In California, it always feels like a disaster is right around the corner. I know this from growing up in Yosemite, where I constantly wondered if a rockslide was going to cause granite slabs to fall on top of the house and smash us all. I know this from living in Los Angeles, where at any moment there could be an earthquake that causes the ceiling to fall. It is my belief that what makes California so beautiful is the subconscious understanding that it could fall apart at any moment. In a wildfire, in an earthquake, in a tsunami, in a tragic drought-induced water famine. If you stop and think about it, this place is terrifying.
I realized recently that I’ve taken the same sensibility about my home state and applied it to my life. And I’m not sure that’s a good thing.
A bit of backstory. For over a year, I’ve been dating a great guy who has been an attentive, giving partner and amazingly loving. Before that, I’d come out of a breakup that changed me emotionally forever, leaving me much less trusting and open than I’d been before. The last few years have been a roller coaster, but have smoothed out and landed in a nice place. My career has sort of moved in tandem to my love life, and I’ve been experiencing a tremendous amount of luck and success, through working with Homepolish and getting some wonderful sponsorships opportunities.
My boyfriend and I plan on moving into his Silver Lake condo at the end of the summer after it’s completely renovated (a project I’ve been working on for the past few weeks that is extremely exciting). This project has been maybe the most exciting of my life for a number of reasons. Firstly, he’s being pretty great about just letting me do what I want to do, and the space is going to look incredible when it’s finished. Second, there is nothing more fun than picking out finishes, furnishings, and designing a space with someone you love. It’s fun because of the fantasy involved, imagining what you’ll do in these spaces together, imagining a life that hasn’t happened yet. It’s all about thinking to the future, and being excited about it, and it’s a wonderful feeling.
The renovation we’re doing in Silver Lake is pretty involved (I’ll be sharing more about it soon, including renderings and before pictures). It involves basically gutting an 80s modern apartment and making it into a minimalist/Scandinavian paradise furnished with art and furnishings by California designers/artists/makers. It’s going to be a huge transformation, and it’s also the first time I’ve done this extensive of a renovation for a space I’d eventually call home.
I’m not necessarily one of those people who’s running around constantly wondering if he’s happy or not, staring into a mirror wondering about the meaning of life. But about a week ago I was looking at tile with Edouard and I realized this was the happiest I’d been in a really long time. Like the happiest I’d been in years. It’s not just the superficial/professional excitement of getting to work on such an exciting home that I’ll get to live in. It’s more that it’s imagining a life together with him, and how fun that is.
But there’s this feeling in the back of my brain, the feeling that something is about to fall, that I also struggle to contend with. This gets back to my California fatalist roots, the notion that something sinister is always right around the corner. What goes up must come down. And I’m not really sure how to deal with these worries.
It does seem logical, especially when you’ve experienced years of disappointment with love, professional life, and financial struggle, to expect bad things to happen. But as practical as it is to be constantly aware of the possibility of something awful happening, I can’t help but think there’s an aspect of self-fulfilling prophecy there. By being worried about all the sad things that could potentially happen in my future, am I plotting my own demise?
I know this seems kind of super specific, super personal, and maybe only applicable to me, but I think a lot of people do this. We kind of expect things to go wrong so that when they do we can feel smart that we weren’t blindsided by them. Which is the responsible thing to do, in a certain sense, because it protects you from ever getting fully invested enough in anything to be really hurt by it.
But it also shields you from fully enjoying your own happiness. From being able to get fully excited about your future.
If I learned one thing from the struggles I’ve had in my life (heartbreak, career woes, money worry, etcetera), I’ve learned that you kind of have to take the happy time at face value and be thankful for them. This goes especially for relationships. It’s so easy to get disillusioned when you look around. All there is to see is divorce and breakups and people getting hurt. But part of being a happy person is being able to maintain optimism, even in the face of dire facts. Perhaps the best thing we can do for ourselves is to say “everything is going to be fine,” even when statistics tell us otherwise.
Love seems really stupid from the outside. That is to say that other people talking about love or their particular relationship can seem ridiculous and performative and contrived. And I guess that’s part of why I’m so hesitant to get really excited about something romantic happening in my life – to be picking out a backsplash/planning a shared space with a guy I really care about – because part of me (read: most of me) doesn’t want to participate in this dumb culture of projecting their Disney-based ideas about love onto their partner. And I especially don’t want to be one of those annoying people who’s all “WE need to use Caesarstone in OUR bathrooms because WE hate when OUR countertops get stained because WE are both crazy perfectionists.” Because those people make me want to stab myself in the face with a sword.
