How We Saved The Day: Our journey to England

If I skewed my words ever so slightly, I know I could easily make my husband, Dave, and me look like the heroes of this story. Instead, I will avoid embellishment, and to the best of my ability, I will tell the straight up truth. 

Here is our story: 

We decided to fly to London a few days early so we could kick the jet lag before Dave had to be at work on Tuesday. Dave and I arrived at Houston International Airport several hours prior to our flight. We spent that time in the overcrowded Amex Centurion Lounge. After spending a few hours crammed into a cafe table surrounded by our carry on luggage, I realized it was nearly time to board. I put my no-fun compression socks back on, shoved my things back into my travel backpack and we were off to the gate. Our flight to London would be nine to ten hours. Dave and I made our way to Gate E5 in the International Terminal. 

Weeks before our trip, Dave used our United Airlines miles to get on a waitlist for an upgrade to Economy Premium or Business Class. As we stood near the gate, we learned that we would not be upgraded. We would be sitting in our original seats. Dave and I both know that’s just how it goes. In fact, we are both top-tier elites at United and this year we never seem to get upgraded. Weird. 

Dave walked over to look out the massive floor to ceiling windows. They looked onto the tarmac. I continued to stand near the gate. From our respective places, we both heard it: “Ladies and gentlemen, our flight is oversold. We are offering 50,000 United miles to one passenger who is willing to give up their seat and leave on a later flight.” Before I could think the thoughts, “I bet Dave will want to be bumped,” he was walking over to me, “Beth, should we do it?” “Sure, I said.” (*I am sure in our minds we were both hedging our bets, hoping that if we left on a later flight, we would get better seats, or at least the next plane would not be as crowded.)

We walked up to the gate desk and the agent quickly told us they only needed one volunteer, “not two,”  she snapped. We took a deep breath and accepted our fate. Minutes later we were sitting  on that very same oversold flight. We left our aisle assigned seat open and Dave graciously sat in the middle seat. 

Right about then our cabinet guy called. I answered and we talked about warranties and waiting to figure things out until I returned to Utah. As I hung up, Dave said. “They made the announcement. They still needed just one person to give up their seat. This time they are offering a $1,500 flight credit. “Beth, why don’t you try this time?” My response was somewhere between annoyed, uncertain, and humorous: “what the hell, I’ll indulge Dave.”  

At that, I motioned to the closest flight attendant (Sara – not sure with or without an “h.”) She walked over to our seats. I asked and offered: “It needs to be the two of us. We are happy to take the credit for just one.” Quickly she texted something into her phone. I watched her read the message and then she asked me to follow her. 

I followed her to the entrance of the plane. We were surrounded by two other flight attendants. Sara asked me to share my offer with them. “Well, I have one person ahead of you.” One of the flight attendants interrupted. “I will take credit for one of us.” I responded. At once all three flight attendants looked at eachother, and in a cue Beyonce, “Who run the world, GIRLS, (girls),”  moment, they looked back at me, collectively shook their heads and said, “You fight for yourself! You ask for credit not just for you, but for both of you! You deserve it! Ask for what you want!” (Then I swear they said, “Beth, you are worthy!” But I may have only imagined that part…) I assured these epic flight attendants that I would speak up, that we would be ok, and that the world would be right. They made no promises. I thanked them and went back to my seat. 

On my way through the crowded aisles of feet, knees and elbows, a man in Premium Economy asked me about putting his name on this “give up your seat” list. In truth, I was not thrilled that he asked and I was also not very encouraging. I said something like, “There is someone ahead of us, my husband and I.” Then I felt guilty so I added, “Hey, why not give it a try?” I made it back to my seat, sat down and filled Dave in.

A few minutes later, the woman who had the middle seat that Dave was now sitting in, boarded. I could see her shaking as she approached our row. “You can have the aisle seat.” We assured her. Still shaking, she stood next to the aisle seat. She looked at us and began to speak. As she spoke, she began to cry. “This is my second very long flight ever! My partner and I want to sit together.” She motioned as if he were not simply across the aisle, but as if he were in another galaxy: “He is over there! I will wait here.” I could see from her passport she was from Spain. I also knew that she would be more likely to get someone to switch seats with her now that she had our aisle seat. 

Honestly, I remember the scary feeling of anticipating turbulence and sitting far away from your loved ones. I watched her texting and saw her body relax. “We have it worked out. We were able to switch places with someone.” She grabbed her things and moved across the plane. 

Within seconds I watched as a very large and hairy man walk toward our seat. “Oh no! I thought. “Dave is not going to like this.” The man smiled and sat down. Panic sweat drops covered my lip and the back of my neck. The large hairy main was at least three times as big as the sweet Spanish woman. My empathic anxiety (sweat droplets) were (obviously) for Dave, my middle seat stallion. (And this is why I asked Dave to remain in the middle seat: See, after one too many times of having men enter my personal airplane seat with their wide leg spreading and thigh grabbing, I have learned that I need to have husband or sons serve as buffers. No one crosses them and they keep me safe.) I felt Dave’s irritation. My heart dropped and I thanked him repeatedly for taking one for the team. “Dude, you are the best!” (In the interest of full disclosure, Dave mentioned that perhaps the man was not as big or as hairy as I implied. Dave’s words: “I mean, come on, he is not Hodor!”)

We settled ourselves. I looked around, waiting for the plane to take off. I saw her waving. She was waving at me. She started pointing at her phone. It was Sara, our lovely flight attendant. “You still want to take another flight? Quick! Grab all your things. You both good? I need to let them know you are in.” Sara stood behind our seats. I nodded and gave her a double thumb’s up. 

Dave, who I am sure did not immediately see her, was confused and startled. “Dave. No really. Quick. Grab all your things. We need to get off the plane.” “What? Really” We grabbed our things and followed Sara. She told us that they had accepted our bid and we would be on a flight to London the next day. 

