It’s hard not to worry. We’re in the midst of a world health crisis and my full-term+ daughter is on the NYC subway heading to her Manhattan elementary school to finalize plans for remote teaching. She is healthy. So is the baby. Thank God. But she’s “out there” mingling with people who might be very sick. As an ultra protective new-mom-to-be, she knows it isn’t a good idea to be in public right now, but she’s required to report to school and plan remote lessons for her fourth-graders. She cares deeply about her students’ education, but she’s also worried about draining her sick leave; like other mothers in her situation, she zealously hoards her sick days so she has more time to be with her baby post-delivery.
Let me be blunt: America’s attitude toward new babies and their parents sucks. There is NO WAY mamas, like my daughter, should put themselves in harm’s way because they need to bank sick leave. But American women are put in that no-win situation every day–Coronavirus19 or not.
Now this is sick. Sick! New parents ought to be able to spend as much time as they need to in order to connect with their little ones; they shouldn’t be stressed out about the inevitablity of handing their babies off to strangers, to institutions, because they can’t afford to live. This isn’t right!
My teacher-daughter is one of America’s “lucky” ones. At least she has sick leave plus six weeks of maternity leave. But two or three months isn’t enough time. You carry a baby for nine months, then transfer your infant to a stranger for eight-plus hours, return home–exhausted–and, in the case of my daughter and other teachers, patchwork-in grading and lesson planning.
Come on America! We CAN do better for new parents.
I am such a fan of Finland and what this Scandinavian nation did post World War II. Collectively, the Finns decided to re-think their war-battered society and asked, What kind of nation, what kind of people do we want to be? Their answers led to a complete overhaul of their government and social systems–from re-structuring public education and housing to prioritizing a new-found respect toward the elderly and the young. The Finns examined their weaknesses and vulnerabilities–honestly. They focused on shared values and created systems that fostered mental and physical health for every member of society. In Finland, no one is discarded; every human being has extraordinary worth and value–starting in the womb. Unlike the United States, Finland offers enviable maternity leave, and provides financial incentives for parents wish to stay home with their young children.
And don’t get me started on Finland’s impressive education system. They got it right, that’s all I can say.
And so can we.
Right now, we are in a war against an enemy we didn’t realize was coming. But like Finland, we have an opportunity to re-think our society and ask, “What do we want?” and “How can we make America truly better–for all?”
As we sit at home reassessing our lives, let’s be inspired to use this time to develop a renewed, healthier nation. We can FaceTime, Zoom or Skype innovative Think Tank solutions. We can seize control of the remote and Change the Channel.
A new life will soon be born into America’s family: My granddaughter. Your grandson. Your niece, cousin, a neighbor’s firstborn or third child. In the center of this daunting, billowing pandemic storm, are our children. I dare anyone to look into their eyes and say, “This is it. We can’t do any better.”
It’s time to put down the swords and re-evaluate who we are and what we want to be.
March 19, 2020
Not everyone is crazy. Waiting-to-delivery Katie and I walked to the neighborhood grocery store to pick up some milk and a couple of dinners in preparation of hanging out at the apartment post-baby, and discovered reason and sanity still exists. The New Yorkers in Katie and Jason’s Queens neighborhood don’t appear to be greedy, hoarders, or especially overly panicked. Maybe it’s because a lot of people walk and carry their groceries home. Maybe it’s because apartments are small and there’s no space for Big Box store palettes of toilet paper. Maybe it’s because we, (notice WE–I’ve apparently moved in for a spell), are thinking of other things like a baby about to be born in the midst of madness.
Now is the time to hunker down. And I don’t mean isolate. Now is the time to get close. Get real. Focus on our personal and shared values. To be caring and loving. We, The People. need to be The Change We Seek to See in the World, as Gandhi said.
I hope the world sees this as a time to step back off the fast-paced, frenzied lives most of us lead and self-reflect. What do we believe? What really matters?
Our conclusions may not necessarily be good for the economy: What if we don’t actually need to consume our lives with the doing and the buying and the consumerizing? What if we decide to read and write and go for a walk, just because we need some fresh air? What if we stopped focusing on the screens, be it phones, TV, CNN or Fox, and actually talked about what’s important? What if we stopped being frightened by TV news and read thoughtful and well-balanced “slow” journalistic accounts?
