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.

 

 

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

 

 

 

You Can’t Save Him

I’d left the kids with him at the house.  I wasn’t going to be long.  I’d forgotten something and had to run and get it.  When I returned with the thing (whatever it was) that I’d forgotten, my hands were full.  I was carrying my jacket, a large bag, and the item in one hand, and struggled to open the door with my free hand.  I was fumbling with the doorknob.  Finally, I’d gotten the door to open, but I was concerned about it opening too far. 

I hurried to enter, worried I’d taken too long.  Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a ginormous spider had come in when the door was ajar.  They didn’t see the spider as it scurried along the floor at the base of the wall.  Its two sets of legs were freakishly hairy.  Three large hairy legs ran down each side of its body, and its underside had a cluster of six smaller hairy legs.  It was large enough to make noise as it scampered, yet he didn’t seem to hear it at all.

I yelled to warn them. “You guys!!  RUN!  A spider got in!  It’s huge!  Run!!”  I saw my kids jump.  They didn’t turn to see the spider.  They took my word for it and ran.

 

(Later, when retelling the dream, I described the spider as the size of one of those plastic Melitta coffee filters.  It was “Twilight Zone” disgusting.)

 

Maybe he hadn’t heard me?  Maybe he didn’t believe me?  I yelled again as I ran toward him.  “Really!! That spider is HUGE.  You gotta run!”

As I came up beside him he got on the floor.  He did the crab walk like we used to do in 4th grade gym class.  He deliberately, without any regard for the spider, crab-walked across the room, IN THE DIRECTION OF THE SPIDER.   I couldn’t believe my eyes.  After my warnings and yelling and all the commotion, he actually got down on the spider’s level and moved toward it!

I could see that he was within a foot of the spider now!  He could SEE the spider.  What was he doing?  I turned to run and join the kids.  As I left the house, I looked over my shoulder and saw him pick up the spider, with both hands!

 

The next morning, as I poured a second cup, I told Jen of my wicked dream.  When I described my astonishment at his picking up the spider, she interrupted me to say, “But, mom, you can’t save him.”

 

 

 

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

 

For the Single Moms on Father’s Day

When society tried to make you feel guilty for leaving and raising your kids on your own, you persevered.  You knew that the damage would be greater if you’d made the choice to stay.

When you worried that you couldn’t do both jobs, you did your best.  When other kids went camping with both parents or rode bikes as a family, you created your own traditions.  And years later, when your oldest said, “Hey, remember when we used to play badminton in the street.  We did that a lot.  Let’s do that tonight,” you know you managed to create memories that will sustain your kids.

When you only had a blurred notion of what it is that a dad does, because your own dad was rarely around, you read the books on parenting and observed the good examples and tried to fill in, in the best ways you could.

When you couldn’t do it all, you sat your kids down and explained that you wished you could do more, but that you are one person doing both jobs, and while you are doing your best, you can’t do it all.  Through tears, you explained how much you love them, and that you understood that they were angry or hurt or sad.  When you were dog-tired from doing it all, you found enough to softly explain to them that they would be fine and you would always be there for them.

When you raged at the Universe for putting you in this position, you woke again to be thankful for it all, even when it kicks your butt every single day.

When you think you can’t handle one more issue or fix one more problem or make one more dinner, you flop on the couch between your favorite people, turn on the TV and order a pizza.  You laugh hard in that moment and tell yourself that what doesn’t get done today will find you tomorrow.  As the three of you try to agree on a show, you sip some wine and remind yourself that it’s all about the journey and this journey is creating healthy, happy, independent, functioning people who know how to navigate storms.

When you have those days when you doubt that you made the right choice, you will step back and watch your kids thrive in this safe place you’ve created for them.  You will see them for who they are allowed to be.  Those moments prove that you made the right decision.  (p.s.  As the years go on, you will stop doubting your decision.  Trust me.)

Once in awhile, remember that your kids picked you to be their mom.  They have things to learn that they can only learn with you. (You have things to learn that you can only learn from, and with, your kids.)

You’re doing great.

This is how it’s supposed to be.

Happy Father’s Day.

 

On Trust

She thinks back over her various failed attempts and decides they provide evidence that she should never trust again.

“He said that, but once we got close, he changed.”

“He did that, but once I moved in, he stopped.”

“We committed to x, but then he decided he’d rather have y.”

“See?  Men can’t be trusted!”

She reads posts about con men, psychopaths, users, liars and cheats.  She finds more reasons to never trust again.

