Friday, October 30, 2015

Pelican's Work

I've been here three days.  It is now the morning of the fourth day.  As predicted, I have so far managed to avoid any "spiritual work" on the subject of my marriage, from the standpoint of forgiveness.  Monday was such a beautiful and spectacular day, I knew the Universe had meant it as a special gift for me.  So maybe I wasted the next two days trying to recapture that magic, when I should have been settling in to tackle The Issues confronting me.  My bad.

It did not escape my notice, though, that even while the Almighty was providing me with a day of comfort and awe, I was also being prodded toward the issues I need to deal with.  Because, in the end, Monday was "All About Pelicans."

Just after we closed the restaurant, as I was exploring relationships with the bird spirit guides the Creator revealed to me, I became acquainted with Pelican.

Pelican is the animal spirit who represents letting go, unburdenment, forgiveness.  Pelican has walked beside me again and again when I struggle with the lingering effects of the cafe years on my relationship with my husband.  This week was no exception. 

I may have not planned an agenda, but an agenda was planned, nonetheless.  That I chose this lodging pace for this time; that I headed south on my random drive and chose to cough up seven bucks for admittance into the "Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area;" and that I encountered there, perched on the great rocks at the base of the lighthouse,  more pelicans than I have ever seen in one place, closer than I have ever been...all this was arranged.  The Creator knew that I was going to be struggling anew with the ugly specter of our damaged marriage, and brought me to where the spirit guide associated with forgiveness would be present in such mighty numbers that it could not be ignored.

In case you're tempted to chalk up that encounter to serendipity, here's the rest:  I said goodbye to the pelicans at Yaquina Head, got in the car and pointed it south.  After a pleasant afternoon of shopping (!) I headed back north to my log cabin.  I decided to make one more attempt to find a beach I hadn't been to and squeeze in a walk on the sand before it got dark.  I pulled off at a place called "Devil"s Punchbowl;" decided to forego peering over the edge of the cliff down into the holes in the rocks where the surf roiled and bubbled wildly, and headed off to the almost invisible L-O-N-G stairway down to the beach. 

Oh, it was a lovely place!  The tide--which, judging by the quantity of wet sand, completely swallowed up this place when it was in--had receded.   It left a crescent of secluded beach upon which, miraculously, I was the sole human occupant.  Score!  And then I looked to my right, to a brownish sandstone rock jutting out from the steep bank.  It was crowded with at least fifty pelicans.  SO  close (and I was without my camera...!)  This time, I took it as the message from the Almighty it was obviously meant to be.  I spread my arms, closed my eyes and just opened myself to the guidance of  Pelican. 

Of course, I had to spoil the moment and start up a dialogue in my head.  And at the exact moment when I thought, "And I'm having such a hard time.  I just can't forgive..."  they all rose up at once and flew off the rock and out to the surf.  I've been thinking about what that might have meant ever since.   

So I have spent the past 36 hours trying, in a hit or miss sort of way, to do the "spiritual work" I had thought I must do in my solitude.  I think about it for awhile, and then I take a break.  Because I can't seem to come to any conclusions that make sense. 

One thought that occurred to me is that I needn't be so hard on myself for my inability to forgive.  At least I know I haven' least I know I need to, and I have the decency to feel bad about not doing it.  I remember having discussions with my husband about my inability to forgive and forget...apparently the "forgetting"  is the most important part.    When someone hurts you or wrongs you or disappoints you, you are supposed to just say, "Oh, that's okay" and then give them a total pass.  Forget that it ever happened.  Not let that hurt or wrong or disappointment change your attitude toward that person or life in general in any way.

Of course it's not that simple.  Do you  run into a brick wall, tip your hat, change direction, forget about brick walls and smack right into another one?   And another, and another?  It doesn't make any sense.  The events of our lives change us.  The actions of other people mold our way of looking at them and relating to them.  How can it be otherwise?  And I've always felt bad that I felt this way.  Am I the only person in the world who takes such a clinical viewpoint about this issue?  Am I the only person in the world who finds the "forgetting" part impossible?  And why have I  been chosen to grasp this particular nugget of clarity?

