What color are your glasses?

Everyone sees the world through the filters of their own beliefs. It’s as if we’re wearing glasses, and our life experiences and beliefs are the lenses. We unconsciously see the world through those rose – or crap – colored glasses, and that influences how we perceive everything from the opposite sex to money to politics.

Have you ever known anyone who had such bad taste in the opposite sex that they could be in the room with 100 people and they’d circulate to the only non-trustworthy one in the bunch? Or read a blog that was so rightist or leftist that the author cannot see anything beyond their own doctrine? How about the millionaire that started out so poor that they re-used Christmas cards or re-used their dryer sheets twelve times, even as they added zeros to their bank accounts?

Have you ever thought about what colors your glasses? Have you ever taken them off and examined them? Checked to see which beliefs are working for you and which aren’t? Noticed the tint and tried to clean them off and looked at a person or issue or candidate without the filters?

It’s hard to do, because while it’s easy to see others’ glasses, it’s hard to see one’s own. And harder still to clean them.

One Less Regret

Kate at One More Thing wrote a thoughtful post about what to do if you discover you have only one month to live, and one of the things she said struck a chord with me (actually the whole post is full of chords). She said that she had no regrets.

I do. I don’t have many, but they are there. The biggest is not having had more children, and though it still makes me sad when I think about it I don’t dwell on it. It’s a fact, it’s there, but there’s nothing I can do to change it so there’s no point.

Another regret is the one friendship I’ve lost over bad behavior on my part. This girl and I met in junior college and were friends for seven years. The memories we made are way too numerous (and often scandalous) to share. Suffice to say that we were to each other that most important relationship in the life of any young girl: best friends. We were there for each other in all the ways true best friends are.

It was good stuff.

A few years after graduating college we were planning her wedding and I was making the agonizing decision to put my mother in a mental hospital. My sister was pregnant and her husband laid off, so I felt the burden was mine, all mine. After the wedding she offered me an escape, so I wound up moving with her and her husband to another state to help her in-laws renovate a home they were turning into a bed-and-breakfast. I was very, very depressed.

I didn’t live up to my end of the bargain. I sneak-smoked in the house, I didn’t do the work I said I’d do and I didn’t find a job and move out. It took three months to end a friendship of seven years, and it ended with accusations of theft (which I absolutely did not do) and anti-semitic slurs. My friend did not trust easily, and my actions (or mostly lack thereof) shattered that trust.

It was the only time in my life I ever lost a friend by anything other than normal drift. And I felt lousy about it. Sure, I was wronged, too. But I did a lot wrong. That didn’t help my depression any.

I came back to Florida and tried to put my life back together. I had gotten offered a job in an insurance office, and I clawed my way into a life. My depression gradually lifted. A few months later I wrote letters of apology to my friend and her husband and to his parents, and while I hoped to hear from her I didn’t expect to.

That was fifteen years ago. I’ve thought of her often over the years. I’m still friends with many of the people we knew together back then (I even married one), though she has lost touch. So of course it’s a regret. My actions helped end a friendship that meant a great deal to me.

Fast forward to today. I ran a search on Facebook for people who were at university the same time I was, and her name was the very first to pop up. I’d only been a Facebook member for a few weeks, and here was an opportunity I could not let pass.

So I sent her a message, and she responded. Open, friendly, welcoming.

I cannot tell you how freed up I feel that this burden of loss/regret/guilt has been lifted, and I can’t explain why it would be lifted just because she replied to my message. After all ,it’s not that what happened has been erased, and that I don’t still feel guilt and regret. But even if we don’t stay in contact I somehow don’t feel that sense of loss that I’ve felt every time I’ve thought about her over the past fifteen years.

Hello, old friend.

My Mother-in-Law Is a Lying Liar who Lies…

Last August my friend Kate at One More Thing… asked me to write a few guest posts for her while she was out of town. Though I had a Mommy blog I didn’t have a writing blog, so I was honored, excited and a bit intimidated. I’m so glad she asked me because if she hadn’t this blog would never have been born.

I thought you might enjoy reading my first ever non-Mommy blog posts, so I thought I’d re-post them while I’m out of town.

Here’s the third post…

I will be teaching my son to take out the garbage. He will learn to put the seat down. Put his clothes in the hamper. Put his empty cans and wrappers in the garbage.

He will know how to do a load of laundry. He shall learn to clean up after himself if he sprinkles while he tinkles, and he will most definitely put the toilet seat down. Instead of leaving the wax seal from the milk jug on the counter, he will learn to walk the extra three feet to toss it in the garbage.

My mother-in-law insists that she taught my husband all these things. If that’s true, what happened to him between the ages of twelve and 37 that made him forget? And is it hereditary?

