Saturday, November 03, 2007

Things that fell off the plate, which broke, thus requiring a broom

The other day, I visited Slouching Mom, one of my favorite bloggers. I know that bit isn't news to anyone who watches me trail her around, saying, "Ditto to Slouchy!" The news bit is that she was handing out an award, this one:

I saw one to a "Julie" and although my heart surged, I didn't believe she meant me until I clicked the link and it went to my blog. LOL

Thank you, Slouching Mom, for the honor!


When I got that award, it tickled a memory. Kellan gave me one recently too, which I haven't passed along. I'm not sure but this one probably needs passing along, too. There is certainly "deservedness" out there for both awards. However, for some reason, now simply doesn't feel like the right time to pass them along. It feels like I am waiting for something that is coming. Isn't that odd?

As I contemplated these awards and the obligation I have to pay them forward, I felt an additional sense of responsibility but couldn't recall exactly what that was, that niggling. It came to me on Friday.

I saw the ROFL awards posted Friday and a thought hit me like a slap across the face:
Great scott, my buddy the Mad Hatter was generous enough to not only read the entirety of my Shakespearian account of our latest run-in with the squatters on our land (Romeo and Juliet of the House of Raccoon) but she awarded me a ROFL Award for that too.

This largely happened while I was traveling for that 3-4 week period, and right about when I found out I live in Toxic Town. (<-- Note ineffectual employment of defensive excuses with rationale thrown in for less good measure.)

So although I thanked her when she told me she nominated that post, I never publicly thanked her nor acknowledged the award.

Let me do so, belatedly.

Thank you, Mad Hatter, for graciously awarding In Fair Verona with a ROFL Award for September.

And may I say your post with the award in it was pretty much its own ROFL.


When I realized my mistake, I felt a horrible guilt and shame. It felt like a flush that started on my ears and rushed to cover my face. I wear shame outwardly; my fair skin flushes easily with the force of my emotions.

In my youth, that in and of itself was a great shame to me. I hated that people could read me so easily, and they were rarely kind about it; my flushes always garnered taunting and teasing.

It always made me look and seem guilty, when in actuality, I was usually simply overwhelmed with the attention or the charge I faced.

However, in this case, I was actually guilty.

My shame and guilt are multifold, as these things usually are.

I hate to overlook a kindness. I've reached an age and lived a life that has taught me to value the nice gestures you encounter. I know they are like pearls, real ones from submerged wild oysters: rare and valuable. Sometimes I overwhelm and embarrass people with my gratitude and recognition of their kindness. They prefer to fly under the radar, or think little of what they did. I have a heady need to let them know how much it meant to me, and I try to balance that with the other person's preference.

In the end, though, I need to share my appreciation. It probably makes me appear a little needy and desperate, and maybe I am, a little. Certainly I like recognition, definitely I like when someone reaches out. Mostly, though, I value kindness with an intensity few people seem to share, or understand.

Sometimes I wonder if some people have a life in which kindness is expected, if they feel an unconscious and unspoiled entitlement to it. Perhaps the world and the people in it have generally been kind to them, so they truly find an act of kindness, whether given or received, something of nothing.

"Oh, it was nothing," we so often say in response to a grateful thanks.

And yet, kindness is never nothing.

"It was no trouble," and "I was glad to do it" are easier for me to swallow along with the old standard, "You're welcome."

But nothing troubles me.

If given kindness is nothing to some, then perhaps this explains why received kind gestures are so often taken for granted. Although I find this less and less the older I---and my friends---get. Perhaps one of the greatest mistakes of youth is expectation of things received.

When my kids simply expect and accept the good times and good things that come to them, I marvel and mourn all at once. I marvel that they live a life in which good things happen and they are not surprised. I am grateful for this, and relish their naivete. I also mourn that this is not so for other children, and worry that my children will grow up the take good for granted. I try to balance good with appreciation, to teach them to recognize and acknowledge special.

And perhaps that's the key, something common is no longer special. It is, instead, ordinary, and therefore of little significance. If one sees kindness daily, then what makes one act stand out against another? Something would have to be quite extraordinary.

