Fleurting With Disaster
Speaking From the Heart
I think people are afraid and angry these days. Maybe more so than I’ve ever seen them in my lifetime. Here in the United States, our sense of safety changed fifteen years ago. On 9/11/2001, my husband was an active-duty military member. I was afraid an read more
I struggle. Especially with people. I face obstacles with people all the time. I often tend to be awkward, easily overwhelmed by social interaction. I’m one of those extraverted introverts. I can be a nearly over-the-top social creature or a borderline agoraphobic. I interact much more easily with complete strangers than casual acquaintances or even good friends and co-workers. I’m not certain if this information is important, but that’s the way I am. I struggle. I put people off. I’m friendly and intelligent and kind. I always try to do the right thing, I try to help people.
However, I have a knack for making social missteps with people. Making enemies, frienemies. I have found that only strong, intelligent, self-assured people seem to like being around me. That’s okay. It’s a two-way street, really.
My intent is not to be bitchy or whiny here. I’m sharing my experience. I’ve been back-stabbed in the corporate world and private world more times than I would truly care to admit. But I still have faith in people. I still believe in eBay’s basic tenet that, “People are basically good.” That mission statement spoke to me years ago when I sold comic books on eBay when I was a stay-at-home mom. It still does. People are basically good. I believe in it. Regardless of all the ugliness we see happening every day.
People are basically good.
We were recently in New Orleans, Louisiana for a family fun weekend. If you’re not familiar, while it is literally my favorite city on the planet, New Orleans is a beautiful, dangerous place. As we were walking down Canal Street, my husband took a misstep into a small sinkhole and fell, sprained his ankle.There were several locals around us. They stopped and helped him up, genuinely concerned about his well-being.
People are basically good.
I recently read an article about Tim Tebow comforting a family whose husband/father was dying from a heart attack on an airline flight. I really don’t understand all the negativity expressed toward him. I’m not necessarily a fan of his, nothing against him, personally, he’s just never played for any teams I love. I may or may not follow the same faith system as he does, but I admire the hell out of his kindness and adherence to his faith despite the negativity he continues to face. It troubles me when I read disparaging things leveled at folks trying to do works of kindness.
Despite it all, I still believe that people are basically good.
Photo credit: Be Kind, For Everyone You Meet Is Fighting A Harder Battle
Kate Ter Haar | Flickr Creative Commons
I was inspired by the two-year-old daughter of a friend of mine yesterday. My friend posted an adorable video of her daughter, Olivia helping her make cookies. Olivia, (who, by the way, is also adorable) was seated in a high chair with a prepared cookie sheet and a bowl of cookie dough. She was meticulously building what had to be the single largest chocolate chip cookie on the planet. A girl after my own heart!
After she positioned each handful of dough either in an effort to increase the size of her Godzilla-chip cookie, or to create new cookies on her sheet, she exclaimed, “Ta-da!”
Each subsequent cookie received as much enthusiasm as its predecessor. “Ta-da!”, plop. “Ta-da!
I found myself grinning and giggling as I watched her at her work. “Ta-da!”
I realized by the end of the video, I do not have enough “Ta-da!”s in my life. We should be filling our lives with “Ta-da!”s. Olivia gets it, my friend, her mother gets it.
Instead of beating ourselves up and suffocating ourselves with our own perfectionism, convincing ourselves we aren't good enough, or smart enough, thin or pretty enough, we don't make enough money or we can't make killer Godzilla-chip cookies, I want to simply do my best, be as kind and helpful as I can and celebrate my every day victories.
Like posting to my blog.
Ta-da! (Thanks, Olivia!)
Nineteen years ago, I was lying on the couch with my husband, Tim watching a movie. I had noticed for the few days prior that I had been having some stomach discomfort. This had been one of those stressful times during our life together, we had just moved, I had started a new job and a few months prior, had my third miscarriage. Life was stressful and no small wonder that I was having stomach issues, really.