If so, my future daughter-in-law will think I’m a lying liar who lies. And I’ll tell her it’s reversible. It only took three or four years of marriage for my husband’s memories to return.

And I’ll hope she has sons. So I can warn her that she’ll be a lying liar who lies, too.

And on that note, I will await my chewy gooeys. Your turn, Mary!

So, there you have it. The first three non-mommy posts I ever wrote. I hope you enjoyed them!

Getting Dad, or, Parents Are People Too

My Dad and I didn’t have the best relationship growing up. My parents divorced when I was six, and my dad moved my stepmother and her three kids into the house thirty seconds after my Mom, sister and I left the house they’d purchased together three short months before.

The love was certainly there on both sides, but we didn’t really know how to relate to each other. Over the next years our relationship was strained at best, and the day of my high school graduation my father apologized for “ignoring (me) the past eighteen years”.

He invited me to move to Florida to go to college, and I accepted, mostly because I wanted to build a relationship with him. That first year was really, really tough, but we had two breakthroughs in the next few years which really helped our relationship.

The first was realizing that my mother and father were people; a man and a woman. Of course many of you are thinking, “Well, duh. What did you think they were, orangutans?” No, I knew they were human. I just thought there were men, women and parents. I didn’t think of either of my parents in terms of their own humanity. I expected so much more of them. Men and women have their own wants, needs and desires. Parents certainly don’t. They were supposed to be infallible in their advice and the examples they set. I held them to much higher standards than any other people in my life.

That’s okay, perhaps even necessary when you’re a child, but by the time I was nineteen I thought that just wasn’t fair. I remember the exact moment I had that epiphany, and it opened the door for a better relationship with my Dad.

The second breakthrough came in the middle of a huge argument. My father is an accountant. He is very logical and practical and I… take more after my mother. He was never very demonstrative with his emotions, and my emotional self craved hugs and other physical “proof” of his love, and offered many of my own to show mine.

He also likes everything neat and orderly at all times. I’m…not. I don’t like a huge filthy mess (though I admit there were times in high school, living with my Mom, when my laundry covered the floor of my very small bedroom), but a book lying on my bed wasn’t going to mean the end of life as we know it. And my car has never been kept neat. It’s not that I don’t like neat, but I’ve always led a very busy life, even in college, and my car has always been my base of operations. It gets messy. I clean it eventually. It gets messy again, Lather, rinse, repeat.

This drove my father batty. So this one day he’s yelling at me about my messy room and car and I’m yelling back and I finally yell, “What do you want from me???” He yells back, “I want you to keep your room clean, your car clean and do well in school!”

And I just stood there, likely with a stupid look on my face, and had another epiphany. That’s how my Dad showed his love for me. By setting examples of what he thought was good and moral and would get me further in life and make me happy. And he didn’t want hugs and I love yous as proof of my love for him. He wanted me to show my love by learning the lessons he was trying to teach me.

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

So I looked at him, in the middle of this highly charged, emotional argument and said quietly, “Ohhh. Okay!” And I kissed him on the cheek and walked away.

I heard him ask my stepmother a few moments later, “What just happened here?”

What happened, Dad, was that I got it. I got you. And that’s when our relationship got much better.

It’s been twenty years since then, and my car is still messy much of the time. But I’ve learned the lessons he wanted to teach me, even the ones he didn’t know he was teaching.  And I look forward to learning more.

Memories Are Best Kept In My Heart, Not in Drawers and Boxes All Over the House

I’ve learned something from going through all of the clutter at my Dad’s house. I don’t want anyone to ever have to sort through drawer after box after closet of my crap.

So, what am I going to do with all mine?

I have a lot. I’ve saved movie stubs and birthday cards and love notes and locks of hair. I’ve saved t-shirts and brochures and Playbills and candy bar wrappers.

And it’s not organized. There’s some here, and some there. Every once in awhile I’ll take a bunch of it and put it in a box or drawer. These things never go into scrapbooks or anything that would be able to be enjoyed by someone else. But really, who would anyway?

Then there’s my planners. I had saved my daily planners for about ten years, figuring it would be kind of cool to look back in later years and see what I’d done, where I’d been. Yesterday when we were cleaning out the garage I saw them and started thinking about them. Who is going to care that I had a doctor’s appointment on March 28, 2001? Really. I tossed them.

So I got the thought into my head to just get rid of all of the loose memorabilia, the random junk that will mean nothing to anyone but me. I may save a very few things that are very special to me, but they won’t be random pieces of paper or tickets to my 10th Styx concert. Those memories are best kept in my heart.

But not my photos. I’m not going to get rid of my photos.

