Monthly Archives: April 2011

some very small things

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“Our lives are made in these small hours/ These little wonders, these twists and turns of fate/ Time falls away, but these small hours,/ These small hours still remain…”  –Rob Thomas, “Little Wonders”

I tend to return from a trip home to see my parents with a certain loneliness.  It’s sad to go back to my empty apartment, listening to the roar of the freeways instead of the wind rustling in the trees.  My laptop is warm on my knees, but not as cozy as our dog curled at my side.  It can be a bit hard to pull out of this funk because I miss my parents, miss my home, and am floundering on my own right now.  I miss the security and companionship and comfort of home. 

Yesterday I decided, in order to help myself feel a little more upbeat, I would make and send some Easter packages to my brothers, who are now both away from our home for the first time.  I had the best of intentions and picked out things to remind them of our childhood Easter baskets and the excitement of that morning.  I even spent the better part of the afternoon tracking down ingredients and testing recipes for some cookies one had asked our mom for.  I didn’t make it to the post office.  I couldn’t find packaging tape.  I made some gross cookies before getting the right recipe from our Grandma and making some good ones.  And I felt like a failure.  My good intentions and high hopes were ruined and I couldn’t pull it all together.  I was disappointed and saddened, but amidst this, little things brightened my day.

I have come to really, really enjoy PassiveAggressiveNotes.com.  A lot. My best friend introduced me to it, ironically, after we reminisced about how we lived with a girl in college who only communicated through rude post-it notes.  Now I love checking in on the stellar communication skills demonstrated on the site.  As I struggled to haul my bags up to my apartment, I was greeted by a wonderful example of my own:

The envelope was clearly one sent for returning an invoice or something else to a sender.  The ample scotch tape is classic.  I love that someone else saw the note and decided to add, in different writing and ink, who the note was “From:”  And the kicker is the paper towels, torn up and tucked inside!  I should have been disgusted, for sure, and probably annoyed with my neighbors.  But I was tickled!  I laughed out loud and, clearly, felt the need to photograph it.  I loved it!  This literally made my day.

Then I dyed eggs.  I have no one to hide them for, no one to hide them for me.  I will probably not get around to eating all of them before they go bad.  But I realized that I had not dyed eggs since I was in high school, and I desperately wanted to.  So I bought some vinegar and a cheap dye kit and got to work.  I wish I could say that they were stunning.  They should be artistic, impressive, something far superior to those of my youth.  Martha has taught me better than this.  But they were nothing special, nothing exciting.

Yes, I cracked some eggs boiling them.  No, they were not spectacular.  But they made me so happy.  Knowing that they are sitting in my fridge makes me happy even now.  I am excited for egg salad sandwiches next week, because that’s part of Easter, but I’m also sad to think about the fact that once these are gone, my eggs will be white again. 

I’ve tried to find little things to make my day because the big ones seem to be few and too far between.  While creeping on a friend’s facebook page, I saw that one of her friends recommended a blog to her.  The title sounded promising, so I browsed through it.  I now love it.  I loved the pictures first, because I wish I could take good photos.  And I wish I had beautiful little girls to dress up.  Now I love reading the posts, hearing her thoughts, sometimes nearly my own, sometimes very far from them.  I highly recommend a look at Enjoying the Small Things.  If nothing else, it brings a smile and reminds me to keep looking for the little moments, the things that make days good. 

Until the big things come along with some certainty, the little things will have to do.  And that’s okay, because big things can be overwhelming and confusing.  I’m not sure what I will do with a new job or relationship or home.  I am sure that my Easter eggs make me smile.  For today, in this tiny moment, that is enough to be sure of.

“Human felicity is produced not as much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen as by little advantages that occur every day.” –Benjamin Franklin

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Mirror, Mirror…

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“It’s no surprise to me I am my own worst enemy/ ‘Cause every now and then I kick the living sh!t out of me…”  –Lit, “My Own Worst Enemy”

There is a trend in music that has caught my attention lately.  I didn’t think much of it at first, but now I am struck, saddened, uplifted and fascinated by it when I listen to the radio. 

Artists are pleading, challenging, and encouraging their listeners to see themselves as worthy, as beautiful, as lovable.

