Did You Ask?

It’s a simple question that I find to be the catalyst for most solutions. I find myself asking the question to people in an unapologetic (and sometimes condescending) tone. “Jet, I didn’t get that thing that I wanted!” I often reply, “did you ask?” To elaborate, “Did you ask the decision-maker involved if you could have that specific thing?” Living in California, for the past eight years, I’ve had my fill of listening to people “ask the Universe” for what they want. More on that later.

Here are just a few examples of ideal times to ask for what you want:
Do you want your lover to be more affectionate? Did you ask? Were you specific? Did you leave nothing to their imagination/decrypting ability by conversation’s end?
Do you want to create art with/for a specific group of people? Did you ask? Were you specific? Are you resilient enough to not take it personally if said group doesn’t want to create any art with you?
Do you want to get stronger at an exercise after a fitness class humbled you? Did you ask the coach for homework (or any other help)? Most group exercise coaches work with many people 1-on-1. Most of us love our job and are excited to help those that want/ask for the help.

A word on expectations. You can’t have disappointment with equal parts expectation and assumption. My mother and I have had the conversation about conflicting expectations. I was sitting in front of her eating some food. She had a fork at the ready looking for an opportunity to reach in and help herself to some of my vittles. Hanger level notwithstanding, I was irritated at her attempts. I snapped at her that I found it rude to expect something be owed to you due to proximity. She responded with a laissez-faire, “well I think it’s rude to eat in front of someone and not offer them some.” Not sure if I should cite the generation gap or my mother’s southern upbringing for that difference in opinion. I truly believe that no one owes me anything. Thusly, no one owes you anything either. (It’s worth mentioning the fact that the world owes you nada. If I’m going to write about asking for what you want, I would be remiss not to point out that no one owes you shit. Not a damn thing.) When others find themselves wronged that I have not met their unspoken expectations, I just remind them that asking helps me to fulfill their needs. How does the story go? Partner A gets upset with Partner B since B didn’t know what A wanted as an anniversary gift. In that story, not only did A not ask, but A feels that they shouldn’t have to ask. B should just know! Can you say, “PROBLEMATIC”? *insert my horrid Mr. Rogers accent* “I know that you cay-an.”

I used to work for a company that was constantly ranked highly in Fortune 500’s best places to work (or WTF ever). Funny, not many of my colleagues agreed. During one of my reviews, I was asked, “How will you make sure that this restaurant meets the expectations of the guest?” I tried to get some clarity on the question, “don’t you mean exceeds the expectations of the guest?” They stood firm in their statement. I tried to explain that a restaurant can exceed or fail to meet expectations because we don’t know what the guest’s expectations are before they walk in. Therefore, we can only over or under perform. We can’t hit a target that’s hidden (read: unbeknownst expectation) unless it’s by accident (or if the restaurant were staffed by ninjas-it wasn’t).

I believe in asking for what I want and I’m willing to ask for the things that will make me happy. Does that make me selfish? No. Expecting the Universe to give me everything that I want just because I sit around and wish for it is selfish. Getting angry at people, lovers, partners for not meeting my expectations (hint: mind reading only happens in folklore, it’s not a real thing) is selfish. Say this out loud: “It’s all about me and everyone knows what I want without me saying a word. I will get all of what’s owed to me based on the merit of my awesomeness.” Did that feel really silly? Good. Recently, I asked for something I’ve always wanted. I’ve helped to plan surprise parties for a few people and they’re a staple of the American sitcoms that influenced my youth. I’ve always wanted one, so I asked for it. I asked 200+ of my friends to plan a surprise party between August 4th and 21st (my actual birthday). I called it the “Not-So-Surprise Party”. I gave them over a month to plan the party. There were a few close calls when I thought I was being duped into a party. But, each one was imagined not actual. By the time my birthday passed, I was all pouty-mouthed and butt hurt because there was no party. “You lousy, no good, rat soup eatin’ muthafuckas!”, I wanted to scream. But, I took some time to check myself and cool down for one simple reason.

