Sunday, July 21, 2013

Words are our Everyday Weapons

When I was a child, over and over I heard the expression about sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you. Even as a nine year old who needed to believe that to get through childhood teasing, I knew it was a lie. A big fat lie that we need and want to be true but isn’t for so many reasons. While physical blows may hurt and leave a mark, the scars that words leave behind are just as painful and can last a lifetime.

Words hurt. And I’m not just talking about name calling. People choose words to hurt others, to cut deep into the heart. During an argument, someone will lash out, usually from their own hurt, with whatever they have gathered as ammunition. What ever they know will hurt the most. If you are lucky, you get to apologize for them later. Take them back when the anger has cooled. But no matter how convincing the apology, they have left behind scars. Scars hidden from view, but scars that are a constant reminder that this person can hurt you, that their words have the power to make you feel pain. Time heals most scars, but when the hurtful words come fast and furious, the scars deepen and you retreat for self-preservation. Words have the power to destroy trust, love, relationships.

Words lie. They manipulate. They promise. People make promises with good intentions. I once promised “Till Death do we part.” I’ve said, “I love you” to people I no longer love. Are they broken promises or lies? Did I lie when I promised to love forever? At the time, every piece of me believed that it was true. But are they lies now? What’s the difference between a broken promise and a lie? Is it intention? Perspective? Maybe it’s a little bit of both. But my broken promises have hurt others as the broken promises of others have scared me. I can’t erase them. I can only be sorry that they were said or that I broke them or that I believed someone else’s promises. With words that lie, comes the power to manipulate. We can rationalize, justify, convince. We can use one detail among hundreds to convince ourselves and others that we are correct. We can lie to ourselves by choosing to ignore some words and focus on others. We can win an argument. Lose an argument. It doesn’t matter. Words will make all of us losers.

Words humor us. They make us laugh. They release tension. But for every joke, the words hide a truth. They cleverly disguise what and how the joke teller feels or thinks. I hate blonde jokes for this reason. I’m well aware of my own intelligence or lack there of so they don’t insult me, but if someone continually tells blonde jokes, it lets me know what they think of me or of their need to belittle me. I’m sure each of us has a joke we find offensive, and when someone tells that joke, we look at them in a new way. I’m guilty of sarcasm, and I know that I use it to hide behind. To reveal my doubts or my feelings. But sometimes my sarcasm has hurt others and sometimes it has hurt myself when my doubts or feelings were confirmed. Words have the power to reveal our thoughts even when we aren’t intentionally trying to give anything away.

Words do inspire and encourage. Words aren’t all negative. They can be uplifting. Whether from a bible verse or quote, words have the power to make us feel enlightened, uplifted, or just better about ourselves. I have a few students who after years of hearing my positive encouraging words, have now turned my own words on me when I forget them. They tell me that I deserve better or that I got this. And this is how I know the words we choose come back to us one day. If we are kind, when we need kindness, others will return it. If we have been cruel, the words we need to hear will not come. The scars we’ve left have numbed others to our pain and suffering.

Words are our most powerful weapon. As humans, our emotions drive us. We protect them. We risk them all for love. We numb ourselves to pain. We choose the words we use, and we choose the words we will listen to others use against us. In all of this though, we must not forget that we are humans and mistakes are a given. We must grant forgiveness, sometimes even if it is only to ourselves. We allow the scars to heal, and we decide who we allow to hurt us again. For time and our hearts may offer forgiveness, it doesn’t guarantee forgetting.

Our words are our everyday weapons; we must use them carefully.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Andrew and Cara’s New York Escapades: The Elevator

My children are big fans of the Disney show Jesse, which takes place in New York City. In typical Disney fashion, the episodes play over and over and over. I could probably recall lines from each one because my children watch them no matter how many times they have played. There’s this one episode that Jesse loses several of the kids on the subway. It’s a funny episode, but not something you want to imagine as a mother happening to your children.

In spite of worries about losing my children in the city, we journeyed to New York City for our summer vacation. And in true life meets comedy fashion, we weren’t at the hotel ten minutes before we had our own comedy episode on our hands.

