Meeting Me Where I Live

For most of my life, I’ve felt like an oddball. An outsider. A square peg in a round hole.

Perhaps that’s because I was uprooted from New England at age 10, and plopped smack dab in the middle of the rural south. In a tent. Or maybe it was because I was liberal in a red state for 40 years. I was also a girl who never wore make up, and preferred tonka trucks to dolls. Like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, I just didn’t fit in.

Because of this, on the rare occasion when I encounter someone who gets me, I’m so relieved that I feel like weeping. It is only in moments like those that I realize what a heavy burden it is to be different. It’s exhausting, always having to explain oneself or justify one’s actions. And then there’s the constant second guessing. “Nobody else has this opinion. Does that mean I’m wrong?”

When someone meets me where I live, deep in the heart of me, I know I’m home. And it’s so nice to have someone right there, in my home. It makes me realize how lonely I am the rest of the time.

If you find someone who truly understands you, dear reader, cherish that person. It’s a miraculous thing when two unicorns meet. Rainbows have been known to happen.

purple-unicorns

Like the way my weird mind works? Then you’ll enjoy my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

 

Culture Shock

When people travel to other countries, they often speak of culture shock. I’ve experienced this myself on many occasions. But I think culture shock, in general, has an unwarranted bad reputation.

Many people think that culture shock is something to be avoided. They use it as an excuse to remain in their comfort zones and not explore the wider world. Culture shock may be a bit uncomfortable, but I believe that just as a defibrillator can get your heart beating again, a culture shock can get your brain working and nourish your very soul.

Whenever I experience culture shock, I learn something about myself and the society in which I live. It makes me realize that there are certain things that I take for granted that other people do not. It makes me look at myself differently. It makes me appreciate what I have. It makes me wonder about the things that I lack. It causes me to think about the fact that there are many different ways to live, and my way may not necessarily be the best way.

Culture shock can be something very simple, such as going into a McDonalds in the Netherlands and discovering that they ask if you’d like mayonnaise with your fries rather than ketchup. (To this day, I prefer mayonnaise. I cannot remember the last time I put ketchup on anything.)

Or it can be something huge, such as not being allowed to rent a car in Turkey until I could show the agency that I could actually drive it around the block. (I then realized that I was seeing very few women behind the wheel there. It made me really appreciate my feminist freedoms.)

It can be rather jolting, such as going from Mexico, where I was the tallest person in any room, and where their extremely close concept of personal space made me uncomfortable, and then going to the Netherlands, where I was the shortest person in any room, and where their extremely distant concept of personal space made me uncomfortable.

I always thought I was a nice person until I went to Canada, where everyone is really, really, really nice. I always feel 1,000 times fatter when I go to Europe. In Croatia, I realized that I really should take the time to relax more. Spain made me appreciate a good nap. The Bahamas made me truly get how terrifying the thought of sea level rise can be. Turkey reminded me that all of civilization is built upon past history. Hungary taught me that some past history can be rather terrifying.

I have never, ever traveled to another country without learning a great deal about myself and my place in the wider world. I genuinely believe that if more Americans traveled, they’d be a lot more open minded. This trend toward rigid, “America first” inflexibility is scary and extremely detrimental.

It breaks my heart that because of COVID-19, we’re all forced to stay closer to home. I suspect I won’t leave the country again until a vaccine is developed, and that’s frustrating because the older I get, the more I realize how little time I have left. I need the occasional culture shock to appreciate being alive.

Dear reader, my wish for you is that, in healthier times, you get a chance to be shocked by the wider world.

7599525696_ab84d9a6fa_b

Enjoy my random musings? Then you’ll love my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

 

Birds of an Entirely Different Feather

When my niece and nephew were teenagers, their public high school did not allow kids to dye their hair different colors. This always struck me as absurd. How was it hurting anybody? That, and kids that age are seeking self-expression, so they can learn who they are. Take away healthy outlets for that instinct, and it may just come out in other, less desirable ways.

I have always been drawn to the unique. I am fascinated by people who march to the beat of a different drummer. And I have nothing but admiration for those who are different through no choice of their own, and yet still manage to cope, and even thrive, in a world where so many of us try so hard not to stand out. (I even blogged about a solid black penguin at one point.)

Recently, I heard a few other stories from the natural world that fascinated me.

The first was about a snake with three perfectly functional eyes discovered in Australia. The third eye was at the top of its head. I wonder what sight must have been like for this creature. I mean, we have depth perception because we have two eyes. What did it have?

And then, I was listening to Bird Note on NPR on my Friday morning commute, as I do every week, and I learned about leucism (Pronounced LUKE-ism.) Unlike Albinism, which results in a problem producing melanin, which causes white hair, fur, or feathers, and quite often pink skin and eyes, Leucism is a condition that prevents pigments from reaching some parts of the fur or feathers, but the eyes, lips, and beaks remain standard. Some animals with leucism have only patchy white spots. In others it is more evenly distributed, but quite often a washed out version of their coloring pattern will remain.