For his seat-switching-generosity, I was hoping the giant hairy man would get the row to himself. After seeing the standby list, and listening to the woman scream at the gate agent, “How many four years olds do you know who are allowed to sit alone? Move my child now,” I am certain the plane would remain packed.

There we were, standing back at Gate E5. Sara said she would wait with us until the gate agent confirmed we were good to go. “I don’t want you to get stuck in Houston. I don’t want you to miss your next flight.” We thanked her and said that the sad thing about leaving her flight was her and the other flight crew: “We fly often. It’s always so wonderful when we encounter a flight crew like yours. Thank you for being so awesome!” Sara sweetly smiled and walked back onto the plane. 

Monkey Island Estate

I continued to watch and listen to impatient, frustrated and angry passengers. Our gate agent was entirely focused on trying to situate Dave and me. Then Dave reminded him that we would be ok racing to catch that flight to Boston that they had mentioned on the plane announcement earlier. “Really?” He said. “Really.” we responded. “Well let me see if I can make that work.” He made it work. Going through Boston would mean that we would only arrive in London a few hours later than we had planned. It was a lot better than staying in a Houston airport hotel until the next day.

In the sea of screaming passengers, one clearly pissed-off the gate agent, all the other gate agents and the man working on our new flight, stood a woman. She was standing very close to me, quietly, graciously. I was so focused on myself that it took me several minutes to realize that maybe she was trying to get on that Houston to London flight as well.

As we stood waiting, I noticed her beautiful french manicure. She seemed a little nervous, kind of like our shaky, Spanish former seat-mate. I am someone who likes to talk to strangers. As a result,  I said, “I love your manicure. It is very pretty.” 

“My granddaughter goes to beauty school. She did it.” “She did an excellent job.” I said. I asked if she was trying to get on the flight. “Yes I am trying to get to my grandchild’s….how do you say the thing when they are baptized?” I noticed her Guatemalan passport and said, “I say sprinkling, but I think most people say christening.” I responded.

 “Oh, Christening. Christening. Christening.” She said it three times to make it stick. She followed with, “Thank you for your seats.” That is literally when it occurred to me that this was the passenger we were giving our seats to. “Of course. We are happy to.” I said.

“Thank you very much. My husband died a few months ago.” She looked up in the air: “I told him that I really needed to get on this flight.” I started to choke up. She continued, “I don’t drive. My son-in-law is driving around the airport waiting to see if I get on the plane. My grandchild’s Christening is tomorrow. They gave me this ticket.” She pulled out her ticket and showed it to me: “See gate agent.” She did not understand that she was not confirmed on the flight. 

I looked at her and said, “I think your husband is listening. I think he wants you to get on this flight. He is looking out for you. He must have known what to do to get you on that plane.” We laughed and then we both cried. I gave her a hug and asked her her name. “I am Gladys.” “Gladys, I hope you have an excellent time in England.” I said. She had her seat and thanked us again. 

At that our super focused gate agent urged Dave and me to run to Gate C35: “Your flight to Boston is boarding now! I have confirmed seats for you.” “Are you sure?” We asked. “Yes. Now run. I will call the gate and let them know you are on your way.” Dave and I ran to gate C35. At first we ran like the wind and then, like at the halfway point I pleaded with Dave to slow down: “Dude, I’m going to pass out!” 

We arrived at gate C35. The gate agent dude looked at us contemptuously as we asked about boarding. “Um, you are not boarding. We’re not sure yet whether we’ll have seats for you. You are on standby.” Then he thrust his arm out in the direction of the seats: “Sit there. I will let you know if you can get on the plane.” We weren’t happy to learn that we were on standby. That wasn’t part of the deal.

Everyone boarded, even the people running from their tight connections. One man was turned away. A supervisor came out. I heard a lot of serious talk. We learned that some of the exit row seats were broken and that everyone may have to deplane. Then, Sharon, the very kind and wise supervisor walked over to us: “Don’t worry. I will get you on the plane.” She and I talked about Gladys, talked about being in the right place at the right time, and we talked about how the world could use some kindness. Sharon, the very kind United supervisor, got us on the plane.

Hours later, with my compression socks still suffocating my calves, we arrived at the gate ready to board our Boston to London redeye when Dave and I realized the magic that had descended on our very weird and long day. It was at that moment we realized that we were on the inaugural United Boston-to-London nonstop flight. There were United executives at the gate doing a photoshoot, a balloon arch, and a table spread with fruit trays, tea, and shortbread. There were gift bags for all the passengers. They gave us little lapel pins with the USA and UK flags. It was a party and it was a pretty amazing experience. We made it to London just over three hours after our original scheduled landing. Our flight attendant was just as kind. He held my hand in said, “Thank you, Mrs. Adams. It was our pleasure to have you on this flight.”

We have been in London since Friday. We started the first thirty hours without our checked luggage. I was disappointed to learn that the United lost baggage lady misinformed us regarding assistance.

While our luggage remained in Houston, we Uber’d our way to our first destination, this amazing place called Monkey Island Estate near the village of Bray. We saw no Monkeys, but did find two three-Michelin-starred restaurants: The Fat Duck and The Waterside Inn. No. We did not eat at these fine establishments. We opted for sandwiches and yogurts from the Sainsburys grocery store. I promise we will be back and I am leaning towards The Fat Duck! While on our Monkey Island getaway, we also walked for miles and miles and miles just like Mormon pioneer children. To the relief of my blistered and bleeding feet, we found a Nike Outlet, and I was able to buy new sneakers. After our delightful weekend, we made our way to London via the best smelling Uber ever. Our driver, whose other job is as a counselor for people with Autism, was even better. 

