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…

A Challenge Within A Challenge

Hey, is it your first time visiting my blog?

It is?

It is not?

Welcome or welcome back. Let’s start to make things interesting.

Two days this past week, I didn’t feel like there was much going on upstairs. A writer needs a brain to, you know, write.

Some days are like today, when I was actually zonked out on the couch watching YouTube videos, until I looked at the clock and thought OH SHIT! I forgot to write my entry for today.

Other days produce posts like what I wrote yesterday, when the words seemingly poured out of my mind, with ease and emotion. Only three people have clicked on the post from yesterday, even though I think it’s the best one I’ve written so far, so please check it out, if you’re so inclined.

For the next five working days, I am going to throw myself a bone and do a challenge. You know what a challenge is: it’s when someone says they’ll do something for a finite amount of time and then talks about it for that finite amount of time.

So, for the next five days, I am challenging myself to get out of bed whenever I first wake up, if the time is 5:30 am or later. So, if I wake up at 4:45 am, I am taking my ass back to sleep. But, if I wake up at 5:41 am, I am going to do the thing where one moves their body from the bed and into the waking world, ready to take on adventures.

I wonder how this will go? I am sure this activity will give me some fodder for the next few days. I am sure it’ll suck, too, because I change the sheets on Sunday nights, so I am basically dooming myself to spend less time with my fresh sheets come morning time.

What do you think? How will I do?

Have you ever tried this? Leave me a comment below…

Until tomorrow, my friends…

I Am Not My Hair

“No way it’s not real,” he said.

“Way, it’s totally not real,” I assured him.

He looked at me with those squinted eyes one makes when you’re not sure what to believe. He gazed at my hair again, back at my face, twisted his mouth, and replied,  “No way.”

All those years ago, way back when I was a freshman in college, at the age of 17, I first experimented with changing the look of my hair.

I kept insisting to my then boyfriend, with pride and odd enthusiasm, that I had, in fact, added a few tracks to my hair.

My natural hair, back then at least, was so thick that it blended quite seamlessly with the faux hair pieces. This made me giddy and proud.

Now, when I look in the mirror, both today on the cusp of my 35th birthday and every other day for the past year or so, I see hair that has thinned from the glorious lion’s mane that I used to proudly sport. I remember that once, my mother scolded me for lamenting about my thick hair. “You’ll miss it when it’s gone,” she warned me. As with lots of other warnings about life, momma was right.

I am currently suffering from thinned hair thanks to lots and lots and lots of prolonged stress. According to my stylist, it will grow back. According to my mirror, it’s already growing back. Where once there was a flash of scalp, now there are little hair warriors, returning to the battle, hopefully ready to stay put, on the front lines, for at least a good remainder of my life.

To be honest, I’ve always had a pretty good relationship, at least mentally, with aging. I know lots of people who died violent deaths at a young age. I know lots of people who died when they were good and old.  I know lots of people who died somewhere in between, at the age where one might say, “He wasn’t even that old” instead of “But he was so young.” Aging, and it’s ultimate outcome, has been on my radar for a while.

I’ve been to lots of funerals. When I was a child, my grandmother took me to lots of funerals, in small country towns throughout north Louisiana. I’ve probably seen more than my fair share of dead strangers lying in caskets.

With these experiences, death is kind of normal to me, as normal as it can be to a person who still has lots of desire to live. Aging, however, is deeply personal, it’s something that I cannot disconnect from or interact with by just sending flowers or sympathy. Aging is the part of dying that happens to you personally, and you get to experience it in your own personal way, the same way that you must experience and live your own life.

Although I am not happy about how stress manifested itself on my scalp, I am happy that I have had the opportunity to live this long. Having seen death around me since such a young age, I have always lived with the realistic fear that death is always just around the corner for any of us, at any time. It is a beautiful chaos in which to dwell, both frightening and invigorating.

So tonight, regardless of what my hair looks like, I am meeting with friends. The energy of other people, these people, people I am privileged enough to call friends, provide calm and love on the eve of my birthday.

And regardless of my hair, I am thankful to still have some of it left up there.

