Thursday, December 18, 2014

When "Thanks" Doesn't Come

I've been a bit quiet here lately, I know.  But I guess this is the place where you write out the things on your mind, isn't it?  Even if they aren't settled out into pretty-sounding lessons yet?  And even if it doesn't make a lot of sense?

Yes, I guess so.

I've filled a role with an organization for the past several years. It has always been a volunteer sort of position, though not one that came without compensation -- just not of a monetary kind.  There were life lessons and growth, relationships, treasured experiences, and a whole lot of heart things...  All things that I wouldn't give up in exchange for cash. I've never wanted to be paid... and it's not about that at all.

I was even offered more involvement awhile back... which I turned down for a number of reasons. I would have enjoyed part of it... but the parts that I wouldn't enjoy would have overshadowed the things I liked. and it just wasn't worth it to me. So I said no -- and that's not something that I regret.

My role has more or less come to an end. I said that I would do it until I wasn't needed anymore... and I'm not. So I just stopped doing it. There was no fanfare... I just stopped.  And for the most part, that's been fine. I've had to hold back a few times from jumping in and helping... but have reminded myself that it really isn't my job anymore and that I can let someone else do it.

But I find that what knocks at my heart just a little bit is that there was no one to say Thank you.  Thanks for staying... Thanks for putting up with it all... Thanks for taking the blows and saying the hard things and for understanding that people just needed someone to be mad at. Thanks for being a sounding board and a liaison and someone who tried to see both sides, even when you didn't agree.

Part of me knows that this is maybe a little unreasonable. I didn't even tell anyone that I was done. I signed up of my own accord, and no one really owes me anything. I was here because I loved what I was supporting.

So maybe all that I need is my own acknowledgement of those feelings... fair or not.  Feelings don't always run by sense, do they?  And it's okay that they do not. But even if they do not, it is also okay to feel them.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

After I Mouthed Off

I mouthed off the other day. I know, you're shocked. Me? Act impetuously? Surely no!

It's hard to believe, but true. Someone stomped on my hot button pet peeve of ignoring personal responsibility for their own actions and I snapped.

In retrospect, I think I would stand by my reason for responding - but not the way in which I did it. I could have been gentler. I could have been kinder. I'd like to use the excuse that it was Twitter and that 140 characters don't give me a lot of room to pad my thoughts in cotton candy. But... the truth is that I could have been kinder to the person than I was. And I should have been.

But, the aftermath has been interesting..  Of course, the person was upset.  As well, her friends were upset in her honor - as they should be. When someone hurts your friend, you rally.

But... I've also received a bevy of friend requests via Twitter or Facebook in the last couple days from people who, I think, assume that we hate the same people.  Now, that's not accurate... I don't hate this person. But I feel like that's the reason. I wasn't desired as a "friend" when I was just me... but now that they think we have common enemies? Well, now I'm okay.

Guys, that's not how I pick my friends. In fact, I think it's a really really bad way to pick friends. Common interests are a wonderful thing... but you can't base the potential of possible friendship on venting about the same people. In no way can that become something of beauty -- which is what friendship should be.

Now, if you like me for me... please stay. I'd like to take the time to get to know you... but you have to know that the person I was the other day? She isn't who I want to be.

And, if you're looking for someone to hate with you? I'm not your girl.

As the classic Meghan Trainor song says, "If that's what you're into, then go ahead and move along."

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Competition Gets Me Into Trouble

Competition is a funny thing, sometimes a good thing -- but a dangerous thing.

I'm a big football fan, and so I can appreciate the value of healthy competition. But, I also think that it's important to dig through what that means in my daily life.

Competition, when it means beating other people, gets me into trouble.  And that happens in a lot of ways.

In running, it means tackling new distances and speeds before my body is really ready. I get impatient to be good enough to beat someone else, and I ask my body to do things that it isn't ready for yet.  And then I get injured.

In writing, it means being very aware of what I'm not doing as a writer. It means seeing the success that other people encounter and discrediting my own value because it isn't the same. It means changing my voice, changing my purpose...  all to win that competition.

