Hard Truths, Day 2: A List on Love, with Love


This post is part of my series 41 Years in 30 Days. You can find the entire series here as I write them.

In eight days now, I creep further into my 40s and hit 42. While not a birthday they make specialty cards for, it’s still pretty awesome. Also, if there were special cards for turning 42, I’d imagine the greetings would go something like this:

Happy birthday. I got you vodka, a housekeeper, and a picture of what your tits looked like when you were 16.

For your 42nd birthday, I found your dream man. But then I woke up.

Clive Owen called. He’s not coming.

What do Coors Light and your 42nd birthday have in common? Celebrating either is completely tasteless.

So there’s that.

hard truths day 2 love

Today’s hard truth is about love. In 42 years, I’ve learned a lot about it – and it’s best dealt with in a list. Lists are raw. Bulleted. Numbered. So let’s go.

  • Falling in love is easy. Staying in love is the hard part.
  • There’s a difference between being in love and loving someone. Love is what happens when the shiny wears off and you’re left with an unpretty, flawed human staring back at you – and you still say YES.
  • Love will always hurt when you do it right. But it hurts to make things better, not worse or the same.
  • Love might not last, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real and it wasn’t wonderful while it lasted.
  • Always say the one thing you’re terrified to say, because The Universe might come along and snatch love from your tender hands. And should that moment happen, it sucks immortal amounts of ass to look back and regret not saying that one loving thing you didn’t think you had the courage to say. But you did. And you do.
  • It’s not about how long you can talk with one another. It’s about whether you crave one another when silence creeps in.
  • Family love is weird. Just plain old fuckin’ weird.
  • I’ve offered my heart up willingly to many men who weren’t deserving. While I’ve learned how to better protect my heart over time, I’d never trade vulnerability for the inability and lack of opportunity to feel heartbreak.
  • The glorious thing about heartbreak is that you get to pick up the pieces that matter and leave the rest behind.
  • There is something lovely about every shitty relationship I’ve been in.
  • Some people aren’t built to love you (or anyone, much less themselves) – and that’s their shit, not yours.
  • My exes are never assholes. They are who they are and I chose to date them and I’m not someone who chose to date an asshole.
  • My willingness to see the best in men, friends, family doesn’t change who they are at the core. Some people stopped emotionally growing long before I ever met them. I can wish they’d change in one hand and shit in the other. Guess which one is going to fill up first?
  • I don’t have to apologize for what I love or whom I love unless the whom hurts other whoms I love. Should that happen, I need a serious fucking reality check.
  • Never be with someone you need. Be with someone you want…and who wants you.
  • There is no greater love than the love I hold for myself. It’s a love deserving of my attention and it’s hard fucking work to learn to love yourself. Each day, I do hope to become better at this.
  • If you’re ever with someone who finds more flaws in you than things to celebrate, they deserve zero of your fucks.
  • Don’t believe words. Believe actions, feelings, and your gut. Your gut is one honest motherfucker.
  • I need to stop kicking my own ass for relationships that don’t work out because they’re not supposed to work out and I’m human and shit happens and ooooohhhhhhh look – a pygmy marmoset!
  • When I’m down about love, I think about every man I’ve loved and what would’ve happened if it had worked out. And then I Facebook stalk my wasband and realize he looks like the bloated body of a Sammy Hagar impersonator washed up on the beach. Suddenly, I feel fabulous.
  • You can love your work, but if you love it at the expense of the people whom you love and love you, is it really work worth doing?
  • If your list of dealbreakers is longer than your wish of hope-fors, you’re going to be alone (and lonely) for a very long time.
  • Love is an asshole. It never asks permission to show up and blindsides you. Seriously – it’s a dick.
  • My whole heart cannot belong to someone else. Every time I’ve done that, a piece of me dies.
  • Disney can suck a bag of left-bending dicks. Princesses aren’t real and I don’t need to be rescued.
  • Love challenges you. It doesn’t accept you unconditionally.
  • If you give up on your you, how can you expect someone to fall in love with your you?
  • Your friends should love you, not hurt you, keep you down, talk shit about you behind your back (or to your front). If they don’t, get new friends.
  • Dogs are always happy to see you. Sometimes the people who love you will be pissed at you…and vice versa.
  • When you keep someone who hurts your heart in your heart, there’s no room in your heart for someone who makes you feel wonderful and values you for the fan-fucking-tastic human being that you are.
  • Every time you talk shit about your partner, imagine them talking shit about you and whether you’d want that. Then ask yourself why you’re even with this person.
  • Venting is one thing. Disdain and contempt are another realm entirely and kill any chance for love.
  • While you think it to be true, you will not die should you lose someone you love. While a piece of you might die with them, you are a resilient motherfucker and capable of more than you know. Sadly (and thankfully) I know this.
  • Love isn’t a definition in a dictionary. It’s yours. Define it. Reinvent it. Embrace it. Fuck it silly and pull its hair a bit. Hold it, get in its face, and support it. But never (ever) put it down.
  • Search parameters on are a good starting point. Being a dick about checkboxes…well, it just makes you a dick.
  • When you degrade someone you love, you’re degrading yourself. Why would you be with someone you can talk that way about?
  • Sometimes love is saying, “I can’t do this. Be well. Goodbye.” And walking the fuck away. With tears in your eyes and crying for days. Because your tears will dry and it’s perfectly possible to love someone you’re not in love with.
  • Falling in love and loving isn’t where it stops. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t be lovable. And that just sucks because you’re awesome.
  • If you don’t love you, it’s damn near impossible fro anyone else to love you.
  • That guy who hit you, the girl who cheated on you, the dumbass who stood you up, the dude who died, the gal who broke your heart — remember that past performance isn’t indicative of future results.
  • Love yourself. Love your family. Love your friends. THEN love your partner. In that order. You just might find that your partner becomes family. And then everything is fucking magic.
  • Show up. Don’t quit. Fighting isn’t worth it, but fighting for the one you love…is.
  • There is a difference between fighting WITH and fighting FOR.
  • Never say “fuck you” to anyone you love.
  • And when the mood strikes you and you think you could do this – this could be the person who could make you happy and challenge you to become the next better version of yourself. You want to eat jalapeno poppers with them in bed at 9:34am on a Sunday and cry hysterically when they’ve been stung by a bee and are in anaphylactic shock in an emergency room on the brink of death. You want to see them wrinkly. You want to be wrinkly. You see their heart before you see their ass/six-pack/bank account/Porsche.  When you think for a moment you could do this for the rest of your life…say hello. You might be surprised and find it says hello right back.
  • Whenever I think I’ve learned all there is to know about love, something always comes along to remind me that I have a lot more learning to do.
  • Love is hard work. Hard as hell. If it were easy, it would be called “beer,” not “love.”