 

But she has a son.  She can’t go around thinking the worst of men.  She lives with a prime example of all the good that can be male.  She bites her lip when she starts to say something disparaging about the opposite sex.  She doesn’t want her daughter to adopt her attitude about men.

The three of them talk of life, love, relationships, fishing, ice skating and the cat’s shenanigans.  They do not have many secrets.  Most families don’t discuss the things they discuss.  She’s a firm believer in communication.  She fesses up to her messes and never sweeps anything under the rug.

When she wants to talk with them about relationships and trust, though,  she stumbles.  Her track record is a wikiHow entry of what not to do in the romance arena.

What can she tell them about trust?  How can she teach them to give another a chance?  How can she protect them?  Are they doomed to make the same kinds of mistakes that she has made?

 

What is trust, anyway?

Is trust the ability to believe what another says?  Does trust happen only when we show our true self, and have that completely accepted?  How could she ever take that leap again?  Is trust simply having faith in the promises made by another?  When we trust, don’t we have expectations about behavior?  Is that fair?

But when is trust established?  At the six month mark?  On the third date?  Is it a gut feeling?  Is it a vibe?  How can she know, without a doubt, that she can trust another?

When does trust begin?

Where does trust begin?

Could her kids trust her to not make another scary choice in the relationship department?  Is it enough to say, “Never again?”

Is that the kind of example she wants to set for her kids?  Should she show them that it’s better to never try again than to risk trusting, and perhaps failing?

 

Can she trust herself?

 

That is the real question.

 

Can she trust herself to not settle? Can she trust herself not to put up with being treated poorly?  Can she trust herself not to put herself in another situation where she is taken for granted?  Can she trust enough in her own goodness to believe that she deserves better, even if being alone is the better she’s been looking for.

 

She writes out the questions until she finds the answer:

She cannot learn to trust another until she can learn to trust herself.

 

 

 

The Girl in the Next Stall

She’s walking into the changing room with four items.  Three are from her usual color palette – shades of grey to black.  This time she found a pair of dusty pink capris in her size – 0.

 

She’s been talking of changing things up a bit.  She systematically cut all the long hair to shoulder length.  She didn’t cut it all at once, but over the course of a year, she had me cut two inches here, three inches there.  One afternoon, while listening to Pink Martini on Pandora, she had me cut six inches.  Between the two of us, Will and I always tell her she looks great, but I can see that she’s looking for other words.

She longs for words she’s heard before, only she wants them to come from someone who never says them.

 

Her style is all her own.  One day we were running errands and she mentioned Pastel Goth.  I had to ask her what that was.  She explained while we were stopped at a light.  I turned to her and said, “Is that what you are?”  She grinned and said, “Not really.  Well, maybe a little.”

She doesn’t dress like other girls her age.  That might have a lot to do with the fact that we homeschool.   Her style isn’t a copycat thing.

I’ve seen the girls at the skating rink staring at her.  As they pull their butterfly covered rolling backpacks over to the bench to put on their skates, I see them glance over at Jen.  I’d love to know what they are thinking.  “Her mom can’t afford butterflies and sequins.”  “Why doesn’t she wear pink or purple or teal?”  “How come her mom lets her wear black all the time?”

Jen told me of the time that a “Butterfly Skater” followed her into the locker room.  She stared at Jen the entire time Jen unlaced her skates.  The girl didn’t say a word.  Jen came out with a mixed expression – part fascination, part frustration.  “Mom, I think she was in there the whole time to make sure I wasn’t going to steal her stuff.”

Her choice in colors gets her looks.  She doesn’t always see the looks.  I always do.  I’m her mom.  I want to laugh at the other skaters’ moms.  They haven’t been the most welcoming group at the rink.  We don’t fit the type.  But when their daughters fall hard on the ice, mine is the first to ask if they are okay.

 

Which brings me to yesterday at the mall.  While Jen was in the changing room, I could hear that the girl in the next stall must have been on FaceTime as she changed clothes.  Weird, but whatever.

Times change.  Maybe this is the new selfie?

While I talk with my kids about absolutely everything, we all three respect privacy.  It’s been a lot of years since I was in the changing room with my daughter.  I browse the clothing racks as I wait, looking at business clothes I can’t afford.  I think of how many houses I’d have to sell before I’d ever even consider spending that kind of money on clothes for myself.  I see the clerk look at what I’m wearing, and realize I know exactly how Jen feels when the “Butterfly Skaters” are staring at her.

