Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Rant #1,986

I feel a Diana tangent coming on. Prepare yourself. 

Every day that I live, it becomes increasingly clear that I do not understand the people around me. I meet you, I talk with you, I read your reactions and after some interaction I begin to get the sense that I know you- but the truth is, I do not really know or understand you any better than you know and understand me. Despite the shallow connections that we make (maybe we like the same books, or movies, or music. Maybe we agree on religion or politics or the best way to raise children. Maybe we connect or maybe we don't) at the end of the day I really don't know what you're capable of. And you have no idea how I feel about myself. 

We have opposing preferences- we communicate them differently, we value different things, we make different decisions based on those values, we learn differently, we relate differently, we have different brain chemistry, different perspectives. And to top if off we were raised by different people in a unique situation and environment that influences everything we do. The truth is, half the time I don't understand myself so how foolish is it to assume I have the capacity to truly understand anyone else? Judge anyone else?

As a mother surrounded by a hundred other mothers- all with strong opinions on how to be "the best" mother- As a woman surrounded by a million other women- all with strong opinions on how to be "the best" woman- Just check out Pinterest- I have come to realize the futility of comparison. What seems obvious and simple to you, may seem overwhelmingly complicated, and a little unnecessary to me. What energizes and makes me happy, may seem dull and meaningless to you. When you hold me to your standard, I come up short. When I hold myself to your standard, I come up short. But the standard is false- there is no universal standard for raising children. There is no universal standard for being a good woman or a good person, apart from the agreed upon "Golden Rule" that very few people actually follow. Because no one likes to be judged, yet we judge each other constantly (sometimes subconsciously). And nobody likes to be misunderstood, and yet how often do we make a real effort to see things from another person's perspective? I assume that I know you- you assume you understand me. So I judge that you're selfish and crazy for doing this. You judge that I'm lazy and misguided for doing that. But honestly, I don't know the pain you feel or how hard you try to prove your self-worth every day. And you don't understand where I'm coming from or where I'm attempting to go. Its easy to throw around labels like Douche-Bag (my personal fave), Selfish, Crazy, Lazy, Misguided, Liberal, Conservative, Bigot, Close-Minded, Shallow, Socialist, Loser, Religious Fanatic, Hypocrite, Hater. Its easy because we think we know. We actually consider that after living our lives in Converse All-Stars, we completely understand the person in high-heels. We actually think living life in one pair of well-worn shoes qualifies us to judge, justifies our pettiness, and validates the false standard we take for granted is universal.

I believe in God. And not just any God. The Christian God. The Mormon idea of The Christian God. And with that belief comes an entire religion-full of standards: I don't smoke, I don't drink alcohol or tea or coffee, I didn't have sex before marriage, I donate 10% of my income to the church, I value motherhood over a career, I attend church every Sunday and serve in time-consuming callings without compensation. I avoid R-rated entertainment, I believe gender and family roles are eternal and essential to our progression and happiness. And I believe one of God's greatest and most unselfish gifts to humanity is free-will, our ability to choose for ourselves how we will live and what we will become.  

Obviously, the standard I hold myself to is going to influence the choices I make which undoubtedly differ from the choices of someone who believes differently. Does that make me a close-minded religious fanatic who hates smokers, alcoholics, feminists, atheists, and gay people? No. Pardon me, but Hell no. Do my beliefs or standards  make me even the slightest bit better than an agnostic whose choices are also based on his own beliefs? Of course not. The only real difference between us is that if I get drunk at a party I have the unsavory consequence of knowing that I am a hypocrite, while my drunk agnostic friend is simply enjoying himself.

And how can we compare personalities? According the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator, I am an INTJ. Which, in short, means I require more time, structure and personal space than most others to function properly. I tend to make non-emotional, outside-the-box decisions based on intuition. I'm not particularly spontaneous. I'm not great at focusing on the mundane details that life often requires such as making appointments, renewing subscriptions, or maintaining the car. Sometimes I forget about the details entirely because they're just not that important to me. I've never been interested in pleasing the masses or living up to any one's expectations besides my own. There are very few women INTJs and of those women very few decide to become mothers. As a result of being different, I feel I am constantly having to defend myself against an accepted standard that I certainly didn't vote for.

The spelling-tests and sandwich-making and nose-wiping of motherhood drains me. I vow never to become a member of the PTA, HOA, or any other A for that matter (Associations in my opinion, are not good). I couldn't care less if my children receive their High-Flying Hawk or Perfect Attendance Awards (shocking, I know). I don't mollycoddle my girls when they get hurt, I don't attempt to shelter them from the natural trials of life, and I expect them to be respectful, kind, thoughtful, and honest even when no one is watching. I don't lie to them about the Easter Bunny or fairies or leprechauns (I'm SUCH a jerk!), but I read imaginative books with them, write morbid/ funny stories for them, and give them sweet birthday parties. I encourage my daughters to think for themselves and to solve their own problems. I give them responsibilities and the security of routine and family traditions. They know what to expect from me- I'm always up for deep conversation about random, abstract topics. And even though I expect a lot from them, I hope I never leave them in doubt of my love and respect for them as individuals.

