Are You Unlucky?

Sometimes, I do want to think that things are outside of my control.

And I’m not necessarily talking about situationally, well-I-did-all-I-could-now-all-I-can-do-is-wait-for-the-results kind of outside of my control. I’m talking about higher powers than teachers or employers or friends and family. I’m talking about luck, this idea that some people do well in this world because some force outside of their control has decided that their worthy.

I think we all like the idea of being lucky, and we’re consoled by the idea of being unlucky. When something goes wrong, then that’s okay; we just weren’t lucky, there was nothing else we could have done. When something goes right, then that’s great; we’re lucky, and things are going to keep going right for us. Either way, the result was outside of our control; we didn’t necessarily have to do anything to earn it, we just earned it by way of existing. For some people, this might be a comforting thought.

But at the same time, it isn’t really true.

Not everything is always within our control, of course; sometimes things just happen, whether they’re bad or good. Sometimes we are subject to the choices that others have made. Sometimes we lose something, or someone. Sometimes we can control what happens to us, but not always. Not often, in fact, and trying to control everything will only make the world that much more frustrating for us.

Life is a game with too many players, too many chances, for us to be in control all the time.

So when bad things happen to us that we can’t control, why wouldn’t that be because we were unlucky?

Well, in my opinion, it’s because these bad things don’t necessarily have to be bad things. We sometimes get so lost in this idea that life has dealt us a bad hand, life is being so unfair, we are so unlucky and doomed to be unlucky forever, that really, we create our own suffering. We’re so focused on the idea that we’re unlucky, and so that is all we see: terrible luck, everywhere. But the truth is, bad things happen to everyone, at one point in their lives or another. And maybe this is a rough patch in your life. Maybe things are a little bit harder right now than usual. But things like that happen to everyone at one point or another; you have not been singled out by the universe.

And more than that, I am firmly of the belief that even bad things have their purpose and meaning. And, yes, I know that can be a controversial statement for some people: people want to know what the meaning for some of the world’s most terrible crimes can possibly be, and I don’t have a blanket answer for every single scenario. But what I do know if that, in my life, my greatest suffering has been used for a purpose. I learned from my mistakes, lessons that I never could have even imagined if I hadn’t gone through them. I took my pain and I used it to relate to other people in a similar scenario, to help them. I do not regret a single tear that I have shed, because they all led me to where I am today.

So, ultimately, I don’t know if the bad things in our lives can necessarily be labelled simply as ‘bad’, not when they have their good sides as well. They most certainly hurt, yes, and they might require time to heal from, but they don’t have to be entirely negative aspects in our lives.

So when you fail, when you get knocked down and suffer loss and betrayal, can it be said that that was entirely bad luck? Is the scenario bad because it caused pain, pain that you may eventually heal from, stronger and smart than ever? Or is the scenario bad because you have decided it is bad? Are you unable to see the potential growth and change that it can offer you because you are too single-mindedly focused on the pain?

Flowers grow from mud, after all, but not if you stunt their growth and ignore them.

And I know, the world isn’t even as simple as all this: saying that all you need to do is change your perspective and focus on the good is all fine and dandy in a world where mental illness doesn’t exist. But, unfortunately, we live in a world where it does, and depression and anxiety sometimes does all it can to obscure our vision of the good. But, again, from my experience, that doesn’t mean that the good isn’t there, and that doesn’t mean that you can’t train yourself, try, to see it. All you need is time, patience, and practice: just keep looking for it, even when it seems impossible.

And, of course, you aren’t always going to see it, even if you don’t deal with mental illness. Sometimes the pain is still too fresh, too raw. Sometimes the good is hard to find, or far away, waiting to be discovered at another time. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t try to look for it.

Finding the good won’t magically turn the situation good, either. I’m not trying to say that we will consistently have ‘good luck’ throughout the rest of our lives if we do this. All that I’m saying is that we won’t consistently have ‘bad luck’; we’ll just be. Sometimes, things will hurt, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t grow from it and that doesn’t mean that all of our lives are pain. Sometimes, bad things happen, but that doesn’t mean that we are unlucky or that only bad things ever happen to us. That’s just the way that life is; messy and complicated, but not awful. Not so long as we train ourselves to see the brighter sides that do, most certainly, exist.

 

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You Don’t Own Me

You cannot possess me.

You cannot tell me how to think or feel. You cannot dictate where my heart goes, or where my eye wanders off to.

I will not give you the book of my life and allow you to write in the blank pages for me. Because those pages are mine, they were given to me to fill out in whatever way I see fit. And you may feature as a character in my story, but you cannot control the story.

You shouldn’t. And I hope you don’t even want to.

Because, my dear love, I spent so much time in a cage already. I sat there, alone, cold, confused, wondering why I couldn’t see the blue, blue sky that everyone outside the bars spoke so highly of.

I wanted that sky. I spent so long, dreaming of the breeze that my feathers would find when I had the opportunity to stretch my wings. I just didn’t realize that I couldn’t fly while in that cage.

And one day, I realized it.

And I broke the cage.

And the one who placed me there, he was so mad, he told me that I was wrong for doing so, but I didn’t care. Because while he screamed, I was looking up, and I could see the sky for the first time ever. And it made me realize that I never, ever, ever wanted to be caged up again.

So please, I beg of you: don’t do that to me. Don’t even try. The moment I catch the briefest hint of iron bars, I will spread my wings and I will be gone, because that is in my nature, beloved. I do not want to leave you. I do not want to be alone forever. But more important than that, I cannot be caged.

I won’t allow it.

And you will whisper sweet words to me, try to tell me that you are mine and I am yours, but I am not yours. I will never be yours. I am mine. I belong to me. I control my heart, my thoughts, my actions, my life. I will never surrender to you completely, so much as you may want me to.

You are your best thing” – Toni Morrison.

And I love you. I want to love you. I will love you. But I do not want to own you. I do not want you to be mine. Because you are yours, you are your best thing, and I am my best thing, and together, we will be two great things existing alongside one another, supporting one another, making each other greater and stronger and beautiful, and we will build an empire with our most marvellous power, because together, you and I can do it, I know we can.

All I ask is that you let this happen. You let me happen. Don’t stifle me or belittle me or try to make me less than what I am. Don’t try to put out my flame; I will only burn you.

And if you try to put out my flame, then believe me; I want to burn you.

Why “My Girl/Boyfriend Won’t Let Me” is Problematic

In many relationships, two things tend to happen: 1) you will change over the course of the relationship, and 2) you will find that you need to respect the opinion of your partner. This is just the nature of life in partnerships, and I am not going to argue that either of these things are a bad thing. Really, they don’t have to be. Change can very well be a good thing, it can be a sign of growth and development, while respect is absolutely necessary in creating a happy and harmonious social environment.

But that being said, I do have a growing pet peeve when it comes to relationships that involves both of these things.

These pet peeves show up most often in the form of little comments, things like: “I wish I could change my hair, but my boyfriend won’t let me”, or “I can’t go out tonight, my boyfriend won’t let me”, or “I don’t really hang out with that person anymore, my boyfriend doesn’t like them”. These sorts of comments usually earn from me one of two responses, either “dump him” or “he’s your boyfriend, not your father”, but to be honest, these comments trouble me a bit more than I tend to let on. Not because I think of it as a sign that the relationship is abusive or that either party in this relationship are inherently bad people or anything like that, but it does reflect an attitude that I find somewhat troubling: this idea that one partner in a relationship can and should control the other.

And although I focused primarily on women in the given examples, this can happen to men as well. And I’m sure that this happens in many different ways, taking several different forms depending on who is involved, but the way that we tend to think about most often, stereotypically speaking, is an intentional attempt from the female partner to ‘change him’ – to make him spend less time playing Dungeons and Dragons with his buddies and more time being suave and cool or whatever it is that she intends for him to do now. I can’t personally speak to how accurate this stereotype is, but I’m sure it does happen. I think we’ve all heard the tropes that when it comes to women, they ‘like a project’, they want a ‘fixer-upper’.

