Thursday, September 27, 2012

The War on Naps

So the little Lawns has declared war on naps as of late, and all week she hasn't gone down in the afternoons AT ALL. This has been really hard because that's my writing time, which means no blogging, no working on book writing, no nothing and that aggravates me. Right now she's napping, so fingers crossed. And I have plenty of stories for you!! She does go to bed very early on days like this, but I'm so exhausted that I've been in bed by 8:30 every night. It's pathetic. I used to have classes that last until almost ten and I watched the Daily Show every night, but post-baby, I can't even stay up for Modern Family. I'm going to start eating dinner at four, like old people, if this doesn't stop.

Quick update. Nothing has happened with my book. I edited and edited and put it away and came back and edited some more. I wrote the most ass kicking query letter in the world, which was also edited about 41 times and I began sending it out and getting rejected, which leaves me with this conclusion: my book isn't good enough or my idea wasn't original enough or didn't come at the right time for the publishing world. So that kind of sucks, but I'm leaning more and more towards self-publishing it so you all can read it because I know you want to, but if I go that route, after more editing, I want to do it right and not be cheesy about it and put out a product I can actually be proud of and not be all like, yeah I self-published a book, which makes me cringe. I have met some serious cheese-balls down here in South Florida who call themselves authors because they have self published books. You can only imagine.

I started writing my second book. It's a shorter selection of Christmas themed essays called O Holy Shit! I've been cursed my whole life. No Christmas has ever turned out the way I've wanted and each holiday season seems to gift me with a new disaster, so in these essays I've set out to analyze my Christmases past and try to figure out that elusive "true meaning of Christmas" that they're always talking about in movies on the Hallmark Channel. Don't worry, it's funny. I mean, for God's sakes, I got scabies on Christmas. How is that not hilarious? Then one year my dad got arrested. Another year I engaged in some Robin Hood types of activities. These are the milder stories. Then my grandfather had a massive heart attack on Christmas Eve. It just gets better from there, let me tell you.

So anyway...

I've been reading a lot at night before bed and in the middle of the night when I wake up and can't go back to sleep. I also read while rocking Toddler Lawns to bed, which I do because I am a horrible parent and never sleep trained her because it felt mean and I wouldn't want anyone to do that to me.

I read The Age of Miracles: A Novel by Karen Thompson Walker. It's a coming of age story, told by a middle school girl and the twist is that the coming of age happens during a worldwide, natural disaster. The earth has slowed its rotation and everything goes terribly wrong from there. The thing that got me with this book and which has stuck with me since, is how very, very real it felt. I'm not kidding you. It was so real that I felt like it had actually happened and I was so freaked out by this book that I kept thinking the world really had slowed down. That's some good writing, people, and this is an exceptionally well thought out book. It's also poetic and there's a slowness about the writing that reflects the very theme of the book. There are magnificent, haunting images. I still can't get a scene about a house overcome by the sea out of my head. The whole time I read though, I kept feeling that there was a metaphor, that this was all a metaphor, though I could never quite grasp it.

Then I decided to just go the hell on and read Gillian Flynn's   Gone Girl: A Novel I wasn't going to read it. Didn't seem like my thing. I'm not into mysteries and I thought this was one of the Mary Higgins whatever kind of books my grandmother likes. Oh was I wrong. This book kicks some serious ass. There's a couple. The wife goes missing. Husband doesn't look good.  That's all I can tell you because everything past the first few pages is a spoiler, which is why it's hard for anyone to write a good description of the book. I'll leave the plot points out, but I'll tell you that this book will fuck with your head and you will love it. I read it in a day and a half and throughout you will experience a wide range of emotions. There's one part where a character describes the "Cool Girl" act that most women feel they have to put on and it was so dead on right. Unfortunately there's a part in my memoir where I discuss the same thing, though not half as well as Flynn, and I think because of this I might have to edit that part out, but whatever. Great book. Ending pissed me off though.

