Photo By Yanay Tsabary
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Finishing. The word itself and the act itself. To finish means you need to start and in between you need to work hard and persevere. Persevere is a word I’m thinking of tattoing on my wrist when my book comes out, but I’m also considering simply writing “Finished.”
Because I love projects that are finished projects. The feeling of completion is so satisfying to me that weather or not it’s a success almost doesn’t matter. Every trip I’ve taken abroad has been a project, every business I’ve started, a project, my marriage, my kids, my writing….all projects with outcomes. Some obviously not so definable as raising a human and weather they are successful. I think if my kids are confident and laugh at themselves heartily, they will be successful adults. But when are you finished? I don’t know. I’m in the work hard and persevere section of parenting these days.
Children’s writer Margaret Dilloway shared a post this week on Facebook stating Meyers Briggs personality tests are bunk. I disagree because my letters describe me to perfection. An ENTP is The Visionary, extraverted intuition with introverted thinking.
“ENTPs are fluent conversationalists, mentally quick, and enjoy verbal sparring with others. They love to debate issues, and may even switch sides sometimes just for the love of the debate. When they express their underlying principles, however, they may feel awkward and speak abruptly and intensely.”
Ah yeah, have you ever met me?
Except the article might be correct because The Visionary is not known for finishing. The Visionary is known for having ideas. Triangulating information into possibilities. My friends and family have all received these late night texts from me…
“We should buy a sailboat to share. We’ll sail to the tip of Baja, you sail back.”
I can only imagine my cousin sitting on her couch, watching a Vampire show and rolling her eyes at my weird texts rolling through.
But visionaries are not known for finishing. They’re delegators, they’re farmers planting their ideas in the minds of different people to see if they’ll sprout up or become something interesting. They’re not ones to finish a thing.
I have a lot more ideas than I actually follow through on. I guess you’d say that’s not finishing. I once started a business grey importing RVs to Canada. I only did it once then bailed from stress. I had a knitting business, I used to sell soup at campgrounds to American Snowbirds in Mexico, I’ve brokered real estate deals for percentages, pitched movie scripts to agents, tour guided through Detroit. I simply like doing stuff, trying to do stuff. Finding the interesting quadrants in life.
Which is why I’ve been thinking about this word Finished this week. The more I look at books from an author standpoint, after formatting a manuscript, editing, book covers, distribution, publicity….I see that really, a book Is a lot about finishing. It’s not always about the best writing, or the best cover or the best anything. It’s about finishing a damn project from inception to completion.
This entire idea came to me from a question posted on a writer’s forum I follow. A woman asked the question about writing her mother or her family in a memoir. How would they take it? How do writers do this? I wanted to answer her but I just couldn’t because what I’ve seen is that if you worry so early on in your project, whatever it is, if you worry about your friends and family, you’ll never finish a thing. Because after you write that beautiful piece you’re so proud of, you’ll submit it to reviewers and one of them will take offense. Then your editors will argue about the validity of a different part. Weather it should be put in your book. Then one of your reviewers for this golden book will not understand your book. They’ll tell you to rewrite sections you don’t want to re-write. Then publicists will take your finished book and twist it into something you don’t feel deep in your guts. But maybe you actually are the person they’re pitching. You tell yourself it’s just A part of who you are. They’ll sell you as something more interesting than you feel. Then strangers will read your book and some of them will not understand your chapter two. They’ll tweet about it and you’ll just sit there with a vodka tonic…not really worrying about your Mom anymore. By the end, you’ll just need a Mom.
So maybe “Finished” is a heavily undervalued and yet beautiful word. I’m obviously not finished with life so perhaps tattooing it onto my wrist isn’t the best idea but maybe…it is. Because the word isn’t weighed down with a numerical scale of success, it isn’t populated on Twitter, it doesn’t reek with anxiety. If you did the stuffs and you never gave up, and there’s a set moment in time of finishing, then you’ve succeeded. Maybe finished means success. Maybe it should be the sexiest mutha fucking word. If anything, it’s definitely a check mark in that life resume that nobody can take away.
