Heart of Gold

He said humbly, “I’m sure jealousy had a bit to do with my attitude tonight…”

What fourteen-year-old thinks this way?

Okay, first, I have to get this out of the way before I have a whole battalion of Grammar Police knocking at my wee little Blog-dom door front: in a “perfect world”, he should have said ‘envy’ and not ‘jealousy’ – as there is a striking difference in the two terms, one being a fear of losing one’s position or situation to someone else, especially in an intimate relationship whereas the other implies the feeling of wanting what someone else has – and I understood what he meant, which was the important part! So, now, moving on…

What fourteen-year-old has the wherewithal and groundedness, the sheer levelheadedness, to understand and realize his behavior and motivation came not from anger, or sadness, or any other random combination of fatigue and cold pizza indigestion, but in fact from envy? He wasn’t rude about it – to his friends, or to me; he just stated it plainly, and quite humbly. This wasn’t the first time he’d mentioned this growing trend within his close-knit group of friends; however, I could hear – nay, I could feel – the heaviness of his heart as he spoke solemnly during the brief drive home.

First, there was the Homecoming Dance itself. He looked very sharp! (I know, as ‘mom’, my opinion is quite biased; however, he DID look very handsome!) Towering at nearly 6-foot-tall, decked out in slim-fitting dark grey slacks, a crisp white shirt with French cuffs, a black suede vest with antiqued silver pocket watch, and a black neck tie with gold, silver and bronze accents, not to mention bleached blonde shoulder-length tresses and a genuinely sincere smile, it was hard to say he was anything BUT eye-catching! As fate would have it, though, he was ‘the seventh wheel’, and “melancholy” was the overarching mood of the evening… Apparently his three buddies paired off with the three accompanying young ladies (two couples were already well-established, and one couple just decided to start their dating relationship days prior to the dance), supplanting my son along the dance’s outer perimeter, solo, as they meandered in differing directions. Oh yes, the proverbial “Wall Flower”; that was my boy… (In my not-so-subtle and humorous way, I reminded him that he was a tall, bright, beautiful sunflower and not just some measly lil’ garden variety wall flower – I’m not sure that it helped overall, but he did smile for a brief moment…)

The following weekend, after a friend’s birthday party, on the drive home, he mentioned to me, “You know Mom, I’m the only one of my friends that’s not part of a couple… I’m the only one that doesn’t have a girlfriend or boyfriend…”

::sigh::

“…distractions…” was all I could think to tell him… “All they are right now, honey, are distractions…”

“I know, Mom; but, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be distracted from time to time…”

                    Gaw! Who raised this kid?! He’s too smart for his own good!

          And what hurts me the most?? I know his pain! I long for the same “distraction”… I long for the feeling of knowing that someone, somewhere is distracted, thinking of me… I long for that companionship that’s been missing in my life for so many years…

          How could I tell him honestly that it’s wrong to not yearn for that type of friendship, companionship, when my heart cries out for it too?

I just drew in a slow, deep breath, smiled a mom’s loving smile and told him: “Honey, the day’s going to come when these girls are going to figure out how wonderful you truly are, and good laurdy, you’re gonna have to beat them away with a stick! They’ll be lined up around the block! I kid you not, Hon! You have a heart of GOLD, and I’ve been sayin’ that for YEARS! Being in a relationship for the sake of being in a relationship isn’t good – and you know that! It’ll lead to hurt feelings and bitterness – for both of you! Better that the two of you find each other and the relationship be built on a solid foundation. Give it time, honey! Don’t “settle”. Don’t try to be like everyone else – you’re not everyone else! Just be you and it’ll happen when it’s supposed to happen – remember: it’s all in the details; details matter! I have faith it won’t be long! You’re quite a catch, and I KNOW your heart is true!”

I know he heard some of it, and some of it he chalked up to “mom-talk”. But I’ve never wavered from telling him that’s he’s got a good, true heart, and that “details matter!” He knows that…

This past weekend, after trying to endure an evening watching some friends, umm, “over display” their affection for one another while at a group event, his admission of being envious showed his maturity – he wasn’t angry with them, or bitter; he knew he was envious. But, at the same time, he was able to poke fun at the situation (suggesting that next time, he arm himself with a spray bottle and use it as one would when training cats to stay off the counter tops, or to trigger a “cooling down” session between the two ‘lovebirds’ while in public), and carry on with life.