In relationships, it means becoming discontent with the relationships I have and the love I enjoy and running after something that someone else has.

When your competition is with others, it can really get you into trouble. And yes, it can make you quite bitter -- because there's always going to be someone who is better than you. There is always going to be someone who has something that you don't. A skill, a talent, a relationship, an "in."

But competition changes when your competition becomes with yourself. When your goal is not to be better than someone else, but to simply be better than you were yesterday...  that's something that grows you. When your goal is to run faster than yesterday, when your goal is to write better than yesterday, when your goal is to be closer to someone than you were yesterday..  those you can attain with peace and without trying to knock someone else down, without trying to change who you are, without trying to do more than you can do.

That kind of competition grows you. It makes you better. And it keeps you honest for why you wanted to compete in the first place.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Romantic Expectations

I've been wanting to talk about this for awhile.

I read this graphic on Pinterest awhile back, and I pinned it to come back to -- just so I could write this blog. (Go read it.)

Because the first time I read it, I had two thoughts.

1. Wow. That's a lot to live up to.


2.  No... maybe that was the only thought I had.

That's a lot to live up to and, perhaps, written with not a lot of experience with men -- and that's possibly the problem.

Sometimes we are broken. We feel empty, lonely, sad... whatever it is.  And we look for the things that are missing... and sometimes, what is missing is romantic love.  Now, romantic love gets built up in our culture so much -- every book, every story, every movie, every song -- that, when we don't have it, we come to believe that the romantic love we're missing is the key. If we had that, then our brokenness would be healed. What is empty inside of us would be filled.

And so, as women... we hold up those phantom men as our saviors.

But not only do we hold them as saviors, but we build up this image of what a real man is, with expectations that no living man could begin to touch. No person at all could be everything that we expect this guy to be.  So... when he isn't perfect, and he doesn't fix everything that's wrong in our hearts, we're unhappy.

I am married to a guy who I think is one of the best men on the entire planet. He is funny and kind and selfless and humble and thinks he's a ninja. I literally could not have a better husband (unless it was one who is actually a ninja). But I don't expect him to fix me. He loves me and he supports me and he is there for me. But he can't fix me. People aren't really meant to. But if I expected him to fix me, if I expected him to be the guy in that description up there... I would be waiting a long time. I'm not sure that the guy in that description wouldn't be kind of a pain to actually be involved with.

"Shut up already, I know I'm awesome."

I guess what I'm saying is this...  Single girls.... or even married unhappy ones... a guy isn't going to fill all the broken parts of you. He can make your life pretty darned wonderful. He can love you. He can make you laugh. He can hold you when you cry. He can be your partner. But he isn't a magic solution for what is missing in yourself. That goes so much deeper.

And it's kind of unfair to expect a real guy to be a storybook character, and to live up to expectations that are...  strange, at best.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Callous People

The internet has made us a callous people.

We let ourselves be convinced, if we hide behind our screens and our keyboards when we say cruel things, that it doesn't matter.  If we can't see the pain we cause, then it's like we didn't do it. Is it really our fault if someone reads what we said and assumes it's about them?  Even if it is... we didn't say it to them. We just... sort of... said it somewhere that they might be likely to read it.

Sometimes we're not really brave enough to come right out and say the things. Oh no... someone we respect might know what we really think and that our hearts are really eaten up with ugly inside.  So we hide behind veiled comments and fakely nice responses. Or we post in ways that make people wonder what we're talking about... and infer and assume...  but we're off the hook because we didn't just come right out and say it.  A friend of mine calls that vaguebooking.

The internet has made us a callous people.

Only that's not quite true, is it? What is the internet but a web of technical connections?

We have made us a callous people. We have forgotten that there are people on the other side. We have forgotten the pain that our words can cause, the destruction that our faceless cruelty can wreak -- even if we can't see the outcome, even if we can't see the hurt that we made.

I don't want us to be a callous people. I don't want to be a callous person. I want to be aware of what my words do... and I want to be the kind of person that uses them for good.

