Thursday, November 15, 2012

Facing Judgment (Stink Face Redux)

“You’re so judgmental!” directed at me during a college tour visit with third child.

“Oh, it’s OK, we’re all judgmental sometimes.” replied acquaintance, while making  comment about the way I was seemingly watching someone as I attempted to get clarification and then explain, poorly...

So allow me to explain, or don’t, I am going to anyway.  I don’t deny that I have not been judgmental, made a judgment, come to a false conclusion following a first impression, et cetera and so on.  It’s true we all do.  I, however am a self-appointed high monkey-monk of processing and reflecting.  Typically when I make a judgment, it doesn’t sit right, I feel badly.  I then begin the process of determining validity of said opinions and feelings and judgments, or attempting to slip into the moccasins of another, or determining why I thought someone died and put me in charge of reacting to someone else's odd behavior.  In which case I can simply back away from, or let go of judgments or avoid and resist future engagement.

The two opening scenarios did not involve me and judgments.  Well maybe they did, but they weren’t judgments I was making.  The scenarios involved me and people’s perceptions of me. The fact that these two comments were made and so far off the mark by two people with drastically different connections to me made me take note.  I determined through my zealous processing activation that I have a serious external malfunction that might be interfering a great deal with my internal longings and moment to moment ability to initiate interpersonal connections of joy and lightness.  This leads to a malfunction in my attempting to over-compensate in an effort to explain that I am all sorts of nice and fun and open and really easy-going.  Which naturally contradicts anyone’s sense of easy-going, or open, or fun.  And low and behold when I put this activity in place for someone I r-r-r-really (throw in a sexy growl here) want to get to know, it looks like all out obsession, intensity, pushiness, and aggression.    


Crash.  Burn.  Sink.

Scene 1, Act 1:
College tour guide excited and perky and off-beat, (or on crack.  Is that a judgment or an observation, or a snarky, twisted viewpoint derived from my very own fear of big school campuses and academia and my own early avoidance at academia by going to art school?  Do people really like school this much?  Hmmm more to process….)  blather, blather, blather, blah, blah, blah not even…Super Cuts…on campus….a real salon….these are the Common’s  blah blah….

Me:  (deep in thought)  hmmm it’s really nice here.  I wish I didn’t get so anxious. It’s really warm.  If we leave by 1:00 we can get to Essex by, let’s see 6 hours from Buffalo..Oh he wanted to stop at the outlets in Geneva…. I better pay attention, it’s not fair to third and final child.  Just because I’ve done the college tours at every type of college across the North Eastern seaboard and a few mid-Atlantic states with his siblings… this is important and special for him….I need to get it together….SuperCuts?  How interesting, what a good idea on campus.  (face is squeezing in on itself in deep and serious consideration.)

Third and Final Child:  (Sizes me up and slaps me down in one fell stare) under breath, What is wrong with you? You are so judgmental, about getting a haircut at SuperCuts, ?

Me:  Whoooaa!  What???!  What the heck are you talking about?  I think it’s a really good idea.  I actually like Supercuts.  (I attempt to convince, defeatedly, but understandably get to the paying attention part and smooth out the face, work on blank stare.)

Act 2, Scene 1
(Several days later attending a local venue with friends for acoustic night)
(Soulful singer is making the most delightful sounds sending me to places I have not visited for quite some time.  Variety of friends, neighbors, singers, musicians, one assertively dancing and raucous  vagabond, groupies and hot, amazing women, oh that would be my friends and I…gather).

Acquaintance:  She’s pretty wild isn’t she?  It’s hard not to stare. (rolling eyes toward wayward vagabond)
Me:  What? Oh, yeah, umm no, I was….
Acquaintance:  “Oh, it’s OK, we’re all judgmental sometimes.” (smiling knowingly)

Although she doesn’t know.  I wasn’t staring.  At least not at anyone.  I was staring off and I had gone into that place.   I was…..well….. y’know, doing that zealous thing I do.  The processing.  Listening to the music.  Thinking of how songs and musicians can really get you all hot and bothered and wishful and wanting.  Wondering when…thinking about how long….Playing out how and why the past several months have been spent making absolute certain that any dreamy stud,  would not ever brighten my doorway, darken it or otherwise come within 200 feet of it.  And then there’s my face off doing it’s own thing as my mind is going deep.  It seems to have a life of it’s own and it doesn’t have any issue with making it’s actions known to everyone else.  I, on the other hand think my face is a part of me, an extension of my kindness as well as my struggle.  Meanwhile my ill-fated facial expressions are sending out messages of disdain and consternation.  Disapproval and disgust register for others.  Judgment. 

