Barefoot Monologues

A Journey of the Sole


The Marriage Question


I think it’s time for me to put into words a topic that always receives much question and scrutiny in daily life: relationships and marriage. We live most of our adult lives looking for, learning from and being in relationships or marriages, we talk about the intricacies of them at length with our friends and family, and we dedicate at least ¼ of our media consumption on celebrity relationships, marriages, and particularly breakups.

We humans love war, blood, bad news and especially breakups. Love them. We feed off the emotional carnage of romantic heartbreak. I have a sort of half-assed theory that because, for the first time in all of history, humans have acquired such a comfortable, civil world with such a comparatively healthy, long life, we have everything we need, don’t have to hunt for food anymore or fight each other to the death in arenas for the entertainment of Kings, we instead feed our animalistic desire for blood with emotional death. We watch it unfold on reality television shows and in the lives of our celebrity royalty. In a way it really turns the tables. But that’s for another post, I think.

So we all naturally crave the drama of life, and watching it happen in other people’s relationships is one of our favorites. I’m sure many of you readers have experienced watching a close friend or family member go through a bad relationship…or, probably more accurately, what you yourself consider a bad relationship. You feel badly for them, but at the same time you hope they’ll smarten up and leave or that the other person will eventually change for the better. You’re probably a caring enough person to hope for the happiness of all involved, but, deep down inside, you’re still utterly fascinated by watching the whole thing unfold, no matter which way it goes. Go ahead, you can admit it. Drama is addicting. That’s why they always say it’s so hard to turn away from a train wreck. Or from that girl climbing onto chairs at the wedding and dancing seductively with the Best Man so she can make her ex-boyfriend jealous, as he sits across the room nursing a beer and pretending not to notice. They’re both the same thing, really.

I myself am guilty as well of being fascinated by the inner workings of human relationships. For reasons unbeknownst to me, people like to vent to me. Who knows, maybe it’s because I look like I’ve been through it all and couldn’t possibly have anything to judge them for! Heh. Might be true. But in all seriousness, I have found myself judging sometimes. It’s a hard thing to turn off. It’s way too easy to find myself rooting for the wrong side, or imagining that I’d have handled their situation better. With that said, I probably lend a lot more forgiveness overall to people’s actions in their relationships than most would (or so my husband Shawn often tells me). And that’s mostly because I have endured a whole lot of undue scrutiny in my life, and I don’t like the idea of passing on to others what I don’t like happening to me. You know, Golden Rule and all that. I’ll never say I’m perfect at it – I’ve had my share of asshole moments, but I digress.

What brought this rambling subject up to the surface today is the feeling that my marriage has been very much put under a magnifying glass in the wake of meeting new and different people. Mind you, I certainly understand why: even though we are married and share the same house, Shawn and I have completely different interests that barely, if ever, overlap. Sure, we both have art jobs that require us to work from home, thus we understand each other deeply on a creative level and we get to spend most weekdays in the same building. Also, we owe our relationship in part to our equal love of conversation: for the 11 or so years since we met, we have never run out of topics, and we love to ponder them together while sipping on cups of hazelnut-flavored coffee and relaxing on our cozy, taupe-colored couch. We share similar views about people and relationships in general. We see women and men as equals and although we each have our personal flaws and annoyances, we both generally feel that things are fair and just between us most of the time. We agree on the things we consider important: what we want our lives and our future to look like, how we value family, what we need from a partner, how we choose to spend our money, et cetera. And probably the most fundamental item that Shawn and I agree on is our absolute need for freedom and independence within our marriage.

We each struggled in past relationships for a lot of reasons, but mostly because of this one thing. I was so independent in my previous relationship that I grew out of it emotionally, always spending time with my own friends while he stayed home and sulked because he didn’t know how to reel me in. Shawn had two long-term relationships with women who wanted more mutually dependent relationships than what he could give them, and as a result he felt stifled and always at odds with their needs.

