Things I Would Never Change…

I wrote this post about 9 changes that I wish I could make in myself.  Now some of them may be possible to make, but others, either due to my genetic makeup, limitations to my intellect or simply #9 (lack of discipline), there just isn’t any hope.  I will have to take a good hard look at that list and decide which ones are possible to change and which ones would be worth the effort.  It may be that I just accept the flaws for themselves and never do anything about it.  It may be I that make some big steps in changing certain things.  I don’t know.  I will think about it and get back to you.

I did promise a post about things I would not change about myself.  And, funny enough, I find this one to be harder to write than the other one.  Even though the other post was about deep seated issues that I have, it was easier to tell you what I dislike than what I do.  I decided to think about this a bit.  I came to the conclusion that there were two reasons for this.  Neither one of them particularly pleasant, either. 

The first is to blame society.  We live in a schizophrenic society.  It alternately tells us how great and horrible we are.  We glorify and vilify ourselves to such a degree that a good deal of the time we cannot tell one from the other.  There is a reason why if you ask a woman to name the things she loves about her body she could not do it in half the time that she could name the things she hates about it.  I think this is what I am running into here.  We demonize people who openly like themselves as conceited or stuck up.  It is certainly not popular to sit around with your girlfriends drinking wine and confessing the deep dark things you like about yourself, now is it? Where is the fun in that, right? We’d much rather hear the juicy bad stuff.  Just look at TV.  We bemoan the fact that there just aren’t enough positive stories on the nightly news, but every news outlet knows that those just don’t sell.  It is the horrible stuff people want to hear about, even if for no other reason than to feel better that it is not them something bad is happening to ( I wrote a post about our voyeuristic narcissism here, if you are interested).  

The second reason is I think a blend of biology and psychology. I think as a general rule we have such an easier time recognizing and remembering the negative that we fail to even acknowledge the good.  That is why gratitude journals are so popular.  It forces us to acknowledge and think about the good things.  If I had to make a list in 5 minutes of the most horrible memories I have I could do it much easier than the best memories – even though intellectually I know the best ones are FAR more important.  I think there is such a strong feeling associated with shame and humiliation that it burns your psyche much deeper than the good emotions ever do.  Guilt causes you to relive the pain further imprinting it on you. 

The good is taken for granted.  If we spent half as much time reliving the feeling of that first kiss with the person you are madly in love with or the ecstasy of the birth of your children or what your boss said when he praised and promoted you, we would be a whole lot better off than reliving the stupid thing you said while a little toasted at the Christmas party – to someone you don’t like, much less respect.  But the average person will think of that more times in a year than they will remember their vows or sex on their wedding night.  Really, folks, where the hell are our priorities???

So when I started thinking about the things I like about myself, I started getting even more self-conscious about telling them than I did about the things I would change.  I also had to resist the urge to make the things I like about me other people (like saying I like that I have given birth to beautiful, talented, smart, adorable kids.  I mean I like that my kids are great, but the other list was about ME, not them).  It also made me feel like you would think I was a bit full of myself.  Now, we all have to have things we really like about ourselves.  That is what being able to look yourself in the mirror and be ok with who is looking back at you is all about.  I mean, to listen to us most of the time with our self-deprecation, you would think we were barely able to face the day as horrible as we act like we think we are.  But the fact of the matter is, whether you give voice to it or not, you generally like yourself and the kind of person you are.  If not, you are a very sad person who is missing out on the best things in life.  And maybe you need to follow my lead and make a list like this of your own. 

Ok, so enough procrastinating and explaining myself.  Here is what I like about me.

I like my sense of humor.

Now, it is true I cannot tell a joke and I lack the ability to make up funny fiction stories.  I am no Louis C.K., Seth McFarlane or Lucille Ball who is going to do a standup routine and make you pee your pants laughing.  But I like the kind of humor I find funny.  It is a bit dark and it is not for everyone.  In fact, I would be willing to bet that the things I find funny will be downright offensive to a lot of people who will read this.  And I like that.  I think that is a good thing.  I think humor needs to have an edge to it and it needs to push some limits.  I think that you have to be able to laugh at things that are dead serious and find the humor in the horrible, because you will not be getting out of this life alive so you’d better find a way to enjoy it.  I think laughter is one of the best and most precious things humans have and I think we’d better use it at funerals and when it seems somewhat inappropriate because that is the exact time we need it the most.  I think that humor should push our society to reevaluate itself. I think laughter is one of the most healing things we have available to us.  I also like that when I do say something funny, it is usually deadpan and you have to have a bit of knowledge to get the joke (yeah, I am witty. Haha). 

