After three and a half years and an awfully dishevelled hair state, my girl had her first hair cut yesterday.
I don’t know why, but I’ve been holding onto Ella’s hair like a woman with a secret – too emotionally attached to even cut the tiniest strand, since those ends were the very first sprouts on her head from when this newborn bundle of a thing was cooing in my arms. I think it’s good to be sentimental, but there’s a line, you know? So after she’d been asking for the past month, I finally said yes, and I realized that there is never one moment when we as mothers cut the cord. Sometimes the smallest of things, even years and years down the track sever us from the baby we once had: a hair cut, the first sleepover, the day they start school, the day they finish it.
This separation is never one big slice but a series of little snips, gradually, slowly, which is not only how I cut Ella’s hair yesterday, but how I best know how to cut the cord which binds us.
But that face? I couldn’t stop staring at these photos yesterday because right there, as I quite literally cut her off from her babyhood, her dependence and the way she and I used to operate as one, there she sat eyes glued to me, completely trusting, and I thought how silly it is of me to grieve our separation. Because I watched a little girl look at me like I was hers, like I would guide her through this life as she grows more and more and more, taking steps away from me, sure, but not really where it mattered.
And besides, Ella inspired me. I’ll never say no to some new bangs.
Bringing back Fuel Yourself Friday to the blog today, because even though Caitlyn Jenner broke the internet this week, there were stacks of other happy little things that fuelled a tired mama.
Loved this article this week: The Most Important Question Of Your Life.
If I ask you, “What do you want out of life?” and you say something like, “I want to be happy and have a great family and a job I like,” it’s so ubiquitous that it doesn’t even mean anything.
A more interesting question, a question that perhaps you’ve never considered before, is what pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for? Because that seems to be a greater determinant of how our lives turn out.
Everybody wants to have an amazing job and financial independence — but not everyone wants to suffer through 60-hour work weeks, long commutes, obnoxious paperwork, to navigate arbitrary corporate hierarchies and the blasé confines of an infinite cubicle hell. People want to be rich without the risk, without the sacrifice, without the delayed gratification necessary to accumulate wealth.
Everybody wants to have great sex and an awesome relationship — but not everyone is willing to go through the tough conversations, the awkward silences, the hurt feelings and the emotional psychodrama to get there. And so they settle. They settle and wonder “What if?” for years and years and until the question morphs from “What if?” into “Was that it?” And when the lawyers go home and the alimony check is in the mail they say, “What was that for?” if not for their lowered standards and expectations 20 years prior, then what for?
Because happiness requires struggle. The positive is the side effect of handling the negative. You can only avoid negative experiences for so long before they come roaring back to life.
At the core of all human behavior, our needs are more or less similar. Positive experience is easy to handle. It’s negative experience that we all, by definition, struggle with. Therefore, what we get out of life is not determined by the good feelings we desire but by what bad feelings we’re willing and able to sustain to get us to those good feelings.
People want an amazing physique. But you don’t end up with one unless you legitimately appreciate the pain and physical stress that comes with living inside a gym for hour upon hour, unless you love calculating and calibrating the food you eat, planning your life out in tiny plate-sized portions.
People want to start their own business or become financially independent. But you don’t end up a successful entrepreneur unless you find a way to appreciate the risk, the uncertainty, the repeated failures, and working insane hours on something you have no idea whether will be successful or not.
People want a partner, a spouse. But you don’t end up attracting someone amazing without appreciating the emotional turbulence that comes with weathering rejections, building the sexual tension that never gets released, and staring blankly at a phone that never rings. It’s part of the game of love. You can’t win if you don’t play.
What determines your success isn’t “What do you want to enjoy?” The question is, “What pain do you want to sustain?” The quality of your life is not determined by the quality of your positive experiences but the quality of your negative experiences. And to get good at dealing with negative experiences is to get good at dealing with life.
There’s a lot of crappy advice out there that says, “You’ve just got to want it enough!”
Everybody wants something. And everybody wants something enough. They just aren’t aware of what it is they want, or rather, what they want “enough.”
Because if you want the benefits of something in life, you have to also want the costs. If you want the beach body, you have to want the sweat, the soreness, the early mornings, and the hunger pangs. If you want the yacht, you have to also want the late nights, the risky business moves, and the possibility of pissing off a person or ten thousand.
If you find yourself wanting something month after month, year after year, yet nothing happens and you never come any closer to it, then maybe what you actually want is a fantasy, an idealization, an image and a false promise. Maybe what you want isn’t what you want, you just enjoy wanting. Maybe you don’t actually want it at all.
Sometimes I ask people, “How do you choose to suffer?” These people tilt their heads and look at me like I have twelve noses. But I ask because that tells me far more about you than your desires and fantasies. Because you have to choose something. You can’t have a pain-free life. It can’t all be roses and unicorns. And ultimately that’s the hard question that matters. Pleasure is an easy question. And pretty much all of us have similar answers. The more interesting question is the pain. What is the pain that you want to sustain?
That answer will actually get you somewhere. It’s the question that can change your life. It’s what makes me me and you you. It’s what defines us and separates us and ultimately brings us together.
Read the full article here.
Loved this article: 10 Best Phrases To Teach Resilience To Your Kids. Read essay here.
I loved these powerful portraits of Lithuanian men reacting to mandatory army draft this week: On May 11th, more than 37,000 men, aged 19-26, woke up and found their surnames on Lithuania’s compulsory military service list. To quote: “The most disturbing thing was the very harsh and unforgiving public opinion of men who didn’t want to go to the army. They were called “unmanly,” “cowardly,” “disgraceful,” etc.” This caught the attention of two women in Lithuania, who wanted to demonstrate how dangerous gender expectations are: a man is expected to be rational, emotionless and aggressive.
“It is very important that we, as a society, teach men to express their emotions and not force a stereotypical archaic role onto them. The pictures are accompanied by the models’ quotes. They are expressing their opinions about what it is to be manly and how it relates to going to the army.”
Really powerful stuff.
Friday Photo Dump (@theredtent on Instagram if you want to follow the feed)
Last thing, the other day my phone alerted me to the fact that I had a Facebook message I hadn’t read yet – one that was sent days ago from a friend who was meeting me somewhere.
“Hey honey, I’m here. Let me know if you get lost.”
It took me a few moments to recollect what the message was about, and then a few moments more to think that that’s all we really need to be told in life:
“Hey honey, I’m here. Let me know if you get lost.”
See ya later, sisters.
And to these two loves of mine, whose cords and hair will be only cut more as they grow, up and away from me:
Hey honey, I’m here. Let me know if you get lost.