Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Let the chip fall where it may.

When I was about seven years old, we went out of town for my cousin’s wedding.  While there, another cousin took us swimming at someone’s house.  I don’t remember whose house…I was seven…I didn’t care…I was getting to go swimming!

Now I’ve always been a pretty good swimmer.  I believe I started swimming when I was around 5 because it was the first time I had access to a pool.  Speaking of which…let me back up because that’s a fun story too.

When I was five years old and still really thought my dad was awesome…he took me to the public pool in Lockney where we lived.  He was a great swimmer.  He would let me ride on his back and he would swim under water while I held on.  I loved it.  One day he told me to go down the water slide and he would catch me.  He did.   Then he said I could go again…only this time he did not catch me…he was too far away.  He said “come on, swim to me”…at which point I just automatically did what came naturally…I dog paddled to him.  He caught me up, turned me to look at the slide, which was now several feet away, and said “Look, look how far you swam.  You can swim!”  And I have been like a little fish ever since.

For the record…that’s one of the few really good memories I have with my dad.  We’ve had issues over the years.  But that’s a whole other set of blogs.

Fast forward to my being seven and taken to this house with a pool and a diving board.  I loved it.  I was fearless about the water and would swim and jump and flip and whatever anyone thought of to do.  Being seven…I was somewhat small.  So I decided that it would be a great idea to crouch down under the water, grab the ledge of the pool, and shoot up out of the pool and onto the side…this was a great way to get out of the pool without having to use the ladder!  Stroke of genius.  And it was fun too.  I did it several times.

Then…not so fun.  I crouched down, grabbed the ledge, shot upward…and my foot slipped on the bottom of the pool.  I shot straight INTO the ledge of the pool…with my face.  My mouth hit the concrete ledge.  My lips were both smashed and bloody.  My cousin came and grabbed me out of the pool.  I was in pain and pretty violently crying and holding my face.  She was terrified.  They got me cleaned up…only to realize that not only were my lips split and a total mess…my front tooth was missing a piece…about a quarter of the tooth.  I was miserable looking at my mangled mouth in the mirror.

We looked around the pool for the piece that was knocked out…but we never found it.  I was told that it was very likely that I swallowed it.  Um…yuck.  Either way…it was gone and there was a big hole in my smile.

At the wedding…I refused to smile without covering my mouth with my hand.  I was terribly embarrassed for anyone to see it.  Then my cousin Terry…who was a rodeo cowboy that rode bulls and saddle bronc…came over and took my hand away from my mouth.  I got really shy and looked at the ground and he said “Hey, look…” and he smiled at me.  He had a badly chipped front tooth too.  I smiled back.  It was the first time I smiled without covering it up.

After that I just started getting used to it.  It was not as noticeable as I thought it was.  People rarely commented on it.  Even kids in school never really made fun of it.  They were way more interested in making fun of my name or my clothes.  I never got teased about the tooth.  We looked into fixing it once…but at that time, it was exorbitantly priced and dentistry hadn’t come nearly as far.  So we let that go.  It just became part of me.

Fast forward again…to age 36.  I got engaged and decided I would go have a little dental work and get my teeth cleaned before my wedding.  For the record…I have very bad teeth…something about mom having a calcium deficiency while pregnant.  I have very strong bones…but very weak teeth.  And growing up poor…dental work is not high on the list of “needs”.  So I wanted to get the worst stuff taken care of first.  I told the dentist I was not interested in having the broken tooth fixed…that I wanted the other stuff done.  But the dentist absolutely insisted that we were fixing it so it didn’t decay.  I argued at first but he insisted.

So I got it fixed.  28 years of having a broken front tooth…and suddenly it’s fixed.  It was so weird to see it in the mirror.  I left the dentist’s office and went to my mom’s job and just smiled at her.  She said “wow.”  I showed my fiancĂ© and he said “looks great”…he had never cared that it was broken anyway.

I went to lunch with my best friend not long after and she didn’t even notice.  She kept looking at me oddly like she knew something was different…but couldn’t figure it out.  “That’s what it is!” she said, when I finally told her.

It was a small thing and totally not that noticeable.  But it’s odd how it made a difference.  It’s odd how my thinking came full circle about it.  First I hated it and was embarrassed…then I just didn’t care…then I fought to keep it…then I loved having it fixed.  It’s strange how your thinking will change about things over the years and how the importance of certain things will change.  Funny how much your view can change on something…practically overnight.

There’s a saying that says “It’s the little things”…but honestly, sometimes it’s not.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Knowing is half the battle

G.I. Joooooooe!!!  I loved those little commercials when I was a kid.  The ones where G.I. Joe told you the right way to behave and that once you know what to do…knowing is half the battle.  He was really right about that.

In a way, that’s good.  Knowing is HALF the battle.  Unfortunately…it’s the easy half.  Because the other half is actually DOING something about it.

