Today I’m hammering away at my computer in my office with its rectangular windows with their rectangular venetian blinds overlooking a landscape filled with other rectangular concrete office buildings under rainy skies and I get a text from Debbie: “Thinking of you. Taking pictures of lupines in Parry Sound.”
It’s a nice thought – that a bunch of bobbing, wild lupines make your friend think of you. And that she tells you so. And that at least she is standing in a place where they are.
* * *
These days more strangers seem to be smiling at me on my walks to work. It’s probably because last week I was listening to the wonderfully charming audio book, “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society,” and this week I’m listening to David Sedaris read his stories. I’m grinning and snorting and chuckling (and sometimes crying) all the time on my walks to work these days, and finding many passers-by with open faces smiling back at me. Reminder to self: Smiling at strangers always pays off – and it doesn’t even have to be intentional.
* * *
Summer hasn’t even shown herself yet, and still, people are already complaining about the weather. Maybe all of those people are the types that ACTUALLY LIKE seemingly endless winters with seemingly endless snow and ice and seemingly endless strings of -25° days with whipping winds that hurt your whole body when you go outside. Me? I prefer a season with lupines.
The other day I go down to the atrium for a cup of tea and a quick read. Not long after I sit down an old guy sits near me. His wife follows right after, fiddling with a bag and says, “so you’ll just wait here until I get back?”
“Yeah! I’ll wait here,” he snaps as she walks over to a medical office.
The man’s voice is as craggy as that of his demeanour. He looks to be in his late 70s, but perhaps the demeanour ages him. He flips open a cell phone and calls someone’s voicemail and complains about what he calls an unfair charge and demands, as a 35 year customer, that the charge be rescinded.
I’m annoyed. I came down here for a few alone moments with my book and it seems I’m going to have to listen to this guy’s private conversations. As I’m considering finding another place to sit, the man connects with someone else, presumably a friend.
“Listen Jimmy I don’t want to make you mad or insult you or anything, but I need to talk to you about what you said to Dotty the other day…
“Listen, when you told me, in front of her, that I need to talk to her nicer, you made my life a living hell. Now every goddamn time I open my mouth she’s on me for not talkin’ nice to her…
“No… listen, I’m not mad, but you gotta know what she’s like! You have no idea. When you see her, when she comes by, she’s all nice and sweet. When it’s me and her, my life is HELL.”
And then he starts to up the tone – and the ante.
“Ya, ya, but wait. You really don’t know her. You don’t know what she’s like at home. She LIES.
Wait, wait – here she comes.”
The offending Dotty returns and fusses in her bag again and her craggy man has magically switched his voice over to a conversational tone and is talking about the Blue Jays and the weather. She returns to the medical office and the agitation is back.
“Your words are now written in stone man. EVERYTHING I say to her makes her fucking jump all over me saying I don’t talk nice to her and she deserves fucking better and all that. She's a BITCH.
He’s like a pot coming to a boil. Sitting at the edge of his seat his voice gets louder and I get more uncomfortable, wishing I could say “Yo, buddy – I’m right here! I didn't need to know this!”
“Nobody knows how she talks to me. She’s nice when everyone else is around but with me. Well… no… listen, really… Jimmy… Jimmy! She’s a BITCH. I have to be so fucking careful and it’s impossible to please that woman. Maybe if someone gave her a hundred thousand dollars or somethin' she’d just fucking leave…”
Finally the Craggy One seems to notice he’s not alone and walks away to another area to finish convincing Jimmy of Dotty’s double personality. His voice has raised up another notch and I hear regular crescendos of the emphasising the wrath of Dotty because Jimmy said the Craggy One should speak nicer to her.
I think about the years that have passed in the life of Dotty and the Craggy One and wonder when it was that love turned to such bitterness. I wonder if they’ll, at some point, look back on their lives together and see any value in their days turning over, seasons evolving into the next, and their having grown old together, choosing each other to finish out their lives with.
I go back to my office think I’d still like to grow old with someone. Whoever you are – let’s not let it come to that, ok?
Or: In which we are inspired by Selma opening up a can of whup-ass
Some things just demand to be written. They sort of grab hold of your collar out of the blue and get their nose right in your face and say “Hellloooo! Get on it sister!” The signs were coming at me from all corners this morning: "This is what the story is about today."
Sometime in the mid-morning I read this fabulous post by my friend Selma, which prompted a too-long and impassioned response. But as I read over the thing before burdening her blog with it, it started screaming "I BELONG ON YOUR OWN BLOG." Then I caught some catty jesting coming over Twitter. Then there was an unnecessarily barbed comment in a meeting. And here I am.
