Tag Archives: expectations

Call Me Observant. And Confused. And Distracted. And Supportive.

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I came home Tuesday afternoon to my kids asking me if I’d heard about Caitlin.

“Caitlin who?” I asked them.

“Caitlin Jenner,” one son said.

“Caitlin… Caitlin Jenner… You mean Kaitlin Jenner? One of the Kardashians?” I asked.

I’ve only recently become interested in the Kardashians as Laundry Support Entertainment, so I have no opinion of them other than they are hugely successful at getting people to talk about them.

They’re not on the forefront of my consciousness. I know they aren’t thinking about me.

So it took a little bit, honestly, to figure it out.

“It’s all over the internet…” the other son said.

“I don’t think there is a Kaitlin… there’s only the two Jenner girls, the one with the fake lips and the one with the supermodel eyebrows…” I said, drifting off, slipping into old age.

“The sex change one… ” the first son said.

“AAAAOOOOOMAAAAIIIIGAAAAADDDD!!!” I shouted. “BRUCE?! You mean BRUCE JENNER???” It was clicking in now.

I raced to my phone.

Not to call Caitlin, nor anyone, but to go online.

“Yikes!” I honestly said, when I first saw the now-famous Vanity Fair cover photo; that was Bruce Jenner. “That’s insane. That’s a complete change… ” I didn’t have any expectation, frankly, but I didn’t think a Vanity Fair cover would be it; nor did I consider this new visage in, essentially, a merry widow.

Egads, I guess I did have an expectation.

Vanity Fair has always had amazing covers. Annie Leibowitz is … I don’t need to even say anything; she is synonymous with renown photographs, regardless of the subject. It seems rather fitting, now in retrospect, that Annie do the shoot and Vanity Fair host the unveiling. It’s very 21st Century.

I have no opinion on the situation, really, OTHER than to say that we have other things going on, too, in the world.

I’m not going to say this isn’t news, nor that it’s not historic, because it is. It’s huge, frankly.

Back to watching the Kardashians.

I watched, since Tuesday, the second part of the Kardashian/Jenner girls’ interviews / meetings with then-Bruce, about his situation, his decision to come out as a transgender male and his interest in surgery to become a woman.

The girls are all quite bright, despite what the media say about them. I don’t really think much about them other than to say that if you think poorly on them, it’s a waste of your energy. They ask intelligent questions, and have the same types of concerns any child or step-child of a person in Bruce Jenner’s situation would have.

Bruce Jenner is father to six of his own biological children and step-father to four? Kardashian kids. He was married to Kris Kardashian for almost 23 years. That’s a big, long time: My husband and I have been an item for almost 25 years and will be married for 21 years (woot!) in a couple weeks. So that’s a long time.

The youngest of the kids, the Jenner girls, were (in the televised interviews) pretty disturbed. I’m sure they put on their brave faces and kept it together, but they have a lot to process. Kris Kardashian, the ex-wife and mother to the youngest two, was the final person Bruce spoke to in the series of chats he had with everyone.

Their conversation, the one which was televised, was the most raw and real marriage conversation, without a lot of selfishness and digs and jabs, I’ve ever seen.

Yes, it’s a train wreck, all those people… they put themselves out there; they reap what they sew; they made their bed, they sleep in it; blah blah blah… it still doesn’t take away from the fact that in the universal scheme of things:

1) There are people hurting out there,

and

2) Fear and deceit destroy people.

The exchanges between Bruce and Kris were stunning and she was firm yet supple. A body language / eye roll expert would nail the contempt in Bruce for Kris’ questioning. He pouted, his voice went high and little, he avoided, he looked at the floor, he deflected. He did everything he could — fear driven (so don’t tell me I’m being bitchy, I know what fear does to people, I get it) — to avoid her reasonable, clear, insistent and detailed line of questioning. She was sincerely grieving.

These two had a marriage.

She married an Olympian. A freakin’ decathlete. Gold medalist. Cereal boxes an’ shit. They had kids together.

He was weak. He deceived her. I can’t help this opinion; it’s how I feel. He chose the easy route which was really the hard route. He didn’t want to disappoint her. He had to live up to a standard. He had to be something he’s not.

He said he was honest with her, that she knew he had a thing for women’s clothing. He said in other interviews that he knew since he was 10 that he was a woman trapped inside a man’s body. But she said she never knew it would come to this level; that “Bruce” would be gone.

It’s a clear case of sins of omission and not asking enough of the right questions. It’s also a matter of people simply not owning their truths.

And yet, he said “I’m not going anywhere…” and “I love you…” and “I’m still in here…” and I’m thinking, “Ok…  but who the hell is that? You don’t really know yet do you, Caitlin? It’s all new territory. Because who you were to them is not who you are to yourself…  How can it be?

