I have thought a lot about what it may mean to raise a boy. While I was not completely set on having a girl, I knew that if I had one I would make sure she was a badass. Knowing that I am having a boy, I often think — how do I make sure he is strong while also gentle and sensitive? What happens in a boy’s life that makes them want to kill everything they see, or punch everything? Is it nurture or nature? I guess I will find out soon enough.
I grew up with a dad that would remind us that we were to “be seen and not heard.” I have the smallest of bladders and would always have to go to the bathroom (and still do) and my dad always made me feel horrible about it. As though it was my fault that I had to go to the bathroom 30 minutes later. Thank you to my wonderful, patient husband who might sometimes think: “Seriously? You just went.” but still makes sure we can find a bathroom. (That was the case pre-pregnancy too).
In any case, a line from the book “Rising Strong” by Brene Brown reminded me of my childhood:
“In my family, being high maintenance was a huge shame trigger, especially for girls. Be easy, fun, and flexible. Need a bathroom break on a road trip? We’ll pull over when we don’t have to cross the highway to get to the gas station. Don’t like what we’re having for dinner? Don’t eat. Carsick? It’s all in your head. Unfortunately, being low maintenance also meant not asking for what you needed and never inconveniencing anyone.” Page 100
I cannot tell you how many times I was told by my dad that it was all in my head. I remember one summer we were told we needed to shuck about 6 dozen ears of corn. We would buy a large quantity when it was the end of the season, shuck them and then freeze them for the rest of the year. Supposedly it still tasted just the same (but corn was just corn to me). I vividly remember sitting on the front porch step, making a mess of all the remnants when I felt a sharp pain in my thumb. I look down and my thumb is covered in blood. Now, I have a very high pain tolerance, but I have NO tolerance for seeing blood (mine or anyone else’s). I yell for my dad and we go inside. As he is rinsing it off we realize there is a piece of glass in my thumb. It must have been in the soil and grown in with the corn husk. We get it out and I literally pass out from all the blood. When I am back and normal again my dad basically tells me it is all in my head and that I am a wuss. Seriously.
That and many other situations throughout my childhood made me not ask for help, and honestly it is hard for me to do so today. I did what I could to not be high maintenance, to figure it out on my own, and not be in the way. It was easier that way. However, I do not plan to raise my son that way. I want him to use his words, and speak up — whether he is high maintenance or not. I want him to be just who he is without being squashed by the judgements of others. Is that too much to ask for?
Yesterday my team went out to lunch and one of the items we ordered was polenta fries. One of my favorites especially with the dipping sauce that often comes with them. I found that polenta fries are not something that everyone had tried before. Polenta made from cornmeal make me think of southern cooking most likely because of the cornmeal and how similar it is to the texture of grits.
Which leads me to the true topic of this blog post. Grit. Yes, polenta fries at lunch made me think of grit, which made me think of the book I recently finished called “Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck” by Jon Acuff. He has a plethora of ideas about careers, and adds in some great ideas about empathy and grit. Empathy is something I have been thinking a lot about lately. I can often plow through the day checking items off the long to do list, going from thing to thing, and while people are my top priority, it might not always come across that way. Acuff gets right to the point and this idea kept it simple for me to remember the two components of empathy:
“At times, empathy will feel complicated, but it’s not. It only involves two things: Understanding someone else’s needs. Acting on them.” page 191-192
I can do that. Understand, and act on needs. Can you?
Which leads me to grit. Gosh, I love that word. What is it about the word grit that makes me think of rolling up your sleeves and getting dirty? Doing whatever is necessary to get the job done. Sweat, blood, tears. Well I prefer just the sweat, I can leave the blood and tears behind.
“Grit is being stubborn in the face of fear. Grit is the first time you try something and it’s the thousandth time too. Grit is believing in can when can’t is loud. Grit is expecting fear and moving forward anyway.” page 213
Folks often call me relentless and it is true. If I get something in my mind that I am going to do it, well I do. I do not always care what it takes. I am going to find a way to make it happen. It takes grit to do that. I am stubborn and I am going to move forward anyway. Want to roll up your sleeves and join me?
From time to time I ponder getting a tattoo. I have an idea of what I would get, potentially around my wrist. It would be small and almost like a piece of jewelry. My problem? I cannot stand the sight of needles. They freak me out, whether if it is for a blood test, or to pen a part of me permanently. The pain does not matter so much, I have a high tolerance for that, it is the thought of the needle and the blood that comes after said needle. I get woozy, faint, and useless. Yet, somehow I still kind of want a tattoo.
So when I finished reading Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline I thought again about a tattoo. I was intrigued by this novel just from the title. It resonated with me. As an orphan myself, I wondered what it was about and if I would be interested. It was a quick read novel, and it easily sucked me in. A one sentence synopsis: A girl who is basically an orphan does community service (or go to juvenile corrections) with a 93-year-old woman, they bond, and learn that the woman lost her entire family when she was nine in a fire. You can imagine what happens, but it is the rich story that pulls at your heart-strings.
So what does Orphan Train have to do with tattoos? This quote shares a bit more:
“The things that matter stay with you, seep into your skin. People get tattoos to have a permanent reminder of things they love or believe or fear, but though she’ll never regret the turtle, she has no need to ink her flesh again to remember the past. She had not known the markings would be etched so deep.” page 214
There are so many things I have experienced in life that have etched deep markings on my soul, my brain, and my body. Physical events that have taken a toll on my body. Experiences that have been etched in my brain (both good, amazing, bad, and horrible). Many I would never want etched into my skin. My memories are reminders enough. Sometimes we forget how deep the pain has seeped into our skin. Other times we are reminded of the touch of another and how deep that runs in our veins. The touch that calms us, brings tears to our eyes, and who we really are is brought back to the surface. The best invisible tattoo yet.
A group of neighbors got together over the weekend and while a few of us were talking the topic of mechanics and doctors came up and I had an aha moment over something one individual said. We were discussing a plethora of topics, but this one comparing mechanics to doctors was so spot on.
Think about this. You take your car in to get fixed, whether for its regular tune up or because you heard an odd sound. They take some time to explore the issue, and then before they do any work they let you know what the issue is, what they will have to do (if it ever makes any sense) and how much it is going to cost. You know right then your doom. Do you walk away with the cost of an oil change, or is time to get a new car? You might need new brakes, a new engine, or some other strange part you have never heard of.
Juxtaposition that with going to the doctor. You go to the doctor for a check-up or because something specific is bothering you. They tell you they need to run a bunch of tests. You wait for the results (days) and you then wait much longer (often weeks to months) to find out how much it is truly going to cost you. Even with good insurance you often do not know how much the different tests will cost you. Additionally, it depends on who does the tests. I have found that some places charge vastly different amounts for the exact same test. I guess a mechanic is similar in that different mechanics can charge different amounts for the same work. However, if all the doctor or lab is doing is taking our blood, and testing it how can there be such a vast different in cost? A lot of the costs have to do with what your insurance company will pay, what your specific plan covers, or if you hit your deductible.
How is it that you can get your car diagnosed and you can get the price, but you cannot get the price for what it might take to fix you? There should be more transparency of costs. Sort of like when you go to a restaurant and they show the calorie and fat content, the cost details for tests and doctor visits should be available to patients.
Would a change in this process start with doctor’s offices or with the insurance companies? What do you think?