Lourdes Mint's Mid-Life Miracle

Real-time memoir of the coming year (5/20/14 – 15) and the achievement of a life-long dream

Archive for the tag “Daily prompt”

Here’s to doing something tiny, today!

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/tiny/

“One could almost believe that one day is just like another. But some have something a little more. Nothing much. Just a small thing. Tiny.” ~from Little Bird, by Germano Zullo

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A close friend of mine gave me this book when our first potential adoption fell through. On the day the baby was born, we were on our way to the hospital when the social worker called to tell us the parents had changed their minds. We went home and decided we would not renew our home study again. We had renewed twice already and suffered through several disappointments, this last one the worst, and we were done. We had a beautiful family already and weren’t getting any younger, we told the adoption agency. I hit the “reset” button in my life, began this blog (among other things), and rededicated myself to making writing a priority. A little over two months later, and just a few months before our home study expired, Mariel was born and everything changed.

She was so tiny, but we could already see in her, the strong and beautiful little girl she has become. Maybe it doesn’t need to be said, but these last couple of years have not been big writing years for me. We have been very busy here, busy with family and with moving house and all that comes with those things. And I feel like I am only now beginning to dig my way out.

Compared to what I have to do, ALL THESE THINGS I feel I have to do, all I can do today is something tiny. And I’m doing it. It may not be much, but it’s a start … or mainly, rather, a continuation of things started long ago. I think there’s an important difference there.

Continuing is not as fun and fresh and punchy as having A BRAND NEW START because, for one thing, it’s more complicated. I cannot, at almost 50 years old, simply write off all of those things I’ve wanted and pursued over the years. I know a few at least are genuine reflections of my most authentic self, not just my younger or less-experienced self. Continuing now, picking up where I left off, validates my past efforts even if they didn’t lead to tangible achievements. It is messy and murky work, and every little thing I do, even this post, feels tiny compared to where I want to be in relation to my hopes and dreams. But I have to proceed as though I believe, with all my heart, that the tiny things will add up. So here’s to doing something tiny, today!

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There is always “burn” here now.

Pretty+Flames+2-7-2007+3-36-23+PM+2816x2112There is always “burn” here now.

Door knobs burn in my hand as I turn them, so I leave the inside ones open. Even the floor burns the bottoms of my feet, so: shoes, but they burn also. These words too, all words, whether I think or say or read them, they all burn now. Sometimes./

To hear them, these ones here, spoken aloud in this room today — w/ no one aside from me listening, no music playing, nothing baking — to hear them without burning, what I would give for that! To be back there, here but back then, in my dream of life again, where it was plenty warm enough, what I would give./

There were times I’d think I must have come from there to here through someplace really cold. I’d think, could I have died that day? That day I “wakened” to the smell of all my pies burning and you knocking as loud as you could on the door. “What’s burning? Are you okay? What’s going on with your hair?”/

We threw the pies into the garden, laughing. You cut my hair in the kitchen to help fix me back up as we aired the place out. “What happened, though? Did you fall asleep? Since when do you bake pies and for what?” I opened you some wine and we spent the rest of the day together./

But I watched the pies slowly disappear alone. It took weeks and then one downpour finally carried the rest away./

Today, I know I came through someplace really cold to get here. Why else, how else, could touching these now — these plastic keys — burn me so? So that the plainest words/thoughts, uttered as plainly as I can manage, are birds barely escaping a flame and then at the very last second returning or just stopping, letting it happen, letting it wrap them and hold them in its hot hands until they turn to ash?/

There is always “burn” here, but I’ve begun to wonder if it might be okay for a time./

After all, crying now is like climbing a tree—but on another planet. Crying: Why? How? It doesn’t happen here, I don’t think, but I’m not completely sure (having learned about evaporation so long ago). I do know it’s not okay not to cry ever./

I know too that today nothing is baking, no music is playing, and no one knocks or doesn’t knock at the door. And I know I didn’t die that day. I am being still and quiet, no more words aloud for now, dreaming of when I was “just warm enough” and wishing I could cry, here or on some other planet, any planet (except Mercury, Venus)./

And yet. Even though these words, my memories, the door, the floor, the bottoms of me feet — ALL of it burns, all of it is burning me — I begin to think it could all turn out all right, that one day I will be just warm enough again.