I'm not always that person. I can admit that, even if it's with disappointment in myself. Sometimes...  sometimes I am the callous one.

But, moment by moment, I'm trying to be different. I'm trying to be the one that speaks more with kindness and less with cruelty.

Faceless doesn't mean you have to be callous. It just might mean that we have to be more aware. More deliberate.

More kind.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A White Rose for George

I'd placed the order with a company downtown, a mere four blocks from our hotel in Des Moines.  But, they called before I left home to tell me I needed to pick it up from a different location, as the downtown one was closed on Saturdays.

So... on a brisk morning, my morning run took me, not along the pretty river path that I'd planned on running, but 40 blocks through and past downtown, to the florist. (Don't tell my mother.)

White roses have become synonymous with remembrance of our dearly missed George, and I wanted to honor him somehow during the show I attended. I wanted him with me. And so I ran the 40 blocks back to the hotel. Gently. With a cardboard box in one hand -- inside, a white rose wrist corsage.

During intermission, I slipped it off my wrist. I entwined a note I had written to him into the bracelet of the corsage and rose from my seat.  Delicately making my way to the stage, I closed my eyes, kissed the petals of the rose, whispered my heart, and laid it on the stage -- a gesture I borrowed from a dear friend with her permission.

I was careful with it... I was sure to put it far enough forward that it couldn't possibly be a safety hazard to any of the men on stage.

I stood along the stage, further down, during intermission chatting with a friend I hadn't seen in a long time.  But I frowned when an usher walked by me along the front of the stage, picking up the corsage on the way. There may have been stamping of my feet.

After a few minutes, he came back my way, flowers still in-hand, and, outside of my own character, I stopped him. "Please," I entreated. "I wouldn't normally ask this, but is there any way you can put that back? It's for a singer in the show who passed away this year... and it would just mean a lot to me."

He was kind but told me he'd been instructed to pick any of them up and to take them backstage.

I wanted to argue...  I didn't want it backstage. There were terribly emotional reasons I wanted the gesture to be part of the stage. It's where he belonged...  I have my doubts it made it that far anyway - a story you give to fans to appease.  But arguing with him would have been pointless -- like complaining to the Starbucks barista that your latte is $6.  What can she do? She doesn't make the rules; she just carries them out. It wasn't his fault.

And honestly, I didn't know that I wanted that note read by anyone in the show...  It's not that there was anything bad in it, it just...  wasn't to them.  Yeah, I know. I should have thought of that before putting it on a stage where someone was going to pick it up and possibly read it at some point anyway.

I am impetuous. Not well thought-out.

Maybe it doesn't matter. Maybe it was the action and the heart and the whispers and the heartache and the missing that matters, and not that a flower didn't sit on a stage for 12 songs.

Maybe none of it matters... but it kind of did.

To me.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Burned Bridges and the Colors of Your Endings

I am a girl who, at least in relationships, likes Black and White.

I want to know where we stand. I want to know if we're okay or if we're not.

If we're not, I want to lay all our chips on the table and fight out the things that are broken until they're not broken anymore.

Or if they can't be fixed, I want to know that too. I don't want to go on wondering if things can ever be okay again or not. I want to know.

I want to know why.

And if we decide that things can't be okay, I want to shut the door. I want to end the chapter and our story... I want to know that it's okay to start a new one.

I guess they call that closure.

But sometimes I guess that I need to learn that it's not a bad thing if doors don't close all the way. It's okay to leave them open a little just in case it's a story that isn't really ended yet. It's okay to not know what happened, and it's okay to simply let the ending be.

It's okay to be hurt and it's okay to be mad and it's okay to be upset about the things that don't feel fair. You aren't wrong to feel those things, and don't let people tell you that you are.

But just because all those things are true... it doesn't mean that you have to burn your bridges.  Just let it be...  maybe you cross that bridge again some day. Maybe you don't.  But... this way, at least you can if you decide that you want to.

Not every ending has to be Black and White...  sometimes they can be a little Grey.
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