The Time-Out Chair

I attended elementary school in an old brick building that, many years later, turned into a church –  I think.  The church was named Saint Some-One-Or-Other, but I can’t remember which saint.  I think it’s now empty, but I’m not sure on that, either.  There was one class for each grade and it seems as though there were only about 20 kids in each grade.

Even though there were only 20 sixth-graders out on the playground, those opinionated kids could get in a ruckus in a real hurry.

That’s what social media is reminding me of – sixth graders blowing off stink, on a playground.

Everyone is yelling.

He yells over them.  She yells over him.  They yell over each other.

No one is listening.

Everyone conveniently forgot the tenet about not speaking if you don’t have anything nice to say.

They’ve forgotten tolerance, and more importantly, they’ve forgotten kindness.

 

I never put my kids in a time-out.  I don’t know why I never liked that form of discipline.  Is the idea that the kid is supposed to sit in a chair, face the corner, and think about how to behave better?  I guess because I’m a natural born over-thinker, I never thought the time-out chair was a good idea.

If – when I was a sixth grader – I’d ever been ordered to a time-out chair, I’m afraid of what I’d have over-thought about.  Back then the subjects could have run the gamut from:  Why do some sixth grade girls have big chests while others haven’t even started their periods?  Why do almost all girls have crushes on sixth grade boys who are so clueless?  Is world domination out of the question or a distinct possibility?  Do I want to even mess with dominating a world inhabited by sixth grade boys?

(I’ve a vague recollection of being sent to my room, which is pretty much the same thing, but for an introvert, that’s like a snow day off from school!)

I knew, when my two were very young, that they had acquired my high-level over-thinking skills.  I wasn’t going to give them an opportunity to over/out think me, so the only time-out chair we ever had was a cute little wooden thing we painted for a school fundraiser.  We ended up buying it to put in the garden.  (Imagine crickets, potato beetles and earthworms assigned to that chair for their time-outs.)

 

Now, however, a time-out chair would be heavenly.  I’m not sure I’d even want the internet in my corner.  I’d have a delicious chunk of time to happily ruminate on the usual subjects – cabernet vs. pinot vs. merlot; techniques for texturing the ceiling after popcorn removal; how to reclaim a neglected garden spot; do I really need AWD when front wheel is less expensive; why is it taking me so long to read the Harry Potter series when I’m enjoying it so much (see aforementioned time-sucking subjects); and what will I do with myself when kids are grown and gone?

I’m not pretending that any of these subjects are even remotely interesting to anyone else, but they aren’t unkind or intolerant or likely to raise my blood pressure.  (That said, the popcorn ceiling removal was a pretty good workout.)

 

Anyhow, the ruckus on both social media and the airwaves has me fantasizing that if I were Queen for a Day, I’d assign everyone to their own time-out chair – especially the sixth graders.

 

 

You Look Familiar

“Jesse!  Where’ve you been?”  Hank walked to my side of the bar for a hug.  “I see you stopped writing about narcissism.  Does that mean you survived?”  Hank grinned and walked to his side of the bar.

“Funny, Hank.  I’ve missed you, too.”  I draped my jacket over my knees as I sat on a bar stool.

“But, seriously.  Did you run out of things to say on that subject?”  Hank grabbed for a glass and, before pouring the usual, looked to see if I might ask for something else.  I smiled and he let the amber flow into the glass.

“Ha!  Like that’s even possible.  You, of all people, would know the answer to that question.”

 

Hank walked to the end of the bar to take an order.  Just then a woman walked over to stand next to me.  As she waited to place her order, she looked up at the television screen.  She winced, turned to me and said, “Can you believe ….   Hey, you look familiar.  Do I know you?”

I smiled.  “I’m not sure.  Maybe.  I have that kind of face – that ‘everyone’ and ‘no one’ face.  People tend to think they recognize me from somewhere.”

Hank returned.  “Yeah, she gets that a lot.”

He greeted the new customer and said, “This is Jesse.  She has this thing about her.  Lots of folks think they know her from somewhere.”

She reached out to shake hands.  “Do you work at the bank?”

“Nope.”  I smiled and took a drink.

She ordered a chardonnay.  “I know… it’s that coffee shop on the corner of 9th and Main.”

I looked and Hank and laughed.  “Nope.”

She took her wine and turned to walk over to a table where girlfriends waited.  She looked at me and said, “I’ll think of it.  Nice to meet you.”

“You, too.”  I looked at Hank and shrugged my shoulders.

 

“So, Hank, why do I get that a lot?  What is it about my face that people I’ve never met seem to think they know me from somewhere?”

It’s not your face, Jesse, it’s the way folks feel when they are with you.  You see them.  That feeling is familiar.  They may not have felt that way in a real long time, but they know it.  They crave that feeling.  They remember how it feels to be seen, and they think that must mean they know you from somewhere.  It’s not your face, Jesse, it’s who you are.”

 

 

On Mixed Messages and Secrets

Her foot was in that temporary boot they apply when someone has broken their leg.  And because I knew her, I said, “Oh my! You’re the one who is always working out and staying in such great shape.  What the heck happened?”

She was in tears as she told the story.

I said, “Do you ever wonder why the Universe can’t deliver messages in a more gentle fashion?  Maybe you’re supposed to slow down?”

She wiped a tear and shook her head.  She’s not the type to slow down.  I probably shouldn’t have mentioned that.

And as I sat in the curtained room waiting for the results of the EKG, the blood work, the urine sample and the foot-long swab that actually fit up my nose, I wondered if the words I’d directed at her were really meant for me.

How many times have I written about stress?  How many signs have I received that clearly tell me to slow the hell down?

I guess I’m not the type to slow down either.

And so after being told that my heart was fine, I stood in the waiting room, watching for Will.  I’d insisted he drop me off, so he could get to school and focus.  But then he insisted on picking me up.  So much for his focus.  As I watched for his truck, it was my turn to cry.

The tears were a mix of relief, embarrassment, frustration, and defeat.

Will dropped me at home and went back to school.  Jen offered to cook me dinner, but I let her clean up instead.  (I can only admit to so much defeat in one day.)  We watched mindless television and waited for Will to get home.  I got sick of them asking me how I felt, but hugged them because they asked.

I slept the night through.

This morning I read a post about secrets, and how unhealthy it is to keep secrets.  I didn’t search out this post, it appeared on my laptop the way some gentler messages from the Universe do appear.

Soon after, my brother called to check in.  He listened.  He asked the right questions.  He re-framed what I told him.  He put a new spin on possible solutions.  He made my secret seem less foreboding.  (I realized that my big secret is feeling like I’m a failure.)  He made different choices sound less like defeat, and more like a new route to success.  His suggestions lightened my load.

Then I did the stretching and the poses and listened to the tapes.  My back feels better.  Of course it helps a lot that I’m not worried about the classic signs of heart disease in women.

But I see the pattern.  It’s what I’ve said so many times.  When I allow myself ease – the ability to slow things down, I feel better.  Duh!!

But admitting I can’t do it all is like some f’d up version of defeat or failure.  ‘Ease’ was not part of Wonder Woman’s vocabulary.  Imagine how much better she’d have felt if she had eased up on that belt a little.

Today’s lesson:  Do as I say, not as I do.  Oh, and get the stress test.