The Courage To Piss People Off

chelsea

She would never piss people off…

Something I’m currently working on is the courage to piss people off. (Isn’t that nice?)

But as a precursor, let me say this. Since starting this blog, here are three things I’ve learned:

1) The people who dish it out the most, can usually take it the least.

2) People think it’s great that you’re writing! [Except when you write about them... Then it's bad. Very, very bad.]

3) Most people spend their lives saying different, often conflicting things, to different people. In other words, they weave tangled webs. And like the fragile gossamer that they are, these webs need protection.

So they protect these webs with their lives.

And instead of getting real with themselves, and everyone else once and for all, they imprison themselves with those sticky webs, instead.

I used to be one of those people. I’m not anymore. Or rather, I am continually working on losing my webs and stopping myself from spinning more. So, it’s a process. I falter at times.

And in the process of becoming a person who doesn’t weave tangled webs, I’ve still got a few remaining tangles to untie. I consider them the growing pains of coming out of the closet as someone who isn’t going to tell you one thing and tell someone else another.

I finally realized that not being completely honest and up-front was the cause of basically all of my so-called problems.

It’s not that I write and post (after editing a million times) without realizing that what I write is going to be seen. It’s not by accident that I write what I write. And just as likely as being seen by the masses, they’re going to be seen by the people I know, and love, best.

That is the scariest part of writing; not writing for thousands of people who will either love you or hate you. Your audience presents itself, based on their personal inclinations and preferences. If they love you, they’ll stick around and remain readers. And if they hate you, they’ll leave. That’s a fairly painless process.

It’s dealing with people you know and care for, who have differing opinions than you, that it becomes very fertile ground for disagreements and other uncomfortable discussions. Sometimes people would rather stake a claim in a mental stance, than agree to disagree. It often comes down to that old idiom, “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?”

I just want to be myself. Because that’s all I can really be (and that’s all you can be, too, if you take the time to figure out who, in fact, that is). And let the people who like me, gravitate, and the people who don’t, move away.

That takes more courage than it sounds on paper, but it also frees your life for more compatible people to come on in.

My number one thing in life is to not take myself too seriously. The moment I can’t laugh at myself, I know I’m in a bad place. (And then I try to tickle myself, but do you know that doesn’t work?)

And opposite of what most other people do– get defensive, put up walls, and get really pissed off, I’ve come to learn that the part of me that starts taking myself too seriously is the part of me that I need to toss to the wolves. That’s the bullshit part I can stand to part with.

It’s not a place worth protecting at all costs; on the contrary, it’s a place worth a search and destroy mission. I want to surround myself with other people who are okay being written about– with love– and who don’t take themselves so seriously. People who are self-aware and secure enough with themselves, to realize that friends can have disagreements and that doesn’t mean the end of a friendship.

People who can stand on different sides of the fence and still hold hands. (Okay, that sounds so cheesy but I kind of love it at the same time.)

It may not seem like it, but I have a code of honor for my writing. It’s that I throw myself under the bus, first and foremost. I think it’s pretty evident I tear myself apart in dissection to get to what I think is the root of the matter. But the corollary to that is that if you’re in my life, you’re fair game for me to write about (usually, I’m kind enough to give you a pseudonym).

I know this is just me, and I’m super fucking weird, but I write about my life. It’s the only thing I’ve got. I’m just not that skilled at living someone else’s.

In my own twist of things, that means I write about the people in it. If you’re special enough, I write about you. I mean it as a compliment, though it isn’t always taken as such.

This is a process, because it’s a process of weeding the people out who ultimately aren’t in alignment with my vision for my own life, and probably for theirs, too.

If you’re someone who has a huge ego to protect, you’re probably not going to gravitate to me because I can sometimes be a polarizing figure, which tends to knock pretty quickly against the good old e of the go. That’s okay. It’s kind of like a skunk spraying to keep predators away… And my writing is the stench.

