Romancing the Introvert

There’s always two types of people in the world. Those who like lima beans and those who do not. Those who drink loose leaf tea and those who drink bag tea. And then of course, introverts and extroverts. Never the twain shall meet, and yet always cursed to follow hopelessly in love (like those anti and pro lima bean lovers).

I was chatting with a friend just yesterday about the difficulties in wooing the extrovert and the introvert. With the extrovert the challenge seems to be that an extrovert is often nice to everybody and it’s impossible to tell if they’re flirting, because they may just always be flirting.

My friend asked me how I, as a consummate introvert, showed my own romantic interest in anyone. How might one expect to find out that an introvert was interested in a romantic relationship, was the question.

My flippant response is, “you don’t”, but this is a blog and not a punchline, so we’ll strive for something a little more in depth than that.

There’s an old favorite movie of mine, Romancing the Stone about a romance writer who goes to Columbia to find a mysterious treasure to exchange in ransom for her sister’s life (I’m going somewhere with this, hang on). Along the way she meets up with an opportunistic fortune hunter who says he’s helping her, but are his intentions good? His motives pure? The title comes from this conflict: is he romancing the stone right out from under her.

This is basically how you romance an introvert, from what I can tell. Introverts have deep focused interests — like our romance writer and the buried treasure. They’re usually perceptive, and always fascinating people. If you can find out what fascinates them, and genuinely share in it, I think you’ll find any introvert a willing recipient of your attentions.

Introverts like to be heard. It sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But for the most part introverts are people with worthwhile things to say, they just don’t think anyone’s really listening. If you listen, that goes the distance.

What’s doubly intriguing is that once you start learning about what an introvert is intrigued by, you’ll get sucked right into it with them. Much like our fortune hunter and his romance writer (oops, spoiler alert!).

For an example: half a dozen years ago a friend of mine introduced me to a foreign film that was so exceptional that I half fell in love with him right then, as the credits rolled. Shared mutual interests create much of the connection for the more introspective of us.

I can’t tell you how an introvert shows their interest in return, however because in this respect I’m fairly certain nothing I have ever done is what should be done to encourage romantic pursuit.

But, hey, I can tell you fellow introverts what doesn’t work, in my experience. Definitely probably avoid making fun of them. If you ignore them, I guarantee they will not notice your affection. Teasing sounds like a good idea, but it usually works itself into sarcasm. Probably avoid this. And whatever you do, don’t stalk them on social media. I can’t explain why, but literally no one will find this romantic. Crazy.

Best of luck to all the introverts and extroverts out there looking for love, or romance, or a relationship with someone intriguing and amazing.

 

How to Grow Your Own Mold

I don’t believe in writing a lot of “how to” blogs, but I do believe in sharing my wisdom and experience. And if you want to know how to grow your own mold it’s very simple, be single and buy food at the grocery store.

That’s it. Well, and wait. It doesn’t take long, just a couple days of “no one can eat that much pesto in five days!” and “I thought I’d eat more salad than that.” And “it’s impossible. Cheese IS mold.”

I can’t understand how people keep full refrigerators. How is anything safe to eat?? I keep a couple staples in my fridge, and even those I need to make sure I consume regularly, almost daily. Including tortillas (which dry out) and cheese (which is highly resistant to a second growth of itself in a different form). I eat a lot of quesadillas is what I’m saying.

I keep throwing out condiments too. And I’ve yet to have a loaf of a bread that didn’t wind up in my freezer to stave off any mold. And this from someone who eats at least once slice of toast per day. And it has to be toast, because something has to thaw out the bread!

Tonight I realized I had seven eggs about to go bad. So I boiled them. All well and good, but a boiled egg goes bad too! (Not to mention you get tired of them eventually) so I made egg salad. You know the google estimated lifespan of egg salad? 3-5 days. Which means I’m eating egg salad every day if I want to make good on my investment at the grocery store of all the additional ingredients I bought to make one recipe so my eggs didn’t go bad.

Eating when you’re single is a fine balancing act between “I really love home cooking” and “this isn’t worth it just for me”, and “I thought I loved this until I ate it every day for a week” and “cheese and crackers is a meal, right?”

My biggest weakness, however, is the friend who says, “I’m bringing pizza” or “let’s go for dinner after work”. Because the truth is, it’s hard to say no to anyone because “I need to eat some leftovers.” And it’s hard to defend to someone else that you’re rejecting them for day or week old anything. “I’m sorry, I can’t. I have ham that’s going to go bad so I need to go home and eat a sandwich. You can have one!”

