Tomorrow is another Friday the 13th, and my family is looking forward to it! Mostly that's because it's also our cat's fourth birthday, and we're going to have a party for her involving cardboard boxes and bouncy balls. But also it's because we have a darkly occult sense of humor at our house. We enjoy thunderstorms, campy horror, Halloween, Billie Eilish, and Lil Nas X. We have always celebrated, rather than feared, Friday the 13th--unlike the gentleman who walked into my husband's shop yesterday to let him know that the world would be ending this Friday!
It is a joy to have that tradition in place now, when we are all dealing with some heavy misfortunes that started before this year's Friday the 13th and will continue afterward. Climate change, violence, pandemic, etc. There is an excess of truly bad fortune in the world right now, and it's a real bummer.
But it's good to be able to laugh at bad luck and disappointment, whether anticipated or experienced.
For the past few years, I've felt the heaviness of a series of personal disappointments that have given me some practice at dealing with being let down. Family, friends, and other people in my communities have failed me in various ways. Things that I need have broken or worn out. Literary opportunities that I took for granted have evaporated as agents and other professionals had personal meltdowns, agencies and publishers imploded over scandals and plague, recently-promising markets dried up overnight, and my increased knowledge of how literary sausage gets made shriveled my interest in participating in the industry at all. Worst of all, my daughter, like all children alive for the past year and a half, has been deprived of what I used to consider a normal childhood.
But even as I have sprouted a brilliant streak of silver hairs at my left temple, I have restocked my box of coping and healing tools.
Throughout the pandemic, and honestly for a long time before it, I have found it therapeutic to watch the wise conversations of Trixie Mattel and Katya Zamolodchikova, esteemed authors of the feminine self-help book Trixie and Katya's Guide to Modern Womanhood. The latest episode of their YouTube show UnhHHH tackled the topic of "Disappointment."
A word of advice: Do not watch this video at work onsite or at home if you have kids around and you're not the kind of parent who lets them watch Nat's What I Reckon, Hot Ones, and True Facts. Only God can judge me!!
Okay, so if you weren't able to watch that, the highlights are about learning to aim high without getting attached to unreasonable expectations, owning your part in setting up disappointment, and sorting out when factors leading to disappointment are out of your control. Katya shared a saying she'd heard somewhere:
Expectations are just premeditated resentments.
That's probably a misquote by some other esteemed author or something, but yeah!
Watching this video cheered me right up, and it reminded me of another great quote I picked up on YouTube in years past. Remember the hillbilly cyst popping video trend leading up to the release of the Dr. Pimple Popper show? Right, so in one of those videos, a doctor working on a patient on the linoleum tiles of a rural kitchen floor paused and scolded the patient thusly:
You can writhe, but don't jerk!
Years later, my husband and I sometimes repeat this wise advice when one of us is being dramatic.
Because when something unpleasant is happening and there's nothing you can do but let it run its course, resistance can make it worse.
I've discovered a similar sentiment in the Tao Te Ching:
Accept disgrace willingly.
Accept misfortune as the human condition.
What do you mean by “Accept disgrace willingly”?
Accept being unimportant.
Do not be concerned with loss or gain.
This is called “accepting disgrace willingly.”
What do you mean by “Accept misfortune as the human condition”?
Misfortune comes from having a body.
Without a body, how could there be misfortune?
Surrender yourself humbly; then you can be trusted to care for all things.
Love the world as your own self; then you can truly care for all things.
Which brings it right around to how wallowing in self-pity and bitterness can sabotage your ability to move forward and turn you into the kind of unpleasant, self-obsessed debbie downer who invites even more misfortune and disappointment into their life.
I sure don't want to put so much time and energy into feeling sorry for myself that I miss out on life lessons and alienate my loved ones!
I am extremely fortunate to be the wife of a hardworking, handsome and loving man who watches "UNHhhh" with me and helps me throw birthday parties for our cat. I am extremely fortunate to be the mother of an adolescent who begs me to buy that Pink Stuff she saw on TikTok so that she can have the satisfaction of thoroughly cleaning our oven. And, I have a responsibility to that darling child to support her astonishing resilience--her abilities to tolerate and grow from life's inevitable disappointments with her hope, capacity for joy, and self-esteem intact. It's hard to teach those kinds of lessons effectively to a child without modeling them, so here I go--constantly working at undoing my unhealthy perfectionist tendencies for the sake of raising a child who doesn't have to carry my personal baggage into the already-apocalyptic future that is her birthright.
To that end, I even read a serious, professional set of life coaching tips not delivered to me by clownishly dressed drag queens with rude cartoons doodled over them, because sometimes we have to do hard things.
My last post on the Magic Nutshell was very serious and sad, and sometimes that's what I need to be--for a limited time. After I wrote it, I looked up a Rolling Stone review of that old Bjork album I was playing in the car, and the reviewer concluded that Bjork had found a way to "grow up without growing old." I found that to be profound, and that is what I aspire to do too--to grow in wisdom without losing my youthful abilities to laugh, play, and develop new goals and passions.
Speaking of my youth, before all these gray hairs, before COVID, before motherhood... I wrote the Friday the 13th post below in the bohemian, hectic yet somehow carefree years after I had quit grad school and threw all my hopes into the delightfully delusional project of becoming a materially successful novelist, starting by participating in NaNoWriMo.
That dream did not die; it actually took me places, creatively, beyond my wildest dreams at the time. But my dream has required a few major rewrites since then. It's a joy and a privilege to be a person with mad editing skills.
Friday the 13th, 2009
We all know what that means...
Today's NaNoWriMo word count goal is 21,667! Is everyone else behind, too? Please say yes and make me feel better. It doesn't help that I am writing a spooky story about superstitious medieval villagers on this most inauspicious of days.
My plan is to dress in dazzlingly bright colors to ward off evil spirits and escape my writing desk this evening to attend an inspirational art show in East Lansing. Where there will be free food and drinks. If you're going to procrastinate during NaNoWriMo, you might as well make it a cheap date, right? (I mean, most of us aren't published and financially successful YET.) And semi-educational to alleviate the guilt monkeys' wrath? Right?
Well, fine, I don't care what you think. I'm outta here. Catch up with you at 25,000 words (halfway!!!) by the end of the weekend. Pinkie swear.