Archive for the 'Mental Environment' Category

Does This Make Me a Quitter?

Wait a minute.. Wait a damn minute… I am sitting here in Fido on 21st, the village in Nashville.. And, as I was preparing to write a blog about my nearly definate decision to yank my son out of the psychotic world that is Cub Scouting, I overheard something that made me want to leap over my cheesy grits and coffee to rip a man’s face off. In his infinate self importance, he (a lone man, with no company - most certainly because he is such a crappy human being) decides to take the largest table in the place. It seats eight and he decides that he is important enough to bypass all the two tops for the largest table in the place - I suppose he may need that much room for his grotesquely large ego.. but never mind that.. A gentleman walks up and says “Hey, would it be ok if we took this table? I have twelve people joining me..” and the guy actually stood up and said “really, well, I suppose.. how many kids do you have coming so that I know how far to sit from you?” and gave the guy the slimiest smile I have ever seen.. I think the guy thought that it would be a funny thing and that the guy would laugh - because when you are rich and self important isn’t EVERYBODY supposed to think you’re funny? But the guy replied “actually, we have three kids and they are all well behaved”.. Anyway, the douchebag schlepped off to the other end of the cafe where I can only hope he will spill scalding hot coffee on his five thousand dollar khaki pants and loafers. I hate to use lame computer jargon but, wtf ?!?!

I think we are the only culture in the world that hates children. It reminds me of every time we go out to dinner we have to gaze apologetically at the kidless people around us because our kids are daring to speak and, gasp, be kids.. And, perhaps I am becoming prone to fistfighting, but I almost knocked a woman out at Target when she actually said very loudly so that, undoubtedly, I would hear “That woman’s kids are about to make me crazy”.. Granted they were making ME crazy too but, come on! They weren’t doing anything particularly unsavory, just throwing popcorn and singing the happy birthday song very loudly.. Ok, maybe it was particularly unsavory - but still. They are kids and attached to those kids are parents who could use some sympathy or understanding (or help!) for the love of god.. Or how about just taking kids for what they are instead of expecting them to be little adults and behave as if they are as self-important as the man in the ugly over-priced khakis. I hate to say it, but the times when I encounter people who actually revere children as being beautifully welcomed into a public setting are foreign.. Everyone else (i.e. my fellow americans), including other people with kids, either politely acknowledge their existence or, as I witnessed this morning, have no problem outwardly decreeing that they think children are a plague upon the earth. Seriously, there is something frighteningly wrong with that on so many levels…

And, yes, I am thinking about making the little boy quit cub scouts. I am trying to be part of the adult team but the reality is that they scare the living hell out of me. On the flip side of the weird hate children culture, there is this culture of adults that think that being good to kids is treating them, albeit very dedicatedly, like soldiers who have to conform to some weird pledge and some very outdated and horrifically, uncomfortably tacky uniform. I am not saying that all cub scouts is like this and I do see the good that can come from it. I know lots of people who were in scouts (myself included) and loved the experience. This, however, is not the same. I can’t really put my finger on it - all I can tell you is that when I am there I don’t get a warm fuzzy feeling about the direction my son is taking. And I certainly don’t get a warm fuzzy feeling from the adults - they put out this very perfectionist, rules and doing things by the book are the most important things in the world deal that really really makes me want to run.. Think Heaven’s Gate - just a different uniform.  I know I have a problem with organized groups - I know this about myself and I am facing my demons. But, I don’t think that it is my bias. I think these people are really, truly creepy. They give me the willies. I think we will go to one more meeting tonight just to see if, maybe, things are better.

Posted in Daily Living, Mental Environment | No Comments »

Miraculous Encounters of The Mommy Kind

Something that I never thought would happen HAS!  I have met a group of mothers that I don’t feel completely frightened by.  They don’t wear “workout clothes” (pajamas) everywhere they go.  Even though they adore their children, they don’t find it necessary to brief those around them on the inner workings of their kids’ digestives sytems or mental/behavioral advancement.  They don’t have cars that could house twenty when they only have one child.  They don’t talk about their husbands as if they were talking about their fathers.  They don’t sing retarded “clean up” songs with a crazy, jack nicholson look on their face.  They don’t look you up and down, with menacing judgement, when you hand your kid a quarter at 8am to get m&m’s from the gumball machine just so you can have a two minute conversation with the person selling coffee.  They don’t resent their families because they “gave up the career” or they can’t be themselves anymore……. Au contraire… They are women who have kids - not just moms.  Before you lash out - let me say, I think that being a mom is super incredible in itself.  It is the best job in the world blah blah blah.. Of course I think that, silly - I am one, afterall.  Just let me vent.  If you don’t think most parents are crazy weird, then stop reading.

