Actual Marriage Advice from an Actual Married Lady

As a happily married lady with a slightly less than typical approach to relationships, I’ve decided that the world needs my relationship advice. Women my age grew up with the idea that we can support ourselves and we don’t need a man to take care of us, and yet weddings are more commercialized and hyped up than ever thanks to reality TV and good old fashioned marketing.

So, for anyone looking for confirmation that they’re with the right person or who feels lost in the relationship ocean, here are my 7 Signs You’re With the Right Person.

  1. He gets your brand of crazy. Everyone is a little bit nuts, even you. Don’t fool yourself. The more you resist this truth, the more delusional you inevitably are. A good partner understands and accepts this about you but is also willing to call you on your bullshit when you’re being crazy.
  2. You don’t have everything in common. Having things in common is easy and comfortable, but it’s more fun when you have some significant differences. My husband and I have very different taste in books, movies and music, and our areas of expertise are practically opposites. We constantly introduce each other to new things, and it makes our life together more fun.
  3. You have the important stuff in common. You agree on whether or not your theoretical children should be baptized and how to deal with two families for the holidays. You probably agree on evolution and global warming. Trust me: if you and your partner disagree on whether evolution is a legitimate thing, you’re going to have some really mind-numbing arguments in your future.
  4. You really want him/her to be happy and vice versa. You find yourself sincerely concerned for your partner’s wellbeing. You may not be into the 50s housewife thing (I’m not!) but something about seeing this person happy just makes the world feel right to you. AND you get the same in return. A life partner who loves to see you smile is sure to bring out the best in you.
  5. You fight well. All couples fight, even happy ones, and if you think your relationship is an exception, take a good hard look at what feelings you’re stuffing. A sign of a healthy relationship is that you can disagree, and yes, you can even get royally pissed at each other. This is OK because you are both (a) human beings with emotions and (b) adults who are capable of both controlling themselves in moments of anger and apologizing when needed. And I mean sincerely apologizing. I’m not talking about doing something mean, buying chocolates, then doing it again. That’s different, and it’s called abuse. But fighting occasionally is a part of life, and if you handle it lovingly, you can actually learn from it.
  6. You inspire each other. Maybe some people just want a partner who will maintain the status quo with them, but I find the status quo absolutely depressing. One of the greatest assets in my marriage is the epic sense of possibility I have when I’m with my husband, both in terms of what we can do together and the ways we can sport each other to be our best.
  7. You giggle together. Maybe you lay in bed making fart jokes together or gossiping or just being absurd. It doesn’t matter what you laugh about as long as you bring each other joy.

When I got engaged, I had an absolute meltdown over the fear that by getting married, I might be giving up some essential part of myself, and the only way to regain my grip on sanity was to remember that my then fiance was the same person I’d always loved and that the only thing that was changing between us was a piece of paper. Ok, and some familial expectations, but we can talk later about how I feel about other people’s expectations.

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a little gratitude meditation

Ok, guys. It’s Friday, and I’m feeling  incredible. It’s sunny outside, and I’m back into my meditation routine. It’s only been four days since I got back on track with setting my timer every morning, and already, I’m remembering what an incredibly positive difference meditation makes in my daily life.

If I talk about meditation constantly, it’s only because it really does change everything, or rather it changes how I experience everything. There will always be craziness in the world, but meditation and yoga have given me the only way I know how to effectively cope with it. It’s more effective than medication; more effective than drugs; more effective than any therapist, doctor, or bitching session.

I really and truly believe that everyone should learn to meditate, but sometimes just sitting down to start is HARD. Your mind races around. Your back or your knees might hurt. You get bored. You make a grocery list or get up to check the mail. After years of being told to meditate by every yoga teacher or spiritual leader I met, I still didn’t want to do it. It took me a LONG time.

If, like me, you can’t bring yourself to sit down and meditate, do this first:

List 10 things you’re thankful for. Do it every day for 40 days. Or just do it for a week. Whatever you can do. 

When you get into more advanced practices, there start to be more expectations about doing meditations or exercises for a certain number of days or minutes. There are plenty of great reasons for that, but when you’re just starting out, just do whatever you can, and the benefit will come.

Practicing gratitude isn’t some kind of hippy, new-age nonsense. It’s good for everyone. Just pause to remember all the good and miraculous things in your life (like the fact that you exist, which is pretty rad when you think about it), and write them down if you can spare the time to do so. You’ll likely notice that as you start to think in terms of gratitude, you have more things to be thankful for.

