anywhere but here

I nearly just posted a letter to a friend, one of those, "I’d never send this" letters where I tell her exactly what I think.  Then I erased it because it’s inappropriate to post, but even more, I realized, why can’t I say these things to her?  I suppose sometimes a friend needs to ask our opinion before we give it.  I want to tell her that I think she’s running from her life, filling her time with busy work and plans, instead of creating a rich life for herself here.  I want to encourage her to go for more walks, to invest in herself not through dating, but in signing up for classes in things about which she’s always been secretly interested. Not some one off class either.  She needs routine and should stick with it. Scour the pages of Time Out or some other About Town section, then go to a museum or play or book reading.  I wish she’d slow down, sit with her silence, and realize no matter where she tries to go, that silence will still be there.  And it’s not about transforming emptiness into a quiet peace either.  It’s about sitting still and saying, this is actually how it should be.  Let me make the most of this.   

When she is here, she creates projects for herself, insisting she’s on a mission to find a lover.  Busy work because no job appeals to her unless it’s tied to fashion, and even then, she’d like nothing more than to quit any job, no matter how fabulous, to say she’s writing her book.  Why can’t she make herself happy where she is?  Read a book in central park, fix herself a picnic.  Instead it seems she is running from herself, thinking there’s some point in her future that will make her happier than she is now.  She doesn’t realize, even with all her talk, that she’s wearing Dorothy’s slippers, and the power is with her, and has always been within her, to change her life at home.



  1. Well put. It took me years to figure that out for myself. What's the saying? Life is what happens to you while you're busy making plans?

    Wherever you go, there you are…….

  2. Tough call, to speak or not to speak. Some friends need the harsh reality from a source close to them. Some friends aren't going to listen no matter who says what. I would determine my tolerance level and then tell my friend that I love them, want them to be happy, but cannot continue to enable the vicious cycle of avoidance they're currently living in. If they are receptive to what I have to say, then i'd talk to them about what they are unhappy about and help them figure out how to change it. If nothing changes, then i'd say some distance would be in order. But that's just me. Took me a long time and some tough love from a good friend to figure out how to be happy with myself, but boy was it worth it.

  3. The tough part, of course, is no one cane hear words of wisdom until they are ready to receive them.

  4. So ironic that you wrote this today of all days.

    I am having the same problem with one of my friends right now. I have countless things to say to her that are along this same vein, but instead of doing so I hold it all in and/or tell everyone *but* her.

    I am not known for being upfront about my feelings…but I am starting to think it is to the detriment of myself AND my friends.

  5. I appreciate your concern for your friend, but if she lives in Austin, why don't you offer to do some of the things with her that you suggest? It's much more fun to take a class, go museums, etc. with a friend, especially one with your best interests at heart.

  6. So many of us spend our time thinking about our past or our future instead of enjoying the moment that is now.
    Planning for a future than being disappointed when it never comes. I have come to learn this is no way to live and true happiness lies within us.
    Check out my friends website and podcasts. I believe he is on to something great. Pass it on to your friend. Maybe it will help her.

  7. Maybe this is like Dear Abby where A writes in (albeit you are writing to yourself) because they can't tell B,their friend, something, B reads Dear Abby, understands what A is talking about and finally opens up to what is going on?

    With me it depends on my relationship with my friend. All my friends know I tell it like it is (which sometimes doesn't make people happy) but I also hold back too. The friends whom I am especially close with eventually come out with their unhappiness and that is the opportune time for me to let them know what I've been thinking. People "settledown" at their own pace some early, some eventually and some never do. Ask yourself if you can still be there for the friend that never does. The one who "changes" just might be you and not your friend.

  8. I understand your situation very well. i have a friend who i have grown up with and she is very important to me and i have been having a hard time watching her live her life lately. she is in a relationship i am completely against and i cant say anything. a few months ago when she was in a bad place with the guy i took advantage of that moment and said everything i thought about him and how she should be doing other things with her life and her time – and she agreed with me! but when she tried to break it off they had a long talk and decided to stay together and now everything is "perfect" between them! i have to pretend to be happy but how can i sit back and watch this? yet who am i to comment on someone elses life even if they are a best friend. very gray area…

  9. "And all you see
    Is where else you could be
    When you're at home
    Out on the street
    Are so many possibilities
    To not be alone"

  10. My 12 yr. old daughter shared this with me. Seems appropiate to share now:

    One day, the father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the express purpose of showing him how poor people live.