Now I'm reading   The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I heard about it because of the movie and the premise appealed to me because it's about kids in high school in 1991, the year I would have graduated if I stayed in school. I felt like reading some YA lately, and I wanted some nostalgia for my younger years so I decided to give this a try and it really brought back my late teens. Wow. It was uncanny. I feel so sentimental reading it. There's not really a plot, but that doesn't bother me because this book has just about the most likable narrator I've ever read, as opposed to Gone Girl where the narrator is a total a-hole. This is just a sweet, lovely book about a depressed teen boy and his friends and it so perfectly captures this particular feeling I remember having in fleeting moments back then where it seemed that life was magical and horrible all at once and The Smiths were always playing. I really like this book. I may even see the movie.

Well, my luck ran out. The child is awake. Maybe I won't be so tired tonight. In the meantime, read the books I told you about. 
Friday, September 14, 2012

Burning off Karma

So this week I went back to yoga. It had been awhile. I am ashamed to admit that awhile means like a month and I dreaded going back because I knew it was going to be like starting from scratch again and my scratch is about a hair above where my 80 year old grandmother who just had knee surgery would be if she decided to do yoga. I am weak.

Fucking yoga, man. Can I just tell you. I hate all the skinny bitches in there who go every day and don't sweat and wear their massive diamond rings and full faces of makeup. None of them sweat or shake or strain and then I think they go home to their hot, rich husbands and they all sit around and eat leaves and have a squirt of lemon juice for dessert and then probably decide what cool thing to shop for next. Inevitably one of these women has a blog. I will not link to it, but I will tell you that we call her Lipo Girl and that her blog discusses a totally wacko child rearing philosophy in which she believes that holding your baby amounts to a bad habit. She was also in the paper for spending almost a million dollars to decorate her house.

Going to yoga makes me feel weirdly bad and good about myself at the same time. You see, I am a rabid perfectionist and this has never done me a single bit of good, yet I can't seem to shake it. Sometimes it goes into remission, but it always comes back. I have never been the worst person in a class. In college I was fiercely proud and had to get As on everything and win awards and while I was certainly not the best writer in any of my grad school classes, I could confidently proclaim myself not the worst and on really good days I could count myself as not the best, but among the best, at some things. And I could live with this.

Yoga? I'm fucking remedial. If yoga had a resource room for special ed students I would be in it. I am weak, uncoordinated, ungraceful, spazzed out and I think maybe I can't tell right from left. Yesterday the teacher had to correct me when I was putting my hands over my head and then she giggled. Which then made me giggle, because do you understand? I can't even put my hands over my head. It's that bad.
Yet I press on anyway because now I have something to prove and because I can't live with the shame of being the worst in the class.

Maybe yoga is teaching me humility. Maybe yoga is saying that for once, Victoria, you should actually try working hard on something you're naturally disinclined to do and maybe you should just sit with not being the best at something and be ok with that. Maybe you should stop comparing yourself to the skinny bitches and love your muffin top. Or not. I don't know. Partly I'm going to get rid of that muffin top.

Remember Psycho Heater Woman? The really, really skinny woman who looks like she's made out of twist ties who drags her mat close to the space heater and blasts herself? Well I hadn't seen her in a month and yesterday here she comes through the door carrying her OWN SPACE HEATER. It was a big one too and she was dragging that thing right through the door and I'm like WTF Psycho Heater Woman? What is this about? It's already a hundred degrees. It is hot enough. Stop the madness. Please for me, because I'm hot and complainy already.

PHW lugs this big old space heater over to her mat and fires it up and I notice that she is using her own heater not instead of but in addition to, the space heater of the studio that is already there. So she has two big heaters going now. One is in front of her mat at the head and the other is on the right side of it and I am like, we are totally screwed and I start thinking about all those people that died in that sweat lodge and how I am probably going to be on the news as the first person to die in yoga.

Here is where I make the mistake of mouthing to my sister as she's coming in that "Oh My God, did you see Psycho Heater Woman?? She is now bringing an extra heater. What the hell?" And then I see that in fact PHW is right behind me because I can never talk shit without getting busted. Rule of the Universe right there.

Then I start noticing a bunch of people migrating away from her end of the room and all the way down to the other end of the room and I feel at least a little validated that I'm not the only one who finds this insane.

