May 28, 2004

The fog has just cleared, from the mountain, not my head.  That's still fairly foggy.  I've just not been sleeping enough, either in hours or quality.  I hope to make up for that this weekend.  Eric has a full day of work today and (I think) is off this weekend.  On Tuesday, he starts 2 weeks of a particular training.  It's full time, plus he'll do his usual work on the weekends, so I won't see him much at all.  I'll really miss him, but he gets paid good money for taking the training, plus he gets the training, which is good. 

Last night, it started raining, big ploppy drops.  Eric got up in the wee hours and went out to the balcony to sit and listen to it.  It was still pouring when he left at 4:30am.  It let up around 7am and the kids only had a few drops when they went out to catch the bus at 7:15.  Today is the last day of school for the year!  Hurray!  By 8am, a dense fog was outside.  Nathan came running in and said, "The clouds came down from the sky again!!"  It burned off by lunch time, but my head is still sleepy and cottony. 

Eric surprised me yesterday with a wonderful glider (the swing kind, not the airplane kind). I really wanted one for out front and he found a good buy on one at Wal-Mart.  We couldn't afford it, but he got it anyway and I loved him for it.  He also bought bamboo torches for the circle out back.  I miss the wrought iron ones.  :(  These will get the job done, though.  I wanted to sit outside and glide today, but it's still damp and icky out.

Several months ago, I started chewing around on something and thought it was so dorky and flaky and sappy that I didn't tell anyone.  I finally broke it off to Eric last week and he has been thinking about it since and seems to think it has merit.  I'm going to explain it as well as I can, but it's still a work in progress, so it isn't completely fleshed out by any means.

A couple of years ago, I challenged myself to not swear for a month.  I don't have anything against swearing.  Rampant swearing is annoying, just like rampant anything is annoying.  My son, Josh, can't say a sentence without having a "k" in it somewhere.  I LOVE words and think they are delicious.  There aren't really any that offend me and I have trouble giving some words more power than others just because they have a different consonant at the beginning (like "duck," for instance).  I HATE hearing people swear at children.  That does bother me.  I find swearing to be marvelously cathartic and impressive when done well. 

So since much of my life was spinning out of control, I decided to control something I could control.  I would go a month without swearing.  It was longer ago than I thought. I found the journal I did on it.  August 10, 2001.  Almost 3 years ago.  If you want to read about it, scroll down to that date.  It's long. 

I did it.  I went the whole month without swearing.  I was surprised at how difficult it is to control habits and autoresponses.  Since I refused to say dumb shit like, "Oh FUDGE!" I was also surprised at how hard I had to work to come up with other ways to express myself and convey whatever I wanted to say at the time.  It was a definite exercise in self control.  I also found myself pausing before I spoke and thinking about what I was going to say before I said it.  It was a wonderful learning experience.  Afterwards, I went back to swearing, having accomplished my goal and learned a good deal.

Now, I told you that to tell you this part of what I was thinking.

Just like cursing, there is something that we, as humans do automatically, most of us, anyway, that I call into question here and now. 

Example:  I'm in line at Albertsons (West Coast grocery store).  The guy behind me in line knows the checker guy.  Checker guy looks up and smiles, "Hey, they'll let anyone in here, won't they?"  

Example:  We just got our new puppy.  Eric and I were outside when the kids got off the bus from school.  Delena says, "Where's the new puppy?"  I answer with a solemn face, "I'm sorry, Delena, he ran away."  pause for a beat  "Nah, he's asleep inside."

Example:  You're out with a single girlfriend, who is chatting up some guy.  You hang around while she giggles and flips her hair and acts all stupid, then she leaves with you.  She's chatting animatedly about him and you said, "Yes, he's GORGEOUS!  Too bad you started your period on your white pants and have a huge spot on your ass."  She blanches white and screams.  "I what?"  "Nah, I was just kidding."

Example:   Eric is calling home from work, which he is always good about and says, "The guys and I were thinking about going over to Mike's and hanging out for a while. Are you OK with that?"  I say, "What I'm thinking is you've been working all day and I've been stuck with kids all day and you'd best be getting your ass home instead of going out playing with your boyfriends."  silence  "Nah, I'm just kidding.  Go, have fun."

Example:  Joe was only 2 weeks old and we found out he was born with bilateral hernias in his scrotum.  He had to have surgery right away.  He was so little and I was only 16 and was terrified.  I called a friend of mine who was kind of a mentor to me (she was the mother of one of my schoolmates) and I said, "I'm so scared!  Joey has to have surgery for hernias and I'm so afraid I'm going to lose him!"  She replied, "Well, I told you not to let him move all that heavy furniture."  As ludicrous as it was to think of a 2 week old baby moving furniture, the feeling that washed over me was, "It's your fault."

