Thursday, May 22, 2014

Words of Wisdom That Don't Work Because I'm Too Neurotic

*Author's Note:  Proceed only if you're checking in with your sense of humor in tow*

Because I always make sure to watch only quality television, today's post was inspired by some lines I constantly hear from certain reality shows.  (Don't bother asking me which ones I'm referring to).  Admittedly, I did have to add some on my own, thus completing this list of words of wisdom that drive me insane when I hear them spoken.  Given my penchant for over-analysis, these 'wise words', meant to comfort and enlighten, actually end up being ineffective for me because I find them either incomplete, irresponsible or just plain stupid.

Without further ado, here is my list of supposedly 'wise' sayings that, if spoken to me, will certainly cause either some debate or hair-pulling...and I can't promise that it won't be yours.

Photo Credit: A Tale of A Halo

"You only live once (YOLO)" 
(variation: "Live like there's no tomorrow; dance as if nobody's watching, love like you've never been hurt")

Oh really?  Are you sure?  Are you absolutely certain that we really only live once?  If I happen to believe in reincarnation, where does this leave me?  

And don't you think 'living like there's no tomorrow' is possibly the principle that most of mankind, especially those in the first world, have been practicing, which is why environmental degradation is close to being irreversible at this point, leaving almost nothing for future generations on this Earth?  

The trouble is, it's more likely that there will be a tomorrow, whether tomorrow still has me in it or not.  And if I'm still in it, which, again, is more likely, then I don't want to have painful joints that are beyond repair, causing me immobility as a result of irresponsibly dancing like there was no tomorrow.

As for loving like I've never been hurt, well, I'd like to think that there's a reason why God made memory possible.  I think it's a terrible waste of gray matter if I just put past experiences and lessons aside instead of trying to remember and apply what I can in present and future relations, don't you agree?  If my heart has been mauled to pieces before, won't it be a sign of intelligence if I proceed with some caution next time and employ a somewhat different strategy?  The self-preservation instinct is there for a reason.  Let's use it wisely.

"If you can dream it, you can do it."

Really???  'Cos I once dreamed of being a medical doctor and then somehow it just did not work out.  I lost interest.  I guess it also didn't help that my Analytical Chemistry professor helped crush my dream by making no effort for her lectures to be understood so we can all have a passing grade, but instead took pride in having more than half of our class drop the course.  

I also often dream of flying and yet somehow I'm still not able to do it.  I wonder why.....

"Forgive and Forget"

There is no such thing.  Yes, forgive by all means!  But never forget.  Because if you choose to, then how will you also remember the lessons learnt?  I believe that forgiveness--releasing yourself from what binds you to the past and your expectations of it--is possible without completely forgetting what happened or was done to you.  If someone has wronged you deeply, you can release yourself from the negative emotions, and yet still keep notes as to what could possibly protect you from committing the same mistake again, either with the same person or with another.  It's simply common sense.

"Love is never having to say you're sorry"

I guess I missed the memo saying that Love also takes away other virtues such as humility, and accountability, among other things.  If paired with 'We always hurt the ones we love', which really makes sense because you can only really hurt those to whom you matter, then never saying sorry just makes you a flat-out jerk.  Stay away from me!

"There's nowhere else to go but up."

Hitting rock bottom doesn't automatically imply an eventual unidirectional movement, or improvement.  Some people are simply immune to any inertia that could make some difference in their life, or they think they're 'moving up' when in truth they're moving laterally / sideways.  This saying doesn't really offer me much comfort because it's simply not true that 'up' is the only space there is other than 'down'.

"If you love someone, let them go / set them free; for if they return they were always yours.  If they don't, then they never were"

Why, why, why and most importantly, WHY, would you let go of someone you love??!!!  I see no point in tempting either the object of your affection or fate by playing this stupid game!  In my book, when you love someone, you do everything in your power to be with them, assuming of course they love you too.

This saying would have been so much better if it went like this:  "If you love someone, don't ever let them go.  Unless of course they make it crystal clear that they don't love you back.  If that were the case, then don't even take them in if they decide to come back.  That's not a sign that they were always yours.  It's a sign that you could be playing second best to someone or something.  Either that or you're dealing with someone who doesn't know what he/ she wants.  That kind of ambivalent energy is something you wouldn't want to be around, especially where your heart and soul are at stake."  