***

THIS is a repost, thanks. I’ve been gone from here for SIX long months. I consider it a bit of providence that I log back in tonight, after several days (weeks? months?) of thinking about this blog AND THIS POEM especially, and find that BURN is the one-word daily prompt. Today. When I log back in … But so, I have nothing new here now, I don’t think, am exhausted, but I jump back in to this — everything — holding the hand of my 47-year-old self from two years ago. I trust no one more.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/burn/

https://wordpress.com/post/lourdesmint.wordpress.com/678

 

 

Daily prompt response: Problems with Styrofoam and Another Advice Column Reject

instock-069Peanuts

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Connect the Dots.” Scour the news for an entirely uninteresting story [or make one up?]. Consider how it connects to your life. Write about that.

Dear Abby,

I know this is probably not a huge deal, but on the off chance that someone else has the same problem and suffers mainly because it can be so inexplicably distressing, I figured I’d write. You know how those Styrofoam peanuts can’t be recycled so you have to get them out of the box your extra fragile purchase was packed in, bag them, and throw them away separately — with the rest of the garbage? Well, every single time I do this, and I do mean EVERY SINGLE TIME, I’m extra careful to pull the bag into which I’m emptying the peanuts all the way around the box, all four corners, before I even attempt the transfer because I always seem to end up making a mess. But still, no matter how careful I am, an estimated 40 to 60% of the peanuts end up outside of the bag and I have to round them up by hand (“like herding cats” because of the static electricity) and bag them by the handful. Do you know how long that takes?

So I just want to know WHY? Is that too much to ask?

I don’t know whether it’s just the static electricity or there’s some other scientific explanation for why this CANNOT work as it seems it should, but I’m way beyond annoyed now and actually starting to get concerned. Thinking about it now, I guess the real basis of my concern is whether it’s normal to have so much trouble with Styrofoam or whether something else could be going on? I mean, do you think there’s some underlying issue I’m not addressing here? Or maybe even larger forces at work, whose presence and significance I’m missing?

Up to my neck in peanuts, LM

 

Dear Abby,

I’m supposed to be working on my novel now …I have so precious little time and I’ve entered into a contest or rather a challenge to help keep me going: NaNoWriMo. You may have heard of it? Anyway instead or working on my novel, I’ve been unpacking valuables (I use that term very loosely) that we have no place for yet (we moved recently and not all of our furniture is here …). Although I’m having a bit of trouble with the Styrofoam peanuts, as I wrote you about separately, I am not having trouble with writer’s block. In fact, really I’m having almost the opposite problem. I start working on my novel and the next thing I know, hours have disappeared and I have no idea what, where, who, etc. But see I can’t have disappearing hours, no idea, no — I have children, a family. But here I am with a discrete, necessarily limited, beautiful little chunk of time set aside just for the novel and instead I write you … and only “for pretend,” no less, in a blog amid a sea of blogs that connects to an ocean of blogs that connects to a bunch of other seas and oceans of blogs.

So I just want to know WHY? Is that too much to ask?

I don’t know whether it’s just the static electricity (for lack of a better word [FLBW])  or there’s some other scientific explanation for why this CANNOT work as it seems it should, but I’m way beyond annoyed now and actually starting to get concerned. Thinking about it now, I guess the real basis of my concern is whether it’s normal to have so much trouble with Styrofoam (FLBW) or whether something else could be going on? I mean, do you think there’s some underlying issue I’m not addressing here? Or maybe even larger forces at work, whose presence and significance I’m missing?

Up to my neck in peanuts (FLBW), LM

p.s. For our listening enjoyment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EI7OUQbE65g

Questions from Deep Space

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Trick Questions.”

A Pulitzer-winning reporter is writing an in-depth piece* — about you. What are the three questions you really hope she doesn’t ask you?

