Don’t Be Beige

Don’t be beige.

I scribbled the words excitedly in my journal like a 15 year old writing about her new crush.  So profound.  Or was it?  I can never tell with these thoughts that occur to me in the shower, or while driving around town, or while I’m half-watching Law & Order: SVU and half-making an imaginary grocery list.  (Does anyone else do that? I’d imagine it’s a normal part of life as a mom/household manager/toddler wrangler.)

Anyway… beige.  The walls in our apartment are beige. I don’t mind it.  It’s not particularly exciting, but it’s fine.  Beige is a neutral – one of the blending colors.  It’s a color that allows all the other decor to be seen. Beige is a good background because it isn’t memorable or noticeable. It does not stand out.

Don’t be beige is my new motto.  So what exactly do I mean when I say, “don’t be beige”?

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I mean show yourself.  Reveal who you are.  Don’t be afraid to live your life at full volume because you think someone else won’t like your song. In order to live a fulfilled life, you need to in full glory and magnificence, without any care for what anyone else thinks.

I think that people are comfortable being beige. Beige isn’t scary. I get that.  They feel beige is safe. It’s polite. It doesn’t offend. I tried to be beige, I tried to please people, tried to blend, tried to step back so others could have the attention.  While blending in and being beige may make others comfortable, ultimately living life this way ends in disappointment and regret.

Two major things I noticed while I was consciously camouflaging myself:

  • There is no benefit to me. – I gained nothing from stepping back, dimming my own light or quieting my passion.  Literally nothing good comes from silencing my voice so that someone else can speak.  I get no life experience, meet no new people, and receive no praise because no one sees me.  And ironically trying to please others didn’t make them like me more ore less.
  • There is no benefit to others. – The people who shine do that because of who they are. Colorful, magnetic, fun, talented. My beige-ness didn’t accentuate them. It only hid me. Worse, being beige causes me to miss out on contributing to the world in a way that only I can.

When I realized I wasn’t being my authentic self, I made a choice to be more colorful. I spoke up when I felt passionate.  I accepted invitations to parties.  I wore the sexy dress without worrying what someone else might think. Creatively, I have so much to give, and expressing that through writing, podcasting, and other venues allows me to contribute something tangible to the world.  My kids see me being silly and it shows them that they can be silly too.  I follow my own rules and beat my own drum and in the same way, peers and friends hear me telling my story and they are emboldened to tell their own.  It’s a beautiful domino effect.

These days, I have renovated my soul. There is no beige. I am memorable. I stand out. I am not a neutral, because I have a voice and I’m not afraid to be seen, and my home – and my whole world – is so much more colorful.

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Quiet Desperation

Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.

Although well known and oft-repeated, that’s actually a misquote.  Thoreau wrote, in Walden, that “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Here is the full quote, in context:

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.

Thoreau was talking about the void we all feel and the common impulse most humans feel to try and fill it with material things.  Walden is a journal of sorts, detailing his time in the woods and away from modern society, searching for inner peace and finding himself and new perspective there.

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A friend and I were discussing this “quiet desperation” quote last night, as we discussed our respective marriages and marriage in general.  Our conversation focused on the complacency that occurs after years of seeing the ins and outs and annoying habits of another human being’s existence.  I think it’s so common for husbands and wives to leave the runway together, aimed for the stars and the experience of a lifetime, only to land early on a makeshift dirt runway in a place just outside Settle Town, USA.

Is that obnoxious? Maybe so, but you get what I’m saying.  If most new brides and grooms begin the marriage with the best of intentions – which I believe is the case – how do so many of us end up in a ditch somewhere, disoriented and disheartened at what our lives have become?

I’m not even talking about 10 years in, guys.  I myself have been married for 9 years, but the trouble started brewing quite a while ago and I don’t think we’re unique in that.  I talk to so many men and women – friends, colleagues, acquaintances – who are at most, content in their marriages and at worst, extremely unhappy and in some cases, depressed.  Most of them are not seeking divorce.  They just want to live their best lives and they want to do it with a willing partner who shares their interests and passions.

