Archive for August, 2012

The simple things

What makes you happy?

Sometimes when I think about that question, I imagine exotic vacations, elaborate dinner parties, Fourth of July fireworks or other obviously enchanting activities. It’s easy to assume that the answer lies in something expensive, faraway or perhaps entirely unavailable at the moment.

As I sat in the bow of my family’s boat this weekend, though, I rediscovered my true answer.

Enjoying the simple things with my favorite people.

What makes me happy?

The simple things.

The smell of coconut sunscreen whipped together with clean canyon air.

The warmth of the sun-soaked boat cushions beneath my back.

The sound of the spray as it curls around the bow.

The familiar taste of turkey sandwiches and the classic crunch of Sun Chips.

The comforting weight of sunglasses against the bridge of my nose.

The way the speed, rushing wind, heat, and water soak up and clear away those bothersome cobwebs of adulthood.

It’s a feeling of freedom created by the simple things.

That’s what makes me happy.

Here’s Jim Brickman’s “Simple Things,” for your listening pleasure. It’s one of my favorites. 

Running late

I hate being late.

I’d rather twiddle my thumbs for 30 minutes before a meeting than walk in after everyone is seated.

I don’t mind if other people are late. Feel free to mosey in whenever you please. But if I’m five minutes behind schedule, I’d rather sit in the hall, thank you.

There are a few semi-sane reasons I dislike being tardy: My family is generally on time — but never early. I remember running through the airport as child, trying to keep my carry-on from toppling and attempting to catch up with my dad, who was determined to make the flight but equally determined not to waste even a second sitting at the gate.

Our family of five could often be seen scurrying past the Cinnabon in the Salt Lake International Airport during the summer.

I now recall those jogs fondly, but the anxiety they induced at the time (Are we going to make it?!) is perhaps part of the reason I dislike being late. I’m also not keen on drawing unwanted attention. I blush easily.

All of that being said, I realize that my extreme fear of clocks is kind of crazy. Yes, it’s important to be respectful and to demonstrate that by being timely, but it’s not the end of the world if I don’t have a few minutes to twiddle my thumbs.

Reflecting on the value I place on minutes and seconds from this more sensible standpoint got me thinking about my fear of being late for other events.

At the mature age of 8, I decided I needed to get married when I was 19. When 19 came and went in a flurry of essays and frozen dinners, I became progressively worried with each passing year about being late for that event. (I now recognize that a marriage requires the collision of two individuals’ schedules. It was a lightbulb moment.)

I mapped out timetables for other significant life events, too. Having my first child by 23 was somewhere on there. Buying a starter home wasn’t far behind.

But here I stand (or sit, rather) husbandless, childless and houseless.

Somehow my fear of being late to everyday events translated into a fear of being late to earth-shattering events. The anxiety I’ve felt about not being married or having children is, I believe, caused by my belief that I’m running late for life.

But, really, I need to let that mindset go. My fear reminds me of the rabbit from “Alice in Wonderland.”(What is it with me and that movie lately?) The rabbit spends most of the movie frantically declaring, “I’m late. I’m late for a very important date.” At some point, the March Hare takes a mallet to the rabbit’s watch — likely hoping he’ll chilax. (Is that term still cool? Let’s pretend it is, ok.)

I need someone to take a mallet to my pocket watch. There’s no need for me to be embarrassed, and I don’t need to be anxious. My life may not be going according to my childhood plan, but I’m not late.

I’m not walking into the meeting after it’s started; I’m simply going to a different meeting. My life is running on a carefully crafted timetable — and yours is, too.

What women want

Are you on Twitter? Do you follow fashion hashtags? (If you’re inclined to use “twittering” as a verb and you just opened a new tab to Google the definition of “hashtags,” bear with me. I promise to keep the social media speak to a minimum.)

If your answer to the two questions above was yes, you’ve probably seen tweets about Helen Gurley Brown, the legendary editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, who died Monday.

In response to this news, many women took to Twitter to hail Helen as a “fearless force of nature,” “a pioneer and an inspiration,” and “an incredible woman.”

Helen Gurley Brown (G. Paul Burnett/AP/NPR

If you relied solely on these tweets, you might be inclined to believe that Helen had a positive influence on the world, particularly women, and that her advice and editorial contributions will be missed. If you know anything about the magazine she reigned over, though, you might have a different perspective.

Just to clarify, I don’t read Cosmo. I don’t agree with its messages, but I don’t look down on Cosmo consumers. In fact, after reading several articles about Helen this week, I found the distaste I’ve had for her content in the past turn to sadness.

I feel bad for a woman made her fortune telling readers that what matters most in life is money, sex, stilettos and bra size. She used her influential media position to promote objectification, ironically claiming it was the quickest route to empowerment.

And here’s the saddest part: She believed it was true. Don’t get me wrong, I like to shop and buy the latest lipgloss, but at the end of the day, I hope there’s more to my life than brand names, pay checks and skinny jeans. That didn’t seem to be the case for Helen.

From what I can tell, she believed manipulating men and embracing vanity would lead to a fulfilling life. She was well-known for this quote: “Good girls go to heaven. Bad girls go everywhere.”

And when asked why she never had children, she said this: “I didn’t want to give up the time, the love, the money.”

All of these sadly distorted views got me thinking about another woman who was also talked about much after her death and who continues to have an influence on women: Marjorie Pay Hinckley

Marjorie Pay Hinckley (The Country Mama)

Here was sweet Sister Hinckley’s approach to life:

I don’t want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully, tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails. 

I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp. 

I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor’s children. 

I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone’s garden. 

I want to be there with children’s sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder. 

I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived.

One Huffington Post article called Helen a visionary, and perhaps she was, in her own regard, but if you ask me, I think she had the wrong vision.

It’s all about who you know

When I was a freshman in college, my dad gave me this advice: “Don’t sign up for classes. Sign up for teachers.”

I took this counsel to heart. I remember sitting in front of my computer at 12:01 a.m. on the day of registration one semester, praying not that I would be able to find an afternoon session of English 252 but that Ron Bennett would have an open seat in any class. For the right professor, I was willing to take anything. Welding 280? I’m in. I was even up for wearing those terribly unattractive goggles. Horticulture 287R? Hand me a shovel and spade.

I was lucky enough to have my interests line up with some of the best professors on campus. But what meant more to me then, and now, than the lectures they gave or extracredit assignments they offered was how they treated me. I could immediately sense when a teacher cared about my life beyond the classroom, and that made my college experience invaluable.

As I’ve moved past college and tackled career choices, housing options and even weekend activities, I’ve continued to find that basing my decisions on the WHO is so much more important than the where or what. Sure, careers with corner offices, apartments with hardwood floors and Friday night Lady A concerts are great, but they don’t matter anywhere near as much as the guy in the office next to you, the girls you share the kitchen with or the friends who mosh with you.

These are the wonderful whos I call co-workers. Logan (front left) has moved on to bigger and better things, but he’s had a lasting impact on my life. 

I’ve been blessed to know some pretty incredible individuals since taking this people-based approach to life. I was separated from one of them this week, a co-worker who has been my best friend for the past three years, and I’ve been reminded of just how much more relationships mean to me than pay raises, promotions or benefits.

The drawback to a who-based life is that change and separation come at a very high emotional cost.

But that’s not going to stop me. I plan to spend the rest of my life signing up for people rather than possessions or professions. It turns out the cliché is true. It really is all about who you know.