Someone in my life recently checked in with me to see how I was doing — how my life was going and my family was faring.
The person came from a place of kindness and support, but I could tell there was another layer to her inquiry.
She shared that members of a community I’d been a part of for a number of years had been spreading some rumors about my family and me.
These were assertions about my marriage being on the rocks. They also expressed that tilt-of-the-head, self-righteous concern about my children and their sense of security and stability.
Then there was the raised eyebrow and hushed tone that I’m either leaving my spouse or have decided I’m a lesbian because my hair is a) very short and platinum and b) I work out most days of the week and I look healthy and beautiful c) I travel alone sometimes for work or leisure (totally a lesbian move 😉 ).
I am a big believer that most people are often much more concerned about who they are and what’s going on in their own lives than looking into another person’s life for too long; but we are, after all, humans.
We’re curious. We have opinions. We judge. I get it. I do it myself. We’re just people trying to make our way in the world.
It’s what happens, though, when the opinions and judgments pass the lips (or the keyboards) of one person and their words land in front of others with an intention to tear someone down, dismantle their personhood or belittle (or even dismiss) her growth or progression in life.
That’s when something else is going on. And what’s going one really doesn’t have shit to do with the person being judged or scorned.
It is, as we tell our children when they encounter the same social assaults in their own lives, about the person who is perpetrating them.
It rolls off the tongue so easily when we comfort and teach our kids — particularly our daughters — when we want them to rise above small-mindedness or another person feeling uncomfortable or threatened by who they are or how they inhabit the world.
I think it’s more challenging for us grown girls when we encounter the same nonsense and have to process how we feel about it; decide what (if anything) we’ll do about it, and what we’re making it mean about who we are.
When I think about the night I heard about the rumors surrounding my family and me and how I reacted, I feel proud of who I am and how I processed that information.
My first reaction was that I was confounded — as in, “who gives a damn about what we’ve got going on in this household to talk about it to others?”
We’re awesome, but we’re kind of boring. I mean, I have chili in a crock pot right now for dinner. I’m not on an airplane to Europe (yet) and my husband is presently on the couch watching football. Not much to see here.
Then I felt somewhat amused. The more outspoken and blonde I get, the more, it seems, some people have a reaction to it.
I live how I want to live and look how I want to for me (and it’s cool if you like it, too, but I’m not led by that); I stopped using fashion or hair to get the world to “see me” back when I was a teenage girl.
I found it interesting that the information that was shared with me about the gossip focused more on my comings-and-goings and half-clothed photo shoots than anything at all about my husband. He who sings in a rock and roll band past midnight in dive bars. He who rides motorcycles through the neighborhood.
Those things apparently weren’t of concern to the people saying things about my family; but when a woman shows up for life, carves her own path and celebrates living in every way she can — for some people, this means something is amiss. Must be, right?
When I transformed my life five years ago, the weight loss was actually a physical manifestation of a deep, internal transformation.
I was carrying extra weight in my life in terms of my striving to accomplish things I thought I “should” do or what I thought was expected of me by imaginary (and often impossible) standards I had held onto for years.
I had some exacting expectations for myself that didn’t serve me and I cared deeply about what people thought about me.
I cared about whether they thought I was smart enough, attractive enough, tough enough, empathetic enough, creative enough — I was always swimming upstream towards enough-ness.
There’s a buzz in our culture right now around “not giving a fuck” or “giving zero fucks.” I love the spirit of it, and the intention and meaning I choose to put behind those catchphrases is not about being cavalier or acting like I don’t care at all about something.
When I texted my friend Jeff about the rumors, one of the things I wrote to him was that, obviously, if I was venting about it, then I cared. I ended the thread, though, by saying this:
“I don’t like it, but really, I only give a few fucks…and I’ll get over that : ) “
So, here’s two things you need to know, awesome person reading this and maybe asking yourself, how do you get to a place where something like that doesn’t take hold of you for hours? days? weeks? months?
I was once a woman who did let something like this not just bother me or take up brain space for weeks at a time — I let it change the way I did things. I got more quiet. I was apologetic. I would begin to hide. I would feel embarrassment or shame. I questioned myself relentlessly — to the point of confusing myself.
I would tell myself I was too much of one thing and — wait for it — not enough of something else.
Do you see this double bind? The trap? Are you in it and how does it affect you?
If you gave yourself permission to give, say, five fewer fucks than you give right now about something that you’re facing in your life, would you be more free?
I’m being funny, but I’m not being funny. It’s serious business, being who you are. To get to a place where I truly gave very few fucks about gossip that came from a supposedly faith-based group of people, it has taken practice.
And I know some people will say “nah nah nah, lady — you obviously give a fuck because you wrote this — why give your time and “energy” to this and people who don’t like you or how you live?”
And what I have to say to that is this: I never said I completely disembodied myself from this or disowned the feelings that came up about what people said.
I gave a few fucks, but not many — and not nearly as many as Laura Wagner from 2010 would have, for sure. And if I decide I want to defend my honor in the face of people throwing shade, then that’s what I’m gonna do.
I wish people would stop passively telling women to shut up by saying things like “you are acting just like them if you respond” or “don’t waste your time.” I will design and handle my own way of not giving a fuck — you don’t get to make the rules for me.
I came to this place by working on asking myself better questions, thinking powerfully, knowing what I really wanted in life (and why) and taking action to claim it and live it.
It all starts with being aware of what your mind is telling you and being curious with yourself versus judgmental and down-and-out. That’s what I teach people when I coach them; it’s my mission to help people set themselves free.
And that’s really what not giving a fuck (or giving just a few : ) is about. It’s about hearing the noise, processing it and getting back to the business of being committed to who you are and what you do give a fuck about.
It’s about deciding that you’re so steadfast in living life on your terms that you are willing to be seen as different or wrong and you’re going to “do you” anyway.
It’s saying, “I know who I am and what my life is, so I don’t have time to give a fuck about that.”
People who are bored out of their minds and insecure within their own lives should check themselves before they cast aspersions about a woman who is excited about life and deeply in love with who she is and what she’s made of herself.
People like this woman — like me — will consider all of that vocalized boredom and insecurity fiercely, calmly and elegantly.
And then I will continue to shine my light even brighter in your direction. Right into your eyes, as a matter of fact.
And I will give zero fucks when you complain that I’m blinding you.