Tag: authority issues

leaping because the need for support is just that big

SleepinBeauties1 copy

“if you can’t easily tell the difference between right and wrong,” i told my children repeatedly, “choose the hardest thing cause let’s face it: if the right thing was the easiest thing, everybody would do The Right Thing.” i sit here torn, split, spun. i come from a cultural legacy of not airing dirty laundry in public, of stiff upper lip, of silence is golden. my mother has friendships that span almost nine decades, and it has not escaped my notice that their conversations are about the weather, happenings in the community, about recipes and fashion. they seldom if ever talk about health issues, except to add a name to the prayer list . . . without any details, of course. they don’t talk about children gone awry or any other unpleasantness, angst, sadness or hurt. they don’t talk of anything that might be construed as embarrassing or negative, and i often wonder if that’s not the secret to the longevity of the friendships.

that’s where i come from, and today i live in a world of social media where people are warned against posting too much personal information for fear of retribution in the workplace or at home. again with the stay-light-and-positive-or-stay-mum routine. i’m of an age (tenured, i like to say) when i can say “pfffft” to such things, but my daughter is young . . .

i’m trying to decide whether or not to tell you that my daughter is struggling with thyroid issues, low vitamin d, and depression. she hit that dark spot again recently – emotional black ice, i call it – and this time she held nothing back on facebook. “do you ever wonder if people would miss you if you weren’t here any more?” she posted. my initial instinct was to cringe and wish i had access to her login information so i could delete it. as a mother, i often fall into the mindset of to stay small is to stay safe. but this time, i wondered aloud if posting snapshots of her pain on facebook didn’t make her one of the bravest among us. and when she asked about being missed, well, she was telling us exactly what she needed, so doesn’t that make her one of the most honest among us? it resonated deeply with my bones as they nodded and smiled in agreement.

she was certainly willing to risk being alone, that’s for sure.

to her question about being missed, one woman posted something about how my daughter should not be concerned with what other people thought, how she should think enough of herself, blah blah blah blah blah. i became instantly furious. livid, in full and glorious mama bear mode. hell, my daughter had just told us precisely what she needed (to be told she’s loved and has had a meaningful impact on lives and would be terribly missed). the last thing she needed was to be preached to, to be told what she should be feeling and how she should be viewing things and what she should and should not be saying. livid, i tell you. livid. but we’ll talk more about uncaring (which often looks a lot like stupidity, if you ask me) another day. i have stories, oh my goodness, do i have stories.

for today, though, i’m taking a risk, opening myself and my daughter up to avoidance (important note: these particular things we’re dealing with are not contagious), preaching (please, please, please don’t tell us about how “the lord never gives us more than we can handle” or to “keep calm and carry on” or to “look on the bright side and be positive”), scoffing (it’s maddening to us and unbecoming to you), and pity (it’s a really heavy thing to have cast over our shoulders. empathy is okay, but pity, that’s more like an anchor, so no thank you). but i’m also opening us up to caring and concern and love and support, and i’m telling you that’s what we both need.

it is not easy, though, opening up like this. my daughter is brave, but me? not so much. i am a private person and for many good reasons that we can talk about later. i can tell you this much now: more times than i can count, i’ve been told that i make too much out of things, that the problem with me is that i feel more than i think – and the worst thing? they were said with the voice of authority, and i took them to heart. plus when people cluck and fuss, i launch into pleasing hostess mode and do whatever i can to reassure them and restore them to a place of comfort – which takes a lot of energy that is better spent elsewhere. so yes, energy conservation keeps me quiet, too.

one thing my daughter has consistently done in her adult life, though, is nudge (okay, shove) me out of my comfort zone. she’s shown me how to take risks and how to live with the consequences. she’s repeatedly shown me that vulnerability is its own brand of strength, and today i dip my toe in that stream and hope for the best because, well, the need for support is just that huge.

an outing

Went out to do a wee bit of yardening this morning, and that included clipping the spent roses. On a whim, I brought the petals in, ripped some small pieces of an old tablecloth, wet it, then tucked the petals inside the cloth as I wrapped the cloth around a lichen-laden branch.


When I noticed how the spent purple wave blooms stained my fingers after deadheading, I dropped some of them in another piece of cloth and wrapped it on the same lichen-laden branch.


All dressed up, the branch is now sunning on a rock beside the falls.



Why is this a big enough deal to warrant a blog post? Because for longer than I care to remember, I’ve imagined doing things like this, but I never veer far enough away from the All Mighty To Do List to allow such (seemingly) unjustifiable excursions and (seemingly) frivolous expenditures of time.

That all changes today.

When I look back at how many years I’ve delighted in doing things like this – but only on the inside – I want to sit down and cry, but that would be a frivolous waste of time, that crying over spilt milk. So I just vow to turn myself inside out more often. To do the things I’ve long done only on the inside, on the outside.

From this point forward (even past the inevitable occasional speedbumps), I will be eccentric not for the sake of being eccentric, but because I can’t help myself. I will decide for myself who I am and what I think and how I feel. And who I am and what I think and how I feel may change frequently – maybe even several times a day – but the self-determination-without-apology-or-explanation-unless-I-feel-like-offering-it will stand firm.