London was a whirlwind of museums, epic walks, city bikes, one play, Neil Gaiman’s, “The Ocean At The End Of The Lane,” an amazing Graffiti Tunnel, crossing several bridges, and lots and lots of Tesco Meal Deals. I think I liked the Temple Church the most. It is the place where Dave and I experienced a total meltdown last time we were here. We visited the church together. I took a picture in the bathroom by myself. We learned about William Marshal, the Magna Carta and the US Constitution and then we made our way over to the Museum of London, where we not only learned that the Romans were the first to settle London in like 20BC, we Face-timed with son #1 in a museum stairwell. On our way back to the hotel, we took the route that led us through Postman’s Park. There, at the end of this tiny, beautiful space we came across a covered shelter. The shelter is called, “The G.F. Watt’s Memorial To Heroic Self Sacrifice.” In it we found tiles dedicated to people who gave their lives to save another. Many were killed saving someone from drowning. Others lost their lives saving people from fires. And then there were Arthur Strange and Mark Tomlinson, “on a desperate venture to save two girls from quicksand in Lincolnshire were themselves engulfed on August 25, 1902.” It was an oddly and very humbling full circle moment. Dave and I gave our seats so a sweet widow could make it to her granddaughter’s christening. Arguably, we benefitted far more than the act of giving up our seats. And here we stood, learning about all these cool British people who gave up their lives for nothing more than to save someone else. 

Now we are back at the hotel. I have been in a relaxed frenzy reorganizing our things. I think we are packed. I should be asleep. We leave in the morning for Australia. 

(PS. I am posting from the LHR airport lounge. When I have a little more time, I will add captions to the pictures and add more links. Thank you for reading.)

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May is Mental Health Month

Recently I noticed that many of my posts are kind of dark, deep dives into heartbreak. I was like, 

“Beth, you sound depressed. Why all the big feelings? Are you always this sad?” 

Maybe I am depressed. I definitely have very large feelings. Please know that I am not always this sad. Yet, if I were “this sad,” I think that is ok too. Regarding my often pain-filled blog posts, I simply think I write when I have something I am working through (or most likely have been triggered). Writing helps. I have also come to believe that telling our stories is crucial to healing. Selfishly, I also recognize that a big part of my healing is having a platform. Honestly, at this point I am not sure who reads my words. Nevertheless, I am grateful I have a place to put them. I am grateful I am able to write them down. I am grateful for the opportunity to process and heal. Even better, I am grateful for those who do speak up, who do stand by me, validate and show me that I am worthy and I am seen. You are a gift. You have saved me more times than I can count. Seriously! Thank you! 

I only hope I can do that for you. 

Earlier I was watching Oprah’s new show on mental health called, “The Me You Can’t See,” when I heard the following quote,

“Therapeutic change is about healthy relationships. It’s about feeling like you belong and like feeling like you are connected.”

I love this quote and I agree. About the show, sure I cried all the way through and no, I am not going to review it except to say that it is vulnerable and it is good. I hope it reaches those who need to hear its message. 

Now onto my story:

The stars collided in such a way that I could not refuse their message. My mind is racing to connect all the dots that have brought me to this place. I see the intersection of my family and our relationship with the Mormon Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints). I hear my best friend Marianne say, 

“Mormons are just like everyone else. They make mistakes. They care about social status, prosperity, power and popularity. They cheat on their spouses and talk behind your back. The problem is because they have Jesus, they think they are better. I would argue using your belief in God to justify your ‘Christlike’ behavior is even worse.”

I do not disagree. 

As I think about Marianne’s words I solidly hear my non-Mormon therapist say,

“You know, Beth, many people love being Mormon and do not blame the Mormon church for their problems.” Then I see her pause long enough to make sure that I am really paying attention. She continues, “I also think many of these same people grew up with families who gave them healthy tools to navigate such an intense religion. These were the families that also provided their children with a healthy sense of self.”

Immediately I feel inadequate. I want to throw up. I feel deep pain. I feel weird. As a young girl, I know I did not have the tools. I know I did not possess a healthy sense of self.

As I try to piece this rush of feelings together, I am thrust back in time. I see my trigger. I feel the pain and insecurity as I remember how I perceived the women at church treat my mom. Though not everyone was like this, the ones who were, were terrible. I let my mind remember. I see my mom’s good friend dropping her upon being accepted into a more prominent social circle. I remember perceiving like my mom felt inadequate and rejected. I remember all the phone calls from those same women, including the “good” friend. They always wanted to make sure my mom knew how bad my sisters were. I remember the rage and frustration I felt knowing that the kids of these same women were doing the same or worse. I felt powerless as I watched my mom appear to feel like it was all her fault. It was not her fault. Those women were cruel, exclusive and self-righteous. Many of my peers remember these women differently. I think that is ok. I imagine we can hold space for all of us.

Most of these women live in Utah now. So does my mom. It is my memory that they never have included my mom, or invited her to their Minnesota get togethers. I imagine they would tell her the same thing the local LDS moms tell me,

“We just didn’t think you would want to come.”

I imagine my mom feels less than, confused and rejected. I wonder if she thinks it’s her fault. Maybe she moved on long ago. 

Abruptly I move from these feelings of sorrow to the moments I needed my mom’s empathy and compassion. Instead, I hear her words every single time I shared my pain,

“They are such good people. Beth, are you sure there wasn’t something you did?”

What I have learned through hours of therapy and mistakes I have made myself is that what I needed is for my mom to believe my story (as it was). I needed her to stand by my side and to protect me.

Of course, we can always do better. I can do better. Regardless, what I keep thinking about is this: why do we live in a world where my mom or a person of color, or the whistleblower, the rape victim, the poor kid, or the family who no longer attends church has to shoulder the burden and constantly prove they are valid or that they have worth? Why does the burden of proof fall solely on the disadvantaged or marginalized? Why is the outsider required to carry the relationship? It makes no sense. Victim Shaming or shunning the outsider or whatever you want to call it, drives me absolutely bonkers! Unjustified rejection is my trigger. It is also my trauma.