Therein, lies my problem. 

I have flaws.  I know, I know…it’s hard to believe, because I seem so awesome.  Alas, I do have many, many flaws.

Thing is…I know about them.  Well, at least most of them…I’m sure there are more.  I just haven’t done anything about them.  I do try.  I have called myself out on many occasions.  And knowing is half the battle!  G.I. Joo-wait, I already did that part.  Anyway – yeah…so I’ve won half the battle by knowing I have these flaws…I just have to try and fix them.

People look at flaws differently and with different levels of importance.  So others may tell you a different version of what my biggest flaw is.  But personally…I think my biggest one is that I’m judgmental.  I jump to conclusions about people and I judge them, and their actions, based on my own personal experience.  I realize that this is completely unfair to these people.  I realize that I do it.  Yet I cannot seem to stop myself.  Over the years I have gotten better about not spouting my opinions right away and that’s good.  But I still do jump to that judgment. 

In my defense…when I am proven wrong, I admit it and admit that I should have kept my fat mouth closed.  At least there’s that.  And when I say that I am judgmental…I do not mean that I look at every single person and make a judgment call on them based on how they look or the color of their skin or what they are wearing.  I know better than that.  I have friends of all colors, religions and sexual orientation.  So I don’t mean that I just judge people and think I’m better than them.  I mean that I have a tendency to be judgmental about certain things.  I know this is a bad thing.  However…I just can’t seem to stop automatically judging people’s actions against my own experience.

I have a tendency to automatically believe that any woman in an abusive relationship is just weak and insecure and just needs to get the hell out.  But it’s not always that simple.  One of the strongest women I know was once in an abusive relationship.  So while I never really thought that about her…because I knew her…I still jump to that conclusion.  I have never been in a relationship like that.  I walk away at the first sign of physical violence.  But that’s me…and I’ve been fortunate that way.  Not being like me does not make you weak or a lessor person.

I also have a tendency to jump to conclusions about women who do not have custody of their children.  When I left my marriage, I had almost nothing…but I kept my children and I did the best I could to give them a good life and be good to them.  I was far from a perfect parent but I worked at it and I loved them and they turned out pretty good.  So I automatically believe that if I could do it…so could anyone else.  It’s just not always the case.  I am sure there are some good reasons for women to have given custody to the children’s father…I just can’t imagine it.  I would never give up my kids.  I’d have fought right down to the ground for them.  I’d have worked multiple jobs and done anything I had to do in order to keep them with me.  But again…that’s me.  And not being like me does not make the other person wrong or bad.  Plus – I don’t know the situation and to top it off…it’s really none of my business anyway!

I go right to that statement…”Well why don’t they just…” whatever I think they should do.  But the fact is, it’s not always that easy.  If it was…well, I guess I wouldn’t be writing this blog because I’d have fixed my tendency to be judgmental.  I’d also be thin because I’d take all my own weight loss advice and be healthier.  All these things I think people should just do…are as hard for them as it is for me to just eat better or just work out every day or just do any of the other things I could just do to improve my health and the way I look and the way I feel.  So why do I still automatically think these things?

I am not a mean person.  I’m actually a pretty nice person.  I like to help people and I like to make others happy.  I am not completely selfish and I do occasionally put others needs before my own.  I try to be a good person and treat others with respect and kindness and acceptance.  However, none of this makes up for the fact that I can be judgmental and harsh about things I feel strongly toward.

I guess it’s good to know what your flaws are and at least try to fix them.  It’s a good thing to want to be a better person.  I suppose that we all have things we don’t like about ourselves and that wanting to fix them is a good thing.  I do make a valiant effort.

I just have to stop trying to force that on other people.  Just because I did something, that doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for everyone.  What was right for me may not be what is right for someone else.

I am a stubborn, stubborn mule of a woman.  I know this.  I believe what I believe and it takes a strong, reasonable, very well thought out argument to change my mind about something.  But I will.  If your argument makes sense…I will listen and I may even change my mind.  And I will admit it.  I have learned to admit that I’m wrong – that’s one of life’s hardest lessons in my opinion.

Part of growing up and being a functional human being is learning.  If you stop learning…you stop growing and if you stop growing…you just die.  At least your mind does.  So hopefully if I keep trying…and keep admitting my faults and my mistakes…and at least TRY to be a better person…then maybe someday I will accomplish it.  Maybe someday I WILL be a better person.  In the meantime…all I can do, is keep trying.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Listing slightly to the left...

Recently I talked about buying stuff to put my stuff in.  Apparently I am not alone in this.  There are others out there who love to buy stuff.  And love to buy stuff to put their stuff in.  It’s good to have other to share your idiosyncrasies with.

I figured I’d throw another one of my weird habits out there in hopes for more random camaraderie.  That’s a fun word, right?  Camaraderie.  It looks really weird when you write it out, though.  I thought it would be spelled with an “o” like comrade…  Wow…off topic much?  Anyway…

So…I make lists.  Seriously…I make a list for everything.  If I go on a trip, I make a packing list.  If I go to the grocery store, I make a grocery list.  If I have a lot of things to do, I make a list of them.  I’m just this side of making a list to keep up with my lists.  I love lists!!! 

Making a list makes everything you have to do seem so…doable.  As if you could take the list and simply go and do those things one by one and check them right off.  And on the rare occasion that I actually break out those lists and do the things one by one…it’s extraordinarily gratifying to check each item off.  I like to draw a line through the things I’ve done so that I can see the progress.

I think I get this habit from my mom.  She’s a list maker too.  Any time we decide to have an event, she will whip out a notepad and a pen and make a list.  “What we need”. “Who is doing what”. “Who is invited”.  Things like that.  So I guess I come by this naturally.  I also get my severe obsession with pens and paper from her.  She’s the only person I know who actually may have more pens and paper around than I do.

Recently, we moved to a house and boy did I have lists.  I had a list of things I needed.  I had a list of things I needed to do.  I had a list of things I wanted vs. things I actually needed.  I had a list of places to find the things I wanted and needed.  I carried them all around in my purse so I could refer to them if necessary.  Heaven forbid I ever dropped them.  I’d feel so stupid if someone picked them up and saw my dorky lists.

When I planned my wedding…it was nothing BUT lists.  I had a list of things to do…things to buy…things we needed for each part of the wedding…a list of contacts…a list of duties…lists of people…lists of events…lists of everything.  Well…except a list of my lists.  I still have not gone far enough off the deep end for that.  I probably will.  Some day.

Wait a minute.  I just realized something.  This blog makes lists of my lists.  DAMN!  It’s official…I’m crazy.  At least I’m not listless.  ::gong::

I suppose that the funniest part of all this list making is that I rarely actually follow the list I made.  Instead of looking at the list…I just do stuff.  When I go out of town…instead of looking at my packing list, I just go start throwing stuff in the bag.  In the grocery store, I just go down every aisle and grab what I think I need.  All willy nilly and such-like.  Sometimes I’ll still cross things off the list before I throw it away, though.  It makes me feel accomplished.

I like to think that while I do not necessarily use the list as a list is intended to be used…making the list helps me to organize things in my brain and retain information.    Writing things down has always helped me remember things even if I don’t keep the paper I wrote it on.  So maybe that’s it…just the act of writing it out is how I organize my head and keep things straight.

Either way…I will most likely die with a list in my purse or my pocket.  People will go through my things after my death and find little lists on sticky notes and cute note paper stuffed all through my things.  They will likely shake their heads and laugh.  With a sigh, they will wistfully say, “That crazy Lynn…always making lists of stuff.”

Then they will go home and start making a list of all the funny things they remember about that crazy Lynn.  It will be a really fun list.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Break on through to the other side..

Have you ever noticed that while you’re in the car you can be looking at the road through the windshield…and with a small, almost indiscernible adjustment of your eyes…you can look at the windshield?  I actually tried to figure out what I was doing in order to make that adjustment to my vision.  I tried to explain HOW you would do this…but I can’t.  It’s just one of those things you can do.  You just…refocus.

I’ve found this to be a very useful allegory of the way I look at things in general.  Sometimes I find myself glossing over the problem and just looking through it to what’s on the other side instead of really focusing on the problem at hand.  When you’re driving, it’s good to look through the windshield.  When you have a problem…it’s not so good.

So, just as I learned how to refocus in order to look at the windshield instead of through it, I have to learn to readjust my focus when dealing with life’s problems.  It’s a bigger adjustment – but just as hard to explain.

I have to readjust the way I’m looking at the issue.  I have to change my focus and actually look at the problem instead of everything I see THROUGH the problem or on the other side of it…or even in the side mirrors.  I have to make myself actually look at the issue and deal with it…then it’s easier to move on and deal with whatever fall-out remains.

It’s hard to do this, because honestly…it’s just easier to look through it and not have to face it.  It’s hard for me to shut off my brain and stop thinking about the “what if’s” and the other things that surround the primary issue.  It’s also just your basic avoidance so you don’t have to deal with the hard stuff.

But just like a big dollop of bird poop right in the middle of the driver’s side of the windshield…sometimes the problem is so RIGHT THERE...that you can’t NOT see it.  So you just ignore it.  Again, good for driving…bad for problems.

Change your focus.  What’s really bothering me?  What’s really the problem?  What is that on the windshield and how far to the next gas station so I can clean it off with a squeegee and get it out of my line of vision?  You have to clean off the bird poop and readjust your focus.  Look at the real issue and solve it…then move on.

Now if they just made a squeegee for your brain.