Looking back on how our troubles affected us individually, I don't think the husband has any better mastery of the concept of "forgive and forget" than I ever have.  He merely avoids the analysis entirely.  His attitude toward me, since the upheaval of the cafe years, has completely changed.  But he doesn't acknowledge the change and sees no reason to go back.  Where I have fretted and lamented over our damaged relationship, and puzzled over how to either get it back to where it was or deal with what it is now, the husband has simply moved on.  Changes assimilated.  No regrets.  No looking back.  With no thought to whether those changes are good or bad, or whether they occurred at all.  My problem isn't that I am unable to "forgive and forget," it's that I'm cursed with the knowledge that it is a process that requires intentional action, and not just, "If I don't think about it anymore then I have done it." 

No, have NOT done it.  Your actions and attitudes demonstrate that clearly.  And I get it, I really do.  Because, in the end, I truly believe there is no such thing as "forgive and forget."  We cannot be unchanged by the hurts and wrongs and disappointments done to us.  So just don't imagine you have mastered the concept when your words and actions demonstrate clearly that you have not.  And don't knock ME for not having done least I KNOW I haven't.  Which is a light-year or two ahead of where YOU are. 

Maybe forgiveness is about saying, "Yeah.  We went through some tough times.  And we learned some things about each other, about our relationship, that didn't smack of 'happily ever after.'  And now we need to go forward with that knowledge.  Integrate it into who we are, and what we are to each other."  If our relationship can't be positive and loving with what we now know,  if it turns out that what we are to each other is the biggest ongoing irritant in the other's life, then I think some action is called for.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Speaking of Chickens...

It's no secret that our society has gone utterly mad.  We seem to have a heightened sense of our own mortality, and yet a dogged determination to live as close to forever as we can possibly manage--a dynamic that in itself is surely responsible for a great deal of our societal craziness.   The health care crisis, gun worship, xenophobic targeting of immigrants,  war mongering (taking it to "them" before "they" can bring it to us)--all these things have their root in our bizarre, hyper-inflated instinct of self-preservation.  And nowhere is this more apparent than in our society's increasing phobias about food.

As one who spent my formative years in the food business, I have observed the descent into insanity characterized by what people are willing to consume, and how they expect it to be presented to them.  These days, food must be presented to the consumer exactly as ordered, down to the most intricate detail of temperature, seasoning and appearance, and it must be done not merely with a smile, but with the lips of the server planted as firmly on the buttocks of the consumer as humanly possible.  The personal allergies, sensitivities,  dislikes, and phobias of every individual consumer have become public responsibility.  I don't know why anyone decides to open a restaurant or market anymore.  The standards are impossible. 

You would think that all this obsessing about food would have the net effect of improving the quality of what is available for us to eat.  The sad reality is, the perception of whether a given food is actually "good" or "bad" is dictated by the theater attached to it.  With the proper combination of press releases, chef testimonials and million-dollar ad bytes aired during the "Big Game,"  any PR firm worth its salt could sell buckets of hog slop to our nation of finicky diners. 

But, seriously, has anyone besides me noticed that, in spite of all the hype about foods that are bad, good, delicious, trendy, "foodie" approved, our choices at the grocery store have become more and more limited, while the food that IS available tastes less and less like...what it's supposed to taste like?  Juiceless tomatoes developed for their shipability.  Apples, potatoes and onions that don't see the grocer's shelves for at least a year after harvest, yet have us fooled into calling them "fresh."   Meat that has been brined, tenderized, injected and dyed, ostensibly to improve its taste and appeal, but is so full of dangerous bacteria that it has to be cooked to death in order to render it safe to eat.  And yet, an entire industry grew out of the hyped-up notion that a substance that has been a staple of the human diet for 12,000 years is suddenly the most dangerous thing a person can possibly ingest.  We'll eat our plastic tomatoes and tasteless apples and tenderized mystery meat without a murmur, but god forbid a molecule of gluten should pass our lips. 