I hope he gets the opportunity to show his genuine kindness, respect, humor, and wittiness in the days, weeks, and months to come. He’s somewhat introverted, which makes finding “love” difficult; however, stranger things have happened! Besides, he’s still young, still very handsome, and still completely loved by his mom!

(…as for his mom’s chances of finding love – good laurdy!)

am i merely beige?

Have you ever felt like you’ve been given a 120-count box of crayons and a beautiful coloring book full of intricate, scenic pictures, and for some reason you haphazardly yet thoroughly scribble over each and every page with the same beige stick of wax?

I thought I entertained a talent. I thought I possessed a gift. But lately, all I notice is a hole in my heart – a dark space, a void, where once there was a spark. It became a passion – a drive – early in my life. Some may even equate it to a drug; it offered a way for me to experience a high. The rush of adrenaline and the euphoria of tactile “creation” were unmatched. It ushered me into another realm from which I could escape whatever sinister chiasms of reality threatened to devour my spirit. I became quite dependent on the tantalizing notion of being able to bend reality to suit my mood. However, the unwavering tick of the clock proved not as forgiving, and I had to slink away, nary a moment to sip from the pool of cathartic verbiage to poetize.

Desperate for tangible evidences of creativity, I found less potent “soul-narcotics”, and began spinning yarns (literally, yarn projects – crocheting, knitting, anything to experience “creation” again). But alas, days dripped into weeks, which poured into months, which flooded into years, cascading to this, my breaking point, where I can no longer deny this overwhelming desire to dive – full-body, wholeheartedly – back into the throes of addiction; to once again toil over the expression of hopes and desires and to feel the exhilaration of exquisitely executed alliteration. Of course, breaking free of my captor, Monsieur Obligatoire, was no easy task; the complete success of my escape still remains to be seen. Until I am dragged, kicking and screaming, back to the dungeon of dreary academia expository dribble, I will satiate my lust for imagination activity by hacking away at long-slumbering story lines and plodding plot schemes in hopes of developing some delectable morsels adequate and suitable for consumption.

Forlornly, I long for the days of effortless prose, uninhibited wanderings of whimsy and intriguing exploration beyond the concrete and gray… Is there a way back to the garden? Is there a way back along the dry and unforgiving path to where the thick twisted tree branches bow and sway under the weight of vibrant song-filled fantastical birds and the yellow-pink air, swirling sweet with fruit and fresh rain? Will I again triumphantly return and know the joy of simple and profound inspiration, nestled peacefully between passion’s flame and the tangible side of imagination? That is my hope.

Managing to hike up through the brambles and weeds, over the rocky, worn path, and past the dilapidated fencing, I stand before the rather large, somewhat intimidating door… Without preparation, without thorough planning, without unabashed confidence, I now seem to lack the strength – more precisely, the courage – to push beyond the barrier; truth be told, I can’t even bring myself to humbly knock and beg passage. Trying with all that is left within me to muster up the fortitude and resume my journey despite the dark raging storms, the tempests of deepest doubt and the gusts of insecurity that berate my spirit, I dig my heel into the sandy soil, draw a breath from my right pinky toe, exhale with the exuberance of a teenager at the dentist’s office, and forge on.

Prelude to “The Kiss”

“Mom, can you believe some people’s luck?” he began with such exasperation. “I’m so jealous!”

Okay, before we get any further with this, allow me to roll this story back about five months, to the middle of May 2016, and the start of summer semester in school – human resources management.

               Relevance, you ask? Hold on, I’m getting there!

So, while digging deeper into the required assignments, and doing research to help construct the foundation of my mock HR policy manual, I happened across a wonderful piece of, well let’s just call it “literature” for the sake of tidiness. It was a pilfered, several-years-old handbook for new employees, chock-full of unconventional tips for the corporate newbie, offering a hand to help guide said-tenderfoot through the maze of job assignments, coffee pot etiquette, and even how to not to freak out about the availability of dartboards and massage tables, but to get suspicious in the event of catered lunches with caviar… I know, I started thinking to myself: how do I land a job at THIS place? Dartboards and massages? Yes, please!

