Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Looking Back

I turned forty a few days ago, so I guess that means it's time for my mid-life crisis.  Isn't this when I'm supposed to examine my life and go a little nuts?  Trouble is, since that's kind of my natural state I'm not sure anyone would notice.

Unfortunately for my family and friends, I haven't freaked out about turning forty (so they don't get the fun of teasing me).  I've been seeing white hairs here and there for a few years now.  And physically I feel like I'm eighty.  I don't understand what the big deal is.  I don't understand why I'm supposed to get all worked up about one more day passing, or one more year.

So I can't give you the big meltdown.  But I will take this opportunity for the obligatory life examination.  What have I done with my life?  What happened to my dreams?

I think back and try to remember those dreams I had as a child. 

The first thing I remember wanting to do for a living is teach.  I wanted to be a teacher.  From the time I was young and the first teacher touched my heart and inspired my mind.  I wanted to do that.  I wanted to open up new possibilities for others.  I wanted to touch their hearts.  And while I may not have pursued this occupation professionally, I have had many opportunities to teach.  I have touched lives and inspired minds.  And I have discovered the added benefit that those things go both ways.  I can learn and love and be inspired as much as a teacher as when I was as a student.

The next thing I remember wanting to be was a therapist.  I'm guessing I was about 12 when I had a vague idea of what this meant.  I wanted to help people who were having a difficult time.  I wanted to help people make sense of the craziness of this world.  I wanted to make people feel better.  And while I did not pursue this as a job either, I have had multiple opportunities to do these things for people.  And the more I've learned, the more I've grown, the more I've understood that this is just like with teaching.  I always get back as much as I give, if not more.

The other profession I considered is lawyer.  Now I admit, that's because it was one of two potential professions that my dad said I was allowed to go into.  I didn't like needles, so being a doctor didn't have much appeal.  But being a lawyer sounded good.  In high school and early college, I thought this would be my direction.  I could fight for truth and right.  I could defend people.  And I could argue.  Needless to say, I've had these opportunities as well.  And a side effect of learning to argue and debate was that I learned to see both sides of an issue.  To understand different points of view in a shared experience.  This has benefitted me many times in many situations.

But even as I changed my mind again and again about a job, there was one thing that was always there.  I always wanted to be a mother.  From my earliest memory, it's the strongest desire I've ever had and it's been with me my whole life.  And I have been so blessed in this.  I have five wonderful children.  And they almost always like me.  And I have never regretted putting them before everything else I wanted.  Not for an instant.

I call my life so far a success.  Even with the things that are hard, I am happy.  I am content.  I am pleased with the direction my life is going.

So where's my sportscar?

Monday, December 28, 2009

You're So Vain

You probably think this blog is about you.  Don't you?

Carly Simon tribute aside, let's address this now.  My blog is not about you -- unless you choose to make it so.

If my blog makes you think, great.  If my blog makes you ponder making changes in yourself or your life, fine.  But if my blog makes you think you are not good enough in my eyes, not living up to my expectations, or have done something wrong in your interactions with me, I am not okay with that.

I have not ever used, nor will I, my blog to deliver messages to my friends, family, enemies, casual acquaintences, or any other incarnation.  I will never address a topic hoping that a particular person reads it and knows that I am talking to them and want them to change or that I am unhappy with them.  That's just not how I work.

I mention this because it has already been an issue.  I was amazed at how many people thought I was talking to them when I wrote "Who Asked You?"  That I was, in effect, chewing them out for treating me badly.  This was not about one person.  It was about a lifetime of experiences with many people.  It was about things I've learned and wanted to share.  My preferences, not your instructions.  How I like to be treated, not a command to follow my orders.  Did I think about a few people as I wrote?  Yes, I did.  Is it because I am angry at those people and wanted them to know what they'd done wrong?  No, it is not.  They came to mind for various reasons.  Just in passing.  Nothing big or life changing.

There was one person who was a catalyst (not the reason) for that blog, and she will never read it.  And she doesn't need to because when I had a problem with our interaction I addressed it with her.  That is how I work.  If I can't let it go, then I will talk to you if you've hurt or offended me (and it's pretty hard to offend me).

I write my blog for me.  I write my blog because a million thoughts are going through my mind and I need to get some of them out.  I write my blog to solidify some of those thoughts.  I write my blog for therapy and personal growth.  My personal growth.

I do not write my blog to teach anyone else a lesson.

