Category Archives: deep thoughts

How is Success Defined? Part 2: Burn out

How is Success Defined? Part 2: Burn out
Friends in south caroline

Kate, Matt, and Sarah at a Barack Obama rally during the South Carolina primaries.

What do you do when someone you trusted and loved tells you that they find your lack of success and happiness in your career to be a problem for them?

If you ever have the not-so-good fortune to find yourself in a position to be demeaned and belittled by someone for your “status” in life, I recommend pepper spray. I find myself as a southern woman asking the question: who raised you to think this was appropriate to say out loud? But the reality is some people really truly view status and success differently.

After nearly 10 years in politics I recently experienced what many refer to as “burn out.” Some due to exhaustion, some due to a general cynicism with the way Washington works (See Sam Youngman’s piece in Politico Magazine) and it’s ever present disconnection to the rest of the country. I have achieved more by 31 with less education and less money than most people do with law degrees by the time they turn 41. I’m proud of my work, the money I raised for candidates (which by today’s standards probably looks minuscule), and the pieces I had published in The Nation, Mother Jones, and at CNN back during the 2008 Presidential campaign.  I have the blessing and misfortune of having peaked at around 27 or 28 years old.

And somewhere along the way, the work I was doing stopped being meaningful. It became more about making other people money than making a difference or helping get a law passed or preventing someone from something crazy etc. When I was writing stories I met people whose lives were forever changed by something important or they themselves were impacting the world doing something important and their stories themselves were meaningful.

I felt a kinship with Youngman, a fellow “southerner” who, I imagine, was raised with the same values and emphasis on humility that I was.  Like him, I was happier when I was traveling the country – mostly because I was with Matt Segal or a former co-blogger Mike Connery and talking and writing about our generation.

Several months ago Matt asked me why I didn’t write anymore saying he missed it. Some of it was that I was consulting for my friend’s campaign and I pulled down my website because I was afraid of any backlash she might incur because I’m “colorful” but some of it was that living in DC there are few stories to tell. Oh look!  Another cocktail party I am forcing myself to go to this week so that I look like I’m still in the beltway culture. It gets old when the most interesting stories you hear are from bartenders and escorts.

I don’t know what the solution is and I’m still struggling to find it, but Matt has asked me to go back on the road with him and I’m inclined to do it. I may never be considered successful in the eyes of the thoughtless individual who didn’t know my history of amazing and incredible accomplishments throughout my career.  But with friends like Matt and Jarrett, like my friends back home in Oklahoma who have been so motivational, thoughtful, and supportive maybe getting back to writing and telling others’ stories is in my future.

 

How is Success Defined? Part 1: Don’t write stupid books

How is Success Defined? Part 1: Don’t write stupid books

what success really looks likeI recently had a conversation with someone about a famous writer – we’ll say this is about 50 Shades of Grey. This writer is well known, has made tons of money, and turns stuff into movies. The person who knew this writer was not really well known, made decent money but not nearly what this writer did, and sure wasn’t getting any Hollywood contracts any time soon. I shrugged my shoulders and commented, “So? She’s a bad writer.” Interestingly the person replied, “But she gets six figure book deals.” I replied, “Yeah, but she sucks.”

This erupted into a very interesting perspective that I never quite realized that some people don’t share. Most of the people in my life are what I lovingly refer to as “do-gooders.” People who have dedicated their lives to something that is meaningful to them. My friend Clay who cares about farming and land conservation, my friend Melissa who has dedicated her live to bridging the income inequality gap, my friends Matt and Jarrett who want to do whatever it takes to change the world. We all share a common value of impacting the world around us for the better.

It turns out not everyone is like this even within your own political party. For people who measure success with acclaim or monetary benefits, the goal is really more about mass marketing and the McDonald’s-azation of our cultural understanding of purpose, meaning, and status. Do more, get more. Faster. More. Supersize it, bitches!

When I think about the writer, I make fun with my English Major my nose is turned toward the sky searching for a familiar Vonnegut book to thrust it into, or talking with friends about the upcoming Salinger short stories and novels being released. But the reality is that when a writer values the quality and impact of the written word – we see it as art. It might not be a painting or a sculpture, but literature captures moments in time and articulates them in ways readers have never quite been captivated by before.  These words aren’t merely pressed between two covers or scrolled on a screen while we sit on a plane, but if they are meaningful ….. truly meaningful, they live on forever as a representation of who we are as a people, as a culture, and as a world.

