There once was a minnow.

Do you suppose it’s terrible to talk about yourself or anything positive (or negative) that doesn’t happen to be about world events?

With everything that is going on in our world today, I feel pretty guilty writing about myself …yet here I am.

I just accepted a position with a company that will pay me a lot of money. They believe I am “a talented and gifted writer and strategist” at the “top of my game.”

Talented? Shakespeare doesn’t live here, folks.

Gifted?? Not inept, but far from masterly.

At the top of my game? Sure, if we’re talking minor league.

(My cover letter is pretty awesome, though. It begins this way: I consider myself a Swiss-army knife of strategic disciplines. I know writing and editing as much as I know business strategy. I am also a left and right-brain thinker. I believe in turning over every stone (in a piece of writing and every campaign), then polishing it so the whole thing sparkles majestically.)

***

Imposter Syndrome is real, but so isn’t my vision of greatness in work. Can one transcend self-limitations and be extraordinary when it matters most? The president of Ukraine proves it’s possible. No, I’m not comparing myself to President Zelenskyy. But some people are meant to rise higher in life. Some people have an unwavering attitude of gratitude and grit. They achieve this growth mindset and thereby achieve their moonshot dreams. I’m not even sure I know what my moonshot dreams are. And grit? I might have had nerve… back in my 20s. And do I want to rise higher in life? I’m getting old. I’m getting tired. I’m very comfortable in this mid-level area where I don’t have to work extraordinarily hard to maintain my innate drive to be excellent.

Now, a story about a pike.

***

Pikes are pretty forgettable fish unless you’re a smaller fish, in which case pikes are downright troublesome. (That’s what you call a creature that eats you alive.)

Scientists dropped some tiny minnows into a tank containing a single pike in an experiment. Predictably, the pike ate the minnows immediately. But then, a funny thing happened. The scientists lowered in the next group of minnows inside a glass cup. The pike, who couldn’t even begin to grasp the concept of glass and, using his tiny brain, began to smash up against the cup in chase of the minnows. He did this for hours until finally, he drifted to the bottom of the tank, dejected.

Then, the scientists removed the glass cup, and the minnows swam freely all around the tank, undisturbed by the pike. Tasty little morsels swimming right under his nose, and he didn’t move so much as an inch.

This is what scientists today call “learned helplessness.”

Learned helplessness is a condition in which a person (or animal) suffers from a sense of powerlessness due to traumatic events or persistent failure. It’s the reason we believe a situation is either unchangeable or inescapable.

What does this have to do with my new job and colossal paycheck?

Learned helplessness is also a form of thinking that we are a certain way, so we can’t do certain things. A job that pays a hefty salary usually comes with hefty accountabilities and responsibilities, right? Hiring managers don’t typically offer large salaries to entry-level employees. No, I’m not entry-level, but the idea that my salary has jumped as high as it did in one move makes me wonder what accountabilities I’m in for. Better yet, am I qualified for?

Back to the pike. He couldn’t get those minnows, so to him, he was destined to never eat another minnow again. I’m a bit like the pike today. I never pulled in this salary, and I’m reasonably sure I’m not that “level” of an employee. Hmm, how can I better tie this together? Try this: tasty little morsels are swimming right in front of our noses, evidence and ideas that suggest we should make certain choices or try certain things. But we don’t budge. We discount or overlook them. Like our ornery friend the pike, we’ve been trained into believing we are helpless in a situation – or in my case, not worthy of such a large salary.

This story runs in my head as I walk into my new job. And it’s the story that’s been running in my head for years. I think I’m suffering from a specific case of learned helplessness. Thanks to years of cultural norms beating a particular message into my brain, it was learned.

So, the appropriate next question is, if we learned something, can we un-learn it?

Yes! We can un-learn our sense of learned helplessness. How we view things may have calcified thanks to a previous narrative. Still, we can and should seek to change that narrative when we recognize our current story is limiting us. In other words, we can tell a better story in our heads, which then affects how we approach our work.

