Dear Haters: Why ya gotta hate?
Someone says, “I just adore Bubble Tea, that sweet sipper with pearl surprises!” And a friend responds, “Damn bubble tea is nas-tee! Those tapioca things are like snot balls!” OR
I observe, “Barbra Streisand is and will always be ‘The Greatest Star’ to me!” A voice declares, “ Yuck! Her voice is so nasal it hurts my ears!”
(Why, dear hater, do you wanna “Rain on my Parade”?)
A person I meet at a social event may enthusiastically even pledge support for a right-wing tyrant/bully with small hands. Even though I think this person is insane, I don’t have to declare him to be an idiot. I can simply & quickly throw up in my beer and move across the room.
We can give others our opinions without pooping on their passions.
Years ago I taught an 8th grader who carried around a copy of Gone with the Wind because it was his favorite book and he kept rereading it. And this student was African-American! I did not exclaim, “What?! Do you understand the main ideas of this book and see the stereotypical characters?!” One day this young guy would better understand GWTW, but in 8th grade he loved the story, and I was not about to start hatin’.
People near and dear to me have at times expressed ridiculous opinions:
* “Keanu Reeves is a great actor and should win an Oscar!”
* “Mustard on everything is delicious, even in a fruit smoothie!”
* “Disco music is the BEST, even if you’re not on poppers!”
* “Breaking Bad is better than The Wire, Mom, for real!”
Now I did perhaps do some back-and-forth arguing with these dear folks, but I really worked on not being a hater. Why ya gotta hate? Opinions and preferences do not need to be right or wrong. They do not need to be stomped out like the small paper fire in the bathroom when you accidentally dropped the match you were burning in a box of Kleenex to get rid of the poop smell. If a person drops an offensive opinion, like a really bad fart, you don’t have to accost him with an equally stinky comment. When lives or safety are not in danger, let others have their crazy-assed ideas or obsessions. DON’T HATE!
I know you don’t know me or even see me, but I’m sending up prayers for you. My heart is full of loving thoughts for you and blessings on your life.
I see you almost everywhere. You push your adult child’s wheelchair down the aisle at Church. Both of you singing, perhaps a tune I’ll never know.
I see you at the grocery store. Your patience is palatable as you both stand looking at the enormous rows of cereal, looking for that ‘just right’ choice. I see your child’s eyes light up, when you find it.
I see you in restaurants, patiently explaining the menu. I see you crossing the streets; sitting in the park. I am in awe of your bravery and courage and determination. You are a warrior and an angel all rolled into one.
I see your eyes looking tenderly, your hands holding tightly, your face sometimes tired or worried. But, most of all, I see your spirit. Your spirit says, “Yes, I am up for the challenge, and I am grateful for my blessing, who I love with all my heart.”
I see you, dear parent, I see you. Blessings always.
Note: This metaphor came to me during my 34th year of teaching high schoolers as I struggled with their adoration and addiction to their phones during class. I explained the phone/Satan comparison and then began class with, “OK, everyone, let’s put Satan away and ‘keep him way down in the hole’ where he won’t tempt us during this important discussion.”
Letter to my Cell Phone, aka Satan:
You are so powerful, persuasive, and prevalent!
Your powers travel swiftly across the world. You lure us into your Net of immense information and glittery advertisements. We mortals hold you close to our hearts, and your constant dings and rings and jingles pull us into your dark soul. (I even hear your call when you are not even calling me – Phantom Vibration Syndrome!) These days you might even be the most addictive time suck we know, even more popular than our vast array of drugs.
Everyone wants to handle and clutch a godlike device like you, filled with endless bits of knowledge, both profound and trivial. Plus your camera eye can be made to focus on me, myself and I , so I may fully learn the ultimate value of self-absorption and pride. Come to think of it, you are the embodiment of all of the Seven Deadly Sins :
*Pride – selfies of self-promotion
*Lust – porn, porn, porn
*Avarice – gimme everything I do not already own
*Wrath – tweets of hate and extreme judgement
*Gluttony – regularly stuffing our brains with useless information
*Sloth- slouching in a recliner to call someone in the next room
*Envy – social media and FOMO
You do play a vast array of tunes and some major motion pictures; you often help rescue stranded folks; you keep people in touch with other people; HOWEVER, Satan, you are a being with many deceptive ways. As you entertain, save, and connect us, you may also be sowing seeds of addiction in us to small electronic devices that will enslave us forever.
