Lani: Travels

airstreamI’m traveling this week, so this week’s One Good Think is about traveling.

I love a road trip. I love getting on the road before the sun is up with a cup of coffee and a doughnut and a great audiobook or soundtrack on the stereo. I love waking up in one place and sleeping in another. Despite this, I consider myself a homebody, because it’s only after having a significant amount of time at home that I really appreciate the fun of travel. My ultimate dream is to combine my love of home with my love of travel and live in an Airstream trailer.

So, are you a wanderer or a homebody? What makes you love travel? What makes you hate it? Where is the one place you’ve always wanted to go?

Edited to add: Whoops! This was supposed to go up tomorrow, for the One Good Think! My bad!

Lani: Fear

fearI panic sometimes. Not the way I used to; I used to have genuine panic attacks, and that’s another matter altogether. But one thing I still do to this day is live the worst-case scenario. If there’s a hint of something bad, I take it to the worst possible outcome and live that for a while.

I think the theory behind this is that, if I live that worst case scenario, then whatever actually happens, I’ll be prepared for it. The thing I forget is that I’m living a life of worst-case scenarios, of constant disaster and trauma, and even though it’s not real, my body behaves like it is. The panic runs through my veins and damages me, body and soul, and that thinking that I’ll be prepared for the worst thing is faulty, because all I’ve accomplished is making it happen twice rather than once. I’ve depleted my resources by suffering through something that isn’t real before I have the chance to deal with what’s actually happening.

I had tongue cancer last month. Well, okay, no. I had a burning sensation on my tongue, like right after you brush your teeth or use potent mouthwash. The only problem was, I had it all the time, on the tip of my tongue, and I couldn’t figure out where it came from. So, of course, it was tongue cancer. My tongue looked fine, nice and pink and healthy, but still… it had to be cancer. Or… thrush! Right? That’s a thing. So I looked up thrush on the internet and discovered that healthy people don’t usually get thrush unless they’re on asthma meds. So that meant that I also had diabetes, because sometimes diabetics get thrush. So I either had cancer or diabetes, both which would suck because at the moment, I have no healthcare.

Then I realized that I’d been using a new lip balm for about the same span of time that my tongue had been acting up. I stopped using it. Tongue cancer cured! Diabetes cured! Yay! Except that the problem was never cancer or diabetes, but how I think.

We got a letter from our car insurer, regarding the accident Alastair was in last month. The letter stated that the damages to the other car are over and above what my insurance could pay. On the phone, they told me that they could negotiate with the other insurer, that usually it doesn’t come to anything, but it was possible they’d come after us for the remainder of the bill. I panicked, freaked the frig out, because that would wipe us out. We finally got a little bit ahead, and now… boom. We wouldn’t have the money to move to Syracuse, and we can’t stay here, so now, in my head, I’m living homeless with my kids on the streets of Ohio. Even though nothing’s happened. Even though my insurance company pretty much told me it’d be all right and usually they can resolve this stuff for their clients. Just the small chance that someone would come after me for thousands, and I lived the entire scenario in my head, freaking out completely.

For about fifteen minutes. And then I sat and thought and talked with Alastair and realized I was doing it again. I was living the worst-case scenario, which does me no good. And I realized that if the worst does happen – and sometimes, it does – I’ll deal with it then, when it’s real, and I can take action. Until then, I’m not going to worry.

Or, at least, I’m going to try not to worry. I think, to some extent, worrying makes me feel like I have some control over my fear, and I hate being afraid. I mean, I hate it. But maybe it’s time to look my fear in the eye, acknowledge it and allow it to exist, and then tell it I will get to it when it has something real for me to deal with.

How do you manage your fear?

Lani: An Excuse to say “Ich Liebe Dich!”

It’s been a crashy week. We got the new car, got Alastair finally all rubber-stamped by the U.S. government, moved past an illness that had us by the throat, and caught up with work, mostly, and I’m finding myself a little dry of deep thoughts. I had one thought about the alterniverse; when you look at your life and think, “What if I hadn’t made one decision differently and none of this had happened?” It flitted away. I had another thought about the nature of life and death, but I’m pretty sure I’m not that girl. At least not today.

