Category Archives: Achieving Emotional Grace Series

Don’t Overthink, Just Say It – #7 In The Achieving Emotional Grace Series

Don’t Overthink, Just Say It – #7 In The Achieving Emotional Grace Series

 

“Too often, the opportunity knocks, but by the time you push back the chain,
push back the bolt, unhook the two locks and shut off the burglar alarm, it’s too late.”

~Rita Coolidge

 

 

Today I’m going to tell a story to illustrate a concept that is very simple but remarkably difficult for many of us to act on. It’s not a particularly funny story, I will warn you. But, it’s a story that I think of so often that it is clearly one I should share.

The first house my husband and I bought was in West Seattle. The house itself was a 1920’s Tudor with a cracked foundation and smelly basement that would have been perfect as a serial killer’s lair. We both worked at home as consultants at the time and the floors sloped so much that if I pushed away from my desk I’d roll to the other side of the room.

But, we loved that house. And, we loved the neighborhood even more. We could walk to dinner or the funky old theater for a movie. We could hear the fog horns of the ferry boats at night. We had a spectacular view of the Olympics if we got on our roof. But, the very best part was our neighbors.

On one side of us lived an older gentleman who lived alone. He had a pool in his backyard (a rarity in the rainy NW) that was never used and fairly green. On the rare occasion that we saw him, he seemed gruff and annoyed. But, we decided to have him over for dinner one night to be neighborly and found that he was a nice, quirky gentleman who simply had lost his wife several years earlier and didn’t quite know what to do with himself. He was sort of our little version of Boo Radley.

Then, behind us, sharing an alley, was Ginny and George, the sweetest elderly couple you could ever meet. Ginny sported the tightest perm I think allowable by OSHA standards and would call me several mornings a week to arrange an “alley date”.

“Irene, honey,” she would whisper, “Meet me by the trash bins in the alley in 5 minutes.”

“OK, got it….who is this?”

“Oh, Irene. You are a hoot!” She would cackle.

When we finally met up at the agreed upon drop point, she’d regale me with gossip of the other neighbors, update me on her grandkids and alert me to the fact that her husband, George, would be getting his prostate exam later that day.

Our neighbors on the other side of us was a lovely young family – Patrick, Catherine, Declan, Meagan and a cat named Finnbar who terrorized our dog.

Catherine, the mother to Declan and Meagan, was a very sweet, smart and beautiful woman who had been battling colon cancer for quite some time. When we first moved into our house and got to know them, Catherine was in remission and was very healthy. We had numerous BBQs, put up a new fence together and lent each other tools and flour. All that neighborly stuff.

A year or so after we moved in, we seemed to see less and less of Catherine. We didn’t seem to see her husband Patrick as much either and the sound of kids playing in the back yard had diminished as well.

Patrick came to our door one afternoon to let us know that Catherine’s cancer had returned and, this time, it was not a good prognosis. They had tried another round of chemo that had been brutal and had decided enough was enough.

I started to see Catherine sitting on their front stoop in the sun, looking weak and thin but smiling and very happy. I would sit with her sometimes and visit. We both loved reading and I would bring her whatever book I had finished and liked.

We never really talked about her illness. We didn’t avoid it, it just never came up. Only every day topics. Nice and normal.

Soon Catherine no longer showed up on her front stoop. I went over to see her a couple of times, bringing the latest book, but she was bed ridden and in a sharp decline so I would leave it with her mother, who had come to help out.

Then one day Catherine showed up again on the stoop. This time she was in a wheelchair. She was extremely thin and pale, but she was still smiling. She waved me over and I sat with her for a moment.

“Thank you for the books. I wish you had come up to talk with me.”

“You weren’t feeling well and your Mother said it was best to let you sleep.”

She laughed. “Jesus, the last thing I want to do right now is sleep!”

“Well, next time I will force my way in then!”

“Please do!!!”

About then Patrick and the kids came home so I went on my way and let them have their time.

A couple of days later Patrick came to our door to let us know that Catherine had passed away. She was only 35 years old and left a husband, two small children, a cat named Finnbar and a neighbor who would never forget how lovely and kind she was.

