My New Goal: Give Zero F*cks By Forty

relax on beach

I am celebrating my 39th birthday this week. While I won’t be eating complimentary cake in my dobok with my other black  belts and taekwondo students like I did last year, I’ve enjoyed some extended time off and have a few fun things planned. The biggest thing I plan on doing is embarking on a year-long quest to take me into the next decade of life with a smile: I want to give zero f*cks by forty.

Many people start improvement plans on their way to forty: some do a “Fit by Forty” exercise regime, which I don’t need because I already am. Some people get their financial act together, which I don’t need to do because it already is…Hmm, I suppose I could embark on a year of humility, but…nah!

So why the “Give Zero F*cks by Forty” program? Frankly, I have spent most of my life sweating the small stuff—and the big stuff that turns out to be relatively small in the big scheme of things. Work, school, what other people think of me, what other people say to me, my body, what I do or say, the worries and limiting beliefs and troubling thoughts that take up real estate in my mind–ENOUGH! I’m exhausted!

Giving zero f*cks about the  things that really don’t matter (which is most of “the things”) sounds like a dream. I would be calmer, more relaxed, more open-minded, and more accepting of the shifts and tides of my life.

It won’t be perfect from the beginning, and I know I will have many setbacks and have to re-commit myself many times between now and next July. I’m a control freak in many aspects of my life. It’s served me well academically, career-wise, and financially, but it’s left me pretty tightly-wound too. Letting go of my hatred for a particular body part will be hard. I’ve been failing at that since I was 13. Not being pulled into senseless panic over things at work that don’t matter can be difficult to resist if everyone else is doing it (although working alongside true lifesavers in the healthcare industry has given me a pretty good perspective on what is truly important and what isn’t). The political landscape and division in the United States is a nightmare. Social media is a tempting time drain. Sometimes I daydream about rude, hurtful things people have said or done to me in the past, and it can be a chore to yank myself away from those runaway thoughts and move forward. Letting go of the things I want the most out of life and trusting that they will come to me in due time and without desperate attempts is a huge act of faith.

Does this mean I won’t care about anyone or anything anymore? No, it doesn’t. My new mindset doesn’t mean I’ll stop loving people who are important to me (but it will mean I won’t waste thoughts on people who aren’t) or not put in a good effort at my job (but it will mean I’ll stop taking myself and all the corporate-ness so seriously) or stop trying in taekwondo class (but it will mean I’ll loosen it from my heart strings just a little; holding onto taekwondo too tightly is hurting me this year). What this really means is I’ll stop needlessly worrying about all the stupid petty crap that makes me miserable. We all get pulled into senseless worrying depending on what’s going on in our lives. It sounds so easy and so inviting to let it all go, but sadly we’re programmed to hang on tightly to the very things that make us unhappy.

I’m glad I’m giving myself a whole year.

…but I can do it. If anything I have that black belt stubbornness that makes me continue to challenge and motivate myself.

Join me. Sit back, relax, give zero f*cks, and let yourself finally enjoy the people, things, and experiences in life that truly matter to you and bring you joy.

Zero F*cks by Forty begins in three…two…one…


I Am My Own Nemesis Part 2: The Comeback Tour


A funny thing happens when I get what I want and am in a happy place in life. Having not yet mastered the practice of true detachment, any success or gain I have comes with a fear of loss. It’s a package deal. I thought I had gotten past that feeling, the one where I get what I think I want but am still unsatisfied and continue to chase that elusive momentary high. I thought I had progressed. I’ve done SO much work on myself in the past six years. As I leave my thirties I’m proud to say I’m a much different person than I was when I entered them, but it looks like I have more work to do.

I’m in a good place in life. No, scratch that, I’m in a VERY good place in life. I’ve made some gains that I would have NEVER thought would happen for me. Sometimes I can’t believe that this is all real. I had a good day today. Like, an Ice Cube song-worthy good day. I woke up feeling relaxed, ran some errands, and chilled out at home for a while. And then….there it was. BAM! Anxiety and sadness rushed in and grabbed me in a bear hug.

My mind wasn’t necessarily racing with erratic thoughts (it was still pretty focused on one or two things), but I know I was freaked out because my physical symptoms of extreme stress and anxiety manifested: my neck felt hot, I had visible tremors, my breathing was shallow, and I felt the telltale sign of when I’m really in it deep: a squeezing sensation in my chest. The telltale heart, so to speak. The pressure around my heart is a rare symptom and only happens when I’m feeling extreme stress, even if I’m denying that feeling to myself.