And don't get me started on the prices!  Protein prices are inflated and volatile.  The commodities market has become a giant roulette wheel, where the odds are stacked in favor of amoral speculators looking to make a fast buck, and against American consumers just trying to put something edible and nutritious on the table.  Seafood and red meat are already nearly beyond the budget of the typical middle class family.  How long will it be before we are even scraping the bottom of our change purses to buy chicken?

And speaking of chicken...

The other day, I encountered a truckload of chickens travelling up the freeway.  I pulled over to pass, and couldn't help but look over at the occupants of the cages, stacked ten or fifteen high, god knows how many deep, hundreds of cages crammed on to a 40' trailer, open to the elements.  White feathers blew crazily in the cyclone produced by the truck's 60 mph cruising speed. Hampered by the force of the wind, the size of the cages, and the weight of their out-sized breasts,  the birds could not stand or move about.  They could only flop around miserably, helplessly, from time to time exposing their red, featherless, chapped hindquarters--made that way, I'll assume, by their inability to move out of their own filth. 

Those birds looked so wretched that I nearly burst into tears.

And then, I thought:  "...and we eat that."

I am not a vegetarian.  I don't believe that there is anything inherently cruel in the way that nature has ordained for some species to consume others for food.  Human beings are omnivores.  This means that our health is best maintained when we consume a variety of plant and animal-based foods.  I think that when we mess with that balance, it is tantamount to telling the Creator that the Creator has made a mistake by forming us as we are...that we can do better than the Almighty at deciding how and what we should eat.  I honestly don't think that is our place.

On the other hand, I do believe that, in a sense, we are what we eat.  Many Native American traditions hold that the energy of an animal is transferred to the human who eats it.  Often, hunters would thank the animal for giving up its life that the human might be fed.  They might consume the heart first, in order to be infused with the bravery of the animal.

There is nothing wrong with eating meat, but there is something very wrong with the meat we allow ourselves to eat.  What kind of energy are we putting inside our bodies when we consume a bird that has been raised in miserable filth, that has been thought of as "food" rather than a living, breathing animal, that has been treated with detachment and disdain for all of its short, wretched life?  Perhaps this, in and of itself, is the source of much of our society's fear and sadness.  We EAT the fear and misery and hopelessness of the animals we "raise" for food.

I have a freezer full of nameless chicken parts that I bought at Costco.  It's pretty much the only protein we own right now, and I can't see the benefit of wasting the money invested in it by throwing it out.  We'll eat it, but we are going to change our ways.  In a perfect world, my recent epiphany would result in a determination to raise and slaughter my own animals, thoughtfully and prayerfully.  I'm not naive... I know that my urban upbringing and my suburban living situation severely limit my abilities in that direction.

But I have made a promise to myself:  Going forward, I intend to be much more particular about the protein I choose to put on my table.  I plan on researching the purchase a half or a quarter of local pasture-raised beef.  I'll source actual free-range chickens--not "cage free" or "organic,"--these terms can be misleading.  I am after animals that have been allowed to live as naturally as possible, and then are slaughtered humanely.  I know these things exist...I just have to put in the effort to find them and change my buying habits.  I need to make the conscious decision to invest my food dollars in a smaller quantity of animal protein from animals that have been allowed dignity and peace, rather than stock my freezer with as much cheap chicken and steak from Walmart as I can buy with those same dollars.  I'm pretty sure my life depends on making that change.

It's a lifestyle change from which I think we all would benefit.      

Monday, October 26, 2015

Duck Inn

The whole process of picking a place for my personal vacation was drawn-out and uncertain.  It took me forever, long hours of looking at places online, comparing prices, schedules, reserved dates, locations...  On the beach?  In the mountains?  My inability to firm up a date and decide exactly where it was I wanted to go made me think that maybe I really didn't want to go at all.

