On failure, learning, and finding your path.

Have patience, and do not hesitate.

When you act, act with certainty. If you are not certain, do not act. Or make yourself certain of this: You will fail. You will fail many times.

Failure does not cost as much as inaction.

Inaction is itself failure.

But even that failure can never be complete. For even in inaction, we have consciousness. And it is the nature of consciousness to try. It is the nature of life to try. To live. To grow.

As long as you are alive, some part of you still knows that it is the energy of potential. Some part of you has caught a whiff of the infinite possibilities beyond your current state of being, and as long as you are alive, that light in you will seek its source.

If you learn to trust the light within you that seeks its source, you will be lead to wisdom. You will find within yourself deep wells of compassion and rich reserves of kindness. In this, you will find joy.

Humble yourself to the inevitability of failure, and resolve to learn your lessons, but come back daily to the spark within you and the well of inner resource. And when right action becomes clear, step forward with the calm certainty of one who has failed before and is not afraid.

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love humans

Where_is_the_love by Tatoli ba Kultura -- CC-BY-SA

I want to tell you to love yourself, but I also want to tell you to love other people. And I don’t mean like putting others first in all things because that becomes painful very quickly.
But practice seeing the good in other people. And beyond that, see that they are vulnerable. See that their anger comes from fear, and love them. See that their bad behavior comes from ignorance, and teach them.

Don’t make yourself their victim. Be prepared to walk away. And yes, you’re allowed to walk away from people you love. It doesn’t mean you love them any less. It just means you can’t save them. But if you can stand to give some compassion without killing yourself, do it. Look another human being in the eyes and accept them for who they are. Don’t try to be better than them; everyone else is already doing that. Realize that they are as good and worthy as you are and that the most important gifts you’ve been given — food, shelter, education — were largely granted to you based on no merit of your own. Realize that if you deserve that kind of goodness in your life (and you do), then they deserve goodness, too. Now treat them that way.

However, if you can’t believe that you deserve goodness in your life, you’re going to find it very difficult to extend that generosity to others. When you catch yourself judging others, ask what it says about you that you are so irritated by someone else’s imperfections. Are you bothered being around people who don’t meet your specific standards for beauty, intelligence, morality, or social status? If they aren’t hurting you, there’s a good chance your feelings about them stem from your own anxiety and insecurity. But if you start to say, “Ok, it’s fine for that person to be the way they are, even if it’s not what I would want for myself. They still deserve to be happy,” that starts to change the way you view yourself. Eventually, you’ll realize that because you’re a human just like the other guy, you probably deserve to be happy, too.

In other words: Loving other people teaches you to love yourself, and loving yourself makes it easier to love other people.

I have this crazy fantasy in which everyone in the world learns to do yoga or meditate or practice seva. Everyone in the world decides, “I’m not perfect, but I really want to live in a more peaceful world, so I’m going to try really hard to love other people and to accept them and myself as we are.” And things get a lot better. It starts out small. Grocery stores are less stressful. Traffic jams still happen, but people honk less. Gradually, gridlock eases thanks to increased carpooling. There are environmental and financial benefits all around. People stop buying products whose advertising tells them they’re not good enough, and as a result, we spend more money on things that actually make us happy. There is a major economic shift toward positive industries — scientific research, environmental repair, health and wellness — and organizations such as nonprofits to alleviate homelessness experience a surge in funding as people realize it really sucks to let some people live in poverty while others have all the fun.

And in this fantasy, we’re still not perfect. We still fuck up. But when we do, we say we’re sorry, and we do our best to make it better, because that’s what you do when you love somebody.

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my definition of confidence

Young Woman from the Boni Yaou Family, Djougou, Benin photograph by Alfred Weidinger

One of the most powerful things you can have as an individual is the understanding that absolutely no one can invalidate you or make you less of a human being. No matter what name anyone calls you, you are good. No matter how anyone mistreats you or fails you, you deserve goodness. No matter what challenges you face or shortcomings you may have, you are worthy of love. When you know that, you will not let anyone mistreat you. You will not believe the bullshit they heap on you. Their words and actions may sting, but you will have dignity. And instead of internalizing their evil, you will look the cowards in the eye and see their pain, and you will respond with love. For them and for yourself.

