September 30, 2011
I am not a rule breaker by nature. Not because I’m especially good, but because I’m afraid of getting caught. I make sure to abide by the unspoken rule of foot etiquette: my toes are polished and my heels are smooth when I wear sandals. I hate this rule. But I don’t break it.
The custom of sending thank-you notes and cards for special occasions is another of those unspoken rules. But it’s one I endorse because it’s the epitome of consideration, and inconsideration is one of my pet peeves. You’d assume I’d be a champion of this rule. Yet the mental block I have against mailing any written correspondence, is so thick and impenetrable that no amount of shame, guilt or therapy (well, I’m sure if I tried therapy, it wouldn’t work) can overcome it.
It would be easy to blame my mother. Throughout my childhood well into adulthood, my mom would mention the thank-you notes from her wedding, signed, sealed, addressed and living in a box in our basement, still waiting to be mailed. Those thank-you’s even accompanied us on a few moves, and resided in at least four different basements.
It wasn’t my intention to imitate my mom. The thank-you notes from my high school graduation (also signed, sealed and addressed) lived in a box under my bed for a while. I threw them away before I moved. Why prolong the inevitable?
When I got married, I planned on sending out the thank-yous in a timely manner, but in an effort to save time and postage, (that’s not the real reason, but it’s what I told myself.) I decided to combine my shower thank-yous with my wedding thank-yous. I mailed most of them out before our first anniversary. It was a triumph for me.
I’m ashamed to admit that this lack of social etiquette affects not only me, but my children as well. S¹ diligently wrote out thank-you notes for his First Communion. I addressed them, then they lived in my basket of “stuff to do” for a long time before I moved them to a closet and then the garbage.
Unfortunately, my mental block doesn’t deal with thank-you notes alone. I have issues with any type of written correspondence and difficulty in overcoming each step of the process. Many times, I don’t buy the card in the first place. If I do purchase one, there is a fifty-percent chance it will end up in a drawer somewhere. If it does happen to get signed, it will probably get addressed. Then comes the total break down and it’s relegated to my to-do basket indefinitely.
There have been years when I’ve bought birthday cards, anniversary cards, Father’s and Mother’s day cards, and Valentines cards for the grandparents and they’ve heaped up in my to-do basket. When Christmas rolled around, I put all of them into a manila envelope, paid the extra postage and actually mailed them. Right now, I have three letters and a blank card that have been waiting to be mailed to a friend in Sri Lanka since last Christmas. Maybe the guilt from this post will induce me to mail them.
Procrastinating is as natural to me as my green eyes, and my short stature are. I’ve learned to overcome many of my “procrastinational” tendencies, such as my chronic lateness. I’ve gotten the hang of getting up early every day. I can stick to my semblance of a schedule most of the time, and I can publish a post twice a week. But I cannot seem to overcome my propensity for neglecting written correspondence. For some reason, mailboxes are for me, what kryptonite is for Superman. You may ask what the point of this post is. I would answer there is none, unless it’s to make you feel a little better about your own idiosyncrasies.
September 27, 2011
Once upon a time there was a girl that dreamed of falling in love with Mr. Right and living happily ever after.
She grew up and met a boy. He was cute and funny, and they could talk for hours. They began spending a lot of time together and when they weren’t together, they were thinking about the other. She made him feel like a hero and he made her feel special. It didn’t take long for them to fall in love. Their wedding day was perfect, except for the rain.
In one way, love was as she’d imagined. It was exciting– like going down a steep hill in a fast car.
Yet there were things she hadn’t imagined. She hadn’t imagined Mr. Right having girls that were friends, and that a powerful green-eyed monster would roost on her shoulder, ready to bare her claws at the hint of another’s perfume. She hadn’t realized that she would want some time apart from Mr. Right every now and then, or that he would get so upset about it. And he left dirty dishes all over the place, and she wore sweats at home. At first these things were easily ignored, then they became annoying.
Their love life was also different than she’d imagined. Instead of passionately desiring each other all the time, they seemed to desire each other at different times. Why was he always interested on the nights she had to get up early the next day? And when he came home after working a double shift, why didn’t he care that she had been laying in bed imagining what they would do when he got home? And who knew you could do it too much and get tired of it? They never got tired of it on TV.
In spite of all that, her heart still raced every time she heard his key in the lock, or glimpsed his face across the table from her.
Then they had a baby and on the way home from the hospital he said, “I feel like I have to drive really carefully, because my heart’s not inside of me anymore. It’s there in that car seat.”
The baby filled their lives, almost crowding them out. He slept, cried, ate and filled endless diapers. They got little sleep, rocked him even though they were hungry, changed endless diapers and constantly told him how special he was. And baby spit-up constantly colored their clothes. And the baby did nothing for them in return, but grasp their fingers and gaze into their eyes. It was the most difficult and the most joyful time of their lives. That was as close to perfect love as they ever got.
Their baby boy grew up and had a little girl of his own. One day, she and her grandma sat looking at the wedding pictures taken on a rainy day fifty years earlier.
