Thursday, February 11, 2016

F Is For Fear

As a girl, when I would get scared, and I mean really, truly terrified, an equally frightening response occurred. Rather than be able to scream, cry out, or even run away, I would become paralyzed--literally rooted to the spot--and unable to make a sound. In my mind, I would be trying desperately to run or shout or do something, but it was no use: my body would simply stand there, stiff and immobile. The most I was ever able to manage was a steady stream of tears until someone, usually my mother, would notice and grab me, breaking the spell.

As you can imagine, this was pretty Inconvenient. I couldn't scream or try to surface when my dad accidentally knocked me off the fishing pier at my grandparents' cabin when I was a kid. I couldn't run when the wild firework came right at me. And the evening some weirdo pulled up on our street and called me over ostensibly to ask for directions but decided to show off his Attributes instead--I think I was fifteen--I just stood there. Crying. I have no idea how that all resolved itself to this day. I do know that, from then on that summer, my brother and all of his friends escorted me to my girlfriend's house half a block away whenever I walked over. And back. The Knights of East 38th Street.

That Fear Paralysis eventually resolved itself, I guess, because since then, I have run away from bad-tempered geese at the duck pond (with children in tow) and more than one ugly snake at the lake. Having children to protect probably inadvertently cured me, taking me outside myself, like those stories you read about mothers lifting cars off their babies.

Now my fears are less concrete and less definable. I have an almost irrational fear of Being Sick. A conversation like this in our house is not unheard of:

Rick: (sneezes or coughs) Ugh.
Nance: (sits up, alert) What was that? Are you sick? Are people at your work sick?
Rick: No. And No. It was nothing.
Nance: (severely) Are you sure? You better not be sick.
Rick: (calm, but knowing it is hopeless) Nance. I am not sick. All I did was cough/sneeze. It might just be allergies or sinus.
Nance: (resolutely) Rick, I am not getting sick. I mean it. I am megadosing Vitamin C, just to be safe. Stay over there. Don't touch anything.
Rick: Okay.
Nance: I mean it. I'll unload the dishwasher. Do not touch anything. If I get sick, you're in big trouble.

Also, since I have retired and no longer bring in The Huge Teacher Bucks (ha!), I have periods of Obsessive Concern that we may, one day, be poor. Rick has offered approximately eleventy billion times to Show Me The Money (i.e., our Financials) so that I will not be so overwrought. We have visited with our Long-Suffering Financial Advisor (and wonderful former student, so he knows me), who has patted my hand and dabbed my tears and recommended a therapist. (Okay, not that last thing. He actually recommended that Rick take me On Vacation and that I Drink More.) Everything is Really Okay. But sometimes I cannot help myself, and I start getting afraid of money all over again. This all stems from being poor at the start of our marriage. As in rolling change for expenses, plus eating meals and doing laundry at The Parents twice a week.

Finally, I'm afraid Something Really Bad Will Happen. I'm not too sure exactly what this means. After all, lots of Really Bad Somethings have already happened in our lives, and we've made it through all of them pretty much okay. And Really Bad Somethings happen--inevitably--in the course of people's lives all the time. That's Life. It's lumpy and full of Unexpected Somethings.

Most people who know me are surprised that I have any fears at all; they think I am bold and brave and stride purposefully through the world with determination and limitless confidence. To a large extent, that is true. But everyone, I think, has Fears. Everyone has those small, nagging tugs that shadow their joys and deepen their sorrows; those sudden and rare down-hard clenches that make your breath ragged and your stomach lurch and your heart almost batter your ribs. "Fear," said Frank Herbert, "is the little-death."

"What are you afraid of?" a psychology professor once asked me. "I mean it. What are you most afraid of in your life? That you'll die, right? Now, whenever you're really afraid of something, ask yourself, 'What are the odds that this will kill me?' If the odds are less than even, then do that thing. You'll be glad you did." I think of that more often than Dr. McKinley probably ever imagined.

