The Night The Lights Came On
My husband of almost 15 years is a world traveler. He literally has friends all over this great world. He said to me once, “Of all the cultures I’ve experienced, none is more different (from Nebraska) than The South.”
On the surface Midwesterners and Southerners have much in common.
There is Faith.
But sometimes I underestimate just how different our cultures can be and sometimes I feel trapped in both.
And in neither.
Earlier this fall I had a conflict with a colleague who was critical of how I had taught her class.
Earlier this week the police showed up at my house and I listened to another colleague completely un-dress me over the phone. I cried all day. As in, I could not stop crying.
And I can get a little worked up.
And I’m smart enough to realize that the common component is me.
A few weeks ago at my yearly physical, my OB, whom I love and adore was asking about my upcoming wedding.
OH!! I may have forgotten to mention that.
I’m getting married!
Anyway, she was wishing me well and I mentioned that I was still struggling with how hard life as a divorced mom can be.
Even with the happiness.
And she said something to me that has changed everything.
Or rather is changing, has the potential to change.
“Your life was in crisis for so long that your body’s automatic response to criticism, challenges, etc is that of crisis.
I didn’t teach the class well. She completely hates me. She’ll tell everyone else that I”m a horrible teacher because “not being good enough” is all I’ve known. Of course this is a crisis!
Except, ya know, it’s not. It’s a class. One class.
So this week.
I woke up to lights. No-one can seem to understand that I didn’t hear the dogs.
I didn’t hear my phone.
I didn’t hear the doorbell.
I’m pretty sure Matthew Mc Conaughey had shown up at my house and I was serving tea.
It was 3:30 in the morning!! I was asleep!
So finally it was the lights. The swirling blue and red. You only see those lights when something bad has happened.
I tried hard to gather my thoughts. The doorbell was ringing.
I have this great shirt that I love but never wear in public.
It’s from a run sponsored by Lucky Beer and it says, “Drink Beer. Get Lucky.”
And it’s tight and all I can think about as this officer is lecturing me (kindly) on being a good neighbor and shining the flashlight in my face was “Oh my gosh. Hello tiny little breast in the spotlight.”
And now I’m scared to go to sleep. I’m scared that I won’t hear the doorbell. I’m scared that I need to wear appropriate clothes and bras and—
Well, I won’t got that far. I don’t wear bras very much even during the day.
I was embarrassed. I was wrong. I was very much the bad neighbor.
I later found out that before the cops came, the live-in boyfriend came.
Beating on my door in the middle of the night is not the best way to get my dogs to be quiet.
I live alone with two children. Really think I’m going to answer the door to a stranger in the middle of the night?
Wait. I’m trying to apologize.
See? A crisis. My dogs woke you up. I’m sorry. I’m like really, really sorry but it’s not a crisis.
And to be honest, the fact that some people just don’t like me is also.
Not a crisis.
This morning I asked my client if he wanted to run outside.
“Is it warm enough?” I asked.
“Yes! It’s warm enough. I saw Amy running. ”
“Well, Amy is a life-long Midwesterner. She’s hard-core. I’m just a delicate Southern—-
And I paused looking for the right words and the lady at the front desk interrupted and said,
Well, I was going with Belle or Princes but yes.
But that’s what reminded me of my husband’s words so many years ago.
Southerners are just different.
Not better. Different.
We “flower-up” our talk and we have a more beautiful way of saying things. 🙂
A midwesterner might say, “Wow. She is such a bitch.” (Sorry, I know that not any of my midwestern friends would say that).
A southerner would put it differently. “Oh, bless her heart. She is really just not a people person. I think she just needs more of Jesus.”
And if your dogs were annoying the CRAP out of you? She wouldn’t call the police. She wouldn’t send her live-in boyfriend to bang on your door. (We don’t live with our boyfriends down south.) 🙂
No. A southerner would bake bread.
She would take it to your house .
And she would say.
“Bless your heart. Oh my goodness, I am so sorry to have to mention this, but your dogs, bless their hearts, precious as new-born babies, well they are just a tad bit loud and if it wouldn’t be too much trouble, I would just, oh bless your heart, I would just really appreciate if you could kindly get them to shut the HALE up.”
Then. If they didn’t. There would be less police and more shotguns.
I was wrong. I was a bad neighbor. I love my Midwestern friends and family and I love my little Midwestern town.
Sometimes, though, I have to remember that everything is not a crisis, not everybody has to like me and yes, when you hurt my feelings or when it’s too cold outside, I’m a southern little—
And now, I’ve got some apologies to attend to and some bread to bake. It’s just what we southerners do.