No Tankini Required

d24235920d4e68736ea61a1b44fe59c5_female-runner-on-beach-700-469-cThis week has been a struggle in the running department. It’s a combination of hot, humid weather, too much on my to do list, and just being worn out. But, I ran.

Early in the week, I nearly made a snarky social media post, because I had been noticing men taking more than just a passing glance at me while I was running. It bothered me — my immediate thought was that they had no right to assume that I was out on the sidewalks of my town trying to be eye candy just for them.

But, the to do list won, and I never made the post.

I did, however, keep thinking about those stares and my reaction. Why did it offend me so much? I dress more than modestly for my hobby — I wear capris and a t-shirt. I even get the same kind of stares when I wearing a Camelbak for my long runs. (I have to be careful about heat injuries and dehydrating.)

Was I giving in my culture and my personal history again? I obviously assumed that the men looking were thinking sexual thoughts. How could I know that?

What if?

As I continued studying my reaction, I started thinking about the what-ifs.

  • What if these guys were, like my husband, simply trying to identify movement and color they had noticed as they were driving? (Yes, that is what my husband does — he stares at everything except people working out as he drives. It’s an interesting experience!)
  • What if some of them were actually thinking that it was refreshing to see a woman with her body modestly covered?
  • What if they were wondering how in the world I could tolerate the heat with that much clothing on?
  • What if I noticed guys staring, but I blew off women staring? I’m not exactly dressed in common running fashions.
  • What if I made a point to practice giving people the benefit of the doubt and assume their intentions and actions are innocent?

 

The runs are still hot, humid, and difficult, but much more pleasant than at the beginning of the week!

A Cat’s Nervous Breakdown

extreme-fear-anxiety-catsThis past week, I took in one of my brother’s dogs while he went out of town. His dog is very loving and intelligent, but she is also full of energy and a bit headstrong. Even so, we didn’t think it would be a big deal because we have two other dogs, and the cats are fine with them. They can see the dogs through the bedroom window, but we keep the door to the bedroom shut, so the dogs can’t just wander in and out at will. Over time, all of them have started making peace.

I had no clue what was going on when he began throwing up once or twice a day. He’s always had a bit of a vomiting problem — when he gets a big enough hairball, he will eat until his stomach rejects everything. When it was most frequent, it happened once or twice a month.

So, I kept watching my baby, hoping he wasn’t getting sick. He didn’t look sick, so I just kept watching. About the fourth day in, my cat was looking pretty bad. His eyes looked a little bit sunken, his stomach was caving in a little bit, and he jumped at everything.

Somehow, my brain pieced together that it could be the new dog. I picked him up, about that time my brother’s dog popped up into the window. The cat nearly went bonkers. I took him over to the window and showed him that he was perfectly safe. By morning, he was fine.

I thought that he had learned that the window kept him separated from the dogs. He had actually learned that the other two dogs wouldn’t come through the window to get him.

Points to Ponder

  • Do I have worries and concerns that may be like the window? Have I tried to see other perspectives? Have I sought the perspective of others that I trust?
  • Is it possible that my frustrations with others — whether it be my kids, my spouse, my coworkers, etc. — is caused by something as simple as a difference in focus or perspective?
  • How often do I look for the root of a problem with others and try to solve that, rather than focusing on what appears to be the problem?

 

 

“Ruining America”: Classism

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I read an interesting blog article a few weeks ago, and I lost the URL. Sorry about that!

From what I understood, the author was essentially trying to make the case that the upper middle-class has protected itself from outsiders by creating a culture that makes those who are not familiar with it feel like they don’t measure up. To avoid shame and embarrassment, those who don’t “belong” to the upper middle-class retreat to safer, more familiar grounds.

I heard reference last April to the idea that we are living in a shame culture — a culture that bestows a sense of worth based on how well you are liked and accepted, or in other words, how well you conform to society’s norms.

I have felt this frequently in my life, and I am still struggling to embrace being an outlier. I grew up in farming country, and I feel most comfortable around “salt-of-the-earth” people. However, life has taken me on a journey that has led to a master’s degree and suburban living. I struggle with what appears to be an over-emphasis on appearance and owning “status symbols” in suburban culture. But, I have adopted many other habits and patterns found in suburban life. In the end, I don’t really fit in with either group.