Here’s where things start to get interesting…

Reading further, I start to realize what type of company this is – I was genuinely unfamiliar with the organization’s name because the line of work they’re involved in is just not up my alley. However…

“Son, have you ever heard of XYZ Company?” I asked of my youngest, not sure what type of response to expect. His dead-pan expression made it seem as if I had asked him if he had ever heard of a big gaseous ball in the outer reaches of space, bursting forth with an unsurpassed brightness, often referred to as THE SUN. He went on – in small words, so that I was sure to understand the extent of my error and simple-mindedness – to explain the vastness of this company’s reach in their field of expertise. I flipped my laptop around to show him the, umm, illustrations (reminiscent of the Dick and Jane series fame, circa 1930s), and for hours, he and I discussed this XYZ Company in great detail. It was a wonderful bonding moment for us –bringing together one of his passions alongside one of my school obligations, and cemented the idea that education isn’t necessarily droll. The highlight: finding out that XYZ Company resided in our own backyard! At that point, my son decided he wanted to gear his upcoming studies toward nearing his feet to their front door. Goals are a good thing!

So, fast forward back to Saturday afternoon…

No! Wait, not that far! (No, no – hear me out! If I skip this bit, nothing will make sense, trust me!!)

So, THURSDAY, at work, one of my clients sends over some last minute documentation for filing; I make a quick comment to him about something I notice regarding, yep, XYZ Company, and he says “Oh yeah! Did some this-and-that for them; great bunch of folks!” I throw in a “my son would be so jealous” comment, mentioning it’s his aspiration to work there in the future, and get hit with a “my friend so-and-so works there full-time, how about I see if he can hook you guys up with a tour?” Umm, yes, please! Emails start flying Thursday, and by the end of day on Friday, I’m in touch with “the friend” at XYZ Company, who’s helping to secure my nomination for “Mom of the Year” award! Get this: I’m asked if we’d prefer being put on the list for the ‘group tour’, or if we’d rather just tag alongside “the friend” on a personal exploration… Seriously?! I can’t breathe!! And I can’t tell my son; I’m keeping this a secret!

Okay – NOW on to Saturday!

Completely – and I do mean completely!! – out the blue, he’s talking about how he’s jealous of his buddy, and I’m clamoring to find out why. (He doesn’t seem to be “upset” in this jealous rage; it’s more of an exuberant jealousy, which I’m guessing is a good thing…) As the story goes, his friend has posted pictures he took – wait for it!!! – while. on. a. tour. of. XYZ Company headquarters! Really?? I had to know: a group tour?? How did he score a deal like THAT?? My son didn’t have the answers, and based on the dates the pictures were originally uploaded to his social media page, the tour was over two years ago. Still, it was genuinely something to be excited about. Me? I felt as if an elephant was standing on my chest as I tried to share in my son’s covetousness, full-knowing what adventures lay just around the corner!

I wanted to say something! Oh, it took everything within me to keep that secret bottled up; to not blow my cork and say something foreshadowing like “just wait a week” or “you’re a pretty lucky kid, too, you know?” Oooohhhh! The suspense, people!

 

          (side bar: this will actually be the THIRD ‘big-reveal’ secret I’ve been involved with this year – first, flying down with my two children to surprise my mother for her birthday/Mother’s Day; second, flying my mother and one of my nephews up to my area and surprising my daughter on her birthday by having her Grandma at her birthday dinner; and now, this! I KNOW what I want the next surprise to be; the details just haven’t panned out yet…)

 

It’s Tuesday, and this spectacular event is slated to take place on Thursday. I’m hoping my heart can hold out for two more days!

Giddy… can’t breathe!

Dress the Part

Conversations aren’t always the easiest to strike up.

          Well, that’s not true! According to my youngest child, I have a knack for chatting up fellow patrons  in the line at the grocery store waiting to pay for their produce, fishing for unbiased feedback from strangers outside the changing rooms while hunting through second-hand haute couture, even alleviating awkward silences on the elevator while scaling urban high rises. But, when it REALLY matters…

My youngest child is at a new school this year, and is experiencing all the thrills that go with the territory: new teachers, new schedules, and a new terrain to navigate in record time each day. He’s not the only new face on campus, though – there’s an entire grade-level worth of “newcomers”: the 2016-2017 high school freshmen class! These individuals, stuck between adolescence and adulthood, trying to fumble and flail their way through the muddied waters of senior high school – no long the “upper classmen” of middle school, tight-knit and secure in their relative proximity to one another as ‘a pack’. Now, scattered across countless acres of mundane, mud-colored buildings, corridors humming with pounding feet and the crashing of exhausted metal locker doors barely clinging to their hinges and a veritable menagerie of shapes, heights, hair colors, widths, eye colors, voices, talents, laughters, snarls, social cliques and antisocial exiles representing all corners of the city, county, school district, and outer banks of consciousness possible. Tough enough task just to make it through each day during that first month. But that’s not enough for the soul-crushing monster that is High School…

 

Must. Inflict. More. Emotional. Scarring. Through. Social. Awkwardness.