 That’s confidence.

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What do you want in a friendship?

friendshiplist

We’ve all heard that stupid advice: You are the combination of the five people you spend the most time with. I hate that advice because it lends itself to social climbing instead of developing meaningful connections. In 2013, I realized that while I had a lot of professional acquaintances, I didn’t have a ton of actual friends. Close friends from high school and college had drifted apart as we all moved to different corners of the country to pursue our lives, and I no longer had much in common with the people I used to work with. It was time to enrich my life with people I really love, so I started by writing this list of qualities I want in my friendships:

  • Openness: Feeling like we can be honest about our lives.
  • Intellect: Exchanging ideas and making each other think!
  • Laughter: Pure, simple fun.
  • Acceptance: Feeling OK together, not judged.
  • Adventure: Going places, trying things, meeting people together.
  • Support: Being able to talk to someone about what’s on my mind and feel heard and understood.
  • Encouragement: Getting excited about each other’s ideas and opportunities.
  • Comfort: Feeling cared for and loved.

I didn’t spend a ton of time thinking about the list once it was written, but looking back over the year, I can see that I navigated my social life differently after writing it. I invested more energy in relationships that meet most of these desires, reached out to old friends, and took the risk of seeking out people I thought might share my interests and intentions. In some cases it worked out, and in others it didn’t. Here are some of my favorite results from this new approach to friendships:

  1.  Got to know some incredibly cool people in San Francisco through my husband. I don’t get to see them often, but we stay in touch online and have a great time when we do meet up.
  2. Reconnected with best friends from high school — we had the BEST night in Lafayette when we were all home for Christmas.
  3. Emailing and Facebook messaging old acquaintances to rekindle an exchange of ideas — you don’t have to be ultra close with everyone to be able to appreciate them!
  4. Meeting Jenn and starting the derby experiment and a host of other adventures.
  5. Bar hopping in DC for Stan’s birthday with a bunch of new friends. (Stan is actually another Jenn, but The Ladyfriend Committee has renamed her for practical reasons.)
  6. Girls movie night — we watched The Little Mermaid and drank … a lot.
  7. Coffee dates, book exchanges, and anime nights with a lot of new people I’m grateful to have in my life.
  8. Developed a very special friendship with a feminist friend in Bolivia — we’ve never met in person, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be friends!
  9. Reconnected deeply with my husband and fell in love with him about a dozen times. After all, he really is my BFF.

I’m extremely grateful for the people who’ve come into my life and for the old friendships I’ve been able to renew. My social life is now a much more accurate reflection of my real values instead of being just a list of people I kinda know from work.

This year, I encourage you to seriously look at who is in your life and what kind of give-and-take you have with them. Do your friends support you and make you feel like your best self? Are they people you want to give back to? Do you get excited when you see them learn and grow? Try making a list of the attributes you most want in your friendships, and see how that changes the way you interact. And remember to always act with love. 🙂

xoxo~

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If You Are in Pain

fire_alarm_by_alrine21xe-d4u7i1k

Pain is utilitarian — an alarm.
Pain should be dispensed with when possible.
A fire alarm that goes off all the time isn’t much help when your house is on fire.
So much of our pain comes from our own grasping.
Pick something painful to let go of — an easy one.
There may be things you think you can never let go of.
That’s ok, you can hang on to them a little longer.
Holding on to pain sometimes feels like a consolation.
We protect our wounds.
But maybe you could let go of some dumb kid who teased you in middle school.
You could decide you’re no longer your insecure pre-teen self.
You have grown up, and you can forgive the ignorant child who hurt you.
Forgiving others may be the easiest way to relieve your own pain.
Forgiving yourself is harder, but powerful.
Let go of these things, and carve out space for joy.
It feels good not to hold so much all the time.
You’ll get braver.
You’ll work on the big stuff later.

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