When we became friends, Shawn and I spotted that independent flair in one another. We were both not into being leaders, would never be followers, but would rather carve our own paths and leave them for others to join or not. With that frame of mind, Shawn has taken his love for comics, art and movies and crafted a unique niche for himself in the costuming/comic con/FX world that few others, if any, have ever done before or since. I am proud of him, I respect and support him in everything he does, would help him succeed in any way I could, and I think he is the best man I have ever known. But he goes to most ComicCons by himself because he has his own friends there, and because it allows him to fully explore his interests without feeling the need to keep me entertained.

And I have my own separate things going on, too. My big one, of course, is that I love to run. I spend many hours a week taking the dog out for a run or going with friends for an entire Saturday. I spend hundreds of dollars a year on races, and go on run-related weekend trips to see friends, many of whom he has never met (but heard a ton about during our morning coffee conversations). I am also a lover of the written word so I spend a good deal of time creating this blog, which he sometimes reads and sometimes doesn’t. And I honestly don’t mind either way, especially considering that most of what I write on here, I’ve already told him. But he supports all of my efforts and is genuinely proud of all my accomplishments, and I don’t need him to wait at the finish line at any of my races in order to believe that. Besides, if he was at the race, what would I have to talk to him about the next morning over coffee?

Recently I’ve joined a fun new activity, hashing. I’ve met some amazing, beautiful, funny and seriously fantastic people, who love to run and share my penchant for beer and fun. Many hashers are married and their spouses are hashers, too. It doesn’t really surprise me the number of times I’ve been asked, “Does your husband hash, too?” followed by, “No? Why not?” I dislike this line of questioning, but it does often remind me that our relationship is not the norm. Instead it is quite unique: we don’t participate in many of the same interests, but we still get along, love each other and appreciate the freedom to do our own thing. I understand that quite often when two people in a marriage seem to be spending a lot of time apart, it’s because deep down they want to be apart permanently. It certainly turned out to be true of my last relationship, anyway.

I go back and forth between caring and not caring about anyone’s opinion on this. My independent streak often affords me the luxury of letting lots of things slide off my back, because I don’t feel I need to have people sign their approval on my life. But sometimes when this type of conversation starts I want to reach out and start explaining the dynamics of a marriage that can survive two people not doing everything together. I want to get them to see the good that I see in it, encourage them to understand that not every relationship is the same on the inside. But gratuitous explanation just reeks of a desperate attempt to justify fallacy. For example, ever read 26 Facebook status updates in a row from someone lauding their oh-so-perfect marriage with their hunny-bunny, still so deeply in love after all these (3) years…and then see their relationship status change to “single” a month later? Yeah.

So how I answer those questions is much like how I answer people who ask me if I have kids: I give a truthful, simple answer, and then leave it at that. Do you have kids? No, no kids. Why don’t you want kids? They’re just not for us. Does your husband run with you? Nope. Why not? We do different things. Don’t you want him to come support you at the {insert big race name}? He does support me, just not by standing at the finish line.

Maybe Shawn and I are completely different, completely weird people, but one of the most important qualities for each of us to have in our lives is freedom. Hell, I even had a bird tattooed on my back to symbolize this desire (to the chagrin of my then-boyfriend, who had expected me to get his permission before marking up my body). The bottom line is that we both want and need to live a happy, free life without being held back by our partners, and we both know how to love someone who needs their own version of freedom. In my opinion, the most important thing you can give your partner is the one thing they want most. You should give it wholeheartedly, while expecting the same in return. It might be respect, trust, loyalty, attentiveness, freedom, devotion, intimacy or whatever. And if you cannot or will not give that one thing to your partner, then it may be harder than it is worth to keep them around.

I’m not here to say that I’ve got an oh-so-perfect marriage with my hunny-bunny. Or that your relationship is less than perfect than ours because it’s different. Just like any marriage we have our good days and bad days. But, like my amazing sage of a best friend Kathy always says:

Marriage is a choice that you make every single day. You wake up each morning next to the same person, and you make the choice to live with, live for and love them, all over again.

So, it’s my choice to be happy, and I applaud myself for choosing it again today.