I noticed it first in Bruno Mars’ sweet “Just the Way You Are.”  While the love song has been in heavy rotation and is tottering on the edge of overplayed, it still brings a smile to my face.  But flattering love songs are nothing new.  Every crooner and songbird has lauded their adored, extolled their beauty and charisma.  The part of this song that stopped me, that was sweet in such a tragic way, was the first time I heard him sing “Yeah I know, I know/ When I compliment her/ She won’t believe me/ And, it’s so, it’s so/ Sad to think she don’t see what I see…”

The next time my ears pricked up was when Katy Perry’s “Firework” picked up air time.  I am disinclined to listen to her songs, not really wanting to hear about how hot “California Girls” are or think about “Teenage Dream” intimacy, but this one was different.  The first lines caught my dissatisfied attention in that eerie, unexpected way that  feels invasive, like someone has dug too deep and knows too much.  She sings, “You don’t have to feel like a waste of space/ You’re original, cannot be replaced/ If you only knew what the future holds… Cause baby you’re a firework/ Come on show ’em what you’re worth.”  The same reassurance, same words of wisdom echo: you’re worth more than you know.  You don’t see what everyone else does.  You are special.

And then Pink hit the airwaves.  Her cleaned up lyrics hit home the same painful, imploring message in “Pretty Pretty Please (F*ckin’ Perfect).”  “You’re so mean/ When you talk/ About yourself/ You are wrong/ Change the voices/ In your head/ Make them like you/ Instead/ So complicated/ Look how big you’ll make it/ Filled with so much hatred/ Such a tired game/ It’s enough/ I’ve done all I can think of/ Chased down all my demons/ See you do same/ Pretty, pretty please/ Don’t you ever, ever feel/ Like you’re less than/ [Less than] perfect/ Pretty, pretty please/ If you ever, ever feel/ Like you’re nothing/ You [are] perfect to me.” 

These singles top the charts surrounding a heartbreaking, albeit unsurprising, poll that Glamour conducted.  Women are mean, catty, cruel and judgemental.  They are critical and superficial.  They know how to hit where it hurts and they are relentless.  And all of this brutality is aimed at themselves.  We berate and tear down daily, telling ourselves over and over again that we are not enough, we are not okay.  It’s the scene from Mean Girls when Cady watches her new friends stand in front of the mirror after school and dissect what they see.  She says, ” I used to think there was just fat and skinny. But apparently there’s lots of things that can be wrong on your body.”  From early on, everything and everyone around us tells us to take a close look at our appearances.  A harsh look.

This is why, I think, the songs are so poignant to me.  I am one of the 97% of women who are self-haters.  I know what it is to think that I am not good enough, not pretty enough, not thin enough, not tan enough, not short enough, not blond enough, not everything enough.  Not enough to be beautiful, to be liked, to be loved, to be popular, to be noticed, to be acceptable.  I know those thoughts, the ones that trickle down, seep in, and become a part of my being, pulsing through my vein.  Those thoughts that we call “realistic,” we accept as normal, and apparently are, are stifling.  They are heavy, a darkness that weighs down the light and confidence that we try to project.

The irony is that, while I may snip or gossip, my hatred is mainly turned inward.  I don’t pick at the size of a stranger’s pores or their hair frizzing or their thighs or chipped nails or crooked teeth.  They are just fine, pretty, acceptable.  They don’t live under the microscope that I do.  This is why Bruno Mars’ lyrics pierce so deep: my girl friends are gorgeous.  They are funny and smart, compassionate and interesting.  They are objectively beautiful.  And the odds are against them.  They criticize too.  It breaks my heart to think that these women I love don’t see how wonderful they are, see what I see.  And like Pink sings, it is an old game; self-deprecation is overrated.  We’ve survived the brutality of adolescence and have come to know who we are.  While that is always changing, we should be comfortable now, embrace these people we have discovered and become.  We should rest easy in these bodies that have grown out of their awkward stages.  And yet, at 26, I am just as self-conscious and insecure about my body as I was at 12.  I am not the only one.

These songs are everywhere because they are needed.  Needed by the artists who write and perform them.  Needed by the young girls and boys who idolize the stars and loathe themselves.  They are a small reminder that there are people who see us better than we see ourselves.  There are people who want to remind us that there is beauty where we don’t see it, worth where we can’t find it.  There are voices from outside our own heads, voices that do more than criticize and tear down.  Sometimes we are wrong when we hate.  We are myopic, but someone sees the big picture.  And if you, if I, still refuse to believe these assurances, then the songs do something else.  They remind us that other people feel this way too.  We aren’t alone.

