Other People Don’t Exist To Make You Happy :)

One evening as I was driving, the sentence “Other People Don’t Exist To Make You Happy” popped into my head. Although those words could’ve sounded harsh, I felt profound relief. It’s not that I consciously thought other people existed to make me happy, it’s just that sometimes I acted as if they did.

A little background first: I’m one of those people who, on some level, doesn’t understand why she’s not still friends with all her buddies from grammar school (though I still have a really good friend from grammar school who lives outside Seattle and she’s awesome). From an early age, I believed that true friends would be friends for life (remember that song?: “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other is gold”). I took that shit seriously ;-)

In a way, it makes sense. Who better to stay friends with than those who knew you when you were open, innocent, and your main motivation was having fun playing? Also, usually you don’t know that relationships can end when you’re a child, so you’re fully in with both feet!

I recently re-watched the movie Stand By Me, which I initially loved and cried profusely at.  because it seemed to be the standard-bearer on what it means to be a good friend and I wanted to remember what had resonated so deeply. Was it the boys’ loyalty for each other? Their understanding? The fact that they cheered each other on no matter what?

In the moments where I may feel disappointed that a friend is not able to “be there” for me, or perhaps is no longer able to regularly keep in touch, or even when I remember friends I’ve permanently lost along the way, I wonder things like: Was it my fault? Did my friend lose me or the other way round? Are there just “seasons of friendship?” – that with some people, we’re only meant to be friends for a little while? Was it deliberate or an accident?

In these moments, no matter the details, I find it’s so helpful to remember this mantra:

Other People Don’t Exist To Make Me Happy

- A friend and I were in the middle of discussing launching a project together and she set up a meeting for us to talk together to her (it turns out) bullying business partner and when he behaved badly, she never called me to say she was sorry or address it. In fact, she never called me again: People don’t exist to make me happy

- A childhood friend I tried to reconnect with as an adult (because we had adored each other as kids) and now coincidentally were living on the same street, but she was too busy: People don’t exist to make me happy

- A friend I have who holds me at a distance: People don’t exist to make me happy

When I do this, I feel a heck of a lot better. When I’m not thinking of what I can GET from a friendship, I’m seeing instead that there may be circumstances that don’t allow the person to give (things that I really should be giving myself anyway!). I end up having compassion and loving these people MORE than I did when I had an expectation of them. Well, hot damn! That feels good!

As embarrassing as it was to find out that I had this hidden expectation, I was glad to know I did because now I could ask Where did it come from? Oh (I know!) it came from flipping what was subconsciously drilled into me:

You Exist To Make Other People Happy (Aha!)

Through every rule or societal norm I was pressured to follow or uphold, through any friend or family member I somehow got the idea I was supposed to take care of, anytime I got the message from any school or misguided person that I should dull my light (Never do it!), whenever I believed other people don’t know how to take care of themselves so I must do it, I was believing this.

And therein lies the cycle. If I exist to make other people happy, they must exist to make me happy. This must be the agreement that was made though we never actually made it. And now that I know it’s out there and I accidentally opted in, I can opt out.

And don’t get me wrong, I’m sure I will create happy circumstances for some people (And I really want to! Sharing joy seems like one of the best parts of living). And I’m sure other people will bring happiness to me (and I will appreciatively receive it!). That said, people don’t exist to cater to my emotional needs, it’s not a given or even an appropriate demand, it’s codependent and I feel a whole lot happier not carrying that expectation of myself and others.

Try it next time. When someone disappoints you, say “__(Insert name) doesn’t exist to make me happy” See how it feels. I hope other people will do this for me. If I’m not measuring up, they can say “oh Anne doesn’t exist to make me happy, she might and she might not. She’s a person and she’s got her own life purpose. I wonder what she’ll do next?”

“Fly free little bird!”

As always, I LOVE hearing from you. How have your expectations of others and yourself around happiness played out?

Please leave a comment below.

Ps: Here are the details on two upcoming NYC & Boston shows!

Saturday, May 6th, 7pm a co-bill with Natalia Zukerman at Music on 4 in New York City (A House Concert on the Upper West Side). This show is by reservation only and will sell out. Tickets are $25 and can be reserved through musicon4 AT earthlink.net or 212-662-2320. Refreshments, wine and beer will be served.