But they did get me thinking some more. At my Dad’s house there is a closet and a large part of the garage that hold photo albums and scrapbooks and other memorabilia from my stepmother, and her mother, and my grandmother, and any number of older, deceased family members. What does one do with that? My stepmother obviously felt compelled to keep it, but she had no idea what to do with it all either, besides throw it in a closet. No one really wants it, but no one wants to toss it, either. I’d like my Dad to hold onto the stuff from when we were growing up, and his Mom’s stuff. But no one really wants the other stuff. It’s not my decision to toss it or not, and thank goodness for that.

So of course that got me thinking some more. Who is going to want mine?

I have a son. Boys typically could care less about these types of things. He’s not going to want them. Sure, his future wife will want to see and have pictures and some memorabilia of him growing up, but she’s not going to want mine, or my Dad’s.

So, I’m keeping my photos. And a little bit of my memorabilia. And a lot of his memorabilia. And someday, hopefully many, many years from now, he’ll go through it all and decide what he wants to keep, and what he wants to toss. I won’t mind.

All of the memories will live in my heart, and hopefully in his.

Love Uncluttered

I spent the past two weeks pretty entrenched in family stuff. My Dad is selling his house and buying a condo on the beach. My sisters were in town, so we’ve been furniture shopping and started to sort through some of the stuff in the house, figuring out what he’ll take with him (15%), what my brothers and sisters and I will take (15%) and what will be sold at the massive garage sale we’ll have (we can all figure out this percentage, I hope).

I’ve talked in the past about the mounds and mounds of clutter and crap my stepmother amassed. My Dad lived in a house full of clutter with her for thirty-five years and never complained. The house was always relatively clean, but there was nary a surface unoccupied. And as each of us moved out of the house she took over our rooms and filled the closets and drawers with little gifts she thought the kids would like, or napkins for a future dinner party, or address books (we’ve found at least twenty, filled with the same addresses over and over and over again). There are hundreds of glasses, every kitchen gizmo and gadget you can think of (and some we still have no clue about), family heirlooms and enough serving dishes to give one to every soldier in Iraq. Well, not really. But a LOT.

Now that she’s not there my Dad’s innate need for order (I am an accountant’s daughter) has resurfaced, and with a vengeance. He cannot tolerate any new mess, any new clutter. Extra food brought into the house for the duration of my sisters’ stay is already out of the house, and my sister doesn’t leave until tomorrow. This after noon he asked us to clean up the kids’ toys, about 1/2 hour before more grandkids were showing up. We explained and he relented, but the mess really bothers him.

His new home will be very different from the one he lives in today. The furniture will be less ornate (his new bedroom and dining room sets are lovely and elegant with very clean lines), there will be surfaces uncluttered, and likely there will be empty drawers. To me a much more relaxing place to be.

But that’s not the point.

What’s so fascinating, so wonderful, so cool, is how he adapted for the woman he loved. She brought him so much joy that he learned to live with the clutter, the shopping bags, and the bills. He didn’t try to control the house or her love of stuff. I don’t think he even noticed that much; not until she was gone.

We all deserve to be loved like that, don’t we?

No Skin Off My Nose

Random acts of kindness are wonderful things.

I remember being a little girl and riding in the back seat of my Mom’s car with my sister. We’d be driving on the Garden State Parkway, AM radio (providing the soundtrack for my early life) turned up loud. Back then tolls were only 25 cents, and my mother, free spirit that she is, would often pay the toll for the person behind us. As we drove away we always looked behind us to see what would happen.

The reactions varied. Some people argued with the toll collector, others would quickly speed off, hoping they could get away cleanly before the “mistake” was discovered. Sometimes people would catch up to us, smiling and waving. Sometimes people drove by without even looking our way. No matter the reaction we were always smiling, laughing, and feeling good about what we had done. And, really, 25 cents was no skin off my Mom’s nose, even as we struggled financially.

Even better than random acts of kindness are the kindnesses we do for the people in our lives. Doing things because they make someone else we love happy, even though they may not mean much to us.

For example, my mother doesn’t just sign a greeting card. She underlines the words and phrases that best represent how she feels. Sometimes there’s one line, sometimes two or even three if she feels really strongly about it. Once I even got a four-liner.

Sure, sweet. But a little annoying, too. I rolled my eyes every time. When I was younger I’d send her cards, but I wouldn’t underline anything. Eventually, after I got over my anger and resentment about her mental illness and just accepted that she really did the best that she could, given what she knew, I started underlining phrases in cards I sent to her. After all, it was no skin off my nose, but it made her happy.

