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Several years ago, during one of our “heart-to-heart” attempts, my mother told me that she feared I would never be happy. Like, ever. She had given this great thought and the pained expression on her face when she uttered this phrase spoke to its torturous veracity.
“Why do you think that?” queried I impatiently, already dismissing her answer because of course I know everything and always have.
She replied “Because you expect too much from people. And no one can live up to your expectations.”
I mulled this over for about six years and finally had to admit (like, this morning) that she was right. I do indeed do just that. I expect TOO MUCH from people.
Now, I’m not sure if this is all people or some people or most people or just the people I really like or maybe only the people I love. It’s definitely people, though, so I guess she was right. I mean, I expect my dog to be a good boy and I expect the local bears to stay clear of my summer abode and I expect the chipmunk I’m feeding to come eat out of my hand one day but … holy crap, SEE! There I go! Already expecting the damn chipmunk to do something in return. In return for my love. My love in the form of peanuts, mind you. But still my love.
The problem here I believe stems back to my soulmate. I know I’ve written of soulmates recently but this goes further. It goes to the expectation that one actually exists. And maybe more than one? Because if you had one, maybe you can have two? Or even three? What’s to say there’s a limit to quantity in soulmate-land? Because how can we be sure if souls really do mate forever? Is it a reason or maybe just a reason for a season? When the season passes perhaps the reason does too.
In my 20s I mated souls (or so I thought) with the lovely guitar player in my band. He looked like Eddie van Halen, played almost as well, could sing, could laugh, could give me a run for my money at Scrabble and gave me immense emotional and physical joy daily. Until the day he told me (three years in) that we wouldn’t be having any kids because he already had a family (he was divorced with a daughter) and one was enough, thank you very much.
At that time my biological clock wasn’t exactly ticking but I sure hadn’t written off the possibility of creating another human being at some point with my soulmate. He, on the other hand, had.
It was the beginning of our end.
Fast forward about 25 years and who walks into a little restaurant where I’m performing but Eddie #2. I swear I did not recognize him. Gone was the long hair. Funky jeans. Cowboy boots. Eddie had gone completely corporate. He looked good. Just corporate.
Turns out the reason Eddie looked corporate was because he WAS corporate. Long ago abandoning music as a viable career, he had returned to school, got some badass degree and was now the president (yes Mom and Dad who never thought he would amount to much – the PRESIDENT!) of a huge automotive company. He drove a Porsche!
Apparently one of his employees had mentioned this chick jazz singer at this sweet bistro and my name came up and he was incredulous and Eddie’s marriage was on the rocks so he drove the hour to see me and THERE I WAS! Playing in a little band.
With my current soulmate. The harmonica player, if you must know.
Long story short, Eddie ultimately professed a desire to run off with me, I professed gratitude for his desire but also a desire to remain mated with that current soul, so we forged a friendship, stayed in touch, eventually current soul ditched me, Eddie had another relationship, that tanked and at that one moment years later when we were both actually FREE … we got together. Just to, ya know, see.
You know what happened? Nothing. Nada. Not a single spark flew. We had created such a nice friendship the thought of taking it further was almost laughable. I’m actually pretty sure we did laugh.
So here’s my point – we were soulmates. At one time on our parallel journeys our souls DID mate and it was heavenly. It just didn’t last.
Same with harmonica-man. Even more so. We were completely and utterly mated, soul, heart, mind and body. It was heavenly. It just didn’t last.
The problem is, my dear mother (rest well), once you have tasted that sweet nectar, nothing else will do. It is so very difficult to settle for water when you have tasted wine. So very difficult to accept good enough when you have experienced magic. Glorious, daily magic.
And that is why I still expect too much. I don’t look at it as too much. I see it as just enough. Just enough to make everyday life bearable. Just enough to accept tragedy and sadness when they befall. Just enough to fuel my tank just enough to give back … just enough.
And that’s the thing. I am more than willing to give back more than my share. Seriously, take my heart, take my money, take my energy, take my words and my music and my food and my wine and my time and yes, please do take my soul. Here it is … on a platter.
And if that’s not in the cards then please forgive me for expecting too much. Apparently I have been doing it for a very long time.