Until now, it has been a steady flow of coridial acquaintance-ships - I can only think of two mothers, up to now, that have made me feel like I could be upfront and honest.  One is my age and has three kids and we pull together when we can.  The other is a little older with two kids and lives far, far away in boston.  So, I know it’s not an age issue - just a personality thing, I guess.  I have met young mothers my age who, well, have sort of cashed it in.  And the other mothers - they are great but they are usually in their forties or fifties and while I appreciate them, I just usually don’t have a lot in common with them other than the child factor. And even that is barely “in common” - they are usually the ones that have very weird rituals that you know they got from a parenting book or from Barney the Purple Dinosaur.  Maybe one of my faults is that I treat my kids a little too much like grown ups but, COME ON, every instruction you give them doesn’t have to be sugar coated with a song and a reward and a creepy grin of superior parenting skills, does it??? And, as someone who has a majority of other things, besides my beloved kids, that make me me, well - it’s nice to find others who like to talk about something besides poop and cradle cap.  And, just as I was starting to think it didn’t exist, I stumbled upon it and found that it is everything I ever thought it would be. 

So, yes, we will talk about our children - because that is, afterall, what mommies do - but on a very frequent occassion we will let the conversation wander away from them into other things.  We will talk about the books we are writing, the paintings we have sold, the sculptures we are having a hard time finishing because we don’t want to tear ourselves away from our babies, the concerts we will be giving, the research grants we are applying for, the graduate program that is kicking our ass.  We will make martini dates and go out dressed just as cutely as the other non-child, twenty eight year old- thirty year olds in the room - even if we are secretly thinking that the 19year old girls across the room should be at home, in bed, at this hour and, quite frankly, dressed a little more modestly.  We will make lunch dates at the indian buffet with our munchkins and make fun of the frat guys who are just there to watch the racey indian music videos they play all day.  We’ll talk on the phone.  We’ll go on day trips.  We’ll go on walks.  It will be heaven.  I feel like I have just walked into a fictitious, fairytale land where jogging suits or prada diaper bags or scary sing-song discipline are forbidden.  Sigh…. Let the good times roll.

Posted in Uncategorized, Lifestyles, Daily Living, Mental Environment, Healthy Living, Mental Health | No Comments »

Making Room

A year or so ago, my husband and I had a long (weeks long) conversation about how to get past being moderately satisfied with your position (in every aspect) to becoming truly satisfied and fulfilled.  We set out on a journey, five years ago, that put us through much, unforseen struggle.  Being artists, we knew it was going to be hard but we really had NO idea.  Several years later we are doing really well - there is stability and satisfication in just about every realm of our life (knock wood, knock wood, knock wood).  What we can now see (god bless hindsight) is that the change (from struggling/ but still moderately happy to feeling in control and damn happy) happened because we, responsibly, made room.  That conversation that I mentioned was specifically about pinpointing the things that, although might be paying the bills, were not conducive to getting ahead.  The two major instances were me working during the day.  I wasn’t working at a job I particularly loved or wanted to make a career out of - but it had benefits, so we stuck it out.  My paycheck basically went to the nanny.  My husband juggled five different adjunct professor positions at five different Universities and several night time/weekend community education programs.  It was random, at best, and only moderately reliable but it too paid the bills.  What are jobs WEREN’T doing were allowing us to say “yes” to other opportunities or projects that might lead to other opportunities.  We were quickly becoming that statistic of American families that work but don’t really live.  So, very responsibly (we do have two kids to think about), we started culling the things we could and then made big changes altogether.  And, even though it is about making room, it is also about making a decision.  Not being aware that you could be doing more with your life is an easy trap to fall into and we almost did.  Being aware that you could be happier and not doing anything at all is even worse. 

I totally don’t mean to lecture - but now that I have reread what I have written I realize that is what it sounds like.  I am, really, only thinking outloud.  It is that time, for me, again.  Time to cull the things holding me back and embrace the things that will get me to my next step: graduate school.  And it’s not just graduate school.  It is getting my son into a better school.  It is getting my husband into better galleries.  It is finding a home to buy.  All my bemoanings about time this past week have been because I am at the beginning of a new journey and I guess I am feeling impatient.  I just have to take a step and a breath and make some room for all that I hope is coming next. 