In my opinion, the problem isn’t the upper middle-class.  This idea of culture and belonging to a group extend as far back as we can trace the history of people. The tendency to mistrust and exclude those who don’t belong goes back just as far.

So What Do We Do About It?

The serenity prayer mentions accepting the things we cannot change and courageously changing what we can. I doubt that we will ever change this quirk in human nature. We are wired to want the familiar.

We can, however, decide how we will react:

  1. Walk away. Sometimes, belonging isn’t worth the effort, and there is no shame in taking the time to evaluate whether or not you truly want to be part of a particular group. Every person has a right to choose their friends.
  2. Fake it until you make it. The truth about culture is that it is simply a set of learned behaviors. Go to places where you can read a book and people watch at the same time. Look up things on the internet that you don’t understand. Watch trends on social media. Show up at open social events, be friendly, and make new acquaintances. Learn what this particular culture values and why. Eventually, you will feel comfortable in your environment, and you will have the friends you seek.
  3. Embrace being an outlier. While this is the hardest route, this is the only way to be part of a group and stay true to your nature. It does mean that you will not be readily accepted and that some may never accept you at all. It also means that you need to show a little tact and “give in” on things like dress and grooming when it doesn’t violate a personal (or moral) code.

In the end, there are no easy answers to being human. It’s a nice idea that everybody loves everybody, but it’s not a realistic goal. Just trying to get everyone to agree on what it means to love everybody would be impossible.

So, in the end, let us accept with grace the things that we cannot change, and courageously change those things that are truly worth the effort.

Questions of Religion

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I often run across news articles that cause me to seriously reflect on what I believe to be the state of the world. Recently, I paused over an article, “Christian Slapped with $12,000 ‘Shariah Fine’ for not Removing Shoes.”

It’s a short article, and it was written with some fairly obvious Christian bias. That’s my first pause. I suppose that if the publication is by Christians for Christians, I could cut the journalist a little bit of slack. Even so, I have a hard time understanding how to justify what appears to be an attempt to stir hard feelings against another religious group and/or the government. Sure, I believe that Christian rights should be honored with equal protection under the law (yes, I’m very American), but fear mongering isn’t helping the cause.

I am concerned about a system (and yes, I know this happened in Canada), that financially supports the side making the claim without providing an even opportunity for the party who has to be defended against the claim. Having only the article for information, it does look like the government is siding with minority groups without reasonable checks in place, putting a heavy burden on those who are accused — and opening the door to outrageous abuses of the system.

I am concerned that there was a breakdown in communication that became a legal incident. From the article, there is no telling if one side or both sides behaved badly as they communicated. But, it seems like adults should be able to be civil and transmit information to each other. How simple would it have been to remind your landlord of your beliefs and request that he and other visitors please remove their shoes when they enter your home? Shouldn’t a good Christian honor that request as a show of respect and Christian love?

Finally, my biggest concern is how touchy we all seem to be lately. Can a Christian say, “God bless you” without someone of another faith (or no faith) crying to social media that Christians are trying to force them to adopt their beliefs? Shouldn’t a Muslim woman be able to wear a hijab without fear of being called a terrorist? How can governments help ensure that all citizens have equal rights without getting into the business of religion?

Is there a way to make room for us all?

Why Write this Blog?

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Last week, I wrote about the changes that have been occurring in my life, and how they might affect my blog. The biggest influence and piece of wisdom that I keep encountering as I blaze a new trail in my life is to understand why I am doing what I am doing. The personal benefits are numerous, but the one that relates to this blog is that knowing my purpose for writing will help me develop a consistent message.

So, I spent the week tossing the why questions around in my mind. I realized that my goal is to help people. My idea of help is NOT some fluffy, feel-good affirmation that tells you you’re ok when you’re really a jerk that’s messing up your life and the lives of the people closest to you. To me, that’s like trying to put an adhesive bandage over a cut artery.

No, life is messy. It’s hard. Life questions rarely have easy answers. And, just when you think that you’ve found your answers, you find that there are people out there who have a totally different view of things and see things so differently from you that you wonder if you’re even from the same species. (Something I actually love about humanity, by the way!)

In the end, I type my thoughts and opinions up every week with the hope that I help someone somewhere see things in a way that gives them the courage to carry on, fortitude to keep trying to solve their problems, and perspective to live without causing harm to others.