I read this phrase today while swallowing down a sip of smugly sweetened and heavily creamed black tea. The article I read was about mindfulness and the movement of white woman mindfulness. Sadly it didn’t touch on Elizabeth Gilbert or green smoothies. But the truth is, Elizabeth Gilbert drinking a green smoothie in yoga pants could be the poster for a book on mindfulness.
A few weeks ago, when Elizabeth Gilbert broke the news she was leaving her anchor and Eat Pray Love husband for her best friend, some women called her brave. I was confused about the brave part mainly because I live in Portland where couples are just couples, not lesbian couples. But, many women called her a putz. I like that word. Putz. It means “to engage in inconsequential or unproductive activity.” Yes, that’s exactly how I would describe both Eat Pray Love and Elizabeth Gilbert’s announcement. I could fucking care less about her white woman hardships. Fucking, care, less.
Because when I traveled around the world myself at about the same age and economic level as Gilbert, I didn’t lick my own twat the whole time. I certainly didn’t go to India and sit my ass in an ashram meditating or talking about my white woman problems to an American guy next to me. When I was in India, I raised money for a catastrophic hurricane that wiped out the state of Odessa. I met a man with eight children who made my dinner every night from the back of his bicycle. I lived at an ashram that was off grid and grew all of its own vegetables for the 1500 Indian residents that also lived on the ashram. And do you know why I did all that? Because I’m a fucking white woman with a mind full of opportunities, education, money, compassion, empathy, resourcefulness and purpose.
This really isn’t about Elizabeth Gilbert because I also understand that Elizabeth Gilbert is a good person that’s been packaged. She raised over a million dollars with Cheryl Strayed for Syrian children. That to me, is mindfulness. When you take your mind and do something with it. When you take all of your entitled opportunities and make something better in the world with it. I don’t need a coloring book to know this. I don’t need a kale smoothie to know this. I don’t need social media to know this. I already know this. Because once again, I’m a white woman with a college degree, with my own teeth, with a choice of fifty gluten packed breads on any given day at the market.
And this commodifying blankness bleeds over to being “special.” That we need treats in order to get through our difficult lives/days/hours. I read the great book ‘Your Money or Your Life’ back in the 90’s and I remember a section about how Americans go out to dinner on Friday/Saturday nights as a special treat for a hard week’s work. Unless you’re carrying gravel up nine stories every single day, I doubt your week was that hard so justifying $100 dinner because you’re employed won’t work with me. Own it instead. You’re lazy and didn’t want to cook dinner or seriously, Laurelhurst Market has the best steaks.
I had a friend on social media for awhile who gave herself a one year challenge to spend every single day for 365 days journaling her “mindfulness” moments per day. The special breakfast she made for herself, the bubble bath, the moment she carved out to write in a journal because her stay at home life with two kids was exhausting. I used to be a stay at home Mom with three kids and it is exhausting. It’s also a fucking privilege. To be able to argue about organic is a privilege. A huge privilege and the exact reason I refuse to shop at places like Whole Foods and New Seasons. I refuse to support a business that makes its money on your guilt. I instead shop at a grocer owned by its employees and buy produce from local farms. That’s my privilege to have those choices. I’ve been in countries where there are no choices on any given day. Like in Nicaragua when my family built a house for a woman and her six children. She made $4/day and I watched her feed her family with that $4. They ate rice and plantains most meals with an occasional slice of fried cheese. They couldn’t eat beans, it took too much wood to heat the water. We built her a house with a door and two windows because we have resources, we have enough money and time to do such a thing. That to me is mindfulness.
And I picture that Mom in Nicaragua “carving” out a space for her mindfulness each day, and I want to roll my eyes. She owned one bed with six kids, one dresser, one lightbulb. No Friday night dinner out for a week of peddling tortillas down in the plaza. No moments to treat herself special. Certainly no resources.
So here, I’ll save you some cash. Mindfulness is taking time to listen to what is in your mind. To stare out a window, go for a walk, get off social media, breathe in and out. You were born with the tools that know how to live and let live and be more. You were born with the ability to think for yourself. No smoothie is going to make that better for you. Instead it’s just going to fall into the category of chasing one’s tail. When you are looking for answers in a world with no answers. Do you hear me? There are not answers to your questions. There’s only more time.
