Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Lessons learned from...my husband

Last night I was cranky. The house was a mess, I felt like a mess, so I decided to make a mess of my evening as well. Unfortunately this means making a mess of my husband’s evening as well. Luckily for me, Scott is used to pulling me out of moody slumps. After a walk around the block and a bowl of chocolate pudding, I was feeling myself again.

This morning Scott told me I look like a princess. If you know me, you know there is no one less like a princess. I walk around in ripped clothes, trip over my own feet and wash my hair as little as possible. However, this morning was the first day of summer sunshine and I decided to wear a flirty new dress, a jaunty ponytail and a smile. I guess I honestly did remind him of a princess.

Scott is the ultimate rock, pillar, unflappable support. I’m the flag floating in the wind, he is the flagpole. He brings me back to centre whenever I stray. This is great, but I can be my own flagpole too. There’s no reason I can’t tell myself that I’m a princess (even if it’s the paper bag princess) and believe it. There’s no reason that I can’t remind myself of the royalty inherent in all of us whenever I am tempted to self-destruct. God save the Queen!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Lessons Learned from…Bus drivers

You can tell a lot about a city from its bus drivers. Are they helpful? Hostile? Overworked? Underpaid? The bus drivers in Halifax are some of the friendliest I’ve ever encountered. Most of them make passenger assistance their personal mission – waiting for you as you run to catch the bus, letting you put in double fare next time if you don’t have change, and generally behaving like driving a bus has been their lifelong goal. I doubt it has been, but it’s a solid lesson in ‘bloom where you’re planted’.

Last Friday I found myself taking the bus for the fourth day that week; our nonstop rain made me leave my bike at home once again. Halfway to work, I hear a bang. Our bus has rear ended the vehicle in front of us. I’ve been the cause of (many) accidents. My typical post accident-routine is to pass through several stages of freaking out, but this bus driver clearly had a more grounded outlook than I. He invited the other driver on the bus, exchanged insurance information and calmly wished him good day. All with serenity, as if he was buying toilet paper. I watched the entire scene in envy and awe.

For Lent this year, I decided to give up being hard on myself. It was immensely successful for the isolated 40 days, but after Easter I felt myself slipping back into my old habits. Beating myself up over spilled milk, spoiled muffins and soiled clothing once again became my norm. I’m a dweller and “moving on”, even over minute details, is challenging. Understandably, this tends to drive those around me a little crazy.

But today, using the experience I gained during Lent and the example of the bus driver, I finally made some progress. Paying bills this morning, I accidentally paid $98 to the wrong account. You know what I did? I acknowledged that I made the error due to carelessness and called the bank to deal with it. Already I feel the memory receding.

Sometimes learning a lesson takes time. Sometimes we need to learn it multiple ways, from various angles, until it sinks in.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Lessons Learned from…Eyeliner sharpeners and grumpy cosmeticians

I recently bought a new eyeliner sharpener at the drug store. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but since I’ve been getting by on a slimy five-year-old sharpener that sends waxy eyeliner all over the bathroom sink every morning, I was pretty excited. It didn’t work. It only half sharpened the eyeliner so that I had a quarter-inch-thick line of charcoal under my eyelid instead of a daintily painted crisp black line.

I decided to return it.

Apparently I could not return it. It had been used, insisted the underworked and overdressed cosmetician. Yes, I conceded, it most certainly had been used, but it had definitely not been useful. I insisted that it did not sharpen the pencil properly; she insisted it did. She suggested I produce an eyeliner pencil and she would demonstrate the proper sharpening method to me; I suggested she use her own pencil for the demonstration since I did not have one. She did. Look, she said, the pencil is sharper: it works. Look, I said, the pencil is not as sharp I need it to be: it doesn’t work properly. Yes, she maintained, but it works.

Lesson #1: There’s a difference between working and working well
I was born and raised with the 80% rule, although lately I have to admit that it’s becoming more like the 70% rule, or even the 60% rule. I’ve long upheld that if something fulfills its primary function, it need not do more, but lately I’ve been reassessing this mantra. I know that a coat’s main purpose it to keep you warm, but if you can find one which also looks great and makes you feel amazing, isn’t that important too? In fact, although the search for the final 20% or 30% can be painstaking and arguably superfluous, it’s often that final attention and aesthetic that adds a certain je ne sais quoi. And let’s face it: the je ne sais quoi is definitely more appealing than the oui, je sais. It’s what keeps us thinking, exploring and blogging. So maybe I’ve been giving up on the final 20% too early.

Lesson #2: Be true to yourself, but be kind to others
I don’t blame the cosmetician for staking out her ground. In fact, as someone who worked in retail and experienced all sorts of idiots trying to return all manner of damaged goods, I respect her for it. It’s her nastiness I didn’t appreciate. But there are ways to hold your own with class. I detest it when people suggest how I should think or behave and try to influence by thoughts and behavior. I dig in my heels and refuse, usually in quite an immature and spiteful way. It’s a paradox: I get upset when people try to exercise control over me, yet I let them control me when I get upset by their demands. It makes no sense. So from now on I’ll stand my own ground in every sense: both how I act and how I react.

All in all, I think I got my money’s worth for the $3.50 I spent on the sharpener.