The Map

Margaret had spread a blanket in the grass.  Basil was unfolding the map and placing it on the blanket.  Gladys put boulders on each corner in an effort to keep the wind from stealing the map.  Margaret started cutting the pie. 

“None for me, Margaret.”

“Gladys!  Why must you insist on worrying about your waistline.  There’s really no point in that now, dear.”  Margaret handed a plate of pie to Basil.

“Old habits die hard, Margaret.””

“Thank you, Margaret,” Basil poured the coffee.   “This one’s map is a bit confusing with lots of detours and rarely a straight line from point A to point B.”

Gladys took a sip of coffee.  “She must have been an indecisive one, I figure.”

Margaret laughed.  “It certainly makes for an interesting journey that way.”

 

Just then Jon came up.  “What are you guys doing?”

“Oh we’re just enjoying another map, dear.  Pie?”

“Sure, Margaret.  I love your pie.”

Basil pointed at the left side of the map.  “Look here.  We see a relatively straight line that represents birth to about the college years.  Just that one detour when she quit college briefly, but I see she got back on course at this point.”  Basil traced his finger along a red line.  “But it’s here that we see the line veer way off course.  I wonder why she thought that was a good idea?”

Jon put down his fork and looked at the map more closely.  “Looks to me like that detour taught her how to appreciate art and creativity.  I don’t see how that was a bad choice.”

Gladys pointed at a fork in the road.  “What do you figure happened there?”

Jon looked at Gladys like she had a third eye.  “How else would she have gotten those awesome kids of hers?”

Margaret nodded.  “You are so right, Jon.  And look at that spot.”  The red line appeared to be broken and a new red line started an inch away.

Jon sat back and looked at the other three.  “That was a major detour.  The one that saved her kids.”

Jon moved the empty pie plates to the side and crouched over the map.  He pointed at a juncture and said, “This is where she learned some of what she didn’t want.”  He pointed to another spot and said, “This is where she learned what she would not accept.”  He put his finger on another bend and said, “This is where she reinvented herself.  Again.”  Moving his finger further, “Here she decided she didn’t need to like football.  Turns out she never did, she just thought she was supposed to.”  They all chuckled.  Margaret said, “I never did like football much, but I liked the sound of it playing on a Sunday afternoon when I was baking.”

Jon pointed again, “Here she started a new career right after rejoining a previous segment.  It’s almost like her route made a circle.”  Margaret said, “Oh!  Isn’t that when she and her kids moved back to their old house?  That was a fine course correction.”

Gladys looked up from the map.  “Wouldn’t she have gotten to where she was going quicker if she’d taken a more direct route?  What if she’d avoided all those detours?”

Jon smiled.  “Don’t you see, Gladys?  If it weren’t for the detours, she wouldn’t be who she is.”

 

“Not all those who wander are lost.”  —  J R R Tolkien

 

 

 

An INFJ Goes for a Walk

There’s a guy at the office who calls me Smiley.

While my default expression at home is probably more like a resting tired face*, my public face is usually smiling.

I once walked around the mezzanine of a Texas dance hall.  The space was filled with vendors selling concho belts, cowboy hats, turquoise jewelry and beer in white plastic cups.  I had never been to Texas before, and while I’m not afraid of dancing, I wanted to see what else went on in the dance hall.  As I walked the loop, I greeted vendors and watched the dancers down below.  On my second pass, a vendor said, “You’re the only person in this place with a smile on her face.”

I learned a long time ago that a quick smile makes interactions more pleasant.  It wasn’t until today that I realized that it’s that smile that attracts folks to me.  All along I thought I had a magnet in my back pocket.

 

I’ve written about how the kids brace themselves before we get to the checkout line at the store because I will be paying for groceries and hear the clerk’s life story.

I can’t mail a package without learning about the postal employee’s 20 year battle with arthritis, even though I don’t have arthritis, know nothing about arthritis, and simply said, “How are you today?”

 

I left the house this morning to walk the hill at the park.  Jen insisted I take the bear spray.  We don’t live in a scary neighborhood (the bears are usually about 60 miles north and west of here), and I hate packing anything when I walk, but for her sake, I took the spray.

On my descent, I saw a fellow sipping coffee from a thermos cup.  He was the only person in the parking lot.  He turned as I approached.  I smiled and said, “Good morning.”

Does that sound flirtatious to you?

 

He talked.  I smiled and listened.

I am an INFJ.

I don’t flirt.  I don’t know how to flirt.  Watching others flirt upsets my stomach.

 

He talked of when he lived in Montana, why he is here now, his passion for studying Big Foot, his love of ceramics, the chaos over Muslims in the Middle East, Folf, his Roman Catholic upbringing, has anti-war stance and what it’s like to be a senior person on a college campus.

He didn’t have any teeth, and he wore a pony tail that looked like a failed attempt at a man bun.

I’m not judging.  I’m fleshing out the character in this story.

(Okay, I might be judging a little.  I am an INFJ.)

Some of the conversation was interesting, but I’ll admit to trying to get a word in to excuse myself.

