Because it sure is surreal sometimes

Because it sure is surreal sometimes

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Gratitude Platitudes Make My Ass Itch

I’m so bored with reading about people who are thankful for the stuff that’s easy. It’s easy to sit around and dreamily think up universal, corny sounding things to be thankful for (“I’m thankful for nature’s bounty,” or “I’m thankful for the love of my children”) or worse, give someone else the credit for what we have (I’m thankful to [insert favorite deity here], for bringing [insert name of special person] into my life. Those drive me crazy. Are those same people thanking their favorite deity for the first spouse he/she brought into their life? The one who didn’t work out? Or that endless string of loser boyfriends they almost married, but didn’t, simply because not a single one asked them to? God gets the credit for the winning moments, but not the crushing defeats? Who gets the credit for that? Oh, I do? Then I’m taking the credit for the wins and the losses, thank you very much. I’m thankful that I finally got my shit together enough to attract the greatest man I’ve ever known. I did that.)

But I digress.

I’m sure all of the “I’m thankful-for…” posts that people throw up on Facebook are heartfelt, but are they real? What I mean is, are they honest and revealing? Are they representative of how we’re feeling on any given day when we’re in the weeds of life, amid the confusion, frustration, anger and resentment that knocks on our mental door all day long? Sure, these feelings are fleeting, with a shelf-life of about two seconds, but that doesn’t make them any less exhausting, which makes the moments when they are lifted from our shoulders something we truly should feel gratitude for—right there in the moment when it counts the most. Like, yesterday, for instance. My husband just cut me off as I was merely suggesting things he can make the kids for lunch, on the first day of Thanksgiving break. I was at my desk upstairs. He was downstairs in the kitchen. I’m thankful for open floor plans, so that I can boss everyone around while I’m busy working in my home office. Anyway, he cut me off! I was just trying to point out that I went shopping and that there was plenty of soup in the cupboard that the kids requested, and leftover breadsticks, and they don’t have to have the soup, because there’s also ham in the fridge…

I was thankful, at that moment that he cut me off, right after I finished my mental reaction, the one with the F-bomb, that I have a husband who is not only capable of finding the kitchen, but isn’t afraid to use it. I turned it into a positive, thankful moment. Later, when I find out they had crackers and butter for lunch, I’ll be thankful for duct tape as I finish reciting the entire contents of the cupboards and the fridge to him, just like my mom taught me to do.

So today, when you go around the table stating things you’re thankful for, don’t forget about the little things—the feelings of gratitude that bubble up and prevent our brains from running out of our ears and pooling on the carpet. While you’re at it, be honest. What are you really thankful for but afraid to admit out loud?

I’ll go first.

I’m thankful that murder is frowned upon in our society, to the extent that I’d have to spend the rest of my life in prison if I acted on impulse and offed one of my kids. Sometimes, that’s all that’s standing between me, a heavy frying pan, and the back of one of my kids’ noggins. Like, just yesterday, my 15-year old son was resisting the fact that he had to address the envelopes for the thank-you notes he has yet to send out for the gifts he received on his birthday three weeks ago. Among the questions he asked me were:

1. How do you do this?
2. Where does the address go?
3. What’s Grandpa’s last name?

At that moment, I was thankful for the death penalty, (see paragraph above) but I was mostly thankful that he is the kind of kid who, once presented with an alternate option (“Write the freakin’ thank you notes today or send back the birthday money) immediately sees the error of his ways and complies, complete with a heartfelt, “I’m sorry mom.”

I am always thankful for solitude. On any given day, especially right before I cook dinner, I am thankful that they’re all at basketball practice, or busy setting the dog on fire and can’t talk to me while I’m reading a recipe.

I’m thankful right at this moment while I’m writing this that it’s not even noon and my husband has cracked a beer because his brother told him via text that it’s ok to do so. I’m thankful I don’t have to carry around a bunch of guilt for sneaking some Irish into my coffee this morning.

I’m constantly thanking the unknown force in the universe that makes working from home a reality. In my pajamas recently, I was thankful that I could hit the sack during a conference call with my boss and not have any explaining to do. And that very same day, I was thankful that the co-worker I was instant messaging couldn’t see me rolling my eyes at her dumb idea. And almost every day I’m thankful for the ‘microphone mute’ button that allows me to pee during a company meeting, when I’m supposed to be listening to someone talk about something I don’t really understand  or give a shit about anyway.

Being thankful is easy when you have time to reflect, and/or want to impress others with gratitude platitudes like, “I’m thankful for freedom” or “I’m thankful for the food on this table.” Yawn. Try it at the dinner table today: Share your gratitude for the little things that keep us sane, loving one another for another day, and out of prison. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Can you hear me now?

In life, there are a few situations where grey areas just don’t cut it. For me, two things jump to mind immediately: Listening and bartending. We’ll start with listening, an ever-evolving challenge for most people, including this gal. I think it’s obvious why there is no grey area for me with regard to bartending. I want what I want and I want it ten minutes ago. I don’t have six hours to kill anymore, like I did in college. Has anyone noticed how short softball practices are getting these days?

Here’s an example of how I feel about listening. If your face is buried in your iPhone while a fresh face with sound coming out of it is pointed at you, you aren’t listening. There is no “kinda” paying attention. I know because I try it all the time and the little buggers are now old enough to spot an epic fail from five syllables away:

One of them: Blah, blah, blah, blah….

Me: Wow. Really. Then what?

One of them: Mom, I said thanks for buying Eggos.

Me: Really? Wow. Then what?

One of them: MOM!

Me: Meatloaf, mashed potatoes and salad! 6:30!

It’s not just kids who deserve the undivided attention of the person they are speaking to. Spouses need auditory love, too. If you have one eye on the phone (remember when phones were for ears?), one on the TV, and one on the pasta pot, you aren’t really listening to your man tell you about this week’s epic fantasy football trade. Plus, you have three eyeballs.

With children, you listen for obvious reasons: an innocent child wants to share, which they have the right to do without sharing you with something else. And when the recounting of last night’s incomprehensible dream is going on for five, then ten minutes, with no end in sight, they still need you to listen. Why? I have no idea and I’m really terrible at it. Sometimes I just want to start crying, loudly, like I did when I was six to avoid shit I didn’t like.

Now, listening to husbands is a little different. With husbands, listening is active, as in actively squirreling away valuable information to be used later, during key negotiations:

“C’mon, baby, please….I heard every word you said about your trade earlier….Ochocinco for Palamalau…Are you sure you’re too tired?”

It works both ways. Kids and husbands need to listen also. They need to plug into what we moms are saying. Case in point: the other day, my 12-year old daughter caught up to me while I was reading a book, my most favorite time to listen to stuff:

Landry: Mom! (While most children put a question mark at the end of that word, she does not; it’s an abrupt, roll-call-like exclamatory statement that leaves no room for anything but the following loving response:

Me: Again?

L: Can I get my own roll of pre-wrap for softball this year?

Me: Sure.

L: Cuz….you got the girls one for basketball and I’d like one for softball.

Me: Yep. Sounds good.

L: So, I can get my own roll?

Me: Simon says, YES! Are we good now?

It was like she just couldn’t stop unpacking that hobo-pouch-on-a-stick full of logic she had prepared in case I denied her request; but I didn’t. I agreed, quickly and easily. Was she listening? It was like conversing with one of those pre-recorded voice-mail-tree instruction ladies who tell you to say or spell your name:


It: I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you. Please repeat that.

Me: L-I-S-A

It: Okay, Lima. Is that correct?

Me: NO!

It: I’m sorry, I didn’t get that. Could you repeat it?

Me: F-U-C-