Thursday, February 25, 2010

Who Needs a Sub?

A few weeks ago I was at my daughter's basketball scrimmage.  Even though it was a scrimmage, they were playing hard.  The girls were getting winded, and there were a couple on the bench eager to get in.  The coach asked, "Who needs a sub?"

I was sitting right behind him and answered, "I do."

He didn't hear me.  And he didn't have a sub for me anyway.  But it got me thinking -- wouldn't it be nice if life were a little more like sports?

There would be subs.  That alone makes it worth it.  After being up until 4:30am with sick and crying kids, what mother wouldn't love a substitute mother to take over and get everyone up and off to school in the morning so she could recover?

There would be a clear definition of the goals.  In sports you work to score more points (less in golf) than your opponent.  But sometimes in life we work and work only to find out that we were working toward the wrong goal.  We thought we were headed in the right direction, but somewhere along the line we got lost.

There are also clearly defined rules.  Every sport has its rules and a governing body to set and enforce those rules.  Life can be vague.  Moral dilemmas occur in which we're just not sure what the proper choice is.

You always know who your opponent is.  In football or basketball, you know who not to throw the ball to -- their clothes are a different color than yours.  You know that they are working against your better interests.  Unfortunately, life isn't always so clear about this.  Sometimes you spend a long time relying on and trusting another person only to have them turn on you and stab you in the back when it's to their advantage.

Conversely, you have a team, you know who they are, and you are working toward the same goal.  When you are in heavy coverage, you can pass to someone else.  Sometimes in life we don't have a very strong team.  Or we aren't all playing the same game.

In sports you have a coach.  You have someone who is more experienced who can teach you and guide you.  Someone who can tell you what you're doing wrong and how to fix it.  And who can direct others to help you.

You have fans.  There are people watching who are hoping you do well.  They are cheering for you.  They share your disappointment when things don't go well.

Okay, it's a loose comparison.  And I know you are going to say that some of these things are available in life if we'd only take advantage of them.  A spouse, friend, grandparent = a sub.  The law, police officers, judges, God = rules and a governing body.  A mentor, a parent, a grandparent, God = a coach.  Your interpretation will vary depending on your personal feelings and beliefs. 

So if these things are available, do we take advantage of them?  Would your life be better if you thought of it as a sport and looked for these elements and opportunities?

I imagine it would.  I don't think it would solve everything, but perception is important and every little bit helps.

What I want is my own personal commentator; and every time I accomplish something difficult I want him to shout, "GOOOOOOOOOOOAL!"

Friday, February 19, 2010

I Hate Shopping!

I know, I'm going to have to surrender my girl card.  I'm pretty sure I was disqualified on shoe grounds a long time ago (I only own five pairs - *gasp*).

I've never understood window shopping, unless I was doing actual research for something I was preparing to buy.  I've never understood the need to shop for therapeutic reasons; you know, retail therapy to cure a bad day.  And I do not understand the mall.

I'm not talking about grocery shopping. I don't think anyone likes that, except the overworked mother of young children who uses it as a temporary escape.

I am talking about buying things just to have more stuff or newer stuff.

I am of the wear-it-out philosophy.  It's only new for a minute.  Then it's used.  And when it's new I just worry about it; if something happens to it, it won't look new anymore.  When it's used or worn in, I'm not as concerned if someone damages it or if it gets lost or stained.

And I swear on a stack of bibles, I HAVE MORE THAN ENOUGH STUFF!  I can't get rid of stuff fast enough to keep up with all that comes into my house.  Why on earth would I want to contribute to the problem by buying more stuff I don't need?

I don't actually like stuff.  I don't get joy from stuff.  I find stuff utilitarian.  If it's useful, great.  If not, I don't want it.

And yes, I know, everyone who has ever given me a gift is now saying, "Well, I won't do that again."  And that's okay.  I would so much rather we use the money to go to lunch together.  Or out for some other activity.  Even one that's free.  (I promise, they will not kick you out of America for not wanting to spend money.  They'll want to, but they won't actually do it.)