Unlike the pike, we aren’t running into the glass so much as other barriers. Every time we come up against one, we try to make sense of the moment. We explain the world to ourselves. The more we explain setbacks and obstacles, the more the explanation calcifies in our minds. If we aren’t careful, a pessimistic description can harden our worldview. We then suffer from learned helplessness.

We all do something complicated and daunting in our work, no matter what we create: content, companies, cultures, change in society. It’s daunting to think the product of our minds must be good enough to resonate with others, cut through the noise and spark action, and create movements, businesses, and legacies. That alone is daunting enough, but making matters worse is often how we explain the world in our own minds.

But if we knew about learned helplessness and how it formed, and if we could dissect our own explanations of the world, then maybe we could better control the way we see that next task or opportunity or challenge. We can harness our internal narrative for forwarding momentum and avoid falling victim to the tricks our minds play on us, causing us to shrink for the moment. We can un-learn any helplessness we feel and learn to show up better in our work and lives.

Perhaps I never pulled in a big salary because my work wasn’t worthy, but employers didn’t value it. And therefore, neither did I.

I guess what I’m trying to say is even though the world is in disarray, we shouldn’t put our own story on hold for fear of sounding self-consumed. We shouldn’t think we need only to speak the story of world events. In fact, in the end, the most important story we tell is the one we tell ourselves.

Career in a box.

 

I once started in a new job, and by Day 2, I knew I’d made a colossal mistake.

Sitting in a leadership team meeting, I cracked a silly joke. The room went silent, and everyone stared at me like I’d grown another head. I thought, “Ohhhhh, this will not end well.” Four months of frustration later, I am done.

I will never work somewhere that I can’t bring my whole self, stupid jokes and all. As I job hunt, I’ve made a litmus test: my new favorite laptop sticker, which is silly, and I LOVE it. It’s from a dog rescue that funds vet bills for people who can’t pay them. If I ever find myself in a situation where I’d be tempted to peel this off before an in-person meeting… the deal’s off.

***

We often feel our emotions are blended to bits from our jobs. We sprint, run, jog, then walk; we heave, collapse, and lurch ourselves barely over the finish line to realize a new quarter, a new project, a goal, a new deadline to meet, or a problem to solve. Sometimes, it’s all we can do to stagger to our feet again. The voices in our heads start to creep in: “Just settle. Just do it that old, boring, outdated way, and nobody would question it.”

We send messages to others that we think, say, and do what they expect us to think, say, and do regardless of what our intuition is urging us to BE.

In these moments, when we feel like we’re just eking by, or else we really need a win or a confidence boost, it’s so tempting to do something dangerous: conform. A career in a box.

So, let me ask you: have you ever stood there, needing a win, maybe a bit more confidence, and perhaps a goddamn break from it all … and so you showed up as someone other than your true self?

Yeah.

Me, too.

But I think there’s good news for us.

Great work requires your true self and your actual beliefs to come through forcefully. Don’t couch them. Your actual quirks coming out from where they’ve been hiding.

Your work. Your way.

Your career. Your choice.

Your life. Your script.

What “one” is supposed to do is rarely what you are supposed to do. People around you, even people similar to you, are not YOU. However, finding out what path works best for you is squarely on your shoulders. It’s on each of us, and we’re entirely on the hook to figure it out and pursue it. Nobody else will do it for us, and nobody else is coming.

Maybe you really want to open the CAREER IN A BOX. That’s great! Some people like knowing each step ahead of them. Fantastic! The important part is that you know that about yourself.

But while some people want a paint-by-numbers career straight from the box, I tried that, and I was miserable. I realized (thanks in no small part to lots of thrashing in the wrong jobs in my 20s and 30s and 40s) I want a blank canvas career instead. And if I don’t like how this painting starts to look, I’ll just toss it aside and grab a new canvas.

Maybe you are part of a circle of loving friends who do exactly what you do, or maybe your loved ones don’t exactly understand what you do. (That’s me, as you might suspect. A description of my friends and me sound like the setup to a bad joke. “A doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, an accountant, and a [whatever the hell Lisa is] walk into a bar…”)

Because you can’t really use a single word to sum up my work, I say “writer” most often.