A few months before my father died, at a time when I was experiencing huge marital difficulties which distressed my parents greatly, my dad took me aside and very privately whispered “Vickie, the best thing I ever did was stay with your mother. Because now I am going to die with my best friend.”
And he did.
Because they were.
His words bought my marriage another 5 years.
But I also received surprisingly different counsel from someone else very close to me. She told me that we basically have two options when this ‘mid-life crisis’ occurs: we can choose family for the sake of family or we can choose the quest for soulmatedness. And she emphasized that neither was the right choice. They were both noble choices and it was UP TO ME to decide which was the one for me. Period. Then it was up to me to make that choice and live it.
At that time my father’s words prevailed. Five years later it was a different story. And even when that soulmate broke my heart I still got back up on that fucking horse and kept on expecting too much. Those cracks and bruises and scars did not stop me from expecting too much. Not then.
And not now.
Some may call it pressure. Some may call it foolishness. Some may call it just plain ridiculous.
I learned it all from my soulmates. These lessons came with immense sadness.
The thing is they also came with immense joy.
Which is exactly why I continue to expect too much.
We all know that every day is something special and I believe yesterday was National Emoji Day.
Exciting, right? A full day to celebrate those useful little faces (and other things) that we are now obliged to insert into texts and emails so that we are certain the recipient will “get” our meaning. Well okay, we are not obliged and I do know lots of people (old people like me) who rarely use them at all. But don’t you find it fascinating that they exist? And that there is now a day to honour them?
Oh wait. Have I confused you? When you saw the title of this blog did you think I was going to discuss something else? (insert smiley face with halo here)
Sorry to disappoint (if I did) but when I’m talking about “oral” I am talking about “oral communication”. As in conversation. Face to face chat. Words said out loud to someone who is in the same room.
Even on the phone for that matter. Seriously, how many people do you actually call these days? I have a few friends (old people like me) who still pick up the phone. And thank goodness my son prefers live chat to lengthy text dialogues with his mother. But even I (old) now conduct most of my correspondence via a keyboard.
And this is fine. If it’s all about logistics or life catch-up or even announcing news.
It is, however, not so fine when you are engaged in discussion of a more esoteric, personal nature. Like say, the state of your romantic union, religion or politics. THEN your lingusitic capabilities are brought into full question and I will tell you even some of the very best writers I know FAIL. They fail to communicate EXACTLY what they are trying to communicate because, as it turns out, we’re not all Shakespeare. We don’t all fully delight in the creation of the perfect phrase. We don’t all have poetry coursing through our veins nor do we all know how to type quickly with more than two fingers.
And then there’s that pesky little problem of making sure the beneficiary or our ramblings actually truly understands their intent. That is the BIG FAT fucking problem. Because if we are not erudite ENOUGH to share our thoughts clearly and succinctly without even the slightest possibility of misinterpretation well guess what? We open ourselves up to ALL kinds of big fat Misinterpretation.
I communicate via email fairly regularly with a friend who is intelligent, interesting and eloquent. I would love to believe that I am kinda sorta the same (c’mon now, that was funny). And just last week we found ourselves lost in a quagmire of misunderstanding. Somebody thinks something is funny and somebody else thinks something is hurtful and you don’t hear the vocal inflection and you don’t see the twinkle in the eye and all of a sudden you are up to your neck in miscommunicative muck. Not necessarily on purpose. Maybe just because we didn’t use enough emojis and we rarely talk in person. We don’t have that quiet understanding born of many same-room conversations.
Now at this point you might be thinking “Okay Vic, thank you, we get it, you want more oral in your life.”
Because the written word in its new immediate form also offers SO many benefits.
The aforementioned ability to instantly connect without invading anyone’s personal space. That is EXACTLY why I do love email and text. I can read at me leisure and I can respond at my leisure. It is all about MY leisure. I don’t have to answer a phone call during dinner and I don’t have to have a face to face conversation that I may not be ready (for any number of reasons) to have. Email and text offer me CONTROL.
And I like that.
They also offer me the opportunity to read and re-read and re-read again and only THEN formulate my response which I may or may not edit, re-edit and sleep on before sending. These are all REALLY GOOD things. Especially if the discussion is heated, volatile and/or passionate.