What if what we think is bad actually becomes good? A world re-alignment gift?
Sitting next to my very, very, very pregnant daughter, being quiet, knowing that for her it’s about to get very real and very hard, and that the pain of labor will replaced by abundant, forever love, gives me a sense of peace. Joy and light prevails in the folly of grey skies.
As the saying goes, we can only control ourselves. Which is profoundly liberating. We get to stop. Take control. Evolve into our highest selves. To be better.
Friday The 13th 2020
I’m sitting at the LAX Farmer’s Market waiting to board a plane to NYC to be with Katie and Jason as they labor through the ancient labor of meeting their beautiful child of hope. Our little girl will be born soon…but not before Grandma gets there, God willing!
I have to admit, it’s kinda sad here at LAX. People in masks. Surgeon hand washing in the rest rooms—using elbows to turn on water–no one dare touching surfaces. No one acknowledging each other. There’s definitely a somberness to the airport. And a strange calmness. And then there’s Rock N’ Brews. No one seems worried at L.A.’s rowdy drinking station.
I’ve decided that even though I don’t like beer, we aught-to toast our Year of the C.V. 19 wee one with Corona Beer. No, on second thought, bad taste. Literally, to my wine taste buds and public perception.
Cheers to one and all. Enjoy each historic moment. Because they all are-every single one of them. Be kind. Life IZ Good. Baby Hope is about to enter the world. We gotta get it together for our little ones.
In the meantime, I’m about to enjoy a glass of non-Boisset wine (Aussie red blend-$12 a glass—actually not that bad!) and calm down from all the turmoil.
Solo Valentine’s Day Trip to Napa
Day 1: I’m at LAX waiting for my flight to Napa for the Boissett Ambassador’s Retreat. By myself! It’s kindof a Big Deal. First, I’m taking a plane. I doubt that I have flown on a plane more than a dozen times in my 63 years. Second, it is the second trip of my life by myself to an unfamiliar destination.
I know this is no biggy to most younger, business women. You do it all the time. You probably don’t get anxious. You probably don’t arrive two hours ahead of time like the airlines suggest. You probably have TSA pre-check and don’t have to take off your shoes or wait in a line. All this makes me a little anxious. Makes me feel out of place. Makes me feel not like myself.
So I am pretending to be you. The young, talented, beautiful woman seated across from me reading text messages and catching up on TMZ.
I’m wearing my Target “leather” coat, my sparkly Michael Jackson shoes and have my fake patent leather red suitcase with me, and my brown San Diego I’m-On-An-Adventure-Hat. I don’t fit in. I don’t stand out. I’m here, with everyone else. No one seems to care or know that I’m way out of my comfort zone.
Everyone is cool.
This weekend, I’m a reporter. I’m curious. I’m paying attention. I’m recording, thinking—and growing. And honestly, I’m grateful that I am well enough, have a credit card that I will eventually pay off, and have absolutely no other agenda except to be open.
I’m flying to Oakland, will rent a car (only the second time I have ever done this by myself), and will spend a couple of hours driving to Napa where I will arrive at an AirBnB house and live with strangers for the next four days. I will go wine tasting in fancy places and try to fit in, and then realize after a couple of drinks, that I don’t have to fit in. I just need to be myself.
To be continued…
I’m here in Napa, in a giant five-bedroom house. It’s quiet since everyone, who’s here for the wine retreat, are off learning about managing people like me. Thus, I have some time to myself in this spacious home 12 minutes from the luxury hotel where the conference is, to take my time, think and reflect.
No. 1: I like having time to compose myself.
No. 2: Whenever I have quiet time I think how much Bevie and Wendy, my two amigos, would LOVE being here. It never seems the same without them. I figure this trip is my expedition, my scouting trip for the next time we come up here. Which we definitely will.
No. 3: I am DOING THIS! I made it. I found the house in the dark, after a LONG day at work. I stopped to get groceries and had a half a bottle of Chalk Hill red blend, some aged Gouda and Safeway bread. I turned on season 4 of “Better Call Saul” and, honestly, enjoyed my world immensely.
