Caring for Others, Part 2

I have a few more thoughts on what I wrote about yesterday.

When my grandmother taught me how to not be a little ungrateful jerk when I was offered those horrid bananas, she also taught me another lesson: care for yourself.

I have to admit that I am just becoming more practiced at self care, but I suppose a few decades late is better than never.

My grandmother didn’t force me to eat the banana. In fact, I don’t remember being forced to do much of anything as a child. I was encouraged to have an open mind, but never forced into anything.

I think that was an important part of my development into a somewhat carefree kind of person. I understand the importance of not forcing anyone into any thing, which makes me pretty hands off with people. I’m not the friend who is going to ask you to have just one more drink. I’m the friend who doesn’t give a shit when you willingly decide to do so, for yourself.

That little lesson from grandma also means that it’s important to not put the expectations of others before your own wants and desires, if you’re not hurting anyone. My grandmother cared more about me being a nice person than being an obedient one.

Thanks grandma.

I also have to truly thank my mother, too. She reinforced those same values in me. Sometimes she had to counter balance my natural propensity to constantly “Do my own thing” by teaching me the importance of making friends and all that hootienannie. But, I’m very thankful for those lessons, too, mom.

Until tomorrow my friends…

Caring for Others

The most rewarding things that I’ve done in my life involved doing something nice for someone else.

Many times, the recipient has been not so thankful. But, I still felt good anyway. I think it’s important to not let other people’s reactions rob us of the joy of kindness and good deeds. This is VERY hard for me to do, but I’m working on it.

I thought about writing this today because I made some meals for my elderly uncle. I cannot cook like his late wife (my aunt) but I know that he will appreciate my effort.

Do you appreciate other people’s efforts without being critical or an asshole otherwise?

I think that’s easier to do than we think it is.

When I was a kid, I hated bananas. I’ve grown tolerant of them as an adult because I put them in smoothies and the potassium makes my old body feel a little less old.

But honestly, I could never see another banana again and be fine, even happy.

But, when I was a kid, one of my grandma’s friends used to love giving me bananas. It was her favorite fruit and perhaps she thought that she was really being kind to me by offering me one.

I still hated them.

But my grandmother, in all her wisdom, instructed me to not eat the banana but to always, always take it and be completely gracious and thankful.

Eventually, I went from kind of pretending to be thankful to having a better understanding of what grace is. Eventually, my thanks was heartfelt and not at all pretentious, even though I never ate the damned bananas.

I learned to be gracious when someone thought enough of me to do something. I learned to not take the joy from them for being kind. I learned not to essentially punish people for being nice. I learned a little bit of what it’s like to not be an asshole.

And now, when I do nice things for people, I get to learn how to be on the other side of the equation. Sometimes something that I do that I think is kind is met with welcome and enthusiasm. Sometimes, it’s not. But regardless, I’m working on not attaching my feelings to the behavior of other people. I take the pleasure and reward of kindness from what I can control: only myself.

What do you think of this topic?

Until tomorrow my friends…

It Doesn’t Matter

Do you ever feel like no one understands you?

How you feel? Your humor? Your off putting affinity for skulls? Your not so secret desire to live on an island?

Do you ever feel so alone?

Maybe you share some of those feelings and maybe you have some quirks of your own that make you feel ostracized sometimes.

I can relate. Some days, it feels like “Ostracized” is my middle name.

I don’t regularly do the two seemingly most common American activities: drink alcohol and watch tv.

If I had to guess, I would say that on average, I have about one martini every 8 weeks and watch about 1-3 hours of internet videos a week. I watch no regular tv shows, even though I do plan to catch up on “The X-Files” soon.

Do you know what these facts make me? Well, they make me almost a social pariah.

People are so strangely uncomfortable when I tell them I don’t drink much and I watch almost no television. They think that I’m odd, and technically, they’re right.

I feel odd and I feel misunderstood.

I use the examples of television and alcohol as somewhat light hearted examples, but I’ve also often felt deeply misunderstood, sometimes even telling myself that I will NEVER find someone who understands me.

Well, here’s the thing: IT DOES NOT MATTER. So the f*ck what?

Recently, I was listening to an Eckhart Tolle talk and he addressed the ongoing need that we can sometimes have to feel understood. And of course, when our version of understanding does not come, we make ourselves feel miserable. We tell ourselves horrible things, like no one will ever understand, or we are terrible for being so odd, so on and so forth.