I was so concerned about saying the wrong thing or insinuating myself into a terrible time for that family, that I never told her how much I liked her and how sad I was that we would not be able to become closer friends. Because I knew, if circumstances were different, we would have become very good friends.

But, we forget that we don’t have all the time in the world. And sometimes, those opportunities are gone before you even realize they are there.

I wanted her to know that, even though I only knew her for a short time, she made a very big impact on me. And, in the end, isn’t that what we all want? To have made a difference to someone.

Catherine did leave me something: the regret I’ve always felt at holding back what I should have said has ensured I never made that mistake again.

And that has been a tremendous gift.

“One doesn’t recognize the really important moments
in one’s life until it’s too late.”

~Agatha Christie

Say What You Mean And Then Shut Up – #6 In The Achieving Emotional Grace Series

Say What You Mean And Then Shut Up – #6 In The Achieving Emotional Grace Series

 

“The last thing I want to be remembered as is an annoying blabbermouth… You know, nothing grinds my gears worse than some chowderhead that doesn’t know when to keep his big trap shut… If you catch me running off with my mouth, just give me a poke on the chubbs…”

~ John Candy, PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES

 

 

I understand fully that I may be the last person to even attempt to address this issue. I can definitely go on and on and on and on and on. Boy, I can really blather. I can often be redundant by saying something numerous times by using different combinations of words.

See what I did there? I used a lot of words to illustrate a point that could have been illustrated with many less words.

I’m still doing it.

It’s an affliction I think many of us struggle with. It’s the verbal equivalent of the movie Speed. As if a busload of innocent commuters will die if you stop talking. Rest assured, my verbose friends, absolutely no one will die if you shut the hell up for a minute.

You don’t understand, if I do not continue to chatter in this monotone voice, we are all doomed to a fiery death. So, anyway, I ordered the salmon but with the sauce on the side because really, who needs all the cream, and she was all….

You don’t understand, if I do not continue to chatter in this monotone voice, we are all doomed to a fiery death. So, anyway, I ordered the salmon but with the sauce on the side because really, who needs all the cream, and she was all….

It’s infuriating not to be heard. I completely get that. I am a woman living with three males, two of which are probably legally deaf due to the lethal levels of pre-pubescent hormones packed into their eardrums. Unless I up the volume to an ear-splitting 11, no one hears me.

The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and...

The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and…

But, in normal polite society, a little dead air never killed anyone.

Conversation is a two-way street, not a monologue. That’s why they don’t call monologues conversations. Hope that clarifies things for you.

You are welcome.

The people I love to interact with are the ones who seem to get this. They are succinct, thoughtful and purposeful in what they say. Then, and here is the real kicker, they stop talking and listen.

Because they understand that what they intended to say doesn’t actually matter. The only thing that really matters is how it is received.  And, you cannot know how you are being received if you don’t stop to listen.

Otherwise, we’d all just walk around talking to ourselves. Which I know we all actually do. A lot.

In fact, isn’t that really what I’m doing right now?

Without being understood and truly heard, what’s the point of communicating? It lies squarely on your shoulders to make your message clear.

OH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD SHUT UP AND END THIS POST ALREADY!!!

OH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD SHUT UP AND END THIS POST ALREADY!!!

So, as the screaming baby has requested, I’ll sum up with this.

In order to be heard, you must listen.

 

“Let me close this conversation by saying that you are one unique individual.”
“Unique… what’s that, Latin for “asshole”?”

~ Steve Martin, John Candy – PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES 

Original artwork entitled “Small Man Big Mouth” by Sean.

The Shelf Life of Relationships – #5 In The Achieving Emotional Grace Series

The Shelf Life of Relationships – #5 In The Achieving Emotional Grace Series

 

“I wish I would have a real tragic love affair and get so bummed out that I’d just quit my job and become a bum for a few years, because I was thinking about doing that anyway.”
~ Jack Handey

 

Relationships are hard. There. I said it. Did I just blow your mind?

Being in them is tough but having them end can be even harder. And, I don’t mean just romantic relationships. Friendships, work relationships, and don’t even get me started on families.

We “humans” often don’t deal with endings very gracefully. (I’ve been binging on True Blood reruns so I question everyone’s species right now.)

