How to Have Jealousy Fuel, Not Flatline, Your Friendships

friends_with_money_ver5_xlg.jpeg[5 minute read]

“We regret to inform you…”

Oof. Immediate punch to the gut.

Even 13 years later, I still remember that I barely finished feeling the elevator drop in my stomach when my phone buzzed.

TEXT: I GOT IN!!! I can’t believe it!

I would love to say that I immediately dropped the letter, picked up my coat and demanded that I take my friend out for a celebratory drink RIGHT NOW!

Hindsight…

Instead, I took the no-brainer route of dropping the letter, picking up a bottle of bourbon and demanding that it get me incredibly drunk RIGHT NOW!

Friends with acceptance letters.

Friends with husbands.

Friends with no husbands.

Friends with kids.

Friends with no kids.

Friends with careers.

Friends with friends.

Friends with high metabolisms.

Friends with money.

Friends with anything that we feel that we don’t have. Friends who have what we want. Friends who shine a light on what we feel we should have, dammit! We are instantly taken over by our toddler self, pouting and stomping and whining, “No fair!”

When I get jealous? Emerald green as mint jelly? It always ends up having to do with me – even if I kick and scream about it. Actually, if I’m kicking and screaming it’s a sure-fire sign that it 100% has to do with me. I say kick and scream it out! But then move on.

Jealousy, at its best, can shine a light on our values, beliefs, and potential. It helps us find our way out of the dark. It can be straight up inspiring – if we let it. Ideally, after my temporary drunken escape from graduate school rejection, I would have learned from this bout of jealousy. I would have realized that this was so ego-driven and really figured out if going to graduate school for writing was what I ultimately wanted. Instead, I flew across the country to escape from my confused depression instead of sitting with the discomfort of it all. (Spoiler alert: The confused depression hitched a ride to L.A.)

In Friends With Money, we meet Jennifer Aniston’s character, Olivia, in the thick of her own confused depression. She quits her job with no plan, goes on a gloomy search of love and money, all the while surrounded by a tight group of financially set, married friends. Although this is not close to my favorite film from director, Nicole Holofcener, (which hands down is Enough Said), it does a really incredible job of showing that no one’s life is perfect. It’s easier to point fingers at others, feel bad for yourself and pass judgments. Instead of the more intimidating route of taking a look at your own life, being grateful for what you have and then being honest with yourself about taking, the often scary step, that is needed to make your life better. Being grateful can easily trick-door us into complacency. Well, I have A, B, and C so that’s good enough or so what I am bitching about or so this is as good as it gets. We can be grateful and still realize that we need to make some hard changes in our lives for the better. In the end of the film, true friendships prevail. And still, jealousy is tricky territory.

I see the jealousy spectrum like this: On the one extreme is the Stepford Wife – tight smile, mechanical nodding, minimal to zero blinking, slightly squeaky. Alllll the way at the other end is the Evil Queen – maniacal smile, all shaky and clenched-jawed with coincidentally, also, minimal to zero blinking.  So, the goal here is not to become a sociopath. And while you’re at it, pay attention.  Aim for the middle. The middle ground is the gold. It’s the Okay, so I’m feeling a little heat right now. I’m a little jealous. Why?  It is so, so worth reflecting on the why. It will add years of depth and love to friendships or will save you from years of bitterness and liver damage. Your call.

Great friends have a tendency to make us feel like we are on top of the world. Like we are seen and heard and understood.  And then, when there is a success? What happens? Of course, you’re happy for your friends. I don’t think you’re some narcissistic vengeful brat waiting to trip her on the ice. But let’s get real. You’re a little jealous. You are. And you know what? It’s freaking normal! It is SO normal to feel a ping of jealousy. Even a straight up flood. It is. We are wired to compare ourselves to each other and when someone else succeeds, in whatever your definition of success may be, we instantly fly through our life to see where we stand in comparison.  It does not make you a bad person. It does not make you a bad friend (unless you do trip her on the ice). It makes you human. It makes you whole. It’s not as if you are mutating from a loyal and loving friend into a jar of mint jelly and then, worst case scenario, into a wild and rogue jellyfish who is out to sting anyone and anything that stands in her way. Mwahahahaha!

I don’t know you, but I’ll go out on a limb that this is far from who you are.