This poor woman’s books, will never, not ever, be meaningful. And that’s fine. We all consume the written word for a different purpose. Some people see it as an escape or an outlet or information. Not all feel compelled to read to be moved profoundly or to experience a novel to reach a higher plain of understanding or self actualization. Sometimes we just need to mentally masturbate to brain pornography. Some people just read trashy romance novels …. or Sarah Palin.

But I don’t consider this successful, just as I wouldn’t consider a star on a reality TV show  a “success.” If you’re not contributing anything meaningful then what are you doing? What is the point of your existence?

In my world view: If you’re capable of using your skills and talents to make a lasting impact on the world (or someone’s world) that continues long after you’re gone, then you will have been a success. If you think it’s about fame or glory or recognition or cash – you’re missing the point and purpose of life.

Where there is a flame Someone’s bound to get burned

Where there is a flame Someone’s bound to get burned

 

Where there is desire
There is gonna be a flame
Where there is a flame
Someone’s bound to get burned
But just because it burns
Doesn’t mean you’re gonna die
You’ve gotta get up and try try try

You deserve to be in a situation where you don’t have to compartmentalize who you are. Where you can be valued for every part from flaws to fetishes and everything in between. You deserve to have it all at least once in your life.

We never know when it’s all going to be over. When the bus turns suddenly not seeing the biker or the ex boyfriend turns violent or the black ice sends us into oncoming traffic. It has happened over and over in my life and one thing I’ve learned is that regardless of who is holding our hand, we all walk through the emergency exit of life alone, with only our memories, our joys, our love for others, and our knowledge, adventures and experiences to accompany us. You deserve to have the chance to have everything you’ve always desired at some point before the end. We all do. And providing you with a small piece of it provides me with a small piece too.

I don’t want it to end. Despite my poor behavior and harsh words, I value you too much to let go when I’ve only just discovered you. But if you say no, I can understand and respect that. If you want to take some time, I will give you space.

With great affection, and hope for a new beginning.

The End of the World

The End of the World

the-end-timesWrote this for someone – and almost didn’t post it … so I did some editing so I could….

So string theory of course is the idea that at the source of everything there are these strings like fibers that vibrate at specific levels and whatever level they vibrate at determines the makeup of whatever they’re in.  So like – carbon has x number of strings that vibrate at y level… yada yada..  Well M Theory is this idea that there are larger versions of strings called membranes or “brains.”  When you think about the universe these membranes contain our universe and supposedly there are multiple membranes that are all lined up together undulating and squirming around at all times next to each other.  The idea is that when these membranes hit each other it creates such a huge amount of energy – like a collision of two cars that are coming at each other at really high speeds.  The crash has so so so much energy that you get the explosion and the bang of the crash, right?  Just like the collision of the membranes – when they collide the theory is that THAT is what causes the “big bang.”  And feasibly there are multiple “big bangs” happening all the time creating universes that are all over the place. . .

I remember reading Sagan for the first time.  The intersection of philosophy, religion, and science all wrapped up in a nice fictional package.  This is Contact not Cosmos – which is non-fiction. There’s a great chapter at the end of Contact where she’s in the hearing and they’re demanding answers from her and she very emotionally talks about the randomness of the universe.  That we don’t know how it works – we don’t know how things are created.  How weirdly arbitrary hell even accidental things are and yet… how precious and special we all are.  That there is significance – it isn’t just some fantasy we tell ourselves because we can’t deal with the misery of being evolved randomness.  And after millions and millions of years we have evolved so perfectly that I can be sitting here writing to you.  That I could have met someone by chance – and have connected and had such chemistry so flawlessly.  The randomness of that is astounding to me.  That our lives really are just one weird chance after another.  But one decision can bring something so remarkable.  A decision to question everything at an early age determined what amounted to be an entire life of me trying to find answers — trying to understand — needing so much to understand and ask why.  Why are we here?  Why are we the way we are?  Why did I quickly choose politics after my entire life wanting to be a writer and an editor?

And I guess if the end of the world does come, which I doubt it will, maybe there will be another universe created somewhere where it doesn’t end – and there’s a version of me there in a dark corner of the W hotel… an arm around me as I snuggle in … his nose in my hair and lips at my ear whispering….  And in that alternate universe every moment is perfect and the magic in the randomness is savored like an oaky Merlot from the Russian River Valley.  And maybe, just maybe, in that world there is a great sense of peace and understanding – where answers are easy to come by and while we all recognize tragedy and heartbreak, we’re somehow able to appreciate the experiences as they fly by … from the beginning of time right past us into the future… and hold it in our hearts where it doesn’t devour us from the inside out, but instead allows it to beat harder and more powerfully.

If tomorrow was the end its ok, I’m not afraid to die, not because I believe there’s something else or because it would be a transition somehow, but because I’m at peace with it. I’ve seen enough that I’m fine.  I still want more, but I’ll always want more.  I strive for more.  I ache for more and bigger and “let me see” and “but, I want to understand.”  But sometimes I’m pleased enough with the answers I’ve found and the adventure I’ve had trying to find those answers.

I’m so tired of your inaction

I’m so tired of your inaction

if our kids had gunsI tried to unplug all weekend and watch anything but news – go to the movies – do some Christmas shopping to get some stuff for my folks and my grandpa.  On Friday I was angry.  I watched the President wipe away tears and I was angry.  I woke up Saturday morning, angry.  I tweeted angry tweets.  And last night I heard the President’s prayer for families burring their children and I became even more…. angry.

I’m exhausted.  I’m so so tired of our country burring our children.  I’m tired of watching as my generation and others die in a holocaust of useless violence.  I’m tired of feeling the unnecessary suffering of our society each and every day and seeing it in the hollow eyes of people that walk past.  I’m tired of relieved politicians hugging their own children close this Christmas while others stick theirs in the ground.  I’m disgusted by the fear of elected officials to stand up to the gun lobby – as if they themselves are afraid of a round of political ammunition being propelled at their chests.  And I am sick and tired of their need to blame everyone except themselves while they slide their PAC checks into their deposit bags.

The thing that makes me sad is not the image I generated in my mind of those poor sweet faces that spent the night in that school while the scene was cleared, it’s not the furry of right-wing talk show hosts who pretended this wouldn’t have happened if every 6 year old had a glock in their lunchbox, nor is it the need for the gun lobby to insist this is all about mental health while not supporting mental health background checks…. instead its that this won’t be the last one of these we see.  This won’t be the end.  It doesn’t end today, it only continues today.  I have no hope that anything will ever really change.

Peter Daou wrote that until we all admit we’re morally culpable nothing will happen.  And he’s right.

When a pipe bursts in your basement do you try to fix it without turning off the water?  Turn off the water first, fix the damn pipe.  Instead, our country is too busy arguing why the basement is flooding while our children are drowning.

Having It Both Ways: Murder will mess you up

Having It Both Ways: Murder will mess you up

Read more about the Having It Both Ways project here.

When someone you love gets murdered it fucks you up.  It’s more than 4 years later and quite honestly I’ve never dealt with my friend’s death, despite the fact that I think about it several times a week and I feel guilty I haven’t done enough with her foundation…

I never talk about her – most of my friends didn’t know about her until I did the blog post about emotional manipulation being a form of abuse and some of my closest friends told me they never knew.  I don’t talk about it beyond the “cause” element of it – which is just a way that I can put it in a nice non-profit box and pretend like it’s about someone else and not my friend.

But, the reality is that when my friend Jana was murdered it changed the way I view everything in my world.  I use to be so full of ambition and professional drive.  I use to want to be a big deal and had an ego that needed to be stroked.  I wanted my picture taken with famous politicians – and believe me… I have a ton of them… I wanted money and power and control and all of the things that most people in politics want.  When Jana was killed I realized none of those things will ever make me happy.  It doesn’t matter anymore.  In fact nothing does.  I use to want a convertible because I thought I would look cuter with big round sunglasses and the top down.  But the reality is that it isn’t the convertible I want – its the feeling of freedom I wanted… the wind in my hair and the sun on my face and that you feel like you’re going faster because the wind is swooshing past.  I just wanted the feeling of freedom.

For the past several years since Jana I’ve been floundering around asking myself over and over again “what the hell am I doing?”  Like I’m having a midlife crisis.  The only thing that matters to me anymore are people.  Not Bertha the big fancy TV that lives in my living room or my very nice Italian leather sofa… not having the best shoes or the nicest dress, not having the best job, not power, not recognition, not control…. nothing.  Just friends, experiences, fun, and happiness.  And its made me really really resistant to let new people into my life.  Already I had trust issues – already I didn’t let people close enough… now I’m even worse than I was before.