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Question I hope she’d ask: “Are you named after the Magnolia Fabrics wallpaper ‘Lourdes Mint’? (Me: Why yes, I am!)

Assuming I MUST answer 100% truthfully, I’d dread these Qs:

What is the weirdest or most anti-social thing you’ve done, thought, enjoyed, sought out, etc.? Anything along those lines would really put me in an awkward position. Still, even though I’ve always feared what I’ve felt to be my weirdnesses, I’ve never thought of them as unusual in the extreme. I’m sure I would not be alone in any of my answers, but I shudder to think of my company… and, truly, of judgment. My freak flag is on the larger side probably, but I usually wave it alone, in the dark, etc. I sometimes find that those that wave them most vigorously and visibly are not very freaky at all.

How many books have you read, really, all the way through? I hope/bet it’s more than I think, but I don’t track these things very carefully. I have no idea. I don’t claim to be  a voracious reader or even a particularly good reader — space out quite a bit, need to reread again and again. I also don’t feel obliged to read anything I don’t strongly desire  or feel a compelling need or responsibility to read, anymore. BUT I have yet to hear of a single successful and good writer who is not also a huge reader. Overall, one could say I’ve lived a very unwriterly life … on the surface in any case.

What’s your favorite [fill in the blank]? I am bothered by the fact that I’m so bothered by questions about favorites. One problem is that I’m never sure what mine are — in pretty much any category. I just don’t look at things this way and I guess I feel like that points to some significant lack in me: lack of identity (conviction?), something unformed inside me. I also don’t like Qs about who’s been the biggest influence in my life or which are the most significant, formative experiences of my childhood or life thus far. If I had to answer with something other than, “I really don’t know (yet?),” I would have to completely fabricate a response.

*Funny? When I first looked at this  prompt, I read “A Pulitzer-winning reporter is writing in deep space about you.”

“Drafts” are the new “so?”

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https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/______-is-the-new-______/

[Please excuse me for choosing my own blog. Felt like something I needed to do today.]

*I have 57 drafts and only 38 (39 now, actually) “published” … things. So? What is a published thing anyway, for many of us, but a draft that has somehow tripped the system, slipped through our over-zealous, ultra-self-censoring, hyper-critical inner critic? Anyway, here’s one that slipped through.

 

38 published, 57 drafts, and my blog’s goal’s

“Due date” has gone by, so by, that I

No longer see clearly the [X] on the horizon. (That dot that was my goal.)

 

But I look often. Things I’ve seen:

A fallen tree, an empty house, a man walking, hands in pockets, and a

Windmill, still. Once, I saw a fox with a rabbit in its mouth!

That was my favorite.

 

Today, though, I don’t know. Can’t make it out.

But, oh!, I know it just moved … closer no less. Or was it me, toward it? (Ha! Noooo.)

I’ve been moving lots lately but not in that direction. I’ve been wishing lots too that it —  my goal, that dot — would come to me, for me, at me,

Any way it wants, with or without rabbit. I’ll take it! But I know. I know. I’ve always known.

 

And I’m actually accepting the “failure,” for now, have taken my hands from the throat of she who failed. (I need her: me.)

And with that grip loosened, I see her becoming beauty-full again, feel laughter pushing up through her throat (words to follow?), eyes opening wide once more, synapses (many? most? all?) firing up, firing one another up,

Stretching out to meet, connect, grab hold, and go. Someplace new. Again and again!

 

So I’ll stop looking for that leaf that wasn’t loosed when fall came early this year, a guest of spring and now summer and soon to be master of the house.

The sun has said go ahead: stop. God, I’ve heard, likes (loves) me after all — no matter what I say or (don’t) do. I hear someone, many, saying, “rest.”

And yet: that dot, my goal. Can’t wash the (imagined) taste of rabbit from my mouth.

And yet, there was nothing here before and now:

38 published, 57 drafts, and me.

We’re still here. I have my crown.

 

 

Happy Mother’s Day — a day for happy mothers? a happy day for mothers?

Whichever? BOTH!

My mother’s day present is TIME to write!!!

