Art Appreciation

I don’t really worry about whether or not people like me. A long time ago, I learned that no one is everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s all right. I’ve said before that I think I have a strong personality, and I realize not everyone is going to want to be sitting in the booth with me. That’s okay. I respect that because I don’t want to sit in the booth with everyone either.

Many years ago I hit upon the idea that personalities and people were like art in a museum. I could appreciate the effort it took to bring them to their current installation, and I could (and should) respect them for what they were, but I didn’t have to want them hanging in my living room. My liking or disliking the art does not make it any less worthy of installation–it only affects where I give it space in my own life. The reciprocal applies. I wouldn’t match everyone’s decor, so I can’t expect every patron of the arts to want me as the focal point of their great room. If you don’t like me, that doesn’t make me any less worthy of someone else’s love–it only affects where you give me space in your life.

All that said, while I have very little trouble with the idea that someone might find my personality a bad fit for their world, I am horrified to think that anyone might find me annoying, ill-mannered, offensive, rude, or cruel. Those aren’t personality issues. Those are character flaws.

I do actually lose sleep at night when I think I have hurt someone, been rude to someone, or been offensive. Even in situations where I know I am in the right, I can’t stand thinking I’ve behaved badly. I want to be judicious in anger, and gracious in pain. I always have the thought in the back of my head, “One day, it might be you on the flip side of this coin. How hard do you want to have to beg for mercy?”

So, I am paranoid about being accidentally offensive. Even the slightest change in the tone of a conversation sends me scanning everything I’ve said or done, trying to figure what of my puppy-like idiocy might have caused the change. I come up with some doozies, too.

I find that really amusing about me. I don’t mind if you don’t like me, but I am gutted if I think I’ve done something wicked to deserve your dislike.

Blogging::Cheap Therapy

Wagging Tongues

I love the concept of fasting for clarity, and am reminded of it every time Lent rolls around. Again, though I am not Catholic, I did go to Catholic school and plenty of it rubbed off on me. I have said before that I have a feeling of relief and release with confession, and I should add to that, I have a sense of purification through penance and works. Fasting fits that bill.

Now, I don’t fast foods. Giving up food isn’t a big deal to me. I can just as easily find something else I like to eat, and I sure am not going to miss a whole meal unless there is a medical reason for it. I need to eat for energy. I fast things that tickle my soul, and I select them as things I want to burn out of my life anyway.

I haven’t done a fast in several years. I’ve been too lazy. But a discussion I had last night has made me think, and I realize I may have been projecting some of my own self-criticism as criticism from others. I also realized that I couldn’t think of a good reason for doing what had started the discussion, as it was just mean-spirited.

So, what I am giving up for Lent-and-beyond is mean-spirited conversation. It isn’t flattering. It isn’t edifying in any way. It has nothing to do with the graciousness I’d like to project. It isn’t how I want you, or anyone else to think of me.

I know you’re supposed to give up something you like for Lent. I am. Isn’t that awful? I have enjoyed every one of those mean-spirited conversations! Alice Roosevelt would have loved sitting next to me–up until this morning.

With that in mind, I give you James 3:1-12, which I will be using as anchor for my lenten soulish hunger-strike. Paraphrased, if we control our tongues, we can control our worlds. And if we can control our tongues, we can save ourselves (and others) a world of hurt. But straight from Saint Jimmy in the NIV:

1 Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

Wish me luck.

My Mom and Thor’s Mom, and Their Kids

Life is hard and I’m terrified they’re not tough enough (toughen up girls! Learn to push back!). But really? They’re good enough for their life, no matter what. They’re the ones living their life. And if you don’t think life at 5 is “real” yet, you don’t remember being 5. They make hard choices everyday. The impressions made upon them last forever. –Amy “Lobster” Arden on parenting small people.