There are MANY paths this can go; I’m not going to go on most of them.

All I know is that when we lie to ourselves, we lie to the world. We lash out. We act flip and glib and say things without thinking about them.

When an addict comes out of rehab, everything has to change. The lifestyle the addict experienced before, has to change. Bruce was sort of addicted to a lie. Shame kept the lie going.

All the while, he was afraid.

When we are afraid, we lash out. We are like wounded bears. We withhold. We go within. We build walls. We put on façades. We perform for others. We are unpredictable and moody and sensitive. We do what we can to keep going though. And so does everyone else.

Kendall Jenner, the oldest of the Kardashian / Jenner girls said in the interviews that she encountered him cross-dressed at 4am when she went downstairs to get a drink of water. She cried as she sympathetically recounted it (I’m paraphrasing), “If your only way to safely be the person you feel yourself to be is to do it at 4am when no one else is awake, and to be like that for almost 65 years… That’s so sad. That’s so awful…” She said she, too, snuck around the room to escape his discovery of her discovery.

The people whom it most affects, his kids, get it. The rest of the world should too.

There were lots of questions about the woman version of Bruce… will she still be interested in women? “YES!” He sort of said. Then recanted, but no one picked up on it… If so, does that make Caitin gay? He didn’t comment on that, “I’m not going to go into that…” Bruce said. The daughters praised him as the best dad…. “Will we still have a dad?” Kylie asked. “I’ll always be your father…” he said, his voice full of sportscaster confidence and certainty, but his face, had a sort of wince, because … well … it’s just going to be really different now.

The nice thing, for the Jenner girls, is that it’s out in the open and they don’t have to explain anything. Bruce took care of that with the VF cover. Caitlin can field those questions now, or the daughters can have them referred to Caitlin’s publicist. But it sure does create a new dynamic, doesn’t it?

So what this entire thing does, for me anyhow, is create a new level of awareness and a discussion about labels and brands and identification with standards and how we speak to and about each other. And the use of pronouns and gender possessive tense: “her purse” and “his jockstrap.” Maybe it’s “her jockstrap” now… . And “mother” and “father” and birth certificates… what I am feeling is that it’s none of my business. And while it’s none of my business, that makes sympathy hard.

I’m not trying to pick a fight; it’s in my nature to question things when they don’t make sense to me — but what is “sensical” to me? It’s all based on a set of standards which are based on expectations which are based on biases. And then there are people who really like their HIS or HER status. Bruce Jenner wanted the pronouns. He wanted the gender possessives: HER and SHE and … hmm… I guess that’s all there is to it. No… because there are transgendered people who don’t want any gender identifiers. I got hissed at about a year ago for saying “goodnight ladies!” to people when I wasn’t aware of the context for my invitation to lead a meditation for them. Can’t win for losing.

I was watching, remotely, with interest and anxiety, the media storm over this situation. Lots of people are pissed this is considered news. But it is news. It’s just not super depressing, racist, ISIS-related, political, FIFA, scandalous, nor horrifying. The best and most succinct approach to this news is:

“It’s really heartening to see that everyone is willing to not only accept Caitlyn Jenner as a woman, but to waste no time in treating her like a woman.” — Jon Stewart

Everyone talked about Caitlin’s appearance. Then her comparability to her ex-wife and Kim Kardashian. And then, her age. And then, what she looks like without the make-up. I’m floored and yet not.

There is no justice.

I heard someone say “I’m jealous of her legs! They’re awesome!” and I’m sitting there, SILENT, thinking, “that’s because they are the legs of a world-class decathlete you moron….” There is a part of me who doesn’t ever want to forget about Cereal Box Bruce, not because I’m a _____phobe (you pick the type), but because Bruce accomplished some seriously awesome feats and it was amazing. His decision to become Caitlin does not at all take away from 1976. Sorry. That doesn’t get wiped out. Nor do his kids, or his tax returns or his speeding tickets or his authenticity; well… I guess it takes away from his authenticity. That, he has to rebuild.

When we live without fear, we live fully.

In the final analysis, Caitlin’s not talking about me, so I’m going to stop talking about her.

Thank you.

30 Days of “A Year of Living Your Yoga” — Day 8: Your Child is Not You

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Welcome to Day 8 of my blog series. This series is based on Judith Hansen-Lasater’s “A Year of Living Your Yoga.” While the book has 365 quotes, I picked only 30.

I will try to keep these posts to about 500 words. (These words don’t count — ha ha, nor does the quote.)