My pal T was involved in a relationship with a guy who possessed the gift of gab and was super quick on his feet, especially during a lover’s quarrel. And she would then moan to me “Vic, I get lost in these discussions because he is just SO good at them and I forget my place and then my thoughts and I just sit there like a dummy while he pummels me with words!”
And I replied “Okay then. Don’t have those conversations with him. Not in person. Write down your thoughts and concerns and questions and send them to him. Bullet-pointed! So that he then has an opportunity to address them one by one and you have an opportunity to get the answers you need.”
Apparently he didn’t much like that. He preferred the upper hand he knew he had in live dialogue and didn’t really want to answer anything on paper (so to speak). It just wasn’t in his playbook. He didn’t really want to address her concerns or advance their relationship. He wanted to win. And he could only win on one playing field.
It was the end for them. And rightly so.
Because when we are offered SO many avenues of communication and when refuse to avail ourselves (and our relationships) of ALL of them we are doing ourselves a great disservice. I mean seriously, why wouldn’t we explore ALL options of intercourse?
There I go again, confusing you.
But not really.
Because connection is connection is connection. And intercourse is not just a word for sex. Would you choose only one “style” of sex for all time? And if not why in heck would you choose only one “style” of communication?
We live in a blessed time when letters don’t take months to arrive, live conversations are only a few clicks away and even face to face expression is easy to facilitate, even if you are on opposite sides of the planet.
To fully and completely make yourself known and understood, why wouldn’t you try every style?
Sure, maybe oral ain’t what it used to be but it still is exactly what it’s always been.
Along with so much more. Just don’t forget about it.
Enjoy the buffet.
When I asked this question on social media I was gifted with many different answers. From “there is no purpose” to “if you need a purpose go find one” to “helping others” to “finding happiness” and “giving and receiving love” to “giving back more than you take” to “success in all endeavours” (including getting out of bed in the morning) to “becoming comfortable in your own skin” to “learning and growing” and finally to just “living it!”
All noble responses and each as profound as the next.
So then I got to thinking … okay, how would I wrap up life’s purpose into one phrase? One succinct sentence that just might collate all of these thoughts into one simple dictum.
The purpose of life is adventure.
Yes. I truly believe that the purpose of life is to treat it all as a great adventure. The ups, the downs, the bliss, the sadness, the disappointments, the highs, the heartbreak and the joy … all part of the huge adventure called life.
Think about it. Every time you set out to help your fellow man, whether on a grand scale or an intimate one-on-one level, YOU are creating an adventure. When my mother was undergoing radiation treatment and my sister and I were spending a lot of time ferrying her to and fro, she feared we might come to resent her. And we replied with full honesty “Not even one bit! Because this too is part of the adventure. The adventure of your long and fruitful life and the adventure of seeing its finale celebrated with grace and love.”
Indeed, the morning after she died I posted that she had “slipped quietly into her next adventure.” The earthly one was complete. The next one was a mystery waiting to be unraveled.
If you are searching for happiness, fulfillment and contentment I reckon you can do it one of two ways. The first is to sit around and wait for it to show up. Yeah, you can try that but I am pretty sure passive happiness-seeking has never won the day. I mean sure, you can find moments of contentment in a beautiful sunset or the call of the loon at sunrise but IF you want to actually live a happy life you have to create a happy life.
And therein arrives ADVENTURE! Because IF you look at this process as a great and exciting adventure then guess what? It WILL be a great and exciting adventure. If you, however, look at it as too much effort or poor me – what else? then yep, it is gonna be a slog. Doesn’t adventure sound so much more appealing? Go forth and adventure into the land of on-line dating! Go forth and move city and job to a more appealing locale! Go forth and travel as much as your heart and bank account will allow. Just remind yourself that adventure IS your buzz word. Not fear.
Certainly the blessing of giving and receiving love is one of life’s greatest adventures. Whether it’s your mate, your child, your friend, your dog, your parent or your boss, every single person in your orbit is part of YOUR adventure. They all bring nuance and colour and perspective and soul to your existence.
“But what about when my heart gets broken?” you might counter? That sure as hell ain’t no fun adventure!
Perhaps not. At the moment. But if you stop and say “Well, this kinda sucks and I’m kinda miserable but ya know what? THIS is going to lead to my NEXT adventure!” Well then everything changes. Because then, along with the despair comes huge, wide-open, blank-page HOPE! And nothing fuels an adventure better than unbridled optimism.
