Capital letters start a sentence. Take a deep breath before you step up to the podium. Cross your legs, shoulders back – first impressions are everything.
These are the things we learn – how to navigate our academic lives: 10 ways to choose your major, 3 way to get him to notice you, 5 tips to the perfect elevator pitch, introductions, prologues, Chapter 1.
But what happens after the first smile – when you’ve got your footing, when you’ve wiped off the red lipstick and made the memories? What about when you’re in the thick of the story, Chapter 15 and three quarters, sunk cost down, going a million miles an hour? What about landing that goddamn plane?
How do you land the plane when you’ve burped during a business meeting? Fallen asleep in your first grad school class? How do you politely back away from the clingy girl, say goodbye when he’s walking away from you and you know he doesn’t want to?
Some of us handle these situations with panache. There’s always those superior creatures who smile their Cheshire grins – teeth flashing – and worm-wiggle their way out of every encounter. What to you is a dance amidst flames is to them a simple shrug of the shoulders. Their words don’t hurt feelings, their conscience is unburdened, their attitudes nonchalant.
For the rest of us, we basically lose our shit. (Forgive my French.) The plane crashes. Flames lick at your sanity, and suddenly you’re a host of characters: the nervous wreck who bites her fingernails at the back of the classroom, the emergency response personnel trying to avert disaster, the old man watching his life flash by in a very Central Park/playing chess kind of way, and most of all, you’re the knocked-out pilot in the front seat with the world basically just happening around you as you lie there, bent in an uncomfortable position. Immobile. Useless. Numb.
All because you never learned how to land that goddamn plane.
Here is a guide:
Step 1: Hold on to your heart. When he hands it back to you, take it with both your hands cupped, lovingly, gently, forgivingly, and put it back where it belongs. Let it heal so it may shine again.
Step 2: Be honest with yourself. Know how much you are willing to forgive, sacrifice, compromise – all these this-is-not-what-I-want-but-I-care-about-you words. Set limits in your mind and be unapologetic about using them. When you give, give freely and openly and beautifully, and when you don’t, don’t. Don’t waste your time and energy thinking and re-thinking a decision you already know you want.You’re only wasting what life you’ve got left.
Step 3: Leave wiggle room. You’re organized, bravo. As the queen of obsessive calendaring, except perhaps for Elizabeth from Accismus, I know it feels amazing to have structure, and know exactly what you will be / or should be doing 14 hours and 27 minutes from now, but another terribly cliched thing I have learned is that having a life schedule is exactly zero percent helpful when one of those funny little curve balls (I believe they’re called twists of fate) comes around. It might be an accidental baby (hello, little one!) or a job offer in Nicaragua, or a broken leg. Heaven forbid you fall in love. *shudder*
Step 4: Forgive them. The guy on the street who scratched your car, the idiot who doesn’t know how to parallel park, the babysitter who has been stealing out of your freezer. Forgive all of them. The woman who used you, the men who disappointed you, the friends that confused you, the religious personalities who forced you, the parents who disowned you – forgive all of them. You don’t deserve the burden of that negativity, and no one can lift it off of your shoulders until you decide to let it go. Your life is worth so much more than that resentment will ever be.
Step 5: Believe in something. Buddhism, yourself, family – whatever. Find something that makes sense in your mind and soothes your heart and believe it. Get yourself a Giving Key, or buy back the bomb. Whatever works for you.