For a second week in a row we are meeting on a weekend, you and I. And I hope it isn’t terribly inconvenient. The past few Thursdays and Fridays have been filled with extra work hours, and Project Runway, and I confess I have surrendered my attentions. Also: SLEEP. I have been sleeping.
I hesitate to tell you this, of course. If there’s an image of myself I try to project, it’s one of not being lazy. It’s a sensitivity birthed from the last few years, when, despite the time-consuming nature of caregiving, people would give me THAT LOOK while asking WHAT ELSE I am doing with my life. I mean, honestly.
But I cry uncle. For the past two weeks, almost everyone around me has fallen ill. I’ve also been coughed on by a few of my favorite toddlers at a face-to-face range. Therefore, not getting sick has elevated itself to a number one priority. I’ve taken to knocking on wood, drinking extra water, collecting zzz’s, and downing two spoonfuls of Manuka honey a day. And so far – (knock, knock, knock) – it’s working!
It’s strange that I feel compelled to defend my health, or rather, my means of preserving it. But so it is. And the striking desire to not offend anyone with how I exist makes me think of something else…
In almost everything I have been reading lately, the same word pops up. Shame. Or, as a popular verb, shaming. I think it stems from the term “slut”-shaming (Ugh, who can say this word without quotations? Such a meanness to it!). Most of it relates to women. But the roots of it have spread to encompass nearly everyone. And it seems there is hardly anything that doesn’t warrant some extra sensitivity. Scarcely a person who isn’t a victim.
I don’t think I am original in believing that this is related to our being an image-driven culture. With Facebook as our primary platform for expression, we’re limited to an unspoken, attention-garnering etiquette — to only share what puts us in the best, most flattering light. The dialogue running through our minds every morning has collectively been transformed: What makes us look the smartest? The most beautiful? The wealthiest, the healthiest? The most likely to birth the best, most talented babies without an epidural? And then, how do I make this projection true in real life?
Consequently, when we are caught in an unflattering angle, if we’re the bearer of sudden criticism, the ramifications are different. Names are now more hurtful than sticks and stones. They are a hauntedness. A sickness. A very real sorrow. In turn, we’ve become more defensive. More aggressive. And back and forth and back again.
Before my mother retired, she reported the noxious comments she would recieve from fellow workers and residents who couldn’t believe she’d been working at the hospital for over 45 years. The laughter in their eyes. And now, her third week into retirement, she has been the recipient of occasional faux-sympathy for the infinite boredom that apparently awaits her…
I used to wonder how the inherent nobility in everything my mom does could be twisted, from someone else’s perspective. How could she be criticized for working hard, while also caring for my father? But here is the good news. Regardless of how she is seen, mom J is good at being retired. Uninhibited in her enjoyment of her every day. She is also great at turning the other cheek — though it could be all the massages she is getting, to help with this extra mobility. In my mom’s language, she is becoming well versed in the art of rest&relaxation&retirement&relief, and much reflection. And herein lies her strength: her focus is pointed inward.
It’s true, not every day can be a spa day. But I think we’ve devalued serenity as a society. And we don’t give humility nearly enough credit. Ultimately, we must remember that we cannot control each other, cannot keep a person from what they think of us. There will always exist negative ideas, regardless of truth or substance, and we cannot possibly extinguish every one. And I think we should accept this. I think we must take responsibility for ourselves and move on. And, I agree, this is not always easy.
You cannot be angry when you drink tea. Believe me, I have tried.
Because it’s cold now. And, okay, you’ve got me, I am sock-shaming you! You have been sock-shamed, and I’m sorry!
SHARE THE THINGS YOU LOVE WITH PEOPLE WHO LOVE YOU IN REAL LIFE.
Sharing your riches and your best, most intimate moments on Facebook may come from an innocent place. But the truth is, you are likely planting where no fruit will grow. And you know this. You do know this.
Share your joys with someone who will be joyful with you, for you, and in person. It’s incredibly gratifying. And it’s also a good practice in recognizing who is close to you in real life — who can provide you with some security outside of yourself.
And finally, CONSIDER THIS AWESOME THING WASHINGTON IRVING ONCE SAID.
Happiness is reflective, like the light of heaven.
godspeed, extra courage to you, and see you thursday, and hugs
and p.s. you are always worthy of love.