[Side note: For some reason, whenever I hear the term “quiet desperation” in my head the Queensryche song “Silent Lucidity” starts playing.  Interestingly, the song is about lucid dreaming, which is being able to consciously control what happens in your dreams.  So in a way, it’s related. ]

The “quiet desperation” quote came up discussing marriage because my friend and I were connecting on some shared issues.  The others I’ve spoken with relate to the same issues and experiences, too.  Even though all these people are having this same experience, none of them (none of us) are really talking about it.  It’s a secret struggle.  There is so much irony in something so commonplace and universal being something we hold inside and keep to ourselves and work to camouflage on social media.

Let’s don’t lead lives of quiet desperation any longer.  Let’s start talking to each other, and communicating with our spouses, and stepping outside the confines of the rules of marriage if that’s what it takes.  The only time that exists is the present, and it’s crap to waste it wondering if we are loved, wondering if we had married someone else, would we be vacationing in Mykonos right now instead of stuck at home washing dishes for an ungrateful partner.  That’s not life.  That’s not what life is for!

So how to we get back in the air?  How to do get out of Settle Town and back en route to our dreams and wildest fantasies (hopefully together with our chosen partners)?  Honesty!  Speaking our truth!  I think we all have to learn to be uncomfortable for a moment in order to be blissfully happy for a lifetime.

Believing we are alone is what fosters our desperation.  In truth, nothing is singular and everything is shared.  We are all connected.  We are all pieces of the same consciousness having several different (but oddly similar) human experiences.  As Thoreau said, we would be wise not to do desperate things.  We would be wise to realize that we are not alone, and the future is what we make it.

I’m rambling, so I’ll leave it there.  Namaste and happy Monday!  XOXO

 

Holding On vs. Letting Go

We broke up because of bread.  That’s what he’ll say.  Stupid, seedy, sandwich bread.  He went to the store, at 9:15 at night no less, to get some grocery items for me and he got the wrong bread and now we’re getting divorced.  Sounds ludicrous, doesn’t it?  Well, it’s the truth, and at the same time it’s nowhere near the whole truth.  So what’s the rest of the story?

To oversimplify, he doesn’t pay attention –  to me, to the things I like, to what I eat, to whether I’m happy or sad or indifferent.  He doesn’t know me.  He doesn’t notice.  Part of that lazy unknowing is bringing home the wrong bread and then, in the morning when I’m hungry and emotional and just want a piece of toast but I can’t have it because it’s not the right thing, he says helpful things like, “Oh, so I’m the asshole now? I got your bread.”

Of course, this story is biased towards my feelings, since I’m the author.  Is it reasonable to get so upset over being “forced” to eat the “wrong” bread?  Probably not.  Honestly, though, my hurt goes deeper than the fact that 9 times out of ten he brings the wrong grocery items home.

The bread fiasco is just one in a string of unfortunate events, each of them hurtful to me.  Each time it happens, instead of apologizing or trying to understand what is upsetting to me, he defends himself and points out my flaws.  It’s not exactly a recipe for productive conversation or progress.

Am I saying I’m blameless and my husband never gets hurt?  Not at all.  However I don’t believe he gets hurt very often, which is perhaps a benefit of being so faintly invested.  From my perspective, he has it easy.  He works all day.  He doesn’t contribute to the household in any way aside from that.  I cook the meals, clean, pay the bills, take care of school things and appointments, do all the laundry and homework, plan all the vacations and pack us for them, and so on.

I’m not a quitter.  I am, however, beginning to wonder at what point do I cut my losses?  At what point am I allowed (by society, by my parents, by my own conscience) to move towards my own healing and happiness?

