You know ’em. If we ever arrive at peace in the Middle East, they’ll have had the idea back in 1981. They also discovered the Rubik’s Cube and were the first to stuff jalapeno peppers with cheese and wrap them in bacon. Christ – everyone knows that I was the first person to do that. But I digress. </snerk>
My best ideas come from people. And sometimes they’re not the best things to think about, but I end up thinking about them nonetheless. So this morning, after scrapping 3 days worth of drafts, I’m thinking about blanks.
How much time do we spend filling in other people’s blanks?
A gal named Jen over on Tea Silvestre’s blog posited in the comments section, “…life is about so much more than filling in someone else’s blanks.”
It occurs to me that it’s really more about wasting time than spending it. We spend on things that pay us back (or at least I like to think that I do). We waste on things that will never pay us back.
So are you spending or are you wasting when you find your time being allocated to someone else’s blanks?
Life’s a MadLib
I’m looking at my life right now as a pile of those nutty MadLib pages. But that’s the thing — this pile? It’s my life. You have your own pile in front of you. That’s your life.
Every moment we spend filling in the blanks on the pages in someone else’s pile is time we steal from ourselves. And if you think about it, you’re stealing something wonderful from someone else in the process.
As friends and communities, we help one another. But we never learn or get the chance to experience anything worthwhile in this life by doing things for others because we assume they can’t do those things for themselves. So why don’t we put our pointy little pens down and look at the pages staring at us in the face — the pile at our feet — and ask: “What’s next for me?”
…instead of telling other people what’s next in their pile.
We’re taking from others and ourselves when we fill in someone else’s blanks. Because y’know what? They’re perfectly capable of filling them in on their own. As our we.
Which Brings Me to Being Offended
Right? The girl who writes a book on being “unpopular” gets offended? Yup. It it had to do with someone I work with professionally telling me something to the effect of, “People will look at you, a woman who speaks her mind, cusses, and is covered with tattoos, and think that you’re fast and loose.”
And it floored me.
What the fuck “fast and loose” or whatever iteration it was? Offended. That was me. And frankly, I still am.
My personal life is just that — personal. It’s rarely shared in any depth and you can’t look at a single social profile of mine and tell whether I’m dating anyone. Because it’s none of anyone’s goddamned business. So if anyone wants to draw a conclusion that I’m fast and loose because I like the word “fuck” and made a conscious decision to be tattooed? Brilliant. You have a lot more time on your hands than I do. And sure, I draw conclusions about people — but I’m getting better at drawing those conclusions based on actions and interactions than merely on my lack of desire to deal with my own shit and instead, focusing on someone else’s.
When’s the last time someone came to a twisted conclusion about you and the way you live your life? Personally, I think it’s precious that people would have enough free time on their hands to contemplate the ways I spend my free time — clothed, naked, or any variation thereof. I have no idea how anyone else spends their hours and there are few people who know how I spend mine. Facebook’s completely distorted how we perceive friendships and our sense of entitlement to information about other people’s lives. So I’ve done what I can do — change how I share information and with whom I share it. And what offends me most about the “fast and loose” assumption? That anyone who isn’t privy to the way I live my life and how I run my business would think that they had any right to judge. But they do. And they will.
So judge! For all that’s holy, just fucking judge already. Because here’s what it does: It makes you spend more time filling in someone else’s blanks when your nose should be on your own. A variation on “mind your own business?” Yup. Sure is. And critics are just as plentiful as assholes. We all have one and have the potential to be one.
Remember that the next time you want to draw a conclusion about anyone. And maybe use that pen you’re drawing with to fill in your own fucking blanks.
“Quit Fucking with My Blanks”
This is a phrase I’ve just added to my lexicon. Because they’re my blanks, not yours, to fuck with. If we spent more time taking people and life at face value instead of wringing our minds through possible scenarios and conclusions, we’d know in short order who and what are worth our time.
So you — yeah, that includes me — quit giving other people permission to fuck with the blanks in your life. And quit fucking with the blanks that don’t belong to you. And to help us all along this path, here’s a quick list of thing that I think might help as we all recover from the recoil from the Bitch Slap:
- Assuming versus Asking — Got a problem? Question? Assuming has “ass” right in the word for a reason. Save an “s” and ask instead. Uncomfortable? Maybe. Informative? Definitely. And to hell with the people who won’t give us a straight answer. They’re only cheating themselves.
- Make a List — Start you day by asking what you can do for yourself each day and how each of those things will benefit you. Yeah, I said YOU. Your chances to help others will come — and helping? Not the same as blank-filling. By putting your blanks as a priority, it’s a lot easier to resist the temptation of putting someone else’s blanks in front of yours.
- Understand Collaboration — It takes two or more to collaborate and when we’re in the fortunate position to have collective blanks to fill because we’re walking a path with someone, things get out of whack when one person is doing all the filling-in. You have your blanks. Your collaborators each have theirs. And you have the task of filling in some blanks together. Sharing isn’t about dominating. Effective collaboration is about equity.
And I Lied a Bit
I wasn’t the first person to think of stuffing jalapenos with cheese and wrapping them in bacon. But think about the blanks that had to be filled in for that to happen:
Unfill the jalapeno
Fill the jalapeno
Make sure the filling can’t escape the jalapeno by using a protective outer coating of bacon.
And people are changing it up all the time. Different cheese, cheese mixtures, types of bacon, baked, fried, broiled, pepper variations…
We continue to fill in our own blanks. In our way. And what’s delicious to one might not be to another.
But that’s what makes life taste so sweet. Or savory. Or whatever you have a hankering for.
So quit trying to make life taste the same for everyone and let’s pay attention to our own piles. Stuff your own peppers. Fill in your own blanks. Focus on helping instead of taking. And those people who think that they always know better than you do and want to claim ownership on every great idea? Fuck ’em, because they’ll always want to spend more time filling in your blanks than their own. Their loss, really.
Because it’s none of anyone’s goddamned business but your own how you fill in those blanks.
You (and I) have been slapped.