19 October, 2016

Adult-ing: Part 4

oh hey.
16. Every encounter counts.
    ...So always do your very best. Even if you don’t have a lot to give, give what you have and what you can, and do so with an open and glad heart.
    The number of jobs I have been offered because my reputation preceded me, or because I had done great work in previous audition rooms that didn’t require as much to prove in the ultimate room, all connected to original positive encounters. Good work is always your best calling card
    In addition, the number of friendships I enjoy because of meaningful encounters I thought would be casual, are many.
    You might not be the very best 100% you have ever had in The History of Ever, but give all you have that day, and if you genuinely think you are going to be better off at home, there is nothing wrong with staying home and recharging those batteries (believe me, I've done it). Why? Because every encounter counts.

17. Self-advocacy is not always about advocating for yourself to others, but, more often than not, advocating for yourself to your Self.
    When we are crushed into a corner, we are often willing to advocate for our safety, our rights, or for the rights and comforts of people, groups or causes we care about. One is much more likely to advocate for a convicted cybercriminal before we say to ourselves “I need to say No to this. Not because I am incapable, or, an inherently selfish grouchy pants, but because I can’t do this task well, nor will I be good to anyone if I don’t advocate for my health/rest/nutrition/downtime.”
    Why do we do that? Even though we would never actually allow anyone to speak to us the way our inner voice speaks to us multiple times a day, we tolerate it anyway, letting our best-worst-friend Inner Vampire drive the car.
    We also very rarely stick up for ourselves when our inner voice is being a big ol' jerk. The inner voice says things like:
    “You were stood up on that date because your thighs are thick and you can’t hold a conversation. You should spend at least three days fretting that you are un-dateable and un-lovable.”
Then it says
    “Your boss addressed a work issue with unnecessary venom, accompanied by a total character assassination: you totally deserve to be spoken to that way, and not only a bad employee but a bad person.”
Wow. Keep it down inner-jerk-voice!
Your inner self-advocate is also equally capable of saying:
“If I made a mistake, a person has every capacity to calmly express their disappointment or address my error without attacking me personally. If it continues, I have the power to ask it to stop, leave this situation physically, or try to prevent it from hurting me so deeply.”
    Lesson: Sometimes it isn’t about standing up for yourself to your boss or to your mother-in-law or that jerk face at work. And that is challenging.
     But more often than not, it starts deeper: self-advocacy is more often than not about reminding yourself that you are a human being who deserves respect and that that respect had to start by actually respecting yourself. (None of this lip-service self-respect but still keeping Inner Vampire on the payroll! I know that game...) You have to do your personal homework so you get to a place where you know and believe, that you possess worth.