And I do not think you are vain.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Name is Robin and I'm a Trekkie

All chorus, "Hi, Robin."

"It's been a week since my last episode.  It might have been two or three episodes.  Okay, it was lots of episodes and a movie.  I'm so ashamed!"

*sobs into cupped hands*

Sometimes I'm a social Trekkie; others are watching and I find myself watching with them.  Other times I'm a closet Trekkie.  I watched all 172 episodes of Star Trek: Voyager in a two week period and no one knew.

Not really.  I mean, I really did watch all of Voyager in a two week period, but people knew.

I am a Trekkie, but I am not really ashamed of it.

Compared to "normal"  people (non-Star Trek people; the Star Trek version of a muggle) I would be considered pretty geeky.  I own all of The Original Series, The Next Generation, Voyager, the movies, and one season of Deep Space Nine (this one didn't grab me as much).  I own a bunch of action figures.  I own the customizable card game.  I own a plethora of books, because when they aren't making any more shows you get a "new episode" fix in a book.

But compared to Trekkers, the more serious end of the spectrum, I barely qualify as a Star Trek fan at all.  I have never been to a convention.  I have not staged a recreation of a Star Trek scene in any form:  live action, clay, action figures, pets.  I have never named a child or even a pet after a Star Trek character.  I have never written an episode or fan fiction.  And I do not have the schematics of any version of the Enterprise memorized.

But I do like Star Trek.  I like its hopefulness about the future.  I like the way it tackled tough social issues.  But mostly, I like it because it makes me think.  I don't like entertainment that is just fluff.  I want to think.  I want to puzzle.  I want to have a challenge to solve.  I like figuring things out.

And I like imagination.  Star Trek is nothing if not imagination.  (Sorry, Trekkers.  It's not real.)

I am exposing my children to Star Trek and will let them choose for themselves. (Choose wisely, little ones.)  I will hold my head up high and proclaim myself a Trekkie for all to see. 

Let the mocking begin!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Women Who Think Too Much

Yes, this is the title of a real book.  No, I did not write it, I do not own it, and I have not read it.  I found it at the library, skimmed the table of contents, and put it back.  Too stressful!

I do not believe that I am alone in being one of those women who thinks too much.  I over-analyze.  I look for the hidden meaning.  I drive my husband crazy.

"That's not what I said!"
"But it's what you meant!"

But I over-think in other ways as well.  Too often I cannot sleep because there are so many thoughts running through my mind.  They can be pleasant, like if I'm excited about something or making plans.  Or they can be unpleasant, like if I'm stressed or working on something difficult in my life.  My mind will race from topic to topic, worried that something will slip by that is important or that I won't remember in the morning.  Sometimes writing it down helps, other times nothing does and I am up playing Word Whomp on the computer for hours.  Too often I am seeing 5:00am from the ugly side (as if 5:00am has a good side).

It's what my Buddhist meditation dvd calls a monkey mind.  I have a monkey mind.  Flitting from one thing to the next like a monkey through the branches of a tree.

I have also been accused of being a deep thinker.  Maybe accused isn't the best choice of words here; people usually mean it as a compliment.  But it isn't always a good thing.  Sometimes I miss a lot by skipping the shallow thinking (as others put it).  Sometimes I skip right by the obvious and basic and see only the complicated and heavy. 

And as frustrating as thinking too much can be, as crazy as I make myself when I can't shut my brain down, it's nothing compared to those days when I can barely think at all.  Those days when I can't seem to really lock onto a single thought long enough to process it through.  Those days when the best I can hope for is to pay attention long enough to find the plot in a fluff movie.  I hate those days!

The in-between days are sure nice.  How come I can only recognize them in the rear view mirror?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Coffee Talk

I have a deficiency.  A need, if you will.  I need a neighborhood coffee shop.

Okay, not really a coffee shop.  I don't actually drink coffee.  But I need something like it.  I need a place where I can go and just be.  Alone, with a friend, or with a group of friends.  A place to just be.  Neutral territory.  No time limit and no tasks to complete.  A place to think or to visit.  A place to share or to plan.

I imagine that there are a few places like this around.  But I have not found them.  I have tried many to see if they fit.  Some are okay, others a wreck.  Not one of them is just right.

Finding a place to ponder alone is generally a little easier, especially in good weather.  A park.  The mountains.  The library.  The museum.  My car.

A place for visiting with friends is a little more difficult.  Again, good weather opens up more opportunities.  And if you want to share a meal, there are many choices.  But what if you just want to share each other's company?  A small snack or drink and lots of conversation.  How do you do that?

