Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What's with the Attitude?

Because I'm blogging again and feel a certain level of accountability to my readers, I've been on guard when it comes to my impatience, my anger level, and my road rage.  And because that has all been kept in check or more honestly, suppressed, it's inevitable for all of that bad behavior to spew some place else.  After all, we all need an outlet.  I know a few who overeat, some who watch movies, preferably violent ones, a handful who cry, and a few, like myself, who take it out on the innocent.

"I said the Plaza on New Dorp, babe," I repeated, taking a deep breath.  My family and I were on the road on a Saturday to do some Christmas shopping on a budget.  I had heard about the 5 dollar and under store from my sister and since my Christmas List had close to fifty names, that store was going to be the one and only destination.

"There are two plazas in the area, babe," my husband also repeated, minus the deep breaths and the rolling of the eyes.  "I just need to know which one."

"I said it, remember? I said it three times.  The plaza where Aaron took Karate when he was four.  Remember?  Don't you remember the place?  We took him there every Saturday for a year, remember?  That plaza.  I said it.  Three times."

There are moments in my life when I find my own self unbearable and yet, for some reason beyond my own cosmic control, I keep plowing towards that despicable place until I've reached a point of no return.

My husband's jaws moved back and forth a little.  He didn't say anything but kept his eyes on the road and continued driving.  Now, you must understand who I'm married to.  I probably subconsciously started this blog toward Virtue because I am married to that alien-from-outer-space-are-you-for-real man?  I mean, my husband is Mr. Virtuous. I've refrained myself from writing about him so as not to incite jealousy from other husbands and perhaps other wives.  Honestly, I've refrained from writing about him to keep everyone from gasping, "What have you ever done to deserve Mr. Perfect?"  You would have to know him to fully appreciate what I'm saying and then you too, like some of my close friends and family, male and female, would sigh and say, "I want to marry him!"

That perfect man began signaling to make a turn into the wrong street away from that plaza "where Aaron had taken Karate when he was four years old for a year."

"Where are you going?" I said.  "The plaza over there!"  I was pointing now.  "The plaza over there where Aaron took Karate for a year.  Don't you remember?"

"Babe, I remember."

"Then why are you turning here?"  Exaggerated sighs.  Sucking teeth.  Eyes rolling like an exorcist.

"You said to go to Dr. Broillet's office.  That was the way to his office."

I had a rebuttal, of course.  But even I can't write that rebuttal now because it makes me want to go back into the past and slap that nagging wife senseless.

My husband's face became grim, a rare occurrence and I took note of it.  He kept driving, this time in restrained silence.  I kept talking, like most wives who deserve a time-out chair.  My husband finally spoke.  I could think whatever I wanted to think, he said.  There was obviously a miscommunication somewhere.  And no, it wasn't true.  He was listening.  I was often guilty of the same thing--listening but not hearing correctly.  I didn't want him to start listing my offenses.

I wasn't yelling.  My voice wasn't even raised but my tone and my dripping sarcasm disturbed my 9-year-old son.  He chimed in and echoed his Dad.  Mom, it's not a big deal, ok?

We pulled in the parking lot and my mind began to race.  I looked at my husband.  This wasn't a matter of right and wrong.  I had been demeaning, speaking to my husband like he suffered from cerebral coma.  Over what?  Over driving directions.  Over a wrong turning signal.  I had been under some stress at work and my patience ran extremely thin but my attitude was inexcusable.

I grew up in a home filled with constant bickering, sharp arguments and full blown fights.  I never heard my parents apologize to each other, although perhaps behind closed doors they did.  I grew up in an environment where saying "I'm sorry" and admitting you're wrong were foreign and uncomfortable.  And the hardest thing for me to do, to this day, is apologize.

I looked at my husband again and thought, this was a silly disagreement.  It was no big deal.  But it could be a seed of resentment that I am unintentionally planting in his heart and should another disagreement come around, and of course it will, I could water that seed.  I suppose that's how some marriages fail.  A collection of small little nonsense that turn into a field of bitterness and unforgiveness.

"Babe," I said softly, holding back my husband's hand from unlocking his seatbelt.  "I'm sorry.  I'm sorry for being so snotty.  I'm sorry for having an attitude."

My husband's face relaxed.  He looked at me, his eyes had immediately softened.  He chuckled.  "Yea, what's with the attitude?"

