Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Conditioned Response

Everyone is born with a gift. At least that's what I was telling Oliver the other day. He was fascinated by this concept and wanted to know what his gift is.

"You have the gift of resilience," I tell him. I observe that he is able to let a lot of things roll off his back and when they don't, it's not very long before he's back to himself again. I notice other gifts in him that we didn't talk about that day: he has a hearty spiritual constitution, laughs easily, has a very curious and keen mind and is able to persist long after others have given up.

Fast forward about a week. Grandma Briggs had loaned us her Outback while our car was in the shop and we were on our way home that night after returning it to her. Even though our car is running, it certainly has seen better days. I really enjoyed driving the Outback for the week and wondered how I could possibly put lipstick on the pig that is our own vehicle. Wanting an upgrade but not wanting to invest, I ask Brooks, "Do you think we can go to a junk yard and find some leather seats for our car like the ones your mom has?"

He laughs and says, "Yeah, if you want them to be all cracked and nasty."

"But your mom's car is the same year as ours and her seats are perfect."

"That's because my dad has religiously applied leather conditioner to them over the years to keep them in good shape."

"So how about you start putting fabric conditioner on our seats to keep them in perfect condition for me?"

This is funny to us primarily because I'm the reason the car interior, including the seats, is so pathetic. It's just me and the boys who use it 90% of the time so I take no pains to keep it presentable since the mess only bothers me once things start to smell. It's also funny because Brooks is nothing like his father when it comes to being fastidious about maintenance - not cars, not lawns, not anything - so the good-humored ribbing doesn't escape his notice.

"OK, I'll put some on right now," he jabs back and lifts his cheek to make a huge farting sound.

This really gets me laughing but not as much as what happens next. Oliver (who apparently has been listening the whole time) is duly impressed because behind me I hear him comment to himself, "Now that's a special gift!"

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Found clipped to the pencil holder by the computer:
"I surrender! Stop the smug madness."

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Who Am I?

Yesterday I'm looking down in the pan of tempeh and spinach I'm sauteeing for lunch and have a disturbing moment of self-awareness.

"Hey, Brooks!" I shout to the next room. "Can you come here for a second?"

A moment later he's standing next to me at the stove. I turn off the burner and face him.

"Look at me," I say. "I drive an aged Subaru station wagon, I have dreadlocks, I am at present eating a soy product in a recipe I got from Whole Foods (a destination arrived at in said Subaru wagon), I wore Chaco's to my massage therapy job today (a destination arrived at via combination of bicycle and public transportation). I employ the use of reusable shopping bags and bottle food grown organically in community gardens."

He stares at me waiting for me to come to the point.

"Bro-oks!" I demand, clearly distressed. "What has become of me?"

"You're hard-core, Jenny." I understand from the way he says this that this is common knowledge. Common to everyone but me, that is.

I have to sit down. After a moment I counter, "Then why don't I identify with those kind of people? In fact, why do they bug me just looking at them?"

He jumps at this. "I don't know, Jenny. What's the universe trying to tell you?"

Great. He's doing to me what I often do to him when he's having a strong reaction to a person or event. It's my belief that these kinds of triggers mark some unresolved issue that, if carefully and honestly considered, will usually reveal exactly what it is followed by an opportunity for resolution. I want to be irritated with him at first but then the curiosity over the underlying issue distracts me.

"Hmm," I answer, more to myself than to him. "What could it be?"

The answer to this particular question isn't long in coming. I have deeply held, albeit outdated belief, that the work of determining my path in life is best left to someone or something else that knows what's best for me but that that person or thing is almost never me. I have evolved over the last few years to the point where I can actually trust my judgment and inspiration to guide me. I am also learning that it's not necessarily a question of which path is best or right (a belief that often paralyzed my decision-making process) but rather which path resonates with my authentic self and respects the rights of other people at the same time. To make my own decisions without deferring entirely to outside sources has been a challenging journey full of insecurity, false-starts and poor choices. I have felt resentment that the ability to act for myself has not come easily. When considering my reaction to people for whom it seems it does, I realize I feel jealous. I envy their ability to charter their own course in life, even when it may challenge tradition or societal norms. This surprises me because when I ask myself whether or not I am free to do the same, the answer is yes. Even though I am currently living more or less in harmony with this idea, I guess I haven't quite married the old and new way of being; all external signs point to yes while internally I may still be struggling with no.

Hmmm. As my friend Bekki says, this is good information.

It's now Sunday morning as I write. It would be pretentious to say I have this figured out or that I even know exactly why I'm writing about it. Brooks comes into the living room where I am and pauses in the doorway. I look up at him and say as much. With his signature reassurance he says, "Just let it be what it is. Just let it be."