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 “lateness”

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!

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

 

 

These Things Happened in the Past

PASTLourdes_v1: “These things happened in the ‘past,’ the past. Now you try: These things happened in the past.”

Lourdes_v2: “‘These things … are happening now, in the present, at this very moment! They will always be happening, in fact, forever and ever and ever, until the end of the world. And even after that, they’ll happen still, again and again. More things on top of these things will happen, actually, and with more frequency, until finally it will just be one long, continuous thing happening, happening, happening!!!’ Was that okay? Close enough, I mean?”

Lv1: “[Heh, heh.] A joker, I see. Try again. Past. These things happened in the past.”

Lv2: “Pissed. These things pissed me off — not because they were all bad. Some were. But some were great, are great! It’s just: there were too many things, too close together, so ‘pissed’ is what I’m coming up with. Sorry. I am trying. I’m big on trying. Try, try, try. I’m tired. Try-erd! I’m exhausted. Pissed.”

Lv1: “Understood, understood. But this is an important exercise — for you and for your loved ones. Time to say “Good-Bye to All That,” right? Let’s turn the page already. So please, please, please: just try one more time. Past. These things happened in the past.”

Lv2: “[Silence.]”

Lv1: “You know what?”

Lv2: “What?”

Lv1: “How about just starting with the one word: past. That’s [ae] as in  apple, of course. Past.”

Lv2: “Pest.”

Lv1: “[Pffft.] Well, fine. I can see why you might feel like going there. But really we’re doing this for you, remember. So, just to get back on track, the problem with pest here (one anyway) is that it’s got the ‘eh’ sound as in ‘you can do better’ and “things now will get better if we sort them out from things that happened in the past. See? So: pissed, pest, past. Do you hear the difference?”

Lv2: “I do.”

Lv1: “Of course you do, so, please. Try again. Say it. Past. These things happened in the past, the past, the PAST! Past.”

Lv2: “Post.”

Lv1: “Perfect. Why don’t you? I really think you should do just that. Post.”

Lv2: “I will.”

Lv1: “Good. Great. I look forward to it.”

Lv2: “Me too.”

[I will add a link to my post HERE as soon as I’m done.]

 

 

I did my thing (Part 2)

There’s no “I did my thing (Part 1)” so this may be cheating (but there is this: https://lourdesmint.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1214).

Anyway my thing was such a small thing: mailing a check — which is not to say that money is no object for us or the person we owed it to, because that’s definitely not the case. But in the grand scheme of getting our monster of a house ready for sale, this was one of the smaller costs … and we were then VERY close to putting it on the market. So mailing that check that day, with my old friend Rochelle’s words of wisdom in mind, I had to ask myself: exactly why had I procrastinated with this particular check, along with several other final DETAILS really, when working on the house/the move has been such a time-hog and soul-sucker for more than a year now?

The answer may be obvious. I have no idea. It’s going to take a while for me to dig myself out of the hole I fell into and regain perspective … or perhaps discover an entirely new one. But I think the biggest challenge will be in not looking for another albatross to hang around my neck once this one falls away. IMG_3520

People can become accustomed to and very adept at adjusting for the weight of their burdens, the frenzied tempo of chronic stress, even the warped “comfort zone” that is defined by the ever-widening gap of what they feel must do and what they can actually do. Looking back, I see I have traded in one albatross for another for as long as I can remember. I’m not sure why. But I don’t think it’s as much about being a glutton for punishment as it is about not being sure what I should or, no,  can do with my (relative) freedom — once more time & space become available in my life again.

 

 

What’s one small thing that you (yes, YOU) can do today? (Part 1)

IMG_2974Just thinking of my overwhelming list of to dos — the kind that follows me into the shower, spoons with me at night, and takes a bite out of my sandwich before I get a chance — and I thought about this friend of mine. I’ll call her Rochelle. She’d say, “just take one small thing off that list, one that you can do by yourself today (in under 10 minutes, say) and just do it.” Crossing that one little thing off your crushing, intimidating list steals a disproportionately large amount of its weight and bluster, according to her.

She did this for 80 days or something like that (I forget all of the details, but I think she gave herself as many days as she had items on the list) and FORBADE herself to add anything more to the list until everything on it was crossed off. For a while this was very hard for her and she’d sometimes sneak-start a new one, but then destroy it.

This idea completely freaks me out, still. No lists???

“But how’d you get all the other stuff done, the stuff that you HAD to do but that came up in the meantime, on say Day 48?” I remember asking …I still wonder.