We don’t have the same goals (or if we do, he doesn’t vocalize them).  I have been working on my own for a year to clean up our credit.  The most I can get out of him is a “that’s great babe” when I talk to him about it, but forget about active participation.  I’ve been hoping to purchase a home and I have spoken with mortgage lenders and realtors and he doesn’t get involved in it or even ask questions.  I plan an annual Disney trip and this year I’ve asked for help from a friend because it’s too stressful and involved for me to do on my own.  And I know that when the time comes, he will go and enjoy the fruits of my labor, and never say thank you, and never have helped with the decision making, and just thinking about this makes me cry.  I’m crying.

I want a life partner.  Someone who has dreams, someone who has a plan, someone who cherishes me.  What I don’t want is to have to drag someone along. Every day that goes by I worry I am wasting time with someone who thinks that just working is enough.  Who thinks that he shouldn’t have to hug me or buy flowers or plan date nights because he works and because I’m living off his money.  (I’ll admit that part is terrifying.  How will I live?  My job pays peanuts.)  By the same token, I’m very careful with the money and budget because I respect all that he does to earn it.  I don’t take that responsibility lightly.  A few days ago I asked if he might help me with it, at least be involved in it, and his response was that if I keep complaining about it he’ll just do it.  He’ll take over.  I don’t want him to control it, number one because he’s not great with saving and number two because I like doing it.  I honestly do.  I just need help.  I need a husband.

He is a kind person.  He’s a nice dad.  I don’t know if I’d say he’s a good dad, because he doesn’t really do things with the kids unless I make him.  Our son deserves to go fishing and hiking and to learn about being a guy, and there are things that as much as it chafes me, I cannot teach him.  But my husband isn’t teaching him either.  Again, I cry, but this time it’s hot angry tears.  My sons both deserve effort.

Maybe he’s depressed.  He has mentioned it a few times, and I’ve encouraged him to get counseling and even try medication if that’s what he thinks will help.  Has he taken any steps in that direction? No.

We’ve both made mistakes.  I planned a hypothetical lunch about 8 years ago with a guy who is a friend from high school but he saw it as me being shady.  Last Spring I found nudes on his phone of girls (plural) who aren’t me and spent a few days swallowing pieces of my heart and trying to figure out if anything I thought was real had ever truly existed.  He had an explanation. It was plausible.  After about 2 days of me moping he began acting annoyed that I wouldn’t “let it go”.  I still haven’t let it go completely, though I don’t bring it up to him.  It’s here inside me, though.

Do I worry he might read this?  Not for a moment.  Despite sharing links with him from time to time I’m reasonably sure he’s never read my blog.  I wrote a book, published it on Amazon, and shared it with him after years of being too scared to let him see any of it, and he never even looked at it.  Didn’t read one word of it.

He’s going to go the rest of his life thinking he married a crazy person who divorced him over bread.  It’s heart-breaking and frustrating.

So that’s where I am today.  Right now I’m making list a la Ross Gellar:  Reasons to stay vs. Reasons to go.  What’s better for me? For the kids? For us both?  Apologies for oversharing with my handful of readers, but this blog is a journal for me and it’s important when you feel something to speak it, and that’s what I’m doing.

Good(funny)Fellas

Remember that iconic scene when Tommy DeVito (portrayed flawlessly and I suspect somewhat effortlessly by Joe Pesci) goes on his rant after being called “funny”?  Here’s the quote:

I mean, let me understand this cause, ya know maybe it’s me, I’m a little fucked up maybe, but I’m funny how, I mean funny like I’m a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh, I’m here to fuckin’ amuse you? What do you mean funny, funny how? How am I funny?”

Joe Pesci’s genius notwithstanding, this is a hard scene to watch.  It’s one of the most cringe-worthy, yet most quotable scenes in the history of film. Isn’t it?

That scene, that momentary lapse of sanity for Pesci’s character, when he’s not sure whether to be insulted or flattered, is what comes to mind when I hear things like “I just want someone who makes me laugh.” What, like, on command?  Please elaborate.  I mean if I’ve got to stand at the mic and tell you jokes, you’d better be pulling out some pretty astounding party tricks yourself.  You know what I’m sayin’? *wink, wink*

That said, it’s actually me who has been thinking it this week.  Someone who makes me laugh is probably the one quality I value over all others when it comes to friendships, acquaintances, sometimes even work collaborators.  It’s something I cherish in all my dealings with my brother.  It’s something I admire in clever people and I find charming in men.

