Thursday, February 25, 2010


We humans are pretty good at filling our days with activities we think are important. Of course, we need to exercise, take care of the kids, make the spouse feel loved and appreciated. Then there's that whole work thing that takes a good chunk of the day. Some of us get involved in hobbies or church or community events. Because, heck, they're IMPORTANT.

I've been wondering lately if the stuff of our days is really all that important. What makes a thing important? Is going to church important because you did it growing up? Is shuttling kids all over tarnation important because it's fun? Work? Is that only important because it pays for the kids to run over tarnation? What if something that once was vital no longer barks at us from the top of the never-ending list? Are we just modern day images of Sisyphus rolling that rock up the mountain? 'Cause I kinda want more than that.

Could it be that there an underlying thread, woven expertly through our lives, giving import and meaning to our seemingly aimless strivings.

I've written before about my friend Julie and her work as a sport psychologist. I attended her Define and Align Workshop and her Winning Game Plan workshop just a few weeks ago. I have been mulling over what I learned, chewing on some pretty big thoughts. Some of them are so unwieldy I have barely the courage to commit them to paper, much less say them out loud.

She asks: What's Important Now?

In asking this, she doesn't mean we are to address the largest fire and then scurry to the next like the world will end if we don't get to the bottom of the list. And she doesn't mean only do what's important to us as if we live in a vacuum and only our needs matter. She means are we focused on doing what is important. And if not, why not?

There is much freedom in identifying What's Important Now. It gives us the ability to say, "No." How many people wish they said that more often? And there's this sort of heirarchy of needs; once the overall major What's Important Now is identified, it breaks down into every area. If my W.I.N. is to feel fulfilled, and my roles in life are work, family and spiritual life, then how does what I'm doing each of those reflect my desire to feel fulfilled?

The more I think about it, the more my brain spins in circles. I'm not finished writing my Winning Game Plan, but I will say it involves a lot of change. I hate change. Even when it's for my own good. The one thing I have been able to practice in the weeks since attending the conference is asking myself regularly: What's Important Now?

When I can see the bigger picture, I can move with freedom. Now that is something I could use more of.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Notes on a Tire Trauma

I’ve had some bad luck with the tires on my car. It started in July, droned on into the fall and twanged my very last trying-to-care-and-can’t nerve when I struck a pothole the size of Montana driving the mean streets of Tulsa. (The absurdity of a Montana sized pothole in a city the size of Tulsa is not lost on me. Just go with it.) Today, I replaced this tired to the tune of $177. Yeah.

When I struck the pothole, I knew it was bad. I saw it, I could not get around it. I slowed down before impact. I knew immediately that this would cost me. There may have been some terse words, maybe some “cussing.”

I came home and vented on Twitter. I tweeted:
Dear City of Tulsa: Any way you can throw some money at our potholes? Or maybe just at the tire on my car that was just killed.
Pothole that killed my tire was as big as the entire lane of traffic. I slowed down but there was no way around the crater. So steamed.

Two people who do not follow my updates replied to my tweets. One guy told me too bad, I bought cheap tires and to buy better ones next time. Another guy tried to get me to link to Lord-knows-what. If I was mad about the tires, these tweets sent me caroming over the edge.

That’s the thing about men and women. And yes, I know I’m about to throw down the generalizations here. Tough. Men want to find a solution and fix it. There is no room for emotional venting. There is just problem: solve it. They assumed that in tweeting, poor little girl was begging for answers. Nope. I was simply mad and verbalizing my anger. Twitter is a place for that, right?

What’s funny is my twitter friends, men and women, responded with sympathies and virtual pats on the back. Warmed the cockles, it did. But I was still on my soapbox. How dare those men assume I didn’t know about tires and ... the rant went on for quite some time in my head. I’ll spare you.

Fast forward to today. I needed to get the car to the tire shop. AAA said they could either come tow me or put the flat on. It took me a good 2 minutes on the phone to decide. Two solid minutes of silence, during which time my brain spun in overdrive. The conversation went something like this: “I am so not having some guy come over here and put my spare on and think I’m some helpless thang.”

But then, “Yeah, but it’d be easier, and then I can go when I am ready and want to.”

“Sure, but that guy, he’s gonna think you’re dumb. What kind of liberated woman calls a guy for tire help?”

Finally, “You know what? I don’t care. I’m secure enough in my feminist feminism that I can get something done without worrying about how some guy I’ll never see again feels about it.”

Poor lady on the other end of the phone must have wondered if I’d ever decide.

Turns out, it had to be towed anyway, and I learned some interesting “facts” from the tow truck driver, always fun.

The thoughts I have about this entire episode are slippery. I’m at once mad at those twitter jerks for their lectures, happy with my twitter friends for their kind words, feeling stupid for hitting the pothole and asking for help, and glad it’s all over.

I started out mad about gender roles and thought I could clearly peg men and women as right and wrong. In the end, it’s just a tire. Right?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Should Have Bailed
My eldest daughter learned in third grade if you start a book and don't like it, it's okay to "abandon it." Most adults I know have a really hard time with this concept. We feel like once we start, we have to finish, regardless of how we feel about the book. Like there's some karmic literary retribution or fail for letting go of a book that just isn't doing it for us.

So, I'm in this book club, and I'm open to reading lots of different genres and usually agree to whatever the ladies present. Not this past month. The selection was a Pen-Faulkner winner, written by an author who's won accolades for her work, work which has appeared in many well-respected publications. Her writing was short listed for other prestigious awards. The ladies in the group who had read the book gave it high praise.

Hated it. Hated it. Visceral reaction, dread in the pit of my stomach, joy when I realized a conflict would prevent me attending the discussion. I did not want my disdain for the book to outweigh those who had a much different reading.

Two chapters in, I told my daughters I didn't like the book I was reading. Eldest said, "Abandon it." And laughed when I told her I would not. My reasons were sound. I wanted to give the book a shot. I had agreed to read it along with the other club members. It was important to try different things. She's twelve; I wanted to show her how to finish something unpleasant. The literary equivalent to holding my nose to swallow the over-boiled spinach.

I read the last pages of the book last night. The ending was as improbable as the rest of it. Big surprise. The characters remained hollow, without human depth or strength of character.

I could have stopped reading. I could have abandoned it. It would cost me nothing to quit in the middle. I mean, it's a voluntary book club and I'd be letting down exactly no one.


I wanted to finish the book. I wanted, so much wanted, the writer to finally give the characters some emotion, some real thought, some reason for their odd decisions. I kept thinking, "okay, surely now she's going to tell us why this diva is in love with the man who doesn't talk." But even her "in love" was ashes in my mouth.

I wanted to finish because I thought, "I must be missing something." I'd refer to the front of the book to verify I hadn't imagined the little sticker announcing it a winner of the Pen-Faulkner. Yep. Still there. I'd look at the soft focus author photo and think "well, she's a pretty enough woman. She looks like a nice person." I felt connected to her, like I didn't want her to fail. Clearly the awards committee connected with the book and the author because she won the praise. I was rooting for the book.

And yet. Hated it. Maybe that's okay. Maybe there's no bigger lesson here. It's okay that I do not agree with the critics. It's okay that others liked, even loved, the book. I could have let it go, but I chose to stick it out. I'm glad I did. It was not wasted time. It was time I learned what doesn't work for me in a book, how I responded to the content and the writer, how I thought of the book in terms of communal response. Even though every single page made me cringe, I'm glad I held my nose and choked it down.