Thursday, November 23, 2017

My Thanksgiving Post

I've never felt inclined to post one thing I'm thankful for each day of November, as many of my Facebook friends like to do, but since today is Thanksgiving I'll give you twelve things and count that for the entire month:

  1. I am thankful for my husband. He makes me feel loved in all the ways--with words, with acts of kindness, with gifts, with touch, with his time. I've always been very attracted to him, but lately he is sexier to me than he has ever been, in large part because he intentionally dresses and grooms himself in ways he knows I find attractive, and knowing he does it for me makes it that much hotter. He makes me so happy that every now and then I need to do a reality check to be sure I'm not locked away in a padded cell somewhere, hallucinating this amazing life I have. 
  2. I am thankful for my children. I loved how cute and cuddly they were when they were little and I have a sense of loss as the littlest one gets bigger, but at the same time I absolutely love getting to know them as they form their own identities. I look forward to the relationship I hope to have with them when they are adults. I love when I see things they got from me, like my love for superhero cartoons or my quirky sense of humor, and I love when I see things they couldn't have possibly gotten from me, like their musical talent and the emotional maturity it took me years longer to attain. 
  3. I am thankful for my stepdaughters. I am still figuring out how to be a good stepdad, which forces me to learn and grow in ways I wouldn't otherwise. These girls have a manic appreciation for life's delights that will hopefully rub off on me. 
  4. I am thankful for my ex-wife. She is kind, patient, and cooperative in our co-parenting relationship, and she is an amazing mother to our children. So many of the things that I love in them come from her, like their willingness to try new foods, their encyclopedic knowledge of geography, and their love for reading. 
  5. I am thankful for my ex-wife-in-law. She is a great co-parent and friend to my husband, and I appreciate that she has extended that friendship to me. Our ongoing competition to see which of us can succeed in making the other more uncomfortable with awkwardly inappropriate jokes is one of the joys of my life. 
  6. I am thankful for my friends. In the past couple of years my husband and I have become part of a great group of friends and our nights spent in drunken conversation and laughter with them are always something to look forward to. In particular, I love that we have a best friend couple that we share many of life's adventures with, sometimes with our combined group of nine children and sometimes just the four of us. 
  7. I am thankful for my family. Even when we see each other infrequently, those times bring back years and years of happy memories and a sense of comfortable familiarity. I don't have an actual childhood home to return to, so family is home. 
  8. I am thankful for my job. This year I transitioned into a new role that I enjoy ten times as much as my previous role, and my employer was fully supportive of me making this move to improve my job satisfaction, even at the inconvenience of having to replace my former position. Meanwhile, I continue to enjoy the flexibility of working from home and the opportunities that affords me as a parent with young children. 
  9. I am thankful for this beautiful, mind-blowingly amazing universe we live in. In the past year I've come to love sunsets like I never did before, and I love learning new things about the way our planet, our solar system, our galaxy, and the entire universe work. 
  10. I am thankful for evolution. The human race is the product of millions of years of adaptation and natural selection doing their thing, and when you think about all the things our bodies and our brains can do, it's pretty awesome. 
  11. I am thankful for technology. This is kind of a sub-point of #10, because this is a product of those brains evolution gave us, but it warrants its own point nonetheless. There are so many ways our lives are better now than they were even twenty years ago, because of advances in technology. Way to go, smart humans. 
  12. I am thankful for me. In the past year I have gotten to know myself better than I had in the previous thirty-seven years, and I am coming to love myself more and more, including all my flaws and peculiarities. I am happy in ways I didn't believe possible, and I am thankful to be alive. 
Image result for turkey

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

My F*** You Boots

Last year I bought myself a pair of tall black boots. When I wear them, I feel fabulously powerful, like Batman or Beyoncé. Also, just about every time I wear them I get comments on them. The comments are pretty evenly divided between "Ben, I f***ing love your boots!" and "Ben, I love you, but what the f*** are you thinking with those boots?" Many people I love and respect happen to share my aesthetic sensibilities in this particular case, and many people I love and respect do not. At first I felt self-conscious about making such a controversial fashion choice, but over time I have come to love the boots even more because so many people hate them. So much, in fact, that I have decided that henceforth the boots shall be known as my f*** you boots.

If these boots had a theme song, it would be performed by Cee-Lo Green.

For context, you should understand that I have always been a people pleaser, often to an unhealthy extreme. I thrive on positive feedback. When people tell me I'm good at my job, I glow. When I get compliments on being a good dad, I eat them up even though I know I'm being complimented for basic things moms do every day without fanfare. On the flipside, when my high school English teacher scolded me for making an inconsiderate joke, I could barely hold back the tears. When I receive critical feedback on my writing, even though I'm the one who asked for it, I struggle to convince my brain that the criticism doesn't mean people don't like me. Hell, when a friend tells me they just aren't feeling one of my favorite songs, my knee-jerk reaction is to feel like there's something wrong with me. The people-pleasing impulse is so strong that sometimes I'm not even sure whether I think something or if I just think that's what people want me to think. 

Much of my adult life, particularly the past five years, has been spent learning to be myself rather than being whatever the people around me want me to be. I struggle with this largely because I've seen people who, tired of being doormats, swing all the way to the other side and become narcissists. No, I don't want to neglect my needs in favor of others' needs, but I also don't want to prioritize my needs to the point that I'm harming others. In the wise, drunken words of Tina Fey's character on The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, "Happy people value their needs as much as others’s." The key is to find that balance. 

With this in mind, it brings me joy to find things that please me but displease other people without actually harming them. It's an ethically safe zone for me to practice authentic self-building. "Ben, I f***ing hate your boots," someone might say, and I can respond (in my head, usually), "F*** you, it's my body and I get to choose what I put on it." The fact that family, friends, and colleagues regularly question my decision to wear these boots is a nice reminder that this is one thing I'm doing for me, not for anyone else. It's a very empowering feeling, especially because I know I'm not in danger of hurting anyone with my choice of footwear. There are times when it's difficult to find the healthy boundary between my needs and others' needs, but thankfully this is not one of them. So if you have a problem with my f*** you boots, you are welcome to say so, and when I silently smile at you in response, you'll know exactly what I'm thinking.

EDIT: I lied. My boots do have a theme song, and this is it: