Tag Archives: advice

friday ‘finking | insecure me, insecure you

We all have them and they live at a particularly exact address: all over the cerebral cortex, with vacation homes in the frontal lobe and the limbic system.  You’ll often find them there, dancing a dancing plague with Oedipus’ and Electra’s complexes, hand in hand with unrevealed-yet Freudian slips and singing out loud tunes of past depressions.

Fears, insecurities, complexes, call them what you may- they’re a constant and they usually

a) come bundled up (where there’s one, it usually has friends- coocoo needs company, don’t it?);

b) are hard to get rid of- if anything, age and a combination of self-imposed “I finally like who I am now, I did two classes on self-discovery, it’s so great to embrace who I am” + a wide array of repeated self-fulfilling prophecies make them fatter, quicker to fire through our neurons and thirstier for those poisonous chemicals that support the whole thing;

c) affect us all- we ALL have them. Like I said, coocoo does need company.

So we know what they’re about. We try to address them by either confronting them straight up (you know, the classic I’m gonna jump out of a plane for my 30th birthday because I’ve always been afraid of heights. And I’m gonna start a support group for people like me, and I’m gonna write a blog about this experience, and I’m gonna throw a party for it because I-was-so-weak-and-this-was-sooooooo-liberating, haters gonna hate but I defeated the fear monster, ohmygodimsostrongnow) or by building smart, fluid, compensatory mechanisms to hide them from ourselves and others. Which is terribly human, and terribly ok- particularly when the result is self- awareness and acceptance that hey, not all of us mortals are perfect (and if we’re not, maybe others are not, either, so let’s play nice with each other, shall we?).

But when the playing nice does not happen, insecurities become more apparent, and we can’t help but notice them (it’s like staring at an ugly wound- it’s gross, but you can’t take your eyes off that damn pus). So here are a few signs someone in your life might have sensitivities towards you that you, the be-the-better-man should try to mind (if you can, that is. Sometimes knowing he/she is insecure doesn’t make it easier to deal with their grouchy, judgmental, unfriendly ass):

1. They like to take the opposite side (don’t be fooled by an affirmation- anything followed by a “but” is nothing but a contradiction in disguise: “yes, but…”)

2. They unassumingly, discreetly remind you how good they are at something. If you admire a new piece of clothing on a common friend, you’ll probably hear “hey, X, didn’t I help you pick that?”- or something along those lines.

3. They take their time introducing you to their friends or making you part of their outside-the-circle activities.

4. They’re askholes. Masked as someone with great intentions and respect for you and what you have to say, an askhole always asks for your opinion, but never follows your advice.

On the same note, they’ll try hard not to ever be in your debt. Whether that takes the form of them insisting on splitting the bill and paying back a gift with another (often more expensive, more carefully picked one) or by never asking for help (when you know they need it, and they know you would give it in a heartbeat), not owing you anything= power.

5. If you ever are so uninspired as to wrong them and fuck up, breach yourself. Doesn’t matter if your mistake is unintentional, if your dog died and you’re depressed, if you don’t speak the language or if you simply thought it wouldn’t be such a big deal- once they see you slip, they’ll prefer to think it’s because you’re badbadbad and will make it a mission to not only point it out, but find other victims of your destroying behavior and be their savior. Game over.

(Now, all of the above are points to look after in people who are close to you, whom you cherish and who care for you in return. If not, that means these behaviors are a pretty clear sign you’re not on the same page, and maybe you should be worried about whether they even like you… just sayin’.)

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ready, steady, fight | 5 reasons why conflict is good

Harmony? Not for me. Go ahead, boo. But enough with the zen, I say! (If only for the fact that this zen thingie is- and should remain- something to vie for, intangible- indescribable- and- absolute. All the hoards of seasonal seekers who pretend they are it do nothing but cheapen the hell out of an otherwise deeply meaningful philosophical concept. But that’s another story.)

I believe nothing good ever came out of harmony. True, it is most desirable, because it’s rare and yet easy on the brain (symmetry is the easiest on the eye, harmonies are the easiest on the ear, and so on) – but it’s also true that in nature, most things are unstable and balance is not only hard to attain, but also almost impossible to maintain.

