Resisting the “No!”

resisting the nofbnotesIt is so easy to say, “no” to things — particularly “things” that require getting out of bed, schlepping somewhere, or putting on pants; in some cases, all three. Activities outside the home, particularly ones that involve other humans, require effort. More and more, as opportunities that involve these herculean tasks, specifically the donning of pants, present themselves, my initial reaction is to say, “Thanks, but no thanks!”.

I have a physically demanding and mentally stressful job that requires me to do all of the above AND to interact with people all damn day. Quite frankly, I am tired by day’s end and, more often than not, have had my fill of people. Thus, rationalizing the “no” comes easily at the end of a long shift.

Following the schlep home, all I want to do, all I feel that I can successfully achieve, is to take off my pants and to crawl back under the covers. Where I am safe. Where no one is making demands of me. Where no one is criticizing me.

I have learned, though, to take a beat before responding in the negative, to think about what, exactly, I am saying “no” to (or for). Once I have gotten over the hurdles that include, but are not limited to, leaving my bedroom, throwing on some clothes, and transporting myself elsewhere — and, really, sometimes “elsewhere” is just up the block! — I am always pleased that I resisted the urge to beg off.

Still, the “no” comes more naturally. The “yes” has to fight for top billing.

Recently, because I said “yes”, I was able to enjoy the latest incarnation of “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” on Broadway and, in the same week!, I was entertained by Chinese acrobats. All because I agreed to put on pants.

I enjoyed the play and the acrobats. Truly, Jessica Lange’s performance in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” was mesmerizing; and those Chinese acrobats were something else! Even so, these outings were about more than just the events.

I enjoyed the company, the camaraderie, of the people that I was with. Because they were not just any old “people”, they were “my” people — people who I have chosen, people who have chosen me.

I am not in their lives to fetch them straws or to make them some cockamamie drink. They are not sitting in judgment of my job performance in light of the fact that I spilled a ramekin of butter on a guest. They appreciate my eye-rolling and sighing, welcome it, even.

When I am at work I feel as though I am the subject in the most recent installment of a little game show that I like to call “Let’s Build a Better Employee”. I am not sure which is worse: knowing that I am the subject or knowing that I am not the best possible choice of contestant.

There was a time when I would have been the perfect contestant. That time was not all that long ago, it may, in fact, have been last week. But, now? This week? It seems that I am getting so few things right.

Getting all of the answers wrong takes all the fun out of the game. I go home at the end of every shift feeling uneasy, anxious, and, defeated. When I have been made to feel like I have no value, slipping into a pair of pajamas and sliding into bed seems the best course of action.

It is not. Surrounding myself with “my” people; saying “yes” to them is, in fact, the better choice, the antidote, to all of the other bullshit that life throws at you.

What I have discovered is that when I am around “my” people, I am almost instantly transformed into a person who has value. I feel, not only valued, but truly loved and appreciated. For that feeling I will resist the urge to go to bed at 7:00 PM. For that feeling I will schlep to wherever I need to schlep. For that feeling I will put on pants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

May I Cut In?

coupledancingI’d like to take this opportunity to thank a few of the “good deed doers” that I encountered this morning — the ones that were placed, as if by serendipity, in my path on my early morning “fly-by” at the local market. It goes without saying that I thanked them profusely amidst their good deed doing — I even kissed one of them (I knew him, though — the others were virtual strangers, so no PDAs for them!). I just wanted to put my gratitude in writing — on the outside chance that they happen to be readers of this blog — hey, you never know! That’s how serendipity works. She’s a-crazy that way!

In one of those, unfortunately for me, not so rare collisions of a lack of time on my part and a lack of planning on Fangette’s part, I had to make an early morning dash to our little local market for strawberries, bananas (“No, Mom, I can’t have one of the ten yogurts that are in the fridge that contain these fruits. I can’t have dairy before practice! Are you crazy? Don’t you EVER listen?”), turkey, a feminine hygiene product, and, of course, the “build-your-own” salad. (“Just greens, grilled chicken, fresh mozzarella, and CUCUMBERS this time, Mom! CUCUMBERS, Mom! NOT tomatoes. I HATE TOMATOES. WHY CAN’T YOU REMEMBER THAT?”)

I ran in for FIVE items. FIVE. I didn’t think I needed A LIST, for God’s sake. And, really, I had NO time to fool with pen and paper, anyway.

Of course, when I got out to the car I realized that I only had FOUR items — I didn’t get the “build-your-own” salad. Really, that’s a misnomer. Because you don’t actually get to build the salad yourself. You choose a prepackaged bowl of greens — there are several delightful choices for the discriminating lettuce lover, we usually opt for the mesculin mix — and then the guy at the deli counter places your “add-ons” atop the crunchy bed of fresh salad greens. (They’ll even toss it, with or without dressing, upon request, but we don’t go in for THAT sort of thing!)

