Run this inquiry though your mind every time you head home from a dinner party or a playdate or a romantic date or a day at work. When you’re doing the stuff that’s your raison d’etre, you may feel anxious about succeeding or exhausted from all the time you put in, but you don’t feel depleted. You feel the opposite: rich—in ideas, in understanding, in possibility. After brunch with friends, you leave saying to yourself, “Hey, I never thought of that before” or “Laura really called me on my b.s. about quitting my job” or “I’m going to go on a trip to the Galapagos like Ruthie.” You don’t say, “I have to go home and watch an episode of True Blood just to chill out.” Real friends give you energy, as do real hobbies and jobs and relationships. I’m not saying that everything in life has to be dipped in inspiration. Sometimes you have to do things that are boring, stupid, repetitive and annoying—but not all the time, not even most of the time. As with most things, choice does come into play.
Ideal opportunities to ask this question: before a dinner with friends who have kids the same age as your kid, a job that’s similar to yours, or any other life parallel where convenience—and not connection—could be the glue that binds you.
What I’m talking about is the nonexistence of love. Your boss, the guy you’re seeing, the lady next door with the bitchy looks—these people do not love you.
And yet you bring them banana bread for breakfast, you sleep with them when they’re drunk, you offer to pick up their mail. Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?
Because you think there is something you can do to change their attitude.
If you really decide to, you can do a lot of things: cure measles, start your own company, hang a painting with a tack and dental floss, learn the difference between a chestnut and a buckeye. But you can’t do love. So save your longing and chasing after for the people who might just like you or respect you or think that you are a good person. If they love you later, fine. If they don’t, fine too. But you will be free from the real heartbreak: demeaning yourself for those who are perfectly capable and willing to break your heart for you.
Perhaps you recognize this question. It came from the amazing Elizabeth Gilbert. The first part of asking yourself this whopper is to look at the first half of the question. Who was it specifically
who told you? Dad? Grandma? Yourself? All of the above, plus the ex-husband? The second part is looking at the message in the question, because once you know who it was, it no longer matters who it was. In other words: It wasn’t God, fate, a higher power, or genetics that told you. It was a human, and humans make mistakes. A lot of them.
Let me tell you right now, you’re allowed to be the heroine. You have full, irrefutable permission from the one authority that counts—thy own holy self. Cast yourself this very morning as the girl with the glass slipper or the girl with the bow and arrow or the girl with the very big retirement account on the fast track to her own corner office. You can wear a costume-drama bonnet or a 10-gallon Stetson. But you must do what heroines do—endure a series of challenges...and triumph.
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