My lack of interest in stuff causes me relationship problems.  To me, the best gifts are gifts of time and effort.  I would so much rather someone clean out and wash my car than give me jewelry.  So I am afraid I don't show appreciation for tangible gifts well.  And there are people in my life who do like stuff.  For holidays and birthdays they do want stuff.  So if I make an effort to serve them and spend time with them, they still want to know where their present is.

Oh, well.  I will keep stumbling along trying not to hurt feelings and trying to stay ahead of the constant influx of stuff.  It's the world we live in and it's a tough fight.

As for shopping, I do have two weaknesses.  I could spend hours in office supply stores and hardware stores.  I love seeing all the different solutions for everyday problems.  Who knew they made something that could do that?  Seriously, put me on the hinge aisle or in the knob section and I become a kid in a candy store.

And back to the girl card, I'm not sure I was ever actually issued one.  I was too busy learning to open my own jars.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Of Books and Women

What is book club? 

My eleven-year old asked me this recently.  She asked if we each take turns and just read to a certain spot like in her reading circles at school.  I smiled as I imagined us reading Gaskell's North and South together as a group.  If we read for two hours each meeting it would take us about a year to finish the book.

So I explained to her that we each read the chosen book on our own and then get together to discuss it.  She seemed to get it.

This question was asked because of my griping.  I am not thrilled with the book chosen for book club this month.  I keep referring to it as my homework.  I keep complaining about having to read it.

And I have been told more than once by more than one person I live with, "So don't read it then."

But I can't.  I have to read it.

I don't always read the books.  Sometimes they just don't interest me or I can't get one in my hands soon enough.  Or I had other things to do that were more important to me.  This time I just flat out disagree with the author of the book.

But my reason for attending book club is not what it used to be.  I used to go as an excuse to get out of my house for the evening.  Or to spend some time with adults having real conversations.  And those things still apply.

However, my main drive for being part of book club now is to share in others' opinions.  To not only be exposed to literature that I wouldn't pick on my own, but to see how others see what we read.  How they feel.  What they learned.  Not only do I grow as a person, but I get to know my neighbors so much better by looking through their windows on the world.

And I have been told that I am an important part of book club precisely for the reason that I am often the dissenting opinion.  They want to see things differently, too.

Imagine that.  I have finally found a place where my disagreeability is a good thing.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My Comment on Comments

One of the most difficult things about writing a blog, for me anyway, is knowing how to handle comments.

I love comments on my blog.  I love knowing that people are reading and enjoying what I'm writing.  And I'd love to respond if that's what you want.  Or not, if you don't.

I have sometimes responded to a comment in the comment section, never knowing if the person who left the comment would think to come back and check for a comment on their comment.  (See, it is confusing.)

Sometimes I've responded with an email, if I had their email address and thought it was important.  Some people comment on facebook; they're easy to respond to.  Others comment in person -- again, easy to respond to.

But may I just take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone who has ever commented on my blog.  Your comments touch me and encourage me and make me laugh.  But mostly they just make me grateful.

And to you who don't comment because you can't come up with something clever to say, and you know who you are, I welcome your comments when you're ready.  It doesn't have to be pithy.  I welcome all comments:  nice, snotty, silly -- even BORING.  Whatever.  Remember, I have the power to delete those comments if they really bother me.

Please don't feel slighted if I don't respond.  I'm just not really sure how to handle that part of blogging yet.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Power of Acceptance

God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
The courage to change the things that I can;
And the wisdom to know the difference.

The Serenity Prayer is so beautiful and simple.  And yet so difficult.

I grew up believing that my life would be what I would make of it.  I could decide what I wanted to be, do, or have and make it so.  I had the power of self-determination.  I had the strength of will.  I had the courage and intelligence.

And guess what.  So much of my life is not what I chose.

I'm not going to write about the courage to change things; that's a whole topic in itself. 

I've been pondering the idea of accepting things.  How long do I beat my head against the wall trying to change the nature of the wall?  All that happens is that my head hurts.