That’s why I write this blog.

So, for the most part, the posts will continue next week and probably feel a lot like “business as usual.” I hope you find useful thoughts to ponder and apply!

Change is in the Air

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Some who have read this blog or know me personally  are aware that I submitted my letter of resignation as a teacher on May 1, 2017. Since that time, I have been trying to “decide what I want to be when I grow up.”

In the next few weeks, I will be making that announcement. I’m sure there will be a few more announcements as I put all of the plans in place. As I do, I realize that I’m having to completely change my perception of who I am. I’m also going to be making a few changes to this blog.

Anyone Else Frightened?

Change isn’t comfortable. The things that we have always known and the things that we have always done become our comfort zone. They become to us like that favorite stuffed animal or blanket that we carried around as toddlers. It doesn’t matter how filthy and nasty it gets — it’s what we turn to for comfort and security.

As far as this blog is concerned, the changes won’t be that big. I’m mostly going to be working through a process of claifying my purpose for this blog’s existence, solidifying the message, and (hopefully) making it a little more interactive.

As for me? Well, let’s just say I hope I’m holding on to my hat tightly! I’m trying to convince myself that I’m ready to get rid of my worn-out, dirty “lovie” and move into the world with more wisdom, maturity, and confidence than I have in the past.

In the Moment

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Before I begin, I want to be sure that it is VERY clear that I love my husband dearly, and that the purpose of this post is NOT to put him down. It’s a chance for me to “model” what I try to do when life lets me down.

The Backstory

In May, I made a major career change that has left me with a lot of uncertainties and insecurites. Lately, things have been coming to a bit of a head, and I find myself having trouble sleeping. My husband and I were talking about it, and he asked how he could help. I have learned enough in my life to know two things:

  1. When a man offers to help, he usually wants to help.
  2. If I’m not specific, he won’t get the message.

It’s just the difference between men and women.

So, I told him that I really could use help cleaning the house and getting some chicken put up that’s been waiting for me to repackage it for a couple of days. There. Clear, concise — exactly what a man needs.

We both knew when he asked this question that he had to work this weekend, but it was a couple of hours before he was going to have to get started. So, I assumed that he was going to buckle down and tear through the house. He moved one load of laundry around, sat down, and watched YouTube until it was time for him to log in from home.

My Reaction

I don’t think it’s dawned on my husband yet — he’s pretty distracted with his work project right now. I’m kind of hurt. I feel like he implied a promise and then broke it.

On the other hand, he works hard (as do I) and we both know that he needs more down time than I do, and that his down time needs to feel like play. (I prefer moving on to another project.)

Fortunately, I recoginized I had a choice, or I would have gone with my kneejerk reaction to cry, raise my voice, and let him know how disappointed and frustrated I am — after all, we had just discussed how stressed out I am, I told him how he could help, and he failed.

Since I didn’t take choice number 1, I have avoided a fight (at least for now).

Future Choices

I would love to say that I know I can keep my mouth shut and let it fester, keep my mouth shut and shrug it off, or talk to him about it when he’s not so busy and distracted — and that I choose to just shrug it off. In the end, it’s not a big deal, and I always seem to get the most important stuff done, anyway. Then, I can observe to see if things really are out of balance in our relationship and in our home duties, and have a rational discussion if it’s needed.

Unfortunately, I prove all the time exactly how human I am. I may not be able to let it go. Because I have been in abusive relationships and because of other experiences in my life, feeling like other people are dumping on me is a BIG DEAL. If I try to “just not say anything,” it may just fester and blow up later.

My Real Choice

Because I want to learn how to shrug the inconsequential stuff off, I’m going to try to let it go. But, being aware of my weaknesses, I’m going to monitor myself. If it turns out I can’t let it go, then I will talk to him later this evening or sometime tomorrow when it’s more appropriate so that we’re both aware of what’s been bopping around inside my head.

Because I’ve married an amazing man, I expect that if I approach him with some respect, I’ll receive respect in return, and we’ll work things out.

No, it won’t be the end of all of our problems and glitches in our marriage. But, it will still be a great marriage. In fact, one of the best indicators of a good marriage is the maturity level of both spouses. Total lack of conflict is a danger sign.