Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pet Peeves

We all have them.  Those things that really irritate us no matter who does them. 

One of my biggest pet peeves is poor etiquette at concerts and plays.  Seriously, I want to throw rocks at those in the audience.  Sometimes I get so worked up about it that I can't even enjoy the production.  I've tried to get over it, but I just can't seem to let it go.

But this post isn't about my pet peeves.  Or your pet peeves.  It's about the term and idea of pet peeves.

When I look it up in the online etymology dictionary it brings up the connection to peevish.  Peevish is an adjective that describes a person showing irritation or annoyance.  That certainly fits.  That's definitely how I feel when my husband does any one of the hundreds of things he does that annoy me.

What about pet?  Aren't pets those cute little things we bring into our lives that add joy and comfort?  Things we choose?

Sometimes.

Sometimes they are those things that your child talked you into on a day when you just didn't have the fight left to deal with it.  Or the thing you agreed to keep thinking it would keel over dead before long.  Or that thing that was so cute when it was small and just makes a huge mess and takes a lot of work now that it's big.

One more thing to take care of.  One more thing to clean up after.  One more thing to worry about.

And I guess we do feed our pet peeves.  We do care for them and carry them around with us, nurturing them as if they were a pet.

Just something to think about.

Now, I'm off to try to overcome some of my pet peeves.  I'm starting to become the crazy cat lady with more pets than I can keep track of.  No wonder my life stinks.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Racism: A History

A history, not THE history.  I don't believe the history of racism can be written.  It would fill volumes upon volumes and never be complete until everyone has told their story.

This is my history of racism.  My experiences with it.

I am white.  I have spent my entire life in a mostly white community.  My experience with racism is extremely limited.  I don't know that I have ever been the target of racism.  And I have only seen it on a limited basis.

I have heard relatives, friends, neighbors talk about someone and make judgments based on that person's race.  Make jokes about people.  Complain about people.  Not about the one person they know or have had experience with, but about all people they associate with that person.

Prejudice is a prejudgment.  Deciding something about a person or group of people based on their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, whatever without really knowing that person.

When we expand it to talk about prejudice instead of just racism I have slightly more experience.  I have been treated like I was stupid because I am a woman.  And my religion has been slammed over and over, especially recently.  Since I am Mormon, people think they know what I am like.  That all Mormons are the same.

I do not understand.  I do not understand prejudice.  I do not understand writing someone off because of how they look or where they are from.  It's a logical fallacy.  A sweeping generalization.

This apple is red.  This apple is sweet.  All red apples are sweet.

Most of us can read that argument and know that it's not true.  We've probably all had red apples that were tart, so we know that's not true.  It's obvious.

So why isn't it obvious when the same argument style is used about people?

This person is from Pakistan.  This person is a terrorist.  All Pakistanis are terrorists.
This person is a woman.  This person doesn't know about cars.  Women don't know anything about cars.
This person is Mormon.  This person is closed-minded and judgmental.  All Mormons are closed-minded and judgmental.

I could go on and on.

I do not understand judging a person based on a group they are affiliated with.  I do not understand people who hate African-Americans.  I do not understand people who look down on Latinos.  I do not understand people who shun homosexuals. 

I believe much of it is based on fear.  A fear that something about that person threatens our way of life.  A fear of the unknown. 

And I find it difficult to process that our country's struggle with equality is still going on.  I can't believe that the struggle for civil rights was still going on in my lifetime.  It seems like something from ancient history.  I can't believe that as advanced as we are in so many ways we still get so hung up on personal and ethnic differences.

Maybe it's because I grew up on Sesame Street and The Electric Company, very forward-thinking shows.  I really grew up believing that we are more alike than we are different.  That we can be friends.  That we can learn to work together.  And that we can do all of this with respect and understanding.

I am sad that this still has to be a wish for the future because it isn't the present.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Girlfriend Therapy

There are many kinds of therapy.  Physical therapy, chemotherapy, psychotherapy.  Some people believe in the powers of retail therapy.  I'm a big fan of caloric therapy.

Basically, therapy is meant to heal.  Whatever is wrong, we try to find a therapy to fix it.

Now, even within the field of psychotherapy there are many different disciplines and styles.  Each therapist has his or her own way of trying to help people.  I've seen several different therapists professionally and while they each helped, they did so in varying ways.

Therapy can be scary.  The idea of going to see a therapist is intimidating.  I know.  I had to overcome this, too.  And sometimes only a professional therapist can help.  Sometimes you need answers that only they can give you.  Or sometimes they can recommend exercises to help you work through something.  Or maybe you need medication.

