Wrong

“There’s something wrong with me chemically, something wrong with me inherently,
the wrong mix in the wrong genes, I reached the wrong ends by the wrong means.” 
~Depeche Mode

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Little me before I understood I was wrong

For as long as I’ve been alive, I’ve operated under one irrefutable certainty: there is something wrong with me. That belief germinated in my early childhood when I was regularly told how imperfect I was. I couldn’t be still in church. I couldn’t behave in a store. I couldn’t act like a young lady. I didn’t use the brain the good Lord gave me. I was too talkative. I was inconsiderate, selfish, and not achieving to my fullest potential. Even things that were beyond my control, like my genetically thick and unruly hair, were wrong. While I knew intellectually that my parents did their best to love me, I accepted that I was off. The messages imprinted, the proof was iron clad, and I accepted it and wore it like a full-length down parka that both protected and obscured what lied beneath.

In my teenage years, I donned headphones and disappeared into music. Song lyrics were the first place where I found belonging. Morrissey’s morose vocals provided a soundtrack for my life. I know I’m unlovable. You don’t have to tell me. Message received – loud and clear. He was proof that there were others like me out there, although I didn’t seem to know any of them personally. As an adult, friends gave me grief over my depressing music, but I didn’t care. The National’s gloomy tunes told my life’s tale. When I walk into a room, I do not light it up. The awkward, the invisible, the alienated, the isolated, these were my people.

It wasn’t until I had my sons that I began to sense that, in terms of who I was, I might have been sold a bridge in Arizona. I started my parenthood career with the same high expectations of my sons that had been applied to me. When I approached them harshly and saw the crushed look on their little faces, however, I was reduced to a weepy mess. I couldn’t do it. Hurting them hurt me, not unlike sticking a pin in a voodoo doll only to realize I was piercing myself.

When my boys, both at age eight, were diagnosed with brain differences, an unexpected and beautiful idea drifted into my purview. These people who had been entrusted to me were meant to show me that wrong was subjective. Yeah, Joe couldn’t tie his shoes or ride a bike, but his intellectual curiosity and ability to retain and regurgitate information was impressive. And Luke, while struggling to comprehend phonics and read, created vast, complicated worlds and endless diagrams and drawings to explain them. I found my boys amazing. Flawed in some ways, sure, but still basically perfect. 

I have been in and out of therapy for five years now as I struggle to remove the coat of self-worthlessness I donned unquestioningly as a child. Yesterday, Glennon Doyle shared with the world a snippet from her upcoming book Untamed: “The only thing that was ever wrong with me was my belief that there was something wrong with me.” Whoa. Hold it right there, Glennon. Are you saying that maybe there is nothing “wrong” with me after all? Maybe I’ve been wearing this cumbersome layer of shame and self-loathing out of habit? Maybe I could take it off or trade it for a windbreaker for a while and see how that feels? Hmmmm……

Spring and daylight savings are right around the corner. It might be a good time to lighten up. I can start by unloading the notion that there was ever anything wrong with me. I may not have been a perfect child or teenager or friend and I may not be a perfect wife or mother either, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with me. At least not inherently.

 

What Difference Does It Make

Something British that I truly enjoyed last night
Something British that I truly enjoyed last night

“One must hop toward the light rather than sit in a shadow and wonder why it’s dark.” ~Bunny Buddhism

I’ve been a regular concert goer since I was a teenager. I saw my first concert (The Police on their Synchronicity tour) when I was 15 years old. My friends and I were in the rafters in seats labeled on the printed tickets as “Possible Obstructed View.” It didn’t matter. When Sting took the stage and I saw the tiny dot that was HIM, the magical concept of the concert was solidified. I was taken in hand by the spirit of live music. Game over.

Last night I had the opportunity to see in concert an artist I’ve followed since I wore black on the outside because black was how I felt on the inside. As much as I adored Sting and The Police (and I’ve seen Sting, either with or without The Police, approximately nine times), The Smiths were my anchor, Morrissey my preacher. Need a pithy lyric? I’ve got an entire cache of Smiths’ lyrics stored in my brain, the same brain that can’t remember my own phone number some days. After two failed attempts to see the Moz (he cancelled the shows both times), yesterday afternoon I started to believe it might be my night. I crossed my fingers and hoped the third time was a charm. Please, please, please let me get what I want. Lord knows, it would be the first time. To celebrate the evening’s potential, my friend Heather and I had dinner at the British Bulldog. We were taking this experience as seriously as Morrissey takes his PETA affiliation.