As Jen walks out, I try to read her expression.  “How’d it go?  Did you like any of it?”  She smiled her quiet smile, “Let’s go somewhere else.  The pants didn’t fit – too baggy in the thighs.  The shirt goes down too low in the front.  Sorry I’m so picky.”

“Don’t worry about it, honey.  We’ll find something.”

 

As we walk out of the mall I ask, “What was going on in the changing room?”

“A girl was trying on prom dresses in the stall next to me.  She was sending pictures to her mom and grandma and dad.”

“Too bad none of them could be there with her, but it is the time when most would be at work.”

Jen walked around to the passenger side of the car.  “She sent a picture to her dad and he said, ‘Oh, honey.  That’s so pretty.'”

I looked at her as I put the key in the ignition.  She looked at me and said, “Is that even real?”

 

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.

 

 

 

Life as Art

She’s been a painter since she first dipped her fingertips into tempera.  Over the years, I’ve seen her work evolve.  Her early work was more realistic – good, strong, proportional and deliberate.  Now, as she’s matured, I see more of her soul in her work.  The colors are richer.  The light has depth.  I can see she’s more confident in her style.

I got to introduce her to Jen and Will.

We stumbled through the small talk about how crowded the art show was, how many years had she been doing this, and Gee! how about the weather.

Once the awkward was out of the way, Jen shared how she doesn’t like the pressure that comes with a commissioned piece.  I know she was relieved to hear that this artist felt the same way.  When working on a commission, it’s as if the Universe is standing by, ready to put the brakes on the flow.  You could be tuned into your playlist, in the zone, broad brushstrokes creating magic, and suddenly you remember that you have to please someone with this piece.   *Cue the sound of screeching brakes.*  Now the process isn’t full of ease.  You become overly critical and self conscious.  The harsh words line up to whittle away at your confidence.  “They’ll hate that color.  That’s not what an owl has ever looked like.  Who said you could paint?”

Side note:

When you are passionate about something – the kind of passion that happens when all you want to do is think/talk/breathe about that thing – find another who is passionate about the same.  Talk of that thing together.  Feel how the air is sweeter and your lungs fill all the way up.  See how when they mention something that you’ve experienced, you feel like you are now a member of a secret group.  Finally, you belong with others who speak a private language that not many others understand.

If your kid is passionate about something, and you are privileged to watch her engage with another who is passionate about the same thing, then you will get a glimpse of why this passion lights her soul.

 

We talked of style changes.  We talked about color and layering and subject matter and technique.  We talked about when it’s hard to create – commissioned pieces.  She told of the few times she gets inspired and starts a piece in the late afternoon, finishes the next morning, and has this crazy desire to look over her shoulder and ask, “Where did that come from?”

She laughed about how she might dislike something she’s created, only to have someone call her, months after they’ve seen it, to tell her that they can’t quit thinking about it, and ask if it is still for sale.  She could drive herself nuts trying to figure out why that happens, or she could just keep painting.

I asked how she would describe the evolution in her work.  She mentioned that when she looks at older pieces, she’ll either be horrified or amazed.  “Who painted that?  Or, wow…  that’s good!  Really good!”  She grinned as she said that her work has always reflected her different moods.  “You can tell when I’m in a happy place, or when I’m in a funk, based on the colors I’m using at the time, but I don’t really know what explains the evolution.”

We thanked her for taking the time to share with us.

 

The three of us talked of our favorite styles as we walked back to the car.  Will wants to learn to print larger photos.  Jen likes the miniature watercolors.

As I drove across the bridge, I started making comparisons between painting and writing, and that led to life.

I thought of the different chapters of my life as different artists.  There was the Jackson Pollock phase in college when I tried everything I could think of to see what would stick.

I enjoyed the single mom’s version of a Norman Rockwell when the kids and I were on our own and enjoying a simple rhythm and a set routine.

Then, of course, there was a brief period that I would categorize as The Scream.  Okay, maybe more than one period.

Several years remind me of a Russell Chatham – pleasantly hazy, comfortable to look at, evoking a certain mood, and not sharp enough in detail to make me want to look away.

If we are lucky, we evolve, like the artist’s work.  Many times, we look back and we’re shocked by some of the “work” we’ve done.  Other times, we may be pleasantly surprised.  Like the artist, we often don’t know what explains our evolution.

 

When you look back over the years, what comes to mind?  Can you think of a particular artist’s style that represents a group of years, or maybe a single year?  I’m betting we all have our own version of The Scream.

We are all works in progress.

It’s good to think of ourselves as works of art in progress.

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.