I am certain this trauma goes right back to the moment my family walked into the doors of the LDS church. My parents were recently married. Both of them were on their second marriage. They were young. And somehow in my mom’s upbringing, I believe she was taught that everything was also her fault. I believe she wanted to have healthy relationships. I believe she wanted to fit in and to connect. As a young mom, who was raising a blended family with six children, I believe she did her best. What I remember is that her best was taking the blame, asking me to take the blame, and consequently, reinforcing our cultural belief that the burden falls on the disadvantaged. By the way, it is also my memory that the women at church had no problem letting my mom take the hits. I always thought it was so cruel. I don’t know if she realizes what I see. I am sure my truth would embarrass her and break her heart.

Honestly, how on earth could one expect her to give us a strong sense of self while she was reconciling her own past trauma? How on earth could one expect her to stand with confidence as a new member and within the confines of such a rigorous belief system and religion?  How could I expect her to navigate the nuance of prosperity doctrine, social status, the generational cliques, while at the same time incorporating Christ’s teachings of inclusion and love? I truly believe she did her best. I also believe many of these women grew to love my mom. She is kind and openhearted.

Nevertheless, as many times as my mom has owned these moments, the trauma is still deeply embedded. It is what it is. I also fear I have perpetuated this pattern. For me to heal, I recognize that need to be honest regarding my complicity.

As a result of this learned behavior, within these dynamics, I always felt like it was me, not them. I felt like if I could shove myself into their world, everything would be fantastic. I have come to believe that feeling like I am less than and unworthy is damaging. I cannot fix them, or better, I cannot heal their own damage, the damage that causes them to be mean. I can only surround myself with people who love me for who I am.

As a result of these experiences, I was determined to help my kids feel a healthy sense of self. I was determined that they would always feel worthy. I encouraged their dreams, their fashion sense, their interests. I look them in the eyes. I make sure to connect with them each time they leave. I tell them I love them. I tell them I believe in them. I tell them these things often. Regardless of these positive behaviors, I also feel as though I have failed my sons. See, I could have done better. I am heartbroken. Now, when I know they are actively being ostracized and excluded I have never said and then asked them,

“Kyle and Eli, they are such good people. Are you sure there wasn’t something you did?”

However, what I did do is when they were actively being ostracized I stridently tried to negotiate with the parents. For years, I worked on these parental connections as I tried to prove our worth. I bargained over and over and over again. I allowed my boys to needlessly suffer because somewhere inside of me I felt like it was my fault. Thinking about the moments my children were rejected, condemned, and excluded fills me with suffocating pain and shame. I see the damage I enabled. Instead of encouraging them to walk away from people who do not treat them well, I encouraged them to stay. I am so sorry. I think I really still believed that I was the bad one. I was the one who was unworthy.

I have apologized privately to my sons. I have actively held boundaries with those who have been so unkind, intentionally or neglectfully. Now I straight up call these folks assholes. My brain also breaks each time I hear someone say, 

“well, I mean, it was so and so’s plans. I did not want to step on toes.” 

I scream inside at those who know what is right and do nothing. I think they are lame. After repeatedly placing my sons in harm’s way, and allowing them to stay in a situation they were ill prepared to navigate, I finally see that there is nothing I could have done to change who these people are. Sure, these folks also exist in a belief system where I believe they think they did what was right (in spite of our sons feel less than). From my lens, this behavior is still not ok. Regardless, it was my job to protect them. I could have done a much better.

That is why regardless of where I am tempted to place blame, at the end of the day, the buck stops with me. (Accountability)

I should have encouraged better boundaries. I should have kept Kyle and Eli from this harm. For my failings, I will always be sorry. I pray for Kyle and Eli’s forgiveness. I hope they see that because I know better I am trying to do better. I hope they know that I always stand by their side. I have their back. I like them and I love them. They are good and they are worthy. Ultimately, I hope they are able to surround themselves with people who love them just the way they are, (and not people who are not determined to dictate who they should be). I hope they always have places and spaces where they feel connected and where they know they belong. I hope they know they are loved — because they are loved — always.

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Ropes and Rabbit Holes

Us, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

[So many commas & parentheticals]

Earlier, Dave, my husband, and arguably my much taller half, made an off handed comment regarding how he is received (in the workplace). He was like, 

“If they don’t like my tone, then they can deal with it.” (In truth, I think he said something more nuanced like, “if they don’t like how I write, then maybe we are not a good fit.”)

Us, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

WHAT? No. Like, really? WHAT? How can Dave so confidently believe that he does not have to step aside or change who is for the sake of someone else?

My brain broke. 

Immediately I fell 300 feet down a rabbit hole, or maybe just a giant figurative pothole, one that my short-circuiting mind could not see. 

Us, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

As I tried to climb out of that deep, dark brain hole, Dave left the kitchen. I am certain he did not notice that I really could use a hand, or maybe even a very long rope, like that kinetic rope he recently purchased. Dave’s rope is shinny white nylon, long, strong and braids into an even stronger rope, “which translates into lower impact but higher energy transfer to the stuck vehicle.”

(Dave’s new kinetic rope arrived two days ago. Yesterday before Eli left for his friend’s cabin, and while standing next to the front bumper of our 4Runner, Dave sweetly and fastidiously explained how to attach the rope. Dave LOVES Eli! So do I. I love watching Eli become his own adult person. I love that he has grown his hair out and has found his own beautiful mountain man style. I also love watching Dave and Eli’s  connection. Eli was patient and also anxious to go. At that, Dave enthusiastically admonished,

“Eli, you can use it  for helping others out of tough spots.”)  