Isn't that what we strive for? To make kindness ordinary? The standard operating procedure?

Certainly I expect of myself kindness everyday, expect it to simply be, without effort. I expect nothing in return, want to think nothing of what I do. I think of a way I can do some good, therefore, I offer or do. So, if I think nothing of what I do, think it is simply doing what I can and should do, then why does the acknowledgement of a gesture as nothing trouble me so much?

The truth is that even everyday kindness---such as the stranger holding the door open for me yesterday---will always be extraordinary to me because it shines the light on a moment, second, when one person thinks of another and extends courtesy and kindness.

And even if kindness does become mundane, I hope we all always know this.

This is why is so mortifies me to make a mistake, to break a social protocol---a personal more of acknowledging kind gestures with gratitude. It horrifies me to miss doing something that I know is important for both myself and the other person.

In fact, regardless, I hate it when I do that, when I drop the ball, have things fall off the plate. I know it means my chart got the mark, "below expectations." I realize it is a symptom of a larger problem: perfectionism and putting too much on the plate. So, logically, I endeavor to simplify my life and accommodate the concept of "good enough."

Except, this seems to run counter to my complicated personality which seems to prefer a complex life. Therefore, as soon as I shovel one thing off, I immediately add on one to two others, and am back to grading and evaluating myself and my actions---as a boss or teacher would do. I realize this is also a symptom.

Of course, me being me, I had to rectify my error, immediately. With gratitude (as due) and apology (as owed).

So I wrote the above thanks and endeavored to simply feel grateful. I knew proper focus should be on the Very Kind Thing Mad Hatter did, rather than wallowing in the suffused shame and guilt. I wanted to make this about her, and the good warm fuzzy her nice gesture should generate. I thought back to how I'd paused after writing In Fair Verona, hesitant to post it, afraid it would be a big dud with people wondering what I was smoking (but only in their minds, as my comments would remain blank due to confusion and GASP boredom). Before I posted it, I thought hard about how I'd feel if there weren't any comments and I decided I was okay with that. I thought it was amusing and I felt good about what I'd created. I was therefore more than happily surprised by the positive reception that post got. When Mad wrote to say she thought it deserved an award, I was over the moon.

As I began this post, I thought back to that feeling and let it wash over me.

It ate away a little at my guilt and shame, but like a cheap Halloween tattoo, those stubbornly stuck to my mind and heart.

Guilt and shame are like that, as are all other negative feelings. They stick. Sometimes I liken myself to a pig who enjoys wallowing in muck. The part of my brain that keeps me relatively sane reminds me there is benefit to that muck for the pigs, and then I recall Bub and Pie's post long ago about the positive power of negative thinking.

So instead of berating myself doubly---once for making a mistake and twice for wallowing in the mistake with guilt and shame---I recognized that shame and guilt serve a function: they remind me of what I value and what is valuable, and how to behave well within that. They prompted me to attempt to rectify instead of simply ignoring and glossing over, as too often is the case. In the end, those negative emotions generated a positive event.

That reminded me of a saying I am probably not quite quoting exactly, which I cannot attribute properly, but nevertheless find valuable:
There is a benefit to how I think and who I am...I bring something worthy to others and the world.

Addendum: The funny thing about life is that not only did that saying come in handy for personal use and for this blog post, but I found a second occasion to use it to. De is accentuating the positive and asking for good affirmations. Go share one if you can, go take one if you need.

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Using My Words
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Suz said...

I really love how you turned a negative emotion into a positive thing with "I recognized that shame and guilt serve a function: they remind me of what I value and what is valuable, and how to behave well within that." I'm going to have to remember that phrase.

Mary Alice said...

To make kindness ordinary. Yes, I think that is what we should all strive for. I’m not sure that it would ever become mundane. I laugh with a friend who was brought up in Minnesota where the citizens are notoriously modest. She could give you her own kidney and rebuff praise…”ah it was nothing really” she would say. Even if people protest praise in their modesty, I believe they still like to hear it.

Kyla said...

That post was hilarious. The award was totally deserved.

