April 25, 2013
Continuing where we left off with the questions I ask Burrito and Tamale to gauge other kids’ personalities…
Another question that’s particularly relevant to 3-year-olds is whether the person is quiet or loud.
Burrito has sensitive hearing, so even though he himself is rather loud, he shies away from loud kids. “Exciting” is appealing to him, but loud is not.
Little kids can be very loud indeed, so my general preference for Burrito and Tamale’s playmates is for kids who are not-too-loud. But, oddly, I have chosen a husband and a best friend who are both tremendously loud. Conspicuously loud. Whole-restaurant-turning-to-stare loud.
Equally oddly, my husband and friend have chosen me. I speak at a normal volume, and I can get a little loud and animated when I’m really engaged in discussion, but my base state is to be extremely quiet. I walk into rooms so softly that I am effectively sneaking in, and I often startle people. It comes in handy when there are sleeping children and I need to pass by their rooms without waking anyone. It comes in less handy when every shopkeeper in the world doesn’t realize that I’ve entered the store, unless there is a little bell on the door. That only happens when I’m alone, though — if I’m with my husband or best friend or kids, you can hear us coming from a mile away.
Do you prefer people who are quiet or loud? Are you quiet or loud?
April 11, 2013
Welcome to the April Intelligentsia.
#42: Elana from Elana’s Musings
#36: A from Are You Kidding Me?
#35: Lost in Translation from We Say IVF, They Say FIV
#34: Strongblonde from Strong Blonde
#24: St. Elsewhere
#22: Lori from Write Mind Open Heart
#17: Sara from Aryanhwy
#16: Mel from Stirrup Queens
#16: Ana from Ana Begins
#6: Mina from Kmina’s Blog
There’s a game that I play with Burrito and Tamale in which I try to find out more about the personalities of their classmates. I go through a series of questions that give me a pretty good sense of each kid. We’ll work through the questions over the next few weeks. First:
Is he energetic or calm?
They actually prefer the word “exciting” (pronounced ex-kiting) to energetic, but they can readily answer the question either way. With preschoolers, it’s very clear who is energetic and calm. Most kids are calm (like my Tamale), except for a few Tasmanian devils (like my Burrito). If I’m thinking of inviting a kid for a playdate, my preference would be for a calm child. This is ironic because I am married to the most energetic person I’ve ever met.
Next week I’ll be seeing an old friend with whom I once had the following conversation:
Me: DH has soooo much energy. I’m really low energy.
Friend: If you’re low energy, that means I’m dead.
We were defining energy differently. I am a very calm person, but I have a lot of energy relative to most people — particularly energy for creating things, which is what my friend was thinking of. What I do not have is energy as I was defining it in that conversation: energy for running wildly around the room the way that a 3-year-old (or my husband) would. I am calibrated to be fast, but this manifests itself not in big motor movements but in talking fast, thinking fast, writing fast. When I was a kid, my piano teacher constantly tried to slow me down. She often told me that just because my brain moved fast didn’t mean that my fingers could, nor that the music warranted it. I was never the type to run around the room, though, even as a little kid. I never cared for the type of person who runs around the room.
Until I married one. And then gave birth to another one.
It makes life very exciting. And ex-kiting.
What is your energy level? What kind of energy level do you prefer in the people around you?
March 13, 2013
For only the second time I’m participating in Time Warp Tuesday, run by Kathy at Four of a Kind. This week’s topic, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day: luck.
For someone who doesn’t believe in luck, I’ve written an awful lot of posts about luck. IN particular, I draw your attention to this one.
Done reading yet? I’ll wait…
Most of the post holds up, but the part at the end about my career situation has changed. After so many stomachaches and so many stints as a bridesmaid rather than a bride in job searches, I ended up at a job that’s perfect for me, where I plan to stay long-term, in a fantastic city, where I also plan to stay long-term. I wrote the Bridesmaid post the same week that I didn’t get a dream job and DH didn’t get his beyond-his-wildest-dreams job; instead, a few months later DH landed an even better job: more money, more prestige, better work. Both of us were very lucky not to get the earlier jobs, since it meant that we were available for, and open to, the jobs that we did end up getting. Bad luck became good luck.