I am not Ashamed of my Fears. Why would I be? Everyone is Afraid Of Something. The shame would come from Not Doing Something About Them. I like to think that, by acknowledging them, I face my Fears and Do Something About Them every day. And I push them away, little by little, every chance I get. I've vanquished other Fears before. I think I can smack these down, too. To paraphrase another author, "Fear is a story we tell ourselves, and so I tell myself a different story." In My Story, I want to be the Hero.

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Thursday, February 04, 2016

E Is For Endurance


Here's a short list of a few things which tax my Endurance. They require that I Soldier On gamely and mightily, often times with more Good Nature than I truly feel.

1. My Hair
2. Presidential Primary Season
3. Chapped Lips
4. Rick's Windshield Wiper Behaviour
5. Downton Abbey's Final Season

Please find something to grip tightly and To Steady Yourself, and allow me to Explain.

1. Something has happened to my hair in the past year or two, rendering it limply soft and Completely Impossible. There is no shampoo, no gel, no spray, no hair mucilage invented that can make my hair do a damn thing. Additionally, it is (cue horror movie music) Growing Out, which means it is Completely Awful and an Endurance Test each time I try to, oh, let's say...do any damn thing "with" or "to" it. Thank you to anyone who is crying empathetically whilst reading this.

2. We are now in Year Eleventy of the Presidential Primary Season, and I could throw up. Again. After ramming DTrump down our collective gullets for months and months, pollsters and pundits and news anchors are now gleefully performing gory post mortems on his Primary Corpse. After one primary. In Iowa. Listen, I'd be thrilled if we really could lay TheDonald to rest for real, but come on. One primary. And it was a caucus, which is like a coffee klatch, really. Is it okay if, oh, I don't know, THE REST OF THE COUNTRY HAS AN ELECTION? WITH REAL VOTES/BALLOTS AND SUPER DELEGATES AND STUFF? When is the country going to finally have one primary election date and stop this staggered primary voting? It's insane, and more than we should ever Endure.

3. This has been the mildest winter in years (NEO had temps in the 60's yesterday!), but I am Enduring the worst case of Chapped Lips in decades. Nance, you say, have you tried Burt's Bees, Carmex, Vaseline, olive oil, Blistex in a million varieties, and scrubbing at them with a washcloth? Oh, ha ha; it is to laugh. But of course I have. I have even tried the Super Duper All-Natural Remedy of Plain Honey. Here is what is working the best: None of them. None of them is working.

4. I am going to stop riding in any car with Rick when it rains because he cannot handle the windshield wipers. As soon as it stops raining, or if the rain lessens, that does not matter in the least; the wipers must still be employed continuously as before, even if they are screeching across a completely dry window. This is His Rule, apparently, and it is Consistently Applied. I have tried to Endure this with Extreme Patience And Silence. Believe me; I have. It is Impossible. After many minutes, I completely Lose It. "PLEASE TURN OFF THE WIPERS OR I AM GOING TO KILL MYSELF/JUMP OUT OF THIS CAR/SCREAM MY BLOODY HEAD OFF!", is what I usually say if I don't simply reach over in a lather and shut them off myself.

5. How can PBS and creator/writer Julian Fellowes do this to me? That this is Downton Abbey's final season is too much to Endure! Why do all of My Shows end up gone but terrible and awful shows seem to go on forever and forever and forever? I've become a DA junkie. I've started watching each episode twice a week: once on Sundays, then again midweek when it's offered, savouring each little character moment, each costume, each British-accented word. Oh, how I'll miss it. And nothing--nothing--can take its place.

Oh, darlings.  What do you think?  And what are you currently Enduring?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

D Is For Doughnuts

Approximately eleventy years ago I heard a Doctor on tv or radio say something that both amazed and impressed me, and it has stayed with me ever since. It changed not only my life on that day, but it changed my husband's as well. Here is what that Doctor said:

Every doughnut you eat takes twenty minutes off of your life.