And then I came across this place:  Duck Inn Log House

It's not on the beach.  It's not in the mountains.  It's not actually in the woods.  It wasn't even available for the dates I wanted. 

But something told me it would be perfect, and I should make the reservation right away, no fooling around until the dates were gone. 

In the weeks since I made the reservation, in my OCD way, I've fretted about whether I would like the place, whether I would be too freaked out staying in a strange house all by myself, whether it could possibly be as "perfect" as it appeared to be online.  I've been through the vacation rental  process many, many times, and I can say confidently that the nicer they appear in the "literature," the worse they are in actuality.  Which makes sense, don't have to put lipstick on it if it isn't a pig.

By the time I left home yesterday, I had about worked myself into an ulcer attack worrying about the trip.  Sometimes I wonder why I do this to myself...maybe I should just stay home and not present myself with challenges to my increasing phobias.  But that wouldn't do at all, would it?  I will slay those dragons, dammit!  And I will do it alone, because I am alone, in many of the ways that matter.

I drove to Lincoln City in pouring rain--of course, the Universe chose this week to break the drought that has parched us since last winter.  But I can't complain, we need the rain so badly.  I told myself I would be able to find things to keep myself occupied if I was stuck inside the whole week by the Pineapple Express (the name given to large, wet, warm storms that blow up from the south in fall and winter).  Still, it added to my unease about the trip.

I followed the directions, found the house, in a rather unprepossessing location not far from a seedier strip of Highway 101.  Ready to be disappointed, I opened the front door.  And this was the first thing I saw:

And I knew I was home.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Smaller and Smaller

I've been resisting committing this oft-recurring thought to ethereal memory, but it's so plain, now, there's no point in not: 

I am officially irrelevant.

I mean, how many posts in a row have to go by with no comments before it becomes obvious the readers, the friends, the community have all gone on to greener pastures and left me far, far behind? 

This has been plain for months...years, even, here at the blog.  But I had thought that Facebook had salvaged my connection to the last remnants of my ragtag group of friends from the blogging community.

But, no...  I've become invisible there, too.  If I post a picture, I get some drive-by "likes."  But as far as my political posts go, or posts of my heart, I think I have maxed everyone out.  They will rarely even click through to a blog entry when I post a link.  Nobody wants to know what I think any more.  Or, maybe, they already know what I think, and they just don't care. 

Posting these weak little personal peeve entries here on the blog brings me back to the very earliest days of AOL journal land.  I just wrote...whatever, and was shocked beyond belief when I received a comment--evidence that not only had another human being read what I had written, but that the person had felt enough of a spark of connection to leave feedback.  Those were the days!  Those were the glorious, wondrous, connection-filled days!  Every day was like Christmas!

But, of course, it couldn't last.

"Social media" became a thing so far beyond the concept of that first AOL blogging community that those of us who fondly remember our humble roots are left struggling in the tarpits like floundering brontosaurus (brontosauri?)  There are so many voices out there...SO many.  There's little chance for a socially awkward wannabe journalist to write loud enough to be heard.  There are REAL writers out there, writing stuff that is good and that matters.  And people have REAL friends to be social with online...they don't have to settle for rubbing elbows with interesting fellow pioneers of the ether whom they will never meet. 

I feel like, once, I stumbled upon a thing of rare importance, and for a time, I became important, as part of that thing.  Until it got so big that it overwhelmed me, and  I went back to being insignificant. 

And I'm reduced to watching myself disappear.         

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Taking Myself On A Trip

Made it past the anniversary without causing a huge commotion.  I sidled around it pretty handily, and managed to effect the non-celebration I thought appropriate without tipping my  hand to the husband and starting a "discussion."   I've had it with discussions, at least for the time being.  They don't seem to get us anywhere...and I'm pretty sure he doesn't really hear what I have to say, so what's the point?