So I struggle through class as best as I can and at one point I got my foot in the crook of my elbow and I was all "YES!! I AM STRONG!" but then the teacher came over and moved me, by which I mean yanked my leg out from under me and dislocated my right leg, actually pretty much sent my right leg flying across the room. It was near tragic. It hurt. Turns out the only reason that foot got into that elbow was because my hips weren't squared. With my hips squared I just can't even move at all. There were women literally twice my age in that class who were, at that moment, upside down, but I couldn't even sit up straight.

I began to feel very sorry for myself, which is not yogic at all. Yogis don't feel sorry for themselves.

Then it was the end of class. The best part. The part where you lie there with your eyes closed and the teacher had the audacity to play Cold Play's "Fix You."

Now let me take a brief detour. The other day in class when we were setting intentions and whatnot, I set my intention, which was to stop fighting. You know, just everything. To stop fighting everything because that's very symbolic of my life. I am a fighter and I don't stop fighting and up until now I thought that was a good thing, that I was determined and persevered and that I was tough and that the more I fought the less I'd be hurt. But the exact opposite is true. The more I fight, the more hurt I get and the more hurt I cause and then the more hurt I get and it's a vicious cycle. It's some impure motherfucking karma. And I'm working on it but that kind of karma has to be burned off through hard work and even sometimes physical pain. So the other day, not yesterday, I had a sort of vision of myself on fire and holding fires in my hands and I have been trying to make sense of it all week. I read in a book about burning away karma. Then yesterday's teacher mentioned it, so I think maybe I need to listen. I need to burn this shit up. The Universe is trying to send me a very obvious message. And yes, can I just acknowledge that I know I sound like some kind of New Age lunatic. I own my New Age lunacy. You know, anything that helps me convince myself I'm not exercising.

So anyway there I am having this spiritual breakthrough and "Fix You" comes on. I decided to interpret this as another "sign" and well, look, I've been going through a really hard time in my life lately and trying to fix someone and really just wishing someone would come and fix me and this song is very meaningful and emotional to me, so I was on the verge of having a total breakdown in class. I was about to be The Person Who Cries in Yoga and I very much don't want to be that person, but there I was on my back with my chest heaving and trying really hard not to cry and I was thinking that I could probably do a forearm stand more easily than I could keep from weeping.

Something skittered across my forehead and I nearly had a heart attack. Someone was touching me. I thought maybe it was the teacher, that she had noticed me trying not to cry or maybe I was not properly aligned in corpse pose, because if anyone can manage to not even be able to lie down properly that would be me. Maybe one of the people on either side of me was touching me, but my forehead? I snapped my eyes open in time to see an electrical cord trailing away from the side of my head. A cord? What the hell? And what was the cord attached to? A heater. The cord was attached to a very large space heater and the very large space heater was being carted off by none other than Psycho Heater Woman, who was leaving class a few minutes early.

Did she do it on purpose because she heard me making fun of her? Or did she just not notice the silly, dangling cord? Was it an accident? Of course not. There are no accidents. The Universe was sending me a message. As if the vision, the book and the teacher mentioning it weren't enough, the Universe wanted me to get knocked in the head by an actual heater. Burn your bullshit up, It was telling me, and let it go, like those beautiful paper lanterns whose fire lifts them up to the sky so they can vaporize. 

But there was another message. It was funny. Getting hit in the head with the space heater cord was freaking hilarious and it stopped me from wanting to cry instantly and made me want to laugh. Of course, I would get whacked in the head with the heater cord! I smiled. I was a smiling corpse. And this was the message: You will get through this. You are going to be ok.Your humor will get you through this and one day, you will look back on these days and laugh.

One day, when the things you most want are all the things you have.
Monday, September 10, 2012

Am I Over-reacting here?

This morning I was horrified to read this post which showed up in my newsfeed on facebook. It was written by my old neighbor from Atlanta. I've told you about him before. He's the Quiverfull Calvinist fanatic with the seven, or possibly eight, kids, the one who sent the Christmas letter with the fetus picture that his clearly autistic, yet undiagnosed or properly treated, son drew. He posted this on the wall of his former room mate, another old neighbor of mine, who is in engineering of some kind and works at Georgia Tech as far as I know.

