While our children were little my husband rarely to never took vacations, and we couldn’t afford to travel anywhere, anyway. I centered my life around the home and gardening… then put lots of time into blogging. All those occupations were in sync with my intensive demands of homelife (raising ten children while homeschooling), allowing for creative expression while not requiring lots of money or absence from overseeing the needs of my family.
Now I find I am always on a trip somewhere.
It changed slowly with rare trips to places I never dreamed of seeing… I went to Hungary and Denmark, then to Brazil to attend my son and daughter in love’s wedding. With the advent of grandchildren, there have been increased trips to Georgia, mainly, but Florida and Phoenix were on the list as well.
In the past year we did something -twice- that had been on my husbands wishlist since I met him: a road trip across the nation, visiting the West. He still has the Badlands on his bucket list, but we checked off the others: Highway 1 and Mendocino, Bryce Canyon in Utah, America’s Loneliest Highway Rte 50 through Nevada.
I know some people blog while they travel, but I am an “in the moment experience” type of person. I don’t even like the distraction of taking photographs. I have moderated that and forced myself to take photos for the sake of memories and just because I want to capture some of the beauty that I see, but mostly I drink in the scenery, and let the atmosphere saturate my mind and heart.
The past few years have seen a great increase in travel for me… which may not be comparable to many others, but it is a huge change for me.
I find I like it.
I come back to loads of laundry to do, a marathon of weeding and neglected gardens, but it has been worth the exchange. Time spent by the ocean, seeing vast redwood forests, immense mountains of the Rocky ranges… these are mind opening, soul nourishing events.
So I don’t apologize that this season of my life leaves less room for the type of blogging I once did. My online life evolves and there is no pattern for the shape it will take. But, like all the rest of my life, I have shifted away from letting demands rule my life, and have created space for the simple act of living. Letting the flow of what creates an organic and vibrant participation of relationship and experience to take the forefront, to become my priority.
People figure more predominately in this way of life, and tasks become secondary. I don’t pretend to imply that it leads to being a successful blogger or to create worldly wealth. I do, however, feel richer, and may I say it? Happier. Or maybe happy is not the right word choice, I think the term “joie de vivre” is a more accurate term. The joy of life infuses this pathway.
My garden takes on a wild look, my blogs are temporarily neglected, but I have more to offer when following this roadtrip of life.
I had an experience in the past year that propelled me out of my comfort zone, and has me thinking about relationships, acceptance, and yet again – the way society sets us up.
Here is me: I stay at home, and have, for the past… oh, almost forty years that I’ve been married and had kids.
[box type="shadow"]You might call me insulated…. parochial… any number of limiting adjectives; because that is how people tend to categorize and pigeon-hole each other. It is also a function of how our brains manage to work with limited information and infinite unknowns. [/box]
Increasingly over the past decade the mold has broken and I’ve been traveling, so far to Hungary, Denmark, Brazil, and across the States on a roadtrip west. I had moved into a type of intellectual travel, too, with the internet, forums, and blogging, but in 2012 I ended up briefly visiting the reality TV world.
That was stretching me beyond a number of comfort levels, into a world that is truly alien for me.
That experience can be seen in the brief scenes in the latest episode of Making Mr. Right.
When you know the premise of this dating show, immediately some of the most obvious questions come up, like “Could/Should people try to makeover their mates?” (Potential or otherwise) And the equally obvious questions about whether people have soul mates, or is “finding the right person” the key to happiness? Those last questions, oddly enough, revolve around the idea that we don’t “make” our happiness or the object of it, but that people are somehow static and finding the “right match” is the important part.
How much of our happiness resides in the power of another person, how much within our own making?
Actually there are all sorts of questions that swirl around in our culture, along with some of the preconceptions attached to them.
Which is what makes the idea of creating a dating show one that promises interest and entertainment for viewers.
And either way, we are led to objectify our significant others in ways that cause us to forget they are people who change and are influenced, and who have the power to make their own choices, to mold their own world, and to turn the tables on us! We might want to inject some humility, respectfulness, and freedom into this process.
Makeovers are such a big part of American myth. American girls are practically raised on that idea, from magazine articles to whole books to the beauty industry to the business world. If we just get the look right, or make the superficial changes, we unlock approval and success, and get to have our dreams come true.
Fortunes are made on such beliefs.
[button link="http://truegrit.weblogs.us/2005/01/20/lies-i-was-told/" type="icon" icon="paper"]Lies I Was Told[/button]
Kind of like the “Working Girl” movie with Melanie Griffith, made in the 80′s when the importance of image reinvented itself and became the top priority for our society. Makes the old adage “can’t tell a book by its cover” meaningless.
