Monday, January 26, 2015

The Trouble with Optimism


I have always considered myself to be a pessimist, a cynic.  I actually work kind of hard at it.  People suck, the world sucks, and shit happens.  I've known that since I was about five, probably a little earlier than most kids figure it out, but oh well.  I did most things way before I should have, truth be known, so that's no surprise.

But I'm rethinking things.  I was told recently by someone who knows me well that he loves that I'm always able to find the bright side of things, that I expect the best outcomes, no matter what.  I do? But, but...that's not possible!  I had the nickname "Neggy" in 8th grade, teased to the point of tears by a cute boy in my science class on whom I had a major crush--the point being that he thought I was negative about everything.  In 8th grade?  The only thing I should have had to be negative about was the cafeteria food and that I hadn't seen Rick Springfield in concert yet.  But apparently 8th grade Me was jaded and weary.  Sounds familiar.

But here's the thing.  Disappointments simply wreck me.  I get upset when things don't go right, when people around me aren't happy, when there's injustice and shittiness in my little world and the bigger world that I have no control over.  And when it's me?  Watch out, devastation alert!  Oh, I cover all of that up with smartass comments and a well-practiced Resting Bitch Face (look that up if you're not sure), so you'll never know, unless I want you to.  Aren't you the privileged one?

I want to expect the worst and be pleasantly surprised when things pan out.  I think there are people out there who just glide through life like they're coated with Teflon, and it pisses me off that I'm not one of them.  I could sort them out randomly in an anonymous restaurant setting.  Teflon people glance at the menu and just PICK something!  What on earth?  People like me, though...we sit and scour the options to make sure we've seen every page, every insert, every little thing so that we aren't surprised in any way, and then order the exact same thing we always order, just to be safe.  No disappointments.

The trouble with optimism, then, is that it leads to continual disappointment when things, people, don't meet expectations.  A pessimist would just settle, accept that things are suckish, no matter what, because that's how things are supposed to be.  A cheery little optimist like me, though?  She thinks she shouldn't settle for just tolerable, and she's not content with mediocre or ordinary, no matter how much she wants to be.  She thinks, maybe unrealistically, that she is capable of more, worth more, has more to give and contribute.   And maybe, just maybe, that a little bit of joy is better than a whole lot of "ehhhhhhh."  Maybe a better title would be "The Trouble with Perfectionism," as it's taken me longer to write these last two sentences than it did the entire rest of the post, and it's still not good, disappointing, even.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Mid-Summer Rant

I don't often use this blog for my feelings on political issues.  I have enough personal issues, typically, to fill it up, and I've pretty much come to accept that most people's minds can not be changed about things that they believe in, however misinformed and misguided those things may be.  But as I read through the news and my various social media accounts this morning, while my son watches a movie from the comfort of his own living room over a bowl of Fruity Pebbles, I have some things on my mind.  Read on from here at the risk of being offended.

Local news has not been good here in this small town the last few days.  A young local boy, just a few months older than my own son, died tragically when a large toolbox being used as a dresser tipped over on him.  A graduate of my alma mater, a young mother of small children, was murdered by her husband.  A local "kid" is headed back to prison after trying to run over a cop--he's engaged to a former student of mine and will leave a young daughter behind (maybe to her benefit) when he's convicted. My Facebook newsfeed is awash with people decrying the plight of all of the children involved in these incidents, and rightly so.  

So how is it that some of these very same people, or even groups of people (at the risk of making generalizations) who are so terribly concerned for the tragedies in these children's lives can be so heartless and unsympathetic to the fate of other children, namely the thousands of immigrant children in the national news?  In case you're unaware, thousands of children from Central American countries are fleeing their homelands and ending up here, in the good ol' U. S. of A.  Many of these children travel alone and endure more than you and I could tolerate on their journeys here, which should tell you a LOT about what they're leaving behind.  And they're KIDS.  I won't let my own son cross a street without holding my hand, much to his macho chagrin, and these kids are hanging on to the tops of trains over thousands of miles to make it here--the land of the free and the home of the brave.  Oh yeah, and apparently, the land of the concerned-only-about-our-own.  

I'll be the first to agree that there are immigration issues that need to be faced, readdressed, fixed, what-have-you.  I don't have those answers, and I confess to mixed emotions on that topic.  As the grandchild of an immigrant, and as a human being...hell, maybe even as a woman, I fall prey to my sympathies.  They're looking for something better, the American dream, a life for their children.  Unfortunately, maybe some of them are looking for handouts and "entitlements," because God knows enough of our own people are trying to milk that system.  But those are the adults, and how we handle that issue is different from this one.  Or it should be, because these are KIDS.  If they fled on their own, or were sent on their own, you can bet your ass they're leaving things that we would leave too, as we sit here fat, dumb, and happy and bitch and moan about how terrible the fireworks were this year.  If they were brought here by a parent or guardian, they had no choice in the matter.  It all amounts to the same thing, though.  They.  Are.  Children.  And we should take care of them.  Period.  

I'm not big on organized religion.  I don't go to church, I don't read the Bible, and I don't post scripture on my Facebook.  That doesn't mean that I don't believe in some of the tenets of the church and the teachings of Jesus, or for that matter, Muhammad, who said, "Do not turn away a poor man...even if all you can give is half a date..." (Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 1376). However, I do love the current Pope, and I embrace many of the statements he has made during his brief tenure. He's exactly right on this count when he says, "This humanitarian emergency requires, as a first urgent measure, these children be welcomed and protected..." (The Huffington Post).