(followed by dinner w/ my family)

Can’t wait. See you later today.IMG_9480

It just so happens that I WAS caught in an avalanche (Daily Post/Daily Prompt)

Under the Snow

You were caught in an avalanche. To be rescued, you need to make it through the night. What thought(s) would give you the strength to go through such a scary, dangerous situation?

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Francesca Woodman. ‘House #3, Providence, Rhode Island’ 1976

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/under-the-snow/

It just so happens that I WAS caught in an avalanche, and I’m still here, under all the snow. I have only just begun thawing my way out, using a technique for channeling perimenopausal hot flashes into such a fine point that I have set dry leaves on fire just by thinking about WHO the F_CK’S GONNA RAKE ALL OF THOSE F_CKERS. Problem is I can only burn a few at a time. I guess it’s kind of dangerous, too. AND someone still has to get out there and rake. But the heat’s been good for thawing this surprise snow … from the avalanche, I mean, which I really wasn’t expecting here at the end of a suburban cul de sac in November, but thinking back now, I admit that on some level, I knew. I felt it coming.

One might have guessed upon reading my “List of One,” back in June, about our adopted daughter, Sarah, finally coming home — one might have guessed that I’d have trouble with this blog, particularly with meeting its one goal within a year (as stated in “About”). And that “one” would have been right. It has not been the best time ever for writing, definitely not for the deep-dive, total-immersion type of writing experience I was mentally preparing for (read: fantasizing about), just as I was mentally preparing for my husband and I to NOT renew our adoption paperwork again this past August. We were about to call it quits… but then! 🙂

Anyway, I’ve written quite a bit but finished little (the pattern I hoped to break, somehow, by blogging), and not made any real progress on the one (fiction) piece I was drooling over this time last year. I could say, well, that’s life and, look, I have this wonderful family and so much to be grateful for and so why complain or feel bad, etc., etc., … I could say those things. I HAVE said those things. And those things are true. It’s true: Sarah is one more miracle in a life that is already more than I ever could have hoped for, in so many ways. All is so far from how things could’ve very easily turned out for me — given my wild side, my laziness (or ADHD-like stuff), my SELF, my high tolerance for __________ (not sure). Still, even good things and positive developments (there have been more than a few, really) can bring fresh new challenges into your life, resurrect old demons, up the stress factor exponentially.  Things have gotten complicated. For sure.

And ALSO, now, there’s this snow on top of me. I’m really not sure how far the hormones are going to get me or how fast … but I do think my loved ones have noticed I’m missing. So that’s a relief. But then, I begin making progress, start hearing voices out/up there, seeing a bit of light, thinking: I’m doing it! I’m excavating myself from under who knows how many feet of snow JUST BY BEING SUPER ANNOYED!! And then I get even more annoyed BECAUSE I CAN’T BELIEVE I ACTUALLY HAVE THE NERVE TO FEEL ANNOYED, which really burns me up, and that pushes me even further toward freedom. IT SEEMS. But then nightfall hits and the temperature drops and everyone’s sleeping, except me — BURNING in my frozen den, fingers too cold to type … or dig. And I get tired of feeling annoyed and then I just get tired, and I think, “oh, maybe all I need is a li’l nap, you know…. just a short one, just long enough for a mini-dream … and to recharge my BURNER.” But that’s a bad idea — no, THE WORST idea — when you’re stuck under any amount of snow.

So the wisest me in me says, “No, no naps, not now.” She thinks of my family and my writing, pretty much together, and starts digging again. “You can write [and even nap?] when you get out from under this and warm up,” she tells me.