Happiness vs. Contentment, Nice vs. Kind: An Observation of People


Hello, readers. You’ll have to forgive me for my recent disappearance from the blogosphere. Life in SoCal has been pretty amazing for me, and a side effect of that is I’ve been much too busy with it to spend my free time in front of a computer. It’s a rather curious thing, that sometimes the more interesting my life gets the less I feel like writing about it.

So as I’ve been living my life in high color, I’ve also been taking in a lot of what’s going on around me. Like most people who like to write, I am a constant observer of people, things and ideas. Sometimes it’s an amazing ocean view, sometimes it’s 50 miles of mountains and valleys viewed from a windy summit, and sometimes it’s the thoughts and behaviors of people around me. All of which I find equally interesting.

I’ve been reading and hearing a slew of thoughts from people, specifically on two somewhat related topics. The first one being happiness. Just what is happiness and how do we know it? Some talk about happiness as a feeling of freedom – freedom from society’s pressures to “have it all”, i.e. the American Dream. Money, more money, things and more things. Expensive vacations to exotic places for seven days, and then back to the grind of making more money so you can get more things.

Other ways that people define happiness is in accomplishing all your life’s goals, marrying the perfect partner, finding God, moving to a better part of the world or filling your home with lots of family, friends and children.

Well, I’m here to say that happiness is none of those things. Happiness is only about your own made-up ceiling of contentment. And I say ceiling because it’s up to you to decide how high it is, and how much you need to fill it. Set the ceiling too high, and you’ll never be content with what you’ve got and miss out on too much while you’re trying to fill that cavernous hole. Set it too low and you’re settling; chances are you’ll live an exceptionally boring life with no adventure and have too many regrets later on. You’ve got to know where the happy medium is. And how?

The answer is suffering. Without suffering, you can’t fully know happiness. Hear me out on this. Without bad, it’s impossible to separate great from ordinary. It’s why we’ve created Hell  – it’s there to heighten the allure of Heaven. Good and evil are opposites, and the ability to compare them is crucial for their own existence.

A long time ago I decided that those who have had the most suffering in life are capable of the most happiness. I say capable, because it’s only possible if one recognizes their ability to become happy and actually does the work of getting there. And you’ll have to work much harder to find happiness if you’ve been given some non-distinct version of mediocre happiness all your life.

Some would define all of America that way. But I digress.

Happiness, by my definition, is choosing your own contentment, and deciding it’s enough. In fact, I would argue that contentment is even more important than happiness, as happiness is only one ingredient in the unique recipe of your life’s contentment. And how will you ever know if the contentment you’ve got is enough, if you don’t know what it’s like not to have it?

Here’s a good analogy. I lived in New England my whole life. Since as early as I can remember, I hated every single cold winter day. I watched others enjoy skiing and snowfall, while I suffered through 150 days per year of clouds and precipitation, lack of vitamin D and summer humidity that made the world feel like a bowl of tomato soup. When I moved out to Southern California, everything that I hated about the climate was gone. It’s sunny almost every day, winter doesn’t exist and neither does humidity. I can go to the beach more often and soak up the sunshine with a tank top on all year round.

I feel absolute happiness here in San Diego, probably even more than most native San Diegans. Why? Well, because of my suffering. Native San Diegans are happy here, for sure. They recognize in a superficial sort of way that they are lucky they get to live in a nice climate with little related suffering. But without the actual experience of shoveling snow out of their driveway every other day for seven months, spending thousands a year to heat their small home and only seeing the sunshine a couple times a week all year round, they have no idea how happy they really are. But I do. I am two times as lucky, and two times as happy to live in San Diego, because of my suffering.

Same goes with my adulthood. Today I enjoy the freedom from my bad parents and disappointing family members. I appreciate the joy of making my own life, my way, all by myself, because of the suffering I endured as a child. Being deserted by my mother, having to raise my little brother when I was only three years his elder, being left alone in a house for weekends and neglected emotionally by my father are all things that sucked in my early life. So as an adult I revel in the contentment I’ve created, knowing that I don’t have any dependents to raise, the freedom to do as I wish without needing to care what others think of me, and the relief of no longer having to keep anyone around who treats me like shit.