MY anniversary present to myself is going to be to take some of my hard-earned Scandi money to the beach and spend it on me.  I'm checking into what I hope will be a cozy little cabin in the woods on Saturday evening...all by myself.  It's not that we didn't get any vacation time this summer...but everyone else's vacations did not really qualify as R & R for me.  My need for solitude kept getting me into trouble.  In fact, it was during one of those very vacations, when I was icily informed that I needed to "clean up my act," that I was smacked in the face with the clear vision of the reality of my relationship with the husband.  And since then, I have craved time away where I could do anything I wanted/needed to do without pissing anybody off or getting into trouble.  So, this I am doing next week. 

It occurred to me, today, that I might treat this as a spiritual retreat.  I have gone away with that intention before, only to drop it like a hot rock the minute I was alone and spend the time, instead, in glorious self-indulgence.  But I have had a few clarifying thoughts about my marriage in the past few days, and I think perhaps I need to do some individual spiritual work on the issues if I want any chance of being happy--or at least, not unhappy, and feeling like I want to crawl out of my skin--within the boundaries of my lifetime commitment to...whatever it is. 

For example, the concept of "forgiveness" has begun to play around the recesses of my mind.  This has been a pivotal issue in our inability to mend our fences and go forward.  I finally realized, and he admitted as much, that he has not forgiven me for the things I did and said as the sleep-deprived, overmatched, going-down-for-the-third-time monster I had become during the cafe years.  I have apologized over and over again, taken the blame...tried sincerely to "man up" to my part in the destruction of our relationship.  And we are.

But I realized two things:  1.)  I apologized.  But I never actually asked for forgiveness.  Is saying, "I'm sorry" enough?  Is the request for forgiveness understood if the question is never asked?  And 2.)  Have I forgiven him?  I know the answer to that one:  No, I have not.  This is complicated by the fact that he has never apologized.  Not for his part of the cafe craziness, nor for things he has said since that have rocked my world and hurt me so deeply I did not know what to do with myself.  He doesn't say he's sorry.  When I finally break into little pieces and tell  him how much he has hurt me, his response is usually something to the effect that it is my fault that he has done or said this hurtful thing.  "If  you weren't so (blank) I would never have done (blank.)"   He makes it very clear that I bring unhappiness down on my own head, and he is only peripherally responsible for any of it. 

Still, I understand that I can't cry and moan that he won't forgive me, if I can't find it in my heart to forgive him.  There can be no weights and measures brought into the picture.  Either there is forgiveness, or there isn't.  A difficult, difficult realization to come to.  And more difficult, still, to put into action.  In fact, I'm not sure I can do it.  But if I don't, I know I'll be condemning our marriage to be forever "less than..."  Less than either of us started out hoping it would be, I'm convinced. 

I also have given some thought to how my present condition of social isolation is coloring my expectations of our relationship.  If he is the only live human being (as compared to ethereal connections) with whom I interact all day, most days, that puts an awful lot of pressure on the interaction.  It really isn't fair to expect one person--life partner or not--to bear the burden of being another person's entire community.  And I honestly don't know how to address that situation, either.  Certainly, going away by myself takes some of the day in, day out burden off of him.  But it does nothing to cure my isolation; it merely takes away my one connection and leaves me, myself and I.  Perhaps that can be a good thing, if I use the time to do some productive thinking, and maybe planning. 

On the other hand, it almost feels like a golden opportunity for me to sink deeper inside my own head.  But I really can't let that happen.

Charlie Brown, you're the only person I know that can take a happy thing like a week at the beach to do anything you want, and turn it into a problem.  ;)               

Thursday, October 15, 2015

On A Woman's Right to...Speak

One of the things that hounded me throughout my working life was having a reputation as a bitch.  I struggled mightily with this.  It hurt me deeply that I always seemed to be making people angry or resentful when I spoke, even when what I had to say was valid and had no malice behind it, only a desire to facilitate understanding and move a job forward.  I could never comprehend why my motivations were always misconstrued.  I was too negative.  I was too critical.  I was too smart…or, at least, I was routinely resented for allowing any public demonstration of greater than average intelligence.  Surely such a display was meant as a purposeful insult to those of lesser intellectual standing!  I remember a male district manager advising me, in the course of a discussion about why I was not terribly popular with upper management, "You don't always have to be so right!"  Excuse me?