We get hurt, depressed, angry, hungry. Ben and Jerry’s is in existence because of emotional eating. Well, that and weed.

I certainly have had my fair share of struggles with closing those doors and moving on. Or, having those doors slammed in my face and not moving on because I couldn’t find my car.

This was especially daunting for me when I was younger. But as I got older I started to wonder why it had to be such an emotional roller coaster. Clearly it’s a part of living life but I wanted to understand how to be more accepting and see more clearly.

And, it was becoming abundantly clear that I’m really not good at stalking people. My voice carries and I have a heavy foot. Especially after I’ve smoked weed and eaten all that Ben and Jerry’s.

I came to this conclusion: All relationships have a shelf life. Every single one of them.

People come and go in our lives and I believe that there are lessons for us and for them in those connections. I believe that the duration, whether it lasts a month, a year or a lifetime, is all part of the grand design of co-habitating on earth.

We should not get mad at the loaf of bread because it’s gone bad. It was tasty and fed you when you were hungry, serving its purpose. The bread’s value should not be diminished because you are now constipated and have a need for vegetables.

Do you smell that? What the hell is that smell?

Do you smell that? What the hell is that smell?

Whether you are the bread or the vegetable in this analogy, it’s always good to keep an eye on your nutritional value.

I think deep down, if we are paying attention to all parties involved, we know if the connection is adding value to your life and to theirs. If it doesn’t work for one of you, it isn’t working for the other.

It’s a matter of paying attention and really being present in any relationship. If you aren’t reading the expiration dates closely, things can get toxic.

Next thing you know, you’ll be waking up with melted ice cream on your face and clutching a restraining order.

And that just leaves an unnecessarily bad taste in your mouth.

“Don’t cry because it’s over,
SMILE because it happened.”  ~ Dr. Seuss

Don’t Expect A Fish To Climb A Tree – #4 In The Achieving Emotional Grace Series

Don’t Expect A Fish To Climb A Tree – #4 In The Achieving Emotional Grace Series

 

“Everybody is a genius. But, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

~ Albert Einstein

 

 

Judging others is built into our DNA. I’m sure we crawled out of the primordial soup, looked at the slimy amphibian next to us and judged him for his weird lazy eye. That is if you believe in that particular theory of evolution….not that I’m judging creationists….honest….that wouldn’t be very Christian of me, would it?

OMG, did you totally check out Hank's middle eye?

OMG, did you totally check out Hank’s middle eye?

See, you are most likely judging me right now. Who does she think she is? Does she even have data to back up that last, oddly-constructed sentence? And, while I’m at it, what’s with the over-use of elipses? Pause much?

And, I’m judging you right now for that weird-ass haircut you got. And that shirt. What the hell are you thinking wearing that shirt?

We all do it. Definitely inside our heads and, after a drink or two, outside our heads. Often loudly.

There are a lot of reasons to judge. Much of the time we judge because it simply makes us feel a little better about ourselves and our lives. It’s also why I binge watched “Cheaters” and “The Anna Nicole Smith Show” right after having twins.

Thank you Anna Nicole Smith! I do feel better!

Thank you Anna Nicole Smith! I do feel better!

But, it’s also a means of discerning what is or is not acceptable to us. We have an innate need to choose people who do not threaten our pre-conceived notions of who we are and our belief systems.

I don’t like myself when I judge people. But, I also have a really hard time just not doing it.

So, rather than shutting down what appears to be a natural human response, maybe there is a way to simply not do it so harshly.

You’ve all heard a great deal about my Mom. But, I tell you , she passed on some of the most amazing advice I have ever gotten. And, she had a wonderful take on judgment that went something like this:

Everyone on earth is in a different phase of their lives. Some are advanced in their overall, spiritual development while others are just beginning to walk. Judging all humans on an even playing field is like expecting a toddler to win the Boston Marathon. It not only makes no sense, it’s a disservice to them and to you.

Don’t assume you are the marathon runner in this analogy….you may still be in diapers so don’t be getting all high and mighty.

But, imagine the opportunities for interesting relationships with people if you just keep that idea in mind. Not only do you open up the possibility of helping another person get on their feet, but you may also benefit from a helping hand now and then.

