Changes Are Afoot…

Cordelia Calls It Quits is getting all gussied up for a new incarnation. Enter your e-mail in the box below and hit “enter” to be the first to know when it’s back up…

A Tour of Our Alternative Tiny Home

Our life has changed in a lot of ways over the past year, but our living arrangements are one of the biggest things. And since this new iteration of the blog is all about these changes , I thought I’d take you on a tour of what exactly this transition looks like.

 

That Was Then…

A handful of months ago, we had been homeowners for nigh under a decade. We owned a three bedroom, one bath home with two and a half finished floors and plenty of privacy and room to do whatever the hell we wanted.

It was a cute little place we’d put a lot of work into and made a lot of memories in:

Owning it made me feel very adult and competent, when I wasn’t exhausted and overwhelmed by all the things there were to fix and clean and pay for.

 

Where We Cuddled

This is the living room where we hung out with our two dogs and countless fosters. It wasn’t huge, but it was cozy, and it was ours:

 

 

 

Where We Cooked

This is the retro kitchen we first hated and then decided to run with, which hosted nigh under a decade’s worth of weekend-long Christmas baking extravaganzas with my sisters:

 

 

 

Bear in mind we rarely cooked in anything bigger than our toaster oven the rest of year, so while the space was excellent for holidays it went pretty wasted the rest of the year. I think we used our dining table for an actual, regular meal maybe twice.

 

Where We Slept

This is the bedroom where many of our fosters curled up with us in spite of the fact the hand-me-down bedframe made the bed so high my husband and I had to perform a minor acrobatic act to get in and out of it:

 

 

 

Where I Wrote

This is the den-turned-home-office where my freelance career was built, launched and enjoyed:

 

 

It had an out-of-tune piano my husband got on Freecycle and quickly realized he’d never be able to actually to tune, so it became a glorified stand for my fancy bourbon tray. It added to the fancy-gentleman-from-the-30s vibe I like to pretend I live in:

 

 

It was also a bitch to get rid of when we moved. Never, ever get a piano unless you actually plan on having and using it forever. We came very close to renting a UHaul and dumping it in a country field like a body we were ashamed to ever have gotten wrapped up with.

 

Where We Pooped

The bathroom was tiny, but it was one of our biggest renovations. We used the money our wedding guests gave us to transform it from the travesty it was into something that lived in this century:

 

 

 

 

The Rest

Those are the main rooms we lived in, but we paid for more because that was what we thought people did. And quite frankly, it was rather nice — when we weren’t worrying about maintenance and repairs and costs we’d never thought about also having to afford on a regular basis. (Joy-to-stress ratio was a quickly depreciating value.)

There was a man cave on the second floor I often forgot existed because my husband was the only one who ever went up there. We never cooled the second floor in the summer or heated it in the winter because it was hardly ever occupied.

There was also a landing with a ton of built-in storage, which made my OCD side happy and was handy in housing the holiday decorations, luggage we rarely used, and empty boxes from pretty much every appliance we ever purchased in nine years, which we inexplicably held onto because… I don’t know… we had the space?

There was also a half-finished basement which was extremely convenient as a practice space for my husband’s band, plus our own laundry area and a backyard that was largely weeds and a garage we never had room to park our car in because it was filled with ladders and power tools and other things we thought grownups should own but hardly ever used.

 

…And This Is Now

Now, we live in two rooms in my in-laws’ basement. We sold most of our old furniture in a moving sale to get smaller pieces courtesy of places like Big Lots and an awesome local scratch-and-dent reseller we found on eBay.

I like to call it our alternative tiny home, because that makes me feel trendy and because it’s inspired me embrace the less-is-more mindset (and space-saving tricks) from the tiny home shows I used to binge on and wonder if I could ever adopt myself.

 

Where We Cuddle/Cook/Entertain

This is our living room. The ottoman with a removable lid serves as a coffee table/foot rest/extra seating/storage space for blankets and food trays:

 

tiny home-living room

 

You want “open concept”? We can easily lay out a spread while talking to our guests as our kitchenette is inches behind the living room (boom!):

 

tiny home-kitchenette

 

Turn around and you’ll be facing our dining table, which requires a leaf and extra chairs when we have guests over but is usually just a dumping ground for mail (all the table in our old house ever was, too):

 

tiny home-dining table

 

Our totally worthless piano has been replaced with a hand-me-down sideboard that makes for a convenient new bourbon stand:

 

tiny home-sideboard

 

We don’t have very much to store these days, but what we do have gets kept in the Harry Potter door under the stairs:

 

tiny home-HP open

 

 

tiny home-HP closed

 

Tiny homes allow for these fun ways to maximize space. OCD me is in heaven. (I’ve tested it, and yes, I could live in there if I needed to downsize even further.)

 

This Is Where We Sleep/Where I Write

Thanks to the elimination of our old oversized bedroom set, I got to use the adorable retro dresser set I bought for my first apartment and loved, but which had to be relegated to the man cave in our house for lack of space:

 

tiny home-bedroom 1

 

 

tiny home-bedroom 2

 

With a fraction of the clothes and accessories to organize, our new closet makes all my Pinterest dreams come true:

 

tiny home-closet

 

There’s a desk in the corner that makes up the entirety of my new office space. It works just fine.

 

tiny home-desk

 

 

The Rest

There is no rest.

If we need to do any meal prep beyond microwaving things, or wash any dishes, we use the main kitchen upstairs. We share a bathroom with the guest bedroom upstairs, as well as the laundry room when it’s not in use.

We do not have the privacy or room to do whatever the hell we want anymore. But we also do not have a mortgage payment, repair bills, maintenance costs, endless to-do lists, or the opportunity to lose things for months a time because we have too damn much stuff and too many rooms.

So, is this a downgrade or an upgrade? You can form your own opinion, but I choose to see it as the latter.

 

The Trouble with Appearances

In the game of appearances, we’re either doing a lot worse or a lot better than other people are.

Compared to most of our friends and family, my husband and I are failing. When I take surveys in my spare time for chump change, I can’t check any boxes on the “do you rent or own your home” question because we are now what’s considered an “other.” We are 35 years old and fulfilling the Millennial cliche of failure to launch, despite the fact we’ve launched our asses off and made a pretty good run of it for a while, too.

In the eyes of my inner critic, who prided herself on nothing if not her independence, we are destitute of all dignity. We are not only broke, but broken. We’ve hit rock bottom.

But in comparison to people who’ve suffered similarly hard times and don’t have the option of moving back in with family, we are the lucky ones. When my husband got sick and then I got sick, we had somewhere to go to regroup and restrategize. We had something to fall back on that wasn’t the streets. It’s embarrassing, but we’re safe, and now we can figure out how to move forward.