Years ago, when I was (yet again) newly single, and pondering the possibility of reuniting with my newly-departed love, only because I was alone and lonely, I reminded myself that my NEXT adventure was just around the corner. My last adventure had concluded and the next one had not yet commenced but damnit IT WAS COMING and all I had to do was be patient. Do the work. Make sure I was available for something new and exciting and not mired in the muck of everything old and done. Because as long as I was mired I was stagnant. And adventure is all about moving forward!
I just checked the dictionary.com definition of adventure. The usual suspects were there and then there was this: Adventure = a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome.
And that, my friends, is life. A a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome.
Well, the outcome is pretty certain. We all know where it ends. The real question is HOW is it lived?
As you read these words, please don’t think this is just a Well, that is just some overfed white chick blowing Disney smoke out of her ass.
I may be those things but I also know about life. Adventure. And change. As a matter of fact, I am pretty sure my life is about to change again. Because my beloved’s life is changing. And even though these changes aren’t exactly what we might choose they are coming whether we want them or not.
So … what do we do?
I vote for ADVENTURE. I choose to accept what comes and then move forward with an open mind and open spirit, ready for the next challenge. I am not mad or sad. Don’t get me wrong – if there was a fight here, I would fight! But there is no fight. Sometimes the greatest adventure is acceptance. And then forward motion. Or, in the words of one of my favourite Smooth Jazz groups Pieces Of A Dream – Forward Emotion. With an E.
Embrace the adventure and bring your heart and soul along for the ride. The rest of you will follow.
Because adventure doesn’t have to be climbing mountains or sailing oceans or safaris in Africa or traveling to outer space. Adventure is everyday living. IF you remember that the greatest adventure in life is LIFE. Being alive. And being grateful and excited for each and every day.
Go be an adventurer!
You lead and I am pretty sure your life’s purpose will follow.
A few days ago, I was told by a friend that I “don’t take criticism very well.”
“WTF?” retorted I indignantly. “Are you kidding me?”
My blood pressure rose significantly, as did my voice. “Who me … not take criticism well?” And then one last stab: “Are you fucking crazy?”
Okay, the truth is none of that happened. Except for the criticism that I don’t take criticism very well. That happened.
And fair enough. It might well be true. Because really, when you think about it, who does take criticism well?
No one I know, that’s who. Because when it comes to being told what we are not getting right, or doing well enough or downright failing at, nobody likes to be on the receiving end of negative judgment. And most of us do not respond positively to it.
Can you imagine –
“Hey Barbie, that shirt looks adorbs on you but whoa … did you style your hair in the ceiling fan tonight?” At which time Barbie obviously responds “Well golly, aren’t you the sweetest?!”
I don’t think so.
Or how about – Boss: “Your work ethic totally sucks, young lady, and if you don’t pull up your socks you will find yourself out of a job faster than you can say You’re fired!” At which time terrified employee responds “So grateful that you told me this, sir, and yes I promise, no more droopy socks.”
Again. I don’t think so. Not in the real world. Because in the real world most of us, when criticized, respond in one of three ways:
Silence. Usually of the stunned variety.
Defense. We try with all our might to explain exactly why we did/wore/thought/wrote. We do this until we are blue in the face
Offense. Because so very often when we are told we did something wrong our immediate response is to remind the accuser of ALL the things he or she has done wrong. Ever. You know, since the beginning of time.
This is how most people usually respond.
The problem is none of these responses is typically very effective.
Silence equals agreement. Acceptance. Acquiescence. Unless of course your silence is coupled with a passive-aggressive response such as unfriending on Facebook, blocking on Instagram or unfollowing on Twitter. Then it becomes silent bullshit. And I already wrote that blog.
Defense is fine if you are calm and eloquent and even a little witty. Like, say, Accuser says “Hey Vic, you’ve gotten a bit chubby” and I blithely retort “Well, darling, I still have time to lose weight but you will always be stupid.”
Oh wait. That is defense followed by offense. Also not a very good idea.
