If you are sensitive to the f-word, click away right now. Really. I am begging you, just stop reading.
I ran across this hilarious but also insightful essay this week, and I had to share here. As an English Professor, I can recognize the value of a powerful word when it’s used correctly, and this essay uses f*ck 127 times to desensitize us to it and to further illustrate its point. It’s a masterful play on language, and if you can see it for what it really is, it is some amazing life advice.
Click here to read it if you’d like, and then come on back over to finish my words if you want.
Gloria Steinem once said, “The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn but to unlearn.” I’ve got so much to unlearn, and as I look at how I’ve changed in the past year and the ways I still need to change as I move forward, there is a lot left to do in that regard. I’ve unlearned a lot already as I’ve written about before. But there is still work to do.
I’ve spent so much of my life caring about things that do not matter. At all. It is what we are socialized to do in the First World — and especially as women in the First World. Do my shoes match my shirt? Do those draperies look wrong on that window? Is this meal good enough to serve company? Does she think I’m weird? Is he satisfied with my response to that question? I’m seeing now that I have had an almost constant soundtrack of questions and concerns in my mind for pretty much my whole life and definitely my past 15 years.
Last fall, my life blew up. And my past year has been learning to stand on my own feet and to separate my worthiness from someone else. Those lessons have been hard-won, and I feel proud to have seen them emerge for me. If I have one resolution for the next year of my life, it is to give less f*cks about nearly everything – or as this particular essay explains, to be careful how I allot them. In short, I need to stop caring so much about stupid stuff that is not worth my time.
This is happening on its own already. As my time and financial provisions and general life situation has shifted, I have started to care a whole lot less about stuff that doesn’t matter, simply because I do not have the time or brain room to devote to it. Do my kids clothes match? I don’t give a f*ck unless it’s picture day. Is my house messy? I don’t give a f*ck as long as I can find what I need. Does every single meal on my table include a variety of fruits and vegetables? I don’t give a f*ck as long as most of them do. This is a far cry from who I was a year ago, and it’s not the result of some impressive soul-searching and fantastic personal goals. It’s just life in this season with one working parent and two little kids. In short, they are taken care of and clearly thriving. I am, too. We do what works for us, and I really don’t care about the rest. I don’t have to validate myself with anyone’s stamp of approval. And I don’t have time or energy to do that even if I wanted to.
When it comes to parenting and explaining myself to my ex, I am pretty good about not caring too much. But it’s with the rest of the world that I still struggle. It’s natural, and as Mark Manson reminds us in his masterful essay, “The point is, most of us struggle throughout our lives by giving too many fucks in situations where fucks do not deserve to be given. […] Fucks given everywhere. Strewn about like seeds in mother-fucking spring time. And for what purpose? For what reason? … This is the problem, my friend. […] Indeed, the ability to reserve our fucks for only the most fuckworthy of situations would surely make life a hell of a lot easier. Failure would be less terrifying. Rejection less painful.”
As I type this, I am only four days out from my ex’s wedding which if I am being honest totally blows my mind given that I wrote this post one year ago and had no clue I was on the cliff about to fall off. No clue. My kids are in the wedding which if I am being honest totally stabs me and makes me feel like I could vomit all over this keyboard with its audacity to place these two tiny people who grew in my belly at the altar with the union that started as we all know it did. There will be a handful of people in that congregation who will watch him exchange vows that echo the vows he exchanged with me ten years ago when they watched the first time. How people can watch that with anything less than a bad taste and a bothered spirit is beyond me.
But here’s the thing I see happening. I am all out of f*cks to give. I have none left. I clearly gave a f*ck when I weeped for eight solid weeks every single day last fall. I clearly gave a f*ck when I sat in my attorney’s office and worked with a realtor to assure the easiest transition for my kids and me. But now? After a year of feeling broken and bruised and angry, I am all out of f*cks to give. What’s the expression? Not my circus, not my monkeys? Sure, I think you’d have to be completely insane to marry less than a year after leaving your family and without taking even a single week to live alone and reflect. But it’s not my circus. And can I be honest, friends? I can finally say that I don’t give a f*ck.
And Mark Mason reminds us, “Developing the ability to control and manage the fucks you give is the essence of strength and integrity. We must craft and hone our lack of fuckery over the course of years and decades. […] This is what is so admirable … The staring failure in the face and shoving your middle finger back at it. The people who don’t give a fuck about adversity or failure or embarrassing themselves or shitting the bed a few times. The people who just laugh and then do it anyway. Because they know it’s right. They know it’s more important than them and their own feelings and their own pride and their own needs. They say “Fuck it,” not to everything in life, but rather they say “Fuck it” to everything unimportant in life. They reserve their fucks for what truly fucking matters. Friends. Family. Purpose.”
There it is, friends. I care a lot. About a lot of things. My kids’ wellbeing. My own success and satisfaction. My friends’ needs and my extended family’s comfort. My students. My writing. My calling and my purpose and the ways that I manage to uncover those things as these years roll by. That swelling feeling inside when I am doing something that brings me real joy.
I care a lot about the things that matter and the things worth my time, but I am staring failure in the face now, and I’m seeing it’s about more than my own pride, as the passage above says. Everything unimportant is falling away, and much to my surprise, this includes things that seemed pretty insulting and significant a few short months ago. Right now, I know what’s right for me. If it insults my own soul, I dismiss it. (Thanks, Walt Whitman.) As for the rest, I can’t care right now. I just can’t.
I’m planning to spend the weekend burrowed in a mountain cabin with my closest friends. We planned this a while back to get me out-of-town for the wedding and get my mind on something else. But now that it’s here, I’m finding I need a lot less babysitting than I expected I would. I’m ready for a weekend of food and friends and wine and burning away the old to make way for the new.