After putting the luggage down in our room, we headed out for Times Square. While I was trying to pull the room door closed, the kids ran ahead to see who could push the elevator button first. This is a typical competition and that’s usually as far as it goes. No big deal. Our room was near enough to the elevator that I could see them.

Andrew made it to the button first, so in true Cara fashion, she had to beat him. They extended the competition into who could get in the elevator first and press the down button.

Something they’d never done in the safety of our own community where the population wasn’t, oh, I don’t know, a million.

In the meantime, I’d finally figured out the obstacle to closing the room door, and I was half way to the elevator, calling out for them not to get in the elevator. I made it to the doors just as they closed with the voices of my kids behind them saying “Mom’s not here. Don’t press the button!”

They could have thought about that before they’d pressed the button.

I was the crazy woman pressing the button in hopes that the doors would open… they did not, or hoping that the second elevator would open so that I could at least get to the bottom before they did.

Seconds ticked by with my children in the elevator alone, and I pushed the button over and over, sure that the doors would open faster if I pushed it hard enough. Finally, after what felt like forever, the doors opened. I hurried and pressed the lobby floor and remained calm, assuring myself that they would be in the lobby when I got down. Andrew was a smart kid, right? He’d know what to do.

Thankfully, the elevator descended the 22 floors without stopping. I reached the lobby just in time to see the doors of Andrew and Cara’s elevator close with them staring at me.

At this point in time, calmness was giving way fast.

I did have just enough left to stand in front of the elevator doors and wait. I pushed the button for the elevator to return and waited for those doors to open.

I pushed thoughts of all the things that could happen with strangers entering and exiting elevators and stared at those doors.

A hotel employee passed and gave me a strange look and I told him I’d lost my kids on the elevator. Probably not the best thing to admit, but the fact that I was so calm didn’t seem to make him worry.

When those doors opened and two very frightened kids walked off the elevator, all I could do was laugh in relief. I held both of them to me as Andrew blamed Cara for pressing the button, and Cara asked with big eyes if she were punished.

We’re on vacation, who gets punished? But I did tell them that they were to be stepping on my toes at all times, and if they couldn’t stick to me like glue, than I’d be holding both their hands, not just Cara’s.

Andrew says he’d prefer to be on my heels. But it doesn’t matter how grown up he believes he is, holding my hand isn’t out of the question if he gets lost again. Cara held my hand every moment after during the trip. I had to make her let go when we reached the inside of the hotel room. Even Andrew at one point got cut off by a New Yorker, and I noticed some slick moves as he hurriedly got back to the point where his shoes were touching the back of my feet.

I’d say this was one comedic episode that came with a lesson, just like a Disney show.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Theater Etiquette

It’s no secret that I love live performances. There’s just something special about a performance that unfolds right before you. This past season I’ve gone to three Thibodaux Playhouse plays, five Broadway Across America musicals, and a Cirque du Soleil show. I’d say I was able to enjoy one of my favorite things this past year in abundance.

But at most of these performances, there are two shows. The one I pay for and the one that I don’t. I’m of course talking about the behavior of some of the audience members. And though I can’t say the audience has ever been more entertaining than the performances, in some cases it has come pretty close.

Maybe it’s because I’m an observer of people that I tend to notice people at what I hope is their worse behavior, but the point is I do notice. And at this past weekend’s performance of Million Dollar Quartet, I came up with a few items I think everyone should keep in mind when attending a performance because people are watching not just the performers. People are there after all to see a show, even the ones they haven’t paid for.

#1 You can live without technology for two hours. At the Cirque du Soleil show, a woman decided to spend much of the performance on her cell phone. Why, I’m not sure. I mean why pay good money to see a live performance and then remain on your phone the entire time? It doesn’t make sense to me. The side performance came in when the woman behind her asked her to turn her phone off. Contrary to cell phone addicts’ opinion, the light from those smart phones is distracting during a performance. The cell phone junkie didn’t appreciate being asked to conform to common decency, which led to an argument where she actually told the woman that she wasn’t going to put her cell phone away and she didn’t really care if it was distracting to her. (I have had to translate into a clean version. The woman’s actual word choice was much more colorful.)

