Retipuj, Sneerglaw (and Other Backwards Things)

Being from Jupiter was never easy on my social life. It’s kind of like how people grow up speaking a different language, then try to learn English. No matter how fluent they become, native-born Americans can always detect the accent. No matter how much I studied and tried to behave like the other humans my age, people just always seemed to sense that I was…different. As though everything I do has an accent.

Over time, after many peer rejections, I stopped trying so hard. I just gave into my weirdness and decided to like what I like and love myself, quirks and all. I spent much of my time absorbed in books, often re-reading my favorites. I watched movies and inserted the quotes into normal conversations whenever I could. I checked out music albums from the local library and built up an eclectic repertoire ranging from silly folk songs to classic rock. I amused myself with silly pastimes, like reading signs backwards.

“Look! Walgreens spelled backwards is sneerglaw!” I would say, cracking up laughing.

“God, you are so weird,” my siblings would tell me, rolling their eyes. I just shrugged and hunted for more signs to read backwards, which for me, came just as naturally as reading them forward. Tixe! TramK! Rouqil! Atoyot! It was my own private language; words that no one else could understand, which held magical meanings for me. It could be terribly lonely, though, to understand things on a level that wasn’t common to those around me. But that’s life when you’re from Jupiter.

Backwards words

Once in a great while, I would find someone else who kind of got it. At least, to some extent. Like Sabrina in middle school, who understood the deep pleasure of living through good books. And Jason, who acted normal in real life, but in private, sang along with me to every single Madonna song in existence, including the B-sides, in harmony. Then Chris Y., who always won when our history class played Jeopardy, and who just quietly seemed to “get it,” whenever we talked about any serious subject in depth. Maybe they were from Jupiter, too. Who knows? 

Jupiter

Then in college, I met Valarie. It took maybe seconds for us to realize that we were kindred spirits from some far away world. We were so much alike, although she had the smooth resilience of obsidian, and I was basalt, riddled with small holes that let everything in. We both read obsessively. Sang along to music that our families had never even heard of. Spoke with the same bubbly energy (although my accent was decidedly more California valley girl). It never took long in any conversation for one of us to spit out a quote from a movie or TV show, and the other would spit out the next line without missing a beat. 

“Want to go shopping at Tegrat?” I would ask her. 

“Sure,” she would answer, as though this were a perfectly ordinary request. “Then afterward, we can go grab some lunch at Synned.”

The connection between us was so rare and powerful, that we were inseparable friends. That is, until we decided to work at the same Girl Scout camp one summer. Valarie told a lie to the director that ended up putting me in a very uncomfortable situation. I was hurt, very hurt by her betrayal, yet still, I forgave her.

But she couldn’t forgive herself.

After that summer, she disappeared from my life. Stopped taking my phone calls. Wouldn’t respond to my letters. I moved to a new town and attended a different college, and didn’t hear from Valarie again until 2008, when we both began to use Facebook.

“So what do you think about Harry Potter?” she asked me when we reconnected. And it was like the last decade had never happened, and we were great friends all over again. We obsessed over the Yrrah Rettop series, and argued over whether Stephen Fry or Jim Dale was the better narrator (Jim Dale, hands down, though Stephen Fry got much better by Year 5). We swapped recipes, debated politics, and spoke in the language of literature and movie quotes. 

A year later, she disappeared again, with no warning, and for no reason. At the time, it was sad, but not the end of the world, since I had two other very close friends who also “got it,” even though they weren’t quite as into my backwards-speaking tendencies. When I lost them, too, thanks in part to my own poor choices, I was devastated.


It took 7 years before at last, I connected with another kindred spirit. “Z,” the man I dated for awhile in 2017, was a kind of miracle for me. No, we didn’t speak in movie quotes, and I never did get around to confessing that I read everything backwards and forward, literally. But we clicked in so many ways, on a deep level, as well as shallow. The core of me had been thirsting for a kindred spirit like him, and I drank him in like retaw. 

Then he left. (And ah, here come the saert, right on cue). He left, and one year, three months, and almost three weeks later, my heart still aches, and I would do anything if he would just reappear, and be my good friend. But maybe he, too, detected my alien accent, and didn’t understand.

The human world is so easy with relationships. They preach of how people come and go, and how one must let go, move on, make new friends. But their language is as foreign to me as backwards-speak must be to them. Maybe they are all obsidian, like Valarie, able to let it all roll over their surface. While for me, it’s different. True connection with people, and the love I feel for them, gets deep inside my pores, and can’t be extracted or forgotten. 

Or maybe, like my odd way with words, other humans have it all backwards. For so many centuries, people lived clustered together in small, tight-knit communities. They stayed together despite their differences, because that was how humans survived and thrived. People didn’t come and go from your life until someone died. Good and bad, perfect and imperfect, they remained together, and strengthened connections. No one mysteriously disappeared from your life, unless they got dragged off by a bear. 

Maybe the modern concept of relationships coming and going like freeway traffic is the real alien here. A sort of human devolution. We were never meant to break connections the way we do.

