Let’s breathe fire and magic together!
That’s the rallying cry from Heather Havrilesky/Ask Polly in response to a woman who keeps dating guys who won’t commit to her. I have a lot of amazing friends and patients who complain about the same predicament, and I never know what to say. I know I’ve posted about Ask Polly before, but I can’t help that she’s a genius who inspires me to live my best life. This one goes out to all of us who wish to stop selling ourselves out in large and small ways.
Here’s an excerpt (it’s full of curse words so Grandma, don’t read this post, go here!):
I’ve had a realization lately that sometimes I’m drawn to people who seem a little MEH about me, and I’m really questioning THAT right now. I’m really noticing how much I enjoy getting stuck in the quicksand of other people’s indifference. And because lately I’ve been singing in the kitchen and dancing and noticing the bright, shiny impulses of my big fucking brain more than usual, I’m struck by how weird it is that I’ve chosen to chase people who are lukewarm about me, and I’ve also — often — chosen not to take big risks or break out of my comfort zone. I’ve chosen to live in a cave for much of my life.
I lived in a cave because at some point I decided it was wrong to be BIG and loud and arrogant and alive. I lived in a cave because I took my cues from the people who were ambivalent about me instead of taking my cues from the people who loved me like crazy. I lived in a cave because I handed out scoring sheets and asked everyone to score me and then I paid special attention to the NOT VERY SATISFIED CUSTOMERS and ignored the people who said, “We love the fuck out of you, five stars, keep up the good work!”
This is what I see in you, Too Many Questions. You have chosen the life of the cave dweller. Stop reading the tea leaves of indifferent male faces and get the fuck on with your life. I know you want love. Love will find you eventually, some time after you stop asking questions and start answering them. Stop asking indifferent strangers about the brilliant sparks emanating from your big head. Indifferent strangers were born to tell you that those sparks are something scary, a house on fire, a burning bush, powers beyond their control, fearsome and loathsome and wrong.
Sometimes I think we women (and many men, too!) were built to ask questions. We shouldn’t hate ourselves for that. But maybe we need to stop it with the around-the-clock polling and feel, within our hearts, what we know is true, and proceed from that truth.
You are the one who decides what you are. You don’t need to poll the population. Instead of imagining that you are fucking things up with the best, most awesome guy in the universe over and over again, imagine that you are merely working your way through a tepid mass of dudes, 200 strong. You are probably on No. 133 right now. Imagine getting the exact same reaction another 66 times! Now that you see these guys as INHERENTLY INDIFFERENT UNTIL PROVEN OTHERWISE, what will you do differently, for your sake instead of for their sake? You will sleep with fewer of these guys, I bet. You will do less gesturing and pointing and running around in circles to impress them. (Not that being animated is bad!) You will stop cutting yourself off mid-sentence. (Although I continue to second-guess myself, and that is fine! Fuck it!) Maybe you’ll just start to say things like, “I’m not feeling this.” Maybe you’ll fucking decide for yourself whether HE is worth it or not, first and foremost.
What kind of reward comes from trying to win over 66 indifferent men, hoping for their stamp of approval? What kind of strength can you draw from that? What if, instead, you cycled through 66 indifferent men with a kind of detached, openhearted indifference of your own? What if you took away their power to judge you, and you relied on your own judgment, your own instincts, your own sense of your power? What if you stopped feeling so seduced by quicksand? What if you simply stepped around it and moved on?
What if you tried asking different sorts of questions, questions about your life in the absence of men: Why isn’t your work more engrossing? Why aren’t your friends giving you their all? Why can’t you feel your feelings unless there’s a guy in the picture? Why can’t you follow your own whims and honor your own values and desires and buy yourself a nice meal even when you’re not on a date with some dude? When will you start giving weight to your own experiences? When will you buy a book and read it in the park and stare at the blue sky and say to yourself, HELL YES I AM ALIVE AND I CONTAIN MULTITUDES AND I AM PERFECT JUST THE WAY I AM, RIGHT NOW, RIGHT HERE, TERRIBLE AND JITTERY AND FUCKING PERFECT?
No more questions, then. No more.
You caught me at the exact right time, because this is where I am today. I’m determined to breathe fire today, and I’m not going to slow down just so some fucking hobbit can show me how to do it “the right way.” I know exactly what I’m doing already. I’ve always known, I just didn’t trust myself before.
Let’s trust ourselves and turn our backs on those who don’t. Let’s breathe fire and magic together. Let’s burn your stupid fucking questionnaires and scorecards to ashes, and then let’s fly through the blustery wind together, brilliant and perfect and terrible. Let’s never live under that mountain again.