Dear Diary, I Get Around

Last week I had a conversation with a co-worker about why some people seem to have no self-awareness. We questioned why some people don’t pick up on social cues; why they can’t tell when they’ve intruded on a conversation; why they don’t read the faces of those who are negatively receiving the words they’re delivering. We puzzled over some people’s inability to read the unfavorable reactions of others.

But also not funny.

But also not funny.

We both confessed to hoping our self-awareness was on point and felt like—as a rule—it was. We ended the conversation feeling pretty darn good about our ability to read social cues and self-regulate.

My self-awareness confidence took a mighty blow later that night when—for reasons I can’t remember—I peeked into the first journal I ever owned and saw something wholly mortifying.

Unbeknownst to me, I was a first-rate floozy.

Let’s unpack these shameful years.

diary

This was my first diary, and it was given to me by my sister. Many months ago, we discussed a few of the entries in this journal, related to the rigorous crush I had on one of my middle school teachers, Coach McCahon.

That was but the tip of the iceberg.

diary1

You’ll see that this is the first of many professions of love. Apparently, I had a lot of it to give as a kid. Also, please note—I am nine. This will be an important detail as we move along.

diary2

I wonder what good things happened to me? Was it the fact that we had company? That my autograph was coming along? Time will tell.

I’m not sure what’s more shocking—that I felt Groundhog Day was worth two mentions or that I love a boy “very much” when I’m still drinking milk with my supper.

diary4

Here we are. And because this simply cannot be said enough—I’M NINE. Okay, I kind of understand how I could think I love him; but it’s shocking to me that I’m eager to kiss him. It’s more shocking that I want it to be “for a long time.” It’s jaw-dropping that I’m going to take the bull by the horns, when I don’t even have enough years under my belt to spell lips correctly.

diary5

Great. I’m ready for marriage. I’m simple-minded enough to think a definition of spring is warranted, yet I’m contemplating the rightness of nuptials and monogamy.

diary6

Still hoping he pops the question. I wonder where I thought it would happen? I have vivid memories of playing inside the big tractor tires on our elementary playground with him—I bet that’s where I hoped he’d drop to one scabbed knee. Oh, and if the suspension is killing you, I did get Mrs. DeShields—so my appalling punctuation was her gift that year.

diary7

WHAT?! What the hell is, “well, you know?!” No, I don’t know! WHERE ARE MY PARENTS?! So again, I think it’s worth pointing out—I’m ready to get serious, but I only manage to get the first and last letters right.

Side Note: I actually remember writing this. I was listening to the Top 9 at 9 on KQTY. I hate to tell you this, but it was when, back-to-back, they played Endless Love by Lionel Richie and Feels So Right by Alabama. This is not cute, y’all—it’s capital T Troubling.

diary8

Still love Billy. Still can’t spell for shit.

Side Note: This kind of enduring love shouldn’t be plausible when I’m young enough to still enjoy puppet shows.

diary9

Hmm, wonder when this happened—a new dude. You will see that this is the beginning of my downward spiral into tramp-ville. I’m 10 now—apparently approaching womanhood—and want some skating rink lip-locking.

Side Note: I remember this entry too, and he was there. We couple-skated to Hard To Say I’m Sorry by Chicago, and the song was especially meaningful to me because, while Brandon was a “hunk and a half,” I felt like I owed him an apology for coveting his speed skates.

diary10

More love in the air. I love God and I love a new boy, Kevin. I found my watch a week later in a pair of shoes—so I’m sure I double-loved God that day, but just didn’t get it documented.

diary11

Still love Kevin.

diary12

I’m going with Daxton, but I’m not sensing much love. Maybe it’s because I’m in love with a man 18 years my senior. No big deal. Oh, and I’m still struggling with basic spelling.

dairy13

I guess Coach McCahon was a gateway drug to Paul McCartney. Let’s see, I was 11 and he was, what, 70? Seems natural that I would love him and write about him in my diary, along with my grades, my Christmas gifts and an unforgivable spelling of the complicated word, “for.”