Which brings me to my second, almost related topic: the way you treat others.


Being that I am a very outgoing and social person, I’ve made a lot of acquaintances and friends in my journey through life. I fancy myself as relatable to many different types of personalities, because of my open-minded, non-judgmental and curious nature. People usually like me. I can often respond just as well to the warm, kind-hearted people as well as the sarcastic, ball-busting ones. Every once in awhile I come across someone who is tough to get along with, no matter how I treat them. When this happens I often go through a period of insecurity, and it can sometimes even affect the way I view myself. Am I intolerable? Annoying? Am I a weakling, just primed for the picking? I might question my place within a section of my friend circle, and at times I’ll even go back to my elementary school fat-kid days, and start to wonder whether my physical appearance has anything to do with it.

Recently I’ve heard out some opinions on this subject. One opinion in particular that stuck was that people are not made of nice, so deal with it. Everyone possesses within them a generous side that likes to make people happy, and a selfish side that likes to make people hurt. At first I was ruffled by this, and then I realized how flawed it was.

Of course everyone has the ability to be mean, to hurt others.  Natural selection has more or less favored the ruthless. In my life I have wanted to hurt people, and I have succeeded. But as I’ve looked into the reasons why I hurt them, I realized it wasn’t because I was feeling normal things that are just part of life. It was because I was indulging in a huge personality flaw of my own. Jealousy. Selfishness. Superficiality. Just because I’ve been built with the ability to feel these things, doesn’t mean that indulging in them is going to be good for me. Remember, natural selection also favors those who can cooperate with others.

That aside, good and bad traits have to exist in everyone, they have to fight each other. If you go back to my first point, you need negativity around in order to recognize positivity, even in yourself. But in my experience, if I am treating someone else like shit, the problem isn’t their personality or their wimpishness, the problem is mine. I’m jealous of something about their life. I’m angry that they’re prettier, richer, smarter than me. I’m trying to hurt them, because I’m not happy about something in my own life. I’m trying to fill my canyon of happiness with the suffering of others. And I don’t care how you cut it, that’s just not the right way to be. Rather, it’s an invitation to be a little more insightful about myself and start looking for happiness in another way.

And that’s where I get the idea of nice vs. kind. Normally, I am an extremely independent person who is flexible, forgiving and easy-going. I also have a cynical streak a mile wide, and I can be quite opinionated and big-mouthed. I like to participate in sarcastic banter with friends, and I love to tell others how wrong they are in their political opinions (just ask my friend Angela). In life I generally know what I like, am mostly happy with myself, and if you don’t like me you can go fuck yourself. I don’t make any effort to be around people who don’t interest me, and I have dumped friends who aren’t benefitting my contentment. No, I’m not always nice. In fact, sometimes I can be really very bitchy.

But nice is different from kind. Nice is a superficial notion – you can’t possibly always be nice and still have any depth, self-insight or true emotion. I know a few people who are only nice – and they are caverns of dispassionate vapidity.

But kindness is something else entirely. It is selflessness. Acceptance, tolerance and respect. I spend a lot of thought and caring on people who matter to me. I am warm, open and vulnerable toward them. I accept and forgive. I am kind to those whom I choose to love. I’m not always nice, and I’ve certainly made mistakes and doled out my share of misery on others, but I still consistently strive to be kind.

I believe that’s some of how you make your own happiness. It’s how you form deep and strong emotional ties to certain friends and family with whom you choose. Kindness, and thus vulnerability, is key, as strength is shown so well by the presence of that vulnerability (which is the same as happiness shown by the presence of suffering). If you can’t be kind and vulnerable to those who care about you, then you’ll spend your whole life alone, even if surrounded by hundreds of people.

These last several weeks have been a learning experience for me in many ways. Through the observation of others I have learned some things about myself as a friend, and I’ve learned a lot more about what I need to be content.

And since I can’t think of a great closing sentence for this rambling post, I’ll just congratulate you if you’ve managed to get to the bottom of it, and also encourage you to offer your own thoughts on this topic in the comments section. Thanks for reading!