Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Undercover Mama

All right, it looks like I was taking a (well-deserved) nap when my daughter snapped this photo of me, wrapped snug as a bug in my bed, but I was really contemplating how to bring about world peace in my life-time. I almost had a solution mapped out in my mind but the click of the camera shutter startled me so that I forgot my plan (and could not go back to sleep) so I got up and did something constructive, though I do not remember what.

Speaking of world peace, when my siblings and I were younger, and we got into fights our mother made us hug each other and make up, which usually made us laugh. Consequently, to this day, I have a hard time getting really angry without also getting the giggles. Is that twisted, or what?

When I tried that with my own kids, they refused to hug each other! Which reminds me, I think I have figured out part of the problem with my parenting skills. My problem is, I have been a June Cleaver mom (Leave it to Beaver, remember the show?) in a Sharon Osbourne world. Not that I am criticizing Sharon Osbourne. I am saying things changed a bit and I failed to notice those changes. Now, that I am aware of the problem, maybe I can make a few adjustments and improve the situation. But first, I have to risk coming out from under the covers, don't I?

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Mapping Body Images

I mentioned sometimes feeling dishonest on my blog because I usually only present stuff after I have worked through the uglier messes of getting everything to a somewhat presentable state. Some of you reassured me that I was probably doing what was right for me. I don’t know how many of you also keep a written journal, but I do, and that is where the nasty stuff gets recorded and unkinked before I ever post on the blog. It works for me.

I did not have a clear picture of what I wanted to do when I started blogging, which is probably quite normal, and I have been influenced in several different directions while never really settling on a single defined method or style of blogging. I know some people divide things out and have several blogs on different subjects, maybe having one blog for photos and one for art and yet another for writing. Some people do that with their written journals as well. In my real life, I am a master at living a divided life (which is not necessarily a good trait), but in my journals, and on my blog, everything gets mushed together and what it is, it is. I love my journal, I love my blog, but it would just be too much work to separate and categorize things out. That would take all the fun out of it.

The collage above is from my journal, put together on a good day. I am experimenting with painted backgrounds. I like smearing the paint around on the page. My friends had book suggestions, and they wrote them down for me. The background is the Google map I used to get from the condo to the hotel and then home, complete with the little red line showing me which path on the yellow brick road to follow! (Don’t we wish it was that easy all the time?!)

The collage below is one taken from a darker day, where I have allowed myself to ramble and explore a theme that is currently emerging in my life. I tend not to see some things (my own self, for instance) until I am smacked in the face with them, and when you have not seen certain friends in five or ten years, you start seeing your body in a different way, simply because you know the changes will be stark to someone who has not seen you in such a long time. I am pudgy, folks, too pudgy. I am ready to admit that, but not certain I am ready to do anything about it at the moment. I know the weight, which is concentrated around my middle, which is the worst place for it to concentrate, medically speaking, is a side effect of dealing with my stresses. The subject of someone’s weight is a sensitive issue, I know. I just find it paradoxical that people reassure me of how well I am handling things and yet, I look like I am nine months pregnant. Sometimes I wonder if I really have them fooled. Sometimes I wonder if they have made the connection between my rotund appearance and my secret coping skills, and they are just too uncomfortable to mention it. At any rate, I have made the connection, and I am the one who will have to take the action needed to make the correction.

Take the handwritten part with a grain of salt. I do, at times, allow myself to get overly dramatic when writing. It is part of the fun of writing for me. And I never tire of writing about myself as though I am talking about someone else!

