Tag Archives: relationships

Have a Seat at My Table

First a little background information: I used to work in childcare. Specifically, I was the lead teacher in an after-school classroom; my kids ranged from kindergarten to 12 years old, so while they were generally past the “how to function at a survival level” stage (how to eat, use the restroom etc), they were firmly in the middle of the “how to be human” stage. You remember what elementary school was like: half dumping in facts and data, the other half figuring out how to interact without too much bloodshed.

As a result, most of the disciplinary incidents could be resolved with a brief rules reminder or a bit of clarification–“walking feet, please”, or “we keep the cars on the carpet so people walking past don’t trip. Please take that one back onto the rug”. But every once in a while someone would have a super-rough day and need a break; you could call it “time out” if you want, but really the goal was something less punitive and more just removing the kiddo from the situation until they could cool off. The table nearest my supplies cupboard worked best for that–it was farthest from everything else in the room–so when someone was Hulking out, they were instructed to go “have a seat at my table” until I could clean up the calamity, stop any bleeding, console anyone left weeping, and come see what had set off the shenanigans.

Now here’s why I told you all that: yesterday some truly awful things happened in Paris. You’ve probably heard about them, and folks around the world are responding admirably and beautifully. But as with any truly awful thing, there are also some staggeringly insensitive responses coming from people who should absolutely know better (can you pick your own words to form a sentence? Then you can pick better ones and make better sentences. Try again, jerkfaces).

And initially, this post was going to be a full Buffalo Tantrum about that. I was going to scream and holler about people making racist statements, refusing to fact-check, lumping together groups of people who are literally on exact opposite sides of the problem, and so forth; and my rallying cry was going to be “All of you may have a seat at my table”.

But then I stopped and listened to those words: all of you may have a seat at my table.

And it occurred to me that I was about >this< close to committing the same sins I was railing against–lumping people together, refusing to hear where other people were coming from, declaring that any viewpoint other than my own was automatically wrong–when the truth of the matter is that I actually don’t understand what’s causing folks to say some of these things. At a guess there’s no small amount of fear at the bottom of it; but I don’t know backstories, don’t know histories, don’t know whether they (for example) lost someone on 9/11 and are now deeply scarred and reactionary about these sorts of things.

But perhaps if we have a seat at my table and talk about it, we can sort some of it out. We can brainstorm different solutions. We can look for similarities among the differences. We can pass the cookies and juice, and figure out why we’re using such angry words and whether there’s a better way to express the things we truly need.

Look, I’m not saying all responses are appropriate to share right out there in front of god and everybody. I’m not saying there aren’t people floating around who are just plain racist, just plain hateful, just plain malicious, just plain trolls. But I am saying it’s unfair of me to assume that everyone who has expressed an opinion that made me grate my teeth is automatically a bad person.

So maybe I should invite them to have a seat at my table. Maybe I should be willing to dialogue with people instead of dismissing them out-of-hand because of something they said during a frightened moment. Maybe I can insist on a model where my table is for cooling off and talking, not for sending people to sit in time-out until I’m tired of being mad at them.

And for the folks who have a seat at my table, and we talk, and I find out that they’re the sort of vitriolic hate-mongering fear-mongering jerks who will never be part of the solution?

Well, I guess they can go back to playing with the other kids, and I can keep on watching ’em like a hawk and praying that their grownups will come pick them up soon.

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Filed under Don't Make Me Come Down There, General Musings and Meanderings, Play Nicely, Share the Toys

Nothing Much But Love

So there’s this guy I know, and today is his birthday, and it occurs to me that something should be said about him. But all the things I want to say have already been said; so I apologize in advance if this seems a little copy/paste-y, but y’know, when someone else already found the right words, sometimes it’s best just to shut up and let them steer the ship.

So this guy.

They say that you can tell the quality of a man by the company he keeps, and I reckon that’s true. So what do you say about a guy whose friends include social workers, musicians, poets, playwrights, costumers, service personnel (both active-duty and retired military, police, fire, and EMS), parents (whose children include biological kids, adopted kids, fur kids, step-kids, and kids who aren’t even technically in their lives anymore but they still check in on ’em from time to time), sign language interpreters, doctors, healers, domestic violence survivor advocates, suicide prevention hotline volunteers, and–fer cryin’ out loud–people who foster puppies?

