When I’m in the throws of making life decisions, three people come to mind. I always try to emulate at least one of them in times of trouble. They are: Robert Frost, Natalie Portman, and Sophie. The second being my favorite. In the movie Garden State, Ms. Portman presents Zac Braff with a life choice. It should be noted that this choice was ump-teen million times less dramatic than anything poor Sophie had to decide. And instead of spewing poetry about roads like Robert, Natalie simply proclaims “Conundrum!” and offers Zac Braff a compromise. Wouldn’t it be brilliant if there was always some sort of “compromise”?
I recently had my entire world turned upside down. It wasn’t as though one section of my life was disturbed and it effected the mojo of the rest of my life. No, unfortunately it wasn’t that easy, or dramatic. Instead, a few of the major pieces of my 26 year old world were taken carefully in the dark of the night and shaken upside down until all the pennies fell out. Then, like a game of dominoes played with a cat in the room, the little details followed suit, as they often do, until suddenly everything had fallen down and I was looking at my new dog (I hate dogs) and wearing the only pair of pants that still fit me (and they looked like they were from Hollister).
As Wiley Coyote taught me, when life smacks you in the face with a curve ball (or you get punched in the eye at Newcom’s Tavern) you are forced to decide your next move. Swing or get off the pot. Or however that saying goes.
You stick your neck out.
Or pull it back in.
You fight the changes.
Or let them swallow you whole.
Or there is white.
There is this green grass.
Or some other green(er?) grass.
In any case, after a life derailment, for a short while anyhow, there won’t be a guardian angel named Natalie Portman to help you find a compromise. It has to be found within through an excruciating amount of soul searching. And no amount of “spiritual therapy” (*cough*drinking*cough*), reading, singing, crying or kicking it with the Dali Lama will help with that. Believe me I’ve tried all of those things. Twice.
That being said, there is only so much soul searching that you can do in your mid to late twenties before you start searching for the answers to the real serious questions like:
“What is life all about?”
“Does it ever get easier?”
“Where am I going?”
“Do I drink too much beer?”
In my recent soul searching the only definite conclusion I have come to is that the answer to the last question is “most definitely not” or possibly on an intellectual day, “au contraire!” The problem with answering all of those other black cloud, looming questions is that the answer pretty much always is “it depends”. It depends who you are. It depends on where you’re going. It depends on how hard you want to fight, what you’re fighting for, why you’re fighting for it. Life revolves around yourself, unfortunately or fortunately, and cannot be defined by anyone else. Not even Natalie Portman.
But this is where I’m stuck.
For someone like me.; a self proclaimed people pleaser, good friend, and full-time sympathetic, carving out all these life defining things gets difficult. Like peeling an orange with a plastic knife, or trying to cut your scissors out of their packaging, without…scissors. It’s an uphill battle on rollerblades. I’m fighting both gravity and the 90’s and getting almost no where.
I struggle to define what kind of person I am on a daily basis. At least out loud anyway. This could be because I’m delicately sliding off my rocker, or it might be because it’s actually not an easy thing for anyone to do. For example, I might wake up optimistic and a wee bit cocky, channeling my inner Dr. Phil or Stuart Smalley. “Good morning world! I am an amazing, sweet, intelligent people-person who wants nothing more than to selflessly save the world around me,” I will say to my cereal. This is the kind of attitude that gets shit done. This is the kind of upbeat persona that people want to run into at the office, or meet out for drinks after work. But in thinking this about myself, or worse, declaring it to my breakfast, aren’t I contradicting the very thing I want to be?
How can you be selfless and passive while simultaneously continuing to be optimistic and self-assured?
How can you be confident and proud while remaining humble and full of grace?
How do you feed the masses without going hungry?
There is something to be said about being a cocky, bitter human being looking out for number one. You can be impulsive. You can be selfish. You can always take the last bite. You can demand the temperature in the room be calibrated to your needs. Your decisions can be self motivated, ensuring that you get what you want from the outcome.
I was this person for a short stretch of time in 2007 when I was going through some very similar life changes. I was terrible. People hated me and I really didn’t like myself. Sure, I got mine. I did what I wanted, and let everyone else know that they were bitches and could “suck it”. (I’m bringing it back Val) But even on the best days I still generally ended up yelling about cake to my closest friends in isle 6 at the grocery store due to general unhappiness with myself. It was a terrible way to live and I’m not going back!