On my birthday I had a salad because it was going to go bad the next day. This is the kind of sad world single people live in.

To remedy this abysmal condition we singles suffer with, a friend of mine suggested that we combine forces once a week and share a meal. My instant selfish response was, “yay, someone making food for me!” closely followed by “I have no idea how to make something that someone else WANTS to eat”. I mean, I make food I HAVE to eat, but it’s because I made it. I’m under no illusions here.

The trouble is that there are serving sizes for single people out there. Don’t Hot Pockets come one serving to a pocket? And yet, buying one of anything is somehow depressing and isolating. Not to mention wasteful. Have you seen the packaging for a solo product? I might as well start my own lonely landfill.

So I buy things the way husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, dutiful children, and grandparents buy things. I buy them from the grocery store as they are normally packaged. And then I plan my week around the things I bought. I plan my days around the meals I need to prepare and where I need to be to prepare them adequately. Can I take it with me in my lunch? Do I need to have it for dinner? How many dinners is it good for?

It’s an exhausting new neurosis I didn’t know I could have. And it’s MATH related. All those story problems from algebra might be handy after all.

And then of course, there are the days when you buy a Marie Callender casserole of scalloped potatoes and ham, throw in a bag of steamed broccoli and call it nutrition, because math is just too hard on a Wednesday.

The Petty Way of Life

Today I opened a new pack of gum and tried to pluck out a piece, but was rewarded only with the paper tearing. I tried this three or four times until I had a small pile of gum wrapper confetti on my desk, and still no gum. In my head I angrily composed a letter to the gum company about how hard is it to supply consumers with gum they can access and chew on? Would it kill them to make chewing gum the ONE SPOT IN MY DAY THAT WASN’T AWFUL?

Obviously I realized I was on a real tear (pun!) and was being overly dramatic and ragey before I got around to looking up a complaints hotline. In my head I simply added the hashtag #firstworldproblems to my rant and moved on.

But I’ve been thinking about all the little things in the day that can truly ruin what’s going on in life. How absolutely absurd that is, but almost unavoidable. Mostly it happens when I’m conditioned to enjoy myself.

I was staying at a hotel the other week when a series of small annoyances happened. Let me list them as these slights are too fresh to be forgotten:

  • I found a large ant crawling across the carpeting and had to kill it.
  • The lamp next to the couch was out.
  • One of the lamps in the vanity over the sink was out.
  • Housekeeping was bothering me at NINE AM (ON A SATURDAY)
  • The WiFi cut in and out and I couldn’t finish my Bollywood movie (Diwali) and had to watch the REAL TV. (It honestly took me about ten years to figure out where the mute button was on the remote too. I kinda forgot how those things work.)

In the end, when I checked out of the hotel I didn’t mention any of these problems at reception. One, they didn’t ask. And two, I’m petty, but I’m not so petty that I want other people to actually know I’m petty.

But in the moment, on Saturday night, let me tell you something. I was almost incensed. I was so upset that I couldn’t even go to a damn hotel and have a nice time. What? Is it so much to expect my hotel to be insect free?? To have all light bulbs functioning?? To have actual working WIFI???

I don’t have to go to a hotel to be angry about small things though. I can’t be the only one who stacks things on a shelf or on a table and expects them to stay in that exact pose no matter how precarious. I can’t be the only one aggressively bending book spines because the pages turn each time I get up to get myself a snack and I can’t be bothered with a bookmark. Am I the only one, perhaps, who gets pissed when a car going the speed limit keeps me from getting to the light right as it goes yellow and they COAST through while I sit there fuming?

And the longer the day goes on and the more the small problems of the world add up the angrier I get. At almost literally everything.

But if you want to know the truth, having arthritis is a lot like living with a bombardment of petty problems.*  Let me show you what a real average day is like for me (and please, auto-immune conditions are varied enough that you shouldn’t use me as a template for any of your auto-immuney friends).

