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Whatever happened to please and thank you?
Seriously, have you noticed the lack-of-basic-respect trend? So many people, young and old, seem to lack the ability (time?) to acknowledge others, or to respect efforts made on their behalf. I see it everywhere – at the kids’ school, in the grocery store or movie theater, at conventions and so on. I see it in kids and grown ups alike.
This bothers me.
Please and Thank You are not optional, they’re appropriate. As a parent, I hammer those concepts into my children – they need to respect and acknowledge other people. If you want something, say please. If you get something, say thank you. It’s simple, so simple my kids have been doing it since they could talk.
So what happened to the grown ups out there, the ones who are now raising their own children, the ones running businesses and creating our new society? Did they forget their manners?
Steve and I are often asked for help from other photographers, writers and entrepreneurs. Most of the request are, well, rude, consisting of something like this
I want to know about [blank].
BTW, I’m considering buying your book/attending your workshop/ booking you for photos.
More often than not, I ignore these, But on a good day, I’ll refer them to the book, workshop, etc for more information, knowing they were never going to buy it in the first place.
Sometimes, though, we get a message that is reasonably polite. It will start with some nice things, include a please, and so on. Those people take the time to put effort into their request, so I answer them.
Their reply? Nothing. Nada. Birds chirping in an empty field.
Maybe I’m old school, but it seems to me that if someone goes out of their way for you, they deserve to be thanked. Even if they are just doing their job, it doesn’t hurt to acknowledge them.
I go out of my way to be respectful to people, occasionally to my detriment, but that’s alright with me. It kills me a little bit each time I ignore an email or refuse to respond to a rude person. I don’t like feeling like I’m disrespecting someone, even if they disrespect me. Maybe that’s what’s happening in society – maybe all the polite people are starting to resent the rude/indifferent people, and responding in kind. Maybe it’s the worst kind of leading by example.
Do we want this? As the world gets more impersonally invasive, as we live our lives online rather than in person, and as we connect in such different ways, do manners still have a place? Are we trading our manners for efficiency in our communications? Are we that busy that writing one or two extra words will overwhelm our time management skills? Really?
How about a little respect? Yes, Please.
It’s been three years since ‘the event‘. You know, the one that changed me, moved me into a place of sadness and hopelessness; the one that forced me to re-think everything. No, I’m not being dramatic, I really did have to re-think everything.
At times it seemed the pain of what happened would never go away, that the legacy of that moment would always be with me. And you know what? It is. There is a huge legacy of sadness that I had to deal with – even now I still have moments of “what if” and “if only”. That’s normal. I just had to realize how normal it is.
As someone who really has led a blessed life, losing my ability to choose really shook me. I wasn’t prepared to deal with all the emotions and the ongoing issues that it raised. I’m a get-over-it-already kind of girl. I don’t hold grudges, I don’t hold anger, I don’t hold any kind of negativity at all. I don’t forget, but I don’t allow things to linger, I never have. To take a moment, or few moments, to feel self-pity is not something I like to do.
So being forced to face something life changing threw me. I wasn’t prepared to deal with it long term. At least not the emotions of it all. Obviously not having ovaries or a uterus will effect me forever – physically. But emotionally? No one was more surprised than I at the fall out.
I knew the anniversary was coming, but it didn’t have the same pull this year, the same immediacy. It came, I remembered, and I was prepared for something. Anything. But there was nothing – at least nothing bad. It was acknowledged, and I moved on.
And I found myself in a place of hope. A place that is good.
There are things I face everyday that I shouldn’t have to. No woman my age should be three years post-menopausal. No woman should ever have the right to choose taken away. Neither of those things are good, period (pardon the pun).
But what is good is that I’m settled into this new life, this way of living that isn’t dictated by 28 day cycles. No more wondering if this is month we’ll get caught. No more cramps or mood swings or any of the other yucky stuff you ladies know what I’m talking about. There is a freedom that comes from being in this place – a confidence and a sense of well-being. I can travel without counting days, I can wear white whenever I want. Finding happiness in the little things has moved me through this past year.
And I woke that morning, the anniversary morning, at peace.
Peace. And hope.
Things are what they are, they can’t be changed. Railing against them hasn’t worked for me, but working with them does. I’m redefining what post-menopausal is – I’m in the best physical shape of my life and I might just be the only post-menopausal woman at the beach this summer with a 6 pack of abs. I’m not slowing down, settling in, or letting this get in my way. In fact, I want to change the face of early menopause and remove the shame from the process. I want to challenge the stereotypes and be more than what I’m supposed to be. I want to inspire, to be inspired, and to grow here, in a place that is different than where I thought I would be, but better than many others.
Hope was an unexpected gift this year. And I’m grateful.