But in all my experiences with therapy over these last few years I have learned one very important thing.  The most important element in therapy, for me, is having someone listen to me.  Having someone value me.  Having someone give me a reality check and tell me I'm not crazy for feeling the way I do.

Some therapists are better at this than others.  Some have difficulty remaining silent long enough for me to say what I'm trying to say.  Others think they know what I mean without checking in to see if they've interpreted me correctly.  Then there are those precious few.  The ones who get me.  They understand.  Much of our communication is unspoken but completely understood.

And now that I've worked through most of the major things I've found a less expensive way to get the validation I need.

I call it girlfriend therapy.  Me and one or two friends out at lunch, talking for 2 or 3 hours while we eat.  Listening to each other.  Validating.  Valuing.  Or maybe it's a quicker session and we go get ice cream or a slushie.  We talk in the car on the way there and back, and for longer than we normally would in front of her house when I drop her off.

It's more than just being with another adult.  It's more than just a break from the everyday routine.  It's knowing that I'm with someone safe -- emotionally safe -- who cares about me and truly wants me to heal.

Sometimes a night out or a lunch with a big group of women is wonderfully satisfying.  But nothing can beat that one on one intimacy.  That moment that says, "I put the rest of my life on hold to be with you today because you are important to me.  How can I help you?"

And the funny thing is that it is healing for everyone involved.  Even if I go intending to be the listener, the giver, I still come away feeling so much better.  So much stronger. 

And most importantly I feel valued. 

Just like with therapists, if it's not a good fit keep looking.  If you haven't found the right friend to truly help you feel more like yourself when you're with her, keep trying.  Chances are there are many women out there searching for the same thing.  A relationship of mutual caring.  A confidant.  A listening ear.  Some truly healing girlfriend therapy.

Not only is it much cheaper than traditional therapy, it's also much more rewarding.  And right in your own neighborhood.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

My Consciences

Remember Disney's Pinocchio?  Cute, sweet, little wooden boy?  All he wanted was to be a real boy.  But he didn't have a conscience, so Jiminy Cricket volunteered.  He followed him around and helped him make difficult choices.  And sometimes, as we all do, Pinocchio blew off his conscience and did whatever he wanted regardless of the consequences.

Pinocchio was so lucky.  He only had one conscience.  I have several.

I have the one I came with.  It's standard with the human model; we all have one.  Some function better than others.  Mine works pretty well most of the time.  But there are times when it fails.  Or at least, others in my life think it does.

The first external consciences I remember were my parents.  When I was griping about someone, they were always quick to point out that I didn't know what kind of a life that person had experienced.  I didn't know what kind of trials they were going through.  I didn't know the intent of their heart. 

Okay, I can accept this.  I learned a lot from them.  We'll call them training wheels for my conscience.

Sometimes my husband tries to fill this role.  Guess how well that goes over.  Now, he's learned a lot over the years.  He doesn't do this as much as he used to.  But every once in a while when my PMS is particularly bad I get a little . . . how to describe it . . . let's say snarky.  A little testy.  A little short-tempered.  A little less kind.  With a lot less compassion (which I don't have an abundance of to begin with, but that's another post).

During this time one of my children will push a button.  One of my buttons.  One of my bite-your-head-off buttons.  And since they pushed the button I all too often oblige.  This is when he steps in.  Sometimes it's a look.  Sometimes it's, "I don't think that was very nice."  Sometimes it's even, "Hey!  You're out of line."

Do I appreciate this?  Am I grateful for his protection of these beautiful children I claim to love?  Um . . . no.  Usually he will get his head bitten off as well.  This is when I start to realize that maybe my buttons are a little too sensitive right now and I should probably go to my room.  Time outs aren't just for children, you know.

But the ones that bug me, that I truly value the most, are my children.  I have great kids.  I'm not sure where they came from, but they are awesome!  Yes, I want to beat them at times -- I'm not afraid to admit it.  But usually they rock.

Occasionally I will not be at the top of my game as far as behavior.  I wish I could say this only happens when I am PMSing, but it doesn't.  Sometimes I get catty.  Sometimes I talk behind someone's back.  And sometimes my kids are there when I do it.  Yes, I am ashamed.  But it doesn't seem to stop me from doing it again.

Or sometimes my husband will deliberately try to irritate me.  You may think that he doesn't actually do it deliberately.  If you think this, then you obviously don't know my husband.  Yes, he does.  He thinks it's funny to watch me try not to lose it.  I think he likes watching my face turn that particular shade of red, while the blood drips from the tongue I'm biting (yes, my own).  Look!  I think her head is really going to explode this time.  I've had it and I swear at him.