Side Note: The super clever initials are, Anna Christie BFFs … I love Paul McCartney (because one mention wasn’t enough) … I love Daxton Patterson (guess I did love him after all) … I love Scott McCahon (so, two men whose combined age was approximately 100) … I love my family … and Heaven only knows what BMOA stands for. I shutter to think.

diary14

And we’re back. Yes, these entries are in order.

diary15

In case anyone forgot.

diary16

Whoa. Daxton is out of the rotation.

diary17

Enter: Donny Griffin. Sure doesn’t seem like I’m very judicious with my love. If I spent half as much time on learning to spell as I did on acknowledging my love for anyone with a Y chromosome, we’d be in good shape.

diary18

There’s a lot going on here. Apparently I enjoyed learning about Anne Frank. I also worried a lot about our income tax return. I thought my TV debut—for something related to basketball and a telethon—would catapult me to stardom. I still loved Coach McCahon, and his body—despite his snotty behavior—but it wasn’t reciprocal. Spelling is still out of my wheelhouse.

diary19

Spoiler alert: I still love Coach McCahon, and Christi and I did not remain best friends for all of eternity, as I predicted—but hey, my grades were on point and I spelled some words right.

diary20

So much love to be had here. I’m still in love with a fully grown man, and Donnie (a new Donnie) is romantic. HOW? How is a 12-year old romantic? I have to know. Can someone remind me what pre-teens do to be romantic? Seems as if all that romance is fleeting, since I’m still with Donny G, but would also be down for some Donnie W, or Scott or Mike lovin’ on the side. Well, at least I also love my family and God—so some morsel of me remains honorable.

diary21

Sheesh, what’s with this income tax return? And why was I on TV again? I didn’t profess any love in this entry, but I can tell you that I wholeheartedly loved DQ. And it’s almost worrisome that I was so attached to my diary that I thought it could join me in prayer.

diary22

A new player: Mike Hammonds. I see no mention of love, so I must be taking things slow this time around.

diary23

Aww, poor Mike—I still don’t love him. I guess I’m just passing time until Coach McCahon and his “good body” get with the program.

diary24

I loved IZODS. I wonder if that’s why I was so obsessed with our income tax return?

diary25

I love God. I also love Coach McCahon, Mike Hammonds (although I question my sincerity on this one), God again, my family—and as a bonus, the w/w/w (whole wide world). That’s you—you’re welcome.

diary26

No love here, but I include it to tell you that my friends and I tried out for the talent show by dancing a choreographed number to MJ’s Billie Jean. On the opening beat, our backs were to the judges—as we stood with our feet shoulder-width apart—and one by one, we spun around and pointed out across the auditorium dramatically. We wore white tennis shorts, IZODs and Gilligan hats. I can’t make this up—nor would I want to.

Side Note: We didn’t make it.

diary29

I was single? How did I survive? Oh I know—on the “total” love I had for Scott Frederic.

diary30

Really diggin’ this Scott fellow. Let’s not allow the misspelling of his name to negate the obvious depths of my love.

diary31

But for now, Layne Moffitt will do.

diary32

I’m now going with Steven Moore, but love Ricky Schroder. Where’d Layne go? That was fast. I can say with confidence that I was more devoted to The Ricker than Steven, as I had approximately 104 pictures of him wallpapering my bedroom.

diary33

My love for Brad (yes, this is a new guy) is making me question my feelings for Steven.

dairy34

Annnd I’m back with Daxton. Enough time has passed that we’re now making out at dances. The first time around, we probably just played in the sandbox.

diary35

Oh hey, Travis. When did you get here? Have you met, Ricky?

diary36

I think kids who call people and chomp ice as their prank are totally mature enough to juggle a dozen loves in a few years.

I hope my diary was a way for me to work out all this angst and longing in a safe place—and that away from this time of reflection each night, I was out having fun and not drooling nonstop over these dudes. I have exponentially more memories of friends and laughter, than yearning and solitude, so I guess it was just an outlet I enjoyed. I must have, because I have stacks of journals from most of my life.