Selma’s piece was about several things, but mostly about her rising up and taking a stand against some uncalled for catty behaviour by some acquaintences. Opening up the proverbial can of whup-ass and the subsequent "Whoo! I rule!." But the issues she raises have resonated with me for many years.
So, a few hours prior to reading that I’m on the streetcar headed to Union Station, and there are two attractive young women in the seats in front of me having a conversation. It is just chatting about mutual friends and what-are-you-doing-this-weekend kind of conversation, nothing real interesting to your average eavesdropping blogger.
Then another attractive young woman gets on and sits near the front. She’s turned sideways in her seat and is surveying the people in the car behind her. Again, nothing so remarkable, until she fixes on the two women in front of me and starts giving them the old “up and down” look. Not just an “up and down checking out the outfit” kind of look, but a repeated “'I scorn thee' up and down;” increasingly scornful with each journey of the eyeballs. She “ups and downs” them for so long I wonder if she is trying to get them to notice her doing so.
So I get thinking, what is it about them that irks you so? All three of you are attractive, well dressed and seemingly going off to decent jobs – certainly luckier than the majority of the women on this planet.
I get to the station and onto the subway and forget about them; until later in the morning when I read Selma’s story about self confidence, soldiering on, nightgowns, cows catty sorts, words and brown eggs.
This is not a new issue – us women have talked about us being catty to each other for decades. Most of us have probably behaved this way on one level or another. At the very least we've seen it – starting in elementary school. There are numerous explanations for it put out there by various factions – from the “you women are petty and shallow creatures anyway” to (what I consider to be the most logical one) the notion that we have a good deal of fucked-upness based on centuries of cultural oppression and objectification.
I can just see my mother cringe. She and I differ greatly on the merits of the women’s movement and women’s issues. I expect that’s related to her devotion to Christianity, one of the biggest culprits in the objectification of us gals as far as I’m concerned, but that’s another post.
And let me say, this is not a man-bashing post. I love men, I adore them. I’ve often said I’d rather hang around with the men at a party than the women. Maybe that’s got something to do with womens' inherent prickliness toward one another. But I can say with confidence, I have many amazing men in my life and I do not hold them responsible for my, or anyone else’s, fucked-upness. Our fucked-upness wasn’t their idea.
I guess you could say it’s more of a women-bashing post. Because let me put this out there sisters: as long as we are divided, we’ll always be conquered. As long as we are judgemental of each other and our bodies, our looks, our beliefs, our actions, our intentions – as long as we make catty, underhanded remarks designed to make ourselves feel somehow superior to each other – we will not rise above anything that held us down in the past.
Selma says she thinks people should have to obtain a license before they speak. How about we just think for a minute about the power of words? I am still working on rising above someone telling me I wasn’t talented enough more than 30 years ago. And once, in my early 20s, I was dancing with a guy who told me I was a bad dancer. At 49, I’m only learning to dance with joy now.
I take 100% responsibility for my own life. I’m not shifting blame for my issues to other people – but I am trying illustrate the power that words have. I would suggest that my best qualities – my strength, self assurance, compassion and competency are no doubt also the result of the many positive messages passed on to me.
What I’m trying to say is that maybe us gals should think more about these issues that seem to pit us against one another, wherein we see each other as the enemy. Because there’s room for all of us. We’ve shown we’re strong, capable, innovative, and, by nature, we work great in team situations. Imagine what it would be like if we focused positive energy on one another; imagine if we directed our attention away from our privileged selves and directed our energies to our less fortunate sisters, and said “yeah – rock on girl.” The world, in turn, might be rocked right off its axis.
One of the last signs that I should write this post: After I drafted out part of this piece, I saw that a friend had posted this on her facebook page:
Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace. ~ Buddha
I don't know if why it creeps in, or how it chooses its moments to do so, but every now and then I'm really shocked when I pay attention to the nastiness of the inner dialogue that can go on inside my head. Name calling, berating, chiding, making fun of. It's insidious really. It's kind of like someone you love whispering mean things to you; and it's a thing that doesn't hit you until later, and then you wonder where on earth it came from. And you realise just what this dialogue has done to your self worth and to your ability to keep plodding on.
I've never been someone with a low self-worth, I've always been pretty confident in who I am and I do like myself. So I'm not sure where these negative inner dialogues come from.
Last year my new year's resolution was to be kinder to myself. Lately I've noticed that hasn't entirely transpired because of that mean voice inside the creeps up when I'm not expecting it – that nasty side of me doing its level best to tell me I'm a failure.
And so I'm going to go to work to counteract it, and this year achieve that resolution. I'm going to work on it in my personal journalling and personal art and replace it with a nicer and gentler voice.
We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.