One of the recurring themes in this blog is gratitude. I write about this topic so often because I genuinely believe that attitude is everything. I think that even in our darkest hours, there are things to appreciate if you look hard enough. Even bitter lessons are worthy of gratitude because they help you grow and survive.
There is so much in this world that we take for granted. Sometimes it’s worth stopping and taking a breath and appreciating the sun on your face and the wind in the trees. It’s such a gift to be alive and able to think and reason and exercise free will and create beauty and give and receive love.
I think the unhappiest people are those who focus on the negative in their lives. They may be unhappy because of their negative focus, or negative experiences may have made them unhappy, but either way, until that cycle is broken, nothing will change. It makes me sad to see people trapped in that way.
I’m not saying we should all wander around like Stepford Wives. And yes, bad things happen to us all. It’s just that the way you frame things matters. It takes practice. Some days will be a lot harder than others. But there’s good out there, if you only look.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and it’s fast approaching. I wish we didn’t need a holiday to remember to give thanks. I think gratitude should be part of our daily lives.
I feel so strongly about this topic that I published an anthology of my essays on gratitude. It’s called A Bridgetender’s View: Notes on Gratitude. I’m really proud of it. I think it would make a great Thanksgiving gift, or, for that matter, a gift any time of the year for a loved one who could use a little positivity. And can’t we all use some of that? Think about it.
As always, I’m grateful that you take the time to read my blog. As a little bonus, below is one of the short and to the point essays that you can find in the book. This one was originally posted on this blog on November 29, 2015.
Ever since I moved to Seattle, I’ve sort of felt as if my heart has come to reside outside of my rib cage. Vulnerable. Exposed. Sensitive. It’s kind of a crazy feeling. I need to develop a thicker skin.
I’ve just been through so much in the past couple years. I’ve given up so much, sacrificed so much. I’ve taken some insane risks, some of which have paid off, and some of which have blown up in my face.
But on a positive note, this has caused me to appreciate all the good in life so much more deeply. When I think of my friends and loved ones, near and far and old and new, I often well up with tears of joy. A good sunrise can take my breath away. I can be walking down the street and suddenly it hits me how lucky I am to be where I am, and I have to stop dead in my tracks for a second and gather myself.
In essence, I’ve become a sentimental old fool. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I hadn’t thought of this in years. When I was young, I had what I called a security blanket. It was flannel. Cozy. I couldn’t sleep without it.
I kept it to an embarrassingly old age. Into my early teens. I also watched Mr. Rogers Neighborhood to an embarrassingly old age. Comfort and security was hard to come by in my household. In fact, the inmates were pretty much running the asylum. So I clung to my security blanket until it was a ripped up rag.
Then one day my mother threw it out. And I fished it right back out of the trash. I’ve always thought it was extremely arrogant and insensitive of parents to rip comfort objects out of the arms of a child. The world is harsh enough as it is without that foolishness. Rest assured that most children will learn that the world is cruel soon enough without you providing a demonstration.
I never really got rid of that blanket. It just sort of disintegrated one day. By then I had outgrown it anyway. I was just clinging to it to prove that there was something in this life over which I had control. Ah, well. So ends a delusion.
Now, after 13 years of working graveyard shifts, I’ve gotten in the habit of having something covering my eyes when I sleep. I still do this even though I now have the luxury of sleeping in the darkness again, and have done so for many years. I was positioning that cover just so last night when I thought of that security blanket.
Perhaps I never really gave it up after all. I just replaced it with something else.
If, like me, you are an introvert, welcome to the American minority. As such, you probably can relate to being treated as if you are strange or broken. You’re considered antisocial. You are expected to explain yourself. You don’t fit in.
You have probably been accused of being depressed, even when that isn’t necessarily so. Introversion does not always equate to unhappiness. The phrase “social anxiety” gets bandied about by your critics. It’s not an anxiety so much as a preference. You are often misunderstood.
Believe me, I get it. I am so sick of being treated like I’m somehow less than, simply by dint of my position on the Introversion/Extroversion bell curve. I genuinely believe that we all have our place, and every place has value.
Introversion simply means that people suck energy from you, as opposed to energizing you. But why is that description couched in that way? Why does no one say that extroverts need energy from outside themselves, while introverts are much more self-sufficient? Why does no one say that introverts thrive in the quiet beauty of isolation? Why are we not praised for our focus and depth?
And no two people are alike. I wish that were more understood. Just as with gender, it’s about time we figured out that this is not a binary situation. For example, I personally don’t dislike people, even though introverts are often accused of hating mankind in general. I just prefer interacting with small groups that I know well, as opposed to large crowds of strangers. I don’t consider myself to be shy. I have no trouble speaking up or asking questions. I just don’t feel the need to constantly put myself out there. I enjoy observing more than interacting.
And I love time alone, which means my job as a bridgetender is perfect for me. Extroverts don’t last in this job. They just can’t handle it. There really are places for us “quiet types”. They’re just sometimes a bit harder to find.
As a child I was constantly berated because I wasn’t making enough friends. I have friends. But I go for quality, not quantity. I don’t see anything wrong with that. I think it’s cruel to make an introverted child feel as though there’s some score card that is not up to snuff, simply because that child has a richer inner life, and that’s hard for you to see. We don’t need to be fixed. We are fine just the way we are.
There is no shame in thinking of alone time as a gift. It’s not rejection. It’s not a mental illness. You are still capable of love, loyalty, and friendship. And so much more.
I think that the only time we introverts feel free and well-adjusted is when we stop caring what other people think. Unfortunately, those other people are still out there, thinking, and loudly shaping society. The world would be a much nicer place if people learned to listen to the quieter voices as well. We, too, have our stories.