I would love to have a chance to discuss this with the people who still live deep inside of me. With my former best friends. With Z. And with Valarie, wherever she may be now. I don’t know if they would agree with me, but I think they would really get it.

I Meant to Do That! (aka: Handling Klutziness With Grace)

One minute, I was a respectable, civilized human being, quietly scanning my groceries in the self-service lane. Then, I picked up a jar of dill pickles, and…

CRASH!

The jar slipped from my fingers, hit the edge of the shopping cart, and tumbled to the floor. Glass shattered. The air filled with a vinegary odor as pale green pickle juice puddled at my feet.

Oopsie. Butterfingers.

A hot blush of shame spread across my face as other supermarket patrons stared and store clerks went running for cleanup supplies. So embarrassing!

“Don’t worry about it.” A clerk tried to reassure me. “Happens to all of us.” I smiled, but my urge to do a humiliated Snoopy crawl out of the store didn’t fade. I also couldn’t help but notice that the clerk scanned the replacement jar of pickles for me, rather than risk a repeat offense.

To be fair, I’m not normally a klutz. But I don’t normally have mallet finger — a common ligament injury which means that the middle finger of my right hand is entombed in a clunky splint for 6-8 weeks. Which makes everything harder to do. I can’t sign my name. I manage a fork and spoon about as well as a toddler. I drop everything. Instant klutz. And plenty of embarrassment.

The clerk was right, though. Embarrassing things happen to all of us. Like discovering that you’ve left the house wearing two mismatched shoes. Like accidentally passing gas in the middle of yoga class. Like realizing that you made a ridiculous typo on a Tweet or Facebook post a day ago. Eep!

Knowing that billions of other people also make silly mistakes doesn’t always help when you’re in the middle of an embarrassing incident. What does help, however, is reminding yourself that the people around you aren’t judging you as hard as you are judging yourself if that moment. Most people don’t notice or even care that your ponytail looks less than perfect, or your lipstick has smudged a little, or that your dancing resembles Elaine’s less-than-graceful moves on Seinfeld. Who cares? Dance anyway. Let your smile be more noticeable than your lipstick. Own the moment, good or bad. Handle your klutziness with grace. When the crowd is staring and your cheeks are flushing bright red, take a sweeping bow, then repeat the wise words of PeeWee Herman. “I meant to do that.”

 

Stress (aka: Stresssss)

Oops…I just caught myself massaging the back of my neck. Again. And chewing on my pinky fingers. Again. Which may not seem like a big deal to lots of you, but to me, it means one thing.

STRESS.

Stress Sources

Wait, what stress? I thought I was just coasting along, my usual relaxed self. (Okay, correction: Relaxed for a Type-A personality. Relaxed for an INTJ). But we all have our own little signals that tell us when our bodies are experiencing a lot of stress. Some people overeat when stressed. Others smoke, or drink too much, have bouts of insomnia, or a myriad of other physical or psychological symptoms that spring up when our plates are just too full.

So what should we do when we recognize these symptoms? According to the American Psychological Association , we should identify the sources of our stress. Hmm, let’s see…

My oldest teen has caught a nasty case of Senioritis — that annoying and highly contagious bug that high school seniors often catch this time of year, when they feel so invincible that they slack off in school, convinced that they won’t fail. So I get to take off the sweet, cookie-baking mommy hat and put on the steel-edged hat of The Enforcer.

Stress.

My ex-husband has decided to initiate court proceedings to have my child support officially decreased, thanks to my shiny new full-time job. Despite the new job, however, it has been a challenge to keep the budget balanced while raising three teen/tweens as a full-time single parent and saving for college expenses. So a potentially big income cut would be a serious blow. I’ve just begun hunting for a second part-time job – something to help make ends meet once our household income drops. Bye-bye free time.

Stress

The older teen just headed off on an expensive school trip with his band — the only trip I’ve been able to send him on for all of high school. Senior prom tickets are really expensive, too. So is his recent dental work. Also, my teen daughter, the former gymnast, has fallen in love with dance. “Hey mom, can I take a second dance class at the studio?” And the twelve-year-old keeps outgrowing his clothes. And did I mention how much it costs to feed three kids this age nutritious, homemade meals filled with fresh vegetables? Oh boy. Kids are expensive.

Stress.

I just finished a bout of medical testing  (an endoscopy, a colonoscopy, and even a special endoscopy where I got to swallow this cool miniature camera). The doctor found nothing, except for signs of gastritis. Gastritis which sprung up around a year ago, and was likely triggered by — you guessed it —

Stress.

Effect of Stress on the Body

It is astonishing what stress can do to our bodies, even when we think we’re handling it well. Kind of stresses me out to think about it. Luckily, there are things we can do to help us manage the way we deal wih stress. Here are some great suggestions from the Mayo Clinic:

  • Regular physical activity
  • Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, tai chi or getting a massage
  • Keeping a sense of humor
  • Socializing with family and friends
  • Setting aside time for hobbies, such as reading a book or listening to music

I’m pretty good with most of these, especially the sense of humor part. Very important stuff. But I still kinda suck at the socializing part. But know what? Today at work, I got to spend lots of time socializing with coworkers (in between moments of working hard, of course). And know what? It’s like a magic pill for this stress thing. Despite the enormous pressures I’m feeling, I’ve barely reached up to massage my neck or chew my fingers all afternoon.