Today is Valentine’s Day. Hated by some, loved by others, ignored by… I think… most, it’s a day full of hearts and flowers and just overall strangeness. I have to admit, I’ve never been a huge fan. It makes people in relationships feel obligated to have a Really Romantic Day, and that almost always backfires. Too much pressure. It makes single people feel like they’re defective because they don’t have someone to face that unnatural pressure with. The clichés abound, from hearts to roses to teddy bears to chocolate candy, and if the sex you have on Valentine’s Day isn’t the Best Sex Ever, then obviously you’re doing something wrong.

There’s really nothing about Valentine’s Day that’s… well… good. Yes, it’s a reason to tell the people you love that you love them, okay, but you should do that every day, anyway. Jenny always makes fun of me because of that one time I left the room to pee and said, “I love you,” to Alastair before going upstairs, but I say it to her, too, almost as often. To the kids, to Krissie… basically, if I love you, I tell you. All the time. Some people say that dilutes the meaning of it, and maybe there’s something to that, but if I fall down the stairs or get struck by lightning, I want the people who matter to me to remember that the last thing I said to them was, “I love you.” Plus, Valentine’s Day is mostly about romantic love, so if you need a special day to say “I love you,” then when is it for all the people you love non-romantically? It’s too complicated, honestly.

You know, the more I think about Valentine’s Day, the less I like it. It’s a day made for unfulfilled promise and dashed expectations, and who needs that? So go forth and have a great day and remember those you love, but do that again tomorrow, and the next day. The best, most romantic moments are the ones that just happen, that aren’t planned, so keep your heart open to them year ’round. Let them happen, and enjoy them when they do. And next week, when all the chocolate is on sale, buy yourself some and go crazy.

But if you’re a die-hard Valentine’s Day person, and you’re going out tonight come hell or high water, at least take Dan Savage’s advice and have sex first. Then go out and have the big meal, because really, it’s just uncomfortable otherwise.

I told you they weren’t deep thoughts this week. But I believe that’s damn good advice. 🙂

Lani: C’est des Conneries, La Deuxième Partie

There’s this amazing site called Duolingo where we’ve all been learning French. It’s like a game for the kids, so they love it. One night last week, when we were putting them to bed, we said,”I love you,” in three different languages. My favorite is German. “Ich liebe dich!” It sounds like something you’d holler when you just caught the dog lifting his leg on your Macbook power cord but no… it’s their most tender phrase. You gotta love the Germans.* Anyway, c’est des conneries is French, meaning, “It’s of the bullshit.” I thought it would be classier if I discussed the bullshit in French terms this time.

You know me. Always classy. Continue reading

Lani: Never, Ever Quit. Unless You Should Really, Really Quit.

darwin-change-v2We’ve been watching a lot of The Amazing Race lately. Alastair is not typically a big fan of reality shows (I am; few things give me more pleasure than when Gordon Ramsay calls someone a “donkey”) but he’s always been intrigued by The Amazing Race because of the travel, adventure and exotic locales, so we gave it a shot, and were, of course, immediately hooked. We’re through about five seasons of a total twenty-one, and it’s gotten to the point where at the beginning of a season, we try to predict what episode someone will say, “I didn’t come here to make friends.” Usually, it’s somewhere between episodes four and six, for those of you who want to play at home.

But the one thing that comes up even more than that old saw is the married couple saying, “We’re here to show our kids that you never, ever quit.” Hand to God, at least once a season, a married couple who left their kids for six weeks to romp around the world (hey, no judgment, a million bucks can put a reliable roof over a lot of little heads) makes it some kind of moral lesson for their kids on quitting, as though there is no lesson in the world more valuable than, “Never, ever quit.”

