Picking right up. . . on grace

I’m imagining, little blog o’ mine, that at some point, I’ll feel the need to address what kept me away for nearly two years to the day, but that is not this post. . .

Nope.

This one is all about grace–a word that’s on my mind a lot these days.  I think about it.  I invoke it.  I try to embody and enact it.  And yes, I’m talking grace of the divine variety.  Don’t worry:  I haven’t come back with a new soapbox.  I prefer to live my faith a la Mr. Rogers (of the ‘hood)–being it and not so much yammerin’ on about it.  In fact, this divine grace thing has something to do with that.

This grace is a conscientious, deliberate kindness, offered even especially to asshats and their like, in the spirit of shared human imperfection in all its glory.

There are two women I know who have this down:  my friends Heather and Lee.  They had it down before Glennon Doyle Melton started writing about it.  They were doing it before I read Brene Brown and Anne Lamott.  Some fourteen years ago, they were the women I most admired.  I didn’t know why at the time.  They were both gorgeous, glowing really–the disgusting kind of beautiful people who could seriously rock a potato sack.  They were warm.  And they were both loved and beloved by friends, family, colleagues, and students. They were good at everything, and it all looked so damn effortless.  I just wanted to be them. . . right down to the purses and hair product (It’s true.  They’re that fantastic.  Even root-lifter and Coach seem doable.)

But it wasn’t effortless.  I know that now.  It was grace.  It was thoughtful and deliberate, and it meant near-constant mindfulness and attention.  And this–THIS–is why grace is such a gift and why I’m trying to add it to my repertoire (where, frankly, it is having a bit of a time squeezing in to the little vacancy between my tendency to call it like I see it and its sibling tendency to want to kick insensitive people in the head).  Grace means not only forgiving someone for having a case of the bad-hangover, post-breakup, at-least-I-wish-that-was-my-excuse Mondays.  It means holding space for them.  It means trying to understand them.  It means giving them the extra special bit of whatever they need in that moment because you’ve been grumpy, too, and because we’re not all always at our best and because isn’t it nice when someone gives you some leeway and an understanding pat on the fanny (or back or wherever you happen to prefer your physical reassurance)?  It means constantly remembering that this person in this moment is not his words or her attitude or that terrible grimace but is, first and foremost, a person.

Because I’m clumsy and awkward and fantastically flawed–and yes, even an asshat–so many times in any one day, I love having gracious people around.  I’ve sought them out.  I’ve populated my facebook friends list with them.  Grace is where it’s at.  But here’s the brutal little nugget of truth about grace:  it is a lovely thing to receive, but HolychubbylittlenakedbabyJesus is it hard to give.  Especially on days when I’m having my own bout of sourface.

And so, two months early (because this is definitely going to take more than a year), I’m declaring grace to be my word of (late 2013 and) 2014.

And with that, the misadventures are back in action.

Letter to Me

I learned from Tiffany about this sweet project and had to participate.

Dear 22-year-old Bee,

I am proud of you.  I am proud of you for walking away from a 9-month marriage.  I’m always proud of you for getting over your worries of what others are going to think and doing what you, in your gut, know is right.  (Some of the most incredible things you do are things like this.)  I know it’s still hard to figure out what’s really your gut and what’s other voices sitting on your shoulders, but when it’s your gut, you feel it.  Pay attention to that.  Learn that feeling.  When it’s your gut, you can proudly fight for it, defend it, and pronounce it loudly and publicly.  You’ve worked hard.  You’ve worked very hard.  And realizing that you didn’t respect yourself anymore, and then realizing that was the sign that it was over—well, those are smart, commendable, brave things.  This is going to be one of the most valuable things about you—your ability to accept responsibility for mistakes and to make things right.