At the same time my normally cautious candyass ways have turned into a thrill seeking world.  I’ll jump out or off of anything, I’ll climb up anything, I’ll do anything once, twice if you’re lucky, and I crave adventure.  Grabbing life by the testies, eat sleep and be merry for tomorrow we may die….. because tomorrow we may…. we really might just…. because it happened to her.

I mention this because I split with another man friend this week.  It’s been a long time coming, but 50 has been so distant and non-responsive that I’m starting to feel like he was just going to use me without being a friend.  The thing about being a friend with benefits is you can trust your friend… its a friend… a buddy you have an honest relationship with.  Only… seems good old 50 just wanted to screw with no buddy.  I have trust issues… no friend… no benefits…. For the first few months it was all buddy… after that… nothin’.  So I didn’t respond to his latest email… and I’m not gonna.

When I think about him it’s so frustrating because… of all people who is wasting his life after not getting what he needed after years and years of being everything for everyone, it’s him.  You’d think at some point he’d wake up and go “shit… I’m getting on in years… I don’t have much more time I can’t do this, I really need to figure out what I want to get out of life before the clock runs out!”  I’m not talking about him doing this with me here – just … anyone or alone… anything.

I feel sad for him, everyone deserves to be happy, to do what they’ve always wanted to do before the die, or be able to have an opportunity to get what they’ve always wanted… within reason of course.  A chance to achieve their dream.  Who knows, maybe he’s already achieved his.  Maybe it was an occupational thing or raising his son… who knows.  I think it’s the Humanist nature of me to wish that everyone have a shot at happiness and being able to have what they’ve always wanted.  I wrote about him last week – I think he’s lying to himself about a lot – but I wish he could be happy and have all that he’s ever wanted.  I just have no hope that he’s reached a point where the experience that changes you into being an life grabbing adventurer. And he might not ever reach it.  I don’t know that everyone does – not that I recommend it because… it’s clearly fucked me up far more than I was before.

The worst part about 50 is that for a few months he was my buddy and I was stupid enough to trust I was his.  When the reality is of course I wasn’t…. of course… I wasn’t.  Whole thing just makes me feel like a trusting fool who was duped.

Having It Both Ways: We all lie to ourselves

Having It Both Ways: We all lie to ourselves

To read more about the Having It Both Ways Project, please visit here.

While I was home for Thanksgiving I went to celebrate a friend’s birthday.  The table was filled with new faces – all friendly, welcoming, and open-minded folks, which typically means its going to be great conversation.  As the sakki flowed, my friend introduced me and told them “She’s a blogger and writes about all kinds of sex, and relationships, and toys and everything!”  My inner southerner blushed a little, not yet use to people knowing me from my dating life and lacking love life.

The questions came and I told them about the Having It Both Ways Project.  I talked a little about the men I find interesting – and my bizarre fascination with infidelity and monogamy.  Within that context, I asked one of the men (married to an incredibly beautiful wife that was sitting next to him) “So explain men to me…”  What he said was so astute and interesting I actually reached for my phone to take notes under the table.

“Men lie to themselves about what they really want and need.  I mean, I try very hard not to, but most don’t even realize they do it….. They convince themselves that they have to do the manly thing which, in their mind, is synonymous with the right thing.  They have to take care of the woman … there are obligations… etc”

I was kind of shocked and amazed at what makes perfect sense about so many of the men, married or unmarried, that I know.  But then again…. I’m not entirely certain it’s unique to gender.  I think we all lie to ourselves.  We all convince ourselves of what we really want to be true or maybe what should be true; sometimes so much so that we actually grow to believe it.  And it isn’t unique to relationships either.  We’re happy in our jobs because… after all it’s a steady pay check with benefits, who am I to complain if x happens or y happens.  A lawyer should be happy in her chosen profession because she spent so much time and money to be a lawyer.  A couple should be happy because they have a big house and a nice fancy car because so many other people don’t have those things.

It brings a mind to wonder, the people who do lie to themselves, is it a form of survival or is it more about “fake it until you make it”?  I don’t want to advocate this idea that we should break up a family every time someone gets annoyed with their partner, but I wonder what our culture would be like if we all stopped trying to fit into a mold of what we’re supposed to be and instead of what we think we should be.

gallup happiness poll

Gallup’s poll of Happiness

 

Having It Both Ways: The Man Whisperer

Having It Both Ways: The Man Whisperer

Read more of the Having it Both Ways Project here

For the last several years I’ve somehow become a safe haven for men over 40 who want or need someone to talk to.  For reasons passing in understanding, emotionally damaged or emotionally unavailable men flock to me like married women flock to a Katherine Heigl flick on a Saturday afternoon.  Married men, men in relationships, single men, men suffering from sexual dysfunction, men in full on mid-life crisis mode, men rediscovering themselves, men who have never discovered themselves, men in denial, fully actualized men, horny men, curious men…. they all seem to find me and they instantly want to talk to me as if I hold some great wisdom or understanding about the women-folk.