I don't have the solution. If I did, I wouldn't be sitting here in my living room with my laptop. But what I do have is a heart, and I'm sorry--if the words "Send them back!" have occurred to you, you do not, and you have no business posting scripture or bragging about your mission trips or pretending to be good church-going folks. To the towns refusing to give these babies shelter while a solution is found--shame on you. To those bitching about diseases these children might carry, let's treat and vaccinate them instead of panicking--because you know your kids have had the chickenpox vaccine and have access to medical care. To those afraid--ask yourselves what you're afraid of, really. And really, with apologies for the trite saying and the theft of the slogan, it comes down to "What would Jesus do?"

Monday, May 12, 2014

Monday Mournings

I wish I could write every day, or at least on some sort of a schedule.  But the inspiration's gotta hit, so I wait for it.  I silently acknowledged my grandmother's birthday last week (she would have been 108!) and Mother's Day yesterday, so maybe that's where this comes from.  Maybe it's just from sitting still and quiet for a few minutes, which I don't do often enough.  Regardless, here's some Monday night poetry.

"Monday Mournings"

In the room where my grandmother died,
the quiet and the still
are much like they were that morning
as I waited with her for them.
Tonight the piano keys were just silenced,
the ivories ringing true with
"Petite Minuet" and "Yankee Doodle;"
And I sit on the sofa remembering,
as in the other rooms, the water runs,
the toy guns fire, the TV blares.
Outside, the birds and the highway--
that part remains here still.
This is my room, my quiet, as the sun begins to set.
Shadows of days gone past appear,
but I smile, knowing I hear the same
things she heard as she took her final breaths.
And for that reason, she is with me still.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Friday Night Soccer Lights



It's Saturday morning, I have a BOWL full of coffee, and the boy is watching iCarly.  It's a perfect time to write, so that I can at least say that I accomplished ONE thing today.  Gee, that sounds familiar.

I'm going to eat crow here a little, so I'll just get it over with.  I'm not a soccer fan--never have been.  I think that goes way back to elementary and middle school when I was forced to play it in PE.  I didn't like running around on the bumpy field because I twisted my ankles a lot.  I didn't like to engage with other players, because I hated getting kicked in the shins. And finally, I'm not a fan of balls being kicked at my face.  No, I lied.  That wasn't the final reason.  Let's face it, I'm not a team player.  I can't take the pressure of other people relying on my non-existent athletic prowess, I'm not all that competitive (wait, did I say that?), and I would sometimes rather die than be in the middle of a field with a bunch of people looking at me.  Uggh.  I digress.

I've tried to watch soccer in the past, mainly because people I like dig it, (a couple of them are actually fairly smart people, too) but it's never really stuck.  It's always seemed like just a lot of running back and forth with no satisfaction, and NOT "The Beautiful Game" they all claim it to be.  (I'll skip over the many reasons that basketball is clearly more beautiful.)  Anyway, I watched just to have some knowledge of what they were constantly babbling about, but it wasn't fun for me, other than relishing in the colloquialisms of British soccer announcers.  Now that is beautiful!

But last night, I was convinced to attend the season home opener for the high school varsity teams.  There were a lot of good reasons to go:  support the coach of the girls' team (one of those fanatic friends I mentioned), support the very talented PA announcer (another fanatic, but the one that I live with) in his first game of the season, and because a good friend sweet-talked me into it.  I started off distracted--it was chilly, it was breezy, I thought it might rain.  That announcer I spoke of--He is fantastic, but I sometimes can't listen to him because it embarrasses me how good he is and how big his voice is in the stadium.  It's silly, I know, but I get the heebie jeebies sitting there in the middle of parents from school and members of the community who all know that it's my hubby up there with the big, booming, ultra-enthusiastic voice that should be doing bigger and better things.  But that's neither here nor there.

I really didn't expect to stay the entire time.  Not only was it a soccer game, it was a DOUBLE HEADER on cold metal bleachers with my bad hip.  But, I snuggled under a blanket with my friends, enjoying watching and letting the boy make friends with other kids that were there and run around having a blast, and I Actually.  Enjoyed. The games.  Yes, I said it.  The girls lost their game, but they played very well, and did some great things--especially the goalie, whom I have mad respect for.  Talk about the pressure!   I hope it's a sign of a good season to come.  The boys' game was a different story altogether, though.  (I'm going to make an unpopular statement here and say that I'm rarely a fan of watching women play anything.  I know, I know.)  But the boys were more aggressive, more athletic, and faster-paced.  There were yellow cards.  There was showboating.  And there was scoring--they stuck it to their opponents with a 4-2 victory.  All of those things are good for keeping my attention, and I'm going to be bold here and say that it was a more exciting game than most of the professional soccer games I've watched.  (Go ahead, soccer people--tell me I liked it for all the WRONG reasons!)

I don't know that I'll be a regular spectator.  There are too many other factors at play convincing me NOT to go.  But I enjoyed it, and I see the appeal.  I also see the danger!  One other thing I left the games with last night was a healthy fear of The Dangerous Game.  I inhaled sharply on one too many occasions when heads banged against each other, elbows flew in faces, and kids went tumbling ass over tea kettle on the turf.  I know how much falls hurt at my turtle's pace, and can't imagine that those kids hop right back up and keep playing without crying.  So, when the boy said he wanted to play (American) football last night, I almost went for it, because there are at least helmets, pads, and full-length pants.  No way is he playing soccer, beautiful or not.

(Note:  This started as a Saturday Six-Pack, but turns out, I had a lot to say about soccer.  Who knew?)