And then there was the time I slammed my keys on the counter and turned to walk off a job when my immediate superior (a man) remarked to my face in the middle of a disagreement, “Well we all know who wears the pants in YOUR family…!”

To be sure, I had a blind spot when it came to changing my communication methods in order to avoid the labels I so dreaded.  I just kept thinking that as long as I was honest and earnest, people would eventually get me.  I could never quite embrace the truth that no matter what I said, the source of irritation was not how I said it, it was the fact that I said it at all.  I was always proud that I had enjoyed (very limited) success in a traditionally male-dominated career (restaurant management.) And for years, I labored under the misconception that I had been fortunate enough throughout my working life to have avoided sexism in the workplace.  Who was I kidding?    

After awhile, I just stopped talking at work.  If every time I opened my mouth I pissed someone off, I would just hold my peace.  I preferred a reputation as uncommunicative and surly over the “b” word.  Which, of course, was not a good choice either.  One of my last bosses called me into her office and berated me for being silent or giving one-word answers.  Apparently, that behavior was as threatening as having an opinion.  I couldn’t win for losing.  Any wonder why, shortly thereafter, I chose to “retire” from the workaday world and jump into entrepreneurship with both feet?       

I stumbled upon this Washington Post article on Facebook:

Famous Quotes The Way A Woman Would Have To Say Them During A Meeting

In it, author Alexandra Petri takes famous historical quotes (uttered by men, naturally) and re-works them using the kind of language women are expected to use when attempting to be heard in the average business meeting.  For example:

“Let my people go.”

Woman in a Meeting: “Pharaoh, listen, I totally hear where you’re coming from on this. I totally do. And I don’t want to butt in if you’ve come to a decision here, but, just, I have to say, would you consider that an argument for maybe releasing these people could conceivably have merit? Or is that already off the table?”
Wow.  What a reality check!   Petri may go a hair too far to make her point—the mealy-mouthed apologetics in the feminized quotes are over-the-top, to say the least.  But any woman who reads this, at the exact moment when she starts laughing and wheezing, “That’s ridiculous!” will develop an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of her stomach that the author’s core idea—that women are held to an entirely different semantic standard than men—is spot on.  And every woman who has ever worked outside the home can offer up corroborating examples from her own exploits in the workplace.

Great strides were made, back in the late 20th century, to abolish both racial bias and gender bias, in the American workplace, and in society-at-large.  We Boomers made earnest moves in that direction, when we were young and robust and full of ourselves.  But we didn't finish the work.  We didn't eradicate discrimination.  We merely covered up the most blatant examples, and ignored the more insidious ones.  All it took was a couple of decades of ascendancy of a Conservative agenda to pull us backward at least one step for each step forward we made; to make us understand that the work we believed DONE not only was not good enough, but is in no way safe from being UN-DONE. 

Get angry, ladies!  Know when you're being disrespected!  Fight for the right to speak openly and honestly! No person should ever be held to a different standard of behavior based on her gender, any more than on the color of her skin, her religion, or her citizenship status.  We need to recognize discrimination for what it is, whenever and wherever it occurs.  We need to apply ourselves to rooting it out and replacing it with a fair standard for every American in the workplace—male, female, black, white, immigrant or native.  And we can never, NEVER relax that vigilance.  Because we can never be certain that the good changes we put in place will last forever.  Or even past our own generation.        


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Falling, Itching, Walking

I don't know what it is about Fall.  For me, it's a time of churning, yearning for change.  Of  looking at my life and thinking it's not right.  It needs something.  Something I should be doing, somewhere I should be going, some change I should be making.  I  itch.  Itch almost out of my skin.  Itch with the pulse of energy that has built up...  Preparing...storing...overflowing...  Waiting  for the right thing to throw it at.  And the thing has never come.