Pro Tip.png

Anyone who says that they were never jealous of a friend, I now know is not just jealous of a friend but is a straight-up liar who is jealous of a friend. We all do it!  The point is to acknowledge the jealousy and move on. Move. On. Let the jealousy fuel you into action and not be swallowed whole by the self-loathing serpent.

And let’s not use and abuse gratitude. She’s not a floozy. We can’t scramble to dust off and flip open a fresh page in our gratitude journal or make a mental note of all that we’re blessed with to quiet and satisfy our minty green gremlin. When we do that we are only guilting ourselves into not being grateful ENOUGH. I love myself some good, solid dance in your pants gratitude as much as the next person but using gratitude as a cover-up for jealousy is a slap in gratitude’s face. It’s insulting gratitude’s intelligence.  After all, what will happen if we keep that up? Our gratitude will become shallow and our insides will start looking like a science experiment – all frothy and bubbly and oozing with mint green jelly. Talk about sexy!

After you acknowledge your jealousy? Gratitude it up! Go for it! Have gratitude be the fuel for your fire of inspiration. Just be honest with yourself first. It’s not easy. It’s brave.

If nothing else, you’ll at least rule out being a sociopath. So, there’s that.


Friends With Money (2006, dir. Nicole Holofcener) After she quits her lucrative job, Olivia finds herself unsure about her future and her relationships with her successful and wealthy friends.

Marty: I, um, I guess I have some issues.

Olivia: You do?

Marty: You know, people sort of, problems. I have them.

 

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Teaching My Kid How to Get Satisfaction, One Cheese Stick at a Time

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[3 minute read]

“JESUS!”

There’s nothing that snaps you back to reality faster than hearing your 3 1/2-year-old shout out your go-to phrase. When I glanced up and saw that she was in a heated tug-o-war with a cheese stick I had to root her on ringside. Those little guys are no joke!

My first instinct was to rip the cheese stick out of her hands and relieve her of the struggling. Okay, full disclosure: my first REAL instinct was to ignore the situation entirely, high-five her with kudos for using her choice word in the right context and carry on with my day. Kids have earmuffs. Parents have blinders.

Instead? I watched.  I stood staring as her little hands kept pulling and slipping on the plastic that was now gnawed and dripping with saliva like a St. Bernard’s chew toy and I thought to myself, I can relieve you of this suckage and fuel my quick-fix to-do list “Next! “ brain but really, if you can’t help yourself open a cheese stick then what hope do you have? Some people may call this borderline neglect or completely unnecessary. To those people I once again say, if you can’t help yourself open a cheese stick then what hope do you have?!   Yes, the situation could have been easily remedied by me saving the day. The struggle for relief and satisfaction is real. For sure. It is. But if I were to swoop in and open the cheese stick, it would be about me relieving my needs. Not hers. It would have nothing to do with her. Yes, I could’ve easily relieved us both from her whining and grunting in an instant. But it would be about me fixing the problem – not her.

God knows I can completely relate to the frustration of struggling to open a container that holds your golden grub when you’ve already morphed into a hangry, vicious gremlin. So, I felt guilty – for .5 seconds and then realized that this is Problem Solving 101. This was a perfect moment to start building critical thinking skills, stick-with-it-ness, self-reliance, and even resiliency. (Never knew those little tasty suckers packed such a punch, did ya?) If figuring “it” out can’t start with a quarter foot of cheddar then with what? And, yes, if experiencing the discomfort and intense irritation of not being able to open a cheese stick is her biggest problem, then she’s really got it made. That First World problem was not lost on me. What else wasn’t lost? The fact that any moment I can teach my kids how to figure out a problem, I will do my best to be aware enough to take a breath and a backseat. Yes, of course, there are times to wave the white flag and ask for help but they have to learn how to be creative in their thinking first. That is where true satisfaction lives and breathes and gives your soul a cannonball in the lake feeling of exhilaration! This is where the seeds of self-confidence are sowed and then, what do you know, her perseverance and “try try again” attitude are what lead her to give back to First World and Third World countries.

If this little dairy queen is going to learn how to navigate her way through the inevitable bumps in the road, to ultimately reach her goals, she needs to start now. There is no better satisfaction than knowing that the hard work, sweat, and saliva in this case, that you put in, is what helped you achieve your goal – no matter the size. Knowing that you were a huge part of making it happen is so so gratifying.  This is how it builds. One day it’s opening a cheese stick and next thing you know, it’s learning how to drive stick. Or joining an all-girl band and having the built-in resilience to face and overcome all of the challenges to reach your ultimate goal of touring Europe.