Similarly, I might go so far as to say that we were lucky during those 7 years of infertility, since all of the heartache and waiting brought us to our children. Bad luck became good luck.
Will our more recent bad luck — such as my RA diagnosis and our unsold money pit house — end up working out for the best? Wish me luck.
Join the Time Warp!
March 7, 2013
Welcome to the MarchIntelligentsia.
#41: Elana from Elana’s Musings
#35: A from Are You Kidding Me?
#34: Lost in Translation from We Say IVF, They Say FIV
#33: Strongblonde from Strong Blonde
#23: St. Elsewhere
#21: Lori from Write Mind Open Heart
#16: Sara from Aryanhwy
#15: Ana from Ana Begins
#5: Mina from Kmina’s Blog
Last week’s discussion of our wild nights had an undertone of alcohol in my post and in most of the comments, but for me booze is not a necessary ingredient. On most of my wild and wild-ish nights, I have not had a drop to drink. Usually most of the people around me have had plenty, but I’m almost always totally sober.
I don’t need alcohol to stand on a stage and sing in front of a packed room. I don’t need alcohol to stand on a table and shake my ass (though generally I choose to shake my ass standing firmly on the floor). I didn’t need alcohol that time only a few years ago when I took off my sweater and stood outside a nightclub in my camisole to encourage the bouncer to let in my party more quickly. Sometimes, I have no inhibitions at all.
Which is pretty shocking to some people who encounter me in daily life, because often I seem to be very inhibited. Here’s the thing. I’m not inhibited, but I am usually very controlled, which looks the same — I choose my words and actions judiciously.
In graduate school, back when cardio kickboxing was all the rage, I brought an uninitiated classmate with me to a workout. In many ways we come across as similar, but we turned out to be wired quite differently. After the class, she made the observation that she and I approached complicated kickboxing sequences in opposite ways. When I wasn’t sure what to do, I paused for a few seconds to watch the instructor, until I had the steps down, then I’d join in. When she wasn’t sure what to do, she flailed wildly. She’s also someone who is quiet but not inhibited, who chooses her words and actions carefully — but when things get tough, she revs up and I slow down.
I’ve gotten more uninhibited since having children. Before, I would gladly get up and sing on a stage but I was sheepish about singing to a friend’s toddler when my friend was in the room. Now, I sing all the time for my children and I no longer care who else hears. Before, I tended to act like a normal person — a highly controlled version of a normal person. Now, I often use animated expressions, big gestures, and funny voices; I have become some sort of cartoon character.
How inhibited are you? How inhibited do you seem to others?
February 21, 2013
You may have seen a news story this week about a lawsuit in Michigan in which a nurse is suing her hospital for allowing a NICU patient’s father to dictate that no Black nurses care for his baby. Strongblonde and I have been talking about this off-blog, since it’s her neck of the woods as well as her profession (nursing, not white supremacy).
Obviously we both object to the racial prohibition in this case, along with the rationale. However, we’ve both made choices of health care providers based on the providers’ characteristics. Depending on the situation, sometimes I have no preference and sometimes I have a strong preference.
Sometimes I’m put off by very young providers — not enough experience — and sometimes I’m not a fan of very old providers — unsteady hands, and perhaps not up to date on the latest science. As someone who recently moved to a new city, I have also purposely avoided old doctors because I don’t want to lose them to retirement almost immediately.
Sometimes I check where physicians went to medical school and residency, as a proxy (imperfect though it may be) for intelligence.