Whatever the hell Lisa is.”

What I “is” is me.

(I did it, Dad. I wrote the best sentence of my life.)

What I am… is me. It’s all I can be. It’s all I’ll ever be. So I may as well stop lying to myself and get on with being it. People say “to each their own,” so we each may as well own it. If you really love the pomp and circumstance, sing the song. If you really love The Simpsons, buy the poster. But do it for yourself, not someone else, and not because you were told it’s what you’re “supposed to do.”

The expectations of others become crutches on which we lean when our confidence wavers. In moments of uncertainty or struggle, it’s tempting to stuff down our quirks and our convictions and show up to work acting like someone else.

No matter how uncertain or scared, or stressed you feel, I implore you don’t obsess over what someone like you is supposed to do. Obsess over what YOU are supposed to do. That’s a lifelong pursuit, but it’s well worth a lifetime.

Know who you are. Know why you do this work.

It’s your career.

Do it your way.

So here’s hoping everyone out there brings their awesome, authentic, whole selves to whatever it is you’re doing. Oh, and tell your dog I said hi.

When my daily horoscope forces me to action, I blow it. Sheesh.

My horoscope this morning read: Shine your light on the lives of others and dazzle them with your colorful conversation.

Hmm. What to say, what to say? Colorful. No pressure. Dazzle. No pressure. Shine, eh? …

Maybe I could talk about the open border crisis and how the Republicans are still asking the dumb question: “Why isn’t the Biden administration doing anything to close our borders?” I believe Tucker already told us why 11 months ago. Pay better attention, Republicans.

Or I could talk about the whole Joe Rogan thing. I can’t say I’ve been a loyal listener, but I have tuned in to Rogan now and then, depending on the guest and the topic. For instance, I listened to his 3 1/2-hour interview with Jewel. GREAT episode (#1724). I highly recommend listening to this one. But back to Spotify and the situation at hand … Be brave. Stay strong. Don’t cave.

Or I could ask you my burning chicken-and-egg question: Do you think your character is formed by how other’s see and describe you? Or is how people see and describe you formed by your character? During my childhood (and my early adulthood), my family, my teachers, pretty much all adults around me described me as timid.

Timid, adjective, showing a lack of courage or confidence; easily frightened.

I mean, when I’m told as a kid that I’m timid, then I must be timid, right? Probably why I grew up being a shy, walking people-pleaser. But tell me, would a timid person go toe-to-toe with a 6’2, 350lb German bully at the gym who invades my space? Yes, I got in his face (er, waist, but my eyes were glaring from an angle). Would a timid person call her boss out on a lie? (That was a dumb idea. I got fired over it.) Would a timid person turn on her camera on a Zoom call and spend an hour presenting a marketing strategy to the folks at Wendy’s? (The real, actual, legit big brand red pigtails, Wendy’s.)

I stopped being a people-pleaser years ago so have my actions changed the way people describe me? Or have I changed how I act because no one has called me timid in 25 years? Chicken? Egg? Nature? Nurture?

Or I could talk about my big news that’s happening in May. I’m moving home to Rhode Island. I’ve changed my mind several times over the last six months, but I think I’m sticking with – the move is on. Lots of reasons and lots of ah-ha moments, and yes, lots of meditation and looking for signs from the universe. Also, yes, I realize my daughter and granddaughter are here (and any day now my grandson will be, too), but maybe I was supposed to raise my daughter here so that she could grow up and bless me with the greatest granddaughter. And maybe Arizona was the necessary so she could meet the man of her dreams, fall in love, get married and bless me with a grandson. And maybe since all has been achieved it’s now OK to go home.