She said she made a mental note of those things and did them too. To this day, she refuses to keep a to do list* that’s longer than four or five items and that can’t be done within a week or preferably a day. (WHAT???) What she discovered in the process of her little experiment, she said, was that her elaborate to do lists were a SHAM: not only were they a terrible form of procrastination and a really crappy reminder, right there in black and white, of how lame she was, but also they didn’t really work … for some people anyway, like me, like the old Rochelle. And — this is the best part — by relying more on her memory, she claimed that what she had to do became more integrated with who she was, her true values and priorities, in fact helped her manifest those things in her life. “I remember what I have to do because it makes sense for me to remember.” She’d also realized that so many of the things on her old to do lists were things she thought she SHOULD do versus things she really needed or wanted to do.

Today Rochelle is one of the most productive and successful people I know personally AND she’s living and making a living in line w/ her own ideas of what’s important. She talks a lot less than she used to, isn’t as twitchy either, seems happier, drinks less, but she’s still Rochelle. And this reminds me of one last thing she said about the old lists: she felt that they, along with other old habits, were like so many old friends who’d provided her comfort over the years, never let her down, were always there for her — and that for a long time, she equated getting rid of these habits with a sort of betrayal … not only of these friends but of a self that she’d formed in their trusted company. But they had become less comfortable for her over time (more on this later, maybe) and by saying goodbye to them, she actually felt more like herself, her true self, than she had in years.

So right now I’ve picked my thing, so small but slightly incriminating in my not having done it, and I hereby commit to getting it done today, crossing it off my list. Not sure yet whether I’ll commit to the rest of the plan.

Either way, I’ll report back later on my success.

WOULD LOVE TO HEAR ABOUT YOURS…

*As opposed to a grocery list or an action/implementation plan in list form, in which each item is the next step in a sequence of steps for getting X done

STAY

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Forever Young.”

(Death is the dark backing that a mirror needs if we are to see anything. ~ Saul Bellow)

My, oh my, my love … about these depressions in our mattress, which can

Only be flipped and turned so many times before they stop bouncing back,

Let’s not think, so THAT is what we’ve done with one-third of our lives!?

By that time (this?), I hope we can say: well, OK, we need(ed) that for this, these, the

Other two-thirds, which — however long they may last beyond this point —

Must be able to push forth, astride those nights that do end;

Hurdle endings that don’t end: the endings of pets, people, people we love;

Let go of  things that won’t/can’t be found again, no matter how ORGANIZED we are or

How faithfully we retrace our steps, how much we care or try or want; and, AND, and

Get used to the feeling of Nature’s waning interest in us, looking through us now to

Its more current projects, just as it becomes more beautiful in our eyes.photo (2)

(How many times have I photographed the moon just this past year? The DAGGONE moon! Like it hasn’t been here all this effing time, hanging around, doing its thing while I did mine. But now, each time, with every shot, I felt/feel a word placed and then burn under my tongue: STAY! [That’s the word.] I can never tell where the word’s come from nor who it’s for. Me? The moon? Us both? Who can say [?] so I let it stay, the word beneath my tongue, until one day I look for it and find it’s slipped away again.)

I do know, though, all things do finally go, are gone, and that is that — for now, at least.

But that’s what makes life precious and meaningful. Yes, that’s just exactly how the whole thing works.

Anyway. NOW THAT THAT’S OUT OF THE WAY,  to answer the question: HECK, YES! I would GULP those

Fountain-of-youth waters down, just before diving in and spending the better part of the day(s) floating — never, ever sleeping —

On my back, this back here (!), which is presently further debouncing our mattress. But, YES!

I would drink. I would make you drink, too.

(A mirror needs a dark backing if we are to see our reflection, which is always good to check out before having your photo taken, going out to dinner, etc. ~ Lourdes Mint)

“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.

 

 

“Bittersweet symphony” for sure

IMG_0022My blog ending is pending … but our move-out date is not extending! So much to do, so best to start with first things first. Right? Sure.