And for some reason, I respond and my mouth attempts to defend me but scores points for the face.  "Actually, I was really enjoying that guys sexy voice and wondering when I might get (insert any old unladylike but direct expletive here)".  If I had to judge by her expression, I might have gone too far.  I was annoyed.  I was frustrated with being, perhaps, judged.  I was sensitive and then defensive about trying to explain and then feeling like it wasn’t worth it.  I was also feeling frustrated with the reality that this has been an on-going problem and although it is off-base, it is somewhat globally accepted as my truth.  

I am practicing bland faced, or excited.  Enthusiastic?  Happy and peppy and bursting with well hello there! And isn’t it great to see and hear you, and you and you???!!!  Maybe it’s time for botox and eye-lift surgery.  It will be really hard to look stink-eyed and surprised at the same time, won’t it? Surprise might be an expression that works for more than a few situations…..  Perplexed….Processing….Thoughtfully thinking....loving…enjoying…wondering why I was cursed with the stink eye? 

Last year I implored the third and final child to take a “nice” picture of me on vacation.  “C’mon, be nice, take a good picture this time, not me making a face.”  He responds through chortled chuckles as he views the shot, “Oh my God,  ha ha ha It is a good picture.  That’s your face!  That’s what you look like.”  I snarl and grab my camera turning up my lip, squinting on one side to see, my nose crinkles and my teeth are bared.  A vision of openness and light, sweetness and compassion emanating out of my (insert any old expletive here).  Sighhhhhhh. 

Judging by the picture he took, it’s time to load up on cats and game shows, stretchy pants and crocheted afghans…..

Monday, November 12, 2012

Following the GPS and Road Maps of Life....

Simon, that devil may care Aussie, GPS dude of mine, instructs me to turn left 2 miles ahead.  Between the 2 miles and traffic, there are songs and conversations and suddenly measurements; “300 yards ahead turn left”  followed by numbers on the screen 180, .90, .85,.… As I get into the left turning lane, and begin to turn, Simon goes haywire, recalibrating, finding a new route, throwing me off.   I’m wondering why Simon can’t provide a few landmarks for me to “see” on the screen.   The numbers do nothing for me.   The street names he calls out are frequently impossible to see, or the roads are unmarked altogether.  The street naming and labeling system varies from town to town, state to state.  Arghhhhh!  Simon!!!! How the hell do I make sense of all this?

When my son rides shot-gun it isn’t much better.  I ask him to please tell me ahead of time what to look for.  I want him to share perhaps the next step to come.  He can’t fathom my requests.  “Why can’t you just listen to Simon?”  he asks.  I can barely listen to this.  There’s noise; the radio, other cars, distant sirens.  There’s interference and distractions; other cars that may not really care that Simon just instructed me to turn, they are hot on my tail.  “Why cant you just help me out?” I implore, then continue, “I can’t always turn right away, and I’m not so hot understanding '300 yards ahead' while I’m driving.”   “Simon is telling you the street names, let go, just listen, trust Simon.” he responds, in his chill-laxing, dead-head inspired voice for the occasion.   “The street names are not always visible.”  I practically whine.  “Why can’t you just tell me what’s up ahead?  I need a visual. I’m not so good with listening while driving.” I reply.   The reality is I’m old school, I like maps.  I like the way you needed to study a map to some extent.  You knew some surrounding street names or possibly, land marks.  You had to touch it, and look closely at it.  You had to understand the features and how to read it.  But something else seems to be coming into focus just under this conversation…

Simon always takes you there.  He always gets you where you need to go, the fastest, easiest way.  Just listen. My son tries to work me through this. I like visuals.  I need to see.  And then it clicks.   It’s a conversation I am having elsewhere in my life.  It is going just as well, or just as futile.  I fight it, myself, those around me.  I'll get thereListen.  Just have to quiet myself, and the noise all around me, and listen.  Not unlike the traffic, my life is full of the sirens, the impending doom, potential accidents, missteps, false starts, sudden halting stops, beeps and grinds and squeals.  I do this lately.  I add all of this to my day to day living.  My mind is full of all the potential concerns, and accidents and issues.  This wasn't always the case.  I can “see” all of this, clearly, like a traffic control engineer.   Just as clearly I can see the blossoming trees and green covered hills and babbling brooks awaiting if you follow this path, even if you have to pay a few tolls and follow a detour along the way.   I am constantly attempting to route and reroute the fastest, easiest course to a destination I have envisioned and know full well, will be worth the trip.  Trust me.  Listen.  Can't you see?  Only I’m not a traffic control engineer and I can only see the road from my driver’s seat. 