    They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family.

    On their return from their trip, the father asked his son, "How was the trip?"

    "It was great, Dad."

    "Did you see how poor people live?" the father asked.

    "Oh yeah," said the son.

    "So, tell me, what did you learn from the trip?" asked the father.

    The son answered:

    "I saw that we have one dog and they had four.

    We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end.

    We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night.

    Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon.

    We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight.

    We have servants who serve us, but they serve others.

    We buy our food, but they grow theirs.

    We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them."

    The boy's father was speechless.

    Then his son added, "Thanks Dad for showing me how poor we are."

    Isn't perspective a wonderful thing? Makes you wonder what would happen if we all gave thanks for everything we have, instead of worrying about what we don't have…

    Personally, I think that we're all are put here to learn our own set of lessons – Don't rush her…

    it does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. it means to be in the midst of all those things and STILL BE CALM IN YOUR HEART.

  11. You can't say those things to her because you know she wouldn't listen. She has to get there herself, and you are smart enough to know that all the talking in the world won't make her take that leap. It's not an easy thing to 'sit with your own silence'. A lot of people spend a lot of time and energy doing anything but, and I know because I was one of them. Who knows, maybe she will find through the perfect trip the life she is looking for.

  12. The hardest part is finding out what you are running from. I grew up in an abusive environment and dealt with my problems by filling up my life with after school activities, just so I wouldn't have to go home. It took me years to realize that as an adult I was doing the same thing. I have found that I run when I have those same trapped feelings I had as a child and that it is an indication that I am repressing a part of myself, usually so I don't hurt someone else or so that I can accomodate someone else. Whatever she is running from needs to be faced, otherwise she will always feel displaced and that the "grass is always greener" somewhere else.

  13. When I saw a friend's kid do something I considered dangerous, I told her about it. You know what I got? I was accused of being "judgemental" and that I was telling her how to parent her kid. Ouch! I'll keep my mouth shut from now on. Even though I know I'm right…

  14. Yeah, but sometimes people just need to find out these things on their own. I once told one of my best friends that I thought it a little weird that she was bragging about her boyfriend — eventual husband — getting his tubes tied at 28. She's older but she didn't want kids. She had a bad time with BC in her first marriage. But still. That's odd. She was annoyed. I don't blame her because it's really none of my business. Unless your friend is engaged in truly self-destructive behavior (too much drinking, sleeping around with anything and everything, I'd keep quiet. If she's stable and making some progress in her life, you probably should butt out. But it's good that you care. Still, let her figure some things out.

  15. Is this the friend who's doing the engaged guy?

    I'm sure you just outted your friend if she reads this post, so maybe she just got the picture.

    I don't know how I'd feel if a friend had these things to say to me. I might be like, "Deal with your own life," or I might break down and cry and tell her, "Damn, you are right!"

    Fortunately, everybody I know thinks I lead the perfect life so no one's coming around trying to change me… LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL!

  16. FWIW, I agree with D. Unless it is self-destructive behavior, then it is probably none of your business. Nor do you know what makes her clock tick. What you think is inappropriate might be perfectly normal for her. It's like me telling A to lose weight, telling B to work harder, and telling C to spend less time at home and not traveling for work. To what end? So they'll be just like me?

    Besides, there are people out there right now thinking about things that they want to change in you. How many of your readers think that Phil is the greatest, or worst, suitor in the world? They have no idea of what makes you tick. Yet some of them are more than willing to give you advice.

    Trying to change people based on your personal criteria is pointless.

  17. I think it's a little unfair to say she shouldn't live her life through dating….looking back through your posts – until you found the suitor your life seemed to be a lot about dating and finding the right man.

    Not everyone is ready to stop running or searching or whatever-ing at the right time. as friends, i think it's our job to give our opinion but also support whatever is keeping them afloat at that time. even if we think we can see the right path – is it ever right to force someone (even if it is in the name of friendship) to travel a road that isn't of their own choosing?

  18. sweetie, you're sounding like Dulce…remember, "you should learn to make yourself happy first"…and you wanting to throw the phone?
    …same thing.
    Things always make much more sense 1000 feet away. When you're in the thick of things….there's no other choice but to be completely unreasonable and out of control.
    Otherwise, where's she going to get well-healed battle wounds down the road?! We all need a scar or two.