Saturday, June 24th, 8pm Club Passim, 47 Palmer Street, Cambridge, MA / www.clubpassim.org / $20/$22 Tickets are available here

Your Best Friend….YOU :)

Hi friends,
It’s been a while since I’ve written. I’m at the beginning of a creative, more quiet period and one of the things that comes up for me when I start writing deeply, is that I discover some of those forgotten places in me that are asking for love: “Would now be a good time for you to pay attention to me and give love?” Most days, I hope my answer to this question can be: “Yes, now’s a good time, I’m listening :)

However, in reality I don’t always listen or know the best “how-to” to being good to myself. I’m always a work in progress.

Today, I’m writing to you from a forest in Costa Rica where I’m resetting and spending some time with family. Yesterday in our morning yoga class, the instructor wished us peace, health and the fulfillment of our desires. She suggested this could happen by God, or The Universe or angels/guides “or by your best friend…YOU.” I barely caught it when she said it but I loved it. It reminded me of a post I wrote last year about self-care, the allure of being a martyr, and a last minute trip to this very same place! You can read it here.

This year I had the desire to send you a similarly themed love note and hopefully make you chuckle with a Before & After picture pair (I’ve added them to the bottom of the blog post here)

My question to you this morning is how can you be your own best friend today?  What would that look like? How can being good to yourself inform how you treat others?

As always I love to hear your thoughts! Please feel free to leave a comment below.

#1 Tool for Finishing Songs, Creative Projects or Anything :)

A few years ago, I wanted to write a letter to the Afghan man who had lost 11 members of his family (8 of them children) at the hands of a US Army sergeant who broke into innocent civilians’ homes at night and killed them. I felt I had to do something. I wanted to tell this surviving father that I was deeply sorry. I wanted to offer something, but I got lost in the minutiae of it. I thought, he probably doesn’t speak or read English so he couldn’t read my letter. I also became afraid that he’d be angry with me or that a letter would be insignificant in the wake of what he was facing. Then, I thought I’d waited too long. Essentially, I gave up.

This email is a promise both to myself and to you that the next time I have an idea that won’t let go of me, I will act on it.

A lot of my ideas I do follow through on. Years ago, after my grandmother died, I was so bereft in her absence that I began visiting an 88-year-old woman named Alma in a senior center in South Bend. Alma’s family lived far away and she was lonely for them. I figured: “I’m a sad granddaughter, she’s a sad grandmother, we’re a good match” :) Alma and I had visits every Saturday until she died a few years later.

There was, of course, the initial hump to get over. I had the idea, but there was no “visit a senior program” that existed where I lived, so I had to just wander into a senior center and look for someone who looked like they might want a visitor.

In other words, I had to get past the weirdness, self-doubt and possibility of someone saying I was a security breach ;) . “Whom are you here to see?” “Um, not sure yet, someone who might like a visitor?”

In my daily life, I have my ideas about how things should/will go and they don’t always go as planned (of course). For example, this week my youngest was having problems at camp and I had to pick her up early. Then, my daughters’ swimming lessons (for which they were SO excited) were cancelled.


I love paying attention to what happens AFTER things don’t go according to plan. On this particular day, we ended up making indoor and outdoor obstacle courses instead of swimming. Pretty awesome.

My process with songwriting is similar. I make plans for what I want, follow through on my initial ideas, but I also stay open and adapt when those ideas morph and change.

I call it “The Tell & The Ask” and it’s helped many songwriters create & complete their visions especially when they feel stuck or confused about how to proceed.

Feel free to experiment with this and let me know how it goes for you! I always love hearing from you.

When we take action on our ideas (like if I had written a letter to that Afghan man) we actually have better stories to tell, better songs to write. We all have better things to make when we create better lives.

I’m all in favor of writing songs about the injustices in the world, but what’s the next step? What about also writing about the mending action you took or quirky loving thing you did? Go do that thing and THEN write your song. I’d like to hear that song :)

Some days it feels like we live in a very intense time and world but, we are powerful beings :) and our intentions matter.