Us, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

Of course I imagined Eli helping his friend’s crazy dad free his Prius from a ditch. That dad is also the one who owns the cabin and who also [insert air quotes here] “accidentally” touched my left boob as Eli’s wide eyes met mine. (We still talk about the boob touch, of course with accompanying air quotes.)

Back in the kitchen I realized there was no kinetic rope in sight. I was still stuck in that emotional hole. Eventually, I decided to climb out myself.  

Us, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

There I was. I was standing next to the trash can drawer. Then I turned, looked out the west-facing window, and noticed the spring blossoms.

“Everything’s so green and alive.” I happily thought to myself.

Dave walked back into the kitchen. 

“Hey buddy.” I gently said. 

He paused to look in the fridge. 

“I have been thinking about what you said regarding your writing. Honestly, I cannot wrap my head around your words.”

Dave stopped foraging and looked at me. Before he could speak, I blurted (in a nice voice — for real),

“Come on, man, how can you be ok with not adjusting yourself for someone else? It makes no sense. See,  I never thought I could just let someone, especially a work colleague, accept me the way I am. I come from the generation where a woman was told to hide her emotions. You know that place where a woman’s workplace tears are a sign of weakness. I come from the family where I was told if I want a man I should learn the rules of football. Thank God you don’t like football. I come from a religious heritage where I was told that a man is the boss of our home — a.k.a. the patriarch. As a result, what I have received is the message that my own thoughts, feelings and insights are insignificant, or better, that my thoughts are significant unless I check them with a man first.” 

Us, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

I don’t know if I had fully processed what had  triggered me. I am certain Dave had no idea why my words were directed at him or how they had impacted me. I think that is ok. Should he? Possibly. I am certain no one ever told him that his directness makes people think he is a bitch, or that his effective organizational skills makes others feel threatened, or that his confidence would disrupt the ‘sorority-girl’ vibe, or that his human tears make him appear unstable, especially in the workplace. Nevertheless, I think it is ok that he (and men in general) understand this perspective. 

After I finished processing out loud, Dave walked toward the sink, turned on the faucet, and rinsed his hands. Then he walked in the direction of our west facing kitchen window. He paused again, turned toward me and said, 

“If anything I have been told to show more emotion.”

Us, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

We both laughed and quickly fell into a tangent, where I compared his family to Vulcans from Star Trek: 

(According to Wikipedia, “Vulcans are a fictional extraterrestrial humanoid species in the Star Trek universe and media franchise. In the various Star Trek television series and movies, they are noted for their attempt to live by logic and reason with as little interference from emotion as possible.”)

I thought to myself, 

“Our therapist always says that logic is an emotion, (which I love more than I can adequately articulate here).” (She says “logic is an emotion,” in response to Dave asserting that all I ever care about are feelings not facts.)

I was not mad at Dave, yet I wanted to be mad. Somehow I managed to do some quick self talk. I told myself,

“Beth, it is time to stop. Please do not walk this strange and introspective moment into a heartbreaking fight.”

Us, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

Thankfully my self talk worked (enough). Instead of fighting, I quoted the most prominent Vulcan, Spok: 

“I do not understand your human emotions.”

Then I looked at Dave and said, 

“Dave, you are like Spok. You don’t understand my human emotions.” 

We laughed again. We talked about why Dave likes every incarnation of that television series from, “Deep Space Nine,” to “Discovery.” I said that it makes him feel closer to his people (as if to imply that he was raised not to consider others or their feelings). Even though I said it in a fun loving tone, I thought I was being mean. In truth, I was not mean, nor was I kind. 

 (*By the way, I call these humorous digs pain avoiders. Instead of feeling and processing pain, these funny slights are effective at undermining the impact of my words. Thus they keep me lodged in a self-reinforcing space, a space where I believe I need a man to tell me that I am ok.)

I was connecting. I was feeling the pain of my conditioning, the one that tells me my worth is based on the concept that I need a man to validate my worthiness. 

In the sunny afternoon light, I paused again, (not something that comes easy for me). 

I let myself feel the intense flood of my past pain and inadequacies. For a second I thought I would drown. I looked at Dave, and he became my kinetic rope. Thankfully, he took it, at least enough so I could catch my breath. 

Marriage. ❤️ 

Us, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

A few hours later:

As a result of yesterday’s allergy shots, my right bicep is twice its normal size. Because we have dinner tonight with some relatively new friends, I am feeling terribly insecure. I reach for my new eggplant-grey colored shirt. I put it on. I love how the color looks on my skin. I walk over to the office wearing my new shirt and  ask Dave if he likes it.

“Not particularly.”

“Why?” I asked.

“It looks like one of those ‘Flashdance’ shirts.”

“That’s the point!”

“Well, you asked me if I liked it.”

Defeated, I try to muster a comeback. Nope. I feel myself falling. Then I say something like, 

“But my arm. I need something to cover my crazy swollen arm. Are you sure it looks bad?”

“It looks fine.”

“I wish you would throw me a lifeline. I wish you would like it.” I say.

Dave quickly responds, “If you did not want my opinion, you should have not asked.” 

“Dave, you are not wrong,” I say to him and then play those same words on repeat to myself:

“I should not ask for his approval. I should not have asked for his approval.” Then I add, “Beth, you should trust yourself.” 

Us, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

And really, what does Dave know about fashion? Have you seen his dark brown, bright orange bottomed snow sneakers he is currently wearing?  Eli often says that it looks like Dave is wearing potatoes on his feet. (I point out his “potato shoes.” We both glance at them.) The difference is: he does not care that we think his shoes are hideous.

Maybe that is it (at least for me). I have been conditioned to doubt myself and to seek a man’s approval/validation. Can’t I wear the shirt if I like the shirt? Apparently not. I am returning it. In between sentences, I am packing it up now. 