"I'm stressed!" I said, throwing my hands up in the air in an exaggerated, melodramatic way.  My husband and my children all giggled.

Stress was okay, my husband said.  He would like to be the stress reliever and not my punching bag.  My husband is known for  his "sayings" and I thought he would quote some famous phrase in French.  But he didn't.  He just smiled and shook his head at me.  I apologized again and in a child-like voice I told him I wanted to be like him when I grew up.  He was amazing.  How did he become so amazing? He was my Mr. Virtuous.

My husband shook his head and got out of the car.  Compliments make him uncomfortable.  "Stop that nonsense, " he said.  "We all just have to control ourselves and watch what we say."

And that's the challenge.  Controlling ourselves and watching what we say.  Relieving our stress in a healthy manner and not using the innocent, our espouse or children, as punching bags.

Thank God for a good man.  Left on my own, I just might self-destruct.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Just one kidney, please

I walked in yesterday on what seemed to be a rather emotionally charged conversation on the phone between my assistant and who I assumed was a friend and I immediately closed the door to the office and gave her some privacy.  "Anna Marie, no," she called out, trying to summon me back into the office but I made my way to our make-shift cafeteria that could fit approximately two malnourished adults and waited.  She followed me and explained that it was her mother on the phone.  A friend was dying.  His situation seemed hopeless.  He needed a kidney.

"He can't find anyone to give him one," she said, clearly concerned.  Then she went on to explain that he did not want a kidney from his children or his nephews and nieces and his wife and siblings were far too unhealthy to be donors.  "He won't do dialysis.  He'd rather die."

We continued to talk about the situation, the pro's and con's.  Pro's that a kidney could extend his life another 20 years.  Con's that his blood type was rare and a match was virtually impossible.

"And really, he can't find anyone in his family that could give him a kidney."

We reflected on this horrid, horrid situation then asked each other honestly if we would be willing to volunteer a kidney to a family member?  It's a very painful procedure and you, as a donor, would have to take medications for the rest of your life.

"I'd do it for my Dad," she said.  "If he were still alive and he needed one, I would do it in a heartbeat."

Forever the psychosomatic, I immediately put myself in the shoes of the ill.  "No one would give me a kidney, I  don't think."

My assistant laughed, as my staff often do when I make random comments.  "Your husband would!"

Yes, he would, I mused.  But I really didn't think anyone else would.  I combed through the closest people in my life and thought about the sacrifice a kidney would take and the more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that placed in the same awful situation I would probably be left spending everyday on my knees making amends with my Maker to secure a spot in heaven.

"He should just go to Europe or something and make the best of his last days, " I said.  "I know that's what I would do."  And then I pictured myself becoming very ill in the middle of Paris, dying somewhere in the Louvre, unable to say goodbye to everyone I loved.  I would be buried in France without a tombstone.  Maybe staying local would be the safer move.

I thought about a handful people I knew.  People who would probably get a line of donors should they find themselves in such a terrible state.  What made them so special?  What made everyone just absolutely and positively love them enough to do whatever it would take to keep them around?

Later that day, while on the BQE, where my deepest thoughts often take place, I thought about the Virtuous Woman.  Would Sarah have gotten a kidney immediately?  Not from Hagar, of course not, but I wondered if she were surrounded by people who would fight each other over that sacrifice.  Yes, she clearly was surrounded by admirers and a husband who adored her, but did she have a circle of family and friends who would do whatever it would take to keep her around?

That's the problem with strength, I thought to myself.  You get too strong to need anyone's help.  And even if you did need it, you would be too proud to ask.  Ah, the problem again with vulnerability!

I remember crying at 18 and a family member walked in on me, stood, and watched me cry.  Then he closed the door and I heard him chuckle, "How the mighty has fallen!"  My God, it's been that long.  I've had such a reputation for so long!

Who gives a kidney to the mighty?

It's this balance between strength and vulnerability that I find most challenging.  And I keep wondering, did the Woman of Virtue have a soft side?  Did she ever seem to others in need of anything?  Surely she wasn't a complaining, bemoaning drama queen who wallowed in self pity but my Lord, was she ever vulnerable enough to need someone in order to stand on her own two feet even for just a moment?

I opened my wallet to locate a phone number this afternoon after pulling in my driveway and noticed a heart on my driver's license.  I'm a donor.  I giggled at the irony.  I had forgotten about that.  Someday my heart may beat for someone else, my pancreas may save a diabetic little boy, and my kidneys...my kidneys may add another 20 years to a dying man.