I asked Tim, “Honey, have you ever had gas that just moves around and doesn’t go anywhere?” He kind of chuckled and said, “Uh, no…” I pressed further, “Well, have you ever had gas that makes your shirt move?” (I know you must be thinking that I’m about the daftest woman on the planet.)
“Sweetie, I think you need to have a pregnancy test.” I was doubtful, but I heeded his advice, went to the base hospital and took the test.
It was Cinco de Mayo when I got the news that our daughter, Sarah was, officially “not gas”. As you may already be thinking, I was farther along in my pregnancy than most women are when they find out. I was on the fast track to motherhood. But how fast? Every doctor’s appointment I would measure considerably more than the previous visit. They had a very hard time actually determining how far along I was. My abs of steel (ha) had kept my sweet little gas bubble from showing, but once things were official, all bets were off. As it turned out, I was seven months along by the time I found out.
Now, let me add that I have been in the position of learning that someone I knew just found out she was pregnant, very pregnant. I have been the person saying, “How can she be THAT far along and NOT know?” I’ve been there more than once. Let me tell ya, folks, now I understand how a woman can be several months along and not know. Primarily, for me the miscarriage seven months before Sarah was born was the key to not knowing. (Yes, that’s some fancy math and maybe another story… Miscarriage 27 weeks prior to a birth at 36 weeks gestation. But that’s how it happened).
Cinco de Mayo has been the day for celebrations. For us, not a celebration of independence, but of life. Not only was May 5th one of the best days of my life, it was also the worst.
Fast-forward sixteen years to May 5, 2011. That was the day I received the call at work that my daughter was contemplating suicide and I needed to come to the school right away.
As much as I had no idea I was pregnant fifteen years prior. I had no idea Sarah was struggling and floundering. We communicated openly, we were supremely supportive and encouraging, but that was almost not enough. As it turned out, a very troubled friend of hers had suggested they do it. She agreed before she realized the implications of the situation and when she realized what she had agreed to, she immediately sought out the guidance counselor and told her what was going on. Sarah was evaluated that night and deemed not to be a threat to herself or others and because she had come forward voluntarily, we were able to take her home with us.
It’s difficult to talk about all of this, it’s difficult remembering how broken my heart was that evening. But it was all really a blessing. The high school was not a good fit for Sarah, she had been sexually assaulted twice on school grounds and then faced bullying and ostracizing. The school principal was astonishingly unsupportive and suggested Sarah needed to “grow a thicker skin”, which is probably the thing that made me angriest. In the end, we transferred her to another school district where she celebrated a very happy senior year. While we wished we had transferred her sooner, we know that she did actually grow a thicker skin as a result of the things she experienced at that school. She learned valuable lessons that it took me decades longer to learn. Sarah is doing very well now.
Like every person, she has struggles but those darkest of times are behind her. She talks regularly with a counselor, while she knows she can talk to her dad and I about literally anything, (and does), there is just this real need for talking with an objective person who doesn’t love her unconditionally.
We talk and listen to each other, we have great days and awful days. Sarah is happy and healthy. We’ve kept those lines of communication open, that was key to us. We argue sometimes, but she always knows we are there for her and accept her for, and support her in everything she is or hopes to be. She is living proof that it DOES get better.
Sarah marches to the beat of her own drummer, she always has. She always will. Many people don’t “get” her. Many times she doesn’t “get” others. She’s kind and gentle, always on the side of the right thing to do. She is often misjudged and misunderstood. She misses social cues, gets confused and upset. She’s talented and smart. Funny and quiet. She is the best person I have ever known and I’m a much better person because of her. I am blessed to be her mother. She will always be my little gas bubble. Although today is not her birthday, today I celebrate her life. Happy Cinco de Mayo, my love.
This week I felt it again. Just a week outside Easter and the forty days of solace from the distractions that I either create in my own head, or noise I allow to distract me.