They say a man’s character is revealed by how he treats those less fortunate, or those who have nothing to offer him in return. So what conclusions might you draw about a guy who, with a group of friends, adopts a needy family every year at Christmas and then completely loses his mind and all self-restraint when shopping for their presents? Or who also sponsors a Back-to-School Buddy each year, providing new clothes and shoes and school supplies and so many “fun extras” that it usually takes a half-dozen bags just to bring in all the stuff he tossed in the cart? And who does “just because” food deliveries for a widow a couple towns over, and donation drives for the local pantry, and takes cases of cat food to the local pet shelter, and chips in whenever possible for families who need a little cash boost to get through a tough time? He offered to buy a gal a house, y’all; to be fair, the idea is that it’ll be a duplex and we’ll live in the other half of it, but still. A house.

They say dogs can spot the good people a mile away, so you should trust a dog’s judgement. Behold:

*swoon*

*swoon*

They say you can tell a lot about a guy by how he treats animals in general:

The kitten booped him on the nose, so of course he adopted her.

The kitten booped him on the nose, so of course he adopted her.

They say you can tell a lot about a guy by how he does with kids:

We're not going to talk about how old the baby in this picture is now. *cries*

We’re not going to talk about how old the baby in this picture is now. *cries*

They say the good ones help their neighbors:

The fact that this particular neighbor lives 45 minutes away is't anyone's fault.

The fact that this particular neighbor lives 45 minutes away is’t anyone’s fault.

I guess a good way to sum up this guy is by quoting a friend of his, who said that “he’s the Higgs particle of human awesomeness – he not only has awesome in and of himself, he makes us all more awesome by his presence” (love ya, R. Hope you don’t mind my outright theft just there). This guy builds people up. He believes in them even when they don’t believe in themselves. He is kind and gracious and generous and funny and smart and sweet and sure, sometimes he’s thoughtless or forgetful or sticks his foot all the way in his mouth, but when that happens he apologizes and makes sure it doesn’t happen again. He is impeccable with his word, honest and clear, says the things that needs saying and lets the little things pass. He works hard to see everyone’s side even when he can only understand them academically, and he goes out of his way to make other people’s lives better.

Also he's dead sexy. Which doesn't say much about his character, but still. YUM.

Also he’s dead sexy. Which doesn’t say much about his character, but still. YUM.

Basically, he’s the sort of guy you can’t help but love…and the fact that I get to love him every day makes me officially the luckiest woman I know. Which is totally bragging, and I’m not even a little bit sorry.

So happy birthday, Moon Man. I flatly refuse to imagine life without you, and I am so, so honored to be married to such an incredible human being. Thank you, on behalf of all of us who know you, for being you. I–we–love you more each day.

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Filed under General Musings and Meanderings, Play Nicely

This Is My House

This is my house.

Shown here, mid-garage sale three years ago.

Shown here, mid-garage sale three years ago.

The color of my house has no bearing on your life. The shape of my house has no bearing on your life. If I choose to change the way my house is painted, or if I choose to change the shape of the house via addition or removal, that has no bearing on your life.

The way I decorate my house has no bearing on your life. If my sense of aesthetics appeals to you, you are welcome to compliment me on my house’s appearance; but if your style choices would be different, that is information you may keep to yourself because I will not be changing my aesthetics based on your preferences. If I ask for your opinion or your advice, that is all I am asking for–it is not to be misconstrued as blanket permission, implicit or otherwise, to attempt to exert any control whatsoever over the choices I make with my house.

You cannot see it in this picture, but there is a flag on the front of my house. Frequently this flag will say “welcome”, or the doormat will say “welcome”, or there will be a sign on the door that says “welcome”. This also should not be misconstrued as a statement of universal permission. Because this is my house, I have complete unilateral control over who is or is not actually allowed to enter the house. If, for instance, you had come to the garage sale in the picture, the presence of a “welcome” mat by the door would not be assumed to be a statement of actual permission to enter the house.

