn’t. Why she has 120,000 Instagram followers and I don’t. Instead of taking the high road and being happy for her, I’m bitter and jealous. I start to feel horrible about myself and what I’ve accomplished – or, more specifically, what I haven’t accomplished. Shame spiral for one, please.

But. Much like the rest of the world, there’s no fairness in blogging. Longevity doesn’t equal success…nor, frankly, does quality. (There are bloggers making serious, serious money who can’t even be bothered to use spellcheck.) And so we all, bloggers or lawyers or baristas, have to find a way to check our Instagram feeds or “like” our friend’s photos of her $100,000 destination wedding without feeling bad about ourselves.

We have to find a way to remind ourselves that a perfectly-staged photo of a bowl of cherries doesn’t mean a person’s life is any better than ours. It just means that they’ve spent the last 3 hours piling those cherries just so, and another hour testing different filters and strengths and saturation levels. (Or that they’ve somehow mastered VSCOcam, even though you find it utterly incomprehensible.)

My photo of that bowl of cherries, on the other hand? It was probably just okay. I almost certainly got the filter wrong or there was a smudge on the bowl or my background wasn’t perfectly, pristinely white.

Why? Because I was busy eating the cherries. And you know something? They were delicious.

If there’s a lesson somewhere in this random ramble I’ve just dropped on you (and believe me, it’s one I have to repeat to myself at least once a day), it’s this:

Eat the cherries.

Just live your life, my friend. Your hilarious, messy, imperfect, dishes in the sink, dirty laundry, occasionally beautiful life. And sure, go ahead and take a picture. Or don’t. Maybe it’ll turn out perfectly – after all, occasional moments of beauty are everywhere, even in the midst of disaster. But friends, the photo isn’t the experience. The cherries are the experience.

So, eat the cherries. Post the photo or don’t, but eat the cherries. And enjoy every last bite.

 

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what to say when you don’t know what to say

empathy-cards-emily-mcdowell

|  A few of the perfectly on-the-nose Empathy Cards cooked up by Emily McDowell  |

I’ve always harbored a secret fantasy that I’d create a line of cards for awkward family scenarios. (See, e.g., a Father’s Day card for a dad to whom you sort of regret being genetically linked.)

So, when I saw what Emily McDowell has been up to, I knew I had to share. She’s created a whole line of cards for those tricky life situations you want to acknowledge, but don’t exactly know how, starting with a series for people with chronic or serious illness (aka, the people for whom a “get well soon” card doesn’t make a lick of sense). As a person who could be a recipient of many of Emily’s fantastic cards, I can tell you they’re just about perfect. (Especially that one about promising not to tell me about treatments you found on the internet. Seriously. Just…no.)

One of the (many, many) hard things about these big, hairy health issues (chronic illness, cancer, even infertility…really anything that can’t be cured by chicken soup or a Z-Pak) is that even the most well-meaning friends and family don’t really understand it. They can’t. You look fine most of the time, you act fine most of the time (we sickos get pretty good at putting on a show)…so it’s hard to know what to say or how to help. Believe me, I get it.

But the thing is, I lost friends when I got sick. Not a lot, but a few. They didn’t know what to say or how to act, so they just sort of faded away. And I let them. It sucked.

Instead of fading away, here’s what I suggest: show up. It’s that simple. Just show up, in whatever way you’re able. Send a card. Bring a cupcake. Ask questions. You don’t have to have the answers; just ask the questions. I’ll never volunteer the gory details about what’s up with my health, but if a friend sits with me over a cup of coffee and asks me to explain it to her, I always will. Because I want you to understand…but I need you to ask, because I don’t want to overshare, or overburden, or bore you to tears. Say, “If you’re okay talking about it, I’d love for you to explain what’s happening so I can be a better friend to you.” Wow, would those words be healing.

And then? Drop it. As hard as it will be, resist the urge to treat her like a patient. Plenty of other people have that covered, and no one wants to be The Sick Friend. Be the person who lets her feel like her old self. Because underneath the piles of blankets and pill bottles, that’s exactly who she is. Sure, ask how she’s feeling occasionally, and let her know you’re there whenever she needs to vent about another bad doctor’s visit or how her new meds are making her gain weight.

But your friend doesn’t need you to be her mother or her doctor – she needs you to be her friend. The same friend she had before the shit hit the fan.

So, show up with a pair of cappuccinos and resume your multi-part discussion of the best all-girl hip-hop groups from the ’90s. Call just to tell her about something funny that happened at work, or text her a string of rando emojis. Or occasionally, when you know she’s having a bad week (which you’ll know, because you’ve been showing up), show up with a casserole.

Don’t wait for her to ask, because she probably won’t. Just show up.

