It’s Not Always About Happy

We think of “happy” as good and every other emotion as not as good. Here’s what I learned today: being real is good, whatever “real” is.

The world isn’t broken. It’s made up of pieces that fit together quite neatly.
Eggshells, watercolor paint on watercolor paper.

I went to lunch with a new friend who feels like an old soul and a good friend already. She shared sad news with me, and I felt tears start up over her suffering. We chatted a bit about the blog, and then I told her about something I felt bad about–petty behavior on my part. How hard it is to give up envy, pettiness, and feeling bad about it.

She was supportive and understanding. I felt heard. And I suddenly realized the truth of Brené Brown’s quote:

A 12-year-old’s wisdom on fitting-in vs. belonging: “If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, it’s fitting in.”

At that lunch table, with this kind woman, I belonged to the group of flawed human beings who are working on themselves. It made my day.

It’s good not having to be perfect, or pretending. It’s hard enough work just being me. Being appreciated for that felt like a blessing.

Put down the perfection mirror and just show up. It does a soul good.

–Quinn McDonald is an art journaler and writer. She’s working on a book on the Inner Critic.


The Late Bloomer

Kids want to grow up fast. Do what adults do. Feel powerful. Unfortunately, most adults don’t feel so powerful. They feel helpless, burdened with responsibility but not so much authority.

I skipped grades when I was younger, got out of high school and college really early. It didn’t make any difference, of course. Every job made me “start over” and “prove myself.” For years, I thought this was a lack of ability on my part to show I was smart and capable. It took years to figure out that all the proof rested on thorny cultural facets–that women deserve less pay, that women need to prove themselves more than men, that women as seen as weak and hysterical.

Dillweed from Glen Moore's

Worse, I was a late bloomer. The youngest in my class, and slow to develop curves, I had to use wit, humor and smarts to negotiate my life. Unfortunately, I was also impatient, perfectionistic and, well, angry at all this nonsense.  Why couldn’t employers just use my skills? That attitude didn’t help.

As I got older, I began to see the advantage of being a late bloomer. You draw different battle lines in different places. You waste less energy. You spend more time solving the real problem–the underlying problem, rather than the superficial drama. In fact, you don’t care about the drama so much any more. You’ve seen so much drama, little of it fresh, and most of it is not about you.

As a late bloomer, you give up the need to prove who you are by words, and focus on doing. What you do becomes your proof statement, and people interested in results begin to pay attention. People interested in externals still shrill loudly, but it matters less, because there are those results. (My favorite was the woman who looked at my generous hips and hissed, “If you can’t control what you put in your mouth, how can you control the people who work for you?” to which I replied, ” Not a problem, as I wasn’t planning on eating them.”)

Now that I own my business, I am grateful to have been a late bloomer. I know how to pace a project, I know how to separate “urgent” from “important.” I stay calm when others amp the histrionics, as I’m not interested in the attention. I get work done. I work with a better quality of people. Yes, many years were spent fraught and living in disappointment. But I’m a late bloomer and life is good.

–Quinn McDonald’s book, Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art was possible only because she is a late bloomer. The book takes the long view of art and meaning-making. Quinn’s glad she waited. Oh, and if you use the link above to order it, you’ll get free shipping. Use the code at the bottom of the page.

More on “Authentic” Behavior

The other day I felt that being authentic wasn’t enough for being a friend. And that’s true. But there is more truth to discover.

Your authenticity doestn’t guarantee love and admiration from your friends, just because you are being authentic. The word “authentic” has taken on a sort of mythic proportion of human endeavor. We strive to be “authentic” and somehow, in our own competitive minds, “authentic” begins to sound like “perfect.” It’s not.

Your authenticity means that you are true to yourself, that when you screw up, you know it to be a screw up, but one made because of your mistake, not out of meanness, or subterfuge. (Unless, of course, that is your authenticity–meanness and subterfuge.) You apologize, you are sorry, but you do not go about “fixing” yourself to be better. Authentic is living in the room with yourself and accepting it all–good, indifferent, not so good.

Your authenticity is simply that–bare bones you. No making stuff up to polish your image, no trying desperately to be someone you can’t be. Authenticity has its downside–you won’t make everyone happy, you won’t solve everyone’s problems. Because authentic you is just that–the real you with flaws, failures, and hopes.

You won’t make everyone happy, but you can learn to be happy with who you are. It is enough.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer.

When Authentic Isn’t Good Enough

One of the secrets to my freelance career is that I do a number of related services, and the relationships often lead to new clients in one area because they worked with me in another. For example, a training client might become a coaching client. A coaching client might take a journaling class.

Jigsawing related services often means the difference between freelance survival or failure. And in today’s economy, failure is not something I care to contemplate.

Jessica Hagy:

Jessica Hagy:

I never hide my various lines of business, but occasionally a client doesn’t understand how I can be more than one thing. Most often, the way it leads to trouble is that a client sees me as a writer and doesn’t understand how come I can’t spend more time writing. If they don’t understand that I am running a training program, they may become resentful when I ask for a longer deadline.

“How long does it take you to write that, anyway?”

“I have other work that is on my plate. I can have it by Friday, but not Wednesday.”

“If you really wanted the job, you’d meet my deadline.”

“I do want the job, but I can’t accept it if the deadline is Wednesday because I can’t deliver it on Wednesday. Much as I’d like to help you, I can’t accept a job knowing I can’t meet the deadline.”

“Then you really don’t want the job, do you. Anyone could finish it by Wednesday.”

And so, because the client doesn’t understand that I’ll be running a training program, and doesn’t care (and I can’t expect them to) I lost the job.

It’s a bit harder when it come to friendships. I’ve long suspected that my workaholic tendencies make friendships difficult. And when your work supplies necessities, the work needs to come first. I try to keep the bonds of friendship alive and working, but there are days when I simply can’t meet a friend across the Valley for lunch, can’t chat with a friend for an hour, can’t read and answer a complicated email. And today it cost me a friend.

When your authentic dedication to supporting your family doesn’t leave room for friends, do you give them up? Do you let your family slide? Do you shortchange a client’s job? Today’s choice was not easy. I apologized and it wasn’t enough. My comfort was that I made the choice that hurt, but it was the choice I could understand. Sometimes being authentic isn’t enough. But it’s all I have.

Quinn McDonald is a writer, life– and creativity coach. She’s also a trainer in business communications and helps people who can’t draw keep art journals.