While talking with my wife the other day, the topic turned to why I blog. Despite my desire to write and share, and despite close relationships with others who write and share, I can't shake the notion that writing is an egomaniacal pursuit. I told Jessika this, and as usual, she defended my own intentions to me. She has a way of cutting through my moments of self doubt with surprising clarity. I write because I like to think that my stories and musings might entertain people, make them chuckle or smile in some small way. I've also heard from coworkers and friends over the years that I have an interesting way of looking at life (although this could, on reflection, be similar to the supposed old Chinese curse about living in interesting times). Now I'm pretty happy with my life, due largely to my particular outlook on life, so I write because I hope that my perspective might enlighten my readers in some way, intellectually or emotionally.
As usual, I learned something about myself and about my motivations from talking to her, and in that spirit, I'm writing today about the impact Jessika has had on my life, my outlook, and my happiness. And I think others may agree. So here are a few things I'll call Lessons from Jessika.
1. Sugarcoating is for candy
A very good friend once told me that when he wants a balanced opinion, when he wants someone who will look at a situation from every angle, sympathize with all positions, and ultimately recommend no useful course of action whatsoever, he asks me for advice. If you don't understand why this doesn't offend me, you need to re-read the last sentence. But if he wants someone who will smack him in the face with brutal truth, he talks to Jessika. For awhile her personal quote on Facebook was, "I refuse to sugarcoat it for you."
In situations dealing with serious life decisions, a painful truth is always preferable to a comforting or convenient lie. The potential for long term pain or unhappiness is simply too great to risk saying what's easy in place of what's honest. Yes, sometimes truth seems subjective to the person asking the questions, but that's no excuse for pussy-footing around. If someone asks your opinion, they want YOUR opinion. If they come back later and try to lay any blame on you, "Hey, you asked MY opinion. What would I do? You don't HAVE to live like I do, but I won't lie to you about how I choose to live. Don't like my advice? Here's a lesson for you, then. Don't ask me."
Understand, though, this predilection for painful honesty applies to relations with friends for loved ones -- people you actually care about. When dealing with strangers or mere acquaintances, truth or lies are irrelevant. In those cases, say whatever you must to shorten the interaction.
2. I don't wanna hear it, none of your bullshit!
I don't think I had any experience with Punk or Hardcore before I met Jessika. Sure, I grew up in the 90's, so I'd listened to Grunge and some Industrial, so I wasn't completely wet behind the ears, but I couldn't have told you anything about punk. Let's get something straight: I still can't tell you much. But I've learned a little about the kind of in-your-face, not-listening-to-your-crap attitude that oozes from every pore of most punks. Punk rockers don't have a reputation for making good life decisions (although I do realize that I've quoted a band above known for its influence in straightedge), but I think we can still learn something from the mindset, and Jessika speaks to it all the time.
Life is too short to deal with people who only bring drama to your day or your life. Some of it is unavoidable -- you can't quit every job or drop every class just because of drama. But you can pick your social encounters, for sure. And you can organize your day around the people and the activities that energize you the most. Jessika's most common reaction to bullshit walk the other way, but if she can't walk away, she'll tell you what she thinks. Hell, even if she can walk away, she might, for good measure, tell you what she thinks.
I've learned that we don't have to put up with the crap that people spew in our direction, and it's okay to scream that at them if it might make them shut up.
3. Everyone wants to be like me!
Maybe. Who knows. It doesn't really matter, though. Live your life as though everyone wants to be like you. Why? Because it means that you're at peace with your decisions. You're at peace with your particular set of idiosyncrasies, and you see them as strengths. So even if you can't prove that everyone wants to be like you, live like you know it for truth.
I've learned that so much unhappiness stems from trying to live up to other people's expectations or hopes for us. If those people know so well what you should do with your life, why do they spend so much of their own lives angry, sad, confused, and unhappy? They don't know crap about how to be happy! Stop letting other people run your life for you. Figure out who you are and what you want out of life, and go work on it!
4. Get over it or die mad.
This is one of my favorite lessons. We're always going to run across people who are just frightfully bothered by us. They don't like what we say. They don't like our work performance, our school performance. They don't approve of the way we speak, the way we vote, the way we worship (or don't).
The best thing those people can do is to GET OVER IT. I live my life in the way that seems best to me and to my family, and I'm not about to change it just because someone else doesn't like it. So get over it.
The other choice, of course, is to die mad. Seriously, if you never move on from your moralizing and judging, you will literally do it until the day you die, raving at everything wrong with the world. And that's really no way to live. Your brain obviously has the ability to move on from bad experiences (hopefully you're not still bitter about every disappointment you've ever experienced). Engage that ability to move on, and accept that I don't plan on changing myself to suit your politics or your religion or your sense of decency. Your life will be better, more full of opportunities for joy.
Besides, I don't wanna hear it...