Here is the quote:

May 28 — Your child belongs to her/him -self. As much as we want to make life perfect for our child, her life is hers, and helping her and you understand this is the most important job you can do as a parent. Remember today to live the awareness that your life belongs to you and your child’s to him.

> > > >retching sound< < < <

Sometimes these quotes really get to me. This is absolutely one of those times.

My mother wanted to be my twin. She wanted us to have the same haircuts, the same clothes, the same shoes. She even wanted us to go into business together — how that would work, I’m not sure, but the plan was that she would design the clothes and I would make them (what is thread?). She wanted to call them “MolMee’s” (her nickname was Mimi, so the “mee” was that transliteration of her name). This enmeshment had all the hallmarks of doom from the get-go.

I was born to defy her be my own person. I just was. And I was born to instill in her a duty to love me anyway. And I was born to love her anyway. She would put me in a dress and I’d destroy it. She’d put me in shorts and I’d go put on a kilt. She’d ask me to pick flowers and I’d cut down a bush. She had this vision of me… this concept and ideal… it was simply not going to happen. She gave me lots of ideas…

As a result: I distanced myself from her because I felt I constantly disappointed her. It’s really hard on your kids if they feel your happiness or success rests in their achievements.

I suspect this is dragging you down, but this is one of The Easiest posts for me to write in this series. The thing is: do you do this? Do you try to get your kid to be your buddy? Do you try to get your kid to excel where you blew it? Do you try to get your kid to love jazz (archery!) or Proust (plank?) or crocheting (flour?) when she’d rather throat punch herself? And then you wonder, “I THINK ALL THESE THINGS ARE WONDERFUL! Where’s the love?!”

The love is right there. Standing in front of you. Staring you in the face, saying (without saying): LOVE ME ANYWAY. DO ME A FAVOR: ASK ME ABOUT MY DAY and LISTEN TO MY REPLY.

How are your boundaries going? Are they blurred? Are they all gooey, like jell-o before it’s set and flooping (new word) through your fingers and your kid doesn’t know what’s his and what’s yours? Do you make your kid show everyone her new glasses or training bra? How about when your son (I hope!) gets his first chest hair? I don’t need to see that. I don’t really care and he’s freakin’ mortified.

If you are still confused about where your life ends and where your kid’s begins, check out “Toddlers and Tiaras” or “Mary Kate + Eight — Again” or “Honey Boo-Boo” (whatever the hell that is) or try this: ask them.

One of my favorite movies is “Little Miss Sunshine.” At first, the whole family is a giant codependent mess of effed-up boundaries and identity confusion. But as the pageant nears, and life-changing / ending family events transpire, we begin to see everyone figuring out that they are their own people. So we witness a glorious transition from ego-driven vicarious existence / mortality fear to everyone is their own person yet we can still support one another -thing (that’s a very technical term).

one big happy. eventually.

one big happy. eventually. (c) searchlight pictures 2006.

Does your child have a beautiful singing voice? Great. Guess what? it has nothing to do with you. You might be a beautiful singer, and maybe her maternal grandmother and likely a gazillion other people in her heritage. UM… So, NO. She doesn’t get that voice from you. She gets it from herself.

Take me for example. I write. I sing. I paint. I draw. I have parents who did all of this. But it didn’t all begin with them, and I certainly don’t think it will end with me. I used to be terrified that I would be paired up as a female version of my dad simply because I write, but our styles and attitudes about writing couldn’t be more disparate.

I have a quote. It’s my own:

Live vicariously through yourself.

Do you really think the world needs another You?

Don’t foist your dreams, fears, urges, drives, repressions, preferences, biases, ignorances on to your kid. JUST DON’T. They are gonna screw up, JUST like you did. It’s your job to try to educate them from doing it, BUT to be the soft place they land when they fall, because they will.

Thank you.

 

Communication & Filters

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Communication & Filters

I always thought I was an excellent communicator.

Today I went out with my husband in the rowing double. He sits in front of me so I can stabilize the boat. So this means I see his back as his blades hit and move the water. That’s it; but it’s not nothing: I see his posture and his slide technique and so I can tell him (or whomever is in that seat) what’s up with the strokes, how to improve form and the rest. It’s not so much that I’m a genius, it’s that I’ve got experience and when you’re dealing with novice rowers in a double (the theories are different in larger boats) the more experienced rower sits in the bow seat, behind the stern seat.

This was our second outing and per the rules of the boat club, I can’t take him out any more; he’ll have to join. I’m allowed to take a person as a guest twice; I can take you if you’d like, but only twice. It’s fair.

It’s also a good thing that I can’t go any more to teach my husband.

I don’t know if our marriage would survive it.