Thursday was the day I realized this, as I was driving to work. To give a little history here, my route to work consists of very heavy traffic and when the roads were planned, adequate consideration was not given to the enormity of future growth. There is literally one road into my town and one road to the city where I work. Add the influx of cars for Spring Break, coupled with a major construction project they hope will improve traffic flow… Well, that makes for some stressful commuting. I’m not really certain if this is real or simply perceived, but Drivers seem especially aggressive and wreckless on Thursdays. By the time I get to work, my shoulders are so tight that my earlobes are tickling them. This day, I was particularly tense, I knew I had a very busy day in store and I was running lists over and over in my mind of all the things I needed to try to accomplish, knowing chances were good that I would not get it all done.
I was tired and cranky and was on about my tenth round of deep breathing in my 10 mph crawl to work, trying not to stress about the things I could not control when I heard music blaring. “Oh, THIS is not going to help”, I thought. I stole a glance to my left and saw that it was a car that I had been pacing all the way in to town. It was a happy little bright yellow Mini Cooper. His sunroof was wide open and windows rolled down. He would advance about five cars ahead of me and then I would pass him and would advance about the same distance. I hadn’t noticed he was listening to any music until now. My distracted mind wandered further away and I found myself trying to figure out what genre and ultimately what song was assaulting my ears. I cracked my window and couldn’t help but giggle outwardly when I heard the lyrics slapping me upside the head. “Cheer up, sleepy Jean. Oh, what can it mean to a Daydream Believer and a Homecoming Queen.”
Mission accomplished. I don’t know who you are, or who sent you, but I immediately stopped running to do lists and started thinking about smiley things. I started thinking about how not to get caught up in the distractions and focused on appreciating the happy little gift that rolled five cars ahead of me and then five cars behind me. Until he turned off and I went about traveling the rest of the way humming “Daydream Believer” to myself. Instead of feeling stressed at work, I was chipper and found numerous reasons to laugh throughout my day.
When I got home, my husband and I agreed on an impromptu date night, went to dinner and put the top down on his car and took a drive along the beach and enjoyed warm spring air and a glorious sunset. We stopped and took a walk. I can never resist putting my feet (at least) in the water.
I had one of my “Oh yeah” days on Thursday. “Oh yeah, I don’t need to feel stress.” “Oh yeah, look how beautiful it is here.” “Oh yeah, this is the only stuff that really, truly matters.”
Oh yeah, “Daydream Believer” is one of those songs that sticks in my brain. I’m going to keep believing, keep daydreaming and keep just being.
This is not my “normal” blog post. I wanted to pop in here and wish everyone a Happy Easter.
It’s hard to believe that the forty days of Lent has already passed, pretty painlessly, actually. I have definitely had my moments, but largely, I’ve been pleased with how well I stayed true to the commitment I made to be more aware and more present. I’m not finished blogging by any stretch of the imagination, I’ve learned so much, but have so much more to learn.
Today, I’ve been reflecting a bit on the path I’m traveling. The symbol of the fleur-de-lis seems to play a large (yet subtle) role in that path. I’m not entirely certain why I have always been drawn it. I do remember when I was in about fifth grade we were studying flags and that is where I first learned the word “fleur-de-lis”. At the time, it was the fanciest word I knew. I tucked it away and since then, I smile when I see one. I eventually learned fancier words, but still loved the simple elegance of the fleur-de-lis.
My mom sent me a link to a post from Louisiana Heart and Home which gives a little history about the fleur-de-lis, it means “flower of the lily” (as it turns out, my name, Susan, derives from the Hebrew name, Susannah, which means… Lily).
Several years ago I woke up one morning with an epiphany about making candles. (Actually, the epiphany was to make my own lotions, but that research instead led to candle making.) I named my company Epiphany (as in “idea” or realization) Chandler (candle maker). I settled upon the logo of a fleur-de-lis that looked like a candle flame. I hope to one day market my candles through my blog site. We’ll see!
