Category: Words

Of Life and Learning

I’m learning that the details in my life don’t matter much.

They do. They matter.  But not as much as I thought.

I found a blog entry from 4 years ago where I unleashed the stressful happenings of my life in one run-on sentence of a paragraph.  It was verbal vomit of worry, worry that I carried around like a full body suit, that weighed on me and distracted me from just about everything.  Worry that occasionally just shut me down.  I expected, as I read over it, to relive those feelings of overwhelm, vindication, and release.

Instead, it fell flat.  I found myself thinking “That was it?”

This was a time before Anne, before pregnancy.  To be fair we were talking about starting a family at the time.  The terror and excitement of becoming a Mom (or rather the fear of childbirth, inviting a stranger into our family, failing at motherhood, etc) would have been enough to take me down alone.  But still.  I expected this entry to be about the time our cars broke down almost simultaneously or when newborn Anne wasn’t sleeping because of GERD.

Instead it was a time that I would consider rather peaceful.

I realize retrospect is an unfair view, but in this moment I saw my past riddled with stress, regardless of the details.  I felt similarly stressed working three days a week, then six, then Anne was born, etc.

Oh yes.  I can find stress, even a lot of stress, in the peaceful times of life.

I think some part of my subconscious believed that happiness was meant to be bump free.  That hard times were meant to be endured until the good ones came back around again.  I just didn’t realize that I would spend 80% of my time just waiting.

So I ask: If I can find stress in the peaceful times, can I not find peace in the stressful times?   Are happiness, pain, worry, and joy really that exclusive of one other?   Why can’t I be complete, peaceful, and content at all times of my life even if I am grieving or scared?

People sometimes use this argument as a weapon.  If you were more ____ you wouldn’t be so unhappy.  We categorize ourselves as ungrateful to try to guilt ourselves or others into happiness.

I promise this doesn’t work.  Seeing life in all of it’s capacity is about seeing it all; the good, the bad, and the beautiful in one picture.  Crap is far more distracting than the beauty but, I promise, seeing only good and ignoring the bad isn’t a very smart way to live either.  That’s a great way to have the hard stuff sneak up and ninja attack you.  Or make you completely unable to empathize with others.  Or both.

So here is my goal.  When I find myself gripping my steering wheel a little too tight or coming up with endless lists in my head: chill out.  I promise not to badger or bully myself.  I promise to just chill out and enjoy my life right now.  Waiting is overrated.  There is so much awesome to experience!

Wanita

During my sophomore year of college I took online classes and worked my first real job at the deli counter in Fred Meyer.  We had many regular customers but none I remember better than Wanita.

A woman of silver in her early 80’s, Wanita maneuvered the store in a motorized cart, cane stashed in her basket.  If I had ever seen her walk, I imagine it would have been a slow lumbering assisted limp.

She visited us daily, descending from the north side of the store, rapping her cane along the 30 foot glass case until rounding the corner to the self serve coffee dispensers.  She’d peek her eyes over the side countertop, yelling “Hello!  Hey!  You!” repeatedly until someone came to help her.  Even if we were with other customers. Even if there was a long line of people ahead of her.

Wanita couldn’t reach the coffee from her cart.  She also, apparently, needed help adding the correct amount of sugars and creams.  While assisting her, Wanita would complain about your poor technique or whatever else was bothering her that day, then tell you about the time she had a heart attack.

“And I was dead on the table” smacking her hands together in a loud crack “for one minute!  One minute!!” She paused, eagerly absorbing your reaction before continuing “and the doctor told my husband to get my affairs in order.  That I wouldn’t last another week.  Can you believe that?  We had his head for that one.  Got him right out disbarred.”

Most of my co-workers hated her.  The worst was Fran.  Fran was openly rude to Wanita, telling her to lay off on all the sugars if her heart was in such bad condition. Fran was a lesson-teacher.  She was about 10 years Wanita’s junior, someone who should have been enjoying her retirement but was instead slicing meat and cheese and serving fried chicken for ten dollars an hour.  She was no respecter of persons.  After openly stealing a cup of coffee every day for fifteen years, the undercover loss prevention guys finally staged a sting and one day Fran was gone, fired and escorted off the premises.  When we asked our manager about it she responded “Oh I told her years ago not to do that but she just ignored me.”  I was at a loss.

I quickly became Wanita’s favorite.   When she’d come around the other four deli workers would roll their eyes, pretend to need something in the freezer, or look at me expectantly knowing she’d request me anyway.

Once she realized it never occurred to me to be rude she became downright angelic.  She still used complaints as her only form of conversation but they were directed at the weather or my co-workers or anyone else rather than myself.  She was particularly upset if I wasn’t there the day before to get her coffee.

I’m not really sure why she didn’t get to me.  She was certainly abrasive enough.  Maybe it was just easier to be nice to her.  Maybe I was afraid of getting fired.  Or maybe I just liked hearing her story.

“For two minutes!  Two, whole minutes I was flat lined, dead as a door nail!  Yet here I am today, living and breathing.  We sued that damned doctor for every penny he had and we got it!  You bet we did!”

Over time when I caught a glimpse of her and her husband entering the store I would smile a little on the inside.  OH yes, her husband was there too.  Why he didn’t come and make her coffee himself I’ll never know.  He was probably instructed not to.

