When good advice goes bad…


We’ve all heard it, right?  “Color inside the lines.”  I truly believe that phrase was developed by kindergarten teachers all over the universe so they could hang pretty, neatly colored crayon pictures around the halls of every elementary school in the country.  They invented the phrase, in part, to make themselves feel better, as if a brightly colored picture – nearly scribbled or defiantly designed outside the lines – would tarnish their reputation as a teacher.  But honestly, what really is the point of coloring inside the lines? Is coloring inside the lines really that vital to one’s self-development or are the interesting, more daring of us willing to just say no?  (Albeit, politely…“No, Sir.  I will not color inside the lines.“)

Is she saying what I think she’s saying?  If you really know me then you know that YES…I am asking…imploring…of you to consider ways you can free yourself from all the drama and just be yourself.  Just. Be. Yourself.  Ahhh…see there…you’ve already broken out in hives.  Let me help you by sharing with you some real-life examples:

Examine your relationships
Some of us stay in relationships because we think we are suppose to stay there.  This could mean relationships with friends who are actually mean to us…but we’ve been friends since 4th grade, so we should stick it out.  We allow family members to hold us hostage with guilt in ways we would never allow a person on the street to do.  We let bosses steal our weekends and our livelihood each time we believe that saying no to the extra work will get us fired. And we never consider that these relationships are damaging us.  We complain to others, we pay our shrinks a fortune to help us with this problem, and we never feel better.  We never feel better because we never cut the cord.

Me?  I got a divorce.  I don’t advocate it, nor do I really ‘believe’ in divorce.  I was married to a nice man for nearly 14 years and I can still honestly say I think we made each other miserable for about 12 of those years.  I tried to live the way he wanted me to; He tried to live the way I wanted him to.  One day it just became really clear that neither of us could make the other happy, and it was time to part ways.  It was the best decision we ever made as a couple.  He’s remarried and lives where he can snowboard 8 months out of the year.  I’ve remarried and I live where I can afford to live on one salary.  He’s happy (I presume) and I…well…I finally understand what it means to find that perfect match.  I am so in love with my second husband that I forget sometimes I even had a ‘first’ one.  But truthfully, if I hadn’t sought out the advice of someone I truly admire who said “Cut the cord”…I might still be married to Mr. First today.  Not good.  Really.

Examine your profession.

I’m all for paying your bills, but if you get up each day dreading getting dressed and already counting down the minutes until the clock strikes 5 pm – you need a new job.  Everyone deserves the opportunity to make money doing what they love to do and that means you.  I love my job.  Seriously, I do…and it is so far beneath my skill level sometimes that I feel like I have reverted back to proverbial burger-flipping.  But you know what keeps me sane?  Keeping what I do in perspective.  Honestly, when I do that, I realize that my job is seriously more about giving people advice all day and helping them to solve problems…and I love to give people advice and solve problems.  I joke about starting a life/business coaching business all the time, but really…I already do it.  And I’m thrilled.  So what if you went to school and earned a degree in accounting but what you really love to do is teach?  So teach.  So what if you earned a law degree and your mother thinks that law firm in Manhattan you work for makes her feel like she accomplished something, too?  If you’d really rather work for a non-profit legal aid office that supports helping victims of domestic violence in some small city in Kentucky, then I say, sell your crap and move.  It’s not rocket science, people.

Learn to relax.

Okay, this one I have to admit is hard for me.  I don’t relax well but fortunately I’m married to a man who understands the balance.  He’ll say at 6 pm “Let’s go lounge in the pool” while I’m thinking…”Dinner has to be made.  Then the kitchen has to be cleaned up…cats have to be fed…etc” to which he replies, “We’ll eat a sandwich.  Come on.”  And I go…and I emerge feeling so great, so relaxed, so connected to the love of my life because we took an hour to simply hang out…that I admit, I wish we had more sandwich nights.  Ironically, I was a massage therapist for 12 years…even called myself a Relaxation Specialist…so I can spout off all the health benefits of relaxing in my sleep.  I can tell you that over 90% of all diseases are stress related and cite the sources from which that information flows.  So believe me when I say, you need to relax (You and me, both, kiddo!!).  Stop and smell the coffee…I know a great place.

Grow up.

As I close, this is where I get mean.  Seriously…if you constantly complain about the same thing over and over again, I gotta tell you..grow the heck up.  Grown ups DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT when things are not working.  Grown ups stop telling the same pathetic story over and over…they MAKE CHANGES.  Grown up overweight people stop eating ice cream for dinner and download Couch to 5K workout plans because they want something different.  Grow up.

If you are 18 or older and you haven’t figured out a way to live independently (even if you live with your parents, you should be forming a plan of action…) then grow up and start seeking ways to learn to budget, learn to manage a checkbook, and learn to cook.  Trust me…I still can’t cook very well and no one taught me to set goals, live within my means, and balance a checkbook.  I learned all of this myself…in a very difficult way.

If you are in your 20’s and you’ve graduated college and you are putting all your newly furnished apartment stuff on your credit card…grow the heck up.  Real life grown ups do not dig themselves into debt.  Emotionally-stunted people who worry more about what others think of them are the ones who drive themselves into debt.  Trust me, I know this.  I was an emotionally-stunted person for many years.

If you are in your 30’s and you’ve realized that master’s degree in psychology really isn’t helping you find work you love…then go another route like coaching or working in human resources as a corporate trainer.  It’s okay – the world will not end.  Really.  No one will consider you a failure. (Okay, some family members might consider you a failure…but only because they never grew up and if that’s the case, go back up to my point on examining your relationships because who cares what they think???) Analyze your own self and figure out what makes you happy…and then go for it.

I had to grow up.  I made choices for other people for so long that I didn’t start living my very own life until my late 30’s and I still know there are many ways I need to grow up.  I had to realize that the too-big house with the too-big payment along with the 215 cable channels, new car, and expensive sets of dishes were holding me back from spending Sundays writing, from getting into the pool at 6 pm on a weeknight…from considering what it was like to be a mom.  The stuff that fit neatly inside the lines of what was expected of a college educated, articulate young woman  was actually enslaving me and keeping me in an infantile stage of growth.  I grew up.  I sought leaders and teachers who could help me.  I sold stuff.  I bought a fixer upper.  I buy less and have more.  You can walk through our garage without tripping because it is not overflowing with stuff we never use.  You can drop by anytime, and while I might apologize that the kitchen isn’t quite HGTV ready, the living room is clean and organized because with less stuff comes less cleaning.

The bottom line, as the picture on this blog states, is you and I have all of eternity to think inside the box.  But, friend, life is lived outside the box.  Life is more vibrant and colorful outside the lines.  The beat of your drum is to the music YOU make…not the music of others.  So, baby, pick up that crayon and go freakin’ crazy!  Beat that drum as hard as you want.  Burn the freakin’ box!  And let me know how it all works out for you.