And here, enjoy one more collage, a less “artsy” one, simply because the image of this big guy striking a delicate ballet pose makes me smile, as does the exuberant little girl in her bathing suit! The girl has no self-image problems, yet, and the guy seems comfortable enough with his own self-image to let it all hang out! My truth is that I am way behind these two when it comes to my own self-image. Two things I do not do well: I do not do “jubilant” well, and I certainly do not not "let it all hang out" well. It is one of those things I am learning to accept about my self. I will always be somewhat reserved, and that's probably okay, but the weight around the middle needs to go.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Surviving the Wave Pool

My mother sat watching on firm ground while her children flailed about in the local pool taking their swimming lessons. She has a fear of water and she never wanted her children to be afraid like that. It must have been very hard for her to watch me negotiating for the privilege of doing all my practice swims in the shallow end of the pool. I did not like being out there where I could not touch bottom with my feet, out there where I could not cling to the side of the pool. I learned to swim, but not with grace and I never learned to tread water. I still do not like water in my face, and I don’t like being in water over my head. Looking back, it does occur to me to wonder why my mother did not think to face her fears for herself. She should have been the first one in the pool taking lessons.

Years later, we took my daughter for the first time to a wave pool. I stood in chest high water with her, my toes clutching the bottom of the pool so that we would not get carried away, and held her hand in a death grip while I watched her flailing about underneath the waves. Her eyes were wide open and she grinned at me with the kind of four-year-old delight that causes a mother’s heart to melt with pleasure. Just as I began to harbor thoughts of “rescuing” her and pulling her up out of the water so she could breathe again, the wave would subside and she would burst through the surface laughing. The picture is so firmly etched in my brain. For me, the tension was palpable; she was overjoyed, I was afraid I was going to let her drown in the man-made waves, and yet the sun shone crisply and people all around were laughing and having great fun. Though I never learned to totally relax in the water, we survived the wave pool, time and time again.

There are times in all our lives when certain themes become apparent. It was only a couple of years ago that a picture of God and the waters began to emerge in my thoughts. It all started with just pieces of two verses from Isaiah: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you” and “I am the Lord your God, who churns up the sea so that its waves roar—the Lord Almighty is his name.” For me, it was a somewhat disturbing picture of God. I don’t often argue with God, but I did when these images started coming into my mind. It made no sense to me that I was to take comfort in passing through rivers and being churned up in the sea when I like being on firm ground and I dislike swirling around in roaring water. I did not want to see God in the sea. I preferred seeing him in calm places with my feet firmly planted on solid ground. I wanted to let someone else enjoy his peace in chaotic waters, someone like my daughter, who loves the water. She can swim. She loves the water in her face. I wanted to stay with my image of God carrying his sheep like a shepherd and gently leading those that are with young.

This weekend in New Orleans, as I sat on firm ground and watched the river, I realized that I have, to some degree, made peace with the swirling waters. The river is noisy. The ferry bell blasts out every single time the ferry crosses the river. Tugboats sound a warning bell as they come around the curve of the river. The train across the way blows its whistle as it comes to the intersection at Canal St. You can hear the waves of the river beating against the banks. You can see the ripples on the surface of the water. From my vantage point on a balcony six floors up, I could see and hear all these things. And then I heard the faint notes of a jazz band warming up, and it was like God whispered in my ear—I’ve been with you all along, and look, you have survived the wave pool, time and time again.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Narrow Is The Way On The Streets of New Orleans


Obviously, Sometimes I Think Too Much

When Dr. Psycho Therapist and I were crossing the street to get to my car after having lunch, there was a man in a large white SUV type vehicle driving out of the parking lot we were walking into. Actually, he was not driving. He was sitting partially in the parking lot and partially in the street, waiting, and he was staring at Dr. Psycho and I like a calf looking over a new gate. As we walked toward the back end of his vehicle, the man yelled out to us “Don’t bother saying thanks.”

I yelled back a quick and cheery “thank you” to the man. Since Dr. Psycho and I had just spent a fair portion of our visiting time celebrating my amazing progress in certain areas of my life, I was mortified at being so easily manipulated into meeting the loony expectations of a total stranger. Partially to take the attention off my compliant people-pleasing groveling, and partly to test my blossoming diagnostic skills, I asked Dr. Pyscho why we had to thank the guy. (I know I didn’t spend all that time in therapy solely for my good. Now I must work on learning to share my great pyscho therapeutical wisdom and insight with the world!)