I don’t personally place value on privacy anymore. I think that the concept of privacy is essentially contrived and based out of fear. I make a point not to life my life in fear, but to live my life in love and faith that everything will be okay (because everything already is, if you’re willing to let it be).

The idea of privacy is our way of protecting ourselves against what other people think, or from what we ourselves think and don’t want to face or admit. I know that’s radical, and I know some people will bristle against that concept (obviously, they want to maintain their privacy, the mask they’ve created for the world). But it’s what I have personally found to be true.

Privacy is one of those things that has come to be strangely prized, and for anyone to say otherwise is sort of like un-American or communist or something. And at this point in my life, I strive to be an open book as much as I possibly can.

Being one hundred percent true to myself is not always fun. In complete honesty, sometimes, it scares the shit out of me. But the alternative is shittier– living a watered down life. I don’t like watered down drinks, and I don’t like watered down life. If I’m not infusing myself one hundred percent into it, then I don’t know why I’m here. I wasn’t given a brain and a mouth to ignore one and keep the other one shut.

And if you refuse to put what other people think of you before your own opinions, then privacy (or lack thereof) is not an issue. Privacy and basically, maintaining an image is only actually problem if you maintain more than one persona. That is, if you’re kind of a fake.

I understand privacy in terms of the law and that if you’re smoking pot, it’s best not to do it in front of a police man. It’s also good to avoid drinking wine that isn’t cleverly concealed in a canteen while in the middle of class. But in terms of trying to create a public versus private persona, I now have very little interest in doing that.

It’s too complicated, for one thing. And if anyone knows my ability to lie or keep secrets, they will attest that this is, in fact, beyond my skill level. And for another, it just doesn’t seem real, or like it will ultimately lead to anywhere that I want to be. In the past, people-pleasing has gotten me… To probably the exact opposite of where I wanted to go.

My ultimate goal in life is to be the same one person, to all people. And to treat all people, regardless of age or social status, likewise. I don’t always live up to that standard (obviously), but that’s essentially why I do what I do, and what I try to keep in mind as I do it. Above all else, I just want to be real.

Regarding people dishing it out and not being able to take it, I’ve found this again and again to be true. The people who are quickest to criticize are also the quickest to go off when they perceive any sort of criticism. I’ve noticed this in myself, as well.

Whenever I’m quick to point out something I think is “bad” or “wrong” about someone else, is when I’m not feeling great myself. Because when I’m feeling great, life is great, and all that I perceive is great. It’s the lens through which I view the world that tells me what I see.

Conversely, the more closely I’ve had to look at myself through my writing, the more I’ve realized where my weak spots that I’m trying to protect lie. It’s easier now, when a friend is giving me advice, for instance, for me to feel myself tensing up or getting edgy when they touch upon something that I know is true, but am not ready to admit.

This is called self-awareness. It’s not always comfortable– in fact, it usually feels like ants in your pants with a huge wedgie– but for me, the opposite of it, which I guess would be total ignorance of the self– is no longer an option.

I’m also a big believer in the fact that I can think you don’t know what you’re talking about, and we can disagree on an idea, but I can still love you. That doesn’t boil down to what I think about you as a person. And besides, I say stupid shit all the time– that you’ve probably called me out for– in your head or, less frequently, out loud.

Usually, when I’m totally blunt with someone, it’s because I think they’re a big enough person to where they can handle an adult discussion without shutting down and becoming offended, and that our friendship is much stronger than the weight of my honesty on a rather trivial topic.

Again, it may seem like a backward compliment, but when I respect someone, one of the first things I assume about them is that they have a wide perspective, tons of wisdom, and can laugh about things we might disagree on.

It’s actually kind of my new favorite thing.

Wars have been thought over concepts of the mind. In fact, that’s the only thing wars have ever been fought over.

I just say the things that people think but never want to bother to say.

(Not all people. But some.)

Here’s an example of how I was even stupider when I was younger. (Those are always fun.) Back in my youth, I used to think shy people were way better than me. I thought they were so nice and sweet and by comparison, I was a disgusting heathen with a cruddy disposition. Turns out the truth is somewhere in the middle. I’m not saying shy people are evil (just semi ;) ).