41 Years of Hard Truths – Day 1

This post is part of my series 41 Years in 30 Days. Read all that shit right here if you’re so inspired.

If you’re not a member of my awesome Facebook community (seriously – we have a shitload of fun over there), you might have missed my post this morning. In that case, here it is:

Did you know that I turn 42 in nine days? Thus, I’ve decided to have a birthday month. Beginning today, I’ll be posting a blog a day with a lesson hard-learned (about business and life). I think celebrating 42 years and still being alive to tell those stories is a pretty fucking fabulous way to celebrate. Stay tuned!

So yeah, it’s true. You’re going to be getting one email from me a day if you’re a subscriber. And please — if you’re a subscriber, I invite you to read this before unsubscribing.

And if you’re not a subscriber, you’re invited to read this and consider subscribing.

I protect your email addresses like my rock and roll hootchie coo and if you know me, getting access to that is akin to a leaked Ann Coulter sex tape (it exists and you know it does, yet it’s the thing of myths).

But I digress.

So today is day 1 of hard truths.

I spent way too many years of my life worried about what other people thought of how I lived my life. The day I figured out that everyone who wants to nitpick my life can go shit in a hat and could better use that time to make improvements to their own lives — the world became a much better place.

And to whomever first introduced me to the phrase “go shit in a hat,” I’m eternally grateful.

Hard Truths-Erika Napoletano

Here’s the skinny:

The world is full of people who want to tell you what you should do. Christ, everyone and his brother knows how to get your startup funded, what email marketing program is best, the keys to finding love, and how to keep the cat hair off your black peacoat. EVERYONE KNOWS EVERYTHING.

Those people can go shit in a hat. If you know everything, I have no use for you.

My life got better when I learned about the word “invitation.”

When someone invites you to do something, you are responsible for deciding whether you’re going to fucking do it or not — not the person inviting you to do it.