Posted in Communication, School and Learning, Daily Living, Mental Environment | No Comments »

Snub Scouts

The Cub Scouts have started recruiting at my child’s school. I am not sure what to make of it.  I feel as if I have to take his post-brainwashing session postcard, inviting him to be part of the “fun” and burn it.  They are invading his school in a very communistic stlye propaganda type way that frightens me…. all this talk about team work and god and working for the “pack”.  hmph.  This is the part of me that doesn’t work well with being a mother - damn my inherent nonconformist thread.  I promise I have tried to shake it all my life (sort of) - to be aprt of a group of people who seem really happy teaming up against the world - but the reality is it all scares me silly.  And I decided several years ago that anyone using god as a front will eventually find a way to exclude others who aren’t of the same ilk from the group.  Case in point:  gay troop leader who had devoted most of his life to boyscouting getting kicked out as a leader because it was discovered he was gay.  Pardon me for being skeptical and for not forgiving and fogetting, but that right there is a big point against scouting for me. 

But my son is so excited about it.  It has been all he has talked about for days.  Dilemma.  Do I swallow my “issues” and let him figure out if that is the life for him?  Do I protest because it is an institution that, several years ago, projected utterly blantant discrimination toward a group of people that make up the majority of the people my son and I know and love.  What does a good parent do in this situation? Really I don’t mean to get political - I am just having a bit of a quagmire here. 

I guess the thing to do is take him to the meeting myself and ask a lot of questions and see what it’s all about before I cast judgement.  I don’t want to be discriminatory, even toward a discriminating institution.  I will focus on the people involved here and not the institution itself - because, if I have learned anything in my miniscule thirty years on this planet, it is that an institutions beliefs have little to nothing to do with that of the majority of its members.  Geez, maybe I should just turn off my overly-analytical switch and let my kid be a kid.  For goodness sakes, it’s just the cubscouts.  It’s just making pinewood derby cars and camping and fishing. Right?

Posted in Daily Living, Mental Environment, Social Justice | No Comments »

I Like the Past Right Where It Is….

My ten year reunion invitations have started rolling in - my email has been inundated with notes from people I don’t even remember telling me how great it will be if I can pay $55 to come and hang out with the folks I used to hide from as a teenager.  There is a lot about the world that I have never understood, but a high school reunion is, by far, the most confounding.

I am proud to say that I don’t want to relive those days and a lot of those relationships.  Anyone whom I valued in school I still talk to on a weekly basis - we don’t need a reunion to keep in touch.  High school was not my “glory days” and I am pleased that it is over.  Don’t get me wrong, I had so much fun in those days - it had little to nothing to do with my high school though or the people I graduated with.  In fact, I pretty much hid in the art studio and dark room the entirety of my senior year….  I just don’t see the point. If I have to put on a name tag for people to remember who I was, chances are, we never really wanted to know one another in the first place…..

Posted in Daily Living, Mental Environment | 1 Comment »

Feelings.. Nothing More than Feelings…

People in Nashville don’t know how to drive. Period. When the light turns green, it takes them more than thirty seconds to actually begin to move, and, if you are unlucky enough to be the third or fourth car in line you have no chance of getting through the light. I immediately get angry because I know it has everything to do with them being on their phone or playing with their OnStar or Ipod or what ever other pricey distraction that they have in their car that keep them from actually driving. My kids are starting to hear me say not so nice things about people that I don’t know. It has become a serious source of stress for me these last few days. I know. I sound irrepressibly ridiculous and bitchy. So be it.

What I have come to realize (sorry, each of my little boring nuances always have to equate to a larger, deeper issue.. I know you are probably coming to roll your eyes each time I say “what I have come to realize”…) is that when I am stressed about anything “real” (kids, work, money) I tend to take it out on complete strangers. Does anyone else do this? My husband takes it out on his artwork, my son takes it out on me and I take it out on poor, unassuming strangers who are just trying to go about their day. I know I am doing it - I even have a little talk with myself about the fact that what I am feeling has nothing to do with these people - not even the annoying sorority girl in front of me in line at the bookstore who is talking very loudly on her phone about, like, how drunk she got last night and, like, how her daddy is going to be so mad because, like, he has to fix the SUV that he, like, totally bought for her for, like, her eighteenth birthday that her soooo cute boyfriend, like, totally dinged up by totally running into the corner of her sorority building.. It is not her fault that my son has gotten quite used to telling me “no” (he will, in fact, spell it out for me just in case I missed it the first time - “Did you hear me mom? N-O. I am not going to put my shoes on.”) and it is not her fault that my daughter has made a sprinkler out of her mango juice and is not only covered with it but sitting in a puddle of it in the middle of Borders. Yes, this innocent and dumb college girl might be everything I have ever fought against as a woman who prides herself on being well read versus being well laquered and liqoured - but, ultimately, I couldn’t care less anymore about what or who she is. She has just become my target for rage. Poor thing. What to do, what to do.

