Who’s Responsible for This?

Yes, I know, not you.

Me either.

None of us want to be the idiot that ran the circus off the rails.

enhanced-buzz-19868-1445454762-5But someone is responsible, and part of being an adult is the ability to accept that burden.

When I was a teenager my mother would yell out the kitchen window, every single time I left the house, to REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE, and DON’T GO WHERE YOU SHOULDN’T BE. I would roll my eyes, but my brain would rattle off the ingrained list of places/situations, I knew I shouldn’t put myself in. I grew up in a small farming town in Idaho, I had my first kiss at 17, my first alcoholic drink at 25 and didn’t have sex until I was married. You can see why I was probably a going concern for my mother.

Yes, I didn’t understand it either.

In fact, it was this very month, June of 2016, that I was punched with the first visceral understanding of that particular parental paranoia. My sixteen year old son has gotten his driver’s license. I’m now accused of not trusting him on an almost daily basis. I remember so clearly, saying the same thing, knowing I wasn’t doing anything and still mom with the remember who you are and don’t put yourself  where you shouldn’t be. As the mom now, I’m practicing trusting my son. It’s hard. Reading the news doesn’t make it any easier.

I hadn’t followed the Stanford rape case in the news this spring, except catching a headline here or there. It wasn’t until I heard the sentence that was handed down to Brock Turner and reports about the letter his  victim read in court, that I sat down to read the coverage. As a mother of a teenage son and two soon to be teenage daughters, the entire case made me ill.

I expect that when my children go out in public, they act like decent human beings. I expect them to have a care for themselves and for those around them. Though I don’t use my mother’s words (if I was rolling my eyes back then…) I remind my son that when he’s on a date, the girl with him is his responsibility. Her welfare both physical and mental is temporarily in his hands, courtesy of her father.

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We’ve had many discussions during which I’ve asked him to tell me what he’d say to her parents if something went wrong. These aren’t comfortable talks. In fact, I do my best to make him think outside his comfort zone, to think like a parent. We speak openly  and often about alcohol and the effect it has on judgement, the way it can limit your choices and how it’s misuse will likely destroy your freedom. We also agree that just the smell of Fireball Whiskey makes our mouths water.

I read the account of the Stanford assault wondering what how my college age children might comport themselves at a weekend frat party. Would they attend? Would they drink too much? Will what I say to them now make any difference when I’m in another state? And what about my girls? What do I tell my girls?

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If I think too much about it, it makes me angry, but this is what I tell my girls- Your personal safety is your responsibility. I tell them they need clear heads, constant awareness of their surroundings and yes, I tell them not to drink. I want them to live, to laugh, to marvel at the wonderful things on this earth, but as women, you must take care, pace yourself, something we all begin to learn in childhood but are in a hurry to forget as teenagers and young adults.

Women have every bit as much right to this world, to do whatever we want. I believe we all agree with that, but women must be more vigilant. That is the real world version. The non-politically correct version. The version women live with every day, from the slums of India, to the pavement of Beverly Hills to the smallest town in North Dakota. Take care of yourself, know your limits. Don’t take yourself to a place filled with bad choices about to made by kids too young  or too drunk to understand how far reaching they can be.

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While reading about the case, I found myself wondering what those two were thinking that night. I’m reasonably sure it wasn’t a list of places they shouldn’t be, things they shouldn’t say, the one more drink they shouldn’t drink, places they shouldn’t climb or anything that has a shouldn’t before it.

I think it’s time to re-introduce this concept to my children. Should not. There is a big beautiful world out there, everything is a choice. Take care of yourself, be patient, understand that when I correct you, I’m trying to keep you free. I’m trying to guarantee that when you are in your mid to late twenties you will have the same excitement and sense of adventure as you did here at 9, 4, and 2.

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We were on our way to Disney World for the first time. I want to see the same joy in your faces as you prepare to navigate the ultimate roller coaster, an unfettered life.

 

I’m going to need a bigger broom

Disclaimer

Everything you read in this post is an emotional, hormonal dump. I am not having a nervous break down, nor am I in desperate need of attention. I need to post to my blog this week and it’s going to look like spring cleaning. Sometimes I get lots of odds and ends piled up in the corners of my mind that need to be swept away so that I can find a comfy place to sit and write.

