The Shape of Things

be the sheep - redheadwritingSometimes the things we say are bullshit.

I wouldn’t change my life for the world.

I’d never have it any other way.

I couldn’t love him/her more.

Yup. Complete and total bullshit.

I’m winding-up one of the craziest weeks of my life today, having just turned in the book manuscript for Book #1 with my writing partner at 9pm last night. Hold the applause, as that just means that today, I’m back to work on Book #2, which is due on October 15. It was a brief moment last night where, following the “send” button, I took a deep breath and felt as if I’d just abandoned a puppy. Never fear – the puppy came back this morning and started yapping about Book #2. But I digress. Back to bullshit and the shape of things.

There are only 3 things I’ve ever wanted to be (professionally) in life: an attorney, an actor and a writer. As I enter the final quarter of my 38th year, I’ve kicked two of those straight in the ass (actor, writer) and realize that my desire for the third (attorney) was fulfilled with a theatre degree (which is the same thing as a law degree, just without the nice suits and social prestige). If you asked me ten years ago if I ever thought it possible to even have TWO of these things ticked off The Bucket List, I’d probably have been too busy to respond as I’d have been bored with the Job I was in and trolling Monster.com for my next conquest.

Today, I get to say that two of those things are a certainty.

So let’s talk about The Shape of Things.

Somewhere along life’s road, I was deluded into thinking I had control. I had great jobs that paid great salaries with great benefits, working for multinational corporations with well-recognized names. I had rent and mortgage payments covered, expendable income, husbands (not simultaneously), boyfriends (also: not simultaneously), friends and family.

Everything I ever wanted.

But then the day came where the universe does what it does – it knocks your big ass Jenga game down and you’re left to pick up the pieces.

And that was the day I realized that I had finally gained control. Fine – it was a few days later and something I realized after the kicked-in-the-balls sensation had subsided even though I don’t have balls and realize I would have made you uncomfortable if I’d said “clam” so I skipped it. But I really didn’t, so now I’ve gone on and said “clam.” But the net-net?

I’d spent 35 years of my life giving everyone else control, thinking I was the one who had it. That’s some kind of bullshit, isn’t it?

So now that we’ve covered puppies, Jenga and clams, I’ll share my thoughts on The Shape of Things and how many of them are just illusions.

The Farm

If you stop by this digital dungeon often enough, you’re well aware that finger pointing generally begins with my finger pointing at me. What have I made the mistake of giving away? The farm, my friends.

  • When I started a business, I never realized that I was the first client I had to service every day.
  • In relationships, I put everything I had into everyone else.
  • I put things before my heart.
  • I put money before my soul.
  • I placed bullshit excuses before my friendships.
  • Pride came before words that needed saying.

My 38th year is a much simpler one than my 37th or even my 27th. I bought my farm back.

See, your farm is something you can give away, but you really do have to buy it back. All of those people you ignored or hurt along the way (including yourself), those are relationships that have to be rebuilt. And sometimes that’s not an option, so you have to start over with new people. And the things – those can all go away in the blink of a Craigslist ad. An egocentric world is one ripe with illusions because you generally surround yourself with (1) people who will never tell you you’re being an epic fuckwit and (2) things, because you can’t find people who will challenge you and actually ADD to your life and things don’t argue and fit nicely into the trunk of your car.

Dispense with the things. Embrace the people. Because I guarantee you that the day you find yourself wishing you’d said something that you’ll now never have the chance to…that’s a shitty day. And who wants to feel like shit?

The Sheep

There’s such a negative connotation to being referred to as a sheep. A mindless follower of the herd. But in certain aspects of our lives, we’re all sheep. The Wall Street Journal had an article this week about the health of alpha males. Being an alpha female (shocker), I was intrigued. And it discussed how, in many regards, beta males found a greater level of happiness than their alpha counterparts, yet extreme beta males were just as stressed an unhealthy as their alpha counterparts.

That means there’s a certain peace in conceding control on occasion. Can you WIN a conversation? Can you REASON with someone who equates the volume of their voice with the validity of their argument? When it’s lights-out time, I don’t think there’s a process we have to go through where we show all of our blue ribbons and its a determining factor on where we get to hang for eternity and ever after.