Recently, on a cruise in Alaska, I had my very first massage. At age 54. There are several reasons for this.
First and foremost, of course, is the expense. Massages are not for poor people, who usually need them the most. It’s hard to budget for this type of luxury when you are struggling to keep a roof over your head. It is only very recently that I’ve stopped counting myself amongst that number, and even now, it’s hard to get out of the habit of avoiding unnecessary expenses.
Second is the fact that I really don’t like being touched by strangers. It takes me a while to feel comfortable with that level of intimacy. Sure, once you’ve broken down that barrier, I’m all about the affection. I just couldn’t imagine having someone’s hands all over me, invading my personal space, five seconds after meeting, you know?
Third, as I described at length in my post Cruise Ship Feudalism, I don’t do well with the whole class division thing. The thought of someone laboring over me in order to make a living kind of makes me squirm. I hate being catered to. I hate being served.
Fourth is that I’ve always struggled with the concept of being pampered. I was not brought up to believe I deserved such treatment. And I’m not a girly girl. I’ve never been to a spa. I’ve never had a facial or a manicure or a pedicure. I don’t use lotions or creams or gels. I come from a background that’s all about pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps and getting on with the business of living. My idea of luxury is a hot bath in a nice deep tub, followed by an afternoon nap. Now, that, I’d do 4 times a week if given the chance. I’m worthy of that, I feel, because it’s free, and it doesn’t involve strangers or servitude.
So you can imagine how much extra tension I was carrying when I went for this massage, which, by the way, I did not book myself. I didn’t know how to act or what to think. I couldn’t look the massage therapist in the eye. My first impression of her was that she was very tiny and that English wasn’t her first language. I thought that she must be lonely so far from home, and her little hands must ache at the end of the day. But that was probably me projecting my unease upon her.
In the end, she was very courteous, dignified and professional. She certainly knew what she was doing. And she used a salt scrub and hot rocks, too. When she finished working on one leg, I could do a physical comparison of the other leg, and I was absolutely shocked at the difference. I had no idea how much my stress manifests itself in physical form. Maybe I do need this. Maybe I deserve it.
In the end, I felt like I had no skeletal system at all. I was just relaxed mush. It was heavenly. They could have taken me out of there in a plastic bucket. My brain was mush, too. I was grateful that the tip is included in the fee, because at that point I wouldn’t have been able to work out what to add on.
So, yeah, that first massage won’t be my last. Maybe. Probably. We’ll see.
In keeping with my distressing habit of doing the doggy-paddle several years behind any and all pop culture waves, I present you with my latest discovery: the comedy special Nanette, by Hannah Gadsby. It’s from 2017. You’ll find it on Netflix, because they released it in 2018.
In my own defense, it only just received a Creative Arts Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special last month. That’s how I managed to hear any buzz at all about it. And I’m so grateful that I did. I have this interview on PRI’s Studio 360 to thank for that.
Before this, I’d never heard of the Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby. Having seen Nanette, I feel as though calling her a comedian is a bit too simplistic. And if all you’re looking for is a few easy laughs, you might want to look elsewhere.
No. This show makes you think. It makes you laugh. It makes you squirm. It makes you cry. It makes you see the world differently. It has substance and value. If you see no other show, see this one.
The special starts off funny enough. She’s hilarious, actually. And this humor is her way of introducing herself to you. So you’ll listen. So you’ll take note.
But about half way through, the show takes a rather intense turn. It becomes a confession about who she is and how she feels about herself, and why we all should realize how important that is. And then it turns into an education. It demonstrates exactly what it’s like to be inside her skin.
So I leave you with a few quickly written quotes that I jotted down while watching the show for the second time. Out of context, entirely. You should watch the show. But these things should make you blink, at the very least.
This first one made me cheer, because I relate to it so much.
“All my life I’ve been told, ‘Don’t be so sensitive!’ Why is insensitivity something to strive for?”
“You learn from the part of the story you focus on.”
She states that Pablo Picasso had an affair with a 17 year old girl, and suffered from the mental illness of misogyny. And that misogyny should be considered a mental illness because you hate the thing you desire. She also said that Pablo Picasso said, “Each time I leave a woman I should burn her. Destroy the woman and you destroy the past she represents.”
She then goes on a very fascinating rant about art history, and all the unnecessary nude paintings of women, and said that high art turns women into “flesh vases for your dick flowers.” (Harsh, I know. You have to see the special to really get it. But once you do, you can’t forget it.)
She also says, “If I am the only woman in the room, I’m afraid,” and went on to say if you don’t understand that, you aren’t talking to the women in your life. Amen, sister.
But by far the best quote of all from this show is “There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself.”
What a fantastic show. What a profound show. Watch it, then tell me what you think.
Dear reader, take heart. All is not lost. There is still kindness and decency in this world. Despite all our divisiveness and infighting and moral decay, the milk of human kindness still flows. The story below is a true one. The good deed was done by a friend of my husband’s, who gave me permission to share it with you, as long as he remained anonymous. The picture is not of the actual dog in question.
It’s important to share the good news, to remind us that now is not the time to abandon all hope. Love still wins. It’s still here.
For all of you out there who spread goodness in ways big and small, thank you.
I bought a dog today. I was taking the feral kitten we caught to the shelter today and there was an old man there trying to pick up his dog. He explained that he had been in the hospital and that his dog was there. He wanted to take it home. They explained to him that it had been there for a while and it was up for adoption. He said he just wanted to take him home. She said he would have to pay the adoption fee and expenses. She told him the cost and he said he couldn’t afford it. I bought a dog today.