Review: Black Lipstick and Shiny Red Buttons

by Elizabeth on January 24, 2012

(sidenote:  DOH.  I thought I had this scheduled for last Friday, but apparently, NyQuil made me think last Friday was this coming Friday.  So I’m combining it with the review for the week.)

So now, you have this list.

If you did your challenge for this past week, you’ve got a list.  A list of every little thing over the course of a week that disappointed you, made you feel shame or blame, or annoyed the livin’ snot outta you.  The jerk who cut you off in traffic.  Something you said that you wish you could take back.  A situation where someone made you feel like crap.  Everything.

And seeing that list all in one place can, frankly, be a little overwhelming and sad-making.

Memoirs of a Flower by Pink Sherbet Photography at Flickr.


Well, knock it off.  We’re not here to get our Goth on.

Put down the black lipstick, turn off the Bauhaus records, and put the vinyl corset back in the closet.  There’s no moping here.

But there is going to be a big fat change of attitude where responsibility’s concerned.

Here’s what you’re going to do instead:

Take that whole list and get yourself some paper and a sharpie.  If you have a pink sharpie, all the better.  Pink’s the anti-mope.

  1. For each item on your list (or the big ones, at least, if you’re pressed for time), write down what part of the situation you were responsible for.  And trust me, you’re always responsible for part of it.  Even if that’s just making the unconscious choice to react and let someone push your OMG SCREW YOU buttons.  (They’re red and shiny, and start blinking when certain people get near.  And they’re really, really hard to resist.)
  2. Once you’ve gone through and done this, you may be turning all of that inward.  You may be ready to dig that black lipstick back out.  Keep your eyes on the pink and do this instead:  After each admission of what part of the situation may have been under your control, you’re going to list what you’re going to do differently next time.  And mean it.
  3. If there are things that aren’t events, but situations you’ve found yourself in, skip #2 for those.  Instead, list what you’re going to do, specifically, to change that situation.  Universal truth:  You’re in charge of your own life.  Sure, you have to deal with death and taxes and your mother in law.  But can you care for your health, keep your tax information together so taxes are less of a pain, and graciously bow out of most functions where you have to deal with your mother in law?  Why, yes.  Yes, you can.
  4. Take those insights you just came up with, and MAKE A PLAN.  Plan what your thought process will look like the next time someone’s rude to you.  Plan what you can say if your boss says something inappropriate or mean.  Plan, in detail, your job search, if that last example happens a lot.

Thing is:  When you do all of this, when you take that kind of personal responsibility for your List?
You take back your own power.

Which leads me kind of seamlessly into the review section for this topic.  (This part got long, so I’m putting it behind a cut.  It’s worth reading, though, so do stick around.)

I’ve got a list, just like you folks do.  This personal responsibility thing has been one of those things I’ve been working on for a while, so it may not be as long, and I may have more experience in dealing with some of it, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t still a list.

I’ll spare you most of the list, and just give you one example of what I did last week:

There is a situation in my life that is seriously annoying and equally as scary.  This situation has, over a number of years now, caused me anxiety, more than a little inconvenience, and has made me, at times, afraid to open my front door to strangers.  (I know.  It sounds vague and hyperbolic.  Let’s just say that this situation is a person.  A person who refuses to let go, finds me incredibly interesting, and isn’t exactly mentally stable.  The kind of person who makes fake Twitter accounts to attack reality stars.  No, really.  And really sad.)

Back in the day, I made mistakes during a pretty rough time in my life.  We’re talking woooo, look at that life crash and explode into giant purple flames kind of “rough time”.  And this person, smelling blood, came on like a weasel to attack…and keep attacking.  Mostly online, though there were times it crossed the line into some pretty scary stalkerish behaviour.  (And by “times”, I mean, like, just a few months back, even.  Tenacious, that one.  The crazy ones always are.)

Anyway, because of my part in the attacks (I’m the one who screwed up initially, remember…), I’ve let this person (among a smattering of others, who may well just be her under another name since that’s kind of her MO.) terrorize me.  We’re talking full-on hibernation, here.  It was ridiculous.  I stopped doing things I loved doing.  I started being suspicious and protective.  I didn’t take a lot of opportunities that were handed to me because every toe I stepped into public brought on a new rash of harassment.  Snarky comments, posting my identity and information in public places, ridiculing and taunting me, even emails and anonymous comments to my employers to “warn them” about how awful I am, when clearly, that’s not the case.

In short, I was letting her have power over my life and my activities.

Like, really?  Given the way I usually put on my big girl panties and do whatever the hell I want to do, it was this one situation that I let inform the whole way I was doing things.

That, my friends, would be Mistake #2.

So I let it go this past week.

My list had this glaring thing at the top, and I had to realize that it’s none of my business what other people think of me. That’s their issue, and their wasted time.  If this person wants to waste precious hours in “uncovering all of my sins”, then I feel bad for them.  Really, I do.  There’s a laundry list of them, because I’m human, and humans occasionally fuck up.  No news there.

But how I react to that behaviour is all my own.  My big red shiny buttons are mine to push, and if I choose to keep my pokeyfingers to myself, then I’m the one in control here, especially where it comes to my decisions about my own life and how I live it.  (And, really, if you have social media accounts to taunt reality television stars?  You’re not really worth my pokeyfingers.  True, ‘dat.)

My plan, that third column, is simple.

Live my life.  Yeah, that’s all.  I may still have to pause to warn people that the whackadoodles in the woodwork may require comment moderation from time to time, but really, that happens with everything these days.  And I’m not willing to sit in the sidelines of my own life, worried that said whackadoodle might find me and try to drag me back to a place where my buttons are exposed.  (Really?  It’s been two years, by the way.  Two.  Years.  Years that I spent looking out the peephole and hiding behind the scenes to keep from being noticed, which is just dumb.)

What’s that got to do with personal responsibility?


I had to take a very long look at whether the problem was nutbarchick’s harassment or my reaction to it.  And, sadly, my reaction to it is the problem here.  If it didn’t get to me, make me fearful and ashamed, or make me worry about my relationships — it’d be a blip on the Life Radar.  Instead, it informed every decision I made for the past two years.  Missed opportunities and projects abandoned.  General distrust, since this person would join my lists and try, often, to get into locked-down social media accounts…that kind of thing.  Who knows how many awesome people I’ve missed connecting with because of my own reactions to this situation?

It’s every bit as pathetic as stalking someone on the internet.  It was stalking myself on the internet.  It was profoundly dumb.

And now, I own it.  My reaction?  All mine.  No matter what the stimulus was for it.  The reaction was all my own.


Sucks when you realize big things, doesn’t it?  Especially when those “big things” are things that, if recognized earlier, could have saved you a whole lot of grief.

So process your lists, folks.

You save yourself so much time by owning your own crap.  You also save yourself precious mental energy, emotional trauma, and a whole lot of actual pain.

And more importantly, you take back your life.  It’s the only one you have, so the sooner, the better.

Find what you can change, and change it.

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