You know, I’ve never loved my name. It didn’t ever feel like it suited me. I always dreamed about being a Julie when I was a kid (Why this particular name, I have no idea. Possibly the cruise director from The Love Boat?!). In high school my close friends started calling me by my initials, KC. That became a treasured nickname. So I guess even my friends didn’t see me as a Karen. For a while I entertained the idea of having a nom de plume or pen name. The name I came up with? “Serendipity Chance”. Ha! Sounds so cheesy now, but it might have been ok if I was going to write erotica. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Later, a friend and I decided we would each have alter-ego names to suit the non-mom side of our personas. She was Coco and I was Veronica. Sounds more daring and a hint glamorous. We had some good adventures. I still kind of like the idea of Veronica.
There was a story about my name this morning in the New York Times. The goddamned New York Fucking Times! All about how “Karen” has degenerated into shorthand for a middle aged, white racist asshole of a woman. Jesus! My name has morphed from an ill-fitting suit of clothes to something akin to a Nazi swastika. Before, I just sort of tolerated my name but didn’t ever really identify with it and now…well now I don’t even know what to do with it.
Changing it seems cowardly and perhaps somehow like I am admitting guilt. I get it that sensible people probably won’t assume that just because I have the name and I am middle aged and white that I embody everything about this particular meme. However, I also know that people are often lazy thinkers. So, there will be plenty of people that will make these assumptions about me based on my name. Nothing I can do about that I guess, but it still irks me. My name has been hijacked.
I read this book in one day over a month ago and I am still thinking about it.
The subject matter is relevant, to be sure; I think we’d be hard pressed to find an American woman today without “body issues” and/or a history of some sort of sexual abuse.
The honesty and artistry of the telling though. That’s what really got to me. The openness to her own vulnerability and willingness to share it was incredibly awe inspiring. I felt exposed myself by virtue of her exposing her deepest self. There could be no hiding anymore after reading this account.
So beautifully written too. A casual tone and an economy of words, but with nothing left unsaid. How does she do that?! Truly a work of heartbreaking beauty. Makes me want to run right out and read everything she has every written and give her a hug of gratitude (which she wouldn’t want, the latter that is).
The goddamned shoulds are everywhere and they are out to get you! In fact, they came for me just this morning while I was on the most pleasant walk with my dog. Luckily, this time at least, I was able to tell them to GTFO. I’m not always this successful. The shoulds are wily, insidious and come in all different shapes and sizes.
Little shoulds: I should be weeding my yard. I should read that pile of magazines that is gathering dust on my coffee table. I should update my kids’ memory books. Big shoulds: I should learn a foreign language. I should work out more and lose weight. I should paint the house and fix the front steps. Super-sized shoulds: I should be making more money. I should have a full-time job like everybody else. I should be saving more for retirement and my kids’ college educations.
Shoulds are tyrannical because they prevent you from enjoying your present moments. They guilt and shame you for not doing what you think you oughta be doing instead of whatever it is you are doing. And consequentially, they suck the pleasure out of your activity/day/life. They prevent you from really inhabiting yourself. They leave you torn between what is not happening now but you think is a “better” use of your time and what IS happening now. That’s a total mindfuck and useless to boot!
So, do just that – boot those shoulds out of your head and own your decision to really do whatever it is you are doing right now and ENJOY it. Try to be just there and there alone. Wherever “there” is. I’m not perfect at this, but I keep trying. When a should lands on me, I throw it back. Starting with the small stuff to build up my anti-should muscles and working my way up to the bigger ones. Definitely a work in progress.
I am really feeling this one lately. I grew up and into a person that wasn’t me. Not blaming anyone, I let it happen, but changing direction at 48 is no fucking picnic! Without the protective invincibility of youth, striking out on your own and away from what is tried and true, especially with a family in tow, is really scary. I began this journey, somewhat reluctantly, about a year ago. Continuing to live my life as a full-time working zombie in the American healthcare system was no longer tenable. Not sure how much actual progress I have made since leaving that life behind, but I’m still going! And I am (mostly) happier on a day to day basis compared to when I was a full-fledged member of the rat race. Except for the minutes, hours, days, weeks that I allow my fears to get the better of me – How is this all going to work? Will we run out of money? Am I good enough? What does my family think? How does this story end??
It is difficult to move away from the only shore you have ever known and stay the course when you aren’t even sure where the fuck you are headed! There is folk wisdom that advises “think from the end, from where you want to be”, but what if I don’t know what or where “the end” is for me? I mean, I do have some ideas (I want to be self employed and creative), but there are no guarantees that promised land even exists (for me) and no roadmap to get there. I can be very goal oriented, but that doesn’t work here. Its not like before when I decided I wanted a career in healthcare and there was a very well-defined path and series of steps to get there. This is something else entirely and involves multiple and consistent leaps of faith while also remaining relaxed enough to just roll with it and have peace that everything will work out. Historically, these have not been strengths of mine!
