Do you know what the worst thing ever on earth is?
Having diarrhea while you're stuck in line at Walmart.
And I'm saying "the worst" hyperbolically because obviously that's not the worst thing ever on earth. Not by a long shot.
The worst thing ever on earth is finding out that your sister changed her Hulu password, when you've been pirating it fair and square for months, and you're just trying to watch the latest Broad City episode.
I think though if we expanded our horizons, we'd see that there are other worse things: Hangnails. A cold nose. Being hangry. Having too much wine. Having not enough wine. Noticing for the first time that the crease in between your eyes is now permanent . Finding out that your best friend is going to DeFazio's, but you just ate, so you're not even hungry. (You bitch.)
There's something else though that finds it's way into our lives, and for a lot of us, sticks in our gut like a bad oyster: being confused. Specifically, the kind of confusion that comes from indecision.
In my old, old, old, crotchety, old, spindly, old age, I’ve found that I am painfully decisive. I am wrong something like 68% of the time, but I’ll make that damn decision come hell or high water. And I mean about anything. Dinner. Paint color. Selling a house. Which movie to watch. You need a snap decision made, I’m your girl.
When I bought my Christmas tree this year, I pulled up to the lot, took a sweeping look around, pointed at The One, and made the guy put it on my car right then. The whole thing took about 60 seconds. The guy even looked at me and said, “Um, are you sure?”
Yes. I’m always sure.
I’m rarely confused about what I want out of life these days, but when I am, boy howdy, am I ever a mess. Not all things in life are as cut and dry as I would like them to be, and trust me, I would really like them to be.
I'm a painfully simple person: if you like something/someone, get it/them; if you're unhappy, count your blessings then make a change if you can.
Sometimes I get really frustrated when I've made a choice, I am super un-confused, and yet things still don't go my way. I would like to think I wear petulant well when I don't get my way.
My friends and family would fervently and adamantly disagree.
The times when I'm faced with something in life that leaves me feeling like I'm walking on a rocking boat are tough. Everything feels upheaved, unmoored even. And don't we all love to have our things moored?
I know too well the one word kiss of death during The Confusing Times: Should.
Holy lord tiny infant baby Jesus in a manger, when I think back on the amount of time I have wasted on the question "What if??" and the phrase, "I should have..." it just makes me wince and shake my head.
I know what it feels like to fear making the wrong choice. I know the paralyzing world of worry that some great hand of fate is pressing on you and all the things you should or should not be doing in a given situation.
If it's nothing else, it is exhausting.
During my The Confusing Times, I find myself in bed. That's the only way really to describe it. I spend a lot of time in bed. And not in a fun way. I'm tired, and crabby, and cold, and just plain ol' #done. You'd think it was depression if you didn't know better. The weight of the world you carry when you're unsure leaves better men than me pooped too, so I know I'm in good company.
When someone opens up enough to blurt out the words, "I'm confused," it's all I can do to stop myself from kissing them square on the lips, then slapping them across the face as I turn on Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn."
<Oh my God. I just learned at this exact moment in time that "Torn" is a cover. I seriously don't know what's real anymore.>
Part of coming out of the magical land of Confusion is to recognize that it's essentially The Wonderful Land of Oz - that is to say that it's very vivid, it's very funky, and it's very much not real.
There's always a way out, but you have to go through the stupid f-ing journey to find out what your little values and priorities are right before the tool of a witch tells you that you had the power to get the hell out of there all along.
Remember one thing as we map out our quest together: no one can get you out of there but you...and no one is keeping you in there but you.
Sorry homie. It's true. And I'm here to keep you company as you figure it out.
Ok, so here we are. Your perfectly ordinary house in black-and-white Kansas just landed in Confusion.
So, do you go the route of the familiar, even though there’s a loud voice in your head telling you to run the other way? There is something to be said for predictability, isn’t there? I mean, when you get the stomach bug, at least you know what’s going to happen. It's wonderfully and macabrely comforting.
This is a route I know all too well. I mean, #anxiety. Duh.
I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time doing the familiar, if not unhealthy, thing. I know what it feels like to take the same route to work every day for years, even if it’s the long way around. I know what it’s like to believe I needed a drink every night because I thought I wouldn’t be able to handle what it would feel like without it. I know what it feels like to say, “Well, yeah, they’re terrible, and I know I should want more, but really we didn’t fight that much, and at least they know my family.”
What would happen if you took a risk instead? What if you went down the scarier road?
This is where a former me would raise a perfectly sculpted eyebrow, and start chanting, "What if. I should. What if...I should. WHAT IF?! I SHOULD!!"