Artist’s rendering of my shirt (By artist, I will mean, while editing, Dave inserted this image into post):

Tagged : / /

We are all jerks: Complicated and Misunderstood Regard

It could be worse. 

I am dressed head to toe in layers of grey. I look outside and am enveloped by the ambience of a late winter day. Grey skies hover over dirty, partially melting snow. I feel the dark chill come over me. I turn up the heat and open the vent. I cannot get warm. I lock the office door, (really, my and Dave’s office door). I put my giant, charcoal colored Bose noise canceling headphones over my head and cue up the Icelandic band Sigur Rós. The stark, bold and poignant music begins to play. I turn up the volume. I notice that the tips of my fingers are icy cold. I laugh as I think that my fingers are as frozen as my cold, dark heart.

Pandemic blues are a real thing. 

My mind wanders. Now I am mad at all the people I saw this past weekend in St. George, Utah. We went there on a hiking trip. Everywhere we went we were met by so many maskless people, people who seemed to have missed the memo: 

“There is a deadly, worldwide pandemic. You can stop the spread of COVID_19 if you socially distance, wash your hands & wear a mask!” 

On our last night, and after a windy Snow Canyon hike, we ordered very delicious take out Indian food. Dave and I masked up and walked inside. The restaurant was packed. Every table was filled. I am not over exaggerating when I say there were probably 150 people seated in this eating establishment.  No one was wearing a mask. No one seemed to care that life as we know it has changed. 

We walked out the door and I said,

“Thank God Kyle was not with us. He is very worried about the pandemic. This blatant disregard for others would have broken him.”

Dave agreed. Aghast, we walked to the car. I set the food between my feet, buckled up and slathered myself in hand sanitizer, as if this ritual would somehow ward off all the virus I had just been exposed to. We told the boys about the crazy crowded restaurant and its maskless patrons. 

Back at home now I feel like my brain is broken, including my ability to communicate.

It is simple really, what happened, that is. Yesterday, Kyle realized that his computer needs an update. As a result, for the past twenty four hours, Kyle and Dave have been working on said update. Each time they try to run the update, the laptop tells them they do not have enough memory to install the update. So they delete more and more, hoping this time they will have enough memory. Then the next time they try to run the update, the computer says they need even more memory. It’s maddening! Eventually, they uploaded the update to a flash drive and then tried to install the update.

Nothing worked.

I saw their frustration. I felt their frustration. I heard their frustration. Early into this update process I noticed they had plugged Kyle’s computer in at my desk. No one said anything. No one asked if it was ok for them to be there. I am certain they did not intend for this update to last so long. I am certain they were not trying to be jerks. They just wanted to complete the update. As a result, I asked Dave how long they would be. He snapped. I backed away. I was struggling to type from my sofa. Hours later I asked again. Dave sweetly offered to move. He also did not think the update would take much longer. It did. Consequently, I asked again. He said something in his classic Beth-you-should-know-better tone, a tone that signals I had crossed a line. Then Kyle snapped. 

I thought about how to reach them. I wondered if it was fair that I should. I mean, they were in crisis. I should know. I should leave them alone, right? Finally, and after much deliberation, (and probably against their better judgement), I decided to talk to them. I said something like, 

“Hey guys. Of course, you don’t need to move. Can I share something? This is my space. My sacred space. I already have to stay out of the office so Dave can work, yet I really love being able to sneak in and sit at my desk whenever I want. I wish you would have asked. I wish you would have considered me. Had you, I would have happily insisted you work on your update for as long as you need. Instead, it is up to me to nag, needle and figure out when you will be done. Now I am the imposition. I am the jerk.”

“But Mom, I didn’t even know it would take this long.” Kyle snapped.

I tried to explain again, “Hey, I really don’t need you to move. Just consider me.” 

Of course they were super frustrated with the entire laptop issue. I get it. They were also annoyed with my “feelings” talk. I could see it. Nevertheless, I felt like I had committed a sin. I felt like I should know better than to interrupt. I felt like I should graciously step out of their way. I felt like I should know that they needed to be there. I also wish they knew where I was coming from. Is that ok? I wish I could convey the love I felt. I wish they could feel my love, like it was a snuggly blanket. I also wish they knew that I am struggling for my footing. 

I walked out of the office.

My laptop was in my bedroom. I grabbed it, a charger and a coaster and went downstairs. I set my kombucha on the coaster and plugged my laptop into the charger. As I opened up my laptop, Kyle shouted to me from upstairs,

“Mom, Mom. We are out of the office. You can have your desk back.”

“I did not need my desk. I just wanted to be considered.” I said.

Immediately Dave shot back, “Well, whether you want your desk or not, you can have it now. We are gone.” 

Here is what I heard: “Hey bitch baby. You got your way! Now shut up!”

I grabbed my drink, the coaster, my laptop and my charger. I pushed the chair in and came back upstairs.

I set myself up at my desk. Then I walked into the living room. Dave was sitting on one couch. Kyle was sitting on the other. I thanked them for getting out of the office. I said that I was sorry that updating Kyle’s computer took so long. I do not think they heard me.

Then I said, “Seriously. You really didn’t need to move.” Before I could finish, Kyle cut me off.

“Can I finish?” I said.

Kyle, who made us a really fun and delicious lunch earlier today, began to walk away. Honestly, as he started to walk away all I could think about were those yummy bacon wrapped potato wedges he made. They were so good. I felt so much love. He was incredibly thoughtful. 

Then I said, 

“Hey Kyle, I just want to be considered.”

Kyle quickly responded, “Well, us moving is considering you — MOM!” 