So for now, I’m just digging. And I’m fine with that — I’m a digger, but this is different from my usual digging (a whole other post, there). Now, I say, I’m digging by going to sleep at a normal time (missed that one tonight), digging by eating right, digging by not being a jerk to myself (or Roberto, my dear, and the occasional customer service person who just should not be in customer service), digging by hanging out with my kids and my husband — even if we’re not doing anything even remotely “special” — WITHOUT OBSESSING CONSTANTLY about catching up, getting organized (which is never going to happen…), etc. I dig by “learning to say ‘no'” (ugh, I know, but it’s true) and by not adding things I don’t want or need to do to my already-mammoth-size TO DO list. Dig by letting the past go: the old house, some (many?) of the old friends (many of whom have let me go already, I’m sure), the pet projects that are perpetually “in progress,” and a good many of my fun — even fine — ideas about things I might do. Letting go of the past is a big one, could easily cut that mammoth-size to do list down to a person-size list. I see this so clearly now, underneath all this snow, when before I never really thought of myself as hung up on the past.

The best digging I do, though, has to do with getting to know and accept (dig!) this ONE BODY, this one woman with her one life (maybe, right?) and limited time, energy, and talent. I dig by learning to look her in the eye — and them too, while I’m at it: my most dearest, most LOVED ones — without trying to DIVERT her/their attention from ___________ (not sure, really) — with a ridiculous/hilarious/outrageous re-enactment of a true life event, starring ridiculous/hilarious/outrageous me, or by bitching up  a storm, drumming up a crazy plan, or engaging in any analogous activity/effort,  ALL OF WHICH AID ME IN forking my life over, bit by bit, chunk by chunk, heap by heap to some misbegotten or outdated idea or who I MUST BE (or what I must do) in order to be “OK.”

So I’m digging like that, for the most part. I can write (more) when I get out from under ALL THIS SNOW and warm up. My family needs me, I know, just as I need them. AND (but?) we also need for me to write, which I can’t do unless I keep digging and make it back home again … w/out forgetting the time I spent HERE.

 

By Heart, for Viola (Daily Prompt): “Angela and I don’t want the two dollars back …”

You’re asked to recite a poem (or song lyrics) from memory — what’s the first one that comes to mind? Does it have a special meaning, or is there another reason it has stayed, intact, in your mind? (Participating in NaBloPoMo? Head to BlogHer’s NaBloMoPo Central for more!)

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/by-heart/

 

I met a boy called Frank Mills,

On September 12th right here, in front of The Waverly, but

Unfortunately, I lost his address.

Adapted from: Testing American Football Helmets in 1912

He was last seen with his friend, a drummer, who

Resembles George Harrison of The Beatles, but

He wears his hair tied in a small bow at the back!

I love him, but it embarrasses me, to

Walk down the street with him.

He lives in Brooklyn, somewhere, and wears

His white crash helmet.

He has golden chains on his leather jacket, and

On the back are written the words [names?]:

Marrrrry, and Mom, and Hell’s An-gels.

I would gratefully appreciate it if you see him, tell him, I’m in the park with my girlfriend aaaand please:

Tell him Angela and I don’t want the two dollars back, jussssssssst him.

 

I’m pretty sure the song’s from Hair (promised myself not to look it up till AFTER I wrote out the lyrics, which I felt the need to do JUST TO SEE if I really still knew them by heart). Viola, my best friend from 12 to 18 years of age or so, and I learned it together. She was a complete “bad ass” and I was class clown (not that you’d ever guess that from this blog), but not always intentionally. She brought so much excitement and sophistication into my life, knew and would do all sorts of things I never dreamed of  — before her. Quick, clever, ball-sy, sometimes OUTRAGEOUS Viola! But she had a challenging, almost frightening, side too. Looking back, I understand now how much anger and sadness she was dealing with. Anyway (story for another day), our lives took us in very different directions after high school and we are no longer in touch. She began fading away little by little at first, but then, all at once, she was gone. Other friends of hers and I have kept up with the basic facts of her life through members of her family who’ve remained in the area, but she has broken off all real contact with me, with all of us, since the move — a decision that has continued to baffle us.

But we saw her recently after lots of coaxing, through her ma, to get her to show at a reunion. Lots of laughter but also so many tears, not nearly enough words to explain them. It was good, though. As much as I loved seeing her, I also respect her decision to cut things off with her old friends. Sometimes the past has got to go.

