Thursday, October 27, 2011

Picking your battles is an art form

You know how sometimes people will say "I wish I didn't do this or that?" but you know perfectly well they have no intention of ever "doing" anything about it?

Well, this is not one of those posts. I really do want to learn how to Pick my Battles better. And I'm not just talking about with my kids or husband. Yes, I could do better on that front too, but I'm talking about picking battles with other people, and usually over things that have no long term baring on my life, like what football team everyone should be cheering for, (BYU) or which Pirates movie Johnny Depp was the drunkest in or why everyone should watch Parenthood on Tuesday nights on NBC and Psych on Wednesdays on USA...or how weird I think it is that some people don't even watch TV...ever! It shouldn't matter right? But to me everything matters and I can't keep my opinions to myself, especially if I disagree with you.

Here's an example: One day a young man gave what I thought was a very good talk in church. I was on the edge of my seat, though I can't remember what it was about now. But what I do remember was later discussing it with someone who stated that the talk was the most "boring, waste of time talk she'd ever heard."

Boring? Waste of time? Anything but! Was she in the same meeting as I had been? I did the right thing in the beginning. I quickly left the room, because I could feel my temperature rising. Why? I don't know. I disagreed completely with her? I felt that she was making a very extreme and exaggerated statement about something I didn't think she had even listened to. I went to the next room to cool down. I decided to let it go. I did okay for about twenty minutes, but the topic came up again, and I went for her juggler like a cat after a lame footed mouse. After all, wasn't it my duty to explain how she'd completely missed the mark? I was too defensive. She was surprised and then quickly pulled up her own fortress. It got much bigger than it should have and soon after it died down I wished I had never said anything.

The other day it reared its ugly head again. Someone made a remark about Nicholas Sparks writing "simple books". Hot sparks flared from my chest. I made a snide remark like "Well, I guess I like 'simple' books because I like Nicholas Sparks." It's true. I have enjoyed at least half a dozen of his books and at least that many movies. I like him as a person too. He has five kids just like me. He hasn't forgotten his religious roots and values. He loves his wife (as far as I know) and besides that, I think he's a darn good writer.

I know everyone is entitled to their opinion. You don't have to like Twilight to be my friend. I have several who couldn't get into it. That's fine. There are hundreds of other books to discuss, but if you say it is horribly written, I am going to come to the books defense. There are over 100 million copies out there in circulation. And the numbers do not lie. There is something about her writing that one, I can't put down and two, I find myself immersed in this imaginary world so well described that I ache to belong to it, and when it is finished, I mope about with a heavy heart knowing those people I came to love are not even real. Anyone that makes writing look this "simple and effortless" has done it by carefully fine tuning their craft like a musician fine tunes their instrument. Except writers have to first build that instrument and then fine tune it, rearranging words over and over again until there isn't one word out of place. It takes hours and hours, weeks upon weeks of skull cracking, soul searching work to craft such simplicity.

Now let's go back to the beginning. Why was I so quick to defend a total stranger over my sister-in-law, yes, sister-in-law. Why did I become so defensive about someone I didn't even know? Why was I willing to talk snarky with my mother-in-law. Yes, mother-in-law, over a novelist I have never met? Do I have issues? I don't know. You are welcome to analyze and prescribe, but be aware that I hold nothing back, especially if we are friends. If I don't know you I will probably remain silent and let it be. I have it all backwards. This being me business is not easy and I'd encourage anyone that can be me any better to step forward and take the wheel. Over and out.

To be simple, I've decided, takes great restraint and exactness.

And, in my opinion, writing with restraint is not simple.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

I know my real age. Do you know yours?

What's Your Real Age?

I ask this because I have a little thing called denial concerning my age. I see someone I think is around my age and then later find out they are at least five years younger.

Here's an example: The other day I am at my son's football game. I see a man holding one of the markers and think, "Wow, he looks familiar." This happens a lot. It comes from growing up in a small town where you know everyone. I still think I am in that same small town and that if I just look hard enough I will find someone I know.

As not to make a fool of myself I don't jump to conclusions. I wait... I watch ... I measure him up: he's about the right height, possibly similar weight (hard to say since I haven't seen this person since high school) so I keep watching. I then lean over and confidently tell my husband that, "I think I know that guy." He informs me that he met him last week. Tells me the guy is a huge Boise State fan. Ah ha! I think to myself. For sure this is the same guy because everyone from my small Idaho town is a huge Boise State fan. Now with that piece of information I grow more confident. The game ends. I purposefully pass by him, making a last chance size up. I decide to go for it. I interrupt him and ask if his name is "such and such"

"No. It's Billy Bob" he informs me. (It wasn't really Billy Bob, but you get the picture) My face reddens. His wife looks at me as if I am trying to pick up on her husband. Why do I feel so stupid? Why do I want to hide in my camp chair cover? I ramble on about how much he looks like someone I used to know. I'm a blithering idiot. I can see the wife is about to take me down. I apologize and run like a *Patas Monkey to my car. (* Patas Monkeys can run up to 30 miles an hour. No I can't really run that fast, but that's a pretty good piece of useless information, don't you think? See, this blog is good for something.)

Now you may ask why this is a big deal? Well, it's not I suppose, except that I do it all the time and the person is NEVER who I think they should be. But the worst part is what happened next. I went home. Looked old classmate up on Facebook. Realized that the man I saw at the football game looks NOTHING like said classmate does now. Classmate is old. Classmate is fat Classmate has a shiny cueball for a head. (Now don't get all huffy.There is NOTHING wrong with having a cueball for a head. I like them. They are smooth and magical. This guy just had changed a whole lot.) I looked in the mirror. I'm not that old! Am I? I used to believe I was about 28. Now I've graduated to...say...maybe 32? Yeah, I'd go for 32. But 37? NO! Not the 37 I see around me. Not that guy they showed on the news tonight wanted for armed robbery. I saw his mug shot and thought, "What an old dude." Then I heard his age, 35. 35? NO!!! He's fat, and hairy, and mean looking. And he's younger than me!!!It's a frightening thought.

So tonight before bed I scrubbed my face thoroughly. Lathered on the wrinkle reduction, skin tightening, sun spot remover, put on the mask, and swore on my mother's uncle's, cousin's grave that I wouldn't sleep on my stomach tonight. But I know in the end the laugh lines, sun spots, sagging eyelids,and wrinkles on my neck are still going to seep through, and no matter how hard I try to sleep on my back I will still end up on my stomach, with my face smushed against my pillow, dreaming that I am 25, 110 pounds, and dancing barefoot in a meadow of dark chocolate covered clovers. Ahhh...see? Life is still pretty good. I can still dream.

Sweet dreams everyone.