So use that time to do something with your mind. You don’t need a yoga mat for that. You don’t need to purchase green tea for that. You don’t need organic guilt for that. You need to get off your ass for that. Be better, be more, stop commodifying blankness and commodify a better world. Find a niche you can fill and work towards something better than yourself. You might find that’s your answer.
“An End to Explaining”
This morning I’m thinking of a piece of advice my writer friend Stephen Rutledge gave me a couple of years ago. He said, “never explain yourself.” I’ve thought on this so many times since then, because I find myself wanting to explain myself. Badly. Almost desperately at times. I realize when I have these moments of feeling a need for more explanation, it’s because I feel misunderstood or attacked. Which is exactly when explaining yourself doesn’t work.
I think I already knew this piece of advice from being married. There is nothing more annoying than telling your husband you found this great place for bagels and his response is, “I never buy bagels because you always say they suck.” This conversation happened yesterday when we were both having a nice guisada lunch overlooking the river. I kind of stopped mid chip to mouth wondering how I was gonna wrangle myself out of a restaurant squabble. He obviously felt defensive about bagels. I had no idea. I also knew explaining my stance on boiled bagels versus baked was gonna go nowhere when he was already cocked and loaded. I let it go. Said I’d pick some up and we could try them out.
Most of the time, people have already made up their minds about you. They’ve decided you’re vapid, stupid, shallow, narcissistic, whatever and there is no amount of explaining that will change their mind. My husband had decided no bagel could ever satisfy his wife. If I would have explained to my husband baked versus boiled bagels, he would have probably not listened and knowing him, rolled his eyes. More than likely bagels would be out of our house forever, a continuing sore spot amongst us.
I find when I’m having political conversations and there comes a time to explain myself or my opinions, it usually goes one of two ways. If I explain my position, the other person will more than likely, begin the game of oneupmanship. “I’m an expert because I was a lawyer or I was on food stamps or I was blah blah name something.” I call this “show me your resume arguing.” It drives me up the fucking wall most of the time. Earlier this week I received a PM from a guy that said, “usually women love me, most of my friends are women.” This was his moment of oneupmanship. He is of course an expert on all women because he’s friends with women. I didn’t explain myself, but if I would have, I would have said, “then you don’t have very smart friends.” I let it go. That would have been mean.
The other game in political arguing is the character assassination. When the conversation veers from the topic to you as a person. It’s the moment you’ve actually won the argument. When you’ve gotten under their skins. Hillary poking at Donald’s taxes so he hangs himself. Those moments. When the arguer calls you a name such as the most common one this season, “the delusional cunt.” There’s no explaining to anyone, anything once they’ve gone personal. Their irrational brains have kicked in. You’ve won. You probably stated a point they didn’t like and they got frustrated. I mean if you find it winning to be called a delusional cunt. Depends on your life goals.
My mother-in-law always states to live by example. She’s not one for giving out advice or talking. She’s quiet, really shy. She’s works hard at everything she does. She has no need to ever explain herself. When she was in the worst of chemo, her personality changed. She became mean. Snappy. Condescending. She was hurtful to me In a way I’ve never experienced with her. But I got it, I didn’t explain my actions or expect her to explain hers. She was fighting for her life. I let it go because what good would any of it do.
I struggle with explaining myself. I struggle with not explaining myself. I struggle daily with being kind, holding my tongue, finding middle ground with people I work with I don’t really like. This is what tolerance is. It’s what tolerance looks like. I try not to over explain myself. Sometimes I fail. Sometimes I let people think what they want. I doubt my words could make it better. I sometimes wonder if they could. Maybe I am the delusional cunt they want to see or maybe I’m a woman badass enough to keep their paychecks coming. I find I end up surrounded by people that are not filled with rainbows and unicorns but instead filled with a keen awareness and acceptance of the imperfections of humanity. The ones willing to not explain themselves to me because they know I can read people and think for myself. That is their gift to me. Our mutual acceptance.