So for now I’m sort of taking the middle road. I’m trying to say goodbye to the part of my brain that’s saying “something’s going to go wrong, something always goes wrong,” without resorting to unrealistic contrivances to quiet my fears. I can’t control the future (I’m not one of those “The Secret” people that believes staring at a picture of a skinny model is going to eventually make me into a skinny model). Would I genuinely like to stay with my boyfriend forever? Yes. But for now, I’m putting that out of my head. Instead of asking myself where we’ll be in fifty years, I’m asking myself whether what is happening now is right and productive and happy. And it is, so I’m going to take what I can from it and try to be as thankful as possible that I seem to be experiencing a tremendous amount of luck, that my family is healthy and that we are all doing well, and leave the worry about something going wrong to the time when something actually goes wrong.
26 thoughts on “Am I Plotting My Own Demise?”
Hey there Orlando – I posted this on my NSFW Tumblr blog yesterday and at the ripe old age of 65, it certainly applies to me. How about you? “Look at your track record: you’ve survived 100% of everything in your life so far, so there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll survive whatever is next!”
You are totally correct in that there IS something sinister around the corner – there always is – nothing stays the same, nothing is Forever. The trick to dealing with these truths is to ignore them, fill yourself to bursting with happiness in the present and make memories to sustain you during the next dry spell.
Dear Survivor, Don’t run from LOVE, run TO IT !!
I know what you mean. But… sometimes, things go very right. VERY right. Enjoy the ride! Go glad for your new found happiness. 🙂
You know what? You are awesome. WE are awesome. And that annoying guy over there? Even he’s awesome. Enjoy the ride, Baby!
I’m so happy for you. I remember you from when you hardly spoke on Emily’s show, then we got to discover how witty you are on your blog, and now we get to be here for the happiest time in your life! Thanks for sharing.
Well, I always assume everything will turn out fine, and it pretty much does.
I call my husband a ‘catastrophizer’ because he always leaps to the worst conclusion immediately.
But he’s an excellent strategizer and planner and those are pretty good traits to have in a marriage. Our formative years definitely played a role in how we developed these thought processes.
I once heard that worrying is like ‘Praying FOR what you DON’T want. Don’t do that 🙂
Enjoy building your new home. It sounds fab!
I live in San Francisco and am moving in with my boyfriend in less than two weeks. We’ve been together for over 5 years and I’m SO excited to finally be taking this step with him. For the past month we’ve both been obsessively looking for furniture and art and just cool random stuff to put around the apartment. Even after 5 years of being with someone, there’s still so much you learn about them when you’re picking out things for your home. Learning what’s super important to them and also what they would rather have you deal with. For that very reason I find myself happier than I’ve been in a long time. I’m learning more about my life partner and doing exactly what you mentioned. Imagining the future moments we will be using all of this stuff with. But I, like you, have that same fear that this is all too good to be true sometimes.Thank you so much for posting this. I really needed to be reminded to be happy and content with the present regardless of what may happen in the future. We need to remind ourselves that it’s okay to feel deserving of our successes in life. If we feel like we deserve it, then our thoughts of it all falling apart will just float away.
I know what you mean. I worry all the time that my life is too good. My children are healthy and happy, something must go wrong. I have to constantly push those thoughts aside. My mantra is “choose happiness.” Happiness doesn’t just happen, it takes constant vigilance. To let the bad things go, and pay attention to the good things. That’s why I love Instagram so much. I use it as a visual journal of the good moments in my life, big and small. From “the light is hitting those trees just perfectly,” to “my daughter is graduating from college.” The people who follow me (mostly family, lol) probably think I’m insane for some of the stupid things I post, but it’s a good way for me to focus on my happiness.
Funny, you seem to have an awful lot in common with this suburbuan mom in her 40s. Happily married, healthy kids…and always knocking wood. Maybe it’s because we’re both native Californians. (But probably not) Enjoy this time in your life. 🙂
This is a very familiar feeling to me that I have also struggled with a bit, but I think if you have a little faith in yourself and your ability to handle life, it’s easier to tune that out. Also. Coldplay, Warning Sign should be the soundtrack of this post.
usually the life-related advice i read on lifestyle and design blogs makes ME want to stab myself in the face with a sword, but i actually appreciated this post. thank you
This is very applicable to me right now… It’s difficult to remain positive when tangled in negativity. I’m trying to focus on the positives, but it’s hard. No romance, dull work in a dull dull cubicle, and worrying about money definitely cloud my mind. It’s nice to read how you came through to the other side, so thanks for offering some hope about how this tedium can actually end.
I live ln San Franasco and I’m moving in with my boyfriend in less than two weeks. We’ve been together for over 5 years and I’m SO excited to finally be taking this step with him. For the past month we’ve both been obsessively looking for furniture and art and just cool randorn stuff to put around the apartment. Even ater 5
years of being with someone, there’s still so much you learn about them when picking things for your home. Learning what’s super important to them and also what they would rather have you deal with. For that very reason I find myself happier than I’ve been in a long time. I’m learning more about my life partner after so many years and doing exactly what you mentioned. Imagining the future memories in and around all of the stuff we’re making and buying.