In a short time I will be on my way to Raymond Vineyards for a trip to the Crystal Room and a solo wine tasting. It’s Valentine’s Day and I guess I could feel like a loser. And maybe I do just a little bit. But not because I necessarily want to be with someone romantically. That circus has been shut down a long time. Really, it’s because of what I said earlier: It’s fun sharing experiences with people I love.
No. 4: As I enter this new chapter of my life, not hanging out with my ex as much, I need to embrace this Hans Solo life. This is my new beginning. I have never had to work things out as a single person. Not really. My entire adult life I’ve had people around me to rely upon. This weekend, it’s all about me and what I’ll do in this new phase. Not worrying about anyone else. Just letting go and seeing what God has in store for me. Let the adventure begin!
Postscript: So it turned out OK. I made it through a Valentine’s Day without feeling like a loveless loser. No, there were no romances or prospects of a possible relationship. I did talk it up quite a bit with The Count at Buena Vista, but I end ronight feeling full. Not with wine or food, but of new experiences and insights.
I haven’t bought the Koolaid entirely; it’s unlikely I am ever going to be a sales person for anything. But I do LOVE this wine. And I do LOVE talking about it and sharing it. And I do realize no matter what I do that I need to be me. Which I’m still figuring it out. I’m processing. I like wine. I like talking to people. I like learning about wine. I like listening to, and telling stories. And I’m figuring out mine.
Be mine, the ol’ slogan on those cheap sugary candies. I don’t think they mean allowing yourself to be someone else’s property. Be mine means to thine own self be true. That numb feeling I’ve had for a while, is starting to subside.I’m starting to feel like my old, curious Han Solo the warrior self.
I am sitting on the ridiculously squeaky bed trying to mind my own business and be quiet while the rest in the household (six others, I believe, although I’ve never seen everyone together and have almost no idea who my housemates are) prepare for the final day of the retreat.
Being honest, there’s definitely a Cheerleaders for Boisset Wines Team element to this retreat. Lots of leopard, bling and halleluiahs in the room. I am part of the bobble head congregation. I almost became a wine collector–$500 to join and about $3,500 in 24 bottles of wine—if I had been a little more intoxicated I would have. Fortunately I remembered my reality: I am a single, nearing retirement woman who enjoys nature and all things not blingy. I have to remain open and manage my enthusiasm.
Which brings me to something pretty exciting: our head wine honcho, as in the owner of a wine empire, is excited about my podcast idea, “We’re Here for the Potluck”. I explained my vision and he was sincerely digging it. Even last night the marketing director asked me for my card. This is promising. A fantastic partnership. THIS is the reason I’m here…to get juiced up about life and my role in All Things Possible. Wine is the entry key. The rest, is up to God, me, and the universe.
I am pretty sure for the last few days I have been a character actor in, “Invasion of the Wine Zombies”. It has been a really interesting few days. In most ways, it was like a typical convention. Panels. Sales-pump-up-messaging. Swag. Incentives, like big trips to Europe for top sales-earners, and purses and elite bottles of wine for attendees who show up on time. The celebrity, the head of the company, kept making appearance thrilling both genders. He is a special human, an artist.
I’ve been paying attention to how he treats attendees. He is incredibly charming, genuine and positive. He makes people want to be better.
He has a familiar line/attitude/approach—that anything is possible.
I’ve decided to steal that.
I used to believe that, then life grabbed me by the wrist and dragged me in a direction that wasn’t necessarily my first choice. Don’t get me wrong: I am happy. Very happy. I have the privilege of having a home and family and I have a fulfilling job as a teacher. But most of the decisions I made were based on bad decisions I made in the past and my life became a series of adaptations. Again, it all works out as it’s supposed to, but this next chapter beckons me to grab the steering wheel and seize control.
I’m going to think long and hard about my Hans Solo Weekend and what it means to my soul. Being open is a good thing. I did something way out of my comfort zone. A quarter of the time I was worried or thinking about What’s Next? and What Do I Need to Prepare? I guess that’s normal. What I need to practice is the art of being in the moment. Like right now.
I’m on Southwest Airlines bound for home. I’m flying along Highway 1 and will soon pass Paso Robles. It’s hazy and spring green and the Pacific Ocean is just beyond the mountain ridge. The plane engines roar and my shoulders begin to tense up. Relax. Relax. The peace that passes all understanding flows through me.