It becomes your decision. Your prerogative. (Doesn’t that word look funny? Definitely doesn’t sound like PRE-ROG-A-TIVE when Bobby Brown sings it.)

And that’s why my consultancy got better when I began working with clients who wanted invitations.

Ones who didn’t want everything mapped out. Ones who wanted to make reasoned decisions based on perspective.

And my life got better when I brought friends into my life who extended me invitations.

Invitations to listen. Love. Leap. Lean back. God knows, my friends know better to invite me to “lean in.”

Because it became my decision.

Just like it’s your decision.

And anyone who becomes so concerned with what you should be doing isn’t spending enough time on his own life.

Today, I have days that are better than others.

I still think I’m a fuck-up sometimes.

But on the grander scale, I’m pretty fucking awesome. And all that happened because I learned that invitations have a higher intrinsic value than shoulds.

I have absolutely zero fucks to give to anyone who thinks they know how I could better live my life.

I have every fuck to give people who extend invitations — to themselves and others. Invitations are challenges. Teeny tiny hamster dropping-sized challenges.

And if you see them as that small, you’ll see them as completely digestible. I mean, don’t go ingesting and digesting hamster crap. Okay, this metaphor has gone off the rails. <needle off record>

If you see invitations as small challenges, imagine how many you could dare to surmount.

Imagine how much less contentious your business conversations would be.

Imagine how much less yelling and more love could be spent between you and those you love.

Imagine how fucking awesome that would be.

No one knows how to live your life better than you. After all — it’s the ONE THING you were born to do and you’re doing fabulous if you’re still here reading this. Keep that shit up, lovely. You’re rockin’ it.



The Bitch Slap: Hello, 38

bitch slap birthday

38? WTF. (image via

Today, I turn 38-years-old. I begin working on my 39th year on this spinning blue sphere.

Screw that – I’m going to stick with calling it “I’m 38.” Beginning 39 sounds like I’m a tanker filled with kerosene rolling downhill into Burning Man.

If I told you that life was where I’d imagined it’d be, I’d be lying. I started the year in love with everything – a man, my job, the year ahead. I’m ending it having ended many things, having a love ripped away from me and staring at 2011 like it’s a pygmy marmoset on crack.

So today, I’m issuing a Bitch Slap to 38, pre-emptive though it might be.

I’m not going to let you get away with the same shit this year. And let’s be honest: some of the shit you pulled during 37 was pretty pathetic. I’ll make a list just so we’re clear:

  • Sport drinking (We are now 38 – we don’t metabolize alcohol like a 23-year-old)
  • The “I still have checks, so I must have cash” mentality
  • Hiding when you could be visible
  • Being visible because you’re more concerned with what others think than what you need
  • Valuing things over friends (we both know what matters – one takes time away from making memories and the other creates them…put on your Smart Girl hat and figure out which is which)
  • Apologizing because you don’t know what else to say
  • Missing an opportunity to say thank you
  • Making excuses instead of conjuring solutions
  • Skipping yoga because you’re tired
  • Descending on your bike like you’re a pansy (yeah, those brakes are *really* going to help)
  • Not randomly paying for the person behind you in line’s coffee…because it was easier not to
  • Being afraid to cry because people are looking
  • Feeling like you have to justify how you’re feeling
  • Not understanding the difference between friends and frienemies
  • Using “things” to replace time well-spent
  • Not calling your dad because you don’t know what to say
  • Not telling your mom you love her even more than you already do
  • Forgetting how Jason lived his life and remembering that we could all do a bit better to be like him
  • Honoring yourself, because you’re the most important person in any relationship
  • Not saying what you think and feel, because as reality proves, you might never get a second chance.

We’re going to slip up every now and then, I know. But I’m telling you now: excuses are bullshit. We know that 37 delivered gifts and pain beyond compare and that life is forever changed, but why not take the best parts into 38? Let’s make new mistakes instead of the same ones. We’ll embark on new adventures instead of staying where we’re comfortable. And while we will never (ever) eat olives, we can take our upcoming trip across Asia and taste something new.

And there’s a reason I’ve been using we and our and us – and it’s because 37 is coming along for the ride. I’m not leaving it behind – it’s an acquisition. Each year adds on to the next, and this time, I’m going to make sure that 38 knows it has 37 right behind it to hold it accountable. So I’m now a “we.” And today, we’re thankful for friends, family, opportunity and love. We’re sad because we have memories where there was supposed to be a very special person. We’re anxious because life is ambiguous with a great deal hanging in the balance.