Lissssssstennnnnnn,” he continues “that’s all you need to do”.  I let go, I have no other choice, really.  There are others around me in fast moving vehicles that will cause great damage if I move too fast, turn suddenly, or stop unexpectedly.  I reveal to him the profoundness of this moment.  “Ahhh, this is a big moment for me, I have been told this elsewhere of late” (throughout, really).  “What’s going on, you aren’t listening to the GPS of your life, Simon on the big journey?”  He nails it, this guru-esque chillaxed son.   “Yeah, something like that" I mutter. 

I have been wanting for someone to read the map of me.  To look closely at the features.  Know what’s coming and maybe where I’ve been or where I started off from.  I have built maps and added every detail.  I installed traffic lights, bridges and even repaved a few roads that were in disrepair.  I Google Earthed, topograph-i-sized, added street names of every dead end, bump, and wart, as well as every, amusement ride, rest stop and scenic viewpoint.  I sent traffic alerts and updates.  I didn't pay attention to the fact that he doesn’t have any final destination in view just yet. In fact his car is parked.  I,  on the other hand, have attempted to bulldoze the road and pave it myself, all journey bound and forward moving.  Suddenly I see, more importantly, I hear.    I take off my helmet and set it on the road under construction and decide to continue on my journey. No telling what’s up ahead.  It’s time to simply enjoy the scenery. 

A few weeks ago, Simon gave me this profoundly deep message, “If you want to reach your destination, begin.” 

Simon says, “Start the engine”.  Simon says, “Go”.  Simon says, “Put it in cruise control, sit back and enjoy the ride”.  Did anyone pack the licorice?  Where’s my mix tape from 1983? Did I pack the camera?  How much gas do I have left?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

This Woman's Issues

Yesterday, for more reasons than I care to consider, I was beat down.   So I did what I do best in these hardest of times, I crawled into bed, talked to a friend, puzzled, processed, and proceeded to move down to the kitchen to prepare power/comfort food.  Burgers, red-meat, 100% Angus beef, iron rich and about to be grilled to perfection.  And what goes best with one of my famous burgers?  Fries, fresh cut wedges of Idaho’s best, deep-fried and sea salted.  Cure for what ails me, at least temporarily.

As I’m preparing the fries, or trying to toss the second batch of a few fresh cut wedges into the splattering grease, my darling son is attempting to take a fry.  This is not a good scene.  Well it was, until he decides he needs it to be a smidge browner.  He wants to throw it back into the hot splattering grease while I’m near by.  While I’m near by maybe slightly on high alert and edgy.  Tweaky and twitchy and about ready to pounce, eyes all a flutter.  One false move and voila grease fire and ultimate death…I yelp or squawk or do whatever the hell I do in these situations of high-alertedness under duress and protective wing nut mode.  I make sounds that are foreign and shrill-like. Short, quick sounds.  He stops.  A small splatter of grease hits the coils, a quick, shortly lived fire sparks.  I let him know not to ever do that.  He responds.  OK ready?  He responds:

“Sorry, I didn’t know you had that issue.” 

Sigh.   No really, siggggghhhhhhhhh.  What issue would that be I wonder?  That issue along with the long list of other issues?  What are my issues, pray tell, sweet, lanky, tall trusted one?  "Listen, Grasshopper," I want the wind to whisper deafeningly in his ear, "Never, but never, say to a woman in a kitchen with hot grease on the burner, anything about her issues, real, or imagined."  But I snarkily laugh and say something like, "Yeah, hrumph, that issue, the one about burning down the house with a grease fire?"  Oh, maybe he meant the issue of exaggerating fatalities and certain death from kitchen stove incidents.  I don’t reveal that I may actually have that issue.  I may have been honing it and nourishing it and stroking it into a manifestation of motherhood joy and elation.  It could have reached jubilee proportions by now.  The kitchen has seemed crowded with jubilation of late.