Soaring above, between and below the misty clouds, I feel God’s presence. A new life is beginning. Burgundy, navy, turquoise and forest green. Life IZ good and it’s about to get even better!
I’m doing my civic duty. I am waiting to see if I’m selected to serve on a jury. I want to. And I don’t. I want to do my part. But I don’t want to spend so much time away from the classroom, from my students who need their teacher to help them negotiate “Fahrenheit 451”. I want to experience the process, the judicial branch doing its thing with the help of open-minded citizens. But I also know that my students may grow stagnant without their teacher. Maybe they’ll miss me. Maybe they’ll realize that Ms. Johnson’s classroom management is highly beneficial to support a thriving atmosphere of learning. Maybe they’ll like the substitute teacher more than me. Maybe I’ll like being away from them. Extended lunches. No homework to grade. No angry parents to engage with. No staff meetings. No lessons to plan. No routine.
This may be the absolute perfect, “Am I ready to retire?” opportunity. Unplanned. Unwanted/wanted. My Civic Duty. A chance to really see what it’s like to not teach, to do something else, to re-invent, revive, to clarify. If I do get selected to serve on the jury for an expected two weeks, I’ll know whether or not I’m ready to retire from teaching. If I miss it, if my heart doesn’t pump as much as it does when I make a right and a left turn and another left at 7 a.m. when I turn into the staff parking lot, then I will know I need to stay in the classroom a while longer. If, on the other hand, my mind is expanded and I see new possibilities, then this step-away experience will be clarifying.
Right now, I have to confess, not having to report to “work” until 11 a.m. is kind of unnerving. I mean, look at me, I’m blogging before 9 a.m. in the middle of the week. No bells. No complaints. Just me and the morning sun, and the billowing white clouds, and the trash truck, every day occurrences I never would have noticed had I not been waiting to report to the courthouse.
I wonder, does Oprah have to report to Jury Duty? Is she exempt because she’s famous? Do other celebrities get a pass? Are they more important than a teacher? A nurse? A small business owner? The judge who welcomed us to the jury room yesterday told us that next to serving our nation via military service, this is the only other way we can make sure our democracy thrives. Jury Duty is a privilege, he said. Think of other countries where citizens never get “their day in court”. If someone sues us and we end up in the courtroom, or a family member is accused of a crime, he said, we would want to have someone as open-minded and impartial as us sitting in the jury box. This, he said, is how democracy works. Of the people, by the people and for the people.
I am torn. I want to experience the courtroom, but I miss the classroom. I miss my students.
In a few hours I will get the verdict. For now, it’s out of my control. For now, I will enjoy this brief midweek respite away from the day-to-day.
Refocus. Family crap is crap. Not gonna ruin my night. Refocus: The backyard pond. The Edison lights stretching across the fire pit, wired to the 50′ Christmas pines we planted in 1994, the year we moved in. An unexpected rain shower expected in exactly six minutes. The icy glass of fresh orange juice with a splash of Tito’s. The pea/lentil soup I made in between grading and cleaning the house. The Awesome New Friend I made, Mohamed, the auto detailer, who came to my home and turned my Luna Bella Blu into my new 2001 Eurovan Camper Joy! He shared his wisdom and insight about some of the crazy stuff going on in the world.
Flash present: Redirection. Ownership of self.
Of late, Mary Oliver’s poem keeps replaying in my mind: “Then the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice, ‘Mend my life’ and you were determined to do the only thing you could do.” And this is where I paraphrase: Save the only life you could save. Your own.
I am gifted (think verb) challenges, just like everyone else. They make me mad, but I realize there is a treasure embedded in frustration. It’s called choice. So today, instead of getting upset, hurt that my daughter told me I wasn’t welcome to her 39th birthday party (mind you, I paid for and attended her two other 39th B-Day parties), I placed my thoughts and attention on my world. As I said, I completed the tasks I needed to complete, and had joy taking ownership of my space.
And now as the weekend of service, reflection and growth ends, being a loving grandmother, friend, partner, citizen and imperfect mother, I return to the Written Page–myself–a stabilizing force during a perpetually destabilizing time. I am grateful for the sky and calm breeze, jacket-wearing weather, my new/old kissable clean car, a vocation that gives me focus and purpose, and Tuesday–Jury Duty, a paid day away from the classroom, hours to read, organize, figure out Instagram and Dream about Retirement.