So let’s put our visions out there, make them real and all the while, stay open to them even changing for the better!

Feel free to leave a comment below.


What If You Don’t Feel Like Doing Anything?

I love this time of year. Like clockwork, my body remembers.

As a kid, I’d get out of school, find and my brothers and I would go straight to my Grandma Rosemary’s house in Ottawa, Illinois. We’d run in the sprinkler, go to Pitstix pond, eat ice cream and just hang out. When we returned home 2 weeks later, my mom always said that we were so much calmer, so much slower moving, we were nice & easy.

But wait, I still want this kind of a summer vacation! There’s a biological part of me that’s confused every year when this doesn’t happen.

Is anyone with me on this? Do you still, on some level, expect your summer to be the way it was when you were 7?

Now that I’m an adult, I don’t have this same let loose time right as summer begins, but I still feel the longing. The longing to do nothing, or nothing much. And I can also feel like I don’t want to do the things I’m “supposed to” (any Gretchen Rubin “Rebels” out there?) even if they’re things I usually like doing.

So, last week, I decided to make a list of what I would do if I could do whatever I wanted the first week my daughters were out of school.

Here’s what I wrote:
1. Drink iced coffee. As much as I want.

2. Walk barefoot in grass. Wander.

3. Draw with crayons with my daughters. Maybe make a vision board or just do silly self-portraits.

4. Make bead necklaces (only if I feel like buying beads, otherwise not).

5. Decorate the house (maybe)

6. Watch one kid cartoon movie cuddled with kiddos. Later watch something grown up I like while they are napping.

7. Cook or order out healthy food! Get fruit smoothies!

8. Reflect on the day, write about it.

Wow, did that ever feel good. As soon as I got the words on the page, I felt a sense of elation. What soon followed was the “You can’t do that” voice, but alas the elation had already convinced me to at least try some of it.

So, what happened. Well, I still had to work, but miraculously some things shifted so we made our way through the list little by little with some deviations (one day we started the day with a tea party and THAT was pretty awesome)

What does your list look like? What would be on it? Please share in the comments below!




How Do You Get Back Up On The Horse?

How do you get back up on the horse? It’s a funny expression since most of us don’t ride horses as part of our daily lives, but a question I ask myself a lot as an artist and entrepreneur.

When life calls me away from my work in the world (as my 5-year old daughter’s recent hospital stay did), how do I begin again?

While my daughter was in the hospital and later when she was mending at home, everything came to a screeching halt. Of course, I was solely focused on her well-being so I didn’t really think about it.

But after she recovered 3 1/2 weeks later, I found myself feeling a little lost and historically from that place, I can get down. What will happen to the dreams I had for the year? Can I make up the time?

Part of me wanted to immediately jump back in to doing what I love, but the other part felt too depleted to be a good mentor or even a decent friend.

I considered that doing what I love might be the only path back to doing what I love well. I also considered that maybe people would understand I wasn’t at my best and that maybe, just maybe, that would be ok?

I decided to do a little of both, rest and host the weekly Soul Songs Luminaries group just a few days after we got home from the hospital. I had my reservations though and I told the group I was afraid I wouldn’t be very helpful and that I was relying on them, their intuition & wisdom to carry us.

Guess what happened? It was probably one of the best sessions yet. All the songwriters shared breakthroughs they’d had in their rewrites or recordings. It was so cool to witness.

This experience reminded me that everything is not up to us in the “carrying water from the river to the village” sense. So much is in the intentionality.

In this case, the Soul Songs Luminaries had been together for 3 months already, so a container for growth and beauty had already been established, along with a level of trust and momentum so even when things didn’t go exactly as planned, they continued to unfold.

Similarly, as I was sitting down to write this newsletter, I had the thought that I should wait until I had something more inspiring to say, until I was in a better place, but then I remembered it’s okay to be in the middle, in a spot where I don’t have it all figured out, trusting that something may be relayed in my showing up as I am right now.

What about you? Where can you show up in your life today without certainty, without knowing how it’ll go?

And if you did that more regularly, how would it change things?

I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to leave a comment below.


image courtesy of crocodile creek’s barnyard tower puzzle :)