How do Buzzfeed Quizzes so profoundly nail the story of my life?
How do they know my zodiac sign from my favorite sex position; or that I love to eat and am also a bit of a lush because of Peter Griffin; or that this is the year I’ll quit my job based off the Australian snacks I happened to choose at random?
Seriously, this is what it said: “You’ve been sitting at the same desk, staring at the same screen blankly for far too long, and this is the year you’ll finally take action! Out with the old, in with the new.”
I uncovered the meaning of life again the other night. It has something to do with Time, how we all worship different gods, this pantheon of our values reflected most clearly and poetically in the ways in which we give of ourselves.
It’s the constant battle I endure at work, and editors like Dale know this well: that we’re asking people to give of their most precious resource. That if we do our job right, people will forgo Netflix, and meaningful conversation, and mindless social media, to instead invest in us, in the words we tell and the stories we share.
Development asks people to give of their money. Communications asks people to give of their time. Money is easily wasted on coffee, or lunch, or $10 Shakespeare insult band aids from the Renaissance Fair (shopping while high is a very dangerous thing). Or million-dollar gifts to an institution, or breakfast in bread.
Time is the harder sell, and few people know how to do it right. Is it arrogant to think I can? Or is it confident to share the daring spirit bold of the restaurateur I just wrote about, a man disciplined in the craft and trained in technique and unafraid to tell anyone—even the owner of the entire operation—that a substandard meal would never leave his kitchen? He believed in the integrity of his product, and always let it drive the quality of his work.
I’m sick of having to fight to tell the better story. I’m sick of having to fight on behalf of the reader. All publications must put them first, from this blog to my day job. As Dale said at the editor’s conference I attended a year back, “Be read or don’t bother. Production without consumption is worthless.”
In the battle between Time and Money, I want to invest in Time, with the entrepreneurial belief that the money could follow if the product is good. And I believe mine is. I know my blog is original and entertaining—and that the 160,000 readers of my day job might be interested in what I have to say after hours.
A bestselling author once told me that selling 50,000 books is enough to get on the bestseller list. I bet I could do that. Is it arrogant to believe I can? When I was trying to negotiate a higher salary, I asked the new Communications VP about my arrogance/ambition question. He said confidence is working for your organization; arrogance is working for yourself. If I could get more readers to this blog, I’d never besmirch my organization’s name. In fact, I’d make a sizable gift to my employer if I could make real money with a book deal. But I would write about the politics and people who have helped me grow.
Maybe I just need to quit my job and move to Hawaii and write like a motherfucker in paradise. I messaged Gwyneth Paltrow this afternoon and almost apologized for what I’d written about her a few weeks back, though there’s a chance she never even saw it. Instead, I rambled away on Facebook at 10:58 am:
Me: Hey, lady, I’m not sure if you know this, but I’m so inspired by you. I think about you constantly and am just so amazed that you did what I dream of doing. I have this theory that we all worship different gods, and on a fundamental level, I know that there’s no god more powerful than time (if you want to look at someone’s values, just look at where they spend their time), and then I think of you… that you’ve nailed the time conundrum. So… this is a long way of asking: How did you take the risk to just move to Hawaii? How hard was it? How worth it was it? I see the pics of your kids and think, “Damn, these people are just living life right.” And on the one hand, I’m horribly jealous, and on the other, I’m just so inspired. So… this is a long, neurotic way of asking for some words of wisdom. Also… are you guys really coming back to (our hometown)?
Gwyneth: Haha yep. This summer. Crazy right???
I don’t know… I honestly feel like it was at first just one of those funny things we talked about that would be fun to do and then the more we talked about it and how great it would be the more we started really looking into things like jobs and houses and getting excited about it and almost before I knew it, it was happening. I think the 2 things that pushed me the most were that a) I’d never left (our hometown)… like never went away to college, never got a job in a new city.. I love home and believe me it will always be home but I got so scared of being there forever and b) Chris Martin was really into it… like way more than me.. and I thought if we can make it through this (living away from family and friends, starting over on our own, etc..) it will really be a testament! But lemme tell ya girl… he’ll say we were always gonna come through but in the autobiography- we almost didn’t.
5 years later, however… “was it worth it” is such a loaded question…. Well, not really. It definitely was worth it…. even our crazy struggles. I’m just so glad I have this part of my life on my belt to take with me everywhere else… the perspective, the experience, the life lessons you can only get from immersing yourself in a different culture, the stories my kids will tell even as adults… I think it’s always worth it.