If one of these things happens in front of my children you can be sure that I will hear about it, sometimes with scripture to back it up.

Do I know that what I am doing is wrong?  Yes.  Do I care?  In that moment, no.  But then my daughter gently says that it makes her sad when I talk that way.  She looks at me with disappointment.  I am two inches tall.

And I am proud. 

As much as they irritate me, I am proud that my children have the courage to stand up for their convictions.  I am proud that they love me enough to care about my behavior.  I am proud that they are mine.

So I guess I am really the lucky one.  Pinocchio only had one conscience.  I have many.  And I am grateful for them all.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Measure of a Patriot

Yesterday in church we were greeted from the pulpit by our ecclesiastical leader.  He welcomed us and announced that The Star-Spangled Banner would be our opening hymn. 

(Now, I know that many religions stand when they sing.  We generally don't.  Sometimes during an extra long meeting we will stand during a rest hymn to give people a chance to stretch.  But generally we remain seated.)

As he made this announcement my mind began working.  I think we're supposed to stand when we sing the national anthem.  Aren't we supposed to stand?  I want to stand.  I don't want to be the only one who stands.  I hope people stand.

I looked up and in the front of the room two young men stood.  These are fine young men.  Devoted scouts.  Dedicated to service.  Evident patriots.  They didn't wait to see if others would stand; they chose to lead.  They knew they should stand and would do so whether anyone else joined them or not.  Soon everyone was standing.

As we all stood together, singing our national anthem, I felt proud.  I felt unified.  I felt patriotic.

When I was young we said the Pledge of Allegiance every day at school.  In high school not only did we say the pledge on many occasions, but since I was in the marching band I also played the national anthem several times each football and basketball season.  I felt patriotic. 

When I go to parades, scout meetings, or funerals where the flag is displayed I stand and place my hand over my heart.  I feel patriotic.

I love the fourth of July, Independence Day.  I love paying homage to all those who made our country possible.  I have tender feelings for those in the armed forces as well as civil servants.

But in that moment in church, where I have so many friends, I did not want to stand alone.  And I feel a little ashamed of myself for it.

How do you measure patriotism?  Is it what you feel or what you do?

I think that's a tough question.  I think it's kind of like defining a person's faith.  We look and we see so we think that we know.  We see each other's behavior and think we know if someone is a patriot.  But would you want someone to judge whether you were a patriot or not based on just what they see?  How do you judge what's in a person's heart?

Obviously, it comes down to not judging others.  A tough thing to do, but so important.

Today, I feel like a patriotic person.  I feel like there is room for growth, but my intent is good.  I love my country.  I am glad I am here.  I am grateful for all it affords me.  And I will try harder to find opportunities to stand up for my country.

And I imagine that people all over the world feel the same way about their countries.  That they are patriots.  Like me.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Things My Blog Will Never Be/Have

I have been participating in the blogosphere (why does that word make me cringe?) for several months now.  Let me just say, I have learned a lot.

There are a lot of fantastic writers out there.  People who will never be published in a book, but who have awesome stories to tell and tell them well.  I swear real life is so much more interesting than fiction.

But there are also, um, how do I put this?  There are also a few . . . who struggle . . . to connect with . . . reality.  Maybe that works.  This post isn't about these people. 

I'm not talking about mental illness or those who blog about it.  I love these blogs.  These are truth at its most raw.  Open and vulnerable.  Striving to find the surface while life tries to pull them under.  I connect with these blogs.

And, if you're reading, I'm sure I'm not talking about your blog.  I'm sure it's wonderful.  And I'm sure that you will know and understand that all of these things I'm about to gripe about don't bug me when you do it on your blog.  You rock!

Blogging is so much more than I knew when I started.  It's a bunch of social networks, among other things.  Not like in high school.  Not full of cliques.  It's all about support.  So many of these blogs are written by women.  And all of us women know that women just don't get the praise they need and deserve, so the networks strive to provide some.  And they are wonderful.  I've picked up some new readers this way that have added to my experience.

But there are also things that kind of bug me.  Okay, they irritate me.  I understand why people do them, and I will keep reading the blogs that have them, but I will not have them on my blog.  Deal with it.

Ads:  I understand the need or desire to make money from blogging.  And more power to you if you choose to go this route -- I hope you make lots of money.  But my blog is about writing.  It's mostly for my own enjoyment.  I like my writing.  I like reading my writing.  And I'm big on sharing so you can read it, too.  But sometimes those ads on other blogs get so distracting that I'm tempted not to go there anymore.  They flash.  They scroll.  They show close ups of body parts that I both try to identify and try not to look at.  I've finally had to change the size of my window at some blogs so that only the post shows.  My peripheral vision is just too good.  That thing that flashes or scolls gives me a headache.