I’m not sure I agree with that. Continue reading

Lani: The Bullshit

biden-malarkeyIn our house, we have this thing we call the Bullshit.* It’s when any one of us falls into our “Bad Wolf” thinking (to borrow Jenny’s very cool terminology). So, for example, when Alastair says to me, “Hey, thanks for doing that,” and I say, “Oh, please, like there was anything involved in what I did, a monkey with a lobotomy could do it, it’s not like it even counts against what you do every day,” that is The Bullshit. It’s my particular brand of Bullshit, which is, “I’m awful and hateful and nothing I do even puts a drop in the bucket of Good Enough.” Alastair has almost my exact same brand, so it makes it easier for all of us to recognize. Sweetness’s Bullshit is when she believes that she’ll never get over her shyness and be able to connect with people; Light’s Bullshit is when she believes that she has to do what other people do in order to be accepted, that she isn’t completely loved exactly for who she is.

I have to say, as much as my internal Bullshit screams, “BAD MOTHER,” every time one of my kids says, “Hey, that’s the Bullshit,” at the same time, I love that I’ve taught them to recognize the part of them that can be so internally hateful, separate it from themselves, and acknowledge it as nonsense. Their favorite thing, of course, is saying, “Hey! That’s the Bullshit!” to me and Alastair (which, believe it or not, is really helpful to us, because when it’s been a tough day, we’ll honestly not notice) but every now and again, we’ll see them falling prey to it and say, “No Bullshit,” and you can see their eyes light up as, right in the moment, they realize that their internal doubter is just wrong. God, I love that.

And okay, fine, sometimes you need that internal doubter. For instance, when you’re about to do something stupid, you need that second voice inside going, “I’m not so sure this is a great idea…” But that’s different from the Bullshit. “I’m not sure this is smart,” is a good voice. “I’m pretty sure you’re a useless loser,” is the bad voice. It’s pretty easy to tell them apart, and I’m really thrilled my kids are going to grow up with their internal Bullshit detector calibrated and ready to go.

So, what’s your Bullshit? You know, right now, you may not know. Until I moved in with Jenny, and then married Alastair, and was surrounded by people who loved me enough to tell me about my Bullshit rather than use it as a weak point to exploit, I had no idea. Sometimes, it takes other people to tell you, and sometimes, you’re so good at hiding it that those people have to live with you every moment of every day to see it. I was very lucky to have the situation I had, and I’m so grateful for it now.

But if you can sniff it out—and you’ll know it less by how it smells than by how it makes you feel like… well… shit—try to take a moment every time and recognize what it is, what language it uses, what lies it tells. Because they are all lies. It takes a long time to be able to recognize it, separate it from yourself, and then call it out when it shows up, but I have to tell you, it’s really worth the time and effort. It’s making an astonishing difference in my family.

*If you have small kids, though, you may want to call it something else. I get a little hit of joy whenever my sweet little darlings say, “Hey, that’s the Bullshit!” but I understand that most parents aren’t like me. I’m just glad they haven’t said it in school.

Lani: Anger

"Unfiltered Anger" by Louis Dyer

“Unfiltered Anger” by Louis Dyer

“The taboos against our feeling and expressing anger are so powerful that even knowing when we are angry is not a simple matter.”

–Harriet Lerner, The Dance of Anger

I’ve had loads of anger for a long time. So long, in fact, that I can’t really remember when I became angry. The first real recollection I have is from my eighth or ninth birthday. My father left—okay, more accurately, was told to leave—when I was about seven, and during the divorce process, I’d sided mostly with my mother. I remember him yelling that he was going to kill her, and I remember her hiding in the pantry, and I remember yelling for him to leave as I stood between them. That pissed me off. But what really made me angry was when my dad forgot my birthday. Well, he didn’t forget. He deliberately ignored it, in an attempt to get revenge at me or my mother. Probably both.

I wouldn’t have it. I told him that it wasn’t acceptable, and he owed me a gift. I told him that every time I saw or talked to him, for weeks. Finally, he gave me a birthday card; no gift, just a card. It had an ugly gorilla on it, and I told him that was no good, either. I wanted a nice gift, and a nice card. End of discussion.

I remember that only vaguely; as a matter of fact, I might not remember it at all. It’s a story my mother used to tell, and through the years I may have substituted her memory for my own. I do like this story for two reasons; one, because I valued myself enough as a kid to know why I was angry, to be appropriately angry, and to express it appropriately. And two, because it’s the only memory I have when anger served me the way it was supposed to. Continue reading