That's it, I thought.  You can't spend your days reflecting on what can be done for you.  You must always be in the state of readiness to do for someone else.  And should the moment come when you find yourself in an unfortunate, hopeless bind, help will come to you perhaps in more ways than you could have ever imagined.  Mighty or not, someone will step up to the plate.  It's the law of nature, I suppose.  Virtue begets virtue.

And the very fact that I can't seem to imagine a line of people offering their kidneys tells me that I have a long way to go to be that Virtuous Woman.  Because strength and accomplishment and bravery alone could not have made her virtuous.  Goodness, kindness, mercy and meekness are all characteristics of virtue.  And if you have all of that, very few around you would hesitate to hand you their kidney in a heartbeat.

I need to get to that place.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Falling Off the Wagon

The last time I was on this blog, I made a proclamation--an epiphany--that I, indeed, may already be the Virtuous Woman described in Proverbs 31.  That, no, I no longer needed to strive to be Elizabeth because I am, alas, already her!  And here I am, nearly 6 months later, my joints rustier, my mornings chaotic, and my prayer life shameful.  But that's really not why I decided to get back on the wagon, a wagon that had gone nowhere since I stopped blogging, freed from the sense of accountability from a surprising amount of readers that spanned across the United States and extended overseas.  I remember lazy mornings where I reluctantly pulled myself from my warm bed to pray and exercise knowing that there were people, friends, families, and complete strangers following me in my journey towards Elizabeth--to that difficult, challenging place of perfection.  I am sooo far from that place.  But alas I'm back because I need Elizabeth to spring me not only back on my feet but to keep my attitude in check.

I think it may be approaching 40--all of this hormonal change, or perhaps an early sign of menopause, God forbid, that has me recently on an extremely crabby mood.  I mean, crabby as in don't-look-at-me-or-I-just-might-throw-this-zucchin-at-you in the supermarket.  And I can't even tell you the thoughts that run through my head when the Verrazzano is jammed early in the morning and I'm desperately trying to get to work on an alternate side parking day in Brooklyn.  There are some people that should just not be driving out there--atleast not on the Verrazzano or the Belt, or Ocean Parkway.  There should be laws against driving in NYC if you're a highway phobic.  Because then women like me who are striving to remain Godly endanger the possibility of entering the pearly gates.

Have you ever been so annoyed that you want to crawl out of your own skin?  That's where I am.  And it seems as though no amount of buying new boots or drinking Starbucks coffee or sneaking to finish off some stale Halloween chocolates can simmer me down.  The awful thing is, I can't come up with a legitimate reason for the irritability and the last time I went to the doctor my blood pressure was so high he told me to take up Yoga.  Then, he thought better of it.  He knew about my inflexible joints.  "Maybe just stretch," he said.  "And walk.  Walking is good.  Yoga you can do much later."  And because I am psychosomatic, that night I told my husband I was having a heart attack.  "I have high blood pressure.  It can lead to a heart attack."  My husband wasn't sure what to make of this asymptomatic myocardial infarction so he said, "See your doctor in the morning."  I told him I would be dead by then.  

That was two months ago.  And I'm sure my blood pressure is steadily rising.

So today, while driving home from church I thought, "My God, I need Elizabeth.  I need to get back on the wagon and snap out of this."  

Then I thought of Sarah, the epitome of Virtue and I wondered if she dealt with anger, justified or not.  And then I remembered how angry she had gotten over Ishmael and Hagar; she was so "wroth" that she coldly sent them off to the wilderness, not caring what would become of them.  She had felt insulted and undermined in her own home and, wildly angry, she sent her husband's concubine and young son packing to some undetermined destination.

Maybe that wasn't the exact passage I needed to remember to simmer me down.  But whatever Sarah's case maybe, her anger, we later find out, was God-ordained.  It was instrumental to fulfilling what would become of Ishmael and Isaac.

I doubt my irritability has the same purpose of equal epic proportion.  

I really do think I just need to start praying more...to start organizing my day...to start, again, striving for goodness and kindness and love and oh, that foreign word in a place like NYC, long-suffering...

So here I am, climbing back on this wagon, planning for an early morning rise tomorrow, a moment of prayer, a few minutes of stretching, and the slow, steady ascent back towards virtue.  Pray for me.