But all of those things are unknown. Maybe you’ll find the jelly to your peanut butter. Maybe you’re just a singular, delicious nut spread.

Regardless, the better focus is on understanding yourself. There’s so much focus that we can develop on what other people are giving us that we neglect to give ourselves anything.

So, maybe your family thinks you’re nuts? You might actually be a little weird. Maybe no one does understand you.

SO WHAT?

Do you, who has the most access to you,understand you?

No?

Then you’ve already got enough things to do.

So many, in fact, that you might not have much time to watch the tele.

Until tomorrow my friends…

My Calm Birthday

Today is my birthday.

Last night, I had to pleasure of sitting around a large table, in a restaurant, eating, drinking, and enjoying the company of people I am fortunate enough to call friends.

I also did not have to wash a single dish yesterday or today, which is the beauty of going out to eat.

I love the energy of my friends. I might not see all of them very regularly, but I love them all the same, regardless of the frequency of our visits.

Today was my actual birthday, however. I turned 35. I don’t feel particularly old in my heart, even though I often times feel a little beat up or achy in my body. I am working on remedying that through a better diet and more active lifestyle.

I think there are a few clues to the youth of my heart, however. My mind  and soul are old. My body is getting older. But my heart has the joy and interests of probably any teenager. Here are some random highlights from my day.

I Tried to Help

The first thing I did when I left the house today was to check the mailbox. My mom had sent me a card and I went to get it. Somehow, the door of the mailboxes had come undone. I honestly stood there, in mild horror, trying to figure out how to fix it. I even looked around for an older person, even though, one could argue, that at 35, many people would consider ME the older person.

I thought: maybe if an older person, or a handy looking man (or woman) walked by, they’d know what to do. They’d have tape. Is it ok to put tape on a mailbox? Is that a federal offense? 

Not wanting to commit a possible federal offense by using tape on a mailbox, and not wanting to draw much attention to myself as the discoverer of the undone mailbox, I left it in this state, using some construction materials I found lying on the ground.

It is not the best solution, but perhaps there won’t be mail and sales flyers all over the place by tomorrow, when the real adult, ermm, I mean, the mailman, comes by to check out the situation.

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My Music Tastes are Both Low and High Brow

John Mayer’s “Badge and Gun” is one of my favorite songs, but I say that about almost all John Mayer songs. I mean, really, it’s like he’s in my head sometimes.

The song is about a guy who has tried really hard to do what he was supposed to do, whatever that was, and now he’s just going to go on about his way, both metaphorically and literally.

It’s both joyous and somber, which I know sounds odd, but those are the things I feel when I listen to it. It’s basically an ode to the peace one feels when you can honestly say, “I tried real hard” but in the next breath say, “But I also give up.”

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And while it’s nice and all to be all cerebral and listen to the seemingly deeply personal lyrics of a John Mayer song, of course I also had to listen to “In Da Club” by 50 Cent because there’s literally only one day of the year when, yes, shawty, it is indeed, yo birthday.

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My Fashion Tastes Are De-Volving 

Devolving is the opposite of evolving. For a long time, I was a school teacher. Then, for a longer time, I worked in corporate America. My wardrobe has changed, but just between you and me, I absolutely LOVE fashion with whimsy. I will buy and wear almost anything that is red, any shade of red, from light pink to one of my favorites, a deep, moody shade of oxblood. I love it all.

These shoes make me especially joyous and with the light wind and crystal bright sunshine, they seemed to dance off my feet. A random guy even passed me and yelled: I LIKE THOSE SHOES. He, too, was wearing red shoes.

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I Am Still Working on Other Parts of Being an Adult

I am working on reorganizing my closet and I ordered this thing from Amazon. Of course it came flat packed and required assembly.

It was pretty easy to assemble, but I absolutely hate assembling things, so I had to fight my disdain for 30 minutes and use another 30 minutes to assemble it. But, when I was done, I was actually quite proud. I did something productive on my birthday, and that was nice.

However, I am also a 35 year old woman who bought a $16 fabric thing from Amazon to put stuff in. Shouldn’t I be at Ashley Furniture, buying a proper chest of drawers? Perhaps, when I am 40.

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Over all, it was a beautiful day. I had a very peaceful day and am still reeling from how thankful I feel for all of the people in the world who love me.

Until tomorrow, my friends…

The Game of Life

I don’t remember how to do it.

For the life of me, I can’t remember how to do it. I can’t remember how to hold in my laughter when kids are being hilarious.