Additionally, having received permission to enter the house once is not an automatic statement of permission to enter the house for all time. If you are invited to come in, I will say so, clearly and directly. If you are invited to come in anytime you want to, I will say so, clearly and directly. I will probably give you a key, or the code to the garage door. However, permission to visit is not automatically permission to stay; furthermore, because this is my house, I reserve the right to rescind your invitation at any time, with or without notice, regardless of whether you have been given “anytime” permission to enter previously.

This is my house. In my house, I make the rules.

This is my car.

Shown here, mid-snowstorm last winter.

Shown here, mid-snowstorm last winter.

The size of my car in relation to the size of your car has no bearing on your life, and it is not yours to comment upon. The color of my car has no bearing on your life. If I choose to change the paint color, that is my decision to make, and mine alone.

My car has a handy sliding door on the side for easy access. This is for my convenience, not yours. The fact that it is easy to get into my car should not be taken as blanket permission to climb aboard. The fact that my car is large enough to hold more than one person should not be taken as blanket permission to climb aboard. Having ridden in my car before should not be taken as blanket permission to climb aboard.

This is my car, and I–and I alone–have the authority to decide who may or may not drive or ride in it.

This is my body.

Shown here, in fancypants office holiday party attire at last year's fancypants office holiday party for Moon Man's job.

Shown here, in fancypants office holiday party attire at last year’s fancypants office holiday party for Moon Man’s job.

If we assume–as I do–that we are souls with bodies, that our bodies are not who we are but where we are, that our bodies are the house where our soul lives and the vehicle by which it gets around, then it seems reasonable to me to assume that social conventions about our houses and cars are also applicable to our bodies.

The size of my body in relation to the size of your body has no bearing on your life, and it is not yours to comment upon.

The way I paint or decorate my body is not relevant to your life, and if I ask for you opinion or advice, that is all I am asking for. My sense of aesthetics are not yours to control.

The decision to invite you to share my body as consenting adults is mine and mine alone. It is not a blanket statement of future permission, and I have the right to rescind your invitation at any time, with or without notice. If you are invited to share my body, you will know because I will tell you so, clearly and directly. The clothing I wear–even clothing that is easily removable–is for my convenience, not yours. Anything I wear or do that implies “welcome”–including flirting, joking, and giving you my telephone number–is the moral equivalent of a “welcome” mat on the porch and should not be misconstrued as an actual invitation. Again, if you are invited, you will know it because I will say so. I will use language that makes it spectacularly, abundantly, unmistakably clear that you have been invited. I will be frank. I will be direct. I will be obvious. If I have not been frank, direct, and obvious, then you may comport yourself as though you were a shopper at a garage sale, or a person observing my car in a parking lot: you may look, you may form opinions, you may compliment respectfully, but your permission ends there unless I personally tell you otherwise.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and frankly, it pisses me all the way off that this is even a thing. I am baffled by the idea that there are social conventions that govern how we interact with people’s houses and cars but somehow those rules don’t apply to people’s bodies. I am furious that there are people who cannot take their bodies’ safety for granted.

But above all, I am motivated to make sure that people know that regardless of the situation you may find yourself in, you are in fact in charge of your own body. If there is someone in your life who is not respecting that fact, you are allowed to get help. Tell someone. If that person doesn’t believe you, or cannot or will not help you, tell someone else. Keep telling people. There is someone out there who will help.

Because this is your body. You and you alone are in charge of it. It. Is. Yours.

If you or someone you love has been–or, god help me, is being–sexually assaulted, please contact RAINN (the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) at www.rainn.org or 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). Counselors are available 24/7, and speaking with someone is free, confidential, and secure. 