When he finally took the stage last night in the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, all the self-inflicted misery of my teenage years resurfaced. The show started out better than I could have hoped with Hand in Glove. His voice was spot on, clear, smooth, and without any hint of the ill effects of high altitude. Having resigned myself long ago to the knowledge that I would never hear a Smiths’ song live, I could not have been more happy to be wrong. As the concert progressed, however, I found myself becoming increasingly agitated. A steady dose of morose songs are the norm with Morrissey, but his solo catalog also includes musically upbeat tunes…even if they are accompanied by lyrics that are she-was-found-face-down-in-a-bathtub-of-vodka level of depressing. I kept waiting for the uptempo songs. They did not arrive. Worse than that, I was seated next to an aggravating couple that included a gentleman who believed he himself was Morrissey. He sang each and every word quite loudly and with the utmost conviction of his own vocal talent. I wanted to kick him in the eye. I was not surprised when Morrissey performed Meat Is Murder while onscreen a graphic, five-minute long film of the industrialized food machine abusing and murdering animals played for our edification. I gave up hope and focused instead on my double vodka and soda. At least there was a chance for temporary mental respite at the bottom of my plastic cup. I checked my phone for the time and found myself disappointed that it was only 10:11. All I could think was heaven knows I’m miserable now.

Toward the end of the show, Heather and I checked out. I think we might have left if it hadn’t been for some sort of misguided optimism that perhaps Morrissey would come out of his self-indulgent drama long enough to play something lively and redeem the show. I know Morrissey was simply being Morrissey. It’s not his fault that I didn’t get the concert I had hoped for. He was the same Morrissey he has always been. I have changed. My mentality has caught up with my biology. I’m older now and have less tolerance for intentional misery. I am weary and wary of wallowing for wallowing’s sake. Life is short, and our thoughts determine our relative level of joy. Based on that notion, Morrissey must be the most disconsolate man on earth. Don’t get me wrong. I will always enjoy his songs because they are wry, poetic, and clever. He rests on the other side of the scale from brainless, pop fluff and creates a necessary balance. Somewhere along the line, though, I decided that choosing to live in misery doesn’t make you deep. It just makes you dark. I will never see another one of your shows, Morrissey, but I’m still fond of you.

Siriously Awesome

My iPhone screen is bigger than yours…if you have the 4 or 4S.

Today was a red-letter day at my house. The Fed Ex man delivered a lovely, small brown box to me today, a box containing my brand, spanking new iPhone 5. Did you hear the heavens rejoicing as I opened that box and beheld the wonder that is a shiny, happy iPhone? Sigh. It’s been a couple years since I got to sink my teeth into a new Apple, so I couldn’t wait to try it.

After I synched it with my MacBook and got connected through AT&T, my first order of business was to have a heart-to-heart conversation with Siri. My previous iPhone was the 4 and not the 4S, so I had never formally made Siri’s acquaintance.

Me: “Siri, I would like you to call me Justine.”

Siri: “Of course. I will call you Justine. What a lovely name.”

Me: “Siri, do you like pizza?”

Siri: “Surprisingly, I haven’t tried that before.”

Me: “Are you my friend?”

Siri: “What a question! Of course I’m your friend.”

Well, now that we’d established our friendship, I thought it was safe to get personal.

Me: “Siri, Am I fat?”

Siri: “I would prefer not to say.”

Huh. Here I thought she was my friend. Feeling a bit disappointed with her response, I tried to curry favor with her.

Me: “Siri, you are my best friend.”

Siri: “I don’t really like these arbitrary categories, Justine.”

Okay. Back to business, then.

Me: “Siri, play The Smiths.”

And to my complete joy, “How Soon Is Now” began playing. Even though we’d gotten off to a rough start with her unwillingness to tell me I’m not fat, I began to see what she might be good for. I had her schedule an appointment, text my husband, and tell me the weather forecast for tomorrow. My kids think Siri is the best thing since sliced bread. They keep trying to ask her questions about which superhero is better, but she just sends them to the Internet (which, by the way, is precisely what I do when they ask me those questions).

