Life's Sweetest Moments

Life’s sweetest moments are rarely straightforward. Even motherhood, arguably the most incredible journey a woman can take, begins with nearly unbearable physical pain.

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I got divorced when I was 27, after spending nine years with a partner I married just so I wouldn’t have to wonder how my life would turn out. Some of those nine years were really fun. We traveled the world together, and made lots of dear friends. It wasn’t enough, though, to sustain for a lifetime, because problems we could not solve creeped in and took over. Splitting up nine year’s worth of living into two equal parts is hard, but not as hard as sentencing yourself to a lifetime of unhappiness.

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I used to swim a lot in the ocean. It’s terrifying, honestly, especially in northern California where the water is predictably in the mid-50s, the surf is enormous, and sharks are spotted regularly. It’s also freeing and empowering. To consciously invite yourself to overcome your own fears is exhilarating.

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Navigating the space between joy and sadness—or fear—is lifelong work. As George Bernard Shaw observed, “you have learnt something. That always feels at first as if you have lost something.”

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We each decide what pain we will offer in exchange for the joy we want in life. With your heart as your compass, bravely let that journey unfold.

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Happy Sunday! Thanks for reading.

Layers

One evening, during the heat of the summer, I was picking up a few groceries and I got in line to pay behind a father and his teenage son who were purchasing nothing more than a seven layer bean dip. And they were really excited. “We’re gonna GO HOME, and PUT ON A MOVIE, and enjoy this AWESOME SNACK!” the father exclaimed. “Yeah! I LOVE seven layer bean dip!” his son agreed.

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Suddenly, I really wanted a seven layer bean dip.

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I watched a TED talk a year or more ago about decision making. According to the speaker, most people make the majority of their decisions based on the social norms they see around them, yet most people do not self-describe their decision making as being influenced by the decisions of their peers. I should have mentioned: this TED talk bit is a digression. It’s just such an interesting truth. Let’s get back to the real discussion.

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I don’t think seven is a particularly special number in life, but I have been spending some time thinking about the layers of life.

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The most essential layer is the base layer: health, safety., and self respect. I know a person who often develops such a deep panic about problems with his base layer that instead of fixing them, he distracts himself away to significantly more superficial problems because they are easier to fix and (at least he feels) it helps to justify ignoring the base layer problems. But it never works. Fixing the base layer always needs to come first.

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Then there is the mid layer of life: are you in the career you want, and the relationship you want, and generally sailing the life boat (not the life raft! that implies disaster!) in the direction you want it to go? A lot of times (all the time?) these are pretty deeply connected to the base layer. I do think, though, that they are perceptibly higher than the base layer, although I welcome your thoughts.

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Above the mid layer is the top layer of life: do you like your furniture, or your clothes, or the recipes you’ve been making for dinner? Thinking you can use the top layer to fix issues in the mid layer, or even the base layer, is an easy trap to fall into. Maybe if I change up some superficial stuff I’ll be happier! It might buy some time through sheer distraction, but it won’t work. You can’t develop self respect by buying a new car.

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Lately, when I’m upset about something, I try to put it into one of these three life categories to help me figure out if it’s a big deal or a small deal. The big deals are worth big emotions, and generally, there shouldn’t be too much base layer trouble. If there is, I know I should drop some other priorities while I set the base layer right again. If I realize something is a small deal, i try to give it small emotions. It’s a work in progress, but the more I do it, the better I feel.

In truth, I’d rather have a seven layer cake than a seven layer bean dip (although yes, I did purchase the bean dip this summer, and I did eat and enjoy it) so I’d rather end with a cherry on top than a sprinkling of green onions.

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Working on the life layers is exhausting. Make sure you have a cherry on top, and when you get to it, really enjoy it. And then go ahead and put another cherry right back on top.

Happy Sunday! Thanks for reading.

Moods

Top of the morning to all of you little rays of sunshine! Are you FEELING IT? Because lately I am just feeling it so hard. Feeeeeeels. I’ve never subscribed to the “fake it till you make it” method. AT ALL. I like to flop around in my moodiness when my moodiness wants to flop. However, a good friend told me years ago that while it’s okay to have a pity party for yourself from time to time, nobody likes a guest who overstays her welcome. So pack it up and pack it in before you hit that point, folks, and you’ll be just fine.

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I’ve always found that I get much madder and stay madder longer when I try to pretend everything is fine. Who in the world decided that acting happy would bring happiness? I like my happiness served authentically, thank you very much. And furthermore, there’s nothing wrong with experiencing the full range of human emotions. I got my sister a Marc Jacobs t-shirt years ago for her birthday that said “Where’s the outrage?” on the front. I mean, right? Fun side note: my sister is a therapist. That was such a great shirt. I should have bought myself one, too (because I’m a shameless self-gift-giver).

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Obv, my favorite emotion isn’t any of the negative ones; it’s happiness, of course. Having said all that stuff about honoring the emotional mix that makes the human landscape so rich, I really don’t think dwelling in the morass of the sad swamp is best. Get yourself some assistance if that is where you are spending most of your days. I mean it sincerely. You can get through, and the sweet life is waiting for you on the other side.

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Happy Sunday, my little peaches! Go spoil yourselves. You deserve it.