On my first foray through the market, I decided to just grab the pre-packaged turkey, as I didn’t have time to wait at the deli — there was a gentleman in front of me who looked like he was in no hurry at all and only the one worker behind the counter — this type of staffing and this sort of shopper is to be expected, I suppose, at the crack of dawn. I thought, by opting for the turkey that someone had thoughtfully pre-sliced, that I had “beaten the system”, shaved off a few of those precious morning minutes. The obvious flaw in my plan was, of course, my failure to take into account the whole “build-your-own-salad” business.

On my return trip, which was only about three minutes later, guess what I encountered over in deli? The same older man getting his cold cuts sliced, the same single employee working the slicer. It appeared that I would have to wait. I tried to be patient, but time just began ticking away and, like I said before, the gentleman did not seem to be in any hurry at all. Also, he apparently enjoys ham — in just the time I stood there he ordered a quarter of a pound of three different varieties of this fine meat product. There were several bags of what appeared to be sliced meats in his hand. I’m no novice to the ways of the deli counter — I knew what that meant. He hadn’t even gotten to the cheese portion of the event yet.

This was when I did something that I never do. I asked him, as nicely as I could, if I could possibly “borrow” HIS worker for forty-five seconds. I explained how I just needed someone to plop three little items — grilled chicken, fresh mozz, and diced cucumbers — on top of this here plastic bowl of rabbit food. (This is where I held up my container of greens as a visual aid, in the event that he was not familiar with the whole “build-your-own-salad” concept!) Not only did he immediately AGREE to help me out of a jam, HE actually APOLOGIZED to me — explaining as he did so that he was retired and, therefore, in no rush. “Sadly”, he said, “I have nowhere to be but here. I remember having the kind of day you’re having, though! I sure do! Please, go ahead of me!” I took a moment to be sad for him and his predicament before I pounced on his deli worker.

Initially the young man behind the deli counter was confused by this turn of events. The nice gentleman, the one who, just moments before, I had been judging for his sodium intake, kindly explained to the befuddled worker that he was “letting me ‘cut in’.” I liked this turn of phrase. It put me in mind of some 1940’s dance hall love triangle.

Salad in hand, gratitude on my lips, I left my new friend to carry on with his relaxing day. I think it’s safe to say that we both envied the pace of each other’s lives.

When I got to the check-out area I realized that, of course, there was only one register open. There were two people in front of me. The woman directly ahead of me had a few bagels in a bag. The woman who was currently in the midst of checking out had far more. And she had something else. Some kind of a problem. A problem that, apparently, could only be solved by a “price check”. I sighed. Audibly. “Bagel woman” turned to me and said, “If you’re in a hurry, you can go ahead of me.” I just shook my head in the negative. What would have been the point? SHE wasn’t the problem.

I thanked her for her offer and tried to quietly explain that my stress level was at about a ten. (I didn’t want “price check lady” to feel in any way responsible for my craziness!) I admitted that while I understood the other woman’s need for a price check, this delay felt like another “wrench in the works” of my already anxiety-filled morning. “It’s not”, I shrilly replied, “anyone’s fault but my own!” Even as I said this, I knew it wasn’t true. So, I clarified, for “bagel lady” — I thought I owed her at least that!

“Actually”, I whined, “it’s not really MY fault. Well, yeah, the forgetting the salad portion of the festivities is my fault, but if I’m being honest, and why wouldn’t I be? The rest of it — the rest of it is ALL my kid’s fault. Her failure to plan ALWAYS becomes my emergency. Know what I mean? It makes me crazy. CRAZY, I tell ya! One more year, though. ONE MORE YEAR and she’ll be off to college. She’ll be out of the nest. She’ll have FLOWN THE COOP! (This is where I began gesturing, like a bird taking flight, with the “build-your-own-salad”.) I can’t wait. I CAN NOT WAIT, I’LL TELL YOU THAT MUCH!” Sensing that I had a sympathetic ear in “bagel lady”, I continued, “Sure”, I said, a little more loudly than I, or probably anyone within earshot would have liked, “I’ll miss her, she’s a good kid, really. But, I’ll tell ya what I won’t miss — THIS kind of nonsense. I WILL NOT miss these SHENANIGANS! No, Ma’am, I WILL NOT miss this kind of tomfoolery at THE CRACK OF DAWN!”

“Bagel lady”, God bless her, just listened, shook her head in agreement, and put her hand on my arm — you know, to calm me. I can’t be certain, but I think the soothing hand on the arm thing was as much for self-preservation as it was a show of sympathy. She may have feared that the very real possibility existed that a shower of “build-your-own-salad” could be in her future if I were allowed to continue gesturing wildly. Whatever her reasons, it did the trick. I was beginning to “come down” from my “anxiety high”.