We see this all the time these days. Go to a movie theater and see how many lights glow from the different cell phones in use even though the theater has cute ways of letting you know to turn the phones off. At Saturday night’s performance, a burly manger walked up and down the aisles barking at people to put their cell phones away, after the announcer had already asked the audience to turn them off. How can you really enjoy anything if you spend your time glued to your phone? But more importantly, if you can’t respect your fellow theater goers by remaining off the phone, then stay home.

#2 Arrive on Time. I have balcony season tickets to the New Orleans Broadway shows. I have the same seats each time I go, and those seats happen to be near an entrance. Every time the show begins and people arrive late to the show, they block my view of the stage as they stumble around in the dark unable to locate their seats. Now if they’ve decided the beginning isn’t worth the planning ahead to arrive on time that is their business. But I don’t want to miss a second of the performance and I’ve arrived on time so that I don’t. Common courtesy would seem to dictate that someone should be respectful of that. The beginning is usually worth arriving on time for anyway.

#3 Dress the Part. I absolutely love dressing up. I have a closet full of fancy clothes to prove it. It’s one of the reasons I love the Broadway series. People go dressed in their finest, and it is wonderful. That is except for this past Saturday night’s performance. Apparently, the sun setting later led people to believe that casual daytime wear was appropriate. I know we live in a casual era, and that many people will disagree with me about this one. I hear many comments about how people dress for church, with equal amounts of people on both sides of the shorts are okay vs. people should dress up issue. But where are our standards then? I want to have places to dress up for, and I believe certain places should be kept that way. Going to the theater should be one of those places as its long history indicates. I’d like to keep it as a place that I can dress up for and not have jeans and t-shirts or even that one guy in shorts Saturday night become acceptable.

#4 Stay to the End. At Saturday night’s performance, as in many others of the season, people are itching to leave. I’m sure it is to beat the traffic, which of course only puts them about five minutes ahead of the others and missing out on the end of the performance. But again, it is disrespectful because when you get up, others can’t see. Not to mention it is disrespectful to the actors that you are walking out on. At the end of Million Dollar Quartet, the play portion of the evening ended and many, many people got up and left, only to miss the entire concert portion of the evening where Elvis, Johnny Cash, Clive Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis came back onstage and performed fantastically, complete with sequined jackets.

Of course, there were many other things I observed during these season’s performances. These shows do attract an eclectic mix of attendees. In an unforgettable entrance, a young teenage girl had decided to wear stilettos that she’d obviously not practiced walking in. She fell on her butt going down the stairs only a few feet from me. There are all kinds of shows to keep you entertained. I already have my season tickets ready to go for next season, not to mention my Wicked tickets ready for a few weeks from now. I do love all kinds of entertainment.

What would you add the your list of annoyances?  

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

To See the Future

We should all be concerned about the future because we will have to spend the rest of our lives there. ~Charles F. Kettering

After several attempts, I was finally able to have my yearly psychic appointment. I say finally because the first three appointments for this year were cancelled for various reasons, none of them my own. As each appointment was rescheduled my joke became that fate mustn’t want me to know what was in store for me this year, but at the same time hoping that the reason for denying me a glimpse wasn’t because it was just that horrible.

But on the forth try, the appointment finally went off without incident. Or so to speak.

Many friends have commented that it seems crazy that I see a psychic every year when I seem…. well, normal.

In answer, I must plead a personality fault. And it is simply called a lack of patience. The list of things I don’t have patience with is quite extensive. I don’t like surprises. I will read the ending of a book first, especially if it is good, so that I don’t have to wait to see how it turns out. I will read the ending of an article first. I also plan the ending of my own books before I even consider the beginning. And the list goes on. So it isn’t a far stretch to see that I don’t have patience to wait for the future just to unfold, especially when much of my future feels undecided.

Several years ago, I didn’t have a need for a psychic. My future felt decided, whether I liked the plan or not. The path of life was clear, but since I didn’t like the plan, I shattered it into pieces. Problem solved. You would think, but then I realized that now that there is no plan, I find I don’t have the patience to wait for life to just happen.