Don’t think I am ever not fully aware of, and ridiculously grateful for, that.

Like Schrodinger’s cat, our tiny home is both sad and happy, and to view it as only one or the other would demonstrate a flippant understanding of things. That said, we have the choice to concentrate more on one aspect than the other, and…

 

Concentrating on the sad part of a situation never got anyone anywhere constructive. Click To Tweet
Because regardless of what we have or do not have in our current living arrangements, we have gained the ability to see down to the bare, bare minimum of what we need and are finding a way to learn to want less and be grateful more for the less we do have.

I’d have preferred a different way of getting to that point than losing pretty much everything, but what’s happened has happened and in the end, it’s not a bad place to be at.

 

So that’s something.

Why Losing Nearly Everything Was the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me

This past year, I’ve called it quits on an epic level I never expected or anticipated — and not willingly.

I called it quits on my freelance career in an ill-advised foray back into the 9-to-5, hoping it would salvage our precarious financial situation.

My sanity called it quits on me as I quickly remembered why the 9-to-5 is not the place for me, while watching my sacrifice do nothing for our bank account because one income and a disabled spouse’s medical bills don’t play well together when said spouse is four years into a benefits battle.

I called it quits on working altogether when the depression this caused plummeted me into the scariest and most encompassing black hole I’ve ever experienced — and made me very nearly call it quits on existing.

We called it quits on our life as we knew it, selling our house as well as most of our earthly possessions except those that would fit in the two rooms we’re now occupying in my in-laws’ basement.

We also lost both of our elderly dogs within months of each other, lost the ability to foster dogs (one of the lead reasons I hung onto our money trap of a house as long as I did), lost regular contact with most of our friends given our new location, and very nearly lost our marriage to the strain major depression puts on a relationship. (The thought of losing my husband, and not the wish to stop existing, was surprisingly the one factor that actually made me decide all the other losses were worth whatever it took to get better.)

If we owned a pickup truck, we’d have been one lost pickup truck away from the worst (or best?) country song ever written.

It was also the year I called it quits on giving a flying fuck about anything but the stuff that really, truly matters to me on the most basic of levels. Because when you’ve hit your rockiest rock bottom, you lose that ability altogether. Not in a deliberate, “I’m self-improving” way, but in the way your vision focuses when you’ve realized your building is burning to the ground: suddenly you know there are only a few things worth grabbing as you hightail your ass out of there, and all the rest can go up in smoke for all you care.

Sometimes clarity comes through long, intensive years of thought and work and struggle. And sometimes you put in long, intensive years of thought and work and struggle, and you teeter-totter between flashes of clarity and long hauls stuck back in the mud of mundanity. And then it all goes to hell in a handbasket and there clarity it is, waiting for you in the rubble with a sad little shrug that says, “Well, I’d hoped we wouldn’t have to meet like this, but here I am anyway, so hello.”

So that’s where I am now. With a newfound perspective I’m quite thankful to have, although the means of obtaining it weren’t anything I’d prefer to go through again.

A Caveat Before The Feel-Good Bit

People jaw on a lot about the notion that from great pain and great suffering come great lessons, wisdom, opportunity, etc.

And that’s true. From the epic shit storm that has been the past year, I’ve emerged a wiser, leaner, meaner butterfly than any mofo that ever left the chrysalis.

But I make no mistake that it was, in fact, still shit, and even the most optimistic of results can’t make it otherwise.

I am grateful for the positive things I’ve mucked out of the past year, and happy with what looks to be the glimmerings of a new chapter dawning, but I still mourn all of our losses, and there are plenty of pieces of me that are the worse for wear and will be for some time now.

It feels frivolous and dense to brush over a dark period and move on to the bright side without first mentioning that pain and suffering suck super fucking hard, and if you’re smack in the middle of them, this post may help to show you there can still be good — but it’s not meant to diminish or make light of the bad you’re currently going through.

I’m all too sensitive to how hollow and crude wisdom like “everything happens for a reason” and “things will get better” sound when you’re facing down the barrel of the worst-case scenario you never wanted to learn you were strong enough to face. So let me say this now to anyone in the midst of that:

You have a right to feel the suck. You have the right to not want to fight right now. You have the right to hate, and resent, and mourn, and take all the time you need until you actually feel the new strength you’ve found in yourself. Because shitstorms are exhausting, and there’s going to be a delay before the lessons you’ve learned catch up to your ability to feel anything about them.

So go easy on yourself, and don’t let this sound like some sort of unicorns-and-rainbows attempt to gloss over how hard hard times can be.

Cool? Okay. Then, that disclaimed…

What Can Be Learned on the Other Side of the Suck

As Mark Manson (one of the few bloggers I still follow in my new lean, mean refusal to waste energy on anything unnecessary) put it perfectly:

“The truth is that transitions between the life stages are usually triggered by trauma or an extreme negative event in one’s life. A near-death experience. A divorce. A failed friendship or a death of a loved one.

Trauma causes us to step back and re-evaluate our deepest motivations and decisions. It allows us to reflect on whether our strategies to pursue happiness are actually working well or not.”

And that’s precisely what’s happened to my husband and I as a result of all the things we were forced to let go of this past year: they made us realize the seismic shift our priorities needed to take to ensure our next steps were happy ones. As a result:

We called it quits to most of our debt. We had built up just enough equity in our home that our proceeds from its sale were enough to settle some outstanding bills and wipe the slate clean. While it’s incredibly hard to keep afloat of things with our lopsided income-vs-needs equation, we are hellbent on only incurring debt again in cases of absolute, unavoidable need. (Read: medical treatment to keep us alive, etc.)

We called it quits on the “wants” we considered “needs.” My own health post-breakdown has made my return to the writing world much slower than I’d prefer. It’ll be a while before I’m back to the productivity level I was at when I left, and in the meantime, the only way to keep our restricted income on pace with our needs is to radically slash what “needs” we allow ourselves.

Fortunately, letting go of as much as we have this past year has made it pretty crystal-clear what “needs” we actually need. A bathroom and kitchen of our own, the discretionary income to go out to eat with our friends, the self-respect of having our own place? Things we really, really wanted, but not needs. Not when the shit hits the fan and it’s slash or burn.

Our relationship as a couple, our health (such as it is), the breathing room to let ourselves heal and re-strategize? Needs. The few things, actually, that we do need without question. All the rest is just noise, and expensive noise — financially, mentally, physically and emotionally.

We called it quits to the burden of homeownership. When we got engaged, buying a house just seemed like the next logical step in the timeline. It was what everyone did; it was “better than pouring money down the drain,” as the conventional wisdom goes. (At the time, I was still naive enough to believe in the validity of conventional wisdom.) And for a little while, it was nice. We had lots of space. We got lots of dogs. My husband had a man cave and a practice space in the basement and I had a home office with a door I could close.