Here's a much shorter version:  "If you love someone, just REALLY love and quit playing games.  

"What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger"

This has to be my favorite.  I'm sure Nietzsche had some profound reason for stating this but come on now. I can think of a hundred alternative consequences to that which does not end up killing me other than making me stronger. How about what doesn't kill me only makes me paralyzed?...or hopeless?....numb?....or maybe unmotivated?....Feel free to jump right in and supply your own conclusions.  Oh, and one more piece of advice.  I suggest you not try saying this crap to stroke survivors.  I'm just sayin'.....

"Time heals all wounds"

No.  It does not.  Period.

Can you think of anything else to add to this list of 'not-so-wise words'.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Mother's Performance Evaluation: Do I Measure Up?

Mother's Day always gives me an amusing but valuable view of my son's perspective of me and my parenting of him. You know how our school-age kids make some cute Mother's Day projects in school and it's always accompanied by a sheet or two of these fill-in-the-blanks, slumbook-esque items or questions which are supposed to describe the Mom? Well, of course I got them too and let's just say it offered me not only the sweet 'Awwww's', but also the disturbed 'Hmmmmm's....'.

Let's first deal with the superficial stuff.  Apparently, my son thinks I am 6'1" tall.  (He actually wrote 4'25" under height so I had to bust out my math skills to correctly interpret that one).  I also only weigh 75 lbs. in my son's eyes which is really sweet of him, although combining that with my newly assigned height, makes me cartoonishly- and freakishly-skinny.

My interpretation of how my son possibly sees me.  (Yes I have no drawing skills!)

What interested me the most was the fill-in-the-blank item that says "My Mom is good at many things.  One thing she's best at is..." and he wrote, "...her work blo(g)ging and cleaning".

I'm glad that my son recognizes my writing / blogging as 'work', which means that to a certain extent, he also probably recognizes my identity as a 'writer/ blogger'.  This, of course, makes me happy since it adds a dimension to how he perceives me; that to him, I can be good at things other than housework.  

However, I couldn't help but really reflect on that item and ask myself what I'm really good at and what I'm good for these days.  I have been out of the paid workforce for seven years now and I do wonder about what marketable skills I have that are still recognizable by individuals who don't share my home address.  

Perhaps this is why in the recent months, I've been more focused on taking my blogging more seriously and have been thinking about taking it to the next level, whatever that means.  I know that I can no longer claim my previous identity as an 'academic' given that I've been out of the academic world for so long.  When I tell my son of the 'good old days' and that a long time ago, Mommy was an Assistant Professor teaching college kids / older kids, he just stares back and appears like I'm telling him some fictional tale.  It doesn't make much sense to him and can't seem to imagine me holding a job outside of our home.  

And so I've been a bit panicked, trying to figure out what I am now, other than 'wife' or 'mother', and if ultimately, in some way I'm actually shortchanging my child.

Which of course begs another question.  What is so bad, or so lacking, in having just the identity of 'mother'? According to my 'bosses' --- the only two people who truly have the right to evaluate my performance, my son and my husband --- I do a pretty remarkable job!  I don't think there is any question in that, even though I'm far from the vicinity of Martha Stewart-ville.  

But let's face the truth and not sugarcoat things here.  None of us is one-dimensional and it is natural to seek affirmation beyond the confines of our families and those who love us dearly.  We have been taught this since childhood through our introduction to the education system.  By being in school, being around other children and adults other than our parents, we learned that we need to play by objective standards; standards set out by institutions that don't function based on affect or mere emotional ties.  We have known all our lives that being evaluated objectively by the outside world shapes our identities, gives us affirmation and boosts our self-confidence and sense of worth.  I'm not saying external affirmations should be the sole source of our sense of identity and value. But it is true that a part of each of us craves it and helps validate us.  I'm also inclined to believe that this craving, this need for outside validation may be stronger for those who were once over-achievers or 'performers' as students, such as myself.  

