When Is It Too Much?

A once popular British TV comedy show featured a pair of characters who seem to be the best of friends. One is in a wheel chair and seems not only physically, but also mentally disabled. The friend is ever so obligingly taking care of him in each skit. The disabled character would make a choice about something (a trip, a book, a holiday destination, whether or not to go to the bathroom at a more convenient time). The friend would then proceed to gently attempt to persuade the man away from the undesired choice and guide him back toward a more reasonable choice. Always the one in the wheelchair stuck to his guns on the inappropriate choice so his friend eventually gave in. Yet every time the decision was carried out you’d see the one in the wheelchair saying he didn’t really want his choice but rather what the friend suggested. And of course the friend always fixed it. Well nearly always. He couldn’t quite change the holiday destination once the airplane was already taking off.

While this makes for great comedy, I wonder, what if this were a real relationship? Would the friend continue to do things with/for the disabled person? Would the friend ever decide to stop arguing with him and just let him lie in the bed he made, accepting his own consequences? When would the friend finally say, “I’ve had enough.” and just walk away.

I recently met a very nice young lady in the beginning years of her career. (Remember recently is always going to be a relative term with me.) She liked her profession but wasn’t very happy in her job and wondered if it would be worth it to make a change, to another location or a different position. She had come under new management at the beginning of the year and thought she might give it a bit longer, just to see if the fresh new blood made her work environment and the job any better. I commend her for wanting to see how the land lies for now, but how long will she wait?

I was there too. Giving just one more reason to stay, and did so for about three years. Finally, I took the plunge and began applying for other positions within my field.

That was scary, I won’t lie about that. I had been in the same position at the same location for eight years! The idea of being anywhere else, doing anything different, actually having to commute, was never entertained. Yes it was a dream come true to have just a one mile commute! But as the years wore on, and my work environment deteriorated, so sank my acceptance level. Being just a song away from my job became the only good thing I could say about it.

My problem was that I was stuck in a rut of my own making. As a friend of mine once pointed out, I clung to the security of the familiar. Sure that place, that job, stunk to no end, but it was a known odor. If I moved, if I made any waves at all, would I find the same stink or one more foul? Mr. Murphy and I have a complicated relationship. He doesn’t mind and I don’t seem to matter. So his law of things going wrong applies to me categorically. I was just too afraid to take that risk.

Risk nothing gain nothing, though.

I had to leave the security of my familiar when making not one but two changes in my career this school year as it turns out. That was terrifying! But the rewards far outweighed the momentary discomfort I felt in making the change. The best part was that the second decision to make a change was actually easier for this old scaredy cat. And I made it relatively quickly.

I am now doing a job in a much more conducive environment. So what if my commute is over 20 miles now. At least now as I advance forward in my career I am encouraged that taking such risks are going to not only become easier and easier but also I will be a much happier, more productive individual in the end.

My favorite teacher Ms. Frizzle always says, “Take chances. Make mistakes. Get messy.” Fabulous advice if you ask me. Well, except the messy bit, unless you are very near a shower.

Growing Old UNgracefully

I recently wrote a blog post titled ‘Expectations‘. It was a very enlightening piece that in some ways shows my growing maturity. However, the other day as I scrolled through my posted blog titles I discovered that I have another blog post by the same title, this one written in February 2012. How could I have given the same title to two very different posts? There’s old age showing, I think. No it’s not! Ssshhhh

At a recent outdoor concert I saw a man in his 50s wearing a T-shirt with this post’s title in big bold print. Where was my camera!?

That’s so me! I’ve said since I turned 40 that I refuse to grow old gracefully. I’m going kicking and screaming the whole way.

I refuse to listen to my lower back as it creaks and pops first thing in the morning. Don’t tell me I can’t dance the Cha-Cha Slide and Macarena three times in a row each with my 2nd graders on play day. My knees just unnecessarily complain for three days afterward that’s all. That’s not growing old.

I’ve never, even in my twenties, been able to stay up way late at night then get up ridiculously early the next morning and be able to function with any amount of coherence. So my early to bed early to rise lifestyle is not a sign of aging. It doesn’t matter that I’m leaving the club scene at ten o’clock because I have an eleven o’clock date with my pillow. That’s not age creeping in.