Bird Note, naturally, only discussed leucism in birds, but upon further reading, I’ve come to learn that it occurs in all sorts of other animals as well. Giraffes. Snakes, Squirrels. Buffalo. Fish. Lions and tigers and bears. (Oh, my!)

I think the reason I’m drawn to these special traits is that, while I look like your average person, I’ve spent my whole life feeling as though I was the odd person out. The fact that you can be odd and still live your life is encouraging to me.

Like this quirky little blog? Then You’ll love my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Just the Right Amount of Strange

Have you ever met someone and clicked with them instantly because they’re the same kind of weird that you are? Isn’t it great? It’s such a relief to feel understood and accepted.

Recently someone pointed out to me that there’s really no such thing as normal. Good point. I’ve never known anyone who hasn’t felt at least a little bit “out there”.

Personally, I’d find it rather creepy if we were all alike. The implication would be that we had no free will or independent thought. I can think of no better definition of hell.

That’s why I’m instantly repulsed by people who tell me that the only way to get to heaven is by subscribing to a specific creed. That sure doesn’t sound like heaven to me. I don’t want to agree with everyone all the time. I don’t want to check my brains and my personality at the door. I would die of boredom. You keep your Stepford Wife Heaven to yourself. I’ll have no part of it.

I like to let my freak flag fly, and enjoy having it fly with plenty of crazy company!

crazy_people_640_35

Like the way my weird mind works? Then you’ll enjoy my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Even Weeds Belong Somewhere

My whole life, I’ve felt as though I didn’t quite fit in. So much so, that at some point I gave up trying. In fact, these days I seem to have gone to the other end of the bell curve entirely. I kind of delight in being out in left field most of the time.

Except when I’m feeling vulnerable. When I’m tired, I feel much more insecure. When I’m improperly dressed at a party, and have no idea which fork to use, I’m not going to lie–that kind of sucks.

But it isn’t anyone else telling me that I don’t fit in. It’s entirely me. And it’s based on some pretty arbitrary social rules. It always makes me think of weeds. I’m a weed.

During my young adult life, I lived in a town called Apopka, which called itself the “Indoor Foliage Capital of the World.” (I wonder if they still do? It’s been many decades since I’ve been back.) Back then, you couldn’t throw a rock in that town without shattering a greenhouse window. It made me look at plants in an entirely new way.

It amazed me how much people were willing to pay for stuff that you can find growing entirely wild somewhere or other. People do love the exotic, but even exotic things have to be commonplace in some location, or they wouldn’t exist.

So, a weed is simply something that doesn’t fit in. It’s not where it’s supposed to be. Worse case scenario, it’s invasive. But that’s not the weed’s fault. It never asked to be uprooted. There it was, minding its own business in its natural habitat, when some fool decided to send it half way across the world without considering the consequences. And then the name calling begins. (Damned weed. Get out of my yard! We don’t want you here!)

So it’s all about perspective and location. We all have our place. It’s just a matter of finding it. So maybe as you walk along the path of your life, try being a little less judge-y of the other living things that you encounter who are feeling out of place. They, too, have their journey. Just sayin’.

Weeds.jpg

Read any good books lately? Try mine! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Why Is This One Different?

I have been hearing a lot of people saying that those of us who didn’t vote for Trump need to “get over it,” “quit our whining,” and “move on”. It’s not the first time my person didn’t win. I mean, I’ve lived through Reagan and both of the Bushes, after all. And I did, in fact, get over it. But this one is very different.

Why is it different? Even I couldn’t answer that for quite some time. I just knew I felt and still feel sick. I feel defeated and depressed and discounted and demoralized. I feel scared and in shock. That was not how I felt after past defeats. At least not to this extent. But I couldn’t put it into words, and that goes against my very nature.

Then I read this article by Phil Shailer in the Sun Sentinel. I strongly encourage you to read it. It’s extremely short and it’s very much to the point.

In a nutshell, this isn’t sour grapes because Trump is about to be president. It isn’t about me rooting for the losing team. No. It’s about what your support of him says about those of you who voted for him, and about us as a nation.

You may not be a racist, but you just supported one. You may not grab pussies, but you just gave the keys to the kingdom to someone who condones that and thinks it’s funny. You gave the go ahead to someone who wants to destroy the lives of immigrants when you yourself are most likely descended from immigrants. You are shouting yes to someone who is striking fear in the hearts of your neighbors, both foreign and domestic, and you just took away our access to health care and free speech and a safe environment.

By voting for him you are telling our children that it’s okay to be a bully, it’s okay to make fun of the disabled, it’s okay to judge women by their weight, it’s okay to encourage violence. By voting for him you give all of his behavior a stamp of approval. And that’s an ugly thing to see.

The truth is, this country is the same as it was a few months ago. It’s just that now the tumors that used to be hidden deep inside are all on the surface, and that’s making it a lot harder to see its beauty. So you’ll just have to forgive me if I feel the need to mourn, and no, I quite likely won’t get over it.

get-over-it

Despite this rant, I still believe there are things to be grateful for. Claim your copy of my book about gratitude. http://amzn.to/2cCHgUu

Heterodoxy

According to Wikipedia,

Heterodoxy in a religious sense means “any opinions or doctrines at variance with an official or orthodox position”. Under this definition, heterodoxy is similar to unorthodoxy, while the adjective “heterodox” could be applied to a dissident.