And, personally, I take issue with this idea for two reasons: 1) maybe he liked playing Dungeons and Dragons with his buddies. Maybe that made him happy, and yes, you also make him happy, but differently. You aren’t his entire source of joy in this life, and you aren’t making him a better man by taking the other sources away from him. And 2) chances are, you entered into this relationship knowing who he was; shouldn’t you love him for who he is? I mean, yes, we are all flawed, and he might have some habits and hobbies that are kind of annoying, but asking him to stop doing something that he enjoys is entirely different from asking him to pick up his dirty socks off the floor; one matters to him and the other doesn’t. You don’t have to join him in the hobby; you don’t have to understand it; you just need to respect that it matters to him.

But let’s get back to the little comments that I’ve heard women make about what their boyfriends will and will not let them do. Because while these two examples are similar, both of them getting back to this issue of control, they are also very different. The latter example that I gave about one partner intentionally changing the way that the other lives is very overt, and it does require a bit of consent on the changed partner’s part – how rational and well-informed that consent may be is another matter, as they might be agreeing to go along with everything just because they’re so in love at the moment, but nonetheless, consent must be given to make this very obvious, blatant change. The first example is much more subtle.

The first example is limiting what the other partner can and can’t do in small ways, ways that can easily be ignored or brushed off at first, but that build up over time – making them ask for permission instead of an opinion.

And don’t get me wrong, it is perfectly fine to consult with your partner about making plans or changing your style or hanging out with a specific person. You can ask them if they had any plans, what their opinion is, etc., but at the end of the day, the decision should always be yours. This is your life, your body, your friends – you have the ultimate say in what happens with all of it. And if your partner is actually getting outright angry with you because you have respectfully made plans with someone else or because you got a haircut, then that is a totally separate problem and it isn’t fair to you.

The reason why this is such a pet peeve of mine is because, in relationships, the issue of control seems to come up often, but I am personally of the belief that neither party should be in control of the other. Too often, we romanticize this idea that every couple is two halves of a whole that is only completed when they’re together, but this isn’t true. Every single couple in this world is made up of two completed, totally whole individuals who are just trying to make all their quirks and weirdness mesh well together, and both parties in the relationship should be treated as though they are both whole, both capable of making decisions for themselves.

You do not need your partner to make decisions for you. You should not let them make the decisions for your own life. Because you are a partnership; you need to work together. You need to respect one another, and part of that respect comes from respecting who they are as a person and the fact that they are fully capable of taking care of themselves. And while you’re together, you very well might change, but your partner should not be the one in control of that change.

I Long For Selfishness

I long for selfishness. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.

I don’t ask for an insane amount of it. I don’t want the solar system to revolve around me. I don’t expect to have others forgive me when I cause them harm. I don’t want to take it too far, to be cruel or harmful. But I want to be selfish. I want to be an individual.

Through most of my life – maybe all of my life – I’ve lived for other people. The words “I don’t want to be an inconvenience” have been on my lips so often that they might as well be tattooed there. I’ve made decisions based on what other people want, not me. I’ve allowed myself to be lied to and manipulated until the world that I lived in wasn’t mine. It was built by others, formed out of expectations and good intentions, but all in all amounting to little more than regret and my own personal loss of power.

So now, I long for selfishness. I long to make my own decisions, even if they’re stupid ones. Even if they’re irrational and emotional and wind up leaving me bitter and alone, at least they’re my decisions.

I long for these decisions to be made with only me in mind, and maybe that’s why I’m so afraid to attach myself to someone. Because once I fall in love, then it can no longer be about me. My decisions must involve another, and that’s the only thing I’ve ever known. I’ve never done anything big for myself, never done the thing that I, personally, wanted to do, and I long to do that. I’m tired of being attached to people. I’m tired of having to make everyone happy at the expense of my own contentment. I’m just so fucking tired.

I long for control, to do the thing that makes me happy even if it doesn’t make anyone else happy. I long for a life that is completely my own.

The only problem with all of this is, I have no idea where to start.

What My Eleven Piercings Mean to Me

“Oh, I just noticed that you have your lip pierced,” says the guy who I’ve been talking to for a couple of hours now.

