Look for teddy bears on the subway.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I made the conscious decision to throw my whole self, everything, into work. Work has always been a core part of me, for better or (mostly) for worse, but this decision was explicitly a defence mechanism against the terrifying, uncertain backdrop of 2020.
And work did become my everything. And I can recall few times in my life where I felt so exuberant. It was intoxicating!
The excuse of “performing for capitalism” let me bring my whole self, in the same way being drunk can also allow that excuse. Even at the time, though, I knew it wasn’t about anyone else or even for anyone else, and that it wasn’t even a performance… it was me letting my exuberant baby finally come out to play, and claim love, and make a mess.
Over time, this devolved into a very intense but ultimately destructive friendship with a coworker. I found myself eroding my own boundaries of what was appropriate, questioning my relationships, etc. etc. I’m relieved that “nothing” ever “happened”, but I feel an intense pang of shame any time I see a headline about some shit like “emotional infidelity”.
Since that whole situation unravelled, I’ve completely shut down. Anytime my inner exuberant baby makes itself known, I back away fast. My whole thing lately has been "why fucking bother". Another defence mechanism, for sure.
I’m so thankful to BWL for sharing their story and for this Ask Polly response: allow yourself to feel everything without holding on to shame; fill your pockets with smooth rocks that always look like gems when wet but transmute into soiled, misshapen stones when dry, and appreciate them just the same; remember that "it doesn’t have to be this way" and that the exuberant baby is still in there.
Personally, I feel like this response gave me permission to try again, and I sincerely hope BLW is able to try again (and again and again) to allow themselves the spontaneity and exuberance that’s already at their core. <3
Oprah needs to get on this shit.
Every time I read something by you, Heather, I think it's my favorite of all time. This is it. <3 <3 <3
This made me cry and I needed to hear it, so thank you. Heather, are you a Vonnegut fan? Your sentiments sometimes remind me of his. In this case, two specific quotes: ”A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved” and secondly “I tell you, we are here on earth to fart around, don’t let anybody tell you different.”
Aww this was so good. I often think of that young, drunken, exuberant feeling of possibility and how it feels so far away as a middle-aged adult. Especially with the last 3 years and how frayed human connection has felt lately. Honestly I think if someone would start a middle-aged dance club (Saturday nights, 9-11 pm, plenty of seating, not too loud) we could reclaim that feeling.
Goosebumps! You have such an amazing talent, both for writing and for explaining. I see a common theme in your letters, which is: love yourself, be your own best friend, trust yourself. I feel like this is the secret to life, and no one talks about it. I’m so glad you are here doing this work.
When I was young, I took a personality test and rather than it telling me who it was, it gave me a glimpse of who I wanted to be. One element of my wannabe personality was being a risk taker, but how would I do that? (Listening to "Dogs in the Yard" on repeat only made the yearning harder). The lightbulb went off above my head one day: To become a risk taker, I started taking risks. I forced myself to do things I thought someone with my wannabe personality would do. I did a mix of dumb, irresponsible things that had not-great consequences, and awesome, adventurous things that made life worth living. I gave my exuberant baby room to play.
Now, many years later, I realized what Polly explains so well, that I was giving me permission to be myself and to know that myself was worthy of all the love. I no longer need to "go out of my head somewhere" (that song is forever stuck on repeat in my head) because I became happy within my head. I do lots of wild things and lots of mundane things and they're all magical. I wish the LW an adventurous life.
Crying. How I needed this today!
Thank you for putting this into words. Especially the alcohol part. If I were to save one letter of Ask Polly column FOREVER and carry it in my pocket, it would be this one ♥️♥️♥️♥️
Well that was just goddamned lovely. Wow. Triple Wow. Boy do I relate to so much of this! I’m glad the writer asked the question. It’s a good and valid one. I agree with the response. When I was drinking in my twenties I was so naive and emotionally needy and lonely inside, but it came out as anger, rage, violence, judgment. I was run by fear. I love this acronym:
FEAR: Fuck Everything And Run
FEAR: Face Everything And Recover.
It wasn’t until I got sober that I was able to truly, honestly face myself. That, slowly, led to self-love, trust, forgiveness. It was a journey. I think you’re very right that the writer shouldn’t be hard on themselves. Life is hard. Emotions are complex. We’re only human--deliciously flawed and weak and beautiful.
Seeing the teddy bear in everyone: Yes!!! Good God we need that message, especially now, in our fractured, polarized country.
Love is the only way through. Allow yourself to fail. To be imperfect. To be alive in every degree.
‘The Incompatibility of Being Alive’
This post made me cry. Thank you.
I believe that I am going to be the lone wolf here howling into the wind. Because of a life that I once led, I will not criticize the morals of my fellow man or woman. Two adults had consensual sex, and perhaps it had a positive effect on the young man. We know how he feels but we don't know how his married partner feels. She is just as important as he is.
So, we have ascended to the peak of the mountain of sexual pleasure, and now there is only one way to go, and that is down the other side. Sisyphus made it to the top of the mountain while pushing his boulder, and now he must prevent the boulder from toppling down the mountain and leaving a path of
destruction in its wake.
Drunk sex is rarely good sex. In men, it can lead to temporary erectile dysfunction which takes the "fun" out of dysfunction. One Night Stand is frequently so torrid that the man may have not used protection. If so, his partner may be bringing home a host of STDs, some which can be cured, others that will stay around forever, and others, such as Chlamydia, which can only be transmitted by sexual contact with an infected. That is a gift that gives on giving, and it's tough to come up with a dog and pony act to explain how the person got infected. And, don't forget syphilis, gonorrhea, HIV and the human pappiloma virus.
Keeping, even a ONS, secret is very hard to do in the Era in which we live. He was at a party, got drunk, and had sex with a married woman. Keeping that a lifelong secret will not be easy. There must have been guests at the party who recognized the both of them. He will probably brag about his night to his friends, and most women have one or more BFFs that she will tell.
And then there is the cherry on top of the sundae and that is called a baby. Maybe the woman's husband had a vasectomy, so now what?
I hope that everything works out for him, because eventually the tale of the ONS is going to rise to the surface.
Cried while reading and trying to not berate myself for developing feelings for another person (and then engaging in a very one sided entanglement). It's been a sh*storm of terrible, ugly crying and some very dark thoughts. Yet, I'm still here, as the song goes. (RIP Elaine Stritch, who covered I'm Still here at some point, bowled me over with Ladies Who Lunch, and who forever will be one of my spirit animals.)
Thank the flying spaghetti monster (though I'm more of a fusili guy myself) for good friends and these columns. Embracing the inner baby and trying to be gentle with myself. Too bad crying doesn't burn calories. I'd be thinner than a dollar bill.
Fascinating as ever, the continued theme of wrestling with "shame" which runs through not a few of these and other columns and continually haunted (in good way) by the Declaration of Joy Independence signed by this author in a past post: "I'm Broke and Mostly Friendless..."
In this case here I can't help but wonder if the questioner would have ever written in or been so introspective IF the love had been "requited", whatever THAT means NOW in this moment and the hell with the therapy culture we are breaking new emotionally charged sound barriers every fucking minute it would seem.
Your observation regarding the self destructive tendency to narrate "throwing on the pile with others.." is obviously solid advice but in other hands may have turned a more chastising view towards utilising this escape hatch and again especially if this affair had took on some traction.
Love this stuff. You post betting lines here?
Amazing!! i relate so much to your relationship with drinking/alcohol. Also your piece reminds me of this guy: https://www.instagram.com/reel/Cn7xGEsDi3Y/?igshid=NzAzN2Q1NTE=
DAMN this one hits 😫🥴👶