“He never worked again, no he didn’t!  We ran him right out of town too! He told my husband that I was a goner, that he should buy a burial plot and plan the services!  Five minutes I was dead!”

It was this point in my life that I realized people are so incredibly interesting, the most organically and naturally gifted at being unique.  It’s impossible for us not to be.  We all have a story, a background, a depth—even if it is a little embellished.  There is nothing about us that is boring, even if it feels like it.

I think that is why blogging and my current day job are so appealing to me.  I hear the perspective and stories of people with totally different backgrounds from myself, people that I might not have ever befriended out in the real world because we just didn’t realize we had anything in common.

People just rock.  It’s as simple as that.  Even the weird and rude ones.

Spiders Would Make Excellent Cyber Bullies

Colorado Springs is devoid of many of life’s more unpleasant things: excessive heat, rain, dreariness, humidity, mosquitos, or large bugs/rodents of unusual size that go along with it. In the time that we have lived here I have become completely intolerant to all these “normal” living conditions. I now expect nothing less than clean air, 250 days of sunshine, and that my oreos wont go bad if I accidentally leave the package open. Which I definitely will.

However, and this is a big however, what we lack in mosquitos and scorpions we make up for in snakes and spiders.  My distaste for snakes is expressed in a normal-ish level of discomfort.  Spiders, however, elicit a much more potent response.

As a child I shared the basement with my brothers and the household spiders.  It didn’t seem to matter how much we sprayed.  They always came back.  So did the spiders.  I think the spray functioned as more of a population control thing, keeping the status quo as not to strain their limited resources.  Much easier to pay for college too.  Really we just did them a favor.

(Wow.  Don’t Google “How many babies do spiders have” if you have a phobia of spiders.  Worst idea ever.)

Spiders were the literal monsters of my youth, living and breathing creatures that crept into my bed and lay waiting in my shoes or dirty clothes on the floor. I was mortified when I would find a trail of spider bites when I woke up in the morning. Imagining them on me was almost as bad as actually seeing them.

When I peer into their beady little eyes I see them for what they are: emotional terrorists. Spiders invade when you are at your most vulnerable then mock you by leaving the itchy evidence of their crime with the gift that keeps on giving.  Imagine the psychological damage they could cause with a smart phone and selfie.

Making my bed in the morning made a big difference in reducing the attacks which was both comforting and disturbing.  Like on days I got home from school and I. Forgot. To. Make. My. Bed. That. Morning.  At what point could I still make the bed?  Where would I sleep that night?  Will they still find me?  I seriously thought about just burning it and just starting from scratch.

Do you remember those spider facts that were popular for a while? You know the ones “There is a spider a foot of you at all times… The average person swallows 3 spiders a year…”  They confirmed my suspicion that spiders had it out for me specifically. They were watching. They were watching and they were coming for me to kamikaze down my throat just to prove a point.  They had won.

On the plus side I am very happy to report that little theory was completely unfounded.  It was a total hoax.  Ah the internet.  You lovely place of lies that go viral and keep us awake at night.

Amazon Prime and the Perils of Gifting

Amazon Prime Shipping

Internet shopping has become the new norm for me. It’s appealing to me in so many ways.

  1. I can do it from my couch.
  2. I can do it from my phone.
  3. I can do it on my lunch break without leaving the office.  Wait.  Is that a downside?   I should probably get out of the office during lunch to get some vitamin D.  Or red vines.
  4. I could do it in my PJ’s.  Or naked.  Or jumping on the trampoline.
  5. I get exactly what I want dropped at my front door.
  6. I save money because I am willing to compare prices, wait for sales, and combine promos online whereas I absolutely will not under any circumstance do that in a real life store.
  7. And most importantly:  I can stay out of the department stores.  If I have to spend more than 10 minutes searching in a department store I go into a full blown PTSD (post-traumatic shopping) anxiety attack.  You think I am joking?  It’s the worst!

This year I found the perfect Christmas gift for Ryan on Amazon Prime.  Great!   Free shipping!  Here’s the problem.  Our account is attached to his email address.  These means I have to intercept the confirmation email, the shipping email, the delivery itself and the delivery email.  I have failed before.  For two years running he has accidentally figured out his gift.

I vowed this year would be different. It was worth the risk and I was totally up for it.  I slipped undetected into his account to intercept the first email.  Right as I clicked BUY, the email popped up and the evidence was immediately fruit ninja-ed into oblivion.  Awesome!  One out of three.  No problem right?  I kept checking for the shipment email but it took a few days.  Meanwhile I was staring to get agitated.  The odds of success were getting worse.  I caved and finally told him that if any amazon email landed in his inbox he was to delete it on sight.

And he did.  But not before seeing the name of the book right there in the freaking subject line.  Are you kidding me?!!

Christmas.  Ruined.  Dang you Amazon!  Ryan still hasn’t stopped crying.  Maybe next year I’ll just confiscate his electronic devices for a few days.  I am sure he wont mind.

 

Instagram Filters Can’t Fix Everything

 

This particular holiday season I was grateful that my parents didn’t have instagram or facebook.

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Fortunately for you my cousins make up for it through the liberal use of scanners.1484063_10101899833724929_1414945098_o

 

zoom

 

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I always wondered at what age the crazy eyes and formidable eyebrows took root.  Looks like it was around age four.