ANYWAY, this song: I think Viola and I learned it firstly just for fun (we adored the “white crash helmet” and the bit about the two dollars) but also as a way — I felt then — of sort of sealing the deal between us, a pledge, like the way some friends become blood brothers/sisters (which we may also have done). The song reminded us too of some of the boys we went out with … and of our foolishness in going out with them, the extent of which we probably shared only with each other.

To me, singing the song together was like squeezing the other’s hand and having the other squeeze back — or better, like saying to each other in unison, but not outright, “I know your whole story, the whole stinkin’ thing, and I love you anyway.”

 

Giving or Receiving Criticism: Decency — the Way to Go; “BruHos” Not Welcome (Day 123, Daily Prompt)

Handle With Care

How are you at receiving criticism? Do you prefer that others treat you with kid gloves, or go for brutal honesty?

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/handle-with-care/

Brute

How am I at receiving criticism? Not great, but first: I don’t think there’s a good enough reason for “brutal” anything, even brutal honesty.

Just thinking about the people I’ve known who seem to believe in brutal honesty, that telling it how they see it is about the most worthy thing a person can do, I’m bothered. They’ve never seem as interested in whether what they’re saying is truly useful, or in how it might affect others, as they are in presenting a certain image and perhaps answering what they believe to be their special calling: mighty purveyor of tough truths — especially about other people’s shortcomings. My experience has shown me that most of these people turn out to be asses, terrified asses. Once I really listen to them, look at their lives, what I hear/see is: “I’m an ass, a terrified ass,” again and again and again.

Also, recipients of the brute’s “wisdom” may appear grateful in the moment (“Thanks for letting me know, dude. I know that had to be tough.”  The brutally honest person [BruHo*] may reply: “Well, yeah, but you know I’m just trying to help. Sorry if it came off as overly harsh, but I gotta tell it like I see it.”) Maybe the recipient is ultimately truly grateful — in some weird way — if the harsh words happen, likely by virtue of the recipient’s own strengths, to lead to something positive (“That was a tough pill to swallow, but I see now how much better off I am. I have BruHo to thank.”), but they will have been brutalized nonetheless; deep down, they’ll know it. And depending on how well they esteem themselves, they will either: (A) avoid the BruHo from then on, or (B) sign up for more BruHo, feeling that they deserve such treatment. I have no doubt that most of those under a BruHo’s wing (they love offering someone they’ve just pummeled a wing to crawl under) secretly fear or even hate him/her.

You might think I’m making too much of the word “brutal” in this context, but I think we’ve all seen brutally honest criticism given before (or done so ourselves) and felt it to be cruel, destructive, maybe even barbaric — more about dominating than in any way helping the other person.

In the past, when I perceived someone as being a BruHo, toward me or someone else, I often responded in kind, squared (which I know is not a good idea). This doesn’t happen often anymore, but when it does, I understand my reaction is coming firstly from a place of anger and retaliation … and only secondly, if at all, from a sense of justice or some other noble ideal. The adrenaline generated from the exchange of BruHo blows (I’m talking verbal blows here, just to be clear) seems to numb me, at least for while, to the truth or implications of what’s happened. That person has behaved badly. I’ve behaved badly. Probably, nothing good will come of what we’ve done. And quite possibly, things will be even worse as a result.

I am still haunted by the time I was brutally honest to a woman, a stranger, for shaming her very young daughter. The girl was crying at the edge of the pool instead of jumping in and swimming to her mother, who was standing about 10 feet away, in three feet of water, barking out orders and clapping her hands together now and then for emphasis. “I thought you were brave,” she called out, “like [so-and-so]. I thought you trusted mommy! But I guess I was wrong.” The girl crumbles, is now crouching at the edge. “Oh look at you! You’re being a scaredy cat, plain and simple. Don’t give me that pathetic look: I’m just telling it like it is.” The little girl cries even harder at this.

It was horrible! I was horrified, as others nearby seemed to be also. I don’t remember exactly what I said to the woman after the “swim lesson” was over, but it included the statement “You’re the one who ought to be ashamed!” and I’m pretty sure the words “big bully.” And I was loud enough that everyone within 50 feet or so, including her daughter, heard me. The woman just glared at me a moment, averted her eyes, said nothing. (And I’d like to add, “ripped open a bag of Cheetos,” but I’m trying to stay out of fiction mode here.)