And of course I start to wonder about my issues and I am hard pressed to come up with a list of issues that would cause a stir or slight murmur…..Let’s see, issues….well I take issue with the lack of an Equal Rights Amendment as a woman and all.  I have an issue with the campaign rhetoric regarding women’s reproductive rights.  I have an issue with the lack of power I was granted throughout my divorce proceedings, but I suppose that one is related to the lack of power I have as a woman in general.  I have an issue with the tall sweet lanky one emptying the box of granola bars but leaving the empty box on the shelf.  But that’s not really an issue is it?  That’s just a fact of life, right? men being all big and strong except in the case of those super sized heavy pressed paper board empty boxes of granola bars, and cookies, and cereal….

Maybe I don’t want to make this list of issues.  Suffice it to say, I am a tad vocal about women’s issues and never, but never get behind me, to the side of me, or within a train cars distance of me and hot grease.  Or buy me a “fry-baby” and pour me a martini while bringing me my slippers.   


Issues?......  Me?  Never!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Calmly Rested After the Storm

I am a woman.  An American woman.  An American woman of Irish descent, second generation born.  Translation: I am strong, and fierce, and built from stock meant to survive- if barely, with determination and a sense that survival is my birthright.  I am tired.

I am at least momentarily tired. 

I have been fighting and struggling and working to survive. 

Most recently I have survived a divorce. 

I could not survive the marriage.  It was debilitating.  It exhausted and depleted and too long ago stopped providing nourishment or safety or security against all that is in need of surviving.  Life’s storms.  Illness.  Job loss and career changes.  Cancer, depression, miscarriage(s), and death.  Addiction, rejection, and isolation.  Regular ordinary stuff too, wavering self-confidence,  birthday parties gone awry,  burnt dinners, cancelled babysitters, toilet cleaning, laundry, carpooling.  What to wear to the interview, the wedding, the funeral.  Survived, barely, dramatically, and sometimes unnoticed.  Too often unnoticed.

And finally, the divorce finalized, and yet not quite.  Papers signed.  Sloppily drawn up and drawn out.  Assets still withheld.   I am tired.  I wasn’t expecting to do cartwheels in the street.  Well, maybe because I can’t do a cartwheel, on the grass, or a mat, or in my wildest dreams.  So surely, not in the street.  I wasn’t expecting to set off fireworks, or firecrackers, or even bang pots and pans and march around my kitchen.  I wasn’t expecting to dance on tables or do a lap dance or even shake the booty.  Well, I wasn’t expecting to, but I can’t say I wasn’t hopeful, to perhaps…or maybe… 

I just wasn’t expecting to fall into a funk or hit this fog-laden malaise or become engulfed in a state of dumbfounded, disheartening, disbelief.  I was hoping for closure and a sense of relief.  Great, big, loud sighs of relief is what I imagined.  Instead I landed in a dazed and unimaginable stupor.  And so I did what I often do when things don’t sit right or register the way I think they should, I puzzled over it.  This lead me to discuss it a little, or at least name it.  Followed by some digging and delving and looking into matters.  And what I found is this: post-divorce stress syndrome.  Post-divorce stress, or the common feeling of let down after expecting to be relieved and readily available for the next part, the best part, the anything will be better than that part of the journey is pretty common place.

I thought I had prepared myself.  I followed some advice.  I considered other.  I attempted to put myself out there.  I re-connected with my inner self and I even relished in show-casing my outer self.  I remembered how to laugh, play and creatively express, again.  I enjoyed people and places and events that I had not enjoyed in a very long time, and I forgave myself for giving up those very things in deference to another.  I worked through sorrow and regret and helped my children heal, and watched them grow and survive and begin to thrive once more.  But still I felt consumed and diminished.

And then a storm comes. Sandy, a big, ferocious storm.  It reminds me that I have little control.  It knocks out the power and darkens the night.  It somehow provides the conditions needed for much needed sleep.   It gives me permission to rest and it somehow restores.   This big, devastating, debilitating storm moves through destructively giving me permission to reevaluate and rebuild and revise.  Carefully. Boldly. Calmly rested after the storm.  Once again survived and ready to rebuild.