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At least he’s consistent

They say it is a mark of intelligence to be able to change your mind. Watching the news [which you should not] you’d think the opposite. “Flip flopper!” gets lobbed against political candidates as a sign of non-reliability. A mark against you. When really, it’s the hallmark of a good leader. When you vote for someone because of how you think they’ll vote (for you, for the outcomes you want) you’re not choosing a leader, you’re choosing a puppet.

If we had a system that worked, or maybe this is just in my dream world, I wouldn’t want to know what issues a candidate was for or against – I would want to know how she comes to her conclusions. What informs her decisions? Who does she surround herself with? (sycophants or people with dissenting opinions and the courage to challenge her?) I’d want to know if she updates her beliefs, opinions, and positions, based on new information. Or does she double down on bad ideas because she promised her constituents and donors she would?

Right now, our system is set up to choose puppets who allege to “represent our interests,” but really serve the gods of money and power. This is a problem, but it would be less of a problem if we were simply honest about this. When you donate to a campaign or a fund you expect that that elected official to act the way you want them to. That is not a free market. That is not representation. That is not choosing someone to lead. That is choosing someone to do what you say. Leaders shouldn’t blindly do what you tell them, they should be doing the hard work of pushing back and thinking in your best interests for the long term. Not just for the next election cycle and to get a paycheck from their super PAC.

But here we are.

We suck at this in the political realm and we suck even more at this in the personal one. As my generation enters our mid-years, we fall prey to all these same psychological traps. Renowned instructor of manipulation, Robert Cialdini, calls it “commitment and consistency” – acting in accordance with what you stated you would do. It’s a brilliant method for following through on, say, New Year’s resolutions (“I said I was going to run 2 miles, by golly now I have to!”) and an atrocious way to allow for evolution, progress, change, and new ideas (“I broke my leg, my mom is in the hospital, I have a 104° fever, and I need to finish this report – but by golly I will run two miles!”). It becomes a trap by which you are driven by sunk costs. Some days it’s a terrible idea to run two miles or follow through on a commitment you made – for a million reasons. Discernment is the trait we should be selecting for more than consistency. But our brains are wired to pedestal consistency instead of flexibility, maturity, and the courage required of change.

Lately, I’ve been taken with the courage required to admit you want change. Forget the courage required to follow through on that admission. Just the act of noticing appears to be a Herculean task for the majority (myself included).

It requires holding multiple truths at the same time: “I used to want X life. I am sad I do not have it. AND I do not want it anymore. I want something different. So now I will do something different.”

That last bit “so now I will do something different” is a whooooole different ball game than the first part. The admission, “I want something different.”

To look inside, to interrogate and audit oneself, with our restrictions and limitations and beautiful constraints – and still ask the question, “What do I want? And what is possible?” that is the character I see lacking in so many people I’ve come to love.

Longtime readers of this newsletter know I’m preoccupied with self-actualization and avoiding a life of quiet desperation, and right now I’m more terrified than ever with the amount of ennui I see being touted as laudable.

The people who end up in ennui never make a decision. They default and complain. Nothing changes.

“At least they’re consistent.”


They’re the ones at dinner living through their pre-child “heydays” when they won football tournaments and used to stay out till godknowswhen and played attention-seeking childish (but very fun) games with romantic or sexual partners. They never updated their schema as life changed. There is nothing quite more pathetic than watching grown-ass adults talk about their heydays, disowning their resentments as if it’s someone else’s fault they had children and bought a house and took a job they didn’t want, disowning their agency in their own choices.

