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Category Archives: idiosyncrasies

Paralysis

The day yawns ahead of me

each tick of the clock tightening the jaws a smidge more.

So much to do.

I sit, paralyzed, not knowing where to start.

The knot in my stomach twists.

Connecting

I was never the popular girl.  There was a time in middle school when I ran around with five friends:  Amy, Lori, Leeanna, Kristi, and Missy.  But Amy was my best friend. (Except for the times when Leeanna was my best friend.)  Five was always the maximum, and even then, I felt more comfortable with one or two.  Never would you find me happily interacting with dozens of people.

Throughout high school and college, my friend groups swelled and receded, as I assume is part of life.  And never have I thrived on being the center of attention, on being surrounded by people.  Give me my little circle of friends.  Give me one or two individuals with whom I connect.  That’s all I want.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram (and yes, WordPress) — these technologies make it easier to “connect” with a much larger group of people.  Maybe even people I’ve never met and never will meet in real life.  (Hi, strangers!)  Is this connecting?

I’m spending my weekend at a writing conference, and quite a few of the writers (novelists, poets, writers of memoir) have talked about the importance of connecting with others online.  And I get that.  In our modern culture, with so many people attached to their phones and tablets, this is what is expected.  You can’t expect to sell a book (especially a memoir) if no one knows who you are.  You can’t have an audience if you don’t write in a format that an audience wants.  If you don’t write to connect, then why are you writing?

But I like being invisible sometimes.  I don’t wanna put myself out there for the whole world to see.  After all, it’s not real connection, these social media “friendships.”

And yet.

Maybe it is a method that introverts like me (who, if given the opportunity, would stay in my house for weeks on end, meeting with no one) can expand horizons and connect with others while avoiding the overstimulation of people in my face.  Maybe it is a way I can reach out and have a larger impact on my world than I would if I simply remained the hermit I like to be.  Maybe social media serve as a bridge for me to cross the divide between isolation and community.

Even that is uncomfortable for me, and besides that, I don’t really know how I feel about it.

Please comment if you have a thought about this topic.  Maybe you’ll help me figure it out.

The Nice Thing About Being 40

A few nights ago, I was having a really rough time.  I was feeling lonely and discouraged and down on myself.  I was reading a book and lamenting that I will never write as well as that author.  I was feeling pretty worthless, when it comes right down to the truth.

But even in the midst of my tears, I knew something.  This will pass.  It is largely a symptom of winter, when the gray clouds fill the sky and the temperatures chill my bones.  When April comes and the warm breezes ruffle my hair and the trees and flowers bloom, I will feel much better about life.

It’s one really good thing about being middle-aged.  I know myself better than I ever have before.  I know that winter is hard for me.  Rules I’ve made for myself include that I’m not allowed to make major decisions in the winter, and I’m not allowed to label myself in the winter.  Things always are brighter — both literally and metaphorically — in the spring.

And a December sunrise like this one always serves to lift my spirits, too.

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The Swirl

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At 9pm, my eyes get sandy and my energy drops.  Time for bed.  I tuck myself under the covers and drift to sleep.

At 2am, my bladder wakes me and I pad off to the bathroom.  When I return to bed, I snuggle back in, thinking that sleep will return to me.

Instead, a hurricane of thoughts fills my head.  Lessons I need to plan, copies I need to make, a quiz I need to alter.  The research paper I need to write for the class I’m taking.  And when will I get it done with house guests two weeks in a row and a mini-vacation planned after that?  And the refrigerator needs to be cleaned, and I forgot to buy flea prevention for the dogs.  There’s a log cabin show at the state fairgrounds this weekend.  Where will I buy the fruit trees I want to plan and when should I plant them and where?  Do I really want the strawberries where I had originally planned them?  If we buy a tractor, will there be enough money left to purchase the supplies to build an outhouse this summer?

I roll over, hoping a change in position will help.  The cat shifts her weight on my legs, wondering why I’m disturbing her sleep.

I remember I didn’t put away the laundry yet, or vacuum the living room rug.  I wonder if bleaching the well is the best way to get rid of the sulfur smell in the water.

The cat box needs to be cleaned.

I ask God to clear my mind so I can get back to sleep.

Will the research project I thought of for my eighth graders be too hard?  Is it okay if it’s hard because they need a challenge?  Why haven’t we heard back from the meat processor about the deer Stephan took there a few weeks ago after he hit it with his car?

Flip the pillow to the cool side.  Look at the clock.  Thirty minutes have passed.  Forty-five.

Everything I just thought about runs through my head again, this time in a different order.  Trees, tractor, strawberries, outhouse, research, guests, fridge, vacuum, lessons, laundry.

I try to release it all, but mostly it continues to run in the mental hamster wheel.

My eyes droop again, and I hope this time it will be for good.

Soon, it will be time to get up.

A Change in Perspective

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I bought a pair of shorts today. They are khaki, and they pretty much blend in with my legs because they are the same color. I said to the hubs, “I need a tan.”