I went to lunch with a friend this week.  She’s a sweet person.  We went to high school together but only recently have become close.  She is funny and, even better, she laughs at my jokes.  We have similar outlooks on life and work.

When I think about recent date nights I’ve had with my husband, the ones I consider most “successful”, meaning we got along great and had a good connection and I felt reassured about us, are the ones that included laughter.  Lots and lots of laughter.

No one is funnier than my brother.  I don’t know if this is because we grew up together so I’ve grown accustomed to it, or because he is truly a genius, or if we are so similar and have been “in the trenches together”, so to speak, so our humor is naturally shared and familiar.  We laugh every time we are together.  Heck, I laugh at his texts and social media messages, too.

Sometimes my seven-year-old tells me I’m “hilarious” or high-fives me to indicate approval of a joke.  It’s one of the highest compliments my heart can receive.  I remember how excited I was when his humor evolved from knock-knock jokes that don’t make any sense but it’s my motherly duty to laugh, to puns that were so clever I found myself questioning whether he’d actually made them up himself. (And the pride I felt at that!)

Levity seeps into all areas of my life.  Books, podcasts, tv shows, work… I seek it out.  I suppose this is partially because I associate humor with wit.  Or, rather, humor is generally associated with cleverness, outside of my own opinion, and I greatly admire clever people.  To take it one step over that line is that humor opens the door to empathy.  The Human Experience.  When I find someone who is funny, who finds humor in the same things I do, who thinks my jokes are funny or whose humor tickles me, a bond is created.  There is an immediate trust, an instant understanding.

So… yeah.  To hold a special place in my heart (and my social circle), you need to be funny.  Funny like a clown.  I’ll be funny too.  I’m here to fuckin’ amuse you.

My 5 LOVE Languages

Most of us have heard of the 5 Love Languages.  The concept originated in a book by Dr. Gary Chapman.  For brevity’s sake, I’m not going to linger in great detail, but basically everyone has primary love languages, (things that help them feel most loved) and it’s supposedly a good idea to learn your mates’ love language in order to love them in the way they need.  Dr. Chapman names these as the 5 Love Languages:

  1. Words of Affirmation 
  2. Quality Time
  3. Receiving Gifts
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Physical Touch

These are, I think, pretty self-explanatory, so let’s move on.

I have often said that my primary love language was Acts of Service. I like it very much when my husband helps with household chores, mostly because it happens about as often as pigs fly. Physical Touch is also a big one for me. Words of Affirmation is my husband’s love language.  He likes to be told and validated and get love notes and things like that.  The problem comes when we try to love each other in our language, instead of our mate’s.  When my husband leaves me notes around the house, he is loving me with words of affirmation.  It’s sweet, but it also makes me bang my head against a wall.  It’s SO not what I need, when I’m up to my eyeballs in kids and chores and responsibilities.  He gets frustrated because in his eyes, he’s just done the sweetest thing for me.  So, I decided to make the conversation EVEN SIMPLER by re-writing the book and coming up with my own five love languages.  My 5 love languages are:

  1. Be Considerate.  No, really.  Consider me.  Did you eat the last of the bread?  Did you let me know so that I can go to the store and get more, or did you keep it to yourself and go about your merry way because who cares if I can’t make sandwiches for the kids with food I expected to have when I returned from the gajillion things you don’t think I do in a day?  Did you drive my car and bring it back with an empty gas tank even though you know I have an interview at 8 am the next morning?  Do you let me go on and on about something that concerns me, all the while playing a video game on your phone and not actually listening, so that when I look at you for a response, I’m met with silence and a look of total bewilderment?  Basically, respect me enough to treat me like a person.
  2. Don’t Be a Smartass.  When I send a text about the bread saying (pretty politely, considering my level of pissed-off-edness) “Hey, are we out of bread?”, don’t get snarky.  You’re the a-hole who ate all the bread and couldn’t be bothered to think about even writing it down.  I mean, isn’t writing notes your love language?  That means there’s really no excuse.  You could even draw me a picture of bread, whatever, be creative.  Just don’t be a smartass.
  3. Don’t Be an A-Hole.  I know, this is the second language that says “don’t”, and that’s not affirmative language, is it?  Still, I think it’s crucial and simple to carry out.  Just don’t.  Don’t come at me because you don’t like being confronted about some inconsiderate thing you did.  If you don’t like me reacting to not being thought about, please see love language #1 and consider mine and your family’s needs.
  4. Try Adulting. There’s so much I could say here, but come on.  You know what I’m talking about.  No slouchy clothes.  Take care of your appearance.  Maintain the cars, pay the bills (or at least give a damn about the finances), save some money, take care of things that need to be taken care of.  You know, be a grown up. Try seeing yourself somewhere in 5 years that doesn’t look exactly like where  you are now.  What’s the term for that?  Upwardly Mobile.  We should be moving up, like the Jeffersons, but less snazzy because they don’t make tweed jackets like that anymore.
  5. Feed Me and Tell Me I’m Pretty.  This one is the most obvious, and I just need you to do exactly what it says whenever the opportunity presents itself, and we’ll be good. Date me.  Be romantic.  Let me know that I’m cherished.  I shouldn’t have to cook every single meal, and I shouldn’t have to ask if I’m pretty or if you love me because you haven’t touched me in ages.  That’s not how you keep a woman.

So that’s it.  Those are my new and improved Love Languages.  Easy to understand and execute, and for me these are not in any particular order.  There’s no primary or secondary or last.  I want all 5.  Can I have them?  Well, I’m married.  To a man.  So… no.  But it felt good to write this and get it off my chest, and I’m hopeful that it will help at least one person/relationship to thrive.

QUESTION OF THE DAY:  If you could write your own 5 Love Languages, what would they be?  Does your spouse meet them for you, or is it time to blog about it?

Losing What Never Was

Chemical Pregnancy.  That’s a term I’ve only learned just this week. What does it mean?  From what information I have read online in the past couple of days, it’s really just another term for miscarriage.  Some people use “chemical pregnancy” when describing the loss of a child in the very early weeks of pregnancy, because technically it is not the miscarriage of a fetus, or baby, yet.  Something about the word “chemical”, at least when I hear it, seems to imply that the pregnancy is somehow false or fake, or all in one’s head, and I don’t believe that is true.

When a woman has a chemical pregnancy, all of the expected pregnancy symptoms are there.  The list is wide and varied from woman to woman, but many of us are familiar with the most common early pregnancy symptoms:  nausea (morning sickness), sore breasts, and a missed period.  A lot of times (most times?) with a chemical pregnancy, a pregnancy test will result in a positive.

For women like myself, there are certain “tell tale” symptoms of pregnancy.  I have been pregnant a few times, but only carried one child (my son who is 5) to term.  However, each time I KNEW I was pregnant from the get-go.  My body does things in pregnancy it wouldn’t DARE do otherwise.  I get yeast infections (sorry) in pregnancy.  I have vivid dreams, many times of the pregnancy or child itself, like I am meeting him or her.  My boobs HURT like my bra is made of sandpaper.  I get tired.  I get emotional.  Very, very emotional.   Truth be told I am an emotional person by nature.  But when I’m pregnant, it gets ramped up to 11.  My feelings go to 11.  High five if you get the ST reference.