I like that I read.

I like that I read a lot.  I also like what I read.  I am a picky reader.  I will get into a book and fall in love and not put it down.  I can read a book faster than most people, too.  I also like that I will not like everything that comes off the best seller list.  In fact, there are a lot of books that are popular that I find mediocre or worse.  But the ones that I do love change me forever.  They become a part of my way of looking at life and the world and the very best of them change and/or add to me in some fundamental way that I will never be able to pinpoint or explain, it goes that deep.  I like that books have at times been my best friends – sometimes my only friends it seemed like (6th grade, I am talking to you!).  I have learned more than just stories from them.  I have learned how to be a person.  I have learned how to write in the way you are reading here – from the heart and with a voice that (hopefully) gives me gravity and meaning.  Without the books and authors who have shaped me I may have all these thoughts and ideas locked up inside me forever and I would not be able to string a sentence together in a way you can understand the meaning it has to me and the depth of my conviction.  I cannot pass a grammar test.  If you tried to have me explain what a gerund is or map a sentence, I could not do it.  But I have learned what writing should be from some of the best authors of all time.  I love that I am a bookworm.  I only wish I was more of one.   

I like my style.

I have a great sense of style.  My mother’s is even better.  Everything I know about decorating and presentation I learned from her – and she is good.  Just ask anyone who has been to her house or she has helped in the Women’s Center Boutique at SAMC (we’ll get to cooking later).  Now, granted, my style suffers a bit from lack of funds.  But I am here to tell you that if money was no option, my house and I would look totally awesome. I may have some flab in different areas, but I can dress in a way that doesn’t draw attention to said areas – or in some cases you never even know they were there.  Even on such a limited budget I do pretty well.  I can pull together a decent outfit (there may not be a lot of them and they may be a bit worn, but I can do it).  And, even though a good deal of my furniture needs replacing and may be hand-me-downs, I can honestly say that when I walk in my house every evening and look around, I can breathe a sigh of relief that everything looks and feel as good, homey and comfortable as I can afford.  And, considering some homes I have been in, that is saying a lot.

I like that I am (relatively) organized.

I most generally have a place for everything, both at work and at home.  I have a pretty good memory for where things are and I can locate things fairly well when either my boss or my husband is looking for something.  I say I am relatively organized because there is usually more than one place something could be.  For example, this weekend Jay noticed he could not find his original birth certificate (not his long form certified copy, mind you) and I located it.  It was in a file appropriately labeled “Jay.” It has, however, been moved to the even more appropriately labeled “Birth Certificate” file which also contains my birth certificate , Greta’s and will soon contain copies of Sawyer’s and Ezra’s. I have a home office (since this weekend, yay) and it is organized and fairly intuitive.  My house is generally clean and maintained and, while my mother will always find dirty areas (hence the reason I live 4 hours away from her and not 15 minutes), it is nice and livable.  While I never have people over and even more rarely have people pop by to visit, if they did I would not die of mortification (usually).  Now, my basement is another matter altogether, but I can deal with it as long as the living space is good.  If things get out of hand it drives me crazy and I feel all nervous and irritable until it is straightened up.  Right now my house is as close to perfect as I need for it to be.  There are dishes in the sink, but it is less than a dishwasher load.  There are 4 baskets of laundry, but the laundry is all washed and the baskets are tucked out of the way so I can both see that they need to be put away, but they are not in the middle of everything so I can get over it if I don’t feel like putting them away this week. 

I like that I am tolerant and fairly easy going – except about some things. 