This word has been around since at least the 1650’s. How have I managed to live my life without knowing it? I love this word. I live it. I should tattoo this on my behind.

I have never felt comfortable walking in lock step with the rest of the crowd. When someone tries to force me into that mindless parade, my first instinct is to think, “But… what if we should be looking at things from a different angle?”

I’m a questioner. I always have been. I like thinking outside the box because the box always makes me nervous. I’m not just talking about religion. I’m talking about life in general.

This is how bad I am. When I’m surrounded by outrageously unique people, my instinct is to get all conservative. I just can’t be the same, even if “the same”, in this case, is different.

This means I’ve pretty much gone through life feeling kind of weird. It also means that I’m quite often misunderstood. It isn’t easy being me. But I don’t know how else to be.

But here all this time I’ve been a heterodox and I didn’t even know it! Uh oh. Now I want to get all orthodox…

robertfrost101324
This is one of my favorite poems for a reason.

A New Point of View

Every once in a while it’s fun to shake things up. Sticking to a routine may feel quite comfortable, but it isn’t particularly exciting. So recently I volunteered to trade bridges with a coworker, just for a day. I got to work at Fremont Bridge here in Seattle.

It’s been well over a year since I set foot on this bridge. I actually had to stare at the operating console for a while and read the instructions to familiarize myself with the operation. No two drawbridges are quite the same. Each one has its quirks and blind spots and operating weaknesses, and the various nobs and switches and buttons are in different locations.

When I had my first opening of the day, I felt like a baby deer just learning to walk. But I did it! It’s been quite some time since I’ve felt such accomplishment just by doing my job.

It’s also given me a fresh perspective on this blog. As eclectic as it is, the overarching theme is that I get to examine the same view day after day, in minute detail. It allows me plenty of time to think about things and share those thoughts with you.

So all of a sudden, having a different view is a bit unsettling. Will I be able to write? Will I be too distracted? Too nervous?

It does sort of feel as if I’m using a whole new set of synapses. I feel both revitalized and a little befuddled. I didn’t realize how often I let myself go into “automatic pilot”. I can’t do that here. Nothing on this bridge is automatic for me. I miss my comfort zone, but at the same time this feels good for me. I think I’m going to have to make a mental note to do this every few months. Variety is, after all, the spice of life!

My view for today!

It’s Not Easy Being Green

The first time I heard Kermit the Frog sing that song when I was a little girl, it made me cry. And I have to admit it still chokes me up to this day. That’s because I’ve felt green my whole life.

In this case, “green” means different from everybody else, and yet somehow not particularly special. I feel green when I hear coworkers getting all enthusiastic because we’ve got a new hire and “she’s gorgeous” (as in, “what a refreshing change.”) I feel green when my intellectual friends start speaking computer-ese, and I suddenly feel as though I should be chewing bubble gum. I feel green when I share my unique perspective and am met with blank stares.

In America, we claim to prize individuality, but most people seem to want to be popular and accepted and understood. “Cool” seems to mean trendy, but it has to be trendy enough to where everyone wants to follow that trend. You’re expected to stand out in a crowd, but only as a leader of that crowd, not as someone who is on the sidelines, alone.

Boy, Kermit wasn’t kidding. It’s not easy. Not even a little bit. Sometimes it hurts like hell.

But because I’d start blubbering the minute he started to sing, I seem to have missed the point of the whole song. If you listen to it all the way through, you realize that what Kermit is trying to say is that, yes, it’s not easy. But it’s important. We all have a role to play. We all matter. We need to accept ourselves and love ourselves for who we are. Because, after all, green is a fundamental part of the color spectrum. This world would be a lot more ugly without green.

jim-henson-kermit

Thanks, Jim Henson, for being green.

Let Your Freak Flag Fly!

I like to wear crazy, colorful socks. That way if I find that I’m taking myself too seriously, I can always look down at my feet and regain a sense of emotional balance.

I have always been drawn to people who are different. Whether it’s pink hair, or strange clothes, or simply thinking outside the box, I always have admired the weirdos, the three-legged dogs.

People who spend their whole lives floating comfortably down the main stream have no idea how much energy it takes to swim against the current. There’s a lot of pressure to comply with the majority. Much better to close your eyes, keep your head down, and go with the flow, rather than make waves.

We learn this in school. Stand out too much and you’ll be laughed at, ridiculed and stuffed into the nearest locker. It’s much better to be a cheerleader or a football player, so you are never in doubt as to your uniform, or your role in the grand hierarchy. Conform, conform, conform!

But without the occasional oddball, what a boring place this world would be! There would be no color, no variety, no art, no creativity, no invention, no debate.

The eccentrics of this world mean you no harm. They simply show you that there are alternatives, potential, and possibilities. So thank your local free spirit for providing a useful service in this world. Let him or her bask in the rare waters of appreciation, if only for a brief, shining moment.

RussellBrandRussell Brand, one of my favorite non-conformists.