Hence, my yearly psychic visits that give me some kind of clue to the grand scheme of life… at least a little.

Three years ago when I visited for the first time, I needed hope that I hadn’t broken something and doomed myself to failure. And I received exactly that during my reading. Two years ago I needed reassurance that I wasn’t screwing it all up, and that’s what my prediction offered then.

It would seem this year I needed a little self-evaluating because my psychic appointment turned into more of a counseling session.

And what was I ultimately told this year?

That life is about choice and apparently it all comes down to me. She told me that I needed to decide what I wanted and my future depended on what choice I made. Of course, she also shared the choices I had and what the outcome of each of those choices would be.

Well, what do you know? I’m in control, not fate. I go to a psychic every year to be told what will happen, and apparently I hold the future in my own choices. Hmmm… I think I knew that. I just didn’t want to know it.

I wanted her to tell me that this is how the year would go, so I could relax and not have to test my patience.

Not this time though.

Apparently I need to stop looking for the answers and choose some of my own.

My friends may be relieved if I return to normal. Or not. My close friends know how impossible that is.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

People Change... or Do They?

Yet again, someone told me that I have changed; that I am a different person now. The negative connotation of this remark turned on my immediate defenses. Because often times when people tell you that you have changed, they don’t mean in a good- you’re the best thing since apple pie- change. I certainly hadn’t changed! I was just simple me. In a discussion later with a good friend, she reassured me that if I had changed, it was only for the better. I hadn’t changed who I was as a person certainly.

But then I found myself returning for another performance of the Vagina Monologues. I very rarely have time to repeat experiences of the last two years, mostly because there are so many new ones to be had, but on this rare occasion it did happen. I find the Vagina Monologues fascinating on so many levels. But more important than its funny and not so funny monologues, I had a realization. It came during the middle of a performance that demonstrates the different ways to moan—certainly an interesting place for an epiphany, and no, it wasn’t anything dirty, -- but it was still something that hit me all at once and made the world come into sharp focus.

As I sat through the performance, I didn’t become the least bit embarrassed or uncomfortable as I had two years ago. It was this simple ease where once awkwardness would have settled that made me realize that I had changed. Of course, as anyone standing accused, I don’t believe it is for the negative.

How had I changed and had not realized how much though? I must say that the last several years have been… interesting, to say the least. Some of the experiences during this time were chosen, some were not. But each of these experiences has created who I am by allowing me to learn about myself.

People change for many reasons. Mostly because we allow our minds to open to the world and experiences around us… some we welcome and some we wish we hadn’t. But in the end, we are shaped by what we allow ourselves to be shaped by. Every experience in life affords us the opportunity to learn more about ourselves as well as the world we live in.

But still, some people enjoy the static nature of their lives, the comfortableness of familiarity. In a world that is always changing, who can blame people for wanting something to remain unchanged? It is a choice though. Experiences in life happen all the time-- to us and around us… not learning and growing from these experiences is an option—one that I choose not to take. Does this make it wrong?

The problem comes in when one person changes and the people in their lives do not. A few years ago I was told that I shouldn’t have changed. That a relationship would have survived if I hadn’t changed. It is easy to say that someone has changed when we do no understand why things are suddenly different. And it is probably true that one person changing in a relationship and the other person remaining the same will create issues for a couple. But if life is about change, then it becomes our job to make sure our experiences and revelations about ourselves are shared with our partner.

I was discussing change recently with another divorced friend and her insight into the matter was that the problem is that people don’t want you to change. People want the easiness of knowing that this person will be exactly what their expectations are. We want to know that a person will always be late or always be there when we call. We want to know that a certain friend will never disagree with us. It makes life easier and more predictable when we categorize.

But what happens when that person isn’t happy? Do we insist they remain the same because it’s easier for us?

The fact of the matter is life is about change. And if you aren’t changing, then you aren’t growing. We need to allow others to grow and learn. If we want relationships to work, then we need to be accepting and understanding, not expect people to forever stay the same as the day we met them.