I have no doubt that my son gets all the love that he needs; all the support, the nourishment, the care that I can possibly give.  I know he is a happy and healthy child.  I know that my being around him and staying home to remain focused on our family give him joy (no pun intended) and he has repeatedly told me that he doesn't want it any other way.  He even protests to the idea of having a sitter or a nanny, or having to go to an afterschool program should the time come when I decide to work outside the home.  Our arrangement now is what he wants.  This is also my desire and am grateful that our family can afford for me to stay at home, 'work' at home.

But a part of me can't help but wonder if I'm enough to my son and if I'm setting a good example to him. We look to our mothers for love and guidance. We consider them our anchors and the most powerful role-models in our lives. All that said, can I be sure that I'm showing him a good work ethic and values regarding gender roles and gender equality?

I'm reminded of what a good friend of mine asked me several months ago. She was thinking of cutting back on her work hours to be with her family more. But she was concerned about the impression it would give her daughter about women's roles in society and what we can truly achieve.  I gave her the most honest answer I could at the time.  I told her that I grew up with a career-oriented mother.  She held a high position at their company, but also worked hard at home to make sure we were well-cared for.  However, if you asked me what my most treasured childhood memory is, even to this date I'd tell you that it was those afternoons when she baked brownies for us while we were forced to take our nap.  Sure I admired her for being a 'career woman'.  I saw my Mom as highly intelligent, driven, hardworking, but also very exhausted. The fact is, I still think the brownies and the bread pudding and her presence during school functions were more memorable than the clothes, the cars or restaurants we were able to afford at the time.  Those are the things that stuck to me, the things that truly made an impression.

It made so much sense then when I gave this 'advice' to my friend.  I hope it makes sense for me now that I'm asking myself about my own sense of self-worth and if I'm simply enough.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Of Cabs, Commitment and Clooney

I've just finished reading this essay by Amy Klein talking about George Clooney’s recent engagement and saying that it appears he’s not a commitment-phobe after all.  As it turns out, he just wasn’t into his past girlfriends, at least according to this writer.  

Ms. Klein, proceeded to say that women, (and I suppose that includes all of Clooney’s exes) should disabuse themselves of the notion that it’s all our exes' fault for having ‘issues’, and that we were simply unlucky enough to have met a commitment-phobe or a man-child.  She says that it’s time to face the truth, the painful truth, that when we get dumped, it's plainly because we were not ‘The One’ for that man and that sooner or later, that man we called names and who presented with way too many incurable symptoms of the commitment-phobe infection or some other irreversible deeply-seated psychological issue, WILL fall in love again and get hitched to someone else.....someone different.  It won’t matter who or what type the ‘final’ girl will be.  All that matters is that it won’t be you.  Period.

Though I agree with Ms. Klein on most points, I have to say that I feel there is possibly one more thing I’d like to add to her Clooney analysis.  

When I first heard of this Hollywood engagement about a week and a half ago, only one name almost instantaneously came to mind : Miranda Hobbes. Remember that Sex and The City episode where she said that men are like cabs?...that it all depends on whether or not you catch them while their 'lights are on'?  It just makes so much sense!

That's what I thought when I heard of George Clooney's engagement.  His light finally turned back on.  

Yes, Amal Alamuddin is a great catch.  Even possibly, an irresistible catch, and maybe Clooney felt he'd have to be the dumbest guy in the universe to still let her slip away when he could have had her.  But I think, all this 'awesomeness' that surrounds Amal would still not have mattered if George didn't think the timing was right and if he wasn't ready.  And if Amal didn't feel ready as well, then it wouldn't have mattered if George was bleeding on his knees with a willingness to put a rock on each of her 10 fingers.  (And yes, we're on a first-name basis here, people!).  

