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Thursday, September 25, 2014

WHY YOU GOTTA READ THE SIGNS

One of my favorite scenes in any movie ever is in the otherwise unexceptional film, “The Man with Two Brains”.  Steve Martin (LOVE!) plays a widower who becomes smitten with a femme fatale played by none other than her royal hotness, Kathleen Turner.  Out of respect for his deceased spouse, before proposing to his new lady Martin asks for permission to move on, beseeching his wife’s portrait to give him a sign about how she feels regarding his re-marriage.  The portrait begins to spin and smoke, the house begins to shake and a disembodied voice begins wailing, “NOOO!!!  NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!”   When this commotions ends, Martin is left standing with his hair on end, face blackened with smoke, home in disarray.  And he says once more to the portrait, “Just any kind of sign…”

HA!  Funniest scene EVER.  And, less comically, the way many of us live our lives.  I cannot tell you the number of times I have watched people I care about drive their cars over the proverbial cliff because they failed to see the sign that said, “DANGER:  CLIFF AHEAD!”  Even though that sign was posted on the dashboard.  In blinking, hot pink neon.  Sound familiar???  As every parent knows, there is no greater enticement to most kids than the voice of experience and reason saying “That is a bad idea.”  We are ALL OF US driven on some level toward destructive behaviors, for both conscious and unconscious reasons.  This is why the ability to read the signs comes in so very handy.
I have heard it said that people announce to you who they are and what you can expect from them from your very first meeting.  Which is why it is hilarious that I failed to read the “sign” that a former boyfriend of mine wore on our first date.  Literally wore, on his chest.  Like Superman in reverse, the emblem he blazed on his sweatshirt was this:  YOU COULD DO WORSE.  What followed was an extended period of on-again, off-again crazy-making nonsense, driven by his very low self-esteem and my very high need to “fix” things.  I could have done worse; he was not a drug addict, he didn’t hit me and he was a great cook.  But I could have done a lot better, if only I had read the sign that he so helpfully provided for me.

You may think this is an extreme example but I assure you, it is not.  I am not going to tell any tales out of school, but I could give you evidence in abundance of people I know who not only failed to recognize a sign this obvious, but in fact failed to acknowledge multiple signs more obvious, even when they were literally being beaten over the head with them.  But signs can be positive, too.  We miss these less often; still they can be easily overlooked.  Have you ever had a person who keeps showing up in your life?  You run into them at the grocery store, the library, the park?  What do you do with this?  Do you dismiss it as a funny coincidence or do you see it as a sign that maybe this person might be a good choice to deliberately spend time with?  Or have you ever been wondering about some decision you have to make, only to turn on the radio and hear a song that speaks directly to your dilemma?  It’s a sign, if you will hear it.
Ultimately, the hardest thing about the signs is watching others ignore the obvious to their own detriment.  One litmus test I have used in conversations with people I love about choices they are making that are causing them pain:  if you were a character in a book or a movie (like “The Man with Two Brains”!), what would you think of your behavior?  Is your character a good guy or a bad guy?  Is your character wise or foolish?  When you look at the "story” of your life objectively, can you identify the behaviors and choices that are wreaking havoc, or are you convinced that you have no choice but to “stay the course”, even though you are unhappy with it?  While it is important to maintain compassion for your “character”, it is also crucial to your well-being to assess the situation honestly in order to follow the signs you may have been deliberately avoiding.  If you were hiking in an unknown forest, would you ignore the signs that help keep you from getting lost?  If not, why do you ignore them in real life, an unknown forest if there ever was one!

The signs are everywhere.  In fact, signs are big business!  Go into any gift shop in this country and you will see signs galore, signs designed to announce something about who you are:  a cat or dog lover, a fisher, a golfer, a banjo player or a drinker of wine…you can purchase a sign that says just about anything you want.  People buy these signs and hang them in their homes to let those who visit know something about them, not unlike my ex’s sweatshirt.  We like to announce who we are through tweeting, texting, blogging, posting and status updates—we extend to the world the courtesy of knowing what to expect from us and what not to expect from us.  Then other people can read our signs and act on the information we have provided...or ignore it.  Which one seem smarter to you, when put that way?  The signs are everywhere!  You walk when the sign says walk, you stop when the sign says stop; this works for you, so why not expand on this behavior and see what happens?  I’ll bet you anything it is all good.