  19. Stephanie,
    I just got home from vacation and your book was a big part of it. I loved it! I spent 2 days on the beach savoring every little bit like I said I would. I had to pace myself or I would have devoured it in one sitting. When I buy hardback books I always get them discounted, on sale, whatever…I paid full price for Straight up and Dirty and it was worth every last cent. First of all you are a very talented writer and I love your style. I found myself laughing, crying and really cheering you on. I don't even know you but I am so proud of you. To read your blog now and see where you are now from where you came from is inspiring. I am so happy you and Philip Stephen/The suitor have found each other and have what appears to be a truly great partnership. —You have really inspired me. I have always loved photography from the time I was a kid but I never took it seriously. I'm always with my camera in hand (and I've got the stacks of photo albums to prove it) but I just point and shoot. I'd like to take a class and really get to know my camera better. Here's my question if you have time to answer. Right now I have a Nikon 35mm SLR that I haven't used in a year because last year I picked up a canon powershot digital camera to take on vacation. I didn't think I would like digital, but I LOVE it. I'm looking to upgrade. I would love the Nikon D100 but the D50 is more in my price range. I know you are not a camera shop owner, but in your opinion is the D50 a good choice or do you think there is something better out there in that price range. I think if there is one thing I learned from your book (and you also said it in this post) is to go out and live your life and fulfill your dreams. Thanks Stephanie!

  20. There's a bit of what you described in all of us. Sometimes, it's easy said than done.

  21. While I am sure you mean well, this sounds judgemental to me. It's like my friend who decided pre-marital seex was wrong AFTER she got married. I'm a new reader (and I do enjoy your unique point of view), but looking back on old posts – the posts were very man-centric…

  22. Stephanie,
    your friends may have had a similar sentiment several years ago when you were going through your own hardship. i know mine did. some of them said they couldn't actually be around me, since they couldn't understand how i didn't "see it." people sometimes need to do things at their own pace. it's like in your book when your friend kept asking you "why, why, why…" you needed some prompting, but the answers were there all along. there are times when we need to figure stuff out on our own.

    by the way, do you answer your own questions? the podcast responses (via email) didn't seem like your style. just wondering.

  23. with her, it's soooo much less about the dating and much more about her need to always escape… always has to have her next trip planned, and before it arrives, it's all she focuses on. She doesn't live in the moment and always assumes she'll be happier some time in the future, in another city, state, or country.

  24. I think i know who this is, she used to have a blog that i used to read when you had a link to it here. I enjoyed her writing and thought she must have had incredible strength to have gone through what she had in her life and still keep going. I guess at the end of the day we all need to learn life's lessons for ourselves. I can be told something 100 times but it is not until I trip up and make the mistake or somehow decide to learn it myself that it sinks in. We are all stubborn in one way or another and all figure these things out at our own pace.

    It's hard though to stand by and watch someone do it. I hope she's well.

    p.s come on – when are you in London, I'll be there to cheer you on!

  25. ok, i dont know what kind of relationship you have with this friend but i think if it's deep you can say these things. if it's not than maybe you should let her live her life the way she sees fit. sometimes people think they know what is best for someone but they are basing it on what is actually best for themself.

    again, if you are that close you should be able to call her out on her bullshit. period.

  26. You can say ‘these things’ to her, especially since they’re true. I would say it’s a life or death situation, but that’s my dramatic side talking.

    Here is the thing. Who doesn’t need, want, or isn't maybe even waiting for someone to come and bust out a Cher in Moonstruck, “Snap out of it!” on them every once in awhile? I know I am. I’m so over having spectator friends, I want people to participate in life with me.

    A few months ago I pulled out a Loretta Castroni snap and slap to a friend, and not just any friend, we’re talking the ‘love of my life’ friend. She and I are war buddies. We trenched thru manic depression, illness, and our twenties together. So I was talking a big risk. What pushed me to take the plunge was the following realization:

    We don’t live unto ourselves as so many of us claim to think. I must get up in the morning and do whatever I have to to show-up and be ready to leave my mark. Nobody else can do it, that’s why I’m here on this earth, not to merely take up space. If I turn a blind eye to my friend whose ‘asleep’ am I really participating here? Who’s worse off? Her or I?

