How to Be Less of a Controlling Assh*le

(Speaking from experience.)

The other morning, I woke up and started getting ready: washed my face, brushed my teeth. I walked back into the bedroom to get dressed, and John was still asleep. It was 7:30 on a Monday, so I woke him up thinking surely he needed to be doing something. I proceeded to make coffee and breakfast tacos, and then shouted to John from the kitchen that I’d made breakfast. No answer. I texted him a picture of the tacos in a stance of stubborn passive-aggression. No answer. After a few minutes, I was fuming at the thought of this breakfast I had so thoughtfully thrown together getting cold. I went to the bottom of the stairs and called his name.

“John? I made breakfast!” (How sweet of me.)

I could hear in his groggy reply that he had still been asleep, but he hopped out of bed and came downstairs. We talked a little about our days ahead, and I asked what his schedule was like. His first class was at 11-something, and then he had another class that afternoon and a group meeting.

“Are you gonna workout today?” I asked. He said yeah, probably, but it would most likely be that afternoon.

My mind started crafting this story about what he’d do as soon as I left for work in a few minutes. The fictional story went that he would sit on the couch for a couple hours until his class, watching golf, drinking coffee, scrolling social media — and suddenly I was so mad at him that I could hardly look at him as I said goodbye for the day. As we parted ways, I pushily, irritatedly suggested maybe he should just get his workout out of the way this morning. And he did. As soon as he acquiesced so easily and kindly, it clicked almost instantaneously that I have a problem.

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The Irony in Getting What You Want

Once upon a time, I interned at a magazine in its editorial department. It was my senior year in college, which I like to think was just yesterday but, in reality, was nearly three years ago, and I was pretty sure I was winning at everything in life. I interviewed fun entrepreneurs and interesting professionals, wrote several articles a week, and was certain I was the next Diane Sawyer (print edition).

I wanted to work for the magazine more than anywhere else after I graduated — so badly that I even applied for the receptionist position, which made about no money and obviously had nothing to do with journalism. From my whopping seven hours a week spent in the office, I was positive the people and atmosphere were everything I could ever dream of in a first job environment. (Clearly seven weekly hours is enough to tell something like that, right?…)

It all seemed ideal, except for this one girl.

She was a full-time employee, and I worked with her on a couple fact checking assignments. I knew her job vaguely revolved around fact checking and data analysis within the editorial department, and I can clearly remember watching her walk down a hall one day with a sullen look on her face, a norm, and thinking to myself, I would hate to have her job.

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4 Things I’ve Realized Since Moving to Nashville

We’ve been in Nashville for just more than one week. This time last Tuesday, the moving crew we’d hired to unpack our Uhaul had already wrapped up their end of things, and John’s parents and my mom were heaven-sent as they helped us start ripping open boxes and finding places for everything to go.

Piper blending in with her new surroundings.
Piper blending in with her new surroundings.

The kitchen was especially tricky—my mom offered to pay the movers if they stopped bringing in kitchen boxes (and that was after we’d already pared down our combined kitchen stuff prior to moving). I’d estimate we had about 15 in all devoted to the kitchen. Yet, somehow, they made it work and, most importantly, fit. I say “they” because I can take no credit for any of that magic our moms worked in there; if it had been just John and I unpacking ourselves, I can guarantee there’d be at least nine kitchen boxes yet to unload.

Having grownup grownups there (I know I’m an adult but parents seem like realer adults) was such an amazing thing. Plus, they all got to meet for the first time since John and I began dating about two years ago. It was a long time coming, and I’m relieved that both of our parents know now we come from good people, something I’m sure they believed, but it’s nice to have had everyone meet finally.

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Inspiration, Where You At?

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My ideal weekday would be this: wake up at 6 or 7 a.m., make coffee and a healthy breakfast, write for two to three hours, head to the gym for a solid workout, go home, shower, work some more (writing, answering emails, planning), go to happy hour or dinner with friends, read for an hour or so, and go to bed. Maybe throw in some Real Housewives to that lineup, too.

That probably sounds like the most boring schedule imaginable to a lot of people, but for me—holy smokes—that is a dream. (Also, I’d make sure my weekends would have a LITTLE more excitement. Promise.) Life would be so much easier. I could easily manifest my inspirations and dreams, and each day would be frustration-less and peaceful, right?

NO! Even if I had what, in my mind, seems like the most idyllic schedule, road bumps would come out of nowhere and struggle would ensue, because that’s just how life works. Things change and rarely go according to plan, and that’s alright. I’ve finally come to accept that fact (on most days, at least—though sometimes I’m still in denial and whine about the unfairness of life).

For the most part, I realize that even if I plan away my life to my heart’s content, certain aspects can still go awry. For the control freak in me (which is, oh, probably the majority of me), that’s painful to admit. But for the wannabe go-with-the-flow, spontaneous hippie (which makes up MAYBE 2 percent of me, contrary to these photos), that’s a-okay.

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So, with all that in mind (you know, the fact that life sucks sometimes), how’s one supposed to get anything done—especially in the realm of creativity? Not that other realms are any easier to navigate, but it’s just that, well, they kind of are. Sorry to say it, but more logical, analytical, or tangible work than creativity is work that people can wrap their minds around day in and day out.

I can say that because that’s the sort of work I do in my 9-to-5 job. It’s straightforward, black and white, and maneuverable. Sure, there are obstacles, just like anything else. But in the pursuit of creativity, the obstacle is always, “How can I make something interesting (or beautiful or original or inspiring, and so on) out of nothing?” It’s the struggle of creation. (Which is why it’s called creativity.) Say what you want, but in jobs that don’t surround a creative pursuit, that obstacle simply doesn’t exist.

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I struggle with balancing inspiration and creativity with the rest of my life all the time. I think everyone does, to some extent. I’ve written about this struggle many times, complained about this struggle to my nearest even more often, and, more than anything else, wracked my brain thinking and worrying about this struggle until my head almost spins. And here I am, again, writing about it, because I’m a little looney I’ve been contemplating this balance more than ever lately.

I don’t always follow my own advice—in fact, I rarely do—but I’ve written down a few notes on how I try to maintain or reignite my own inspiration, even when it feels like the most difficult thing to grasp on to, thanks to life and all its distractions and impurities.

Embrace the reasoning behind an excuse. Look, we’re all humans. It’s practically in our DNA to excuse ourselves when we underperform. (People who command others to never make excuses make me angry. Everyone does it!) Instead of turning it into a grandiose explanation, though, simply accept it. Too tired to write? Too busy to paint? Too overwhelmed to cook? Then don’t, and try again tomorrow. And don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t happen then, either.

Start. Start something today. Start a list of ideas. Start writing a sentence. Start thinking about a new plot line. Start planning when you can truly start. It doesn’t mean you’ll finish today, and it doesn’t mean you’ll even actually create anything today. But you’ll be setting creativity in motion by not ignoring it or actively placing it at the end of your priority list any longer.

Go easy on yourself. Flexibility is something I work on continuously. Isn’t it true that we’re hardest on ourselves? Punishing myself for being less productive than another day or another person isn’t going to make me feel anymore positive toward working on a goal. Let’s go ahead and allow ourselves the grace we give others, yes?

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(P.S. I have been selfishly SITTING on these stunning, dreamy photos by Aleah Clark, but I finally figured: What better time to post these beauties than in a blog post about inspiration? Enjoy! Also, Aleah is based in California but travels often. She is such a bright and positive spirit, and, speaking of creativity and inspo, she’s beyond talented. Work with her!)

Maxi Dress: Altar’d State