Which brings me to my ponderings.  While there are many things that are beyond my ability to change in my life, the one I'm struggling with right now is my health.  How long do I fight what is?  And how much do I miss out on because I am fighting?  Is there power in accepting things the way they are and making the proverbial lemonade from lemons?  Where is the line between accepting what I cannot change and giving up?

This July it will be five years that I have had a continuous headache.  In the same spot every minute of every day.  It strengthens and weakens in intensity, but it's always there.

When I first got it, I waited for it to pass.  When I realized it wouldn't, I began to fight it.  I went to doctors of every kind.  I had every test anyone could think of.  I had my eyes checked.  My teeth checked.  I changed my diet.  I tried alternative interventions.  And I spent lots and lots of money.

Each new idea brought hope.  This will be the one.
And each new idea brought disappointment.  That wasn't the one.

It's so hard to keep letting yourself hope and continually have those hopes dashed.  I try a few things, decide I can't take it anymore, and quit trying for a while.  I just live with things as they are and try to function.  Time passes and someone comes up with another idea.  I just heard about this and you have to try it.  And it makes sense, so I do.  No good.

And, as silly as it sounds, each time something doesn't make me feel better I feel a little guilty.  I feel like I'm not trying hard enough or I would feel better.  I feel like I am disappointing the one who suggested it and have let them down.

I am also at about nine years of chronic fatigue.  Yet another situation that has no proof to anyone but me, that can't be shown through medical tests, and that has no real cure.  Great.  (And yes, there are people who don't believe me.)

I would never have chosen either of these things.  But I have grown from them.  I have gained a greater appreciation for the little things.  I have been able to better focus my energies on what matters, since those energies are so limited.

Am I grateful for them?  Occasionally.  I think that "grateful for suffering" thing comes when the suffering ends.

And while I still have times of disappointment, when I get down about where my life is, the best days happen when I accept what it is now and move on.  When I don't dream about what could be, but live the dream that is.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Thank You, Marcus Bakeman

What inspires you?

As you think about this, let me tell you a story.  Imagine me as a junior in high school (put Sam's head on Jess' body and you have a pretty good representation).  It's the fall of 1986.  I walk down the halls of SHS, past the office, turn left and then turn into the first door on the right.  This is my English class.  I sit down and wait for class to begin. 

The teacher comes in.  He walks to the front of the class and holds up a small figurine.  It is of a Mexican man, sitting with his knees pulled to his chest, head resting on his knees so that his sombrero hides his face.  The teacher instructs us to write about this figure for the next ten minutes or so.  After a moment, hands go up.  "What are we supposed to write?"  "Will we be turning this in?"  "How long does it have to be?"  He answers, "Write whatever you want.  Write whatever you think about when you see this.  There is no length requirement.  You will be graded only on participation.  Write until I tell you to stop."

We did this every day with different prompts; it was called journal writing.  Sometimes it was an object, like the figurine.  Sometimes it was a song.  Sometimes it was a question.  My favorites were when he brought his guitar and sang -- especially Chalkin' and Huggin'.

The cynic would say that this was so that he could keep us busy while he got ready for our class. There could be many other, more altruistic, reasons for doing this as well.  But the reason doesn't matter. What matters is what I learned.

I learned to look.  I learned to notice.  I learned to think.  I learned to express.

It was one of these journal writings that helped me and my best friend discover that we had opposing political beliefs.  It was through these journal writing prompts that I was exposed to Don McLean and James Taylor.  And it was in these journal writings that I discovered my love for essay writing.

I'd always written, for as long as I'd known how.  I'd written poetry and short stories.  But never did I feel more free than when I did these exercises.  Never did I feel more empowered than when I discovered how to express my thoughts and opinions safely on paper.  And I loved it.

Sometimes people ask me how on earth I chose "that" topic to write about in my blog, whatever that may be.  "You notice such strange things."

And I think back fondly and thank this teacher, not just for teaching me the assigned subject, but for teaching me to think and helping me discover something about myself.  Thank you, Marcus Bakeman.  May you ever continue chalkin' and huggin'.