“Didn’t you get bored being married to the same man for so long?” the granddaughter asked.
“Sometimes,” her grandma said. “And sometimes grandpa got bored with me.”
“Then you must not have fought too much, or you could never have lasted this long.”
“We fought enough,” her grandma said. “And sometimes we hurt each other a lot.”
“Fifty years is a long time to work so hard. Why didn’t you find someone else who would make you happier?”
“Who said it was work?” her grandma asked. “If it was work, I’d have left a long time ago. Besides, no one else could have made me happier.”
“It sounds like a lot of work.”
“I guess it depends on your perspective. Love’s not always easy and if you think it’s work, it is. But trying to make him happy doesn’t seem like work to me.”
Her granddaughter sniffed. “Well, it sounds too hard. I’ll find the right man to make me happy and if he doesn’t, I’ll just look for another one until I find the perfect love.”
To her surprise, the older woman threw back her head and laughed. “Honey, you’re in for some disappointment. Love is perfect, but to love perfectly you need to find someone who is perfect. And then you need to be perfect yourself, because the bad things in relationships don’t come from love. They come from people. So unless you’re perfect, don’t expect your love to be perfect.”
And so ends for now, the topic of love I’ve explored in my the previous three posts. Feel free to contribute your thoughts on the subject.
September 21, 2011
There was a game I played often. It was the game of “What if…”
“What if…” is a simple game and depending on the prize you seek, it can be fun and rewarding. But if love is the prize you seek, “What if…” is the most dangerous of games.
I used to play “What if…” in high school, looking out my bedroom window, down the street at the house of the boy I thought I loved. I had many variations of this particular game. One went something like this:
- What if I were to walk by His house with my tall, good looking guy friend? The fact that my tall, good looking guy friend lived far away and probably would not want to play “What if…” with me, was only a minor set back.
- What if He happened to be going to his car as we walked by and He noticed me with my tall, really cute guy friend?
- What if He wondered what such a cute guy saw in me? That would get him thinking about me.
- What if He saw me in school the next day, and decided to talk to me because He’d noticed me with the cute guy the day before?
That’s all it took to set me off. Once He noticed me and asked me out (of course I’d say yes), our destinies would entwine together. He would be totally smitten by my… (I was never sure what I had for him to be smitten by, but there had to be something). And we would fall in love. Rather, he would fall in love; I was already. Our love would be as pure as snow before it’s visited by a dog. We’d only have eyes for each other. I’d never have to be jealous, because He‘d never have the desire to look at another girl.
We’d never fight because we’d be so deeply connected, we’d never disagree about anything. We’d have the perfect engagement; the perfect wedding and the perfect children (they would sleep all night from the day they were born). He would adore me, just as I adored him. Our life together would be blissful perfection. Forever.
But first I needed to figure out the correct strategy of this particular game of “What if…” before I could win the prize of love.
My friends played “What if…” too, because young women are especially adept at the game. Some of my friends won the game and found their destiny with their true love. Unfortunately, it was never quite what they expected and they found themselves playing “What if…” again, trying to find that elusive variation that led to blissful perfection. A few of them never out grew the game.
Here’s the secret about “What If…” It’s like a carnival game that beckons with the promise of fun and lights and prizes. It looks irresistibly easy. But it’s almost impossible to win.
September 17, 2011
I loved a boy in high school. My family moved to a new town in the middle of my freshman year, and I saw him for the first time at the bus stop. I could see his house from my bedroom window. The worst night of my life was the night he took another girl to the homecoming. I cried as I listened to mournful love songs (they were “our” songs) and stared at his house for most of the night. When I finally did get to sleep, I woke often and thought of him with that girl. Then I’d get out of bed, look out my window at his house, and wonder if he was home yet.
I knew his phone number, address, license plate number (I still do) and his birthday (I’ve forgotten it). I knew he liked cross-country and track and math. He seemed quiet and a little shy, although I heard he could be arrogant. I think he had blue-green eyes. That’s all I knew about him.
I didn’t know what kind of music, books or movies he liked. I didn’t know what he was passionate about or what he could have cared less about. We only spoke a handful of times and I’m sure he didn’t know my name (if he did, he certainly didn’t know about the “e” at the end). He inhabited (or at least orbited) the center of my universe for my entire high school life, even though he graduated two years before I did. He broke my heart and the only thing he ever did to me was to not notice me.
Was that love? If not, what was it? Is it worth a “do-over”?
September 12, 2011
I was mulling over topics for my next blog post when my muse paid a short visit.
“How about a post on re-do’s. You know, things you would go back and re-do if you could.”
“It’s called a do-over. Not a re-do,” I informed her.
“Whatever,” she said. Then she was gone. I’ve got to learn not to get her angry.
It was an intriguing thought. What would I do-over if I could? Well for starters, I wouldn’t buy those cute $90 kitten heel mules that felt fine in the store, but turned my feet into burning hunks of coal every time I wore them after that.
And I would definitely pass on the “home hair-coloring advice” I read in a magazine. (Mix grape juice with peroxide and wash your hair with it for subtle highlights. The sad thing is I never noticed what a hideous orange it was until years later, looking at pictures).