Will everybody like what I do, think, say, or feel? I doubt it. Will anyone think I’ve lost my mind? I sure hope so.

And, hey, I’d sure love some company . . .

and this is true, too


“and this,” she perked,
pointing to the closed-door office
to her right,
“is the business office.”
“and this,” she perked
pointing to the closed-door office
to her left,
“is the financial aid office.”

“above us,” she continued,
“is the
President’s Office
saying the last two words
with a distinct tone of
“you don’t want to get sent

maybe it’s because we’re nearing the end of
the second week of back-to-back
college tours.
maybe it’s because it’s hot.
maybe it’s because i need chocolate.
maybe it’s because i’m just plain cranky to the core . . .

“but you can,” i countered
looking my nephew straight in the eyes,
“go there any time of your own initiative.”
then i told them about how when i was a student there,
and discovered that
the tape player had been stolen from my car,
i marched straightaway to the
president’s office
(said without a hint of reverence)
and announced “my tape player was stolen.”
to which the president looked across his massive desk
and said,
“well, i’m SURE it wasn’t a student.”
“can you believe a
college president
led with something
so stupid?”
i asked my nephew.

“i said don’t get SENT there,”
she perked
directly at my nephew.

i thought
cause i’m not
anywhere near the
sweet zen woman
i (sometimes) long to be.

when we reached the student union,
the mailboxes
more specifically,
i mentioned how
when i was a student there,
the mailboxes were in a different building
and i was assigned a mailbox on the top row,
so high i couldn’t get the key in the lockv
without the assistance of a stool.
she listened, then reached up
and tapped the top mailbox
with a key she held.

i thought
well, you know.

“and the most fun thing of all,” she said,
her perkiness ratcheted up
three full notches,
“is when you get a yellow
sheet of paper
saying that you have a
when you get one of those,
you come to this window
and pick up your package.
did you ever get
any yellow papers?”
she asked me.

“yes, i got yellow notices,
but it could sometimes
take up to two weeks
for me to actually
lay hands on my package
because the people
employed to staff the window
didn’t actually
open the window
unless they had absolutely
nothing else to do.
but the good news is: it was
most always worth the wait.”

with that, she whipped her head around
and asked
“did anything good ever happen
when you were here?”

to which i said
“there were moments.”

and then i kept my stories
to myself
and as we walked
and she talked
i wondered
why i told the
particular stories
i told.
what compelled me?

with the possible
exception of the
president’s office story,
which was pretty obviously
a thumbing my nose
at authority,
(though it was also
about not being afraid
to go to the top,
if that seems the right
thing to do at the time)
my stories
to theme around
of providing a counter
to the sparkling
being presented.
is it a good school, this one?
oh yes,
it’s a good school.
do bad things happen there?
absolutely, undeniably
and i’m just too cranky
to let that reality
and the ensuing opportunities for lessons of
and assertiveness
and resourcefulness



“I can see your brush strokes,”
he harumphed
this man who wanted me to pay
his people to repaint what I’d just finished painting.

More and more
I am showing my brush strokes.
And when I’m using metallic paint,
the strokes will show.

Some people don’t like seeing the strokes.
Some people find the visible strokes
offensive or uncomfortable,
preferring an all-concealing, even coating.

Shoot, sometimes I don’t even like the strokes.
When I was sweet,
when I was a nice girl,
when I blended in
and caused no trouble
and agreed appropriately
and stroked and cajoled
and said only things I knew would be
accepted – occasionally even lauded,
when I couldn’t even tell you what I
wanted or needed or was even all about,
well, truth be known: that was easier for me, too.
I knew the rules,
the parameters.
I know how to play that game
and it became so second nature to me
that I didn’t have to think about it.

It was,
in what now seems
a warped sort of way,


But let me be clear:
The days when I remake myself
into an image you find pleasing
is over.
If you find my words offensive,
if you don’t agree with me,
if you don’t like seeing
brush strokes,
there’s a solution that’s easy, simple:
Don’t read.
Don’t look.
Don’t listen.

Move on.

Instead of contacting me
and asking that I remove a post,
instead of contacting her
and demanding that she take down her words,
Stroll another lane of the internet.


I spent a lifetime
contorting myself into images
they would find pleasing.
Then I spent another lifetime,
telling my daughter to do the very same thing.
Because I wanted her to be safe.

And now I know:
Safety is not found in becoming
somebody other than who you are.


As for those brush strokes . . .

It is no longer okay
to say
“This offends me, so I want you to remove it.”
It is, however, perfectly okay to say
“This offends me, so I will
read elsewhere.”

It’s easy, once you get the hang of it:
Don’t like a particular stage show?
Don’t buy a ticket.

Don’t like a certain kind of music?
Change the dial.

Don’t like a particular television show?
Watch something else.

Just so you know.

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Hey, Sugar! I'm Jeanne Hewell-Chambers: writer ~ stitcher ~ storyteller ~ one-woman performer ~ creator & founder of The 70273 Project, and I'm mighty glad you're here. Make yourself at home, and if you have any questions, just holler.

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