But then he got sick, and sicker, and the collective monetary and energy burden of maintaining a home and property began to weigh much heavier in our minds than the fact that our monthly mortgage bill was roughly the equivalent of rent for an apartment in our market. Finally letting go of our house, sad as it was, was like letting go of a breath I’d been holding for nine years without realizing it.

Maybe things would have been different if we’d kept renting after we got engaged; maybe they wouldn’t have. We can’t really know, and we can’t beat ourselves up over what’s done. We can only know the path we need to take going forward, and start walking.

I called it quits on my pride. This may sound like a horrible thing, and it was that belief that this is a horrible thing that led us to the point of near ruin. I held onto the house for too long, I tried working a job I knew would break me, I kept working that job even when it was clear it wasn’t doing us the financial good I thought would make it “worth it”… all because I was absolutely dead-set on never, ever having to tell anyone (least of all my in-laws) I couldn’t handle the situation on my own and needed help.

My focus in life has been all about Making Things Happen and Never Giving Up and harnessing the sheer power of hustle and determination to make the impossible possible. To admit defeat felt like admitting my entire life had been a sham. But sometimes the impossible is just that. And when your own bullheadedness prevents you from being able to admit that, it isn’t strength or independence; it’s just foolishness.

I called it quits on any of the remaining fucks I gave about what a “successful” life is supposed to look like. Shitty luck and steep odds have landed us in a place I’m not happy with as a long-term situation. Of course I’d like to have our own kitchen and bathroom. Of course I’d rather be surrounded by dogs and have room for all my books. Of course I’d rather not depend on others for some of my most basic needs. Knowing this was the right step to take doesn’t make it any less painful or humiliating.

But I’m also, in an odd way, more content than I’ve been in a long time.

Because admitting we needed help and being willing to take a temporary loss has given us a chance to turn a page and start over. And I now that I know the only things our story really, truly needs to be a good one, I’m cautiously optimistic about what this new chapter will bring.

What This Means for CCIQ Going Forward

When I started this blog, I was a starry-eyed, gungho dreamer who owned a home, lived on two full-time incomes and the accompanying benefits, and had the ability to summon boundless energy through tenacity alone. (I envy that energy now. It seems otherworldly.)

Now, I’m six years older, battered and scuffed in some places I wasn’t before, and in circumstances I still can’t quite fathom because nothing in any of my planning or imagination ever prepared me for this sort of thing.

I am not the same person I was at the start of this, and my life is not the same life it was. I don’t say that in a grab-the-tissues, cue-the-violins way, but in a realizing-how-things-have-changed way.

So it only makes sense that this blog change to reflect that.

Expect more about simplicity, living outside the lines and radical choosiness in a way previous Quits have only hinted at.

Old Cordelia was all about escaping the cube, being an entrepreneur and hust-hust-hustlin’.

Cordelia today is more about tiny living, calling shenanigans on “the American Dream,” and figuring out what this whole hygge craze is all about.

I hope you’ll be with me for the newly reformulated CCIQ. I’m as curious as anyone to find out what’s in store…

Image:  Unsplash / Pixabay

Since I’ve Been Gone…

I hit “publish” on the last post on this blog in December, but the events that led to my year-long hiatus happened right around this time in 2015.

It took me three months to absorb them adequately enough to write a cryptic post telling you I didn’t know how to tell you about them.

It took till now to bring me to this point, where the words have returned and I know what I want to say with them.

My official “what happened over this past year and what’s up next” post is still in the works, and will likely be approximately a bajillion words long if I ever decide to publish it. (I may just reference things in future posts rather than spend a bajillion words wallowing in the whole thing en masse.)

But to get you up to speed, here’s the CliffsNotes version:

 

What Happened Over the Past Year

  • My husband’s disability application hit the 2.5 year mark, around the same time our savings hit the zero mark and the debt I’d worked so hard to eliminate years earlier reached the “ridiculous” mark.
  • I returned to the 9-to-5 — the exact precise 9-to-5, down to the same effing employer and the same effing desk, I had escaped so jubilantly in 2013, because I thought that was what we needed.
  • I hated it.
  • I hated who I found myself becoming.
  • I stopped writing, here and altogether, because there was no “me” anymore to write through — or at least not any sort of me I wanted to think about or acknowledge.
  • I found another 9-to-5, one that on paper had everything a 9-to-5 ought to in order for me to be able to accept it like every “normal” adult was supposed to be able to do.
  • I hated it, too.
  • I was still someone I hated, only now with the addition of traits like sobbing uncontrollably at inconvenient moments such as 1) in the shower where my husband couldn’t hear me, 2) behind my closed new private office door on my lunch break, and 3) whenever I was awake.
  • My marriage started to crack.
  • I started to crack — or, rather, to finally admit I’d been cracking, bad, since I gave up my freelance business, and it was only getting badder by the day.
  • Our finances were still in the gutter and I realized I’d sacrificed everything I ever cared about or believed in for basically negative progress.
  • I texted Crisis Services one night. When they asked me if I ever had thoughts of suicide, I responded, “I don’t want to die; I just don’t want to live anymore.” I thought at the time this made a difference.
  • One Monday morning, I unceremoniously Broke The Fuck Down. My husband called my crazy doctor. I was in his office within the hour receiving a short-term disability note for my employer and wondering in a numbly detached sort of way if that meant I could finally spend the rest of my life under the covers, which was all I really wanted from existence at that point.
  • We realized we needed to sell our house. We subsequently realized the only place we could currently afford to go was my husband’s parents’ house while we regrouped and restrategized.
  • I lost my job. I still had 2-3 months of recovery before I could consider working again, according to my crazy doctor and my gut.
  • I was oddly OK with this and with my newfound lack of any future beyond the immediate. This began to tell me something.
  • I did a fuck-ton of resting, and healing, and thinking, which is still an ongoing process but now I feel a little of myself coming back slowly, and now I can write again and have lots of things I want to share with you.

So here we are.

 

What’s Up Next

  • I’m starting over. With this blog. With my life. With my freelancing. With a second, new blog this past year has made me realize I need to create.
  • The rest is yet to be discovered, but I’d be supes happy if you’d come along for the ride. Because I think we had something pretty awesome going on here, and if this past shitstorm of a year has taught me anything, it’s that I was a damn fool to abandon it.

Let’s do this thing, 2.0.

I missed the shit out of you guys.

Image:  Mr. Connor / Flickr

Why You Should Quit the Toxic People in Your Life, Pronto

You’re only as good as the company you keep.