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…

Meaningful Media

A writer is a reader

A good writer is an avid reader.

In the past, I have been asked about how I acquired my command of the English language.  Even though English is notoriously difficult to learn, it can be done with some ease if you read. A lot. All the time.

I have recently rediscovered my fondness for poetry books and personal anecdotes.  I’ve also purchased two issues of “The New Yorker ” in the past month. It’s always good for highly intellectual articles and a challenge to my vocabulary skillset.

Last week, I fell in love with this little book. I read it in a day.  It’s a personal anecdote about meeting life’s changes humbly. I loved it.

What are you reading?

Until tomorrow my friends…

Kicking it at the Houston Ballet

I like to challenge myself to learn from mundane things that happen. I love the mundane and how things that don’t blatantly have meaning can be connected to big ideas and even bigger emotions.

I even love the word “mundane.” Say it aloud as you read this: MUHHHNNNDDDAAYYYEEENNNN

Yes, it’s it a fabulous little word?

According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary (don’t you just love to start a sentence with that phrase? It’s just like being back in college and writing a freshman level essay, right?)

Where was I?

Oh, right, yes, according to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, the word “mundane” means: of, relating to, or characteristic of the world; characterized by the practical, transitory, and ordinary. Mundane means ordinary, but when you describe something as mundane, suddenly, it is much, much less ordinary.

Take this recounting of a mundane event last night at the Houston Ballet:

Last night, I attended the fabulous and glittery production of “The Nutcracker” at the Houston Ballet. I am a pretty serious patron of the arts here in Houston, well, the arts that I can afford, which typically include a show or two every quarter.

I took a deep breath as I bought those pricey, but completely worthwhile, center aisle seats, only a few rows back from the stage. I am glad I did. I’m glad I did because without being that close to the stage, I would have missed out on a little bit of professionalism and casual elegance that one of the dancers performed.

During one of the dances, the dancers were costumed in lovely, bright green suit jackets, with the gentlemen sporting, large, bright pink flowers on the lapels. As they danced, with the vigor and grace that only a ballet dancer seems to achieve, one of those huge pink flowers went flopping to the ground, falling from the lapel.

GASP! THE HORROR! Although I could have thought of much more troubling things to be happening at that moment, I could not think of a single thing in the world that was more important than that flower lying there in the middle of the stage, unattended, unpinned, and downright unwieldy! What if someone was to trip and the whole production be ruined?!

I did not have to wonder for long, because one of those muscle legged gents soon danced his way over to the flower, and with no fanfare and with almost tactical like precision, he kicked it from off the stage. The move looked flawless, like the stitching on the flower was actually designed to fail, so this one guy would, on cue of course, saunter over and gracefully kick the flower off the stage.
Later that night, thinking back about how the dancer had nonchalantly kicked the fallen flower off the stage, I thought about often times I have let hiccups throw me off course. And, I thought about how those hiccups eventually worked themselves into masterful little triumphs. I thought of these three things:
1) Screw ups are often not as noticeable or as impactful as you might think
No one around me gasped aloud when the flower fell. No one cared. Everyone was still in awe of the dancers’ abilities and performance skills.

2) People find mistakes to be a genuine (dare I say, mundane) part of being human and are quite forgiving of others mistakes
I found it to be a fun little part of the show that a small thing went wrong. I was also very entertained by how the dancer solved the problem, if we could even call a flower on the floor a real problem.

3) Just keep on dancing
No one fell on the floor, or cussed, or stomped the flower. It found its way to the backstage and the performance just went on, of course.

My connection to this mundane thing is my tendency to let hiccups get the best of me and take a big ole dump on my goals, dreams, and creativity. It’s the curse of perfectionism: I sometimes cannot see all the good in what I am doing if there is just one little thing going wrong.

But, I’m learning to not let those little hiccups get me down or slow me down. I’m learning to do as the graceful dancer did: when all else fails, just keep dancing and kicking, whether that kicking means kicking yourself in the pants, kicking your problems to the curb, or kicking someone’s ass if they’re in your way.

*Disclaimer: I do not publicly condone violence of any kind.

Until tomorrow, my friends…