And, if I’m really lucky, I’ll do my civic duty and serve on a jury for a solid week. Can’t wait to experience the entire process.
Which reminds me, strangely enough, of the WWII service men and women who assembled and piloted the WWII vintage planes I had the privilege of visiting this weekend at a local air show. Touring them, watching the beautiful old beasts take off and land, made my eyes well up with gratitude: These veterans loved us that much that they sacrificed their lives.
Reminding me, once again, that there are more important things than family squabbles. Refocus. It’s a new week.
It’s ancient history: 10 days ago I was almost gone. As in, not here. Away. 200 miles north–the there, there of my constant thoughts: The ocean. The rain. The green rolling hills, the space, the freedom–the wine! #CentralCoast, my home away from home. My heart. My go-to destination that I never tire of–never! The place I feel most at peace: #CambriaCalifornia. The place I never want to leave.
I visit Cambria http://www.cambriachamber.org at least six times a year. 99% of the time I camp, mostly in my 2001 Eurovan camper: $100 in campground fees and another $80 in gas buys me a three-day vacation! This time, though, no glamping for me. Too much rain. Instead, I hoteled it. In San Simeon (#visitSanSimeon). Not a great abode. Very 70s. But the location was amazing. Cliffside property with lounge chairs and walkways. The Cavalier welcomes pets so my little blue heeler, Monet, was my travel partner. Regrettably, no balcony view as advertised. I had my heart set on seeing the ocean when I woke up. If I knew I wouldn’t have an ocean view room I probably never would have made the trek: I had planned on sitting on the balcony and firing up my propane space heater and using the theatrics of the stormy weather as inspiration to write. Unfortunately, the “cheap” Expedia room (($167 plus tax per night) had a stunning view of a row of cars two feet shy of my door. Not exactly the atmosphere for writing poetry. Still, it was nice to be sheltered from the storm and take a hot shower. I’m not used to such luxury on my out-of-town adventures. It was very grown up.
I know this may sound crazy, but I have stayed in a hotel no more than about three weeks in my entire life. My get-aways are more outdoorsy–camping in the eastern Sierras, along California’s coast, and select National Parks. I love the air. The trees. The water. I love being close to the earth: It’s so different from my predictable, day-to-day concrete and shelter existence.
Still, a girl’s gotta find a way to connect and I did: In between rain storms, I went for walks and wine tasting at https://opolo.com and staring at sunsets. One evening the night was especially cloudy. I figured, what’s the point of waiting for the sunset tonight? But I did because it’s my thing when I go out of town. Sure enough, when all hope was gone, the sun cut through the clouds reminding me that God’s mighty inspiring. I think I’m in charge, but now really. What a grand metaphor to tattoo on my heart.
Since I didn’t have my camping stove, I treated myself to a fine meal once a day. I went to my favorites: Robin’s Restaurant in Cambria #robinscambria–http://www.robinsrestaurant.com home of the best salmon bisque in the world. No exaggeration. If you love eclectic and consistently organic food, Robin’s is a great destination. We also went to Thomas Hill Organics in Paso Robles https://www.thomashillorganics.com for the first time. We had crab cakes, salmon and flourless chocolate cake with a lovely chardonnay from Tablas Creek Wine https://tablascreek.com Eating there is like savoring a brilliant, complicated poem by Edgar Allan Poe vs. a roses are red violets are blue verse by an 11-year-old. So many layers of culinary enjoyment. Oh, and did I mention we stopped at Bob’s Well Bread Bakery in Los Alamos on the way home to Los Angeles? One of the ten best small bakeries in America. Crispy crust and soft, bouncy inside. Yes, it is worth $10 for a giant loaf of incredible REAL bread. https://www.bobswellbread.com/pages/menuMade LA traffic a little less annoying.
You can tell this girl doesn’t get out much. Gotta change that. Life IZ really good! Enjoy yours.