The Doctor went on to explain how and why this was true, and it probably had to do with empty Calories and Fat and Sugar and a bunch of Crap like that I'm sure, but I didn't really listen at all to any of that. Not one bit. For me, the Takeaway was clear: Doughnuts Were Death, slowly and in twenty-minute increments, and that was all I needed to hear. No way was another Doughnut going to ever breach this bastion. And, in deference to The Agreement, Rick would now be Off Doughnuts as well.

Oh, The Agreement? This is another Thing Which Occurred Approximately Eleventy Years Ago, but preceded the Doughnut Edict. I'm not sure what crisis brought it about, but Rick has made a solemn vow that he will take excellent care of himself in order to outlive me. It is vitally important that I Die First. Someday I will explain why--in more detail--but suffice it to say that I cannot imagine carrying on with Absolutely Everything by myself. The amount of passwords to deal with alone would put me in an asylum.

But back to Doughnuts.

Since that Fateful Day, I have not had One Single Doughnut, Period. Not Any Doughnuts. I have not had a fry cake, a glazed, a cream stick, a fritter, a cronut, a cruller...you get me, right? And Rick swears he has resisted Doughnuts as well although they have appeared at meetings, seminars, and at work many times. Oh, once in a while he tells me he's succumbed to a Krispy Kreme here and there, and I try not to get judgy or emotional. I resist the temptation to intone--in a doom-filled, deathly voice--"There goes twenty minutes."

But I have to tell you, it has worked no real Hardship on me, truly. Doughnuts--and oh, how I hate the common spelling "donuts"!--hold no power over me. True, they often look tasty and even pretty, especially the frosted ones (but never sprinkles--what a waste: those things taste strange, have a terrible texture, and are really for children). The glory of the doughnut fades for me, however, after one bite. Most of them are...boring. And, really, terrible.  They leave a film of grease in my mouth. Or are too sweet. Or simply aren't Worth It: aren't worth the calories, the heavy feeling in my guts, the guilt, or the Twenty Minutes Off My Life.

I know that plenty of other foods are probably taking Minutes Off My Life. The rare creme brulee, my occasional piece of pecan or cherry pie, my brie with sour cherry jam appetizer.

But what a way to go! Way better than by Doughnuts.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

C Is For Comment

When my sister Patti's kids were little, our parents were their babysitters. Mom and Dad hung out over there and got the older kids on the bus, stayed with anyone too little for school, and basically took their show on the road. My mom and dad rarely acted much differently in front of the grandkids since they had perfected the Art Of MicroBickering long ago. Often, their arguments consisted of each merely saying the other's name aloud in various tones, and that would be sufficient. (Name being a general term here: my parents used their ages-old pet names exclusively, Honey and Doll.) Kids, of course, are incredibly perceptive, which was proven not only when the grandchildren put on a skit entitled The Honey and Doll Show, but also when the following scene occurred as my dad encouraged some indoor football with my then-toddler nephew:


Mom: (after several potential disasters) Honey! Now stop egging him on! TJ, you know you're not supposed to do that!
Dad: (not at all sternly) TJ. Grammy says we have to stop.
TJ: (disdainfully, to my dad) She's don't has to comment.

Ah, the Comment! TJ's remains a Family Classic to this day. Even he agrees it's The Best Thing He's Ever Said, and he probably doesn't really remember it. It is now part of Family Lore, and it gets repeated over and over again, sometimes as a punchline for new stories at family gatherings.

A Comment can be that way. It can be like the dozens and dozens on a Yahoo! article--sheer entertainment to fill a few minutes of your day. Sometimes, when I need a laugh, I click on a particularly inane Yahoo! article and read the Comments.

Often, the Comments section of any page is the most interesting and the most illuminating. It is the vast advantage which digital media enjoys over print: internet readers can instantly respond and react to whatever they read. And their Comments can expand other readers' understanding or serve to refine it.

