just a square peg here

squarepeg roundhole

I’ve been wondering lately why assumptions run so rampant in this society. If I tell someone I do one thing, they automatically assume I do ten others. Like all 11 are supposed to be put together in a single grouping of actions or beliefs and cannot be separated?? Why is this?

I have never really been able to define myself by one specific thing. Is it because I get bored easily? Is it because I can’t make up my mind? Is it because I like too many things just a little, and not one thing a lot? I’m not sure. It’s just the way of me, I suppose. I never have wanted to put wallpaper on walls or carpet a floor in an odd color. I always want the option to change easily and without huge cost. I’m not sure I have a fear of permanency, per se, but I definitely avoid it. And my style seems to follow suit. I don’t have one single genre of music or movies that I stick to. I have some from every category that I find pleasing. My clothing is all over the place, as is my mood. And maybe that is the root of the problem. With an inconsistent mood and brain, it would be difficult to be consistent in decisions. Even so, I tend to have very strong opinions and beliefs in certain areas. But I feel frustrated when people assume I should be doing a certain group of things based on one decision I made. And lately it seems to be in the homeschooling arena.

9 years ago we decided to pull our oldest 2 children out of public school and homeschool them. It obviously wasn’t because I missed them too much during the day. And if you want to hear that thought process and story, let me know. It’s very close to my heart and spirit, but too long to put in this post. Anyway, we always stayed open-minded about it and never assumed it would be a one-time decision. And it hasn’t been. We rethink and redecide EVERY SINGLE YEAR. And when people hear that I homeschool my children, they make certain assumptions. Why do my reasons for pulling my children out of public school need to be the same as the next homeschool mom’s. Why can’t they be mine and mine alone?

Yes I homeschool my children AND still believe in vaccinating them. Yes I homeschool my children AND still believe in shoeing them and showering them. Yes I homeschool my children AND have a teenager in public school. And of course the round-peg syndrome spills into all the other areas of my life. Yes I love country music AND rap. Yes I am a Mormon mom AND enjoyed working outside the home when my children were young. Yes I crossfit AND do not eat Paleo. Yes I have worn Vans for as long as I can remember AND I haven’t been on a skateboard since I was 12. Yes I love the beach, grew up in southern California AND do not know how to surf. Yes I am half Chinese AND do not like Asian food.

Do we categorize because it is easier? Does it allow us to be lazier? Do we avoid the effort in getting to know someone so that we can just put them in one of the round holes we are already aware of? No matter what shape peg someone is, perhaps we can try harder to draw conclusions from facts we have rather than allowing our brain to make quick, lazy assumptions.

Yes I am the square peg AND I actually do not want to fit into the round hole.

some great minds aren’t alike

brain-functionsBrains are curious things.  I’ve always loved them.  Back when I thought I was capable of going to med school and being a physician, neurosurgeon was the goal.  I held a brain in my first anatomy class and I was sold.  I loved the soft spongy texture, which reminded me of what it felt like when I touched a dolphin as a child.  I learned about all the tiny tiny nerves that come off the brain that control all the different things we do with our bodies.  It was fascinating to me and it all made complete sense.

Isn’t it interesting how our life experiences seem to spill over into our responses to everything?  From what we eat, to what we choose to read or watch on television, to how we react to those around us…the things we have experienced in life up to that point carry huge effect.  We might decide not to get a driver’s license because we were in a bad car accident as a child.  We might choose a career in oncology because we lost a family member to cancer.  Perhaps we decide we don’t eat meat because we saw how an animal was slaughtered before being butchered and sold.  All types of prejudices, whether they be against food or people or animals or anything else, are rooted in our experiences.

If we have any desire to overcome these prejudices, how then, would we do this when our experiences are all we have to go on?  It’s a tall task.  But I believe it not to be an impossible one.  I believe we can learn from the experiences of others if we are willing to have an open mind and a tad bit of humility.

As someone who has a self-proclaimed faulty brain that often leads to undesirable social behavior, I tend to have a special place in my heart for those that struggle with mental quirks or disabilities.  There is always someone who has it worse than me, but sometimes I feel I can at least relate to similar thought processes.