You’ve heard that before, I’m sure, and probably took it to mean what most people take it to mean: If you hang out with losers, you yourself are more likely to become a loser. If you hang out with winners, you’re more likely to become a winner. And etc. You know, the sort of stuff your parents told you when explaining why you could hang out with your straight-A-student friend as often as you liked, but your black-eyeliner-wearing, rumored-to-be-a-smoker friend was off-limits. (The joke was on them, because your straight-A-student friend was actually the one who got you into all sorts of shenanigans.)

But there’s a spinoff to the old cliche, and it’s one most people don’t always take into account, although they really ought to:

 

Your Life Is Only As Good As the People You Allow Into It

(Tweet!)

Surround yourself with amazing, supportive, loving people, and your life will be happier. You will feel inspired and encouraged. You’ll have fun doing nothing on a Saturday night just because you love the people you’re doing nothing with. When things get tough — as things will, from time to time — you’ll have a support system to lean on that will make everything a little less lonely and painful.

Surround yourself with downers, drama magnets and doomsdayers, and you’ll find yourself feeling resentful, anxious and irritable. Your energy will be sapped and your good vibes kiboshed. You’ll find yourself complaining more even when things are basically alright, and hard times will hit you twice as hard. Everything will just kinda suck more in general.

Negativity, just like positivity, has a tendency to seep throughout your world.

Most of us realize this, at least theoretically. We seek out and are drawn to the people who make us laugh, make us feel good about ourselves and make us glad to be around them. But sometimes we find ourselves stuck with the other sort of people, whether by chance (relatives, in-laws, coworkers), bad decisions or a moment of weakness when we thought we could “fix” someone and eventually realized we couldn’t.

The people in category A (those you’re stuck with by circumstance) you can’t always chuck, but you can limit your time with them and develop ways to mitigate their life-sucking abilities so they don’t harm you as much.

The people in category B (any and everyone who is in your life simply because you allow them to be), you can — and should — chuck, plain and simple. Here is why.

 

1. They Will Only Bring You Down

You may think you can bring them up with your injections of fresh perspective and invitations to optimism. You may naively think they just need a hug, or someone to give them a smile, or a kind gesture to erase their memories of being picked on in middle school (or whatever it was that turned them into a prickly forcefield).

And occasionally, once in a very great while, you can do this. I won’t tell you not to try, because it’s a brave and kind and generous thing to want to help other people, and because giving up on that would go against everything my spirit animal Anne Shirley stands for.

But once you’ve tried, and failed, innumerable times and they’re still just as impenetrably prickly, it’s time to accept you may not be the one who can bring them out of their funk. Often no one can but themselves. There’s a critical difference you need to understand when it comes to people who are just stuck in a gloomy mood and people who have lived so long in their negativity it’s become a part of who they are: negative-at-the-core people won’t change because of any effort you or anyone else makes on them.

That’s not to say they can’t change. They can, but only if the decision to change comes from within. Whatever it is that made them the way they are, they’ve been stewing and festering and entrenching themselves in it for so long it’s become a part of their very DNA. Nothing you can say or do will make a significant dent in that armor; it will just wear you out and expose you to more of their negativity rays than necessary.

Save yourself. You have better things to focus your energy on.

 

2. Sometimes People Just Suck

I’m reminded of a certain Popeye’s drive-thru incident in which the husband and I had a terrifying run-in with a person whose toxicity was so fierce and inexplicable I still to this day find myself idly musing over what life events must have led her to become someone who would act the way she did.

I muse on this not because I think there’s any answer to it — or at least not any answer I can ever get to the bottom of — but for the sake of my own mental exercise, the way you’d muse on the “one hand clapping” koan. It’s intriguing to imagine the different factors that may have gone into creating this person’s extreme reaction in this particularly un-extreme situation. Sometimes it helps me loosen up my synapses when I’m suffering a bout of writer’s block.

But the trouble with the run-ins we have with the toxic people in our lives is that we often feel we should be able to get to the bottom of them. We secretly wonder what we’ve done wrong to cause or exacerbate this person’s awfulness. And in the vast majority of cases, the answer is, “nothing.”

The simple truth — and I hate to say this because I do believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt and trying to see the good in everyone — is that sometimes, people just suck. Maybe, like the Tootsie Roll goodness at the center of a Tootsie Pop, there’s a heart in there somewhere that’s been shellacked over with layers and layers of unbreakable anger and resentment and hostility. And it’s incredibly sad to think of whatever must have caused that.

But you, yourself, are not responsible for the task of chipping away at that veneer for however many attempts it takes to get to the center. It’s a long, hard job to get there — sometimes one that takes a lifetime and the kind of professional experience that comes with a high billable hour rate — and, as aforementioned, the effort will only bring you down rather than them up.

Some people can’t be fixed by you, and some people can’t be fixed at all. It’s not your fault or your responsibility to fix them, especially not if all you get for your effort is pain and suffering. Be a good person. Be kind and patient. Then know you’ve done your best, and move on.

 

3. You Should Spend Your Awesomeness on the Things That Are Worth It

Your life is short, and your days on this planet are numbered. You have gifts and talents and love and awesomeness the world deserves to know about and benefit from, and wasting those things on people who only repay you with soul-sapping is not only a crying shame, but a slap in the face of the universe that gave you said gifts, talents, love and awesomeness.

If you’re kind and positive and forgiving and generous, it will radiate outward. It will affect those around you, whether you see it immediately or not. It may even affect people you’ll never meet, in ways you’d never imagine, including some of those toxic people you thought were beyond hope.

But only if you disengage from them so you can do you to the best of your ability.

Your mission on this earth is to be the most kickass version of yourself you can be, and you can’t be that person if you’re surrounded by people who consistently bring you down. It’s like trying to be a race car driver when your pit crew is quietly loosening your wheels and filling your tank with water every chance they get. Choose a crew that’s got your back. Be on the crew of people you admire. You’ll do a hell of a lot more good that way.

 

4. You Deserve Better

Is this one a selfish reason? I suppose so, and I have zero guilt over that. So should you.

For a society where selfie sticks are actually a thing and weddings have their own hashtags, we’re amazingly reluctant to allow ourselves to pursue the courses of action that will make us happy. Narcissism and navel-gazing are on fleek, yet we’re terrified of coming across as “selfish” for daring to make a life we love when the people around us insist on staying miserable.

But guess what? The shitty people in your life feel zero guilt about making your life shittier. They are black holes that get off on pulling everyone else into their vortex of suckiness, and if your good-faith efforts to reach out and help them are ignored or rebuffed, it is totally and absolutely within your right as a human being to rid them from your world.

Whoever declared it was virtuous to tolerate people who insist on acting like asshats was probably an asshat himself, trying to guilt-trip people into still hanging out with him after they decided they were finally fed up.

Fuck that noise, and fuck it hard.

You can still be a good person, and preternaturally kind to toxic people whenever they happen to cross your path, while also making a decided effort to keep them out of your path at all junctures possible.