Remember my little Auntie Sue? She’s the one who taught me about ‘Sittin Ugly’ and she’s also my role model for aging gracefully with a sense of humor. Well, Auntie Sue taught me something else…
Once when I was visiting her in her little apartment in Oklahoma City, she asked me to help her clean out a few things. She sat in her favorite chair by the window and I would hold something up, “Throw? Keep? Give away?” Usually she would start in on a story about whatever I was holding up and we would end up laughing, crying or hugging and not getting much else done. On this particular day, as I was quizzing her about things in the closet, she exclaimed, “Oh Honey, just put it over there in that cubby by the dresser…you know, my glory hole.”
“Glory Hole?”, I asked. Did I hear it right? “What pray tell, is a Glory Hole?” She explained that if you had something and for whatever reason, you loved it, but you didn’t really need it or even know where to put it, you could store it in your Glory Hole. If it has no category or value other than you like it….Glory Hole. Even sometimes if you know you should give it away and you put it in the give-away pile and you take it out again…..it goes in the Glory Hole.
I learned, as we went through her belongings, that you ‘just know’ if it is Glory Hole material. It’s a feeling, an instinct that tells you, “I need this thing. I love it. And I don’t know why.” It’s a personal preference.
I’ve always had a “junk drawer” in my kitchen and I’ve always had a closet (or two) that hold “treasures” of a sort, but now I have my own Glory Hole. Don’t get all judgmental or self-righteous on me….we all have a Glory Hole of one kind or another. An old jewelery box or shoe box stored safely away in the attic or up high in the closet? Glory Hole. I think it just makes sense.
Some day, in the far away future (I hope), my girls will be going through my things and come across my Glory Hole! What a day that will be!
That cliched image of a small girl’s feet atop her daddy’s dress shoes as he dances with her captures my relationship with my dad.
I am the oldest of 3 daughters of a demanding father. He has that “you don’t ask ‘why’ when he tells you to jump; you say ‘how high?’” attitude toward parenting. My sisters and older brother and I grew up with a protective mom who gave us warnings like, “You better be quiet; Daddy’s napping” or “You don’t want me to tell your daddy about this!”
However, his stern demeanor was often overpowered by his protective love and boundless generosity, especially for me, a kid who was different.
I have cerebral palsy, and my left side is smaller and weaker. I walk with a limp and have very limited use of my crooked left arm. Still, Daddy always told me I could do whatever my brother and sisters did. So I took swimming lessons, rode our Shetland pony, played kickball, softball, and a bit of basketball. And since we were a tennis-obsessed family, Dad even taught me an under-handed (but still legal) serve so I could play in tournaments. His insistence for me to not let my disability constrain me gave me a cock-eyed view of reality. I believed I could do anything and thus I tried everything my siblings did. Not until high school did real life pull off that Dad-created self-assurance when a strict nun yanked me out of typing class because she realized I was typing with only my right hand. So like an episode of Malcolm in the Middle when the mom Lois watches a video of herself and sadly realizes she can’t dance gracefully like she thought she could, I began to see I was bumbling my way through most physical endeavors.
With the awkwardness and self-doubt of adolescence, I became more hesitant and shy although I did continue to play on the school’s tennis team and to excel in French which I took instead of typing. So however skewed my self-image had been, Daddy still instilled enough confidence in me so that I believed him when he said, “Go ahead and dive into the deep end of that pool”; “Get on that pony and ride bare-back”; “Climb that tree and grab the rope swing”; “Keep your knees bent and hold tight to that water-ski rope”; “Serve to her backhand and you’ll win that tennis match.”
So thank you, Daddy, for guiding me down life’s bumpy gravel roads and through the dark halls of loss and pain. Your unwavering belief in me and your support when I clung to your belt loop as you glided me across Grandma’s big living room floor have been enough for me to believe in what I can do more than what I can’t.
I get you because I’m one of you. Like Susan Sarandon’s character in The Meddler movie, we hate to break that close connection we have with our kids. The proverbial mom-kid cord is unbelievably stretchy and tough.
The saying , “A mom is only as happy as her least happy child” could be my mantra. I’m forever trying to fix their problems or give them the best advice on how to fix things themselves. And now retirement has given me so much time to increase my meddling. I text my three sons (in their 20’s!!!) way too much: “Dinner here tonight?” “Saw this comic about a big toad & thought of you.” “Have you written that thank you to PaPa?” “You left your phone charger here” “I’m in your hood. Want some cheese?” blah.blah.blah.