“Yeah, I’ve got I few piercings,” I say back. Eleven, to be exact, but I’m not particularly in the mood to count them just then.

“And… what do they all mean?”

What do they all mean? My piercings are something that I’ve been collecting for a while now, things that I switch out and redo at random, but it’s never really been something that I think all that much about. I’m fiercely protective of them, sure, refusing to take them out by anyone’s will but my own, but I’ve never really wondered why until then. What do my eleven piercings mean to me?

Well, I don’t know about now, but I remember what the first one meant to me. I remember being the only girl in the fifth grade to show up to school with a nose ring. I remember being so proud to show it off, thinking that it made me cooler somehow, that the tiny hole that I wore in one nostril somehow entered me into a secret society of badasses that my classmates just couldn’t understand.

I remember being so shocked and delighted when I asked my mom if I could get my nose pierced, and she actually said yes! “As long as it’s okay with your dad,” she told me, and it was okay with him so long as the jewellery wasn’t too big. I was so thrilled.

But you see, the problem is that I broke the jewellery-can’t-be-too-big rule, and my dad was never quite so accepting about piercings after that. I spent the eight years following my first piercing just struggling to get more. Every once in a while he’d consent, and I’d walk victorious into the tattoo shop, throwing down my money to get stabbed with another needle. Sometimes he’d be particularly difficult, and the only thing that would keep me from taking out one of my sewing needles and doing it myself was a book that I had read once where a girl tried to pierce her own eyebrow and damaged the nerve endings in her face, paralyzing half of it. No, it was best to leave it to the professionals, I knew that well, so I tried to be good and patient, even when I wanted nothing more than to take the stupid option.

And then my eighteenth birthday granted me the gift of my body, and so I filled it full of metal and called it my own. When a nose ring was no longer weird or shocking, I got a surface piercing, and then a septum ring. I’d take them out and put them in according to how I saw fit. I decorated my form the way that I, not anyone else, wanted.

I suppose control has always been a big thing for me, and that’s definitely a factor when it comes to piercings. Its the control of pain. The control over your own definition of pleasure. The control over your own body to a very deep, very personal level – the sort of control that no one can ever fully take away from you. In order to be comfortable in my body as a woman, I definitely think I needed something like that. Some little piece of metal in my skin to remind me that I could do with myself as I pleased and nobody could take that away from me.

My eleven piercings mean that I am free. They mean that nobody can tell me what to do, not anymore, and I will go forth into the world with that knowledge. I will go forth with control over my mind, over my actions, and most importantly, over myself. And if ever I start to forget that lesson, if I ever let someone come into my life and start to tell me what to do with it, all I need is to look in the mirror, at my face filled with metal, and remember.

And the thing is – there are a lot of people out there who would attribute different meanings to my piercings. They would say that I’m looking for attention (aren’t we all?) or rebelling against something (not so much ‘rebelling’ as taking control of my life), or that I’m somehow incapable of performing a job because of them (as though the tiny, sparkly diamond in my lip has ever made it difficult for me to smile and be polite). They would ask me why I mark up my pretty face like that, call it a waste of good beauty. But, really, it’s none of that. It’s me. We’re all born looking the same, all roughly human-shaped and typical, but I’m not the same, so why should my earthly shell be? Why can’t I show on my skin my search for freedom, my struggle for control? Why can’t I make my outside match my inside?

So in answer to the question that you asked a few days ago and that I needed time to think about, Guy-Who-I’ve-Been-Talking-To-For-A-Couple-Of-Hours-Now, my piercings mean absolutely nothing. They say nothing about my personality, about my abilities, about my morals or place in life. But they do say a little bit about my story. They’re personal to me, a part of me. They’re as much an extension to my body now as my fingernails and toes, and to part with them would be a loss to me. And if you think that they look ugly or unprofessional, then I’m forced to respectfully disagree. I think they’re beautiful, but at the same time, I don’t think that they’re necessarily meant to reflect or improve upon my physical beauty, as much as a woman’s physical beauty is all she is judged upon. No, instead, they’re meant to reflect me.