Life can be a real slog, people. I know I’ll take all the help I can get.

So, next time I start down that path and think or say those petty, shitty judgments, I’m going to attempt to step back a bit and think about it.

I’ll forget to do it more times than I remember, I’m sure. So, I’ll apologize in advance if I forget with any of you.

All that being said, for the love of God, go change that shirt. Really. You look like a lunatic.

Nevermind. A bad Hawaiian shirt is the least of your worries.

Nevermind. A bad Hawaiian shirt is the least of your worries.

 

“We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only
their own  pain and renunciation. It’s one thing to feel that you are on the
right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.”

~ Paulo Coelho

Don’t Be Defined By Your Dining Set – #3 In The Achieving Emotional Grace Series

Don’t Be Defined By Your Dining Set – #3 In The Achieving Emotional Grace Series

“That’s all your house is: a place to keep your stuff. If you didn’t have so much stuff,
you wouldn’t need a house. You could just walk around all the time.”
~ George Carlin

I’ve never been one to keep stuff. I was raised by a couple of minimalists who came out of the Great Depression (as opposed to the Mediocre or Meh-Not-So-Great Depression). They  realized that owning possessions can be a fleeting thing and it can all vaporize with just the bad intentions of a couple of greedy bankers.

Yeah, THAT could never happen again, right?

Yeah, that could never happen again, right?

Now, don’t get me wrong. This aversion to owning a bunch of stuff is not rooted in any sort of noble goal to make the world a better place. Nor is it coming from some philosophical belief or my life-long study of Immanuel Kant.

(That’s right, bitches, I got me some Wikipedia!)

I’ve always had a bit of an obsession with being able to put everything I own in the back of a car and take off at a moment’s notice as if I lived the life of some seedy criminal, needing to steal away from a broken down motel under cover of night.

Ultimately, it’s always just been a sign of freedom and independence for me to travel light and not get too attached to things.

My tidy little bubble burst when I got married. Of course, even if you marry someone who has the same minimalist mindset, you still end up with twice as much shit.

It’s pretty hard to avoid unless you are marrying a Buddhist monk. And I wouldn’t recommend that. They are super hard to buy for at Christmas.

I, on the other hand, did not marry a minimalist. To his credit, he is one now (probably because I threw out all his stuff while he was sleeping).  But, at the start, not so much.

When we first moved together to a new house, I watched in horror as we filled up both our cars plus a fair sized U-Haul.

Twice.

overloaded-car

Here’s a sampling of a typical conversation that day.

“Why are we keeping all these random pieces of wood?”

“Because it’s perfectly good wood.”

“But what do you plan to do with it?”

“I was going to make a book case out of it….or something.”

“We already have a book case. And, you don’t know how to build stuff.”

“But, what if in 30 years I decide that I want to learn carpentry or whatever and I find that it’s a huge talent I never even knew I possessed? I’ll need wood for all the awesome furniture I’ll build in my new career.”

“Have we packed the vodka yet?”

Thanks to a healthy combination of booze and compromise, I pushed through the crisis and no one was harmed.

I still have an overwhelming urge to purge. I lose sight of myself if I’m sitting in clutter and start to feel oddly invisible.

I’ve started to realize that I’m allowing my discomfort with clutter to define how I feel about myself. And, at the end of the day, is that really any different than someone who is happiest surrounded by a lot of stuff?

Tomato/tamahto – we have the same affliction at the end of the day. It’s internal definition by outward elements.

I shouldn’t be defined, or define myself, by my possessions or my lack of possessions. Both are false representations of who I really am.

My fear of being weighed down by material items must be some indication that I have issues with commitment, right?

Maybe I have some weird sort of ADD and get distracted way too easily by objects in general.

Or, perhaps it all boils down to some psycho-sexual Oedipal complex. Can women even have an Oedipal complex?

How the hell should I know? I’m not a therapist. I barely even own a couch!

I do suspect, whatever the core reason is behind it, that any reaction that is not within a moderate spectrum warrants closer examination. Getting too much pleasure from buying stuff or feeling too much joy in getting rid of it, is indicative of something else.

Hoarder, minimalist or monk. I guess the bottom line is to be sure it’s a choice and not a band-aid.