Now, I do allow things to get to me and I can get riled up here and there, but for the most part I am generally easy going.  I don’t like confrontation and I don’t like to argue.  Both Jay and I like that about me.  As long as you aren’t being an insufferable asshole or overly demanding, I am fine with you.  Now, I don’t like the guy down the street and I have come to the conclusion he does not like me.  I knew things were going to be touch and go when he told me how glad he was we were white the night we moved in.  The red flags started flying with that one.  At one point later on, he went too far and I got on to him a little bit when his comments were too racist for my house. Jay chastised him a bit on another occasion.  He doesn’t come around anymore.  I am sorry, but just because we were all white does not mean I can tolerate certain words or ideas in my home.  Just because I live in Georgia and was born in the deep south of Alabama does not mean I am a racist and it is people like him who make the rest of America stereo type me as such. I take a bit of offense to that.  I also don’t like anyone passing judgment on others’ lifestyles.  I just saw a t-shirt today that said, “Some people are Gay.  Get over it.” I don’t think it is anyone else’s business what consenting adults do in their bedrooms.  I think it is even less of the government’s business.  The government should be worried about terrorism and the economy rather than who marries who.  If you think it is a sin, don’t do it.  God will tell you what He thinks one day.  Until then, there are far more important things like cancer and starving children. 

I like that I am pretty.

Ok, that may sound a bit conceited, but give me a minute.  I said in the other post that I wished I was beautiful.  I am not giving Halle Berry, Nicole Kidman or Jennifer Anniston a run for their money (although I am fairly sure I could come a bit closer to doing that if I had the dermatology, hair care, clothing and stylists’ budget they do, but oh well), but I am not going to be Medusa turning people to stone, either.  I have been hit on in the recent past, even since turning 40 in April and having a baby 3 months ago, so at least I can consider myself relatively attractive.  Jay saw me dancing across a semi-crowded bar and approached me seven years ago and, even after 5 years’ worth of aging and having Ezra, he still found me desirable enough to start dating again and marry. And while Jay would say he tends towards substance over looks, he is still a guy and all he saw was me dancing across a room (he didn’t find out how smart and witty I am until later – ha. See, I have a great sense of humor.).  From all indications this weekend, his feelings about my looks haven’t changed.  Even though I bitch and moan about trouble areas and needing to lose 10 pounds, even my fat jeans have not crossed the line into double digits.  I was blessed that, until about 36, I didn’t get above a size 4 without a lick of exercise, so I have it much better than some in that area (don’t worry, I am above a 4 with exercise now).  I like my long red hair, although I wish it was curlier and thicker, my blue eyes and, yes, even my freckles.  Because of my coloring no one expects me to be tan (even though thanks to the Cherokee blood in my family I can tan), which is helpful because of all that pesky sun damage from looking all tan and healthy (what an oxymoron, uh?).  So, while there is definitely room for improvement, the overall package is not too bad.  I could have wound up with a much worse body to spend my lifetime in, so I will count my blessings and move on.

I like that I can cook.

I may not be Martha Stewart, but I can put together a decent meal for my family that is both healthy and delicious.  Granted, some of the favorites are not the healthiest in my repertoire, but we do pretty well.  I do not believe in feeding my family fast food.  I have a personal rule about eating out – if it has a drive thru, don’t eat there.  I can honestly say I have not had a meal from McDonalds, Burger King or anywhere else like that for well over 20 years.  I have on occasion had a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit from either McDonalds, Dukin Donuts or Hardees, but it is very rare and I can honestly say that every time I have had one I have wished I had cooked me something better.  Really, it is not hard to make something at home that tastes better than fast food.  Just about anything does.  And I promise that if you give it up, you will not only not miss it, but if you try it after a few months you will be able to tell just how awful it is.  Roast some vegetables, go get a copy of Real Simple magazine and try their weeknight meals.  You will be so much better off.  My family and I eat pretty well over all.  I pride myself on giving them whole grains, fresh vegetables, fruits and lean meats. I make sure that there are homemade treats like peanut butter cookies, oatmeal cookies or chocolate chip cookies on a regular basis as well.  Ezra loves helping me bake and it is fun.  We make pancakes on the weekends made with yogurt and whole wheat flour and he loves them.  Feeding my family is something I spend a lot of time doing as a mom.  I have every intention of doing it the best I can – both healthily and tastily – so they know how much I love them.  Now, I am not my mother and it will not be quite as delicious as what she makes (but it will be healthier) and it will not be served up in crystal dishes and garnished with sprigs from my daddy’s garden, but it will be tasty, fairly healthy and you will probably want seconds… of the cookies at the very least.