The act of asking is not a magic wand for receiving. The next time you don’t get something for which you’ve asked, say this out loud: “Hey, at least I asked!” (“It can’t hurt to ask” is also acceptable as a preliminary pep talk.) Sometimes you won’t get what you ask for and you must be cool with it. If you find yourself back at the drawing board to ask for what you want a second time, the following details are worth examining. How did you ask? (Were you kind, clear, concise?) Who did you ask? (Did you ask someone that was capable of making it happen? You shouldn’t ask a store clerk to change Pottery Barn’s corporate policy.) Why did you ask? (If you asked for something that creates inconvenience for others, they may just not want to build you a scale model of the Eiffel tower-even if they are capable.) Where did you ask? (Did you ask for a day off in front of several colleagues? Perhaps the senior colleague wants that day off and is pissed because you didn’t cover their shift last week.) When did you ask? (Did you ask for a raise after the CFO dropped some news about being over budget?) After examining the how/who/why/where/when of your asking, you may just have to accept not getting the thing and suck it up. It’s true, you won’t get everything you seek. (It’s worth mentioning that asking should not be an ultimatum. Never hold the “or else” knife to someone’s throat when you ask for anything. Even if you get that dinner you requested the wine may be poisoned.)

Many of you may be familiar with the book and video “The Secret” that swelled in popularity circa 2007. Well, for any of you that paid attention to the gap in the story, you noticed that the action step was missing. Vision boards are a fun art project and they make it so easy to ask the Universe for what you want via a cut and paste ransom note made up of magazine clippings. If you ever took the time to make a vision board, you should never make fun of anyone that owned a pet rock, troll doll, or beanie baby. FTR, I made three of them shits. I made three goddamned Vision Boards. They’ve all found their way to the shredder by now. Hey, at least I asked. I destroyed them when I realized that staring at magazine cut outs as if I were planning a bank heist won’t actually create anything. I needed to take action and I can do that without staring at pictures pasted to multi-colored poster board. In the event of an action plan, I still have to ask. “Self, are you ready to take the necessary steps to become awesome? You are? Let’s do this.” I’m glad that I asked.

Ask for what you want. If you’re tired of litter on the streets, ask how you can help clean up. If you want to choke your lover as you enter her from behind, ask for her consent. If you want to be a burlesque performer ask about schools that teach the art of striptease. If you want to correct your client’s form without disrespect, ask for consent before touching them. Be smart about how/who/why/where/when you ask. Express gratitude when you do get it. Be cool with not getting it. Take action to make it happen (read: earn it) if it’s not given to you. Let’s not forget, be patient. The person(s) you asked may be excited to give you whatever you wanted… in due time. Remember that Surprise Party that I wanted? Well, my friends surprised the shit out of me when I walked into a friend’s house and was showered with confetti and love on August 29th. Since my birthday had already passed, I put the request out of my head.

To those friends that had any and everything to do with my surprise birthday party, I love you all so much. That party put some pep in my step and I’ve been feeling good ever since you all nearly gave me a heart attack. Seriously, my friends are amazing, loving/lovable humans that I wouldn’t trade for anything. These are the people I want to grow old with. Even if I move to another country, I hope that we’ll always stay close. Growing up with bullies and friends that turned out to be dishonorable I wanted a group of people that I could consider my chosen family. Hey, I’m glad I asked. I’m grateful for my chosen family and the serendipity that brought us together.

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Have You Started To Love Your Body Yet?

“How does it affect you?” It was a simple question that changed the way I thought (about everyone else). Some years ago, I was blathering on about how that person over there was doing that one thing that was annoying me. My GFATT (Girl Friend At The Time), asked the question that stopped me in my tracks. I don’t remember what I was complaining about. But, I do recall that I was in the habit of expressing (misdirected) anger through criticism of others. That was about a decade ago. I make better use of my energy these days. I still hear her voice in my head, repeating the simple question. I hear it when I make an unnecessary judgment. I hear it when others judge people.

“She is too old to be wearing THAT! I mean come on!” How does it affect you?
“Is he really wearing THOSE pants!?” How does it affect you?
“Is that a man or a woman?” How does it affect you?
“Are you really going to eat THAT?” How does it affect you?
“I hear that they have one of those open marriages!” How does it affect you?

“Am I black or white? Am I straight or gay? Controversy.” -Prince

How does it affect you? *spoiler alert* It. Does. Not. None of our judgments of other people’s habits, fashions, lifestyles, sexual orientations, dietary choices, etc. are worth the mental effort. I care if other people smoke, litter, or jaywalk. Those are just a few examples of things that have an indirect effect on my life. But, I have three challenges for you.

First, acknowledge your judgments. Yes, I am judging that person. What insecurity of mine am I using as a weapon with which to judge this person? Perhaps the judgment you make on others is a subconscious judgment you’ve made on yourself. Are you unhappy with your body? Acknowledge that if you find yourself criticizing someone else’s body.