During our group meeting at church, our almost 2-year-old (who will be referred to Six from this point forward) loves to wave her arm in attempt to lead the music when we are singing a song.  This past Sunday in one of my classes, we began with a song.  A lady got up to lead the music, and a few measures into the song I looked at her and thought, “She leads the music just like Six!”.  I chuckled inside and even sent a text to my husband because I thought it was funny.  As the song progressed, I continued to watch her.  I began to wonder who asked her to lead, since she clearly wasn’t leading much of anything with her arms flailing all over the place to a rhythm other than what we were singing.  And when the song finished, she turned to the lady accompanying with the piano and asked, “Did I do any better that time?”.  Wow.  I immediately looked at her differently.  She was completely aware of her inability to do the “norm”.  All of the sudden I remembered how hard it is to fit in and how hard it is to be up in front of people.

I am constantly saying the “wrong” thing according to popular belief.  I am often offending someone without the intent to do so.  Usually people are confused when they hear what comes out of my mouth and oftentimes it doesn’t make any sense to those around me.  But I have come to believe that these facts don’t make my brain any less great than the next person’s.  And my brain isn’t any greater than the lady leading the music on Sunday.  Maybe hers is greater than mine because of how much effort is required.

We measure brains with what we call intelligence quotient and give them a score.  I think there’s more to it than that.  I think all brains are different and perhaps what makes a brain great isn’t merely how well it can take a test.

twenty down

boygirl sepiaOn December 4, 1994 I met a boy. A mere 6 weeks later I said yes to a peculiar marriage proposal. And 6 months after that, on this very day 20 years ago, we were married. We began our roller coaster ride together. We had no idea it would bring so many ups and downs in such a short amount of time. Nothing could have prepared us for the hardship, pain, joy, and adventure that would create more diverse experiences in 20 years than most see in a lifetime. Weddings, funerals, baptisms, vacations, suicide, murder, mental illness, cancers, surgeries, foster care, births, miscarriage, adoption, college, grad school, welfare, theft, unemployment, homelessness, home ownership, bankruptcy, car wrecks, bike crashes, 21 moves, 36 states, a few countries, numerous cities, and countless human beings. We definitely haven’t seen it all, but it still feels like quite a bit. And most days it exhausts me.

Although I don’t wear a sign around my neck for when people first meet me, I’ve never been secretive about my struggles as a mother and a wife. I don’t hide the fact that my cynicism and my faith battle on a daily basis. And while my job has always been hard for me personally, I still believe in it. And the one thing I’ve had all these years is someone who makes sure I don’t forget it.

I can’t count or remember how many times I’ve wanted to leave over the years. And on a few occasions I planned it out and said I was going. Sometimes he said he would take me wherever I wanted and tell everyone it was his fault. Sometimes he begged me to try one last time and I would agree. He has always known what I needed, sometimes even before I did. I’ve done unspeakable hurtful things that would have given him good cause, without question, to leave me. But he hasn’t yet. He never gives up. They say “it takes two”, but I’m not sure how that is when I want to give up every other day. He takes responsibility for other people’s lives all day at work, then comes home and still takes care of us; sometimes on days when I haven’t even been able to make it out of bed to see anyone. Most times on days when he’s worked over 12 hours and probably has slept less than 6. It seems he always has more for what we need.

He cooks, washes dishes, puts his clothes away, and works 50-70 hours a week supporting us. He never considers it babysitting to spend time with his children. He can fix anything he puts his mind to and the kids say he’s “strong as an ox”. He is humble and confident. He is patient, disciplined, and dedicated. He never complains about what I buy or when I want to leave town. He makes me laugh and tries his best to keep me from getting bored (if it’s even possible). He makes my nomadic, non-committal soul feel safe. There’s no one else like him. He is the love of my life.

Twenty down. Cheers to a marriage that has survived things I never thought it could. I pray I have the strength for the next twenty.