Here is what he asked, word for word, copied and pasted:

"I want to draw on your engineering expertise for a problem I have. The kids aren't really minding Mommy very well and I think it may be because her spankings are too light. But this is just a theory. The only way I could really prove this is if I had some little sensor I could attached to the spanking spoon that would give me a read out, maybe of maximum g forces or something, for each spanking. That way I could establish uniform force standards for paddling naughty behinds. Is there anything like this in existence? There must be."

I absolutely shit you not. Someone actually wrote this and believes this and thinks this way. I am just beyond upset about it. Thinking about those poor children being beaten with a spoon in the name of righteousness for the Lord or whatever those kinds of people say, just makes me want to vomit. And their father is blaming their mother for not beating them hard enough and wants a sensor for consistency?? I'm appalled and disgusted. How about stop having so many kids? How about not overwhelming your poor, submissive wife who is trying to home school all of them (when she's barely educated herself) while she keeps popping out more and more every year? Maybe the kids don't mind her because she's tired and outnumbered and because your antiquated, medieval disciplinary style is proven to NOT WORK and not only does it not work, it damages children and scars them for life. Case in point right here. Me. And I only endured two years of that crap from my stepmother. Imagine a whole life of getting beaten and guilt tripped and shamed in the name of some terrifying God. I'm ill.

The response is even better. Here's what his friend wrote back:

" I know some students that are doing a project this semester putting instruments on a tennis racket to measure the forces of hitting the ball. Let me think on this."

Because the genius minds at Georgie Tech are best put to use coming up with methods to measure how hard you beat your children.

Am I over-reacting here? Should I call CPS? I'm hesitant because they do nothing, especially in Atlanta where this is probably mild compared to what they hear about there every day.
Friday, September 07, 2012

Texts With My Sister - Edition 1

I'm going to start a new thing on my blog called "Texts With My Sister" because we have some hilarious texts. Many of them are poop related for some reason.

Here's the first installment. This occurred last Friday when I was in the Philadelphia airport waiting for my flight home.

Me: Who gets diarrhea while alone in the airport with a baby?? ME!!

Sister (like ten minutes later): That text came through when I was at the Sprint store getting my phone fixed. So, some guy at Sprint knows you have the shits.

Of course.
Tuesday, September 04, 2012

The Wide Lawns Guide to Dealing With Your Pain in the Ass Family (or friends or coworkers or whomever)

I got home Friday (baby was great on the plane both ways) and on this trip I had a fair share of personal revelation, which is a good thing, and I realize that in the past year I've been undergoing a sort of metamorphosis. Where once I was a wooly bear caterpillar (you know, because they're cute) who cared what my family members thought and worried like hell and tried to please everyone all the time and was devastated when I didn't, I am now a butterfly who does not give a flying shit.

I've learned that ignorance is not bliss but apathy is.

And that's the secret to dealing with annoying family members, or really difficult people in any situation. You just have to stop caring.

I've got crazy coming at me from all sides and for the past thirty-seven years I've been fighting it and raging wildly against it and all that did was make me tired and depressed and defeated and I finally just got it. You can't fight it. In general, people don't change. They're not, for a variety of reasons, capable of giving you what you want, and you have to mourn that briefly, get over it and move on. People are disappointing and the most disappointing are usually those to whom you're related.

I view the family as a little microcosm of the world. You're thrown together with a bunch of people with very different personalities and ideas and you really have no choice in the matter and you have to live with them and figure out how to get along.

My problem was that I wanted to make a bunch of people, who were all very different, happy all the time and it wasn't possible. My other problem was that I wanted people to change and to see the err of their ways. I wanted them to understand how their behavior was harmful or unhealthy or how their lives would be better if they stopped doing something or started doing something else. I believed very firmly that they should be called out on their bad behavior and suffer consequences for it and that that would eventually cause them to stop, but sorry, it never worked. All I did was cause more fights and more strife by behaving that way and then I would cause myself vast amounts of suffering by then trying to analyze the situation and the person and their weird behavior. I was trying to make sense of crazy. The number one rule is this: You can't make sense of crazy. There is no logic to it. Reasoning doesn't apply. Don't waste your time. 