All is well in the land of Normal. Day off work. Day away from the classroom. Day with a mere two hours of grading vs. 4.5. A day to have a third cup of coffee. A day with a schedule that looks like this:
Nothing about this list is Fearless, the title of this blog post. True. Upon first glance. But the Plan B and the This–the journaling, the chiropractic spinal alignment of my soul–is taking a plunge, taking a step, dreaming, putting myself out there, turning inside out the sweater of my soul, risking judgment, being vulnerable and stepping away from The List, IZ me betting on me. At this age, at this juncture, blogging like youngins do, considering new streams of income, wanting to get involved, make a difference, taking a step toward fulfilling my life’s purpose IZ Fearless.
I’m not sure I’ve mentioned this yet, but two summers ago my youngest daughter and I got bee tattoos. Sweet little web-thin buzzing botanical beasts adorn our forearms. Getting a tattoo is something I NEVER thought I’d do. But I did so because of the symbolism behind the bee–a permanent reminder to take a chance, enjoy the sweetness of life, and to value the importance, the grace, the gift, of being a member of a community. In the past, I’ve always exclusively thought of family as community. But recently, as in the day I opened myself up and started this blog, I realize that community can include like-hearted strangers, folks who are trying, in their own ways–big and small–to make the world better. We need each other. On those crappy days. On those outstanding, snap, crackle, pop everything’s going our way days.
We can do this! Right community? We can make our moments, our days, our lives–our world–better! That’s what this correspondence is about, yes? Gotta step off the train for a minute, put down The List, read a minute and remind ourselves who we are and what we need to do with this precious invention called a day. All the shoulds. All the To-Dos will still be there. Case in point: My best-case scenario List is already behind schedule. Cool. Perfect, given the fact that I am, afterall, the The Master of The List?
I digress: I sidebar. I’m off-task. I tangent to ask: “Of everything on my To-Do List, what exactly IZ my priority today and every day?”
Me Time shouldn’t be Squeeze-it-in-At-the-End-of-the-Day Time. I need to:
I gaze out my 100-year-old kitchen window and am overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude that California’s drought is at bay for now. It’s raining. Today, tomorrow and next week.
A whipped cream layer of fog blankets the front garden and it comes to me: 25 years ago, when we took a chance and purchased this paint-chipped bungalow, later named Angel Cove Cottage By the Sea, I imagined myself sitting right here, at this very scalloped-edged kitchen table–writing: The Great American Novel. Perhaps. Letters to friends, addressed to Dearheart, most likely.
But busy kids. Divorce. Writing jobs for hire, pursuit of higher education got in my way. The List. Always The List. Once again: Mom died in her 60s. So did Auntie Marji, Carol, Auntie Madge. At some point, hopefully decades from now, my name will be added to The List.
But not today.
It’s my pen, my page, my story. The good part of the novel I never wrote.
And no, I don’t mean the store.
It happened. I gave up on me and gave into giving to others. All the time. My students. My family. Like a tsunami, their voices, their needs, their attention, grabbed my minutes, my hours, my weeks–my months!
I’m not blaming them. It’s my fault. My own doing. I decided to give unto others. But now I’m here, back with you, with me, with my thoughts, with my hopes, dreams, with my potential.
A new year. A new start.
Ahhh, to be healthy of mind, body and soul. Not a NY’s resolution. It has to be my grove, my mantra, a fact of life.
Writing reminds me. So does the sun. So does a cool glass of bubbly on a Sunday afternoon.
So here I begin, again, announcing, to the blogosphere: I’m ready for my life to begin. I think that means I have to retire. But economically it would mean selling my house, buying an RV of some sort, and hitting the road. I fantasize about it all the time; I obsessively hunt online for the perfect Class B RV. I watch full-time RVers’ YouTube channels. It sounds so fun; no worries; new places; new people; an open road ready to explore. But then I think about missing my family–my grandchildren–my city. I think about giving up all of my possessions that I’ve worked so hard to acquire and know that I might miss being surrounded by them. Then I think how great it would be to be free of possessions, to live simply, with meaning and purpose. To be selective. To be mindful. To be surrounded by trees or camp alongside California’s Central Coast while everyone else is working.
Yeh, I have to experience this. I have been fantasizing about it for the last four years.
I don’t want to wait until I’m too old, too sick, to cranky and feeble. I’m at my prime, 62. I have tons of energy, creativity. Now is the time. I think.