I want you to remember that just because you can’t explain your choices doesn’t mean they’re bad choices.  First off, people who are interrogating you regarding your choices are out of line.  It’s your life, chickpea.  You are the person you have to live with.  Do you get that?  No one else’s opinions matter because those aren’t the people whose consciences you lie with on your pillow at night.  It’s really no one’s business why you want to do anything, and truly good people—the only people worth your time—will support your decisions simply because you’re doing what feels right for you.  You don’t really know right now why you want a Ph.D.  You just do.  That’s fine.  Go for it.  Oh, and that gut feeling you have about teaching developmental writers at a community college?  Hold on to that one, too.  Yeah – it doesn’t seem to make sense with the Ph.D. business, but just go with it.  You have found your joy.  Don’t let it go.

Now, let’s talk about boys.  I know that inside, you’re still an awkward, gawky, socially inept little Urkel of a girl.  And now, with the divorce, you somehow feel like damaged goods—like some poor sap would be doing you a favor if he graced you with this company, even just physical company, for a bit.  That, sweet cheeks, is complete BULLSHIT.  I don’t want to ruin the adventure or all the learning experiences for you.  Those make you who I end up being, which is a pretty kick-ass woman.  So instead, I will say this:  You deserve to be adored.  This isn’t Oprah speaking.  It’s me. . . you. . . in the future. . . the you who eventually is adored as she should be.  So act on this differently than any self-help reading material. 

You deserve to be adored.

I respect your right to choose sometimes to just hang out with a guy or even sleep with him just because you don’t particularly feel like being alone.  But when it comes time for the big commitments—anything over even just a couple months—you shouldn’t have to work at making things better, and you damn sure shouldn’t have to convince anyone that you’re worthy of love.  If the assclown (One of your favorite people on the planet is going to teach you that word.  Listen for it.) doesn’t adore you, he doesn’t deserve you.  I don’t mean that he tells you you’re pretty either.  I mean that he knows your heart—knows how loving and generous you are, knows how good you believe people are and how much that impacts the way you move through the world, knows how driven you are to help, knows that little things make you blissfully happy—and cherishes all of that as a beautiful gift.  Until you find that guy, keep looking. 

Don’t stop giving of yourself whole-heartedly, though.  That’s also one of your charms.  And yes – you’re going to have your heart broken more than once, and it’s going to hurt bad, bad, bad.  But the same thing in you that feels hurt so intensely is what feels joy more intensely than most, too.  Embrace it all.

Embrace whatever makes other people tick, too.  You’re going to figure out soon that not everyone can find and appreciate the jewels in others, especially when those jewels are hiding.  This is something you’re good at.  You’re good at making people feel valued, just like Mr. Coccari did.  You’re good at showing people the good in themselves.  Don’t lose that.

And don’t lose your effervescent joy.  Yeah – you stay blonde, and yeah, the joy in combination with blonde will often lead people to question and maybe even challenge your intellect.  You will soon find, though, that another source of joy is watching people’s expressions when they realize how wrong their first impressions of you were.  There’s nothing wrong with choosing to be happy.  It doesn’t make you shallow or stupid.  In fact, the really happy people in the world are the ones like you who choose it. 

Besides, it’s never about proving anything to anyone.  Nothing good ever comes from trying to prove something to someone.  Do your thing.  Own it.  Let the naysayers go home and whine about how their tails keep falling off.

Sweet girl — you’re about to become who you’re going to be.  A little while after that, you find so much happiness that you wake up and go to bed waiting for the sky to fall and screw it all up.  But it doesn’t. . . because the kind of happiness you find is the happiness that comes from following your gut and doing what brings you joy.  It really is as simple as that.

I adore you.

Love,

Bee

Journey to B.O.’s

A four-day trip to Key West from the Midwest–two days of which include travel–might seem a little silly.  But with that whole Eeyore situation, it was a brilliant, fortuitiously timed gift from My Favorite In-Laws (MFIL). 

Hot Plumpster (HP) and I woke up (at some ungodly hour involving a number that comes before my usual 5 a.m. alarm time) to get the travel part of the first day over with.  We’d be landing by noon and sipping fruity beach drinks by 1.  That was the master plan.

