Please Tell Me You Didn’t Call to Talk About Garbanzo Beans!

My husband called tonight. He’s been out of town, you see, so he called to ask how I was doing, and he wanted to talk about the exciting things that had occurred in his life. Those exciting things weren’t about work or about a new friend he had met. No, it wasn’t about that at all, but about three really good meals he had eaten. He had never been to this part of the country, so the experience was new for him, I’ll give him that. But when he called he talked to me at length about what he ate…for breakfast…for lunch…and for dinner.

 

I like food as much as the next gal, but I don’t really want to discuss it longer than, oh, 5 seconds. My husband is a different story. He talked about his plate of food like, I don’t know, like it was another woman. It went something like, “I ordered this wrap and they fixed it just…like…I like it. It had spinach and feta cheese. Then, I ordered a side of couscous that they made right there! [cue music] I also ordered a three-bean salad. They had the regular kidney beans and garbanzo beans but then they had beans like you fix. You know, how you put whole beans in a pan with a little butter?” (I was beginning to feel jealous about a three bean salad. He continued.) “Well, they did it just like that,” he said, “but the beans were cut up…you know, shorter.” Here, I resisted the urge to jump up and yell with delight, “They were shorter? That’s fantastic!” I didn’t though; I let him get this out of his system, so we could move on. And we did, we moved on to the fleece jacket he was thinking about buying.

 

Guys, if you’re reading this, I know that you don’t like to talk about your feelings, because you’re men, right. I mean, you like dirt and grease and you never talk about your feelings. It’s a guy rule, like leaving the seat up, occasionally, is your kind of rebel yell. However, to never talk about your feelings or to never “go there” leaves the women in your life feeling replaceable. I mean, if my husband and I were, say, figures in a dollhouse, sitting at a tiny table with a kind of crude background with a tiny picture of a family hanging on the tiny wall, a giant hand could easily remove me from this scene and replace me with anyone—a tiny postman, a tiny electrician, a tiny fireman, or even a tiny chair and it would be just as fulfilling…for him.

 

So, the next time you’re thinking that you’re “connecting” with the woman in your life, ask yourself, “if she were to hang up the phone right now (or walk out of the room, etc.) and I were to continue talking, would it hold the same meaning for me?” If the answer is yes, then perhaps you should take a different approach. Just for fun, ask her what she is thinking or how she feels about something or be willing to answer that question when she asks you. It wouldn’t kill you and contrary to popular belief you would still be a man afterwards. In fact, instead of losing your manhood, you might gain something. For instance, You might remember why you fell in love and or married her in the first place. And you might, just might realize that a garbanzo bean really doesn’t hold a candle to the significant woman in your life.

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Long-Lost Friends No Longer Lost

I’ve never been much on reunions, except for reunions regarding family. Those I attend out of fear and intimidation. Fear of being disowned and intimidation given by brothers who would call, ask my whereabouts, and then not believe me when I tell them that I couldn’t make it because of, oh, the Swine Flu. “Well, you should have worn a mask and come anyway. Those IV drips are on wheels now. We missed you.” That’s just one of the perks of being a member of a score-keeping family. You know the kind, three strikes and you’re out…literally? OK, I’m being a little too harsh here. They probably wouldn’t expect me to bring my IV drip.

 

Anyway, reunions involving friends I don’t have much interest in and generally avoid them, if I can. However, I have a good friend, who relishes an opportunity to get together with long-lost acquaintances. She lives in the town where she was born, her children attend the elementary school that she attended, and “running into someone” from her past completes her day. In fact, most conversations I have with her begin, “You’ll never guess who I saw at the grocery.” I adore this quality about her, actually, to maintain connections that last a lifetime, and it is good to hear what others are doing, but when that need interrupts our time together, then I start feeling a little put out, a little second rate.