There's something to be said for meeting somewhere.  Out.  Not at each other's houses or the local Hogi Yogi.  Somewhere with atmosphere.  Somewhere relaxing.  Somewhere comfortable.

And then once I find the place, I have to convince others of the value of taking time doing nothing.  Just being together.  Sharing a space.  Experiencing each other's thoughts and feelings.

But I guess I'd better stick to one thing at a time.  On with the hunt!

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Bad Motivator

"Uncle Owen, this R2 unit has a bad motivator!"

This is my favorite Star Wars quote.  Every time I hear it, and I mean every time, I answer back -- "Me, too!"

Wouldn't it be nice if we were like R2 units and could simply be fitted with a new motivator?  I think that would be awesome!  Okay, they don't travel over bumpy surfaces well and there's the whole 'no arms' thing (until the new movies came out).  Plus, very few people have any idea what they are saying.  So there would be drawbacks.  But a new motivator?  Sure sounds nice.

A discussion of motivation could be seemingly endless.  So, of course, I'm going to try to do it in a few paragraphs.

Any study of motivation will lead you to the ideas of intrinsic versus extrinsic.  Internally versus externally motivated.  Being internally motivated seems to be the psychological higher goal.  I study because I love learning.  I workout because I enjoy it.  I serve because I believe it is the right thing and it makes me feel good.  However, most of our society seems to be based on external motivation.  I study to get good grades.  I workout so that others will find me attractive.  I serve so that people will think I am a good person and praise me.

I don't want to talk about whether one is better than the other.  I can't imagine raising children without using external motivation.  But I do hope to guide them toward internal motivation.  And I don't think most people would go to work every day without the promise of a paycheck.  I think both are necessary and natural.

But one thing that seems to show up in all motivation is some type of reward.  Internal or external.  Maybe the reward is simply a feeling of pride in a job well done.  Maybe it's a pay raise.

So what about when I am in charge of the goals and the rewards for myself?  How do I motivate myself to do things that I don't want to do when the reward is long term or not enough to offset the work?  When I'm having a really bad day, how do I find the motivation to push through and do the things that need to be done?

I wish I could throw out a great outline for conquering these issues.  I wish I could say that after much pondering I've figured it all out, that I know how to stay on task and motivated all the time.

But I don't have the answer.  I'm still pondering.  And just to make things more confusing, I am also pondering on the idea that staying on task isn't all it's cracked up to be and questioning whose expectations really govern my life.  It's quite the conundrum.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Real Simple for the Barely Functioning

DISCLAIMER:  This is not real advice.  Do not follow it.

***

I love Real Simple magazine.  I like to read it and dream.  I dream about a day when I will have the time, energy, and money to carry out all the wonderful ideas it gives me.  A day when my husband takes the kids and all the pets and goes far, far away.  For several days.  And I have no other obligations.

But reality, in all its wisdom and cruelty, slaps me in the face and I wake up.

So, here I offer my version.  Real Simple for the Barely Functioning -- like me.

You walk through your world in a haze, one pile of stuff blending into the next.  Everything and everyone crying for your attention.  What to do?  Where to start?  How do you find the motivation when it feels like life is living you instead of the other way around?

Here's your motivation:  The stress is your enemy!  Plain and simple.  You must vanquish it to survive.  And you must fight dirty.

Let's get started.

Mail:  If it doesn't contain money or isn't from someone you love, throw it away.  All of it.  If it's important, they'll send you another one.  People who want your money will keep trying.  If you're worried about identity theft, burn it instead.  That will be more satisfying anyway.  You will feel immediate superiority.  You won!

Email:  Delete it.  All of it.  Just start over.  There's nothing prettier than an empty inbox.  Just like with snail mail, if it's important they'll send it again.  Plus now you have legitimacy when someone asks if you did what they asked and you say that you never got their email asking you to do it.  It's the answer you want to give most of the time anyway; why not make it the truth?

Voice Mail:  Really?  Do I have to even type this?  You know what I'm going to say.  Delete it.  All of it.  Scan your caller id, if you must.  If there's anyone there you really want to talk to, call them back and find out what they wanted.  But I'll bet you find mostly irritating people that you didn't want to think about, let alone talk to.  Now you don't have to.