I read a quote once that said Write as if no one will ever read a word of it. It’s brilliant advice, I wish I could follow. But in the back of my mind, I can see the light of my candle reflected in their glittering eyes. I see you all back there, you who think you know me, have known me, knew me once upon a time. I’m not that girl anymore. I made her up, she came out of my head like all this other stuff does.

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I know, I know, she was so sweet! There was nothing wrong with her. That’s how it looked to you.

It never looked like that to me.

I wondered why I had to work so hard to fit in, why don’t they care about me? What is so wrong with me? I thought inappropriate things were hilarious. I wanted to read, all the time. I hated school. I didn’t love planting trees, weeding the garden, cooking dinner, hanging wet laundry on the line, cleaning to mom’s specifications.Yeah, I know, you all had a similar childhood, so whats the big deal? I don’t know, that’s the first pile I’ve just moved.

Next, hm, here we go, Passion. Oh, I really love this pile! Everyone talks about Passion. Live your life with Passion. Find a job that feeds your Passion. Whatever you do, do it with Passion. Write your Passions. In fact, you might as well kill yourself if you’re not living with Passion. Let’s disregard that last sentance for a bit. I’ll let you all in on a secret, sometimes Passion sucks.

Why?

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That is, this is the glance I’m willing to share with you all. There will be no touching, no further peeking, don’t even think about it!

I keep expecting it to fade. Sometimes I wish it would disappear. I wish my Passion was exercise. That would be totally awesome, then all my other Passions would be so much simpler.  I should be saying my children are my passion. No, they’ll grow up and have their own lives. Perhaps I should say my job is my passion, no, my current job is just the latest in a string of jobs I do very well but does nothing to inspire or challenge me. I’d love to say that writing is my passion but that’s backwards for me. My characters are my passion, and what I see, inspires my characters. I never know when or where they’re going to appear. Being nosy, that’s really my Passion. Enough of this pile. If I can’t sit on his lap I don’t want to sit anywhere over here.

It’s getting warm up here and I’m starting to remember how much I hate cleaning. One last pile then I’ll take a break. Over there is mom’s pile, not touching that today. Lessons learned in twenty-one years of marriage, nope, not tonight. Bitter Recriminations Against Myself, and its twin pile, Against Others, too depressing.

Here we go, how about this one, right behind my eyes. If I clean this up or sweep it a little to the left, I can sit and look out at my world. And if I’m really lucky, my left brain will assimilate it like some science fiction horror flick and I will regurgitate it into a book and it will be funny and have a happy ending. What pile is this? This is this year. The first three and a half months. The frustrations at work, the mistakes already made, the diet and exercise that is effective but taking waaay too long, I think, every time I look in the mirror. And look, right here on top, that adorable sundress I bought that ruined my day today. I hate shopping for clothes, I hate dressing rooms, I hate mirrors and chirpy sales women. I love this dress but I don’t love the body or the face that will wear it. She made me throw up in my mouth a little today in that dressing room. Maybe by the time summer rolls around it will look like this on me. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

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I know my diet and exercise plan have it in them to achieve it. In their own damn sweet time. I know a lot of things that don’t make me feel any better. There is this one last thing. This Whisper I saw today, this made me feel a little better, well enough to sit back down at the computer and do a little spring cleaning. A few words strung together, written down that made a difference today. Reminded me of the people I have now that are patiently waiting for my chrysalis to finally open. A little giddy with wonder at what new colors will show, the people who can love me, until I can love myself.

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Power equals Autonomy

I’ve said before, how much I like my Pocket. At the moment I have three separate emails in my inbox because I won’t delete them until I’ve read the story or stories that catch my eye. On this pleasant Easter Sunday afternoon, I propped myself on a stack of pillows in my bed for some leisurely reading. As I scrolled down the list of headline in the first Pocket email, this jumped out at me, People Want Power Because They Want Autonomy. It is a fascinating article about a study of why people want more power in their workplace. It got me thinking.

The other day I was emailing a friend and we spoke briefly about building escape routes. Using my 20/20 hindsight, I sighed, “Escape routes are important.”. Today as I read this article, I realized that it isn’t an escape route I’m wanting, it’s autonomy.

Through a series of decisions made over the past twenty-plus years, I’ve given away my autonomy a piece at a time. I’ve traded it for feelings, for acceptance, to make others happy or comfortable, for sex, for my children and because I believed it was the right thing to do. Let me be very clear here, it was all my choice.