For several years, I was a public elementary school teacher. I was the queen of the stone face. When they farted, I didn’t laugh. When they said mean, but hilarious, things about each other, my face was stone. But tonight, holding in my laughter caused me to choke.

But then, she said it, “I will trade you! I will trade you if you keep playing.”

“No,” I said calmly, trying to mask my disappointment. I wanted to say, so badly, GOT DAMN IT YOU ARE WINNING FAIR AND SQUARE! DO NOT TRADE YOUR POSITION!

I didn’t yell that because these were just two kids, playing a game of “Chutes and Ladders”, the sister wiping the floor with the brother; the brother becoming so angry that he called it “the worst game of his life.” He might be right; he’s only 12.

He did not want to play anymore and his sister was heartbroken. I gave her a ball as a consolation prize; she had won after all, fair and square. But, she was sad that her brother didn’t want to play anymore.

She thought, because she was winning and was playing fair, that he, too, should do the same.

Sometimes, life is like that, too. In my experience, countless times, I just wanted to grab life by the neck and yell BUT THIS ISN’T FAIR!

Hey life! Don’t you see that I am trying? I am forgiving. I am funny. I am thoughtful. I am working to be better! I am working so hard. I am sober; I am always on time. I am all these things. I am dependable. I am the best friend I know how to be. I am the friend that I would want for myself! Got dammit life, don’t you see how hard I’m trying?!

But, often times, life has just smiled at me, patted me on the metaphorical head, and continued handing my ass to me. In this game, the option to not play is too dire; I have no desire to stop playing, but oh my god, I do wish it was fairer sometimes.

But, it is not.

Whether you’re winning at life, fair and square, life is ALWAYS going to be the victor, in the end. We can’t beat it. We can’t plan for every thing. Where there are ladders, there are inevitably chutes. You might fall down so many chutes that you forget what a ladder looks like. You might fall down chutes enough times that you begin to walk past the ladders, with fear holding your hand, carefully guiding you past even the chance to consider an opportunity to climb again.

Life isn’t like a great vending machine; you can’t put in your share and get something that is fair and expected in return.

Sometimes, I have put in quarters and gotten back flaming bags of dog shit. Sometimes, I have put in quarters and gotten back a perfect pair of black leather boots, you know, the kind that don’t pinch your feet and make you look so chic? Or, something like the equivalent of that.

Sometimes, I didn’t even have the option to trade my position. Sometimes I have given out my position, usually in the form of my heart or my trust, only to have it rejected. Sometimes I have given the very best I had to offer, and life simply told me, cold-heartedly and without flinching, that my best wasn’t enough this time.

It’s a hard lesson to learn. It’s not even really a hard lesson. It’s really just the game of life. It’s just how it is.

We play; we try; we give up our position; we plead, sometimes we beg. Sometimes, it just isn’t enough.

Until tomorrow, my friends…

I Don’t Care About You Anymore

I like to think of myself as a pretty open minded person. I have had the great fortune to live in places where I didn’t grow up, go places I never thought I’d go, and meet people I never thought I’d meet. I’m so thankful.

All of these experiences have given me the ability to accept, and admit to, receiving inspiration from almost anywhere.

As you read through my posts, and hopefully continue to read throughout the year, you will see a theme emerge: I AM KIND OF RANDOM.

And thanks to my innate randomness, I receive inspiration and connection in random places, like in the music of the ‘pop princess’ known as Ariana Grande.

I admit that I listen to and enjoy her music. I admit that I am a little afraid to type that and post it on the internet, given my, ahem, advanced age, but, here we are and there it is.

This little stanza gets me singing, horribly and enthusiastically, every time I am in the car alone: (taken from the song “I Don’t Care”

Used to cry ’bout some crazy shit before
I used to feel so obligated to be so much more
I used to let some people tell me how to live and what to be
But if I can’t be me, the fuck’s the point?

 

I have actually been singing it wrong the entire time. I have been singing “then what’s the point” instead of that more saucy version, but you get the idea.

This switch, to go from all of the damn CARING I used to do versus who I try to be, for myself and to myself, has really been serving me well.

I am naturally a loner and not really concerned about if or when most people don’t like me. But, I have cared in other stupid ways, like these:

  1. Worrying about other people’s problems when they don’t seem at all interested in their own problems
  2. Thinking I was “helping” by telling grown ass people what to do when they full well know what to do
  3. Listening as grown ass people describe how they took their outrageously stupid, albeit conscious choices, and royally screwed up their own lives

I have spent seemingly countless hours, genuinely worried about what other people were going to do, were they going to mess up, were they going to be ok, were they really going to eat 2 bananas when they know full well that even 1 banana makes them have bad gas.