My diagnosis:

Every decent psycho therapist knows that unmet expectations breed resentment, and resentment sometimes manifests itself in sarcastic remarks such as, "don't bother saying thanks." In this man's mind, he had made the ultimate sacrifice of forty-seven seconds of his valuable time waiting for us to cross the street, and he had unmet expectations of receiving our undying gratitude for his gracious gift.

I think that where I failed the man was in not waiting for him communicate his need to me in an emotionally healthy way, perhaps using this model:

When you…”,
I feel…”,
What I would like is…”

Had he done that, here is how it might have sounded:

When you walk in the street and I think I don’t have enough room to drive my large white SUV out of the parking lot, and I have to wait forty-seven seconds for you to get out of the way and you do not even say thank you

I feel angry and resentful.

What I would like is for you to express gratitude in a gracious manner.”

Obviously, the man had a problem with anger and resentment, as well as an appalling lack of decent communication skills. At least, that is how I assessed the situation. But apparently, I am not as brilliant as I thought. My diagnosis did not line up at all with Dr. Pyscho's.

Dr. Psycho’s diagnosis?

He can’t handle his vehicle. He had plenty of room to drive.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

One View From One Balcony

I made it back on Saturday night, tired and happier than a dead pig in the sunshine! All the visits were wonderful. I had left my camera with my son and borrowed a digital camera from my friends to snap a few pictures from the balconies. The pictures do not do the views justice as I was not used to using a digital camera.

I have notes of skewed observations and other things I want to write about when I get a moment to write.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Road Trip!!

Friday afternoon, if the Lord is willing and the creek don’t rise, I am leaving my neck of the woods and heading east, over to the Big Easy--New Orleans--to visit with three precious friends of mine.

Two of the friends are a married couple. I met them almost thirty years ago. We all worked together at a summer camp. Later I worked with the wife (A) while her husband (E) attended school in my hometown. I have not seen them in over ten years. They lived out of the country for several years and we kind of lost touch. I am so excited about getting to see them again, excited about renewing our friendship. I think A and I were the last two people in the country to actually write letters to each other! I hope we pick that habit back up.

The other friend is one I worked with on a professional basis for a few months until he was transferred to the East coast and we have kept in touch through email…Oh, I crack myself up, putting such a smooth spin on the situation! I have to tell the truth: he is a psycho therapist and I was a client. He is also a minister who is coming to town to do a wedding for a friend's daughter.

After emailing E, I called to talk to A about the arrangements for when I would be coming to see them. We talked and laughed like there had never been a quiet spot in the friendship. It is one of those kinds of friendships, where you just pick up like there was no gap between the present and the last time you saw them. I know that A and I will not shut up from the moment I arrive till the minute I leave. E will have to grin and bear it, and he will. He will visit a little while and listen to our chatter, and then he will give us our space and let us have our girlie time.

Dr. PT will be a bit of a different story. In some ways, it will be like meeting an internet friend for the first time. Though I am quite comfortable in my emails to him, it will be different meeting him face to face. I get nervous in some social situations. I guess we all do. It’s just that the time will pass so quickly and I don’t want to waste the visit sitting around being a (dull) wallflower.

(Side note from the collage, which I created several weeks ago. Isn't it odd how being "out of the woods" has become a theme for my son and I at this time?):

"In every human encounter, even with a stranger, you have the capacity to close down or open up."

E & A have had some rough spots. A and I were talking about how she had pulled away from everything during that time. I realized I have done the same thing on occasion. It may not exactly be the healthiest way to handle turmoil, but apparently it is not an uncommon method. Of course, the way I see that in a postive light is to say that we take private time to get our equilbrium back, and then we are able to once again open up.

I mentioned to Penni in a comment on her blog that I sometimes feel dishonest because I usually write after I have worked through a situation. I don't like to be exposed during that awkward time where I am struggling to regain my equilibrium. Maybe that is dishonest (or at least, misleading) but it is the way I am. At any rate, this weekend, I am going to enjoy being wide open with my friends.