Issue March 19, 2013

Me Vs. Music

It’s not up to you

The moment you realize you’ve entered another arena as a grownup is liberating and jarring at the same time. No longer do you spend time fretting about being on trend, or constantly assessing your relationship against that of others. These become things that simply don’t really matter, and with good reason.

You’ve got no power to change them. You realize you are only in control of yourself and how you react. You begin to see that less reaction is usually the best course of action. Plus, worrying about others just makes you tired and, at times, unhappy.

I’m writing this for the several folks whom I know have been struggling recently to get it together in the area of love. I adore my friends, and when they hurt, I hurt. Love is hard for all, and if any simple truth or nugget of comfort can be had from what I have learned in 40 years, I want to share it — not just with them, but with anyone who has a heart that has been broken. If you feel like you keep making the same mistakes, I’m talking to you as well. I’m not pretending to be an expert, but there are some absolute truths in human relations, and this is one of them: It’s not up to you.

Recently, Bjork’s tune “It’s Not Up To You” has been playing over and over in my head. When I’ve heard from dear friends about their love frustrations, I urge them to turn it on. It used to signal me to let go of my “boy issues” and realize that what I received from these fellows was not in my power to determine.

There is maybe no greater lesson for the single girl. The only thing I could control is how I reacted to my relationships and what energy I gave. It was this song that finally taught me how not to be a doormat, nor overly desperate, nor to be angry when I didn’t get what I wanted. One day, the lyrics clicked and I fully understood. Eureka. Love made simple.

What I did learn about having relationships and the energy I gave was that I needed to be frank, upfront and blatantly honest about my expectations. While I knew I had no control over their reactions or whether they would respond in the way I wanted, I knew that being explicit allowed me to weed through the riffraff a lot faster. Now, that doesn’t mean you broach the subject of marriage and kids on a first date, but in a relationship, those conversations should happen, and both parties should be willing to lay out their desires without fear.

I didn’t offer choices, nor did I ask what they wanted. I made it about me and let it be what it was. When I stumbled into the right person, strong enough to be equally as direct and say that he could give me those things and then tell me exactly what he needed, the level of my relationships changed forever. It became a true partnership. We knew our limits and the areas where we could compromise.

My guess is that when Bjork wrote this song, she, too, had the epiphany moment that removed a lot of barriers to a healthy relationship. Let’s not confuse healthy and perfect — there is no perfection, but there is mutual respect and full disclosure. There is no mystery, no wonder. We know absolutely where we stand.

I have tried to keep advice to a minimum. Everyone has their path and they will follow it. However, there is so much really awful advice and so many cheerleaders who instigate us into making poor decisions, that I’m breaking my rule — mainly because this advice is not really telling anyone what to do. It’s just to illuminate that whatever action is taken, that is the only thing that can be controlled. Use it wisely and never be afraid to be explicit, and never be afraid to get an answer you might not like. It’s better than ignorance.

Erica Rucker is a freelance weirdo, writer and professional wedding/portrait photographer at eElaine Photography.