Seriously, defense is okay IF you excel at public speaking or creative writing and IF your accuser is willing to listen and absorb. Perhaps alter their opinion. Sadly we’re not all literary superstars nor are most people adept at changing their minds. It’s an ego thing. We blurt out something willy-nilly and then stand by it as if it was written by an angel in the first testament.
So how then do we learn to accept negative evaluation with grace? With consideration? With, dare I say, an open mind?
The answers are: Who. How. Why.
We remain silent – at least for a moment – and conduct a little inner survey.
WHO is leveling that critique? If it’s your boss you better damn well sit up and listen and then get on with pulling up those socks. That is, of course, if you want the job. But yeah, your boss is kinda important. So is your partner, your best friend, your parent or even your kid. If the critic is someone whose opinion you value then yes, please, take a time-out and calmly consider their appraisal. Do this before you have the tantrum. Take a deep breath (or 20) and think about the person, their relationship to you and then …
HOW. How did this person give you the blessed news? Was it blurted out in hostile fashion, with perhaps some motive ulterior to the actual words? Was it offered calmly to help you gain perspective or improvement? Was it carefully thought out and lovingly delivered NOT to smack you upside the head but to give you something vital and important to ponder? And that’s the big thing, isn’t it? Because if your evaluator isn’t actually helping you (you know – constructive criticism) but is instead merely sounding off, we are led to the WHY.
WHY is this person overcome with the need to make you feel bad. And let’s be brutally honest here, okay – criticism always makes us feel bad. At least initially. But now that you have assessed the WHO and the HOW, the WHY becomes the final piece in the puzzle. Was the analysis delivered as an honest attempt to help you see a light and become your best self or as a selfish ruse designed only to make the accuser feel better? That, my friends, is the big fat HUGE question.
Every time I write a blog I open myself up to criticism. From people I know, people I love and virtual strangers. Every time there is a song written, a new book published, a political cartoon posted, a dress designed, a meal created or a landscape painted, the creator of that whatever opens themselves to evaluation. And I will tell you from personal experience that takes a certain kind of resolve. Metal. Balls of steal. Call it what you will.
There are many people on this planet who never open themselves up to that kind of scrutiny. Because it is terrifying and painful.
For those of us who do I offer only two bits of advice:
Stay true to your vision. Whatever it is. Own it. Embrace it. Be open to new perspectives and receive praise and damnation with equal aplomb. But DO NOT be terrified.
Say thank you.
I’ve decided that will be my new “catch-all” response to those who choose to judge.
Thank you for weighing in, thank you for offering your opinion, thank you for taking the time to let me know what you believe I am not excelling at and thank you for caring enough to include me in your busy day.
I’m also going to think long and hard before I criticize anyone about anything. Especially the people I love. It’s going to be tough but I am going to try. And when I am on the receiving end I will pause, breathe, breathe some more and then be grateful. It’s an art, this grace-full receiving, this I know. And as we know, art is always open to criticism. But I am just a little smarter than I was yesterday, a little thicker-skinned and a little more optimistic. So it’s all okay.
Oh by the way … thank you.
A friend recently asked me WHY I blog? What is it in me that feels the NEED to disclose so much personal information with the world? Why do I have such desire to SHARE so much publicly. Sure, other people may think as I do but they are quite content to think quietly. Privately. Some people may discuss issues with close friends and some people may journal but what is it exactly that drives me to think, write and then publish?
Well, first off, my mother asked me that question many times. As did my sister. As much as they were fans of my writing they were not fans of my disclosing. TOO MUCH INFORMATION, they offered. You should keep more to yourself, they advised. Some things should remain private.
Fair enough. And to be honest I concur. Some things should remain private. And those things will never find their way into my blogs.
But who defines those things is key. You may say 90% of your life and I may say 25% of mine. And so I blog and you don’t.
In their own lives my family members made that choice and I took no issue with it. Apparently though we are allowed to take issue when someone is too vocal. But doesn’t that go to the old saying “Tis better to remain silent and be thought a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt?”
Something like that. And I don’t care.
Because I do know that when you speak your mind and your truth you might as well paint a target on your heart. When you remain silent you remain safe.
But this doesn’t really answer the “why do you blog” question, does it?