I like that I have questions.

I have always had questions about everything.  I was one of those kids in school who was not afraid to ask, either.  There were times when I asked questions even though I could see other kids in the class rolling their eyes and mocking me.  I read books to answer questions.  And the really good books made me think of more and more questions.  I like thinking about all the possible answers to my questions and I like writing about them.  There are a few things in life I am sure of and one of those is that we will always have more questions than answers.  And I think that is a good thing.  If there was one thing I wish the world had more of it would be the childlike wonder of questioning and finding answers.  While I am just as frustrated with my 4 year old’s questions as any other parent (you know the ones whose simplicity eventually goes all the way to some existential question of the nature of the universe with the simple repeat of “But, Mommy, Why?” six times over), I have a deep appreciation for the mindset that there will always be questions and sometimes, if you are lucky, you will find the answer.  Even if that answer comes in the form of just another question.

I like that I am opinionated.

I am not obstinate, but I am opinionated.  Since I have all these questions, I must have some idea of what I think the answers are, right?  Now, some people call that a belief system, but I prefer to think of it as an opinion.  My ideas about life and death and what happens after our lives end are just that – my opinion.  I have no idea if I am right or not.  And I think that is ok.  This mindset allows me to accept that other people may have a different opinion than mine and that is ok, too.  But it is not just the nature of this life that I have opinions about.  I have opinions about our country and how it is run, our political system and politicians.  How the world works and whether that is good or bad.  I have opinions about all kinds of things.  And I like that, for the most part, I can give a decent explanation of how that opinion works, where I got it and why I think I am right.  I also have the ability to listen to the opinions of someone else and measure it and think about it and have it affect my own opinion or not, depending on my evaluation.  I can respect myself and others in this way. 

I like that I am sensual

I am a Taurus.  And I like that about me.  I don’t even necessarily believe in horoscopes and such things, but I do relate to the description of the Taurus, both good and bad.  Taureans are always described as sensual and sensuous beings.  And I think that is accurate.  I love good food and wine, comfortable surroundings and physical pleasures.  I revel in the sensual nature of this life and believe that we should enjoy it to the fullest.  I love the smells, tastes and textures of good food.  The headiness of delicious wine.  I love the feel of soft blankets, comfortable clothes, water and lotions, the warmth of the sun on my face and the touch of another.  I love the smell of the green grass and the aromas of flowers and the beauty they freely give.  I like everything about the simple pleasures of being alive.  I love the sight of my children, the sound of their laughter and the secure feeling of being wrapped in Jay’s arms. And I loved laying in the dark this morning listening to the sound of Jay, Sawyer and Ezra sleep around me. I believe in gratification of the senses.  Now that does not mean that I think that desire should be allowed to reign unchecked and there is not a required sense of appropriateness, but I do not ascribe to the belief that pleasure is wrong and should be denied, either.  We are here in this life for a reason and I don’t think that reason is solely to get to the next life should there be one.  I believe we should enjoy what is available to us along the way – otherwise it would not be here to give us pleasure.  We need to find the joy in life – especially in the small wonders and simple pleasures afforded us.  I intend to do just that.

And there you have it.  I even managed to come up with 10 things I like about myself so as to top the 9 that I don’t.  I thought it was important to find more things I like about myself.  And, to be honest, I am pleased with this little exercise.  It made me think about the things that are important.  And when you come down to it, it really is the simple things that mean the most.   If nothing else, by writing this post I proved to myself that is not just an empty phrase we repeat hoping it is true.  Because for me it is true – I just proved it.

  1. After reading this, I was sitting here trying to figure out what it is exactly that I admire so about your writing. There is no one in either of my writer’s groups who has a voice as unique as yours, even though most of them are published authors or book reviewers. There is something pure and unadorned in your style. You strip things down to their most essential element and what is left is as pure and clean and natural as a mountain stream. So glad you are back from your hiatus!

    • That is probably hands down the best compliment I have ever received from anyone – Ever. I appreciate your encouragement more than I can tell you, Renee!

      • Girl, redheaded sistas have to stick together! Have a great weekend.

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