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How to Use Music to Get Past a Creative Block

This is my favorite technique for getting something down on paper. It has never ever failed me. I’m not promising it’ll work for you, but you may find it worth a try. If you’ve ever heard of automatic writing, it’s a lot like that, except … it’s not.

It starts like this: I have a really strong connection to certain music. I’m sure a lot of people do. I often find myself making soundtracks in my head for my writing projects, the books I read, and even the everyday scenes of my life. I love to find the song that perfectly suits the mood or situation.

So, when I want to write about something but I don’t know how to approach the topic, I find a song that seems to echo the way I feel about that topic. Today, for example, I wanted to write about technology in a way that’s not “sciency.” I believe the human aspects of technology (how and why we use it, make it, and relate to it) is essential and really says a lot about human nature. So, I picked a song that I think relates to that feeling: “Digital Ghost” by Tori Amos.

Then, I put my headphones on, put that song on repeat, turned the volume up, and started writing. Quick tip: the volume should be just shy of that level where it starts to hurt your ears. This is probably bad for your ears, but it’s good for the thought process. It drowns out any external sounds but also weird internal sounds like the spit in your mouth, your own breathing, and yes, even some of your own thoughts. I find this allows me to turn off my inner critics for a while.

Some people may find this to be the hard part. The next thing is that you have to tap into it. What’s that mean? Well, this is another reason your music needs to be loud. You have to physically get into the music. Let your mind slip in between the notes. You are not listening to the music, but you’re letting it surround you and using it as a tool to pull up the particular set of feelings that you want to get into words. This probably won’t work with a subject you really don’t care about because you’ll find it harder to make the visceral connection between the sound and the idea, but I guess you could try it.

Once you tap into it, start writing. I like to do this by actually writing the words “tap into it” because this sends my brain the message that we’re going into writing mode now. After that, the first couple sentences sometimes come out a little wonky, but I just tell myself to keep going and let it all out. Edit later, etc. Just write until you feel the words tapering off. It’s like emptying a glass of water onto the ground. You’ll know when it’s done because there’s just nothing else coming out of the glass, and nothing else hitting the ground.

Don’t judge it. Don’t re-read it. Don’t go post it online immediately. Just let it sit a while, and come back to it later. I don’t promise that what you write using this technique will be useable every time, but I do think it’s a great way to get past some of your little blocks in order to get something on paper.

I hope you’ll try it. If you do, let me know how it turns out.

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Practical Necessities for Creative Living

Basic art supplies:

  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • String
  • Pen and/or pencil

Basic human kit:

  • body (any condition will do)
  • voice
  • senses with which to experience things

Basic human interactions:

  • at least one friend who is good enough to tell you when you’re getting carried away but sharp enough to know when getting carried away is a good thing

With these, you can make damn near anything. Additional supplies and stimuli will enter your life unbidden. You will experience music. You will witness world events. You will fall in love. You will get your heart broken. There’s no avoiding these things. However, being stocked up on the basic supplies will prepare you to deal with whatever comes your way. Let life enter your experience, and use your creative instincts to churn it about and see what comes out.

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Joyce Carol Oates on Character

This is one of the century’s greatest writers giving beautiful, practical, thoughtful advice on writing characters. I adore her in this video, and I really need to incorporate this advice into my writing life.

I particularly love that she points out the differences between a fiction writer and a poet. I’m beginning to think that we writers are sortof genetically pre-disposed to certain types of writing. I fall into that category of musical/lyrical/rhythmic writers. I can put on my head phones and tune in to a rhythm and churn something out, but it typically isn’t character driven, nor does it typically have a plot. When I do that type of writing, it’s usually about playing with sounds, and  I’m really having to cultivate my concept of characters. I’m not even sure how to do it. The other day, I just practiced writing sentences:

Joan walks her dog in the park.

Sarah pours herself a cup of tea.

David counts the dollars in his wallet.

No kidding. That’s what I started with. And from there, when I could think of a way to follow that sentence, I did. So, I wrote a paragraph about this dude David, counting his money in the bathroom stall before deciding how to handle his date — he realizes he has less money than he thought he had, and he must come up with a way to entertain his date while not revealing his mistake.

Like I said, an understanding of character is one of those things I need to cultivate.

What type of creative work comes naturally for you, and what do you need to cultivate? Do you just need a little more maturity and experience to do it? Years of practice?

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