There are several reasons and the first one that comes to mind is this: I blog because I can. I blog because that target on my heart doesn’t scare me half as much as most. You know that recurring dream when you’re naked in a room of fully clothed people? And you’re desperate for cover or clothing and humiliated because you can’t find it?
I have that dream regularly. Except I am not desperate or humiliated. In my dream I keep thinking that yes, this is awkward and yes, maybe I should locate clothing or a blanket but in my dream I just keep getting on with whatever I’m doing in spite of my nudity.
I’m no dream-interpreter but I think this speaks volumes. Not to my desire to join a nudist colony (I did go to a nude beach once and the best I could muster was “topless”) but more to my comfort level with being transparent. I have no problem sharing my truth because it is my truth and I own my truth. Sure I may start scribbling and in my wine-soaked state say things that are my truth THAT NIGHT and those truths may not exist next year. But that is the point of a blog, right? It’s not a novel meant to stand the test of centuries. It is a snapshot (does anybody still use that word?) of how the writer is feeling that moment.
So … answer #1 – I blog because I can. I blog because I am not afraid of sharing too much, being too transparent or pissing anyone off.
And then there’s my brain. And my life. I spent the first 45 years of that life trying to fit into a prescribed mold and trying to do the right things for the right people at the right time. I may have poured out my soul into an original song or two but for the most part I kept my inner rumblings to myself. And you know what? Inner rumblings are like a volcano. They may exist as a quiet roar for years on end and then BOOM! They erupt.
At least for me. I know people who can compartmentalize their inner rumblings, stash them away privately for late night ruminations, share them with only a few close mates or ignore them entirely and go back to slotting themselves into a bigger, more acceptable picture.
I am not those people. Not anymore. I was those people and now I am not. I am not condemning those people for still being those people and nor will I apologize for no longer being those people. My life now is my life. My big fat transparent beautiful life.
As for my brain? I have a lot of time to think. And a lot of time to consider different stories, options, approaches and reasons. My brain just goes there. If you go back to the very first blog I ever wrote – April 2012 – you will see it was written in response to something a friend said to me. I had replied to him in depth, via email, and when I did he said “Vic you need to start blogging. You need to share your insights with the world.”
So … reasons #2 and #3 – I blog because I spend a lot of time thinking about things that most people don’t have a lot of time to think about and I blog because I love to write. My life brought me to a place of understanding that I choose to share with the world. And because my friend believed in me and my ramblings enough to suggest that I make them available to the public.
And that’s the real reason that I keep on blogging. Because as much as that target can be a bit daunting at times the positive feedback I have received over these last 6 years far outweighs my fear of getting shot in the heart. “A” tells me she reads all my blogs and sometimes feels like I am reading her mind; they speak so profoundly to her own life and journey. “B” tells me she loves the way I write fearlessly. “C” tells me I usually make her laugh. “D” tells me I always make him think. “E” tells me he just likes my style. And “F” tells me I have taken her feelings and put them into words.
So … reason #4 is really my biggest cause for blogging. The same reason people give Ted Talks and become keynote speakers or even write memoirs. I want to entertain you with my truths and I hope to help you sort out your own.
I am no qualified therapist. No one has invited me to give a Ted Talk or a keynote speech. But I do believe in my ability to write and my ability to entertain. I believe in my ability to tell the truth and my ability to be transparent. I believe in my ability to tackle subjects that are universal and terrifying and subjects that are difficult and daunting. I believe in my ability to help.
Sure, when I write about my son, my ex or my current beau you can figure out who it is. But I would also like to believe that I have never written anything about any one of them that is damning. I also work very hard at keeping everyone else anonymous. Do I succeed 100% of the time. Perhaps not. Do I ever go back and think “Golly, I wish I hadn’t written that?” Perhaps a time or two.
But that is it. A time or two. For the most part I don’t go back at all. Maybe one day I’ll have a hankering to peruse all those old snapshots. For now, I choose to go forward. Go forward and tackle difficult topics in order to clarify them in my own soul and maybe help you clarify them in yours. Or at the very least entertain you with my musings.
I believe I can.
I believe this because you my lovely readers have told me so. And for me, that is enough reason to keep on blogging. Sure I could blog about travel or food, real estate or fashion. But you don’t need to be honest or fearless or transparent to do that.
It would also appear that nudity is my jam.
I’m okay with that.