(as she was writing her third paragraph, I wrote): I feel exactly like that. I’ve never left. I want to see the world for myself, but more than that, I want to give it to my girls. I get goosebumps writing that because that is what you’ve done. It’s so incredible. And I wonder what shackles us to our lives? Like, why can’t I break away? I know it wasn’t always paradise, but would you do it over again in a heartbeat?
haha so funny you wrote that as i was writing my part
“it’s always worth it”
so what’s next for you guys? why come back?
sorry, hope you don’t mind me asking. i’m just so intrigued. i’d love to read the autobiography
Gwyneth: No no no not at all… and best hang on for about 15 years til our crazies fly the coop and I have time to breathe again… and maybe learn to write
I WOULD do it again in a heartbeat… know what else I think it’s done? is strengthen our nuclear 4… like as we move around and friends change and jobs change (and I really am thankful that we have “home” bc if we hadn’t married and had the kids and had our early 20s in (our hometown) we wouldn’t have that “base” of support as we roam) the constant is always us 4.. we are always out exploring on Sundays… most weekends are just us 4.. I just feel more connected to them.
Like, it’s really hard out here w nobody else but then we’ve gotten closer as our own support system…
Me: omg, Gwyneth, and now I’m crying at my desk. That’s so fucking beautiful.
Her: Chris Martin and I also went through our own shit which was a) much harder out here without parents to go to and friends to cry to but b) so much more my badge that we got through together…
Me: “that which doesn’t kill you..” (easy for me to say in my cocoon)
Her: Aw! Don’t cry!
(I’ve cried a LOT)
Me: good tears!
Me: like, “i’m so inspired by you guys” tears
Her: So ok here: my good friend is becoming a life coach.
Me: you have really incredible kids–from what i can see, across the world–and you seem to be nailing the mom thing. and i am in awe of how you did it. just the fact you did it.
Her: It’s all over her fb… she’s so excited about guiding women to “create their perfect lives and perfect selves”
And I read her stuff about manifesting your destiny and creating the life you want… which clearly I’m on board with… but I can never really “find” the life I want to create… like I tried her stupid lol meditation thingy where your mind supposedly opens up and it all comes to you..
Where you wanna live, what you wanna do, etc… and I’m blank. Like totally blank. And the only recurring feeling in having is… I want it to be full. I want it to be fun. I don’t want to be bored… things that don’t fit her guidelines lol…
But I think that’s just it for me… I love kids but I can’t figure out if I wanna stay home or teach or work PT… we have no clue where we are going to move or how long we are going to stay there… I think if I try to make this whole picket fence thing happen I might be ready for something totally different in 5 years… maybe it’s the ever changing Gemini… maybe it’s my ADD.. lol.
Me: but you also have the confidence now in just knowing that no matter where you go, what you endure, you’ll be okay. i think that must be the most liberating feeling
Her: But I do kind of listen to my heart and much as my head says “stay here! Are you INSANE?!?” My heart is reminding me that my dad is retiring and getting older… my sister’s baby will already be one in may and I’ve only held her once… so I just wanna live that life for a while now… the life of lots of play dates w old friends while the kids are still young and weekends w our parents while they are still young… we want to keep a lot of Hawaii, as much as we can of what we got out here, but it just feels like time.
Yes. I feel stronger after this. Stronger as a person, a couple, and a family. And we all gained so much from the people and life out here.
Me: that’s awesome. more power to you guys.
Her: I’d always say do it! Jump!
Just do it ready to support the shit out of each other and with the understanding that it’s a whole new adventure and it may not be right for everyone, or may have an expiration date, ya know?
Me: i don’t really know, but i can only imagine. thanks so much for this. it’s just what i needed to get through the day! haha really
Her: Haha no problem! Any time lady 🙂
About four hours later, in the throngs of afternoon ennui, I watched all 16 minutes and 12 seconds of “Ten Meter Tower.” “Would you jump, or would you chicken out,” the caption under the video asked, as I watched dozens of Swedes either succumb to their fear, or conquer it.
I wanted to believe I could run off the diving board and scream in exhilaration as I fell 33 feet below. I shared the FB post with Gwyneth, halfway around the world. “Jump!” she wrote back. “Always jump! As long as there’s enough water.”
She and her daughters jump off waterfalls and watch sunsets on the cliff. I come home from work, smoke a bowl, and take very stinky poops that I view as a metaphor for my day. When I emerge from the toilet, almost always renewed, I head downstairs, wallow and pine over the process of making dinner, and then get in a good hour or so with my girls, before repeating it all over again the next night.
Could I be a stay-at-home mom? I can’t Pinterest for shit, and I’m terrible at wrapping presents, and I always seem to miscalculate the amount of aluminum foil needed to wrap Big A’s sandwich for lunch.
Would I value my Time with my girls as much if I was with them every waking hour? Is Time more precious for us because it is so limited? Does anxiety stem from frittering away the hours in an offhand way?
Am I good mom? Am I a good wife? Am I investing my Time in the right places?
The only area of my life where I feel any good is my job, and as much as I love it, I don’t always feel it loves me back.