Frankly, as someone with little to no agency in her choices as of late, I relate. And that’s part of what is so terrifying. I see myself in these “consistent” characters who are, well, speaking for myself, too tired to make different choices. It takes effort and some days the slog is just too heavy. And the scream of self-help is so (let’s call it what it is) irritatingly stupid that it doesn’t feel like you have a choice. White-women-self-care will not fix this. If I had a dollar for every person who told me I need a spa day or massage – *eye roll.*

Give me some universal childcare. Universal Healthcare. Tell PTO to stop doing the job the government is supposed to do and stop putting the onus on me to pay the teacher you’re underpaying. Fix inflation. Stop rigging markets and calling it “just the game.” Listen to women when we tell you we’ve been abused instead of asking why we stayed. Hire a babysitter for your friends instead of guilting them for not being out with you. Let go of the myth of rugged individualism, understand that you’re part of a village, and go help someone out instead of gossiping about them. And FFS go to therapy. And not the bullshit “just talking and venting” kind, the real kind that’s work and hard and extremely unpleasant.

Then we can talk about a massage.

Consistency matters in context. Consistent in your values, and following through on your commitments – that’s noble. Consistently making choices you resent because you said you would, consistently lying or quitting because you always have, consistently making choices based on who others want you to be or who you said you’d be when you were different – that’s not integrity or character or strength.

That is fear.

Brave inconsistency to choose courage and change. A new choice.

We are always always always changing.

We are human, it’s one of our defining traits. The ability to change our minds and update our opinions with new information is one of our strengths. We’ve lost the ability to engage in debate not because we can’t, but because we won’t separate out ideas from people. We’re playing rigged games and trying to win them instead of testing ideas based on merit and data (reliable and valid data, MFers. Not p hacking garbage that stands in as science or whatever headline you last read on that didn’t evaluate the methods of how they arrived at that conclusion).

We are wasting our time.

We have so, SO little time.

In that time that I have, I only want to be surrounded by people who challenge their notions of what’s true, challenge their assumptions, and are willing to sit in the tension of realizing who they used to be isn’t who they are anymore. And who they will be may be different too. And it’s all ok.

There is little noble, for me, in consistently showing up if that showing up is inauthentic and breeding resentment.

Having the courage and flexibility to move along with the tide of life that you cannot control (and absolutely can be angry about) those are my people. I count you among them, if you’re still here, reading and asking the hard questions most people spend their lives avoiding.

Who am I? What do I want? What is motivating that desire? Is it a prudent choice? Do I want it anyway? Can I live with the grief and the sorrow of not having it? Can I still hold onto hope? Can I retain my capacity for joy (REAL joy not the Instagram kind) amidst all the pain and suffering and things I cannot control? Am I using my privilege? Is it ok to? How am I doing it? What needs to change? What do I have to give up to have the things I want?

Can I sit at the intersection of what used to be, what could be, and what is?

Can I deign to be different?

To make a new choice.

I am certainly going to try.

I would love to know how and what has changed in your view of yourself and the outcomes you wanted for your life. One thing I’ve seen many of my people struggle with is their relationship to meaning and fulfillment – some got it from work, many from art. And trying to blend the two. Reconciling that with having children who they want to be with has complicated things. So has partnership and commitment.

Some people have discovered that the 9:5 they swore they’d never go back to, has freed them up to do more art without the pressure of making money. Others have found they are better parents the more they leave the house. Others have found they need to be home more to feel sane, to do less. Others have come to realize that if their art is not the center of their world, they will wither away and die.

None of us is the same. None of these outcomes is good or bad or right or wrong. They simply, are.

I know for me, my biggest liability is also my strength – I never want to miss bedtime. It’s been this way since my daughter was born 6 years ago today at 8:01AM. It’s been even more like this since bedtime became a source of pain for both of us, losing someone who used to do it with us. This choice, to be home in the evenings, makes me unavailable for a lot of the richest things in life I want to be available for (dinner with friends, meetings, happy hours, “networking,” lectures, events, work, my own life, spending time with a new partner). It’s a choice I’m making. Many judge it. You need a sitter, it’s not healthy, you need your own life. Yes, I know. It’s still my choice, you don’t have to understand it or even like it.

But most of all – I reserve the right to change my mind. If and when the time comes. The grace and compassion to change my mind is something I’m working on every day. To make a new choice when circumstances or desires change. And to pause long enough to recognize when that has happened.

Keep fighting the good fight.