But we wouldn’t have it any other way, would we? For the most part, we’re delighted. Ambiguity. What fun would anything be if we always knew how things would turn out? I’m the first person to tell you that when they get that Doc Brown/Delorian time machine shit working, I’ll be in line to have a handful of things put in proper order because the universe’s sense of reason is fucked. Yet I’ve enjoyed the journey so far, tears, heartache and all. Because what remains and what lies ahead…

It all means I have a chance to make all the heartache mean something.

Soooooo…38. You’ve been slapped. Get used to it. We’re holding you accountable.

Almost Eve

almost eve

7:52am, Tuesday – December 8, 2009

I simply refused to go to the gym this morning. I opted instead for a quick trip to pour some food into the cat dishes, pee and then a fast slipper-laden shuffle back to my blanket cave. And my thoughts.

Have you ever been kept awake at night by simply Me, Myself and I? Those three bitches in my life – this is where I vent them. They’re not really for anyone else’s consumption and aside from the issue-specific emails that circle between myself and less than a handful of girlfriends, I don’t really share. It’s easier to make people laugh (at life, at me) than it is to let them see.

So I lay inside my blanket cave and play Othello with the three bitches at 4:30am.

In two days, I’ll be 37. If I had a boyfriend or husband, I’d issue the missive that he could officially trade me in for two 18’s with some room to spare. My beneath-the-blanket thoughts this morning brought to light that I’m sitting on the almost eve of:

  • 37 years of being a pain in my parents’ collective ass
  • 30 years since my family moved to Houston, smuggling me onto a plane covered with concealer since I had the chicken pox and they couldn’t delay the flight
  • 14 years since I married for the first time
  • 10 since I married for the second (stop bracing for it – there hasn’t been a third)
  • 10 since I moved to Japan
  • 8.5 since I returned to the States
  • 7 since I moved to L.A.
  • 4 since I moved to Las Vegas (FML)
  • 3.5 since I officially opened RedheadWriting LLC
  • 3 since I started ice climbing
  • 2 since I climbed Mt. Rainier
  • 1.2 since I climbed Kilimanjaro
  • 1 since I moved to Denver
  • and less than 6 weeks since I discovered track cycling and told my crack dealer he’s gonna need to find something stronger to compete.

I sat this past weekend at Cali’s birthday dinner, helping a new friend ring in her 27 years among her dearest friends. What I’ve done to be included in such a group…cheese and crackers. Slap me and call me Sally. Whatever it is, I’m grateful. But I sat across the table from two couples so obviously in love, I left dinner with not only a full belly, but full heart and a greater sense of possibility than with which I came.

I sit here on the almost eve of 37 and think: I should really treat my Wants better. When did I come to settle and feel I didn’t deserve more? In my heart, my house, my mind…I have all that I Need. The Want side of things, well, has been lacking. Sometimes people cross your path and give you a glimpse of why you’ve been holding out for more in the Want department.

I thank Terry and Kia, Gwen and Joel, a Caligater and Miss Glasscock for all contributing to that glimpse. Terry and Kia, celebrating news of their first child on the way (the future Cabeen likely being the warmest attendee at the dinner on such a brisk night), Joel and Gwen’s glances, kisses and hand holdings that perhaps they thought went unnoticed (but for which I had a seat front and center), Miss Glasscock’s well-timed quips and story of friendship with The Caligater borne on no less than contact lenses and a bus ride. Cali – a fresh 27-years-old – basking in smiles and squeeeees after assembling a most eclectic group whose conversations went nowhere politically correct.

Sitting at that birthday table, while not mine, was an incredible gift for my impending 37th year. Needs – they change with less frequency. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of lining those up in the past four of my 37 years. The Wants, though…those refine with time. It’s really lovely to not have to speak and simply observe others having received what they Want. It’s certainly helped me refine my own list. A lovely gift on this almost eve.

And the image above – very Biblical, no? But I am almost Eve. A creation in progress, shaped by thought, action, inspiration and hope. And I’m pretty sure that, while half of you are looking at the elbows, the other half get it when I say I’m enjoying being almost Eve. I never really Want to get there completely, all the way to Eve. Do you?