I’d give myself a B-. I walked three days this week, said, “No” to something I really didn’t want to do, journaled three times, said “Yes” to going to a play at UCLA with a beloved former colleague, and “No” to my ridiculously ambitious expectation of 12 hours of grading over the weekend. Instead, I spent a mere 5 hours assessing and inputting digits into an online grading program. And now, instead of the millions of other things I could/should be doing, I’m here, with you, seizing control of my day.
Last night, I had a rather deep discussion with my best friend, Jeannie. It was about her being that person who provides a safe landing for me and everyone else. Even when you are wrong or are about to make a bad decision, she has the ability to comfort and accept you. She is unwilling—maybe even unable—to take on the role of “the bad guy” and tell you when you are about to head off the tracks.
I have known Jeannie my entire life; she’s always been this way: kind, supportive, an angel. She gets it from her mom, whom I also adored. Recently, her unconditional acceptance of my daughter’s 101st bad decision caused me to question, “Why?” Jeannie’s like this and “Where her compelling desire to be liked originates?”
In my family, we were stubborn, offered unsolicited opinions and pretty much always felt we were “right”. We fought hard, held our ground, but somehow found a way to love and admire each other. It made us gritty and resilient.
In Jeannie’s family, she was always the preferred child, the daughter who played nice. Blond and beautiful, she was a welcome contrast to her vivacious sister who had a habit of stirring the pot and causing her parents decades of grief. It was always clear to me and others, Jeannie was “the good one” and her sister was Trouble.
We are who we are, shaped by family dynamics, birth order, genes, parenting style and personal choices.
But in my quest to be forthright and zero-in on all the stuff cluttering up my Official Life Closet of Junk, last night, following a healthy, 5-star dinner, I shared an observation with Jeannie:
“When you provide a soft landing for my daughter, when you agree with her bad decisions, when you are ‘the good guy,’ in the mind of my daughter, by default, that makes me ‘the bad guy’ and sabotages our relationship.”
I can handle that.
“What concerns me,” I continued, “is that by being less than candid and frank with her when it comes to seriously ill-informed decisions, it perpetuates her inability to be self-reflective and make better choices. In other words, when you agree with her, she thinks she’s right and keeps doing the same dumb things.”
Ouch, I know.
OK, it wasn’t PC. It was direct. Blame the wine. But I was being sincere about an issue I have been thinking about a long time. Nevertheless, I don’t think Jeannie heard me. Most likely, she’ll continue her role of being the favored one and I’ll continue being the heartless jerk of a mother.
I am not, to be clear, that person who contacts my daughter and tells her I think she’s wrong. I keep my thoughts to myself. I seriously don’t interfere. However, if she asks for my opinion, I will share my thoughts, and, if I think she’s headed for the wall, I will tell her straight up.
Now in the scheme of life, none of this matters. It’s all trivial. I should be picking up trash on the beach to stop Climate Change. (Note to self: Next time I walk along The Beach I’ll pack a compostable trash bag and do my part.) But in my Act III to become a better version of myself by getting to The Source and figuring out My Life Stuff, last night’s discussion helped me inch forward: Being honest about feelings is a good thing. Having difficult, honest conversations and being self-aware are essential to growth. So is being kind and loving as you share Your Truth.
For sure, I will follow up last night’s conversation with Jeannie: It’s OK to be perceived as “the bad guy” if it means your wisdom might possibly lead to the other person making a healthier, more positive choice. To be overly PC-sensitive, thwarts growth.
I don’t mean we have to ram our opinions down the other person’s throat. No, no, definitely not. But out of mutual respect, shouldn’t we all be open to listening to, and benefiting from, those with different perspectives?
Sunday night’s conversation between me and my best friend was real. Probably more real than we’ve had in a long time. We weren’t talking politics. We weren’t complaining about national issues out of our control. We got to the nitty gritty of Life and our approach to relationships and communication. Both in our 60s. Both with histories of triumphs and failures. Both interested in becoming better human beings.
We are who we are. She’s never gonna be the Kellyanne Conway or Roseanne Barr of the family, just as I’m never going to come close to being my sainted Auntie Mary, the woman who made me feel as if I could do no wrong. In retrospect, I wish she had told me, “Dumb idea, Izzy.” I would have respected her and most likely made a right turn instead of a left.
Which is what I’m doing now, at this juncture in life. Coming clean. Moving forward.
In the center, the core, is Love.