But I, like you, have that same fear that this is all too good to be true sometimes. Thank you so much for posting this. I really needed to be reminded to be happy and content with the present regardless of what may happen in the
future. We need to remind ourselves that it’s okay to feel deserving of our successes in life. It helps us make them more real and in turn allows us to be embrace being happy.
As for your point on California. My bf won’t let me put one of my 3D art pieces made of screws above our bed because he’s afraid it’ll kill us in an earthquake. So I totally feel you on that.
I feel very happy for you,and i encourage you to enjoy what is happening in your live.
As a daughter of a dramaqueen i’ve become and optimistic while trying to show my father that nothing is bad enought to ruin your life,except the really bad things that can ruin your life.. Jeje
I’ve been reading you for a while and you feel almost like a friend…you make me laught a lot!!
Un beso from Spain
This hit home for me as well, so thank you for sharing. I am on another level of crazy and get anxiety when I’m NOT worried about something but feel that I SHOULD be worried. I’m getting married in 2 weeks and I’m not at ALL nervous about it – we are in love and I know we will do whatever it takes to make our marriage work, but sometimes I wonder if maybe I should be more worried. I’m sure I’d have to spend thousands in therapy to have those issues psychoanalyzed.
Here, here! I absolutely believe that worry breeds the things we worry about. I think everyone struggles with it (they must, right?) – but the truth is, whatever happens in the future is something you can deal with then. Trust that, and try not to waste your happy days worrying when they’ll end. Happiness is something to enjoy and be thankful for – I’m glad you found it! (I’m stepping down from my soapbox now)
Oh Orlando. How I love your posts. I’m so glad you have happy in your life, be happy in your life.
Orlando, You are loved xo
This is so beautifully written. I think every single person on the planet has felt this way (oh, the doom!!) and needs to learn this lesson (self included). Truly enjoy this happy time!
Sometimes things actually do work out the way you want them too. Enjoy it.
I’m just some random person that stalks your blog…like a creep. But, I love your sense of humor, honesty and candor. This post was poignant for me because I am the Biggest (often irrational) worrier about everything (anxiety and OCD doesn’t help the situation)! My first year of marriage involved constant melt-downs that my husband would die suddenly. My two-year old is still sleeping in my room because if he is in his own room down the hall, he will obviously die in his sleep or be stuck in a house fire or kidnapped through the window and walked right out the front door. I hate going anywhere by myself because, well, there’s just so many terrible things that can happen to a young woman alone. I am currently pregnant, and I am constantly filled with worry about everything-is he/she going to be born with some rare disease, or missing limbs, or born months early and stuck in the NICU? And on and on. Now, I am very much an optimist and get super excited for even the little things, like buying new makeup or an upcoming birthday party. But, there is still that side of me that is in constant terror that my beautiful life will just fall apart suddenly. And when I am especially terrified and worried of the unknown, seemingly imminent disaster on its way, that is when my mom’s advice comes in. She always tells me, save the worry for when something bad actually happens. On the other hand, I like to prepare myself for everything terrible so that I too, won’t be blindsided when something bad does happen….I just re-read what I wrote and well, I was trying to be uplifting and helpful but I just realized that instead this has turned into a depressing, circular monologue. So I guess what I’m really saying is that you’re not alone. And that it’s okay sometimes to forgo the worry and just let that incredible happiness wash over you and enjoy it fully. Good luck with all the exciting and happy things in your future!
I’ll say I struggle with living in the here and now as well. I’m always wondering what’s going to happen next week, next month, next year, or in 5 years. I’m doing my best to focus on being present in the moment and living life to the fullest, in the now. Sounds like you’re doing the same.
Kudos to you for being so real in this post, it’s always great to see other folks open about their personal lives/struggles. Keep on doing you buddy.
Josh – The Kentucky Gent
I have been struggling with this lately and feeling very pessimistic/lost in the world. so good to read this post, it really gives me hope that better things could still be to come. 🙂 love your blog as always. xx
I totally understand and I think that you would really love the book Daring Greatly by Brene Brown (she is famous for a TED Talk) – she helped me think through this idea of waiting for the other shoe to drop. I haven’t figured it all out but I am aware of my fear. Its a process to enjoy, really enjoy life. Thank you for being real.
I really enjoyed reading this post and I can totally relate. I’m a worrier and it’s hard for me to be optimistic sometimes… especially when things are going well without worrying about something bad happening next to ruin it all.
What a gift this post is. Im so glad I found it. Your commenters an inspiration as well. Congrats on your happy future 🙂
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