There was a time when my youngest would tell people that when she grew up, she was going to be a bear. She did not mean that she would dress up like a bear, or that she would be aggressive, or that she would marry someone and change her last name to “Bear”….she meant she would literally become a bear. If you pressed her a bit she would tell you that she was going to be a “Brown Bear” like in Eric Carle’s book. She was 2.
I often became annoyed with people who would tell her that she could not, in fact, “be a bear” when she grew up. I felt like either she already knew this on some level and they were underestimating her intelligence, or she really did believe people could become bears and they were squashing her childhood wonder. I often battled back and forth between these two poles in my anger toward the idiots who would say “people can’t be bears.” This was amplified by the fact that just about any of them would turn around a few minutes later and tell that she could be “whatever she wanted to be” when she grew up.
The child wanted to be a bear. I was not going to tell her she couldn’t. I was interested in finding out how she planned to do this.
She is now 7 and if you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up she will tell you that it is “a stupid question.” Everyone knows, or should, that “…she is queen of the world. While she’s not technically ‘in office’ at the time being, her existence is not predicated on popular opinion of her political power. She is queen of the world. When she is older, everyone will realize this. Right now, we’re all too stupid to ‘get it’ and for that she pities us.”
She is told over and over by any adult around her (save her father and me) that she can’t “grow up and be queen of the world” because it’s not possible. There is no queen of the world. She will of course explain to them that not only is there a queen of the world, but they’re looking at her right now.
I tell you this because I think it’s a symptom of our bigger problem. Not only do we think that things are the way they are because they are “supposed to be that way” but we fail to imagine that anything will really ever drastically change. This type of willful amnesia annoys me the most.
It’s true. Two summers ago I literally did not follow this rule; the horse went left and I went right…and down. I did a complete flip (well, almost) and landed on the rock hard ground as dust billowed up around me. My insides gelled together while I checked for feeling in my legs. This rule is not really about horses, but rather the fact that our world is constantly changing; we need to make sure we are changing with it.
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Change is constant. Do you remember when you first encountered a new piece of technology for the first time? A few years younger than I, my graduate school project partner insisted that the way to eject a disk from a Macintosh computer was to drag the disk to the trash. Really. Does that make sense? No. I know it doesn’t. I was so very far out of my comfort zone on that day. I eventually realized that this thing called the Internet might be sticking around for a little while, and I probably better get it figured out.
Change is constant. My example of the change in technology over the years is just one tiny little blip on the world radar. It’s true that just a few years after I watched the virtual disk drop into the virtual trash can and then watched the actual disk pop out of the computer, I was teaching others to create web pages. But then the world as I know it changed again. I moved wwaaaayyyy out into the country. I could barely get an Internet connection. WiFi? Not out here!
I love my life out here on the ranch, but it is not without its hardships and disappointments. Everyone has his or her burdens to bear, but the key to putting them behind you is what Rule #3 is all about: choice and attitude.
During college a friend of mine once commented on my “always up” attitude. He alluded to the fact that because my happiness always seemed so extreme that my sad times that he never saw probably had to be really, well, sad. I think he must have just come from one of those freshman psychology courses and wanted to be the first to diagnose me. It gave me reason for pause, and I waited for those “really sad times” to present themselves. They never did.
Last summer I attended a luncheon with a group of ladies. The hostess began our luncheon by reading “Complaining,” an excerpt from Wouldn’t Take Nothing’ For My Journey Now by Maya Angelou. Every person listened intently as the final part of the passage was read:
“Sister, there are people who went to sleep all over the world last night, poor and rich and white and black, but they will never wake again. Sister, those who expected to rise did not, their beds became their cooling boards and their blankets became their winding sheets. And those dead folks would give anything, anything at all for just five minutes of this weather or ten minutes of that plowing that person was grumbling about. So you watch yourself about complaining, Sister. What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”
Complaining. That’s what this rule is about. When I got home I quickly created a little tile with our picture and this excerpt written on it. I put it in my underwear drawer, so when I am getting dressed in the morning, I feel that tile. It reminds me to be grateful for waking up to another day.
Out here on the ranch there never seems to be enough time. We are always tending to the animals, building something, or just performing the everyday maintenance that all homeowners have to do. Somehow, and it’s not always easy, I make time for hobbies that enrich my life. So rule #2 translates into “find a hobby you are good at and make time for it.”
As a kid, I took dance and piano lessons outside of school, but I had an opportunity to explore sewing (the home economics/shop era) and art during school. I actually remember the advertisement for an art school that read “If you can draw this… you may have a future in art.” We had an empty lot across the street from our house, and I watched my mom start a garden there before it sold and a house was built on the land. I worked summers in the home building industry with my step-dad. I was exposed to a lot of different activities. Exposure is important.
Just because we are exposed to different activities doesn’t mean we will have the opportunity to pursue those activities. For example, it wasn’t until a co-worker introduced me to quilting and my Aunt Sally gave me a sewing machine that I had the opportunity to pursue sewing. That happened over twenty years ago, and I am still making time for it. I have found that I can look at something and figure out how to make it, but I have also found some success in designing my own interesting projects. Now that I live on a ranch, I have my own space for a garden. I am still learning the basics, but a friend talked me into enrolling in our local Master Gardener class. What a learning experience! I have realized that two of my favorite activities were merged in the creation of the Tag Rag, the gardening bandana I made that I wear every day in the summer.
In The Ranch Hand’s Guide to 2011 I listed five guidelines that I’ve adopted to have a great year without resolutions. Let’s just get some facts out of the way. This article is not about pigs or dirt. I realize I like to talk using idioms and metaphors. If you are still wondering, rule #1 translates into “when it really doesn’t matter, you don’t need to argue with people.”
Before I was ever able to recognize this in myself, I saw this undesirable trait in other people. You know you have too. I watched someone argue over a restaurant bill. I heard friends and family members complain about their embarrassment when someone they were with argued with the Wal-mart checker. The people I know who argue do it all the time…and are pretty good at it. They usually aren’t happy with getting the last word. They need to have the last two or three words, and when I really don’t care, they are still talking about it. Those people are not good listeners and have a low tolerance for people who are different from them. It dawned on me that maybe this is how they create a positive view of who they are. I realized there were situations when I had argued unnecessarily. Yuck. It was unattractive and it had to stop.
I began practicing this rule using baby steps. I stopped talking before I had said everything I felt I “needed” to say. My opponent and I were never left any better than when we started, so what was the use? Then, I took the plunge into not even addressing the silly things that I once thought were important. Silly things. That’s the key. Who cares if I ordered rice and I got rice and beans. I like them both. Then to take it a little further, I started extinguishing the beginnings of arguments started between, for example, my husband and others. Wow! What a difference in the conversations that followed between us. Suddenly the complaints were gone and discussions of our role in the perceived problem ensued.