I don’t remove my glasses in order to be able to see close up, they just simply get in the way sometimes. Who needs bifocals? It’s simply unnatural to read a book at anything less than arm’s length. This trombone maneuver is exercise, not an indication of an aging woman’s failing eyesight.

Give up eating raw tomatoes because they now give me heartburn? Perish the thought! Heartburn is a condition of the aged or overly stressed. Do I look stressed? No, I’m simply not in the mood for tomatoes. Ever. Too much trouble to wash them and slice them and generally include them in any meal. You ordered my salad with NO TOMATOES, right? Sigh.

There’s a saying in our family: If mom says it is so then it is so even if it ain’t so. Well I’m Mom and I say if I’m growing old, which I’m not saying I am mind you, then I’m doing so very

UNgracefully.

Who Am I?

Can you really and honestly say you know exactly who you truly are?

Garth Brooks has a song titled I’ve Got Friends In Low Places. While it’s very good, and I like it, it’s never been my most favorite. It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it; I’d give it a six, Mr. Clark. Years after I first heard it, though, I saw myself. This little country ditty has become a wake up call that I’ve needed for far too long. If you know the song you are very likely scratching your head. The wannabe posh girl wears cowboy boots? Well he said “I showed up in boots” he didn’t specify COWBOY boots. Yes I do wear boots, black leather high heeled ones in fact, but that’s another blog post.

For once, it’s not about the lyrics, though. Not at all. I do not have friends in low places and I so do not like whiskey! Still, when this song plays it is a reminder to me. Always be myself above all else.

Let me explain. When I first saw Mr. Brooks perform this live on a premium channel years ago I just tucked the experience away in some corner of my brain not to emerge again for almost 20 years. The thing that stands out in my memory today is what he did at the end of the song. The base line continued softly in the back ground as the applause died down and then he began to tell a story. Now, I do have a way with remembering conversations verbatim, but for the purposes of this post I’ll just paraphrase. He said he was back home driving around when his song, this song, came on the radio. As he was listening, he paused a moment and said to himself, “Garth,” that’s what he calls himself back home he said, “would you handle this situation like that?” He paused, a blank expression on his face, mouth gaped open then suddenly closed as he slowly started to nod then quickly shake his head while a broad grin grew on his face. He said no he wouldn’t have handled it this calmly and so he just had to write a third verse to the song. It became an almost bigger hit than the original, certainly a huge demand at his live shows. All from knowing himself, truly going with his gut feeling.

There’s a lesson there.

Through the years, it seems that those of us who live for others end up losing ourselves. We know those closest to us intimately enough to be able to get them what they need before they even know to ask for it. Then one day we wake up and realize that those we were living for no longer need us. It’s natural, it happens. Even the birds eventually leave the nest. They may still want us, but they don’t need us. We end up wondering who we really are, if not so-and-so’s mom or dad, not so-and-so’s spouse, not the 4th grade principal, then who? Who is this person in the mirror staring back at me every morning?

It takes time to figure out who that person that has been submerged for so many years truly is. It’s almost like getting kicked in the head hard enough that you suffer amnesia. Humans don’t come with reset buttons. We can’t delete and reinstall in a matter of just a few hours. There is no quick and easy switch in our brains from who we were, or who we thought we were, to someone we ought to be, that someone we always were but kept so deeply buried in our pursuit to put others first and adhering to societal norms.

It’s not just figuring out who we really are, it’s about being okay with that person before anyone else can even think about accepting the change. If a married mother of ten is secretly deep down inside a naturally skillful belly dancer, so be it, she must accept who she is despite what her family and friends may think of it. I’m thinking her hubby won’t complain too much. Next will come the process of change, sometimes from the inside out, sometimes the other way ’round. Those around us may be a bit weary at first as they see the transformation begin but don’t stop. As I said in a pervious post, only you have the responsibility to make yourself happy. Falling in love with yourself and becoming the best human being you were meant to be is a pretty joyous feeling to be sure. Once you are self-assured, others will rejoice with you.