One of my dear friends called me The Man Whisperer because I can somehow get them to open up and talk about things of which they dare not speak.  As if I’m somehow bilingual – I speak “Woman” and I speak “Man.”  I don’t think any of that is necessarily true.  It isn’t that I understand both women and men so acutely that I can serve as a translator … I think it’s more that I think you’re all crazy and I don’t get any of you people.  (This is why I’m single.)  Yet, still they come… and I listen, and somehow manage to say the right thing or give comfort or inspire action.

The most difficult of these is a gentleman I’ve been speaking to online for over a year.  We met a little before he was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his manly bits.  A significant portion had to be removed for a walnut sized tumor that was causing the difficulty – leaving him with what he refers to as a “Frankenweenie” and a response time that leaves a lot to be desired.  But like a good man, his mind is still in the horny place.  Somehow, unfortunately, his mind is the only one.  He’s become a kind of leper in his own house.  His wife won’t come near him, his kids don’t pay attention to him.  A few months ago when we reconnected after not corresponding for a few months, he told me he felt like a house plant that every once in a while they would dust and water.

Another married man friend was hardly getting any sleep and when I asked why he said that he bought himself a video game system he’d been hiding from his spouse and sneaking out to play it at 3am.  He got mad when I told him it was the most depressing thing I’ve ever heard.

I know it’s easy to point to isolated incidents in other people’s lives and say – “There!  That’s fucked up!”  But you have to wonder what would lead someone to these moments in their lives.  I never have the brilliant solution or the convenient how-to guide, all I do is listen and say what I think.  It’s all I can do.  And gather the wisdom that women are just as insane and jacked up as men are.  My advice today, dear reader, regardless of which bits you possess, is to stop being such a pain in the ass to your partner and genuinely get your shit together.  Not necessarily for the sake of your partner, but for the sake of yourself.  Otherwise you might end up reading about your depressed partner on someone’s blog some day.

Having it Both Ways: Still no Schtooping

Having it Both Ways: Still no Schtooping

If you want to read more about my dirty little secrets you can subscribe to me on Facebook and see lots of photos of my food porn brunches and cappuccino.

There’s something to be said for being able to let go.  This has long been a skill I’ve struggled to master.  In every aspect of my life.  Let go of people, let go of love, let go of feelings, emotions, struggles, fears, pretty much anything.  Somehow if I hold onto it I have control.  I’m a control freak, a lazy one, but a control freak nonetheless.  I think this what appeals to me about my bizarre adventures with my very own 50 Shades of Grey.  I not only have zero control, but he forces me to let go.  And for some unclear reason I can with him.

There’s a comfort in not being in a relationship with someone.  I don’t have to worry about impressing him or her because we have no future together.  I don’t have to always be perfect or brilliant or funny or really try at all.  I can just be me.  I can let go.  The force and strength holding back any vulnerability is suddenly a relaxing sigh of relief.

My hands were shaking again when he came over for a surprise visit Friday evening.  After the intense weekend of dating and a full week out nearly every night with friends for DC’s Restaurant Week, I needed some time to myself.  I needed some time to do laundry and dust things.  I didn’t anticipate spending the evening being dusted by the large hands of Mr. 50 Shades.

He emailed me while I was at the grocery store looking for dinner.  “And how are we this evening?” he asked.  “I’m good, just leaving the store with dinner and juice, you?” I replied.  “Be ready at 9,” he responded.  The last time we’d really spoken was Thursday of the previous week when he stopped by for half an hour.  I feared it only took him a few minutes to discover I wasn’t what he wanted and bailed.  We hardly talked all week.  I moped around the grocery store looking for a bottle of wine after what I felt was a rejection from my new special friend.  Now I was racing home,  hurriedly threw paperwork back in my laptop bag, picked up laundry, changed out of my gym cloths.

Saturday morning I texted a friend “Still no schtooping.” She replied, “OMG you’re such a prude just give it up!”