We began talking about how it wasn’t always the case that tanner was better. He said he remembers that when he was about six years old, a girl at the beach was talking about his younger sister and how beautifully brown she was. And Stephan looked at the un-tanned girl and thought, “But your white skin is so beautiful, too.”

I remember reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” books and how it was very desirable to keep the skin white. Laura’s mother always told her to wear her sunbonnet so that she wouldn’t turn brown.

But now, we talk about white skin being “pasty” and we think that having a tan makes you look healthy. Why the change?

I suspect that it’s because in pioneer times, if you were tanned, it meant that you worked hard to earn a living. Hard work was always done outside in those times. Those who were tanned were manual laborers or farmers. The wealthy were able to work inside as storekeepers or bankers. Tanned skin, at that time, was an indicator of lower class.

But now, tanned skin indicates a life of leisure. Instead of sitting indoors staring at a computer screen all day, some people get to lie out by the pool, soaking up the sun. Or they play golf or tennis. They aren’t working hard. They are enjoying life outdoors.

A similar change seems to have occurred in how we view people’s weight. Remember how painters used to portray beautiful women with round bellies and lots of curves? I think it’s because in those times, being heavy indicated that you were wealthy and could afford plenty to eat. But now, being thin shows that you have time in your day to work out, or that you have the money to be able to buy healthier food or pay a personal trainer. Cheap food is junk food, so being overweight is seen as an indicator of lack of wealth.

And we all want to appear wealthy. These days, being tan and thin is the way to do that

At least, that’s how I see it.

The Resistance

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For nearly thirty-nine years, The Resistance held me, protected me.  Within it, I was safe.  Others were affected, but I remained immune.

Until now.

The Resistance failed.  The attacker broke through, and I began to understand the suffering others have always endured.

 

Yes, finally, for the first time in my life I have succumb to the evil effects of poison ivy.

Always I had been immune.  I can remember grabbing hold of it with my bare hands before I knew what it was, and there was no effect.  I admit, I became complacent.  I would regularly weed my flower garden without wearing gloves or long sleeves.  I did not throw caution completely to the wind; I washed my hands and arms well afterward, but it was more to protect my husband, who is extremely allergic and to whom I did not want to pass the oils of the plant.

A couple of days ago, I started to itch.  And itch.  It was itching like I’d never had before.  The bumps on my hand and my arms looked like mosquito bites, but I’ve never had a mosquito bite itch like this.  Then I noticed that the irritation had made a line on my skin — just like I’d seen on my husband and my friends when they had contracted poison ivy.  That’s when I suspected.  I showed it to Stephan, and he confirmed my diagnosis.

Well, drat.  No longer can I pull weeds willy-nilly or on a whim.  Now I must plan ahead, wear gloves and long sleeves, and throw the clothing in the washer immediately afterward.

I must join in the experiences of nearly everyone else in the world.

Phooey.

 

Like a Girl, revisited

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I got really upset the other day at church.  A good friend of mine just gave birth to her tenth child.  This friend and her husband never find out the gender via ultrasound prior to the birth, and since the couple already had seven girls and two boys, there was much anticipation among those who knew them regarding this child’s gender.

And it was… a GIRL!

Did you read that last sentence with disappointment?  Because when a group of people at my church asked me if my friend had had the baby yet and I said yes and announced that it was a girl, almost all of them said, “Aww” — and not “aww, that’s sweet,” but “aww shucks, that’s too bad.”  Almost every person in that group, men and women alike, had disappointment on their faces.

Yes, I understand that the family is estrogen-heavy.  Yes, I think it would have been great for a little boy to have been born into that family.  But I also think it’s pretty fantastic for a little girl to come into the world as well.

A friend of mine posted a link to this article on Facebook today: How to Talk to Little Girls by Lisa Bloom.  If you have time, please read it.  If you don’t have time right now, please come back to it when you do.  The general idea, though, is that our culture tends to value females more for their appearances than for their minds.

As I posted last year, I’ve been joining the revolution of valuing girls by refusing to make comments like “you throw like / act like / cry like a girl” because it seems to imply that being a girl is not as good as being a boy.  But these comments, and the valuing of girls for their looks over their personhood, are so ingrained into our American culture that it is HARD to break away.

And, while it might not be as blatant as it is in some countries like China and India, there seems to be a feeling in America that boys are better than girls.  I bet very few people would admit to thinking that way, but our conversations show it.  “You’re such a girl,” is never a compliment.

Females are not here just to look pretty but be pitied because they aren’t smart or can’t play sports or get emotional or talk too much.  Women add value to our society.  Yes, women tend to be more cautious than men, more emotional than men, more language-based than men.  That isn’t a bad thing.  If there were no need for women aside from procreation, I think God would have made reproduction possible without women.  Women add balance to the force, if I may steal a notion from Star Wars.  We soften our husbands’ rough edges.  We remind men of the emotional factors in a situation rather than just the logical side they often see best.  We add heart to houses and turn them into homes.  We bring compassion to the workplace or the community.

I hope I never express disappointment when a baby girl is born.  I hope I never again utter the words “like a girl” as an insult.  I hope I never value a girl’s pretty face over her brilliant mind or charming personality.

I hope you will join me in this little revolution.