The thing is, no man wants his wife telling him how to do anything; least of all anything athletic and as exquisite and responsive as a sport as rowing. Even though he rationally defers to my expertise, I suspect that deep inside he’s thinking, “It can’t really be this hard… I mean, she does it…” and this is not to paint a broad brush of antiman-ness: my husband is extremely open-minded about this stuff. It’s just that it’s an adjustment.

But in the boat, I’m not his wife: I’m a rower and a member of the club. The equipment is signed out on my name with my person being the responsible party.

What all this means in the boat and on the water is that I’m a coach to him. So I’m more technical, detached, professional and … intense. It’s not my $7,000 boat to screw around in. But as much as he benefitted from my teaching, he wanted me to be softer, more patient, more “here’s a sandwich I made for you”: more wifely.

No frigging way. Our chances of tipping were low because I was holding the balance with my blades flat on the water while he gained experience. Today we rowed four miles and were out for about 90 minutes. He liked it and when I was rowing us around turns, he got a few moments to watch the sunlight dance on the water as it just crested the trees while being rocked to the rhythm of my rowing.

My husband is smart, mellow and athletic, so his catching on to the work, technique and gaining confidence is simply a matter of time and he’s well on his way.

RICK! gave this print to me for my birthday last year. She is a very thoughtful gift giver. I can learn a lot from her. “Rushing the slide” is what happens when someone slides up to the catch (the beginning of the stroke, which is where they are all positioned) apart from the rhythm of the rest of the rowers. Superman, sitting in “stroke” seat, feels it most. It’s frustrating to Green Lantern in “bow” seat because Flash’s back might come in contact with the handle of Green Lantern’s oar if the timing is off. After a while, if you were to row in front of me and consistently mess up the timing, you’d probably end up in dialysis because I’d get tired of you being in my space when I’m prepping to take a stroke. While the sketch is cute, it’s Batman who would be most disturbed by Flash’s rushing although the entire boat would feel it. I wonder if that’s why they made me stroke last year because I was such a jerk to anyone who slacked in front of me by the fourth month of rowing together.

What I learned from our second outing is something I’ve always known, but it was made phantasmagorically obvious (despite our 22 years as a couple) in the shell: he’s nice and tender and I’m a bull in a china shop. I know the lingo, I know the sport, I know the effects of lifting one hand over the other and what that does to the boat’s balance. The first time we went out, we had only an hour when we planned on having two hours. We lost all that time due to technical difficulties with the equipment which resulted in our having to take the entire first shell out of the water and bringing it back to the boathouse and trading it in for another one. I was glad he was undeterred about getting the second boat because he was sort of playing hooky from work for that extra hour. That first outing made us both slightly more efficient and clippy in our chatter and the resulting intensity was not entirely welcome.

When we docked after that first outing, the head coach of a local university crew quipped, “Are you still married? How’d it go?” He knows how this can go.

Because I know the jargon, I take a lot for granted. My husband wanted me to not use the jargon or to use the jargon and then its street equivalent; he wanted me to tenderize it all for him a bit.

No frigging way. I learned with coaches saying “weigh nuf,” followed by the street “stop rowing” about three times and then I was on my own and people in the boat would yell at me with both versions if I didn’t figure it out. Same thing with “square and bury your blades. That means to put them in the water perpendicularly.” It was the same with “sit ready at the catch” (which means to sit all the way up the slide with your shins perpendicular to the water and you’re ready to press / slide back for the boat to move beneath you, as in the picture above) – I told him what it meant, but I wasn’t going to add, “honey” or “sweets” to it.

It can be overwhelming on the water: it’s wet, deep and murky and the air is cool now. You don’t want to fall in. You want to succeed and so much of what you’re learning is multi-sensory. But the number one thing that’s gonna blow it for you on the water is thinking, so just be.  I stated commands (he’ll probably tell you I barked them) and was clear about them. I could have been gentler, but he’s not a child and part of sitting behind the person is that I can’t see what he’s actually doing so my comments are based on evidence and results of his actions rather than the actions themselves.

At about miles two and three, things began to significantly improve. We did a couple stationary drills and some balance work and I was very enthusiastic about his progress: he really started to get it! And then…

At the end of the fourth mile, he was getting tired, his posture was fading, he was making old mistakes and becoming easily frustrated. It was time for a naaaap. We’d been out for more than an hour and we were both ready to head in (he’s heavy!). We had a successful outing and all of it –from my china shop bull to his love me tender– started to gel and sink in. For him, the action is a part of his muscle memory now and just needs more experience and time. And another partner. He can go with RICK next time and I’ll take her husband in my shell.