Uh-oh — trying to come up with a nice, neat way to end this post is only adding to my stress. So I’ll just tip-toe out of here and hope none of you notice. Time to go and…

DE-STRESS

 

Make_Small_Talk (aka: Interacting With Real Live Humans)

One of the hardest things about dealing with real, live humans is small talk.

Seriously. I mean, what is the deal with small talk? It’s like standing around nibbling cheap, store-bought appetizers instead of sitting down to a delicious, homemade main course.

Dilbert Small Talk Participate

You never know when you will be faced with this dreaded interaction. There you are, sitting in your cubicle, or riding in an elevator, or innocently heating up your leftovers in the break room, when bam! Another person shows up. This can be just about anybody – a stranger, a coworker, your boss, your boss’s boss. No matter who appears, you have little choice but to hit the F5 key and run the program, Make_Small_Talk.

It typically goes something like this:

Me:                        Hi, how was your weekend?

Person:                Pretty good. Yours?

Me:                        Not too bad. Busy with kids and stuff.

Person:                Yeah, me too. But I got a lot done.

Water Cooler Small Talk

Once in a while, I am tempted to mix things up a little, just to keep things interesting. Maybe something like:

Person:              How was your weekend?

Me:                        Great! I got a lot done, and left no evidence behind, so they’ll never catch me…

Or I could be like those people who give you waaaaay more information that you ever wanted to know, like:

Person:                How was your weekend?

Me:                        Well, it was fine until I started throwing up. I must have clogged the toilet six times! Then I had to go see the doctor, and he said I might have the Avian Flu or Ebola or something, so they had to draw blood and check my stool samples for parasites and bacteria. Then I developed this awful wet cough. I mean, listen – *hack hack!*

My two favorite alternatives to making small talk are:

  1. Wear earbuds 100% of the time and pretend that I don’t notice when others are talking to me.
  2. Avoid all places where people may be present, thus avoiding all unnecessary human interaction.

One problem with those alternatives, however, is that you may never get to know important details about other people, like what their favorite sports teams are, or how many kids they have, so that you can then inquire about those details the next time you make small talk. Also, no one will have any idea who you are, so then you’ll never win the popularity contest and earn a promotion at work.

(Make_Small_Talk = Brownie Points + 10).

I guess that making small talk is just one of those rules of being a grownup. Kind of like cleaning out the refrigerator or making medical appointments. No matter how cumbersome it may be, and no matter how much it irks your inner INTJ, you just have to grin and get through it. And if you’re lucky, maybe those appetizers will eventually lead to a main course.

 

 

Gold to Silver (aka: Time and her Sister, Change)

Time is a flowing river…

Bah! That is not an accurate metaphor at all. After all, we can build a dam to staunch a river’s flow. But there is no technology in existence that is able to stop the flow of Time.

And Time, of course, never goes anywhere without her twin sister, Change. Together, the two make a brutal pair. Their constant, onward march affects everyone and everything in their path. And oh, how we fear them! How we loathe their very existence. We desperately wish to hold back Time, to force it in the opposite direction. We fight Change with every ounce of our strength.

old way new way

But we are not strong enough.

Everything falls to Change. Like leaves on a tree, people change. Children grow to become adults, and as adults, we grow fruit, we change, and we fall. Our bodies succumb to the weight of old age.

Ideas change. Society changes. The words and labels which were widely accepted by one generation are deemed offensive by the next. We protest. We struggle to hold on to the old ways of thinking, the old ways of living life that worked so well for us. But Change is a thief who steals gold and replaces it with silver. We will fight her. We will wield our swords, our guns, our ballots. We will raise our most powerful weapons in an effort to hold Change at bay.

And sometimes, we succeed.

But never for long. We forget that Change has a fiercely loyal sister who will always sweep past and overpower us, despite our best efforts. In the end, everything changes.

So what can we do? How do we keep ourselves from falling into despair, knowing that as time continues forward, nothing will stay the same? We have only two choices. We can attempt to trick Change. If Change is inevitable, then perhaps we can convince her that Path B is a better direction than Path A. We can manipulate the direction of things to come by forcing the changes we wish to see. Sometimes this works, and the results can be brilliant. Or horrific.

Steven Hawking Intelligence

Even better, we can remember what we as humans do best. We adapt. The stronger we are, the smarter we are, the faster we adapt to life’s changes. We do not fear Time and Change. We do not run from them, screaming. We do not waste our energy holding them back. Instead, we accept them as our friends. We remember that Time and Change can help us to forget the trauma of the past so that we can find joy in the future. That they often bring along friends, like Maturity, Wisdom, and Grace. We remember that Time and Change can help to heal disease, end suffering, and open doors of opportunity which were once locked to us. Change can be good. Time can be kind. It is all a matter of perspective.

Darwin adaptibility

For better or for worse, everything changes. It is hard sometimes to watch as our precious gold is transformed to silver. But that silver will eventually transform into to gold. It is only a matter of Time.