“I don’t want to feel this feeling again,” I said to myself as I nervously pawed through laundry. It wasn’t the anxiety that bothered me. It was the attachment that got my attention. That pesky act and thought of attachment has messed up my life in more than a few ways. It has caused me to sabotage my life with foolish actions based on foolish thoughts. Nope, I had worked too hard on myself. I was not going to let this happen again.

I tried to go about my afternoon but I burst into tears when I was chopping vegetables, and I hadn’t even tackled the onion yet. I don’t let myself cry in front of people anymore. I can talk to a trusted few people about things that are bothering me, but there are certain things that I have to work through alone. Processing it, mostly through journaling, helps me take an objective look at the situation and offers both some possible reasons and solutions. Sometimes I’m able to resolve my problem without seeking outside help. It has helped me avoid many unnecessary confessions and more importantly, unnecessary confrontations. I have a pretty good system going. It’s a lonely process, but it works.

Or maybe at least I think I have to do this alone. Maybe I’m making it too difficult for myself. I don’t want to share certain thoughts because I feel it will cloud someone’s vision of me and ultimately condemn me. I’ve been wrong on many occasions, but old habits die hard. I hate being vulnerable, and I’m afraid of being rejected and hurt. I’ve weakened my capacity to trust and have faith in either a person or a process.

So there I was, crying in my kitchen, and then…I laughed. I had caught myself red-handed. I hadn’t defeated my nemesis but I’d found that bastard hiding in the shadows.

About a year and a half ago I wrote a post called I Am My Own Nemesis. I discussed some of the ways doubt and self-sabotage can creep up on us. This line caught my eye:

“Fear: Fear of the unknown, fear of being rejected, fear of physical harm, fear of loss (money, relationships, stability, job, etc.), fear of being exposed or “found out,” which goes neatly in hand with self-doubt.” The very first post on this blog is about fear.

And that’s what I’m feeling: good old fashioned fear. Fear of rejection, fear of loss, fear of pain, fear of giving more than I’m receiving (or conversely, taking too much), fear of offering love that evaporates against a brick wall, fear of losing my material comforts, fear of once again having to trudge through all this shit alone. Ha! Here I go again…

The good thing about all the work that I’ve done on myself is that I’m self-aware enough to catch myself when this happens. I’m a big believer in the law of attraction. It has worked too many times for me in my favor not to be real, especially the seemingly serendipitous steps of my (so far) successful career. It’s also worked against me. Like attracts like, and I know damn well if I dwell in anxiety, fear of loss, and fear of rejection I’m going to attract what I dread the most. I have ruined more than a few relationships with actions based on my (sometimes) unfounded fear. And with that fear comes attachment and dependency on something or someone else to make me happy. And with all that, I make choices that cause me to feel more fear and anxiety and pain.

I only allow myself conditional happiness, and that’s the problem. I really want to be in that constant state of contentment and more importantly confidence. I’m getting there one day at a time. When I’m on the other side and have finally overpowered my ultimate nemesis I’ll let you know.

Back in White


Tonight was my first taekwondo class in about a week and a half. I took off two Fridays ago to spend time with my parents and it seemed like a good idea at the time to skip the entire following week. As I’ve said in previous posts I was burned out. I needed a break from taekwondo, even though it was more of a mental break than physical.

I was very tempted to stay home tonight. I am still privately dealing with a painful situation that has taken a great toll on me. I had sunk into a deep depression, and interacting with the world seemed difficult and uninteresting. My couch and Netflix were beckoning, but I thought that if I got on that slippery slope of skipping class after class I might sink so low that I’d never go back, which would be tragic since I’m so close to black belt. The more I isolate myself the darker my mood and my outlook become.

“Were you on vacation?” Grandmaster asked brightly, teasing me a little for my long absence. I smiled shyly, shook my head, and muttered something about having a bad week. He slung his arm around my neck in a half-hug and then pushed me out onto the mat to warm up. I was quiet at first, keeping my distance from my classmates, listening to their jokes as I twisted my body and slung my limbs around.