It’s your life. It’s your energy. It’s your precious time on this planet. Don’t feel bad about standing up for that. Don’t feel bad for wanting to spend it on things that are worth the effort.

What toxic people do YOU need to evict from your life? 

Image:  JD Hancock / Flickr

35 More Inspirational Quotes on Happiness, Following Your Dreams & Generally Kicking Life’s Ass

From time to time, I share a quote on my Twitter or Facebook page I think will help make your day (slash-life) a little better. I’ve built up quite a collection of these quotes, so I like to drop them on you en masse occasionally — consider it my contribution to whatever goal you’re currently fighting for or obstacle you’re currently fighting against.

To make them easier to share with anyone you think could use a jolt of awesome, I’ve also included an easy click-to-tweet after each quote. (You’re welcome.)

 

Happiness

“Happiness is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of traveling.” ~Margaret Lee Runbeck (Tweet!)

“I have decided to be happy because it’s good for my health.” ~Voltaire (Tweet!)

“If you want to be happy, be so.” ~Kozma Prutkov (Tweet!)

“Plenty of people miss their share of happiness, not because they never found it, but because they didn’t stop to enjoy it.” ~William Feather (Tweet!)

“Happiness is an inside job.” ~William Arthur Ward (Tweet!)

“Happiness is a choice.” ~Valerie Bertinelli (Tweet!)

“Happiness depends more on how life strikes you than on what happens.” ~Andy Rooney (Tweet!)

 

Blazing Your Own Trail

“I like things to happen, and if they don’t happen, I like to make them happen.” ~Winston Churchill (Tweet!)

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” ~Walt Disney (Tweet!)

“Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.” ~George Bernard Shaw (Tweet!)

“I’ve never heard a bird half sing, a hawk half cry. When ready, speak your truth with conviction.” ~Dave Ursillo (Tweet!)

“We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” ~Max Dupree (Tweet!)

“Be a voice, not an echo.” ~Albert Einstein (Tweet!)

“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” ~Richard Branson (Tweet!)

“Either you run the day, or the day runs you.” ~Jim Rohn (Tweet!)

“When in doubt, yell, ‘CHARGE!’ and then MOVE. YOUR. ASS. AND. MAKE. IT. HAPPEN.” ~Ash Ambirge (Tweet!)

 

Following Your Dreams

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” ~Zig Ziglar (Tweet!)

“Good things come to those who wait. Greater things come to those who get off their ass and do anything to make it happen.” ~@LifeCheating (Tweet!)

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” ~Thomas Edison (Tweet!)

“The great thing in this world is not so much where you stand, as in what direction you are moving.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes (Tweet!)

“If you don’t build your dream, someone will hire you to help build theirs.” ~Tony Gaskins (Tweet!)

“Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit when there are footprints on the moon.” ~Paul Brandt (Tweet!)

“The only thing worse than starting something and failing… is not starting something.” ~Seth Godin (Tweet!)

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” ~Wayne Gretzky (Tweet!)

 

Overcoming Adversity

“There are two things a person should never be angry at — what they can help, and what they cannot.” ~Plato (Tweet!)

“At the end of the day, no matter how many times the lawn is mowed, it doesn’t take it personally — it just keeps on growing.” ~Ash Ambirge (Tweet!)

“Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get.” ~Ray Bradbury (Tweet!)

“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” ~Jim Rohn (Tweet!)

“Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.” ~Charles Swindoll (Tweet!)

“If it isn’t a little scary, it probably isn’t worth your time.” ~Ted Murphy (Tweet!)

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” ~Nelson Mandela (Tweet!)

“Fear is not a bad thing, it can keep you alive. The trick is to make sure it doesn’t stop you from living.” ~@RevolutionsClub (Tweet!)

“It’s not the person who dodges the most bullets who wins. It’s the person who finds something useful to do with the bullets, after the shots have been fired.” ~Ash Ambirge (Tweet!)

“The darkest hour has only sixty minutes.” ~Morris Mandel (Tweet!)

“Learn to embrace fear, because it’s often the only thing that’s between you and what you want.” ~Paula Pant (Tweet!)

What are your favorite quotes? Share them with us in the comments!

Image:  Pink Sherbet Photography / Flickr

Mind Over Matter, As Illustrated By a Small Child Who Shamed Me At an Amusement Park

It was one of those moments where all the bravado that led you to that point suddenly drains from your being — but it’s too late to go back. The attendant had pulled down the heavy shoulder harness that would keep me from flying off to my death and was going through the standard safety announcements, and all I could think was, Holy shit, oh my fuck, why did I decide to do this?

I am 30-mumble-something and hadn’t been in an amusement park since my early 20s until my recent trip to Cedar Point with my (younger and more physically resilient) sisters. And if the way my metabolism has been treating my weight lately was any indication, I knew my body no longer handles things the way it once did.

I’d been relieved to find out I could still do roller coasters of all varieties, but spinny things — which I once loved — now made me sick. So when my youngest sister somehow dared me onto this whirling dervish of a machine, all bets were off.

The spinning/swinging/twirling contraption looked awesome to the 20-year-old inside of me (which I think is what got me on it in the first place), but the 30-something body housing that inner 20-year-old was fairly certain it was about to pass out, get sick or scream for her life like a terrified child who thought the kiddie coaster would be cool but then spends the entire ride shrieking to mom to stop-the-ride-I-wanna-get-OFF-make-it-STOP!* (*Actual embarrassing anecdote from Cordelia’s childhood.)

The announcements stopped and there was that moment of dead silence before the storm hits something awful happens the ride starts to move.

I was shitting my metaphorical pants.

Then a tiny little voice from a boy who must have been 6 months old (read: probably between 5-7 years in actuality) piped up next to me:

 

“This Is Gonna Be Awesome!”

I couldn’t see him around my enormous shoulder harness, and he couldn’t see me, but I felt instantly and utterly burned.

“It totally is!” I called back, too fragile in my state of panic to realize a show of bravado to keep an unseen elementary school child from thinking I’m a lame-o is in itself pretty lame-o.

“My brother wouldn’t come on this with me,” the small voice responded. “He was too chicken!”

“Well then, he’s gonna miss out!” I replied cheerily, resolving deep within myself that I would not let this little boy know I was a chicken too. I would. not.

So, as the ride gained momentum and my stomach gained some not-so-great sensations, I whooped and hooted with a right good will along with the small boy next to me. We traded “This is so cool!”s and “We’re flying!”s until an odd thing happened:

I realized I was actually enjoying the ride as much as I was pretending to.

It did kinda feel like we were flying, and if nothing else, it felt pretty awesome to have conquered something I’d been petrified over. I felt a wee bit dizzy afterwards, but I was more exhilarated than anything — both at the outcome, and at how it had come about.