So yes, I'm a believer in timing, and obviously, the timing was right for both of them.  I highlight 'both' here because that's also my point of disagreement with Amy Klein's essay saying that the problem lies not with "them" (our exes), but with "us".  I don't think it's fair to put all of the burden on the 'dumpee' when couples break up.  Couples don't work out because the fit wasn't right, and not just because one person was defective.  If someone breaks up with you, if you get dumped, (unless of course you were completely too psychotic to be with), 'normally' it's simply because you were BOTH not right for each other.  We dislike someone or fall out of love not always because there is something inherently wrong with the other person, but because of our own preferences, tastes, beliefs and values.  I don't think you can simplify rejection by simply putting the spotlight on the inadequacies or flaws of the person getting rejected.  More often than not, rejection, and break-ups in general, are far more complex than that, and always involves more than just having one flawed piece of the puzzle.  Trying to fully understand why it happened, what was wrong, whose fault it was and all possible combinations of all the questions in the world invoked for "closure's" sake, almost always prove futile and a complete waste of time AND brain cells!  (Trust me. I have an entire decade's worth of still unanswered questions to prove my credibility on this matter).

In any case, here's the main point I want to make.  There are far too many variables that come into play as you try to navigate the whole business of finding love and being able to keep it. Timing (or someone's light being on), compatibility or fit..all these things are beyond our control and difficult to predict when you first meet someone who can potentially be the one.  So really, the only variable you have control over is your self.  

But you can't fashion yourself after another person's preferences, nor time your life using another's clock or schedule. What we all need to do is focus on celebrating our own perfection, devote our energies on becoming even more fabulous and love our lives and try to live it as passionately as we can.  Those are the things that truly make one magical, delicious and dare I say it, magnetic even to unlit cabs out there.  And if you know you're fabulous and worth it, you won't even bother hailing emotional fuckwits. You'll know you deserve a better ride.

Can you empathize or relate to how Clooney's exes might be feeling these days?  Have you ever taken a ride on an "unlit cab"?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Our Purpose-Laden Lives

Image by:  Thomas Hawk

This morning I read an article on Yahoo about a woman who discovered an interesting letter inside her Saks Fifth Avenue shopping bag.  It was a letter written by a man who claimed he was being held prisoner in China and forced to work like a slave to produce those shopping bags (and other items) in bulk. (You can read the entire story here).  

To me the most interesting twist to the story is that the woman who discovered the letter also happens to work for a human rights organization. Naturally, this flashes 'coincidence' pretty much like a neon sign. Some people call it coincidence, but I personally would rather call it fate, meant-to-be, aligning of the stars.  

I'm one who doesn't believe in mere coincidences and would rather see that things that happen have a purpose for which we were designated.  I'm one who likes paying attention to 'signs' and would like to believe that life speaks to us, nudges us to go a certain way.  I believe in human agency, that we need to make decisions and act.  But I also believe that a lot of times, if we just pay close attention, we see that the Universe provides sign posts that guide us towards where we need to be or what would be most beneficial to the evolution of our souls.  

I'm not speaking these words out of some empty belief system.  I speak them because I've seen and felt them in my own life.  Marriage, pregnancy and miscarriage, and even job positions, have all shown me that things almost always eventually align and make sense when the time is right and when we are ready to see.  

I've fought with fate on countless occasions, only to discover that no matter where I go or what I do, the road still obviously wanted me to go another way. I've resisted letting go of people only to eventually realise it simply would not work out no matter how much I bargained or negotiated with the Universe.  I've also resisted letting some people into my life only to find that it was simply inevitable and that stars were simply aligning too much to be denied.

Everything is connected and to refuse that truth is a lost battle.  I even think that reading that news article about the mysterious letter in the shopping bag is not a coincidence; that perhaps I needed the reminder that we cross paths and are in each other's lives because of a meaningful purpose.  It could be for a reminder about a need I have for myself, my aspirations, inclinations or what I don't want in my life and where I don't want to be.  Or it could be some purpose I have to serve in someone's life.  Whatever it is, messages are out there.  We just need to be ready to receive them.  

“Most of the time, the power of fate played on like a quiet and monotonous ground bass, coloring only the edges of his life.  Rarely was he reminded of its existence.  But every once in a while, when the balance would shift,  (and what controlled the balance he never knew; he could discover no regularity in those shifts), the force would increase, plunging him into a state of near-paralytic resignation.   At such times, he had no choice but to abandon everything, and give himself up to the flow.  He knew from experience that nothing he could do or think would ever change the situation.  Fate would demand its portion, and until it received that portion, it would never go away.  He believed this with his whole heart.” ---From the Novel "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" by Haruki Murakami