Yesterday ended a brief, happy, hopeful couple of weeks that evidently was a chemical pregnancy.  To be clear, miscarriage is real, and chemical pregnancies are not “made up”.  I am 100% sure I was pregnant, at least for a little while.  I spotted at implantation time.  I got a raging infection – seriously, I could not walk for a couple of days – around what would normally be ovulation time (and this is when I became sure we had conceived).  I began having dizzy spells.  My complexion was “glowing” and my step-mom randomly asked me if I was pregnant.  I wasn’t ready to think it possible yet, so I just said no.  My boobs… well, I already went over that.  They don’t hurt me in a normal cycle, and this time they were swollen, with blue-ish veins and lots of pain. My belly was a little swollen. I cried at everything.  Literally.  Happy things, sad things, all the things made me cry.  I had several dreams.  Mid-month, a dream that featured an “old-timey” nurse in a candy-striper outfit and a white hat, holding up two positive pregnancy tests and asking me “are you sure this is what you want?”  Another featuring my son’s soon-to-be-sibling, cuddled up next to me on the couch, my son cuddled with us, taking our first photo together.  My favorite grass-fed beef smelled and tasted funny.  (Meat aversion was something I suffered when pregnant with my son.)  I allowed myself to think.  Then to hope.  I prayed in the shower, “God please if you allow this to happen, I promise I will love this child and be the mother he or she deserves.” Then I began to get excited.  Yes, I was definitely pregnant.

Yesterday, I ceased to be.

I am sad.  Of course, sad does not begin to cover what I feel but I find this whole thing difficult to articulate.  I have cried hot tears and choked on my own heartbreak.  I prayed in the shower again, this time through sobs and snorts, a different prayer.  “God, I hurt.  Please heal my pain.  Your ways are higher than my ways and I know you want what is best for me. So, it is well.  It is well with my soul.  It is well with me.”

{side note: Not even an hour later in church, our worship pastor decided to “switch things up” and play an older hymn.  The name of that hymn?  It Is Well With My Soul.  The man who wrote it, he said, wrote it after and despite losing his three daughters.  He still wanted to praise God and say that God is still good.  Oh, my heart!  God was speaking directly to me and my heart received that message!  You must know, dear reader, that God sees all, knows all, and LOVES us with a love we cannot even begin to fathom.  He is a great father.}

Now, for several reasons I suppose I should have been with not being pregnant.  My son would be 6 when this baby was born.  That’s a large gap.  My husband and I hadn’t talked about, or prepared for, more kids (although I know he would be fine with it).  Financially, I don’t know if we could have afforded a baby right now.  Age-wise, I don’t know if I could handle the up-all-night sleep deprived routine again at 35 like I did at 29 (and survive without murdering someone). Body-wise, I know that pregnancy and birth wreaks havoc, and recovery was a long, slow road for me last time due to an emergency c-section that was NOT a part of my birth plan.  Still, the older I get the less I worry about my looks.  It’s what’s inside that counts, and what’s inside me right now is a heart that longs to be a mother to more children.  To love them, feed them, hug and kiss them, see my husband be the most extraordinary father to them.

I told hubs, who I had largely kept it secret from (until I got a positive test), and though I expected him to laugh at the idea of being parents again, he didn’t.  He comforted me.  My incredible, compassionate life-mate listened, wiped my tears, held and hugged me, and encouraged me to eat ice cream and sleep and be easy with myself.  He said we could try again, we could continue the discussion, we could even look into adoption, if we felt God leading us that way.  What a precious gift he is!  And he’s right about one thing: Our son is a gift, and even we are never blessed with more children, we have this amazing boy that God has entrusted to us, and each day we are with him is a blessing.  He is pure sunshine: bright and kind and sing-songy and darling.  Every day I am thankful for him.

Today, I am not crying, but it still stings a little, which part of me thinks is silly.  How can I be sad over something that never was?  How can I cry over a baby I “made up”?  I don’t know.  But I can.  And I do.  However, I have chosen joy.  I have chosen to be grateful for my life as it is, and for God, who does not make mistakes.  He even winked at me in church and let me know he is aware of my struggle.  I aspire to model his parenting with my own kids, no matter how many I have.