Monday is cardio night, so I was dreading the thought of jumping, spinning, and kicking with sluggish legs and clogged sinuses, but I held up surprisingly well. Suddenly I had lots of energy, kiyahp-ing loudly, jumping as fast as I could, and attacking the focus pads with vigor. The A/C was broken, but instead of complaining I welcomed the heat. I felt like the past weeks’ stress and sadness were being squeezed out through the sweat pouring down my face and back. I was home. The problems I’m facing won’t disappear with one class, but it was such a relief to lift it off my shoulders, if only for an hour.

Reason to Believe

peek puppy Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” blasted through my car’s radio speakers as I exited the highway on the way to taekwondo class. I narrowed my eyes to slits, gripped the steering wheel tighter, and willed myself to have a good time in tonight’s class. I couldn’t shake the weight of my weekend worries, everything that had happened so fast and had come crashing down so hard that I was still covered in emotional debris.

I walked in to find the dojang buzzing with energy. Two adult (ADULT!!!) white belts were at the barre facing each other and slowly, tentatively practicing front snap kick. My instructor was leading white belts through exercises and of my adult compatriots, a blue tip was standing on the sideline coaching some of the white belts with their blocks, and Grandmaster was working with some other students. I met the two adult white belts in the back hallway. “She’s getting her black belt in October,” said Grandmaster, pointing at me and beaming. I blushed and danced after the white belts, begging them to stick with it since we needed more adults.

We had a good class with maximum cardio and minimal teenage idiocy other than when my instructor had to get onto one of the teen black belts for skipping out on classes. The preteen blue belt I mentioned in the post about sparring widened his eyes when he heard about the second class on Wednesday night. “I’d gladly go to two classes in a row!” he said breathlessly. I smiled at him with protective pride. He was a little disappointed that it was for red and black belts only, but we reminded him that he’d be a red belt in just a few months. I like seeing promising, serious kids like that.

And then I came home and reality came crashing down again. Reminders of my current situation wrapped their hands around my throat and sent their chill into my bones. Looks like it will be another sleepless night of stress, sobs, and a sore back from curling up on the couch. I remember those hard crying sessions when something traumatic or sad happened, the kind that have me doubled over and barely able to make a sound while slimy tears run down my face, the kind that paralyze me and make me think that things will never get better, that all hope is lost and my heart will never be whole again. Like a scary Texas spring thunderstorm I know they eventually end, but the torture of sitting through them is truly a nightmare.

Once again I’m up pacing the house at 12:30 in the morning (except this time I have an early morning alarm, yuk). My brow is furrowed, my eyes are wide, and my mouth is fixed in a contemplative frown. I still can’t shake the knowledge that I attracted this situation (I was a “vibrational match” as my LOA friends would say)—everything leading up to it over the past few months, the past year really. I saw it coming and couldn’t do anything to stop it. I certainly couldn’t wish it a way. I have been blamed for the situation, and it’s really easy to fall into the trap of believing the blame. Now it’s all I can do to keep the final moment from replaying on a constant mocking loop in my mind. What’s even worse is when I am haunted by the good memories, the times that make the pain that much deeper and remind me that things will never be the same, that the fading memories are all I have left. I almost like that I can’t eat or sleep. It keeps the pain alive, real, visceral.

Right now I am broken. I have lost hope and the pain is sometimes so unbearable I wish everything would end, that I could just go to sleep and make everything go away. As much as I don’t want to go to work tomorrow I’m sure getting out of the house and having some distractions will do me some good. I know I’ll have to come back home to the low-hanging storm clouds and icy rain. I am covered in bruises from last week’s sparring and hand-to-hand combat. That’s nothing compared to what I feel inside. I want the pain to end. I wonder if it ever will.

I’m a little fascinated by it all. Why did things happen this way? Is it for the greater good? Is it to help me ascend to the next level of being? Some say that others are a reflection of how we feel about ourselves and people treat us the way we think it’s OK for ourselves to be treated. Is that how I think of myself? Where is my black belt confidence when I need it?

And even in my darkest hour I can’t help but think of another Jay-Z song about determination: “Dirt Off Your Shoulder.” “Ladies is pimps too, go on brush your shoulders off…you got to get that dirt off your shoulder…” That’s right, I’m a pimp! A lonely, heartbroken, deeply sad pimp, but a pimp nonetheless.
Swish swish.