Dishes:  This one requires a little work upfront but will help in the long run.  Wash all the dishes in the house.  Stay up all night if you have to.  Then lock them up.  In anything that requires a key.  How about an old hope chest?  (I hope I don't have any more dirty dishes.)  And buy disposables.  Paper plates.  Plastic spoons.  Everything and anything that will prevent you having to do dishes.  Push aside that desire to be environmentally responsible for a while.  We're talking about your sanity here.  Sacrifices have to be made.  Besides, it's temporary.

Nothing to cook with, you say?  No problem.  This fits in fine with my meal plan.  You won't be cooking.

Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner:  One trip to the store for the week, except for dinners.  Tailor specifics to your needs.  Breakfast is cold cereal.  Lunch is a sandwich.  Dinner is Little Caesar's pizza.  Every day.  For at least a week.  Depending on your beliefs, you may need to buy double the pizza on Saturday and refrigerate it for Sunday.  Every time someone asks what's for dinner, you have the answer.  No thinking.  And someday when you decide to cook again, they will be grateful instead of turning up their noses.  Make sure you continue this meal plan long enough.  If they gripe when you start cooking again, then you didn't do it long enough.  Try again.

Fewer decisions.  Less pressure.  Less mess. 

Breathe!  Again, deeper this time.  Breathe!  Doesn't that feel great?  Nothing like making the tough decisions to give you a little breathing room.

Maybe you would never really do any of these things.  But be honest, it feels good just to imagine yourself doing them, doesn't it?

Watch for future articles on other stressors in your life, with a highlight on children and spouses.

*Sneak Peak -- For pains that you don't think are as serious as they do:  Go to the health food store.  Buy empty gelatin capsules.  Fill them with powdered sugar.  Put them in an old medicine bottle.  Whenever anyone comes to you with a pain that just won't go away (but that you're pretty sure isn't serious) give them one.  Tell them you can only give them one because they are very strong.  Tell them it will take at least half an hour to work.  If they come back in half an hour still in pain, give them one more.  But emphasize that is really all they can have -- too powerful.  If it still hurts after another half hour, it might be a real pain and you'll have to deal with it.  But at least you bought yourself two thirty-minute stretches of peace and quiet.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Who Asked You?

I'm cranky today.  A little snarky.  Is it a good time for me to write a blog?  Probably not.  There's a better than average chance that I'm going to offend or hurt someone.  This is your warning.  Proceed with caution.

Don't you just love unsolicited advice?  The way everyone around you knows exactly how to fix your life?  No, me either.

Do I believe their intentions are pure?  Sometimes.  Do I think they are trying to be hurtful?  Not usually.  Do I find what they say to be helpful?  Very, very rarely.  Usually it comes across as self-agrandizing, holier-than-thou preaching.  At least to me it does.  Especially if I am really having a hard time.

I am not going to tell you how to talk to someone who's having a hard time.  That would be exactly the problem I'm talking about.  I am going to tell you how I would like people to interact with me when I am having a hard time.

1.  Don't assume you know what the problem is.  My life is multi-faceted.  What bothers me one day doesn't the next.  If you think that the one problem you know about is the only problem in my life then you are delusional.  One day it's my health.  One day it's my relationship with my husband.  One day it's my past.  One day it's hormonal.  And some days I don't even know what it is, so how could you?

If you want to know what the problem is (because you are concerned, not out of a morbid curiosity or need to know for your own selfish reasons) then ask me.  Talk to me.  Express your concern and your willingness to listen.  And be prepared for a brush off.  If you are not a person that I am comfortable talking to in that moment, respect that.  These are my feelings and I get to choose who to share them with.

2.  Don't you dare tell me that you know how I feel (or how I should feel).  You don't.  Even if you've had a similar experience, your life up to and around that point are not the same as mine.  You do not have the same temperment as me.  You do not live inside my mind and body.  You do NOT know how I feel.  Nothing will alienate me from you faster than that.

But it will ingratiate you to me if you admit right up front that you don't know how I feel.  Maybe you have an idea, maybe not.  Express your own personal sorrow at seeing me in pain.  Or express your frustration that you can't make me feel better.  Or express your willingness to listen.  Again, listening is the key.  Which leads to number three.

3.  Don't try to fix me or my life or my problem.  These are not yours to fix.  It is not your job to make me feel better no matter who you are.  And when you try, when you tell me how to fix it, you are saying that you have no faith in me to overcome it on my own.  You are saying that you know better how to live my life than I do.  I'm sorry, but there is no chance that when I reach final judgment I am going to be asked how well you lived my life.  It's my life to live and I need to do it.  I need to figure it out for myself.

