Forty Years…Plus

Yup.  The hubster and I are officially into our fourth decade…plus a smidge.  Where does the time go?  We met on a snowier-than-normal November evening, as I was stuck in a parking lot with my car battery dying a slow death (due to an interior light being left on for two hours, unbeknownst to me).  Future hubster?  Fresh from a construction job helping his sister build her first home in Alaska, he looked like Paul Bunyan, come to life, saving me and my car that snowy night.  I don’t know if it was the full beard or the plaid flannel and Frankenstein-like hiking boots, but he loomed large – all 6’5” of him, but casting an even more imposing shadow as he stood, backlit with swirling snow and buzzing, blinking overhead parking lot lights. 

The pic of us? It was two years later, celebrating our six-month wedding anniversary. I don’t know if the men in my life will ever understand, but throughout my twenties, thirties…and beyond, every couple of years brought new hair styles. Ladies, are you with me? In the mid-eighties, this particular hairstyle rocked…the punkier and spikier the better. Sometimes my natural color (yep, brown, but I’ve taken to ‘heavy highlights’ for years because being a blondie makes it easier to cover copious grays).  But back then?  I morphed colors every year or so (deep burgundy was a favorite).  Now? Middle age drove me to love a little length and peroxide…and God bless a dear friend who’s done my hair for thirty years…I just let her do her thing.  But enough about Vicki’s hair – that’s not the point. 😉

What IS the point?  Hubs and I have had our ups and downs and challenges.  No doubt…and while plenty of people in our lives have wondered about secrets to relationship longevity, I have no secret sauce. But – I’m forever reminded that little things matter and if left untended, without a bit of nurture, they morph into big thingsStinky things that swell and take over, eclipsing the good stuff. 

Have you heard of the Gottman Institute?  Every now and again their work is highlighted anew, despite the fact that their ‘love lab’ has been featured everywhere – including in Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink”.  I’m a fan of their quick take podcasts which offer relationship advice and wisdom in nifty, digestible nuggets.  No big commitment – just five minutes or so.  Like a booster shot.

The article I found yesterday pulled a few threads of “Gottman goodness” together into one feature and brought forward one of my favorite practices:  The daily check-in, the lean-in, the connecting – no matter how busy.  Like most things in life that are healthy and wholesome, they’re simple, too. Literally leaning in and being available to your partner – maybe at distinct times during the day and/or remaining open and ready to attend to him/her, as life rolls along? Impactful.  Yes – quick text exchanges “count” and yes, the hollering from another part of the house?  Yeah.  We all do it.  Communication, of a sort, is better than nothing. 

What I love about the article is the research-based reveal that leaning in and having an engaged posture – both physically and emotionally – conveys connection, attachment, LOVE.  Eyes down, multi-tasking and doing the ‘uh-huh’ routine, while our attention drifts ever-elsewhere?  Unavoidable, at times, but the Gottman’s research highlights the importance of fully focusing on our partner, our loved one.  Maybe it’s impossible to do all the time…but doing it, as much as we can?  It matters. 

Long ago the hubs and I established a practice of morning check-ins and hilariously, in our current home we have a wacky little ‘bump out’ off the kitchen. Maybe (and I’m being generous) it’s 7 x 6 foot. Tiny – but ample enough for two of our favorite chairs, positioned so they’re tilted inward, but also face our deck and yard. 

Who loves the space the most?  Given the windows on three sides, our puppy mama Sadie thinks of the space as entirely hers, but she does give way, most mornings, as the hubs and I exchange quick thoughts about the day, what needs to be done, what’s left over from the day before and highlights – what we’re looking forward to and how are we dividing up the never-ending ‘to do’ lists.  Oh – and meal planning.  We love the ’what’s for dinner’ conversation first thing in the morning. 😊

If we miss a day for one reason or another, we’re “off”.  Me? I pick up an edge in my voice, oh-so-easily and become impatient, expecting that the hubs finally – and magically – acquired mind reading skills.  What does he do?  He disengages.  Prone to extreme introversion, he’ll be happy as a clam doing his own thing which is okay for a while…but inevitably, the part of me that’s driven and task-oriented rises, looking for dialogue, which I need more than he does, to navigate the day.