I hear you disbelievers out there who knew me as a Type A++ personality. You all think this is just another do-as-I-say-do-not-as-I-do kind of lecture. No way that uptight, OCD, ducks in a row, little box ticker can change. But oh no, you would be very surprised to learn that I have in so many ways mellowed and truly changed, for the better. Comes with age I suppose. Like a fine wine, right?

I know myself far better today than I ever have my whole adult life. Who am I? I am a brilliantly witty social butterfly with a genuine, easy smile that puts people at ease. Oh, and I write a little too.

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Expectations

We all have them, all of us, everyday. As children we expect that bumble bee in our closed palms to be quite content and not sting us before we are able to show off our prize capture. What a disappointment we feel when the insect’s survival instinct kicks in and we are forced to pry open the jail bars to tend to our wound.

Children tend to have unreal expectations, but the funny thing is, I don’t think we ever really outgrow holding onto a few unreal expectations all throughout life.

The brazen graduate expects to walk into a six-digit salary before the ink on their degree is even dry. The blushing young bride expects a smooth-sailing happily ever after with no effort required. The mature parents expect their empty nest to remain empty and not have to raise those wonderful little children that made them grandparents. Ok, so maybe that one isn’t so unrealistic.

While on our trip to the UK this past Spring I took pictures of just about every public toilet I visited because of how different they were in some way to American public toilets. You may have seen the post. (scroll down if not)

The thing that struck me as particularly interesting was the lack of graffiti. In America, you see writing on stall walls in all sorts of establishments, but not in any of the ones I visited over there, save this one:

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I thought it intriguing that the one and only act of graffiti I witnessed was such a profound statement that it truly has changed my life, for the better.

One of the biggest problem with expectations may be in not realizing you have them or that they have been set at such an unreasonable level that anything or anyone can and will let you down. But once you can realize you have them, or see that they are far and above any sense of reality, let them go.

Do not expect your friends or your spouse to make you happy, be happy with yourself and you will be happy when you are with others. Do not expect someone to call and offer you that millionaire job, go out and search for it. Learn to admire the bumble bee from afar.

It is ok to have expectations, I’m not saying we shouldn’t. Just don’t let them rule your life, do not lose your cool when they don’t come to fruition. Sit back, regroup, then ask yourself why things didn’t turn out the way you expected. Was that bar just a bit too high for even Black Beauty to jump?

Take off the rose tinted glasses, get a reality check, and you will be pleased to see that it’ll all come right in the end.

Writer, Bare Thy Soul!

Switching gears, sucks! From a writing standpoint, that is.

Going from academic writing of “Just the facts, ma’am,” to creatively baring my soul felt like grinding into third on my husband’s Nissan truck. I never can seem to find that gear on the first try.

This article for the writers association newsletter I just put together was incredibly easy to write, it was done in less than 30 minutes, but there was something missing and I couldn’t figure out what. For one, it was far shorter than any other article I had previously submitted. Only 490 words, for me, that’s practically stunted! It was certainly an informative piece, but there was no zing, no reader’s head nodding, no guffaw. As I began editing I started to wonder where my sparkle had gone, where were the entertaining quips and ponderings, what happened to the automatic laugh track that roars in my head when I write? Why was the piece so short?

Because I was in an academic writing mode, having completed four writing pieces for college the day prior, I think my brain was too engaged. My soul needed to come through my fingertips but that great big cerebral wall blocked the flow from my heart. Perhaps my muse also had her head too far buried in some textbook to be of assistance. More likely she found my high brow, stuffy writing much too boring and opted instead for a day at the beach. That beach and I need to have some serious words, stealing my muse away from me when I need her most. The nerve!

But seriously, who could blame her?

As writers our gift is baring our souls in ways that move readers with our words, and cause ripples in the fabric of the space/time continuum. Okay so maybe that’s a bit lofty, but you get the idea. In the world of academia, writing is simply meant to impart knowledge, broaden the mind, expand the horizons of learning. (Does anyone else hear that pompous echo or is it just me?) The two worlds can never mix.

Or can they? Can I be informative and still get a giggle?