11499270-the-bride-and-groom-at-a-wedding

a choice by any other name…

An article was posted to facebook yesterday. It spurred a discussion.  What I feel like saying seems a bit excessive for a facebook comment.

The author of this post is, in my opinion, equally as brave as the author of my original post to facebook. There are many lifestyles that have rigid rules, some that have none at all, and many in between. But we are able to choose the lifestyle we want to live. And it is a CHOICE.  Buddhist monk, navy seal, catholic priest, vegas drag queen. Yes there is influence by those we have spent time with. Do we not all influence each other’s lives in one way or another?  Is a navy seal brainwashed because he had a military father and grandfather? Is a drag queen brainwashed because he was raised by gay parents? Is a mormon missionary brainwashed because he was raised in a religious home? I do not believe a child’s choices are non-existent just because of their surroundings.

The life I live is full of rules.  Sometimes I like them, sometimes I don’t.  But I chose this life.  And I continue to choose it.  I understand the rules and when I choose this life I accept those rules come with it.  I could choose a different life, understanding there wouldn’t be as many rules.  A student chooses a life with college.  They accept there will be rules that won’t be enjoyable. Are they missing out on a more fulfilling life if they were not restricted by schedule or professor expectations or a class that required them to suppress some of their inner beliefs?  Perhaps.  But isn’t that their choice to make? A Buddhist monk chooses a life of celibacy.  Does he know what restrictions that life will have on him? Is he living his life to the fullest and being true to himself?  I don’t believe that’s for anyone to answer but him.

There are so many choices in front of us on a daily basis.  Some create small ripples in life and other create large ones.  Sometimes we have all the necessary facts when we make a choice, sometimes we do not.  When new facts present themselves we are also able to make a new choice.  Choice doesn’t become brainwashing or coercion just because one didn’t have all the facts in the beginning.  We learn as we go.  We don’t have a brain full of knowledge on day 1.  Choice isn’t dependent on instruction either.  Just because a child is taught a certain way, doesn’t mean his/her choice is removed.  Consequence also does not negate choice.  If environment, family, society, war, imprisonment, etc. create unfavorable surroundings, choice still exists.  A human being CANNOT have their free will removed from them.  Options may be limited; results may be undesired, but choice remains.  It is the only thing we CAN control.  We do not get to decide how others react to us.  We do not get to decide if tragedy or natural disaster will cross our path.  We do not get to decide if we are bullied or loved.  Those are all for others to decide.  We only get to make our own choices.

I am often criticized or discounted for my choices, as are many others.  Because I do not try to hide my feelings about motherhood and commitment, many are puzzled and believe I have been coerced or forced somehow.  Others believe I have no right to make the choice I made because of how I feel.  Some will say that I am undeserving of the benefits of this lifestyle because I didn’t crave it.  And on the days when I struggle, I believe them.  Do I believe I had to give up part of myself for this choice? Yes.  Do I believe I am good at motherhood and wifery? Not in a million years.  Do I believe that means I should choose something else?  Every day.  Does that mean I will?  I sure hope not (mainly because I haven’t a clue what I would be good at).  Yes, I understood the confines and restraints of this lifestyle when I chose it.  No I could not have fathomed the pain or frustration it would’ve caused.  I am not a fortune-teller.  Can I preach to everyone and say I believe it’s the best lifestyle above any other?  No way.  Am I being “true” to myself? I haven’t the foggiest idea.  My true self wants to yell and scream when things don’t go my way.  My true self wants to have a bottom-less checking account while sitting on a beach getting a tan.  My true self wants to eat french fries and watch tv and never exercise again.  But my true self wants to be accomplished and help others.  My true self wants to be strong and not out of breath.  My true self wants to have little toddler arms wrapped tightly around my neck (on occasion).  So which self do I be “true” to?  Is there more than one self?  How can I be true to them all?  Thus, CHOICE exists.  I have to choose.  And with my crazy, broken, chaotic, noisy brain I have to continue to choose.  Every. Single. Day.  Do not believe I didn’t make a choice because sacrifices were involved.  Would my life have been more fulfilling had I chosen one closer to that of my nomadic sister?  Would I have been truer to myself? Perhaps. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t make a choice.  Or that the choice wasn’t mine to make.