But now, although it is a hard habit to break, I am working towards NOT DOING THAT. It might seem like such a friendly thing to do, to take on a friend’s emotional burden and store it away in your own mind, but it’s folly and bullshit. Don’t do it to yourself. Now that I am making the conscious effort to stop doing it, I can now do the following:

  1. Devote more time to my own horseshit
  2. Listen in a kinder way as my friends talk or vent (since I am no longer approaching things from a “can I help” point of view, I am now a better and calmer sounding board)
  3. Reduce my own intake of emotional energy

Now, I can really be ME and be authentic while I am listening to and interacting with other people. Now, I am choosing to just be more chill in general, to align my thoughts and feelings with the most authentic version of me. And, the most authentic version of me has her own horseshit to deal with, and acknowledges, perhaps most importantly, that my internal worry has never helped anyone or anything, not even myself.

So, to that end, I graciously tell you, that if you’re my friend, I love you, but I’m just here for you, right where we are and when we are. I’m no longer worrying about you later (most likely) and I would love to JUST listen to you. I trust your own guidance for your own life. I no longer feel obligated to participate in it inside my knuckle head.

Good luck to us both.

Until tomorrow, my friends…

 

Photo by Umberto Shaw from Pexels

https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-walking-on-floor-764880/

 

I’m Turning Into Them

There I was, hunched over the left, lower drawer of my desk. I like to call it “the desk” because it is so substantial that it both fills the room and emptied my purse when I bought it.

When it was assembled, the rack for the hanging file folders were put into the wrong slot. I have used the desk this way for almost a year. Tonight, dizzy and nauseated from what I believe is the making of a migraine, I decided to do something about it. I have no idea why.

I held the Phillips’ head screw in my left hand, and said “lefty loosey, righty tighty” aloud before proceeding to unscrew the three screws that needed to move. I was wearing slippers, working diligently and silently, with an air of mechanical confidence that I do not usually enjoy. It was just unscrewing a few screws and moving a bar, after all.

But, right then, I felt it. I felt, for a moment, like an adult, like adult versions of my mother and grandmother.

Today is January 8, the date my grandmother was born way back in 1921. If she had not passed away back in 1998, almost 20 years ago, she would have turned 97 years old today.

It has been a long time since I have seen or spoken to my grandmother, at least in this realm, but I cannot remember a single day, in almost two decades, that I have not thought of her.

Her and my mother represent the parts of me that I wish I could cultivate more. My mother is feeling, empathetic, concerned. My grandmother was stoic, upright, moral, serious. Sometimes she was gentle, but I remember her as being pretty serious pretty much most of the time. I am more like my grandmother in personality, but I admire my mother’s warmth.

Tonight, sitting at “the desk”, I felt a like a little bit of both of them. My mother is so knowledgeable about cars that she could be a mechanic if she had any desire to get dirt under her nails. My grandmother was seemingly so unshakable and confident, it seemed that very few things or people could get her riled up. The stories that I have heard from her life really inspire me, although I am unsure how she was able to still have a hopeful and faithful heart, having grown up poor and in the Jim Crow southern United States.

Both share an affinity for houseshoes and a “can-do” attitude. Perhaps that’s why I felt a connection to them both tonight, as I sat there unscrewing the screws, feet nicely snuggled in a pair of sling-back, fuzzy, striped slippers.

As I have gotten older, I have started to release some of the expectations that I have for myself to be like my mother and my grandmother. It’s a hard thing to do, to let go of the dream of your heroes and realize that your own life is worth living in its own way. And, that things are worth doing YOUR way, no matter who your role models have been.

For me, I realize that I am light years behind the skill set my grandmother had as a baker. I have been rudely reminded of this fact for the past decade, every time I attempted to make a red velvet cake. However, this year, I think I got it right, but in my own way.

I realize that I honestly may never have the high levels of emotion and empathy for others that my mother has. I am beginning to accept this as just a part of who I am. Perhaps I can spread love through the world through cake instead?

No matter how I phrase it, or how I think about it, at least some parts of me are turning into parts of my grandmother and mother. And that’s pretty awesome.

Happy birthday, Lula Bee ❤

Until tomorrow, my friends…