Looking at her not looking at me, I felt I’d won. I thought, “Good. You ought to keep that nasty mouth shut for a while, think about what you’ve done.”

As I walked out,  a few people expressed approval for what I’d done. I was shaking. Years later, I ran into a friend of a friend who had been there; she recounted the whole thing in more (glowing) detail than I could possibly recall. “That was f_cking awesome!,” she said, reminding me of a really-into-it sports fan. But I had never felt quite right about it.

A friend who I’d told the whole story at some point suggested that the little girl might have had it even worse after I so harshly, publicly criticized her mother, who clearly must have had some pretty serious problems. “What if she took her humiliation out on the child later?” the friend asked. Oh God, I hoped not. I hope not. What I could have done, the friend suggested, is asked the mom if I could talk to her privately. At least, then, she said “I would not have not sunken to her level.” What was this? I didn’t care one bit about sinking to her level. But I did/do care that I might have made a bad situation worse. I’m not sure what I would have said to the woman if I’d pulled her aside, and it was just the two of of us, one-on-one. It would have been more decent of me — even if not constructive, at least much less potentially harmful. She could have ignored everything I said, thought about it later, whatever, with her skin intact. As it was, SHAME — via brutal honesty — triumphed that day.

Now, the question: How am I at receiving criticism?

Not great, but I am so familiar with certain obvious flaws/weaknesses in myself that when people allude to them, criticize them, jokingly or even a bit more judgmentally, I can sometimes roll with it … on a good day. For example: I am invited to dinner and arrive only 10 minutes later than everyone else. I am satisfied (knowing it could be so, so much worse — I am chronically late) until someone lets slip that I was given a “special Lourdes time” for arrival, “so that you would be only 10 minutes late rather than one hour and 10 minutes late.” Everyone laughs, including me, though inside I am bristling a bit. The thing is I’ve already beaten myself up over my pet set of problems for so long that I’m kind of numb to such “garden variety” criticism — not that numb is good. (Numbness is really only a good thing, I think, during particular situations, such as undergoing surgery or having your foot stuck in a bear trap, waiting for help to arrive… .)

On bad days, similar criticisms may: (A) really upset me (we’re talking despondency here — “I’m not fit for X,” “I don’t deserve Y,” “I’m a complete piece of shit,” “What the f_ck is wrong with me?” etc.); (B) lead me to launch into, I’m sure, a truly tiresome dissertation on how/why [the thing being criticized] has come to pass, couldn’t be helped exactly, etc.; or (C) more numbness.

If ever someone’s honesty about me/my behavior has seemed particularly “brutal,” which has happened only rarely, I have on occasion, as I’ve said, lashed out or gone on the attack. I won’t go into too much detail about my methods (illustrated in part above), but they’ve been described as “going for the jugular” or “lopping [one] off at the knees.” I am not proud of this kind of behavior and believe there’s no rightful place for it in the world. Simply, being brutal, whatever you attach it to, is much more likely to hurt than help. AND it makes you a brute.

But the only thing I think I hate more than being dealt “brutal honesty” is being handled with kid gloves. Oh, that breaks my heart and truly freaks me out. Yes, when the kid gloves come out, you KNOW it’s bad. The jig is up. Suddenly you feel as doomed as Blanche Debois. Ugh.

In the end, the most significant factor in how I receive criticism, I’ve noticed, is how aware I am of the supposed issue/potential problem. The less aware I am, the more taken by surprise, the more likely I am to be stunned into just listening, perhaps even ask a few questions and finally retreat to consider the matter more deeply — alone or maybe with a close, trusted friend. Is what the person said valid? If so, is it an actual problem? If so, what should/can I do about it? And so on. And I think this might well be the most decent way, or at least a very decent way, to respond to any kind of criticism, about any kind of problem, on any kind of day: the no-response response: “[message received, will be taken into consideration, but we are done here, at least for now.]” Giving these things times is always a good idea.