Since I was a teenager, this has been my challenge.  The wind freshens, the light slants, the leaves change and fall...and I can't sit still.  I burst out of the house and into the outdoors and just...walk.  Hundreds of miles, turning things over and over, puzzling, dreaming...walking. 
I'm not a teenager any more.  Now the itch is aggravated by memories of things tried and things failed.  I itch no less...maybe more.   Fifty years of itching, and no clue yet what I'm itching for.  And running out. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Kind Words

I've never been one to chase after the unattainable beauty standards of American culture.  I've gone through life flat-chested, short-legged, waistless and with a mouth full of crooked teeth, but I never felt all that self-conscious about it, and I never felt that I was bullied or teased about it.  But, being the person of artistic bent that I am, I've always maintained a wardrobe that spoke to a heightened design sense, and I never, NEVER leave the house without arranging my hair in some non-scary fashion and putting on at least a minimum of makeup.  I like to look in the mirror and think, "There.  I won't make anyone run away screaming today."   I ceased entertaining the thought of  inspiring appreciative looks or actual compliments about twenty-five years ago. 

But lately, I've been feeling just...ugly.  I don't feel like I'm making a graceful physical transition from middle age to old age at all.  The skin above my eyes has begun to puff and sag to the point that it is interfering with my vision.  And, of course, one eye is leading the charge over the other, so I look perpetually...asymmetrical.  And my hair, which has never been my crowning glory, has decided to surrender to my never-ending struggle with it by simply...falling out.  My core muscles have deteriorated significantly over the past few years, putting stubborn bulges in places I didn't even know could bulge.  These days, I'm looking more and more like a bald, pot-bellied, snaggle-toothed Buddha than anything I would equate with a gracefully aging former hippy.   And the clothes that are out there now--the ones I can afford, anyway--are not designed to flatter this problematic sixty-year-old figure.

Even so, I do take pains to look my best, whatever that may be, whenever I go out in public.  Just because I can't stand the idea of not looking at least marginally put-together  when I'm out among other people.  If I look bad, I feel bad.  So I indulge myself.  To that end, every Saturday night this summer, I have carefully chosen an outfit to wear to the Sunday market the next day.  Always adding a touch of sparkle or a scarf or something, just to make ME feel good.  And keeping in mind that I'm going to be working.

This past Sunday was our last market of the season.  I have been in a strange mood lately, what with suffering from the uglies and struggling with the realities of my marriage.  And market days are a day of intense interaction with the husband:  90-minute drives to the site and back, and then the 8-hour stint at the market itself, just him and me.  I have to hand it to us, we have been handling the togetherness rather well.  After a somewhat rocky start, we fell into an understanding of, "You do what you do, and I'll do what I do," and we're actually very careful not to step on each other's toes.

I don't really remember the exact conversation, but I remember remarking that I was just...ugly.  Of course, he said, "Oh, are not."  And of course, that has little meaning coming out of the mouth of someone you know is trying his best to maintain a positive equilibrium between you and himself.  Not that he didn't mean it.  That's just how I tend to view most compliments, or denials of my self-bashing, that come out of his mouth.  It's definitely MY problem, not his.  I wallow, and he does not seem to have the magic winch that can drag me out of this particular mud hole.

Later that afternoon, though, something did happen that managed to pull me out, at least a bit.  The wife of the guy with the booth next to ours came up to me, completely unsolicited, and said, "You always look so pretty!"  (And there is no way she could have heard my earlier remark, since their booth is an enclosed wooden structure and we are right next to the speakers from the band, so the music makes it hard to hear our own customers, much less conversations going on in the next space.) 

Imagine that.  Not just an appreciative look.  An actual verbal compliment, from a stranger.  Something I hadn't expected in a million, billion years.  Sometimes, the Universe throws you a bone that you don't even know you are in desperate need of until you get it.

So let me just say...if the Creator inspires you to compliment someone today, DO IT.  You never know just how strong a lifeline one kind word can be.