Or I can give you an update on the lactose intolerant, gluten free eating tennis player that I’m no longer seeing (at least he wasn’t a narcissist). I need you all to know that I tried. I really, really, really tried. I was calm. I communicated well. I was very accommodating to his many (maaaannnnnnnnnnnnnnyyyyyyyyy) needs. I listened. His love language (that effing book!!!) is touch (mine is not) (shocker) so I held his hand and did all the touchy feely cuddly things that he needed. I did all the shit – until I just couldn’t do the shit anymore…

Well, I suppose I can write about any one of these things, turning over every stone, then polishing it so the whole story sparkles majestically. Or I can wait till tomorrow’s horoscope and hopefully be let off the hook!

A diddy about broken promises

broken promises

Do you think President Biden has forgotten what he promised us when he was on the campaign trail? And do you think he’s aware of these broken promises?

My opinion, he didn’t know what, or, that he was making promises. And because he didn’t know he was making promises, he is wholly unaware that he’s breaking them.

Still, promises were made (thanks to his speech writers and behind-the-scenes people that directed his stage performances), and no one should make promises, POST THEM ONLINE, and then break them because people like me will Google the crap out of years-old articles and then call you out.

And so begins my little diddy on broken promises. Again, for the record, I honestly don’t think Biden planned on breaking his promises. I do, however, believe they were never intended to be kept in the first place.

Based on this article:

  1. How enraged do you think people will be when if POTUS admits he can’t make C*19 cease to exist?
  2. How furious do you think they will be when they realize they lost two years of their lives, isolating from society in fear for their lives?
  3. How quickly do you think they’ll blame Trump …and Trump supporters …and the unvaccinated …and Florida?

“The goal for the ‘new normal’ with COVID-19 does not include eradication or elimination, e.g., the ‘zero COVID’ strategy. Neither COVID-19 vaccination nor infection appears to confer lifelong immunity,” they wrote. “Current vaccines do not offer sterilizing immunity against SARS-CoV-2 infection. Infectious diseases cannot be eradicated when there is limited long-term immunity following infection or vaccination or nonhuman reservoirs of infection.” ~ Drs. Ezekiel Emanuel, Michael Osterholm, Celine Gounder

Perhaps next time Joe should choose his words wisely and instead of saying “I promise” rather opt for words like  “we will see” or “we can try.”

Juuuuust a suggestion, Joe.

What to do when you don’t know what to do.

I’ve been reading a lot about ‘decision fatigue’ (I didn’t know it had a name).

To describe it, decision fatigue smells like initiative, angst, and Covid.

Another way I can describe it: when you have an idea or a goal and it turns into a big decision and no one can make it for you but you wish someone would come over and tell you what to do (and make you cookies).

I’m struggling with decision fatigue (and chronic hesitation), and it’s self-imposed, which makes it that much more ominous.

In 2009, Paul Graham wrote an outstanding essay called Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule. I re-read it the other day and it reminded me that, no, I’m not crazy. I’ve just been working in a directly opposite way of how I’m wired. If you’ve never read the essay, and you don’t have time to read the piece, here’s the gist. Paul Graham writes that there are basically two types of schedules, a Maker’s schedule and a Manager’s schedule.

Here’s a quote directly from the essay: “The manager’s schedule is for bosses. It’s embodied in the traditional appointment book, each day cut into one-hour intervals. You can block off several hours for a single task if you need to, but by default you change what you’re doing every hour. When you use time that way, it’s merely a practical problem to meet with someone. Find an open slot in your schedule, book them, and you’re done.”

To keep quoting: “When you’re operating on the maker’s schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon by breaking it into two pieces, each too small to do anything hard in. … For someone on the maker’s schedule, having a meeting is like throwing an exception. It doesn’t merely cause you to switch from one task to another; it changes the mode in which you work.”

Now, speaking personally and thanks to this essay, I know that I do my best when I can position my schedule as a maker. But increasingly, I’ve been doing my work on a manager’s schedule. While it’s not a wrong schedule, it limits the kind of work I can do – and want to do. And it’s probably the reason for the overwhelmed feeling, decision fatigue, and chronic hesitation.