I finally came to understand that when dealing with difficult people you have only two choices. You can ignore them or you can leave. Period.

There is only one consequence for bad behavior and to some difficult jack asses, it may not even be a consequence. You have to distance yourself from them if you can't deal. Maybe they'll get the message that you're not coming around them because they repeatedly acted like an idiot, but chances are they won't. It may even make them angrier. Continue to ignore them. Continue to stay away. There is nothing else you can do.

People can only change themselves and nothing you do or say is ever going to make someone change. It's one of those annoying cliches, but change has to come from within.

So since you can't change other people, you have to change yourself. Stop worrying about everyone else and all the stupid things they're doing and focus on yourself.

Recently I've been working on doing the following things:

1. Not caring what people think or say about me.
2. Ignoring demanding or annoying family members.
3.Not caring what ridiculous unhealthy, toxic or just plain stupid things other people are doing.
4. Practicing being detached from drama infused situations and their outcomes.
5. Other people's behavior doesn't reflect on me.

This is all extremely hard but it's like exercise. The more you do it, the stronger you get and the healthier you'll be. It simply takes a tremendous and seemingly impossible amount of self control.

I used to care a lot about what people close to me thought about me. I didn't so much have this problem in any other situation, but with my family, their opinions really mattered to me. It was as if I derived my identity from what they said or thought about me, but I finally got it. What other people think or say about you isn't who you are and it may not even be accurate and it really has no genuine bearing on your life. Here's what I mean. For years certain family members have called me lazy and it has driven me insane and I've tried over and over to convince them that I'm not lazy, though nothing has ever changed their minds. I have no idea why they call me lazy or why they won't see me differently, but I gave up trying to understand and this is the conclusion I finally came to: I'm not lazy. I know I'm not lazy and who cares if I AM lazy? What if I actually were lazy? What if I did nothing but sit around and watch" Teen Mom" and eat Domino's Pizza right out of the box? So what? Another family member has alluded to the fact that I don't work and that I went to grad school and wasted a bunch of time and money and that I now leech off of my husband and it enraged me for a long while that someone said this, but who cares. It isn't true and just because someone says it doesn't make it true. They could just as well sit there and say "Victoria is a big, pink, elephant" but no amount of saying that would ever make me turn into a big, pink, elephant. So people can say whatever the hell they want about me. I have my truth. They have theirs. It doesn't matter what other people say about you.

Next, I've been working on ignoring the pains in the asses. Usually the best bet is to stay away from them, but it isn't always possible and when you're forced to be around difficult relatives the only thing you can do is ignore them. Who cares if they're morons and do dumb shit? Who cares if they try to create drama and make themselves the center of attention? Ignore it. When they bait you and say outrageous things and try to pick fights, or try to get you to gossip with them, stop them in their tracks. Don't feed into it. Be aloof, polite and breezy and go find something to do in the kitchen. Never let a single negative word exit your lips because if you do your difficult relatives will seize on it and use it as fuel to their fire and before you know it, you'll be sucked in.

I have some relatives who turn into monstrous idiots when anyone tries to make plans. I think, though I'm not sure, that they do this, that they become particularly difficult about making plans, because they want everything to revolve around them and because they want to exert control over the situation to feel powerful. Whatever. Best way to handle them? You say here's the plan. This is what I'm doing. Then you stay firm and don't change the plan. If they like the plan they can go along with it, if not, they won't and you have to let yourself be ok with that and go on and do whatever it is you planned to do. For instance: Hey difficult relative, we're going to Olive Garden at six. If you want to come, you're more than welcome. You don't like the Olive Garden (me neither)? You have to drive an extra five minutes to get there? Your new diet says you have to eat at seven instead? Sorry. We'll see you another time. The. End. Works beautifully.