I feel the same way with shame and guilt. And the blushing! Oh, the blushing, how I hate it.

Hope said...

I read this twice. It was lovely.

Blogversary said...

Kindness is one wierd thing. I expect people to be kind, but still find myself surprised when I actually witness it.

You have showed that it is never to late say thank you.

Also, thanks for posting my blog link.

That was very kind of you. :)

Family Adventure said...

Julie, your heart is so in the right place. You are so honest and well-meaning, and sweet and kind.

The 'new blogger' link (which I still need to respond to) is just one example of the way you promote community.

It's been such a joy to 'meet' you, and you definitely deserve these awards.

Everyone makes mistakes/accidental omissions at times, but not everyone addresses and rectifies at a later date.

Thanks for being you :)


Lisa said...

Hi Julie,

So happy to find you here. Love the look of your blog. And congrats on the award too.

Bon said...

i loved this. because i too desperately want to value kindness, to support it, and wallow in guilt and shame when i transgress and then often fail - thanks to guilt and shame - to get around to thanking or doing or passing on whatever kindness was in question. so, like blogversary said, thanks for showing it's never too late to say thank you.

and you deserved that award. it your birthday? if not, ignore me, i'm daft. if yes, or soon, or recently and i (guilt and shame, guilt and to the corner with you two!) missed it...happy birthday, lovely Julie!

flutter said...

Well deserved Julie.

Mad Hatter said...

Hey Glorious,
From what I understand, today is your birthday. Yup, rumours do spread out here. Happy Birthday.

As for this post, well, what can I say? I knew you were away. I never really expected you to be on top of such things while you were away or after. The post? It was funny. Really, truly funny and deserved the award. So I am glad I remembered to nominate you for it.

I find it tough to keep up on this kind of award stuff. I used to worry about it all the time--that someone was linking to me or being nice to me or even being mean to me and I just wouldn't notice, or worse, I'd forget that they'd done it. Now I try not to sweat it 'cause that's the thing about kindness: it really doesn't demand acknowledgment back. People like you always pay it forward in spades and, hey, that's what's cool.

Laura said...

I found your site by clicking thorugh Slouching Mom's link on the award... and reading through your previous posts, I think the award is well deserved. Good job! Being a "newbie" I am really enjoying meeting others and haring, reading and learning. Thanks!

anne at said...

Congratulations on you accolades! They are well deserved :^)

Julie Pippert said...

Thank you, all of you, for the great comments, and welcome and hello to first time visitors. How exciting.

In a way, having a blog is like a permanent coffee and cake open house. But no cleaning required. I love that.

Mary Alice, I agree: gratitude and acknowledgment are usually happily received.

Mad, you are graciousness personified. :)

Suz, that twist is my current life goal, across the board.

I'd reply individually but I need to go comment on your blogs and write a post. I see the NaBloPoMo challenge, now. It's not writing on my blog, it's keeping up with everything else! LOL

In short, it's so good to hear that others "get" how I feel about this, not, actually, that I am surprised with you lot. :)

jeanie said...

Darn - I was thinking once of writing a blog about thank you letters (which I always forget to write or send or both) (well, both, really) and I think I will just be quiet and send people to this post instead, because it says it all and so much better.

Congratulations on your awards - your blog is a coffee shop I like to pop into - and also on the birthday.

My daughter is a Scorp - there are bits I truly understand (and bits I scratch my head at!).

Lawyer Mama said...

NaBloPoMo is kicking my ass already. You're right. It's not the posting, it's following everyone else!

That post you wrote in September was the funniest thing I've read in ages. Mad is such a sweetie.

I hate to let a kindness go unnoticed, but I'm afraid I fail miserably at acknowledging it in a timely manner.

Amy said...

I'm more of an under-the-radar recipient of thanks...I feel all obligated and don't thrive on it the way others do. I like giving and experiencing kindnesses, but I'm happy with the ones that are unspoken (like doing nice things for animals; they don't usually gush in response). Anyway, I found this post very interesting. And I have come to believe that guilt drives just about everything I do!