Let’s go back to the “self-imposed” point. Around December 28 (yes, one week ago), I began speaking into existence my 2022 goals – one, here and there, over several days. And now, four days into the new year, I realize my goals are an avalanche waiting to happen. All I want is for someone to come over and tell me what to do and make me cookies. While conducive to a manager’s schedule, these goals swamp a maker’s schedule. And as I just pointed out, I’m not wired for a manager’s schedule.

My goals list looks something like this:

  • Rebrand my blog.
  • Post weekly on said newly-branded blog.
  • Schedule 3 Writing Days a month (a writing day means I spend 3-7 hours writing consistently and without interruption or distraction).
  • Journal “Morning Pages” every morning.
  • Journal daily “One Line A Day in a Five-Year Memory Book.”
  • Be self-employed by June 30.
  • Have a completed first draft manuscript by December 31.
  • (Until Thanksgiving, moving back to Rhode Island on May 1 was on the list. This has since been deleted.)
  • Get really good at tennis and join a league.
  • Read one book a month (they cannot be writing books or marketing books).
  • Get deeper (and more serious) into my Buddhist practice.
  • Adopt a dog.

To not pass judgment on me and to name what was really going on, I asked myself two questions. First question, what feels life-draining? The second question, what feels life-giving?

What feels life-draining is not unsubtle: the thought of so many rogue, self-imposed, deadline-driven, high-reaching goals. It’s unrealistic to have this many at once, I know. And it definitely amplifies imposter syndrome.

What feels life-giving is easy to identify: Writing. Playing tennis (even badly).

I decided to make a list, for lists’-sake. I cut my goal list in half and deleted deadlines. Here’s what it looks like today.

  1. Hide all the journals in a draw somewhere and forget about them.
  2. Write 500 words a day.
  3. Read one chapter a day.
  4. Play tennis.
  5. Develop a consistent Buddhist practice.
  6. Adopt a dog.

For the record, this blog post is more than 500 words. I already feel victorious as I exceeded my goal without much trying.

I think the point of my story is to not let conventional deadlines (or rules) keep you from growth and from your own transformation. Your life is waiting for you to see it, to name it, and to do your next right thing. And if you suffer from decision fatigue, it’s OK to pause, wait, and clear the decks. We’re not robots. We’re meant to breathe in and out. Some seasons are for a deep inhale, and others are for a long exhale. It’s great to have goals – but not at the expense of having a life. The big truth is, our daily decisions are actually making our lives. We’d be wise to pay close attention.

Use your time wisely. Welcome to my TED Talk.

I started blogging in 2007. Fourteen years ago, I opened my browser and began sharing pieces of myself. In those days, I wrote about whatever drifted into my head. I didn’t check my grammar or read my words out loud. I wrote as fast as I could. I paid no attention to purpose, technique, my reader (or grammar).

Today feels like one of those days when I want to treat my blog like my journal. 2021 is coming to an end, and automatically I want to reflect on the rollercoaster year.

But I am not going to. I’m not going to replay the past.

Buddhists perceive everything in life as an illusion — which means that nothing has a tangible presence. What we see as concrete and permanent is only present for the time being. (That statement, right there! I’ll write it again for you.) What we see as concrete and permanent is only present for the time being. Eventually, it will cease to exist within months, years, or decades.

The traditional teaching is that attachment (in whatever form) is the root cause of suffering. And suffering, if you’re wondering, is semantically related to worry.

Suppose you knew that worrying thoughts caused you to suffer. And you knew reflecting on those thoughts couldn’t change anything that happened in the past, nor could they direct the future. Would you continue to think about those thoughts?

I won’t speak for all of humanity, just myself. At times, I absolutely want to change the past, and I definitely want to control the future. But another one of Buddha’s teachings is that the secret of health for both mind and body is not to grieve the past, agonize about the future, or anticipate troubles. The secret is to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly. The law of presence teaches that what we do today is important because we are trading a day of our life for it.

And that’s the reason I am not spending my energy reflecting on 2021. Instead, I am giving my power to new intentions that I will take into the new year.