 

Not long ago, we spent an afternoon together, eating lunch and enjoying the day. It was such a pleasant time, that I was anticipating making it a regular thing. So, I called her up on another matter and suggested that we do lunch again. Her response was quite positive and I was feeling pretty good about our friendship, until she said, “And maybe we can invite Amy and Jessie* (from 20 years ago) and I do wish Cathy* still lived in town. Maybe I can send her a FB email and invite her up and we can all get together.” I responded with an unenthusiastic, “Sur-r-r-r-r-re, that’d be great” and left it at that.

 

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I know she didn’t mean to imply that my company wasn’t quite good enough. That only other people that we no longer know or have anything in common with would make the visit much more interesting, but that was my interpretation. This told me, too, that the friendship still needs a little work and to proceed with caution. Consequently, the next time she calls me for a visit, I think I’ll tell her, “OK, under one condition…as long as I don’t have to bring my yearbook or camera.”

 

*The names have been changed to protect the guilty.

True Emotions are No Crying Matter

I have a friend who’s going through a rough time right now. She just buried a family member who lost her battle with cancer. She was in her mid-forties and left behind a husband and two small children. My friend also buried another family member this week, after a long illness. This same friend’s husband is dealing with employment difficulties. His hours were cut this week, but the bills, of course, keep coming. After telling a few of us about her struggles and asking for prayer, she went on to state a number of good things that have happened to her this week. I admire her ability to look on the bright side of things, to make lemonade when life serves her lemons, but I have to ask the question, what is wrong with expressing true emotions, like anger, resentment, disappointment?

 

I belong to a certain Protestant religion and have all of my life. I have come to notice a disturbing fact about my faith and that is that its people are intolerant of life’s pitfalls. In other words, they really don’t want to hear it. In my experience, they want to assume that life is fine and that problems can be fixed with a simple smile or another devotional book. They want to believe that all they need to do is to hold your hand, pray for you, and all will be well. That is not to say that these things don’t help—they do—and that they aren’t welcomed—they are—but so is acknowledging that life is much more complicated than a quick prayer and a smile. Sometimes life requires real support from others and there is healing in knowing that your friends, and especially church friends, have been where you are, accept whatever emotion you have, whether good, bad, or ugly, and will stick by you until the “storm” passes.

 

Recently, I experienced one of life’s pitfalls. It wasn’t a serious illness or a death in the family but something much less black and white: unemployment. Troubled by this, I mentioned it to a ministry group of which I was a member. Long story short, at one meeting I broke down in tears, and cried on the shoulder of a sympathetic listener. I saw her again the following week. I was embarrassed about my outburst (conditioned to hide my true feelings, you might say) and had no intention of mentioning it again. It turned out to be a good plan, because “my friend” couldn’t get away from me fast enough.  

 

Don’t misunderstand, I love my church and my faith, but I long for a true awakening among its members. Who taught us to act this way? It certainly wasn’t Christ—the man we follow, study, worship—for we know that He had anger without shame towards the money changers in His temple and that he wept openly for Lazarus. We are not the same people we were only a decade ago. Addiction, porn addiction in particular, is rampant. I don’t know that many people in my rather large congregation, but in my small circle of friends, I know of two families whose lives have been wrecked by this and have heard of others. And divorce is no longer a statistic particular to the “unchurched,” but is a reality among active church-going Christians, yet our pulpits, my pulpit remain silent. Why? Why can’t we put aside a sermon on missions and talk candidly about these issues? Many wonderful pastors already do this, like Rick Warren or Andy Stanley, but not my church. Instead, we hear a safe sermon Sunday after Sunday and leave with our innocuous smiles and tell everyone that everything is fine…and what about those Dodgers?

 

It’s a lot to ask, I know, for us to become more authentic. It’s a century’s old problem and expecting that kind of dramatic change would be like expecting Joe Biden to not stick his foot in his mouth. It just ain’t gonna happen. So what’s the solution? One would be to leave the church and the faith altogether or stay and love the people in spite of their affinity for appearances or make small changes one small group at a time. Perhaps the latter is worth a try for it is a great church, but with Biden as a model, I might do better to bone up on Dodger’s scores.