What I do know is that there’s a beauty in letting someone else take the reigns on occasion, and it actually an incredible gesture to make for someone else (and yourself). It’s how we learn something new: how to play the guitar, rock climb, race bikes, use a new computer program. Conceding control opens us up to make our lives richer. Being the guy or girl who always has to alpha-out makes life for those around you a real bummer. Embrace your inner sheep (every now and then, give it a try), just not in a backwoods/make the sheep nervous kinda way.

The Barn

Not so long ago, a friend introduced me to Live From Daryl’s House. After my inner audiophile stopped squealing with glee and I’d spent days going through all of the show archives, I got to the barn. The shows are shot in a barn that’s converted into a studio and it got me thinking about My Barn – or what I’ll call my happy place.

We keep our lives so cluttered with bullshit. Old things, new things, mental things. For an audiophile like me, seeing a barn setup like Daryl Hall’s got goin’ on is like seeing a really well-made foreign film. The intersection of simplicity and style at times can be breathtaking, like a well-appointed house. But there are extremes. An empty barn is eerie. One jammed full of shit in hoarder-like fashion is just vomitlicious. Would Daryl Hall be able to produce the sound he does in his barn-turned-studio if it were filled with shit everywhere that ruined the acoustics? And how can I function if my barn – my happy place – has nothing in it?

Build The Barn so it serves you. Be able to move. Your happy place should be a refuge – shelter from life’s storms and solace even when we don’t need it. Have yourself an emotional and physical yard sale and make some room for the things in life you want most. I’m a big believer in the concept that they won’t come along until you tell them they’re welcome. I also believe they don’t want to arrive home to a dump or an empty house, but rather, the in between: a soft place to land.

So what’s the shape of things in your world?

I wouldn’t change my life for the world – But maybe you could change it for the better.

I’d never have it any other way – But maybe learning a new way could be fun.

I couldn’t love him/her more – And maybe you’ll surprise yourself one day and realize that you do.

We’re the ones who decide the shape of things, not anyone else. Go after what you want and make room for the things that matter most to have on that journey. While a nice set of Tumi luggage is grand, bring your friends, your heart and your soul. Everything else? They’ll find their way back to you because you’ve earned them. No one can take those things and milestones away from you.

Git yer farm back.

Be the sheep every once in awhile.

Build your barn.

I think it really is that simple.


33 comments
Lewis LaLanne aka Nerd #2
Lewis LaLanne aka Nerd #2

"Letting someone else take the reigns on occasion," is something I've come to learn is extremely important for people with a feminine essence. If you don't know if you have a feminine essence or not, ask yourself, "In bed, do I like to take, or be taken?" If you like to be taken, you have a feminine essence. And I've had to learn the hard way that people who naturally want to shine more feminine light like to be directed in a way that opens them more. No, not in a macho jerk commanding way but in a way where the masculine person in the relationship comes to them on their birthday and says, "Pack a bag, a couple days worth of casual clothes, bring a swim suit, we're going somewhere warm. Be ready to leave in an hour," rather than their partner coming to this feminine partner all willy nilly saying, "What do you want to do today?" Of course the partner has to know what will open their partner and wherever their surprise travel takes them has to be something that this person completely and totally appreciates. Thank you Erika for pointing out the importance of buying your balls/chi/essence/farm back. It's an incredibly important calling for all of us humans here on earth.

Cab
Cab

Late to the party… Funny, we sing in the same key. Lovely post.

J.D. Meier
J.D. Meier

> I put things before my heart. Shiny things, beautiful things, and a few of my favorite things, never replace my favorite people.

Big Girl Branding
Big Girl Branding

It's funny b/c my church today was all about communication and the relationships you have with other people. And the bottom line in becoming a good communicator is taking the time to really listen, consider, and care... for OTHERS and their needs, not just your own.  As you build those relationships, and really listen to other people, you make them feel valued and in turn you find value yourself. There are lots of things that can distract you in life if you allow them to, and living your days with meaning behind them requires a steady and intentional effort of focusing on the activities and people that really bring you joy, not just "the trappings" that fit yours or others perceptions of what should equal happiness. Building your barn if you will. :) Great post Red, as always.

Patrick Reyes
Patrick Reyes

Great post and thoughts, Erika.  I always enjoy the perspective you bring.  As I read this (a couple of times) it reminded me that if I take the focus off of myself put it on other people, it generally allows for getting the farm back, being a sheep and building my barn.  The 2 most important things in my life that I put my focus into are my faith and my family and as I am now in my 39th year, those 2 things guide me every day.  It really is simple when you are able to stop and think about it. Have a great weekend.