  • Wake up achey because I turned over weird and now my arm aches for about thirty seconds.
  • Consider sleeping in because I’m still tired. Realize this is exactly how I felt yesterday and we made it through that day so what makes today special.
  • Take out my mouth guard and realize my jaw hurts when I open and close my mouth for about five minutes.
  • Get out of bed and have trouble walking for about three steps, maybe because I just woke up, but also maybe because the bones in my feet can’t remember what it feels like to have my weight on them.
  • Walk into the bathroom, hate my hair because I slept on it weird (this is not arthritis, but I mean, come on, it’s pretty damn irritating)
  • Walk up the stairs to my office, feel a twinge in my foot and panic that I’m going to be limping all day and everyone will ask what’s wrong and I’ll have to say “you know, life.”
  • Sit at my desk and rotate my shoulders, hear them pop, continue working.
  • Feel my wrists ache, consider putting braces on, decide it’s too much work.
  • Open those lever handles on the doors between the hallways, get mildly angry each time because my wrist doesn’t bend like that, but what are you going to do? Stop going through doors?
  • Carry a full water glass and tea mug back to my desk, get stopped halfway and stand there trying to converse and simultaneously wonder how long I can hold these items before I drop them both.
  • Rotate shoulders again, stretch, feel a weird pain come down my arm, decide it’s nothing.
  • Discover my thumb is having a bad day. Try to coddle it without appearing to.
  • It’s 2:30. Tired has crept back up, but it creeps up on everyone so there’s no reason to mention it. Get tea.
  • It’s now 4. I’m acutely aware of my wrists, but I’ve only got an hour left. This is fine.
  • Try to plan a mental meal, realize I don’t care what I’m eating tonight because I’m actually exhausted. Remember I still have errands to run.
  • Drive home? Road rage.

For the record, this is a cliffs notes list. I gave you the moments in an average day that I recall. But right now, because I’m deliberately thinking about this, I’m aware that my elbows ache, have been for awhile now, I think. I’m aware my one shoulder which is NEVER happy is currently unhappy, and that my thumb wants to act up even though we’ve talked about this and we had a deal. I’m thinking about my feet in an uncomfortable/but more comfortable than anything else position, and I’m wondering about the damage I’m furthering in my wrists because I’m not wearing my braces. I’m also wondering about that whole exercise thing. Because body and I agreed we were going to do that, and now body’s like “oh I’m tired” which is true EVERY day, but who’s being a baby now?

It’s all minor, it’s all petty. And most of the time, I don’t even realize I’m in a bad mood because my body hurts until I’ve been harsh to half a dozen people.

On top of all that, I still have energy to get mad at gum wrappers and traffic incidences, people who lack my verbal precision (because I am 100% the best communicator…), and general workplace grievances too stupid to mention.

Everyone’s got their own set of personal petty that keeps coming up, that takes energy to address that isn’t acknowledged verbally or publicly. Maybe it’s even something they think shouldn’t matter to them, shouldn’t affect them. And yet it’s always there, always ready to preemptively ruin a day that you were going to be SO GOOD at. And of course, that adds to the frustration that you’re not handling life well at all, and shouldn’t you be? After all, you’re __ years old, you should know how to do this by now.

But here you are, having a tantrum because the damn door won’t stay fucking shut and WHO MADE THIS ANYWAY WHY WOULD THEY DO THIS TO ME. That’s it. Fine. I’m burning my apartment down.

Petty problems are simply the result of unmet expectation. I expect my hotel experience to be completely luxurious. And if it’s not? Rage. I expect my day to go by unruffled. And when it’s not? Rage.

When it comes to my health…I may have had arthritis for eighteen years, but I’m chronically surprised that there’s always that smidgen of pain. This isn’t how life is SUPPOSED to be, you know? Everyone else is healthy (I know this isn’t true), everyone else is living a life where they don’t have to think about these things, but I have to?

So if you’re wondering why the rants section of this blog is so large, it’s probably this.

I’m sure there’s a better way to handle this. Zen, or yoga or whatever, but to be honest with you, I can’t bend myself into those poses.

 

…time to write another blog.

 

 

*Literally I just mean this for me. If you’ve got arthritis or something else and you mind that I compared arthritis to petty issues in the day, don’t worry, I just mean my arthritis. I don’t mean yours. I don’t know what yours is like, obviously.

Romance: the Quicksand of Adulthood

“I always thought that quicksand was going to be a much bigger problem than it turned out to be. Because if you watch cartoons, quicksand is like the third biggest thing you have to worry about in adult life…” is part of John Mulaney’s intro in his comedy special New in Town.

For me, romance is what my childhood and adolescence billed as one of the most essential aspects of an adult life. According to all the media I consumed, romance was a crucial, critical, life-changing, recurring phenomenon. Since as a hormonal teen you’re already obsessing about your dating life or non-dating life, the external reinforcement of this fixation doesn’t help.

I voraciously read the entirety of the church’s library, which as any other church-going woman knows, is dedicated to Christian couples finding love. Sure, they find God along the way, but the plot ends with romantic culmination. God’s part of the journey, sure, but romantic fulfillment is the happily ever after God promises, or whatever.

