Archive for the 'personal style' Category


November 29, 2011

Someone in an email group I belong to included the following, which may be commonly known, but I had never heard it before: “‘A woman has to be in the mood; a man has to be in the room.'”  There has been much discussion, much in a jocular vein, about this ever since, among other members of the group.

But I actually found it helpful in a more pedantic way, because it said to me that maybe some men don’t trust themselves and that’s why they avoid certain kinds of relationships with women.  Which in turn got me thinking about “What Temptation Means to Me.”

For me, temptation is usually about signing on to someone else’s view not just of the world and how to be in it but of me and how I should be in it.  The (mis)step I take is something like, “Oh, they must know something I don’t” and I jump right into their idea of what I should be doing.  A good example was when my son was struggling in high school and I called all the right people for advice and they told me to convene a meeting and it turned out to bring things to a head in a way we were not prepared for (and not what was supposed to happen — many rules were broken, but as I learned, unless the student and family have the resources, including time, to go through a hearing process, there’s not much that can be done when the rules are not followed — more than one lawyer told me, “Yes, you’re right, there really is no accountability there, they are used to that, and that’s a large part of the problem.  Muddle on.”  We muddled until he graduated.).

So, one of my temptations is to take other people’s advice, and when it means adopting a worldview that actually doesn’t work in my context, if indeed it actually works for anybody — sometimes I think it just becomes more obvious in my life because the issues tend to get played out in heightened ways — I end up sitting on the ground inspecting my bruises and trying to accept that what may be appropriate for other people may actually not be what I should be doing, and that it’s part of my contribution to the situation that I asked for and took their advice.

Bruises are one thing.  I can get back up on the horse (elephant?) and keep going.  It’s when the advice tells me something akin to, “You shouldn’t be riding that horse,” or any horse, that I risk trouble.  My sense of what horse I should be riding I think has to come through me, I don’t think I can take most people’s word for it.  When I sense I’m on the wrong one, I do have some success asking someone like Gita, who does see other people’s stuff pretty neutrally, about why I feel confused.  It usually even then takes my actually seeing it for myself to accept it, although the suggestion about where to look is invaluable.

The temptation with which I am currently struggling involves the perennial favorite question, especially in middle age, “What should I be doing with my Life?”  I don’t feel like a failure, the way a relative recently reported to me she feels, but I do feel tired and that I still haven’t found a modus vivendi since Willy died that feels like it works for me.  I have opted for the “function and be responsible” part of the program, and hoped that eventually I would find the opportunity to regroup in a way that would feel more comfortable, especially since in the long term I need a way of living that is less exhausting.  I don’t know.  Maybe I am too loathe to abandon my responsibilities in favor of something else, or maybe the lesson is to find a way to meet those responsibilities without becoming so exhausted and with discovering a way to find contentment in my life as presently constituted.  I do somewhat better with answering the smaller question of, “What should I be doing right now in my life?  What is next?”

Personal style

September 9, 2011

I suspect this is a pretty universal parenting thing, but it may be amplified by other factors, I think: our kids may go through life with very different personal styles from those that we who raise them use.

This bit of dissonance I am being forced to face as my younger son goes back to attending college and trying to manage all the administrative stuff that comes at the beginning of the new year.  (And it’s in addition to the “I’ve got it all under control, Mom” that I have trouble believing after weary past experience from the fallout when these claims — from either son — have proved not to be true.)   But I cheer myself with two recollections.  One is that of Ted, who used to, at least back before the advent of all that airport security, say that he would prefer to miss his plane than arrive more than ten minutes before his flight.  Maybe that’s a cultural thing (Ted’s Canadian), I don’t know, but I found it fascinating, and Elizabeth seemed to confirm that these weren’t just words, that Ted actually missed planes implementing this strategy.

The second involves my older son.  We were in Washington because I was giving a paper, and for some reason that I can’t remember, we all (this was before Jordan was born and after Joice was no longer living with us) went, and Willy and Jonas went to museums and monuments and the zoo and such while I attended a conference for two days.  Jonas was a pre-schooler at the time.  And at breakfast one morning he was hoping for waffles and they weren’t on the menu in the hotel restaurant.  I can’t remember how the conversation went, but he charmed the waiter into having the kitchen make them for him anyway, and Willy and I looked at each other and said, “I never could have done that.”

So, I try to remember what a former Buddhist monk I went to law school with used to tell me, that we all need to find the personal style that works for us.  I guess maybe my gripe with my kids is around whether their personal style is actually working for them, but I suspect they and I have different criteria for what constitutes “working for them.”