All this got me thinking: despite my best intentions, our communication is not as strong as I thought it was and this was slightly dismaying to me because we talk a lot.

And then there’s the filter, or the perspective or the perception of both parties: I had an unfair expectation that he was able to deal with the massive amounts of information on a physically unstable surface and he had the expectation that I was going to be wifely and kind and patient.

The same sort of disconnect happened last month for his birthday. He wanted these super-awesome TRX bands for his workouts and I ordered them for him. I’d never used them and he used them in his bootcamp last year. The thing is: they take a while to set up and then you’re supposedly good to go. He was so excited to show them to me that he opened the box and tried to demonstrate them. I am TRX-neutral: I don’t care and I probably won’t really use them as I have my own routines. The thing is: he wanted me to see how easy and awesome they are and he couldn’t because it took a while to set up and I stood and watched. In a lather of frustration, he ended up throwing up his arms and not being able to show me. I said, “I’m glad you’re excited and I’m sure they’re great…” and he took that as a dismissal. The thing is: there was no winning or losing for either of us. He was thrilled but he wasn’t prepared to show me and I waited in neutral for him to show me while he couldn’t get it to work. If I said nothing, I’dve been a jerk. If I said “yay!” I’dve been insincere.

.  .  .  .  .  .

These expectations and filters bring lots of thoughts and memories and personal experiences to my mind and I’d like to share a couple with you.

I’m reminded me of a demonstration I saw on a middle-school children’s TV show, “Zoom!” a few years back when my team still watched public television. The challenge was simple enough: instruct a partner to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. They had four pairs of the kids and each pair built its success / communication formula off the previous pair’s demonstration with not much time between sets. In each pair one person was the director and the other person was ops. The director was blindfolded and the ops person was not allowed to speak back or ask questions, the ops person simply had to do what it was told.

mmm. send me to the hospital. stat.

The first pair’s basically ended up with a loaf of still-bagged sliced bread crushed under the weight of a closed jar of peanut butter and a closed jar of jelly and then both ends of the bagged bread were pressed together. That was funny and it showed me how much we all take for granted when we communicate — these kids on Zoom! are supposed to be the creme de la creme of their peer group. The second pair improved but only slightly: two slices of bread were taken out of the bag and the jars were still closed, but the jelly jar was on top of the peanut butter jar and both jars nested between the slices of bread. The third pair took out the slices, spread the peanut butter on a slice of bread and then spread the jelly on a slice of bread and then stacked the slices, condiment side up so it looked like this from the top: jelly on bread, peanut butter on bread. The fourth pair got it figured out and enjoyed the sandwich. Their cups of milk were already poured for them and everyone learned a valuable lesson: slow down, use details, listen and watch.

Another example is holidays — personal, national, dubious (Hallmark) or imaginary: If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that I look askance at New Year’s Day as a time for personal renewal: every day is a chance to change our lives. Valentine’s Day is a gimmick (to me) and I don’t get stupid drunk on St. Patrick’s Day.

In my home on birthdays, we make a cake and frost it and sing and give nice gifts. It’s not a full-bore blowout experience. In my family of origin, birthdays were special, but not considered reasons to have explosives and helium tanks and gunships. I used to know someone whose family of origin dwarfed coronations with their birthday celebrations: balloons at breakfast, the table festooned with used car lot flags, party hats, noise makers, the works. So when this person’s birthday came around and I was in the picture, I presented a card and a thoughtful gift. Sometimes I was late, but I never forgot the person’s special day and I’d call or send a note if I didn’t present the gift on time. The reception was frosty and any recognition was doomed to fail. This was based on both our filters: she was used to people taking out second mortgages to celebrate and I was used to people giving a hug, singing a song and life resuming to its normally scheduled programming. Even after we talked about our historical differences and expectations and filters, the experiences were never fulfilling for either of us. On my birthdays, she’d come over with a cake and balloons and her kids and they’d all sing to me and I’d be all like “WOAH” and “GetthefuckoutIjustwokeup!” and whatnot.

As I ponder all these experiences and examples of communication and filters and expectations, it makes me think of how to best survive on this big blue rock: have an open mind and have an open heart. I can do myself a favor by not expecting people to be able to read my mind and I can try not to anticipate what other people might have in their minds. I was at a wedding a few years ago and the celebrant said this, “My mother often reminded me as I grew up that I have two ears and one mouth for a reason. As our beloved couple embarks on their lifelong journey together as husband and wife and as we all bear witness to their union, I propose to all of us here tonight that we remember to use our ears more than our mouths.”

And I’ll add this: when we use our mouths, we do so with kindness and efficiency.

Sometimes easier said than done.

Thank you.