You should look back at your old stuff. Hopefully you’ll get some good news about your past ways, and not be confronted by the surprise news that the journal of your youth was actually a little black book housing enough names to field a pee wee football team.

The bad news? I only shared a fraction of the journal—and professions of love. The good news? Spelling is no longer my undoing.

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A Better Love

Happy New Year! I know, I know—it’s almost February, but it’s still a good time to talk about resolutions. My proposition doesn’t require a yoga mat or a Ninja Blender, but it does involve removing the focus from yourself for a bit.

(I just mentally saw some of you backing away. I won’t name names.)

Um, no thank you, please.

Um, no thank you, please.

This resolution is simple: Love (the people you love) better.

Don’t cringe—you love these people! I’m not even talking about co-workers or the table full of unreasonably loud chip-eaters next to you. I’m just suggesting you start with the people you truly love and value.

Side Note: If it’s actually your family eating chips too raucously, then that is something we’ll address another day.

By no means do I want this new resolution to take the place of your original resolution to post fewer selfies—please, PLEASE do us all (and yourself) a favor and stay.the.course.

Also, go ahead and organize your pantry and back up your photos to yet another external hard drive. Give coconut oil a try and see if cauliflower really can serve as passable pizza crust; but, in and around and between all those lofty Pinterest goals, I want to encourage you to just treat your people better. Make an intentional effort to be a better spouse, daughter, mom, sibling, son, uncle, grandparent, grandchild, aunt, dad and friend.

If your head is cocked in confusion, then you’re not using your imagination. The very best way to figure out how you can do better is to ask yourself what you would regret if that loved one was no longer in the world or in your life. It might sound slightly morbid, but that’s OK, because it’s eternally important.

Here goes. What would you regret if _______ was gone?

I have a feeling you’ll say things like:
Why did I fixate on the little things? Why didn’t I encourage her more? Why didn’t I thank him for the invaluable life lessons? Why didn’t I make sure she knew how much joy she brought me? Why didn’t I take a day off work and spend it with her? Why did I let our yesterday cloud our today? Why did I tell everyone but him how amazing he was? How could I have ever been too busy to hug her?

And on a smaller, but equally important note, you might ask yourself:
Why did I continue to leave clothes in the washer when I knew it drove her nuts? Why didn’t I rub his shoulders more often? Why didn’t I put my dirty clothes where she asked me to? Why didn’t I surprise her with more dates? Why did I stop leaving him love notes? Why did I play on my phone when I could have been reading to her? Why did I always let my car get below half a tank when I knew it was his pet peeve? Why did I try to temper her spontaneity? Why did I miss his games for meaningless work meetings? Why did we stop talking for hours and replace it with texts? Why didn’t I write him letters when he was serving our country overseas?

When your loved one is gone, the smallest thing is going to send you into a downward spiral of unspeakable sadness. Yes, things like moving a load of laundry into the dryer and remembering how happy that would make her. Yes, things like seeing The Pokey Little Puppy at Barnes & Noble and remembering how she’d curl into you and giggle when you read to her.

A loss is going to be devastating no matter what, but if you can lessen the number of unnecessary regrets AND make your loved one happy, isn’t it worth the effort now? The only thing that will make paralyzing sadness worse is to stack on top of it a profound remorse for which you are now helpless to fix.

I thought we might need a smile break.

I thought we might need a smile break.

So let’s crawl out now, while we can, and resolve to do better by our loved ones. Whether it’s your relationship with your spouse or your mother or your adult child—if you search your mind—you know where you can extend more grace, be more patient and give more effort.

Does your husband do something that gets on your nerves? Like, does he always want to know the plan? “Hey, what’s the plan when your family comes in town next week?” Do you reply with exasperation because it’s a week away and you haven’t even thought about it? Does it annoy you that he continues to ask?

Here’s a tip … he’s probably a hard-wired planner and not likely to change. The quicker you accept this, the better. Just meet him halfway and get some plans going. He’s not asking you to re-shingle the roof or move cross-country. He’s just asking for something that meets his predisposed needs. All relationships are give and take, so just think what you might gain by meeting him in the middle here—this could open up a whole new world of him asking for directions and clipping his toenails in private.