But I don’t think they, by virtue of being less inclined to speak their minds, have any less “bad” thoughts than a loud-mouth like me. I’m just the type of person to speak– and then kick myself for it (or sometimes I even kick myself, then later realize I actually did agree with myself in the first place, after all). And they don’t ever have to worry about kicking themselves because they never said it in the first place.

And added to that, they never put themselves out there for correction by others. I have this theory that people who never speak their minds, have a ton of dirty things on them, but they’re sometimes too afraid to be perceived as being wrong or less than perfect, so they hold it all in. It’s like another, opposite form of egotism.

So I finally realized, through years of observing a series of snide remarks and quiet digs, that shy people actually do think a ton of shit about people– they just don’t say it! In fact, I would argue that I’m personally better off being the person of verbosity that I am. It’s like how dogs in the dog park get into fights, then literally shake it off. I say what I think, sometimes I’m backed up and sometimes I’m in the minority, but it gives me a chance to let it out and then shake it off.

That way, I don’t have a million pent-up ideas or emotions running rampant through my mind and my veins, that never have an outlet for exhaustion.

Because I often just put myself out there and say what I think and feel, I am getting feedback all the time. Sometimes that feedback makes me take a step back and say wow, I actually fucked up. Now I’ve got to fix it.

But sometimes, that feedback makes me say, wow, I just pissed someone off, but… yeah, I still stand behind what I wrote (or said or did). It acts as a check and balance to the things I’ve got going on. If I never said any of the things I thought, I think I would have a lot more clogged energy up there that didn’t have an outlet for me to realize it, and correct it as needed.

My big mouth is like Metamucil for my thoughts.

So yes, I say things. Sometimes it’s a huge hit with people and puts undue pressure on their bladders (in terms of my funnier remarks), and sometimes it throws people off (and then I never hear from them again). But I say what’s on my mind. (And yeah, I know I owe some of you a fresh pair of Depends.)

And that makes me a bad guy for some. And it sucks on one hand, because I really don’t like making people dislike me. Who doesn’t want to be liked? Life is so much easier that way!

But on the other hand, collecting friends who don’t actually like me for me (the real me) doesn’t seem like a good enough reason to stop. I can’t forsake myself and what I feel is the truth, just because some people, even people close to me, might not love what I have to say. I’d rather be disliked for what I am, than liked for what I only appear to be. (I’m aware that’s basically a re-write of a well-known quote, but it’s the essence of this post, and so is included as such).

I think if they want to be truly happy, people should start being more honest. First with themselves, then with the people around them.

What’s with all this subterfuge? Can true happiness possibly exist around it?

When it comes down to it, real relationships are not based on lies. And basically, I want real relationships in my life. I have a strong aversion to pleather, non-alcoholic beer (honestly, I don’t understand the reason for its existence), and fake relationships. Life is too short and my days are too busy (seriously, I can’t comprehend how, either) to be filled with anything but things that are real.

This doesn’t always make my life easy. I was on the phone with my mom last night and as we were talking, I kept thinking about this person whom I adore but I know she isn’t thrilled with. And I knew, knowing my mom as I do, that I could totally just make the conversation so nice and pleasant if I avoided mentioning their name. Or at least, I could have saved myself a ton of “Yeah, I know, I know’s” worth of back-tracking. But the distance between my mouth and my brain is like, amazingly shorter than anyone else’s. It’s like verbal diarrhea (isn’t that a great visual?). An insatiable urge for which I’ve yet to find the cure.

So of course, I brought up their name. And then I had a ton of minutes of back-tracking of “Yeah, I know, I know’s”. What can I say? It’s what I do.

When something is really on my mind, it’s hard to stop myself from expressing it. Perhaps, even impossible… but I don’t know that for certain, because I’ve never actually seen that much value in pretending to be something I’m not.

