The Framework Of A Lifelong To Do List

Max Felner

TO DO: Write things down every day. Bad things and good things, funny things and guilt-ridden confessions.

1. Write thoughts down every day. Write silly things and sad things, embarrassing things and monumental epiphanies. Ask yourself what is going on and take the time to physically record it. When you start, the words can feel forced and fake like you are writing a Letter to the Editor that you know the entire readership will judge you on. By the time you finish, you will feel relieved that your voice sounds like you again, and that you’re proud of yourself for taking a moment to reflect so your reflection doesn’t become someone unrecognizable. When I write something to myself, or to someone else from my own experience, it is the only way I feel deeply rooted to whatever it is my soul is made of. It’s like these hands that are connected to these arms that have these nerves that are connected to this brain (this unabashedly crazy and nonsensical and intrusive brain)-are introducing me to me.

TO DO: Stop thinking everything is about you (if someone doesn’t want to be on your wavelength it’s out of your control and really, none of your business).

2. Stop thinking everything is about you. Not even in a selfish way, but in a real self-deprecating way this obsessive battle between perception and reality creates a chaotic mess for brains to live inside. Assumptions that turn into hunches that grow into conclusions are quite possibly the day-ruiners you never knew you had control over. You won’t always get what you want even when you’re giving people what you think they need. It’s not about what you forgot to do or accidentally said, don’t let someone else’s bad day turn into your awful evening. Recognize when another person’s perception of you could simply be wrong, and that even if you tried to change it, it would remain stuck in that twisted way. Understand that no matter how many honest conversations you try to spark, the receiver won’t always be picking up the way you would have hoped for. Your words, even if they are pure and full of meaning, still can seem contrived and overreaching to the souls that just don’t accept yours. Forgive yourself, if you’ve truly done the work to be better and do better, even when the ones you are longing for will not forgive you.

TO DO: Learn how to love better. Understand your love language doesn’t always translate, and sometimes you’ll have to learn something completely foreign so your love is always communicated.

3. Learn how to love better. Invest in studying your intimate connections and the love language that they speak. Understand that not everyone feels full from long letters or bouts of admiration and validation. Take note of the fact that the word love to you could sound like a foreign language to someone else, that the feeling and the notion of love are digested differently inside of every single human being. The definition of love is a basis for us to refer to, it’s not a guideline of the bare minimum in showing someone they are yours. My love language is words, it’s carefully crafted notes and exclamations of “you’re important and I need you’s” that make the presence of my heart feel known. I have a friend who needs action and empathy, good intentions that turn into beautiful gestures, to her words are dead. The man of my dreams is tired of my language that is also too dream-like to be true. He is numb to the art of love letters and craves a warm hand or an embrace that catches him off guard, the love of my life needs the life behind the love, the comfort in the roots of what only we have grown.

TO DO: Keep conversations raw, you’ll never regret it. Tell the truth, seek the truth, and don’t keep curiosity at bay.

4. I’ve always tried (to a degree) to be as honest as possible. Sometimes, I strayed from this quality and I must admit it did make life easier. For a while I think I stopped saying how I felt, ignored uncomfortable tension, and let things play out in whatever way was the majority’s favor. One of the only good things I have developed in the past few years, the ones where I feel I really lost myself, was the innate urge to spill my guts. This newly found attachment to my voice box has been at times an unwelcomed addition to my body, but I am more grateful for it than anything else that has been bestowed on me in the last couple seasons of my life. I start conversations that I think need to be had, and people are often caught off guard. I confess guilt or embarrassment as soon as the feelings hits the tip of my tongue, and it has seemingly been a hard admission to respond to. I try to make connections with people I think would appreciate the gesture, but usually end up embarrassing myself or getting deemed some derivative of crazy. I have loved it all. Why? Because I have gotten the real from the fake, the reality from the delusion, and the uncomfortable out in the open. I would say a good 50% of the people I try to engage with were ex girl friends of boyfriends, people I thought I embarrassed myself in front of drunk, and friends I had wronged along the way. I would say a good 100% of those conversations never went as planned, but I am happy for it. I know now, because of my aversion to small talk and fake conversation, what is real and what is authentic. I have understood myself better through these interactions as I see where I can grow and change, and how my perception is not always reality. I have woven the stitches of some of my most beloved relationships by finding common ground and an indescribable pull towards certain humans. I don’t regret for a second the times I said things that were at best awful icebreakers and at worst borderline insane. If something is bothering you (or keeping you up all night staring at a wall and picturing every single way it could have gone differently) you can either forget it, or ask what’s going on. I can’t forget a bad feeling or a miscommunication, so I would rather do the damn thang. We are all going to die one day anyways, so I might as well embarrass the fuck out of myself while I am young. I’ve never been

TO DO: Nourish your friendships and family ties, they aren’t obligated to love you. Give all the love you have, whether or not you have it.