Listen.  Just listen.  Cry with me.  Hug me.  Comfort me.  Whatever.  But don't try to take my problems away from me.  They are mine.  They are how I become who I am meant to be.  They are how I grow stronger.  They are mine and I will not surrender them.  They are a part of me and I am less without them.  I need them.  And when I don't need them anymore it will be because I overcame them.  I chose to give them away.  I got everything I needed out of them and gave them back to God.

Monday, November 30, 2009

You're Grounded!

Alright, so maybe you aren't grounded.  But I am.  And I love it.

A major road into and out of town has been closed for about a year for construction.  It was frustrating and inconvenient.  There were so many places that it was now incredibly difficult and convoluted to get to.  There has been much griping, moaning, and gnashing of teeth over the whole affair.

So when the road reopened a little earlier than expected, there was much rejoicing (Huzzah!).  Everyone was so excited to use the new road.  And it is a beautiful road, let me tell you.

But my joy was not full until I drove on the road back into town.  You see, I grew up here.  And that road has special meaning to me.  Year after year, trip after trip.  That road welcomed me home.  Crossing the overpass into town is like walking into a warm hug for me.

You see, I am grounded in Springville.  We are a part of each other.  Through all the chaos, the heart wrenching times, Springville was the strength beneath my feet.

As I drive through Springville, memories wash over me like a healing rain.  I see my old schools.  The houses I used to live in.  The parks I played at.  The ball diamonds where I felt powerful.

And better yet, I see the homes of those who touched my life.  I see my band director's home.  And I remember his love for me.  I see my bishop's home.  And remember his love for me.  I see the homes of relatives, teachers, friends, and so many others who made me who I am.  And most of all, I see my grandmother's home.  The most heavenly, welcoming place I've ever been.  I remember her love for me and my love for her and I am complete.  I am good enough.  In fact, I am wonderful.

So, I would like to say to my pioneer ancestors who chose to settle here, thank you so much!  Thank you for giving me Springville.  Because no matter how much it's changed or grown, it's still my home -- and it will always be in my heart.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Gentlemen, . . . Start . . . Your . . . ENGINES!

An ode to NASCAR.

No, not really.  I'm not sure I even know what an ode really is.

And I'm not going to write about why I like NASCAR or why you should.  But I do and you should.

I am going to write about what I learned in regards to human nature in my NASCAR conversion process.

I grew up playing sports:  softball, basketball, football, volleyball.  I tried a few others, but these were my staples.  I played them year after year as a tween and as a teen.

I also grew up watching sports.  This was a slightly wider range, all of the above plus golf and bull riding.

I like sports.

Then I got married.  He wasn't into sports -- except racing.  (You may have noticed that racing was not on my list.)  And I remember, as clearly as if it were yesterday, saying, "Racing isn't even a real sport.  All they do is drive around in circles."

For years I griped and moaned whenever he wanted to watch a race.  I mocked and belittled.  I saw racing and anyone who watched it as trailer trash.

And then one day, a little over ten years ago, I decided to try to understand what he liked about it.  Or at least fake it in an effort to bond with my husband.  I missed watching sports with someone on Sunday afternoons.

And guess what.  There is more to it than I thought.  I am a fan.  I have a driver (Tony Stewart, #14, Office Depot).  My NASCAR podcast (Rowdy) is my favorite one to listen to, the one I won't miss.  And we, as a family, had a NASCAR competition all season long (Sam won).

But what I learned, and have since been able to observe a lot in others, is that some of us tend to mock things that we don't understand.  We feel like we have to have an opinion, and since we haven't been converted then it must be stupid.

I've caught myself doing it many times since about other things.  Once I catch myself I try to understand why.  I try to learn more.  And usually I find that, just like with racing, there is more to it than I'm seeing.

The list of things I've judged prematurely is way too long.  Facebook.  Blogging.  Wrestling.  Therapy.  And people. 

That last one is the one I'm most ashamed of.  I have so often judged people too quickly.  Because they are a little out of the norm, different from me, or challenging to understand in some other way I have written them off as less than.  This is way more serious than mocking a sport.  And very hard to change.

But I'm trying.  Because it's worth it.  Just like with racing, when I've taken the time to understand it has paid off.  It has broadened my thinking as well as my circle of friends.

And if there's one thing I always need, it's a bigger circle.