I’ve had this conversation with Husband before, about his mother. A telephone call in the middle of the week, just to say hello, would make her day. A big hug and kiss when he sees her instead of a perfunctory kiss on the cheek would make her swoon. And, really, it’s no skin off his nose to do it. Same with his sister, or his grandmother.

Husband loves it when I look to the right as we cross the train tracks and report on whether or not a train is coming so he can look to the left. When we see a train approach while we’re driving somewhere, Son loves it that I always stop the car so he can watch it go by, even if it means turning around.

No skin off my nose. And it makes them so happy.

Simply acknowledging the people I love in little, thoughtful ways is such a powerful healer, a day brightener, a blues lifter. For the people I’m acknowledging, and for myself.

Funny. Whenever I focus out my in feels better.

Using My Frugality Against Me

It just isn’t fair.

Husband dislikes shaving. That’s fine, except I dislike sandpaper kisses.

When I mentioned to him today that a shave would be nice he said, “Well, I don’t want to shave too often. Those razor cartridges are expensive, you know…”

Yes. I know.

That was a low blow, dude.

I May Be Smart, But I Sure Am Dumb

Some epiphanies are wonderful. They can be freeing, inspirational and life-changing, all in good ways.

Others just show you how fricking dumb you are.

Case in point: A few weeks ago I reconnected with a Guy with whom I had an on-again off-again relationship that lasted over ten years. I really, really cared about him, and we were pretty close, but we were wrong for each other in many ways. None of which I cared about at the time, of course. Ahhh, youth. To be brutally honest, he loved me but wasn’t in love with me.

Ouch.

We’d been close friends before we got together, and remained so throughout the years. We’d met in college, and shared a group of friends who are to this day my best friends. Husband knew him and they were friendly, but not close, and at the time Husband and I were years away from getting together. When Guy and I broke up for the last time (circa 1993) he started seeing a woman who he is still seeing today, fifteen years later. When she realized that he and I had a history it made her uncomfortable, and I was uncomfortable but braving it out, and he was really uncomfortable. He started pulling away from the group, the visits becoming more and more sporadic. Eventually about six years ago he stopped seeing us at all. He stopped calling completely about four years ago, and the last attempt at connection was the birth announcement I sent after Son was born, to which there was no reply.

We got the message. Given that I was now happily married and busy with my son he wasn’t even close to foremost in my thoughts, but occasionally I would think about him and wonder how he was. Then, a few weeks ago, I was doing a search for something and ran across a site that helped you find people, and they listed known associates and businesses and lots of cool, readily available information about people. I looked up myself, my friends, my family, high school people, my old boss and, eventually, that Guy. It listed a business that he had apparently opened, so I sent him an e-mail.

Mind you, Husband is the least jealous person I’ve ever known, but still I told him I’d found Guy, and was going to send him an e-mail. He told me to go for it, as I knew he would. Minutes later Guy and I were chatting, catching up on each other’s lives. Clearing up the misunderstandings that had kept him away.

We’ve seen each other a few times since. He tells me that when he told his girlfriend that I’d contacted him and was now married and had a child, she said, “Great! Let’s all get together for dinner!”. We haven’t yet, but I know we will. He’s the friend I mentioned yesterday who asked us to design a new website for his business. Last weekend I hosted a dinner party with Guy (girlfriend was out of town) and the closest of our mutual friends, and it was wonderful. As if no time had passed since we’d all been together.

As we chatted through dinner and beyond, one thing became apparent that I’d never noticed before….

Their favorite show (Stargate)…their politics…their conspiracy-theory brotherhood. Their slight paranoia…their passion…their cynicism…

Uh oh.

And as it was dawning on me during a particularly spirited exchange between Husband and Guy I looked over at our friend I’ll call Godfather (of Son, not of Pacino) and he was grinning at me.

Oh.

My.

G-d.

“Yes, ” Godfather said.

“I never, ever noticed before,” I said, my hands pressed against my face.

“Yes,” Godfather said.

“They’re so much alike!” I say.

Yes, indeed,” agreed Godfather.

I just put my hands over my face and tried to turn off my brain. Since that night I’ve thought about it some, and mostly hoped that sometime really soon I’ll find it completely amusing. Which it is.

Then, tonight, Guy called. After the usual chatter and discussion of the dinner party wound down, he said to me, “There’s something I noticed that night. My gosh, Husband is just like me!”

Yes, indeed.

Freud anyone?

I love Husband. And yes, there are similarities. But the life and the feelings and the commitment that Husband and I share is far deeper and means far more to me than any relationship I’ve ever had before. By about a brazilian (does anyone else love that joke as much as I do?) miles. Guy is my past. Husband is my past, my present and my future.

So, we’ll stay in contact now, because good friends are good to have.

I just don’t want to know what else I’ve been so dumb about.

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