18. Not choosing is also a choice.
Remember that.

19. You don’t have to LIKE everyone and vice versa.
Ronda: scene of cliffs, sangria, and arguments
     Well, what do ya know? High School is never over.
     I recall the very first time this lesson really hit home for me. I was away on a 10-day artist retreat in Spain (I know I know) with my artistic idol leading workshops at a beautiful Spanish mill during the day, while at night we ate and drank (and sometimes sang) our way through glorious Spanish delights, and socialized with the other artistic types. I initially withheld my profession and performance abilities. After all, I was on holiday, and I also thought it might a point of over-fascination for some (long lines of questioning and requests to perform, etc), outright threatening to others. And anyway it didn't really matter to making collages in Spain.
     Here's what I discovered:
  1. I was the youngest person there by about 25 years.
  2. The only single person.
  3. The only person who wasn’t (ostensibly) a Canadian mother (or, tag along husband)
  4. Socially, I had never dealt with ANYTHING like this situation, and I was
     Some of the Canadians immediately associated me with their children. They responded to my 24-year-self, full of curiosity and youth with delight. Those folks scooped me up and adopted me instantly.
     Then some were suspicious. What was a 24-year-old American actress doing here exactly? What could she possibly want out of this experience other than attention? After the first few days, when those people realized that I was genuine, they relaxed and accepted me too.
     And then there was… well let’s call her Vanessa. Ahhh Vanessa. Vanessa was roughly sixty, a prominent person of British Columbia, mother of a 23-year-old son, and a retired television producer. Quite pretty for any age, Vanessa had lovely skin, a nice figure, and a shock of long, bright white, perfectly manicured hair that was once a shock of red.
     Vanessa was also incredibly intelligent, charming and cultured, but she also behaved as if she had grown used to being the star of every social scene. And I? Well, tiny-fetal-poreless-West-End-actress-living-in-London ME was not what she was expecting. Or hoping for. Or enjoying. Not one bit. Just by showing up, just by existing, I was taking up her oxygen, her role, and all the “star quality” real-estate in this social circle and WHOA BOY: look out. Vanessa wanted, nay, almost required my expulsion. Not physically, but her behavior insinuated that she needed everyone to at least dislike me at least as much as she did, and she needed this deeply in order for her to feel at ease.
      Now that I think about it,  I suppose there is something in the transformation of Vanessa's once-red hair now a shock of white that perfectly captures Vanessa’s (perhaps not entirely perceived?) crisis; a crisis I don’t even dare attempt to understand, for even now, I suppose I am still a relatively young woman. But people--particularly woman--in transition, are beings I have great compassion for. A part of me just wants to go back in time and hug her.
     Even though I didn't actively do anything wrong, I understand that my presence alone must have pushed some of her buttons, and I genuinely felt for her. I have now been on the other side of that situation (in less intense ways), and it smarts! It is genuinely painful and terrifying.
     That said, Vanessa's behavior was mean! Her behavior only slightly more refined than a high school bully (and believe me: I endured my fair few of those), but likely only because she'd had more practice than a teenager. Some days I stood agape at the things that came out of her mouth—the mouth of a grown-assed, adult, human being. Yadda yadda, I'm a big girl, and the details aren’t important but truuuuust me: Vanessa was a super-meany-pants and a bully.
     Crucially: at twenty-four, I suppose I had never even considered that “grown-ups” could behave like this! I guess I thought that there was a sort of magical kingdom or “finish line” grown-up people crossed at 40ish that meant they were "done cooking." This secret School of Adulting BFA (Bachelor of Fine Adulting?) made them infinitely wise, compassionate, tolerant and kind. This Adult Ivy League paradise is where they learned to drive, do taxes, do laundry, take out mortgages, change diapers, bake bread, write poems, join the PTA, and obviously, have all the answers! What a sucker I was (the same sucker that used to think elementary school teachers slept at school...) I didn’t expect Vanessa to pull punches that would make my sophomore-year group of Mean Girls HIGH FIVE her…before stuffing me in a locker.
     Well. I know better now. BWA-HA-HA.
     Having reached my own "adulthood" I now know that every single adult out there is both "winging it" and, truly, doing the very best they can. After all, despite feeling like a total nobody-loser (which, by the way, I promise you all “together” people still feel constantly), in reality I was (I suppose) young, kind of pretty-ish, relatively successful, fairly glamorous (at least to a group of Canadian non-urbanites?), living in London with my cute Australian boyfriend, etc etc— and yeah: sitting here just writing that run-on sentence, my existence sounds annoying even to me...

Spanish pottery neither Vanessa nor I bought.
    Anyway wow: Vanessa did not like me. And you know what? I didn’t much like her. But we were stuck in the middle-of-nowhere-Spain together making art, riding buses, and going on day trips together, and what Vanessa gave me was more valuable than the piles of art and lifelong friendships I came home with. It was this: you don't have to like one another. And more important: you certainly don't have to like one another to still have a good time! (I think Vanessa and I even ended up having a mostly-silent, but not-altogether-unpleasant glass of sangria in Ronda together before agreeing to disagree about Moorish influences on the local architecture and moving right the heck along to go see an ancient bullfighting rink. Or not-buy pottery. Or something.)
     It was evident that I'd done nothing wrong in this scenario, I was merely an unwelcome mirror that Vanessa did not welcome or expect.
     This happens to everyone at some point, on both sides of the coin. What counts is how we choose to respond. I truly had (and still have) compassion for Vanessa, and while I did not love her behavior, I understood and had compassion for where it came from. But crucially? I knew it had nothing whatsoever to do with me.
My heart softened and I was able to un-skewer myself from blame and release my need to be liked by a person who was never going to like me.
At least not right now.
As the kids say: haters gonna hate.

That conflict taught me valuable lessons in:
    Staying true to yourself
    Endowing yourself with the right to exist
    Letting it go
    Making the best of it
    Focusing on the good
and it set me free from
    the social “necessity” to be universally liked and/or approved of.
So, truly: thank you, Vanessa!

And finally,

20. Success isn’t about what you do, it’s about how you FEEL about what you do.
Full Stop.

Adult-ing - Part 1
Adult-ing - Part 2
Adult-ing - Part 3
Adult-ing - Part 5

©hula seventy


  1. YES SELF ADVOCACY! So so important! One of my few strengths is self advocacy. Love this!!



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