Chemistry operates with instability. Chaos breeds creation. Conflict is what commends change. Big Bang, innovation, discoveries, evolution and revolutions alike happened because delta (the difference between what was and what had to be) was greater than zero.

Just to make sure we’re on the same page here, let me explain myself. To me, “conflict” is the existence of more than one angle to an issue, coupled with the high probability that more angles than one can be considered valid. In my book, conflicts are an imbalance that can very well exist in a benign, live-and-let-live state foreverandeveramen. But, more often than not, they get taken into action. Their manifestations, usually belligerent, range from a benign domestic debate to full-on international wars. This applied stage is what communism was for socialism: a twisted practical application of an otherwise inoffensive theory.

As a natural phenomenon and socio- political glue, I respect conflict. As a personal source of advancement and perpetual provider of fun, I also crave it.

Here are the 5 good things that, in my opinion, come from conflict:

1. Information– imagine, say, three people who know each other well and have the same views. If you’re trying to tell me that their talk about the weather, the last soccer game they watched or the color of their kids’ fecal matter is a conversation, you’re delusional.  After all, to converse comes from the Latin conversus, “turned around”. Information gets exchanged if, and only if the parties have different tastes, preoccupations and habits and, therefore, curiosities that need be fulfilled through the analysis of delta (in this case, the difference between what I know and what you know).

2. Therapy– not only you’re letting steam out about everything and their mother (sleazy boss? Shitty in- laws? PMS?), but fighting provides an occasion to spill the beans on everything you’ve been keeping inside on the subject. A heated argument is the only acceptable venue for becoming a little extreme, and when both parties do it it’s.. well, therapeutic. Out with the poison, in with the relief.

3. Productivity– in physics, the sum force of two opposing forces is the difference between the two- if the two forces are equal, the sum is zero and you’ve accomplished precisely shit. The smaller the angle between the two, the larger the sum force. I am not one to preach compromise, but I do have a streak of utilitarianism in me, and I do believe there’s always a middle way that may make all parties happy. But in order for that ideal, productive way to be found, differences- and conflict- need first be acknowledged. In other words, if there’s more people than you in a particular issue, chances are that the best solution for everybody is not exactly what you want- get over yourself and accept that.

4. Socializing– if you think your kid will learn basic social skills from you hovering over him like a freak and telling him “no, Billy, you need to share”, “no, Billy, you need to be nice”, “no, Billy, put your penis back in your pants”, you’re- again- delusional. Billy will wait until he’s old enough to close a door and the first thing he’s gonna do is slam it in your face. NONONO. What Billy needs is what we all grew up with- a cold shower. Distributed religiously, every day, by other kids. Only through trial and error will he learn what it means to be part of a group, of a hierarchy (commanded mostly by age, at that age) and a network and, most importantly, how he can influence his position in this network. Billy will also learn to talk, not talk, approve, disapprove, make friends, deal with enemies, stand up for himself, stand up for others, be humble, be proud, be competitive, risk, pay off, think, choose, suck up and suck it up. All- thanks to differences.

5. Make up sex. And this, my friends, is pretty self- explanatory.

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to give or not to give | a few thoughts on charity

Charity happened to me before I happened to charity. I come from a country used to rely on foreign aid, and then curse the donors for not sending better stuff. I remember looking at those big boxes of clothes and books somebody had willingly parted with, and painfully wonder who they were. As a kid, I was convinced that the kind strangers sending me colorful toys and (only lightly worn) Nike shoes are some soft, miraculous giants above all my imagination and power to comprehend. I could swear that their world is magical, wealthy, happy and rich in colors, smells and tastes (as opposed to the cold, grim, grey, decrepit reality outside my own windows).

Their gesture of giving us things, from afar and anonymously, had such a heavy impact on me that I would sniff the clothes I got over and over again, lost in a thin haze of comfort. I remember looking for traces of pheromones and memories- memories that, when designed by my own little 8 year-old mind, made me weep. I remember feeling a strange combination of sorrow (for myself- for needing their rags, for never getting to know what the other world was being like) and admiration (for what, I took as  selflessness- because I was convinced that somewhere in the world, someone is running around barefoot so I can have their shoes).