“I flipped through catalogs and wondered:
What kind of dining set defines me as a person?”
~ Chuck Palahniuk – Fight Club

 

 

Image credits:

Image #1 – http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Film/Pix/pictures/2011/1/11/
1294755406420/Michael-Douglas-in-Wall-S-007.jpg
Image #2 – http://www.khmer440.com/chat_forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=16852

Don’t Be An Emotional Litterbug – #2 In The Achieving Emotional Grace Series

Don’t Be An Emotional Litterbug – #2 In The Achieving Emotional Grace Series

“Always leave a bathroom cleaner than how you found it.”
~Viola Barnett, armchair philosopher

Really, you couldn't light a match?

Really, you couldn’t light a match?

I was the recipient of many sage nuggets of advice from my Mom. And, as with most of her lessons, it was intended to be applied in a  much broader context.

Don’t get me wrong, it is no small thing to leave a literal bathroom cleaner than you found it. Only since having children have I truly understood how that can change a person’s life.

But, what if we took that concept and applied it to human interaction? I’m not suggesting we Purell the hell out of the world and its inhabitants. Not that I haven’t had that overwhelming urge when stepping out of a children’s museum.

Hurry, I think we missed a couple over by the touch tank!

But, what if, every time you had any interaction, large or small, with another human, you decided to leave them better off than when you found them, even in the very smallest way?

What if you challenged yourself to step outside of how you are feeling that day and, instead, make it a point to turn someone else’s day around?

And, what if you don’t get to see any results from your effort but you do it anyway, knowing you may not get any immediate satisfaction?

You know the saying about the road to hell being paved with good intentions? I’ve had a few backfires in this quest to spiff up my fellow humans.

Some of you may already know my story about trying to help out a local hobo who was very verbose about the fact that he did not like carrots.

In fact, he tore me a new one and I ran away like a coward. So, that is an example, at least on the surface, of my good intention going horribly wrong.

But I posit that maybe it didn’t go as wrong as it seemed. Even if the outcome wasn’t what I’d hoped for, I still would like to believe that I have added a positive intention into the world. Whether it’s noticed by the I Hate Carrots Hobo or anyone who happened to see me try, at least the attempt was made.

And, I did walk away with a huge lesson learned. (Aside from looking more closely at a person’s dental status before offering hard food.)

You can’t go about this with the expectation or hope of a particular response. That sort of takes the focus off of someone else and puts it right back on you. It defeats the purpose of getting outside your own bubble for a minute.

On another occasion, I decided that I was going to try to walk around all day with at least the glimmer of a smile on my face, as opposed to what I expect I usually look like – confused and annoyed.

I won’t lie, I think I probably looked a bit creepy.

Well, this is what it FELT like anyway…..

Well, this is what it FELT like anyway…..

It’s really hard smiling for no specific reason. And I think I was so preoccupied with trying to look natural, I never noticed whether I got more smiles in return than normal or anyone seemed a tish happier.

OK, so again, I lazily went back to focusing on myself, thereby missing the entire point of the exercise.

It’s like any habit, I suppose. It takes repetition to make it a natural part of who you are.

At the very least, if I can’t leave someone better off than I found them, I’m trying not to add to the mess.

You don’t have to try to feed the homeless or frighten children with your forced smile like me. But, at least start by making sure you don’t leave anyone in worse shape than you found them.

Baby steps people. Baby steps.

“Just because an animal is large, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t want kindness;
however big Tigger seems to be, remember that he wants as much kindness as Roo.”

~ Pooh’s Little Instruction Book (inspired by A.A. Milne)

 

 

Image credits:
Photo #1 – http://www.kab.org/
Photo #2 – http://www.flickr.com/photos/mcas_cherry_point/8580947002/
Photo #3 – Drew, fledgling cartoonist
Photo #4 – Willem DeFoe, who is often not this crazy looking and I’m guessing this is a selfie

Achieving Emotional Grace (AEG#1) – Find Your Naked Truth

Achieving Emotional Grace (AEG#1) – Find Your Naked Truth

blacksheep5

“Not being yourself is like walking around in shoes that are
two sizes too small. At best you will be endlessly uncomfortable,
at worst you will end up bloody, scarred and crippled.”