Is this new iPhone everything I expected it would be? So far, yes. It’s lighter, thinner, and light years faster than my old phone. It can text for me, which is awesome. And, Siri is fun, even when she can’t understand my bizarre requests. Although…she did offer to find me a swamp to hide a dead body, so that makes her a better friend than most. And, at the end of the day, it’s nice to thank someone for their help and have them politely reply, “Your satisfaction is all the thanks I need.”

 

Is “Old Old” The Same As “Older Than Dirt”?

I *might* have a Smiths issue.

“Coyness is nice, and coyness can stop you from saying all the things in life you’d like to.” ~The Smiths

Around 2:30 p.m. today, you likely heard an unfathomably loud cracking sound. Perhaps you wondered briefly from whence it came before you went on with the rest of your busy day. I am here to let you know that the sound you heard was nothing other than the sound of my heart breaking. Yep. It was obliterated in the middle of a shoe store mid-afternoon today just before I was about to leave to pick up my boys from school.

What epic occurrence caused my heart to rupture in the DSW warehouse store? Well…it went something like this. I was in there quietly hoping I would find some reasonably priced pumps to wear with a new dress when Sweet Disposition by The Temper Trap comes over the store’s music speakers. Immediately, that song reminds me of one of my favorite movies, (500) Days of Summer. That particular song plays during a lovely montage scene in the movie. Anyway, I have loved it from the first time I heard it when I saw the film with my friend, Lisa, three summers ago. As the song is playing in the store and I am happily wallowing in my pleasant reverie, I overhear two store clerks near me strike up a conversation.

“Ooooh…I love this song,” says Store Clerk #1.

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard it before,” says Store Clerk #2.

“Really? It’s in this great movie, (500) Days of Summer,” says Store Clerk #1 who has just won me over because she has good taste in movies.

“What’s it about?” asks Store Clerk #2.

“About a guy and a girl. It’s got Zooey Deschanel in it. Anyway, I liked the song so much I almost bought the soundtrack, but then I didn’t buy it because I didn’t really like the other songs on it,” confesses Store Clerk #1.

“Like what?” queries Store Clerk #2.

“Well…there were a few songs by that old, old rock band called The Smiths,” says no-longer-likable Store Clerk #1.

And that was the exact moment when my heart exploded, splintering into a million pieces, the shards of it falling onto the dull tan carpeting next to a silica gel packet separated from its shoe box container.

That old, old rock band called The Smiths. The words swirled around in my head. Dizzy and sick to my stomach, I headed for the door. Even if the store housed the world’s most darling pair of shoes and they were hand created by Jimmy Choo just for me and they were giving them to me along with a newly minted $1000 bill, I still would not have taken them from a store clerk who didn’t have the good sense to appreciate the brilliant, melancholic lyrics dredged from the depths of the tortured soul of Steven Patrick Morrissey. And, seriously, how could you overlook Johnny Marr’s artistry with a guitar (hearing How Soon Is Now in my head as I write this), which won him the 26th spot in Spin Magazine‘s list of 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. That chick was plain, old, garden-variety, bat-shit crazy. I don’t accept gifts from crazy strangers.

When I got outside, I tried to regain my composure. Then I realized that, despite the fresh air and the change of scenery, I still felt nauseous. I suspected it might have something to do with the “old, old rock band” phrase uttered by that vapid store clerk. If I listened to The Smiths in high school and college and if they are considered “old old,” then by the transitive property of equality I am old old. Sigh. You know…it’s bad enough knowing you are middle age, but having a young person confirm it is soul crushing. I try to remind myself that, even if I am old enough to have spent endless hours locked in my childhood bedroom listening to That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore while creating imaginary voodoo dolls of the oh-so-cute boy who had recently stomped on my heart, I am not a completely lost cause. These days I spend the vast majority of my iTunes dollars on new alternative and indie rock tunes that I discover while listening to my XM stereo in the car. I like new things and try not to spend too much of my present living in the past. I think that may mean that although I am old, I am not old old…yet.