 

          Is it just me, or in retrospect, does that seem like the general mission statement of high school?

Two weeks in, and all of a sudden, there’s a social function that requires focused CONVERSATION. The Homecoming Dance. It’s become so much more than what it was when I was in high school – back before the fall of the Berlin Wall and fashion-forward Swatch watches. Now, it’s pre-sale tickets, suits, ties, evening gowns, pre-dance dinners – it’s pre-Prom, for all grade levels! But what do you do when you only know 6 people on campus – those six friends you had in Middle school, four of which are guys you band together with to terrorize online gaming servers and blast everything into oblivion by way of Steam-enabled games? Sure, talking with the person sitting next to you in Geometry or Video Tech class is easy if it’s just random chit-chat about classroom subject matter; however, when there’s a calculated risk underpinning a seemingly innocuous dialogue, casual and light-hearted antics give way to fear, anxiety, and trepidation. Compounding on the perceived pressures of unplanned conversations with a relative stranger, add to the mix the innate cloddish and provincial mannerisms of life as a teenager in general, with untimely voice cracks and unanticipated brain drain, how could it even be conceivable to drum up the courage to talk with a fellow classmate? The list of unknowns is far too overwhelming! I haven’t even mentioned the earth-shattering concept of (gasp!) rejection… (dun-dun-duuuuuun!)

 

Enter ‘Spirit Week’ dream concept: “Traffic Light Dress Code Day”.

 

Okay, picture this – there are those whose lives are truly uncomplicated; they know their path. Class schedules are always without a hitch, friends all live within shouting distance of their front porch, their dog and cat are snuggle buddies, and their bathtub never drains slowly. And questions about a date for the Homecoming Dance? Pish! That’s a no-brainer. Then there are those who wrestle with details: did ‘So-and-So’ get a parent’s approval? Does ‘Whos-a-Whats-It” have transportation? Maybe there’s a relationship that’s as predictable as a bee’s flight pattern during a wind storm, and it’s anybody’s guess until the 11th Hour… Lastly, there are those who are totally open to the idea of unpretentiously parading into the dance with a partying partner but who lack the “partnering” skills…

Red.      Yellow.      Green.

For one day during ‘Spirit Week’ (the week leading up to the Homecoming football game, and Homecoming Dance, where students are encouraged to partake in activities that show their ‘school spirit’), individuals dress in the color that corresponds to their dance-date situation. If your dance-floor moves are spoken for, then red’s your color. If ‘it’s complicated’ for any given reason, dress the color of sunshine. “Green light” indicates you’re open and available!

As I was describing this to a family member, the reaction was mixed. Direct quote: “The color thing almost sounds humiliating. Like, look at me, I’m single. No?” I went on to explain that participation was merely BY CHOICE, and in my humble opinion, I thought the concept was inspired! This was my interpretation of the theory:

If you’re too shy to ask someone for fear of rejection, or you’re not sure if they’re going with someone already, you’re reluctant to ask. However, if you see them wearing green – or, on the flip side, if they see you wearing green! – it opens the opportunity for conversations that otherwise might not have taken place. At fourteen, are they really going to be ‘humiliated’ about their singleness? (please, please, PLEASE, I need to hear a resounding “no!”)

Besides, it’s not really a “look at me, I’m humiliatingly single”, but more of a “look at me, I have the potential of being your new best friend – because apparently I’m gusty enough to play along and I’m honest with people”!

Family member’s response (direct quote again): “Ok. That perspective makes sense.”