For my whole life I've had a beautiful vision of how great my family members would all be if they were completely different and I mapped out all sorts of life plans for each of them and I'd try to give them advice. I did this from a place of genuine caring without realizing that I was meddling, condescending, insulting and intrusive. I didn't understand that I had become a different kind of annoying, pain in the ass relative myself. But now I do. I never changed anyone. I never made a difference in anyone's life. All I ever did was put people off and get on their nerves and make them feel badly about themselves, and chances are they already knew what I was telling them anyway. Nothing ever changed. I had to give up caring. So now I don't care whose house is cluttered. I don't give a shit what you dress your kids in or how much butter you slather on your food or how high your blood pressure is or if you drink 64 ounces of Mountain Dew per day. I don't care if you discipline your kids differently than I discipline mine. I don't care if you can't keep a god damned job to save your life or if you want to be a bartender instead of a teacher or if you live with and support your boyfriend who's ten years younger than you. I do not care what other people do. At. All. People are on their own paths in life. They have to learn their lessons their own ways and in their own time (or not at all) and I can't interfere even if I really do know what's best for them. The only exception is if someone is in danger and then you have a moral obligation to intervene as best you can.

I also used to get involved in family drama (see the situation with the cats) and I'd become very invested in things that truly didn't have much to do with me and get really upset about situations. I'm working on being detached from it all because who cares? What difference does any of it make? Getting involved only makes me miserable and I can't fix anything.

Another problem I always had was that I was embarrassed of certain family members and the ways they acted. I would feel shame as if somehow they reflected on me, but they really, really don't. People's behavior only reflects on them and if someone says otherwise, see rule number one again. I have this relative whose appearance actually offends me. I have no idea why. It may be my OCD, but I would truly obsess over how this person looked, which is certifiably crazy on my part. It really bothered me that this person looked this certain way and I would let it get to me but I had to let it go and I have. This person can look however the hell they want and it doesn't matter. Not one little teeny tiny bit. I have another relation who saw fit to wear wrinkled, smelly jeans and a tee shirt to a black tie wedding and I was all in an uproar over this. It really bothered me at the time but I was being so stupid. This fool doesn't represent the whole family. He or she only represents his or her self.

Other people's behavior doesn't reflect poorly on you. What matters, and what does reflect on you, is your reactions to others.

That's it. I've saved you years of therapy and thousands of dollars.

Ignore people's stupidity or leave. Worry about yourself and being the best you can be instead of trying to get others to change. They're most likely not going to and you have to learn to be ok with that if you want them in your life at all.

That's the end, but I'd also like to add that this applies to blogging as well and how bloggers deal with negative comments and trolls. A lot of the very famous bloggers address and engage the negativity way too much. I heard that Heather Armstrong is going to be on a panel at some blog convention somewhere about dealing with mean commenters and internet bullies or whatever you want to call them. I should be on that panel. It would be a short discussion.

Unless someone is actually stalking you or threatening you and your family, ignore it. It doesn't mean anything. Rule number one is especially pertinent on the internet. Just because someone says something about you doesn't make it true and Jesus Lord, who cares?

I hate when famous bloggers talk about their mean comments too much because it gets in the way of their writing and I guess I feel like they should have more class or more understanding of the situation. It's basically a numbers game. They get a lot of readers. They aren't going to be able to make everyone happy. In their large numbers of readers there are inevitably going to be a bunch of nut cases. That's pretty much all it is. I once said that no matter what you do (in reference to putting your creations on the Internet or out in public) a third of the people will love it, a third will be indifferent, a third will hate it and then a teeny fraction of the last third will be completely batshit and go off on it. It's not even personal. It's just the odds. So ignore it. Ignore it. Ignore it.

I'd also like to state that I am guilty of not always ignoring it myself. I got myself all in a state because someone called me a snob a couple weeks ago because I had PMS and you know what? It was stupid of me to have been upset about it and I should have ignored it, although the person did apologize. Apology accepted, by the way.

But I'm a work in progress. Like I said, this is hard. It works but it takes a lot of strength and I'll keep on trying.

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