Happy Easter and Namaste ya’ll. even though my forty days of Lenten reflection are up, I’m going to continue to post, continue to grow and observe and write. I hope you continue to join me and bring your friends! There’s plenty of room here and everyone is welcome!
No mixed emotions here. No wondering if the other prom goers were watching, judging. No doubt that Mom wasn’t kidding when I said, “I think you guys should play on the playground before dinner.” No worries that her dress would be ruined. It wasn’t, but if it had been, well we already got all the serious photos. She was just a kid in that moment. No anxiety about graduating and going off to college, no baggage from her horrible high school years. She was just a kid, again. Still.
Before I set to writing tonight, I wanted to get comfy and contemplate a bit. I told my husband, “I’m going to go take my bath and think about being a grown up.” (I’m going to pretend to be indignant here, imagine that, if you will) he LAUGHED at me and said, “You’ll never grow up!”
He and I are both really just big kids, at least we strive to be. We have real, grown up jobs that are stressful at times. We have a mortgage, car payments. There are lawns to mow, dishes and clothes to wash (Boy! Are there clothes to wash!). But we are kids. Nearly fifty-year-old kids, but we are kids at heart.
When the spirit moves us we have beach picnics on Monday nights after our workaday week begins, just to remind us that every day we are edging ever-nearer the weekend. We love to drive go carts, go to Disney and Universal and play video games. We have had just about every game system produced. I’ve led Sonic around by the nose as he collected rings and am on a first name basis with Mario and Luigi. I’ve defiantly shouted, “For the Horde!” when we played World of Warcraft, and my sister and I cried when we saw Cinderella’s coronation at Magic Kingdom.
There is something about those perfect, flawless moments of being childlike. Those moments when you stop caring about what others think, the moment you allow life to become just a little less serious. You just hurl yourself down that slide, barefoot in your prom dress. Why so serious? Indeed.
We let things and people bottle up our sparkle, our shine. More noise, just like the other noise I’ve already chatted about, stands in our way, it stops our brilliance from bursting through. We let it. Over and over, we do it to ourselves, we play by rules that no one else seems to pay attention to. I know I do it. I follow the rules, I drive in the right lane unless I’m overtaking, I obey the speed limit (for the most part!). I (mostly!) patiently wait my turn in line. I’m (mostly!) polite. I follow the rules at work. More than once, more than twice I’ve left a job and later heard, “I had no idea what all you did here!” Yep, that sounds about right. I go to work, do whatever needs to be done, go home. I don’t showboat, I don’t badmouth other employees, I don’t gossip, I don’t lie about people, I don’t backstab anyone. I believe karma is a bitch and she’s skipped her coffee.
The folks who feel they have to rely on those sorts of tactics will always feel lacking, will always feel they have to continue to resort to those games in order to get ahead or to just stay afloat. It would be so much better if people would just do the right thing. It’s frustrating sometimes. It hurts my feelings when people choose to believe something fabricated they heard about me instead of giving me a chance and actually trying to learn about me themselves. I’m human, it hurts and sometimes makes me angry. Ultimately, I’ve come to try to understand and embrace the notion that it’s their loss. My sister finally got this through my head, there are some folks who will never like you no matter what you do, and there are folks who will always like (even love) you no matter what you do. Those are the folks who matter. It’s been a hard lesson to learn. I’m still learning it and I’m still working through the hurt and the anger over many things. I’m human.
But sometimes I sparkle too.
Sometimes, when I’ve had the worst of days, I’ll catch a little glimmer of something peeping through that reminds me that I’m sparkly. It’s usually one of those days when I’ve waited for permission, recognition, a thank you. I’ve had many sparkly moments over the past week. I’ve found a new friend, whom I’ve worked with for years, because one cup of coffee allowed us to see something familiar in each other that maybe because of defense mechanisms inspired by the workplace we had never seen before. That was a blessing and a sparkly moment. Another friend of mine kept peeping into my head all day, just little snippets of her would randomly pop into my head. We haven’t talked on the phone in a couple years and I haven’t seen her since high school. She called me tonight and asked when we were going to come visit her in Portland. Sparkles!! I have another friend who was moved to tears over something I had written. Blessings and sparkles abound.