5. Nourish your friendships and family ties, they aren’t obligated to love you. This was one of the things that I have finally learned after years of failing the test (despite my ego not wanting me to). The people you often find yourselves most aligned with, the brains that can wrap their heads around yours and the hearts that feel for you even when you’re wrong, those are the ones that matter. I tried for so many years to make sure that every human being who crossed my path was my friend. As you may guess, this took a lot of effort for the newbies as I am not always a likeable person. I catered to the people who I felt didn’t understand me, trying my best to show off my admirable qualities with every encounter. Looking back, it’s kind of hilarious. I am not naturally drawn to most people I meet, yet I expected every single pair of eyes to want to meet with mine, to be my lifelong friend even if I would only offer them a second of my time. While I was going through this incredibly awful process, I learned that the flowers I called my friends started to think I was a weed. The ones I loved, the people who had helped me blossom, I just started to think they’d always be there-and that’s not how things grow. The beautiful, lovely ones were still there, but they didn’t look at me as they once had. Realize that the people who your parts belong to are the ones who were there all along. They’ve helped you fix your broken heart, made your eyes see things that they couldn’t, trusted you when you had a gut instinct, and calmed down your crazy brain. Meeting new people is an amazing aspect of human connection, but it isn’t a replacement for the people you’ve loved all along. Don’t forget this, and remind yourself often, being lonely is usually a result of your own actions. Say sorry, don’t be prideful, and take the time to stop and say hello. I’ve noticed since I started feeling the sunshine from my true loves once again, my life has never felt so simple. Things are brighter and breezier, but also more stable when I need my people to help me weather a storm. Be careful who you show your heart to and don’t get your guts all over the place-save it for the people who will think it is pretty incredible (or can see past how gross it gets, too).

TO DO: Forgive yourself and try to live inside the things you believe to be true.

6. I think sometimes we find comfort in the crazy, contorted parts of the world and of ourselves. We are all too familiar with self-hatred and disgust, with repeating mistakes and twisted memories as some form of purging our guilt. It is easy to relish in the moments you wish you could forget and replaying them on a loop inside of your skull just makes the sickness stronger. The truth is, we all have done or said things that were less than desirable and far from our best selves. I, for one, have made some first impressions that make me cringe, ones that I will never be able to take back, polish, and give another go at. The time we visited a new friend who I’d only met once and his girlfriend called me crazy in secret but smiled innocently at me during brunch. The instance where I sat at a kitchen table, drunk, explaining to my boyfriend’s ex that I was sorry for how he treated her and probed her with deeply personal questions in some attempt to bond. The countless moments where I said one thing but meant another or tripped over my words and fell onto someone’s feelings. Those things happened. All of them. I don’t really dig myself for it, but I’ve accepted myself in the meantime. It’s taking those little cracks and finding the light in between them. The fact that I am unapologetically myself, skip the small talk, and at least attempt to find common ground are definitely the very small, flickering lights at the end of the embarrassing tunnel. Instead of self-loathing and berating my friends with urgent questions waiting for an answer full of self-assurance and validation, I have started to just believe. I’ve began to truly try and feel the things that I want and hope to be true. God? The Universe? Spirit? Alright, let’s give it a go. Connection? Serendipity? The Power of Manifestation? Let me at it. I’m not happy that all the bartenders at patrons of the bar I worked at through college hate my guts (wondering if it has something to do with unsightly kissing sessions?) but I also have realized that they probably hate themselves and its easier to pour it into me like they do a skunked Budweiser at Happy Hour. I’m not ENTHRALLED with the fact that I have smothered people with odd questions wrapped inside a compliment or begged for forgiveness from people who don’t matter; I now understand that that gives people the power, and those are the tyrants who will break your heart over and over. Have a little faith in your goddamn self and own the messy, unpredictable, flawed, beautiful, authentic, and quizzical little being you are. It feels good (and saves a lot more room in your brain for the good stuff).

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