Maybe it would have been different if outside my fictional favorites this concept hadn’t been reinforced by friends and adults throughout these years. It’s a concept we (as a culture) start enforcing at a very young age. Pairing toddlers up as “boyfriend and girlfriend”, teasing girls about cooties, asking pre-teens who their boyfriends or girlfriends are, obsessing over when you’ll get your first kiss, the fear of looking like a loser if you don’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend.

When you’re a teenager questions about your love life are as ubiquitous as questions about the weather, and almost as interchangeable in terms of how they affect you: either ruining your day or transforming it miraculously.

I spent hours of my life, in class, creating wedding dresses with my immature artistic talent. Hours planning weddings with doves flying and the appropriate number of bridesmaids. I spent probably decades of life doodling new signatures with different boys’ last names. I wrote notes to friends, we made hasty stupid calls to boys we liked, and came up with every excuse under the sun to get cute boys to talk to us. My friends even organized dances in our small Dutch town (gasp!) to get some decent flirting opportunities in.

It’s hard not to be boy crazy when your entire environment supports this perspective. The scholastic calendar year resolves around three things: the Tolo dance in fall, the Junior and Senior Banquet in spring, and then summer vacation where you are free to obsess about how to get boys to notice you next year. Maybe by tanning, or if you’re lucky, growing bigger boobs over those months.

And yet, I find that as an adult, 99% of my life has nothing to do with romance. The 1% that does have something to do with romance is probably dedicated to watching Pride and Prejudice and When Harry Met Sally once every year. I actually spend most of my time trying to be a functioning human being, holding down a paying job, and being a decent friend and family member.

It’s weird to me now that I expected something from life that turned out to be utterly absent from my life. It’s like discovering quicksand probably won’t be a real life concern I have to deal with. It’s almost shocking how much of life I’ve handled and experienced without romantic love to cloud the scenery. It’s remarkable how much life I’ve managed to enjoy without romance guiding the way.

Every so often it dawns on me that I’m short a romantic sub-plot, and it catches me off guard because how can I be missing something that “great”? Where’s the obvious gap in my life where romance is supposed to go? Even in a TV show like ER romance was a prominent subplot. If it’s not inescapable for busy medical professionals, how is it possible I’ve got such a dearth of it?

The way I figure it is like this: I realized at some point that marriage wasn’t a guarantee for me. I don’t know what the odds are on my successful romancing, but since I knew it wasn’t going to be a sure thing I decided pretty early that I was going to put my energy to the things that mattered for me.

Hell, maybe that’s even the arthritis talking. I have a finite amount of energy anyway, I can’t afford to waste any of it on “I hope something magical happens.”

It’s surprising the sides of yourself you can discover when you’re not worried about landing a male lead in your life. Although the female Indiana Jones of archaeology dream has died, I’ve had the chance to supplant others in its place.

The pursuit of marriage isn’t bad, don’t get me wrong. It’s the pursuit of romance I’ve had to wean myself from. You know in the 31 years I’ve been alive, almost all of the people I haven’t been romantically interested in have been the best people I’ve ever met.

Or put another way, I’ve met more great friends than I have romantic futures.

I know a lot of people desire romance, desire a romance that leads to marriage, and I’m not trying to knock romantic literature (that’s for another blog post) or romance movies (again, another post), but I am trying to say that it’s good to every once in awhile remove ourselves from environments that saturate our minds with romantic fantasies.  It’s important to remember that the bulk of your life is lived outside of romance,

Don’t let pining for romance take away the value of the life you’ve got.  Because in this case, romance is like adult quicksand. Don’t get sucked into the void that fiction can promise.

Relating Gone Wrong

Because we live in a media saturated environment where all opinions are weighted equally until popularity makes one opinion greater than the other, one person greater than the other, we live in a time of poor relating.

Critical thinking and holding your tongue have always been hard for humans. Both require genuine effort. But today it seems as if no one is exercising either ability, so why bother trying it out ourselves?

Recently I attempted to help a friend by sharing my experiences and it resulted in a bad conversation for both of us. Fortunately for me it was just a bad conversation, but for her it was an exchange she carried with her to the end of the day and had to overcome by discussing with a more sympathetic partner.

It’s not the first time I’ve messed up my part of a relationship, and it’s most assuredly not going to be the last. But I’d like to share with you my personal list of no-nos when it comes to how we respond to those who are struggling.