Purpose, I must keep the purpose for my writing in mind. Do I want to simply entertain the masses or do I want to inform the minds of my readers? In my newsletter article, I wanted to relay a life story and give information at the same time. And I did, but without so much as a modicum of emotion. No entertainment value there.

Impact, I need to consider what will result from my writing, or rather what I want my reader to take from it. Will they gain new knowledge, will they get my jokes and think them funny, or will my writing lay flat on the page (metaphorically speaking of course)?

Wit from the witless. That has been my modus operandi to date, at least on this blog. Why mess with a good thing, a proven track record, the flow, man, the flow? Ok, so maybe I wasn’t meant to be a hippie.

Solution, solution, who has the solution? I think practice is the key. Once again it all boils down to that “P” word, doesn’t it? Yes, I will practice. I need to practice. I will try to finally shift into that third gear. Oh who am I kidding? That truck hates me and the clutch always mocks me. Oh, wait, I was talking about writing. SQUIRREL!

Perhaps two academic writing pieces then one blog or other creative writing piece, should be my course of action until I’m able to switch gears without even batting an eye. Or, maybe I just shouldn’t put all my homework off until the end of the week and use the weekends for creative writing instead of playing catch up. Things to make me go, ‘hhhmmm’.

So, if you are new to my corner of the Internet, please know that I am not usually this dry and cracked. Well, I am cracked, but that’s a whole other story. Please bear with me when I’m sounding stuffy and it’s not from a head cold. It will get better; it can only get better. 🙂

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Blow Your Own Horn

I don’t know if this is a problem suffered by many writers, but I know I find it difficult to tout my achievements. Okay, except when I tell people I am a fantastic cook. I’ve spent too many years in the kitchen to not be proud of my culinary skills. But writing is different. I’m still pleasantly surprised when someone likes something I’ve written.

A writer friend told me that the only reason he’s received so many awards for his writing is because others have submitted his work for him. He would never think his own creations worthy of any such accolade, at least not to be able to submit the pieces himself. I have these same sentiments about my own writing. But the truth is, unlike my writer friend who has connections in the right places, if I don’t tell people about my prose, no one else will.

It has been an amazing year for me. I have been published in the Southeastern Writers Association Newsletter so many months, the first being this past March, the only time I’ve actually shared the good news on this blog. I know I need to start sharing when my article gets published.

And I will.

Starting with this month. I’d like to announce the fantastic news that I have once again been published in the Southeastern Writers Association December edition newsletter.

December edition of Southeastern Writers Association newsletter

Direct link to my article

A Moment in Time

I provided a feast to nature’s blood suckers tonight. As I sit here writing I count no less than six mosquito bites on each arm, two through my t-shirt sleeves. My nerves are twitching from the irritation below my skin but I don’t care. I am in awe surrounded by love tonight.

Earlier, my husband stepped into our darkened backyard to check on our three dogs. Our oldest son stood at the sink washing the dinner dishes, it was his turn, while I prepared tomorrow night’s meal to be oven ready when I get home from work. I had just measured out the first seasoning when I heard my husband bellow from the back room. “Come here, quick!”

I dashed out thinking something was wrong, but when I saw him standing in the middle of the yard, no injury to him or the dogs running around his feet I was perplexed to say the least. He beckoned me out further, to stand right beside him. “Look up,” he said. I could hear the smile in his voice as I looked up at the first artful streak of lightning I saw spread in the night sky over the roof of our house.

We stayed out there, arms around each other, enjoying nature’s magic light show for several minutes. Then I realized, the boys haven’t seen lightning like this before. I called to each and in typical teenage fashion, they grumbled at the door wondering why I had summoned them from their apparently more important tasks.

The light show continued for at least five more minutes before I even felt the first of my savage bites. “Time to go inside, isn’t it?” my husband asked as I began rubbing at my welt covered arms. I agreed and just before we turned to walk back inside, Mother Nature waved one more beautiful streak across the clouds as if to say good night.

What a wonderful way to start the school/work week, an impromptu family moment centered around nature’s beauty. Have a wonderful week everyone!

PS – No, we didn’t get any rain. The squall was moving away from us, toward the west I think. The rumbling, booming thunder and pelting sheets of rain on the roof would have only been gravy! 🙂

Can you tell I like storms?

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