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Filed under Don't Make Me Come Down There, General Musings and Meanderings

Tangled Hair and Matching Silver Jumpsuits

Today one of my favorite authors tweeted that “It is a profound thing when someone in your life picks up the slack EVERYwhere else, so that you can pursue something as selfish as writing”. She followed it up with “Even if you’re the breadwinner (I am), you still have this strong sense that someone else is making sure your life and family WORK … while you sit by yourself trying to get something out of you. Something that will never fully *be* out of you”.

Hold onto that thought; we’re going to circle back around to it in just a minute.

A couple of days ago, one of my favorite musicians was presented with an opportunity to perform at a venue that’s a frankly perfect fit, and which would boost his exposure exponentially. We were all making celebratory “squee” noises when my practical side kicked in, and so we spent a bit of time talking about whether there was additional equipment he might need for this gig to make it as successful and smooth as possible, which a group of devoted fans might come together to help him obtain…at which point he freaked out a bit, because it’s one thing to work a thousand hours of overtime so you can buy a bit of equipment, and another thing entirely to have people buy it for you “just because”. Eventually we dragged a wish list out of him, but lemme tell ya, it was not entirely unlike pulling teeth. From a dyspeptic bobcat. With chopsticks.

Hold onto that thought too. We’ll be back for the musician in just a second.

Earlier this week a friend started a sentence with “As Mama BW would say”. I laughed, and laughed some more, and laughed and laughed and laughed–that helpless, “Jeezly crow, my entire universe has just tipped sideways and there’s nothing I can do but laugh” cackle–because despite having had some folks tell me (in some cases, directly to my face) that the things I write here were percolating into their lives and making them think about the world in new and different ways, this was the first time that it really, truly, really truly for really truly reals sank all the way in that people were seriously, honestly, actually reading and internalizing the stuff I say. Little ol’ me. On my little ol’ blog. That I started for kicks and grins.

…Now here’s where I tie these snippets together.

We’ve talked before about how one person can make a difference in the lives of hundreds of other people without realizing it. They can be the inspiration behind a food drive, or a fund drive, or a concentrated work effort that results in people being housed or saved or dug out from disaster. One person doing small things when the opportunity presents itself can, in a sort of domino effect, improve the lives of countless numbers of people.

But when we think about People Making a Difference, I suspect we tend to think about some sort of Work-With-a-Capital-W. We imagine folks sitting on the phone for hours, drumming up donations from local businesses. We think of people hauling boxes full of canned goods. We think of people flying to remote areas and hacking through miles of jungle to deliver medical care.

We think of sweat, and we think of effort, and we think of sacrifice.

We don’t tend to think of artists. Or writers. Or musicians.

But here’s the thing.

The author way back in that first paragraph? Yeah, one of her books (which has gotten rather a lot of recognition and won awards) features a protagonist with whom I can profoundly identify. I’ve reviewed Eleanor and Park here already, so I won’t go into a lot of detail, but I’ll say that Eleanor is the sort of unmanageable-haired, unfashionably clothed, outcast character that I think a lot of kids can identify with–and the kids who will see themselves in her are the sort of kids who desperately need the reassurance she provides, that no matter how crappy things may be right now (and how dark the night may get before the sun rises), it really does get better. There is always something to hold on to, something to fight for, and someone who will believe in you.

I dunno about y’all, but I’d submit that undertaking the grueling process of writing a book that might save a kid from suicide is pretty much the opposite of a “selfish act”.

And the musician in the second vignette? One of my favorite photographs on the face of god’s green earth shows my father holding the toddler version of myself. We’re wearing matching silver jumpsuits that my mother made (the ’70s were hard), and I’m holding a microphone: Dad used to be part of a band, and we were at one of his gigs, and the picture is a snapshot of my first-ever solo number. I’ve been told I said–er, sang–“doo doo doo” before handing the microphone back to him, and was met with wild applause. Fast-forward 30 years or so, and you’ll find another photo of my father and me, this time with him walking me down the aisle while the musician in question plays at the front of the room. We lost Dad four months after he and I took that walk, and now, whenever my musician friend plays, it opens a space in my heart where Dad and I can spend a few musical moments together again.

I dunno about y’all, but I’d submit that giving me a safe, beautiful, and comforting way in which to reflect on some of my most cherished memories is well worth the price of some performance equipment, for cryin’ out loud.