I used to be their personal chef, chauffeur, and counselor. Now they only share details about extreme cases: “My car’s on fire!” “College tuition was due yesterday.” “I have a red, swollen rash on my butt.”
Over 20 years ago on a family vacation I was sleeping on a top bunk bed, when my then 18-month-old son started crying around 2:30 a.m., and in my hurry to soothe and quiet him, I jumped from my bed, misjudged the location of the port-a-crib, and crashed to the floor. My sister and her NYC friend were sleeping in the next room, and when Gayle got up to check on me, Danny stopped her with, “Don’t get involved!” Now often during family situations, those 3 and a half words are the wisest of wise. Yet when does detachment turn to isolation??
We gotta balance our meddling with our letting go.
Thomas Merton wrote,”The beginning of love is letting those we love be perfectly themselves, and not try to twist them to fit our own image.”
So I once wiped their butts, dried their tears, and kissed their bo-bos. Now I gotta learn how to step back at times. I have to let my kids face their own independence, even when it punches them in their guts, leaves them on the side of a deserted road, or fills their hearts up with hurt. As much as I love, love, love feeding them and helping them, the smile they flash me when they share their latest on-their-own accomplishment is even groovier that the thank-you smile for my latest bit of meddling.
I don’t (totally) mean to get all up in ya face, but you did begin on an ugly note – judging others on FACE value alone. So here goes.
Once you led teenagers and college-minded kids to follow the cool road of connections. Nowadays you are preferred by grandmas, shut-ins, and introverts. Your first followers have moved on down a more snappy,tweety road of instant gratification.
Still, the force in you is strong, but is it light or dark? You connect us across immense distances and times: to strangers and friends and long-lost relations. You can be a beacon for social goodness and you may provide millions of ways to ease our loneliness. Good stuff, for sure, EXCEPT when you give power to the bullies and the terrorists.
So. If we don’t succumb to the darkness or the FOMO feelings or the catfishing urges or plain old addiction tendencies, you do help us connect, share, like, and even grow in interesting ways.
You and I have been together quite awhile now. We slowly got to know each other in my thirties and gradually we’ve connected in a way I never expected, or really desired.
You’ve held me back from some things I’ve wanted to do. Climbing stairs, bending, kneeling to tie my grandchild’s shoelace….simple things, I used to take for granted. Grasping my coffee cup in the morning or twisting off a lid of something I needed at the moment…you’ve held me hostage. You’ve tried your best to stop me, but you have NOT won the battle.
I’ve cursed you. I’ve ignored you. Shaken my fist in your face and still, you are here, giving it your all. I admire your tenacity, I must admit. You’re not a quitter… but neither am I.
Be prepared, I’m trying out a new attitude, a special-ops tactic, that I think will be quite effective….Acceptance. I’m through with the fighting and anger. I’m going to kill you with kindness. Be afraid…be very afraid!
I’ve decided to be gentle with my joints, talk a little sweeter to these creaky knees…give myself some extra time to warm up. It’s all part of the grand plan to accept. It is what it is, that, I cannot change, but, I can stop being embarrassed or sad for what I cannot do. I’m on a campaign to enjoy my time left on this earth.
So, you see, I’ll no longer be negatively engaging with your nonsense. You’ve given it a good run…now it’s my turn to be in charge.
Thank you for the smooth stillness that lets my day begin so softly. Like my power-blue cotton robe, you wrap hope around my morning shoulders and you let me cinch some strength around my waist.
Only my dog Millie moves around in the next room as I sip and savor the sunrise through the slats of the blinds so that I can feel like I can handle the day’s approaching hours.
My groggy morning mind awakens gently as I take time to “sit ugly” and to write down the day’s list of responsibilities and rites.
I get by with a little help from my coffee and usually the rituals of practiced prayer and attempted meditation. My “balm in Gilead” solace .
I AM an early morning person.
I miss you something fierce! I remember, when I would call to say I was coming for a visit, and you would say, “Oh honey, I’m so lonesome…I miss you something fierce!”
Things are changing here without you. People, situations and behaviors that might bemuse you. I’m so grateful for the time we had. You taught me to have a positive attitude and you showed me it was possible to say something nice about everyone. Everyone.
Thank you for always loving me; for always being glad to see me. Thank you for your humor and grace; your gift of complimenting others. Thank you for your ready smile and rich laughter. You loved to dance and I bet up where you are…your walker is parked and you are dancing on a floor made of gold. I know you are having a blast, you always said you would. But for me?