Somehow I couldn’t resist a certain task that I’m sure could have waited or not been done at all. We’ve accumulated many “outdoor things” during our five years here — rocks, twigs, other things found on walks and brought home, which we’ve then attempted to domesticate in some manner or another. And as much as each meant to us at the time, we canNOT take ALL of them with us. We could toss them over the fence into the forest, home to many of them anyway, or scatter them in the garden. Whatever. But no. They were gathered too lovingly, I was thinking, for us to part w/ them so unceremoniously. We’d have to sort them, choose our favorites, let the rest go. (We’ve got a sort of have a system going.) I told myself also that we’d treat this homely little task with as much respect as we’ve shown items w/ more obvious value or utility; I’d make it something fun for Elliot (the main gatherer of the outdoor things, after all), not to mention a positive learning experience, right? We make room for the future by letting go of the past, right? Right. In the end, though, I’m pretty sure this guy here (w/ the bone) got the most out of the whole process, aside from me …

Elliot didn’t seem to give a hoot what stayed or went, it turned out (pang), but gave me “permission” to do what needed to be done w/ the outdoor things, which I might have balked at if I’d had more energy and didn’t secretly covet the idea of full creative control — things being what they are now. When I was done, Elliot stared at my creation, blankly, clearly nonplussed, finally mustered a lukewarm “cool…” and was off again in a flash (double-pang). That’s his foot there!IMG_0033

It’s hard to know what to make of Elliot’s easy way with belongings. Does he have so much that he doesn’t truly value any one thing for very long? Probably there’s some of that there, even though he has nowhere near what I’ve seen at some of his friends’ houses. Is he too young to fully appreciate the sweetness of the memories I’ve attached to these objects? Yes, again, probably so — which seems as it should be. Has he been lucky enough NOT to inherit whatever gene it is that predisposes my father and me (and my grandmother before us) to holding on a little too long to a little too much? Honestly, I hope so. Does he totally understand that we’re really moving? That I kind of doubt, and this is one of the reasons we’ve been pushing so hard to do it this year, before second grade, rather than next — the younger kids are, the easier the transition is supposed to be for them.

But there is also just this: that the little boy who wanted so much to bring these things into the house (despite my labeling them “outdoor things,” which was more because I hoped he wouldn’t be like me with my boxes of rocks and such), and who finally got his way (my way, anyway), is changing. Elliot still brings home a stick or rock every now and then, but it has to be pretty special — either very unusual (e.g., a twig resembling a snake or a wizard’s wand) or sparkly enough to hint at potential real-world value (“Could this rock be a real diamond if we shined it up?”). And he is now ready to cash in the baby teeth he’s accumulated (five to date) after having kept them like treasures for months and months (I think he was more creeped out by the idea of the Tooth Fairy than he was uninterested in money). Now, he’s willing risk a visit from the Tooth Fairy (even though I never could explain to him why she wanted kids’ baby teeth) if it means he can buy a Lego Legends of Chima Mammoth — he almost has enough money. A tooth or two, he figures, should do the trick.

So anyway, after Elliot left the scene, I sat and admired our collection, my work, for quite a while, remembering the stories behind some of the objects we’d gathered together. I felt good, too, about the odd items I’d interspersed with the outdoor things, some that were handmade and others that just seemed to fit. The wooded back yard looks especially beautiful this time of year, but I turned my back on it, not wanting to fall under its spell again (the main reason we chose this house), OR maybe not wanting to see — in the context of it — this strange thing I’d chosen to do with my limited time/energy before the move. Anyway, after disassembling the arrangement, I whittled the collection down to what would fit on a single piece of paper. I was quite pleased w/ myself, until later I found several more mini-collections outdoor things stowed here and there. I threw up my hands! That’s it, I told myself in frustration: for now, I’m all about packing, a PACKING machine.

The next day I made an ear (out of sculpy, a type of clay) for a decorative wooden horse that lost one in a bad fall during our last move — w/ a little paint, he will be restored to his original beauty. But that will have to wait. Today, for real, I’m a PACKING machine. No more silliness. The time for “purposeless” acts is over, temporarily — at least according to me, now, at this moment in time.

IMG_0011IMG_0014

Goodbye for now — but WAIT, WAIT, not yet!

Well, here’s a perfect ending to a perfect (in its own way) experience here on WordPress.com.

IMG_1776_1

In my haste, I posted my blog’s farewell a bit prematurely last night, trying to meet my self-imposed deadline. And then today, after I thought I’d retracted it to give it the attention I saw it needed and felt it deserved, I accidentally republished (or reposted?) what I thought were “just drafts” throughout the day.

Lourdes Mint (that vaporous image below) almost seems to thiIMG_1776_1 copynk it’s funny, or at least she’s not at all embarrassed about it. Look at her! Pen names can be so disappointing, really, so much the opposite of what you thought they might be. Lesson learned.

But we, I, hope you’ll give the finished work a look when it’s done — tomorrow, I hope. What a year this has been! Thanks!

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!!!

 

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