Why do we DO this?  I know most of you are saying, "Oh PLEASE, give me a BREAK!  EVERYbody teases!  It's fun!  It's how we communicate!"

Is it?

Or is it a way that we exert power over one another?  Is it a way that we elevate ourselves over each other for just a second?  If we can give someone a brief second of humiliation or fear or sadness, for that moment, we hold the key to their happy box.  We can take it all away by saying, "Nah, I was just kidding."  We can draw it out as long as we want.  We are in control.  Even if they know it's bullshit, they know that we are attempting on some level to manipulate them.  Many will say that I'm reading too much into this, but really think about it.  Cast aside your protectiveness of this common practice and exam it a bit.

Part of it is survival of the fittest.  In our hearts, no matter how altruistic and holy we may be, we're out for ourselves.  It doesn't matter how much we love another person or how many acts of selfless heroism one performs in their lives, overall, a person's drive from a visceral level is for self-preservation.  Since the average person doesn't have time or tools to build themselves up on an ongoing basis, to be better every day than they were the day before and take confidence in that progression, the natural opposing force of that is to cut down and control the people around us.  This is just one subtle way that we do it. 

Even if the teasee is in on the joke, like the guy in line at Albertsons who accepts what the checker says as an affectionate greeting (as it truly was intended to be) and takes no offense at all, on some level, the cut down is there, even if it is not perceived.  It's processed. 

Children are particularly impressionable with this.  How many things can you remember from your childhood that were said to you and were what Dr Phil calls "defining moments" that the person who said them to you cannot even remember?  When I was six years old, my mother sat me on a three-legged stool next to her stove and said, "Girl, you aren't much to look at, so if you're going to get a husband when you grow up, you're going to have to learn to cook."  Until the day she died, my mother would swear she never said that, but her words burned onto my heart.  I am an incredible cook.  Ironically, both of my husbands have been very attached into my cooking.  I used to fly into a panic whenever Eric would want to fast for a couple of days.  I'd have the feeling in my spirit that he didn't love me when there was nothing to support that.  Because of my mom's words, I put my self-worth into a frying pan.

I used to LOVE to sing.  I have a terrible voice (no, really, I do - ha.  I can definitely admit it is not one of my many talents), but I loved to sing.  It felt wonderful.  The second year we were married, that would be 1980, my first husband said to me, "If you can't carry a tune, please don't torture the rest of us!"  That kept me from singing out loud for over 20 years. 

I tried to be sexy once when he asked if I'd make him a cup of tea.  I stripped down to a transparent white apron, white high heels and nothing else.  I weighed about 125 then and had 3 babies.  When he saw me, he started laughing and said, "You just look so silly with your flabby belly and thighs!"  That was in 1982.  I still can't wear negligees or pretty frilly things without feeling the rise of pink shame going into my cheeks and I disempowered Paul years ago.  The imprint is still there and I weigh 100 pounds more than I did then.   I used to go the full route of corsets, seamed stockings, teddies, lace gloves etc. 

When Eric and I first met, the attraction was incredible.  We really, really dug each other.  He lived in Sacramento and I lived in Idaho.  After I moved out here, Eric felt like I was asking for more than I was.  He felt trapped by me moving here because our feelings were so strong and I was so much older than he was.  He was only 20 and definitely and understandably not ready to hook up a 35-year-old divorced woman with 4 kids.  His mother was very against us being together and he was really attracted to Barbie doll-types.  I knew that and was at peace with it. In order to distance himself in that respect, he told me, "I'm just not attracted to you sexually.  Your weight is a turn off and you're just too old.  You might be able to diet, but you'll always be too old for me."  It cut me to the bone.  He was trying to be honest with me about his feelings, but now, even after being married to him for just under seven years and hearing lots of reassurances, I still hear his voice saying, "You're too fat and you're too old."

How often do we hear ourselves saying thing to our children that can hurt, just because we're fed up and frustrated or scared?  My son, David, remembers his head being held in his father's eyes while his father looked him straight in the face and said, "Son, you are an asshole.  Don't forget that." 

No matter the range of heinousness of what we say to each other (and my examples show quite a range from friendly banter to deeply scarring shit), we at best take delight in cutting down others or given them moments or minutes of fear or shame or embarrassment and at worst, don't care about the damage we do to them.

Just as I had to, for that month, stop and think before I spoke and find another way to express myself, can you imagine how it would be if instead of automatically slamming one another with insults (awww, it's just how I show I love ya!!) and put downs, we showed our affection by saying wonderful things?  What if we used our words to elevate each other and make the people we love and encounter in our day feel good about themselves instead of putting the negativity out there?  Wouldn't that greatly increase the overall positivity in the world?