Do we all agree that the majority of arguments start over extremely stupid things—sometimes so little and ridiculous that you don’t even want to tell your friends why your morning is off to a bad start?

Me: How’s your day so far?
Friend: Sigh, just so-so. Brett and I left the house kinda “off” today.
Me: I’m sorry, is everything OK?
Friend: Yeah, it’s fine, it’s just got me off on the wrong foot. It’ll be fine as soon as we text or talk.
Me: OK good. Wanna talk about it?
Friend: Sure, if you’re up for learning how CEREAL can actually cause a fight.

Sometimes you have to sit back and acknowledge that life is short—and grasp that being upset over trivial things OR needlessly contributing to someone’s fury, is a waste of precious time.

You: Hey, what’s the deal? You and Kirk seem like you’re in a fight.
Friend: Ugh, we’re not in a fight, I’m just so mad at him I could spit.
You: Oh no, what happened?
Friend: Grrr. He won’t use exclamation points or smileys when he texts me.
You: *stifles a laugh* Is this something you two can get past?
Friend: Who knows?! I’ve told him a hundred times that I can’t read his tone without them, but he still refuses—it’s infuriating.

I can't live like this.

I can’t live like this.

To the one who feels slighted: Is it possible that you should just always assume his tone is normal and loving, unless there is reason to believe otherwise?
To the one who refuses to text properly: Could you tap the stubborn brake and do what you can to ensure your tone is reflective of how you’re feeling? Could you reply with more than one word, so she gets the reassurance she needs?

I’ll answer these questions for you both: YES, IT IS POSSIBLE and now is your chance to compromise. I can assure you that when he or she is gone, you’re going to wish you weren’t so unyielding.

Another way you can be better to people you love is to tell them how you feel.

I think it’s potentially a big mistake to assume that everyone you love knows you love them—and to what degree. Yes, perhaps your partner (perhaps) … but what about the rest of your family? “Oh sure! I say ‘I love you’ all the time!”

Not so fast. I’ve had instances where people told me something nice or extremely loving another family member said about me and I was stunned. Like, I knew we loved each other, but the details were such news to me. Good news. Life-enriching news.

So, consider that not everyone in your close circle really knows how you feel, and by all means, tell them! It can be a conversation, a letter, a card. Don’t recoil and say it’s too hard. Fighting in Iraq is hard; watching someone suffer with a disease is hard; seeing Odell Beckman, Jr. make that three-finger touchdown catch and realizing you could never do the same thing with 20 fingers is hard … but sitting down with a pen and paper and telling someone you love them—and why—is not hard.

Even if it’s slightly awkward, it takes about 20 seconds to say, “Hey, you know I love you, but I also want you to know that having you in my life means the world to me … and I didn’t want another day to go by without telling you that you’re wonderful and one of the best parts of my life.”

Again, all you have to do is imagine what you WISHED you’d said if you were no longer able to … and say it while you can.

When you’re in your final moments, which of these statements do you think will play through your mind and heart?

A. I wish I had more Facebook likes. B. I wish I had shown people how much I liked them.

A. I regret putting the care of my aging parents first. B. I regret putting the state of my bank account first.

A. I regret spending time with loved ones. B. I regret spending time being angry.

A. I wish I’d made more time for myself. B. I wish I’d made more time for them.

A. I wish I’d spent more time on my diet. B. I wish I’d spent more time enjoying a feast with her.

A. I wish I’d kept up with the Joneses. B. I wish I’d kept up with my old friends.

A. I wish I’d worked harder to get promoted to the corner office. B. I wish I’d made more reservations for us in a corner booth.

See, you didn’t even have to study and you aced it. In our bones, we all know these things. And we’re never going to be perfect. We’re never going to give every person everything they ever wanted—but we can do better. We can be more aware. We can try harder. We can be more selfless. We can and we should.

Let’s make this the one resolution we keep.

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