If you’ve never tried stream of consciousness writing, I say give it a go. I highly recommend cozying up to your own heart in this fashion. Here’s what I have (after writing without pause or hesitation):

Goals for 2022:

Let people evolve

Listen without reacting

Do not expect perfection

Support others

Only commit to what is doable

No performances or projections

Communicate calmly and honestly

Ample space to be my own person

Share joy and peace

The point of this TED Talk? Don’t let life go by while worrying about the past or the future. Focus on and enjoy the present. One of my all-time favorite quotes by Margaret Bonnano is this: “It’s only possible to live happily ever after on a moment-to-moment basis.” 

P.S. If I may make a suggestion – don’t try to live every day like it’s your last. Instead, try to live every day like it’s your first. There’s a big difference!

True or false? There is way too much in the news for me to respond to.

(Ah, you all know me too well!)

SHOULD THE UNVACCINATED BE DENIED HEALTHCARE?

Does the left advocate to lower triage priority for drug addicts, or is that just for people who don’t love needles in their arms?

ALEC BALDWIN ASKING FOR SEARCH WARRANT BEFORE HANDING OVER PHONE

Aren’t all communications via phone sitting in a database somewhere? Why do they even need the physical phone for that?

HARRIS SAYS BIDEN ADMINISTRATION FAILED TO SEE EITHER DELTA OR OMICRON VARIANTS COMING

How odd that a virus would mutate! Who could’ve possibly seen that coming?!

EMORY UNIVERSITY TELLS FRATERNITY IT CAN’T HANG CHRISTMAS WREATH ON DOOR

What’s with the wreath hate this year? They’re wreaths, not nooses.

LAW & ORDER ACTRESS CLAIMS CHRIS NOTH WAS ‘SEXUALLY INAPPROPRIATE TOWARD HER ON SET’

They always say they were afraid it would hurt their careers. But now they realize it will help their careers. Not that I’m ‘not believing’…

FAUCI: AMERICANS MAY ‘JUST HAVE TO DEAL WITH’ MORE COVID-19 VACCINE BOOSTER SHOTS

Give it some time, and I bet the new theory will be that the unvaxxed are solely responsible for the mutations. There will always be some reason why the unvaccinated are responsible for everything.

OREGON MOM HIGHLIGHTS DAUGHTER’S STRUGGLES WITH VIRTUAL LEARNING AFTER 30 MISSED SCHOOL DAYS

This is when you avail yourselves of Ron Paul’s homeschool program. It is self-guided, and the kid will get a far better education.

SECULARIST GROUP TARGETS DECADES-LONG TRADITION OF LAYING WREATHS ON SOLDIERS’ TOMBS

If you don’t believe in Jesus, it’s just a pretty wreath. Move on.

KIM POTTER TRIAL: MINNEAPOLIS ON EDGE AS DAUNTE WRIGHT’S NAME POSTED AROUND TOWN

According to Wright’s victims, “justice for Daunte Wright” would need to include him being behind bars when he was shot. Amen.

COLORADO SHERIFF’S SANTA PHOTO STOKES OUTRAGE ON SOCIAL MEDIA, OFFICE APOLOGIZES

Ugh. I hate when people apologize for nothing just because someone demanded it. Let’s just save time and start and end every sentence with “sorry.”

CNN TERMINATES CHRIS CUOMO ‘EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY’

Ok, CNN. Well, I don’t think any less of CNN or Cuomo. Journalism is dead. Pretending there’s integrity or lack of bias anywhere in the MSM is silly.

HOW SUPREME COURT COULD DECIDE ABORTION CASE: PRESERVE, LIMIT OR STRIKE DOWN ROE v. WADE

As a reasonably empathetic woman, I feel like I’m in the twilight zone when I hear leftist women speak about abortion. Firstly, baby-making is like a superpower, and secondly, there are so many ways to choose not to exercise the superpower at all. And, of course, thirdly, if you were the victim of a crime to which it forced your superpower into existence, there are also options. Killing babies is wrong, and I don’t relate to or understand these lefty women.