    We all need to wake ourselves up and pull everyone willing with us, especially those we love.

    If you’re not convinced stick in Moonstruck and press play.

  27. I think you were writing this to me. I tend to do the same things as your friend. Plan trips, get out of town, thinking it would be so much better anywhere else but here. Thanks, I needed the wake up call!

  28. Your post hit home for me, because for a long time I've been really (too) busy with work. Work I enjoy and am happy to do, and my ego is attached to it, but it often means I have to cancel plans or not even make them in the first place, and that's lame. And who wants to wake up ten years down the road and wonder where all the time went because you were too busy to actually live it? Coincidentally, I got a call today from someone who needs some work, and I'm giving her some of mine.

    Anyway, I think you can communicate these things if you phrase them in a really careful way and focus on your concern with her rather than your fed-up-edness (which can be hard). Something like "I worry sometimes that you're spending so much time planning future stuff that you're missing out on the present. What do you think?" Or "I feel like you're doing something I used to do. I used to keep myself busy because I was afraid what of what I'd be left with if I didn't." I dunno. It does sound like she's literally always trying to get away…and someday she'll have to face what she's trying to get away from (or not–I don't think you can force people). If she's ready to hear it from you, she will.

    The only time I was ever really direct with a girlfriend about how she was living her life was when I said, "Honey, I'm worried about your drinking…" I wasn't the only one, and eventually she went to AA and has been sober for over a year. It's touchy stuff. You're obviously a really honest and caring person and that'll come through no matter what. Good luck w/it.

  29. side-bar from subject>I think as long as friends don't bring you down, emotionally, & professionally, you should keep them! Friendships should be unconditional unless they[friends] are dumping on you. How much is too much? Isn't it give and take? Sometimes if one friend tips the scale too far, it is time to call it quits. Half the time in friendships, we are not being insincere, but rather, doing our job, as friends, to support them in whatever phase life is offering them. Why play god?
    Ultimately,the minute we judge them, we are being selfish. It is a destructive yet all too mundane human habit that many take part it (although not those who are completely self actualized)> putting down what others do to glorify ourselves or essentially "puff ourselves up"!
    LEt the one without imperfections cast the first stone. I'd agree with the commenter who said it is crucial advise within reason-that if in fact the girl is taking part in explicitly self-destructive behavior, that is the time of intervention. Otherwise let life take its course. I think encouraging words are more salient than condescending words. And it sounds like you had a few positive suggestions of activities for your friend. Keep it coming :)

  30. I agree with green couch chronicles that it's a little hypocritical of you to say she's living her life through dating. She might say that you're quickly becoming a "smug married."

  31. Long time reader, first time commenter. I read this post earlier in the day, and coincidentally am reading your book. At 2:00, I realized I'd worked through lunch and went out to read a few chapters and enjoy an iced coffee in the beautiful sunshine. One of the chapters I read included the Diane Keaton analogy. And therein lies the point – you can tell her whatever you want to, but she has to figure it out for herself. I think I had what Oprah calls an aha moment!

    Oddly for me, I'm currently at an pretty OK place in my life (no suitor, but otherwise, I'm content) while several friends of mine are the opposite. Usually, it's the reverse situation. I don't say that to be smug; rather, I know what it's like to be in their shoes and I know how my chipper advice would probably be received (i.e., not well). You're in a pretty good place as well, and certainly you've been on the other side, so perhaps keeping mum for a while might be for the best.

  32. From what it sounds like, your friend is running from something…from some kind of fear, some pain, maybe even herself…but that is easier to do than embracing and confronting your fears head on…the "silence" you refer to may be painful and might be more than she can handle right now….so I would let her handle things in her own way and time…

  33. I am pretty much the same way. I always think I'll be happier at a different age, in a different place, doing anything other than what I'm doing where I am – even though I'm fully aware that I have to be happy with me before I can be happy anywhere else.

    Luckily, I have a best friend who just theo ther day said to me "you know if you left right now – nothing would be right for you – because you're not right for you."

    She constantly reminds me of how much I have right now and tells me I'm being rediculous when I start threatening to drop everything in life and hop a plane to anywhere I can think of. And she's the best friend for it.