  • “I Win” — I’ve talked about this one before, but it’s any person who hears the issues of another person and says “that’s nothing, I…” and proceeds to illustrate that they’re better than you because of what they can handle and because of who they are now as a person. Winning is the one of the worst tendencies of childhood that gets translated to adults. I hear this one particularly when I say the words “I’m tired”. In our busy-ness oriented society “tired” is a key word to start winning the conversation.
  • Full House Syndrome — This is my neat way of saying “wrap up the problem and put a bow on it.” It’s when someone tries to solve your problem in 30 minutes or less. It’s when people moralize your struggle “for the greater good” or tell you to “look on the bright side”. Neither of which are helpful. Though sometimes helpful is watching an actual episode of Full House.
  • Cosmetic Sufferer — We disguise these as “First World Problems”. Or what I like to consider “inconveniences”. These crop up when I’m annoyed, and they build throughout the day. They’re not actual problems, just an excuse to be in a bad mood and complain to someone else for a little bit of unnecessary sympathy.
  • Self-Inflicted — I have a good friend who does insane things like run 100 mile marathons and scream at mountain lions in the wild to make them go away. She’s incredible, really and I’m always awed by her approach to life. I’ve also appreciated that she doesn’t share a walking chronicle of her injuries that result from her constant harrowing activities. If you’re going to put yourself in harm’s way, on purpose, because you want to, and as a result –surprisingly– you got injured, don’t whine about it. If it was your idea to swim jellyfish infested waters naked for four hours, I don’t want to hear about how often you got stung and isn’t that just the worst. It is the worst because you’re an idiot, not because it happened.
  • Any Opportunity — When I was a kid my sister got glasses. I was so jealous. I wanted glasses. Glasses were cool (she’s my older sister, everything she did was cool). So I lied about how I couldn’t see the chalkboard (yeah, I went to school when there were chalkboards). Truly I couldn’t see the chalkboard but it was because Kelly’s head was in the way. And then I proceeded to lie during the eye exam until I felt guilty and started telling the truth and didn’t get glasses until I was in my 20s and at college — not because I read too many books but because I watched movies on my laptop which was placed on my stomach as I lay in bed. Good times.

The prestige of having a problem is intoxicating. You wonder why there are high drama people in the world? Because having a problem gives meaning. It’s why we have hypochondriacs too, it’s validation. It means people have to listen when you talk.

A good way to tell if you’re a suffering opportunist is to ask yourself “did I consider this a personal problem before I heard someone talk about it?” Or did I perk up and think, “if I rationalize this, I’ve experienced the same thing!”

Being left out — even being left out of suffering — increases feelings of isolation, abandonment, uselessness. It’s natural to want to get in on the angst, it’s also bad for you as a person and bad for society.

  • “I Understand” — I’m prone to this one especially. “I hear what you’re saying about getting kicked in the nuts and I totally know what that’s like as a woman because one time I…” If it hasn’t happened, you don’t know. If you didn’t struggle with it, you don’t know. You might have an idea, you might have heard other accounts, but “I understand” quickly takes all the power from the sufferer in terms of owning and experiencing their suffering in their own way. I’ve noticed that “I understand” is more prominent among white people, male people, and American Christians when it comes to a marginalized segment of society voicing frustration, fear, or concern. Let’s be clear on this. You can have all the facts, you can know the full history, and you still won’t have the experiences. You can’t know.

There are plenty of people who have a hard time living in this world because that’s what got handed to them upon their arrival in this world. Others got every benefit known to man and have encountered many challenges as a result of that “privilege” as well. Life affords every human challenges and obstacles. Everyone understands suffering in their own capacity.

So make sure you give people the chance to express it in their own capacity, give people the space to feel their hardships. Suffering is universal and pervasive and the least we can all do is recognize its presence without trying to moralize it or make it all about ourselves.

Attendance Awards

There’s this business saying, or maybe it’s sports, but whatever it is, the gist is “Showing us is half the battle”, or “showing up is 80% of life”.

That’s pretty inspiring, right? I mean, all you need to do is show up. Just be there.

As a kid I routinely got the “award” for spotless attendance. I was always at school, always in class. Never had a sick day. I had an impeccable record. Not much of an award, really. I mean no one WANTED it and it was kind of like getting a medal for existing. Yeah. I made it to school. My mom drove me.

But if we skip ahead to my Senior year of high school, you’ll find I was rarely in Band, infrequently in Spanish, and the Newspaper class let me write from home. I didn’t win any awards that year. I barely made it to my “necessary” classes before the bell rang. I had random absences throughout the year too. I was barely in school at all. In one class I remember my teacher told me “I gave you the grade you would have gotten if you’d been there.”

The phrase “showing up is 80% of life” is inspiring because it means even if you put in the least amount of effort possible something great can still happen. But I still couldn’t manage to show up to school as a teen. Was the least amount of effort too much effort?