Second, ask yourself the question. How does it affect you? If it doesn’t, then remind yourself that your energy could be focused on much more positive things. Try focusing the energy of judgment on yourself. No, that does not mean that you should judge/criticize yourself in lieu of strangers. It means that you can take that energy and uplift yourself.

Third, uplift others. Find the (aesthetic) good in others. As I walk through any crowd, I find it easier (read: less stressful) to seek the positive in everyone’s appearance and/or disposition. I’m usually the smiling face that’s swimming up stream thinking about what I like about the people I see. I’m not going to type any false sunshine and claim that *insert mocking tone* “I find everyone beautiful in their own special way”. While I can find something that makes me smile in every soul and on every body, there are times that I meet a donkey (read: jack ass) and I choose to keep my distance. Sometimes, I meet someone that has a penis growing out of his forehead *untrue story*. When that happens I remind myself in rhyme, “if I can’t think of anything nice to SAY sometimes it’s best to look AWAY”.

“Have you started to love your body yet?” It’s a question that I ask potential clients. I make it a policy to only accept clients that are focused on long-term fitness, self-love, rehabilitation, and training to be prepared for anything. The saying goes, “workout because you love your body, not because you hate it.” I’m not sure who said it. But, in my experience, I’ve never seen success come from a negative motivator. Will you run faster if a dog is chasing you? No doubt. Should you imagine that a dog is chasing you every time you go for a run? Please don’t. You’ll hate running faster than it will take you to finish a mile. Love your body, love your effort, love your motivation.

The most beautiful people I’ve ever seen were naked. Every so often, I find myself in a “clothing optional” environment. In those environments, I see self- love whenever someone sheds their clothes. The nudists realize that nothing on their body will affect the eye of the beholder. How will it affect them? The nudist gives zero fucks. In that apathy, I see beauty. The most attractive person is the person that finds themselves attractive. I’d like to re-type that, “The most attractive person is the person that finds themselves attractive.” You can’t just say, “I know I look good, Honey!” No, you must live, breathe, and embody self-love. Have you ever met a confident human with a strong will and positive self-esteem? If you have, then you know what I mean. That human is s-e-x-y. Not because of hair color, fashion sense, height, weight, muscular definition, or any other aesthetic. Nope. That human is attractive because they have no self-doubt. They hear the phrase “clothing optional” and rejoice in the freedom of nudity. The nudists are those humans that don’t concern themselves with the judgments of others. Now, before you assume that all of these nudists, to whom I refer, fit into some societal standard of beauty check yourself. The majority of the naked people that I’ve seen at these resorts would never be asked to grace the cover of a magazine. However, they were the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen because they found themselves attractive enough to not be concerned by the opinion of others.

The never-nudes were the odd balls. Walking through a group of naked people with your clothes on highlights your insecurities. There are many places you can visit with clothing requirements. Why make the journey to a place (that’s not easy to find) just to leave your clothes on? One person even wore a sweater… in August. This person wore a goddamned sweater! How did it affect me? It didn’t. I just found it confusing. Being beautiful begins (and ends) with self-love. Have you started to love your body yet? Have you taken the time to celebrate your naked and lovely body in the mirror? Well, maybe it’s time that you found yourself sexy. Just a thought.

No One Can Make You Feel

I’m always hesitant to use quotations. The use of quotation marks indicates that the words in between them are a verbatim retelling of what someone said (at least that’s one use). For any of you that have played the telephone game, you know that repeating what someone said can be challenging (especially verbatim). Sometimes person A will say to person B, “I want you to leave right now!” When person B retells the story, their perception changes the details. “Basically, person A told me to get the fuck out!”, person B will say. So, I’ve always been wary of direct quotes. The person passing on the details may be filling in the spaces with shades of their own perception. It’s also worth noting that people are often misquoted and those misquotes are repeated often enough to make everyone believe the incorrect version. With that disclaimer on the table, I’d like to paste the quote that sparked this blog.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou

This quote has often annoyed me. (Before anyone misinterprets, I’m not criticizing Maya Angelou. I just dislike the quote.) It’s an unpopular opinion, but no one can make you feel something. We are responsible for our own feelings and we need to have some accountability for that. I once worked for a restaurateur that always said, “perception is reality”. He was referring to the experience of guests in the restaurant. So, by that logic, if they say they waited an hour for a table (despite chronological evidence to the contrary) they waited an hour for a table. When the clock says 20 minutes and the grumbling bellies of people with low blood sugar that have allowed themselves to become hAngry says an hour has passed, perception is perception it is not reality. Because of that hour long wait, the subsequent Yelp review indicates that we made them feel unimportant. While there are many problems with that scenario, I first have to ask who is responsible for their feeling of unimportance? Who is the we in the scenario? We could be the host staff that was stretched thin, the table before them that took a long time to pay their check, the busser that took too long to clean/reset the table, the 3rd person in their party that showed up late (causing a delay in their seating), the list goes on. So, who made them feel unimportant? They did. In a situation like that, 20 different things could have gone smoother and they could have sat down sooner. But, as a former restaurant manager that has been in that situation, I can say that we never intended to make anyone feel unimportant. We all know what’s been said about (good) intentions.

Intentions is an anagram for Tin (as in, easily malleable) Tensions. The argument I’ve had, with more ex-girlfriends than I care to count, went something like this… She: “You made me feel bad.” Me: “Those weren’t my intentions! Doesn’t that count for something?” Of course it didn’t! How else could we pave the road to our private hell were it not for our good intentions? Whenever I hear the, “you made me feel…” argument, my response is always the same. If I had the power to make you feel a specific emotion whenever I wanted, wouldn’t I use that to my advantage and make you feel happy? Further, if the onus of another’s feelings is in the hand (or on the tongue as it were) of the person delivering the emotional catalyst, then that silver-tongued fiend could reap the exact same emotion from a multitude of people from different walks of life. Imagine this, the villain tells the victim something and victim’s feelings are hurt. The villain then conducts a sociological experiment and delivers the exact same insult or slur to 27 strangers. Out of the 27 strangers, fewer than 100% have the same response as the initial victim. What does that tell us? Based on life experiences, people respond to things differently. Therefore, the villain can’t be responsible for making them feel. They felt how they felt because of a multitude of circumstances. But, this is worth re-typing, no one can make you feel.

How does this make you feel?

Backstage with Xavier Bailey on the lens.

Backstage with Xavier Bailey on the lens.

It is important to mention that circumstances can cause anxiety or other emotions. However, even specific circumstances will only create a visceral response based on your individual experience. Let’s take the dark alley for example. Because of movies, pop culture, urban legends, and reading crime statistics, a dark alley can be frightening. However, if you arrived on this planet yesterday and knew nothing of the dark alley’s reputation, you’d have no fear due to ignorance. (Note: While ignorance may be bliss, what you don’t know can hurt you. Paranoia is bad, self-preservation is a basic instinct. Please don’t read this blog and go hang out in a dark alley like a jack ass.)

It’s worth mentioning that this blog was written for adults that have a base understanding of their own feelings. When it comes to children that are still impressionable and forming their views of the world, it is very possible to make them feel bad, good, otherwise. Emotional and verbal abuse are very real happenings that can change the trajectory of a child’s life. Just because people don’t get arrested for verbal abuse quite as often, doesn’t make it any less scarring.

“Hey, Jet! What about that one time when someone intentionally did something to hurt my feelings!? Isn’t that an example of someone else making me feel some kind of way?” (Quotation marks used with the permission of the imagined dialogue in my head.) Negative intention is a fancy way for saying, dick move. Please remember Wheaton’s Law (“Don’t be a dick.”) If I know that a specific offense will upset the person with whom I speak and I use that offense with the sole intention of making that person feel some kind of (bad) way, yes that makes me the dick. People show you their weaknesses out of trust. If you exploit that trust to hurt their feelings, that is an example of someone making someone else feel something. Or is it? When I was younger a bully found out I was ticklish. He tickled me every goddamned time he saw me and he was twice my size! So, one day I just switched it off. I stopped allowing myself to be ticklish. I made the decision to feel differently about that particular effort of his to control me. 20+ years later and I’m still not ticklish. No one can make you feel. You all know how strongly I feel about the Four Agreements. One of the most important is to never take anything personally. That’s another way of saying, don’t let the words/actions of others determine your feelings. I’ll leave you with another quote about being made to feel. Whether this quote is accurately credited or not, WhoTF knows. I just know that I agree with it passionately.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

Street are in Oakland, designed to make you feel (good).

Street art in Oakland designed to make you feel (good).