  34. I think you should stay out of it. Who is to say that your opinion is right anyway? A (now ex)friend of mine told me a few years ago that she needed to talk to me about my oldest son. She felt that he was messy ,lazy and that I let him get away with too much. She felt he was turning into a loser and that I needed "set straight". My friend had never had children nor been around them much and I was appalled at her audacity. My son (19) is now a marine and proudly defends our country. She couldn't have been more wrong about him and the conversation in the end cost her our friendship.

  35. Stephanie, I've just recommended your book to my mom's book club. Partly as sort of a joke – I don't know if the ladies in suburban Mass. would really 'get' you and the NY life – and partly because I just think you're so right on sometimes. The last three sentences of this post certainly reflect one of those moments. I thought that Straight Up was a great snapshot of a person in transition who was learning to live graciously, and take what life had to give, despite the fear. It allowed the reader to see clearly where you were coming from and where you wanted to go. In suggesting it to my mother, I suppose I identify in part with your path and I think that in having her read your book, she'll understand me more. This post makes me think that the recommendation was a great one. Thank you. And re: your friend, I think if you position it such a way that you're sharing your own experiences and the lessons that you see as being most valuable to you vs. trying to tell her where she's going wrong she may get the picture without feeling threatened and allow it to sink in. That being said, most of the time, people change on their own schedule. So while she may absorb the advice, it may be a while before it changes the way she's living.

  36. I need someone to do this to me! BTW (re Kim) I hate the way my best friend treats her children, I want her to be kinder, particularly since her and her husband have recently separated after 18 years. But I say nothing. I find it so painful to watch that I can't say anything calmly but I recognise how much of that pain in mine and reflects the way my mother treats me. I also think that you can never criticise other people's parenting or their children, whether you have children or not, it is just off limits.

  37. I think I know who this is too, and you are right, Stephanie, but I know she won't be happy to hear you say this and she won't heed your advice. Too bad.

  38. If you can't be with yourself you can't be with anyone else. What's that saying…. "No matter where you go there you are." Good luck to her.

  39. Sometimes it IS better to travel and get away. I do it. I've gained valuable perspective and found independence through thinking it would be better "anywhere but here." Anywhere but here got me to a much better place in my head – sometimes you need the change of scenery, to shake up your life.

  40. I'm assuming your friend has not asked you what you think about her lifestyle, right? Like others have said above, live and let live. Maybe you're right that if your friend settled down, lived in the moment, etc. etc., she'd be happier and find inner peace and all that. But that's not to say that the path she has chosen FOR HERSELF will not lead her where she needs to go, too. If I were ever to give a friend advice about something as broad as how to live her life, I think the most I could tell her would be to just trust her instincts (note: *hers*, not mine). I believe we all have gut feelings about what the right things to do are, and if we listen to them I think we tend to end up right where we are supposed to be. It might be a rocky road with some twists and turns, but the end destination is usually the right one.

    When I read the advice you'd like to offer her, it all seemed familiar. I'm fairly certain this is advice you have given yourself in the past (I seem to recall you writing about all of these things before in regards to your own life). While I'm sure it's well meaning, your unsolicited advice on how your friend should be living her life should be kept to yourself.

    Sorry this comment turned into unsolicited advice about how you should not give unsolicited advice. :)

  41. The key is ALWAYS to make the person you care about feel BETTER. So, on that note I always say do it in a "positive" way, and then you will not have to worry about what you say to her or are trying to tell her. So many times people try to help another person with their problems and they end up making them feel worse. That is because the person trying to help seems, hmmmm, frustrated with their friend's issues. At that point, THEY need to stop and be silent and say to themselves….this is about "her", not me. And how can "I" make them feel better or "really" help.? Well, just look into your heart and speak from the heart. People feel better when they feel someone REALLY cares about them. They see it in their eyes when they speak. And the absolute LAST thing you want to do is talk to everyone else about someone else's problems. It is not our place to discuss a possibly painful time for one of our friends to others. Let their business be "their" business and just simply love them and try and find a solution to help. Because remember, it IS their issue…..not yours. And as my grandmother, older and wiser, always taught me…if you don't have something nice to say to someone or about them….well, then you keep your damn mouth shut!LOL She is sooo right. It will end up just getting you into hot water. And at that point, you might end up loosing a friend.

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