Disclaimers

I have a really hard time dealing with people who are hot and cold, people who love me one day and are indifferent the next.  It triggers reactions that are intense, especially if I pretend I  am really OK with it for a while and it happens over and over.  Which I try not to do, but hey. Human.

Of course I also have equally intense positive reactions, which results in things like pulling off the road because I have to stop and watch the sunset right NOW and text everyone to go outside and look. I say “wow” a lot. I stop what I am doing and try to see beauty in things. 


So it is, like many things, both a blessing and a curse. 

One of my disclaimers would be:

 

Warning: expect extreme emotional responses.

 

I am living a far more open life than I ever have before. I say what I think and feel, and prefer that in others as well.  There is still an inherent introversion, and my first reaction is still to go quiet when I am experiencing some sort of intense emotion. How do you tell the difference between being quiet and happy and being quiet and angry? Well, you might see me smiling or scowling…but the easiest thing is just to ask me. I will talk about anything now. Even things that are hard to talk about. Sometimes I just don’t quite know how I feel, sometimes it can take me a while to sort things out in my head. I will tell you that, too.

Sometimes all I am thinking is “should I have popcorn for dinner?” Other times I am thinking if I should bring something up or let it go. These days, I seem to be opting more and more for bringing things up before they start to get to me, but first…silence.

This would definitely be one of my warning notices:

 

Beware of extended silences.



As I keep trying to make myself a better person, there is one thing I continue to struggle with. It is difficult for me to deal with stupidity. Not innocent ignorance, but willful ignorance.  Ignorance can be overcome with a willingness to learn. The sort of stupidity that gets to me is the sort that doesn’t even want to learn. My behavior on this has improved only slightly from the first grade when I told my teacher that I didn’t want to help a boy named Wayne with his work because he was stupid and mean. She made me do it anyway. He still tried to beat me up at recess. He was stupid and mean. Where I was wrong is not in my assessment of Wayne, but in my lack of empathy for why he was the way he was. It is still a character flaw I work on, but not as hard as I should. 

My biggest disclaimer would be:
Warning: does not play well with stupid people.
If people came with warning labels, what would yours say?



What’s your job?

Yo, what a freak

I’m a tree

(No you’re not)

I’m a tree

(Stop lying)

–Imani Coppola/I’m A Tree

Driving home from work, stuck in traffic, I noticed three trees at the side of the freeway. All the same type. One was sort of squat–stubby and scarred. One was tall and robust–the only one that really seemed to be flourishing. The other was thin and scraggly. 

It made me wonder, the way things always do, if  trees notice differences between themselves. 

Does the spruce envy the weeping willow its pliable branches and soft leaves?

Does the willow envy the noble fir for being so tidy and green all year?

Does the fir envy the cherry for its flowers and fruit?

Does the cherry have a superior attitude because it doesn’t have scratchy needles like a pine tree?

Not likely. Given the lack of brains, trees probably aren’t big on labels. Classifying isn’t something they get called on to do in life like animals do. They reach for the sun as best as they can with their branches, and send their roots down for as much nourishment as they can find. 

Trees know their job and they do it. No worry. Probably no pleasure, either. 

Humans love to compare and label. We classify. We sort. 

We wish we were taller. Shorter. Thinner. Darker. Straighter. Slimmer. Better. Worse. We’re happy when we’re doing better than other humans. We’re sad or anxious when we feel like we’re not doing as well. 
We don’t spend a lot of time just being. 

It’s the thing that makes us build things, but also the thing that leads to excess. Avarice and war. Caring and compassion. Because we are so successful at adapting, the only thing that keeps us in check is…us. 

Mostly, we run rampant. At some level, I think most of us know that. We feel a need to rationalize it by claiming a higher purpose, or a better spot in the evolutionary chain. 
Ultimately, the Earth will win. 

The trees won’t care either way. 

I made it myself

We’re all broke down
We’re all well hid
We’re all just kids
Despite our age
–Nathaniel Rateliff/Nothing To Show For

Accepting a compliment can be tricky.

Somehow, I can take a compliment about something like my looks. Thank you suffices. I am not particularly graceful about it, but I manage. Compliments about my work are pretty normal.

When it comes to accepting a compliment about something I am responsible for, something I have created, it is a different thing entirely. Why is that?

If someone says “I loved your blog post yesterday” or “I love the hat you’re wearing, did you knit it?” it puts me right back into elementary school. That inflated sense of pride you get when you show your mom you made something all by yourself. Like a big girl.

It simultaneously makes a compliment more and less important than it really is.

The response is still “thank you,” but it feels weird somehow. It’s like I’m showing ¬†someone a macaroni necklace instead of a cashmere shawl. A god’s eye made of acrylic yarn instead of a silver ring.

When you create something, you want any compliments received to be genuine. The opposite of the ones you might get for that stunning picture of your family you drew in the third grade. You don’t want that Mom-proud “that’s really nice, honey.”

So how do you shift out of that headspace?

Practice?

I can fake the thank you and force myself not to add a disclaimer, but my initial gut reaction is always to criticize my creations. Children in third world sweatshops know how to knit, after all. I point out all the spots where something is imperfect. Where I didn’t find a good word. I want to be sure everyone understands that it’s all macaroni necklaces and finger painting.

Yes, I can admit I am creative, but I don’t want anyone to think I think I am any good at any of it.

Which just sounds like a plea for more compliments, right?

I’ll keep practicing.