How can I compare myself to someone with a different personality-type and life experience? Its like comparing a guitar and a piano. Its a matter of preference isn't it? I do my best to provide my children with what I think they will need most to become functioning, independent, creative, confident, happy adults. I know I don't meet the accepted standard of "the best" mother. And I care about that less than the feminine standard indicates I should. I accept that I'm not a perfect mother. I'm not a perfect woman or person either. My weaknesses haunt me every waking hour and when I dream at night. I expend all my energy trying to live up to my own high standards. Maybe we all do. But with our energy spent on measuring up to our own standard the last thing we need is the added pressure of measuring up to someone else's. 

I don't expect everyone to believe what I believe. I don't expect everyone to value what I value. I don't expect everyone to understand the way I function, think, feel or parent. I don't expect everyone to appreciate what I've been through or the choices I've made or why I continue to make them. It isn't necessary to understand someone to have respect for them. Humble acknowledgment that we aren't really going to understand anyone until we've walked a mile in their shoes and spent a lifetime in their head and heart may be the first step towards real progression. Ending with the final step, "But I love you anyway."

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

January = Nerd

So I know most people feel about January the way I feel about watching football. I don't know what's going on. And its not from lack of exposure- I've asked questions. I know. Its just that I don't ca-aaa-re. It takes forever to watch and is usually  disappointing. OK this is a bad analogy but I think you get where I'm going. Most people are less than enthusiastic about January just as I am less than enthusiastic about never mind. Especially here in SLC where January means ten-degree weather and inversion so thick you can't see the gigantic mountains. January means paying off the credit card and no more Christmas splurging and trying to get to the gym and organize your house and your life and reading really depressing books because happy books make you even more depressed than depressing books. Oh and everyone EVERYONE is deathly ill. But you know, I was trying to be optimistic this January. I honestly didn't mind a break from all the holiday bustle. Bustle? That's right- bustle. And I didn't mind an excuse to hibernate inside my house reading Catcher in the Rye, drinking hot chocolate, and organizing the crap out of my medicine cabinet. For a week. And then I became as annoyed with January as everyone else. Through with the bitter cold. Through with my family being sick the entire month. Through with January being all up in my business. I'm like, come on January back up. Not cool.

Its just been a really awkward month. Due to all the illness and changes that come with a new year I haven't quite gotten back into a routine. And I think the lack of fresh air and sunlight and overexposure to Pinterest is making me twitchy and irritable. And you know what happens when I get twitchy and irritable- I blog about it. And I develop adult ADHD. I woke up this morning with all kinds of intentions to finish the laundry and clean downstairs but got distracted and ended up making blueberry muffins and going to the library with my daughter. Which, granted was a better use of my time, but even afterwards when she was watching her quiet-time movie the laundry didn't even occur to me. I started a book, got distracted ten minutes in and ended up on Goodreads. What? No fooling I still haven't done the laundry. I did not intend to blog today, yet here we are. January is literally making me crazy. Like a crazy lady who spontaneously makes blueberry muffins instead of fulfilling her cleaning responsibilities. I guess things could be a lot weirder. On the bright side, its a bit past midnight which makes this the final day of this awkward month. So, just another three months of cold and colorless SLC winter and we'll be right as rain...


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Checklist for the End of the World.

Its been a busy year. Too busy. Like, there-are-so-many-things-vying-for-my-attention-I-can't-focus-on-one-long-enough-to-blog-about-it busy. I intend to cut back. But the truth is, whenever I find myself with a quiet moment alone I panic- "How long will this moment last?" "What shall I do with this moment?" until said moment is wasted in indecision and I end up huddled in the corner of my closet checking facebook on my phone, which is the last way I would choose to spend my time. Just as eating stale gummy bears from my pantry isn't the way I'd choose to spend my daily caloric intake, but as there is nothing more delicious in the house, I settle.

Its no body's fault but my own, really. In trying to be a productive, responsible, creative, hygienic person, I have inadvertently created a mental list of expectations I can never meet. For some reason I think I should be able to go to the gym, write a book, raise a family, teach piano, maintain a clean and awesomely decorated house and shower no problem. I know women who make this look like cake. Red-velvet cake in an alternate reality where I'm a friggin' super hero and not an anxiety-ridden mother of three high-maintenance children who refuse to dress themselves in weather-appropriate clothing, eat most foods, or sleep. Because realistically I can either raise a family and shower OR go to the gym and teach piano without showering while one of my children throws a ginormous tantrum because I insisted she wear socks to school.

And then there's the economy, and family members who can't stop making self-destructive decisions, and the upcoming zombie apocalypse to prepare for, and Christmas.

Sorry, I had to go eat stale gummy bears in my closet by the light of my phone, discovering more ways I am inadequate via Pinterest. Let's bring it down a notch: I have a good life. I married my best friend, we have three beautiful and healthy children, and a sweet little house with a yard. And if the world ends Friday it wont matter that I never ran a marathon or finished a book. It wont matter that my house wasn't perfectly clean or that my kids had some bizarre sock-prejudices.

And when the sun rises Saturday morning and life goes on, I hope I can remember that I'm meeting my real goal every day I get out of bed and serve my family, every day I make someone else feel loved. Maybe if I stopped trying so hard to be perfect I could actually enjoy being good. Instead of settling for facebook and stale gummy bears, maybe I should settle for quiet moments alone and just let myself be happy.

Its either that or 5-hour energy drinks. Your pick.