 

It’s All About Your Perspective

If I’d kept stewing in my pants-pooping fear and nervousness as the ride got into full swing, no doubt my worst-case scenarios would have come true and I would have felt ill, scared and extremely PO’d at myself for having agreed to go on that stupid ride. But since I’d made up my mind that I was going to enjoy it, dammit, I actually wound up enjoying it.

Funny how that whole “mind over matter” thing works.

I’ve written before about how the stories we tell ourselves matter — how the frames through which we view the world color the way that world looks to us. That’s a big-picture thing, and it’s something I try to keep in mind on a grand scale when it comes to things like my business and my relationships. But this was the first time it really clicked for me that you can play the same game with little-picture things, like the scary ride you’re about to go on or the presentation you’re about to give or the room full of strangers you’re about to walk into.

As James Clear so brilliantly put it, your mind is a suggestion engine. You can choose the way you want to experience things, and you can psyche yourself into situations as much as you can psyche yourself out of them. So why not use that force for good rather than evil? (Tweet!)

Later, feeling emboldened by my newfound Jedi mind trick, my sister and I conquered this bad boy, which shoots you from 0 to 120 mph in 4 seconds, then straight up and down a 300-foot incline in the span of about 17 seconds (that’s me waving in the tan sweater, if you can see it):

 

[KGVID width=”568″ height=”320″]http://www.cordeliacallsitquits.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Cedar-Point-video.mov[/KGVID]

It’s the sort of ride so ridiculous it has an actual row of bleachers next to it for people to watch it run. It honestly happened so fast I remember nothing but the sensation of mind-numbing speed and feeling, again, proud that I went through with it. I went through with it because I told myself I could. And I found it was pretty freakin’ fantastic — as you’ll find many things are when you decide to decide they are.

 

An Aside

That’s the happy ending to this story.

The extended ending is that when I emerged from my harness on that first ride and went to give the little boy next to me a high-five, I discovered there was another little boy sitting on his other side to whom all of his comments were more likely directed. This made me just some random crazy old lady stranger seemingly talking to herself.

But whatevs. I didn’t promise this method would remove deeply ingrained social awkwardness. Just fears and other bad mental juju.

How can you use this mind trick to make your daily experiences awesomer?

Image:  Tara Faul / Flickr

Embrace Whatever Makes You Happy (Even If It’s Totally Weird)

I wished I loved anything in the world as much as my current foster dog loves this one janky, busted-ass tennis ball.

Mocha has a plethora of toys at his disposal, including several he’s gutted in a spree of delightful destruction that have since been retired to the trash can. But I can’t trash this ball, because for some reason, in spite of its having lost nearly every trait that makes a tennis ball entertaining, it’s still his absolute favorite toy in the world.

At first, its appeal made sense: Mocha wants to play, Mocha gets the tennis ball and brings it to us, we throw the tennis ball into the hall, he retrieves it and the whole thing starts over again. Sometimes we throw it in one direction and it bounces into the bedroom. Sometimes we throw it in another and it caroms into the kitchen. Thrown at full speed, it can lead a dog that’s chasing it across pretty much the entire length of our tiny little house. Whether I’m working or watching TV with the husband, this game is something we can play with Mocha ad nauseam, which is merciful because Mocha has some serious bursts of energy and our two senior dogs are not down with being his roughhousing buddy.

But the tennis ball is no longer what it once was.

happy

In addition to its service as exercise tool, it’s also played the role of chew toy when we’re not available for fetch games, and as such it’s been slowly and methodically stripped of all of its fuzz in several mysterious grooming sessions. A few especially emphatic chomps split the ball straight down the middle about a week ago, so it now hangs open by one last, tenuous seam like a clam that’s been stepped on. When we throw it now — which Mocha still insists we do — the ball no longer bounces and caroms delightfully down the hall and into various rooms at a speed that invites happy chasing. It just kind of thunk-womp-womp-wobbles to a spot a few feet away and then lies there like a slug.

Mocha still dutifully runs after it, as much as he can in the few feet it’s rolled, then turns tail and brings it back to us so we can toss it again. When he gets tired, he lies down and continues to meticulously destroy it just a teensy bit more.

I totally don’t get it, but I don’t really need to. He gets it, and he clearly thinks it’s awesome, and that’s good enough for me. In this — as in so many things I won’t get into because I am a crazy dog lady and could talk about lessons our dogs teach us for forever — I believe there’s something we can learn from our four-legged friends.

 

In Defense of the Things That Make Us Happy Weirdos

Much like Mocha’s sorry-looking tennis ball, we all have things we love that other people are somewhat mystified by. But unlike Mocha’s unabashed enthusiasm for an object the rest of us see as questionable, we tend to keep our unusual loves a secret only we (and possibly a few close friends who already know what weirdos we really are) know about.

Whether it’s a love for an unconventional hobby, an un-hip band or a cheesy reality TV show, most of us try to keep our stranger passions to ourselves. If we indulge in them, we do it behind closed curtains and behind the facade of the more acceptable, cooler interests we present to the world at large.

But here’s the thing: everyone else in the world at large is secretly a weirdo, too. (Tweet!)

That super-poised colleague who intimidates you at work? She psyches herself up before big meetings by listening to Katy Perry’s “Roar” on her earbuds in a stall in the bathroom.

That hipster friend who sneers at anyone who has anything to do with mainstream culture? He has a secret collection of Walker, Texas Ranger DVDs — and he doesn’t watch them ironically.

That Crossfitting, Paleo-proselytizing sister of yours has had a secret addiction since she was a kid, one she still dips into when she’s had a particularly rough day: Cap’n-Crunch-and-Pixy-Stix sandwiches, smushed together just the way she saw Ally Sheedy do it on The Breakfast Club, where she first picked up the habit.

None of us is a 100% “normal” human being, because “normalcy” is a shadow term that means, at best, “what most people tend to do (as far as you can tell), which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good or bad, just that most people tend to do it (as far as you can tell).”

So screw your secret shame over your oddball hobbies, habits, loves and fandoms. Screw feeling embarrassed about the things you think only you “get.” Because as long as you “get” them, then they are awesome, and that is all that really matters.

What weird things make YOU secretly happy?

(I’ll get it started: I love juggling sock balls while folding the laundry, dancing like a fool to any form of old skool hip hop, and sniffing the tops of my dogs’ heads the way normal people sniff babies’ heads (which, let’s be honest, isn’t any more “normal” than sniffing a dog).)

Image:  Pink Sherbet Photography / Flickr

QUIT: My Abusive Relationship

[Part of my mission to “live deliberately” involves ruthlessly cutting out anything that saps my time, energy or money to no good end.  I call these things my “Quits,” and this is one of the many items that have found themselves on my Quits List.]