Aside from that short lived affair with self absorption, I’ve never been the one to make emotional decisions. Not because I’m particularly level headed really. Mainly I just don’t make decisions at all. I evaluate, reevaluate, share, discuss, debate, talk it out and then at the close of it all generally just end up making those involved in my personal Geneva Convention a pot of soup, forgetting that we were gathered to focus on my personal conundrums. It’s always easier and more rewarding for me to choose others over myself.
Saying that makes me feel guilty. Like I’m saying my friends and confidants are terrible people who just show up for the soup. But that is not my intention to imply, nor my secret private thoughts.
1) I don’t make the best soup really.
2) What I mean to say that this is who I am. That when it all boils down to a group of us being blue in the face from talking in circles (and thank you to everyone spinning with me), I just want to get off the ride and make someone happy. I want to feel as though I’ve changed something, and rarely does changing myself count as changing something.
Sure I could go out and find a self fulfilling hobby like knitting. Or get a second degree in pyrotechnics. Or move to where my dreams want to be. Sure I could, but who would that benefit besides me, and perhaps the many friends who receive handmade scarves for Christmas?
Lots people argue with me. “Stand up!” “Fight!” “Get what you need and take it!” “Make yourself happy!” “Kick ’em in the nuts!” But I have to argue that unfortunately my personality isn’t a political rally. I actually take pride in being easy-going. It makes me feel warm and cozy when someone tells me that I’m “too nice” because I don’t believe in “too” nice and can only assume they really mean “as nice as anyone ever should be”.
So what do you do? What do you do when you’ve been derailed? Dominoed over? Sucker punched? And your first reaction is to make everyone a round of hot tottys and pretend it didn’t happen to you. What do you do when what makes you happy is making others happy, and making these others happy, conflicts with or is directly correlated to something that is making you unhappy? I couldn’t have posed a more confusing question, I’m sure. But this merry-go-round is my current Facebook status for life.
Of course I’m not a saint.
There are days when I want to choose my favorite finger to wave hello to strangers.
Or toilet paper the houses of the growing number of women on my hit list (Yes women. Aren’t they just the worst? Not that I would particularly avoid hitting a good number of men with the cross fire either.)
And there are those days when I want to spit on people’s shoes that have double-crossed me.
Or learn how to properly kung-fu and Uma Thurman the assholes dragging me through their messes.
Or hide under the covers and ignore my many responsibilities that directly affect other people’s lives.
Or build an actual bridge and get over it, and then knock said bridge down leaving everything else behind stranded (the most elaborate plan in my repertoire of deep dark thoughts).
But of course I don’t do those things. I’d be YouTube sensation by now if I did even just one.
Instead I take my time.
I debate my choices.
And I can whole-heartedly promise you that almost every decision I will ever land on will be tightly wound around someone else.
Not because I’m insane (though I’m not arguing that I’m not).
Not because I’m pathetic (though I don’t have the largest set of balls either).
Nor because I’m selfless either. (I sometimes ignore Girl Scouts at the door because I’d rather keep that money just like the best of us).
I just want to love. And want to be loved. And all that other Moulin Rogue crap.
I want to do good, and see the good I do in the world.
I want to make choices, and feel proud of them later.
I want to create so much good karma in the world that it can help but envelope me.
So…. “Conundrum!” The conundrum of a woman approximately 92.6 percent jaded in life and facing choices about everything from work and wine labels to laundry and love.
Sucker punch those S.O.B.’s or kill them with kindness? Sweet, sweet revenge, or take the high road? Nurse my battle wounds, or bandage up someone else’s? It’s hard to hold your head high, especially when you’re only 5 foot 2. It’s not hard to sit and gripe about things day in and day out with the co-captain and first mate of the S.S. Crabby Pants (in fact it’s down right therapeutic). But at some point, we all have to make the call and choose. Not today, but someday. And I’m steering this ship towards warm fuzzies and hope.
I guess what I’m trying to say is what a dear friend of mine told a 5th grader when she purposely peed her pants out of spite. The situation is not exactly the same because I’m not Chelsea Handler and though I do love vodka, I almost never pee my pants. But in any case, she told this girl, “Sit in your decision.”
I am going to sit in my decisions.