Thor and I had a rough morning and I’m kicking myself over it. Why? Because I can remember having the same mornings with my mom, and how hard it was to get on with a day, feeling so misunderstood and small. This morning, it was getting socks and shoes on, and zipping up the backpack. Five minutes after being asked to take care of it, and I find the child barefooted and playing with a monster truck, backpack flapping open. So normal. So familiar–I remember how distracted I was by everything, and how really unforgiving my mother seemed.

And we had a rough evening yesterday, mainly due to my impatience, but exacerbated by a normal five-year-old’s impulse control issues. That ended with a lot of howling (on his part) and a lot of growling (on mine.)

I am never proud of devolving into the mother who is hissing, “Shut. Your. Mouth. Right. Now.” through her teeth. I suppose I could be proud that I am not the mother screaming it into his face? Shut your mouth just seems so rude, and as I’ve caught myself using it a handful of times, I intend to remove it from my vernacular. That, along with, “I don’t care if [insert whatever latest injustice is being argued], I said [insert whatever it is that I have said.]”

I’ve been thinking about something for a few days. I am highly likely to tell you my missteps and mistakes. I’m not Catholic, so I can’t go to confession (really, I should have been born Catholic–it’s too late now and I respect the believers of the faith too much to pretend my way up to the rail), but it is such a relief to me to expose my misdeeds, that I end up telling on myself all the time. “I did thisandsuch and I was so wrong! And I have learned my lesson, and here is how I plan to ensure that it never happens again!” I have an overdeveloped sense of guilt and responsibility.

Knowing, as you and I both do, that Thor is as human as the next little nose picker, I’m sure we can nod in sympathetic agreement that there are going to be those days. But when those days happen, I am a lot likelier to tell you about how I mismanaged (or aced) them because I am the grown-up and my expectation is that I will be the one who handles the situation.

My mother would as soon cut you as say anything derogatory about me. Actually, she would rather cut you. My mom doesn’t talk about me. My mom won’t even put up pictures of me at work, because she doesn’t want to invite your discussion. I am her treasure, and she keeps me locked up tighter in her heart than the crown jewels. Unless you have something nice to say, you are wise not to bring me up in conversation with her. She will be respectful to a point, then she will destroy you like the verbal version of Mortal Kombat.

Does my mother think I am perfect? LOL! My mother has bailed me out of jail, picked me up from some questionable clubs in the middle of the night, hauled me off to detentions and In School Suspensions, hired tutors and therapists to fix me, and been so angry she couldn’t even look at me without her head spinning. My mother knows, and knows better than anyone other than my husband, how grossly imperfect I am. She will not tell you that, though.

Why? Let’s let her tell you. “It’s none of their damn business. You’re mine.”

By the way, “none of your damn business” is my family’s code phrase for “and now I will eviscerate you–you have about ten seconds to run.”

My mother wouldn’t give you my weaknesses for the world because she is human body armor and she is not going to give you any kind of shot at my self-esteem, my self-confidence, or my heart. She will not give you my vulnerabilities.

And when it comes to my weaknesses, her expectations of strengthening have always been clear. Get it done. But when my weaknesses were more than I could manage, she stepped in and helped me sandbag the levies, so the rest of me wouldn’t drown.

Don’t you dare point out the sandbags, though, or she’ll throw one right through your head. Because I am hers. My faults and shortcomings are hers to manage. She feels this way to this day, and I expect she will until her dying day.

That’s how I grew up.

I feel that way about Thor. I won’t take the skin off your face for pointing out an area of opportunity, but I will record it, and I will remember it. And you would be wise to only speak of faults because you have ideas to help him shore up his weak areas. I am not the hair trigger my mother is, but the end result will be exactly the same. I might not kill you, but you will be dead to me.

I am responsible for that child. I am responsible for building and growing that human being. Where he is weak, it is my responsibility to be his personal trainer and get him strong. If he has an actual deficiency, then it is my job to be his engineer and architect, and help him build bridges. Where he excels, it is my job to coach him into self-disciplined success. And overall, it is my job to be this child’s most vocal, most loyal, most dedicated cheerleader.