And laughing whenever possible?  Oh, that’s good, too. And…leave it to Lisa, my adorable, savant sister who, despite her disabilities, can be counted on to cut through — to the heart of what matters most.  You see…Lisa loves the little room, too.  She knows the hubs and I adore the nook, but sweet Sadie loves it even more.  When we bought this house Lisa hilariously told her girlfriends that our main reason for buying it was because it had a “tiny sunroom for Sadie and for chit chat”.

Yup.  I guess that says it all.  So, here’s to chit chat and tending to our loved ones, as much as we can, without distraction.  Lean in…just lean in.  If we can wrangle a sunny spot, so much the better.

Vicki 😊

Very Verbal Vicki

Yep, that’s me!  I come from a long line of women who are tipped toward ‘external processing’.  Especially my mama.  Full of the gift of gab and gaffes uniquely her own, she was a complex lady with a penchant for chit-chat.  With or without jet fuel, err…her ultra-dark roast black coffee. 

Once when he was beyond exasperated with her non-stop commentary, my dad simply asked in a low, gravely growl: “Sue…Do you EVER have an unexpressed thought?”. 

We were on a cross country road trip and dad was diligently trying to tune the old AM radio so he could catch the Cincinnati Reds game.  Mom?  She had other things on her mind.  Questions about the destination, where we’d stop for the night, what sort of road food we’d indulge in, how many miles to the next pit stop/potty stop.

I think dad was okay for the first few hours, but I began to notice, from my backseat perch, that his jaw was tight – yet not as tight as his clenched fists on the steering wheel.  His grip was so firm that his otherwise suntanned hands looked more mottled and pinky-white, due to, you know, cutting off his own circulation with his steering wheel vice grip.

Eventually mom slept and I saw the color return to dad’s hands – he even stuck his left arm out the window for a while, casual-like, to catch a breeze as we sped along.  With mom slumbering, he found the sports radio station and turned the volume up.  I saw him look back in the rear-view mirror, noticing that while mom and sister Lisa slept, I was still awake.

What followed was one of the best ‘car talks’ dad and I ever had.  As a devoted fan to his favorite team, I knew he relived his own hey days as a ball player himself whenever he caught a game.  Johnny Bench was a favorite and Pete Rose, too, and dad educated me about the “Big Red Machine” roster, so I knew every player.  The baseball lesson lasted only an hour or so, but it felt like so much more. ❤❤❤

There are moments when I fall into chatter mode, like mom, and I recall dad’s road trip commentary about her motor mouth. Hmmm…applies to me, too. Given my self-awareness about being Very Verbal Vicki I’m reminded that I won’t explode if I fail to express everything I think, feel, wonder, lament, dislike, enjoy…you get the idea. 

Given that the DH (no, not the designated hitter – the dear hubby) shares some traits with my long-gone papa, I suspect his ears relish a break every now and then.  When it matters, DH is a great listener, but a running diatribe of drivel?  It’s asking too much, and I know it. 

From me to you…with a friendly, self-mocking ‘blah, blah, blah’…I’ll say goodbye for now.

Happy Friday!

Very Verbal Vicki 😉

Not Much of a Navigator

friends on a VW bus roof
You Drive!

There are days…when I long for a do-over, a ‘take two’.  Why?  I tend to labor over bits of conversations and snippets of experiences…replaying them in my head and critiquing myself.  Did I say the right thing – the right way?  Too much, too little?  Did I do all I could to convey what I was thinking/feeling? 

What’s the problem, you ask?  There are people in my life who place too much confidence in me, assume I’m chock-full of solutions – something for everyone in my hip pocket.  Not true…not even close.

I can be a pretty good listener, but I’ve learned to avoid full-on problem-solving for others, for a variety of reasons (mainly that my high empathy tempts me to take on every issue in my orbit).  In my efforts to empower and encourage a friend recently, I disappointed her instead.  She didn’t use words – it was all over her face.

My friend wanted an ‘easy button’ and I didn’t want to ‘Vicki-splain’ to her (no one needs that) 😉 and tell her why my solutions to HER problems really wouldn’t help her. Instead, I tried to convey that she should mull and reflect; certain that the right step would become obvious, apparent. 

Maybe my delivery was bad?  She took my reluctance to ‘solve the problem’ as disregard for her, which gave me heartache in the form of another sleepless night.  Sigh.

My friend is the driver. When she knows which road and destination are right for her, I’ll be right there – ready to rally with her as her co-pilot and compadre.  Not the navigator.