Finally! His grandson came down from throwing a frisbee and said, “Pops! It’s time to go!”

I said, “Yeah, nice visiting with you, I have to get back to my kids.”

He stuck out his hand and said, “What’s your name?  Are you single?”  His grip tightened, not in a scary way, but I did grab his wrist with my left hand to release my right hand from his.  I waved and said, “See ya!” as I walked off.  He said, “You’re cute!  If you ever get bored …”

I walked home fast.  I wasn’t so much smiling as laughing.

I walked in the door and Jen asked, “How was your walk?”  I told Jen that I was glad she’d insisted I take the bear spray.  When I explained, she said she was glad I’d taken the spray, too.  She wasn’t at all surprised, because she knows what I attract.

 

As I sit here typing this post, I’m smiling.  I’m smiling at the Universe for continually putting these types in my path.  I never really understood why before.  I didn’t know what I was doing to bring this into my world.

Now I know it’s my smile.  It’s my smile and my ability to listen, and there are so many people out there who just want to be heard.

 

 

*Why must they refer to that as a Resting Bitch Face?

 

 

I

 

Oh! The Problems

I’m not well-read.  I’m not one of those intellectual sorts – those cool people – who can quote verse or lines from a classic.  Could be that my memory sucks.

I tell my kids that I’m fun to watch movies with because I could have watched it last weekend, but by this weekend, I won’t remember how it ends.  So, yes, if you want to watch The Secret Life of Walter Mitty for the 47th time, I’d love to.  (But, seriously, that movie is a favorite.)

I’ve never gotten into poetry, which is weird because I love art.  I occasionally read a poem that clicks with me, and then I think, “See? I could get into poetry,” but I never pursue poets or collect favorite poems. What am I supposed to do with a poem?  What does it fix?  Does it make me better?

You probably love poetry, and at this moment, you are typing a response about how poetry leads to escape, and transformation, and understanding and beauty.

And one day, when I’m not the mom and the dad and the realtor and the teacher, I’ll find time to read poetry.

Maybe.

 

I start a lot of books, and read until my mood changes.  I have several different books laying around the house – non-fiction, self-help, fiction and more self-help.  Depending on my mood, I’ll pick up one, read a bit, run out of tea, make a cup, and come back.  By the time, the tea has brewed, my mood has changed, and I pick up a different book.

Maybe I have commitment issues.  (That made me laugh.)

A few years ago, I declared that I was done with self-help books.  I checked out two at the library last Tuesday.  I never will be done with self-help.  It’s an addiction, like coffee and complaining.  All three feel good, even if they aren’t always good for me.

So it’s no surprise that when I was driving to the office with the muffled sounds of public radio filling the car, thinking about phone calls to make, and documents to download, Garrison Keillor read a line from a novel that I wasn’t familiar with.  (Garrison Keillor could very likely make me enjoy poetry, but I digress.)

 

“Never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own,” from Nelson Algren’s novel, A Walk on the Wild Side.

 

I was pulling into a parking spot as he read the words.  Luckily I didn’t scrape the car next to mine.

My mind raced with, “How come I’ve never heard that before?”  “Sure wish someone had told me that 45 years ago as I was about to venture out into the dangerous world of relationships!”  “Now you tell me?

(To be clear, I changed the gender to make it more applicable to my experience.  Never sleep with a man …..)

As I set up my laptop to get some work done, I thought through the list – it’s not a long list – of “relationships” and their problems.  Okay, the list of problems was long.

Yep.  He had more issues than me.  Whoa, he had way more problems than me.  Uh huh, he had problems that I shouldn’t have touched with a 10-foot pole.

And then I thought about all my problems.  Who’d want to touch those with a 10-foot pole?

WE ALL HAVE PROBLEMS.

Gawd!  Why do we bother sleeping with anyone?  Show me one who doesn’t have problems!

The worst part is, the problems aren’t revealed until the vulnerability sets in, and that’s usually after we’ve jumped in bed.  Could we really discover those issues beforehand?  On a first date:  “So, here’s my list of issues.  See that one there?  I’m working on it.  That one there, well, honestly, that’ll never be resolved, no matter how much I throw at it.  Show me your list.”  He reaches into his jacket pocket.  “Here’s mine.”  Some are highlighted.  One, in particular, has been crossed out so much she can’t read the letters underneath.  “What’s that one?”  He winces, “Oh, that’s too embarrassing.”

They shake hands, split the bill and decide they would be better off not sleeping together.

Right.  Like that is part of any relevant reality.

 

I’m still chewing on the line from Algren’s novel, as the last stack of documents come off the printer, warmed by the process of tumbling through the machine.  I decide, “Yep.  Never getting into another relationship again.  Never.  Never.  Never.”  Too scary.  Too many problems.  Too much isn’t revealed until it’s too late.  On my side, and his.

I could take up poetry, learn to paint as well as 14, listen to more of Keillor’s soothing voice, become well-read, or learn to love fishing like 18, and keep my list of problems to myself.