I’ve been in an abusive relationship for… well, more years than I’ve really been counting, especially since it took a while to see it for what it really was. Abusive relationships are like that. You find lots of ways to justify them, explain them away, make excuses for why they make sense and why you deserve precisely what you’ve been getting.

It’s sick and twisted, and deep down somewhere, you know that, but it’s hard to muster up the full-on realization it takes to walk away.

I’ve known this girl for a long, long time, and our friendship seemed awesome, at first. She inspired me to do some amazing things and had my back during some ridiculous escapades. She was the first person to laugh with me when I found something funny and the first to hand me a tissue when something broke my heart. She knew me better than anyone else, hands down, and she still does.

But she’s also a stone cold bitch to me an awful lot of the time.

And I’m finally beginning to realize that’s just not cool.

 

The Way We Were

In the beginning, I liked her because she challenged me. She was always spurring me to be better, smarter, kinder, stronger, to reach for more and accomplish more, to not go easy on myself. I loved that about her. I loved that she called me on my B.S. and wouldn’t let me listen to my own excuses.

I’m also a contrarian person. I like to prove people wrong. When people say I can’t do something, it makes me that much more driven to show them I can. I respond well to the boot camp style of coaching. And that’s what I thought she was offering me, at first: tough love. If it felt a little too tough at times… well, that must have meant I was being particularly soft that day and I needed the spurring more than ever.

Her challenges inspired me to start this blog, quit my day job and do plenty of other things I never would have dreamed of doing without her. She held me to my guns. She wouldn’t let me wuss out. She kept my nose to the grindstone. And it paid off.

 

Then Things Started Shifting

They were small things, at first.

An “Are you sure you want to do that?” when I stopped attending my masterminds because I found they were only making me unhealthily obsessed with keeping up with the entrepreneurial rat race.

A barely noticeable eyebrow raise when I said my only plans for the evening were to read a book and cuddle with the husband.

A quietly muttered comment about “commitment” when I announced I was no longer forcing myself to put in 60-hour workweeks.

She meant well, I reminded myself. Maybe she was feeling cranky that day, or maybe her tendency to want the best for me came out wrong that time. So I let it slide. I forgave and forgot and kept striving to live up to her expectations

But more and more, I began to realize that her expectations were no longer helping me. In fact, they were kind of tearing me to shreds. Something had changed in our relationship — in her — and her input was getting less and less “You can do better!” and more and more “That’s not good enough.”

I put in a marathon workweek to get a big project done by Friday, and she ruined our Sunday Funday by going on and on about how Richard Branson probably doesn’t take weekends off and Robert Herjavec says anyone who needs more than 4 hours’ sleep won’t make it as an entrepreneur.

I turned down a project request because it paid well but didn’t fit my interests, and she reminded me how there was once a time I would’ve been happy to take on anything and everything, and if I got too picky I could wind up regretting it.

A reader emailed to tell me how much my blog had touched them, and when I told her about it, she sniffed and said, “That’s nice, but you can’t monetize compliments. How much has your blog actually made you this month?”

All that pull-no-punches, let’s-be-real-with-ourselves brazenness I used to admire in her had become twisted, somehow. It had morphed from being motivating and energizing to being downright cynical. Maybe I’d let her push me around too much, and the power got to her head. Maybe she’d always been the negative kind of taskmaster, but I never saw it before because it took a while for her to wear me down. Maybe we’d both lost sight of the difference between tough love and just being an asshole.

Whatever the cause for the shift, I started dreading the times she came around. Her comments lingered with me long after she left, giving me headaches, stomach aches, anxiety attacks whenever I thought of them. I started staying in bed at night binge-watching bad TV rather than risk hanging out with her or doing anything she’d be sure to pounce on and tear apart.

I could anticipate her cutting, snarky remarks before they even came, and what was worse, deep down I’d begun to believe them. I’d come to see myself as the screwup she clearly saw me as. I was was damned if I did, because it was never enough, and damned if I didn’t, because that meant I was slacking.

 

So, Why in the &%$* Did I Stick With Her?

There are all sorts of excuses I could give for why I’ve kept her in my life long past the time she was a positive addition:

It’s easy to fall into negative patterns.

It’s hard to let go of a long history together.

I still believe that, in her heart of hearts, she really does want the best for me, even if it comes out in a way that sounds harsh.

But the biggest reason I’ve put up with this abuse (because, let’s be honest, that’s what it is)?

It’s because I can’t get away from her.

It’s because she’s in my head.

It’s because she is me.

I’ve always been my own worst critic, but I’ve been kidding myself into thinking I’m only being hard on myself because I’m driven, because I’m disciplined, because I want more for my life than the average bear. I’ve confused pushing myself with beating up on myself. And it’s turned my inner motivator into a monster whose sole purpose in life is to smash down anything I try doing out of a perverted idea that being a heartless drill sergeant is the same thing as being driven and ambitious.

So I think it’s time we break up, for reals.

 

Inner Critics Make Shitty Coaches

The thing about being driven to improve yourself is, it can get you to lots of great places. Holding yourself to high standards can produce some amazing results, and pushing yourself farther than you think you can go can be empowering and enlightening.

But it can also drive you into the ground, if you’re not careful to make sure there’s plenty of love to go along with all that toughness.

For all the posts I’ve written like this one, this one and this one, hoping to show you that you can do more and be more and still be kind to yourself, I’ve written an equal number of posts like this one, this one and this one, which — if I had been looking close enough — were telltale signs I was in an abusive relationship with my own inner critic-coach

I wasn’t pushing myself past my limits Jillian-Michaels-style, believing in an awesome end result and giving myself the motivation to get there; I was playing a ruthless game of “Bombardment!” on myself every time I tried to do something, whether that “something” was write a post or hang out with my friends or try to take some much-needed time to relax. (Did you realize you can fuck up relaxing? You can, quite spectacularly, according to my inner critic-coach.)

If a real friend had treated me this way, I’d have dropped her without thinking twice. I have no place for toxic people in my life. But toxic people in my head? I somehow trust that they know what they’re saying, because I know me, right? I’m my own worst critic because I’m the only unobstructed witness to all the things that are the matter with me… right?

Not so much. That inner critic, those demons, those lizard-brain reactions, whatever you want to call the voice inside your head that tells you you’re not good enough, not smart enough, and gosh darn it, people hate you — that voice is a Mean Girl (or Guy) of the highest caliber, and just because she’s a part of you, that doesn’t mean she’s right. There’s a part of me that would love nothing more than to sleep all day and subsist on Little Debbie Zebra Cakes, but I’ve learned to ignore and override that part because it clearly doesn’t have my best interests in mind. The same goes for your inner critic.