It seems to me we all have two choices: to be bogged down by the negative, or to be buoyed up by the positive.
And yet there are so many of us who define ourselves by the negative, or, at the very least, give the negative more power and weight. I started thinking about this today, as I found myself in a bit of a funk last night. There was no reason for me to be at all negative – none at all. We received three awards in the past week, I just found out my book is being translated into Polish, booked a few clients, and so on. Everything is good – really good, but one negative thing can turn that around.
It shouldn’t be that way – it shouldn’t be that 100 positives can be canceled out by 1 negative. How can it be that one comment, motivated most often by jealousy or spite, can impact our mood, even for a moment? Well, ok, I’ll give you that moment, after all it hurts when people are mean.
The awards we received recently are pretty cool – and we’re pretty proud of them. We worked for them, didn’t rest on our laurels hoping they would come our way. Nope, we got out, did our job and did it well enough that we were rewarded for that. Resent that all you want, but take a look at why we make you mad, why you don’t celebrate with us – it has nothing to do with us and everything to do with you. Yeah, you. And you know who you are, don’t you?
Someone decided to leave a random, rude comment on our blog. Someone else let me know they were disgusted that people didn’t react more positively to our win. And I started to feel almost guilty about those wins – like I had stepped on some toes, or gone too far. Would I have been disappointed if we hadn’t won? Yeah, I would have. But I also would have congratulated the winner, and meant it. After all, seeing someone do something that much better than me, well that is simply motivation.
Off topic for a moment: In the past I would have sat with the negatives for a while, questioning my own success and motivations. Not this time, not now. I realized that while I sat there for a moment or two, while I started to fall into an old pattern, I was letting someone else dictate my life, and that is simply not acceptable. So I did something positive this time – I found them (the blog commenter). Yeah, I did. I know who they are and I know where they live. And I’m laughing because of that. Anonymity is for losers – you want to say something to me, say it to my face. I dare you. You won’t do it because you are a coward. And I know who you are.
Back to the topic at hand…
And, by the way, you can’t win if you don’t enter. You can’t win if you don’t put in the time, energy and hope required to make it to the next level. You can’t win if you think you deserve it. You can’t win if you feel entiteld. And you certainly can’t win when you are insincere.
Suck it up, do better, and win next time. Look at your “loss” as a chance for growth. Learn from it, use it to motivate you, and be better than you are today. Because that’s what winners do – they don’t win every time, they don’t rest on their laurels, and they don’t condemn those who beat them. Rather, they keep going, getting stronger and better and wiser everyday, finding a well of strength that allows them to do more. Don’t wallow – get better. Don’t whine – do something about it.
So, I say we make a choice, all of us. Let’s choose to be buoyed by all that is good in our lives. Let’s choose to smile, carry on, and focus on what matter to us. Let’s choose to leave those who wallow behind, leave the pettiness and gossip, the resentment and fear, where it belongs – to the people who are bogged down in it. Let them be together in their funk, their unhappiness, while we enjoy the fruits of our labours, and celebrate our successes, personal and professional.
I dare you to choose buoyancy. I dare you to be grateful. I dare you to trust that you can do it. And I dare you to walk away from the bog of despair.
Let’s do it together.
We all carry the residue of our past experiences, like a cloak we wear or a stain we simply cannot wash off. For many of us, that residue is like a barrier that stops us from moving smoothly through our lives, forcing us into places we get stuck until we can find a way out.
The thing is, we don’t always know when we’re stuck or even why.
I’ve thought about this a lot lately. A lot. Interestingly, it took something said by a stranger for me to even realize that, while I’m not exactly stuck, I’m not exactly moving at my optimum speed or efficiency. Something is dragging behind me, forcing me to expend too much energy as I move.
Grief and loss.
Cliched, right? I know, and that’s probably why I struggle to recognize and acknowledge what is holding me back, what residue is sticky and unwanted.
There are some kinds of residue that dry to an all but unnoticed film that we wear. I have that – residue that impacts me, reminds me of something scary, but doesn’t impede my movement. About 5 years ago, I thought my family was going to die. There was moment between us, the edge of a bridge and a double dump truck that has left a tangible residue on my being. To this day, I experience irrational fear whenever I am near a dump truck, convinced that this one, too, is going to try to destroy my family. I know that I have this fear, this phobia, and I work with it. Steve works with it, understanding the historical trauma of an event where his quick thinking saved all our lives. (I feel a little bad for all the dump truck drivers out there who are subject to my dirty looks and glares.)
I shared that burden, that sticky residue, with him, and he helped me wipe it off.