Sometimes personality also impacts my preferences. One of the dentists at my new practice is quite popular, but I will not be switching over to him based on what I can overhear across the hall: he is such a chatty Cathy. Friendly and personable, but he talks nonstop during people’s cleanings and procedures. For a different kind of doctor I might not mind, but at the dentist I am not interested in extended chit-chat with someone’s hands in my mouth.
I make choices when I’m choosing a doctor ahead of time. When assigned to someone, as I have been in the hospital or with other staff in a doctor’s office, I’ve never refused a provider. I’ve requested someone I liked better when making a return appointment, sure. But I’ve never refused, even when I actively disliked someone. Like the midwife whose cutesy schtick involved blaming pregnant women for premature labor. Ha ha. Hilarious. Even then, I accepted my fate. I was not friendly, but I didn’t demand a switch.
A friend of mine chose a hospital specifically because it was not a teaching hospital, and therefore she would not have to deal with medical students. However, the hospital did have nursing students. After the birth of her baby, a nursing student stuck herself then my friend with the same needle. After that, and the ensuing need to test for HIV etc., my friend banished all nursing students from her room for the rest of the hospitalization. Because of the incident, and because my friend had Dr. before her own name, the hospital respected her wishes, but I wonder if they would obey if a patient just walked in and said, “No students! I don’t like ‘em!”
Bringing it back to the news story, a deceased relative who was a Holocaust survivor used to refuse doctors who came from Germany or had German lineage. No one ever seemed to have a problem with that. The two cases are similar in practice but very different in rationale. I wonder, though, where we draw the line: when is it okay to object on the basis of personal characteristics, and when it it wrong? I really have no idea.
Do you ever choose health care providers on the basis of personal characteristics? Have you ever refused to have a certain kind of provider?
February 14, 2013
How was your Valentine’s Day? Mine was exactly like any other day. Well, that’s not quite true. I attended a preschool Valentine’s party and helped Burrito and Tamale celebrate, but it was like any other day in terms of my interactions with my husband. We don’t really Valentine’s Day. We don’t really observe the official romantic occasions — no New Year’s Eve, usually we barely even acknowledge anniversaries. Definitely none of the overcrowded restaurants nor overpriced flowers nor not-quite-right jewelry nor trans-fatty drugstore chocolate nor disappointments that characterize Valentine’s Day.
Ignoring “romantic” holidays like today is one of the things about which DH and I heartily agree (get it? heartily?). We don’t like setting expectations that invariably fail to get met — that is, no female expectations nor male failure around here. We don’t like the calendar telling us when to express love or buy presents. We don’t like crowds nor paying more for things than they cost on every other day of the year.
How did I become a Valentine’s grinch? When I was in 9th grade, I happened to have an appointment at the beauty salon on Valentine’s Day. I wasn’t getting gussied up for a hot date or anything, just a routine visit. In retrospect I’m not sure why my mother scheduled the appointment on Valentine’s Day and not a normal day. Anyway, I was the last appointment of the day, and my beautician was the last one left in the salon — presumably everyone else had left early to celebrate the holiday. In the middle of working on me, she got a call from her boyfriend. She got more and more heated until she screamed, “Then you can just celebrate Valentine’s Day with some other bitch!” Then she slammed down the phone and burst out sobbing. Then she came back to finish working on me. Despite her emotional state, there were no mishaps with the scissors.
That day, I decided that I was on board with chocolate and wearing red and giving out valentines, but I did not want any of the drama. I never wanted to have a conversation like that.
Oh, and then there are the single people. Valentine’s Day totally rubs it in their faces. I always have plenty of friends who are single on any given Valentine’s Day, and many of them are really annoyed by it all. My husband has a friend whose divorce will be finalized next week; that guy has spent all day sending out angry tweets.
Anyway, the best part of Valentine’s Day happens tomorrow. All of the chocolate will be half price!
How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day and other “romantic” occasions?
February 7, 2013
Welcome to the February Intelligentsia.
#40: Elana from Elana’s Musings
#34: A from Are You Kidding Me?