Thanks for reading and ‘riding along’. 😉

-Vicki ❤

Photo by ROMAN ODINTSOV on Pexels.com

Brownie Batter Insights 😊

Carl Jung
Carl Jung

My all-time favorite quote about introspection comes from Carl Jung:

“Solitude is for me a fount of healing which makes my life worth living.  Talking is often a torment for me, and I need many days of silence to recover from the futility of words.”

This is how I feel as an extroverted introvert – otherwise known as an ‘ambivert’ the personality type that rides the middle lane.

I think my personality is a by-product of moving ten times in twelve years as I grew up.  Forever the ‘new girl’ I needed to survey the social nuances – quickly – in order to make friends and connect.  That’s a tall order at any point in life, but when you’re an unsure, lanky, awkward young dork?  Tricky – so I built the skill of fast-friend making.  How?  Ask questions and be prepared to pivot, as needed.  Morph, baby.  And listen, listen, listen.

I suspect those skills framed my future career nicely – both in higher education as a professor and Dean and as a counselor/therapist in my own practice.  I could be extraordinarily extraverted, when needed.  No problem.  Got it.  BUT – I learned quickly that a recovery period after a long day of leading, listening, supporting – even when I loved doing it – was essential.

What else did I learn in the process?  Despite rampant and easily-applied labels, understanding personality types is complicated.  Nuanced.  Personality is not binary. We’re fluid, malleable and flexible and can present aspects of our true selves across the continuum of ‘extraversion vs. introversion’.

How did I manage as a card-carrying introvert in a mostly extraverted work world?  Just fine.  My only issue was remembering to tune into the need to refuel.  I often joked (then and now) that I need to ‘reload my words’ when I’m tapped out.  Give me five or ten, family, friends and I’ll be right back with you.  Right now, I’m fresh out of words.

There are a gazillion different tests – some shady, some reliable – if you want to delve into whether you’re more extraverted or introverted.  I think it’s helpful info, but it probably won’t tell you much that you don’t already know.  Is one type better than another?  No, of course not, despite this cheeky article lauding the merits of introversion. 

I still see myself as an ambivert because of my people-pleasing tendencies and high empathy. Consistently, my thought process is this:  What do YOU need me to be?  Let’s go with that.  And that’s how I live my life, unapologetically, but with awareness of the self-imposed fatigue.

Nasty fatigue.  It’s my nemesis more than anything else.  This past weekend provided a pointed reminder.  Sweet sister Lisa tested me during her visit over the weekend (check out this post from a few weeks back for more detail about my lovable, disabled sister).

Lisa lives in a terrific, well-staffed group home with lady friends with similar disabilities.  Whenever possible, we love having Lisa with us over a weekend, especially if family festivities like a barbeque are on deck.  Such was the case over Labor Day.

In addition to packing too much for a short stay (a genetic problem in the family) Lisa delights in bringing juicy tidbits and gossipy fun facts about her housemates, along with whispered shade about staff, programs, services.  She’s disabled but she’s more emotionally intelligent and verbal than most folks of normal IQ.  😉 AND she loves recounting all of it to me. 

See where I’m going?  I love Lisa but after non-stop listening – and not the half-listening that involves just a nod of recognition – she’s looking to chat – I begin to lose steam.  Not wanting to be short tempered with her, I find things for us to do and that works for a while as a distraction. 

This past weekend as I was teetering toward snapping at her, I remembered how funny she can be if lighten up and play along.  She wasn’t the problem, I realized – it was me.  I had too much **other** on my mind and Lisa sensed it, thinking I was upset with her.  My introverted self needed refueling for the heavy (but fun) impending BBQ socialization and that, coupled with my preoccupation with cooking and prepping, ramped up Lisa’s non-stop storytelling. I made her nervous.

Oh golly.  It just took a few minutes of slowing down over a bowl of brownie batter (with two spoons) to prompt silly reminiscing about childhood cooking disasters.  There were plenty, typically swirled together with outrageous things our mom did.  The laugh track that was our childhood. 

As I ruminated about Lisa last night, my summation thought yielded just this:  Extraversion, introversion, ambivert – whatever.  I needed to send out a search party to find my funny and laughter brought the pieces back together.  It usually does. 

Thanks for reading.  Thanks for letting me share.

Xo,

Vicki ❤