*****
And congratulations to Jimmie Johnson for winning four championships in a row.  Amazing!

Monday, November 16, 2009

You Can't Handle the Truth!

How are you?

No, really.  How are you?

I would ask two questions in regard to the above inquiry.  First, how often do you mean it when you say it?  And second, how often do you answer honestly?

This questions bugs me.  It bugs me because it's another example of the sloppiness of the English language.  Most of the time it isn't an actual question as to how your life is going or how you are feeling, it is a way to say hi.  I don't like it when words are used in a way that they don't really mean what they say.  Clear as mud?

I try to mean it when I say it.  Partly because I like to be precise in my communication and partly because I think everyone needs a whole lot more listening ears and hearts in their lives.

So, onto the answering part.

This question has posed problems for me.  I would say that it got especially difficult when I started working with a bunch of therapists, and they meant it.  It was probably the first time in my life that I really felt like anyone around me wanted to know how I was out of true concern for me, not out of a desire to assess whether or not they could ask me to do something for them.

And then it got worse when I started seeing a therapist professionally.  And worse when I got my never-ending headache.  At this point I had no idea what this question really meant or how I should answer it.

Let me clarify by saying that I believe in being honest.  I try very hard to be honest in every situation.  (Partly out of the perfectionism issue.)

So suddenly people were asking me how I was and fine was no longer a default answer.  Often I wasn't fine, but I also wasn't sure who really wanted to know.  I confess that I erred a great deal here.  I tend to over-share.  I gave out more information than many people wanted.

I think I've improved some.  I think I fliter a little better.  But I still sometimes offer the truth even when I know people don't want it.

My favorite place is in the checkout line at the grocery store.  It goes something like this:
"How are you?"
"I'm really tired and cranky and trying not to kill people.  How are you?"

Now, some people barely notice and move on.  Others admit that it's the most honest answer they've heard all day.  And others say that they are, too, and we share a moment of bonding.  They have just been given permission to be honest, to drop the smile and be true to themselves in the moment. 

And then I am a little better.  Funny how sharing true emotion for just a second with a nearly complete stranger can be so cleansing.  You should try it.

So, how are you?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Humor Me

"You don't laugh."
"What do you mean?"
"You don't laugh.  No one in your family laughs."

This is a conversation from early in my marriage.  I was probably twenty or twenty-one and had never been told this before.  Suddenly my husband was telling me that I don't laugh.

I do not know how the conversation got there, but I believe we were watching a funny movie or tv show.  My husband had been laughing throughout.  He'd look at me when I didn't laugh and ask, "Didn't you think that was funny?"  I'd answer that I did.  "Then why didn't you laugh?" he'd ask.  "I didn't think it was THAT funny." I'd respond.

This had happened may times in the past.  I guess this was the day it finally dawned on him that I don't laugh.

Now, I could argue this point.  I went through a giggly phase in junior high and high school.  I've been known to have 2:00am laughing attacks.  I laugh.

But his observation made me curious.  Always one to examine my own nature, I chose to see if there was some validity in what he said.

And I found that when it comes to laughing, he and I are very different.  He's like a kid.  He laughs at everything that is even a little bit funny.  And I am much more conservative in my laughter.  Most things that are just a little funny get a smile from me, but not an actual laugh.  And I am not good at giving a pity laugh either. 

I have spent some time pondering what makes people laugh and why it is so different for each of us.

Picture a baby.  Peek-a-boo or a sudden funny sound can elicit rolling giggles.  As long as all is well otherwise, babies are an easy laugh.

Or a young child.  A simple potty joke or the oldest jokes in the book can have them laughing for hours, retelling the jokes to anyone who will listen.

And as we get older, I believe that our sense of humor evolves.  The things we used to find funny really aren't so much anymore.

Some people like slapstick.  Not me.  It just looks painful.
Some people like stupid humor, like in so many of the movies of the day.  Not me.  They're just stupid.

I like clever humor.  I like the joke with the punchline that I don't see coming.  I like it when someone does something silly that is totally out of character for that person.  I like jokes that don't make sense because they aren't meant to.  I like macabre humor. 

And sometimes it's just that the planets have aligned and in that moment at that time that thing is funny to me.  There is no rhyme or reason.

So as you ponder what makes you laugh and why, I leave you with one of my current favorite jokes:
Q:  What is green and invisible?
A:  This cabbage (holding out cupped, empty hands)

Monday, November 9, 2009

May I Borrow the Car?

