Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Back-up Plan.

Harry Stamper: “What’s your contingency plan?”
Truman: “Contingency plan?”
Harry Stamper: “Your backup plan. You gotta have some kind of backup plan, right?”
Truman: “No, we don’t have a backup plan. This is it.”
-- Armageddon

We all have those little guilty pleasures. The comfort food we shouldn’t wallow in. The glass of wine to cap a rough day. Impulse purchases. That dog-eared book you keep coming back to. 

Guilty pleasures have gotten me through my loneliest nights, bouts of boredom, excessive workloads and fits of anger. They come in all shapes and sizes, depending on the situation at hand. And tonight requires an explosive dose.

No matter my mood, there is nothing quite like a dose of end-of-the-world-Bruce-Willis-Ben-Affleck-bravado-and-testerone-conquer-massive-asteroid-hurtling-toward-earth to distract me. It’s just the ridiculous thing I need to take my mind off of the asteroids, internal and beyond, that ricochet quietly and sometimes not-so-quietly through my atmosphere. Flicking through the channels it’s as though my cable provider has the inside track. 

Damsel in distress? Biceps blowing up things to the rescue.

I wish I could push a button and that thing causing the muscle-binding agony in my jaw would go … poof! … in a spectacular display worthy of the irritation it causes me. But there’s not one big thing. There are tiny things, and little things, and little bit bigger things and two or three much larger things angling for superiority over them all. Some are inconsequential and some are not. Some are of my own doing, others are well beyond my control. And some are things that weren’t in the first plan and definitely aren’t in the backup plan. And, frankly, I don’t care to see them fit into any of my plans.

We are the most advanced species on this planet, and yet we do everything we can to get in our own way. Too often we pick at the little things instead of celebrating what we achieve and what we overcome. Too many negatives, not enough positives. Instead of lifting ourselves and each other up, we find comfort and security in doing exactly the opposite. Instead of pointing out our shortcomings and our poor decisions, why aren’t we willing to see the potential and the good? Why aren’t we willing to say those things out loud, but we’re immediate on the draw when we see an opportunity to shoot holes where holes already exist? It’s as if we’re inherently afraid of the possibility that life could be, well, according to plan … whatever that plan may be.

My life has not gone according to plan, and I’ve found peace with that. Even, dare I say, optimism? But optimism is easily vanquished in the face of fear. 

“What does it mean? What am I going to do?”

“We’re going to do what we always do. We’ll get some answers and we’ll deal with it. And if we have to, we’ll make a new plan.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Waiting in Place.

You can get so confused
that you'll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles cross weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place...
-- Dr. Suess, Oh the Places You’ll Go

Staring across the small barrier, I can’t help but wonder whether the slight-but-overly-cheery attendant truly understands the seriousness of the situation. Drumming my nails like wild horses across a marble countertop, I mentally check myself. Crushing his pearly whites with my tiny-but-determined fist – while self-satisfying and point proving – will not address the issue at hand.

“I’ll wait.”

Two weeks ago I jetted off for a weekend to recharge, only to immediately be thrown back into the maelstrom of my life. The second I stepped off the plane, I was back in exactly the place I needed desperately to escape. 

The place where I do, wait, drive, answer, fix, pay, deliver, create, solve and coordinate. The place where I’ve forgotten how to receive, not just to give. The place where I don’t have to yell, beg, cajole or bribe. From sun up to sun down, from home to work and back again, my life and my career are built on the idea that making others happy will also make me happy.

What it makes me is exhausted, irritable and unhealthy.

I made myself a promise. That I would start to demand something more for me. That I would work less and live more. That I wouldn’t always race around to respond, to fix or to find. And it has been a painful exercise in unraveling expectations I’ve allowed to set in.

Which brings me to the issue at hand.

Which is that I am standing in a hotel lobby. In my peep toes and pencil skirt. With sopping wet hair.

And T-minus five minutes to race from here to there because someone asked me to do something.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Options and Alternatives.

“We’re just talking about our husbands’ schedules. We’re both <FIRST RESPONDER TYPE> widows!”

Option A: Smash her into little pieces.

Option B: Watch her perky little smile dissolve as I sympathize with the absence of her husband on holidays.

Option C: Gracefully and delicately move the conversation along to save her from mortal embarrassment so that the person beside me can stop cringing and resume breathing. 

Option C, it is. 

Words are curious things. For thousands and thousands of years our ability to communicate, in an array of dialects and accents and languages so diverse and beautiful that we will never in our own lifetimes experience anything more than a morsel of the table laid out before us, has shaped who we are as beings. We’ve used them to form bonds, to slay our enemies and to hurt the ones we love. We’ve shaped governments and societies, and we’ve celebrated the deep power of faith and religion through them. We’ve won wars, lost wars. We’ve put shape to theory, created fantasies and realities, and we’ve isolated people. 

Words are beautiful and painful … when we use them, and when we don’t. Words can cut deeply, silence deeper still. An inflection gone wrong. Phrases loosely knit. Colloquialisms misplaced. 

The pen. The sword.

I have become overly sensitive, self-righteous and exceedingly protective of this unfortunate moniker. And I bristle at its flippant use, as I imagine others with a membership card perhaps do. I regret all of the times in the past that I threw it about so easily, before I understood the awkwardness that comes with actually being one. I never considered who might be listening. Who might be hurting.

Watching her carefully I can see that she knows a chord was struck, but she cannot decipher which one. The warm beat of the room has been disrupted and a pang of guilt twists inside me. As much as I want to punish her for unknowingly comparing her disrupted holiday schedule with my disrupted life, I want to save her from what she doesn’t know.

That widows are beautiful. Ordinary, Young. Old. Tired. Energetic. Successful. Struggling. Sad. Joyful. Angry. Content. Unsettled. Adventurous. Cautious. Exuberant. Fearful. Determined. Graceful. Clumsy. Rich. Poor. Professionals. Homemakers. Change agents. Mothers. Grandmothers. Sisters. Daughters.

I reach across the chasm her words created and gracefully untangle the fiery knots inside me.

And file the words away.