~ Irene Barnett, after several lemon drops, half of a joint and an Excedrin PM 

 

I’m not going to lie, I have been tortured by this first post in this series about Achieving Emotional Grace. I just felt like this first one should hit on a more foundational level and set the tone.

Oh, and also the debilitating realization that I’ve committed to something I have no idea I have the insight nor the cohones to deliver on.

I tend to get most of my ah-ha moments either in the shower or on the toilet. This one came to me on the toilet. And, knowing that many of you will read this while sitting in the same place, there is a certain synchronicity to this.

It occurred to me that much of the sage advice to come would be more useful within a bigger context.

So, I landed on Personal Authenticity.

Or, your naked truth…or intrinsic self….or genuineosity….because “Authenticity” is such a patchouli-smelling word that brings forth images of mood rings and Stevie Nicks.

Muddy Gray = Lower intestinal distress

Muddy Gray = Lower intestinal distress

The crux of it, regardless of label, goes like this: Lack of falsehood or misrepresentation.

When we are children, it would never enter our minds or hearts to be anything or anyone other than who we just…are.

Pretty sure this guy is fairly comfortable with his naked truth. Though I can’t imagine other parts of him are feeling all that great….

Pretty sure this guy is fairly comfortable with his naked truth. Though I can’t imagine other parts of him are feeling all that great….

But, as we get older, that truth can become clouded by outside influences for any number of reasons. Acceptance, insecurity, societal norms or just plain survival – any or all are solid reasons to create a persona or skin to wear in life.

What I think we don’t realize is that we are damaging ourselves in our pursuit of protection.

The longer we wear these personas, the deeper our authenticity is buried until it takes a team of archeologists to uncover the gem at the center. So, knowing who you are means clearing the debris.

I lost any connection to my personal foundation when I had kids. I know, I seem to blame them for a whole lot of stuff that seems pretty unfair given their small 11-year-old shoulders.

(I am, however, pretty certain they, alone, are responsible for the entire economic meltdown of 2008. And, I’m still looking into it, but, I think that whole ozone thing may be their doing as well.)

Mayhem on three wheels.

Mayhem on three wheels.

Mine was a slow disconnect that occurred without my even realizing it. Out of necessity and survival, I shifted most or all of my energy to these little people who depended on me so completely, losing sight of myself in the process.

It wasn’t until about 8 years into it that I realized I no longer had a clue as to who I was. For nearly a decade I steadily became untethered from myself until I barely had a memory of myself.

Bummer, huh?  God, go get a drink. This broad is DEPRESSING!!!

Hey, the good news is, eventually, my survival instinct kicked in and I pretty much declared, “This next decade? This one is MINE, bitches!”

Which is all well and good but, how in the hell do you find your way back? I know I still struggle a lot with paying attention to those internal cues that tell me something just doesn’t ring quite true for me. It’s so easy to lose that in all our daily noise.

Ariana Huffington wrote a fantastic piece called Are You Living Your Eulogy Or Your Resume about living a life that is true to you. It’s a very compelling idea.

And, it’s your assignment.

(I know, you didn’t think there’d be homework. And no, this will not be on the mid-term. Don’t you give me that Judd Nelson look! Now stop asking questions and get back to your seat or it will be detention for you!!)

Don't mess with the bull, young man. You'll get the horns.

Don’t mess with the bull, young man. You’ll get the horns.

So, come on, kids, let’s write our own eulogies!!

Write it as it would be delivered today, not when you are 90 or 100. No need to hide behind that fabricated skin any longer. Just pure, unsullied, bona fide YOU.

You don’t care what anyone says or thinks.

Cuz’ you’re dead.

Get it?

Do people REALLY know you? Do you REALLY know yourself?

Now that we have that first crazy-ass insurmountable goal in place, it will help to put all the other tidbits of wisdom to come in context. And, you can then pick and choose which insights ring true for you and which ones don’t.

Phew, I feel a little better now. Gotta go figure out the next installment.

Guess it’s time to take either a shower or a shit.

“Be who you are and say what you feel,
because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

~ Dr. Seuss

Achieving Emotional Grace (Or, Don’t Be a Tool)

Achieving Emotional Grace (Or, Don’t Be a Tool)

My birthday is in September. Now, simmer down and stop buying me extravagant presents.