Dust Bunny Mafia
Dust Bunny Mafia

When you said, "But then the day came where the universe does what it does – it knocks your big ass Jenga game down and you’re left to pick up the pieces. And that was the day I realized that I had finally gained control." My first thought went to Fight Club where Tyler Durden says, "It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything." Thank you for this reminder.

The Redhead
The Redhead

I did say clams...and this? I'm stealing this: "I can also wear status quo like an OJ Isotoner." Epic.

Leon Noone
Leon Noone

G'Day Erika,  It's a gorgeous Spring morning here in spectacular Sydney. I've just read your post about getting things back. I'm breathless. But  I'm sure that it'll illuminate my weekend. But right now Erika, I just want to get my breath back! Avagoodweeegend Regards Leon

Barryrsilver
Barryrsilver

Very well spoken. The only thing we can marginally control is our reaction to the world around us combined with it sucks doing it alone. You rock, redhead.

Joyce Osier
Joyce Osier

You are very insightful and comical! I agree with several other posts that you must have the keys to our minds to be able to post things like this that speak directly to our lives at just the right time. I love reading your blog, it's like having coffee with the friend that you hate because they are brutally honest but love because they are 100% brutally honest. Thank you again for the helpful bitch slap and keep it up!   

PJ Mullen
PJ Mullen

This reminds me of my favorite line from Doc Hollywood "I wouldn't trade any of these memories for gold. Well, maybe gold. Or cash money".  The truth is life is what you make of it. You can choose to be miserable.  You can choose to be that really fucking annoying shiny happy person that thinks everything is just super duper.  Or, you could be like me.  I'm content and thankful for what I have (especially in this economic shit storm), but I'm always looking to improve things for myself, my kids and my family.  Sure, my visions of being the second coming of Gordon Gekko never panned out. Shit happens, you move on. Fortunately, my perspective on things has changed and my previous failures are no longer as debilitating as they once were to me. Finally, congrats on book #1 and all the best in knocking out book #2.

Jason Ramsey
Jason Ramsey

I always love reading your stuff, but this is good, ... really good. I'm talkin top notch stuff, and not just because you used 'clam'. Seriously, this was awesome.

Kristine Shreve
Kristine Shreve

O.k., seriously,  are you in my head?  The last three or four posts you've written have spoken directly to issues I'm currently facing in my life.  I know that's not so surprising,  because most people deal with these issues at one time or another,  but it is lovely to have yet another kick in the ass from the Universe (or you) telling me that things are fixable if I'm willing to do the work.  So thanks for that. 

James Johnson
James Johnson

I hit a similar place last year (my 39th), when my son was born. I was instantly hit by the enormous impact he would have on our lives, and I knew I needed to reprioritize. I had to get all of the materialistic shit outta the way and show (not just tell) my son how to grow up to be a good person. Luckily I have an awesome wife who has no problem telling me when I’m being an epic “fucktwit.” We help keep each other focused and balanced, by sharing the alpha and beta roles. BTW - my wife also reads your blog and thank you so much for introducing her to the word “fucktwit”.  (sigh) I’ll be hearing that one for a while. You’re right, we should be open to changing our lives for the better. You never know who you can influence or where you can make a difference. We should learn new ways of doing things, especially when doing the same things can be like banging your head into a wall…plus it’s boring….like meatloaf every night boring. My son being born taught me two things about love--every time I see how my wife interacts with him I love her more, and every time I see my sons face I love him more. I allowed myself to get comfortable in solid careers and in doing so, I put my dreams on the shelf and important people on the back burner. I needed to change that.  So, I decided to get uncomfortable—I spend more time connecting with my fam instead of people’s lives on TV, I pulled my dreams of the shelf and started living them, and I’ve been reconnecting with the people who really matter in my life. The shit you own ends up owning you, and the bullshit you tolerate ends up weighing you down. At some point you have to reprioritize and take your life back. Great post, btw!

Michael Martine
Michael Martine

First of all, good for you (sincerely, not sarcastically). Second, I applaud your ability to truly carry a metaphor a few steps without having it fall apart. Third, simple don't mean easy. And yes I know "don't" isn't grammatically correct but it just don't sound right any other way. :)

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