Monday, May 9

A-holes Anonymous

When sifting through the catalogue of Things I Can Get Behind in Life, I've recently had to make a revision. I can no longer be derelict of duty when it comes to holidays that may or may not be real holidays, nobody can remember because they're so commercial now.

"Oh great, here we are being forced to spend money on yet another holiday invented by the card industry!" anti-card-industry demonstrators self-righteously sniff, when the reality behind the veneer of anti-capitalist sentiment is Curse the greeting-card industry for reminding me of my obligation to celebrate mothers/fathers/liberty/love/the arrival of spring/secretaries/etc. I know because I, too, have bristled at the onset of holidays. Usually the ones for which I haven't fulfilled even the minimum requirements of celebration.

Yesterday, for instance. I am admitting on the internet that I didn't buy my mother, grandmother, and mother-in-law their Mother's Day cards until noon on the day of. You know what was really depressing? The hordes of people I had to fight my way through to access the sparsely stocked, pink section demarcating the celebration of the hour.

"You could have just written your mom a letter instead of buying her a mass-produced greeting card at the last minute," Noah reminded me helpfully, four hours after our Mother's Day dinner.


Although I wouldn't characterize Noah as a guy rife with weaknesses and personality flaws, I will say that service is not one of the areas in which he falls short. This is a guy who has pursued careers in ministry, the police, and the Navy, not because he's a religious fanatic or a born commando, but because he felt impelled by duty. Noah for weeks has gotten up pre-dawn to go help the guys at our church assemble the entire facility (stage, band, sound and video, seating, and children's rooms) at the Milton Rhodes Arts Center, then break down the whole thing and pack it up again not three hours later. Serving is just part of who he is.

He's also the kind of guy who would feel weird about not pulling his weight around the house and with the kid. Our marriage is very much a partnership. We don't purposefully adhere to traditional gender roles, although I am typically the household calendar keeper, God help us, and he's the one who handles the money.

We were discussing REVO's five principles yesterday evening (Love Big, Serve Hard, Grow Deep, Move Forward, Live Bold), and I pointed out to him that serving hard is not one of the areas he has trouble with.

Instead, maybe the internal restlessness he's been feeling lately is an indicator that he needs to focus on one of those more personally challenging areas. Because when you feel like you're making progress as a person, but everything else in your life looks the same, the change isn't spiritual; it's intellectual.

Intellectual change is an important and wonderful part of human development, but knowing something and acting like you believe it are two different things.


"For someone who hates golf, you sure did use a lot of golf metaphors just then," Noah said, immediately missing the point I had so ineloquently been circling. I was talking about how each person has his or her own par—the baseline of who they are—and then there was some other stuff about above or below par, I don't really remember, because after all it was golf imagery and I'm pretty sure I put myself to sleep with it.

My point was, Noah is naturally inclined to serve. He's naturally inclined to pull his weight. These are just some of the qualities that make him a great guy who is loved by many, but they are also qualities that come easily to him. By nature I'm very compassionate, so it's fairly easy for me to love, or at least understand other people's points of view. Boldly living out my convictions about love and acceptance and understanding is less easy.

Evolving into a better person (which, if you get right down to it, is a pretty basic and universally applicable goal) means moving beyond the intrinsic, better parts of yourself, the goodness that is easy for you. Becoming a better person means addressing the less-attractive parts of who you are—the negative and hateful and antagonistic aspects of yourself that exist, in the words of Jack Nicholson's Colonel Jessup, "deep down in places you don't talk about at parties."

I'm not into self-flagellation, metaphoric or otherwise. There's an epidemic of body-image issues in this country, and I'm certainly not advocating for dwelling on the negative. Sometimes, though, the time comes to face the music. To get rid of the distractions and get to the root of the problem. To confront your demons! Boldly go where...ugh, whatever.


My name is Erin, and I blame the card industry for my shortcomings.


magnolia said...

stupid greeting-card industry. :)

i'm with you that it's vital to get down to the less-than-sparkly parts of yourself. i didn't really figure out how to change my life and get happy until i came to terms with the fact that i could not fulfill the vows i made to my ex. for someone who prizes loyalty, that was a huge failing to own up to. but when i did, i finally got to a place where i could rise above the cloud of anger and pain that had formed inside me and actually get happy.

there's a lot to be said for that.

John Going Gently said...

self awareness scarey but oh so necessary

Erin said...

magnolia—I've gotten myself into some unfortunate situations because of my strong sense of loyalty. As Noah also said last night, "It's crazy how I can take something good and make it so messed up."

John—I suppose I could have saved myself about 500 words and just written that.

The Bug said...

"Intellectual change is an important and wonderful part of human development, but knowing something and acting like you believe it are two different things." Do you really have to just put it out there like that so now I feel like I have to do something? Aauugh!

Erin said...


mrs. fuzz said...

I wish that HF felt weird about not pulling his own weight around the house helping with the kids. . . :) This was a great post.

Jen said...

Lately I've been wanting to comment on your posts but I feel like nothing I could say would be worthy of being attached to the beauty or profound-ness (case in point) of what you've been typing.

Also, I've coincidentally been reading a book of selections from the 1950s "This I believe" and I feel like you belong in there.

Erin said...

mrs. fuzz—Try subliminal messages, or subtle hints like, "Hmm, don't you feel weird about not putting away your own clothes?" Noah started feeling weird about not putting away his laundry when I started piling it on his bed pillow.

Jen—Pish, tosh! Also I'm honored that 1) You would refer to a post titled "A-holes Anonymous" as profound; and 2) That you think I belong in a book. I wish I had some of the 1950s housewife virtues, truth be told. Our floors would stay cleaner, and I would wear real, non-lounging clothes a lot more.

Swistle said...

OMG, I was supposed to get my GRANDMOTHER and MOTHER-IN-LAW Mother's Day presents?? No. NO. I draw the line: I will only get presents for MY MOTHER. That seems reasonable. Everyone else can get presents for THEIR mothers.

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