Memes:  I'm not positive about the definition of this one.  I think it's like a writing game that one person starts and all of their followers participate in and then they all link up to each others' posts.  Is that right?  Sometimes it's a bunch of questions.  Sometimes it's 100 words on such and such a topic.  Reading one person answer a bunch of questions might be fun.  I get bored part way through the second one.  There's no way I'm going on to the third one.  I understand others like this.  They must or it wouldn't be so prevelent.  You guys have fun.

Awards:  Okay, I tried this one once.  It didn't fit.  It wasn't me.  Different bloggers make up different awards and design a button and rules for it.  Then they give it out to other people.  These people follow the rules and pass it on to other people.  It's part of the giving praise thing.  I understand that it's fun to get an award, but this one just feels too much like chain mail for me. 

Writing Prompts:  Some blogs provide pictures, questions, quotes to use as writing prompts.  Something to get you started.  I understand the need for this.  I have been at that point where I just don't have anything to write about.  For me, I've learned that at that point it's best not to push it.  If I write during that time it just comes out forced.  I know some people have the desire to write regularly as an exercise to keep their writing muscles strong.  I don't feel this need.  I have enough things in my life that I have to force myself to do, writing is fun for me.  When it becomes work it is no longer satisfying.

Daily Themes:  Hmm.  How do I illustrate this without offending anyone?  I probably can't.  Forget about it Friday.  Weather Wednesday.  Toy of the moment Tuesday.  (I made those up, by the way.)  It's all about the alliteration in the title.  And something to write about.  A few of these I love, like Musical Monday at Kazzy's Ponderings.  But mostly they just seem cheesy to me.  Like I can't come up with stuff to write about on my own.  Plus, I don't want to commit to writing every Thursday.

Family Stories/Pictures:  In fact, pictures of any kind.  At first this was just because I knew that having to find and link pictures would be tedious and make it so that I didn't write as much.  I don't want my blog to be a journal or a family update or a mommy blog or a travelogue or a food blog or a craft blog or anything of the kind.  I like these blogs.  I follow several of them regularly.  I enjoy the pictures and the stories that remind me why I'm glad my kids are finally growing up.  But that's not what I want to do.  I want to write.  I want to think.  I want to share my conclusions or lack thereof.

Giveaways:  Why would I create more work for myself?  I'm not going to buy followers.  If you read my stuff, that makes me happy.  If you don't, I'm okay with that.  You do what works for you.  Giveaways will never be found here.  And I don't participate in them on anyone else's blogs either.  If you missed my post on shopping, go back and read it.  I have more than enough stuff.  I hate stuff.  Anything more than necessary to live is too much for me.  Why would I enter a contest to try to win more?

Begging for Comments:  I understand the need for validation.  It is a natural human need.  It feeds our souls when someone tells us good things about ourselves.  But if I have to beg for comments it's like begging for a compliment from my husband.  It just doesn't mean as much and isn't entirely believable.  That's just me.  If you long for comment-love so much that you want to ask for it, go ahead.  I've never been good at asking for things and I'm not going to start begging now.  I love comments, mostly because then I know who's reading.  But if you aren't so inclined I will love you still the same.

Girliness/Gushing:  I wrote one post about how much I love people.  That's as gushy as I get.  If you ever read one of my posts and hear giggling, squealing, and perky girliness then go back and read it again.  You read it WRONG.

What you will find on my blog.  Strange ramblings with way too many metaphors and similes.  Things that make you glad you don't actually know me in person.  Thoughts that seem like they came from someone who doesn't get out much (which, I guess sometimes, I really don't).  Variety that leads you to believe that not all of my mental illnesses have been diagnosed yet.  And a profile picture that is a gargoyle.

These things are me.  My blog is me.  I have spent way too much of my life trying to be what others want.  I'm not going to let that happen here.

Lots of people love all of these things.  And that is part of the beauty of the blogging world; there's something for everyone.  I was not talking about your blog, trust me.

If I offended you, go back and read the warning at the top of my blog.  I kind of knew I would.

*****
Author's Note:  As my friend, Kazzy, so kindly reminded me -- it drives me crazy when music automatically starts as I'm trying to read a blog.  I usually had my sound up to listen to something else and it startles me no matter how great the music is.  Not a pleasant experience.  Scaring me is not a good way to get me to follow you.