Archive for the 'self-care' Category

When teachers get in the way

December 5, 2013

A friend of mine took me to the Museum of Fine Arts yesterday, and we saw the exhibit of Sargent watercolors.  The paintings were wonderful.

The exhibit was crowded.  It was difficult to get a position to view a painting from a distance from which one could see the detail, and it was difficult to get a position to read the supporting information on the wall.  The written material I thought was especially helpful, more so than these explanations, pointers, and interpretations often are.

I was standing close to a painting, reading its explication and looking back to it from time to time as I did so.  An older woman walked up and stood herself between myself and the wall.  I waited for her to do what she had come to do and then move so I could resume, or for her to realize she was blocking my view and move in some way so that we could share access.

She didn’t.  She remained there, pulled in the group she was leading, which then blocked even more of my access to what I had been trying to view, and commenced a lecture on the painting.

When I realized she was acting as if I weren’t there, I moved on.  I did not see having even a polite confrontation in a museum.

I looked at some more of the paintings in that room, and when I got to the doorway, I saw a museum guard, so I went up to ask her about whether groups are allowed to displace single viewers.  I explained to her what had happened and she told me she sees it all the time, it bothers her a lot and it is not acceptable behavior from the museum’s point of view, and that the process is to let the Visitors Center know.   I came to find out later that the person leading the group was actually a docent under the museum’s auspices — I had been willing to believe they were an ignorant visitor leading a group she had organized to bring to the museum.

This was not the first time I have found my access to viewing art at the Museum of Fine Arts blocked by the staff.  It happened a year or two ago, I think it was, when I wanted to see the colossal statue of Juno and they were setting up for a lecture in the hall and had closed it off.

In the iteration of the pattern that occurred yesterday, the woman lecturing on art got between me and a source of information provided by someone else.  She was quite self-assured, in her presentation to her group, of her own interpretation of the painting, but she was excluding me from having my experience of the painting.  I was reminded of people I am related to getting between me and spiritual resources, and instead insisting that Art and Culture were the only way to go, that I had to accede, as well, to their controlling my access to what art and culture were available to me, and that I was not part of the preferred  audience.

In the version I experienced yesterday as a grown-up who has found her own way back to what sources she needs, the whole thing was reduced to an annoying but almost silly incident.  I had some distance and detachment and it didn’t feel existential, more like a metaphor to help me process a past, more painful experience.  And when I did mention the incident to the Visitors Center to get some clarification about what the customs of the place are, and they insisted that I fill out a form, I thought later, “Ah, there’s the ‘Complaint Department’ my relatives were always telling me to take my complaints to.”  The kaleidoscope had turned enough to give me closure through a literal enactment on the physical plane.

That night I was fielding my mother’s regularly scheduled phone call, and, as usual, it was all about everybody else, and when I brought up a current consumer fraud issue that is on my plate and not getting resolved quickly enough for my emotional comfort, I got the response of her changing the subject.  We talk about other people’s consumer fraud issues ad nauseum and I am required by her to troubleshoot them and provide referrals, if not outright help.  It does not feel like a healthy role for me to play, and it probably isn’t, but what came to me last night is that if I put aside the issues of unfairness, unequal treatment, and even my own distress, I can make the case that the situation doesn’t work because I don’t actually need her help — the universe gives me another resource and that is the one apt for me.  What I do about being pulled into service on behalf of everybody else, willingly or not, is a separate issue, and clearly, if one looks at my life, a central one.  That will take me longer to sort out.  In the meantime, I will see what today brings.


False self

August 9, 2012

I have a habit of not wearing my best clothes, I tend to save them for something — for a special occasion, a new phase in my life, or maybe just for when I want to spend the time, energy, and money on their upkeep.  I’m not proud of the habit, I know intellectually it doesn’t make much sense, that I should always put my best foot forward and step out smartly and that I will not always be able to wear my current wardrobe anyway, since, even if my weight doesn’t change, what looks appropriate for my age will, and fabrics will fray and leather dry out in storage.

But I think it’s a useful metaphor for how many of us present routinely false selves to others and, whether we admit it or not, to ourselves.  We can say there’s a usefulness in changing into play clothes after school or work, into business attire for our jobs, or into old clothes to paint a room, and I suppose to some extent we do present some sort of persona in most interactions with other people.  But I think we should think of it as if we were some physically beautiful movie star, whose beauty shines through and is apparent no matter what he or she puts on — we should always present a real self, we should keep it in mind to turn ourselves out to show our intrinsic attractiveness in some way no matter what, we should always let that part of us shine through.


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?”

Getting help

October 1, 2011

I get a lot of feedback about my hair — it has been a running theme in my life ever since I can remember, regardless of how I wear it.

My latest episode involved getting my teeth cleaned.  It’s been humid here, and I think that was why my hair was getting in my dentist’s way — it was sticking out more and lying flat less.  So I offered to pull it back and stick it in my collar, and I forgot I was wearing a necklace outside my clothing (I usually wear them against my skin), and I broke the clasp off the thing.

Later in the day I went to the woman who had originally made the necklace for me, confessed my mistake, and asked her if she could restring the necklace for me.  Which she did, as well as making me a new necklace, one from kyanite and silver (very short, no way this one can be worn completely outside my clothes).  She also pressed on me a hair trim, some haircombs she says are from the 1940s, and a new hairstyle.

To my way of thinking, this episode was about many things, but also a good example of how the universe works with what I can contribute to my well-being — I can get myself to the dentist, and that’s enough to get me some reasonable help with my hair, if I just play along.