I look out the window. It is still grey. Ugh! The open vent has pushed comforting heat into the room. My fingers are no longer ice cold, but more of a clammy cool. The Icelandic music still plays. I almost feel transported — almost. I feel warm. I feel safe. I am in my space. 

I Woke Up With My Eyes Swollen Shut

The image on the left was taken a few days before the procedure

My text alerts were beeping. Exhausted, I turned over and hid my head under the covers. A few minutes later, my phone beeped again. Then it beeped a few minutes after that. I could no longer ignore the beeps. I took in a deep breath, willed my arm out and picked up my phone. I began reading my texts. It wasn’t until I was halfway through responding to the second text when I sensed that something was wrong, but was still not awake enough to connect the dots that even my texting was off and overly sensitive. I set my phone down, plopped my feet on the ground and headed toward the bathroom. As my feet moved across the floor, I felt wisps of hair stinging my face, signaling the pain and my crazy night’s sleep. As I looked in the mirror I noticed the big birds’ nest my hair had contoured itself into. My eyes were still a little stuck together, which is normal enough. Yet, they hurt as I opened them. I moved my head closer to the mirror. 

“Oh shit!” I screeched.

That is when I realized I was squinting and not by choice. My eyes were nearly swollen shut. My face was red and disfigured. The underneath part of my eyes looked like bruised balloons. I asked Dave to take a look. To quote Dave quoting the musician Tom Waits, he said (in a Tom-Waits voice — of course),

“I mean, she’s been married so many times

She’s got rice-marks all over her face…”

I have only been married to Dave, but sure, one could argue that my face resembled a person who had been pummeled with fifty pounds of rice. Then again…

Even though we are living during a global pandemic, which means that I am not even supposed to publicly socialize, and thus should be staying home, I felt utterly self conscious. And even though I am surrounded by the best dudes ever (Dave, Eli and Kyle), they are not the same as my girlfriends. As hard as they try, they do not offer the same tone, inflection, and the validation a good best friend can offer.  So naturally I did what anyone who is uncomfortable with their looks would do: I took several pictures. Then I sent some to my best friend, Marianne. She was like,

“Wow! Really swollen. Wow! Did you ice it?”

Marianne & I

As I continued texting with Marianne, I walked out to the kitchen where Eli was sitting eating some cereal. 

“Wow. You are swollen!”

Yes. He gave me exactly what I needed, at least for that moment. 

As the day progressed, my face became more swollen. I knew it was bad when Kyle would laugh. Then quickly offer sympathy. 

I felt weird. I was not myself. 

See, the day before I went to the dermatologist. I was having some pre cancerous skin and a bunch of broken blood vessels lasered off. I have done this before. I have done this before with a much stronger Fraxel laser. As a result, I never registered his words when the doctor said, 

“You might be uncomfortable for a couple of days.”

My much-less-swollen face at the end of the first day

The first day seemed right on target. I was red and a little uncomfortable. I was also the slightest bit swollen. Not knowing how bad it would get, I actually tried to garner sympathy from Eli. Insincerely he would say,

“Yes. Mom. You are so swollen. Wow!”

Crazy Face

Today was an entirely different story. When he saw my face a few minutes ago, his honest shock revealed how bad my face was. (In truth, I appreciated the validation). Today he also offered,

“Mom, this is probably what you will look like when you are 95.”

After my encounter with Eli, I called the doctor’s office. They assured me that sometimes this happens and if the swelling is not gone in 2 -3 days, I should call back. They offered me medicine. Because the doctor sent me home with some the day before, I declined.  

I want to say the rest of the day was easy. It sucked. Somehow my facial disfigurement caused a cascade of emotion and strange behavior. I was overly sensitive. I was apathetic. I fought. I slept repeatedly. I managed to help Eli with his new college application. I tried setting ice packs on my face for hours at a time. The ice packs only seemed to move the swelling. During my ice pack sessions, I tried to listen to the book “Empty” on Audible. It’s a book about binge eating disorders. That did not work. I had a snack. 

Kyle suggested I listen to last Sunday’s episode of “This American Life” called “The Empty Chair.” It was about loss during the pandemic. I did. I cried when one of the podcasters spoke about having to put her dog down this past year. 

I was going to make dinner. Instead, I went back to my room and climbed back into bed. Thankfully Dave convinced Kyle to make it instead. Kyle is a great cook. He made comfort food: pan seared potatoes and sausage, which I covered in catsup. It was delicious. 

Late at night Dave and I went for a walk. I wanted to wait until dark so no one would see my deformity. I was hoping the night air would cool my face. It did. I told him about the “This American Life” podcast. I mentioned that part about gossip and how the pandemic has atrophied our talking muscles. I concurred. Then I told him how I miss meeting up with people, yet was not sure what I would say. 

“My conversation words are clunky.” I said.

We talked about our boys. We are worried about them. We are proud of how they have handled this year. Once we reached our door, we stopped talking. Dave went to the garage to work on his camping heater. I honestly don’t know what I did next. I am not sure it matters.

I woke up this morning still quite swollen, yet not as bad as yesterday. My face itches like crazy. Dave and I don’t think one could be allergic to lasers, but after this, who knows? In normal times I think having a swollen face as a medical procedure would suck. Somehow having a swollen face during an exhausting pandemic almost broke me. My guess is that many of us are at the end of our ropes, or better, feel like we have exhausted all of our emotional stores. Please know you are not alone. Please know I am here for you, albeit terribly swollen. 

On the upside, I am sure we all have enough toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Oh and I am sure that more people have generators than they had one year ago. Hang in there.

PS: Dave was curious if I was actually going to post pictures of my disfigured face. I am trying not to have second thoughts. 😂 

I had a goal.

I resolved on January 1, 2021, that I would write and then post Monday – Friday. Quickly, that goal changed. Next I decided that I would write and then post three days a week. Last week, which was also the third week in January, I did not post at all. I did write. I wrote and rewrote.