Anyway, this realization, that I don’t need to respond in any way to the person criticizing me (especially a BruHo), not at that moment and maybe not ever, has been truly freeing.

* Sorry for the acronym, but I decided I really liked it. 😉 Don’t be a BruHo!!!

 

Day 82 (Daily Prompt) The Name’s The Thing: “PEOPLE ARE A BUNCH OF BABIES, REALLY.”

Prompt: Have you ever named an inanimate object? (Your car? Your laptop? The volleyball that kept you company while you were stranded in the ocean?) Share the story of at least one object with which you’re on a first-name basis.

Most people don’t know this, but in the world of inaniAppleAlbertmate objects, it is considered most unfortunate —- condescending, insulting, patronizing, however you want to look at it —  to be “named” by a person. Labeling, for practical purposes, is OK (e.g., “toilet,” “calculator,” “door”). Even brands are fine. But dubbing a couch “Harry,” a car “Nelly,” etc. — it’s just not good for the object.

“Well, it’s embarrassing at the very least,” Ole Pokey, a pick-up truck owned by the same guy for 20 years, explains to me (via a mechanism I’ll discuss in more detail on another day). “Probably akin to how a dog wearing a sweater feels when he runs into a bunch of other dogs who aren’t in sweaters. Like the other day, we’re at the gas station and the guy yells ‘Back again! Looks like Ole Pokey’s developed a drinking problem. Yuck-yuck-yuck!’ The yellow Mustang and black Yukon just pretended not to hear. And really, that’s a best case scenario.”

The other, unnamed inanimate objects regard the named ones as something very different from themselves, such that Harry is no longer really a couch and Nelly is no longer just a car. They don’t do it out of meanness, but out of a sort of prudence that is a most fundamental quality in objects. “Let it be” is practically a religion for them. And they’ve observed that most of us (all, actually, as the next one I interviewed argues ) have a hard time with that whole concept. In their view, the named objects have become contaminated by the human drama, entangled in our convoluted stories and complicated desires.

“I’d like to say ‘tinker,’ here, to be polite, but I’m going to have to say ‘fuck,'” an unnamed apple tree tells me. “[Humans] fuck with every single thing that can be fucked with. They think just because they can, they should, you know? Bust a move or die! And look what they’ve done with all their MOVEMENTS? Shit on everything, that’s what. They make me sick… .” I decide not to pick an apple. I also decide not to say, “Thank you for your time, Albert,” even though I’m feeling a bit miffed.

In the world of inanimate objects, it should be said, trees (and other plants) are in a special category because they’re alive, but that’s also a subject for another day. For now, I’ll just say that these inanimate objects are among those that are the most disgusted with us, and the reasons for that — again, for another day.

As far as the named objects go, well, what can they do about it really but wait it out, which — as you can imagine — can be an eternity? Lucky for “Corrina,” though, a food processor in a young couple’s household, she knows it can’t last forever, especially with the way they misuse her.

“They never even read the instructions,” she says. “They just tore me out of the box the second they returned from their honeymoon and stuffed me with a bunch of practically whole root vegetables. They do no ‘prep’ whatsoever. Complete idiots.”

When I ask her why she thinks they named her, she shrugs — “Who knows? Maybe some kind of joke about an ex-girlfriend or ex-roommate … you know, named Corrina.” But why name a food processor at all? She is quiet for a long time. “Fear,” she finally says, “of the Big Nothing.” The Big Nothing? “Yes, people cannot bear the thought that they are outnumbered by THINGS, things that mean nothing in and of themselves, things that care nothing for them. People are a bunch of babies, really.”

It’s hard to explain why all of this is unless you’re really in with inanimate objects, and few of us are. I mean, we THINK we are: “I LOVE our new home —  it just feels like it was built for us.” “This bike and I have been through so much together.” “I feel like selling that old China is like selling my past.” “This quilt is, hands down, my very best friend.” But really? NO, not really.

Deep down, we know we are better than all of this stuff. And that’s because we are alive. ALIVE!!!!!

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