Wednesday, May 29, 2013

On Being Disliked

I recently interacted with someone who obviously did not like me. I couldn’t smile enough. Tell enough jokes. Or, be as humble as I needed to be. It was abundantly clear I was simply disliked.

If you’ve ever been in the presence of someone who has an obvious distaste for you, it makes you feel vulnerable. It’s a bit disarming. Because your first instinct (at least in my case) is to try to convince that person otherwise. It just has a way of putting you on edge. Making you feel helpless. But you can’t change their dislike. You just have to live with it, as uncomfortable as it feels to sit with that knowledge. 

I thought a lot about this person. About why they probably don’t like me and why I really shouldn’t care. 

It’s not my job to make people like me. Because the world is full of people who have already made up their minds. People who let their own misery cloud their judgment. Who won’t (or don’t) like you because it’s about them, not about you.

Your job isn’t to change everyone else; it’s to be exactly who you are. Without apology. I’ve spent most of my life tirelessly trying to make everyone like me. It’s exhausting. In order to please the rest of the world, you give up part of yourself in the process. Sacrifice what you are in favor of who you think you should be and you’ll never really know exactly who you are. It’s easy to find yourself completely lost in the process.

But what I didn’t see back then was this: it takes guts to be you. It’s walking around naked all day, flaws and all. Exposing yourself to everyone and not caring what they have to say about you. This is a frightening proposition, being the person you are called to be—not the one the world wishes you to be.

This isn’t to say that I’m without flaws or that I’m right and everyone else is either wrong or ignorant. It’s about being authentic and understanding that the world is a broken place inhabited by broken people. We’re all broken, each in our own way. Most of us find ways to cover the cracks, but they’re still there. Being your perfectly broken self opens up a world you probably haven’t taken the time to see—one where we’re all a bit wounded and trying to compensate for our faults. We’ve all got a different way of filling the cracks in our foundation; it’s just that some of us are more skilled contractors than others.

The next time you realize someone dislikes you, be brave enough to let your cracks show. Years from now you won't be bothered that someone hates you; you'll be pissed you cared too much about their opinion.

“When you are truly genuine, there will invariably be people who do not accept you. And in that case, you must be your own badass self, without apology.” –Katie Goodman

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Forgotten Photo

A red fabric scrapbook sits underneath a bed, coated in a thick layer of dust. It was a gift from me to him years ago. The first few pages are full of photographs and mementos. The rest was left blank, intended to be filled with more of the same by now. But it's still blank. Still just a bit forgotten as life transpired over those years.

The story begins simply enough: two just-barely-adults who met by chance. Or destiny, if you're prone to believe in those sorts of things. It was a chance encounter; a stroke of dumb luck.

The nearly-empty scrapbook has been dusted off and pulled out a handful of times since it was filed away in the dust and clutter under that bed.

It's the photographs that whisk me back--the moments I had temporarily forgotten that still have such power over my heart.

It's this one I love the most. It wasn't long after we met in late 2002 that he left for a co-op in Arlington, Virginia. Back when he wanted to be an engineer, not a teacher. It would be easier if we dated other people, we agreed.

I remember the ribbed black turtleneck I wore. I had just gotten over mono. He was so concerned for me; carefully watching over me from a distance to be sure I was OK. A pattern that remains intact today.

More than anything, that photo reminds me the most powerful thing that exists in this world isn't our words.

It's what we don't say.

It was about the way he looked at me. The way he still looks at me.

Months later, after a few drinks, I would call him in tears and confess I didn't want to see other people. I only wanted to see him. And that, as they say, was that.

Love is such a funny thing because it's not just one thing; it's an intricately woven tapestry of many, many things that cannot be easily described with words. It just is.

This is why the concept of falling in love has always baffled me. You're in or you're out. The way I see it, there's no middle ground.

That night eleven years ago, wearing that turtleneck and that stupid flippy blond hairdo---I knew. I didn't know what I knew, but I could feel it.

No one had ever looked at me like that before. It was electric.

And still today, I can touch that photo and be whisked back to the start of something beautiful. A patient man with bright blue eyes who looked at me that way.

I'm not an easy person to love. I'm as needy as I am staunchly independent. As stubborn as I am sweet. As tough as I am soft. My tongue is very sharp, but my heart is very easily bruised.

Love is everything that anyone who has written about it says it is. But for me, it's moments in time. Captured as they happened. Carefully placed in a scrapbook.

Forgotten momentarily, underneath my bed.

Monday, May 20, 2013

He's 31

Today is my husband's 31st birthday.
And this gift giving occasion makes me realize that I’m a lot of things, but naturally thoughtful is not one of them.
Christmas was a bit of a disaster, you see. He bought himself a sandblasting cabinet a few weeks before Christmas. And I recalled a conversation about not exchanging gifts because of this purchase. As luck would have it, this discussion only took place inside my head. He gave me an amazing Christmas gift. And I didn’t get him anything.
The lesson here is this: despite someone telling you it’s alright you forgot about them, it still hurts when someone forgets about you. That over-used saying is true: it really is about the thought.
I’ve spent months feeling terrible about my lack of thoughtfulness. And I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what it means to be thoughtful. It’s about taking the time to do things that allow people to understand they have worth. That you see them. Realize the importance of their contribution in this world. And that you’re willing to take the time to show them.
Relationships work when you work at them, simply put. And it doesn’t take much time to understand that, for the people who know you love them, just knowing it isn’t enough. You have to tell them. And show them. And you have to do it over and over again.
I’m the lucky one is this partnership. I’m married to a man who is incredibly thoughtful. He listens to everything I say. He notices. And he’s much more generous (and at least ten times more patient) than I am. He doesn’t do it to make me look like a terrible person; he does it because that’s who he is.
And I’ve given him a series of well-planned and thoughtful gifts over the last month. I’ll give him the final gift today, on his birthday, which I did not forget.
Remembering his birthday was the least I could do.


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