Of course the discussion on facebook could have turned into a heated one because the initial article had the topic of homosexuality and religion.  But my original point had nothing to do with those specific topics.   When the adulterous woman was brought to Jesus did he look upon her with disdain? Was he afraid to be near her, for fear her choices would rub off on him? Did he sneer at her or ridicule her because he believed her life choices were wrong?  Do we snicker at the atheist because we believe in God? Do we feel pity for the monk because we don’t believe in a celibate life?  Do we mock the navy seal for going without food and sleep and suppressing his basic human desires?

My point was not to debate whether one lifestyle was superior to the other, or which lifestyle is morally wrong, or even which lifestyle is more accepting in society.  Statistics can be shown for these debates.  My intent wasn’t to promote world peace, or eliminate racism, or pretend that humans can eradicate their judgmental opinions.  My debate is about about choice and our reaction to those choices made by others.  Yes, we pass judgment.  But do we have to do it angrily?  Do we have to belittle, degrade,  demean, disparage, mock, snicker,  and sneer?  Do we have the ability to share our opinions with one another and still be respectful?  Can we listen to the opinion of another without being angry because it isn’t the same as ours?  Are we able to hear our fellow man’s story and applaud the courage it took to share, rather than discount it’s validity?

I do not believe in a world with zero bad things in it.  But I do believe we can learn to control our emotions with the goal of creating a little more good in the world.

cynicism vs. faith

I hear often of those that say they “found themselves” or those who have “found their purpose in life”.  And every once in a while I get caught up in the search also.  I seem to expect there to be the symbolic gold at the end of the rainbow.  The appearance of a happy person with a purpose draws me in.  It makes me want to have what they have.  It makes me think that somehow having what they have will change me.  But I have yet to find myself or any sort of single purpose to fuel me through this life.

I am ever the cynic.  And I also continue to return to that which I feel I believe in.  My “self” is basically an inner contradiction.  Faith is the opposite of cynicism; and vice versa.  Some days one wins, some days the other wins.  It would be the prime reason I confuse people.  Well, I confuse myself even.  Things that make sense to me don’t make sense to anyone else.

I had a fellow homeschool mom tell me how puzzled she is when someone makes a comment to her such as “I could never homeschool my children.  I just don’t like to be with them.”  She said her response in her head was “Why did you have children if you don’t like them?”.  I just smiled and kept quiet.  Because anything that came from my head through my mouth at that moment would be offensive to someone.

Why is it so hard for us to accept someone else’s position when it is different than our own?  I’m not talking about even understanding it, I’m just talking about accepting that it exists.  I totally accept that some parents aren’t comfortable leaving their children with a sitter.  Or some moms had kids because they grew up wanting them.  I accept that what one person believes is rude, is just plain honesty to me.  I used to believe I was misanthropic.  But I now have doubts about that.  I think people are interesting and it intrigues me to know the cause of their behavior, the reasons for their choices.  And I think it helps me to be more empathetic if I can see someone else’s point of view.  I naturally assume that most people out there are opposite of me, and that I’m the one with the problem.

I don’t hide the fact that I didn’t grow up with a longing to be a mother.  I’m very open about how hard it is for me to be around my children for long periods of time.  And I always get asked why I had children when this is the way I feel.  No response I give will ever make sense to anyone but me.  It made sense to me 20 years ago and it still makes sense to me today.  This isn’t about right or wrong.  I don’t have much idea about what that is these days, or whether my decision to accept parenthood was the right one.  But I seem to follow what makes sense to me.

I do believe people are capable of change, although I believe it doesn’t happen very often and it takes a crazy amount of work that most aren’t willing to do.  I do believe there is “still good in the world” even though I believe most people shouldn’t be trusted.  I do believe every once in a while someone might be out to help you, but I think it’s more common for someone to say what they think you want to hear regardless of the truth.

And thus, the fight continues.  Will cynicism win tomorrow? Or do you think it shall be faith?