Sage just came back to our site.  You wouldn't BELIEVE the welcome home he has received from the fans.  Before he left, he got more letters than I can count from people who said, "You know, when you call me darling in your column, even though I KNOW you aren't talking specifically to me, I can feel it and often, it's the only nice thing anyone says to me all day.  When you tell me you love me and you're talking to all of your readers, I feel like you're talking to me and no one ever tells me, 'I love you.'"  People love Sage because Sage loves them.  He tells them how beautiful they are and how happy he is that they are in his life.  The thing is, he really, really means it.  I remember his reply to one of the women who wrote something similar to him.  He said, "Now why do you think I'm not talking specifically to you, darling?  I AM!"

How many of you who enjoy Sage's columns read them with the feeling of slipping into a warm tub of bubbly water because you're surrounded by his essence of love and joy?  It's how I feel when I read his work.

It's how I feel when I'm with him.

I have a friend, a really dear friend, who I ADORE who is wonderfully sarcastic and flippant.  She's a ton of fun to be so little. :)  "Her way" of expressing affection is sometimes the put down way and when I would be feeling sad about something or having a bad day, it hurt.  I finally told her about it, that I knew it was how she communicated, but that it hurt me and I wish she'd love me in some other way.  She IMMEDIATELY stopped and ever since, her communication has been 100% loving and supportive. If I'm having a bad day, I no longer cringe when I see her e-mails. I get excited because I know she's going to be loving and funny and make me feel better, even if she doesn't KNOW I'm having a bad day.  My respect for her is through the roof because she cared enough about me to go against the nature of her personality and change the way she communicates with me.  THAT'S friendship!!  I love her so much for doing that for me.

There is no denying that words have incredible power.  They can uplift our souls and give our heart wings or they can cut us to the core and scar us forever.  I think all of us, myself included, must be so very mindful of how we speak to people and the energy that we put out there around the words we say.  Yes, it's a pain in the ass to stop and censor what you say. People take great pride in the right to just babble anything that comes into their heads at any given time without being encumbered with the filter of whether or not the words should actually be said.  That's the biggest trouble with words.  There is no "undo" button.  You can never take them back.  Once they're out there, the damage or the glory has been done.  With that degree of permanence to something as fleeting as words, one would think we'd be more careful. 

If we all were to take the time and the responsibility and the grace to think before we speak, to give value to our words and work to make people feel good about themselves in even the most subtle ways, could it hurt?  Sure, it's easier to just say, "That's just the way I am, I don't mean anything by it," but what if we all went the extra mile and actually changed how we interact with each other.  What if we tell the people we love how much they mean to us and the things we admire about them?  What if we become a person that people love to be with because they like who they are when they are with us?

Anyway, that's what I'm working on these days.  I know it sounds hokey, but I believe it has merit and Eric didn't laugh out loud at me (he's the king of sarcasm), so he's thinking about it too.  I am reminded of what Dr Phil said in his book Relationship Rescue.  He proposed that we wake up every morning and plan three things we can do that day to make our marriage better and our spouse happy.  Why stop at marriage?  What if we did it for everyone in our life?  I give a great deal of merit to the energy that we carry around ourselves and how we see ourselves.  Some people thrive on being a martyr and that's not what I'm talking about here.  Some are the eternal victim.  Some give off a constant air of hopelessness.  I am talking about doing this from a position of empowerment of being in charge of what you say and what you do in a positive way, making the world a better place.  What if YOU are the only one who says something nice to a particular person today? 

So if we're being mindful of the energy that we carry around with us and we carry around the sense of empowerment over what we say and the effect it has and the ability to make others feel good about themselves, I think that is what will come back to us.  You probably know well that if you are a martyr, you'll attract people who are eager to nail you to the cross or other martyrs who want to hear you talk endlessly about your trials and tribulations on the cross.  If you are a victim, you'll attract users and other victims.  If you are a bully, you'll high five with other bullies and attract in the victims.  If you are confident, calm and empowered, you'll very seldom if ever find yourself surrounded with whiners or rage-babies.  It's amazing how when you change yourself and the way you exist in the world, the world changes around you.  People begin to shift here and there, new people come into play and your whole life changes.  It's incredible.  Isn't this a good place to begin?

*thunk*  That's me hopping off my pulpit. 

I hope you have an amazing, wonderful holiday weekend.  The angels are enroute to your house as we speak here with arms and wings laden with miracles for you.  Throw open the door and offer them a beer.  They all look like this:


Happy Memorial Day.  Make it... memorable.




Artist: Josephine Wall

Graphics: Enchanting Designz