I am like my mother. I will not give you his vulnerabilities. I will not give you his weaknesses. I am his advocate, and his ally. He and I will always be honest about what it is going to take for him to become a contributing member of this society, but just like my mother would never tell you about my unfortunate incarceration (and she is not pleased that I tell so much on myself), I will never offer up Thor’s embarrassments for anyone else’s entertainment, or downplay his successes for social modesty.

Anyway, I’ve got nothing to be modest about. Thor is AWESOME.

I called my mom and tried to read this to her. Of course I started choking up halfway through. Thing is, I know how fortunate I am. My mom had very high expectations of me privately, but even when I wasn’t living up to them, publicly she was always the Grand Marshal of the Lane Parade. That woman loves me.

I managed to finish and squeaked out, “I just wanted you to hear that.” And my mom said, “Thank you so much. You get it. You understand.” Then I had to go so I could clean off my face.

If Thor grows up to feel half as loved as I have always known I am, then I’ve done something right. And I think he will. I think he is very confident in how much he is loved, trusted, and wanted.

Now I want to go pick him up, hold his wee, little head, and hug him until he squawks at me to let go. …and I’m crying again.

So Here’s the Deal with all the Love Talk…

I may have taught my son to say Hooker while watching American Idol. But jiminey crickets! You don’t sing Here Comes the Sun like you just stepped out of a big, pink wad of bubble gum! B and I were wondering if it was the Michael Jackson half of the Beatles catalog being butchered tonight? I suspect, yes.

I’m spending a lot of thought on relationships because a close family friend is going through a rather acrimonious divorce. We speak about it frequently, so it stays on my mind. I think the hardest part is that the man in question was always, until he suddenly wasn’t, a wonderful, upstanding man of great character. In the twenty-five years I knew him–no, twenty-three because I don’t know this guy who manifested two years ago–he was my go-to manfriend for advice and help. But something happened somewhere, and he isn’t that man anymore.

I am not naive. I know that every relationship is only temporary, if only because everyone dies eventually. As Cher sang it, sooner or later, we all sleep alone. And I know that people change. Some people have nervous breakdowns, some people have strokes, some people develop dementia. Some people hear from god. Some people just get bored.

When all the big names started getting divorced at KCM and EMIC, I think I became immune to shock when people split. I also became very dogmatic about relationships being a daily decision and a daily choice. I was reading an interview with supermodel Yasmin Le Bon* the other day, and something she said stuck with me. I’ve been mulling it over and over since. When asked if there had been a lot of changes in her relationship with her husband over the past twenty-five years of marriage, she said

Of course, relationships change, and that’s the beautiful thing about them. Even now they change, even if it’s in a really serious way. Unfortunately, I’ve seen many people separating and divorcing after being married for a long time. And it’s really surprising to me. The only thing I know is that I’m happy and that at any moment I choose to be with him. I don’t know what will come next. All I can tell you is that Simon makes me laugh. When you care for someone so much and they make you laugh so much, you simply want to do everything with them.

The emphasis is mine, of course.

I really believe that long-term relationships are built on little choices we make daily.

When I got married, I had never lived with a man before. I had barely lived with a roommate. I had a lot of learning to do! I was a doted on, only child, and it wasn’t until I moved into my marital home that I realized just how doted on I had been. It was a huge adjustment going from being the center of the universe at home, to being just the other person on the sofa.

It was a huge adjustment going from my family and their copious praise–and listen, when I say copious, I mean it. My mother, my grandparents, my adopted family (including the divorcing couple), and my friends are all very free with praise. I don’t think I went a day between 0 and Married without someone telling me I was beautiful, and brilliant, and wonderful, and talented, and priceless. I married a man who is perfectly happy without talking for days. And I married a man who figures I just know he thinks I’m the bees knees, otherwise, he wouldn’t have married me. Duh. We can go weeks without him complimenting me. THAT was an adjustment.