It’s ironic, now that I think about it, how much I flippantly regarded those attendance awards. I can’t believe I thought going to school every day was “no big deal”. I’ve had arthritis every day of my life now for eighteen years. Eighteen years, or the age of a high school graduate who could have had perfect attendance for 13 years of standard US education.

13 is also my age when I was diagnosed with arthritis and when my perfection started to plummet. As someone with a high school graduate level of experience with debilitating illness, let me assure you of something: showing up is not easy.

Showing up is the hardest damn thing I have to do in a day. In any day. Showing up to work, showing up for friends, showing up for responsibilities…being anywhere is hard.

Almost everything I know about life is that the cards are stacked against your ability to show up. The weather can affect your ability to show up. Mechanical failures of any kind — from car accidents to power outages to malfunctioning alarms, an event in someone else’s life — a total stranger — can affect your ability to show up. All of those are externals, of course. And then there are the internals: you’re too tired, too stressed, too sick, too….something.

My birthday was yesterday. Now, half of all adults think it’s not worth mentioning. It’s just another day on the calendar, let’s not make a fuss, or they’d even rather everyone just forgot it entirely. The other half want to celebrate in some capacity. Perhaps a dinner out, a cupcake, a present they got for themselves, a card from a loved one, something to recognize the incredible accomplishment of another year on this earth.

A birthday is a milestone, a victory to be acknowledged. Another year of earth attendance.

I may not be able to show up to all the activities in life the way people think I should, but I’m 31 now, and I’m pretty thrilled about that. Just that. I’ve never understood (yet) the compulsion to lie about age. Aging is miraculous to me. There are so many obstacles to getting old.

Shoot, with my diet, miraculous doesn’t even begin to cover it.

If you ask me, showing up is 100% of life.

Left-Handed and Single

Being single in a Christian community is a lot like being left-handed in the world.

Finding another single person in a Christian circle is like encountering a left-hander at a dinner table. Finally, someone you can sit with who you don’t have to worry about encroaching on your elbow room.

Lefties learn at a very young age to keep their elbows to themselves. They spend most of their time trying to take up as little space at a dinner table as possible, because they will hear about it when an elbow gets out of line. Meanwhile, when an elbow comes THEIR way…well what can you expect? It’s a world built for righties.

Sure, sure. Lefties are just like everyone else. Of course they are! They’re not discriminated against. And you’re right, of course they’re not. Lefties, like singles, come from all walks of life, all races, all creeds, all backgrounds. But like single people, we all hear the same things.

  • Oh you’re left-handed, that explains why you’re so clumsy.
  • I thought left-handed people are supposed to be creative?
  • Biblically, lefties are cursed, right?

Single people get their own litany of repetitive comments, and honestly, I think there’s a lingering suspicion that singles are cursed just as much as the south paws — maybe more.

I once worked at an ice cream parlor making swirl cones. It took me hours to learn how to do this job, which is an insanely easy task to learn, because I’m left-handed and my gut impulse was to do it the OPPOSITE of the “right” right way to do it.

I learned how to write differently from my peers, learned to hate spiral notebooks and three-ring binders, learned to use a mouse with my right hand. I learned how to knit “upside down” and I have a fascination with famous left handers (did you know Jimi Hendrix was left handed and played his guitar UPSIDE DOWN??), and am drawn to lefties as well.

Left-handed people are regular people, but there’s a kindred spirit that gets recognized when you hear, “you’re left-handed TOO?” Lefties are excited to meet other lefties, a phenomenon that right-handers can never share, because your similar experiences don’t bind you the same way lefties all bond over the same awkward experiences.

No, being left-handed isn’t a hardship. It’s not a burden to bear. (Though our mortality statistics are terrifying) It’s just how I was made and eventually my Mom stopped trying to put the spoon in my right hand. I like being a lefty, I like being different and special and I like being noteworthy (to some degree), but I live in a right-handed world, and I did have to adapt.

I’m a single woman in a Christian world, and I had to adapt. It’s not a hardship. It’s something quite special, giving me a chance to reflect God in a unique and different way, but it is a challenge sometimes because I am the outlier, I am the non-normative. I’m the one who makes an even dinner party, odd (in probably a lot of ways).

We’re all left-handed in a right-handed world, in some way. Each of us has an eclectic that we bring to our environments. And sometimes it’s going to suck to be the weirdo of the group. Some are more sensitive to that “sore thumb” quality, too. It’s no good to stick out when you want to blend in, but there is grace in celebrating these qualities, grace in finding all the unique ways that God made humans — because each of those ways is a reflection of our Good and Creative God.