This idea has too many remakes to count, just take a look at a list of this year’s movies, TV shows, music videos, and other pop culture venues… I bet you can find more than a few that follow the pattern and sell the concept.
It is all about the image, the branding, the packaging. We just have to reinvent, and we will get what we want.
And it works. Glitz and glitter works in the short run.
In all this, some of the outdated deceptions reemerge.
Within those beloved makeovers, I wonder, can the changes go more than skin deep, can we really resolve the way we interact with people in our lives by changing the details and the surface conditions of our lives?
Let’s go back to ideas of changing our world, our society. Does a little Newspeak work on the macro scale? Is it working on the smaller scale of our jobs, relationships, and approval ratings of the people around us? Or more importantly for the questions brought out by Making Mr. Right, can we find and create our perfect life? Or a perfect mate, Or a perfect “other”? We certainly spend a lot of time trying.
Things I Am Convinced Of
Realities that I woke up to …along the way.
Mass movements, politics, and propaganda do not truly change the world, only temporarily rearrange the status quo. I learned this from my participation in the Moratorium Movement during the Vietnam war era.
You don’t mold or change your children. You find out who they are and encourage and direct their development. And the parenting is not even the lion-share of that. Many influences, many choices, many circumstances go into the formation of who a person is and becomes.
You can control very little, of anything. Your job in life is not about “control”
You don’t change other people, because you can’t. And vice versa
So what do makeovers accomplish, really? For all our love affair with the idea, does it change anything? Surprisingly I do think that makeovers produce some changes, just not the ones we expect.
We think of the makeover as changing the outward appearance. Sometimes that is a reflection of what inward changes have already taken place, and improves the way others perceive us. We are not islands, and the acceptance, approval, and support of others is vital. The makeover can certainly be a type of catalyst.
A makeover can align the clues we give to society of who we are with who we actually are. We can more clearly represent ourselves by adding the objectivity of the others helping us with a makeover (or those we model ourselves after). Perhaps, dispelling the false messages we accepted from others about who we are. We don’t always know ourselves as well as we believe we do.
It can also connect us better with what others need. A makeover in etiquette, in how we express thoughts and opinions, in listening skills or emotional intelligence. This is gaining a toolset in relationships.
[box type="shadow"]But changing the core of a person, their struggles with life, or personal direction? Those are the ways we misuse the makeover, and the end of such manipulations is going to end in conflict and disappointment.
What Can A TV Reality Show Tell Us?
I love Francis Schaeffer, and his thought. One of the things that I picked up from reading his books is to look at the culture, especially its art and expression, to find out truths about who we are as a society. Beyond the shallow judgements of like or unlike, or slots of good or evil, what do our ideas of marriage, family, gender, man and woman, parent and child, divorce, dating tell us about our larger society and its direction? What kind of blind spots do we have, and what will give us insight and a pathway to follow on this convoluted road of life?
A few hypotheses from my perspective
I think we still believe we can control more than we have the ability to control. Maybe as a society, that belief is more underlined and accepted than ever.
We see things through the filter of our hopes, and tend to edit out even obvious barriers. We believe romantic love conquers all obstacles. Romantic love is pretty wimpy, and that isn’t the type of love that faces and overcomes real challenges. Although it has a powerful kick as a firestarter to desire.
Our ideas of divorce are sacred cows roaming our streets and leaving us starving for strong relational bonds.
We laugh at how silly someone else may be while remaining blind to our own foibles.
Humanity is humanity and no amount of makeover changes that.
What Do I think Of All This?
There was a time I wouldn’t watch reality TV. Then I started watching the occasional show. I never ever imagined being on one, even for a brief appearance. I am not really TV material, to say the least. But it was a great experience and I’m glad to have had the chance to connect with people in a whole new way, including with my son. If you look closely at my body language in some of the glimpses, I feel protective of my children, even one who is fully grown… and that is what I see in many moms. We want the best for our children and makeover or no makeover, we desire that they be loved, and learn to love. We want our stories to have happy endings, or at least make heroic efforts toward that end.
I learned that we continue to see new perspectives of the world through our children, just as when they were little.
I wish I had spent less time trying to be a makeover artist with my children, and more time just being with them and finding out who they were.
Finding out who someone actually is, and helping to be the best representative of who that is… I think that is the important lesson, the valuable takeaway from this experience. Get that from a TV show and your time watching was well spent.