“Sometimes it seems like we’re all living in some kind of prison. And the crime is how much we hate ourselves. It’s good to get really dressed up once in a while. And admit the truth: that when you really look closely, people are so strange and so complicated that they’re actually…beautiful. Possibly even me.”My So-Called Life

One Good Day

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“Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else.”  —J.M. Barrie

I hate my job.  I have been unhappy since the second day.  I have wanted to do more, to be more from the very beginning.  I am sore, degraded, frustrated, bored and annoyed by the end of each day.  I wake up and dread getting out of bed because I hate what’s coming.  Days off are ruined because I know what comes next.  This is a huge reason why I am in need of a life change, why I write, why I named this what I did.  My job makes me hate the general public and want to move to Antarctica and avoid people.  And I had a good day at work on Friday–perhaps my first one ever. 

Very small things added up to one of the best days I’ve had at this job, by far the happiest.  I have had days where I have been productive, days that weren’t miserable, but I can’t actually think of another day where I left happy, not because the day was done, but because the day was happy.  Nothing was particularly noteworthy, but the little things made the day,  little things that caught my attention in a big way. 

I got a free cup!  This job takes everything out of me.  My energy, my patience, my drive, my hope.  It gives so little back: no satisfaction, no challenges, no growth, not nearly enough pay.  And I got a free cup!  Apparently my manager had a stash of cups that he was supposed to give out to all of the employees for a year or so.  He kept them in his office, I would like to think out of laziness or indifference, not malice.  I would like to think that he just didn’t think that we would enjoy a tiny little perk, not that he intentionally kept a little trinket from all of us.  It is a nice cup, one that I have considered buying.  It saves me ten dollars!  I expect very, very little from my employer, and this was the most generous they have ever been.  Who doesn’t love getting something for free?

I got a compliment!  It is incredibly, unbelievably rare that anyone compliments anything.  Customers complain.  Managers complain.  Coworkers are petty.  I try to do good work and every once in a while someone will speak up to a manager, but my efforts go largely unnoticed, or at least unrecognized.  But it wasn’t my hard work that was complimented.  It was me!  I feel like a failure more often than not these days.  I feel pretty darn worthless at the end of a long day on my feet and I, like many, don’t see much that I like when I look in the mirror.  But my customer complimented me!  Not my accuracy or politeness or attentiveness.  She told me I had “the most soothing voice.”  She liked how I sound.  She liked something that is me, that is unchangeable, undeniably me.  It’s not something that I worked at or practiced or could try to improve.  It’s just who I am.  Who I am was enough, was enjoyable, was worth complimenting.

I witnessed true love!  We see newly weds and engaged couples all the time.  I see people moving in together, parents shopping for children, children shopping for parents.  I see love and affection all around me and it is rarely refreshing.  Mostly it is depressing or annoying or frighteningly insincere.  With just a few minutes left in my day, a customer came up with his phone to his ear.  This annoys me and is an incredibly rude message that I am invisible, unimportant and not worth acknowledging.  As he listened to his phone, he asked me, “Do you want to hear something funny?”  Sure, why not.  He grinned and told me that his fiancée had accidentally called him and didn’t notice.  He told me he could hear her driving and singing in the car.  He said that she never lets him hear her sing, so he was just “soakin’ it in.”  He had been on the phone for more than a half hour just listening to her sing.  It was a smile, a gesture, an indulgence of pure, sincere love and adoration.  He left with the phone still to his head, a small smile fixed on his face.  He was happy.  He encouraged me, reminded me that romance is real and love is simple.   

I had a good day.  It was unexpected, unprecedented, and unimpressive.  There is nothing about that day that, to an outsider, would appear spectacular.  It was.  It was refreshing, like the chill of walking into an ice cream shop on a hot day in the middle of summer.  I want a job and a life where this is everyday, the norm, not the exception.  This is not nearly enough to make the job worthwhile or pleasant.  It is enough, however, to remind me that the little things are important, are everything, and that they beg to savored.  Good days really can happen, if I am open to them. 

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come.”  –Anne Lamott