Friday, September 12, 2014

WHY I TRUST REJECTION

You should see the looks I get when I say this:  “I TRUST rejection”.  Whew, they run the gamut, from flabbergasted to skeptical to admiring to (dare I say it?) REJECTING.  Most people frankly can’t quite process it at first, probably because it sounds so self-defeating and un-American.  Americans don’t know the meaning of the word rejection!!!  Rejection is our cue to TRY HARDER, WORK MORE and CHASE FASTER!!!  And if all else fails, you cannot reject me because I REJECT YOU!!!!!  Ha, it sounds silly when I put it that way, doesn’t it?  Like life is a comic book instead of a precious commodity.  Rejection to most of us feels like a signal to ramp up the SMASH! POW!  BAM in our comic book lives, and REALLY SHOW THEM!  Really show them that we are NOT rejection material, especially if we can lose some weight, start working out or maybe somehow become more lovable.

Groucho Marx once famously said, “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.”  This is a humorous illustration of the sad fact that many of us don’t believe who we are and what we have is good enough.  That is why we spend so much time (and money) acquiring things: a bigger house, a nicer car, clothes with fancy labels, Facebook “likes”.  We want approval and PROOF of our value, like somehow a human soul is a quantifiable commodity that can be measured by external standards.   Rejection is an unacceptable experience, a judgment to disprove, something to overcome.  But I lived in L.A. for years and in case you have never had the pleasure, let me tell you L.A.’s bread and butter IS rejection.  If you live in L.A., you are constantly receiving the message that you are NOT good enough; you are not talented enough, pretty enough, thin enough, cool enough.  Your boobs are too small, your nose is too big, your script is too indie, your song is too country, your audition too out there.  Whatever it is, you just know you are fundamentally NOT RIGHT.  Until the day you decide that you are.
Because life is not a movie, there was no big moment when this happened for me; no parting of the clouds, no mystical wise person to guide me, no life changing relationship, job, or accomplishment that taught me to love myself as is.  It happened over time in a million moments; I had to learn some lessons a hundred times before they stuck, while a few came like a lightning bolt.  But even the lightning bolt realizations had to be reinforced.  I gradually came to understand that not only do things “happen for a reason”, but also DON’T “happen for a reason” and this reason is the best reason going:   it is not right for you.  Most of us have been dumped by a person we thought we loved…we learn that when love is not a two way street it may still be love but it is NOT a relationship.  Most of us have lost out on jobs we thought we wanted, houses we tried to buy, maybe even clubs we yearned to join.  In many cases, time teaches us that there was a better job, house or club for us.  So why not skip waiting to know that, and just assume it immediately?

When you lose a job that is supporting you and possibly others, it is hard to wrap your head around the idea that it is for the best and there is something better out there for you.  But the fact that income is necessary to life makes it impossible to wallow for too long; you call headhunters, you look on Craig’s list, you hit the pavement, whatever.  And generally speaking you find that next job, whether sooner or later, and all’s well that ends well.  But relationships are trickier, aren’t they?  When we get dumped, left, REJECTED we tend to sink into it.   And people will support us in wallowing in a way they NEVER would if we did it over a lost job.  This is kindness.  But we hear a lot of the same things we would hear about the lost job:  “You are better off because you were not appreciated/valued and YOU DESERVE MORE.”  Yet we have been programmed to believe that it is in fact the club that REJECTS us that is more desirable.   That the rejection proves they are “too good” for us and therefore we need to fight to prove our worthiness.  


I say this is more comic book logic. Nothing should be less interesting to you than someone who is not interested in you.  Really. We have all read accounts of people who seem to have it all yet are clearly not happy, however this manifests.  Divorce, addiction, violence…people are attracted to stories of woe involving the rich and famous  because they tell them something they want to hear but can never quite believe:  fame, money, beauty and recognition are not magical elixirs.  These external markers cannot quiet the internal voices.  If you are not fundamentally happy with yourself, there is nothing you can add to your outside that will make you so, NOTHING.  But if you are okay with who you are, there is nothing that can happen to you that will convince you otherwise, NOTHING.  That is why I say, I accept rejection and can even be grateful for it.  You are saving me a lot of paddling upstream and banging my head against a wall.  If I don’t seem like a good thing to you, if you are not interested in me as I am, then that is okay.  I am glad to be myself, with or without you.  But I do LOVE a club that will have me as a member!  That’s when I know I am where I belong.
 


PLEASE like this on the Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kara-postkennedy/why-i-trust-rejection_b_8103488.html