#33: Lost in Translation from We Say IVF, They Say FIV
#32: Strongblonde from Strong Blonde
#22: St. Elsewhere
#20: Lori from Write Mind Open Heart
#15: Mel from Stirrup Queens
#15: Sara from Aryanhwy
#4: Mina from Kmina’s Blog
I almost never dislike anyone. Well, except for disliking everyone.
My father is not only an introvert masquerading as an extrovert, he is also a misanthrope masquerading as a philanthrope. One of his greatest strengths professionally is his charm, but he’s totally pretending. I think he actually loves humanity, except when he doesn’t.
My husband is totally a secret misanthrope too. I’ll often hear him mumbling, “I hate everyone,” or, “People are horrible.” People who interact with him, though, think that he is kind and gregarious. Because he iskind and gregarious. He just doesn’t think much of humanity.
DH’s father is a not-so-secret misanthrope. He is tremendously warm and engaging to people he likes, but he’s not keen on making new friends nor on superficial social interactions. He succeeds professionally not through charm but through an air of authority (as well as being good at what he does). Being crusty is part of his schtick, but I really think that it’s genuine, much of the time. I have to wonder whether being the son of Survivors contributed to his lack of faith in humanity.
I am also a secret misanthrope. I like individual people, and I dislike other individual people, but outwardly I project the image of someone who truly wants to help other people. Because I do want to help, and I do help. But I also send venting emails to my closest friend or husband that consist of things like, in all caps, FUCK EVERYONE. Unlike the loved ones that I’ve just described, I actually have a lot of faith in humanity, but that doesn’t mean that I want to put forth the effort to actually interact with most of humanity. And, I’ve been burned enough that my lack of faith feels warranted.
Not everyone I know is a misanthrope, of course. My mother loved to meet new people. She didn’t trust new people, but she liked them. She had such a soft spot for the needy and the downtrodden. She’d do things like buy a crate of fruit that was more than she could possibly eat, explaining that she would share some with “my homeless guy next to the mall” or “all of the guys working at the car wash.” She never gave any panhandler a dime, but she’d feed them and clothe them and speak to them with a smile.
One of DH’s siblings is, more than anyone else I’ve ever known, a true humanitarian. A decade ago, when she was 13, we were visiting a relative in a rehab hospital. An scruffy amputee was slowly trying to propel his wheelchair down the hall. Everyone else kept walking past. She stopped what she was doing to help him get where he was going and fill up his water pitcher. But more than that, it was the way she spoke to him. Sweetly, gently, looking him in the eye, like a person. Most 13-year-olds seem to avoid eye contact even with people they’re supposed to talk to, let alone someone who makes most people deeply uncomfortable, but she dealt with him as an equal — not kid to adult, nor able-bodied to handicapped — because in her heart she truly believes that everyone is her equal. She has been the kind of kid who worries her elders because she is so trusting, so good, that she seems poised to be taken advantage of. But, so far, treating everyone with genuineness and respect has resulted in nothing but good things coming back to her.
People like her are almost enough to cure my misanthropy. Almost.
Are you a misanthrope? Philanthrope? A mix?
January 24, 2013
First, an explanation of last week’s blog title: It comes from one of my all-time favorite SNL sketches. It aired my freshman year of high school. I didn’t even know anything about sports, but I enjoyed the punditry of George F. Will, philosophy, and fish-out-of-water humor.
Something else sticks out about Thanksgiving aside from the Gravy Incident. The husband of the gravy lady, i.e. the stepfather of the hostess, came up to my husband after the meal and said:
Your wife is reeeeally reeeeeally…
As my husband recounted the conversation to me at home, before he finished the sentence, my mind filled with possibilities. Pretty? Nah, no one has declared that in years. Busty? Maybe. Devoted to her children? Quite possibly. A fan of dessert? Always. Thirsty for gravy? Not intentionally.
I have other attributes, like being helpful or conscientious, that are rather dominant in my personality but which don’t necessarily come across when first meeting someone. What could it be?