Like TJ said, however, we don't always have to Comment unless we have something to say. But I sometimes find myself hard-pressed to Comment on blogs where the writer doesn't engage with his or her Commenters. Maybe they feel that their original post is enough, and I get that. They've already Made Their Comment, so to speak. But I like chatting with my Commenters and...Commenting on their Comment. I mean, they've reacted to my writing. That means It Worked--I was successful. If they said something that was important to them, or something that made me think or react, I want to acknowledge it. If I had hundreds of Commenters, maybe I would have to rethink this philosophy, but with a core group of Less Than That, I can easily acknowledge and respond to Commenters. And I enjoy the exchange immensely.

About a hundred years ago, bloggers were pretty obsessed with Comments. Then PinTwitFace came along, and now, most bloggers are old and way more relaxed about Stuff. Now we Antique Internet Writers (aka BlogWriters) let PinTwitFace users get all exercised and calisthenic about Likes and Followers and Twits and Pinners or Whatever. Most of us don't care. We let those on PTF worry about those stats. You all know how I feel about All Of That.

No Comment.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

B Is For Books; How I Miss Them

Much like Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, I feel like I was reading since I was born. I went to kindergarten already reading well above all those Little Golden Books, and a very grateful Miss Osborne used to plop me on a spare teacher's chair and have me read to the rest of the class at naptime while she was busy at her desk. Any spare minute found me reading, a habit that continued well into adulthood, and I have rung up an impressive tab over at My Boyfriend's Place (amazon.com) to prove it.

Imagine my Shock and profound Dismay when I tell you now that I have not read a book in almost a year.

Oh, it's not for lack of effort. Believe me; I have tried so hard to Do Something About This. I desperately miss Reading. It was one of the things I looked forward to most in Retirement--the chance to finally, finally read and read and read like I always did during the Summer when I would order six or eight Books to devour like icy sorbet on a steamy hot day.

Those Summers I would get my puttering done, my gardening out of the way, and grab my Book du Jour along with a cold drink and my Reading Sunglasses and skip out to the patio. I'd position my chaise exactly perfectly to keep the sun on my legs and the shade of my head on the page and read in undisturbed bliss. If I got too warm, I'd seek the oasis of the umbrella table, steps away.

Lovely.

And then, it seemed, my brain went on summer vacation...and stayed there. The last book I read took me over a month; I couldn't concentrate and stay with it. I tried re-reading a book that I had loved before, but that produced the same result. I abandoned it after less than fifty pages of plodding and distraction. I tried reading short stories, and that was a little better, but not much. Poetry was unsatisfying in that it wasn't solving my problem. I still read the newspaper every day, but you and I both know it's not like reading Books.

I miss Books.

Books were such a huge part of my life for over fifty years of my life. I don't think a day went by when I did not read from a book. I became an English teacher, in part, so I could talk about Books. There are Books in almost every single room in my house--wait--they are in every single room of my house. Until last year, they occupied space on every wish list I made for my birthday and Christmas. I took them to bed, on vacation, to the hospital when I had my children, and on my honeymoon. They helped teach me how to parent, how to understand the world, and how to dream. I feel lost without them.

This...brain fog seems to be a menopause leftover, like my migraine resurgence. Sometimes I feel like I'm losing the battle against both of them as I take my pills and do my crossword puzzles and order two new Books from My Boyfriend. Those Books are on my night table, looking more foreboding than inviting. One is a true crime story about arson in the California wine industry, and the other is an old novel I have wanted to read since long ago. All I need to do is pick one up and start it. That, of course, is the Hardest Part.

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Wednesday, January 06, 2016

A Is For Alphabet...

In 2016 I'm going to try to Write More Often, and to that end, several things have occurred. One of those Things is that Rick got me a new Desk for Christmas, one at which I can actually sit and write and not feel encroached upon by Lots Of Clutter. Another Thing is that I have stolen an Idea from another writer (The Bug, I think), one which is so simple that even I, in my Sloth and Disinclination, can lean upon to yank up a blogpost from the depths of my Inertia.