All started with a cheese stick. Imagine that.

Will it take a few more minutes out of the day to make sure that these teaching moments happen on the reg? Without a doubt. But it’s either 20 minutes of brain-bending now or 20 years of therapy later. Not really a toss up.

As I watched this little red-faced and determined force of nature huff and puff,  with a grunt, an “UGGGGHHH!” and a hollered “Cheese is rice!!” ( Toddler translation of “Jesus Christ”), I felt solid pride. And then, Ta-da!! The plastic lost its battle and the cheese stick was free at last! She looked up, her wide eyes filled with equal parts delight and surprise, and took a very long overdue and well-deserved chomp. I could’ve sworn I even saw her grow a half an inch right before my eyes. And from the look of satisfaction on her face, it was the best damn cheese stick she ever had.


Satisfaction (dir Joan Freeman, 1988) A group of teenagers has a band, Mystery, with Jennie as the lead singer. They go to a bar at the coast and play during the summer. Jennie falls in love with the owner of the bar, Martin. They get an offer to play in Europe and perhaps become famous. But are they ready for it?  

Peace Out, Self-Doubt!

zombieland

[4 minute read]

Self-doubt sucks zombie balls.

It can become all consuming and paralyze you from actually doing anything that you are truly proud of doing. It’s crippling at its best and ulcer-inducing at its worst. We become so completely in our heads that life whizzes by. We are zoned out, head tilted, doing the zombie shuffle while spouting out random incomprehensible groans. All the while, our minds are like the Hostess truck “Sno Balling” full speed ahead with the wrong treats in the trunk.

Was I being a little too harsh with my kids? Am I spending enough time with my husband? Did I quote that project estimate too low or too high? Am I too strict about damn screen time?  Am I inviting family over enough for dinner? Are my kids seeing their grandparents’ enough? Should I have posted that?  Was I too judgmental? Did I sound like a jerk?

Sound familiar?

The issue isn’t self-doubt. The issue is what you do with it when you feel it?  Do you dwell in the familiarity of its prickles and clutches or do you move on? It is easily addicting and needs to be stopped in its tracks. I’m not talking about voiding our life of doubt altogether. We all need to leave a little room in our life for doubt and curiosity or we would be a society filled with self-righteous know-it-alls with zero empathy, sub-zero compassion and sub-sub-zero room for growth of any kind.

The operative word here is a little room.

I have been gripped by a self-doubt lately that easily falls off the rails. It goes something like this: Self-doubt turns into overanalyzing which then turns into more self-doubt which then just tosses me down the black hole of an overanalyzing, self-doubting, hot freaking mess. Now THAT’s the life of the party right there, folks!

For those of you who have a flutter of self-doubt and then easily overcome it, you may be thinking, “This is nuts!” You may find yourself screaming, “This is no way to live! Seriously? You think about that stuff?

For the rest of us, yes. Yes, we do.

I have always been an analytical person. When it’s working for me it has positively and consistently guided me. It helps me connect, foster existing relationships and form incredible new ones. Being analytical can be really helpful when used productively. Decision making can be clearer. Creativity can be sharpened. Problems can be solved. However, the flipside is that it can be equally dreadful when used destructively. Overanalyzing in self-doubt adds fuel to the zombie mind of fear.

The goal is to prevent a zombie mind existence. Zombie mind is toxic and tremendously tortuous to ourselves and our life span. We’re moving without a conscious, clear intention.

worryimagination.jpg

Serial self-doubt is actually a way of not holding ourselves accountable. It’s fueling the fire of indecision instead of taking responsibility for our actions.

So, what’s the solution?

The middle ground.

Doubting is not always bad. Doubting keeps us curious. It can keep us wise and questioning so that we are able to see different perspectives which create more empathy and better problem-solving. It allows us to keep learning and growing.

The pros sound fantastic! Wow! Self-doubting never sounded so sexy.

But how?

By paying attention. Being aware. Noticing. No matter how you phrase it, that’s the first step to shift gears and course correct.

What I noticed was that along with my responsibilities quadrupling in the past years, so has my self-doubt. My people pleasing is at an all time high. Making everybody happy seems to be a female fix that is never attainable. What we get instead is the awful tag team of resentment and frustration which in most cases lead to more guilt.  It’s a really crappy feeling.