 

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hug a mom

mom and me

|  Me and my adorable mom. How lucky am I to have those genes?  |

A dear friend of mine, who also happens to be a new mom, is having A Week. By which I mean, a week that would make me – any normal human, really – just curl up into a ball and give in to your darkest thoughts.

Luckily, this friend of mine is not a normal human – she’s a superhero. I’ve known this for some time, but the simple fact that she has not completely lost her mind this week, or resorted to sticking a bendy straw directly into a bottle of tequila seals the deal. I’ve been doing my level best to pitch in and be a friend, but let me say this: I spent a handful of days this week walking in her shoes, cuddling her adorable newborn munchkin for a handful of caffeinated, showered, daylight hours, and all I know is that I adore the heck out of that baby, but if somebody doesn’t put me on a plane to Bora-Bora, and I mean immediately, I’m not sure I’ll last the week.

Watching my friend bring it in such a profoundly impressive way has left me thinking about my own superhero of a mom, who did all of it with one more kid to juggle and one less co-parent to lean on. Who worked three jobs to pay our rent, who didn’t own a new car until I was in high school, and who went without more often than I’ll probably ever know. Oh, and put herself through college and law school while she was at it. I think she knows by now that I’m in awe of all that – I talk her up all the time, to everyone – but I’m pretty sure she also knows that because I am a contentedly kidless person, I have no fucking clue how hard it actually was for her. I can’t begin to know.

I texted my mom earlier this week and commented that babies were harder than they look. “I remember,” she said. Sometimes I think about having kids just so that she could be a grandmother. She’s earned it.

All this rambling to say: hug a mom this weekend. It doesn’t have to be yours – I know things are complicated. Mine happens to be utterly amazing, but it’s not always so. There are issues and heartbreaks and regrets and distances we can’t always cross. Life is messy. But I promise you, this weekend you’ll see a mom out there in the world who needs an encouraging smile and a reminder that she’s doing it right, because she’s clinging to her grip on sanity with two very tired, very sticky fingers. When you spot her, hold the door open. Pay for her coffee, bite your tongue when her toddler pitches a fit, or leave her a note telling her she’s a superhero. Just take a moment and acknowledge that, my God, she is doing the hardest job I know. And she’s doing it for free. No vacation days, no time-outs, just for the sake of that little bundle of milk and poop she’s stewarding through the world, one spit-up-covered day at a time.

{PS: While you’re at it, you might keep your eyes open for a non-mom who could use a hug too. This Mother’s Day business is tough for a lot of people, for a lot of reasons, and a little bit of kindness goes a long, long way.}

 

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zen and the art of birdwatching

elena lyakir

| Image via Elena Lyakir |

Meditation isn’t for everyone – and, though I’ve tried more than I care to admit, I’m finally realizing it probably isn’t for me. I’ve tried, really I have. In yoga classes, with special CDs, in total silence, in an actual Buddhist temple…you name it. After reading Eat Pray Love (both times), I tried to “smile in my liver” as the author’s Balinese healer/guru tells her. It lasted about 15 seconds. My brain just isn’t built for silence. Read on

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the best love advice i never got

best tenth anniversary gift

(Warning: the following is not gender-neutral. Not because I’m a big insensitive jerk, but because writing that way is surprisingly hard. Please read with whatever pronouns you love best.)

It’s nearly Valentine’s Day, friends! I know, I know. Every year, I preach about how we should use this “holiday” (such as it is) to celebrate much more than our romantic relationships, so I’ll keep this year’s tirade brief. But. Remember in grade school, when everyone in your class got a Valentine? Even the fat girl everyone made fun of got a card and some conversation hearts. (That was me, by the way – not that I’m bitter.) I try sometimes to remember at what point in our childhoods Valentine’s Day stopped being about everyone, and started being about The One. It’s a travesty, if you ask me. I miss conversation hearts.

As God and Hallmark intended, this week I’ve been thinking a lot about love. Which, in turn, means thinking about my darling Hubs. Not long ago, we had a pretty big anniversary – the kind that makes you sit back and think about all you’ve been through together. And phew…have we been through some shit. Sure, I might occasionally want to strangle him with the dirty socks he leaves on the floor, but when I think about what we’ve survived together during the last decade-plus? We are most definitely MFEO.

And yet. Read on

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the best we can

frustrated-dog

| Isn’t that face is the most perfect picture of frustration you’ve ever seen? Hilarious. But of course, we’ve all been there. |

I don’t know if you’ve been feeling it where you are, but the new year has felt heavy to me this time around. Like one of those hulking winter coats from a thrift store that smells kind of funny and never fits you quite right. There’s sorrow and loss around every corner, it seems, and I’m starting to wonder if my heart can survive it. Read on

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