This is about the time that I heard a laughing voice from somewhere close by say, “Oh, I should have known it was you when I heard all the ruckus!” I knew immediately that it was my friend, Tim. He worked his way in behind me. Put his hand on my shoulder and gave me a quick “How ya doin’?” peck on the cheek. We shared a brief hug, a couple of sighs, and a laugh. (We’re Irish, we practically hold the patent on sighing!) He asked me what I was all worked up about. I told him that it was just the usual, the same old, same old — KIDS! And time — or lack thereof. He just eyed me knowingly, reminded me that I’d “been through worse” than a bad morning at the market and told me to “keep my chin up!” He also told me that I looked “great” — he was lying or at least intimating that he’s seen me look far worse, which he has. (He knew me “when” — when I was more of a hot mess than I am now!) I definitely did NOT look anything even remotely close to “great”. I looked like a crazy person who had just rolled out of bed and found herself in the middle of a kidnapping plot. (When I got home, I realized that I had gone out wearing one brown flip-flop and one black flip-flop. That’s how “great” I did NOT look!)

I sure appreciated his kind words, though. Yes, I did. I also appreciated that he, much like the nice gentleman in the deli and the “bagel lady” before him, took time out of their lives to commiserate with the high-strung and possibly deranged woman who was carrying on about her life as if she were the center of the universe. I don’t know what-all the others have accomplished in their lives, but I know how Tim spends some of his time. His resume is pretty impressive.

His most recent achievement, through his role as a NJ Assemblyman, is that he authored and managed to have signed into law earlier this week — by Republican Governor Christie, no less — a bill that makes “gay re-education camps” against New Jersey law. He has been active in town politics here in our little burg for many years. He served as our Mayor for two terms and as a Councilman for many years prior to moving on to the NJ Assembly. He is a successful chiropractor and an active member of The Rotary Club. Through this organization he and his partner have been instrumental in building, funding, and maintaining a school in Kenya — they, their children, and other community and Rotary members, visit every year — bringing with them books, supplies, and hope to countless young men and women who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to realize their full potential.

His mere presence forced me to put my morning mayhem in perspective. I also felt a little bit ridiculous — in a good way. And I told him so. I said something like, “Thank you. Thank you, Tim. You work so hard. You’ve done and continue to do so many amazing things with your life. Congratulations on the bill, by the way! I feel like all I do is schlep food to the ungrateful — both at work and in my regular life. So, thanks. Thanks for making me feel slightly ridiculous this morning. I needed that!” His response? “Everybody has a role, Jack. We need people to “schlep food” just as much as we need people who do the things that I do. Don’t beat yourself up about it! Feel good about yourself!”

And you know what? For a few minutes I did just that. I felt good about myself. At least, that is, until I got home and took note of the fact that I was, and not for the first time, wearing two different shoes.

photo credit: couple dancing

Related posts (mostly related to mismatched footwear):
Here’s to Hoping for the Best
Focus on Footwear

Accepting Forgiveness

notperfectDrinking took me to places that a woman like me — white, middle-class, college-educated — never thought she’d be. Renter’s court. Criminal court. You know, THOSE kinds of places. At the time I thought that the world was against me. And so, to combat the world, I drank more. It’s what alcoholics do.

I almost lost everything. EVERYTHING. I am still, over four years later, putting many of the pieces of my shattered life back together. A few of them I just swept up and tossed in the trash, like the “friends” I used to drink with and the bars I used to frequent. Those pieces, the ones that don’t matter, the ones that never should have mattered, were easily discarded.

The relationships that do matter, that should have mattered more, those fractures are not so easily fixed. Cobbling them back together may take a lifetime. Regaining the trust that the people closest to me lost while I was lost in whatever bottle I could get my hands on, that’s the trickier part of recovery.

I had no idea that the actual act of giving up alcohol would be the easier part of the healing process. That the hard part would be the aftermath is not something they focus on in rehab. In rehab they tell you to put yourself first. I found this advice to be counterproductive. Because, really, that’s what addicts do, have always done — put themselves first. In order to get healthy, I needed to start putting other people first.

I needed, first and foremost, to stop feeling resentful. Instead, I needed to be grateful — to actually FEEL grateful. Grateful to the people who stood by me. Grateful for having done no irreparable physical harm to anyone other than myself. Grateful for being given the second chance that many addicts never are. Grateful just to be.

There is still not a day that goes by that I am not smacked in the face with the realization that I can NEVER have another drink. Not one single day. I don’t know if this ever ends. I don’t know that it should. I know that I must acknowledge this feeling and then I must move on from it before it incapacitates me. It’s really all I can do. There’s no magic to it. It’s just what my life is.

That’s the bad. Forgiveness is the good. Whether through words or deeds, I have managed to receive forgiveness from the people who my drinking affected most adversely. My husband. My child. They are truly special people.

And friends. The good ones. The kind ones. The generous ones. The funny ones. They persevered. They saw me through. They, too, have forgiven me.

My life is far better and infinitely richer because I am able, every day, to accept their gifts of forgiveness. And, because they have, every last one of them, given this gift so freely, I do my part by making every attempt to be a humble and grateful recipient.

photo credits:
Not perfect…