I get it. But let's change the narrative for a second: So what if? I could...
So what if the familiar road is the one you've taken before? So what if you think you should have been in a different place by the time you were [insert your perfect age here]. *What if* the most amazing thing is right in front of you, preferably with crunchy/salty snacks. (I mean, preferably it *is* a crunchy/salty snack.)
So what if you end up hurt? Or bored? Or disappointed?
Here's something I know without any confusion whatsoever: creating a world in which you have prophesied your own disappointment does not make it any less hurtful when it happens. Trust me.
It's never a waste of time to try something new. There are no steps backward. Life is simply not a linear path. Hello...even Dorothy figured that out within the first three steps on the Yellow Brick Road.
What did C.S. Lewis say? “...Nothing stays put. One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I’m on a spiral.”
That spiral is no joke. The universe is most definitely laughing. It throws things at you and sometimes it just works out. In my case, the universe has thrown people at me, and I have to then do the work.
I’m lucky enough now that a lot of my relationships are in maintenance mode (thank you Shelly Boyce for the reminder). I just sort of have to show up with a pulse the majority of the time.
Then there are the new ones that have to be forged. The universe never tells you what shape they should take, so you have to try mold after mold until you find the one that works.
There are the times that you work and work (a la Rihanna) and mold and mold, and it just doesn’t pan out. Putting that back on the shelf, or even tossing it out completely isn’t a waste. At the least you have honed your skills and learned what you need for next time.
It’s hard to think that you’re throwing out a seemingly perfectly good piece of material, especially if you’re a hoarder like me, but trust your girl: a good spring clean of the things that aren’t shaping up to be the tools you need to thrive is a good thing.
I’ll even help you take the scrap to recycling, and buy you hot chocolate on the way home.
And that’s another thing...lean on your people. Do you have “people”? I mean the people you’d call crying when you’re at Sonic when it's not cheat day (ahem). I mean the people you’d text when you got caught gossiping about someone at work. The people you'd tell when you keep calling the person you seriously shouldn't call.
I mean your shame people.
The ones you know will call you when their husbands/boyfriends/girlfriends/wives do something to make them feel so small that they can barely breathe because they know you’ll just listen...while you're sharpening your ax.
You find people along your way on the spiral. Sometimes they're not the people you'd think you'd end up with, sometimes they're just hanging there waiting for you to come along.
I’ve had some of my friends since before Christ wore pullups, and I wouldn’t trade them for all whiskey sours in Cossayuna. God bless their generous little hearts for putting up with me. The thing about them is that they haven't stopped me from growing and thriving. That's the ticket. We all need people that will put their arm in ours as we skip along our spiral out of Confusion.
And although there really isn't a way to go backward, there is a way to be held at a stand still in the spiral.
That, my darlings, is the thing we must not tolerate. You deserve all the help you can get on going forward, not being held back from where you need to go.
Oh my God, this blog is a spiral.
Where are we? Oh, Confusion.
What if the hardest thing you have to do is nothing? As in, just go forward and do you - as the kids say. What if the choice you need to make isn't for yourself...what if doing the hard thing actually helped someone else get better? What if you’re the one putting the “co” in codependency?
Sometimes moving on is simple, and it's seemingly impossible - you just keep going, and that might mean leaving behind the thing that's trying to keep you stuck.
Don't sell Confusion short: that land has a serious PR company who gives incentives for buying property. Sometimes it's euphoria. Sometimes it's a high. Sometimes it's a sense of feeling loved. Sometimes it's feeling needed.
Just know from one person on the spiral to another, it's a marketing scheme, and it's a short-lived "get rich quick" situation. All of those things are wonderful in small doses, but like Chinese food, you never feel full for long.
Confusion is not a fun place to visit for long, and the best way out is to Uber yourself to the spiral and just put one foot in front of the other.
I think we've all learned a lot here together, don't you?
I've learned that I can quote books and reference movies and use boat metaphors and Google words like "fervently" all in one piece of literary gold.
I've also learned that while I may be comically decisive with things that truly matter, like exactly what dessert to order (hello, DeFazio's hangover cake, obvi), I know the painful reality of being stuck in Confusion, just like we all do.
I also know that it's a a hard road when you have to start walking forward again, but you'll scoop some fun characters along the way. Some will stay with you, some you'll have to leave when they try to hold you back. Cry those tears when you shed those skins, then keep walking.
I'm right there with you, my arm in yours.
And lastly, I've learned that my sister with two kids, a husband, a full-time job, and a dog is truly the worst person I know for not updating her Hulu.