And on that note, I’m turning off the news.

I think Miranda Lambert and I would make great besties.

Heartache… is an inadequate word.

It doesn’t describe that perpetual stinging feeling. The dread. The vase that’s too broken to be put back together. The sobbing inexplicably. The burning in your lungs until you can’t breathe, as if a ghost from the past is chasing you and you can’t draw enough air in, and you’re tired, and your body is giving out, and you just can’t anymore.

Inconceivable pain. Tiny pins puncturing your heart a million times over. On a scale of 1 to torturous, getting your heart broken is a solid “absolutely dreadful.”

Heartache.

It turns people into country singers.

Heart—Ache.

I have been thinking a great deal about it – what it means, what it takes of us, how it feels when it’s forced upon us.

The shedding of something, and then the discovery of something else. When you experience heartache, you discover there is no place more intimate than your heart. And if you’re honest, you know there is really only one heartache that is strong enough to break your heart, and it is large and not easy to bear. The visionary poets knew this. The poets also knew that heartache kills the wellspring of all the meaning-making that makes life worth living.

When you’re in the middle of heartache, you can’t expect anything to happen. You just wait. And the waiting, after a while, starts to become deep acceptance, even if you don’t want to accept things. But the really challenging part, let’s be honest, is when your inner voice becomes audible. It can bring you to a tipping point.

Coming to terms with something being “over” is something I’ve never liked. I’d rather something taper off until one day I’m like, “Hmm. How did that end?” or “Strange, I haven’t talked to that person in a while.” But I suppose “The Taper” is really just what cowards do to avoid the inevitable.

So, call me cowardly.

I read online that Americans are likely to have their hearts broken several times in a lifetime. In fact, they average five. And some good doctor somewhere said that it’s good to experience at least one nasty heartbreak because the pain is special. (Special??) And unlike anything else, it exposes one to vital lessons about life.

My heart was broken recently, and if the “vital lessons” are grief, guilt, shame, sadness, and desperation, I earned an A+. What came at me was swift and comprehensive … and it came like the wind. I did not see it coming. And, naturally, my research about emotionally devastating heartbreak shows five distinct stages of grief follows: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I heard some people have even reported more stages. It seems grief is as unique as we are.

I went through the five stages, but I circled back to revisit anger and bargaining.

My m.o. is to cut ties; to convince myself it’s better to go it alone than to do the work it takes to resolve conflict. I find it difficult to apologize when I hurt someone, but I find it harder to forgive someone who has hurt me.

We are all flawed. But I’m not just flawed; I’m also a coward. I should keep this at the forefront of my mind when deciding who to keep in or out of my life—and how to respond to those who no longer want me in theirs.

I know it will be up to me to initiate reconciliation, if reconciliation ever makes it to the table, but I also know I need my anger to taper off. Some problems may be irresolvable, but there are also relationships that don’t need to be lost forever.

Who else wants to change lanes?

First, I will tell you a story about something that happened to me in the past. Next, if I’m as talented as I think I am, I will connect that story with what is happening presently. And finally, because I think I am that talented, I’m going to bring it full circle and roll it into the future.

Once upon a time, in a land called Tucson, I picked up my father to drive him to the doctor’s office…

“You should get in the carpool lane.”

“I don’t want to get in the carpool lane.”

“WHY?”

“Well, because we’re going the same speed as the people in the carpool lane, plus it makes me nervous. Driving all fast next to the wall like that, and then not changing lanes if I feel like I want to. It’s restrictive. And if you drive next to the wall, you have to drive perfectly. If you drive in the middle lane, you have a little bit more room for error. And you can escape.”

Most people think this way. Most people think it’s perfectly sensible to drive in the carpool lane if two people are in the car. It’s like, “YAY! Carpool lane!” I’ve actually heard people get that excited.

I am not one of those people. As a matter of fact, I prefer to not even take the freeway. I’d instead take a longer, more scenic route because I may decide on the way to wherever I’m going that I don’t want to go there; I’d like to go somewhere else first. It’s much harder to make choices like that when you’re on the freeway. It becomes an ordeal.