Okay, I’m still adjusting to that. I like words. Lots and lots of words. Sometimes I feel very sorry for myself. So, when I need to hear words of validation from B, I tell him. (Or I call my mom, and she tells me how perfect I am. I try to do this as a last resort, though. One day, my mom will be gone, and I need to find ways to fill those gaps so that I’m not in a dangerous emotional state the first time I ask B to tell me something nice and he says, “Uh…you’re pretty?”)

My relationship philosophy works like this: My marriage is my life-job. I intend to be in this job for the rest of my life. Just like any job, if I expect success, I need to take pride in the quality of the work I produce, and I need to pay close attention to the market. I have to provide excellent customer service, but I also have to be aware of the bottom line, and when customer service and the bottom line aren’t mutually beneficial, I need to figure out what will keep me in the black. I have a responsibility to live up to a standard. If I am doing the best job possible, I will see results.

But I also understand that sometimes a worker does everything possible, and the customer, or the market just don’t respond. There are hiccups in the economy, natural disasters, terrorist attacks…any number of things can shut down your business without you having done a single thing wrong. All you can do is your best, so that when you go to sleep at night, you know you have been the type of person you wouldn’t mind waking up with.

When it comes to making big decisions about how I will act, react, or behave myself, I do my level best to run everything through my motivation checker first. James 3:17, But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated [sic], full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. If my desired actions, reactions, behaviors can make it through that filter, I go ahead. If they don’t, well, crap. I have to start over again.

Every choice counts.

I promise I won’t be harping on this forever. I’m just writing out a broken heart. I miss the man who walked me down the aisle at my wedding. I’ll miss that man forever. Not nearly as much as his wife will, though. God bless them both.

*My friend Nancy built and maintains this beautiful website all by herself. She is so talented–she amazes me.

B-eing in Love

I write about Thor frequently, and I think I’m fairly clear that he is the light of my world, and the best thing that has ever happened to me. I had a great life before he came along, but from the moment I heard his first cry–well, it was like going from an oil lamp to a room full of 200 watt lightbulbs. That’s easy to shout from the rooftops, and I am unashamedly his biggest fan.

I write about my mom and my best friends, and I have no problem telling you that I love them all as extensions of myself. They are always on my mind, and I feel very deeply for them.

When it comes to love, I don’t write so much about my husband. Why? I was thinking about that while having a conversation with a friend today. I really don’t like admitting how much in love with him I am. Isn’t that silly? I am happy to tell you that I love my husband. I am happy to tell you how content I am within our relationship. I do not like letting on just how much he means to me. I do not like letting on that I would be lost without him.

I am not a gooey romantic. I’m not a pet name calling, shmoopy, swooning bride. I would just as soon punch B in the arm in public as kiss him. Maybe I would rather punch him in the arm. Kissing is too vulnerable. Letting on how much I love him is too vulnerable.

At my most naked, you will find Bryan because with Bryan is where I want to be–where I choose to be. My choice in him as a partner, my choice in him as a co-parent, my choice in him as my future tells you more about Lane than anything else in the world could. I am, and I say this with full understanding of what the words mean, embarrassed, even a little humiliated at how deeply I desire his validation, and at how much I want his approval. I really don’t care what anyone else in the world thinks–I want to be liked, but I can take or leave anyone except him. I care what he thinks of me.

Both of us being human, we aren’t perfect by any means, but I trust B absolutely. And there’s where I feel the most vulnerable, and maybe even naive given my family history, but I can’t help myself. I trust B like I love him, and that is without limits.

I like for you to think that I am practical and realistic, like a well sifted, exact cup of baking flour. The reality is that when it comes to my feelings for my husband, I am a heaping, lumpy, lovesick mess. I’ve decided that’s all right. Sloppy suits me.