And then there’s me, coming finally to realize that the things I say here are having an impact on other people. I can use words to lift people’s spirits, rally them to action, help them examine the world from a new perspective, and think about their choices in different ways. I can help them become their best selves. And while I feel guilt sometimes, that Moon Man is off holding down a full-time office job while I’m over here “just” blogging and doing some part-time work, I have to remember that what he is doing is participating in the process of encouraging his fellow human beings–he’s just doing it in a “shadow investor” sort of way, while I hold down the chair in front of the keyboard.

So the final takeaway is this: we who work in creative fields, we who have artistic abilities, need to stop selling ourselves short. Writing can be a selfish act, sure; and music can be a just-for-fun sort of endeavor; but we also have the abilities to touch other human beings from inside their hearts. We help shape the world just as surely as the fellow who builds a highway or a house–we just build from within.

And I dunno about y’all, but I reckon that’s every bit as valid–and healing, and necessary–as any other job.

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Filed under Don't Make Me Come Down There, General Musings and Meanderings, Play Nicely

Writing Your Epitaph

Today I learned something that I found fascinating: apparently, every day the Sisters of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity decorate her grave with flower petals. The decorations are just lovely, and frequently take the form of a bit of Scripture or an inspirational thought.

tumblr_lhivi55YSs1qf1pjko1_500

 

I found this absolutely beautiful, and spent the better part of an hour looking at pictures online…and then because I’ve got a bit of an obsession with cemetery statuary, I spent some highly enjoyable time looking at other graves from around the world, and the whole thing got me to thinking about how we remember our dead.

More precisely, it got me to thinking about how the choices we make every day directly impact the way we will ourselves be remembered. True, we don’t really have a lot of say over what our loved ones will carve on our gravestones when we die–or what they say at our funeral/memorial service/homegoing celebration, if you’ve opted not to be buried; I personally would like to be cremated, but wouldn’t mind if someone got, say, a park bench or something in my memory somewhere–and while I suppose you could technically pre-order your gravestone in advance, that’s a level of control freak-itude I don’t really know how to deal with.

So sooner or later, it’s going to fall to someone else to sum you up in a few words. Maybe a quote, or a short poem, or just a series of nouns (“Wife. Mother. Friend.”).

So here’s your ponderable for today, ‘Tracters: What sort of epitaph are you writing for yourself?

What sort of legacy are you leaving? What memories will the people around you have, when the time comes to decide how to describe you in as many characters as they can afford to have inscribed? What stories will they be able to tell during your eulogy?

Because to be very frank, your entire life–every choice you make, every day–will eventually be reduced to a few lines. Sure, maybe you’ll be one of the few folks who gets biographies written about them, but the odds aren’t really in your favor there. More likely, you’ll join the rest of us in the land of microbiographies, the people whose stories will be compressed to a quick glimpse and a few stories and in-jokes passed among loved ones.

So what will your epitaph be?

IMG_2101

Look, we’re not all going to be Mother Teresa. Odds are exceedingly good that nobody is going to be creating fresh flower displays on my grave every day for years and years after I die. But I can choose, each and every day, to live in a way that makes people at least consider that option. I can do everything I can to make the world a better place, knowing (in the selfish part of my brain) that while yes, I am doing these things because it’s the right/good/just/decent thing to do, it also wouldn’t break my heart if people said beautiful things about me when I die.

I can rock Dr Seuss’s advice (always a good idea), and make every day count.

drseuss-remembered

 

I can be mindful of what I say, and how I make people feel. I can look for the best in other people and extend that same grace to myself. I can believe in the potential for greatness in everyone I meet, including me.

I can be the sort of person who might just inspire folks to leave beautiful sayings about love on my grave in flower petals.

Because really, the other option holds no appeal for me whatsoever. Why settle for “Here lies Mama BW–She could’ve been far worse”? Or “In Memory of Mama BW, Who Didn’t Do Nearly As Much Harm As She Probably Could Have Done”?