The reason I mention this is because, as opposed to January 1st, I consider my birthday my new year. I tend to stop and think about what went down this year and what I’d like to see happen in the next.

Sometimes I land on simple stuff like staying on top of the laundry, which is swiftly followed by swearing to stop wasting time on stuff like laundry. So, you see, I really never get too far.

This year I’ve decided that I need a lot (and I mean A LOT) of focus on just being a better person. Clearly not the challenge of my laundry debacle, but a worthy cause none the less.

I came to the realization that I have approximately two more years of my kids actually hearing a word I say before hormones clog them up into a sound-proof cocoon and they emerge like a butterfly at 25 as functioning humans. I hope.

I had better stuff as much usable information into their pre-pubescent brains before that time or god only knows what I will have unleashed on an unsuspecting world.

Like many of you (I hope), I say a lot of useless crap to my kids. I like to think that I’m carrying on a very proud tradition, having been the recipient of just such crap from my own parents.

“Life isn’t fair”

“Because I said so”

“Money doesn’t grow on trees”

“What? This? This is Mommy’s medicine.”

I do not think that means what you think it means.

I do not think that means what you think it means.

But, every now and then, when the stars are aligned, the winds change direction and Kate Middleton farts at a precise moment, I say something pretty freaking brilliant that has some decent substance.

Approximately 100% of the time I am regurgitating some gold nugget that was passed on to me by some advanced human. I’m talking about those people we’ve all come across who seem to have life in sharp focus. They have, what I call, emotional grace.

So, I had this idea that, as a reminder to myself, I would start to write a series about all these little lessons and analogies that have resonated with me throughout my life. Sort of like an emotional personal improvement plan.

In addition, because I am lazy, I don’t want to continue to repeat myself with my kids. I suspect that this, in and of itself, makes me an emotional lummox.

I present, the Achieving Emotional Grace primer. Or, as I like to call it Don’t Be a Tool.

Let me just start with this disclaimer: I have absolutely no expertise in what I’m writing about. I have no degrees, certifications, doctorates in anything.

In fact, I chose to study film at an agricultural school in Oregon so clearly my educational decisions in general can be called into question.

I am tripping and guffawing my way through the shitpile just like everyone else. I screw up. A  lot. I have insecurities and personality blemishes too many to count. I have warned you sufficiently.

If Child Protective Services comes to your door or you are detained or incarcerated because you did anything I said, you have no one but yourself to blame.

So, what is emotional grace? We’ve all seen countless examples of physical grace – the ballet dancer, the gymnast, the ice skater. Everything they do appears effortless, almost as if they are not confined by the weight of gravity like the rest of us.

A stark comparison would be me. I walk into walls. Just talking will cause me to bite my tongue. I am convinced that I am being drugged and beaten while I sleep because I am constantly finding bruises and scrapes and can not tell you where they came from.

I have never been, nor will I be, graceful. I’m tight and don’t bend easily. I’m like dolls before they invented the bendable limbs.

What? I am relaxed.

What? I am relaxed.

The emotional equivalent of the ballet dancer are those people who seem to know how to navigate the intricacies of human relationships and situations. They know how to say the right thing at the right time. They appear unflappable but still have appropriate emotional responses. They expect a great deal from themselves and those around them while still being forgiving and realistic with both. They are often kind, giving, funny and honest. They do all of this naturally, without effort or artifice.

And, you want to hate them for all this but you simply can’t.

As I trip my way through life, I have been given so many lessons, large and minuscule, by people who have passed through my turnstile. Many were completely unaware they were schooling me. Others did it very purposefully.

I’ve listened and tried to apply those lessons to my life with rare success and more often in failure. Recognizing noble behavior and practicing it in your life are two vastly different things.

So, stand by while I pull some sage wisdom out of my back side to share. I’m sure you’re all on the edge of your seats.

Except those of you who are out shopping for a birthday present for me. Good choice!

 

Image credits:
Photo #1 – http://i.imgur.com/FKhBR.jpg
Photo #2 – personal image
Photo #3 – http://www.jakks.com