 

…for the record, my son wore green pants AND a long sleeve green shirt… I haven’t heard if it started any conversations, though…

A cog in THE MACHINE

I do see, acknowledge, ponder, and even (mentally) respond to some of those “one word” or “two word” writing prompts that pop up from time to time; however, recently, I haven’t had a lot of free time to pen out long, thought-provoking chronicles, or even insightfully toasty chestnuts of wisdom to share with the masses (school will do that to a person’s cache of unobligated minutes – note previous post, “6,810”…). That’s not to say that I ignore the prompts entirely either, avoiding any version of “eye contact”, as one would, trying to escape the shopping store without being accosted by the newspaper vendor offering a free Sunday issue, the cable/dish t.v. service vendor trying to make small talk, or those adorable Capitalists-in-training, with their boxes and tubs of chocolate, popcorn, and cookies. No, I admit, while most of them I give only a passing glance, gnaw on the concept for a fleeting moment or two to see if it’s flavorful, and usually expel before any ache takes form in my jaw or head, some of them get stuck in my teeth, forcing me to wrestle with them for longer than a hiccup, and darn if unsolicited ideas don’t start to form like dastardly rain clouds over a long-awaited beach party.

One such prompt was the single word, “Melody”. I’m sure there are a million different directions a ripe mind could take this term. I think, however, when I happened across it, my mind was beyond ripe, and the term steam-rolled right over me, spewing creative juices and seeds of introspection throughout the entirety of my conscious. The hardest part about the whole experience was finding the time to make something coherent out of it – whether there were enough logical pieces to dice up, throw together with peppery bits, emotional, tear-inducing slivers, zingy one-liners, and serve it all with a big bowl of corniness, or whether I’d just have to scoop up the remnants, continue to grind away and just make a saucy pulp out of it.

Now, most people know what a melody is, but in case there are any doubts, let me just state the basics: a melody is the succession of single tones in musical compositions, producing a distinct musical phrase or idea, and is considered the principal part in a harmonic composition (thank you Dictionary.com). That was easy enough. So why all the fuss? Why did this word hit like a drum line before kick-off at the Homecoming Game? Because after giving a moment’s thought to “melody”, I began to consider its partner, “harmony”. And, well, there’s been a serious lacking of “harmony” in my life lately.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with a good friend the day before my classes began this term, and she and I got on the topic of employment (ugh… that can be as painful as slicing open your finger with the edge of paper, and drowning that cut in a vat of salty lemon juice! But, I digress…). She is wise, this friend of mine; wise, loving, patient, and encouraging! Knowing that I’ve wrestled from time to time with my choice to forego personal pursuits for the tediousness of “obligation” and valiantly wearing the mask of “responsibility”, she assured me that hope was not lost, and that the opportunity may still exist to shake off the dust of corporate society and rekindle the fiery passion I once coddled like a iridescent soap bubble whimsically dancing on the breeze just above the death-spikes of the spring lawn. But, alas, I explained to her my years and years of “conditioning”, my submission to conformity, and my subsequent fashioning into the perfect corporate “cog”. She just smiled, gave me a hug, and told me I was not “a cog”! Bless her!

What that conversation made me realize was that much of my life – especially recently – lacked depth. I submitted early to the idea that creativity was unacceptable and that conformity was essential for survival (find a career path that was sustainable regardless of economic and geographical circumstances). I carried that ideology from my youth, through my young adulthood, and into my later years. My life-song was pure melody; there was no acceptance of random, complementary high and low notes, lofty imaginativeness, intoxicating fervor, vision, talent, and originality, despite my admiration of such occurrences in others’ lives. I hid “symptoms” of inspiration, knowing that one could not sing both melody and harmony simultaneously, and I knew it was wrong to abandon the “principal parts” in life. Therefore, I would stick to the melody, and allow my song to be flat, monotonous.

That’s all and well – for me. However, I have children. And I feel that I’ve done them a terrible disservice! By carrying this philosophy of “conformity” and “obligation”, I fear that I may have strangled the creativity out of their spirits – just as was done to me when I was younger. Not having much of an advocate to help foster ingenious and innovative thinking, colorful and charismatic dreaming, and fanciful and flagrant cavorting, I did not know how to be such an advocate for my children – at least not wholeheartedly. I hope I may have slipped from time to time, and said something encouraging back before the weight of the world came crashing in on them; I pray that they still harbor flames of inspiration within their souls, and coax it out to at least toast a marshmallow or two! If nothing else, I openly say at this time I am deeply sorry if my “cog”-iness was more desert than your pools of enchantment could endure. My wish for you, my dear children (and for anyone on the brink of suspended animation) is to pursue what makes your heart soar! Live for your dreams, and never allow yourself to become a cog of the system – conditioned and effectively lifeless. Stand tall. Stand proud. Stand out.

As the reader-board in front of the physical therapy clinic put it so succinctly:

‘Be a flamingo in a flock of pigeons.’