Or heaven help me, why risk ending up like John Laird McCaffery, photographs of whose gravestone I will not include here because pottymouth, but whose epitaph clearly spells out how he was perceived?

I don’t want to be known as Mama BW–She Could Have Been So Much More If Only She’d Had More Free Cash. Nor do I want to be Mama BW–She Died With The Most Toys So She Wins.

I don’t want to be Mama BW–Boy Howdy Did She Do A Lot of Complaining.

I don’t want to be Mama BW–Really Kind of a Giant Pain in Everyone’s Tuckus.

I want there to be a park bench somewhere with my name on it, and maybe a lovely quote or line from a poem or song, and I want it to be the sort of place where there is always a flower or two, and I want to have earned that with my life.

I want to live every day with the knowledge that I am, even as we speak, writing my own epitaph…

I’m just not choosing the words.

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Filed under General Musings and Meanderings, Play Nicely

Confiteor

Confiteor Deo omnipotenti, et vobis fratres, quia peccavi nimis cogitatione, verbo, opere et omissione: mea culpa, mea culpa,mea maxima culpa. There is dust on my bookshelves and ceiling fan blades. Ora pro me.

I was thinking about the state of my dusty union a few minutes ago, as I sat down at my desk and moved a little stack of notepads and realized that the one on top had a note on it from roughly six months ago (in my defense, it’s still useful information–a quick note about how to log into one of the systems I occasionally use for work–so it’s not really something I want to get rid of)…and then further realized that, judging by the little dust outline that showed where the lifeless notepad had once laid, I should probably clear some time in my calendar to take a Swiffer to this desk.

…And if I’m going to be dusting, I should probably at least look generally in the direction of the bookshelves in my office…

…And the bookshelves in Moon Man’s office, and the bedroom, and the dining room, and the hall, and the living room…

…And make at least a perfunctory swipe at the ceiling fan blades, and the mantel, and the tops of all the doorframes, and the artwork…

…And then I got a little overwhelmed and decided to have a cup of coffee and write a blog post instead. I mean, c’mon, I have a meeting in 30 minutes, so this is not really the appropriate time to get all hung up on the dust-vs-dustless ratio of surfaces in the house…

…And besides, if we’re going to get all picky about dusting, we should probably at least consider talking about the laundry in the hamper that needs done, and is way more visible than the dust…

…And if we’re going to do laundry, we should probably figure out just exactly how long it’s been since the last time I took the Magical Cleaning Supplies tub to the laundry room and scrubbed down all the surfaces in there (I cannot, in fact, guarantee that there hasn’t been an intervening presidential election during that gap…I mean, I’ve done some perfunctory wipe-downs, but it’s been a minute since I actually scrubbed anything in there)…

…And y’know what? Who cares.

Here’s the thing: when people come to our home, I make sure there’s food on-hand. If they have particular dietary needs/preferences, I make sure the food is something that aligns with those restrictions. If you’re here around mealtime, I will rearrange our usual schedule if necessary to make sure there’s a hot meal on the table for you, and I will try to have at least one of your known favorite beverages at the ready. I will greet you with a hug and kiss, try my best to banish any distractions, and focus my entire energy on making sure you feel welcome, nurtured, and loved.

In other words, there may be dust on the bookshelves, but I will do everything in my power to make sure that you leave this place feeling so completely soul-warmed that it doesn’t even cross your mind to wonder whether I’d spent any time tidying up for your arrival (hint: I probably didn’t. Sorry).

Basically, I try to live my life by this philosophy:

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We’re taught from a very early age that quantity is everything. If you have one dollar, you’re told that you should have fifty. If you have one friend, you should have a hundred. If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times. You’re not supposed to work hard and win a medal; you’re supposed to work hard and win all the medals, then win all the trophies, then win all the trophies in all the competitions in the entire world, then be crowned Emperor of All Things and rule with a benevolent but unyielding will.