My whole issue with driving in the carpool lane directly relates to the fact I like to have an escape mechanism. This also speaks loudly to the truth of my intense need to make choices: New choices. Different choices. Better choices. Choices. MY choices.

Being able to make choices is my way of maintaining my freedom. Everything I do, from the type of jobs I hold to the places I decide to live (which is a big one lately) to my nightly plans, etc., etc. My disdain for the carpool lane reveals how deep this is for me.

You may be thinking, well, what if you’re going to work? You can’t just decide to drive somewhere else first, or what if you have plans? You can’t just decide to change them because you feel like it. Well, I know that’s what you’d think. However, I often decide I’d instead like to do something else for that very reason — because I feel like it.

We have free will, so there really isn’t anything we have to do. We can make choices no matter what our spouses say, our bosses require, our president mandates. But lately, there are things that society or people have decided we have to do, which makes our will to stay free less simple to decide.

Our president is forcing our family, friends, coworkers, colleagues into making choices that some don’t want to make.

You guessed it, I’m talking V* mandates in the workplace. The people who do not want to take the V are being forced to decide to keep their job or lose their job. If you’re on the fence, being forced into a decision can be a great thing (but only if you’re stalled), or it can be an awful thing (even a selfish thing).

Let’s call it what it really is: forcible penetration of a medical instrument into a person’s body against their will to deliver chemicals they don’t want into it. This is no less than medical rape. I have the right to decide what goes into my body. You have the right to determine what goes into yours.

(Imagine the outrage if the government enforced weight loss mandates for the obese to relieve the health care system? And while I’m here, If I am forced to wear a mask to protect your health, I’m going to start slapping McDonald’s out of your hands too.)

Everything that subsequently happens in our lives is the result of choices. And those choices do change our experience, even if for a brief amount of time. I have to remind myself that we are never stuck. Even if we feel as if there is no way out, there is. Of course, if I had remembered this in the past, I’d have a list of more life lessons and experiences under my belt, but I do not in the absence of action.

I admit sometimes, I’m afraid the choices I make will affect me negatively. In turn, they’ll leave less room in the future for any option to make a different choice. It’s harder to veer in another direction when flying down the freeway than it is if you’re cruising on a country road.

But I suppose this is just fear, and fear is a thing you create. It isn’t an actual thing. Action is.

And boy do I see action rising in the air (shoutout to Southwest, holla!), and I predict a lot more action very soon.

Have you chosen your lane?

10 Things I stopped doing—and my life instantly got better.

  1. Buying cauliflower-based foods.
  2. Overthinking eye contact.
  3. Buying colored yoga pants.
  4. Re-reading emails after I sent them.
  5. Taking selfies with the front-facing camera.
  6. Texting while walking. (This is how “butch” became “bitch.”)
  7. Food prepping. (Food prepping takes 4 hours. Eating takes 3 seconds. Washing Tupperware takes 7 days and 7 nights.)
  8. Reading long Instagram captions. (When I stay on a post for too long the algorithm thinks because I read one inspirational meme, I want to read a thousand inspirational memes.)
  9. Trying to move things with my mind (and Googling “How to move things with my mind”).
  10. Humblebragging. (Like making lists and bragging about how happy I am.)

Happy October—the best month of the year. It’s finally fall in Arizona. Know what that means? Absolutely nothing. It’s still 90 degrees outside. Fun fact: Arizona is actually closer to the sun than the earth. I drove with my windows down tonight anyway. All the landscapers were out scalping and planting winter grass seed. Planting a winter lawn while it’s 90+ degrees doesn’t make much sense, but then again neither does Biscuits and Gravy flavored potato chips, and that’s apparently a thing that’s happening. Sometimes you just have to roll with it (and try not to barf). Really though, when the temperature shifts from 110 to 90 and we roll our windows down, we’re really no different than Midwesterners who wear shorts when it’s 40 degrees in March. So happy October. Fall is here!