Ironically, self-doubt is not too different from self-righteousness. It’s self-consuming and you always think you’re right. Let’s break it down: self-doubt makes it so that you are always right. You either made the right decision and you worried for nothing or you beat yourself up about not making the right decision and your doubt ends up being rightYou end up playing an “I told you so” game with yourself.

So, in the end, the real question is: Do you want to be happy or right?

Me? I want to be happy so I decided to stop. There was not some big revelation or moment in my life. I just said, “Enough.”

I woke up and said, “Today, I am going to tell myself that every single decision I make is the right decision. No looking back.” Yes, I did say it out loud. And ya know what? It worked. I had more mental space to be present and focused and clear.

Freakin clarity! Hot damn! I thought I lost you forever.

You know how usually there doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day? Well, this day? The day my go-to phrase was “Right decision,”? I had more time than ever. I slowed down, felt more space in my brain and actually felt my brain soften. Is that even possible? Well, I’m saying it is. Did I have moments where I doubted myself? Sure. The difference (big difference) is that I caught myself before I could fall down the analytical abyss never to be heard from again. I said a quick, “Right decision,” and moved on. Moved on. Action trumps thinking here. Don’t think twice, it really is alright.

Or in the wise words of Woody Harrelson’s character, Tallahassee:

Time to nut up or shut up!.png


Exercise: Wherever you fall on the spectrum of self-doubt, practice living today on the opposite side of the spectrum. If you feel like you’re in the swampy thickness of self-doubt, declare yourself right with your decision and move on.

Some short and quick phrases to help you out:
“Right decision.” “Great decision.” “Right on.” “Next.”

If you’re always sure you’re right, practice leaving even an inch of room (ok, a millimeter) of room for the chance of doubt. Call it curious if that helps you out.

It may be incredibly uncomfortable. That’s the first sign that you’re on the right track!

Make a quick go-to mantra for yourself and share your results in the comments below!


Zombieland (2009, dir Ruben Fleischer) A shy student trying to reach his family in Ohio, a gun-toting tough guy trying to find the last Twinkie, and a pair of sisters trying to get to an amusement park join forces to travel across a zombie-filled America.  

Columbus: “Oh, America. I wish I could tell you that this was still America, but I’ve come to realize that you can’t have a country without people. And there are no people here. No, my friends. This is now the United States of Zombieland.”

The Foolproof Phrase to End All Freak Outs

 

[5 minute read]

This article is rated R for adult language.oldschool

We all remember the wedding scene in Old School, right? Noooow you’re smiling. Fantastic! The wedding singer brings such a hilarious intensity to an otherwise overplayed and overly dramatic ballad. He nails urgency and light-heartedness like a champ.

We can all learn something here. Taking action can be done with determination and humor. In fact, I wholeheartedly believe that they need to be the new “It” couple. The dynamic duo that makes all of our lives richer, lighter and more joyful. Dumor, anyone? No? Okay, moving on.

We’re at our wit’s end. We are officially a society whose level of consumption is so off-the-charts (according to adweek.com, we’re consuming an hour more per day of media than we did just a year ago.)  that the only place to turn is combustion or…

You guessed it! Even more consumption. We’re self-medicating, self-numbing and self-sabotaging at record speed in an attempt to counteract our consumption. Consumption to remedy consumption. Hm? How’s that goin’ for us?

Take a look at the antonyms for consumption AND combustion:

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Okay, take away “starvation” and “fasting” and you’ll see my point…

I say, instead of fueling our society’s culture of consumption to the devastating point of combustion, let’s rally against it. Let’s empty it OUT instead of taking it IN. I’m talking about a release, people! Whatever that translates to you. Whatever shape that forms for you. We’re one big constipated society.

It’s gross. It is. I’m not gonna lie.

It’s not meant to be a pretty image. It’s supposed to gross you out. It’s supposed to spur you into action to Get. It. Out.

What do you need to do?

Is it…

Let things go?

Ask for help?

Believe in yourself?

Create more … poems, stories, paintings, ideas?

Dance under the stars? (Or dance at all for that matter?)

Laugh?

Play? “Work doesn’t work without play.” – Shonda Rhimes (Shonda Rhimes’ latest TED Talk)

Cry?

Love?

Chances are, at least one of these, most likely more than one, made you feel a ping inside. Follow that ping! Don’t think about. They are all ways to let.It.Out. So, that you don’t end up freaking out!