My disclaimer on this post is that I’m going to use illustrations that come from my experience in the church, but don’t think that people act like typical people just because they belong to a certain socio-economic or religious group. If you do that, you are going to miss the whole point.
You’re Totally Awesome, Dude
Pixie Dust and The Wizard Behind The Curtain
Before I get to that story, let me tell you about an old blogpost I re-read from Kathy Sierra. Called “Pixie Dust & The Mountain of Mediocrity. The gist is that people use marketing techniques to game the system and it’s that “pixie dust” that is promoted to be the magic answer to the branding and promotion of ones product.
It is not unlike the last topic, taking to task the online and marketing Gurus who provide methods, for a fee, to making you and/or your customers (clients..fans….whoever you want to win over) an overnight success. Even if they are well-meaning, plenty of so-called experts aren’t really helping you to be what truly makes you awesome: being the best you can be, living to your potential, inspired to rise to greater heights of what you hope to be or accomplish.
Buzzwords, Buzzword techniques, and the fast path to wealth and awesomeness is something people will pay for, and that means a lot of gamers are going to enter the field to make sure they can take advantage of it. That also means there is going to be an aftermath of broken dreams, and the disillusioned.
Sierra succinctly sums it up:
There is a world of difference between helping someone *appear* more awesome and helping them actually BE more awesome.
And that in some ways reminded me of a small, but rather sorry, experience I had a long time ago that left me with a distinct sense discomfort that helped shape how I like to deal with people to this day.
A Moment of Clarity
I had gone to one of those big Christian conferences that are comprised of all sorts of people from different denominations, cultures, and backgrounds. It was one that had really pumped up my own sickly and struggling grip on walking out my faith. It wasn’t called a Revival, but it was effectively working as one for me.
Maybe because of that, I was a bit more open, hopeful, and vulnerable to what people said to me. Anyway, after one of the services (there are several at this sort of convocation), a well meaning man spoke to me. He said something very positive, something like “I see you are -positive ‘blah,blah,blah’, and you will -positive ‘blah,blah,blah’”. I felt very encouraged, I felt that he had been moved by some inner insight to share that with me.
As the conference moved on I happened to pass by that man speaking to someone else, using the very same words, the very same expression, the very same way. They weren’t special insights meant for me. This well meaning man was gaming the system.
I suppose he felt this was his ministry of encouragement or something, but for me, it was a searing disappointment, because it didn’t feel real. It didn’t feel sincerely anything. I felt my sense of trust was breached and trampled. I didn’t ask for his words, and wasn’t even hoping or looking for them. He offered me something artificial, when I truly needed the genuine. He sprinkled around some pixie dust, because it had good effects on people. For him.
And to this day, as convinced as I am of the importance of affirmation and encouragement, if I cannot garner together the individualized and sincere words that are infused with my own sense of care and compassion, or affection or desire to connect… I don’t want to give a substitute. I don’t believe in “placeholder” love, that consists of words or token actions merely meant to make someone feel good for the moment.
That is a terribly selfish thing to do. It is pixie dust spread around to make the giver feel better about themselves. If you tell someone they are awesome with that motivation, spare them.
They are better off without your false words and insincere methods. The world is better off without them.
How To Tell Someone They Are Awesome
First -to outline the negative shape before drawing in the detail- do not tell someone how much they matter or how great they are when showing them is better. Words will often cloud the message, even if you intend to mean them. That too often turns into “meaning well”, and you know what the old saying is about good intentions.
If words are all you have, tell people something that you can follow through on… a generally inclusive way of telling them they matter and are awesome “I look for the beauty and glory in you”… because I look for that in all. And then make that your purpose, your own rule of life.
Do something for them that helps them be the best version of themselves.
Then when you tell them you think they are awesome, or that they matter to you, they will trust it, and it will build something meaningful into their lives.
Give them tools of value, words of value, and actions of value. Take something of yourself, and invest it in those tools, words, and actions. Infuse something of your love and care into what you give to others. That will make them feel awesome. Then you can tell them they are awesome and might even have an opportunity to share something that will make them even more awesome.
The outcome of that is what they do with that thing themselves, what they get to experience from it.
This has its way of spilling over and making us feel pretty awesome as well, but that is not the goal or the point of what we tell others, or what we share with them.
What Am I Really Saying?
What really works is love. Love is never cheap, and has no substitution. Everyone needs and wants it, and when you give words or anything to another person with real love attached, you give the world what it really needs.