But what about the important stuff? I’d thought about it before and sometimes a do-over of life sounded really good. Some people say they wouldn’t do anything differently because then they wouldn’t be who they are. I always thought that was a load of crap. When I was ten years old, there was already stuff I wanted to do over.
I thought about my life. Would I choose a different path in college? Would I move to upstate New York with my boyfriend (now husband) at nineteen? Would I still marry him? Would I have five kids? Would I start my writing career sooner?
My mind wanders to the night before my wedding. If I was going to change anything, it would probably be that night. And the thought is tempting. My fiancé and I lived in New York but were getting married in Michigan on a Saturday. My fiancé and one of my bridesmaids got into town on Thursday evening right before the wedding rehearsal. That left only Friday night for a little bachelorette fun.
My friends got tickets to Sexy Rexy Friday evening. I drove to meet them at the bar, in the car we’d rented to use for the wedding. Renting limos for weddings wasn’t that common back then (boy, that’s a saying that makes you feel old). Two of the couples standing up in the wedding were driving it from the church to the reception the next day.
The tickets included two free drinks of your choice. I got two Long Island iced teas because those were the most expensive drinks and I’d never had them before. They went down very easily, let me tell you, but they were very potent. I don’t remember my friends taking me out to the car later. I don’t remember being passed out for hours in the backseat. And I don’t remember throwing up. I remember the ride home, horizontal in the back seat, as my maid-of-honor and my cousin drove and friends followed in another car to give them a ride back.
I remember getting up on the morning of my wedding, after four hours of sleep, and scrubbing the backseat of the rental car so it could be used by our lovely attendants (The ones who actually didn’t go to the bar the night before. How unfair is that?)
Despite everything, our wedding was wonderful and I looked and felt radiant. And as I really ponder my life and things I regret, I realize I would not choose to do-over that evening or anything else, because– as some people say– I wouldn’t be the person I am right now, or have the family I’ve been blessed with.
If you could have a do-over, would you?
September 7, 2011
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is one of my favorite shows. When I was a child, before VCR’s, cable, and other magical technology, it aired once a year. If you were unlucky enough to miss your favorite show (The Wizard of Oz, The Grinch, Cinderella, etc.), your entire year was ruined. Our lives were constantly on the brink of disaster back then.
As a child (and probably after I learned the truth about Santa) Linus and his unquenchable belief in the Great Pumpkin seemed to me pathetic and naive. But as I grew, his staunch faith became praiseworthy, laudable even.
I had an experience a few weeks ago that reminded me of Linus and the Great Pumpkin and I wondered how many others have been in the same situation. The situation, although different for each of us, is similar in that it involves unwavering, unshakable faith in something or someone. It may be faith in God (whatever that means to you), but there are many other scenarios that come to mind.
Maybe you’re totally secure in a relationship; your trust in the person you’re involved with is so deep and solid, you rarely experience any doubts about the durability of that relationship. Maybe you embrace a political ideal that embodies all the attributes you believe are beneficial to society. Maybe you believe that the sign of the truly civilized lies in the fastidious care a woman takes of her feet. The list is as endless and unique as each of us. But there is something of Linus and his solid belief in the Great Pumpkin in all of them.
Faith in God is this situation for me. It’s unwavering and deep. It’s the foundation of all I do– my entire life. I don’t always understand God or myself and I don’t always behave the way I should or want to. But I always believe. And when I want to be with God in a special way I go to a little chapel near our home. It’s quiet and peaceful and some of my fondest memories live there. I believe that God is physically present in that chapel. I’ve never doubted it.
I had my Linus Experience in the chapel one night a few weeks ago. It was twilight and on the horizon I could see inky storm clouds gathering. I’m a little leery of storms since I had to walk home from school in one when I was in first grade. I had my little polka-dot umbrella open and I was so tiny the storm literally lifted me off the ground. It was capital T Traumatic.
Nobody else was in the chapel when I arrived; it was just me and God when the storm hit. It was a loud, violent storm. And I was alone in the chapel. Or was I? The faith I relied on all these years told me I wasn’t alone. But I felt alone. In that split second of fear, I found myself questioning the very thing that I had never doubted. And it shook me up.
Don’t get hung up on God here. The point is the faith in whatever it is you believe in and having a split second of fear that leads to doubt and makes you wonder in your gut if your faith is justified. And what you do with that doubt.
Even Linus experienced that fear and doubt. And it shook him too. For a moment. Then he took a deep breath, held on to his blanket and waited the rest of the night in the pumpkin patch.
Linus: [to Sally as she walks away with everyone else] Hey, aren’t you going to stay to greet the Great Pumpkin? Huh? It won’t be long now. If the Great Pumpkin comes, I’ll still put in a good word for you!
[realizes what he just said]
Linus: Good grief! I said “if”! I meant, “when” he comes! I’m doomed. One little slip like that could cause the Great Pumpkin to pass you by. Oh, Great Pumpkin, where are you?