When I’m thinking something, it’s like my brain can’t focus on anything else until I spit it out. It can’t function, and the entire exchange with that person is totally meaningless if I can’t be real in that moment.

(That’s also when the swear words start flying.)

Why should we bother with communication with someone if what we’re communicating isn’t expressive of our current truths? To me, that’s the only good reason for communication.

Cool example: today, I met a girl walking on a trail with her dog (I just so happened to have mine, too). Right away, we clicked. I said like, maybe one sentence and she picked up where I left off. Within seconds, we were completely open and honest and saying the most ridiculous things to each other. We clicked. Just like that.

Because we were both exactly on the same page, and being totally real with each other, there were no walls or boundaries. I would have gone back to her house for a sleepover, that’s how much I felt like we were in sync. After talking with her for twenty minutes, I felt like I’d known her all my life. It was so nice.

That actually happens to me quite a bit, now. The more I write, the more I’m forced to confront myself, and the more open I am on paper. This translates to being more open in the real world, which translates into fast friendships and unlikely encounters with just the right people.

You can think I’m defective in this way, but I think people who spend their lives lying and trying to remember who they said what to, have totally bastardized this great gift of spoken and written word that separates us from other species. If you spend your life in that aforementioned web, you’re really fucking up… in my humble opinion.

At least, that’s my experience. Because when that’s how I was living (keeping myself compartmentalized and just telling everyone what they wanted to hear– and my words changed depending not on how I actually felt, but more along the lines of who I was talking to), it was a constant drain on my energy. And it never went away.

There’s no way you can be happy living in a mess of your own making. And having different versions of yourself scattered around your life, is not all that different than the man who comes home on a Friday and puts on high heels, mascara and a heavy-handed dusting of NARS blush (in Orgasm, of course).

My writing is like cleaning out my closet: I’m making one huge disastrous mess of things, and then whatever and whoever is left afterwards, I know is a keeper. You’ve got to be willing to discard what is simply good, or just okay, for things that truly fit you and your dreams. Whether it’s your idea of the way life should be, or the things you want to have the freedom to be able to say to the people in your life, putting your desires out there and being honest with yourself, and everyone else, is the only way you’re going to get what you actually want.

If you don’t like what I write, I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings (truly, that’s not my intention).

But I’m also sorry that something I write probably as a joke, or at least for sure with some sentiment of generally good intention and thoughtfulness behind it (even in brutal honesty at that moment) is enough to scare you. Because that’s what being “offended” really is. It’s being scared that someone has somehow degraded you– within your own mind. And it must be within your own mind, because if you didn’t perceive it as being so, then it simply wouldn’t be considered offensive.

So if you find yourself feeing defensive about something I wrote, that’s because I simply touched upon something that’s already within you. I hit one of your preexisting fear buttons. I can’t create anything in you; only you can do that.

Getting offended means getting scared that someone has the power to change your own opinion of yourself.

Admittedly, I have a way of setting them off in some people, which is why I generally try to surround myself with the non-reactive types. One thing I pride myself on: I can dish it out, but I can also take it. I float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. (Has anyone ever used that before? That’s kind of good.) I roll with the punches, whether I’m giving or taking– it’s a constant battle, to let my guard down enough to admit when I’m wrong, and to also maintain my ground when I know deep down that I’m right.

If you’re conscious, other people can’t create wounds for you. They can only touch upon those that are already existing. That’s one of the greatest freedoms we have as humans: to choose our own beliefs. If you believe something that someone says is enough to sufficiently scare you into believing it yourself, then you’re easily offended. And you’re living life in that moment through your ego. My whole thing in life, my hobby, if you will, is to break down the ego as much as possible.

