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Saturday, December 20, 2014


I am a recovering perfectionist.  When I was in kindergarten, I had the stunning realization that I was the only kid in the class who couldn’t tie my own shoes (no fault of my parents, who had tutored me with endless patience).  I immediately went into self-imposed exile every day during recess, staying alone in the classroom to practice tying and retying the wooden boot that was provided for such a purpose.  Needless to say, this OCD-like behavior concerned my teacher, who contacted my folks.  She admonished them for pressuring me, and they assured her they had not (and they had not).  “That’s just Kara”, my Mom told her, and that was the truth.  Even at 5, I was unusually driven to “do things right.” If practice actually did make perfect, I would’ve been the gold medal winner in the shoe tying Olympics.  But ultimately (it would take me another 20 years or so to accept this), it turns out I just don’t have very nimble fingers and activities that require fine motor skills are never going to be my strong suit.  I am just not wired that way.

My best friend is another recovering perfectionist, and for many years I have teased her that she would be a lot happier if she could just learn to embrace her mediocrity, as I have.  Ha.  I am so mediocre at so many things, it is downright dazzling!  You should see my half-assed bed making skills (yawn), my remarkably lame baking abilities, my powerfully lazy form in nearly all-things-sports.  I’m like the Private Benjamin of life, trudging around in circles wondering how other people motivate themselves to do so many tedious things when I just “want to go out to lunch”.  I once had a part time job in a candy store, where I literally wrapped hundreds and hundreds of boxes of chocolate, and guess what?  I STILL suck at wrapping presents.  Fine motor again.  I have many friends who are impossibly talented artists, or world-class musicians, or over-achieving academics…nope, nope and nope.  None of that is me.  I am telling you, there is a dazzling mediocrity here!
Now don’t think I am getting down on myself, because I promise you I am not.  I am just one of those people who believe that the Divine is an all-inclusive resort; in other words, either everything is divine, or nothing is.  I think there are plenty of things I am good at, without a doubt, and I enjoy my mastery of them to a fault almost.   But I also revel in my incompetence very nearly as much.  Let that sink in.  I find joy in sucking at things and calling myself out on it.  For example, as I mentioned, I am a ridiculously unskilled baker.  Lopsided cakes?  Check.  Formless cut-out cookies?  Check.  Dry breads?  Checkmate!  But you are not going to see some kind of “Chariots of Fire” slow-mo montage of me training to get better at this…you will instead see me waiting in line at the bakery.  And having a good laugh about it, too.  Because two of the things I excel at are prioritizing and having a sense of humor about most things, even my own shortcomings.  So here’s something else I am bad at:  banging my head against a wall.  Don’t see the point.

In the same way that I have learned to trust personal rejection—some people just aren’t my people—I have come to trust my mediocrity.  We don’t all need to be good at everything; that would just be silly!  Plain old sucking at some things is not only generally amusing, it also gives me the opportunity to ask for help.  And knowing how much I enjoy being helpful to people I care about, I figure I am doing my friends and family a solid when I raise the white flag of surrender.  Please help me can in truth be very empowering words, when used judiciously.  I’m pretty sure that this is why there is more than one of us, actually.  I love it when a friend acknowledges a strength of mine by asking for my help.  It qualifies as a top-ten life experience for me.  Having a skill that is both recognized and utilized by a grateful receiver is a radically badass event, at least as far as I am concerned.  And how could I return the favor if I wasn’t so damned mediocre at so many things?
Hey, I am not advocating an abdication of effort, don’t get me wrong.  But I am pulling for all of us to accept ourselves AS IS.  To embrace our weaknesses as well as our strengths can be a very powerful stance.  I saw an awesome sign in front of a church on my way home today…it said “Faith is simply a refusal to panic”.  How great is that?  Having true faith in ourselves is not a pie in the sky whitewash job.  It’s about a deep resonance with who we are and what we are capable of…and also about NOT PANICKING when we fall.  Instead of considering it a failure, it might even be possible to have a laugh in a “WOW!-Did-I-screw-that-up-or-what?” kind of way.  Because we all suck at something.  And that is totally okay.  Whenever I get excited about anything—a person, a book, a place—I take it as a sign that says “Walk this way”.  So I do, with good results.  On the other hand, when my disinterest is such that I cannot be bothered to really even focus long enough to gain competence?  I see a “Don’t Walk” sign.  And for me, it’s all good!  I have exuberance for both walking and not walking, if you get me.  I am righteous in my incompetence and you can be too!  Just be yourself, and enjoy every moment of it, okay?