Part of me feels like it is good that I have found an outlet for my frustrations other than my kids and husband. I know plenty of women that use their husbands as punching bags when things get rough and don’t think twice about it. But, I guess my deal is that I don’t like feeling this sort of irritation at anyone - even people whom are living a rude existence. Maybe I need to start meditating again. Maybe I should have a go at Yoga again. Boxing maybe? Who knows. Isn’t admitting you have a problem the first step? Hi, my name is Lisa, and I have a rage against obnoxious and oblivious strangers problem and I need help. Thank you.

Ok. What’s next?

Posted in Conflict and Anger, Daily Living, Mental Environment | No Comments »

After the Dust Settles

I have recently read a book review in the Nashville Scene that has sparked my interest. Book reviews, or any review for that matter, are things I typically don’t take much stock in. It is pretty unusual that I even read this one. I find that word of mouth and the NYTimes Bestseller list (which is only minorly falliable in my opinion) are my best references for which book to pick up next. The book in the review, The Good Life, follows two Manhattan-ites through a post 9/11 tale which seems to defragments all the typical formalities and social constructs that are so inbedded in New York culture. While the review doesn’t really commit to whether it is a well written or exceptional novel - it does imply that there is some heavy cultural deconstructivism at work:

The Good Life

While 9/11 was, clearly, a national tragedy, it was also a major anthropological event within the constrained New York City that McInerney has, for most of the past two decades, chosen to explore—a geography that includes Manhattan south of 95th Street; parts of Long Island and Connecticut; but not one block of the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island or, God forbid, New Jersey. McInerney (who long divided his residence between Nashville and Manhattan but is now back in New York full time) is not so much concerned with New York, the American city where people are born, live, and die, as he is with New York, the cult society where scores of acolytes from Middle America compete for initiation. As with other cults, it is hard to get in, though escaping can be harder still. In a Jan. 31 review in The New York Times, critic Michiko Kakutani dismissed many of McInerney’s characters as “jaded hedonists,? but in a sociological sense they are no more hedonistic than were Mead’s Samoans—they are simply trapped within the hedonistic norms of the society they have embraced.

I think that, while I have learned to never trust a reviewer, I may have to take the plunge and see how this book turns out. I’m a sucker for deeply investigated cultural dismantaling. I’m certain this is the beginning of a slew of books about post 9/11 tales and rather than being skeptical, I think that I’ll take a chance for a change.

Posted in Lifestyles, Daily Living, Mental Environment | No Comments »

House Thinking : A Room-by-Room Look at How We Live

Salon.com has an interesting interview with Winifred Gallagher about her new book “House Thinking. Winifred is an environmental psychologist who explores how we interact within the environment of our home. Here’s an excerpt of the interview:

What got you thinking about “House Thinking”?

House Thinking

When I was working on “The Power of Place” there was an enormous concentration — which there still is — on how our internal neurochemistry can affect our behavior. And that seemed to me to be very lopsided. I believe that the environment, and not just the social environment but also the physical environment, has a big impact on behavior. And science up until the turn of the 20th century thought that too — it was so-called geographical medicine. Doctors would tell patients afflicted with melancholy (which we call depression) to go to a sunny place to feel better. It actually works.

Our culture doesn’t look at the effects of the environment on behavior. We talk about social relationships and neurochemistry. But it’s not just my opinion that environment affects behavior. There’s real solid research from environmental psychology, from psychiatry, from design, architecture, cultural history. A Roman doctor in the second century said, “Melancholics are to be laid in the sunshine, for their disease is gloom.” The American Psychiatric Association didn’t recognize seasonal affective disorder until the ’80s, but the ancients recognized it and knew how to treat it. We can actually do much more to improve the quality of our lives for little or no money.

Posted in Lifestyles, Home and Garden, Mental Environment | No Comments »

Urinals and Mustached Mona Lisas

National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. is holding an exhibition devoted to some of the most famous works out of the Dada period. It is refreshing for me, someone who has taught art history/studio art off and on over the last three years, to see Dadaism getting a contemporary nod as one of the more interesting movements in the 20th Century. Flying in the face of what was “acceptable” and considered “important art” — artists like Duchamp, Arp, Richter were part of a time unlike any other. I’ll save the lecturing for my classes and let you peruse the sights yourself — it’s fascinating and wonderfully clever stuff.

Posted in Lifestyles, Arts and Crafts, Mental Environment | No Comments »

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