Your gripes, grievances, and pet peeves have been sorted and documented. Readers of your blogs know who have wronged you and how to get on your wrong side. You call people and things as you see them, never sugarcoating. You’re a candid, open book when observing the world outside, and it’s not always a comfortable read.
Things get even heavier on the inside. You’re often the antihero of your own story, but who knew? Like so many, you rarely dwell on your darkness. But it’s time to turn that laser focus inward and call you out on the sort of things you’re always pinpointing in everyone else.
You regularly get ripped apart by strangers in the comments under your articles, but no-one who actually knows you has devoted a hundred or more written words to your imperfection since your final New York City ex eviscerated you by email 13 years ago. Oh, and there was your good friend who said she loved your memoir Is It True What They Say About Black Men? but just couldn’t with the main character. That was harsh. At least she still gave you five stars on Amazon.
You’ve had it relatively easy when it comes to critical friends and acquaintances, which might be great for your thin skin but not necessarily conducive to self-improvement. The potential upshot of this letter to yourself? By dropping the mask and finally baring warts and all, you might be able to start zapping them. Maybe you also can inspire others to hold a magnifying glass up to their own blemishes and banish them.
There’s a lot of rough to smooth over (we could easily devote a thousand words to your jealous streak and to what that smile everybody seems to love is really hiding), but we’ll start smallish and stick to 10 problem spots. Shall we begin? Fasten your seat belt. This is going to be a bumpy write.
1. You worry too much — about nothing, about everything. Brooding over what may or may not come to pass ignites your sleeplessness, your hypochondria (see number two), and your anxiety (number three) while fueling your miserablism. Some people are stuck in the past. Your doom and gloom is that you’re constantly lurking in the future. “Que sera sera” is easier to sing than it is to embrace, but you don’t even try. No wonder you keep ending up in the ER thinking, Game almost over. And that brings us to the next two…
2. You’re a hypochondriac, silently (and sometimes loudly) crying wolf. It’s always been an issue with you, and it used to be kind of quirky-cute. But when you’ve got doctors mocking you (shame on them!), it might be time to pull it together. Yes, death is everywhere. That’s scary. But it’s not even death itself that terrifies you; it’s the uncertainty of not knowing how it will claim you. Years ago, a palm reader told you that you’d live a long life, but it would end in a lengthy illness. Now you sit around wondering which ache or pain will make her prediction come through a few decades too soon. Is that life worth living, or is it a life worth changing?
3. Your mind plays nasty tricks on your body — and you keep falling for them. Panic disorder is no joke. Anxiety can be crippling for anyone who suffers from it chronically, but why does one of them have to be you? Is it a heart attack? Is it a stroke? Is it appendicitis? Why do you feel like someone is reaching inside your chest and twisting? Why are you suddenly sweating and shaking? A trip to the ER generally alleviates the panic, but you know it will return tomorrow, different time, different place. Walking back from the hospital, you look around at everyone living life and wonder: Why can’t I be more like that… normal and sane?
4. You’re too impatient. Where are you going, and why do you have to get there RIGHT NOW? One of these days, you’re going to step off the sidewalk while trying to escape pedestrian traffic and get mowed down by a car that sped. As Morrissey sang in the great Smiths song, stretch out and wait. But you’ve never even really paid attention to the lyrics because you’re always in such a rush to get to the next song.
5. You just can’t live in the moment. Someday when you’re once again on the 9-to-5 grind, you’re going to look back at these months of freedom and wonder why you didn’t enjoy them more. Everything always eventually falls into place for you. When will you learn to just trust in fate and let the universe run its course?
6. You’re always racing against time. Work deadlines are real, but life ones aren’t. Why are you constantly judging yourself against other people who are the same age as you? Would you rather be living their lives? The grass is never as green as it appears to be on the other side. The only way to keep yours green is to keep watering it and not let yourself get distracted by your neighbors’ immaculately landscaped lawns. Who knows what kind of a fortune the upkeep is costing them. I know you can do this, but I know that you won’t.
7. You’re a terrible communicator — and you call yourself a writer. You’re an expert at presenting your opinions and innermost thoughts in writing, but when it comes to oral dialogue, you stumble and get tongue-tied. It’s probably why you hate talking on the phone. Maybe it’s the lifelong stutter, or that a large chunk of your childhood was spent listening to other kids taunt you about the way you talked. You’re a big boy now, and the cat still keeps getting your tongue. Is that why you hate cats?
8. You have a difficult time processing criticism and compliments. Not everyone is going to like what you do. Not everyone is going to like you. That’s a fact of everyone’s life. For a loner, you sure do care a lot about what other people think. What’s up with that? And why does one shady word or harsh look weigh so heavily on your mind for days, weeks, months, as if all the kind things people say about you don’t matter. Why don’t you believe the lovely things people say about you?
9. You don’t give people a chance. Your mother was right. On your 28th birthday, on the way to dinner with you and your friend Dave, she read you like a book. She said you give up on people too easily, and that’s why you were chronically single. Dave agreed. You didn’t disagree, but you silently vowed to try to change. You haven’t tried hard enough. You’re still bringing down the curtain well before the end of the act. It already cost you the love of your life, and it just might cost you any more loves in this life.
10. Your inner climate control is out of control. OK, this one you don’t really have any control over. Or do you? Does all that worry and anxiety and impatience and stress you carry around send your sweat glands into overdrive as soon as you walk outside on a hot summer day. You’re fit and trim and in excellent shape (according to the doctor at the end of your latest ER visit), but no-one ever seems to be sweating as much as you are. Keep calm and chill the fuck out. You may become a much better person for it, and you might even stop coming home drenched.
Keep calm and stay dry.
With (tough) love,