The ego is what keeps us from being real. And for me, it’s beginning to feel like a face mask that got too tight. (Really. Like that Aztec Secret mask I use that makes my face so tight, if I crack a smile, the whole thing cracks. I have to abstain from running my own jokes to myself sometimes when I have it on. ;) )

And yeah, in terms of getting offended and having our personal “hot spots”, we all do it, and we’ve all got ‘em. I just try to be aware of when I’m getting upset, and why. And I almost always realize that no matter how “wrong” I think the other person is, it ultimately comes back to me and how I’m choosing to perceive their behavior. So because I’m in that place, that’s the most authentic way for me to be with other people. I’d rather have one real relationship, than ten in which I’m constantly walking on egg shells.

(Besides, I can’t walk on eggshells because I put all of mine out to compost.)

The other thing to know is that the more I love someone, the more I make fun of them– and the more likely I am to write about them, too.

Call it a character flaw, but it’s one hundred percent verifiable (just ask my sister– the pharmacist ;) ). In fact, if we’re talking about getting offended, you will know I don’t really care much for you if I don’t tease you. (So maybe you should get offended that I didn’t bother to say something potentially offensive. That’s called apathy. Yes, please get offended at my apathy.)

I just can’t have fun in a relationship without having that aspect of openness and humor, so it’s basically my number one most important thing in any person in my life on any sort of close-connection basis.

Life, for me, is about two things: love for yourself and relationships based on love (and taking pictures of my dog…). In my family, we show our love by making fun of each other.

It’s so ingrained in my love perception, that the other night my sister brought someone over to meet me, and it turns out, the guy could totally make fun of himself, and he could hold his own with me and my sister in regard to our particularly inappropriate and/or stupid jokes. He also immediately took the piss out of me, which I’m fine with because I make fun of myself just about as much as I make fun of anyone else. He was probably the coolest guy she’d ever brought home. So naturally, I told her she had to marry him. I don’t think that is actually going to pan out.

But he really stood out to me above the others because he could dish it out, but he could also take it. It was the first thing I noticed about him, and I find that an extremely important trait in a person’s emotional composition.

Simply stated, people who have a sense of humor (which, by definition, must include the ability to make fun of themselves) are my favorite. And people who take life too seriously, well I think they’ve got their priorities a little backwards. But that’s just me. And that’s just them.

C’est la vie. But give me Bill Maher or Chelsea Handler or Kathy Griffin or George Carlin any day. If you can look life in the face fearlessly, and laugh at the shit in life that makes you question the existence of beauty, then you’re pretty okay in my book.

My life philosophy is that life is too important to take it seriously. And I stand by that, completely seriously.

And yes, saying what I think is definitely bad news for some people. But it also means that when I really like or love something, I don’t hold back about that either. I’m totally unabashed in my love for certain things (or people). I don’t really have a neutral-switch.

And when I love someone, I really go to town in making the person know it. So when I’m talking about honesty, I don’t mean just the freedom to say “Oh hey, that sandwich you made sucked! Hard!!”– which, I would not technically say because that’s not constructive criticism. (And plus, no one ever makes me sandwiches. Which is kind of baloney…)

I would just as likely find myself saying, “That sandwich was the best sandwich I have ever eaten. Hands down. Super good. I love you and I love this day, thank you and praise ‘the lord’.” Which I can say, and be totally honest because I have such a short memory that no doubt, in that moment, I am one hundred percent believing, thinking, and knowing, that it’s the best sandwich I have ever eaten (and all that other shit, too).

To me, that’s part of being a fully-integrated being. That doesn’t mean you have to give it all up, all of the time. You don’t have to say every single thing that you think (I should take note of that advice). But the things you do say, should be in alignment with how you truly feel.

If you’re stressed or unhappy, try looking at the places in your life where you’ve said one thing and done another, or talked badly about someone, only to find that they just did something nice for you. Chances are, if you’re not feeling good, it’s because what you’ve been saying and what you’ve been doing are not correspondent to one another. Perhaps the single greatest source of your unhappiness could be a discrepancy between your inner and outer worlds.

Writing and making it public has helped me get much more into alignment with myself and how I actually think and feel, and what’s important to me. Because when you’re putting it out there for the world to see, it’s got to be something you really stand behind. I’m actually a pretty sensitive person (surprising to some, and unfortunate at times, but true nonetheless).

