Nice to see you again.
The other night, D and I were talking about the new Captain Marvel flick. I commented, in an I-really-know-nothing-about-it-or-have-any-opinion-whatsoever kind of way, that some folks couldn’t get on board with Brie Larson as a superhero.
To which D replied, ever candidly: "It's a hard thing to cast. You can't be too jacked up on muscles, and you can't be squishy."
There you have it. Life is hard if you want to be a superhero.
His comment launched us into a delicately nuanced conversation about a completely inconsequential subject – which isn’t a rare occurrence – and it got me thinking about my most recent piece: take two.
You see, in writing that I wanted to stop trying so hard, I feel like I wasn’t totally clear. Which means that, yes, this “take two” round has already gotten a little awkward. My apologies.
I wasn't clear because multiple women I look up to – specifically my mother and a dear family friend who just so happened to also be my 9th grade Earth Science teacher because that’s what happens when you grow up in the “rustic” countryside of Upstate New York (no, not Westchester, the real Upstate) – replied to that last piece with something like, “Hold the phone. Trying hard isn’t a bad thing! Look where it’s gotten you!”
(Huh. A 35-year-old woman who still has no idea what I want to be when I grow up, cursing myself for not prioritizing money just enough to not think twice about spending $5 on organic strawberries, looking the elusive fertility monster in the eye, and reviewing my thoroughly underwhelming resumé whilst thinking, “Wow. You’re really a leaf blowing in the wind, ain’tcha?”)
Thank you for your support. It’s women like you who help me recognize the benefits of being my higher-strung, go-getter self. I truly appreciate it. Really, I do. And I hear you wholeheartedly.
But let me clarify: I’m not setting my bar any lower.
#1: I don’t think that’s possible. It’s like being constantly called “the nice one”. No matter how much I want to be known as “the funny one”, I’ve accepted that it’s never gonna happen. Though I wish my default description was more interesting than “nice,” it’s better than clingy, boring, or killjoy. For better or worse, I’m nice. At least on the outside. Most of the time.
So, yes: my bar will always be high. I will also probably always be hard on myself, but, as with most things, I'm working on that. (See?! Always trying!)
#2: I know that keeping that bar high has moved me through enormous challenges. Doing so – plus apparently being so high on a post-surgery cocktail of pain meds that I misinterpreted the doctor's "20%" chance of recovery as "80%-90%" – is what pushed me to fully recover from a not-so-optimistic arm break. It’s what helped me get into the college of my dreams, kick an eating disorder in the pants (slowly, but surely), date actively while hobbling in a ridiculous aircast, and, in one of my most ironic life twists, become a skilled personal trainer. It also helped me rekindle a sisterhood.
All of this said, my point in terms of "trying less" was this: there’s a beauty in taking a rather “anti-coaching” approach to life sometimes.
What does that mean exactly?
Well, a good friend and I have been trading coaching sessions – she as life coach, me as health coach. For our most recent session, I suggested meeting for happy hour, because it sounded like we both needed that much more than we needed "a sit down so we can support each other with our problems in a more structured way.”
That happy hour was probably the most constructive session we’d ever had, because here’s the thing: we both try really hard. We’re go-getters and self-reflectors and make-it-work people. We’re doers.
But only after we make sure it’s the most efficient and effective way of doing. We’re the people who plan how we’ll chunk our time and then actually sit down to do the work allotted for that time and think, "Well, shit. I have zero motivation and no idea where to begin."
When I look at my notes from that happy hour (because, yes, I always have a notebook and pen in tow), I see the following:
Just do it.
Stop thinking, start doing.
Just fucking be.
When you don’t stress about the to-do list, it gets shorter.
And, my personal favorite: It don’t make no sense. Let’s see what happens...
Our session was the epitome of what we called an anti-coaching session – and we’re experts on coaching. Compared to normal human beings, we’ve read about 15 lifetimes’ worth of self-help material. (Note to self: do not bring this up as a conversation starter at social gatherings. Talk about killjoy.) However, as two people who have made a career out of helping others get to where they want to be, we understand the value of trying a little less.
Because here’s the thing: allowing yourself room to simply be your blissfully flawed and fabulous self is just as important as striving for what you want.
Plus, maybe what you really wanted was to spend every weeknight last week watching Big Little Lies with a hefty glass of wine and Seamless to tune out the world because the last thing you wanted to do was cook a nourishing meal for you and your husband, amiright? Just as a hypothetical example.
At the end of the day, I want to stop thinking so darn hard every minute of every day. At the end of the day, I want to pass more time, rather than always feeling the need to spend it wisely. At the end of the day, I want to use my strengths to get to where I want to go without forsaking the joy of simply being. Because life is short, and we all need to chilax a whole lot more. At least us New Yorkers, because yikes.
So, you see, not trying quite as hard – for me at least – means “just keep moving forward even if it's not perfect." Perfectionism is debilitating, and self-growth 24/7 is no way to go through life. It’s not only okay, it’s mind-blowingly beneficial to simply let yourself be.
Life is hard if you want to be a superhero. But if you can be a superhero that’s maybe a little jacked, or a little squishy, than you’re doing just fine. Life is more than filling out a tight spandex suit in all the right places.
Friends, set the bar high and try hard, but remember that, sometimes, like Brie Larson as a superhero to some folks, it don’t make no sense. Your choices might seem counterintuitive to “best practices”. This j.e.wolff 2.0 might be a total shit storm of ramblings with no cohesive thoughts. But at least it will be imperfectly human, which means that, on some level, it might be worthwhile enough to keep reading.
Let’s see what happens.
Did I just spend an entire piece explaining what I meant by my last piece? Kind of. But you know what? I’m okay with that.
Thanks for stopping by. And keep sharing your stories, because someone wants to hear them.