Thursday, December 11, 2014


So lately my book club has been taking a bit of a walk on the wild side; no, we did not read “50 Shades of Grey”!!!  At least I didn’t.  But we have taken to, instead of hanging out at my house and drinking and barely discussing the book, going out to drink and really not discussing the book at all. 

We are wild women, I’ll tell you what!

So our misadventures have taken us to not one but TWO local roadhouses in the past few months.  Yeah, you read that right.  Keeping in mind we live in New England and what passes here as a roadhouse would be beaten up and left at the side of the road for dead in Texas.

Anyhoo, we did our distant neighbors in the Lone Star state proud this past weekend, because a FIGHT broke out directly behind our table, where we were swilling drinks and like I mentioned, really not discussing our book at all.  I don’t know the gory details, but I can tell you it started with a man and a woman, but then she huffed off and another man stepped in and before I knew it, the two fellows were scuffling on the floor, with butt-crack aplenty in view.  Ah, Christmastime!!! 

Is there anything quite like the holiday spirit(s)???

I am a woman who enjoys her wine.  In fact, in addition to my book club, I actually formed a small but formidable organization called “The Wine Club” where we don’t feel the need to go through the hollow gesture of reading a book before we get together to drink. 

As there is really a barely perceptible difference between me sober and me drunk (If you are not holding up your end of the conversation, I will always bulldoze right in and hold up both sides, just like a drunk person. I will ask highly personal questions and kind of put you on the spot about answering them, just like a drunk person. I will overshare, just like a...well you get it.) this may lead you to believe that drinking is really an unnecessary part of life for me.   However, I would beg to differ. 

Having been blessed, undoubtedly due to my German/Irish/English heritage, with what I believe is called a hollow leg, a glass of wine (or three) makes a fun occasion downright festive.  My natural exuberance for life in general and profanity specifically is heightened and honed to an art under the influence, and needless to say this makes me the life of any party!  At least as far as I am concerned.  Wine is fun!
You know the stereotype, so popular in literature and film, of the sage barfly?  I have worked in enough “gin joints” in my day to know this character is not a myth.  You would be amazed at the wisdom that sometimes comes out of the mouths of the types of people who spend every happy-hour-to-close drinking themselves into a stupor. 

To be fair, the wise stuff usually happens relatively early in the evening.  But not always!  There is something about having a drink (or 5) that allows us to let down our guard in a very profound way, and access our intuition most deeply.  Now, ideally, we could all do this sober!  And before anyone gets outraged, I realize that true alcoholism is a disease and not something to take lightly. 

But hey, Jesus wept and he also drank.  And he did not exactly discourage others from imbibing either, with his whole water-into-wine trick.  So let’s not get hysterical about it. 
You know dark chocolate increases serotonin levels in our brains, which is a very good, healthy, excellent thing.  But no one is advocating overindulgence in it.  So let’s leave it at that.
The holidays are a time when we feel pressure, often for lovely and important reasons, but pressure nevertheless.  We circulate, we reach out, we expose our generosity in a myriad of ways.  This can be invigorating and tiring in the same breath.  And speaking of breathing, with all the hustle and bustle and deadlines and gosh-darned sociability the holidays force upon us, it can be hard to slow down, even to take a breath.  This is where a glass of wine comes in (or your adult beverage of choice). 

It is a moment where we slow down, we take stock, we let down our crazy-ass guard for just a little while and appreciate.  And btw, some people can do this with a cup of tea, God bless them!!!  Someday that will be me, because tea is quite delicious.  But for now, I am in(to) the holiday spirit(s).  Without judgment, without rushing on to the next part of my life, I am enjoying the call to relax and breathe. 

Now, back to the bar fight…watching those men roll around on the floor reminded me that it is possible to find joy in absolutely EVERYTHING, even a drunken brawl (no one was injured; it was over before it began, practically.  No worries).  It can be hard to remember, as Charles Dickens so brilliantly wrote in "A Christmas Carol", that we are all just “fellow passengers to the grave” and we should always try to open our “shut-up hearts freely” to one another. 

Dickens (and I) believe that Christmas is the time of year when this becomes just a little easier for us all.  But some days, the only thing standing between us and a “Bah, humbug” attitude is a glass of wine (or cup of tea, or piece of chocolate). 