Of course, my master plans never work.  The cosmos must remind me on a regular basis that I am not, in fact, in control and that I do not, no matter what I actually think, always have THE.  BEST.  IDEAS.  There will be days when the crosswinds are far too strong to land a 737 on the shortest runway known to Delta Airlines.  Days when you get so close to Key West that you can see it from the plane window just long enough to wave goodbye as you head back to Miami.  Days when the best idea any Delta folks have is to call two Greyhounds to bus a planeful of people from Miami to Key West (which will delay said passengers’ arrival a full four hours).  It just so happened that I was on a 737 headed to Key West on one of those days.

Epic travel fail, right?  Nay.  Nay, I say!  It was more like a clandestine moment of God knows better. 

 For those of you unfamiliar with blue on a map, that’s all water.  And here’s what all of that blue looks like from a bus window.

So the trip really started with four glorious hours of sight-seeing.  When I wasn’t looking at this, I was appreciating quirky little street-side bars and shops and ogling pelicans, seagulls, ducks, and manatee-shaped mailboxes.

The other book end of our trip–and probably my favorite meal of the long weekend–was our accidental lunch at B.O.’s Fish Wagon.  Yes, it is called B.O.’s, and yes, I really do love it.  It’s true.  I had lovely (award winning) stuffed shrimp and at Conch Republic, fish nuggets and chips at Hog’s Breath, fantastic queso dip and sangria at a little place down by the southernmost point, and shrimp and asparagus pasta at A&B Lobster House, but nothing touches the food at this place:

We only arrived there accidentally.  MFIL had said they’d never been as we passed on our way to the art fair one day, and on our last day there, HP and I had a couple of hours to grab lunch and get showered before we headed to the airport, and B.O.’s is where we ended up.

At the entrance, HP ordered a fish sandwich with fries and a soda, and I ordered the shrimp and chips with a Key Limeade (“Excellent choice” the order dude said.).  Keith, the rough-around-the-edges construction worker in front of us, was buying lunch for his buddy.  His lunch total was $42.  And even after the guy operating the cash register ran the numbers again (because Keith was clearly not impressed and was ready to use his calloused hands and tool belt if necessary), the total was still $39. 

B.O.’s is not inexpensive.

HP and I found a table and sat, taking in the writing on the walls, on the tables, on the ceiling and hanging buoys.  I read all about what year L.D. and O.D. visited. . . then got married. . . then, I’m judging by the strikethrough, got divorced.  I enjoyed that all of the visitors had agreed to leave one another’s chalk postings alone.  There was a gentleman’s agreement, apparently, not to mess with someone else’s marking.  That was nice.  I appreciated being in a place where a same-sex couple could be just as affectionate as HP and I without worrying about stupid reactions.  I liked watching customers freak out when they realized that their $23 oyster sandwiches did not, in fact, come with fries.

But then I got really hungry, and our food still had not come.  And everyone who knows me knows not to mess with me and my food.  Alvin, who ordered behind us, even got his sandwich.  His name was Alvin.  I was hungry.  I contemplated walking up and just taking his sandwich.  His name was Alvin.  I could’ve taken him.  I didn’t, though, so we waited some more. 

B.O.’s is not fast.

B.O.’s is, though, some good eats.  Key Limeade really is an excellent choice–not so acidic that it hurts to drink but not so sweet that it tastes like soda either.  The fish sandwich is a MUST.  I stole at least three bites of HP’s.  Not only is the fish really great, but B.O.’s Key Lime mayonnaise (a yummy tartar sauce creation) is heaven.  The shrimp was cooked perfectly–not chewy and overdone.  And HP and I agreed that the just-made, just-cut fries were yum.  B.O.’s also makes cocktail sauce, which is more saucy than pasty with a healthy kick of horseradish.  It and the Key Lime mayo are so stinkin’ good that I dipped my fries in those instead of catsup. 

Delicious.  Delectable.  Desofreakinfantasticyou’llwantitforeverymeal.

When I have more days next time, I’ll do more off-the-beaten-path eating in Key West.  But I will always go back to B.O.’s and I will always order a fish sandwich, fries, and Key Limeade.