So go ahead and be different, and thank God for making you so. And go hug a lefty today. Let ’em know you care about them too. Or just give them some elbow room at the table.

Let’s give each other a little space to stand out, in love, in a world not perfectly made for any of us.

Remembering Un-Memories

A couple years ago at a dinner party one of the guests told a story about an absurd exchange his wife had at the hospital. Seems as she was being wheeled in for surgery someone else was being wheeled out, someone she knew, and as the two gurneys passed each other the prone patients high-fived. Not in a coordinated maneuver, or a planned exchange. No words needed to go with it, they just gave each other a pre/post-surgical high five and were wheeled past, leaving a stunned husband in the wake.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover at the dinner party that I was the other patient. I can’t remember what surgery this was, or if I got the roles reversed and she was going in as I was going out, and I don’t remember high-fiving anyone at all, anesthesia is a hell of a drug, but this is one of my favorite anecdotal stories about myself.

Out there in the world people have memories of you that you don’t have. People know things about your sleeping habits you could never know. And you’ve made impressions that have long outlasted your intentions or thoughts in the moment.

What the missing high five tells me is that I’m coordinated when I’m under heavy medication and not overthinking things. A lot of over-thinkers are like this. I’ve got a family member with incredible reflexes — as long as he’s had a couple beers.

But the more important revelation is that even the things I’ve forgotten, or the things I’ve been too drugged to remember, are indications that I’m me all the time. What I mean by that is when you spend so much of your time overthinking your conversation and actions, wondering what people will think, those conversations you can’t remember, or when you act on impulse and instinct without analyzing it, it’s nice to know that if I let myself off the leash I’ll do something in character.

We do more stuff unconsciously than I think we realize, too. We can’t account for every moment in the day, and those blank moments can haunt us. What are the stories people tell when I’m not around? Are the lingering impressions of me embarrassing? Horrifying? Wildly inaccurate? Do people replay the same stories to their friends that my devilish imagination plays for me on repeat as I cringe?

Un-memories are telling. They tell the story of the person you are, not the one you wish to be. Of the interpretation of your actions — for good or bad. They don’t have the context of “I was sick that day” or “I’d just gotten great news”, they’re just actions with limited context, and for that reason alone they tell a much bigger story. Because people put you into THEIR context. Their experience with you prior to this frames it. So when you hear one little story, what you’re hearing is the tip of a similar iceberg. These memories explain you to you.

It’s terrifying, isn’t it? The stories people have that you don’t know about could be absolutely horrible, couldn’t they? Or embarrassing maybe? Or what if they’re great? Maybe they’re those moments when you were generous and thoughtful even when you thought no one was looking. Trick is, to get one of those special un-memories you have to put in a lot of work, because a lot of what we do does go unseen.

To be the person you want others to think you are you have to be that person all the time. It’s the un-memories that tell others and eventually us that people know the difference between who we really are and who we’d rather be.

Now’s a good time to start being the you that you actually want to be.

 

Frat Bro on My Shoulder

When it comes to ethical and moral decisions we often refer to the internal conundrum as a debate between the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other. One voice in our head is urging us to moral goodness and the other to selfish, sinful ends.

I’ve thought about this trope a lot lately and I’m beginning to wonder if instead of a devil on one shoulder I’ve got a frat dude, and in place of the angel an 80 year old curmudgeon.Or vis versa. Neither is a paragon of virtue, both have an aversion to morality unless it comes under their favorite philosophy.

For the dude it’s all about doing something. Anything. He doesn’t concern himself with whether an action is good or bad, but whether it’s something we can do right now. He’s all about living in the moment and experiencing the now. He’s also a fan of saying whatever comes to mind and gets a real kick out of seeing other peoples reactions. It’s his voice I hear when I impulse shop or come up with a witty rejoiner. He’s the one who’s up for karaoke and singing Free Bird. He thinks he’s fun, but he can get us in to lots of trouble.

My cranky, tired, fed-up granny, on the other hand, is interested in being left alone. She’s not particularly moral either, she just wants to put her head down, do what she came here to do and not be bothered nor bother anyone. She’s the cynical voice in my head when I look in the mirror and don’t like what I see, and the one who thinks drama is better left for TV and out of personal relationships. She thinks she’s reasonable, but she’s also pretty cynical.

I’m in a constant state waffling between “hold my beer” and “that beer has how many calories and costs money? What are you DOING?” I think most of us wage these kind of practical wars on a daily  basis and have to come to terms with a constant tug of war between conflicting sides of our personalities. And it’s good, that conflict. Because neither side is always right.