So let’s enjoy this holiday season.  Let us heed the advice of Dickens’ ghosts and remember, “It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide; and, if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death.”  Go on; let your holiday spirit(s) roam!  We will all be so grateful if you do…

In a please drink responsibly kind of way, of course.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014


Recently I had a conversation with my stepdaughter, who is enlisted military.  Something she told me I just can’t get out of my head:  that she has been told she was “selfish” to join the armed forces.  SELFISH to enlist.  The main rationale for this criticism, as far as I can tell, is that she is a MOTHER.  And enlisted military are sometimes required to LEAVE TOWN.  Did you know that?  That our soldiers can’t just sit around hometown USA and collect a paycheck?  This gave me a big old brain hole where I am trying to comprehend the reasoning.  She is divorced, with a 50/50 custody arrangement.  Which according to some people is also SELFISH.  So let’s try to figure out why a woman who wants to serve her country and doesn’t provide 24/7, 365 childcare is somehow “selfish”, shall we???

I don’t want to jump to conclusions here, but are our Y chromosome military facing the same kind of pushback she is?  Do fathers who are “out of town” serving the country face the same kind of criticism?  Are soldiers who choose to be parents SELFISH?  Or have we decided, as a society, that a mother’s care is so far superior to a father’s that his at home “service” is negligible, while her abdication of at home service is “neglect”?  The double standard applied here is like the regular double standard on steroids because how many times have you heard tell of a man who thinks “stay-at-home” moms need to get a “real job”?  But if that “real job” is defending our country?  Or somehow “interferes” with providing childcare?  Then she is being “selfish”.  Can a woman win? 
I think just being a plain old wife includes many jobs.  Decorating, food shopping, meal prep, holiday prep, gift buying, schedule and budget maintenance, gardening, cleaning, laundry…I won’t go on, but many of these “jobs” are individual, well paid professions.  Now add childcare into the picture and this explodes exponentially.  Yet “stay-at-home” moms are often admonished to get “real jobs” while career women who are also mothers are branded “selfish”.  We all know there are double standards when it comes to pay—women earn 77 cents to a man’s dollar—and there are major double standards when it comes to female versus male sexuality.  But what I am starting to sense is that a dynamic I and so many women I know experience in our marriages and relationships is just a microcosm of our societal dynamic:  no matter what the circumstances, somehow, as Jimmy Buffet famously sang, “there is a woman to blame”.

You know the term “gaslighting”?  It is defined as a form of mental abuse in which false information is presented in order to make the victim doubt their own perceptions, memories, SANITY.  I have experienced this personally in nearly all of my relationships with men—being told that I am “crazy” to feel the way I feel, that I am misremembering what happened, that I am OVER REACTING to what happened.  I have conversely experienced this about zero times in my relationships with women.  Have you ever noticed the percentage of men who blame their divorce on their ex-wife being “crazy”?  I would guess anecdotally that it hovers around 95%.  Whenever I hear a man say this, I always think to myself, “Well, pal, either you are a piss-poor judge of character or a liar”.  Because at what point did you realize she was “mentally ill”?  Before or after you fathered offspring with her? 
You know what is really offensive?  A woman who has “wants” and “needs” of her own, especially if she is a MOTHER.  Once you have birthed a child you are expected to serve your offspring first, your husband second (unless he leaves you for his secretary, you boring old twat) and in your spare time, you can maybe exercise a little (you fat sow).  A good mother should be attractive, but not too attractive because, what?  Is she on the prowl???  She should be thin, but not too thin (don’t want to raise a kid with an eating disorder!); well-kept but not well-groomed (what good mother has the time and resources to GROOM?) and well-read, in a book-club-meets-once-a-month kind of way (a good mother doesn’t have much time to read).  A good mother does not drink, except on special occasions and if she can hold her liquor than she is obviously a lush and an unfit parent.  A good mother can cook meals from scratch and keep up with the laundry and keep a tidy house but NOT a pristine house because what kid wants to live in a museum?  A good mother only goes out with her husband (once a week max) and her book club (again—once a month is the limit), otherwise she is leaving those kids to raise themselves in the wild, she is just so all about her own pleasure.  The only thing worse than this?  A woman who has the SELFISH AUDACITY to NOT WANT CHILDREN.

A woman needs to keep her husband cared for, interested and happy, but not be a financial burden so should find a job only during school hours so the kids are always the priority.  Women need to remember birthdays, entertain guests, celebrate holidays, volunteer at the school or the church, stay on a budget and not complain because if you do not have a full-time job you are obviously living on easy street and don’t know the meaning of a hard day’s work.  Women better not enlist or become police officers or do any kind of dangerous job once they have given birth because that is SELFISH.  And how many women do you know that are actually meeting all of this criteria, lazy slobs?  Women really are SELFISH, CRAZY  b*tches, don’t you think?  Now re-read this and reverse all genders and see if it makes any sense.  Society has been gaslighting women for centuries, telling us that how we feel and what we want is just not right, NO MATTER WHAT IT IS.  So let’s go ahead and be just a little selfish.  What have we got to lose?