You’re supposed to have your choice of all possible mates, then pick the best of the lot and settle down in a palatial estate and raise some magazine-ideal children who will eventually (inevitably) compete in 27 billion competitions, win them all, be geniuses, decline the Nobel Prize because of some complicated political stance, and eventually pay for you to have round-the-clock in-home nursing care from the best doctor in the entire history of medicine. You’re to be accompanied at all times by your faithful AKC Best in Show dog who can make you sandwiches and knows how to use the remote control to turn on your favorite shows.

And there shouldn’t be a speck of dust anywhere in this entire picture.

And y’know what? Screw that noise.

I don’t want a magazine-ready house; I want a home where people are comfortable. I want dinners that feature exactly zero fussy garnishes, but will stick to your ribs and make your grandmother’s ghost drop by to ask for the recipe. I want people to know without feeling obligated to ask that yes, you may absolutely sit on that couch, and you may scratch what itches and laugh heartily and be your perfectly imperfect self.

We’re not on this planet to live a life with a daily calendar so jam-packed with hustle and bustle that we forget why we’re doing any of it at all, is what I’m saying. We’re not here to beat ourselves up for only having a dollar to donate to the charity we support. We’re not here to spend all our time running around in little circles, trying to be more and do more and give more.

We’re here to bring maximum amounts of love into our lives and the lives of the people we meet. We’re here to spread joy. We’re here to do unto others, let others do unto us, and celebrate all the messy and gleeful and hilarious and ridiculous and memorable and remarkable moments we can get our hands on.

We are here to do everything we can from a place of love, no matter how much or how little that may be, and if that means we don’t find time to dust the bookshelves, then so be it. The dust will still be there tomorrow, and maybe we’ll have some spare time and a handy dustrag then.

But missing the chance to make someone smile from their soul? That’s unforgivable in my book.

So consider yourself warned: if you visit the Buffalo Moon Ranch, you will probably come away with dog hair on your clothes and there may be dust on the book I loan you…but hopefully you will also come away with a smile on your face and song in your heart. I may not be able to do everything to keep this place spotless, and I may not be able to help everyone I meet, but I will try my best to make sure your soul is fed and that everything I do accomplish is done in love.

And for that, I’m totally prepared to keep a lint roller ready in case you have someplace fancy to go after you leave here.

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Filed under General Musings and Meanderings, Play Nicely

Buffalo Tantrum: You Are Not a Tree

Ok, look.

I’m going to say two words in a second, and I’m predicting with about 95% confidence that nearly everyone reading this is immediately going to think of someone else. Ready? Here goes.

Professional Victim.

Here’s what I mean by that phrase:

That person whose life is always in some sort of full-tilt crisis–financial, emotional, spiritual, etc.

That person whose Facebook reads a lot like a wish list–“Can anyone help with X?”, “What I really need is Y”, “If you have a Z to spare, I could seriously use it right now”.

That person who has a spectacular list of Folks Who Done Done Me Wrong–their ex, their boss, their neighbor, life in general.

That person who has identified–sometimes repeatedly–the One Thing That Must Change So That I Can Be Happy/Fulfilled/Productive/Etc but which they are, for whatever reason, flatly refusing to change (if asked, they’ll say they can’t change it, and give you a long list of excuses. Er, reasons).

That person who is always waiting for someone else to come solve their life for them–via infusion of money, by divorcing them, by graduating and moving out, by perpetually validating them and bolstering their ego so they never have to learn their own coping skills, etc.

That person. You know the one.

Now that you’ve got that person (or people) fixed firmly in your mind, delete them. Erase the image. That person is out of play. Instead, reread the list above from the bottom to the top, and check all the boxes that could by any stretch of the imagination apply to you:

Are you the one who is just waiting for the day that your spouse finally quits loafing around and starts looking for a job for reals? Who knows for certain that if you could just sell the house and move to the country, everything would be ok? Who can, off the top of your head, think of the Top 10 People Whose Choices Drove You To This Chaotic Place?

Are you the victim in your own story?

‘Cause honey, if it’s you (and yes, I am looking pointedly at a few of you right now, and no, I won’t tell you  who they are), then grab a helmet right quick because I am about to drop three brickloads of truth onto your head in rapid succession.

Brickload #1.

