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Filtering by Tag: "Juanita Steve"

June 28th, 2010: If Life is a Salad Bar, Am I Anywhere Near the Croutons?

LeAnn Stephenson


For several months, going on almost a year, I have been traveling through my days with a combination of afflictions namely, brooding moods, failing eyesight, and a body so out of shape it would make Jesus weep.  I suppose the conventional term for such afflictions would be "aging," but to be honest, I'm truly uncomfortable with that term, it's not my favorite, so I'm not using it.  In fact, I'm not a huge fan of the whole concept of it at all.  Growing older was not something I ever spent much time thinking about.  I figured I would cross that bridge when it appeared and would do so in an elegant poised manner.  But providence and reality have interfered with my plans, which is why Monday's on the blog are designated for a weekly post called "If Life is a Salad Bar, Am I Anywhere Near The Croutons?"  It's a journal entry of sorts - kind of like an open invitation to "The Land of Too Much Information" mixed in with a lot of "so that happened and that's why I am the way I am."

Today's journal entry has to do with my experiences over the past year and how they have left me taxed and decidedly suspicious of the joys of growing older.  Like anyone who has walked this path through "The Valley of The Shadow of Distress," I have reluctantly accepted a few truths: that every year carries sequestered beneath its surface, the makings of a more wisdom-filled understanding of the world and its workings accompanied by an extra special emphasis on regret, anxiety and isolation.  I'm figuring right about now you're probably thinking to yourselves:  (A)  There are drugs for that sister! and/or (B) Should someone be on "suicide alert?"  And to that I answer (A) Yes, I know, I have a Psychopharmacologist on call. And (B) No, on the "suicide alert" I'm just flexing few of my more finely honed skills - those being melodrama (think Scarlett O'hara) and over-thinking (see Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) with a extra helpings of self absorption just for fun-zees! 

Growing older was never something I doubted that I would do, I just thought I would proceed in a more elegant manner with a great deal more grace.  So, to help me find my voice in this aging deal I have decided to vastly narrow my scope of examples.  Instead of looking to magazines, doctors, psychopharmacologists, and others, I have decided to derive inspiration and strength through exactly twenty-one people.  I won't be so precise as to give the names of these people but I will say that these twenty-one folks constitute a critically important circle of relatives, friends, and such that have helped form who I am. Over many years, tons salad bars, dinners, oceans of Diet Dr. Pepper, and a little bit-o-booze, I have sat with these wonderful creatures and have questioned aloud life and its hardships and rewards.  The collective presence of these extraordinary women, men, and children have influenced my life enormously and I am eternally grateful. My days have been quieted, comforted and my knowledge expanded, simply by their existence.

They range in age from their mid-teens to their early centenarian years.  One of them happens to be my mother; another my late grandmother.  One is my daughter; another my son and yet another my husband.  Ten are mothers; four are fathers.  One is my newest friend; four of them are my oldest friends.  One of them is an old boyfriend - with whom, after twenty years of no contact, I have reconnected with as old friends.  Two of them are my aunts; one is my uncle; another my grandfather.  Three of them are my siblings; another my niece; one I've never actually met.  Five are no longer living; and the rest alive and well.  One was born in Syria; the others in America.  All of them have genius-level senses of humor and wit.  Heartbreaking loss has been experienced by all of them.  Some have some sort of relationship with a divine being; some are devout; some I suspect are completely uninterested in the subject.  Six of them are teachers; eight of them are writers; one a mechanic; one a nurse; another a coach, one an attorney; there is an accountant, a few editors, a designer, a couple of entrepreneurs; a pianist; a guitar player; a singer.  My life is rich, informed, secure, and full of love and support because of these people and their influence has given me and, if you pardon the obvious reference, a Life Less Ordinary.

I'll continue next Monday . . . see you then!

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If Life Is a Salad Bar, Am I Anywhere Near The Croutons?

LeAnn Stephenson


Hello everyone - It is good to be back after a couple weeks off.  I feel all revived and junk and have lots to share with you in this coming week. But before I get started on all of that, I need us to go to a salad bar and talk about our feelings. Have I lost you?  Let me explain . . . .

My little sister, Pauli, and I used to call each other up when we where in college and say, "I need a salad bar."  This was little-sister-big-sister-code for I have a crisis and I need to talk about it over a salad (her) and a pizza and a beer or twelve (me).

A "Salad Bar" didn't always have to indicate trauma, sometimes it just meant our psyches were searching for truths, authenticity, or meaning.  We would use this time to talk about dreams and goals or regrets and dissatisfaction with our lives as college students and young adults who were kinda-sorta out on our own making our way in the world.

All this introspective junk is probably the result of one of three things.  The first being that I celebrated my 45th birthday yesterday, secondly that I have stopped taking my "happy pills," which, I'm sure, is glaringly apparent to you already and thirdly, I have made some new friends - Peri and his little sister, Mena . . . . Last name Pause.  Without going into detail, this past year has been as wonderful and uplifting as it has been awful and stressful.  Most people emerge from stressful times wiser and full of appreciation for what they have.  I, unfortunately, have emerged pretty much just pissed-off and looking for someone to blame.

I, of course, am the only one responsible, which has lead me to make a survey of my life.  Through all the "woulda-coulda-shouldas" I realized that maybe I'm not alone in the feeling, as though I've missed the mark somehow or have failed to do something I am so sure I was supposed to have done.  So, on my birthday, I found myself asking, "Where did I go wrong?"  "What is this life I find myself living - and why is so different from what I thought it would be?"  And ultimately - "What can I do to make it more like the life I imagined as a child and a young adult?"

Please, don't get me wrong, I have a life that has been and is filled with so many riches and so much grace.  I just can't help but feel that while I have dutifully served my life's routines, I have also suppressed a lot of what makes me, me.  What I'm trying to convey, and probably not very successfully, is that I feel very one-sided, if you know what I mean.  Frankly, I think a lot of these thoughts have come about because I'm writing a memoir about a few years in my childhood called Juanita Steve.  Through this process of writing I have discovered how whole and full of potential I was as a child.  Unfortunately, through the years of maturation, I have become so fractured and have developed quite an ego. Just yesterday I found a comic strip of Calvin and Hobbes that I had clipped from the newspaper years ago that I kept on my desk at work to remind me to keep an eye on just such a development.  The first frame is the school bully telling Calvin that was going to pound him in gym class.  The second frame is Calvin bowing up and yelling out to the long gone bully that, "Oh yeah?? I'd like to see you try it!!"  The third frame is Calvin looking all wide-eyed and slapping his hands over his mouth.  The final frame shows Calvin with is eyes closed tightly and fists clenched to his side thinking to himself - "My brain wishes my ego had call-waiting."  All I can say is, "I feel ya' Calvin, been there got the t-shirt!"

So, I'm fairly sure I lost most of you back at "Hello" but, just in case I wanted to pose some questions to you that I have given myself the task of answering in a weekly Monday post called "If Life is a Salad Bar, Am I Anywhere Near The Croutons?"  It will be a journal entry of sorts - kind of like an open invitation to "The Land of Too Much Information" mixed in with a lot of "so that happened and that's why I am the way I am."  So, over the next several weeks I will attempt to answer the following questions for myself and if you are up for it maybe you could even share a crouton or two.

So, here are the questions I'll be addressing:

•   What title would I give my life story?

•   Have I had crossroads or turning points in my life?

•  Have I had major disappointments and or losses in my life?

•  Have I been a good friend?

•  Is there balance in my attention to others and myself?

•  What talents or abilities have I squandered?

See ya tomorrow with some marvelous goodies I discovered during my time off!

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