DISCLAIMER:  I love teenagers, especially mine.  They are wonderful.  This post is in no way meant to be disparaging of them.

***

Please excuse me while I wax spiritual for a moment.

I'm wondering if, spritually speaking, I will ever progress beyond the teen stage.  Let me explain.

Life ebbs and flows.  Sometimes things are easy and I take eveything for granted.  Other times they are hard and it seems like nothing is happening like I want it to.  And sometimes I have to do something hard and need a little extra help.

Recently I found myself in this last category.  I needed to do something hard.  Hard enough that I knew I couldn't do it without a little extra help from God (as if I am not always receiving a little extra help from Him).  So I took inventory of my life and began working harder.  I tried to eliminate anything that may have been impeding my relationship with Him.  I tried to be more faithful in things that I've committed to do in the past.  And I just basically watched my life more closely to see what else I could put in order.  I worked hard.  And it paid off.  I was able to do the difficult thing.  Thank you, God.  Moving on.

And the next day is when I started to see myself as a spiritual teenager.  Some of my old habits returned, or at least tempted me in a way they hadn't while I was focused.  My dedication wasn't what it had been when I needed something.

So let me paint for you the image I have of myself.  My teenage self in relation to God, my father.

I have regular spiritual chores.  Things that I am supposed to do every day because they are my job and I committed to do them.  Sometimes I forget.  Sometimes I grumble.  Sometimes I consciously blow them off entirely.  And, to give myself credit, sometimes I willingly and cheerfully do them.  And often I forget that they are for my benefit.  I feel like I am somehow doing Him a favor by checking off my list.  I forget that He puts a roof over my head, food in my belly, and life in my body.  Not to mention all the wonderful people and experiences that He brings into my life.  He gives all of this freely, whether I do my chores or not, and asks so little of me.

But then I have something big that I want or need or think I need (I compare it to a teenager asking to borrow the car -- you know, back when teenagers didn't all have their own cars).  Now, in an effort to butter Him up so I can have what I want (not really my mind set, but it kind of works out that way) I work extra hard.  Not only do I do all of my regularly assigned chores, I look for extra things to help with.  I am the prize child who will help with anything, do anything, be nothing but bliss -- at least in my immature eyes.  He is pleased with my turn around and rewards my good behavior.  I get what I want.  And then go back to rolling my eyes and sleeping late.

I know life is meant to ebb and flow.  I know I probably can't keep up that pace forever.  I know that for everything there is a season.  But it still makes me sad.

Because too often I am still a know-it-all teenager who is entirely self-centered.  And I wonder if I will ever leave that stage entirely behind.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Pebble or a Pea?

Let me take you back to your childhood, the days of fairy tales. 

Remember the story of The Princess and the Pea?  Maybe like me, you remember it as told by "Kermit the Frog" reporting.  While the details change in the retelling, the basic story goes like this.  In an effort to determine if a young girl is a real princess, so that she is suitable for the young prince to marry, a bed is prepared for her as a test.  The bed has many mattresses.  And a secret.  Underneath the mattresses is a single pea.  If the girl is a true princess, she will be sensitive enough to notice the pea despite all the padding.  Morning comes.  The girl hasn't slept because there was something hard in her bed.  She IS a real princess.  Happy ending.  All is well.

Only, let's think about it.  Now that we have lived a little life and had our share of troubles.  How do you see the princess now?  I'm afraid she is now a joke.  Someone who has had such a blissful and pampered life that the smallest difficulty is so troubling that she cannot sleep.

And let us consider another difficulty of similar size.  A pebble.  On the path in front of you it is nothing; inside of your shoe it is everything.  It's about the same size as a pea, but few would argue that you were wrong to be troubled by it.  It would bother most anyone.  Of course it is a problem.

So how often do we confuse the two?  I think that sometimes I'm the princess.  Things have been going well and the smallest thing ruins my perfect picture so it becomes a big deal.  Other times I am so involved with everything else that I try to ignore the pebble in my shoe.  It just doesn't seem like that big of a deal.  But it does take it's toll.

Sometimes the pebble is an easy problem.  I take off my shoe, dump it out, put my shoe back on, and am back on my way.

Othertimes the pebble is disaster.  It was the thing that pushed me over the edge.  I sit down, take off my shoe, throw it, curse it, and cry.

I would like to be better at discerning between pebbles and peas in my life.  And since I have difficulty with my own problems it would stand to reason that I would have even more trouble judging someone else's.