Brickload #1.

Brickload #2.

Brickload #2.

Brickload #3.

Brickload #3.

Here’s the thing: I get it that change is hard. I get it that in some cases, change really isn’t practical–for example, right now Moon Man and I are living in a house that neither of us is particularly enamored with (his ex-wife picked it out), but it’s old enough that it needs some pretty costly upgrades before we can sell it for enough money to break even on what’s left of the mortgage. Yes, we could theoretically do a short-sale, and we could theoretically just walk away from it and let the bank sort out why the payments stopped and the house is suddenly vacant, but it’s not quite so dire that we’re willing to take that step. We just, y’know, grumble about it sometimes.

But six months or so ago, we decided that we needed to make an active choice in the matter. We had spent a (really pretty embarrassing) amount of time playing the “We’re So Tormented” fugue on the world’s smallest violin, blaming his ex for picking this house and “forcing” him to buy it despite it being wildly overpriced, blaming the builders for using cheap materials in its construction, blaming the economy for “stranding” us here–but the bottom line was that there are not, in fact, any guard dogs patrolling the property and keeping us from leaving. We’re here because we choose to be, and if that’s a choice that really, truly makes us miserable, then we are the only people who can change that–so we either had to commit to leaving or commit to staying, and either way, we had to accept that the choice was completely, entirely, utterly ours to make.

So we stayed. We’re being aggressive about saving money so we can start making upgrades, and once it’s ready to sell and we line up another house, then we’ll make the big jump. But in the meantime, this house is ours, and we are here by choice, and we are taking ownership of that decision.

But it all had to start from the realization that we are not, in fact, trees. We can move. We can just get up and go.

Now, look, I’m not saying that there aren’t repercussions. Every choice has consequences, and you have to factor those in and decide whether you can live with them. You don’t exist in a vacuum, after all.

And you’re the only one who can make that judgement call. I can’t really even advise you, let alone decide for you whether declaring that from now on you get to spend one night per week doing something that is of interest only to you (a hobby, a sport, a night out with friends) is worth having your spouse grump around the house–but I can tell you that if you decide it’s not worth it, then you have to own that choice, and you do not get to blame your spouse for keeping you from your friends. You are keeping you from your friends, by choosing to prioritize your spouse’s desires over your own. I can’t tell you whether you really will be better off by leaving a relationship that looks toxic from way over here, but I can tell you that if you stay, you have to own that choice, and you do not get to blame your partner for “making you miserable”. I can’t tell you that keeping the job that is driving your blood pressure higher than your bank balance is better than the financial risk of leaving it and just hoping you find something else, but I can tell you that…ehh, you get the picture.

Here’s the bottom line: I’m pretty much over the professional victims in my universe. If you never have any money, then you need to have a come to Jesus meeting with yourself and sort out why that is–perhaps “I don’t currently have a job” is a good starting point (and do not come to me with “nobody will hire me”. What you really mean is “I do not want any of the jobs that will hire me, because I would rather complain about my finances and try to get other people to solve my life than take a job at the fast food restaurant down the street”). If your marriage is miserable and you dread going home, why do you keep doing it? Have you considered counseling? Don’t come to me with “we’re staying together for the kids’ sake”, either, because a Google search for “does it damage kids if parents stay in an unhappy marriage” brings back 2.2 million results and the entire first page is full of blurbs that say, in a nutshell, “yes, yes it does”.

If you are unhappy where you are, why don’t you change it? You are not a tree. And if you choose not to change it at this time, then own that choice. You cannot be the victim if you are in charge of your own narrative.

And trust me, honeychild, ain’t nobody impressed with a professional victim.

**Note: if you are in a situation that is unsafe, where you are not safe at home but have been threatened or “warned against” trying to leave, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7223 (SAFE). If you are so overwhelmed by your current situation that you think the only way to change things is by ending everything, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). I love you hoodlums, and while change can be scary, it needs to be the sort of scary that turns out well for our heroes/heroines in the end, y’know?

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Filed under Don't Make Me Come Down There, General Musings and Meanderings