Sometimes my world weary grandma is a big snob who thinks other people do church “wrong” and my frat dude is just totally happy that people enjoy going to worship at all.

On the other hand, sometimes frat bro thinks moral relativism is fine while my internal, precise curmudgeon screams how he’s SUCH an idiot.

Maybe you wrestle with your internal conflicting personalities as well. Maybe you’re annoyed like I am that I don’t just have an internal always reasonable voice, how is it possible both sides are equally compelling and illogical? But those internal voices are mine after all, and it turns out I’m as rational and illogical as they are.

Perhaps just as illogical and rational as you are too.

Tall Girl in the Photo

I come from a tall line of tallish women. One of the most common refrains I remember from my 5’9” grandmother was on the subject of height. She’d refer to a pair of short male twins in her small school in rural Colorado and how they could never see over the crowd. I can’t imagine there were many crowds to be found in rural Colorado , but she’d actually go so far as to pantomime being short and having to look through people and not over them. Nevertheless, her story would end with “always be proud of your height”.

My mom and her younger sister are both over six feet tall and my sister and I both come in at the reasonably tallish height of 5’9”. My mom never made a fuss about physical appearance at all.  When it came to her daughters, the only thing she ever tried to cure me of was slouching. You stand tall, you put your shoulders back, and you be proud of your height.

Not always the easiest advice to follow particularly in the awkward middle school years in which you ARE a head taller than most of the girls and all the guys. That’s the last place you want to be someone who stands out, and yet there you are, trying to be proud of your height as you display your latest bad haircut, unkempt eyebrows and newly discovered acne patches. Also, show me a middle school girl who doesn’t feel that “shoulders back” is synonymous with “breasts thrust forward” and is therefore completely mortified by any such show of confidence like proper posture.

But my mom was always a giant who didn’t mind being a giant (as a teen she wasn’t excited about her height, but she only went so far as fudging the math. For years she’d claim to be 5’12” just to seem not so giant), and so I got over being a lesser giant fairly quick. I also had a “short dad” (5’10”) who was never phased or censorious of the tall women in his life. Despite wearing alarming platform shoes to his wedding, I’ve never seen him embarrassed of his size in relation to my mother. It simply wasn’t an issue.

The only times I’m ever embarrassed of, or note my height as an inconvenience in any way, are when I’m in a group photo with only women, and when I hear any man say “I’d never date a girl taller than me”.

The group photo phenomenon shouldn’t exist which is why it’s so maddening. You’ll know what I mean after I describe it, and if you’re tall, you already know exactly to what I’m referring. In girl group photos you have several critical factors at play. 1) no girl wants to be in the front. 2) we somehow think it’s bad etiquette to reference if someone is actually shorter or taller than us. Rearranging is a minefield of polite innuendo. Inevitably what results is a front row of shorter women squatting so that the women in the back are still visible.

Of course, they shrink down so much that the row behind them is also forced to squat so as not to stick up and out of the photo, ruining it for everyone. What results is row upon row of squatting women who now look like some kind of overdressed cheer squad doing a routine in their spare time. Or as if the gravitational pull of that square of pavement is stronger and they’re helpless to resist. We’re in an age of selfies AND group crouch which is like being in an age of Ugg boots and short skirts.

The secondary phenomenon of “I’ll never date a woman taller than me” is only maddening because tall girls have a firm paranoid, and not entirely wrong belief that short women are a hotter commodity than tall women. We could go into a million reasons why this a belief, why it’s true, why it’s paranoid, but it’s long standing enough that I don’t need to defend the belief, you just need to know it exists.

It’s hard for many women to be proud of their height when it’s an actual impediment to their social life. When height is literally the main reason someone crosses you off as a romantic prospect, it’s difficult not to associate your tall stature with a lack of femininity and desirability. What you end up hearing is, “she’s great friend material because there’s no sexual tension with a tree.”

I’m positive this is an unfair synopsis, but it’s what results when people put ultimatums on their dating partners. I’m sure it’s equally emasculating for men to hear from women, “I’d only date a guy who was taller than me.”

Sure, there are legitimate reasons to use this criteria when considering a romantic partner, but at the end of the day, I can’t help but wonder how much of it is conditioned by our own insecurities about what height represents.

So please, take my mother and grandmother’s advice. Be proud of your height (whatever your height) and put your shoulders back and stand up straight. A little bit of confidence does a great deal more for your insecurities than any tape measure. (It also does a lot better in photos than a crouch)