I will try to remember this the next time I see someone I think is a princess wallowing over a pea.  Maybe it was really a pebble in her shoe and she has been walking with it a very long time.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My Envy of Video Game Characters

Okay, let's forget the fact that video game characters usually get more than one life.  That's a given for envy right there.

I am not a big gamer, but I've played a few.  And today I decided that I'd like to be a video game character.

I feel miserable.  My head hurts.  I'm exhausted.  And emotionally I've got the blahs.  What do I do now?

First, those things are not immediately visible to others.  That means others keep needing me, bugging me, asking me, telling me, whatever.  However, if I were a video game character I would have nice little bars that follow me around. 

I would have one for pain; it would be black.  When it's high, it means I'm in bad pain so I can't do everything I usually can until that is taken care of.  Either people would ask less of me or they would try to bring my pain down. 

I would have one for energy; it would be green.  And when it's low people would understand why I can't go do things with them without getting their feelings hurt.

I would definitely have one for emotional stability; it would be shades of red.  High (light pink) - let's play.  Low (cranberry) - baby me.  Flashing blood red - better run!

And better than all of that, just imagine how much simpler life would be if you had a "hint" button.  Don't know what to make for dinner?  Hit the hint button.  Don't know whether or not you need to take your child to the doctor for this?  Hit the hint button.  Don't know the right response when someone is yelling at you?  Hit the hint button.  The possibilities are endless.

Plus, others in my life could use the hint button to find out how to help -- and they would score points for it!

And for sure, I would want someone to write a full-blown cheat for me.  Enter this code and all levels immediately reach optimum, including clean house and full bank account.

But, alas, I'm not a video game character.  At least not outside my own head.  But in my head I call myself . . .

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sincerely Yours

Really.
I mean it.
Honestly.
Cross my heart and hope to die; stick a needle in my eye.

All ways to try to convince someone that what you are saying is true.

Have you noticed how much trouble people seem to have with sincerity?  Sarcasm and cynacism seem to be the flavor of the day.  And I am as much a perpetrator in this as anyone.  Probably more.

I'm not talking just about honesty; I'm talking about honesty with heart.  I'm good at honest -- sometimes too good, too direct.

There are some people who are truly sincere all the time.  They mean what they say and believe that you do as well.  I'm not sure where these people come from, but it's somewhere special.  Probably not earth.  Maybe they're victims of body snatchers.

Sometimes these people are difficult for me to communicate with.  So much of what I say is in jest and they don't always get it.  Not because they aren't intelligent, but because we don't speak the same language.  I speak with clever quips.  They speak with love and kindness.

I wish I could be more like them.  I wish that I could pass up that quick comeback so that the person I'm speaking to feels valued and trusts what I say.

My grandma was that way.  I never doubted that she meant what she said and I always felt important to her.

So why can't I do it?

Some of it is about allowing myself to be vulnerable, to put myself out there.  If I am sincere about my feelings and am rejected, it hurts more.  Sarcasm allows for deniability. 

It's also about habit.  Change is hard.  It's uncomfortable. 

And, truthfully, sarcasm is fun!  It's a challenge, a skill.  I've spent years getting better at it.

But I've gotten so good at it.  Too good.  If I start being sincere now, who will believe me?  How long will it take for people to buy into it?  And how long can I keep it up?

Let's find out.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Testing . . .

I have considered blogging for a very long time.  I've even started a couple of times before.  But I've deleted them.  They weren't what I wanted.

I've been concerned about writing a blog.  You see, my personal filters are somewhat permeable.

I begin this blog knowing that I will offend people.  I will hurt feelings.  I will share too much information.  I know this about myself, so I offer this disclaimer up front.  Enter at your own risk.

That being said, I will try to remember that this is for popular consumption.

I have no idea what I'm doing.  Things will be a mess for a bit while I figure this all out.

I do not intend to make my blog cute.  I do not intend to dress it up.  In my heart of hearts I am a minimalist.  My life may not reflect this, but my blog will.

However, I type pretty fast and never lack for something to say.  I promise nothing about length.  I promise nothing about consistency.

I am an eclectic person and expect that my writing will be eclectic as well.

And I tend to speak (and write) in metaphors.

That being said, I feel as though I am standing on the end of the high dive trying to talk myself into jumping.  I can do this.  Here I go.  I'm going to do it. 


- closes eyes -

One . . . two . . . three . . . *splash*