Have the dance party. Watch this Old School clip. Play with your kids. Have a good cry. Delegate (once again, del-e-gate). Let yourself off the hook. Go for it. Do it. Yes, it’s that urgent! But for some reason, we’re not doing any of this enough. None of it. We don’t have the time. We don’t have the money. But we have plenty-o excuses.

Now. If it’s something that you’re responsible for doing that other people will see or you think they will see, well, you may be freaking out right now. You may be resisting being judged or wrong or looking like a total moron or wasting your time and theirs. How to overcome this? Hm?

Need help? Sure. I’d be glad to…Sometimes, just sometimes, the best way to deal with life is…brace yourself… with one phrase:

“Motherfucking!”

I said, brace yourself. (Especially you, Mom.)

You may be wincing. You may be smiling. You may be doing a little of both.

The phrase can be a little harsh. Okay, highly offensive to some. We all know that. Who drank all the motherfucking milk?! We’re out of motherfucking Post-its again?! You’ve got to be motherfucking kidding me! Uh, yeah, that’s harsh. It’s accusatory, aggressive and aggravated.

But there’s another way. May I?

It can also create a major celebration. Intense concentration. A pick-me-up.  It is hands down, THE quickest and best method to bring us from analysis paralysis to pure clear action.  Utter relief and release. It’s to you for you. It’s, that’s right, determination and humor mixed into one enthusiastic hoorah!  Now, it’s not about saying this phrase in a casual, breezy way. That’s a negative. It’s about saying it with a “go get ’em, tiger” attitude! With purpose.

Just like the wedding singer in Old School!

Exactly! See? You’re following.

And then you’re getting on with it.

This one phrase, when used correctly, has the power, once and for all, to transform all of the cheesy and overused plaques that deck kitchen and office walls nationwide.

For instance: Sometimes when life hands you lemons, you don’t make lemonade…you make motherfucking lemonade.

It demands your attention. It is you picking up YOU. It’s unconditional self-love at its finest. Whether you cringe at being vulnerable or flinch at being assertive – this one phrase is all you need. It’s non-discriminatory. It works anywhere. Anytime.

It’s like when the Wizard of Oz goes from black and white to color. BAM!

Don’t take my word for it. Try it on for size:

Please excuse the mess, my kids are making memories.
Please excuse the mess, my kids are making motherfucking memories!

Be the change you want to see in the world.
Be the change you want to see in the motherfucking world.

Dance like no one is watching.
Dance like no one is motherfucking watching.

Nevertheless, she persisted.
Nevertheless, she motherfucking persisted. (Too soon?)

Let’s do this!
Let’s motherfucking do this!

Is this making you uncomfortable? Little bit? Try it out. If you don’t like it, you never have to do it again. If you do get a sick liberating thrill out of it – your secret is safe with you!

If you’re someone who looks at the “F” word as “G-rated” in your vocab – then I would say…

It’s a slippery slope. You may find yourself all MF happy and use it carelessly.  Bust this puppy out in only necessary occasions, to get yourself back on track when you’re feeling self-doubt or judged or overwhelmed. You don’t want to release your credibility, just your tension.

Don’t dilute it with unintentional and flippant use. Let’s not start telling our kids to pick up their motherfucking toys. Nooooot really the best idea to calm your nerves and kick off a client meeting with “Wait until you see this motherfucking Powerpoint!” or walking into the teacher’s lounge after an unexpected day off with a welcoming, “Thank god for motherfucking snow days!” 

Check yourself before you wreck yourself and let this be a self-pep talk for your ego and soul to come together and release stress and fear so that we can get back to bringing our best selves into the world!

For me, it amps me up and calms me down. I feel capable and able. Most importantly, it kicks my butt into intention fueled action. Not just going through the motions “busy is best” action. No. I’m talking clear, definable action. Once I set a goal and make an intention to follow it through, I often get tripped up by fear. I can get frozen in the glaring, blinking cursor of a blank page with the best of them. All of a sudden my feet are drying in wet cement or worse, I feel my legs slipping into quicksand. THIS is the moment that: “Let’s motherfucking DO THIS!” is the mantra that rares me up and has me move forward with a renewed determination and solid gold “can do” attitude. (Arms shooting up into a V or brisk palm rubbing are optional, although highly, highly recommended.)

So, you gave it a go. Did it work? Comment below.