I have been following “the rules” for so long, living in a (mostly) socially acceptable way, that it is hard to even imagine what my life could look like without them. And I’m a pretty creative thinker! But, it’s almost as if I’m afraid to dare to dream. To really sink into what I want for myself and indulge those thoughts because somehow, it is naughty to do that. And prideful – why should I have a better, more dazzling and fulfilling life than anyone else? What have I done to deserve that? What makes me think I am talented enough to make a living off of the power of my own creativity? Besides, I’ve got it pretty good right now; great family, solid, recession worthy job, tidy suburban home in a safe neighborhood, my health and health insurance (such as it is) – I’ve got “The American Dream” so why ask for more? Isn’t that greedy? And ungrateful? And unnecessarily risky? Am I just lazy and shirking my responsibilities as a grownup? Yet, I chafe. And my mind and heart and soul won’t let me drop it. I don’t want more, I want different.
I don’t know exactly who I am going to become or exactly how I am going to get there, but I do know that who I have been in the past no longer fits. Best keep swimming and keep my eyes open for a tantalizing new shore. And have faith I will recognize it when it appears.
i chafe at being told what or how to do something. i quit my full time job in favor of mercenary work that allows me control of my time. i avoid flu shots when i can get away with it. my way to get “there” may be different from yours since i drive for work and typically know 3 or 4 alternate routes. i don’t like punching a time clock so i have consistently avoided jobs where my punctual presence for a prescribed amount of time is required. and you already know how i feel about recipes.
some rules make sense to follow though. traffic lights are good. i wear my seatbelt. avoiding mixing bleach with ammonia is a solid idea. ignoring ikea directions is probably not a recipe for successful furniture building. theft, rape, murder – i’m ok with rules prohibiting those.
wisdom is knowing the difference.
i ignored grammar rules and avoided using capital letters in this entire post – did that affect the conveyance of my meaning? sorry to my 7th grade teacher mr whipple, but the answer is no.
I am so not following the recipe in my working life right now! And I say that not so much in a proud way (at least today), but more in a scared shitless and totally uncomfortable way. Ugh.
I’ve managed to go from having a solid, regular, full time job in a niche in my field where I excelled to now a part-time position in a different, nichier niche where I have no idea what the fuck I am doing! And it shows!! Expert to novice is definitely not how the recipe for professional success is written, but here I am.
And how am I doing with that you ask? Not well! I like being the one who knows, the one who people look to for guidance, the one who can do the work and do it well almost in her sleep. It is so much more comfortable to have all of the answers rather than to be asking all of the questions. I don’t want to traverse this sea of mediocrity again damn it! I’ve already made that journey plenty of times! But this time the distant shore is really where I want to be: self-employed in a creative way on my own terms with plenty of time to spend with my kids while they are still at home. Guess I better suck it up and stay the course.
There is no substitute for experience though and that just takes time. Trying to force something to cook faster won’t turn out well. It will be burned on the outside and raw on the inside. And I just keep reminding myself that cooking without a recipe was not easy at first, but now it is effortless and fluid, like breathing. I’ll get there.
And I think this is a good metaphor for life as well. We all are just trying to figure out what makes us happy, or in cooking, what tastes good. Recipes offer a promise that things will turn out well. The problem is, what tastes good to you or what makes you happy may not follow the recipe. Recipes are safe, predictable and offer a tested and trusted way to a specific result. But what if that is not the result that suits YOU? Or, what if the act of cooking, or living life your way is the reward in itself?
For much of my life I have stubbornly proclaimed that I am not a baker. Why? Because baking is more science-y and requires following the rules. Unlike other cooking, I couldn’t see a way to improvise to my heart’s content and also produce baked goods that were actually edible. I resisted baking for years and I lived down to my own expectations every time I did try it. I could not find any joy in the process of following a recipe.
Then something changed. I gave myself permission to screw around with baking recipes, treating them more like suggestions as I routinely do with my general cooking. Two things happened; I learned I could do it my way with good results and I was a whole lot happier baking. Now I turn out homemade pizzas, focaccia, muffins and cakes like nobody’s business. And they are uniquely, imperfectly, deliciously mine.
Now I’m applying that same found wisdom to my life. I have jumped ship and departed from the generally accepted recipe for a happy life. I no longer have a leash (steady job), but neither do I have a recipe to follow either. I am making this up as I go along, finding work that suits me and fits into the rest of my life. I’m a little (sometimes a lot) scared about it, but I just keep telling myself that I don’t have to follow the recipe and everything will still (probably) turn out ok. And I am already much happier in the process.