Sometimes we shine and we let those sparkles through because one human being cannot contain so much sparkliness without it seeping through the cracks in our armor. Sometimes we shine because others encourage it. But sometimes we shine because we have finally had the courage to have a hard conversation with someone, or we come to understand that it’s okay, even necessary to push a little when someone is holding back our sparkles. Sometimes we shine because we step around someone who is eclipsing us. It takes practice, it takes realizing that you don’t have to have anyone’s permission to shine, but your own.
Although for me, the past week hasn’t truly been great by definition, there have been so many blessings and sparkly moments, I’ve allowed myself to shine by recognizing those blessings however large or small. A great and sparkly week has risen from the ashes of mundanity (it’s a word, I just created it), like a Phoenix.
My dear friend in Portland described her efforts toward embracing the silver in her hair. I shared with her my experience with the same. I was not in the right place emotionally to do that just yet. Instead of locks and locks of silver, pewter (and maybe a streak or two of purple!) I gained 20 pounds before I realized I need to wait and try again after I have some more practice shining. My friend, a redhead by nature, choice and attitude (by the way, that’s a compliment!) is interworking the varying colors of her hair into a shining conglomeration of tresses. Her colorist told her it reminded her of an illustration she had seen once of a Phoenix. My friend is shining, like a Phoenix. Perfect.
One day last week I stopped at Starbucks for coffee on my way in to work. Two cars in the drive through line caught my eye. The first, two cars ahead of me, a gorgeous new Range Rover, the second, directly in front of me, a considerably older car with an inoperable driver's side window. The driver had to open her door to place her order. I contemplated the diversity of the vehicles and I busied myself reading the myriad of bumper stickers on the back of her car.
She had one of my favorites, “Coexist”, which used to adorn my own bumper until a very angry guy honked at me and flipped me off over it. I decided that I would just practice coexistence on a more private level. I continued to read and get a feel for who she was, what her life experiences were and my eyes fell to the most expressive. One I felt in the moment I could relate to, “Losing Faith In Humanity One Person At A Time”
This one made me feel sad and yet strangely connected to her at the same time. I felt bad for the things she must have experienced to post that point of view on her car. Connected to her because I feel the same way much of the time.
In an effort to combat this, I periodically treat the person behind me in the drive through to their morning brew. I do this for no reason other than to remind folks that just a small kindness, randomly planted fosters more kindness. As I sat there thinking about her bumper sticker, I found myself wishing that I was in the car in front of her, knowing what I knew about her from reading her car. She needed a kindness.
We edged nearer the window and the beautiful Range Rover drove away, the woman ahead of me opened her door to pay and I heard, “The lady ahead of you got you this morning.” and handed her the coffee without accepting her payment. My heart soared! I said a little thank you to whomever might be listening. I collected my coffee (I know what you're wondering, did I pay it forward? My Starbucks app was low on funds, so I did on my next visit) and continued my drive to work.
On my way, I found myself wishing that the woman in the Range Rover could know what her kindness might have meant to that lady. I vowed if I saw her at the next light, I'd try to tell her. She wasn't there. As I neared work, I spotted her pulling into the parking lot where I work. I had two thoughts, “Oh! I can tell her!” and, “Oh! I can compliment her on her car!” (I'm sorry, I LOVE cars… seriously, just look at it…)
I caught up with her and we walked into the office together, it turns out she is a lady I work with. I was grateful for the opportunity to share with her how her act of kindness blessed more than one recipient that morning. As it turned out, she had seen the woman before and knew what stickers she had on her car. What a perfect opportunity to pay it forward to someone who truly needed a glimmer of hope that humanity deserves faith. She reminded me that there are always going to be negative people, but the positive always wins out in the end. It was just the reminder I needed and I am thankful for that.
“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”