5. "But everybody in my family makes fun of people. And we're all fine with it."
Uh. Sorry. No. If Uncle Frank and Grandpa start making radio-crackling noises and saying, "The Eagle has landed!" every time your gawky, 14-year-old nephew Tony (with the very prominent hook nose) walks into the room, it's not okay for you to laugh. It's not even okay for you just to sit there and smile and pretend you don't see Tony's face struggle not to crumple—so much so that he may even manage to laugh along with the so-called fun, just to avoid calling attention to all the dying and self-loathing he's doing inside. Cruelty called "joking"—not unlike overdrinking called "relaxing"—isn't acceptable just because everybody who's doing it is related. There was a time when you were a small person looking up at the very tall people who defined the whole world and all its rules. But you are now a tall person. You get to look over the shoulders of those related to you and examine the much bigger universe, where you get to choose how you speak to other people—a daily activity that, if managed with some care and forethought, can be an honor

6. "I cannot do X. I cannot do X one more time. I cannot do X ever again."
You can and you will. Because X will keep you your job. X will get your friend with cancer the extra pain pill from the bitchy nurse. X will salvage the marriage. X and the effort it entails will cement your commitment to doing difficult, necessary things and allow you to arrive at amazing, life-defining Ys that you never expected and that you thought were out of reach. But they aren't. You just had to do X that one more time.

7. "I don't care what my parents think."
Ha! (As in: HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!)

8. "I'm going to say something so interesting and well researched that I'm going to change this woman's mind about cats."
I'm only going to say this one time: You will not change her mind. She will not love cats if she loves dogs. She will not believe in Buddha if she believes in Allah. She will not—suddenly!—want to vote for the guy you want to be mayor whom she does not want to be mayor. But in the process of trying, you will talk and then get despondent later because you'd wanted to change her mind so badly and you failed. Further—and this is the really big owie—you will realize that you were so amped up about all the feline/Buddhism/mayoral statistics that you prepared for this discussion, you were so ready to pounce on the end of that lady's every sentence with a new, better, more riveting sentence, that you were not able to hear a single word she said—nor enjoy that unsung moment of pleasure when you learned something unexpected, something that might just have changed your mind. If not about cats, then about the people who love them more than dogs.

Next: You tell yourself you don't need them, but...


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