Truly, I never gave my own autonomy a second thought, until I realized I had none. I had nothing of my own left. Yes, I run a household and my kids think I have the power,if they only knew.

I made the choice to stay home when my first child was born. I gave up a lucrative job in a burgeoning branch of corporate travel, one that has gone on to become vital in many global corporations. It was a job I greatly enjoyed, but I adored my son and in my culture at the time, I received heaps of positive reinforcement for my decision. In the intervening years I’ve done good by my kids; I love my kids. Imagine my surprise, when I discovered a few years ago that I, a loving, giving, kind person, despised myself.

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Not me, but boy do I recognize the look on her face.

My kids aren’t babies anymore, they range in age from 9-16. They need something different from me now. They no longer need me to be in the house, to sit on the couch and give them bottles, to teach them to walk, to talk, to not be afraid of raindrops and thunder. Now they need me to keep up, to be around when needed, to chauffeur, to listen, to buy them stuff and model for them what successful adulthood looks like.

It’s that last part that gets me. I have two daughters. One beautiful boy and two young impressionable daughters. I don’t worry so much about the boy. My kids have a hard-working dad, one who takes seriously his responsibility to them, is straight as an arrow and strives to be an example of temperate living.  The boy will be fine.

The girls, they have a great example in their dad, but what about my example? What am I teaching my girls about living a full life? Those of you who know me, won’t be surprised to hear the name of Richard Armitage here. You might be giggling, that’s okay. He helped me understand that the joy is having something to share, something of yourself to share. I believe my girls need to see me filled with joy and having so much to share. Not joy that comes from them; joy that comes from me. I am a separate being from them, a whole other person with thoughts and hopes they have not imagined. I want them to see me, to know me. Not just as mom, not just as a facilitator to their dreams, but as a woman they are lucky to know and associate with every day.

My mom died eighteen months ago. This April 4th would have been her 78th birthday. When she died, she was only my mother. I didn’t realize the great disservice it was until my siblings and I found that so much of what we have left are unanswered questions. Who was this beautiful woman?

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Mom

I will make many more mistakes in my life. Some will affect my children directly. In the dark of the night I worry they won’t like me as a person. But in the end, it’s my life, and that’s what I want for them to see. It’s their life and it should matter to them most of all.

You Look Marvelous, Darling

I read an article today that intimated our capitalistic society is partially to blame for our inability to accept compliments. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know I’m not comfortable with compliments. For a long time I thought it was somehow my mom’s fault, but as I’ve gotten older, I prefer to think it’s because I’m a realist.

In my experience, there are sincere, well-deserved compliments and then the other 99.98%. That other percentage is what gives compliment giving a bad name and a worse acceptance rate. I’m sure it’s nothing new, been going on since the beginning of time. Those white lies to grease the wheels, those little things you say to keep everything on the rails.

“No, your daughter was a perfect angel!”
(That spawn of Satan will never cross this threshold again.)

“No, it was perfect, I was too tired for anything longer tonight.”
(I’m glad he spoke and woke me up, I’d dozed off there right before the end.)

“I would have known you anywhere!”
(As long as you were wearing that nametag because you bear no resemblance whatsoever to the boy I dated in high school.)

“I don’t know what I’d do without you!”
(Underfoot.)

I could go on, endlessly.

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I know when I deserve a compliment.

“Why yes, I did just spend the night cleaning up vomit in three different rooms and showed up dressed, hair combed makeup on, to work, on time.”

There’s a compliment I’ve never received.

How about this one?

“I’ve never seen anyone so calm while an enraged ten year old was swinging a freaking tree branch at their head!”

Never heard that one either.

I think the compliments that many of us field on a daily basis are thrown out carelessly by people who don’t want to be bothered with knowing us well but need something from us nonetheless. That’s when I start to feel the discomfit.

If you need something from me, ask. If I say no, you should have bothered to know me better. Don’t think that ‘wish I had your hair’ or ‘love those combat boots’ or ‘you’re so lucky, you can eat anything’, is going to get you any further down the road.

What would happen if we stopped using compliments as some kind of warped currency and instead looked for something we truly admired in everyone we met? Yes, it might take a little of our time, but wouldn’t it pay off in spades at the end?

Just for fun, what’s the best compliment you’ve never received?