You’d Think I’d Know By Now

I recently received a comment about one of my posts, which I have let drive me crazy.  The person (whose blog I read regularly and enjoy – particularly for the  fabulous photography) wrote candidly that he didn’t read my posts frequently because he found them “too sweet”.  Now before you say anything – this isn’t a referendum on whether he’s right.  He’s right – I’m not the type to disabuse anyone of their feelings and after obsessing about this for days now, I see his point.

I assure you I’m not all that sweet.  Well, I’m sweet, but I have as many snarky moments as the next person.  And I can be sarcastic.  And if you’re a friend or relative of mine, I can be an absolute lioness – with both chuffing and growling sounds perfected.  You get my drift, though believe me I could go on and tell you all the reasons why I can compete with the best provocateurs, devil’s advocates and cynics.  Just ask Andy.  But I digress (again).

What gets me is how much I let this thought consume me.   I have held onto this like Archie covets a new bone.  The circuitous breeze in my head blows relentlessly and none too gently.  “Have I become saccharine?”  “What do I want this blog to reflect?”  “Is it honest” “Am I still thinking like Pollyanna?” (answer to this question is  – yes).  “Do I have anything new to say or have I become Mimi One-Note?”  “How much do I want to put out there”  Of course, the answers change direction depending on the time of day, the state of my hair, and whether I have eaten recently.  As of this writing, I’ve decided that I’ve got to let it go.  Must be time for lunch.

I began this blog with a thousand different ideas about what I wanted it to be like and then zeroed in on a year’s worth of entries that I could print out and give to my sons – a somewhat morbid, but well-intended gesture for them.  I’m now well into my second year and I can’t see giving them a flippin’ tome, so what am I doing now?  Honestly, I have no idea.  Given that I’m a big believer that certain answers come with time, I’m giving it time and just moving forward.  What I do know is that I’m as transparent as I feel I can be.

On Monday we were out to dinner with friends of ours who have had a really challenging year.   Her son was diagnosed with a serious illness, she was just laid off for the second time in less than a year.  The company he works for is on the brink of going under.  And yet, there we sat genuinely aware that we were all beyond lucky.  First and foremost, her son is much, much better – and that offers a perspective like nothing else.  We live in far better circumstances than most people in the world.  We laugh – a lot.  We know love.  We’re more aware that the concept of happiness is not something that is a given, rather more like snatches of sunlight between the cracks in a day.  The key is in noticing those spaces.  I’m trying to look for them, choosing to find them.  I don’t want to miss my chances, for the weather changes with little warning.

Lately, I’ve been acutely aware of time speeding past.  When the hell did I become 59 when I still hold on to such immaturity?   I’m not ready to age-out of life just yet and would prefer to be in the game with some well-preserved naiveté and faith in a whole bunch of things that are bigger than me (note to David Kanigan – no height comments here, pal).  I’d rather be acknowledging the spaces in-between and delight when I find them.  Pollyanna?  You betcha – though I don’t do braids.

images

So Much Love

My in-laws celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary yesterday.  What do you say about two people who have successfully navigated the tricky waters of marriage and have spent  far more time together in their union than as single people alone?  My mom used to say you never really understood another couple’s relationship unless you slept under their bed.  I have no intention of crawling under anybody’s bed –  least of all my in-laws.  So, I can tell you what I see.  I see two people with a profound abiding love, who memorized the steps to their dance and have never tired of the music.  I see a man who will go to the ends of the earth for the girl he fell for only yesterday, who protects her with a stoic dignity that requires no bluster or bellow.  You don’t cross Pop when it comes to his wife.  And why would you – seeing and celebrating their love teaches more than most life lessons – and without the pain it usually takes to learn something once and for all.  I’m not going to pretend to understand the chapters of their story, the private moments that define their relationship, the challenges they have faced.  I can marvel and applaud their love, their devotion and their unity.

Next Wednesday I go into the hospital so the surgeon can remove one of these little gremlins that has taken up residence in my jaw.  Though we know it’s benign, we still don’t know what they are, or frankly why the hell they’re there.  All will be well.  I know this – it’s not a Pollyanna thing.  I’m not saying that I have no anxiety – that’s just disingenuous.  But as long as we can keep this to one procedure, I’m good.   I’m good because of my small constellation of friends who have been circling me like the angels that they are.  My friends who don’t ask me to let them know what they can do, they just somehow know what to do.  My daughter-in-law who just checks in with a  concern that leaves me weepy (there’s nothing that can make me weepier than my children).  I’m good because of Andy, though sometimes his sensitivity chip is disengaged.  Because even when he misses the cue, or waits for guidance I can’t provide because I’m groping around in the dark, he really loves me very hard.  And in that way, he’s like his dad.  And in that way, I’m a very lucky woman.