There’s a difference between challenging yourself (super-awesome) and being a complete and utter bitch to yourself (super-not-awesome). (Tweet!) When you challenge yourself, you push yourself to go further and be better, but you realize you’re only human and if you fall short of your goal, you pick yourself up, pat yourself on the back and tell yourself it’s OK; you’ll get ‘em next time.  You also realize that challenging yourself 24/7 only leads to burnout, and it’s not only OK but necessary to spend some time just being alive and being happy about that.

When you’re a complete and utter bitch to yourself… well, you end up writing veiled Quit posts that make you sound like you’ve got borderline personality disorder.

Don’t end up writing veiled Quit posts that make you sound like you’ve got borderline personality disorder.

Learn to ask if the gauntlet you’re throwing down for yourself is one that will help you go farther or simply make you feel like shit. Learn to recognize that your inner critic isn’t your coach, but your detractor. Stop piling “tough love” on yourself when it’s really just abuse in disguise.

Be kinder to yourselves, guys. I promise you can still kick ass and do amazing things while being nice to yourself. (It actually helps you do it better.)

Is your inner coach really an inner critic? How can you break free from the abuse?

Image:  Nicki Varkevisser / Flickr

The Way Things Are Isn’t The Way Things Have To Be

Recently, I wrote about the importance of the stories we tell ourselves about our lives. The way we cast ourselves (victim, reject, center of the universe) affects the way we experience the world. If we think everyone’s against us, we’ll keep seeing things that reinforce that story. If we think we’re better than everyone else, people will constantly let us down. We react to things based on the story we believe about our world, and as a result, we wind up perpetuating the story by playing along with it.

But there’s a bigger story, a story so hulking and omnipresent it warrants a post in itself. It’s a really shitty story our whole society has deluded itself into believing. That really shitty story is the ridiculously depressing notion of “The Way Things Are.”

You may not realize The Way Things Are is a story. That’s part of what makes it so devious (and powerful). Most people just accept that it really is… well… the way things are. As a result, they play along with it without realizing they have any other choice. They take it as a given rather than one way of seeing things.

And since the majority of people are going along with it, it really does become the way things are.

 

So, How Are Things?

Pretty damn crappy, if you believe the story.

If you subscribe to the general belief in The Way Things Are, life is a pretty grim set of circumstances you can’t control and probably don’t like. Here are some elements of “The Way Things Are” mentality:

  • You have no choice but to work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for pretty much most of your life.
  • You have to do this because you have to have a car, a house, 10 credit cards and a steady stream of stuff and distractions at all times to keep you happy.
  • You need to be kept happy because you probably hate the job that takes up the majority of your waking hours.
  • (Lather, rinse, repeat the above 3 phrases as needed. It’s a nice vicious circle.)
  • You deserve lots of things you can’t afford because you put up with the unfairness of the above circle. Future You can deal with paying for these things.
  • Debt is something you only need to think about when the bills come each month. It doesn’t matter if you’re paying off that flat-screen TV for the next 30 years, because they’re probably going to be 30 miserable years anyway, and the least you deserve is to be able to watch Dancing with the Stars in high-quality HD.
  • What you do doesn’t matter.
  • Dreams are for the naïve and the misguided. Resignation is the mark of a real, functioning adult.
  • If you don’t already kind of dislike your spouse, you probably will after enough time together. Kids will only make this worse.
  • You should still have kids anyway.
  • No one is where they want to be. That’s just part of growing up.
  • No one likes The Way Things Are, but they can’t be changed. Suck it up, have a drink, go out and buy something. It’s almost the weekend.

I could go on, but it’s too depressing. And I think you probably recognize the story by now.

 

If We All Hate This Story So Much, Why Do We Keep Telling It to Ourselves?

The thing is, no one is really happy living according to The Way Things Are. Any story you have to constantly resign yourself to is not a good one.

So why do so many of us resign ourselves to it?

Because we don’t realize we have any other choice. If we did, we think, more people would be doing something different, wouldn’t they? The fact that everyone around us seems to be keeping their heads down and trudging along makes us think that must be our only option. So we all put our heads down and keep trudging, and this grim picture of the world continues to be the way things actually are because no one realizes it can be any different.

It’s not surprising most of us don’t think to question it. Everything around us reinforces the story.

TV shows give us characters who live neatly in The Way Things Are: dysfunctional families, disgruntled cube farm workers, harried moms and overworked suits and couples who communicate in nasty one-liners. We find these shows funny or moving because they portray things we recognize. They make us feel better about our own shitty circumstances by delivering the reassurance that “we’re all in this together.” You don’t see many shows about minimalist, location-independent lifestyle designers living life on their own terms. (And if you did, people would probably argue that they’re completely unrealistic.)

Commercials sell us products to help us escape from The Way Things Are. We deserve that big SUV with dual heat zones and seat-back DVD players because nothing else in our lives is going right, and the least we can do is give little Johnny the comfort of knowing we’re keeping up with the Joneses. (The money we put towards that SUV could fund part of little Johnny’s college education, but what matters is pleasing Johnny, and ourselves, N-O-W.) We need energy drinks because we’re exhausted after 8 hours at a desk and only have an evening of drudgery to follow, and it’s easier to guzzle a little bottle of something than find a lifestyle that actually energizes us.

We’re inundated with ways to work around The Way Things Are, to distract ourselves from The Way Things Are, to make The Way Things Are a little easier to live with. But The Way Things Are, in itself, is considered a given. And if everyone around you is operating under the notion the earth is flat, you have no reason to stop and wonder if it’s not. You just go on living the best little flat life you think you can.

 

What You Don’t Know

What you don’t know could turn everything upside down.

Did you know it’s possible to sell all your stuff, pay down your debt and be free to live literally anywhere you want, at anytime?

Did you know you can visit every single country in the world in 5 years?

Did you know playing it unsafe is a viable option?

It’s time to free yourself from The Way Things Are and instead create The Way Things Ought To Be. (Tweet!) Poke around the blogosphere long enough and you’ll find that more and more people are doing it — real-life, ordinary people who are, in their own ways, rejecting the mass delusion and creating the lives they’ve always wanted. Start reading just a few of their stories. It’s like someone flipping the Technicolor switch after you’ve been watching black and white all your life.

I’m not gonna lie to you. It takes hard work and some serious faith to pursue a life on your own terms. Another reason The Way Things Are has such a stronghold on us is because, shitty and completely miserable as it is, it’s oh so easy to fall in step with it. But you’re always sacrificing something, whichever story you choose to live by. The choose-your-own adventure stories take discipline, hard work and a willingness to stand out and be different. The Way Things Are story takes your soul, your dreams and your day-to-day and long-term happiness.

Guess which sacrifices I believe are the better deal?

It’s your choice. It’s your story. Which road are you going to take?

Image: Eamon Brett / Flickr