Last Monday I wrote about rejection. I was feeling blue and feeling left out. I spent the entire day writing. I ended up writing myself into an understanding space. I discovered that what I was feeling is loss, not rejection. For a moment I felt better.

I recognized that we all may be feeling left out, feeling a loss, or better, just feeling lost. We are living through a global pandemic (duh). We have been left out of the lives we usually lead. None of us are doing what we usually do. Even the more permissive pandemic-participators, as they defiantly slip their masks around their neck once inside Costco, have had to adjust. Regardless of their rebellious acts, for them to enter a store, they have to wear a mask. 

Collectively, life is not how we pictured it would be. The pandemic’s end still seems so far. It is hard not to become numb and complacent, and forget life was supposed to be. Now with toilet paper reliably back in stock, it also seems comfortably dystopian. I think it is ok to acknowledge the awkwardness of this moment. It is weird.

Our oldest son, Kyle, should be halfway around the world at NYU Abu Dhabi, finishing his junior year of college. He and I hike together a few times a week. We have decided to explore all canyon paths around Salt Lake City. Last week he showed me this magnificent path above Salt Lake City’s Avenue’s neighborhood. It felt like we were walking in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park. I felt transported. Kyle is a runner and also has a goal to run everyday. Saturday he fell down a slippery mountain trail, bruised and hurt his knee. He ran on Sunday. His knee still hurts today. He is currently in the basement applying for jobs and playing Minecraft. Our youngest son, Eli, is one of the few people who was able to follow through with his plans: he did a Wilderness Medicine and Mountain Rescue semester at the National Outdoor Research School (NOLS). NOLS was his plan pre-Covid. Of course, we worried his semester would be canceled. Thankfully, it wasn’t. Yet, NOLS was also impacted. They eliminated the in-hospital sections and for three months Eli was strictly cocooned within a small group of students. In the desert, his group found their planned water source was dry, and had to search for water  for more than forty-eight hours (twice). Eli loved it. He loved NOLS. His recent job, snow-making at Park City ski area, just ended for the season. Last night he came to my room and excitedly told me he loved having Sushi with his girlfriend’s family. Right now he is home and sleeping on the couch. I love these moments.

Dave is currently in the home office working, which he has done since March. I often try to work in the office too. During the day, the office has always been my sacred space. Between Dave’s Zoom calls and his super loud meeting voice, with my laptop in hand, I find myself quickly exiting, sitting at various tables around the house. Sometimes we fight about this office space. One week I even cried. I was like, 

“Dude, everything was great until you started working from home.”

Then I felt mean.  

Disrupted. That is what we are. 

Before this all happened to all of us, what were your plans? What were your days like?

Dave left early each morning. I spent the day quietly working. I saw friends for lunch or long walks. This was supposed to be our empty-nest-year. A year ago, Eli was a high school senior. I was feeling all the feels and was not sure I was ready for my boys to fly away. I cried a lot and could not believe my babies were grown. As a way to circumvent our empty-nest sorrow, Dave and I schemed how we would spend the frequent flyer miles we’ve been hoarding into an expansive, around-the-world trip. I finally made it to Platinum status, something I thought I would personally never be able to do. We would leave right after dropping off Eli. We would fly to Europe, South Africa and back to Europe. By mid-October, we would meet up with Kyle at NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus. Then Dave and I would head to Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, Japan and head on home. Dave would work remote. So would I. We were excited. I fantasized about all the national parks, little towns and villages we would explore all around the world. I imagined the different grocery stores and interesting people we would meet. Dave and I would be home in time to meet Eli as he finished his NOLS semester. I could not wait.

Even though I pride myself in my extreme budget travel ability to stretch points miles and grocery store purchases, including the Adams’-Family-preferred, 3-Euro meal, it is not lost on me how decadent our scheme was. 

Then sometime last week, on one of our daily walks, I blurted,

“Dave, you have your thing. Right now you are converting our 20 year old 4Runner into an off road camping machine. You always find a project to distract you. It is January and the grey skies are bringing me down. I want a thing. Instead, I feel like I am treading water and am not sure how to put my feet on the ground.”

We were quiet and kept on walking. 

As we walked, my thoughts percolated to the surface.

“Wait. Before this stupid pandemic, I did have a thing. We travel. I also used travel to pull me out of my winter blues. When January came around, instead of feeling depressed, I would distract myself by planning our next adventure. I think I need to find something else.”

I feel this loss. I really miss traveling. I miss it so much that even when Dave suggests we can safely camp in Utah, I snap at him. I tell him I feel like I am settling, that I feel resentment. I  definitely feel discombobulated. I write about feeling discombobulated. I am sure I have written some of this before. I feel repetitive. I feel boring. I feel bored. I am working to find a way through (obviously). I hope you are too. 

Thank goodness for perspective. I also recognize that if we were not living through a global pandemic, I would never have this extra time with my boys, or actually take the time to go camping — in Utah. I am grateful. I admire Kyle and Eli’s strength. I know it has not been easy having life ripped apart. I know my privileged-world sorrow pales with the significant disruption that so many are experiencing. Over this past year, I have seen friends lose jobs and lose loved ones. I know others who have dealt with devastating cancer diagnoses and sudden deaths, events that would throw anyone off their axis, even in non-pandemic times. I have a friend who was paralyzed from the armpits down this past July. He was working on staining his house while working from home. He fell 35 feet and landed on his head. He is alone in his ICU hospital bed and hoping one day soon he can move on to rehabilitation. I feel very sad for him. 

I feel greedy again for feeling as lost as I do. Like a wave, my feelings move. At the end of these particular words, I realize that ultimately I feel grateful. I feel grateful that I am surrounded by the people that I love, even if I think they talk too loud on Zoom calls.