So why, then, do I feel compelled to struggle with the rest of my residue? Why can’t I share the burden and ask for understanding? I think it’s because that other thing, with the dump truck, was something we shared. This other stuff, while shared to a degree, results in hard conversations and misunderstanding. At some point, your own residue can burden others, particularly if they can’t fully understand what you are dealing with or why it effects you.
Grief and loss – these are big, scary things. Things that lurk in the back of your mind, waiting to pounce – almost like a jungle cat looking for dinner. They feed off insecurity, doubt, even exhaustion.
The trick, it seems, is to battle your fear, turn around and face them head on, bransishing a metaphorical torch and yelling at the top of your lungs. Look them in the eye and refuse to back down.
But is it enough to merely hold them at bay, or must you also find a way to ensure they won’t come sneakng back, waiting for a vulnerable moment? The residue of our pasts taints our future if we let it. The fear will cripple us and hold us back. The knowledge that it is lurking will drive us to negative behaviors.
So, dealing with that sticky residue is going to suck. It’s going to hurt, and it’s going to be messy.
But, in the end, it’s going to be worth it, each and every sticky step.
I was asked last night why I haven’t written here in a while. And I answered “Because I’m happy”. That is true, but that’s not why…not really.
I’ve actually written here a hundred times this year, in my head. Maybe a thousand. And yet I never came to put those words onto a page. I never got them out of my head and into the world. I had, for lack of a better term, personal blog constipation. The desire was there, but nothing was happening.
So maybe that question last night was like an intense laxative – one that works overnight and promises success in the morning. Because here I am, writing again. And I don’t know if I can write fast enough, or long enough, to get it all down on “paper”. So thanks, Christine, for the nudge and the reminder that I’m not here solely alone, talking to myself in a dark room.
I think there is some sort of cliche about life being a moving target. If there isn’t, there should be. For me, it’s not life that is the moving target, it’s balance.
Balance is my struggle.
Balance is my joy.
Balance is my goal.
Balance is my nemesis.
The fact is, as soon as I think I have this balance thing all figured out, the target moves and I’m teetering on the edge again.
Take this year, for example. I was doing pretty well for a while there. My kids were happy, I was spending “quality time” with them. The business was humming along, deadlines were being met, my friendships were growing, and I was content.
For a while.
And then it happened. I’m not sure what “it” was, but suddenly there I was, on the edge of a dark abyss, wondering how I got here, and how to get back. We took on too much. I took on too much. I panicked, I stumbled, and I fell. But, as I always do, I just kept going, taking more and more on, struggling under the increasing weight of this burden, knowing I would eventually carry so much I couldn’t get up…
So I dropped it. All of it. Right there on the ground. There was a huge pile of stuff in the middle of my life, that I simply refused to acknowledge.
Until I had to. It’s not in my nature to simply let things go. I can’t ignore anything, let alone that kind of pile. So I picked it up again, sorted through it all, and did my best to set things right again.
I got back up.
And I started to sight that target again, moving closer and closer to the bulls-eye, until it became a certain possibility, rather than a remote one.
The journey, as it seems, is truly more important than the destination.
I thought I would make it through this year without having to acknowledge the way my life changed on April 29, 2008. The truth is, I feel a little bit like I’m beating a dead horse. I can hear it now – “Come on Jen, get over it, it’s been two years and we have all moved on.”
I get it. I really do.
And I’ve moved on as well. I’ve come to a place where I’m almost alright with the fact that I can’t have anymore children. Ok, that’s a lie. But I have come to a place where the idea doesn’t consume me, where the realities of having a newborn seem totally overwhelming, and the relationship with my children is so fulfilling I can’t imagine changing the mix.
But I struggled again this year as the anniversary came and went. I was a bitch, there’s just no other way to say it. I waited all day for Steve to acknowledge the day. After all, it was one of the biggest in my life, and in our life as a family. It was the day our family was forever stuck at 4, the day that our choices were taken away, the day that my body aged twenty years, the day that everything changed for me.
It was a big day. And though it seems to have impacted me most heavily, I wanted him to remember that day. To simply acknowledge its importance in my life. To see that I’m still not completely good with the situation. To understand that I want more children, desperately, most days (other days I don’t).
What happened could have been a marriage killer. It almost was, but we survived. And I resent the fact that everyone forgot the date this year. Not just Steve – everyone. And in a very passive-aggressive way, I tweeted that my life had changed two years before. Some people understood (thank you) but others did not.
I get that nobody like a victim or a whiner. I get that the good of my life outweighs the bad. I get that it’s been two years. I get all that.
But for one day I wanted to wallow in self-pity, to feel sad for what was lost, and to give that pain permission to rise up, consume me for a time, and then recede to the place I keep it hidden. Just one day.
Was that too much to ask?