And contrary to what it may seem like if you’re a super-easily-offeneded person who flies off the handle on a whim and thinks everyone’s out to get them, I’m actually not out to make people upset.

I only put myself in that position when I think there’s an actual value in taking that risk. I don’t post things for the sole purpose of making people mad–ever. It is always with the reason that there is a point to be made, and that it will make people think. That it will, however so slightly, stretch their current view of the world, and even if they disagree, perhaps it will make them think.

One of the most important things in life is not learning what to think, but learning how to. I’m pretty sure Eleanor Roosevelt said something to that effect, but regardless of whether or not she did (I can’t find it at the moment), that’s an idea I stand whole-heartedly behind. It’s not whether or not you agree with what I have to say– sometimes I don’t even agree with it after awhile.

(But most of the time, I do. In fact, most of the time I find myself writing the same thing over again, if I forgot that I’ve already written it– that’s always a little bit of a hoot.) But it’s whether or not your mind is open enough to read it and accept that there’s a small possibility that there’s a kernel of truth to it, or that whatever you’re reacting to in me– is actually in you.

For my part, when I react to someone, I know why I’m doing it– it’s because they hit one of my buttons. That’s right, one of my pre-existing ones. As in, one that they did not create.

When I write, I write for a reason. So if I’m taking that risk, it means I think what I have to say is important enough that I’m willing to accept it may cause some people to dislike me. That might not make what I have to say any more palatable, but there is thoughtful intention behind it.

I’m the first to admit that I make mistakes– continually (repeatedly, as a matter of course). But ironically, the things I’ve written that have seemingly annoyed the most people, are things that I stand behind the most. I write with full intention.

And believe it or not, I never actually write anything for the sole purpose of pissing people off.

I write to make people think (and because writing what I think tends to make me a little less crazy, but only a little), to make them step out of their assumptions, and to make a point. I know that making people mad is a possibility, but that’s not my reasoning behind it. That’s just a handy side-effect. And if I may add, it’s a side-effect of all things that have the potential for change.

If you’re not at least a little bit self-aware, this writing won’t be for you. And you’ll get offended.

And you’ll think to yourself how shitty I am for writing that and you’ll huff and puff to all your friends.

That’s okay. I’m not asking for your agreement. Because I only write what I personally know to be true. And I don’t write with malicious intent; if that’s what you read into it, you’re probably projecting.

It’s also amazing (in a good way) that just when I’m bummed that something I said annoyed someone (because hey, I’m human and sometimes it does stink when I think people are going to understand where I’m coming from and they totally miss the point or the tone or humor or whatever else of brilliance I threw in there), someone else will tell me how much they enjoyed reading what I wrote.

So even though not all feedback is positive (how can it be, unless you’re just writing about how good chocolate tastes– oh wait, some people are allergic…), it’s still cool when the universe throws you those little bones just when you least expect it.

Like the other day, I was stressing about something, and then I got a message from my friend saying that she just discovered her husband religiously reads my blog–while on the toilet. I felt like I’d just taken a hit of E. (If you knew how much of their lives they spend on the crapper, that’s like, the biggest compliment ever given.)

So, that’s also why I have to write such long articles… Because I have a responsibility to the man who probably didn’t eat enough fiber.

But I’ll try not to let it go to my head. And maybe you can incorporate my blog into some of your other activities. I hear it’s great while standing in line at Disney Land. And you don’t have to wash your hands afterward…

In all areas of life, there are times when you’re going to piss people off in order to do what you feel you need to. And I’d even go so far as to say it takes a certain amount of courage to piss people off. Not to be an asshole for the sake of being one– but for having the faith to go within yourself and find your truth, and then stand behind yourself when other people disagree. But as with most things in life, if it’s really easy, it’s probably not worth doing.

So, yeah, I’m not everyone’s cup of tea.

But if you are everyone’s cup of tea, you’re actually just, sort of…

water.