Oh. Of course that’s what it was. That is my #1 first impression for almost everyone (sometimes they say “cerebral”), but I was surprised in this case as I didn’t think I said anything that evening that required much intelligence. No work talk. No discussion of the impact of cobalt on glaze chemistry. No being or becoming. No need for encyclopedic knowledge of SNL sketches from the 1980s. But still, smart was the impression I conveyed.
If I go around that Thanksgiving table and declare my main impression of the people I met that night, the adults were: Warm. Funny. Kind. Quiet. Jovial. Bitter. Gentle. Brash. Into sex (ahem, TMI at Thanksgiving). Chill. Wise. Genuine.
Some of those might be nice, but they’re not me. I’m happy with Smart.
Fill in the blank: Someone who meets you for the first time would say that you are really, really _________.
Welcome to the January Intelligentsia.
#39: Elana from Elana’s Musings
#33: A from Are You Kidding Me?
#32: Lost in Translation from We Say IVF, They Say FIV
#31: Strongblonde from Strong Blonde
#21: St. Elsewhere
#19: Lori from Write Mind Open Heart
#14: Sara from Aryanhwy
#3: Mina from Kmina’s Blog
Several times over the past couple of weeks, Intelligentsia Member Ana has blogged about the push-pull between trying to change yourself and resolving to just get through the day, accepting yourself as you are. This tension has become particularly relevant to me lately too, given my recent illness (which, by the way, now has a diagnosis, and since some of you have been asking, thanks, I am now better than I was but by no means fully functional).
Normally, I am someone who loves to challenge myself. In pottery, instead of working on things that I already know how to do, I constantly push myself with new techniques, new shapes, new sizes. I chose a career that involves constant mental stimulation, and even more than most in my field, I seek to learn new things and master new sub-areas. A couple of weeks before I got sick, I decided that I would soon undertake a new fitness regimen; deeming yoga too easy, I decided that I should take up Pilates.
I think that was the moment when the Universe said, “Hey now, yoga is too easy? Are you sure? Let’s see about that.”
Right now even with all of the medications, I can’t do a downward dog for more than a few seconds before my wrists give out. Meanwhile the students around me, most of whom are in their 60s and 70s because I am only taking the “gentle” and “slow” and “therapeutic” classes, stay upright the whole time. It’s not a competition, I know that, but if a 70 year old woman with a full cast on her arm held a pose long after you’d flopped to the ground, you’d make comparisons too.
Competitiveness aside, or perhaps because of that competitiveness, it turns out that yoga is exactly what I need right now. The first yoga class I took after my initial recovery from being unable to walk or do anything with my arms really cemented this fact. The class focused on Moon Salutations. I’ve done yoga hundreds of times over the years, and almost every class has focused on Sun Salutations. I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as Moon Salutations. The teacher talked about how even in yoga people are typically trying to push push push, and that on this day we’d do something else. How most exercise is about compression, and that we were trying to expand. Most yoga focuses on yang, but that day we accepted the yin.
Yin, that’s what I need.
Perhaps if there’s anything good to come out of this illness, it is yin. There is still room in my life to work on becoming, which is my natural state, but now I get to practice just being. Not just during yoga, but in my daily life: accepting limitations, slowing down, taking a literal and figurative breath.
I have blogged many, many, many, many, many times about zen non-attachment as it pertains to pottery. I’m quite good at yin when it involves a breach in yang. I’m not so good at yin for its own sake, yet. And yes I realize that trying to improve on yin is in itself not yin. I can’t turn off yang entirely; I can’t stop being me. But maybe now I’ll find a little more balance.
How is your balance between yin and yang, between slow and fast, between accepting and pushing, between being and becoming?
P.S. Big big points to anyone who gets the reference in the title of the blog post without Googling.
January 1, 2013
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…”
― Alfred Lord Tennyson, The Foresters