Things are still very important to me, although, since I did not grow up putting tags on people based on what they own, I don’t identify with things and I’m easy to give them away. I still prefer to receive gifts that belonged to someone, rather than new items. And, as soon as I get to a place where I feel I have enough, I share. I’ve been doing that since I was 8 and I rallied my entire second grade class to collect toys and sweets for the kids in our local orphanage (remember the stories and documentaries about the abused orphans of post-communist Romania? Those ones.). I believe in sharing. And I believe in charity at its decent, manageable, zero-overhead best.

Nowadays I’m tackling one charity project at a time, some by myself and some through others, and I’ve learned a lot about how different and how far apart people’s perceptions are of charity.

Here are my thoughts:

1. The result is the most important part of charity. If at the end someone’s life is easier thanks to you, that’s all that matters.

2. What you feel like and your image are not (as) important. What people think of you for doing charity work, whether they question your intentions or not, whether you get their praise or not is not important, and shouldn’t be why you’re doing it- if you ever forget that, slap yourself and go back to #1.

3. Needs and wants are relative. Do not judge someone else’s level of comfort, happiness or need based on what you would like for yourself. Sometimes a hungry woman does not need an art class to make her feel better, but food- so do not impose your charity on someone just because you have a pathetic, annoying, patronizing itch to save someone.

4. Remind yourself to give. If you need a prompter to be good, make sure you put it in your phone calendar, or your Google calendar, or your wall calendar- whatever works. We are all not born Mother Theresa, and there’s no big shame in getting caught up with life and forgetting about the less fortunate- just make sure you take all precautions and find ways to remind yourself-or force yourself- to give. It does wonders, really.

5. It doesn’t matter why people give. You shouldn’t care whether they’re some big shots trying to launder money, or doing it for tax purposes, bragging rights, or to see their own names on a plaque. You should also try and not think too much about why some of your friends and relatives were not so supportive. In both cases, remember #1.  And stop taking it so bloody personally.  And- more importantly- keep asking.

LATEST PROJECT: Cambodia orphanage renovation, May 2012
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who’s the bitch? | 5 rules for introducing your new date

I tend to get estrogen flowing around me- and that means men become more normal (as in, they don’t feel like slapping their dick on the table), and women become more aggressive. IT’s (yeah, that’s right, I’ll call it “IT”, all caps, that’s how big a role IT played in my life so far) somewhat funny and sometimes burlesque, specifically since when the women see the men getting gentler, they sometimes get insecure and that makes them even more aggressive. Depending on the group, it can be a neverending, drama-ridden dynamic that makes for some damn fun parties.

I don’t know where IT is coming from, but IT has been there since I was a child. Maybe IT is my fearing almost nothing. Or maybe IT is that I only believe what I can see and hear myself, so I don’t usually make prejudged calls about anyone (tabula rasa, ring a bell?). Or maybe IT is that I’m aware of my body and my inner self and truly curious about anyone new, mind and body alike. Whatever IT is, IT’s a treat that makes my friends make fun of me, and helps me make new friends based on how long it takes new people to get over IT. And when I meet one who can act normal around whatever screwed up pheromones I’m oozing, it’s usually magic. On both ends. Continue reading

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frenchkiss my pug? | 5 rules for pet owners

I knew all the animals I ate by their names. Oh please, take your judgmental self somewhere else if that offends you- my story is definitely not written for your sensitive nose.

Where I come from, people are still living on farms, with no plumbing and off the land. Our animals are there with a purpose, respected for what they bring, and dearly loved. They roam around freely, have a job, have names and, when the time comes, they take their turn providing for the family. And when they die, nothing, NOTHING goes to waste- meat, bones, skin and feathers- everything is used. The simple act of transforming an animal into food is hard and ritualistic, and I remember my grandpa always saying a made-up prayer before every milking of Dumana, our cow, or every killing of a chicken.

No, the functional side of breeding and using an animal is not barbaric (but you know what is? Only eating chicken breasts, like that’s all chickens are made of. Or calling yourself a vegetarian while still eating fish, as if fish are not animals- for your information, they are. Look it up). There’s a bittersweet, primordial interdependence between humans and the animal they breed that is most organic, and as old as humanity itself. Butchering, although not sexy, is a part of life.  Continue reading

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