I'm simply going to start alphabetically and grab a word--either from the News or my Life or Whatever--and write a weekly blogpost using that word as my subject. If more than one word comes to mind for that letter, then a List Post it shall be. (Rather than zip off the whole alphabetical list of topics at once ahead of time, though, I'll wait each day and see what comes to mind for that day's letter.) Let's On, then, shall we?

A Is For Anger: I overheard one of Sunday's talking heads chatting about this NBC poll in which they teamed up with Esquire magazine to gauge just how angry Americans are and how it breaks along gender, racial, and political lines. "American women are really angry!" one commentator observed with real surprise. According to the survey, women report a greater rise in anger than men over the past year. No one could get over it. I looked up from my newspaper, already simmering because of the eleventy billion times I had heard Trump's name on the two "news/politics" shows Rick had already watched. They were surprised that women were angry?

Every single Intelligent Woman should be Angry. I have my Anger on Emotional Speed-Dial when it comes to The Politics and The General State Of Things. I am Angry about men (and some women, to be fair) in government using Planned Parenthood funding as a whipping boy and bargaining chip when so many women rely on its services for health care (and, yes, pregnancy services including terminations, the latter being a legal and personal decision of the woman's, however unfortunate).  I am Angry that women still earn 78 cents on the dollar in relation to men among full-time workers in the U.S., and that this inequity in pay still exists, no matter how you sort the data. I am angry about the non-existent Equal Rights Amendment, introduced almost one hundred years ago and allowed to die a slow and humiliating death in 1982, thanks to political wrangling.

Those are just the Big Angries. Smaller Angries include the restrictions on liquids for air travel are more of a hassle for women than men; cash incentives for perfect attendance at a job automatically penalize women with kids; alterations cost extra for women, not for men; women are held to a higher standard of beauty more often than men; school dress codes target girls more than boys; that working women are still responsible for the lion's share of child-rearing and housework...oh, too many to enumerate without completely frosting my cupcakes and destroying my Zen.

(Oh, and may we add anyone--men especially--saying condescendingly, "Um, wow. Why don't you tell us how you really feel?" any time we express our anger about anything?)

So, yes, American women are angry. They have been for a long time; it's just that no one ever bothered to ask them until now.

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Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: The Year Of The Shark

Goodbye, 2015. You were a Year Of Many Lessons. Some of your Lessons, I enjoyed (driving and docking the boat, making fish tacos, the joy of simpler living); others, not so much (well...let's not talk about them). But, your biggest Lesson is one that I keep learning, and it is sometimes your Hardest Lesson of all.

That is why I call 2015 The Year Of The Shark. For ages and ages, it has been said that sharks have to keep moving or they drown. Even though this isn't exactly true for the majority of shark species, it's still accurate to say that there are some varieties of sharks who have to maintain forward swimming motion or they will, indeed, die. 2015 made me realize that I had to be very sharklike and only move forward, too.

It is hard to be disappointed, to suffer loss, to be angry, to be hurt, and to feel sad. But if I'm going to replay those feelings, or dwell upon the episodes that caused them, I'm paralyzing myself. The Year Of The Shark almost made me forget my mantra of "Do whatever you can and then move on, knowing you did what you could."

Almost.

As I've said before, both here and on my defunct blog Stuff On Our List (co-authored with Jared years ago), I don't usually make actual New Year's Resolutions because I think of myself as being on a Continuous Journey Of Self-Improvement. Last year, I did make two, which I promptly forgot, but they sort of roll into my Big Three Resolutions, which are guideposts for my life and have not changed. They are:

1. Be kind.
2. Shut up.
3. Never say never.

Pretty self-explanatory for the most part: I try to make kindness my default in every situation; I try to listen more than talk, which can be a challenge for me; and I try not to deal in absolutes, especially in discussions. Rather than say, "I would never own a gun," I say, "I can't imagine a scenario in which I'd own a gun." Beyond this, I continue to be grateful and work on my patience. Remember--Continuous Journey!

Goodbye, 2015. I look forward now to 2016 and what and who it may bring me. Happy New Year to all of you, and thank you again for reading and commenting. I hope to give you much more for both in the coming year.

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