In these chilling days with winds that blow in personal moments of uncertainty, we gravitate to those elements that warm us, anchor us to the ground so that we don’t fly away on the breeze.  I look at my in-laws and know that together they are in the most loving of hands.  I look at my husband and I know I am home.

I Love Oreo Cookies

Please note, I didn’t say I love Nabisco – I know nothing about the company, I concede that Oreo cookies are made of few natural ingredients and if consumed in massive quantities may erode one’s digestive track and certainly they can leave embarrassing clues on your teeth if you don’t wash them down with something.

I love Oreos because they don’t fall apart when you dunk them in milk.  Oreos are tough, even though the stuff in the middle always stays soft (but never so soft that it falls into your glass mid-dunk).   I carried two bags of Double Stuff Oreos in my suitcase when I flew to Riyadh, and not one broke  (another story for another day – it was for work, and yes, I looked more than a little ridiculous in an abaya which I kept tripping over because there was no opportunity to get a normally sized one adjusted for a short woman, and blond hair poking out of a hijab didn’t help me achieve anonymity).  That says less for my packing skills than it does for the cookies.  I’m tellin’ you – Oreos are the unsung heroes of Cookiedom.

And I stand (ok, sit) before you today – the metaphoric Oreo.  Yet somehow it doesn’t make me a hero among humankind, so please don’t view this as a flight of egoistic folly.

I’m a pretty tough cookie on the outside (get it? already the parallels begin to present themselves).  Retrospectively, it took a pretty tough exterior to pick up an almost two-year old and four-year old and leave a toxic situation and have no job, no support system in the area, and no idea what the tomorrows would hold.  What I had was an unbreakable belief that I was going to do right by my babies and figure the rest out later.  No heroics here, just survival.  And no perfect endings for there aren’t any – I made sure there was an account just to cover their therapy bills (I’m sorta kidding about this guys – there’s no account with some hidden cash in it).  And at night when they were asleep, I would sit in their room just to listen to them breathe, because it allowed me to be as vulnerable as they were.

There isn’t a lot of room for the creamy filling on-the-inside when you’re working in a mega-firm either.  There’s too much emphasis on the ‘mega’ and my office was the place where people came when they needed to emote, not for me to emote.  Compassionate?  You bet.  Concerned?  To a neurotic fault.  Invested?  To my toes.  But if there needed to be a hard-core, put-your-head-down-and-just-keep-going kinda gal – I was pretty damn good at that.  Fall apart?  Not in front of anyone – that wasn’t part of the equation.  Not because I am a woman, because law firms like the ‘play hurt persona’.  They like the exterior that won’t fall apart no matter the hours, disaffection or compromised values.

And there’s definitely a need to be Oreo-like if you don’t want people to see that you have a body that is constantly fighting with itself.  That’s just way too boring.

I will crack a joke (and they’re often quite good by the way), sound like Pollyanna, and never admit that I’ve lost the part of the sandwich that keeps the icing inside.  Yup. Love those Oreos..Someone recently wrote me and said “you know, this is a two-way deal – you can talk to me about what’s going on with you too”.  I love her dearly – and find the prospect of such disclosure so  hard.  I’m better in the other role, the ‘I want to see you happy role’.  And you know?  I’ve gotta get over this a bit – enough so that I develop enough affection for myself that I can be something other than perpetually ok.  And my hunch is you do too (admit it, you’re nodding aren’t you?)

For at the end of the day, I do break like everybody else.  I feel slights as much as the next person and though I rarely acknowledge it, can feel completely broken by another’s thoughtless action.  Perhaps it’s why I pursue kindness so passionately, maybe that’s why I rail against communication that can be obfuscated and misunderstood – because I don’t want there to be hurt – intentional or unintentional.  Petulant and childish – I know.  But maybe there is something to it.   I can be a tough cookie when it comes to dealing with the curve ball that can be thrown when one’s health is always compromised;  when a crisis arises, I want me there;  if someone needs another to have his/her back – turn around – I’m there.  I have to learn that sometimes it’s important to ask someone else to have mine.

So when all is said and done…and I occasionally look at the losses or the hurts, the foul plays and the cheap shots, the downs that have to accompany the many ups –  I realize that perhaps it’s time to develop an affection for another type of carb…I think at core, I am really…a Twinkie. And I think, I’m going to be ok with that, though I’ll probably have to go to the gym more often.